Archive for July, 2007

Everything Your Brand Wants to Know About the Social Media

July 29, 2007

Everything Your Brand Wants to Know About the Social Media, but Was Afraid to Ask

What is social media?
At the basic level, social media provide the tools to develop a relationship between one and many users. It’s a conversation. A brand site is “social” if it allows and inspires conversation as it appears in the “comments” section. If it uses “rating and reputation” and tools to facilitate engagement, social media will allow and encourage a dialogue to develop. Some social media provide tools for people to contribute online, like YouTube, while others are intended for rating and criticizing, like del.icio.us and Digg. Still others are tools for questions and answers, such as YahooAnswers and HelpShare. These days the most headline-grabbing are MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn, and, of course, Second Life—a content-providing and community subset of the social media. Just using a blog, videolog (vlog), or podcast format doesn’t automatically qualify something as a social medium. Genuine social media depend on running commentary, criticism, and conversation. In short, social media are about participation. In our digital democracy, social media are the public forum. In our actual democracy, social media are the newest frontier of the First Amendment, as we see in citizen journalism sites like NowPublic and Current.tv, which inspire users to report news and events.


A BRAND IS SOCIAL IF IT ENCOURAGES DIALOGUE, PARTICIPATION, AND RELEVANCE.


What are social media tools and how are they used?
There are many different types of social media tools, with more being developed every day. Social media tools fall into roughly four categories:
+ Social Networks: MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn, InnoCentive, Second Life
+ Tools: Blogger, YouTube, PodcastNation, Twitter
+ Rating and Reputation: Technorati, del.icio.us, Digg.com, NowPublic
+ Questions & Answers: YahooAnswers.com, HelpShare, Wondir
These tools could help build the infrastructure of the relationships you want to develop depending upon the need of your users, business, or brand. Who uses social media?

Chances are your teenager is already well (or even over-) represented on MySpace, your children maybe on Club Penguin, and every Internet user has been exposed to YouTube.

And now, brands themselves are getting more and more involved with conversations with their customers. Stonyfield Farm has two very successful blogs, The Bovine Bugle and Baby Babble, both of which provide great conversation and community.

Like any relationship it’s all about developing trust. Brands should tell a story, but they shouldn’t make up stories.

Ethics is just as important online as it is offline, and brands must strive for an authentic voice that conveys the brand’s truth to its users. Brands must not mislead participants by gaming, shilling, or misrepresenting themselves via social media tools. It is so simple—and sound—to be transparent.1

How will social networking impact business?
First let’s hear what Jim Stengel, CMO of Procter & Gamble, thinks about the key idea guiding any new media or social-networking approach:

What we really need is a mind-set shift, a mind-set shift that will make us relevant to today’s consumers, a mind-set shift from ‘telling and selling’ to building relationships.

The key to business is relationships. Why shouldn’t a business be social? A quick visit to the coffee machine demonstrates how truly social a business is. I don’t believe a business can afford to ignore or shun its inherently social nature. It is, as Mr. Stengel says, the job of businesses to build the brand, and, in turn, to build relationships to the brand.

Social media are a valuable and cost-effective adjunct to the usual research methods. For example, businesses can set up a blog and videocast to help launch a new product or service, and they have discovered that the online community is only too willing to comment, joke, opine, or even deride. Of course, managers must be ready to hear criticism. They must be thick-skinned. To paraphrase G.K. Chesterton, the prince of paradox, offer something many people disagree with, and your readers will write half your content for you. Just put that in the light-speed collaborative context of the Internet social media, and half of your electrons will be provided for you.

Marketers should think about how a direct relationship with your customers can enrich the conversation. More and more, customers develop a sense of ownership with the brand. Why not let them digg in and share their thoughts?

Well, the web has certainly grown up since Tim Berners Lee created hypertext markup language to ease the sharing of particle physics knowledge. It’s gone from static interface to WWW. And, with the universalization of broadband, motion graphics, and sound it enjoys widespread distribution. Now, consumers of website content are not only reaping the benefits of broadband; they are contributing by using social media tools, from webcams to digital animation to original content, the “Webizen” is talking back.

How does the democratization of internet tools and user-generated content affect brands?

It would be an absolute shame not to exploit the willingness of all these people to contribute. It is an awesome new way to build consensus and accurately determine what people want. Perhaps best of all, it fosters not just brand loyalty, but partisanship, so the user can feel that, “Hey, I had a say in this or that.”

… and brand management?

Brand managers will need to change their mind-sets. Things are shifting out there, and it’s going to get bumpy. But, as traditional media gets more expensive for less return on investment, social media allows a brand manager to get very close to the customer, providing information up front so that more knowledgeable decisions can be made.

… and media in general?

Whatever’s been true about what sells media will remain true. Story. The narrative has to be compelling. People will have to want to watch. There’s still no algorithm for the “Big Idea.” We are at the crossroads with advertising media. Today’s generation wants media when they want it and how they want it, and they don’t want to be constrained by advertisers’ media decisions. Consumers are in control: where they should be, as discomfiting as that may be to some of the traditionalists out there.

Let me elaborate: A 27-year-old turns his phone number into an online phone experiment. Luke Johnson, living in Gilbert, Arizona, creates a video asking people to give him a call. His simple call to action stirs the Luke Johnson craze. He has registered close to 2 million views of his video on YouTube, inspired 8,800 comments and gained “favored” status 2,511 times. Cell phone companies are deluging Luke with offers. Luke simply let the comments flow and turned a social medium into an engine. He reaped free PR from national, cable, and local news providers. He used readily available tools like YouTube. His message is out of the bottle. Way out.

How could this translate into a business opportunity?

Let’s take a closer look at how businesses use social media tools:

On the one hand, Intuit uses social media tools to help customers get business and tax answers, or for businesses that need to partner with their legal departments.

social media wp 1
Intuit uses social media tools to help customers get business and tax answers.

Deloitte takes a different approach, using podcasts called Deloitte Insights. The producer of Deloitte Insights first takes the script to the Deloitte legal department. Then the podcast is carefully vetted. The podcast goes through another legal review before it is released to the public.

social media wp 2
Deloitte Insights develops podcasts.

For obvious legal reasons, there is no allowance for give-and-take. Whereas Intuit encourages participation and collaboration from users, Deloitte does not. You cannot rate the Deloitte podcasts, make comments, or share them.

Deloitte is therefore making use of podcasting, but not the true essence of social media. This may be the right direction for the Deloitte brand but are they missing the opportunity to foster and truly build a community?

How should businesses use social media?

You can get going on this right now. As we’ve seen, the tools and the network are out there; a whole wide world of information flow and content waiting for the next Luke Johnson to strike a digital gold mine. Best practices should be developed combining website, utility, community, information, and of course, online sales.2 Social media tools can be incorporated to provide participation, education, direction, and customer relations. For instance:

Your thought-leaders should use blogs, vlogs, or podcasts to present their latest thoughts and encourage participation through comments and offer rating tools.

Invite your best customers to preview a new product. This is a great opportunity for an informal focus group. Demonstrate the product by using video. Get reactions through comments and rating and reputation tools.

Social media tools can be used to educate on various policies like new tax laws. These can greatly help translate complex legalese—just as a video demonstration would.

After all we are a viewer nation.

Here are some other uses of social media:

Honda generated a very compelling video. They launched this Rube Goldberg-inspired machine on Google Video, which has been watched more than 96,000 times with several viewers’ commenting on they’re delight with what they saw.

View the Amazing Honda Commercial

Deloitte ranks at 3,600 on Technorati, with over 600 blogs linking in. Deloitte realized the necessity of tracking what is being said about them in real time, as well as who is connecting to the Deloitte blog.

Eli Lilly realized R&D could be developed through Crowdsourcing3 and developed a method to post a challenge that needed to be solved. It was so successful Eli Lilly spun off InnoCentive. Now companies like Boeing, DuPont, and Procter & Gamble use InnoCentive to solve their most difficult scientific problems.

Currently being hyped by the new media and businesses is Second Life, an online 3D world. Reuters, Pontiac, and many other brands are setting up shop in Second Life. This online world boasts over 2 million users. Like any community, there needs to be rules and regulations, according to Randy Farmer, who created Habitat for Lucas Films, back in the 1980s—one of the first 3D online worlds—”A community leader needs to foster members and encourage growth. Strong leadership is about strong principles.”

Keep in mind this equation:

Community = Dialogue + Participation + Relevance

(Talk amongst yourselves!)

To start a conversation with your community, you should consider the types of tools your community will adopt. Just employing tools, such as blogs, vlogs, and podcasts doesn’t make it a social environment.

There’s a whole new world out there to be explored and reaching out is very important. Every day there are additions to the social media tool box. Twitter.com is providing the latest tools, which gives users only 140 characters from their mobile devices to blog. Over the past months, I’ve been tracking the twitters from friends who are geographically spread across the US. A definite pattern in their twitters consists of travel, food, sports, shout-outs, technology, and each has named a brand or two.

Evolution is now

In the historical evolution of interactive, we have seen technologies created for user needs. This progression has focused upon content, context, communication, commerce, and customer as important.

Presently, we see more user-generated content than businesses taking advantage of social media. Perhaps it is because we crave attention, interaction, and need to be social.

At this point in the evolution, we understand the importance of relationships where human contact is significant. This is right at the heart of brand interaction. As aforementioned, the brand is about making the connections, so choose your tools wisely. Fusing social media tools with face-to-face opportunities could create a natural and organic opportunity for brands.

Brands have a huge opportunity to lead the conversation, engage customers, intrigue, educate, teach, and delight as well as learn from their customers by using social media tools—keeping in mind participation and contact are keys to developing the dialogue.

Digital conversation can benefit the brand, business, and user by making a connection and interacting. The landscape of social media is both exciting and nascent.

http://www.siegelgale.com/dialogue/2007/07/16/everything-your-brand-wants-to-know-about-the-social-media-but-was-afraid-to-ask

Living in a Widgetized World

July 18, 2007

With widgets, any page on the Web can be your point of sale. Marketers met at a conference to figure out how to spread them far and wideDan Strauss is at the forefront of the Web’s next revolution. A vice-president at Fox Interactive Media , Strauss is on the team that develops MySpace widgets, those small applications that enable users to bring content from all over the Web to their own personal social-network page or blog site. For Strauss, widgets promise to encourage users to spend more time on their MySpace pages and give marketers yet another way, and reason, to work with News Corp.’s (NWS ) leading social network. Silicon Valley has gone wild over widgets, convinced that they are changing the basic architecture of the Web by allowing media companies, software developers, and retailers to cut up their content and distribute it widely around the Web.

WIDGETCON GENERATES MARKETING ALLIANCE
The problem for Strauss is that many businesses still don’t understand what a widget is-let alone how or why they should pay for them. And the widget makers don’t understand why MySpace , which gets the idea of widgets, won’t let more of them put advertising and e-commerce widgets on its site. “It’s a frustrating conversation both internally and externally,” says Strauss.

This week, Strauss and other widget creators gathered in New York’s Tribeca Cinemas to discuss how to educate business about the benefits of widgets and build a market around them. The July 11 WidgetCon conference is the brainchild of Freewebs , a service that enables users to create their own free Web pages and fill them with widgets. One of the first announcements to come out of the conference was the formation of a widget marketing association. The members include widget makers Clearspring Technologies , RockYou.com , and Gizmoz , and measurement company comScore (SCOR ), among others.

A chief job of the new association will be to get non-techies to understand what a widget is and why it’s important. At its simplest, a widget is a piece of software that can be pasted into a blog or MySpace page. Ever see a movie trailer in someone’s blog? That clip is a widget (see BusinessWeek.com, 7/23/07, “The Next Small Thing”). Widgets are not entirely new. The content on Google’s (GOOG ) YouTube and Yahoo!’s (YHOO ) Flickr, after all, were widgets before techies began using the term. These two pioneering services took off because they let people splash photos and videos of a trip to Paris or a dog riding a skateboard on their personal sites.

A RADICAL NEW DISTRIBUTION MODEL
Widgets are important because they fundamentally change the way content is disseminated on the Web. Instead of going to a Web site to see a video or buying something from an online store, users can do those things from the comfort of their own personal Web page. “Web 2.0 isn’t just about user-created content,” says Dave Morgan, CEO of advertising company Tacoda . “It’s about user-distributed content. Widgets let you take the content you created, or someone you don’t know created, or The New York Times created, and distribute it.”

Just as blogs helped create new influencers who now put their mark on society’s basic debates about politics, technology, or science, widgets are beginning to pinpoint new power brokers. The NBA stumbled across this phenomenon with its widgets. The NBA site was a key place where users could pick up their scoreboard and player widgets to post on their own site. But other sites, such as the fan community site Celticsblog, turned out to be hubs for users to grab the NBA’s widget as well. These viral hubs can be so powerful that they can boost the number of a times a widget is viewed by 50%, says Hooman Radfar, co-founder of Clearspring, a startup that creates widgets for marketers and advertisers including the NBA, Sony (SNE ), and NBC Universal .

The new widget distribution model means companies must worry about more than just their Web page. They have to get their content on other people’s Web pages. Andrew Stachler, director of interactive marketing at Warner Bros. Pictures , says he is more worried about widgets than a movie’s destination site. “We are really looking at the Web as a platform as a whole,” says Stachler, who spoke on a panel at WidgetCon. “Our site is less and less important.”

Widgets are changing the distribution model for e-commerce companies as well. Instead of driving buyers to your site, you can bring your store to them. Want to buy a movie ticket? Do it from your Facebook site. Interested in buying a new book? Shop Amazon (AMZN ) from your blog. Max Mancini, the head of disruptive innovation at eBay (EBAY ), has been talking seriously about widget distribution for the past 14 months. EBay now has a host of widgets, created by both eBay’s own people and by third-party developers, that enable users to shop for items on eBay from their own personal Web page. “Now is the time to deliver eBay off of eBay,” says Mancini. “What we want to do is engage buyers when they happen to be at some other Web site.”

WHAT’S A WIDGET WORTH, ANYWAY?
A second job of the widget marketing association will be to define the standards around which a widget market can be created. That requires answering some key questions: How should marketers pay widget makers for their creations? And how can they judge when a widget is successful? Some suggestions offered at the conference include factoring in where the widgets appear, how many people post it on their sites, and how often the widget drove sales.

Judging success will require new measurements. Today, companies like Clearspring can tell marketers how many times a widget has been viewed and where the widgets are being published. Advertisers, though, are already clamoring for more metrics, such as what type of ad works best compared to others and how widget audiences can be consolidated with other types of traffic. The Internet Advertising Bureau has set up a working group to establish standards for marketing on social networks. “The standards of how to measure widgets are going to evolve,” says Freewebs Chief Operating Officer Liddy Manson.

After deciding how to pay the widget makers, the association will also have to decide who else should be compensated. For a widget to take off, social networks and blog-hosting companies must allow it on their sites. And there are reasons for sites not to want them. While widgets give users of social networks reasons to spend more time on a site, they also can distract from the network’s own advertisements and user experience. “It certainly presents an interesting dilemma for the likes of MySpace and Facebook,” says Steve Grimes, vice-president of NBA Interactive , which this winter created hundreds of widgets that provided stats and updates on individual teams and players. “When you open up a platform for folks to express themselves and marketers do so, do you get a piece of it?” (see BusinessWeek.com, 5/22/07, “Sharing the Widget Wealth”). Some widget makers are already discussing revenue deals with social networks.

Then there’s the question of whether to compensate the widget users. Some e-commerce widgets that turn a user’s site into a host for a storefront do pay users a share of the sales they help generate. Most of the time, however, the widget itself is considered the reward. After all, in a widgetized world, the audience is willingly choosing what content they want and where.

http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/07_30/b4043075.htm

Widgets – The Next Small Thing

July 18, 2007

The Next Small Thing
Bits of code called widgets open the door to viral marketing across social networks. Silicon Valley sees them as a Web revolution in the making
There’s a land grab under way in Silicon Valley. Not in real land (even in Tech Town, home sales are sagging), but on the Web. What’s fueling the frenzy is something that couldn’t sound more prosaic: widgets.

In the Web world, widgets are modules of software that people can drag and drop onto the personal page of their social network or onto a blog. There, widgets typically look like a little window or box, packing a bit of the functionality that you would get with a stand-alone Web site or software package. The result can be as mundane as the WeatherBug, or a YouTube clip of your favorite video of a bulldog riding a skateboard, or your wish list from online jewelry retailer Blue Nile (NILE ).

But widgets also can be storefront windows for selling products and services or digital billoards to which customized ads can be affixed. Create one that plays your favorite song and it can send visitors through to Amazon.com (AMZN ) to buy the band’s album. Random House Inc. has a widget that lets you click through to buy new book releases from the company’s online store. You might even share a slice of the proceeds.

The land grab comes from the sudden realization by software developers, media companies, and retailers that by widgetizing their programs, news snippets, video clips, and products, they can stake out some prime Web real estate. People are increasingly spending their time with like-minded souls at blogs, online communities, and social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace (NWS ), Hi5, and Tagged. In a sense, creating widgets is like unleashing a cloud of benign viruses. They carry your storefront or video clip or ad to anyone’s Web page or profile. And those who like them can share them with thousands of people. They multiply, and as they do, they alter the very geography of the Web.

That leads some technologists to conclude that these humble bits of code–or applications, as widgets are also known–could turbocharge a third phase in the Internet’s development. In the first, users typed in addresses of Web sites or portals to find things. Then came search engines in the mid-1990s, which gave surfers a faster way to ferret out information and products. Widgets don’t signal the death of portals or search engines, but they’re giving even more power to individuals to become distributors, publishers, and arbiters of content. “We’ve got to push it [content] out to where they are,” says CBS Interactive (CBS ) President Quincy Smith. “We can’t drive everyone to CBS-dot-com-backslash-CSI-backslash. Nobody is around.”

Marc Andreessen has seen one Web epoch. He co-founded Netscape Communications Corp. (TWX ), which ignited the Web revolution back in 1994 when it developed a commercial version of the Web browser. Now he’s convinced something similar is happening. “I think the Internet is going through a major, major shift,” says Andreessen, who is now co-founder of Ning Inc., a service that lets people create social networking sites. “Concepts are now able to spread on a million Web sites. It’s super exciting because you can get huge scale very quickly. The big widgets have the potential to become the new networks.”

The scramble began on May 24, when Facebook Inc. announced it would crack open its site and hand over significant economic and distribution power to widget developers. While MySpace.com had let outsiders paste applications on its site, Facebook, the No.2 social network, went a few steps further and let developers tap into its user profile database to increase a widget’s usefulness. Facebook also created discrete areas on its site where developers can keep 100% of the revenue they generate from advertising and e-commerce.

Here’s how it works now: Click the Flixster movie widget that you installed on your Facebook profile page, and it zaps you to a place where you can list the movies you’ve seen, along with your rating and review, or look at pages that show reviews and ratings from your friends, what’s playing in theaters, and film trailers. And when your friend Todd posts his review of the new animated flick Ratatouille, Facebook lets you know about it on your news feed page. Click on the link, “View Todd’s Reviews,” and up comes his movie page. By that point, all of your friends become aware that you have started using that program, and the cycle continues.

For many Web users, widgets are a form of self-expression. William Tinkler, a 23-year-old soon-to-be University of South Carolina law student, spends a couple of hours a week on Facebook. His page boasts five widgets in all, and his friends are alerted each time he puts up a new one. One shows the jackets of books he is reading, another tells friends who visit his page what movies he plans to rent from online movie store Netflix. (Next on Tinkler’s list: The Science of Sleep.) He also has a world map featuring the places he has visited highlighted in blue. There’s a politics meter on his site displaying where he stands on the conservative-liberal spectrum and a space where friends can convey their feelings about him with goofy gestures such as a virtual “high five.” “I consider it another way of showing your personality,” says Tinkler. It doesn’t bother him that the movie widget includes a plug urging visitors to sign up for a free Netflix trial.

At software companies, Facebook’s shift was greeted as though it were a starting pistol in a 100-yard dash. Hadi Partovi, the co-founder and president of iLike Inc., launched his development team on three weeks of 20-hour days to crank out a Facebook version of iLike’s program, which lets people share their favorite musicians and songs with one another. Now, when Facebook friends say they are going to a concert, the iLike program automatically notifies you. Then it suggests other artists that your friends like. Click on a “who’s going” link, and it brings up a page with names and photos of the 345 people planning to attend the show. The company also got an entirely separate area on the Facebook site on which to sell ads, albums, or concert tickets.

The results have been startling. It took iLike six months to sign up its first million users for the program that ran off the company’s own Web site; iLike signed up another million in its first week on Facebook. The company, which has offices in San Francisco and Seattle, had to borrow two truckloads of computer servers to handle the stampede. Now iLike is the third most popular application on the site, with more than 4 million users. And it is selling ads and taking commissions from the sale of concert tickets and new releases. “We are already making more money from Facebook than our own Web site,” says Hadi’s twin brother Ali, iLike’s CEO.

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, 23, is taken aback by the response to his new platform. “We thought it would take a little longer to ramp up,” he says. Wearing his shorts and sandals at Facebook headquarters in downtown Palo Alto, Calif., Zuckerberg says that more than half of Facebook’s 28 million members have installed at least one application. He muses that Facebook has the potential to become a sort of operating system, helping communities add more and more complex services, much as Microsoft Corp.’s (MSFT ) Windows is a platform that millions of developers write programs for. Then Zuckerberg catches himself and says that metaphor might be a bit much. “It’s still early” in the game, he admits, and it’s hard to tell how far the application movement can go.

Even MySpace is feeling the heat. Ever since Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. (NWS ) bought it in 2005, the site has been looking for ways to make money off its 70 million members. That has led to some run-ins. This spring, MySpace temporarily blocked access to one widget by Photobucket Inc. because it violated the company’s prohibition against advertising on the site. Now MySpace says it’s developing a pilot program to allow a handful of developers to integrate with its platform. But it won’t open up to all; its executives say they’re concerned about security and spam. “We want to open up to the best and most important applications,” says MySpace CEO Chris DeWolfe. “Depending on how that goes, we’ll open it up further.”

Skeptics point out that widget fever bears many of the signs of previous Internet fads that generated tons more excitement than money. A few years ago, after all, geeks hyped podcasting as the next revolution, but the technology so far hasn’t crossed over to the mainstream. There are already signs of overexuberance about widgets. On July 10 the venture capital firm Bay Partners drew guffaws from some quarters when it launched a multimillion-dollar fund devoted entirely to backing widgets made for Facebook pages. And the blogosphere is chattering about “app fatigue.”

But major companies from media, publishing, technology, communications, entertainment, and retail are jumping on the widget bandwagon. Reebok International Ltd. recently created a marketing widget called “Shoe Fight,” which lets you design a sneaker and put it on your Web site, while IBM (IBM ) is plugging widgets into its software, including one that lets employees turn their unread e-mails into an audio file they can listen to on the way home from work.

Google Inc. (GOOG ), the most powerful force on the Web today, is taking widgets seriously. In June, it unveiled a program to attract widget makers with $5,000 grants or $100,000 seed investments. Google is also testing Gadget Ads, which lets merchants convert their static display ads into a sort of widget by adding videos, animation, and real-time news or marketing data to them. At WidgetCon 2007, a daylong conference that brought together more than 150 marketers and technologists in New York on July 11, Google business product manager Christian Oestlien said the company is allocating the same amount of brainpower to developing widgets as it is to search engines. As Google sees it, widgets allow people to personalize their Web experience–and in the process produce more effective advertising. “I actually see gadgets themselves as a new form of advertising,” says Marissa Mayer, Google’s vice-president for search products and user experience.

Values of some top-tier widget makers have already been jacked up as venture capitalists and big Web players throw money their way. On May 30, Fox Interactive Media (NWS ), the parent of MySpace, paid a reported $300 million for Photobucket, which makes a photo-sharing widget, and bought Flektor, which makes a video-editing widget, for a reported $20 million. Financiers and entrepreneurs estimate there may be dozens of widget companies in Silicon Valley right now commanding valuations north of $100 million. “Widgets are a fundamentally important idea,” says Vinod Khosla, one of the Valley’s most respected venture capitalists, who has invested in two widget makers, Slide and iLike. “I believe it has the potential to create big billion-dollar winners.”

Earlier this year, the National Basketball Assn. learned how explosive these little doodads can be. The NBA created hundreds of trading card-like widgets. The card displays a picture of your favorite player along with their updated statistics and links to news stories and videos about them, saving you a trip to NBA.com. Today, the NBA’s widgets have generated more than 100 million views from 175,000 locations. “We see it as taking little pieces of NBA.com and scattering them to the wind and using them to bring people back,” says Steve Grimes, vice-president of NBA Interactive.

If widgets really take off, they could upset some big apple carts. They undermine performance measures that the ad industry has tried so hard to establish for measuring Web activity, such as page views and time spent on a site. In a world where a Web site can be splintered into a hundred little pieces, widgets reshape the definition of a Web page and an audience. They also could accelerate a move away from big Web portals.

The e-commerce implications are potentially huge. Instead of simply building a destination site where people come to shop, sellers can use widgets to bring the store to the buyers. Amazon and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT ) have toolbar widgets that enable surfers to search their Web stores while staying on their social network or other personal page. In May the e-commerce market research firm Terapeak built an eBay (EBAY ) shopping widget that lets buyers search for items and shop from Facebook. Says eBay CEO Meg Whitman: “EBay will always be a destination site, but we will also do distributed commerce.”

Widgets also can turn any blog or Web site, no matter how small, into an ad platform. Tumri, an online advertising startup, has developed widget storefronts for Wal-Mart (WMT ), online shoe store Zappos.com, Macy’s (M ), and Sears (SHLD ). Any little guy with a Web page can sign up for the Tumri widget stores and pick which product categories to advertise or sell on their site. A fashion blogger, for example, may opt to sell high-end handbags from Macy’s. So long as the merchant doesn’t object to its goods appearing there, the publisher plunks the widget onto his site. Tumri often splits the revenue it receives for each click, 50/50, with the Web site generating the clicks and ad impressions.

This is all heady stuff. Think what happens when social networks go truly mobile. Widgets, with their bite-size appeal, are ready-made for devices such as the new Apple (AAPL ) iPhone. Every so often the creative chaos of the Valley coalesces, preparing the way for sustained profitability around a new business model. The symbiotic relationship of widgets and the social Web might–with a big emphasis on might–mark one of those moments.

http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/07_30/b4043071.htm?campaign_id=rss_topStories

How to Do Social Media Marketing Right

July 16, 2007

Find out how to best launch your campaign with these industry examples and supporting research.

“How can I leverage social networks to generate value for my brand?”

This was the number one pressing question at the top of marketers’ minds on Tuesday during the Online Marketing Summit in Atlanta, one in a series of regional events designed to share interactive marketing best practices.

It’s a question I’m prepared to answer with specific advice. Along with Joe Marchese, CEO of Archetype Media, I presented the keynote session entitled, “Integrating Your Brand into Social Media.”

The session was intended to help marketers understand how to evaluate opportunities in social media and solidify cost-effective partnerships, ensure their brand is not tarnished, avoid tactics that kill a social media campaign, and measure success.

Even though social media has been a hot topic for at least a year now, many executives don’t truly understand what it means. So we started the session by defining social media as the digital representation or enhancement of real-world social interactions. It includes all media that facilitates participation and dialog in order to connect people. What makes it unique is that people create it and consume it; they are participants, not passive recipients. Sites classified as social media can include the following functions: networking, community, fan/passionate interest, photo sharing, artwork gallery, mobile networking, review and more.

Social media is not the same as user-generated content or broadcast media over the internet. For example, YouTube and Vimeo are primarily user-generated video platforms whereas Meetup and Dogster are social media communities.

Why is this type of media vital for advertisers to understand and tap into? For many reasons, such as the fact that some of these sites are currently the fastest growing destinations on the web, the percentage of time web users spend on these sites versus company-generated sites is exploding (see eMarketer graph below for details), and as youth continue to rely on interactive communication via community sites they are influencing older generations to join in social media communities as well.

Benefits of tapping social media
Advertisers know they must follow these eyeballs, especially as they see the ineffectiveness of traditional advertising and new ways to use interactive platforms to brand and sell through.

Many advertisers who have incorporated their brands within social media have seen huge benefits. These include immense branding potential (making your brand an intimate part of the conversation), the ability to target your consumer by way of choosing a particular publisher, keeping your brand current/cool/relevant by association, learning from consumer feedback in real time (it comes straight from consumers’ own mouths, and they see it as entertainment), and the ability to measure the strength and quantity of these conversations.

Of the U.S. marketers that JupiterResearch polled, 38 percent in 2006 said they were planning to use social network marketing tactics in the next year, as opposed to 48 percent in 2007.

It’s obvious that marketers want to play a part in social media, but how exactly to do it is where they get confused. Many marketing executives have said to me, “Rebecca, I keep hearing about social media and user-generated content, but I’m not sure what to do about it with my brand,” and “How do I empower my consumer to evangelize my brand while I protect it in this risky environment?”

The AAF’s “Survey of Digital Media Trends” in June 2006 found that 67 percent of the marketers polled are concerned about the ability to control their brand or product image. Sure, the majority of these environments aren’t strictly edited for quality control, but remember that no opportunity is ever going to be perfect, so assess your risk versus reward. The tendency of advertisers to overestimate harm has many missing opportunities that provide significant results.

Social networks can eliminate this content safety concern for advertisers. My company’s site, DivineCaroline.com, for example has a unique submission process in which every user-submitted story is reviewed by the company’s editorial team (only inappropriate content and misspellings are edited) and then published within a day or two. And the women who contribute the stories are happy because their stories are now visible on a sophisticated platform that makes them look like a professional author.How can I leverage social networks to generate value for my brand?”

This was the number one pressing question at the top of marketers’ minds on Tuesday during the Online Marketing Summit in Atlanta, one in a series of regional events designed to share interactive marketing best practices.

It’s a question I’m prepared to answer with specific advice. Along with Joe Marchese, CEO of Archetype Media, I presented the keynote session entitled, “Integrating Your Brand into Social Media.”

The session was intended to help marketers understand how to evaluate opportunities in social media and solidify cost-effective partnerships, ensure their brand is not tarnished, avoid tactics that kill a social media campaign, and measure success.

Even though social media has been a hot topic for at least a year now, many executives don’t truly understand what it means. So we started the session by defining social media as the digital representation or enhancement of real-world social interactions. It includes all media that facilitates participation and dialog in order to connect people. What makes it unique is that people create it and consume it; they are participants, not passive recipients. Sites classified as social media can include the following functions: networking, community, fan/passionate interest, photo sharing, artwork gallery, mobile networking, review and more.

Social media is not the same as user-generated content or broadcast media over the internet. For example, YouTube and Vimeo are primarily user-generated video platforms whereas Meetup and Dogster are social media communities.

Why is this type of media vital for advertisers to understand and tap into? For many reasons, such as the fact that some of these sites are currently the fastest growing destinations on the web, the percentage of time web users spend on these sites versus company-generated sites is exploding (see eMarketer graph below for details), and as youth continue to rely on interactive communication via community sites they are influencing older generations to join in social media communities as well.

Benefits of tapping social media
Advertisers know they must follow these eyeballs, especially as they see the ineffectiveness of traditional advertising and new ways to use interactive platforms to brand and sell through.

Many advertisers who have incorporated their brands within social media have seen huge benefits. These include immense branding potential (making your brand an intimate part of the conversation), the ability to target your consumer by way of choosing a particular publisher, keeping your brand current/cool/relevant by association, learning from consumer feedback in real time (it comes straight from consumers’ own mouths, and they see it as entertainment), and the ability to measure the strength and quantity of these conversations.

Of the U.S. marketers that JupiterResearch polled, 38 percent in 2006 said they were planning to use social network marketing tactics in the next year, as opposed to 48 percent in 2007.

It’s obvious that marketers want to play a part in social media, but how exactly to do it is where they get confused. Many marketing executives have said to me, “Rebecca, I keep hearing about social media and user-generated content, but I’m not sure what to do about it with my brand,” and “How do I empower my consumer to evangelize my brand while I protect it in this risky environment?”

The AAF’s “Survey of Digital Media Trends” in June 2006 found that 67 percent of the marketers polled are concerned about the ability to control their brand or product image. Sure, the majority of these environments aren’t strictly edited for quality control, but remember that no opportunity is ever going to be perfect, so assess your risk versus reward. The tendency of advertisers to overestimate harm has many missing opportunities that provide significant results.

Social networks can eliminate this content safety concern for advertisers. My company’s site, DivineCaroline.com, for example has a unique submission process in which every user-submitted story is reviewed by the company’s editorial team (only inappropriate content and misspellings are edited) and then published within a day or two. And the women who contribute the stories are happy because their stories are now visible on a sophisticated platform that makes them look like a professional author.

Preparation and community immersion
Marketers know that they cannot simply place a banner ad on Facebook and expect tremendous sales results. Emily Steel, journalist at the Wall Street Journal, recently wrote, “Pity the poor banner ad. Cutting-edge just a few years ago, this pioneer of web advertising is now scorned as hopelessly out-of-date, a neglected stepchild in an era of web video, widgets, mash-ups and social networking.”

If standard media buying is not the most effective method for leveraging social media, how can you prepare and find a way to engage users?

“You must do your homework and understand the specific community’s message is just as important as communicating your brand’s message,” Marchese explained. “Find the overlap between your brand’s message and the social media you wish to advertise within.”

“Creators and loyalists of social media are driven by personal expression and interpersonal communication,” I added. “So you have to respect this at the very least and then determine a way to enhance their actions.”

Across markets, social networking users consistently expressed their desire for brands and organizations to treat them less like customers, and more like friends.

Before you spend a great deal on one campaign idea, first test messaging and the strategy within the community, then prepare multiple messages for distribution.

We then walked through several important tactics advertisers should use: experiment with letting go of the message, don’t try to create a new message (instead, borrow or match the message of the medium), and remember the buzz worthy theme of 2007: widgets, widgets, widgets. For instance, Nike’s “Team Elite” branding widget has been popular on MySpace.

“Since social media is participatory by nature, the advertising should be also,” I said. “Focus on creating message ‘pull’ through story-telling, versus pushing your product or service onto consumers.”

Examples of social media campaigns that “pulled” in users to participate include Yoplait’s banner ad invitation for women to share their healthy lifestyle goals, last year’s call for secrets to spark buzz about “The Number 23” film, Hilton Hotels/Homewood Suites’ call for vacation photos on DivineCaroline.com, and AT&T’s “My Video Battle” contest on hi5.com.

Measuring results
How can you determine if your campaign was successful or not? Measuring the results of a social media campaign must be aligned according to your initial goal (not just traffic or the number of “friends” added, for example). It is fair to compare the results to alternative branding methods.

A report and study commissioned by MySpace, Isobar and Carat questioned, “What if the measurement model of value isn’t just a message sent from a business to a consumer (B2C) where the impact ends with the consumer who receives it? What if the initial communication is B2C and then the message takes on a life of its own as consumers use it, forward it and share it C2C (consumer to consumer)?”

The report claims that social media marketing is distinguished from traditional marketing because the B2C marketing is only part of the impact; there’s also C2C impact. This value is created by two paths: consumers visiting the brand’s custom community and consumers who don’t visit the custom community, but hear about the brand through their social network.

It’s time someone created an effective metric that measures the strength of this viral marketing exposure through social communities, instead of making marketers rely on metrics based on ads served.

What else is next in social media?

Expect to see leading-edge and influential consumers watching TV within social networks, visiting more outbound links, and finding new ways to express their own personal “brand.”

Preparation and community immersion
Marketers know that they cannot simply place a banner ad on Facebook and expect tremendous sales results. Emily Steel, journalist at the Wall Street Journal, recently wrote, “Pity the poor banner ad. Cutting-edge just a few years ago, this pioneer of web advertising is now scorned as hopelessly out-of-date, a neglected stepchild in an era of web video, widgets, mash-ups and social networking.”

If standard media buying is not the most effective method for leveraging social media, how can you prepare and find a way to engage users?

“You must do your homework and understand the specific community’s message is just as important as communicating your brand’s message,” Marchese explained. “Find the overlap between your brand’s message and the social media you wish to advertise within.”

“Creators and loyalists of social media are driven by personal expression and interpersonal communication,” I added. “So you have to respect this at the very least and then determine a way to enhance their actions.”

Across markets, social networking users consistently expressed their desire for brands and organizations to treat them less like customers, and more like friends.

Before you spend a great deal on one campaign idea, first test messaging and the strategy within the community, then prepare multiple messages for distribution.

We then walked through several important tactics advertisers should use: experiment with letting go of the message, don’t try to create a new message (instead, borrow or match the message of the medium), and remember the buzz worthy theme of 2007: widgets, widgets, widgets. For instance, Nike’s “Team Elite” branding widget has been popular on MySpace.

“Since social media is participatory by nature, the advertising should be also,” I said. “Focus on creating message ‘pull’ through story-telling, versus pushing your product or service onto consumers.”

Examples of social media campaigns that “pulled” in users to participate include Yoplait’s banner ad invitation for women to share their healthy lifestyle goals, last year’s call for secrets to spark buzz about “The Number 23” film, Hilton Hotels/Homewood Suites’ call for vacation photos on DivineCaroline.com, and AT&T’s “My Video Battle” contest on hi5.com.

Measuring results
How can you determine if your campaign was successful or not? Measuring the results of a social media campaign must be aligned according to your initial goal (not just traffic or the number of “friends” added, for example). It is fair to compare the results to alternative branding methods.

A report and study commissioned by MySpace, Isobar and Carat questioned, “What if the measurement model of value isn’t just a message sent from a business to a consumer (B2C) where the impact ends with the consumer who receives it? What if the initial communication is B2C and then the message takes on a life of its own as consumers use it, forward it and share it C2C (consumer to consumer)?”

The report claims that social media marketing is distinguished from traditional marketing because the B2C marketing is only part of the impact; there’s also C2C impact. This value is created by two paths: consumers visiting the brand’s custom community and consumers who don’t visit the custom community, but hear about the brand through their social network.

It’s time someone created an effective metric that measures the strength of this viral marketing exposure through social communities, instead of making marketers rely on metrics based on ads served.

What else is next in social media?

Expect to see leading-edge and influential consumers watching TV within social networks, visiting more outbound links, and finding new ways to express their own personal “brand.”

by Rebecca Weeks

Marketers Shifting Budget to Online User Experience

July 16, 2007

Website user experience is becoming the major focal point for marketers in an increasingly competitive digital environment, according to research from E-consultancy and behavioral research consultancy Bunnyfoot, reports MarketingCharts.

The Usability and User Experience Report 2007 found that organizations, on average, are spending 13 percent of their website design budgets on usability; moreover, it found they are spending 9 percent of their ongoing website maintenance budget on usability.

Some 72 percent of UK organizations are planning to increase their usability budget over the next 12 months – a greater percentage* than for any other area of digital marketing, E-consultancy said.

The more than 700 internet marketers who took part in the research rated Amazon, the BBC and Google as the best websites for user experience.

According to the report, the biggest benefits of usability investment are…

Improved perceptions of brand
Increased conversion rates
Greater customer loyalty and retention
These were the top six benefits of usability, based on the number of company respondents who said they had been a “major benefit”:

Improved perceptions of brand (54 percent)
Increased conversion rates (53 percent)
Greater customer loyalty and retention (46 percent)
Increased customer advocacy (38 percent)
Increased traffic (36 percent)
Improved search rankings (33 percent)
The research also found that time pressure to get things done was the biggest barrier in the way of providing the best possible user experience: Some 56 percent of online marketers said this was one of the three biggest problems.

The next-biggest barriers cited by internet marketers were lack of internal resource (45 percent), lack of budget (37 percent) and company culture / politics (35 percent).

MarketingCharts provides more data and charts from the study.

* According to E-consultancy research, these are the percentages of U.K. organizations planning to raise their budgets in other areas of digital marketing: SEO (62 percent); paid search (60 percent); email (52 percent); affiliate marketing (40 percent); online display advertising (34 percent); mobile (20 percent) (Source: E-consultancy / Neutralize U.K. Search Engine Marketing Report 2007)