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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


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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





Should We Re-Think the Lead Generation Funnel?

23 10 2009

What happens when someone becomes a fan of a facebook fan page? What happens when someone RT retweets something? What happens when you hold a conversation on Linkedin? This individual “vote to participate into a sales process” is seen by their ‘friends’. Did I shock you? It may not lead to a monetary transaction but it triggers an increased awareness of something. Consumers and customers have been empowered for some time to become active participants of their consumption. They are clearly moving outside of the traditional sales funnel starting with thorough research using internet.

A recent McKinsey report (June 2009 Subscription) highlights that only 30% of purchasing decision points are still ‘company driven’. This means that more than 70% of decision points in a buyer’s active evaluation process are now consumer-driven: user consumer reviews, word of mouth and in store interactions. Is it time to re-evaluate how things are done?

Social technologies are expanding these phenomena to micro-influence level never seen before. A few weeks ago, I had to change our office router and jumped on Twitter & FB to ask what people thought… it didn’t take more than 10 minutes to get 10 e-pinions… 2 from people I know, 8 from people I don’t know. It’s getting much easier to get that instant feedback. You bet I bought what was most recommended.

Now what does it mean for our businesses? People are empowered to swap between brands more than ever before. The social media funnel and measurement is simply upside down compared with a traditional sales or purchasing decision process. It’s cheaper, greener, further-sighted to use social media. Brands need to go through the journey of seeing themselves through the lens of their constituents. It’s not an audience, it’s a constituency.

1- A brand may and connect with its core customers to start with and then expand. There is, most of the time, an underlying community of customers or consumers. There are also communities of influencers in that space. Both groups should be recognized and empowered by your brand if you’re serious about building trust.

2- A community will only engage if they feel connected and empowered by that brand. If there is no exchange, there is no social media; it’s only push marketing through new channels. Deliver high quality content and help them support each other. People are likely to want to discuss about much larger things surrounding your brand than just your product. They already know of your product or use them.

3- The more they talk, the more they trust, the more everyone is merrier.

4- Be where conversations happen. If you’re lucky/skilled… but mostly honest and caring, people will progressively feel comfortable discussing the brand’s social footprint or presence. If not, a brand should carry its ‘conversation capital’ where ever those conversations happen.

No one likes to be part of a funnel (ask the Foie Gras ducks what they think about this). Like everyone else, we vote with our $$ when you see value and can trust a product or services. On the other side, it always feels good to buy something from a brand you trust. Be the change you want to see, they say.

Now, is this the right mix? Am I saying that the traditional funnel should disappear? No. How do you think an organization should look at these strategies?

@YannR





Conversation Drawers VS Sink Hole, FriendFeed kicks ass

5 05 2009

I have found lately that my amount of conversation on Twitter has decreased. I wasn’t quite sure but maybe the hype is just becoming too much or maybe it’s just because every clone can now have a social media megaphone. And then along came an old acquaintance….

I originally used FriendFeed as my ‘pipe management’ system. 12 months ago back in 2008, social networks were harder to sink and FriendFeed was just an obvious method to sink my rich media activities. But I was also being told by many, to try again, try again… so I did and it failed again. But how many screens do you need? The real success of Twitter has been to let everyone else do the work via the API and let people build all kinds of cool apps for Twitter. The best of all these apps being TweetDeck. I could finally cut the noise, do my job, be in the know and feed my appetite for new stuff. But here comes a Keyword: Noise. Cutting noise. The new FriendFeed came out in March 2009. This time, I have been really giving it a try diligently since last week. Here are some key points that are jumping at me after using it as my primary social application for 7 days:

– Pipes management: More than ever I can manage my rich media and social media activity from a single console. From Flickr, Youtube, social bookmarks, Disqus, Twitter…. or any web 2.0 tools you’re using out there, they can all be plugged into FriendFeed to share your activities. Of course you can feed (send your activity stream) to other places like Twitter.

Bookmarklet (found here): This feature is what a mouse is to a computer. (Do you remember when computers didn’t have mouse? I don’t). The gist of it: I can literally grab any webpage, with any pictures or videos in it and share all that in rich media. Exempli gratia: sharing a page and photo from BBC below.

-Share your “Likes” with Twitter, FB… If you use Twitter: RT, or ReTweet is like a rating system. Someone may like your stuff and basically push one button in TweetDeck or place RT in front of your message and pass it on. When many people do it then it becomes overwhelming. FollowFriday was born of a great similar concept but then every Friday it’s like constant noise going through Twitter. It’s ok but the overall stream of information out there is cluttered. Noise kills information. It especially kills conversation! With friendfeed, the rating system is embedded, with the likes, so you can be aware of it or not (through your lists) or look at the “Best of the day”.

– Conversation drawers: When at a good party, you might be better to track the good groups and conversations.  I remember when at The Enthusiast Group (outdoors vertical social networks), Steve and Neal had to basically stay glued to the amount of info coming in and take the best stuff to put it on the front page. Anyone who would come to the home page would see the latest good stuff. We were marrying Social Networks and Editorial power. It was the only way to keep the good stuff above. Here, and again in comparison to Twitter, each time you participate (Comment, Like, Share or simply Post) FriendFeed keeps this in your “My Discussions” tab, it’s easy to come back and you can even set alerts via emails, IM… to keep abreast of the discussions. Here on the left, the thread and discussion between everyone is right below the original post.

Lists: aka the noise cutter. I’ve heard some say “I’m lazy, I don’t want to build those lists”. At the time I kind of agreed. But then I am the first one to admit that I wouldn’t have stuck to Twitter if TweetDeck hadn’t made it easy to create groups. I am also limited by the number of groups I can create in TweetDeck. In FriendFeed, I can very easily create Lists by topics or rank of importance.

Auto-refreshing: Every other network (Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin….) needs you to refresh the page if you want to get what’s new or updates on conversations. Here FriendFeed refreshes for you ‘live’ and superfast. I actually run Tweetdeck and Friendfeed simultaneously to compare both. FriendFeed is plainly ‘LIVE’.  Conversations happen and you can track them overtime. In comparison, Twitter and to a lesser extent Facebook, are sink holes. It’s just hard to track things and they disappear if you’re not in front of your computer.

Any drawbacks? hmm… Oprah is not on there yet 🙂 Ok, you won’t find as many people but I find that quality is well managed here. I’ll certainly hang here for a while.

Now, where to start? Sign up here. Once you’re signed up, I would import your pipes:

Step 1:  Go to Services

Step 2: Then find your friends: import friends from Facebook, Twitter….

Step 3: Participate.  You can find me there: http://friendfeed.com/yannr



Cheers

Yann





Your participation is required (no duh!)

14 01 2009

In the last few weeks, we’ve discussed the roots of and early influencers of web 2.0 and customer relations (the re-birth of Trust 2.0 , the village Not-So-Fool,  Napster, Gen y…).  More and more, Health 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0 are taking the stage….. the 2.0 juice is everywhere, are you sick of it yet?

If you’re sick of it – You’re certainly experiencing a culture gap :).  If you’re excited about it, that’s probably the right feeling. It starts to get crunchy when you can claim and act as you are embracing it. Every segment of your company’s value chain should start thinking 2.0 collaboration. As the economy drops, it is essential that more brands engage in conversation.

The economy may be tanking but that’s not the case with all that is 2.0. Let’s talk about growth for a moment: Twitter 343% (users) and grew by 752%  in traffic in 08′, Ning 251% (users), Linkedin 193% (users) (the state of the Economy helping), Facebook 116%.  When was the last time you saw figures like that?? Staggering, isn’t it?

Now all those “sick and tired of this web 2.0 malarkey” would have you believe that this is all just a fad. A wild management fashion that will blow over by the time Spring comes. Just something to keep those geeks and young’uns occupied when they should be doing some “real work”. Right. Call me silly, but I see several major cultural and behavioral shifts here (feel free to add more):

– Numero Uno: This growth is conversation based.  Robots have no place in the hive and the communities are watching. Communities value quality, authenticity and collaboration. Sounds trivial doesn’t it? There you go, arguing that that flashing your sensory advertising 7 times in front of someone’ eyeballs may do the job. Forget that.  It’s just part of the noise.  As a product manager, a brand marketer or simply an employee, your online attitude and your ability to converse are making or breaking your business model.  The economy is just magnifying any cracks already there. Your products, your sales tactics and PR in general can only stay alive if you’re engaging with your consumers. No, it’s not only your engineering team’s job to do so… if you think so, you’ll fail.  Someone somewhere is  conversing about the features or service add-ons they’d like to see.

– Numero Dos: This growth is participation based. Your product, your brand (personal and company), your PR, and your support operations have to be able to engage and sustain conversations if you want to stay relevant. Relevancy has 2 axes:

– your current customers and prospects (do you empower them through conversations? are they getting your brand experiences for the same price they bought you product or services?). Are you in conversation with them before and after they bought your product? Like a good Chef, does your brand walk around Twitter or Facebook and see if what you cooked went beyond expectations?

– and Google of all places 🙂 Your brand digital footprint is constantly analyzed by search engines to create rankings.  Engaging in the conversation is cheaper and more effective than hiring any gizmo PR firm.

I’ve  seen a lot of debate on Chris Brogan’s blog lately about lead generation methods. Guess what, the most viral of us are spreading the word faster than ever before. I knew of the DIA air plane crash before any news coverage, I knew about the earthquake in Thailand and that my friend Neil just bought his new iPhone before he called and told me. Yes, your traditional communication methods are still relevant but engaging in conversation is required. Social networks and social media are not just for kiddos anymore – those of us 25 years of age + are the fastest growing segment on most networks.

So here’s your case for change:

– Your social media engagement should empower your users, especially if you are developing software or any collaborative tools. Sounds trivial, yes, now go listen to the blogosphere or the twitterverse and judge for yourself.

Brand monitoring should be like breathing – people are already talking about you, now listen and engage where necessary. I am always pleased to see brands replying to me when I comments about their product on Twitter or else

– If customers come back, great – if they speak about you on yelp.com, facebook or twitter… it’s better, their friends are listening.

Good blogging is the mothership of social media – it’s like going to a networking event– you’re putting yourself out there.  You may be anxious at first but there are no robots in this room, just human beings, style gets you only so far. Substance rules.

It all sounds very much like a village right?  People using technology have created more human avenues for connection than ever before.

Finally, if you think you don’t have the budget for this, your current marketing budget mix is wrong. Just because you’ve done marketing this way for 10 years doesn’t mean you’re right, that it’s working or that people are not immune to your message. It isn’t. And they probably are.

Let’s go man! It’s exciting.

Yann





The medium is the message, (stupid).

9 09 2008


Ah, yes, who remembers Marshall McLuhan and his famous statement in Understanding Media (1964)?

In claiming that “the medium is the message” McLuhan expresses the sentiment that there is a symbiotic relationship by which the medium influences how the message is perceived, creating subtle change over time…. a medium affects the society in which it plays a role not only by the content delivered over the medium, but by the characteristics of the medium itself.” (wikipedia.com)

We have been blessed to have multiple inspiring and challenging conversations with people over the last few weeks/months. As you may have guessed from reading some of our blog posts, we are a little fed up with how the web has been and continues to be used. We are also find the lack of vision and willingness to interact openly on the part of those who communicate for organizations, more than perplexing. But perhaps what Extanz finds most concerning is how underestimated, and you could say, diminished the power of social media tends to  become as it is relegated to interpretations of ‘all about me blogging’, ‘a group of drunken college students and their photos’ and ‘meaningless noise in 140 characters’. You know who I am talking about here….:)

Let’s face it, we remember the days of Napster, Kazaa and all the aggravation of the record companies. We remember how P2P was considered radical, dangerous and controversial. We remember the origins of the Internet, when it was known as the Arpanet and designed for information sharing, collaboration, and institutional and community coordination. These ways of organizing and communicating are built into the very fabric of the web, its DNA if you will. That’s why web 2.0 has come on so fast, because those technologies are moving the web away from its reliance on experts, on one way transmission of information and to some degree, away from producer control. What Napster and its comrades initiated was the rise of the prosumer = part producer, part consumer. It highlighted the connections between the relationships we build and the technologies that can serve, support and sustain them. It forced us into conversation with each other and it also raised the critical questions of authority and control. Information wants to be free, or so the battle cry suggested.

But here’s the issue. Where does information live? It lives within you, me and we. And herein lies the rub. Recently some bloggers have been talking about risk and trust and how they collide in the implementation of social media. Social media is seen as risky, Amber Naslund contends because of its ability to influence the multitudes = people may critique what you do, say something bad about you, you lose control over the message etc etc. Naslund does an equally good job of providing defenses to these contentions which she says, are largely based on the open, organic, ubiquitous nature of this particular medium. On the other side, as we have stated before, social media depends on trust and the cultivation of same. As Rex Lee puts it “A lack of trust will cause people to withhold information, to waste effort validating each message instead of integrating, to be less receptive to compromise, and to just be overall less committed, often choosing the least amount of commitment possible. Ultimately this means organizations are, less agile, less innovative, of average performance, and peppered with incomplete analysis.”

The fact that social media is open, is organic and is ubiquitous can provide some level of trust as there is a certain level of transparency in a relationship based medium.The power of social media, that collection of technologies born out of and through web 2.0, lies in their persistent commitment to participation, connection and interaction. All technologies, web 1.0., 2.0, 3.0 etc carry the values of their creators. That we see these technologies and forms of media ascend now says much about the people producing-consuming them. So can we reframe the title to ask – what is the message we are sending about who we are when we choose social media as our medium of communicating….OR perhaps more importantly, what message are we sending when we DO NOT?

Kirsti