Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Robust Microblogging Tool

I don’t often write about microblogging. I’m not a road warrior and I have a strong preference for my desktop with its big keyboard and monitor. The limitations of microblogging also don’t fit my concept for this blog.

Ok, so it’s not for me. In spite of that, I see the potential usefulness to some people or in some situations. So I was interested when a colleague brought this site to my attention. It had been sent to her by Dr. Paul Levy, the CEO of Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital, whose blog I know. His use of the site suggested it was worth checking out.
The first thing I found was that you can post to many other platforms from Utterli. If you can recognize the icons on the home page, they include all the major blogging services, Twitter, YouTube and others. You can also follow friends on Utterli as you can on other sites like Twitter.

When I looked a little further I found an interview with Dr. Levy himself. He’s talking with WBUR about everything from preventing medical errors to the impact on philanthropy of the Bernard Maddof financial scandal. As a radio station, WBUR is essentially producing podcasts, and they have posted many of them on Utterli. Interesting.

So I learned a couple of good things. I found another useful social media tool—always a happy discovery. I also got a chance to listen to a thoughtful CEO talking about how he is using blogging in running one of Boston’s most prestigious hospitals. I’ve pointed out before that relatively few CEOs blog, and I think he sets a wonderful example of using this communications tool to do something very important within his organization. Check it out, and you’ll see what I mean. That’s a good thought to take into the new year!

Wishing You a Wonderful 2009!

Monday, December 29, 2008

An Interactive Social Media Map

Overdrive Marketing has developed a social media map that's as comprehensive as something like this can be. They've indexed it by websites and tools, which is also useful.

I lost the links by posting it, but you can get a version with live links on their website. Let them know if you have additional sites to propose.

Thanks, Overdrive!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Wishing You Happiest Holidays!

Send your own ElfYourself eCards

A similar campaign with more personalization options (and an interesting voice-over)
Ace Your Face

Have a Wonderful Holiday Season!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Customers Rate Experiences

Forrester has released its 2008 customer experience index report, based on consumer ratings of their experiences at firms covered in the study. Bruce Tempkin has posted some data on his blog and has a link there to the full report.

Forrester has 3 basic experience criteria—usefulness, ease of use, and enjoyability. The report gives a brief overview of their methodology. There are interesting comments on the blog and in response to one, he has given a little more detail on the methodology.

The results are interesting. Retailers and hotels rank highest of the industries studied. Health insurance and TV service providers are at the bottom. The large range of experience ratings given to ISPs is interesting.

In some ways, I’d say the top-performing firms are the usual suspects. Have you ever sat down in a comfy chair and browsed through some books at Barnes and Noble? The one I go to doesn’t have its own coffee shop; that would add even more to the experience. USAA is always near the top on satisfaction studies; one assumes that their superb customer service is a huge factor in the overall experience rating. When you look at other high-performing firms, they’ve worked hard on customer service, so it seems reasonable to me that the basic blocking and tackling matters. Then if you add a coffee shop or a pizza parlor on top, you can offer great customer experience. But you can’t buy great customer experience with only coffee or pizza, no matter how good they are! If customer service stinks, nothing else really matters.

It’s good to choose one or more of the high-performing firms to study and observe. For instance, there’s not a Cosco near me; I don’t shop there and was surprised by a student analysis of just how good their customer service was a few semesters ago. It also helps to follow one or more firms outside your own industry; that may open up new ideas.

Customer experience is the focus at the moment—on the web and off. It’s worth developing a vision and a strategy and devoting time and effort to offering great customer experience. It pays off, perhaps in sustainable competitive advantage.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Monitoring Community

For those of us who work in social media environments where the traffic is manageable (that probably can be translated that we wish it were higher!) monitoring is an ongoing but not huge job. Yes, it’s labor-intensive, but we know the issues and the values involved. Judgments can be made and unacceptable contributions can be removed or banned.

However, when you have a large vision and are willing to invest resources, you need more structure. All firms—large or small, experienced social media user or newbie—can learn from best practices of organizations that monitor their communities for the greater good.

I’ve written before about the Pickens Plan. It was launched in late summer and, in the run-up to the inauguration, is aiming for 2 million members. The plan wants them to be active, and that’s a lot of participation to monitor. My sense is that their district leaders are volunteers, but as I’ve noted before, Pickens and his people are not forthcoming about organizational details. But the leader in my district is an activist and has said some interesting things about the community lately.

What piqued my interest was an email in late November. It hit the right tone as a “friendly reminder.” It directed the reader to a blog post and that, in turn, to the Pickens Community Guidelines. If you follow links there, you see that the community is hosted on Ning and uses its terms of service but the guidelines seem to be specific to the Pickens Plan.

The guidelines are long but very much worth reading and thinking about. Let me highlight a few issues of interest:

  • “Be Polite” is the first rule, and it has specifics.
  • There are a lot of rules, all of which make sense to me, about proper use of the individual’s account on the Pickens Plan
  • There are many rules that can be summarized as “no commercial activities”
  • There are fraudulent or unethical activities that will result in account suspension.

and finally, to quote directly:

• We welcome constructive feedback, but will not tolerate excessive public posts criticizing Pickens Plan staff (including Site Administrators and Regional Leaders).

• Public posts debating these rules and/or moderators' enforcement of such will be removed without comment. We do encourage feedback and invite you to contact us if you have any questions or concerns.

So there’s a lot of effort here. I get the sense that they may be using some filtering software also, but again they aren’t forthcoming (in this case quite understandable) about tools and techniques.

Ok, so this is a huge public effort. What about large corporations, especially on the B2B side? I looked at IBM and easily found a values statement and a set of guidelines for a community of current and former IBMers. There may be other communities and sets of guidelines. This particular one is hosted on Xing, a global networking service, with its own guidelines. IBM added guidelines for its own employees on top of those.

Adobe makes a big effort to get customers to offer content that will be helpful to other customers. The guidelines for the Adobe Forums are specific to that purpose and, again, make a lot of sense.

What are the key take-aways on monitoring communities? I’d suggest:

1. Communities must be monitored in terms of acceptability and relevance.
2. They need rules of the road. The rules need to be tailored to the nature of the community.
3. The rules must be enforced. That requires individual judgment and action, and that is fine. If moderators don’t perform effectively—whether it’s an employee, a PR agency, or a volunteer—the organization should replace them, quickly and decisively.

This is a conversation. If it’s not civil, there will be many of us who do not wish to take part. Those who want to form a community should carefully think through its objectives and the guidelines and activities that will be necessary in moving toward those objectives.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

New Video Metrics

According to October data from ComScore and reported by MarketingCharts, “More than 147 million US internet users watched an average of 92 videos per viewer in October.” That’s incredible! The article goes on to say:

• 77% of the total US internet audience viewed online video.
• The average online video viewer watched 274 minutes of video.

Yes, young people 18 – 34 watch more, but we’re all watching them. Here are the charts for number of videos and number of unique viewers.

Hulu, with its emphasis on “long form” video is coming up fast. When I ask groups how many have watched videos lately, everyone says yes. And a lot of them respond that they are watching video of things they weren’t able to see live—time shifting. A final observational note; if you haven’t signed up for a YouTube video channel just to see how a channel works (and think about how it could work for marketers), sign up for the President-Elect’s transition channel and see how they are using it and experience a channel. Don’t worry—you can unsubscribe later, but the fact is, YouTube only sends me an update once a week. A setting probably—I don’t remember--but the point is that it’s not obnoxious.

Back to the point, which is meaningful metrics to understand and learn to make use of all this video that’s going back and forth in cyberspace.

ComScore measures traditional metrics with panel data. As you see from the charts, the basic metrics are:

• Total unique viewers and number of videos viewed
• Engagement metrics such as duration and videos per viewer
• Key demographic statistics for viewers of online video by site and category

If you want to know more, they have good video demos.

Quantcast, which describes itself as “a new breed of measurement service helping buyers and sellers quantify the characteristics of digital audiences against which they can activate addressable advertising solutions.” Translate that: they measure directly, by getting publishers to sign up with them and allow their site traffic to be monitored.

That’s what they’ve done with video. MTV Networks has over 350 digital properties, with the largest and best known including MTV.com, VH1.com, Nickelodeon.com, and ComedyCentral.com, The addition of all these sites to Quantcast’s network of directly-measured properties will certainly add to their ability to provide metrics in the rapidly-growing video field.

Interested in the differences between ComScore and Quantcast data? There’s been some back-and-forth in the blogosphere. Here’s ComScore’s statement and Quantcast’s reply.

The arguments about how best to measure key metrics has been going on since the dawn of mass media, and it continues into interactive media. New developments in metrics are important to all marketers, and we need to keep track of what’s going on!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Should Marketers be Listening or Talking?

I’ve been following material on reputation monitoring for awhile now. There’s an interesting overlap here between marketing and PR that suggests the need to modify our organizations as I suggested recently. Reputation monitoring is clearly an artifact of the social media scene; we didn’t need to do this when all communication was controlled by the brand.

I came across an interesting report from the recent PRSA conference that speaks to the subject. It has a simpler, more focused model that the one I used in the webinar (and still like) and it’s worth attention. The report is in the format of FAQs about social media—a nice presentation also—take a look.

Let me focus on a couple of issues of special important to marketers. The report groups social media tools into 3 categories based on their use by the audience—ones that create, ones that recommend, and ones that interact. Listening to all this conversation is the essence of reputation monitoring. The report also suggests that the audience is moving to greater interactivity as they become comfortable with the new media environment. That’s important for marketers to understand, but it doesn’t mean that it’s easy to get people, especially middle aged and older, to interact in most situations. Marketers have to work on that by providing real value in terms of content as well as products.

I haven’t found any social media pundit who doesn’t believe that listening is the first step. This report quantifies that advice. I especially like the advice to spend only 10% of marketing time/effort talking! And remember to “converse with” not “shout at.”

The marketer’s world has changed—radically and forever. The PRSA report has a set of useful guidelines to help us deal with this new world!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Twitter for Marketers

Here’s another new service for businesses that are using Twitter. Remember that I wrote about Zappos not long ago, their “twittering” CEO and the fact that they encourage employees to “tweet” whether it’s work-related or not?

BrightKit seems to have gone live about mid-November. Their website only seems to have two pages but it seems to be enough to get you started. And they do have a blog where they’ve been posting since mid-November. Question is, why would you need a Twitter management system?

Someone at Zappos was quoted in Marketing Vox as pointing out that they had a lot of log-ins and were wasting a lot of time. "We also disliked having to sign in and out of the correct profile each time we created a new tweet." Ok, even as a non-tweeter I can understand that.

The BizReport blog gives a number of other uses for those who are Twitter-literate:
- Promote deals and discount codes.
- Monitor and respond to product queries/information requests.

- Extend customer service support.

- Break news about products/services.
- Provide real-time event coverage.
- Generate brand buzz.

- Alert to new posts/articles on blogs.

That still begs the question of whether it’s all worth it. The BrightKit blog posted this video from venture capitalist Guy Kawasaki about why he uses Twitter but not Facebook or MySpace. For a person with global contacts and the need to stay in touch, what he says makes sense. Think mobile chat room!

So if this is all beginning to make sense to you and you are Twittering for business purposes, you might want to try out BrightKit. They are so new they haven’t even figured out a pricing policy, so this seems to be a good time to get in on the action. Or perhaps better said, to organize your Twitter action!

Friday, December 5, 2008

A Brand-Driven, Viral Fundraising Business Model

One of my students introduced me to SocialVibe—thanks, Tao! It is another interesting business model—a combination of fundraising for non-profits and cause-related marketing for brands. As Tao pointed out, the focus on social networks also makes the efforts viral.

Leading brands have signed up as sponsors. Consumers who want to raise money for a cause (members) select their cause and create a widget (they call it a badge) using graphics supplied by the non-profit and the sponsor. The member then posts the badge on a social networking page and earns sponsor points by getting donations there. As the site points out, it’s a chance to do good without the member committing a lot of his or her own funds. For the brand, it’s impressions on the social networking sites that are probably a lot more effective than paid advertising impressions.

Some causes are seeing it as an especially effective way to reach certain target audiences. To Write Love on Her Arms is a teen suicide-prevention advocacy that is actively using the viral power of the site. But others are going beyond just the obvious teenage target audience. A Canadian publication talks about using sites like SocialVibe to get out messages that attempt to stem the tide of obesity and the related problem of Type 2 diabetes.

Another active user is Charity:Water, a non-profit with another “new media” business model of its own.

It is impressive and heartening to see non-profits making effective use of the Internet in their fundraising efforts. It is also impressive to see corporations and brands joining in these efforts in a way that is beneficial all the way around.

It’s a good thought for the holiday season!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Is It Newsletters or Blogs?

I’ve had the same question asked in slightly different ways recently, so I’ll take a stab at answering. Last week in the “Starting the Conversation” webinar a small business owner observed that all this looked really labor intensive and asked what a small businessperson should do. I had some conversation afterward with a sole proprietor who faces the same challenge as she tries to build her business. In the webinar I agreed that much of the social media activity—while it can be free in terms of direct costs—is definitely labor intensive. The first issue is to prioritize how you spend your communications time. That’s true, but it isn’t very helpful.

This week I was asked a question by a board member of a non-profit that I didn’t have time to deal with. The question was “which is better, a newsletter or a blog.” That gets to the issue of prioritization and the situation is essentially the same—too much to do; too few resources.

This doesn’t cover the waterfront of social media options, but it’s a good place to start for almost any organization, large or small. These probably are the two most viable options for most resource-constrained organizations.

On one hand, newsletters are a staple of marketing. In the “olden days” of print newsletters and similar reminders were especially important to the small local business, either using rental lists or their house lists. They still serve that function cost effectively. However, you can’t do a good HTML newsletter free. It requires a services supplier. There are some essentially DIY suppliers that are reasonably priced. There are also industry-specific, or at least industry experienced, suppliers that may be worth an additional expenditure. Think carefully about what you need.

The other piece of good news about e-newsletters is that they are really quick to put together and send as compared to print. However, they are not easy, and a lot of small businesses don’t want to get involved in trying to figure out why the format isn’t working right or how to embed a video. I’d suggest that unless there’s someone with a smattering of HTML (and a lot of patience!) in your organization, that you think carefully about a newsletter. You may wind up spending a lot of time and experiencing massive frustration!

I don’t want to overstate the fact that blogs are easier to implement, because they are HTML templates also. But the fact is that a simple blog post is easier than a newsletter with several items. It is also more flexible in terms of timing and can take up several small chunks of time instead of the large investment of time every month or quarter to put an e-newsletter together.

There’s free software out there. I’ve been quite happy with Blogger, finding the basic operation quite user friendly. I find the most time-consuming issues to be sidebars, widgets, and add-on of all kinds; they often don’t work well across various applications. The exception is the e-mail and RSS subscription services, which I’d describe as essential. FeedBurner is relatively easy and reliable. I’m happy with the Mippin mobile subscription service. The traditional KISS is good advice for the novice. It’s also good to know that you can just delete the add-on if it doesn’t work.

The big drawback to blogs is building traffic. You may partially overcome that by using blogging software that’s provided by your website host. That means that people who visit your website have access to your blog—but it doesn’t mean they’ll read it!

And that’s the rub. Whether it’s a blog to which you must draw traffic or a newsletter which you must entice recipients to open and read, e-communications aren’t a magical solution. First and foremost they require good content that provides real value to readers. Then livening them up with images and videos is almost as essential in this e-media-cluttered world.

I’ve made the point before that this may be easier in B2B than in B2C. Business customers have serious motives for informing themselves about your products and services, and this may be the beginning of an eventual community initiative. In B2C markets you have to get out your marketing hat and market your e-communications just as you would any offer of value that you are making to current and potential customers.

That’s a quick look at blogs and e-newsletters. There are many more options. Here’s a good post for the beginner from Chris Brogan and a recent summary post that has a really useful set of links.

Do you have any success (or otherwise!) stories with blogs and newsletters that you’d like to share?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


Monday’s post looked at some of the challenges facing the CMO today. The common thread is that we must all adjust to the new media world, and in doing that we may find our jobs changed. The EIU report quotes the IBM SVP of Marketing and Communications as saying:

Some long-standing advertising agency partners are still figuring out how to help their clients make the necessary transition. The marketing agencies and the advertising agencies are really having a rough time, not embracing the new methods, but making money from them, says IBM.s Mr Iwata. Although virtually all traditional advertising agencies tout their new-media skills, some are relying on old-media business models and profit margins. For example, some agencies offer to produce podcasts and YouTube videos for clients, just as they produced print advertising and television spots. Yet they still charge clients tens of thousands of dollars, he notes, for new-media content that costs next to nothing to produce. And the clients who don.t know better say, .What a bargain compared to prime-time television. (p 17)

Ouch! I can vouch for how careful we need to be when buying services of any kind. I just ran into a situation where two services firms were offering essentially the exact same product but the charge differed by tens of thousands of dollars. Quotes for custom work often vary widely; that’s not a surprise. But I was surprised to find so much difference between two products that seemed to offer exactly the same functionality.

Mr. Iwata has been in the “chief communicator” job at IBM since July. The combination of marketing and communications under a single senior executive is interesting, especially in the light of what this study says. I looked around a bit more and found an excellent video done at the PRSA convention in October. Mr. Iwata talks about his perspective on how to meet the challenges—a worthwhile 5 minutes!(but you may have to go to the Nov. 22 post and pause that video; sorry!!)

With his comments about technology and social media being embedded into business models of all types today, the recommendations of the report make a lot of sense. They see they job of CMO morphing into a CCO in the sense of John Iwata at IBM. This gives the CCO a leadership role in:

• Defining and instilling corporate values
• Building and managing relationships among a multiplicity of stakeholders
• Enabling the enterprise with new media skills and tools
• Establishing trust with all constituencies.

A while paper by the Arthur W. Page Society calls this “The Authentic Corporation” (download from this page.) I’m writing this on the day that CEOs of the American auto makers are driving to Washington for another round of Congressional hearings, so the conclusion of this report seems especially prescient. They say that corporate:

actions and reputations, which used to be safeguarded by a cadre of professionalized functions, are now the responsibility of everyone in the enterprise. What used to be controlled within the company’s “four walls.” Is now spread across multiple partners, communities and individuals around the globe. (p. 6)
A tall order for all of us, especially the CMO/CCO!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Whither the CMO?

One of the items that’s been sitting on my desktop for a couple of weeks is a study by the Economist Intelligence Unit sponsored by Google. It’s entitled Future Tense: The Global CMO, and it represents the views of 263 CMOs from a survey in February 2008 (download the pdf from this page). A few days ago this report was joined by an interesting editorial in the WSJ that talked about the future that confronts the CMO. Put together they provide interesting guideposts for the path marketers need to be following.

When they asked marketers for the top three media most important to achieving their objectives, the response was 1) conferences and events 2) magazines 3) television. Online first shows up at number 6 and occupies positions 7 – 9.

When the question was changed to “in 12 month’s time” the change is stunning. Conferences/events remain in first place by a large margin. Television has moved up to second place! But look carefully; that’s because consumer/business magazines experienced a huge drop; trade magazines declined also. Newspapers continue to decline in perceived effectiveness. When you take that careful look, TV has declined in perceived effectiveness also—just less than their print brethren. Online content sites and search engine marketing experience huge increases in perceived important.

Think a year further on—what is this chart going to look like? More decline in traditional media? Probably. More increase in importance of online? Assuredly. If nothing else, the online media as less costly in shaky economic times. And, as we all know, online has a lot more to recommend it!

What are the marketing tools that support the shift in marketing? The WSJ lists five. I’ve changed the wording to make it more consistent with common usage and in the process reduced the number to 4:
1. From loyalty to attention. I’ve frequently pointed out that attention must be the first marketing objective in the new media world.
2. From audiences to community. Segmentation and audience targeting as we have always known it gets harder every day. The new media world demands communities whether they coalesce around brands, lifestyles, or ideas.
3. From advertising slogans (memes) to communications that people find worth sharing with others (bemes).
4. From siloed channels to integrated marketing. Channels—whether communication or ecommerce—must works together, not in the isolation of silos.

Each one of these, described in the article as Web 3.0 tools, represent a change in the way marketers think about and carry out their responsibilities. I'd stress that they aren’t tools for the future; they are requirements for marketing success today.

The CMO study has some important things to say about desirable marketing objectives in an age of globalization and consumer control. It’s also pretty clear that no one has a comprehensive model for changing the marketing organization to meet the new challenges and achieve the new objectives.

More about that tomorrow!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A Butterball Message for Thanksgiving?

What better to contemplate on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving than a perfectly-roasted turkey? Last week Ad Age pointed out that Butterball had joined Web 2.0. I considered that a charming thought and investigated further.
As I suggested on the webcast yesterday, I don’t understand all the angst about cooking a turkey. I think it’s one of the easier things to do in the kitchen and I’ve never quite understood the popularity of the help line. According to Ad Age, it started in 1981 with 11,000 calls. They now have a (seasonal, I presume) staff of 50 and field 100,000 calls. The Turkey Talk Line® is, indeed, a great marketing device but 1) it’s expensive and 2) it’s not entirely convenient for today’s on-the-go consumer. According to the senior v-p of marketing at Butterball:

"When the Turkey Talk-Line started 28 years ago, the phone was the best way to give people the important turkey-cooking information they needed," Mr. Klump said. "This year, Butterball continues to evolve and reach new cooks with initiatives like turkey text messages, a new mobile website and web chats, so that we can provide Butterball's expert holiday advice the way modern cooks want it, anytime and anywhere."

Indeed they can! The mobile alerts and website are a nice touch. They also have some other interesting social media initiatives. They are doing a live chat on their site today and another on the Gather.com site tomorrow.

I complained—rightly—yesterday about the lack of a live link to the informational page about the web chat from the home page. This morning a link to the information page has gone up. It’s about an hour until time for the chat to start, and the promised link at the bottom of the information page is not yet there. I’m used to B2B events where they ask you to sign up in advance. Looking around just a bit, I don’t see any other timed chats like this, so I don’t know whether this just-in-time provision of information is typical for B2C live chats. It seems to me to place a big burden on the person who wants to attend to remember it and to sign in during the chat. I checked the Gather site too and same thing. You have to remember to attend the live chat. Wouldn’t an autoreminder make sense for these?

They also mention blogging, so I looked. What they’ve done here is also interesting. They profile some of their “star talkers.” What you find on this page is that they’ve recruited three of what I call the “mommy bloggers.” All of them are active on multiple blogs and/or sites. That’s reaching out to bloggers in a very active way. I can’t find a Butterball blog, per se, so they seem to be counting on these established bloggers. A Technorati search shows considerable activity in recent days for “Butterball turkey.”

So gentle readers, it appears that Thanksgiving preparations are well underway. If you are traveling, do so safely! Wherever you are, do enjoy your Thanksgiving with family and friends, as I’ll be doing. See you next week!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

"Starting the Conversation" Monday, Nov. 24, 11 a.m.

Hope you'll be able to join me for the live webcast.

The slides for the presentation are posted here.

If you have trouble with the player, please use the direct link to the presentation, where you'll be asked for brief registration information and then redirected to the presentation.

I'll post the link to the archived presentation Monday or Tuesday. It will only be active for 30 days.

Check out the entire summit on the BrightTalk home page!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Guest Post: How Much Control Over Internet Content?

I'm delighted to have Ailsa Leadbetter as guest author today. She is Crossmedia Manager for vdBJ/Communicatie Groep, a Dutch media firm, and an astute observer of the European Internet scene. There seems to be both questionnable individual and governmental actions in this tale of the German Wikipedia site. Alisa wrote this on Monday, November 17 and notes that the main German Wikipedia page was still closed. It's open now. Her links all work, if you read German. I made the link to the English Wikipedia version because it tells the original story in considerable detail and gives updates as recently as today, all suggesting that the German politician learned an interesting lesson about the power of the Internet. Perhaps we should all pay attention!

Here's an interesting legal story: a German judge has closed the homepage of the German Wikipedia (www.wikipedia.de). Apparently, a German politician was not pleased with his entry in the German wikipedia and asked the courts to close the homepage. He has also filed cases against 3 authors of his entry (http://www.tagesschau.de/inland/heilmann100.html, in German, sorry).

Thanks to the fact that the German wikipedia and wikipedia.org are separate legal entities, German content is still accessible (through de.wikipedia.org). According to the Dutch article I read (http://www.marketingfacts.nl/berichten/20081116_rechter_sluit_homepage_duitse_wikipedia/), this injunction has caused the German politician in question much embarassment, probably more embarassment than the sections of his wikipedia entry that he originally objected to!

A few Dutch bloggers see a similarity to Nazi practices, specificially book burning. The injunction from the German court limits the freedom of communication, freedom of information exchange, in their opinion (and mine too, actually). Ironically, this politician was a member of the East German Stasi (secret police) before German reunification. It's a bit of a creepy tale, in that respect.

I just looked this guy up on the English Wikipedia and his entry there discusses this too. It says there that he will drop his case against Wikipedia Germany (but not against the 3 authors) but this morning when I checked the page was still closed.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Measuring Engagement

This could be a really short post. There is no commonly-accepted measure of engagement—bye, see you tomorrow!

Clearly that’s not very useful, so I’ll present some perspectives and approaches. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit in part 2 of their Beyond Loyalty report,

Some executives have decided that precise measurements may not be possible, and are trying to satisfy themselves with more general measures. “Quite often, the customer is satisfied, and if the customer satisfaction index goes up, that’s good enough,” says Mr Jennings of Reuters.

Interestingly enough, they point up the fallacy of the “we can’t measure it” approach in the paragraph immediately before:

Nearly half of our survey respondents say that the difficulty of measuring engagement is perhaps the biggest barrier to achieving greater levels of customer engagement. (both quotes page 9)

And I am often reminded of the quality management truism, “What gets measured, gets managed.” So ok, metrics are important, and some commercial measures are available. A search of comScore press releases turned up 45 releases on engagement and revealed metrics such as “visits” and “duration.” These are important site statistics, but are they a complete measure of engagement? Not as we’ve defined it.

About a year ago Jerimiah Owyang summarized a number of approaches to the engagement metric in an excellent blog post. It has lots of links and many interesting comments and it’s useful background leading up to a report released by Eric T. Peterson and others on September 7 of this year. This 54-page report is called “Measuring the Immeasurable: Visitor Engagement.”
Peterson and his colleagues go into great detail on the measurement issues and if you’re a metrics wonk—or if measuring engagement is mission critical to you—then you should read it all. I’ll summarize in lay terms, starting with Peterson’s conceptual definition:

Visitor Engagement is an estimate of the depth of visitor interaction against a clearly defined set of goals.

That’s a statement that incorporates behavior both on and off the website, and that’s important. As stated, though, it’s not measurable. Their computational definition is:

“Visitor Engagement is a function of the number of clicks (Ci), the visit duration (Di), the rate at which the visitor returns to the site over time (Ri), their overall loyalty to the site (Li), their measured awareness of the brand (Bi), their willingness to directly contribute feedback (Fi) and the likelihood that they will engage in specific activities on the site designed to increase awareness and create a lasting impression (Ii).

Here is how they define the variables:
Click Depth Index: Captures the contribution of page and event views
Duration Index: Captures the contribution of time spent on site
Recency Index: Captures the visitor’s “visit velocity”—the rate at which visitors return to the web site over time
Brand Index: Captures the apparent awareness of the visitor of the brand, site, or product(s)
Feedback Index: Captures qualitative information including propensity to solicit additional information or supply
direct feedback
Interaction Index: Captures visitor interaction with content or functionality designed to increase level of Attention
the visitor is paying to the brand, site, or product(s)
Loyalty Index: Captures the level of long-term interaction the visitor has with the brand, site, or product(s)

The good news is that these all appear to be metrics that can be derived from or added to existing metrics programs. That’s also essential, because a good metric for engagement must be part of a comprehensive metrics effort.

My guess is that this metric or one like it will soon be available from metrics firms, although I can’t find any evidence of it yet.

Marketers need to decide whether engagement is an important part of their ongoing strategy. The first post in this series suggests that it should be. Engagement is part of all the models of new media strategy, including mine.

The major point of this series of three posts is that engagement is more than choosing “engaging media.” It represents the outcome of ongoing dialog with customers and the larger community around a brand. Making that work requires both commitment and a rational strategy. Are you working on it?

Part 1 here
Part 2 here

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Save the Date - Conversational Marketing

I enjoyed the last BrightTalk summit on social media, so I was pleased to be invited to participate in "Conversational Marketing" on November 24. My presentation is "Starting the Conversation;" it's at 11 a.m. Eastern Time. I'll put the media player on Monday's post early in the morning.

BrightTalk is using a Facebook page to market the summit as well as email and, of course, participants like me.

It's interesting and useful. I've set up my own channel and I'll be using a webcast to answer questions about my social media course at Harvard Extension when enrollment starts on December 8.

What are you/should you be using webcasts for?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Drivers of Consumer Engagement

Yesterday I wrote about engagement—what it is and why it is important. The key take-away is that the combination of consumer and employee engagement improves bottom-line performance. I’ll concentrate on the consumer side and ask, “How do we go about producing consumer engagement?”

A superficial answer is that the new social media are interactive and engaging. That’s true, but it doesn’t provide guidance for marketing strategy. It’s not enough to just add some videos or start a company blog without having clear goals in mind and strategies for getting there. So the real question seems to be, “How do we get consumers to engage with our brand?” The chart from a recent Jupiter Research report distinguishes between interaction-based and communications-based engagement techniques and asks which ones marketers are using. That’s an interesting perspective, but it doesn’t address the strategy issue. Notice that their sample is “social marketers;” usage of these techniques is not this high among all marketers.

Last month I wrote about a CMO study of consumer experience with leading brands across several communications channels. That study focuses on the role of consistent, integrated content delivery across all channels—communications engagement in Jupiter terms. The most important part of the report (download here) may be the latter pages in which they give the items on which they rate the brand performance in each channel. Those items suggest performance benchmarks. However, that still doesn’t necessarily guide marketers in search of their own strategy, particularly which elements of social media will produce the most useful kind of engagement.

A study in 2006 by Carat for IAB in the UK is helpful. It focuses on mothers with small children choosing among several small car brands. The research on their information sources and decision processes summarized in this chart is pretty standard—multiple items (in this case “contact points”) factored into several engagement factors. Assuming typical marketing research, those factors have a significant impact on engagement with the brand. I’m not clear, though, how they measured brand engagement. There is an interesting Guide on this page, along with a series of brand engagement studies including this one, but I haven’t found the specific metric for engagement. I’m accepting it because they seem to be using “brand engagement” consistently, and I'm sure they must have defined it somewhere, perhaps in the IAB member content.

This kind of study (and they find the drivers to be different from one industry to another) illuminates the strategy development process. If the marketer knows the criteria (the factors, in this case) on which the consumer makes decisions, she can work to move the needle on one or more important factors. In this case, style is most important. Which experiential/ engagement techniques will move the needle on style? Video, perhaps? A customize your car, in this case around the needs of your children and resulting lifestyle? Fun is the second most important factor. How do you allow female customers to participate, even help to create, the “fun” part of the car experience? And since they want a feminine car, how do you deliver this to women and not to men?

I keep thinking that there is so much that marketers COULD do in the arena of social media. The strategy question is, “What SHOULD we do?” There is no one-size-fits all answer—this view of engagement makes that clear!

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Meaning and Importance of Engagement

A few days ago I thought I’d do a quick search to find out how we marketers are defining and measuring engagement. It had been awhile since I checked this out and I assumed there would be greater unanimity about what we mean. The IAB has a working group considering related issues, but I didn’t find any public information, so I went looking. I came up with enough for several posts!

Along the way I ran across a relatively new firm that specializes in what Allegiance calls Enterprise Feedback Management. Its Engage Platform facilitates measurement of both customer and employee engagement as a driver of business results. We all know that happy, motivated (read that “engaged”) employees deliver better customer service and create happier customers, but it doesn’t hurt to be reminded that customer loyalty and employee loyalty are two sides of the same coin.

So with that perspective in mind, what is engagement? We don’t have a commonly-accepted definition yet. Some of the popular definitions are oriented to the impact on the brand, others to how we actually measure engagement. I’ll look at branding issues in this post and metrics in a follow-up.

Let’s start with the idea that it’s more than loyalty. We all know that many satisfied customers defect. I asked a group of students last week how many were “for sale” to better offers from marketers. Almost all of us are. So, as the caption of the graphic indicates, we need to go beyond satisfaction in our effort to prevent defections. Here’s Allegiance’s definition of engagement:

Allegiance considers engagement the emotional bond or attachment that a customer develops during the repeated and ongoing interactions accumulated as a satisfied, loyal and influencing customer.

Peppers and Rogers add that all definitions of engagement have three basic components; intellectual, behavioral and emotional. That’s the basic components of attitude in sociological theory, which tells us something about the concept of engagement. (You can download both Allegiance’s Discover Engagement and Peppers and Rogers Engagement, The New Competitive Advantage papers here.)

The thrust of the Peppers and Rogers paper is that engagement can and should be measured. Their engagement chain concept shows the major drives of engagement for both customers and employees. The drivers are measurable and the paper notes they can be divided into engaged, swing and disengaged customers. They don’t say so, but it seems most efficient to target swing customers in an attempt to increase their level of engagement.

Is it worth the effort? This chart says that it emphatically is. Performance is significantly better on a variety of financial metrics measured over various business units in 10 different companies when customers are engaged. Little surprise there! Similar outcomes for engaged employees are reported on page 4 of the report. Firms with both customers and employees who are engaged are roughly “twice as effective financially” as those who excel on only one type of engagement (page 5), so the combination is potent.

One thing that strikes me is that this is the update to the Bain loyalty studies that made such an impact on marketers in the 90s. Those studies helped realize the importance of customer loyalty and retention marketing programs. Even then we recognized that loyal customers recommended, referred and, in general, were advocates for the brand.

We have now invented the term “engagement” to help explain what happens beyond loyalty. I’ll come back to how to create engagement and more on engagement metrics in days to follow—stay engaged!

Friday, November 14, 2008

"Every Cup Has a Story" - Cute or Strategic?

An interesting example of a marketing program built around user-generated content was brought to my attention by a Canadian student—thanks, Sarah! I wasn’t familiar with the Tim Horton’s chain of coffee shops, which is huge in Canada. It beats out McDonalds for breakfast traffic there and has a growing number of shops in the U.S., mostly in the Midwest.

It’s their current campaign that is interesting in a couple of ways. It’s called “Every Cup Tells a Story,” and they’ve set up a community page on their site to host it. The stories are tagged and searchable. I clicked on dogs, and then on Duke’s picture to see his story. All very cute and sweet! From a community point of view, note that comments are moderated—good idea as far as I’m concerned. From a marketing point of view note that the story page has several “share this” options as well as a GPS store locator.

Since they seem to be into social media I did some surfing around. There are a ton of Tim Hortons commercials on YouTube, most of which seem to have been created by fans. I didn’t find any recent “real” ads, so I moved on. It was on Facebook that I hit a mother lode! A search for “Tim Horton’s” turned up over 500 groups. Most of the ones I look at seemed to be the typical fan group of one kind or another. However, the second one on this list, “Biodegradable Cups at Tim Hortons” looked interesting, so I clicked through. It’s an advocacy page, urging an environmentally acceptable solution to the problem of coffee cups as solid waste.

A frivolous issue promoted by a college student, you say? The group has over 10,000 members, so there must be something going on. There is—a big push in Toronto to do something about the volume of solid waste that’s being generated by fast-food outlets of all kinds. As one of the largest, Tim Hortons is a focus of proposed regulations. Note all the related stories and the comments listed with this article from the Globe and Mail newspaper.

This really got me to thinking. Is the “Every Cup Tells a Story” a creative way to put a positive spin on the waste disposal issue? It seems more than coincidence to me! The waste disposal problem is real, and Tim Hortons assures us they are working on it, but as far as I know there’s not yet a biodegradable coffee cup. The campaign is a bit of the warm fuzzies in the midst of the waste disposal controversy.

It would be a good campaign on its own. If it’s also a way to blunt public criticism—hopefully while they continue to work toward an ecologically-sound solution—it is brilliant!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Guest Post - Ringtones for the Blind Part 2

Yesterday, Laura described the ringtone project for the Perkins School for the Blind. Today, she takes us through the often-difficult process to it successful conclusion.

Although our web administrators at Perkins are very talented, ringtones were not within their scope. Therefore, I began to investigate what other organizations were doing in terms of branding and marketing.

First, I emailed and telephoned the organization which had been reported in the press to have created Obama’s website. The company is called mStyle and, of all things, happens to be located in Boston! The emails I sent to the address posted on their site bounced back (not a good sign for a company in the technology space) and the telephone messages I left – three in all – were never returned.

Next, I Googled ‘ringtone downloads’ and ‘creating ringtones’ and other similar phrases and found a number of articles promoting this as a new way of reaching a younger audience.

What I discovered in my research was that some websites:
a) clearly had problems with the downloads (The National Zoo in Washington, DC has a message “Due to temporary technical problems, the ringtone samples and store are offline”)
b) worked through a consolidator of some kind (meaning that you are sent to a website which is not your website, and the consolidator makes money),
c) made the ringtones available, but not for free (in some cases as a donation to the cause as in the case of this Unicef campaign against violence in Kenya)
d) made the ringtone downloads so difficult to find that I never found them, although they had been cited in articles about ringtones (Ford Mustang, Porsche)

I ended up finding a new company called Myxer, which responded immediately to my email. The VP of Business Development called me back within an hour. When I explained to him what I was trying to do, he told me that although much of what they do is to enable people to make their own ringtones, or to download an artist’s ringtone, they also work behind the scenes with companies like Friendly’s Ice Cream to provide free downloads.

One of the ways Myxer makes its money is by showing ads on the text message you receive once you have requested a free download from a specific artist.

If your company or organization agrees to pay the equivalent of the cost of the ad placement, Myxer will not show ads and just provide your ringtone download without showing any other company’s advertising. This is the direction I chose to go in. Nonetheless, I had to give up the requirement that the delivery of the ringtone would be branded only with the Perkins brand and not with a third-party provider. When a visitor downloads the ringtone from the www.perkinsbrailler.org website (or from Friendly’s), you receive a text message from Myxer directing you to the Myxer website to finish the download.

Myxer was incredibly courteous to work with, turning their organization inside out to get us up and running in our very short timeframe. Moreover, they offered to provide the service for free until we reach a certain number of downloads, believing that our cause is worthwhile.

And we are up and running…

Still, this has not been easy. We have had feedback that people can’t seem to do the downloads – partly because they don’t understand how their cellphones work, and partly because the technology is complicated.

As was reported in a recent article in AdWeek, the technology is not really ready for primetime yet. Apparently this is due to a variety of reasons, including:

  • A large number of carriers, all having their own restrictions
  • A wide variety of equipment with varying capabilities
  • The type of message being sent, with some phones unable to receive some types of messages

This was validated recently when I attended a luncheon at which the CEO of Nokia spoke. During the question and answer period, I briefly described my own foray into the world of mobile marketing and asked him whether there was any initiative among various manufacturers of equipment as well as providers to standardize the technology and make it more universally accessible. He indicated that this is a very important question and although there are explorations being made, there is no solution at this time.

Our initiative is intended to be international since the Perkins Brailler is sold all over the world. But, the problems only escalate when you are talking about ringtone downloads with carriers in India or Africa.

All in all, quite a learning experience! But until the technology matures, this is still going to be a difficult road to traverse.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Guest Post - Ringtones for the Blind -- Part 1

Today I'm delighted to have a guest post from Laura Matz who is Director of Sales and Marketing for Perkins Products at Perkins School for the Blind, a world-renowned organization located in Watertown, MA. Laura contacted me last summer in the early stages of this marketing program. I've followed the development of the program with interest, and am pleased that Laura has provided us with a detailed narrative of the issues she faced. Today is the introduction; watch for the steps to a successful conclusion tomorrow.

I work for Perkins School for the Blind, responsible for international marketing and sales for a small division within Perkins which sells the Perkins Brailler® – a low-tech device used all over the world which looks like a typewriter and creates printed Braille. After 57 years, we have just launched the Next Generation™ Perkins Brailler® - a ‘reimagination’ of the classic Perkins Brailler, incorporating a sleek design, contemporary colors, and cool, new features which users have asked for.

Since one of the target audiences is young people who are blind and visually impaired – ages 8 – 15 and older – we decided to create an audio campaign, for obvious reasons. We contracted with a brilliant musician, Raul Midon, to write an original song for us. Raul, aside from being an internationally known, gifted guitarist and singer, is also blind and uses Braille.

One of the goals of the campaign is to enable a young person in a mainstream school who is blind or visually impaired to be able to show the new Brailler to his or her sighted classmates, and feel proud that it is a cool device; not something that looks old-fashioned or obsolete. In addition, we wanted kids to be able to share the song with their friends, blind or sighted, using the modern, new media with which kids communicate these days.

Therefore, we decided to turn the song into ringtones and post them on the website for download. I began to look for a company that would guide me through the technology hurdles and allow me to:
a) Offer the downloads for free
b) ‘Private label’ the downloads, meaning that I didn’t want to go through another website in order to download
c) Ensure that there was no advertising associated with the download, which could compromise the ‘integrity’ of a non-profit organization such as ours.

The example which I wanted to emulate was Barack Obama’s website which makes the downloads available for free, makes the process simple and does not appear to go through a third-party. Also Bounce at Procter and Gamble makes it free and easy to download their jingle.

Stay tuned for Part 2 tomorrow!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Customer Experience on the Social Web

Bruce Temkin at Forrester Research is a tough, thoughtful analyst of Internet strategies, especially as they impact customer experience. Many of us have enjoyed the Customer Experience Rankings he does for Forrester for several years now. Customer experience is critical to success, but in the world of social media marketers no longer control all the elements of experience. Bruce has recently set forth a set of “management laws” to aid in our social media journey. In this podcast, about 9 ½ minutes long, he talks about those management laws. The theme is “weave social media into marketing culture and decision making.” It’s worth listening to.
What lead me to his blog and the podcast was a reference to another set of “laws,” these for customer experience. You can download his white paper from the home page of the blog. I’d like to quickly summarize the laws:

1. Every interaction creates a personal reaction. Individuals have experiences, not segments or markets. How can we make experiences relevant to the individual?

2. People are instinctively self-centered. Whether customers or employees, everyone views the world through their own perceptual filters. They care about meeting their needs, not your business is organized and operates. You have to give them ways to satisfy their needs. See #4.

3. Customer familiarity breeds alignment. Share customer knowledge with your employees so they can be effective in meeting customer needs.

4. Unengaged employees don't create engaged customers. Enough said. The real question is how to engage your employees. See #5.

5. Employees do what is measured, incented, and celebrated. One of Bruce’s posts led me to a page on Tesco’s website; Tesco is my absolute favorite CRM example. Their “steering wheel” is a powerful summary of what they measure—and they are good at measurement!

6. You can’t fake it. And many of us should take a lesson from discredited politicians and remember that you can’t hide it either.

Openness and transparency rule! And thanks to Bruce for the reminder that building trust with our employees is just as important as building trust with our customers. Building trust in both areas should be Job 1!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Local Recommendations Go Social

I ran across a new beta called TrustedOnes when I was looking for something else on the free pr distribution site called PRLog. Since it’s about both consumer recommendations and local marketing, I was interested and checked it out. I couldn’t remember anything similar except the TouchLocal service in the UK, which I wrote about twice in the spring.

I had to create an account in order to see anything, but that’s ok. There was a privacy statement right beside the sign-up box (typo and all): “No information is collected for any purpose other then your enjoyment of TrustedOnes.” I got an immediate confirmation email and could sign in and look around.

If you know lovely Cape Cod, it’s a pretty small market. I tried Orleans, MA, the closest shopping area to me. Only one recommendation, for a restaurant in Brewster. So I tried Hyannis, MA, the closest to a metro area we have. Still only one recommendation—for the same restaurant in Brewster. I checked it out; the reviewer loved it. The page provided a map with the restaurant location and opportunities to add a review, share, etc.

In order to see more I changed the location to Boston. That’s actually the only complaint I have about how the site works. I had to go back to the home page to change location; why can’t I just do it in the location bar on the page I’m on? But this is a beta, after all.

There are quite a few recommendations in the Boston area in many different categories. I tried “landscaping” under “Other Services.” I got only one firm in Newton, MA, which is well within the trading area. When you click through you see other tags. In this case the tags included gardens (still the same landscaper in Newton). The reviewer was lyrical in praise of what the landscaper had done for her garden—interesting! There are also reviews on this link for things like maids and cleaning services. The page itself offers links to other services in Newton—obviously a much more active reviewing scene than Brewster! All makes sense!

I was interested in seeing if anyone I knew had used the service, so I gave it access to my gmail account to find out. Ok, so I’m sort of a trusting soul, but I had read their privacy promise. They came up with 278 names (which is more than I can find in my contacts list when I’m trying to find someone!)—sorry, none of them were members. I tried a specific friend’s name; she’s not there either; I could have invited her to play along. Notice the privacy promise on that page also.

I did notice that there’s one Mary Kay consultant from Providence who has put her business blurb up several times. Tacky, but obvious. Users of the site will take it for what it is; maybe it will do her some good, maybe people are indeed only going to look here for recommendations made by friends they trust.

The marketing take-aways are two-fold. The press release, which is the only info I found on the web, doesn’t give any hint of a monetization strategy. The potential for local advertising is obvious, and maybe that will come in time. Second is that I only looked at three recommendations. Two were effusive in their praise. The third was a strong but sober recommendation for a dermatologist, which made good sense.

Why do marketers believe that if they let customers say things about them, they will say bad things? Are they that afraid that their products/services are poor quality? Don’t they trust their own customers? Is a puzzlement, but one that marketers ought to be seriously considering!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


You may have had some of these during election season also; this is by far the best I’ve seen. So take a minute to view the video and to think about the power of personalization.

Then I’d encourage you to see how Boone Pickens is tying his energy program to election day.

Then go vote!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Video Ads Are Now DIY

A few days ago I stumbled on a mention of Jivox, which immediately sounded like AdReady, but for video ads instead of display. Looking at the site, I think my initial assessment was right, and that SMBs may be delighted to discover it just in time for holiday advertising. According to their site, their ad network consists of “over 600 premium - branded local television, newspaper, radio and weather related sites as well as some national brand sites and portals.” I see one of the major news sites in Boston on their list and others whose name I recognize, so the network looks credible.

The business was launched in March 2008 with venture funding and presumably is still in Beta, although they don’t make an issue of that. It allows users to create their own video ad or to run an existing video ad on their network. They describe it as a simple three-step process. Creating the ad is free, or they can arrange production. Let them explain the pricing in their own words as stated on their FAQs:

I thought the service was free? Why am I being asked for credit card information? There's absolutely no cost associated with creating your ads with Jivox. A conventionally produced ad for local television can cost $10,000 to $30,000, but you pay nothing for ads created with our revolutionary AdSlate technology. We charge you only for the advertising itself: running it on the sites in the Jivox network. Once you've create one or more video ads, you set your daily, weekly or monthly ad budget to place it on the Jivox network. Jivox will automatically match your ads with the audience that is most likely to respond favorably to your campaign. In addition, once you have a live campaign, we provide automatic upload to YouTube and to local search providers such as Google Maps and GetFave, free of charge.

The ads are created with an embed link so the customer can put them on a website, blog, etc., so they can do double or even triple duty.

There’s a gallery of ads and a page of case histories. These ads probably aren’t going to win creative awards any time soon, but a video ad could be a real breakthrough for a small local business like the B&B mentioned in a WSJ article about Jivox.

From the standpoint of both advertisers and publishers who accept the ads, this is another in a step toward making rich media advertising available to even the smallest local business in a way that makes economic sense. It’s also a way for publishers to monetize their sites, at least if the sites are advertising appropriate, as a lot of social media are not. That said, it puts a lot more pressure on the free content/advertising supported business model. Can that model carry the weight for publishers of content? That remains to be seen!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Impact of Social Media

Yesterday the Razorfish newsletter arrived. The October newsletter is not yet up on their archive page, but I imagine it will be soon. There are a number of interesting items, but the big news is the publication of their 2008 Consumer Experience Report (get the pdf here). Fred Aun has done a nice summary on ClickZ that covers some sections of the 84-page report, especially mobile and widgets. I wanted to look at some of the general marketing issues that are highlighted.

It’s important to point out that this isn’t a representative sample of the Internet-using population. They call their sample “connected consumers” who have broadband access, spent at least $200 online last year, visited a social networking site, and consumed or created some kind of digital media. The respondents were distributed geographically and by gender. Most of the respondents were between 18 and 55. Two of the findings about basic behaviors surprised me:

1. 91% of their sample use one of the 5 large portals—Google, Yahoo!,MSN, AOL, and Ask.com--as their start point. I thought Facebook and MySpace would be part of that list. Two reasons they don’t seem to be. One is that it’s not obvious you can easily use either as a portal page. Perhaps more important is that people are customizing these pages with a variety of content that’s not similarly accessible on the social network pages.
2. The second was the age issue. According to the report: “Digital Behavior Defies Age: We found today’s connected consumers equally distributed across all age ranges, with a slight skew to older segments." (p. 21)

Their results support and add to other data that emphasize the importance of UGC in product purchase, even though 76% of them are fine with brand advertising on social network sites. They are influenced by what they see on those sites; 40% have made a purchase based on advertising and 49% have purchased based on a user recommendation on a social media site. Search is still king when consumers start looking for a product or service online. However, UGC is key in the decision to purchase. According to the report: “peers are the largest influencers when determining when and what to purchase. The large majority of consumers (61%) rely on user reviews for product information and research, with a much smaller group (15%) preferring editorial reviews.” (p. 19)

How should marketers go about designing consumer experiences in this environment? The report gives 5 recommendations:
1. Share the spotlight. People are coming to the networks because they want to participate. Put the emphasis on the customers, not the product.
2. Leverage the platform, not just the site. Let people post, share, and embed—distribution of content is the aim. Hording content doesn’t make sense in this environment.
3. Embrace the network, but beware of the network effect. The report points out that social activities take awhile to catch on and spread.
4. Make it interactive and plan for multiple levels of participation. Their assessment of levels/types of participation is interesting.
5. Don’t forget the business model. They point out that advertising has not proven to be the key to monetization of social networks. New business models are needed. (pages 21 – 26)

There’s so much more, but I’d like to end with two important thoughts. The first is that people really want to participate, to contribute. Welcome their contributions! The second is the importance of distributing content widely. In the words of the report:

Distribution Trumps Destination: All signs point to the continuing disintegration of “one-stop” digital destinations, at least as far as consumers are concerned. We’ve found that they don’t want a one-size-fits-all solution for their needs. Consumers prefer using multiple destinations, and then aggregating media and services, via simple tools like RSS, into a highly personalized view of their digital world. (p. 24)

Getting your content out there is critical. How great is it when consumers put that content on their personal pages, on their social networks, and share it with their friends? The question for marketers is “where does content that compelling come from?” The answer seems to be “from users.” Then the question becomes, “how and where do we seed with marketer-initiated content that will generate great user content?” That’s the marketer dilemma of Web 2.0!