Tag Archive: Yahoo!

Coaching Moments

In a given day there are no shortage of coaching moments.  If you manage even 1 person, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Every decision we make can be evaluated, reviewed and improved upon. In interviews, I’m often asked about my management style/approach. For the last 10 years, my answer has been consistent:

  1. Inform: Provide your team member with all the information they need to make a good decision.
  2. Recommend: Outline how you would tackle the problem. This needs to be done as “guiding” not dictating.
  3. Empower: Despite your POV, empower them to make the decision. After all they have 2 critical pieces of the puzzle: 1, all the background info. 2, your point of view.
  4. Support: Unless the decision they make is so far off base, support their decision…especially in PUBLIC when it comes under scrutiny.
  5. Evaluate: Review the decision, how it was made, why they made, how it played out and how they’d improve on it in the future.

I don’t think there’s anything earth shattering there, but to consistently apply this maxim can be tough.  There are days I certainly fail at it.  The most critical part of this approach is #4.  Your team needs to know you have their back…that you won’t hang them out to dry or throw them under a bus.  Sometimes this can be challenging, especially when their decision is coming under fire in a public gathering.  But, this is the test of a good manager.

Public criticism offends not only the receivers, but the observers. No one wants to see another person publicly hung by someone too cowardly to address the issue one to one, face to face.

Credit for that great quote goes here.

I feel like that’s one of those obvious…basic…101 rules…that you learn at an early age. Heck, I can remember the rule being taught to me in Little League.  But, just because it’s a basic rule, like don’t swing on a 3-0 count unless you have the green light, doesn’t mean we always follow it.  I’m guilty of breaking the rule on occasion.  It’s so easy to do it when we’re all given a stage, a bullhorn and a distribution network to voice our opinions.  Just because we can do it, doesn’t mean we should.

Yesterday, I saw a classic case of poor coaching and the ego-centric world of blogging.  Sarah Perez, an “influential” blogger/writer/editor/etc. received a pitch from Yahoo!’s agency asking her to review their new platform in exchange for some amount of reciprocal coverage and impact at Yahoo!  This type of stuff happens all the time.  If your someone who blogs you’ll eventually get pitched.  From what I can tell from Sarah’s scathing post about the pitch, there were 3 problems with the pitch:

  1. It was generic and over promissory - as such it felt dated
  2. There was a typo – the agency wrote “Tech Crunch” as two words instead of one
  3. She doesn’t seem to care for Yahoo!
The pen is mightier than the sword and that concept is very clear in the digital world.  Personally, I have issue with post from Sarah.  Let’s forget the fact it was snarky and clearly designed to embarrass the person pitching her.  Let’s forget the fact, there were 100 better ways to convey the same message.  Let’s instead focus on 2 things:
  1. TechCrunch says they are “…a leading technology media property, dedicated to obsessively profiling startups, reviewing new Internet products, and breaking tech news.” What does Sarah’s post have to do with news, startups, or internet products?  As far as I can tell…nothing.
  2. Instead of actually covering the new Yahoo! News Activity feature she chose to take shots at the company/person pitching her.  I’m all for calling people out.  There’s definitely a reason to do it. But, what was gained here?  If this was a coaching moment, what value was derived from publicly flogging this company?  She had more than a few options here: 1, cover the story from a news angle. 2, elect not to cover it and not respond to the pitch. 3, elect not to cover it and let the company know why.  I could go on and on.

When I was working at Fallon, a creative director explained to me that in this business, one minute you’re up, one minute you’re down…you may find yourself working for someone you’re managing right now.  In short, treasure relationships, because while you may think you have the “power” now, you may find yourself looking up at the people you exerted the power on.  Good advice.  Seems like some of that could have been applied here.

3 Simple Phrases For Social Success

Yesterday I had the privilege of sitting on Yahoo!’s Social Symposium panel. I was joined by a great mix of people representing Corona, Gilt Group, Tech.li and Yahoo! Lots of knowledge and insights were shared. The folks at Yahoo! did a great job of organizing the event and keeping the discussion lively. I’m sure I spoke more than I should have. It’s a habit :)

Amidst all the great conversation topics we discussed the one I keep coming back to is what are you doing to create success in social.  Before I dig into that, let me say the organizational support, a healthy budget and a strong brand/product really do make a big difference.  Without them, even the best idea, the best strategy, the best initiative will often #fail.  When we think about how we succeed in social at Walgreens, it really comes down to 3 Simple Phrases:

1. How can we help?  That’s the basis for everything we do.  We ask ourselves how can we help?  This goes beyond customer service.  It’s about knowing the unmet needs.  What services, products, tools, platforms, etc. can we bring to market that will make our customers’ lives better, simpler, easier, etc.

2. Thank you! It’s a simple 2 word phrase, but it always makes people smile.  It’s often unexpected from companies.  It’s a nice surprise and delight when a company thanks an individual for feedback (even when it’s negative), an idea, retweet, a link to some of our content, a check-in, etc.

3. I’m sorry.  To err is human.  We make mistakes.  Sometimes the mistakes are things we can’t control, but the customer doesn’t understand that.  They only understand that in their eyes we have failed them.  Being able to make apologize for the mistakes we make, regardless of our control over those mistakes, goes a long way.  The other night Walgreens.com experiences a site outage.  We let our customers know what was going on via Facebook.  The overwhelming majority thanked us for being proactive.  There were a few who used our post as an opportunity to continue voicing their displeasure.  Ironically, our fans who were thankful of being kept in the loop defended us against the dissenters.  It’s always nice to see our passionate fans support us against our detractors.  But, that can only happen when you’re willing to admit your mistakes and take ownership for them.

There’s platforms, there’s networks, there’s tools, there’s all these options out there that help us lose focus.  I find that remembering the 3 phrases above keeps us on mission.

The Impact Of “Real Time” Search On Search Engine Optimization

The interactive experience most often starts with Google.  For years Google has been the dominant search engine leader, besting competitors like Microsoft, Yahoo!, Ask, AOL and others.  Even when consumers know where they want to go or know exactly what they want, they turn to Google or another search engine and type in what they’re looking for.

Search engines, by default, exist to aggregate content across the web and provide website users relevant content to explore.  Years ago, the content search engines aggregated were just links to other sites.  Slowly, over time, search engines broadened the type of content they’d aggregate to include photos, videos, PDFs, and even music.

Over the last few years we’ve seen companies employ different approaches to return faster –and in theory – better search results.  The most popular approach is called “predictive search” and was made famous by Apple via its iTunes product.  When a user starts to type “Bob” into the iTunes search engine, Apple makes an assumption that the user is looking for “Bob Dylan” amongst other popular results.  And, it was only this time last year that Google, Microsoft and Yahoo! announced that they would be pulling real-time streams from sites like twitter, directly into the search results page.

Google describes Google Instant as follows:

Google Instant is a new search enhancement that shows results as you type. We are pushing the limits of our technology and infrastructure to help you get better search results, faster. Our key technical insight was that people type slowly, but read quickly, typically taking 300 milliseconds between keystrokes, but only 30 milliseconds (a tenth of the time!) to glance at another part of the page. This means that you can scan a results page while you type.

The most obvious change is that you get to the right content much faster than before because you don’t have to finish typing your full search term, or even press “search.” Another shift is that seeing results as you type helps you formulate a better search term by providing instant feedback. You can now adapt your search on the fly until the results match exactly what you want. In time, we may wonder how search ever worked in any other way.

With “Instant” or “Real Time” search, users will see search results appear quicker and without having to hit the enter button.  The key here is that the search results will update in real time as the user is typing their query.  Here’s an example of what happens I type in the letter “a.”

You can see that the letter “a” is highlighted in black font.  That’s the only letter I typed in.  Google then does 3 things:

  1. It predicts my query by offering me “amazon,” “aol,” “American airlines,” and “att” as options.
  2. It returns results in the middle of the page for “Amazon” since that’s the most relevant search term
  3. It returns paid search ads in the right hand column based on the search term “Amazon”

It’s taken me some time to understand what Google Instant and the similar offerings from its competitors mean for marketers. Users, ultimately, don’t care how search engines work, they simply assume that the search engines are doing “their job” by returning relevant search results. This is a major shift, not just in how search engines work, but in how users will interact with them.

Implications And Recommendations

After a significant amount of research, consultation with leading search engine experts and exchanges with Googlers, I feel comfortable outlining the following implications and recommendations:

  1. If you’re currently neglecting search engine optimization; it’s time to get refocused.  Whereas before you could trade SEO for paid search as a means to drive traffic, you’re going to find that SEO just became as important as paid search.
  2. The time and dollar investment for SEO will increase because SEO will move from a casual marketing tool that a serious one.  The shift from casual to serious means SEO could be happening on a daily and weekly basis (just like paid search programs) instead of a quarterly and semi-annual time-table.
  3. The concept of being on the 1st page or “above the scroll” has changed. “As you continue typing and narrowing your search, the instantly changing and refreshing results below the search box will be giving you more relevant results. So if you previously looked on the second page, now those same results come to the top of the pile for you.” – Johanna Wright, director of product management for Google Insight (via AdAge).
  4. Websites will need to be updated more frequently with fresher content.  Fresher content tells search engines that a site is current and active.  With search engines prioritizing newer content over older content, even if the newer content is less accurate, the need to denote your site as one that’s fresh is critical.
  5. Greater emphasis needs to be paid to all Meta Tags.  This includes Title, Keyword and Description tags.  Meta Tags are the lifeblood of successful SEO initiatives because Google and the competition pay special attention to Meta Tags when determining the relevancy and accuracy of a site.
  6. Keywords for content will need to become more varied because users won’t need to completely type in a term to see their search engine results. Tools like Google Keyword Suggestion should become part of a marketer’s overall web strategy toolbox.
  7. Your social marketing efforts just became even more critical.  Social equals fresh content to search engines.  Social also generates a massive amount of links to your content and links are a major component of driving search engine visibility and relevancy.

Bottom line, what was old is now new again.  All the building blocks of search engine optimization became significantly more important.  SEO for years has often been a neglected area of focus for marketers because of the real-time results of paid search and the complexity of understanding the math behind making SEO work.  It’s time to make SEO a key focus of your interactive marketing strategy.

These changes represent massive opportunity for outflanking your competition. Many companies will be slow to change and embrace these new changes. This leaves the door wide open for your organization to get ahead of them

For more information about Google Instant Search, please watch this short video from Google:

and this entertaining video:

showing how Bob Dylan’s song “Subterranean Homesick Blues” comes to life with Google Instant.

Competition Is A Good Thing

I like competition. I believe that competition keeps companies and people hungry. For too long Google has had very little competition in search. Frankly, I think that lack of competition has lead to a product that really hasn’t changed very much since its initial launch. When you consider how much the interactive landscape has evolved in the last 10 years, that’s a really scary thought.

Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not like there weren’t several attempts made to compete with Google. AskJeeves, Microsoft Live, and Cuil are just a few. However, none of them were serious competitors to Google. That’s why I’m so excited about the recent influx of serious competitors in the search game. Yahoo! Glue, Wolfram Alpha, and now Bing represent serious competitors.

The naughty truth is we need them to do well. We need them to succeed. We need them to pose a threat to Google. Why? Because, a serious competitor or set of competitors would force Google to evolve, innovate, and learn a little bit of humility.

Have you ever sat through a presentation by Google? They’re amazing. Basically, the presentation focused on how infallible Google is and if you aren’t using their tools you’re clearly not very bright. Seriously. I’ve sat through more than my fair share. Google doesn’t “sell” because they EXPECT you to “buy.” Healthy competition would change that attitude.

Google needs a foil. Should Bing, Wolfram Alpha, Yahoo! Glue, or another option become a legitimate foil we ALL win. At the end of the day don’t we all want a better search engine? Sure, there are still 18 people using Excite and 25 people holding on to AltaVista, but the majority of us want a better search engine…even if we don’t know it.

Ohhhhh, competition is a beautiful thing. Let’s hope we see a real competitor emerge from the shadows. Google needs one. We need one.

Links From The Week Of 11-16-2008

It’s been one crazy week that really hasn’t left a lot of time for blogging.  That’s the awesome thing about twitter.  I can stay connected with bleeding edge, soak up the knowledge, and share some thoughts.  I’ve been collecting links all week that I thought were worth checking out.  Enjoy.

  • A man tried to pay an overdue bill with a drawing of a spider.  Yes, I’m serious.  That drawing eventually sold for $10,000 on eBay.
  • Yahoo has finally brought “Glue” to the United States.  Glue, offers up a new way to see search results.  This is a great write-up on why Glue was created and what it can offer.
  • Apple released version 2.2 of their iPhone software.  It’s supposed to address stability and battery life.  My favorite feature of the software is that Google Maps now let’s you customize your directions based on how you’ll be traveling: car, bus, or walking.
  • Google launched Search Wiki.  It let’s you customize your Google Web Search results. You can rank, remove and add notes to any result page and see those tailored results anytime you do that search while you’re logged in to your Google Account. This video does a fantastic job of explaining the tool.
  • McDonald’s, naked pictures, and a lawsuit.  Need I say more.  Click here.
  • Shaq is on twitter.  Yes, I mean it.
  • Great tweet from Barry Judge the CMO of Best Buy.
  • Further proof that IT organizations at company’s are considered painful, non-efficient, and difficult.
  • Malcolm Gladwell asks the question, is there such a thing as pure genius?
  • Neat tool, called Vitrue, for measuring the social media footprint of brands.  It has potential.  Another options is this tool.
  • The new Pepsi logo/packaging is in market.
  • Great blog post that explains the genius behind Alltop.
  • American Airlines is offering paperless check-in.  Now how about not charging me for bags.
  • I heart you Seth Godin for this post.  I won’t spoil it; just read it.
  • YouTube broadcasted live this week.  Very cool and different.  Makes me warm and tingly.
  • Talking about attacking red headed people is a hate crime in Canada; even when it’s done on Facebook.
  • These speakers are absolutely beautiful.  I want them.

Getting The Vote Out

Noticed some really interesting things online this morning (election day). Google, who usually spruces up their logo for certain events and/or occasions, was noticeably quiet. While others, like Facebook and Yahoo! were actively engaging with their visitors. Very cool. To me, when we talk about social media, this is what we’re talking about. These companies are getting involved in the conversation and making their visitors part of the story. Nice work.

Google on Election Day

Google on Election Day

 

Facebook Election Day

Facebook Election Day

 

Yahoo! Election Day

Yahoo! Election Day

Quick Update
I’m not going to say it was because I blogged about it, but it looks like Google finally updated their logo. Check it out here.

 

Google Election Day Updated

Google Election Day Updated

What Microsoft’s Acquisition of Yahoo! Could Mean

I know you MAC Nazis love to hate on Microsoft, but the reality is that the company has done a lot of good for all of us. The potential acquisition of Yahoo! could be good, if not great news for everyone.

A monopoly generally isn’t very good. Google has continually toed the line between being a bad monopoly and a good monopoly. Unlike most monopolies, Google has found a way to keep innovating. But, let’s be honest…there could always be even more innovation. We’ve become sheep following the good Shepard Google. We walk around in an almost zombie like state letting Google wag us wherever they’d like.

It’s not secret that Microsoft and Yahoo! lag far behind Google in viewership, users, fans, sales, stock price, etc. A Microsoft acquisition should create more competition because Microsoft would be relevant again. That competition would drive both Google and Microsoft to continue innovating. That innovation would benefit the end user and marketers.

This is really exciting news. I’m not sure I really believe this will actually happen, but if it does it could seriously change the face of interactive forever. Very cool!

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Digital dad to Cora and John. Love ironing, bourbon and BBQ; no necessarily in that order. Living life, like I stole it. I'm always up for a

spirited conversation. These are my thoughts and ramblings, not those of my employer.
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