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Reading over at WinExtra, a post which quotes from Chris Brogan's blog:
"At this point in the gestation of social media we are still being led to believe that bigger is the way to go. We are being told that we should be joining not only the biggest and hottest of the services but also the newest. We need to make the services the drawing card for businesses and the conversations are secondary. It is like social media is WalMart and the services are just the different departments in the store that we shuttle between."
If this is indeed what you have been hearing-- fire your agency (or Web strategist or so-called Social Media consultant/guru).
No "social media", just Web. Just conversation. Web strategy begins with listening, understanding your networks, and planning how to be useful to them. Conversation first, research first--Technologies come at the end of this process, not the beginning. You don't decide to set up shop in Facebook without first understanding WHY (and when I hear this request to do so, my first reaction is to always pull the reigns waaaaaay back, and usually nix it all together).
At iCrossing we have created a robust process for mining and understanding Conversations, understanding those networks and planning how to be useful to them. "Social media" is not a silo, its swallowed up in overall strategy and therefore is intrinsic to service lines across the board-- conversations become the center point of marketing, with strategy and engagement falling out of this point of view.
I love the work of the SF-based Stamen group...and their latest proj is something all you Tumblrs might appreciate. Reblog is like your feed reader-- only more useful because it allows you to not only consolidate your attention, but allows you to easily publish, or reblog (as familiar to Tumblrs or Twitterers with the "Retweet") with one-click to your blog. Love this..Can we say streams?. As Stamen describes:
"Reblog makes the process of filtering and republishing content from many RSS feeds easy, and fast. Rebloggers subscribe to their favorite feeds, preview the content, and select their favorite posts. These posts are automatically published through their favorite blogging software, creating an attention funnel. Reblog's “River of News” view, showing most recent entries from all subscribed feeds.
Instead of visiting dozens of websites, each with new stories and updates published in local formats, RSS syndication places all that information in a simplified, standard format, allowing users to hand off the grunt work of looking for information to the computer, where it belongs.
Consumers of information are then free to interpret this information how they wish. Reblog short-circuits the gap between “This is cool!” and “I just told the world,” by making publishing to your own curated feed or another blog a one-click process.
Reblog is an open-source collaborative project with Eyebeam, an interactive research and development group based in New York City."
Go get one of your own / Discuss Reblog.
David Deal, VP of Marketing at Razorfish was kind enough to clarify Razorfish's involvement in the JC Penney-Facebook Connect initiative that I so roundly trashed yesterday. (Note: yes, I'm aware at how supremely contrarian and bratty I can be, my apologies...somedays are more so than others).
In a comment on that same post David notes:
To clarify: although Razorfish executed the media buy for the project, the social media idea and creative execution did not come from Razorfish -- David Deal, vice president of marketing, Razorfish.
And again, my main lament about this JCP-FBC initiative is that I believe the implementation of FBC is missing its full potential. I just hope to see some more innovative uses of FBC in the future that don't pigeon hole it into specific campaigns...I'm interested in what impact FBC can have on a brand's overall digital strategy.
"You know what a palantir is, right? It’s the crystal ball thingy from Lord of the Rings - Saruman and Sauron’s favorite toy. Well, now it’s also a real-time visual representation of the actions happening on Facebook, and boy it looks pretty! It uses geo data to show where on Earth things are happening; you can see stuff like users making new friends, or just overall actions and interactions on the site. What warms our geeky hearts the most is the fact that they even included our Sun which is visible as you zoom out and scroll around the globe."
[via arnsteinblogg 2.0]
Sooooo....looks like douche baggery is still alive and well in the land of digi marketing, hooray! Looks like the kids over at Razorfish had this super neat idea about creating a "doghouse" that women could put their significant others in unless they buy them...diamonds! Oh, Raz, you know us women oh so well (blah). The recently launched "Beware of the Doghouse" campaign for JC Penney is, according to the press release:
"A viral marketing campaign that allows women to put their significant other in the "Doghouse" for bad gift choices this holiday season. This new site and the marketing campaign behind it provide a fun, interactive way for women to encourage the men they love to get out of the “Doghouse,” by purchasing affordable diamond gifts from The Jewelry Store inside JCPenney. Launching today, the campaign is one of the first marketing sites to use the new Facebook Connect application, allowing visitors to easily put their Facebook Friends in the "Doghouse."
Not only is the premise of the campaign utterly ridiculous and condescending--but at its center is what else...a microsite! A microsite, oh why didn't we think of that before?! Ah, but wait, it gets better. They implemented Facebook Connect. Now, you'd think I'd be pretty excited about it as I've been covering FBC since it was first announced back in May of this year...ah, but marketers never fail me. So did they do something useful with the FBC implementation? No! They created this lame microsite and a game by which chicks can put their dudes in a doghouse and do so via Facebook Connect. So, you chose to use FBC to let girls pick Facebook friends/bf's into some lame doghouse? Because that is super useful and makes much more sense than say, integrating FBC into the JC Penney online shopping experience and thereby including friend data (purchases, wishlists, etc) into the product merchandising model. No, that just makes too much sense. We'll just stick with this awesome Doghouse thing...sweet!
What a wasted opportunity to really do something compelling with FBC, and to explore the potential of data portability and its impact on user experience, and in the retail case, impact on sales (well, in the case of FBC, data portability on training wheels, but whatever). I'm afraid of FBC becoming yet another poorly handled FB initative. FAIL!
Wrote a post for Mashable today:
With speculation around how you should monetize mostly a topic of conversation within the tech community, it always surprises me that a marketing perspective isn’t thrown into the mix. After all, it’s marketing dollars that you (and just about every other online entity) are relying on. So, taking a digital marketing perspective, I thought I’d throw a few thoughts into the discussion.
Note: this is not intended to be a “how to use Facebook to develop a social marketing strategy” discussion, but rather the intent is to explore how you could build a business model around your rich user data given what marketers desire in terms of effective marketing and what they’ll pay for (effective marketing= happy marketers who spend more $ on what works).
YOUR FOCUS IS FLAWED
So, you have one thing right: marketers pay to reach consumers, and the more targeting a platform can offer, the more marketers are willing to spend because of the promise of greater ROI. There is one flaw in your approach, however: you have been entirely focused on monetizing Facebook.com itself.
Now, while it may seem counter-intuitive, you ought to focus on monetizing your rich user data, and not necessarily the site itself. Wait–isn’t that the same thing? What is she saying? Just hear me out: You are not a content platform. You’re a communications utility, and while you’re a platform for UGC, you don’t provide a rich content experience. Users aren’t on your network to experience any kind of particular content–they are there to connect with friends and to essentially store personal data (whether they consciously know this or not).
Although some could argue that explicit and implicit user outputs (all that stuff you see in your newsfeed) IS the new “content,” we still have yet to see that this kind of UGC can be successfully monetized through advertising (translation, ROI for ad spend around UGC tends to be low).
Now, marketers have deployed lots of successful marketing initiatives within Facebook, but a majority of these involve leveraging your free Business Pages to drive conversation and engagement (read: free marketing). You’ve had it in your heads that if you let marketers set up free Business Pages, and draw in communities of brand enthusiasts who “Fan” these Pages, you can then upsell these brands into media buys. But the problem is that while great for engagement initiatives and fostering conversation around a brand (great for marketers!), Facebook is still not an optimal place for ad-spend, no matter how much attention is aggregated there. ROI from your ad spends tend to be relatively low for marketers. Again, it goes back to user intent and behavior.
SO WHAT SHOULD YOU DO?
Essentially, Facebook is this giant data storage silo. It contains consumer data nearly as valuable as the credit card companies have (the kind of data marketers would pay nearly through the nose to have). It’s user data, not the dot com itself that you should consider your golden ticket.
Now, before anyone starts jumping up and down about the notion of “monetizing user data”– I’m not advocating that private user data be mass-harvested and sold ad hoc to marketers. Rather, what I am suggesting is that with the dawn of Facebook Connect, there may be a viable, ethical way to leverage this user data.
With Facebook Connect, you can essentially create a content network (and note the launch partners, major media companies) that could also support an ad-network. So now, with a Facebook Connect-enabled content/ad network, you have the holy grail of targeted advertising: contextually relevant content experience AND the kind of granular targetability based on user graph data that made the initial promise of social networks so huge for marketers. Basically, participating FBC sites could not only sell targeted ad inventory based on their content, but based on Facebook’s (opt-in) user data as well. This would not only give marketers what they want in terms of targeting, but you would get a cut of the ad revenue for being the arbiters of that valuable graph data.
Of course, even without a potential FBC ad-network, Facebook Connect helps brands and publishers provide a socially enhanced experience for their customers with a lower barrier to adoption than current one-off branded social networks. Not to mention, FBC enables the potential to drive a lot of new traffic to their site as a result of opt-in user actions (including purchases) being broadcast through the Facebook network.
There is also the opportunity for e-tailers to capitalize on social graph data as part of their merchandising model. The benefit of graph data to the e-tailer includes the implicit endorsement of products by your users whose purchases are broadcast to their Facebook friends (again, only if the user opts-in to have their actions published), driving significant traffic, tapping into the power of consumer advocacy, and providing a more socially enhanced and user-friendly experience. Given the significant value this kind of data offers, you could leverage some kind of rev-share program for supplying this graph data to e-tailers (but again, users would have to opt-in!).
CREATE A VALUE EXCHANGE!
Now, this brings me to one last point that my dear friend and brilliant colleague Ben Bose has suggested be baked into all of this– a value exchange for the end user. If it’s consumers’ graph data that is benefiting both supplier/marketer and Facebook, then it should also work for the benefit of the consumer. Perhaps users may be assigned “influence” scores based on their network, and the degree of influence they have over that network. These influence scores could earn them rewards– not unlike our credit card rewards. Of course, some services already have types of user rewards, including ThisNext and imeem, but this is something that could be propagated to a much larger degree with initiatives like Facebook Connect.
Yes, there are many counterpoints to these ideas, including the argument that open Web enthusiasts (myself included) would pose around the idea of Facebook (or MySpace) being proprietors of graph data versus users themselves. But rather than examining the differences between FBC and true data portability, this was a look at possibilities for Facebook Connect as a means to increase Facebook revenue. Everyone's weigh-in?
Granted, its (VRM) not a new idea...but 2 key things have changed to make it feasible: consumer culture and online behavior have shifted and 2) the technology is (getting) there...its exciting especially with all of the open standards work that that Brad Fitzpatick and crew are working on (and of course the VRM project of Doc Searls that focuses on creating VRM based on an open framework).
What it is interesting with FB is what they're up to with Facebook Connect...on the surface it seems fine and dandy and great...great for users and great for participating 3rd party sites. But i can't help but feel like FB has some sinister long term plan to be a VRM system of sorts...not adopting open standards and the ethos of VRM, but rather attempting to be a closed data storage hub that feeds sites and services within the FB universe via FB Connect...you could have a seemingly "data ubiquitous" experience (and thereby create a POTENTIALLY VRM-like system using FB data and the entire Connect network of sites and services whereby there could be a value exchange between consumers and suppliers) under an AOL-like FB Connect world, but in reality it would just be a massive, closed system which maintains its proprieter status of user data, rather than that data being owned by the users themselves (hence a bastardized version of VRM).
Its no secret I'm a bonafide Cluetrain drunk. I didn't just sip that Kool Aid, I killed it. And really, any foray into social strategy is Cluetrain-light on training wheels. The concept of VRM ought really to resonate with most of those already espousing the open, social Web. My first introduction to the concept of VRM was several years ago when I ran into Fred Davis in San Francisco who, among other topics, discussed his dot com-era venture, The Lumeria Project (and well, I suppose before that it really began after reading The Cluetrain Manifesto in college--it came out my junior year of high school). The LP was essentially a VRM platform that for obvious reasons never made it past the first few rounds of financing. Not only was user behavior online not ready for such a venture (and really, the general culture at large), but the Web was not ready. Now, we're getting there. Of course, Doc Searls has been heading up ProjectVRM, headquartered at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, where he is a fellow, for quite some time now.
So, an intro to VRM as put together by the VRM Hub group headed by Adriana Lukas in the UK:
Imagine being able to take charge of your information and data, notes and records about past transactions, your purchase history, future plans and ideas, preferences and knowledge about areas of your life. At the moment you are the last person to be able to benefit from all this accessible only via various platforms. Your ‘digital detritus’ is not yours, it is information that others harvest and use for their own purposes. Imagine to be able to do that with the same ease as checking email, posting to a blog, adding a bookmark to del.icio.us, searching Google, commenting on an article, uploading a photo to Flickr, managing your google or ical calendar, leaving a review on Amazon, adding an application on Facebook. All this whilst protecting your privacy to the degree you find comfortable, sharing your activity or data as you wish, not as mandated by the platform providing some functionality in exchange for your data (Facebook, Amazon etc).
Imagine having your customers share with you what they like, want and think of you. At the moment, you are dependent on market research, which is like looking through a keyhole at the rich ‘user-generated’ world. Imagine being able to relate to your customers, consistently and persistently, where they contribute directly to your supply chain where it makes sense - whether it is R&D, product design, distribution and marketing. Interaction with them is modular, intuitive and user-driven freeing much of your resources spent on marketing and transaction cost.
The above is part of the vision of the Project VRM. The name stands for Vendor Relationship Management and it originates from ‘flipping’ CRM - customer relationship management. Project VRM is a community-driven effort to support the creation and building of VRM tools. The project is headquartered at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University and headed by Doc Searls, a fellow with the center. The project is building a framework that sets standards and protocols for a category of tools that enable individuals and organizations to relate and transact on more equivalent terms. By minimizing the leverage and control one party has over another in a (typically commercial) relationship, individuals and organizations can instead focus on creating and sharing value. The VRM opportunity is not rooted in us vs. them emotionally-driven arguments but in creating a more efficient and balance relationship between business and their customers, markets and companies, demand and supply.
What’s in it for the individual?
The ability to manage and analyze your data will give you better knowledge about yourself, the kind of knowledge that is the holy grail of most companies’ customer data management. The awareness of your preferences, understanding of your needs will help you to articulate them easier and strengthen your position with vendors.
What’s in it for businesses?
We live in an increasingly decentralized world with more customer choice, yet vendors continue to fiercely collect and control customer data and exploit the opportunities therein. The ultimate goal of VRM is better relationships between customers and vendors, by considering and constructing tools that put the customer in control of their data and ultimately their relationships with other individuals, companies and institutions.
Benefits of ‘letting go’ of customer data:
1. Customers share the burden of storing and protecting the data - eases compliance, privacy & security concerns
2. Increased access to information about customers - direct benefits to the customer to share more data rather than less.
3. New services from previously unavailable access to customer data
With FB Connect set to "officially" launch November 30th, 24 out of the 26 original launch partners have still yet to integrate FB Connect. Whats the hold up? According to sources at TechCrunch, they're apparently waiting to see how it all flys (as was to be exepcted, I'm sure). With buggy implementation and a fear of policy changes, most of the launch partners have opted to take the approach Japan has taken with GMOs...watch the guinea pigs and wait it out a while. Alas, but in the meantime you can get your fix tinkering around with logging into 3rd party sites with your FB credentials here (be sure to take the quick CNN survey about FB Connect) and here and here (after you've logged in with new credentials on mybarackobama.com, you can then connect with FB). Cheers.
In regards to your questions around the deck:
The deck has a lot of voice over that goes with it...but i wanted to strike a balance between clarity and brevity as its going on slideshare and needs to function as a stand alone (a lot of the data portability geeks will know what the cloud and the mircoformats are so i didn't want to be redundant). FOAF and XFN are microformats for expressing relationships between people online (vs. proprietary markup that say FB or MySpace uses). The "Cloud" can be described as distributed, interlinked virtual servers where data can be stored instead of within proprietary, dedicated hardware, thus decentralizing where personal data is stored. this is the vision of the likes of Brad Fitzpatrick (invented the FOAF and XFN microformats) and the Data Portability Workgroup and the likes of Doc Searls in creating a silo-less, open, semantic Web that functions like a VRM (vendor relationship management).
You could almost think of the Cloud as the "meta-web"...if the internet freed documents from device, the Cloud frees data from device and it becomes permanently cached on the internet (rather than any one server). Right now our data on FB is stored on FB servers. For all intense and purposes, they maintain control over our data. So right now, the "data portability" initiatives like FB Connect, while a step, are still lacking. Its still FACEBOOK granting permission to access OUR data to third parties rather than the end user accessing and granting permissions....
Anyway, this is a favorite topic of mine, and one that has been around since the birth of the net (and there have been a few failed attempts at creating this VRM such as the Lumeria Project back in '96)...anyway, if you want to read about it, there are of course super smart peeps (the ones actually making it happen) to turn to: http://www.vrmlabs.net/vrm-in-a-nutshell/
So, the point of the deck was that while a lot of this geeky stuff is still a ways off, marketers are usually 2 years behind developments in the Web and technology. I wanted to float some of what has been a discussion within the tech community for the past few years. That we are seeing open strategies from the major networks is only indicative of the momentum this movement is gaining and that the realization of a silo-less, open and fully semantic Web is not just a pipe dream after all....
Also, this is not a "the future is VRM" deck...its much more basic and simpler than that (and mainly sticks to talking specifically about FB Connect as an example).
hence too this picto-post i did: http://www.thewebissocial.com/2008/10/on-future-of-data-portability.html