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!