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!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Why Marketers Should Leverage Facebook

The American Chronicle gives us eight reasons and although I agree with Scott that that the viral nature of Facebook should be further down on the list of compelling reasons to use Facebook I do think the list hits the main points:
  1. The very nature of Facebook is viral.
  2. Facebook is the ultimate in social presence marketing.
  3. Your target market tells you exactly what it wants, and they’re easy to find.
  4. Over half of the people using it, use it daily.
  5. Better, stronger online connections.
  6. Hard core marketing is out of vogue and declining in effectiveness.
  7. Your clients — and your competition’s clients — may already be on Facebook.
  8. Facebook friends are willing to continue the conversation.

First on the list should be what they are calling "social presence marketing" which isn't even in Wikipedia but is defined in the article as, "the activity of promoting by participating in the pre-existing conversation around your target market, in a way that enhances and uplifts the dialogue, rather than intruding upon it."

This is what social media is really about - being social and joining the conversation. In some ways this has brought us back to a time when the marketplace was a gathering of local villagers who would all talk with each other and share their experiences. Now that same interaction is enabled in an online marketplace – the benefit to marketers is the ability to communicate directly with our customers. But it also means we can't hide behind corporate speak and those who try will suffer. As the sixteenth rule from The Cluetrain Manifesto, the original Bible of Social Marketing, states: "companies that speak in the language of the pitch, the dog-and-pony show, are no longer speaking to anyone"

Quick Hits

Social Media is Not a Save All

Despite efforts to revive Business 2.0 with a Facebook petition, the publication will print it's last issue in October. Not too surprising since it was declining ads and not lack of readers that led them down this path. But could social media could have helped them if brought in sooner? I guess we'll never know...

Don't Let Good marketing bring you down

What happens if you build a widget that becomes so popular it starts slowing down your servers? Yes, this is a happiness problem but a problem none the less. Nirvanix offers B2B online storage to take the load off. I can't say I've got this problem yet but it's good to know there's a solution out there if and when I need it.