Archive for the ‘Web2.0’ Category

Over the last two years of explosive social media growth, I have written several times about the growing issue of information and inbox overload, and the dunbar number and ambient relationships. I’ve observed a segment of consumers going on social media diets, if you will, eliminating social media from their lives or at least restricting it to limited networks and a limited amount of time.

Enter SuicideMachine.org, a service that automatically deletes your social media life, in some instances with no possibility of reinstating it. Facebook is taking them seriously enough to ban the service from accessing their servers.

I’m still not sure how much of this is parody and how much is serious. The service itself is for real, but is this a trend that taps into consumer desires? Are that many people this fed up with social media infringing on their “real lives”?

“My internet life is dying, but my real life is starting”

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picture1Over the last couple of weeks Sprite (Coca Cola) launched an interesting reality-type program on YouTube called Green Eyed World, which will follow the nascent music career of a new artist, Katie Vogel, as she leaves her family in the UK and heads to the Big Apple, NYC. It’s typical reality format and also branded entertainment at it’s “best”.  I’m not a big reality fan, so I won’t comment on the content, but I do think the singer Katie Vogel has a nice, raspy, jazzy musical style. But I digress..

The interesting digital marketing tidbit here – is that YouTube (well, Google – as in one of the brands with a competing data portability product) has agreed to implement Facebook Connect, which will allow viewers to interact with their friends on Facebook and even with Katie herself while watching episodes. The fact that Google is using Facebook Connect can only mean that the two companies are open to the potential of the openness to a two way data portability relationship. Either that, or it was a big enough deal for YouTube – which  really needs the revenue.  Remember the history making data portability case implementation that rocked our world a few months back? …when CNN implemented it during the presidential inauguration? Well, this isn’t that big a deal, but it’s refreshing to see the mash-up of reality programming, branded entertainment, and social media data portability.  Kudos to the team from at Coca Cola Europe and FullSix for kicking off a global campaign in the UK and achieving global momentum. Well played.

Incidentally, this is a big change from Sprite’s early foray into social media via one of the first Facebook apps  in Nov 2007, which ironically is still there rotting away with 4 installs (i am one of them and know 2 others – ouch). One of the wall comments on the Sprite Sips page is most likely the best internet comment I have ever seen  – “This app is crap to the power of suck” – Lucy Peery . I’m making a t-shirt out of that.

Reminding you to add value within social media communities, earn respect…and have you pet spade or neutered.

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logo_mediapostThis is an article I wrote for MediaPost, published on Jan 26th

What an amazing moment in history we have witnessed.

I’m not referring to our first black president, the renewed hope for our deteriorating morale, nor the reclamation of our stature as a productive participant in the global society, but rather the precedent of such astronomical digital engagement focused around a single purpose. The proverbial water cooler effect was alive and kicking as live TV met social media for the first time ever via CNN’s live stream of President Barack Obama’s inauguration and an effective implementation of Facebook’s data portability product, Facebook Connect.

As media continues to fragment and marketing interaction becomes more personal, the Obama story represents a macro view of the forest that sometimes marketers and agencies tend to miss due to the intricacy of the trees.

The Basics: The Product, The Brand

During Obama’s campaign for the presidency, his team was praised for their use of digital media channels, particularly the incorporation of emerging channels like social media and mobile. I applaud the marketing team for their efforts, but remind you that it is brand Obama that fostered the community, engagement, energy and word of mouth, more so than the marketing vehicles.

That being said, the channels lent themselves to what brand Obama stands for — transparency, community, revitalization and unity. Sen. John McCain’s campaign utilized similar channels but they yielded different results, albeit the McCain campaign had seemingly differing prioritization of these channels and lacked the support of the younger demos fueling some of the social media participation. Generally, brand McCain simply represented something different than brand Obama.

Transparency

Everywhere we look, transparency is becoming an increasingly significant attribute. Consumers don’t want transparency, they demand it – from our politicians, from the businesses that represent the backbone of our economy, and from our marketing efforts. The ubiquitous requirement of transparency benefits all except those who have something to hide. You can’t run and you can’t hide. The social media ecosystem now represents a mechanism of enforcement, judge, jury and executioner. Especially in the down economy, you must be honest with yourself about your product, your business practices and operations. Fix what is truly broken. Surely we all agree with the old adage that perception is 90% of reality, and never before has reality been able to influence perception in the manner it does today.

Integration

“Obama Everywhere” was the header of the block of links leading to his presence within various social networks, but should have been the incorporated his presence in all channels. Now that Obama’s in office, the federal government has an integrated communications strategy that exceeds that of many marketers. Who would’ve thunk it? The consistent message of “change” and “revitalization” have been weaved across media platform and marketing discipline and are actualized to become more than just words.

The icing on the cake: The re-launch of WhiteHouse.gov at 12:01 p.m. on inauguration day. The welcoming message: “WhiteHouse.gov will be a central part of President Obama’s pledge to make his the most transparent and accountable administration in American history” complete with a new blog, email updates, and access to the Office of Public Liaison, which “seeks to embody the essence of the President’s movement for change through the meaningful engagement of citizens and their elected officials by the federal government.” The last time I visited WhiteHouse.gov was when my ISP asked me to check my internet connection. It’s now in my list of RSS feeds.

Mobility

During his campaign Obama utilized the mobile channel to engage and activate voters, many of whom were segmented on a local level. Text messages reminded you to get out and vote — heck, the selection of Sen. Joe Biden as Obama’s running mate was announced via SMS before any other channel. The iPhone app made rallying behind your candidate an interactive experience versus a stream of static messaging. Those who attended the inauguration in D.C. had the opportunity to receive SMS updates about which entrances to use, which routes had the least traffic, and even a reminder of the weather. Although the mobile efforts may not have done much to influence baby boomers in the mid-west at scale, it was one of the multi-faceted ways brand Obama reached those who favor the channel of their choice. When thinking about mobile, think about aspects of utility and activation.

The Take Away: The Un-Campaign

Brand Obama led less of a campaign and created more of a movement. Although “hope” and “dreams” may work for political speeches, they do not present the foundation of a solid marketing strategy. Most brands have not achieved the level of equity as brand Obama, but all brands have advocates. Energizing brand advocates and listening to the market at large are universal principles of brand marketing that have been around since the dawn of marketing time. The tools and channels have evolved, and will continue to do so.

Social media has reached a point where the energy of brand advocates (or detractors for that matter) creates a constant undertone, unattached to the parameters of your marketing campaigns. It is no longer optional to monitor the social media ecosystem and modify your marketing, PR and product development efforts based on this undertone. Prospective brand consumers have access to the collective at all times. Are you doing what you can to understand what consumers feel about your brand? Does the reality of what your brand stands for meet your desire of its perception? Remember, your brand is what consumers say and think it is.

yelpFile this under ugly…

Recently a lawsuit was brought against a consumer who felt he got ripped off by his chiropractor and posted a negative review on Yelp. While the outcome of this suit can set precedents for the future tonality of blog posts and negative reviews, there is a bigger issue here for us marketers to learn from. Businesses need to finally learn that social media reflects reality, and cease and desist letters and lawsuits are not the tools to use to solve your problems. What used to be little problems pre-social media turn into major bouts of damage control today. One truth of course that has not changed,  is that businesses can afford more legal services than the average consumer, and these types of cases can often be looked at as bullying for settlement (incidentally this case was quickly settled, but the details are not disclosed). This case has a few gray areas, but generally a consumer is being sued because he expressed his opinions about a vendor who he felt was not honest. He has a right to fell that way and a right to voice his opinion about it. I think the issue in the case is exactly how he voiced his opinion about it, but that is not the point here.

Evolution Of The Need For Damage Control
While the case is pending, the original post was removed, but can be  accessed via the StandForSpeech.com website created by Christopher Norberg as a result of the suit. Although the original post is gone, there are now hundreds if not thousands of conversations and blog posts about the situation (as this post). Even some mainstream media picked up the story. The slough of review and comments on Yelp show both sides of the story, but seriously, I can’t imagine even the good reviews convincing anyone searching for Dr. Beigel’s background  to ever do business with him.   Especially when they are intersperesed with comments like:

“I have never seen Dr. Biegel, but you can bet I would never see anyone who would sue someone where it concerns free speech.  Shame on you.”

“God awful practice! From his treatment to his obscenely high and unjustified pricing, you are going to come out of here hurting physically AND financially.
His service was rushed and his treatment did nothing but generate more pain. To top things off, his billing practices add insult to (literal) injury.
AVOID THIS CHIROPRACTOR.”

“Why are you suing someone for posting their opinion to a site?  Yelp makes it very clear that people posting to their site are posting their personal opinions and experiences. The cruel irony you’re going to find is that refuting this one negative post, you’re now getting an unimaginable amount of bad press.  Way more than the one post ever solicited.  ”

“Shame Shame Shame.  Suing over a review.  If Dr. Beigel knew anything about yelpers, it would be that we have brains in our heads.  One negative review out of many 5 star reviews would have struck me as an oddity and I would have likely gone anyway.  Not now!  I have a feeling that many others are feeling the same way and will steer clear.”

Not all the comments are bad, in fact there are plenty of positive comments about Dr. Biegel:

“I just felt I had to defend Dr. Biegel after having seen his suit in the news. I wanted to say that I had NO problem with his billing practices. Unfortunately, the treatment itself was useless, and actually aggravated my pain, so I don’t feel that I can give him more than 2 stars. But I do want to say that the costs/insurance were very upfront, and I’m sure he did the best that he could.”

“I’ve known Doctor Biegel for many years and I’ve rarely met a more honest and forthright person. I trust him completely. The assertion that Dr. Biegel is suing this guy because of a bad review is simply wrong. This guy is being sued because he made false claims accusing Dr. Biegel of committing insurance fraud. That’s called ‘libel’ not a ‘bad review’.  Look it up.”

Of course of the reviews that came as a result of this entire fiasco it is impossible to decipher truth from passionate frustration. But when browsing earlier comments and reviews, it seems like the Dr. Biegel had far more positive reviews sprinkled with a negative one or two here and there.  As of this post, there were 56 reviews.  Most of the negative reviews were a result of the lawsuit, not as a result of the doctor’s service or practices. Proof that the suit is going to hurt the good doctor more than the negative review did in the first place. There’s a message to marketers in this madness.

yy2

The positive reviews like…

“Thanks Dr. Biegel for fixing my back problem!  I owe my pain-free days and restful nights to you!  I heard you charge more than other places, but the service is all around great so I don’t mind letting my insurance pick up the extra cost.  I love walking into your office knowing that I can relax and enjoy my adjustment.”

…are now being upstaged by the controversy and the negative reviews that are associated with what was not the best course of action to deal with the situation.

So, Why Am I Posting This?
Yes I care about the free speech issue, but that is not the point of this post. Legal prowess and deep pockets or not, a marketer has many avenues of putting out social media fires prior to the level of escalation we see in this case. Consumers will make those feelings heard. If you provide a quality product and good service, the community will often come to your aid and defend you against the intermittent backlash from the odd customer who slips through the cracks and has a poor experience. It happens to the best company, you can’t please everybody all the time. You can also participate in the community, listen and learn from customers, earn their respect, and engage them appropriately – both the positive and negative. Respond, don’t react. In this instance, I have no idea how transparent the doctor was about pricing ahead of time, nor the effort the doctor made to reach out to Norberg to try and amicably resolve the issue (the statement below may shed a little light here), but like all relationships, business or personal, a lack of communication is often the culprit.

The Verdict here was a settlement, the details of which were not disclosed. All we can do is interpret from Norberg’s post-settlement post on Yelp:

“A misunderstanding between both parties led us to act out of hand. I chose to ignore Dr. Biegel’s initial request to discuss my posting. In hindsight, I should have remained open to his concerns. Both Dr. Biegel and I strongly believe in a person’s right to express their opinions in a public forum. We both encourage the Internet community to act responsibly.”

Who Won?
Unfortunately, nobody but the lawyers.  Biegel’s claim that the post was libelous and caused him to suffer “loss of reputation, shame, mortification, and hurt feelings,” as well as “injury to his business and profession,”, sort of pales in comparison to the amount of damage that the suit itself and all the negative press has caused. A philosopher would throw the case out on those grounds alone. The legal expense and stress on Norberg must be fairly extensive. Was the settlement a blow to bloggers and reviewers? I don’t think so. I think there were some gray areas in the language Norberg used, and ultimately neither party wanted to drag this case out any further. But let it be known that lawsuit  won’t stop consumers from sharing our thoughts, feelings and opinions about the products, services and practices of the companies with whom we do business.

So what do you think? Was Norberg being libelous or just expressing his opnion? What do you think about the settlement?

brainI’ve been meaning to put the pen to paperkeyboard to blog on this one for a while now…

Have you started to feel overwhelmed by your growing social networks? We all have growing networks of friends and followers. Not only are our networks growing, but they are growing across multiple platforms – social networks, blogs, microblogs, video subscriptions, photo sharing, forums and other social media platforms. With many of these platforms we unintentionally obtain a new “inbox” of sorts. Trying to keep up with the barrage of communications and updates, and maintaining relationships can easily overwhelm you. Even with the influx of aggregation systems, increasingly people are starting to have a hard time keeping up. Between the pressure from peers (and old high school friends that you may have fallen out of touch with on purpose) to connect, and for marketers the seemingly equivalent pressure of keeping up with the Joneses, it’s sometimes enough to drive someone crazy. Earlier this year I learned about the existence of the Information Overload Research Group …but I was too caught up in my own information overload to attend their conference at the time – ah the irony. Last April the NY Times even ran a story about bloggers dying from trying to keep up.

You are not alone. Enter the Dunbar Principle.

The Dunbar number (first published in 1992 by British anthropologist Robin Dunbar and made popular in the marketing industry by Malcom Gladwell in 2000) is “a theoretical cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships”. According to Dunbar, “this limit is a direct function of relative neocortexsize, and that this in turn limits group size … the limit imposed by neocortical processing capacity is simply on the number of individuals with whom a stable inter-personal relationship can be maintained.”

For the record the approximate number is 150. Although it makes sense that new technologies will facilitate the growth of the Dunbar number, just how far can it go?

A recent HP report “Social Networks That Matter: Twitter Under The Microscope“, shows a unique effect of technology facilitating pushing humans past the Dunbar number. As the graph below points out, gaining followers (growing your network) is easy, but as followers increase, your true social connections rapidly become near meaningless. Interesting theory. Think about the ramifications as social media matures and our networks thin out a bit. Deeper social connections versus larger and less valuable ones.

From "Social Networks That Matter", HP 2008
From “Social Networks That Matter”, HP 2008

 Long story short, social media is still in its infancy and has a long way to go. We are about to enter into the era of data portability, where you can take your social graph with you anywhere you go online, rather than simply watching your networks grow at specific destinations. That’s huge – absolutely huge. The ways in which consumers interact with each other and consume content will continue to eveolve over the next several years, not to mention that the monetization models for the platforms will need to emerge for them to stick around. The crossroads where consumer desires meets social media platform monetization has proven thus far to be an elusive place and a disproportionate one. Yes I mentioned monetization (better yet and more accurately, profitability). After all, it must happen eventually and continually sweeping it under the carpet is absolutely the wrong thing to do, as many self proclaimed “social media experts” tend to do. No it is not straightforward, it may not even be on the immediate horizon, but it will happen – it must happen. But make no mistake about it – that crossroads and balance will exist. The consumer has a taste of experiential freedom, and you just can;t put that genie back in the bottle – nor would we want to.

how_it_works2Data Portability. No two words should make any publisher and marketer shiver more with anticipation about the potential of tapping into the power of the social graph and engaging more consumers in deeper ways. This may be the only way for many publishers to tap into the organic and exponential growth patterns of social media.

So far… OPenID has not achieved widespread adoption, (granted it’s clunky and not really user friendly. Yahoo is the only recognized and trusted 3rd party login partner most consumers would recognize). MySpace has launched a data portability API earlier this year on the OpenSocial  platform, as did Google, and neither have had much fanfare. Facebook Connect was supposed to launch on Sunday (odd day of the week to launch a data product – did anyone look at the calendar when announcing that day?). I have been eagerly waiting to hear more about it, but alas I have not heard the world ablaze with Facebook Connect on the brain. Essentially the new development allows members of Facebook to login to other sites and share data from their social graph, benefiting both FB and the partners (launch partners were supposed to include CitySearch, Twitter, Digg, CNN Forum, MoveOn.org, Red Bull, eVite, Vimeo,  Plaxo, Hulu, Stumble Upon, ABC, and a handful of others), and in theory making the web easier for consumers to log into simply using their FB credentials.

With Facebook Connect, you can incorporate your users’ true identities as represented on Facebook whenever they visit your site. By integrating their personal, privacy and account information, you can add Facebook’s rich social context to the content they create on your site. Likewise, you can publish information to Facebook based on the actions your users take on your site. You can also dynamically show which of your users’ Facebook friends already have accounts on your site.

facebook-connectSo, is the web not ready for data portability just yet? Did Facebook not iron out all the bugs yet?

The answer is probably a little yes to both. Either way, data portability is the future. It is an opt-in method for consumers to share their social graph data with other sites to create a more interconnected web. Consumers trust Facebook, they have demonstrated this with the barrage of information provided in their profiles. Facebook learned their lesson once about sharing that data without the explicit permission of the consumer. Facebook Connect shows that they have applied the learnings from that mistake, but they still see the value in extending the social graph outside of their walls, as well as pulling in more content and interconnected experiences from the “open web” into Facebook. I agree and think the data portability future is bright.

What do you think?

Is it just me, or is it a total “duh” moment that the FBI should be utilizing social tools, and content syndication to deputize the socially minded consumer base. Hence, the FBI’s 10 most wanted, the widget. I’m sure there are tons of cool things that the FBI and government agencies have been doing online, but it’s great to finally see a few.

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