Experiences: March 2009 Archives

Your iPhone can now have friends but Urbanspoon can do so much more

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fbconnecturbanspoon1.jpgLast December we published a presentation in which we showcased the real potential of Facebook Connect. One of the scenarios that we sketched out was of Facebook Connect coming to an iPhone application. We saw it as having the potential to revolutionize games and other applications on the iPhone by making them all instantaneously social. 

Well this week at South by Southwest Interactive, Facebook announced just that - how they were bringing Facebook Connect to the iPhone. This is exciting and I've just started testing some of the applications like Urbanspoon and Flixster to see how they're harnessing the social influence with Facebook Connect. Here are a few early thoughts on the Urbanspoon implementation.

In the case of Urbanspoon, its success is dependent upon how many of your friends use the application too. It isn't enough for Urbanspoon to enable you to login with your FB credentials and see whether any of your friends have reviewed a restaurant. Urbanspoon must allow you to send your reviews to your Facebook profile and encourage others to comment on your reviews too. In other words, I believe the integration will be a success if it not only connects you with reviews written by friends on Urbanspoon but also connects you with activity within Facebook and people's opinions there. I don't think it does that as yet.

But that's not all, I would like Urbanspoon to provide me with personalized recommendations based on my Facebook profile. Why shouldn't it? It has access to that data after all. I'd also like Urbanspoon to recommend restaurants for me to visit with my wife by comparing my Facebook profile and rating patterns to hers. It can't do all of this today but that's the potential with the Facebook social graph integration now. 

I would also like events on Facebook to be linked to reviews in Urbanspoon. For example, if I'm invited to an event at a specific restaurant, I'd like to see within Facebook the Urbanspoon reviews for it and whether any of them are written by friends. (I recognize this thought is a lot more than a simple FB Connect implementation but that's the user experience they should be striving for).

And lastly, I'd like a live streaming option telling me of all the recent restaurant reviews by friends in the city. What they've reviewed, when they've reviewed and where those restaurants are located. Sort of like a twitter feed of friend reviews. This will influence where I go to eat next in a natural socially influenced manner. Needless to say, a future business model for Urbanspoon could be inserting the occasional advertisement into this stream.

Allowing me to see the reviews of my friends is a big step forward but it alone is not enough to truly harness the social influence. Urbanspoon needs to be integrated into the social fabric of my life on Facebook harnessing the profile data, creating streams and integrating with events too.

Wondering what authenticity means? Try this

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authenticity.jpgUndoubtedly, authenticity has become a much overused, over exposed word in marketing. We're all talking about authenticity too much. Is your company authentic? Do you have an authentic brand? Is the conversation that you're having with your customers authentic? Are you being authentic in how you approach social media? The list goes on. Its exhausting.

At the risk of getting more philosophical on the subject of authenticity, I thought I'd share the two images shown above. The left is an advertisement of a Wendy's Chicken Club while on the right is an actual one photographed right after it was bought. Now tell me is the advertising authentic? More examples can be found at Fast Food: Ads vs. Reality and special thanks to Andy Pimentel for pointing me towards this.

Reinventing Management in the 21st Century

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Last year a group of renowned scholars and business leaders got together to discuss the future of management. Organized by Gary Hamel of the Harvard Business School, the two day event was designed to think about the fundamental principles, processes and practices of management that will drive success in the future. The group identified shared beliefs and after much contentious deliberation also "moonshots of management."

The shared beliefs included the notion that management is one of humankind's most important social technologies, a recognition that current management models are seriously out of date and third that management must be reorganized to become more adaptable, innovative and inspiring places to work. Of the 25 moonshots of management, a few stood out for me which I'm discussing here because they jive with social influence and the role it plays inside and outside of organizations. 

Did Skittles scuttle its brand? Time will tell

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skittles2.jpgSo I like Skittles and I think they have some cool advertising. I also applaud their efforts to enter the social media space and I'm philosophically aligned with them (anyone who reads this blog would know that). But I'm not a big fan of what they've done with their website today. If you visit their website, you'll notice that its become widget overlaying their presence on several social platforms like YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and Flickr. Here's why I'm not that impressed.

  1. Users don't expect a Facebook fan page when they visit Skittles.com. It is disorienting. Nor do they expect to be redirected to a twitter search results page or a Wikipedia page.  
  2. Pointing to an unfiltered search results of a twitter keyword is dangerous and if you scan the page you'll see what I mean. Some of the things being said are ugly and alienating. I've had to blur out some of the tweets in my screenshot of the page because they're that bad.
  3. The Twitter audience is not their customer. Focusing on Twitter can be a distraction. This may not apply to the other social platforms but then they should focus on those more directly and leverage them in a way that's in sync with their ethos. Are their customers' influencers on Twitter? I'm not even sure about that.
  4. I want to feel enticed when I visit the Skittles. Seeing a Wikipedia page does not create a craving for me. And I can't imagine it does much for the teens who are Skittle's core customers. 
  5. By pointing to a search results stream, Skittles is not encouraging a conversation. Rather they're just telling us that random people mention Skittle in twitter conversations. Twitter's format doesn't allow you to follow an existing conversation easily making the stream appear gimmicky.
  6. Skittles is fueling voyeurism versus participation. It is a cop out to point me to the conversations. I'd rather the brand and its representatives engage with me and my friends directly maybe through a promotion or something.
  7. All buzz is not good buzz even for a brand like Skittles. Sure, this is creating a lot of buzz but some of it is negative and with the profanity the brand is being damaged too. Skittles needs to be careful.
I'm glad brands are thinking more seriously about the social web and where their customers are having conversations and discussing them. And it is also important that they're blurring the lines between their own website and the social web. That's something I've been harping on for a while now. However, it is important for the brands to play in a way that is natural to those social platforms. Simply pointing me to places across the social web is not enough. As someone tweeted me on the subject, I wish they had taken advantage of all the social platform APIs to do something special.

Skittles - here's my challenge to you. Engage with my friends and me on my terms and on my social platforms more directly. Don't just point me to other people's conversations. You're just going to get cheap buzz for a short while this way. I want more from Skittles!

Read Emily Steele's "Skittles Cozies Up to Social Media" article in the Wall Street Journal for more on the subject. I'm quoted in it saying that a lot of false conversations are taking place about Skittles on Twitter.

Social Media Experts Dead? Social blossoms

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I must admit I'm a little exhausted by all the talk of social media gurus. One day they're heroes another they're the scum of the earth. They're either going to save your brand from eternal irrelevance or they're Twitter freaks in search of attention.  Both characterizations are wrong.

I've always felt that social media is a monumental consumer phenomena (after all guess where the talk about social media gurus is happening - on the social media sites!) but its impact on organizations is still being understood. I've come to believe that social media is even more important to companies than I earlier thought. But hiring a social media guru is not always the answer.

Enter Social Influence Marketing. At Razorfish, we define social influence marketing as employing social media and social influencers to achieve the marketing and business objectives of an organization. The definition is important because it places equal emphasis on the social influencers as it does on social media itself. It is fundamentally about recognizing that peers are influencing one another about brands and products more than any traditional form of marketing. Why does this matter? Because to harness social influence marketing you don't necessarily need social media gurus, you need to embrace the philosophies of social influence marketing throughout your company. You need to think about how you're marketing to your customer's social influencers as well.

Social Influence Marketing works when all your digital touch points are studied through the lens of social influence. Whether its your e-commerce website, your customer support efforts, your media buying, the public relations components, product innovation, the partner extranets - all of it must be looked at through the lens of social influence. The social media gurus that don't do this are the ones that probably provide less value. A holistic digital perspective accounting for how social influence works in the context of a business and an industry is what matters.

I don't think the backlash against the social media gurus is a bad thing. It'll force higher standards and will result in the more strategic thinkers getting the attention that they deserve. However, I believe in the long run social influence marketing is what matters much more than social media gurus per se. Whether a company hires gurus or chooses to push all its employees into the realm of social influence marketing (just as was done with digital a decade earlier), will probably determine how much it will gain from this consumer phenomena. 

Here at Razorfish, our goal is to make it a part of every employee's job and those philosophies come to bear when we talk to clients. Social cannot be pigeonholed just as you cannot pigeon hole digital anymore. As you mull over this, take a look at Phil Johnson's "Will Twitter disrupt or enhance your business" piece in Ad Age. It touches upon some similar themes.