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Posts from June 2008

June 30, 2008

It's Summertime and the Living is Easy ... At Least for a Month

Istock_000004100053xsmall_2 Well, gentle readers, July is upon us and the crew over here at One Degree are going on hiatus.  Not that we'll be languishing by the pool the whole time, mind you!  We're headed south of the border for BlogHer this year as well as prepping for some rockin' Olympic internet marketing and social media coverage (correspondents, time to get your game on!)

We know you'll miss us, so when you get lonely, check out one of our top 12 most popular articles so far this year:

  1. Facebook Keeps It Real - Commentary on Story2Oh
  2. BrandPower™: Everything That’s Wrong with Traditional Media
  3. 10 Facebook Tips for Professionals
  4. N2S on Blackballing 2.0
  5. Evian Enters Second Life with Free Skin Giveaway
  6. The Worst Social Media Ad Campaigns of 2007 (SXSW Coverage)
  7. Crowdsourcing 101: Episode 4 – Concluding Thoughts
  8. How Do You Manage Your Personal Brand?
  9. Ten Viral Marketing Best Practices
  10. Everyone is all a' Twitter - should your brand be?
  11. Six simple tricks to boost AdWords clicks
  12. Social Networking and The Key To Anne's Diary...Biometrics

Wishing you a Happy Canada Day and/or Independence Day (depending on which team you play for). 

See you in August!

June 29, 2008

.yournamehere: Changing the Face of the Internet

On  June 26, 2008 decisions were made in Paris that will profoundly change how the Internet looks in the future. For marketers, it opens up a whole new world of possibilities and challenges.

ICANN, the international body that regulates domain naming, announced their unanimous vote to open up restrictions on top level domains (TLDs). Starting in Q2 2009, it will be possible to apply to have just about anything as a TLD.

So what does that mean for you?

  • You are no longer restricted to the current 21 domain extensions like .com .net .org
  • Brand names can be used as extensions. Think of .coke .nike .ebay
  • You can more narrowly target geography. Imagine .london .nyc .hongkong
  • Be more specific with what you offer. Appearing soon .sport .news .sex
  • Extensions will not be restricted to 37 Roman characters. Watch out for  .العربية   .日本語 .Русский

Although cnet and others are reporting that the applications for new TLDs will cost $50,000 to $100,000, ICANN has said it will be “in the low six figure dollar amounts,” according to Dr Paul Twomey, President and CEO of the non-profit organization. The money raised will go to recouping the $20 million in costs for the proposals. “The costs of developing and implementing this policy will be borne by the applicants,” Twomey said.

With the cost of an application fee, it is unlikely that individuals will control new TLDs. What will prove interesting in the coming year is how the generic names will come to be acquired and who will control them. ICANN says there are already consortiums forming to seek control of city-based names. Who will own names like .sport?  Well, anyone who’s got the money and resources to seek it in an application. However, according to the BBC, ICANN has said that if their arbitration process fails the extension would go the “highest bidder” in an auction, which could create unprecedented bidding wars.

Heads up if you manage a major brand. Don’t think that you have any rights to your trademarked name as a TLD. ICANN has said that trademarks are not automatically protected. However,  there will be an “objection-based mechanism” to hear trademark owners’ complaints. This will open up a whole mess of trouble for some brands if other well-funded entities are able to acquire their name as a domain extension.

Some are saying this news is a non-starter, noting that recent additions to TLDs like .info .mobi and .biz have failed to catch on in mainstream usage, leaving .com to continue to dominate domain demands. VentureBeat reports that these changes may threaten the domain speculators the most if ICANN is sucessful in educating people and persuading them to use the new extensions. Speculators rely on the “type-in” traffic generated by people searching for generic terms ending in .com. This is how some domain names can be auctioned off for millions of dollars, as ReadWriteWeb reminds us how business.com fetched $350 million in that way.

With the addition of non-English characters, ICANN predicts an explosion in TLD applications from Asia, the Middle East, Eastern Europe and Russia. For global brands, this means yet another area of domain management that could represent millions of dollars in applications, arbitration, lawyer’s fees and potential auction bidding to secure names in strategic markets like China and India.

The question to marketers is, how much is too much to spend to protect your brand name on the Internet in other markets? At what point will the variety of naming possibilities become unmanageable for companies? It is easy to think in the short-term and be convinced that .com is the only term that carries clout. But, at this pivotal point in the evolution of the Internet, will global brands be willing to gamble their future on those three little letters?

The Rumours of Television's Demise Have Been Greatly Exagerated

At least for Canadians aged 14 to 34.

According to Youthography's most recent (June 2008) issue of "Forward" (their teaser for their meaty quarterly report "Ping"), 76.5% of Canadians aged 14 to 34 would use television if they were trying to advertise a message to people their own age (the percent pertains to those who rated television as either a "4" or a "5" on a 5-point scale of effectiveness).

From this issue of "Forward" ...

For comparison’s sake, television ranks, and has always ranked, at number one against radio, popular websites and portals, in-store activations and another dozen or so common media channels in this particular question battery since the inception of our company back when the earth was cooling in the year 2000.

For years we have continued to hear pundits and professionals alike sound the clarion call signaling the imminent death of television and nothing could, still, be further from the truth. In the face of immense new pressures from the likes of web-based media platforms and the rise of visceral activations, television has consistently performed well even with the ever-digital millenials and cantankerous gen x’ers.

The much more important, and real, narrative is not the funeral of our friend the television (though flat screen monitors integrated into on-demand, online entertainment portals are starting to render the quintessential image of the boob tube as meaningless) but, instead, the incessant rise of previously niche or “nice to have” media as standard and essential elements of any large scale marketing and communication effort; this is most stridently true for campaigns aimed at younger generations.

Virals, glowing co-sponsorships, blogs, podcasts, cross-promotional opportunities as well as any and all manner of activations (from down in the legion hall indie cred-givers to mainstream music plays in-store) are ALL now essential considerations for the savvy media planner and marketing director alike. But, if you want to make people aware of something new or drive them to a website, event or store and you don’t have television in the mix you are still throwing out the baby with the proverbial bath water. (emphasis mine)

So, what do you think about that?  How do you find out about "new" things from companies?  I'm a little (ahem) older than the sample ... but I would say that I find out about the newest, coolest stuff from friends or by reading blogs that specialise in the newest, coolest stuff.

You folks who are in the target age - or who have kids who are - what do you think the most effective channel is?

Using Video for Blended Search Optimization

When you consider that there are 10 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube every minute, you probably start wondering how to incorporate video into your marketing or public relations strategy. You don't have to come up with the next viral video success, however, to leverage this medium's potential. There are other ways to employ video, and one of the most tangible is for SEO purposes.

Online video can do wonders for your search profile. Of course, seeing as search engines can't exactly crawl videos the way they do text, video also poses a bit of an SEO challenge. If you're going to use video for your communications needs, then you're going to have to know (1) what it can do for you, and (2) what its limitations are so that you can the most out of it.

The Value of Video

The SEO potential of video has to do with what's called universal (or blended) search. If you've ever got a mix of blog, news, and/or image results when conducting a search, then you've seen what blended search is all about. Blended search results are what happens when there is so much relevant content from different verticals (news, blogs, images, etc.), that it takes the top results from each of those verticals and shows them to you in one page.

So not only can video raise your brand's search profile within the video search vertical, but it can do so in regular search. By proliferating your branded content across multiple verticals, you will increase the chances that the first page of search results on your brand name (and related keywords) will feature content that you control. There are few ways in which video accomplishes this.

Reputation Management

Think about this way: every spot you own on the first page of Google is a spot that you keep away from someone else. As far as your brand name is concerned then, having a blended search profile means exercising greater control over your online public image. By having branded channels on YouTube, Blip.tv, and other video sharing sites, you're that much more likely to grab one more spot on the first page of search results.

Organic Traffic

Often, if you have sufficient video content on your actual site, Google will place a thumbnail of a screenshot from that video to the left of your search listing. Not only do such images catch the user's eye, but studies show they experience a high click-through rate (CTR). The higher CTR is probably because user's eyes are drawn to the visual. Either way, by deploying branded video through a variety of channels you achieve the main objective of SEO: overshadowing competitors on the SERPs and gaining the user's click.

SEOing Your Video Content

Now the problem with video vis a vis SEO is that search engine index content based on keywords. Since videos don't contain an actual keywords, search engines have trouble indexing them unless you help them out.

Get Branded Video Channels

It's imperative that when you upload videos to your branded channels on video sharing sites, you make sure to put in all the relevant keyword information.

The first step in doing this is to set up branded video channels on major video sharing sites. The reason is that search engines consider URL structure when they index content -- i.e. if a keyword appears in the URL, that page is that much more likely to rank for that keyword. For example, having a slew of video content on www.youtube.com/yourbrandname is a solid way to tell search engines that this content is relevant to your brand name.

Tag and Describe Your Video

When uploading content to video sharing sites, they offer two different fields in which you can add keywords to your videos: tags and description. Major search engines consider both of these in determining how to index video content.

In the tag field, your main objective is to enter keywords through which you want users to find your content. Consequently, you should include (1) your brand name, (2) your industry, and (3) anything to do with the video's topic.

In the description field for your videos, you want to put in a description that both describes what the video is all about and uses your brand name and any other keywords you want the video to rank for. It's also important to not make the description too spammy or jingoistic.

First, search engines look for overly repeated keywords when determining whether a piece of content is spam or not. Generally, you want to aim for a 4-8% keyword density -- meaning that any given keyword you are trying to rank for should comprise at least 4% of the description's total word count, but not exceed 8% because then search engines are likely to penalize you. When trying to strike that 4-8% keyword density, moreover, you should also consider the tags you've included with the video.

Finally, you want to avoid jingoistic descriptions because users are less likely to click on your video. Fewer views means less of a chance of getting your video linked back to, and, as everyone knows, backlinks are integral to a good search ranking.

Share Your Own Content

Backlinks bring us to the next SEO point: linking your video content. It's old news that Google (and other search engines) consider the anchor text of link when they index the destination page of that link. So it's ideal when one of the videos on your branded video channel gets a link that contains anchor text.

Consequently, you might want to link back to your own videos. The best way to do this is through a company blog, where you can embed that actual video and include a link back to the YouTube or Blip.tv page where it is hosted.

If you embed your video on a blog or web page, moreover, you might want to add title and alt tags to the embed code. While title tag tells search engines what the embedded object is, alt tags are meant to provide a description of the object for the visually impaired, but also give search engines additional text to index.

The Sum of Video

With online video continuing to grow in popularity and promising to have a very bright future, it is a medium that marketing and public relations practitioners can't afford to ignore. Through its SEO potential, video offers a great opportunity to leverage blended search in shoring up your reputation management and traffic generating efforts.

In terms of SEO, however, online video is not without its limitations. It's imperative, then, that if you're going to incorporate video into your online marketing strategy (and you should) that you take the necessary steps to make sure that search engines index them appropriately. This can be easily achieved by using popular video sharing sites and the tools they offer to categorize your video content. Through branded video channels, so long as you describe, tag, and share your videos, it should only be a matter of time before that content is indexed by search engines, and shows up on blended search results pages.

Photo credit: YouTube and Joost by thms.nl

June 26, 2008

N2S on Too Much of a Good Thing

20080623microblogging

Move Over 4P’s of Marketing, There’s a New “P” in Town!

When Marketing Professor E. Jerome McCarthy first proposed the "4 P's" of Marketing in 1960, it is unlikely he would have predicted that his "Marketing Mix" categorization would become that industry’s standard and remain so for the next 50 years. But so it has gone. The framing of "Product", "Price", "Promotion" and "Place" has defined annual marketing plans ever since it was first introduced and still dominates the marketing industry today.

The problem is that this categorization is in desperate need of rejuvenation in the current context of an over-saturated marketing world, jaded consumers, and the emergence of the powerful, self aware, social networked customer. 

In response (and general frustration), I propose that the "4 P's" need to move over and make room for a fifth P, a "P" significantly more attuned to the current marketing landscape. The fifth P that I would suggest is "People". Let me put a quick case forward for discussion.   

In his 2004 address to the American Association of Advertising Agencies (which should really be standard reading for marketers), the President of Yankelovich Consulting, J Walker Smith, noted that,

"Marketers haven’t done a lot to create positive views of their industry but they’ve done many things – unwanted spam and telemarketing, guerrilla marketing, intrusive ads covering every blank space and less targeted, less informational communications – that create more negative views. It’s time for marketers to focus their business models on how to better deliver the kind of marketing that consumers really want, instead of assuming that consumers are happy with fending off a daily deluge of marketing. The era of consumer resistance and control has begun." 

According to the Yankelovich study, 60% of consumers have a much more negative opinion of marketing and advertising now than a few years ago; 61% feel the amount of marketing and advertising is out of control; and 65% feel constantly bombarded with too much marketing and advertising.

So the $64,000 question is - then what is the type of marketing that "consumers really want"?  This is where I bring us back to my argument for a new marketing strategy around the "P" of People.

Using my own industry of financial services as an example, this study by the Deloitte Center for Banking Solutions is just one of the many studies indicating a common theme in how customers of financial services are receiving marketing messages differently.   

Look here specifically at the cross generational comparisons of "Doing Your Own Research", "Recommendations from Friends" and "Recommendations from Colleagues", versus "General Advertising". It paints quite a clear picture of marketing impact and behaviour and is a clear indicator on what’s missing in the 4 P’s methodology (click the chart to see full size).

Garrity1

The short story for me personally in this data is the need to create a marketing strategy not based on the traditional 4P’s but based on a definition of marketing that includes a "People" strategy.

How can we engage our customers? How can we allow our customers to engage each other? How can our customer care strategy include our customers and not just service our customers? How do we get our customers to evolve our product or service offer over time? How do we make our customers part of our brand itself?

In response to these questions, I think that developing a marketing strategy around "People" could look something like this:

  • A company website that is helpful, human and customer information-oriented (i.e. the information customers are looking for not the information you want to tell them)
  • An active voice in the blogosphere where you can engage the customer community (i.e. two way communication which is transparent to the outside world)
  • Providing tools to allow your customers to tell everyone they know what they like about you (or don’t)
  • Creating an active and engaged community of customers at your site encouraged (and incented) to help other customers to solve their common service or industry related questions
  • A strategy that says you are "in" the customer community and not "above" the customer community 

Notice that none of these marketing tactics are oriented around price discounts, promotional contests, creative brand building with quirky animal characters or broadcast advertising. 

This isn’t to argue that these traditional 4P’s don’t still have a role to play in the new marketing mix of successful companies. What I’m arguing is that they are no longer a complete picture of the framework for modern marketing, and with all due respect to Mr. McCarthy, that they have reached their hegemonic end.

June 25, 2008

WOM Genius Winner Shares Insights From M2G

This year, as part of the CMA's From Mass to Grass Conference, the CMA gave us 5 tickets for our WOM Genius contest - a contest for bloggers to share their best WOM ideas for non-profits, small business and (our peculiar favourite) Chia Pets.  At the conference, we had the opportunity to catch up with one of our winners, Michelle Kostya, to get her take on the full day of WOM. The video interview with Michelle is below.

Many, many thanks to the CMA for sponsoring our WOM Genius contest!

Ensuring Your Email Complies with Relevant Laws

Your email campaigns are growing and you're having great success!

But did you realize that as your email marketing programs grow in complexity and reach, you need to follow the regulations mandated by the jurisdictions in which your clients and their mail servers are located? This is news to many marketers who are not used to following rules that fall outside of their immediate regional or national borders.

Here are some highlights of the most relevant email laws – and recent developments – for jurisdictions to which you are, or will be, marketing:

United States

The USA enacted the CAN-SPAM Act in 2003. To comply with the Act, you need to take the following steps:

  • Include a visible and operable 'unsubscribe' in all emails
  • Honour opt-out requests within 10 days
  • Include a relevant subject line
  • Include a physical postal address
  • Ensure accurate 'routing' information within the header of your messages

Recent updates – as of June 2008 – attempt to clarify issues such as:

  • The type of information required to process a subscriber's request to unsubscribe
  • Who should be required to provide and maintain an opt-out functionality for those messages that have more than one advertiser
  • What constitutes a 'person' within the Act
  • The details about a physical postal addresses required in an email

Bottom Line for Marketers: To ensure that your email marketing campaign complies with CAN-SPAM, follow the above rules and:

  • Process requests for unsubscribing based solely on an email address
  • Maintain an opt-out functionality if your information is in the 'from address'
  • Include a physical address in your email marketing messages – even if it is restricted to a post office box or private mailbox
  • Consult with your legal team if you are unsure whether your email complies with CAN-SPAM

Canada

In Canada, you need to adhere to the rules set out in CAN-SPAM (see above) because chances are the ISPs you are sending mail through are located in the United States. In other words, if your email marketing campaign means that you are sending to email addresses hosted by Hotmail, Yahoo!, MSN or Google – you need to comply with this legislation.

Another set of laws relevant for email marketers originated in Canada. Focused on addressing the issues of online privacy, PIPEDA – the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act – has been in force since 2001.

At the same time, you need to be aware that a new Bill (S-235) is being prepared for reading in the Senate that will further address the issue of spam. The proposed "Spam Act" will set out rules for the following items:

  • The form and content requirements for commercial electronic messages
  • Email address harvesting
  • Dictionary attacks (i.e. a spamming technique aimed at discovering legitimate emails by sending large volumes of messages to a known domain name)
  • Phishing (i.e. attempts to fraudulently acquire sensitive information by masquerading as a trustworthy entity)

Bottom Line for Marketers: Adhere to the rules set out in CAN-SPAM and PIPEDA. Also, download The Marketer’s PIPEDA Checklist to help ensure your email marketing campaigns complies with this Canadian law.

Beyond North America

Other countries have email-relevant laws specific to their borders.

Bottom Line for Marketers: Identify the international legislation that relates to your email campaign prior to commencing any email testing or deployment.

One useful site with details on several jurisdictions, including the two rapidly growing email target areas of Europe and China, is http://www.itu.int/osg/spu/spam/law.html.

June 24, 2008

Don't Let Perfect Get in the Way of Good - Notes from Government Web 2.0 Conference

Welcome to David Colpitts, a new One Degree correspondent from the Ottawa area.  For his first piece for One Degree, David had the somewhat daunting task of reporting on a recent event in Ottawa - Government Web 2.0 and Social Media. David shares the highlights of the conference as well as his frustrations and disappointments, both with the conference as well as the role of Web 2.0 in government.

Government Web 2.0 and Social Media was a 2-day seminar that was supposed to be about “Leveraging Web Tools to Enhance Communication and Connectivity”

I had high hopes of meeting the government's leaders in Web 2.0 applications.  Engaging in conversations on potential uses of the exciting new social media tools like Facebook, and Twitter… or even looking to the future and potential ways Canada can be the leaders on the new G3 network (see Phil's article).

Instead, I was initiated into the “world of government”.  Apparently a place where:

  • the left hand doesn’t talk to the right hand
  • there are rigid rules and procedures you MUST follow to get something done
  • unless you don’t
  • and most importantly where they think “cutting edge” is a wiki

The table I was sitting at had a fellow from the Department of National Defence (DND).  He was pretty annoyed when the 2nd guest speaker from the Treasury Board (TB) was boasting how they had an internal facing wiki and that it had been live for 6 months. Turns out that DND has had wikis live on the web for over a year.  To the best of my knowledge, the difference there is that DND said, “Wow, we need this” and then did it.  TB said, “mmm sounds interesting, lets start a study and maybe do a pilot”.

What can we learn from this? Apparently in government when you’re looking at uses of Web 2.0, it’s better to ask for forgiveness than for permission.

It actually got worse. When I suggested to the TB speaker that he release his procedure to other departments so they don’t have to reinvent the wheel, he replied that the best course of action was to wait the 4 months until those procedures were approved. (As a side note, if you are from the private sector, I do not recommend opening your mouth at a government seminar.)

However, it wasn't all bad.  There were also a few great speakers who had great content.

Notably:

Daniel Shap. Lawyer.  His talk, provocatively titled "Protecting Your Network from Social Media", had a couple good points - the first is on that every web administrator should be aware of: the definition of “network”.  Networks aren’t just the PC, they are EVERY piece of connected hardware, including smart phones, laptops, iPods, and even USB keys.  Each and every piece of hardware exposes your network to risk.  A great point which I myself often overlook.

He also touched briefly on “ownership of data” - actually a lot of people discussed it, but he was the most coherent.  The general gist was that ownership of data is a pretty grey area, so if you are going to write a blog for (or with) your company, then you better get it in writing who owns what.

Daniel discusses some of these points in a video interview below:

Duane Nickull from Adobe.  This guy is clearly a professional public speaker.  He was the 2nd to last speaker of day two.  His topic was “how to make a blog”.  I was dreading his presentation, because several other presenters had talked about the same thing.  However, Duane was clear, concise, funny, relevant, and spoke to the audience.  Even though he was saying the same things as several other speakers, it was clear that the remaining attendees were “hearing” this information for the first time. I personally think that discussing new apps for adobe air would have been way cooler, but that’s just me.

Gerald Abshez, a representative from Wikiversity.  To the best of my knowledge (other than our host) he was the only speaker to sit through the full two days of the seminar.  Turns out that was a great move, because he was the fourth person whose topic was “how to set up a wiki”. He started his seminar with a “I made a major change to my topic because you guys have already heard everything I had to say”. There was genuine and heartfelt applause. Kudos to Gerald for staying to the very end and the Q&A session.

And the last highlight wasn't a speaker at all. 

It was clear to me from the beginning of the conference that several different departments in the Federal Govt are trying to set up a wiki, but none of them are talking to each other (Hey, know what would be good for that?  A wiki.   Sadly this is not possible in the Federal govt because of “politics”).

Enter Veena!  She was a representative from the Ontario provincial govt. who is going through the same trials and tribulation – several different departments are trying to set up wikis but all have to conform to the rules and regulations set from the top down.  They set up a wiki to deal with it, and Veena, invited the federal employees to participate.  This also got applause.  Sadly I got the distinct impression from the crowd (mostly over 45 years of age) that Veena would likely be reprimanded for that.

Yes, that is the very definition of irony.  We are at a conference to discuss free exchange of information, and not only is a wiki open to all departments “impossible” in the federal govt, but when somebody from a provincial government invites federal employees to participate it is met with shudders from the 45+ crowd. Veena, if you read this, GOOD JOB, and thank you.

I guess after hearing that, I can say it’s probably a good idea that this seminar wasn’t about new social media tools because government has a lot to overcome before they can embrace the most basic tools like a wiki and blogs.

Editor's Note: I know we have a few government employees (municipal, provincial and federal) who read One Degree.  Do any of you have any insights to offer?  Are tools being adopted differently and more appropriately in your group?  Or do David's impressions reflect reality?   We'd love to hear from you!

Tricia Mumby on "Word of Mom" Marketing

At the recent CMA From Mass to Grass conference, Tricia Mumby from Mabel's Labels gave a great case study on the power of "Word of Mom" marketing.  Here, she spends a minute busting the myth that you can't find women online and offers a suggestion on one way to reach these powerful moms offline.

Why "dumbing down" is smart

June 23, 2008

Douglas Rushkoff on Word of Mouth Marketing

Douglas Rushkoff spoke as the closing keynote for the CMA's Word of Mouth Conference.  His message: brand mythologies are an artifact from the era of broadcast media.  Time to move on.

A few other gems from his presentation:

  • There are fundamental shifts in the bias of social media.  A shift has occurred in the way people relate to each other and to brands.  Start thinking about ecological, gardening models.
  • On relationships: I have mythical relationships with brands (e.g. the Quaker Oats Shaker); I have social relationships with people (e.g. Heather who runs the local oat mill).
  • (To marketers, if you want me to talk about your product) Give me the social currency I need to talk about your stuff.
  • A real metric for how your company is doing is how many unsolicited resumes you receive!  Do people want to work for you?!
  • Providing employees and customers with social currency results in transparency.
  • How can you be transparent if you have no core competency?
  • Find the most passionate people inside your organization - where do they hang out?  That will be where your passionate users will be too.

Rushkoff's latest book, Get Back in the Box, was handed out at From Mass to Grass.  I'm about halfway through and loving it.  He expands on the ideas above, particularly around social currency and how understanding that is a key concept for marketers to GET in order to be successful.  Love. It.

We're delighted that Rushkoff was also able to give Alexa Clark a "One Minute for One Degree" video snippet.  Enjoy!


Sean Moffitt on Key Takeaways from CMA's Word of Mouth Conference

A couple of us attended the CMA's Word of Mouth Conference, From Mass to Grass, last week.  We'll be posting a few video interviews (caught by Alexa Clark) and event notes over the next few days.

First up, to give you the quick and dirty wrap, is Sean Moffitt, co-chair of the conference.  Sean summarizes his big takeaways, including empowering employees, the ability to measure WOM, and understanding how WOM is part of the marketing mix.

June 18, 2008

SES Toronto Coverage - Day 2 (live blogging)

By Alexa Clark

One Degree is delighted to have Alexa Clark “live blogging” portions of the this year.  Live blogging during a conference is a first for us – let us know your thoughts and whether this is something you’d like to see us continue to do.  Note to email and RSS readers, we’re not sure how this will appear for you; you may have to click through to read the full report.

Note: if you check in during the live blogging, leave Alexa a comment in CoverItLive and let her know what you think of the show.

Does Your Website Need a Video Host? Exploring vdoLife.

Vdolife I got a nice email recently from a company in Ottawa called vdoLife inviting me to check out their product.  They specialise in creating video hosts for website.  I'm pretty ambivalent about this technology; I love video as a communication tool, but I'm concerned that this type of ad/promotion might end up being the late night infomercial or the "Intergalactic Proton Powered Electrical Tentacled Advertising Droids" ad of the Internet.

vdoLife has a couple of interesting examples on their site.  They have also posted a news clip about their product. I can definitely see the application on training or support sites, but are there applications for video hosts?  How would such a host work on an ecommerce site?  Should every company's customer support section include a video host as an option?

I'm quite interested in your thoughts on this.  What applications do you think this is appropriate for?  Would you use it on your site?

If you're reading this in the feed or via email, I've installed the sample vdoSpokesperson on One Degree.  She doesn't automatically activate, so you'll have to click on her to watch her in action.  I'll leave her up for a few days to give you a chance to check it out and share your thoughts.

Indigo Community Redux

On Thursday morning Indigo invited me back in to see the state of affairs on their Online Community.  (The last time was documented in ) This was billed as a "Blogger's Preview" and I have to say I like how they are handling the blogger relations.

The invitation for this event went out not only to the list of attendees of the last event (who were a select group of book, author or marketing bloggers) but was publicly posted as an invitation to the Community itself. 

Using the community to build the community, to talk about the community and to engage in a meta-conversation about the community.  Hmmm, someone over there must be reading .

A couple of interesting notes about the impact of the Community site:

  • Membership has grown steadily about 20K per month since its launch.
  • Natural search traffic has tripled, and by extension Indigo's online marketing costs are down. 
  • Members have listed 500K unique books on their bookshelves. Yes, 500K titles! I'm guessing that this is a big part of why the search traffic has increased. 
  • New feature releases are rolling out every 4-6 weeks. They've moved to a Agile model to facilitate feature rollout, and it's been working. They've had 6 releases so far. 
  • Most embraced feature is the Bookshelf. Members can list the books that they are interested in (have read, plan to read, am reading).  At launch this feature was also the most personal and understandable, so perhaps there is some natural selection going on too.

Some new features addressing my earlier "What do you mean I can't xxx" issues:

  • Search - You can now search people to find your friends and groups to find people to obsess about BSG with. 
  • Edit & Delete - you can now fix those witty & charming comments you make that seem more goofy & stupid when you reread them. 
  • Custom Bookshelves - I mean, who really shelves their cookbooks with their WoM marketing books? Now you can organise your Indigo Bookshelves by colour if you wish. 
  • Message Centre - you can now actually send messages to people and add notes to their pages. 
  • Clickable links & emails in posts - so now you can actually use those links people are putting in.

Still missing: (most of these were identified in detail last time)

  • Syndication - we were told the ability to import RSS feeds into your profile will likely be coming in August. 
  • Affiliation - while there was talk about recognizing and rewarding participation, they are still working on how.
  • Integration - the first attempt at a Facebook app was scraped, so it's back to the drawing board, this time with a stronger eye to the Bookshelves.  There was even talk of a widget..

Things still to come:

  • Further integration of the user generated content into the eCom portion of the site 
  • Even more Author/Artist support within the Community. 
  • More customizable Groups including multiple layers and forms of Group admin & ownership 
  • Marketplace for people to sell used books (and more)

After the last preview my question was whether Indigo would be able to attract enough participants to yet another social networking space.  I think with the 20K new members per month the answer is "Yes".  Now my question is how feature rich they are going to make this Community and when will enough be enough?  Or will it ever be?

Are you a part of the Indigo Community? 

What are your thoughts on how it's implemented? How social it is? What works and what doesn't?

Customers throwing themselves at you? Might be nice to get their names.

Well, that took long enough.

But at last, the Rogers Wireless home page is updated to at least hint at the biggest news they've had all year:

Rogers_wireless_home

But it's still not linked to anything - which is kind of crazy.

To get a sense of the magnitude of Monday's iPhone announcement for Rogers, have a look at what it's done to traffic on their site:

Alexa_graph_showing_rogers_traffic_

That, friends, is a big bump - the kind you really ought to be prepared for if you know about it in advance. But even when it hits you by surprise, you should be ready to surf the wave.

Have some big news? Something people are salivating over, something they'll want to know more about the moment there's something to tell them? Even if you have no details at the moment, ask for their names and email addresses so you can talk to them later.

A list of thousands of qualified prospects must be worth the effort of putting together a form.

Or is there something I'm missing about Rogers' business model?

June 17, 2008

N2S on Fonts of Wisdom

20080611fonts

SES Toronto Coverage - Day 1

By Alexa Clark

One Degree is delighted to have Alexa Clark “live blogging” portions of the this year.  Live blogging during a conference is a first for us – let us know your thoughts and whether this is something you’d like to see us continue to do.  Note to email and RSS readers, we’re not sure how this will appear for you; you may have to click through to read the full report.


Note: if you want to comment during the live blogging, commenting in CoverItLive will send them direct to Alexa during the session

Basic SEO linking (that you're probably not doing)

June 15, 2008

Status is "Online" for Mobile Instant Messaging

A recent report by the Gartner group indicated that mobile instant messaging (MIM) is poised for massive global growth and could eventually replace SMS as the primary peer to peer tool of choice on mobile.

Should marketers care?

SMS has been the killer application for mobile marketing in Canada to date – but peer to peer messaging has been off-limits in terms of mobile advertising.

Now that the iPhone 2.0 (or 3G iPhone) is confirmed and coming to Canada on July 11th, Canadians are far more likely to engage in MIM as one of the 8 applications the average iPhone owner currently uses.

The opportunity for marketers will be access to the advertising inventory that will be made available when these applications become widely distributed and used on the iPhone and other smartphone devices – like the new Blackberry Bold and Thunder. Really smart marketers should consider taking a white-label version of an MIM aggregator and brand it for their industry or brand and extend the customer experience to this channel. 

The future of MIM?

Location-aware or location-based services attached to messaging is how MIM will differentiate and enhance the current desktop IM experience. Increasingly we’ll see mobile social media incorporate MIM as part of the experience too.

The new iPhone, for example, comes with a “social compass” application called loopt – which is essentially a mobile social networking tool with messaging and location built in.  It’s also available for Blackberry users as a separate download.  Alcatel offers a similar downloadable application called geopepper.

Want to try a mobile IM client? Check out the following video blog I posted on YouTube earlier this year on ebuddy – a MIM client that is mobile web based and works like a charm.

June 11, 2008

June 18 - Web Analytics Wednesday - Toronto

June 10, 2008

Do meta tags matter?

June 09, 2008

CMNA Awards Announce 2008 Finalists

Cnma_logo The Canadian New Media Awards have announced this year's finalists honouring the best in new media Canada has to offer.

New this year, the CNMA included two social media categories:

  • Excellence in Social Media Websites
  • Excellence in Social Media Applications

To see the finalists in these and all other categories, visit the CNMA finalists page. The Canadian New Media Awards winners will be announced and honoured in October 2008 at a gala ceremony in Toronto. Good luck to all the finalists!

June 05, 2008

The New Front Page - MESH 08 Session Notes

Reading_paper_3 Since I work for a media company,I was particularly interested in this discussion on how the web is the new front page.

The panelists for this session were Daniel Burka of Digg, Pema Hegan of GigPark, and Candice Faktor of OurFaves. While there are lots of places we get information, all three panelists represent sites with recommendation engines at their core, so that’s where the conversation focused. Lots of good discussion but instead of trying to recap it all I thought I’d share the main themes that stuck with me a week later.

Old vs. New
Old: Decide what’s important by what’s on the front page of the newspaper
New: “If the news is that important it will find me. Someone will filter it and it will find me.” A quote shared by Matthew Ingram, moderator of the panel.

Instead of a few editors deciding what is important, everything is potentially news and we use tools to filter through what we want. And instead of a handful of sources, we can access an immense amount of information.

(Interestingly, I read a post today that put the sheer volume of content in perspective, “10 hours of content is uploaded to Youtube every minute”.)

Trust
Newspapers deliver trust based on editorial guidelines. How is trust built in now?  Burka acknowledged Digg has had challenges in the past with people gaming the system. They use algorithms and human intervention to keep the system honest. And since users can bury a story themselves, the system is largely self-regulating. Faktor talked about the importance of “giving users the tools to report abuse or take action when something isn’t right”.

Old and New – Working Together
All three panelists agreed that traditional media isn’t disappearing. Burka described it as a symbiotic relationship as sites need material for their users to digg, recommend (GigPark), and create a fave (OurFaves).

When asked if the future includes a lack of well-sourced, well-researched material, Burka jumped in to say that if people want well-sourced, well-researched, and well-written material it will get digged and therefore generate demand. While acknowledging the front page is no longer all that relevant, the panelists agreed media companies themselves are not being replaced. In fact, all the back pages they produce are the ones that get digged.

Media companies would do well to not delay publishing content. Burka explained that often a media company will put an article online a month after it has been published. Someone else has already put the content on a blog and Digg is linking to that blog post instead of the media company who first published the piece.

It’s not about the Homepage
With all the tools and recommendation engines available there is too much weight being put on the front page. Media companies should make sure all their pages are good and leverage the long tail of their content.

Measure Action, Not Traffic
I attended a Stanford Publishing conference back in November and we had a discussion about the importance of writing headlines that capture attention, as that is often the only piece of content a user sees when they’re deciding whether to click and read the whole story. (We were talking specifically about widgets that pull headlines).

This panel extended that discussion and agreed that measuring the action a reader takes with a story is a better measure of value. Clever copywriting can generate a lot of clicks on an article. But looking at how many people emailed or recommended that same story is a better indicator of value. Interestingly, the New York Times now shows ‘most blogged’ as well as ‘most emailed’ on their website.

What do you think about the New Front Page? How do you decide what to read online these days? How do you filter information?

Photo credit: reading the paper day 24 by jemstone

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