I’m practicing what I preach to clients, and am adopting one of the five objectives we call “Embracing” which is when brands use social technologies to collaborate with their customers to create new products. In this case, the product is my blog, and the customers are you, my community.
I’m undergoing a blog redesign, and after deciding on designers (read the process) I’m working with Mitch from studionashvegas. We’ve done several comps on my redesigned logo, which is now finalized, but am looking for feedback from YOU, my readers on the blog redesign.
I study community, and this blog needs to serve your needs as well as mine. I know who my audience is from real research (see stats), it’s primarily interactive marketers at agencies, corporate, and consultants. Since I’ve outgrown this current design, see the overflowed right nav, it’s time to clean up the layout, make it easier to find information and highlight what I think is important.
Although we’ve taken a few comps to get to this point, here’s the latest version we’re willing to share. Since you’re going to be looking at this design as a community member, I want your feedback, and am watching for patterns in suggestions, or what you like.
Click image to see large version
We’re also having the same discussion on Friendfeed. Here’s to making a great blog to suit our needs as a community, love to hear your opinion, please leave a comment below.
The Airforce has created a process flow diagram that indicates very succinctly how the Air Force can and should respond to blog posts, there’s a lot to learn from here, and for the most part, I try to follow these similar rules. The Airforce, well all military units across the globe come across criticism, so establishing a clear sense of communication guidelines.
Perhaps one change is that I’ve now been given the stigma of ‘guru’ which I really dislike. Why? I want to be known for what I can do, not just thought leadership. I produce research reports (products) and help my clients make decisions and give them recommendations (services).
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.
Web Strategy Summary
This digest contains two weeks worth of news as the end of the year tends to slow down. Even with that said there are some interesting happenings in the space such as Facebook’s growth exceeding 140mm users, more cases of viruses and scams, and increase of adoption of social networks during a recession.
Growth: Facebook’s user base at 140mm users
Facebook continues to grow at rapid speed, I met with Mark Zuckerberg last week, and he told me they now have 140 million users, Inside Facebook has more on the stats.
Virus: Look in the Mirror, your Face(book) looks like a KoobFace
The latest strain of the Facebook virus “KoobFace” is an evolution from a previous one, and now spreads to other networks. Beware of odd looking messages and don’t click on them.
Identity: Facebook, Google and MySpace Logins
Respected thought and practice leader David Berkowitz sheds light on the differences between Google Friend Connect (go wide), Facebook Connect (new visitors), and MySpace’s (overlap of audience) registration specifics –and how media brands should choose.
Usage: During recession, increase in social networks to increase –relieve anxiety
In this article by BusinessWeek “The Recession: My Facebook, My Therapist” people that were laid off can now communicate with others –to network, grieve and relieve.
Culture meets Social Networks, I wonder what high school would have been like if I had social networks or even email available. We communicated using pagers –but few of us had cell phones so it was quite odd. I’m sure rumors, relationship status, and test cheat notes spread faster than ever possible. If you like this video, I’ve posted up a few others Videos: When Social Media enters Popular Culture.
Despite there being many layoffs in the startup space. I’ve started this post series (see archives) to recognize and congratulate folks who get promoted, move, or accept new exciting positions. Please help me congratulate the following folks:
George Moser joins Ripple6 in the new position of SVP of Field Operations coming from Vettro Inc. where he was SVP of Worldwide Sales. Ripple6 is seeking several qualified sales people for it’s white label social media platform check their careers page.
How to connect with others (or get a job):
Several people have been hired because of this blog post series, here’s how:
Submit an announcement
If you know folks that are moving up in the social media industry, leave a comment below, or if you’re feeling shy (it’s cool to self-nominate) send me an email. Please include a link to your announcement, and ensure you’re really living and breathing in the social media world –this is not a small aspect of your role.
Seeking Social Media Professionals?
If you’re seeking to connect with community advocates and community managers there are few resources
Hiring? Leave a comment
If you’re seeking candidates in the social media industry, many of them are within arms reach, feel free to leave a link to a job description (but not the whole job description, or I’ll delete it)
I’m seeking folks that are related to full time hands on social media strategy and community managers, to be on this list, so let me know if you see these folks, and please submit them –try to include links to announcements on blogs or on the wire. Also, I probably will not include executive management changes on this list at social media companies, as the list would go on and on, but you can feel free to express yourself in the comments!
The economy is sinking, consumers, bloggers, well everyone, can use extra cash in the hand.
Pay Per Post did not require disclosure, Izea requires up front disclosure –this is ethical.
It’s doubly attractive as each of the bloggers can hold a contest, offering additional prizes to their readers, this spread like wildfire in Twitter –reaching a large audience.
I learned from Ted that the bloggers that would participate would receive traffic, as the advertising network within Izea would point to the blogs that are sponsored.
Click through rates will be far higher than banner ads, Ted shared me some numbers, and if he’s right, they are significantly higher. This makes sense as the source is higher trusted than an ad.
It’s inexpensive for the brand, while I hear of many soical media campaigns for Fortune companies being 50-100k, the payout to bloggers and community is a mere 5k, although I’m sure there’s many service fees going to the marketing team at Izea.
But what are the risks?
With every benefit comes a risk to each party, and this one is no different.
Risks to bloggers and their communities
Bloggers will simply have to ensure that they are delivering trusted content to their audience (transparent), and it’s relevant to their current topics (authentic). If readers are going to a tech blog, and expecting tech content, they may be surprised if the content shifts to a different medium –like consumer goods. Ted explained that the bloggers will choose the content they will write about, so in theory, this will work. The good thing about the blogosphere is that it self corrects, the community members will let the blogger know what they do and don’t like –it happens every day. Update: Julio Fernandez notices that the tweets are generating spam, and takes a screenshot.
Risks to Izea
The other risk is the inventory may not be sustainable (long term). What’s the inventory? The bloggers. Izea will need to ensure that the blog posts are spread out so the sponsored posts. If bloggers continue to do sponsored only posts, they do run the risk of losing editorial trust from their community, and then losing audience. As Izea gains popularity, expect the demand to increase for these campaigns.
Risks to Brands
For brands, they should realize that this is not the only way to reach customers, many brands are reaching customers in social networks, building online communities, and using corporate blogs. Brands shouldn’t put all their resources into sponsored blog posts.
Bottom Line: Sponsored blog posts to proliferate
Getting bloggers paid is good, word of mouth for brands is also good, as the prizes and content spread to the readers of the blog they win too. The only risk is if the editorial becomes trusted, but we should expect bloggers to self-police themselves. Two years ago, I never imagined that I would write a positive post for anything coming out of Pay Per Post, but I think this model is getting refined.
Twitter is in an interesting beast, information flies so quickly, that some may misunderstand or distort what really happened in the first place. For some reason, people think that I was against sponsored blog posts or specific bloggers, that’s not true, you can read from my tweets, that I was asking questions to learn and did due diligence to get on the phone with the parties involved, any of the risks I mentioned in the tweets, I’ve also outlined in this post.
The tweets are listed in chronological order, so the first is at the top, I removed any tweets not about this topic.
Kmart paid Shoemoney $500 resulting in buzz from paid blog post 300+ comments http://snipurl.com/7yi5w “Buying” social media is effective 4:37 AM Dec 13th from web
This may not be a scalable model however, as buying placements could reduce credibility of bloggers, reducing marketing inventory. 4:38 AM Dec 13th from web
Bottom Line: Expect more brands to ‘buy’ bloggers and tweeters as the economy dips, this truly is cost effective marketing 4:39 AM Dec 13th from web
@moon Yes, I’m fully aware of Ted, and Izea. Paid product placements are nothing new, what are impacts to individual bloggers and tweeters? 4:49 AM Dec 13th from web in reply to moon
@tedmurphy (Founder of Izea/PayPerPost) have you considered the brand damage this could do to your inventory (bloggers)? 5:06 AM Dec 13th from web in reply to tedmurphy
@moon @tedmurphy is this true? @Chrisbrogan used a seperate blog for the paid Kmart post? What’s the URL? 5:21 AM Dec 13th from web in reply to moon
Here’s @chrisbrogan ‘s paid post for Kmart http://snipurl.com/7ynb1 Transparent, Yes. Authentic? Debatable. Sustainable? No. 5:26 AM Dec 13th
Got off the phone with @centernetworks discussing and debating IZEA paid blog posts. More news on that soon. 5:59 AM Dec 13th from web
@RevzNexus I need to learn more, I requested meeting with Ted Murphy and also with Chris Brogan, I may try to talk to Kmart too 6:02 AM Dec 13th from web in reply to RevzNexus
Just talked to @tedmurphy, asked him many questions, I’ll blog my analysis if brands and bloggers should to this on Monday. 6:30 AM Dec 13th from web
Had a good call with @chrisbrogan He’s on board of advisors for Izea. They model is getting refined. More brands will certainly use Izea. 7:19 AM Dec 13th from web
Expect more bloggers to sign up for sponsored posts as the economy takes a downturn, this is just the start. 7:22 AM Dec 13th from web
@chrisbrogan Thanks Chris and @tedmurphy, I’m trying to understand all sides of the issue (short and long term) before advising my clients. 7:28 AM Dec 13th from web in reply to chrisbrogan
I highly respect @chrisbrogan as usual, he gives a thoughtful and transparent post explaining Advertising and Trust http://snipurl.com/831w6 about 15 hours ago from web
I hope this shows why Izea is going to grow, and explains my stance.
Related Posts: (I’ll be updating this)
I’ll be adding links to posts that add to this discussion, on both sides of the fence.
To some, this topic is going to be controversial, but before you leave an emotional comment, please understand I’m approaching this challenge from a business perspective and have thought this through from multiple angles.
“Spec work” is a proof of concept design that a designer may provide to a prospect. If it’s accepted they get the deal, if not, they are usually unpaid for this spec work.
Backlash Against Spec Work (Proof of Concepts)
Recently, my former colleague Charlene Li received some negative flack for her choice to crowdsource logo design for her unfunded startup. She used crowdSPRING which resulted in many logo designs that were created for her that she could then choose from and refine. Obviously most of the designers never got paid for this, yet one designer received the payment of a few hundred bucks. This was the right choice for her, given her focus on social, and her very young startup, she goes on to rightfully suggest that the larger sized design firms would never be in this space, and that crowdSPRING serves the need of the untapped long tail.
Designers: Why Spec Work Is Not Going Away –How You Should Respond
Spec Work and Proof of Concepts a Common Business Practice. Buyers of designs are often buying creativity and flexibility, as a result, buyers will want to see this demonstrated. Furthermore, spec work occurs each and every day in the market, software, agencies, and beyond not only submit their existing portfolio and customer references, but also provide proof of concepts to brands –this is an expected behavior. Take for example the community platform space (one I cover as an analyst) they often provide proof of concepts for their prospects at no charge, often they have to also demonstrate their flexibility as they may integrate with the prospects website or systems in an unseen ‘sandbox’.
Crowdsourcing isn’t anything new, and will only increase, especially during recession. We’ve heard this same argument against the crowds before, towards journalists, encyclopedias, photographers, music artists, classified ads, retailers, service professionals, towards recruiters, and on and on. While these social technologies allow for innovation, they do cause disruptions to many, what remains is the higher quality services, they don’t go away. This is progress, and it’s not going away, As the market dips, designers will go the extra mile to get business, expect an increase in spec work
Crowdsourced Design Meets the Needs Of Long Tail Market –But May Lack Quality. Like every other industry I mentioned above, the ‘amaterurism’ of media and knowledge results in an increase of demand, but increase in lower quality work. As a result, the need for higher end services will continue to be in demand, as buyers want to stand out. In theory, there is enough room for each. Read this long post by 37 Signals that suggests that most designers cannot live on Spec Work. In the comments you’ll read that those that participate in spec work may be looking for work, just starting off their design career, or are amateurs looking to get hired.
Designers must realize this increases demand for their services. Crowdsourcing designs injects new revenues into the industry that previously were not there. Now that many can create a blog using free or cheap software, you should expect an increase in demand for personal brands. Those that truly want to stand out will find low cost design alternatives. The web has created a new market for design, increasing demand, and growing the pie. Disparaging crowdsourced design is counter intuitive as it’s meeting an increase in demand.
Designers should not embrace No-Spec –instead know the right and wrong time to do spec work. An org called “No!Spec” which is much like a union for designers is rallying professionals not to do unpaid spec work. They’ve an active blog, have grassroots movement, and are gaining steam. Considering the economy is getting worse, designers will be hungry, yet the demand for personal brand projects will increase, designers should not join the no-spec movement. Instead, they should make the decision when it’s appropriate to demonstrate their creativity and flexibility with their prospects, and know when to walk away.
As a result, designers just getting started will embrace crowdsourced design and specs, they can reach a larger prospect base, and will get more exposure. Designers that deliver on strategy and long term relationships will continue to engage in high value engagements shouldn’t shy away from specs –esp as the economy tightens. Of course, focusing on existing portfolios, customer testimonials, will be a great starting point, but demonstrating creativity and flexibility through spec work will set them apart from competitors.
My Experiences With Web Design and Spec Work
I started off my career as a UI designer, I understand the challenges, thrills, and passion to this career and craft, believe me, I have empathy for the job. Recently, I have decided to redesign my blog, and have sought after web design services. I chose to hire a web designer that can give me soup to nuts design and implementation, and really understand the strategy of my blog rather than crowdsource it in pieces. I had two designers in the running, who both provided specs (non paid to me) this makes sense, as I was hiring them on their creative and flexibility. Of course, I reviewed their existing work and portfolio but decided not to go with one of them, they were certainly experienced and professional, but I needed a specific focus, as a result, I voluntarily wrote him a check for his time, this is just as a professional courtesy as he worked so hard on the specs. It wasn’t a huge amount, but certainly enough for a steak dinner for one or two. Keep in mind, all of the money for the redesign, and tribute check for the comps is coming out of my own pocket, this is a personal project.
I hope you found my perspective and recommendation to be balanced and fair, I’ve tried to look at this from all viewpoints. Still, I’d love to hear your opinion, knowing that the increase in demand for personal brands will increase, and that more social software will appear to make crowdsourcing design possible, and the recession causing designers to seek more work –how should designers respond?
Above: It took me a few days to post it, but here’s a very brief clip from the Tweetup, it was a bit packed.
Just got back from the Silicon Valley Tweetup (135 said they would come, 226 people saved it), last time this year, Tweetups were just about a dozen people or less, but the growth of the service has really demonstrated it’s popularity, I estimate 150-200 folks there. Unlike blogs, microblogs can have a greater rate of adoption as the barriers to entry than blogs as it’s easier to get started, and the ubiquitous mobile device makes it easy.
Some of my friends who came desired a more intimate setting split off to private dinners, and that’s fine too, the event is relatively organic, and we certainly want to keep it that way.
Tonight was a success, and I’m pretty sure we were able to connect people to network and find jobs in this tough economy. Thanks for coming out, the #svtweetup became a ‘trending topic’ on twitter search, suggesting it was a top used tag for the evening.I polled the audience and asked folks to raise their hands if they were hiring, and about a third of them were hiring. I encouraged those who were hiring to stand near the bar, there candidates could quickly get their business card, and perhaps buy them a drink. There were a lot of folks looking for jobs, and quite a few people who were consulting, and a few who just were recently laid off. Strangely, there were people that came that never even heard of Twitter, which demonstrates how viral the event was –people passed the invite around on email.
Had a few offers to get the event sponsored, something I’ll have to think about, but I’m generally steering away from that as this is testament that a community can self-organize without institutional influence. On a more social note, we did entertain each other by singing karaoke, seriously, what is more ‘social’ and ‘media’ than that? Joel Postman awarded his latest book SocialCorp to those who could really belt it out best.
Was asked several times when the next one is going to be held, and saw similar queries on Twitter. How often do you think we should hold such a community event? I’m sure folks will create smaller ones from time to time, but I’m thinking of other ways to help people that are seeking jobs connect with employers.
If you’re hiring in Silicon Valley, please leave a comment
Normally, I direct brands that are hiring to post on my job board, (A new job was posted for Vice President DialogueMedia MWW Group, NY) but given the state of the industry, I’m going to suggest that if you’re hiring (or seeking work) to leave a comment below with a brief description to your job post. Don’t post the whole job req (I’ll remove it) instead just give a summary and link to the job posting.