May 19: Weekly Content/Social Marketing Links

Each week, the members of Powered’s marketing, business development and product teams pick a news article, blog post or research report that “speaks” to them. With that article, they need to come to our weekly staff meeting prepared to give a 120 second update on what the article was about and why they found it useful. Links are below:

Beth Lopez (Marketing)
Kicking butt on next week’s webcast and our new website this week – she gets a hall pass…   

 

DP Rabalais (Marketing)
Two articles this week. One on how Retailers are Shifting Marketing Dollars. The other speaks for itself…
Bill Fanning (Business Development)
The article I’d like to share was published in Tech Crunch and is titled, Jump Into The Stream. The author, Erick Schonefeld, discusses the evolving distribution of online information, from a collection of web pages to a real-time stream, and the impact on web business and consumers of information. The interesting part of this article is the idea of the new metaphor being “streams” instead of “pages”. Web business are transforming from being owners of content to providing a place to present the most relevant stream of information, i.e. Twitter, Facebook, Friendfeed, Digg, Google Reader, and a bunch of others. Consequently, the way we consume information has been forever altered.After reading the article, I started thinking about how this applies to branded communities. I think it re-enforces the importance of being able to share your activity in a branded community with the “stream”. For example, the ability to publish a particular activity to your Facebook feed, or the ability to share an article through sites like digg or de.li.ci.ous. Participating in these types of distribution networks are, and will increasingly be important traffic drivers to the community. It also re-enforces the need to supply a steady stream of new and relevant content to keep the community engaged. The content could be professional, user generated or both, but it needs to constantly evolve.      

This article is loosely based on a blog post by John Borthwick, CEO of Betaworks (Twitter, bit.ly, Tweedeck, etc.) titled, Distribution …Now, which he references several times. Also, well worth the read!

Jay MacIntosh (Business Development)
My article this week presents a perspective on the challenges of seller vs. buyer interactions. It’s written by an experienced marketer who has been on both sides of the “fence” at different times in her career. I too have spent several years on both sides and completely understand where the author is coming from when she points out the all-too-common salesy approach taken with potential buyers. A salesy approach is when the sales person thinks, talks and acts as if it’s about them, their product, their company. This is the way the majority of salespeople (and companies) approach buyers even today. They want to tell their market all about themselves and why they’re the best…blah, blah, blah.

Anyhow, I switched over from the buy side to the sales side about 12 years ago. At that time, the promises of the Internet and all the new technologies and tools made it okay to sell/push products. Actually, it was more about just taking the customer’s orders and getting the contract/PO in place. That doesn’t, won’t and can’t work today or any time in the foreseeable future. It is all about the buyer and what the seller can do to grow their business. Start with this as the foundation of developing a business relationship. This foundation based on the seller delivering the goods, provides an ongoing compelling reason for the buyer to buy…it really is that simple!

 

Doug Wick (Business Development)
This week’s article is taken from Business Week’s Executive Guide to Social Media, How CEOs use Twitter. The individual stories are interesting, but the common story is that these CEOs need to be able to hear individual voices, and to choose whose voices are important to listen to at any given time. The power of social is just that, to introduce not only the voices of peers, but the voices of individuals inside companies and inside brands. Within brand communities, the consumer can listen to all of these voices and decide which ones are important given their needs and where they are in the customer life cycle.
 
Don Sedota (Product Management)
On vacation this week – he gets a hall pass…
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How is Mobile Changing Social Media?

iphone-toastLast week, I received this question from @dbaron in my weekly webinar and wasn’t able to get to it. But I also felt that it is a larger topic that warrants a blog post. It’s a question we get frequently at Powered, typically with a follow-up question about how our platform handles mobile.

The answer right now is, at the same time, a lot and a little.

In terms of participation in social media, much is now driven by mobile devices. The iPhone and similar new smartphones by Blackberry have become portals into popular services like Facebook and Twitter, cameras that post pictures instantly for friends to see, an outlet to let your friends know where you are and what you are doing. In terms of content creation for social networks, I actually do a lot more on my iPhone than I do on my laptop now. When I’m out and about I often have lot more going on that is post-worthy. I think the emphasis on the newsfeed and short bits of information in most networking services is a response to that behavior.

Networking is just becoming more interesting and powerful with GPS-enabled devices and location-based services like Brightkite (geotagged photos) or Moximity (geography-based networking).

However, the world of social marketing hasn’t been impacted much by mobile yet. This is for two reasons.

First, marketing through services like Facebook is still being figured out (and Facebook Connect offers many of the answers there), as ads don’t perform very well and pages don’t create long term engagement. If the model is still evolving for the broad web, the much younger mobile web has nothing to emulate.

Second, these networking services are communications tools, and mobile devices are still at their heart communications devices. While people may browse for the odd piece of information like a sports score or Madonna’s age (to settle a bet), it is rare to see prolonged sessions of browsing on mobile devices the way you see them on laptops. Mobile has narrow attention that allows little space for marketers to squeeze in without angering the user.

But small geography-powered services that address particular mobile use cases – like finding a restaurant, checking movie times, or delivering timely updates on events, will find niche audiences where offers could be served within the narrow attention of mobile in a relevant way. And once Facebook and other networks get a firmer grasp on how best to integrate marketing, those models can be extended into the mobile space.

Community Powered, Live from SXSW: Tara Hunt

 

Tara Hunt

Tara Hunt

Next up in the #CommunityPowered podcast series featuring Susan Bratton of DishyMix, is Tara Hunt, marketing lead at Intuit. Prior to joining joining Intuit, Tara has been involved in innovative projects and companies like Riya, Pinko Marketing, Citizen Agency, Barcamp and the Whuffle Factor.

During her conversation with Susan, Tara talks about how powerful online communities can be for companies, her love for FourSquare (formerly Dodgeball) and her thoughts of the difference between working at a large corporation (Intuit) vs. going the smaller, startup route.

 

 

In addition to reading her on her Horse Pig Cow blog, you can follow Tara on Twitter at @MissRogue.

Right-mouse click to download.

NEXT UP: Aaron Strout (that’s me) of Powered Inc.

Community Powered, Live from SXSW: Henry Jenkins

MIT Professor, Henry Jenkins

Next up in the #CommunityPowered podcast series featuring Susan Bratton of DishyMix, is the Director of MIT’s Collective Media Studies Research Lab, Henry Jenkins. It’s probably no surprise that Henry is a busy guy. In addition to teaching and running the CMSR Lab at MIT, he is also one of the most productive and influential film and media scholars in the world. His books and articles have been major contributions to existing fields of inquiry such as film history, political communications and children’s studies. Henry is also the co-editor of the Media in Transition series at the MIT Press and is a column contributor on media and technology for Technology Review Online and Computer Games Magazine. 

Listen in as Jenkins gives his advice on “courting” community vs. “creating” community. Jenkins says that this starts by studying and connecting to existing communities vs. necessarily always building from scratch (hint: he’s bullish on a Krispy Creme enthusiast). Henry also thinks that looking for folks with common interests by using existing tools like podcasts and Google make sense. Simultaneously, you should be thinking about what you have to offer consumers. Oh yeah, he’s also a big fan of blogging.

In addition to reading the Online Marketing Blog, you can follow Henry on Twitter at @HenryJenkins.

Right-mouse click to download.

NEXT UP: Dave Taylor, the brains and braun behind AskDaveTaylor.com and Filmbuzz.org.

Community Powered, Live from SXSW: Patricia Martin

Photo Credit: Jim Storer

Photo Credit: Jim Storer

We could not have picked a better person to kick off our #CommunityPowered podcast series, live from uber geek conference, SXSW. Patricia is not only an absolute joy to be around (she was kind enough to meet with us at 9:00 AM on Sunday morning), she’s also a very sharp cookie.

By way of background, Patricia Martin is CEO and founder of LitLamp Communications and specializes in tuning into “social tremors” before they become trends to help clients win hearts and change minds. You may also know Patricia for her top-selling book, Renaissance Generation: The Rise of the Cultural Consumer and What it Means to Your Business, In her spare time, she also writes for Ad Age and the Huffington Post [hint, she’s kind of a big deal]. 

Listen in as Susan Bratton of Dishy Mix and Patricia talk about what companies need to do to succeed in the world of online communities, Tony Hsieh of Zappos and his focus on “creating hapiness” and which areas of social media are turning her on. 

Right-mouse click to download.

NEXT UP: Guy Kawasaki of Alltop.com

We Are Not Immune…

Bad news today. Really bad news. We had to lay off a number of our employees. What makes the bad news worse is that not only are these people good friends but they are smart, hard working people. People that would go to battle for you. People that had your back.

An easy question to ask is who is to blame for all of this? Sadly, the answer isn’t who, it’s what. And you already know the answer to that question because you’re hearing the same doom and gloom that we are regarding the massive layoffs and wild swings in stock prices. It’s the economy’s fault and unfortunately it caught up with us as well.

Ironically, last year was the best year the company ever experienced and it was continuing to grow at rapid, double digit rates. When the bottom fell out, it obviously hurt some of our clients. It also hurt our potential clients. When they hurt, they spend less money with us and new prospects take longer to sign contracts. That made it hard to afford the people we hired to staff for new business.

If there is any silver lining to this, and trust me when I tell you that it’s difficult to be positive on a day like this, it’s the fact that we have an equally smart and hard working group of people who are sticking around to be able to meet existing client needs. To that end, I’m confident that things will get better and when they do, we will be stronger than ever. But we have some pain to endure before we get to that place. And until that time, we will quietly mourn the departure of those smart, hard working colleagues that we had to let go of today.

Would You Join a Toothpaste Community?

Courtesy: CARTOON TOOTHPASTE TOOTHBRUSH Thi© Madartists | Dreamstime.com

This post was co-authored by Bill Fanning and Aaron Strout.

A conversation I have somewhat regularly with our sales guys is the concept of whether or not a company can build an online community around a non-passion product or brand. The example that inevitably comes up is whether someone would join a community that focused on toothpaste? My guess is that 999 out of 1,000 people (dentists excepted) wouldn’t be that interested in signing up. After all, even though most of us use toothpaste two or three times a day, it’s not something we are passionate about. The same can be true around similar products such as banking,  food manufacturing or feminine products.

As my colleague, Bill Fanning, likes to remind me, building a community online is not a dramatic departure from how communities are built offline. For example, Bill belongs to a group in Texas called the Guadalupe River Trout Unlimited (GRTU). As you can imagine, the community serves those who love fly fishing for trout. To that end, the GRTU sponsors a variety of events for members to congregate, stay informed on a variety of topics, share ideas and lie a little about the GIANT fish they’ve landed while no one was around to witness.

This offline community is quite successful in that is has a lot members who are highly engaged and purchase products and services from GRTU and affiliated service providers. You’ll note that in the case of GRTU, this offline community isn’t built around fishing poles, flies or tackle boxes. It’s around the concept of fly fishing which is a passion for many folks who comprise its membership base.

Similarly, successful online communities often share some of the same traits as a offline community like GRTU:

  • First, instead of focusing on a product (e.g tackle boxes), an engaging online community might focus on a topic that people are passionate about (e.g. fly fishing).
  • Second, an online community should give value to the community by educating them on topics of interest (fly tying courses, fly casting lessons etc.)
  • Third, good online communities often provide a variety of ways for the community to connect — either through discussion forums, ratings and reviews, blogs or even in different channels like conference calls or webinars.

That brings us back to our original question of whether or not a successful online community can be built around a non-passion brand or product. In addition to toothpaste, the three examples I gave of products that weren’t known for their ability to inspire were financial services, breakfast cereal and feminine products. Amazingly, there are examples of successful communities that have been built around each of these products:

  • Banking – Bank of America wisely realized that small business owners had a lot of spending power AND shared similar needs for things like accountants, tax preparation, office supplies and credit. Their online community gives these small bus owners the chance to share ideas and best practices with BofA as the “party giver.”
  • Food manufacturing – Rather than trying to talk about breakfast cereal, bread or frozen lima beans, General Mills has instead chosen to broaden their focus toward a healthy diet with their Eat Better America community.
  • Feminine products – P&G has garnered significant coverage for its clever Being Girl site. Rather than talking about periods and other feminine hygiene topics, this online space for teens and pre-teens coversa areas of interest like dating, music and makeup with only a subtle “we’re here if you need us” plug by Tampax.
  • Does that mean you could build an online community around toothpaste? Likely not if it just focused on a particularly brand of toothpaste. It might work if it centered around oral health. Even then, it might only interest dentists and hygienists but at the end of they day, they are an important constituent of the toothpaste companies.

    Rather than ask you the traditional, “what do yout think?” question, I’m going to issue you a challenge instead. In the comments, feel free to offer up any product, service or brand and I’ll brainstorm with the Powered team to come up with a relevant online community. Are you game?

    NOTE: Thanks to Peter Kim for providing examples via his excellent (and now famous) list of companies engaging in social media.