Saturday, 22 January 2011

♔ Read this or Die - A Field Guide to Participatory Media

Landscape Reality
There are clearly too many products and services today.   There are too many features in each product, too many media messages, and too many elements per page.  Not to mention—too many competing channels and too many entities vying for our attention. The marketing challenge however is that consumers are so inundated with information that they actually end up no longer valuing simple goods or services.   The resulting “Feature Clutter” only adds to consumer paralysis, as our capacity as humans to digest this information hasn’t evolved at all.  Today’s range of choices may so confuse a buyer that they’ll put up with the old model rather than decide which is the best of the products advertised. What becomes evident is that the newest barriers to competition are the mental walls that customers erect. The modern consumer does not like to be sold— they like to buy (and tend to purchase in groups). For the first time in history, the most powerful barriers to competition are not controlled by companies, but by consumers.  

Consumers aren’t seeking features and benefits so much as tribal identity, asking themselves, “If I buy this product what will that make me?”   Today, it’s ALL about the user experience, value-proposition and the subsequent exchange—and consumers are evolving to platforms that feel more like a conversation, (and less like a sales pitch.)  They’re also listening more to their friends, in a return to the word-of-mouth culture that existed before mass communications.  That’s the simple beauty of Social Media—as it acts as an enabler and facilitator of this exchange and importantly evolves your communication from a (one-way) monologue to a (two-way) participatory experience.

Why Social Media
It’s not enough to simply differentiate today—brands must radically differentiate, as just keeping up with the competition isn’t enough.  In our opinion, Social Media is the silver bullet.  It’s about recognizing, accounting for, and tapping into the fact that, as your potential consumer makes a purchasing (or engagement) decision—they are being influenced by different circles of people through conversations with them, both online and off.  Consumer conversations about brands, products and services are increasingly woven into the interactions of social networks as a means to connect with others, and these conversations have great influence even though people aren’t consciously asking about brand opinions. Furthermore, consumers do not always realize how much influencing they are doing and how much they are being influenced when they have conversations about brands across social platforms. 

Social media, collaboration and networking certainly seem to be all the rage these days, but many people still do not understand what all the fuss is about. From the outside looking in, it would seem that online social networking is all about spending a lot of time doing nothing.  But once you understand that a social network is as much of a place or social construct, as it is an activity, all of that begins to change.   For many people, Social Networks are their home (or “hub”) online; a small piece of the web that they can call their own.  Social media is media disseminated through social interaction online.  Users gravitate towards it extends a platform that allows people to both express their individuality and meet people with similar interests. This structure typically includes profiles, friends, blog posts, widgets, and usually something unique to that particular social networking website—such as the ability to 'poke' people on Facebook or “High Five” on Hi5.  People and organizations accordingly are reordering their priorities and causing global change across a range of interconnected spaces.

Most companies are seeing Social Media as an imperative today simply because search ranking, indexing, and monetization are now directly tied to end-user experience and interaction.  To this end, our ultimate goal is to ensure a framework is in place to turn the world of social media into a strong asset and powerful tool to grow and extend your business.  If the past decade was all about the power of linking and integrating web pages and data, today it's all about power of linking and integrating people.

With 650+ million users globally (and millions more being added each week) Facebook is dominating the web in unparalleled ways. Yet, even as the social network has steadily grown over its short but remarkable history, many brands have remained on the sidelines of the social media revolution.

Facebook was the most visited site on the web for the week ending on March 13, 2010, surpassing even Google in weeklong stats for the first time in history, according to Hitwise. The shift in user habits and audience targeting is palpable and it provides marketers, brand managers, issue advocates, and political campaigns today with an age old choice: Adapt and change or face irrelevance and extinction.  The story is clear: Change happens. To survive it, you must anticipate it; and to be successful, you must embrace it.
Just as intelligent companies adapted their marketing and communications models for the advent of Google over the last decade, dominance has forced another “change or become extinct” moment.  To thrive in a rapidly changing marketplace, corporate communicators must understand that the shift now underway is just as powerful as the one that transformed Google into the modern Yellow Pages and turned a Silicon Valley start-up into a $200 billion everyday necessity.  Far too many executives unfortunately still see Facebook as a vast, uncontrollable outpost and not for corporate reputation management, crisis response, and brand bulletproofing.

But the numbers don’t lie. Almost half-a-billion users each spend an average of nearly 6 hours per month on the site –- inhabiting networks that are largely free of corporate messaging, spam, and expensive advertising. This ought to make at least a few corporate titans rethink that next $1 million Super Bowl ad buy (even if Google did buy its first in 2010).  One must 'fish where the fish' are and a branded Facebook Page should be a staple online marketing decision for most consumer brands today for all of the following reasons:
· No media spend necessary (unless you invest in social ads across Facebook)
· Access to near real-time analytics and demographics (Facebook Insights)
· Direct engagement with your consumers via Walls, Discussion Posts and commenting
· Targeted updates to Fans (age, gender and region)
· The ability to listen to your community – recommendations, complaints, suggestions, user experiences
· A place to replicate existing content (RSS feeds, photos, videos)
· A signpost to your official web presence (and conversion tool to migrate people to something actionable/ transactional.)

The Evolution the Search Algorithm
The reality is that your existing website would have likely served its purpose in the Web 1.0 world (some time ago).   These were the days of the website as a “destination” and typically evidenced similar information found in a traditional brochure.  At that time, the way that search engines found and indexed websites was based on simple organic listings.  More specifically, if you had advertised offline to drive people to your website, or alternatively people “knew” who they were looking for (i.e. searched specifically for “your brand”) they would have likely found your listing.    

Also, in those days, if someone was searching online for a specific “topic” and selected your brand's link, Google for example, would heighten/strengthen the link or association between the search terms “topic” and “your brand”.  Naturally over a period of time, if your brands link is more relevant then others competing organically for the same search terms, you could potentially have a top Search ranking.  Adding ad banners, SEO, or keyword purchases at this time also greatly assisted in driving traffic at this time.

The Web 2.0. world was still in the “destination” web mindset.  Added integration with databases extended users more relevant online experiences that were “in context”.  This was the age of (1:1) personalization of web content.   To be a “known” or “recognized” user typically required signing up - and the goal of websites at that time was to aggregate “Registered” or “known” users (in order to be able to continue the dialogue and relationship beyond one visit.)  Search Engines also started indexing Web2.0 platforms differently - extending added value and ranking for personalization and depth of experience.   Adding ad banners, SEO, or keyword purchases at this time also greatly assisted in driving traffic to the destination.

In today’s Web 3.0 world, the Internet is becoming more democratic.  Meaning, rather then having to view what large corporations jam down our throats, user’s decide what’s of interest and popular by their usage and sharing of web content. Just think of TV; NBC, ABC, CBS etc. ALL have paid programming they air daily, whether you like the specific programming or not.  This model is quickly being replaced by YouTube (Vimeo, HULU and numerous other online “channels”) make this traditional model obsolete - as users today can watch what they want, when they want, where they want.   Not only that, if they like something, it can easily be shared with friends.   The 1:1 model has turned into All:All.

All this activity creates a hierarchy of what’s most popular and the content that is the most popular receives top listing, not the paid content from Coca-Cola.  This is specifically why companies are creating and seeding web-only content that is significantly different then traditional media.  What’s clear is that today the consumer is in the driving seat.  Web 1.0 websites are not even on the radar, specifically because the content is not participatory.   In truth, even if you spent $50,000 on SEO and Keywords, the shear volume of interconnected activity generated by modern Web3.0 sites (tied to social media) dwarfs Web1.0 (brochure-ware) sites.

Therefore, our proposal is to develop a
digital ecosystem that allows one single point of update and easy management.   A platform whereby any content, whether your own or user-generated is integrated and shared with all other digital properties, giving a natural (associated) lift to all properties.  Google also updated their algorithm to take “social connectivity” into consideration, thus again favoring our Synced-Model as each and every engagement is literally amplified exponentially (and indexed accordingly).

Marketing in the Social Age
Connecting the dots will require new ways of working. And marketing’s close link with consumers will require it to lead these new ways of interacting and communicating, pushing process innovation to other parts of the organization all in an effort to serve customers better. In the end, the upheaval will be worth it. There are numerous advantages to changing to consistently deliver value to consumers.

What follows are four attractive benefits, each of which sets the stage for innovation:

1. More successful products and services
Consumers are often left out of product development, and today 80% of new products fail. But once connected, companies will be able to iterate the process of bringing a product or service to market, which will improve success rates. Marketing leaders will tap quick wins like delivering consumer service insights and online feedback to the product teams to gain support. Then they will push to make communication with consumer groups the central element to new product development processes, connecting innovation to end buyers. 

2. Stronger Brand
Consistent support of consumers around their life cycles and tighter integration of intangible and tangible value will result in stronger brands. More brands will become lifestyle choices as marketers approach their consumer groups with adapted offerings, service platforms, and branded content. Brands will mean more to the consumer groups who adopt them, resulting in stronger ties and loyalty. That means there will be higher expectations of brands too. But a brand shouldn’t let increased strength go to its head. The consumer and their needs must always lead.  

3. More loyal Customers
Connecting the dots will create enterprises that are more attuned to and focused on servicing consumers. Data will allow marketers to better understand consumers and hone offerings. This will in turn lead to greater customer satisfaction and create a virtuous circle of feedback and growth in loyalty. Growth will come through three opportunities: 1) building share within consumer groups; 2) increasing the share of customer spending; and 3) selling higher value products and services.  Participation is the new Loyalty.

4. Better allocation of all Resources
The core premise of connecting the dots is alignment of both objectives and resources — i.e., investment levels and staffing — for the common goal of delighting specific consumers —, which means companies, will progressively waste less. How? First, the contradictions and inconsistencies resulting from today’s operational silos will gradually dwindle. For example, the leaky bucket syndrome of acquiring new customers to replace those leaving due to discontent will slow, reducing acquisition costs.  Secondly, marketers will shift investment from mass acquisition campaigns — half wasted in the famous words of John Wanamaker — to more managed models, taking advantage of the targeting available with integrated media platforms. The bottom line will improve as marketers focus their media efforts with properties that speak specifically to each consumer group and push media companies to align.

- - - - 
Need some help crafting a Social Media framework for your brand?  Contact

Wednesday, 19 January 2011


Caterpillar, Starbucks, Marriott, Southwest Airlines, GE, Whole Foods, and others are listed as's top ten best corporate blogs in the world. - 

Lexus is featuring a behind-the-scenes mini-documentary for "The Hard Way" campaign on their YouTube channel. - YouTube 

Heineken's video, "The Entrance," has gone viral with over two million views on YouTube. Fans are further engaged on Facebook, where liking "The Entrance" tab unlocks additional footage of the video's minor characters. - Optimal Brand Development 

Macy's is hosting a "Million Dollar Makeover" contest on Facebook that lets fans vote on the grand prizewinner based on their transformation stories. Since launching the contest, Macy's Facebook page has reached over one million fans. - ClickZ 

Levi's is looking for their next "Levi's Girl" on Facebook to be the face and voice of their "Shape What's to Come" online community. - Facebook 

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Chevrolet's "2011 MLK Reading Project" is encouraging fans to record themselves reciting Dr. King's words and then share them online with others. - 2011 MLK Reading Project 

HP is broadcasting their new improv comedy show, "HP ePrint Live," simultaneously on YouTube and Facebook. Fans are encouraged to send in their ideas for skits to be performed live during the show. - The New York Times 

Nike VP, Digital Sport, shares the new Nike Sport Watch GPS that allows users to upload and share their workout details on the Nike+ community website. - All Things Digital 

Sony is encouraging fans to remix Bob Dylan tracks and share them on Facebook for a chance to win a trip to South by Southwest. - The Remix Project 

"Engagement in a Highly Regulated Environment," by Johnson & Johnson's Director of Corporate Communications - 

B2B in a highly-regulated environment - "The Power of Social Media for Internal Collaboration," BlackRock’s Director of eBusiness explains - how social tools are helping their sales team with accessible, comment-friendly, and shareable content -