Thursday, July 31, 2008


Crowd sourcing is a technique many companies are now using to trial different ideas, with increasing success:
Dell's site has been running since early 2007 and has implemented a lot of suggestions already (the idea to offer Windows XP when there was a backlash against Windows Vista last year being an example)
The coffee giant has created a place for dialogue between company & customer. Both these idea have been sponsored at the most senior level.

And now it seems the UK High Street fashion retailer New Look have created an engaging community space to crowdsource new ideas and get important feedback from their most important customers. Its early days yet to see if this is just a publicity stunt and a way to get cheap R&D; or if it creates better products and improves the bottom line for them whilst rewarding their Brand Evangelists.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

News Releases Matter!

What percentage of your press releases gets coverage today? Most press releases get no media coverage. This isn't suprising considering that Google News and Yahoo News between them have 50,000 Press Releases a month!

This is a shame as News Releases are often the best quality and most frequently updated content on a corporate site.

I recall David Meerman Scott, author of the book "The New Rules of Marketing & PR" (which sits on my desk at a client's office), commenting in a recent podcast that
News Releases are still powerful and effective channel to reach the media

According to him studies show that a higher level of education you have, the less likely you are to click on adverts - therefore organic content such as your press releases becomes more important to a more intellectual audience.

As the Press Release also evolves as within the digital space, e.g. into the Social Media Press Release, its important to remember that quality still matters!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Horizontal Thinking

Thinking differently about working spaces can help just as much as the latest digital offerings.

But what about the situation when not all of your team are completely used to working in digital environments? Its still the case that some are more used to working in a room with a whiteboard and marker pens. So how can you help them work collaboratively?

Neil Maiden, Head of Human Computer Interaction at City Univerisity in London claims in a recent Computer Weekly article that whiteboards may not be the best way to encourage collaboration. By their very design they are a wall that gets monopolised by a particular individual. From my own experience, working together on one becomes cumbersome.

But what happens when you turn the whiteboard down and create a tabletop environment instead? Well you get a "table supported multi-user collaboration" environment of course. Put in a simplistic way.. its easier and more inclusive for people to work on a horizonal surface... who'd have thought?

The article goes on to cover digital tabletop technology such as Microsoft Surface, the digital version of this idea, manifested as a desktop... literally.

Could meeting rooms in the future be less about the writing on the walls and more about what's put on the table?

Monday, July 28, 2008

Why companies are not using Social Networking

By now, most companies are aware of Social Networking and have decided to do one of three things:

  1. Do nothing, wait and watch (or ignore)
  2. Carry out a limited trial
  3. Fully embrace social networking
From assumption and experience, I gather that some large companies & organisations have still done nothing because :
  • There is no reason for them to use social networking
    (e.g. they are too small, specialised or have no products/services to speak of)
  • They are ignoring it, hoping it will go away
  • Social Networking sites for brands/products have already been set up already by fans (and can therefore be monitoried and/or influenced in a cost effective way)
  • They believe it is too difficult or technically complex to set up
  • They have exisiting methods of communicating that do not suit digital technologies
    (I struggle to think who this would be.... but I'm sure they all have their reasons).
  • They have been scared off by the transparency and humility required
  • There is not a definitive Return on Investment model (ROI).
    I was recently told this by a senior marketing type, who had for years used tradional hit & miss TV & Radio campaigns to keep his company just about treading water in its own market space. I had to quote the old Lord Lever phrase at him)
Now some companies, including clients of my company Ideal Interface, have decided to trial social networking sites or set one up in a specially sectioned-off area on their own company website. By creating these destinations they have created useful but still risk-limited efforts where they have started to understand customer interactivity. Some have even adopted a different voice/tone or a slightly different subject from their core offering in an attempt to measure and analyse the public voice.

What's your company's excuse for not engaging?

Friday, July 25, 2008

Comcast digital care manager deserves praise

Having just read this article from the New York Times, about Comcast's Digital Care Manager responding to bloggers and using twitter, I assume that Frank Eliason is the exec mentioned in my previous posting on this subject. If he is, I am impressed by his commitment to his role and customers, he deserves praise (and hopefully the rewards for managing a growing team with an increasing profile).

You can use to freely monitor the conversation across and even have an RSS feed provided.

Old and new media... what's the difference?

In a previous post, I'd asked what the difference was between old and new media. Although this post was based around the effects of blogging on the USA political system, the "citizen as a journalist" effect is having an impact that is being felt across a wider media playing field than just the American Presidential Race.

However, although there is no doubt that media has changed (and should continue to do so), I would like to consider if 'New Media' and 'Old Media' (in reality the social web) are really that different...

The case for (AKA "yes, of course there's a difference)
1. Anyone can be a blogger or make a comment, you don't need a degree in journalism (or a daddy that owns the newspaper) to write your own column these days. The barriers to publishing are minimal and the rewards are not necessarily financial (see my previous posting on Brand Evangelists)
2. Direction is set by the writer, not the editor, owner, shareholders, etc.

The case against (AKA "no, they're all the same now really")
As pointed out recently by Jeremiah Owyang, There is now a significant blurring of the lines between blogs and journalism. Old Media such as TV and Radio have had to change to be part of the dialogue that is happening out there. Newspapers have evolved so that their online versions are broader in content or material that the restrictive printed page and in some cases these online versions are more popular!

My take on this:
The media landscape has changed significantly in the last few years and potentially forever. The citizen as a journalist has grown from a small seed to a large and powerful movement & industry, including online video. To therefore compare Old Media and New Media is to compare the Old Media before the arrival of the Internet and Social Web. To that effect.... of course there are differences, just as there was a huge difference between the theatre of William Shakespeare and the Hey-day of TV in the 1950's & 60's.

But as all media now evolves at a faster pace, converging and fragmenting along every single axis... surely the challenge will not be to compare them but to understand how each is of benefit in this new media world we live in?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

New New Media

Here's a really interesting interview Mark Molaro has with Paul Levinson, Fordham University's Chair of Communication and Media Studies.

He discusses the way media is still changing and how the academic landscape is evolving in the digital age. He especially covers how consumers have also eventually become the producers and the impact this has.

However he states that Mass (Old) Media has a role in society, but its role is changing and evolving. He believes that here is now a trade off in two competing trends.

  • "Gate-kept" media, who check and edit all content
  • Everyone producing content, with no checks

He thinks that we have had too long of the first point and that the Web2.0 era has eventually given the second point its opportunity now.

He also challenges Information Overload and states:

"The damage is done when we have too little, not too much information"

Food for thought methinks.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

AMA : Another Meaningless Acronym

The technical world is filled with Acronyms (I nearly wrote Anacronyms, but that's probably the basis of another posting). Features, processes and innovations are usually given TLA's (Three Letter Acronyms) to make it quicker and easier to communicate.

However, one assumes when you use them, that the other person knows what you're talking about and understands the acronym the same way you do. Here's a few terms you may well hear being used more recently, their official meaning and an alternative suggestion:

Official: User Generated Content
Suggestion: Uncomplimentary Griping Comments

Official: Real Simple Syndication
Suggestion: Reading Senseless Subjects

Official: Customer Releationship Management
Suggestion: Costly Repetitive Marketing

Has anyone got any other suggestions for TLA's alternative meanings?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

10 Social Bookmarking Questions

I'm asked by lots of people about digital"stuff" and I have recently been in and around conversations about Social Bookmarking that have been either confusing or just plain wrong.
Hopefully the FAQ below should put a better perspective on things:

1. What's social bookmarking?
The act of submitting a distinct URL to a social bookmarking site and usually adding a description & keyword 'tags'

2. Are these the same as social news sites?
The lines between Social Bookmarking and Social News sites have become very blurred as both have the same sort of fucntionality and it is possible to submit the same links to both sites. In fact a lot of people mean both when they use either term. However, people use social bookmarking sites in slightly different ways to social news sites.

3. Why do people do this?
Site owners want people who use these sites as search portals to find their pages easily. Searching through a set of human-submitted and classified links produces (arguably) better results. Also as more people use the www over time, the importing of browser 'favourites' from one PC to the next becomes more intricate and the organisation requirements of these bookmarks increases. By placing your own bookmarks on the web, you write them to a single place that can be retrieved anytime subsequently.

4. What popular social bookmarking sites are there? (Owned by Yahoo! and currently the most popular)
plus many more (including social news sites) can be found here and here.

However, it is now also possible to insert URL's into popular social networking sites such as Facebook & Bebo. Therefore before deciding to encourage social bookmarking, its recommended you find which sites your target demographic is actually using.

5. How popular is this activity?
As of 18/7/2008 Yahoo currently lists 36,475,990 recognised inbound links to Delicious and it ranks just under the top 1000 of all Internet sites (I would actually have thought it would be higher... but there you go)

6. Why is tagging my content important?
Collective tagging by multiple individuals creates a "folksonomy”, a term created by Thomas Vander Wal in a discussion thread on information architecture. It is a contraction of the words “folk” and “taxonomy".

7. Of what use is it to my company?
a. Your pages on specific topics can be found by those who use these social bookmarking site to find new and interesting content (Note: getting on the 'Popular' page of is a good way to gain significant instant traffic for smaller sites, particularly bloggers)
b. Search Engine Optimisation: Since in-bound links are generally seen as a major contributor to gaining a higher placing in search engines, the creation of in-bound links from a number of people can only assist your optimisation efforts.
c. Understand your users more: By seeing what pages of your site your user bookmark and the tags they apply, you can see what they find interesting and track their terminology.

8. What potential issues does this create for my website?
One notable issue I have found happens when a company re-develops its website and uses different technology/URLs. All existing social bookmarks will be pointing at the old site URL's and you must ensure you have a way of elegantly handling those "Page not found" messages (404 errors).

9. What are the problems with users tagging pages themselves?

a. Not all tags are created equally:

The problems inherent in an uncontrolled vocabulary lead to a number of limitations and weaknesses in folksonomies. Ambiguity of the tags can emerge as users apply the same tag in different ways. At the opposite end of the spectrum, the lack of synonym control can lead to different tags being used for the same concept, precluding collocation.
Thanks Adam:

2. You have no control over what tags your users assign to your pages.
I'll leave you to decide what it does to your SEO efforts if several users decide to tag your site with inappropriate words..... you can do nothing about this.

10. How do I encourage my users to Social Bookmark pages?
Placing a small piece of code on the popular/obvious pages of your site can insert a link through to each social bookmarking site (and you'll consider doing this for all bookmarking services on all of your web pages first of all). For example: BBC website articles currently have 5 links beneath each article to: Delicious, Digg, Reddit, Facebook & StumbleUpon.

Hint: To ensure you don't have a huge list of links on each page you can use Social Bookmark Sharing services, of which the most popular is This tool not only allows you to put one link on each page that allows you to save the URL on a number of the more popular services, it also provides some very useful analytics tools on its usage.

Monday, July 21, 2008

What about the UK Podcast market?

Figures from eMarketer's recent report show the UK podcasting market having fairly low usage, as on average only 8% of the population regularly engage with podcasts.

But hang on... 8%... that's not that bad is it?

8% is...
  • the number of the UK population who are Scottish
  • the total UK market share of Co-Op and Somerfield supermaket (who merged last week)
  • the amount of people in the UK who are left handed

Friday, July 18, 2008

More examples of Citizen Journalism

YouTube Citizen News:
This service by the biggest video site on the web appears to be a altruistic go at empowering citizens to tell their own stories.

A potentially better attempt to harness this phenomenon though is
NowPublic has created a "less-amateur" citizen media by inserting a layer of governance and checks from a known group of experienced volunteers (including a former BBC News head) who oversee and manage content quality.

As we see more of these services start and grow, you do wonder if this is Press 2.0 in action...

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Branded to death

The average person is bombarded with over 3000 brands or commercial messages per day. In fact, its now possible to show a person's day just by the brands they interact with:

Marketers have constantly had to interupt consumers far more to get their message through:

  • Brighter packaging
  • Bigger signage
  • Attractive agents/models (sex still sells)
  • etc.

But as we become more and more bombarded with these brands and their messages, we are more and more likely to filter them out.
You may see 3000+ brands/messages a day... but how many do you actually remember?
Google's Dr Cerf (who I still think was the basis of The Architect from The Matrix Trilogy) has the same view on this filtering and believes that by busing social media and influence he can create a better way of helping brands:

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Brand Evangelists

Back in April I wrote about customers being Brand Evangelists. I've recieved positive feedback about this posting so I've decided to progress this subject further.

So how to you get the most from these unique individuals? How do you influence people who have no financial incentive to do what they do, just passion?

1. Understand them

What is an evangelist is and does your company have any? (You may be suprised to find out)

- Are they your target customer?

- What is it that they talk about? (and who do they tell?)

- Why do they feel they own your brand?

2. If you don't have any, roll your own

Employees can be great evangelists for your products or services and are probably doing the job already in some way. Encouraging innovation, providing the right environment for them and supporting their activities all plays a part in getting them to fly your brand flags.
One of the most impressive brand evangelists I know is Phil Mooney, the Coca-Cola archivist (basically a professional Coke collector for the last 30 years) who now has his own blog.

3. Empower them

Give them the materials and support they need.
  • Content (RSS feeds, targetted news releases, etc.)

  • Portable assets (image and video placed out there on available sites, e.g. Flickr, YouTube, etc.)

  • Tools and toys (widgets and other stuff they can put in their blogs, sites, etc.)
Note: Liana Evans posting on the same subject here also includes coupons & exclusive opportunities

4. Be transparent / human / accessible

One reason that some companies have a lot of evangelists is because people identify and believe in them. I am certain that there is a relationship between the number/proportion of brand evangelists and the openness of the organisation.
I'm definately not saying that just having these properties in your brand statement will give you instant unpaid advocacy. You must practice what you preach and your customers must be able to tell (you will hopefully tell when you find you have more brand evangelists)

However some companies may find this more dificult than others due to the amount of cultural shift required, however the advantages should out-weight the drawbacks.

5. Allow their input

Your evangelists won't last long in a social vacuum and like any relationship (some do have a lot of passion) they want some reciprocation of their affection. Every sports fan has their own opinions on which players are best (hence Fantasy Football/Cricket/etc.) and speak to other fans, use old media (radio call-in shows) & new media (chat forums and discussion boards) to make their points known.
Likewise every evangelist has an idea for your brand. These may anything from a better way of phrasing the content on your website, through to entirely new product ideas. This feedback is invaluable... its your decision if and how you use it.

Companies pay hundreds of thousands of £'s * to figure out how to create brand loyalty whilst ignoring their brand promoters & evangelists... why? Your evangelists are some of your best: sales people, R&D and customer services representatives. And they do it for free.

What other method of influencing customers has that ROI?

*and to keep this blog equal, lots of money in every other major currency as well

Monday, July 14, 2008

The student YouTube generation

The students of Michael Wesch, an Assistant Professor of Cultural Anthropology at Kansas State University have made: A Vision of Students Today, a video which summarizes how students learn in the modern world.

There's no doubt in my mind that TV as a media and the Internet as a delivery mechanism will become far more intertwined in the future. How we make sense of this and use it most effectively will surely be the next challenge!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Citizen Journalism creates political problems

Having spent 2 weeks in the USA recently, I've been far more aware of the polical race being run there right now. (Note: as well as being intrigued by 2 political parties who use two very similar icons - an elephant and a donkey I understand - explained here),
However, whilst reading the International version of the Financial Times in LA, I was interested in the article on how bloggers are affecting the political universe right now.

The article centres around Mayhill Fowler of the Huffington Post and her blogging of inappropriate comments made by Barack Obama and Bill Clinton recently. It does raise the point about whether it is right to post everything a politician says. However if politicians are to have the same qualities we expect from companies these day (truthful and transparent) then surely close scrutiny is not a bad thing and will only eventually highlight inconsistencies and inaccuraties?

There's no doubt that this election in the USA has been the first proper one where bloggers have a significant impact.

"The revolution is happening. Its a good thing and we're all part of it"

says Chuck DeFoe from when talking about the the impact of new media and politics.

However are old media and new media that different?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Online Consumer Reviews Significantly Impact Consumer Purchasing Decisions

Who'd have thought eh?

Some recent research by ORC (Opinion Research Corporation) a global market research company who's head office is in Princeton NJ, has found that customer purchasing habits are significantly affected by reviews given by others.

83% of those who looked for reviews and other feedback said these had at least some influence on their purchases. However, althought the majority said they used reviews, about a third claim to have posted their own feedback online. The most researched product / service area was Travel/Recreation/Leisure at 82% and the least was food at 24%.

Although there are a lot of places on the web to submit opinions & feedback, there are very few product owner sites that let you do this still. It seems that companies are very willing to get feedback on their products & services, but perhaps they just don't want it put on their own sites?

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Similar thoughts on influence

Mr Matt Rhodes has posted an interesting article on Influncers, that is very much in keeping with my own thoughts on the subject:

However, I'm sure there is more to understanding different influence than just variance by brand, but its a good starter for discussion.

A single view

I've been speaking with a few clients recently about managing customer data and have found myself saying those wonderful words "what we need is a single view of the customer".

By this I mean that companies must try to identify the customer once and not try to create different records of them just because they chose to use several different channels of communication or purchase.

This is widely acceped as a goal of CRM, to save on more expensive aquisitional costs of re-marketing to try to repeatedly obtain the same

customer and use retentional techniques to keep them happy and purchasing instead. Simple eh?Well, yes its easy enough to state, but hard to implement as:

1. Customers are not able to be tracked across all channels all the time (and still then we can't and shouldn't track them down when they are carrying out 'anonymous' or secure tasks)

2. They use different methods for interaction acording to the channel they use.

However, is this view-point not being a little arrogant? Shouldn't the customer be able to communicate with companies in the different ways they want and when they want to?

Surely what's required is not so much for companies to have a single view of their customer, but for customers to have a single view of a company?

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Adoption rates for technology

The evolution of media on the Internet is following the path of traditional media, only at a much faster pace. In fact it is possible to chart the progress of most technology over the recent decades . This graph is available from:

It shows:
Radio @ 50% adoption by 1930
Colour TV @ 50% adoption by 1970

However I feel the uptake rates of these technologies is more important:
Radio - 50% in 10 years
Colour TV - 50% in 10 years

What's even more impressive is the the uptake of the Internet to 50% in just 6 or 7 years (and the VCR in even less). I now can't help wondering what's likely to have a faster uptake rate in the future. Will it be a new device (less likely) or will it just be a device-agnostic service (more likely)?

It also reminds me that I need to re-read the 'Waves of Power' book written by David Moschella back in 1997, where he predicted the growth of the network economy and gave future growth rates for information-based sevices.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Thoughts from USA trip

Having spend the last 2 weeks away on the West Coast of the USA (honeymoon), its given me some time to think about the content of this blog and a that there is a more international perspective to modern corporate communication methods.

Its very easy when you reside in one country to forget that the web is a global medium, with all that entails....

Sunday, July 6, 2008

So who views your YouTube videos?

You've decided to host some company video assets up on YouTube and you've recieved lots of views and several comments. But how do you know who these people are?

YouTube insight:

Note: The recent Viacom/Google trial may soon mean that the YouTube viewing figures are far more available

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Reporting dashboards

Interfaces for showing data are nothing new, but getting meaningful information from these 'dashboards' is another thing.

Avinash Kaushik has put together several examples of 'crappy' dashboards:

It reminds us all that its not just about the information that you present, its also (and perhaps more importantly) about the actions you subsequently decide upon as a result.