The Best Teams are Gangs

Let’s see . . . what do teams and gangs have in common?

Members of great teams and great gangs tend to:

1)  Enjoy each other’s company
2)  Share a common vision
3)  Respect and treat each other like family
4)  Hold up their end of the ship, without fail
5)  Not back down from mixing it up in the schoolyard if that’s what it comes down to
6)  Suffer some heavy consequences if items 1 thru 5 aren’t lived by

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96% of TV Watching Isn’t Purposeful. Will That Ever Change?

As a kid I spent a lot of time in front of the TV. A LOT OF TIME. That was a cheap, cheap cliché way to start a post so I’m not going to go into the rest of “we only had 6 channels back then and, and, and . . .”

I’m just imagining myself back then if I’d been told “and when you’re a grownup, you’ll be able to watch ANY TV SHOW OR MOVIE EVER MADE, WHENEVER AND WHEREVER YOU WANT TO WATCH IT!!!!!”

I guarantee I would’ve invented time travel and gotten my ass to 2015 or so. We’re almost, but not quite there yet with the promise of the ALL CAPS statement above. But, before I go any further, I must disclose that I haven’t had a TV in my home since at least 5 years ago (aside from monitors used for production work which I don’t use for entertainment). All video content watched in my home is watched on a laptop or iPad.  My wife grew up without a TV, and won me over eventually regarding how we wanted to raise our own kids.

I personally don’t miss the experience of watching things on a big screen. That’s just me. But the majority of the world sure ain’t me, and so with deference to those of you that want to watch TV on a TV but think that cable/satelite pretty much stink (relative to the money you have to pay and the customer service received – or not received) there are plenty of ways to get what you can get “on TV” via the internet in some way, shape, or form. You can also get your local TV channels for free, by purchasing an antenna (which is the top selling item at Best Buy nationwide).

WAIT A SECOND, WHERE ARE THESE STATS COMING FROM?

OK, I’m not pulling them out of my ass — the 96% and “top selling” claims were made by the gentleman Andrew Kipen, VP of Marketing for Boxee at a demo I watched at the Streaming Media East conference last week. Where he got them from I don’t know, as he didn’t cite a source in his preso (so consider that a disclaimer, but I have no trouble believing it regardless). Anyhow, Boxee is one of a number of products on the market that basically do the same thing: connect to your TV set much like a cable or satellite box would, and offer a (varying degree of) user interface not altogether dissimilar from what you might use to navigate and play the content on your cable or satellite box, but provide the content that is available on the internet instead (to be blunt many of these products user interfaces stink, but I thought Boxee looked pretty good for the limited amount of time I got to look at it). Some products in this space will also take the input from your cable/satellite so you can get everything from a single UI (have only heard negative reports about the experience of using these).

What our friend from Boxee also demoed was how you can attach a TV antenna to the thing, and get over-the-air (OTA) TV signals as well. If you’re in a metropolitan area with good signal, the picture and sound quality can be BETTER than what you get on cable or satellite for channels broadcast OTA. So for the ever-shrinking variety of what you can get on those channels, it’s free for the price of the top selling item at Best Buy nationwide.

With all this content, why NOT “cut the cord” and kick cable/satellite to the curb? After all, you can get something quite close to a “TV-like experience” with one of these products, and save quite a bit of money at that.

Well, first, let’s get to the bottom of what “watching TV” means. And remember, 96% of that “isn’t purposeful,” meaning 96% of the time, the majority of Americans turn on the TV with nothing particular in mind to watch. Therefore, the traditional model of TV watching goes something like “just entertain me and let me forget my problems.” We flip through the channels and find something to watch. Or not, just flip through for awhile, it really doesn’t matter sometimes.

There is no product on the market today that gives you that experience other than cable/satellite. Not a single one.

So, if 96% of people today consume TV this way, those of us in the “online video business” might be coming at this from only one angle. Yes, the reality is the 96% number will shrink over time. The kids today will never know life without a TiVo, Netflix subscriptions, YouTube, and the rest of what comes down the line in the future (which will evolve faster than we can imagine — one of the reasons why I love working in this biz). But the question I now find myself pondering is will “just entertain me and let me forget my problems” prove to be too strong of a human trait to change people’s viewing habits the way we all think it will? How does that inform the decisions of those of us pushing the envelope in the world of online video?

I Got Your Social Content Marketing Strategy Right Here!

Ever since social networks became a popular mode of communication, marketers have been trying to exploit them to maximum effect. In my opinion, the best way to achieve results in this area is to delight the target audience with free content (whether it be videos, blog posts, games, or some other form of media to engage/entertain/enlighten).

The basics are really quite simple, and you can do much of this yourself with nothing more than the simplest of strategies, which I will briefly outline here.

My example involves a “1-person company,” a professional guitarist and guitar instructor named Adam Rafferty, whom I played in a band with and went to college with years ago. Adam makes and sells his own recordings, books his own tours, and creates and sells his own library of training materials. He also has no idea I’m writing this right now, so hi Raf, I hope you don’t mind me using you as my case study today! Adam also has somewhat of a niche, he’s a fingerstyle acoustic guitarist who creates his own arrangements of songs by artists like Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson (amongst others) and has as a performer he has a very unique, percussive, energetic style (which I highly recommend you check out).

Adam Rafferty's website, homepage above-the-fold

Adam Rafferty’s website, homepage above-the-fold

His strategy (which I’ve gleaned solely by observation, BTW, he and I have never discussed this) boils down to being able to answer the following questions:

1) Who is my target audience?

2) What content can I create that will delight my audience?

3) Where should I publish my content so my audience can engage with it, and easily share it with their social networks?

4) What online communities exist where I can promote my content so my audience can find it easily?

5) When my audience does find and engage with my content, what do I want them to do next?

In Adam’s case, my interpretation of what the answers are is:

1) The audience is guitar students, fingerstyle guitar players, fans of Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson songs, and music lovers in general

2) What delights this audience is quality guitar instruction (the students) and quality musical performances (everyone else).

3) Publishing the content on a WordPress blog enables the publishing of written articles, music tracks, and video clips, and enables the audience to easily share the content via Facebook, Twitter, and a wide range of additional online social networks.

4) There are several online forums dedicated to fingerstyle guitar, as well as the music of Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder. These are ideal places for Adam to promote the free content on his blog. In addition, Adam has built a sizable Facebook and Twitter following of both personal friends and fans he’s made as a performer and instructor, and naturally this is the first place he’ll promote any new content  he publishes.

5) All the free content on the blog drives to adamrafferty.com where visitors can see Adam’s upcoming tour dates, and buy his recordings and instructional products.

The reason I’m using Adam’s example is that he’s a 1-person business. ANYONE can take advantage of this approach. You just need to come up with your own answers to the 5 questions above.

On a larger scale, if you work at a company with some resources, you probably have the wherewithal to get content such as video created professionally. If you don’t you should do it yourself. The bottom line is the quality doesn’t matter AS LONG AS IT ISN’T SO BAD THAT IT’S DISTRACTING TO YOUR AUDIENCE, this has been proven time and time again in user research, including the several rounds of usability research we did for Adobe TV. As long as the content delights your audience, it really doesn’t have to look “broadcast quality” as long as the quality is good enough to get your message across without distracting the viewer.

Miami City Ballet is a good example of an organization that employs this approach (they are a client of my company as well). Their main marketing goal is to engage the younger generation of dancers and dance enthusiasts. One of the ways they accomplish this goal is by regularly creating and publishing  videos from their productions as well as “behind the scenes” pieces, which are of are particular interest to the dance community.

The videos drive viewers to the Miami City Ballet website, where they can watch even more useful content, learn about the company, see the upcoming performance schedule, and, of course, purchase tickets. Same concept as what Adam Rafferty does, just on a larger and  more complex scale.

As for the basics, THAT’S ALL THERE IS TO IT, FOLKS! Anyone can do this. Of course, the deeper you get, the more nuanced it becomes, but at the most fundamental level it’s not difficult to understand at all. So don’t overcomplicate it, keep the strategy and execution as simple as possible.