Mark Higginson

The web is a social artifact.

This short manifesto covers what I hold to be self-evident about modern marketing practices, particularly related to online activity.

This piece about how people's attention flows on the web highlights the fundamental misunderstanding that causes almost all online marketing to be ineffective.

The blog that follows consists of a series of short posts that support my arguments.


31 May 2012

If you’re unknown, social media buttons make you look like a dog waiting for the crumbs from the table.

Sweep the Sleaze

As I have grown older I have come to appreciate that one of the great gifts of age is a sense of perspective that, if cultivated, is useful in examining all sorts of things that seem like received wisdom, whether seemingly relevant or not.

By-the-by this is why I quoted from the linked post; I’ve always regarded ‘sharing’ buttons as a pox on the web. I strongly suspect, as with so many behaviours that are treated by marketers as universal and therefore generally applicable, only a subset of users ever click these things.

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30 May 2012

The Facebook Fallacy

Good post. I do not believe there are deep insights to be had from this unstructured data that will directly correlate with vastly superior advertising performance.

Display advertising is ignored. Paid search and SEO is a straightforward response to a clear intent and need not be complicated. The real challenge is in social; coming up with ideas that people actually want to share that also encapsulate a marketing message.

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16 May 2012

Forums are the dinosaurs of the modern web.

Chris Poole - ROFLCON 2012

Some good stuff in here from Chris Poole, founder of 4chan.

“The test of a good, true community is: does it create more value than it captures… value is something that can be abstract… and by that test… harvesting user generated content and wrapping it in ads… I don’t think there’s value there.”

Something to think vis-à-vis aggregators and social platforms.

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15 May 2012

And that was the problem. At the time, the Web was rapidly becoming more social, and Flickr was at the forefront of that movement. It was all about groups and comments and identifying people as contacts, friends or family. To Yahoo, it was just a fucking database.

How Yahoo Killed Flickr and Lost the Internet

Yahoo lost the battle for search and went straight on to lose the battle for social.

This slow-motion disaster has been fascinating to watch unfold; what happened to Flickr encapsulates so much of what was and is wrong with Yahoo, as the post quoted above highlights.

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07 May 2012

In the online world, businesses have the opportunity to develop very deep relationships with customers, both through accepting preferences of customers and then observing their purchase behavior over time, so that you can get that individualized knowledge of the customer and use that individualized knowledge of the customer to accelerate their discovery process.

This is a quote I come back to time and again. That was Jeff Bezos speaking in an interview in 1998, well before ‘social media’ was a twinkle in the marketer’s eye. Yet the understanding encapsulated here demonstrates perfectly Bezos’ grasp on what makes the web particularly special and useful to business, whatever you may think of what Amazon and Bezos have wrought.

He goes on to say:

“If we can do that, then the customers are going to feel a deep loyalty to us, because we know them so well. And if they switch to a competitive website – as long as we never give them a reason to switch, as long as we’re not trying to charge higher prices or providing lousy service, or don’t have the selection that they require; as long as none of those things happen – they’re going to stick with us because they are going to be able to get a personalized service, a customized website that takes into account the years of relationship we’ve built with them.”

If you ever think ‘what exactly are we trying to achieve here?’ just try and elicit what ‘individualised knowledge’ you are capturing and figure out how you can use it. The rest will fall into place. This is what ‘social media’ should mean to a business. It’s entirely practical; a record of events that grows over time, tied back to individual customer profiles that can be interrogated at scale to inform strategic decision-making.

Note that this is most definitely not an endorsement of how Amazon treats its workers.

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