What if one of the futures coming after our miracle of the Internet and the madness of our economics is a model of living and investing we last saw about a hundred years ago?
Google’s recent announcement that search spend growth rates are slowing represents that search marketing as we all know (and love) it is changing. Advertisers still use search engines to market much the same way they did five years ago. But as consumer behavior expands to include searching through apps or communities or via non-PC devices, marketers will need to think about search marketing as more than just SEM and SEO. At Forrester, we expect search marketing to evolve into an umbrella term which means using any targeted media to help an advertiser get found. What changes are afoot to provoke such a redefinition of search marketing?
Marketers need to stop blasting messages to consumers and, instead, listen to them. So says Diane Hessan, president and CEO of Communispace, a 10-year-old company in Watertown, Mass., that creates online communities for marketers such as Kraft, Best Buy, Verizon and Mattel. These companies pay Communispace up to $25,000 a month to help them create and communicate with customers online for market research and feedback. Communispace pulled in $37 million in revenue in 2009, up 17% from the year before, according to the Honomichl Top 50 Report of U.S. Marketing Research Firms. Forbes' Ken Brunospoke with Hessan about online customer engagement and how it has changed over the past decade.
Walk into a Barnes and Noble you can find dozen of books on innovation. There are books from teaching the ‘how to” to creative thinking”. Not many good ones simply because the subject is a moving target with rules being broken and created everyday, existing tools are getting obsolete, and best practices are often worst practices. Much that is held as common wisdom regarding how purposeful or successful innovation happened is wrong. This is not to say that all organizations are not innovative; obviously many are not thanks to our management systems and education.
Welcome to...the Roaring Teens? More than a few investors I've spoken to recently think that because consumption appears to be skyrocketing upwards again, all's well that end's well. And on the basis of that conclusion, they're ready to pump capital back into the same old industrial era assets and businesses. Would that it were so. A slightly deeper logic suggests a very different conclusion.
Some of the most exciting new ideas in organizations are based on harnessing the collective intelligence of crowds and communities. Think of user-generated content platforms, open source software, crowdsourcing, and knowledge markets — just a few examples of ways that large numbers of loosely networked users are invited to create or evaluate products, content or ideas. This is the “social web,” the interlinked virtual universe that to so many executives seems to offer the irresistible promise of providing something — ideas, work, decisions — for (almost) nothing, if only they could manage it right.
Spring break, the alcohol-soaked annual rite of passage, can sometimes be a nightmare for the towns that host it. Just ask Fort Lauderdale or Daytona Beach, two Florida cities once synonymous with the event that have all but put out the "un-welcome" sign to college students looking to party. Then there's the flip side -- spring break is a $40 billion business, according to a Harris Interactive study, and many communities are willing to trade a couple of weeks of mayhem for their share of that pie. Panama City Beach, Fla., is one of them them.
Why go to the trouble of creating networks of passionate consumers? Well, partly because your consumer will insist you do. Engaging directly with them is the new normal. The ubiquity of social-networking tools has created an expectation of accessibility not just from friends and colleagues but from companies too. We're now in a culture that celebrates and enables constant contact and responsiveness from everyone, like it or not. But the real reason to go beyond conventional broadcast media, and even beyond constant engagement to the Holy Grail of community, is to create commitment in an environment that predisposes people to capriciousness.
There is an almost overwhelming number of options on the social web for businesses to create and participate in communities. You hear a lot about Facebook Fan Pages, Twitter (Twitter) communities, and even LinkedIn Groups; but businesses have another option when looking to build a community online that’s often overlooked despite having nearly 40 million users: Ning. Ning allows businesses to create their own off-site social network for their brand’s community, and participate in existing conversations with the communities they are looking to engage. Here are 6 ways businesses can put Ning to work.
Involving community and customers in providing feedback about your products isn’t the only way to innovate your company. In the future, especially around public facing jobs at companies, we should expect brands to involve the community in defining what those roles should be.
Social media is starting to take hold with brands, companies and organizations everywhere. While there are still stragglers, and it is probably incorrect to say most companies are getting with the program, a good number of them are. What we’re seeing in these organizations is a maturation process. Brands are done testing the waters, playing with the tools and saying, “We Gotta Facebook Page!” like it’s the corporate equivalent of an iPhone or Kindle. Companies are now approaching social media with communications strategies in mind — How can we effectively use these social tools to reach our audiences?
A barn raising is a community effort. It’s something that’s done to aid a family - often more than one - with one of the most labor-intensive and expensive parts of getting settled domestically. It’s something that’s built collectively, because it’s an impossible task for just one person (or even a handful of people) to complete. It literally takes a village. And without barns and the group effort to build and tend to them, the community itself will suffer. Communities - online and off - are ecosystems of their own, too. They’re not built.
Bill Gates once derided open source advocates with the worst epithet a capitalist can muster. These folks, he said, were a "new modern-day sort of communists," a malevolent force bent on destroying the monopolistic incentive that helps support the American dream. Gates was wrong: Open source zealots are more likely to be libertarians than commie pinkos. Yet there is some truth to his allegation. The frantic global rush to connect everyone to everyone, all the time, is quietly giving rise to a revised version of socialism.
In the eyes of imaginative and opportunistic advertisers and marketers, bloggers and online influencers are the new celebrities and athletes. Brands are showering them with endorsement deals rich with products, cash, trips, exclusive access to information, and VIP treatment each and every day, creating a new genre of star spokespersons.
As the Far East seems to move closer and closer to the west, and its two billion people open their wallets to brands, it might be valuable to seek some inspiration from oriental culture. At least, from one part of the Far East, which is as culturally diverse as Europe’s thirty-plus countries are, and as varied as the cultures of North America’s states. For western brands that are about to hit any part of Asia, you need a culturally aware Asian brand strategy to avoid a negative response to the culture shock you and your brand might experience. Even if you have no plans to enter Asian markets, there’s lots to learn from comparing culturally derived attitudes which all have lessons for brands and business.
As Edelman's crystal-ball guy, I can't go to a meeting without being asked what will succeed Twitter or Facebook as the future king of community. It's unfortunate, but it's just how history has conditioned us to think. Communities come and go. Hubs seem to lose their innovation edge just as consumers grow more fickle, new venues emerge and viable monetization options remain scarce. If history repeats itself, Facebook and Twitter will one day be replaced by something else. This time, however, it will be the open web.
Why is it that so many companies are still struggling to create vibrant online communities? For every Threadless or Ideastorm, there are literally thousands of failed attempts at community-creation. What are so many companies missing?
If you think about the tribes you belong to, most of them are side effects of experiences you had doing something slightly unrelated. We have friends from that summer we worked together on the fishing boat, or a network of people from college or sunday school. There's also that circle of people we connected with on a killer project at work a few years go. These tribes of people are arguably a more valuable creation than the fish that were caught or the physics that were learned, right?