Friday, December 12, 2008

There you are then...Location Based Social Networking - Brightkite

This week I took some time to explore location based social networking and as Brightkite just got out of beta last week, I thought it would be a great place to start.

I had a nice chat with Brightkite's founder Brady Becker. Prior to launching the social network, Brady was the Senior Designer at Local Matters, a company that provides yellow pages and local publishers with media technology platforms to deploy and scale local directories and specialized portals. Brady’s insight into the local media opportunity and the explosion of social media inspired him to create Brightkite.

Launched in beta April 2008, Brightkite is a location-based social network that works on a variety of different platforms including the web, mobile web and several GPS devices. By “checking in”, users can reveal their location to their network of friends (at varying levels of granularity from country to city to actual address). Web 2.0 tools allow users to annotate places with notes and photos viewed across the network.




Here are some applicable scenarios for the service:
  • At a conference or other event that draws crowds with common interests, users can connect with one another in real life by “checking-in” to the location.
  • Discussions that are tied to an event or place can be shared centrally through a specific location feed (think Twitter) providing a real time record of discussion surrounding the event. In some cases the feeds are displayed on large screens.
  • Friends can coordinate meetings based on relative physical distances.
The service targets the 18-35 demographic and Brady is pleased with the uptake (sorry - no numbers) on users that are willing to reveal their location. Eventually, the auto-reveal function will become an option but Brady stressed the importance of privacy and control as a priority and feels that this may take some time to unfold.

Brightkite’s business model has two core components:
  • Location-based/behavior based advertising - allowing advertisers to reach audiences based on varying levels of granularity.
  • Place analysis and targeted marketing - provides investors and marketers with valuable research about locations (even intersections) and the people that frequent them

Brightkite received about $1 mil in angel funding in February 2008 and the company opened its doors to the public in early December 2008.

The service is available globally.

A couple of thoughts on challenges & opportunities:

There's been a lot of movement in the event space. It seems like a quite gold rush to get to the brilliant combination of time/place/profile advertising. We've seen some great presentations from companies like Zvents and Centerd as they move the needle on innovation across platforms.

Critical Mass is my biggest area of concern for Brightkite. The entire business model is based on delivering volumes of clustered people to advertisers or research hungry investors and marketers. The company will have to work hard to develop high impact event opportunities to gain visibility and drive users.

Privacy is being addressed by the company but when users reveal location to a network there is always risk. Without having studied the security measures behind the platform, it’s hard to tell whether the networks can or might be compromised. We've seen in other social networks that many users don't hold back on providing details. Address sharing takes public disclosure to a whole new level.

If the company can prove its worth by delivering some great case studies at a wide variety of events, the opportunity for acquisition by one of the larger networks would certainly exist.

I really like the research piece of the business. Again, seriously assuming that they reach critical mass (or get acquired by someone who provides this), they would be able to provide investors, marketers and business owners extremely valuable data about consumers as they move offline tied to behavior and time.

The business is thought provoking and I’m looking forward to seeing how it unfolds…

Monday, December 8, 2008

Dear Santa...Random Gadgets Wishlist



Further to my note this past Saturday (thanks for the chocolate BTW), following is the addendum to the list:




- One get out of Facebook free forever card





- A comments or suggestions box tied to home addresses or license plates that allows you to leave comments like “please move your sprinkler off the sidewalk”, “nice Christmas lights” or “nice driving…”







- An auto white paper function that allows me to type in a thesis and click “write paper” - based on past thoughts, random notes, charts and files on my hard drive and blackberry

- A spam sensor that acts as a taser when detected on my blog comments rendering spammers’ fingers paralyzed for 12 hours (If these are out of stock, a reverse look up on spam plug-in would do)

- An on/off switch that allows me to disappear completely online or stream me like I’m Vegas on good days (mobile access please)

- A UPC scanning device that manages ingredient inventory by weight in my fridge and pantry and streams up to my recipe database as promised in 1999 (for blackberry please) - OR a Mac fridge

- One-week pass that allows me to think up a start-up, build it, launch it and live it for one year (in compressed time) within 7 days so that I can see if it works out.

- A time machine – doesn’t have to be the most expensive, will settle for middle range but please, please make it come assembled.


- Unlimited device account from my carrier that gives me unlimited toys tied to one account that I can log into and use for different events/purposes ie. iPhone for fun, Blackberry Bold while working, Pearl Flip for cocktail dresses etc.

- One of those camera do-hickies that takes pictures of people and auto-references them to LinkedIn, Facebook and MySpace profiles. Just because it can...

- A one-year subscription to HELLO! Facebook that shows profiles and updates in big glossy format...I miss print





Stocking Stuffer suggestions:


- Heated driveway (solar powered of course)
- A water cooler in my car’s dashboard
- Peace on earth

Safe travels...

XO XO

S

Friday, December 5, 2008

When will you know who I am? The Business of Lifestreaming...

Controlling "Who We Are" through User Generated Content

Lifestreaming is becoming mainstream. According to eMarketer 42% of adults online in the US are “content creators”. By 2012, eMarketer projects that 50% of the online population will fall under the same category (I think that’s conservative). As a result, there’s a growing demand for consumer tools that help organize their public profiles.

In the same way that businesses find it critical to keep on top of user reviews and listing accuracy in online directories for their store locations and business profile details, individuals are starting to see the importance of keeping clean and accurate records on themselves.

Catering to this trend is the emergence and rapid growth of aggregator sites that crawl the web to collect all data on individuals and organize it in a rich directory style. While Googling people has always been a popular pastime, there’s a new breed of laser focused people engines popping up that are much deeper in scope than Google, LinkedIn or ZoomInfo.

As an example, 123people.com is a people search tool that acts like a universal search engine. The site gathers data and displays it using categories like web links, images, videos, news etc. The Austrian start-up launched in beta into the US early this year and appears to be seeing significant growth.

Other sites that provide similar services include Profilactic and Naymz but they don't seem to be as comprehensive as 123people.com because they are based on member registration and input rather than aggregated search. The downside to the aggregated search of course, is that the amount of incorrect or irrelevant data increases. This however, leads to consumer participation in correcting the data and even going as far as to hire reputation managers to enhance visible content like ReputationDefender.

With directories like this available to the public, it makes it much easier to see just how much content is generated and shared by each individual. With all the sharing going on, I wonder if this will lead to consumers expecting others to have a greater understanding of who they are. Celebrities are used to having the public know every detail about their lives, but this new breed of fame is starting to filter into the mainstream and transparency is leading to a new kind of perceived “status”.

Tying Lifestreams to CRM

While the thought of behavioral targeting can be a major turn-off to consumers, the volume of information that is volunteered on a daily basis through lifestreaming is staggering. As people start to invest more heavily in their public "status", it makes sense that they will expect some returns. I wonder if marketers will pick up on this desire to be understood publicly and develop their CRM systems (permission based of course) around this rich data.

To date, marketers have been limited to customer data that relates to past business activity and/or basic demographic information through direct marketing strategies. If you view the aggregation of lifestreams as the white pages of tomorrow, imagine the data that would be at the disposal of marketing companies.

I recently had two customer service experiences that were influenced by my past behavior or current profile. A telco waived a service fee because of my past business with them (although I had to hold for 10 minutes while they looked it up on what seemed to be their Commodore 64) and a courier bent over backwards to make good on a mishap when I introduced myself as an average consumer that happened to blog a lot. My point here is that businesses care about these details but they simply haven’t had the luxury of push access to the data.

Maybe it’s flighty in a space shippy, twighlight zoney kind of way, but imagine calling into a business that can read through (in the spirit of white pages) reverse look-up or any other type of login, an aggregated view of my opinions, likes, dislikes and probability to buy. Suddenly, a business with a smart data base could customize a pitch and price that is unique to my profile based on information that I have streamed up to “anyone willing to view it”. If analyzed correctly, a high influencer might be given an incentive to refer business or an apparent introvert might be offered an upgraded privacy product.

Move this to mobile and see highly contextual promotions appear (pushed or pulled) based on location and social data indexed from the consumer. One of my favourite early peeks at what this might look like is L'Oreal's experimentation in Paris with the iPhone application that acts as a customer service rep at the point of sale (more on this when I write up "my favourite things" for OneDegree.ca). Consumers still need to feed the engines and the truth is, they're ok with that. It may be a matter of time before they feel that they've fed enough though and that their contributions to the web ought to be aggregated and organized to represent who they really are.

I wonder how space shippy this concept really is? High level business executives have used Jungian based Myers Briggs and other profiling data to improve their negotiations and business development practices, why wouldn't the same principles apply at the consumer level?

From what I've seen, the technology has a long way to go before it truly captures its potential value. There are annoying caching issues and semantic hurdles that need to be addressed but I do believe that offering aggregated profile content and allowing users to control it is smart. Owning significant market share in profile content organization in the long term is brilliant...

Monday, December 1, 2008

Stream of Canadian Actors to Boost Online Video Ads...

Online advertisers that were once stifled by over-priced talent for video ads are now able to source a full pipe of affordable Canadian actors through an agreement that was announced today between Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA), the Association of Canadian Advertisers (ACA) and the Institute of Communications Agencies (ICA).

A two and a half year pilot project launched today to stimulate growth and employment opportunities within the Canadian market. The project highlights significantly-reduced talent rates for Video commercials that are originally made for TV/radio, that are later moved to the online channel as well as pure-play online video commercials.

Canadian consumers are world leaders in Online Video viewership. According to Comscore Video Metrix, 21 million viewers (87% of the total Online population age 15+) viewed a Video Online in August 2008. In contrast, only 78 percent of the U.S. Online population viewed a Video Online in this same month.

Despite Canadians’ voracious appetite for video consumption, the IAB Canada's annual Online advertising survey revealed that Video advertising made up only 1% of the total 2007 Online advertising revenue in Canada.

Between this and the iPhone entering Canada this year, we should be expecting some real growth here for 2009.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Local Media - Online Measurement & Tracking…Notes from ILM ‘08

Delving deeper into my notes from last week’s Kelsey conference, for this post I thought I’d focus on measurement and tracking. While there were a lot of presentations that touched on the subject, I found Kelsey's "State of Interactive Local Media 4Q 2008" covered the most ground on the topic.

Matt Booth gave an interesting presentation on SMB perceptions and influences when it comes to their media activity. It’s clear that although media measurement tools have never been more accessible, small business owners continue to rely on good old-fashioned gut measurements. 91% still track by asking customers how they were referred.


The problem with asking how customers were referred is the gaping hole in funnel activity that is missed through the one-word answers. Search may have started the process but IYP may have closed the deal. Likewise, a view through from a social network may have caused a search. Sadly, the SMBs are slow to adopt true measurement into their media activity and this is clouding the perception of media effectiveness.

The revelation on gut measurements deepened with another compelling point during the presentation where Booth discussed the impact that instant gratification has on the SMB’s perception of effectiveness. Booth pointed to the following chart that shows how the lag time in media going live and results captured directly impacts the perception of the channel’s effectiveness.

I believe that there’s a recency factor that comes into play here as well. When the SMBs who are not using any measurement tools are surveyed to rank effectiveness, they may recall their most recent successes and skew the numbers in their favour.

So, it’s no wonder that when you look at the SMB’s perception on which media is driving a return on investment, those with the longest (perceived) wait time for response are ranked poorly. This is yet another reason why small businesses are not as keen on display advertising as national brands. The latency effect is lost on them and the idea of a longer-term investment on media is irrelevant. I'm (pipe) dreaming that this will change with tools and education from the media publishers to help boost value in a world of stretched inventory...


Finally, Booth closed with a lecture on Solomon Asch’s findings on a conformity experiment conducted in the 1950’s. Basically, the study showed that in groups, individuals will conform with others’ decisions even when there is hard evidence to indicate flawed judgment.

Applying the Asch principle to the SMB, Booth showed that despite the fact that 31% of small business owners claim that actual media performance will dictate spend, in reality, the majority of them will be influenced through social outlets instead (57%).

Last year I blogged about the habits of small business owners and how they are actually consumers before they are business owners. In October I covered the SMB market and shared that according to Warrillow & Co., 52% of SMBs are active participants in social networking sites (although most of them do not use them as business platforms...yet). This reiterates the untapped potential of using social media as a marketing platform to reach attractive influencers in the SMB market.

In summary, SMBs are not tracking their media effectively and there’s a great opportunity for them to do so in a way that speaks to their clear need for instant gratification and their obvious habits that lean towards (social) interaction. I’m thinking communication based tracking that goes beyond a dashboard and actually lives with the SMB outside of a login environment.

Tracking has always been hot in online media at the national level. It’s time to wrap it up and serve it attractively to the local channel so that we can all get a clearer picture on what’s working. The fact is that they want to be measuring performance but they continue to roll the dice by relying on their gut to make media investments.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Interactive Local Media...TakeAways from the KelseyGroup ILM '08 Conference

I just returned from the Kelsey Group’s Interactive Local Media Conference (ILM) in Santa Clara. The event attracted over 450 local media professionals to a series of compelling discussions on the rapid changes occurring in the local media landscape.

Here are five broad take-aways from the 3-day event:

Tracking & Accountability

During the pre-conference sales workshop sessions, a reoccurring theme was the value of analytics and that it has the power to transform a media sales rep into a media consultant that brings deeper value to the small business.

Accountability has become critical in the local space. Solutions providers like Geoffrey Infield from CallSource, were quick to point out that call tracking has come from a nice to have to a must have when competing for budgets from SMBs.

To further support this point, according to the Kelsey Group report, 31% of SMBs site media performance as the key way to make decisions on media purchases. When it comes to print, an alarming 17% of SMBs had no idea if they were getting any value from print Yellow Pages.

Call tracking came up a number of times throughout the presentations as it really holds the key to measuring hard to track media. It was also made clear that calls were at the heart of the small business owners’ expectations when it comes to measuring any media’s success.

In discussing the economic situation and the media budgets that would most likely be cut in 2009, Russ Fradin, CEO of Adify said that Mobile and Social Media budgets would probably take the biggest hit because they are difficult to measure.

Bumbling Bundles

Historically, publishers who started with traditional media properties got into an early game of bundling their products to capture market share and provide their customers with added value. This product bundling has led to serious issues in correcting the valuations of stand alone products for these publishers especially while pure play internet products have launched and been sold at prices that were based on more aggressive revenue generating business plans.

Olivier Vincent, CEO of CanPages voiced his discomfort with bundling strategies as he felt that wherever there is bundling, there is a perceived and actual devaluation of all products involved. This view was supported during the Ad Network panel on day three where it was suggested that there has not been enough effort placed in selling through individual products’ value propositions. Instead, there’s been a rush to bundle for the sake of bundling that ultimately, appears to have hurt the industry.

Ubiquitous Solutions

It seemed there were a lot of slides that started with “360˚...”. I thought one of the most riveting presentations on this subject was from Mike Liebhold, Senior Researcher at the Institute for the Future. Liebhold described new modes of interaction that consumers will have with local data based on the capabilities that will be made available through handheld devices.

His view was that maps would be replaced with much richer experiences that might be tied into the real-time location and user profile of the consumer. Liebhold had the crowd visualize a world that had media wrappers around physical objects and stories attached to merchandise bringing a whole new type of experience. Users would be able to by-pass manufacturer’s messages and skip straight to the messages that are relevant to the individual (ingredients that are unacceptable, unethical production, community user reviews etc.) instantaneously.

GeoRSS was the hot buzzword throughout the conference. It seemed that Geo-tagging content or at least planning to do so, was an urgent marching order given to the audience.

Taking the 360˚ concept to the physical level was the digital Out of Home panel that showed how consumers could be reached throughout the day as they are going about their daily rituals. SeeSaw, Danoo and Ripple gave some great presentations on this growing medium and its power to create ubiquitous messaging. SeeSaw’s term for the media is “Life Pattern Marketing” which refreshingly fills a gap that online media misses. As most attendees were somehow connected to the online media environment it was nice to see a panel that reminded us all about life outside the web or iPhone. It was also clear that there is no shortage for rich digital local media opportunities on the horizon.

Click “9” to Convert…

It says “Phone Calls are the next PageViews” on Voodoovox’s site and after hearing Greg Wester, Vice President of Product Strategy talk about in-call media, I’m warming up to the thought.

Voodoovox has developed a network of publishers that distribute audio messages on their hold buttons or IVR channels. The company serves relevant ads across the network and is able to monitor and report on all activity.

The local application for this type of media is enormous. With radio stations being among the largest client category, the company is laying a footprint that will undoubtedly appeal to advertisers at the local level.

I truly felt that this presentation represented a type of breakthrough this landscape has been looking for. It has national appeal across virtually all industries and its an attractive way for publishers to generate new revenue.

Symbiotically speaking... users don’t want “sticky”

I’ve left one of my favourite Keynotes for last. Mark Canon, President of New Media, Yell UK gave an engaging talk on where the industry was going and offered some intelligent suggestions for adapting to the many shifts in consumer behavior.

Canon started by telling everyone to get used to paying the taxman. By taxman he meant search engines that have clearly developed jurisdiction over the audiences that once belonged to the individual properties. By taxes he meant whatever amount of time or money it takes to get to the top of the rankings, just do it.

For a few years now, I've been trying to erase the word "sticky" from the vocabulary of professionals that use the word to define successful media strategies. Canon did this in 30 seconds when he advised the audience to get used to the fact that ownership of the user is no longer a likely scenario and that the objective should be shifted to renting as an alternative.

As content has become atomized, the focus needs to shift to context. Understanding context and using it to intersect with as many users as often as possible is the new game. To participate in the game, publishers need to format their content for easy distribution to the properties that are now representing the "federations of content" like Google and Kosmix.

Canon drove home the point that we must all learn to become good “symbiots” and that we can’t own everything so we should take the best of what we’ve got to market and rent the rest.

Other topics of interest at ILM included:
  • Local Display Ads
  • Video and its Impact on Local Media
  • iPhone Applications
  • NBC's Local Approach
I’ll be writing up more details about these and other interesting topics from the event over the next few days.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Transcontinental's Local Play...Weblocal.ca

Weblocal.ca launched last week in Canada as a new local search engine competing at a national level. The site was launched by Transcontinental Media. Transcontinental is Canada’s largest printer, one of the country’s leading publishers of consumer magazines and second-largest community newspaper publisher. The company has a history of offering its clients integrated media solutions including direct marketing, a diverse digital media network and a door-to-door advertising material distribution network.

The Transcontinental initiative breathes some new life into the Canadian local media landscape as it mobilizes its 400 local sales people to focus on their new local search engine. Weblocal.ca is also leveraging their 125 strong community newspaper business as a marketing platform to reach small businesses across Canada as well as the 4.5 million unique visitors per month they reach through their consumer magazine network.

Naturally curious, I asked Andrei Uglar, Weblocal.ca’s General Manager some questions about the site and how he plans to cut through the tough Canadian market.

Following are some highlights from the discussion on how Weblocal.ca is attempting to differentiate itself (with my notes of course):
  • Andrei cited the feet on the street as the number one competitive advantage over similar sites in Canada. (cool)
  • The site has implemented social networking from launch where users are able to create “neighbours” in order to swap favourite listing information at the local level. (very cool)
  • Professional services are provided to advertisers when they subscribe to the directory. (standard and quite effective for a number of reasons)
  • A strong focus on SEO is where Andrei feels the site will captivate market share. Through a tagging strategy, they’re allowing advertisers to create better opportunities to be found. (standard but have seen it fail)
  • Wiki listings - allowing businesses to correct their information and add new data. (will need moderation)
  • Leveraging their offline media properties to promote the site amongst consumers. This includes a broad range of magazines as well as their regional and local newspapers. (very cool)
  • Reviews will come from three sources - users, crawled aggregation and relevant editorial (where available) added to the business profiles. (quite cool)
  • Easy Pricing - $199 subscription fee + $89 per month period. (solid)
I think one of the strongest advantages next to its sales force and cross-promotional opportunities will be funding. Transcontinental reported $2.3 billion in revenue last year and digital is high on the agenda.

A couple of rough patches to watch out for in their first year:
  • Their tagging strategy and how it will impact the user experience. I blogged about this issue last year and I still believe it can kill a site.
  • The wiki-dependence to correct, enhance and add new listings. This will need some serious moderating.
  • Launching with rich fields but flat data...The silence in non-populated listings is deafening and users are fickle. Sometimes it makes sense to hold some of the cards back so that population strategies can be implemented.
  • Rate of adoption as yet another social network-type site.

Listening to their roll out strategy, I think they've got a fair shot at the market. Their plans for procurement seem solid and I do believe they'll settle into the space one way or another.

Andrei and his team are in for a wild ride - as the saying goes..."the more the merrier".

Side Note

One reoccurring theme in the local space in Canada is that no one (aside from YPG) seems to have the whole country nailed down. It seems that there's always a focus on Quebec and Ontario but very little coverage across the other provinces. There's a great opportunity to connect the dots in this country but it seems to be taking a while...

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Nintendo's Brainy Media Strategies...

Last week at the CMA Digital Conference Ron Bertram, Vice President, General Manager of Nintendo Canada gave a keynote presentation on how Nintendo completely changed their marketing strategy to create an incredible lift in brand awareness and market share in the highly competitive video game landscape.

Bertram explained that Nintendo had historically targeted males 12-25 but that things changed in 2006 when Nintendo’s CEO, Satoru Iwata decided on a loftier goal to market to ages 5-95. To accomplish this, the company released “Brain Age”, a game designed to keep the brain sharp through mental exercises. Once launched, Nintendo quickly realized that the best way to penetrate the 5-95 market was to market to women as they tend to control entertainment and family activity choices within the household.

Henderson Bas was charged with building a web site for Nintendo targeting women and focusing on video games. “Get up and Play” was designed to showcase health benefits and other positive aspects of the system and the look and feel was created to match familiarity to other trusted parenting sites frequented by the audience. The project was originally developed as a three month test.

The results have been fantastic. Bertram said that although the site does not get a lot of media budget to drive traffic, since its launch, Nintendo has increased its database by 85% and it has doubled its female database.

Bertram closed his presentation by stating that a longer term commitment was necessary when targeting new demographics. "A 3-month test was simply not enough to gain real insight into results and had we shut down the test at the 3 month mark, we would have missed out on the great success the project was bound to bring us".

The great take-away from the presentation was that the online channel really is the most cost effective way to reach new and unfamiliar audiences. It affords marketers quick learning, flexibility and laser targeting. For Nintendo the channel has proven extremely successful in their extreme demographic gear shifting initiatives.

Defying the Death of Television…

Today at Marketing Week’s Excellence Day in Toronto, Lauren Richards, CEO of Starcom MediaVest added to Nintendo’s marketing buzz by presenting a great cross media case study. The study clearly demonstrated that Media Directors today are charged with innovating the media landscape itself and that traditional media channels are ready to play ball.

Richards talked about a partnership that had been developed in 2007 with CanWest Media. CanWest was in the early stages of producing the Canadian version of “Are you Smarter than a 5th Grader”, a game show that had shown great success in the US. Fortunate timing and proactive probing on the agency's part, allowed Starcom to negotiate a significant stake in the production of the show as a result, created a synergistic campaign for Nintendo’s Big Brain Academy product.

The media deal included serious product placement:
  • Big Brain Academy was presenting sponsor to the show
  • Wii Consoles were installed in the green rooms for the kids to “warm-up” by playing Brain Academy (with significant air time)
  • Prize Purse was labeled “Brain Age”
  • Contestants had Wii avatars (Miis) created for their name displays
  • The look and feel of the show integrated the Wii interface and experience to deliver seamless content
The show aired on Global TV and following were the results:
  • 4x return on investment
  • 66% lift in brand awareness
  • 35% sales lift
Nintendo is clearly having some fun in this fragmented landscape. With sharp partners at their side, they have been able to cease two opportunities that big brands are striving for in today's attention-strapped media world:
  1. Solid online strategy & consistent targeting.
  2. Deep integration that defies the myth that traditional media is dead.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Re-Thinking the Ban on Social Networking at Work...

About a year ago I blogged about the rising ban of social networking within the workforce. In April a PM Online report showed that two-thirds of people in the UK believe social networking websites such as Facebook and MySpace should be banned in the workplace and varying estimates of actual work place bans range anywhere between 70-80% today.
So naturally I was interested in an article from Techworld this morning in which Tom Jowitt writes about a new research study that strongly suggests that companies re-consider the ban on social networking in the workplace.

According to the new report by UK think tank Demos, which was commissioned by the mobile operator Orange, websites such as Facebook, MySpace and even Skype within the enterprise may have benefits that outweigh the security risks and time consumption that have been feared.

The study found that collaborative tools have become essential in the workplace as they allow employees to stay in touch and in some cases in developing working relationships.

"People find these technologies useful to stay in touch," said Bradwell. "The lines between social and working relationships are blurring, and so the companies that are banning them, are missing a trick. Trying to ban these tools is like trying to ban gossip."

The author of the study, Peter Bradwell makes a great point about how social networks are an extremely valuable tool to stay in touch with past workers and alumni, relationships that are often undermined as these people "don't disappear" and can often be "tapped for organizational perspective and knowledge".

The report cites that around 65% of UK households had access to the internet in 2008, an increase of 1.2 million households (8 per cent) since 2007. Digital inclusion strategies have become focused more broadly on how technology can help tackle complex social problems, rather than simply on spreading access to the internet.

The report delves deeply into the value of relationships that can be developed through these tools and gives compelling support that shows how the time spent "socializing" may be well worth the connections and intellectual property gained.

Here is a great summary by Jowitt on the
recommendations that Bradwell makes to integrate social networking within enterprise and reap its advantages:
  1. Do not separate 'social' networking from 'professional' networking. Attempts to control employees' use of social networking software in the office may end up damaging the organisation in the long run by depleting its 'network capital'.
  2. There should be value placed on networks with people outside the firm. Too often, it is only senior staff who are encouraged to build relationships with people outside the organisation. The power of horizontal networks across organisational boundaries is clear, and growing.
  3. Keep in touch with employees that have left the organisation. The temptation during a difficult economic climate is to hunker down; but this risks cutting off flows of network capital. Companies should consider how to keep former employees in the network.
  4. Do not police networks but consider how they operate and what could be improved. This should be a first step towards collective conversations about the 'rules of the game' when it comes to operating within networks.
Just as the advertising side of social networking is stunted by companies' fear of "letting go", it may take a while for organizations to open their minds to employees networking in all directions. Struggling for control in an open source world is becoming somewhat of a freakish denial of progression.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Phone that Owns the Media...Blyk

Today at the Canadian Marketing Association’s Digital Conference, there was quite a bit of buzz around the emerging Finnish mobile phone/media hybrid company called Blyk.

Two presentations touched on some interesting case studies from the company. Stacey Grant-Thompson, Vice-President, Strategic Projects, Rogers Wireless and Janet Kestin, Co-Chief Creative Officer, Ogilvy and Mather gave marketers some compelling reasons to look twice at this emerging mobile platform.

What is it?

It’s a free mobile operator for young people, funded by advertising.

Brands pay Blyk to help them reach their fans while its members get interesting messages, cool stuff, free texts and voice minutes. Blyk users can top up their accounts once the free usage runs out with top up fees.

Users receive 6 sms/mms per day in exchange for 217 txts and 43 minutes of voice calls each month.

Growth

The company was founded in 2006 by former president of Nokia phones Pekka Ala-Pietilä and award winning film producer Antti Öhrling. Blyk entered the UK in mid-2007 and by April 2008 had already reached over 100,000 members. The company plans to go pan-European in 2009 potentially reaching 40 million young consumers.

Advertising Effectiveness

From a targeting standpoint, the model is fantastic. New members go through quite a lengthy registration process that includes a detailed questionnaire. The objective is to create highly relevant matches with potential advertisers. The transparency of the interaction is what drives the users to share a lot of personal data that even social networks are starting to lose grip on.

Stacey’s presentation showed some interesting McKinsey research that indicated a 26% lift in mobile advertising acceptance among consumers if there was a reward attached to it. For cash-strapped 16-24 year olds, it’s known that a phone registers highly in the reward category.

Big national brands like Boots, Penguin Publishing and L’Oreal that have experimented with the platform have seen tremendous results with average click through rates of 29% (ranges between 12 and 43%). Not bad, since the mobile advertising average CTR hovers around 3-6%.

Redefining Mobile Marketing

Janet from Ogilvy and Mather talked about a case study that involved a community of kids that were seriously under-performing in high school. The under-achievers were given free Blyk phones to motivate academic achievement.

1 million students received phones and were given points for attendance, grade improvements and homework. The school saw marked improvement and this pilot project is now being expanded to other communities in similar situations.

When the participating students were asked if the media proposition was a fair exchange, 71% said they were “cool” with it as long as it was relevant to their lives.

Blyk is a great example of a phone company that is thinking like a media company. Check this link to some great campaigns that have already been executed on the platform. Some of them clearly demonstrate how this new platform could turn mobile marketing on its head.

Add coupons and GPS triangulation and a whole new local media channel targeting 16-24 emerges...

Friday, October 24, 2008

Ratings & Reviews in Practice...From a B2B Perspective

During the Ratings & Reviews session at Warrillow earlier this week, there was an insightful presentation given to show how relevant reviews have become to reaching the SMB market. There were also a few best practices shared on harnessing this growing communications channel that is clearly playing a major role in the purchase decision making process.


Contrary to the common belief that reviews are neatly stored in a few places, it was clear that the distribution of ratings and reviews was scattered throughout the web. Adding to the difficulty in pinpointing review sources, is the high percentage of ratings and reviews embedded within blogs and discussion boards.
Following were some best practices shared at the session:
  • Enable ratings on your corporate website
  • Have reviewers identify themselves - establish trust and resonance with the readers
  • Allow business owners to share their reviews - email, post, bookmark tools etc.
  • Monitor your ratings & reviews and use the feedback - great for innovation and customer service improvements
  • Send Press kits to 3rd party sites to spur ratings - solicit reviews
  • Sponsor links or banner ads on rating websites and blogs
All of these points were well supported. My two favourites were the "identity" factor and the promotional strategies behind reviews.

The idea of letting reviewers identify themselves was a hot topic. Small business owners feel more comfortable about reviews when they see the source. The combination of identifying the author and establishing instant commonality with the person reading the review can be quite powerful.


Some sites have gone to great lengths creating networks of reviewers. I wonder if all this is necessary to gain the same effect as just allowing people to quickly state their industry or other contextual point that would connect with other readers. Here's a TurboTax review as an example of the simplified approach:


From a promotional stand point, it makes a lot of sense to highlight positive reviews and drive audiences to them. There was an interesting case study shared from Office Depot. Since implementing a strategy around driving SEM campaigns to individual review pages, they’ve seen results:





  • Clickthrough rates increased by 78.5%
  • Conversion rates increased by 23.8%
  • Revenue up by 198%
  • New Buyers up 183%
The topic of reviews has been alive for a few years but the true adoption and advancement of its influence over buying decisions is still in its infancy. Warrillow pegged its monetary life stage below. Infancy indeed, we're talking sleep deprivation young here...

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Marketing to SMBs - An Integrated Media Case Study from UPS

UPS was highlighted at the Warrillow Summit this week in Toronto as having developed and executed a highly effective integrated media campaign that targets small business owners.

One of the key learnings this week was that advertisers looking to reach the SMB market need to speak the same language as the small business owners and clearly demonstrate how they provide a valid business solution.

Jeff Berry, Vice President of Membership at Warrillow explained that taking the not-so-sexy shipping category and explaining why company x’s complex infrastructure gets the job done better than its competition is not an easy task (even if its truly a differentiation). So, in 2007 UPS created a simplistic campaign using a couple of markers and a whiteboard to deliver their message.



The "Whiteboard campaign" consisted of 30-second TV spots, print media and an online campaign driving traffic to a highly interactive site that allowed audiences to explore UPS solutions offerings specifically geared to small businesses.


The 30-second spots were leveraged online through YouTube providing tremendous boost to the campaigns’ reach through both the original whiteboard ad and the viral effect from UGC spin offs like “Sex Money” and “Getting Rid of the Body”.

Following were the results from the integrated media campaign:
  • 1.3 million visits to http://www.ups.com/whiteboard
  • 4,100 open account page visits
  • 26 million online ad interactions
  • International Shipping Revenue increase of 10.3%
  • Leader in unaided ad awareness at the end of Q2007
    - UPS 63%, FedEx 43.9%, DHL 13.6%, USPS 7.6%
Key Lessons Learned:
  • Communicate complex product offerings with simplicity
  • Interactions must be engaging, educational, inspirational and entertaining
  • Track post-click effectiveness to deliver better results
Notes:

I think the consistency of the message was one of the ingredients to the success of the campaign. UPS took a strategy and maintained the tone throughout the entire campaign. From the concept of a white board to the animated look and feel of the site, the message was consistent and provided continuity. Continuity builds trust as customers feel that they know what to expect if they continue with the interaction.

The YouTube spoof factor worked in the favor of the company as most of the parodies continued to talk positively about UPS as a company (albeit through awkward case studies). This was a great example of "letting go" and allowing consumers to run with a core message. In my brief scan of the site, I counted roughly 30 versions/spin offs of the original ad - not bad for a re-purposed 30-second spot!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Targeting the SMBs...Warrillow Summit Toronto

Warrillow kicked off its two-day Summit in Toronto this morning. This year’s event was focused specifically on the online channel and attracted over 140 marketers that target the small business sector. The Warrillow conference is unique as it truly gets into the SMB trenches. There were at least 20 SMB speakers at the show and each one participated enthusiastically by sharing candid perspectives to a crowd of advertisers that were eager to listen.

Troy Dye’s opening presentation gave some valuable insight into the online behavior of the SMBs in Canada.

Some highlights from the presentation included the following sound bites:
  • 52% of Canadian SMBs belong to Social Networks (although most of them do not use them for business)
  • SMBs voiced a 20% increase in trust for Web 2.0 utilities including discussion forums, blogs, social networks and reviews & ratings.
  • 66% spend more than 1 hour online per day
  • At the core, the SMBs bring their offline behaviors to the online channel in that they remain:
  1. Extremely time sensitive
  2. Respond to recognition
  3. Identify with their industry
  4. Tend to be Jack of all trades
Dye explained that through applying a point system matrix, SMBs could be segmented into these three distinct online behavioral categories:

Early Adopters –Internet is seen as core to their business model (15%)
Fast Followers – Internet is seen as a business tool (63%)
Offline Owners – Internet is seen as Ancillary (22%)

The details behind the presentation touched on the consumption of Web 2.0 media across the segments and delved deeply into the demographics of the business owners.

There were three break-out panels following the research presentation that covered the online habits of Generation Y, Generation X and Seniorpreneur business owners. I managed to sneak into all three and got some interesting perspectives from each group. I’ll cover the highlights over the next few days as there was really quite a bit of detail discussed.

The afternoon sessions covered emerging trends in social networking, reviews and ratings as well as traditional media. I thought the traditional media presentation was particularly interesting as it discussed the reality of today’s SMB media consumption and the importance of creating integrated media programs to reach them.

Here are three great take away points:
  • 77% of SMBs are online less than 1-3hrs per day
  • 66% of SMBs read their city’s newspaper
  • 76% listen to the radio on a regular basis
Rick Spence, SMB columnist for the Financial Post shared some interesting details on behavioral traits of the SMBs and how to best communicate with them. Spence showed some alarming examples of media campaigns that were completely off target in their language, layout and general tone.

The ratings and reviews discussion talked to the various methodologies that currently exist for qualifying reviewers and rewarding them for their contribution. The discussion centered largely on trust and the need for users to be able to identify with the reviews. There were some interesting points made on how to leverage positive reviews through marketing efforts. This session had a lot of details and I’ll share these over the next few days.

The sessions ended with a market leader panel. Pamela Bailey, Senior Interaction Designer at Intuit and Peter Watabane, Director, Marketing at Staples Canada shared some thoughts on how their respective companies were managing the changing demands of the SMB sector and how they were adapting their online presence accordingly.

Watanabe shared some great insight from a survey that was done through Staples. SMBs were asked to describe what they wanted Staples to be to them. They responded:
"Be a trusted advisor but not a partner. Be friendly but don’t be a friend."
Bailey talked to the time crunched nature of the audience and noted that each page needs to have a goal and a purpose assigned. She noted that page level metrics are getting more sophisticated and are starting to help determine which areas are working and which ones are not.

It was an insightful day. More tomorrow…

Thursday, October 16, 2008

MyAds on MySpace...In Review

I’ve just had a chance to review the recently launched beta version of the MyAds product on MySpace. While the tool is designed to appeal to the MySpace membership so that they can "promote their bands or art", I believe that the level of sophistication MySpace has built into the system will soon attract larger advertisers.

Following are some screen shots and comments on the ad building process:

My first thought was that the platform in no uncertain terms, speaks effectively with its audience. The interface is not cluttered with industry jargon and the steps are made quite clear.


Unlike other self-procured platforms, MySpace's works only with display ads. MyAds allows users to upload their own ads or pick from a library of templates. Although the art work feels a bit like clip art, the offering is a good start for consumers starting with nothing.


Advertisers can choose between 728x90 banners or 300x250 boxes. Customization of the templates feels a lot like working with Power Point. A toolbar provides basic formatting options. The font selection is quite slim. There are some file size restrictions making image uploads a bit of a challenge.

The minimum budget is set at $25.00 and the minimum bid rate is $0.25 per click. Because the product is fresh off the shelf, it does not provide any information on the current market prices. I’m assuming that this will be integrated at some point. For now, building a campaign and sending it into the MySpace network is a bit of a crap shoot in terms of how far a budget will stretch.


One of the most interesting features of the product is the targeting tool. There's a tremendous amount of valuable data that is disclosed through the ad building platform. As you drill down to the targeting segments, MyAds offers audience numbers at very specific levels. In the screen shot below, I drilled down to target users between 35-65 that play video games and I could drill further to reach specific video game platforms like Nintendo or Playstation. This type of profile targeting provides national advertisers with a unique approach to reaching their audiences and I'm sure the click rates will reflect this once it's out of beta.



Before launching the campaign, the advertisers can review their ad and the campaign details. Once all is confirmed, the user enters credit card information and the campaign goes live.

I'll be looking into the reporting features so stay tuned...

To illustrate the type of data available, here are some audience numbers on the MySpace network that I jotted down during the exercise:
  • 83,895,693 US Profiles
  • 37,653,707 male
  • 46,241,145 female
  • 8,375,619 are 35+
  • 16,170,294 are 14-18
  • 152,145 US Profiles list Yoga as an interest
It's important to note that these numbers are based on profiles and not on the active user base. It's also important to note that the duplication is also not accounted for in these numbers (one user with multiple identities).

Overall, I think the platform is extremely well executed. I think that it will offer the MySpace membership some oportunities to promote their bands but that the big picture is really targeted towards larger advertisers that will most likely sweep in and eat the inventory for lunch. It will be interesting to see the evolution of advertising and advertisers as the platform goes to full launch.

I'm curious to see how the users will react to larger brands replacing the more grassroots ones.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Cost per Engagement...

It appears the hottest new online media buzz term is “Cost Per Engagement”. Rich media network, VideoEgg has offered this up to the industry as a new pricing structure that is based not on impressions or click thrus but rather on the various types of interaction that can be achieved through rich ad units.

I LOVE the ad they used to launch it…



Today’s rich ad units include roll-overs, polls, games, video and flash demos. Each one of these points of interaction can be valuated and priced accordingly.

I’ll have to think long and hard about how this pricing differs from the more traditional models we’ve seen. At the end of the day it feels a bit like we’re collapsing the click and going straight to the advertiser’s content. After years of grumbling about poor ad executions being responsible for poor site performance, this may be a great way for publishers to place the onus of the ad’s success back on the advertiser side.

The advertisers will have to work out the varying levels of value attached to their levels of interactivity and as a result, we may see an increase of multi-layered rich media units offering a number of engagement opportunities.

I suspect that advertising agencies will have a lot of fun developing these strategies and advertisers will get a much deeper understanding of what kind of engagements lead to quicker acquisitions as they home in on metrics that cater more specifically to this model.

There's a great white paper on their site that digs deeply into the subject.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Managing a Fragmented Identity...ReputationDefender

Delving back into the vault of blogs past, I decided to get the latest on reputation management and see whether the demand for it has hit a plateau or grown since I last covered it in January.

I caught up with Paul Pennelli yesterday. Paul is the Senior Director of Marketing and Partnerships at Menlo, CA based Reputation Defender. The company launched in 2006 as a service targeted to individual consumers. The products allow consumers to first scour the net and then manage reputations according to what is found.

I asked Paul if there had been a shift in customer since launch and interestingly there had been. Paul explained that when the service originally launched, the majority of the customers (almost 80%) came to ReputationDefender with reputation problems. The customer base consisted of users from all walks of life needing to delete unwanted pictures and content to get a clean record online.

Today, the customer base has developed into a growing segment of adults 35+ that are looking to proactively manage their online reputations.

Not far off from the comment on my last post about SEO optimized resumes being the next step, it seems that generating and marketing this type of content is becoming a trend. Paul described one of the largest customer groups as “job seekers”. Whether just out of college or in between jobs, consumers are becoming much more aware of their digital footprint and are acting accordingly by spending a lot of time on their user profiles and making sure they are highly visible in the right networks.

Making things even more interesting (from the small business media perspective) is the emergence of individuals whose private lives are very closely linked to their professional careers. Paul cited lawyers and doctors as a fast growing customer group as they have a vested interest in proactively managing their reputations online.

With sophisticated vertical directories and professional community sites popping up catering specifically to these professionals, there’s no doubt that they will want to actively manage their presence.

I asked Paul about why there was a need to go deeper than a Google when managing reputations. After all, "Googling" is really what most people are worried about so why not just do a Google SEO clean up and be done with it? This led to an interesting discussion about the "Invisible Web". Paul explained that Google only scratches the surface of personal content that hovers around on the net. Social networks and other password protected communities are not crawled by Google and these are areas that ReputationDefender has been focusing on to provide customized services.

Consumers don't have to be part of a community to be "tagged" within a community:

ReputationDefender offers four core products:

MyChild – This service works to manage your teenager’s online reputation and privacy.

MyReputation – Monitor and manage your online reputation.

MyPrivacy - Removes your personal information quickly and easily from the largest people search databases on the Internet.

MyEdge – packages range from a basic starter with first steps to taking control of your online reputation to the most advanced package, that gives you detailed personal attention and complete spectrum of reputation design and promotion strategies.

After Paul described the MyEdge product as a personal PR manager, it wasn’t hard to understand why their business has been experiencing steady growth month over month (specially in the "job seeker" category.

Here are some additional data points that are most likely contributing to the growth of ReputationDefender:
  • 53% of American adults use search engines to find information about each other (Pew Internet & American Life)
  • 77% of executive recruiters use search engines to research applicants (CareerBuilder)
  • 43% of recruiters have eliminated candidates due to negative content found online (CareerBuilder)
  • 26% of college admissions officers use search engines to research candidates (University of Massachusetts Center for Market Research)
  • 26% of college admissions officers use search engines to research candidates (University of Massachusetts Center for Market Research)
  • 64% of teens say that most teens do things online that they wouldn't want their parents to know about. (anti-drug.com)
With strong growth in vertical directories and communities and the continued fragmentation of identities online, the demand for ReputationDefender types services could continue to climb.

The company has a lazer focused eye on their target and its growing needs, are engaged in highly targeted media campaigns and they appear to be ensconced in a nice (growing) niche.

In our next discussion I'm hoping to dive deeper into semantic search and the subjectivity of reputations. How does one report definitively on someones reputation? What kind of scoring is involved and how are the sources ranked to provide a realistic assessment on the quality of an individual's footprint?

BuyYourFriendaDrink.com & The Local Watering Holes

One of the popular early Facebook mini applications is BoozeMail. The application allows users to send friends virtual drinks (or even a round of drinks) on Facebook. Currently the application has 213,215 monthly active users sending each other mojitos, sangrias or any other drink from the menu. If only they were real...


The idea of sending people drinks online is one that has been fantasized about since the early days of online media. While we were busy toting around closed circuit Palm Pilots, we often daydreamed about the doors wireless mobility would unlock for PDAs “If only there was a way to send people stuff (like drinks) while they were on the go”... Sigh

One dream scenario was to be able to send a friend a drink at a location they are either at or close to. Through GPS technology, the dream has become more realistic than ever. The only missing link is the network of bars that would participate in delivering on the goods. Today, I thought it would be fun to dig a bit into what has been done in this area.

I talked to Barbara Liss, the VP of Marketing for BuyYourFriendaDrink.com. The company launched out of New Jersey and Texas but has virtual offices in Chicago, San Francisco and New York. BuyYourFriendaDrink lets consumers send drinks to each other online and is starting to pull together a decent sized network of bars that can fulfill sent drinks from across the country.

The company has a couple of business models. Among them are:

Consumer to Consumer – Literally, buy your friend a drink online, they redeem the drink at a participating bar. The site also lets you send rounds of drinks to friends that are at events you are unable to attend (provided of course that the bar is part of the network)

Beer, Wine and Spirit Companies – Branded drink cards are integrated with most bar & restaurant POS systems for fulfillment. The cards act as real accounts and can be used as loyalty programs (bonus birthday drink etc.). The cards also provides the beer, wine or spirit brand with interesting data about the user (location, frequency, tab sizes etc.).

Below is an example of Hornitos' Buy Your Amigo an Hornitos initiative using the BuyYorFriendaDrink backbone:


When I asked Barbara about the barriers to getting the network to where they want it to be, she explained that the barriers are really more about having the resources to reach out to the hundreds of thousands of establishments that could participate nationally (feet on the street - sound familiar?).

Once the bar owners are contacted, the sale is quite easy. The benefits to participation are quite simple:
  • Drive customers to the establishment through sent drinks as well as local promotional events during off hours (wine or drink tasting events)
  • Increase average tab sizes – (where there is a drink, there may also be food)
BuyYourFriendaDrink will be launching its own Facebook application within the next few weeks. The application will be similar to BoozeMail only now there will be actual drinks involved. I wonder if an acquisition was ever on the table here. I have to believe that an application with 213,215 active monthly users has some value when you're working this hard to cover the country.

I think that the company is doing some interesting work in the local landscape. Rallying hundreds of bar owners is not an easy task. It’s also a critical ingredient to the success of this or any other local promotional-type network.

We’re so close to the GPS enabled send a drink dream. Taking a good look at all the effort that goes into building national networks involving local businesses provides a sobering view of how long big concepts take to penetrate the local market.

The service is only available in the US but Liss is clearly interested in entering the Canadian market once the US network is nailed down. Until then, us Canadians will have to keep it real and actually go out for drinks…

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Le Blog Effect...Michelle Blanc at MIXX Montreal

Among the notable presentations this week was the one delivered on Monday by Michelle Blanc at IAB MIXX Montreal.

Michelle is the founder and President of Analyweb, a consultancy specializing in e-business management and marketing. According to Wikio.fr, her blog at michelleblanc.com, is one of the most influential French techno blogs in the world.

Michelle’s presentation showed how companies can build their businesses through blogging and demonstrated the impact blogging has made globally on the way businesses plan and manage their reputations online.

Here are some of the notes I translated from her French presentation:

Contexts in which corporations use blogs internally
  • Knowledge Sharing (63%)
  • Internal Communications (44%)
  • Project Management (30%)
  • Employee contact management (23%)
  • News on Events (23%)
  • Team Management (20%)
Benefits of an internally focused corporate blog
  • Improved Communications (77%)
  • Can replace existing administrative processes (41%)
  • Replaces Email (39%)
Contexts in which corporations use blogs externally
  • Blogs are used principally for PR and Marketing (61%)
  • For Communicating Mission Statements and Management Visions (61%)
  • More than 40% report having a CEO blog
  • 35% use blogs for regular communication with clients and business partners
  • The eMarketing chart below indicates that blogs are increasing in importance for consumers as they look for customer care information online


Benefits of an externally focused corporate blog
  • Improved brand awareness (78%)
  • External Communications (78%)
  • A vehicle to collect client feedback (66%)
  • Revenue Generation (20%)
  • Improved product or service visibility (58%)
A Pew Internet Study revealed that 16% of US adults (32 million) read blogs regularly. Making blogs even more influential, is the fact that journalists at highly profiled publications use blogs to gain valuable insight as well as « the scoop » from a broad perspective. According to research from Euro RSCG Magnet and Columbia University, half of American journalists read blogs on a regular basis and 26% of those read them daily.

Michelle presented an interesting slide from HouBlog.net that showed the Head of the Tail of Francophone media consumption. The point Michelle was making was that four blogs appear in the head. This appearance indicates the penetration blogs have made into everyday media consumption.


How to Build a Successful Blog
  • Be transparent
  • Maintain an appropriate and consistent tone whether it is informal or formal etc.
  • My favourite point was that good blogs show passion and readers sense passion because it's impossible to fake it
Tracking & Monitoring
  • The brand(s)
  • The company
  • Company Management
  • Future Employees
There was some fantastic data shared on how to measure ROI for the implementation and management of a blog. The formulas were based on number of unique viewers vs. dollars spent to advertise in a channel to attract those same viewers, investments in SEM/SEO, PR, focus groups etc. It really addressed some of the barriers to blog adoption that I've heard in the past.

Finally, Michelle mentioned the power of blogging as a tool for reviews and reporting poor customer service. Savvy bloggers with content rich articles and dense keyword usage can create unfavourable exposure to corporations within the search engines. Here’s a daunting article on the subject. I loved the shot she used for this...


The content of her presentation matched the sentiments of some of the largest brand marketers in North America. I’ve heard many speeches about how these brands have quickly learned to embrace bloggers as a powerful social media channel. I’ve also heard many examples of backlashes for underestimating their influence.

The presentation was very rich in content and I had an opportunity to speak with Michelle after she spoke. I'll share some of the content of that discussion on future posts.