Friday, February 29, 2008

Coaching your employees to be better influencers

If your employees are the target audience for your product (and even if they aren't) a lot of them will be influencers to some extent, affecting how others percieve your company/products/brand.

Two of the bullet points in a recent Branding Strategy Insider posting have led me to pontificate this further:

  • To be truly successful, a brand must be based upon the enlightened vision of a strong leader and a relentless employee passion to better meet the needs of the customer.

  • Don’t forget to hire, train, motivate and compensate front line employees to deliver the brand’s essence, promise and personality.

And Jeremiah Owyang also mentions this in one of his recent postings about Social Media:

  • Training and entrusting employees to build real relationships using these tools
Obviously company values training/guidance/coaching should be given to your front-line staff. However companies should try to give some understanding of their brand and values to all staff. The corporate DNA goes deeper then the veneer of customer service & branch employees.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Social Media Analytics

Marketing has become more of science and less of an art, mainly by the ability to produce a decent amount of quantitiative and qualitative data.

Just recently social media analytics tool Brandwatch has been monitoring the buzz from the gaming community. They've been tapping into the collective sentiment of users of PS3, Wii and the Xbox.

Being able to monitor a specific niche section of a community is a very useful step in understanding who your influencers are and what they are talking about (Blu-ray apparently)

Marketers and relationship managers now have the information to create a new albeit refined art... learning what to do with that data!

Monday, February 25, 2008


Not enough experimentation is bad, but too much can be worse!

I think its obvious by now that the quantity and importance of user-generated media is growing. But it is relatively early days into its evolutionand its new ways of communicating, so many PR & marketers are struggling to keep up.

As a consequence, quite a few are trying different methods of engaging with their audience and in some cases, different parts of large companies are going ahead with separate individual activities. Decentralised activity also happens as a consequence of a lack of a Social Media Strategy or Community Manager... but then very few companies have those yet. Indeed a bad one (or a good one badly implemented) may be worse than doing nothing.

Now experimentation is not a bad thing.... as in general is does increase learning (sometimes learning by making mistakes). However, too much experimentation does risk losing focus on the most valuable opportunities.

So how do you avoid this?

Best practice in this area is scarce, but just from canvassing some very insightful people over the last few days, the most logical approach seems to be:

  1. Obtain senior stakholder buy-in
  2. Know your own company & brand values and key messages & marketing activities
  3. Understand the benefit your want from the activity... and potentially map these to customer profiles (scenarios?)
  4. Communicate your activity internally, your own staff are one of your best assets (and are probably having these conversations anyway)
  5. Tread firmly, tread carefully.... but definately make that first step

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Different influencers

Tom O’Brien has produced a great diagram that he believes shows the new influence model:

This diagram shows how online influencers are affecting the mainstream over time and is taken from his blog posting.

I think this may be a touch optimistic though, as I believe influence can come from anyone / media at different times and based upon factors such as: their amount of influence, the idea and messaging they put behind it, etc.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Tipping Point and Influence

In a recent post about Influencables in Andy Lark's blog, he discussed the Fast Company article where Duncan Watts debunks the Tipping Point concept of social influence.

My comment to his article was:
I agree with you that the two concepts put forward by Watts and Gladwell are not mutually exclusive. What I believe we have with any person that originates or takes up an: idea, trend, campaign, etc. is a weighting or 'factor of influence' on another. This can vary depending upon a number of variable s(and not just the ones measured by Watt, etc.) For example, the tipping point of a particular idea could be a single person, a number of people, or a specific sub-set doing a number of things over time...
the problem (and the fun) is, its always slightly different.

Having read this same article a few times since, I'm less concerned with the opposite ideas of key influncers vs anyone being an influencer.... I'm more interested in why different influencers at different times are able to exert more or less influence and how you would possibly model and report on a real-world scenario. This would possibly have the aim of predicting or changing the outcome. In other words... the "fun" bit.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The New Influencers - Part 3

Paul Gillin's book, that I've also covered in previous posts, is proving to be a far more insightful read than I anticipated.

The 3rd Chapter 'The Enthusiasts' covers the friend/enemy creation dilema that every company worries about when they start to deal with the Influencers. One of the biggest concerns at this point is how to identify and solicit their opinions.

In one case study he cites about the Nokia N90 phone, he covers the way that the Enthusiasts were identified and dealt with.

This is a filtering process of:

a. Identify a seasoned professional who can help
In this case, they got Andy Abramson on-board

b. Scour the Internet (blogsphere, Google, Technorati, etc.) for the respected voices
Note: It doesn't say what criteria and weighting he used

c. Whittle your list down to a select a small group of individuals.
Again, it doesn't say how this was exactly done. But 50 people were sent actual product to in advance of the official launch date. I guess 50 may have been a number set by Nokia, but even this is a szeable investment for something they hadn't done before ($600 X 50 = $30,000 retail value).

d. Monitor the response you get fromthese selected individuals.
According to Paul (and Andy I assume), over 40 bloggers responded by writing about the phone.

I do however have a couple of further questions:
1. How did he measure the 'Buzz' created by these 40 bloggers?
2. What would happen if this was a service or a non-tanglible product?

Monday, February 18, 2008

The New Influencers - Part 2

I have tried to find out more about the background behind the diagram in Chapter 2 of Paul Gillin's book. This diagram by Cymphony (who's 'Orchestra' tool is apparently very useful for identifying and measuring modern influence) correllates the relationship between traditional media and the more recent digital channels of blogs, usenet & social media.

However, I can't find anything more about it on their website (but did stumble across Jim Nail's blog which I found most illuminating). This was a little annoying, as I was hoping to learn more about their model. It should have moved on since the book was written over a year ago and I am keen to read up more about it.

What this did lead me to though, was the website for the book and Paul Gillin's own blog. Now this man has quite an array of really useful articles (that I'm now going to try and read)

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Barriers to UGC adoption

I've been speak ing with a company about a potential UGC site and accompanying marketing campaign. One of the concerns is the potential lack of popularity of the service. They are well aware of the motto from the film Field of Dreams
"if you build it, they will come"
... and that this doesn't work for the web unless you have some mystic force supporting you.

Brian Oberkirch's post on 'Really, We Don’t Want to Join Your Social Network' puts forward the case (and well made it is is) for not building your own Social Network, especially when there's so many of them going up all the time.
With the bar to build a compelling community site rising all the time, its becomming very difficult now to stand-out from the crowd and its all looking a bit 'Me Too' isn't it?.

So has the door shut on this opportunity now?

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Here comes the recession!

"Panic, cut all budgets and definately stop spending money on that Internet thing"

In the past, the first budget in a recession to be cut was the PR & Marketing spend. That was in a time where marketing was an art form, where there were no measurable results and marketing budgets were assigned on a 'me too' basis, not ROI.

Now, companies know which half of their marketing spend is worthwhile. Lord Lever is turning in his grave and the science of marketing is established.

So why are company bosses still looking to cut these budgets?

I'm also not the only who thinks this is madness?,7211,45128,00.html

Happy Valentines!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Hunter vs the fisherman - Part 2

The futility of chasing your content around the web (the hunter) means another approach is required. I've previously mentioned that the trawling (fisherman) analogy is far more apt and others have used this before (thanks Jeremiah)

So how do you go about casting your net to find out where your company information is scattered online?

  • You can use search engines such as Google/Yahoo/MSN etc.

  • You can use sites specific to your industry/vertical etc

  • You can check user-generated media aggregators such as Technorati etc.

However, I was recently made aware of a tool called Brandwatch, a tool that tracks a wide range of various sources (news, blogs, etc.) and measures the mentions of a brand and its sentiment, as well as the source. I'm impressed with this product and think that it provides a really useful way to categorise a significant part of the Blogosphere and other public opinion forums.

Cymphony's Orchestra product is also a clever tool that "integrates innovative Natural Language Processing (NLP) technology with expert analysis to identify the people, issues and trends impacting your business"... although I've yet to see how it works...

The evolution of the trawlerman for discovering the collective sentiment has started.....

Monday, February 11, 2008

The hunter vs the fisherman - Part 1

For over a year the Social Media Press Release has been in existence and its been gaining adoption since.

For example WebitPR in the UK have released a video explaining all about it:

Dana Theus has covered her thoughts on this very well (so I will not duplicate them) and I think that its an important step forward in online PR.

However, just as this evolution provides greater 'tracebility' or control of the article as its copied through the blogsphere and across the wider web, what I feel is also needed is a similar way to pick up when its content is quoted or analysed (or regurgitated). When, by interpretation of the original, it becomes so altered at to be unrecognisable, how do we see continue to see and understand the impact it has on companies and brands?

What you then need is a different way to monitor what's going on. Something that accepts that control is lost and as Andy Sernovitz says in his blog

When you open up to customer participation, your brand belongs to your
customers, not you.
Now this traceability comes not from trying to chase after your content as its duplicated and published, but by waiting for it to come to you.

Just like a hunter trying to track down an animal that is faster (and prone to multiplication) than himself, what he needs is a net that is cast widely enough and then to wait, adopting the fisherman's trawling approach instead....

Friday, February 8, 2008

Ask the Millenials

With the explosion of digital communications and the arrival of a new purchasing generation (Millenials) comes a hybrid of worries for traditional communicators.

New generation thinking is not constrained by years of legacy thinking. Jim Heskett at Harvard Business School comments on Millenials and covers both:

1. Some of the benefits:
- they work well in teams & social environments
- they undertsand how to use technology productively

2. Some of the downsides:
- the are willing to seek alternatives (and this includes: employment, tastes, etc.)
- they have little fear of authority

This obviously makes them ideal users of online social networking tools, blogs etc. But they will readily change if there is a better product/solution available and are seemingly unrelenting in their passion.

One good way to get an insight into what does work for Millenial is to make sure you at least consult some of this age when looking to communicate to a range of generations. I'm lucky enough to have someone to call upon like this and it has definately influenced the timing and toneof some recent messaging.

Better still is to identify this generation in your wider group of influencers or on your opinion panel and ask them to ensure your message works as intended.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Feeback on our white paper

I've been getting some good feedback from my company's white paper/executive presentation on Benefitting the Financial Services Customer with Web2.0

However, some people have not been able to access it, so I've been asked to post it into my Blog.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Giving up control and measuring it

I've been grateful to Dana Theus for her thoughts on Social Media PR and Measuring. Her Blog posting on such a topic correlates very much with my own thoughts on measuring that influence beyond the walled garden of control

Control of what you communicate ensures that the message gets through ,completely and unchanged, to those you intended. Control is therefore seen as good by traditional PR departments and marketer. Good in that it means you don't have to worry, in case something gets manipulated or filtered en-route.

But as soon as your message is delivered, it is out of your control. It is then: passed on, copied, quoted, analysed and regurgitated. It can eventually become so twisted from your original that it may even be unrecognisible to yourself when you get to read a subsequent version.

This was realised by the founders of modern PR. People such as Ivy Lee who is creditied with developing the Press Release establised the need for consistency in the message. This approach was then used thoughout the 20th Century.

However, in the modern information age, companies know (well the smart ones do anyway) that the tools and medium have changed. The rules of engagement, the langauge, the transparency and understanding have all led to a different philosophy and methods of communication. Also, the level of control has changed. People are now interacting with brands in different ways, creating their own information, from fan sites to hate blogs, and generating opinions & support from their peers or just those who share their view. Or to quote the UK Internet Advertising Bureau:

Marketing is no longer about simply maneuvering your brand through relatively
fixed relationships and channels; it’s now about setting it free. Unthink your brand.

Control of everything has been lost.

But in this very statement lies the answer. Just like a person that tries to please all the people all the time, you will fail. Its not about controlling everything, but only those things within your influence (and asserting the right amount of influcence on those things that require it).

The suggested approach is:
1. Plan before you start
2. Check the information your analytics package provides
3. Understand that you have a role in influencing

Monday, February 4, 2008

Before measuring the influence

Before you go out to look for a wonderful technology solution to track all your influencer, chart their progress and measure their input (good luck!), first think about some basics:

1. Find out what will you not be able to measure?
Understand what is beyond your reach, what is hypothesis and when you're throwing good money after bad.

2. Have an idea of what success looks like
This is not to say you try to come up with the answers before you have asked the question, but know what is a good or a bad result (hint: you don't have to sent these too high initially, especially if you're sure you can surpass them)

3. Measure everything
Failing to set an initial benchmark can be fatal. Measure before you start, after something happens and then again as frequently as you can.

If you are looking for ways to measure your traditional PR, then is usually a good place to start.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Carphone Warehouse removes blog

I am disheartened by the news that Charles Dunstone has stopped his Blog on the Carphone Warehouse site:

Does this not send out some very clear messages?

1. That its ok to pull the Cheif Exec's blog off the corporate site without warning
2. That its ok for him to gradually reduce his blogging activity as the customer service of his product reduces
3. That CW believes that the removed blog somehow causes less reputational damage than the Cheif Exec's apologies remaining online (for existing and future customers to see)

Perhaps he said something that contravened the Data Protection Act