Consider this a supplement to my latest report on “How Companies Should Organize for Social Computing“. I continue to get questions from clients, and have spent time with more large brands are connecting with customers. Diving in further, I’ve noticed that there are five ways that companies allow employees to participate. Update: On a related note, I gave my thoughts to CNBC about the roles of social within corporations.
Breakdown: The Five Ways Companies Let Employees Participate in the Social Web
Type One: We Have No Clue
This model, where brands have no rules, no guidelines, and therefore no resources to help employees –it’s a freefor all. I often see companies that are just waking up to these impacts be exposed and naked, without any formal process or plan in place. Listening out names isn’t going to help here, as every company will have gone through this in the preliminary stage, it’s natural.
- This is similar to: The mid 90s when many employees in a large company were creating the corporate website –often running off a personal computer under a desk.
- Upside: Ignorance is bliss.
- Downsides: This is the most risky, as companies are liable with no plan, no resources, that leave brand, employees, and customers exposed.
- Takeaway: Get out of this phase as quickly as possible, choose types 2-5 accordingly.
Type Two: Shut it Down
Fear is the primary motivator here, but in some cases, this is to protect employees and the company from liability. Some brands, often in conservative industries like Finance, Heath Care or Pharma, choose to shut down all social activities from employees. In some rare cases, I’ve met some Pharma companies that would not allow their employees to read blogs or social networks, as if they read about an adverse effect of a drug, they were liable. Those employees just ended up surfing the web at home after hours.
- This is similar to: Not allowing any outside communication including personal email, or accessing non work internet sites
- Upside: Keeps the brand safe from employees causing risk in the social sphere
- Downsides: Employees can access the social web from mobile devices (unless those are banned too) or certainly access it from home. Secondly, opportunities to connect with customers is certainly at risk.
- Takeaway: Brands should at a minium listen to their marketplace, and not completely cut off what’s being said. For those in highly regulated industires, you could be liable for not paying attention to what customers are saying (wisdom from Josh Bernoff) so you should be proactive here. Slowly move into type 3 as you evolve.
Type Three: The Corporate Represenative
Some companies setup only small groups within corporate communications, or polished executives to be on blogs. Sony Electronics has their CMO as a blogger, SUN’s CEO is a blogger, as is GM’s chairman, and often the corporate communications teams are involved in the content process, curation, and editing. I was part of the team that did this at Hitachi Data Systems, where the CTO, CSO, and other corporate spokespersons are blogging
- This is simlar to: The formalized corporate representative, the only difference is they’re using social tools.
- Upside: It’s safe. These are often trusted members of the company who can give their thought leadership using social tools
- Downside: Questionable if it’s authentic. We already know that consumers don’t trust corporate blogs (data) –as many just rehash corp-speak
- Takeway: There’s a time and place for corporate social media: to help give official stances on issues, product releases, and fact. There’s also a need for more granular conversations that customers are already having at conferences, online, and at cafes –you gotta be in both places.
Type Four: Common Employees Blessed For Social
Last night, I shared the stage with Intel’s Michael Brito at Stanford’s continuing education program on web 2.0, he shared that Intel has a SMP program, which stands for Social Media Practioner. The different from the ‘tower’ model listed as type 3, is that this can include other regular employees beyond the refined executive. This is a formal training program where those that want to represent the Intel brand in their social media activities have to undergo. Likely, there are guidelines, best practices, and hopefully a support network setup that gives them the tools they need to be successful. Programs like this are go
- This is similar to: Formalized executive speaker and company representative programs that corp comm teams have setup for decades (type three) the difference is: they can now be employees from any walk or level.
- Upside: Formalized social media programs for employees who want to represent the company are a great resource to help companies. In some cases, engineers and developers may be more trusted than executives.
- Downside: What about the rest of the employees? from support, to engineers to the janitor, given the direction our technographics are measuring, many will participate –not just the savvy communicators. (BTW: We’re going to update the data with 2009 data soon)
- Takeaway: This is also a good weeding ground to see who has the real fortitude to stay committed to the conversation. There’s nothing worse than engaging customers in any location then walking away.
Type Five: Everyone Is Encouraged To Be Involved
Some companies that have active employees in the social sphere can benefit from having every employee involved. Sun, HP, IBM, are tech companies that encourage their employees to get involved. They have guidelines, some strategy, and some resources to encourage this behavior. Take Best Buy for example, that even has a “CMS” system called Connect that let’s verified employees tweet on behalf of the corporate Twitter account. As a result, all employees become an army in the social sphere –the goal? to reach with customers in as many touchpoints as possible.
- This is similar to: Teaching employees to sell, evangelize, products and the brand to friends, family, and strangers
- Upside: Empowering the entire workforce, a collective voice and scale.
- Downsides: This could create confusion in messaging and a unified customer experience. Employess could become confused as personal and work content could be mixed, and legal ramifications from the mixture of work and personal.
- Takeaway: This is ultimately going to be the future, but having a free for all isn’t an excuse for having a strategy, guidelines, and resources to support the brand and employees.
Culture impacts how companies choose
So which model is right for your brand? It really depends on your industry, culture, and employee behavior. While many companies may select the third or fourth in the next few years, in the long run –as Generation Y enters into the workforce, it’s undeniable that the fifth model where everyone is a participant of some form is most likely.
Update: Hutch Carpenter, who I’ve met and really enjoy is thinking way ahead of me. He’s graphed out a similar way of thinking about this, in fact, he sees the same exact 5 types. I didn’t copy him, swear.
To Increase Engagement, Brands to Allow Users To Login With Facebook, MySpace, Twitter
In a recent report titled the “Future of the Social Web” we found that we are entering the era of social colonization, every webpage and experience will be social–even if brands choose not to participate. I spent time with Palo Alto startup Gigya who now has a product that enables brands to quickly allow users to login using third party identities (like Twitter, MySpace, and Facebook) quickly to a corporate web experience. Right now, brands are “Pollinating” the social web by letting their corporate created content spread to social networks. As a result, companies are going to start aggregating conversations –the natural reaction to centralize trusted discussions.
- Problem Situation: Users are bombarded with brands trying to entice them to sign up and registered to a variety of websites, and new technologies are going to make registration pages are a dying breed,
- Opportunities: To increase the changes that users will interact with brands, they will easiest way for them to engage by allowing users to interact with their existing identities on social networks.
- Potential Solutions: Tools that aggregate the conversation, brands may lean on Gigya’s Socialize whose aim is to easily manage the complicated APIs and authentication of identies from 3rd party social networks. On a related note I’m going to test JSKit’s Echo who on Friday, announced they will aggregate conversations from multiple social networks
- Example: Gigya showed me examples of Turner Broadcasting who aggregated conversations about the online Final Four Basketball championship and integrated conversations from Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter. This means that the online viewers of the Final Four could interact with their Facebook and Twitter friends in real time on the Turner broadcasting site. Gigya shared data with me about the engagement of each network, during the NBA Eastern Conference Finals Message Distribution by Platform (average of all games) showing that MySpace users created 53%
of all messages Facebook: 35%
and Twitterr just 12%.
- Who’s it for? This is for brands that want to aggregate multiple social graphs and eventually life streams onto their site or experience. The most obvious use cases are real time events, but this will soon become helpful all digital media, and will likely start to happen on TV. Which vendors should talk to them? Any Community Platform vendor, a CMS vendor moving into this space, or media company or their agency.
- Challenges: For brands in particular this comes with some considerable challenges –beyond just the technical implementation. At the business level, expect brands to slam up to:
- Difficult for brands to grasp. This is a complicated and daunting strategy for brands, who don’t know how to approach the changes as the social web envelopes other online experiences.
- Privacy Concerns: Secondly, brands that are going to allow this need to figure out how to later segment specific social graphs of users, and ensure privacy expectations of the users are communicated up front. I could write a whole blog post on how corporate security groups in IT and legal will justly try to stonewall this.
- Lead Generation Changed For Brands: Because brands will let users login using their social network identity (like Facebook or Twitter) they are increasing their chances of user interaction and engagement –but miss out on lead generation in the traditional sense.
- Daunting for Vendors: For Gigya, and other vendors, they’ll need to move fast. while they manage the multiple identity protocols (it’s a complex task as they are moving targets, so it’s often best to outsource this) this eventually will be a commodity technology. For any platform (community or CMS) who wants to venture into this space, managing this will be a costly venture.
- Key Takeaways: Brands need to quickly recognize that every web experience will be a social experience –there’s no way to stop it. Savvy brands will get ahead of the curve and be proactive by allowing users to login and experience their corporate web experiences in the context of their existing social networks. While this comes with inherent risks about lead generation (control) and privacy, the opportunity to increase engagement and let content spread ever further is at hand. Get started by:
- 1) Do research in existing social networks to find out what communities are talking about the most in context of your brand
- 2) Match that with your own corporate website and enable users to login with their existing social identies
- 3) Start with a real time event or conference that gives you a limited period of time to trial and experiment. 5) Realize the way brands measure leads in the future won’t be by name and email rows in databases –but perhaps by friends, fans, and followers.
- 4) Demand that your community or CMS vendor provide the tools needed for this to work, or work with vendors that provide this service rather than manage yourself.
I just asked my friends on Twitter what their first social network was (see their responses), and most gave a varying degree of responses of web based communities, a few claimed early BBS systems –I didn’t see anyone claim email.
Most Get it Wrong: Facebook is not the Largest Social Network
People often make the mistake that Friendster, Tribes, or some early social site was the first social network. People also make the mistake that Facebook is the largest social network to date, in reality, the largest social networks are email. Let’s run the numbers: Microsoft told me that Hotmail has 375 million active accounts worldwide, Yahoo mail is reported at 280mm, and Facebook only has 200 million but growing. Email is the first –and largest digital social network and will likely continue this path of domination, and hey, that’s coming from me, a social technology analyst.
Email is the First –and Largest– Social Network
Well if you agree that Facebook, a private community of your friends is a social network, then so is email. They both have the same requirements 1) profiles (emails have signatures), 2) Ability to connect to each other (the act of emailing, and often responding, 3) Do something useful (email users share information, and sometimes collaborate). Next email still an important mode of communication, while we often complain about email overload, trust research indicates people still trust emails from friends –this will only continue.
Social Network Communications Cross Into Email
Also, take for example a great deal of Facebook, Twitter, and Plaxo messages enter into our email inboxes, I can read Twitter DMs, and Facebook messages in my email –then choose to respond. What’s the difference? Some call this BACN, if it is preferred, while others may call it Spam, it’s unwanted. When I communicate to the top bloggers, we often are using email to discuss truly important things that we wouldn’t say in public –or make plans –not everything is in public. Perhaps the only blogger I know that can’t be reached by email is Scoble –but I have his phone number if I need to reach him.
Email Vendors Go Social
If you’re not familiar with email vendors, they help brands connect with customers (mostly opt-in) with email marketing. When I started my path as an analyst covering social technologies, I was mainly briefed by social networks like MySpace, Facebook and Community Platforms. Now, I’m starting to get briefed more and more by email marketing firms who are entering the social space, to appease their clients (email marketers) the first step is they are adding “Share this” (called Social Pollination) type of features to direct email marketing pieces so friends can share emails with friends in social networks.
Future of Email and Social Networks Are The Same
In the next few years, email and social networks will look the same –or be the same. Expect large email vendors like Google (Wave shows promise) Yahoo Mail, Microsoft Live to envelop the social experience. In fact, Microsoft Live is already showing elements of the activity of your personal network right into the context of email. Take Facebook’s news stream or Friendfeed, these are starting to represent simlar content from emails –the world’s are merging.
Involving community and customers in providing feedback about your products isn’t the only way to innovate your company. In the future, especially around public facing jobs at companies, we should expect brands to involve the community in defining what those roles should be.
If you’re following my tweets, you’ll remember me mentioning this open position of Sr Manager, Emerging Media Marketing a few days ago, and commenting how one of the preferred requirements of having 250 Twitter followers. You can see all those that responded, retweeted, or commented back to me.
While recruiters have been using social media to seek and find potential candidates, it was interesting to speak to Joshua Kahn, who spoke at the Social Recruiting Summit at Google, who is an Accenture consultant embedded at Best Buy. He’s now helping Barry Judge, Best Buy’s CMO, find this role. From his blog (which by the way is a great example of an open CMO) Barry asks the community to help define the requirements for the role. It’s suggested that members use the community idea site IdeaX (we call this an embracing strategy) to define and suggest what the role should entail, I found this submission, and commented on another.
Impacts of Communities Defining Jobs
- Involving a community/customers to define what a role should be keeps brands focused not just on corporate objectives –but also to stay customer focused.
- This is a trend towards 360 degrees of accountability for public facing roles, perhaps not just in new media positions but in any customer facing role, and perhaps eventually in executive positions. In some ways, this level of corporate accountability lead from transparency could ultimately help repair or prevent some of the downfall we’ve seen in our current economic climate.
- Expect community not to just define what roles should look like, but to also recommend and suggest candidates that could fulfill these roles.
- Although the feedback looks pretty minimal right now, if an excess amount of contributions appeared, expect hiring mangers to take portions of this input to be factored into the requirements gathering.
- In the most radical future, we could expect a formalized rating system could appear that let customers and community rate and rank employees of any given company. We’re seeing early examples of executives are already being rated by their employees in GlassDoor.
- Expect a 2.0 startup to appear that focuses just on community feedback for roles and job requirements, we’ve got them for everything else, so why not this?
- The downsides? While the attention around this open req is unique, there’s going to be an equal amount of pressure in this role to succeed. Then again, this candidate is likely going to be familiar with the open –and public aspect—of the social web.
Update: Barry has posted that there’s issues with the IdeaX application, watch his blog for updates. Here’s a list of all the submissions.
Update: July 6th, I added a 4th way, as I recently met a developer this weekend who showed me the scripts he created to quickly auto follow thousands of folks.
Companies who don’t have iconic brands with millions of adoring fans, often have to resort to other ways to get the attention of the market. This isn’t evil, nor is it uncommon, it’s just business, and was here before the web, and will be afterwards. Don’t get mad or emotional about it, let’s break it down to understand how it’s going to work, if you’re a concerned user, use this post to figure out how to beat it. If you’re a marketer, figure out what works –and throw away what doesn’t.
Breakdown: How Brands Are Buying –and Earning– Followers on Twitter
As a result, we’re seeing some of the same method applied to the web and email as to the social space. Here’s three examples (again in outline form) that I saw this week.
1) The Sweepstakes Giveaway: Moonfruit becomes a Trending Topic
- Summary: This giveaway contest spurs word of mouth –results in opt-in “registration”
- How they did it: Moonfruit offers website building services, and is offering a new computer to those that tweet about the contest (see their official contest page), the only way to receive a product is if you follow their account (opt-in). Of course, this means the members are subject to future messages.
- This is the same as: Contests, WOM marketing, tell-a-friend.
- Benefits: Rapid word of mouth about a brand driving awareness and opt-in as people follow the account, likely a percentage of followers will convert and buy the service.
- Risks: This doesn’t build long term engagement with a brand, and it’s likely many will unfollow after the contest is over.
- Costs: 10 Macbook Pro (13″) which is $1500 each for a total of $15,000. If the follower count retains at 10k a day (it’s day 3 today) for 10 days resulting in 100,000 followers, that’s about $.66 a follower, not including marketing efforts.
- Results: Big wins. Moonfruit is a trending topic 3 days after the contest landed, there are thousands of retweets and tweets about the brand, as well as an increase in followers of about 10,000 a day (graph).Update: It’s now July 6th and the Moonfruit account has stalled out at 43k followers –it didn’t grow 10k as the first 3 days did. It’s also no longer a trending topic. Techcrunch Europe comments.
- My take: A natural extension of other marketing forms to Twitter. The giveaway prize matches well with the type of clientele the brand wants, and it’s certainly generating a high degree of discussion for at least 10 days. This really isn’t a new model, and we should expect more brands to offer these types of sweepstakes, however to make it better, the tweets should be more inline with the brand promise, such as asking the followers to tweet about “what website they love, or would build”
2) Buying Customer Matching Lists: uSocial Promises Relevant Followers
- Summary: Service called uSocial offers brand cost per action (CPA) advertising resulting in customer match
- How they do it: uSocial matches brands with suggest followers that have similar affinities, keywords, or profile information, BBC has the story. It looks like they will find matches, and suggest to twitter users that you follow that brand, (likely through an automated spammy system) till the reserve is met.
- This is the same as: What’s new is old again. This is very similar to direct marketers buying email lists of prospects that have similar demographic or affinity information. Martin agrees. Kevin Marks makes a good point that it’s not like email, as you can’t make folks follow them on Twitter. I suggest it’s the same, as you can’t get a user to open a spammy email.
- Benefits: They promise lots of followers within a few days, a very low cost.
- Risks: Brand damage. If the market finds out (it should be easy) that a brand isn’t earning their followers, they risk backlash and people unfollowing, or even worse, unfollowing.
- Costs: The lowest package (there are others) is $87 for 1000 followers–it breaks down to 8 cents a follower. If you buy the 100,000 follower package it drops down to 3 cents a follower.
- Results: I’ve not heard if this works, I’m sure someone will report back to me.
- My Take: Use as a last resort: If it looks to good to be true, it probaly is. The uSocial site looks like a ‘get rich quick’ site, the design comes across really spammy themselves. It’s likely brands that do buy this will likely act in a similar way, and I wouldn’t expect followers to stick around if they behave in a similar way. It’s likely a brand that goes for the quick hit doesn’t have a long term strategy to interact with their public market, and will use Twitter as a distribution point. However, brands that do have a community strategy, and have developed relationships using Twitter, could certainly benefit from the increased awareness to likely prospects –the only risk is that it may come across as spammy as uSocial makes recommendations.
3) Product Discounts or Specials: Dell Offers Followers Specials
- Summary: Some brands are generating followers by providing special deals to followers.
- How they do it: For some time, Dell is offering reduced priced or refurbed products on their Dell Outlets Twitter account.
- This is the same as: signing up for emails to receive discounts.
- Benefits: A low cost channel to sell products to an opt-in crowd, avoiding excess inventory.
- Risks: Can’t think of any, leave a comment if you have one.
- Costs: Inexpensive. It appears there is a community manager responding and answering questions, so the cost of this part time employee, or contractor, must be accounted for.
- Results: Dell has made the claims they’ve generated over $3 million in revenues from this single account. Of course, that’s a drop in the bucket for this tech giant.
- My Take: Replicate. This is a great use of using the medium to obtain more interested followers that are requesting to be customers. The downside is that not every company has products to offer on a discount, nor the brand appeal. Brands should find ways to offer special deals to this highly viral community, offsetting the costs by weighing in the benefits of WOM and press coverage.
4) Auto Following Scripts and Services: Get followed by following
- Summary: A variety of services have been released that will find followers for your account to follow, then do an auto-follow script that will add them. The hope is that many of them will auto follow you back, out of courtesy, in order to increase follower amount. The downside? It can look spammy, and many who return the follow are often bots.
- How they do it: Similar to the Usocial service, they find followers (sorted by keyword, geo, name, etc) and start to follow. There’s a limit to how many Twitter will let a script auto follow per day. After a few days, the Twitter account will be following thousands of other accounts, and the hope is that many will follow in return.
- This is the same as: Cross linking and link farms. Websites a few years ago would share cross links in hoping of increasing their page rank –soon Google caught on to this and started to regulate. A whole industry of ‘link farms’ emerged, however some of the sites involved with this were penalized by Google.
- Benefits: Cheap way to get lots of followers.
- Risks: Brand damage by being somewhat spammish, and many of the return followers are likely bots just returning the follow. As a result, the returns for this may not be mixed: some new followers may be your target market, although not all will be the ideal individual.
- Costs: I’ve heard of package that can add a few thousand followers for around $25-$100, it’s just a simple script to run.
- Results: You will get lots of followers if you follow others –although you’ll have to live with the risks
- My Take: Easy come, easy go. While many popular twitter users go on a rampage to follow as many people as they can, I find the slow organic way of letting the right folks opt-in is the a better long term strategy. The Twitter founders Biz and Ev told me first hand they frown on people who do mass follows, at some point we should expect Twitter to clamp down on this behavior, just as Google did with link gaming.
Hope this breakdown is helpful, it’s important to look under the covers and analyze. Of course, I’ve not discussed the organic way of brands providing helpful content, interacting, or supporting customers, but that’s been written to death by the many social media bloggers.
Facebook is undergoing pubescenct changes in the next few years –from a private pre-teen to a public facing member of society –that’s what I told USA Today. Facebook initially made it’s promise to be a private community, but realizes it must now be more public to compete with the open web. Expect more awkwardness for the social network and it’s users’ over the coming years.
What are the indicators that Facebook wants to grow up and be public?
- Previous settings allow members to allow their profile page to be public and therefore findable by search engines.
- Facebook launched Beacon in late 2007 that was it’s first gangly moment that resulted in public backlash as customer data was shared without users’ consent.
- Facebook already has thousands of sites with Facebook Connect, which allows users to login with their Facebook ID to a site (making registration pages less relevant), and exposing limited amounts of profile information –expect this to expand as it’s successful.
- A few weeks ago, Facebook allowed a mad rush to create vanity URLs for profile names and fan pages. Yesterday, Facebook announced it’s going to turn on new features that allow many types of content to be public from individual posts, as well as a set of permissions by your different groups of contacts.
- As Facebook crosses this chasm they are buffering with the right staff, and have hired lobbyist Chris Kelly, Facebook’s chief privacy officer, who not only deals with internal programs and policy, but also government groups.
Why Facebook’s Strategy Must be Public
- Data that is public has more opportunity to be seen by the public, thereby increasing opportunities for advertising and marketing revenues.
- Secondly, this is a trend of the open web as Twitter and other public social networks take hold.
- Thirdly, take a look at Generation Y, my observation is that they appear more open about what they want to share, at least for now.
- Lastly, Facebook’s play is to be an identiy hub, therefore its Facebook Connect features will let our Facebook logins spread the web, as a result, Facebook will aggregate the data back to it’s homepage, making it the centralized place we go to get information.
Expect More Social Awkwardness Over Next Few Years
As Facebook continues it’s global domination as the world’s largest non email social network (you do know that email is the largest social network, right?) expect to see more focus on privacy as they slowly change their value statement of being a private safe place with your real friends to be more of a public online discussion with the open web.
The key Facebook challenge is they have to convince, enable, and encourage its users to be public and open –they can’t turn on these features without breaking user trust.
Brands are pollinating the social web with easy-to-share features like Sharethis. As conversations splinter across the web, brands must prepare to aggregate those same conversations on their corporate website. As a result, the trusted conversations will centralize back on product pages.
[Trusted conversations have fragmented to the social web --shifting the balance of power to communities]
Social Pollination: Brands Currently Spreading to Communities
- Why: Brands are trying to let their corporate and social content spread to many different communities in Facebook, Twitter, Email and others.
- Examples: Any blog post, press release, or product page that encourages readers to share the content to other locations. Any brand created Facebook fan page, flickr account, or Twitter account.
- Risks: Letting content spread to other locations causes some angst, as brand managers now must monitor content and discussions elsewhere on the web. The command+control mentality of “our corporate website is central” no longer holds true as people can share content using browser features like social bookmarking tool Delicious, or sharing links in Facebook.
- Vendors: A variety of tools have appeared such as sharethis, addtoany, addthis and others. Incumbent players include: email, Facebook, Twitter, and Delicious that encourage content to be shared within those communities.
[To regain trust, corporate websites will look more like a collection of real-time customer discussions --not just product pitches]
Social Aggregation: Corporate Websites to Centralize Discussions
- Why: Conversations and content have fragmented and distributed on the web, as a result, corporate websites are generally irrelevant. Expect brands to start to centralize these discussions on or near their corporate website in order to bring trust and relevance back to the corporate website.
- Early Examples: There’s a few examples that we can start to analyze, they include:
- Any corporate blog that frequently discusses recent topics or industry news is a manual version of this.
- Early examples include Sun aggregating technorati blog mentions of any product to their product pages –even if it’s negative. I’m having a hard time find that example now, they may have removed that from their website.
- IBM’s hosted thousands of developers at a conference called Impact. They aggregated event tweets in this twitterfall.
- Zappos aggregates all Twitter mentions of it’s brand on this aggregation page.
- Perhaps the most mature example is Kinaxis, a supply chain management software company, has aggregated news of it’s industry at Manufacturing Central.
- Future Deployments: Expect brands to at first create a lightly branded version of these discussions, on the topics of industry, or around mentions of any product.
- Data and Content: The aggregation will need to pull in data and either sort by recency or relevancy or other prioritization pattern like Techmeme.
- Location: Brands will likely create a seperate site or microsite for events or products that does this, as they get bolder, expect them to aggregate direct on product pages.
- Branding: At first this will be lightly branded, but then will soon integrate directly with look and feeld or corporate site as this mainstreams.
- Risks: Brands will have a difficult time finding all the relevant content. Secondly, while it makes sense to filter out off-topic, spam, and hate speech, the natural tendency will be to filter out negative reviews. Expect there to be customer backlash as their complaints are not publicly aggregated on the corporate web pages. Internally, expect social advocates to battle with brand preservationists who don’t want negative reviews on product pages.
- Vendors: A variety of vendors will appear to serve this need:
- The toolsets have not yet emerged, however we should expect a series of startups to appear that offer this or spinoffs from Friendfeed (a logical first mover) and eventually a form of a Facebook embed.
- A second set of players could be any of the aforementioned pollinators (sharethis) and potentially listening vendors like Radian6, Buzzlogic, or any data house like Technorati, Delicious or Get Glue (read my take).
- Community platform vendors and CMS vendors like Vignette, Interwoven, Documentum with social features will likely launch modules or features that provide these aggregation pieces, or partner with the above.
- Expect innovative agencies like Federated Media who conducted ‘sponsored aggregation’ of “Exectweets” for Microsoft to pioneer this with brands and technology partners. Update: CrispinPorterBogusky is already experimenting
Today, brands are trying to keep up with consumers as they self-connect to each other on social sites. Clearly, many companies aren’t even ready to participate with communities where they already exist, so only a few sophisticated companies will be prepared for this next future evolution of corporate websites. Don’t expect aggregation in the advanced forms I suggested to happen till brands are mature in the era of social colonization (read more about the future of the social web), so expect some time for true case examples to occur.
(Also, I’m trying out a new writing style, this time in outline form to break out a set of ideas. Was this helpful?)