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Speaker Preview: Heath Row

Heath Row, our speaker this week, is currently  a research manager at Google and the namesake of the UK’s  largest airport. (Okay, okay, the latter part isn’t true.)

Row began his career as a journalist, writing about business and technology. He worked as an editor for the first newsstand magazine about the Internet, Online Access. Later, while working for the magazine Fast Company, he helped create Company of Friends, which was one of the first social networking sites and a predecessor to sites like Linkedin.

He also worked on the launch of a website called Squidoo that lets users generate pages on a variety of topics.

He is now a research manager for Google’s North American sales organization. At Google, he manages a multi-million dollar budget, trains the sales team, coordinates with Google’s partners and is in charge of syndicated data services (i.e. the content that Google sells for use by other companies).

He also keeps an industry intelligence blog and sends out a weekly newsletter about the latest trends in digital marketing. Last year, he taught a course about blogging at NYU.

Stay tuned next week when our speaker will be Mr. Gat Wick. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)

“LinkedIn’s Timeless Guide to Small Business Success” has partnered with FedEx and The Upright Citizens Brigade (an LA comedy theater) video team to create a series of ’80s-style instructional videos on how small business owners can best use the site.

The six three-minute videos are clever, concise, and have really excellent retro art direction. Each one tackles a particular way that a small business owner can use LinkedIn to solve a problem that they  may face, ie: securing funding, making connections, or bolstering their online reputation. The videos were released on the LinkedIn blog and the first few episodes are available to view on the LinkedIn Youtube channel. They are living permanently on the LinkedIn Learning Center under the Small Business User Guide.

Full disclosure: as I was searching through the archives for a relevant branding campaign to write this post, I saw this picture of my friend Dave:

and my interest was piqued.

I think what’s particularly interesting about this campaign is how precisely targeted it is. It is very clear that before investing in the video production LinkedIn considered a number of issues:

  • Who was their targeted audience: small business owners that are new to the site.
  • What were their goals: educate the potential and current users on the site’s wide range of tools to increase current audience engagement and capture new users.
  • How would they capture attention: by making videos (as opposed to a text user guide) that are entertaining, satirical and unique.

Working with a sponsor like FedEx, who is clearly trying to capture the exact same small business owner audience, is a natural and savvy choice. Had they not had the sponsor funding, it is likely that the videos would have not been as high quality and would not have been as effective.

The videos premiered on the LinkedIn corporate blog, but the author of the post is their editor and producer from the UCB, Rob Getzschman.

The post links to his LinkedIn profile and gives him a chance to speak personally about the project. Keeping with the cheeky tone of the videos he writes:

We’re always looking for creative ways to help our users learn the ins and outs of LinkedIn. Knowing that the average office worker can only watch a screenshot tutorial for a few seconds before the onset of spontaneous narcolepsy, we developed a fun, retro-themed webseries for small and medium business owners with the help of FedEx.

The release was coupled with a publicity push that resulted in coverage on Mashable, Businessweek, and ReadWriteWeb, among others, all driving traffic to:

I would imagine that LinkedIn sees this campaign as a success. The videos on the LinkedIn page are housed in a Brightcove player and the traffic for the subdomain isn’t available publicly on either Compete or Quantcast, so it’s hard to judge the amount of attention that the videos have received so far, but the Youtube versions of the first four episodes have received from 2-4,000 views each to date. Those are small numbers in the viral video world, but since the campaign was so highly targeted to small business owners it would make sense to see small view counts.

There is also clearly a branding goal on the part of LinkedIn to work towards seeming less corporate, or less stodgy. It’s a fine line as they are positioned as the go-to community for serious business, and thrive on that reputation, but making an investment in something fun and funny to reach and educate a new audience is valuable. Since the videos are engaging and genuinely enjoyable to watch, they are effective at letting users know about the tools available on the site and I’m sure that a user would be more likely to engage more deeply with the site after learning these techniques.

I think one way that these videos are less successful is that they don’t seem to be part of any larger initiative. The rest of the user guides that they are paired with on the Learning Center are very traditional–all text or standard screenshot tutorials. If users could expect to see more content like this from LinkedIn, they would be more likely to seek it out and the videos would have higher view counts. Perhaps the site sees these as self-contained, as a kind of private wink to small business owners, but they could be effective for engaging many different demographics.

The video series also doesn’t seem to be promoted on the homepage of LinkedIn or throughout the site at all. Perhaps it’s because I’m not using the site as a small business owner, or because I’m not new to the site, but unless someone saw one of the news articles or happened to be browsing the Learning Center, they wouldn’t know that these videos existed.I even tried to navigate the site without being logged in to get a sense of the new user experience, and the videos aren’t featured at all. If there was some sort of “New to the site? Then check out these instructional videos” flow, they’d probably reach a good deal more of the targeted audience.

You can watch the first video from the series below:

News Update: Google Glitch Causes .08% of Gmail Users to Lose Email, Logs, Hope.

Wow. 150,000 gmail fans are pressing the dislike button this morning after discovering that their accounts are now empty. Of course this news has to happen RIGHT as I publish my roundup. Such is life.

Luckily, an ex-mouseketeer (yes, live THAT one down JT) sums it up for me with the chorus from this one:

Check out this story for more details. This sounds like rough-going for engineers down in Mountain View. Google has stated that tech teams are now working to restore service and access, so cross your fingers for the folks who have been cut off.

Lifehacker brings some levity to this and reminds us to SAVE. SAVE. SAVE.

News Round-up: February 21st-28th

It’s been a busy week out there on the political, business, and info trail. Let the round-up for Feb 28th begin!

Read the rest of this entry »

Book Review: Born Digital–Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives

Do you have a hard time understanding why your 15-year-old niece speaks the same language she texts? Disturbed by her series of ever-changing Facebook profile pictures taken in the bathroom mirror? Are you baffled by the 23-year-old whiz kid who’s taken over your company’s IT department? Better yet, do you find yourself asking your 10-year-old son to set up the networked printer at home? Rest assured my friend, you aren’t the first (nor will you be the last) non-tech savvy person to be completely mystified by the digital generation.

The motivating factors behind this segment of technologically literate progeny has eluded and intrigued parents, educators and lawmakers for the past decade. While each of the previous groups have taken a different approach to dealing with these digi-babies, more often than not, the end results are reactionary policies that do everything but deter kids from using technology.

Born Digital book cover In “Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives”, authors John Palfrey and Urs Gasser–both of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School–address various concerns over the Millennial generation’s digital pathology.

Gasser and Palfrey compiled extensive original research, including interviews with Digital Natives from around the world. The authors categorize all their research into 13 chapters, each covering a different aspect of a digital native’s life. Starting with “Identity” and coursing through a broad range of topics, such as “Safety”, “Privacy”, “Creators”, “Overload”, and ending with “Synthesis”.

Across all these issues, Palfrey and Gasser offer an eerily balanced argument on the pros and cons of technology. On many instances, the book heralds digital natives for their progressions and strives in moving the world forward, while at the same time offers advice to authoritative figures on how to be proactive in their approaches.

Time and time again, the authors fall back on education as the key to lessening the disconnect between the Digital and Analog generations. Educators and parents must educate themselves on these issues, and involve digital natives in that conversation. There’s a conversation, not a lecture, that needs to take place in order for all parties involved to be more at ease in this rapidly changing world. Palfrey and Gasser state, “People are generally afraid of the unknown, and they project these fears and fantasies onto the new technologies…” but “…Many of these fears are totally ungrounded in reality.” The paragraph goes on to give examples of how the media sensationalizes people’s fears of technology (e.g. microwaves & radiation). But the data doesn’t support any of these claims, and the same issues that parents faced before still exist in the digital age; the medium has just changed (bullying to cyberbulling). The authors suggest that this technology doesn’t make the actions any more or less severe, but it does make the need for parents and educators to actively engage digital natives more imminent.

In my opinion, Palfrey and Gasser sum up their entire book in chapter 5 (“Creators”) by saying, “The hardest question we’ll have to answer is whether we will attempt to thwart this burgeoning online creativity in Digital Natives in the name of protecting crumbling institutions, or foster it, and the participatory culture it can lead us to.”

For me, that is the biggest takeaway from this book. In a non-connected world, it was easy to use laws and exclusion to create a false sense of privacy, safety and security. Often times, parents and educators thought they could shield children from danger by not talking about it, but the Internet has drastically changed that. As this first generation of digital natives comes of age (and subsequent generations start to navigate through a digital world), it becomes a threat to all of the old systems and societal norms that have held our society together. However, the Internet, technology and young people are not mutually exclusive areas. Dismissing an entire generation, while regulating the medium will not stop the advancement. The combination of all three working in tandem are pushing us to a more open, transparent and democratic, global society “where social norms  exert much more sway over…behavior,” and can outweigh outdated legal norms.

**Born Digital is an initiative of the Digital Natives project, an interdisciplinary collaboration of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University and the Research Center for Information Law at the University of St. Gallen.**

Book Review: The Dragonfly Effect

Jennifer Aaker is a marketing professor at Stanford University. She and her husband Andy Smith wrote this book (with Carlye Adler) based upon Aaker’s class: Power of Social Technology.

The Dragonfly Effect was named after the only insect that can move in any direction when all four of its wings are working in concert. Symbolically the central body of the dragonfly serves as the central mission of your work. And the 4 wings represent the following concepts:

  1. Focus Your Goal
  2. Grab Attention
  3. Engage Others
  4. Take Action

The purpose of the PoST class and this book is to help people harness social technology to achieve a single, focused goal. When creating your goal remember HATCH.

  • Humanistic – understand your audience
  • Actionable – use micro goals to achieve macro goals
  • Testable – identify metrics that will help evaluate your progress
  • Clarity – keep your goal clear
  • Happiness – ensure that your goals are meaningful to you and your audience

After focusing your goal you want to Grab Attention. In this step remember PUVV.

  • Personal – choose an approach that will resonate with your audience (humor, questions, facts)
  • Unexpected – share new information to pique their interest
  • Visual – use quick visual images (photos, video)
  • Visceral – trigger the senses (sound, sight)

Engaging Others is the key to growing your audience. The steps for this layout as TEAM.

  • Tell a Story – find compelling, memorable stories to convey critical information
  • Empathize – let your audience engage you
  • Be Authentic – the more authentic you come across, the easier it will be for others to connect to you and your mission, emphasize the shared values and beliefs you have with your audience
  • Match the media – align communication and context. how and where you say something can be as important as what you say

And lastly, the most important part that will help you achieve your goal is calling your audience to Take Action. Make it EFTO.

  • Easy – easy,understandable
  • Fun – game play, competition, humor, rewards
  • Tailored – make it something your audience will actually be interested in
  • Open – so that anyone can participate