Friday, November 30, 2007

Facebook Ruins Christmas

Earlier this month Facebook announced their new social ad program called Beacon that sends and receives your personal information to and from advertisers that will allow them to make money in several different ways. It allows them to use your endorsement (without you actually giving it) to your Facebook network. It also allows them to send you more targeted ads, increasing your worth to their advertisers. It’s different from other services that try to do the same thing because it doesn’t obfuscate your information. It actually sends your purchase history and clicking history to advertisers in the Beacon program.

An unfortunate example of how this can backfire surfaced when Sean Lane' purchase of his wife’s Christmas gift was broadcasted to over 700 people – including his wife.

Thankfully, organizations like MoveOn have pushed Facebook so hard, they got them to fall over and add an opt-in option giving the user more control over what gets published. So now your purchase information might not be sent to your friends and a bunch of ad-buyers, but they’re still collecting it! This doesn’t make me comfortable at all. It didn’t leave some other people comfortable either, so they built a plug-in to Firefox that blocks Beacon from sending/receiving.

I’m a Facebook fan and although I’ll continue my membership, I have to say this had made me reluctant to click through Facebook ads and will make more more aware of my privacy options when it comes to online purchases. I think they’ve crossed a line here and although they’re now back-pedaling, their willingness to sell me out by violating privacy in such a way is not at all encouraging.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Virtual Marketing is a Reality!

First it was virtual worlds, then virtual shopping now it's virtual workspaces! Qwaq, a company that creates 3D collaborative environments for meetings just grew their piggy bank by $7M to grow the company. Similar to Second Life it uses avatars so that each person has a virtual self - but with the focus on an actual 'workspace' there is a focus on sharing and collaborating office apps including Word, PowerPoint, Excel and others. Their initial customer list which includes BP, Intel and HP, is impressive and it validates the growing interest in virtual 3D worlds.

Virtual Worlds and 3D animations is also a growing trend in marketing. Here are a few things that I'm aware of:

3D Product Demos
Already companies like Cisco, Intel and even smaller companies like Mirapoint offer 3D product views. The virtual products are also starting to replace those that get shipped out for roadshows and tradeshows with the help of companies like Kaon Interactive which bring the interaction on a large touch screen so your products can be there without really being there.

3D Holographic Presentations
Musion Systems takes that a step further with true Star Trek 'Beam me up, Scotty' type of functionality where you can have a 3D holographic image of a person appear next to you on a live stage - even if that person is thousands of miles away!

Virtual World Events
A number of companies are hosting events on Second Life - here's a machinima video of a Second Life event I was involved with when we announced Cisco's Connected Life Contest winners.

Virtual Websites
Brookstone's 3D store is a good example of this for B2C situations. The Second Life sites like the one Microsoft has can also be considered a virtual website (or "island").

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

First Impressions of Flock – The Social Web Browser

After reading about the Flock release in this blog post which nicely outlines the features, I downloaded the new ‘Social Web Browser’ to give it a test drive. Here are my first impressions:

The good: For a social media nut like myself this is pretty cool. Similar to Plaxo Pulse it aggregates all of my social networking profiles but they’ve done it in the browser – a tool that I use everyday. So I can stay connected to my social graph while doing my daily activities.

The bad: It feels busy. There’s a lot going and it’s a little distracting with all the buttons, options and links. I think it would appear less busy if they would have chosen muted colors for all of the buttons and links. Also they didn’t think about integrating other RSS readers, they only gave the option to use the browser as an aggregator. I’m pretty happy with Google Reader and would have liked to simply login and access all of my feeds through a widget or something.

Favorite Feature: The drag and drop web clipboard – this is a place to temporarily save images, links, and even text. Today I often use an email window to save things I want to go back to that day and this may serve as an interesting alternative.

The bottom line: I like it enough to keep using it –for now. I’m going to give it a week and see if I can make this an everyday browser or as Scott Gilbertson says, a ‘weekend browser’. It will all depend on if I actually use the ‘social’ features and if all of the options don’t distract me from doing my job.

If you find that you have a little extra time between holiday shopping this weekend I say give Flock a try and see what you think. If you’re already a user of Flock I’d love to hear about your experience with it.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Is Web 2.0 Killing the Killer App?

Web 2.0 definitely has buzz, but has it become so prolific that it’s now becoming the preferred way to communicate electronically? Blasphemy you say? Not according to this article from this dude at Slate, who says the younger generation (under 25) already thinks of email as too slow and detached to be used for most communication. Facebook, text messages, and instant messaging seem faster, more efficient, and let’s face it, more interactive than traditional email.

When telephones achieved critical mass, letter writing quickly lost the mantle of most efficient means of communication. It was still better for delivering messages, but that’s a subset of communication. When trying to get in touch with someone quickly and efficiently, the phone was faster, cheaper, and more convenient. Letter writing didn’t die, but the US Postal Service definitely took Alexander Graham Bell off their Christmas card list.

It’s possible we could be seeing a similar, albeit less dramatic, transition today from email to a more efficient means of communicating. It would be impossible to list all the benefits email has had on the way we work and socialize so I won’t even try. I will say though that due to our fondness for it, we probably overlook a few of the more obvious drawbacks:

  • only about 10% of my email is relevant
  • asynchronous communication by definition is clunky and unsatisfying for most uses
  • I have multiple email accounts, and so does everybody else I know so getting someone a message is a bit of a guessing game

IMs and text messages can work for a lot of my basic daily communication without the drawbacks listed above. Is email still useful? Of course, but we’re coming to a point where it may be used more for message delivery versus actual communication, which in this case should be viewed as two different things.

What does that mean to marketers? It really depends on your audience and the nature of your campaign. Does your campaign rely on communicating with customers or delivering messages? Is your audience still relying on email for most of their communication or are they having conversations in social networks?

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Whole Foods 'CYA' Blog Policy - Don't Do it Or Else...

Back in July Whole Foods CEO John Mackey was caught making inflammatory comments about a potential acquisition target and arguing optimistically for his own company under a pseudonym on a financial message board. He later apologized for his actions and slipped quietly back into corporate obscurity, albeit with a lot of egg on his face.

This wasn’t the first time we’ve seen social networking like forums or blogging get someone in trouble, and you can bet it won’t be the last. The interesting thing to watch here is how these mistakes are handled afterwards. The Whole Foods example is such a good one because we’re able to see exactly what he did, exactly what the public consequences were, and now, exactly how his company is dealing with it.

Whereas most of the attention will continue to be paid to corporate blogging and it’s risks and rewards, not as much attention is given to the fact that the advent of social networking means that all of a company’s employees now have a public identity, and like it or not these people and their opinions will absolutely reflect on the company they work for.

In John Mackey’s case, Whole Foods is following what looks like a pretty vanilla “CYA” plan of protecting themselves from something like this happening again. According to Terrence Russell of Wired, a source close to the matter says, “company executives can no longer post on blogs, message boards, or chat rooms about company matters -- anonymous or otherwise.”

Unfortunately for Whole Foods and other companies following the head in the sand strategy, they’re not only fighting a losing battle but it’s a battle they shouldn’t be fighting anyway. In previous posts I’ve mentioned the wisdom of enabling and educating your employees rather than muzzling them but apparently one lesson in risk was enough to set the table at Whole Foods. As I see it there are two big problems with what they’re doing:
  • As customers continue to provide feedback and suggestions online in forums of their own choosing, employees should be empowered to respond and trained to represent the company responsibly.

  • As their employees continue to embrace social networking, Whole Foods has just forfeited the voice of their most passionate advocates in the most efficient and effective communications medium in history

These are not easily quantifiable risks, but potential opportunity costs. These problems wouldn’t result in Whole Foods being susceptible to embarrassment and an SEC investigation like Mackey’s faux pas did, but could very well result in them losing touch with their customers, losing market share to competitors and going out of business in a market where razor thin margins are par for the course. It seems like there ought to be some way to mitigate both sets of risks with a well thought out strategy that empowers employees while mitigating risk. Good thing for us companies like Sun are showing us how.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Wal-Mart's Social Media Marketing Transgressions

When it comes to Social Media Marketing there are few failure examples to learn from. Mainly because it's so new but also because many failures get quietly swept under the rug. Unfortunately for Wal-Mart, their mistakes are in the limelight but that gives us the opportunity to learn from them. Here are some pitfalls they could have avoided:

False Transparency - They got caught red-handed for staging thier blog (Wal-Marting Across America) leaving their readers feeling cheated and lied to. The couple who was RVing across the US turned out to be a PR stunt.

Build it and They Will Come Mentality - Last summer Wal-Mart built their own social networking site for teens. Did they really think they could compete head-to-head with MySpace? With more than 3% of their traffic coming from MySpace at that time, why not optimize that relationship and go where the community already exists? Doh! After just 10-weeks the site was taken down...

Obsessed with Control
  • Their recent Facebook campaign is anything but open and genuine. If you're going to leverage a social media platform like Facebook you have to be willing to open the kimono. Instead they decided to keep a lock down on comments and disabled the forum feature leaving visitors irritated and upset.
  • They are now threatening their customers from posting Black Friday ad posts. Why would they go to such extremes - they should be rewarding people who want to talk about them - especially since it's not threatening to their business. Reward your customers for having a voice - don't reprimand them.
This realm of Marketing 2.0 is new for all of us and there will certainly be a trial-and-error period but I think these mistakes could have been avoided with a little research and education. I gotta give Wal-Mart credit for not giving up and at least one attempt has worked - reviews and ratings - let's just hope they can handle the negative reviews. It’s clear though that at this point, they’re not getting it. Marketing 2.0 is about enabling conversations and they don’t seem to be interested in that. Quite the opposite in fact. They’re still acting like it’s a different kind of radio.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Marketing 2.0 - More than Just the “New Radio”

When Richard Nixon prepared for the first televised debate in history with up and comer John F Kennedy, he went in having advantages in experience, debating skill, and popularity among voters. Unfortunately, none of that could help save the Nixon camp from losing the debate to the young Kennedy who prepared much differently than Nixon. Whereas Nixon prepared for the televised debate like it was a different kind of radio, Kennedy knew it was a different medium altogether, and would require different rules and a new strategy. That recognition earned Kennedy a victory that turned out to be a tipping point in the course of his campaign, ultimately victorious over the more seasoned and savvy Nixon.

I believe that we’re now witnessing a similar Darwinian cycle among large marketing organizations when it comes to using Web 2.0. Much like television in the early days, a certain number of companies will engage Marketing 2.0 as if it were simply a new place for old marketing. But it’s clearly not. It’s a completely new medium, with new rules and new expectations that more often than not aren’t going to be a fit for traditional marketing activities.

The next year will be an exciting time for learning about how to build more effective marketing campaigns using Marketing 2.0. The healthy investment of capital into Web 2.0 technology and the breakneck adoption rates of high profile political campaigns, both real and not so real are going to force adoption in ways that many of us in the relatively conservative corporate realm wouldn’t be able to observe if not for watching them try it. As with the transition from radio to television, and then later from television to the internet, not all new ideas are going to be destined for glory.

Most of this blog is about highlighting the ways in which companies are finding success using Marketing 2.0 tactics, but I think we can learn just as much from studying the transgressions of our peers. I'll explore that further in my next post...