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?
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.
Let me answer my own question immediately by saying: Yes, money belongs in social media. It costs money to host social networks, develop social applications, create content, moderate dialog in social channels, and launch community platforms. VCs want to see money returned, Facebook and Twitter want to earn money, marketers want to invest money wisely and brands want people to spend money.
But should money be everywhere in social media? That's the question that came to mind as I read about a new social ad program being launched by Domino's Pizza.
I just read a brilliant and inspirational blog post on the Harvard Business Review site entitled, "Are All Employees Knowledge Workers?" The authors, John Hagel III, John Seely Brown and Lang Davison, explore the "artificial distinction" that businesses create in their workforce between the haves (so-called "high potentials," creative talent, and knowledge workers) and the have nots (everyone else). The writers suggest we need "to redefine all jobs, especially those performed at the front line (or, in an image, that reveals our prevalent management mindset, the 'bottom' of the institutional pyramid), in ways that facilitate problem solving, experimentation, and tinkering."
Early in the Web 1.0 era, companies asked what the Web could do for them. It was the wrong question, because soon the Web was doing something to them--changing consumer expectations, forcing investments in technology, altering the way companies recruit, disrupting sales channels, changing company culture and breaking old models of the employee-employer dynamic. (Remember when communicating with a boss at a certain level used to mean asking his secretary for time on his calendar rather than a real-time dialog via email or IM? I do.)
Last week I was once again hustling through a brutal travel week (10,000 miles in the air and two packed red-eyes) when I came across something really interesting. It was ~ 9 AM and I'd just gotten off AA flight 4389 from Toronto. I was a bit bleary eyed from a 4 AM call with a Finnish customer and was just trying to schlep my way to the Admiral's club for a cup of coffee when I stumbled across Accenture's Interactive Network display at the juncture of terminal H and K.
So what? You might ask, it's just a big screen and we already know our future is minority report -right? Yes - those of us in the echo chamber might know that, but what really struck me was watching my fellow travelers and how they interacted with the display. I sat and watched for about 10 minutes (while forgetting about the sorely needed cuppa joe) and just watched people as they started to walk past, then pause, then go up to the screen and start playing with it. On average folks would stay for a few minutes and read some of the latest news feeds, then hurry on to their next stop. But what I really found intriguing was how they interacted with the system:
Collaboration and social technologies continue to be hot in 2010. In Forrester's 2009 Enterprise Software Survey, we asked respondents to rate the following on a scale of 1-5:
How important are the following software initiatives in supporting your firm's current business goals?
-Increase deployment and use of collaboration technologies
58% answered 4 or 5. In conversations with clients, it's clear that as we exit the current recession and enter a new economy, firms are betting on knowledge workers to drive competitive differentiation in the same manner that they bet on technology to drive efficiency in the early to mid-90's. The trend is particularly strong in North America and Western Europe where big bets are being made on innovation, design and other differentiation that will derive from more efficient, better connected knowledge workers.
This trend indicates high level, organizational goals and is likely to be more dependent on sociology than technology. The truth of the matter is that firms that have made large investments in collaboration, particularly social technologies, and have not made an accompanying investment in driving organizational and cultural change, have struggled. Why then, the trend toward investments in collaboration technologies?
The answer is that technology will support the efforts in a very significant way. And, in the case of social technologies, 2010 will be a break out year. Why? The market is clearly hungry for solutions and the vendors are poised to deliver.
Four years ago, I waved good-bye to my Pharma industry research and began writing about B2B marketing best practices, as part of Forrester's marketing and strategy research group headed up by Elana Anderson. Harte-Hanks sponsored my first Webinar in this new role -- called "Improving the Maturity of your Lead Management Process" -- and Elana and I teamed up to present the webcast that aired on June 7, 2006. At that time, my research on lead management best practices was only beginning and social media was an emerging concept that Charlene Li had just started to explore in Forrester's seminal research, the "Social Computing" report. A lot has changed since then.
Through an amazing coincidence, my life as one of Forrester's top B2B marketing analysts begins and ends with Harte-Hanks. Tomorrow, March 30, I will broadcast my last Webinar with Forrester and I am so very pleased to do so with folks at Harte-Hanks who helped me launch this journey.
I moved to the Bay Area from Milwaukee about five months ago. Among the things I miss from my hometown are my two favorite burger restaurants--AJ Bombers and Sobelman's. Both have used Word of Mouth (WOM) to become successful small businesses, but while one built its buzz over 10 years, the other used social media to become a success in just one year. The stories of these two businesses can provide insight and inspiration to much larger brands seeking to create benefits with social media.
I've recently found myself in interesting discussions--one might call some of them debates--about ROI and Social Media. In recent weeks, Social Media ROI was the agenda for meetings with several clients, the focus of a panel on which I participated at Digiday Social, and a lively topic of discussion at a dinner of marketing leaders in town for the OMMA Global event. And today I read an article about Wal-Mart that got me to thinking about the dangers of too narrowly defining ROI.
It's interesting to hear the wide range of attitudes toward social media ROI. Some companies measure quite a bit about their social media activities but do not evaluate ROI in its most literal definition: The financial return generated by a specific monetary investment. Others go through a great deal of effort to measure ROI, creating complex models to calculate an approximation of financial return.
Some in the direct marketing space are beginning to value their social media efforts much as they do their PPC campaigns--assessing the cost of participation compared to the clicks, conversions and sales generated from trackable links seeded into tweets and Facebook posts. This sort of measurement is essential and inevitable for companies that sell direct to consumers, but it's important companies not become overly narrow and begin to assess social media as just another click-generating channel.
In three days, it will be the two year anniversary of my first blog post on Experience: The Blog. Originally intended to be an exploration of experiential marketing strategies, my interest and focus quickly turned to social media and how the growth of the peer-to-peer groundswell creates challenges and opportunities for marketers. It is apt to recall how my blog started as one thing and became another, because change is in the air again. I'd like to reflect on that change, put it into context and invite you to join me as I shift my blog publishing to a new address.
A month ago, news broke that Forrester would be altering its blog policies and analysts would shift their industry-related blogging into a new, common platform on Forrester.com. I posted at the time that I believed aggregating Forrester's thought leadership in one place made sense and that I was eager to continue blogging, sharing news and building my reputation within the new Forrester blog.
The reaction was swift and emotional. Hundreds of tweets and blog posts weighed in on the topic; a few supported the new blogging policies, but most did not. One person tweeted I was "licking the boots of (my) corporate paymasters," and a friend sent heartfelt condolences at the loss of my blog. I ignored the tweet and assured my friend that I was not progressing through any of the stages of grief (unless bemusement was one of those stages.)