Archive for June, 2009


Is Blogging Evolving Into Life Streams?

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Top Bloggers Spend Less Time Blogging
I’ve noticed a gradual change in what we know as blogs when Scoble and Shel wrote the book on Naked Conversations. Both of them are now focused on micromedia: Shel has an upcoming book on Twitterville, and Scoble spends more time promoting Friendfeed than his own blog. Secondly, I just learned that Edelman’s top blogger Steve Rubel has retired his traditional blog, and it’s now a life stream, which aggregates content from any source. Of course, I don’t need to mention that many of the top 100 blogs all look like mainstream media, with a team of writers, photographers, and editors.

It seems as if blogging is becoming old hat, or at least evolving into something smaller, faster, and more portable. I’m with Louis Gray, (who has finally blogged his stance –great graphics) I’m not going to give up my blog, instead, I think of it as the hub of content, and the rest of the information I aggregate (notice the Twitter bar up top and the Friendfeed integration below). To me, joining the conversation is certainly important, but it doesn’t mean the hub (or corporate website) goes away.

More Lifestreams Mean More Noise
As more and more people create content on microchannels, we experience more ambient intimacy, but also a lot more data. For example, Scoble pointed out on our panel last night with Mark Silva and Kevin Marks that the iPhone has resulted in 400% increase in uploads to YouTube. I assure you, we have no time to consume all the content created just from our immediate friends and family –the hours in the day stay fixed.

Steve Rubel’s switch to using Posterous (the tool that fuels his lifestreaming) makes sense for him. Why? he’s slowed down on blogging and increased his activity in Twitter and Friendfeed. But what’s going to work for him may be a detriment for others, this  increased volume of smaller content the need for analysis and journalism matters even more. When you look at Steve’s new stream, it’s actually heavily on target with the same content as he’s had on his blog, it’s just published faster and quicker.

Opportunity For Those That Can Distill Noise to Signal
Yes, you should certainly socially pollinate your corporate or blog content to other communities, using tools like sharethis, however these should also be hooks for people to find your content.  For me, I’m going to respect the needs of my community, and keep on blogging to distill what I think is important.

Key Takeaways

  • The trend for people to create more content is afoot, as a result aggregation tools like lifestreams, activity streams, and newsfeeds (and a new form of a social/email inbox) will take center stage.
  • You should certainly join the conversations where they exist, but this doesn’t mean your base of quality content should erode, there are long term branding and search benefits.
  • As a result, we’ll start to see new tools emerge that help to find the signal –not noise. Those who can filter out what’s important will matter more:, by using a: blog, delicious, or tweets to let your community  know what’s important.
  • Expect the same heavy pieces on this blog, but feel free to spiral with me on Twitter and Friendfeed and whatever tool comes next.  I’m going to leave the choice to you.  I want to keep the signal high for my business minded community. Needles –not hay.

Update: I gave Scoble crap last night in person over beers for not keeping his blog up. He takes my challenge and rebuts me in Friendfeed. This proves my point he’s losing his thought leadership, his voice is lost in the noise –what do you think? Update (A few days later): Scoble has come to his senses, and is putting focus on his blog now.

Steve has responded from his blog –in paragraph form, so really, he’s actually still blogging, although aggregating other interesting info in his “journal notepad”, I prefer his method over Scoble’s –he’s also retaining his brand from his own domain/URL –although he made his readers re-subscribe to RSS.

To be clear, I admire and respect both of these guys for leading the next movement.

Report: Companies Should Organize For Social Media in a “Hub and Spoke” model

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I often get asked by brands: “How should we organize our company for social media?” or “Which roles do we need”, or “Which department is in charge”. So for our latest report (clients can access all the details) answers just that, it has data and graphs about spending, brand maturity in the social space, which department ‘owns’ the program, and how companies are organizing.

Companies organize in three distinct models
For this post, let’s focus in on how companies are organizing. There are three basic models that I’ve observed and surveyed brands:

  1. The Tire (Distributed): Where each business unit or group may create its own social media programs without a centralized approach. We call this approach the “tire,” as it originates at the edges of the company.
  2. The Tower (Centralized): We refer to this centralization as the “tower” — a standalone group within a company that’s responsible for social media programs, often within corporate marketing or corporate communicaitons.
  3. The Hub and Spoke (Cross Functional): Like the hub on a bicycle wheel, a cross-functional group that represents multiple stakeholders across the company assembles in the middle of the organization. The hub facilitates resource sharing and cross-functional communications (via the “spokes” in the wheel) to those at the edge of the organization (or the “tire”)


How companies organize for social media
The above graphic shows how brands we surveyed are organized

Which way should companies organize?
We believe the most sophisticated and effecient way is the Hub and Spoke, which provides centralized resources that can support business units.  The business units still have the freedom and flexibility to dialog with the market –and should be in alignment with what other spokes are doing.  Social doesn’t impact one department –but impacts marketing, pr, product, services, support, and development –every customer touchpoint.

Remember: 80% is Strategy only 20% is Technology
On a related note, thanks to heavy collaboration with colleague Zach Hofer-Shall we’ve also published a report for clients on a community launch checklist. This checklist reminds brands that 80% of their success is dependent on understanding their customers, defining an objective, and assembling the right strategy that encompasses: plans, roles, process, budgets, measurement, and training –not a focus on technology.

The faster brands can realize that approaching social marketing and collaboration isn’t about technology, but about process and change management the better off they are. You’ll find simliar thoughts from David Armano –who’s scoping out different models within their framework of social business design.

Love to hear from you: Which way is your brand organized?  In a tire? tower? or hub and spoke. In my experience, I often ask stakeholders in companies to vote by raising their hands on which model they think they are –most often, not everyone agrees –but most want to evolve to hub and spoke. Try polling your internal teams to start a lively discussion.

Update: David Armano responds, and points out there can be multiple hubs and spokes in a single corporation. We’ve found this in large CPG and Tech titans, this model can work well.

Where Your Facebook Pictures and Friends are Featured, “Prototype Experience” Provides A Social, Contextual Video Trailer

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Remember early Jib Jab cartoons where you’d manually upload your own photo and that of your friends? Now, it’s much easier with just a few clicks to Facebook Connect.

Last week, I had dinner with Chris Pan (linkedin, twitter), Head of Brand Solutions at Facebook, who pointed me to a new social interactive marketing advertisement for a video game called “Prototype”. Upon accessing the site, Prototype Experience, (try it for yourself) you’ll be prompted to login with your Facebook account. After a rather lengthy loading period (it’s worth it, hang tight) you’ll watch a short teaser trailer.

This isn’t a normal trailer, as it uses your own social information in Facebook from your profile picture, your profile information, and photos from your friends. Here’s what I saw, see screenshots below.

What’s going on here? This is an example of more contextual ads based off social profiles, which is a trend as you can see my coverage of VW’s Twitter and Facebook campaign). These are early examples of the era of Social Context, where content, media, and ads will be personalized in the future based off your social information, learn more about this in the future of the social web.


User Experience: Screenshot Storyline
Here’s the blow by blow, with my thoughts.

prototype0
Above Image: First, users are encouraged to login with Facebook Connect –a few clicks. If you’re already logged into Facebook, it’s just a few clicks –all without entering a password. Expect more people to interact as there’s less commitment and up front investment than finding photos and uploading them –Facebook already has the inventory you need.

prototype2
Above Image: Promo video includes my profile pictures –making things a bit more interesting and personalized. As this evolves, imagine how your face and profile info will populate other experiences and content –we’re instinctively drawn to look at ourselves.

prototype3
Above Image: “Is that me?” Yes it is, this promo video includes information from my profile –I’m right in the game. In consideration of my friends, I didn’t include their photos –which you’ll see in your own trailer video. Expect future ads where friends ‘promote’ or even sponsor content –some opt-in, some not.

prototype4
Above Image: Participants are ‘hooked’ into the registration form in order to win in the sweetstakes, a good example of gathering leads from an engaged audience. Facebook isn’t a great way to generate leads, while you can get users to be ‘fans’ of your Facebook page, getting their true identity and email is often limited –as dictated by their Terms of Service.

prototype5
Above Image: The participants are encouraged to share the campaign with their Facebook or Twitter friends, thus staring a “Viral Loop”. It spreads.


Key Takeaways

  • This is clearly a trend, expect many interactive and digital agencies to offer this social campaign to their clients.
  • Consumers will initially ‘freak out’ and be concerned that big brother is watching them –then will accept this as mainstream media over the next few years.
  • At some point, nearly every campaign will have social content influencing the content –hitting a saturation point that disinterests users
  • Expect site wide Facebook Connect initiatives to happen, allowing all of the media, content, and ads to be socially contextual. Expect media sites and eCommerce sites to launch this first.
  • Expect recommended products and ads to appear from your friends and those connected to you in your social network.

Three Years

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I’m all smiles today, as I reflect on three years of blogging at web-strategist.com.

Although I’ve been blogging about web strategy previously on Blogspot, Yahoo 360 for a few years prior, things really started to get serious when I launched this domain.

Over the three years, the technorati rank of this blog has settled around the 500 range (the lower the better) and it’s unlikely it will drop lower as I’m not a news breaking site, or have a team of writers like many of the top 100.

What’s worked for me? Pay yourself first. I put in a lot of passion, and read and blog nearly every morning (It’s 3:51am right now) before I check any email (which is paying someone else), have an editorial calendar, and am slowly writing drafts (there are 413 of them right now) each day as I collect little bits of information, or get ideas. I’ve learned to integrate the blog into many of my communications as a central hub, then use the social tools to pollinate and let the blog disperse to other locations.

Perhaps the best thing is that this has become more of a collaboration between us because we as a community are learning from each other. Although I’ve written 2,292 posts in these three years, yet there have been 42,694 comments and trackbacks, nearly 20 voices to my one. I still read every single comment, and skim most blog incoming blog posts, I learn a lot –especially when you don’t agree, or put me in check.

I really look forward to the next few years, thank you for being here with me and talking and learning with me. Thanks you for making this a fun project that turned into a career for me, let’s continue to share both ways.

Contextual Ads Based Off Social Network Profile: Twitter and Facebook

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Things are moving very quickly now, in fact I was pleased to learn about these contextual ads from my new friend Cory O’Brien in SF yesterday.

In my latest report “The Future of the Social Web” we pointed that in the near future we’ll start to see web pages dynamically created based on user profile ID in social networks. Essentially, your corporate, media, or ecommerce site could provide contextual media, content, and advertisement based on users’ info before they login.


[In the Future, The Era of Social Context Will Serve Personalized Content, Media, and Ads to Users based on their Social Networking Information]

Here’s an early example of a contextualized advertising campaign from VW (by agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky, read more about the modernist campaign) that’s intended to help prospects find the right model based on their preferences. Please note this isn’t yet the full entry into the era of social functionality as users have to manually submit their login info or user name (like this Twitter example below) and just examines recent tweets. When the era of social context matures, it will look beyond just profile info, but also behavioral data, friend data, location, and content analysis of explicit and implicit data.


Type 1: Context Ad based off of opt-in Twitter profile.


Above Ad: Enter your Twitter name to see a product recommendation


Type 2: Contextual Ad based off of Facebook profile.
Corey also pointed me in the direction of a second “Meet the VWs” Facebook app that asks users to opt in to analyze their profile and then recommends products based off simple profile info. Read the pros and cons from the smart folks at the Future of Ads of this Facebook advertising effort.


This Facebook App scanned my Facebook Profile to Suggest two products
Above image: Facebook recommended these products to me on the VW fan page


Future Expectations:
Expect social context to impact not just ads, but many websites in the future. Also, expect the accuracy to increase as social and behavioral data starts to merge.

Facebook, Twitter, have a tremendous amount of explicit and more importantly, implicit data that could serve up information about users, yet we should expect years of refinement for these engines to truly be accurate. Interestingly, the Twitter ad suggested I’d like the Jetta, yet the Facebook app suggested a Rabbit and Beetle, which I find funny as I’d never drive a Beetle, that’s really not me at all.

In the future, these ads, media, or recommendations should be more intelligent and also find friends with similar cars, or people with similar traits to me that I don’t know and suggest products. As user ID start to federate and connect with other such as Open ID and Facebook Connect, we should expect a higher degree of accuracy.

Then, users may choose to opt-in to expose parts of their identity as they surf the web on trusted sites to receive a contextual experience. For example, I may trust Amazon, eBay and Google search to expose my identity in exchange for a more personalized experience.

We should also expect a rash of privacy concerns and user backlashes to happen, even if they opt in, we’re just scratching the surface here. I have so much more to write on the topic of social context, but it’s 3am and I need to go back to bed, so I’ll save it for a future blog post.


Key Takeaways

  • The above ads are simple experiments of how context can be served up through social data
  • Expect this contextual content not to be limited to just ads, but also on media sites, ecommerce, corporate sites, and TV
  • Expect digital content to be contextual –even without express content of the users
  • During the early years, expect privacy concerns to overwhelm brands, causing them to rethink this approach
  • Although it will take years to perfect, expect context to increase CTR, and therefore the cost of ads
  • What did the Twitter ad and Facebook page recommend to you? Were they accurate recommendations?

    Trends: Impacts Of The Era of Social Colonization –Every Webpage to be Social

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    One of the key findings from the very popular report The Future of the Social Web (which has been translated into over a dozen languages by the community) is that identity technologies like Facebook Connect, OpenID, as well as existing identities will soon colonize the web, making every webpage a social experience –even if they don’t choose to participate.


    [Soon, every product page and webpage will be a social experience –even if brands don’t choose to participate]

    Although the identity space is still in it’s adolescence, many of the vendors agree on the direction to head, but not exactly how to get there. Secondly, there’s many different groups coming together from Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, Facebook, and the third party OpenID foundation that are trying to make their specific requirements work with each other.

    Once the different parties representing the identity systems agree on the specifics and start to implement we’ll still need to see a transport method that will allow these identities to appear on any webpage:

    How Every Page Could Be a Social Experience

    Connective APIs. Expect to at the highest level technologies like Facebook Connect and OpenStack to allow third party sites to connect with websites –without users having to give up their login credentials or personal information –essentially bypassing the annoying registration page.
    Social inlays and overlays. At the next level, expect social networks to create ‘overlay’ experiences so their social experience will traverse every webpage. If you currently click on a link within Facebook to a third party site it will open inside the Facebook experience. We also see this with Digg, with it’s “Digg Bar” experience.
    Browsers to add social functionality. Expect every browser to provide a social experience. Finally, at the next level, expect pervasive technologies like browsers to start to become social. Expect Google’s Chrome to allow your Gmail contacts to share their experiences on every webpage and product you visit. In fact, startups like GetGlue are already experimenting with aggregating reviews from a person’s network using Firefox plugins.
    Birth of the Social Inbox. In the most radical future, content will start to appear on a new type of aggregation webpage that resembles both email and newspages. I’m watching vendors like Friendfeed to aggregate public and some private data, expect Facebook and Google Wave to present unique new experiences we’ve not seen yet. As people interact socially with others on the internet, expect social networks to aggregate the colonization creating a new type of ‘Social Inbox’ (more on that soon). Expect to see Microsoft Live, Yahoo Mail, Gmail/Google Wave start to merge with social networks, birthing a new type of communication and collaboration platform. Why does this matter? because fragments of the corporate websites will be aggregated into these platforms, in a social context.


    [As a result, people will lean on the opinions and experiences of their trusted network –diminishing traditional marketing efforts]

    Key Impact: A Shift to Customer Opinion Over Corporate Messaging
    More importantly, this means that your customers will be able to rely on their immediate friends and trusted network to make decisions –not just nameless customer reviews like on Amazon from folks you don’t know. This means they will also start to rely more on each other for reviews –not the marketing created by brands. This also applies to the real world –not just online, as people can access digital devices on mobile social networks to find out which stores, restaurants and activities their trusted network prefers.

    Power continues to shift to the participants, and away from irrelevant corporate websites.


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    Trends: Impacts Of The Era of Social Colonization –Every Webpage to be Social http://bit.ly/aAJ9c by @jowyang