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Please start the national panic now

Please start the national panic now

Raise your hand if the national epidemic of complete and utter stupidity around the “threat” of swine flu is making you shake your head. Yeah, me too.

Is “swine flu” real? Yes.

Do I want to get it? No.

Will I take precautions to try and steer clear of the virus as much as possible? Of course.

But will I hide in a basement for the next three months? No.

Why? Because with all the talk and hype of pandemics, “swine flu” is still just… well, the flu.

That’s it, people: The flu.

It isn’t the zombie flu, okay? I know watching “Twelve Monkeys” sends a chill down a lot of people’s spines, and we’ve all had nightmares about the zombie virus from “28 Days Later” or Zack Snyder’s “Dawn of The Dead” taking us down… But this is just THE FLU. That’s it.

Yet here we are, in a state of complete and utter panic, shutting down entire school systems, buying surgical face masks by the box-loads, walking around with boxes of sterile wipes, and avoiding handshakes and people altogether. Last week, China considered a ban on all pork imports from Mexico. In Egypt, pigs are being slaughtered en masse… even though this strain of “swine flu” is a human-to-human virus. (You cannot get this strain of swine flu from eating pork.)

This kind of mass hysteria is embarrassing for the human race. Seriously. Stop it.

Everyone settle down for a second, take a step back, and take a deep breath: Every year in the united States, over 35,000 people die of the flu. Really. 35,000+. That is A LOT of people. Way too many, in my book. That number is tragic. And most of the victims of the flu tend to be small children and the elderly.

Yet, as tragic as this may be, no one freaks out. No one panics. CNN, MSNBC and Fox News don’t report on every single new death. The CDC doesn’t hold press conferences to keep people abreast of the spread of the flu. People don’t walk around wearing face masks and carrying sterile wipes everywhere they go. Countries don’t impose travel bans or mass livestock slaughter. School systems don’t shut down and send every kid home for weeks just as a “precaution”.

From November to March, when “flu season” is in full swing in the US, are we supposed to shut everything down and hide in our basements now?

Now that we’ve gotten a bit of perspective on the flu, doesn’t the panic over swine flu seem a little ridiculous? Worse than our overreaction to previous “threats” like African killer bees, West Nile mosquitoes, Avian flu andthe anthrax mailer?

As it turns out, the current strain of “swine flu” doesn’t seem to be all that virulent or particularly easy to pass on. It is no more contagious than any other flu strain, and doesn’t seem to be as potent as other strains that you or I have had the displeasure to run into at some point in our lives.

This is not the bubonic plague, people. It is just the friggin’ flu.

And it has absolutely nothing to do with bacon either, so stop freaking out about the pigs. Maybe we should have called this “CNN flu” instead of “swine flu”. I think that we would all be much better off. Surely, pig farmers and the grain producers who depend on their success to stay afloat would have had a much better week.

So in protest of this complete and utter nonsensical panic over the flu (as if we didn’t have better things to worry about, like… the pirate problem and injuries on “Dancing With The Stars”), some of us have decided to start a little protest of stupidity movement on Twitter. And just to be on the safe side (in case Swine Flu goes viral on the web) we have added face masks to our avatars, effectively turning them into “maskvatars” or “maskatars” (depending on whom you ask) – a term which I think was coined by Columbia, SC’s Mandi Engram – @mandiengram on Twitter (below, bottom right).

Note: As far as I can tell, either @ManFmNantucket (below, bottom center) or @SWoodruff (below, bottom left) were the first Twitterati to done maskvatars. Ther rest of us are just proud copycats.

A few #swinefluwknd participants

A few #swinefluwknd participants

Fellow blogger Kristi Colvin (@kriscolvin on Twitter, top right, above) gave our little movement its own clever little hashtag/thread: #swinefluwknd on Twitter. (Implying that the maskvatars will disappear on Monday… though they may not. We’ll see.) If you are on Twitter, please consider joining us. 🙂 (And yes, we will be playing with this until the swine flu terror goes away.)

As for the term “Hamthrax“, I am not sure who came up with it first, but I have Kristi Colvin and Mandi Engram to thank for introducing me to it. It gave me a good laugh last night. Thanks to them, I will no longer be referring to Swine Flu as “swine flu” starting today. Hamthrax seems a whole lot more appropriate.

Oh, and if you need me for anything, I’ll be hiding out in my underground African killer-bee and zombie-proof  fallout shelter until CNN tells me it’s safe to go outside again.

(Oh and yes, there will be a part 2 to this post.)

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Via the SwampFox Insights blog:

“The majority of the world’s designers focus all their efforts on developing products and services exclusively for the richest 10% of the world’s customers. Nothing less than a revolution in design is needed to reach the other 90%.”

—Dr. Paul Polak, International Development Enterprises

The man has a point.

Check out this brilliant website.

A lot of people don’t think of “design” as being all that important, because our daily interactions with “design” are limited to gadgets like the iPod or the latest pair of Oakley sunglasses, or maybe a faucet or something. Maybe we think of design when it comes to cars and clothes and furniture. But smart design can also save thousands of lives every day. Yes, something as seemingly superfluous as “design” can change the world. (Starting with the first tool, taking a detour via the wheel, and fast-forwarding to the millions of things we now take for granted, like the plasma TV, the hybrid automobile, the artificial heart, and even the ubiquitous bottle of Coca Cola.

If you aren’t the humanitarian type and couldn’t care less about saving lives, bear in mind that design can also create entirely new markets. (We just talked about getting there before the herd, so your ears should be perking up just about now.)

How can smart design can create new markets? According to this article in the New York Times entitled “Design That Solves Problems for the World’s Poor” (annoying subscription required):

“A billion customers in the world, are waiting for a $2 pair of eyeglasses, a $10 solar lantern and a $100 house.”

For starters.

That’s something to think about. Not in terms of exploitation, but in terms of wealth and opportunity creation. (The development of the easy-to-use, virtually crunch-proof windup $100 laptop – specifically designed to introduce computers and the internet to 3rd world children – is probably among the most ambitious of these types of endeavors, but also a great example of how we can start to create opportunity in regions of the world in which mere survival is still the order of the day.)

While everyone else is trying to appeal to the richest 10%, maybe, just maybe, the real opportunities are elsewhere. Maybe the time to get into these markets is before they even exist. The seeds are being planted now. The herd is starting to gather. Maybe by the time the market exists and the pastures are green and lush, you’ll find yourself in the back again. Maybe you’ll kick yourself in the butt for not having made a move sooner. (History repeats itself.)

What if you could create one of the most lucrative companies of the 21st century AND save tens of thousands of lives at the same time? What if you really could be enormously successful AND help save the world all in one fell swoop? What if you could have your cake and eat it too?

In this economy, perhaps these are questions worth asking yourself – especially if you are a US or Western European manufacturing company looking for a reason to go on.

Don’t even approach the problem from a humanitarian standpoint if you don’t want to. Approach it from a business standpoint. Here’s the problem you need to solve: 90% of the planet’s population wants something that they probably can’t get very easily. All you have to do is figure out what that is, how much they’re willing to pay for it, and how to get it to them. It could be a mode of transportation. It could be a light source. It could be a sanitary product. It could be food. It could be a garment. It could be knowledge. It could be something as simple as a tougher bicycle wheel. It could be anything.

There is no single answer. There are probably thousands upon thousands. And that’s exciting.

Whatever it is, it could also have applications right here, where the richest 10% of the world population lives and eats and shops 24/7/365.

It might even be a better option than trying to become the next Google.

Food for thought.

So… what are you working on right now?

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Via community Strategist Connie Bensen comes this great little list from Tish Grier that outlines the seven core traits of a great community manager:

  1. Commitment to “the cause”. It’s very important for your community manager to believe in your cause. Their communications need to be transparent & authentic. The job has many challenges so they need to inherently believe in their work & the brand.
  2. Love people. The position is about connecting & communicating. There is interaction with all types, so a community manager needs to enjoy it. (This is why it’s a great position under marketing).
  3. Must enjoy technology. It’s a web 2.0 job. Technology is changing quickly. The tools are constantly shifting & evolving. One has to thoroughly enjoy being immersed. And if your product/brand is technology oriented then it’s natural to be involved in product development & providing feedback.
  4. Must understand online culture. Did I mention this a web 2.0 job? Working online is a bit different than face-to-face. A person needs to maintain a sense of humor & not take things personally. Working online requires a level of perceptiveness so that you can interact with all types of people.
  5. Powers of Observation. I just mentioned being perceptive but it’s more than that. Providing feedback on trends, monitoring brand & being ever present require one to be ever watchful. As a metacustomer the community manager is the eyes & ears for the company – all teams – and responsible for providing feedback from the customers.
  6. Flexibility. Community work is 7 days a week. Checking in on my communities & responding to their needs isn’t a 9 – 5 job. (I do sleep though). But I’m cognizant of the time zones when I add people to teams. It’s nice to have people providing assistance from around the world (so I can sleep! 🙂 ).
  7. Life experience trumps youthful energy. Tish’s point is to not entrust this important job to an intern or someone who is a short-timer. The more life experiences a person has, the more they have to offer the community.

I like that “commitment to the cause” was #1 on the list. If I could add a few more, they would be:

8. Coupled with #2 (love of people) is the need to be a solid communicator. Even a great one. In any type of management – especially community management – understanding the value of communications (and being a natural communicator) can have a tremendous impact on the success of that community. (Note that the description of #2 is 100% about communication.)

9. Connectedness. Natural community managers tend to be active in a number of communities already. Look for a diverse socio-professional network on their LinkedIn and Myspace accounts. Also look for telltale signs that they are social media power-users (Blog activity, Twitter, Plurk, Seesmic, etc.) The ability to mesh social media tools with their propensity to be an active member within their chosen communities is a sign of good things to come. Also in the connectedness vein, great community managers tend to be natural connectors: They see the synergies between communities, organizations and individuals. They are often the folks who will provide the types of introductions that will strengthen bonds within communities and organically recruit new members.

Also picked up from Tish’s original piece:

“Your potential community manager should be open, congenial, and can handle difficult situations with tact and diplomacy (not like a cop or Marine sergeant).”

“Don’t confuse liking technology with loving it beyond everything else.”

Remember (per Tish) that “a lot will be riding on this person – more so than which tools are used. Your community manager should understand people well and be good at creating and maintaining relationships and ability to create relationships, regardless of which tools are available.”

With so many companies turning to user/customer community engagement to strengthen their brands, this little primer is worth its weight in gold.

Incidentally, Connie will be speaking at the Social Media Strategies Conference in San Francisco (October 29-30) with fellow Marketing 2.0 contributor and social media expert Francois Gossieaux, Jive Software CMO Sam Lawrence, and a very solid panel of other (hopefully) familiar names. Check your calendars.

Cheers.

Image source: TID

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Great post from Gavin Heaton over at Servant of Chaos this week about the changing face of business management. Gavin mentions an emerging new breed of business leader that might sound a little familiar if you’ve been paying attention to what our little community of Marketing+ bloggers has been talking about these last few years. Check this out:

By far, the most radical transformation will be the one thrust upon us by the generational change that is now under way. With 60 million baby boomers about to be replaced by 60 million Millennials, the workplace will never be the same again. Managing the “knowledge transfer” that needs to take place over the next 5-10 years will be a fundamental responsibility of the Business Designer.

What is a Business Designer, I hear you ask? Per Gavin:

The Business Designer does not sit in a creative studio. Rather, she operates across business units — touching marketing, customer service and new product design. The BD has a finger on the pulse of finance and lives cheek-by-jowl with the legal team. There is the touch of the management consultant in the way that the BD navigates the org chart — but also the fervour of the evangelist. She may be T-shaped. She may be a green egg. But above all, she is an experienced business professional. That’s right — she knows how to get things done.

The BD will perform the important role of “change manager” or perhaps “transformation manager” — for the domino-like changes that will occur in every facet of a business will change the nature of the enterprise. What has been rough and ready in the consumer space will become refined and repeatable in the business world for the BD will select and orchestrate the practices, tools and approaches that correspond with a company’s business strategy. Of course, this will breed a whole new round of innovation in the technology space — we have already begun to see this with Yammer, the business version of Twitter.

And there will be a corresponding transformation in the process of business, and the goals and approaches of groups charged with managing brand touch points. This goes without saying.

What’s the difference between a Business Designer and a traditional business manager? The way I look at it, the difference lies in a handful of subtle yet crucial traits exhibited by this new biz whiz breed:

1. The T-shaped trait: These folks combine a strong mix of Marketing Management and Experience Design, and understand the importance of storytelling, Brand Strategy, and Experience Design. They are gifted strategists with extremely well developed creative, communications and context-building skills. They are intellectually curious, deeply entrepreneurial problem solvers.

2. The Green Egg trait: Process improvement, an eye to new markets and a passion for Innovation are their biggest professional drivers. These folks are agents of change. These are the people who will take your company to the next level in its evolution (if you let them).

3. The “good enough” aversion trait: These folks are way too passionate to tolerate a “good enough” mentality. Their job is about much more than turning a crank and picking up a paycheck. They’re change agents – not for the sake of change, but for the sake of driving to necessary leaps in a business’ evolution.

4. They ideation trait: These folks bubble over with ideas. They sketch a lot. They prototype. They like to test out their ideas. They seek out peers who can help them bring their ideas to life. They tend to be gadget and accessories freaks, even if they only own a few. They are designers at heart, if not technically in practice.

5. The connected trait: These folks have connected with their time. They understand the underlying strategic shifts going on right now that will change the landscape that your company operates in. They are good at connecting the dots: By being plugged-in to the world today in ways that most are not, they can clearly see what the business landscape will look like in two, five and ten years. This gives them the ability to be the architects of your company’s future. You may frown at their interest in social media tools like Twitter, Seesmic, Yammer and Facebook, but these are the tools of their trade: This is how they connect with their peers, with information, and with the shifting tides that will drive the market changes that will either sink or remake your business in the next decade.

Here’s more on that from Gavin:

We are also reaching a certain maturity in the way that marketers work with social media. There are now case studies on the effectiveness of social media, there are tools that help us measure and react to conversations and there are an increasing number of corporate roles for “community managers” or even “directors of social media”.

In this environment, the focus is no longer on learning the tools, but on refining the way that we interact with them. It is about bringing social media into our businesses, integrating it with our other marketing efforts and focusing efforts in a way that deliver business results.

Read the whole post here.

I am glad you brought up the notion of this new type of business leader, Gavin. I’ve been trying to put my finger on this for a few years now. Still not quite there yet… But for those of us living at the intersection of Business Management, User & Community Engagement, Marketing Communications, Product Design, Innovation, and the evolution of Social Media tools, starting to put a name to the thing is way overdue. With most business leaders spending at least 85% of their time turning the crank and making sure their businesses run properly, who is in charge of actually driving the business to its next evolution? Department managers? Sales? The COO? The CMO? 15% or less of a business leader’s day potentially devoted to improving – not just running – their business. Scary. In a rapidly changing world/economy/market, it pays to have at least one person (better yet, a whole team of them) a) focusing on what’s next, and b) getting the business ready for it.

Does the opportunity for such folks exist as a layer between the CEO and the other C-suite execs (CMO, COO, CFO, Manufacturing, Design Engineering, Sales, etc.)  Is the role better suited to function as a team-based cluster of upper-mid-level Business Directors? Perhaps a Brand Czar who provides direction to all departments but answers directly to the CMO? Is there a better name for the role? Can this type of individual force an overhaul of the traditional corporate org chart?

Big tip of the hat for getting that discussion started, my friend.

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Sweet post by Chris Wilson over at The Marketing Fresh Peel this week:

An ability to perceptively spot trends is a vital part of putting your company ahead of the competition. But recognizing a trend is only half of the equation. It’s even more important that you take action. What good is it to spot a trend if you can’t take advantage of the coming wave?

This is where it becomes important to not only look for trends, but to look for them early. I’ve compiled a list of 20 different how to tips, tools, blogs and websites that can help you in spotting trends. They are organized into different categories.

Trend Tips

Get out of your office! Go somewhere that everyone seems to be. Watch people interact with each other. What are they doing? What are they wearing? Who is the center of attention? Why? Look for something different. Something unique.

Listen. Learn to listen to people (even the ones you can’t stand). Try to figure out why they think and believe what they do. Be curious. Ask questions and listen some more.

Volunteer. Getting involved with a project where you can give back will help you to get out of your comfort zone and into an a new environment with different people.

Watch the Celebs. No matter how much we hate it, celebrities often have access to fashions, products and trends before they go mainstream. When it comes to fashion they can even influence trends and consumer buying behavior.

Read something different. Once a week, pick up a magazine or trade journal from a totally different industry. What’s transforming the industry? How could this be applied to your business or product?

Dedicated to Trends

TrendsSpotting follows the behaviors and attitudes of internet users and regularly report and conduct surveys. Contributors to the site express their professional opinions on emerging trends and what they mean to you.

PSFK is one of my favorite sources for discovering emerging trends from around the world. The blog consistently delivers surprising observations. They also host a number of great conferences throughout the year.

Springwise boasts more than 8,000 “Springspotters” from around the world, all on the lookout for emerging trends. The site is a hub for entrepreneurs looking for their next business ideas.

Trend Hunter Magazine bring observations from a wide range of topics. The site provides 99 different RSS feeds, broken down into different categories, so that you can hone in on trends in a certain niche or industry. Trend Hunter also issues a number of reports and presentations.

Design Trends

Cool Hunting is blog that is self described as “a daily update on ideas and products in the intersection of art, design, culture and technology.” I find Cool Hunting to be an awesome source for a look at design trends, modern urban lifestyle, fashion and arts.

NOTCOT is a daily showcase of inspiring design works from around the world, “fighting the good fight against ‘creative block’ since 2005.” (NOTCOT.org, and Tastespotting are some other great sites in the NOTCOT network.)

Design*Sponge is a daily website/blog dedicated to home and product design. The site even sports a special mini trends section, exploring waves of small trends (colors, styles, patterns) as they are spotted.

Josh Spear covers everything from Design to gadgets to travel. It’s a must following for anyone wanting to stay ahead of the curve.

Rapid Online Trends

Google Search Trends is a tool with which you can cross search different terms and compare them. Do some research here.
You will find Google Hot Trends on this same page. This feature has become a valuable source of information providing rapid search trend reports. There have been numerous times where I have spotted major news on Google Trends, hours before the news broke on the national stations. By subscribing to the feed, you will receive updates every hour reporting Googles top 100 searches from the last hour.

Viral Video Chart is the ultimate source for tracking what’s moving in video. Their Top 20 Viral Chart is by far the most popular, but the site also breaks the videos down into different categories to help you fine-tune your research.

Trendpedia is a tool that scans blog content, making it easy to compare popular topics graphically. Find out what’s hot and what’s not.

Twist performs a similar function to Trendpedia, only comparing Twitter content trends.

Summize is a tool that makes it easy to search Twitter updates.

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What’s your method for spotting trends?

Read the entire article here.

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