Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Recruiting Landscape Changing over Next Few Years

At E Week, they shed light on a new research done by Robert Half, International which believes that over the next three years, professional social networking sites will become a key part of the recruitment process for businesses.

By using connections, employees are able to find companies with opportunities that fit their needs. While looking for a job, the article states, it’s still important to keep making contacts in various other ways such as networking at conferences.


Some companies have started to use social media tools to find their candidates, such as our friends and Community 2.0 contributors, Mzinga. Check out their hiring process for this job here.


At Social Media Optimization, they point out that while most companies now use Facebook and MySpace to screen candidates before they come in for an interview. But this will shift, as a growing number of employees are being hired from social networking as the image below indicates. In addition to Linked In, there will be sites that are closed to the general public, but open to select people that will lead to the growth in social networking, such as university alumni sites. SMO sees these sites as the next to explode on the recruiting scene.


Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Corporate Blogging

Are you thinking about starting your corporate blog? Here’s a great list of some Fortune 500 Companies that are already doing it. Take a look! Some that caught my eye were Coca-Cola Conversations, Real Baking with Rose Levy Beranbaum (General Mills), and Open For Discussion (McDonalds).


The McDonald’s blog, Open For Discussion, focuses on corporate responsibility Numerous critics have pointed out McDonald’s role in obesity of today’s children, therefore, McDonald’s is using this blog to highlight and promote other ways they are helping the world. They have many contributors, including the Senior Manager Corporate Social Responsibility; the Administrative Coordinator, McDonald's Corporate Social Responsibility; the Environmental Manager, HAVI Global Solutions; and the Senior Manager, Sustainable Chain. These contributors show that McDonald’s does a lot more than serve burgers and fries, they contribute to the wellbeing of many people throughout the world.


The General Mill’s blog, Real Baking with Rose Levy Beranbaum, is written by Rose Levy Breanbaum. She writes a baking blog which is sponsored by one of General Mill’s products, Gold Metal Flour. Her writings are geared towards General Mills customers, bringing in interaction from customers on General Mills Products. She writes about her experiences with cooking and her upcoming process of publishing her cook book, with an overall wish to share her baking knowledge with others.


The Coca-Cola Conversations Blog is frequently updated with tidbits of Coca Cola history. It’s a great way for Coca Cola to keep their customers in the know about what’s going on with their product, and different dates that are important in Coca Cola history.


Each of the three blogs has a different focus on a core product or concept of the company, while reaching out to the individual users of the products. McDonald’s shows what good they do for society, and with General Mills, their focus is expanding the joy of baking while highlighting their product. Coca Cola, considered and iconic brand by many, keeps aficionados interested as they share the important events in Coca Cola history. While all the bloggers are employees, they express a belief in the product creating a unique human perspective from within these companies. The majority of blog posts also have readers comments that results ins strong sense of community identity around each blog’s subject matter; a definite lesson for those interested in starting their own corporate blogs and to begin to interact with their customers.


[UPDATE] Community 2.0 contributor, Scott Monty Consigliere for crayon and writes the Social Media Marketing Blog at scottmonty.com, was quick to highlight a point from our original post: “…I take issue with the wiki lumping Rose's blog in with the other corporate blogs. From what I can tell, she's an independent author whose blog is sponsored by a General Mills product - nowhere on her site is she identified as an employee of the company. In my view, this is very different from a corporate blog.” Great catch Scott. There is a big difference between a corporate blog, where the focus is primarily about the company and its product(s) and is most if not all cases writing is from internal employees, to a blog that is sponsored by a corporation. One is a chance for the company to express their particular perspective on any number of related topics, but a sponsored blog, may simply be a branding opportunity. In this case, Gold Metal Flour is associated with a well-known baker and writer, even though she may cover topics and products that could in fact be competitors. Actually going back and looking through the list, I believe this is the only sponsored blog out of the other corporate blogs. Thanks Scott for pointing this out.


Monday, April 28, 2008

What happens when you take the community out of online communities?

With the end of the writer’s strike, many TV fans are rejoicing with returning their returning TV series. The show Gossip Girl, which is not fairing so well on television, is having an outstanding season online.

Do to the young audience it’s aimed at, these kids mostly follow the show via streaming it off of The CW’s website. The Internet community has fully adopted this show as their own. Not to mention the show has an island on Second Life, and the cast members have become the center of gossip themselves on blogs around the internet.


So, as of the return of Gossip Girl to national television last week, President Dawn Ostroff has pulled all legal ways of viewing Gossip Girl for free online according to this article at Wired. However, the show is still available on ITunes. But what will The CW do to make up for the hundreds of thousands of streams they get from the CW website, how is the CW’s online community going to react?


This television show is about a blog. The CW is innovating and finding new ways to catch the viewership of the next generation with the streaming video, but now they’ve turned their back on it. Do you think it will severely affect their online presence by blocking one of the top downloaded television shows on the internet?

Friday, April 25, 2008

Let's Not Forget Face-to-Face

There is no doubt that online communities have become robust, sophisticated, and customizable to a degree never seen before. Aside from many off-the-shelf and well known social networks such as Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn, there are white label options from Ning, Kickapps and Mzinga (a Community 2.0 sponsor), to name a few.

And with every new development available technologically - applications, widgets and other virtual marvels - there's still a very basic ingredient from which community managers can benefit. And while it's going to seem like heresy here because it's so "1.0," it's an essential component to building relationships with customers and community members. It's simply human nature.

It's face-to-face.

Yes, there is an unheralded opportunity to connect with others online and to get feedback through a variety of methods. But somehow, there's nothing like sitting down with a customer, colleague or online friend and getting to know them in a much more personal and intimate way.

Conferences (and unconferences, for that matter) are great ways to connect, but it doesn't have to be that formal. When I'm traveling, I like to arrange "Tweetups" in cities I'll be in by activating my Twitter network. And I like to get out to lunch at least once a week with colleagues in the new media space. Exchanging ideas, picking brains, challenging assumptions, sharing the latest developments - it's all fair game in such situations. And I find that there's nothing as refreshing and invigorating as having that real-life interaction.

I'm aware that there have been opportunities for face-to-face meetings for members of some online communities from Communispace (a Community 2.0 sponsor). These were individuals who knew each other online for years who decided to meet when one of them was diagnosed with cancer. It was as if it was a family or long-lost friends were getting together again. Like a reunion without the benefit of ever having met before (a preunion?). It was powerful and it completely solidified the existing relationships.

So while it's utterly fascinating to ponder the possibilities of online communities, there are some offline components that are worth considering. After all, sitting with your laptop won't sustain long term relationships. You have to take the time to sit with people too.

Scott Monty is Consigliere for crayon and writes the Social Media Marketing Blog at scottmonty.com.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Facebook: Creating networks no matter who you are

As reported in the BBC Friday, April 18, the Prime Minister of Denmark, Anders Fogh Rasmussen organized a group of 100 people to go jogging on his personal property in Marienborg, which is located north of Copenhagen. The group was organized through Facebook to celebrate the tenth anniversary of Prime Minister Rasmussen’s leadership of the Danish Liberal Party, also known as Venstre.


The internet provides a powerful place to bring people together. Many times, when creating a community through a social networking site, you never know who is going to join. As we’ve heard, most of the time, word of mouth marketing is the best way to influence customers. With powerful people joining and creating these groups, who knows who could join your networking group.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Segway Scooters get a Social Network

According to AdWeek, Segway Scooters have started a social network. Segway scooters are self balancing electric scooters for adults. The aim of this new social network is to allow scooter users to foster a relationship over the brand.


Once Segway realized that there were customers who had sites set up in order to facilitate communication between other scooter users, they decide they needed to give their customers a way to communicate through them.


While many social networking sites for products have failed, Daryl Ohrt, the Brand Manger at Plaid, believes that this site is truly for the customers. It can allow them to interact with other scooter users in the area and set up functions where they can all gather. The marketing for this campaign will be primarily through letting new users know


I think Segway has caught onto something. The community that can grow between scooter users can be tight knit, and network with each other in order to have more fun with their product.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Social Media is about the People

In a recent post at Cosmedia, Geno Cosme brings up a very important point that is often forgotten when it comes to social media companies adopting Web 2.0 software. It’s not about the best technology, it’s about the customer.


A company brings in a communication channel via web 2.0 in order to begin communication with the people that support the company. A successful outcome in this arena means that there is meaningful conversation between the company and the customer. Due to the corporate mentality, companies focus on the technology that is the best. So when they bring this “best” technology, often times they forget to think about the customer.


So, mold your technology for the people its catering to. Your people shouldn’t have to navigate technology they don’t understand or have no reason to navigate. Focus your web tools purposefully for them. After all, the best communication will come from happy customers who are excited to use your technology.

Podcasting plans for Community 2.0

As a guy who's done a fair bit with podcasting over the last couple of years -- both producing my own show and editing episodes for clients -- I'm a strong advocate of using audio and the power of the human voice as a channel for sharing news and stories from conference and other live events.

And since I'll be the guy sporting the brand-spanking-new Zoom H2 digital audio recorder at this year's Community 2.0 Conference
(I just put in the order on Amazon yesterday!), I'm going to make sure we do just that while I'm in Las Vegas next month. My plan is to post a series of short audio interviews throughout the event, as I capture the thoughts, reactions, and learnings from presenters and attendees.

To give you a sense of how other conferences have incorporated podcasting into their events, check out these three examples:
Conference podcasts are never a true substitute for attending the actual event, but they can serve a number of useful purposes, depending on when they're released and who's listening: building buzz for an upcoming event, keeping attendees in the loop about alternate sessions or last-minute schedule changes, giving non-participants who are following the event online a sense of what their missing and whetting their appetite to attend the next time, and creating a digital audio repository that will live on in the long tail of the Web.

Bryan Person is a community organizer and social media evangelist from Boston. He blogs at BryanPerson.com.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Community 2.0 Webinars This Week!

We’re excited to deliver to you the most up to date information directly from the experts. So this week, we have two webinars on community building for your enterprise.

First, on Wednesday, we’re presenting “Developing a Playbook for your 2.0 Community “ presented by Sylvia Morino and Kathleen Gilroy from the Otter Group and on Thursday, we’re presenting to you “From Networking to Net Work” presented by Community 2.0 keynote speaker Patty Anklam. The latter half of this post will give you descriptions on each presentation along with a short introduction to the presenter.

Webinar 1: Developing a Playbook for your 2.0 Community

On Wednesday, April 23rd from 1:00 to 2:00 pm EST, Sylvia Marino and Kathleen Gilroy of the Otter Group will be presenting Developing a Playbook for your 2.0 Community. Sylvia Marino is the Executive Director of Community Operations at Edmunds.com Inc. Kathleen Gilroy is the CEO of SWIFT Media Networks and an expert in implementing web 2.0 tools and services for business applications.

This one hour webinar will begin to explore how to develop a playbook for your 2.0 community. The playbook is a document that describes a set of strategies and tactics for building a successful community. The webinar will walk participants through what steps are needed to create and document a playbook and explore some tactics and technologies for executing on the strategy with technologists, users, community owners, and other key stakeholders. The webinar will also look at some sample plays that have been used by Kathleen and Sylvia in communities they have built.

To participate in this web seminar, register here.

Webinar 2: Net Work: A Practical Guide to Creating and Sustaining Networks at Work and in the World

On Thursday, April 24th, from 3:00 to 4:00 pm EST, we’re having Patty Anklam, a keynote speaker at the Community 2.0 Conference, who is also an independent consultant with expertise in collaboration practices, social network analysis, and knowledge management systems strategy and architecture.

This talk, a preview of Patti Anklam’s keynote at Community 2.0, will include highlights from her book, Net Work: A Practical Guide to Creating and Sustaining Networks at Work and in the World. Patti offers insight into ways of thinking about networks – terminology, different types of networks, ways of categorizing networks, ways to analyze and make sense of networks – so that we can be more effective and productive in how we approach being in the multiple networks we live in.

To participate in this web seminar, register here.

Both of these webinars are brought to you by the Community 2.0 Conference May 12th through 15th at the Red Rocks Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.

Social Marketing Efforts

Today, the internet is seen as a place to strike gold. With little effort, you website and/or online community will instantly take off, and bring you lots of profit and customers.



In a blog post at Affinitive’s Social Media Playground, they point out that when it comes to marketing, word of mouth is usually the best way to go. It is easy to use the internet in a word of mouth fashion.



With all the studies of the buying habits of the millennial generation, it’s not hard to see why. They’ve been saturated their entire lives with advertisements, and now look to their friends and peers for recommendation. As a result, social media can be beneficial in spreading the word about your product. However, it takes time and patience to see your network take off.



So take your time, build up a loyal base of customers by giving them an outlet such as a social networking community to create a buzz about your product. It may take some time, but if your product is worthwhile, your social marketing efforts will take off.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Six Tips to Starting Your Social Media Project

At the Beacon Marketing Group blog, they’ve recently posted six ways to start your new project. Change is not something that is always well received even if mandated, so when many corporations begin to think of a new media strategy, often discontent and disruption can occur. Therefore, if you’re tasked to create a social media strategy that will work for your organization, you may face more obstacles then you expect. These six steps offered by the Beacon Marketing Group seem intuitive:

1) Start With a vision
2) Improvise
3) Craft your message carefully
4) Embrace radical thinking
5) Be consistent
6) Be driven by the people

Each step is what you would expect, and what any innovator must do to move a strategy forward. But step 6 stands out to me. The very nature of social media is using technology to reach a wide breadth of people. But in a company when you have such diverse individuals its important to first gauge if and how people use social media already. I think it’s important that you spend time across the organization one on one showing folks the different technology, how they can use it personally and then professionally. It’s necessary for folks to see first hand how it works and how to use it before they’ll willingly support a strategy that brings the entire organization onto the social media world stage. Focus on the people just as much as the technology and chances are they'll help you move your plans forward.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Power of Twitter

We've often posted about the reach of Twitter. Often as a business user we might wonder how effective we can actually communicate with our audience using Twitter. While for each company, a unique vision and strategy is important, we can't lose sight of the fact that there is value having a direct line to an audience that Twitter can offer. Here's an extreme example:

James Karl Buck was arrested last week in Egypt for taking photos at a demonstration. He set a message via his mobile phone to Twitter with the word “arrested.” Within 24 hours, UC Berkley, where he is a graduate student, hired an attorney and he walked out of jail.

During the time he was in jail, his Egyptian friends new what was going on because of their connection to the service. His American friends took no time at all to notify his school and call the American Embassy. Read the news article here at the Contra Costa Times.

There's no doubt how using Twitter, within the matter of hours, helped this man gain his release from an Egyption jail. While the direct community he had established through Twitter was tied directly to him, the power of the tool, Twitter, made it easier and faster for him to reach out to them when he needed to the most.

We can't expect that for a business, as you build a community, we might have such extreme moments, but there are times when immediate communication can be important. With each new tool, you have consider how it can be most effective. Twitter certainly requires a definite finesse, but this is one powerful tool to have.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Facebook’s New Blog Post Application


One of the downsides to Facebook was that you would have to exit the site in order to write a post on your favorite blog site. Six Apart has launched BlogIt today, which will allow users to update their blogs within the Facebook environment. This particular application is free, and it will allow you to post on the following compatible web services, TypePad, Twitter, Blogger, Livejournal, Movable Type, Wordpress.com, and Wordpress.org.

What’s also interesting is that users will be able to view the latest blog posts on their newsfeeds. This will definitely increase the time users spend on the social networking site, since they will now be able to blog on their favorite platform and view updates on their favorite bloggers as well. More time on Facebook leads to an increased chance of users clicking on an ad, which will directly benefit Facebook as well as publishers who post their ads on the social media giant.


Six Apart is only one of the many programmers who have jumped on the opportunity to use Facebook to leverage their exposure. What other apps will companies have in store for us in this new year?

AP Joins Online Video Distribution

In a recent article at CNet, they reveal that the AP News Network has been working with Microsoft to create an online advertising system that allows videos to run as advertisements on all AP associated sites. Publishers can now show these video ads online.


The subscriber would join the network and then upload its videos online and describe the geographical regions it wishes its video advertisements to be ran. AP has over 1,800 affiliates. Contrary to other popular video services like YouTube, the AP guarantees that compensation will always be given for ever video streamed, as they can track when videos are watched.


With YouTube being a key part of the publics experience when watching advertisements, I think AP has done something really smart by creating a platform like this for its wide ranges of sites that are archived every day. I personally watch so many commercial free television shows thanks to my Tivo, a really catchy advertisement on the side of a news article would catch my attention. AP is taking a step in the right direction here, realizing that advertisements online in the right places are going to be a huge part of our future.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

To Each Their Own

Here’s a great graphic I found on Tim O’Reilly’s blog. Le Monde displayed this graphic in August of 2007, detailing by continent which social networks were most popular. Do any of the graphics surprise you?

It’s no real surprise to me that My Space is most popular in the United States. Facebook was and still is gaining ground on the first giant social networking site. It also surprised me that Facebook was the number one site used in the UK. LiveJournal, the only blog to make this list, is the dominant form of social networking in Russia. However in the Pacific, Friendster is still the major site for social networking. In this article at CNet Asia, they are still growing. They are the third largest social network on the planet, and keeps growing (4.4 million unique hits in January of 2008 alone).



Monday, April 14, 2008

Facebook: To Ban or Not to Ban?

There is an ever-growing debate on whether employees should have access to Facebook in the work environment. This presentation on eWeek highlights the recent debate from Gartner’s Ray Valdes and Nikos Drakos on the controversial social networking. Ray Valdes defended use of Facebook in an organization while Nikos Drakos condemned it.


Many topics were discussed including security, employee code of conduct, liability, and intellectual property. While all of these issues remain a concern, ultimately 81% of people who attended the debate sided with Ray Valdes and the use of Facebook.


Although not discussed in the presentation, here’s an additional reason why Facebook should not be banned.


The way that we, the consumers, buy our products are constantly evolving. The way we reach consumers have shifted from traditional media to user generated content. Today’s marketplace does not want to be marketed directly to; instead it relies on recommendations from friends through social networking sites, forums, and blogs, or what we characterize today as Web 2.0. This article on PR Newswire shows us how companies like Blockbuster and Coca-Cola have taken advantage of social ads to enhance it’s presence in the marketplace. Blockbuster has launched an application users can create a list of movies that they want to see, and post ratings and reviews so that their friends can see. Jim Keyes, CEO and chairman of Blockbuster mentions:


"We view this as an innovative way to cultivate relationships with millions of Facebook users by enabling them to interact with Blockbuster in convenient, relevant and entertaining ways,"


Viral marketing is the new wave of the future. By participating in communities, consumers feel motivated to share benefits of different brands with their friends. There are over 65 million Facebook users and roughly 15 million of those use Facebook applications. Clearly, businesses are missing out if they are not already involved in social networking practices. Should we ban Facebook? I say nay...

Community Connect bought by Radio 1

Community Connect was bought by Radio 1 for a price of $38 million. Fox Business reported this Thursday, April 10. Community Connect is known for sites that are ethnographically niche as blackplanet.com, migente.com, and asianave.com. These sites have over 20 million members. Radio One believes that they can combine these already existing communities with their existing platforms on radio and the television.


Radio 1 bought an online community that meshes well with its current existing markets. I believe that these two businesses can come together and work on the same platform to influence the markets the have in common. Radio 1 primarily reaches out towards urban/hip hop audiences, and with the ethnographic niches that Community Connect represents, Radio 1 is taking a huge step towards connecting with the emerging online communities.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Understanding the power of communities - even when you do not have a critical mass of users...

[cross-posted from emergence marketing]

Based on research in the field of virtual communities, most business thinkers will agree that there are 4 fundamental pillars to successful communities - content, members, member profiles and transactions. If managed properly, these 4 dynamics can lead to economics of increasing returns that characterize most successful communities. The more members you have, the more content they will create. That in turn will increase the value to the community members and attract more members. If you capture information about your members and you make it easier for them to find stuff in the community based on their profile, the higher the value of the community to the members and the more members you will attract. It's easy to understand the workings and to get the benefits of the dynamics of increasing returns that happen in successful virtual communities. Many of those were first described by business thinker and management consultant John Hagel in Net Gain more than a decade ago.

There are other aspects that drive and define communities, such as the social and technology infrastructures of communities as well as the business processes that they support. But none of those characteristics have the power to create the positive value creation loops that the original four can.


While most successful communities will have a mix of all of the ingredients - we can characterize communities by their dominant dynamic.


First there are content-based communities, where members interact with one another primarily in the context of content - either consumer generated or licensed/acquired. News sites or blogs are communities that would fall in this category.


Then there are communities that are primarily member-based. Member-driven communities can take on many different forms. Brand communities like the Harley or the Ducati communities are clearly member-centric communities, even though some companies mistakenly think that the brand is at the center of those communities, and not the members. Networking communities like LinkedIn and Facebook are clearly communities that have members at their core. Many developer communities in the tech world also fall within this category.


Lastly there are transaction-centric communities. eBay and Amazon.com come to mind when talking about those communities.


Of course, all of those communities have content, and all have members, and most have transactions - it's just that they are more heavily tilted towards one of the community ingredients than another. And in some cases communities with the same end-goal can take on very different forms. Brand communities could also be set up as content-centric communities or as transaction-centric communities. Customer support communities or developer communities could also be started as content-centric communities - and perhaps evolve into transaction-centric communities.


The reason it's important to understand the different types of communities is because of the requirements to get them started. You cannot start a member-centric or a transaction-based community without a critical mass of members or offerings - something most companies do not have. Without a critical mass of members or offerings, there will not be enough content generated (i.e., customer reviews, etc.) in order to make the interaction for the community members valuable. So if you have a total potential number of users ranging in the hundreds, you will never be able to set up a vibrant customer support community as Intuit. Microsoft or Apple can. That does not mean that you cannot leverage customer support communities, it means that you have to start them up as content-driven communities. Instead of relying on the community members to re-write your manuals and to create meaningful FAQs, you may have to hire a few people to kick-start the process on a for-hire basis.


While the economics of increasing returns may be somewhat diminished with a smaller number of members and some hired guns, they are still very much present. Most likely they will handily beat the economics of diminishing returns that most business practitioners face when trying to interact with customers and prospects in the old-fashioned interrupt-driven way.


Some of these thoughts have been triggered by the many conversations I have had the pleasure to have as part of the Community Effectiveness Study that we are conducting with Deloitte and the Society of New Communications Research. Some of the preliminary results of this study will be discussed at the Society for New Communications Research Forum in two weeks and more detailed results will be unveiled at the Community 2.0 Conference in May.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Answers from: WE' Company: The New Competitive Edge Webinar

On Wednesday, author, Barry Libert and I did a webinar leading up to the Community 2.0 event. The theme was "Building a 'WE' Company: The New Competitive Advantage" and our focus was on how businesses are using social media to fundamentally change the way they do business. If you registered for the event, you should have received an e-mail with a direct link to the archive. For those who didn't see the webinar, you can go here to register and view.

During the webinar, we promised that we would blog answers to questions that we didn't get to during the session. Well, we actually managed to get to all the questions but just in case, we didn't see any harm in posting them here -- some of which we augmented a bit.

If you don't feel like we provided an accurate or detailed enough answer, feel free to reach out to leave a note in the comments, reach out to me on Twitter or e-mail me at aaron AT mzinga.com. If you have additional questions, reach out to us through the blog, Twitter or e-mail.

Answers:

So far the examples deal with B2C companies. What about B2B?

I’m going to start by saying I think B-to-B companies are just starting to get into the realm because they’re realizing the power of communityh. We (Mzinga) have two clients I'll mention that are doing a nice job with this. One is WebEx -- We’re using WebEx-like technology here for you guys to be able to see this Webinar -- they’ve built a community both for developers, and a user community. They’re doing two things with it; one, they are letting it serve as customer service. So let your customers talk to one another and answer each others’ questions.

They also have a tool like this Idea Share tool that we talked about, or this IdeaStorm that Dell is using, where they are allowing people to submit ideas and then rate those ideas and push them up or down based on the popularity.

The other client is a company called iRise - they specialize in software for business analysts and user-interface professionals - and they are running a very cool contest. They’re giving away $15,000 to whomever creates the best user-generated commercial. They actually have done a sort of non-company community; it’s really an industry community. And they’re using it to collect best practices, to have dialogues with other people in the space that don’t necessarily work for iRise. If you want to take a look at that, it is an open community as well; it’s under mycatalyze.org.

One other example of a traditional B-to-B company that’s doing this is EDR. EDR stands for Environmental Data Resources. They are the largest provider of environmental research in real estate. So if there’s a hazardous waste site and there’s some sort of impairment to that site, very traditional real estate activities for people to understand what the hazards under real estate property before they make a loan.

They built out a community called Common Ground, a very cool community for 7,000 real estate lenders and consultants to talk about every single property in America. New environmental hazards crop up all the time, so they’re using the community to fundamentally keep track of the ups and downs of community hazards, environmental assessments, environmental improvements, or degradations.

Do you have any specific examples of the stock market rewarding "WE" companies?

[Barry's answer to the question] I’ve been doing this since 1995, tracking “Me” and “We” stuff and trying to understand what’s called the network effect of companies and to see which ones are more valuable than not. When it’s all said and done boards run businesses for the purposes of shareholder value, not necessarily for customers or employees. Not to suggest customers are not important. Let's just say they’re more important to some boards than others, and I’m not too sure that employees are as important to as many companies as they’d like to admit or think they admit.

So from a shareholder perspective what we’re able to show increasingly is that open environments where there’s a lot of people interacting have a network effect. Most of us know what a network effect is, and remember the old analogy, if you put one fax to the end of a network it’s only worth so little, put two faxes it’s worth more, four faxes, eight faxes, 16 faxes, a million faxes, it’s worth a lot.

What these new business models are proving is that the more people at the end of the network, the more value they create together. Just look at a simple example of Visa and MasterCard, which are network-based business models, both of them are stellar, stellar public market companies, as they basically rely on the network effect and the B-to-B world. And the same thing even within stock exchanges, which the New York Stock Exchange is now a publicly traded company, NASDAQ the same thing. Same thing on the B-to-C side; I can give you plenty of examples, where businesses are realizing they are nothing other than a large community interacting around products, services, and information.

Did Starbucks try to close-the-loop with contributors? Respond in anyway to the suggestions? (I've answered this question with the related Starbucks question below).

With 100,000 entries, I had read there were a lot of redudancy in the ideas. Granted, it's great interactive research tool. What's the most effective way to sort the good ideas from the bad, given the volume, and also manage the expectations of the customers who have joined the conversation -- especially if their ideas aren't adopted?

The question of "how to organize all the crowd's suggestions" is one that many companies who are using community face. We mentioned a tool before that Dell uses called IdeaStorm (we have a version ourselves called IdeaShare on the We Are Smarter site). This is mainly a discussion forum where people can submit ideas, two or three sentences while allowing others to comment on those same ideas. What makes this tool really powerful is its digg or American Idol-style voting, where you can actually let the community tell you what the good ideas are and what they aren’t.

In Dell's case, like Starbucks, they got hundreds of thousands of suggestions. The public actually got to vote on them, and one of the things they found out was, for instance, that people wanted Linux on their desktops. They didn’t necessarily want Microsoft. I'm not sure how prepared Dell was to do anything with some of these tricky requests but in the end, it's hard to ignore, 100,000 plus-plus peoples' voices. As a result, they moved forward with offering Linux as an option on their consumer desktops.

Also, according to my friend Warren Sukernek who was kind enough to chime in during the webinar, "The Seattle Times wrote that Starbucks has 48 people dedicated to moderating their community site." Based on this information, it sounds like Starbucks is taking their suggestions seriously. Hopefully they'll put a tool in place like IdeaStorm that allows for Starbucks' customers to help them separate the good ideas from the not so good.

How does "crowdsource" pricing work?

This is an activity focused on moving from relying on internal experts (product, sales and marketing people) to set the price of a company's products and services to including the "crowd" or customers to set the price. Now I believe in the Brewtopia case (case study mentioned during the webinar and in the We Are Smarter book) they did that. Another example of a company does this is eBay. An eBay user sets their own price of whatever product they want to sell. Priceline is yet another example where based on availability and ask/bid prices, customers help set the price of airline, hotel and rental cars.

Is there a segment of the market that you are aware of that is more willing and able to adopt a "we" environment? Ex) younger / more IT savvy, etc?
So I think the two easiest places that people see, let’s start with the B-to-B space, is dealing with developers and technologists, especially in the open source environment, where those people are already used to participating and being compensated for their participation. And there’s some really cool examples of companies like that, including Top Coder, or MySQL, which was just sold to Sun. Just great companies where communities are core to the company and to the enterprise, as well as to the constituents

On the B-to-C side I think you absolutely see it already on the fan-based business models, the media-based business models, where they know that their fans are critical to the success. One of our clients is American Idol, and what I love about their story is very simple, that ultimately American Idol only had ten shows – I think it’s approximately ten shows a year. But American Idol fans, and I’m sure some of you are American Idol fans out there, would like to see more than ten shows a year. So they need to keep that community and that fan group alive and interacting year-round. So for them community is 365 by 24/7.

So I think the media markets are the early adopters on the B-to-C side, and I think the technology market are the B-to-B early adopters.


Do you have time to address what Netflix is doing, with its public contest to improve its recommendation match by 10 percent, and also its friends/community area that shows what others are viewing/liking? The more we participate in rating movies, the more targeted their Netflix recommendations are ...

You can actually find out more if you go to Netflixprize.com. I also did a podcast a few months ago with the gentleman named Steve Swasey that runs MarCom for Netflix on the We are Smarter site. We talked a bit about the prize during our interview.

To give a little more background here, Netflix has what’s called a Cinematch tool. It’s their recommendation engine. The more people that recommend movies, the more you recommend movies, or rate movies, the better the engine becomes. Netflix didn’t feel it was like necessarily the best tool on Earth, so they’re running a contest, and by 2001, they want someone to come in and improve the tool’s effectiveness by 10% - not a high bar – and they will give that person/company $1 million.

So here’s an example of a company using their crowd, it’s really a community-based company if you think about it, because of the fact that they do a lot of word-of-mouth recommendation, a lot of the actual product itself gets powered by people reviewing these movies and recommending these movies, and then they’re putting their money where their mouth is by saying, “We really would like to have you guys participate in this particular contest.”

With social media, how do you create a network effect between B2B relationships in an environment when many of the users sometimes are more senior and have less of an understanding of technology?
Don't be afraid to leverage online and offline tools to create a network effect, especially when it comes to a more senior audience. Very often, a bi-weekly conference call, a local breakfast or monthy webinar can be a great way to get participation from folks that aren't necessarily comfortable in the online space. For those that are, you can record and transcribe these alternative events and incorporate that content back into the online community/social media environment.

What "WE" type features would be helpful in an internal Website aside from a group Forum (like your Best Buy example)?
I would argue everything from discussion forums to blogs and wikis, anything, prediction tools, things that like there’s American Idol, which is betting tools, any sort of tool that encourages the engagement of audiences, which could be employees, how about alumni networks, to participate.

Thanks again for all the great questions. If you have more, Barry and I will do our best to answer them in a timely fashion!

Record Companies feeling Push to Adapt Online Communities

In a recent post on CNet, they shed light on EMI’s attempt to adapt the ever-growing digital world into a system that has had trouble adjusting to this new phenomenon. As one of the four largest record labels in the world, EMI has been a front runner in adapting online communities and digital media into their promotion and distribution strategies.


Caroline Records is spending less money with traditional promotions, such as CD distributions, ads in music magazines such as Rolling Stone and Spin, but instead turning to music communities online to promote records. Some of these include MySpace, Facebook (Check out the pages: Facebook Page and MySpace page) and Pitchfork, a popular music blog, and also widgets. The current artist they are trying to use a digital release strategy only on is Yelle, a French artist whose music is commonly played at night clubs. Her musical distribution in this country is only by digital means. Not only does this distribute the music at a low cost, the music company also saves money by not overproducing physical products that won’t be sold.


If labels in the music industry begin to embrace digital media and communities, they could find a new source of revenue. I think that music companies should turn away from trying to destroy fans and users from downloading free music, and turn it into something that benefits them. If Caroline Records is seeing success from purely digital promotion, imagine the possibilities. Not only will the online communities focus on specific markets, but the bands they sign can be marketed directly to the fans who will listen to them. Major labels will continue to be in trouble if they chase music “stealers,” but if they choose to turn their power to promoting online content and media, they could find more fans of music than they imagined.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Beyond Second Life: Kids drive virtual worlds

The future of virtual worlds focus is kids. In this recent article at the New York Times focuses on the success of Club Penguin and Webkinz and the entertainment they are providing for children online.

The reason these sites are so appealing to companies is both the volume of children and the profit they can provide for a company. These web worlds are quick and easy to start online and they can also instill a new sense of brand loyalty in children. Today, 8.2 million kids are on these sites, and it is predicted that 20 million children will frequent these sites by 2011. Club Penguin gets seven times more traffic than Second Life. The market for this is huge.


Another reason these sites are so appealing to companies who market to kids the possibility to introduce new characters in a different atmosphere to children. Then they can then produce toys after the children who are users have formed an attachment to the characters online. With the sales of DVDs and television syndication slowing, the companies may have found new ways to get their products out to the new generation.


As with anything when it involves marketing got children, there are several concerns. Is this just a fad with the children? Will the money be soon lost as it was gained? There is also the ever constant worry of parents of children on the internet: safety. Most sites now have precautions in place. Will the high level be kept up in the future?


While companies marketing to kids are jumping on the online community bandwagon, so are others. In a recent post at Enterprise 3, Thiago posted about IBM joining virtual worlds, in the form of Second Life. This goes to show that virtual worlds are not only for children, but they can provide a valuable asset for corporations that focus on adults. Instead of juvenile play worlds, IBM and Second Life have created a community that can foster collaboration and interaction between those who look to IBM for technical resources.


As with any virtual world online, each company can modify it’s uses to tailor fit the product to the atmosphere and product of the company. Whether its penguins on an online world for kids, or avatars working together for a solution to an IT problem, virtual worlds are becoming a huge part of interaction in today’s society.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Reading Meets the Internet

In an experiment to keep relevant with the ever-evolving social media tool, Penguin Books has set out to find a way to use Twitter to tell stores. As reported by ReadWrite Web, Penguin is diving into the realm of social media to try distribution of stores. They’re staring out by releasing six different books by six different authors and publishing them through several different social networking channels. All of this is coming to life through the Penguin website, We Tell Stories.


This week, they are telling a story by writing it live. They’ve already used Twitter and Google Maps. As we know, publishing companies are in trouble. As we’ve seen with newspapers, a physical piece of evidence with news or stories written on it has lost value in today’s society. So it’s nice to see a book publishing agency embracing the coming storm of social media.

Monday, April 7, 2008

TweetClouds Taking Over

There’s been a recent buzz about the latest applications released from Twitter called TweetClouds and TweetStats. This latest CNet article does a good job of explaining how each API works.


Tweet Clouds is an application that collects your most used tweet words, and generates a cloud varying in size depending on your usage. Obviously, the bigger the size, the more frequent you use that word.


Tweet Stats is primarily a statistical API that formulates numbers on such things as how often do you twitter, to whom you reply the most to, and at what times are you twittering the most.


It’ll be interesting to see if Twitter will release their own version of the latest Facebook application, “People You May Know”. While these two are different forms of social networking, aren’t applications ultimately created to help others connect? There is still a lot to be learned on both parties….


Sometimes we overlook the importance of tag clouds…What better way for an organization to aggregate a collection of choice words to help organize topics. Companies have been hesitant to join the social media bandwagon because relevant information is too often lost due to the spontaneity of its users. The weighted list tag clouds provide have become increasingly popular amongst blogs and other social media in order to aid users to access the right content they are seeking. It’s about time Twitter joined the revolution!

Levels of Engagement in Online Communities

In a recent blog at Social Media Today, Colin Delaney lists what he believes are the four stages to interaction with online social media. They are:


--Observation — monitoring of social media outlets such as blogs, discussion groups and YouTube channels.

--Interaction — behind-the-scenes discussion with opinion leaders and others (basically, blogger relations).

--Contribution — adding to the social media stream by creating your own content, such as blog comments, blog posts, Facebook groups and causes, MySpace pages and online videos.

--Solicitation — encouraging others to create content, whether it’s text, imagery or video, by creating a blog submission process, a contest or another public outlet.


With these in mind, what type of user do you want using your online social media tool? Is it better to have someone who observes your forums and discussions or do you want a user who’s continually contributing to your online community? Contributors can be responsible for both positive feedback as well as negative feedback to the community. So where do you want your users to stand when it comes to your social networking community?

Friday, April 4, 2008

Budgeting for Social Media Marketing

At EMarketer, they recently took time to look into the current spending on social media by enterprises. In this article, they uncover that many companies do not plan to spend much on social media, one-third of marketers surveyed in the iMedia connection poll said they would spend less than $300,000. EMarketer also predicts that $1.6 billion will be spent on all things social media related, such as ad campaigns, searches, videos, and advertising via ad networks.

Although social media is booming right now, it’s still new to the marketing world. This may explain why so many companies are hesitant to climb onboard. Will it be the risky companies that are ahead of the game when social networks become a vital key of the advertising budget?



Thursday, April 3, 2008

Building a 'WE' Company: The New Competitive Edge

At the Community 2.0 event, we’re dedicated to bringing you the most up-to-date information on opportunities in building your online web community. We’d like to invite you to join us at the “Building a 'WE' Company: The New Competitive Edge” web seminar on Tuesday, April 9, from 2:00 to 3:00 PM EST. Barry Libert, co-CEO of Mzinga will be our featured speaker. Register now to attend this web seminar!

About the web seminar:
Facebook’s recent valuation of $15 billion -- thanks in no small part to Microsoft’s recent multi-million dollar investment -- sent a powerful message to corporate boardrooms across America: Social networks are no longer just for kids! Leading companies like Proctor & Gamble, Nike and Amazon have seen the light and all are demonstrating real value and reaping actual benefits from business social networks. Other smart companies are jumping on the band wagon fast and furiously.

To find out more about how your business – big or small -- can unlock the power of your “crowd,” join Aaron Strout and Barry Libert from the We Are Smarter Than Me book project for a live, cutting-edge discussions on building a “WE” company. During this session, we will provide a framework for how to become a “WE” or collaborative, customer-driven company along with case studies of companies that are successfully making this transition.

Speaker: Barry Libert
Barry Libert is the co-CEO of Mzinga. Mzinga builds and manages social networks for leading companies that enable them to improve their top and bottom line performance.


Barry is also the co-author of the recent book, We Are Smarter Than Me, a guide to businesses on how to use community and social networking that was created by a crowd of more than 4000 contributors.

Mr. Libert has co-authored two prior books on the value of information and relationships in business; published numerous articles including those that have been published in Newsweek, Smart Money, Barron's, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, and has appeared on CNN, CNBC and FNN and NPR. He has as spoken at more than 100 events worldwide, to more than 20,000 people, on the value of social networks and professional relationships in business.


Aaron Strout will be moderating this web seminar. He is the Vice President of New Media at Mzinga.


Register now to attend this free webinar.


The webinar is presented courtesy of the Community 2.0 event that will be held in Las Vegas May 12 through 15 at the Red Rock Casino.

Facebook Beacon’s New Enemy

Facebook recently launched privacy controls in which users are able to choose what part of their profile is visible to friends. The problem with this though, was that it didn’t allow for different levels of restrictions, blocked access was too general. This latest article in eWeek mentions how Facebook has updated its old privacy controls to allow for greater access to restrictions. Users are now able to create specific groups (ex: Social Friends, Professional Contacts, Acquaintances) and limit their profiles accordingly.

How will this privacy control affect marketers using Facebook Beacon? Beacon is unique because it allows for brands to gain access to viral distribution that is displayed on a user’s profile and on newsfeed stories. Now these word of mouth promotions will be severely reduced due to stricter privacy controls. The visibility of facebook social ads will also decline since there is a direct correlation to beacon. It becomes a chain affecting all aspects of social marketing within Facebook.


User privacy has become a huge concern in social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace. As privacy controls become more rigid, marketers will have to figure out new ways to reach this audience. Consumers ultimately have the right to privacy, Beacon will have to adapt or lose this battle.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Participation in your community

At Sean O’Driscoll’s blog, he recently wrote a blog contemplating the nature of participation in communities around the internet. First off, an amazing amount of companies do not notice what is being said about them in conversations around the internet. They may or may not be positive, but if a customer is caring enough to write about a product or service, then the company should take the time to listen and communicate with those customers.


O’Driscoll defines participation as: taking explicit external engagement actions. Start a blog, comment on others blogs, launch an ideation site, answer questions in your own forums, contribute content to a wiki, tag, rate, etc, etc, etc.


So those who participate can start a blog, begin by editing wikis or participating in other blog comments. The most important aspect to this, however, is to participate first by listening to the conversation. It is important to read the blogs and comments in order to fully understand the community one is dealing with. What are some important parts that should be observed when first doing this? Know what people are saying about you, know what else they are talking about besides your interest, know where they are having these conversations, who the key bloggers are and how big is the span of the conversation? If you can take the time to listen to your community of bloggers and participants, then it will be easier to take a step and join that community.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Social Networking: Will it ever be a huge business?

In a recent article at the Economist, they discuss the current state of social networking. The article began by addressing the fact that ten years ago, email was the huge thing. So the giant web portals at the time were looking for at how to start using it to their advantage and begin making revenue off of them. So when Microsoft bought Hotmail, they expected to receive a revenue stream from their new investment. The return was not what Microsoft was expecting. The article alluded to the fact that this is no different from social networking today. Email is still around and a vital part of everyone’s daily routine, but it never became a revenue monster. Instead, it gathers a crowd of people loyal to the service.


In a sense, social networking is today’s new email. With AOL buying Bebo last month, they’re trying to go in the same direction. So how is AOL going to make profit off of Bebo without infuriating the loyal Bebo users? When people log on to these sites, they’re looking for a connection between themselves and other people. Personally, I feel that this is a thin tightrope and it’s easy to fall off. It also depends on the network one’s looking for a revenue stream on. A new music community is going to be different from Facebook. Even though the advertisements can be extremely targeted, problems will arise.


We all remember last fall when Beacon came out on Facebook. Studies had shown that the new generation entering the workforce would respond better to offers that are recommended by their peers. Facebook’s about face in light of tremendous criticism showed that if you advertise to others without a certain amount of permission, then the backlash won’t be worth the income stream.


So now, I ask you, what do you think? Is it worth it for big companies to roll the dice and expect some profit from sites that simply connect old high school friends?