Thursday, December 20, 2007

Happy Holidays

Marketing with Widgets

It’s raining widgets! But we knew that already. They have taken over Facebook, are being adopted by Facebook’s competitors, and now media companies are catching on and starting to use them as ads known as Google Gadgets. A few months ago I posted some ideas and examples and even in just a few months the widgets have advanced and are being used in even more creative ways so I'd like to add to that original list with by expanding on the idea of a microsite widget.

Like the Google Gadget examples this type of implementation can go a long way beyond just advertising. I see this particularly useful for large websites where you can cross promote sections of your website. For example you can create a microsite of your products area and place it on the solutions area of your site. A product widget may include product shots, product datasheets, customer testimonial videos and news or reviews about the product. Mash it! You can also mashup the idea of a widget with an online game and include a game in the widget. This enhances the experience of your user who will not have to toggle back and forth between different sections of your site while at the same time making your site more interactive. Partner or office locators are other examples where this would be valuable.

Assuming you include an embed code in your creation, you can then leverage this same widget in your Social Media Release. Publishers and bloggers are then equipped with an easy way to enhance their story with an interactive widget. Partners and resellers who also promote your products can easily use the embed code to include the widget on your site.

Frequently Asked Questions
  • Can you track it? Yes, it is hosted on your site so you can track impressions, interactions and embeds.
  • Can you update it? Again since it's hosted on your site when you update the content it is broadcasted to all of the sites that have picked up the widget.
  • Is it proven? No, it's new - there is little data to say the people prefer widget over traditional approaches but there's certainly a lot of buzz around widgets and there are always bigger returns for first movers. Go out on a limb in 2008 and see what happens!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Social Networking Gets a Suit and Tie

It's no secret that Social Networking is growing. In 2006 over half of B2B technology buyers visited social networking sites (2006 comScore World Metrix). The top business players in the space are LinkedIn and Plaxo and they are driving demand by delivering consistent product enhancements:

LinkedIn's Half Open Platform
LinkedIn will be opening their nework to "allow developers to build applications that run inside your LinkedIn account (via OpenSocial) and the far more useful and interesting part — ways to pull your LinkedIn data out and use it elsewhere."

What I like about their approach is that they are sticking to their roots. They are a 'professional network' so rather than taking the Facebook 'apps gone wild' approach, LinkedIn will be keeping tabs on the applications it allows on its network. What does this mean? You won't have to worry about hamburger fights and karate-chops.

Plaxo vs. Flock
I wrote about Flock in an earlier post - you know, the Social Media Web Browser. Well Plaxo (with it's Plaxo Pulse feed aggregator feature) has a different approach to keep you connected to all of your social networks. They've announced a new Outlook connector - being that Outlook is primarily a business application you can guess who this is built for (yet more proof point that Social Networking is not just for friends and teenagers). What's cool is that it's embedded into the what is still the primary communication tool in business - email. Enabling you to 'get a pulse' on your contact before sending them an email will make your message more meaningful therefore deepening your relationship with that contact. Are you ready to give your Outlook a pulse?

Friday, December 7, 2007

Marketing with Facebook

Still not convinced about the uptake of social networking? According to Alexa metrics, half of the top 10 sites in the world are social networking sites including YouTube, MySpace, Facebook, Hi5 and Orkut.

I think Facebook offers a huge potential when it come to marketing. One out of 7 web visitors went to Facebook in the month of August. Some companies already see the value of Facebook and use it as a way to communicate to customers (like a new kind of email). However this seems to make the most sense for B2C customers - this is what I'm told. Although I agree that B2C companies have the most to gain I don't think it's a channel that B2B customers want to rule out.

First off, let's get over the myth that Facebook is for college kids. Not anymore! Over half (56%) of Facebook users are over 25 and 45% of those are over 35! They are likely to be college educated and employed with mid-level management positions. They may not be your decision makers but they certainly are influencers. Therefore shouldn't you be talking to these people? With such a low barrier to entry (free account set-up) - what do you have to lose, besides a little time being social?

Okay, so if you're ready to take the red pill, this presentation from Charlene Li of Forrester provides additional demographics, case studies and best practices for marketers.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Round up

  • Fast Company does a nice job of covering the history and future of blogging from a revenue generating, not traffic generating, perspective. They also provide a list of the most popular blogs as determined by Technorati’s link counting system. Definitely some interesting bloggers out there.
  • Latest update on OpenID. Bringing pretty robust identity management features to the social web. I’d suggest reading the article and the comments as some really great questions that were not in the article are addressed. Until now, the benefits of “single sign on” have been confined to proprietary domains.
  • More affirmation that browser-based, casual gaming is gaining steam. For those thinking of out-of-the-box ways to use Web 2.0, gaming is a great option as I discussed previously here.
  • Farhad Manjoo reports on the ongoing Facebook/Beacon debacle that Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook has finally given in and will allow users to turn Beacon completely off – as opposed to the partial concession made last week.

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...

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 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.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Blogging for Favorability

Corporate blogs are powerful in so many ways - changing perceptions being one of them. Sun is famous for leveraging the blogosphere for goodness with their open blogging policy which encourages all employees to participate in the blogosphere. Direct communication with customers can be used as damage control if you can show customers the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow when a product isn't perfect or thank them for an idea on a feature they hadn't considered. Responding to negative comments and posts offers an outlet to showcase customer service. This communication can convert a naysayer into an enthusiast and research shows that converted critics are the most enthusiastic fans (who doesn't want more fans). Here are two examples where Sun changed the tone of a customer: A Reponse from Sun and Kudos to Jonathan Schwartz - if that's not enough, take this into consideration - according to Jonathan Schwarz, president and CEO of Sun, "blogging has played a major role in the revitalization of Sun's reputation. Sun has gone from the 99th to the 6th most popular server company, largely because it has embraced authenticity and transparency in its communication initiatives”, according to the piece.

If you want tips on how to respond to negative comments and posts check out Andy Sernovitz, author of Word of Mouth Marketing blog post: A positive response to negative word of mouth.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Facebook's $10 Billion Dollar Decision

Who would have guessed that Facebook's decision to open their APIs would increase their valuation by 1000% in just one year. That's the valuation Microsoft would be giving them by taking up to a 5% stake for $300-500 million.

If you can't buy them join's a smart move for Microsoft since at least this way they lock out the competition, Yahoo and Google of course. But why would they be interested in Facebook in the first place? Facebook is more than just a social networking site - it's a communication platform that offers many options like social networking and community building. I actually think Facebook is more like Second Life in this way.

But what's in it for Facebook? Charlene Li nails it in her post:

Two thoughts about why Facebook would want an investment with Microsoft.
First, they already are working together. Microsoft sells the display ads that
are targeted against profile information, and will make up about half of the
$150 million in revenues Facebook will generate this year. This is part of a
multi-year agreement that will extend until 2011. And Facebook's unique
marketing value is that not only can the display ads be highly targeted at
actual profile elements, but marketers can also develop a deeper relationship
with Facebook members -- marketer relationships that Microsoft has in spades.

Second, Facebook needs to scale up a business that's both
consumer-oriented and also developer friendly. Microsoft has excellent developer
relationships and also knows a thing or two about how to build successful
consumer (and business -- watch this space carefully)
I would add one important point – BUZZ! Facebook may just hold out to see if Yahoo or Google dig a little deeper into their pockets. Do I hear a bidding war? As long as Facebook keeps the investment at 5% they have nothing to lose!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Advertising 2.0: It’s Raining Widgets!

Google launched widget ads – this mashup of a widget with a traditional banner ad creates exciting possibilities. There are a few examples here – I particularly like the movie ad – ‘A Mighty Heart’ and the Honda ad.

I like these two for a few reasons:

  • It’s basically a shrunken micro site – it serves as a great source of information. But also (probably because of the size limitations) is meant to present only the most important/relevant information, which is really all most of us want anyways.
  • If created properly the content provided may serve as a source of information that may be of interest to special interest groups, partners and hopefully customers. If the right information is put into the ad people will want to post it to their sites and why not let them? Google even thought of that and included an ‘embed this ad’ script (as shown here).
  • It’s interactive –they even have video components! Unlike a “pass through” ad, these ads combine the best elements of full web-apps with the portability and size of the traditional Google ad. Videos, forms, games, all possibilities creating an interactive experience for the user.

What would you put in your ad? I think it would be cool to show a 3D model or interactive diagram in there. Or if I were promoting an event it would be nice to embed the registration page in the widget itself.

Needless to say, this opens the door for a new use of the traditional Google Ad budget. The early question is whether this will be part of our existing Google Ad campaign or require a new strategy with a totally new campaign. Either way, I’m sure it means more marketing.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Conversational Marketing Summit – Day Two

Day two was four days ago now but it took a little longer than expected to catch up from being out of the office for a couple of days. Anyhow, here's my highlights from the summit - day two:

Case Studies: Virgin America & Dove

These were presented at different times of the day but I had an epiphany after the second case study. Although these are clearly B2C case studies I realized the rules of Social Marketing for B2B companies are essentially the same. Here’s how Johnny Vulkan of Anomaly put it:
  1. Leaning into the Frame – you need to insert yourself into conversations, no room for wallflowers.
  2. Branding Utility – make brands useful in peoples lives, if there’s no point in remember your company name, they won’t.
  3. Fundamental Goodness – products you deliver need to be good, people have more reach than ever. They won’t tell 7 people if they’re unhappy, they’ll tell 700.

This is all starting to sound like a broken record. However I was particularly moved by the second point ‘Branding Utility.’ The power of an emotional connection and the ability to make a brand useful in people’s lives is strongly tied to its ability to be social.

Dove in particular has done this very well –it’s not just soap, it’s about real women and real beauty. I was particularly moved by their pro-age (as opposed to anti-age) and self-esteem videos shown below:

The ability to make an emotional connection is no easy feat. Luckily for me Cisco’s Human Network campaign took care of the hard part, now I just need to ensure that connection is communicated in everything we do. Hmmm, can you see me thinking between the lines…

Can Big Brands Change their Approach?

This sessions started with a strong statement from Tina Sharkey of BabyCenter, “Change is about re-staffing the organization.” I’m not sure I think it needs to be this dramatic - I think change within the organization can happen if the right leadership and support exists. Although there will always be nay-sayers, I think “re-staffing the organization” may be a bit dramatic.

Richard Tobaccowala of Denou nails the biggest challenge when he said ‘you need to make today’s numbers but be relevant tomorrow.’

Tina then talks about how Johnson & Johnson acquired the talent they were missing when they purchased BabyCenter. Although they own the site they manage it as a separate un-biased community where they own no more than 15% of voice.

The CMO is being replaced by the CFO

Richard says we need to start self marketing. Marketing as we know (knew) it has become outsourced to customers and the role of the CMO is no longer needed – we need to shift to the CFO ‘Chief Facilitator Officer’ role. When it comes to budget allocation spend more on making what you make better and integrate search into everything you do.

Marketing in Social Networks

I was particularly inspired by JP Morgan Chase and how they leveraged Facebook as the platform to initiate a conversation with its customers. In fact, they created a special credit card to promote solely on Facebook and they gave people a reason to talk to each other by allowing people in the group to come together and pool award points and buy things together. But Own Van Natta warns us that some of these conversations have no end so we need to be prepared to commit for a very long time.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Conversational Marketing Summit Recap

I spent yesterday afternoon at the Conversational Marketing Summit and here were my key takeaways:

The Creative Destruction of Advertising

  • Chris Peterson of Chautauqua Communications explains that we need to rethink our entire process for marketing focusing more on content.
    • The new process includes: product + marketplace + audience - with that you create a content strategy which is then deployed through your media plan, distribution channels and creative.
  • Eric Vidal of WebEx (a Cisco Company), shared some of the content types that worked for WebEx including product placements, videos, web seminars, reports, podcasts and radio/TV. Here are some of their lessons learned:
    • Integrating the content was key in their execution.
    • Podcasts need to be short (7 min or less)
    • You can't stage user generated content - customers need instant gratification
    • Sometimess pretty doesn't work - plain text driven banners on blogs worked better as they were seen more as integrated versus interruptive
    • Customer videos were popular - when they were less than 4 minutes they had a 90% watch to completion rate
    • Don't script customer videos - it needs to be more natural (but you can call then and seed them with ideas)

The Conversation Economy - the Third Wave of the Interface Culture

  • John Battelle, CEO, Federated Media talks about the three interfaces of information:
    1. Back Office (c:/) - this is when interoffice conversations started happening
    2. Front & Back Office (the Internet) - where employees are 'messaging' to customer on the web
    3. Talk with Customers (search) - where customers go to get information
    4. I would add a 4th interface where we have just scratched the surface (social networks) - allowing customers to talk to each other

  • John talked about how much search engines love conversation - he brought up a search page for a car as an example and only 2 of the 6 links on the first page led you to the company site -- all others were 'conversation' sites including blogs and forums. This made me think that if you do a few searches like this on your keywords it's a good way to find out what conversations you should be joining in on.
  • Packaged vs. Conversation Media
  • 'We Suck Less Campaign' -- John had a great idea for the cell phone provider who's ready to be transparent. No one is happy with their cell phone carrier for one reason or another but cell phone carriers are still trying to send us messages "fewest dropped calls" "largest network" -- either way the real story is being told by the consumers. John's challenge to a service provider is to come up with a map that allows users to pinpoint dead spots then to have the provider start to fix the spots that are most complained about -- and if they can't be fixed due to city regulations they can explain this and can empower the customers to help by telling them who they need to reach out to. I think it's genius! But as Sarah Fay from Carat and Isobar later said, "the ability to execute ideas is severely lacking."

A Conversation with Scott Cook

  • Scott Cook, the Founder and Chairman of the Executive Committee, Intuit stated the obvious - focus on your customers. However Intuit has an interesting way of doing this - they actually recruit from their customer service organization to be part of the development team each year since these people are closest to the customer and have the best understanding of their challenges.
  • Scott brings things into reality when he says "the best way to kill a brand is to drive people to a bad experience" - he talks about BeingGirl and Tax Almanac as good examples where
    the user experience that fits the target audience.

Reinventing the Audience

  • Sarah points out that one of the differences between digital media is that you may be starting something that may never end - it's like planting a tree and letting it live and grow. This also means "trusting the conversation to play out as it would in the offline world."
  • Has Yahoo been listening after all? Jeff Weiner, EVP at Yahoo! talks about their plans to integrate their sites to provide more value to their users. He also talks about interesting ways they have monetized some of their sites through product integration. For example Nikon sponsored a 'Stunning Gallery for Flickr users and Yahoo Answers allows companies to become 'experts' in particular topic areas through sponsorship (I think they beat LinkedIn Answers to this one).

Meet the Ninjas
I can't say I understand these guys but apparently they created a video blog that has been wildly successful. This video pretty much sums up their presence at the event:

More to come ...

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Web 2.0 Makes a Good Service Great

Great example of why encouraging communications between users can increase the value they get from the experience of using your service. More than a “customer review” section as on a product site like Amazon, Orbitz’ new service encourages users not only to review travel services that Orbitz represent, but also to provide real time contextual information that could make the job of planning a good trip a lot easier. If you’re looking to stay in a hotel in NY next to the show you’re going to see, you may care less about the quality of the hotel and maybe more about the proximity to the theatre. Context is everything and being able to communicate with real people about their experience might be more valuable than anything else Orbitz offers.

This is not necessarily new thinking, the authors of Cluetrain captured it pretty well
  • Rule #8: In both internetworked markets and among intranetworked employees, people are speaking to each other in a powerful new way.
  • Rule #9: These networked conversations are enabling powerful new forms of social organization and knowledge exchange to emerge.
  • Rule #10: As a result, markets are getting smarter, more informed, more organized. Participation in a networked market changes people fundamentally.
  • Rule #11: People in networked markets have figured out that they get far better information and support from one another than from vendors. So much for corporate rhetoric about adding value to commoditized products.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Cisco Connected Life Contest Benefits from the Social Web

This is me exhaling. The Connected Life Contest I wrote about in an earlier post is in it's final days and we've already exceeded our project goal by 250%. The social media tactics we used showed a steady flow of entries almost immediately. Next time I'd like to spend more time building an online personality for the character of the campaign and being more active in the social web.

Overall it's been a successful campaign and I am most proud of the blogger reactions to Cisco's first ever Social Media Release:

PR Squared
"The Cisco release is great – it’s straightforward, easy to understand, contains lotsa links to additional content (including a video featuring the band members from KISS!), a YouTube community site link, an RSS feed, a Digg This link, etc. "

Agency Next PR
This ought to tell you a couple of things about the new media era in which some of us now live. Cisco Systems — you know, that company that is the worldwide leader in networking for the Internet — is having a contest to gather the best new connectivity ideas out there from ordinary, imaginative people in the big wide world.

Shel Holtz' Blog
The Cisco release hits most of the right notes with news highlights and facts, tags and keywords, links, quotes, multimedia, contact information, an RSS feed for all company news, a trackback URL and a link to the traditional version of the release. (Evidently, it wasn’t too time-consuming to produce both.) A purpose-build page would have been a nice addition, but overall, a very nice bit of work from Cisco Systems.

The Podcaster
What Cisco have done is allow the online community as well as the media to have access to a large array of additional information through the links. (I am not a journalist but I have Google Alerts and other tools helping me monitor the development of social media and online community marketing so I became aware of this).

Looks like Cisco is taking the red pill too and will be digging into the rabbit hole deeper with an announcement coming next week. I can't wait!