Category Archives: Web 2.0

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.

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.

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. Is Illogical

I and many others have seen our inboxes swell this week with emails fron “requesting your trust” from friends, former colleagues, casual acquaintances. Something triggered the bordering-on-spam emails from this “people search engine” – I think it was their scraping of unsuspecting members’ address books with an opt-out that many users seem to have missed (I hope I wasn’t one of them). Here’s how the site’s owners describe their creation:

When you join, you can build your network to find where everyone you know is on the internet. Every time you search, Spock will personalize your results to include information that is relevant to your network. You can enhance your search experience even further by establishing a trust relationship with people in your network, allowing you to search each other’s networks for relevant people.

The catch is that your profile is there whether you join or not – culled from whatever other information about you is living across the web. And there’s more! Other people can add to your profile. As a colleague pointed out today, the only way to change inaccurate information from your profile is to join the network – talk about savvy customer acquisition techniques!

This is not the type of social networking evolution most folks want to see. As the me-toos and the WTF’s proliferate, David Churbuck takes note of the growing social network fatigue. invitees can no doubt relate.

The New Bubble … And We Know What Happens to Bubbles

Front-page story in the New York Times today about the latest Internet bubble – and the debate over whether comparisons to the first dot-com bust are legit. With excerpts like this from the Times story, how could they not be?

Twitter, a company in San Francisco that lets users alert friends to what they are doing at any given moment over their mobile phones, recently raised an undisclosed amount of financing. Its co-founder and creative director, Biz Stone, says that the company was not currently focused on making money and that no one in the company was even working on how to do so. “At the moment, we’re focused on growing our network and our user experience,” he said. “When you have a lot of traffic, there’s always a clear business model.”

Build traffic and revenues will follow. Where have we heard that before? I remember interviewing Eric Schmidt sometime in the late ’90s. He was still running Novell at the time (still a couple of years from joining Google as CEO, which easily qualifies as Best Career Move Ever), and I asked him his thoughts on the then-bubble. “The thing about bubbles,” he said, “is they all burst eventually.”

The CNN-YouTube Gimmick, er Debates

I did not watch the CNN-YouTube debates last night, so I must rely on others to tell me how this experimental mash-up of traditional and new media layered on top of a presidential debate went. As with any political event, the reaction varies greatly depending on whom you ask. told me that “Questions, Not Answers, Highlight YouTube Debate” and that “YouTube questions were sometimes personal, heartfelt and comical.” Also:

One of the highlights came when a YouTuber asked the candidates to look to their left and say one thing about that person they liked and one thing they disliked.

I had to watch the candidates answer such a riveting question, so I clicked on the “See telling quotes from each candidate” link, sat through a 15-second preroll E-trade ad, and quickly dozed off as each candidate launched into the usual drivel. This was a highlight?

Anyway, here’s how others reacted:

  • The Guardian Unlimited in the U.K. proclaimed that YouTube is prompting a “revolution in televised debates,” though it didn’t provide much in the article to back up that headline.
  • TelevisionWeek blogger Daisy Whitney called the debates “unbelievably cool and completely emblematic of the times.” Like, you know, very tubular.  
  • A blogger for the Seattle Post Intelligencer hit the nail on the head, commenting that presidential debates are pretty lame regardless of the format.
  • The LA Times said the presidential hopefuls “embraced the Internet in all its brashness and irreverence,” while cross-town rival LA Weekly News had a different viewpoint, accurately calling the debates “a perversion of Web technology” and adding:

The Net really does provide a potentially formidable challenge to both establishment politics and mainstream media — but not when cheaply manipulated the way CNN engineered this farce. Authentic Web-driven power surfaces most dramatically when online communities exercise collective accountability over institutions and individuals that were once invulnerable to instantaneous public reaction and feedback. 

Uh-oh, not good. I’m sure the Republican version in September will be even more raucous!

Hey, here’s a progressive idea for the pols and those covering them: If you want real citizen-candidate interaction, why don’t you ask voters to submit questions, pick two dozen that represent a good cross-section of the country, and put them in a room with the candidates, so they can have a real conversation and voters can ask follow-ups to the non-answers they get to their initial questions. No time limit. Let them all bring their camcorders to record the event and post their individual perspectives on YouTube. Now that’s citizen journalism.

Microblogging: Who Needs It?

The Twitter revolution must be official now that Time, BusinessWeek and The New York Times have all covered it. Twitter is a platform for what some are calling “microblogging” – a combination of blogging and instant messaging that has no real point that I can see other than to let people follow you around virtually all day as you keep a running diary of your activities – in 140 or fewer characters. From the NYT:

For anyone unfamiliar with the latest trends in technology, “Twitterers” send and receive short messages, called “tweets,” on Twitter’s Web site, with instant messaging software, or with mobile phones. Unlike most text messages, tweets — usually in answer to Twitter’s prompt, “What are you doing?” — are routed among networks of friends. Strangers, called “followers,” can also choose to receive the tweets of people they find interesting. …

Most twitterers communicate with small networks of people they know, but the most popular have thousands of friends and followers. One of the best-loved twitterers, Paul Terry Walhaus, a gray-haired blogger from Austin, Tex., has 9,177 friends and 1,851 followers, according to the tracking site Twitterholic.

Perhaps I’m just envious of someone who has 9,177 friends (think of the parties!), but this is not for me.  

The general banality of the posts has turned off a lot of folks. Other tweets have had the opposite effect, landing their authors in virtual hot water as a stream-of-consciousness tidbit is picked up and circulated throughout the Web. Unlike traditional IM, Twitter posts don’t disappear after a chat session ends, so something you say in passing is bound to outrage someone, somewhere. The above link (a tweet by Steve Rubel from PR firm Edelman) caught the eye of PC Magazine Editor in Chief Jim Louderback, who responded to Rubel’s comment that he tosses PC Mag in the trash by threatening to cancel Rubel’s comp subscription and boycott Edelman’s tech clients (of which there are many). Rubel subsequently apologized in an effort to save face (and stave off the boycott), and presumably they will both co-exist happily ever after.

There may be legitimate uses for Twitter; I just can’t think of any. BusinessWeek speculates on a few:

In different contexts, say among friends or colleagues, knowing that someone is sick or at lunch explains why they aren’t returning your call or why they’re so cranky, argues Ross Mayfield, chief executive of corporate wiki outfit Socialtext Inc.

For that to happen, the information–or time required to enter it–can’t be overwhelming. And Twitter must refine its filters. Right now it’s possible to direct updates to one person, but imagine if you could selectively reach certain groups of colleagues and filter recipients according to subjects, like restaurants. Already, Twitter tools are popping up, such as maps that show where people are twittering and a Twitter search engine.

Anyway, Twitter founder Evan Williams is obviously a smart guy who has a track record of success with startups (former CEO of Odeo, co-founder of Blogger parent Pyra Labs, since sold to Google). So he’s probably onto something with Twitter, but I’m not yet convinced. Of course, in the late ’90s I thought instant messaging was a huge waste of time, and that seems to have done all right.  

Selling Copiers in Second Life

Xerox simulcast the launch of some new office products yesterday from two venues: Fenway Park in Boston, and Xerox Innovation Island in Second Life. Xerox exec Jim Firestone said the simulcast demonstrates the intersection of the print-based and paperless worlds.

The Fenway event was cool – free food and drink in the EMC Club, a few swings in the indoor batting cages, and Jim Rice signing autographs. The SL event – well, not so good. Xerox Chief Technology Officer Sophie Vandebroek used her avatar to walk through a couple of product demos from within the virtual world, which featured streaming videos of real-life product managers embedded in virtual displays, and a skinny Al Roker avatar running around as some type of investigative journalist/narrator. Vandebroek said Xerox is using Innovation Island to study the social dynamics of the virtual world and potential opportunities for Xerox. I’m sorry, I still don’t get the appeal of Second Life to marketers.

Website Asks, Could Second Life Kill off the Call Center? Uh, No

This story on a website called caught my eye for its sheer silliness. The writer posits on how virtual world Second Life could play a role as a virtual waiting room for real-life customer service. The story even quotes a consultant:

In future [sic], the consultants believe call centres could one day ask customers to follow up a phone call with them by moving the query into a virtual world. And hanging around in Second Life is more fun than being stuck on hold. As Claus Nehmzow, member of PA Consulting’s management team points out: “The waiting period can be so much more entertaining than with an IVR system”.

Instead of being placed in a queue to enjoy hold ‘muzak’ when contacting a call centre, virtual world visitors could make more profitable use of their time – talking to other inhabitants, viewing videos, reading information in the environment for example.

And I’m sure customers with real problems to solve or orders to place will eagerly latch onto being shunted to a fake world where they can chat up their issues with an avatar.

This is a textbook case of a journalist desperately seeking a fresh angle for an overexposed topic. Inevitably, the result is an incredibly dumb story.