Archive for the ‘Content’ Category

The Lifespan of a Social Community

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

Are social communities getting old all ready?  Companies who jumped into the social fray a couple of years ago and built out their social communities are beginning to re-evaluate their benefits.  Other companies are looking to these early adopters for signs of value and best practices as they consider building out their own.

So by now, we have all figured out the magic beans for developing and sustaining brand or service based social communities.  Right?  Product research communities?  Unfortunately, those magic beans have yet to sprout.  Even within the same industries, companies struggle to replicate the success of their competitors.  Yet we know some of the ingredients that are needed.

  • solid platform
  • community manager
  • brand fans to join
  • some cute marketing to drive traffic
  • then, like fishing, we sit back and wait while listening all the while.

We rely on the community manager to create new, clever ideas every day for content and conversations to keep the candle lit and if that fails, we can always bribe them to stay (chatchkies!).   Seems a bit rudamentary even after 2-3 years of experience, yet we have a hard time trying to come up with that one killer idea that will revive our community and keep it engaged for another few months.  That may be one of the problems.  There’s not one idea but rather the execution of many smaller ideas together that keep the community going.  But it’s certainly hard to create the ideas when you are so vested in the middle of the community. 

Another issue may be the old hammer and nail analogy.  Most community managers and social media directors come out of the public relations or communications fields so it makes sense that content would be at the top of the list when it comes to brainstorming.  I have a bit of a problem with that though.  Almost by definition, it’s not sustainable and certainly it’s expensive.  So knowing that, let’s come up with new ways to increase the relevance of your community (for both participant and company), make it sustainable and most importantly add value.  We have to look beyond content as the strategy and consider what else is out there.  Here are some ideas:

  • Collect names in CRM not just the community.  Track users inside and out of your community (yes they have other interests).  See where else they go and incorporate those topics into your community.
  • Research how your users live, not just demographic and geo info, but the cultures they represent.
  • Incorporate Open Graph (facebook, Google, LinkedIn) tie-ins and recruit new participants from your existing user’s social graph
  • Use analytics to identify gaps in your community experience.

To build on the idea of sustaining you social community, we wanted to tap a professional resource and there is no one better than Connie Bensen.  Connie is a community strategist with Alterian (better know by their social monitoring solution Techrigy) and known throughout the industry as a go-to resource.  Connie will lead us in discovering advanced ways to create value from your communities and make them more sustainable.  Join us this Tuesday 8/10 at noon EDT for this topic and questions:

Topic: The Lifespan of a Social Community

1.  How do you plan resources for the lifespan of a social media engagement?

2.  Do the communities you create need a community manager or can they be self-sustaining?

3.  What do you do with a community when the budget is exhausted or resources are no longer available?

4.  Can a community continue indefinitely and how?

Follow along on Twitter or your favorite Twitter client by following #sm72 or simply visit our LIVE page at www.hashtagsocialmedia.com/live.

How News Brands Use Social Media and Social Gadgets To Connect With Audience

Monday, June 28th, 2010

Photo: www.oweb.com

While everyone depicts the demise of newspapers, the art of news gathering has never been stronger. 

We’ll get this out of the way first, the newspaper industry as a distribution model is in a downward spiral.  Newspaper printing and physical distribution is an expensive proposition and with circulation in decline, the money (advertisers) are moving to greener pastures.   Advertisers are going online where they get broader exposure for cheaper rates with more access to return on investment numbers (analytics, click-throughs, etc).  That puts the traditional newsprint model in serious jeopardy.

News gathering on the other hand, has exploded.  If you consider the amount of content being created across blogging sites, video site (YouTube), podcasts, social networking sites and micro-blogging sites the numbers are astounding.  What’s subject, you might argue, is the quality of the content.  Therein lies the problem, with so much noise (content) out there, it is much harder for traditional content creators to match the velocity (speed and distribution) that news has taken on.  Journalists must fight fire with fire, not a garden hose.  Interestingly enough, journalists had the exposure, the resources and the networks to be able to do exactly what bloggers and other new-age news gatherers are doing today, just not the necessity.  As the early bloggers received much fanfare for regurgitating news found on the web, professional journalists resorted to this as well as a way to get the news out faster, not better.

Now the tides are turning.  Journalists who understand story-telling and fact-finding are now beginning to get necessity.  They are exploring new ways of developing news and planting seeds to better understand news as it happens.  There are some good examples already that I got from Vadim Lavrusik, who writes for Mashable, like the living stories project between Google and NYT’s and the invent of news streams, or news as it happens from sources like Twitter that break news sometimes hours before traditional media taps in.

What’s missing though is the transformation.  Journalists and newspapers are still doing the same things just with shinier toys and fancier widgets.  That’s motion not transformation.  Let’s stretch a bit and see what we could come up with.  How about if….

  • Journalists became masters of their networks. Use Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook to manage a network of experts around any topic that might come up.  Have a local chemical spill?  Might help to know that there are 17 local chemical engineers and 7 local retired hazmat experts from the government within 10 miles of the accident.  With all the social networking, no one is connecting the dots locally.  The one who does, will become the modern day tribal leader.
  • News organizations teamed with Gov2.0.  Every government agency is falling over themselves to get up-to-speed in the digital world.  Think of the mashups you could create with the resources of the newspaper and the data of the local government.  If something happens, look who’s sitting on the data streams and information already.
  • Local advertising.  Newspaper sales used to be the only ones in town with access to every local business.  Why they did not offer every local business an enhanced listing on a Yelp type site is beyond me.  There was an opportunity to take over the yellow pages and I believe there still is.  Newspapers will never out Fox, FOX News, however no-one should ever out- St. Louis the St. Louis Post for instance.
  • Location based services – that leads here.  If newspapers were cross matching their data, they would already know what business locations were closest to me and make offers accordingly.  At the same time with just a little effort, they could greatly enhance my profile by simply offering me a profile and providing me a compelling reason to say which types of food, activities and shopping that I enjoy.

 These are just a few ideas that I came up with and I know when enough is enough.  From here, we’ll let the expert take over.  Brian Dresher will be this week’s moderator for the HashtagSocialMedia event.  Brian brings years of managing content distribution and customer acquisition for a news brand and certainly understands necessity as the Manager of Social Media and Digital Partnerships for USAToday.  Brian will help us open up the possibilities of an industry under-siege so you can take these lessons and apply them to your own industry where digital is changing the landscape.  This week’s questions will be:

Topic: How news brands use social media and social gadgets to connect with audience

1.       What role should Twitter and Facebook play in journalists engaging with users?

2.       How do devices like iPad and iPhone influence news consumption?

3.       How will location-based services impact future of news gathering?

Join us for this event Tuesday June 29th at noon eastern.  Follow along using #sm66 from your favorite Twitter client or simply goto our LIVE page at www.hashtagsocialmedia.com/live.

Updated post 7/2 to accurately reflect Brian’s role. Thanks again to Brian for leading a great discussion.

Connecting With Consumers Through Social Media

Monday, May 3rd, 2010

"Take a look from the outside looking in"

The title of this post pretty much sums it up.  So often we get caught up in frameworks and checklists and strategies and everyone is running around looking busy.  Meanwhile, back at ranch where the real work happens, consumers are still being marketed at even online.  How could this be?

It is helpful sometimes to take a step back and take a look at what you are doing from the outside looking in.  Consider how your consumers view you online and where they view you.  You might begin to understand why your social programs are performing the way they are.  So many strategies stop at the tools so you end up with a blog or a Facebook page and the strategist goes home.  Inevitably the same marketer or communications person does what they know and starts blasting messages.    As a result, the consumers that you were trying to get closer to actually end up further away.  To translate this back into social media jargon, you end up with an audience of lurkers (assuming they stay that long) when you are attempting to get those consumers engaged.

Jake McKee 90-9-1.com

Jake Mckee’s infamous 90-9-1 pyramid comes to mind.  If you do not make it easy, fast and safe for consumers to engage you will end up with more than 90 percent lurkers trolling your content.  On the other hand, if you take the time to create baby steps of engagement like a simple “thumbs up/down”, share this, or even a one question “quick poll” your audience will begin to engage more.  This helps to establish trust as well.  With trust comes responsibility though.  If you allow members to digitally attack each other via comment threads, etc then you will end up with the same 4 people running your site like street dogs marking their territory on trees.  Curating community content to keep it safe will go a long ways for members to want to contribute and connect with greater frequency.

Once they are connecting with higher frequency, what’s your plan then?  What messages do you want those consumers sharing?  Your consumers have 2 experiences with every interaction they have with you.  Those 2 experiences are perception and reality.   If you ask for suggestions, get them and never respond or even acknowledge them, the consumer’s perception is that you really don’t care.  All of these experiences get crafted into a story that is told and re-told online, at dinner parties, at the gym and anywhere else someone brings up your store, brand or product.

If consumers are your storytellers, then shouldn’t you have a plan to help shape that story every chance you get?  Two main themes are emerging: 1) enable consumers to connect with you more frequently and 2) have a plan in place to help mold their story about you once you do connect.  Sound straightforward?  If it does then you have never had to a) manage a community first hand, b) never been responsible for results or c) all of the above.

By design, our moderator has a lot of experience doing both.  Kyle Lacy is the head of Brandswag and a highly sought after social media practioner for businesses.  Kyle will lead a discussion around how to better connect with consumers by converting more passive consumers into active consumers of your brand and what to do once they become active.  This discussion will follow our weekly Tuesday event schedule taking place 5/4 at noon Eastern.    The topic and questions will be:

Topic: Connecting With Consumers Through Social Media

Q1) What are ways to move customers up the interactive chain from lurker to influencer?

Q2) What’s the value of storytelling vs. messaging?

Q3) How can you get customers to take action on your behalf and tell the story for you?

The event will begin with Q1 at noon eastern followed every 20 minutes with the next questions.  To follow along and add your POV simply track #sm58 via any Twitter client or follow along via our LIVE page.

Characteristics of Highly Influencial Brands in Social Media

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

When you go out at night with friends, how do you decide who you go out with?  Sometimes you might like to hang out with the funny one, the quiet one or the friendly one, but whoever it is, there is some amount of trust and shared interest.  Whether in person or online, you have a choice of where to go and who you want to hang out with.  Understanding this simple perspective is easier said than done for companies who are jumping into the digital social space.

As the world has gone “social”, so too have companies.  In the past, a brand or company did not need a personality to be loved by entire generations only a good marketing department.  One of the biggest challenges with social media that companies have is transitioning their personalities from a prepared marketing push to an ad-hoc, two-way communication.  Some companies and brands are diving in and taking on the challenge of morphing their digital personality and some are not.  For those who are taking the leap, some are showing better results than others. 

Consider the results of a global corporation like Coca-Cola so loved on Facebook (with over 5 million friends and wall comments that PR firms can be proud of) while another global consumer goods company, Nestle, is having a bit of a time on Facebook to say the least.  The issue with Nestle in particular is very telling in many ways.  A small recap for the purposes of this post: Greanpeace puts up a video on YouTube mocking the Kit-Kat candy bar.  Many users took the mocked-up wrapper and used it on Facebook as their avatar to post messages.  A Nestle rep responded to not use altered versions of their logos or risk being deleted.  The rest….is, well, making history as we speak.  Grass-roots efforts build up and blow over for every company, look at Nike.  Remember in 1996 when the campaign against their use of sweatshops to produce their shoes was all the rage?  Guess what, it still is look here.  Back in 1996 Nike was forced to reconcile with the way their products were produced.  Their actions made enough people happier and for most it’s done and gone while for a few, they think Nike could still do more.  It’s not the grass-roots movement that set this tyrant off on Nestle, it was the tone and manner in which Nestle responded that set this off.  By the way, take a look at Nike’s Facebook page  now (1 of them), they have learned and in my opinion are using Facebook in a way that Nestle and every other conglomerate global brand should, by focusing on the experience of each Brand and not on a wide-open corporate catch-all experience (that’s probably a different topic though).

So what makes companies more likable than others in the digital or social media space?

This seems to be the million dollar question (or multi-billion in some cases).   How can companies convince consumers to be digital “friends” and hang-out on social media sites without causing virtual riots?  For this topic, Marc Meyer and I went to the top of the virtual food chain to get a moderator who could guide us through this subject and come out of it with helpful tidbits that any company can use.  Tamar Weinberg is a veteran of community management and released a book last summer on The New Community Rules: Marketing on the Social Web that continues to do very well.  Her hands on experience with Mashable’s community along with dozens of other clients puts Tamar in a league of her own.  This week she will moderate 3 questions on the following topic:

Topic: Characteristics of Highly Influencial Brands in Social Media

Q1: Is there advantage to having Brand or a person be your SM “face”?
Q2: How do you choose to follow Brands on Twitter, Facebook, blog, et al?
Q3: Build a checklist for Brands on how to behave in SM for best results.

Join us Tuesday March 23 at noon EST for a 1 hour interactive chat.  Participate by following #sm52 on Twitter or simply go to our LIVE page to get to all the action.

The Importance of a Content and Engagement Strategy in Social Media

Sunday, March 14th, 2010

We understand that having a blog or forum alone is not being social, it’s simply a tool set.  If you are a little overzealous and implement the tools first, you quickly understand that it is going to take more…a lot more than just tools to live up to the expectations that everyone has around social media.  So you sit in the middle of your corporate blog or new customer service forum and wonder what’s next.  Try a content and / or engagement strategy.

Without engagement there is no social and without content there is no engagement.  From this, it becomes apparent that developing a strategy around content and engagement can be very useful.  So where to start?

Content without engagement is a traditional approach to marketing like television or radio.  The content goes one way or is “pushed” at the audience.  While we could take an editorial approach to content development, let’s look at it a bit differently.  Whether you produce the content, your agency produces it, whether your content is available on external sites or your own sites, there is still a premise that I come back to.  Consumers buy products because they believe in the product, they relate to it, the product description fulfills a need or some other reason that stems from the fact that something about the content was relevant enough to make me purchase whether its ingredients, description, a jingle, ad copy, whatever, there was some form of trust around that content.  This is the key, your content has to instill trust with your participants.

With all the aggregation tools out there, it is easy to take the lazy way out of creating content for your corporate social initiatives.  Like a Twitter account that only re-tweets or a blog run on yahoo pipes, that content can be found anywhere so there is no reason to trust your company as a resource for content.  Like your content, your company becomes irrelevant quickly too.  Create content that sets your company apart, create a perspective that participants can have passion with and always do it under the premise that no matter what the content, your participants have to be able to trust it.  The first time they find a hole or blatant lie in your content, you will lose that trust for a very long time.

On the other hand, engagement without content feels empty and does not last long.  Like any guy at a bar without a good pick-up line, he can smile, approach and may smell good but after standing there for a while, you’re going to have to get past the “Hi, I’m Joe/Jeff/Bob/Mike, what’s your name?”.  There are many reasons for engagement and while most strategists will focus on what your company has to do to get ready to be engaging, don’t forget to think about why anyone would want to participate with your company.  A good, initial litmus test is whether you can answer the “So What?” question.  You arm the interns with conversational research data, you’ve been listening for months, you have tons of ideas for content and the executives are behind it.  If you are selling toilet paper, my response is “so what?”, why would a consumer care to participate around the product?  In this case, create a passion much like General Mills did with their Box Tops campaign to raise money for k-8 schools.

Does engagement or content come first?  If I create content and no one is listening, is it worth my time?  On the other side, if your customers are passionate around your Brand and want to participate, you better get some content so they have a reason to come back.  I’m not sure there is a right answer for everyone.  The right answer depends on every company’s unique situation, resources, time, talent and ability to execute.  Our moderator this week knows a lot about these answers and we are excited to have John Cass leading the way.  John has literally written the book on corporate blogging and has a wealth of experience to share with us.  The topic this week will be:

Topic: The Importance of a Content and Engagement Strategy in Social Media

Q1: What’s first, content marketing and/or engagement marketing as the lead strategy?

Q2: How should you handle disclosure of content origination whether employees or agency?

Q3: Charlene Li’s engagement 2009 report staked out most engaged brands, what’s key to implement a successful SM engagement strategy?

Please join us on Tuesday March 16 at noon EST to share your point of view.  Follow along on #sm51 or from our LIVE page.

Image: www.cartoonstock.com

The Social Media RFP: How to Get the Best Results

Monday, January 18th, 2010

RFP_ImageIf you want to purchase an accounting system, customer relationship manager (CRM) or enterprise resource planning (ERP) platform for your company, it’s a pretty established process.  There are a few meaningful vendors in your space determined by the size of your company, the features are all pretty clear and there are case studies galor for how-to and how-not-to select, implement and run those systems.  Now, if you want to source some external help for social media, well that’s a different story.

We hear how everyone is a social media expert whether they’re certified or self-proclaimed.  You can find people who believe many are akin to snake-oil salesmen and of little use.  But if you are a company who needs external help, how do you weed through this entirely new industry?  That is the point of this post, to effectively source external software and/or services to help deliver on your social media initiatives.

The industry is growing by the day: Agencies (traditional, interactive, digital, public relations, etc), Consultants (individual or small teams), web-development (SEO, measurement, advertising, now with social elements), Software Vendors, Service Vendors and you could continue to sector this list ad nauseum.  All of these different components all have varied levels of experience whether personal or corporate and varied levels of perceived successes.  Wading through all this fluff to get to someone who can meet your specific needs is difficult at best.  One of the most proven methods of sourcing external suppliers is through a Request For Proposal process or RFP.  As stated in Wikipedia, an RFP is:

“is an invitation for suppliers, often through a bidding process, to submit a proposal on a specific commodity or service. A bidding process is one of the best methods for leveraging a company’s negotiating ability and purchasing power with suppliers. The RFP process brings structure to the procurement decision and allows the risks and benefits to be identified clearly upfront.”

Where to Start?  There is a widely accepted order by which to initiate and execute a typical RFP. 

  1. Establish Criteria for Evaluation: “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there” ~ Alice in Wonderland.   Two key things here: 1) pull together a cross-functional team to develop criteria.  this gets broader input and incorporates all departments from the start which will make ultimate buy-in that much easier. 2) evaluate your needs and develop criteria that would best meet those needs.
  2. Vendor Research: Once you have identified the criteria by which to evaluate, begin to research which vendors may fit (large agencies, small consultants, big integrators, small off-the-shelf, etc) and develop a preliminary list.
  3. Request For Information (RFI) or Request For Qualifications (RFQ): Some will say this step is not necessary or that it drags out the entire process too long.  I tend to disagree however as it allows you to understand the market better and, done correctly, will provide additional direction for your RFP.  From the RFI, you can eliminate roughly half of the prospective vendors on you list.
  4. Develop and Send the RFP: Here are 2 RFP Templates to consider Sample Social Media Template from Social Media Group and  Sample Unbranded SEO RFP.  Possible organization by Purpose/Goals, Criteria, Timelines, Vendor Questions / Responses, initial cost estimates.  The RFP should convey what you are looking to accomplish, the criteria by which you will measure, the expected timelines, additional capabilities and cost estimates.  This will elicit consistent responses by which to evaluate and rank the responses.
  5. Review the Responses: taking into account the criteria, evaluate the best responses by committee (remember the more input along the way, the easier the buy-in at the end) and narrow down to a top three (or simply choose a winner – see the next bullet for why not to do this)
  6. Interview the top 3 responses: At this point, you notify the vendors they have either made it to the finals or they have been eliminated from consideration.  By having this process, you maintain the most negotiating leverage.  During this phase, you can narrow the scope, interview vendors and negotiate final costs.  If vendors know they are still competing, they will continue to put the best package together that they can offer.  If you wait to negotiate pricing after you award a final vendor, the negotiating leverage moves to the vendor.
  7. Make a Selection:this speaks for itself.  Remember to organize timelines and accountability from both sides to make sure everyone knows who’s responsible for what during the installation process.

 Now this is a traditional process and for the most part I would follow this procedurally.  My one hesitation is actually in developing social media criteria, companies will typically lump technology, strategy development, execution, community management, SEO, advertising purchasing, etc into one big project labelled “Social Media Initiative”.  Personally, there is not one company let alone person who could pull this entire project off.  My recommendation then, is to create sections of the RFP and allow vendors to submit responses only for those areas where they are strong or to actually create 3-4 separate RFP processes which most companies are not equipped to pull off.  Let us know in the comments if there is a better process that you have encountered.

While this is a good start, it does not provide the nuanced detail needed to truly start this process for your own company.  For this, we bring in the creator of the Social Media RFP and top strategist Maggie Fox.  Maggie and her team at the Social Media Group work with companies like Ford Motor and SAP to deliver social media solutions.  She will moderate this week’s session and help us all prepare to source external suppliers to help meet our social media needs.  This week’s topic and specific questions include:

 Topic: The Social Media RFP: How to Get the Best Results

Q1:  How do you formulate a proper RFP that conveys your social media goals?

Q2:  How do you identify the vendors, consultants or agencies to send your RFP to?

Q3:  How do you evaluate your responses to pick the best solution?

Please join us this week as Maggie Fox moderates our Tuesday #socialmedia chat at noon EST.  You can follow along by watching #sm43 from any twitter client or simply from our LIVE page.

Stop Campaigning and Start Conversing The New Marketing Paradigm

Saturday, November 21st, 2009

conversationBuild a relationship, garner trust and a customer will never leave.  Sounds pretty easy!?  In fact we have been talking about it since the dawn of time (social media time anyway) with the Cluetrain Manifesto that started in 1999 and identified that the Internet has forced marketing to be more about conversations than messages.  Since then we have Valeria Maltoni the Conversation Agent (a past moderator here), a great book called Naked Conversations written by Shel Israel (an upcoming moderator) and Robert Scoble and countless other examples.  So why is it that companies still market via campaigns and agencies still win business with this approach?

A classic example of movement for the sake of motion? Possibly.  Consider all the money and effort that goes into concept, strategy, creative, execution of marketing campaigns.  Brands spend all that time creating a pitch to consumers, introducing themselves time and time again, selling stuff to unwilling customers then when it’s done, they see how much product was sold, cut off the pitch to those customers and prospects then rinse and repeat the whole daunting process all over.  So where is the conversation part of this we have been talking about now for at least 10 years?  Not the cordial, “wave to each other at a cocktail party” conversation but the relationship conversation that lasts for months, years or longer?  The conversation where you find out what each other needs and wants (notice I said both), you know, a real relationship not a manufactured one.

So what does that look like and how do marketers break out of the campaign mentality?  Think about the impact of this scenario: A company with multiple brands has a consolidated marketing department focused on customer relationships.  They are in charge of courting the consumer and understanding how they live, work and play.  From that relationship, the company understands what products (Brands) can help that customer and how they add value to that consumer’s life.  Then the Brands become stewards for helping those customers buy the things they need (considering people like to buy things yet do not like to be sold).  The company pours their monies into acquiring a customer once then facilitating their purchases across the various products.  This is very different than what happens today as each Brand pays to acquire the same customers over and over across all brands independently.  This may be some utopian dream to many but the speed of communicating and the ubiquity of access to communicate is forever changing the old norms and customers have left that station.  Companies need to figure out how to adapt and soon.

We are very happy to have Tom Martin moderating this topic on tuesday.  Tom spends a lot of time in this space covering all aspects of branding, marketing and social media and brings a creative approach to his work.  He will help us work through this topic and facilitate a great learning opportunity for all of us.  The topic and questions will be:

Stop Campaigning and Start Conversing – The New Marketing Paradigm

1) What is the difference between a marketing campaign and a customer conversation?

2) How do agencies have to change in order to create conversations instead of campaigns?

3) What are some examples of brands or agencies that have succeeded in making the jump from campaign to conversation?

The chat will take place Tuesday 11/24 at noon EST.  We will use the #sm35 for the event.

Disclosure & It’s Effect on the Brand Marketing Ecosystem

Monday, October 19th, 2009

disclosureWe have all heard a lot about the Federal Trade Comissions’ (FTC) latest policy on the expectation for full disclosure on endorsements and paid reviews or testimonials.  But, how much do we really know about it and how will it affect all of us who are in the business?  That is the focus of this week’s #socialmedia event moderated by C.C. Chapman

To start, you can review the document for yourself and develop your own interpretation of it (it’s actually an update to it’s guides, not a law, and therefore open to some interpretations) as it was announced earlier this month.  Next the rules will be enacted on December 1st so anything being done now is not covered in this under the new guides.  More, while we have all read about the $11,000+ fine, this fine is only enacted after several warnings and for serious offenses as noted in this interview with the FTC from the LATimes:

When a LA Times reporter asked about Restaraunt Reviews, the answer was, “Technically, you’re supposed to disclose all comped meals. But if you don’t, the FTC’s not likely to do anything about it.”My initial reaction to that scenario [comped meals] is that disclosure would be required,” says Rich Cleland of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Our primary concern relates to the fact that you received something of value and it’s for the exchange of writing about the product.”

So is this a conspiracy theory that gives ”big brother” yet another way to find out what my top ten social media blunders post is all about?….probably not as they really don’t care.  What it does do is provide a vehicle for them to be able to pursue the really bad people out there and have some teeth in the punishment.  Read their take on this issue of monitoring (from the same LATimes article),

“But the FTC has a limited interest — and ability — in monitoring blog traffic. According to Cleland, the FTC is far more interested in pursuing advertisers, especially those who violate the rules after repeated warnings, than they are in dunning individual bloggers. Unless the FTC receives numerous complaints about a specific blog, it’s unlikely to investigate. It’s a matter of enforcement priorities.”

And how does the FTC decide who to go after?  It looks like it will be more of an “opt-in list” meaning they already get inquiries from citizens on publishers (bloggers) who are possibly scamming.  they will still filter for the more detrimental publishers and go specifically after them.  In their words:

“If we received complaints,” Cleland says, “we’d look at how serious the representations are. Are there other possible violations? What kind of blog is it? We might be more concerned about a blogger who was writing a review of a medical device that’s used for a serious disease than we would be about someone who’s writing a restaurant review.”

So if the new FTC guidelines are really just meant for the true scumbags out there then what’s all the hub-bub about?  This goes deeper into the expectations that consumers have where honesty and disclosure are now a ”need-to-have” and no longer a “nice-to-have” for reviews, promotions and endorsements.  These new guides begin to shine a light on all marketing relationships and will have serious affects for Brands who try to fool their consumers.  While some may say this officially shifts the responsibility of disclosure from the advertisers to the publishers, what is really does is says that everyone is accountable – the advertisers and the publishers.  Not longer can we stand around like school-children and point fingers at each other saying “she did it”!  We are all responsible and accountable. 

With this expectation being more clearly defined thanks to the FTC, how will companies react? How should they react?  Is this business as usual or do Brand marketers need to re-imagine their word-of-mouth practices, affiliate marketing, product testers, viral campaigns and more?  Helping us out this week is C.C. Chapman, Creative Director and partner at Campfire, a marketing firm offering full-service creative development and production management.  This week on Tuesday 10/20/09, C.C. will moderate the following topic and questions starting at 12 noon EST:

Topic:  Disclosure & It’s Effect on the Brand Marketing Ecosystem

Q1:  What is affected by the new FTC disclosure policy?

Q2:  How does the FTC disclosure policy change Brand marketing

Q3:  How does disclosure affect branding communities / bloggers / WOM networks?

Feel free to join us by following along on Twitter, TweetChat(recommended) by following #socialmedia or simply go to our LIVE  page (highly recommended).

Sponsored Conversations & What It Means for Businesses

Monday, August 24th, 2009

Sponsored ConversationsThis has certainly been the year for discussions around sponsored conversations in social media.  The term of a sponsored conversation is mostly described as paid for blog posts.  While this is certainly one piece of it, it certainly is not the entire scope of paid-for PR/advertising and limiting the conversation to only bloggers does not provide for a well-educated perspective by which to make reasonable business decisions. 

So what does the scope of sponsored conversations look like? Jeremiah does a good job of referencing lists of sponsored initiatives and the companies doing them but still this list is mostly focused on bloggers either being paid or getting free products to “blog” (review, rate, create content, post, etc) about them.  What is often over-looked is when companies hire other companies to create content, product releases, buzz, etc on the client’s behalf.  Finally, out of all of this do we need regulations in the form of government intervention (ala FTC) or a governing body to be the gatekeepers?

For companies paying individuals, the discussion is quite mature but still scattered (IZEA sponsored a report from Forrester).  How much should companies be allowed to pay? Should bloggers be able to make money for producing quality content and garnering a faithful following?  What’s the difference between paying Cris Brogan to stay at your hotel chain and hiring Kevin Garnett to wear your shoes? Heck, I eat entire meals for free every time I hit Costco with the free samples there.

For companies paying other companies it seems that this is either completely acceptable or it simply is not talked about much.  Sure there are examples of some intermediary screw-ups like Edelman with Wal-mart but surely there is more than this re-hashed story from 3 years ago.  Right?  Of course, PR firms are hired all the time to create content on behalf of their client and ghost-write posts.  Interactive agencies are always “taking care” of the content needs of their clients and passing it off as the client’s work.  Then you have Analysts who create reports using paying clients (intentionally left un-hyperlinked ;-) and socially connected Lobbyists influencing entire governing bodies.  Think about the newspaper industry using expert opinions from companies who advertise with them.

This week’s moderator, Shannon Paul certainly has her hands full with this topic but also has the hands on experience to lead us through it.  Working on the corporate side with the Detroit RedWings and now with PEAK6, she has practical experience that is invaluable and being a social media Rock Star in her own right certainly doesn’t hurt either.  This week’s discussion will be:

Sponsored Conversations & What It Means for Businesses

Q:1  What are the challenges / benefits from paying individuals to create conversations?

Q2:  What are the challenges / benefits from paying other companies to create conversations?

Q3:  What type of disclosure is needed and does it require a governing body?

This chat will start Tuesday 12 noon EST and last for 1 hour.  To participate simply use the #socialmedia on Twitter from anywhere.  To follow along more easily simply goto our LIVE page.

A Business Guide to Macroblogging vs. Microblogging

Saturday, August 8th, 2009

Macro / Micro WHAT?!  Ok, Let’s refer to it as Twitter vs. Blogging.  That should help a little but could still leave a bit of haze for companies still trying to figure this out.  Starting at the beginning:

Blogging:

  • Our definition – ability to self-publish content digitally (usually to the web).
  •  Wikipedia says – A blog (a contraction of the term “weblog“)[1] is a type of website, usually maintained by an individual with regular entries of commentary, descriptions of events, or other material such as graphics or video. Entries are commonly displayed in reverse-chronological order.

Now the difference between micro vs macro, or little vs big, or short vs long.  Usually Microblogging tools refer to Twitter, Yammer, or even status updates on Facebook or LinkedIn and has a limited amount of characters that you can use (twitter is 140 characters).  Macroblogging tools refer to traditional blogging tools such as WordPress, Typepad, Moveable Type and does not have a limit to the post sizes.

That is the What, now for the Why.  Blogging (referring to Macro) is a great way to distribute and categorize content.  Like a personal content management system that does not require anything but entry level technical understanding and a web-browser.  Blogging is a great way to express expertise on a subject or product in detail and allow some interaction through commenting.  This type of interaction is usually a bit more delayed.  Microblogging on the other hand, is much more immediate in nature and provides only snippets of information.  Companies are beginning to use microblogging for more than pushing content.  We are seeing great examples of customer service, near real-time direct communications, and others. 

So what should your company be doing?  How should you be integrating these styles of communicating into your traditional mix?  Liz Strauss will help us work through these issues and more this week during the #socialmedia chat.  Liz is adored in the industry and has truly set a gold standard for quality content and interactions at both a micro and macro blogging level.  We look forward to learning from Liz’s wealth of experience and professional insight for companies.  The topic and questions will be:

Macroblogging versus Microblogging

1) Do they require the same skillsets?
2) Are the objectives and strategies the same?
3) Does micro vs. macro work better from dept. to dept. do the same rules apply?
4) Do the same rules that apply to corp. blogging policies apply to corp. twitter policy?

As you can see we have 4 questions this week so we will run 15 minutes per question.  Get ready as this is sure to be a well attended event and will surely go quickly.  Tuesday 8/11 noon EST for 1 hour.  Mark it down, see you there!