Category Archives: Media

Tech and Social Media events in SF Bay Area for July

Here’s a roundup of interesting tech and social media events happening in the SF Bay Area in July. Let me know in the comments or tweet me, if you’re planning to be at any of these and if there others that should be on this list. 

July 7th
The SiliconValley NewTech July Meetup (Free! hugely popular event, nearly impossible to get in)
7:00 PM
at DLA Piper in Palo Alto, CA
The SiliconValley NewTech Meetup Group [SVNewTech]

July 8th
Women in Tech
5:30 PM
at Orange Labs in South San Francisco, CA
San Francisco Mobile Meetup

July 8th
MIGHTY
119 Utah St
San Francisco, CA 94103
 

July 23rd   
Silicon Valley Tweetup
5:30 to 8:00 PM at Rosie McCann’s Irish Pub, Santana Row in San Jose

July 27th
313 Fairchild Drive
Mountain View, CA 94043
 
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Is Web 2.0 Over?

This morning, I saw what seems like a scam contest on “RIP Web 2.0” that’s driving traffic to my blog for no apparent reason, while I am still baffled by it, the notion of “Web 2.0 is over” got me thinking.  

It reminded me of a conversation I had with a blogger from the SF Bay Area at the Web 2.0 Expo recently. He proclaimed that “Web 2.0 is over and it’s time to move on.” and went on to say “It was an era and I doubt they’ll have this conference next year.”

Later that day, as I was noodling on what he said, I ran into Robert Scoble. So I asked him – Do you think Web 2.0 is over? What he said was very illuminating, “Until Best Buy puts people on its website, we’ve barely scratched the surface of Web 2.0.” You can read more of Scoble’s thoughts on his blog.

He brought up a great point, while innovators and early adopters who are focused on the technology and are clamoring to move on, one has to question if the true potential of this era has been realized.

Later on at the same conference, Jeremiah Owyang from Forrester, shared an interesting insight that he has seen companies turning off the commenting feature on their blogs. Which means that even companies who claim to be all over Web 2.0 and related social technologies aren’t ready to embrace the participation or openness that Web 2.0 purportedly is all about.

Web 2.0 is a phrase that seemed to have caught on in early 2000s O’Reilly Web 2.0 conference . According to Wikipedia,

“Tim O’Reilly states Web 2.0 is a set of economic, social, and technology trends that collectively form the basis for the next generation of the Internet-a more mature, distinctive medium characterized by user participation, openness, and network effects. (O’Reilly Radar,Principles and Best Practices, 2007)”

 Web 2.0 has manifested itself in the form of blogs, social networks, social sharing tools, etc. but now even O’Reilly has moved on to the next Web ie. Web 3.0 or the Semantic Web. At a blogger roundtable, O’Reilly was asked by a blogger, “What is the Semantic Web?” O’Reilly got up and said “This is Tim O’Reilly” and he took off his badge, “This is Tim O’Reilly”, highlighting a more intelligent web that will be able to provide context no matter where we are on the web.

The Semantic Web isn’t a new concept, it’s about intelligence built into the web (or rather the machines underlying the web) and Tim Berners-Lee already gave us a sneak peak into the future way back in the 1990s.  But it seems that the technologies and momentum to make Semantic Web part of our everyday web experience are finally available now.  

So what does that mean for Web 2.0? No matter what you want to call it, one thing is for sure, we are moving towards a more intelligent web experience and that’s a good thing.

That being said, I’ll believe that Web 2.0 is over, when I see social-sharing features become as ubiquitous as the websites themselves. I’ll believe it, when companies are able to use these social technologies to harness the knowledge embedded across their global employee base and seamlessly share the data across their organizations. In other words, when the “human” element becomes more important than the underlying technologies and tools. We’re getting there, but we are not there yet. Until then, it’s just hype – Web 2.o hype replaced by Web 3.0 hype.

Btw, I confirmed with show organizers that the Web 2.0 Conference is still on for next year. Janetti Chon from the Web 2.0 said that,

“We’re definitely having a Web 2.0 Expo again, our dates for NY and SF 2010 are already confirmed.”

And no, I didn’t ask if they’re planning to change the name to Web 3.0 🙂

Ford Case Study: Control is an illusion in the social media age

freeI recently attended a brilliant presentation on “Setting Content Free at Ford” by Scott Monty, Digital Communications Manager at Ford and Maggie Fox, CEO of Social Media Group. The presenters led a packed house at the Web 2.0 Expo through an insightful case study on how Ford and Social Media Group partnered to turn traditional PR on its head to create a highly impactful social media content strategy.

Like many other large global firms in traditional industries, Ford retained tight control on its digital and other marketing/ communication assets including images and videos, by allowing access to only a select few accredited automotive journalists and typically distributed those assets by request only, both out of habit or fear of unflattering mashups. Monty said, “Ford recognized that “control” of digital assets was an illusion. So they stopped pretending.”

In 2007, Ford Motor company recognized and accepted the changing dynamics of an environment where everyone was a publisher  and this model no longer made sense because the bloggers were not interested in traversing the walled garden to get to the restricted content and on the flip side, there were dozens of organic digital content projects were popping up within Ford – from “semi official”  YouTube channels to small-scale, one-off sharing of images and other content with enthusiast groups. Monty described it as, “A thousand points of light, not focused enough to truly illuminate or accomplish anything.”

Ford adopted an open and pragmatic approach to their content strategy where they started by helping online content producers to start conversations and tell richer, better informed stories by providing them with great content that even the “Citizen Journalists” could access easily and use to tell their own stories.

Here are the key learnings from Ford’s experience:

#1 Create rich content that’s ready to share: Ford established its first Social Media Press Release (SMPR) filled with rich content ready for sharing. Ford also aggregated its digital content and made Creative-Commons licensed assets available for use by anyone who was interested in talking about the company or their brands – good or bad. Moreover, all Ford content is hosted with third-party plaforms, like Flickr and YouTube, to leverage their native sharing properties and popularity.

#2 Eliminate the need to pitch: Ford provides individual and global RSS feeds for their SMPRs, meaning subscribers are automatically notified of updates – and only get what they’re interested in. They found many anticipated and unanticipated benefits, including an unsolicited placement in Wired magazine shortly after Chris Anderson’s infamous “Blacklist” post. Giving traditional media and bloggers access to what they’re most interested in, made pitching content irrelevant. Wired and other news media are subscribed to Ford’s SMPR feeds and they regularly pick up stories without having to be pitched.

#3 Reduce fear of the unknown: Monty rightly pointed out that social media is scary mostly because people don’t understand it. So  they helped people understand it, epecially legal people. By sitting down with the legal folks and demonstrating value to the folks who are most interested in controlling the content, they were able to change the way content was treated at Ford. Another big issue, they ran into was digital rights management (DRM). For images it was simple – in most cases digital rights were already being obtained for the online editions of print publications.

Video is another issue, and Monty pointed out, “We’re not the only ones wrestling with that challenge… if we put them online, it’s usually only for a set period of time until the rights expire.” Like many companies, however, Ford is working with its agencies are working together to get digital rights in place to manage their digital content.”

#4 Take a long-term approach to social media:  Ford’s approach was so successful because they didn’t use this as a trendy one-time campaign but rather as a  revolution in the way Ford, traditionally treated its digital assets and controlled access to them. Starting with Focus, Ford began making all of their content digitally available to everyone under a license that would permit publication under almost any circumstances.  All of the images, video and text on Ford’s first and subsequent SMPRs are licensed under Creative Commons non-commercial.

When asked what’s next for Ford, Monty said, “We are weaving digital influencers into every program we run for mainstream media. We’re also establishing digital-only events and programs for online influencers. Integrating with MSM programs – digital should not exist in a vacuum, it goes farther when amplified and paired with traditional efforts, which it can assist and compliment.”

So, how successful has this new strategy been for Ford?

When asked about the ROI on social media, Monty quipped, “What’s the ROI for putting on your pants every morning? But it’s still important to your business.” That was was probably the most profound quote of the event and highlights how doing social media is no longer optional for large companies, but rather a necessity for every business.

Overall, Ford has seen its content come back to them in thousands of unsolicited posts and stories. Here are the concrete  success metrics that Monty and Fox shared on their content:
 – Their content has been used in over 5,000 posts since Sept 2007.
– SMPRs are regularly used as a source of news and assets by Autoblog.com (Technorati Top 50), Wired, NYTimes, ABC News & many others, both traditional & “new” media.
– Approximately 1.2 million video views on YouTube, 499 channel subscribers, 120,000 views on Flickr images.

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lights_out_222/2996484787/

You can access the presentation on the Web 2.0 Expo website.

6 Reasons Why Enterprise Social Media Needs its Own Playbook

The last thing any company getting on the social media bandwagon should do is adopt  best practices established by practitioners and “experts” in the consumer space. Consumers and enterprises have very different objectives so here are 6 reasons why enterprises should write their own playbook rather than borrow from the consumer space:

  1. Numbers do matter: I recently wrote a blog post on how folks are getting too obsessed with their Twittercount. I still believe that when you aren’t selling something, the obsession with Twitter and Facebook numbers is just an ego trip. Individual social media activity should be focused on quality of engagement rather than quantity. However, when you are a business – quality is important but so is quantity, perhaps more so. If you’re running social media campaigns or activities for your company, you’re expected to deliver results. One way of measuring results is by looking at customer engagement numbers, but how will you engage when there’s no one to engage with?
  2. Consistency is important: I remember when the Motrin/Twitter Momscontroversy erupted, well-known blogger Louis Gray had a great blog post on how “Brand Reputation Management is Not  a Monday-Friday Gig“. The same applies to social media in general. You can’t say, I am taking the week off, so the corporate blog can languish until I get back or the unhappy customer who has been tweeting about a product issue will just have to wait. When you’re doing it for your business, you have to make sure the show goes on regardless of  what’s going on in the background. Can you imagine, shutting down your company website just because the guy who manages it has gone on vacation? That becomes even more critical for social media, which is a much more dynamic media and people expect consistent real-time updates.
  3. It’s a team sport:Unless you’re a company of one, your social media team should involve many other cross-functional folks. so that you are representing voice of the company not just your individual thoughts. Having an individual voice for a personal blog is fine, but ideally you want to have consistent messaging even through your social media channels. As a business, you want to ensure you’re not confusing your customers by having conflicting points of view from two different employees from the same company. To make the content authentic,  input on social media content should come from subject matter and content experts, not just the best communicator/blogger on the team.
  4. It’s not personal:Like it or not, enterprise social media is all about business, so companies shouldn’t go crazy trying to emulate personal blogs in their content and approach. Your company’s social media content needs to be authentic, by which I mean present truthful information without any marketing or PR spiel. Being professional is also right up there with authenticity. As your customer, I don’t want to know about your six cats unless I am buying cat food from you and even then, I don’t care unless the information is  relevant and interesting to *me*. Your customers come to you for value (no matter which social media channel you choose to use) and it’s your job to make sure you deliver that value..minus any spin or personal stories, please.
  5. You can’t fake it: I cringe when I see social media enthusiasts trying to conjure up a fictitious fun persona for their corporate social media accounts, especially when their company culture is anything but customer-centric. This warm and fuzzy approach works for companies like Southwest Airlines or Zappos, because their brand IS fun and customer-oriented, so are their employees. However, if your company is notorious for lousy customer service, no amount of cutesy tweets will help your cause.
  6. Last but not the least, it’s NOT free:When you’re writing your personal blog, it’s a fun hobby and since most social sites/tools are free, there’s no financial cost involved. However, if this activity is for a company account, it’s costing the company $$$ because the company still has to pay their employees, right?! So it’s essential to put some productivity and business outcome metrics around social media activities to ensure that these activities are aligned with company’s financial objectives and goals.

Enterprises are in business to generate value for their stakeholders, whereas personal/consumer social media activities are not encumbered by those responsibilities. Enterprises should ignore the social media hype and do right by their customers. They should leverage the social media sites/tools to deliver value to and engage their customer base even when it’s perceived as being “uncool” to do so.

Can you be a social media expert without tweeting or blogging?

I recently had a conversation with a colleague about a social media ‘expert’ who doesn’t tweet or blog, which got me thinking – How important is it for the social media ‘experts’ to actually get their hands dirty?

Tom Foremski has touched on the same issue in his post , ‘Can you advise on social media if you don’t use it?’

Foremski talks about a PR person whom he met recently, who doesn’t blog or tweet but advises clients on social media and claims that,

… she knows all about Facebook and Twitter and blogging even though she doesn’t blog or leave comments, she isn’t on Facebook, and doesn’t have a Twitter account.

It seems that just by the virtue of being in a customer-facing and/or web-related role, professionals in communication, PR, marketing, and SEO have been thrust onto the social media scene. But chances are that while their clients look to them for guidance on how to navigate this new space, these folks are also scrambling to catch up and are probably just as clueless as their clients.

I agree with Foremski that if you’re supposed to be an expert in ‘social’ media, can you really be credible if you aren’t out there being..um.. social?! There are definite advantages to getting your hands dirty. It gives one more credibility with clients and helps reassure them that the advice they’re getting  is based on experience, not just theory. It also provides a good understanding about what works and what doesn’t in the social media space, without relying on someone else’s opinion. 

That being said, blogging or tweeting by itself doesn’t make one an expert in social media. There are plenty of folks who have a huge following on social media sites, but not many of them are qualified to advise anyone on social media. And lately, everyone has a blog so that’s not a great indicator of social media expertise either. This great cartoon shared by Mark Evans, strikes a chord as everyone claims to be a social media expert these days. 

I think it’s irrelevant whether these ‘experts’ learn about social media tools and sites by using them or researching them. What’s more important is that folks who are responsible for advising their clients on social media aren’t married to a single tool or site. These professionals need to be objective and tool/site-agnostic so they can recommend the right tools for their clients, even if they aren’t experts in using it. There’s nothing worse than a so-called expert who recommends a specific social site or tool because that’s the only one they are familiar with.

At end of the day, clients aren’t just paying for someone’s expertise in social media but rather their expertise in how to use social media to help their business.

Social media: Statistics and Damn Lies

I am sure, many of us have seen presentations that rave about the wonder that is social media. Heck, we’ve even made some of these presentations ourselves.  What I find amusing is the random use of data and statistics to prove a point…any point. Given that I started my career in research and analytics, I love data but I abhor statistics that serve no purpose but to fill up space. Here are three questions that deserve to be asked and answered, when presented with any glittering stats on social media:

#1 Does data match the business case?
I am sure you’ve heard this a million times – Facebook and Twitter have millions of users. That’s great but…what does this mean for your business? Are these sites relevant to your customer base?  We often let large numbers distract us and underestimate the value of ‘quality’ and ‘relevance’. All the traffic on the planet isn’t going to help your business if it’s not your target audience. Explore other options, ask about the smaller  social networks out there, which cater to a more targeted audience and might be a better fit.

#2 What’s the baseline?
Taken out of context, numbers don’t mean much. If you start with a user base of one and add even one user, you have 100percent growth, on the other hand, even a 1percent growth for a company like Google is a huge deal. Same holds true when you’re talking about KPIs and metrics for lead acquisition. For a small company, a couple of leads through Twitter can have a big impact on the revenue, but for a larger company that’s a drop in the bucket. Make sure you ask for clarification on what the numbers are based on and if possible, look at comparable measures to see if the numbers are indeed that impressive when put into context of your business.  

#3 What’s driving that growth?
Presenters love to throw in factoids about social media growth, which sound wonderful but don’t tell the whole story. It’s fair to ask what’s fueling growth for a certain social site or tool. Yesterday, Techcrunch  reported   that the 8th fastest growing fan page on Facebook is devoted to masturbation, so unless, you’re in the porn or related business, this little factoid should raise a red flag. It’s a reminder that you need to do your due diligence and research the user base of any site you’re considering for your social media efforts, rather go with the most popular site.

Yes, social media represents a huge opportunity but instead of just diving in blindly,  it’s time we evolved past the statistical generalities and start digging deeper into the data that’s presented to us. That’s the only way to measure and mine the true potential of social media for your business and brand.

Will the real social media expert please stand up?!

Just about everyone I meet these days claims to be a social media expert but 2minutes into the conversation, one realizes that apart  from the general gushing  over Twitter and blogs, there isn’t much else. So, I cheered when I saw this great blog post on 25signs of a strong SM consultant (which incidentally also  inspired my first blog post of 2009).

My favorite one on the list is,

 “#25 Understands that social media isn’t the sole terrain of marketing or PR and helps clients educate internally to other departments.” 

Although, it’s easy to think of social media as just Twitter, Facebook, and blogs, there’s much more to social media than just a handful of tools and websites.

The social media revolution is a  fundamental shift in the way customers are using and sharing information across the web. Marketing/PR are  no longer one-way channels, the consumers now have the power to take information your company puts out there and do with it as they please. They can blog it, digg it, stumble it, twitter it, etc. across their social networks and the scary part is that you might not even know about it until it”s too late. 

For me, one of the most exciting parts of this new ‘social’ revolution is how it has not only democratized external communications but it’s on the verge  of breaking down silos within organizations. It’s no longer just the marketing Joe or Jane who’s responsible for the messaging, it could very well be Jack, the product line manager who’s messaging the customer directly.

I can’t imagine a better use for social media than to open up real communication between a company and it’s customers – without restricting it to one department or group of people – now that’s real enterprise social media/web 2.0.