Long time friend Jennifer Jones interviewed me at Forrester’s Foster City office in California, and I shared three practical recommendations for them to start doing. Listen in to the above short podcast embed, or download the file directly.
Customers own your website and what you can do to get it back
Social media resources: understand the 80/20 Rule
How marketers can be more strategic within the corporation by leading the social charge across departments such as sales, client teams, HR, product development, support, and leadership.
I hope you forward this to your CMO and VPs of marketing.
Video by Scholz and Friends, a German marketing agency. Link via Leslie Carothers who’s also on Twitter, ask her opinion about furniture. Interesting that I often find out about new interesting content from friends in Twitter or email, people send me ideas and links, wom in action –even when I was on a Twitter hiatus.
Over the last year I’ve been trained to make my points not just with opinion but with data, so I’ve done just that with this experiment. In a crowded market (esp if you’ve 100 competitors) having an at-par product isn’t enough. Strategic market will out position your competitors and make sure you’re considered and then preferred over others. Sure some strong brands like GM don’t need a tagline, but others that have ingrained “just do it.” are now part of culture.
Data: Tag Line Recognition, all respondents
Out of a base of 60 respondents, which is on the smaller side, we could quickly see a trend on which taglines were the most recognizable.
90.00% were able to recognize Twitter’s “What are you doing?”
30.00% were able to recognize Kickapps’s “Social Networking Software Platform and Soical Media Community Building Applications”
28.33% were able to recognize Lithium’s “Successful Communities On-Demand”
25.00% were able to recognize Liveworld’s “Your Brand Lives in the Voice of Your Customers”
25.00% were able to recognize Jive’s “The Business Social Software Leader”
21.67% were able to recognize Mzinga’s “On-Demand Social Software Solutions for Marketing, Support and Learning”
21.67% were able to recognize Awareness’s “The Leader in Social Media Marketing”
18.33% were able to recognize Leverage Software’s “People-Centric Social Networking Solutions for Business”
16.67% were able to recognize Telligent’s “Enterprise Online Community”
15.00% were able to recognize Pluck’s “Leaders in Social Media”
First of all, this isn’t a completely scientific study, with a small sample base, this isn’t a formal market research project that I do on the day job, but it is fun and does help me to make a point about marketing in a crowded pond.
Despite it being a small sample size, the audience reading this blog and those connected to me are certainly in the space. Since this was launched on my blog and twitter account, it is targeted in the social software space, this wasn’t a survey that went to grandmas in the congo.
I wanted to do a larger sample of taglines that spanned other vendors like Blogtronix, Neighborhood America, OneSite, HiveLive, and on on, but I realized I didn’t have enough bandwidth for this project –nor easy to use tools.
Most of the respondents were influencers or decision makers. 10 of respondents worked for community platforms, but only a half of them were the vendors listed above. 12 of the respondents replied they were a decision maker, I can see the emails and some work for large corporations. 27 said they were influencers. 5 were unsure what this market is, or were not involved with this market. the rest had misc write ins.
11 of the respondents already had a community platform, 20 of them had no need for a community platform, but about half of them worked at the vendors themselves. 8 were unsure and needed to learn more if they needed a community platform, 17 of the were researching this market, and 1 said they were ready to buy.
Even the most recognizable tagline by Kickapps (I’m not sure how anyone could recognize that beast) has nothing to be proud of, at best, less than one-third of the market could recognize it.
Some responded they worked at community platform vendors, and while they got their own company right (I misread the data before) they didn’t recognize the taglines of others.
I threw twitter in as the first question just to get people feeling good, and it’s somewhat of a control sample, they are clearly in this space. It is interesting that 90% of them clearly could recognize this call to action.
In a market this crowded (100 vendors) creating a tagline or brand that makes you standapart may be key. On the other hand vendors like Six Apart and Social Text (both long time recognizable) brands don’t have a tagline at all.
Although Pluck’s “Leaders in Social Media” and Awareness’s “The Leader in Social Media Marketing” are nearly identical, Awareness has a 5 point gain, why is that? I’ve often thought Jive’s enterprise octopus was fairly unique and fun, and told a story that other serious minded enterprise vendors failed to get.
The vendors in this space, at least by tagline are for the most part, indistinguishable, I can back this up with my frequent client calls of brands asking for vendor recommendations and general confusion on who does what –good thing we published a Wave report helping with that. While some of the vendors had more of a descriptor than a tagline, they were for the most part, not different from each other.
As I was doing follow up research on some of the vendors in the community space, I was entering in some keyword searches on Google to find different product pages. Although a common practice, it’s interesting to see which vendors buy sponsored links on the right hand column of the search screen. It’s not easy to tell if they’ve purchased these keywords directly to display if someone enters a vendors name, or if they bought greater search terms like “community software”, either way it’s an indicator of what Google, or the vendors think their most relevant competitors are.
Search marketing is a pretty normal practice, but over the years I’ve seen and learned a few ethical, and not so ethical ways companies do battle for mindshare. A few examples:
Brands often forget to purchase the paid keywords for their specific product name during a launch, a well placed blog post from a competitor mentioning the specific product name can yield some pretty tremendous search engine juice. History tells us that many press release link to the company’s homepage, but not to specific product pages, forcing bloggers, press, media, and analysts to do Google searches to learn more, the result? A competitors blog can easily be visible above the fold.
While discussed and reprimanded by Google and other search engines, when I was in web marketing, I heard cases of competitors supposedly clicking on our paid search terms, and since we had a limited inventory of pay per click, they would use up our inventory. Now I’m sure Google has ways around this (by looking at IP address or other behaviors) but every technology has a workaround.
So what’s right and what’s wrong? Time tends to average things out, and those that play above the table will eventually look victorious, those that kick under the table tend to get punished –or others see it and walk away. On the other hand, all’s fair in business, there are no rules, and this just is an indicator of who’s hungrier for your business.
Below are some screenshots of some vendors search engine results pages (SERP) and you can see the different sponsored links on the right. Here’s what I see when I search for Liveworld, Kickapps, and Telligent.
The economy is sinking, consumers, bloggers, well everyone, can use extra cash in the hand.
Pay Per Post did not require disclosure, Izea requires up front disclosure –this is ethical.
It’s doubly attractive as each of the bloggers can hold a contest, offering additional prizes to their readers, this spread like wildfire in Twitter –reaching a large audience.
I learned from Ted that the bloggers that would participate would receive traffic, as the advertising network within Izea would point to the blogs that are sponsored.
Click through rates will be far higher than banner ads, Ted shared me some numbers, and if he’s right, they are significantly higher. This makes sense as the source is higher trusted than an ad.
It’s inexpensive for the brand, while I hear of many soical media campaigns for Fortune companies being 50-100k, the payout to bloggers and community is a mere 5k, although I’m sure there’s many service fees going to the marketing team at Izea.
But what are the risks?
With every benefit comes a risk to each party, and this one is no different.
Risks to bloggers and their communities
Bloggers will simply have to ensure that they are delivering trusted content to their audience (transparent), and it’s relevant to their current topics (authentic). If readers are going to a tech blog, and expecting tech content, they may be surprised if the content shifts to a different medium –like consumer goods. Ted explained that the bloggers will choose the content they will write about, so in theory, this will work. The good thing about the blogosphere is that it self corrects, the community members will let the blogger know what they do and don’t like –it happens every day. Update: Julio Fernandez notices that the tweets are generating spam, and takes a screenshot.
Risks to Izea
The other risk is the inventory may not be sustainable (long term). What’s the inventory? The bloggers. Izea will need to ensure that the blog posts are spread out so the sponsored posts. If bloggers continue to do sponsored only posts, they do run the risk of losing editorial trust from their community, and then losing audience. As Izea gains popularity, expect the demand to increase for these campaigns.
Risks to Brands
For brands, they should realize that this is not the only way to reach customers, many brands are reaching customers in social networks, building online communities, and using corporate blogs. Brands shouldn’t put all their resources into sponsored blog posts.
Bottom Line: Sponsored blog posts to proliferate
Getting bloggers paid is good, word of mouth for brands is also good, as the prizes and content spread to the readers of the blog they win too. The only risk is if the editorial becomes trusted, but we should expect bloggers to self-police themselves. Two years ago, I never imagined that I would write a positive post for anything coming out of Pay Per Post, but I think this model is getting refined.
Twitter is in an interesting beast, information flies so quickly, that some may misunderstand or distort what really happened in the first place. For some reason, people think that I was against sponsored blog posts or specific bloggers, that’s not true, you can read from my tweets, that I was asking questions to learn and did due diligence to get on the phone with the parties involved, any of the risks I mentioned in the tweets, I’ve also outlined in this post.
The tweets are listed in chronological order, so the first is at the top, I removed any tweets not about this topic.
Kmart paid Shoemoney $500 resulting in buzz from paid blog post 300+ comments http://snipurl.com/7yi5w “Buying” social media is effective 4:37 AM Dec 13th from web
This may not be a scalable model however, as buying placements could reduce credibility of bloggers, reducing marketing inventory. 4:38 AM Dec 13th from web
Bottom Line: Expect more brands to ‘buy’ bloggers and tweeters as the economy dips, this truly is cost effective marketing 4:39 AM Dec 13th from web
@moon Yes, I’m fully aware of Ted, and Izea. Paid product placements are nothing new, what are impacts to individual bloggers and tweeters? 4:49 AM Dec 13th from web in reply to moon
@tedmurphy (Founder of Izea/PayPerPost) have you considered the brand damage this could do to your inventory (bloggers)? 5:06 AM Dec 13th from web in reply to tedmurphy
@moon @tedmurphy is this true? @Chrisbrogan used a seperate blog for the paid Kmart post? What’s the URL? 5:21 AM Dec 13th from web in reply to moon
Here’s @chrisbrogan ‘s paid post for Kmart http://snipurl.com/7ynb1 Transparent, Yes. Authentic? Debatable. Sustainable? No. 5:26 AM Dec 13th
Got off the phone with @centernetworks discussing and debating IZEA paid blog posts. More news on that soon. 5:59 AM Dec 13th from web
@RevzNexus I need to learn more, I requested meeting with Ted Murphy and also with Chris Brogan, I may try to talk to Kmart too 6:02 AM Dec 13th from web in reply to RevzNexus
Just talked to @tedmurphy, asked him many questions, I’ll blog my analysis if brands and bloggers should to this on Monday. 6:30 AM Dec 13th from web
Had a good call with @chrisbrogan He’s on board of advisors for Izea. They model is getting refined. More brands will certainly use Izea. 7:19 AM Dec 13th from web
Expect more bloggers to sign up for sponsored posts as the economy takes a downturn, this is just the start. 7:22 AM Dec 13th from web
@chrisbrogan Thanks Chris and @tedmurphy, I’m trying to understand all sides of the issue (short and long term) before advising my clients. 7:28 AM Dec 13th from web in reply to chrisbrogan
I highly respect @chrisbrogan as usual, he gives a thoughtful and transparent post explaining Advertising and Trust http://snipurl.com/831w6 about 15 hours ago from web
I hope this shows why Izea is going to grow, and explains my stance.
Related Posts: (I’ll be updating this)
I’ll be adding links to posts that add to this discussion, on both sides of the fence.
To some, this topic is going to be controversial, but before you leave an emotional comment, please understand I’m approaching this challenge from a business perspective and have thought this through from multiple angles.
“Spec work” is a proof of concept design that a designer may provide to a prospect. If it’s accepted they get the deal, if not, they are usually unpaid for this spec work.
Backlash Against Spec Work (Proof of Concepts)
Recently, my former colleague Charlene Li received some negative flack for her choice to crowdsource logo design for her unfunded startup. She used crowdSPRING which resulted in many logo designs that were created for her that she could then choose from and refine. Obviously most of the designers never got paid for this, yet one designer received the payment of a few hundred bucks. This was the right choice for her, given her focus on social, and her very young startup, she goes on to rightfully suggest that the larger sized design firms would never be in this space, and that crowdSPRING serves the need of the untapped long tail.
Designers: Why Spec Work Is Not Going Away –How You Should Respond
Spec Work and Proof of Concepts a Common Business Practice. Buyers of designs are often buying creativity and flexibility, as a result, buyers will want to see this demonstrated. Furthermore, spec work occurs each and every day in the market, software, agencies, and beyond not only submit their existing portfolio and customer references, but also provide proof of concepts to brands –this is an expected behavior. Take for example the community platform space (one I cover as an analyst) they often provide proof of concepts for their prospects at no charge, often they have to also demonstrate their flexibility as they may integrate with the prospects website or systems in an unseen ‘sandbox’.
Crowdsourcing isn’t anything new, and will only increase, especially during recession. We’ve heard this same argument against the crowds before, towards journalists, encyclopedias, photographers, music artists, classified ads, retailers, service professionals, towards recruiters, and on and on. While these social technologies allow for innovation, they do cause disruptions to many, what remains is the higher quality services, they don’t go away. This is progress, and it’s not going away, As the market dips, designers will go the extra mile to get business, expect an increase in spec work
Crowdsourced Design Meets the Needs Of Long Tail Market –But May Lack Quality. Like every other industry I mentioned above, the ‘amaterurism’ of media and knowledge results in an increase of demand, but increase in lower quality work. As a result, the need for higher end services will continue to be in demand, as buyers want to stand out. In theory, there is enough room for each. Read this long post by 37 Signals that suggests that most designers cannot live on Spec Work. In the comments you’ll read that those that participate in spec work may be looking for work, just starting off their design career, or are amateurs looking to get hired.
Designers must realize this increases demand for their services. Crowdsourcing designs injects new revenues into the industry that previously were not there. Now that many can create a blog using free or cheap software, you should expect an increase in demand for personal brands. Those that truly want to stand out will find low cost design alternatives. The web has created a new market for design, increasing demand, and growing the pie. Disparaging crowdsourced design is counter intuitive as it’s meeting an increase in demand.
Designers should not embrace No-Spec –instead know the right and wrong time to do spec work. An org called “No!Spec” which is much like a union for designers is rallying professionals not to do unpaid spec work. They’ve an active blog, have grassroots movement, and are gaining steam. Considering the economy is getting worse, designers will be hungry, yet the demand for personal brand projects will increase, designers should not join the no-spec movement. Instead, they should make the decision when it’s appropriate to demonstrate their creativity and flexibility with their prospects, and know when to walk away.
As a result, designers just getting started will embrace crowdsourced design and specs, they can reach a larger prospect base, and will get more exposure. Designers that deliver on strategy and long term relationships will continue to engage in high value engagements shouldn’t shy away from specs –esp as the economy tightens. Of course, focusing on existing portfolios, customer testimonials, will be a great starting point, but demonstrating creativity and flexibility through spec work will set them apart from competitors.
My Experiences With Web Design and Spec Work
I started off my career as a UI designer, I understand the challenges, thrills, and passion to this career and craft, believe me, I have empathy for the job. Recently, I have decided to redesign my blog, and have sought after web design services. I chose to hire a web designer that can give me soup to nuts design and implementation, and really understand the strategy of my blog rather than crowdsource it in pieces. I had two designers in the running, who both provided specs (non paid to me) this makes sense, as I was hiring them on their creative and flexibility. Of course, I reviewed their existing work and portfolio but decided not to go with one of them, they were certainly experienced and professional, but I needed a specific focus, as a result, I voluntarily wrote him a check for his time, this is just as a professional courtesy as he worked so hard on the specs. It wasn’t a huge amount, but certainly enough for a steak dinner for one or two. Keep in mind, all of the money for the redesign, and tribute check for the comps is coming out of my own pocket, this is a personal project.
I hope you found my perspective and recommendation to be balanced and fair, I’ve tried to look at this from all viewpoints. Still, I’d love to hear your opinion, knowing that the increase in demand for personal brands will increase, and that more social software will appear to make crowdsourcing design possible, and the recession causing designers to seek more work –how should designers respond?
People often ask me, how do you stay on top of the industry news so well? My answer? I listen.
One of the ways I get smarter about the field I cover is to listen to podcasts while driving, at gym, or going for a walk. The two top podcasts in this space to listen to are Marketing Voices by Jennifer Jones, and For Immediate Release by Shel and Neville.
Social Media Executive Interviews: Marketing Voices Marketing Voices has short ‘tight’ interviews with practice leaders in the space, the questions and framing are really at an executive level, so this is the one to share with your bosses.
Social Media News and Editorial: For Immediate Release
On the other hand, For Immediate Release (FIR) is about a 40 minute show that includes news, commentary, tech reports, voices from Singapore. They debate, discuss, and dig into issues at a greater depth more suitable for the practitioner –one to share with the folks in the field.
With your brand being mentioned so many places online, it’s a difficult task to manage how it’s positioned and where it appears –in fact, in many ways, you can’t control the brand, as it’s now ‘owned’ by those who talk about it (or always has been).
With the recent concerns about brandjacking, or getting your brand punk’d, this helpful tool user name check can quickly scan the popular (and not so popular social networks to find if your company’s name (or personal) has been taken. The service sometimes goes down, so be patient with it.
On a related note, Mukund suggests here’s some targets PR folks should look at when pitching social media companies, I left a comment suggesting a few others, maybe you can help him round it out. Targeting team blogs like centernetworks, or other influentials may yield a better spend on time and effort –I’m nearly tapped out in time reviewing products.
For the last few months, er years, Microsoft has been getting their assets handed to them as Apple tears into their brand with the “PC vs Mac” clever ads.
Microsoft has launched a new campaign with at least two phases, the first one showing Seinfeld and Gates acting as “normal guys” at the mall, at home, on the road. Most tech heads didn’t get it, but for the mainstream everybodies, it may have resonated. The ads may have been stalled, the reports contradict.
The second phase, which launched last night, extends the “everybody is a PC” theme shows some highly structured actors (including the lovely Eva Longoria) showing how they’re a PC.
I figured out that the theme was “everyone is a PC” which is a differentiator from the elite feeling of Mac for young urban 20 something year olds, to the rest of the business and work world.
Create YouTube Video Templates that have the same video start and end (called bumpers) and have a seperate MP3 track that can be added in the background
Create a set of tags “ImaPC” or “PCpride” or “everyonePC” that makes the videos easy to find
Next, aggregate the videos onto one page, making them easy for folks to find.
Create a voting campaign allowing users to add points to the videos they enjoy the most
Use these user created videos in actual TV and web advertising
Allow negative videos to be included, and showcase these on the web
Elevate these social features right on the campaign page, expand to Facebook, LinkedIn, and where else creators and joiners exist.
To take the win, Microsoft should let the people lead, create, and own the campaign, Jerry and Bill can share the spotlight, reframe the campaign on creators. I see there site is hinting at this, and it maybe in their plans, but I’d expect them to crank this user created feature up.
If you agree that Microsoft should elevate the opportunity for everyone to show how they are a PC, leave comment below, maybe, just maybe, they’re watching.
I’m often asked by companies and indiividuals on what they can do to stand out. Here’s what I’ve learned… but don’t just take my word for it, add your own tips in the comments.
There are so many brands now, in fact with the introduction of websites, and blogs in particular, many are developing personal brands, something not as easy to accomplish in past years. With this profileration of brands, it becomes so much more difficult for brand to stand out from the millions of others. Sure, you’re thinking the long tail solves this, and well yes, in a way. In reality there are leaders and followers being created in each sub-niche, so the rules of getting noticed still apply.
Have a goal
Before you do anything, think about what your objectives are. In particular for brands or personal brands, identify the keywords that you’d most want to be associated with. Try to think of keywords that people would search for, are long-term, and aren’t some made up name that no one would seek. Your goal may be association with these keywords which you’ll be gunning for. Or, if your goal is to network with others and to grow your reach, focus on how many quality relationships (perhaps defined by people that would help you and you’d help back) that you can grow. Or if your goal is to learn about a new topic and eventually master the subject material, focus on how you’ll learn by reading, then eventually writing on that topic.
Develop a unique brand
I really don’t think URLs are as important as they used to be, often folks will Google your name to find you, and the fact that we disperse to so many websites (Facebook/Twitter/Friendfeed/What’s next) is an indicator of the distributed web ruling the destination website. There are millions of blogs/companies out there, and if you’re trying to get noticed, you’re going to have to compete to stand out. Having a default blog template to your website isn’t going to be enough, you’re automatically segmenting yourself with others. Develop a unique look and feel by designing it yourself or finding someone who can help. If that’s too difficult, at least create a custom masthead image that will brand your site.
If you want to stand out, you should add your picture to your blog, and develop a visual icon that demonstrates who you are. While not everyone shows their picture (Louis Gray comes to mind) he did develop an icon “LG” that represents his personal brand. Use this icon on all your other social media properties in a consistent manner. Also, register the same handle on other social media sites, and cross link them from your blog. Take for example Jive Software, who in a crowded space (80-100 vendors) has encouraged Sam Lawrence to develop a unique voice that he inserts –and leads– in the conversation about enterprise social software.
Attend local events
One thing I found very useful when I was trying to get noticed was attending many events. I attended 2-3 tech events every week, which was easy to do in Silicon Valley. By doing this, I was able to meet folks who were passionate about the space, were speaking at other events, and developed a network to interact with online during the day, and one I’m very active with now.
You’ll soon start to notice a gap in the events you’re going to: a particular topic isn’t being covered, or a particular style of a topic isn’t being approached (unconference, roundtable, lecture, networking) and you can start to quickly develop your own events. I’ve seen so many do this, in particular blogger dinners, or meshwalks or barcamps.
Given the large number of people talking about the same thing you are online, you’re going to need to differentiate. Sure, standard business strategy but it’s amazing how few fail to do so. Many simply quote what others say, adding very little value, instead, you need to consistently be intersting. Here’s a few approaches: conduct analysis, respectively disagree with the mainstream, break news, compare and contrast services, develop lists or indexes of companies or topics. When I met Scoble in 2005, I asked them how I can be a better blogger (get links from A-listers) he told me to ‘be intersting’, I took that too heart.
Archive your achievements
As you develop your repitorie of speaking at events, leading events, or being quoted in articles or top blogs, start to create an archive that links to all these achievements. You don’t need to make it totally visible, but you’ll want to be able to share this with decision makers (next job, speaker selector, media, recruiters) to indicate on one page how you stand out.
I’ve so many other tips on how to get noticed, but I’m going to leave this an open discussion in the comments, leave examples and tips for others on how to best get noticed.