Is Twitter herding sheep back home by creating ‘real time news-outlets’?

6 11 2009

I was half listening to the Gillmore Gang show with the Silicon Valley wiz this afternoon and heard many interesting things like the eID conference. I think David Gillmore generously said that “Facebook was opening up and Twitter was closing”… smiles on many faces, smile on my face.  If you look at Twitter traffic, it’s been plateaued for months and even when you take into account external apps (Tweetdeck, Seesmic, PeopleBrowsr… or phone apps Twittie, SimplyTweet), Twitter is pretty much not visible compared with Facebook’s atomic growth as Brian Solis points out with his recent social graph post.

What happened, where are we going? How about in opposite directions? That’s the Facebook and Twitter story. Opposites attract, don’t they? Facebook has built a generally closed environment. The average Facebook user only uses Facebook and became social online because of Facebook, and their friends and communities out there. Well, Twitter went pretty much in the other direction. Why compete head to head? Let’s just go ‘open’ all out. Anyone can pull or push info from Twitter.  Twitter got $100 million in funding back on September 24th. FriendFeed was swallowed by Facebook (I still prefer FriendFeed). Both are now accumulating enough reserves for the next step: growth and domination. Google and Bing are both watching closely behind every move. Bing powers Facebook’s search (owning 10% of FB) and both search engines announced agreements to deliver Twitter results.

We’re going to see a HUGE spike in Twitter traffic when data is released by Nielsen, Comscore or Compete next month. Twitter is now bringing the sheep back home and after building the most fantastic eco-system of apps ever (after iTunes maybe). They are moving towards bringing some key features in house. Last week, for example, the Twitter lists appeared.

This week, the ‘RT’/Re-Tweet feature (= “forward” in email language) is rolling out today. The millions of Twitterers are being asked to come back home to the sound of the ‘ego bell’. We had to rely on home-made lists to figure out who to follow. Now, lists will dictate influence. Groupings and communities of influencers are congregating to become the ‘new media’. Lists clearly have the potential to become what a TechCrunch or a Mashable has become — ‘real time news-outlets’. Lists can compete with traditional news sources and yes, it’s going to shake this cool world further. The savior for the most common of us is that it’s still organic and not corporatized, well, not just yet.

@YannR





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





Social Media Neophytes and Great Hopes

16 07 2009

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of sitting on a panel organized by the local Entrepreneurs network about social media. The audience was clearly a majority of neophytes from local businesses, agencies and even government. I think it was an eye opener for me as to what people have on their mind. For them, the 6 panelists certainly gave them tons of useful information. It was participant driven which was a great experience. My natural tendency is to discuss on this blog larger phenomena occurring in the social media world.  I’ll therefore try to address those same questions a bit more regularly on the Extanz blog. For now, I want to focus on some of the points raised at the event….

Time devoted-to make effective? What to listen? How to listen?

I think entrepreneurs are even more wary about the time sucker that social media can be. Let’s just consider Twitter to start with as it’s probably the most straight forward one. If you’re lucky, and you have more than one

computer screen, I would pull up applications like Tweetdeck, Seesmic or PeopleBrowsr and start setting up searches, creating groups by interest. Scout for topics that your company is involved with, see what results come up. Tools like Twitter or Friendfeed are the most valuable when listening or monitoring that action. You or your company’s ‘social’ networks act as a knowledge guardian, you’ll be able to stay on top of what’s of interest to you (being the Tour de France or what are your competitors are up to, what customers/consumers are saying, etc). Most of these applications will allow you to create ‘columns’ or ‘groups’ that filter by keyword. Scroll through it, see what is being said and reply / participate if it’s worth your time. You can also share links or articles you find valuable or simply RT (re-tweet) with your comments. I would also advise using these tools in conjunction with Google Alert, Filtrbox, OneRiot and other similar tools which are much more efficient search tools than staring at Twitter all day.

ROI 101: Return On Investment 101

Throw away any of the usual metrics you’ve learned. Building relationships for a person or a brand cannot be measured as a statistical number. You will still see more followers on Twitter, more fans on your facebook fan page. Ultimately, if you share valuable content and engage in conversations, you’ll have a clear sign that people like your content. This clearly has a more powerful impact for you or the brand you represent. Also, I hear too often that people don’t use Google Analytics yet on their… this is a must have. If you expect to show any sign that your time is spent appropriately, Google Analytics will be able to show you this progress.

What percentage of your marketing strategy should be devoted to social media?

That will depend on your audience. The more you deal with tech industries and the knowledge industry, the more important it’ll be for your company. For example, a company like Crocs (not so much knowledge industry based) has one full time dedicated employee for Social Media (George Smith Jr) out of 3-4k people worldwide. Make sure to think about every activity you carry as a company and how to leverage social media in relation to those activities. Social media is not a marketing play, it’s a relationship play. Relationships happen at every step of a company’s value chain. Social media can fit in those segments. See what happens. Draw conclusions. Be creative. Repeat.

Some simple steps to get started:

Level 1- Join groups related to your industry in Linkedin or Facebook, engage there. This might be enough as some of audience is already there.

Level 2- Join twitter, start following 50 people who you care about as a company, start listening, share interesting news in your industry or localized content, engage where you can.

Level 4- Create a facebook page and try to get your other marketing activities to promote that facebook page. Link your Twitter account to your facebook fan page.

Level 5- Start a blog… this is a difficult exercise and can be time consuming, but it is still what can carry your business voice the furtherest. Remember that if you blog, stay away from clogging, don’t use this as just another ad channel (#fail).

There are 100s of things you could do, but start there. Your company’s digital footprint will benefit and you may be able to spend 1-2 hours per week without losing your boss’ trust. Finally, it’s more complex than it seems. If you want to be effective at it, getting help is usually well worth it.

Off you go,

Thank you for you great pictures:  by quelquepartsurlaterre, ToniVCjohn.d.mcdonald

@YannR





Ideas for managing personal VS corporate brands online

29 05 2009

Does seeing a picture of your boss at a party on Facebook weird you out? Is your son or daughter not accepting to friend you on their social networks? We’ve definitely moved to a world where the lines are blurry. Online identities have definitely moved from anonymous to the “real me”.  Interconnectedness makes identities (personal or  corporate) and digital footprints have to live up to their actions.  I barely delete anything these days because my fears of big brother are a thing of the past.  But how best to manage the future? Be it your employees, friends, customers, brand afficionados or detractors… they participate in the “real you” too.

A bigger phenomenon though has to be taken into account by businesses when considering social media:  Individuals are building their digital footprints larger and faster than companies. What to do?

  1. Inside: Creating a guide book for your employees would be a good start. Nothing fancy… just get it right. Everyone is an ambassador whether you want it or not. It’s your employee’s choice to join LinkedIn or add their professional credentials on other networks like Facebook or Twitter. Just coach them with the basics. Suggestions could include:
    1. Optimize their profile on different networks.
    2. Simplify your employees’ research and teach them where to be active if they wish to be so.
    3. Organize an internal Tweetup — that could be a great idea… see what, who is active, leverage their existing activity.  Remember the groundswell technographics. Not everyone will want to play.
    4. [ah yeah, keep them focused on their job].
  2. Outside:  The real ambassadors are the people. You are a public being whether you want it or not.  “Here come everybody” from Clay Shirky is certainly right — “reading customers are among us”. They are creating a wealth of information out there which you should take advantage of. You may not have the ability to identify and energize the best of your customer base and brand aficionados.
  3. Listen and learn: Measure and monitor conversations about your brand and competitors’ brands – Use Google Alerts, FiltrBox, OneRiot, Topsy, Radian6, CollectiveIntellect and the other millions of search tools inside each network… You’ll learn to intercept conversations and participate (the new ‘respond’) more efficiently.
  4. Engaging: Social media is not (yet) for everyone but Gen Y is making it pervasive. You’ve probably been in a meeting or with friends where someone pulled the buzz joke: “are you tweeting this?” …then every body laughs. It has the same feel as when people started to have cell phones and answer in public places. Everyone got weirded out but this is long gone and new methods of communication are coming fast e.g. Google Wave – Here I suggest that you test the waters as long as you’re are open and clear with your intents and the community. Follow the passion trail to build creative social media programs. It’s clear that old methods won’t work and may even step outside the law: Trying to get an influential blogger promote your brand is rightfully getting looked at by the FTC.

Here is everybody. You (brand) are not alone. Your constituents are your best assets.

How do you deal with those identities? What does make sense for you and your business?

We’re all connected now.


@yannr FFyannr





Gluecon tries to solve the Cambrian Explosion

15 05 2009

Over the last 10 years, I’ve worked in several birthing and evolving tech industries. I was born in the storage industry which had no standards and moved quickly to storage virtualization and storage area networks; then I moved on to database applications which were a lot harder to integrate and ERP systems forced integration. At the base of all these experiences are consumers and customers needs, cost reductions for enterprises, and just plain efficiency. When innovation becomes unbearable for users, the next phase is consolidation. We’re getting there and very fast. RSS 2.0 standards were agreed upon back 2005 and we’ve seen a wild ride since then. Web 2.0 has mushroomed. I can pretty much sign up to 5-10 new web services every day if I wanted to.

This journey brings me to the Glue Conference which just finished yesterday in Denver, CO.  We’re there again. Mitch Kapor actually used the analogy of the “Cambrian Explosion” while talking about Social Media / Web 2.0. Like during the Cambrian, we’re at a stage where products and ideas are developed at a greater speed than before because it has become so cheap to develop web and social applications. It has gone wild, the big players are trying to control it (e.g. Facebook Connect…), while the savants are wrapping their heads around Open standards and data portability (e.g. OpenID and Information Cards)

So here is a quick synopsis of my take aways from the conference. I am no technical person but I love technology, so forgive me if you were there and see that much stuff has flown over my head.  I am a shrink not a geek.

1. The Consumer first: The biggest headache the web services industry is putting on the consumer is “signing in”. How many IDs and passwords can one self have and need to get around? If you keep them somewhere it can be unsafe. If you use the same password everywhere… it can be unsafe. If you rely on a third party, to manage your identity… you know what I am going to say. We’re slowly getting there. e.g. Facebook Connect and other services like this… Safe? Maybe, but it’s becoming like Credit Score ratings… I am not sure I like it and my identity becomes the property of a corporation, so to speak.

2. Glue the networks? I tend to use most networks in conjunction with each other. I also like the synchronization that FriendFeed offers me. I also think that most  people are using networks separately. Being friends with your boss on Facebook or your mother is still contentious. All of us have multiple identities due to our life styles and not all identities fit across networks. Should we use networks like islands or enhance them so that noise is reduced? My preference goes to the latter. Networks and web UI and websites need more standardized metadata features e.g. I want to be able to share a mountain biking article with everyone who cares about mountain biking across my networks… Don’t ask me to choose the networks, but the identities… and it should be automatic. I don’t want to spam my foodie friends for example.

3. ID and Identification: Much debate was happening around these two, and I think the consensus was around the freedom to have different IDs but the necessity for proper identification.  It was observed that individuals have different behaviors depending on networks and if identities become unique everywhere, it limits freedom. Someone should not be banned from all networks because his/her ID was banned from one network.

4. Trust VS Reputation: It always starts with identification (who’s logging in). We can then build the trust of individuals or entities across the social web. Once that layer is achieved, we get to reputation.  Reputation could be based on character (e.g. participation) or knowledge (social media, internet or mountain biking… you’re pretty safe with me). Above all, ‘reputation’ depends on ‘Context’. Applications and social web platforms need to move to a more ‘context’ based information sharing model. Context gives meaning to words and information. The semantic web will be contextual.

5. Moving into the cloud: Pretty much everything is moving to the cloud. Applications are increasingly moving to data centers outside of companies as it’s rarely a core competency of businesses. It was clear that the cloud is something that will be totally transparent to the consumer. No one cares if your emails are sitting in Denver or San Francisco.

6. The online social graph is pretty much based on 3 worlds of social graphs:

  1. The first graph is based on email / IM (instant messaging). Everyone really knows each other but it’s a closed environment.
  2. The second graph is based on eCommerce platforms. As a shopper, you’re influenced by other shoppers and more and more networks via those platforms.
  3. Finally the social networks graph, which is probably the most open of all. You may or may not directly know someone who is connected with you. Depending on your purpose, you’ll use them with people you know or at the other extreme, be an ‘open networker’ and accept every invite.

Glue-on then. It is clear that the suggestive web or web 3.0 will require clear identification of individuals and groups. We need to move to a place where platforms and systems bring you better information based on the graph. People’s identities and conversations create enough data to give context and meaning to conversations. We’re still in a communicative world. The sender and the receiver of information still need ‘coding’ to understand each other.  Given that social media is producing an explosive growth of information, better information will be subject to context.

All in all, it’s all about context. I know it’s thick but bringing the right information to the right people was not good enough in the media world, new media has multiplied that information quantity. Now is the time to bring quality to new media.

Cheers

Yann





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





Give ’em a hammer… Give ’em a twitter…

15 04 2009

As far as social media circles and events go, I like to think I get around. While I am getting around, I tend to meet 3 kind of folks. Recently, the kinds of conversations I have had with them have caused me to wonder about this whole social media hype thing that we’ve got going on…. so here’s my view…

Group 1: By far the largest and getting smaller by the minute….Never heard of it or totally confused. Social media what? Why do we need this anyway, it’s not really for business! Kids stuff. Goofing around.  Ok, everyone is talking about Twitter… maybe I should get on Twitter then (law of the hammer) and start pressing “follow”. But, errr, what am I going to do with it? I really don’t have time for this. Our website is a fine piece of art, we look good, we’re different. We’re participating, right?

Group 2: Getting up there now in numbers…..We’re afraid, man. What if someone, somewhere, says something, thinks something… geez we’re so used to sending those press releases over the fence… our sales people are here for the interactions… Inbound marketing, what? No, we have engineers for that.  They can see the future. We’ve just hired a guy who worked at Apple anyway. Sorted, man. The customer voice, yes, we do surveys – candy for  everyone! You’ve probably met someone like this recently too.

Group 3:  Finally the toolers,  social media is equal to social networking –  They are all over it, their company has a twitter account, and man it’s rocking in there, we’re doing it right cos we have a facebook fan page, a twitter account and the CEO is on Linkedin… This is social media, right…? Huh, well, let’s see now. Chances are good what we’re going to see is a bunch of mundane conversations when someone can spare some time… or maybe they’ll hire a junior cos “they know how that stuff works, right?” Ah, not so fast now. And blogging? Yeah, we do that or we thought of doing it but…

Yes folks, Give ’em a twitter… Give ’em a hammer. Everything is looking like a tweet :). Don’t get me wrong, Twitter is an awesome tool, just be mindful. I see workshops on Twitter or Linkedin everywhere like some kind of  new gold that we have all got to get a piece of.  But you know what? I just can’t see how just using one of these tools along is going to turn into a real return. Therein lies the catch….tweety-birds!

Questions you should ask yourself at this moment include:

  1. How is my web strategy supporting my overall marketing strategy?
  2. What are the different components of my web strategy?  Usability, design, copy, SEO, social networks, social media, blogging, adwords… maybe email marketing… Ultimately, it should be about lead generation and converting viewers into customers or at least starting the qualification process… right? Once again push doesn’t work and pull is not easy.
  3. Now, how will social media support your web strategy?  Is this about a time suck or truly turning your customers into advocates? What’s more,  if you venture into the social media space, how is the rest of your marketing plan supporting Social Media and vice-versa…??
Groundswell tool from Forrester Research

Groundswell tool from Forrester Research

My spin on the groundswell levels of success are that they are not mutually exclusive but reaching gold straight off the bat is kinda like managing a hole in one during your first round of golf. Some can. But the rest of us….. you get the picture.

So here is a potential way of looking at levels of success in Social Media…

Not Even On The Podium: You’re pushing your promotions through social networks. Your credibility will suffer. That’s more like a fail.

Bronze: You’re listening and talking with people but having mundane conversation is killing your efforts. Are you truly contributing or making noise e.g. Tweet: “going to the gym now”?

Silver: You’re engaging and energizing your customer base. Passion is the corner stone of social media; where are those passionate users? Are you empowering them to do more with products or services? Are you teaching them, educating them? Are you putting your customer in a position to teach other industry users? They may do a better job than you, you know…

Gold: You’re providing a 3rd space(s) where customers are actually talking to each other and supporting each other. You’ve integrated activities through social media as well as the customer voice or use of your product or services.

Bottom line, if you go on your own, measure and measure your effectiveness; engagement is an art. Wasting time is a hard price to pay for just being on the networks. If you need help, I would seriously check if your prospective provider has a rock solid methodology… it’s no surprise that “Establishing a method for engaging consumers in online conversation” is ranked top of the tactics used by companies by the Aberdeen Group.

Social Media is not a cooking recipe, there will be some experimentation. Having a sound methodology and measurable processes will save you a lot of guess work and just doing social media because everyone is buying a twitmmer these days. Finally,  in the words Social Media, there is also Media… quality media.

Thank you chazferret for his cool picture!

Onwards and upwards,

Yann