#xPotomac14: Israel and Corbett Take on the Internet of Things

iStrategyLabs and DC Tech Titan Peter Corbett is presenting at xPotomac this February 28th with a discussion on The Internet of Things.  Shel Israel‘s co author Robert Scoble is keynoting about their book Age of Context (Shel was coming but had a family emergency). Peter and Shel took some time to answer some of my questions about how Internet enabled devices are changing marketing and media

Don’t miss the opportunity to interact with Peter and Robert, and some of the technology industry’s best minds live, including Age of Context Authors Robert Scoble and Shel Israel. Register today, and use the code Geoff for 20% off!

GL: You are doing some great work with the Internet of Things, or sensors. Why is it so important for marketers to consider the use of this kind of data in their work with customers?

PC: A funny thing is happening. People are more interested in connecting with the real world than they are with the digital one – and the physical world is no being infused with technology in ways we’ve never seen. With that in mind, marketers – who’s job it is to connect meaningfully with customers – are being drawn into Internet of Things related campaigns because is simply what people want to interact with.

If you’re a marketer and you’re not at least familiar with the space, you’re at a dramatic disadvantage. If you’re an agency who can build internet connected devices you’re probably so business your just can’t keep up.

SI: Sensors are becoming ubiquitous, and with the release of Beacon Low Energy Blue-tooth, they will soon be installed every few yards of many stores. They will talk to shopper’s iPhones as they walk by. This will allow retailers to know who is in the store, that person’s buying history, the route they are taking through the store and for loyal, repeat customers, probably sensors will allow the store to under stand the shopper’s intent.

This changes a great deal for marketers. Marketers will be able to make offers that are highly personalized to each shopper, and not bother other people in the location who have different intents. The data will also allow retailers to position items on display with much great effectiveness. What, I am thrilled to say, will disappear is the need for marketers to try to push crap to every person that comes within range.

Robert Scoble and I have a name for this new, extremely precise approach. We call it Pinpoint Marketing.

GL: How far do you think we can take the Internet of Things?

SI: How far it is taken Geoff is beyond the control of you and me at this point. Sensors are growing exponentially, they are getting smaller and less expensive. Retail applications that I just mention are just one world-changing applications.

Sensors on Pills, will allow doctors to see what’s going inside our bodies with out intrusive procedures that we now must abide. I for one will not miss the joy of a colonoscopy. Sensors will be attached to traffic lights and talk to sports stadiums, so that the lights will be recalibrated when a big event gets out.

In Orlando, there are sensors in smart parking lots. They can tell motorists where spaces are open, so that they won’t be driving around and polluting. You ay for the space on a mobile app where your credit card is on file. If you don’t pay, you’ll get an automatic fine. I could write a book about the different ways sensors will change work and life. In fact, just did.

PC: I don’t really see a limit. Our world will be very different 10 years from now. In 50 it may be unrecognizable. It’s not clear if this is a good thing or a bad thing yet – humans will have relationships with objects unlike we ever have before. Would you rather have a girlfriend or your iPhone? Some people would already choose the iPhone.

GL: What’s the utimate application you have seen so far?

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SI: Every time there is an ultimate application, there is one that is even more ultimate that pops up before I get a chance to write about it. We are in a period of rapid innovation and disruption. There is abundant competition that is fomenting fast and faster change. Today some people may be made uncomfortable by digital eyewear such as Google Glass.

In a few years, that digital eyewear may be a piece of nanotechnology inserted into the optical nerve where it will communicate directly with the brain. Robert Scoble and I have seen augmented reality binoculars, that allow you to see precisely what’s around you–except that a sign, a map, pr a person is inserted into the scenario that is not really there.

In the play “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolfe,” Martha tells her husband, “Truth and Illusion, George, you don’t know the difference.”

Soon that may be the case for the rest of us as well. Holographic technologies, eye control technologies and nanotechnologies are going to eliminate screens for viewing entertainment, the web or anything else. Simulaneously windshields,and closet mirrors are become screens for data and entertainment.

PC: You mean besides our GE Social Fridge? I have to say Points is a big deal. Or August. Both of those products should be big successes from what I can tell. Homegrown hero SmartThings in DC is way out ahead with regard to platform development for home automation. I think they’re going to kill.

GL: Is social media an established and at the same time tired practice now?

PC: Absolutely. Social media is a boring commodity. It’s easy. Hardware engineering isn’t. Physical + digital interaction that excites and delights people is much more difficult to design for than a simple click on a social app. The bar has be raise really high with this one, and the social shops are going to get eaten alive people people that can span digital and physical.

SI:Social media is now a mature platform. No surviving company has a go-forward strategy that does not include social media. In less than a decade, it has moved from a disruptive intrusion to a core component of life and work. There is nothing tired about the technology. What got tiring is talking about social media. Now we just use it.

Businesses have come to understand that it is not just about push, but is an amazing place for gathering real time sentiment and data. The traditional media that has survive the tumolt of the last year, now see the people of the world as sources of credible news and the platforms as faster, better, cheaper ways to distribute it. I only wish the slow-moving institutions, particularly government and education would embrace the social media more strategically.

GL: If you could coach today’s students on one area to focus on, what would it be?

PC: I’d encourage them to focus on product design – digital and physical product design. There’s so much work to be done, and not enough talent. I was a programmer/designer who went to business school and studied marketing and management. I wish I had studied mechanical engineering or industrial design. Those are such important worlds to grok.

SI: I would counsel them not to focus on any one area unless they have to. I’d also advise them to learn to program, and that they will most likely learn far more on devices than they will in classrooms–despite what their teachers may tell them.

GL: What’s next for iStrategyLabs?

PC: We’re building a new product – it’s a real-time analytics platform for employees. We want to see if we can help teams be happier and more productive. That’s a very much digital product (and iOS app). At that same time we’re working on more physical internet connected device prototypes for internal purposes and for our clients. We hope the we discover a blockbuster internet connected device we can build 1000s of over the next couple years.

GL: What’s next for Shel Israel?

SI: I’m researching a book with Shel Holtz on how technology is giving more people and business in more places a better shot at economic viability. You’ve heard about lots of slivers of this new, open economy: shared, sharing collaborative, consumptive, mesh, ad nauseum.

Shel and I want to show how it is all part of a new global economy, one that is enabled by the technologies that are forming the Age of Context, an economy where the government plays a reduced role even on recognizing and defining currency, and designers with new ideas can print products on home devices.

Don’t forget.  Register today for this Friday’s xPotomac conference, and use the code Geoff for 20% off!

#xPotomac14 to Feature Robert Scoble, Shel Israel & Others

xPotomac is coming back this February 28, 2014! Our opening keynotes this year are Robert Scoble and Shel Israel, who will discuss The Age of Context, and how the world of media is being dramatically impacted by social media, data, mobile and sensors (see Geoff Livingston’s interview with Robert for an in-depth look at this issue).

Tickets are on sale now. If you register by December 31, receive an rely bird 30% discount using this code, EARLYBIRD. Contact Geoff Livingston (geoff @ tenacity5.com) directly to discuss sponsorship.

I have been organizing this conference and its predecessor BlogPotomac since 2008, so it’s pretty cool to see it coming back. In its current iteration, I have help from xPotomac Patrick Ashamalla and Shonali Burke (thank you for joining me on this crazy adventure!).

Before I unveil our closing keynote and additional sessions, here’s what’s new about xPotomac 2014:

  • The day has changed from Monday to Friday, providing an easier escape for media and marketing wonks who want to attend.
  • Six sessions instead of eight, with an anticipated 3:30 exit. The intensity of the sessions makes eight a bit long, in our opinion. Plus, we want to enjoy everyone’s company at happy hour afterwards.
  • The location will change from the Source Theatre. Though a great venue, the room got a little hot. We are in negotiations for a new venue, and expect an announcement shortly.
  • We will be keeping the gladiator style format (see videos from last year’s event), which people really seem to love. It offers more conversations and interaction with speakers.

    Additional Speakers

    Our closing keynote for xPotomac is Jim Long, a.k.a New Media Jim. Jim will lead a session on the rapidly changing world of video, and its implications for social networks and content creators. Currently, Jim is the Washington bureau videographer for NBC News.

    Cox Digital Media Director of Social Media Integration and blogging pioneer Toby Bloomberg will join us from Atlanta. Toby will discuss her insights and perhaps an adventure or two based her work with over 70 TV, radio and newspapers properties in using social media as a catalyst to build stronger brand-to-audience relationships.

    Nonprofit marketers Danielle Brigida, National Wildlife Federation, and Allyson Kapin, RAD Campaign will add insights into the nonprofit sector’s struggles with new media. They will engage in a conversation about what is working, what hasn’t worked, and why.

    Our final two sessions focus on corporate adoption of advanced media and the native advertising debates. These speakers will be announced in January.

    This post was originally featured on the xPotomac site.

    The Permission Trap

    After reading the Age of Context (read my review here), I could not help but think about how this era is removing most concepts of privacy. In turn, it is causing an incredible amount of intrusive spam. A tension builds between brands who market to the niche, and consumers who unwittingly gave them permission to do so.

    The Age of Context theorizes that successful companies will need to taper their shotgun approaches to marketing. I admired Robert Scoble and Shel Israel‘s hope, but at the same time I had my doubts.

    Then I interviewed Robert. He made some interesting comments about filters possibly resolving invasive marketing, and providing an end ceaseless spamming.

    Before diving in further, let’s discuss the permission trap.

    Permission Abused

    Most companies and nonprofits don’t care about permission marketing. When individuals sign up for a list, it’s an exchange for a free piece of content or another one time transaction. Permission also assumes the ability to unsubscribe.

    If an organization’s ensuing outreach is so annoying that you feel compelled to unsubscribe or remove yourself from said list, then that means remove. The moment an organization fails to obey an unsubscribe request, it becomes a spammer. But organizations will gladly sacrifice good will for a 2% growth transaction rate.

    This is the permission trap. Someone gives a company permission in exchange for free content or a deal, and then receives unwanted spam for the rest of their email account’s or phone number’s life.

    Even as media and data allow brands to become more precision oriented, I see the trap holding steady. And that means spam not only on the dektop, but on all media devices.

    I have given money to the DNC during the past two presidential elections, only to find myself added to an unbelievable amount of Democratic email lists and the occasional phone call. No matter how many times I unsubscribed, I found myself continuing to receive emails. After years of hitting remove, I still get the periodic Democratic email. Al Franken has been by far the worst of the lot, with the Obamas a close second.

    The political example highlights my point, but I have had the same experience with many companies. Unfortunately, because there is so little choice when it comes to political parties, I am likely to donate again. That means I will be ceaselessly spammed for the rest of my life, even though I would do so without prompting.

    One would think that yielding results in the single percentages isn’t worth the negative equity and bad word of mouth. But tell that to corporate leaders, investors, owners and Wall Street who all need or want to deliver maximum ROI.

    Until there are enough alternatives out for customers, we’re screwed. In this new era of contextual media driven by automation, pinpoint marketing and permission, most companies won’t do the right thing. They’ll still damn the 98% of uninterested stakeholders for that two percent who buy.

    Can Filters Combat Spam?

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    I took the opportunity to ask Robert about this issue in my interview, “I remember giving the DNC permission to email me, and I still get spammed despite opting out from their lists numerous times. Is giving permission really just the death of “quiet?”

    His answer was insightful, “Google and Apple are working on contextual operating systems. These will know what you are doing. Who you are doing it with. Are you in a meeting? Google knows, it’s on your calendar. So it can shut up any of these lame advertisements.

    “In fact, look at the new Gmail. That DNC email already is going to the promotional folder. It knows about the context of that email and that it’s not from a trusted friend. So, no, I think context is the rebirth of quiet.

    “You’ll get these kinds of messages when you want or need them, not earlier. Marketers will need to learn to be far better about serving these messages out, too. In a perfect world the DNC would add a feature to its emails like Facebook has “show fewer of these messages” or “show these messages only during the month before an election” or something like that. But marketers don’t think about customer service so Google will force the issue, just as it has with Gmail’s promotional folder that removes this kind of stuff from the inbox.”

    Robert brings up a good point. Soon filters will get more powerful and smarter, allowing us to block specific types of conversations and keywords. To some extent these filters already exist.

    For example, you can filter email by keywords. I have a special folder for Google+ updates (that I almost never look in). Other filters include the ability to mute people and conversation topics (such as presidential elections, please?).

    Once algorithmic intelligence picks up on preferences, we can expect to see filtering happen wholesale. It’s likely a tug of war will occur with marketers figuring out loopholes around filters, and software providers developing new protection mechanisms. And one can expect all sorts of filtering mistakes, too. For example, I might want to read my client’s Google+ emails but can’t because of the filter.

    Perhaps we will reach a point where it is just easier for brands to garner permission, and treat customers well. Wouldn’t that be grand?

    What do you think?

    Featured Image by WhatWhat, Scoble pic by NEXT 13.

    What 100K Twitter Followers Gets You

    #BlogPotomac Keynotes @kanter and @shelisrael at the White House

    Everyone always seems fascinated with Twitter follower counts. Friend Beth Kanter was recently added to the official Twitter recommended list, which in turn added more than 100,000 new followers to her account. We decided to see what kind of impact the new following brought with it.

    We did this by retweeting a link to the above photo featuring her and fellow BlogPotomac Keynote Shel Israel. Before Beth’s tweet, the photo had approximately 140 views. After she tweeted it, the photo garnered another 260 views, ten of which you could assume came from prior tweets and links.

    So unofficially, Beth’s then 120,000 followers produced a click through rate of 0.2 percent. Now on my feed of 7,500 followers a popular photo like the above if it’s not retweeted (as this one was when I dropped it) usually gets about 50 click throughs, or approximately 0.7 percent. In this case if you include RTs, I accounted for roughly 150 views or 2 percent (sounds like email click throughs).

    So the lessons learned? Generally speaking, with more casual followers you lose engagement and influence power.

    While the actual number of click throughs increased with numbers. if the following isn’t organically or naturally cultivated then people care much less about your tweets, and are not as likely to click through. Influence wanes without relationships. Social media is still relational. It’s better to cultivate a rabid community than a massive following.

    I’ve seen this same phenomena on large client Twitter accounts as well as heard it from other folks with 100k Twitter followings. Bigger is not necessarily better.

    P.S. See Beth’s post on how she came to be listed, and the impact it’s had on her.

    WhiteHouse.gov Breaks New Ground with Social, But…

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    The highlight of last week’s YNPNdc briefing on the Obama Administration’s nonprofit policy was Macon Phillips, Director of the White House Office of New Media (pictured above). Phillips detailed how the White House was using social to engage stakeholders online.

    As you can see, the White House site is very social, playing with every tool possible. While there are forays into conversation (one such foray had Phillips asking Obama during a chat if he planned to legalize marijuana), the overall effort seems more shiny object-oriented, and less conversational.

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    BlogPotomac Keynotes Beth Kanter and Shel Israel joined me for the briefing. Shel noted that while there was a Scoblesque joy for tools, the site lacked full on dialogue. In review, consider that while you can share White House blog posts and comment on your various social networks, you can’t actual enter a comment on the White House blog. True to form, the White House Twitter feed pretty much publishes links, and doesn’t engage in dialogue.

    There are bright spots in the social media effort. The Flickr page is outstanding with hundreds of comments, and a less polished look at the Obamas in their day to day activity. You feel like the President is real, finally. Facebook and YouTube have more dialogue, too (while Vimeo is open for chat, but has less traffic).

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    What’s really missing? Frank on-site conversation and dialogue — good and bad — about the very real issues Obama is facing. Instead, what we get is glorified message delivery on whitehouse.gov, with said conversations occurring on beachheads elsewhere.

    For an initial White House foray into social media, this is a great start. The barriers to Gov 2.0 are significant and substantial in nature. But… We all know this isn’t full on social media. It’s more of an experiment and test bed to see how American citizens interact with its government at arms length. Progress, my friends, not perfection. I give it an eight out of 10.

    Overall, I felt the larger Obama Administration nonprofit team had lots of bubbly comments for the YNPNdc attendees about how great their efforts were. Then we received patronizing platitudes of hope, pats on the head for tough questions, and very little substance. While it’s early in the Obama presidency, I’d like to see a lot more substance from Buffy Wicks, Trooper Sanders and Sonal Shah. Otherwise we will waste our national nonprofit policy and dollars on disparate and uncoordinated activities with little impact.