Monthly Archives: July 2013

Keenen Ivory Wayans (@keeneniwayans) poses on stage during his set at the Stress Factory (@StressFactoryCC) in New Brunswick, NJ.

What Stand-Up Comics Can Teach #SmallBusiness About #Engagement

Last weekend, my wife and I saw stand-up comic Keenen Ivory Wayans (@keeneniwayans) perform at the Stress Factory in New Brunswick, NJ. (Great comedy venue, by the way, following them @StressFactoryCC). As with any sort of live event, the room was filled with people looking into their phones and tablets to photograph the show.

Early in his set, Ivory Wayans did something really interesting. He called out the crowd for using their cameras and told everyone that if they wanted a photo, he’d pose for them. He took ten seconds, posed for the crowd, and then told them to put the phones away. Most people did and went on to enjoy a fantastic set. Ivory Wayans had a triple win: everyone was happy to get a good on-stage shot of the actor, the crowd then went on to enjoy the rest of the set, and lots of people posted those photos on their social media, which in turn helps promote both the venue and Ivory Wayans’ stand-up tour.

The opening act, Melvin George II (@notcool1), took it even further, actually working his website (www.notcool1.com) into the act, getting people to visit to purchase downloads of the show. Maybe Melvin George II didn’t stick in people’s heads right away, but Not Cool 1 sure does.

The point here for small buinsess is to adapt and engage. Even in live stand-up, these two performers embraced digital and social media to enhance their performances, engage the audience better and provide a memorable and funnier overall experience. They didn’t give long sales pitches or tell people to do anything specific; they didn’t have to. By making people feel part of the experience and giving them something to do to stay connected, additional engagement happened organically. To follow-up, both comics engaged with fans on Twitter and Instagram to thank them for their comments and tweets, which surely helped them get more followers and fans who will be interested in future shows and other projects.

For small businesses especially, learning how to adapt your business to social media and learning to get people to want to engage with you is vital. Daily sales pitches for the latest product or service will get redundant and boring very quickly. Creative and interesting content, and by offering people the opportunity to engage with you and your brand, will create a more involved and invested audience. This creates new possibilities that you may not have even considered to convert followers into customers and clients.

Why the Windows brand is killing Microsoft

When Microsoft released Windows Phone and Windows 8, they managed to finally change the discussion about how an operating system should look and feel. For the first time since Steve Jobs stood on stage and put a dent in the universe with the original iPhone, the classic row of icons and rounded corners paradigm of design was finally starting to feel old and dated.

Designers and IT pro alike were fascinated. Had Microsoft finally found a real voice in its design? Could Microsoft become the cool company again? Had they out-Appled Apple?

Sales have been lousy. The press has completely turned against the products. Consumers and businesses very quickly developed a very negative and usually unreasonable opinion about it, even before Windows 8 was offered for sale.

It wasn’t the technology, nor the design. It was the brand. Microsoft hurt itself very badly by taking something truly new and innovative, interesting and game-changing and sticking it with the name “Windows”.

Somewhere along the line, the powers-that-be in Redmond decided that Windows is a beloved and highly-respected brand. Most consumers don’t think of Windows at all, except maybe as that thing that crashes their computer at work. Even when buying hardware, people more likely ask about which “PC” to buy, or look at Dell, HP or Lenovo. Most consumers care more about having Microsoft Office (the more powerful brand, really), than Windows. It’s like if auto companies tried to market their products based on someone’s engine under the hood.

Windows’ domination of PC world dates back at at least 1992 (when Windows 3.1 was released). This brand name, very strongly associated with PCs and servers for over a decade, has been a cornerstone of the computer revolution. While it has made Microsoft the powerhouse that it is, it also carries a ton of baggage, as well as lots of expectations – positive and negative – with consumers, businesses and IT professionals.

So, when Microsoft brought Windows Phone and Windows 8 to the world, and tagged them with an old, established brand name, they lost the opportunity to put into people’s mind something really new and amazing. Oh, it’s Windows, I know all about that.

What Microsoft should have done is created something new: Surface OS, Modern OS, even Win OS, and presented it to the world as Microsoft’s effort to revolutionize computing. By breaking with the past, they could have started to reach the mobile audience in a new way and show that they were leapfrogging Google and Apple. Then, once that had started to make inroads, start to bring that new look and feel to Windows (Windows 8, powered by Surface OS). When the OS starts up, it should have said, “would you like to try Surface OS?” Eventually, as the market trends revealed themselves, they could have integrated more and more. The new product could have stood side-by-side Windows as another billion-dollar line.

Instead of trying to abruptly change a brand’s reputation by forcing it down users’ throats, there should have been establishment of a new brand, introduced to the world in an exciting and different way. Early adapters and taste makers could have been courted, all of the beta issues and bugs worked out, and then the rest of world brought along. It would have taken longer, and far more successful for everyone involved.

In Web Design, Tech’s Not The Thing

We recently were involved in proposing a website design project for a popular actress, and had an opportunity to see a lot of responses to her request, which were posted on her Facebook page. What was surprising is that so many of these requests focused on the technical aspect of building a website.

“Our team of developers is skilled in…” trailed by a long list of technologies, programming languages, platforms and applications.  No emotion, no energy, no real enthusiasm for creating something engaging and wonderful.

In all of our years building websites for clients, never once has a client seen their new site and asked about the php code.  The business owner looking at their new home page has never wondered about the HTML structure, or how solid the javascript is, or how the roll-over effects are done.

These things are important to us as web professionals, of course.  I am a big believer in beautiful, clean code.  The back-end of any project should always be clean, well-structured and use best practices for performance, SEO and standards-compliance.  But, none of this a major factor in ultimately giving the client a positive experience.

When doing a quote for a client, it’s much more important to show an understanding of their needs and the best way to promote the product or service that they want to get out there to the world.  A love of design and a real energy surrounding the work that you are doing is far more important than a laundry list of competencies.

Too often in the tech world, we get bogged down in the merits of one technology or another and loose focus on the objectives that we want to achieve.  All of us in the tech world must get better at treating the technology as the tools of our trade, the paint brushes and oils that we used to create beautiful and lasting work.  The more we can achieve this, the better the technology will be appreciated and the more valuable your work will be to your clients.