Talking to your customers
Kris Osen in AdAge wonders:
Is it safe to advertise in places on the Internet that are essentially run by consumers and cannot be controlled? How can they protect themselves and their good names when blog and chat-room users are liable to say and post anything? It’s not just pornography or off-color language that worries them. What if consumers got angry about something involving a marketer’s brand, and their remarks got linked to across the Internet?
The article has a telling sub-title: Blogs and Chat Rooms Pose Risks Despite Coveted Demographics. Interesting. So what happened to those pyjama wearing, navel-gazing techies, politicos and all-round geeks who are so not the desired ‘target market’. Or has the holy grail of ‘Mainstream’ exposure moved online and into niche audiences? My, we have come a long way. [/sarcasm]
Another ‘interesting’ thing is the terminology used in the article to describe chat rooms and blogs (which finally are being recognised as interactive formats although still clumsily lumped together). Consumer-controlled spaces is what they call them. Hmm.
But all is not lost because blogs are more predictable than chat rooms and they can be monitored, contained, controlled and neutred. Hit them where it hurts, take their ads away!
The other major difference is that because the postings are predictable, the content can be monitored and controlled by automation or by human beings. If something objectionable is posted, an ad can be pulled within minutes…
Feedster is using filtering technology that, among other things, collects and reviews blog postings over time. So the firm that is running an ad campaign on blogs(!) can keep an eye on wayward bloggers:
Feedster squirrels away a record of everything a blogger has written to establish a pattern. The firm knows if the blogger uses profanity, proper grammar and spelling, whether the language is on the level of PG-13 or NC-17, even how often they go off topic. The advertiser chooses the set of attributes it can live with. “Then if something objectionable occurs, it would take us about seven minutes to stop the ad...”.
Seven minutes! How cool is that?! Alright, I give in. It is perfectly fine for companies to know what conversations are happening about them as Pete Blackshaw of Intelliseek points out:
Companies need to be tuned into the good, the bad and the ugly. It’s amazing how many companies have no idea about all the bad things that consumers say about them—really vicious.
However, something has got lost in the translation - the idea is to join those conversations, not to control them.
Update: Doc already said pretty much the same thing. I guess, I am not fast enough these days…
The ”Try impossible” headline was my two-word response to the Ad Age headline, “Marketers wrestle with hard-to-control content”. I had other objections, like calling blogs a “consumer controlled space” and lumping them together with chat rooms; but my main objection was to the “control” assumption.
And states the point clearly:
Freedom from advertiser control, which has prevailed in varying degrees in traditional media for the duration, is one of the reasons we have blogging.
Red Herring reports:
U.S. blog readership in the first quarter jumped 45 percent to 49.5 million people, or one-sixth of the total U.S. population, a report said Monday, suggesting the blogosphere is becoming increasingly alluring to online advertisers.
I am hearing this from all sides and have been invited to a couple of conferences for advertisering industry to speak about blogs and advertising. Hm, I am not sure they’ll like what I have to say but I will try to make sense of the relationship between such two different worlds - the blogoshpere and media industry. Well, the first thing I notice, apart from the bitching from both sides, is the media industry’s eyes watering as they are trying to focus on blogs. Too small for those big-budgeted and gloss-filled vista and the range of vision is adjusting with the declining revenues, impact and channel fragmentation and other disruptive goodness.
But back to the blog ‘metrics’:
As far as advertisers are concerned, blog readers are a desirable demographic—young, wealthy, likely to shop online, and with high-speed Internet connections. They visit 77 percent more web pages than the average Internet user.
Blogs are addictive, that’s the real news flash. Heh.
Who’d a thunked it?
Blog visitors are 11 percent more likely than the average online user to have household incomes of at least $75,000, and are also 11 percent more likely than the average Web user to connect via broadband.
I thought bloggers are time wasters, having nothing better to do then blogging about their cats and reading other blogs… In their pyjamas. And that nobody really cares what bloggers write about.
Something tells me that this should get the marketers’ pulses racing:
The report--authored by comScore Network’s Graham Mudd and DoubleClick’s Director of Research Rick Bruner, and sponsored in part by Gawker Media and SixApart--also found that blog readers visit nearly twice as many Web pages as average Internet users, and are more likely to shop online. According to the report, 51 percent of blog visitors made an online purchase, compared to 39 percent of the all Internet users.
Bloggers brace yer’selves - you’ll have to beat them off with a stick.
cross-posted from Media Influencer
Apparently yes. Backbone Media asked bloggers at hundreds of companies to participate in an online survey and conducted in-depth interviews with leading individuals from six corporate blogs that were selected as representative of the diverse spectrum of the corporate blogging world.
What we discovered was that for the majority of our survey sample, (which includes some of today’s biggest corporations and scrappiest underdogs), corporate blogs are living up to all the hype. We discovered that corporate blogs are giving established corporations and obscure brands the ability to connect with their audiences on a personal level, build trust, collect valuable feedback and foster strengthened relationships while and at the same time benefiting in ways that are tangible to the sales and marketing side of the business.
Well, it’s not exactly a new flash, is it?
Update: Realised that my post reads as if I were sceptical about the report or did not consider it important. On the contrary, I am glad it was produced and big thanks to the Backbone Media. I will blog more about it as soon as I get round to reading it in detail.
Richard Edelman of Edelman PR firm writes on his Speak Up blog about how PR industry is increasingly on the defensive as to its standards, effectiveness, credibility, honesty, etc etc.
Status quo is not acceptable for our industry. We are being dismissed as eyewash or even worse as obfuscators.
As we discussed the problem, we came to an agreement on what needs to change. We should modify our vocabulary. We talk with pride about developing messages for our clients. What about Doc Searls’ view that in this democratized world, we don’t need messages? Maybe the idea of controlled messages is something that worked in a world of relatively few media and is now obsolete. We have to get away from anything that smacks of control and manipulation of audiences. We should opt for public relationships where the operational words are dialogue, transparency and speed to market.
A fairly predictable discussion in the comments ensues, with David Weinberger weighing in with a forceful explanation of what he means by knowledge being a result of ongoing conversations:
Yes, I am pushing that conversation thing hard. Here’s a key to making sense of me: After farting around with the idea for a long time, I’ve come to fully and literally believe that knowledge does not consist of a set of true statements, but is indeed something constantly emerging from conversations. I finally came to this belief after realizing that the old idea that we argue about something and then settle on a belief is a false characterization of our situation. Rather, we argue and discuss forever, we rarely come to universal agreements, and the conversations are going to continue as long as there are humans. Our hope should be (IMO) not that we come to universal agreement - it ain’t gonna happen - but that we have more conversations with more people, in a bigger world, and that the quality of our conversations gets better. That’s as close as we’re going to get to knowledge. IMO.
Hm, a bit Popperian, I’d say… and makes sense to me. As for the PR industry? Unless those involved in it truly understand that a message/image/impression cannot be controlled and that the companies are not founts of all knowledge, they’ll probalby follow their media cousins.
One more post on spyware and adware, which is one of my major criticisms of advertising and marketing as its obsession with measurement of every flick of consumer’s eyeball provides a fertile ground for the ad/spyware scum. Dan Gillmor explains why one senator’s likening spyware to somebody walking around your house, kind of invisibly was inadequate.
Spyware is more like someone planting hidden cameras and microphones around your house and office, and even in the bathrooms. It’s just about the sleaziest online activity there is. Given the severity of the problem, one might be pleased to hear that Congress seems fairly serious this year about doing something about it. But it’s too soon to get our hopes up. For a variety of reasons, including the sheer indifference of the bad guys to the rule of law, this plague will be enormously difficult to slow, much less halt.
The stakes are high and growing. Nothing less than the future of online commerce and communications may ride on whether we find ways to deal with spyware.
Quite. And he is spot on about the underlying problem:
IT people need to explain to marketing people that it is never acceptable to install unwanted software on customers’ computers. And marketing people need to understand what they risk if they go ahead and do it.
What they risk with me is simple: If I learn that a company has even attempted to pull a fast one, I put it on my personal blacklist, which means never doing business with it again.
The reason I devote and plan to devote much effort to highlighting the unholy alliance of spyware/adware and ‘respectable’ online advertising and marketing industry, is that the connection does not seem to be obvious enough. So watch this space, I am not done yet..
... even though it’s just one settlement in New York. Hopefully that sends a signal to the industry. Eventually.
MediaPost has two article about paid search. The first one is good news for search engine marketing/optimisation business as the Merrill Lynch in a report on Internet advertising issued Thursday predicted that the amount spent on sponsored search listings will increase 47 percent this year to around $5.1 billion, from around $3.5 billion in 2004. Much of the growth will stem from the rise in broadband adoption, which as Merrill Lynch predicts, will result in more queries to search engines. Lauren Rich Fine, first vice president at Merrill Lynch says in the report:
[S]earch volume growth really has been the bigger driver of growth in paid search advertising in late 2004 and into early 2005. We believe this trend will continue as broadband subscription prices continue to drop, more users move to broadband connections, and ultimately conduct more queries.
Overall it seems that online advertising is gathering some serious momentum. Last week at the conference, the statistic of online ad spending as compared with offline has been bandied about a lot. Merill Lynch continued to predict that online advertising would reach $12.4 billion this year and $25 billion by 2009. My views on that are… well, I am not exactly jumping up and down.
The second article is about how major search engines do not clearly disclose which results have been paid for and which are organic, according to a study, Still in Search of Disclosure, by Consumer Reports’ WebWatch.
Interestingly enough, the study author, Jorgen Wouters, indicated that the failure to prominently disclose whether a marketer had paid to be included in the results misleads consumers.
Our previous studies have shown that 60 percent of consumers surveyed did not know that search engine results included paid advertisements along with non-paid results, and when they found out the truth, they were angry. Search engines need to understand that these practices and omissions, when exposed, matter to consumers--their customers.
Note to marketers… it’s all in the mind. It’s about how you treat your clients’ customers. If they are sheep or eyeballs that just need to be teased, entertained or otherwise manipulated into paying attention and buying the products you want them to, it will show. It has always shown, to be honest, but now the ‘empowered consumer’ can and does talk back.
As you may have read elsewhere, I accepted an offer this week to join Latitude, the world’s largest and most successful search engine marketing company, as their head of marketing.
It is not the case, though, that I left the Big Blog Company for Latitude. In fact, I told Perry and Adriana about a month ago that I felt the time had come for me to move on from our shared mission of teaching companies how to converse with their customers, potential customers, and industry peers. (Actually, we were doing a lot more than just that, but for brevity’s sake, I won’t detail every single way in which we’ve been trying to change the world.)
I have been itching to do something that would let me affect the big picture of which blogging is only one very integral part. I had no idea what that something would be, but I knew I had to try to find it. But it found me, in the form of the offer from Latitude, within a very short time of my decision to leave full-time work with tBBC. (To those who were horrified when I replied, “I don’t know” when you asked me what I was going to do next, and who thought I was insane not to have a ten year plan or whatever other rigid schemes you think people need in order to live well: The way this is working out is a good example of what we at tBBC refer to as the benefits of the emergent.)
But as I have written previously, I wouldn’t have the expertise to do what I’ll be doing at Latitude if I had not spent the last year soaking in tBBC. Most businesses pay lip service to ‘company values,’ but it’s no exaggeration to say that the values I cultivated thanks to Adriana and Perry (and our good friends like Alan Moore at SMLXL) are ones over which I’ve become obsessive in my wish to honour. Engagement not interruption. Pull not push. Individuals not ‘consumers’. Value for value. The benefit of the emergent. Your behaviour is your brand. Sneer at the Cluetrain purity of it all, but don’t doubt our sincerity. All of us from tBBC, and the people we gravitate to (and who gravitate to us), are individuals who do not like to be pushed around, who reject attempts to control our behaviour, and who resent few things more than a company that thinks it can get money out of us by pushing us around and attempting to control our behaviour.
Those are the values I’m taking to Latitude, and which will be core to my efforts there. The opportunity to bring those values to an established, highly successful company that is surrounded by the stalwarts of traditional, intrusive, push marketing is very exciting to me. Just as tBBC has been instrumental in me landing such a great gig, I hope to be instrumental in making the mentality of marketing in the UK (and beyond - if that’s not too much to hope for) one that is much more receptive to the values I learned with tBBC.
And when I say tBBC, I mean Adriana and Perry, the two people with whom I have been immersed in this stuff for at least three thousand hours over the past year. After logging that kind of time, there’s no way I can completely extract myself from what they are trying to do. Plus, we’re still friends and I still talk to Adriana on pretty much a daily basis. So you’ll probably continue to spot the occasional post from me on this blog.
So thanks, Adriana and Perry, for changing my life. Not only do I now know exactly what I want to accomplish in life, but I also have a finer appreciation for the humble hippo than I did before I met you. I could not pay you a higher compliment if I tried.
Off to the NMA online marketing conference. I am going there today to have a look around, talk to passers-by about interruption vs engagement marketing, make sure my laptop and the ‘multimedia’ (read video clips and links) in my presentation work for tomorrow, and finally spend some quality time with Jackie Danicki on the Latitude stall. If you are around, do come and say hello.
Will try to do some moblogging on my other blog while I am there, if there is anything worth capturing…
I’ve been working on a side project for top SEM company Latitude (formerly Corporem Global) in preparation for New Media Age and Marketing Week’s Online Marketing Show 2005, which is Wednesday and Thursday at the Royal Horticultural Halls in London. Past NMA centrefold and interview subject, tBBC’s own Adriana Cronin-Lukas, will be giving a talk at Latitude’s exhibition space, and I will likely be hanging around the place both days. I am looking forward to it a lot, if only to survey the extent to which traditional marketers ("RSS? You mean the extreme Hindu nationalist party involved in the murder of Gandhi?") are hanging on for dear life and job justification in the UK.
Anyway, I have a couple of spare tickets to OM 2005 up for grabs. Want them? Email me. And if you’re going to the exhibition, do keep an eye out for us and say hello!
Update by Adriana: I will also be speaking at the Brand reputations session. That should be interesting… I hope I won’t get lynched.
Hey, I accidentally discovered a new reason why Flash sites really, really, really (rillyrillyrillyrilly) suck (as if another was needed) today! If you’re doing screenshots of websites, the bits that are Flash render as big white blank spaces in the screenshots.
Speaking of Flash, I have to blog something now that I’ve been trying to hold back on, but it’s all got a bit too much and I simply must write about it.
Not too long ago, I was visiting the offices of a very profitable web agency - the kind of company that calls itself an “interactive agency,” when what they really mean by describing their work as “interactive” is “You can click on it”. It’s like describing books as “interactive” because you get to turn the page. In any case, while I was there, I started admiring some images on the wall. One of the agency partners said, “Go check out [web address]! Those are the images we used in the design.” The following exchange then took place:
ME: It’s not a Flash site, is it?
ME [as disappointed as if I had just been told that I was going to have to crawl home on my hands and knees over broken glass and then through a shallow lake of ethanol]: Oh, WHY?
HIM [slightly defensive]: Well, it was what the client wanted. It’s not an e-commerce site! They just wanted to communicate the personality of the brand.
ME: I think actual human beings have more personality than a Flash site.
HIM: Well, it’s what the client wanted. We don’t do many Flash sites these days, though.
This is a professional guy whose talents and intelligence I respect immensely, having worked with him on many occasions over the years. For that reason, I didn’t really say anything else. But seriously...What is the state of things when even the cool, fun, non-BS people in the web business think that a Flash site does anything but piss people off? What is the state of things when these people can also say with a straight face that it’s okay to piss off potential customers with a Flash site as long as it’s not an e-commerce site? How is it justifiable to piss people off online, just so they can carry over their irritation with you to your offline vending? What is the big objection to offering potential customers something of real value? I guarantee that it’s cheaper than the cost of an all bells, all whistles, all annoying Flash site.
Dear ignorant business decisionmakers: The internet is not a channel. We are not all sitting here with dumb, easily amused grins on our faces, taking what’s broadcasted at us. It’s a two-way space and when useless bullshit comes at us from your direction, we’ll throw right back at you with indifference (best case scenario) or anger and a resolve against giving you money that might surprise you in its steeliness. If you want some value from us, you’re going to have to pony up some value to us.
or the beginning of the end of search engine marketing as we know it...?
Yahoo! just released beta of its novel approach to search called Y!Mindset. It is intent-driven search. A veritable buzzword as you have to try it to work out what it means. So, due to the buzzword alert I started sceptical but I must say I found the experience interesting and once I realised its full implications, very uplifting indeed.
The search is adjustable according to the underlying intention of either shopping or researching. Websites are evaluated by Yahoo!’s own scoring and they do not make any pretence that it’s not definitive and is still evolving.
I have put in a search for one of my favourite authors, Terry Pratchett and once the search results were up I could skew them either towards commercial or non-commercials sites. This is what I got at the each of the spectrum..
Two very different searches indeed. The first is non-commercial and contains sources about Terry Pratchett and nothing but. The other is commercial and it starts with Amazon and probably lists any other site that’s ever sold Pratchett’s books.
Now, why do I think it has implications for search marketing? Because if you have a commercial site and try to disseminate your message using commercial gobbledygook and the usual marketing speak, this kind of search will enable people to weed them out if they are looking for information and research. This puts commercial sites right out of the ‘expertise’ area and opens the door for non-commercial sites that have a lot to say about things and issues but are not trying to sell anything… Make your own connections then.
So, if this sort of intent driven searching takes off (and it’s a big if, as Y!Mindset is in a tender beta), it will make it very crucial indeed for companies to have blogs where they can talk about themselves and engage customers on a non-commercial level.
I shall be keeping my fingers crossed, of course.
There must be something with the combination of a letter K and a lock company… Kensington is another lock manufacturer to get their product ‘exposed’. Gizmodo reported that apparently all you need to break into a Kensington laptop lock are some scissors, duct tape and a toilet paper roll. As with Kryptonite, we have a video (WMV, 7.5 MB) of someone cracking the popular laptop lock in just two minutes.”
The blogosphere is ‘conversing’, asking about the Kensington’s PR agency… Lary Borsato alerted them to the video and the ‘buzz’. It took a PR wonk two days to get back to him with this stellar response (the comments following his posts are interesting too):
Thanks for getting in touch with me. I was out of the office the past two days, so I didn’t get your e-mails until this morning. I appreciate your input. We’ve seen the video, and we’re producing a response.
We’ve found that the affected products are limited to a small batch of locks, and Kensington is offering replacements for those. I’d like to hear about any more insight you can offer.
Note the we’re producing a response bit! I mean assuming Larry wasn’t the first one to contact them, just how many days does it take to react to a product meltdown?! Given such profound lack of agility and understanding of ‘public relations’, it’s good to see the PR firm being named, it’s Connecting Point Communications. And nothing really happens here. On the bright side, Steve Rubel coins a new verb in PR: Kensington Lock Kryptonited.
...we’re living in a world where customers will only become more and more independent and self-reliant. And — even more importantly — that they can often supply themselves. What they supply may be facts about your company and your products. Or it may be new products that render optional (though not unappealing, which is the saving grace) the whole commercial supply side, as we see happening with free software and open source development.
- Doc Searl IT Garage, Relating to Customers