Vine Reflects Bandwidth and Quality Limits

There’s much ado about Vine these days. In addition to the usual porn issues, most of the controversy surrounds the video network’s six second format. Like it or not, the six second format is ideal for bandwidth constrained 4G powered devices.

Marketers are already experimenting with the weeks old social network bolt-on. But to me, it’s too early for that conversation. What’s fascinating is the medium itself and how it fits into the larger social context.

First, consider that Vine is the video short equivalent of Instagram. Load time is critical for a long stream of videos, especially given it’s mostly viewed on devices leveraging wireless carrier networks.

Competitors like Viddy and Keek also have short video formats, 15 and 36 seconds respectively. But even Vine still suffers in low bandwidth situations as I found out at a packed concert on Sunday night.

A functional stream is critical for the Vine user experience. If you are promised short videos, they better load quickly into the stream most of the time.
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Strategy Lessons: The Ground Book


A Book of Five Rings, written by Miyamoto Musashi in 1645, is one of the world’s classic sources of strategy. The book’s influence extends beyond military schools to the entire Japanese business culture, and has made its way into Western culture, too. It is one of the texts that comprises the foundation of Zoetica’s strategy services. This blog series looks at each of Musashi’s five chapters, and discusses how some of the phrases apply to the modern communications market.

The Ground Book opens the Five Rings with the basics of becoming a successful strategist. Here are five points that illustrate some dynamics in today’s communications marketplace.

1) Conquer Your Fear of Failure

“Generally speaking, the Way of the warrior is resolute acceptance of death.” Musashi

Soldiers understand that death may await them on the battlefield, yet they perform under this duress. A communicator needs to understand that some efforts fail, and in the worst cases, enrage stakeholders. These are not desired outcomes, obviously, but the fear of communicating and negative outcomes has actually crippled some organizations and communicators. There’s no better example than the paralysis facing U.S. Government agencies as they attempt to embrace their public stakeholders on and offline.

This fear must be overcome. It is impossible to envision success if the first thought that comes to mind always involves avoiding failure. Success comes with understanding that failure is a possible outcome, and that you and your organization will learn from the experience, as unfortunate as it may be. Knowing this, the communicator should focus on what will create the best opportunities for success.

As a communicator, preparation through research, consistent practice in creating meaningful interactions between stakeholders and organization, and testing via advisory boards and focus groups comprised of stakeholders are the hallmarks of strong program design. By excelling at the practice of communications, one minimizes the chances for failure. Further, crisis communications remains the only way to handle rough spots, and this too is the hallmark of a strategic communicator. One must know how to interact with dissatisfied stakeholders.

2) Know More Than One Tactic

Bali Dancers / Balinese Dance - Yellow Moths
Yellow Moths by Dominic

“Recently there have been people getting on in the world as strategists, but they are usually just sword-fencers… In olden times strategy was listed among the Ten Abilities and Seven Arts as a beneficial practice. It was certainly an art but as beneficial practice it was not limited to sword fencing. The true value of sword-fencing cannot be seen within the confines of sword-fencing technique.” Musashi

Particularly apropos for today’s social media expert, this phrase can be applied to any discipline. Most media relations aces do not comprehend marketing. Direct marketers do not understand crowdsourcing. Advertisers rarely understand the long term relationship work that business developers and fundraising pros participate in. Like the sword fencers, specialists are just specialists.

To be a true strategist, a chief marketing officer, a leader of a communications department, one must have first hand knowledge of as many communications and marketing disciplines as possible. The insights drawn from one discipline lead to integration as well as the hybrid deployment of individual tactics. This creates the ability to wage campaigns using a wide a variety of best practices.

For example, consider the use of calls to action on right hand columns of blogs and social dashboards. This simple integration of advertising principles into social media creates opportunities for return on investment and clear measurement. Copyblogger is an extremely well written, engaging blog. It also masters the use of calls to action in its right hand column.

3) Envision the Entire Effort Act by Act

“There is timing in everything… From the outset you must know the applicable timing and the inapplicable timing, and from among the large and small things and the fast and slow timings find the relevant timing, first seeing the distance timing and the background timing. This is the main thing in strategy.” Musashi

Many strategic plans end at the selection of tactics. This is not enough. You must envision the entire program, and plan it out in an efficient manner and time the delivery of your efforts appropriately. Whether it’s a methodical daily commitment via an editorial calendar to communicate with a community, or a sudden burst of activity to market a new product/launch an advocacy campaign, actions must be planned. And they need to be planned with metrics and end goals in mind.

Without a plan to get somewhere, you only have tactics. To quote another Asian strategist, Sun Tzu aptly said, “Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”

When you envision the entire effort, one can sequence events accordingly. Timing is an essential part of a strategic plan, and Musashi goes into great lengths to discuss timing in the Ground Book, and throughout the entire Book of Five Rings.

Consider that the well discussed Old Spice campaign featuring Isaiah Mustafa moved from targeted ads in movie theaters, to national TV ads, to online influencer outreach, to culminate with online social media responses on Twitter and YouTube. This sequencing was intentional and orchestrated as part of Old Spice’s strategy.

4) Know Your Community Intimately

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“The Way of strategy is the Way of nature. When you appreciate the power of nature, knowing the rhythm of any situation, you will be able to hit the enemy naturally and strike naturally.” Musashi

In tandem with measurement, scenario planning helps the strategist foresee outcomes. Communities and entire markets do not always react the way we anticipate, but when we are in touch with our stakeholder and have considered different scenarios, the pulse is not hard to read. We understand the order of things and evolve as necessary.

Understanding how things may or may not go empowers the strategist to adjust to situations as they arise. When disagreement and discord occur, strong community management often allows an organization to anticipate issues in advance, and address them. Further, measurement as a management tool allows the strategist to play to a program’s strengths while minimizing its weaknesses midstream.

In social media circles most people know Seesmic for its social network dashboards. It started as a video social network, but over time Loic Le Meur and the company’s executive team adjusted their strategy to meet the market. It acquired Twhirl, a desktop client to integrate video into Twitter. Demand for the dashboard client was so strong the company simply focused on this aspect of its business, leaving the video social network behind.

5) Don’t Get Stuck on a Tool

“You should not have a favorite weapon. To become over-familiar with one weapon is as much a fault as not knowing it sufficiently well… It is bad for commanders and troopers to have likes and dislikes.” Musashi.

To become overly reliant on any one tool limits your ability to successfully address different stakeholders and situations, and remain successful over time. Let’s be frank, tactics and tools wax and wane as media technologies evolve. Otherwise we’d have Friendster and MySpace buttons atop this post. Kevin Dugan calls this T&F Tunnel Vision, short for over-reliance on Twitter and Facebook.

In any discipline over-reliance on a tactic can significantly limit opportunities for success. Competitors can exploit weaknesses. While one company only engages in media relations, its competitors are actively working trade shows, conferences, industry analysts, online communications, and more.

Zappos’s most well know marketing success is its Twitter efforts. But its direct customer marketing and extended social communications ensures the company’s grassroots efforts will live beyond Twitter.

These are just a several of the lessons gleaned from Musashi’s The Ground Book. The next part in the series is The Water Book.

The New Twitter: Better, But Power Users Still Need Clients

The New Twitter Interface

Twitter had to do something. Facebook’s incredible growth this year thanks to Open Graph (Like feature) has made it a top-tier web site, surpassing even Google for site visits. Facebook is even using Open Graph to compete with Google for search. To stay competitive, Twitter had to encourage more page views. Enter its new interface.

How does the new Twitter stack up to its old interface as well as desktop clients such as HootSuite, CoTweet, Seesmic and Tweetdeck? Very well, in my opinion.

The interface is very intuitive. There are lots of great features to take advantage of, including vastly improved Listing, semi-threading for response views, and DM capabilities (see Social Media Today piece). While it does not allow multiple columns like a Tweetdeck or Seesmic, it uses tabs above the main column to create fluid interaction. In this sense, I feel like its competitive and in some ways better.

The right column space is used for information, from user details to trends. This will only get better as Twitter adds a real time analytics feature to the mix.

As someone who still uses the web interface (yes, it’s true) for casual tweeting, it’s a vast improvement. As someone who switches over to Seesmic or Cotweet for business use (I like those two over the other services), I may still have to use these clients for specific Twitter uses, though I think less often. That means Twitter will get more page views from me, but not 100% of my Twitter attention.

In my opinion, the text entry itself is the weak point of the the New Twitter. On the positive side autotext name features in the main entry box is a great improvement. It makes social interaction easier.

However, you have to manually enter names instead of replying to multiple voices simultaneously with a singular click. Also, while promised, the new autoshortener is not present on the new interface, requiring a second web browser tab to or another shortening service. Twitter needs to roll out autoshortening as soon as possible if they want the interface to really take off.

In addition, the retweet feature does not allow for you to edit the tweet still, providing only auto repost to your feed. Lastly, you still cannot schedule Tweets, which is a feature I like for my photo of the day or busy days.

Conclusion: The new Twitter interface makes their information service/social network much easier and fun to use. Generally speaking, only power users and marketing accounts will have issues with the new interface.

Robbing Peter to Pay Paul

If I was a desktop client that had to compete with Twitter, I would not be happy. This change is significant, and makes it difficult for these services to remain competitive.

Twitter’s Open API has been well hailed as a driver for businesses to develop on top of the client. However, as we have seen from Tweetmeme and mobile clients to the new desktop API, Twitter tends to cannibalize its most successful innovating third party developers.

In essence, Twitter development via the API makes you a minor league application which Twitter may opt for its own use, either through acquisition, compensation (a la Tweetmeme), or simply take ideas through copycat development. This approach may create a slow down in third-party development.