Shiv Singh: June 2010 Archives

Social Influence Marketing Trends. Presentation to Marketing Executives at Fortune 50 Company

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On Friday I spoke at a Digital Marketing Excellence Forum organized for 500 senior marketers at a Fortune 50 company. The other speakers were Tony Hseih of Zappos fame and Steve Swasey of Netflix.

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Facebook Search. Myth or Madness?

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Thumbnail image for facebooksearch1.jpgThe web is swirling with conjecture that Facebook is going to roll out a search product to take Google on head on. Interestingly, this follows rumors that "Google Me" was a new product launching to compete with Facebook. Some industry pundits believe that the search product launch is imminent and one that will differentiate itself by incorporating "like button" recommendations and open graph technologies into the algorithm that displays the search results. Others think that the current on domain Facebook search implementation is so shoddy that Facebook will first fix that before moving onto something grander.

Here's my take. Google has 20,000 employees of whom probably 80% are focused on search in some fashion or the other mostly as engineers. Facebook has 1,400 employees of which no more than 300-400 are engineers according to company insiders. Building and optimizing a search engine is no easy task and it is unlikely that Facebook will do this at this time. Yes, they are incorporating third party results (only pages your friends have liked) into its own search engine but I wouldn't say these efforts are significant as yet. They've got too much on their plate at the moment with the social plugins, virtual currencies, the core Facebook platform to optimize and location aware functionality to build. Not to mention the fact that running a search engine requires a huge infrastructure investment something that not even Facebook can support today. Sure, a search product could mean significant revenue very quickly but that's never been a priority for Mark Zuckerberg.

Instead, here's what I think Facebook should do. They should partner with Microsoft to extend Bing to include the influence of "liking" into the search algorithm. Remember Microsoft owns a small percentage of Facebook. The "liking" functionality is a direct endorsement and arguably would improve search results. This partnership would benefit Facebook as it'll really encourage website owners (egged on by the search engine marketing community) to implement the like button and the social graph api everywhere across their sites. Facebook will also be a player in the search game without the huge costs and could probably get a small ad revenue share too.

In other words, it would be a more effective and efficient way to compete with Google without the huge investments. It'll improve search engine results and it'll promote other Facebook products and services notably the proliferation of its social plugins. Go for it Facebook - extend your Microsoft partnership to include this.

Update: The rumors have now been confirmed that Google is going to launch a Facebook competitor sometime in the near future. Apparently, they have a very large team working on it. This isn't too surprising given how threatened Google feels. What's most interesting is that their new network really needs to combine a lot of their existing services - Search, Profiles, Buzz, Orkut, Picasso, Wave and Blogger in a seamless, consistent, immersive and friction free user experience. That's where the real challenge is and I hope they recognize that.

Image courtesy

Facebook Like Button. Launch a new business?

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It has only been a few months and we've already seen a proliferation of uses for the Facebook "Like" button. Since the launch, I've gotten questions from clients and the press alike about the Facebook like button and whether it can meaningfully impact digital businesses. Those questions fit broadly into three implementation categories - liking pages on Facebook, liking pages on websites and liking objects on a web page. So do like buttons make a difference to a business beyond the vanity benefits of saying that you have more likes than your closest competitor? 

The basic options for Liking -

  • Liking Brand Pages on Facebook. Liking pages on Facebook is old news. It is in fact just a variation of "fanning" pages for which there's continuos debate about the value. In fact, as my friend Joe Marchese pointed out to me just yesterday, the more pages that people like (and they are liking more everyday), the harder it will be for a brand to break into a user's newsfeed. Also, the more pages that we like, the more we'll be asked to like and comment on those wall posts and the lazier we'll get at it. Call it the law of liking diminishing returns. 

  • Liking Pages on Websites. Liking pages on websites is more interesting as it lets your consumers push their like choices back into the Facebook newsfeed of their friends. Furthermore, you can expose your wall in a box on your website too. It is worth pointing out though that the law of liking diminishing returns applies here too. The more websites that are liked, the more notifications that will fight for attention in a person's newsfeed and the less visibility any single notification will get.

  • Liking Objects Around the Web. It is liking objects on a page of website that is the most exciting piece. Why? Because when you attach the like button to objects on a page, it can serve as an endorsement. The number of people that like a pair of jeans or a hotel or a music system can influence whether someone else will buy that product or not. What's more people can view all the likes for a particular product filtered by their social graphs (don't tell me how many people liked a particular music system in the world, just tell me which of my friends did). The Levi Friends Store has already implemented this (see above) and it works quite well.

More Imaginative Uses of Like Features
But there are some even more interesting uses of this Facebook button that are worth discussing. 

Most popular social media links in May

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For those who don't know SmartBrief on Social Media, it is an email newsletter which goes to over 54,000 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 May popular links.

Privacy concerns on Facebook were a hot topic in May as was Facebook more broadly. What's interesting is that more readers are looking for more substantive facts about the social phenomena than ever before. As a result, the Twitter research (which I summarized here) was popular too.

Leaving Razorfish and joining PepsiCo

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As you may have heard, I've decided to leave Razorfish and join PepsiCo.  You can find some coverage of my move over at AdweekAd Age, MediaPost, Web Strategy and Clickz

Razorfish is a very difficult company to leave because of the amazing people, impressive client roster and stellar leadership. It is not an exaggeration to say that I've professionally grown up with many of the people here. And with the "experiences that build businesses" mantra and as a part of Publicis now, even more great work is going to come out of the agency. 

But the growth opportunity at PepsiCo was too exciting to pass up. Working for one of the most iconic companies in the world as it transforms how it engages with consumers across all platforms and channels is going be a deep learning experience. I'm also looking forward to joining the teams of talented marketers over there including Frank Cooper who was recently recognized as one of the 100 most creative people in business by Fast Company. PepsiCo is definitely an organization on the march with its Pepsi Refresh Project, its crowd-sourcing successes like Mountain Dew Dewmocracy (they crowd-sourced not just the packaging but the actual flavors too) and recent partnerships with FourSquare and Stickybits. 

As far as this blog is concerned, I will still be blogging actively albeit now from the client side. This will give me a broader view of digital marketing and I'll share as much of my learnings over here as I can. So keep visiting, re-tweeting and commenting please! Andrea Harrison is taking over my role at Razorfish. Please congratulate her on Twitter (@190east).

Choosing a Listening Vendor. Critical Factors

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crowdsandpeople_listening.jpgOver the last few years, I've had the opportunity to learn about many of the major social media listening platform companies. In fact, we use so many of them that I've also had an opportunity to  hear their pitches, examine their dashboards, critique their deliverables and see exactly how listening data can help large brands. With that, here are some of the more unusual factors that I consider when choosing or recommending a listening platform.

1. Data, Data & Data. Know how they're getting it
No surprise here, it is all about the data. You need to understand the data sources of the listening platform provider. This is extremely important. Many of the listening providers use the same data sources which include third party aggregators like Boardreader and Spinner.  Know their data sources. 

But a few providers aggregate the data directly from the social media platforms and do their own crawling too. That gives them much more flexibility to conduct deeper analysis, charge less for their product and give you more historical data. They can run more queries against the data, run them more quickly and drill into the data better too. It is always good to know whether your provider is getting the data from the source directly. I'd argue that if the partner is sourcing the vendor directly from the social media advantage, that's better.

2. API Services. Make sure that's an option
More and more of the companies I work with want to integrate social media data into their own marketing and business dashboards. In some cases, we do that for them and provide a holistic dashboard with all their marketing and media metrics. While you may not want to go the dashboard route today, there's a strong likelihood you will in the future. Ask the vendors whether they provide an API data feed so that you can conduct your own analysis on the data, present it with other business metrics and watch it in real time. 

Definitely ask the cost of doing this too. There's no use in them providing an API feed if it is extremely expensive or if they force you to use their dashboard for any meaningful drill downs. If you want to be safe about it, ask to see a few samples of these dashboards or at the very least ask them for the opportunity to speak to a client or two that's integrated their data.

3. Multiple Accounts & Workflow. Look for it
If you're working in a large organization, you know you won't be looking at the data alone. And when it comes to response, no one person is responsible alone for that either. As a result, allowing for multiple accounts and allowing for an internal workflow is becoming increasingly important. Look for that among the listening vendors, you'll appreciate having that in your system. It also creates an electronic paper trail which can be helpful for your legal department further down the road. 

Every vendor allows for multiple accounts now but some still require you to do workflow outside of the tool itself. While that's possible, it is definitely more laborious though it does allow you to manage internal communication in an existing corporate system. Even if you don't need the workflow elements today, you probably will in the near future. Your legal department will probably come knocking on your door asking about it.

4. Listening Vendor Ambitions. Align with them
Some listening vendors want to stay listening vendors for the rest of their lives. Others see themselves as evolved social media agencies or Social CRM ones offering both a product and a service. A few see themselves as holistic research companies and one or two argue that they're fundamentally technology providers. Nielsen Buzz Metrics just formed a joint venture with McKinsey showing that they're entering the business consulting space. Each listening vendor has its own path to success each with strengths and weaknesses. 

Key is to keep in mind is that your expectations and aspirations align with theirs. Otherwise, you probably won't get the kind of attention you want and won't be considered as strategic a client as you'd like to be thought of. This is also importnat to know as you have the listening vendor partner with your digital marketing agencies. You want to make sure they all play well together.

5. Dependable Sentiment Analysis. Get a grip on it
Probably the most controversial subject in the social media listening space is sentiment analysis. Some experts believe that automated sentiment analysis is a farce saying that it is hard to get more than 50% accuracy which means that a lot of manual analysis is required. Others believe that automated sentiment analysis can get 80% of the way there after which manual sampling and the optimization of the rules is needed to fill the gap. 

It is important to understand how good the different players are at sentiment analysis and make plans to complement the automated efforts. The manual overlay can either be done by you directly or through the vendor itself. When choosing a listening vendor, I've actually recommended that clients consider doing "bake-offs" between the leading listening vendors. It'll give you a feel for who is better for your industry, your brand and the consumers you're trying to listen in on. Some listening vendors do sentiment analysis better for some industries than others.

6. Deep Analytical Capabilities. Be aware of what you're getting
The social media listening monitoring space is also fracturing based on how textual analysis is done. The ones that do lighter monitoring use keyword analysis primarily to identify words associated with a brand. They use those inferences to draw deeper insights. Others go deeper with linguistic, algorithmic and mathematical analysis along with semantic clustering to determine meaning and opinion too. 

It is worth pointing out that the ones that go deeper than monitoring are also generally more expensive. Most of their buyers are account planners and market research departments versus PR and creative teams focused on campaigns. Sometimes it is hard to rationalize the two types of analytical capabilities and their costs. There is nothing wrong in having two listening platform vendors in your organization serving different needs as you limit the overlap between them and integrate the learnings together. That can be the best solution even though it maybe the most expensive. 

7. Keep in mind alternative uses for monitoring. Don't be too linear
The way most listening vendors are brought into an organization is through one department or one agency that has a very specific mandate. That's all well and good but it sometimes leads to a narrower focus for social media listening than it deserves.

For examples, if you're a large brand you should be doing social listening for these basic needs at the very least. Tracking brand mentions in social media, identifying and nurturing the long tail of influencers in your category, consumer research to drive marketing efforts, search optimization, research for opinions on competitors and new products, optimization of creative assets, customer service, organizational effectiveness, perspectives on product development and something very close to my heart as a measure of overall brand health and as a predictor of sales.

8. Geo-location, Segmentation & Language. Get ready to be disappointed
Probably the area (even more so than sentiment analysis) that needs greater improvement in the listening vendor space is geo-location capabilities. This is of no fault to the listening vendors. It is just incredibly hard to identify the location of a specific user in social media. Knowing where that person posted the comment from is not easy. Some platforms are making it easier (for example when I tell Twitter my location) but most don't or certainly don't share it with the listening vendors. In a similar fashion, language capabilities outside of English aren't always the best.

This matters a lot. It is no use knowing how your brand is being perceived if a lot of that perception represents people in locations and of demographics that are not related to where you sell your product or to whom you sell it too. If you're a mass market FMCG with a product that's sold across the country, this is less of an issue. But if you're only selling on the coasts or are only targeting older Moms, this could be an issue. So when you look at vendors keep this in mind and give preference to those vendors that are furthest along in figuring this out.

Some of the vendors that I've worked with or spoken to include Nielsen Buzzmetrics, Visible Technologies, Cymfony, Radian6, Collective Intellect, Scoutlabs, Converseon, Viral Heat, JD Power Umbria and BuzzLogic

The New Brand Health Metric: SIM Score. Make smarter decisions across all channels with it.

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toyota1111.jpgOn January 21st, all hell broke loose for Toyota. Its sticking accelerator pedal recall was the most challenging crisis the company had ever faced. In fact, a few industry insiders even wondered whether the mighty Toyota brand could survive, as six million cars were recalled worldwide. The crisis is going to change Toyota forever and it may take years to recover lost market share.

Around the same time, something rather dramatic happened to another company, but this time by its own choosing. For the first time in 23 years, PepsiCo decided not to advertise its flagship Pepsi brand on the Super Bowl. With Coca-Cola sponsoring the Winter Olympics, Pepsi launched a year-round "movement," Refresh Everything, to donate money to charities based on consumer voting. For the traditional marketer, this was indeed a bold and risky move.

What do Toyota and Pepsi have in common? They both are in business situations that demand new ways of measuring their brand health -- measurements they haven't had before. And that's where the SIM Score -- monitoring how a brand ranks in Social Influence Marketing -- comes in.

Why the SIM Score matters beyond the social web
In July 2009 Razorfish introduced the SIM (Social Influence Marketing) Score and, at the time, felt that it was an accurate measure of how people perceive your brand in the social web in one moment of time. But since then, through our experiences in deploying the SIM Score and the even more explosive growth of social media (now it transcends all media and all platforms including mobile and gaming devices), we have come to believe that the SIM Score can and should be used as a broader measure of a brand's health, not just as a measure of the strength of a brand in the social Web.

At the root of this thinking is the belief that we now live in a world where brands are shaped in real-time -- more by how consumers talk about them versus anything the brands may do to market themselves or that we as an agency may help them do. This does not mean brand-building is dead. You shouldn't fire your marketing department or your marketing agency. In fact, please don't.

Can online ads be two-thirds of all media spend?

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advertisingmovingonline1.jpgIf you've wondered why the Internet is hot and continues to still be, this chart says it all. Advertising dollars are moving online in a big way. Why does that matter? Because these dollars fund all kinds of innovation and directly reflect the fact that people are spending more time online and are making decisions of all kinds online too. In the last decade the Internet has gone from 0 to 5% of all advertising spend. 

According to Union Square Ventures partner Fred Wilson, he can see this percentage becoming two-thirds of all advertising spend as TV and radio become audio on the Internet and video online. Do you agree? The chart is courtesy Silicon Alley Insider.

Prepare your teams for a Social World

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smmdumies1a.jpgIf your organization is not up to speed on social media, you're probably going to find yourself in trouble a year or two from now. Trust me you just are. You'll find yourself leading an organization that is not listening to its customers, that isn't developing or executing on the best product and marketing ideas and isn't attracting and retaining the best talent. What's more you'll find yourself wasting lots of money in paid dollar investments. You might feel that this doesn't apply to you. After all, you're probably on Facebook and Twitter and you might have even heard about Facebook Open Graph. But is that all there is to the social phenomena? 

No there's a lot more to it. For example, do you know the difference between expert, referent and positional influencers and how to reach them at each stage of the marketing funnel? Do you know what a social voice is and why it is important? Or what it means to take social influence marketing to your website or to develop a mobile strategy around it? These are some of the questions to ask yourself and your teams. And it is not enough for you to be up to speed on social influence marketing, your whole organization needs to as well. I've discovered in the last few months some companies are buying my book in bulk for their employees. Whether it is my book (Social Media Marketing for Dummies) or another, it may not be a bad idea to treat your teams to a free copy to show that you're serious about social and so should they be.

Nimble, Razorfish Report launches. Content should be free.

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nimble1a.jpgToday Nimble a Razorfish Report on publishing in the digital age launches. Based on interviews with content producers from The New York Times, the BBC and the Wall Street Journal, it offers advice on how publishers can make the move to the digital economy. Here are some of the takeaways:

  • All content must be free. This doesn't mean that publishers must give the content away for free. Rather it means that it needs to be free to be accessed wherever and whenever consumers want to access it. Along those lines, the more containers you put around the content (in terms of metatags that express the meaning and function of the content) the more free it will get. It is also worth  mentioning that container limitations (think in terms of tv segment length or column inches) do not exist for digital media.

  • Editors will become curators for managing digital content. And not just their own content but also that of their readers. This includes user comments, partner content and automatically generated content. I'd argue that editors should already be filling this role and if they aren't then something is missing. And not just that, they need to be curators wherever content around their brand is published. This includes the social platforms.

  • Publishers will need to explore new revenue models. It is a no brainer that this is required. We live in an age where content is everything but scarce and therefore it is not an easily monetizable asset. As a result, publishers must deliver additional services that align with the brand's value proposition while providing unique, meaningful value to users. For example, free content can be used as a way to drive sales of paid products and services.

  • New advertising and other partnership opportunities will arise. Audiences are more receptive to highly relevant services and advertising that augment the content experience. We're already starting to see this and more will be visible in the coming months. For example, leveraging publisher data in unique ways can lead to more targeted advertising. 
Read the whole report for all the wonderful insights. The report is authored by a friend and a content strategist extraordinaire - Rachel Lovinger!

Only the Zuckerbergs will survive

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cole_facebook1.jpgI was listening to This Week in Tech while walking into work this morning and I was struck by something that Kevin Rose of Digg said (coincidentally, this truck passed by around the same time). He had dined with Mark Zuckerberg last week and had asked about the privacy snafus. Mark's response was sensible and revealing.

Mark emphasized that the reason why they're changing the privacy policies is not because they can monetize the data better but rather that they must to stay relevant. He believed that whether it be Twitter or any of the new hot startups, it is obvious that social sharing is becoming a default state online. People want to share more information, they are happy to do so publicly and they're doing so en-masse. Facebook in his opinion runs the risk of losing relevancy if it does not adapt to this mode.

Facebook has over 500 million users. Which other company that is so successful is operating with similar paranoia and taking such significant risks as a result? Certainly not Microsoft and arguably Google only does so with new products and services and not its core search engine. The recent redesign of its search results page is not dramatic re-engineering in my opinion. Apple does so to a certain extent but it hasn't tried to re-engineer its core products (remember those Macintosh computers) in quite a while. Instead it has chosen to go into new markets. And that's what makes Facebook special.

The reason why Facebook has 500 million users today is because it has consistently stayed one step ahead of its users. It has its pulse on consumer behavior and adapts its platform accordingly and efficiently. Rather than rolling out services piecemeal and in a drawn out fashion, like tearing off a bandaid it launches features rather hurriedly and painfully. But it does launch and it launches quickly. The new privacy policies and the resultant modifications aren't the latest in a string of failed launches as some parts of the media may like to portray. In my opinion, they represent Zuckerberg's paranoia and his innate skill in being able to stay one step ahead of his users. 

Think about the Newsfeed launch which no one liked or the inclusion of Events and Photos. Or even the home page redesigns and the move away from applications to pages. Or the addition of community pages which is confusing many brands. Not to mention Beacon which was widely panned only to resurface as Facebook Connect. All painful and confusing launches (trust me I hear the grumblings from my clients everyday) but they all represent forward momentum that has built Facebook into what it is.

My birthday was this weekend. I got dozens and dozens of birthday wishes on my wall from friends all over the world. It helps to have parents who uprooted me every few years and moved me somewhere else. That would not have happened without Facebook. I'm glad I'm on Facebook and I'm glad I've shared my birthday with lots of people. I felt special. You can bet I'll be giving Facebook more information about myself in the future. And yes, they will mess up their next product launch and we will all get upset for a while. So what because the community will reign them in sooner or later if they go too far.

But the fact remains, rather than being a walled garden Facebook is opening up to the rest of the web, picking up on key consumer behavior patterns and the need to share. That's something worth celebrating. It is continuously trying to adapt to stay relevant as digital culture changes. Zuckerberg is paranoid and I'm glad he is. It makes for great products and great companies. Just ask Andy Grove.