Why do we Blog?

Blogs have often been accused of being just a public forum for self- aggrandisement, and perhaps sometimes rightly so.

But why do businesses take the time and trouble to write blogs and even record their own video blogs?

When a business blogs it talks in an appropriate tone of voice, hopefully in an informed manner to a highly targeted group of individuals about a topic they're interested in and is relevant to them.

And when we do this, we (hopefully) look good and re-affirm the loyalty of those people who have purchased our products in the past and may want to do business with us again. By the same token, we also hope that other people who have similar interests and aspirations will be drawn to our blog and affiliate themselves with the company. Some of the people who read our blog may be purchasing clients, suppliers to our organisation and/or others interested in working for the company (please email us if you are!).

The key benefit of blogging things that interest us, our clients, suppliers and potential employees is that any audience who reads our blog can get a much deeper understanding and sense of who we are, what we are about and how we operate as a business.

From a blog, people can begin to get a sense of the philosophy and values that a company holds important, i.e. does the organisation do interesting work, have original thoughts and ideas, does it have a sense of community, humour and fun?

Interestingly, by also writing a blog on behalf of a company you get to understand more deeply what appropriately reflects the company's style, values and even the ‘morals’ that you work for. As a writer for the In(side) Conversation Stancombe Research & Planning blog, there have been occasions when draft blogs fail to make the blog page. Simply put, the style of the writing or the content did not match the character of the organisation. Just by writing this now, I already have a much better sense of why I am blogging (Yes, this is another interesting point about blogs, they can be rather introspective!)

Sometimes by reading a company blog, team members also get a stronger sense of the organisation that they work for.

Perhaps all of this is self-evident. Perhaps all of this is blindingly obvious! So what do you think?

Is there more to blogging than this? Why do you or your company write blogs?

We would love to hear some thoughts.

Is Twitter friend or foe?

An interesting SMH article today talks about a company (Julpan) just bought by Twitter for an undisclosed (probably astronomical) amount of money.

The company’s key piece of IP “is an algorithm which analyses all manner of activity on the social web - from Tweets to status updates - to provide a real-time snapshot of what the world is thinking and doing this very moment. The formula also takes a user's own social web activity into account to better interpret the context of a search to retrieve more relevant information.”

Here is the interesting question: Are these new tech companies / search algorithms stepping on our turf or do they represent a big opportunity?

You could say these new companies and advancements are threatening our fundamental core market research skills, such as our ability to collect data and inform clients about what their customers/potential customers are thinking. As more and more consumer information flows into the social media ecosystem via Twitter, facebook, Google+ etc, companies will start tapping into the topics, moods and needs of the market via these new tools.

While this might be a scary thought for some researchers, others could view these companies and advancements as opportunities to enhance what we already do - add value to corporate and marketing data 

Social Networking, Social Marketing, Socialising, The 200lb Gorilla and The Google Bomb

facebook presently boast 750 million users and has had a major impact on the way that individuals and marketing professionals have used the internet.

There have been some casualties along the way, teenage house parties getting out of hand and naive individuals accidentally compromising careers by inept commentary, but 750 million people does mean that it is a force to be reckoned with.

Socialising and business has evolved since facebook arrived on the scene. Individuals, clubs and social groups have rapidly adopted facebook as a means of communication. facebook has responded with features to meet these needs, chat and calendars are an obvious example of features designed to meet the needs of social groups and clubs.

facebook has become so useful that a significant number of clubs and groups have reported that they have migrated most of their communications onto facebook, replacing traditional newsletters with web based updates and in some cases, moving totally completely away from their ‘traditional’ websites to facebook.

facebook has had a huge impact on the social lives of individuals and social groups but many businesses is still grappling with how to obtain a reasonable ROI from it. Businesses have found facebook more difficult to utilise, many businesses have only taken up facebook pages as internet placeholders rather that active utilisation of the medium.

However, some business are obtaining value from social media. We notice for example that 7 – Eleven were recently conducting a straw poll on a new dark chocolate Cherry Ripe product on it’s facebook site the other day while offering the product as a two for one promotion in it’s retail outlets. An interesting use of social media to report on product testing.

facebook advertising does seem to work in directing consumers to other areas of facebook although extracting users from facebook and directing them to other parts of the internet is still a much greater challenge.

facebook is clearly the 200lb internet gorilla and now the Google Bomb in the form of Google+ has finally opened up it’s doors

Google+ has been beta testing for over 3 months and currently boasts 25 million users. It is estimated that there are around 200 million Gmail accounts worldwide – all of which are eligible for Google+ accounts. In addition there is also a massive installed base of Blogger, YouTube and Picasa account holders.

Let us also not forget that Google offers a whole bunch of cloud based business software tools that are positioned to compete and possibly replace the Microsoft Office suite of products and the Android mobile phone (and tablet) operating system.

So Google is here, banging on the facebook door. Clearly the opportunity for Google is to create a killer location for people to meet, greet and exchange useful digital ‘stuff’.

The big question that is being asked right now is ‘has Google got it right?’ or will Google+ go the way of Google Buzz, a dud sharing application that I deleted from my Gmail suite of accounts just the other day or Google Wave, another group sharing application that never really had the useability required to give it the required momentum.

Useability is what it is all about because the value of facebook is to perform in a manner that is more effective than communicating by email or text. I have been trying Google+ for a few days now and guess what – I can’t make it do what I want it to.

I can’t find other people outside of my immediate social circle with similar interests. I can’t create a tangible open group of people with those interests in order to communicate with them and to date, there is no event calendar.

Either I am missing something really significant or Google+ needs a number of significant feature upgrades to avoid it becoming just another Google bomb!

Ken Block & DC Shoes - Product placement masters

Count how many brands and products are in the latest high production viral video, Gymkhana 4 produced by Ken Block & DC Shoes.

I counted:

  • Universal Studios
  • Ford Fiesta
  • Monster Energy Drink
  • WRC
  • Pirelli 
  • DC Shoes
  • Dirt 3
  • Cosworth
There is probably more... but what's really interesting is how they used Epic Meal Time (the latest YouTube stars) to promote their video. 

The entire production is like an ode to YouTubers (given pretty much no one else would know who Epic Meal Time is) and built specifically for the social media ecosystem. 

Given the previous edition, Gymkhana 3 netted 35 million views ... this latest edition is bound to 'blow up' (YouTube language for going viral and getting lots of views)

The GaGa model - Lessons from Mother Monster

If you live in Sydney, then you probably know Lady GaGa recently graced us with her presence. 

She has been on just about every news website, newspaper, TV network and even got the keys to the city - basically GaGa is BIG news

Fan or not - what's interesting about Lady GaGa is how she uses the media. Of course Lady GaGa has enough gravitas that traditional media comes for free, but it's how she utilises the digital media that's really interesting.

The latest advertisement from Chrome tells the story quite nicely:

Basically, the GaGa model about building an online fan-base and embracing them by:
  • Interacting with them regularly through the social media ecosystem (Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Google + etc)
  • Allowing them use your music and other IP for free
  • Encoring them to use your music and other IP for free
  • Giving them a name, i.e. little monsters
I'm sure there are many other aspects to the GaGa model I'm not aware of - if you have any thoughts, please let us know!

One final thing... check out this burning quote from an interview she did with Bernard Zuel

"People that blame things on piracy and blame things on music being stolen...it's just an excuse for not being creative enough"

Google vs Facebook

Given there are 100's of millions of people who spend time on both Facebook and Google, it was inevitable these two internet giants would eventually start locking horns and fighting for the same online advertising dollars.

The fight went relatively public not long ago (May 2011) when it was discovered Facebook had secretly hired a famous PR agency to create a smear campaign around Google's privacy policies. Not a very nice thing to do.

But it's got me thinking - from a consumer perspective both appear to be two very different beasts ...

  • Is akin to a living breathing ecosystem of individuals, groups, brands and companies of all sizes interacting with each other via tweets, Youtube videos, pictures, status updates, games, tagging, fan pages, competitions etc
  • Facebook's gravitas comes from the fact that many of your friends (and probably future friends as well) are on it and it requires relatively very little effort (and money) on your part to keep in touch with them
  • Facebook is sticky because you become part of the Facebook ecosystem as soon as you join (like it or not)
On the other hand ... GOOGLE (THE ORACLE)
  • Is akin to an Oracle given you can type a few words into a box and get an answer to almost anything you could possibly want
  • Google's gravitas comes from the fact it appears to know almost everything and is often good at predicting what you want to know
  • Google is sticky because we will never stop asking questions / needing information - thus making many of us regular users
Thinking about these two internet giants in this way has made me wonder if they are competing at all? Is it a bit like TV vs Print? Are they just two different mediums?

On the one hand you have the Facebook ecosystem that people want to be a part of - so naturally businesses should try to be part of this ecosystem in some way or another as well

But on the other hand you have Google, which is the oracle people are turning to when they want to know something - so naturally businesses should try to be in favour with the Oracle when it's handing out answers

Thinking about Facebook and Google as two different mediums, I think we are likely to see some different methods of online advertising emerge, much the same way that TV is different from print

Is the art of letter writing dead?

Once upon a time in a land of polite acceptance, a disappointed and frustrated customer would take a big breathe of indignation and write a letter of complaint to the not so subtly named 'complaints department' of a corporation.  Sometimes, a response would be received. OK, that was back in the dark ages when it wasn't polite to complain and corporations didn't feel a strong need to listen to customers.  How things have changed.

Yes, the art of letter writing is dead. So are customer complaints departments. Or at least, they have become increasingly redundant.

Consumers now bypass the corporation altogether and take their complaints into the public - see the Vodafail YouTube video below

It appears to be far more effective, creative and engaging than the staid old letter ...the collective can participate and as the group voice becomes louder with ever click on You Tube, you can imagine CEOs demanding action... Now!

Is the online community just a bunch of trolls?

GAP recently launched a re-designed logo, only to scrap it after some flaming criticism from the online community (mainly Facebook & Twitter)

Before going further, let us first define what 'Trolling' means within the context of online communities:

"Being a prick on the internet because you can. Typically unleashing one or more cynical or sarcastic remarks on an innocent by-stander, because it's the internet and, hey, you can."

Here is an example of some very sophisticated trolling (click here for link)...

According to www.theage.com.au, ...after seeing more than 2000 mostly negative comments on its Facebook page, management responded accordingly:

"We've been listening to and watching all of the comments this past week. We heard them say over and over again they are passionate about our blue box logo, and they want it back...So we've made the decision to do just that - we will bring it back across all channels."

I'm going to take the contrary position here and raise a few questions:
  • GAP is a billion dollar company that has been around for more than 40 years, why do 2,000 people on Facebook know better?
  • Assuming research was conducted (highly likely) with GAP's target audience, why are the views of 2,000 people on Facebook more important?
  • Being a company in a creative industry, why should GAP apologize for a logo they believed in?
It appears that once the media gets a whiff of some 'Facebook' or 'Twitter' momentum, they grab onto it to create a story that infers those comments represents the views of a much larger population.

But what if...those very people Facebooking and Twittering expressing their outrage don't have any real interest in the GAP brand (or a clue)? Does it really matter what they say?

If you were head of marketing at GAP, would you trust research results or Facebook fans?

Think before you post and tag

There have been some interesting discussions around Facebook and social network privacy issues this week. From my understanding, the debate has been exacerbated by recent Facebook privacy policy changes. You now have to 'Opt Out' if you don't want Facebook to share your information with 3rd parties.

This and a bunch of other negative Facebook press is starting to raise concerns amongst younger and older users. For example:
I'd guess it's these issues and others that have caused many people to start being more cautious about what they share and don't share on social networking sites. For example:

"...the Pew Internet Project has found that people in their 20s exert more control over their digital reputations than older adults, more vigorously deleting unwanted posts and limiting information about themselves" Source: New York Times, Tell-All Generation Learns to Keep Things Offline

I'm not sure we are going to see a mass exodus from Facebook, but I'm certain we will see more people actively protecting their social network identity and being more thoughtful when they post images and make comments

Social media and research

With so many people tweeting, blogging, facebooking, myspacing and youtubing - market research companies have been continually developing technologies to turn all this information into something useful to sell to research buyers.

Recently Nielson and Facebook have joined forces to sample the 300 million plus user base for research purposes. The problem is that any research outputs will be based on people who choose to 'opt in' to participate, i.e. an opt in sample of heavy facebook users is prbably not representative of the general population. Read more here

A more passive approach is sentiment analysis, which (from my understanding) uses sophisticated software programs to monitor the moods and opinions of millions of people as they chatter online (twitter, blogs, forums etc) and then processes the information with highly complex linguist algorithms. Apparently the jury is still out on this technology (it's still early days), but it's easy to see the uses for brands like Apple or Google who are constant points of conversation on the web. Read more here

Nike getting street cred?

I really like this viral ad by Nike that uses a famous cartoon artist James Jarvis.

It came to my attention via universal praise from the blogosphere. However, when checking the view count on youtube, it only stands at 2,194 (this particular edit in Australia).

Its got me thinking, is it all about view count?...or is it about getting the respect of people that influence everyone else, i.e. opinion leaders?

What does everyone else think of this piece of work from Nike?

'Wisdom of crowds' / 'The power of public opinion'

Susan Boyle...35 Million views on Youtube and counting...

Here is an interesting article from SMH...'Trusted voice waits in the wings'

The article comments on the recent 'Susan Boyle' phenomenon that has spread across the world via Youtube and the best version on Youtube of Susan's performance is the one with the most views...an incredible 35 million times (as of the 21.04.09...it was at 32 million at the time the article was written on 20.04.09).

I think this is the main point of the article...

"It is...the latest example of the great and daily upswelling of democracy made possible by the communications revolution which has obliterated the old limitations between those who direct and those who are directed, between those who inform and those who are informed."