Archive for March, 2009

Expect Changes at Mzinga


Mzinga is one of the companies that I closely watch, in fact, they were in my recent Wave, which was started last summer, and performed well.

I’ve been hearing from multiple sources in a variety of folks that Mzinga is undergoing some changes. With the recent layoffs a few months ago, to apparently voluntary leave of the CMO this week, there are a lot of questions I have to ask.

Today alone, I’ve received over four direct messages or emails from individuals suggesting there is some difficulties. I’m being vague on purpose, as I’m not going to start rumors and I’m not going to speculate without first talking to the company.

Mzinga responded to my queries in public on Twitter, and we’re planning on speaking next Monday, one week from now. It’s interesting to note, that if I don’t hear from the company themselves, others will tell me, resulting in my asking questions in public.

Why this post? It’s my obligation to have my clients best interest in mind, and this is the fastest way for me to reach them, by using the tools where we’re already connected.

I strongly recommend that any Mzinga clients or prospects stall any additional movement till they brief me next Monday.

I promise to be fair and balanced in my coverage towards Mzinga –yet with the interest of buyers and brands foremost.

Update: Thank you for all the feedback, please read A Public Apology to Mzinga

Report: Social Media Marketing Up During Recession



I’m sitting across the street from the SXSW convention center, yesterday the organizer Hugh Forrest told me that attendees to the Interactive portion (a great deal with a focus on social) was up aprox 20% (just an approximation). I’ve seen many social media strategists (see list) here at the conference that are here to network with the influencers, get educated at the sessions, and to soak in what community really means.

During a recession, marketers are often forced to reduce budgets, in fact, it’s often one of the first buckets to get trimmed. In our latest research: Social Media Playtime is Over, we found that 53% of marketers are determined to increase their social media budget during a recession, and 42% will keep it the same, a total of 95% of marketers bullish on social media marketing. Why? The reasons are obvious to some, it’s inexpensive and the opportunity to benefit from cost-effective word-of-mouth, are promising.

Now this doesn’t mean that budgets are expanding immensely, since this is a ‘new’ media, these are small budgets. How small? I say minuscule. Three-quarters of marketers have $100,000 of less budgeted for social media marketing.

Even though the budgets are small and growing, we recommend to our clients, in order to be successful, not to approach social media marketing as experimental, but to put the right roles, process, and measurement capabilities in place to be effective. Remember, the most expensive cost isn’t the tools, the most expensive part is the soft costs: strategy, education, process, roles, measurement).

Key Takeaway? Social media budgets are small, but are growing during a recession, yet brands shouldn’t approach this as an experiment, and should have a proper strategy complete with objectives, roles, processes, and measurement.

I’d like to thank Tom Cummings who lead the survey effort and data cleansing, Emily Bowen who kept us on track, and Josh Bernoff for his insight and editing for the collaborative effort on this report –without them, this report would not have published, it’s great to work with a top-notch research team.

Related Voices

  • Adweek’s Brian Morrissey: Notes that the budgets are quite small, in his piece Social Media Outlay Still Small
  • Read Write Web: Despite Recession, More Than 50% of Marketers Increase Spending on Social Media
  • Marketing Pilgrim: Forrester Report Suggests Marketers Still Spend Peanuts on Social Media, But Increases Planned
  • BL suggests there are still going to be internal challenges to strategy, objective, and roles.
  • Colleague Josh Bernoff reinforces: Recession resistant: 95% of social media marketers will maintain or increase social media spending
  • SXSW Tips: On The Cheap


    Left: Downtown Austin tonight –great sunset now that the rain is gone

    SXSW isn’t about the panels, why? the best ones are going to be blogged and put on slideshare. What matters here is the networking, as the social web assembles as a collective community in person, true magic happens.

    [The savvy traveler can attend SXSW and parties at $50 a day]

    The networking IS what the social web is about, and I’ve met many social media strategists from different brands (had lunch with HR block, Uservoice, Dell, Seaworld, and beyond) consultants, vendors, and influencers. I’m hearing that many are here to find new jobs, I’m hearing that corporate folks that have true social experience are planning on going independent and will be finding better opportunities (more news on this, there’s at least half a dozen job changes coming this week), and those that are unemployed were smart to make it out here as an investment.

    Here’s how to do SXSW on the cheap, even if you’re unemployed:
    If you do this right, I think you can live at SXSW at $50 a day, plus airfare, here’s how.

  • Fly out here, airline tickets are cheap. I saw many that trekked here even from Hawaii.
  • Share a room at an inexpensive hotel, I know there are some folks that are splitting hotel rooms with others. You won’t be there that much anyways, so getting a room with two double beds is the way to go.
  • You don’t need a badge to attend the parties, which are often corporate sponsored.
  • I went to a Dell BBQ this afternoon, and food was provided, most evening parties have snacks and food provided.
  • Drinks at most evening parties are free, there are over half a dozen parties each night scattered around the city
  • Next network with others, try to get in Brian Solis’s pictures, he’ll make you look good. Collect lots of business cards and find out who’s hiring
  • Most of the events, sessions, and parties are on the weekend, you could be here and miss either a Friday or Monday of work, just don’t call in sick and update your Facebook profile with your drunken pictures with Zuck.
  • learn to suck up! Cozy on up to a CEO or make friends with Digg and Facebook founders.
  • Now if you can afford a badge, you should certainly do it, as some parties require a badge, and you may also want to get into the blogger lounge or a few sessions, but it’s not required. The pictures are printed on the badge, and since folks know your name, you won’t be able to be part of the ‘loan a badge’ program. I was able to get one of my friends a conference pass, she’s an official blogger for the SXSW program –can’t beat that!

    So how’s the conference doing? I talked to Hugh Forrest this morning, the coordinator of SXSW and he tells me the interactive portion is up around aprox 20% while the film and music stayed even. Shows where the attention and money is going right now.

    Tell me what you heard?

    Spec Work Analysis: Here To Stay –But Not For Everyone


    Note from Jeremiah: I’m publishing this post as I walk on stage at SXSW on a panel that will debate “Is Spec Work Evil” I’ve gone to a great deal of time and experimentation to understand this issue, please carefully read my post before making a judgment either way.

    Defined: speculative work “specwork”
    What’s specwork? “Specwork” which is the process when a buyer or pays designers to create designs. AIGA, a design association, defines it as ” work done without compensation, for the client’s speculation—seriously compromise”. Multiple designers will submit, but only one will be awarded with money –the rest don’t get paid. Critics to this labor dispute suggest it marginalizes the design industry, and is even unethical. There are two social websites that have emerged 99designs and crowdspring that offer brands and designers a place to do spec work business, I’m primarily viewing this topic in the scope of these social sites –as I’m an industry analyst for the social web.

    [Specwork will only increase during a recession. Although the initial upsides of cost-savings and rapid prototyping are obvious, it has equal downsides with quality and time management. Buyers should remember that specwork is a tactical process with drawbacks —never crowdsource your design strategy]

    Economics: specwork here to stay, and will increase during recession
    It’s very hard to stop the movement on the internet. Social media is both a threat and opportunity for designers. With many personal brands that need help, and many websites and startups launching, it has created a new market for designers. Whether you agree or disagree with specwork is right or wrong, it’s here to stay, here’s why:

    Demand side: buyers need design work
    From an industry perspective, we know that specwork is here to stay and will increase during a recession on demand side: 1) More individuals and small businesses will want to build personal brands 2) They are cash strapped during a downturn and will seek lower-priced goods and services.

    Supply side: some designers want to do specwork
    On the supply side, it will also increase as: 1) and more designers will be unemployed and will seek work. 2) non-designers who are seeking work, will try their hand at design. 3) the global workforce is empowered by the internet, making designers from anywhere in the world seek work. Keep in mind a “small” award at even $99 in China and India can go a long way. 4) Designers that have moved into management want to keep skills fresh, or even desire so extra cash will be interested in doing some specwork moonlighting, I’ve heard of a few cases of this happening.

    Enabling Technologies in a global market
    CrowdSPRING and 99designs (and istockphoto for the photo industry) enable anyone with an internet connect to be involved in this global marketplace. With an increase of highly educated white collar workers in China and India, expect those delivering services in the Western market to compete with a global workforce. The combination of tools and the fact that a $250 can feed a family in other countries will increase the supply of designers, other industries that tried to stop the internet have been left wanting.

    The strengths and weaknesses of specwork
    Using specwork for rapid prototyping of logos, banners, is a good use of specwork as you get a variety of work and examples in a short period of time. Specwork is good for very tactical work but you have to know what you want.

    Specwork strengths:
    Specwork is here to stay, here’s when it may be good to use:

    1) Specwork helpful for individuals or small business that are cash strapped There are many individuals and small businesses that need to get a branded site up quickly –granted their efforts will be focused on running their businesses and the design will come second or third in priority.

    2) Specwork is good for rapid prototyping –but only if you have a design strategy If you’re seeking lots of ideation and want to quickly iterate designs, specwork can be helpful if you’re short on time. Warning, this would only work if you have a design requirements, strategy, and really know the direction you want to head. Nate Westheimer recently did a logo using one of the sites and found it helpful in the ideation stage of the design and says it’s like “throwing spaghetti against the wall for is great for logo design”

    3) Specwork great for fresh creative If you’re not getting fresh designs from your current design and want to see a variety of work, specwork may be a good way to get samples from dozens of designers.

    Specwork weaknesses:
    There are plenty of ethical and emotional responses against specwork, but becuase those have been outlined so well, I’m going to focus on the industry and buyer perspective, here’s where specwork doesn’t work well:

    1) Specwork isn’t right for upper tier design. True design requires scoping, understanding and a well thought out process that maps out the brand, web and other mediums, simply putting it towards spec work won’t be sufficient enough for most large companies and brands.

    2) Specwork isn’t a substitute for a design strategy. If you don’t know what your brand and marketing goals are, creating a logo isn’t going to fix your business goals. Specwork is tactical and is on the deployment side of the project, it only works if you know what you want.

    3) Specwork good for buyers with limited time. While specwork can rapidly product a lot of variations, it requires manually management from the buyer. As a result you’ll have to provide a lot of feedback –this is the exchange for not paying a tremendous amount of money to a designer that may be intuitive.

    4) Specwork isn’t for buyers who need quality work all the time. Granted, specwork can provide rapid designs in a short period of time, but the quality of designs can vary rapidly, in fact some designs, you may cringe at, as amateurs submit content

    Recommendations: Specwork has upsides for the lower tier market –but is not for everyone
    Specwork isn’t polar, it’s neither evil nor good, black nor white, it indeed is very gray. Without a doubt, Specwork (like crowdspring or 99 designers) is here to stay –economics will drive this forward. A new ‘lower tier’ of design needs are here, (bloggers, small businesses) and specwork will help meet this new design –while keeping the upper tier intact.

    However, buyers should beware, while the short term gains are very apparent, the long term impacts could be damaging. Specwork is helpful to brands that want fresh creative designs in a short period of time, however will have to spend time filtering and responding to submissions. It’s important to remember that specwork is a tactical piece of your overall process, if you’re going to use it, remember that it’s not a substitute for having a true design strategy. In the end, like everything else in the market, you get what you pay for, and Specwork is a cheaper alternative to having a true design solution.

    Related resources used for research

  • As an analyst, I experimented first hand with specwork to learn what works and what doesn’t, and used crowdspring for my banner redesign, read my first post on the topic, then about my experiment
  • A ‘starving’ designer/artist wonders why we’re still debating specwork –it’s here to stay
  • The Logo Factory makes some comments on why Specwork is bad, and about the panel.
  • Jeffrey, who is on the panel states his position that it’s gray, I tend to agree.
  • Jeffrey from Threadless (on my panel) discusses the difference between laziness and crowsourcing
  • Some designers are calling the panelists (me) evil.
  • Andrew Hyde, the most vocal opponent of specwork suggests that it’s an evil ponzi scheme
  • Specwork examples

  • Twitter has crowdsourced the ‘bird’ logo for $6 or less. One of the top blogs in the world has announced a
  • Mashable, the 8th most popular blog (says Technorati) has a spec work design contest for it’s upcoming website redesign and has over 1000 entries.
  • When you look closely, the much celebrated Threadless, a design contest for popular tshirts, is a form of speculative work.
  • Related are eLance and Odesk, who offer outsourcing for a variety of services to workers around the globe.

  • About me: A former full time designer turned industry analyst
    There’s a lot of folks that are coming to this blog that may not know me, so let me introduce myself. I’m a former full-time UI designer for over 3 years, in the midst of a blog redesign, and now industry analyst watching the social web, this controversial topic truly resonates with me. I’ve hired a blog designer for my upcoming redesign, however there was a designer who was not chosen, and voluntarily paid him for his time –even though I did not hire him for the design. My job as an industry analyst is to spot the trends, conduct research, tackle the tough questions, and provide answers to what’s happening now, and what’s going to happen. I tried to understand all sides of this issue, spoke to designers (even Andrew Hyde –twice) and experimented.

    I hope you found my viewpoint to be balanced and fair.

    Here’s two photos from the stage I just took

    My view, fantastic panelists.

    yeah, I was watching the tweetstream –and responding in real time

    There were quite a few tweets, this is just half of them, tagged crowdsource09

    Rebecca live blogged the very heated panel.

    AIGA asks for you to submit your comments to them about specwork

    Josh discusses this thoughts on Specwork –as a designer.

    SXSW has transcribed the whole Spec Work debate

    Our panel got rave reviews for excitement and content, thanks

    Best Buy Launches API: Corporate Websites Extend to Open Web


    Ignore Everybody

    I’m sitting in the Mashery room here at SXSW, a circus themed ‘tent’ with popcorn and geeks galore, I’ll be posting live coverage of things that I see and hear that I think are interesting that matter to corporate web strategists.

    A few years ago, I made a claim that corporate websites will be irrelevant. Why? the community –and trust– has shifted off the corporate domain. Similar to my coverage of the Guardian launchings an API, this API is powered by Mashery.

    Best Buy launched an API called Remix, that went public yesterday here at SXSW. What is it? It’s the entire product catalog now available to third party developer who can remash the content and create their own version of BestBuy or something that the world has never been seen. I can think of some unique opportunities mixing product recommendations with your Facebook friends. Or pushing this data into GetSatisfaction, an outsourced support site, and allowing products to be better supported by the community.

    [Best Buy extends their corporate website by allowing third party developers to build, remix, and innovate with their data.

    What’s in it for the developers? First of all, it’s a large mass of content and data that can populate a site –this is great for attracting users, and for SEO. It’s free to use, although there’s an affiliate option where Bestbuy can be one of the options for retail. Best Buy doesn’t force developers to be part of this affiliate program if they choose to go the eCommerce route, instead they give developers the choice –as many developers will choose multiple retail options.

    [The Best Buy website is now colonizing to the open web –it’s no longer the sole destination]

    This isn’t a golden arrow for BestBuy as they still need to serve up a competitive price, and other services in the data to win over consumers. How did they convince executives? They made the argument that they’ve been releasing a catalog of data since 2000, and developers were already scraping the price –now they make it easier and faster. In order to spur innovation, they’re doing a ‘challenge’ campaign that encourages the community to do problem solving around their products. A popular example would be for the community to design a home theater system, building a digital camera kit with all the accessories, or even suggesting supplemental products for laptops –solution sell.

    Considerations: What is the most popular content on your corporate site? Let it go, set it free, and let it bloom.

    Update: Remix has a sample gallery, where you can see a few deployments, take camelbuys for example

    When Brands Get Punk’d: Social Media Remediation


    Do you know any brands that are hated or are getting social media wrong? They may need “Social Media Remediation”

    I had drinks with Paul and Brooke from, Cohn and Wolfe a digital PR agency that told me they focus on clients that have some brand challenges, that’s putting it nicely, he wants to help the brands that have been punk’d.

    They expressed to me something pretty interesting: when brands get social media wrong and mess it up, they often need experts to help correct the situation. If you’ve seen Pulp Fiction, you’ll remember the character “Mr Fox”The Wolf” (thanks Darshan) who was the clean up expert driving the flashy sports car. I don’t know what kind of car that Paul and Brooke drive but they shared some of the brands they are helping, and they are certainly brands under fire, one case study they told me about was one of their premiere clients, Dell. I briefly spoke with Lionel at Dell, who told me they’ve been with them since the “Hell” fire.

    Paul, who has a link blog Social Media Remediation is the act of helping client who has stepped in the stink and is either in the punk’d list or could be. He gave a few common examples of brands doing it wrong:

    Common problems that need social media remediation

    1) Companies with branded communities are stuck with a large implementation but customers are not coming nor staying. Some brands turn on the advertising engines to get customers to come, they see an empty party and don’t return. Often the issue is around having the wrong content (or none at all) or not reaching to key influencers.

    2) Companies with too many blogs, he cites HP that have no central strategy moan that they don’t get traction. Our research indicates this is true as most consumers don’t trust corporate blogs.

    3) Companies that say they are listening but really aren’t. He cites that some brands get a monthly or quartlery report from a listening platform, but don’t dive into the deeper conversation or real time discussion.

    4) Social Network Marketing fails. Some brands work with an design or interactive agency who launches a campaign on Facebook or MySpace but the brand doesn’t put any long term resources behind it to be part of the community. This also aligns with my research as I found out that 15 out of 16 brands failed their social network marketing test.

    So what does Paul and Brooke do? they help to analyze the problems, diagnose, and help the client get back on track, I suspect that often it’s a long cultural change that has to occur internally, so they’ve a lot of education, hand holding, and patience to give clients.

    On a related note, I had drinks with a social media practitioner at a large brand, and said that PR folks often swoop in to over condolences during crises then use it to pitch their services.

    Paul gave a few good examples of brands doing social media wrong (or at least at limp attempt) what are some of the biggest challenges that you see that need social remediation?