Marketing Is Technology – Insight for the Perplexed

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This post is the first in a series focused on revealing the essence of Technology.  These aim of these posts is to spark inquire into the nature of Technology and to provide some fresh insight for Marketers, PR professionals, technologists, bloggers, doctors, nurses and everyone else. It’s important that we understand the essence of Technology; to understand our relationship with it; how it influences our perceptions and feelings and actions; and how and why it’s critical to all of us to re-frame what we see and do in terms of a panning-out from our accustomed ways and habits. You can get these posts delivered to you by subscribing here. I’ve also started the blog Technescan: Revealing the Essence of Technology – you can subscribe to TechneScan’s Posterous here and follow @TechneScan on Twitter.

WHAT IN THE WORLD IS MARKETING?

What is Marketing? Is it an Art? Is it a Science? It’s possible to attribute characteristics of Art and Science to Marketing of course. In its essence, though, Marketing is neither an art nor a science. Rather, it is part of the domain of Technology.  And we must understand Technology before we can understand Marketing. Let me provide the first installment of what I mean.

WHAT IN THE WORLD IS TECHNOLOGY?

The essence of Technology is not just tools and gadgets. That may be how most people view Technology but that’s an incomplete understanding of Technology. A definition of Technology is very difficult without understanding its essence. Define Life – it’s not easy: and yet, like obscenity, we know it when we see it. Similarly, Technology is a difficult thing to define. The difference, however, is that we don’t always see or recognize things as Technology.

The root word of Technology is Techne. The ancient Greeks’ conception of Techne was not just tools or craft (in the sense that we conceive). Techne for the Greeks was a way of knowing and being – a way of understanding our relationship with the world around us. For them Art and Technique were bound up together into a way of interacting with the larger environment. It is this angle that can rescue us from our narrow conception of Technology which will reveal deeper insights into its essence. NOTE: This is a much harder task than one may think at first. You can read the philosopher Martin Heidegger’s works on the matter: but it’s very heady stuff.

Examples of Technology include but are not limited to: Culture, Law, the Internet, Capitalism, Democracy, Reading, Writing, Twitter, Politics, Civilization and Humanity. Think about the world you live in – the one which influenced your personal and professional history: it’s utterly bound up within the contexts and influences of Technology. Kevin Kelly is right to assert that Technology is the Seventh Kingdom of Life.

When we do things with Technology – say build telecommunications networks or cars or medical devices – the effect of our use is something beyond our initial perception of the technology. Technology offers us a new view of things: it reveals what was hidden to us before. Twitter, for example, has revealed a social construct which always existed but we just never realized. We didn’t know how much we could learn about each other in just a few bursts of 140 characters; nor did we know how far we would adopt Twitter and incorporate it into our daily communication and news gathering and sharing behaviors. If you were told four years ago that millions of people would be messaging each other en masse in 140 characters, you just wouldn’t believe it.

Thus: Technology is a Revealing influence.

MARKETING IS A REVEALING

So what does all this esoteric babble have to do with Marketing? Well, when marketers seek to solve problems such as getting the word out (WOM) or Branding or positioning or distribution, they are enframing their solutions within a Technological context. What technique shall we employ here? What metrics will we measure our success or failure? How can we engage our base? These are technological frameworks.

Oh yes, many professionals will respond: Well, what we’re doing is a human activity – we’re reaching out to humans and we engage in person-to-person communication. And this position is becoming increasingly popular in light of the emergence of a two-way Web. But even here, marketers who are just awakening to the conversational nature of modern Marketing are asking themselves technological questions: How can we properly use social media to reach and engage our customers?

How is a part of Techne. And that’s not to say that Marketing can’t be Human – it should be. But Marketers can easily confuse a Technological engraming for a human one.

So Marketers need to ask themselves what their efforts reveal. They also need to pan back from their day-to-day operations and re-frame what they’re looking at, so that they can reveal the essence of what they’re doing.

HOW MARKETERS CAN GET UNSTUCK

…if you’re not present, you can’t persuade.

Marketers often get stuck in certain ways of thinking and often over-focus on tools and tactics and techniques and algorithms. This explains why so many traditional marketers are struggling with “Social Media” and the shiny new social software and gadgets that continue to pop up. Even those who understand the need to dovetail traditional efforts with conversational ones maye risk forgetting the role Technology plays within the context of person-to-person communication.

If Marketers understand just how big Technology is, what it is in its essence, how it influences our daily perceptions and conceptions of the world around them, and what it might reveal, then they will find themselves with freshened perspectives and important insights into the essence of Marketing.

Marketing, just like Technology, is about Presence. Some marketers believe “all Marketing is Persuasion”. The fault in that mantra is simple: if you’re not present, you can’t persuade.

Technology reveals what is present in our world. Marketing reveals what is present in an organization’s or individual’s realm of possibilities. If you don’t understand Technology, you aren’t realizing the potential of Marketing in its fullest and most human form. After all, that’s the proper goal of Marketing: to transcend technique towards sincere human relationship.

Confused yet?

It’s OK if you’re confused by this. It’s a completely new way to view the world. That’s why I’m devoting a series (and a blog) to this topic. I hope you follow along, contribute in the comments and even contact me (Phil /at/ PhilBaumann /dot/ com or on Twitter or by phone – 484-3726-0451.)

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Twitter Features Wish List

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After returning to Twitter after a week-long break, I’ve had the chance to look at the service with a freshened perspective. Twitter needs to stay simple – that’s what drives its success. Nevertheless, I believe Twitter needs to mature and provide exploits of its service. While the basics of Twitter aught to remain, Twitter, Inc. can build a wider ecosystem around those basics which could make it a true contender as an important part of the Web.

Services like Posterous and Friendfeed offer features such as replying via email. Although third-parties could develop similar features via Twitter’s API, it’s time that Twitter mature a bit. If Twitter plays its cards right, it could offer itself as much more than just as the modern equivalent of a telecommunications utility (which it is).

  1. Email content, replies, DMs. We should have an option to respond to replies & DMs via email. There are services out there such as Topify but they don’t provide the most secure methods.
  2. Constraining tweets to certain followers. For example, if I want to tweet something that only interests a particular group of followers, I should have an option to limit a tweet to that meta tag. Twitter already offers meta data (it time stamp, the application the tweet was sent from, etc.). Such an option would help harness and focus Twitter’s connection engine.
  3. Geotagged tweets. Similar to constraining to tagged followers, Chris Brogan offers us a way to limit Twitter to location-focused tweeting. Chris refers to this as Geopocketing.
  4. Scheduling recurring tweets (to self account for reminders, etc.) Currently, Twitter restrains scheduling of tweets to prevent abuse. But as it gains better control over spam, options to legitimate uses of scheduling need to be incorporated.
  5. Autoreply feature (within limits). Automating Twitter isn’t always the best thing to do, but there are times when it’s needed. If I’m away from Twitter, an out-of-office feature would be nice for public replies.
  6. Pro accounts for Enterprise management should incorporate meta data for multiple users. I imagine as Twitter expands in its ubiquity, companies and other organizations will need multiple users for the same account. Metadata on tweets with the individual who sent the tweet would improve customer service. There are third-party clients like Co-Tweet that enable multiple users, but having user-specific metadata would offer better customer service options.
  7. List notifications. When a user is added to a list, there should be a notification. This is no different than a follow notification. It gives users more control and helps to identify and manage spam.
  8. Improved follow management – the email notifications should add much more data about followers. FriendFeed offers a great model.
  9. Return @ reply viewing feature. Twitter used to offer a “see all replies” feature which users could turn on. It allowed us to view all tweets, including replies to people you weren’t following. It added to the social serendipity of Twitter.
  10. Subdomain accounts to follow specialized tweets. For organizations which use multiple Twitter accounts, Twitter should offer sub-domains which provide more information about the organization’s Twitter presence: a page which offers TOS guidelines, all Twitter accounts, information on employees on Twitter, etc.
  11. Security – cell phone activation, verification (Twitter does have this, but I’ve noticed that it’s not offered consistently – could be a glitch).
  12. Twitter should also build sub-domains that help extend conversation. One of the things that made Friendfeed a powerful social aggregation was the ability to comment on posts and share those posts across one’s social graph. If Twitter could install a sub-domain where conversations around tweets could be consolidated, it would boost Twitter’s presence as a social medium giant. It could actually give Facebook some competition. Twitter needs to extend its Web real-estate – the basic service may not be best provided on its web site, but these additional services would bring users (and relevant advertisers) back.

Twitter could make improvements and refinements such as these without compromising the powerful simplicity of the 140 character cocktail party. Amateur hour is over for Twitter, Inc. It’s got more than $150 million of venture capital to recoup (actually more when you factor investor discount rates and time). It’s not going to get close to that if it just lets Google and Bing usurp its real-time firehose without building on its remarkable connectivity machine.

What do you think? What features would you like to see added to Twitter?

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How to Say No to Twitter – My Week Away from Tweet Crack

A little over a week ago I decided to take a break from Twitter and to heavily reduce my use of the Web in general. It’s becoming apparent to me that those of us who work heavily with the Web need to pay attention to how this Seventh Kingdom of Life influences how we work and play and connect. Here’s what I did and the insights I gained from a week away from Twitter.

Overall the experience was refreshing and gave me perspective on work-flows and presence of mind.

(Ironically, my blog was h*cked and Google removed me from its index during my break. Yesterday I ported my blog over to WordPress.com so my readers are protected. My database was affected. (I’ll post more details later.) So that’s why my blog has a new look. I just found some (painful) humor in timing: it sure is illuminating how much power Google can have: 75% of my online “brand” equity wiped out with the push of a button.)

CLOSING THE WINDOW

Starting last Monday I turned off notifications from Twitter. Except for a few direct messages with someone who I needed to moderate #RNchat last week and a few goodbyes to close friends, Twitter was off for me. No clients open. No visits to Twitter.com, Twitter Search or my RSS feeds for keywords. Lesson one: keep your monitoring to a minimum.

Cutting from the Web wasn’t as much as a challenge as dealing with email. What I discovered was email had heavily weighted down my productivity. I initially thought that Twitter was the productivity sink, but it’s been email. In fact, I think my productivity would be enhanced if 99% of my communications routed through Twitter. Why? Because Twitter has a shut-up valve: the 140 character limit. Twitter shunts business to essential need. You still need  to establish an efficient work-flow with Twitter, but it’s a lot easier to manage than email (at least for me).

The problem with email isn’t a technological one – email’s actually a great technology & one that will be with us for a long time. It’s a social problem – no offense, but some people still don’t understand how to use email effectively. The biggest mistake I think people make with email is thinking that it’s a collaboration tool. It’s an anti-collaboration tool.

FIGHTING TECH WITH TECH – GOOGLE DOCS AS HEALTH TRACKER

In order to ensure compliance with my “digital cleanse” or brain defragmentation, I created a form using Google Docs which I used to capture what I was doing at various points during the day. I took some inspiration from Experience Sampling Method (ESM) and set 4 times during the day that I would complete the form. The form included these items to track:

  1. Compulsion to tweet
  2. Compulsion to check email
  3. Compulsion to do anything Web-related
  4. Mood (on a ten-point scale)
  5. Stress level
  6. General state of mind
  7. A box to comment on what I was doing right at that moment.
  8. Are tasks that are due right now complete?
  9. Other than filling out this form, have you been online since last survey?
  10. If you were online, what was it to do?
  11. Number of minutes online since last survey.
  12. A text box for general comments.

I created a short-link for the form and added the link to my calender and had that notification texted to me (which was the only one I allowed myself to use). The nice thing with this technique is that it allowed me to collect information within seconds and it kept me true to my goal of staying away from the Web.

My use of the Web was very limited. I permitted myself one to two 15 minutes bursts of connection with people who matter. After all, connecting with each other (deeply and meaningfully) is perhaps the greatest opportunity the Web offers us. But investing in friendship is a long-term endurance. If you’re relying on only a few media like Twitter, you’re giving up one of the most important things in life.

SAYING NO TO TWITTER

How to say no to Twitter? Simple: just don’t use Twitter. 🙂

What I found out though, is what a fundamental and simple communication tool Twitter is, depending on how you use it. For me, Twitter is a convenient and multi-purpose Swiss Army knife of communications. It’s certainly a seduction, and its increasing ubiquity makes it harder to turn it off, but I don’t think that’s the answer. Moderation and monitoring the answer.

Should you do it? It’s up to you. I recommend it. You’ll gain an appreciation for Twitter’s role in our lives.

Right now, I plan to use Twitter as an important communications tool. But I’ve also decided that Technology is far more than just tools and our relationship with it something we must understand and appreciate and monitor very deeply. More on that in future posts.

One thing is for sure: I know now who my real friends on Twitter are now. Who pays attention and who cares. It’s a small number – but it’s the only number I care for.

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