Still Time to Catch Up in Social

No one likes to hear they are out of time.

Unfortunately, time is running out for businesses that haven’t fully integrated social media into their communications mix.

Businesses are in grave danger of not only becoming laggards, but also getting lapped on the next generation of media technologies. Some companies have been experimenting with forms of social media for the better part of a decade now.

Today, technology firms are building new tools with sensors, location data and mobile networks access that are empowering incredible one-to-one communications. These contextual outreach tools come in several forms, from marketing automation to mobile apps and location-based marketing programs.

Major brands like adidas and CARFAX are using next generation solutions to increase sales, strengthen brand loyalty, and reduce operation expenses. Meanwhile their competitors continue to waffle, broadcasting messages with tweets and Facebook messages, failing to build online communities.

You can see that even the social network broadcasters, while flailing, have at least made a worst case scenario entry into the media form. Many claim that social does not deliver ROI, and in return those that follow can claim the businesses who don’t engage fail to offer anything of interest. Yet they have a toehold, a minimal entry from which to begin should they choose to invest in larger engagement or custom content for their stakeholders.

Social media is tough for brands because it requires a deft personal touch that contradicts the way marketing worked in the industrial era of business. It was called mass communications for a reason.

Fractured media began occurring in the form of blogs and social networks at the turn of the century. As the first decade closed the web 2.0 revolution had come and gone, and mass communication properties were weakened, or worse were going out of business. Social media offered people something a little more personal and unique to their interest levels, plus they could talk with like-minded individuals.

Now with contextual media, brands and willing customers can finally engage in one-to-one or one-to-a few communications. Let’s not kid ourselves. For any company of significant size and scale this takes work.

Contextual marketing is a different type of strategy that heavily relies on data and algorithms to build microniches. It does require human guidance. Managing a database intelligently and creating the right content and deals for a micro niche audience requires a deft touch that in many ways is the exact opposite of mass communications.

The good news is that these new marketing technologies are imperfect at best, and in some cases, are in their earliest phases of development. There is still time to catch up in social media. Some brand might even leapfrog social.

What do you think? Has time run out for brands to get their social acts together?

Image by Driek.

The Dog Days of Summer

The dog days of summer are upon us. During those last dwindling days of heat nothing seems to happen.

When I was a child I used to think the dog days were awful. Boredom plagued me, there was nothing to do except play, no school, less friends around, etc. In hindsight, those were the best of times. Little did I know about the coming travails of work and responsibility.

Now when summer arrives I treasure those moments of doing nothing. You realize how important the down cycle is to your later performance, and you treasure July and August vacations.

Perhaps I reminisce too much this year because I took on publishing Exodus this August. There is little downtime. Don’t get me wrong. I am extremely thrilled, but the fog of exhaustion holds my mind and patience has worn thin.

An opportunity to rest is almost gone. John Lubbock wisely said, “Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.”

We’re going to try to steal some rest with a two week vacation at the end of September. Originally, we were heading to Scandinavia, but due to some mitigating circumstances we have decided to tour the southwest and see the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley. When your kids are small and not required to attend school, this is a great time to travel. There are fewer tourists about. Everyone is back to business.

In some ways those missing travelers will be in a better place than me. Consider a marathon runner who suffers a nagging injury, yet decides to finish the race. Crossing the finish line and arriving to rest takes longer and is in greater need. I get that feeling right now. I am a bit envious of others who are enjoying the dog days of summer.

The Golden Light

Sans titre

Instinctually, we understand that the light changes throughout the year. When you learn to shoot a camera, you come to treasure and better understand light. You see how it impacts the world around you in the moment.

Now I pay attention to light with a photographer’s mind, and as a result, I remember things a little differently. The dog days of summer are no different.

August has a yellow quality to the light, a golden tinge. It’s a little softer than the harsh beating sun of July or the direct warming rays of June. There’s an air of preciousness to it, a delicate sense that time is waning. The magic of seasonal change is about to strike again. Live the summer day for soon it will be depart.

In hindsight, I have painted my memories of teenage summers in Provence at my grandmother’s or at the beach in Cape May New Jersey in this same yellow light. They are stuck on a microfiche etched forever in my head. Perhaps they will create a dog days Instagram filter with this effect.

I remember trudging up the white stone mountain trails of Provence, watching a snake lazily run into the underbrush, afraid of it. Around me the vineyards were filled with plants bearing their fruit, ever so slowly winding themselves up towards the sky. The pale blue of the sky seemed almost cloudless in hindsight. All with that slight yellow dog day tinge. After a couple hours, I ran back to Grandma’s and cracked open yet another book, then eventually I fell asleep in the mid-afternoon, another day passed.

The sun beats down on the bleached boards, and the dark blue of the Atlantic waves crash on the yellow white sand. Horseshoe crabs, jellyfish and seaweed litter the south Jersey beach, reminding you that out there much more exists. Yet I ignore it, pursuing the vain trivialities of teen pursuit I’m walking on the boardwalk eating some sort of junk food — probably a cheesesteak that just wasn’t up to par — hanging out with my fellow urchins, looking for innocent trouble in a bottle. Another day passed.

How funny it feels to reflect on those slow moving days now long gone, lost somewhere in the yellow August light of days past. The memories stay with me. Little did I know that those were going to be some of the best days of my life.

Those Moments in Time

Soleil in the Train

If you’re a punk, you love Henry Rollins. The former Black Flag frontman has become quite the sage for my generation with insights that extend into life’s inner workings. He nailed summer’s haunting grasp on us when he said, “We know that in September, we will wander through the warm winds of summer’s wreckage. We will welcome summer’s ghost.”

Last Friday, we took Soleil to a local Montesori school for an interview. The school offers a kind of a fun, non technical creative experience, something we cherish given Soleil’s propensity to gravitate towards electronics.

Outside there was a phenomenal playground with a five car wooden train. She ran from car to car, playing and sticking her head out the windows. Her golden smile beamed, excited and filled with energy even though she clearly needed a nap. To be two, almost three again.

Through the rest of the day she kept asking to go back to school. We even went and saw Planes, and as soon as the movie was over she asked to go back to school.

The good news is she has been admitted to the school (upon completing poddy training).

With this news comes the ends the baby/toddler years in my mind, which seemed to have passed us by with a blink of an eye. I know I was present for all of this times, sans the weekly business travel during her second year for Marketing in the Round.

I can’t stop thinking about this. And every time I do, I think of her running through the train, her last days of toddlerdom, of staying at home. The memory is awash in that dog day golden sunlight breaking through the shadows, illuminating spots of the playground around the tree. Sometimes the memory brings tears. I can’t help that.

In a few weeks, she will put a uniform on, just like all the other kids. A new chapter begins, and at the end of October she will turn three. I will have likely changed my last diaper. She will have playdates, and the shepherding of kid from activity to activity will begin in earnest.

In five weeks, we will travel together, perhaps a final encore of those precious first years, and at the same time a fine line, marking this new beginning.

One thing is for sure, though I am working, I am paying attention. The moment pierced through my haze, and I realized that even in moments of work, there are still golden moments left within 2013’s dog days.

I may not have spent a ton of leisure time this summer, but some time remains. Now I am forcing myself to read Kim Robinson’s 2312, a magnificent piece of science fiction. I will go to a couple more baseball games even if the Nationals suck. And when I look back at this August, there will be this golden moment of time with Soleil, and yes, just a little leisure.

How are you enjoying these last moments of summer?

Featured image by Marta.

Awakening from Delusions of Grandeur

is the ego a window to the soul
Image by alshepmcr

It’s a strange world we live in online. Delusions of grandeur call, singing like that sweet Siren in the midst of the sea. To win, we must appear like we are Doing Important Things, but in the end we find our lives dashed on the rocks.

I’m speaking about the competitive rat race to see who can get the most social media rock star badges; keynotes, books, followings, awards, blog mentions, yeah!

I have to admit, I got caught up in this hooplah again during the past year. Then I looked at my real life (the one I physically walk around in), and my toddler clinging to my pants leg crying every time I moved to the door, afraid that she wouldn’t see me again for days.

Well, when that happens it’s time to reevaluate what matters.

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How a Child Changes You

Soleil at Glen Echo

I’m personally thrilled to participate in two charitable efforts to help children this month because of the incredible impact my daughter Soleil has made in my life.

It’s just amazing how love for a child changes you.

This love eclipses anything you could possibly know beforehand.

For example, I would do anything for Soleil. I would die if it meant she would live, and I’ve never felt that way about anything else. Cliche, but true. It’s just like that.
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Parsing Time as a Social Dad


A flurry of recent business travel caused me to miss a lot of time with this little girl over the spring. It’s always the hardest part of being gone.

Perhaps because of her age (1 1/2) or the absences, she insists on enjoying every moment with me. I’m the play guy. The combination makes balancing my work and online life all the more critical.

See, I got one shot at this. Just one shot to be Soleil’s Dad.

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Free Content, Expectations and Monetization

Vieux Port

Good free content attracts people. If successful, it builds an expectation of more free content and time. This creates problems for small businesses and individual content creators (bloggers, photographers, etc.).

First, once people get free stuff, they want more. More content, more time, even services and goods for free. They ask for it, and voice dissatisfaction when told they must pay. When told that some offerings are paid, communities and customers even get angry.

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