The Ant and the Megaphone

Once upon a time, that was an ant named Ben who lived in an anthill with lots of other ants. Ben’s job was to find breadcrumbs at the home of Widow Jones. He was paid for each crumb he found.

Then one day, Ben stumbled upon some kale at the widow’s house and tried it. It was delicious.

“Can I sell this kale and make extra money?” he asked the ant boss.

The ant boss laughed. “Go ahead, you silly ant. Just understand that no one is going to buy kale, not when they can have bread crumbs.”

But Ben was not deterred. “Do you want to try a sample of my kale?” he said to nearby ants hoping they would like it and then buy from him.

But, they all hated the kale, just like the ant boss said.

Ben was disappointed, but thought there must be other ants among the millions of ants in the anthill who would like the kale. “But my voice is too small to carry over the voices of all the other ants. And if I can’t find fellow kale lovers, I can’t sell to them my kale.”

Ben was out scouting one day, when he found an ant-sized megaphone. “Hello,” he said into the megaphone and found that even ants a long way away could hear him. Suddenly he had an idea. “Maybe I can use this megaphone to locate ants in the colony who like kale.”

So Ben went to the anthill and shouted into the megaphone, “Does anyone here want to buy some of my kale?”

A few ants responded and Ben sold the kale to them. Soon, he had ants buying kale from him on a regular basis. There were not many ants who liked kale, but there were enough so that Ben was able to make some extra money. Eventually he branched out into broccoli, old meat and dead bugs. For each of these items, he found a few ants who would buy the items from him. Soon Ben was the richest ant in the colony.

Moral of the story: There is money to be made in niches.

I’m reading a fascinating book called “The Long Tail,” by Chris Anderson. The sub-title is “Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More.” One chapter is entitled The Ant and the Megaphone.”

The chapter relates how the internet (the megaphone) allows businesses and individuals to find and sell into small market niches they could not reach before. As Anderson puts it, “In short, though we still obsess over hits, they are not quite the economic force they once were. Where are those fickle consumers going instead? No single place. They are scattered to the winds as markets fragment into a thousand niches.”

There is money to be made in those niches. Just ask Ben.

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The Importance of Social Media and Marketing 2.0

I subscribe to a number of groups through LinkedIn.   One of them, Web 2.0 for Non-Profits, referenced a video about the growing importance of social media, and asks the question whether social media is a fad or the biggest shift since the industrial revolution.   The video is entitled  Socialnomics (please note this is the abbreviated 2:30 minute version).

In any event, here are some stats to consider:

  • by 2010 Gen Y (born 1977-2002) will outnumber baby boomers (born 1946-1964).
  • 96% of Gen Y will have joined social networks.
  • If Facebook was a country, it would be the 4th largest in the world.
  • While it took radio 58 years to reach 50 million people, TV, 13 years and the Internet four years, Facebook added 100 million members in less than nine months.
  • 78% of consumers trust reviews from their peers; only 14% trust advertisers.

So what does this mean for those who need to sell products and services, or raise funds for programs?  What works and what doesn’t work in this new world of blogs, podcasts and viral marketing?  It’s easy for a business or a non-profit to start a blog, to tweet, to set up a site on Facebook or MySpace.  It’s hard to get noticed and even harder still to incentivize readers to action.

In his book, The New Rules of Marketing & PR, David Meerman Scott (whom I admire) says that in the past, reaching consumers was a matter of “interruption and coercion.” Now it’s all about relationships and providing content that buyers want to consume.

And while making sense of all that might keep CEOs and marketing execs up at night, that’s part of the fun for those of us who are communicators and are excited about Web 2.0.

That’s it for now, folks.

Categories: Jobs and the economy, Uncategorized | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Bella: The non-Pit bull

Daisy was smart enough to have learned to read had she wanted to do so.

Daisy was smart enough to have learned to read had she wanted to do so.

This past July, we had to put Daisy, our 16-year-old puppy, down.  She was the world’s best dog (and don’t bother arguing with me or I will delete your comments.)  Daisy was part Lab and part something-else.  We were lucky to have her as long as we did since 50-pound dogs don’t live that long, as a rule.

Anyway, as anyone who has ever done the deed, it’s hard to say goodbye to a family pet.  As a result, my wife and I decided not to get another dog.   Not for a while.  Not at least until next summer.  Maybe not for never.

That changed.

By late August, my wife was looking (just looking, she said) at sites that offered rescued dogs.  And sending me photos and bios of these animals.  By early Sept. she had found one that we needed to go and visit.  It was a puppy that had come from a shelter in Standish, Michigan and was on its last day at the shelter and was supposed to have been put down.   However, the people at the shelter thought the dog needed a reprieve and asked a rescue group in Livonia, the city we live in, to come and get the dog and find her a home.

There's a new dog in the house.

There's a new dog in the house.

Long story, short.  They did. With us.  The dog once named Meredith and then Lyric was again renamed: This time Bella by my wife.

And so we have a dog.  Again.  Bella is a good dog, smart, very friendly and getting big.   She’s about 60 pounds now and still growing.  All muscle and a fierce bark.  Which is what we want.  A dog that looks fierce but isn’t.  That makes her a lot like Daisy, a dog that was also a friend to all.

My daughter, the mother of my 2-year-old-grandson,  isn’t sold on Bella.  Primarily because Bella looks something like a pit bull, AKA American Pit Bull Terrier and she fears it may have some of the fearsome tendencies associated with that breed.

For that reason my wife did the DNA test in which you swab the inside of the cheek with something that looks like a cotton swab and then send it in for testing.  Yesterday, she got the results.  No pit bull genes found. Instead the lab said our dog is part Newfoundland, part chow and part Chow Chow with a little St. Bernard thrown in.

Not sure about those results.  But if true, Bella is going to be a big dog.  And  a friendly one.

That’s it for now, folks.

Categories: Home life, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

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