I’m often asked by companies and indiividuals on what they can do to stand out. Here’s what I’ve learned… but don’t just take my word for it, add your own tips in the comments.
There are so many brands now, in fact with the introduction of websites, and blogs in particular, many are developing personal brands, something not as easy to accomplish in past years. With this profileration of brands, it becomes so much more difficult for brand to stand out from the millions of others. Sure, you’re thinking the long tail solves this, and well yes, in a way. In reality there are leaders and followers being created in each sub-niche, so the rules of getting noticed still apply.
Have a goal
Before you do anything, think about what your objectives are. In particular for brands or personal brands, identify the keywords that you’d most want to be associated with. Try to think of keywords that people would search for, are long-term, and aren’t some made up name that no one would seek. Your goal may be association with these keywords which you’ll be gunning for. Or, if your goal is to network with others and to grow your reach, focus on how many quality relationships (perhaps defined by people that would help you and you’d help back) that you can grow. Or if your goal is to learn about a new topic and eventually master the subject material, focus on how you’ll learn by reading, then eventually writing on that topic.
Develop a unique brand
I really don’t think URLs are as important as they used to be, often folks will Google your name to find you, and the fact that we disperse to so many websites (Facebook/Twitter/Friendfeed/What’s next) is an indicator of the distributed web ruling the destination website. There are millions of blogs/companies out there, and if you’re trying to get noticed, you’re going to have to compete to stand out. Having a default blog template to your website isn’t going to be enough, you’re automatically segmenting yourself with others. Develop a unique look and feel by designing it yourself or finding someone who can help. If that’s too difficult, at least create a custom masthead image that will brand your site.
If you want to stand out, you should add your picture to your blog, and develop a visual icon that demonstrates who you are. While not everyone shows their picture (Louis Gray comes to mind) he did develop an icon “LG” that represents his personal brand. Use this icon on all your other social media properties in a consistent manner. Also, register the same handle on other social media sites, and cross link them from your blog. Take for example Jive Software, who in a crowded space (80-100 vendors) has encouraged Sam Lawrence to develop a unique voice that he inserts –and leads– in the conversation about enterprise social software.
Attend local events
One thing I found very useful when I was trying to get noticed was attending many events. I attended 2-3 tech events every week, which was easy to do in Silicon Valley. By doing this, I was able to meet folks who were passionate about the space, were speaking at other events, and developed a network to interact with online during the day, and one I’m very active with now.
You’ll soon start to notice a gap in the events you’re going to: a particular topic isn’t being covered, or a particular style of a topic isn’t being approached (unconference, roundtable, lecture, networking) and you can start to quickly develop your own events. I’ve seen so many do this, in particular blogger dinners, or meshwalks or barcamps.
Given the large number of people talking about the same thing you are online, you’re going to need to differentiate. Sure, standard business strategy but it’s amazing how few fail to do so. Many simply quote what others say, adding very little value, instead, you need to consistently be intersting. Here’s a few approaches: conduct analysis, respectively disagree with the mainstream, break news, compare and contrast services, develop lists or indexes of companies or topics. When I met Scoble in 2005, I asked them how I can be a better blogger (get links from A-listers) he told me to ‘be intersting’, I took that too heart.
Archive your achievements
As you develop your repitorie of speaking at events, leading events, or being quoted in articles or top blogs, start to create an archive that links to all these achievements. You don’t need to make it totally visible, but you’ll want to be able to share this with decision makers (next job, speaker selector, media, recruiters) to indicate on one page how you stand out.
I’ve so many other tips on how to get noticed, but I’m going to leave this an open discussion in the comments, leave examples and tips for others on how to best get noticed.
Above Photo (Click to view notes): The combined Forrester and Jupiter Social Marketing and Social Computing Research teams (missing: Christine Overby, Nate Elliott, Tom Grant, Laura Ramos, Peter Burris, Steven Noble, Rebecca Jennings, Lisa Bradner, and Tom Cummings.)
The last time I participated in an acquisition I was part of the company that was getting bought, it was exciting –yet very scary.
The last two days, I’ve been relatively quiet online (despite my trying to start some rumors on twitter) as Jupiter and Forrester research teams met for the first time at Cambridge HQ. We had folks travel from Amsterdam, Paris, NY, Silicon Valley, as well as teleconferenced in from London and dial in from Silicon Valley.
Although this is just the start of a long road, this is significant in a few ways: 1) This is perhaps one of the largest research teams assembled at an analyst firm that’s primarily focused on the impacts of social computing to marketers. Although there are 16 analyst that we’ve identified as covering some aspect of the social space, not all focus on it full time as I do. 2) This was the first group of many within Forrester to integrate and ‘mashup’. It only seems fitting that a group focuses on ‘social’ would be the first to try. 3) The combined brain power yielded some interesting insights to where this market is currently and where it’s headed, while size doesn’t always indicate quality, with this larger team we can dig deeper into very specific areas of social media.
Many of us are going to blog our perspectives (I’ll link to them below) from both Forrester and Jupiter sides, so I’m just going to speak for myself. The key takeaway for is that we’re more alike than apart. While the Jupiter analysts would often approach the problem at a different angle than we were used to thinking about, almost always we would end in ‘head noding’ when it came to insights, findings, and recommendations. It was good to get to know Emily Riley, Michael Greene, David Card, Barry Parr, (Nate Elliott wasn’t able to join us) as well as some fellow Forrester colleagues I don’t get to see that often. I was particularly glad to meet Emily Riley, who’s research on communities, influence, and marketing were both impressive –yet strangely familiar in insights (and confirmation) as our own findings.
Aside from the fact that we got to know each other and were able to share a common bond for analyzing the same area, we were able to focus in on future research topics, take inventory of our areas of coverage, and socialize the POST process, Technographics, and learn about each research culture.
Now back to my story about getting acquired, it was at the tail of the dot bomb in Santa Clara, right in the heart of Silicon Valley, I was a junior web professional, working on the UI for the enterprise intranet at Exodus Communications, the company was falling at a rapid pace after a meteoric climb. We were snatched up by British Cable and Wireless, and spent the next few months integrating and filtering people, tying together systems, and eventually becoming one entity that is now still in existence. I remember so many questions being unanswered, uncertainty and my boss John Perera constantly telling me to ’embrace change, embrace change’.
Recently, I’ve spoken with a few clients who’d expressed concern about a few of our very smart analysts moving on, and I asked them what could I do to reassure them that we’re still heavily focused on giving them the same insights as before, and we agreed that we should transparently blog about the two new teams coming together, so I’m making it a point to do just that.
To be clear, this is just the start, and we’re all going to ’embrace change’, as we’ve identified many areas that we’ll have to work on as a team, there is some overlap of coverage, we all have individual approaches to the same problems, and the mixing of any two cultures will take time to settle. The key that we were able to come together, stand on common ground, and agree to move forward to deliver quality research that will help our clients make the right decisions. Personally, I’m reinvigorated and looking forward to what comes next.
I’ll be linking to my colleagues perspectives as they appear. It’s refreshing to hear their honest takes on the last two days.
Aug 29: Emily Riley writes she’s Going Corporate, and observes my silicon valley lens.
Aug 29: David Card changes colors by Going Green, Embracing the Groundswell, etc, First Take, he notices the process too. Yup, but like good jazz, structured chord changes allows for amazing improv solos. The first step is to learn those chord progressions.
Aug 29: Blend master Josh Bernoff declares “It blends”
It was good we all met, I just got a project come in the day after the meeting that needs more than my expertise, I sent an email to David with details.
Below are some picture from the last two days which include some rare pictures of the research team at 400 Technology Square.
Many of these pics were taken by Zach Hofer-Shall, who uploaded to our internal wiki, which I then snagged and put on Flickr with attribution.
I’m respecting your limited time by publishing this weekly digest on the Social Networking space, which I cover as an Industry Analyst –a good way to get in my head.
I’ve created a new category called Digest (view archives). Start with the Web Strategy Summary, then quickly scan the succinct and categorized headlines, read text for my take, and click link to dive in for more.
You can subscribe to this digest tag only, which filters only these posts tagged digest.
Web Strategy Summary
Facebook launches Engagement Ads, which signal how widgets and advertisements start to look alike. Third party developers such as Widgetbox are now available on Hi5, and the OpenSocial protocol continues to gain traction, despite a setback with developer relations at Ning.
Engagement Ads –Early Trials, and Caution
I shared my thoughts with Cnet about Facebook’s Engagement ads, and the impact it has on brands and users. While highly innovative, Facebook’s experiments could put some brands at risk, let’s hope they develop some best practices that meets the needs of brands –and users. Read my additional analysis.
Stats: OpenSocial reaches 350 Million Users
This protocol, first lead by Google is gaining adoption by developers who are using it to encourage their applications to be write once, run anywhere is seeing adoption and growth.
Usage: Facebook hits 100million users
As Facebook approaches a very large user base of 100million registered users, they have an increase of adoption of users opting in to the new redesign.
Verticals: Social Network for Chefs
Yet another segment of social networks that are launched, cooks can now connected at CookEatShare, link via Arturo Pelayo.
Analyst: Gartner pushes social networks for retailers
These findings and recommendations encourage retailers to approach social networks as they are attracting too much attention too ignore.
Mobile: Linkedin launches mobile version for iPhone
Allowing members to access their social network while mobile is a nod towards the future, this simple app appears to display one’s newsfeed.
Media: Bebo hosts modeling show
This 12 episode show “Model.live” reveals reality style how models live and work to achieve their modeling dreams, this ties in well with Bebo’s heavy media and lifestyle network. A good example of TV and social networks starting to merge.
Developers: Ning boots Widgetlaboratory
Applications: Widgetbox Gallery Available for Hi5
Hi5 a fast growing social network has now tapped into Widgetbox’s existing OpenSocial widgets gallery to be available for their community. Despite the challenges that Ning and developer Widgetlaborartory had this week, this is another example of how containers are embracing third party applications.
Features: Lithium extends blogging features
Although they’ve had blogging features previously, Lithium signals to the market they’ve more robust blogging features for enterprise clients.
Privacy: SoNets increase connectivity but not privacy
This interesting article from Scientific America (thanks Brian for the link) gives examples of how some have been impacted by the connected world, for better of for worse.
Culture: Women review bad dates
Read about this in the Scientific America article above, where women rate, review, some pretty bad men. This site scores well for google search results where no other is present. Now, when folks meet each other in real life, they may start to do Google searches, a sign of the times.
PR professionals that have clients in this space, should subscribe to this blog, and ensure their clients are put on this digest by sending me an email, or better yet, leave a comment. If you work for a white label community platform, keep me updated, I want to know of your wins.
I’m currently doing an intensive 3 month research project on the topic of Community Platforms, and it’s become very clear that by talking to many of the 27 brands, 9 vendors, and leaning on forecast data where many decisions are currently being made to purchase these enterprise software solutions. To start with, many solutions (define as a set of software, services, support) are being purchased by marketers who want to bring a social aspect to their corporate website.
These marketing folks, who may have worked with IT in the past to load CMS programs are bound by corporate red tape, de-prioritized by IT project management, or want to evade the rigors of legal and security and free to purchase community platforms using Software as a Service model (SaaS). Why is this beneficial? As they’ve only to rely on IT for single sign on (SSO) they often can handle the rest within the web marketing team, or lean on the services of the community vendor.
Yet, they aren’t the only buyers, HR departments are starting to become sponsors for enterprise social network platforms to improve internal knowledge transfers, collaboration, and developing specific programs for alumni, new hires, interns, and even women using pre-packaged use case features provided by these vendors.
You can see where this is headed right? IT departments realize that fragmented communtiy software is going to lead to a disparate mess to clean up, and many are starting to make recommendations for enterprise platforms that will span the usage of the whole company. Why? To reduce overall resources, ensure security, centralize data, and ensure, well that they are responsible and safe when it comes to their information.
I’ve only heard of a few instances from the marketers that I’ve interviewed where IT has thought of community platforms as an enterprise solution rather than a one-off by marketing.
Talking with many of these folks in this research project, I could make the case that in 12-24 months we’ll start to see CIOs start to initiate projects to deliver enterprise social networking mandates, take ownership over these disparate projects, and wake up and realize the importance of these tools beyond marketing and HR.
This yields all kinds of questions regarding: security, what does enterprise-class entail, how will Microsoft/SAP/IBM respond, will Saas or on-premise software be required, governance, flexibility, allowance of third-party widgets, and costs. More to come on this as I dive further into this research project.
It’s amazing it’s taken so many years for this to come around, I first started writing about this back in 2005 with Dennis McDonald.
One of the ways I tell companies how they can best serve their market is to be transparent on how they build products. By doing so, it helps folks not only understand, but appreciate the level of effort that goes into creating a service or product. While analysts offer guidance and advisory sessions, we’re most known for the reports that we create, in fact, these are key products that help decision makers be successful.
Demand for community platforms, yet too many vendors
I’m asked a few times a week on which community vendor to choose, with a list of 80-120 vendors on my blog and a more refined catalog on the Forrester site, it’s very confusing for brands to determine who’s best. If you’ve been reading my blog, you’ll know I’ve been watching the community platform (aka white label social network space) with great interest, even before I joined Forrester. A few weeks ago I announced my intention to start a Forrester Wave report, which will segment out nine vendors that will meet the needs of Interactive Marketers at Enterprise Class companies (companies with more than 1,000 employees).
The Forrester Wave Methdology
Using the refined Forrester Wave methodology that has been completed by many analysts before me, we’re nearly half way done with this 3 month research project to understand, and segment the community platform market. For this particular report, it doesn’t make sense to utilize crowd sourcing methods (although I’ve used crowd sourcing for other reports), the Wave method is already refined from the many analysts before me.
To date, we’ve created a detailed scorecard that involved a feedback loop with major brands who have recently deployed community software. This particular scorecard contains over 54 criteria that was assembled through client discussions, a panel of a trusted folks who have deployed communities, discussions with fellow analysts, and feedback from the vendors. Next, we collect data from the 9 vendors, each completing the scorecard for a total of 496 cells, then I create my own sheet of cells verifying what we found for a total of 992 cells of data collection.
Also, we’ve started interviewing and recording feedback from 27 brands that have deployed community software from these vendors, in order to find out what went right –and what could be improved from each of these nine vendors. Again, more spreadsheets and data collection.
Starting this week, we start a series of day-long labs with each of the vendors, where will be looking under the covers at the actual software, discuss their business strategy, and understand how their community offerings can best help marketers. We’re looking at the market from a variety of angles, to ensure that an accurate report is created.
At Forrester, an analyst never works in a vacuum, it’s collaborative and I’ve a lot of minds to lean on. It’s not just me alone, I’m getting help from analyst and my editor Shar Vanboskirk, analyst Oliver Young who knows the enterprise side of this space, analyst Suresh Vittal who’s completed many waves, analyst Laura Ramos, and constant support from research associate Sarah Glass (my guiding light, and detailed taskmaster) and research associate Zach Reiss-Davis. I’m under the guidance of my research director Christine Overby, and am in constant contact with our seasoned Josh Bernoff. Despite suggestions that some analyst firms do not have knowledge management strategies isn’t quite true. In fact, we retain the knowledge of our colleagues through tools like internal wikis, constant team communication, and most importantly knowledge and insights generated by reports will live on for colleagues and clients on the website.
That’s just the half way point: next I have to analyze, score, conduct follow ups to ensure all the data is correct, and begin the scoring process. You’re going to notice a decrease in my posting over the next few weeks, and my online activity start to wean off as I work hard to deliver a quality report later this fall that will help interactive marketers make the right decision.
Read more about this Wave Research project:
Part 1: Starting the Wave
Part 2: Data Collection Process
Part 3: The Analysis Process
Part 4: Announcing the Wave, the final report
Update: Only a few brands will trial these new ads, after testing, will then be broadly released later in the year.
A few days ago, I had a private briefing before the press with Tim Kendall, Director of Monetization at Facebook, below are the findings, with specific recommendations for brands. As I get more information, such as results and data, I’ll update this post.
Web Strategy Summary (90 Words)
Facebook launched a new product called ‘Engagement Advertisements’ that encourages members to interact with the ads by leaving comments, sharing virtual gifts, or becoming fans. To combat dismal click through rates of traditional advertisements, these features emulate widgets and encourage users to increase member adoption, viral growth, and brand interaction. Brands will only succeed with these “WidgetAds” if they create content that puts community first, lean on new interactions, integrate with other tools, plan for the long haul, and change how they measure success –traditional internet advertising tactics won’t apply.
[Facebook’s ‘Engagement Advertisements’ emulates natural activities of members –in hopes to increase interaction, network spread, and brand preference]
Facebook, a Fast Growing Global Social Network
Facebook, noted as the largest social network, is on a growth rate to increase it’s active users to 90million active users today in August, 2008 up from 54 million aprox at the start of the year. While presumed to be of a younger college educated demographic, it’s not the domain of the young alone as the largest growth rates are educated white collar workers, over age 25. Facebook has global growth in markets such as 66% growth rate in EMEA, and 35% and 33% growth rates in Europe and Latin America, respectively.
Engagement Advertisements Integrate with Natural User Behaviors
Facebook’s innovative way of monetizing is unique, they were the first to launch a developer platform (F8) as well as the ill-fated Facebook Beacon, and are now launching with a new interactive marketing and advertising product.
[Facebook’s ‘Engagement Advertisements’ more akin to interactive marketing with a social twist: “WidgetAds”]
Unlike Beacon or Facebook Connect, both products intended to aggregate the actions on third-party sites (like Blockbuster.com) this new product called “Engagement Advertisements” is intended to nicely integrate with Facebook’s newly redesign profile and news pages. Early brands to trial this include: Paramount Pictures whose video commenting for Tropic Thunder ran two weeks ago –I’ve asked for campaign results. Future early adopters also include General Mills’ Betty Crocker which will have image commenting and the ability to ‘fan’, and video commenting for Addias, both to trial late August.
Engagement Ads provide three unique experiences
Rather than clicking on the ad and being whisked away to a branded microsite, these ads allow members to stay within the contained walls of Facebook and their social community. Engagement ads come in three major flavors:
1) Comment Style Ad: Members can now leave comments on these advertisements, much like wall posts. Brands that are focused on entertainment, new product rollouts, autos and apparel are well suited. The ad can show up to 4 comments per object, and the activity spreads to the users newsfeed.
2) Virtual Gifts Style Ad: Brands can now create virtual items that users can share, spread to each other. This wildly popular behavior within applications and Facebook is suitable for consumer products, entertainment, and some media.
3) Fan Style Ad: A play off the Facebook pages, users with a persona affinity for a product (like Apple) can become a fan, triggering a notification to their network, and could then tie on social ads. Will work great for established brands, like guitar hero, passion products, luxury products, or any brand with a rabid customer base.
Forrester Data: Social Networks foster communication, self-expression
With horrible click through rates (I’ve heard cases of .04 percent CTR) of ads on social networks, some brands prefer to focus resources elsewhere. Why the low rates? Our research indicates that youth primarily exhibit behaviors of communication and self-expression –not searching for products, looking at ads, or hunting for information.
Common Behaviors of Youth on Social Networks
See what my friends are up to: 86%
Sent a message to someone: 79%
Posted/updated my profile: 70%
Looked at profiles of people I didn’t know: 65%
Sources: North American Technographics Retail And Marketing Online Youth Survey, Q4 2007, Forrester Research
This youth data supports that social network behavior is in fact, ‘social’ and these respondents are not seeking to find out about product information, nor learn about the latest products at a media site, product review, or a search engine like Google.
[Brands will only succeed with ‘Engagement Advertising’ if they lean on user behaviors like communication, self-expression, and social exploration –traditional internet advertising need not apply]
Knowing that the use case between social networks and product-focused sites is key for marketers to deploy successful marketing. For success, marketers and advertisers need to focus in on the key social behaviors, and integrate the marketing activities within the community.
Demystifying Facebook’s Marketing Tool Chest
Facebook’s marketing toolset is confusing, and many brands frequently ask me what is the current set, and how do they use it, here’s the current toolset as of today. Remember that when it comes to groups and brand engagement, the most powerful activity is for employees to actually participate in the community with their customers –not stand by the idle wayside. With that said, here are some of the other tools available to marketers to engage the Facebook community.
Engagement Ads: (new, and detailed above) allow community members to interact with the ads in the profile and newsfeeds –without leaving the Facebook site, increasing interaction, social spread, and brand engagement. Currently unproven, brands may not be ready for these types of new ads, until they change how they measure success.
Standard Advertisements: These Text and image ads can appear on homepage or profile pages, neatly integrate with the new redesign.
Social ads: Are helpful for brands to increase the velocity or acceleration by marketers, allowing them to buy ads that echo the behaviors “what did my friends do” of opt-in users. These primarily appear on the newsfeed, which will encourage spread to an individuals network. Some brands have been under fire from users who felt this was invasive.
Traditional IAB graphic ads: Advertising laden brands may still purchase the standard IAB skyscraper and banner ads from Microsoft both an investor and partner. With low CTRs, some brands have better places to spend their money for return on investment.
Facebook pages: Launched last year, brands can (at no charge) create their own pages, embed applications, encourage discussions, and start to garner “Fans” of it’s products. Most brands are incorrectly using these, based upon the findings from my recent report on the best and worst of social network marketing for 2008 -Forrester Research.
Event Feature: based pages allow marketers to promote events through viral invites, rsvp tools, and event rollups from media and community interaction. While a useful utility, for most brands that market on the web, this is often a side-effort, not the primary push.
Facebook Connect: Perhaps the biggest untold story is the day when Facebook (and other social networks) will connect with corporate websites, I’ve outline future scenarios in this post What ‘Facebook Connect’ Means for Corporate Websites.
Applications: Facebook was afirst mover to allow third-party developers to create an entire eco-system of applications that are growing their own applications. Most brands are harassing successful apps through sponsorships, cross branding, and a few are building their own apps, see how Dell was able to let the community create –and spread– ads on their behalf. Also read my posts on Widget strategies to learn more, or my overview of Facebook’s F8 Developers Community.
Monetization of social networks continues to be a challenge, and Facebook continues to innovate, however for this announcement, brands and Facebook should:
To Succeed, Brands Must Learn Social Marketing
While costly, risky, and foreign to brands, the biggest missed opportunity for brands in social networks is to become part of the community, interact and build real relationships. Although we should expect interaction rates and viral spread to increase with engagement ads, brands should wait and see how these ads CTR perform. For those brands that are ready to forgo the risk, and pursue ‘Engagement Ads’ they should:
Be community themed: Ads created by the brand will succeed if the content is first focused on the needs of the community.
Rely on new interaction activities: The rules of the game have changed, the goal is to increase interaction within the community –not pull them offsite.
Approach with an Integrated Mix: Facebook offers many tools, ‘Engagement Ads’ shouldn’t go it alone, instead increase chances of success by involving other tools.
Change how they measure success: Brands must also change they way the measure success with these interactive ads, rather than weigh success solely on page views or referral traffic.
Marriage of Widgets and Advertisements offshoot: “WidgetAds”
Looking forward, this announcement helps to set in place how online marketing will start to evolve. Widgets have already become advertising units, and now these advertisements are starting to become widgets. Expect Engagement ads, and Widgets created by third parties to start to exhibit these behaviors outside of Facebook. Facebook Connect, Google Connect, and OpenID will bridge social graphs with interactive ads –springing forth a new generation of widgetads.
Although innovative, Facebook must focus on marketers
Although pushing interactive marketing, Facebook must hand-hold many brands with their frequently changing marketing offerings. Facebook must develop a client solution that will help optimize these tools with professional services based on data, results, and demographic information. Marketers can’t afford to experiment with their brand without the help of a trained and experienced group of social marketers provided by the platform.
The only caveat being that the experience of users, always, always comes first, I’ll point to others that cover this aspect.
This is cross-posted on Forrester’s Interactive Marketing blog
See all posts tagged Social Networks, Widgets, Facebook, or my weekly digest
Forrester Report: The Best and Worst of Social Network Marketing for 2008
Forrester Report: Online Community Best Practices
Forrester Report: Online Communities: Build Or Join?
Forrester Report: Google’s OpenSocial: Good News For Marketing Widgets But No Silver Bullet
Forrester Report: Get With It With Widgets
As usual, the conversation spirals off into Friendfeed.
Update: Forrester clients can access a short brief with additional recommendations for interactive marketers.