The Age of Conversation, One More Time

16 03 2008

Bigger and Better… What more can you ask for?

Gavin Heaton and Drew McLellan are at it again, with the next incarnation of last year’s The Age of Conversation, a collaborative book project where 100+ bloggers contributed short articles on various issues surrounding media today. You can still buy it here.

However, this time around yours truly will a contributor.

It is a fantastic project and I’m very humbled to have been selected to participate.

In addition, all proceeds will be donated to Variety’s LifeLine charity of kids. It’s win-win, you get to gain more perspective on the state of media today, and the budding media strategists of the future will have an opportunity to live full, fulfilling lives.

Finally, we are planning a huge Bum Rush for new book on March 29th, so please support the project and help spread the word.

Details here.





Becoming Gatekeepers: How Old Media Can Leverage Brand Trust

28 11 2007

“This is art? My 4 year old could paint this”

Any person that has ever walked into a museum, especially of the modern/contemporary variety, has no doubt uttered an iteration of these words. Lets face it, art is an ambiguous concept and us laymen goto museums because people that know far more than us about the art world carefully curate the pieces that are displayed. They are our filters to the art world, and I would say 95% of the art I am exposed to is in museums. Of course, aficionados have expanded circles of exposure beyond museums such as galleries, art shows, artist friends, publications, books, etc.

The art world is a great metaphor for today’s media landscape because for the same reasons that we allow curators to filter our peek into the vast artistic realm, we allow media outlets such as Vogue, CNN, BusinessWeek, etc. to filter our fashion dos & don’ts, world news, and business thinking. The answer? Trust.

As productive people we often don’t have the time to waddle through 3000+ blog posts a day so we either trust other bloggers like Robert Scoble to filter news for us, or let it bubble up to mainstream trade publications and news sources. To further clarify, just like in the art world the hardcore among us read everything ourselves and conduct our own filtering, but that is merely because our egos tell us that we are the best curators for our information, which sometimes can be true as no one else knows what information you deem most relevant.

So, what is this holy grail that I speak of?

Well the most trusted media sources are offline entities, although they may have online components. Therefore, they are in a position to leverage their clout to become online filters for their area of expertise. For example Vogue should reach out to fashion bloggers, allow them to become affiliates that they can sell ads for, and create a mini-portal where they aggregate posts they feel are most relevant for their readers on their site. It’s a win-win situation: Bloggers get better CPMs and more exposure, and Vogue becomes a gatekeeper and increases their online ad revenue. I spoke about topic-centric vertical ad networks in my previous post and in my opinion these old media powerhouse names are best positioned to take advantage of this new trend.

Thoughts?





Content Clusters Facilitate Intent Based Advertising: GLAM Network

28 11 2007

Demographics are dead, target topical content networks.

First of all I need to give kudos to Samir Arora, CEO of GLAM fashion network, for the pretty pic and Jeff Jarvis over at BuzzMachine for sharing it.

I’ve talked at length about the power of intent based advertising here and effective targeting of micro communities here.

If you take a look at the diagram above it is a perfect example of a community/intent based targeting model vs. demographic targeting. The iVillage model, which is based around targeting women in general, is far less interconnected than GLAM and is a closed network of iVillage owned and operated sites. On the other hand, GLAM targets topical clusters such as fashion, beauty, etc. and is a hybrid entity build upon a network of GLAM owned sites and partner sites.

The power here is that by targeting topical clusters you are advertising at the point of intent. When people are looking for fashion information they are far more susceptible to targeted fashion ads vs. feeding the same ads based on female demographic information to  highest reach property – the horoscopes component of iVillage.  In addition, GLAM also collects demographic information and behavioral information on how people traverse their network.  Thus, the sub-heading statement that “demographics are dead” might be a little too strong, however, in my opinion it is dead as a solo targeting mechanism and must be augmented by other forms of consumer information.

In addition, GLAM has the opportunity to build passionate topic-centric communities around their topic groups, which they can activate for influencer based campaigns as well as push to other topic areas.

For a broader look at the vertical network space check out this Ad Age article.





Gamers, Geeks, Nerds, and the Power of the Force

26 11 2007

Gamers are an incredibly influential segment.

First of all a happy belated turkeyfest to all, and apologies for the lack of posts over the past week.

I grew up as a gamer and did stints at in-game ad network Massive Inc. (Microsoft owned) and advergame developer Arkadium; thus, I stand behind many of the conclusions in the new report by Ziff Davis Media’s Gaming Group. The report dives into a sample pulled from subsidiary web property 1UP Network, which is a leading source of game related information.

The high level conclusion of the survey is that gamers are, as a whole, an incredibly influential group when it comes to technology purchases, music, and movies. Being an ex-hardcore gamer and current technophile I can atest to the powerful nature of word of mouth in this passionate segment. Members of this group are often the family tech gateways and also have an innate ‘need’ to share information with their peers.

However, gamers are a tough crowd. If you try to deceive them – Sony PSP Blog – they will smear you with a level of ferocity found in few other segments. In addition, many marketers still approach gamers as pimply 14 year olds, which is a myth that needs to be dispelled NOW. That said, if you make an effort to talk to them on their terms they can also be your most vocal advocates. The Toyota/World of Warcraft spot, which can be viewed here, is a fantastic example of infiltrating the gamer world and speaking their language (just check out the positive comments). The spot was a parody on one of the most famous World of Warcraft clips where a character named Leeroy Jenkins – who is now a cult icon with mentions on Jeopardy – rushes into battle. By parodying a reference that only Warcraft fans would pick up on you are building in a level of exclusivity into the message, which appeals to the segments as you are identifying them as a valuable group.

Here is a brief overview of the conclusions via MarketingVox

“The survey, which garnered response from a predominantly male audience, with an average age of 24, reflects interest particularly in the entertainment and technology realm, such as consumer electronics, music and movie purchases.

Some survey highlights:

  • The gaming community is heavily composed of technology enthusiasts. Over 80 percent own a mobile phone, DVD player, and desktop computer and over 50 percent own a digital camera, MP3 player (without video), Wi-Fi products, PC storage/hard drive and flat panel PC monitor.

1up-network-gamers-consumer-electronics-ownership.jpg

  • Gamers are looking ahead to the latest technology for future purchases, with about one-third considering a purchase in the next six months of flat panel/plasma/LCD TVs, HDTVs and high-end audio systems; another 25 percent is considering purchasing digital camcorders and laptop/notebook computers.

1up-network-gamers-consumer-electronics-purchase-consideration.jpg

  • Gamers are enthusiastic about and comfortable with new technology and consumer electronics (93 percent), with 76 percent described by their friends as being into the latest technology and 61 percent being the first among their friends to buy new technology gadgets.

1up-network-gamers-attitudes-toward-technology-internet-lifestyle.jpg

  • Music is an important part of gamers’ lives. MP3 players are on the rise within the gaming community, with 71 percent planning to purchase an Apple iPod in the next six months, 43 percent Microsoft Zune, 28 percent Apple iPhone, and 24 percent Creative Labs.

1up-network-gamers-mp3-player-purchase-consideration.jpg

  • Gamers are also avid movie watchers, with 64 percent going to theaters at least once a month, 91 percent watching a DVD movie at least once a month, and 76 percent renting an average of 7 movies in the previous 6 months.

1up-network-gamers-movie-watching-frequency-medium.jpg

  • Moreover, Gamers enjoy a variety of movie genres:
    • Comedy (89 percent)
    • Action/adventure (88 percent)
    • Science fiction (79 percent)
    • Animated (64 percent)
    • Comic book (59 percent)
    • War (58 percent)
    • Martial arts (58 percent)
    • Anime (51 percent)
    • Horror (51 percent)

About the study: comScore surveyed 1UP Network visitors, 989 of whom completed the survey, which was conducted August 13 – 31, 2007. Visitors to the 1UP Network were recruited directly off the site via house banner ads.”

 





Facebook Fan Pages Guide: Destinations vs. Collaborative Conversation Spaces

13 11 2007

Facebook Fan Pages need to be conversation spaces not destinations.

There are a lot of posts flying around the blogs on Facebook‘s new Fan Page system, covering privacy, just outright outrage, and even a couple kudos on tapping into the influencer hierarchy.

However, very few are addressing the core issue: How to implement a successful execution and how it fits into the mix.

First of all, DON’T create a destination, no one needs another “branded space”.

People don’t need another location where they can download Mountain Dew wallpapers. The approach that is being pitched is basically just an extension of the groups feature with some extra bells and whistles attached, wrapped up in the ‘products’ category. Now let’s be honest, groups are just badges to show off to other people, in essence, cool by association. There is very little running interaction on most groups and most of the content is lackluster. Some of you may disagree, but you probably run in new media circles and thus are more inclined to interact. You’re not the status quo.

This is a group roll ripped off an average female college student’s profile and it is more kosher than most:

groups.jpg

She is trying to express that she is liberal and somewhat politically inclined by being in the Stephen Colbert group, environmentally motivated with the Climate Change group, of course she wants us all to know that people think she is good looking by being a part of 5 or so groups themed around “Smoking Hot Beautiful Stunning Girls”. Think she ever interacts with any of these groups?

Empower your core base and win over your enemies.

The first couple product pages will most likely operate like every other branded group. Attract people with some discounts or “hot news”, a couple thousand sign up, spam them, spam them, spam them some more, people start to leave, and finally the marketer gets bored. The end.

Sounds bleak; however, there is a huge amount of potential in amplifying the voice of your advocates. If done right.

So here’s what I propose: Build the fan pages into conversation hubs.

Online influencer outreach programs typically are comprised of identifying various online communities and influencers – usually in the form of bloggers -, and trying to chat with them without pissing them off. These types of programs take time, can be expensive, and are difficult to manage and track. So instead of scouring the net, piecing together a patch work of comments and posts, why not have them come to you.

Build areas that become conduits between your evangelists, your nay sayers, and your company. Build a space where people can voice their opinions, good or bad (I know this can be scary for some), and be heard. Having a corporate blog is nice, but let’s face it blogs are still 90% one-way. With Fan Pages you are built into a social ecosystem where people want to connect and express themselves, take advantage. What you get in return is an IV thrust deep into the pulse of sentiments surrounding your product. What people love, where you got it right. What people hate, things you need to work on. What people just don’t get, areas you need to clarify. This information is invaluable, and just by listening you can convert your loudest nay sayers into friends. Trust me, I’ve seen it happen countless times.

That’s my 2 cents. I’m gonna wrap up this post with a challenge to marketing and companies:

Be the first company to use Fan Pages to collaboratively build or improve a product with your consumers.

Want people to use the network to amplify and pitch your product? Give them a stake in it, and allow them to spread a personal message.

Turn, “Hey, a bought cool pair of Nike high-tops”, into “Hey man, check out my new shoes that I helped design, I know you’ll dig ‘em”

Now the shoes have transcended mere mortal shoes, and have become conversation pieces, perhaps even mythical. You bet that everyone of your ‘designers’ will be telling everyone they know, and the Facebook platform will make that voice infinitely louder through the ‘products’ feed.

UPDATE:

Check out this article on Marketing Vox discussing the rising trend in people wanting to work with companies to build better products.

UPDATE #2:

Video post on AdAge of a presentation given by Facebook COO, Owen Van Natta.  He says, “Our users love the [SocialAds] system”.  Since when do people like being accosted by brands in their private communities.  Wake up.





Does The Glove Fit: Social Media Isn’t One Size Fits All

12 11 2007

Web 2.0 isn’t dead.

Says BL Ochman in his recent post on MarketingProfs. Couldn’t agree more. But, companies need to find what works for them.

Ochman’s central point is that there are a number of larger companies that still haven’t jumped on the bandwagon and they can benefit greatly by integrating more 2.0-ish components into their corporate machines. An example he provides is the publishing world, and how publishing houses are getting a little bit closer with social media tools lubricating communication between previously extremely siloed operations. Great!

Again, I agree complete.

A number of my previous posts may have been perceived as anti-2.0, but in reality they are anti-hype. In the 2.0 media landscape where marketers are seduced with new buzzword daily and company valuations are ludicrous (Facebook, anyone?), we need take a step back and take a deep breath. Instead of just jumping because everyone else is, take a long hard look at your customer base, your targets, what your brand represents, and look for tools, communities, and networks that work for you.

Make sure the glove fits.





How Google’s OpenSocial Will Revolutionize Community Targeting

31 10 2007

Community based targeting accommodates multiple, mutually exclusive and compounding brand messages to be expressed.

OpenSocial will spur the development of micro-social networks that will be tied together on the backend, facilitating the seamless movement of users from community to community. This in turn will create an umbrella system where I have an over arcing super-identity, but express multiple aspects of it through the micro-communities I join.

Your first question is probably: Well I can already do that with groups in Myspace and Facebook. Wrong.

Let me explain. Groups on mass social networks are usually merely badges that signify affiliation. Interaction on these groups is relatively low as the barrier for entry is low. Being part of micro-communities is a far greater commitment as one has a reputation that resides in the space that needs to be maintained. Thus, the people in micro-communities are the hardcore, the key influencers, and people with intent. If you are a regular reader you have read my rants on intent based advertising. The citizens of micro-communities are there to acquire information on a subject, share information, and interact with a small subset of passionistas. Micro-communities are places of intent, thus targeting messages to these communities can be very effective.

What kind of messages you ask?

Messages that provide utility. Provide them information, insights, discounts, group buys, or branded widgets, that are also portable throughout OpenSocial. Don’t be their friend, cause they don’t want to be yours, but provide a service and they will appreciate it.

Still wanna work with banner ads?

Let the community shepard/s select the messages. Align your interests. Parse the site, give them a selection of relevant ads and let them choose the ones they feel will resonate the most with their community. More clicks = more money for the shepard/s. In addition, they feel empowered, and a little empowerment goes a long way. Finally, no one person, marketer, or algorithm know a community better than their shepard/s.

Alright so what do I mean by, community based targeting accommodates multiple, mutually exclusive and compounding brand messages to be expressed?

Well in the age of mass media – TV, Radio, Print, and Portals – brands were forced to pick one message they felt would resonate with the largest group of people and blast it. That is no longer the case. Now I believe there still needs to be one all encompassing theme, but now you can target communities with unique messages. Bear with me here.

Imagine the Venn Diagram at the top of the post, and imagine that each circle represents a different community. Now the advertiser disseminates 3 different messages that highlight different aspects of a widget that resonates strongest with each community. If am a member of community A I get sent message A and it makes sense to me and I am not exposed to messages B and C as these communities are mutually exclusive for me. There might be crossover with some members that might spread messages between communities, but since I don’t care much for the information I would bypass it. This keeps message A clear and undiluted, thus more effective. Now the other scenario is I am a member of all 3 communities. In this case I care about all three messages and thus they compound and build an even stronger pitch to the user.

This is the power of community targeting, it allows brands to transition from a OR world where a brand has to be X OR Y, to a world where brand can be X AND Y AND Z.

Finally, these citizens of micro-communities are influencers and will continue to spread your message in a way that makes sense to their audience. If I am a tech aficionado and reside in multiple tech micro-communities and have received 3 compounding messages, when I am communicating the message to say my nephew who wants a new laptop I will relay the messages that make the most sense to him; thus, you have a multi-tiered message filtering system. The more messages that make sense to the influencers the more ammo they have when pitching it down the line.

Very curious to hear everyone’s thoughts.





The Holy Grail of Social Media: Google Incubator

25 10 2007

Orkut + Google Tools + Spock = Social Networks + Collaboration Enablers + People Search = The Holy Grail

My money is on Google for long term dominance of the collaboration and social networking space. I’m waiting to see how they will position Orkut and roll it out, but the killer app in this space has always been the convergence of collaboration tools, people search, and social networks.

I call this the Google Incubator. It is about connecting people with ideas, and enabling them.

The mantra of innovation is People, People, People. However, the biggest barrier for getting an idea off the ground is finding the right people.

Imagine this scenario:

You are taking a shower one day and have a great idea. You build a private group on Orkut and start to flesh it out. Then you run a search for people that have opted in for incubator projects to build a team. You search of a Ajax developer with 5 years of experience and a conversational marketer familiar with teens. The bot parses through all of the data on Orkut’s profiles and spits back a list of qualified people. You then send out invites and have an ad hoc team, which Google’s productivity tools bring together.

Talent today is geo-agnostic and so are ideas. Google Incubator could be the world’s biggest innovation factory and a VCs wet dream.

My 2 cents.








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