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Augmented reality: the next killer marketing technology

Since becoming the proud owner of an iPhone 3GS I’ve annoyed family, friends and colleagues silly be flashing it around and telling them which direction North is. I’ve also been marveling at the ecosystem of third party applications available (which, apparently, would cost over $140,000 if you bought them all).

But the apps – as these programs are called – that currently exist only just scratch the surface of what is going to be possible now that the iPhone knows where it is and even which direction it is pointing.

Welcome to the world of augmented reality.

Whilst at the time of writing there are no true augmented reality applications available, there are a number in the pipeline – and their developers have not been slow to post videos showing what they can do online.

The first I came across is Nearest Tube, and app that will quite literally point you in the direction of the closest London Underground station when you hold up the iPhone. Watch the video below to see it in action.

Today I discover TwittARound (geddit), or at least a video of the first beta version. In the words of the developer, “it shows live tweets around your location on the horizon. Because of video see-through effect you see where the tweet comes from and how far it is away.” Again, seeing is believing:

So why I am suggesting that augmented reality is the next killer marketing technology? Quite simply because as these apps show, the physical and virtual worlds have just moved closer together as a result of devices like the iPhone 3GS and the ingenuity and creativity of application developers.

How long then before we have augmented reality apps that do things like:

  • Show messages left by others at the same location (in fact, there are map-based apps that already do this)
  • Display internet ratings or reviews (or alternatives) for products in shops
  • Call up news/opinion about a company when you pass by their premises
  • Provide interactivity to any outdoor ad by pointing the mobile device at it
  • Help you find the nearest outlet for a particular brand (in fact, ING Direct already did this on Google’s Android platform with their ATM Finder)

To paraphrase the ad, there’s bound to be an app for that soon.

I for one am going to be watching this space with interest over the coming months. If you have examples of companies using AR as part of their marketing or communications, please let me know.

Update: Just discovered that Apple has already filed a patent for something called ID App for identifying objects in the user’s surroundings. Mashable has more on this.

Will Google Chrome OS be the Enterprise 2.0 OS?

google-chrome-logo.jpg

Unless you’ve had your head buried in the sand today, you can’t have failed to hear that Google has announced a new project to develop the Google Chrome Operating System.

Google came pretty late to the browser party – too late in fact. So targeting the operating system itself makes perfect sense. Some say it’s a direct threat to Microsoft’s dominance of the desktop. That may turn out to be true, although I’d strongly advise Microsoft to acquire eyeOS or one of the many Web OS vendors.

What I find most interesting however, given Google’s forays into the enterprise social software space, is whether GCOS has the potential to be the first serious attempt at an Enterprise 2.0 operating system. It has everything going for it: open source; lightweight; speed; simplicity; security. Not to mention the fact that it will run any web-based application, and therefore any web-based social software application.

I fully expect to see the whole suite of Google Enterprise applications being pushed heavily through GCOS.

download I Capture the Castle

What do you think: will GCOS be the answer to all your Enterprise 2.0 prayers?

Helping executives get things done

Over the last three weeks, I have had as many conversation with senior executives about how they can cope with the constant barrage of incoming information, mainly via email.

In various lengths of windedness, I tell them rather smugly that my inbox is empty 95% of the time. Not because no one ever sends me anything (although that may well be true) or that I just delete it, but because since January 2008 I’ve followed David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD) system.

Now I don’t know why it works for me. Maybe it appeals to the left side of my brain, maybe I just like process, or maybe it just works. But I highly recommend it to any senior executive whose inboxes control them rather than the other way around. If they can get it working (and you do need to work at it for a couple of months) I can guarantee they will feel more productive, less stressed and more in control.

In fact, I think there’s such a big internal market for this I’m considering offering one-on-one coaching to H&K’s elite.

Social media influence cannot be measured

A few different projects have got my mind focused on influence this week. The first is planning the research design for the centrepiece of my book on social media in B2B (can we measure the influence that social media platforms have on the different staging of the B2B buying cycle?). The second is connected with our cooperation next month with Twitter at the Cannes Lions.

In both contexts I am reaching the conclusion that influence cannot be measured, and thus is a futile metric for exploration. Sure, you can ask people how much influence something has or has had, but do they really know? And what is influence anyway? In my mind it is a power that makes someone do something, not a property that any individual possesses. Invariably when an individual does have influence, it is only over a specific thing. Even the most influential people in the world (politicians, one could argue) have no influence over whether I will buy a Sony or a Panasonic television this weekend.

In a public environment, you might (just) be able to attempt to measure influence by looking at people’s networks, the re-communication of their utterances, but to me this is just reach. Someone who says something that reaches 100,000 people is no more influential than someone who reaches just 100, if all of the latter act on that communication but none of the former do.

In short, influence needs to be measured in context and at the receiving end not the transmitting end. That is not something you can do by looking at their blog posts, tweets or Facebook profile.

So do we continue to try and measure things that cannot be measured, or do we measure things that can be measured and can give us as marketers comparisons that we understand.

I think it’s the latter.

Calling all business marketers

Not content with burning myself out last Christmas finishing my first book, Enterprise 2.0, I have just signed a contract to write my second. And this time on an even shorter timescale!

For this next title, I’ll be focusing on consumer marketing’s ugly step-child, business-to-business marketing – and specifically the application of social media principles to what has in many cases becoming a rather formulaic aspect of the communications mix. Yet when you consider that roughly one-third of searches on Google are business-to-business in nature and more than 50% of Google’s and 39% of Yahoo’s advertisers are business-to-business companies, then the importance of the Internet in the purchasing cycle cannot be overstated.

It follows then that it is no longer an option for business-to-business marketers to dismiss social media as a consumer craze, and my aim with this book is to raise the profile of successful business-to-business use of social media and help companies discover, select, integrate, exploit and measure these techniques as part of an integrated marketing strategy.

Wish me luck! And if you have any great stories of business-to-business social media marketing you would like to share, please feel free to comment.

Here comes the recession… and B2B spam!

Spam is obviously a fact of life these days, but I can’t help but notice a subtle increase in the amount of unsolicited email hitting my work inbox.

And it’s not just the quantity that is grabbing my attention, but the content too.

You see, this isn’t the usual Viagra or Rolex material but people – I’m guessing salespeople – desparately trying to hit their lead generation quota.

Now I have every sympathy for anyone trying to make a decent living in such uncertain times, but sending unsolicited and untargeted email actually has two effects on me.

Firstly, it’s annoying. Business-to-business marketers think they can get away with email marketing tactics that have been pretty much outlawed for self-respecting business-to-consumer equivalents. Even in this market (the UK) there are some gaping loopholes that allow emails marketing products and services to other businesses a free ride. If we don’t have a relationship that I initiated, then you shouldn’t be sending my email. Period.

Secondly, it’s irrelevant. By casting your net wider I pretty much guarantee that your response ratio will drop. I have no plans to review my developer headcount (none suits fine, right now) or upgrade my IP telephony. Just because your product might save me money doesn’t mean I’m going to be hitting that reply button.

Business-to-business marketing needs to learn a few lessons from its consumer marketing brethren, and realise that its market is in control when times get tough. And that means spending less time selling, and more time listening.

Downloadable version of Enterprise 2.0 now available!

It’s taken a while, but getting both timing and pricing right has been unbelievably difficult. However, for all those without corporate expense accounts that baulked at the price of the hardcover version, I’m relieved to announce that a downloadable PDF version of Enterprise 2.0 is now available from lulu.com for just £9.99/$14.03/€11.15.

This is a complete electronic replica of the printed book in PDF format. None of that anti-social DRM involved – in this hyper-social age I hope I can trust people to respect my copyright.

To buy, you can go directly to: http://bit.ly/enterprise20
For more information, go here: http://bit.ly/enterprise20info

The language of the web

This is a topic I am just starting to explore, so bear with me. I have a couple of hypotheses to play with:

  1. The distribution of languages used for content – especially in social media – does not correlate with the distribution of languages of internet users (see chart below).
  2. The prevalance of non-English languages online is much higher than most English speakers think.

Discuss.

Enterprise 2.0 Presentation Slides

.!.

During my Canadian tour last week, I’m proud to say that I used slides just once at the breakfast for Hill & Knowlton clients. The rest of the sessions were all off the cuff.

In response to numerous requests, I put my slide deck on Slideshare.net. Here they are:

Enterprise 2.0

View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: socialsoftware

enterprise2.0)

I’m afraid they lose a little without my talking over them. If you’d like me to come explain them to your company, please contact me.