May 2010 Archives

Making crowdsourcing work. My best practices


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crowdsourcing1a.gifI've been advising several clients on crowdsourcing initiatives recently. Some have been product development efforts, others for marketing campaigns and one even about solving a global crisis. It has been interesting as crowdsourcing stitches together so many facets of social influence marketing. And I believe that in today's world no product or marketing campaign should be launched without some form of crowdsourcing having driven it. With that in mind, I've developed a list of crowdsourcing best practices. Tell me what you think and feel free to add your own to the list. It would only be appropriate.

1. Don't set false expectations with an inspiring promise to your users only to severely limit their involvement or worse still discount their contributions. You'd be surprised how many companies succumb to this mistake. As a result, they end up disenfranchising the participants and making a mockery of their crowdsourcing initiatives. If you're serious about crowdsourcing, you have to be willing to incorporate the ideas from the participants or let them co-develop with you.

2. Be clear in the roles you want the participants to play. These include:
a. Having the participants serve as inspiration for the effort 
b. Encouraging the participants to be the creators and designers 
c. Inviting participants to serve as judges for whatever is created and 
d. Asking them to serve as marketers for the final product 

Which role do you want your participants to play? It can be more than one but you need to be explicit in what they are. Fiat Brazil is clear in what it wants from its users at each stage in the crowdsourced car design process that they launched.

3. Explore non-obvious opportunities for crowd-sourcing. There's a lot more you can do beyond the obvious notions of asking consumers to submit video ads or voting for features. In fact, if you have the courage, you can do more on the crowdsourcing front than you could have imagined. Take those risks. A good example of this is what Mountain Dew did. They asked their participants to help with the drink formula, name the flavors and also identify media properties on which they should run advertisements promoting the new drink.

4. Bring your employees to the forefront of the crowdsourcing initiative. In my book I discuss the importance of developing social voices - people who are authentic, conversational and real talking on behalf of your company. That applies here too. 

Anytime you run a crowd-sourcing initiative, it is important to connect the employees who are normally tasked with the jobs that are being crowdsourced with the participants. This is for three reasons. Firstly, the employees have valuable insights to share and can guide the process to better solutions. Secondly, the employees will be more accepting of the feedback if they are a part of the process start to finish. And thirdly, it'll show the participants that the brand is a more human one with real people trying to solve the very same problems. That will further encourage consumers to participate. Netflix should have done this. 

5. Provide real badges for the participants who's ideas are used. We've gotten accustomed to badges as reward mechanisms. We all yearn for them and showcase our badges everywhere. One important incentive to encourage people to participate in a crowdsourcing initiative is to allow for meaningful badges. For example, with the famous Tahoe crowdsourced advertisements from a few years ago imagine if the advertisements that appeared on TV actually included the names of the people who created the ads. Or with the FIAT example imagine if every engine listed the names of the people who had contributed to its design.

6. Build momentum by making the initiative part crowdsourcing, part education and part competitive game like. Many of us grew up playing lego and to this day are amateur designers and builders. We're also inquisitive people. Tap into that by educating (in fun and light ways) participants about the product that they are designing. And not only provide them with ways to contribute but with ways to share their ideas with each other, participate in game type experiences around the core crowdsourcing initiative and gain points for every idea that's used.

7. Plan for multiple activation and reactivation strategies over the lifespan of the effort. You're asking a lot of your participants with a crowdsourcing effort and if your participants are like me, they may get lazy. Plan to activate and reactivate them many times over. Pepsi with its Refresh Everything effort does this cleverly by asking people to submit new ideas for funding every month and then encouraging them to get others to vote for their ideas. The participants activate others as a result.

8. Allow for multiple levels of participation at every stage. Not everyone is a budding designer or engineer. Some of us want to participate but don't have the skills. Make sure there's room in the initiative for people like us. Levi with its Project Runway Challenge, did this extremely well. Fashion students from around the world competed in the design competition while less talented folks (like me!) got to vote on the submissions and help the judge the winners.

9. Make everyone a winner if its a competition. Now I know that's practically impossible. You do need to have some extremely attractive prizes as they're the ones that will lure people to compete. But provide a little something for everyone who gives their time. Even small token prizes can make people happy. They're also a way of saying thank you to them for submitting their ideas.

10. Allow for team and social influence. It is easy to forget but we like to compete in teams as much as we do as individuals. It makes for more entertainment. If you invite people to participate in the crowdsourcing initiative as teams, you'll get a greater response. People will bring others into the process and they'll cajole each other to do what it takes to win. TIAA-CREF with its Raise the Rate contest does this nicely.

For more on crowdsourcing take a look at this Denuology blog post and scan my Digital Book World Keynote. In it I explain how the entire book publishing process needs to be more collaborative. And here's a great wikipedia page listing some of the best crowdsourcing initiatives out there.

Razorfish Outlook Report Launches. Media Landscape Shifts


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We launched the Razorfish Outlook Report this morning. Some of the highlights of the report include:

  • There was a recovery in spending in 2009 over 2008, albeit a small one. The average client media spend increased 4% in 2009, as opposed to decreasing 13% in 2008. This mirrors broader industry metrics as far as the recovery is concerned.

  • Contrary to popular belief, not every brand shifted its advertising focus to direct response as a result of reduced consumer spending. In fact, 60% of clients who did switch the approach of their ads actually moved to a more brand-focused message. To me this represents the fact that more marketers are recognizing that investing in one's brand in a downturn is one of the best ways to prepare for a recovery. The investments produce a greater ROI in the long term as long as the pressure to maintain sales (think direct response advertising) isn't too strong.

  • Clients continued to experiment with new media. Digital out-of-home in particular experienced significant growth, along with ad exchanges, data brokers and social media. I fully expect us to see more digital out-of-home and mobile spending in 2010. This spending will still be a fraction of marketing budgets but it will grow dramatically. In the case of mobile spending, it is worth noting that some of it takes the form of application development which is not reflected in our media numbers.

  • Social media, which has exploded in popularity over the past few years, still only garners 4% of average client media spend. However, much of the cost of social media comes in the form of labor, not ad space - an important distinction when analyzing and planning media budgets. It is worth noting that the people costs aren't included in our numbers. Also, the spending does vary based on industry and clients dramatically. 

  • Other interesting factoids. We bought media on over 900 properties in 2009 but 45% of the total spending went to the four major portals (MSN, Google, AOL and Yahoo!). Over 50% of media dollars went towards highly efficient channels such as search and ad exchanges.  Around 20% of our clients are testing ad verification systems, local advertising is seen to grow and emerging ad formats are seen to gain prominence in 2010. 
And finally, don't forget to read my piece on how we believe the SIM Score to be an evolving brand health metric for brands beyond the social web too. I look at two examples - Toyota and Pepsi to show how the SIM Score can be used.

The Future of Social Influence Marketing


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I was interviewed by Demand Media recently on the future of social marketing. Below is an excerpt from the interview and a link to the full post. In this interview I touched on the role of influencers in marketing, definitions of engagement, social measurement and what social influence marketing will look like in 2015.

I believe we're moving to a post digital age where separating digital from the offline world will get increasingly harder. Social programs will reflect more real world field marketing and guerrilla marketing programs as what people do online will be a reflection of what they're doing in their physical worlds. In a sense, the digital space won't be something separate that people go to and participate there.

Rather, it will be a direct reflection of what's going on in the physical world in the moment and in the location that the person is and with whatever community he is participating in. I think augmented reality is going to be big but largely because it connects us to the physical world and provides meaningful context. SIM will be filtered through location aware applications that sit in the context of augmented reality. We will also be using technology less and it will be more invisible. But we will definitely be depending on our peers and social influencers for advice more than ever. Just the locations of influence will change.

You can read the full interview here. Adam Weinroth from Demand Media interviewed me for this. You may want to read the interview with the Twitter product manager too. Its interesting.

P&G Brand at risk of developing a rash?


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pg_brand.jpgProctor and Gamble has found itself in a spot of trouble in its Pampers division which brings in 11% of their total revenue or $8.5 billion. In a nutshell, mothers are organizing on Facebook to protest that the company's new diapers (Dry Max) are causing rashes and chemical burns. So far 7,000 mothers have joined the group. This has gotten so serious that P&G is facing law suits in the USA and Canada as covered by the The Wall Street Journal (which quotes me discussing the issue). P&G is responding to the accusations vigorously and one could argue in some situations defiantly too.

I've a lot of respect for P&G and its marketers. They're very much leaders in marketing and I'm sure the team on the diaper brands are too. But I'd like to suggest a few alternative mechanisms for dealing with this crisis. Alternatives that I think may help more.

1. Defending itself against the probe is only going to take P&G so far. No one likes to hear that they're wrong and nor will the mothers (assuming that there is nothing wrong with the diapers). Rather P&G should try to move the conversation from being adversarial to a constructive one. Help those mothers out directly. Let them return their diapers, provide alternatives. Is that happening enough? I don't believe so.

2. Something is causing the rashes, P&G can help find the solution. The mothers certainly aren't imagining that. It is most important for P&G to realize that these customers are hurting in some form. I'm a father of a 14 month old boy. If my boy had those rashes, I'd start panicking sooner or later. As a brand that cares about its customers, P&G should try more aggressively to solve the problem. Imagine the good will that it'll develop if it is able to identify the root cause behind the rashes even if they have nothing to do with a P&G product.

3. Recognize that marketing is customer service and make those investments. P&G faces a risk that the diaper episode will have a lasting effect on its reputation in this space. The only way to solve for this is by acknowledging the fundamental premise that marketing and customer service is blurring. What this also means that the marketers and communications professionals are probably a little understaffed and may even not have the right skill sets to address problems like this. Yes, the answer is you probably need a larger budget and you need to think of customer service more aligned with marketing at least those elements that are social.

4. Don't bash the mothers who are criticizing the products. Currently, P&G has implied that the mothers who are criticizing the product are a small, vocal group that maybe aligned with competitors and do not like the change in the diapers. P&G is welcome to think that but they certainly shouldn't say that publicly. They're alienating mothers everywhere and are sending the message that a customer maybe defamed by criticizing the products. Here's the press release where they imply that.

5. Start a meaningful discusion around the subject and with all Moms. Rather than trying to ignore the Facebook group, engage in it directly. I'm not sure whether P&G is doing that and I think that's a missed opportunity. Furthermore, definitely make this a center piece of the conversations on your own Facebook page. That maybe safer to do but it will show at the very least that you're engaged in the topic, you're listening to your constituents and you're willing to talk to them.

6. Seriously consider what the mothers are asking you to do and have a response to that. The mothers aren't asking for a refund, they're asking for a recall. Now I know these are extremely expensive and P&G probably doesn't feel its warranted at all but that doesn't mean you shouldn't talk about it. I believe it is worth explaining why a recall isn't the answer. Explain why it isn't needed and that if P&G felt a recall was the answer it wouldn't hesitate to take that step. Is P&G doing that loudly and clearly enough? That's debatable. 

There's no question that this is a very difficult issue and it is easy for me to analyze the problem without knowing the entire story. But from what I can see, there certainly seems to be something missing in P&G's response strategy.

Most popular social media links in April


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For those who don't know SmartBrief on Social Media, it is an email newsletter which goes to over 50,000 business people who have a deep interest in social media and social influence marketing. It shares the best social media links everyday. As a member of its advisory board, I get to see the most popular stories clicked on each month. Here are the April popular links.

Research on 41.7 million Twitter profiles explains everything


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retweetgraph.gifI stumbled across some interesting Twitter research by a few academics at the Department of Computer Science at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology via MIT's Technology Review. They analyzed 41.7 million user profiles, 1.47 billion social relations, 4,262 trending topics, and 106 million tweets. Here are the highlights of their findings and my commentary:

1. The average path length between two people on Twitter is 4.12. Given Stanley Milgram's original experiment uncovering the "six degrees of separation" phenomena, being four degrees apart from each other on Twitter just shows how powerful a medium it is. Also, Twitters users who have reciprocal relations of fewer than 2,000 are likely to be geographically close and exhibit some levels of homophily. For reference, on the MSN network with 180 million users the average path length is also 6. So yes, Twitter can be an effective communication medium for your brand if you have something valuable to share. 

2. The ability to re-tweet gives people immense power. You actually don't need to have thousands and thousands of followers to be influential. Even with a relatively small number of followers, you ability to re-tweet (and be re-tweeted) gives you far greater reach than you'd normally assume. For example, a hundred people with a hundred followers each, re-tweeting have the ability to spread information very broadly too. This appears to complement Duncan Watt's hypothesis about social influencers playing an extremely large role in disseminating information.

3. There is something special about the time of day that a tweet is published. It is not that tweets happen to spread more quickly at certain hours but rather that 75% of all re-tweets happen within in the hour of the tweet. This means that you need to be cognizant of when your followers are online and viewing their own twitter accounts the most. Do you know when your followers are online the most? You can tell by examining their post frequencies.

4. The researchers also analyzed the influence of Twitter users and found that there's a discrepancy in the relationship between the number of followers and the popularity of someone's tweets. This basically means that the number of followers is not the only measure of someone's value. In of itself, this isn't surprising but it does validate the point that you shouldn't get too caught up in the number of followers you have on your brand account.

5. In examining the top trending topics, the research discovered that 85% of those topics are headline news or persistent news in nature. This shows that twitter serves effectively as a news source and that's probably one of its most popular uses. This is a very different conversation dynamic than what one sees on Facebook or elsewhere. This has implications for what brands should tweet and how they should use the platform versus FB.

6. On Twitter only 22.1% of the users have reciprocal relationships. This means they follow each other. 77.9% of the relationships are one way where someone is followed but doesn't necessarily follow the person back. And 67.6% of users on Twitter are not followed by any of their followings. For them Twitter is primarily a source of information than a social networking or information dissemination platform. This shows there's a lot more of spectator activity on Twitter than we realize.

7. As the graph above shows, the time between tweeting and re-tweeting is typically very short. While it may take approximately an hour for a tweet to be re-tweeted, once that happens it spreads through the network far more quickly especially as it gets re-tweeted again and again. What this means is that when you tweet something you should expect some re-tweeting to begin within an hour (as long as the content is of value) after which it'll move more quickly. These numbers are useful to keep in mind as you try to gauge the effectiveness and potential reach of a tweet. 

Twitter is still a relatively young social platform. What is obvious though is that it behaves very differently to a social network and  therefore those comparisons aren't useful. Also, it also requires unique strategies if a brand is to leverage it effectively as a social medium to engage social influencers. Knowing the medium well and how tweets spread is critical for to be successful on Twitter.

Facebook Microsite Syndrome. 10 Signs you have it today


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doyouhaveafacebook1.gifI've noticed many Facebook pages afflicted with a disease. It is what I refer to as the Facebook Microsite Syndrome. Brands that are too nervous or maybe have agencies that don't understand social media very well are treating Facebook pages as microsite canvasses. That's wrong.

Microsites still have a place in the digital ecosystem. Arguably a much smaller place than they once did but they still matter. Whether it be campaign or topic specific, there are occasions when marketers need to drive consumers to specific pages on their websites that aggregate or showcase unique content. Sometimes they are needed to highlight a specific campaign too. Microsites still work. But Facebook isn't built that way. And Facebook pages must not be used as static microsites. 

You know you're afflicted with the Facebook Microsite Syndrome when the following has happened:

1. Your Creative Director emphasizes brand consistency over everything else. He wants the Facebook presence to look exactly like the corporate websites and the microsites too. That matters above developing a meaningful conversation on the Facebook page.

2. Your Facebook page includes tabs that have no ability for consumers to participate. A Facebook tab without social interaction is a brochure and not meant for Facebook. Take it out. Don't design against the ethos of Facebook.

3. The Wall is locked down preventing consumers from starting and joining conversations. The Wall is the killer application of Facebook pages and it is in the brand's best interest to promote social interaction there. Ignoring it is a mistake.

4. The Facebook page does not leverage social graph functionality. Every time I'm asked to do something on Facebook, I want to see whether any of my friends have performed that task and if I do enjoy performing the task I'd like to have the ability to invite other friends to do so. Seems straightforward but a lot of brands still ignore this.

5. There's a campaign mindset driving the Facebook execution. You know you've got a problem when all the tabs are named after marketing campaigns and there's no overarching messaging or story that stitches them together. A conversation with consumers is not about throwing campaigns at them. 

6. The Facebook page serves simply as a hub to house campaigns that are born on other platforms and channels. A lot of marketers still forget that the social platforms provide the best value when unique, platform specific strategies and executions are deployed. Just because something was a great TV campaign it doesn't mean it should reside on the FB page in the same manner.

7. The Facebook page has closer synergies to a display media campaign than it does to your mobile strategy. Display media plays a very important role in the marketer's arsenal. Don't get me wrong. But it is a different beast to your Facebook efforts. Engagement ads on Facebook help the pages much more. And over the long run, your mobile strategy will need to work with your Facebook executions most closely.

8. You ignore the fact that the Facebook page presence should reach into all your digital ecosystem via the Facebook Graph API. Take a look at Levi's website as an example of what I mean. They use the "Like" buttons effectively on all their product pages.

9. Your Facebook page is used just as a content aggregator. It's a little scary but in the digital marketing world we like to think of hubs and spokes a bit too much. The website used to be the hub for the brand online and now many think Facebook should be. There's one problem with that - pages that simply aggregate content and conversations from elsewhere aren't good for building community and starting fresh conversations.

10. You're anonymous on your Facebook page. In my book I outlined the importance in building social voices - real, authentic people speaking on behalf of your brand for you online. That must translate to your Facebook page too. If I don't know who's doing the talking it'll feel even more like a microsite experience than a Facebook one.

So that's the ten signs that you may have Facebook Microsite Syndrome. Agree with these? Any you'd like to add to the list?

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from May 2010 listed from newest to oldest.

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