Seth's Blog: Launching Brands in Public

Submitted by Sam Moore on Sun, 10/04/2009 - 19:45

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Seth Godin's Squidoo project allows anyone to build a page about any subject, complete with news feeds, visitor feedback area, and other ways to pull a community together around a topic.

Squidoo's user-created pages are called "Lenses". This is a pretty good metaphor, since the page essentially gives visibility to content around a topic, pulled from all over the web: Amazon titles relevant to the topic, news feeds from related sources, etc.

Here's my lens for Xinet (the Digital Asset Management system, not the Unix internet services daemon): http://www.squidoo.com/xinet. Note - I haven't touched this page in a long time, as the Xinet user's group has dissolved.

While it's not a full-featured social networking portal, it does empower ordinary web users to create a location around a topic.

So what if that topic is your brand? Or, for that matter, what if the Squidoo lens is just a small part of the discussion about your brand on the web? (This is likely to be true!)

That's where Brands in Public comes in. Here's Seth's précis:

You can't control what people are saying about you. What you can do is organize that speech. You can organize it by highlighting the good stuff and rationally responding to the not-so-good stuff. You can organize it by embracing the people who love your brand and challenging them to speak up and share the good word. And you can respond to it in a thoughtful way, leaving a trail that stands up over time.

But how?

Over the last few months, we've seen big brands (like Amazon and Maytag) get caught in a twitterstorm. An idea (one that's negative to the brand) starts and spreads, and absent a response, it just spirals. Of course, Amazon can't respond on their home page (they're busy running a store) and they don't have an active corporate blog that I could find, so where? How?

Enter Brands In Public.

Squidoo has built several hundred pages, each one about a major brand. More are on the way. We'll keep going until we have thousands of important brands, each on its own page (and we'll happily add one for you if you like). Each page collects tweets, blog posts, news stories, images, videos and comments about a brand. All of these feeds are algorithmic... the good and the bad show up, all collated and easy to find.

Of course, these comments and conversations are already going on, all over the web. What we've done is bring them together in one place. And then we've made it easy for the brand to chime in.

If your brand wants to be in charge of developing this page, it will cost you $400 a month. And once [we build] the page, the left hand column belongs to you. You can post responses, highlight blog posts, run contests or quizzes. You can publicly have your say right next to the constant stream of information about your brand (information that's currently all over the web--and information you can't "take down" or censor). You can respond, lead and organize. If a crisis hits, your page will be there, ready for you to speak up. If your fans are delighted, your page makes it easy for them to chime in and speak up on sites around the web.

If you have the tools and wherewithal to build a page like this on your own site, you should consider that. The challenge is getting it done, regardless of where the page lives.

I sincerely hope the ease and convenience of doing this sort of thing enables marketers to get past the wallflower-like shyness that has kept many out of the public forum thus far. Really, it's time to get up and dance, folks.


Seth's Post

Squidoo

Brands In Public
Home Depot's Brands in Public page

Social Media for B2B

Submitted by Sam Moore on Sun, 10/04/2009 - 18:43

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Socialnomics has a brief but interesting piece on using social media for B2B.

While it seems many B2B companies see Social Media as only appropriate for consumer interactions, in fact the ability to hear and listen to what the market is saying is just as important for B2B companies.


Here's a snippet:

Listen First

This is a major maxim for B2C companies in social media, and it’s just as important in the B2B realm. Each B2B vertical uses social media differently, so it’s important to determine not only where the conversations are taking place, but what the conversations are about. Many tools can help a company collect this conversational data (including Radian6 and Filtrbox).

You will be able to better determine the needs of your most important clients by listening. Good B2B companies have always listened to their clients. Great B2B companies have always taken it one step further and listened to their competitors’ clients.

Full Article

B.L. Ochman's blog: Dear Corporations: Nothing Else Matters if Your Customer Service Sucks

Submitted by Sam Moore on Mon, 08/17/2009 - 16:05

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B.L. Ochman has a pointed, if brief, article on why customer service is where your business will be won or lost.

When you come right down to it, it's almost always the hourly employees who have actual contact with actual customers who create your bottom line results. It makes great economic sense to empower them to solve a problem with one phone call...
In case some companies haven't noticed, we are in the midst of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. Customers count. Treat us like you know that. We'll all be a lot happier. And more prosperous.

Full article

I've come across a few other instances of this kind of thing in the last few days. A friend on a music site I'm part of noted that the Intellitouch tuner company cheerfully replaced his broken tuner, even though his kids had stomped it - not the company's fault at all.
As a counterpoint to Ms. Ochman's experience, you can't beat this kind of story. Intellitouch has made a customer for life - more so, an evangelist.
Here's a snippet of a similar, if more widely read, account, from BoingBoing, detailing KitchenAid's remarkable service:

The operator asked for my serial number, asked me to describe the problem, then asked if I could be at some address the next day to receive my replacement unit and ship back the defective one. I gave her my office address, and yesterday at around 2PM, a DHL guy showed up with a brand new espresso machine in its package. I lifted it out, replaced it with the defective one, watched as the DHL guy slapped a return sticker on it, and then he left, leaving me a shiny new coffee machine that I brought home in a cab (two people on the street and the cabbie all stopped me and asked me about this beautiful coffee machine and whether it worked as good as it looked and where they could get one of their own). This morning, I enjoyed a perfect cappuccino with breakfast, and ruminated on just how damned good the customer service from Kitchen Aid had been, and I figured, man, that deserves some public approbation.

Now, that was worth it for KitchenAid - BoingBoing's readership is enormous, and everyone now knows how good KitchenAid is. All because their CS team "got it". Now, what happens in the opposite case? Do you really want some widely-read blogger telling the world how atrocious your service is? Wise up, everybody.

CMSWire: Nobody Cares About Your Website

Submitted by Sam Moore on Mon, 08/17/2009 - 11:24

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CMS Wire's Gerry McGovern has a deliciously snarky reminder of how silly it is to expect that anyone cares about your "newly-redesigned-to-serve-you-better" little web-turd.

Here's Gerry:

Your customers couldn't care less about your new look, your new design or whether your dog has just had kittens.

I love a short-and-sweet puncture to the marketing hot air balloon. Thanks, Gerry.
Full article

Socialnomics: Social Media Is Bigger Than You Think

Submitted by Sam Moore on Sun, 08/16/2009 - 13:31

Picture 3.pngThe blog Socialnomics has a collection of factoids meant to suggest how significant Social Media will be to the way we do business in the near future. They've woven this with some momentous-type music into a short video; the content is also available on the blog (it's easier be rational about it as a blog post IMHO - hmm, there's another post in there...)

While I'm inclined to agree in general with the notion that our evolving communications styles have massive implications for marketing and business, the over-the-top "You're clueless and we're not" tone of the video is a bit off-putting. For one thing, how does the author know how big I think "social media" is?
Why is it that people who say the future of business is in two-way, collaborative communication, real genuine relationships with customers, etc.... always end up sounding like soapbox fanatics? How "social" is that? If they really ate the dogfood, this would be a question in a forum post, not a video on YouTube.
Still, some good bits here (but read the blog comments for some correctives). And as we all know, lists are somehow hypnotically pseudo-persuasive... so, here they are. Keep some of these in your back-pocket, for those hallway conversations:

Stats from Video (sources listed below by corresponding #)

  1. By 2010 Gen Y will outnumber Baby Boomers….96% of them have joined a social network
  2. Social Media has overtaken porn as the #1 activity on the Web
  3. 1 out of 8 couples married in the U.S. last year met via social media
  4. Years to Reach 50 millions Users: Radio (38 Years), TV (13 Years), Internet (4 Years), iPod (3 Years)…Facebook added 100 million users in less than 9 months…iPhone applications hit 1 billion in 9 months.
  5. If Facebook were a country it would be the world’s 4th largest between the United States and Indonesia
  6. Yet, some sources say China’s QZone is larger with over 300 million using their services (Facebook’s ban in China plays into this)
  7. comScore indicates that Russia has the most engage social media audience with visitors spending 6.6 hours and viewing 1,307 pages per visitor per month – Vkontakte.ru is the #1 social network
  8. 2009 US Department of Education study revealed that on average, online students out performed those receiving face-to-face instruction
  9. 1 in 6 higher education students are enrolled in online curriculum
  10. % of companies using LinkedIn as a primary tool to find employees….80%
  11. The fastest growing segment on Facebook is 55-65 year-old females
  12. Ashton Kutcher and Ellen Degeneres have more Twitter followers than the entire populations of Ireland, Norway and Panama
  13. 80% of Twitter usage is on mobile devices…people update anywhere, anytime…imagine what that means for bad customer experiences?
  14. Generation Y and Z consider e-mail passé…In 2009 Boston College stopped distributing e-mail addresses to incoming freshmen
  15. What happens in Vegas stays on YouTube, Flickr, Twitter, Facebook…
  16. The #2 largest search engine in the world is YouTube
  17. Wikipedia has over 13 million articles…some studies show it’s more accurate than Encyclopedia Britannica…78% of these articles are non-English
  18. There are over 200,000,000 Blogs
  19. 54% = Number of bloggers who post content or tweet daily
  20. Because of the speed in which social media enables communication, word of mouth now becomes world of mouth
  21. If you were paid a $1 for every time an article was posted on Wikipedia you would earn $156.23 per hour
  22. Facebook USERS translated the site from English to Spanish via a Wiki in less than 4 weeks and cost Facebook $0
  23. 25% of search results for the World’s Top 20 largest brands are links to user-generated content
  24. 34% of bloggers post opinions about products & brands
  25. People care more about how their social graph ranks products and services than how Google ranks them
  26. 78% of consumers trust peer recommendations
  27. Only 14% trust advertisements
  28. Only 18% of traditional TV campaigns generate a positive ROI
  29. 90% of people that can TiVo ads do
  30. Hulu has grown from 63 million total streams in April 2008 to 373 million in April 2009
  31. 25% of Americans in the past month said they watched a short video…on their phone
  32. According to Jeff Bezos 35% of book sales on Amazon are for the Kindle when available
  33. 24 of the 25 largest newspapers are experiencing record declines in circulation because we no longer search for the news, the news finds us.
  34. In the near future we will no longer search for products and services they will find us via social media
  35. More than 1.5 million pieces of content (web links, news stories, blog posts, notes, photos, etc.) are shared on Facebook…daily.
  36. Successful companies in social media act more like Dale Carnegie and less like David Ogilvy Listening first, selling second
  37. Successful companies in social media act more like party planners, aggregators, and content providers than traditional advertiser

Full Article

YouTube video of their deck (NOTE: cheesy music alert)

Information Architecture of Social Experience Design: ASIS&T Bulletin

Submitted by Sam Moore on Sat, 08/15/2009 - 00:26

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The American Society for Information Science and Technology has an in-depth look at user experience in social applications. While probably no one will agree with every point here, they certainly do raise some good questions. At least they've articulated many of the issues.

Their article promises "Five Principles, Five Anti-Patterns and 96 Patterns (in Three Buckets)". It's a long read, but worth it for anyone who has responsibility for - or advocates for - better UX in social media applications.
Here's the first bit - the principles:

Five Principles

Of the myriad principles we've unearthed so far, five cut across the entire experience:

  • Pave the Cowpaths
  • Talk Like a Person
  • Play Well with Others
  • Learn from Games
  • Respect the Ethical Dimension

Here's some detail on the "Pave the Cowpaths" principle, in this case touching on something I've butted heads against myself:

The second application of Pave the Cowpaths comes later in the lifecycle of your site, when you’ve got a user base and they start doing things you never anticipated. Often the impulse is to stamp out these rogue behaviors and enforce draconian rules requiring only the behaviors you had planned for. This course of action really only makes sense if the behaviors you are trying to stamp out are truly destructive or evil. There are many anecdotes about thriving social sites that killed themselves off by legislating against fun and forcing their users into exile to find the activities they had been improvising “incorrectly” in the site they had to leave.

A better plan is to support the behaviors your users are engaged in. Let your users tell you what the best and highest use of your interface may turn out to be. Don’t be so arrogant as to assume you know everything about how the social dynamics you’ve unleashed need to evolve.



I have this same beef with the owners of an educational site I'm part of - though the issues are better articulated here than in my rants on the subject.

Basically, they insisted on obscuring the ways in which their students could download their video content and watch it while offline, slow it down (it's a music education site), take it on the train, etc. The owners went so far as to delete posts offering tips to other users, and reprimand the posters.

My contention is that you're never going to stop people from doing this (hint: Video Download Helper for Firefox is your friend) - you're just going to make it more difficult for the people who are less technically adept.

Instead of fighting your user base, why not learn from them? Maybe they really are smarter about what you're building than you are - there are certainly more of them, and they use your application more than the owners typically do.

When your customers are coloring outside the lines you have two choices - yell at them for being messy and not following the rules, or re-think where your lines are.

Or, as the quote above says, "Don't be so arrogant."

Full article

Tweetmeme

Submitted by Sam Moore on Thu, 08/13/2009 - 00:05

Picture 2.pngGuy Kawasaki's blog on American Express had a piece a few days ago, about TweetMeme.

TweetMeme not only tracks popular tweets (here's Alltop's TweetMeme aggregate), it also tracks how many times a post is re-tweeted. Here's why that's interesting:

The Tweetmeme retweet button is more useful than Digg as an indicator of the quality of a link because Digg is about a small number of selected people getting stories onto the Digg home page. The assumption with Tweetmeme is that if you retweet a link, you are telling your followers that it leads to a good site, and you are putting your reputation on the line. If you digg something, you are not risking your reputation nearly as much—if at all.

Retweet_buttonI plan on adding the TweetMeme button (sample shown here) to my blog tomorrow.

Why? Well, now that I'm using Gigya Socialize for Drupal to push my blog posts out to both Twitter and Facebook, TweetMeme should help me keep track of where they go - at least on Twitter, which I frankly care more about anyway.
Guy's post

UPDATE: as I might have known, as with many things in Drupal - "There's a module for that!".

In this case, the TweetMeme module (surprise!).

Right now, all it does is add the TweetMeme badge to your posts. But it's smart enough to know the Blog posts's URL, as disctinct from the main page URL, so that's handy. You can see it in action at the top right of this post, if you're reading this on the web site.

Later, I'll dig through the project's issues etc. to see if there's plans to add the button to the RSS feed.

Seth Godin on The CPM gap, or - where to spend money online?

Submitted by Sam Moore on Mon, 08/10/2009 - 13:56

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Here's an insight from the always-worthwhile Seth Godin's Blog.

Consider that conference attendees lavish attention on the marketers & products they've come to see, whereas when we see advertising for those products in other contexts we probably just ignore it - or actively loathe it.

Which of those environments is better for reaching your customers? One where they've made a great effort and perhaps spent some money to come see you, or one where they're actually trying to do something else and you're in their way?

Here's a quote from Seth:

...advertisers treat prospects online as targets, as victims, as people to subject to interruption. Conferences treat attendees as royalty, as paying customers who invested time and money to be there.

And that's the difference. As long as your site is about something else and the ads are a distraction, you'll see CPM rates drop. As soon as you (or the advertisers) figure out that creating online communities aligned with the advertising, where attendance is a choice by the consumer, then you're creating genuine value.

Seth's post

So in building online communications - should we plan on interrupting the audience with ever-more-stupid ads, or should we create an environment they'll be eager to participate in?

Seems to me the proper use of social media for business is to create an attractive gathering place for your customers - one that's aligned with their operational needs, interests, etc - and become part of the conversation. You will then be a host rather than a salesperson.

Or you could just keep pummeling your visitors with banners. How's that working so far?

CIOs are starting to take notice of Drupal | Dries Buytaert

Submitted by Sam Moore on Tue, 08/04/2009 - 21:59

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Drupal founder Dries Buytaert has a piece on his personal blog about ways in which Drupal is overcoming the hesitation of CIOs to abandon big expensive "enterpise" content management platforms, in favor of OSS solutions like Drupal. You know - the ones they spent, oh, say, $500K on the first year...?

Here's a list of reasons for picking Drupal, from the use case:

The decision for IMO to use Drupal came after an unsuccessful attempt to build out In-Fisherman.com with another CMS. The deciding factors for selecting Drupal were:

  • Scalability - Drupal was perceived as the most scalable and extensible open source option.
  • Cost - No licensing fees.
  • Multi-site / multi-database architecture - Drupal’s flexible multi-site configuration would allow IMO to store content and user data in multiple databases for a single site. Multiple databases would keep distinct areas of the site operational in the event of database failure from server load. The user data is stored in its own database and the gear/angler/www sites are set-up to seamlessly pull user data from that separate database.
  • Hosting - The expected traffic for the site demanded a low-cost enterprise level hosting environment. Drupal and the LAMP stack were a natural fit.
  • Flexibility - IMO's previous CMS was inflexible, making it difficult to implement new and innovative features. Drupal’s modular framework, API and theme override capabilities made it the top choice.
  • Theme customization - Drupal’s separation of presentation and business logic through the theme layer allowed the In-Fisherman.com UI to undergo significant revisions during and after development.
  • Active development community - A fragile economy encouraged open source software vs. a proprietary vendor solution. IMO was looking for a community with solid leadership and momentum. In addition, the Mediacurrent offices were local to the project stakeholders and allowed for enhanced interaction.

Here's an end-user quote:

...it was important for us to implement a content management system that enables us to continually improve our sites without the constraint of vendor roadmaps and proprietary code. The transparency of Drupal’s source code and engaged developer community ensures that any deficiencies in the code are quickly discovered and remedied, new features can be developed as necessary, and we will always retain the flexibility to keep our sites on the cutting-edge.

Use case from Drupal.org

Dries' article

Social Media Reality Check for CEOs, CFOs, and CMOs - B.L. Ochman's What's Next Blog

Submitted by Sam Moore on Tue, 08/04/2009 - 21:08

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B. L. Ochman's "What's Next" blog always has insightful commentary on corporate life and communications in the internet era.

Here's a piece on a favorite topic of mine - the dysfunctional nature of the modern corporation; specifically how sprinkling "magic social dust" on your organization won't get you better customer relations, or higher sales numbers.

This is because - surprise - most companies aren't any good at communicating.

From the article:

Dear big companies: If you want to try using social media - start inside. Create a wiki, internal blogs, company-wide IM, a help line where any employee has access to any other employee's knowledge at any time.


Full article