Thursday, February 25, 2010

Microblogging: Where does Buzz Fit In?

Statistics on microblogging are staggering. Facebook currently has 400 million users worldwide, many who update their statuses multiple times per day. Twitter announced on February 22nd that the site hit 50 million tweets per day, an exponential increase from approximately 50,000 per day in 2007. Google released Buzz, on February 9th. In only two days, it surpassed 9 million posts and comments, averaging around 160,000 buzzes per hour.

Who is Microblogging?
Microbloggers can be segmented into three categories:
Corporations use microblogging to connect with current and potential customers. Companies’ microblogs include information on products and services. Additionally, brands utilize microblogging to promote news, as well as offer discounts and coupons.
Professionals: Individuals Microblogging for Professional Reasons
Another subset of the microblogging population is individuals who microblog for professional reasons. This group includes celebrities, independent consultants, bloggers, coaches and other individuals who utilize microblogging to promote professional services or enhance their personal brand. Professionals microblog to engage fans or potential clients and connect with colleagues. They frequently post links to their website or blog, not only to increase traffic but also improve their search engine ranking.

Casual Users: Individuals Microblogging for Personal Reasons
Individuals who microblog for personal reasons (“casual users”) use microblogging tools to connect with friends and family, and post links to articles they find interesting. Often, casual users are passive users. They use microblogging sites to gain up-to-date information on the lives of friends and family, as well as brands and colleagues, as opposed to posting information.

The Newcomer: Google Buzz
Buzz is the newest entrant to the microblogging space. Launched by Google, Buzz connects to Google’s email client, Gmail. Buzz has a number of strengths and unusual features that set it apart from other microblogging services. The integration with Gmail provided Buzz with an existing user base of millions of users who do not have to create a new username or password in order to participate. Also, users no longer have to leave their email inbox in order to share information with contacts. Buzz enables users to respond to others’ microblogs with their commenting feature. Additionally, with Buzz, users can select their privacy preferences, something other services, such as Twitter, lack. Buzz has no character limits and also allows users to integrate photos and attachments in a streamlined and simple way.

According to Google executive Bradley Horowitz, “It’s not just status-casting. It’s not just checking in. It’s really meaningful interactions around meaningful topics within Buzz and it’s reaching the right audience and people are engaged. That kind of value proposition is I think unique to Buzz. I’ve heard that again and again. In the realm of positive feedback, I think that people are finding that the conversational mode of buzz is very, very powerful and the quality of audience is also great.”

The Incumbent: Twitter

Twitter is in many ways the “anti-Buzz.” Twitter is a start-up founded by a small team and was created as a stand-alone product. Twitter’s strength lies in its simplicity. Users create simple profiles with only one photo and basic information. All communication on Twitter, whether microblogs (which are public) or private messages, must be 140 characters or less. Twitter is also well designed for search: Twitter provides information on “trending topics”- popular keywords that featured in a large percentage of microblogs across all Twitter users. Additionally, searching for specific users is easy to locate (under the “Find People” tab) and the site offers suggestions for users to follow based on categories.
However, Twitter’s simplicity, which has worked well in the past, may ultimately be its biggest weakness. The 140 character limit can be cumbersome. Although users can post pictures on Twitter, they need a third-party application, such as TwitPic, to do so. Also, users cannot see responses to conversations- they can only view one user’s microblogs at one time.

Where Does Buzz Add Value?
Google Buzz’s strengths, particularly when compared to Twitter, make Buzz an ideal product for professionals looking to microblog. On Buzz, professionals who want to enhance their personal brand can post links as well as photos and videos, enabling them to post more varied types of information than on Twitter. Additionally, professionals who want engage with their fans/audience can provide a more interactive experience on Buzz via the commenting feature, which not only allows professionals to interact with their audience but also enables fans to interact with one another. Also, presumably, since Buzz is a Google product, microblogging with Buzz could increase search engine rankings as well as, or even better than Twitter or other competitors. I personally would love to see a Buzz application for Blogger, and start following TV how-to personalities on Buzz. I could find a lot of added value in hearing Martha Stewart's audience suggesting recipes, not just Martha herself. And that is one area where Buzz has the potential to outshine Twitter and the others. Let's just hope that the class action lawsuits against Buzz stop coming.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Hila Rawet Karni: Industrial Jewellery

Hila Rawet Karni is a talented jewelry designer whose works have been featured throughout the world, from Tokyo and Design Basel in Miami to Tel Aviv, Milan, and London. Combining her background in industrial design, her knowledge of origami, and her impeccable fashion sense, Hila incorporates unusual materials to create unique, wearable pieces.

You are an industrial designer by trade. What prompted the interest in jewelry?
In my work, I use silicon, paper, grommets, and stainless steel. As an industrial designer, I am fascinated by the idea of taking raw materials that are not usually used for jewelry and transforming them into wearable objects. I want to create jewelry that is beautiful and luxurious and is not made out of gold and silver.

A lot of my inspiration comes from my family and my childhood. My father is an industrial designer and my grandfather was a jeweler and woodworker. I have vivid memories of looking through albums of my grandfather’s works, and going through his origami books, trying to create the designs myself. Those experiences stuck with me, and influence my work. My Kipul collection, for example, is created using one large piece of material that I fold and manipulate. I don’t use any glue or add in additional pieces.

One of your main distribution channels is Etsy. What do you like and dislike about the site?
I like that Etsy provides me with an online store that was easy to create and maintain, and I don’t need to invest a lot into it financially. I also use a similar site, Erayo, a marketplace for wholesalers. Overall, I think Etsy is great, but it’s hard to browse randomly and find something interesting; you have to know where to look. Also, as a seller, it’s very time intensive. I sometimes find myself explaining to customers how to use the site. I even made a video recently to show one customer how to make a payment.

How do you use social media to promote your designs? 
My online strategy is threefold: I have my website, which I use mainly as an online portfolio, with detailed information about my collections, press links, and contact information. On Etsy, I have my online store, and I also have a Facebook page that I update frequently. I use it to promote new designs and collections, and spread the word about upcoming sales and other news.

Facebook is amazing in the way that it produces a ripple effect. A good friend of mine who lives in New York recently came into work to see her colleague wearing one of my designs. When she asked her about it, the colleague said she saw that my friend was a fan of my designs on Facebook, and through Facebook she went to my Etsy page to buy the necklace. It also helped me foster new connections on the distributor end. I connected with a retailer in Palo Alto, California through Facebook and she is currently selling my designs there.

What advice can you give to artists trying to promote their brands online?
The main piece of advice I would give to artists trying to promote their brands is to coordinate the various pieces of their online presence. Try to update your Facebook and Etsy pages around the same time. Also, aim to slowly introduce a collection as opposed to putting everything up at the same time. It gives people a reason to come back more often.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

London Business School's Women in Business Conference

London Business School, the #1 ranked MBA by the Financial Times, will hold its 10th annual Women in Business Club Conference on Friday, March 5th, 2010. In addition to keynote speakers Helen Alexander CBE, President of CBI and Dr. Lynda Gratton, Professor of Management Practice, the conference will feature three panels to address the theme "Embracing Change in a Global Environment".

1. Taking the less trodden path: Pursuing non-traditional careers 

The global economic and financial crisis has prompted a re-evaluation of established models and practices. Indeed, it has perhaps encouraged many of us to think more seriously about the different routes there may be to having a significant and positive impact in society. In this panel we will hear from inspiring women (including entrepreneurs, career changers) who have ventured off the beaten path to pursue their own visions of success. 
Confirmed Panellists include: Dr. Heather McGregor, Principal shareholder of Taylor Bennett and Columnist; Mireille Guiliano, ex-CEO and Author; Dr Nighat Awan O.B.E., Entrepreneur and CEO of Shere Khan Group; Lorella Zanardo, Il Corpo del Donne

2. Success Stories from Emerging Markets: A woman’s perspective 

Since we first heard of ‘BRIC’, the emerging markets have become the key focus of future growth for many organisations. In this panel we will hear the experiences and insights of women who have firsthand experience in emerging markets, and observed the rapid transformation of these environments. 
Confirmed Panellists include: Jyotsna Suri, The Lalit Suri Hospitality Group; Haleh Janani, Emirates Bank; Puja Turner, Director Debt Capital Markets, Deutsche Bank; Inna Baigozina, Principal, A.T. Kearney

3. Pushing Boundaries for Women: Experiences from public and private sectors 

Is the glass ceiling metaphor still relevant today? Are women helping other women up the ranks? In this panel we will hear from senior women in both the private and public sector and compare their experiences of how women can best apply their skills and navigate success in these environments. 
Confirmed Panellists include: Dagmar Chlosta, VP Processes and Systems Solutions at Adidas; LaVerne Council, corporate VP and CIO at Johnson & Johnson; Eileen Sills CBE, Chief Nurse and Joint Director of Clinical Leadership Guy’s & St Thomas NHS Hospital; Louise Redmond, HR Director, Bank of England

To buy tickets or for more information, click here.

Full disclosure: I am involved with the organization hosting the conference. 

Word of Mouth Influences 81% of Moms' Purchasing Decisions

eMarketer recently released the results of a survey of online moms by EXPO, a video review site. 92% of respondents reported trusting consumer reviews' product descriptions, while only 8% trusted the description provided by the manufacturer, meaning that moms are12x more likely to trust consumers. Word of mouth also highly influenced respondents' purchasing decisions.

In a list of possible sources,  81% of moms surveyed reported word of mouth influencing a recent purchasing decision. It ranked second, after in-store promotions such as special sales (86%). Respondents unsurprisingly ranked traditional sources, such as newpaper inserts, consumer information magazines, and TV broadcasts high on their list. But nearly a quarter listed email advertising and 18% claimed that banner ads impacted their purchasing decisions.

Friday, February 5, 2010

The iPad: Apple's Latest Game Changer

Apple's announcement of the iPad, a half inch think, 9.7-inch touch screen tablet, has sparked a wave of controversy. It was featured in multiple Mashable and Tech Crunch posts, grazed the cover of the Economist, and Stephen Colbert presented with it at the Grammy's. It has been touted as an iPod steriods, a netbook killer, and an e-reader competitor. One thing is certain: The iPad is a game changer.

According to Jen-Hsun Huang, chief executive of NVIDIA, the iPad is "the first truly convergent electronic device." The iPad combines touch screen functionality and clear graphics with email, calendar, GPS, music, video, and e-book reader functionalities.The basic version utilitizes wifi, while the $829 version offers a 3G wireless connection and more memory. Apple is also revamping its iWork business tools (word processing, spreadsheet and presentation software) for the device.

How will this device appeal to the mass market, and particularly to women? Ethan Nicholas, an iPhone game developer, recently wrote a guest post on Tech Crunch entitled "Why My Mom's Next Computer Will be an iPad." I agree with him, but not because, as he (condescendily) claims, "It doesn’t do as many things as a 'real' computer does, but the things it does do it does in a way even non-tech-savvy people can figure out, and there are far fewer ways to screw it up." Things that even his mother, whom he describes as "a lovely lady in her sixties who is… well, 'not computer savvy' " can do.
The advice will appeal to my mother (who, by the way, owns a Blackberry) because it does many things that a 'real' computer does in a more aesthetically-appealing and portable format. The iPad's size and the quality of its graphics make the iPad ideal for video watching and e-book reading. Publishers such as the New York Times have already come on board with iPad apps, and the Economist predicts that the larger size of the device will enable publishers to seek greater advertising revenues. With its touch screen, the iPad has the potential to be an engaging game-playing device for users of all ages. And the business applications should not be underestimated. It is much easier for groups working on a presentation to hover around a flat tablet than a clunky computer screen.

My personal favorites are the Notes and Calendar features. Both the Notes and the Calendar are more robust than on the iPhone, and the larger size of the iPad enabled Apple to closely mimic the look and feel of note pads and organizers. These features will not only appeal to those of us who have been using online calendars and notes, but also attract those who have not yet made the leap.

The iPad highlights Apple at its best- changing the rules, levering its strengths in unusual ways, and creating an innovative mix of hardware and software. Will that appeal to my mother? Sure. It appeals to me, too.