Alberta PC leadership candidate releases an iPhone App as part of their social media initiative

(The following article in no way endorses or encourages support for the political characters mentioned. As a matter of fact, anyone who knows me also knows my thoughts and opinions about our elected officials – they work for us and we need to keep reminding them of that.)

Politicians are always anxious to connect with the public. Either to garner votes, gather up campaign workers or grab some cash to cover their campaign expenses. Barrack Obama proved the value of social media in his bid to be the presidential candidate for the Democratic Party and then for his run for the top spot as President of the United States. Pressing the flesh by shaking hands and kissing babies at parking lot rallies still has value in getting the word out but social media allows politicians to connect with grass-roots community supporters. In today’s environment a political candidate ignoring the reach of social media is similar to when Nixon didn’t grasp the value of television and took a beating from Kennedy during the famous presidential debate broadcast on national TV networks in 1960.

The latest to jump into the social media pool is Gary Mar, a long-time politician from Alberta. Mar is running for the leadership spot of the Alberta PC party. Mar has been the first of the leadership candidates to step up to the social media plate swinging an iPad App. He isn’t the first politician in Alberta to use an iPhone App in a campaign though.  Naheed Nenshi attracted a lot of press coverage for his use of social media which included an iPhone App in the campaign for his current job as Mayor of Calgary Alberta.

The Gary Mar iPhone App works on an iPad but since it is designed for the smaller size of the Apple mobile phone it doesn’t use up the full screen on the tablet. The app integrates Mar’s various other social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook along with access to his YouTube channel. Simple, clean and to the point, the app is well designed and works. A BlackBerry version of his app is also available. What stands out is the strong branding elements of the Gary Mar leadership campaign.

In case you haven’t picked up on this, politicians aren’t just people. They are products that need a strong brand presence and promotion just like cars, breakfast cereal or other goods.  Selling a politician to the public requires a marketing campaign every bit as focused and aggressive as any other product’s public messaging. Making use of social media and leveraging the reach of the online community makes sense for business so why not politicians.

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5 observations for 2011

A new year and time for my annual predictions slash wish list…

1. Net Neutrality takes a beating…

In 2010 we saw actions on the part of large internet service providers that set the stage to put limits on a free and open access internet. In 2011 expect to see more aggressive moves on the part of internet service providers to set caps on usage and even limit access to particular sites. Some of this will be prompted in Canada by the vertical integration of media companies that we saw in 2010. The move to actually censor internet content will come from federal governments in the interest of national security and safety of its citizens. The FCC in the US and the CRTC in Canada will declare the internet as a ‘broadcast’ medium thus bringing what is currently an unregulated platform under some form of regulation and subject to legislation. By 2012 you will need a government issued license to have a website.

2. Web video becomes mainstream…

Video viewing on the internet will increase but delivering long form premium content such as news and entertainment programming designed for the web will become more popular.  The adoption by a non-geek audience is the major influencing factor. Along with mainstream content being delivered in bundled packages similar to cable television, unique offerings from independent content creators will increase, giving rise to a whole new segment of the production industry. In particular there will be a focus on local and hyper-local news coverage.

3. Apple iPad will maintain it’s momentum…

Not a genius prediction but 2011 will see little in the way of non-Apple iPad tablets penetrating the market. The iPad is almost perfect for the tasks it’s designed for and the market of users it’s aimed at. So far Windows tablets just don’t get it. Android or even Chrome based tablets might make a small dent but maybe not until 2012 since Apple has too much of a head start on the competition in this area.

4. Facebook will continue to dominate…

Another no brainer but even though it’s reaching a saturation point, Facebook will continue to grow in subscribers. More to the point though is in how subscribers will use what has become the number one social networking site. More time spent on Facebook by subscribers can be expected with limits on who they friend and how much personal information they share out. BTW: MySpace will teeter on the verge of non-existence but will be bought up by some outfit like Google or Microsoft or even Apple thus breathing new life into a social network that has fallen behind thanks to poor management.

5. Internet access declared a utility by some communities…

Smaller communities will realize that the need to be connected to the internet is important to retaining business and citizens. Since large internet service providers don’t see the profit margin in providing services to smaller communities when compared to population dense urban centres they will be reluctant to provide high-speed services to these smaller communities thus creating a digital divide. In 2010 there were some towns in North America and the UK who have taken on the task of providing their citizens with high-speed internet as a utility along with power, water and other essential services. Expect to see more municipalities taking on the role of internet service provider with the outcome being a head-to-head competitive battle with the major providers over residence and business subscribers.

Your internet is under attack: Google Verizon plan for a new internet

Your internet is under attack. Not by some hacker but by Google and Verizon with their proposal to control wireless internet traffic. Thinly disguised as support for net neutrality, their initial announcement  followed up with a “suggested legislative framework” for (US) government management of a new internet, attacks your freedom of choice, speech and access to  the world wide web. Net neutrality has many facets but at the core of it is the principle that internet service  providers should not be allowed to discriminate or restrict Web traffic based on its content. Think cable TV. Without net neutrality you will have to pay extra to have access to some sites and even lose the ability to visit other websites because they just won’t be available.

What’s at the heart of this latest attack on net neutrality? The service providers stand to make a lot of money from this new internet model and governments gain control over the “news” and access to alternative points of view will be squashed.

What can you do about it? Get after our elected government officials (remember – they work for us) and let them know that we want a free and open internet and not one based on limited and restrictive laws put forward by corporate lobbyists.

Gen Y and Gen X use of technology and how it affects your business IT

The digital generation ages 18 – 35 have grown up using technology and expect it to exist in business as they know it in their non-business life. Access to the web, high-performance applications, a variety of applications to perform their job, social networking based applications, multiple platforms – desktop, laptops, Windows, Apples and smart-phones, multiple access points – at the office, at home, while traveling or more to the point – anywhere and at anytime. How does your IT plan and support system meet this challenge? Traditional IT can limit system user access to a narrowly defined set of applications and use. Trying to balance the needs of these new workers with the needs of traditional IT users is a challenge as well. It’s not just about new technology but a differing culture between the two age groups.

Courtesy Mike Kline
Courtesy Mike Kline

Number one is to provide the tools your workers need to be productive. Limiting these younger workers to just email as a communications tool and a mainframe based business application written twenty years ago and only accessible from their work station at work may keep these newer workers from performing to their utmost.

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MicroHoo – what about the customers?

MicroHoo – the term lots of bloggers are using to describe the merging of Microsoft and Yahoo is in the news again. I’ve avoided talking about this takeover bid right from the beginning because I wanted to see how it would roll out. In all of the jabbering there seems to be an element missing or at least not getting the coverage it deserves. What impact would this have on the customers of each company?

There has been lots of talk about such things as shareholder value – Yahoo’s would go up, Microsoft’s would go down according to some market analysts. Workplace cultures are different at each company so there would be clashes. The value to Microsoft would be a billion dollar online advertising platform. Microsoft would be buying themselves a seat (or lots of them) on the Web 2.0 bus. Yahoo would receive benefit of senior management direction and vision from Microsoft . . . and the list goes on. But nowhere (that I could find in any case and certainly not in the daily news) was there any mention of what value MicroHoo would deliver to their customers.

Businesses exist because of their customers. They thrive by giving customers what they want and whither and die by not delivering what their customers need in the way of goods and services. As a customer of both companies (I’ve been a Yahooligan for longer than I can remember!) I ask a simple question – what’s in it for me?

Maybe it’s a good thing they didn’t merge since they both seemed to be focused on things other than their customer base.

Dean

AIIM report on Enterprise 2.0

Thanks to IT World Canada for linking to this item from AIIM – the enterprise content management association … Enterprise 2.0 – What’s The Real Story! 

The headline from IT World Canada reads: Enterprise 2.0 report: IT managers take back seat. Read the article to get their take on the report from AIIM – but in a nutshell it talks about the fact that IT managers are most likely to be number 3 in leading their organization in web 2.0 or enterprise 2.0.

I’m not surprised! Why should they be the leaders in Enterprise 2.0? Other than the fact that it uses some technology to function, Web 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0 really have nothing to do with the IT department. The IT World Canada author (Shane Schick) did a good thing when he included the quote from OpenText’s Bill Forquer, executive vice-president of marketing,…..

“We’ve seen that with records management over the last number of years. Something like Enron happens and the awareness of records management and policies is suddenly a boardroom-level conversation,” he said. “Part of the business and IT groups that are focused on work-group effectiveness and collaboration could actually benefit from 2.0 technologies and capabilities.”

Records management has it’s own set of experts so why should IT management have anything to do with RM other than providing support for the technology. The same thing happened with web services.

Many years ago when the world wide web first appeared to average computer users, there was lots of denial by IT departments to support it. Eventually the web made it’s way into the enterprise and web services ended up in other departments or divisions such as marketing. There are stories galore of where IT managers did everything from ignoring it to aggressively stand in the way of web being adopted by the organization. Needless to say they were run over and in some cases may even appear to embrace it.

I see the history of web repeating itself with Web 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0. We are at the point where some get it, most don’t but eventually the enterprise will make it a part of their daily operation and we will grind to a halt when it stops working or they try to take it away from us.

Dean

Quote of the day!

Been busy with other things so I haven’t had the time to post much…besides, I’m getting tired of sounding like I’m whining all the time!

I found this on the Forester Marketing blog attributed to Christie Hefner, CEO of the Playboy empire (and yes the daughter of founder Hef’)…

“Go to another company”

The above title is Christie Hefner’s response to a question about what to do when you’re in a company filled with people who don’t want to change the way they did business in 1972.

She also has some interesting things to say about Information Technology . . .

Christie Hefner: How Playboy Protects Its Assets

Baseline,  February, 2006  by Elizabeth Bennett

Dean Owen

People

Recently a friend of mine announced that he has sold his business and is retiring. Good for him! We knew each other through a hobby we share and we never talked business. At least, hardly never. He knew what I did for a living but his investment in computing was minimal so we never talked about it much. As far as I knew he had two computers – one for the bookkeeper in the office and the other at home which he shared with his wife. Since he was winding down his involvement in his business for the last few years, he was unlikely to invest in technology. So why am I talking about him in my blog? His success in business and how these traits can be supported by technology.

From what I could see he was successful in his business through the application of two basic principles: a high quality product and customer communication. Being the type of fellow that he was, I would suspect that he knew every customer by name. He never seemed to be too busy to chat with folks, either over the shop counter or at lunch or during many of his social interactions. He had his own social and business network which he used to communicate with people, many of whom were his customers or would be some day. Not only does he like to talk, but he’s a great listener. Now what does this have to do with technology? People like to talk with people and customer communication is key to a successful business. Technology can support this and make the experience richer and bear fruit – if used properly!

My friend comes from the generation where face to face conversation (face-mail?) is how they communicate… that is the medium they use for their social networking. On the other hand, many people, the younger generation, the digital natives, use technology to communicate. The business need for communication has not changed, but how we connect with each other has expanded to include everything from cell phones, text-ing, email, discussion groups, blogging, instant messaging, and all of those other Web 2.0 related technologies.

Does your enterprise or small business provide these opportunities to your staff and your customers to talk to each other? Or do you still rely on face-mail? Isn’t it time to move on these new technologies and use them as tools to support the basic human need to communicate?

Dean Owen

Ubiquitous Participation

Why IT departments will survive Web 2.0 By: Shane Schick
Dr. David Jacobson, from PriceWaterhouseCooper talks about an ‘enterprise IT centre’ – more than just a data centre – it would support technologies thatallow customers, partners and employees to collaborate and communicate with each other’. According to Dr. Jacobson, this would allow the CIO and the IT department to get back into the game.

Well said Dr. Jacobson! According to this article, PwC is studying ‘social networking’. With this heavy duty endorsement, does it mean Web 2.0/Enterprise 2.0 is starting to be seen as a legitimate business tool? I would think so. If you read the article you will notice that there are references to the IT department role changing for some, if not most enterprises. Dr. Jacobson is encouraging CIO involvement with business decision and planning. That’s the big leap for many folks out there. I doubt that most – enterprises and/or individuals – will be able to make it.

As to the title of this post – it comes from this article: “PwC uses the term ubiquitous participation to refer to bottom-up approaches to content generation and sharing.”  It sounds like the wikifiying of the enterprise to me!

Dean Owen

Web Page Checklist

Check out this site: Vincent Flander’s Web Pages that Suck 2.0 and ask yourself this: Does your website suck?

At the risk of offending some folks (like multi-media developers who design and build web sites) I wanted to share this with you. Remember the IBM TV commercial from years ago where the web designer asks the business client if they wanted a flaming logo or rotating logo and the client replied they wanted to connect with customers? Somethings never change. I especially liked Mr. Flanders reference to ‘flashturbation’! Check out their picks for worst sites…very entertaining!

Dean Owen