Archive for November, 2008


Connect with Others

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We’re seeing more news stories of layoffs hitting many industries –esp tech. I encourage you to build your network before you need it.

First start by connecting with folks in the Web Strategy Facebook group there are 8688 members that are web decision makers, join in the discussions, read the topics, or post questions. If you’re a Community Manager, or trying to become one, this Community Manager Facebook group has 2050 members to network with. I noticed that Community Managers are in demand, as on the web strategy job board, I was able to check the admin panel and see there were far more submissions to community manager roles than all others.

I’m not scalable in helping people find jobs (getting more and more request) so do try to use these resources as a first source. I suspect we’re going to need to connect more than every before in the coming months and years.

Update: Message to SUN
I was around when the first round of layoffs happened in 2000, yet I don’t recall seeing so much spin from a press release like this one from Sun Microsystems burying in the copy the 5,000-6,000 layoffs that are coming. It’s just condescending to your loyal employees and no one is fooled, as all the headlines from media clearly say ‘layoffs’ in the lead copy and headlines.

I know the Sun AR, PR, Corp Comm, and Agency read my blog, I think there’s really a chance to show your human/open side –after all, that’s what your CEO and mission statement preach to the market.

Four Business Opportunities for the Evolved PR Agency

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This post is a response to last night’s event at the Horn Group called Is Social Media Killing PR? Sam Whitmore moderated Kara Swisher (media), and Susan Etlinger (PR) and me (analyst) for a lively debate, which resulted in the crowd chiming into the issues. I don’t think the conversation evolved as far enough as I wanted to see it go, so here’s what I wanted to share.

For years the Public Relations industry has ironically one of the worst reputations –esp since they are hired to look after the reputations of their own clients. Things only got worse as some brands got punk’d; the introduction of self-publishing tools that allowed anyone to connect to each other using social technologies, causing a shift in power. We’ve already talked to death about the risks and the changes that are happening to this industry, yet I’m hoping to elevate the viewpoint out of the gutter and focus on the larger opportunities –and risks at the industry level.


Four Business Opportunities for the Evolved PR Agency:

1) Enhance Existing Functions
First of all, some things that are already in place need more focus, for example, it was discussed last night that now that influencers (press, media, bloggers, analysts, customers) can directly be reached by clients –PR professionals can be bypassed. In fact, when you look closely, everyone’s doing press, analysis and media.

A) Be a filter for clients: There’s a tremendous amount of noise now being created, creating an opportunity for PR folks to filter, sort, and prioritize what matters. You’ll need both access and understanding of brand monitoring tools as well as the ability to see patterns in the noise.
B) Council rather than conduit: Although strategic council has been happening for many years, now that clients and influencers can connect directly, this could result in a business shift resulting in more focus on coaching, less on pitching. Mary Trigiani suggests the same.
C) Extend Social Strategy: Most firms don’t have a strategic response to social media across the whole firm. While the young digital natives may use these pervasive tools, they lack strategic insight, yet the immigrant executives don’t fully understand how these tools change the communication lines.

2) Differentiate
Two potential customers were at the event, and both lamented that they can’t tell the difference between one firm to another –they all offer similar promises and relationships. The opportunity for PR firms to be more vocal in the areas of expertise they provide are at hand. PR firms should become part of the community they serve –regardless of the client they have on the accounts receivable. Instead, be known as the expert firm in your industry, not just pitching, but also serving and helping beyond your clients needs. There’s a business opportunity here for some smart entrepreneur to create a VRM system that allows clients to recommend PR firms to other brands.

3) Extend to the Entire Customer Lifecycle
I alluded to this yesterday in the panel, but this is perhaps the single largest opportunity for the evolved PR firm. As we know “Public” relations involves prospects and customers, social technologies mush up the lines between when this starts and stops. As a result, PR firms how learn how to offer value to other areas of the organization beyond corporate communications can find new revenue buckets in product marketing, product management, product support, and beyond.

4) Fix Your Own Damn Reputation
I’ll hit this again: it’s very ironic that an industry so focused on keeping the image of their clients reputation pristine is unable to shine their own shingle. Use these social tools to tell your story –and to get your clients to tell your story –on your behalf. Although the HORN group was the only firm to take this challenge head on, the industry as a whole needs to fix this, but it can’t be insular within the PR community, but looking outside the circle of pros.


Related Resources (I’m updating this list)
Nov 14th, the next day: There’s really a tremendous amount of different voices, angles and perspectives on Wed’s discussion, read below.

  • Do read the responses from the attendees in twitter (the audience has the control), they tagged it with #prblog.
  • Ravit Lichtenberg Live blog: Is Social Media Killing PR? Live blogging from girls in tech and Horn Group.
  • Kara Swisher was taking video, and posts her thoughts, although she can make execs shake in their boots, she really makes me smile. Find out what the CEO of Yahoo and I have in common.
  • Cece (a marketing stakeholder) said we were taking on baby step topics and missed focusing on how PR should meet the need of marketing –and the business. She’s right.
  • Susan Etlinger, our host and panel mate gives her thoughts
  • Sam Whitmore the moderator poses some additional questions, I think we’ve all concluded last night’s event really just opened up far more discussions, this is all healthy.
  • Jennifer Leggio was covering this for ZDnet, and has published why PR is not dead, but shows it’s weaknesses.
  • There are photos coming in tagged Horn Group, it’s a thrill to see how all this feedback and media comes in real-time.
  • Charles Cooper from Cnet says that PR is killing PR, and that I focus to heavily on Social Media (which is my primary focus, yet he has a point)
  • Charles Cooper from Cnet says that PR is killing PR, and that I focus to heavily on Social Media (which is my primary focus, yet he has a point). Thanks to Chris Kenton for backing me, appreciated, thanks.
  • Kenneth suggests that Marketing and PR still has a core strategy –social should be left to the side
  • Adrian Chan publishes an email he had with a PR pro at Edelman discussing what we did and didn’t get.
  • Leave a comment below if I’ve missed anyone, sometimes trackbacks don’t show up

    Photos from last night’s event:

    111220081063111220081065111220081066111220081067

    Bebo Reaches to Developers –Enterprise Companies Follow Suit

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    Left Image: Blake Commagere of Ohai tells of the success he’s had porting his popular apps from FaceBook to Bebo at AOL’s Mountain View campus.

    Last night, I was invited to AOL’s offices in Mountain View to learn of Bebo’s Dev Nite, a public courtship to startups and developers who make web applications on social networks like Facebook, MySpace and Hi5 (Examples: Vampires, Scrabulous, Superwall). For anyone that didn’t get the association (it slipped my mind for a sec) that Bebo was acquired by AOL, they keep the branding very loosely separated –likely on purpose.

    Bebo, a unique Social Network
    Bebo’s community segment focuses on user sharing and media, and is somewhat in between the experiences of the wild ‘self expression’ MySpace and more refined Facebook ‘communication’ experience. They claim to have over 40 million users, and has strong traction in UK, and other English speaking countries.

    Bebo Reaches for Application Developers, and sets some parameters
    While there were several things announced, Bebo’s has launched a 10 point based system that rates and ranks quality applications, defined by ‘engagement’. I asked, and they define engagement as repeat visitors and time on site. Developers are rewarded in this ‘game-like’ type of scenario so the top applications (scoring 10) will have the ability for some of their applications to appear on newsfeeds of users that do not install their apps. Translation: the opportunity for viral growth.
    Bebo should also reward developers that attract new members to the Bebo sites. T

    Porting applications from Facebook to Bebo and beyond
    he first presentation from Blake Commagere of Ohai who created some of the more popular (but useless?) applications shared his case study of how he was easily able to port over Facebook apps to Bebo. It was discussed that OpenSocial, which is coming up on it’s 1st aniv still has a ways to go, as developers still have to cater to different protocols with each social network. Learn more at the Bebo blog –which transparently admits to having some issues with the platform.

    Enterprise Companies reach for Startups
    Why would Sun or Microsoft care about some scrappy vampire developer? With the rapid growth of social network adoption from consumers and businesses, some (most will not) of these garage startups will have needs to fill up their data center, (or cloud) with servers, storage, software and professional services.

    As a result the Sun Startup Essentials team was there, (I’ve been tracking them for years, since I was at HDS) and offered developers free hosting with their partner Joyent (learn about the developer program), as well as access to Sun hardware, open source software, professional services, and connections with VCS. Sun should create an online community for startups, or build one inside of existing social networks to further extend their cause.

    Microsoft, (who was not involved with this event) recently launched BizSpark, has far to go, and must truly join the community they want to serve. In my pre briefing meeting with them a few weeks ago, I recommended they reach and join this community, much like how Scoble did in 2005-2006. I expect them to work with existing social media stars, and to aggressively reach for this space.


    The Bottom Line:

  • The culture of each social network is unique, don’t expect applications to easily be ported and successfully run on different social networks –customization is always required.
  • Expect to see more applications on Facebook to also appear on Bebo and other sites, due to the catering of developers, as well as technologies such as OpenSocial.
  • Brands should explore relationships with these application developers who have success on more than one social network, this makes marketing more effective. Brands should first leverage existing sucess rather than build their own –this space is highly fast moving and specialized.
  • Bebo’s measurement index (although extremely limited in attributes) will not only encourage good behavior by those rascally developers, but also helps brands identify who they will want to work with.
  • Expect to see more enterprise companies catering to startups, in order to plan architectural seeds. Although most startups won’t bloom, some will turn into lush tropical forests, bringing ROI full circle.
  • Weekly Digest of the Social Networking Space: Nov 12, 2008

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    digest3

    I’m respecting your limited time by publishing this weekly digest on the Social Networking space, which I cover as an industry analyst. By creating this digest (I started this over a year ago) it really helps me to stay on top of the space I cover.

    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.

    Subscribe to this blog in your feedreader, or use the email subscription box in the right column. Or you can subscribe to this digest tag only and not receive my other posts.

    Web Strategy Summary
    As scrutiny over marketing budgets will increase, there is more discussion online about the value of marketing and advertising on social networks. Although we continue to see anecdotes and case studies, we’ve yet to see any social network offer a ROI on marketing efforts –or even public data.


    Vision: Where Zuckerberg sees Facebook heading
    Mark took the stage at the Web 2.0 Summit in SF, and was interviewed discussing his vision for the future of Facebook, business, users, and international growth. Perhaps one key stat is that 50% of users visit the site once a day.

    Monetization: MySpace planning for Virtual Gifts
    Hot on the heels of Facebook’s Virtual Gifting features, MySpace makes some plans to roll out their own.

    Marketing: Social Network Post Election Analysis
    Even this French newspaper is impressed with the Obama campaign to utilize the new tools of today.

    Revenue: Facebook Advertising and Marketing
    Although this article shows that advertising spend will be down in the next year, Facebook continues to focus on engagement ads to tie customers and brands together.

    Redesign: MySpace launches profile
    Although I was briefed by this minor design update, it’s not getting a warm reception from press blogs at Reuter and articles. I do know from research that self-expression is key with this market, so everything that helps this is in the right direction.

    ReOrg: Six Apart Restructures and Refocuses
    Although they’re reducing their headcount by 8% what’s interesting to read is the strategy focuses that Six Apart is going to aim for, including: Creating Six Apart “Genius” group, Growing Six Apart Services, and Six Apart Media.

    Marketing Mix: Integrating social networks in other mediums
    This study indicates that linking to social network sites in an email campaign may be a less than effective way to reach prospects and customers. Of course, the brand should first figure out if their audience even uses these social tools first

    Case Study: Nike’s social networking efforts grow
    Great example of how a brand can reach a ‘lifestyle’ of runners using compatible products (iPods) and social networks as well as their running gear to reach a market.

    Culture: Why Italians may not want your social software
    Interesting lifestyle perspective shows how some Italians may prefer face to face networking over an online tools. Culture, for sure, plays into technology adoption.

    World: Map shows “top” social networks by country
    Although they’re only getting data from Alexa (questionable at best) this map shows the top social networks by country. Keep in mind, there’s a million ways to cut data, this is only on of many ways to do this.

    If you’re a social network, or widget company, I want to know of your news, send me an email, or leave a comment below. Help me stay up to date.

    I slowly work on this digest through the week in draft format, collecting information that I see is interesting, and it only takes me a few minutes on wed morning to publish.

    Colorado’s Technology Corridor, A Well Kept Secret

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    Above Video: Come join me on my “walk through” videos (see others) to meet Boulder’s tech community.

    I took the day off from work yesterday, and did some sight seeing of the Rockies (thanks to long term friend Kit who was one of the organizers of the Thin Air Summit) and had an opportunity to meet the large tech community at the “Tea House” in Boulder. I quickly learned that the tech scene is active, there’s many startups, events, and a VC community (including this incubator program called TechStars) that helps spur this eco system forward. What makes it attractive? The opportunity to be exposed to the great outdoors, the clean (yet expensive) Boulder area, great food, and healthy lifestyle.

    Being in Silicon Valley, we’re so centrist in our thinking and don’t get enough exposure to the other tech communities around the country and globe (although I’m trying hard to meet each community) as a result we haven’t heard that much about Colorado’s tech corridor.

    I observed that the entrepreneurial spirit runs high in Colorado, many folks want to strike it out on their own (I wonder if this is tied back to the silver rush and early settlers) vs many in Silicon Valley may prefer to join startups and exit rather than building their own sole-propertiership. The environment was warm and people shared –even with risk of sharing competitive information.

    Despite the warmth of this community that’s nestled between the Rocky mountains and the great plains, they’re very insular and don’t share their story to the rest of the world. I’ve visited countries where they actually have government sponsored outreach programs just to tell their story in order to attract buyers, partners, and employees –Colorado could really benefit by not only focusing inward, but being a bit more extroverted and sharing their story with others.

    Well, if anyone in Colorado was hoping to keep their ecosystem a secret –too late now, I just told my community.

    Above, I interviewed Kit Seeborg and was joined by Jason and James both of Room 214, a local pure play social media agency.

    The list of startups we were throwing out were just a small sample, I crowdsourced the list through Twitter, if you know of other startups, tweet the name and tag it #costartup. See the growing list of tech startups in Colorado in this twitter search result.

    If you attended the Tweetup yesterday, leave a comment with your handle.

    Demand Media’s Unique Publishing Model: Curated Social Content (CSC)

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    Left: I met much of the founding team of Demand Media last week in SF at the Web 2.0 expo.

    A few days ago, I had lunch with Richard Rosenblat, CEO of 2.5 year old Demand Media (who recently purchased Pluck) to learn about his unique business model which sits in between self-publishing and mainstream media. This company has been pretty tight lipped but after Richard’s presentation at Web 2.0 Expo and an interview with Kara Swisher, he was interested in briefing an analyst. If you’re familiar with the long tail concept you’d be aware of the large head, long tail –and fat neck. Overused metaphors, but visually it helps to explain this concept.

    [Successful media websites are fueled by fresh quality content –yet the cost of rapidly creating content requires talent, staff, and resources]


    Currently, there are two predominant publishing models on the web:

    1) Enterprise Generated Media
    Mainstream media publishing existing content (TV, Newspaper, Magazine) or spending quite a bit of resources or high quality created content like Funny or Die. This content is easy to spot, it’s highly refined, quality is often high, and is expensive to create.
    Content: Refined
    Cost: Expensive
    Model: Broadcast, Large Head

    2) Consumer Generated media
    The second model is everyone who is self-publishing from their own blogs, websites, podcasts and videos, they’ll often create their own content, find advertising revenue opportunities and may band together forming blog networks like B5, Glam, BlogHer, and Federated Media.
    Content: Varies, but can be low
    Cost: Inexpensive
    Model: Social, Long Tail


    Now, a third model is appearing that blends both styles
    The third model, which we’re just starting to see is a hybrid of both models, which we will call Curated Social Content (CSC).
    Content: Varies, semi-professional
    Cost: Moderate
    Model: Curated by third party, big neck.

    3) Curated Social Content (CSC)
    This model is unique as it scoops up the best of CGM and serves it up to EGM sites who need it. Here’s how Demand Media is doing it:

  • 1) SCC company finds EGM “passion verticals” where there’s a strong desire for content –but they don’t have resources to create it all. For example: Lance Armstrong wants to launch a health site.
  • 2) The CSC company issues a request for consumer experts to write articles, they get paid (Richard of Demand Media told me it often starts at $15) in which they buy and own the content. For Example: Demand asks Health experts to submit articles, a team of editors will determine which article will get paid.
  • 3) Content is posted on the EGM site and attracts visitors, as well as boost SEO. Advertising generates revenue. For Example: Lance’s health site will have a regular influx of new content from industry experts, content hungry people will visit the site, and then interact
  • 4) Both parties have revenue share from advertisements and the CSC company, like Demand Media, takes a cut. For example: Lance’s health site will generate clicks through advertisements (or other revenue opportunities) as new members are attracted to the site.
  • [Content-starved mainstream media websites can now outsource to third-party content curators –who will crowdsource, and revenue share with content creators ]

    Impacts to mainstream media sites: In times of economic downturn this could be a model that purchases media on demand for a large base of creators, content that is often customized. This could reduce the full-time staff at a publishing company. The upside is the increased content created by the crowd, yet reducing the risk of unqualified content. The risk? Media companies still need a strategy, editorial guidance and need to ensure quality and consistent content is provided to the site.

    Impacts to content creators: If you’re an expert at a topic and already blog about a topic, now there’s an opportunity to get compensated for it. This plays to the future of ‘everyone can be a freelancer’ using the distributed web. The risk? While your content will now be featured on mainstream sites, the content is now legally owned by Demand Media, you don’t have direct ownership of the content. Also, not everyone will be able to be a publisher, as you have to demonstrate expertise in your arena. This seems competitive to companies like Wikia, Mahalo, and other curated website content, as well as blog networks I mentioned earlier like B5, Federated Media, and others.

    Talk Back:

  • Is this a viable content strategy for mainstream media companies?
  • Will community experts embrace this way of monetizing their knowledge?
  • During an economic downturn will this be a cost effective way for both publisher and creator to generate revenues?