Archive for January, 2010


FirstTake: Powered, A Social Marketing Suite, Acquires Crayon and Social Media Agencies

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News hit this Monday that Powered has acquired three social media agencies: crayon, Drillteam and StepChange. I just had a skype video conversation with Aaron Strout and Joseph Jaffe to learn more, here’s my take.  You can read crayon founder Joseph’s take and Aaron Strout the CMO of Powered and a quick mention in NYT.

A Solution Set of Services Bolsters a Marketing Platform
I’ve heard of crayon, and have many conversations and even podcasts with founder Joseph Jaffe, I’ve also spent time with the Powered executive team last year.  Stepchange is a 13 person team out of Portland focused on Facebook Apps and mobile, and Drillteam, from NY, has been around for 10 years and focuses on experitntial and advocacy marketing, such as connecting events to online like street teams, guerrilla, and ambassador programs. Powered isn’t just a community platform, I learned they have other marketing features that really intent to provide a suite of offerings.

Natural Evolution Of A Growing Market:

  • Consolidation happens in downturned markets. As the recession starts to show signs of it lifting, now’s a great time for companies to come together and create a greater value.  We saw this type of acquisition behavior from agencies during the first boom, and we should expect similar patterns here.
  • Acquisition provides key services software platforms can’t fill. It makes sense for Powered platform to partner up with a service(s) teams that have already been successful for some time, this improves the time to market to deployment.  In addition to coming with a book of business, they can quickly deploy the Powered platform, expanding the software footprint.  Joseph Jaffe has strong thought leadership, an existing marketing brand, and reach needed to the group.
  • Yet, brings risk for Powered and new partners. First of all, there are some big names coming together,  the real stress will be can these cultures, and their strong willed leaders, be able to jive together.  Secondly, it’ll be interseting to see if Crayon and services teams forces stragies on their clients that involve the Powered platform.  I asked if there are any layoffs coming from consolidation, they haven’t made any plans, but when you have 4 companies coming together expect redundancy.

Impacts To Customers, Partners and Competitors:

  • Social Agencies should rekindle and bolster relationships. This impacts other social agencies like Stage Two Consulting, Social Media Group, AdHoc, Ant’s Eye View, ForumOne, Community Roundtable, Shift Communications, Dachis, FutureWorks, New Marketing Labs, who may be at medium and small tier, they should quickly partner up with other firms to increase their value.
  • Customers of crayon, Drillteam, and Stepchange should request agnostic recommendations. Any client of these three agencies should make sure that the strategy they are being offered includes other vendors and platforms –not just the Powered platform and Facebook platform.  Remember, first find out where your customers are online before choosing the tools to use.
  • This is competition for larger agencies –yet savvy agencies will partner. This is a threat to large agencies like Organic, Razorfish, Ogilvy, and Edelman.  Yet the smart agencies won’t get defensive, they should partner with this team, and figure out what offerings they can offer that they don’t have in their portfolio.

Congrats to the Powered, crayon, Drilldteam and Stepchange team for this merger, I’m excited to see the industry emerge from small disparate startups to a larger entity going forward.

Matrix: Breakdown of Advocacy Marketing

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The recession has been great for social marketing, in fact, I feel it’s spurred the industry on. With overall reduced marketing budgets, companies must innovate, and find new channels that are more efficient than the ‘carpet-bombing’ techniques of traditional marketing.

There are a handful of goals that companies can have with social technologies, from learning, dialog, support, and innovation (see Charlene’s deck, starting at slide 8 to learn more), I want to drill down in the following matrix to focus on the goal of spreading, and word of mouth, and viral. I call this “Advocacy”.

Marketers, who strive to find efficient ways of reaching customers at lower cost, seek ‘force-multipliers‘ or a method where using a small degree of energy (or the energy of another force) to your advantage. Do remember, there is a downside to any action, and with ‘advocacy’ there’s reduced control over message and therefore more risk. With that said, many marketers know the benefits of content spreading are worth the risks.

Matrix: Breakdown of Advocacy Marketing

Sophistication and Description Investments and Returns Strengths: Weaknesses: Great For:
Sharing Tools Baseline effort. Tools like Sharethis, AddThis, Gigya, and some features in Pluck, and Kickapps. High. Low investment as it can easily be deployed on CMS templates. Continual returns of content spreading with no additional overhead or cost. Easy to deploy, yet transactional Do not build deep relationship with customers Getting started, a baseline activity.
Viral Marketing A basic technique. Word of mouth campaigns on Facebook apps, YouTube (see popular), or Twitter (see moonfruit example) Low. Being able to hit the right elements of the content people want, timing, and other factors are difficult. Chances are, most campaigns that intend to be viral never are Easy for media and interactive agencies to create and deploy. Dime a dozen. Short term and cheap. Not conducive to building long term relationships. Traditional agencies and transactional marketers that are trying to learn social
Social Network Connections An intermediate technique. Facebook, Twitter Connect. Easy to comment systems on blogs, to sophisicated Huffington Post social recommendations, see Buddy Media. Moderate to High. Allowing customers to login to your site with existing connections increase value of social sharing and chance to serve up contextual data. However there are considerable costs in creating contextual content and systems that are not yet mature. Encourages people to quickly login, share, and find others who have interests Challenges in collecting email leads as customers now ‘login’ using social connections. Static websites who need to inject social interactions.
Advocacy Programs An advanced technique, see this checklist. Longer term programs with customer advocates like Microsoft MVP or Walmart’s 11 Mom’s High return but high cost. Companies can benefit from an unpaid army that will market, defend, and support customers, but this requires significant resources to launch, grow, and maintain. Builds long term deep relationships with a customer group that will defend brand. Requires full resources for program, takes time to build Companies that can’t scale their marketing in a high touch customer experience.

Companies Should Embrace Advocacy Programs
Organizations are already deploying these word of mouth tools, but often without a plan or strategy, get started now by:

  • Deploy simple sharing features now. These cheap and easy to insert embeds should be on every content type where companies want the content to spread. From press releases, to blog posts, companies need to make it easy for their market to share with others.
  • Reduce risks by providing proper support and resources. Organizations should first understand the costs, downsides and risks for each type of marketing program, with greater returns (Advocacy program) comes greater commitment of resources, and greater risk, so to reduce those risks, put the right resources behind it.
  • Develop new measurement techniques. Measuring the spread of information is more difficult, as often companies won’t have web analytics installed on third party websites. Instead use a variety of mention and url tracking with brand monitoring software to track how far information spreads over time.

Placing Bets On Social Strategy, SCRM, and Mobile in 2010

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Screen shot 2010-01-05 at 12.43.57 PM

Above Image: Readers of this blog asked for coverage in Social CRM, Mobile Social Networks, and Community Platforms. This is in alignment with my goals for 2010.

First of all, thanks to those who responded to the 2009 Web Strategy survey, the results were telling. One of the questions that I asked was about areas of focus, I’m pleased to hear that the direction readers want me to focus is in alignment with where I’m headed. It’s important to have goals, (even my personal goals to live in Hawaii 30 days a yearlike Operation Bluewater) and I’m happy to share my focus for the coming year.

Here’s my baseline topics that I’ve been blogging about, and helping clients through advisory and research, I’ve been doing this since I ran the social program at Hitachi, back in 2006, over four years ago.

Organizational Social Readiness: 80% of a companies success is getting their organization ready through the right roles, processes, policies, measurement, only 20% should be on tools. I’ll continue to talk about organizational readiness.

Social Strategy: This also ties into social marketing strategy, which should be focused first on socialgraphics (how your customers use these tools) and business goals –not reacting to the latest technology.

Vendor and Technology Review: I’ll continue to cover the social networking space, like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, as well as enterprise systems like Community Platforms like Jive, Lithium, Telligent, Awareness, Mzinga, Pluck, Eos, Salesforce Chatter.

I make it a point in my career to always be uncomfortable: trying new things, looking at the upcoming changes and taking risks, I hope that by continuing to blog what I learn, we can grow together. The areas of increased focus for this year are:

Social CRM: An organization’s response to the fleeting customer in the social space, and how companies must provide a holistic experience to customers by creating processes, integrating new channels, and responding to customers in near-real time. Why this space? Most companies don’t know they need it, but as customers increase their social behavior, tacking, managing, and responding will become increasingly difficult. I’ve already blogged some of my findings, read all the posts tagged ‘social crm’.

Location based and Mobile Marketing: I place to distinct separations between these topics, although they are intrinsically tied. I’m placing bets on the increased marketing context that’s available by triangulating information through mobile and location devices. Similarly, I’ll continue to look at applications that extend to mobile devices –a natural extension to the social web. I’ve never put a lot of effort into the immature mobile space, but the adoption of these mini-computers are taking off, the space is slowly moving out of diapers and into adolescence. Read all my posts tagged ‘mobile’.

Now back to you: What topics and focuses will you have during this coming year? What areas of education are you planning to bolster up on? What will you practice and deliver? Wishing you a very successful 2010!

Matrix: Social Technology Adoption Curve Benefits –and Downsides

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Know The Upsides –And Downsides Of Your Adoption Behavior
Individuals and companies should be deliberate in their adoption strategy, there are benefits and risks to each category. It’s been interesting watching different group adopt social technologies over the past few years, I can see who benefits from being first –and the pains to be a thought leader of both individuals and companies.

Screen shot 2010-01-03 at 7.30.36 AM

Above, this is the standard Rogers Adoption Curve, it’s important to point out that my matrix below only is in context of social technologies, it will vary from technology to technology.  I found this take on the adoption stages of social technologies helpful in framing how I thought about the following matrix. I built this following matrix in the context of social technologies and adoption by both individuals and mixed in with organizations and industries.

Matrix: Social Technology Adoption Curve Benefits –and Downsides

Categories Description Benefits Downsides
Innovators These brave souls take on new technologies, trial them, then will often evangelize them. I’d put those that adopted Twitter in 2006. or any entrepreneurs that creates new technologies fitting into these categories.  From a corporate perspective, Dell was forced into this arena, and has benefited. Glory for being first, a thought and practice leader.. Will have learned from their mistakes, and have far more experience than any others. Will always be able to tout they were first. Very costly in terms of time, effort to find new technologies that are often flawed. Additionally, since innovation becomes cheaper and more accessible, this becomes more difficult as more entrants to the market launch products. Lastly, while these folks may be first for some technologies, they are often wrong for the many other technologies that did not take off.
Early Adopters This behavior is exhibited by those that try out new technologies in a careful way, often thought leaders. Some analyst firms like Forrester adopted early, and the Tech industry deployed social.  Agencies like Edelman, Razorfish have helped their clients. Learn from the failures of innovators, they reduce risk. Often they have the opportunity to explain how it works to others. Become the case studies that other groups follow Never first, and have to write the playbooks. They may adopt, but at higher costs than the majorities as the technology has not matured. Tech companies adopted social in 2005-2007 as an early industry, but a lack of measurement, and rapid tool change required great effort to stay current.
Early Majority Although thoughtful in their deployment, they adopt faster than the mainstream. in 2009, we saw industries like consumer packaged goods, finance, and healthcare adopt social technologies. I think of when mainstream Oprah joining Twitter as a defining moment as she was ahead of most celebrities and media. Technology starts to mature, reducing risk and costs. Standards emerge, although this group gets to help define mainstream adoption. Some of the cool factor leaves, and brands start to move in on social technologies, scaring off some innovators.
Late Majority This skeptical group only adopts when the mainstream does. Industries that only got on board with social when Obama, mainstream press, or celebrity adoption occurred fit here. Companies adopting in 2009 and beyond. Reduced risk from learning from who’s done it right and wrong, as well as benefits from standard proccesses, and consolidation of vendors. Not seen as thought leaders and don’t benefit from the residual buzz from being ‘cool’, instead come across as a ‘me too’./td>
Laggards Still cautions in deployment, even after the technology has become mainstream. These folks will adopt social technologies in 2010 or later. Cookie cutter deployment from standardization and very little risk.  Deployment may actually be faster and with less effort than those above. In balance with lower risk, lower opportunity for reward. No thought leadership, and little additional reputation or buzz value from the intended investment.

Matrix: Be Deliberate In Your Adoption Strategy
Each category has specific benefits and risks, but rather than just behaving in a way that comes natural, I encourage you in your personal and work adoption to be deliberate in your actions.

  1. Examine your organizations adoption patterns. First, define how quickly your organization responds and adopts to technologies, and factor into your considerations.
  2. Be a Category Ahead Of Your Company. If you’re responsible for new technologies at your company, your personal adoption should be a level or two ahead of the organizations adoption, as you cannot effectively deploy for your company if you don’t personally understand the impacts of the new technologies.
  3. Track The Category Ahead Of You. Find an individual that’s above your adoption category (the early adopter watches the innovator) and be sure to watch their behaviors and learn from them. Adopters are often blazing their own trail, and may not ever follow anyone.

My Strategy: Early Adopter –But Not Innovator
One thing is clear, being first doesn’t mean you’re right, in fact, the Innovators have a difficult time dealing with early and late majority, paving roads of opportunity for analysis, agencies, and consultants. As a result, I make a distinct effort to be an early adopter of new social technologies, but not the innovator, as I find I’d rather be more often right, and expend less energy trying to be first.

Leave a Comment. Share Your Adoption Strategy
Let’s learn from each other, I’d like to know about your adoption behavior and that of your company. Were you deliberate in choosing your adoption strategy? How does it hurt or help your company?