Thursday, August 31, 2006

Social media for marketing, PR, communications

When you think of social media in business, do you focus on opportunities to improve the business, or do you worry about losing control of information and decisionmaking? Jerry Bowles expresses the perceived risks to senior executives in why CEOs are afraid of social media:
Large-scale adoption of the architectures of participation would represent a revolutionary change in organizational dynamics because–by giving lots of individuals a voice and audience through a networked platform–they force decisionmaking to be more transparent, democratic and consensus-based. [...]

In my experience, most leaders do not want to operate their organizations as experiments in democracy or collective intelligence. Not even our Presidents and Congresspeople want to do that. That’s why resistance to Enterprise Web 2.0 technologies is likely to be understated, but fierce, at the upper levels.

To gain a foothold, the new collaboration platform vendors are going to have to initially target already receptive areas like marketing, PR and corporate communications departments or divisions with specific projects which need networking and collaboration.

I like Jerry's conclusion, because my focus is on social media and search for market intelligence, which is geared toward... marketing, PR and corporate communications (and a few others).

It's also interesting to see the focus on social media for collaboration; there are so many ways to look at this stuff. I'm not entirely disagreeing with his concerns, but there are many ways to start using social media in the enterprise. Companies should be able to take advantage of the benefits without undermining management. Just think through the consequences before you use all the new toys.

Another way to avoid triggering CEO anxiety could be to focus on applications that don't threaten existing power structures (and a few features that might even enhance the CEO's influence in the company). Rather than going all-out for the revolutionary applications of electronic collaboration, look for areas where new technologies can help people do their current jobs more effectively and efficiently. It doesn't have to be dangerous.


Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Jargon 2.0

It's becoming popular to complain about Web 2.0 even while using it. David Berkowitz says Web 2.0 "reeks of dot-com geek elitism," but it has the frustrating property of being useful—for framing his article, for example. He's not alone in disliking the term, but I haven't seen a good alternative, and we do need a shorthand to refer to the trends. At this point, Web 2.0 has momentum, and it will take a convincing argument to replace it.

Jargon is specialized language that people use to communicate efficiently within specialties. If I pitched an article on, let's say, HR 2.0, the people who most dislike the whole "Web 2.0" family of terms would have a good idea of what I meant. The alternative is to spend time and effort reciting the philosophy and technologies that make up the universe of Web 2.oh, look, a post on Recruitment 2.0. And here I was, trying to be hypothetical. Here are a few more 2.0 references:

Does this matter to your business? Whether you like the terminology or not, things are changing on the Internet, which is increasingly embedded in people's lives. It's not hard to see how changes in the online environment will affect your business sooner or later (and my money's on sooner).

For those who need an introduction to Web 2.0, here are a few links to get you started:

We seem to have a number of discussions about terminology going on—about Web 2.0, RSS versus feeds, social media versus CGM, Google as a verb—the debates only prove that people are interested in these topics, and that the whole Internet environment isn't mature yet. Vigorous discussion of terminology is just part of the growth process.

I won't try to defend Web 3.0, though.


Friday, August 25, 2006

Social media use and Google

Neil Patel did some searching and came up with 10 things Google knows about you. It's not so much what Google knows—they know even more, such as your search history. It's what Google will share with the world, and it's not just Google, it's Internet search in general.
  1. Social bookmarking sites you use
  2. Photo sharing sites you use
  3. Your favorite blogs
  4. Your MySpace presence
  5. Where you blog
  6. Your Wikipedia entries
  7. Forums you participate in
  8. Books you have written
  9. Podcasts you have been on
  10. Your LinkedIn presence

I see three things to take from this list. First—and you really should have done this already—Google yourself (yes, I still use Google as a verb). You should never be surprised by anything someone learns about you online. Set up alerts and vanity feeds to keep track of new references that appear. Then, think about how you can use your visibility in search results to your advantage.

Second, don't use your real name if you want to separate your public image from some of your personal activities (such as personal blogs or photos on Flickr). Don't be surprised if your secret identity is revealed eventually, though. If you really want to keep a secret, don't let it play on the Internet.

Third, turn the list around. These are examples of things Google (and the others) can tell you about other people. If it feels like an invasion of privacy to you, don't do it, but there's useful information out there, and refusing to discover it could be a competitive disadvantage.

The bottom line on privacy is that every new service you use potentially adds detail to your online reputation. You can worry about the loss of privacy, or you can focus on the benefits of visibility. Just remember the level playing field of search: anything "they" can find, you can find, too.


Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Strategies for online reputation monitoring

Are you paying attention to what your brand is doing online? You should. Bloggers write about their experiences as customers, and the news isn't always good. The list of famous examples is short and overexposed but informative. Bad publicity from a blog can lead to real-world consequences (in Kryptonite's case, around $10 million worth). By now you should be monitoring your online reputation. Here are the different ways you can do it.
  1. Do it yourself (or assign it internally).
    Grab a feed reader, set up some vanity search subscriptions, and look through the results. If your company is small enough, or has a low profile, this may be all you need.

  2. Hire a consultant.
    Hire an outsider who will use the same types of tools you could use yourself. The difference comes from hiring someone with expertise in social media and Internet search, who will not be learning the technologies and culture on your dime. Choose this option if you don't have the time or expertise to do it yourself and your exposure doesn't justify the cost of high-end services.

  3. Hire an agency.
    Monitoring social media on behalf of their clients is a fast-growing specialty of many interactive marketing and PR agencies. The proprietary tools they claim to have may be nothing more than a feed reader and an analyst, but these firms should at least be good at connecting the brand monitoring service with your other marketing activities. This approach may be best when you use the same agency for their other services.

  4. Subscribe to an automated monitoring and analysis service.
    At some point, the quantity of search results becomes overwhelming. If your search terms (company name, brand name, products, etc.) appear many times a day or get lost in a sea of irrelevant search results, you need a computer to do the initial screening. Umbria and Biz360 offer software-based services that move beyond simple keyword matching into natural language processing and other advanced analytical techniques. You'll need a budget that approaches the cost of a mid-level marketing employee, but this is the inexpensive way to escape the limits of manual methods.

  5. Contract with a high-end monitoring service.
    If you have a big budget (reportedly 7 figures) and a well-known brand, look into the high-end services from Nielsen BuzzMetrics and Cymfony. Both start with data mining and analytical technologies similar to Umbria's, but they add the services of human analysts. Large corporations and high-profile brands are most likely to have both the need and the budget for these services.

    Frankly, the companies who are likely to sign up with these companies are the ones who already subscribe to multiple research services, so I wouldn't be surprised if they work with multiple reputation-tracking services, too. These companies are most likely to benefit from an intelligence delivery system to manage the distribution of multiple intelligence sources.

When selecting your approach, consider these questions:
  1. What's your budget? We might as well start with the obvious question. These approaches vary from free (except for the cost of your time) to over a million dollars, and budget constraints will eliminate the high-end options for many companies.
  2. What's your visibility? Companies aren't equally visible, online or otherwise. If your company has a low profile, the manual processes (1,2,3) may be adequate. If your name appears thousands of times daily, you need automated help (4 or 5).
  3. What's your exposure? If a negative story about your company or products were to appear, would it affect your business? How many constituencies do you need to keep happy?
  4. How much analysis do you want done for you? The five approaches are listed in order of increasing service and analysis provided. For example, the difference between Umbria and the most expensive services is the expert analysis added to the software analysis.
  5. Are you already working with a company that offers these services? If their service is appropriate to your needs, you can benefit from what they already know about your business.

If this seems like a good idea but a lot to sort out, I can help. Send an email to to get things started. Doing nothing is the only approach that is wrong for everyone.

P.S. Reputation-monitoring companies should be quick to find references to themselves online, right? I wonder how quick? The current time to beat is 150 minutes.

Update: You'll find more on this topic under reputation at the new Net-Savvy Executive.


Wednesday, August 09, 2006

What does "google" mean to you?

Google's in the dictionary, and they don't like it (or at least their trademark lawyer doesn't like it). I see their point; they don't want to be the next example of a company losing its trademark protection because their name became synonymous with their category. What do you think? When you use google as a verb, are you referring to Google or using the term as a generic term for Internet search?

What do you mean when you say you're going to "google" something?
Look it up on the Google search site (specifically)
Look it up on the Internet (generically)
I don't use "google" as a verb.

Web Polls by Vizu

Contrast the Google story with Digg and Furl, which encourage the use of their names as verbs. Bad for the trademark, good for promotion?


Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Don't google Google

You might ask why they aren't excited by the recognition and shout, "Yahoo!" But unlike companies whose names come from common words, Google needs to protect its trademark—now in the dictionary—from becoming a generic word. They'd really like it if, instead of suggesting that you Google yourself (even with the capitalization), I suggest you look yourself up with the Google search engine.

From The Seattle Times, the reaction to a note from Google's trademark lawyer (via SEW via Andy Beal):
Google, evidently, took offense to a passage in The [Washington] Post article: "Google, the word, now takes its place alongside the handful of proper nouns that have moved beyond a particular product to become descriptors of an entire sector—generic trademarks."

This characterization, the letter warned, is "genericide" and should be avoided.

This is a necessary part of protecting a trademark and a sign of the company's success. It's ironic that only the companies with innovative names have this problem. And then there are the companies that encourage the use of their names (digg, furl) as a verb, not generically, but referring specifically to their service. Is google as a verb really becoming generic, or does it refer specifically to the Google search engine?

Extra credit: Anyone can send an email. When you really want to get someone's attention, do something different. The Internet's 800-pound gorilla sent the newspaper a hand-addressed letter, which was unusual enough to be mentioned in the story.