Nine years ago this evening I sent my first Tweet. I believe this was after I joined Facebook, but it’s all a blur. For years I was energized by the small pipe platform of Twitter. I saw it as a way to connect with people all over the globe. A platform to learn, gain knowledge and better understand the world. I viewed Facebook as a convenient way to share and connect. I didn’t think Facebook was as pure as Twitter, and I still don’t. Facebook has always been burdened with; should I friend them? Why are they friending me? What about my boss or direct report? So much cognitive weight.
How did that work out? Social media, led by Twitter and the largest thing in the world, Facebook, have become the opposite of connectedness. Facebook and Twitter separate, segment and quarantine people.
Founded in 2004, Facebook’s mission is to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected. People use Facebook to stay connected with friends and family, to discover what’s going on in the world, and to share and express what matters to them.
Houston, we have a problem.
Power – Opinions are frequently weaponized.
Open and Connected – Anyone can say or post anything, including their suicide.
Connect with Friends and Family – I’d love to see the real stats on this. For the most part, Facebooks tries to connect you to complete strangers or companies because they can profit from it.
Discover What’s Going on in the World – Facebook is it’s own reality. A planet Twilo. Keep your oxygen tank filled.
Share and Express – Totally nailed it. Bring it on.
I’m listening to Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’s soundtrack to The Social Network (so brilliant) as I write this. All the while realizing the genesis of social media (losing the caps) is nothing new. I grew up in the ’60’s and I know what a revolution looks like. We stated, “The revolution will be televised.” Today the revolution is fractured. Hamilton has resonated precisely because it repurposed a timeless message. The brilliance of Hamilton shows us nothing has changed.
Silicon Valley thinks only of the future. Of what the next world could / should be. To that I say hooray. But don’t leave behind the foundation that gave you this privilege. Being able to express an opinion is a privilege, not a DIGITAL RIGHT. Rights are fought for, they can’t be coded. Silicon Valley is fighting mostly for profits.
Time is the ultimate teacher. The final arbiter. How much time do you have or are willing to spend in the world of bits? How much time will you spend in the world of atoms with your family and friends without a wall of code between you? Social media is a force multiplier. The question is, of what?
Amazon Prime makes my life easier because it delivers atoms to my doorstep. Things I use, need, and yes, indulge in. That’s worth my time.
Notation: I embrace technology on all levels. I am pre tech-innate. I am suspicious when opinion coupled with technology is peddled for absolute truth.
Les Misérables has been told countless times since Victor Hugo gave us his enormous novel. I uncovered over 50 small and large screen versions with only modest effort. Even Orson Welles tackled it on radio in 1937. Les Misérables is probably best known in contemporary times as a musical that began onstage in Paris in 1978. Within two years it opened in London and then became a fixture of the American musical where it still plays over two decades later. I saw it in 1987 in New York.
It was written as a novel, not a musical. So how did it transform into a musical? The soaring score of Claude-Michel Schönberg and powerful lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer — with contributions by James Fenton — sealed the fate of Les Misérables as a musical possibly forever. And so Tom Hooper the Director of The King’s Speech has taken up the challenge; again as a musical.
I will not recount the details of the story involving Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) and the diligent Inspector Javert (Russell Crowe) set during the French Revolution. All I’ll say is take my advice and never steal from a French bakery.
For me the most interesting aspects of this year’s Les Misérables is how the filmmakers and cast went about making it and how the studios marketed it. The script contains hardly twenty lines of spoken dialogue. The rest is all to be sung, no matter what character opens their mouth. This introduced new challenges for the actors as well as the film crew. Mr. Hooper wanted to combine singing with acting and so had the actors sing their parts live as they were being filmed. They wore invisible earbuds during their performance, listening to a pianist playing their musical pieces. Usually musicals are recorded ahead of time then the actors are filmed on set, lip-synching to their previous recording. The process used here is much more powerful and personal. It’s particularly effective during dialogue exchanges or when three actors sing their own parts individually and are cut into a weave of narrative by the editors. The sword fight, actually a sword and a long stick, between Javert and Valjean in the hospital after Fantine’s death is amazing. Two Australian stars singing snark talk as Frenchmen in Paris while doing bitter battle.
All actors turn in smashing performances with the most tears being shed during Fantine’s (Anne Hathaway) solo I Dreamed a Dream. Not a dry eye in the house as they say. Hugh Jackman puts his musical talents on display tackling the most difficult part as Valjean, while Russell Crowe, who played in the stage version of TheRocky Horror Picture Show in Australia is the determined Javert, who has a very specific way of looking at the world. Evil is one thing and good is another and they are fixed that way forever. Oh, a couple more observations about Javert. He has the best costumes and has a thing for walking on the edge of buildings many stories above the streets of Paris.
The camera takes wide sweeping runs at the massive sets, but when it comes to the songs, the camera moves right in on top of the actor’s faces. Extreme close-up. I believe they were so wrapped up in how they were filming, the overwhelming material and terrific interpretation by the stars, that they just couldn’t help themselves. Be prepared to see everyone’s face thirty feet tall most of the time. Despite the 2 hour and 38 minute running time I frequently felt the pacing was a bit jagged. When I wanted the images to slow down so I could take them in, they were cut off. When I was ready to move along to the next frame, the camera lingered.
The studios knew they had a challenge getting American audiences out to see their epic. The musical genre is always a risk for studios when it comes to box office take. The number one grossing musical since 1974 earned only $188 Million and was released in 1978 (Grease). Even Chicago is well behind that in second place. At the writing of this blog Les Misérables places eleventh with $66.7 Million. It should get a Golden Globe and Oscar bump in a few weeks.
The studios began their marketing in May with a teaser trailer which was upgraded to an extended version in September. They focused on the star talent and on the way in which the film would be made using live singing. They of course leveraged Social Media with Facebook, You Tube and Twitter, and placed one to two minute clips on cable operators networks like Comcast/Xfinity on demand for free.
Fans of the musical will likely flock to the cinema to see this and be very satisfied. Probably moved. Not everyone lives a few miles from quality live musical theater and can’t get to or can’t afford that experience. This film makes this amazing story accessible to millions more people.
Will the future ever arrive? … Should we continue to look upwards? Is the light we can see in the sky one of those which will presently be extinguished? The ideal is terrifying to behold, lost as it is in the depths, small isolated, a pin-point, brilliant but threatened on all sides by the dark forces that surround it; nevertheless, no more in danger than a star in the jaws of the clouds. — Victor Hugo
Front and back of Original Playbill, Broadway Theatre, 1987 (Steve A Furman Archives)
Ticket stub from the musical Les Misérables (Steve A Furman Archives)
Colm Wilkinson who made his mark as the original Jean Valjean in London and New York (He was the Valjean I saw) returns to this picture to play the empathetic Bishop who gives Jackman’s Valjean a second chance.
Official Web Site:
The official movie web site is more interesting than most. Cast, crew, story, gallery of course. And they don’t launch music when you hit the site. Thank you. If you want details on the background of how the film came together read the Production Notes. There are also links to the free Companion Movie Book for iPad, similar to what was done with Lincoln. I don’t have the numbers on these companion book downloads, but I believe publishing them and making them free for iPads and tablets is a much better way to promote a film. Web sites of these pictures are so uninspired these days. Of course they link to the soundtrack. It’s billed as “highlights” because the entire film is the soundtrack. Some of my favorites were on their in their complete form, but others were truncated. A bit disappointed at that. They have some cool wallpapers and icons formatted for desktop and iPad.
I have been thinking lately about how customers form their perceptions of brands and what we can do about influencing those memories. Brands and products can easily become look alike commodities, which makes gaining mind and wallet share more difficult. Brands want to be distinctive, stand out among the crowd and be noticed by consumers. The rise of social media has, in my opinion, provided more insight into consumer’s perceptions as well as opportunities to use listening tools and pay attention to one’s own social networks for a rich data set of clues. If done correctly, a brand can address issues and show gratitude to customers and create connective memories to that experience and ultimately the brand.
In my direct experience customers either start their conversation with a company using social media or turn to it as a last resort. Regardless, brands need to be watching these spaces closely and jumping in as soon as possible. It goes without saying that when I say jumping in I mean with trained professionals.
There’s a fascinating behavior economics principle called the peak-end rule. It was first suggested by Daniel Kahneman, Nobel Prize winner for Economic Sciences in 2002.
According to the peek-end rule we judge our experiences almost entirely on how they were at their peak (pleasant or unpleasant) and how they ended. Other information is not lost, but it is not used.
It could be fair to say that consumers who post on social media streams are at a peak with a brand. Skilled companies who engage these customers quickly, acknowledge their emotions and work to solve the problem will deliver an end that can leave the customer with a better perception. Ending on a high note means you have won half the battle.
Social media is potentially a new customer experience tool that can be employed to improve interactions on both sides and perhaps nudge the perceptions customers have of a brand. If your customer truly is at a peak, then we should do everything we can to end the event on a high note – if it has been unpleasant – or propel a good experience even further up the scale. Social, has the power to leverage immediacy, intimacy and interaction into a powerful generator of memories.
There’s no denying that Facebook is becoming a major channel for brands on the planet. I spend quite a bit of time there and likely you do as well. Brands are investing significant amounts of thought, human capital and money in hopes of garnering customer engagement and eventually revenue. But Facebook doesn’t make it easy.
We create content around the Facebook page design and try to understand how their technology works. We sift through the countless companies who claim to know how things work on Facebook, and just when you think things are getting there, Facebook makes a major change to the design, or code, or interface and suddenly much of what you have made is now broken, or will no longer be useful to you. It’s frustrating, and should cause all brands to take a step back and re-evaluate the role external social networks should play in their company strategy.
Facebook is great at helping us understand their ad platforms and targeting, but don’t seem to be as focused on trying to understand where pain points are for brands who place their intellectual property on Faceboook. Or, in providing ample notice when major changes are about to occur. It would be wonderful to have a technology roadmap, or at the very least an outline of what might be coming. This would help brands plan their investments. It’s hard to argue that with Facebook’s size and large head start that they need to keep everything close to the vest.
Research done by Forrester, indicates that consumers trust the information they find at a company web site (30%) at higher rates than email, TV ads and direct mail. Company blogs (12%), online banner ads (9%) and mobile ads (6%) are at the bottom of the trust list. This means that your earned media, in particular your web site, is where most of your resources should be placed. Brands control the content, design and the technology of their own internet properties, making planning and tracking much easier than in the paid and earned media spaces.
Facebook offers significant access to consumers as well as a platform that is truly social, and this means you can’t leave them out of your social framework. How much you include them and in what way depends somewhat on your brand and how valuable consumers find your web site. The more your customers visit your site, the lighter your integration efforts in the social networks should be. If you have trouble getting people to your site, then Facebook might be a richer platform for you.
Other considerations are who owns the data and how much can you track or attribute back to the networks you work in. By all means I think Facebook is valuable for brands, but like anything, the value will evolve over time. The majority of your investment should be on your own web site.
I expected it to be difficult to separate my personal experiences on Facebook as well as what I have read about Mark Zuckerberg from the film experience. It wasn’t. I almost never thought about myself or my FB friends while watching this very engaging story. David Fincher (director) and Aaron Sorkin (writer) have made a compelling and entertaining drama in The Social Network. It’s beautifully framed with an active camera and a luscious palette. The filmmakers capture the moment perfectly.
The story has been repeated many times. Ideas are shared. People go off and do things on their own, having been inspired by these ideas, and create something that becomes successful. There is conflict as the original idea generators think their intellectual property has been stolen and are now entitled to compensation by those who have taken an idea and acted on it. Of course the thing that makes this stand out is that the something created is now the largest web site on the planet and has a market cap of $25 billion.
The story is about who should get the credit and the fortune for inventing Facebook. One thing to remember is there is no longer such a thing as an original idea. I’m defining original as a completely unique thought conceived by a single person alone without regard to time or place. In a vacuum if you will. In today’s converged and connected societies nothing exists in a vacuum. Whatever idea one has, whether it’s in the boardroom, the studio, or even on the field of battle, there are a thousand people (probably more) who are having a parallel thought at the same time. The idea is the easy thing. Executing it is significantly more difficult. I argue that bringing it to life should weigh much more heavily when it comes to granting ownership.
Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg), recently spurned by his girlfriend (his ineptness), gets a payback idea to post photos of girls from Harvard on a web site and ask students to vote on who is hotter. He enlists his friend, Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield) to provide the algorithm he used for a prior project and sends out a link to the site to the student body. So many people voted that the school’s servers crashed. The seeds of Facebook are born and although the code was written by Mark, the decision engine was provided by Mr. Saverin.
Twin brothers Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (both played by Armie Hammer) read about this event in the school paper and think they may have found the code jockey they’ve been looking for to help them manifest a student connection web site idea. They meet with Mark and he agrees to help.
While working (supposedly) on the Winklevoss project Mark nurtures his own idea, coding day and night and leading to the moment where he makes the request to Network Solutions to purchase thefacebook.com domain. Whenever the project needs money, Eduardo writes a check, so Mark anoints him CFO to his CEO of The Facebook. The twins are not consulted or informed.
The site grows quickly and expands to other colleges and universities across the country. Enter Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake), founder of Napster. He wakes up in the bed of a Stanford coed and discovers the site on her laptop. He is intrigued enough to find out who’s behind it and persuades Mark and Eduardo to visit California. Sean uses slick moves and start-up talk to convince Mark that CA is the place to be. Mark bites. Meanwhile Eudardo feels it’s time to monetize the site and takes the Facebook story door to door to major advertising firms in New York, but cannot convince anyone to get on board in any meaningful way. Meanwhile, Sean connects Mark to VC money and the financing has now officially shifted from Eduardo’s modest trust fund to big league start-up funding. Game over on so many levels.
I saw The Social Network and Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps a few short weeks apart and have been thinking about the financial chasm that exists between the two coasts ever since. The west coast machine searches for something new, feeds it and watches to see if it will grow. They are the angel investors. But if it doesn’t meet their strict financial hurdles, you can bet they will drop the idea like third period French. Yes billions of dollars vanished during the dot com bust of the late 1990’s, but much was learned and that knowledge and skill was adapted and reused, benefiting companies and government programs. In contrast, the east coast, the more established machine, works to harden their already storied institutions by looking for ways to siphon money from existing systems. When their bubble burst there was not much benefit to anyone. I often read about how Wall Street continues to attract our best and brightest, but fails to return anything of substantial value to the ecosystem. Certainly New York gets a lot of the talent, but there are plenty of brilliant people in the west working just as hard. The west however, does turn out a product, even if it’s code. It’s easy to criticize either side, and we definitely need more transparency.
Mr. Fincher is a craftsman of high order. I go back and watch Fight Club every year. No chases, explosions or reliance on special effects here. It’s acting, dialogue and pacing all the way. A couple of times I felt I was watching a documentary about Facebook. Finally, somebody giving Oliver Stone some competition.
We all know Aaron Sorkin is a genius with words; A Few Good Men, The West Wing and soon, Moneyball. This picture would not be on nearly as many critic’s best 10 lists without Mr. Sorkin’s contributions. At first I felt Trent Reznor was a peculiar choice to compose the soundtrack, but it works. He starts off cold and electronic, perfect coding music. Then bridges to a richer, more intense sound as the story unpacks Mr. Zuckerberg’s quirks and immaturity.
Mark is the central figure here without a doubt. It’s sometimes painful to watch him, almost Asperger’s Syndrome like, in the deposition scenes as he defends his ownership of Facebook. He’s a loner that wants to have friends. Unquestionably brilliant, but not necessarily wise. In the film he is portrayed as someone who puts design and experience ahead of the temptation to sell out his web property, which caused him to lose his friendship with Eduardo. Keeping Facebook pure was more important than the people in his life. Mr. Eisenberg turns in a wonderful performance and is sure to be nominated by the Academy for his effort. For the record, The Winkelvoss twins as well as Mr. Saverin settled for a substantial amount of money to walk away. Eduardo managed to keep his name on the corporate masthead. Appropriate I think.
I highly recommend The Social Network as a movie. For those couple of people who are not yet on Facebook, go on, buy a ticket to the movie. You’ll enjoy yourself. The official movie web site is more interesting than most. Visit it here. Special thanks to my friend Augie Ray who noted that Mr. Zuckerberg could have a pervasive disorder called Asperger’s Syndrome. His review of The Social Network can be read here. I have a son with Asperger’s and can say that there are some striking similarities in the behavior that both young men exhibit.
Photos from The Social Network courtesy of Columbia Pictures.