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Influence & Industry, the many axes about building a community

13 05 2010

Writing this blog on influence and taking the cycling industry as an example has been great. I was really impressed with the level of feedback from everyone which you can read on the blog or on LinkedIn. I feel that putting some clarity on the discussion which followed was important. It’s certainly applicable to other industries.

Here are a few things I’ve learned:

Defining Influence: I was asked how I had defined influence in the context of this ranking. Influence in this day and age is crowd based (the crowd is a complex system of agents). I think no brand or agent should assume where influence is coming from or can be exercised from, except that each of us has a ‘home base’ — the blog — and using it as a base for influence is pretty fair. Bloggers who commented on this blog mostly see their influence directly tied with their readership and less a function of their relationship with other bloggers. We think that reference from other influencers is a very good benchmark. For many bloggers, blogging is an extension of their passion, more than a ‘business’ like a media outlet. Clearly most comments tended to agree that influence and topic specialty are very important. For most marketers, influence is solely what moves products into consumers hands. There is clearly a disconnect between both worlds which could be solved by the smarter brands. It’s a bit like both haven’t met each other yet… kinda.

Communities: Like influence, ‘community’ is an overused word that means many things to many people. The cycling blogsphere is highly networked and therefore constitutes a community. Bloggers know, refer to and influence each other. Communities come in many shapes, and form wherever you can find come CUTE (Common Unit of Transferable Experience).

The path of influence is not a straight line like marketers would like to believe. Web 2.0 has enabled the shift from Mass to Micro-influence to the disarray of the PR industry. Each of us and especially ‘creators’ of content, generate thought leadership according to our specialties. Traditional media used to be the middle man between marketers and consumers, but as we know, the internet tends to eliminate middlemen. The pipes used to be clear and choices were made for readers. It’s no longer this way and engaging the many layers of the community (consumers, industry groups, interests, influencers…) is the only way to gain mind share. Readers and consumers are now in the driving seat. Classic advertising is often too hard to measure

Passion drives: Most bloggers are doing this for pure passion and are aware of their influence from a reader’s perspective. They are very aware of a dedicated readership and clearly most of them understand traffic and how much they move.

Industry take: The discussions on LinkedIn were very interesting as well but here ‘influence’ was mostly understood as ‘how can it move product off the shelves’ vs. some thought leadership or experiential influence. Other thoughts were that some brands are actually pretty good at inbound marketing and community engagement. This was not taken into account in this study but very true and some clearly understand the power of ‘customer suction’ (Gregg Bagni) or what we refer as ‘Inbound Marketing’ when trying to explain brand’s social media strategy.

Professionalism: No doubt all of them are professionals (even if some wouldn’t want that qualifier) at what they do but in general, their ‘own brand’ is unclear as they probably haven’t intended to be where they are today. Blogging is a way of life. On the Branding side, only ~35% are actually using their own URL (http://brand.com) and not a subdomain (http://brand.blogspot.com) which to me is branding 101. Increasing influence may start with thinking more like a brand less like an individual. Funny also that Blogger is definitely the platform of choice vs. WordPress. A few are clearly are seeing themselves as a new media outlet are doing it well and using a wide range of tools to become ‘micro-journals’.

The changing media landscape: Some have jumped on Facebook but most haven’t. I agree that blogs are still more powerful than social platforms when it comes to moving traffic. For most cycling bloggers, it is both philosophical choice and mostly if they have the time to maintain another place for discussions. Some also are still confused about the difference between a ‘Personal page’ vs. a ‘Brand page’ (‘Like’) on Facebook, which makes sense since their personal brand is very close to the blog brand. Twitter on the other hand, is perfectly understood and used by most — it’s an extension of their blog.

All in all, I believe there is a great opportunity for more collaboration between the cycling industry and bloggers, as all pursue the same enjoyment for this industry. This is also an interesting blueprint for other communities we study.

What’s your take on influence? From Mass to Micro influence, where do you think we’re headed?

@YannR

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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






Social Media Interview With Walker Thompson [client]

30 03 2009
“I can find out more about you through the web than I can by spending an hour with you […]” Walker Thompson, VP of Sales and Marketing for Syndicom, Inc.

Last week we had the pleasure of interviewing Walker Thompson, VP of Sales & Marketing at
Syndicom Inc. Syndicom is a provider of a collaborative suite of products targeted at surgeons and medical device companies to work more efficiently.

Syndicom was definitely using traditional marketing and PR but felt they were lacking ways to engage with their wider market and influential blogosphere.
Walker felt that using RSS marketing could help Syndicom engage on their own terms and be able to distribute their own messages and content. As he puts it,  “I could suddenly present my message through many different networks (Facebook, Twitter etc….).” However, while Walker has been very active in the blogosphere for some time it was hard to know how to navigate through it in relation to the medical world. He struggled with how to spend time effectively using social media when he had other things to focus on and it’s moving so quickly —  a social media service provider was the only way go. Enter Extanz.

The results speak for themselves. Syndicom’s monthly website traffic has almost tripled in less than a year. This is significant given that Syndicom is a b2b niche focused business. Page views have doubled in the same 6 months and Syndicom’s Alexa ranking went from 7,000,000th place to 500,000th place in only a few months. The bottom line says Walker, “is that we’re relevant and part of the discussion.” People know what their product is, have a better idea of what they do and, by the way,  have read their blog!
Blogging is difficult by yourself, time consuming and sometimes frustrating, but the mothership of good social media programming. Syndicom used Extanz blogging as part of their sales education cycle with both business customers and core users. Combined with podcasts and comments on influential blogs, Syndicom’s content is more objective, professional and ethical. Return comments are a real indication of relational success. As Walker says, “Extanz clearly amplified reaching out to influential bloggers with a high level of vertical expertise. Other influential bloggers would inevitably come back and leave comments on our blog; this is real, influential, two way conversation.”
So what’s Walker’s conclusion on social media and online tools? “If you don’t embrace it, you’ll become irrelevant”. 90% of companies don’t have a blog and he thinks it’s critical to create trust. The way people work and interconnect has changed, if you don’t have a presence on these new media, you’re becoming harder to reach. Syndicom’s business is online and it’s pretty clear that online methods and tools are dramatically changing how medicine is practiced, research, discovered and taught.”
To hear more of Walker’s thoughts, listen to the podcast here:
To learn more about Extanz and how we can help you, click here.




We vote with our (c)licks… Ben & Jerry’s meets social media.

27 01 2009

Living and breathing social media is like riding Gold Bar Rim on my mountain bike…  an interesting analogy for current times. I also tend to forget that newcomers may be slightly confused or afraid about venturing into conversational marketing. You’re exposing yourself, your business, your thoughts, your ideas, you are opening up… users will come and talk to you. They already talk about you – Corporate marketing is losing control, scary.  Are you seeing it as an opportunity? scary cliff? or simply struggling to understand what’s going?

Friday night, I had the pleasure of mingling at the Designers Drinks event in town.  I interacted with some cool people who get it and are enthused about Social Media and have truly experienced some aspects of it; more who may have a grasp of social networking and think this is Social Media (ok, it’s part of it) and a good chunk who are in the dark. I’m slightly cutting corners here but you get the gist.

During one particular conversation with the owner of Ben & Jerry’s in town who started as a designer – Lee – comes up to me and asks: “So how does anyone make money using Social Media?”. Nice! Someone who is challenging his thinking, interested and ready to learn.

Yann: “Well” I said. “How do you get people to come and enjoy your ice cream?”

Lee: “hmm, it’s about the smell and the location.”

Yann: There you go. Social Media is about the same thing. Smell and location. Smelling something good is a particular sense that all of us have and having 100 ice cream choices is really because all of us have different tastes and affinities, needs, passions.

You’re probably wondering what smell has to do with Social Media. Think of it this way…. Content is the basis of Social Media (not social networking). Each of us has ideas, needs, aspirations, lifestyles, wants… etc. Social Media is the power of every and each one of us to decide what to read, enjoy, affiliate with, “Be fan of” on Facebook or just tell your twitter friends about that latest ice cream B&J has. We VOTE with our (C)LICKS.

We, as a Social Media Agency, are here to create the smell [‘content’] that will make a reader affiliate with the brand we represent. We are not here to pollute, nor spam, but to act as a conversation catalyst. We live in a semantic world. Content is king, relevancy is queen.

Smell = Content.  People vote with clicks.  Are you part of my digital footprint?

Now, Location: See… we are living (in) the Matrix – there are now 1 billion people using the internet on this planet and the new street corners are increasingly called Blogging International Airport, Google Blvd, Twitter Ave, Social Graph Street, Facebook Hwy…

Social Media is also about location. Your customers and prospects live on these streets, engaging with them and having a relationship with them is more important than ever. This is your future. Knowing how to navigate those streets is what we do, Lee.  We create maps. To know where the cliff edges are but also the parks with real people.

@yannr

Thanks VoIPman and Blu3_sky777 for the great pictures.

Make sure you check out Lee too, at Ben & Jerry’s – thanks Lee for your inspiring conversation!

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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





What’s the old Napster got to do with the new PR?

6 01 2009

As 2009 dawns here at Extanz we have been reflecting on  some of the simultaneously insightful and frustrating conversations we have had with folks recently around the notion of PR 2.0 and what counts as “success” in such a field. Now, we know we say we do PR 2.0 and the term sits heavily with us. We use the term because it is something that people can “hold onto” and has some meaning, but like all language, it traps us in a game (as Nietzsche would argue) and it is this game that has become increasingly frustrating to us. You could argue that our view on PR is colored by our politics. You could argue it is colored by our international backgrounds. Even our language differences. But it really comes down to some very simple terms — “public” and “relations”. These terms beg the questions, we would argue, of 1)  “who is your public?” and 2) what kind of “relations” do you want to have with them? We’ve implicitly discussed these philosophical underpinnings of Extanz’ work before in our posts on Trust 2.0 and The Medium is the Message, but we thought we try and spell it out here. See what you think.

First of all, hands up all those who remember Napster? How about KaZaa? Come on now, you don’t have to be nervous…. how many of you participated in P2P activities way before it was gentrified and still considered a somewhat edgy act akin to, dare we say it, hacking? How many of us believed ‘information just wants to be free’? How many of us still do?

Back in the radical early days of Napster, I was lucky enough to be around some super smart media  and cultural studies people and we wrote a paper on just what it was about Napster that made authorities’ blood boil and music lovers rejoice. Napster and its P2P friends, peers and offspring reminded us that systems of enclosure such as copyright, patents, and property deeds are artificial creations, the tools of the powerful to become more powerful; weapons of exclusivity, designed to keep their users in “in their place” in an artificial order of things; instruments of selfish wealth creation for some individuals. Now, one of the reasons Napster and KaZaa and the like were so popular was because we all knew we were being sold 2 good tracks on a CD for the price of 10 and there was nothing we thought we could do about it until we realized that if we just set those tracks we liked free, or if our friends had them and we traded them for others, then everyone could win. And win we did. Heck, even the bands cut out the middle people which made them, well you know, discontent. And then vengeful.

Around the same time, I was torturing myself over my ‘original contribution’ to academic knowledge as I toiled through my PhD program (with those smart types I was mentioning earlier). Frozen like a deer in the headlights, I was whining to one of my mentors one day about my desperation of not finding my unique contribution when she reminded me that, “there is no such thing as an original idea. There are only original combinations and articulations.” That’s academic speak for what we know now as, ‘the mashup rules; and the more creative the mash, the better it is’.

What’s the old Napster got to do with the new PR? Everything. Napster then and now serves us a reminder of the true power of the Web (it is called a web for a reason, folks). It reminded us of its original conception, its unique brilliance– its power to connect and create mutually beneficial relationships with others. At the same time that Napster ruled as a radical force and disruptive technology, we both had the honor of working for a data storage company. While sadly unaware of what would come to pass in its industry, the company had a slogan at the time —  “information made powerful”.  Napster was information made powerful. Facebook is information made powerful. Web 2.0 is information made powerful. Napster ushered in the age of the bricoleur; the artist who weaves different forms, different objects and different ideas together to create something new and useful to share with others. PR 2.0 is about the bricoleur; the individual who creates relationships between people, objects and ideas.

The new PR is not the PR of our parents’ generation. It is the PR of the Napster Generation. The Millenials. Gen Y. Gen disrupting the workforce. Gen ADHD. In the eyes of Extanz, PR 2.0, the new PR, is conversations made powerful. People made powerful. Participation made powerful. Relationships made powerful. As the Zen Buddhist Teacher Shunryu Suzuki, in Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind states, “when you forget all your dualistic ideas, everything becomes your teacher, and everything can be the object of worship.” (p.44). PR 2.0 Extanz-style.

With thanks to Today is a good day  ,  jm3and of course Napster, for their inspiration!

Welcome to the brave new world — ready to share?

Kirsti





The genie is out of the bottle, we just can’t put it back in.

11 12 2008

Here is our latest ‘educational’ presentation on Social Media.  Starting with some examples, I try to bridge the gap between traditional marketing and the new world of 2 way conversation, collaboration, customer and social engagement.  I am also touching on what I see as the merging worlds of  SEO and Public Relations (PR).  I’m going to blog soon about TRUST 2.0 and Relevancy.  I find it fascinating that web 2.0 and social media technologies are enabling people and organizations to build trustworthy relationships… like in a village. People tend to forget that we can discuss, debate and look each other in the eyes to create meaning.

Social Media is not even perfected but as I heard this morning, “the genie is out of the bottle, we just can’t put it back in”.  Brands, businesses, people have the opportunity to embrace. Embracing is a difficult act … but if you don’t,  Digital Divide 2.0 will put your competition ahead.


I hope you like it and as always look forward to your comments, questions.

Cheers

Yann