Thursday, May 28, 2009

More Digital Oldies--This Time Kindle!

I had the conversation again yesterday. “I’m not really up on this stuff; isn’t it for younger people?” It reminded me of a recent article in Time magazine about the age of Kindle users. Guess what? They are on the older side! There are probably two reasons. The Kindle is expensive; $359 for the Kindle 2 and $489 for the larger screen Kindle DX. Second, they are used to read print content like books, newspapers, and magazines. Ad Age recently pointed out that “print is not aging well.” Ouch!

According to eMarketer (May 20, 2009), The device, first introduced in late 2007, accounted for approximately 10% of total North American book units sold in Q1 2009—or about 4 million out of the 38 million books sold. You can also subscribe to electronic content like blogs on the Kindle, all of which should make for happy reading.

But that’s not all. Amazon recently announced a Kindle app for the iPhone. It’s gotten mixed reviews, mostly because the screen of the iPhone is so much smaller than that of the Kindle. However, for those of those who don’t want to carry something larger, reading on the iPhone may present an attractive alternative.

In addition, there is also buzz about Amazon making a college version available with preloaded textbooks. As a textbook author (talk about a broken business model!), that’s long overdue. My Internet Marketing text is available with an e-book option bundled with the print text or as e-book alone. I don’t know what the sales breakdown is, but every time I ask a class I find that few, if any, of the students have activated the e-version. Why they prefer to carry around a print copy is beyond me. “Comfort level” is the best explanation I can think of because most of the things you can do with a print copy (highlighting, for example) is available on e-books. The other issue for college students has been the price of readers. Still, I’ve long felt that colleges had to make book readers the default distribution method for text books.

The iPhone app and the college version both suggest that the age of the readers of e-books could trend down over time. For all of us who believe in reading, that’s good news.

What does it mean about the future of “print” media? Will we consume traditional print content on our electronic readers? Probably. Will there be a way to monetize it? We haven’t found an effective way to do that on the web; why should it happen for electronic readers?

All this bodes well for content on the go, whatever your age. It doesn’t seem to offer strong hope for traditional print media, though. That’s still an industry in search of a savior—and I don’t think it’s a Kindle!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Taking Twitter Seriously

MarketingProfs has just published a report titled Twitter Success Stories. It includes a survey of 200 Twitter users, most of whom are @MarketingProfs followers. Not surprisingly, they are using Twitter to promote their businesses, using both personal and business accounts. They use Twitter for branding and awareness (84%), networking (78%), community building (77%), brand reputation management (51%), customer service (44%), prospecting (30%) and selling (20%). They rate Twitter second only to their company blog in providing value to their business.

For those of you are wondering if/how Twitter might be useful to your business, the 11 case studies have the most value. Some are the usual suspects, about which I and many others have written; Zappos as corporate strategy, Comcast for customer service, Dell Outlet for sales. There are some less familiar names that provide food for thought. Let me highlight 2 of them.

Coffee Groundz is a Houston coffee shop that was looking for a way to stand out in a crowded market. The value it has found in Twitter started accidentally with a request from a regular customer for a breakfast wrap—he was in a hurry. From taking orders it quickly expanded into commentary on issues ranging from the local music scene to how to make good coffee at home. Managing Partner J. R. Cohen is a fan of TweetUps. Over 250 people gathered at Coffee Groundz to watch the Obama inauguration, drink coffee and eat sandwiches. A good example of community building!

Another case history comes from a familiar brand. Disney was looking for a way to promote its release of the Pinocchio DVD and Blue-ray. With the help of agency Razorfish they decided on Twitter as a channel and located Melanie Notkin of This website helps single professionals buy gifts for their nieces and nephews—talk about a niche site! She’s doing well at it—at the moment she has over 9,200 Twitter followers.

After watching Notkin’s work for awhile, Disney worked out a 3-week deal in which Melanie Notkin posted Tweets about the Pinocchio release. Notice of the sponsorship arrangement was posted on her blog. Neither Notkin nor Razorfish will give specific results of the promotion, but here’s a quote from a WSJ article (subscription required) on the program:

As someone without kids and who doesn’t watch much TV, Melanie’s involvement with Disney was the only way that I was made aware that Pinocchio was being made available for purchase again.— Rob Blatt.

That sounds like the target audience talking!

If you are seriously interested in incorporating Twitter into your business, you may find the $49 for this report a good investment. There are a variety of ways for businesses to useTwitter that are strategic, focused, transparent, and highly cost-effective. Check it out!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Doing Good PR by Doing Good

Have you gotten emails from a non-profit like the Red Cross encouraging you to “vote” in Target’s Bullseye Gives campaign? I’ve gotten several from the Red Cross, the only one of the 10 participants whose list I was on. When you click through to their Facebook page, you can play the video and they give detailed instructions on how to vote, just to be sure.

I’m sure that other organizations were equally active in trying to get their supporters to participate. With each email, Target is adding to its brand reputation and 10 non-profits stand to benefit significantly.

The campaign was also picked up by news organizations and bloggers around the country. I searched Google News over the weekend and found over 5 thousand entries for “bullseye gives.” That’s also major.

When you look at the Target campaign page, you can see that almost 300 thousand people voted. That’s a sizeable number and suggests multiple emails send to large lists by all the organizations. That’s probably the only issue here; the final results are likely to be proportional to the size of the organizations’ email lists, so care should be taken in choosing participants. In this case, each received an amount that provided a nice boost to their fund-raising efforts.

The obvious take away from this cause marketing program is the thousands of news stories and the millions of emails it generated. All of those linked Target with 10 undeniably worthy causes and highlighted both the good done by the non-profits and the willingness of Target to provide significant support to them.

There is a deeper message. The days when intrusive advertising could be counted on for effectiveness are over; I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve said that, but it is undeniably true.

Message to business: you have to find new ways of reaching people in the post-advertising world.

Prediction: look for more innovative approaches to cause marketing as a way of reaching people with a positive message in a way that has real social impact.

What’s not to like about that?

Monday, May 18, 2009

Transparency and the Media

I’m working on a post for Reaching Women Daily that includes admonitions on transparency, so Bob Collins’s retweet of an article in TechCrunch about the 104-year old British woman who Tweets caught my attention—thanks, Bob! A little exploration revealed more interesting facts.

First, this story seemed to originate with UPI, part of the traditional media establishment. They should have checked their facts more carefully.

First, does Ivy Bean, resident of the Hillside Manor in the UK, use Facebook? Not exactly. Search Facebook and you’ll see what I mean. I counted 30 or so facebook pages on the subject of this Ivy Bean (obviously there are other people with the same name, but most of the fan pages have picked up the same pic, so they’re easy to identify). This is the largest I found, the Ivy Bean Appreciation Group with 2019 members. She probably deserves the appreciation of this and other fan pages, but it’s not her page.

When you go a bit deeper into Facebook you find several pages with a message like this.

Ivy Bean is 102 years old and has been told she can no longer add anymore friends as she already has 5000 but has another 6000 requests all please join so Ivy bean can have as many friends as she wants as she is 102 thanx for support

I don’t see any Ivy Bean pages with 5000 members, so I’m guessing a prank here that other Facebook users fell for. There are a lot of people who need to get a life and the manager of Hillside Manor needs a lesson in Facebook!

Second, there are numerous blog posts that attribute the Twitter account to the Geek Squad. So I went to Twitter to find out. First thing I saw on my page is numerous people retweeting about Ivy Bean. Some were non-committal, others are calling it an unethical PR stunt. Ivy Bean does have a Twitter page, established on May 14 with 31 updates, as recently as this morning. "She" has over 12,000 Twitter followers; is following 94. I looked at a few of the people she is purportedly following—students, friends of Geek Squad members, perhaps—or just generally looking for a life??

In any event, I judge the Twitter page to be a scam. Worse, someone is perpetuating it, even after it was revealed as a farce.

The TechCrunch post says that the Geek Squad “press-released the hell out of it.” As if it was a serious event, obviously. One assumes that’s where the UPI got it, and British newspapers picked it up from there. Does no one in traditional journalism fact check any more? I just proved that it’s not difficult!

Marketers, do you want your brand associated with this kind of PR? Even little jokes can backfire. This seems to have been a serious attempt to garner press attention with false information. It also winds up making Geek Squad look like they’ve taken advantage of a 104-year old nursing home resident. I don’t consider that positive PR.

And consider the fact that it was bloggers who outed the incorrect information in the traditional press. It’s a strange world; be careful who you believe!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Survival of the Fittest--Marketers, Media, Agencies

I saw the Digital Darwinism article in Booz & Co’s online Strategy+Business magazine a few weeks ago. I read it, thought it summarized important ideas, then pushed it to the side of my desktop where it languished until a couple of days ago. When I received an email that it had been republished as a Resilience report I reread it and was again impressed with its insights.

Part of the reason is some good case studies; author Christopher Vollmer talks about HP and there are sidebars written by Carolyn Everson of MTV Networks and Ajaz Ahmed of digital agency AKQA. That represents their three key players in this struggle for survival; businesses, media and agencies.

The report identifies 5 behaviors that the fittest will use to survive:

1. Getting close to consumers. Hardly a surprise! The point is to “activate” consumers, making them “prosumers.” I think we used to call that brand advocates, but whatever we call it, it’s hard to do.
2. Stimulating conversation. Again, not a surprise. Advertising is out; listening and dialog are in.
3. Recognizing that content and context are inextricably intertwined. This puts a premium on careful media choice and integration.
4. Making better use of customer data and insight. In this fragmented media environment we lack integrated metrics to measure the progress of our efforts.
5. Building new, more collaborative relationships. This is where marketers have to work in close collaboration with their agencies and media to create the kind of meaningful, two-way dialog that will “activate” customers.

This report is essentially analysis of the fall Marketing and Media Ecosystem 2010 report, which I've written about a couple of times previously. While there is nothing startlingly new in the analysis, it is cogent, focused and a good reminder.

A friend commented to me recently that a brand of our acquaintance didn’t seem to have the basics in place. Good point. These are the basics. If your company/your brand doesn’t have them in place your chances of survival in a challenging environment are seriously diminished!

Monday, May 11, 2009

LinkedIn Polls--Uses and Abuses

People have been sending me polls lately. When I see them on news sites, I often don’t answer them. When someone goes to the trouble of emailing it to me, I often do. That said, I can’t remember who sent me a LinkedIn poll about the virtues of advertising during a recession but I answered it, checked to my answer against others (a minority position, I’m sorry to say), then started thinking.
I remembered answering one or two when CNBC partnered with LinkedIn last fall to do what I thought was going to be a daily business poll. CNBC is still doing them, but not regularly. I have the TV set to CNBC several hours most weekdays, and I haven’t heard about them in quite awhile. I don’t see anything on their home page. Do they publicize the polls in daily news alerts? At all? I don’t know.

The Poll app seems to be first cousin to the LinkedIn Answers app (I think you have to be signed in to see both). Either one can be put on your LinkedIn profile page. The Answers page is personalized to interests of the user, presumably issues listed on the user profile. Note that a question about online promotion/advertising by John Batelle is the Featured question on my page when I checked it (clearly they know it’s me; the profile picture is a nice touch to point out that you are identified, non anonymous).
Note that if you want to set up a polling option you can send it to your own network free. If you want to use LinkedIn’s targeting options, you have to upgrade to Premium membership. I didn’t try it because a question to the lovely people in my network “just to see if the app worked” seemed quite spammy to me.

Is this more than just fun and games, social media style? Maybe.

If you have a serious question that matches the expertise of people in your network, it’s worth asking. I would be more inclined to use the Answers app than the Poll for a serious question, so respondents could explain their reasoning.

Can the polls simply be used as an engagement device—clearly the intention of people who have emailed them to me recently? Maybe, but I don’t think you ought to push that unless you have a consistent stream of REALLY INTERESTING questions, and that’s hard. The email I received from a news site asked me to answer the daily poll and to suggest questions. Engaging, but also a suggestion that they don’t have a bright idea for every day! I also ran across a blogger who was annoyed by getting the same poll two days in a row, although my guess is that it was an opt-in. Good point anyway. The rule should be “engage, not annoy.” Where do you draw the line for your own target audience?

I guess I come down on the side of this being a better technique for a specific answer to a professional question than as an ongoing engagement device, whatever your target audience. I have no issue with polls on your page, website, whatever—anywhere they are not intrusive. When you email them to people, they become intrusive, and caution is urged!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Response Monitoring That's Military-Friendly

One of my students saw this AP article on military use of social media about the time I saw the one in Marketing Vox. She picked up on the amusing idea of a general using "friend" as a verb--thanks, Beth! My reaction was that I'm delighted when someone does my work for me.

This chart is from the Air Force, and it seems to me to all be right on target. In fact, soon after I first saw it I had a comment on another blog that exactly fit one of their scenarios. Good for the Air Force! And I highly recommend that you copy and save it for your own use.

I'd add one scenario that I've discovered through trial and error. If a commenter makes a comment about something other that the subject of the blog post, it's a good candidate for being ignored. At best, one brief factual response and ignore anything further.

What I realized is that a commenter like this has an agenda and is not likely to be convinced by either fact or sweet reason. The news blogs are full of commenters like this and they can be really annoying. But unless you need to get a fact out, ignore them. They have a short attention span and will soon be looking for someone else to annoy.

Happy monitoring!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Carz II - Land Rover Tweets; Other Autos Far Behind?

Unlike the long-term Ford campaign that I wrote about last week, Land Rover used a Twitter campaign around the recent New York Auto Show. They were introducing new models, so it can be assumed that they were looking for awareness and trying to generate buzz.

According to Ad Age
(subscription required) the campaign was executed by:

seeding so-called hashtags (words used in tweets that make it easier to follow an ongoing conversation via online searches) on billboards, taxi TVs and other out-of-home venues; spreading word of the Twitter effort through auto-obsessed blogs and online publications eager for a peek at its latest bells and whistles; and paying a fledgling Twitter ad network to spread the word among its army of compensated, heavily followed Twitter users, all of whom wallpapered their Twitter profiles with Land Rover branding. (In case you haven’t yet become a fan of hash tags, they are so popular there’s now a search engine for them.)

According to Land Rover’s agency, the campaign “cost virtually nothing.” Important note: that is media costs. I’ll bet Wunderman was well compensated for its services, and given the visible results, it deserved to be.

There was a big spike in Tweets during the period of the campaign and the sentiment was generally positive. What’s fascinating is that comments about the brand the new models looked to be positive. The negative comments were about the “sponsored Tweets.” Check it out; there’s no lack of transparency. I understand why some Twitter users don’t like it, but is it any worse than online ads, which they don’t like either. As far as I’m concerned, transparency rules!

There’s no doubt that we have a lot to learn about how to use social media in general and Twitter specifically. OneUpWeb has good advice: Brands are expected to have an authentic voice in Twitter. How to best manage and conduct those conversations, to meet both their needs and the demands of the Twitterati, is still up in the air. This chart from eMarketer (newsletter, April 20, 2009) supports that view. Internet users are negative about online advertising. If you read this chart from the bottom up, the story is that the more obvious the commercial content, the less likely users are to respond.

Are other car brands interested in pursuing social media? It seems so. Volvo recently used YouTube to introduce a new brand and it’s focusing budget on social media and search. Audi is taking a somewhat more “traditional” approach. Just this morning I got an email promoting the Audi experience and a slick new website featuring their A6 model.

Remember when online advertising was the big new thing? Now, if you believe the eMarketer chart, online advertising has been superseded by social media.

I believe the data in the chart, but not because of media channels per se. Internet users—all types, all ages—are looking for authenticity. Brands that provide an authentic voice and content of value will prevail. That’s easier said than done, but it is the challenge for marketers in all industry sectors!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Social Media Marketing Myths

My first semester teaching social media marketing is drawing to a close. I hope my students at Harvard Extension School have learned a lot. I know I have, both about social media itself and how to teach it. This week I took the opportunity to summarize what I’ve learned—see the entire slideshow at the end of the post.

The myths I’ve been collecting all semester long sum up a lot of it. Here they are—agreement and disagreement encouraged. These are the myths:

1. It’s easy. It’s not easy to understand what the social platforms can do, especially when platforms and apps are changing on a daily basis. It’s even harder to understand how social media can fit into marketing strategy.
2. It’s free. True, a lot of the platforms are free. Executing them well, however, is a labor-intensive process that has to be factored into the equation.
3. It’s about technology. Of course it’s not. It’s about people and their behaviors, their likes and dislikes, and especially about their desire to communicate with people they like and/or respect about topics of mutual interest.
4. Social media reaches mass audiences. Sure it does. But if marketers wanted to reach mass audiences, they could use network TV (if they could afford it). Part of strategy (see #1) is segmentation and targeting.
5. Marketers can talk about their products. See #3. People aren’t on social networks to talk to marketers about their products, unless marketers given them a good (beneficial) reason to do so. People are on social networks to talk about things they care about.
6. All Internet users will participate. Don’t we wish! See the 90-¬9-1 rule. And, as you do, think segmentation again.
7. Management will understand the potential. Let me ask you a question. Does the person who approves your budget have a Facebook page? Does that person Twitter? If the answer to even one of those is “yes,” good luck with your social media marketing campaign. If the answer to both is “no,” good luck convincing that person to approve a social media campaign!
8. We’ll see results right away. Boone Pickens built an active community quickly—with at least $58 million of his own money! Even the large corporations (think Johnson's®, Ford) who are using social media effectively don’t seem to be budgeting huge amounts for it. If they did, it would become a big traditional advertising program. Boone Pickens made that succeed because it was for a cause. Corporations have to be careful about making it look like “just another advertising campaign.” They are better off to plant the seeds and let the program grow--organically, if you will.
9.We’ll put it up and it will take care of itself. See #2. It takes careful planning, executing and monitoring. All of that takes effort; some of it takes serious marketing expertise.

If you have another one, we could make this a top ten list!

Take a look at the slideshow and see if that helps you identify something I’ve missed!