As you probably know, Facebook and Amazon are allowing consumers to connect the two sites. What I find most interesting is the care Amazon is taking to inform consumers what this will mean to them and why they should do it. Given Facebook’s repeated stumbles on issues of consumer privacy, the approach being taken by Amazon is one every marketer should note and consider. What’s important about Amazon’s approach is that it's not simply leaving the communication of important information to Facebook.
CNN, for example, lets Facebook do the talking. Below is Facebook’s standard "Request for Permission" page, which is the message consumers receive when they click the button to connect CNN with their Facebook profile. What does it tell users? CNN can "access my basic information," but what will they do with it? Will they share or sell it further? Will it be made available to marketers or other users? Will my list of friends -- one of the items mentioned in the list of basic information that will be shared -- receive information from CNN as a result of my actions? And what information will CNN send to Facebook -- every page I visit or only the ones I "like"?
We humans can have all sorts of addictions. Some researchers believe that addictions may be positive -- such as to jogging or meditation -- but of course many addictions are negative.
What about Facebook? There is no doubt that Facebook is addicting -- according to Nielsen, users spend as much time on Facebook as they do Google, Yahoo, YouTube, Wikipedia and eBay combined. But is this a positive addiction or a negative one? Is Facebook jogging, or is it heroin?
Brands are making plenty of money in social media: Dell Outlet’s Twitter account has generated millions for Dell, the Intel Channel Voice community has decreased costs by eliminating the need for expensive in-person events and P&G used media mix modeling to demonstrate that the BeingGirl.com community is several times more effective at driving sales than the brands' television ads.
Many marketers can draw a straight line between investments in social media marketing and financial results, but many more cannot. This doesn’t mean social media marketing is ineffective; it just means that marketers have to recognize benefits beyond dollars and cents. Facebook fans, retweets, site visits, video views, positive ratings and vibrant communities are not financial assets -- they aren’t reflected on the balance sheet and can’t be counted on an income statement -- but that doesn’t mean they are valueless. Instead, these are leading indicators that the brand is doing something to create value that can lead to financial results in the future.
Microsoft has announced the release of Microsoft Outlook Social Connector, which will bring friends’ data from Facebook, LinkedIn and MySpace into users' Outlook 2003, 2007 and 2010. Before anyone says "Buzz" and discounts the value of this offering from Microsoft, I think we need to consider this not from the angle of yet another social platform or social aggregation tool but as a means of making our daily activities richer and more social.
The Microsoft Outlook Social Connector won't change the social networking world, but it isn't designed to do so. The Outlook Social Connector won’t replace any social networking behavior that we already have; you'll still check Facebook.com, use Facebook's mobile site and apps and make status updates via Tweetdeck and Hootsuite. Instead of competing with existing tools, Microsoft’s new plug-in is another step toward a more social experience where social data is organically integrated into our daily habits and activities.
Forrester has been publishing research on social technologies for several years, much of that being focused on the Interactive Marketing role. Recently, we have expanded our research on social technologies to apply to many other roles, such as Customer Intelligence, Market Research, Customer Experience and eBusiness and Channel Strategy. You can now add Consumer Product Strategy to that list. As our recent panel survey report demonstrates, social technologies are relevant to Consumer Product Strategy (CPS) professionals as well because they give companies the opportunity to listen to and embrace consumers — and allow them to help create new products and innovate existing products. While the idea of social co-creation has been referenced in Forrester's research reports many times, this concept has not been explored deeply, until now.
In my just-published "Social Co-Creation" report, I define co-creation as "the act of involving consumers directly, and in some cases repeatedly, in the product creation or innovation process." Social technologies like online communities, Facebook, Twitter, company blogs, and Web sites provide CPS professionals with relatively easy access to engaged consumers. Through a combination of listening and embracing, companies can understand what unmet needs exist in the market today, recognize where current products are coming up short, tap the wisdom of the crowd to test ideas, and develop relationships with engaged consumers to drive new concepts into the market.
The other day I authored a blog post many found interesting, infuriating or both: What Is The Value Of A Facebook Fan? Zero! I appreciate the great dialogue from the folks who offered feedback in blog comments and on Twitter. Because this is such a hot topic and because the feedback was so thoughtful, this seemed worth further exploration.
In that blog post, I suggested that marketers approach the question of how much a Facebook fan is worth as if the answer is zero. I said, “It is what companies do with fans that creates value, not merely that a brand has fans.” I went on to suggest that marketers should recognize a difference between potential value and real value. Like a coil that is compressed to store energy (an apt metaphor from my Twitter friend, Blair Goldberg), Facebook fans have little actual value until they are activated by the brand, just like releasing a compressed coil.
It is a question I hear several times a week: What is the value of a Facebook Fan? I’ve seen answers ranging from $136.38 to $3.60. I can’t blame vendors, agencies and consultants for trying to answer the question -- the hunger from clients is so great that anyone promising a simple answer is likely to get attention. The problem is that there is no simple answer to such a complex question. In fact, it may be best if marketers approached this question as if the answer is zero -- unless and until the brand does something to create value with Facebook Fans.
There are numerous reasons the question of Facebook fan valuation is problematic:
I was offline for two days this week, and during that time a lively debate had started on the term MROC (market research online community) and the definition of what an MROC is.
Jeffrey Henning from Vovici wrote a blog post in which he presented a segmentation that positions different types of communities in a matrix graphic, based on open versus closed and long term versus short term.
In our opinion, this is actually a useful segmentation of different types of online qualitative research techniques that could be categorized as different ways of doing social MR. However, each of these examples is on different parts of the spectrum of what a community is. From a research standpoint, community bonds strengthen as engagement from the research participants and commitment from the researcher increase. As a result, I’d put online focus groups and bulletin boards at the low end of the spectrum and MROCs at the very high end (when done right).
That’s as far as I’ll go in a blog entry on defining what a community is. Even "official" definitions of community offer a lot of latitude and reveal that that there are larger debates on this term that go beyond MR.