While talking about the Social Media Press release yesterday I mused about the need for real-time communications to be included in the system.

Actually the call is for a much broader inclusion of person to person or person to group communication in Internet services – direct discussion between people using a site and between users and the posters of content. Talk.

One of the things all sites do is to attract people who share a common interest. From time immemorial this has formed the basis for personal discussion and connection. It is how we meet other people – through a shared activity.

The internet has introduced a new type of shared activity that mimics its predecessors –while removing the requirement for temporal or spatial connection. In doing so it has both enriched some aspects of our social lives while leaving others unsatisfied.

It is hard not to believe the rise of services like Twitter and newsfeeds on social networks from FaceBook to Linkedin, which send out a stream of deeply human but typically mundane activities, is not a reaction to an unmet desire to connect around the ordinary activities that consume most of our lives.

For myself I cannot stand in line at a store, or contemplate some types of purchase without engaging in discussion with those around me. And it’s not just me who relishes in chance encounters. On the radio this morning a store owner was recounting how his store grew out of his interest to share his knowledge with customers. One of the things he regretted with the Internet store that remains was his business was reduced to availability and price.

It doesn’t need to be like this – the ability to personally connect either with individual users or connect users with each other is both easy and cheap. More importantly it provides a means to develop the rich personal connection between people that real time voice allows.

One easy way to start is to consider adding conferencing as a regular activity related to your site.  Check out Iotum’s free conference service as an example of one service to speak to multiple site users simultaneously. Use it to educate, understand, or to explore a specific topics and tangents. It reintroduces the personal onto your site.

Want more continuous connection? Add click to call buttons – but if you’re a small organization consider integrating with find-me applications so you’re not tethered to a desk. This is a great way to add value – especially if the goods, service or cause the site is dedicated to are based on something unique where sharing insights and discussion enriches everyone.

In time I love to see infrastructure that would notify me that other users were on the same page I was – and if they were open to a spontaneous discussion. Of course in this scenario Web shopping can again become the shared activity around which people meet which it is for many in the physical world.

In the end adding voice to an Internet site re-introduces temporal connection to the relationships they build – making them more concrete and meaningful.


Social Media Press-Releases – part 2

Earlier I’d written on the social media press release – essentially a site designed as a repository for sharable clips, images and story components that can be used by journalists and bloggers.

A few days ago Maggie Fox released her company’s version, providing details of the internal lay out and the elements that should be included. That engendered quite a bit of insightful discussion (here, and here).

As a template Digital Snippets hit all the right core content notes – it includes extensive RRS feeds for easy dissemination of updated information, and interestingly includes embeddable widgets for the true fans to add to their sites. Each page includes contact information to corporate communication people giving story writers the contacts if they want to expand a story through a specific line of questions.

All this is good – but at I can’t help thinking that while this makes corporate PR more effective – it still treats PR as a separate part of communication strategy – at the very time that consumers are integrating messages where ever they find them – sometimes across brands. Just look at what is happening with Unilever over its AXE and Dove brands. (here and here)

It also doesn’t appear to leverage the knowledge of social media firms to design creative that builds on their understanding of viral transmission and social sharing. While it’s fine to centralize creative developed elsewhere for social media use I believe that the true value will emerge when social media releases can create their own creative to both tell the story and encourage viral spread.

While not developed as PR its hard not to think that creative like the Travelers IQ Challenge developed by Ottawa’s TravelPod (and seen on hundreds of blogs, papers and social network sites) hasn’t been contributed to stories about the company (it has) or driven traffic to both their brands.

It also would be nice to see these sites more fully integrated into the sponsor’s web properties – rather than echoing them as they do now.  Social media sites should also being promoted with conventional promotion techniques.

Finally having real time components such as live conference or video calls included would add to the immediacy of a release and creating urgency around spreading the news.

All of this is to say that by dealing with media releases as system – which the social media release and Digital Snippets does is an important step. The real value though is going to come from building the specific skills of social media experts into corporate communications – and empowering them with the tools and creative to tell the story in new ways and across more platforms.

Social Media as the new marketing and advertising

On Monday I attended Joseph Thornley’s Ottawa Third Tuesday Social Media Meet-up. As usual it did not disappoint.

Richard Binhammer, Dell’s Senior Manager of Public Affairs took us through the process that took Dell from ‘Dell Hell’ to ’Dell Swell’ and everything in between.. Along the way he provided remarkable insight into the way that social media could change corporate America.

First the background way back in July of 2005 Jeff Jarvis took Dell to task for its customer service – and most importantly not paying attention to what their customers were saying (on blogs)  about their products. 

Now as I’ve commented elsewhere Jeff’s comment was a perfect storm for Dell. An influential and highly media savvy blogger takes the company to task, taps into an underlying sentiment that is accentuated by Google’s page rank algorithm at the time (which favoured blogs) and press coverage of the emerging blog medium which connected with the broader public.  It was impossible to miss – and damaging to Dell.

Fast forward to Mr. Binhammer’s presentation and you’d be forgiven for thinking the pendulum had swung the other way.

Dell now scans blogs for any mention of Dell and swoops in with support if the customer is dissatisfied. It’s got a team of top tier customer support and technical specialists to deal with nothing but blogger complaints. In a sense it’s a re-architected customer support strategy that recognizes the importance of influence on the buying habits of others.

What was most interesting to me is where Dell is taking this. Mr. Binhammer outlined an experimental concierge program to take customer service to a whole new level (for some customers) helping them expand their use of the product and answering all manner of questions related to use (how to up load pictures, choosing photo manipulation software etc). He also talked about Idea Storm – Dells Digg like service to uncover product desires and rank and validate them. He also hinted at custom applications they are developing to better understand how these direct media influence each other and overall buying patterns.

In the end one couldn’t help but come to the conclusion that while Dell misses the importance of social media initially they are at their heart innovators and that these initial forays are part of a larger process that will see a re-alignment of advertising, customer support and market research budgets – with a large proportion shifted to social media interaction and relationship building with thought leaders in targeted segments. 

Possibly this was Jeff’s intention all along – because if anyone was going to lead corporate America into social media it would be Dell.

It would be ok to leave the story there – but it would be wrong because you’re all thinking – well Dell can do it but my company never could because we don’t have those resources’.  Look no further than Alec Saunders excellent post on how he, and his small company, track and influence the issues in their world.

 It’s an inspiration – and an argument to look at how you allocate those budgets.

A Beacon for Media IT

Yesterday FaceBook announced Beacon – an ad widget for eCommerce sites that asks the purchaser if they want the purchase in their FaceBook feed. One click and you’ve promoted the site and product while linking it to the reputation of the purchaser.

What’s slick about this is it removes the last shred of doubt that content is needed to deliver advertising. As Google has shown with search and FaceBook hopes work for Beacon – Context works just fine.

Of course that’s obvious – except to media companies that systematically under invest in IT and technology innovation. It’s not as if they have to develop the services themselves – they can do what most of them do for content – which is typically buy and distribute – not make.

Even the internal processes are similar – match audience interests with content/service, and program distribution to keep audience within the network if possible – or provide hooks so they return frequently.

What’s missing is the deep understanding of IT infrastructure and evolution – and a belief that investing in it can produce revenue every bit as good as investing in, and protecting content.

Until that happens media companies will remain protective about content and worried about declining ad revenue as it shifts to companies that understand a new model is here.

Axe the Evolution

Unilever is a huge company with many impressive brands under its control. 

It’s got a firm grasp of alternative and interactive marketing techniques – in fact its Dove brand is currently basking in the limelight for its Evolution and Onslaught campaigns for Real Beauty.

What’s interesting is those same techniques are being applied to another Unilever brand – Axe – whose brand message couldn’t be more opposed to the Dove message as the attached video shows.

Don’t get me wrong Unilever is a superb marketer. Its products have such strong brand identity, and that their marketing efforts so in tune with the intended market that they can create new categories as they did with Axe, or redefine them as they did with Dove.

What is going to be interesting to see how consumers react to the cognitive dissonance between the brand messages!

My guess is that Dove will lose some of its luster – and that Unilever will learn that interactive marketing cuts across brands, and therefore has to me managed with that in mind. 

Do Sensory Channels Matter?

In writing about audio books Seth Godin observes that people who listen to his audio books are 10 times more likely to contact him than book readers. His hypothesis for this difference is:

“Part of it is the entertaining nature of the presentation, I think (I probably talk better than I write) and part of it is the nature of the experience–it’s going into a different part of your brain. (Bolding mine)

As we know different sensory channels not only process information in different ways – but have strikingly different parts of the brain associated with their primary analysis and different connections for emotional, logical and social associations. Increasingly it will be important for marketing and media companies to understand how people perceive process and engage around different mediums.

This connection between sensory channels and media relates to peoples attention preferences, learning styles and ultimately their psycho-demographic profile. As McLuhan observed a “the message of any medium is the change of scale or pace or pattern that it introduces into human affairs”. It is here that we will see the most profound effects – because the ability to re-purpose content across multiple media allows organizations to both serve narrower segments but also engage segments that may have been overlooked or not fully engaged – because the format didn’t match their psychological style. 

It’s possible the rise of internet video for purposes such as recruiting may be the latest example of a medium, targeting a new sensory channel, changing the pattern of human affairs – by connecting with individuals that are more visual than the readers that traditional HR ads target. 

Getting back to Seth’s observation – if audio book listeners are more likely to contact authors, do they also engage in other social behaviors more as well – like talking up the book to their friends more? If they do can this be used to build buzz in advance of a print release – potentially moving an ok seller to onto the best seller lists.

Understanding how people behave when they consume media in specific formats opens the potential for more that reaching niche audiences – it may also enable specific promotional outcomes.

The Future of Software – The 8th C

GigaOm is kicking off a month long series on the future of software.

The first installment (written by Anne Truitt Zelenka – editor of the WebWorkerDaily) covers the 7 C’s of software:

– Collective
– Connected
– Cyborg
– Closed
– Composed
– Choreographed
– Cognizant

All the core themes are there. What’s implied, but missing is:

– Customary

Software will be embedded in everything – and the thought process that leads to applications using the 7C’s will change everything from marketing to media.

What makes the 7C’s so powerful (and why the 8th should be there) is that it’s possible to use second and third order indicators and predictors to deliver better experiences. With software it’s actual not reported behavior that drives presentation. More than that its’ the ability to use large data set models (economic and anthropologic) with highly personal and localized data that make software so powerful – not just as application tools – but as ways of thinking about people and the data their experiences generate.

Software is making a whole new mindset possible for programmers and non-programmers – and for that it will be customary.