A recent CNN article claimed that the Internet browser is becoming the most critical piece of software on a device.
 
I disagree completely.
 
The most critical piece of software in the universe today is the mobile application, or widget. 
 
When a person pulls out their smartphone to check the weather, get the latest social updates from friends, or find their way across the state, they are not using a browser.  They are using a mobile application.   They are using an application that makes grabbing relevant information quick, intuitive, contextual, and seamless.  An Internet browser is none of these.
 
A browser makes you very much aware that you are accessing the Internet to obtain information.   You enter an “address” or URL; you have to search; you sift through garbage on pages.  The nuts and bolts of the web are fully exposed and must be tolerated.
 
On a mobile device, there’s no time for this, and the Next-Generation consumer won’t tolerate it.  Interfaces must be engaging, customizable, and must make sense.  Most of all, they better be reliable and fast.
 
Smartphones are quickly becoming the access device of choice for consumers.
 
So isn’t the mobile app the most critical of all software?

Do you know a person or organization that likes to drop a big new idea on an audience without much warning?   Lots of time spent carefully crafting a message, or preparing to communicate an idea.  The message is then delivered in a big-bang announcement. 

Ta-da!

An alternative approach is to communicate your new idea in layers.   Communicating in layers means you introduce the idea slowly, over several smaller, bite-sized communications, each adding to, or reinforcing the last.  Sports coaches and teachers are excellent at training their players/students using a layered teaching approach.

Layered communication becomes even more important for bigger, more complex subjects.  I’m talking about things like an innovative new approach or process, or a new policy or ruleset for a large organization.  A layered communication approach seeks to:

Introduce – Educate – Reinforce , in that order, through a series of mini communication efforts.

The goal is to increase buy-in, in the case of an innovation, or to improve compliance, in the case of a new policy or regulation.  By laying the groundwork and preparing the audience with educational and informative snippets about the opportunity ahead, or the challenge being solved, you will get them all thinking in the same direction.  When the policy is finally introduced, adoption becomes a more organic excercise – it seems like the natural next step.

The key benefit to the layered communication approach is that you DON’T have to waste effort and energy in making the big-bang communication “perfect”.  It doesn’t have to be just-right the first time.   And, you invite dialogue around the topic early on, improving the chances of better adoption and buy-in.

I dug up this old blog post by Scott Young - who does a nice job describing the different levels at which you need to reach an audience in order for your message to resonate effectively.  Scott’s concepts can be applied to my layered communications approach as a road map for targeting your mini-communications.  Mini-announcements can be used over time to connect with the audience on the different levels he describes.

How will you communicate your next innovative idea, when you require buy-in from a large group of people?

Your Employees Are Empowered

September 21, 2010

Your IT department blocks or filters or monitors internet access for most employees.   But that’s not keeping your staff from socializing on the web during the workday. 

Your employees are empowered.  

They carry smartphones and have the Internet in their pocket.   3G penetrates your office building.   They don’t need your corporate network to waste the company’s time.  This isn’t 1998.  Your employees are empowered. 

Posted from my mobile phone using WordPress for Android!

Cancel All Meetings

September 3, 2010

If you’re already thinking like an executive leader, start acting like one too.

Don’t let day-to-day minutia derail or delay your best and most insightful plans for your organization.  When you have a great idea that requires focused, deliberate and thoughtful development, give yourself the space to do that.   Cancel all your meetings for the day.

But I can’t do that! 

Leadership flows from your ability to think at a higher level about the challenges facing your organization, company, or team.  Thinking at a higher level takes focus and long periods of dedicated time for deliberation planning, and white-boarding around a single idea.

When inspiration strikes, learn to remove yourself from the interruption ecosystem that your desk has become.  Cancel all meetings.   Shut down your email client.  Stick your blackberry in a drawer.   Close the door.  Insulate yourself for the day, and develop your fleeting idea into something actionable.

It’s only a day, it’s only an afternoon.   The plan you develop might be worth ten times your time.

I overheard this partial exchange while running alongside two complete strangers in a community road race yesterday:

Woman 1: “I want to set up my blog around the topic of psoriasis. That’s a lot of people. Then I can link from there over to my products…”

Woman 2: “Sounds great!”

The basic formula for social marketing is no secret anymore.

Everyday business-people and the individual entrepreneur are “getting it”, when it comes to connecting with customers in social channels. This person – and I have no idea what she was selling – understands her audience’s Conversation Zone, and was seeking to go there and meet her market in that very broad, conversationally-interesting space.

I’ve posted previously about the Conversation Zone, and gave some examples about how some businesses have found theirs. Do you know of a business that’s finding a great conversation zone for its customers?

The Long Tail of Facebook

August 26, 2010

In his classic book, The Long Tail (2006), Wired Magazine Editor Chris Anderson explains how information-age production and distribution models have expanded the reach of many industries to a wider market than ever before possible. Looking beyond the easy examples of Netflix, iTunes and Rhapsody, Anderson applies the Long Tail principle to all kinds of markets, from sports fans to Lego enthusiasts, and from used book dealers to advertising.

What’s interesting to me is that since the book’s publication, a different kind of Long Tail “market” has emerged – the market of friends and contacts. This market is served today by the various social media networks that allow people to efficiently aggregate a Long Tail of business contacts, friends, and far-flung family members. Tim O’Reilly of Wired has blogged that the Facebook App market is a Long Tail, but I’m talking about the non-commercial market of social connectivity, supported by the basic service itself.

I call this a Long Tail market because it fits exactly with Anderson’s definition from the book. The Internet, in this case, has drastically reduced the time, effort, and relative expense of keeping in touch with large numbers of acquaintances. Additionally, online tools like Facebook and LinkedIn organize our personal social networks in ways that make them easy to navigate and participate within. Reminders (“Joe has a birthday today”; “Reconnect with Mary, it’s been awhile”) and Recommendations, in the form of affinity-based friend suggestions, help drive us even further down the tail. It’s interesting that online social networking also makes possible the non-geographic communities-of-interest that Anderson notes are the key to the rising “niche” marketplaces.

People today are using online social media to maintain much longer tails of social contacts than were possible a decade ago. On Facebook, for example, the overall cost of communicating with the people I might describe as “once-a-year” acquaintances is the same as for an everyday conversational friend. Another classic characteristic of the Long Tail marketplace.

Have you read the book? Where else do you see Long Tail markets forming?

The End of Television

August 25, 2010

My household officially went cable-free this month. We said goodbye to a pricey bill for “bundled service” from our cable provider, which had crept up to $175 a month for phone, basic cable television, and high-speed Internet. With an increasing number of content options available, cable television is getting to be a pretty bad value.

For my family, the choice was pretty easy to make.

For one thing, we found that we simply weren’t watching cable TV anymore. We’re not a big TV-watching family in the first place. But over three-quarters of the time my wife and I and our three kids were spending in front of a screen was spent NOT watching cable television. We were reading on the Internet, or watching movies, or watching streaming video online.

For another, my cable company was charging WAY TOO MUCH for phone AND Internet service. This bothered me, big time. How could voice-over-IP (VoIP) service cost as much as the Internet service itself (roughly $45 each)? I thought voice over internet was supposed to leverage the data technology I was already paying for with broadband Internet. So where were the voice savings? Vonage, the VoIP service provider, manages to deliver phone service over Internet for $10 a month.

Finally, we realized that the future of home entertainment is web video streamed to really big TV’s.

So, Cable TV, your services are no longer required. Goodbye.

Our total household savings are over $100 a month. This is without losing much, and getting better variety, more customized to our own tastes.

Here’s my new set-up:

Broadband Internet: OK, I still pay the cable company for this. Total Cost: $45 per month.

Hulu.com: Hulu might end up being the tipping point for a mass exodus away from broadcast cable service. It is so easy to time-shift your viewing habits in order to watch online for free the next day on Hulu. In addition, Hulu now comes built-in to some network-ready HDTV’s, like Samsung. My next TV will likely be a Samsung, for this reason. Total Cost: FREE.

Netflix: Online DVD and BlueRay rentals, plus I can stream movies and shows to the TV from the Netflix-hosted online catalogue through my Nintendo Wii. Total Cost: $10 per month.

ESPN3.com: This new video streaming site, still in beta, offers a few live events each day, and several replay events, all in High-Def. I watch this while working in the kitchen, where my home PC is hooked to a 26” HDTV monitor. This site offers a lot of promise and I’m hoping the programming schedule expands soon. Total Cost: FREE.

HD Digital Antenna: This little high-value gadget picks up my 4 local networks, plus PBS, in High-Def, all for free. Remember that since June 2009, all over-the-air broadcasts are digital. So I get prime-time network shows, golf and football on Fox, CBS, and NBC, plus Antiques Roadshow, all in High-Def, all for free. Total Cost: $15.00.

Vonage: While I was at it, I dropped my pricey Cable-provider phone service too. With basic internet access only, I switched to Vonage, for the more-than-enough 200 minute per month plan. Total Cost: $13 per month.

Do you find yourself increasingly getting content from somewhere besides Cable TV?

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