Monthly Archives: April 2009

Will Video Kill the Social Media Star?

200px-video_killed_the_radio_star_single_coverThere’s a lot of opportunity at the intersection of social and video, yet few marketers are effectively generating results in this space. There are clear benefits to focusing on social networks for the distribution of video. Users on social networks are already trained to operate in ways that help videos spread (posting to profiles, sending to friends, etc.).

It’s been said that the Internet behemoth, YouTube, was built on the back of MySpace. The average circa-2005 MySpace user had a desire to share videos that helped express his/her likes and dislikes. These users flocked in droves to YouTube in order to mine through its growing universe of clips and use its embeddable player on their profile.

President and COO of News Corp. (which owns MySpace), Peter Chernin, said in 2006, that 60 to 70% of YouTube’s traffic came from MySpace. While this is no longer true today, it’s fair to deduce that YouTube’s meteoric growth was tied closely to the user behavior seen on MySpace.

Users on social networks are currently already operating in a context that makes them far more likely to take a brand-friendly action, such as sharing a video. They are already in an environment where social proof matters greatly: users want to share content that will reflect well on them, and that will gain them popularity within their own social networking circles.

Today, Facebook is presenting a larger distribution opportunity than anything we saw on MySpace. Every month, 8 million videos are uploaded to Facebook which is on scale with YouTube. And every single time one of these videos is uploaded, liked, shared, or commented on, it becomes a candidate for being distributed to, on average, 120 individual news feeds. Clearly, the opportunity here is massive.

So, with the landscape so ripe, it shocks me that so few people think about how to properly engineer and design compelling video experiences on social networks. There are some great case studies, though. For one, Sprite’s recent video campaign (GREEN EYED WORLD) got me thinking, and I wanted to offer here an analysis on its execution. For the record, I was in no way involved in the Sprite campaign, nor was my company. In fact, I didn’t know about it until recently — I simply liked the campaign and wanted to highlight its successes and failures.

Call-to-action: The integration of the green Facebook Connect overlay suggests a great paradigm for engagement. Overlays are very effective when correctly placed and messaged. I was a bit surprised that Sprite didn’t include some context in the design of the button, though – I would have loved to see a Facebook logo integrated into the design.

Rewarding audience engagement: The star, Katie Vogel, seems to be reasonably active in chatting with her burgeoning fan base, and her status updates are integrated into the campaign. Prominent calls-to-action around friending or becoming a fan of Vogel are effective. I would have liked to see more public acknowledgement of comments.

Content: The content is light and entertaining, but it is a bit long; the best length for an entertaining video blog is 3 to 4 minutes. Like many commenters, I thought that the cheesy moves, such as her singing after the breakup, ruined the illusion. I’m hoping those will smooth out as more shows are aired.

Social proof: The integration of Facebook Connect for comments is ingenious: not only do users show their support to their Facebook friends (remember, the average user has 120), but Sprite has also solved the problem stemming from the fact that most YouTube comments come from anonymous users. YouTube comments have devolved into a haven for spam, insults, and worthless dreck. By tying one’s Facebook identity to a comment, Sprite is able to get more engaging and honest feedback from fans.

However, I have one issue with the Connect integration: I question the need to divorce a person’s comments from their friends’ and everyone else’s – The campaign isn’t going to convince me the campaign is interesting if I connect and am shown a blank screen notifying me that none of my friends are there. I would have focused on making the comment widget larger, showing all comments by default, and presenting a big call-to-action in order to answer the “Why Should I Care?” question and motivate users to connect their Facebook account.

Candor: Some of the scenes are dramatized and include actors, which is not made clear from the nature of the campaign. There are several comments complaining about this in the comments section, and it does strike me as somewhat ill-fitting with the content. While I understand the desire to “raise the stakes,” Katie’s acting skills (and the story structure) are a little too flat to pull it off. Again, hopefully this improves with time.

Despite some of the negatives I’ve mentioned above, this is an awesome campaign that unfortunately doesn’t seem to be generating much attention. To this point, Stafford Green, the head of Digital for Coca-Cola Europe, told Mediapost: “A ‘big bang’ launch doesn’t make it credible and you get spike in interest that dies down. We want good organic growth.” It will be interesting to revisit this in a few months to see if Green’s organic-growth strategy bears fruit.

Courtesy of OnlineVideo Insider.

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8 Ways to SEO Your Personal Brand

Personal brand management

Individuals need to protect and cultivate their own personal brands, the same way in which big-name companies do. I learned this lesson the hard way.

The year was 2003, and I was off to the Hollywood Bowl for what I thought was a Neil Young/Crazy Horse reunion concert. (Yes, I’m old and musically irrelevant.) Psyched to hear distortion-laden classics like “Cinnamon Girl” live, I’d shelled out $150 for mediocre seats for me and my girlfriend. When it turned out that 95 percent of the evening was devoted to playing — and acting out (there were “actors” onstage performing to the music) — Young’s new concept album, “Greendale,” I was peeved… so peeved that I posted a scathing review on a message board, using language that would’ve earned me a mouthful of lather as a child. Little did I suspect this profane-laced post would follow me for years, popping up as one of the top search results every time someone Googled my name.

My sour-grapes post (I’ve since acknowledged Neil’s right to experiment musically; however, in my defense, the concert was advertised as a Crazy Horse reunion show) taught me a valuable lesson about the need to protect and cultivate my personal brand. This is especially true online, where doing a perfunctory background check is as easy as typing a name into a search-engine field. And don’t fool yourself, prospective clients and employers are searching your name, especially in today’s tough economy and ultra-competitive job market.

So, in the interest of helping you better manage your personal brand, here are a few tips from industry experts on how to exercise more control over what’s turning up when someone does a search of your name.

TO CONTINUE, CLICK HERE.  Courtesy of  IMEDIAConnection.com

Selling Yourself: Building a “Personal Brand” Thru Social Media

sell-yourselfHere’s a great article on one of the hottest trends in marketing today (and one of the biggest growth areas for our firm): Personal Branding.  Courtesy of the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania.

In 2007, Jim MacMillan was at the top of his profession — a photojournalist who had just shared a Pulitzer Prize for pictures from Iraq’s deadliest combat zones — but he also started to wonder what kind of future that profession had in store for him. His newsroom in Philadelphia was making steep job cuts in the face of plummeting revenues. Then MacMillan attended a BlogWorld conference and returned with a determination to re-invent himself though social networking.

MacMillan has since become highly skilled at using social networking to gain new fans of his photography, and he is hardly alone. Over the last few years, creative professionals — including musicians, writers and artists — have found they can reach an engaged audience by making songs available on a MySpace page or building a national readership by blogging. Now, with the economy mired in a recession, many individuals are wondering how to build a buzz about themselves and find new employment opportunities by adapting the same kind of branding techniques used by businesses.

“I saw that the real value of a new media profile, or a social media profile, is distribution [to an online audience],” MacMillan says. While still employed as a staff photographer at the Philadelphia Daily News, he had launched his own web site — jimmacmillan.net — for posting his photos and linking to related stories in the news. Like many professionals, he also created a profile on Facebook, Twitter and every social network he could learn about, roughly 40 in all.

Eventually, he took a severance package from the newspaper and threw everything into social networking. Today, he has close to 14,000 followers reading his posts on Twitter — a number on a par with some celebrities — and keeps in touch with about 475 friends on Facebook. He believes he reaches a larger and more engaged audience than when he was at the Daily News, but he also concedes his activity is only bringing in “lunch money,” mainly through ads on his blog (which receives traffic referrals from his Twitter postings). But by expanding his network, Macmillan says he also has promising leads on better-paying job opportunities at companies, including some that want advice on social networking.

According to Jonah Berger, Wharton marketing professor, using social networking sites or a new media endeavor such as blogging can be especially useful for workers looking to reshape their career into a new kind of profile. “People will begin to see you in that role,” Berger says. “By creating these links outside of your organization, you can change your meaning to [others].”

Clearly the recession — which has cost the American economy more than five million jobs, including an estimated 1.5 million in the white collar sector — has placed a new premium on the art of networking among workers who see their jobs threatened. As The New York Times recently reported, interest in traditional face-to-face networking groups among executives — even those still collecting a paycheck — has soared in recent months.

Indeed, social networking is that rare sector of the economy that seems to be booming in the midst of the recession. MediaPost reported that businesses spent $2.2 billion on social-networking in 2008, nearly twice as much as they did in 2007, primarily through advertising on popular sites like MySpace and Facebook.

Game-changers

While not dismissing the value of more traditional networking, many experts in the art of self-marketing agree that the rapid rise over the last five years of Internet-based social networking sites is a game-changer. Such sites allow like-minded people to forge connections, not just at lunch, but across the country or even overseas, leading to unprecedented opportunities for ambitious people to expand their list of contacts, generate business leads or even develop a new career.

Initially, it was largely the creative classes who saw that an online following could eventually grow into paying customers. For example, rock musicians who once spent years trying to land a record deal with a major label created pages on the popular MySpace social networking site, forged bonds with online fans through free downloads or other audience-participation efforts and eventually sold compact discs or song downloads to a loyal following.

Author Scott Kirsner, who writes a weekly column for The Boston Globe, recently studied this emerging business model for a book titled, Fans, Friends and Followers: Building an Audience and a Creative Career in the Digital Age. Musicians or authors who build an audience through social connections and an ongoing dialogue over the Internet develop devoted fans who are even more likely to buy a product because they feel a personal connection to that artist, he says.

“There is a major shift [among] consumers, whose entertainment used to be watching TV or buying movie tickets,” Kirsner notes. “That shift is a desire to connect with the artist and to support [him or her] directly.” In addition, these followers often become online evangelists, spreading buzz through their own large social networks.

According to Kirsner, one of the best examples of self-marketing is Jonathan Coulton, a self-described “geek rock” musician who once worked as a computer programmer but has built a large online following through music. Coulton frequently offers songs over the web for free, allows fans to legally create music videos or other forms of artwork around his music, and once famously allowed his followers to come up with the instrumental solo for a track he had posted on his site. Coulton “created this whole community where he would write the songs and others would spread the word to promote it and make products, or add their own creativity,” Kirsner says.

Today, however, social networking is no longer merely the province of the creative classes. Millions of business professionals have joined sites like Facebook — the platform that allows people to share photos, links or information with a network of friends and that has more than 200 million active users worldwide — and LinkedIn, a networking site that is more business oriented and has 35 million users. Gaining fast in popularity is Twitter, with about five million users who exchange information with their network of friends in short bursts of no more than 140 characters.

Wharton marketing professor Eric Bradlow, co-director of the Wharton Interactive Media Initiative, has spent several years studying self-marketing for financial services professionals — one of the hardest-hit sectors in the current slowdown. He says developing a personal “brand” can be as important for a financial advisor as for a rock musician. Bradlow is co-author of a book to be published this summer titled, Marketing For Financial Advisors: Build Your Business by Establishing Your Brand, Knowing Your Clients and Creating a Marketing Plan.

“In these times, people need to differentiate themselves,” notes Bradlow, who became interested in this topic five years ago when he learned that training for financial services professionals almost never included any education about marketing and self-promotion. Bradlow believes it is critical for a worker in the financial sector — especially those who are sole practitioners or run a small business — to develop a brand identity to convince would-be clients to choose them over a large field of rivals. He advises business people to come up with three simple words to define a personal brand — words that could describe a specialized skill set or simply community involvement.

“The most important part is being consistent, [to establish] brand consistency across the various channels,” Bradlow says. That means a business person seeking to build buzz about himself or herself should convey the same message whether meeting people at a local luncheon or building a profile and communicating with friends by way of Facebook. It is also important to understand that different types of networking — traditional or new media — bring different pluses or minuses to the table, he adds. For example, financial planners who target clients in the “at-retirement” sector will have more success making social contacts at a golf club or winning referrals through other trusted professionals, such as lawyers, than by aggressively using Facebook or Twitter, which could even be off-putting to some older clients.

LinkedIn is by far and away the most popular business-oriented social network — with more than 35 million registered users scattered across more than 170 industries — but it is just one of a growing number of sites. Others include Ning, which allows specific businesses to create their own social networks of clients, employees and interested parties; Ryze, which allows organizers to better organize contact lists and schedules; and Xing, which aims to connect business people with experts or potential customers.

It’s equally important to be aware of the potential pitfalls of the different online networking sites. In particular, some experts voice concern over business networking on Facebook, because it allows friends and acquaintances to freely post material that will also appear on a person’s profile page; the risk is that someone else might post an inappropriate comment or photo that could actually scare away potential business contacts.

“Your professional branching-out can be comingling with your personal friends’ accounts, and you are exposing all of them if somebody decides to give away your information or post something imprudent,” says Andrea M. Matwyshyn, a professor of legal studies and business ethics at Wharton. She recommends that potential job seekers focus their activities on business-oriented sites such as LinkedIn, which are unlikely to pose the same risks.

Skip the Wild Parties

In fact, Matwyshyn says the recession — and the greater risk of layoffs that comes with it — can make Facebook even riskier as managers who make decisions about layoffs or about new hiring are increasingly exposed to online profiles. “People in this down economy are deciding whether to fire one person who has a picture of a wild party the night before [on Facebook] … while [another] person who is on the chopping block has posted pictures of his family.” Still, Matwyshyn acknowledges that she herself has an active Facebook profile because she found it an effective way to make contacts or trade information with other academics in her field of expertise.

Despite the risks, many experts are advising individuals to use the web and other tools to brand themselves. They note that until recently, executives and other professionals tended to market themselves through their resume and depended heavily on the reputation and branding of the employers they have worked for — something that makes less sense in this roiled economy with so many layoffs and job changes.

Peter S. Fader, Wharton marketing professor and co-director of the Wharton Interactive Media Initiative, says establishing a personal brand is important in an age in which consumers are more skeptical and seeking a level of comfort and trust. “Before, receivers would usually play a passive role and accept a product because it was there. Now, they want to know what your source of credibility is and why they should trust you.” He argues that this environment makes it possible for an investigative journalist, for example, to adhere to top professional standards through his relationship with his readers in what he calls “a grassroots manner. I think that’s great.”

Building an online identity also takes patience. Berger notes that at first, it is usually helpful to build a following by giving away something for free — even if it’s just nuggets of information or personal wisdom transmitted by blog postings or through commentary on Twitter. “People might enjoy that, and find that they’re willing to pay for it in another outlet.” Likewise, an attractive online personality could widen one’s list of contacts to include people able to offer job opportunities down the road.

Bradlow believes that it’s important to reach out to people who are “influencers,” who will use word-of-mouth to spread information about you and your unique expertise to their own wide networks of social contacts — a concept described by author Malcolm Gladwell in his best-selling book, The Tipping Point. “You need to seed the right people, to develop a word-of-mouth army,” Bradlow says. “Everyone should have a list of 20 or 30 people who will act as their ambassadors.”

For someone — a white-collar middle manager, for example — who might question whether he or she truly has enough unique abilities to create a personal brand, Bradlow notes the endeavor might not involve a skill as much as a specialized kind of training, or even something like philanthropic involvement in the community. The other thing he suggests to self-marketing newcomers, online or otherwise, is patience. “Branding is something that does not necessarily come with a short-term payoff. It’s a long-term investment. Why does Coca-Cola spend hundreds of millions of dollars on advertising? It’s not about increasing sales today; it’s about building brand awareness.”

Ask MacMillan, who is branding himself and his award-winning photography online and who is painfully aware of how long it takes to develop income. “I’m not trying to replace the revenue from my job through the direct revenue from my blog, because that doesn’t happen,” he says. “But the secondary revenue will be there.”

PR Should Spell More Than “Press”

prMoved by this remark in Chip Griffin’s “Media Bullseye” Blog this week. As he stated in his article “Do Start-Ups Need PR?”:

“Really good agencies do more for you than simply get media hits for your company. They can help you with internal communications, presentation training, perfecting your elevator pitch, improving investor relations, and more. Many claim this, but few do it well. And, of course, you get what you pay for. The more that a PR agency becomes a “strategic partner,” the more it will likely cost.”

That’s the type of PR I’ve always tried to PRactice as well. Glad to know I’m not alone.

5 Ways Managers Breed Incompetence

business-circleThe Takeaway: No manager wants to push his or her employees towards incompetence, but one blog argues that many unwittingly do just that nonetheless. Recently, Business Pundit outlined some of the most common reasons for a creeping increase in incompetence, empowering managers to tear these causes out by the roots. Are you guilty of managing in any of these ways that may breed incompetence on your team?

  1. Using numbers as the only device to measure performance.
  2. Spreading workers too thin: cost-cutting is an essential component of survival, but it’s also a quick and dirty way to overburden competent employees, thus breeding incompetence… If staff must be cut, companies need to make a bigger effort to help remaining employees stay competent. Is there room in the budget for contractors? How about telecommuting, which would take some of the travel burden off the employee?
  3. Expecting too much, too soon: many bright-eyed employees enter new jobs with gusto, then fizzle after months of not seeing the results they’d hoped for. Managers who expect employees to know everything from the outset grow impatient when they have to answer too many questions…. Unless it’s clear from the outset that the person has to hit the ground running, set scalable performance goals.
  4. Putting a bigger premium on politics than performance: put a premium on what the employee is doing for the company, not on his social network. Don’t mistake personal affinity for organizational benefit.
  5. Rewarding mediocrity: Imagine you’re a gung-ho new hire employee at Franklin Widgets, Inc. You come into the job ready to make an impact–until you notice that everyone spends most of their time staring slack-jawed at Facebook. After you realize you’re safe from managerial scrutiny, you join them. Why should you work hard if nobody else is? The onus is on managers to create a sense of urgency.