Conversational Marketing & Managing the Expectation Gap

17 03 2008


The slide above is from Noah Brier’s Brand vs. Utility presentation, which reminded me of a post I wrote a long time ago in my young blogging days on a concept I called ‘The Expectation Gap”. I’ve left the article as is, therefore, it is slightly out of context, but the core concept still shines through. Also I wanted to showcase my ever greater skill as manipulating the English language….. Yes, I’m well aware it is a futile endeavor…

Without further ado:

The essence of conversational marketing is of course to get people talking. To ignite conversation around a given service or product. To seed the conversation and amplify it, you need the right people to say right things about your product. For example you want the camera buff to evangelize your new digital camera to his friends for he is a trusted source of information regarding cameras. At least within his network. However, how do you get the camera buff to crank up the volume of your message, to amplify it.

The key is in managing the expectation gap. To explain this concept I will use 4 scenarios at a local pizza shop.

1. You are hungry so you walk into a pizza shop you’ve never been to before. You are expecting a decent slice of pizza, but you’re primarily just trying to get a quick fix. The expectations are relatively low, but the pizza isn’t bad in fact it is slightly better than anticipated. You go back to the office and might mention it. The expectation gap was too small to register.

2. Now this time you walk into the same pizza place and are BLOWN away by the flavor. When you get to the office this time you tell everybody about this transcendental pizza experience. The expectation gap was huge, therefore the quality and volume of amplification is equally exaggerated.

3. Now if you get a slightly subpar pizza it’s also not a talking point as the expectation gap was insignificant.

4. The final scenario is if your best friend, whose pizza taste you agree with, raves about a particular pizza joint and you decide to give it a shot. However, the pizza was so bad you ended up throwing it away. Due to the hype, the expectations were astronomical and subsequently the negative expectation gap was equally as large. You now go back to your friend and curse him out for making you endure such a terrible gastronomic experience, and vow to never heed another recommendation from him. In addition, you tell everyone else you know how bad it was. Finally, your friend, the evangelist, loses confidence in his recommendation and stops promoting the shop. The repercussions are severe.

The greater the expectation gap, the more conversation, good or bad, is catalyzed around the product.

The key to conversational marketing is optimizing the expectation gap, not simply hyping a product to unrealistic levels. In today’s world if the product under delivers word travels fast. As marketers we need to find the balance between building positive buzz around our products and not over-hyping.

Create as great a gap as possible between expectations and delivery to catalyze conversation.

Extending Blog Conversations With CoComment

3 12 2007

Join the CoComment bandwagon.

Don’t let the deformed, yet seemingly happy, mascots turn you off from CoComment. They kinda grow on you…

CoComment, for those of you that haven’t given it a try yet, is a great plug-in that aggregates all the comment threads you contribute to on various blogs. There are so many great conversations that take place around blog posts; however, most people leave a comment and never check back to follow up. With CoComment it makes it easy to keep tabs on various threads and increases interaction, which can only be a good thing.

I’m not affiliated in anyway, but I love the app and hope all my regular readers check it out so we increase the chatter in this blog.

Look forward to hearing more of everyone’s insights.

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:


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.


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


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.

Facebook’s Over Valuation: The 2.0 Farce

25 10 2007

Facebook is being propped up the 2.0 bubble.

Since everyone is talking about the recent $740 million infusion of cash from Microsoft and two hedge funds, I thought I’d chime in.

First of all let’s address the issue of the 2.0 bubble.

The entire hype surrounding social media is the fact that it is now easier to identify influencers and have influencers spread the word. Facebook provides an immense amount of data to make laser targeting possible.

However, People are changing how they use the internet as it becomes more connected and more humanized.

Yet, advertisers are still clinging to age old methods of spamming us with “targeted ads”. Targeting is worthless with out intent. The reason social media’s advertising predictions will fall short is because our social spaces, our communities, are private and we don’t want to talk to you there. Targeted banners on sites like Cnet are somewhat effective because I’m actively seeking out information on a new laptop or camera, but in the social realm I’m trying to connect with other people, not brands.

There is some hope in the form of Branded Utility, which I talked about in my post on Human Centered Communications. I see a great deal of potential with Facebook’s applications as brands can create touchpoints that provide utility to users. However, the hyped valuation is primarily based on targeted advertising, which will fall short of expectations.

That said, I will be looking closely at Facebook’s mobile execution.

Naming 2.0: The New Media Naming Storm

25 10 2007

2.0-tization of names is a barrier to adoption.

This is a bit of rant, but I had to get it off my chest. Everyday, I login to G-reader, click on my feed for technology news and I’m assaulted by 500 new companies with gibberish names. Most of them sound the same and with the glut of new 2.0 companies who can remember them all.

Well what about Google and Yahoo?

They came around in a far less crowded environment. In addition, Google is a media darling and Yahoo spent hundreds of millions on advertising.

Also, they are phonetic.

I’m in the process of developing a fashion based social shopping site and I know how hard it is to find a URL that isn’t being squatted on. But, honestly how many properties do we need that drop the E in -ER.  Now it may make perfect sense to people in the space and you can always pop into CrunchBase, but it is another case of developers naming for other developers.

Have some fun with the WEB 2.0 NAME GENERATOR.

Here’s what it spit out:


Designing Communities: Presentation by Christina Wodtke

25 10 2007

This is just a quick repost of a fantastic presentation on designing communities by Christina Wodtke:

Check it out!

Mobile Advertising: The Final Frontier of Intent Based Targeting

25 10 2007

Here’s an interesting article from our friends at Ad Age about the lackluster adoption of mobile ads.

The proposed solution? Make the ads more relevant. I agree, but don’t just parse their application data and send out ads for males, 18-34 years old, living in New York, that are single, and make 40k-70k per year. Mobile is game changing because it has the ability to influence at the time of purchase. When I’m in a bar send me a two for one coupon for Grey Goose. When I search for an Italian restaurant, spit me a paid link with reviews.

However, DO NOT SPAM ME, or I will resent you.

A person’s phone is very private. At this point it is an extension of our bodies. Invade this space with any type of advertising that isn’t immediately relevant and I’ll feel violated.

Mobile web browsing, at least today, revolves around seeking immediately relevant information such as directions and product reviews. These are the places relevant ads should be targeted.

Targeting ads solely around demographic information will be even less effective than doing the same through banners.

Here’s another article on the subject:
The Power of Google over Facebook: Advertising at the Point of Intent