Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Is the Answer Disclosure or Context?

Another follow-up—this one to a post on compensating Mommy bloggers that I recently wrote for Reaching Women Daily. In that post, I argued for disclosure of any compensated blog post and suggested some guidelines for marketers who want to reach out to the vast blogosphere of mommy bloggers. (If you’re not aware of the vast network of connected moms or are looking for data, you might find this recent report by Razorfish and CafĂ© Mom useful.)

So I was interested in today’s 3-minute Ad Age video, an interview with one of the founders of BlogHer.com. According to the interview, they have a different approach to disclosure. It’s not on a post-by-post basis but requires the creation of separate blogs for compensated posts and those that are purely personal opinion. View the video here.

I searched the site (I’m not registered, but I didn’t find any parts I couldn’t enter) and I didn’t find an example of what Elisa Camahort Page describes in the video. I also couldn’t find a community rule that specified it exactly. What appears to be the newer BlogHerAds section may be the execution of the “context” policy, although what it says in the editorial policy is:

Contains editorial content that has been commissioned and paid for by a third party, and/or contains paid advertising links and/or spam. Every opinion expressed must be the true opinion of the author.

They certainly are concerned about blogger compensation; so is the FTC, which is still in the review process but intends to issue guidelines that will affect bloggers as well as other endorsers.
However, I wonder about the context issue. Thinking about how people read (or perhaps how much they often ignore), it seems to me that a disclosure policy like the one I reproduced in the post or a segregation of compensated posts still may not be enough.

If each post that had compensation (including “freebies”) associated with it had a simple disclaimer statement, wouldn’t that be better? That way it’s precisely where the content is located, not in a disclosure or an about this blog statement that might not be read.

That’s where it would be most visible and most meaningful. That would be good for readers; less good for marketers? Maybe, although in the long run, I still believe that transparency rules!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Starbucks is Most Engaged Brand

This morning I ran across an interesting followup to last week's post about Starbucks. A study by Wetpaint and Charlene Li of Altimeter Group found Starbucks to be the most engaged of the 100 top global brands studied.

They used "over 40 attributes" to measure engagement (p. 21)--no they didn't say which attributes. They then correlated engagement with financial results and found that "financial performance correlates with engagement" (p. 6). That alone should be enough to get your attention!

They discuss brand engagement best practices with emphasis on Starbucks but including others. There are other interesting findings, including a typology of firms based on their engagement practices. Is your brand a Maven, Butterfly, Selective or Wallflower? According to their findings, it matters!

A report worth reading--carefully!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Starbucks Listens--and Acts!

Earlier in the week Michael Estrin had a good advice in iMediaConnection for those who want to have a good blog, either personal or corporate. The graphic from Starbucks caught my eye. It perfectly captures the concept of a community being involved in idea generation for a brand.

I always wonder whether companies follow up on good ideas so I checked it out. Here’s what I found.

The My Starbucks Idea site seems to be the home page of the enterprise. It’s where you can sign up to be part of the idea generation process. It’s on a SalesForce.com platform, so clearly it’s intended for CRM. Do the numbers in the Categories section represent posts and comments—5,483 for Tea & Other Drinks, for example. Probably. I checked some of them and there are active postings, comments and discussions.

The Idea page links to the Ideas in Action blog where Starbucks employees give feedback. I captured a post that’s reporting on the number of ideas launched in a given week. Posts are frequent.

What’s really interesting is that there tend to be 2 or 3 comments on those employee blog posts—agree, disagree, whatever—there are a few comments on each post. Comments on the Idea site tend to be more active, and assuming that a point for a post represents a vote, the voting is very active. My point is that there seems to be more action on the site that’s mostly UGC than on the blog where employees, chosen for their expertise according to the site, blog about what they have actually done. Worth thinking about! Does it mean that brand enthusiasts enjoy talking with one another even more than they enjoy talking directly to the brand?

All in all, it’s a site—and a concept—worth exploring. Starbucks has created a community around something everyone loves to do—telling you how they think you should run their business. They’ve found a way to involve and engage, and they are following up in a disciplined fashion.

I’m not saying any of this is particularly easy, especially the follow-up. I am saying that it’s worth seeing what you can learn from Starbucks about engaging customers in your own brand.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Now It's "Inbound Marketing?"

I’ve found myself several times lately explaining (with an exaggerated air of patience) that now many people are referring to “Inbound Marketing.” I hear the term frequently, although Hubspot whose blog has that title, might like to lay claim to inventing it. In any event; they have a good post that gives their definition. Mine is simple. It’s necessary to get your message OUT to your target audience—wherever they are these days, and use those messages to bring people to your website to do whatever you want them to do there.

Is Inbound Marketing the new marketing paradigm? It well may be. Take a look at this chart from Hubspot. They characterize the outbound side as a sledge hammer, the inbound side as a magnet, and that a great communications metaphor. Look at that chart from a business perspective. Everything until you get to email (the only digital entry, you’ll notice) is expensive — some of it terribly expensive. On the inbound side, much is low in direct costs, although not low in expenditure of time. The exception on the inbound side is SEO. A lot of visibility is free—think tagging your blog posts. Some is relatively low cost; with PPC ads you only pay for the clicks you get. Website (and maybe blog) optimization can be quite expensive, primarily because it takes a professional to do real SEO. But note that there are other routes to visibility, a broader term. And in terms of email, it’s really outbound/inbound. Email links bring people to your site to take action.

I was also struck by Jeremiah Owyang’s recent post on organizing for social media. His hub-and-spoke concept was reminiscent of my metrics conceptualization, although in a different content.

So put these concepts together and what do you get? My concept of inbound marketing!

The spokes are meant to be categorizations, not a complete description of what’s out there. Take social networks, for example. I didn’t have room for MySpace, LinkedIn and many other popular socnets, so I just settled for “etc.” There are a lot of “etcs” in other categories also.

The strategy imperative is clear. No business can sit back and wait for customers to come. Without at least search visibility, they won’t. Firms have to get their message out to where potential customers are—remember the quote about teens and newspapers yesterday? These short messages have to be appealing enough to entice people to the website (or a blog can be a hub also) for additional information that will incite them to the desired action.

All of that shouts STRATEGY!!! None of this is going to happen by accident. If you’re still at the “we should have a Facebook page” stage, back off and develop an Inbound Marketing strategy that fits your target audience and your marketing objectives.

It will be time well spent!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Social Networks -- Ubiquitous?

The scariest thing about this report is its conclusion: If your target audience isn’t already on social networks, it probably will be soon! However, according to a study by Anderson Analytics, different audiences will be concentrated on different networks. The soon-to-be-released study was shared with the ReadWriteWeb blog over the weekend; that’s where I found it.

The RWW blog has a good overview of the demographics of users of the 4 major platforms. There’s a substantial amount of overlap in usage. Just visually, it appears that Facebook has the most unique users, followed by MySpace, although the absolute number appears smaller for MySpace. Neither Twitter nor LinkedIn have many unique users. They both have a big overlap with users of Facebook. LinkedIn has almost no “unique overlap” with MySpace.

That squares with a lot of what we already know about users of the 4 platforms. It also provides interesting confirmation of the most interesting report of the day. I found this report from Morgan Stanley on an @mattrhodes Tweet. What makes it intriguing is that it was written by a 15-year old on “work experience.” MS liked it so much they published it, and if your work has anything to do with young people, you ought to read it.

Two quotes:

No teenager that I know of regularly reads a newspaper, as most do not have the time and cannot be bothered to read pages and pages of text while they could watch the newssummarised on the internet or on TV. Ouch! Maybe double ouch!!

Facebook is popular as one can interact withfriends on a wide scale. On the other hand, teenagers do not use twitter. Most have signed up to the service, but then justleave it as they release that they are not going to update it(mostly because texting twitter uses up credit, and they wouldrather text friends with that credit). In addition, they realise that no one is viewing their profile, so their ‘tweets’ are pointless. He says it’s about the profile—fascinating!!

The Anderson Analytics study breaks social media users into 4 segments. According to Ad Age:

Anderson's research breaks down general social-media users into four categories: business users, fun seekers, social-media mavens and late followers. Of those, social-media mavens are the key group, not only because of their high incomes and decision-making power at companies but also because their large social-media footprints can make them brand allies and evangelists, Mr. Anderson said. Fun seekers are also an important group because they are the up-and-coming mavens as they transition from students to employees.

The report also segments non users:

Contrary to what some might think, people who spurn social media aren't tech haters. In fact, they spend as much time as social-media fans surfing the web. But they say they don't use social media for three basic reasons: They don't have the time, they don't think it's secure or they think it's stupid. While the first two groups -- which Anderson labels "time-starved" and "concerned" -- may be swayed to join eventually, don't hold out much hope for the last group: 94% said they will never use social media.

Their commentary about the concerned non users is especially interesting:

The concerned non-users are an older demographic (one-third are retired) who don't use social networks because they're worried about their privacy. However, they do recognize value in social media and may join as they become more comfortable with it.

The study also found that almost 50% of the “time-starved” consumers expected to use a social network within a year.

Hence the conclusion: social networks are soon going to be ubiquitous among all except the oldest Internet users—and they may give in also!

There’s more to come from this interesting study. You can follow Tom Anderson’s blog and the Anderson Analytics website—and do a lot of thinking about where/how to best engage with your target audience!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Glue Yourself to Your Friends

I found Get Glue by way of a mention on Jeremiah Owyang’s blog—thanks, Jeremiah! It’s an interesting concept, and I did a bit of exploring.

The basic idea is that you can share reviews, opinions etc. with your friends without interrupting your web browsing. Here’s what they say:

Developed by AdaptiveBlue, Glue enables you to connect with your friends on the web around the things you visit online. Glue is powered by semantic recognition technology that automatically identifies books, music, movies, wines, stocks, movie stars, recording artists, and more. Glue works hard to make it easy for you to find out what your friends think about things you're visiting online.

They have a brief video on their home page that says what they do, but not much about how it actually works. I explored as much as I could without signing up. What I found is interesting. Here’s a capture of the Glue Stream. As you can see by the pull-down, you can get streams specifically for books, movies or music. You can just let the stream scroll by or you can pause it, presumably to follow follow the link in the stream item.

I found the most interesting function to be the spider. It has the same choices—books, movies and music and adds specific users. I choose books because the new book Free by Chris Anderson, which I’m thinking about buying, was there. When I clicked on it, I was shown the users who had commented on it, and where. That’s useful if I want to find reviews beyond the ones I normally look at on Amazon. When I clicked on a specific user I was taken to a view of that person’s reviews, comments, etc. Cool! I went to the “popular users,” clicked on Glue Classic, and one of them turned out to be a restaurant I know. Four people had reviewed the restaurant. Hum—this is beginning to sound both interesting and useful!

I couldn’t get into any of the specific reviews because I haven’t signed up yet. However, I’m fascinated. It looks like a user can get a lot of useful peer reviews and comments here. We’re well aware that peer reviews are a prerequisite for purchasing for a lot of us these days, so that’s good.

Is it also a way for monitoring content about your own book, restaurant, whatever? It seems obvious that it is. It also looks like you’d have to do that manually for now, but it’s easy to do, and the reach of Get Glue seems to make it worth the effort.

This is Web 3.0 stuff, in that it’s based on semantic technologies. They’re searching quantitative data and making it easy to follow things or people you’re interested in. As I understand it, the service follows the user around the web, so it indexes your activity without effort on your part. If that creeps you out, then Get Glue isn’t for you. If you do this sort of commenting/reviewing to provide info to other people (isn’t that the main reason?), then maybe you want an easy way to share what you do, making it more readily visible to more people.

Yes, definitely interesting!