Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Pulse on the Blogosphere

Web 2.0 Puts the Interactive into Interactive Marketing
Great post from Paul Dunay provides a good layman's term definition of Web 2.0 that is right on - the title says it all.

Consumers Trust Online Reviews
It's no surprise that consumer reviews are valuable but knowing that they are considered Very/Somewhat credible 99% of the time stresses the importance of giving customers a voice.

StumbleUpon: The Antithesis of Google?
Although I would compare StumbleUpon with Digg or del.icio.us versus Google I do think this post gives a good definition of StumbleUpon and the value they provide.

8 Marketing Ideas from Facebook Groups
Wondering how you can use Facebook in your marketing plan? Maybe these ideas will get your creative juices flowing. The last idea - Event Related Groups - seems like an easy place to start...

Blogs are not Forums - Making them a Great Marketing Tool
Having had to give this pitch a few times I thought this post does a good job defining the difference between a blog and forum and how these two communication vehicles should be used. In a nutshell forums are a great tool to offset support costs and to get feedback on products while blogs are for conversation and relationship building.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Unity of the Web & the Desktop

Mozilla and Adobe are fighting for the honors of hosting the unity of the web and the desktop.

Google Gears may have started the conversation with offline access but Mozilla & Adobe understand how users work. Whether it's an icon on your desktop, your quick launch toolbar or your start menu, that's where all of your most critical applications sit - just one click away.

Both Mozilla's Prism and Adobe's AIR claim to integrate the web platform into the desktop experience while also increasing the capabilities of those apps by adding functionality to the Web itself, such as providing support for offline data storage and access to 3D graphics hardware. Who can do it better - Adobe or Mozilla - we have yet to see but so far I think it's a draw.

Either way, this gets me one step deeper to leveraging webapps for richer conversations – offline and online with my customers.

Monday, October 22, 2007

IDC's Take on Social Networking

In my efforts to learn more about Social Networking I also attended IDC's event, "The Hype and Reality of Social Networking" last week with analysts Karsten Weide, and Rachel Happe.

Karsten kicked off the event and had 3 main takeaways:

1. Lots of people are using Social Networks

  • 37% of people use social networks (not including children)
  • Include blogs, social bookmarking and video sharing usage goes up to 77%
  • Add wiki's, reviews and classifieds and it increases to 87%
  • 20% of business users actively contribute - which illustrates the importance of champions

2. Social Networks can make your business more successful

  • Product Research - being able to listen to what is and is not working.
  • eCommerce - Which products are good for me? User reviews allow for what?
  • Marketing - but Karsten warns 'be careful, don't overdue it'
  • Product Support - allow customers to help each other find work arounds and fix bugs
  • Product Development
  • Advertising - because there's a lot of inventory, there's a big revenue opportunity
  • PR - If you're willing to open the kimono you'll gain credibility but if you start censoring, it won't work

3. The Time to Act is Now - Here are six golden rules to get started:

  1. There are first mover advantages - act now!
  2. Target young demographics, grow from there (consumer demographic is 25 and younger)
  3. Foster champions for viral content and marketing. Reward them publicly - even if you just give them a title.
  4. Utility - enable user generated content, interaction, productivity. Give people something to do and focus on making their lives easier.
  5. Leverage distribution, marketing, PR and brand
  6. Leverage mobile technology - mobile access to enhance richness of social networks and the immediacy of information.

Here are the 3 takeaways from Rachel's presentation:

1. As content and information increases social networks become more valuable

  • Complexity drives adoption - 30-35% of business users are consuming content in Social Networks and 20% of business users are contributing content
  • Utility is Key - users need to get more out of it than they put in
  • Gathering implicit data to build a reputation over time by using explicit data through linking various profiles can increase value

2. Know and understand the type and objective of the Social Network

  • Enterprise - this is a directed network with a focus on collaboration. When starting an entrprise forum start with forums, then blogs - then add other communications like chat, wiki, and shared project plans. Allow the community to mature before introducing new collaborative features.
  • Self Service (ie. Ning) - marketing campaign and advertisement driven
  • Brand-Centric - conversation is specifically around the brand and sharing of content

3. There are inhibitors of Social Networks that enterprises need to address

  • Lack of Standards - no federated user access
  • Lack of Clear Member Value - do they get more out of it than they put in?
  • Enterprise Risk Aversion - perceived lack of control; legal concern
  • Unclear Information Policies - unclear guidelines for users; poor reaction from users to management decisions
  • Poor Understanding of Social Dynamics - low uptake due to lack of compelling value; poor or delayed reaction to community generated concerns

Overall it was a great event with good statistics to support the Social Networking rabbit hole.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Future of Social Networking

This months WebGuild meeting was focused on the Future of Social Networking. There were three panelists - Jai Shen, CTO of Rock You, Sundeep Ahuja, Founder Appfuel and Jonathan Abrams, Founder & CEO of Socialzr (or more notably the founder of Friendster).

For a pretty good play-by-play check out the Innovation Creators blog. Here I will capture my key take-aways:

  • According to Sundeep, Social Networking is going to become more implicit vs. explicit. This will allow us to take personalization to a new level with behavior adaptation. For example, you may have 100 friends but only 20 are 'real' friends who you interact with regularly - your network will be able to pick up on that behavior pattern and personalize your experience based on that data.

  • Jai makes a good point about how Social Networks need to evolve with people as they transition to different stages of their lives. He uses Friendster as an example where it was popular with high school and college students, then, everyone got married...

  • Sundeep's insights on monetizing things brings up the shift we're seeing throughout the web in that interaction and engagement is an increasingly important factor of measurement. Jonathan points out that while people are spending a lot of time in Social Networking sites, their intent is not to buy as it might be when they are searching for something on Google.

  • Forget about mobility - Jai bring us back to reality as he talks about how behind the US is when it comes to mobility. The fact that text messaging is just taking off is a sign and if that's not enough, the iPhone doesn't even support MMS

  • According to Jai, only 1% of Facebook apps succeed (measured by 1M users or more). Statistics like that one highlight legitimate questions about how attractive these types of applications are (or are not) as a marketing channel.

I'll be adding insights from the IDC Social Networking event that I attending this morning in my next post....

Monday, October 15, 2007

Blogging for the Environment

I was reminded by Christian Renaud's blog post that today is Blog Action Day.

This is an initiative to get every blog to post on the environment today. The result is over 16,235 blog posts so far (and still people question the power of blogs).

Since I know I'm planning a trip for the holidays and couldn't take Christian up for his challenge. Instead, I did a little poking around and found this great site with simple actions we can all take to make a difference. It's a pretty basic list and I know I can commit to a few of these this week! Can you?
From a marketers perspective one way we can all help the environment is to stop printing collateral that ends up in the trash anyways. One creative way to do this that is in line with the web 2.0 theme is to create interactive PDFs.

On a side note, I can't help but think how a similar campaign can be run in a B2B world. It would definitely increase the buzz if you can get all your partners (maybe customers too) to blog on the same topic on the same day. Maybe a launch annoucement?

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Redefining ROI

According Paul Dunay, "I" no longer stands for investment. He coined a new term, "Return on Influence". When it comes to Marketing 2.0 this exactly the kind of ROI that should be measured. Influence refers to the ability to indirectly control or affect the actions of other people or things.

The time we dedicate to blogs, forums and social networks allow companies to build a more personal relationship with the the customer. These interactions have a direct impact in the tonality and overall feeling of a brand.
However the question still lingers - how do you measure it? For this I turn to Jeremiah Owyang, the web strategist guru. Jeremiah talks about 'measuring engagement' which can be defined by "the level of authentic involvement, intensity, contribution and ownership."

Now consider a mashup of these concepts. The time we invest in conversation needs to result in "authentic involvement" from our customers - they have to spend time interacting with the brand. This involvement we get the more likely we are influencing the customer and therefore improving our ROI.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Vote for Cool Software

That's what Intel wants you to do with the launch of their new website called CoolSW. They are using collective intelligence to help sift through the millions of software companies to find the best one. They've created a social ranking system that allows them to find what's "Cool." I have to admit the software that currently has the most votes in the 'digital home' category is pretty cool. It's a web service that allows people to draw floor plans online, or upload images of floor plans which are converted automatically into 3D Google Earth. Would they have found this company and the many others listed with the 90K+ employees they have? Maybe eventually but they've decided to take the shorter route and rely on anyone who wants to participate in helping them identify and rate cool technology.

This isn't a new concept, people have always gathered together to share information but the internet and the advancements of Web 2.0 allow us to share this information more freely. And those who have taken advantage of this have illustrated the powerful result:
  • Google became the number one search engine by using 'PageRank' which uses the search behavior of millions of people to improve relevancy.
  • Wikipedia has become the world's largest and arguably the most accurate encyclopedia.
  • Innocentive opens up tough R&D problems for anyone to solve - since 2005, 58 of these tough problems have been solved by over 120,000 solvers.
  • Cisco's Connected Life Contest resulted in over 600 technology ideas in 3-months that will be used to drive product strategy.

It has been proven that collective intelligence works and those who have jumped on the bandwagon have the competitive advantage. How have you seen 'the power of many' used successfully?

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

B2B Blogging - Good Example to Learn From

I talked about Sun's blogging policy in a post a couple of weeks ago and how blogging played a major role in increasing their popularity from 99th to 6th. Here I'd like to take a closer look at what they are doing.

Sun has 3614 blogs but this blog is their most popular. Why is this one so special? There are three particular things worth noting:

  • There's personality behind it - this is a guy you want to talk to and maybe one you'd like to meet someday.
  • His writing has a distinct conversational tone. Notice how he weaves in other people and links to them - this is how people talk through blogs.
  • Product mentions - notice how he talks about their products/solutions. It is a Sun blog after all and people aren't expecting them to ignore that fact. As long as it doesn't become a marketing brochure!

You can check out other Sun blogs here.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Social Networking - Web 1.0 or Web 2.0?

I was talking with Richard Bennion, President CEO of Broadchoice about social networks and I was reminded of the USENET days. The ability to join groups and participate in discussion forums goes back to "Web 1.0" days. Users would subscribe to groups and when online their computer would upload articles to the servers they were subscribed to - of course this is back when everyone was on dial-up so there wasn't exactly instant gratification but it worked. People connected to people. Now, over 20 years later history repeats itself but this time we're calling it "Web 2.0" and it's enabled by Facebook. So can social networking really be considered "Web 2.0?"

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

The Power of Emotion

When I see good examples of companies using social media marketing, my first inclination is typically to think about how I can apply that to my domain: corporate B2B marketing. This past weekend though I was fortunate enough to share a plane ride with a great bunch of kids who reminded me of the power of creating an emotional connection with the customer.

The kids of the Wild Orchard clan from Santa Cruz, CA were top five finalists in the Oreo Cookie Jingle contest. For Nabisco’s Oreo brand, this was a pretty straight forward play: get customers to put their own spin on Oreo’s famous jingle and if you’re in the top five – you get a free weekend trip to Fox Studios in New York. If you win, you get ten grand and more Oreo memorabilia than you can shake a stick at.

Well, the Wild Orchards came in second place, but that wasn’t really important to them. What was important was that from Santa Cruz, CA – they found a contest online, made a video, and had a blast doing it. It wasn’t just a contest to them, it was art and the exercise created an emotional connection to the Oreo brand. Their video entry on YouTube has 1300 hits, they got a trip to NY for the first time in their lives, got to meet Carson Daly, and are now the coolest kids in Santa Cruz. Happiness doesn’t begin to describe what these kids were feeling.

Much like the people who came up with the idea for the Oreo Cookie Jingle Contest, my job is to think of ways to promote my company and my company’s products in ways that connect to the customer. But that doesn’t mean I can’t take a minute to appreciate the satisfaction someone gets in a well thought out contest entry. Hopefully, the creative folks who entered my contest felt the same way.