Conversation Engines: it doesn’t matter how much we ‘get it’… we need to ‘get it’ more.

25 08 2010

Despite astonishing network growth, our tools have not been able to keep up with social noise. As an individual, I tend to limit my output and certainly limit the chit-chat. As a business, I believe it is important to pay attention to this trend: conversation have faded away. Businesses have created FB pages and Twitter accounts left and right. They ‘totally get it’. Data keeps coming in, failures are very common and some even say the social media bubble is about to burst. Katie was challenging our thinking behind how easy it seems to simplify things through facebook pages earlier this week. So what’s going on?

– Let’s face it, less is the new more… one reason I like(d) FriendFeed over Twitter and especially over Facebook is its quality of information. The Google Wave dream is no more and Google Buzz is now a noisy chamber. Social platforms have filled up a need on one side — they’ve allowed us to aggregate pertinent information for our personal and professional lives. But they have also created, in many cases, an addiction to real time information, empowering anyone to become a producer regardless of quality or qualification. Mainstream media has slowly struggled to stay relevant. Choose your path, stay relevant. It’s even more critical for a business. Many constituent voices need to be represented and people have learned to be more selective.

– Competing for attention: Nielsen released their latest study on internet usage early August to find that 23% of internet use is spent on social networks up from 16% a year ago. We’ve embraced social media beyond its (and our) wildest expectations, but we’re barely scratching the surface when it comes to truly turning an organization to serve its constituency through new media. In 2 years, we’ve moved from “what is social media?” to “super noise”. Some have chosen the careful path of information sharing, others have massively unfollowed, conversations have faded into a sharing frenzy. Quality of information and interaction has never been so important. Louis Gray’s comments “I quickly fatigue from the insanity” describing his (mine too) inability to cope with the amount of information revelations. Even more revealing, Louis just accepted a position with My6Sense as VP of Marketing. My6Sense is another algorithm based app focusing on generating relevant information. If the crowd can’t do it, the algorithm will. Companies ought to harness a wide variety of techniques to make those algorithms work in their own favor aka driving long tail traffic.

– Brands are struggling to become conversation partners: I continue to revisit the realization that brands want to only talk about stuff they are experts at, like they’re getting ready to broadcast. I believe the contrary. Your company doesn’t just have to only talk about stuff related to your product or services. Creating a mono-stream/logue of information across social platforms will only make people put you in a bucket for good. The shift from outbound to inbound marketing is a steep learning curve and requires dedicated attention. Empowering constituents (imagine onion layers) to discuss topics of interest with brands and amongst each other takes more than just putting information out there.

Can you relate? Do you think the bubble is ready to burst?

@YannR @Extanz


Advertisements




Should Everyone Be on Facebook? #B2B #apps

23 08 2010

Fostering strong and vibrant online communities is a key goal in any social media program. Social media allows businesses to harness the power of consumer referrals in ways not seen before. This isn’t new news; industry analysts and companies have recognized this for a number of years and the number of companies using social media to expand their consumer base and brand loyalty has grown exponentially. While more and more companies are launching their own Facebook pages, few utilize them to their full potential as Jeremiah Owyang of the Altimeter Group pointed out recently in his presentation on The 8 Success Criteria for Facebook Page Marketing. Owyang’s research revealed that most brands lack a concrete and well-defined strategy and fail to fully utilize Facebook’s features to build word of mouth among their customers. Owyang also lays out the key steps for successful Facebook page marketing, including:

  1. Set community expectations
  2. Provide cohesive branding
  3. Be up to date
  4. Live authenticity
  5. Participate in dialogue
  6. Enable peer-to-peer interaction
  7. Foster advocacy
  8. Solicit calls to action

This is great advice and is part of the key strategy for any Facebook community we enable our clients to develop, but it overlooks a couple of key issues that indicate where and how you engage. Without addressing these issues, businesses may end up with a false sense of possibility of the activity they can create on Facebook. Not all brands possess the sex appeal, business model & resources that the Fortune 500 companies Owyang researched do. So how should these brands use Facebook? Here are some points I would like discuss with the social media marketing community and the Altimeter Group when answering this question:

  1. Is Facebook marketing right for everyone? The implication from Owyang’s presentation is that because Facebook is where most people are already at and where everyone’s going, all brands should be engaging their communities on this platform. But is this true for Business-to-Business (B2B) brands? If your customer is not a single consumer that can advocate for your brand, but rather another corporation or a non-profit or a school district or a municipality, is Facebook a platform that you can reasonably expect to grow your business or should it be approached as a tool to expose your corporate culture and role in your industry as a thought leader? At Extanz, our experience indicates that Facebook must be one of a number of platforms used to reach your community in the B2B sector and resources should be spread across blogging, bloggers relations?, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and YouTube.
  2. If a business doesn’t have the resources to be designing custom applications to foster advocacy and interaction, are third-party applications a tool brands will find success with? Our use of third-party apps for our clients varies dramatically according to clients. These apps typically request access to your page information and the right to use the results of your participation. While for certain demographics this is not an issue, in other markets, community members may be completely unwilling to allow the access and participate via a third-party app. Sometimes they are staunch protectors of their privacy, other times they are web-savvy enough to understand the access these apps are gaining or they are web-challenged enough to be intimidated by the technology.
  3. If the sex appeal isn’t there for your brand, either because it’s not a well-known brand or it’s B2B or it’s not an industry people generally engage around or it’s a brand with a community that demands privacy, will the community engage? Our experience says yes, but it requires a strategy that is not discussed as part of the 8 Successful Criteria produced by Altimeter. So, I’d propose we add a criterion: Be a resource for your community and activate around the community interests, not just your brand. Provide them substantive and useful content e.g. industry news, tips for their lifestyle related to your service or product, cutting edge developments or trends, local news that is important to the community etc. Do not just provide updates about your brand and company news.

Social media and Facebook marketing are unquestionably an integral component to online marketing and branding for most industries. The key is ensuring you lay out a strategy that carefully balances your business objectives with the needs of your constituent community as they can be quite different before you dive in rather than simply industry standards as your strategy.

What are your thoughts on the above issues? Does Facebook work for B2B marketing? Should third-party apps be presented in a way that insinuates they would be useful and necessary to Facebook marketing strategy for all brands? How have you engaged communities that don’t automatically want to talk about your brand?

With thanks to Igi’s TV Network and Spencer E. Holtaway for the images.

Katie





Where is our industry going? #SocialMedia

13 07 2010

When Michael Fruchter left for Pierson Grant in mid 09′, I thought “wow…. great opportunity good for him.” When a bit later late 09′, Wayne Sutton joined Twine Interactive (and may have left since), I started to think that things where changing and thought I’d better write a blog about this. I didn’t. Now Valeria Maltoni is moving to Powered and I’m thinking “geez, we’re morphing.” But into what? Remember the golden goose who laid the golden eggs? Are they migrating? Or is our industry slowly dying as companies ‘buy up’ the golden geese for the golden eggs?

In 3 years, our own practice Extanz, has evolved tremendously based on a core principle of the Higher Purpose (Got A Higher Purpose?, Trust 2.0 … Get Used To It, Twitter did it again, it’s about the people). Our industry has come to value ROI way more than it used to. At the heart of it, a culture of control has taken over. Companies had never encountered such a powerful force from such a small part of their customer base. They were used to sending one message, making one thing. Build it and of course, the people will come. But then the people started talking amongst themselves. Started dreaming, writing, building things themselves. They unleashed their own creativity and collectivity. Suddenly, we have a conversation being demanded. The market expect conversational brands. Agencies, once the meaning makers, now seek conversational expertise. They sense the talkative ones and just like the old days, the seek to control them. If you can just get hold of the speaker……then everyone will listen right?

Or will they?

And in the meantime, what of their conversational partners. What of the nature of conversation? What of the higher purpose of social media? Are we just media now?

@YannR @Extanz





Sparkling feedback on #wbc10 blog influence rank- The sequel

13 07 2010

A few weeks ago, we did a study trying to understand and measure the influence of those going to the Wine Blogger Conference. Mindful as we are of conversation and fully cognizant of the fact that as soon as you include some people in a list, you by definition, exclude some, we not only set up criteria for measuring influence but also asked for feedback. In the course of this study (crunching, crunching) we had to make some decisions. If you are an online journal or aggregator for example, we decided that you were not playing in the same league/space as regular, independent (and sometimes solo) bloggers. Your influence is a sum of many factors and contributors, we look at a specific angle. 2 very interesting points were made in the comments regarding this distinction in the blogging community, and after mulling on it, we thought we’d like to continue the debate.

1 – Does influence have a threshold?

Bean from Wine-Beer Washington pointed out to us that he should have been included on this list, even though we had excluded him based on the number of writers on his blog (he looked like a journal). After feedback and looking at our threshold, we now feel that Bean should have been part of the list from the start (crunching, crunching). The wine-beer blog in our method of ranking for the #wbc10 would rank 21st out of the top 25 of our list. So here’s a question for everyone in the industry: Do you think there is a consolidation of bloggers toward journals or magazines? How viable is the independent blogger model? When does a blog become a journal? Thoughts?

2- The personal blog vs. the company/organizational blog.

Relatedly, something very interesting is happening in the use of personal branding to support a corporate or business strategy (c.f. Jeremiah Oywang and Forrester). When creating this study we used the official list of the registrants provided by WBC10. Rick Bakas’ blog appears under the St Supery blog. The blog didn’t make it to our list of Top 25 since he had registered his business blog and thanks to Rick’s feedback, we considered his own personal blog (even though not registered on the official list) as part of our list. Rick also advocated his own personal blog as being more influential than the list had suggested. After re-compiling our data (crunching, crunching), we are happy to report that Rick’s personal blog ranks actually 20th of the list originally created. So, another question for everyone: how do you manage your personal brand vs the business your represent?

These kinds of conversations really allow us to reflect on the state of a blogging community – how it grows, who grows it, its lifecycle if you will. Another point made in the comments on the original post was that many wine bloggers were not discussing the actual process of making wine and the industry’s evolution in this area (or not). So a final question for the community: Can anyone recommend any wine bloggers who focus on this part of the beloved grape’s journey?

We look forward to hearing from you!

@YannR @Extanz





Slow food bloggers, Where art thou?

28 05 2010

Here at Extanz, we’ve cataloged thousands of food blogs and even contributed to a few ourselves. This particular sector of the blogging world is quite trendy – focusing on the hottest ingredients, techniques, restaurants etc. However, food bloggers seem to passing over an important trend (one even the First Lady is on board with) – that of eating locally & sustainably.

I’m a skier, but I’m also a foodie and an environmentalist. I cooked in high-end restaurants for years and love to experiment in my kitchen, my degree is in environmental policy, I eat organic/natural/free-range/grass-fed as much as I can (aka pay more than I can really afford). I also try to eat local – this proves slightly challenging in the winter given my location in Colorado and distaste for most root vegetables … but I do try. I’m much better at reading food blogs!

With all those food blogs out there and the growing popularity of the slow food (a movement with origins in Italy that emphasizes the importance of ‘good, clean and fair food’), local food and CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) movements, you’d think there’d be quite a bit of related chatter on food blogs, right? Eating sustainably and healthy is a hot topic – Michelle Obama’s on to it, there’s books on it, been to a Whole Foods lately? It also produces far superior ingredients that should cause all us foodies to rejoice. I delved into the blogosphere to see which of these movements (if any) are trendy with the foodie bloggers. Here’s a snapshot of what I found (not quite the cornucopia I was looking for, btw):

  1. Of the thousands of blogs by influential food bloggers over the last 6 months, only 120 blogposts focus on slow food, local food or CSAs. Huh. I guess the mainstream food bloggers are still focusing on perfecting that bouillabaisse or the next big thing after cupcakes, rather than sourcing food locally and using the unique and fresh ingredients you get by doing so.
  2. While we hear about the slow food movement far more often than CSAs or local food across other mediums, the influencers in the blogosphere who are focusing on these 3 topics seem to be focusing more on the fundamentals of eating sustainably, namely CSAs and local food. A general Google search of the terms “slow food” and “Community Supported Agriculture” returns roughly the same number of results (~2.1 million). Of the entire food blogging community we’ve catalogued and are monitoring, the top 100 influencers have written about slow food 20 times in the last 6 months compared to 48 entries on CSAs and 52 conversations about local food.

So … who is talking about eating sustainably? Here are the top 3 blogs to follow for all things local, CSA-related, and slow food:

  1. Serious Eats: I ended up on this site last week while looking for a classic slice in NYC … little did I know it was the mecca for local food blogs. The three blogs below rank highest for our search terms, but peruse the entire site to satisfy your craving for slow food news.
    1. Carson Poole’s series on Meet Your Farmer and Meet Your Forager epitomizes influential bloggers focusing on local producers who feed the slow food movement.
    2. Caroline Cope of Umami Girl joins Serious Eats once a week for her Crisper Whisperer blog where she offers ideas for preparing your abundance of fruits and vegetables from your CSA or farmer’s market.
    3. Street Food Profiles travels around the country (and sometimes crosses borders) to feature local street food vendors where you can watch your food being made.
  2. SlashFood’s writers could independently support a CSA with the amount of CSA-sourced produce they’re cooking with.
  3. The Leftover Queen chronicles her efforts to use up her leftovers and healthy eating while focusing on sustainability, traditional foods, and seasonal eating.

Any ideas on why food bloggers are neglecting the sustainable eating movement when it provides them with some of the best food out there? I’ll be interested to hear your thoughts. In the meantime, check out your farmer’s market this weekend to join the movement!

Katie

P.S. While writing this, a snapping turtle emerged from the woods for the first time this Spring which provided an appropriate photo for a slow food conversation … the slow part, not the food part.

Like This!

Add to Google Buzz





Cloud and be funny if you can… for us living in the cloud

7 05 2010

If like we do, you spend your time in the internet cloud 8+ hours every day, you probably have noticed or enraged … then probably laughed at those server errors. I want to extend some kudos to those good ones. If you have others, please submit them in the comment section and I’ll link back to you.

The Most known:

Twitter: The fail whale by #twitter

The Cute ones:

Bit.ly

LinkedIn

Flickr:

The Funny ones:

Google Wave:

YouTube

Plancast:

Could do better one (or I haven’t run into better ones):

Digg:

Facebook:

.. that’s it… send me yours via commenting below and I’ll add them here.

Cheers

@YannR