Friday, June 27, 2008

Bill Hicks on Marketing

As Moya and I are in the USA right now, here's a bit of humour for a Friday:

Monday, June 23, 2008

Further thoughts on portable company images

I've previously covered the subject of making company assets on the web more portable. By this I mean allowing your images, audio, video and text to be posted to external sharing locations and then subsequently incorporated into your own site.

As well as generally making your assets available to a wider potential audience, you will see what others think of them (e.g. via their popularity, tags assigned and comments made) and potentially save bandwidth in the process.

However, you should also consider that making your assets portable could improve your Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) efforts:

Thursday, June 19, 2008

CEO blogs

I've previously covered the topic of CEO's that blog. However it turns out that there are far more interesting examples of this activity that I initially realised.
Obviously, working in and around the digital arena, I'm aware of top-dogs within my industry who are practicing what they preach. Notable examples are Clark Kokich of Avenue A Razorfish who makes time to post, as does Alastair Duncan of MRM.
However the CEO blogger is appearing in other verticals:

However, not all of this is done purely for altruism. The majority of companies surveyed in a recent report (76%) indicated that they have noticed an increase in media attention and/or website traffic as a result of their blog. Indeed Brad Field highlights his colleagues, promotes companies and his investments in his (and particularly in his alternative blog and following Glenn's blogging....

Kelman and his crew were closing several deals a day


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

'Open source' your ideas

So why should you give things away? Well, gifts have been use as promotional or influence methods since animals started giving their food to a potential mate as a way of increasing the likelihood of errrr..... mating. The activity of giving 'stuff' away is used in business to entice customers, but as we all know there really is "no such thing as a free lunch"

Or is there?
Yes, actually there is a whole group of people out there prepared to give things away to those who are prepared to ask. The 'gift economy' or 'Freeconomics' has been created, mainly as a result of the economies of scale from the use of technologies.

The most obvious example of giving your ideas away is blogging. A lot of people provide their intellectual property for free online in the form of blogs. Here's why I think they do it:

1. To get feedback to improve their knowledge further
Aside from the gratification of being read, bloggers want feedback on what they have written. The blogosphere is full of postings from people who do not claim to know everything, indeed they post to start a conversation or plant an idea hoping to get further refinement or the subject evolved beyond their underdstanding. Basic crowdsourcing!

2. To show what they know

Old joke warning:
There are two rules in business, the first is never to tell everyone everthing...

However, giving a certain amount about what you know away shows clients, employers (exisiting & potential) and the market at large what you understand. Especially if you're a knowledge worker, it shows: your exerience on your subject, your thought processes and your ability to innovate or explain... all very good reasons to pay/employ/listen.

The secret I was recently told by a friend is...

"Telling clients information the second just before it becomes public knowledge
is a learnt skill, knowing when that second is.... requires natural ability!"

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Podcasting is growing

If the recent statistics from Edison Research on Podcasting are to be believed, audio listening and video viewing of podcasts has jumped significantly in the last year.

If you are a company producing podcasts as part of your PR efforts and want to grow this audience, you can syndicate this content via a number of podcasting services. In additon, you can use the PR Web podcast announcement service: which also allows coverage on iTunes to increase your audience share.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Comcast manager responds to blogger

A Comcast exec has caused a customer service revolution by replying to a prominent blogger within minutes of them complaining:

Seen by some as brave, others as fool-hardy and others as a great step forward in customer services.. Comcast found out about this issue when monitoring blogs and social networks to track customer dialogue. What it obviously doesn't do is replace your existing company customer service offering, but along with customer forums and other tools, you can definately have a better idea about customer questions and issues.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Just how good are social media monitoring tools?

Following some recent investigation into Social Media monitoring tools, I found this interesting article from Daniel Riveong at e-Storm:

I think he actually has a well made point. Tracking the buzz within the blogosphere and other social media is one thing, but these tools are still growing in their capabilities.

What they current have a particularly difficult with is following the dialogue that takes place over several sites or sevices. These conversations are similar to family members that change and take on new personalities depending upon their environements and influences. All comments and discussions may well be relevant, but they are also getting increasingly complex to follow, especially as new methods appear (e.g. who used, or a year ago?)

However, don't over-do the measurement though, as this article from Commetrics highlights.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Un-official marketing material

Spoof adverts and other manipulated marketing material have exisited for ages. Most of these are not done by advertising companies, although some have been and gain notoriety as result. As an example, see the supposedly web-only 'banned from TV' Ford Ka advert below.

But if your customers are going to create their own adverts, they might as well do them well! Website B3ta ( is well know for featuring manipulated images of popular brands or people. Some imagery is even so professionally manipulated or mocked-up these days, that its not possible to tell ifs actually be produced to highlight a product or to show-off the skills of the photographer/photoshop user.

So, what impact does this have on your brand and what can you do about it? Well most of these images are ignored by the people or companies they parody. This is quite possibly because the media attention caused from legal disputes causes far more unwanted attention for the insulted party. However there are notable examples where legal seps have been taken, an obvious one being the action by lawyers of pop star Prince against B3ta.

Indeed images circulated back in 2003 of a Puma advert whose subject was less than wholesome . It was subsequently denied to have come from the sportswear company and it then went on to send out a "cease and desist" letter to various bloggers threatening legal action against anyone posting the "defamatory image." A blogswarm followed, with one website ( claiming:
"It's the best ad that's been done for your company in years, and you didn't design it. Thousands of people are circulating images emblazoned with your brand and you didn't even pay for product placement."

I'll leave you to decide who came off best from these incidents......

Further stories of people who have won and lost imagery & video can be found on:

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

At the outer limits of the company

Where does the company end and where does the individual and consumer begin?

To quote Dana Theus, a person who always gives these subject far more thought (and words) than I do:
This fundamental dilemma - how to enable an organization's broader audience to carry forth its identity while still maintaining some level of control over the dialog and "company line" is the essential challenge for strategic marketers in the days, months and years ahead
Having previously covered this topic of communication at the edge of the company, I'm now determined to tackle it further.... However, its definately a tricky issue to know these days where the company boundary exisits.

Back in the day:
Before social media and the ‘always on’ culture of 24 hour messaging, blackberries and their ilk, this was easier. Back then there were seldom chances for your normal employee to get involved in conversations about its company business with someone else (beyond a drink with a fellow employee after work). Senior executives, who stood a greater chance of being asked to comment on a wider scale, were given: manuals, training and the fear of retribution put into them, if they gave more to the media than the exact words they had been given themselves. ("No Comment")

However, nowadays that's all changed.....

So perhaps there's another way of looking at this. Perhaps we don't need to understand where the company ends and where the individual (employee or customer) begins. I'm beginning to think of it as a sliding scale of influence within your own company, that just beomes far less influential (but still influential to some extent) when you breach the company boundary.

Perhaps this diagram from Awareness Networks starts to paint the right picture?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Brands and their human qualities

Giving brands human qualities enables their masters to understand them.

This quick video from Noah Brier on Brands & Social Media discusses the subject.

However, to keep the 'dinner party' analogy from the video, surely its not just about which brand speaks the loudest, but more about those that are most engaging and relevant.?

Monday, June 9, 2008

Forums and Customer Service

Providing a discussion forum for your customers to answer each others issues is a good idea when it works but also provides an easy place for them to complain about you. So is this a good thing?

Well.... I definately think its a good thing for the customer due to recent personal experience. You see, I've had cause to use the customer service forums of BT, the UK's major Telco today, due to them cutting off my broadband connection suddenly lat night.
See my complaint here:

This site, apparently still in Beta (laughably, with postings I can quickly find dating back almost 2 years) even rewards users with 'points' and 'medals' for commenting. Looking at some of the conversation threads on this forum , here's my take on the pros and cons of what they provide:

  • Customers can share fixes to know issues,( e.g. email account configurations, best practice advice, etc.) with no need for them to call Tech Support numbers
  • BT can hopefully view customers technical and customer service issues as they arise, possibly identifying reoccurring themes or traits.


  • Customers can share escalation-only UK call-centre numbers (when BT has done all it can to get them to call its lower-cost off-shore call-centre facilities in India)
    Note: Its apparently not just UK citizens that seem to have a particular dislike of Indian call-centres :
  • BT do not seem to participate much in their own forums (or more worryingly if I'm correct in my assumption that BT staff masquerade as normal users - which is now illegal surely? ). This leaves many issues unanswered and allows multiple-user resentment to build up around an issue

So come on BT.... by all means provide the means for your customers to communicate with each other, but be prepared to invest in its growth as well. You may not be able to reconnect my home broadband for 5 days, but lets see how long it takes you to respond to my issue posted to your forum.....

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Mr Average?

Recent research by BIGResearch has found out that the average age of the adult American blogger is 37.6

There are no figures for the UK averge age. However my 38th birthday is in September... coincidence?

Friday, June 6, 2008

The offline Influencer Model is dead?

Todd Parson's article on the death/evolution of the offline influencer is a very useful piece based on the research from Professor Watts at Columbia University.

Duncan Watts also happens to be the author of the book "Six Degrees: The Science of a Connected Age", principal research scientist at Yahoo! Research and is a well know critic of 'The Tipping Point' philosophy of influence.

Watts believes that:
social connections are so complex and consumer trends so random, that there's no way for marketers to effectively rely on select groups of influencers to quickly spread a message.

But in my opinion Mr Parsons is correct in his comments about the online influence model being very much alive and of great benefits to companies . This is reflected in the diagram from Tom O'Brien, showing how the online influencers drive others. However he just talks about this in the product marketing sense, but there are other aspects to consider such as reputation, brand, etc.

There is no doubt that online influencers are faster to engage and respond that their off-line cousins. However speed is one thing, quality and impact of that influence are different factors entirely.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Marketing to your influencers

eMarketers article last month entitled 'Marketing to Bloggers' has left me pondering the ways to influence the influencer.

This article, sub-titled 'Getting the tastemakers on your side' has some interesting research on engaging with the blogging community. It highlights that companies are now more concerned with trying to reach those of their audience that affect others most.

The useful fact I instantly took away from this report was that:
About twice as many marketing leaders used blogs and social networks than did non-leaders.
However, caution should go hand-in-hand with optimism. You need understanding about who you are dealing with and to measure your market before & afterwards.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Fallon Brainfood: The Social 10

Here's a very simple but effective presentation on the top 10 social ideas that companies need to be aware of:

podcasting success

So why isn't podcasting more popular?

I was asked this question of my friend Steve Green over at, a startup that is looking to create a suite of virtual cookbooks aimed at the 20-something generation, who are far more familiar with the circular ipod interface than a halogen hob.

Now there are thousands of podcasts in existence, many focusing on niche topics that most people aren't interested in or that it is relevant to (In effect, podcasting has become the epitome of The Long Tail of Broadcasting) however a lot of people believe their should be far more.

Its an interesting question though, as its becomming increasingly cheaper and easier to create and produce podcasts. There is also a lot of guidance out there to help encourage best practice in podcasting, such as this recent article from Alex Nesbitt:

For home users, podcasting is still viewed as the domain of the 'media geek', those tech-savvy types who understand terms such as: codecs, XML feeds, MP3, etc. There's now a dedicated market evolving to cater for the needs of these podcasters, producing decent software and equipment for the home industry, the prosumer.

However for companies, there is little excuse for producing a decent podcast on a fairly frequent and regular basis. These episodes can be produced for just a few thousand pounds, hardly TV commercial budgets, but still there seems to be a reluctance.... why?

Mat Zuker at Adage recently stated that:
My suspicion is agencies (and many marketers) are lazy. Agencies and marketers
are still more comfortable with hit-and-run advertising, viral videos and campaign sites and far less interested and impatient with recommending or executing content that sustains a campaign like a video or audio podcasting series or webisodes.

He may have a point. A podcast, like a blog and a Christmas Dog is not just a short term commitment!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Is web2.0 accessible to all?

For years people have been citing accessiblity as a key requirement for any company website. Groups such as the WAI (Web Accesibility Initiative, part of the W3C) exisit to help make the Web accessible to people with disabilities. And quite rightly! Apart from this being the legal & responsible approach, to just ignore a key section of users could be a missed revenue or communication opportunity.

These days most company sites are now build to standards and with at least some understanding of accessibility issues. However, with the "new and improved" Web2.0 there are addition issues cased, such as:

1. JavaScript is used everywhere in Web2.0
I was once told by someone (stupid) I worked with "We don't need to use JavaScript any more Hayden. Since you think its so bad for disabled users, we've found out about a new technology we can use instead..... Its called AJAX". I still remember the look on their face when I told them what the "J" in AJAX stood for.
Now JavaScript creates issues for accessibility if done either badly or with little thought, however there are ways to combine them (including the work done on Accessible Rich Internet Applications).
Take a look at the following resource for the most definitive collection of articles written about this subject:

2. Beta versions of sites seem to forget about accessibility.
I'm sure people forget about accessibility when they consider what they are doing as ground-breaking. Standards seem to slip on these occasions and coding for all users (not just the majority) is left. The issue is that an awful lot of Web2.0 stuff that its users think is experimental has been around for ages now and seem to be stuck in permanent Beta. Even some of the more popular site forget about accessibility, including some key Social Networks:


New technologies can be used to reach more people if used correctly. Video, often cited for its lack of usefulness for bling people can be used for the deaf. For excample the video-based sign language site run by BT is a welcome and very public step towards a more accessible means of web communication. Using broadband enabled video to provide information about the company's products and services in British Sign Language (BSL), BT was the first FTSE 100 company to offer its customers this service.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Chief Blogging Officer

Social media, blogging and tracking your company's reputation online is a tricky job and not as much fun as it necessarily seems. But should this be one person's role? Well according to a recent article by Alex Vlasto of MIVA:

If you're still looking to get a better handle on Web 2.0, it may be time to hire someone to specifically track and improve your brand's social media presence.
Apparently, companies such as Kodak, Coca-Cola & Marriott have recently recruited people to blog and engage consumers online, some with the title "Chief Blogger"

Now there's nobody better to deal with an issue than someone who is trained, experienced and passionate about their job. However with the relative recent evolutiuon of social media, finding someone to fill this role may prove trickier than writing the job description. Existing recruitment agencies may be able to help, but most are still far more familiar with their Web1.0 recruitment job descriptions.

So, if you're looking to recruit, here's a few places for inspiration:
A social networking site set up for jobs in errr... social networking
Jeremiah's 'career' tag on his site highlights employment issues and roles within the industry