Plugging Forward

31 March 09

plugging-forward

It’s been an exciting few weeks for some of the world’s most famous innovators. Apple unveiled the latest iPhone/iPod Touch operating system (who knew software could be so exciting?) and unveiled its third-generation iPod shuffle. Amazon released the Kindle2, a welcomed follow-up to its popular eReader. Facebook updated its homescreen layout. Google released a new ‘Undo Send’ feature to GMail. The list goes on… you get the idea.

The point is that things are still happening-despite all the negativity out there, smart companies are still plugging forward and improving their offerings. The five companies mentioned here have always kept things fresh with a pipeline of updates and enhancements, and that’s part of the reason these companies have done well. Just when things start to feel stale, they give their customers something new. Enhancements and updates are a relatively quick, low-risk way to keep innovation alive (and demand high) regardless of what’s happening in the economy.

What can you do to invigorate demand by freshening up your offerings? What small, meaningful enhancements and upgrades can you release? If you’re at a loss for ideas, just talk to your customers or scan customer reviews and you’ll uncover a trove of potentially valuable ideas. Just remember, innovation doesn’t always have to be ground-breaking and risky… sometimes the little things can have a big impact.

What does innovation look like for your organization given the state of the economy?


The New Facebook

22 July 08

Yesterday, Facebook launched a new version of its popular social networking site for testing at new.facebook.com. The site (not compatible with Internet Explorer), marks Facebook’s first major redesign basically since the company launched in 2004. I, for one, am excited to play around with some of the new features and enhancements… and at first glance, I think other users will be pleased as well. Here are some of my initial thoughts and reactions: Read the rest of this entry »


Social Search?

18 July 08

TechCrunch wrote a post the other day on “The Future of Search,” which includes a video walk-through of some of the search features with which Google is apparently experimenting. The highlight of this “experiment” is a layer of social functionality (much like Digg) that Google may add to its standard page of search results.

Basically, this world of search allows users to vote search results up and down, move things to the first page, and comment on individual results. What this means is that Google may be turning to “the wisdom of crowds” to enhance it’s world-famous (but ever-mysterious) algorithm. What’s more, it appears that users will be able to create rich Google profiles (Facebook, anyone?), which will be visible to other Google users through comments made on specific search results. Could this all be part of Google’s master plan to take over the internet? We already know they’re getting into virtual worlds. Keep an eye out for new experimental features in Google’s ever-active Labs.

To see a very, very cool demo of this functionality, be sure to visit TechCrunch.


The Future Of Social Networks

20 May 08

Last week, I attended A Look to the Future, a conference at NYU. There were a number of panel discussions and speeches about topics as diverse as the future of risk to the future of green as a business strategy. One of the talks I enjoyed the most, however, was entitled The Digital Future: What Social Networking and Marketing Tools Mean for Businesses and Entrepreneurs. The panel included Douglas Atkin, Chief Community Officer, Meetup.com; Bant Breen, President, Interpublic Futures Marketing Group and Director of Strategic Development and Innovation of the Interpublic Group; Rob Master, Director of Media North America for Unilever; Kenny Miller, EVP and Creative Director for MTV Networks Global Digital Media; and Marc Sirkin, Lead Social Networking Strategist at Microsoft. Read the rest of this entry »


Freeing the Financial Times

5 March 08

futurethink financial timesThis week, the Financial Times announced a program that will allow college students to access all of the publication’s web content for free. How is the FT doing it? Facebook, of course. The news site launched an application within Facebook that provides university users with a PIN, which can then be redeemed for a gratis annual premium subscription. Students will be able to renew their subscriptions annually for the entire length of their college careers.

The whole Facebook spin on the subscription isn’t just a matter of cool-factor – by launching an application in Facebook, FT can verify that users are, in fact, university students. Some might recall that the New York Times offered free Times Select subscriptions to university students a few years ago (before the company killed Times Select and began giving all its content away for free on the Web). The problem with the Times’ system is that anyone with a .edu email address could avail of the discount – alumni and faculty included.

Though it’s likely that this FT/Facebook experiment will help the company attract new readers – it’s probably going to be tough to get people to cough up the ₤99 annual subscription fee once they’re out of school. I guess we’ll have to wait and see. Learn more at Media Week.


FaceWorkBook

4 March 08

futurethink worklight workbook

WorkLight Inc. is a company that hopes to bridge the gap between popular social networking applications and not-so-popular enterprise applications. The company takes existing sites and adapts them for business use. As of this month, the company offers software applications that work with fourteen of the most popular social networking properties including Facebook, MySpace, Netvibes, and iGoogle. WorkLight creates secure, scalable software that can run off a closed, private, enterprise server. The software then works with web-based applications to add an enterprise layer. On Facebook, for example, the WorkLight application is dubbed WorkBook.

Read the rest of this entry »