Tag Archives: social networks

In social veritas

A new study from Euro RSCG Worldwide, referenced by eMarketer, shows that a fair number of people say they are more likely to “lash out” at brands online.  Not a surprise.  It’s been a long-time observation that people will say (or write) things online that they never would say when talking to someone directly.  I just can’t help wondering.  When it comes to brands and products, does that freedom to lash out mean people express more accurately what’s true for them, or less?  Either way, it’s worth paying attention.

Among some other findings from the study, eMarketer points out that “the stigma of online socializing is fast disappearing … Although only a minority of US Internet users thought online social groups could be ‘truly social,’ nearly three-fifths disagreed with the idea that socializing on the Web was only for ‘sad, antisocial types.’”

Even more interesting, something that eMarketer doesn’t mention is that contrary to what one might think at first, it’s older internet users who most disagree that online socializing is only for antisocial losers.  For example, 59% of 45-54 year old’s disagree while only 51% of 18-24 year old’s do.

Conversely only 26% of 45-54 year old’s agree that “social media online enhances my social life offline” compared to 36% of 18-24 year old’s.

So compared to us sad, old online socializers, who are apparently more content to engage with others armed with an internet connection from the comfort of our living room sofa, and go no further than that, the 18+ set more often sees online socializing as just a means to an offline end.

Ah — to be 18 and old fashioned again!

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Twitter has made money for Dell Outlet — is it just a big yawn?

I was interested to hear that Dell has attributed $3 million in sales to its Twitter feed @DellOutletDell Outlet sells discounted computer products and systems that have been used and refurbished, or were left over from canceled orders, or are the equivalents of “seconds,” that is, hardware that has some kind of cosmetic fault that doesn’t affect its performance.

I just looked at Tweetcounter, which currently places @DellOutlet at rank 75 for Twitter users.  @DellOutlet has 779 thousand followers.

Three million is a sliver of overall Dell sales, but the assertion by Dell that Twitter has actually helped the company make any money at all has been celebrated by some in the blogosphere as validation of the business viability of Twitter. But some critical voices have been raised as well.  They say that the use of Twitter as a sales promotion channel will adversely increase traffic, spam and “fail whales” on the site.  They ask why Dell, and other companies using Twitter to generate leads, announce promotions, etc., don’t limit this kind of stuff to their own online turf.  In other words, “Don’t do your dirty work here, guys!”

A few obvious answers come time mind.  If there’s an online channel that a seller can use free of charge to contact potential customers, why wouldn’t he use it?  Then, of course, there’s the fact that Twitter is so immediately searchable and socially spreadable.  Anyone interested in a 2nd-hand computer system can find a whole range of potential sellers in one place, and can follow all of them easily, and in real time, using Tweet-deck or other applications that allow the user to group and aggregate tweets.  Many Twitter users who hear of a good deal will happily post their finds on their own Twitter feeds spreading the word beyond the seller’s direct followers.

It does beg one question though.  If Twitter starts charging companies to use the service commercially, will those companies still come?  Apparently Twitter and Dell are talking about compensation models.  It will be interesting to see where they end up.

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I have translated the future of the social web into German

About a month ago, Forrester Research released a new report, authored by Jeremiah Owyang, on the future of the social web.

The other day, Jeremiah, inspired by a trip he made to the Netherlands, put out a call to the international social media community to translate his abstract of the study into foreign languages.  You can find the original English here, and my translation into German below.

DIE ZUKUNFT DES SOZIALEN NETZES: IN FÜNF EPOCHEN

Post vom 27. April 2009

Erwarten Sie, dass das Phänomen des Groundswells, in dem Menschen sich online eher miteinander verbinden, als mit Institutionen, sich fortsetzt.  Der Teilnahme des Verbrauchers an sozialen Netzwerken nimmt rasant zu, immer mehr Marken spielen auch während der Rezession mit.  Von daher wird der Raum sich ständig neu entwickeln, um mit diesem Trend mitzuhalten.  Kunden haben Zugang zu diesem Bericht, aber um die Ergebnisse zusammenzufassen, schreiben wir eine kurze Inhaltsangabe:

Das Erleben des sozialen Internets ist heute ziemlich wirr und zusammenhanglos, weil der Verbraucher für jeden sozialen Netzwerk, das er besucht, ein anderes Profil braucht.  Einfache Technologien werden den Verbraucher es bald ermöglichen, dasselbe Profil überallhin mitzunehmen und dies wird zu einer Verwandlung von Marketing, eCommerce, CRM und Werbung führen.  IDs sind nur der Anfang dieser Verwandlung, bei der das Netz sich von getrennten sozialen Ortschaften hin zu einem gemeinsamen Erlebnis umwandeln wird.  Verbraucher werden sich auf ihresgleichen verlassen, um Online-Entscheidungen zu treffen, egal ob Marken sich vorziehen, daran teilzunehmen oder nicht.   Miteinander verbundenen Verbraucher werden Online-Communities verstärken und die Macht weg von den Marken und CRM hin zu diesen Communities verlegen.  Schließlich werden diese ermächtigten Gemeinschaften die nächste Generation von Produkten bestimmen.

Wir stellten fest, dass neue Technologien Änderungen im Verhalten des Verbrauchers auslösen, und die Marken werden folgen.  Daraus ergibt sich fünf eindeutigen Wellen:

Die Fünf Epochen des Sozialen Netzes

1)    Die Epoche der sozialen Beziehungen:  Menschen verbinden sich und tauschen Gedenken und Erfahrungen aus
2)    Die Epoche der sozialen Funktionalität:  Soziale Netzwerke sind wie Betriebssysteme
3)    Die Epoche der sozialen Besiedlung: jedes Erlebnis kann nun sozial sein
4)    Die Epoche des sozialen Zusammenhangs:  individueller und zutreffender Inhalt
5)    Die Epoche des sozialen Handels:  Communities bestimmen zukünftige Produkte und Dienstleistungen

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Zeitablauf der fünf sich überschneidenden Epochen

Es ist wichtig zu erwähnen, dass das keine aufeinander folgenden Epochen sind, sondern sie überschneiden sich.  Die Epoche der sozialen Beziehungen ist schon weit fortgeschritten.  Die Epoche der sozialer Funktionalität hat schon begonnen, obwohl wir hier noch keine echte Nützlichkeit bis jetzt erlebt haben.  Und die ersten Zeichen von sozialer Besiedlung sehen wir in frühen Technologien wie Facebook connect.  Bald werden übergreifende Identitäten den Menschen es ermöglichen,  in die Epoche des sozialen Zusammenhangs mit individueller und zutreffender Inhalt einzutreten.  Das folgende Schaubild zeigt, wie die Epochen in Zukunft sich entfalten könnten — die Epoche des sozialen Handels folgt dann zuletzt.

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Gespräche mit 24 der führenden sozialen Gesellschaften

Die Forschung läuft nicht einfach im Labor ab.  Deshalb haben wir qualitative Marktforschung durchgeführt, um herauszufinden, was zu erwarten ist.  Wir sind zu diesen Schlussfolgerungen durch Gespräche mit Geschäftsführern, Produkt Managern und Strategen in den folgenden 24 Firmen: Appirio, Cisco Eos, Dell, Facebook, Federated Media Publishing, Flock, Gigya, Google (Open Social/stack team), Graphing Social Patterns (Dave McClure), IBM (SOA Team), Intel (social media marketing team), KickApps, LinkedIn, Meebo, Microsoft (Live team), MySpace, OpenID Foundation (Chris Messina), Plaxo, Pluck, Razorfish, ReadWriteWeb, salesforce.com, Six Apart, and Twitter.

Wie Marken sich vorbereiten sollen

  • Nicht zögern: diese Veränderungen kommen schnell auf uns zu und bis Ende des Jahres werden wir schon die ersten drei Epochen erleben.  Marken sollten sich darauf einstellen, in dem sie diese Epochen in ihrer kurzfristigen Planung Rechnung tragen.  Lassen Sie sich nicht hinterher laufen, während der Konkurrenz Beziehung zu Ihrem Community aufbaut, bevor Sie es tun.
  • Bereiten Sie sich auf Transparenz vor: Die Menschen werden den Netz zusammen mit ihren Freunden surfen.  Von daher brauchen Sie einen Plan.  Bereiten Sie sich darauf vor, dass Ihre Kunden über jede Webseite und jedes Produkt von Ihnen berichten und diese Berichte von Kaufinteressanten gesehen werden, auch wenn Sie sich es vorziehen, nicht daran teilzunehmen.
  • Suchen Sie Kontakt mit Ihren Befürwortern: setzen Sie die Priorität auf sie.  Sie werden Kaufinteressanten überzeugen und Sie gegen Kritiker verteidigen.  Sie sind glaubwürdiger als Sie es sind, und wenn die Macht sich auf das Community verlegt wird und die Mitglieder der Gemeinschaft immer mehr über Produktpolitik bestimmen, werden sie wichtiger sein als je zuvor.
  • Entwickeln Sie Ihre Unternehmenssysteme weiter: Ihre Unternehmenssysteme müssen sich mit dem sozialen Netz verbinden.  Soziale Netzwerke und ihre Partner verwandeln sich schnell zur Quelle von Information und Kaufinteressanten zusätzlich zu Ihrem CRM-System.  CMS-Systeme werden soziale Eigenschaften annehmen müssen.  Fordern sie das von ihren Lieferanten oder finden Sie ein Community-Platform.
  • Zerschlagen Sie die Website Ihres Unternehmens: Im radikalsten Zukunftsbild wird Inhalt den Weg zum Verbraucher finden müssen, nicht andersherum.  Lassen Sie Ihre Website in Fragmenten aufbauen und diese Fragmente im sozialen Web sich verteilen.  Setzen Sie die wichtigsten Informationen frei und lassen sie unter den Communities ausbreiten, wo diese sich befinden.  Der Fischer fischt da, wo die Fische schwimmen.

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Nogger Choc revisited — nothing kills a bad product faster than a good online social network

There’s an old, well-known saying in the ad biz that goes something like this, “Nothing kills a bad product faster than good advertising.”  In other words, if good — as in creative, engaging, distinctive — advertising motivates a bunch of people to try your product and that product doesn’t deliver, then the news travels fast.  Because good advertising often gets talked about, and it gets talked about even more if the product it promotes sucks.

This maxim was coined back in the days before the internet.  So when you think about how much faster and more easily people can spread word of mouth today online, replace the words “good advertising” with “good social network” and the words are even more apt. Here I don’t mean good in the sense of a cadre of brand enthusiasts.  I mean good as in a large, well-connected group of people who like to express their opinion about products and brands.

noggerchocist wieder da

In an earlier post I wrote about a grass-roots social media campaign, initiated by a group of brand enthusiasts who were calling for the return of Langnese’s Nogger Choc ice cream bar.  I also commended Langnese for the way they engaged with the community and leveraged its members to spread the word when the company in fact decided to put Nogger Choc back on the market.  But I also mentioned that there were some critical voices online complaining that the quality was not on par with the original product.

The critics haven’t disappeared.  In fact, if you type Nogger Choc into Google, the first entry is a fairly intense rant about how bad the relaunched Nogger Choc is.  The link takes you to an online petition of fairly angry, former Nogger Choc enthusiasts sharing similar opinions and describing in detail all the things that are wrong with the product.  “Hell hath no fury like a brand lover scorned.”

Will this eventually result in Langnese taking Nogger Choc off the market a second time?  It’s too early to tell.  But all the grumbling  could equally lead in another direction.  Langnese could take the criticism of Nogger Choc’s most loyal consumers to heart and work with them to improve the product.  Imagine the positive word-of-mouth that would  ignite!  And maybe even a few sales.

Sadly, it seems that Langnese is only interested in social media when people have good things to say about their products.  There’s no place for comments on their web site. There’s no Facebook page.  Indeed I haven’t been able to find anywhere online where Langnese is responding to the critics.  Pretty disappointing.

I have to join the ranks of the nay-sayers, unfortunately.  I was also a fan of the original Nogger Choc.  I can’t honestly say I remember how good the quality was back then.  But the ice cream in the new Nogger Choc seems like a something that came out of the lab, rather than a cow.  I won’t be trying it again.  Except perhaps on those rare occasions where I give into a craving for McDonald’s and momentarily lower my standards of what I consider acceptable nutrition.  For one of those fast food binges, Nogger Choc would be the perfect dessert.

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New moms are heavy into social media

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Despite its reputation as the most natural thing in the world, caring for a new baby is described by many 1st-time moms as the greatest challenge they’ve ever encountered.  Deprived of sleep, coming to terms with fundamental changes of lifestyle and priorities, faced every day with a new questions, new uncertainties, and new decisions to be made, it’s no wonder that new moms seek out advice and support and have a deep need to share their feelings and experiences.  So it’s also not surprising that, according to Nielsen’s report The Global Online Media Landscape released April 22 (d0wnload here), new moms have a high propensity to visit social networking sites compared to the broader 18+ female population and average online consumer.  Experienced moms also participate more in social media than these other groups. (I think these are US data but I couldn’t find a definitive reference.)

Here are a few key findings (indexes vs. average online consumer):

  • Visited social networking site: Female 18+ (119), Experienced Mom (122), New Mom (286)
  • Publish/Own a Blog: Female 18+ (109), Experienced Mom (123), New Mom (270)
  • Visited both blogging site and social networking site: Female 18+ (98), Experienced Mom (110), New Mom (262)
  • Mothers aged 25-35 with at least one child at home are 85% more likely to spend time on Facebook compared to the average online consumer

So if you’re a brand seeking to build strong relationships with new moms, it looks like social media is something you should be thinking about.

In addition to these specific findings about moms, the Nielsen study has a wealth of useful data on the developing of digital and social media, how it’s being used and by whom.  Among other things, it confirms that usage of video and social media are the fastest growing digital categories.

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January 20th, 2009 — the inauguration of a new kind of marketing

In a recent post on Advertising Age online, Sam Levin describes a development on Facebook relating to tagging photos with friends’ names.  In order to promote a cause, candidate, event or what have you, a Facebook user tags that photo with the names of “influential” Facebook friends.  The photo then shows up in the feeds of all the friends of that influencer, tagged with his or her name, indicating — falsely — a connection or implicit endorsement between the influencer and the cause.  Understand? (It took me a while.)  What’s important is that the photo isn’t of the influential Facebook user, it relates to the cause.  And, as someone else tags the user’s name to the photo, the implied endorsement is false.  I guess you could call it deceptive testimonial advertising, Facebook style.

Mr. Levin goes on to say that this could be “a really terrific idea for someone looking to broadly push a message” and suggests the possibility of a marketing campaign working in this way.  In a follow up post to comments objecting to the practice as misleading, Mr. Levin responds that this is simply a “re-purposing of a channel intended for one thing towards another end, but regardless of value judgment, any online communication platform is an exercise in design defining the way information is transacted.  Systems will always be adopted for the most profitable ends possible, just as water flows downhill.”  He goes on to say that “Social networks, just like email before them, are going to have to contend with the fact that through their constructions they open themselves up for use in ways they do not intend (which may or may not be sub-optimal for their user base).”

This assessment is disturbing:

1) It implies that any use of a medium, regardless of how deceptive, is justified if it provides profit to the media provider and enables marketers to achieve business objectives.

2) It encourages marketers to continue to use the old communications model of “pushing” commercial messages in front of people whether they want to hear them or not, rather than applying the marketer’s  energy to find innovative models that work with, not against, the new dynamics of social media to empower communications and conversations.

3) It’s the kind of thinking that make people mistrust marketing — and rightly so.  Sure, baiting people with a friend’s tag to get them to click on a photo that connects them to a marketing message may create a brand impression, but is a brand impression that tricks a person into receiving it under false pretenses an effective one?  Especially when social media offers so many ways that can motivate people to opt in to hearing your message?  I don’t think so.

Which brings me – in case you were wondering — to the title of this post.  During his campaign, President-elect Barack Obama talked about the end of “politics as usual.”  Americans, he said, were tired of the deceptive, misleading and shallow tactics of the Washington establishment, which they recognized to be  more about each party’s hunger for political power, than about addressing the challenges facing the nation and helping secure a better future for its citizens and the world.

I think the country is hoping that come January 20th, 2009, we will witness not just the inauguration of a new president, but of a new era of honesty, transparency and mutual respect in politics.  Is it to idealistic to hope the same for marketing and communications?

Okay — comparing misleading tags on Facebook photos to past evils in Washington may be a stretch.  But the practice Mr. Levin suggests is symptomatic of a much wider array of marketing practices, supported by billions of dollars, that often manipulate the truth, mislead consumers, and bash them into submission with commercial messages in the hope of making a sale.  Social media enables marketing  and communications that, like the political tone many of us hope for, are grounded in honesty, transparency and mutual respect between the brand and consumers.  Don’t we have more to gain by pursuing new communications practices that are empowered by the tools and the spirit of communities like Facebook, rather than manipulating those communities to try and preserve the old model of one-way, push communications?

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