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Facebook finally learns from its mistakes (or did they?)

facebook_logo.jpgAfter a few weeks of controversy over a change in their terms of service (TOS) agreement, Facebook today has announced it has apparently learned from its mistakes and will open this process up to the users. It is hard for me to fathom why this has taken such a long time given that this is what social media is all about. Why has it taken five years for the world's fastest growing social network to start listening and engaging its community?

Why has it taken five years for the world's fastest growing social network to start listening and engaging its community?

Facebook is opening up two documents for discussion. The first is basically a user's bill or rights called the Facebook Principles. The second document is a replacement to the TOS called the Statement of Rights and Responsibilities. Both documents are housed in separate groups that invite conversation and engagement. Once that dialogue happens, the community will vote for and against changes a la Wikipedia.

They're still keeping a nice big loophole open.

All of this is great, but the wording in Mark Zuckerberg's post about this topic is very interesting. He talks about innovation and "disruptive technologies" that "will not be subject to the notice and comment or voting requirement". So they're still keeping a nice big loophole open.

The overall management of the operation is what I see being the largest problem. Facebook's Groups are not good at handling a large conversation. It's a glorified message board. When 10,000 people respond, how do you ensure people are heard? How do you filter down the hot items? Who does that filtering? Sounds like a big hurdle that could backfire.

A couple of thoughts and questions on this move:


  • The command and control approach Facebook has taken in the past seems to be dying off
  • Still unclear what happens if something is enacted that impacts Facebook's business if they will adopt it
  • In Facebook's five year existence, it's hard to imagine why this hasn't happened sooner
  • How can they effectively manage thousands of points of feedback and narrow it down? Who does the narrowing?
  • Does the loophole I note above make this futile?
  • What are the legal implications of the community dictating policy? What if there is a conflict?
  • Should businesses look at adopting this approach to their online engagement?

So, what are your thoughts on this? Are you satisfied with the new process? Do you feel they've learned from their mistakes? Let me know!

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The two hour minumum

iStock_000002783708XSmall.jpgI am sure that if you are in an agency, on the client side or an individual in the social media space, the following question has popped up.

How much time do I need to spend in social media each day?

I hear this being asked in meetings, presentations and see it pop up across the web. To be truthful, there is no set rule here. However, I have come up with the guideline that I'll talk about in this post for engaging clients in new work, managing existing campaigns, talking to up-and-coming bloggers, etc.

It's the two hour minimum per day.

Why two hours?

The two hour minimum comes from my experience here on the blog as well as in the agency environment. I've given this a lot of thought, but at the end of the day, I've tried different formulas to arrive here.

To give you an example, I spend around 5 hours a day personally on this blog and in my networks. This is on top of my workload and personal commitments. I've found that if I spend around two hours I can stay above water. As soon as I dip below that, my community suffers. That's what I am trying to avoid. I've backed this up through client work where that number seems to fit with our internal teams as well as client-side teams.

Two hours is the absolute minimum amount of time that a company/individual needs to spend EVERY DAY in this space.

What do you do with two hours?

Oh, trust me. Once you start engaging, two hours goes by like a speeding bullet. The following items are a good foundation on how to spend the time each day.
    Listen - Check your feed reader, check your Google alerts, monitor Tweetdeck, do a Twitter search (unless you've added them into your reader), check Technorati (you never know), look at your commenting service (co.Comment/Backtype/etc.) to see who has replied to you. This isn't a one-time thing, set a schedule through the day and check back for 5 minutes.

    Engage - Monitor those conversations through the day and reply as close to realtime as you can. Overnight delays are common and (I think) accepted in most cases. During the workday, however, you can make more impact by replying within 2-4 hours. If you have a blog, write a post or at least brainstorm new ideas based on what you're seeing.

    Discover - Another part of the day should spawn from the listening and engagement phases. You should constantly look for new blogs, people on Twitter to follow, new relevant posts to comment on, etc.

This sounds like a lot to do in two hours, eh? It is. Remember I said this is a minimum starting point for entry into the space. The commitment will grow over time.

*Variables: Note that the complexity of your business/industry will weigh on this minimum requirement. If you have 5-10 brands, you may need to spend an hour each. This is not set in stone, just a guideline to get you thinking and talking.

What next?

Scale is important to be aware of in social media. The more success you have, the more time it will take to grow to new successes. The more you monitor, the more conversations, the more people you meet, the more time you spend.

Be aware of this and scale your two hours up to 3, 4, 5 to a full time person to a team of people. Richard Binhammer at Dell (@richardatdell) could probably teach a class on this.

Advancing from two hours

As you grow, it's crucial to maintain your level of engagement. This is a financial commitment for your client/company and needs to have accountability.

Some situations that can tell you when to scale:


  • When your response time is slipping due to volume
  • When your discovery portion of the time you're spending is limited due to listening and engaging
  • When your customers ask you to ramp up

These are good problems to have by the way. It means your community is starting to embrace you and your team. The goal is to grow steadily over time for maximum results. Quick wins are few and far between. It takes real effort and dedication.

How much time do you spend each day? Please weigh in on the poll below.

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The power of the trust economy

iStock_000006741261XSmall.jpgWho do you trust? Sounds like a simple, black and white question doesn't it? Trust in the real world (read offline) is something we're all familiar with. We've been burned by people or thrown under a bus or two. We adjust our construct of what trust means over time.

Online, however, this becomes more difficult. As trust levels drop with the stock market, it is also playing out in the microcosm of our online social connections. Savvy spammers have begun leveraging the trust equity that people and companies are establishing.

A couple of weeks ago I started noticing a trend on some of the micromedia sites that I use, including Twitter. Spam accounts were being created using an iteration of a social celebrity's username. I was friended by accounts from Scoble, Tamar and others. Or so I thought. If you looked closely at the invites, they were from the accounts scobleizer_ and tamar_ (note the underscore). Once the account clones were working they spammed about 2000 users and in most cases gained 200-400 followers before they were shut down.

Seeing that trend, I joked around with the following message:

Picture 4.png

To my chagrin, my username was quickly used with the underscore scam. I had 20+ followers alert me that this happened and I took the appropriate action. This happened two times once with _mattdickman and once with mattdickman_. Each time, over 350 people followed these fake accounts based on the trust I've established.

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Another example of trust abuse happens when people/companies don't engage in this space and create a vacuum. Just ask the Dalai Lama. A fake user came on to Twitter and created the account OHHDL and had around 20,000 follow them. It was later revealed to not be an official channel of his holiness.

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So, how do you make sure this doesn't happen to you? If it does happen, what is your response? I think having a supportive community (like mine) helps a lot as they spread the word and make sure it doesn't get out of hand.

Has this happened to you? How would you respond?

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Executing a listening plan

iStock_000000564491XSmall.jpgLast week I wrote a post on the lack of listening that is taking place among top marketing executives. In my opinion, most of the problem with listening stems a lack of the right tools and a lack of an action plan for what to do with the information.

Two of my top key takeaways from that post got me thinking.


  1. You have to have humans involved
  2. You have to have an escalation plan

I'm a visual person, so I wanted to come up with a construct that could frame this challenge in the enterprise for further discussion. Here is what I cam up with, let me know what you think:

layersoflistening.png
[Click to enlarge image.]

The data layer

The data layer has been getting a lot of attention lately. Many companies are very active in this space and provide great solutions. However, data without human filtering is useless. The key to the data layer is that you're listening to the spaces that matter and that it spans media types.

Data alone without human filtering is useless.

Aggregating news, TV, radio, blogs, micromedia, message boards, etc into a single location is becoming a necessity. People are doing this now, but the information is rarely synchronized and shared in a coordinated manner. Good filtering in the data layer can help to eliminate work in the human layer, but it's a fine line to make sure that emerging trends aren't excluded. The solutions that exist in this space at the current time are not adequate for major global brands.

The human layer

This, in my mind, is the key to success. No matter how good the data layer, you still need a human looking at it who knows the business, challenges and processes. You need to spot trends across media, uncover new innovations, and listen to what is happening with internal department responsibilities in mind.

The humans in this layer should span media formats, look for trends and spot emerging issues to flag for appropriate follow up. Within a company, these flags will need to be communicated to the right department at the right level. That's where the action level takes over.

The action layer

Listening without action is a waste of money and is one of the reasons I think more companies are not engaging. Companies are huge, siloed beasts that eat disorganization for lunch. Rolling out a listening plan is a challenge, but not one that can't be overcome.

The humans who review data need to know the structure of the organization and the people involved. In other words, these people need to be 100% integrated in the company's culture/process. They need to know the legalities of the business, HR issues, communications opportunities, brand/product feedback, how employees are engaging and representing the company and what is being said about the companies media properties.

In a company that is fully engaged in social media, this structure is VERY flat and responsive to even the smallest issues/opportunities.

Within each layer there needs to be an escalation plan. I didn't show that in this diagram, because each department will be different. You need to think about how the business operates and look at the possible issues that could arise. For each possible issue, determine who needs to know what and how fast they need to know it.

Here is an example for a consumer product company:


  1. Issue is detected. What is the issue?
  2. It's a product safety problem. How serious is it?
  3. Lives could potentially be threatened.
  4. Alert all heads of departments by SMS/email as well as key contacts within each department
  5. Schedule call as soon as possible

A cross-functional team needs to sit across all related departments to bind this process together and ensure success. They determine alerting protocol and responses. In a company that is fully engaged in social media, this structure is VERY flat and responsive to even the smallest issues/opportunities.

Listening as step one

If you remember my post from late September "Should your company blog?" (it applies to your company/CEO/VP/or yourself), the first step in the process is listening. The more companies that take this first step and listen are on their way to a solid foundation in customer engagement. You can't start truly engaging with a strategic insight until you listen. What's stopping you?

blog decision tree.png

How would you improve this? What am I missing? I'd love to have your feedback.

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Microsoft takes on QR codes

Picture 7.pngA couple of weeks ago I posted an update and video demo showing how QR (quick response) codes work. Today, I was pointed to a separate Microsoft version of the technology. It's called Microsoft Tag. The way it works is identical to the QR code system (download an app, take a photo, decode the photo through a gateway and deliver you the content).

Where QR codes came out of technology and manufacturing, this new system is coming into the world with a consumer-friendly push. The site is easy to use, shows the value of the service in terms that consumers can understand and provides a direct link to have the software download page sent to your device. The iPhone app has worked well in my trials.

Picture 6.png

The same Microsoft system enables marketers to create the codes through a central interface, track engagement through usage and render code images in a very easy manner. The application asks for your location (not sure if this is shared back to the marketer or Microsoft).

Here is a video demo of the Tag technology.

[Feed readers please click through to the post.]

Challenges

However, with the excitement around this system the same challenges exist for Microsoft as for other providers. There is a lack of education about this in the public and software readers are scarce.

Real world example

97200020-E04D-4DE7-9C8D-5E5D7581BDE8.jpgJust as an example of the kind of linkage you can get with this technology, I saw a QR code in the wild the other day when I was in a movie theatre. The cardboard standup for the movie "Notorious" had two of these codes on it. The code linked the user to the movie's trailer on YouTube and the revelation that people had when I showed them how I just linked the physical marketing to the online was amazing.

Could a move by Google embed this into the mainstream? What if all US carriers started installing this software standard? What would you use it for in an existing campaign? How are you engaging people offline to bring them online?

This isn't a short-term answer, but it does get you thinking.


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You suck at listening!

iStock_000002581157XSmall.jpgWell, not you personally (I hope). A recent CMO Council study, however showed that only 16% of 400 executives they surveyed have an online listening plan in place. 56% have no plan to track of drive word-of-mouth and only 30% thought they had the ability to resolve complaints quickly. Why such a low percentage? What is stopping these CMOs from implementing a plan?

Personally, I think that creating a listening plan is pretty easy. It's what you do with the information that you are collecting that is the hard part. This is where these marketing executives are falling down.

What you do with that information once you have it? How do you get all of the other departments to commit to the initiative? How do you execute on it without losing productivity? It really comes down to creating a customer service culture, where the customer is the priority. This is not how a lot of companies operate, however.

From my post earlier in January, here are three keys to listening online:

  1. Find your customer and spend your time there. While Twitter is great for some brands, you will find that message boards, Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, Orkut, etc. may hold the majority of your customers. If you're listening in the wrong place you're not doing any good.

  2. Use technology to speed the process. Instead of watching Twitter for 12 hours a day, subscribe to the RSS feed for your keywords on Twitter Search. Do the same with keywords on Google and your Technorati page. Check this a couple of times a day. On top of that, you can overlay that information on top of the monitoring tools.

    Big tip, I've seen monitoring companies sell their services as the end-all of this area and they are not. This requires a human being who knows the industry and company to make it worth while.

  3. Create your active listening plan. Listening is a good first step, but a lifetime of listening without action is not going to move the needles that you need to move for your business. Creating an plan for what to do with the information you learn is key.

    I wrote this post in February of 2007 on active listening and it still holds true today. This quote sums it up:

    "Agile marketing companies are leveraging new technology to create real, one-to-many and many-to-many conversations. They are using the outcome from that interaction to make meaningful, remarkable, relationship-enhancing changes that impact their clients in a positive manner. Are you listening?"

Key Takeaways

  • You have to have humans involved. This is often overlooked with all of the technology that we have out there, but humans can spot trends, flag issues that matter and ignore ones that don't. Whatever automation you employ, make sure you have a smart person reviewing it.
  • Have an escalation plan. Don't just listen for listening's sake. You need to know what to do when you hear something. Set action alerts when a certain criteria is met, set a clear path for issues to be escalated through and assign a person to follow up and make sure they're resolved.
  • Use the community to improve your ideas. Just like the examples I mentioned in this post listening can give you insights into your customers that would otherwise cost you millions in testing and research. Listen hard and act on what you hear.

At the end of the day, listening is easy. Setting up the systems and processes that take what you hear and turn it into a business resource is the hard part. What steps would you take if you were in their shoes?

2/3/09 - IMPORTANT UPDATE: I think that it's important to note that 75% of journalists get story ideas from blogs. How can you not be monitoring the space that has this much influence over the editors who cover you? This single reason alone should be enough to get people off of their butts and starting to plan their strategy.

Also, check out Jon Burg's great follow up post "10 reasons CEOs need social insights and 6 steps to setting this up".

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