Mari and I are teaming up again for a 2nd edition of Facebook Marketing An Hour a Day -- check out the press release Sybex put out this morning.
It's been a great year for the book -- we've gotten great feedback on our work. The book has consistently been in the top 10 in the Web Marketing category on Amazon, and I'm told it is a best-seller although I'm not sure how a book qualifies for that distinction. We have been told many times that it is best book available on Facebook Marketing, and that's very humbling to hear every time someone says it.
I can't believe that it has already been a year or so since we put the wraps on the last book. Now we're ready to create the next edition.
The crowdsourcing angle in the PR piece is new -- we want to open up an entire chapter to the best questions and/or observations from the community. I'm sure these contributions will round out the book nicely.
So much has changed in just the last year for Facebook -- social plug-ins, Facebook Connect, Facebook Deals, new Groups, real-time comments, Questions, hidden notifications, Likes and not Fans are all new concepts Facebook has rolled out in the last year. Mari and I both look forward to covering these items in detail in the next edition.
We go live with one customer this week although you won't get to see it for another few weeks. We start onboarding two other customers this week, and we have a third call about a new application of our product that is very, very exciting. The game is proximity marketing, the applications are tremendous, and the opportunity is significant. We are the infrastructure that makes it all sing and that infrastructure just keeps getting better & more capable every day.
Add to this two other events more on the social side. My book, Facebook Marketing An Hour a Day, is formally releasing tomorrow although it has been available on Amazon for awhile. In fact, the book has been in/around the Top 10 in the Web Marketing and e-Commerce categories so far & has been doing very well on the Marketing list as well. So far so good.
The "virtual launch" of the book is taking place tomorrow. My co-author, Mari Smith, and I will be on camera (technology hiccups notwithstanding hopefully) to talk about the book, Facebook, and a variety of other things. I would love you to join us. A quick note re: Mari -- she is amazing at mobilizing people & preaching the good word! We are sortof polar opposites when it comes to all of this. She's the extrovert, I'm the introvert. She has really done a great job becoming a face of social media. I'm less worried about all of that than I am our startup work. The collaboration worked really well on the book, and I hope it is the beginning of even more. We'll talk about all of this among other things tomorrow at the virtual launch.
Finally, I'm on a Rice Alliance panel re: monetizing location services on May 5th at the AT&T Conference Center at McCombs. Joining me will be Josh Williams (Gowalla), Blair Garrou (DFJ Mercury), and Rick Orr (TabbedOut). It should be fun -- I had coffee with an organizer Friday who told me that the event is very popular. It's like I tell people all the time -- we're VERY early in the location services game!
When it rains, it pours I guess. Not a bad thing. Have a great week everyone.
I'd like to think that I'm gaining a pretty interesting perspective on the disruption of the publishing industry. As I've pointed out before, I was instrumental in the conversion of Stratfor into a web publisher in 1999. I got a crash course in Internet Advertising in 2002-2003. I've been the tech editor of one book and the writer of a second book over the last two years, so I've met a lot of folks in the book business. And over the last year, I've been talking with folks in the newspaper business at a variety of families, big and small.
I think Marc Andreesen had some great yet unrealistic comments in the recent TechCrunch article, "Burn the Boats". Sure, most publishers need to make their businesses more Web friendly today and without delay. But put yourself in the shoes of an executive at one of these companies... can you honestly say you'd ignore cash flows from legacy businesses? Especially when those cash flows are 1) admittedly declining yet significant, and 2) the only thing you really have?
Newspapers, television, and book publishers are all the same -- just with different challenges. Their businesses are being modernized, but each has put systems in place to maximize old revenue while experimenting with ways of bringing in new revenue. Some prioritize the old revenue more, others are more adventurous. Some put more investment dollars into new businesses, some less. Some treat new technology with great enthusiasm, others with suspicion. Some are quicker to analyze the impact of new technology on the old business, and others are quicker to experiment.
Just about all companies that go through this transition have one thing in common -- they're woefully uncool. They're uncool because they do a lot of things to preserve the old business that outsiders and tech early adopters simply don't understand. I've made the case before on this blog that Microsoft is one such business. Although I didn't make these decisions at Microsoft, I had a pretty good idea of the problem Steve Ballmer and other execs faced every year when prioritizing investments.
Here's a hypothetical example. Say Steve has $1 billion in discretionary investment dollars that he can deploy across a variety of businesses. So he decides to host leaders of a variety of business units so they make their investment ask:
Office -- $400 million for an advertising campaign in the BRIC countries in 2011 that will generate an incremental $1.5 billion in company revenue over the next 5 years.
Windows -- spending an additional $300 million on anti-piracy technology and an advertising campaign will result in $1.2 billion in incremental company revenue over the next 4 years.
Office Live -- $250 million needed over 5 years to create a new Web-based Office integration product. Product will be revolutionary but will be given away for the first 3 years, followed by an anticipated $200 million/year annual business.
Server and Tools -- $500 million needed to accelerate development of additional Windows Server, SQL Server and developer tools features necessary to help enterprises build better client applications. Total estimated impact to Microsoft across all businesses is $400 million/year starting in 2014, and is needed to also preserve other parts of the Client business.
Azure -- $550 million in additional server capacity to support the growing business. Impact unknown -- an additional $100-$400m/year in revenue is expected.
Mobile advertising -- $800 million for new mobile advertising business unit, mobile provider partnerships, advertising campaign, and rollout of new location-based advertising initiative to advertisers. $400 million annual business is estimated by 2015.
For those of you keeping score in our hypothetical example, that's $2.8 billion in new investment asks with only $1b to spend. There are requests across old businesses and new businesses. Some asks are inherently more speculative, while others are more certain. All decisions are not made in a vacuum -- there are pressures to bring predictable returns to investors while modernizing the business at the same time. Saying "it's complicated" would be grossly underestimating the problem.
I think my hypothetical example is a lot more real than most people would like to admit. Most executives at publishing companies -- newspapers, book publishers, and television -- are dealing with similar issues every day.
Disruptors are sexy because they don't have to deal with legacy annuities. They have a business vision and they need to execute on it and it alone more or less.
What incumbents lack in agility (because of those cash flows), they make up for with... well... those annuities. Even in decline, those annuities are significant and thus can't be ignored.
I am not saying anything new when I say that the best executives and the publisher incumbents that win will be the ones who effectively balance the needs of their organizations. Jump in to new technology too fast, and you'll diminish those annuities prematurely. Jump in too late or let process overtake you, and you'll miss the wave.
So should publishers burn the boats as Marc Andreesen suggests? Maybe not yet. But it's time to hunt in the jungle because you may just be here awhile.
OK - this post has been a long time coming and is likely to offend folks. But the Seattle Tech Startups e-mail list (to which I still subscribe/lurk) has a great discussion ongoing right now about the topic of how entrepreneurs should use their time/help each other. At issue is Dave Schappel's blog post. where he proposes an interesting framework for thinking of his own time economically. I met Dave briefly at a Medina, WA, Christmas Party as I was exiting Microsoft & investigating opportunities that ultimately led to Notice Technologies. So for those of you who have never met Dave, he's a sharp, sharp guy and a leader in the Seattle community.
As an early-stage startup guy who is immersed in the hunt, I can 100% empathize with Dave's perspective. When a startup gets to a certain point, time becomes incredibly valuable and scarce. Your "idea" comes to fruition on some level, and you all of a sudden find yourself a lot more demanding about the use of your time. It's a natural evolution -- deployed products, customers, business development activities, hiring, etc. all take up your time and it all hits at the same time. If you're there, you know what I'm talking about. If you're not there, well then you are not quite there yet in the life of your startup.
So as such, the things you used to do (i.e. meeting folks speculatively for coffee, "helping" a fellow entrepreneur, attending a networking event, etc.) have to be scrutinized a lot more. Our business hit the next level about 90 days ago, and trust me -- I've made far more tough choices about my time than I did just 3 months ago. And the book that I'm finishing inch by inch right now would've never happened had I started the book just a few weeks later. There used to be time for other things, but my available time for extracurricular activities is shrinking rapidly right now. I can see it being reduced to UT MBA alumni events, blogging, and maybe advising a startup 5 hours a month. That's it.
But back to Dave's blog post, here's my interpretation of his point:
The entrepreneurs you *want* giving you advice/help paradoxically don't have a lot of time for you. Young entrepreneurs, first-time entrepreneurs, and those who are just starting out *generally* don't understand this dynamic.
Same goes for most service providers and other folks who demand entrepreneurs' time like it's freely available & overflowing, but that's a separate conversation.
But anyway... as venture capital has tumbled and investments have gotten a lot more risk-averse, successful entrepreneurs have become a lot more valuable as mentors and advisors to other startups. Two of our three advisors at Notice Technologies are successful entrepreneurs whose experiences and ideas are incredibly helpful. But as we got to the point where we needed help from advisors, we wanted to respect their time by formalizing the relationship. It has worked very, very well IMO for everyone involved so far.
I liked Dave's points about being available at events (as long as they're events worth attending) and offering time in a way that aligns everyone's interests. As a serious entrepreneur (at least that's what I'd like to consider myself), that really resonates with me. But ask me or another entrepreneur for a 10am meeting, and you'd better be comfortable with annihilating his/her morning. ;-) This is why I like to set up meetings at 7am or 8am -- it's about economizing time & respecting everyone involved more than it is about imposing early mornings on someone else.
In Part 2 of this blog post, I'll share thoughts on how this affects (in a very tangible way) how I use my time & network in Austin.
It's been too long since I've made some random, unsubstantiated observations. Lucky you.
I have used Google Buzz for just a few hours, and I'm already convinced it's a game-changer. Watch out Twitter... and Facebook, you'd better not get too comfortable.
I really do think I could make a compelling argument for you that Twitter's best bet is for AOL or Yahoo or Microsoft to buy them. Not that any of that would be inherently bad, but I just don't see Twitter surviving and thriving as an independent business over the next few years.
Social media "fatigue" really seems to be an increasing trend among younger people who have used things like Facebook for awhile. I spoke at an event at Texas A&M recently that really reinforced this point. It will be interesting to see if this is a limited case or something that marketers will have to deal with in coming years.
I have given up on working with my neighborhood association. It involves the worst elements of government, bureaucracy, volunteering, politics, incompetence, ego, and personal fiefdoms -- and very few benefits.
Lots of people out there are willing to give advice to early-stage entrepreneurs... but if they haven't created an early-stage startup themselves, be careful how much you internalize. There is nothing like starting a company from its earliest stages, and it's a very, very unique business experience.
Writing a book while starting a company is hard. At some point, I'll share the story of how I got this opportunity, how I made it work, and why I'll never do the two things at the same time again. It's a rewarding life goal achieved, but everything has its costs.
Facebook is a particularly tough topic for a book, since the platform and/or the rules change about every 3 weeks on average.
The Austin Technology Incubator has significantly improved its portfolio in my opinion, and is rebuilding its brand around substantive member companies. You heard it here first.
I'm increasingly of the opinion that networking for the sake of networking is a really bad idea for early stage entrepreneurs. I know this goes against conventional wisdom, but I have a good argument. Later.
Location-based services are in their v2 with foursquare, Gowalla, and MyTown. No offense to the good folks in those companies, but I really think the act of "checking in" is too hard and lacks enough of a consumer value proposition for any of those services to "win". You'll know you see a winner when 1) there is a real compelling reason for consumers to check in, 2) a lot of it is automated in some way, and 3) there are reasons to do so that will appeal to "Joe Public." These are very much early-adopter technologies today.
I love the potential of Google Android. My wife has one & it's a pretty neat device. But it isn't quite there right now. Let's see how it evolves before handing it the future. ;-)
We're told that the economy picked up quite a bit in Q4 in the US... yet capital efficient startups are still in vogue. I'm telling ya, this frugality thing is here to stay for a decade or more.
Finally, I finally yesterday met the first woman I know who likes the iPad branding. Ultimately, I think after the shock wears off it will be OK. But gosh, how obvious is it that Apple's branding team is lacking???
Howdy everyone. Sorry for the time it's taken me to update this blog. A lot of things are moving fast with our business and in the markets where we compete, and I haven't had time to maintain the blog. It has fallen way down in priorities all of a sudden. Here's a quick rundown of the things that are keeping me happily driving to work at 7am, engaged throughout the day, and starting another half workday or more around 8pm.
Company - Last week, we launched our first deployment of MinutesNotice at QuickDFW. Quick is a Dallas Fort-Worth Metro Area nightlife portal that supplements a print publication that is given away for free in the metroplex. We have enabled the QuickDFW ad sales team to offer our "offers platform" to local bars, restaurants, and nightlife destinations. It's going great so far, and we're very optimistic about how this vertical site will perform. Expect to see bigger, broader, and more vertical deployments from us in coming months.
Market - Local has certainly heated up significantly in the last 90 days. Even as late as the end of October, a lot of people asked me "why are you guys going after the local business/local advertising market?" Well, it's really the wild west out there right now, but there are billions of dollars at stake as local online advertising evolves. A number of companies have announced big plans, funding, and other initiatives that will help advance the market. As such, we're hearing from a wide range of folks who have taken a much bigger interest in local opportunities. It's an exciting time.
Book - Some of you may know that I've been steadily plugging away on Facebook Marketing: An Hour a Day -- a book that will be published by Sybex. Later, I will share with you the long & strange story of how an entrepreneur like me got caught up writing a book while starting a company -- suffice it to say that it is tough but doable, but perhaps only when your business is still figuring out what it wants to be when it grows up. Fortunately, book writing tasks just about concluded at the same time our business picked up significantly. The book is now slated for release in April, and can be pre-ordered from Amazon.com right now.
We did make a change to the book mid-stream. My original co-author had some time conflicts and could not finish the book. So I'm really happy to share with you that Mari Smith (Twitter @marismith) is co-authoring the book. Mari's late addition to the book has been a godsend. She is a true professional in every sense of the word. Even more importantly, she really knows social media at a deep, deep level. Her involvement has turned a great book into a phenomenal book. So in a sense, the book is a practitioner's guide to Facebook Marketing, but from the dual perspectives of an industry pundit (Mari) and a capital efficient entrepreneur (Me). I can't wait for you all to read the book & share your thoughts about it.