Kris Kullengren

Catalyst for Change

There are many thoughts on why we get so addicted to social media and the dopamine kick that we get every time someone likes one of the pictures we posted of yesterdays scrumptious dinner. One the one hand you have the gratification you get from the phone buzzing with yet another message while on the other we have the fact that you can get more or less instant feedback on any contents that you produce.

Leaving aside the discussion on whether the devious marketers out there have figured out how our brains respond to these intrusive messages (I turn all notifications off) and how to tap into our addictive personalities I have during these last 3 months thought quite a lot about the real value of a click through or a page view.

Let me start with the conclusion that i have reached which is "Not all clicks are equal"

Rewinding time a bit further this train of though actually started when I picked up the domain "googleplay.com". I wanted to look into how the latest Google search algorithm worked and can not say that I was not a bit surprised that this domain was available for purchase. My theory was that Google was penalizing contents aggregation farms in the rankings and that there was actually some manual work being done as to who was ranked on top. Yes, yes, I admit it, I have quite a cynic view when it comes to the honesty of large corporations.

Anyways, using Yahoo pipes and two other websites that I ran in parallel I aggregated my own contents and had the site re-post it with a new time-stamp every three seconds so that I looked as though I posted more news than Reuters, Bloomberg and CNN combined. My theory was shattered in the fact that not only did I rank top on all search engines for the search term Google play" but I had to start load balancing servers to deal with the increased traffic.

The experiment ended abruptly when Google decided to release their online platform Google Play and found out that they did not own the domain. Lawyers contacted me and I happily handed over the domain after many many e-mails both from ICANN and shady Russian domain traders giving me "tips" on why I should sell it to them.

Years later and I am now in a position where a large portion of my business is generated online. As I just mentioned increasing web traffic is a fairly simple operation but when you need to convert this into business you also need to consider the root of the traffic and not just the volume. The truth of the matter, as any online market guru will happily explain to you, is that a large number of the clicks out there are performed by robots. There are Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts that are set up just to click on links that people post or to follow certain accounts. I am sure you have seen advertisements for "get 5000 followers in an instant" on any given Social network. These are just some of the robots out there. You also have the search engine bots crawling the web for updates and new contents as well as bots like the one that I set up aggregating contents from just about everywhere and anywhere.

What about advertisement then?

Ask yourself this question, how many time when you search for something on your favorite search engine do you click on the advertisement at the top? For me I would say that I only do it when I am very close to making a purchase. When I am browsing for information I want blogs/articles and real user feedback rather than the company site itself which, as I explained above, I tend to trust about as far as I can throw it. Most companies know this as well which is why the cost of ranking top for google paid search on popular keywords is expensive to the point where for a small startup it might not be realistic to even use it except for with very niche search terms.

Social media is a whole other beast and many of marketeers rack their brains on getting not only likes for their page so that they can organically push contents for brand awareness but also hopefully get some sales in the process. There are multiple ways of getting people to click on advertisement in Social media and the first question we should ask ourselves is do we want volume or quality. If it is volume that we are interested in then a giveaway of product or service is by far the easiest way to get traffic. Who does not love a free sample or perhaps the opportunity of winning a fantastic prize. Quality however can be very tricky. It is said that the average attention span of generation Y,Z is about 8 seconds which means that you have time for about 1 picture and a catch phrase. Writing long beautiful stories is doomed for failure as people jump to the next cute cat video that their friend just shared for the 5th time.

Short, sweet and packing a punch that talks directly to the need of the customer seems to be the recipe for success. Always A/B test with different images/messages and when you try something new be ready to release at 80% instead of wasting time perfecting it. Should you find a hit then spend extra time perfecting it at stage 2.

Also make sure that you focus on your own conversion pages as many times you turn on the traffic tap and get tons of inquiries but they do not convert because of something that you forgot in the ordering process.

Finally test, test and test again. Get some friends or colleagues to do a blind test and order the product/service to make sure that it really gets delivered.

Good luck and feel free to contact me with any questions you might have.


My phone rang just after 5pm in the afternoon and when I looked at the screen I saw that it was a gentleman in his early 60's with whom I have had a business relationship over this last year. Staying true to the Japanese way of doing things we have of course been out for dinner and drinks on a number of occasions and I have also had the pleasure of taking said gentleman to the embassy to experience at least a taste of Swedish culture.


We politely exchanged greetings and thank you's for last time and pleasantries about the weather and such after which he in English, we always speak English, asked me "Could you please explain critical thinking to me?"

The background to this is of course that the Ministry for education in Japan has announced reforms to the Japanese curriculum from 2022 which will include not only critical thinking but also discourse, debating and presentation skills. There is quite a few of the older Japanese generation who have gone through the American University system and then more often than not a liberal arts college where the focus is on creating well rounded thinking individuals who process information critically and objectively. This sits in stark contrast to the Japanese system which is extremely uniform and fits students into existing templates which are, more or less, designed to give them an edge when they go through the black suit hell which is commonly known as "job hunting".

Excited by the idea of discussing such an interesting topic with my business partner but also slightly baffled as how to accomplish this task we set up a time and a place to meet. Then I did what I usually do when faced with a dilemma like this, I woke up early in the morning and started racking my brain for the essence of the topic.

What is critical thinking......?

The very first thing that came to mind was just to ask why?
Children, with their blank canvas inquisitive minds keep asking you why, why, why until they get to a point where they realize that you just do not have anymore information to give them. Socrates was killed for his unrelenting insistence in asking why and I know from my own experience that our western education systems tells us that "there are no stupid questions only stupid answers"

A good start perhaps but surely that can not be the whole truth. So what does a modern man do when faced with adversity and no parent to ask? Google it. Googling this kind of topic usually leads you to the other modern marvel which is Wikipedia. The whole idea of Wikipedia is fantastic in that is is shared and editable by anyone who has enough IT skills to create an account and knowledge to share.

But wait a minute, perhaps this is the second part of critical thinking. Wikipedia, even though mostly accurate, is not always as trustworthy that one might think. After all it is editable by all and I can remember a number of stories where people have manipulated information there to their own advantage. So looking at information in an objective way and from many different sources must also be an integral part to critical thinking.

To me it is second nature to check sources and to make sure to get information that looks at a situation from different angles. After all most people have a reason to say what they say and the information that they disseminate usually serves that particular purpose. The truth often lies somewhere in the middle of two extremes and if you do not look at both sides of the story chances are that you are only getting part of the truth. This was hammered into me both during my high school and University education which is probably why I consider it the most natural thing in the world. In a Confucian system however the teacher has supreme knowledge and to question him or her on the validity of their information would be considered quite rude in most situations.

There is one last part to this which I also feels is really important to critically assessing a situation or piece of information and that is the ability to stay calm and objective. A discussion on topics that are close to people's hearts can often get very heated and it is easy to bring feelings into the equation. A critical discussion or assessment however is only supposed to pit ideas against each other. When you shoot holes in an idea or plan you are actually making it stronger, ore resilient and thus also much more likely to have sticking power and thus succeed. Ask yourself the next time someone is criticizing your idea, is this person attacking me personally or is it simply an attempt to strengthen my idea. If we can stay calm and collected even when some of the values which we hold sacred like religion or sexual preference come up for discussion chances are we will be moving the whole world forward.

Sometimes agreeing to disagree is the only possible outcome but at least we were brave enough to address the topic rather than just walking around it like cats around hot porridge. This takes courage and energy but so do all things worth doing.

Dare to criticize!
Kris


 



For those of you that remember there was in the 90's a movement of films with a very futuristic and advanced outlook on Japan. For the uninitiated, most of us that is, it looked very real and extremely cool, where as those who knew probably shook their heads at how Hollywood again faked the funk and filmed it all in California.

One of these movies was Crying Freeman and as a teenager I must confess that I watched it with a bit of awe as to the mysticism of the Asian culture and just the pure awesomeness of the lead character for whom vengance, and somehow pottery....is all in life. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that I would one day make a radio program with the main villain of said movie nor that we would be speaking about education. 

I have been on TV before in Japan but this was my first time ever doing radio so I would be lying if I did not say that I was quite excited about the opportunity. Not only to promote education and of course studying outside of Japan but also to sit down with one of my childhood heroes. Masaya is a well educated and very intelligent person who obviously thinks very deeply not only on what it is to be Japanese but how that is perceived globally and what Japan needs to change from here and on.

Even though I have now been in Japan for 14 years and speak the language quite well I am very aware of the fact that it is never perfect and I make a mess of it on a regular basis. This is why it is so comforting working with professionals. Masaya takes my fumbling attempts at explaining what the risks of studying abroad are and gently turns them into something that the listeners out there will not only comprehend but also get value from.

When it comes to Japanese education my personal opinion is that it is extremely outdated. There are some fantastic aspects in the way that children are taught to pick up after themselves and also clean their own environment from which I think we in the west can learn a lot. On the other hand the teacher centered education with a heavy focus on examination and therefore memorization of facts simply has no place in modern society where the need for remembering facts is close to non-existent needs an overhaul and it needs it now. 

What we need now are individuals with the capability of processing the large amounts of information readily available at our fingertips from different angles and sources and make a critical evaluation with an original conclusion. We need people who can argue a point in a clear and logical manner supported by facts. We need people who do not wait for the teachers instructions but who take responsibility for their own learning and find their own way without someone simply telling them what to do. 

Student centered education has been the norm in the Western world since the 1970's yet Asia still clings to the Confucian system where the enlightened teacher bestows his wisdom upon his subjects. If the goal is to create a hierarchical system of loyal subjects then of course this strategy makes sense but if we want a generations of self starters who push the boundaries of technology business and arts should we not give them the tools to learn from themselves rather than making them dependent on the father figure. 



The show is called BangBangBang! and airs 2 weeks in a row on FM Yokohma 84.7 from 1:00-1:30 at night.
April 2nd 
April 9th
http://www.fmyokohama.co.jp/pc/program/BangBangBang

  

Previous PostOlder Posts Home