Category Archives: Internet

Marketers Sick of Web 2.0? Not So Fast

Survey results released this week from the Marketing Executives Networking Group and Anderson Analytics are getting a lot of play in the blogosphere, particularly this nugget from the press release:

Twice as many marketers are “sick” of hearing about Web 2.0 and related buzzwords such as “blogs” and “social networking” compared to last year’s survey; however, marketers still admit they don’t know enough about it.  This was evident in the results of a social media study MENG released on November 6, 2008 showing 67% of executive marketers consider themselves beginners when it comes to using social media for marketing purposes.

A couple of points here. First, only 19.4% of the 643 respondents said they were tired of hearing the term “Web 2.0” (up from 9.1% a year ago), 12.2 % said the same about “social networking”, and 11.3% cited “social media” as a term they had tired of. Not exactly overwhelming condemnation of the concepts. And it’s no surprise that the year-over-year numbers would go up, considering those terms generate an endless drumbeat of media coverage. Hell, I’m sick of hearing about/reading about/saying them myself.

What the press release and subsequent coverage of the survey overlook is that when the respondents were asked what they considered to be the most important marketing concepts, the percentages citing “word of mouth,” “social network sites,” “viral marketing,” “Web 2.0,” and “consumer generated media” all rose year-to-year. Granted, these categories did not crack the respondents’ top 10 priorities (word of mouth was #11), but it’s clear that these concepts are rising in importance, even as the buzzwords themselves are becoming cliche.

The greater concern should be whether marketers will be able to sustain any progress they’ve made with their social media marketing programs. With more than half the respondents noting that their ’09 budgets have been reduced, the tendency will be to fall back on more traditional investments like sales promotions, which are viewed as safer bets than the experimentation that goes into identifying social media strategies that really work. The sales folks will be happy, but innovation will take a hit. So even though 79% of the execs in the MENG survey said that customer satisfaction was their top priority, customers can expect to be subjected to the same hard-sell tactics that have become so annoying (and so easy to ignore). Talk about tired.

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The Future of Journalism

Great piece from Nieman Reports by BusinessWeek editor John Byrne titled “The changing truths of journalism.” He talks about how context is as important as the content itself and explains why publishers need to become “editorial curators” – sifting through and organizing articles (regardless of the source) and serving them back to communities of readers. Skip the first few grafs and get into the meat of how magazines and newspapers need to evolve in order to survive – as evidenced by BusinessWeek’s recent launch of Business Exchange, a series of online microcommunities organized (by readers) around vertical topics. Worth the read.

Proof that the Mass Market Is Not Dead, Just … Different

The backlash against Johnson & Johnson over its ill-conceived Motrin ad proves that the mass market is alive and well, with one major shift: It’s now controlled by the consumer. Consider the irony: An ad that had been living innocuously for more than a month on a Motrin website and in a few print mags was Twittered into a national story by a small but vocal group of moms. This tells me that even the most targeted Web advertising – in the hands of the right viral (pick one) advocates/mob – has more potential reach than TV advertising in the pre-cable days. Not only that, but thanks to YouTube and the search engines, the campaign will endure in all of its infamy well into the future.

Election Day

So here we are, finally. Being from a swing state (NH), oh how I will miss the robo-calls (as opposed to the calls to Rob O), the overflow of laughably lame direct mail in my snail-mailbox and the attack ads on TV, none of whch gave me any useful information about the candidates sending them. There was no shortage of outdated, ineffective marketing techniques brought to bear by both parties during this campaign season, especially at the local level.

Even on the Web, useful (objective) information was difficult to find. Any fence-sitters on election eve in NH would have been hard-pressed to Google their way to a decision regarding the hotly contested congressional races between Shaheen/Sununu (Senate) or Bradley/Shea-Porter (House of Reps). The media accounts were mostly of how the candidates “sparred” during debates; the candidates’ own websites were unconvincing at best, misleading at worst. And why do they post the same mind-numbing TV ads they’ve been subjecting us to over the local airwaves since January! Are you kidding me?

From a media standpoint, tonight will be one of those throwback nights, where families and friends gather for an increasingly rare (excepting major sporting events) shared experience around their TVs. The pundits will pundit and the network news teams will try to convince themselves that they still really matter – and for one night at least, they will have our rapt attention. (I will miss Tim Russert.) For anyone looking for an alternative (and more participatory) experience, CurrentTV is partnering with Digg, Twitte and 12seconds.tv – a “celebration of democracy” according to Current’s CEO.

No excuses – get out and vote!

What Not To Do on Your “About Us” page

An About Us page is a checklist item for any business’s website (and many personal blogs, in its more informal About Me variation). Here’s what NOT to do on your “About Us” page:

  • Don’t put your “About Us” page in the “Past News” section – this implies that, well, you are old news.  
  • Don’t put embeddable ads in the text. That tells me a lot “about” you – all of it negative.
  • Don’t say you have an experienced staff, but then provide no information about or access to those people.
  • Don’t post text with numerous typos (and compound the oversight by calling yourself an “award-winning” media publication).

If you don’t think any established website could possibly allow any of these egregious errors to go unchecked, think again: I found one that features ALL of them. And I’m sad to say I used to work for them. What a disturbing decline for a once-great publication.

The Decline and (Rapidly Approaching) Fall of the TV Empire

A new study from a research firm called Grunwald Associates indicates a significant shift in the media habits of children:

Sixty-four percent of kids go online while watching television, and nearly half of U.S. teens (49 percent) report that they do so frequently — anywhere from three times a week to several times a day. … The study reveals that 73 percent of TV-online multitasking kids are engaged in “active multitasking,” defined by Grunwald Associates as content in one medium influencing concurrent behavior in another. This trend represents a 33 percent increase in active multitasking since 2002. While kids are using more media, their attention primarily and overwhelmingly is focused on their online activities.

I don’t need stats to tell me about the decline of traditional TV among tomorrow’s generation; I see it daily in my own house, as my 17-year-old watches downloaded episodes of Degrassi on her iPod, as my 12-year-old focuses far more time IM’ing or fast-forwarding through DVR’d Celtic games than watching live TV, and as my 9-year-old runs around the house making videos and begging me to let him post something on YouTube, or as he surfs for PS2 cheats online, half-listening as Jimmy Neutron drones in the background.   

Sure, there are a few seminal TV events that the family feels obligated to watch live, like the Super Bowl or, to a lesser extent, American Idol. But today’s kids are edging – no, rushing – away from the passive TV experience. I do not envy network execs.
 

Social Media Curriculum: Beginner or Advanced?

Companies are all over the map in their embrace/avoidance of blogs and other social media. Some, especially tech firms, have given virtually free reign to their employees to launch blogs and talk directly to customers. Others are paralyzed by concerns over governance issues and the possibility that some corporate blogger will disclose something that doesn’t adhere to corporate policy or catches the probing eyes of the SEC.  

Even the experts can’t agree on how to approach corporate blogging. In the true spirit of this new medium, a curriculum of sorts has organically sprung up for social media marketing. Start with Jeremiah Owyang, a Forrester analyst who posted on the “three impossible conversations for corporations” (1. Asking for Feedback; 2. Saying Positive Things about your Competitors; 3. Admitting You Were Wrong.) Good, solid advice for the social media novice. 

David Churbuck retorted that those tips are way too basic to be useful for most corporate marketers, who he believes are past the Blogging 101 stage and are seeking more advanced education:

This corporate blogging stuff isn’t a two headed chicken in the freak tent anymore. This is mainstream baby. Anyone writing posts about “impossible” corporate conversations has to step it up – talk about the serious stuff, like – contravening corporate policy by privately resolving a blogged customer support issue and having the blogger publically state the solution and thereby set a precedent for all future complaints. Let’s get into that one and you’ll earn my respect.

Challenged to provide his own advice (as someone who lives the stuff daily), Churbuck offered a couple of Blogging 201 primers: one on the risks of a no-questions-asked blogger appeasement strategy, the other a broader list of 10 topics that he’d like to see more discussion about:

  1. Tool and platforms
  2. Pronouns
  3. Metrics
  4. Rogue SMM
  5. How to do SMM/SEO right
  6. Going Uplevel
  7. Organizational Ownership
  8. One vs many
  9. Review mechanism and buddy systems
  10. The politics of being a know-it-all

The pundit and the practitioner have both agreed to dig into these and other social media marketing topics over the next few months, which is good news for any marketer trying to get his or her arms around this brave new world of “customer engagement.”

Of course, any curriculum would be incomplete without some backround reading: I’ve provided a bit of that with a dusted-off interview I did in 2005 with Lenn Pryor, who created the Channel 9 website for Microsoft in 2004 that serves as a touchstone for current social media marketing.