Add Ratings And Reviews To Your Social Intelligence Strategy

When you think of “social media data,” what channels do you include? When I talk to marketers tasked with managing information on the social web, they usually talk about Twitter, Facebook, blogs, forums, comments, and probably a bit more. But there  a set of channels commonly missing from this list: ratings and reviews. Most consumer brands have product pages on their website that ask customers for ratings or reviews. Even though these sections create a rich pool of consumer generated content, marketers often treat ratings and reviews as a separate set of data.

That’s why I was interested to see today’s announcement of a partnership between Nielsen and Bazaarvoice. This partnership gives Nielsen the ability to feed Bazaarvoice’s on-site ratings and reviews into its My BuzzMetrics dashboards, integrating the customer feedback channels into the larger scope of social media data. This connection of data sources provides access to a deeper view customers’ opinions — both prompted and unprompted. Earlier this week I chatted with Bazaarvoice's co-founder, Brant Barton about the integration of data sources. He, like I, see this as a natural fit and told me that more and more of his customers have asked for this offering.

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iPad Delay, European Pricing Opportunities

Today, Apple announced a delay for non-US availability of the iPad due to extremely high levels of US demand.

This is credible. The iPad is a new category for Apple and arguably there is nothing quite like the iPad available from any other firm, certainly nothing with the same high media profile supporting sales. This makes forecasting sales harder than it would be for a new phone or a new computer. If the iPad was just a PC in tablet form forecasting would be easy. It's not.

With iPhone, Apple staggered its multi-country roll-out by five months. For iPad, Apple had ambitiously set out to shrink this lag to just one month - perhaps Apple was simply over optimistic?

However, even with high demand, it's completely possible that Apple is experiencing manufacturing or component problems as well. As a colleague once said about football: an incident can be both a foul and a dive.

What's going to be more interesting than today's news will be iPad pricing in Europe. Apple still hasn't announced prices and now plans to unveil them on May 10th. In the US, the iPad is sold at full retail price for both the WiFi-only and 3G version. Mobile internet data is offered as an ad hoc pre pay addition. In Europe, I wonder if Apple and its European operator partners may go down a different route.

If mobile operators were to subsidise the iPad, as they already do for the iPhone, it would completely alter the sales prospects for iPad in Europe by dramatically reducing the up-front price that consumers pay and increase sales.

Regardless, until Apple announces both the price structure and actual prices, we'll hold off making a call on iPad sales outside of the US (where we forecast 3 million first year sales).

Promoted Tweets: What Brands Can And Can’t Do With Twitter’s New Ad Platform

Our little baby is all grown up.  Just 30 months ago, Twitter was flying under the radar and people interested in microblogging might very well have joined Identica, Pounce, Plurk or other lookalike services.   By early 2010, Twitter handled 50 million tweets per day and had become crucial to hundreds of brands and tens of millions of people, but it still had just one visible (and arguably modest) means of support—search engine deals with Microsoft and Yahoo.  As of today, Twitter is getting a job and earning its keep with the rollout of an ad platform. 

As it grew and became a more important communications channel, Twitter found its business model the focus of intense scrutiny; for example, when Ev Williams failed to announce an ad platform at SXSW, there was palpable disappointment among bloggers and other observers.  This week, Twitter is addressing that disappointment with the rollout of its new Promoted Tweet program, which offers some benefits to brands.  What are those benefits and what are the limitations for marketers?

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Mobile Advertising: Apple, Google, And The Mobile Operators

Following its acquisition of Quattro Wireless for $275,000,000, Apple has just announced the launch of iAd, its mobile advertising platform (see my colleague’s take here). Adding the $750,000,000 that Google is ready to invest in AdMob (the deal is still under FCC scrutiny), the two most disruptive new mobile entrants have invested more than $1 billion — a clear signal that mobile advertising has long-term potential. The main difference between Google and Apple is that Apple is only just entering the advertising business, while Google’s entire business model simply IS advertising. However, that potential has yet to be realized. Does that mean stakeholders can generate significant revenues in the short term and that operators will be bypassed once again? I have read in various places some strange comments suggesting that Google’s mobile ad revenue share with mobile operators would be a way to finance network evolution. Just compare the cost of a base station and the significant investment required to finance 4G with absolute mobile advertising revenues and you’ll quickly figure out for yourself that this is unlikely to happen anytime soon. This is more of an online advertising discussion around the Net neutrality debate (remember France Telecom’s CEO warning that he was not “building freeways for Californian cars”!) but it will crop up later for mobile.

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Last.FM’s Fond Farewell to Streaming (sort of)

Last.FM have announced that they will stop streaming full on demand songs to users, instead providing integrated streaming from 3rd parties.  Though this certainly highlights some of the challenges in today’s on-demand streaming music business it says less about the fundamentals than it might first appear to do.

This is one more chapter in the Last.FM / CBS integration story. Last.FM was an early mover in the streaming music and had tens of millions of users when Spotify was just a twinkle inn Daniel Ek’s eye.  Many – myself included – were surprised by the $280 million that CBS paid just under three years ago to acquire Last.FM.  Since then Last.FM’s fortunes have been a mixed bag. Though user numbers are at an all time high, Last.FM has struggled to find its new identity within CBS and its paymasters recently took the decision to turn off free-streaming in outside of the major territories due to the inability to generate sufficient advertising revenue.

CBS are doing what you would expect a major media organization to do with an expensive start-up acquisition: they are trying to make it contribute to the bottom line. These objectives often do not align closely with the innovative vision that drive start-ups to scale and market profile, though usually not to profitability.

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What Drives a Mass Maven? Ask The VW Sales Guy!

This past weekend, I did something no man welcomes:  The dreaded car-buying event.  Sure, we men love to shop for cars, but buying one is another thing altogether.  I abhor salespeople botching heavy-handed “closing techniques,” fake chumminess, the sexism of telling my wife about cup holders and showing me the engine, and one of my least-favorite lines in the human language, “I’m not sure that’s gonna fly—I’ll have to check with my manager.”  Yes, this weekend was all that and more, but in the end we snagged our car and I got the chance to meet and learn from a Mass Maven (and now so can you).

A while back, I published a report and blog post that  briefly introduced two types of Mass Influencers—Mass Connectors and Mass Mavens. Next week, Forrester will release a new report that defines Mass Influencers in more detail, but this weekend I had the opportunity to study a Mass Maven in the wild.  So, grab your pith helmet and join me as we embark on a Mass Influencer safari.

My journey started with a decision to purchase a convertible. (Hey, we may have moved to Northern California, but it’s still California!)  First stop was a dealership to look at the new VW Eos.  Our salesperson was—how can I put this delicately?—uninformed.  When asked what the difference was between the two versions of the vehicle, he answered, “One has more features” and left it at that.  

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Microsoft's KIN - Catching Up With the Mobile Social Networking Competition

I had the opportunity to go to the KIN launch today. My colleague Charles Golvin has a full take here.

I loved the social networking features on the phone (and the graphical interface with the "spot" though I'd need a change-up on noises). This isn't the first phone we've seen where  the experience is centered on my friends and my contacts, but they keep getting better. We argued (see report) long ago as many did that the cell phone should be the hub of one's social graph and not simply an application on the handset. The KIN comes close and does many things well including:

- Offers status updates inside of my contact profiles which are "live" on my homescreen
- Allows the user to post photos directly from the phone
- Tags photos with location
- Allows me to choose one of many communication channels within profile (many options, but not my full list)
- Builds an online journal of my photos, videos, messages and contacts (looks to me a lot like the concept Nokia tried with their life blog application a while back)

What it is missing, but I suspect is in development:

- Tags (meta data) that allow me to build a richer social graph by tagging my photos with contacts, groups, trips, etc.
- Ability to help me find my friends
- Location tags integrated into maps that connect me to my friends' favorite restaurants, bookstores, etc. - or more generally their content - could also be photos, videos and posts


Is Customer Service Part of Your Culture?

Customers may be sympathetic to the challenges that business having been facing in the current economy. But that sympathy doesn't come with amnesty: 70% of US online consumers expect companies to try harder to provide superior online customer service in the current economy. (Source: North American Technographics Customer Experience Online Survey, Q4 2009)

I was chatting recently with eBusiness executives about the importance of having customer service excellence as part of company culture. is frequently cited as a best example of customer service and company culture – and for good reason. Zappo’s #1 Core Value is to “Deliver WOW through service”. The company has embedded exceptional customer service into its DNA as a core value and essential part of its brand identity.

This raises the question: “How do you know if customer service is truly part of your culture?”

As a starting point, I recommend asking the following questions:

- Does your corporate mission statement include providing excellence in customer care and service?
- Is providing excellent customer care included in your long-term vision statement?
- Are customer service objectives well articulated within your company?
- Is measuring customer satisfaction embedded in your process for all customer-facing activities
- Do you have ongoing customer satisfaction improvement processes?
- Are employee performance metrics (including promotions, bonus, etc) – including senior positions – aligned with customer satisfaction?

If you answer "No" to any of these questions, you have likely identified an organizational weakness and an opportunity for improvement that will help you meet consumers' high expectations.

The Mathematical Inevitability Of The SMB-led Economic Recovery

[Co-authored with Zachary Reiss-Davis]

Back in February 2009, I wrote a report titled “A New SMB Market Phoenix Is Rising” which examines how small and medium businesses (SMBs) will be the initial source of job growth and creation which leads us out of the current recession, as they have in most previous recessions. The report also examines how SMBs use technology, and how technology vendors can best market to them - this figure highlights my conclusions.The Historic Employment Rate Performance Of Small Businesses And Enterprises

Today, Paul Kedrosky, who has a Ph.D. in the economics of technology and writes extensively on macro-economic trends, wrote a piece I found very insightful about why young firms (small businesses) not only historically account for most of the job growth in the United States, but that their doing so is mathematically inevitable. 

My upcoming report, “Fueling the New SMB: Marketing Services-as-Software” on this topic, will work its way through our editing process in the next week.  In the meantime, I encourage you to read his post and my older report and let me know if they match what your marketing team is seeing today.

Declining Penetration Of Consumer Tech Products – Obsolescence Or Increased Usage?

One of the interesting elements of the forecasting job is the fact that not all of our forecasts trend upwards -- and people often forget that the dynamics of decline are just as important to a company’s bottom line. In recent years, for example, the attractions of notebook/laptop PCs -- such as lower prices -- have been eating away at desktop PC sales. In our recently published Forrester Research Online Population Forecast 3/10 (US),we estimate that household penetration for the desktop PC dropped from 73.9% in 2008 to 73.6% in 2009 and will fall further to 69.7% by 2014.

 The phenomenon has happened to devices like audio cassettes, video cassettes, and POTS (plain old telephone service) lines. Technology keeps moving forward and new technology replaces the old.  But with the desktop PC, there are two interesting trends at play:

  1. It’s evidence for the steady transformation of devices from household objects to personal ones.
  2. This personal orientation results in a proliferation of devices targeted at narrower consumer segments, which reduces peak penetration rates (I’ve written about this previously).

When Sony launched the original Walkman, it included two headphone jacks on the assumption that nobody would listen to music alone. But 30 years later, this has completely changed: Mass-market home hi-fi components have virtually disappeared as a product category because it’s now harder to imagine people sitting together at home to listen to music than it was to imagine individual listening at the dawn of the Walkman. 

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