Shiv Singh: April 2010 Archives

Got an Idea to Increase the Savings Rate?

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raisetherate.gifIt's a pretty ambitious move by TIAA-CREF but a courageous one too. Today TIAA-CREF, which  is probably the largest financial services organization that you've never heard of (they have $414  billion in assets under management), launched a crowdsourcing Facebook contest to help raise the savings rate in America. (Disclosure: This is a client of mine.)

HP acquires Palm. Could hurt the iPad

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palm_website.gifIt is a fascinating development that HP has just announced that they're going to buy Palm Inc. for $1.2 billion dollars. Many of us have been fans of Palm over the years. They're the ones who basically invented the personal organizer category (or certainly brought it into the mainstream with the Palm Pilot) and over the years have continued to innovate even though the Palm distribution and market muscle was always a few steps behind their innovation. 

This deal is special because the Palm Pre is actually better value than the iPhone though they don't have the same number of applications, advocates or marketing budget. They also incorporate social functionality more deeply into them. With this acquisition, HP can extend the integration between televisions, computers and mobile hardware tying into one's ubiquitous social graph because they produce all three. These devices could be made to talk to each as one family than individual products allow today. They could also have social functionality built into the actual hardware and software. For example imagine if my favorite TV channels were filtered by what my friends watched the most. And my friends list didn't come from Facebook but instead was driven by the people who I call the most frequently on my phone. Or if my mobile phone doubled up as a TV remote and charged through the TV too. The opportunities for HP to extend its own ecosystem with its products being the bridge between the office, the living room, the car and the bedroom are significant. Smart move.

What's also interesting to note about this acquisition is that Palm needed to be bought. It was fast become apparent that it couldn't survive on its own. Todd Bradley who's the EVP of the Personal Systems Group at HP was the former CEO of Palm. He knew the Palm assets and is probably thinking of using the Palm WebOS operating system in devices and platforms beyond the mobile phone. Maybe, just maybe one of those devices is going to be the HP Slate. Just as Apple has leveraged their iPhone operating system for the iPad, HP could leverage the incredibly robust Palm WebOS for its Slate offerings.

These are interesting times indeed.

Authentic and Transparent: Shell Helix

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 Another meaning to the word "transparency" over here. We often forget that advancements in technology provides new ways for brands to tell their own stories. To make the case to consumers as to why their product is special. I can't imagine how much this cost but the clip is very convincing.

Like Button Reveals More Than Friends Realize

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I'm not sure why but I saw this and it made me nervous. I felt I was peaking into a neighbor's window when I landed upon the website. When I wear my marketer's hat (as I did for this Adweek interview) everything seems just fine. But maybe it isn't or maybe it just takes getting used to. Does this worry you? This website is a mashup of "like" button activity among your friends around the Internet. A dashboard of what your friends are finding important and are liking on websites beyond Facebook. 

What makes it unusual is that in those moments of liking something, your friends aren't thinking about who or what else is going to be seeing their actions. And that's the departure from the past. If I "liked" something and then the button switched to "Shiv likes this" versus "liked" we wouldn't have an issue as it would be an obvious reminder that I am publicly liking something versus anonymously. But that's not the case. When you like something, you're not thinking about the hundreds of other people that will be learning about your preferences.

The benefits to marketers is undeniable and as long as companies look at the data in an anonymized fashion that's fine too. But do most people realize that when they're liking something on any website enabled by the like button - it is a public act versus a private one? Facebook isn't doing anything wrong and after all the newsfeed is built on similar functionality. The key difference is that the newfeed is about activity within Facebook where we know whatever we do has a bread crumb trail. Now that philosophy is extending beyond Facebook and it is important that we remember that. Will you please remind your friends?

Daring to Open your Brand to Consumers

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Brand logos

I've a confession to make, when I first wrote this best practice in Social Media Marketing for Dummies (Chapter 14, page 247) I hedged my bets. I really wanted to say that your consumers control your brand and the sooner you accept that the better you will be for it. But then I felt that I may face a backlash and resorted to the more cautious tone of simply encouraging companies to open up their brands to their consumers. So here's how it turned out.

This is difficult for many marketers. You've probably spent money and time building your brand only to have someone telling you to let go of it. This may sound absurd. The truth is that the more you let your consumers internalize your brand, talk about it in their own language, and manifest your story in their own way, the more success you will have with your SIM efforts.

Letting your consumers evolve your brand doesn't mean you're losing control of it completely. How you let consumers evolve your brand must be done in a fashion that is in sync with your company values, what your customers expect of you, the industry you operate in, and the appropriateness for your brand. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't let go at all. Brands that hold onto too much mystique run the risk of appearing cold, distant, and alienat- ing. Those risks are accentuated now with the social Web, so be careful, even if you're Chanel or Louis Vuitton.

Since the book came out, I've revised my opinion. I do believe that consumers are fundamentally shaping and reshaping brands through social influence marketing. The brands do not have a choice, the absolutely must allow consumers to shape their brands. The sooner they accept this and think about their marketing efforts through that lens, the better. Do you agree? And does this mantra apply to all brands in all industries?

Facebook becomes the Internet's Social Glue

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zuckerbergsocial.jpgToday was extremely important for the Internet. Facebook announced that its "Like" button is going to appear on publisher sites all over the Internet. These buttons will populate a user's profile in Facebook linking back to the originating site while also providing Facebook with even more immensely valuable, realtime data about its consumers. Here's an Ad Age story covering the announcement (which includes my perspective) and below is my deeper analysis of the announcement and what it means for marketers, publishers and agencies

What are the implications of the Facebook announcements?
First and foremost this means that Facebook will gather a lot more information about its users. There's nothing wrong with that as long as the privacy settings on Facebook are made more usable. And more than that, Facebook users need to be educated on the new privacy implications. This is something that Facebook can and should do for its user base and hopefully will.

Secondly, this means that the publishers will have a lot more information about Facebook users too. The 24 hours limit on holding Facebook data will be lifted. Publishers will now know a lot more about users (basically all their profile information) as soon as the click the "Like" button and they'll be able to hold onto this data. Just imagine the CRM implications when a publisher is able to marry FB user data with its own customer databases.

Thirdly, it means that publisher websites will get personalized based on a user's profile data in Facebook. There's nothing wrong with personalization and practically every major website (certainly the newspaper sites) include some form of personalization. The Huffington Post already personalizes content based on what stories people in your Facebook social graph have read. Expect to see a lot more of this as it gets easier for other publishers to role out similar functionality and use profile data to personalize experiences. Just think about the possibilities in retail for example.

Fourth, these announcements definitely hint towards Facebook launching some kind of ad network to overlay the like button. This announcement basically allows for another form of behavioral targeting and I'd be surprised if Facebook chose not to do something further in this realm in the coming months. The question is whether they'll launch an ad network to support the social graph distribution or just sell the data to advertising networks or exchanges. In the short term, Facebook is going to allow publishers to further target ads on their own sites with this data.

Fifth and most importantly this also means that what we do on the Internet (in terms of "liking" websites) and what is in our Facebook profile is going to heavily influence what the rest of our web experience is. The Internet is going to become much more of a personalized experience for us. That can be a good and a bad thing. Good in that we provided tailored content that we really care about and is driven by choices that we've made in the past. Bad in the sense that the content may reflect spontaneous off the cuff actions (just because I "like" a website doesn't mean I really like it) or more directly what we put in our Facebook profiles and forget to update. It'll make the web more local and less exploratory.

Do you agree with the analysis? Do you think it is as big a deal as I make it out to be?

Twitter Minister resigns. Can Twitter still change politics in the world's largest democracy?

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I was looking forward to writing a blog post on India's first Twitter Minister. The minister who's tweeted his way in and around the highest echelons of power in the world's largest democracy. But instead now there's another story to tell about the same person, Dr. Shashi Tharoor who very nearly became the Secretary General of the United Nations. He came in a close second but then went onto win Indian parliamentary elections in May 2009 after which he was promptly made the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs. All good so far. 

During the election Tharoor opened a Twitter account that has grown to 720,000 followers now. In fact he became the first Indian celebrity to cross the 100,000 followers on Twitter. Many of his tweets were notorious ranging from criticisms of the government to which he belonged to controversial tweets about his life. This headline making one was about flying - "Traveling cattle class, in solidarity with all our holy cows." In a similar fashion, he tweeted about the new visa regulations for visitors to India. This tweet also caused an uproar as it appeared to go against official government policy. Here's what he said, "Making it more difficult 2 visit India, return here frequently or stay long hurts large nbrs of innocents, costs us millions of$ & alienates."

The Future of Marketing. Reducing the Paw Print

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This is the future of marketing in my opinion. All other things being equal (limited differentiation between the actual products) I'm going to buy shoes from Puma because they've just reduced their "Paw" print in a brilliant and useful fashion. Will you buy Puma now?

Renowned Management Guru CK Prahalad dies

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Sadly C.K Prahalad died while on a trip to San Deigo. Recognized by Businessweek and scores of other publications as one of the leading management thinkers of this age, it is indeed a very sad loss. He was a professor of corporate strategy at the Ross School of Business, University of Michigan and his latest book was The New Age of Innovation: Driving Cocreated Value Through Global Networks (above is an interview with him about it). 

In 2009 he was named the world's most influential business thinker on The Thinkers 50 list, published by The Times. Follow the stream about his passing away on Twitter.

Swarm Badge and Foursquare Day

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Foursquare DayFriday was Foursquare Day (it was 4/16, get it?) and Razorfish decided to participate. The goal was to support Foursquare by promoting the day by asking everyone with Fousquare accounts to check-in and use the #4sqday hashag. It took hardly anytime for us to have 50 people check-in unlocking the swarm badge. Well done!

Later on Friday I was speaking at the Future Midwest Conference and asked the audience there to check in too. Read about Foursqaure Day in the LA Times.

iPad Share of Mobile Web Consumption

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appleipad.pngFor all the talk about the iPad and why it will and won't change the world, nothing speaks better than the actual numbers sometimes. 

Paul Gelb pointed me to this chart which I believe is very telling. In fact, the numbers are astounding. So what does it tell me? The iPad is indeed going to be huge, advertising on it is going to get bigger and bigger and yes it may need save the publishing business if indeed the print publishers think of it as more than just a distribution medium for their content. It also shows that larger screens equal more consumption on mobile. 

One more thought - if I were Apple with the next version of the iPad I'd look at strategic ways to integrate a user's social graph into the core hardware and operating system. We're used to think about technology as hardware and software. I believe it needs to be thought in terms of hardware, software and social graphs.

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Twitter launches Ads, New Business Model

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twitter_revenue1.gifSomething we've all been eagerly (maybe too eagerly) waiting for has finally happened. Twitter has finally launched Promoted Tweets which is a Google AdWords like program to further monetize its business. On first blush, I like the promoted tweets program unlike the third party sponsored tweets programs that I've blogged about in the past. But first let me explain how it works.

Companies can buy search result terms so that their chosen tweets appear at the top of the page when a user searches for that keyword. So for example, if I were to buy the keyword "television" every time a user searched for television, he'd see my ad. My ad wouldn't be like a Google Adwords customized advertisement though. It would be a previous tweet of mine that I would have selected to appear as the ad for that search term. The promoted tweet would be clearly labeled as a promoted one and wouldn't get lost in the stream as time passes. It'll stay at the top of the page. 

Some other factors to keep in mind about promoted tweets:
  • Only one promoted tweet will be displayed per search results page
  • These tweets will have the regular features (reply, re-tweeting & favoriting)
  • Promoted tweets that aren't resonating with users will disappear
  • Resonance will be measured by actions taken by users (re-tweeting etc)
  • The promoted tweets will only appear in search results for now
  • In the longer term they may appear in the stream and in third party apps
  • Starting out advertisers will bid on keywords on a CPM basis
  • Over time, bidding may also account for the resonance in the pricing too

5 Reasons Why I Like Promoted Tweets
1. Twitter is using organic tweets as the ads. That's a novel concept and very much aligned with the ethos of twitter. I like that. The ads will be more accepted by the community too as a result.

2. Twitter is launching this only with the search results pages. That's good. Twitter wants to see whether the community accepts the ad model before expanding it. That's a sensible way to launch the program.

3. Twitter recognizes that ads are an irritant and are restricting the number of promoted tweets to one per keyword term. That's good too though it'll block out small advertisers for whom the keywords will get expensive really quickly. 

4. Twitter is trying to use the promoted tweets to drive further engagement on its own platform in a similar fashion to how the engagement ads help Facebook increase traffic to the Facebook pages. Smart strategy and it makes total sense.

5. Twitter is introducing this as a limited beta for a few select advertisers (our client Best Buy is one of them). Rather than role it out en masse the way Google Buzz launched, Twitter is being more careful. Sensible again.

So it looks like Twitter is going to have three sources of revenue after all - the promoted tweets program, professional accounts for business users and a data fee from search engines indexing tweets. Twitter certainly seems to be make the right choices and certainly in the case of Promoted Tweets I strongly suspect advertisers will embrace the program in droves.

Note: Best Buy, a Razorfish client, is one of the launch partners and we were peripherally involved in the testing of the new advertising platform. Image above is courtesy

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Owning the Brand. Employees & Customers

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In the last few months there's been a lot of discussion about social media being a part of everyone's job and how each department in an organization needs to embrace social media and apply it to its own business. It is an important conversation as social media permeates more of Corporate America.

In fact, at the recent Social Media Advertising Consortium Social Media Salon that we hosted in the Razorfish offices, it was a key theme too. Pauline from IBM put it nicely when she said that social media is becoming like the telephone. Every department and every person needs it. Imagine if only the marketing department had telephones. How absurd that would be!

The conversations reminded me of the above slide that was part of a presentation that I gave to a Fortune 20 company CMO two years ago. I used it to explain the fact that every employee is an interface to the customer and companies need to think about them as untapped assets to leverage. Her organization had well over 100,000 employees so explaining that each employee has an influence network of at least 20 people translating into a circle of 2 million people really resonated with her. In that moment she got social influence marketing.

As we move through 2010 and figure out how to leverage this hidden asset, the question is how do you manage your brand in a world where employees can (and I believe should) be your brand advocates. Is this even possible? Does it run the risk of doing more damage to your brand than you can handle? I don't think it does and nor do retail brands like Best Buy and Starbucks. Both are brands that I discuss in my book as ones that are leading the way with the creation of social voices - real people that speak authentically on behalf of the brand. Developing social voices has had another wonderful unintended consequence - the brands themselves have become social at the core or as I refer to them, they've become social brands. 

So what's next? More companies in more industries are going to need to open up their brands to their employees and their external advocates. To let them share control of the brand. An industry where I believe we're going to see the next big move - hospitality. The industry is inherently about customer relationships. Every employee in a hotel chain for example, is going to need to be the social voices for the brand. The question is which hotel chain will be the first to do this?

Interactive Advertising Revenue climb. What does it mean?

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The IAB and PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC) today released the IAB Internet Advertising Revenue Report for the full year 2009. Not surprisingly, there was a dip in advertising spending online but not by a significant percentage. Spending dropped 3.8% which given the explosive growth rates of the last few years is probably more significant than the number implies. But the more interesting statistic was that fourth quarter advertising spending was up 2.6% from the previous year and 14% from the previous quarter.

Search revenue was $10.7 billion or 47% of the total spending (it keeps inching up every year) followed by display advertising at $8.0 billion up 4% from 2008. Digital video within the display advertising category saw a growth rate of 39% - the most explosive growth of all advertising types. Banner ads and rich media advertising stayed roughly the same.

What does this all tell us? Firstly, it reminds me of the famous Mark Twain quote, "The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated" in this case the reference being to display advertising. Some people believe that display advertising is on the decline largely because consumers are interacting with each other across the social web. Yes, that's increasingly significantly and I believe social influence marketing is having a transformative impact on marketing but it isn't coming at a cost to display advertising. Display advertising is growing!

Secondly, it tells us that digital video is exploding and we're going to see new ad formats, more video watching and more video all over the Internet. I like to believe that content follows the dollars as much as the dollars follow the content and that's what we're going to see here. The question is whether it is exploding enough to compensate for all the talent and production costs that it require. I don't think it does today.

Thirdly, it tells me that the industry needs a better mechanism of assessing the influence of social media and social influence marketing on the advertising business. A segment of it is paid media and that piece is largely clubbed within the display advertising category so it is hard to see its true impact. The investments in earned media (in terms of employees, outreach efforts etc.) are largely ignored. What's the best way for the interactive advertising bureau to capture that? It doesn't fit in the traditional confines of advertising but is most certainly a form of marketing and dollars are being driven towards it.

Lastly, these numbers really highlight the shift happening from traditional advertising to digital. More advertising dollars are flowing to digital. A trend that we've been seeing in the last few years. I think we'll continue to see this but the pace will vary from industry to industry. It is also worth emphasizing that digital still doesn't have the scale and impact for awareness building that traditional has but it may some day. 

These are indeed interesting times as the advertising world continues to evolve. More details on the research are available on the IAB website.

Most popular social media links in March

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One of the benefits of being on the advisory board of SmartBrief on Social Media is that I get to see which are the top ten stories each month by number of clicks. Here are the ones for March. 

For those who don't know SmartBrief on Social Media, it reaches over 50,000 business folks who have a deep interest in how social media and social influence marketing is changing their businesses.

Gladwell on Facebook. Staying power possible?

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Facebook, Inc.

There are many reasons why I like Malcolm Gladwell (even though I don't subscribe to his philosophy on social influence). Here's the latest reason why he's worth listening to. 

Gladwell is willing to take the long perspective when examining the potential of Facebook. Rather than jumping onto the Facebook is changing the world bandwagon, he places it in context of other platforms and services that have come before it. Here's what he has to say about Facebook, 

" The problem is, we're still in the experimental phase. The thing about Facebook is, it's insanely new. This world of the Internet, if we know anything from its brief history, it likes nothing more than to build someone up only to topple them. Who has an AOL account these days? Not that long ago, AOL was the single most powerful player on the Internet. Who has a MySpace account these days? MySpace sold for billions of dollars not that long ago. I'm very reluctant to crown Facebook king of the future. They certainly are flavour of the month. This is not a world that respects loyalties and longevity.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm a fan of Facebook and think it has significant potential beyond what it is today. And I believe it continues to make some extremely smart decisions that help it permeate our electronic lives more and more deeply. However, Gladwell does have a point. We don't have a strong history in aligning and staying aligned with specific brands or services online. The question is whether it will be different for Facebook. It could be but I don't know enough as yet to make that call. Will our children be using Facebook as much as we do? You tell me.