Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Answers, Questions, Social Search... a good example of doing things better




I do not use these services too often, but I really enjoy them when I try it. I liked Yahoo! Answers when started, but I stopped using it as the answers started to low their quality. I also tried Google Answers some years ago and the quality and process were great but all of us know what happened it (the rumor is that they will open it again in english as they keep using it in Russia). Paying for an answer is not a problem to me when I am looking for something and I do not have time or its more sophisticated than usual, for that Mahalo has been very useful during the last months.

Well... other services for specific verticals like Sermo or Symposier for physicians or some others to ask questions from patients to physicians are also great services, but the experience its very similar in all of them (it is not bad) and we do not know if it is the best or if there are better alternatives for the asking and answering process...

I tried Aardvark for the first time this week and the usability is great! you interact through your IM client, not only to ask but also to answer. I like also that you set up your expertise areas, so you start your collaboration process without going to the site. I really do like that.

My comment it is not about just these social search services, but about how to keep challenging the process definition, user interface, usability, etc.

Aardvark challenged the standard process and I think will become a very good alternative. What do you challenge you on your site, brand, product, service, etc? We always have to challenge our utility, usability and likeness!!!!

A best practice should be a base line to us and not a mandatory process or UI to replicate

The year 2010 will start in 48 hours! let's challenge our all and push to be always better!!!!

Enjoy the 2010!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A connected life. We are ready!

How is your product connected to the web?

Nowadays we can find a lot of new services online. There are new web tools almost everyday. Students, programmers, small, medium size companies and large corporations are developing and using these services.

We can find from Enterprise 2.0 tools to Crowd sourcing platforms (like Crowd Flower); from managing photos and share them with our families and friends to platforms to collaborate online with professional high resolution images; from the grandma webcam chat to the Telepresence meeting.

Anyway... we are getting used to these kind of things. It is becoming part of our regular way of thinking and living and what is next? we are creating, using and changing tons of data, data that we have to input to these services, sometimes uploading by one or by chunks, other times inputting data on fields. Data that lives many times in the thing that interact with us. We need easier ways to post information, not only different interfaces to browse and we need also things posting info by them selves.

Would it be possible to let the food I eat to send their nutritional data automatically ? when would it be possible to hang up a conference call and receive in automatic the tasks, agreements, etc? After taking a picture post this immediately tagging people, places, time etc?

There are pens now that record all your notes and send them to the web. Scales that post your weight to your personal data base... all of this without you plugging it into your computer.

What are you doing with your product (not your online product only) to publish info in an easier way? fast, safe, automatic? My TV, lights, notes, refrigerator, camera, etc.

I hope there are a lot of R&D teams, from ALL industries thinking about how and what for publish their information in an easier way to enhance their client experiences.

Share with us all the examples that you can find now, like LiveScribe (The pen that records your notes and meeting) ; The Scale from Withings.

The practices of connecting things to the web started some years ago and it is known as Web of Things. for more reference about this go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_of_Things

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Promoting your content on social media it is not just making comments...

Social Media increased the number of content creators. Now we also see new platforms in where we can publish in different ways, for different purposes, different kind of messages, etc.

How to use Facebook, Twitter and a lot of social sites for marketing or branding reasons became also a trend. You can find a lot of books, blogs and web sites talking about that, but... as I mentioned in my previous post, there are a lot of implications and considerations on it.

I like to talk about my experience on blog comments.
I'v been receiving spam comments on this blog, and I also saw a very big amount of spam comments on other blogs. Comments like " hello I just want to share my site with you" , then you click the link and you find out an arbitrage links page or some other garbage stuff. But there are some other comments that you find useful and these are also part of a marketing effort. what is the difference? The famous "join the conversation" and not the "screwed the conversation"

Today it is easy to find who is talking about us or topics related to our brand / services or content, and we can add value to that blog, video, twitt, forum, etc if we do it right, but do we have to track ALL and post in all of them? the answer is obvious so here are some personal recommendations for this practice.

1.- How is your destination?
We work too much some times in promoting our content, but the experience on our sites is very poor, so the first task is easy, be sure that your site, landing page, destination its great (focus always in three things: utility, usability and likeness)

2.- Identify your keywords / topics
Like SEO, a very important activity for web 2.0 linking is identify the right keywords and topics, these will be the base for you to look for the right conversations in where you want to join in. Define specific keywords and sentences, avoid general things, this would just make you more inefficient on your conversations searching process.

3.- Search the conversation
You can search blogs / articles on blogger, google blogs, technorati, google news, digg, etc. When you look for things always focus on looking for very specific results and then, be sure that you just focus on those written on the past 5 - 7 days (not more than that). When looking for video content, look for videos posted on the last 30 days and when twitts or other real time platforms, posts from the last 3 hours.

4.- Second filter, site popularity
After identifying those relevant blogs, articles, twitts or videos. It is a very important task to select the most popular ones. You can see their total views (if you are in youtube), the # of followers, the # of diggs or the # of visits (you can find out part of this info on Alexa or using SEO digger tools). Once you know that you just found a very well written, popular and recent social media post... then you can proceed starting or participating on their conversation

5.- Undersand very well the content
Once at the blog, video or other, read very well, very, very, very well what they are talking about, what they are looking for with the content.

6.- Participate
After you understand, then you are ready to participate: Start writing your understatement of their publication, tell them what was valuable about their post and finally GIVE, deliver value to that post, do not just post your link, enhance their conversation, either with a reference from you, or your point of view and access to go dipper on the topic, either through you directly or your customer services channels, but be sure that you GIVE VALUE to them

7.- Always be you
Do not hide your self thinking that the audience will read better a 3rd person. that could work once, but it is not honest and once some finds, the consequence could be the worst (loose your clients trust). If you have to sign in order to post something, post with your name or your brands name and your position

The join participation process is not about volume, it is about value. Learn how to do this and then slowly and step by step, start growing this, either to more comments, from more representatives, etc

Finally, remember that it is more important to listen and answer, that just post words that do not give value to anyone

I'll keep a continuous improvement process on this and some other web 2.0 marketing practices and every month me and my team analyze the results (customers reaction and goals achievement)

Thanks!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Social, social, social... ok, but...

It has been a while since I do not write on my blog. This time I have some thoughts that I like to share again.

During the past years the digital marketing opportunity became more active (which is good). The web communications keep growing and growing and every day we see more brands and companies participating on-line.
But... during the past months all of them or almost all of them want to do something related to social.

I like their excitement about that, but... do they know what to do? do they have a real strategy? or we are starting to build just based on buzz?

How many brands are doing social web experiments right now, but they just are "doing" something, but they are not developing a strategy. How many brands are going to fail and they wont try to do anything else in the future years, because they tried, and they did not have any result as they expected?

Now we hear that they want to be on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube or they want to build their own social platform, but just because they want to be there or build their own social network and not because they can enhance the client experience (better product, better service, support, marketing...)

Their main focus must be first in their own product, then on how to communicate it to their own targets and then build a relationship and YES they can support their commercial funnel using social platforms but only if it is necessary. Nowadays we can see that we can be part of a group, fan or follow brands and products that we might use, but our relationship with these brands do not motivate us to have an ongoing communication with them, or we do not want to share our private spaces with them or we do not want to share with others on sponsored platforms.

My point is:
1.- Brands. Please focus first on your product
2.- Based on your marketing strategies define what is the best medium to do awareness about the products or services
3.- If the brands want to have a conversation with their targets "maybe" the on-line platform could be part of the solution, but identify if your brand has a personality like the one the targets want to get in touch with or if the product / service or brands is only a commodity to their target or they do not want to see it next to their friends or interests.
4.- All on-line destinations could be the solution, but it is important to define what to say and then where to say it. I could follow the latest bargains to fly to a vacation destination, but that (to me) do not mean that I want to be a fan, be part of a group, enroll in a sponsored social networking platform related to an airline. I want to follow a topic, not an airline.

I learned that all implementation should focus on
Utility
Usability
and Likeness

All your communications should be useful for your target. Your website, your keywords, the comments on a blog, the posts on social platforms, display ads, etc...
Then all of the them should be on the right context. Maybe a social platform or maybe a lot of them, but also maybe just distributing your content on Non social sites, but highly related to your topic and audience. Think how usable your message would be on the environment you are planning to share it
Finally... work on the best way to show it (the best possible copy, image, etc...) if the message is the right one, on the right medium, but it is not attractive to your audience, then you could fail

I wrote all of these, because the web YES it is for everybody, but the social / web 2.0 platforms are not or at least you should think how to participate, maybe is just analyzing the content and not building a YouTube mimic site for your brand or company. There are more options that could give your better effectiveness.

Finally.. work with people who have real experience and not people who just finished a web 2.0 book or always read TechCrunch or other blogs. Work with agencies who understand the medium not who says they know how to do. It is incredible the amount of "consultants" who claim to know about this, but they just have good intentions, but any experience.

I know a company who wants to do something, leverage the power of the communities, but they want to build something and it is kind of obvious that their audience do not want to be in a brand sponsored environment... The real opportunity it is the connection development between the brand and its audience, but not having a site and track visits

Anyway these are just my thoughts and I wanted to share it with you

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The content distribution strategy

Congratulations for the 2009!

3 years ago I was with a couple of brand managers and we were discussing about the right strategy for the Internet... I remembered that conversation during the past weeks and I like to share some thoughts.

First of all (I think) brands and companies should have a strategy and not an "Internet Strategy" and I am sure almost all companies and brands have their own annual or whatever strategy and they do not want to create a strategy for each channel (TV strategy, Radio strategy, etc) what they meant was that they were trying to understand how to participate, take advantage, use, implement and manage the Internet as a communication channel, because they did not know well at that time. 

After a strategy is designed (sales, marketing, etc...) it is important to identify which channels will be the ones which will maximize our efforts or the ones that we need to accomplish our tactics, etc. The Internet is nowadays one of the most powerful channels to start a conversation and/or deliver a message. There are a lot of tactics to bring  your audience to your message or to deliver your message to your audience (email Marketing, Search Marketing, Seeding, etc...) . All of this is not new to marketers today. All of the most common Internet tactics are helpful, but in today's environment are not enough. Some marketers believe that they can just create a website with their different messages and then implement tactics as Search or Display Banners to bring their audience to their content, but that is not enough... 

In today's environment we should  distribute our content and not just keep it in only in one place (our site). Social Media is increasing the content and perspectives from our audiences, but all of this is thanks to the different platforms which are offering an alternative to post or BROWSE content. Digg for example is an alternative to be updated from different content sources. It is not a blog or article search engine is a place in where the content from different sources is posted from different users who think that, that content is relevant now. Delicious is kind of the same, and there are everyday more and more different alternatives, inside the "famous" social network platforms (Bebo, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc) and new different alternatives. 
So... how to use these tools? there are a lot of practices, but the way I see it and what I recommended to those Brand Managers 3 years ago was to use it to "distribute" your content.

Is your content ready to be published in these alternatives? is it possible to "digg it" or post it at delicious? Are you posting your videos at Youtube and the different vertical video sharing platforms? Are you posting your new communications at the Facebook, LinkedIn or other social networks groups, forums or shared links? Are you uploading your pdf's or other different file formats at Docstoc or ScriBD? Are you posting your slide decks at SlideShare? Do you agree with the content about you, posted at Wikipedia, Mahalo, Yelp (not as comment, but as your official description)? Are you giving updates through Twitter to your community? if yes... how often are you doing it? if not... when are you going to start?

Obama did it, a lot of artists and more top brands are trying to do it... and it is because is effective. Your audience is looking for you in different platforms, don't you want to "deliver your message"?

You should identify which are the most important platforms for your audiences and in where categories are they looking for info related to you or your product / service. Then, publish your content, customizing the title and description in order to be aligned with the platform. It is different to post at Twitter, than Digg, than Facebook. There are tools to simplify the posting process; to identify the most relevant sources and to track results. Do not forget to track. 

And you need to train your agencies (PR or Digital) to do this in an effective way. They probably know, but in my experience they say they know, but they do not understand well how to do it, and that is fine, this is new, but they need to understand the purpose and create a method.

Google is a great starting point and the official news sources like Yahoo! News, CNN, etc are also great platforms used by the consumers, but they are also increasing day by day the usage of the different platforms which are offering them an alternative to browse in a different user experience, what they are looking for. The list of emerging platforms is longer every day and you should define how to approach to them, how often to manage your content posts at there and how to manage a "conversation"and not only a one way message. I agree that there are not to many professional services who can help you to manage your communities, but if you find one ask them to manage not only the community questions or requirements, but to distribute your messages also.

Agencies, we need more community management professionals. 

Brands, we need to hear from you in the different platforms. 

Platforms we need a better user experience every day and APIs to be able to manage the conversations in a better way.

This content distribution concept, plus the traffic management practice will become a day by day task for top performers in all categories of brands.

Thanks and remember that you can find more about me at my LinkedIN profile

In my next post, I will be talking about how to track conversations or what your audience is talking about you (and where) using platforms like Radian or JackBe