Now Accepting Entries: The 2013 Forrester Groundswell Awards

[UPDATE, Sepember 2013: Entries for the 2013 Forrester Groundswell Awards are now closed. More than 100 companies entered more than 130 social programs this year, and we're looking forward to reviewing them and recognizing the best at our 2013 eBusiness Forum on November 5.]

Every year since 2007, Forrester has recognized the very best social media programs from around the world — and I’m thrilled to announce we’re now accepting entries for the seventh annual Forrester Groundswell Awards.

The rules are simple: Entries should represent the effective use of social technologies to advance an organizational goal. The more data you can offer to prove this, the better your chances of winning. You can enter using our online form. If you win, you get a nice shiny trophy, a winner’s badge for your website, and lots of recognition from Forrester. And this year’s deadline is August 30, 2013.

There’s just one big change for 2013: We’re introducing new categories for the awards based on Forrester’s marketing RaDaR research. So this year, both our business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) awards will offer four categories:

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How will the Database of Affinity change marketing?

Last month I published new research on the Database of Affinity — a catalogue of people’s tastes and preferences collected by observing their social behaviors on sites like Facebook and Twitter — and how that database will change marketing. And I'm pleased to say I've gotten a lot of great feedback on that research. So I'm excited to be presenting the idea on stage at our Marketing Leadership Forum in London later this month.

What is the database of affinity?

I hope you'll be able to join us in London on May 21 and 22.

Why Google - Not Facebook - Will Build The Database Of Affinity

Recently we described an idea called the database of affinity: A catalogue of people’s tastes and preferences collected by observing their social behaviors on sites like Facebook and Twitter. Why are we so excited about this idea? Because if Facebook or Twitter or some other company can effectively harness the data from all the likes and shares and votes and reviews they record, they could bring untold rigor, discipline, and success to brand advertising.

But exploiting the database of affinity won’t be easy. Any company hoping to turn affinity data into something marketers can use will need three things:

  1. Lots of affinity data from lots of sources. The raw data required to build a functional database of affinity doesn’t live in just one place. Facebook controls the most "like" data, recording more than 80 billion per month at last check. But Twitter records more "talking" than anyone else (1.5 billion tweets per month); Amazon collects the most reviews (well over 6 million per month); and Google’s YouTube and Google Display Network have data on how a billion people prefer to spend their time.
  2. The ability to bring meaning to that data. It’s easy to draw simple conclusions from affinity data: If you ‘like’ snowboarding you might like to see an ad for energy drinks. But the real value in affinity data won’t be unlocked until we can find hidden combinations of affinity that work for marketing. That’ll require technologies and teams that can do some serious data analysis — as well as a real-time feedback loop to determine whether people really are interested in the ads targeted to them based on such complex assumptions.
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The Database of Affinity Can Bring Discipline To Brand Marketing

For years, brand marketers have guessed at people’s affinities from the barest of demographic, geographic, and contextual clues. We deduce that Midwestern men prefer pickup trucks and that people watching extreme sports like energy drinks, and then we spend billions advertising to these inferred affinities.

But today, we no longer have to guess. Every day huge numbers of people online tell us what they like. They do this by clicking a ‘like’ button, of course — but there are many other ways people express affinity: talking about things on Twitter and in blogs; reviewing things on Amazon and Yelp; spending time with content on YouTube (and telling us where they’re spending their offline time on Foursquare); and sharing things through both public and private social channels.

People’s rush to post their affinities online recalls another flood of data that began a decade ago: the explosion in online searches. John Battelle once described the data created by search as the “database of intentions,” which I’d define as “a catalogue of people’s needs and desires collected by observing their search behaviors.” In the same way, the result of all these online expressions of “liking” has created the “database of affinity,” which Forrester defines as:

A catalogue of people’s tastes and preferences collected by observing their social behaviors.  

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Smart Move: Facebook buys Atlas

Facebook just announced that it's buying marketer-side adserver Atlas from Microsoft. I think it's a great move.

It's always been clear that for Facebook to realize its potential, the company would have to start powering advertising beyond its own site. Facebook has collected an incredible amount of data about people's affinities and preferences, but it lacks the brand ad units to help marketers effectively leverage that data. Although the statement announcing the deal focused on Atlas' measurement tools rather than its ad targeting technology, we expect that Atlas will soon be using Facebook's data to target sponsorships, in-stream ads, and other rich ad formats across the entire Web — and that's big news. The question now is how quickly and successfully Facebook can integrate its data with Atlas' tools, and whether they can avoid a privacy backlash as they do so. History suggests they'll struggle on both counts.

If you want to hear more about how Facebook can turn its affinity data into something that's useful for marketers, stop by my SXSW session, Affinity, Intent & The War For Marketing Dollars, at 5 p.m. on March 10 at the Four Seasons.

Introducing the Marketing RaDaR

In our new report "Mix Art And Science For Marketing Success," we introduce a new model: The Marketing RaDaR. This model (which serves as an update to our previous 'interactive brand ecosystem' model) is designed to help you build marketing programs and strategies that support your customers all the way through the customer life cycle — and is based on data we've collected about which channels they use at each step of the customer journey.

I published a piece in Ad Age this week that explains the idea in more detail:

Poor Elias St Elmo Lewis. When he first described the sales funnel more than a hundred years ago, he was trying to map the path a single customer took to a single purchase. Little did he know how badly we’d one day abuse his model. In recent years some marketers have tried to weld ‘loyalty’ or ‘advocacy’ onto the bottom of the funnel, others have tried to ‘flip’ the funnel, and many have longed to bury the funnel entirely — all in an effort to find a model that better reflects the ongoing relationships between companies and their customers.

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Facebook Graph Search: Important But Boring

I followed along as Facebook made its 'big announcement' today, and found myself torn. I think that Facebook Graph Search is:

  1. Really important. It's important because it makes Facebook a more usable and useful site. Facebook's current on-site search tool is pretty terrible -- it's almost impossible to find the people you're looking for, or any content that was posted more than a few days ago. If Facebook can help you find stuff on its site more easily then that's good both for users and for Facebook. I suspect Facebook will spend an increasing amount of its time simply upgrading existing features; now the growth in total Facebook users has slowed significantly, this type of basic upkeep will be crucial in making the site as useful as possible for the users who are already there. This type of work is boring, but it's vital -- like paying the phone bill, or fixing the leak in your roof.
  2. But not really a big deal. I've no doubt that parsing a trillion connections between a billion users is an immense challenge. And based on today's demonstration it looks like Facebook's engineers have solved that challenge pretty elegantly. But it's still just site search. The big news isn't that Facebook has fixed its search tool; the big news is that it didn't do this long ago. In fact, Facebook should be more embarrassed that its current search engine was so bad for so long than proud that its next search engine looks pretty good. For it to trumpet Graph Search as big news just looks silly. This is the kind of stuff basic, grown-up online businesses get right every day, without any fanfare. Again, like paying the phone bill, or fixing the leak in your roof.
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Winners Of The 2012 Business-to-Consumer Forrester Groundswell Awards

A few minutes ago I had the pleasure of announcing the winners of the 2012 Business-to-Consumer Forrester Groundswell Awards at the Forrester eBusiness Forum in Chicago. I hope you’ll take a few minutes to read through, not just the highlights below, but the full entries for all the finalists and all the winners — because once again this year we received many outstanding entries. It’s clear that social media has reached a tipping point, where savvy companies are using social tools to pursue real business objectives rather than simply chasing fans and followers. The 2012 winners put social programs to use in their organizations — successfully marketing their wares, supporting their customers, and generating insights.

Here, then, are our B2C finalists and winners for 2012.

Social Impact (Business-to-Consumer)

Winner

Million Moms Challenge Community by Blog Frog

ABC News and the United Nations Foundation partnered with BlogFrog to raise awareness and funds around issues affecting moms and babies around the world. This program identified more than 800 social influencers and activated them to create trusted content about motherhood. In total, the bloggers reached more than 15 million readers and garnered over 31 million total social media impressions. This in turn led tens of thousands of people to get actively involved: More than 15,000 people signed up for the Million Moms Challenge Community in the first two weeks.

Energizing (Business-to-Consumer)

Winner

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Preparing For The Groundswell

Today, my colleagues and I are meeting to review the 2012 entries to the Forrester Groundswell Awards. As always, we’ve got some fantastic submissions this year – which you can see on our awards site – and I’m excited I’ll have a chance to recognize the winners at our upcoming Forrester eBusiness Forum.

In the process of reviewing this year’s entries, I can’t help but think back to some of the great winners we’ve recognized in past years. In particular, one I still talk about all the time is RadioShack’s winning entry in the 2011 "Energizing" category.

The campaign for RadioShack had three components:

1.       A promoted Twitter trend for #UNeedANewPhone. Those who tweeted saw offers for the new iPhone if they'd engaged with related content on Twitter.

2.       A campaign called Holiday Heroes, connected with the hashtag #IfIHadSuperPowers. If users tweeted a picture along with this hashtag, RadioShack’s artists would draw a superhero costume over the photo.

3.       A partnership with foursquare. RadioShack created a Holiday Hero badge. To earn the badge, which held exclusive discounts and offers, consumers had to check in at two of three Holiday Hero hotspots.

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The Deadline For Forrester Groundswell Award Entries Is Today!

Just a reminder that you've got less than 24 hours to enter your submission for the 2012 Forrester Groundswell Awards - we'll be accepting entries until 11:59pm Eastern Time (EDT) tonight.

More details on the awards, and how to enter, can be found here. Good luck, everyone!