A few days ago, I ran a contest for two winners to receive free tickets to the Internet Strategy Forum Summit in Portland. The winning responses, based on insight, ability to back up their predictions and being succinct were Christopher Smith and Kristie.
I’ve selected the two winners, here’s their submissions:
Kristie Connor, a Marketing Consultant, submits on the concept of ‘fluidity’. I like this concept as the corporate website won’t be the only container of brand and product content but also this content will spread to wherever the conversations flow on the web: Social networks, blogs, friendfeed and wherever else. She writes the following:
“Corporate websites of the future will be less about canned content and more about fluidity. Meaning, the consumer will demand websites that are connected to the ‘users’ and ‘consumers’ personal networks which will promote and instill word of mouth as a best practice for business development and ultimately sales. The infrastructure will be designed in a way that company developed case studies, webinars and such will be replaced by real consumers leaving messages and user created video’s. The back-end will be light and built to accommodate the interactivity of users and social networks. Customer generated content will be ranked higher in search engines and push the website owner to move in the direction to capture mind share.”
Additionally, this evolution will put the consumer in the driver’s seat which will drive accountability from outside in.
Christopher Smith, VP of Digital Media Marketing and the Creative Director at MediaTrust submits an excellent piece highlighting that people, real humans will be front and center, rather than the stock photo and corporate happy talk, I couldn’t hope and agree more. Perhaps the future holds a ‘customized’ social network where people you actually know that work at the company are front and center on the website, or customers that are connected to you on your social graph:
“Jeremiah, in response to your contest I submit the following:
I actually believe in 5 years the “corporate website” as we now it will no longer exist. Gone will be the days of the static brochure site, supported by a “dynamic” sub-branded social community. There will no longer be the “self-service” document download centers, or the video case study hiding the infomercial inside.
I see the corporate website as hub of individuals that become your first point of contact, and guide you through your search for products, service or support. Consider the example of the Apple Retail Store experience and extend that to the web. You are going to the corporate site for a reason. Even casual browsers to a corporate site have a passive agenda. Virtual corporate ambassadors will assist you in your interaction with the company, blurring the lines of sales, CRM, and support, with the use of chat, video feed, guided browsing, VoIP… the list goes on.
How will this happen in 5 years? I have already begun this work for my company’s new site, and have begun working with our customer experience team from the tech side to insure that we begin building the opportunity today and defining the process in design and test.
And yes, I already have the date in my calendar, and plan on attending as much of the conference as I can. The downside of winning your contest will be that I am required to visit my mother in law if I am Portland.”
Doh! Have fun with your mother in law Chris. For additional reference, do read my post on the Irrelevant Corporate Website, and how to evolve it. Although over a year old, we’re just starting to see websites evolve.
I just visited a client who had several groups in their company doing quite a bit around social media (they are trying to answer the 4th and 5th question). They were what I call “walking” and were on the verge of “running”. Often, when I meet companies for the first time, I try to find out which of the following questions that they are answering, as it determines their level of sophistication.
As one might expect, brands in tech, media, and some consumer goods are more advanced, and finance, insurance, and sometimes government are trying to answer the first questions.
Five questions companies ask about social media:
What is Social Media?
For many folks, corporations, the question to answer was “What is a BloB”. Blogging was the primary tool that we saw in the marketplace, for some, it wasn’t taken seriously, for the savvy, they quickly adopted. We saw scare tactics from the threatened mainstream media, such as “Attack of the Blogs” and light of amateurisms, angry customers and crazies were painted. For many, we wanted to know what are these tools, how to they work, and what’s the impact. Early on, this impacted corporate communications, PR, and mainstream media.
Why does it matter?
As we’ve evolved, many were realizing the impact of exploding batteries, brand hijacking, and blog evangelism. Savvy companies were starting to adopt these tools, a few provided integrated communities that were scrapped together or built from existing platforms. For the majority, trying to understand why these tools matter to a business. In addition to corporate communications, PR, we started to see other marketing and business units being impacted by these tools, as well as adoption.
What does it mean to my business?
We’re here now. This is the year of ROI, measurement, and experimentation. Many corporations have deployed resources, headcounts and budgets. Corporations are afraid to make mistakes, so plans are created, and measurement is critical to help manage and prove the worth of new programs. ROI was proven, new social media measurement attributes were defined, and many new tools were deployed, I did what I could to further this industry (see all posts). In addition to Corporate Communications and PR, business units are starting to experiment with these tools, often out of the PR budget. A new role started to appear more frequently, the digital marketing manager, the community manager, the social media strategist.
How do I do it right?
Now that experimentation is done, and business units are starting to apply these tools, like advertising, PR, field marketing, and customer references, companies will want to do it right. Frameworks will be developed, consultants will offer packages, and a loosely developed process will be used. For companies that don’t have enough internal resources to listen, manage, and deploy, consultants will be a very sought after service. Nearly every brand will start to have an ongoing budget for social media, the new role to manage these tools will appear. IT departments will start to deploy enterprise 2.0 tools.
How do I integrate across the Enterprise
Normalization is happening, A checkbox for ’social media’ on every announcement, product launch, product development and support will be using these tools. Social media tools to listen, converse, collect knowledge, and build new products will integrate across the customer cycle. It’s not just external, intranets will start to deploy suites for collaboration, such as blog accounts issued to many internal and external employees. Product Teams, IT departments, HR, Finance, Executives, and of course Marketing will be using these tools.
This post, for the most part is a rehash of what I’ve posted nearly a year ago, but I think it holds merit to discuss again
Update: June 10th. I’ve scheduled 52 inquiry calls with clients since April 2008. Inquiry calls are 30 minute discussions with clients that want to pick our brains, and I tell them everything I know that will help them meet their business objective. While the range of questions wily varies, most are asking questions 3, 4, 5.
What question is your company, or your clients trying to answer, this is often a good post to send to your internal teams and try to trigger a discussion.
I’ve seen the social media community run from tool to technology quicker than you can say “shiny object”. I’ve seen us run from blogs > Facebook > Twitter > Pownce > Jaiku > Justin TV > Ustream > Digg > Delicious > Upcoming > Flickr > YouTube > SecondLife > Widgets > Utterz > Zooomr > Friendfeed > Plurk > and who knows what’s next.
Go to Techcrunch to see lists and lists of more products, in our industry, the barriers to entry require just a few thousand (ask Guy Kawasaki) to build and launch an application. Sadly, only some of these tools we end up adopting for the long run, in most cases, we end up wasting our time.
The key to adopting the right social media tools is to first figure out which persona you are. Next, you need to identify which persona your friends are, lastly understand how you can best observe, and learn from others.
Obsessed and enamored with the technology, this individual is always adopting the latest social technologies. This individual is fickle with tools, won’t establish loyalty to websites, may move when they see colonists adopt the tool.
Example: Often experimenting with products in their beta stage, this person will quickly move on to the next tool as fast as adopting the second.
These second generation adopters look for key market or network indicators before adopting a new technology. This person is less enamored with the new technology, and more interested in the value that it provides.
Example: They may trial tools after seeing several people in their network mention or trial the tool, and may adopt after a beta or trial period is over.
Colonists are the mainstream adopters, they are often our parents, non-techies, and the everyday people we meet. They adopt these tools due not because of an internal desire to stay cutting edge, but often because several people around them make it an attractive destination and the they see the utility to the communication. They are not late adopters.
Joins Facebook because colleagues, family, and friends are using it.
You can tell who the early adopters are on this video, pioneers sit in line, settlers come talk, but will by that week, colonists wait a few weeks/months/
So in the comments, answer the following:
1) Identify which persona you are
2) Identify two or more of your peers are the other roles.
I’ll start, read my first comment:
(Written on a plane flying out to Cambridge from SF)
Yesterday, Paul Greenberg asked on Twitter:
“Can anyone give me names of leading social media/social network analyst besides @jowyang, of course. Big or small firms or soloists okay”.
I’m not sure what he was looking for, or why I wasn’t included in his query (update he responded below in comments), but I quickly responded:
“@pgreenbe try Oliver Young (Forr), @monkchips (redmonk) @gartenberg (Jupiter) @yarmis (AMR Research). Did I just refer to my competitors?yea”.
It should have been @jyarmis I had it wrong
While I’m started, he should also check out eMarketer, Hitwise, Compete, and Gartner, you’ll find plenty of resources from those analyst firms. Need even more resources? I created a list of resources for those seeking analysts.
The natural instinct for most companies is to pull customers as close as they can, so why in the heck would I sent someone away from me? Well first of all, it was clear that he was seeking an alternative voice, so whatever I can do to help him on his quest may lead him back to me.
The thing about people is that if you send them away, when thinking about their best interests, the hope is that they’ll come back with friends, good luck Paul! For another perspective on this same discussion, see what colleague Josh Bernoff thinks about talking about your competitors.
Also, yesterday at the 10th Aniv of the Cluetrain we talked about when some customers are too costly to do deal with, and expelling them (firing your own customers) was a good idea. Apparently, Royal Caribbean cruises banned a vocal customer for life from their ships, I somehow think there are two sides of the stories, but you be the judge.
Tell me a time when you or your client sent customers away, maybe it was to help them, maybe it was to get rid of them.
When would you send away prospects or fire your own customers?
The battle between Marketers and Engineers has been going on for a while, Engineers claim that building the best product is enough to succeed, and Marketers claim that understand the external forces (competitors, customers, needs) is the solution.
Update: saw an interesting tweet from tomob: “@jowyang – the engineer’s pipe dream = product so good we don’t need sales or marketing”
We’ve seen cases of heavy engineering companies like Google, with little marketing efforts become the most well known brand online. On the other hand, companies like Coke spends a major portion of their corporate budget on Marketing, to become the top brand in the world.
Or, take Apple, which has great products (although it was debated that Sony had a superior MP3 player –but didn’t know how to market it) also does sophisticated brand and emotional branding aimed at a be different lifestyle.
To add color, andrewparadies tweets: “@jowyang I’d argue that it takes a pretty strong combination of both to succeed. Apple has great marketing, but they also make solid product”
Now add social computing, where we companies are using blogs to market their companies, or SalesForce’s Ideas or Uservoice to let customers define how engineering will focus, things start to mix up, the lines blur. In the end, marketers need engineers, and engineers need marketers, but the balance will vary.
With social media, how will your company improve it’s marketing or engineering? Or do things stay the same.
As an analyst, we undergo training then are put to the test to stand by our calls, and back it up with data, insight, experience, or facts. I found this diagram published by the create debate blog, and by using the creative commons license they have on their blog, am sharing it with you. The graphic is spurred by the essay written by Paul Graham How to Disagree, start there.
Since I tie just about everything back to internet strategy, let’s take this fictional example of one of your colleagues who has spent significant budget on advertising popups on a C rated media site in your market. You, the social media strategist at your company, is less than thrilled to see this, but you need to think about different ways to approach this
Using Graham’s Hierarchy, here’s some fictional arguments you could use to persuade your colleague with the advertising-popup plan:
Refuting the Central Point: Regarding your advertising-popup tactic, we should refocus our core strategy on using marketing channels that allow us not only tell our message, but leave prospects with a positive brand impression, and the desire to take the next step with us. (notice that I focused on the objective, without even criticizing the popups, nor the person)
Refutation: I’d like you to reconsider your advertising-popup tactic, as most users don’t like them, in fact Treester Research shows that 26% of those who see popups actually have a negative brand impression.
Counterargument: Advertising-popups are a bad idea, research indicates most users don’t like them
Contradiction: Everyone knows advertising-popups are a bad idea
Responding to Tone: It sounds like you’re frustrated and don’t know what to do
Ad Hominem: So typical of you people to do something stupid
Name-Calling: Your advertising-popup strategy sucks buttocks, ass hat
Caveat: I’m not slamming the pop-up marketing industry, this is just an example, I could have used blogs too.
I remember as a child, the school yard arguments were often at the bottom. Sadly, some bloggers and tweeters are still there. When you talk to executives, I recommend you focus on the end objectives and end results, never on the tools, which moves lower and lower on the pyramid.
So, back to you, what point on the pyramid do you insert your arguments? Be honest, and talk about how you can improve or give an example.
(for what it matters, I quickly fall down the pyramid when I’m dealing with my loved ones, I’m certainly a guilty ass hat)
I’m meeting more and more corporate marketers who understand the value of social media, but don’t know how to use it. I’m seeing a trend of at least 3 different adoption strategies, listed out below.
Often they want to repurpose their corporate marketing brochures, videos, and pass them on to social channels –without understand that content, often has to change. Corporate “top-down” content doesn’t do well on YouTube, brochures and press releases don’t do well on blogs, and a marcom’s product announcement on a podcast is going to have limited traction.
Corporations are adopting at least one of the three styles of Social Media Marketing:
Locked in the Castle
Keeping the good stuff close to your domain.
Example: Creating videos, audio, and blog posts, but keeping them behind registration, or for clients only.
I’m seeing a handful of corporations in the past year, require registration for videos and podcasts that limit people from accessing them. The risks include: limiting the organic spread of your hard earned content, and not benefiting by the natural word of mouth network. Of course, the flip side is that those that do register are truly hungry for the content, and self-selecting themselves further down the funnel.
Building roads to Towns
Reach adjacent towns by enticing them with content, and provide them with links (roads) back to your land.
Example: Creating brand related images, publishing in flickr, and providing a link in the image notes back to the corporate domain
Some marketers are realizing that they can put a great deal of product and company content on social media tools for free, but by providing links back to the corproate site in comments, in the post-roll of a video, or mentioning a call to action at the end of a podcast extends their reach. By providing these ‘hooks’ to content, you can hope to entice people, who will embed, share, or consume your content, and then eventually click on the links to move closer to your corporate website.
Missionaries spread to new communities.
Example: Creating campaigns in social networks (like Facebook) where communities already exist, but with no links back to the corporate domain, and no blatant advertising.
The truly savvy marketers are learning to find communities where they exist, becoming that community, and not worry about ‘driving traffic’ back to the corporate website as a measure of success. I’ve a few clients that have figured out how to experiment with ‘off domain’ success. There are risks too, this strategy could give up complete control to the members, and could result in a brand backlash or few people caring about a brand’s products.
When it comes to social media marketing, which style is your corporation going to adopt? each has a strength –and weakness –so it’s best you understand the elements and benefits of each.
Last night, at the Blogger dinner in SF (see pics tagged ‘groundswell’), there were several discussions among the attendees from Josh, Shel, Debbie and others around their ideology and stance when it comes to the impacts of social media to companies.
Josh created a scale to help identify where peoples beliefs are, he describes it from his post as:
10 = The groundswell is such a powerful force, the people in it will always prevail. All companies can do is watch and listen. Their employees can participate, but only as independent people. Corporate efforts are doomed to fail.
7 = The groundswell is powerful, but companies have a role in it. Groups of people inside of enterprises can get together and make themselves heard. Even so, the groundswell will always prevail over their interests.
5 = Companies belong in the groundswell. They have interests just as the people do. They will set up corporate efforts — presences in places like Facebook or their own corporate blogs — and connect with their customers. They can’t shut down or co-opt people in the groundswell, but they can form meaningful relationships with them. And they can accomplish goals like marketing or collaborative innovation, if they respect that they’re not in charge.
2 = Corporations and other major institutions are powerful and will always be powerful. This so-called “groundswell” is similar to any other medium — people are there consuming it, and corporations can reach them within that medium. Flare-ups of negative publicity can be contained or at least “handled” so they cause minimal damage.
0 = Corporations have power because they have money. This groundswell thing is a flash in the pan and it doesn’t matter. If it gets too far out of hand we’ll buy it and make sure we control it.
To me, the industry shifts over time: there was a lot of purist talk from 2005-2006, books, presentations and blogs came in with strong cluetrain values. Then, we started to see monetization of social media, social media optimization, and agencies, pr, and marketers getting on board.
I fall in the 5-7 range, you’ll often hear me say that companies need to let go to gain more, and that the power (trust) is in the hands of the participants, so employees should participate.
How about you? But really think it through and explain why this is your belief.
Josh has responded to some of the comments he’s already received.
I advise some of the top brands in the world about how to use social media tools to connect with customers. While many are getting it right, many will get it wrong –with great embarrassment to their brand, and personal careers.
Shel Israel write a very compelling piece on why many corporations are going to get social media wrong. The best possible use case of social media is customers talking with employees of a company in an open and transparent way. Not hiring Mr. T in a “Viral Video” to show how you think you can relate to CIOs.
I’ve told several executives that the most important –yet most difficult –conversations they can have are the following:
The 3 Impossible Conversations for Corporations
#1: Asking for Feedback
It’s so hard for companies to ask for feedback. Take a look around, how many ‘corporate’ blogs ask for raw, unfiltered product feedback. It’s scary for a few reasons: 1) Most companies want to talk about how great they are, not expose themselves to weaknesses. 2) Most companies don’t have the appetite to listen to the feedback, then do anything with it. 3) Most companies don’t know how to respond to the feedback, they don’t want to promise it will happen, nor acknowledge a weakness.
#2: Saying positive things about your competitors
Customers aren’t stupid. In fact, they know who your competition is, and they talk about amongst each other. Yet, for some reason, this is very, very difficult for companies to swallow. There’s some unwritten law that companies shouldn’t talk about their competition (unless you’re criticizing them), it’s welded deeply into nearly every corporate culture. The thing is, customers and prospects talk about your competition, and they will often be analyzing you, and them, and not everything said will be negatives. Companies that recognize that their worthy competition has some strengths have the hardest time admitting it in public –yet those that do, become more relevant, trusted, and authentic than ever before.
#3: Admitting you were wrong
Corporations should always show their happiest face to the market –at least that’s what corporate communications team tells us. Yet in reality, no company, (none, nil, zilch) are perfect. Why pretend to be the absolute best in everything that you do when the rest of the market (including those who are buying and deciding on services) know better. Companies have a hard time admitting they’re wrong, instead, choose to spin, redirect, or ignore what most are saying.
Sure these conversations are difficult to have, but they are the same conversations your customer are having with your prospects –so why the veil? Here’s a few ways to think about these challenging conversations because in reality, these aren’t that “impossible”.
It really isn’t that hard to ask for feedback, say nice things about the competition, or to admit your wrong. #1 will come even if you don’t try, that’s life. #2 Will happen at every conference, online chatroom, or social network in your industry. And hey, #3, well if you’ve ever been married, you should already be an expert at admitting you’re wrong. Being married to the most wonderful person in the world is the same as loving your customers. So learn how to say “Sorry honey, will you please forgive me?” I do, just about every day.
Some folks are more advanced than most I deal with, such as David who says this post is stating the obvious. He provides some good analysis, be sure to read him.
This was the quote I heard last night from someone I know, his impression was that the role of Marketers was: “to get people to buy stuff that they don’t need”. Partially, he is right. The reputation of marketers is often negative, where marketers are considered to be involved with trickery, deceit, and mass consumerism.
In business school, we learned that the classical definition of Marketing was to connect customers with products, yet the defintion never included tricks, lying, or manipulation. If you’ve read Seth’s book that All Marketers are Liars, you’ll quickly realize that the premise of the book suggests that marketers actually tell consumers the stories that they want to hear. I know most marketers will feel better about their profession after reading this book.
Let’s be honest with ourselves, while many may despise marketing, great products without great marketing often don’t get to customers. Ok products (or crappy ones) may get sold to consumers due to great marketing.
Here’s where social media counts, as it levels the playing field between marketers and consumers. The promise of social media is great, consumers an directly share their opinions with each other, leaving marketers in the wake.
Question: Many consumers loathe marketers, now consumers can bypass marketers with social media tools, the power has shifted to the participants, how do marketers stay relevant?
Answer: Marketers must participate, or let consumers participate on their behalf, it’s a new world.