My itzy bitzy “told ya so” moment

Today I caught wind of a post called: The Facebook experiment has failed. Let’s go back.via @jeswin that describes how Facebook failed because it lost sight of its core mission.

Today, I felt vindicated because when I asked way back in December 2010 “Has Facebook Jumped the Shark?” I was universally derided by the tech world as being old fashioned. I was privately applauded by ad folks for having the gumption to dare and challenge the cool Facebook.

In the end, it’s kind of a hard to call a $40B company a failure. That said,  my ambivalence with Facebook continues to roll along as this image I did for a SWSX session (2011) I was asked to do expresses so perfectly.

The SXSW Image for article "Has Facebook Jumped the Shark?"

The SXSW Image for article “Has Facebook Jumped the Shark?”

Huh Twitter?

Dear Twitter -

I have trying to use your ad platform but you stump me.

You send me campaign optimization emails after the campaign is over.

You make it hard to understand how a new account can advertise.

You have a weird glitch in your mobile ad platform.

But this is almost funny. Am I supposed to learn Japanese (I think that what’s it is)??

This is the what I see on my Twitter ad dashboard.

twitter 2

 

 

 

Confusion abounds.

Judy

A daily identity crisis – venture style.

Damn it!

You’d think that after 18 months of intense development which resulted in a live marketing platform with paying customers, we wouldn’t be having this problem.

You’d think we’d know by now.

But as we begin selling our new platform, prospects from agencies and brands, surprisingly, see us solving different problems. Agencies think of us as tech company helping them with new ideas. Brands see us as a service provider able to integrate tech enabled marketing with services. This leads to some awesome but awkward moments confusing what we are.

Generally speaking, they categorize us loosely in three ways:

  • Tech venture. Brands most typically see us as a content syndication platform able to integrate different content types within one hub. With our network of topic based communities, brands can distribute content and curate visitors towards a purchase. One can think of us as an “Open Sky” (affiliate platform) meets SayMedia (topic-based, blogger network). We add a “big data” kicker which puts us squarely in the tech venture bucket.  One of our first customers is a new ecommerce site using our tech to drive cheaper CPAs versus PPC (fingers crossed).
  • “Nextgen” agency.  Aside from my deep distaste for anything “nextgen” developed during my tenure as brand director for Lucent Technologies – I have no idea what that means.  Agencies are a fee-based services business – a decidedly human endeavor. Any variation of “nextgen” anything has a tech focus which, by definition, minimizes human intervention in favor of automation.  Confused? So am I. But we have some customers where we deliver social marketing and content syndication services. For these customers, we are an agency with a comprehensive and integrated tech approach to social and content marketing.  I don’t know if that qualifies as “nextgen” anything. 
  • The “agency’s agency.” This definition is most intriguing perhaps because it actually most closely matches what we are doing today. We planned our platform to be “agency happy” in that an agency can sell it profitably to a client. And when our first big “corporate” sale came through an agency partner, our most optimistic hopes were realized because we weren’t even in the room when the sale was made!  While this is a major milestone moment, the real work starts in the post-sale phase as the agency learns to work with our platform and processes. It’s the agency’s role to lead their clients in this initiative. It’s our role to offer the agency a safe passage on their journey through these new, sometimes murky marketing waters.

Every encounter with every prospect or partner is a revelation amplified during these early, tender weeks. Each marketer has unique ideas for how they want to use our platform – from a social learning laboratory to a content hub to a curated commerce platform.  We’ve already productized some of their ideas. There are other ideas that we could see have tremendous value. It’s so tempting to go off and productize these ideas too; a rather easier task than you may imagine since we built our platform to be a nimble, direct response-like engine – lots of modular pieces that can be arranged and re-arranged to test a multitude of marketing variables.

But as tempting as it is to go off and productize all these ideas, obviously that’s way too chaotic. Choices must be made which means I am pretty sure our identity crisis will get worse before it gets better.

This is, as a friend once told me, a high class problem to have.  Yay (I think).

The world according to algorithms

I wrote this post over three years ago! Gosh – kinda of more scary now. Yikes.

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My personal, trusted search agent, my husband, cut out an article for me about DemandMedia, an innovator in offering a service for web owners to pull algorithm driven, highly moentizable content – fast and cheap.

Then a few minutes later I read about Cheaptweet.com and how it uses an algorithm to mine Twitter feeds for deals on clothes, electronics and services.

I began to notice a pattern.

The next day I read about new search methods that were smarter because of, you guessed it, algorithmic technology.

Now with a thud, I realized, a bit to my horror, that algorithmic logic drives a big part of our lives. It drives our searches and, as a result, what we learn about. It drives which ads we see and crunches through a formula to present us with the most relevant, contextual based ad possible. It filters what offers we see or don’t see online.  And the ever iterative algorithmic engines can even choose our future mates.

I even think some algorithm predicted the end of the world to happen sometime in 2012 *sigh*.

It then blindingly dawned on me (better late than never) that my perception of the world was being shaped by algorithms – aggregation of data points. I was taken aback by the fact that my world perception was not formed as I thought by my experiences with real people – but by mechanical machines spitting out numerical answers to questions I had not yet asked.

I realize I see the world through number colored lens. I am not sure I like the effect.

This shouldn’t be bothering me – but it does.

Judy Shapiro

http://twitter.com/judyshapiro

“It’s good to be open minded, just don’t let your brains fall out.”

Judy Shapiro:

A post from 2009 talks about my Grandmother and the pillar of trust that is so necessary as we move to become digital citizens. Her story is an inspiration to me every day.

Originally posted on Trenchwars Weblog:

I was reminded of this line, credited to my Grandmother Margit, when I spent a very interesting day last week at the Web 3.0 conference. So many smart people talking about how smart the Web will become.  I was overwhelmed at how little I really know about semantic technologies and data architectures.

But despite my infantile level understanding of these emerging technologies, I was struck by the seeming gap in all the talk. Nowhere could I find anyone talking much about how to make the next web more human by being more trusted.  Trust is the glue that holds society together in the real world and it should be the same in the web world too. But in the conference, you would be hard pressed to hear more than a passing homage to the idea of trust vis-à-vis the next gen web.

My Grandmother’s expression popped into my head probably…

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No pitch – all proof

This post has been a long time coming but finally I am proud to say our Eden system is live.

“What is that?”  you ask.

Most simply – our company, engageSimply, designed a way for advertisers and their Eden Logo (Textured) PNGagencies to engage with social consumers when consumers are in the mindset to buy.

How do we do that? Well – best way is to see for yourself.

Start at one of our communities – like – On the Off trail or Caregiver’s Ally  - then look for the Eden logo in the upper  right. That’ll give you a snapshot of what the Eden Network is about.

Need more (a.k.a. – you are an adtech geek or an agency person) you’ll find how advertisers can play  Here in Eden.

Come on in. We’ve been working hard hard to welcome you.

P.S. – It takes a village to start a venture and in my case I heartily acknowledge that NONE of this would be possible without a little (OK – A LOT) of help from my friends. You are the reason we have come this far. Thank you all.

gratitude

7 schizophrenic traits every startup CEOs must adopt

CEO PSYCHOSIS The role of CEO is often described in gauzy, glowing terms espousing passion mingled with ambition that runs deep enough to change the world. All this noble ambition belies the uncomfortable reality that the inner world of a start-up CEO is often a constant state of conflicting realities that can distract from the mission at hand.

This list reflects my personal experience as the CEO of a social commerce startup. I can tell you – the dual reality can be disconcerting at first but after a while it gives you a certain edge that makes you tougher and smarter the longer you stay at it.

1) Your vision must be out there enough to generate investor interest but not so out there so as no one knows what you’re talking about. We’ve heard it from the pundits a lot – be different, don’t just iterate on another idea. Gotcha but then when you truly do go out on the limb – you may not get investor interest because you’ve too far out on that very limb they asked you climb out on.

2) Being 100% committed to do the best you can do but realizing that it might not be the best that can be done. As CEO, people want to believe you know more than you do – especially if you are chartering new territory. Unfortunately, you know that your best is probably not close to the best that can be done. You have to hope that it good enough to get by.

3) Truly believing in your vision yet living with the reality that the odds are definitely against you. I heard Brad Feld of Foundry Group remark recently that they get about 1,000 pitches a year but only invest in about a dozen ventures. So do the math. Your chances of getting funded are very small and even you do get funded – your chances of success are not in your favor. It’s a miracle anyone actually takes the plunge.

4) You are constantly recruiting even though can never afford most of the people you would love to hire. I learned never ever recruit when you urgently need to fill a job. That increases the chances for a bad hire because hiring in a moment of need won’t bring the best candidate forward – it will merely bring the most convenient one to the table. Instead, you should be recruiting ALL THE TIME. The trick is keeping the candidates you want on simmer until you are ready.

5) You must be a perennial optimist yet become exquisitely good at “productive worrying.” The grind of a startup requires a positive, upbeat attitude to get the team through the inevitable tough times. Yet, a Pollyanna attitude won’t get the job done to overcome the inevitable stumble that’s to come. For that eventuality, it best to be prepared with a Plan B and a Plan C too. In my case, I’m such a good worrier that my Plan B’s have Plan B’s (ya – I know – that’s extreme worrying).

6) You want to be fully transparent but realize there are some things you should NEVER EVER tell your VC. There is great serenity in knowing that you have been totally open and trustworthy in all your dealings with your people, your customers and your investors. Despite that – never confuse transparency with “true confessions” when dealing with investors. You need to convey confidence with a healthy dash of cautious optimism. Keep the deeper “what if’s” worries to yourself unless you have a specific ask of your VC.

7) People call you “Brilliant” and a “Visionary” but you feel like you are faking it. If you are a half articulate and just passionate enough – people will use the “B” or “V” word around you a lot. They hang on your every word waiting for the inevitable pearls of wisdom to trip off your tongue. Yet, often people confuse “Brilliance” with deep experience and a “Visionary” for someone who has a good grasp of history. Truth be told though, often you feel like you are just muddling through. That’s OK because if you admit you don’t know then others can step in to help. Otherwise the visionary, a.k.a. prophet must always have the answers. Not.

There you have it – the seven habits that are vital for any startup CEO.  I guess ya’ need just a touch of crazy to pull it off.

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