Saturday, 14 February 2009

Building Community From The 'Outside In'

In the new connected digital age, corporations are looking to employ social tools to their business.

Go no further I say, then to see how start-ups are redefining the relationship between brands and their customers/users.

Meet the community manager. What used to be a not so important role within an organization, for start-ups it's often a hire that happens even before the chief marketing officer.


Everyone says word of mouth is key. But traditional thinking has you giving your agency a schwack of dough in order to create a fabulous WOM or dare i say it, VIRAL campaign. But that's only about brand awareness and maybe if done right, perception. However, influence and engagement are about much more. How do users of your products/services become advocates?

For start-ups with little or no advertising budgets, community isn't a nice to have, it's everything. And they're aggressive about it. That means not waiting and hoping that their community finds them, it means going out and finding their community in what I'll call an 'Outside In" approach.

What do I mean?

Well if you're a user of twitter do this test. If you are annoyed with the way a product or service works, twitter it and be sure to mention the company. Chances are the most response back you are going is from your followers agreeing or disagreeing with your point.

However, if you happen to be using a new start up product and mention something about them, chances are you will not only hear back from their community manager (e.g. Here Leigh try this link...or great suggestion Leigh I'll forward that to the team) but they will likely start following you as well.

I didn't need to find them. I didn't need to search for a phone number to a real person on the website. I didn't need to be on hold at a call centre costing both the company and me valuable time and money.

Instead they found me. And they find me every where they can. My blog. Twitter. FriendFeed. Wherever I am, they are right beside me.

Now, I'm sure you're thinking that's fine for start-ups but there's no way a large corporation can do that....Well think again. Dell has been doing it for a while now and according to various articles, they've seen positive ROI on a consistent basis.

The trick of course is to get beyond those smaller interchanges to fostering and empowering that community into something larger.

Outside In. I think it's the wave of the future.

Monday, 9 February 2009

My Network Is My Search Engine

We are always looking for the next big thing in search. I myself have written a number of posts on the subject (socially connected search, tagging search system).

Something I've noticed lately however, is that more and more my network is actually becoming my search engine. I don't have time to go through my 350 feeds every day and let's face it...on a good day maybe only about 20% of the newest posts are really all that interesting. So what's a girl to do?

Use the network at the filter of course. How?

Well firstly there is delicious. For the most part I only bookmark stuff that I think is really great or something I can use later. As well, there are a few people's feeds that I follow on a regular basis as people who find stuff that I might find interesting.

There is Google Reader. I regularly go to Mathew's Google reader and let him spend the time to sift through his gazillion feeds to find the stuff that is the most interesting. I mean after all, it's part of his job so he can spend the time at work to do it when i can't.

can work - particularly the feature that allows the most talked about links to come up to the top of the list.

Twitter and Facebook both are becoming filters where my network are kind enough to only tweet and link to the most interesting content. And Twitter in particular has become a place where I can ask a question and in no time flat have my questions answered in the form of links, referrals and juicy bits of insight.

I can't think of any others of the top of my head, but I'm sure I'm missing a whole bunch of other services as well.

In our time starved world, where digital overload is starting to fry our brains, we need to remember that we can also use our network for good and let it become our own personal search engine.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

If The Medium Is The Message, What Is Toddlers & Tiaras Trying To Say?

I read an article in the Globe & Mail this morning about a St. Catherine's student who has started a facebook group to get the TLC show Toddlers & Tiaras removed. The basic premise of the show is following a group of small children go through their ups and downs of participating in kid pageants.

Having watched the show for context, I also found it offensive on a number of different levels the least of which is seeing a 4 year old in high heels, full make up a bikini shimming her stuff on stage. But TV being TV, my attitude has always been that I can just turn it off. If I don't like it, I won't watch it. I'm not big on censorship unless it constitutes hate which i don't believe is the case here.

But this is where the medium IMO plays a role. TV is a passive medium. I'm watching something that is edited, scripted and in general controlled. But what happens when that show has a website. And worse what happens when that website actually asks the audience - that's you and me - to participate ACTIVELY in judging these children.

Well that is exactly what is happening over at TLC's website. They have functionality where you and I can actually view and vote. In their words:

"You be the judge. Rate these pageant contestants"

Here's the problem. These aren't just any pageant contestants. These are children. Regardless of what I might think of the entire pageant industry, I don't think it's the same as you and I rating these children. And look at this photo...

Not one of these kids has made it past 5 out of 10. If the medium is the message, what do we think that the Toddlers & Tiara's website is trying to say?

Whether I like the show again, is besides the point. I don't believe in censorship but i think functionality like this goes way to far. These aren't adults who have consciously decided to be on American Idol. These are children.

What do you think?

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Reinvention Is The New Black (AKA Reinvent Or Die)

WARREN, MI - JULY 18:  General Motors vice cha...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

These days, it seems that Brands have been going from success stories to practically irrelevant over night. Given the speed of change, businesses can no longer rest on their laurels or assume that was is relevant in today's economy will have any meaning two years from now.

But large companies are rarely prepared to reinvent themselves. When they start to see signs of decline, they tend to follow a pattern of hiding from reality and seeking change in small increments. A strategy that while often helps everyone keep their jobs in the short term, usually means a potential business crushing crisis down the road.

We've seen this with the big 3 automotive companies. And even now, most of the discussion is around improving what they already do. Hybrid cars. Wages in line with competitors. Better design. It isn't about what companies like General Motors could be in the future given their distribution centres, manufacturing prowess, and communications networks.

I saw a documentary a while ago on the design house Hermes. At one time Hermes made saddles. You can imagine, this was a big of a problem when the automobile was introduced. Sure Hermes could have focused on better saddles or trying to stop technology in its tracks (ala today's music industry) but instead what they did was shift their entire company. Take their brand which was known for meticulous hand made quality and start making exclusive leather bags. From potential bankruptcy to brilliance.

This morning @ianlyons linked to an article that talked about when Twitter was conceived after the Odeo team determined there was too much competition in their space.

There are a number of companies I would love to see take a new viewpoint on what they do and reinvent themselves.

RIM comes to mind as a company that could crush their competition not by just coming out with parody products like the Storm but by taking the core of what they are successful at and applying that to new products and services beyond the handset.

What companies would you like to see reinvent themselves? What companies/industries do you think are on the brink of irrelevance if they don't take the road of radical change?

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