Saturday, June 30, 2007

PR Redux

The onslaught continues! It seems no bastion of the traditional marketing world is safe from progressive thinking! The unassuming "press release", the workhorse of public relations since time immemorial, is the latest to fall victim to the influence of the subversive seduction of the two-dot-oh world. I was recently hit with the term Social Media Releases (SMRs) from Brian Solis' post 'Social Media Release - 'Everything you ever Wanted to (or Should) Know' . As far as I can tell, this meme was coined a year ago by Todd Defren of Shift Communications.

Basically it's press release and blog post mashup - it lies somewhere in the middle. SMRs provide a way to package a story so that other people (publishers and bloggers) can take it and make it their own. SMRs leverage social tools like digg, and Technorati and can allow comments like a blog post so readers can respond. Here's a great example of how HP is packaging their SMRs - you can also download a template from Shift Communications here.

This was interesting to me for a few reasons:

- First: It continues on the trend of pull content (vs. push). With SMRs you just put it out there and leave it up to your audience to find it and use it (rather than try to sell them or 'pitch' them the content).
- Second: As a marketer, I'm always looking for the medium to fit the message and this gives me a brand new option. With some focused testing, it shouldn't be too difficult to figure out which messages are best for traditional PR and which can benefit most from SMR.
- Third: Used correctly, this is far more likely than your vanilla press release to create a viral effect. Giving people the power of taking your most timely 411 a-la-carte will make it easier for them to consume, process, and re-distribute.

I'm no expert in SMRs by any means but I am going to work with my PR team to make sure they start considering it for future announcements.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

My First Second Life Event

I attended Crayonville's Virtual Branding event on Second Life (SL) this morning - naked!

For those who need a little background on SL before I go any further - it's a virtual world and is designed so that anything you can do in the 'real' world you can essentially do in SL. There are other virtual worlds (Active Worlds and to name a couple) but businesses in general seem to have gravitated to SL as the platform of choice and use it as another medium to communicate with people. SL has it's critics and it's supporters - based on my experience I think I'm somewhere in the middle.

Okay, let me back up and recap my naked experience. When I first tried to join the event I had to log off my company's VPN which blocks SL due to security reasons (I don't really know the details of that). Then as I started the application I was prompted by SL to upgrade my platform which meant I had to restart SL. That took a few minutes but then I was finally in - but I couldn't see anything. I looked like a flashlight in the dark so I thought my screen was still loading but after a few minutes of walking around blind I realized that the app just opened up with a layered window that was covering my view.

Finally I'm in - and I can see. But now I don't have any clothes on! And my avatar looks pretty life-like, so I'm a little embarrassed. On top of that people keep asking me where my clothes are. All I know is that they're not on me! I figured out how to join a private chat and get some help but the function to put clothes on wasn't working - apparently it's a known issue that might be resolved by restarting SL (again) but I decided that I wasted too much time already and wanted to do what I came here to do - listen to the event.

The general message of the event itself was that virtual branding should complement what you're already doing (in the real world) and that measuring it is difficult. The event panelists explained that you need to look at SL as another way to engage in conversation with your customers - where they are. So if your customers are here, so should you. But are they here? Well there's a lot of debate on that one but one thing is for certain: the corporate community hasn't been too shy about building virtual worlds of their own (Cisco , Sun, and IBM to name a few). I know Cisco holds press conferences here, seminars, executive briefings and soon job fairs!

One of the cool things about SL is that while I was listening to the panelists I was able to participate in chat conversations - one person explained it as being able to talk to your neighbor as if you were in a live event. I have to admit that was pretty cool. And it was much easier to start and participate in a conversation than it is in the real world - plus you’re not limited to talking to the person to your left or right - you have the whole room.

I think SL has a ways to go and that Linden Research needs to focus on simplifying the user experience. If they can ensure a consistent and positive experience for users I think we'll see an uptake on the adoption rate. Personally I'm not convinced of the ROI but in any case SL isn't going away any time soon. As a marketer I think it's worth spening time to understand so I will be looking forward to the monthly events that Crayonville is going to host in SL as a way to get my feet wet.

Building an Online Personality

When it comes to building an online personality we can all learn from the success of Amanda Congdon. This 'badass white girl' has her own daily 3-minute web-based newscast with an audience of more than 300K visitors per day (that's more viewers than some cable TV shows)!

How does she do it? I think the secret is a little bit of humor, a willingness to be edgy but most importantly, a candor that is more Daily Show than 20/20. This takes me back to the bible of social marketing where you can find validation here, “learning to speak in a human voice is not some trick, nor will corporations convince us they are human with lip service about 'listening to customers.' They will only sound human when they empower real human beings to speak on their behalf."

This is where the younger generation trumps the older - they haven't been brainwashed with corporate talk and forced to go through an 'approval' process before anything leaves the corporate walls. Up until now we have all been trained to keep a zipped lip when it comes to any flaw or inaccuracy in our messaging but in a transparent world that simply doesn't work. The truth is coming out whether we want it to or not – better to be in that conversation than outside of it.

Adjusting to this new culture won't happen overnight but it will is happening. Denise Caruso, author of Intervention and speaker at Supernova says it best - 'social media is risky but it's riskier not to try.'

Who let the engineers out?

Going back to the Sun / Java FX example shared at Supernova where the product wasn't all that it was promised to be in the eyes of the developer community, Sun handled it right by letting the engineers join these conversations. They were able to admit that they agreed the product wasn't where it needed to be and were able to also share their roadmap and explain positioning. It soon went from a conversation between angry customers and a shifty vendor to a conversation between two people and miraculously the conversation became civil again - wow this stuff really works.

Do you think the rest of the corporate world can learn from that example and let loose like Sun did? I am still hopeful...

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Supernova Blogroll

As you can tell by the date of my first blog I am fairly new to the blogosphere and this is my first event blog. I quickly realized as I was working on my first post that the many bloggers in the room were much more experienced than I was as they were putting out posts one after another in real time. I tried to keep up but realized I'm just not that good yet - so rather than putting out crap I saved all my posts until I had a little more time to put some structure around them (hence all the posts within the last 10-minutes). In any case my point is that there are a lot of experienced bloggers at this event with really great insights on this stuff so check them out:

Raph Koster
POP! PR Jots
Walden News & Views
P2P Information
Bag and Baggage
Jason P. DeFillippo
Supernova Conversation Hub

Sorry if I left anyone out - if you're blogging at Supernova feel free to add your blog my adding a comment.

Web Tools

In this session JP Rangaswami and Jeremy Ruston share their story of transitioning BT to an Open Source company. Rather than try to anticipate the fast changing needs of their customers they are asking them, and letting them create their own tools and applications that can run on BT's all-IP network. JP explains that innovation takes place at the edge of the network but that in order for that to happen people need the tools to innovate. Jeremy created TiddlyWiki (which is a really, really cool open source Wiki platform that can be stored locally as well as on a shared folder or web server) - JT explains the three main points:

1. Output can be used anywhere else – no one owns it, any one can use it, anyone can improve it (you only bring it back to BT if you want to use their network).
2. The tools allow the innovation to take place in the consumers hands
3. They don't dictate the information allowing each person to make their own translation of what to do with it

When asked how to monetize this idea, JT uses American idol as an example. Fox could have charged to entry into the contest and made voting free but no one would have joined. "It's important to keep the barriers of entry low," he explains. You can go into it locking people in trying to figure out how to make money from it. He then offers a few examples of how they can build a business care around support, services, hosting or consulting among other things. But more importantly he notes "what we know it that we see more innovation and faster growth by opening it up to the users than we can ever see inside."

Going open source is definitely a hot trend these days - I believe it was the tipping point for Facebook making them the #1 social networking site. But is there a breaking point? How many companies can turn to open source before people stop paying attention or will that ever happen?

Research and Relationships

Session 3 panelists included: Max Kalehoff (Nielsen), Aaron Coldiron (Microsoft), Amy Shenkan (McKinsey), and Ellen Konar (Google)

Max Kalehoff started the session sharing a Nike 'Brand Association Map' which is used to visually gauge the temperature of the Internet - what's the theme, brand identity, reputation by looking at what's posted on blogs, forums and other user generated media.

He then shares his 'Top 10 Disruptions in Measurement':

1. Rise of online and digital (basically that there is a new way to collect data)
2. Attention erosion, research aversion-engagement (people don't want to be interrupted)
3. Speed of measurement increases
4. Data commoditizing and democratizing
5. Passive behavioral and attention measurement (where are people going and for how long?)
6. Measurement and analysis of unstructured data
7. Consumer centric measurement and planning
8. Qualitative comeback
9. Data integration comes of age
10. Attention-data ownership (who owns what?)

The viral component of the Internet is not always positive. An example of the Kryptonite Lock was mentioned - when a rumor that had been known for some time hit Internet and spread like wildfire in a viral video crumbling their brand and their credibility. The thing that makes this interesting is that they had the opportunity to prevent this - that had learned of the security flaw two years prior but chose to ignore it - had the pulled from the shelves then and corrected the problem they could have saved a lot of heartaches.

Ellen Konar from Google shared some interesting insights on what she explains as a 'peer-to-peer network' inside their firewall. People just find what what they are looking for "using search, duh." The information is unstructured and simply made available and if it's good enough to travel, it will. I think generally this works and for the next generation it will probably work just fine since grew up searching and know how to do it. It ties in perfectly with my belief that we are all in information overload putting us in 'just in time learning' mode - when I need to know I know it's out there and I will find it. There are two problems with this thinking - the first is one that I think will correct itself over time and that is that there are still a lot of people who don't know how to search; and two, we don't know what we don't know so there still needs to be some level of outward communication.

Amy Shenkan says 'The hardest thing to do is make sense of all the data.' It's all out there - digital breadcrumbs everywhere but what do we do with this information? Ellen Konar points us to Google Trends as a way to see what's hot at the moment and explains that they are looking at better ways to break up the data to make it more useful. But it's not just data anymore - we need to measure the stories and conversations that are happening and somehow quantify the valuable insights we are gaining from these conversations.

A woman sitting behind me silenced the crowd with her question about the privacy a user has when surfing the Web. For those who don't already know a lot of websites are passively collecting' information about you including where you came from, what you clicked, how long you stayed (or if you are on their site now). Did you opt in to that? Well there is that little privacy policy link on the bottom of most website.

Surveys - valuable or not? Ellen wasn't satisfied with the number of responses she got back from a Google Happiness Survey so they decided to start sharing the results - not just with those who took the survey but with everyone who was invited to take the survey whether they responded or not. This simple sharing of information makes the uses feel like they are getting something in return making them more likely to participate next time (what's in it for me?).

The Changing Forces in Advertising

'The Changing Forces in Advertising' panelists included Deborah Schultz (DRS Solutions), Leszek Izdebski (Cisco), Peter Hirshberg (Technorati), Dick Costolo (Feedburner) Peter Merholz (Adaptive Path), and Evan WIlliams, (Obvious Corp AKA Twitter)

The Marketing Beating Continues

The session continued along the trend that marketers and this time they threw in ad agencies still don't get it 'most of the time.' It was later corrected, or softened to say they do get it but they don't know what to do about it. Instead of understanding that the internet is a different animal they are simply moving traditional advertising concepts online. I have to agree that in my experience I see a lot of that but I also think we are at the beginning of this trend and that a lot of us are clamoring to learn as quickly as possible.

Which leads to the next point, marketers need to be willing to experiment and learn. This is new to all of us and we won't have all of the answers right away. Even Evan Williams of Twitter admits they don't know all of the answers and are still trying to figure out how to monetize it through creative advertising. Leszek Izdebski brings up digital media and one way Cisco is delivering ads by looking at RFID information.

How do you deal with negativity in the market?

When Sun Microsystems launched Java FX they ran banner ads on numerous sites. These ads were negatively received in the community through numerous blog posts because the developer community felt the added features didn't warrant the hype the ads were giving them. Behind the scenes the developers who worked on the product were saying the same thing before the product launched - but rather than being quiet about it they were given free reign to join the conversation. They explained their strategy, shared their roadmap and even asked for feedback. This changed the tone and attitude back to a positive one for Sun. I think more companies can learn from this example and loosen those internal reigns…

Relationships Aren't Everything

'The Relationship Economy' session lead to someone in the audience making this statement (sorry I didn't catch the name). With all the hype of starting conversation and building relationships with customers it was grounding to hear this statement. It reminded me of the movie 'You've Got Mail' where even though the corner bookstore knew their customers and had a more intimate relationship people still jumped ship to the big superstore when it came around. Sometimes it's about making things easier for the customers and with the internet what we have the ability to simplify is access of information and using that information in increase the speed of learning - that is what customers are valuing.

The lesson for me: Make sure you understand the basis of your relationship with your customers and the value you are offering them so that you can react if/when that changes.

Marketers Don't Know How to Blog

That was the general message of the Supernova session I attended today on 'The Relationship Economy.' As I was squirming in my chair trying to hide the marketing title from my badge - I looked to the person next to me who is working on his blog post 'Marketing is bullshit.' Then he asks me (already knowing I'm a marketer) - what do you think? Sadly I had to agree. Marketers have been dragged into the blogosphere by engineers and even in the real world it's isn't marketers who are having conversations with customers, it's Sales. So do marketers even know how to have that conversation?

I think the lesson here is that if your role hasn't been having conversations with customers don't look at the shift on the web as a chance to interrupt that conversation by jumping in. If you want to join the conversation start by listening to what is already being said and try participating that way first - and make sure you have something to say. Or better yet you can continue facilitating the conversation between sales (and now engineers) by helping them move their conversations online.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Dell Breaks the Social Media Laws (Cluetrain Laws #53-55)

A blog post at NewsBlog on CNET by Declan McCullough this morning told an all too familiar story that highlights a common transgression in a Marketing 2.0 world. A former Dell Sales Manager posted on his blog at with tips on how to buy from Dell. Dell responded aggressively with a legal threat asking that it be taken down because it included confidential, blah blah blah. Well . . . that went over like Google at the eBay party. Here’s a quote from McCullough’s blogpost:

“That legal threat might have worked a decade ago, but not today. The correspondence was Dugg; it was Slashdotted; it was generally dissected and discussed at length by increasingly irate customers (and potential customers) until Dell was forced to turn tail and apologize.

That happened in a "we goofed" post on Saturday by Lionel Menchaca, Dell's digital media manager. He said: "We blew it... Instead of trying to control information that was made public, we should have simply corrected anything that was inaccurate. We didn't do that, and now we're paying for it." (Dell also offers a community forum.)”

I feel like Dell could have avoided all this had they only taken time to really understand the nature of information now that we’ve come up with all these interesting ways of distributing it. Did they really think they were going to put the cap on information once it was in the Social Media Web? You can’t respond faster than a blog post, you can’t shout louder than a forum, and you can’t kill a conversation you didn’t start. Let’s hope others are learning from Dell’s embarrassing example of how NOT to participate in someone else’s conversation.

From Cluetrain:

53. “There are two conversations going on. One inside the company. One with the market. In most cases, neither conversation is going very well.”
54. “Almost invariably, the cause of failure can be traced to obsolete notions of command and control.”
55. “As policy, these notions are poisonous. As tools, they are broken. Command and control are met with hostility by intranetworked knowledge workers and generate distrust in internetworked markets.”

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Newsletter gone cold? Warm it up in the Web 2.0 Oven!

I have to admit, I love newsletters. As a "traditional" communication medium, you could do far worse. One of the problems with traditional newsletters though is that they're sent out in the format I need to send them in, regardless of what my customer wants. That just changed with a new Web 2.0 technology called FeedBlitz. With a recent announcement they are turning up the heat by claiming to not only send my newsletter via email but they also enable delivery via Skype, AIM, Twitter, RSS - and my favorite, an audio podcast!

This service has only been out a week so I can't give it a personal endorsement yet but I'm working on changing that. If you have a chance to try it please let me know what you think.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Stop Playing Charades with Your Customers

Playing the guessing game to figure out what your customers want is the old way of doing things. Yes you can use market research and surveys then spend hours on end translating that information into a product strategy you think meets your customer’s needs.

Or – you can just ask. That's what Cisco is doing - they want to know "What new experiences do you want in your Connected Life?" Customers are encouraged to submit stories or videos on how they would like technology innovations to help in their everyday lives – at home, at work, or on the move. And as if having your idea become a reality wasn’t an award in and of itself, they are offering a grand prize of $10,000 to the most innovative idea. So what are you waiting for, join the conversation, submit your idea!

I think this is a pretty cool example of Marketing 2.0 in action (and not just because I’m involved with this project). In future posts I’ll provide progress reports on the success of this campaign. In the meantime I hope you're thinking about your connected life idea...

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Has Marketing 2.0 Crossed the Chasm?

Taking the Red Pill – Not for everybody

Part of what I love about the opportunity of Web 2.0 is that it’s forcing me and my team to think about marketing in non-traditional ways. We’re literally breaking down the paradigm of pushing content in favor of Web 2.0-enabled interactive tools built to facilitate mutual conversation. At the risk of sounding too dramatic, that’s a significant change in how big marketing organizations do business. It affects everything from the topline of campaigns and events down to the skill sets you look for in new hires. For all its upside, change is still a disruptive, violent process that is embraced much more easily by some than others. I’m assuming that anybody reading this post has searched for this content and by definition is comfortable with taking the red pill without the comfort of knowing how far down this rabbit hole actually goes.

But that’s not going to be true of everybody. At the end of the day, this shift might still be a zero sum game. For every person who takes full advantage of this new technology and creates value for their company and their customers there are going to be people who have a vested interest in maintaining status quo. On the one hand, these are the people who maintained that automobiles were devil’s work and stocked up on buggy whip stock. On the other hand, they’re probably the same people that argued against investing in a B2C company whose stock was trading at 200 times earnings in early 2000. As with everything, wisdom probably lies somewhere in the middle.

And that may be, but I’ve already taken the red pill, fallen down the rabbit hole and am now running taxi service with a Widget Wagon. To paraphrase The Godfather of Soul, “(Mama’s) got a brand new bag”.
As such, part of my focus is on taking the rest of the marketing world with m
e. No easy task to be sure, but thankfully there is a gentleman named Geoffrey Moore (maybe you’ve heard of him?) who gave us a framework for understanding the challenge that lies ahead.

In Geoffrey A. Moore's book, Crossing the Chasm, he identified five categories of customers based on where they are during a product lifecycle. I think these same categories can be applied to identify the cycle of Marketing Professionals’ adoption of Marketing 2.0. These groups can be defined as follows:

Innovators - The Steve Jobs

Remember when you read your first blog? The person who wrote it might have been an innovator. How did all that stuff get onto Wiki? Who were the first 20 people to get onto LinkedIn? For these folks, the Widgets I’m using are soooo '2006'. They aren't talking to their customers; they’ve already been blogging with them for two plus years and are now collaborating on customizable micro-apps to facilitate real time conversation about supporting the new virtual sales office in Timbuktu.

Early Adopters - The Opportunists

This is where I sit. Blog? Check. Wiki entry? Check. iPhone on order? Check. Figuring out how to capitalize on the brilliant work of the people behind the nuts and bolts is classic Silicon Valley style. You need three things to be a good Opportunist: a willingness to start putting it together before you see the instruction manual; you have to be OK with rolling the dice and losing, sometimes consistently before getting snake eyes; and have the technical wherewithal and imagination to take someone’s lemons and make lemonade.

Early Majority - The Pragmatists

If Opportunists are about taking someone’s lemons and making lemonade, these people are about copying your lemonade stand and franchising it. To win these people over, I’m going to work on eliminating risk by building out systems that use consistent results. By the time that happens, we’ll be way past the point of coolness and heading into the realm of cold hard commercial profitability.

Late Majority - Walmart

By the time these people start getting into Marketing 2.0 the innovators will be on to something new. These people wait until it's a time tested and proven standard before they start jumping into the mix. One day you’re going to be able to buy a box of widgets at Walmart. Using the web as an accelerator, widgets might get main-streamed faster than firefox.

Laggards - The CEO of the Last Buggy Whip Company

These people don't know the difference between RSS and RFP and Wiki and Bliki. They still believe in print advertising and direct mail and that's where all their marketing budget goes. They spend their time trying to 'convince' people to buy their product rather than trying to talk to them about it. The day will come when they realize that the job they thought they had looks so different now that they no longer know what they are doing. Unfortunately, this is where new, cool, and not yet proven meets old, boring, and exceedingly profitable. The reason people hold on to stuff that works is because, well, it works. The problem with that is that nothing works forever. Some of these people will get it and move, but the others are going to miss the boat entirely.

Moore identified "the chasm" as the point where things shift from Early Adopters to Early Majority. I think we are at the cusp of that point right now. One of the early steps I’ve taken where I work is to use PageFlake to create a My Company Flake for my co-workers. This does two things: first it demonstrates the value of RSS and how it's a quicker way to get information; and second because I created a page on Marketing 2.0 it serves as a educational boost to help people learn and understand what it means to Market in a Web 2.0 World. I think a lot of my activity around Web 2.0 in the near term is going to be in the area of encouraging adoption. As I come across new and non-disruptive ways to do this, I’ll be sure to post them here.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Are you voting for Ray Hopewood?

Of course not, he doesn’t exist – he’s a fictional character at the center of a viral marketing campaign that according to SF Gate has “served 45,000 videos in the first couple of weeks, 15,000 page views, and (has stickiness of) 1 minute and 40 seconds (per visit).”

Ray Hopewood may be a fictional character in the real world but in the virtual world he has a profile on MySpace, Facebook, and flickr. He's got his own blog, an ecommerce site, and banner ads on various other sites.

So how much gold is there at the end of the Social Media Marketing rainbow? I think that depends on the execution. My team’s Marketing 2.0 / Social Media Marketing plan is built around these execution strategies:
  1. Understand the Rules of the Game – There is no ‘control and command’ when it comes to Social Media Marketing – you need to be willing to let go and trust that your product or service can withstand the truth. As the twelfth rule from The Cluetrain Manifesto, the original Bible of Social Marketing, states: “There are no secrets. The networked market knows more than companies do about their own products. And whether the news is good or bad, they tell everyone."
  2. Exploit Social Networking Sites – Spend time driving traffic to your site or campaign using new media sites. David Wilson has done an interesting study that shows which social sites are likely to provide the highest returns.
  3. You don’t have to start a conversation to have one – Go where your customers are – Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, or wherever it might be. Go there, sign up, connect and start typing. Starting a conversation is a lot more work than jumping into one.
  4. Don’t forget the Basics – Content is still king. Whatever you have to say make sure it’s worth saying.
  5. Learn as you go – No risk, no reward. We are all treading in new waters here – don’t be afraid to go out on a limb and see what happens – it worked for Ray!

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

NBC Jumped on the Widget Wagon

I recently submitted a post about CBS, and as predicted NBC has jumped on the Widget Wagon with this annoucement that will allow bloggers to post television shows on their site.

Now think B2B marketing. We deliver rich content in a similar medium with webcasts and video-on-demand's. How hard would it be to create a widget to do the same thing? I don't know the answer to that but I'm going to start working on a pitch to my marketing team now...

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Where should we meet?

A previous colleague of mine who is now at SocialText saw that I mentioned them in my last post and thought it was good time for us to catch up over lunch. Trying to find a good place in the middle is always a challenge - SocialText is in Palo Alto and Cisco is in San Jose. Rather than looking at a map on one browser and a restaurnat guide in other I though to myself, there's got to be a mashup site for this. And of course there is - - in a matter of seconds I was able to find a number of restaurants (by type) that are located halfway between our locations. What a great tool for the sales reps in the field - I sent it to a few of my field reps already...

Monday, June 4, 2007

B2B Marketing 2.0 – Conversation Enablers

Someone at work asked me how to 'leverage the power of Web 2.0' and what I have done to take advantage of some of the new technologies. I responded by saying that Web 2.0 technologies are useful for creating conversations with my customers, not just for pushing content (why pushing content isn’t good enough anymore is a post of it’s own). Then I was asked what training wheels I would suggest for someone looking to get started. I came up with this list of things I started with and would love suggestions from expert readers on others:

Blogging: Corporate blogs are becoming more common with companies like Cisco, HP, NetApp and Boeing which already active participants in the blogosphere. The common platforms for business or corporate blogs are WordPress, Movable Type and Leverage Software which goes beyond blogging to create communities.

Wiki's: Corporate wiki’s are collaborative websites which rely on a community of users to generate content and build pages. Wiki’s can be used in so many ways here are some example that come to mind –improve internal communications and expand the reach of your internal knowledgebase, use it to build a community within your customer base to create user generated documentation, use it with partners to co-create proposals. Some examples of external corporate wiki’s sites are: Linux Questions, IBM and Adobe. Three popular corporate Wiki platforms that come to mind are Confluence, SocialText and TWiki.

Social Networking: There are many social networking sites and although most of the one’s I’ve come across are personal in nature they do touch on certain business topics and can be exploited to reach a community that shows interest in topics related to your business. This site lists a few of the more popular social networking sites.

Second Life: Second Life is a ‘3-D virtual world’ – it offers a platform that can be used to host online events and collaborate with a broad audience in addition to just starting a hallway conversation with other avatars online. Notable companies on Second Life are Cisco, Reuters, Sun Microsystems and IBM.

LinkedIn: An online community of business professionals – this site can be exploited to build an expert within your company on a specific topic by taking advantage of the ‘Answers’ area of the site. It can be a good place to find potential clients and partners – and of course it’s more obvious use is finding potential job candidates.

I have limited this list to ‘conversation enablers’ – I'll be working on a follow up post around widgets and which ones are most likely to have “business value” which I think is even more interesting.

Friday, June 1, 2007

One Step Deeper

In my efforts to exploit Web 2.0 technology to add to my Marketing 2.0 toolkit, I’ve spent some time looking beyond widgets to actual web-enabled applications.

It’s my belief that the widgets of tomorrow are going to come from the webapps of today and the webapps of today just became a lot more interesting with this announcement: Google Gears churns toward Microsoft.

Here’s why this is interesting to me:

I recently read Scott Rosenberg’s book Dreaming In Code – typically a little beyond my geek level but it caught my attention and turned out to be a good read. It focuses on a development project code named 'Chandler' which due to the complexity is still a work in progress after 4 grueling years.

The vision behind 'Chandler' was to enable peer-to-peer access to calendaring, email and notes applications that could exist offline or online. One key decision made during this project is that they built it as a client side app as oppose to a pure webapp – with the thinking that web application technology was too far out to consider.

Unfortunately they're kicking themselves in the ass for that one because little did they know companies like Google, and 37signals, also highlighted in Rosenberg’s book would soon be rolling out webapps well before they could have imagined.

The downfall of these apps is that unlike their client side counterparts, consistent connectivity is needed to get stuff done. When I think about my computer use, I’d say no more than 10% of my time is spent offline. My challenge is that I can't use a semi-critical app if it’s limited to the web – I need to know that I can access what I create if I want to open it up in my safari tent in the Serengeti or the Piazza Navona in Rome. And that is what prevents me from transitioning from these heavy client side apps.

Well, that just changed with Google’s announcement. Okay, it didn't change yet – most of the apps I'm using today weren't built for the web but it's coming and I'm already excited by this vision. Just imagine being able to use all these great productivity apps that are Web 2.0 enabled (SharePoint, Wiki's, and Blogs to name a few), making for lightning fast download and seamless integration with web-based content delivery systems - but still available offline when I want them.

One of the most significant achievements of Web 2.0 is correcting the discrepancy that my content is still mostly created in applications that work best offline but my customers really only want to connect with me online. Sure, there has been lots of progress with the advent of Flash, WebEx, canned PPT presentations and PDF in the browser – but those applications weren’t made to take advantage of the interactive power of the web.

Marketing 2.0 (aka Social Media Marketing) isn’t about me talking to my customers, it’s about creating a conversation with my customers - and hopefully building a relationship. But I still have to create and package knowledge to begin that conversation – and those apps need to have offline as well as online capability. Before my customer and I can really connect the way we should be able to, we need apps that can be used to create and package that knowledge as well as facilitate and encourage interactivity. That means interactive online apps that can be taken offline - not offline apps that can be uploaded. Google just took an important step in that direction. I’m not junking all my client side apps for hyper-functional widgets just yet but I can see now - probably much like the Chandler team eventually did – that its much closer than I thought.