Vintage metal box with key isolated on white

Startup Ideas, Hide or Share?

Ideas are funny things, especially if they’re linked to a startup idea.

We tend to have them, assume we are the only one to have imagined such a thing, and then tuck them away in a notebook (or worse in some dusty corner of our brain) for safe keeping.

After all, we wouldn’t want anyone to steal it from us.

Yet, we never get passionate enough or focused enough to work on it and we never expose it enough to inspire others to try or attract like-minded collaborators who might motivate us.

How can we fix this natural reaction to our innovative thinking? Would openly sharing our best startup ideas help or hurt our chances for success?


Twitter is better when smart people follow you

I have soured a bit on Twitter over the last couple of years. I don’t use it as much as I once did and when I do, I don’t really enjoy it, like I used to.

Having said that, I do believe in Twitter (I’m a shareholder). I think it will be critical Internet infrastructure. And I see emerging markets and younger users using it enthusiastically, like I used to.

What makes twitter good or bad?

Why don’t I enjoy it anymore? I think it’s my fault.

I abused Twitter, more accurately my Twitter audience.

I have used my Twitter profile as a test bed for lots of marketing strategies–some good, some bad. I have radically changed my behavior on Twitter from time to time–some good, some bad. I have been erratic in my participation with my Twitter audience–some times attentive, often times neglectful.

As a result, many smart people have followed and then later unfollowed me. I enjoyed Twitter when a Tweet would trigger a great conversation. But, that was when my followers had higher ratio of smart people.

Twitter is better when smart people follow you.

Businessman Notepad Creativity Ideas Concepts

Responsive Design Should Be…

Ric van Westhreenen has a great thought piece on how responsive design is missing the boat on delivering content in an intelligent way.

I don’t want to rehash this very excellent article, but I do want to riff on it a bit.

Responsive design, in its current state, is merely the shuffling of content–often poorly–to accommodate various screen dimensions. Not really complaining here, it’s a major improvement over past accommodations for mobile devices.

Responsive Design is More Than Screen Size

However, responsive design as a serious discipline is about to get much more complex as the Internet of Things becomes…well…a real thing.

It will no longer be enough to rearrange your content to make it readable on a computer monitor, a tablet, or a smartphone. After all, which dimension would you pick to render on:

  • an iWatch where I’m trying to manage my marathon training by tracking my splits and navigating a new route, or
  • my refrigerator when I want to restock my milk and eggs from the grocery store’s online ordering form or just want to update my shopping list in ,y favorite TODO app, or
  • my car dashboard where I am getting turn-by-turn directions to my next appointment and at the same time want to send a text message to my client telling them current traffic is going to make me about five behind schedule.

Today, all of this kind of innovation requires pseudo responsive design. More often than not it requires custom, often proprietary, and discrete device application development, which is MacGyver’d into the Internet with some wire and pocket lint.

Ironically, despite the custom development it rarely delivers a more relevant user experience. It often just repackages (usually in a bad way) the content taken from the primary website or application.

Responsive Design is Interactive Design

Responsive design should be evolving into a much larger concept. It needs to go beyond dynamic screen resizing and become the intelligent development of dynamic user experiences, supporting any device that needs the content.

Here’s the simplest of examples:

If I come to your website on a mobile phone I probably don’t want to browse your case studies.

It’s far more likely that I want to get your address or phone number.

So, instead of just squeezing and slightly rearranging your content, how about leading with your phone number, email address, and location with all the appropriate semantic and microformat markup. This way I don’t have to scroll your page to find this info in the footer or worse try to click over to your contact us page.

This approach enables the user to do what they are most likely trying to do–contact you on their mobile device.

Secret to Better Responsive Design

I think the secret to making responsive design better lies in better and maturing use of semantic markup in our web development and content management systems. Then we can let the things, that make up the Internet of the future responsively serve our content in a user-enabling way.

Marketing And Advertising

How to Attract Attention Online

If you want to attract the attention of customers, journalist, influencers, or any other audience for that matter, you can’t just talk about what you’re interested in. You have to capture their attention by commenting or expounding on something they care about.

I know…reading that paragraph at face value sounds like I’m patronizing you. But, I hear it and see it so often I think it’s important to remind businesses and marketers.

No one responds well to the, “Look at me!” call to action.

If you want attention, research what the person or group of people you want to attract are interested in. What are they talking about? What are they trying to accomplish? What do they want?

Take that research and jump in and add to the conversation. This is value creation and customers love that!

Disclaimer: This post was inspired by a demanding client email chain asking for the “Look at me!” lead generation campaign despite our frustrating resistance. However, any resemblance with reality is mere coincidence. I feel better now :-)

Blogging Platforms Should Start as News Readers

Blogging platforms should start with a blog (news) reader.

Why Blog Readers are Important

Despite what Google thought when they killed Google Reader, I think news readers are critical to the resurgence of the blogosphere.

This assertion is formed from my belief that blogging is waning because it’s no longer an accessible and rich ecosystem. In the early days of the blogosphere the community was small, bloggers were passionate about the conversation, and the audience reaped the benefits of this dynamic exchange.

If my premise is accurate, the best way to re-energize blogging is to recapture the attention of audiences/readers, blogging users. The consequence should be bloggers re-energize by the engagement and then writing out of a sense of commitment to their renewed audiences.

What do you think? Am I on the right track?

Blog Reader Platform Requirements

Here are my initial thoughts on what a blog reader should be.

By the way, I’m going to build this (at least to a MVP version) so if you’re interested in helping in some way, leave a comment.

  • Your news reader must be available to you at all times. That means you will need a browser and mobile device version.
  • Your account must be based on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+ OAuth because you need your social graph for this to work.
  • Your news reader should immediately have relevant news in it. No fancy algorithms here. No sponsored or arbitrary A-list content. Your social graph should be the only news seeding factor.
  • Your news reader should acquire new content and content sources with a mechanism like Evernote Web Clipper. Instead of clipping stuff to some notebook you will never read again, you will be clipping in content, and more importantly news sources (RSS feeds), that you probably will read because it’s in your river of news.
  • Your reader will only be a river of news. No worrying about sorting and organizing. This inherently creates the anxiety of the red alert icon highlighting a bazillion unread items. I believe it was the death of Google Reader. Facebook,Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr have already proved that users are now comfortable with the river-of-news-only paradigm.

Now the Blogging Part

The next set of requirements begin to show how the blogging platform and blog reader begin to intertwine.

  • Every paragraph in your reader would have a mechanism (WinerLinks) to share the content at the paragraph level or entire post.
  • This share could be blogged to Twitter, Facebook, Evernote, WordPress, or preferably your blog. Attribution (i.e., a back link) would always be included.
  • When blogged to your blog it begins as an idea or seed. Kind of a blend between a link blog and svbtle’s ideas. Of course, this would be public, which would share into people’s news readers. Ideally this will generate comments, interest, and motivation for the blogger to flush out the idea–feeding the news reader, the blogosphere.

The net result of these simple activities is that readers and bloggers are once again feeding and engaging in a dynamic conversation on a variety of topics. Readers get a lot of relevant, current news and bloggers get immediately engaged, significant audiences.

Will this ecosystem work? Could this re-energizing blogging? Leave a comment. Confirm or refute my madness :-)

Why are people bored with blogging?

Riffing off Dave Winer’s blog post/question: Why are people bored with blogging?

This is a great question. One closely related to my own curiousity over an apparent resurging interest in blogging platforms. It seems that each of the ones I have tried:, Medium, Svbtle, and (Incidentially, I tried them in this order. That might be relevant.) are working on very important problems. However, I don’t think they’re working on the big problem. The problem that’s really killing off blogging–audience development.

All of these platforms focus on the writers’ experience–the business of writing and publishing.

Read for yourself how these platforms describe themselves:
* Fargo
* Medium
* Svbtle
* Ghost

Each is writer focused, not audience focused. I think this is a mistake.

To be fair, the writer experience has been broken as blogging platforms have grown into full scale, robust content management systems. I think this problem is obscuring the true reason people (and even businesses) blog–to share and expose their ideas with audiences.

This circles back to the original question that Dave Winer asks, “ Why are people bored with blogging?”

My answer would be: “Because it has become so difficult to grow an audience around a blog these days.”

People have migrated to alternative platforms like Facebook and Twitter that have built in audience. Of course the trade-off has been (generally) the depth and substance of these conversation versus what you used to get with blogs.

I think this can be fixed. I think there can be a resurgence in blogging, but I think it will only come with a focus on the right user–the audience.

Fixing Blogging

What’s the solution?

I think solving this problem involves bringing writer’s social networks and online audiences directly to their blog at the beginning. In this way, the writer gets significant and sustaining audience engagement from the very first post–inspiring them to continue to blog.

I think this is a subject for another larger discussion–another blog post–because I’m interested in whether you think my premise is correct.

Are people bored with blogging because they can’t develop an engaged audience as fast with a blog as they can with a simple comment on the alternative (i.e., Facebook or Twitter)?

Growth Hacking with Facebook Custom Audiences

Challenge: Users who have cancelled or unsubscribed

Opportunity: These are people that have already shown a high propensity to engage with your brand; however, for whatever reason they have disengaged. Over time your business changes and gets better.

Naturally, you want to re-engage and tell those people. How do you do that, in a good way? Of course emailing them is offensive, but what if you could advertise to them in a very personal way–reintroducing them to your new and improve brand?

Facebook Ads can offer you that opportunity with this clever tactic…

Facebook Ad Targeting

Step 1: Gather email addresses for re-engagement group

Download or assemble a CSV file of all of the users you want to retarget with your re-engagement campaign. If you’re using MailChimp to manage your email lists, you can import directly into your Facebook Ad campaign

Step 2: Create custom, relevant landing page

Don’t send these people directly to your home page. Create a relevant landing page for each custom ad audience you are going to create. On that page you should:

  • Highlight the benefits of re-joining your audience or buying another product

  • Make sure you have a strong and compelling call to action

  • Above all else–get them back on your email list

Step 3: Develop special, personal messaging for this group

Think carefully about who’s on that list.

What do you think it would take to get them to notice your brand again? What would you have to promise them to get them to try your brand again?

Careful not to overthink this or make it “weird.” They might not even remember you, so don’t make the messaging so personal that it makes them feel stalked. Just tune the message, like you would any other targeted ad group.

Build your inventory of creative to test. This will take some tweaking to dial it in.

Step 3: Create custom ad audience

Create your custom ad audience using the ads create tool, ad manager, or power editor.

That’s it.

However, as you can already imagine, there are lots of ways to spin this tactic to achieve a lot of different marketing objectives.

  • You could use this with purchased and rented email lists to target relevant groups in a much better way than simply spamming them

  • You could use it to cross-sell your own customers in a highly personal and relevant way

  • You could use it with partners to cross-promote products in a highly targeted way

Are you going to try it? How would you use this capability in your marketing plan?

I’d love to hear your ideas.


Are We Headed for a Content Marketing Crash?

Two incredibly smart and experienced content marketers–Mark W. Schaefer, in Content Shock: Why content marketing is not a sustainable strategy and Christopher S. Penn, in The Role of PR in the Coming Content Marketing Collapse–are forecasting a collapse in the effectiveness of content marketing.

I caution you to read beyond the sensational headlines (lesson learned with the recent viral spread of the Marijuana Overdose Kill 37 in Colorado satirical article)–there is more to this story.

Schaefer and Penn analyze the economics of this particular marketing strategy and are forecasting an impending market dynamic that is about to radically shift the content economic model.

But wait, before you fire your content creators, close down your WordPress blog, and let your domain name expire let’s take a look at what’s changing and how you should respond.

Content Supply Exceed Demand

The simple economics of the matter is that content production is exploding; meanwhile, consumers’ capacity to consume content is relatively fixed.

This boom in content production is due to the proliferation of simple publishing platforms (i.e., Facebook, Instagram, Twitter,, WordPress, Amazon/Kindle) while at the same time quality content is simpler and cheaper. Plummeting prices of high-quality cameras (especially in our smartphones), recording and editing hardware and software, and even software for researching, organizing, and managing more complex writing projects, and easier to use publishing mechanics are making quality content easier to produce and publish.

It’s a bit amazing that we are seeing the rare simultaneous increase in both quantity and quality.

As exciting as this trend is for the democratization of publishing, content, and all the opportunities that come with that equalization, there could be disappointment ahead.

People simply can’t consume more content and increasing volumes of quality content could make it even worse. The result–demand is fixed and perhaps even declining.

Here’s an excellent graphical representation of this economic relationship

economics of content

source: Mark W. Schaefer – Content Shock:

If you’re reading this there’s a good possibility that you’re either: 1.) a concerned content marketer or 2.) a marketing professional sweating bullets over the content marketing strategy you just put in front of your boss or client.

Good news you can relax, I’m about ready to show you how to stay on the profitable side of this trend.

How Are People Consuming Content

Starting with the problem: People can only consume so much content. In addition, people’s attention is beginning to make a preferential shift from text to visual media.

The preference has probably always been there, but the Web has just become more capable of delivering a quality experience with rich visual media content.

Perhaps more interesting is the shift in how people are consuming online content. In fact, I think therein lies the secret to beating the trend content glut.

In 1994 Yahoo! began to condition Internet users to use web directories for finding content, which took them to the #1 starting point for web users in 1998.

Ironically, in that same year Google began to shift web users to the convenience of search to find content. Both of these approaches to assisting content consumption craved unlimited content, especially Google’s concept of the Search Engine Results Page–you have to fill the page for any search.

Naturally the market responded and a content arms race was trigger, and with it the marketing games began.

Google was probably the first to understand the opportunity inherent in a web user’s limited consumption capacity. First, by introducing free text search versus digging through web directory hierarchies. Then, by inventing the closest thing to alchemy with “paid search.” Both innovations offered an effective means of overcoming content overload while preserving a fulfilling user experience.

We’re now entering into another paradigm shift–socially curated content streams. Arguably Facebook is the one to watch here. (For the record, I put my money where my mouth is–I just bought more Facebook stock yesterday). It’s simply the next iteration in enabling web users to get the content they want, when they want it.

Once again, we’re wrestling with overcoming web users’ ability to consume content.

Interestingly enough if you think deeply about the diffusion of innovation (commonly referenced as the technology S curve) the problem really hasn’t change since Jerry Yang launched “Jerry’s guide to the World Wide Web,” the precursor to Yahoo!. Efficiently sorting through a glut of Web content is still the quest, nothing has changed except the proposed solution.

content consumption s curve

The news feed is just now becoming a viable new preference and the finite nature of that content feed is its growing pain. But, Facebook understands the challenge of the finite feed and is addressing it. Much like Google in the early days of overwhelming search results, they see it as an opportunity for ad revenue.

Bottom line on the crash? It’s only panic-worthy for those that don’t pivot their content marketing strategies. The solution is to jump into the stream!

How Do You Get Your Content in the Stream

Much of this I have already covered in my essay on Taking Advantage of Facebook Reigning in Organic Reach for Kaleidico Labs, but I’ll quickly generalize it in the context of a macro trend towards socially curated content streams.

1. Create Awesome Content - Even though we typically talk about content marketing with an emphasis on scale and reach, you can’t compromise quality or value. Take advantage of all the technology innovations that are driving down the cost of quality content. Strive for creative and innovative ways to deliver quality and value.

2. Understand the Finite Feed - Study and understand why the feed is finite. Learn how social networks feed content into users. Analyze what user behaviors reward content with higher positions. Also become a student of paid campaigns observing brands that have a sustaining presence within the finite feed–they’re probably hitting on a success formula.

3. Embrace Paid Media - Just like Google AdWords, you can buy your way into the fight. Contrary to popular assumptions, if you do it smartly and build on incremental successes you can use paid media with modest budget and gain competitive ground quickly.

In the news feed/stream paradigm it can be even more affordable. CPC/CPM rates are much lower in similar target groups. The relatively immaturity in their ad marketplace still presents big arbitrage opportunities, something that is rare in Google AdWords.

4. Love Earned Media - The stream is all about earned media. The news feed paradigm is built on the assumption that your friends and colleagues are better at sorting through the web’s glut of content than some search algorithm. Consequently, if you’re going to win here you need to learn to love earned media–networking, schmoozing, and scratching backs.

Get tuned into the influencers in your niche and figure out how to get their favor. This can be traditional media, new media publishers, the blogger illuminati, or even better a mix of all of the above. It takes work–it’s much like running a sales operation–to get the consistency and frequency necessary to really gain awareness in the swift moving news feed content stream.

5. Aggressively Build Audience - The content stream news feed is an interesting paradigm, unlike Google and Yahoo! before it there is no real central gatekeeper. Getting into your web users stream(s) is multi-dimensional. It’s not just the content they opt into, it’s also the content that they chose to trust from their friends (social network).

You penetrate this entry point into the stream with reach, gained through growing your audience. The cool thing about reach is that it works exponentially as you gain audience–every person you connect with connects you to their network and that network connects you to more networks.

6. Mine Open Graph Data - This one starts to get a little more sophisticated, but the basics are: get your audience to opt-in with Facebook connect or other OAuth API and then you get to take a peek at their Open Graph Data, an ad targeting paradise.

Here’s a great article on building target groups with Facebook Connect by Gagan Biyani, one of the growth hacking wizards behind Udemy, shared via Andrew Chen’s newsletter.

7. Reward Loyalty - Here’s one last tip. One that can have massive impact and often goes overlooked. Make it valuable and rewarding to be connected to you. Share unique and original content. Give legitimate preferential and intimate access to yourself and your own network.

Here are a few of my favorites at demonstrating this point–join their email newsletters to see it in action: Chris Brogan and Noah Kagan.


Market crashes are for those that are unprepared to react appropriately to shifts. What do you think? Is there a content marketing crash coming? How will you react?

I’m sure there are other opinions. I’d love to hear them.

5 Characteristics of Highly Effective Entrepreneurs

Entrepreneur characteristics

Successful startups are the result of highly effective entrepreneurs.

Angels, VCs, and investors betting on these little diamonds in the rough need to know what a winning entrepreneur looks like. Meanwhile, entrepreneurs want to know if they have what it takes to get their ideas into the big leagues.

In my humble opinion, backed by a fair bit of experience as an entrepreneur, founder, and investor it is a tight mix of these five characteristics…

1. Curiosity to fuel innovation

Rarely do great products emerge from anything more complex than a personal itch or curiosity. Consequently, the best entrepreneurs have a super range of interests and curiosities.

It isn’t happenstance that the best startups are littered with people that are as comfortable riffing on a guitar, sketching in a notebook, making killer imagery, or debating the finer points of Hunter S. Thompson’s absurd adventure to Las Vegas as they are coding a revolution in social interaction on the Web, cloud-based storage, or engineering a whole new way to use a cell phone.

Successful entrepreneurs are always jumping across the artificial boundaries of industry, genre, discipline, even time and space.

2. Initiative (Confidence) to run ahead of the pack

There is nothing more cancerous than a mushroom in an organization or on a team. A mushroom, by my definition, is a person that sits around, waits for other people to shovel shit onto their plate, and expects to grow. Entrepreneurs that make an impact never–yes, I said never–are waiting around for something to do. They never suffer from boredom and are rarely seen idle (this sometimes works against them).

Initiative is a critical characteristic of successful entrepreneurs. It propels them to the front of the pack, allowing them to create and invent things ahead of any obvious opportunity. As these initiated folks crash forward, they clear paths towards no appreciable trend; blowing through barriers that are unknowingly blocking where people want to go and things people want to do.

As these trailblazers crash through these barriers and create easy onramps and wide roads, people flow in mass. And (often) tons of money is made.

3. Abstract thinking to imagine the world differently

Sure there’s money to be made making a better mousetrap. But that’s generally the work of academics and corporate-types. Entrepreneurs are in the business of changing the world and that requires the capacity to imagine the world operating differently.

It’s no surprise that the geekiest of websites–Reddit, Hacker News, Slashdot–are littered with oblique references to science fiction. These books and movies are the trail maps, early visionary sparks, of entrepreneurial brilliance.

4. Hustle to get it done and hack growth at all costs

There’s a growing appreciation for the power of hustle. The epiphanies of the Lean Startup and Growth Hacking as proven methodologies for gaining the traction necessary to achieve exit velocity are bringing on a new appreciation for hustle. Startups need to be run and fueled by people that are willing to get it done, at all cost, with little regard with how it’s supposed to be done.

We’ve pretty clearly established that a entrepreneur has to blaze trails and clear paths, but that’s going to naturally lead you to encounter immovable mountains, unnavigable waterways, uncrossable chasms. That’s when you need to accept the challenge and convince others to help you overcome them.

Yes, the greatest of entrepreneurs are frustrated and challenged. The differentiating moment is when they figure out how to convince the expert mountaineer, captain, or paraglider to get help him across, often for free, in exchange for the vision of how amazing it will be to join him on the other side.

5. Salesmanship to make others believe in their unique vision

This is one characteristic I rarely see on others’ lists of important entrepreneurial traits, yet it is one of the most critical components of success.

Assuming you’re out in front, few people are going to see or understand your vision. If you’re really lucky, no one else sees the trend line you’re tracking. The advantage is that you have a head start, a lead on the innovation and the profits. The disadvantage is you’re going to need to simply the vision for clarity and then sell the heck out it.

Few innovative new products sell themselves, because few people are looking for a change. So, you’re going to have to get sells and tell everyone that will stand still for five minutes why you have the next best thing. It will be uncomfortable at first, but if you truly believe in the power of your product or service and you begin to see it yield results for customers, you won’t be able to contain your sales pitch.

How’s Your Entrepreneurship?

Well what do you think? Are you cut-out to be an entrepreneur? Do these characteristics fit you and your startup dreams?

Honestly, you won’t know until you try and it probably best to go at entrepreneurship with a little naive. When you’re blazing a new trail I think it’s best not to know or understand too many of the perils ahead, it creates paralyzing fear.

So, if your curious enough and confident enough to change the world, or at least your little slice of it, jump in with both feet–you’ll be just fine.

RSS-driven River of News for Agencies

River of news

One of the primary objectives of any digital marketing agency is to influence the influencers.  

This is a much bigger challenge than most realize for a variety of reasons.
  1. Determining influencers, from the outside, is time consuming research
  2. Monitoring influencers, across a variety of industries, is challenging
  3. Engaging influencers, as an outsider, is clumsy
  4. Influencing influencers is impossible without authentic engagement
Managing this process and consistently yielding results is in need of technology. For years we have used a scotch tape and chewing gum constructed solution that includes piecemeal, largely consumer driven, increasingly bloating, social media software. Here are a couple of tools we use regularly:
  • Google Reader 
  • HootSuite
Don’t get me wrong, they can be used reasonably effectively; however, they hinge on a couple of factors that are problematic.
  1. Google Reader, which is headed for the grave will leave us with no RSS management platform
  2. Twitter, which is an effective newswire, but increasingly less effective for engaging influence and does not directly engage the content
Here’s a bit of my open thoughts (inspired by Vision for River of News by Dave Winer):
  1. Our first step needs to be engaging influencer’s content. Influencers are generally influential by the nature of their content and the thought leadership that it showcases. Therefore, if you want to get their attention and authentically ensure them that you’re interested in their vision and collaborating in the same thought-space (I think I just made that up), you need to engage and interact with their content–comment, discuss, share.
  2. We need to leverage a technology that allows us to efficiently collect influencer content. I think this is OPML and OPML directories (Google Reader did this to some degree) that provide a portable lists of industry specific–potentially influencer curated–news sources.
  3. We need to leverage a technology that allow us to efficiently manage content flows. This is, of course, some open RSS architecture that aggregates in (near) real-time a river of content from subscribed, OPML acquired, news sources.
  4. That RSS river needs to be supported by a reading system that allows us to quickly and efficiently engage the content in a way that moves ideas and thought leadership forward–links to comment and promote. It probably looks something like this.
The result is that we begin to engage influencers in a more natural and compelling way–the way real people do–read, think, comment, think, blog, link, rinse and repeat.
What do you think? Would this be useful? How do you manage your influencer engagement? Does it give you results?