Wednesday, November 28, 2007


I dug through my gmail inbox and found an exchange I had with a friend in 2005 about using Plaxo as a CMS. At the time I was not able to give this friend a good recommendation for Plaxo based upon the comments of another friend. Our conversation died at that point and and so did the attention I paid to Plaxo.

Over the years since that email exchange I've would receive messages from a couple of people I knew asking me to update my contact information, but the messages I've received lately from Plaxo have picked up and have changed in nature.

A few weeks ago I got a spate of invites to connect to people who had me in their address book. Instead of something that looked like a business card that I was supposed to complete with my info, these people had profiles and were noting how they knew me (friend, business contact or networking). My participation has thus far been passive. I created a user name and password to accept these invites, but I haven't actively sought out connections by uploading my contacts or anything like that.

Since receiving these recent invites to connect, I've been noodling some thoughts about Plaxo. As a LinkedIn user since 2004, and a recent Crackbook addict, I've been trying to figure out how this Plaxo site fits into my life.

Do I really need another profile and way for tracking contacts? At this point, I tend to think not. I threw out a question similar to this in Twitter and didn't get a response. But that's only read by about 15 folks or so since most of my offline peeps don't Tweet. Not enough to say this is mass agreement.

Since I am registered on Plaxo, I got the email pictured above. It caught my attention because I am a Moto Q user (mentioned briefly here), which uses a Windows Mobile platform, and this was one of the few marketing emails (i.e. not sent from a personal contact) that actually rendered in a readable format in the windows browser. I usually have to wait until I can read my gmail on the web to decipher those messages since most folks don't think to go easy on the graphics and links. (That rant continues here.)

Back to my point about Plaxo. I first read the message above on my phone. There was a link to try the service and I clicked it. And I got a screen that is shown at left. In case you can't read it - and I'd be shocked if you could - it says:
This file cannot be viewed on this device
I felt silly after reading the above and thinking that I was supposed to download something to my phone. Why would a note advertising a service for a Windows Mobile device not be viewable on a Windows Mobile device? The not-so-mobile-viewer-friendly web page was a clue I was in the wrong place. But a 1-2-3 how-to do this wouldn't have been so tough to include in the note.

So far, I feel Plaxo hasn't done a great job of getting me engaged in their site. Here are my problems:

  • No email to introduce a change in their M.O. from CMS to a robust networking site. If you can see that I've registered and done nothing more than passively accept requests, why not a nudge to do more?
  • What do I gain from participating in their site? I get a colorful (literally and figuratively) profile of contacts on Facebook and an electronic resume of sorts on LinkedIn. That's all I care to know.

From the time I started writing this post until publishing it I received three invitations to connect to people on Plaxo. In the cluttered world of connecting on the interweb, Plaxo isn't doing a great job of differentiating its services to me. It's a generic site in a sea of name brands.

If you're finding it beneficial in ways that LinkedIn and Facebook aren't please let me know.

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Monday, November 26, 2007

Zappos responds

Turns out I'm not the only one whose feathers have been ruffled by Facebook's advertising feature, Beacon. has created a Facebook group to protest against Beacon's invasion of privacy.   The Facebook group includes a link to MoveOn's petition to "respect privacy," which hit the 20,000 milestone yesterday.   

After I wrote my first post on the topic, a Zappos customer service rep contacted me with the email below: 

Hi Sandi,

I read your blog that was posted on Tuesday about your Zappos purchase and the data link to facebook.  I am so sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused you.

This feature with Facebook is brand new and only works when you are logged into Facebook at the same time that you are placing an order on  We are collecting feedback from customers and may or may not continue with this feature.

There is an opt out feature to disable the data feed from to Facebook.  All you would have to do is login into your Facebook account, click on the privacy link, click the "external websites" link, and then check the "never" radio button for

Again, I apologize for any inconvenience.  As a token of goodwill, Zappos is issuing a $25.00 off coupon that you may use towards your next purchase at Zappos. Below is your coupon code.

And then the email went on to explain how to use the coupon and ended with their boilerplate, which includes their mantra: "We like to think of ourselves as a service company that happens to sell shoes."

I wonder how many of these coupons Zappos has issued lately as a result of the Beacon feature.  So far, coupon aside, my experience with Zappos has been great.  The shoes came the next day, they're exactly what I ordered and look just like they did on the site.  I was already contemplating my next purchase from them before their email arrived, and the discount coupon is a bonus. 

As with other Facebook applications, Beacon should be opt-in, rather than its current opt-out format.  On Cyber Monday, I hope my fellow online shoppers will log out of Facebook before making their next purchase.  

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Beacon: A signal of my displeasure

The saga continues…

Instead of adding to my earlier post, I decided this whole Zappos-Facebook word of mouth marketing technique warranted its own post.

I added the link to my blog post as a posted item within my Facebook profile, and a few hours later it appeared as a News Feed item, pushing the information into each of my friends’ personal viewing space. That prompted an old camp friend to send me a blog posting by David Berkowitz about Beacon, Facebook's new application that allows "users to share information from other websites for distribution to their friends on Facebook." I got that from the press release, which lists as one of 44 participating in the Beacon launch.

Now I have the answers to all three questions I posed yesterday.
  1. What does Zappos or Facebook think there is to gain by sharing my purchase with the masses?
  2. What does that icon to the left of my name mean?
  3. How the heck did it get there?
A peek at the Beacon application page answers question #2. Here's an explanation for the application, which is written with marketers in mind:
Stories of a user's engagement with your site may be displayed in his or her profile and in News Feed. These stories will act as a word-of-mouth promotion for your business and may be seen by friends who are also likely to be interested in your product.
And that answers question #1. Word of mouth marketing is their primary goal. But were my friends really influenced by my purchase decision? Some may have learned of, but I think the benefit to the advertiser was minimal.

Question 3 touches on user privacy issues, which the Beacon page also addresses. The application page mentions the importance of user privacy, but from my experience I think they need to walk the talk. Here’s what the page says (emphasis added by me):
When you send an action to Facebook, the user is immediately alerted of the story you wish to publish and will be alerted again when they sign into Facebook. The user can choose to opt out of the story in either instance, but the user doesn't need to take any action for the story to be published on Facebook.
Really? Can I? I didn’t find that to be the case.

I find this interesting from a marketer's perspective, but as a consumer I am troubled.

News flash: I bought shoes!

Last night I was stunned to find out that a shoe purchase I made on turned into a newsfeed item in my Facebook profile.

I discovered this by looking at my profile and my first thought was, "Holy shiitake! How did that get there?" I was horrified and my knee-jerk reaction was to delete it from my mini-feed so that no one could see it when they viewed my profile. But it was too late for that secret. I IM'd with my friend Lauren about my discovery and she said something like, "Oh yeah. I saw that. They're cute." So you mean everyone of my friends knows about my shoe purchase?! Sure enough, this was in every friend's feed:

Anybody who can view my profile (which only people I've granted access to can do) could click on through to look at a picture of the shoes I bought. Thankfully my shoe size wasn't a part of the feed. At least something was considered sacred.

I can't figure out how my shoe purchase found its way into Facebook. I may have had Facebook open in one tab while making the purchase on in another tab, but that's too simple of an explanation. To borrow the term Dave Coustan used when I Twittered about this: creepy. At this point, I have more questions than answers:

  1. What does Zappos or Facebook think there is to gain by sharing my purchase with the masses?
  2. What does that icon to the left of my name mean? (I can't click on it anymore since I deleted it from my feed.)
  3. How the heck did it get there?

I'm not ashamed of my shoe purchase. It just isn't something I consider newsworthy. I've never bought anything from Zappos, but have read great things about them and I thought this would be a good opportunity to give them a try. I'll be curious as to what kind of feedback I get from either group.

In the meantime, I think my shoes are supposed to arrive today. Then what? Do I upload a photo of them and create a Facebook album to show them off?

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Friday, November 16, 2007

JPWN – Social Media Diva

Toby Bloomberg was the speaker at today's JPWN lunch. As always, it was a great event. It was interesting to be around so many people who are still learning about social media and thinking about how they can use social media tools in their personal and professional lives.

In writing about my experience as a blogger for the November JPWN newsletter, I remembered that it was Toby who suggested I start this blog. I really enjoyed talking with the women at my table and another during power networking about how a blog can be valuable resource for their company.

It was also great to learn about Stacy's new business venture and catch-up with Laura, whose company is amazing. Check them out!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

One Year Later

I recently passed the one-year anniversary of my first blog post. I had every intention of posting something on the very day of my anniversary (which will go unmentioned here so as to avoid calling attention to exactly how overdue I am). But before I knew it, the day passed, and so did a week or two before I was able to begin this entry.

I started this blog with the intention of calling out marketing campaigns or practices for their successful (or unsuccessful) attempts at cutting through the marketplace clutter. But part of the reason for my falling behind in marking my anniversary may be that I became a victim of the very clutter I intended to take aim at - everyday life and an overload of information that I am trying to process.

In my first post I mentioned a conversation that I had with a friend about Barack Obama. This was way before he launched his presidential campaign and Obama Girl became a YouTube sensation. (That video cracks me up.)

So, I checked back with her to see if she had a better idea of who Obama is on year later. Here's what she had to say (syntax is all hers):

barack obama is a democratic presidential hopeful and is a senator from chicago. (i think) he wants to pay teachers more, so he's peaked my interest!! i still get most of my news from the internet on my yahoo page, and will scan on occasion. i am a people magazine junkie, but that doesn't really qualify as news. other than that, i'll hear important things by word of mouth.

I'll continue to post my thoughts on the marketplace, so long as my personal clutter doesn't get in the way. But, I am not going to limit myself to just what marketers do - I plan to address all the different channel consumers use.

Facebook's recent announcement has me thinking. Another post for another day, I suppose.