Friday, May 30, 2008

Have You Been Pingged?

I’ve been evited, but I’ve never been pingged. Presumably the name of this new site is a play on the technical term ping—clever!

Pingg came to my attention as the result of a story from DM News’ Sara Holoubek. It’s a good story that has an important marketing point. I was initially intrigued by the complete “party management” service she described, so I looked at the two sites and found a lot going on.

Evite has been around for awhile and according to the site has 18 million registered users. Evite has recently added the ability to send and receive invitations from your cell phone (assuming that you want to. . .). It also has a photo page to which you can upload pics of your parties, so they are clearly adding social networking apps.

Pingg is new, having been launched in March of this year. It is obviously designed with social networking in mind. It’s surroundSend functionality lets you get your invitation to the recipient, wherever he or she may be. The event management function provides all the basics and some cool Internet apps. The gift and charity registry allows you to embed your Amazon Wish List or to ask your guests to contribute to a charity instead. If you’re selling tickets to your event like Sara was, invitees can purchase their tickets with PayPal. If you are doing this for a worthy cause, you can show the fund-raising target on your personalized event page. Not only cool, but useful!

Back to Sara’s point. If your goal is to draw an audience, just putting something out there, even to your handpicked guest list may not be enough. “Searches and online transactions all originate within the physical world.” Right! And with all the clutter in both physical and cyber worlds, it usually takes more than one communications channel to get your marketing message to its target audience!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Do Seniors Blog?

A few days ago I made the point that it’s not only the young and very young who participate in social media. Boomers and seniors do also. While I was sure it was a true statement, I was interested when I ran across some data on the behavior of older boomers and seniors. The first is from a Groundswell/Forrester post. Josh Bernoff points out that these two demographic groups are more skewed toward the Spectators Technographic segment than to the Creators. His advice: “help them out. Seed your networks and applications with content and make it effortless to respond. Seniors are a lot more likely to participate if you make the on-ramps easy to navigate.” That’s good advice for all target segments! Want to get a picture of how your target demographic scores on the Technographics? Try Forrester’s free data tool.

Interesting, but not surprising data. I kept looking and ran across a study by Ronni Bennett, owner of the As Time Goes By blog. Results were posted on her blog in five sections starting on May 5, 2008. As is the case with most Internet surveys her 402 respondents are self-selected from her readership, so the data only reflects over-50s who are active on the Internet. Pew data says that 72% of Americans 50 – 64 are on the net; it drops down to only 35% of those 65 and over. Ronni Bennett points out that almost 94 % of her respondents are White and 81% are women. So the data is skewed, even for the over-50 demographic, but it gives a fascinating glimpse of their activities.

Almost 88% read blogs, while “only” 54% publish one. The 63% who comment include the Creators, Critics and Collectors in the Forrester Technographics survey ladder (the Joiners seems to refer specifically to social networks, not blogs). It’s hard to compare a response percent to the index on the Forrester chart but they both show a high level of commenting or being a Critic. Interesting.

Respondents in the Elderblogger survey are active in a lot of categories. The number who list blogs and the number who say “banking” are both a surprise to me.

Other data reveals that over 69% visit blogs directly with almost 24% using RSS feeds and only 7% retail subscriptions. The RSS is not what I expected from this segment; the great majority who go directly to blogs suggest considerable reader loyalty. Almost 74% read blogs daily; again something of a surprise to me.

What are they looking for? Information and fun are the two top categories; tis may imply that these people have more time to just read for entertainment than some younger groups. There’s a pretty high level of socializing here too.

Elders are looking for useful content, entertaining content, and connectedness—and a surprising number are looking for it on the web. That’s something else that’s only going to grow in the coming years. Marketers need to connect with this group online!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Building a Trusted Business Blog

This week’s (June 2) cover article in Business Week is an update of their popular 2005 article on blogs. I’m making a direct link to it because it’s on the home page. I took the opportunity to read BW’s Terms of Use again (last updated April 2007) and found that the policy against “deep linking” is still there. In spite of that, the authors of the cover story clearly “get it,” as far as social media is concerned and the article is well worth reading. Not so all the other editors at BW. Maria Bartiromo’s interesting interview with Chris DeWolfe of MySpace has an edited-in definition: “A click-through is a measure of user engagement with an ad.” Hardly; Eric T. Peterson has an excellent discussion of the effort going into developing a valid measure of engagement to replace click-through as a key metric.

About the time of the first article a colleague said to me that if it’s on the cover of a major magazine, it’s mainstream (before we began doing it; true of many companies). It still is. One of the “alt tags” on the cover of the print magazine captures managers’ worst fears. “Get this: One worker’s ramblings on these networks could land a megadeal or sink the company.” Overblown, but basically true. There are ways of participating in the space while maintaining the integrity of the brand and the corporation. I’ve written about examples, good and bad and about the importance of transparency. Recently one of my students brought a set of corporate policies on blogging to my attention, and this seems like a good time to review them. Thanks, Noah!

I’ve taken some of the best features of several in order to suggest what your corporate blogging policy should cover. Here are important issues:

Coverage. All employees who blog who so identify themselves are covered. Purely personal blogs, with no reference to the company, are not covered.
Privacy. Employee blogs must link to the corporate privacy policy and abide by its terms.
Write well and clearly in a way that promotes interactivity. Make the style lively and personal; write about what you know and maintain your focus. Keep the blog active. Allow both email subscription and RSS feeds. Use images freely, but be constantly aware of intellectual property issues.
Be responsive. Encourage comments and discussion. Remove only material that is inappropriate under this policy or generally offensive. Reply to comments and emails in so far as you can. Never let a negative comment go unanswered, but insist that you and your readers be civil.
Be truthful. Identify yourself and post as detailed a profile as you wish, being aware of your own privacy. Never plagiarize; quote, link and otherwise identify content created by others. Be accurate; correct mistakes promptly.
Be transparent. Include a statement that these are personal opinions and do not represent the company. If any of your activities create a conflict of interest, reveal it.
Be professional. Don’t say anything that reflects badly on yourself or your employer. Don’t say anything that is derogatory to colleagues or customers or that reveals confidential information.

Charlene Li of Forrester has a good list, updated frequently, of corporate blogging policies that you can review. As you do so, think about any special needs and requirements created by your own circumstances.

Corporate blogs should be monitored, lightly. One approach is to make the marketing communications function the oversight entity. I sugest that brand/operating managers be the monitors. RSS feeds bring new material directly to them. In a very short period of time each day they gain insight into what employees are thinking and doing. This creates an excellent employee feedback channel with the possibility of being excellent insight into what customers and others think.

Does this policy outline apply to other types of networking, Twitter (often described as microblogging, for example)? Probably. Does it apply to other types of networks from personal Flickr sites to Facebook pages to LinkedIn profiles? Probably it does; the basic issue is still whether the person is identified as an employee. Purely personal pages may still deserve mention on the grounds that everything is connected to everything else these days (less than six degrees of separation?) and personal behavior should be acceptable to one’s employer. It would be nice if we could keep personal and work life completely separate, but it’s not that kind of world.

And it’s not a reason to fail to participate in the social media ecosystem that is fast becoming the communications standard around the world.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The News Media and Marketers

I have friends and colleagues who are bemused by the fact that a lot of people get most or all of their news from the Internet. I’m not because I’m one of those people. I read more “hard news” from traditional sources because they are fed to me by email and RSS. I supplement that with trusted Internet sources--some run by traditional media, many by trusted Internet publishers. I’m always tempted to add “even though I’m not part of the demographic,” but that assumes that only the young turn to the net for news. My conversations with Boomers suggest that many of them see the Internet as a major news source also. A Pew post from last week gives several more interesting references that support the argument.

Over the long weekend I stumbled onto an interesting report on the broader subject of changing journalism. The report by The Media Center of the American Press Institute is full of food for thought. It begins by saying , “In this report we describe a landscape in which citizens are increasingly informed – and inform each other – through means and relationships that disrupt journalism as it has been traditionally practiced.” There is an agenda; the report calls for a new journalism think tank/research center, but they make a cogent argument for a change that is dramatically affecting marketers. Unfortunately, the full report is 61 pages long; the shorter summary doesn’t deal with the issues most relevant to marketers. So here are some of my take-aways if the Walter Matthau imagery doesn’t completely convince you.

They call it We Media:

WE MEDIA: Audiences, not institutions, are shaping the future of news and information. The emerging ecosystem relies on a symbiotic relationship between traditional and new media. Civic, social and economic systems are set in motion. Standards of trust, influence and relevance are being redefined.(page 7)

It’s a complex ecosystem in which citizen journalists both compete with and provide sources to traditional media vehicles. See some great stores on pages 12 – 14. Did you remember that a blogger saw John Kerry’s plane take off, snapped the Kerry-Edwards sign with her cam phone, and posted it on her blog? She beat the Democratic committee announcement of the vice-presidential choice by 1 hour and traditional newspapers by 24 hours. I didn’t.

It has become a complex ecosystem with citizen journalists operating under different rules from traditional journalists and trust being a major issue for both (see the stories to refresh your memory). This graphic shows The Media Center’s view of the ecosystem (page 15). The image is pixilated in the original, but I can read Filtering of the News in the top quadrant and Conversation in the right. Maybe someone will fill the other two boxes in for us.

If you don’t have time to read anything else, I’d suggest the Convergence section on pages 21 – 28. It’s a thoughtful discussion of where the business models are/should be heading. They summarize by saying:

Unfortunately, the defensive strategies [reliance on the advertising-supported model] have yielded mostly narrow, and largely disappointing, results. Even the most successful online operations – those at The New York Times, Knight Ridder and Tribune companies – have generated revenues equivalent to less than 4 percent (and typically 2 percent or less) of total revenues at news companies. These meager revenues fail to replace losses of 15 percent or more in print classifieds and display advertising – advertising that has migrated to the Internet – in each of the past three years. Not only have online news operations failed to replace this lost business, they have failed to either create a growth strategy or to define news media in the visible future. Most of the $10.5 billion in online revenue generated in 2004 will go to the top 50 Internet sites such as Microsoft, Google, Yahoo! and eBays. Only a handful of news sites –,, New York, and – crack that list, sharing less than $100 million in revenue, or a relative sliver of Yahoo’s $50 billion market cap.(page 28)

The lengthy ending section on the industry (page 52 on) is also relevant to marketers. This brief summary captures a great deal of it (page 4).

I recently quoted the statistics that suggest that advertising expenditures are not keeping up with the changing media habits of the consumer. This study puts a flesh on the bones of that argument.

Marketers must shift their efforts to the content channels where their customers are. And they must not rest on the comfortable assumption that it is only the young who rely on the Internet for most of their information. Two reasons; first, it’s not true of demographics up to, and increasingly including, Boomers. Second, the younger demographics—Gens X through Z, if you will—are going to get older, and they’re going to continue to rely on non-traditional, interactive, user-generated media. There will be ongoing change in specific channels, but the trend is inexorable and it's ongoing. The disruptive change we have seen so far is not over. Marketers need to be riding the wave, not fighting it!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Men, Women and Social Networking Data

Late yesterday afternoon a headline on this subject caught my attention. It must say something about the rapidity of change and news in this space that this morning I can’t find it on either of the sites where I think I saw it! Fortunately, I used the time-honored tactic of making a cryptic note on a sticky pad and it led me back to the site Rapleaf.

I was looking for the data from their social media study, but on the way I took a small detour. Who can resist looking up their own email address to see what’s out there. The site knows correctly that I belong to Facebook and LinkedIn. It also has my Amazon Wish List—wonder how they got that? The data on my profile all came from MySpace (try it yourself, and you’ll see). I thought I had cancelled that account a long time ago. The link was connected to my very minimal profile on MySpace that still exists. I looked up the directions and tried to cancel the account—we’ll see.
Having satisfied my curiosity, I looked for the study. It’s not terribly new having been released in November 2007. It’s also not comprehensive; it covers only social networks on Google’s Open Social platform. Still, it’s very interesting. I just choose to take headlines from various articles on it; that gives you the links:

•The Social Media Gender Gap (Business Week, May 18, 2008)
Women ‘Lead the Way” in Social Networking (UK)
Women ‘Hold Down the Fort’ of Social Networking (UK)
Women ‘Outpacing Men’ on Social Media (UK)
More Men are Uber Connectors
Men More Likely to Use Social Networking for Business
Women Make More Friends on Social Networks
Women Like to Socialize But Men Are All Business on Social Networks
Men and Women Differ on Social Networks

Paints an interesting picture, even if you just read the headlines! But there’s more. They offer business services that, according to the site:

Analyze the social web footprint of your consumers to effectively plan online ad campaigns and engage with your consumers across social networks.

Discover the demographics of your customer base, including age and gender groups across social sites.

Identify influencers and friend groups among your consumers, to drive new referrals and viral marketing.

Yes, there are privacy issues. But it gives marketers who want to reach users of social networks not only a lot to think about, but a tool that may help them connect with networkers.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Financial Service Aggregators and Trust

Last week I received an email from Aimen Minhas, VP marketing at start-up PageOnce quickly followed by one from Guy Goldstein, CEO (listen to WSJ podcast here). They were reaching out to bloggers with information about their service, which is currently in private beta.

Essentially their message is that the user Finds (adds) the accounts--from financial services to social networks--that she wants to manage, Views and manages them from a single page and then Relaxes, letting PageOnce take care of details involved in managing all these accounts. It's the type of aggregation for the convenience of users that Internet pundits have been talking about since the early days.

Their emails came at a particularly interesting time. Someone, an amateur fortunately, had gotten the number of the credit card I use exclusively for Internet purchases. I was busy and hadn't checked my accounts for a few days; might not have noticed it right away anyway because the amounts were small and the amount of my total bill wouldn't have prompted me to look at the detail. Bank of America, though, caught it right away because there had been two $0 purchases recorded which customer service explained was the thief testing the account. BofA sent me multiple emails and left a voice mail. From there it's kind of a long story, only because I was away from home and got back Sunday night when the system was updating and couldn't be accessed. But a hold was put on the account right away and on Monday morning I did all the right things to get it taken care of. So far all the joker had actually purchased was two memberships in't that trackable if anyone cared enough?

BofA handled this well and prevented further damage. Isn't that exactly what they are supposed to do? How would another layer of security help? All I've read suggests that PageOnce has strong security in place; certainly their executive team has strong IT backgrounds and extensive security experience. All the pieces are in place, but I wonder how easy it's going to be to get users to commit financial services data to an unknown site.

One of my students wrote about another financial services aggregator on our Internet marketing class blog a few weeks ago. I'm not making a link because the blog will go down sometime after the semester ends, but I'd like to quote some of what Yolanda said about

Although it looks a great way to handle your finances, I still feel skeptical about typing my accounts information in the site even though Mint claims to have high security. The company teamed with Yodlee, an on-line banking-service provider, to make secure connections to banks. The registration is anonymous because the system just asks for your e-mail address, password and zip code. The company also claims that it never stores password information or see account numbers. In spite of all these claims, I still do not feel secure on typing my account information on the site. I am not definitely in my twenties and maybe that is why this thing of sharing information still scares me. However, if my bank could provide this kind of service, I would definitely look forward to it. (Yolanda Cantu, May 5, 2008, Internet Marketing at Harvard Extension)

That's interesting on several levels and when we had a few minutes to talk about it others (mostly thirty-somethings) agreed. It takes a high level of trust to sign up for a service like this. You might accept such services from an institution you already know and trust; BofA went up several points in my estimation as a result of the quick action in my instance. Building trust for an unknown brand takes time, as we all know. For PageOnce that may be compounded by the fact that they are allowing social networks, which are leaky faucets as far as data privacy is concerned, to be part of the system. When I questioned this, Aimen Minhas pointed out that users can choose which accounts to enter (or not). Good point.

PageOnce is clearly a service in the Web 2.0 mold. If you want to check it out, sign up for a beta account. I wish I could say there was nothing to lose, but that's not true, and it's the challenge that services like this have to face. What else do you think financial services sites should do to build user trust for web and mobile financial services?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A Mother's Day Card from Charity:Water

It's always fun to open up the email box on Mother's Day morning and see what's there. This year in addition to the expected there was a lovely surprise from one of my students. Dave had sent me a card announcing a donation of $20 in my name to Charity:Water. Not only was it a nice gesture; it was viral, encouraging me to send another card. When I clicked through I found that I could designate my donation for any one of three countries. If I didn't care to make a designation in the time allotted, the choice would be made by Charity:Water. I didn't send the ecard, but I did match Dave's donation, so the single card actually raised $40.

On the donation page (and throughout the site) there's a statement of Charity:Water's uinique value proposition--100% of the donation goes to a fresh water project. How do they do it? They have separate channels for donations to support the running of the organization and they seem to get numerous in-kind service donations also. The focal point of their fund-raising is actually a $20 bottle of fresh water, which we in developed economies take for granted, but according to the site, 1.1 billion worldwide do not. A man who used to sell $350 bottles of vodka to nightclubbers though he could sell $20 bottles of water for a cause, and he was right!

Charity:Water is the creation of Scott Harrison. As the story goes Scott came to New York as member of a rock band and soon became a successful fixture on the New York nightclub scene. Tiring of that, he looked for a greater purpose. His first step was to volunteer on one of the Mercy Ships. He returned to found Charity:Water. It's clearly a charity of the Internet age. They have found multiple ways to engage visitors in the work they are doing, providing a great deal of rich content and giving an opportunity to select a project in a specific location. Look at the projects page to see ways in which they keep donors up to date on projects they've sponsored, including using Google Earth to pinpoint the location of wells they have provided.

There are two important non-profit strategy issues here. First is the business model, in which all publicly-solicited donations go to the work of the cause, not to a blotted, overpaid administrative structure, which we've seen too often in recent years. Second is the way in which they use the web, not just to solicit donations but to keep donors informed in a very personal way. Not all organizations are going to be able to copy the business model. All non-profits should look at the way Charity:Water uses the web today and watch for continuing developments as this organization grows. It is clearly an organization to watch--both for the good work they do and for the exceptionally effective way in which they do it.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Now Facebook is a Cable Company?

When I began this blog, I didn't know much about Facebook and certainly didn't intend to write much about it. Almost a year later--like so many others young and not-so-young--I have a Facebook page. There are over 70 million of us according to the site itself. A couple of weeks ago I asked, only a bit facetiously whether Facebook was the hub of the (Internet) universe. You can answer that question as you wish, but it seems clear that Facebook is a metaphor for much that is happening in the Web 2.0 world. It has a grand vision to be even more.

Chamath Palihapitiya, Facebook Vice President of Product Marketing, described them last week as the "cable company of the Internet." Here's the quote from CNET News:

"We view ourselves as a technology company at our core. We're the cable company creating the pipes, and what they carry is social information and engagement information about people."

To prove his point he quoted the following statistics, again according to CNET:

- The average time to build a Facebook app is between 2 and 15 weeks according to a Facebook survey
- It takes between 1 and 5 people to create the app
- At least 1/4 of the apps running on Facebook have 100,000 active daily users
- About 33% of app makers report profits of up to $500,000 each month.

About the same time Business Week (May 14) reported that the site is undergoing a major redesign to try to "declutter" Facebook pages and, in general, make it easier to use. It quotes Adam Ostrow, editor-in-chief of, as saying that the proliferation of viral apps is making the pages look messy. He describes them as "spam in disguise." Aren't those the same Facebook apps that are bringing in as much as $500,000 a month in revenue?

That spotlights one of the quandries of Web 2.0--how do we give users free rein to do all the things they want to do and still maintain a reasonable degree of control--control over the content on our site, the visual aspect of our site, and the overall site experience?

Bruce Temkin, the head of the customer experience practice at Forrester, points out in the May 14 Business Week article that Facebook must strike a balance between entertainment and usability. "If you take the fun out of Facebook, you've got a big problem." What the site designers have to do is to restore simplicity while maintaining the features that users love. If they can do it, Temkin says the Facebook redesign could be a test case for "what happens at the next level of maturity for a lot of Web 2.0 companies,"

It appears that one solution the Facebook designers are considering is to provide tabs to organize different kinds of content. But it's not the specific solution they come up with, it's how they resolve the clutter problem in a way that doesn't turn off users.

Obviously, it's a problem many sites wish they had--too much activity, too much love! It's also obvious that Facebook is not perfect, having made visible missteps recently from the Beacon advertising platform to blocking Google's Friend Connect that lets people port their profiles from one networking site to another. That hasn't stopped users; it doesn't even appear to have slowed them down. All that makes Facebook's ups and downs something that marketers must watch seriously. Ask two questions: "Can we engage our users in that way?" and "How can we avoid making the same mistake?"

Friday, May 16, 2008

Media Fragmentation and Advertising Dollars

I recently found a compelling piece of data on media fragmentation. It comes from a webinar and corresponding slides by Christopher Vollmer of Booz Allen. We all know that media is fragmenting around the globe, but data from Vollmer’s new book Always On suggests there is little opportunity to reach a “mass market”—at all, anywhere--these days. Consumer choice reigns, even in that most “mass” of all media, TV.
As a long-time proponent of targeting, I’m not convinced that’s bad news. I do know, however, that it requires marketers to change where they spend their money and how they spend it. There’s a known mismatch between the amount of time consumers spend on various media and the advertising dollars that are directed to those media. Quoting a Forrester study, eMarketer says, “the corresponding difference between time spent online and Internet ad spending was. . .profound, at nearly 4 to 1.” (eMarketer newsletter, February 22, 2008).

Provocative as that comparison may be, it’s not a good metric, for many reasons. Chief among them is that Internet space is still usually cheaper on a CPM basis, which actually isn’t a good measure either.

In an accompanying article Vollmer quotes Carat Americas CEO David Verklin:

“Lately, marketers have become less interested in the number of eyeballs that see a screen or hands that touch a page and more interested in the behavior of the owners of those hands and eyes, and how the ad message connects with them.”

Vollmer goes on to say that “new outcome-focused metrics will shift the focal point of all advertising measurement from exposure to results.” He lists some of the emerging new metrics as:

•Commercial ratings
•Session quality and engagement
•Total viewing behavior (brand contact both online and offline)
•Opt-in activity
•Consumer participation
•Sales impact.

How many of us are actively using those metrics? Do we do the kind of marketing that leads to measurable opt-in activity and consumer participation that ranges from ratings to comments to content creation? Those are sobering questions for many marketers.

Take it a step further. Social media are beginning to fragment also. Consumers have issues with multiple contact points and profiles all over the web, hence aggregators like Friendster and FriendFeed.

Before we even catch up with what’s happening in the “old media,” the “new media” are experiencing the same phenomenon. Difference is, it’s faster in the new media, and the pace of change doesn’t seem to be slowing. Marketers need to choose their channels carefully based on the behavior of their target audience. Then they need to learn to reach consumers in those channels and measure results. It’s a big challenge, and it’s not getting any easier!
Sphere: Related Content

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Mashups--Business and Otherwise

An interesting article that I accessed through the Knowledge @ Wharton newsletter led to another appealing DIY opportunity. The article discusses the changes in software application development that are occurring, partly to satisfy the demands of the Millennial generation for instant gratification—even in software application development. Read the article for yourself and see if you agree with the management perspective.

I was intrigued by the idea of DIY business mashups, so I investigated the Serena Software site. The site is currently in beta and offering its mashup software free. The FAQs say that you only pay when you publish (“in the cloud”) and start using the app. They don’t say how much or on what basis they charge for the working app.

The first video on their MashupTV page illustrates a situation that many of us are all too familiar with—we need programming support but IT has a seemingly endless backlog of requests. The young man must be a marketer; he wants to interface with In the video he promotes the idea of mashups in his unit and, in the process, makes his boss happy and confuses the personal relationships of colleagues who don’t understand “mashing.” Are software marketers developing a sense of humor?

Users can create their own app or customize a number of prebuilt ones that satisfy a lot of communications needs in enterprises. There’s a lot of material on the site to convince you that you can do it and show you how.

This slso ties in to an article in today's iMediaConnection. Max Zabrammy urges marketers to move beyond the desktop to give users access to the site or to specific functionality in other contexts including mobile and offline. One way of doing that is special-purpose apps, so we all better get good at creating them.

So back to where this blog started. Marketers need a lot of Internet firepower these days. It can take a long time for IT to build it for them; hence, the demand for DIY Marketing applications. This seems to be another attractive option.
Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Lee Jeans Enters the Social Media Space

It’s always interesting to hear a marketer talk about integrating social media into marketing efforts. When it’s a respected brand with a long history, it’s even more so. Yesterday’s AdAge video interview with Liz Cahill, VP Marketing for Lee Jeans gives insights into the process they used to begin social marketing.
Watch the video here.

One of the things Lee did was to conduct a social media audit in order to understand what was being said about them in Internet space. Some agencies (iCrossingUK, Serengeti Communications) have social media audit products and have posted information about them. This is one way of listening to the customer without (marketing) intervention into the conversation. As the interview suggests, it may be a very good first step to joining the conversation. Remember the bore at the cocktail party who plows right into the discussion without first understanding what’s really going on? Not the way your brand wants to be seen!

There are other approaches to consider as you enter the space. Firms like Networked Insights and KickApps will either allow you to create your own community or mine community data that is already out there or both.

Your PR people should be deeply involved in reputation management, whether you choose to market in the social network space or not.

Listening to the voice of the customer is different in the age of social media. Liz Cahill also points out that the velocity of customer communication is high in the social media world. What are you missing if you are not listening—if you are not part of the ongoing dialog? A lot!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Basho Builds B2B Community

In response to my post last week on, one of my students sent me a link to the Basho Technologies site—thanks, Noah! This sales training firm is actively working to create a community of “sales leaders” in a way that few other B2B firms are. Besides, I love the Sumo imagery!

They have a number of interactive channels, all of which are under the umbrella of the Basho Community. Their blog, newsletter and library are not unusual for a B2B firm. Podcasting is catching on—slowly—which is too bad because it seems such a natural in B2B markets. Theirs are well organized; for one thing when you go to the podcast page, you can easily make the choice to listen to the MP3 file on your computer or to download it to an iPod or other MP3 device. Making that clear is good for the non-iPod person or the novice user.
The most interesting channel is their LinkedIn group. When I looked, it had 2,927 members. I didn’t join, so I don’t know exactly how they network there, but it’s an impressive accomplishment in terms of size. The other thing that surprised me, considering the popularity of LinkedIn among professionals and the degree to which it is being used for job search and recruiting, is how few Corporate Groups there are. When you look at the corporate groups, most of them are corporate alumni groups. That’s a great way of staying in touch and meeting colleagues, but the paucity of real corporate groups suggests that a lot of B2B firms are missing a good (free!) bet.

They seem to be following the guidelines Jim Leach set down in a thoughtful iMediaConnection article a few days ago. Particularly note that he stresses the need for new metrics to measure the effectiveness of community building in both B2C and B2B markets.

I’m happy to see a firm that is building community around its brand in a strategic way. That seems such a natural in B2B where people have genuine involvement with the products and services they use and like to interact with colleagues who share their interests and often their problems. It is a channel marketers can use to get out their messages. More important, it is a channel in which they can listen to the issues that are important to their customers!
Sphere: Related Content

Monday, May 12, 2008

AdReady-A Boost for Display Ads?

It’s only been a few days since I wrote about a study that predicts a rapid decline in display advertising on the web. It came from Borrell Associates, a specialist in local digital advertising. Then today the SmartBrief newsletter linked me to a WSJ Online Story on a start-up that allows advertisers to create and place their own display ads. Having found creating (and I use the word “create” loosely) display ads with considerable difficulty in the past, I was eager to check it out.

I went to the AdReady site and tried it and it didn’t work. So I followed my usual strategy. I watched the instructional video.

Actually, there were two issues. I had to create an account before I could play with their customization tool. That’s ok. But I couldn’t get the customization page to load. I switched to Firefox and it worked fine. That probably was a momentary blip; wouldn’t be the first time IE 2007 has caused problems.
So I used a template called AdDonna and customized an ad. I’m not pretending that it’s great copy; it was just a trial. But I liked their image better than my own, so I didn’t change that. I changed the background color to my signature purple, added the blog logo, and I had an ad! No charge up to this point. I wasn’t interested in spending any money, so I didn’t go on to the next step of deploying my ad. Looking at this screen, though, it appears to work much like choosing your target audience on Google using audience demos instead of keywords. I couldn’t find out anything about their ad network. A blog post from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer suggests that the company is being coy about that subject at present.
It’s hard for a small local or regional business to break into online display advertising. AdReady and counterparts AdItAll and AdBrite intend to change that. Based on what I saw today, they’ve got something going here!
Sphere: Related Content

Friday, May 9, 2008

First, Widget Ads Then a Widget Ad Calculator

Metrics for social media are one of the vexing issues in the space. Marketing services firms of all kinds continue to develop solutions, though they can hardly be described as “integrated” at this point. DoubleClick, acquired by Google in March, describes itself as not just an ad serving network but as a provider of digital marketing technology and services. It has just added a Widget Calculator to its product line. That’s nice, but first you have to understand Widget Ads.

According to DoubleClick the widget ad format allows advertisers to convert “Rich Media creative into a widget that can be shared virally across social networks and blogs.” They tout the benefits as:
•Integrates a viral component into any campaign
•Gives you reporting and control over viral campaigns
•Makes the creative implementation as easy as building a rich media ad.

If you go to their gallery page and play the 10,000 BC ad, you’ll see it behaving just like any rich media ad. Looking at this screen shot you can see the Downloads bar; click on that and you’ll be able to download the image as wallpaper or 1 or all of a set of “buddy icons” as gifs—to do with as you please, presumably. There’s a set of photos you can view. When you decide to “Grab This” you get the code that allows you to embed the 10,000 BC ad widget on any one of a number of your pages. Cool, huh? More importantly, that’s what makes it viral. Functionality has been added to a basic ad, violá a widget!

So, how is your widget performing? That’s where the widget calculator comes in. Shown here in action, it allows users to view the performance of a specific widget. Note that the calculator is also viral, “Share This Widget.” My guess is that if a marketer has several widgets, the first sharing will be with herself.
And that brings us back to “integrated.” If you have a bunch of widgets active, you’re going to have to have a bunch of widget calculators. That’s the state of the art at the moment. But I’m sure technology will catch up with usage. Is the next step a widget dashboard?
Sphere: Related Content

Thursday, May 8, 2008

How To Create Community

Since the theme of this blog is marketer DIY it’s not surprising that I was attracted to Cathy Taylor’s post today on DIY social networks. She used the Brooklyn Art Project as an example, so I decided to check it out. This is its profile on the Ning site.

It’s interesting to navigate around the site. You can create your own page; over 1,300 members have done so. I was attracted by the beautiful imagery on this one. It has a blog, a comment wall and news posts. The owners has friends. So, yes, this is a social network.

It’s more, though. The Brooklyn Art Project has created a community of people who care about art and want to interact with others who do also. They create groups, upload their photos and videos, and discuss items posted on the forum page. There is also an exhibitions page that’s currently promoting a collaborative exhibition.

On every page you are encouraged to “become a member,” or “create a group” and so forth. They have share apps so you can send items to your friends. They have an embed app that lets you put items on, say, your Facebook page. They’ve reserved the top right nav bar of each site or member page for what are essentially two banner ads of their own. One is a site feed; the other is an art contest. Wow!

Marketers keep wondering how they can create a community around their brands. Non-profits are, at the same time, excellent examples and hard ones to follow. Art or music or the environment—whatever the cause, it has passionate adherents. Brands may be harder, but some best practices rules are emerging.

Patty Seybold had a good post in January that gives a comprehensive approach to evaluating a community effort. Hers focuses on capabilities and participation (primarily from the perspective of the target audience but also from that of the business), moderation, platform architecture, and the ability of both the product and the firm to support community activity. Jeremiah Owyang of Forrester recently posted a presentation on community best practices. His approach sets forth a clear strategy and is well worth reviewing. He focuses on people, objectives, strategy and technology.

Communities can be built, but the focus has to be something people care about. I keep remembering the Heinz TakeTwo contests, probably because I’ve been asking students for years, “Do you really want to have a (customer) relationship with your ketchup?” They look at me like I’m nuts; they may eat a lot of ketchup but they aren’t engaged enough to interact. Heinz realized that customers are engaged by videos and music. Hence, interactivity at least—the start of real community, I don’t know.

It gives marketers something to think about, though!
Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

"It's 10 p.m. Do You Know Where Your Friends Are?"

Caroline McCarthy has a post on C/Net today that highlights a trendy beta, Brightkite. We all know how popular social networks are. A recent eMarketer newsletter (May 1, 2008) shows a high and growing level of use among all age groups. Not surprisingly, teen use is high, but so are “adults.” I’m willing to bet that the word “young” would account for a great deal of the social network usage in the “adult” category.

There have been a number of attempts to take social networking mobile. Some have already foundered over cost issues, privacy concerns and simple lack of usage. Brightkite seems to be the latest hot entry in the field. My students have been talking about a service like this for several years. Having an up-to-the-minute view of where their friends are and what they are doing has appeal. It has more on Friday or Saturday night than on a weekday afternoon, probably, but it is an option desired by connected young adults and teens.

Usage of mobile social networks is still in its infancy (eMarketer, February 27, 2008). The same newsletter quotes a UK study that finds 25% of mobile phone users citing social networking as their most desired content, close behind email at 33%. The potential for growth is highlighted in that same newsletter. A Pew study found that the mobile phone was the main daily communications method for teens who used the Internet, had mobile phones and used social networks. The potential is there; the execution has been a problem.

Brightkite describes itself as a location-based social network. Users can take their online profiles, including their network connections, with them onto this service. They can see where their friends are, join them at a given location, keep track of the locations they’ve visited, send SMS messages, and more. This is a shot of their app for the iPhone, although they are careful to point out that their service is available regardless of carrier.
It still requires an invitation to get into this beta. For most of the time I was working on this post the site was down (did Caroline’s post crash the site?), but it’s clear that they have more invitations than they can accommodate for now. Not that I was planning to sign up anyway; it’s not for my demographic. But blogger Josh Lowenshon obviously has; you can see the service from a user perspective on this post.

It’s the principle more than the specific service. The space is still full of churn. What doesn’t change though, is the desire of teens and young adults (who will grow older; wonder what will happen to their media habits then?) to be connected. Also not changing is their rejection of traditional media. I don’t think that any marketer can hide from this trend/ these developments. Large markets are already firmly in the new media camp. Rapid growth is predicted. No age group seems totally immune from the siren song of new media. Question is: how will we engage them around our brands and around issues of interest? We’re just beginning to explore the answers!
Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Collaboration, Technology and Culture

Over the past few weeks I’ve had conversations with several different groups of people about collaborating over time and distance. We’ve come up with several approaches. One of the simplest for a small group seems to be Google docs.

Not surprising, then, that an article in yesterday’s WSJOnline caught my eye. It focuses on interactive advertising on Meebo; I was taken by the site itself. So apparently are the VCs; it has just gotten third round venture funding.

The basic premise is that Meebo connects all your IM accounts in a single place and gives you a lot of options to connect with “buddies.” They have apps like a widget you can put on web pages, an iPhone app, and they are working on Meebo Rooms, which sound particularly appealing to corporate users. Meebo has gone out of its way to create interactive options for advertisers to connect with this wired (young?) community (see whe WSJ article also).

There are other web spaces that offer collaboration opportunity. Business Week has an article in the May 2 edition, “The (Virtual) Global Office,” that focuses on Second Life. Out of deference to their use policy, I won’t link to it; I’ll just let you find it for yourself. Or maybe someone knows someone at Business Week Online. . . This policy sure seems shortsighted to me! I do, however, agree with Norma’s comment that technology doesn’t make people collaborate better. “Process precedes technology.” Absolutely true. It seems to me that culture precedes process.

A recent post on the AlwaysOn network calls this the social era of management, which they define as follows:
1.characterized by, or inclined to working together in organizations and communities
2.Of or relating to the structure, organization, or functioning of the organization as a social organism.
3.Something worked out to explain, resolve, or provide a method for dealing with and settling a problem of performance and progress.

They go on to describe a model they call Socialutions that involves Priorities, People, Process, Products, Progress and Performance.

And here I thought it was only about people communicating over distance and time! Seems there’s a lot going on in this space that all marketers ought to be thinking about in pursuit of Progress and Performance!
Sphere: Related Content

Monday, May 5, 2008

A Thriving B2B Community

Thanks once again to a student for pointing out a great site. proves that B2B marketers can have a sense of humor. More important, it makes a great case for using social media techniques for B2B branding (and probably lead generation).

Ok, so it’s sort of techie humor. But try some of the links; you’ll see that it’s not beyond us marketers if we happen to stumble upon it. That’s a bit more than you can say for the firm itself. Blue coat is a leader in the field of WAN optimization, if you know what that is. They also provide security of website applications, and that’s where Bob Kent (who likes to download movies at work) comes in.
Bob is the star of his own videos and they are set up to be shared with your friends and colleagues.

He has his own MySpace (and also Facebook, but it's hard to find) page.

He posts videos on YouTube.

Throughout the branding is subtly done, but it’s there. The genius of all this is that it is entertaining at the same time it’s brand relevant. Every office has a Bob, and it’s the job of the IT managers to control his network-abusive behavior.
There are invitations to submit content, join contests--a variety opportunities to interact with the community.

This is a great job—one that ought to send all B2B marketers to their creative drawing boards and may also give some branding hints to their B2C cousins!
Sphere: Related Content

Friday, May 2, 2008

Are Interactive Promotions the Next Big Thing?

A recent report from Borrell Associates, a firm that specializes in local interactive advertising, predicts an interesting shift in the expenditure of online marketing dollars. They assert that display advertising will lose ground to other types of expenditures, especially to promotions. “We believe it will peak this year at $12.6 billion, and then begin a precipitous decline to less than half that amount over the next four years.” The growth will come in online promotions, including public relations activity.

Click-through rates (CTR) for display ads have been getting a bad rap lately (and yes, there’s also been controversy over CTR for paid search ads, but that’s another story). The eMarketer chart (newsletter, February 28, 2008) from the “heavy clickers” study earlier this year got a lot of attention. According to comScore the study found “no correlation between display ad clicks and brand metrics, and show no connection between measured attitude towards a brand and the number of times an ad for that brand was clicked." Ouch!

When Chris Autry asked in iMediaConnection, “Is Display Advertising Dead?” he pointed to low CTR and permission-based content including what he calls narrow networks for special applications and my favorite, widgets. He describes advertising as an application and recommends that, “Consumers will not be bombarded with relatively useless adverts but will instead interact and be able to use a range of applications to perform relevant tasks.”

It is also possible that the movement of traditional mass media advertising dollars onto the web has propped up online display advertising. Will these advertisers accept for long the miserable click-through rates that are the norm today?

What is the growth in online promotions going to represent? According to Borrell contests, coupons and promotional gift certificates are working well at the local level. We’ve seen a lot of evidence of the popularity of video contests in national media, from the SuperBowl to Heinz ketchup.

Are contests reaching the saturation point, though? Ok, I’ll admit I’m not an American Idol fan either, but it seems to me there is a lot of room for creative promotional strategies. If promotion is going to in large part replace display advertising, we need some creative ideas for interacting with our target audience, whether it’s local or national. Any good ideas?
Sphere: Related Content

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Is Facebook the Hub of the (Internet) World?

Several months ago I asked if social networks were the new portals. In the intervening time I’ve had a lot of anecdotal evidence that they are. Teens and young adults “do everything” through their social network account, including most of their email. They don’t use opening pages from portals like AOL and MSN or my beloved personalized Yahoo! page. They do it all through their social network, and increasingly in the US that network is Facebook. My Space is still larger, but Facebook continues its incredible growth, increasing 305% in monthly unique visitors between January 07 and 08.

Two questions: what are teens and young adults doing on these pages (the question of the hour for all parents!) and how much impact does this social networking have?

A recent study from the Pew Foundation sheds light on the first question. The study shows widespread use of social networks by this age group; finding that 93% of American teens ages 12 to 17 use the Internet (P. 3). More than half, 55%, use social networks and 55% have also posted a profile online (p. 11). The study found the teens taking some precautions to protect their identities online; I just hope they were telling the truth! Some information is all right to share; some is questionable. Girls are more careful than boys are about revealing personal information.

Is the answer to my first question, “Just about everything, but they are exercising some judgment?” I think so; I hope so!

How much impact is an even thornier question, but a conversation a few days ago got me thinking about it. I spend a certain portion of my professional life with young working professionals, primarily my graduate students. They use social networks—with care. It was interesting to sit down for two evenings with a large group of undergraduates, mostly from Brown University.

Across the seder table the talk turned to politics and whether young people would turn out for the November election. Older adults were sure the traditional pattern would hold—that young people would say the right things but not turn out to vote. The students were vocal about the fact that young people were registering in large numbers and were confident they would show up at the polls. Skepticism from their elders. What I realized is that there is an active political force this year that has never been present before—the social networks, for this group entirely Facebook. When I made the specific observation, the young students were quick to agree that Facebook would rock the vote among their peers in a way never before seen.

The political impact depends on a number of things that happen between now and November, but the social impact in undeniable. Facebook, MySpace, Bebo and maybe others are the hub of communications for an entire generation, and the impact of that across the board—on social issues and on marketing ones--will continue to be felt in ways now only dimly perceived.
Sphere: Related Content