Archive for the ‘Web 2.0’ category

Facebook may be encouraging customer loyalty

March 5, 2010

The Harvard Business Review has published an introduction to a new study looking at how social media might grow customer loyalty.  I think that it adds a slightly more scientific voice to the debate as to what ROI web 2.0 can offer. To read the article in its original context, click here, otherwise scroll down to find out just how Facebook might be able to encourage customer loyalty.

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Social media are all the rage in marketing, but should they be? Sure, Facebook is growing fast—it had more than 350 million accounts late last year, 50 million of which were added in the fall alone. But how much do businesses really influence consumers when they launch pages on the site to attract “fans” and to pepper them with messages and offers?

To begin to answer that question, we did the obvious: We set up one company’s Facebook page and measured the effect on customer behavior. Our partner in this experiment was Dessert Gallery (DG), a popular Houston-based bakery and café chain.

We began by e-mailing a survey to 13,270 customers from DG’s mailing list to gather store evaluations and data on shopping behavior; 689 people responded. Then, we launched the Facebook page and invited everyone on the mailing list to become a fan. DG updated its page several times a week with pictures of goodies, news about contests and promotions, links to favorable reviews, and introductions to DG employees. Three months later, we resurveyed customers, this time receiving 1,067 responses from DG’s Facebook fans, Facebook users who did not become fans, and customers not on Facebook. We analyzed the data sets separately and then compared participants in the first survey with those in the second who had become DG fans.

As it turned out, Facebook changed customer behaviour for the better. People who had replied to both surveys and had become fans ended up being DG’s best customers: Though they spent about the same amount of money per visit, they increased their store visits per month after becoming Facebook fans and generated more positive word of mouth than nonfans. They went to DG 20% more often than nonfans and gave the store the highest share of their overall dining-out dollars. They were the most likely to recommend DG to friends and had the highest average Net Promoter Score—75, compared with 53 for Facebook users who were not fans and 66 for customers not on Facebook. DG fans also reported significantly greater emotional attachment to DG—3.4 on a four-point scale, compared with 3.0 for other customers. Additionally, fans were the most likely to say they chose DG over other establishments whenever possible.

It’s important to remember that our results suggest intriguing possible correlations rather than definitive causalities. (We plan to explore in the months ahead whether they are representative and whether other forms of promotion, such as in-store events and offers, create a similar effect. Look for future findings on HBR.org.) And even this early research yields mixed news for marketers: For instance, unless the brand is iconic, chances are the company’s Facebook page will not have astronomical sign-up numbers. Only 283 (or 2.1%) of the customers on DG’s mailing list became fans within three months. This narrow appeal is not unique to DG’s customers. In an analysis of 50 Zagat-rated Houston restaurants, Facebook pages averaged just 340 fans despite the fact that most of the businesses had tens of thousands of customers.

Cautious optimism seems wise at this point. Companies should see what Facebook can do for them but use it as just one niche tool.

About the Authors:

Utpal M. Dholakia is an associate professor of marketing at Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Business.

Emily Durham is the founder and president of Restaurant Connections, a Houston-based restaurant consultancy.

Does Social Media Really Sell Products?

February 18, 2010

Despite the ubiquity of Twitter, Facebook and the like, there’s still hesitation in many businesses’ minds as to whether an investment in social media really offers a worthwhile return. Brian Morissey’s article on Adweek suggests that social media can play a huge part in indirect marketing by building a firm’s reputation, instead of necessarily generating direct sales. Click here to read the article on the Adweek site, or scroll down.

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For all the excitement about social media, there’s a specter hanging over its use by companies. Is all this tweeting, blogging and Facebooking paying off? For some proponents, the question is irrelevant. They agree with the view encapsulated in the social media bible The Cluetrain Manifesto — markets are conversations. Companies have to participate in the conversations where they’re happening, ROI be damned. Their dismissal of metrics is summed up in an oft-repeated question, “What’s the ROI of putting on your pants on in the morning?”

Those kind of pithy ripostes are music to the ears of the social-media faithful at conferences and on blogs, but they’re unlikely to impress budget-strapped CMOs who, while eager to find new ways to reach consumers, are under more pressure to prove their efforts are pushing the business forward. Measurement remains the single greatest challenge to social-media adoption by companies.

While digital channels and online interactions offer a plethora of data points, they don’t come with a set playbook for assigning value. Marketers have grown comfortable with formulas like gross ratings points and frequency, time-tested formulas for building brands in traditional media. Yet with social media, what’s a Facebook friend worth?

“The value of social media is it’s the richest data set that’s ever existed,” says Dan Neely, CEO of Networked Insights, a Wisconsin-based analytics company that uses social media to help clients make marketing decisions. “You can use this data for many things.”

The two sides of the social-media measurement debate are at the forefront as many marketers plan to ramp up their social-media budgets in 2010. According to an ExactTarget survey of 1,000 marketers, 70 percent said they plan to increase spending in social media, but less than 20 percent said they could effectively measure ROI. The seeming schizophrenia is because marketers using social media tend to blend “art and science” in their measurements, according to Morgan Stewart, ExactTarget’s director of strategy and research.

“ROI isn’t the thing that’s pushing people to social media,” says Stewart. “Companies using reputation as a measure of success are more likely to be shifting budget there. That tells you something about the mind-set.”

Here’s what three marketers well versed in social media are doing to measure their participation and justify new investments.

Pepsi: The Speed of Digital Culture

At a time when many brands are stuck in experimentation mode in social media, Pepsi is placing a staggeringly large bet on it. Pepsi was absent from the Super Bowl for the first time in 23 years, redirecting money to an ambitious social marketing-centered program called Refresh Everything that will direct $20 million to charities. According to Pepsi execs, the program is appealing because it rested on four big trends: crowdsourcing, doing good, sharing and transparency.

Refresh Everything is the culmination of years of social-media work done by Pepsi, the perpetual No. 2 behind Coca-Cola in the soft drink market. Pepsi’s still a big spender in traditional media — it spent $89 million in U.S. advertising on the brand in 2009 — but Coke outguns it by a 33 percent margin. Social media, offering a more level playing field, is where Pepsi is making its stand with one of the largest commitments to the space yet seen.

Yet Pepsi execs are at pains to point out that Refresh Everything is not a social-media campaign per se. Rather, it uses social media as glue to hold together a wider push that includes traditional elements like TV spots, says Bonin Bough, PepsiCo’s director of social media. It even includes a dash of Pepsi’s usual celebrity tie-ins with the inclusion of Hollywood stars Demi Moore and Kevin Bacon, and New Orleans Saints quarterback and Super Bowl hero Drew Brees.

When it comes to measurement, Bough’s team has developed a scorecard with different elements that tie back to brand health and relevance. It will gauge, via standard research methods, whether people’s perception of Pepsi changed.

Pepsi is using social monitoring tools to track share of voice and mentions in social media and traditional media, as well as harder engagement metrics like visits to the Refresh site, time spent, submissions and votes. It will try to gauge whether the program makes an impact in communities. The overall aim is to follow in the footsteps of decades of Pepsi marketing. “Our goal is to skate to the center of culture,” says Bough. “Right now, digital is culture.”

Pepsi has the advantage of experience to draw upon. It has launched several social-focused efforts for brands. Tropicana created the Trop50 community site with Blogher last year to reach women bloggers. Mountain Dew launched Dewmocracy, which designated to consumers its marketing plans. “We’ve already gone through the experimental phase,” notes Bough.

While Refresh Everything is a risk, Pepsi has drawn the notice of Coke. Soon after Pepsi announced Refresh Everything, Coke began a Facebook campaign and now donates $1 to the Boys and Girls Clubs of America for each visitor and every time a virtual gift is sent.

Dell: From Silent to IdeaStorm

In five years, Dell went from being the poster boy of ignoring the emerging social Web to becoming a model for how to orient a company around social media. Its journey began in 2005, when Facebook was barely beyond a dorm room project. Problems with Dell customer service percolated on blogs under the moniker “Dell Hell.” The company, founded by Michael Dell with a focus on customers, reoriented itself to be more responsive.

It’s gone on to become a social media star, ranked by Vitrue as one of the 10 social-media brands of 2009. It has built a strong social-media team that focuses on entwining those technologies within all aspects of its business, from customer service to marketing to research. Its activities include racking up $6.5 million in sales through Twitter, connecting with 3.5 million consumers on social sites and its own, and soliciting consumer input through sites like Dell IdeaStorm and Dell Tech Center.

“When we first jumped headfirst into this, we started with engaging and listening to consumers,” says Manish Mehta, vp of social media and community at Dell. “Hopefully that moved the needle. The business will at some point question how this is helping the P&L. That’s why taking a step back and finding the value drivers is so important.”

The company’s push into social channels left it with a conundrum: How could it evaluate efforts that were taking place all over the company to see if they were worth the investment? This fall, Dell’s social-media team mapped out a defined framework to guide those decisions. It identified a set of value drivers for the customer and for the business, looking for programs that overlapped the two sets. For consumers, Dell identified drivers like connections, recognition and advice. For its business, its drivers are things such as revenue, brand health, share of voice and customer sentiment.

“They are light years beyond what others are doing,” says Aaron Strout, CMO at social-media firm Powered in Austin, Texas. “They spend a lot of time thinking through how to translate that into real dollars. Quite frankly a lot of companies haven’t done a good job at that.”

Take the Dell Tech Center, one of the company’s less sexy social initiatives. The Tech Center is an online community for IT managers to go and connect directly with Dell engineers. Dell tracks it success based on fundamental metrics, like members, questions posed and answered, and traffic to the site. It also charts how many large-enterprise customers have interacted with the site through a post-purchase survey. Yet one of the key metrics is harder to define: evidence that it’s helping deals close quicker and stripping out costs.

“We’ve found our salespeople are referring prospects in there,” says Richard Binhammer, a senior manager on Dell’s social-media team. “It’s shortening the sales cycles.”

Binhammer and Mehta agree the key to pushing forward with social media at the company is a commitment at senior levels. As a tech company that sells most of its products online, this is easier at Dell, although there’s still work to do, Mehta admits.

“We want to make this be completely embedded into the fabric of the company,” he says.

H&R Block: Taxing Problems

When H&R Block launched an ambitious social-media outreach campaign in 2008, it followed some textbook advice: fish where the fish are. So it went on Twitter looking for frustrated taxpayers, offering them help. Instead, the company found reticence among potential customers who didn’t want to air their problems on Twitter.

This year, H&R Block changed course, abandoning one-on-one Twitter contact in favor of building a Q&A community site, Get It Right, which replaced a more standard blog the company did last year. The Get It Right site required H&R Block’s social-media team to recruit and train 1,000 tax pros to answer questions. It looked to local managers to nominate tax preparers to participate. Early results are promising: Get It Right has signed up 65,000 members and answered 50,000 questions, with the big tax push still to come.

“We’re outpacing where we thought we’d be,” says Zena Weist, director of social media at the company.

The challenge will be tracking these queries back to sales. H&R Block, after all, makes most of its money by getting people into its offices. Weist only recently joined the company. With few internal resources, the company has needed to pare back its social programs, emphasizing Twitter and Facebook less, for instance. The decision was hard but necessary, Weist says, since H&R Block can’t promise to answer tax questions posed on Facebook. Instead, it is using Twitter and Facebook mostly as broadcast vehicles, hoping customers who have come to Get It Right then tell their networks they were helped.

H&R Block is trying to steal a march on competitor TurboTax, from Intuit, which has a team of experts dubbed Team TurboTax answering questions on Twitter. “A community wants a one-to-one relationship where they can continue to come back,” Weist says. “That’s not what Twitter is. You don’t have continuous dialogue.”

To figure out if the strategy’s working, Weist is tracking visits, time spent, registrations and questions asked. The company will conduct Dynamic Logic surveys to gauge brand favorability changes in visitors. It’s also trolling social sites for the number of brand conversations in social media and their sentiment. There’s also value in knowing many of the people contacting the company online wouldn’t call in, thereby saving H&R Block money. The metrics can, at times, be “squishy,” Weist says, but the opportunity in social is worth the tradeoff.

“If your word of mouth isn’t positive, forget about brand awareness and consideration,” she says. “If word of mouth is bad, there is no consideration.”

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What do you think? Is building this sort of reputation worth the effort? Will it pay out in the long-run or are internet users just enjoying more and more freebies? Talk to us here!

Three best ways to use social media

January 25, 2010

What were your business resolutions for 2010? If they didn’t include something to do with social media, you may well be missing out on a lot of great opportunities, as even more of the population are joining the conversation. If you’re still not sure how to start, here’s a great, simple article to get you going. It’s by Willa Plank, writing for the Wall Street Journal. Check it out in context here, or read on!

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How else can we say it: Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard of Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn as tools to promote your services and products online. According to a recent survey of 148 private companies by the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Center for Marketing Research, 43% say social media is “very important” to their business and marketing strategy, 52% are tweeting and 45% are blogging.

But don’t feel pressured to jump in quickly and create a profile on every site. First, decide if it’s right for your company. “Are you a social organization?” says Simon Salt, CEO of integrated marketing communications agency IncSlingers. “Everyone seems to know to have a Facebook page or a Twitter [account]. Is that what your business is about?”

For instance, a Facebook fan page probably doesn’t make sense for a business-to-business outfit, says Neal Schaffer, author of “Windmill Networking: Understanding, Leveraging & Maximizing LinkedIn.” And companies that target older or retired customers might benefit more from direct-mail campaigns, or even knocks on doors. “Don’t believe the hype,” Schaffer says. “Understand what fits your business.”

If you’ve decided to incorporate social media, remember that YouTube videos, blog posts and status updates are just a part of your entire marketing arsenal. Here are three best ways to use social media.

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1.Stand out by trying less-crowded or up-and-coming social-media sites. Everyone knows about Facebook fan pages. But if you’re a neighborhood business that relies on local clientele, you might want to consider Foursquare or Gowalla, which combine elements of other social-networking sites (Twitter, Facebook or Yelp) to help spread word of establishments and provide rewards to encourage customer loyalty. John Jantsch, author of “Duct Tape Marketing,” suggests trying underutilized networks that cater to business owners, such as Biznik and BizSugar. If you’re strapped for time, at least maintain a blog that provides good content and answers consumer questions, he says. Or create quick, educational YouTube videos that – along with a blog – are more likely to come up higher in keyword searches. Samir Balwani, contributor to social-media news blog Mashable, suggests creating your own social network at Elgg.org.

2.Don’t expect instant sales, but make sure to get actual results. Social media is more about brand outreach. Make sure you have a reasonable goal and a well-thought out strategy to achieve that end. First, listen to what is being said about your business and competitors on Google alerts, RSS queries, Twitter, Yelp and BackType. Make sure you have your profile account names on all print communications you distribute, such as flyers and menus. Identify your biggest fans, and figure out how to organize them or point them out in some way. For example: On Twitter, if you know a person is a loyal customer, mention them in a post or announce a free service or product they’ve won for loyalty. Or reach out to other bloggers in your industry. Sarah Endline, founder of dark chocolate treat maker Sweetriot in New York, said she connected with blog site Hungry Girl and that lead to getting her company’s name out and sales.

3. Don’t forget social media is a tool to strengthen offline relationships. Many small businesses already have personal ties to customers in their communities, and these tools are designed to enhance those relationships, not replace them. For instance, you can use social-media tools such as YouTube to give customers a behind-the-scenes glimpse of your company, or display more of your personality than you can through an ad. “It also allows you to show your culture,” Endline says. “They’re not just there to [see] a static promotion from you. They want value.” And remember, a social network is “really a big room of people,” author Schaffer says. Use it to “meet” potential clients or business partners, but make sure you follow up with an in-person meeting or phone conversation.

Write to Willa Plank at willa.plank@dowjones.com

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Where are you with social media? What sorts of articles would be most useful this year? Leave your comments here and we’ll try our best to get your questions answered.

Isn’t the value of social media what business is all about?

December 17, 2009

Dell has long been praised for being one of the companies who have best adapted to this decades’ social media advances. In this short piece, Dell’s Vice-President of Social Media and Community argues that social media is just a digital form of what the most successful companies have been doing all along. Read the article on the Huffington Post by clicking here, or scroll down.

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Today’s corporate leaders are struggling to figure out how to use social media to further their business strategy. At Dell, we believe this is backwards thinking. Social media isn’t a means to further a corporation’s strategy, it’s a means to help determine it.

The “Mom and Pop” businesses in our neighborhoods have always followed sound and pragmatic business practices, rooted in developing, maintaining and strengthening relationships with customers. The customers and the businesses valued those relationships because “Mom and Pop” offered convenience. They listened to their customers and used their suggestions to improve the business. They provided great service and found ways to thank their clientele. Social media is really nothing more than the simple application of these business practices in a digital form.

So if you are wondering about how to leverage Twitter, Facebook, blogs, forums, and the company Web site to achieve your organization’s goals, perhaps you are starting from the wrong point. As with the corner store, if your business uses social media to engage in conversations on a human level, you strengthen your business and allow your strategy — both corporate and social media — to evolve based on customer feedback.

At Dell, we have a longer perspective on the social media conundrum than most. We’ve been an active leader in the space since 2006, with a depth and breadth to our social media presence that has earned top billing among brands using social media to engage stakeholders.

What we’ve learned is that social media has transformed the large corporation of the millennium into the Mom and Pop shop of the old days. The emergence of social media simply makes it more possible to connect directly with customers every day. Dell’s community goes well beyond our own forums — it now extends to direct contact with more than three million followers worldwide. Even during a historically difficult time for businesses of all stripes, Dell has generated nearly $7 million in global product sales on Twitter.

“Mom and Pop” knew that their business was only as successful as their relationships with customers could make it. That’s the value of the direct connection to your customer, and that’s how every company can achieve success using social media — by facilitating the conversation. No strategy necessary.

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What do you think? Is social media changing the way we do business, or is it just offering a new medium through which to do the same things? Discuss this here!

Social media checklist for small or medium businesses

December 16, 2009

Heidi Cohen has written a comprehensive checklist for small to medium businesses trying to expand or start up their social media strategy.  Click here to read it in context, or scroll down.

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As a member of the SES Chicago Social Media Checklist panel last week, it was striking to hear from so many small and medium-sized businesses wrestling with developing a viable social media marketing strategy. Small and medium-sized businesses often have more limited resources, both personnel and budgets, than large companies, so they’re looking to build more cost-effective sales streams. With the goals of raising awareness, expanding market share, and improving customer loyalty, it’s critical to be creative in how your business engages and participates in the social media arena.

Nine Questions to Ask When Developing a Social Media Marketing Strategy

Small and medium-sized businesses tend to be so focused on keeping their businesses going that it can be difficult to brainstorm on ways to leverage the dynamic social media environment. Here are nine questions to help you think about your business in ways that enable you to maximize your social media marketing efforts.

  1. Does your business tap into people’s passions and/or hobbies? With hobbies and special interests, customers may make different spending tradeoffs, particularly with “staycations,” where customers look for local activities. From a social media marketing perspective, this translates to ways that people can share their hobbies and special interests using photographs, videos, and blogs. For example, I suggested that a tea purveyor in the SES audience create a Flickr account to show off unusual teapots people collect, and invite the public to participate in this community.
  2. Can your business show off its work? While this tends to focus on visual portrayals, like photographs and video, it can also include audio and text. Sharing photographs and videos helps businesses where prospects perceive there are high risks. For example, beauty salons and tailors can show before and after photographs. Remember to get patrons’ permission or offer a free bonus to incent customers to participate. Flickr contains many bakeries showing off their finished product’s visual beauty.
  3. Can you give prospects information they find useful? Think broadly to help customers use your product. For example, a food specialty shop’s blog may describe new foods with recipes and menus to use them. A resale shop can use a blog to show how to make wardrobes and living areas snazzy using its current product.
  4. Can you extend your expertise to a broader audience? This can work very well for professionals like lawyers and accountants. Leverage videos, presentations, and Webinars giving how-to tips to explain wills or budgeting.
  5. Does your business provide reasons for people to gather? In a virtually connected world, give people a reason to congregate in person. This may drive additional revenues. Examples include wine tastings for local wine shops and cooking classes for food specialty shops and/or restaurants. Use Meetup.com to organize the community and post comments. Where appropriate, add a Flickr page to gather related photographs.
  6. Can your business disseminate fun or related information via social media? Think in terms of bite size chunks of content. This information doesn’t need to be your business’s main focus. For example, a massage therapist can create a Twitter stream and blog for meditations to put people in a more serene state of mind.
  7. Are there targeted or niche communities where your prospects and customers naturally congregate? If so, set up a group in this social media site. For example, yarn shops participate and socialize on Ravelry, a knitting community.
  8. Do major blogs cover your business’s area of expertise? If so, actively comment and add to the conversation. Offer to create guest posts to share your knowledge and broaden your audience. This means adding real value to the conversation.
  9. Does your offering lend itself to creating a small online community and/or bulletin board? For example, many religious organizations leverage Yahoo Groups to communicate with members. These interactions can move online and offline.

Seven Tips to Extend Social Media Marketing Efforts

As a small or medium-sized business, it’s important to think about how to extend your social media efforts and to integrate these initiatives into your ongoing marketing plans. (For more information on developing an online marketing strategy, click here.) Here are seven tips to help you:

  1. Listen before you participate. While social media can help small and medium-sized businesses appear bigger than they are, it’s critical not to promote, promote, promote.
  2. Monitor what’s being said about your business. This includes a variety of social media offerings including blogs, review sites like Yelp and niche communities, and discussion groups.
  3. Integrate social media efforts offline. Provide retail prospects with a similar experience through an old-fashioned bulletin board with photographs or handouts containing how-to information.
  4. Promote social media efforts online and offline. Include your Web site, e-mailings, direct mail, local advertising, in-store postings, flyers, business cards, and correspondence.
  5. Socialize social media marketing. Ask visitors, prospects, and customers to visit your social media installations and share their experiences. Don’t overlook traditional ways to extend your business such as local events like Rotary and local sports teams such as Little League.
  6. Create a content strategy. (For additional insights on content strategy, click here.) Develop an editorial calendar for content creation to ensure that you don’t get stuck thinking of what to write, especially when using Twitter and blogs where customers expect regular servings of information.
  7. Make content search-friendly. Use relevant search keywords and tags and add text to photographs and video to aid findability.

Measuring the Results of Your Social Media Marketing Efforts

Since many small and medium-sized businesses don’t spend lots of time using fancy metrics, here are the main factors to keep your business on track.

  • Revenues. Have sales increased? It’s important to note that it may take time to build up a social media following.
  • Expenses. Track actual costs as well as the time involved in participating in social media marketing.
  • Prospects and customers. Track the number of people who are engaging with your social media efforts. Often, there’s a 90 percent readers/viewers, 9 percent commenters, and 1 percent active content creators breakout.
  • Feedback. Monitor the type, amount, and quality of feedback you’re receiving.

Remember there are many ways to engage your business in social media. Consider the options and test what works best for your offering.

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Have you ventured into social media recently? Do you have any tips from your own experience? Share your comments here!

Nine digital trends to watch in 2010

November 23, 2009

My Google Reader pointed me to an interesting article in iMedia Connection last week about the big digital trends we’re likely to see in 2010.  It’s worth a read to stay ahead of the curve, and start to get to grips with these developments now.  Read the article in its context by clicking here, or scroll down.

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In 2009, digital experienced some major changes — the rise of Twitter, the fall of the economy, shifting budgets, an explosion of new technologies. And 2010 is shaping up to be just as dynamic. But what changes and trends are poised to really take the marketing world by storm? Here are just a few predictions of what’s likely to come.

1. Facebook replaces personal email
Question: Google has it; Hoover has it (in the U.K. anyway); TiVo had it, lost it, and has somewhat got it back. Xerox had it, but nobody really cares anymore. So what is it?

It’s when a brand name becomes the verb associated with its use. So rather than searching for something online, you Google it. Or you TiVo, rather than digitally recording a television show. Arguably, an even more powerful phenomenon is when a brand becomes a noun, such as using the word Polaroid to represent all instantly developed photography (although that didn’t end so well).

The newest one would seem to Facebook, although it has two meanings: “I Facebooked you” could mean that the person has added you as a Facebook friend, or that they sent you a private message though Facebook. The latter would seem to be of more interest, as no one has really owned this type of communication before. No brand ever became synonymous with email. To Hotmail or to Gmail someone just never happened.

So the interesting and overlooked disruption of Facebook is its displacement of personal email as a communication tool. Completely permission based, no spam (yet), and no address book required — your friends are already there.

2. Open source software starts making proper money, thanks to the cloud
There’s something starting to happen within the open source software world. Projects that were typically for the purview of programmers, or at least technophiles, are now available to the masses.

An example is Beanstalk a fully hosted, version-controlled code repository that uses the Subversion open source project. The big deal is that to set up and maintain a Subversion repository can be a pain — plus you need a server if you want to give access to anyone. Beanstalk has created a subscription-based service that, for a small fee, removes the hassle. Services like this can only really exist with cloud computing infrastructure — so companies such as Beanstalk don’t have the huge upfront capital outlay for servers; they only pay for what their customers use. With the right skills any open source project can be commercialized in this manner.

3. Mobile commerce — The promise that has never delivered, yet
As annoyingly tantalizing yet esoteric as the word “convergence” has been over the last 10 years, mobile commerce has promised much but hasn’t delivered. However, mobile phones have delivered real benefits to societies worldwide, and in developing nations they are used commonly as devices for the transfer of money.

Yet, it’s only recently that the nations that invented and first adopted mobile technologies have extended the use of these precious devices to pay for goods and services. With the advanced browsers of iPhone and the Android platforms, one could pay for goods through full ecommerce sites, but who really wants to fiddle around with a phone in one hand and a credit card in another?

The game changer is the iPhone/iTunes platform. In-app purchases on the iPhone can tempt users to buy small items, upgrades, updates, etc., while iTunes holds their precious credit card information. All, of course, is done in seamless fashion — easily and reliably enough to promote impulse purchases. It would seem like an easy task for this to be extended to other platforms with PayPal or Google Checkout. (Though we have been here before, haven’t we?)

4. Fewer registrations — one sign-in fits all
I use a great application on the Mac platform that securely holds my login details for upwards of 50 different sites. It means that I don’t have to use the same password for each site and that I don’t have to search around for Post-it notes (my 1998 method) to log into a site I joined a week ago.

However, I’m starting to resent having to register for anything ever again. I don’t see why, if I want to leave a particularly pithy comment on a blog or news site, I have to register all over again. I’m sure I’m not the only one, and that’s why services like Facebook Connect and OpenID are particularly useful and will continue to be adopted at great speed through 2010. Who knows where these might go? Perhaps next year I’ll be able to pay for something using my Facebook login.

5. Disruption vs. continuity — alternatives to the “big idea”
As the significance of social networks continues to grow, businesses are investing more in community building as a marketing driver. According to the recent “Tribalization of Business” study released by Deloitte, 94 percent of businesses will continue or increase their investment in online communities and social media and, for the majority of these companies, their marketing function will drive this investment. At the same time, as evidenced by Google’s recent release of “free floating” social tools, such as Google Wave and Sidewiki, there is an increasing shift toward online identity and social activity being an integrated part of the network as a whole, rather than concentrated within discrete platforms such as Facebook.

With the increasing emphasis on marketing and advertising through social networks and the increasing pervasiveness of social tools, marketing objectives come into conflict with advertising techniques. While advertising has often sought to distinguish itself and stop consumers in their tracks with a disruptive “big idea,” the emphasis is shifting toward persuasion through fitting organically into the consumer’s social sphere. It will always be the objective of marketing to provide creativity and novelty, but the way in will increasingly be through persistence and continuity.

6. The continuing evolution of web-driven, open source DIY culture
Much has been said about the power and potential of collective intelligence. From solving complex problems through crowd-sourcing, to reconfiguring industries to be leaner and more innovative by harnessing the expertise of a network of independent suppliers, many of the breakthrough solutions of tomorrow appear to lie in more effectively pooling the resources and intelligence of our increasingly networked world.

On the other side of the equation, the power of pooled intelligence and networked resources has empowered individuals to tackle more complex undertakings themselves. From drawing on the collective intelligence of blogs and university open courseware to educate themselves, to services like Ponoko, Spoonflower, and CafePress that facilitate small-scale production, to offline resource pooling like pop-up retail and collective office spaces, individuals are discovering that it has never been easier to try doing it themselves.

While we find new ways to thrive in a still struggling economy, expect to see lasting changes coming from empowering individuals to work together to become more ever more self-sufficient.

7. Info-art
Where we once had pop-psychologists and pop-philosophers, we now appear to have pop-statisticians and pop-economists. The growing wealth of data and the access to rich and diverse data sources that are significant byproducts of information networks have made the art of data analysis a defining skill of our time.

By the same token, the skill of elegantly visualizing those data has become a defining art of our time. The art of the infographic is becoming increasingly pervasive as people look more and more to the growing amount of data at our disposal for insight, and more refined as the interactions of those data becomes more complex.

With an ever-increasing need for real-time analysis of a growing torrent of raw data, expect to see greater innovation spurred by more elegant ways of capturing and visualizing information by a growing number of info-artists.

8. Crowdsourcing
Across many industries and organizations, crowdsourcing will become a growing tool as part of “elance” outsourcing strategies. Organizations will mobilize the passionate special interest groups to not only carry a message but, even more importantly perhaps, to lead and take part in activities on their behalf.

Predictions for 2010 are not as rosy as we all hoped, and budgets for just about everything continue to be cut, encouraging creative thinking regarding getting things done and done well.

From political canvassing to software development, from people journalism to environmental activism, we will see huge growth in crowdsourcing models provoked and led, largely, by digital social media strategies.

9. More Flash, not less
Outside of the obvious brand sites, microsites, and media sites (video, games, etc.), Flash has often been looked down upon, if not completely discounted by techies and search engine optimizers alike. It seemed to face an uncertain future as a viable tool for serious websites and applications such as ecommerce tools and corporate websites. As it is, Adobe’s rich media tool has enjoyed the grit and determination of its advocates and external development community. Several tricks, authoring tools, and server-side scripting workarounds have meant that Flash-built websites no longer serve up a single, impenetrable page. They offer deep, searchable, indexable sites that will allow acute, detailed traffic and behavioral analytics and search engine optimization.

As websites continue to increase in their importance as a company’s storefront, the demand for rich, brand-extending experiences will also increase. Further proliferation of (lightning speed) broadband will reduce download issues, while the adoption of Flash on mobile devices will dramatically increase and fuel reach and the desire for highly usable, brand transporting, conversion-oriented experiences.

Nuri Djavit is founding partner and creative director at Last Exit. Paul Newnes, partner and commercial director, and Adam Phillip, director of strategy and media at Last Exit, also contributed to this article.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

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What do you think? Are these on your top-ten list of 2010’s digital trends? Are there other developments that you would add? What would you suggest that businesses do to prepare for the digital trends of 2010? Share your thoughts here!

The 5-step plan for getting exposure from bloggers, tweeters and fans

November 17, 2009

Social media appears to be here to stay, and with it come a whole host of changes to the way businesses approach PR, marketing, and communication in general. One of the changes is that high-visibility bloggers, or Twitter accounts, can provide a level of almost unprecedented, trusted coverage for your organisation, if you approach them properly.  Social media and marketing expert John Jantsch offers a step-by-step guide on how to do just that.  We found this on the marvellous OPEN Forum, please click here to view the article in its natural habitat, or scroll down.

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Any marketer that’s been paying much attention of late knows that bloggers and other active social media folks can be great resources to help you promote your business, products, service or brand.

But, there’s a right way and wrong way to enlist blogger support, just like there’s always been a right way and a wrong way to attract the interest of any journalist capable of writing about your business.

In this piece I’ll give you my perspective as a blogger and marketer on what I think the right way is. I’ll also use this as a plea to all PR folks out there that haven’t figured out that blindly emailing bulk press releases to members of the media has never been an effective strategy. And blindly emailing 2000 word bulk press releases to members of the media is a really, really stupid waste of your client’s money. There, I feel better now.

So, what can you or the fledging PR intern do to get exposure from bloggers?

Consider these five tips:

1) Don’t target the usual suspects

Every start-up wants TechCrunch to write about them, but the competition is fierce. Better to drill down, do some research on sites like Digg, StumbleUpon and delicious and find some blogs you may have never heard of that are getting lots of mentions and action under the radar. Create a list of 25 of these kinds of blogs that might still be glad to hear some pitches and you might score better coverage.

2) Listen before you speak

Invest the time to read these new found blogs and pay attention to the comments, retweets and trackbacks. Subscribe to these blogs and track where these bloggers hang out by tracking their comments on other blogs through a tool like BackType. If you take the time to listen to what they like and don’t like, what else they read and promote, you might just be able to influence their entire network.

3) Hang out a bit

Since you’ve taken the time to subscribe to these new blogs, (and by the way, journalists at traditional publications like Business Week can be on this list too.) start participating in the conversation, get on their radars, make relevant comments. Resist at all costs the urge to promote yourself. Become a resource – do not puke up flattery – participate, comment on comments, tweet their posts if you like them, and use your knowledge to point out other related content.

4) Gift wrap your idea

Once you’ve built some credibility and recognition with a blogger through participation, you might have earned the ability to pitch an idea, but don’t ruin all your hard work by sending a press release. Here’s a solid plan:

* send a very brief note pointing out a story idea that would be a good fit for the blog’s reader (50 words – here’s a great idea) – ask if they want details
* respond with details but don’t write the post – give bullet points and links
* add another reason why it’s a timely/exclusive/trendy story idea
* position the idea as a tweet (120 characters or less)

5) Amplify for them

Once a blogger or tweeter covers your idea go to bat with all your might amplifying, tweeting, sharing and bookmarking the post or tweet. You will spread your story, show some appreciation, and probably stay on the short list for the next go around.

John Jantsch is a marketing and digital technology coach, award winning social media publisher and author of Duct Tape Marketing.

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So – what do you think? Is it worth all this effort to engage a prominent blogger? Would this provide better value than a traditional PR push? Share your opinions here!