Interview with Obamas New Media Operation Manager

Mary C. Joyce was the New Media Operation Manager of Barrack Obama’s electoral staff. German Techsite Golem interviewed her during re:publica, a german blogger conference last week. It’s not about the tools, she says, it’s the strategy. I almost guessed that…

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WOMI – new ad idea for social media

There is a new ad idea for social media, called WOMI – Word Of Mouth Impression. Developed by a company with a name that says it all: Social Media.

It functions like a mini-application that spreads in my own social network of contacts and friends, and I wonder: does it do that automatically, whenever I interact with it? Here is the description of Techcrunch:

WOMI campaigns present visitors with ads asking them for some kind of input either though a multiple choice question or using a text field. SocialMedia then uses this input to customize ads which are shown to the user’s friends on the same social network.

For example, if an ad for Star Wars had a call-to-action asking if I was on the Light Side or Dark Side of the Force, it could take my response and then present my friends with an ad that said “Jason is on the Light Side, how about you?”. In turn, their responses are passed on to all of their friends, making this among the first kind of advertising with a viral element.

This is spooky, unless they definitely ask users before they present their friends with the answers to the multiple choice questions. It’s like a facebook app that spreads as soon as you launch it, without even asking.

If however, the user stays in full control, it could turn out to be rather interesting. Especially if you get to see all your friends responses later on, too. People love to see how they compare in polls and questionnaires. This can be a huge playground for brands. More effective than regular applications/widgets in a sense, because of the „classical“ advertising component: „pushing“ these polls onto the profil pages of friends and contacts, instead of just mentioning in some news feed „XYZ installed application ABC“.

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MySpace started „MyAd“ for long tail advertising

All social networks are heavily working on finding ways to earn money through some kind of advertising or marketing.

MySpace, one of the biggest (if not THE biggest) social network is already earning close to billion dollars in revenue.

Now they launched a new self serving ad platform. Ads are served on a CPC basis and you have to design them yourself. However, they’re not text ads, they’re display ads, which you can design yourself on the myspace website

The most interesting feature, however, is the targeting options you have. As Techcrunch writes:

The key to MySpace’s ad platform is their hypertargeting technology. Facebook allows targeting as well, although it’s based on interest areas put in by users directly. So if someone says they like books, you can target ads to them based on that. What MySpace does is much different – they build out a profile of each user based on what they do on MySpace over time, with 1,200 different ways to categorize each user. So if you only want to target women who live in California between the ages of 25-30 who like motorcycles, i can. There are 2,842 of them on MySpace.

If that works properly – and if it is accepted by the community to be targeted in that way, it could well be a huge opportunity for myspace to increase advertising revenues!

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Reasons why brands should leverage existing networks.

In discussions and social media workshops with clients there is always the one question looming: shall we hop on to existing networks or shall we build our own, new social network? A brand centric or at rather: brand-fan centric social network. Of course it’ll have all the feats like uploading content, connecting with other brand-fans, sharing, communicating, etc. Why not, there seem to be a lot of brand-fans out there!

This can be a good idea depending on your objectives. But on the other hand, there are quite a few reasons, why you might want to leverage existing networks. Be it social network platforms like facebook and myspace, content networks like youtube and flickr or loose networks like blogs.

It has got to do something with the old questions:

  • what’s the use of being the first in a new network (the first fax machine ever wasn’t really useful, was it?)
  • how sticky are the networks, that users have already established elsewhere? Will they go through the effort of establishing yet another network?

The reason I started thinking about this is the current post about identi.ca vs twitter on techcrunch. Twitter is the most popular mobile microblogging service out there, no doubt about it. But the fact, that it has experienced a lot of downtime lately (and „failwhale“ becoming regular geek speak) has put off many people lately.

identi.ca offers a rationally better solution to this problem (even though it wouldn’t have had enough traffic yet to prove it). Its openness let’s you assume, that in the long term, it will be the more reliable service. But still, people seem to be reluctant to move over there. That’s what techcrunch is writing about: the problem with identi.ca is, that it is not twitter.

Twitter is not huge yet, most people won’t even have heard about it sofar. But its user-base is strong enough for everyone to stick with it, hope that the technical problems will cease to happen once they have gotten their infrastructure right with all the VC capital they got…

So if a well functioning network service can’t lure people from a failing one, how are brands expecting to launch completely new network services out of nothing? Why should people start spending their time on the social network site of „FMCG brand X“ and go through all the effort finding and contacting new or old friends (again)?

There might be some brands/products with such a strong fan base or such a strong communicative idea, that they can start building their fan community on their own networking site. For all others, I would probably recommend leveraging existing networking sites. At least to begin with.

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Do social networks need advertising?

Mitch Joel pointed me to a business week article about advertising in social networks. In the same post he also links to a blogpost claiming social media sites need advertising.

In short: time spent on social networks is declining, for whatever reason – one could of course be increased advertising on these platforms. So this could be a problem for advertisers in the near future. Secondly: social networks need advertising, the same way media has always been ad supported.

But it’s not only the fact that user numbers are going down, ads on social networks are also less effective than on regular websites:

Many of the people who hang out on MySpace, Facebook, and other sites pay little to no attention to the ads because they’re more interested in kibitzing with their friends. Social networks have some of the lowest response rates on the Web, advertisers and ad placement firms say. Marketers say as few as 4 in 10,000 people who see their ads on social networking sites click on them, compared with 20 in 10,000 across the Web.

The solution to this is new targeting mechanisms, to serve users more relevant messages.

Last fall, both rolled out programs allowing marketers to pitch products to people in hundreds of categories of interest, such as fashion and sports. News Corp. President Peter Chernin said on Feb. 4 that response rates on MySpace improved as much as 300%.

Could be a solution. But at the end of the day, this whole approach still tries to use old answers to new problems. How about taking an approach that looks beyond plain advertising? How about introducing branded widgets, services, or exclusive whatevers to these platforms, so that brands can provide an added value to the interaction between users?

I am thinking of such things as the Red Bull Rosham Bull Challenge in facebook, which is a game that two users can play against each other. Or even just plain and simple things like the fact that you can sponsor digital gifts in facebook. There still is lots of potential for these kind of approaches.

Oh, and from a business model perspective: I don’t think social networks need advertising support. At least not to the extent that their business models are in danger if there is no proper ad solution in place.

Think about the German platform Xing.com. There you have a choice of paying a monthly premium for additional services – one of which is the fact that you don’t get to see any ads.

There could also be other models, like changing the business model slightly and starting e-commerce around certain product groups (i.e. certain information-based, digital products or even real products).

These problems are not really new. But what this whole discussion shows, is simply the fact that social networks have, all of a sudden, exposed the need for new marketing approaches much clearer than any of the previous developments on the web.

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4 types of communities

At the Church of the customer Blog, there is an approach of how to categorize communities, which I found quite interesting. The build a square, one axis being size, the other being devotion. Most communities can be aligned along these axes:

  • Little Devotion, little in size: Clique, like a small world. (Anyone who can invite me?)
  • Little in size, but high in devotion: Cult, like Maker’s Mark Ambassadors. (Never heard of them!)
  • Low in devotion but large in size: Network, like LinkedIn or Xing.
  • Large in size and high in devotion: Nation, like Netroots Nation. (Never heard of them either!)

So what does that tell us? Size and devotion are the two main things affecting any community. Question is, whether it is possible to increase both at the same time, or if it is better to focus on one at a time?

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