Archive for category Future of Media

Towards a More Social Organization

Chief Social Officer The discussion around social media at this point in time is merely the tip of the proverbial iceberg when it comes to the breadth and depth of change that is being created in organizations of all sizes around the world. While some like Steve Rubel will argue that this emphasis is a passing fad and social media is merely another channel that will be thought of eventually as media, I disagree. By looking at this era in such a short sighted way, you miss what Doc Searls talks about as the ‘greater significance ’ of this transformative technology.

I contend that the rise of Social Media is the catalyst that will ultimately transform our world of work, our economy and our entire society. It will propel us to evolve from being industrial organizations, focused on increasing throughput and efficiencies of production processes to becoming social organizations, with a true emphasis on people over processes and technologies. Surely, Steve and others who feel the same way are right in thinking that the technologies will one day be thought of as simple tools (like pencils are today). You would also be right to assume that one day, the newness of what makes this different will be worn down to the point that we refer to a lot of what is happening more broadly as simply media.

However, to de-emphasize it at this time destroys the all important context that contains the most valuable and nutritious part of the signal we are trying to send around the world. That it is time for us to return to being social with one another, to look at other people (especially those who are different from us) as our ‘friends’ and to really think about how our decisions and actions can positively or negatively affect other people. In short, our organizations and the way we operate them need to become more socially oriented, truly engaged in the market conversation.

In a recent discussion with my Social Media Playbook co-author Brian Solis , we started to bring together all these points that we have been discussing with others for the past two years. Social Media is not just about how an enterprise does its marketing, but how all the people in the enterprise talks with its market.

Yes there is an internal employee to external stakeholder communications path, but there is also a collaboration element added to this – a social sense of working together for common goals. To be really successful however requires more then proficiency with this one aspect of managing your organization. It also requires you to develop deeper expertise with your communications and collaborations process between employees; between employees and partners; and even in some cases between external stakeholders and other external stakeholders.

This includes marketing, customer support, product development, research, partner relationships, internal collaboration, information technology, and even facilities. There is no aspect of your organization that will go untouched. This is not some pie in the sky vision of a far off utopian future, this is what many people/consumers are clamoring for. Tired of being sold to ant talked at, advertising is less effective then ever before and efforts are underway to turn CRM upside down in favor of VRM (Vendor Relationship Management) .

This is not to say that we are supposed to turn away from profitability, far from it. By increasing the efficiency of market interactions, there is a greater chance for profitability; for good companies to become great companies; and for bad companies to just die off. Companies need to be profitable in order to grow and flourish and continue to do good for the world – as the saying goes, you are either thriving or dying and seldom if ever just stagnant. The difference between where we are today and where we will be tomorrow can be summed up as reasonable profitability with market cultivating behaviour as opposed to exploitative profitability and predatory behaviour.

While today you can gain a competitive advantage through the proper applications of Social Media, tomorrow it will be the price of admission for every market. So the question we are trying to help you answer with The Social Media Playbook is not how do I use Social Media for Marketing or Public Relations, but rather how do you transform your company into a social organization.

To this end, I see the potential for a new position in many larger organizations – for someone to wear the hat of the Chief Social Officer. While this responsibility could be held in any of the existing C-Suite titles, in larger organizations I believe it is necessary to have one person overseeing these efforts. Their needs to be someone with the authority, leadership, vision and yes, power, in order to effect change of this magnitude, as Michael Dell did over the past several years.

Why do we need a Chief Social Officer? Because embracing social media is embracing change management; changing the way teams collaborate; improving our relationships with customers; affecting our interaction with partners; overseeing customer support; empowering sales people to be purchase support; altering our product innovation and creation processes; and ultimately, bringing us out of the industrial age, beyond the information age and into a new age of enlightenment. It requires us to break down, once and for all, the silo walls that separate groups, the moats that have created fiefdoms of power and the interpersonal bullshit that prevents us from seeing that we all want what’s best, even if we have different ideas of how to do it.

In a recent McKinsey report, they talked about The Evolving role of the CMO , and the increased demands (related to these responsibilities) being put upon the position. I believe, as the report suggested, that the CMO should be the voice of the customer across the organization. The CMO/CEO and Chief Social Officer can and should co-exist and work together to bring about organizational transformation.

This is a new world of work, where knowledge, applied with compassion, creates a sustainable economy and a more peaceful world by transforming the very heart of business.

What are you doing to make your organization more social? How are you “being the change you want to see most in the world?”

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Friend Feed Rooms Replace Mailing Lists

Friend FeedI won’t bother with an in-depth comparison right now, but it is seemingly obvious how Friend Feed Rooms replace mailing lists.

We can have them

  • public or private
  • open or closed (members invite other members or not)
  • we can message each other
  • we can share links
  • we can let people know what we like
  • we can have a comment thread
  • we get to have it on the Web instead of locked in our email inbox
  • it has RSS feed so I can access it in my Google Reader

This is the first real step that I have seen towards what I originally wanted to do with Insytes back in 2005… it still has a long way to go to get that full potential, but maybe I can get a consulting gig with them, or some options or something and I can help them really build it all out as the best communications and collaboration tool on the Web.

For now though, join us in the Social Media Club Friend Feed Room and lets start sharing and learning from each other as it was originally intended 🙂

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Will Tagging+Attention Make 2008 the year of Smart Agents?

I have been noodling on what 2008 might bring for the wonderful web world in which we live and I think I finally hit on it this morning after reading Marshall Kirkpatrick’s excellent post called Five Ways You Can Fall in Love With Tagging Again. His five (and a half) ways are:

1. Re-enforce your learning at the end of year
2. Build a collaborative tag stream for a community of practice
3. Create a shared items feed and put it on your web page
4. Tag into a mobile reader
5. Tag your microblog posts
5 1/2 The future

I am very glad he has brought this important topic back into the spotlight as we enter the new year. The lull in uptake of tagging, particularly in some new applications I have seen lately has actually troubled me. It is a feature that can provide so much added value for the people who use it (and those who will casually benefit from those who contribute to it) that I think it can be the difference between a success and a failure.

In reflecting on the adoption (or lack thereof) of tagging systems, I believe we won’t see a real rise in usage until we see the next generation of apps. Yes Twine is one potential member of this class of apps, but real knowledge management folks don’t trust systems to do classification for them (yet). I think Marshall’s point 5 1/2 is heading in the right direction which he describes as:

In a future that leverage our Attention Data, we’ll be able to tag things in order to influence our Attention Profiles. What does that mean? It means that once you’ve exposed your Ma.gnolia APML (Attention Profile Markup Language) to your Bloglines RSS reader – then you’ll be able to influence the feeds that Bloglines recommends to you by tagging certain things in Ma.gnolia.

The future Marshall references as point 5 1/2 is a very important one to consider – one that I think is indicative of a broader vision. It is, I believe deeply, the goal we should all be moving towards, especially in 2008. What we really need is smarter systems that do more for regular people automagically, tools that will recommend and deliver useful information, resources and services to us when we need it most without having to express more then our intentions, learning from everyone’s attention and explicit descriptions.

If 2007 was the year of the widget, I hope that 2008 is finally the year of smart agents…

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Using Display Ads to Drive Search Marketing: Virtuous or Greedy?

This morning at the Search Insider Summit I heard a phrase a few times that struck me as odd – the first 2 times, I missed it, the 3rd time I caught it and the 4th time I GOT IT. And what I got worries me. In fact, talking about this briefly with Bill Flitter and Lee Odden, some of my concerns were alleviated, but my broader concern for this approach, and specifically the intention behind it, remains.

Specifically the issue is that I am afraid some Search Marketers are using this technique of integrating search into display ads and broader marketing activities (such as on product packaging) merely to seize a greater portion of the overall advertising spending. Certainly, I am not arguing with the effectiveness of search marketing over traditional advertising, but I am pointing out that an emphasis on using one form of marketing/advertising to drive people through another point of advertising rather than direct to the marketer has all sorts of upside for those taking the dollars and potentially circumspect value for those spending the dollars.

Let me illustrate through one case study which was mentioned regarding Hellman’s mayonaise and the “Real Foods” campaign. I think it was an excellent campaign executed with good intentions in conjunction with Yahoo. They have connected it with some smart social media content, using a blog and community site around the concept of “In Search of Real Foods” and connecting it with a contest to award travel to some cool restaurants around the country. Really, really great integrated campaign – an exemplary case study displaying the sort of holistic strategy that I would recommend to my clients.

Yahoo! is clearly providing real value here, but the side effects are interesting to note. Look at the search results on Yahoo! and on Google and on MSN Live for “Real Food”. Of course, the increase in awareness on the idea of searching for the term ‘real food’ is increasing the overall search volume around this term – meaning sites like AOL, Amazon, Target and even an “Amazing New Health Drink” are buying the term – naturally, the Hellman’s competitor Kraft Foods is also buying this term. So the use of this strategy, while implemented well on Yahoo! is requiring Hellman’s to spend a lot more money across all of the search engines to maintain a number one result. Of course, this is already happening to a degree in regards to the brand and product names, but this angle has me questioning the broader impact this strategy across the entire marketing communications mix.

Perhaps what this approach is really doing is merely ensuring the value of the display ads is being driven through a measurable funnel, and the cost of being able to make the conversion of interest to intention to transaction is a worthwhile allocation (or reallocation) of dollars. Perhaps this is just the natural consequence of “owning a part of the language” for mind share. There are clear parallels here to the rise in importance of tagging relative to search, but perhaps we have just not seen tag based marketing mature to the point of encountering this issue widely yet.

It clearly costs more money to use display ads to drive more people through search marketing. The question to be determined is whether the intentions behind advocating for this strategic approach is driven by the virtuous idea of increasing effectiveness and the efficient use of dollars, or is it just a greedy land grab trying to increase the overall dollars captured by search marketing? Perhaps it is both…

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Are you ready for what comes back? The Unilver Axe/Dove Connundrum

Just saw the incredibly powerful new Dove Onslaught video during the lunch presentation here at The Search Insider Summit . I think the latest update to the Campaign for Real Beauty which established the Dove Self-Esteem Fund is a great step in the right direction towards resetting our societies self esteem. I was surprised to learn that the very provocative Axe brand is under the Unilever umbrella, making for a stark contrast between the two brands that Ryan Clifton parodied in this video below.

The point of the most excellent Google presentation from Suzie Reider (former CMO for YouTube and current Head of Sales and Marketing) was that companies need to really understand the power of visual storytelling. She explained the power of video through her own personal experience when the story of President Bush inappropriately massaging the German Chancellor broke. Being offline, she has not heard of the story, so she excused herself to go check it out online. When she searched for the video and saw it for herself, she was immediately up to speed and able to participate more actively in the conversation.

I was very impressed with her and her presentations was very informative – not what one might expect from a sponsored lunch event – she definitely walked her talk during her presentation, which included the following four takeaways.

  1. Create commercials that work as content. (as I often say, make media not marketing)
  2. Let users know that you understand the context (the most important of all famous “C”s IMHO
  3. Encourage interactivity. (ie, enable people to unleash their creativity and provide a safe, welcoming environment for them to do it in)
  4. Be ready for what comes back. (as in the example with the latest Dove campaign, mentioned above, the parody showing the hypocrisy between Dove and Axe, 2 brands in the Unilever family, represent the downside of what might happen – but I still think it is great, because people like Ryan cared enough to be engaged and share his perspective and make some of us more aware of the bigger picture)

In speaking with a few people afterwards, I was curious as to any characteristics that might be helpful in understanding at what point a brand might be ready for what comes back, so that they may really engage in the conversation. The response was universal, and in line with the early work we did at The Conversation Group in identifying our ideal clients. Courage – a willingness to just do it and show that the results most generally speak for themselves. In that courage is an essential element of participation in any real world arena, it makes sense that is a pre-requisite here, in the early market for corporate engagement through Social Media.

Are you prepared for what might come back? What are your favorite stories of where it wasn’t as bad as some of your co-workers may have feared?

Other exceptional coverage from the Search Insider Summit from Lee Odden’s TopRank Blog (who I finally got to meet in person for the first time this morning)

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Are you a “real marketer”?

Chris Brogan shines bright and demonstrates why I really wanted him on The Conversation Group advisory board as much as Doc Searls and David Weinberger in this post “I am a marketer“. I try to avoid the word marketing like the plague – because of bad marketers – or more accurately, I should say badly intentioned marketers, which is the key reason the profession has been besieged for the last several years in some parts of society.

It’s time to talk once again about what I still think of as “real marketing”. For me this means the process of matching a product/service with the people who will get the most benefit/satisfaction/enjoyment from it. This is about serving the market’s interest by being a matchmaker of value between people and companies – caring about both, but more importantly caring about your own integrity.

Unfortunately, marketing has become more closely linked to selling, where oftentimes the systems and expectations of management are about producing quarter over quarter increases in numbers, without concern for the state of the product, its usability or its appropriateness for a particular use. This is where integrity breaks down and an individual’s self-esteem becomes linked to ‘hitting the numbers’ regardless of whether or not that is the right thing for the company or the people buying the product. This can also result in companies selling their product to the wrong people, creating an unnecessary negative impression in the market among people who might otherwise find value in it.

The bottomline is some marketers create a bad name for the rest of us because they are selling without concern for the buyer. Of course, everyone has some self interest, which is not in and of itself bad – it is when the interest is more focused on money than integrity where things go bad.

Chris also brings up the often talked about issue of transparency, which is still overused and misunderstood, but is getting more directly at the root of the bad marketer problem. According to Merriam Webster, being transparent means “free from pretense or deceit” – in short, it means being honest. As I have been saying a lot lately, “say what you mean and do what you say” – this is what leads to trust – being honest and continuing to demonstrate that honesty through your actions. Too many people misunderstand transparency to mean a completely open kimono, a view on everything going on – which is not feasible or completely appropriate. What it really means is don’t lie and make clear your intentions.

From my perspective, the bottom line here is a matter of intentions and authenticity. What are you trying to do and are you being true to yourself?

Chris speaks very eloquently to these ideals in action and lays out a great path for all marketers, but it is your point of origin where it all starts.

Are you working for a company you believe in? Are you working in a market you care about? Are you able to be human or must you uphold a fake ideal?

If you can answer these questions truthfully and affirmatively, you are a real marketer. I can proudly say that I am a real marketer, don’t you want to be a real marketer too?


The Conversation Group, The Beginning of the Story

The Conversation GroupThe story of how and why we have come to form The Conversation Group is an epic – a story that is worthy of thousands of words, which I am going to share with you over the weeks ahead. There is the socioeconomic environment; the fertile cultural ground for our perspective; the advent of social media (aka participatory media, aka conversational media); the deep need for this sort of transformation in marketing communications; the disruptive technologies such as Tivo and RSS; and the changing nature of our relationships with each other as individuals, as colleagues and as community participants.

Then of course, there is the story that Ted Shelton, Giovanni Rodriguez, Stephanie Agresta and I need to tell regarding what brings us each here, at this moment in time, to work together towards this shared vision of our partnership. Of equal importance is the story our advisory board members, Chris Brogan, Deborah Schultz, Shel Holtz, Mitch Ratcliffe, David Thorpe, Doc Searls, and David Weinberger have to tell. Finally, there is the story of our kindred spirit and Board Member from the UK, Mark Adams, of Pembridge who previously co-founded Global Technology PR firm Text 100 and the genius of Peter Hirshberg, CMO and Chairman of the Executive Committee for Technorati.

Our story together as The Conversation Group, is the sum of all these parts and so much more. Everyone with their own important perspective on what is going on, everyone with a unique value to contribute to the conversation on conversations, and everyone describing a different aspect of the same proverbial elephant. For me personally, I feel it is the continuation of the Cluetrain Manifesto, those ideals being manifested, yet evolving in fascinating ways, inspired by the widespread use of enabling technologies and an open source ethos of sharing and collaboration.

Throughout each of these many facets of the story, it is very hard to define the underlying nature of the transformation that is underway now – the thing that Doc talks about regarding the ‘greater significance’ that I can talk about easily (not quickly), but struggle to articulate with written words. That which a single phrase can not describe – a story that doesn’t break down well into a 30 second clip, or tagline – a story that we (you and I) are writing together through our exploration of our social media and our connections with each other. It is a “conversation on conversations” and participatory media that is just now beginning in earnest with events like Federated Media’s Conversational Marketing Summit that is taking place today.

The Conversation Group is but one part of this bigger story – my partners and I are striving to work together to make it an important part, but we know we don’t have all the answers. Rather, we have the experience and perspective needed to ask the right questions, that lead to better answers, discovered together, through conversations.

—more to come—


Furrier Steps Down as Podtech CEO

I have been hearing the rumor for a long time now, but I saw the status update on Facebook and then turned into John Furrier’s blog to read the news that he is stepping down as CEO of Podtech.  I like John. I can hang out with John. He is a smart guy and built the beginnings of a success story while fueling the growth of social media adoption by big technology companies. I have a lot of friends at Podtech, and I hope this bodes well for their future potential (as well as John’s, because he has been working his ass off).

Many have speculated that this was a requirement for Podtech to get new funding (was that Valleywag?), but that is still unknown and probably never will be.  Podtech has a tough transition ahead to reposition/re-energize the brand and find a business model that will work for them, their investors and their customers. There are many opportunities still in the technology side of the house, but I understand they largely have a content focused team so this is going to be a real challenge.

Bottomline, they are my friends, so I wish them well…

UPDATE: Chris Brogan has a nice story on this where I added a long comment I need to turn into a blog post…

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Why USA Today is not a Social Networking Failure

USA Today Declining AudienceI tried something new this morning and was reading TechMeme on my commute to work when I noticed this story about USA Today’s declining page views since reinventing itself and adding a social network function on TechCrunch.
Mike did a great job of supporting his claims by including metrics from both and Comscore (both have their statistical ‘anomaly’ problems), which clearly points to a real decline. The reason why was left up to the commenters, and many pointed to

  1. bad redesign
  2. failure of social networking
  3. aggressive ad deals
  4. core audience not wanting to participate (failure to understand audience desire/needs)
  5. decreasing quality of content
  6. increased competition
  7. the change was too drastic

These all are valid concerns, but as I posted in my comment there, which I am reposting below with additional thoughts, I think they miss the bigger picture.

Content is important, but context is king. What is the context of USA Today‘s coverage, shallow dives across a broad spectrum of topics for the entire USA [wasn’t it supposed to be like the McDonald’s of news?]. Their brand has always been about this and people know it. Worse still, they are always trying to make everyone happy, which ultimately makes a lot of it (the content) very mediocre and less appealing – a downward spiral really. With the increasing “nicheification” made possible in digital media (and evidenced by the need for all the different Crunch brands), what is the context for passion, attention and interaction within a USA Today? [or rather, why would I want to join their community?]

The other major trend for context is the move to hyperlocal. Gannett is doing a great job with this in many markets (see the latest Wired article) and I expect that much of that will ultimately bubble up. In short, they should not let go of this experiment unless they want to hang on to the core brand value they established over the last several years.

This is not a failure of the Social Network + Traditional Media model, it is a failure of USA Today to be aggressive enough with rethinking their brand and innovating to serve the needs of their core audience and expand the definition of their audience.

Yes, they did not consider the impact of the radical redesign on their existing audience – Yes, their core audience is mostly part of the 90% from the 1/9/90 rule – Yes, they have alienated a portion of that audience and are losing SOA with them (Share of Attention) [need to go deeper into this idea in another blog post soon]

So what are they doing to encourage participation from those who are there? How are the identifying and supporting the contributors? How are they themselves joining the conversation?

As a final point, it is important to remember that the key facets of personalization for setting proper context have always been geographical and topical. Where someone lives and what they care about. The right mix of context setting is as much art as it is science. USA Today’s state by state news page and their local sports coverage was one of the first to teach me this important lesson over a decade ago. I still think the traditional newspapers have figured out a lot of things that can benefit our thinking 2.0, despite all of the other baggage and often slow pace that considered, researched thinking begets (and the many mistakes that it avoids).