Twitter and Facebook: they’re cool but who calls the shots?

12 March 2010

Facebook, Twitter, Facebook, Twitter, Facebook, Twitter…

If media coverage and excitement where the best indicator of who’s who in the global technology industry, there would be no doubt where we stood. The creators of this video are very clear on who matters out there:

I’ve just done a little research and am reliably informed (thanks, Wikipedia) that:

  • Twitter – ” …internal projections that in 2009 they would have revenues of $400,000 in the third quarter (Q3) and $4 million in the fourth quarter (Q4)”
  • Facebook – “In October 2008, Zuckerberg said “I don’t think social networks can be monetized in the same way that search did… In three years from now we have to figure out what the optimum model is.”

Whereas, and just for example:

  • Cisco – $36.11 billion revenue (2009)
  • HP – $115 billion revenue
  • IBM – $100+ billion revenue
  • Intel – $35 billiion (2009)
  • Oracle – $23 billion revenue (2009)

Twitter and Facebook are great but keeping things in perspective, the gorillas are still in the room.

Videocalls: a visible future?

04 March 2010

In 1994, the Simpsons ran an episode entitled ‘Lisa’s Wedding’, set in 2010. This clip highlights their understanding of the future.

However, now we are actually in 2010, the general sentiment is that videophones are ‘so’ late 1990’s.

Given any form of conversation is all about two way interactions, it is perhaps a technological anomaly that videophones have somewhat failed to capture the world’s imagination.

Unfortunately, video calling had a couple of things working against it. Firstly, in order to remain in shot, the need to walk around with your phone held directly in front of your face is a look that for some reason, never caught on. Secondly, once the pointlessness of video calling someone without a camera  was realised and the technology was made widely available, mobile phone operators pushed video call tariffs high enough to induce a mild dose of vertigo. But thirdly (and what proved the death knell) was the fact that most people, actually, didn’t want to see who they were talking to. “That’s called real life” they said, “and we’ll keep that and telecommunications separate, thank you very much”.

The result of course, is that videocalls never really happened. As a result, in the last 18 months, handset manufacturers such as HTC have been ditching front-facing cameras e because, “Nobody uses them.”

This established landscape is now dramatically shifting. 2010, as the Simpsons predicted with Nostradamus style accuracy, is already shaping up to be the year that the world starts to get to grips with video and voice technology becoming a cohesive package.

This week, has seen a number of television manufacturers announce the integration of Skype video call technology into their sets, meaning before long, living rooms around the world will be fully equipped in high-end video conferencing technology (and you’ll get to chat to your mum in widescreen – weird).

What is even weirder however, is the number one web 2.0 explosion of 2010 so far. Foursquare? Nope. Chatroulette; the site which randomly pairs you with another webcam-enabled user whenever you click ‘next’. It provides full voice and video communication, with complete strangers. And despite being only four months old, it already draws in 500,000 unique monthly users and is growing exponentially.

Clearly, the complete lack of demand for voice and video is over. Only last month, we saw a significant backlash against the iPads lack of camera, followed by a huge ongoing rumour-mill when information became apparent that maybe it did after all. But where and when has this change in attitude come about?

That is not so clear, but perhaps one of the biggest influences is the support of young people, who are more used to the video-centric world of today, and can’t even remember the days of rotary phone dials. All in all, whilst it certainly won’t be the case that video calls will revolutionise mobile telecoms anytime soon, it is somewhat inevitable that they will perhaps now, slowly but surely, start becoming more and more important.

London’s TechHub: a roundabout to compete with the Valley

03 March 2010

As a reader of Mike Butcher, European editor at TechCrunch, I know that the buildings surrounding a roundabout in London’s Old Street are host to an unusually high concentration of young tech companies.

A group of people, including Mike Butcher, is looking set to build on the area’s existing concentration of technology skills and entrepreneurship. On 1st April, they are opening the doors to London’s TechHub, which will provide, “…a physical space in London for tech startups, [which is] affordable, accessible and a great environment to bring together the right people in one place.”

This is potentially great news for the UK and Europe plc, which has only rarely created a market leading global technology company.

Europe contains regions that harbour a multitude of tech companies, such as the UK’s M4 corridor and London as a whole. However, companies and individuals there don’t seem to lock together in a way that builds a genuinely vibrant ideas culture. Even if ideas are created, it is doubtful that many people would have easy access to the support mechanisms and advice that would help them drive those ideas to market.

Everyone always says that Silicon Valley provides all of these things in spades, and that’s why so many successful companies have been founded there. If the TechHub can nurture Europe’s own around Old Street’s roundabout in the same way, we’ll hopefully have our own GoocrosacleBMtter to celebrate in the years to come.

To everyone behind TechHub, well done and good luck.

How to PR the point release (1.0)

17 February 2010

Most software companies were founded by a small group of young, talented programmers with an idea to do something great with what they knew how to do. Regardless of the recruitment of accountants and marketers, at heart, almost all software companies retain the founder’s engineering culture. Which is why, when a development team completes a minor modification to the company’s software (fixing a few known bugs and refining some features) a directive will often float down to PR instructing, it to, ‘get coverage for our point release’. If you’re on the receiving end, you might be interested in our five tips for point release PR success.

1. Do they know something you don’t?

As soon as you find out about the impending point release launch, arrange a meeting with product engineering and have them explain its benefits. There is always a chance that your understanding of the release is not complete. After your conversation you may find that what you thought were tweaks will actually, ‘transform the user experience’ and develop, ‘a new paradigm in software functionality’, which makes much more sense in PR terms than, ‘Has a new drop down menu.’

2. Unlock its ‘infotainment’ value

Next, consider how far the benefits of the point release will take you in terms of coverage. Is the point release so revolutionary, of itself, that the national press will be interested? Will the bug fixes and upgraded features guarantee in-depth coverage in all your key trades and verticals? The chances are that if you just list the features and fixes, even your fans in the trade press will struggle to cover your news.

Before setting out to secure coverage, it’s important to recognise that we, as well as journalists, are in the entertainment business. Your point release launch needs to be customised to ‘entertain’ the audience of the publications you’re targeting, at the same time as delivering its key messages.

3. Provide feedback

If you understand the product and have thrown everything at creating an angle that will work for the readers of the publications your management expects to see coverage in, and still don’t think you’ll get coverage, tell them and tell them why. They know JavaScript. You’re the PR expert: be strong.

4. Write the best release you’ve ever written

If ever there’s a time to write a brilliant press release, it’s when the news definitely won’t sell itself. Writing a release helps to refine the presentation and test the value of news before taking it to the media. However, a release is just one tool that a PR uses to secure coverage.

Knowing your key publications and the journalists, as well as ensuring that they are aware of you and your company’s relevance before you go to them with your news, is key to explaining why your point release launch should be of interest to the title’s readers. Securing coverage does not start and end with the approval of a press release.

5. The lure of free press release posting sites

If stage three, ‘provide feedback’, didn’t go so well and you really have to produce coverage, you may be tempted to post the release onto some of these sites. If you only do this, you will save journalists from having to delete your ‘not quite right’ news, be able to report hundreds of pieces of syndicated ‘coverage’, and at the same time assist your company’s SEO strategy. However, the ‘coverage’ is unlikely to be read by any of the potential customers or market influencers your management wants to reach. If your story isn’t a story, better to avoid these sites altogether and focus your attention on stages 1-4.

#MWC10 Trend Number One: Apple iPad

12 February 2010

In 2007 Apple stole the show without even turning up by announcing the iPhone four weeks before MWC opened. Three years later and they have done it again. Despite the fact that the company won’t even have a presence at the show, one of the hottest topics of conversation is likely to be the iPad. The device will not only impact mobile operators, but publishers, advertisers and entertainment companies. While some early media reports are more sceptical than for past Apple announcements, many media attendees will likely lead with the premise that the iPad could reshape the industry. Focusing on the opportunity for smartbooks and other competitive solutions will require clear differentiation and USP articulation.

Trend Number #2: LTE / 4G Rollout

11 February 2010

The evolutionary path of 3G is so well defined, that we all consider 4G to be just around the corner. Fact is 3G is only starting to gain mainstream consumer acceptance. HSPA (or ‘3.5G’) is well-established) but the industry is focussed on the rollout of next-generation networks that will enable new services.

Analysts are warning that consumer demand will continue to outpace bandwidth and network congestion will plague operators. Anyone looking to communicate around 4G should really consider the brand and reputational impact from this pending issue and set their messaging accordingly. Our experience of supporting 3G technologies has shown us that it’s critical for the industry to avoid over-hyping 4G, before it’s off the starting blocks.

MWC Trend #3: Evolving Mobile Internet Experience

10 February 2010

Apple’s iPhone made the mobile Web make sense for mainstream consumers; handset manufacturers and software companies have been playing catch-up ever since. Mobile operators recognise the boon that data services, new categories and app stores bring to ARPU and are looking to recreate that experience for their customers. There will be some app store fatigue and confusion among attendees and media, so differentiation and proof points will be vital to achieve cut through.

Analysts expect to hear more about efforts from carriers and handset manufacturers to integrate social networking sites, including Facebook, Bebo and LinkedIn. While it remains to be seen whether social networking really will be a ‘killer app’ for reinvigorating traditional mobile revenue streams, it’s certainly helping operators to bridge the gap between the decline in voice and mainstream data usage; and more importantly it is encouraging ‘laggards’ to want a data package. Yes, we could be getting there…

MWC Trend #4: Smartphones

09 February 2010

Carriers have been talking about Smartphones as a new source of data revenue for several years, but it’s been the work of Apple, RIM and Google’s Android that has made this a reality. The trend is expected to continue at MWC 2010. Handset manufacturers, including Palm and Samsung, are likely to unveil new, lower-priced models aimed at the mid-tier, which will continue to stimulate the market.

Google’s Android is still one-to-watch as it continues to promise lower-priced models with advanced features including GPS, application stores, evolving form factors and an enhanced Web-browsing experience. It’s an operating system that is set to grow in popularity as handset manufacturers roll out new models which will extend beyond phones to include set-top boxes and new form factors such as tablets, netbooks, smartbooks and more. However, this popularity could prove to be a double-edged sword – the more device-makers adopt the operating system, the more it will become fragmented.

What is true is that the promise of data revenues – whatever the platform – are starting to become a reality.

Mobile World Congress, the countdown is on…

08 February 2010

We’ve got less than seven days until what has arguably turned into the most important mobile industry event in the world, Mobile World Congress – or MWC – 2010, gets underway. From 15 – 18 February the leaders of the mobile world converge on Barcelona to define the industry’s agenda for the next few years.

There have been some surprises this year in terms of the companies who have chosen not to join the event; nonetheless, the show’s stature continues to grow as mobile becomes ever more central to consumer and enterprise technology and communications.

Each day this week, we’ll be highlighting what we think are the key trends that will be capturing the attention of media, analysts and the business community at this year’s event.  But, it’s not just our view. We’ve spoken to a large number of media and analysts and drawn on the global expertise of the H&K network to bring you our view of what will be on the agenda next week.

Today’s trend to highlight is…

Trend #5: Emerging Markets:

The adoption of HSPA or WiMax in emerging markets has shown us perhaps the most definitive evidence we’ve seen in mobile of technology “leap-frogging”. The innovative applications of advanced mobile technologies in emerging markets have shown us all what can be achieved when you ignore established business models and look for alternatives. What’s more, these technologies are being used to solve, ‘basic’ problems, like getting products to market, rather than for entertainment.

There’ll be a large contingent of government bodies and mobile operators from emerging markets present at the show. Yes, they represent a new revenue stream for handset manufacturers.  But they also have something to teach us about what can be achieved when you shift the focus to “greenfield” thinking, rather than “blue sky”.

Digital…traditional…which way to go?

08 February 2010

There’s no right way to go.

Within the marketing industry, with perhaps the tiiiiny exception of the recession and the economy, digital has been the buzz word for the past few years.

It’s got its advantages.  But it’s not the only way to go.  Or even the right way to go.  You need to choose the right channel for your business…regardless of whether you work in retail or e-tail.

If you’re reading a blog about tech PR (a wildly entertaining one, no less), I’m going to venture a guess that you’re probably on, or at least have heard of, LinkedIn.  Since June 2008, they’ve grown here in the UK from under 800,000 members to more than 3 million.  They don’t do above the line marketing. They do some events.  They don’t do much online marketing.  But they do do PR; and most of that is basic media relations, to “traditional” media.

I’m not saying this is from PR alone.  LinkedIn is blessed with a very charismatic and wonderful founder (and sometimes-CEO) in Reid Hoffman.  But what I hope this highlights is that despite the fact that LinkedIn is very much an online, social media, Web 2.0 company, offline communications has had a clear impact on their business objectives – to increase brand profile and grow their membership in the UK.

But that’s not to say traditional media is the be all and end all, either.  Digital plays an important role in helping LinkedIn engage, both with its membership but also its critics.

Some of you may have heard of WeCanDoBiz, a local start-up launched as an alternative to LinkedIn.  Ian uses social media and online news coverage to provide “the other side of the story” (this same tactic is used on his blog and Twitter feed…).  In doing this, he engages with LinkedIn, but also creates a platform for LinkedIn to counter the points and share these directly with its stakeholders – be they members, investors or advertisers.  And that’s where social media and digital PR excels – at facilitating a direct conversation.

So, there’s not necessarily one right way to go when it comes to comms.  You just need to know where you’re going…