Monthly Archives: February 2011

Easy Conference Calling with Skype 5.0

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Have you made the move to Skype 5.0? If not, this latest report from Disruptive Telephony may get you thinking. The writer in this piece discovered a “secret” feature hidden among the many IRC-style chat commands that is not included on the list. This new feature allows for a group chat using Skype 5.0 for Windows or Mac.

TMCnet Contributing Editor
The command: /golive, brings everyone into the chat – or at least everyone using Skype 5.0. All users receive notification that there is a conference call taking place and can choose to join into the call if they so desire. To take the capability to the next level, the participants in the call can decide whether they want either audio or video. (Note the video option is only available for those with Group Video Calling subscriptions.) 

Another cool aspect of this new feature is that you can type a command that will generate a URL so you can simply pass it along to anyone else you want in on the call. You’ll see the URL in your chat window. This URL can be sent to people via Skype IM, other IM, e-mail, Twitter, Facebook (NewsAlert), you name it. Then, anyone who clicks on the link is automatically dropped into the conference call – as long as they have Skype installed.

With Skype 5.0, you not only gain the ability to click on a link to join a conference call, you can also name the conference by providing some text as a “token” to the “golive” command. The resulting URL means you could actually create multiple URLs that get passed around for different teams to use at different times.

Even better, you can create the URL without the golive command. Simply make up the URL using this format: skype:skypename?call&token=text. You can then pass this URL around to anyone on your list and they simply click on it to jump into a call with you – pretty cool, isn’t it?

This approach to conference calling is great for those who want to drive internal collaboration. A team using group chat may find they come to an issue that is better resolved if they simply talk about it. Entering the /golive command to then get on a call is simple and all can quickly join in the call.

There are a few things to keep in mind, like the fact that the host computer manages all the streams and needs to have a wide and clean pipe to move that amount of data. And, all users must have Skype 5.0 for Windows or Mac. Of course, the latter is easy to get and all parties can quickly begin chatting – live that is.

Courtesy of TMCnet.com.

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Are These Social Media Trends Part of Your Strategy?

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Courtesy of Social Media Today

“We don’t have a choice on whether we do social media, the question is how well we do it.”– Erik Qualman.

So, how well do you do it? It’s important to keep tabs on emerging social media technologies to make sure you are investing in the right areas even if some areas are not relevant immediately.

Here are some trends for 2011 that will help keep your business ahead.

1. Online video. Everywhere.

Online video is not a new phenomenon; however, what’s new about this avenue is that it is increasingly everywhere. The bar has been set high for the level of consumer interaction and this must include valuable interactive video. Video engagement is continuously increasing and in October alone, 5.4 billion videos were viewed – 2 billion of which were on Facebook. Brands and consumers rely on video to provide information that is not present elsewhere in social media, making it a critical component in shaping people’s perception about companies and each other.

2. Mobile Marketing.

In 2010 infrastructure, technology and design finally intersected in the mobile world and for the first time smartphone sales overpowered the sales of desktops and laptops. Companies need an iphone application to keep up with their consumers and to be available when consumers need them. In 2010, iPhone and iPad applications were downloaded more than 7 billion times and that serves as a great indicator that consumers are willing to engage. In 2011, mobile users will interact with content, companies and the Web more on their phones and iPads than on their computers. From shopping on the go, to paperless transactions, to watching (and creating) videos – mobile media is instant, portable and personalized.

3. Location.

Although location falls into the mobile marketing avenue, it deserves its own mention. Advertisers are able to take advantage of mobile platforms that let them reach consumers at critical points (eg. moments just before they make an in-store purchase). Being able to reach a customer on the go or near the point of sale can be a very powerful mechanism for brands looking to connect with potential audience. Location will increase in popularity as people get more comfortable checking in to a business and when brands offer more enticing offers. Again, you must offer value to your consumers so that they feel comfortable enough to associate themselves with your brand through their social media profiles. This includes in depth analysis of market trends, monitoring behavior and coming up with creative ways in establishing that connection. This “mobile meets loyalty” approach enhances the social experiences, and inspires new audiences.

4. Deal Hunting

As consumer expectations rise, you must be able to offer them something different while still making a profit. Services like Groupon provide an instant ability to share deals. Expect this to continue over the next couple of years with copy cat services and the big players rolling in to more territories and rolling out better and more extensive deals. This yet again serves as an opportunity to both reward your most loyal customers as well as attract new clientele who may discover you through a daily deal. Expect to see special sales, tickets, and discounts as well as combinations of promotions with similar services (dinner and a movie anyone?). However, if you do decide to go down the deal hunting avenue, make sure you don’t over exhaust the consumer.

5. Monitoring conversations

The internet breaks barriers between brands and people, as well as people and people. It is a fact that 78% of consumers trust peer reviews and only 14% trust advertisements this is why it’s crucial to be involved in your community and have a good reputation. What are people saying about your brand? About 25% of search results for the top 20 brands linked to user generated content – the control you have over what people say saying is limited so it is up to you to nourish these relationships. The number one way to get people saying positive things is through over delivering on your product or service. However, you must also encourage the conversation through social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, blogs, forums, industry publications and media. Monitor the conversation, join in on the conversation, help and show your customers that you care. In return, this will only increase loyalty.

The social media trends that arise are unlimited and we as people influence their success and failures. So while everyone is waiting for Twitter to monetize, Google to fail with another platform, or for an explanation of what augmented reality really does – we need to ask ourselves what enables our success, jeopardizes our performance and how we want to shape the years to come.

About Marina Arnaout

Marina Arnaout comes from a marketing communications background with expertise in variety of mediums ranging from TV to out-of-home advertising. Finding her niche in the digital realm, she is a frequent contributor to industry publications often covering social marketing and media trends. For more, follow Marina on Twitter @marinarn.

HTML5, the iPad, and the iPhone: What You Need to Know

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Have questions about HTML5 video? You’re not alone. StreamingMedia.com recently hosted a webinar on the topic led by Jeff Whatcott, senior vice president of global marketing at Brightcove (the event was sponsored by Brightcove), and nearly 1,000 people attended. The entire event is archived here (registration is free), but if you want something you can skim, here are the highlights.

The webinar was titled HTML5 Readiness, and sought to fill in the gaps for professionals who had heard the buzz on HTML5 video, but still had a lot of questions. Whatcott explained what HTML5 video is, showed how some companies are using it, and gave recommendations for creating an HTML5 strategy.

HTML5, Whatcott explained, is the successor to the current HTML standard, one that started as a renegade project by a group that included Apple, Mozilla, Google, Opera, and others. The central idea was to allow video and audio to play on websites without plug-ins.

We’re currently at the beginning of the HTML5 cycle, and only 38 percent of browsers support it. That means no content creator can afford to serve only HTML5 video, but needs to create a mixed format delivery system where users get the video in Flash or Silverlight if their browser isn’t HTML5-compatible.

While HTML5’s video tag is enjoying all the attention, the standard also includes audio and canvas tags, for delivering audio and dynamic images without plug-ins.

One of the standard’s shortcomings is that it doesn’t specify one format to use with it. That means there are a variety of choices, two of which enjoy major support. Providers can serve H.264 video created with the MPEG4 codec, WebM video made with the VP8 codec, or Ogg Theora video. H.264 and WebM offer better video quality, Whatcott said, and WebM is open source.

The area has gotten complicated, since Apple backs the H.264 format and Google backs WebM in its Chrome browser (which soon won’t support H.264 video). Whatcott sees the formats being used as weapons in a format battle, and doesn’t want customers to become casualties.

That fragmentation means that content providers can’t choose just one format when delivering HTML5 video, but need to stream two formats. The real beneficiary of this Adobe’s Flash video format, Whatcott says. If HTML5 seems too complicated, people will throw up their hands and just go with a system that works.

While that’s true of serving desktop viewers, HTML5 is most relevant now for reaching mobile devices. Providers who want to reach the influential iOS demographic need to stream H.264 video. Android devices support H.264 video, but not in all builds.

For those looking for more help with HTML5 video, Whatcott recommended this collection of links, which he put together and continues to maintain.

When it came time for questions, webinar attendees showed that they were concerned about the limits of HTML5 video. They asked about adaptive bitrate streaming (HTML5 video doesn’t offer it; the most it can do is one bandwidth check just before playback), analytics (tools aren’t as rich as with Flash video), and live streaming (it’s not supported in HTML5 video). They also asked about DRM and closed captioning, neither of which are available in HTML5 video.

For a more in-depth look at HTML5 video, check out the entire hour-long webinar for yourself. It’s a great introduction if you’re starting to think about an HTML5 delivery strategy.

Courtesy of SteamingMedia.com

How to Lead a Business Revolution

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Courtesy of BNET and Thomas A. Stewart.

The idea of “business revolutionaries” has always struck me a little odd. Maoists, anarchists, Bolshevists, sure, but managers? Men in gray flannel suits, striped ties, and black Che Guevara berets? Yet a search among Amazon’s book listings yields 659 hits for “leadership revolution,” 1,110 for “management revolution,” and 2,856 for “business revolution.” Some are false positives, like The T-Shirt Revolution: Building Your Business Using a Digital Apparel Printer; but a surprising number, not all of them by Tom Peters, truly promise revolution, if not at gunpoint, at least at PowerPoint. (One promises an “execution revolution,” but alas has no guillotine on the cover.)

Though the rhetoric’s false, you can find some truly smart ideas by taking it literally. Real revolutionaries know that you can’t just topple the old regime; you have to prevent its coming back. Noel Tichy, the University of Michigan leadership expert, worked closely with Jack Welch early in his tenure as the CEO of General Electric. Welch immediately put his stamp on three GE functions: communications, executive education (Tichy ran GE’s leadership development center, now named for Welch), and the corporate audit staff. As Tichy told me, “All good revolutionaries know that you can’t win unless you seize control of the broadcasting stations, the schools, and the police.”

So what’s that mean?

Capture the media. When you’re trying to make big changes, propaganda must be ceaseless and ubiquitous. The more deeply held the old beliefs are, the more relentless the Newspeak must be. Carly Fiorina come into HP determined to shake up a culture she thought had grown slow-moving. Within months, the new CEO promulgated a set of “Rules of the Garage” intended to return HP to its entrepreneurial roots. (Among the rules’ tenets: “Believe you can change the world … work quickly … no politics … radical ideas are not bad ideas.”) More than that, with start-up speed, she wiped away any mention of the company’s famous “HP Way.” Never mind that the HP Way was the work of the real entrepreneurs and that before HP Fiorina had worked only for AT&T and Lucent, where the only garages were for the company cars. The ability to pull off Orwellian slight of hand is precisely what a revolutionary needs, and why he or she must seize control of the corporate media.

Take over the schools. Tichy and Welch shut down one of GE’s best and most popular courses, on marketing, to send a shocking “no-business-as-usual” message to GE’s execs: All the marketing moxie in the world won’t save us if we don’t fix the manufacturing guts of this company and speed up its elephantine ways. Management training wasn’t a nice-to-have for Welch; it was central to his revolutionary program. He worked unusually closely with Tichy and his successors–Jim Baughman, Steve Kerr, and others–and made a point of conducting a class with each cohort that came to GE’s campus, which has since been named for him.

Get the police on your side. As for the cops, well, think of it this way. If you’re going to going to commit fraud, the first thing to do is corrupt the cops (see Enron) or neuter them. (At Tyco, the three prudential functions–finance, HR, and legal–were balkanized, reporting to scores of subsidiary CEOS. In its heyday–er, nadir–Tyco had 2,154 separate balance sheets, making it effectively unauditable.) If that’s true, the flip side is, too: You won’t get what positive change if you don’t make sure those same weapons are in your hands, and no one else’s. Over many years, Harvard Business School Professor William Sahlman has documented the power of incentives to affect behavior–indeed, in his (debatable) opinion, the relative powerlessness of anything else compared to incentives. Reward is one goad. Punishment is another.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying that “soft power” has no role in making change happen. Indeed, in the long run, you can’t win a revolution without bringing the formal and informal organization along together–a topic I’ll come back to in another post. But real revolutions are serious stuff with, you know, blood in the streets. If you just talk it, it won’t happen.

And if business revolution seems too hard, you can always get into the revolution business instead. Those Che Guevara berets? $29.95 at The Che Store, the place to find authentic, officially licensed products “for all your revolutionary needs.”

Illustration courtesy flickr user, chris.corwin