June 15, 2009

What I Learned at 140 | The Twitter Conference (part 8)

Filed under: #140tc,SmokeJumper Strategy,Twitter — @smokejumper @ 12:21 am
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View this blog post “What I Learned at 140 | The Twitter Conference (part 8)” on my new blog site at

“Twitter will transform conferences and events.”
Brent Harrison (@smokejumper)

One of the unexpected findings from the recent 140 | The Twitter Conference was how Twitter was used before, during and after the event by conference organizers, speakers, panelists and participants.  Given how positive my experience was, it made me think how and why Twitter will transform conferences and meetings.

  1. Connect with people before the event. This had less to do with Twitter and more to do with Pathable.  Based on my user profile and tags, I was “matched” with other conference participants with whom I shared similar interests.  So instead of heading to a conference where I knew no one, there were already several people I wanted to meet and was able to connect with.Brent Harrison's Pathable Profile
  2. Some crowds really are wise. At first glance upon walking into a room filled with several hundred people hunkered over their computers typing away, it would seem to be a group that was both anti-social and highly distracted.  Turns out this was far from the truth.  By inserting the hashtag “#140tc” into their tweets, conference participants could share their thoughts and reactions with others immediately.  The sharing and learning that resulted was not limited to a speaker talking at the crowd or panelists talking amongst themselves.
  3. Engagement far and wide. By watching the conference tweets sorted by #140tc, others from around the world were able to get a sense of what was going on at the conference.  Further there was active relaying of questions from those not present to the audience and, in some cases, to the panelists.  This was far more interactive and powerful than any video stream or blogger attempting to blog real-time at a conference.#140tc Tweet Stream
  4. Panelists beware! For the speakers and panelists that were insightful, they benefitted from immediate tweeting of their quotes and commentary and reaction by the audience.  For the speakers and panelists that were not as captivating or interesting, I found myself paying more attention to the tweets of the others in the conference hall – they were often as interesting as the formal conference speakers.
  5. Involvement of the audience. As an introvert, I find it hard to stand up in front of 300 strangers with microphone and ask a question.  By day 2 of the conference, the organizers were streaming the #140tc stream on a large wall adjacent the stage.  The whole room could now see reactions, feedback and questions from the audience real-time and the more astute panelists could actually respond and tailor their comments accordingly.

I rarely attend conferences (or not nearly as much as I’d like to) but I will make a point of attending another conference that utilizes Twitter and involves the conference participants in such intelligent and impactful ways.

I’m done (finally) . . . more (on non-140 | The Twitter Conference topics) later.

  1. The Power of Presence. Insights from Alex Payne, Twitter API Lead.
  2. I am a Twitter God(ess) and So Can You! The View From Twitter Stardom with @ijustine, @missrogue and @davepeck.
  3. Don’t Take the Drive to Manic Feature Explosion. What Makes a Good Twitter App.
  4. Twitter business start-ups are combination socialist and radical markets.   Twitter Strategies:  Real-World Success Stories.
  5. WTF, No Twitter TV!? Direction from Anamitra Banerji, Twitter Product Management.
  6. Even with a simple hash tag, there is a learning curve. Soren MacBeth, Co-Founder / CEO of StockTwits.
  7. You can’t own social media. You can only interact with it. Corporate Use of Twitter by @JetBlue.
  8. Twitter will transform conferences & events. Surprising takeaways from an in-person Twitter conference experience.


January 29, 2008

Debunking 5 Myths of Local Internet Success

View this blog post Debunking 5 Myths of Local Internet Success at SmokeJumper Strategy.

Despite the myriad of investments, different business models and site types, very few companies have built viable businesses. A recent study of 80 “local” Internet companies, commissioned by MerchantCircle and conducted by SmokeJumper Strategy, a consulting firm based in Silicon Valley, identified five (5) myths of local Internet success.

#1. Build It and They Will Come
Many companies start with the idea of a founder or founders to build a better mousetrap. While the germ of an idea is a necessary start, it of itself is not enough to build a company. There are plenty of examples of companies building great features but generating relatively few unique visitors or page views: CityWaboo generates less than 5k page views monthly; attracts under 1k unique visitors per month; and SuggestLocal has so little user activity that it doesn’t register results on Compete. Even those who achieve relatively good traffic numbers aren’t destined for success: Edgeio was generating over 1.5M page views monthly when it decided to shut down; Insider Pages has over 1.8M unique visitors; and Judy’s Book still generates approximately 1.4M page views monthly (even after laying off the whole company).

#2. SEM = The Holy Grail of Traffic Generation
Many companies in local have experimented with Search Engine Marketing (SEM) as a way to drive traffic to their sites. When comparing overall page views against these companies’ search engine marketing budgets, it is clear that very few companies rely primarily on SEM for traffic generation. However, there are a handful of companies that are spending between $100k and $300k monthly on search advertising. For those companies that buy the vast majority of their website traffic (Done Right!, and Ziffleads), the question is obvious – how sustainable are their business models? Are they able to monetize traffic at a rate that is higher than the costs incurred?

#3. Go Forth and Conquer the World
Blame it on the ambition of the big thinkers and dreamers of Silicon Valley and beyond, but many companies attempt to build a local brand nationally or even globally simultaneously. When you step back from this notion, one can see the flaw in the logic (or is it irony?) or at least the difficultly for a small start-up to accomplish this. (This myth is correlated to myth #1 “Build It and They Will Come”).

Companies such as SmallTown have fought the temptation to roll out nationally, rather starting with a focused geographic market. The result has been utility for users of the service, feedback for the company to continue to develop its tools, information and capabilities and credibility as they start to move into new markets.

There is risk, of course, in this approach. As others capture new markets they make it difficult for future entrants. Plus it may not appeal to the ego and financial desires of investors. But compare this to those who have attempted to build a site that works globally/nationally, such as CitizenBay (less than 1.5k unique visitors) or StreetAdvisor (less than 3.5k unique visitors), who have minimal traffic and little active membership. The result is “no there there” – the equivalent of throwing a really hip and cool party that no one attends.

#4. Advertising Will Pave the Road with Golden Bricks
While there is little debate that Google AdSense, Yahoo Publisher Network and other site advertising networks have enabled many small sites and bloggers to generate income from advertising on their sites, relying on advertising exclusively to build a viable business is very much in question. Our study found no local sites that are driving big revenue levels and growth rates with advertising only. For advertising to pay off, local players need significant traffic. Yet, many sites have failed to establish a revenue stream of any kind.

Sites with higher revenue levels rely on some combination of service licensing, commission or other revenue streams in addition to site advertising (display, sponsorships and pay-per-click). MerchantCircle is one example of a site that has been able to create multiple revenue streams: advertising (Citysearch, AdSense and directly-sold display ads) as well as member subscriptions.

#5. Bootstrapping: What is Old is Old Again
While some high traffic sites have had limited funding, all the low traffic sites share low funding levels (or no outside investment). So while getting your business well-funded is no guarantee of success, without funding it is very difficult to fuel the product development and marketing that is required to establish yourself and grow.

Without some funding event, many local companies are destined to continue to be niche or marginal players, will die on the vine or become acquisition fodder for others: EventShopper, Savory Cities, and Zixxo.

About the Study
The study was conducted by SmokeJumper Strategy, a Silicon Valley-based marketing and product consulting firm, and was commissioned by MerchantCircle. 80 companies were assessed using publicly available information from Alexa, Compete, Google, SpyFu and Xinureturns. For more information, contact SmokeJumper Strategy.