conversations contemplations

June 14, 2009 · 0 comments

for me, the most interesting post i read in the past week was from brian solis pondering is twitter a conversation or broadcast platform? solis asserts that

sometimes it’s effective to also maintain a presence simply by reading, listening, and sharing relevant and timely information without yet having to directly respond to each and every tweet – perhaps replying to only the critical or influential individuals that may need immediate information or direction to steer strategic activity.
this is something i've thought for some time. indeed, one of the promises of social media is speaking with our consumers not at them. to me that's not just about literally speaking with them, but also speaking where our consumers are speaking. that's still with them, just a different way. traditional media speaks at them in place where they aren't speaking. it's a semantic difference but two equally legitimate strategies.

a brand or company is but another voice in the 'conversation-verse.' no more or less rightful to be there than a regular person. whether that voice is just expressing themselves or dialoguing is irrrelevant. and not just because (as solis points out) right now, a small minority are actually doing it, but because conversations are not always appropriate, warranted or necessary. sometimes you just post something.

it's more about presence than anything. certainly a great brand presence is a mix of sharing and conversing that's different for each one. we needn't always be conversing with them, rather giving them something to converse about around our brand or company. if we feel it necessary to contribute to that conversation, then so be it, but it's more important that they are doing it amongst themselves.

socializing with other brands

June 9, 2009 · 0 comments

your website is its own little plot of turf, your own little slice of the internet pie. it's relatively small compared to a content site, or a social media site, and only a small portion of your total market. but it's yours. you worked hard to get it. every other brand has theirs too, of course. sure there's some overlap, that's bound to happen. for the most part, each brand dots the webisphere with their own ecosystem.

we message our communities, draw them back in with the latest marketing push. each push nets us a few converts from casuals and we hope they become loyalists. still, though, our galaxy remains small.

we use our media to expand our presence in the market and reach new prospects. most of these are impressions to an audience who largely ignore our efforts (any debaters can read anything on industry CTRs). this gets us attention and is responsible for that bump in visitors we get during active times.

those are the channels we have been using in our marketing so far. i think there is another untapped world for us to amass new customers. recall the graphic above, there's a whole galaxy of brand websites in this universe that sit in isolation with communities ripe for accessing.

we (and i mean the industry) talk about being social with our consumers and building relationships with them. what about socializing with other brands?

let me explain.

your communities, like any other, are comprised of a group of like-minded, highly engaged consumers, who have a certain degree of affinity for the brand to the point of wanting a deeper, ongoing relationship with it. just like the types of consumers we all want, right? well, if every other community is like that, don't we want to be there? aren't those more qualified prospects given the level of engagement they've already exhibited for another brand?

in overly simplistic terms, i'm talking about corporate alliances, though its much more than that or a web 2.0 version of it. the widely known incarnation of this partnership is mostly product related. ford with microsoft sync technology or intel with any number of computer makers. there's also the media partnerships that are commonplace. this could be in the form of a sponsorship, content syndication, advertorials, intellectual property sharing (think free downloads on a site with a record label deal) and most recently, application/widget embedding.

the situation i'm talking about here is, in effect, brand sites becoming a media vehicle for other brands.

before i venture into why this could be good practice, let's establish why it isn't practised currently. traditional marketing of brands has been fiercely protected. anything resembling a branded message is hallowed ground. every inch of a print ad, every second of a tv spot, every pixel of a website has to be dedicated solely toward delivering the brand. i think that's a somewhat outmoded notion in an open-source, sharable, digital world.

at least for a website, this is absolutely true, and that's the application i'm interested in here. the interconnected and limitless web leads to plenty of room on a brand website to be just that way with other brands.

to be clear, you're not saddling-up with your competition, but rather with a like-minded brand, in a different but complimentary category. i guess you're competitors for a person's time and attention, which is the new economy of marketing, but done right, the consumer is rewarded and doesn't object (or object as much). it ceases being competition for attention and becomes cooping attention.

so why consider this?
  1. well, there's the aforementioned access to a qualified and responsive group, predisposed to being in a brand's community and open to it.
  2. there's a value proposition to your own audience in having another like brand with something to say and offer your community and theirs.
  3. corporate goodwill is going to spring up.
  4. the companies can share and collaborate on getting the most from the relationship. this is in sharing data on marketing in general, but also specifics on performance of the co-venture.
  5. new ventures between the two brands/companies can arise that are mutually beneficial and valuable to the consumers.

how might this look?
  1. for starters, i don’t think this is an instance where you have more than a few partnerships going at any one time. you don’t want to whore your brand out and have your site look like the worst of cluttered content sites. i say focus on 1-3 really strong connections and building these up.
  2. this isn’t an ad or a banner on a brand site. it needs to have purpose, it needs to have value, and it needs to be strategic. think about the connection and how best to work it.
  3. it’s not just your website, but your other brand outposts as well. fan the brand on facebook and share that way. follow the other brand on twitter and have dialogue there. this has the added side-effect of humanizing the brands as they are doing human things.
  4. perhaps go so far as to extend this to your media units. if it’s a good partnership, it might be a good idea to exploit it through media.
  5. it should be reciprocal in some way.
  6. the partnership isn’t with just any brand, but with one that shares many common traits and target make-up.
  7. doesn't have to be incredibly long-term. maybe the partnerships rotate with some frequency, which just opens up more connections.
that’s my take on the matter. i think there’s room to do this and tremendous opportunity in doing so. brands are set to open-up in this new age of digital and this is another step towards that. if it's being done, it's not being done as cencertedly as i'm talking here. maybe it's a logo, but there's lots more valuable things to do than that.

what do you think? is this good territory for brands to dabble in?

$7 news (one time only & no connectedness)

June 2, 2009 · 0 comments

an article i was reading in today's techcrunch reminded me about this picture i took on the weekend. declining readership and plummeting ad revenue are the stories de jour and i think this image crystalizes part of the problem.

seven bucks for one edition (that wasn't even that big as you'd expect a sunday to be) makes little sense in this day and age. and it's a cost that is virtually eliminated with digital delivery. even an online subscription isn't close to this. the wall street journal has subscriptions for $2 a week. the new york times online edition is free. the printed edition is a cost equation i can reconcile.

i don't necessarily think that free should be the expectation. if it has value, then there should be some exchange involved (is that a hint to a model?). i will say that the shortsightedness of the industry to offer online as a free resource in the early days of the web (because it wasn't their core business and they didn't understand it) has really trained the populace to expect and seek out free news sources. so now the business has to adapt to a situation that they, in part, helped create.

i'm as tired as the next guy reading about the death of newspapers and the peril that industry faces. frankly, the next article i want to read about it is the one where they come up with a solution to their woes and forge a path to the future.



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