May 2008 Archives

An automotive SIM wish list


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Please note this article was first published on the Headlight Blog.

Recent research from the Journal of Advertising Research highlights that offline brand advocacy is significantly impacted by online word of mouth for the automotive product category. We also know that a significant amount of the online word of mouth happens at social media destinations. So how can an auto manufacturer take advantage of social influence marketing, which is about leveraging social media at every stage of a marketing campaign and beyond, to harness the peer and anonymous influences?

Knowing how to tap into that social influence can be challenging for an auto manufacturer. Here are five tips for automakers as they attempt to harness the social influence.

1. Market to the peer influencers as well
Auto purchasing decisions are rarely made in isolation. Think hard about the spheres of influence both online and offline that affect a specific customer segment’s decision-making process and find ways to target those influencers as well. For example, if you’re selling a car to a college student, you can also promote the vehicle online (as a great college car) to the parents of the buyer.

2. Allow for the social influence to take place more naturally
A passionate customer’s relationship with an auto brand is never a private relationship. The customer invariably wants to showcase that relationship in some public form. Provide him or her with enough digital artifacts to do so. There’s memorabilia in the offline space, but what about memorabilia for a social network? Is it available on your website? And I don’t just mean screensavers.

3. Market to your current car owners more aggressively
Most auto manufacturers don’t do enough to harness the passions of current car owners. They’re your most valuable marketers as they strongly influence their peers. Find ways to keep them excited and engaged with the brand on an ongoing basis. Now with marketing through social media, this has finally gotten easier. Take advantage of it and give them more excuses to talk about your brand when they socialize online.

4. Redesign your website to allow for group purchasing decisions
Growing up, my father always made my mother, brother and me active stakeholders when he went shopping for a new car. We’d look at brochures together; visit car dealerships, debate over dinner and vote for our favorites. No auto manufacturer lets me take that experience online. Auto purchases invariably are group decisions, so provide customers with the tools to share information, debate (via social networks or otherwise) and make decisions as a group. You’ll win more customers.

5. Direct customers to third-party experts online
Web behavior has changed, whether you like it or not. Customers will hop between third-party review sites, social networks and competing auto manufacturer websites as they make the purchasing decisions. Instead of ignoring this behavior, embrace it. Point your site visitors to the most authoritative blogs and auto review sites and let those customers tag and catalog that information. They’ll become more informed buyers and you’ll build vital trust by pointing them to the right places. Don’t worry; they’ll come back to your site when they’re ready to buy.

Arguably, over the last few years auto manufacturers have taken some great strides in the social media domain. The challenge now is to lead the way in the next phase of social influence marketing. It’s when the auto manufacturers can truly go social and allow for those peer and anonymous influences to take place naturally. We’re all waiting to see who will do that first and how.

View other articles pertaining to Digital Automotive Trends on the Headlight Blog.

Social Influence Marketing in the Auto Industry


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Another issue of the Headlight Blog is out and this time it focuses on social influence marketing. As you may remember, last month's edition covered everything green in the automotive space. Grant, Mary Butler and the team have done an excellent job again. The posts featured that are worth reading include -


My article is published in the next post as well.

More statistics on the power of influence


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Some of these statistics are probably old news for us in the industry but they're still worth drawing attention to. This is from Edelman's Trust Barometer via eMarketer and highlights how people trust each other as credible sources of information about a company.

Why is this important? Because when we design web experiences and online marketing programs, we generally ignore the fact that people trust each other more than any other form of communication. We also don't recognize that people trust their known peers much more than the anonymous blogosphere. To effectively reach consumers today, you have to reach them through people like themselves. 

Finding those people is the challenge. That'll be the subject of one of my upcoming articles on Social Influence Marketing.

Blippr gets social influence marketing. 160 character reviews


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blipprlogo1.jpgI'm going to take a chance and talk about a web service that I've just started playing with. Only because I think it has phenomenal potential. It is one of those web services that I've been waiting to use for a few years. Its called Blippr and its in private beta at the moment.

The service is relatively straightforward. Think Epinions meets Twitter and Digg and you have Blippr. People review movies, books, games, movies and music but each review is limited to 160 characters in length. The more you review yourself, the better the review engine gets at making suggestions for you. Items reviewed move up and down the rankings based on other reviews and recommendations. You can see how other people are reviewing certain items and limit reviews to only those of your friends.

The way you get the most out of Blippr is by inviting your friends to join the network and start recommending items. That way rather than trying to keep track of recommendations at dinner parties, you can see what matters to each friend through Blippr. You can follow people with similar tastes too. That helps you find new items that you're certain to like. This feature reminds me of the Borders "If you liked this book, you'll like these" promotion in its stores. 

Blippr is very sensitive about coming across as yet another social network. So instead they encourage you to find Blippr on your favorite social network and use it their via a widget. Smart strategy.

Why does Blippr matter?
Because it understands how social influence marketing works. We're heavily influenced by our peers and also those anonymous influencers out there. But we don't have the time to read detailed reviews. Often a few lines are all that are needed to influence us. The closer the person is to us, the fewer words it takes for that person to influence. For example, a friend of mine is a wine geek and all he has to do is mention the name of a wine and I'm off to the local wine shop to pick it up. These recommendations take less than 160 characters.

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But its not just what it takes to be influenced on the other end of the spectrum, it is far easier to write a 160 character review than a few paragraphs. We're more likely to write these reviews in the context of a specific activity. For example, if I am staying in a hotel and it sucks, I'll be more inclined to write a 160 character review via my phone than return to New York and sit down at a computer to write a more detailed reviews. Sure, the 160 character review will be less informative but there will probably 10 more of them. Just scan some twitter newsfeeds and you'll notice that a lot of tweets are mini-reviews.

So what's missing from Blippr? 
Firstly, it needs to get out of public beta soon. The folks at Blippr are probably investing in their technology infrastructure before going mainstream. They probably don't want to be hit by outages the way Twitter has been. 

Talking of Twitter, Blippr needs to figure out a way to import my Twitter friends. From what I've been told, it doesn't do this very well as yet. That'll make my life much easier. Blippr also needs to include restaurants. I was surprised that it doesn't as yet. Restaurant reviews are huge and I can see myself writing a 160 character review of a restaurant while eating there (okay, maybe when my wife has left for the restroom). 

And lastly, Blippr needs to allow users to create their own categories. I'd add wine immediately as that's a personal interest and I have some friends who explore the world of wine with me. I can't imagine what a tag cloud of user categories would look like. Update from the screenshots it looks like they do have tags and tag clouds, but I can't be certain.

Blippr has a lot of potential if you ask me. I wonder how it will do when it gets out of private beta. One thing is certain, it gets social influence marketing by depending upon the peer and anonymous influences, leveraging social media and making it incredibly easy for consumers. Maybe a leading player like Baazarvoice should look at them.

For more on Blippr visit their website, the Facebookreviews and Somewhatfrank.


Avenue A | Razorfish 2008 Client Summit takeaways


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Last week we hosted our client summit and what a week it was! Between client meetings, hosting a panel on social influence marketing, listening to presentations, meeting analysts, and catching up with peers across the agency it was my busiest week of the year. But needless to say it was thrilling, intense and extremely educational. Here are my key takeaways from the two days.

1. Social Media has gone mainstream and there's no doubt about it. Unintentionally, practically every speaker and and every panel discussed social media and social influence marketing in some form or the other. Whether it was Jeff Zucker of NBC Universal, our Ford and Levi clients, or Joe Crump discussing digital brands, everybody was talking about social influence marketing and social media. David over at Superhype was also struck by this.

2. User Generated Content enhances a company's reputation. CNN's Jon Klein made this point when talking about how UGC is changing CNN. The reality is that brands and especially media brands need to stop thinking of social media as a threat. It can strengthen an established brand and if you're not active in the social space, it'll be considered a negative.

3. We're still just beginning to understand user behavior. Charlene Li gave an insightful presentation where she highlighted findings from her new book, the Groundswell. One take away for me - while the book takes a big step closer to understand behavior in the social domain, we still have a way to go. And not just user behavior, but its group behavior that needs to be understood much more.

4. Social Media is not just in the browser. There's been a lot of talk about social media extending to mobile devices but that's just the beginning. Microsoft Surface presents huge opportunities and the AT&T demo showed that as did the nifty surface application we had running in the marketing lab. Anyone at the summit could swipe their badge over Surface and get customized information pertaining to them.

5. Internal Social Media can be taken outside. John Klein made this point too. He talked about how Political Ticker was an internal news service for CNN members. One day they decided to put it in the public domain. It now has 35 million users. Who'd have thought an internal innovation would become an external one. I'm waiting for the day when companies and universities open their internal mailing lists to outsiders. Its going to happen.

6. Its all about integrated marketing across platforms and devices. The CMO of Coors (pictured above) showed how his 4:53pm campaign lived everywhere - in phsyical spaces, in banner ads, on YouTube and Coor's own website. That's one way to think about social media - as a key part of an integrated marketing campaign. Not something slapped on at the end. Furthermore, the sooner a marketer stops thinking of it as a channel and more as a philosophy, the more success he'll have. Coors certainly demonstrated this thinking.

7. Social Media can be used to target brand new audiences. A lot of the discussions about social media focus on how to have a conversation with your customers. What's forgotten often is that it can be effectively used to target whole new customer segment. That's what Levi's did with the Levi's 501 Challenge. They were able to reach women in the 18-25 demographic and significantly increase sales to them. Those women were an customer segment that they had really struggled with in the past.

8. Moderating panels can be challenging but fun. I had great fun moderating a social influence marketing which included senior leaders from Kraft, Starwood, Facebook and Forrester. And the panel appears to have been a success. But having spent a lot more time sitting on panels versus moderating them, I can say that moderating is definitely harder! My moderation skills will be put to test again soon as I'll be moderating a session at Graphing Social Patterns East on June 9th, 2008.

Don't miss some of the other coverage of the summit -

Social influence drives people to quit smoking


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smoking1.jpgIn another example of how we make decisions as members of a social network versus as isolated individuals, the New York Times ran a story titled "Study Finds Big Social Factor in Quitting Smoking" on Friday that discussed research showing that people quit smoking in groups. Rather than individuals stopping smoking one person at a time, three friends would quit all at once. 

The implications of this are that it is more important to target groups rather than individuals when it comes to encouraging people to quit. Similar results were found in the case of the spread of obesity. The study showed that smokers clustered in groups of three. Over the years the number of smokers declined but the clusters remained the same in size showing that people were stopping in groups.

Interestingly, the study showed that education played a role. The more educated people were, the more highly influenced they were by their friends and the more likely they were influencing their friends in turn. A friend quitting was more powerful than a sibling quitting. Co-workers only had influence in small firms where everyone knew each other.

Social Influence takes many different forms as does marketing too. This is a case where anti-smoking organizations should really harness social influence marketing. It also goes to show that we invariably are more influenced by our social networks than we realize. That influence is not a bad thing - it just means that marketers need to target the network and not the isolated individuals.

What's also interesting is that no major marketing or social media blog referred to this story. It appears that in the social media domain a lot of practitioners still do not make the link between social media and social influence. Is that a missed opportunity? Leading blogs like Marketing Roadmaps, Trendspotting Blog, and Buzz Networker take note :-)

MediaBistro. It's a Circus out there


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On Wednesday I spoke at Mediabistro Circus on User Experience & Social Media. It was a fun experience and I met some interesting people. I discussed five reasons why its a circus out there in the world (yes, that pun was intended!). 

Probably one of my most provocative points was that globalization has resulted in a weird kind of standardization. For all the talk about cultural nuances needing to be accounted for when designing for specific regions, countries and cultures, increasingly we are borrowing ideas from each other around the world. As a result, sites are starting to look more and more similar. 

In highlighting the Facebook newsfeed design feature, I also explained that sometimes its the relatively small design features that can make all the difference. Newsfeed launched in September 2006 and the eight million Facebook users at the time were extremely upset about it. They saw it as an invasion of their privacy and threatened to boycott the social network. In retrospect, that one feature has arguably contributed more to Facebook's success (and the adoption of some of the applications) than anything else that they have done. Today, Facebook has 70 million users and is fast catching up to MySpace.

You'll find coverage of my session with some kind works from the MediaBistro folks at UnBeige which is where I picked up the photograph above.

Pangea Day, May 10th. Don't miss it


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Don't let this opportunity to be a part of something incredibly special go by. Pangea Day is a special, global event to bring the world together through film on one day. The idea is to help people see themselves in others and in their stories. Starting at 18:00 GMT on May 10, 2008, locations in Cairo, Kigali, London, Los Angeles, Mumbai, and Rio de Janeiro will be linked for a live program of powerful films, live music, and visionary speakers. The entire program will be broadcast – in seven languages – to millions of people worldwide through the internet, television, and mobile phones.

Participate online or better still through one of the community events. You won't regret it. You can also show your support on Facebook, MySpace or YouTube. I'm proud to say that Avenue A | Razorfish played a small role in the Pangea Day effort by designing and building the website. We talk a lot about social media and online communities, well there's nothing more special than showing we're part of a global community that cares.

Social Influence Marketing: Understanding those Peer Influences


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Here's my latest article on Social Influence Marketing where I delve into how those peer influences actually. Let me know what you think of this one.

At the root of Social Influence Marketing™ is how peer influences work. With the digital world going social, we recognize that peer influence is having a greater affect on brand affinity and purchasing decisions than any traditional form of marketing. Customers are excited about doing the marketing themselves if the product is strong. We also know that with the proliferation of social technologies from mainstream social networks like MySpace and Facebook to niche social tools like del.icio.us (bookmarking) and FriendFeed (personal content aggregation), the peer influence may take many different forms.

Some Twitter numbers and LinkedIN CPMs


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It is nice to see some actual Twitter numbers. According to Techcrunch, in March Twitter had 1+million users of which 200,000 were active each week. The active users send an average of 15 tweets a day. That's well above my average. And finally, there are 4 million connections between Twitter usres. You do the math to find out how many connections per user. Now I wish I knew who these actual users are. What are their demographic and psychographics?

On a loosely related note, LinkedIn told Silicon Alley Insider that its earning $75 CPMs (cost paid per thousand viewers) for advertising in the US and $50 CPMs in the U.K. Now, LinkedIn certainly has a more targeted and potentially valuable audience than Facebook and MySpace but those CPM numbers sound really high. Still its a sign that niche networks with more focused audiences matter. LinkedIn has 17 million users in comparison to Facebook's 70 million and MySpace's 200 million. CPMs on Facebook and MySpace are much lower.

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This page is an archive of entries from May 2008 listed from newest to oldest.

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