Counterintuity – Creative Internet Marketing in Burbank

Pacific-Tier Communications and Burbank N Beyond’s Innovators and Entrepreneurs had an opportunity to visit with Amy Kramer, President and Marketing Whiz, and Lee Wochner, CEO and Counterintuity Offices in Burbank CaliforniaCreative Strategist, at Counterintuity LLC, a Burbank-based agency focusing on Internet marketing.  Amy and Lee discussed a variety of topics ranging from taking the risk with a start up company, to their visions and ideas on Internet marketing and social media, as well as why Burbank is a great place to run a business.

Counterintuity is a full-service marketing agency that has designed, launched and maintained hundreds of custom-built websites, digital marketing strategies, public relations, search engine optimization, social media campaigns, as well as identity and print pieces.

PT-BNB:  It is kind of scary doing a start up when you have worked in a corporate environment your entire life – how did you get started?

Amy:  Back in the late 90s I was working in direct response, in infomercials.  And I was helping a very large product break into the web.  So we were launching eCommerce sites doing email marketing when it was only text, and Lyrist was the only provider.  And so right there at the very cusp of Internet marketing I was there with a budget.

It was a tremendous opportunity.  So after launching that product, then we’re into 2000 and it was really starting to grow, and the opportunities were really awesome.

So I left the cushy direct response gig and decided to break out and do it myself.

The there was an opportunity for Lee and I together to bring this Internet marketing product and series of products to small businesses and organizations.  Because previously it was only available because the cost was so prohibitive.  So we were able to bring it to a wider range of businesses and organizations.

Lee:  Amy and I already had a working relationship and I already knew she was a really smart digital marketer, we work well together, and I think it is a great time to be in business, it is an important time for entrepreneurship, and I think a lot of the problem in the country and in the world will increasingly be solved by entrepreneurial solutions.

And so what we were looking to do was find a way to leverage those sorts of opportunities for smaller businesses rather than lock them out because they don’t have big budget.

PT-BNB:  Are smaller business a focus of the Counterintuity, does it make any difference what size a business is?

Lee:  It really depends on how you define small business.  I think small business as defined by the federal government is 500 employees or fewer.   So people, even in the Small Business Administration think they need to redefine that.

We have clients who do a million dollars a year in revenue, sometimes a little bit less.  And we have clients who do 200 million dollars a year in revenue or more.  About a third of our clients are non-profit or public sector.  So I don’t know if they really fit that profile.

But the commonality among all of our clients is that they are looking to succeed in entrepreneurial ways in response to all of the changes in consumer patterns driven by the Internet.

PT-BNB:  On your website you show three majors areas which include social media, website design, and digital marketing.  You wouldn’t have seen that 10 years ago, with social media being a focal point.  What is the impact of social media?  Why is that important for us to understand?

Lee and Amy at Counterintuity Burbank CaliforniaLee:  So next week we’re doing a presentation for the city as part of “Team Business.”  We’re going to be doing our “Get Connected Social Media Seminar.”

Let me give you the shortest, best answer I can.  Social media is word of mouth marketing done big.  Amy and I both have a background in the theater.  That’s how we met in 1999.  What you find out in the theater is that it doesn’t matter what your ads are, what your reviews are, the primary way to drive business is through “word of mouth.”

Social media presents a suite of tools that allows you to capture word of mouth from all of the people you are connected to and spread it.

Obviously there’s a potential upside and a potential downside to that.  The potential upside is “hey this is really great we really like this,” and the potential downside is “we were really disappointed, we don’t really like this, and forget them.”

There has always been a conversation about you, your product, and your service.  Now you have more opportunity than ever to manage that, and to spread the word, and to turn other people into advocates for you online.

PT-BNB:  What does social media mean for the generation that is just graduating from high school and college, and what role do you play in being able to fulfill their need for having access to social media?

Lee:  What need does the typewriter fill? Or the quill pen?

It’s not a marketing tool, it is a tool.  A basic tool.  It is a communications platform.  It’s a way to connect everybody up, with all of their content.  Some of the content might be “here is a picture of my kid.” And “here is the dinner we had.”  I took a picture of my dinner in San Francisco the other night because it was so interesting, and I built a blog post around it.

And then all these people on Facebook “liked” the picture of my dinner, and said they wished they’d had it.  If that had been my client in San Francisco I would have linked to it.

But see it was my life, and then I could turn it into marketing, but really it’s about the tool.

When people talk about social media marketing, then I say we’re talking about communications.  When you think about it, when you are born the very first thing you do is communicate.  You cry, and then you start to breath.  You are crying to communicate.

Communication is at the heart of who we are.  There is (traditional) scientific research that says we developed more than other primates because we have language, and because we have bigger brains.

The new thinking is we have bigger brains because we developed language, developed synaptic connections, and grew our brain muscles.

So language and communication are at the core of who we are.

I try to talk to people and say “don’t focus on the tool.”  If I give you the three basic ways to think about all the social media tools then you can do anything you want with them.  Don’t get hung up on how seemingly complex there are, and how to use them.

It’s like your car.  I have no idea how the cylinders work.  I just drive it.  That’s how social media should work for you.

Amy:  And when you talk about the next generation, they are just using it (social media) in different ways.  They don’t like talking on the phone as much.  They like texting more.  It’s a small, quick conversation.

Turns out a lot of the kids are not into Facebook.  Some prefer Twitter.  Others right now are really into Instagram.  It is a great way for them to share what they are doing, and what they are involved in.  Visual storytelling.

Again it is sharing information, it all comes down to what’s sharing what is going on in your life and telling that story.  Whether it is for you personally, or whether it is for a brand.

Kids today – email.  Not as big with kids.  They are doing Facebook messaging. They are doing DMs on Twitter.  Just a text.  It is a different way to communicate.  But as Lee was saying, it is just a communication tool, it is just how new social media and new Internet platforms are helping them (young people) communicate.

PT-BNB:  What is the role of blogging?

Amy:  Blogging at its core is journaling.

As marketers, we recommend it for our clients.  And the reason we recommend blogging for clients is it is a way to build credibility and to expand your authority in your industry.

When journalists are looking for folks to interview, where do you go?  You go to LinkedIn to look them up, and generally the next place is their website.  Then if you get to their website and want to look at what they have to say you go to their blog.

Because that gives you a bit of insight into their voice and into their POV (point of view).

The you go “oh, they might be good for this entrepreneurial article that I’m writing.”

So blogging is an entrée into PR.  It is an entrée into getting more coverage, as well as if a client is looking for someone like you it can actually help your search engine optimization, significantly.  Because it can give you opportunities to talk about what you do.

So blogging is good for authority, it is good for search rankings, because the more content, and the more regularly you update your content on your website and your blog, the more highly Google thinks of you.

PT-BNB:  How about video?

Lee:  Massive, huge.  We’ve been doing more and more video for clients and for ourselves, and have been winning awards for it. It (video) has got to be brief, it has got to be interesting, it has got to make a point, and you need to share it.

Put it on Youtube, Tweet out a link, put it on your Facebook, put it on your website, stick it in your blog, repurpose your content, because then people will see it more often.

Amy:  And it has got to be short.  Attention spans are now teeny.  It must play quickly.

Lee:  So if you go to our Youtube page you will see some of the videos we have done.  We’ve been doing client videos and internal videos, and the great thing is you no longer need a massive budget.

Now there are projects we’ve done for very large clients who have a budget, and we can go do what would be called a corporate-looking video.

Then there are ways to do more guerrilla type video.  We did a video recently for Center Theater Group, the Taper, Ahmanson, Kirk Douglass Theater.  I and our video editor went down there and we did 13 setups and shot the whole video in about 4 hours.  Because now the technology is such that you can go do that, be really mobile, really fast.  We wrote the script in advance, went down and shot it, and then it took about a half a day to do the first cut on a laptop.

We sent it to the client, the client asked for a few tweaks, and in just two days we had a complete corporate video for them.

PT-BNB:  Why did you decide to setup shop in Burbank?

Lee:  Burbank is a great place to do business.  Burbank is a tight knit community, it is easy to do business here, and it is easy to become part of the community.

The city has been terrific.  We have personal relationships with all the city council members, the mayor, the city staff…  Whenever we have had an issue or an opportunity they have resolved it very fast.  They have worked with us, and we have nothing but positive things to say about the city.

With regard to the Chamber of Commerce, the Chamber has been a key driver in our business.  They have been so terrific at connecting us up, offering valuable services, and anything we can do with or for the Chamber we will do it.

It is a great place to be, Burbank.

You can learn more about Counterintuity at their website www.counterintuity.com

Burbank Innovators and Entrepreneurs

Burbank is the home of the global entertainment industry, prominent in aviation, and a burgeoning Internet development community.  Burbank Innovators and Entrepreneurs will look at companies and persons based in Burbank making an impact in their industry, with an emphasis on entrepreneurs, and those on the cutting edge of technology, services, and thought leadership.

Innovators and Entrepreneurs will bring personal interviews digging into the motivations, challenges, successes, personalities, with visions of companies and people driving our business community into the future.

If you have a Burbank-based company or recommendation of a company, that is at the cutting edge of your industry, are an innovator, or an entrepreneur, and would like either Pacific-Tier Communications or BurbankNBeyond to highlight the activity, send a note to jsavageau@burbanknbeyond.com.

Citizen Journalism and Tweets bring Haiti’s Horror to the World

CNN has people on the ground in Port Au Prince. They use high performance satellite phones and transmission equipment to bring a Citizen journalists turn to Twitterfew shots from Anderson Cooper and Sanjay Gupta to world viewers. That is what we expect from CNN. Then CNN begins the roll call of tweets from people within Haiti bringing real time news. Continuing with interviews using Skype with video direct from Haiti. And the innovative ideas on how to get the word out continue.

Fox news, MSNBC, all the major US news sources quote the information they are getting from the ground, or show videos received via Twitter and other social media tools. Most of the news we are getting via Twitter and social media is raw, simply passing on a snapshot in time. Then the news casters, with their back office of analysts and experts, are able to translate the news into a consumable item for American and international viewers.

This is citizen journalism at its best, bringing the news of nature’s worst to a global audience. It is important, as it brings the real news, direct to a global audience, without censorship. It tells us, as humanitarians, that our help is once again needed to support our fellow man in a distant land we May not even be able to find on a map. It allows CNN (as my preferred news source – you can pick your own) to give us “vetted” instructions on how to help. It gives you access to real time “tweets” on how to find out the latest news direct from the source (@cnnbrk/Haiti or #haiticnn).

Of course nearly all news networks and sources have a similar listing of sites to learn the best way for you to contribute – just log into the site of your choice. In California you can contact several great sites, including”

It probably makes no difference which site you use, just find a site with a vettesd and legitimate means of getting your donation to Haiti.

Go to your Twitter account and do a search on Haiti and you will find more sources of real-time information.

Tweeting Reality

Our world is changing. Whether it be a mobile phone with video or photo capability, internet-enabled computer, or wireless PDA, the ability for humans to provide real time event information is now at an unprecedented level. Could Twitter Founders Evan Willams and Biz Stone have envisioned their short messaging service, or micro-blog could potentially change global communications in 140 characters or less?

From wildfires in California, to airplanes landing in the Hudson, to the streets of Tehran, and to the horror of Haiti, Twitter is rapidly becoming the citizen journalist’s weapon of choice in delivering status updates on just about everything, with an uncanny ability to focus on real things when necessary.

Let’s get Haiti under our belt, and then start a deep dive into social networking, real-time information transmission and sharing, and find ways we can structure this tremendous resource into a much more easy, and logical process for users of all capabilities and knowledge. This is one of the world’s true disruptive technologies with a potential to change not only real time communications, but also media and journalism as we know it today.

Twitter Shows Its Real Value

Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt refers to Twitter as a “poor man’s email.” For millions of individuals, small business owners, and even emergency services organizations, Twitter is rapidly becoming an integral part of their business strategies and personal lives.

That fact is not lost on the private equity and investment communities. Twitter confirmed a large investment on Friday, estimated at $100 million dollars, with a posting on their website:

“Yesterday we closed a significant round of funding with a group of investment firms that we’re excited to publicly thank: Insight Venture Partners, T. Rowe Price, Institutional Venture Partners, Spark Capital, Benchmark Capital, and Morgan Stanley”

Social media is touching all of our lives. Even in the early stages of social media development, it is hard to talk with any network or tech-savvy person without having a conversation that is fairly intelligent on the topic. Some think social media communities and applications are a complete waste of time, some are finding creative ways to make tremendous amounts of money, and others are simply indulging in bringing together long lost relations and newly found relations in an instant contact “matrixed” tool.

All About Bits Twitter, mentioned frequently in a media storm following the latest investment round, is thought to have a valuation of around $1 billion.

While it is difficult to place a hard monetary value on social networking, many investors are starting to jump on the social media venture bandwagon. Microsoft invested $240 million in Facebook, Digital Sky (a Russian company) another $200 million, all in a company that has only recently starting showing signs of generating income. Valuations change depending on who you talk with, largely based on their opinion of social networking. However one fact remains, social media sites are starting to attract serious interest and money from the investment community.

Why? Because even though social media sites and technologies are in the early “stone age” of development, we do understand how this method of bringing people, industries, and events together in a tech-driven community that allows instant global notifications of everything ranging from who is feeding their cat to instant emergency notifications of wild fire evacuations in California.

Twitter has “Become a Verb”

In 1999 we worked hard to startup a new data center business and communications operation for Level 3 Communications in London. It was fairly early in the days of SMS, but gateways allowed transmission of email messages into the SMS system, allowing us to send instant notifications from network management and monitoring systems to both email and mobile telephones.

In addition, as part of our business continuity planning, there was a very clear requirement for notifying individuals, including management, of events that may require a response, notification, or could potentially result in public interest in some level of our business.

The Level 3 software developers in London wrote a very clever, sophisticated web-based notification system that allowed us to meet all our notification and event-logging objectives. Basically a one-to-many broadcast network transcending mobile phone networks, email, pagers, and automated or human information sources. The only real limitation was the length of message, which could either be truncated or rejected based on the individual mobile network’s capacity.

Twitter takes that to a whole new level.

Twitter encompasses all the basic “food groups” of human communications. It supports one-to-one, one-to-many, and many-to-many models of communications. Twitter also supports both interactive and non-interactive (or real time) communications. Your “tweets” are transparent to the media used for either sending or receiving communications. A tweet doesn’t care if you are currently preferring a web browser, a mobile phone, or an email account – it will find you wherever you want it.

Twitter is Understood, Sort Of, and Has Our Attention

Let’s face it, aside from the fact Twitter works, and meets technical specifications and promises, possibly the most compelling reason we’ve adopted Twitter is the cost. It is free. I can send a thousand tweets, and the cost to me is the same flat rate – free.

What does it cost me to use Gmail, Yahoo Mail, or MSN Mail? Nothing, it is free. The only cost to me is the amount charged for accessing the Internet or mobile telephone network. How do they make money? Advertising. Same as the soon-to-be-former print media industry, such as newspapers.

Twitter is taking the cost and flexibility to another step. They have published some of their application programming interface (API) details, allowing private or independent application developers to “plug in” to Twitter’s platform.

An important point – Twitter is, at its lowest common denominator, a communications engine. That engine can be expanded on with much more powerful application support, taking advantage of the powerful interactive and non-interactive design.

Can Twitter Make Money?

Twitter, unlike other social media upstarts like LinkedIN and Facebook, has yet to make any money. Investors, no doubt, are also struggling with that question, and will also, no doubt, force the issue. Is it through introduction of premium services licensed via their APIs? Will our 140 character “tweets” now be truncated further to allow introduction of a MiniURL from an advertiser into each tweet?

Biz Stone, Twitter co-founder, told Reuters recently that “Twitter would not take advertising this year.”

Maybe Twitter is a special case, and will get a free pass on the need for revenue and avenue to “exit” for investors. Not likely. More likely, the development of “plug in” applications that will not corrupt the basic communications engine, such as the addition of geolocation features for both business and emergency services hold a key.

Licensing the communications engine to those who will “plug in” to the platform could be the higher value we are looking for in Twitter. Much like the basic infrastructure of fiber optics, wireless, utilities, and our freeway system, Twitter’s value could be in licensing fees for the additional value layered on top of the basic engine.

Or, other smart people may have already found an answer. Such as those willing to add another $100 million into the investment pouch.

Our User Role

As users we will eventually tire of sending meaningless, worthless noise tweets. The more users become aware of Twitter’s powerful communications engine, even higher value applications will emerge, taking advantage of Twitter’s communications innovation.

Whether it is ultimately Twitter, or some next-generation of Twitter, the concept is valid, and will become a part of the “matrixed” future. This is a good time to take Twitter out for a test drive, gain some tacit knowledge and experience in both social networking and Twitter’s communication engine, and plan for what role this will play in your personal and professional future.

John Savageau, Long Beach

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