July 6, 2011

What kind of Web 3.0 world should we make?

Reid Hoffman
LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman (photo by JD Lasica)

Reid Hoffman on pervasive data and how it will impact business in the future

Christopher S. RollysonIn addition to being the founder of LinkedIn, Reid Hoffman is a Silicon Valley insider with rich insight into technology trends, markets and building companies.

I attended his presentation at SxSW, where his main message was that the future was bearing down on us, and he prophesied that it would “arrive sooner and be stranger than we think.”

  • He painted the context for his theme, “Web 3.0 as data,” with this timeline:
    • Web 1.0 was a low bandwidth environment in which individuals searched for files online (and on demand). The concept of “cyberspace” was separate from the “real” world. It was an anonymous world in which many people participated as animes.
    • Web 2.0 was a shift in which people increasingly participated with their real identities (MySpace notwithstanding), and the online world became increasingly integrated with the offline world. Social networks mapped social graphs (again, with real people), and most people blogged as themselves. Online became firmly embedded in offline life, as a way to help manage and navigate by using reviews and other buying tools. Wikileaks and the current revolutions in the Middle East are part of this larger trend.
    • Web 3.0 is mostly to do with the massive amounts of active and passive data we are generating. An example of passive data is phone calls from mobile devices. Bandwidth is increasing, which enables video, audio and graphic sharing and data. Hoffman advocates thinking hard about it and acting to protect data. Think about what kind of future we want to create.
  • Web 3.0’s data introduces significant risks to privacy because every transaction, passive and active, is linked to our real identities. Mobile device transactions are constantly tracked, and this is relevant because they are tied to real identities.
  • Hoffman’s biggest fear is how governments could use information to control people. Governments are organizations that are closest to what he called “pure power” (because they integrate information, legal authority and military/police power). They can mine email, text and all other digital data to learn anyone’s social graph.
  • Unlike corporations, government is not incented to care for citizens; he implied it is less accountable. Continue reading
June 22, 2011

How Facebook has quietly created a gold mine for marketers

Facebook ad

Inside the huge banner opportunity created by Facebook

Christopher RollysonFacebook’s development schedule epitomizes the “white water, fast iteration” approach to serving company and customer. Although its mishaps are legendary, it succeeds in consistently fielding a mind-numbing array of features, so it is difficult to keep up and very easy to miss the significance of things.

To wit, very few people people have noticed that Facebook has quietly revolutionized banner ads through a feature that is maligned by users but gold for marketers. This feature has created two opportunities for e-commerce marketers: a new means of inexpensive market research and an easy way to improve relationships with their viewers.

Read on to do this to your competitors before they do it to you.

‘You have removed this ad': A spark in a dry forest

I hope you have used the “remove this ad” feature that Facebook introduced, I believe, in Q4 2009 or Q1 2010. When you mouse over most Facebook ads, you will see an “x” in the far right (1 — see above). When you click the “x” to remove the ad, you get the dialog box beneath, which gives you the radio buttons (2) and the all-important “other.” When you hit “Okay,” you get the gold box. Seems innocuous, right? Wrong. It has begun to change the expectations of your prospects, who will increasingly expect to give feedback on all ads.

Removing ads: Customer viewpoint

I have been using “remove this ad” since it was released, and I have noticed several things about it:

  • There’s very little talk about it online. Any dialog is dominated by users who hate “remove this ad” because they hate ads in general and they would like “removing” the ad to be permanent (i.e. bar chart brains would never reappear). Note that the gold box doesn’t promise banishing the ad. Users don’t care, though.
  • I’ll hypothesize that only a small portion of Facebook users bother to give feedback, but I’ll wager that most of those who do want to do it everywhere.
  • Yes, when you remove the ad, it isn’t banished from your land forever, but clicking the “x” and adding a peppery comment can be satisfying anyway.

Removing ads: A marketer’s viewpoint

Now, think about yourself as a buyer of millions of dollars of banner ads per year, which all CMOs do. What if, for appropriate (geeky) segments you would introduce this functionality in some of your banner ads (not necessarily on Facebook)? This would help you:

  • Conduct low-cost market research by collecting responses; on Facebook itself this is particularly interesting because Facebook knows user demographics. However, off-Facebook, wouldn’t you like to know if readers of certain sites find your ads offensive or …? (you design the responses)
The majority of ‘display’ ads will be selected by customers within 10 years at the outside; certain demographics much earlier.
  • Improve your relationship with prospects when you give them the option to respond; you suggest that you are interested in their viewpoints.
  • You can take this into account when selecting your ad mix. You read it here, in 2011: The majority of “display” ads will be selected by customers within 10 years at the outside; certain demographics much earlier.
  • I recommend pilots this year to get ahead of the market. Of course, many of your ads are syndicated, etc., but you can select specific situations to experiment and learn.

Continue reading

June 9, 2011

A blueprint of how to succeed in social media

social_media_monopoly

 

Conversation trumps content: It’s the human spark of knowledge and caring that carries true value

Christopher RollysonAs adoption of social technologies spreads into even the most risk-averse industries and companies, executives have questions about where social media could take them and where the different kinds of social media consultants can guide them.

Depending on how one defines social media, it is a multimillion-dollar consulting and services industry. Most of the players have a marketing approach in which they help their clients to create content and interact with people in major platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, MySpace, blogs and specialized social networks. Most firms focus on consumer-facing (“B2C”) scenarios because the market for business-to-business use of social technologies significantly lags consumer uses.

The three main types of social media services providers are:

  • Pure play social media consultancies have been created specifically to address this market.
  • Legacy advertising and marketing firms have mobilized social media practices. Most of these are focused on content creation, their traditional domain.
  • Technology vendors are two types: pure play tech startups and legacy enterprise vendors that are bolting on social features to their suites.

Continue reading

May 26, 2011

Word of mouth marketing flaws exposed

miracle on 34th street
“Miracle on 34th Street”: Lesson for today’s marketers?

 

Only 15% of word of mouth marketing campaigns show results, but WOM drives sales — when companies honor and nurture it

Christopher S. RollysonWord of mouth marketing is seen by many marketers as the economic engine of social business (or social media) because people recommend products and services to each other: All marketers have to do is give them the right information to share and make it easy for them to recommend things, right? Wrong. Or, in popular parlance, “It’s complicated.”

Here, I’ll identify some of the flawed concepts that underlie word of mouth marketing (WOMM) so that you can avoid being part of its 85 percent casualty rate. I’ll show in general how you can tweak the idea and succeed with social business initiatives more often.

Word of mouth marketing is flawed

At Alterian’s 2010 user conference, Don Peppers shared this arresting statistic in his keynote: Only 15% of WOMM initiatives show positive ROI. Shocking — at least until you start thinking about it. Loosely speaking, WOM (sans “marketing”) happens when a trusted and relatively unbiased “friend” shares her experience with a product/service with someone close to her. “Someone like me” who isn’t tainted by sales commissions or quarterly revenue targets. Marketing, on the other hand, is generally about creating need or driving sales. Do you see the problem?

In this context, WOM and marketing are mutually exclusive: The latter’s purpose is to serve the company by moving product; the former serves the person first. It’s a conflict of interest, and it will rarely work. Ever.

93% of word of mouth is offline

In a second data point, Keller Fay Group’s latest TalkTrack study revealed that the overwhelming majority of WOM (as defined by them) takes place offline and face to face (via e-consultancy and @stefanw), not online through social business. This is not surprising when you stop to think about what traditional WOM is, largely a conversation between family or close friends. Tight ties. However, neither of these references dives into WOM or WOMM deeply enough to understand why and how they can work or not.

WOM among loose ties

Digital communications significantly reduce the cost of many kinds of interaction, so WOM among loose ties will continue to grow. However, marketers should recognize that loose ties and tight ties have important differences because the motivations and level of trust are different. Loose ties are not just inferior tight ties; people form loose ties for many reasons, but the online many-to-many environment enables people to manage their reputations and influence by leveraging the network effect. Tight tie relationships are limited in number, multidimensional and high investment.

How marketers can succeed with word of mouth

WOM serves the customer, not you. Trust that if you don’t interfere, positive results will often result.

Having led marketing for several firms, I can appreciate why marketers would love the concept of word of mouth marketing. Given that they are in conflict, it’s important to focus on WOM while avoiding WOMM. I’ll wager that the majority of the 85 percent of failures result from not understanding and honoring their differences. The good news is, WOM drives sales — when companies honor and nurture it. Here’s how:

  • First — and this is a leap of faith — accept that WOM serves the customer, not you. Trust that if you don’t interfere, positive results will often result. There is no halfway here; intent and honesty are WOM’s key differentiators. Don Peppers shared Staples’ “Speak Easy” fiasco as a warning (“sponsored” tweets and bloggers are other traps). All companies say that they put the customer first, but many aren’t being honest with themselves or their customers.
  • Second, the company must put itself first to be congruent with itself as a business. It shouldn’t try to do WOM. But the company, acting in its self-interest, can support WOM. Marketers must safeguard these boundaries if they want to succeed because they form the foundation of trust among the three principal actors: company, friend and customer.
  • Continue reading

February 2, 2011

Social businesses: Glimmers of a macro trend


Social Business Design (CC image by Dachis Group)

Annual look at the best strategies, tactics, case studies & insights in the enterprise space

Christopher RollysonCompared to 2009 and 2008, the past year was a relatively calm one because the amplitude of market gyrations clearly diminished and businesses began to find a new floor on which to build stakeholder expectations. Although I watched with high interest the unfolding financial drama in Europe, I didn’t have the time to conduct the research necessary to do a rigorous interpretation, although I published a brief reflection last week. The big story of the past year was this: 2010 marked a turning point in the adoption of social technologies and in the recognition that analysis and strategy are necessary to achieve consistent results with social initiatives.

Macro trends: Moving from broadcast to relationship building

Until recently, being on Facebook was an end in itself, agencies produced vapid content and little interaction occurred because people rarely interact when brands are talking at them instead of listening

Social has been in adolescence until recently — “being on Facebook” was an end in itself, agencies produced vapid content and little interaction happened because people rarely interact when brands are talking at them instead of listening. People feel it when a brand is interested in using social tools to promote itself. They also feel it when a brand is interested in building relationship, which is marked by active listening and responding, along with a relative absence of self-promotion. Brands that build relationship learn that they don’t have to try so hard to promote themselves: when they are truly interested in people, people will promote them. However, this approach remains a future state for most companies. Relationships take serious work — thus, a need for a strategy.

The growing use of strategy is also a harbinger for what I call “social business” (a step beyond social media), in which leaders use social technologies to transform their businesses by collaborating openly with various outside and inside stakeholders to innovate constantly. Early movers will begin emerging this year: Only a few gutsy players will aggressively adopt social business practices in 2011. I believe they can change markets.

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September 13, 2010

CMO guide to Foursquare, Gowalla, Loopt & Brightkite

Gowalla
A Gowalla heat map of Austin, Texas, by Bramus on Flickr

Evaluating the business potential of location-based social applications—is the tail wagging the dog?

Christopher RollysonIf you read any mainstream media or social media sites, you might have started to get the impression that a Foursquare, Gowalla or Loopt application is your only hope to make this quarter’s numbers because check-ins are on everyone’s lips, er, fingertips these days. However, for chief marketing officers of large brands, what’s the real business potential of these apps in 2010? What can they do for your business, and what and where are their limitations?

Below I’ll share some due diligence I’ve conducted for one of my clients and give you some general guidance for using these apps this year. I’ve also included links to the best information sources. First, let’s start with an introduction of geosocial and how it fits into the ecosystem you already know.

A brief introduction to geosocial applications

FoursquareGeosocial — or geolocation or location-based services or applications — represents an emerging space within the Web 2.0 ecosystem, so I’ll spend a minute here positioning them because their development is moving at warp speed. Geo refers to exchanging information related to your current temporal and physical location via a mobile device. Social applies the now-established bundle of practices called “social networking” to your physical location — interacting with friends or friends of friends.

You might think of geosocial as “situational social networking based on where you are” (and what you’re doing). Many geosocial applications use GPS technology to automatically report the physical locations of their users, subject to their privacy settings. For some quick visuals, see Geosocial Applications and the Enterprise (PDF).

Small niches of people have been active in geosocial, using text messaging, for many years. Progenitor Dodgeball was founded in 2000 and enabled users to SMS each other to report their location, notify them about other people nearby to enable “meeting in real life.” Geosocial applications try to increase opportunities for socializing with existing friends or people users don’t know but have certain things in common, based on each user’s privacy and sharing preferences.

It’s worth noting that geosocial is related to but distinct from geotargeting, which usually denotes serving precise marketing messages to people based on their locations. Citysearch has been doing this since Web 1.0, and current players like Yelp and Facebook are converging into the geosocial space. Google tried to morph its Dodgeball acquisition into Google Latitude, but it hasn’t really worked, and I’ll speculate that they are channeling much of their geosocial energy into Google Buzz.

Some key players

Key players in the space include the following:

  • Loopt launched in 2006 and claims 3 million users.
  • Brightkite launched in 2007 and claims 2 million users.
  • Gowalla was born in 2007 and claims 150,000 users.
  • Foursquare launched in 2009 and claims close to 1 million users (with this growth, is it any wonder it receives the lion’s share of the buzz?)
  • Continue reading