Archive for the ‘Web Marketing’ Category


Marketing Voices: Three Recommendations for Marketing Leaders (11min)

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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.

  1. Customers own your website and what you can do to get it back
  2. Social media resources: understand the 80/20 Rule
  3. 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.

The Unrecognizable Taglines of the Community Platform Space

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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.

In a few short days I created, fielded and collected data from a small survey set of folks that read my blog and are connected to me on twitter, the results are below.

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”
  • Considerations
    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.

    Findings

    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.

    Conclusions
    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.

    Doug Haslam writes that he found this experiment interesting, and although he’s in PR and covers this space, could only identify one tagline in the space.

    Voices from the community
    I asked the respondents what would they do if they were the CMO of these vendors, because of the large amount of text, I’ve moved them to a seperate page, but you should read some of the cherry insights they provided.

    Thanks everyone for this quick and interesting experiment.

    Here’s Doug’s Podcast discussing the topic, listen in.

    The Fight on Google’s Results Pages: Community Platforms

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    Dell’s Bob Pearson was right, a company’s corporate homepage is really Google.com

    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.
  • For even more nefarious uses, former colleague and internet expert John Cass gives a breakdown how one vendor was using trademarked product names in search marketing strategy, and the difficulties of enforcement. (link via LiveWorld’s Bryan Person)
  • 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.

    Screenshots
    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.

    liveworldkickappsTelligent

    Update: Sam Decker, CMO of BazzarVoice created this interesting matrix was created that shows which vendors are buying keywords for other competitors SERP pages. link via LiveWorld’s Bryan Person.

    Understanding Izea’s Sponsored Blogging Service

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    My role as an analyst is to find out what types of social media are effective for Forrester’s clients, this weekend provided a unique opportunity to watch how sponsored blog posts are now emerging.

    Understanding Sponsored Blog Posts
    I posed some questions on Twitter when I learned of it on Sat (I embedded them below for any late-comers), and then got on the phone (yeah that old thing) with Ted Murphy the CEO of Izea to get the facts, and then talk to Chris Brogan, one of the bloggers who participated and is also on the Board of Advisors of Izea, who has since explained his actions in this lengthy and active post (over 170 comments and 17 trackbacks). Ted said “the call was balanced and open”, and Chris Brogan said “He’s a very fair and good analyst.”. Let’s stay with this theme as this is a very charged topic.

    Izea (and social spark), a spin-off the heavily criticized Pay Per Post has launched a campaign offering influential bloggers gift cards to go shopping, and then share the wealth with their community via a contest. This is good, I’m all for bloggers getting paid. Update: I just discovered the inventory of bloggers, where you can purchase sponsored blog posts.

    Let’s examine why Izea campaigns are likely to be successful

  • Recent research shows that corporate blogs are not trusted, but we know that consumers trust their peers, so savvy brands will want to benefit from word of mouth.
  • 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.


    Clarification
    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.

  • Lucretia M. Pruitt: What is Your Time Worth? What’s Worth Your Time? (who’s actually one of the unpaid Wal-Mart Mommy Bloggers)
  • Aaron Brazil: IZEA, Social Spark and Redemption he’s one of the bloggers in the program
  • Mashable: Do Brands Belong on Twitter? Related, as the blogging campaigns spill over to twitter.
  • CenterNetworks: Allen Stern does a deep thought piece on paid sponsorships, read my comments at the end.
  • Jennifer Leggio of Zdnet has posted her thoughts, and suggests the campaigns are sustainable, she always has a good perspective.
  • Karl Long: Brands in Social Media and Selling Influence suggests that there are different questions we should all be asking
  • Podcast: Chris Brogan was interviewed by Six Pixels of Separation, hear his opinion.
  • MediaPost: Shows actual numbers how the Kmart brand has benefited from this campaign.
  • Duncan Riley gives a reasoned perspective why sponsored posts are not that bad –and why you should not do them.
  • David Churbuck: Shooting Fish: Blog Whores, David’s heading the social media programs at Lenovo, and discusses why he’s unsubscribing from some folks
  • Stowe Boyd: Izea: Where Is That Line Again? Stowe lays a very balanced post on where the ethical points start and stop.
  • Julio Fernandez took a screenshot of “twitter spam” and gives his thoughts
  • Mistress Mia: Chris Brogan Firestorm Begs a Big Question “No one does anything for nothing.”
  • Ross of crowdSPRING compares advertising to sponsorships, and points out the differences.
  • Dave Taylor: Is Jeremiah Owyang an analyst or is Aaron Brazell right to call him out? Dave addresses some discussions that I had with Aaron.
  • Adam Singer: Paid Blogging Is A Lose-Lose Situation a very comprehensive analysis
  • Steve Spalding, a blogger who participated in the Izea program responds that he’s not a journalist. (edited)
  • Esteban Glas: Riding Every Single Wave
  • Designers: Why Spec Work Is Not Going Away –How You Should Respond

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    Update: I’ve now experimented with Specwork to better understand the issue, and will be sharing the good –and bad –on stage on SXSW, read more

    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.

    She’s not the only one, the talent company Aquent also crowdsourced the design of their website by using a contest for 99 Designs resulting in mixed opinions. To hear the perspective of crowdSPRING, the co-founder Ross Kimbarovsky shares his thoughts on 37 Signals, both debating the good and bad of this service, be sure to read the comments. Update: As seen in the comments from Lucretia, Andrew Hyde tells why he thinks crowdSPRING is unethical and evil.


    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.

    Your Thoughts?
    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?