Archive for October, 2009


Quicktake: The Impacts Of Google’s Social Search

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Currently, search results serve up content that is popular –but not necessarily content that is accurate or relevant to your needs. With Google’s Social Search feature, it will serve up results based on a users’ specific contact list, here’s how it works:

Using the recently launched Google Profile product, users will be able to add their name, then list out the various social networks they are part of. Google goes to work and finds out who’s your friend in those social networks, then applies it to it’s search algorithm. The end result? Search queries now serve up results based on your friends experiences, even in local markets.

The Impacts Of Google’s Social Search to Web Strategists

  • Social search empowers customers over search marketers. With consumers influencing each other in search results, this diminishes the power of traditional search marketing as people can lean on each other. We saw this in PR, journalism, and other industries, this is just a continuing trend.
  • To regain power, brands must focus on advocacy programs. If consumers will lean on each other to make decisions in search results, brands must become a platform for their top customers. Learn how to build an advocacy program using this checklist.
  • Encourage word of mouth by requesting online reviews and feedback Since users will gradually rely on their friends for recommendation in social search, advocacy programs will need to be bolstered by word of mouth programs. Brands should encourage word of mouth by making it easy to review products, encourage customers to give feedback, and even consider transparent sponsored discussions to foster word of mouth.
  • Behind Closed Doors: What’s On the Mind Of Chief Marketing Officers

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    We attended the Forbes CMO Summit in sunny Palm Beach, to learn what’s on the minds of executive marketing leaders. The conversation from this group regarding social was more sophisticated, which Charlene and I don’t think is reflective of most chief marketing groups we speak with. What’s unique about these Forbes CMOs? Perhaps they are more progressive, well read, and tuned into the rapid changes coming.

    In consideration to attendees of this event, I won’t be giving any specific individual quotes, (this wasn’t a media event) but instead, I’ll focus on the insights related to emerging technologies, overall budgets and market economics.

    The Dialog on Social Marketing Has Elevated:

    CMOs on a holding pattern for growth. Our host, Steve Forbes kicked off the first evening, telling us why he believes we got into this financial spiral. He gave a broad economic lecture covering mortgage, congress, the weakened dollar and compared the current situation to other global and historical incidents. Although the theme of the event was “Preparing for Growth”, I didn’t get the sense that marketers had increased their budgets or were preparing for a marketing upswing. Yet despite decreased marketing budgets, the opportunity to innovate with inexpensive channels were discussed.

    CMOs admitted they were losing power to the empowered consumer. A few years ago, the conversation may have been one of resistance, argument or fear of these changes. Yet this group had moved on, accepted the changes, and had already put into place programs to benefit from market changes. I liked Greg Walsh’s quotes, one of the opening moderators (I just reviewed his book) he openly admitted that power was shifting to the empowered consumers. He gave the analogy that previously marketers were used to ‘Bowling’, where marketers could easily throw a message down the aisle and hit the pins with great confidence. Now, he eloquently describe, it was more like ‘Pinball’ where a marketer could load the message up, shoot it out, but have no idea where it will end up.

    Social was on the lips of nearly everyone. Although not all the panels and speeches were focused on social, it was noted by speakers and moderators it was a recurring theme among the day. Charlene Li (who invited me to attend, thanks) lead a panel with executives from the Ritz-Carlton, Porsche, and HP. This wasn’t the usual social rhetoric of the 101 questions, but the overall group asked sophisticated questions around the change in influence, reputation management, and integration with existing programs. For example, the Ritz, has already woven in social to their experience, each hotel manager spend over an hour reviewing the online conversation (even Tweets) at their location before walking the grounds each morning.

    Social is difficult to measure –yet marketers know they must be there. One of the Forbes moderators gave a stat that they polled the Forbes CMO group to find that “Over 70% of the CMOs polled will do more in the social space this coming year”. Yet, when asked “How do you measure success?” there wasn’t a clear answer, it’s still baffling. Although social marketing is easier to measure than real world ‘analog’ ads, it’s more difficult to measure than web based digital ads. Similar to the difficulties measuring analog marketing, they’re ok with not being able to measure everything in social –they now see the value.

    Beyond monitoring, insight from the social sphere is untapped. Social media monitoring is just the first baby step, most companies haven’t tapped into what the data actually means. I sat next to the CEO of Autonomy who’s mission is to organize customer and market data and make sense of it for companies. We were both nodding to each other seeing the opportunities to mine, understand, and make sense out of the vast unstructured social data sets and develop richer customer profiles and map out relationships.

    In private conversations, I asked a few if they think the pace of technology change is increasing, and they said “yes”, interesting times ahead. Finally, I’d like to thank Forbes for inviting me to attend and participate, they graciously paid for my travel and hotel.

    Update: This post has been reprinted on the Forbes CMO network.

    Book Review: ‘Good For Business’ Asks The Right Questions, But Doesn’t Give the Answer

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    Good For BusinessI’m attending Steve Forbes’s CMO event in Florida with Charlene Li, and part of the recommended reading for all attendees is the book Good for Business, which came nicely packaged to my desk. Not one to defy Steve Forbes, and certainly wanting to be a good student, I’ve consumed the book on my flight, and share my notes openly, here’s what I found:

    The Thesis: The Corporation of the Future Should Inspire Trust
    Selling products to make a profit is no longer sufficient. Companies must also appease the human nature of their customers as they are now demanding sustainability, open conversation, helping the community, transparency, and an ethos and mission they can relate to. The book asks four fundamental questions, they are: 1) Do customers care about what the brand stands for beyond just the immediate use of the product? 2) Do customers talk to each other about these higher goals 3) What should companies do to assure their brand is more than a collection of boxes or software code? 4) Does it impact the bottom line? If so, how much?

    Unlike Other “Do-Good” Books, There’s Useful Data
    Good for Business is a touchy-feely book which ultimately concludes that companies need have loftier goals than just profit such as donating to charities, volunteer work, and brands that make you feel warm and fuzzy. At first, I groaned when reading the start of the book, having been victim of “do good” speeches when I was in corporate –it always felt like an empty shell.   Yet the book started to win me over when the four authors presented meaningful stats and graphs about the growing fickle customer, their desire for brands to be more than just profit machines. Using data they made an argument that companies showing their human appeal a worth while investment.

    Chock Full Of Case Studies –With Measurable Business Impact
    I’m not sold that the earthy huggy ‘humanized brand’ is right for every company, some cultures simply won’t be able to adapt and some customers just want their immediate needs solved. The book also gives dozens of case studies of companies that have an ethos of more than just profit such as: Jones Soda empowers customers by letting consumers pick labels, Ernst and Young connects with their millennial employees talk back by launching an internal community called “Feedback Zone”. The Container Store is one of the top places to work as they allow employees to have flexible hours, How UK’s Innoccent drinks values it’s employees more than sales and profits and dozens of other examples.

    Jeremiah’s Review: Good For Business

    The Good: A Convincing Argument
    The book Good for Business sets the stage that the world has changed and companies need to change too. It also gives some juicy data points and dozens of anecdotes of companies that have made the leap. It’s well-written, and can be consumed in a few hours.

    The Bad: Leaves More Questions Than Answers
    The book falls short in a two ways. While stories are entertaining for a long flight I find myself asking more questions that were unanswered, like: 1) What were the challenges these companies went through during this metamorphosis? What was the common barrier  2) Although there’s a loose framework towards the end of the book, how do I get started? How do I do this?  Although a nitpick, while the cover art is catchy, yet the smiley faced button is reminiscent of Walmart (was that intentional?) or the comic book movie The Watchman, which has no relation to this topic.

    The Verdict:  Addresses Right Questions, But Doesn’t Tell You How
    Good for Business asks the right questions, get you thinking, but seems it’s missing a few chapters. The thesis convinces you that changes need to be made, but feels empty, as it never tells you how to do it. I recommend you put Good For Business on your reading list, but read the more important books that give a pragmatic approach. To summarize, I give this book a grade of a “B” or “Four out of Five Stars”. If anything, this book is calling for a sequel to answer these questions.

    That’s just my take, so I’d love to hear your thoughts on this book, or your comments on similar titles.

    Your Company May Own Your Tweets, Pokes, and YouTube Videos

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    Your Boss May Own Your Facebook Wall Posts
    Both employers and employees may be surprised to find that employee created blog posts, YouTube, LinkedIn profiles, Facebook profiles, and even tweets may be owned by companies. Yes, even those personal pictures you took last Friday with your loved ones, or direct messages in Twitter could belong to your employer. Why is this? Employees sign employment contracts that may indicate that all intellectual property created during employment may be owned by the company, let’s dive into what you should know:

    Work, Online, and Life Mix
    As employees check personal websites at work (and likely on work computers) they are indeed using corporate infrastructure. Similarly, as employees do work from home in the evening on personal or work computers the lines continue to blur.  It can become even more blurry, as the work and lifestyle content share on social networks becomes one in the same. For example, a LinkedIn account that describes an individual’s career goals which she uses to network with prospects is both personal and work related. Secondly, a product manager who announces new features using his Twitter account is discussing work-related content.

    Social Accounts Created At Work, Who Owns Them?
    What becomes even more dizzying is the thousands of professionals that have career-related blogs that attract companies in the first place. Who owns their blog posts during their tenure at a company? If an employee generated revenue from those blog posts should the revenue go back to the employer? What if a career blog is launched during employment at a company and discusses information related to the company, or a LinkedIn profile during employment, who owns them?

    Case Example: Cisco’s CTO on Twitter and Her Million+ Followers
    The real question is: Would a company even want this information? I discussed this on Twitter and many scoffed at the ideas that a company would want bits of 140 characters at a time. Take for example the Twitter account of Padmasree of Cisco. She created this account during her employment at Cisco, and talks about both personal and Cisco related content. Her Twitter account, as the CTO of Cisco is on the suggested users list by Twitter and she has over 1,200,000 followers. This is clearly an asset to her and Cisco, and if she leaves would be a loss to Cisco. I’ve spoken in public with Jeanette Gibson of Cisco communications, and they make it clear it is an account owned by Padmasree, she owns it if she decides to leave Cisco.

    Guest Post: Perspective From A Lawyer
    I’m not a lawyer, so I’ve asked one to comment on this topic. I recently moderated a panel at Blog World Expo on the topic of sponsored conversations, and I was delighted to meet Attorney Lisa J Borodkin, (her blog, Twitter) who specializes in federal court litigation and the resolution of complex commercial disputes. Her substantive expertise is copyright, trademark and new media law. She commented on this post draft post, and gave me permission to publish the following, which are completely in Lisa’s words, she writes:

    “There are several dimensions to this issue.

    First, the contract law aspect.

    It’s important in the age of the blog and Twitter that people understand that a clause claiming all “intellectual property” created during the term of employment would be property of the company would cover tweets and blog posts. This provision would also cover anything else creative the person did on the side, as a hobby, such as writing a screenplay, or creating a comic strip, even purely for fun.

    For this reason, when I represent entertainment executives who are presented with this type of clause in an employment contract, I ask that it be restricted only to intellectual property created within the scope of their job duties under the agreement. The rationale is that if you are not being paid to create something, then the company shouldn’t own your output simply because it is created during the term of employment. That would be a windfall for the company. So it’s a new twist on an issue that has been around for a while. The twist is that when these provisions were first written, I doubt anyone ever thought of blogging or Twitter. So this ownership should be only tied if possible to the type of job the person is hired for.

    Second, the copyright law aspect.

    Most terms of service for blog hosting sites and Twitter provide that the user is the author and owns the copyright in the blog post or Tweets. (Here’s a link to a blog post I wrote on the subject: http://lisaborodkin.com/ip-protection-for-blog-posts/ ) They also provide that, by using the blog hosting provided by the site, the user grants a perpetual free license to the blog host for using the content. This is a pretty fair distribution of rights. Everyone wins.

    The point here is that company “ownership” of the blog or tweet content is not the only option. For most company purposes, a shared license or joint copyright would probably also be just as beneficial. For the blogger, ensuring that the blogger is always credited as the author of the work with a credit and trackback or link is probably the key condition.

    Third, the policy aspect.

    The larger question is whether the job or industry the person is in is of the type that a company would find it beneficial for the person to be blogging during work hours or using work equipment. There is a good online database of social media policies from a variety of companies at http://socialmediagovernance.com/policies.php They vary wildly, from PR firm Porter Novelli’s “Never comment anonymously” rule, to the EFF’s detailed advice on “How to blog anonymously.” As you state, the reality is that people will blog, Tweet and use social networks, and it is healthier for companies to embrace that and recognize the value in such individual activities, where it is beneficial to the company’s mission.

    By now I hope everyone realizes that thousands of lawyers every day are fully employed in reviewing millions of company emails that have been subpoenaed in lawsuits all over the world. As long as a company reminds everyone that they have no right of privacy in anything that goes through the company’s computer systems, and that this extends beyond email to social networks, then employers and employees can undertake these activities mutually aware of the risks and rewards. The hope is that both will find shared value in mixing social media with work and allocate the potential economic rewards in an equitable manner.”

    Jeremiah: Thanks Lisa for your insight, it’s interesting that many employees probably don’t realize that content that goes through the company’s systems is owned by the employer –even their personal Facebook messages.

    Key Takeaways

    • Companies are attracted to potential employees with the ability to communicate online, and those that have a built-in following, yet the rights over the content created aren’t entirely clear.
    • Both personal and work lives are mixing online and off, creating blurry lines between ownership of content.  In many cases, legacy employment contracts give ownership to the company –even personal created content on company systems.
    • Employees are creating social content that relates to work often on company-owned property, or during work hours.

    Recommendations:

    • Employees should get educated on this topic and find out what it means in your existing employment contract.  Get a lawyer that understands the language of the contract, and can advise and protect you.
    • Employees should carefully review their existing employee contract to know the boundaries, risks, and liability for their online activity.
    • Employees should understand how to create a “carve out” in the employment contract for personal created media.
    • Companies should understand benefits and risks, then evaluate their social media policy and update it to reflect the changing world of social as personal and work lives collide.
    • Companies and employees should setup training, policies, and a dedicated group within a company to help employees to understand best practices in the new world where personal and work content collide in the workplace and at home.

    Updated: Someone tweeted this related cartoon out.
    Tweets

    Social Search: Customers Influence Search Results Over Brands

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    This post was collaboratively written on a wiki by Charlene Li, (cross posted) who maintains a focus on Leadership Strategy and Jeremiah Owyang, who maintains a focus on Customer Strategy. Together, we’re covering the convergence of emerging technologies at the Altimeter Group.

    Twitter brokers a deal that offers search engines Microsoft Bing and Google Search access to their real time data streams.  Also, Facebook, offers up public status updates to be searched and served up to Microsoft’s Bing.  This trend towards micro media requires companies to pay attention to the real time and social web for marketing, support, and competitive strategies.  There are several impacts to the ecosystem, here’s what you should know:


    • Deal Fills In Technology and Relationship Gaps for Twitter. Twitter lacks the computing power of a premiere search engine, as their current Twitter search results are littered with spam, duplicate tweets, and are only sorted by time.   Leveraging the sophisticated engineers at Microsoft and Google affords Twitter an opportunity to focus on their platform –not search.  From a business aspect, this deal makes sense is that Microsoft and Google both have relationships with advertisers and brands, with trained sales forces to cut deals. Although the terms of the deal aren’t public, it’s suspect there was an exchange of material goods, it’s likely that Twitter will benefit from revenue share in the near future.
    • Social Search to Serve Results Based On Time, Authority. Expect real time data to merge with existing search engines, as a result we should see Google Search and Bing to serve up search results based on: 1) Real time information based on what Twitter users are saying, including memes from trending topics, 2) Preference given to links and URLs that are tweeted by users with more followers or authority, 3) Geo location of tweets to influence search results.  As users seek “Thai Restaurants in San Mateo” location based tweets could provide additional context.  4) Eventually results will be served up by your friends.  Google has given a nod to serve up information based on your social graph (your friends) using Google Profile.
    • To Compete, Facebook Must Make More Content Public. For closed social networks like Facebook, this means they need to continue to offer up more data that can be searched in public by search engines.  With default settings in Facebook set to ‘friends only’ this will continue to be a challenge as Facebook’s community prefers the filters and privacy settings that this closed social network provides.
    • Twitter’s Future: Seamless Integration with the Web. Success for Twitter isn’t about becoming a destination site, but instead about becoming a data protocol that’s embedded everywhere.    Like “Air“, microblogging features are already present in multiple applications, desktop and mobile clients, and the bite-sized information is becoming available in context wherever it’s needed.
    • Customers Influence Search Results An even more amazing impact of these announcements is that for the first time, consumers will be able to directly impact web search results. Although companies spend thousands of marketing dollars controlling their search results by using Google’s advertising services, customers and competitors can quickly and cheaply impact search results using simple tools like Twitter.  Consumers, empowered using mobile devices as a publishing platform can link to content and influence search results. Now, a simple tweet with a picture of a plane landing on the Hudson from a mobile phone will show up at the top of search results.


    Key Takeaways: Customers Impact Brand Search Results Using Twitter
    Even if your company is not active on Twitter, your customers can influence the search results related to your company –you must pay attention to this trend.  Just as your company likely already has a search strategy through search optimization or paid search terms, you’ll need to extend micromedia to your strategy.  In order to be prepared for this change, companies must:

    1. Develop a Listening Strategy That Starts With Roles and Process.  Every business and market is now moving faster and faster as information spreads around the globe in minutes –if not seconds.  Companies must be ready to quickly identify flare ups, be ready to respond, and correct incorrect information.  Develop a listening strategy that has internal roles set in place, a process to respond and the right tools like Radian 6, Visible Technologies, BuzzMetrics, or Cymfony.
    2. Change The Marketing Mindset –Legacy Methods Ineffective. Search marketers must understand that blasting marketing information through Facebook or Twitter won’t be effective, as search engines will filter out irrelevant messages that nobody listens to. Instead, marketers should allow content on all web properties and email marketing to be easily added to Facebook, Twitter, and other social sites by offering icons that encourage people to share. Providers like ShareThis and AddThis make this simple to do.
    3. Develop Influence Marketing Programs. Since these search engines have all noted that they will rank real time information on a person’s authority and not just traditional page ranking, marketers must double down on building these relationships.  More than ever, brands will need to foster discussions within Twitter as retweet, replies, and linking behavior will influence what is served up on results pages.  It takes time to build real relationships that develop into public conversations so get started now.

    Related Links:
    For a list of social networking stats (including Twitter) we’ve a 2009 collection we keep up to date.


    How Local Businesses Can Benefit From Mobile Social Networks

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    Local Businesses Can Benefit From Mobile Social Networks
    The nearly mainstream social web is now evolving and graduating to mobile devices.  This emerging space of mobile-based social networks are empowering customers to find the best venues and prices, and offering savvy companies unique ways to cater to this new medium.  Yet, despite the emergence of applications like FourSquare, Yelp, and recently launched GoWalla, there are risks as customers talk directly to each other and opportunities for businesses who harness the tools.  Local businesses should approach the mobile social networking space by first listening to their customers, responding to commenters, provide special offers to advocates, and prepare for pricing to be impacted.

    Mobile Social Network Offers Discounts Based On Location
    Using FourSquare, a location based social network, I ‘checked in’ to the movie theatre indicator to my friends my location.  Immediately after the application identified my approximate location it offered a ‘special nearby’ which I clicked.  The Savvy Cellar Wine Bar offered me 50% off a wine flight to a store 2 blocks away. Using both my general location using 3GS on the iPhone and my explicit checkin to the location, it was able to serve up advertisements based on my physical location.  We should expect FourSquare to evolve and eventually offer advertisements based on your friends interests “John, Amy, and Allen all like Los Taqaritors, invite them now for a 20% off discount”.  Location based ads will soon connect with social information.

    Catering To “Top” Customers Spur Word Of Mouth
    The opportunities aren’t just focused on location based, but also provide opportunity for developing an unpaid army of advocates.  Take for example Foursquare’s point system, those who ‘check in’ the most to a location can become the ‘mayor’ of their particular store, indicating they’re the top customer.  Some savvy restaurants provide free drinks or other services to the mayor, who will continue to spread their affinity for a restaurant using social networks.   A few weeks ago, I spent time with Yelp’s marketing team and their community manager Connie who oversees many of the community facing events.  I learned that many local restaurants cater to Yelp Elite, and will likely provide them with quality service above and beyond, in fact, Yelp has launched a program for restaurants to offer a prix fixe menus for Yelp users. Expect to see Yelp’s mobile application advertise these special deals for Yelpers as they search for restaurants online using mobile devices.

    Empowered Customers Check Prices In Real Time –Impacting Buying Behavior
    Even if you don’t have a physical store, but offer a consumer good, consider RedLaser, which is a real-time bar code scanner that allows any phone to scan UPC codes and find them cheaper online.  This means that retailers with higher priced products may miss out as consumers can quickly buy it from a competitive store down the street or find it online.  If this trend continues, manufactures may shift their supply away from high-priced retailers to compensate for the change in demand.  (Thanks Andrew Hyde for the tip)

    Innovative Market Dependent On Adoption
    Despite the innovation, location based marketing and advertising has its limitations as it’s dependent on: total number of consumers with mobile devices, adoption of mobile social networks, and their desire to find location-based offers.

    Key Takeaways For Local Businesses:
    Local businesses should approach these mobile social networks in a four part strategy –not simply reacting without a plan.  Companies should approach this space by:

    • Listening In For Free Research. Local businesses should immediatly montior their brands on mobile social networks like Yelp and FourSquare.  Use this information as free research: find out the perception of customers opinions both good –and bad to learn about their market.
    • Responding To Reviewers. Use negative information as a way to improve products and services and let your community know you’re listening to their feedback.  Although there are always two-sides to any complaint use these same tools to respond to customers in public, but be sure to abide by the terms of service.
    • Rewarding Top Customers.  Customers that frequently patron your store and tell others on these mobile social networks should be rewarded.  Build both in person and online relationships with them so they’ll continue to advertise and market on your behalf.  Free drinks anyone?
    • Preparing for pricing impacts and positioning.  With disruptive tools like RedLaser appearing, customers can quickly find pricing of products and find them at nearby retailers.  Retailers like CVS, Walmart, Target, BestBuy, Safeway should take heed as consumers continue to become empowered through instant information.  Companies will need to respond by:  making product pricing more competitive, or offering other deals such as bundling, speed, time, or other value-based offerings.

    Update: Here’s some screenshots, I learned how to take screenshots with your iPhone by holding the main button and power button.


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