Archive for April, 2008

Castles, Towns, and Missionaries


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.

Traveling Missionaries
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.

Who do people trust? (It ain’t bloggers)


The question many marketers are trying to answer now, is “Who do people trust?”

I’ve been spending more and more time pouring over data, medium usage, behavioral and preference data for clients, and am learning more and more about how humans behave on the web.

So who do people trust? Three research studies indicate it’s peers, or people they know. And social clout from bloggers, or those with a lot of online friends ain’t it.

1) Forrester Research

What’s interesting is that colleague Josh Bernoff’s weekly post on who do people trust, indicates that people trust their peers the most, and bloggers last. Josh writes:

“What does this mean for your brand? It means that a focus on “influencers” is not enough. You never know who may be reviewing your product, or where. Influencers may touch a lot of people, but so do the masses of reviewers on Yelp, or, or TripAdvisor. And heaven forbid you get people talking about your brand on The Consumerist.”

If people trust the reviews of friend that they know and trust 14% more than your corporate website, what is your web marketing team doing to accommodate this? Are you spending 14% more effort to listen, learn, influence peer reviews? I’ll bet your not, as most brand marketers I know are spending time building microsites, and launching brochure ware on their sites, without think about the impacts of their corporate website becoming irrelevant.

2) Edelman Trust Barometer

How do you consume the content on Web Strategy by Jeremiah Owyang?

In a confirming correlation, Edelmen’s research from Steve Rubel indicates the exact same findings, despite different phrasing of the questions. Steve writes: “both marketers and publishers – continue to focus on reach, they are missing the big picture. Trust is by far a more important metric, one that clearly rules when it comes to influence.”

3) Pollara Research

Steve points to a third research report also validating this claim. Research firm Pollara found similar results:

“According to a new study from Canadian research firm Pollara, self-described social media users put far more trust in friends and family online than in popular bloggers, or strangers with 10,000 MySpace “friends.”

Of more than 1,100 adults polled in December, nearly 80% said they were very or somewhat more likely to consider buying products recommended by real-world friends and family, while only 23% reported being very or somewhat likely to consider a product pushed by “well-known bloggers.”

“This shows that popularity doesn’t always equate to credibility,” said Robert Hutton, executive vice president and general manager at Pollara. “Marketers might have to reconsider who the real influencers are out there.”

What you should do
Forward this post back to your marketing team, encourage the team to have an active and open dialog. Should you be focusing in on influencers only in your market space? Or should you start also focusing on ratings and review sites, where customers are critiquing, reading, and making decisions based on each others data.

So what’s this mean for me? Unless you know me, you’ll probably trust your friends or family far more than my opinion.

So how can I win your trust back? Lately, I’ve been starting to see the cracks in social media, and have started a tag on this blog called Challenges. Social media isn’t perfect, it’s new, and many people and brands are doing it wrong. It’s important to be objective and point out when it works and when it doesn’t.

Update: Am I looking in the rear view mirror? intersting audio podcast debating this post, listen in (around 20 minutes in)

Upcoming Conferences to Attend: Where will you be?


There are two conferences that I recommend you attend if you read my blog, the topics and presentations are closely aligned to what I’m interested in, and I know both of the organizers –they give good conferences with high value.

The first one is the Internet Strategy Forum Summit, July 17-18 in Portland, managed by my friend Steve Gehlen. He’s even offered a discount for readers of my blog (many web decision makers). Enter in WEBSTRAT as the discount code to get 10% off. I won’t be able to attend this year (I did last year) but Charlene Li will be one of the presenters. enjoy!

Graphing Social Patterns by Dave McClure, is a successful conference on the topic of Social Networks. I was a moderator at the last one in San Diego, and the upcoming one in Washington DC on June 9-11th will be a hit. I’m still trying to work out my schedule so I can attend.

But those are just two of my recommended conferences to attend (Web 2.0 expo, any Forrester Conferences, and SXSW are compulsory, of course) and if you’re in the bay area, there’s plenty of reocurring meetups (see large list).

Update: I attended last year’s community unconference (you control the agenda), and will do so again this year, It’s run by Bill Johnston, who I’ve interviewed for my research report on Online Communities, this is a great event I forgot to mention.

What upcoming conferences would you suggest?

People on the Move in the Social Media Industry: April 27, 2008



I’m starting this post series (see archives) to recognize and congratulate folks who get promoted, move, or accept new exciting positions. Please help me congratulate the following folks:

  • Teresa Valdez Klein moves on to T-Mobile as a product planner, she’s very entrenched in social media, so we can expect her to add to the social media charge at T-Mobile.
  • Janice Diner heads up Ripple, the new social media division of Sharpe Blackmore Euro RSCG. In her previous role Janice headed up the Facebook communities and application development for TD Canada Trust and PlayStation Canada.
  • Tony Haenn takes a new role as Executive Community Architect at the Corporate Executive Board, which offers similar services to Forrester.
  • Petr Olmer moves to Good Data as the Community Evangelist.

  • How to Connect with others:

    Submit an annoucement
    If you know folks that are moving up in the social media industry, leave a comment below, or if you’re feeling shy (it’s cool to self-nominate) send me an email.

    Seeking Social Media Professionals?
    If you’re seeking to connect with community advocates and community managers there are few resources

  • See Web Strategy Jobs powered by Job o Matic
  • Connect with others in the community manager group in Facebook
  • Check out Jake McKee’s community portal for jobs
  • See Chris Heuer’s Social Media Jobs
  • SimplyHired aggregates job listings, as does Indeed
  • ForumOne Jobs for Social Media and Community
  • Jason Falls is hiring
  • Hiring? Leave a commentt
    If you’re seeking candidates in the social media industry, many of them are within arms reach, feel free to leave a link to a job description (but not the whole job description, or I’ll delete it.

    Insurance Industry Explores Social Media, But Nothing To Write Home About (Blogs, Forums, Social Networks)


    I’m doing research for a client, to find out any examples of insurance companies using social media to connect with it’s customers. I’ve done some scanning over a 48 period of time, and asked my twitter (a social computer) followers, who gave a tremendous amount of helpful links. Since I’ve received many links from the community, I won’t hoard my findings, but share them in public. I’m thankful for those that help me, and I try to give back on this blog.

    Overall, without surprise, this industry has not adopted these tools, as one would expect. Whether they should or not should start with by answering these questions:

  • Are their respective decision makers using social tools to find answers about products and services?
  • If so, which tools are they using, and how are they connecting?
  • Would insurance customers benefit from asking and answering questions directly to each other?
  • I did find a few examples, yet just small blossoms in the field, no clear wins that would make a case study of complete success or failure, among them include:

    Pick Your Advisor, India
    This website allows users to select a financial or insurance advisor using a friendly personable interactive selector. Each of the advisors has a picture asscoiate with them, and a psuedo blog. As I looked closer, most of the blog data was not being used, or was being used like a chat room.

    Allstate Community Forum
    It appears this forum (code suggests it’s powered by lithium software, see the whole list) which launched in late 07 is a great example of a company embracing it’s customers using community software. Sadly, there’s very few messages and discussions. The forum is segmented by role (singles, couples, parents) and you can start to see some Q&A occurring. In my recent report on Online Community Best Practices, I found that companies must have a kick start plan to get their communities going.

    esurance fan opportunity
    Esurance’s aggressive online advertising of it’s cartoon like superhero “Erin Esurance” is causing some fandom, and some are dressing up like her. Mack questions if esurance should embrace some of these fans, but I’m not so sure. Is the goal of the cartoon campaign to drive awareness, or involve in a discussion about insurance. Some have mixed reactions on interacting with fake personas, so perhaps a different strategy would be needed.

    Embrace Pet Insurance, Facebook
    For those of us who have pets, care can often be expensive for family members, as a result, embrace pet insurance launched this Facebook group. There are 83 members in the Facebook group, few discussions, a handful of wall posts and no applications.

    Various Blogs
    Perhaps the most interesting insurance related blog is Singapore’s Tan Kin Lian, a former CEO who is “I write this blog to educate the public about insurance, finance and current affairs in Singapore”. The archives go back to 2005, and there are a handful of comments on many of the recent posts. He posts frequently, and is using it in a Q&A type format. On the other hand, there are new blogs appearing, such as this one from Golden State Life Insurance (only 3 posts)

    Enterprise Collaboration
    In a recent Forrester report, Oliver Young’s case study highlights how Northwestern Mutual benefits from internal collaboration using the Awareness platform. I’m sure there are many other examples, but this industry is often not forth coming. Shel Holtz has additional commentary.

    Rehashing of Commercials on YouTube
    Liberty Mutual launched a TV commercial series called “Pay it forward” that was published on YouTube (it doesn’t appear to be sanctioned from the brand), with 150,000 views. They could easily take this campaign to the people by creating a campaign letting the community share their stories view text and video. Interestingly, a few folks decided to take the time to parody the video. Update: I’ve just been notified about the Responsibility Project by Liberty Mutual, a video campaign with a blog (comments enabled), I don’t see much community aspect.

    Active Forums
    Perhaps the most vibrant examples are these various forums. Insurance is likely not a daily activity, and members may prefer to ask questions anonymously to each other. In this forum for insurance agents, called Insurance Forums (top thread has over 60,000 views and 1000 responses regarding a convention). AM/PM insurance has a thriving community, appears to be a customer community. Kiplinger an financial analysis resource has a forum for general insurance discussions.

    Geico’s Caveman
    This isn’t a great example of social media, but Geico’s caveman has interactive marketing elements where you can visit his “crib”, also the character appeared in real life at a recent SXSW party I attended.

    Zuzzid, Norwhich Union’s Community Ratings
    To me, this is the perhaps the promising program, a website where community members can speak out about, rate, and rank insurance agencies. Sadly, this community has had little traction, just a few postings, and if you read the bottom line it’s created by an insurance agency, UK’s Norwich Union (which coincidently has the highest rating) for this to work, it’ll have to be from an independent source.

    Pemco wants to be like you
    Pemco, a Northwest insurance agency in US, launched am interactive marketing site called were a lot like you that shows many profiles of potential prospects, and allows members to upload theirs. While it appears most of the content is created by the agency or the company, there’s very little area for member to member interaction (what social media is about). A good start, I hope they take this to the next level, and let the community really take hold and drive, create, and discuss the content.

    There really isn’t much activity happening in the insurance industry to use social media, and where it may be successful, it could likely be behind the firewall, impervious to public viewing. Update: Jeff Jarvis is also on the hunt for industries that are somewhat impervious to social media, I’ll agree, social media isn’t great for everything, let’s use our heads, not everything is a nail..

    Lastly, I’ve received half a dozen emails and tweets in total saying they are working with a client on social media, but can’t disclose the details, or will ask the client, or the project has ended. A very quiet industry, indeed.

    In general, most financial and insurance industries are going to fall just behind the curve of mainstream adoption when it comes to social media tools, they rightfully will wait and vet out what works and what doesn’t.

    If you see any other examples of insurance companies solving real business problems using social tools (I’m not as interested in toe-dipping), please leave a comment.

    Related: I did this same list for the Finance industry, see Ongoing list of Social Media Efforts from Banks, Credit Card, Financial Institutions and Lenders

    Companies that Track Discussions in Forums and Communities


    Marketers and individuals know how important it is to track conversations in websites, especially where peers connect to each other (sometimes, where the highest trust occurs). A handful of new tools are starting to emerge that give specific tool based search, which I’ve started to list out below.

    This list is specifically for tools that track discussion boards, forums, and communities, for a broader reach, see this list of companies that measures brands on the social web.

    How to use these tools? Plugin your company name, product name, executives names, for your own company and your competitors, to see who is saying what about your brand.

    Companies that Track Discussions in Forums and Communities:

    “, a Pidgin Technologies property, is an innovative forum search engine, message tracking and instant alerts system designed to provide relevant information quickly and efficiently while ensuring you never miss an important forum thread no matter where or when it is posted. Boardtracker brings the most targeted audience closer to the boards, by being a search engine only for boards and by supplying a categorized and highly effective searching and browsing experience to users.”

    “Linqia creates an independent search for online communities and groups with user ratings and comments. From the biggest and most famous online community to the smallest most hidden group, Linqia surfaces existing online communities and groups which can either be uploaded by our users or just commented and rated according to YOUR opinion and experience.”

    Our goal is for Twing to work perfectly every time, and that you’re quickly and easily able to find exactly the information you’re after. But should you need help, we’re here for you. After all, online communities are about people helping each other, so as a community search engine, we take the same approach.

    If you know of any others, please leave a comment, and I’ll add it to this list.