Monday, July 30, 2007

Web 2.0 Widgets in Action - Examples & Ideas

Richard Bach says, "If you love someone, set them free. If they come back they're yours; if they don't they never were” – I think the same can we said for messaging with a few tweaks "If you want to get your message out, set it free. If your readers come back they're yours; if they don't, revisit your content and make it better."

Widgets are mini-applications that allow marketers to set their content free beyond their own domain. Partners, bloggers, mobile users and other online publishers can easily re-use whatever content you have widgetized by copying and pasting a string of code and putting it on their site.

So what kind of content should be widgetized? The possibilities are endless, here are a few examples (or ideas) that I've come across:

  • Live Discussions - Cisco created a widget to show live discussions (right column of page) that are happening in the Networking Professionals forum.

  • Social Bookmarking - HP, IBM and Sun created widget to remind visitors to bookmark certain pages on their website.

  • Blog Widget - If you have a corporate blog, promote it on your website. Use a widget to show titles of your most recent blog posts to engage visitors in a discussion with fresh content. Although I see these on blogs to promote their recent posts I haven't come across a corporate website that uses it to promote their own blog. Although I wouldn't be surprised if it's out there.

  • Security Updates - Infex has a widget that shows the number of infected PCs -- what other security updates can be widgetized? Or maybe the question is better asked as: what security updates can't be widgetized?

  • Widgetize your Webcasts - I haven't seen this done yet but why not create a widget for your webcasts for partners, bloggers or even publishers to embed your content on their sites.

  • Google Earth -Google breaks through the innovation doors again with it's newest version of Google Earth. Dell is using this Web 2.0 application as a way of analyzing customer data to see who and where customers are -- additional layers of business analytics can be layered on top.

  • Video - Whether it's a commercial, an interview, or a video data sheet, Cisco is leveraging the YouTube platform to take full advantage of video and allowing any other interested party to repurpose their content.

Creating a widget is easy with help from Clearspring, Widgetbox or MuseStorm – but of course most B2B companies will likely create custom widgets. What's not so easy is widget analytics. Your best bet according to an interview with Lawrence Coburn, author of the Sexy Widget blog is to, "get a rough idea of how many times your widget has gotten picked up by doing backline searches on Google, Yahoo, or Technorati using the “site:” qualifier to isolate the big widget aggregators like MySpace. Inbound traffic from widgets can be measured by checking your log files."

It's time to jump on the Widget Wagon!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

A Social Networking Experiment: Cisco’s Connected Life Contest

Merry Christmas
Ever hear that you should be careful what you ask for because you just might get it? Well, Christmas came early for me this year. I was challenged with applying some of this crazy Marketing 2.0/social networking/new paradigm stuff I’m always talking about to help boost the exposure of a program to promote Cisco’s Connected Life Contest.

The idea behind Cisco’s Connected Life Contest is to generate innovative ideas for a connected life (for example: using your cell phone to pay for your Starbuck's coffee). Cisco is awarding a grand prize of $10,000 for the best idea and ten runner-up prizes of $1,000.

Your Mission, should you choose to accept it . . .
Most of the focus around Marketing 2.0 in my current role is about strengthening ties with current customers. This is a different animal. For this project, I won’t be using Marketing 2.0 techniques to improve the quality of customer conversations but rather to dramatically increase the quantity of conversations we’re having. Whereas most of my marketing focus is on building brand, reinforcing message, and enabling better communication – this is straight up promotion.

What took this from being just another cool marketing project to being a real life Apprentice-style jam session is the lofty objectives, short timelines, and limited resources. We’re working with a very limited budget, a very small (yet obsessively dedicated) team, and 51 days to reach a record setting goal (internal bragging rights only), measured in contest entries.

Ray Hopewood, meet Joe ConnectedLife
We’re relying heavily on social networking to create and sustain buzz for Joe, the central character to the Connected Life Contest. An important early task was to build our online presence for the campaign. “Joe ConnectedLife,” has a profile on Facebook and MySpace, communities on YouTube, Ning and LiveVideo, profiles on 40+ other video sharing sites, and you can tag the Connected Life Contest page with digg or

Shameless Plug & Cry for Help
In addition to all of the social networking I’m doing to build Joe ConnectedLife’s online presence I’m hoping to inspire my audience to take action. Submit your idea (did I mention there’s a $10,000 Grand Prize!), write about it in your blog, befriend Joe ConnectedLife share the landing page through digg,, or whatever other social bookmarking tool you use – or send me your ideas on what else we can be doing to spread the word.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Sign the Business 2.0 Facebook Petition

If a community exists for 7 years without any interaction, did it really exist? Not until someone puts it on Facebook!
Business 2.0 is at risk of closing its doors. But with the help of Facebook, readers have a voice and we’re not letting it fold without a fight. The dedicated readers of Business 2.0 created a Facebook Group that is essentially acting as an online petition to keep the publication alive. I’m a reader of Business 2.0 so I didn’t hesitate to become a member but only after 1450 other people beat me to it.

The story here for fans of Facebook and Business 2.0 is that one can play an instrumental role in saving the other. And how fitting considering the role Business 2.0 has played in chronicling innovative tech since its inception in 2000.

But for a corporate marketer like me, the story is that a community of people, (to use Josh’s words: “bright-eyed geniuses, every one of them, with big brains and enormous disposable incomes”) hadn’t yet adopted any of the technologies in the Web 2.0 toolkit to give their community a voice.

This is bad news/good news. Bad news because it’s a reminder that as useful as Web 2.0 can be to help me better interact with my customers, it’s still not adopted enough to be as pervasive as I need it to be. Good news because, well, just look at it’s potential. Do your part and sign up to save Business 2.0. Do it for a great magazine. And do it to help show those who aren’t yet on board the potential of giving a community a voice.

On Josh’s blog, he comments, “We should have turned Business 2.0 into a real social network long ago. Who knew that, secretly, that it already was one.”

I think this is an interesting comment to consider – do you have a secret community that needs to be unleashed?

Thursday, July 19, 2007

It's My Turn - The Chain Letter of Blogging

I've been tagged by Scott Monty to come up with 8 interesting things to share about myself so here goes:
  1. I was born in Tehran, Iran just before the revolution. My dad was in the US military and that's where we lived at the time. In fact he was one of the American hostages but was luckily released after 2-months as opposed to some who were there over a year.
  2. I went to 8 different schools K-12, lived in 4 different countries (Iran, Italy, Germany & of course the United States) and still to this day have never lived in the same house for more than 3-years. No, my family wasn't dysfunctional - I'm just a military brat.

  3. I've been told I can do a good impression of Rosie Perez - "Billy, what did you do Billy I can't believe you lost the money again."

  4. I can't drive. I got in my first accident at age 15. I was speeding around a turn, lost control and hit a "johnny pump."
    At 16 I skidded over a medium and three lanes of oncoming traffic.
    At 19 I ran into a parked car.
    At 22 I had my snow chains on the wrong set of wheels so I hit a patch of black and skidded into a truck which stopped me from going over a cliff.
    Good times!
  5. I started playing soccer for the first time as an adult five years ago. I fell in love with the game and I'm now on 3 different leagues (indoor & outdoor).

  6. I'm a dog lover and I have two very cute puppies - Chewy & Diva.

  7. My husband and I have been taking dance lessons for a little over a year now and we can dance Cha-Cha, Rumba, Swing and Salsa and we're pretty good too.
  8. I went on my dream vacation last summer - Tanzania for 14-days. It was awesome and I totally recommend it!

Tag, you're it

If you're up for it tell the blogosphere a little bit about yourself...

Matt Dickman
Michael Stelzner
Jeremiah Owyang
Richard Derks
Scott Bauman
Maureen Grey
Max Kalehoff
Christian Renaud

The Value of Social Bookmarking for Marketers

In my efforts to explain the value of social bookmarking for an internal marketing group I created a presentation that outlines:
  • What is Social Bookmarking?
  • The Growth of Social Bookmarking
  • Marketing Value of Social Bookmarking
  • Good Use Case Examples of Social Bookmarking
  • Recommended Best Practices: What to do & What NOT to do

For marketers, social bookmarking is more than just a way for users to store, classify, share and search their sites - if used correctly it's a way to drive traffic and fuel a viral campaign. The growth of social bookmarking isn't slowing down either. According to Hitwise from August 2006-February 2007 Digg was up 9% and was up 130%.

HP and IBM are ahead of the curve and have already adopted Social Bookmarking in their marketing programs. HP has even created their own widget to encourage users to bookmark their sites and they were also one of the early adopters of Social Media Releases (read an earlier post on this topic). IBM is also using Social Bookmarking links as a way to encourage users to 'tag' them.

Here are some best practices I recommend to get started:

What to do:

  • Encourage social bookmarking by adding links to make it easy for users – consider asking email subscribers to bookmark your site as a call to action
  • Consider developing a custom widget that matches the corporate website look and feel to leverage multiple bookmarking sites (like HP did)
  • Consider what pages of your site make sense to use social bookmarking on (ie. news, events, tools, resources). Typically, anything that is updated regularly or acts as a resource
  • Make sure your approach is consistent and sustainable - try to avoid dramatic fluctuations in ranking algorithms

What NOT to do:

  • Don't submit content just to get traffic without taking into account whether the content would interest the community – if you waste their time, they’ll stop giving it to you
  • Don’t make multiple accounts to artificially promote your content – this is an act of desperation. If you have good stuff, they will keep coming back
  • Don’t use software programs to automate the process by spamming as many social sites as you can – nobody likes a spammer
  • Don’t pay someone else to do these things either – there are people out there who are obnoxious for a living. Let’s not encourage them

Resources for this post:
Social Bookmarking & Marketing
Hitwise Intelligence Analyst Weblogs
HP Web Usability, Experience and SEO Blog
HP Social Media Release
IBM Social Bookmarking Examples
Earners Blog

Monday, July 16, 2007

Measuring Web 2.0 - Less Can Be Worth More

Marketing Sherpa had a great post from Judah Phillips today: "Measuring Web 2.0: How to Promote the Features that Get the Best ROI" which includes a 5-step outline to get you started:
  1. Identify unique online actions that show user engagement

  2. Refine Web analytics system to capture event data

  3. Create metrics to score visitor activity

  4. Track “event streams” along with clickstreams

  5. Mine event data for optimization and upsell opportunities
Although this is a good start I think it's important to point out that what you should be measuring depends on your business objective. In Google's case they had fewer ratings in the Nielsen/NetRatings website popularity gauge but still made more money than any other website.

I don't know about you but page views and click throughs always fell short of answering my most important questions: how many of my visitors are getting the information they want and more importantly; am I driving the right kind of visitors to my site?

If you’ve got a blog or wiki, maybe web analytics isn’t nearly as important as comments or user input. If you’ve got a forum, it's all about the number of posts per day. What it comes down to is that web analytics need to be customized for each campaign or website. That’s going to take a lot more work up front, but hey, if good marketing was easy, anybody could do it.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

John Mackey Shows Us The Other Side of the Coin

One of the great things about Web 2.0 technology for corporate marketers is that it lets us encourage conversations between our knowledgeable employees and our loyal customers.

One terrifying thing about Web 2.0 technology for corporate marketers is that it enables conversation between our crazy employees and our most sensitive customers/investors/partners.

As much as Whole Foods has been able to take advantage of the new interactivity of the web to build their brand and connect with their customer base – they just got the tables turned as their CEO, John Mackey, was caught posting disparaging remarks about a competitor under a pseudonym in a Yahoo financial forum.

Gee, John, when your marketing department suggested you should be more “public” and do a better job of using the web to talk up the selling points of Whole Foods, we didn’t mean for you to invent a new identity, find a forum, and start trashing the company you’re trying to acquire.

The ramifications of John Mackey’s darker side will be that the FTC, which is already trying to block his purchase of competitor Wild Oats, is going to use his “aggressive” comments to show that he’s trying to suppress competition, etc.

I’m all for executives using wikis and forums and social networking to promote the brand. But is it time for marketing to build a “Rules of the Road” or messaging document to guide them on how not to get persecuted for socializing in a connected world? This is obviously a corner case but it certainly makes you wonder what your executives are saying on their MySpace page.

Marketing 2.0: "The Less We Sell, The More People Want Us"

I thought the first podcast was good but the second one was even better - Marketing 2.0: Creative Destruction of Advertising - Part 2. Again Eric Vidal, advertising and new media leader at WebEx, talks with Chris Peterson, president and CEO of Chautauqua about Marketing 2.0. Here are my highlights:

Eric starts with his sound bite, "Marketing 2.0 is a shift that has dramatic implications on how Marketing get created, distributed, consumed and responded to."

Chris explains that these implications change the process, skill set and deliverables for marketers. For example there is a shift from a single message to many messages, copywriting to editorial writing and print media to innovative custom packages which he explains as "variations of advertorials."

The most valuable part of the podcast to me were the examples they provided:

  • WebEx changed their online banner ads to lead with content including white papers, 3rd party content, videos and podcasts. This resulted in more clicks, more interaction - for longer and ultimately more leads. What they learned from this is, "the less we sell, the more people want us."
  • A family entertainment park in Austin, TX wanted to increate their number of visitors. They created a 2-3 minute documentary about the park and had employees and customers talk about how much fun they have working and being there.The video was then used on their website as well as new content areas on local family entertainment sites. The friendly, open and honest format is really what got more traction.

  • Microsoft took a key business white paper on hosted email services and turned it into a Wiki. They then hired a professional technology journalist (with full exposure) and went to IT message boards and blogs and invited people to edit it and ultimately help shape how Microsoft talked about services. Thousands of people came to the site and participated.

Final thoughts were about getting around naysayers and Chris' advice is, "'just do it and beg for forgiveness later." I have to admit that's been working for me!

Monday, July 9, 2007

Marketing 2.0 - Another Perspective

To continue on my first post of defining Marketing 2.0, Eric Vidal, Director of Marketing Communications at WebEx and Chris Peterson, president and CEO of Chautaugua created this insightful podcast "Marketing 2.0: Creative Destruction of Advertising."

This 15-minute podcast is time well spent. It starts off defining Marketing 2.0 and explaining why it's more than "Social Media Marketing." Eric explains, "Marketing 2.0 is a shift with dramatic implications about how marketing gets created, distributed, consumed and responded to."

Chris added, "We've lost control over the marketing conversation. People used to use marketing as a source of information for new products and services but now they are turning towards friends, family, strangers - people all over the world and ignoring traditional marketing output."

Eric then provided examples of what this has meant to WebEx’ marketing mix and their move towards "informing rather than forcing a message." WebEx does this through more podcasts, web seminars (on the WebEx platform of course), white papers and third party reports which are more credible.

Chris explains how these shifts require a "fundamental re-tooling of what marketing has been doing" and that rather than focusing on a single compelling message we need to focus on what content types will appeal to our customer base.

Eric ends the event by reading the Marketing 2.0 Wikipedia entry which I’ve posted to and asks other marketers to participate by further defining this term.

There's a part two to this series which I'll write about tomorrow...

Sunday, July 8, 2007

The Evolution of Product Marketing

This post comes from a discussion I had with someone about the book, Founders at Work. I haven't read it myself but it did make it to my future reading list. We were talking about how many products evolve and end up very different from the original idea or conception.

For example:
  • Flickr was first created as a feature, not a product

  • Paypal was originally founded to do handheld photography

  • Facebook was supposed to be an online yearbook for college students - not the world

All of these products have changed for the better. So what happened? What redefined the original purpose of these products? We did! Not 'we' as marketers but 'we' as people and users of these products. The rules of the game have changed. Traditionally this process is redefined with a select group of beta customers. Feedback is gathered and the product is refined and sometimes redefined entirely.

This definition and refinement process is one that product marketers are trained to navigate. It's the same ol' game but in a brand new playground - the Internet. The fact that we can listen to customers even when they aren't talking to us is really powerful. We no longer need to hold a glass to the door of the focus group, we've just need to tap the wire to the forum. Instead of getting 10 guided opinions we know have access to thousands of brutally honest ones.

As noted above, companies that listen to the market will have the opportunity to transcend their original vision and hear the roar of success that comes with giving a million eager customers exactly what they're asking for. Sadly, those with a tin ear risk going home with nothing but a Darwin award. In this game of B2B Survival of the Fittest - the company with the shortest path between product marketing and customers, wins.

Two examples of companies that are leveraging the Internet to get customer feedback early and often are:

  • Google labs which allows anyone to play in their playground by releasing 'beta' products and encouraging users to provide feedback.

  • whose open API allows developers to use their programmable web as their sandbox.

By taking the initiative to bring our customers into the development process we can get to the unexpected sooner. Cisco's human network campaign sums it up nicely, "Welcome to a place where an idea is created by one, tweaked by many and shared with the world. Where collaborative applications are rewriting the rules of business."

Thursday, July 5, 2007

YouTube Video Ads (Powered by Google)

It's the Google mashup of AdSense and YouTube videos and it's about time! In my experience AdSense and AdWords have consistently been up there with the most cost effective, lead generating marketing programs. Google has set the standard on non-intrusive design and placement of relevant ads on the web. That's why it's not surprising to see they've done the same with videos.

Thanks to Ekalavya, a contributor on the WATBlog for this clip showing what the video ads look like:

Many questioned the YouTube purchase amid all the trouble with the networks, etc – but if Google can figure out how to effectively use YouTube to enhance their core offering, I think you’d have to call it a win. Google reinvented the art of making money on the internet and YouTube is arguably the most powerfully viral internet app since MySpace and before that, Hotmail. If Google can take full advantage of YouTube to serve ads, I pity da fool that has to compete with them in the ad wars.