Authentic marketing at scale

0 Comments 12.03.15

As the world moves away from believing as much as it used to in brand communication, toward a world of networked peer communication and a real emphasis on authenticity, I think there’s a new way to achieve scale.

Picture a person who’s earned a big, relevant, audience online because they’re smart, entertaining, and they have good taste. In B2B, they’re probably forward looking, well-connected, and good at critical thinking. You can’t BS them, at least not easily.

One-to-one communication with people like that is a powerful new way to communicate with the world at scale. If you can win them over, they’ll tell their large, relevant, audience about your business. When they do, it will be more relatable, authentic, and credible than anything your brand voice says directly to the world.

In order for smart, well-connected, critical thinking people who have built big audiences to tell those audiences about you – you’re going to have to communicate with them one-to-one, authentically, credibly, and probably over time. You’ll want to be strategic about it, because lots of people want the attention of people like that. Unless it’s available for sale, you’re going to need to earn it.

I made a little white board sketch about it.

Communicating with your target market at scale, by building authentic relationships with credible market influencers.

Communicating with your target market at scale, by building authentic relationships with credible market influencers.

The idea here is that your company wants to communicate at scale with your target market but that market now has a shield of authenticity around it. Direct brand communication is too often inauthentic and thus ineffective. But influencers have authentically earned credibility and can speak to your market at scale. Thus, communicating one-to-one with them, with authentically earned credibility, is a way to achieve that scale. To do so, be relevant, interesting, consistent, and use flattery while maintaining your dignity.

All of this is made easier than ever, of course, by the technology we’re building at Little Bird.

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NTEN helps nonprofits learn to use the web effectively.

Into the future we go! Life after CEO’ing at Little Bird

0 Comments 12.01.15

We announced today that Little Bird has closed a new round of financing and I have changed roles at the company.  Long-time COO Ben Kaufman is now CEO, bringing tons of experience and smarts to the top of the organization – and my new role is co-founder, company evangelist and chairman of the board. I am really excited to rock this new position and spread the word far and wide about the power of discovering influential expert voices and insights on the social web.

I’m focused on telling the world about Little Bird (something I love to do), and opening doors for technical integrations with other products in the marketing tech stack and beyond.  Our company announcement is here and we got some nice local press from Oregon Live and the Portland Business Journal.

Big, big thanks to Mark Cuban, Jason Calacanis, Oregon Angel Fund and all our awesome investors.  I’m really proud to get to work with them and will forever be grateful for their support. I’m super thankful for my wife whom I love (Mikalina was essential to founding the company with me). Thanks to co-founder Tyler Gillies. And to the great team we’ve built to propel the company into the future.  There’s a lot more to do.

If you haven’t seen Little Bird lately – it’s not like other “influencer marketing” platforms.  If it’s been awhile (or never), I’d be honored to walk you through it personally.  This is the kind of thing people say when we do that together:

Being CEO these past few years has been a great learning adventure.  Now I’m excited to take things to the next level by focusing on my strengths: connecting with the world at large, largely through the social web.

My last public act under the CEO title was this morning’s live Ask Me Anything on Product Hunt, but I’ll be aiming to do a lot more stuff like that as company evangelist.

And now, into the future we go! Drop us a line and we’ll show you what we’re building.

I want to make sure you know about NTEN - the Nonprofit Technology Network.

NTEN helps nonprofits learn to use the web effectively.

Overzealous surveillance puts innovation at risk

0 Comments 12.01.15

The FBI has been demanding web browsing, cell location and other data from technology providers, without a warrant, for over a decade, it was demonstrated this week with a court ruling that ungagged a National Security Letter delivered to an internet service provider.  Techmeme coverage roundup here.

You know why this bothers me?  For lots of reasons, but here’s one: it puts this gorgeous platform of the web at risk. This is going to be a big struggle for the next few years: the tension between our desire to better know ourselves and build on top of the data created by our online activity on one hand and the government’s desire to keep us safe on the other hand.

Overzealous surveillance puts at risk the public support that’s essential for innovation platforms that present opportunities to move the human experience forward in really important ways.  This global communication network is really important, let’s not screw up its future.

One example: If you’re a user of the Foursquare mobile location platform, you’ve probably noticed how they’ve begun tracking your location persistently and sending you a push notification making it really easy to check in when you stop moving at a particular public place.  It’s something I’ve hoped they’d do for years.  Why?  Because 3 years ago today I was visiting a friend in a beautiful place, I took pictures, I checked in to the coffee shop and restaurants we went to, and now I can see all of that and more rolled-up together in my daily time capsule from Timehop.   That’s the story of my life. That data provides a structure that I wrap a narrative understanding of my life around.  I want that data capture to be easier so I capture more of it.  But I want the data for myself!

Understanding my life means two things: optimization and meaning. (That’s just begging for two more blog posts.) Think of the inverse: less meaning and less opportunity for optimization.  I do not want that – I want software developers to be able to build technology on top of my data that help me better understand and improve my life.

Software developers can only do that if there are a bunch of people excited about using data platforms.  For example, Foursquare and Timehop wouldn’t exist (free for users!) if there weren’t millions of people excited about using them.

It’s one thing for commercial interests to use that data for improved ad targeting – everybody’s got to pay the bills.  I think society has already accepted that.  Europeans have cookie warnings. Fine, we’re good.

But if law enforcement keeps slurping up all our data and looking over our shoulders, without due process like warrants and in cases where we’re supposed to still be presumed innocent, that just seems like a recipe for public backlash, withdrawal from the web and collapse of the beautiful opportunity that is data.  Call it data, call it quantified self, I think of it in terms of optimization and meaning.  Better understanding ourselves, each other, and the world equals a big step in human evolution.  That’s what I want. When society’s need for safety and control puts that at risk, I think it’s a big deal.  Not just because of what it means for the present – but what it means for the future.

I want to make sure you know about NTEN - the Nonprofit Technology Network.

NTEN helps nonprofits learn to use the web effectively.

The Social Path Beyond the Clockwork Universe

1 Comment 11.24.15

“It is now very clear to me, that the world of L&D [Learning and Development] is splitting in two.

“There are those who think that the old ways of training are still valid and sufficient for today’s workforce, and there are those who realise that the world has moved on and a new approach to supporting workplace learning is essential.”

— L&D global leader Jane Heart, The L&D world is splitting in two

How many fields could that be said about these days?

Today in banking, Brett King, one of the very most influential people in the world on bank technology, retweeted a blog post by consultant Duena Blomstrom titled Why Blockchain Doesn’t Matter.

In fact, Blockchain doesn’t matter. Neither does Hadoop, Watson, AI or robot advisory or any other of the buzz words depicting technology that investors swoon over these days. They all have the *potential* to be transformative (if Blockchain more than others as it represents a shift in understanding of the model of repository and opens up minds).

Technology in itself does not matter. We need cultural transformation for any of the bank’s problems to start to dissipate, to shake their famed inertia…

Don’t get me wrong. I knew in my heart of heart it’s cultural. Who doesn’t? We all do. Startups. Vendors. Pundits and bankers alike. We all know that a handful of banks have real heroes, most banks have pockets of amazing individuals and all banks have old, inert, paralyzed and often ignorant boards desperate to keep their jobs in the name of preserving banking as it was.

What is the cultural change?  Heart says it’s in large part about social content, platforms and learning. Blomstrom says it’s about recognizing your role as a relationship enabler between people.  Otherwise you become a dumb pipe, a low-value commoditized provider of infrastructure in the most boring sense.

“Coming from an environment where we thought of nothing but of hard metrics and the ROI of a very core piece of a bank’s digital strategy and seeing even that even with those numbers in hand it’s an uphill road [makes it all feel Quixotic],” writes Blomstrom.

But this is the way things appear to be moving.  Technology and people are coming together and make new things possible for one another that were never possible before.  From Facebook M’s human assisted Artificial Intelligence to the role of humans in training and judging output in the super-hot field of Deep Learning: Tyler Cowan says that the future will belong to humble humans who work well with intelligent machines.

John Stepper says it’s about Working Out Loud.

“Working Out Loud starts with making your work visible in such a way that it might help others. When you do that – when you work in a more open, connected way – you can build a purposeful network that makes you more effective and provides access to more opportunities.”

Stepper and others emphasize how good this is for humans, but it’s good for machines too.  When you work out loud, you help train the machines that are learning from our published work.  Hopefully, so that they can assist us more effectively in the future.

In Naomi Klein’s new book about climate change (which I must confess I just read on the shelf and haven’t bought yet), she quotes an indigenous woman who says that systems can be either extractive or generative of more life.

I think it’s about creating and participating full-heartedly in generative systems that affirm humanity and create abundance for people.  And using technology sure can help.

Harold Jarche talks about personal knowledge mastery.

All of this is touched by the social web.  For many of us, it has a deeply democratizing, generative, affirming, abundance-creating capacity in the connections it facilitates.  Each of us are at the center of our own section of it, too.  The “selfie” can be a grinning cell phone self-portrait – but maybe it can be a blog post about how you see the world too.

And all of that is very different from the Newtonian view of the Clockwork Universe, the tidy, planned, and predictable world that the Industrial era was probably the pinnacle of.  Of course there were costly externalities, both environmentally and for the experience of being human.

Now we’re moving to a networked, social world. (Would it be irresponsible to say a more Quantum understanding of the world?) The solution to every problem contains the seeds of the next problem, of course, and the next problems are likely information overload, shallow thinking and maybe surveillance.

But the world is changing and many parts of it are splitting in two.  I know which side I want to be on.  If you’re still reading this, I bet you’ve got an opinion on that question, too.


I want to make sure you know about NTEN - the Nonprofit Technology Network.

NTEN helps nonprofits learn to use the web effectively.

What the world will be like in 2020 (extrapolation)

4 Comments 10.08.15

In 5 years (2020), we’ll each be sharing 32 times as much data as we are today (“Zuckerberg’s Law” Sharing doubles per person each year), and each computer will be 8 times more powerful than it is today (Moore’s Law: computing power doubles every 18 months).  Those computers will be processing that data in networked clouds of thousands of computers, full of apps made of algorithms and intelligence designed to make predictive recommendations and take automated action based on the insights derived from your data. 

Some of those actions will be taken online and some of them, thanks to robotics, drones and other connected devices, will be taken in the physical world. It’s a combination of multiple, mutually amplifying, new developments, each individually capable of driving exponential change.

So what do you think your business will be like in 5 years? I’m going to start asking people that in conversations.


Image by Frank Diana

I want to make sure you know about NTEN - the Nonprofit Technology Network.

NTEN helps nonprofits learn to use the web effectively.

Foresight today is systematic, participatory, and focused on intelligence to impact the future 

0 Comments 10.04.15

As I work through business decisions I’m experimenting with foresight inspired models to try to think through all the things.

I came across a great summary of the state of foresight research since the turn of the 21st century and an expansion of the field beyond a primary focus on quantitative models and prediction.  I summarized it below and thought I’d share.

State of the art foresight practice:

  • Is systematic
  • Is participatory 
  • Combines considerations from science, technology, economy & society
  • Gathers intelligence about the future to inform short and medium term decisions and questions
  • Isn’t just about predicting the future but managing and influencing it

I really like that. It’s from a paper titled Future of the Polish Textile Industrial Sector. An Overall Analysis of the Empirical Research Performed with the Delphi Method within the Project Foresight ‘Modern Technologies for the Textile Industry. A Chance for Poland

I want to make sure you know about NTEN - the Nonprofit Technology Network.

NTEN helps nonprofits learn to use the web effectively.

Two challenges in facing the future: past & deserved success

0 Comments 10.02.15

Reading Peter Drucker’s The Effective Executive over my morning coffee, I took note of the following and thought I’d share.


Two of the biggest cost centers are things that used to work but no longer do & things we think deserve to work but for some reason don’t. Instead of presuming all initiatives should last forever, it would be better to assume that every initiative is temporary unless it proves it’s worth continuing after a short period of time.

Dealing with the fallout from the past is always the biggest part of the day, but redirecting energy toward the future is key. Cutting out efforts that no longer deliver is key. The successes of the past  always linger beyond their productive life. (End paraphrase.)

I really like that and am adding it to my set of things to think about when I think about facing the future.

I want to make sure you know about NTEN - the Nonprofit Technology Network.

NTEN helps nonprofits learn to use the web effectively.