Tag Archives: social

Some Thoughts on SocialFlow, Our Latest Partnership

It was announced yesterday that SocialFlow raised $10MM in Series B funding and our kbs+ Ventures participated along with Fairhaven Capital (lead), Softbank, RRE, AOL Ventures, Betaworks, and Rand Capital.  We blogged about our perspective on why we participated on our corporate blog but I wanted to add a few notes here.

I have been tracking SocialFlow ever since I was introduced to Frank Speiser at an event at Nihal Mehta‘s apartment in January 2010.  After learning about what he was building and why, I quickly saw the opportunity to leverage the technology for marketers.  Later that year, Frank give a talk at The Media Kitchen‘s Digital Media Venture Capital Conference and I’ve stayed in touch since.

When we found out that SocialFlow was raising money and was looking for a strategic or two to participate, it was a no brainer for us because of the trends that we are seeing in the space.  I will explain those below.

1.  Evolution of Communications Architecture:  Way back when, the communications architecture generally consisted of Public Relations, Investor Relations and Paid Media.  While those three still exist today and are still going strong, we’ve now re-arranged the construct to be Paid/Owned/Earned media.  What you [as a brand] do and say in paid media can be made exponentially greater when you leverage owned and earned.

2.  Communications Velocity:  The speed in which communications hits the marketplace has increased rapidly.  I don’t know of a “law” such as what we have with transistors (Moore’s Law), but I have to imagine that the speed in which we communicate has increased so significantly that old media cannot keep up.  Within 15 seconds, I can put out 140 characters to my entire follower-base on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Vine, or whatever other communications tool.  When it was just print ads, television ads, or even radio, it took months… sometimes a year (inclusive of production)!

3.  Big Big Data:  Almost every digital platform we use exhausts some form of data trail.  This data trail can be collected, mined, and optimized into an opportunity or insight for a marketer (or any company for that matter).  With the explosion of digital communications, there is a ton of data that’s available to optimize from.  Making sense of this data thru frameworks, architectures, and algorithms, will allow marketers a leg up in the communication “wars” for customers.  Note: It’s not about the size of the data set, it’s about the insight that’s gleaned.

4.  The Shift of Dollars:  We have all seen the charts that show time spent with a media channel vs. advertising dollars and the gap that exists in digital is still large.  But it’s getting smaller, which means that ad dollars continue to flow into the digital landscape.

SocialFlow capitalizes on the four points above.  They are smack in the middle of all of this.  Many of the kbs+ Ventures portfolio companies also exhibit these traits (and others).

With our relationship with Frank, the evolved management team, and the market traction the company has, we were super excited to green light this investment.



Adobe Strategy: On Point for 2013

I am a fan of Adobe ($ADBE).  You certainly know this if you’ve been reading this blog.  Here is an article I wrote in 2011 about Adobe’s strategy that has pretty much held true and something we all should re-read.

ADBE Stock

This morning I read the 2013 Investor Presentation (PDF) by Adobe and wanted to highlight a few things that I found interesting:

On slide 22 of the deck, Adobe mentions “key digital marketing growth drivers:”

  1. Shift of marketing spend to digital
  2. Re-platforming of the Web
  3. Demand for Cloud-based solutions
  4. Multi-channel campaign and social marketing solutions
  5. International growth

#2 (re-platforming) above is really, really interesting.  I had been looking for a term to capture this insight and I think they nailed it.

The 1990s ad-stack is on the way out, or at least has matured.  The new marketing stack is filled with social, mobile, local, and dynamic delivery.  Marketing tomorrow will not look like marketing yesterday.

On slide 26, Adobe talks about their stack (well, cubes):

  1. Adobe Analytics
  2. Adobe Target
  3. Adobe Social
  4. Adobe Experience Manager
  5. Adobe Media Optimizer

I’d have to say that these cubes/stack are pretty much aligned for the future.  Marketers and agencies are demanding ROI for their marketing spend and quantitative validation is key to success.

Read the investor presentation if you get a chance.  It’s a fast read.  If your organization is not aligned with this thinking, rethink where you are headed.



Stuck In A Rut of Incremental Innovation

I have been in the digital media marketing ecosystem since its inception.  The first documented digital advertising was born as banners and buttons (1996) that lived on webpages.

Ad servers were built to deliver these banners.  Incrementally better ad servers were built to better serve these banners, video, and buttons.

Sites federated together to create ad networks.  Incrementally better ad networks were built around technologies such as contextual, behavioral, semantic, etc.

Boxes on websites were created to house advertisers’ creative.  These lead to banners.  Incrementally better banners were created that yielded rich media units.

Search engine marketing solutions were built to manage and optimize voluminous keyword lists.  Incrementally better SEM platforms now include Facebook buying

Lots of incremental-ism.  Being incrementally better sounds like a rat race.  Or the cold war.  I’m better today.  You’re better tomorrow.  Its a no-win game and becomes all about marketing and salesmanship where it should be about the product and performance.

So where is the 0-1 going to happen in this industry?

Maybe we focus so much on going from 1 to n because that’s easier to do. There’s little doubt that going from 0 to 1 is qualitatively different, and almost always harder, than copying something n times. And even trying to achieve vertical, 0 to 1 progress presents the challenge of exceptionalism; any founder or inventor doing something new must wonder: am I sane? Or am I crazy? (Blake Masters class notes of Peter Thiel CS183)

Its happening.   But it’s not overly obvious to all.

The social marketing space inclusive of content creation is unbelievably sloppy and inefficient right now, but I propose we will see tomorrows DoubleClick-like, Advertising.com-like and Google-like come out of the social landscape.

Why?  Because it’s fundamentally different.

There are no banners or buttons.  The way we’ve acted in the past is not the way we act in the future of this space.

Communication does not scale.  We need to re-think the way we communicate and participate in this space.  The role for earned and owned media becomes just as important as paid media.

The 0-1 innovation is going to come from the social places in ways we cannot imagine today (or some people already are).


* Note, I’m not down on paid media buying.  I’m all for it.  I work in it. It’s evolving quickly and there are some fantastic companies participating in the space.  But when looking out across the marketplace, and looking for disruption, this (s0cial) area is ripe.





Early Stage Areas/Companies I'm Watching

I have really enjoyed watching all of the innovation over the past few years and wanted to highlight a few areas that I think are really interesting for 2010/2011.  In some cases, I may use company names as examples;  unless otherwise noted, I am not an investor in any of these companies and this is not a sponsored post (cmp.ly disclosure).

I think 2010-2020 is going to be the decade of digital video.  Analog video will become digital and it will become indexable, optimizable, and interactive.  For many reasons outlined in this previous post, I don’t think it’s going to happen overnight, but I do think that video is going to grow significantly.  Many of my clients in the agency are asking for video (either to complement their digital plan or to substitute for their traditional TV efforts) for 2011.

One of the companies that I’m watching today is Milabra (Crunchbase Profile).  The reason why Milabra is interesting to me is because they help us index what is in the actual video content.  This is extremely important when we want to target, customize and index content.

Social Networking
CollegeOnlyIt’s 2004 all over again.  I wrote back in the day that social networks are like hot clubs – while they are all the rage now, there will be another hot one in the next year or two.  Facebook has obviously dominated but there becomes a point where Fb will not have 100% marketshare.

One of the companies I’m watching is CollegeOnly (Crunchbase Profile). What I like about them is that their value proposition is easily understood and their media kit does a great job describing who and what they do… and I believe it.

Automated Advice
If we all had access to a lot of data, we can have it tell us things based on certain criteria we tell it to look for.   In an age of large amounts of data, companies are going to emerge that weed out the middleman of giving advice/consultations for the opportunity to automate actionable decisions.

PlantlyI’m specifically tracking two companies in this area:  Plant.ly (Crunchbase Profile) and Profitably (Crunchbase Profile).  There is no coincidence that they both start with “P” and end in “ly.”  Plant.ly has access to a huge database of investment risk and returns over a few decades.  Based on your risk tolerance and expected return, they can recommend the right fund/etf/etc for you.  No need to pay a middleman to set that up for you.

Profitably is another startup that is innovating in the automated advice area.  You give it access to your Quickbooks business information and it helps you decide where you can either trim costs or grow profits for our business.  For someone who isn’t numbers adept, this could be very valuable.

Because both of these companies use technology to disintermediate humans, the can significantly reduce the transaction cost and still make boku dollars based off of scale.

Content Consumption
This is an area that I’m currently very active in.  I’m a formal advisor to Fast Society which is launching in a couple of weeks, and I’m about to launch a project called Tomzy (currently the sole investor) that helps the world visualize vast amounts of information.  I’m on a content consumption kick because in it’s current form, it’s broken.  I have a whole post coming out on this upon the launch of Tomzy but essentially we cannot manage our current content stream and we’ve not even digitized the majority of our content yet… so how can we expect to keep up with it in the future?

While Tomzy is all about processing and filtering content based on its relevance to YOU, Fast Society creates a bbm (blackberry messenger) like service across any platform for a small group of people for a defined period of time.  I can’t give too much away about Fast Society but it’s different than GroupMe (Crunchbase Profile).

Based on what you have read here, if there are companies who you think should be on my radar screen, I’m certainly willing to engage.  Please contact me thru this form, comment below, or tweet me @dherman76.

Great Presentation: Evolution of Digital Communications

Saw this presentation on my friend Fred’s blog this morning and thought it was perfect for here.  Of all of the parts of the presentation (which I believe can be done in 120 slides rather than 200+), the slide that talks about data+insights hits really close to home during this part of my career and passion.  Check it out.
View more documents from David Gillespie.

Good Ideas Salon – PSFK

My friend Piers has been putting on the “Good Ideas Salon” for a while now and this month is focused on matchmaking entrepreneurs with digital media people.  More about what the Salons are all about.

His note to me:

I’m going to run an event where I hope to mix young and up-coming entrepreneurs with out of work advertising, design and media people. I’m hoping some of those likeminds can collaborate for the benefit of each other.

As someone who works in the entrepreneurial space, I’m reaching out to see if you know of any folks who might be interested in participating – either just turning up (we’ll try to do some speed-dating), or even being part of a Market Place where they can present their business and needs. Looking more for web-related start-ups.

Piers usually has a good crowd that turns up at his events.

If you are interested in attending, check out the site here.

Hating on Facebook [advertising]

It’s becoming very clear that advertisers don’t know how to advertise on Facebook, said Charlene Li, an independent consultant and social media analyst.

The quote above appeared in todays NY Times.

It preserves the illusion, at least, of Facebook as an advertising business.

The quote above appeared on Valleywag.

It’s much easier to to talk about how hard something is than to actually do it. All too often, I see people hating on Facebook, but why don’t we collectively come together to talk about the successes we’ve had?  If advertisers don’t know how to use Facebook, then why not tell them how?

There are many companies that are finding success with Facebook.  Buddy Media is working with no less than 10 major brands including Anheuser Busch, Fox, FedEx, New Balance, Reebok, HBO, and Intel (to name only a few).  I’ve had success with some of my brands.  If advertisers aren’t finding success on Facebook, you would think that these guys would stay away.

To borrow a stock term from my friend Howard, I’m long Facebook [advertising possibilities].

Give Someone The Tools, They Can Make a Difference

I’ve been blogging for 2 years now and it’s been absolutely phenomenal.  When I first started the blog, no one ever taught me what to do, nor told me what to say.  My voice developed over time and I think this blog has found its own niche.

HermanWebWhen Sherri and I decided to get engaged, I proposed having a central website where our family and friends can keep up to date with our whereabouts and our wedding details.  Sherri was extremely hesitant at first because of privacy issues, but over time, she broke down and we launched HermanWeb.

I contribute 1/10 the amount of time to HermanWeb than Sherri does.  It’s basically her entre into the blogosphere and she absolutely loves it.  While at family functions with people we haven’t seen for weeks/months/years, somehow, everyone knows about HermanWeb and they keep up to date with our life.  At temple for Yom Kippur, one of my best friend’s father voraciously reads HermanWeb and we had a debate about one of our posts.  The word is spreading to our little circle… and it’s exciting.

I received an email this morning from Sherri.  From someone who has been in corporate finance for her career with very little to do with technology, this is impressive:

Oh – I checked my analytics and visits and visitors yesterday were higher than sat :)  And my readership is spanning the globe too.  The number of visitors yesterday equaled the number of visitors I had on Friday.

Why do people blog?  For every reason imaginable under the sun.  All we did was setup a WordPress blog in our own template (thanks Cristi!) and gave her a username/password to blog from. She took it from there and creates content daily.  If you give someone the tools, they can make a difference.  We all have voices and humans are inherently social.

Fans & Customers Should Be One and the Same

Lefsetz talks about how bands should embrace fans, which I’ve hounded upon in the past.  Afterall, fans are the bands customers and why alienate them?  When you’re in the label world, bands are a business.  Each individual band has a P&L and budgets.  It’s a reality that the label’s spreadsheets and management’s egos are just as/almost as important as the music itself.

I totally gree with the quote below, not just because he outlines the DMB.

One of Bob Lefsetz’s recent postings:

We’re in the business of making people feel good about themselves. And, stunningly, we’ve still got a business after abusing our customers again and again. The biggest bands ARE IN BED with their fans. Like the DMB. It’s an ongoing relationship. Tape the shows, trade ‘em, you want ‘em that much? TAKE THEM! You need a uniform, WE’VE GOT ONE! You want to come to the picnic? We’ll let you in baby. We’ll find a way to get you reasonable seats at a reasonable price, which the DMB does, maybe because they control 50% of the house.

We’re sitting on a goldmine. We enable people’s hopes and dreams. They live for the music. The artists are gods. Guard this golden goose preciously. It will pay dividends forever. If you don’t whore it out, if new acts know it’s about the bond.

Let’s parallel this to traditional business.  JetBlue, Apple, Harley Davidson, Cartier, and Ikea all enjoy brand loyalty because they’ve built their brands around their customers; they work with their customers, not against them.  Customers are fans and they are sneazers (as Godin would say)… why prevent them from really enjoying your product/show?