What I'm Saying on Twitter

    Tuesday, April 28, 2009

    cluetrainplus10 :: #77 - You're too busy "doing business" to answer our email? Oh gosh, sorry, gee, we'll come back later. Maybe.

    In commemoration of the tenth anniversary of the Cluetrain Manifesto.

    It's happened to all of us. We try and make contact with a business via email, only to wait in futility, since we never receive a response. This is the online equivalent of waiting at a store counter, but the cashier leaves you standing there like you're invisible. How long would you wait? And if the cashier never came over, would you ever return? Not likely!

    In the mad dash to have some presence online, many businesses create websites just because. These businesses don't realize that when they launch their sites, they pledged an unspoken commitment to tend to them - to keep them updated, to make them relevant, to ensure they remain living, breathing extensions of their business. This means consumers should be able to use these sites the way they would a brick and mortar version. So, emails, like a customer standing at a service counter, should be addressed - and promptly!

    Email carries with it an expectation that someone is listening, and when customers send emails that go unanswered, the message is that their business isn't important enough to acknowledge. Ironically, responding to an email is one of the simplest ways a business can demonstrate professionalism, care, and respect for the customer-base. In fact, an email exchange is a rudimentary form of social media, since it can create a conversation from brand to consumer, building engagement and dialogue.

    The accessibility to business online has given consumers the upper-hand. They can be choosier, since comparison shopping has never been easier - your competitors are just a click away. If you own a business and you have a website, you've got to consider it an influential representation of your brand. Take it seriously, and demonstrate your respect to customers by always reading and responding the email messages they send.

    Monday, April 27, 2009

    Will Coke Pioneer A New Agency Model?

    Advertising Age is reporting that Coke is pushing it's media agencies to adopt a new model, where what the agencies are paid is directly tied to the performance of the programs they roll out for Coke. This means in a worst case scenario, if a program bombs, the agency will have their costs covered, and nothing more. For agencies who have typically based project costs on time and materials, this is a huge shift, and puts much more risk on their shoulders.

    The problem this poses for the agencies is that financial projections can no longer be made accurately, since exact payment will never be guaranteed. Profit won't be measured until a program is completed. This means the financial health of agencies can fluctuate, and even top execs won't have a handle on their current status at any given moment. And when financial forecasts are used to plan business growth, this performance-based model will have a very big impact on how agencies are managed.

    Bottom line, with a slumping economy, Coke is sharing the risk of doing business with their media agencies. They're asking agencies to put their money with their mouth is, and take responsibility for delivering results. Conceiving and pitching a concept that's innovative and full of promise will be half the battle. Now, following-through and generating results will be equally important. And with payment being tied to performance, you can bet the level of monitoring and ongoing commitment on the agency side will increase.

    Thursday, April 23, 2009

    Pump Up The Brand - 5 Social Media Tips

    The evolution of the internet has created more consumer touch points than ever before, giving advertisers tremendous opportunity when it comes to engaging with their audience. And with the emergence of social media platforms, the messaging isn't limited to a one-way dialogue. Consumers are wielding the digital soap box like universal loudspeakers, and they're not shy about it, either. Savvy advertisers have realized, however, that engaging in the conversation is a powerful and cost effective means to improve their brand popularity and profile. Here are 5 tips for using social media to pump life into a brand's equity:

    1. Be there: No brand can afford to be absent from the social media circle. There is no excuse, given that the most prominent platforms are absolutely free to use, aside from the investment of time. Your customers are waiting.

    2. Use a real person: Simply creating a profile on a social media site doesn't cut it. An actual person has to be actively participating, posting comments and responding to conversation. The more senior the person, the more credibility and impact the posts will have.

    3. Listen: The real trick is for marketers to not only post on social media sites, but to listen to what consumers are saying. Think of the value! Forget focus groups - this is unadulterated conversation about your brand! There is no better insight, so monitor, monitor, monitor!

    4. Be real: If something is happening with you brand publicly (especially if it's problematic) address it! You're online to engage in conversations, not to ignore them. Consumers expect accountability and want your point of view.

    5. Show some leg: It's important that your posts show some personality. A good balance between corporate speak and human conversation will make your brand more personable. Your audience will find it easier to relate and feel a stronger affinity to your posts and your brand.

    Bottom line - social media demands a new level of honesty and commitment from brands who are brave enough to take the plunge. You just need to be willing to engage with your customers, listen to them, and learn from them. The connection can leave an indelible impression, and will breathe new life into your brand.

    Wednesday, April 22, 2009

    Worried About Online Identity Theft?

    Mashable published an article today about protecting online identity, and it touched on a very interesting form of identity theft that we rarely think about - brandjacking. In short, brandjacking is loosely defined as abusing, exploiting, or maliciously stealing a brand's identify for one's own notoriety. Example - the recent Amazon scandal resulted in a Live Journal blogger claiming responsibility for the hack, despite the fact that Amazon dismissed his claim, and admitted it was an internal error. The blogger brandjacked Amazon's ordeal for his own glory.

    When you consider the accessibility and simplicity of publishing via a number of social networking applications, the potential for brandjacking is huge. As the Mashable article suggests, a golden rule in controlling brand messaging and content is to have presence in the social media space. Own your brand name - create accounts on all major social media networks so that others will have more difficulty trying to claim your identity. More importantly, participate and moderate what's being said when it involves your brand! This is a basic service offered by social media agencies. If you don't have an agency in place, this task is still a critical one that needs to be completed.

    Bottom line - if your brand has no voice, but conversation is taking place, you will lose control of the discussion. This leaves a brand completely vulnerable, and places it's very reputation in the hands of consumers. Given the infinite reach of social media networks, every brand needs to get online and engage with their audience regularly. Things can happen very quickly online (just ask Domino's), and news spreads like wildfire, so don't try to set it and forget it. Create it, manage it, and monitor it - daily!

    Tuesday, April 21, 2009

    The Way To Win With Outsourcing

    With the web erasing any sense of geographic distance among people, globalization is becoming the norm. And with the current economic state, businesses are looking to other parts of the world to leverage talent, infrastructure, and agility. So it makes sense that outsourcing web and application development has become a hot topic for anyone looking to continue delivering good product with more efficiency. I've been involved in off-shore outsourcing for almost five years, and if planned and executed properly, it can generate tremendous success on a number of levels.

    Write a good RFP - Sadly, I can't count how many RFPs I've read cover to cover, only to wonder what the organization is actually seeking! Always include a brief overview of the project - could be a sentence, a paragraph, or a page, but you need to describe the engagement in simple terms before you delve into deeper details. Be clear about what you expect from your vendor. The RFP process shouldn't be a game of decryption.

    Demand a thorough service level agreement - At the end of the day, regardless of what you thought you were getting, or what the vendor thought you wanted, the only thing than really counts is what's in writing! The SLA must detail the guidelines of the entire working relationship. many good examples can be found through an online search. Go back and forth with your vendor if you have to, but make sure the SLA is comprehensive!

    Establish a contact strategy - How often will you speak with your vendor? On what days, and what is the purpose? Don't let the project get away from you. Stay in close contact with your vendor - participate in the project, and everyone will feel more of a responsibility to one another.

    Commit to it - One of the classic fatal errors any organization can make is not fully committing to a project. Own it - understand it - stay on top of it. If you don't have the time or know-how, hire a reputable, specialized outsource management group. Make sure they have experience and will stand behind the work of the vendor, if they bring them to the table.

    Learn from it - Whether the project is a smashing success, or left something to be desired, consider why. Discuss the project with your vendor and your colleagues to understand if you would change anything next time.

    Outsourcing has proven a very smart alternative for many, many global companies. Although the prospect may be intimidating, a bit of research, and perhaps partnering with a management firm, will ensure you're on the road to success.

    Monday, April 20, 2009

    My Hyperlocal Community

    As print publications continue to fold in the face of a struggling economy and penny-pinching advertisers, the internet has become the triumphant vehicle for delivering news. It's quicker, more easily updated, and more cost effective than print. And with the emergence and popularity of social media, consumers are now broadcasters, commentators, and reporters. They're 'reporting' on news that's most relevant to them, and in many cases, this means news that affects where they work, play, and live. While this information may only be useful to some, its extreme relevancy makes it very meaningful, and is being referred to as hyperlocal news. Hyperlocal content is helping build communities of people who are interested in the same information.

    To understand just how interested people really are in hyperlocal content, I've decided to leverage Twitter to report on my own neighbourhood, using the intersection where I live as the landmark for my community. My new Twitter account will be a barometer to not only measure what traction I can gain through Twitter, but to understand what level of engagement I can achieve with my own neighbours. I am fascinated with the idea of the web changing how we live and the relationships we form.

    Stay tuned for updates on how my Twitter community develops.

    Sunday, April 19, 2009

    Magpie - An Alien Strain In The Twittersphere?

    If you begin to receive Tweets from friends that seem contrived, or maybe a bit too much like a sales pitch, it might be because those friends have been recruited into Magpie - an ad network created for Twitter.

    As we all await the big idea on how Twitter will finally generate ongoing revenue, Magpie is certainly attempting to demonstrate proof of concept - a pilot, if anything, to test the waters. The model is simple - get avid Twitterers, presumably with lots of followers, to allow advertisers to embed their own messages into their Tweets from time to time. It's important to note, that Magpie is not affiliated with Twitter - it is a separate entity, leveraging the Twitter platform as an advertising arena.

    While Twitterers won't be able to review and approve ads that are sent out from their Twitter account in advance, Magpie does allow members to tag each ad with their own disclaimer - written by the member to distinguish genuine Tweets from Magpie ads. And there is money to be made! Magpie offers four different models to their members: Pay-per-Sale, Pay-per-Lead, Pay-per-Click, and Pay-per-View.

    The question remains, if users don't tag their Magpie ads with a clear customized message, how many of us will mistake a brand message for an honest Tweet? And if we do, does it matter? As Magpie picks up steam, there's a chance ad Tweets could outnumber those from our friends. Here's hoping we all still find true value in the person to person exchange, and that the organic discussions Twitter seems to facilitate won't be disrupted by the Magpie model.

    For more information on how Magpie works, visit their FAQ page.

    Saturday, April 18, 2009

    Pass The Popcorn

    Big news from YouTube this week - it was announced that the site will be launching a new section, dedicated to television episodes and feature length films. This is a huge departure from the user generated content model the site originally evangelized, including the 'Broadcast Yourself' tag line it still maintains. Given the fact that Google owns YouTube, coupled with the staggering traffic the site generates, we had to expect they would continue to innovate the monetization strategy.

    This change will position Google to attract significantly more advertising dollars within the entertainment vertical. Google is also working with Universal Music to stream music videos from VEVO. It's reported the two companies will share ad revenue from this venture. As of now, Google hasn't indicated that users will have to pay for these services.

    While the obvious driver behind this innovation is revenue, you can't argue that it's pushing the web in exciting directions. But you also have to wonder, if primary social media sites are eventually converted to brand channel sites, will the opportunity for consumer generated content diminish in the shadows of business plans? Twitter has yet to unveil their own revenue model - one way or another, the site needs to generate dollars, but hopefully, not to the detriment of the user base, who has found a tremendous freedom and community in it's application.

    Friday, April 17, 2009

    How Brands Can Wrangle Bad Press On The Web

    Domino's Pizza was recently thrown into a media storm after two employees filmed themselves doing not so nice things with a food order being prepared for delivery. They posted the video on YouTube (no longer available) and it spread like wildfire. No need to explain how something like that can leave deep wounds in the brand impression.

    To their credit, Domino's acted quickly. Within a few days (and over one million YouTube views later) the video was removed, the company created a Twitter account to address the issue, and they recorded and posted a message from its chief executive on YouTube.

    Since any online consumer has the ability to discuss brands in the public realm, reputation management will become an increasingly growing area of practice. In the social networking space, reputation management is the evolution of traditional PR. What's most important is that brands find their voice. The recent Amazon ordeal resulted in the brand being harshly criticized because of their 'silence'. They remained quiet for days, with no response to the millions of comments being made online from their consumers.

    We can't expect brands to be infallible, but we should expect them to participate in the dialogue in social media spaces. Kudos to Domino's for facing an embarrassing situation head-on. It will be interesting to see how brands perfect the art of reputation management in an uncensored online universe.

    Thursday, April 16, 2009

    How The Web Makes The World Feel Smaller

    It's interesting to take a step back and consider what the internet has done to the world. News travels at lightning speed, and there are no borders preventing the news from reaching far corners of the earth. We're all exposed to individuals and information we would have otherwise never known about.

    A great example in recent days is Susan Boyle, the 47 year old, unemployed woman from a Scottish village, who made huge waves after some unexpected stellar singing on 'Britain's Got Talent'. Before she stepped onto that stage, she was, and likely would have remained, unknown to the world. Today, thousands of articles are being written about her - collectively, her videos on YouTube have been watched millions of times!

    While this kind of fame may only last moments, it's still a special feeling to get a glimpse into the life of someone you previously didn't know existed. Susan Boyle may be in Scotland, but when you see her sing on YouTube, and you read her interviews on dozens of websites, it really does erase geographical borders, and the world feels that much smaller.

    Wednesday, April 15, 2009

    Power To The People - The Amazon Example

    It's old news by now that Amazon has been slaughtered this past week after all adult (a.k.a gay and lesbian) titles disappeared from their bestseller lists. Only 57,310 books affected, but, hey, who's counting? Probably the loads and loads of Twitterers, who made the tags #amazonfail and #glitchmyass rank highest in Twitter popularity for days.

    I won't continue with the reprimand of Amazon - they say it was a 'cataloging error' - who am I to disagree?! Well, I'm part of what appears to be the most powerful generation ever. A generation of people, young and old, I might add, who have found a voice in the digital world. A generation of individuals who are using social networking sites to broadcast their opinions across the globe. And in doing so, they are finding power in collective thought - power in their published words - power in the simple ability to share their points of view.

    Power to the people. Word.