Oh, That Party Culture

The following photo essay is about SXSW Interactive networking events. However, before I start that, this year’s festival was been marred by events on Wednesday night, specifically a drunk driving attack on Red River Street that resulted in death. Anyone who has partaken in SXSW knows Sixth Street, and could imagine this happening. People are walking, meeting, and greeting everywhere — as evidenced by the photo below.


SXSW Networking Culture


Many people debate whether or not the content at SXSW is valuable, but for me the conference has always been about the incredible networking parties. In fact, I have been to only one session in the past three years.

The long table at the Yahoo! Lounge.

Whether it’s sitting across a table sharing a drink or a cup of coffee or walking around at a networking party seeing friends and meeting new people, events dominate SXSW. You can walk up and down the streets of downtown Austin, and see venue after venue filled to the brim with interactive pros.

Howard Greenstein and Cory Doctorow on 3rd Street.

Of course, networking events are not about masses of attendees, the streets, party themes or the venues themselves. While these things add to the ambiance, SXSW is always about the people.

From left to right Richard Binhammer, two friends, Laura Thomas and Paull Young.

For example, a charity poker match benefiting charity: water hosted by Porter Novelli provided an opportunity to catch up with my friends Richard Binhammer, Christopher Barger, Wesley Faulkner and Laura Thomas.


My original SXSW coach from 2009 and former housemate Aaron Brazell caught up with me at the DC All Star party. He’s showing off his new tattoo in the above photo. Both Aaron and I have a penchant to get ink in Austin. Fortunately, I escaped tattoo-free this year.


One of my colleagues at client Vocus Dee Wong struck up a conversation with this sales rep from Hootsuite. The two were pretty funny on camera!

Wherever you went you could see conversations happening. This chat happened at the IEEE party between William Hurley, or Whurley as he is known, and Eric Gradman from Two Bit Circus.

It was wonderful to talk more with people who I am just getting to know like Ann Tran.


That’s in spite of the fact that she and Kerry Gorgone photobombed this pic of Calvin Lee and Brivo LabsMike Martoccia, LOL! That’s what SXSW is all about, hanging out with work colleagues, building new relationships, and having a little fun together.

What was your favorite SXSW 2014 moment?

The top featured image was taken at Mellow Johnny’s during the Chevy Tweethouse event. You can see my whole SXSW 2014 photo set here.

Can Flickr Catch Instagram?

Flickr celebrated 10 years of serving photos earlier this month, making it an old man amongst social networks. But the photo network is still relevant today, ranking in the top 10 social networks thanks to a resurgence under Marissa Mayer’s watch. In fact, Flickr is now ranked just one spot behind rival photo network Instagram.

In the past two years, Yahoo! redesigned the site to give it a modern feel, added new apps, gave photographers a massive amount of free space (one terabyte), and continues to evolve its feature set. Most recently, Flickr added Creations, an easy way for photographers to create their own Photo Books. The series of changes has produced a visual renaissance.

Flickr has 92 million users now, from amateur to the most professional of photgraphers. Unlike Instagram, Flickr’s robust copyright protection mechanisms provides more experienced photgraphers a safe place to post, in turn attracting higher quality images.

Image by antony5112 on Flickr.

While Instagram may be the place for casual photo sharing and in-the-moment visual hashtagged memes, Flickr offers a search beast and credibility. Google, Bing and Yahoo alike index the site, and offer its images in their results. Tagging drives additional native search traffic, too. As a result, Flickr is a top resource for those looking for creative photos.

In my opinion, Yahoo!’s Flickr may overtake Facebook’s Instagram as the number one photography social network. What a coup that would be for Marissa Mayer.

I post on both Flickr and Instagram, and I can safely say that I have never had an Instagram photo featured in a news story, book, or on Getty Images. My works on Flickr have been featured in three books, twelve were licensed by Getty Images, and hundreds have been featured in blogs around the world.

In fact, Flickr is so powerful that my photo blog regularly outperforms this blog every month. I am expecting my one millionth photo view (none of which include me) early this Spring, outpacing this blog’s page views (which includes the old Now Is Gone blog, launched at roughly the same time as my Flickr blog, but not the Buzz Bin from 2006-9).

The combination of better apps and features, higher visibility to influential photography users, and increased social function gives Flickr the edge over Instagram in my book. What do you think?

Featured image by me, shot in Philadelphia this past Saturday.

Crush It, Marissa!

Image by Tilak Bisht

Image by Tilak Bisht

Last week most prominent media outlets reported on Marissa Mayer’s six month bonus. The Marissa story repels me. The media scrutinizes every management move she makes.

It’s because she is a relatively young woman, in my opinion. At this point, I hope she crushes it at Yahoo!, and forever shuts up the media and all the old bastards who think women can’t manage companies.

The men versus women debate goes through the eons. Since Cleopatra and Queen Elizabeth we have seen over and over again that when given an opportunity to lead women can do so, and do it quite effectively.

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In Rome, Do as the Yelpers Do

Thomas Jefferson’s home Monticello, a must-see in Charlottesville

During my winter holiday in Charlottesville, every meal we enjoyed at a restaurant was at a well recommended Yelp venue. Similarly my colleague Chris Pilbeam remarked that every venue he visited on a recent trip was suggested by travelers on TripAdvisor.

I guess the old adage should be revised: When in Rome do as the Yelpers do. After all, 100 million other people are using Yelp, too, and it ranks as a top 40 U.S. website according to Comscore.

All jokes aside, local search marketing now extends well beyond traditional SEO mainstays Google, Yahoo! and Bing.

If you have local business getting reviewed on Foursquare, Yelp!, TripAdvisor, Google+ Local, and perhaps Facebook’s new Nearby service is critical to your success.
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5 Common Actions Competitors Take

Marketing extends beyond stakeholders and organizations. Although companies and nonprofits like to pretend they operate alone in an industry, competition exists even if its just for the stakeholder’s time and money. If a marketer does their job well, and the product, service or solution is met with a warm reception, invariably the competition responds.

Moving forward, there are some common competitive responses that you can expect. Here are five of them:

1) Pretend You Don’t Exist

This out of all the responses is the most short sighted and foolish response. The ostrich approach — at least publicly (they certainly talk about you behind closed doors) — kids no one. Customers know there are alternatives, and so does the media and bloggers.

No one thinks the company or nonprofit operates in a vacuum, so when your competitor acts like that, it causes them look, like, well, marketers. It doesn’t mean anything other than people view communications from their organization to be completely transactional or brand related. Customers are less willing to trust them.

Further, it’s hard to develop industry leadership when a company doesn’t acknowledge the ecosystem, even in a general way. Apple rarely talks about HP or Dell, but it certainly acknowledges and talks about other PCs and smartphones. Car companies discuss industry accolades, which is smart, because it puts their product within a competitive context.

2) Copy Your Offering

When a company does really well, a common competitive response is to ape the product and offer the same product or service, often with less success. After Amazon launched the Kindle, Barnes & Noble offered the Nook. When Cirque du Soleil revolutionized big top entertainment, other circuses stole elements from their shows like the ribbon dance.

Holding first place is a very strong position for long-term success. In a strategic sense, first is the position of high ground. It’s always good to have established market share when this happens, but it can still be quite disconcerting.

There are instances when a company like Netflix or Google rises up and wrestles the market away, usually through some sort of technological innovation. Sometimes companies are caught in a price war.

The key here is to not necessarily over-react to the competition. Rather, to continue innovating on the product or service offering and extend market leadership. Don’t rest on your laurels.

3) Trash, Sue and Undercut

Smartphone bar.
Image by MJ/TR

Google recently purchased Motorola Mobility to acquire its patents in an effort to strengthen its case against Apple, who is suing the search giant for copying the iPhone iOS with Android. Other common hardball acts include talking poorly about the competition publicly, privately, stealing (er, hiring away) their talent, blocking distribution, and undercutting pricing to seize market share.

These are the tactics of war in the market. You have to be able to defend against them, not necessarily with direct engagement, but certainly by responding with value to your customers.

While these tactics are inevitable, they almost always make the market harder to work within, and can reduce customer trust sector-wide. These tactics do not grow the general market in any obvious way.

4) Go Toe to Toe

In an established market like car insurance where offerings are very similar from company to company, it is not uncommon to see advertising that directly positions a company against its competitors. This is a common tactic that Sprint takes with Verizon and AT&T with its data and service plans.

There’s not much you can do here other than to clearly state why your product is better than their’s and to engage in customer service and loyalty programs. This is about avoiding customer churn by bettering your total experience.

In the competitive wireless market, Sprint is a distant third currently, a gap that has increased over the past decade in large part because of the customer service issues the company experienced after acquiring Nextel. Having resolved many of these issues, it is now struggling to rebuild that marketshare. In a highly commoditized market, non product specific points like service can make a great difference.

5) Leapfrog Your Offering

Honda Civic
Late 1970s Honda Civic by dave_7

Last, but not least is when a competitor responds by offering a product or service that is significantly higher quality, more cost effective or easier to use than yours. While you might have the higher ground, this type of innovation in a new offering creates green fields for your competitors. Customers flock to them.

Consider how Japanese companies beat their U.S. counterparts in the electronics and the automotive sector in the 70s and 80s by offering higher quality products for lower costs. The result was incredible losses of marketshare and reputation. Google beat Yahoo by offering a superior search algorithm.

In this instance, speed is critical. Loyal customers will stick with your brand, but only if you are able to match or better the offering quickly. Unfortunately, when faced with a paradigm shift, most leading companies fail to respond, comfortable in their way of doing business. And thus new brands seize market leadership.

What are some common responses you see from competitors?

Bashing Google+: Fashionable, but not Smart

Pinata time
Image by Monkey at Large

Many social media wonks bash Google+ at social media conferences and in online conversations. Doubting the new social network is the fashionable thing to do. Yet you have to wonder if this absolute negative view is professionally smart.

While the network has not surpassed Facebook and to date lacks the business impact of established networks Twitter and LinkedIn, it has developed its own community. Engagement waned after a stellar launch, but new voices continue to join Google+ and more of Google’s core applications have been integrated into the network. As a result, traffic has increased. AddThis recently reported that Google+ had its third highest in bound traffic week to date.

Google continues integrating its entire ecosystem into the + social network, and the biggest social chip is being added to the mix — YouTube. As YouTube (and Chrome) become more integrated, Google+ will only gather further steam.

Keep in mind, my attitude about Google+ has been conservative with a wait and see approach. As time has continued doubt remains, but Google+ is consistently a top 10 referrer to my blog. In general, because of the larger ecosystem, the smart thing to do is to begin engaging mostly because of search benefits, and to protect brand reputation.

Regardless of pros or cons, a professional’s job is to view Google+ with an analytical eye. Otherwise, it is hard to provide objective counsel.

History Shows Google+ Won’t Beat Facebook

Much of the Google+ negativity finds its basis in the over exuberance of some social media experts who initially lauded Google+ as the great Facebook killer. But marketing history shows that it is almost impossible to unseat an entrenched market leader like Facebook head-to-head.

When competing against a dominant leader with no major differences in technology, distribution or product, most companies cannot win. Avis’s “We Try Harder” positioning against Hertz rental cars was an acknowledgement that it could not escape second in the marketplace.

Ironically, Google is one of those rare companies who has knocked out a market leader. In the 1990s Yahoo! had a lock in the search marketplace. But in 2000 it lost its lead to Google, which won the market with its unique search algorithm.

Yet Google’s success over Yahoo was due to an improvement in technology. Without some sort of major game changing technology or major collapse on Facebook’s part, Google+ will likely end up competing for second place in traffic and page views against Twitter and LinkedIn.