How should Brand Managers approach the Social Graphs of Facebook Connect and OpenID?

December 7, 2008

Over the past week, it would be hard not to notice the debate around social graphs and in particular, Facebook Connect versus OpenID.  The folks over at ReadWriteWeb summed it up best when they wrote:

This battle isn’t about “single sign-on” – it’s about the payload that comes with it (friend networks, personal data, maybe more), it’s about the developer communities, usability and ownership. It’s very important to the future of our user experience online and it’s a fascinating study in contrasts.

The importance was further embedded in my mind after I finished a stellar presentation from the folks at Razorfish where they envision the potential for social graphs for brands.  As they put it:

We believe that portable social graphs coming from Facebook, MySpace, Google, Yahoo and Microsoft are going to transform how consumers interact with digital technology and each other. Marketers and web product managers must take notice today.

So what does this mean for Brand Managers?

In my eyes, Social Graphs have the potential to be one of the biggest influences on our Digital Strategies for years to come.

But don’t just take my word for it.  Consider what Forrester’s Jeremiah Owyang outlined as key takeaways from the Razorfish presentation.

  • The social graph, when linked with traditional websites will radically change how we find, research, purchase, and support products.
  • Reviews, ratings, and critiques about products will become more relevant as you can start to get information from your own network.
  • Soon, social technologies will be pervasive and will impact every website –even if they choose not to participate
  • Brands, and their interactive marketing agencies, are starting to include social elements in all aspects of their marketing efforts.

Consider these opportunities for brands that Razorfish outlined:

  • Key influencer identification:  Brands make a lot of guesses today to determine influencers.  But imagine the potential if you could easily see the number of Twitter followers a person has, the number of Facebook groups they belong to and the number of posts they do on their blog.
  • Product suggestions through profile scraping:  Amazon gets a lot of praise for their product recommendations.  But consider how much more powerful these reco’s would be if they could also use all the information listed in your online profiles.
  • See reviews from people you know:  Pretty self explanatory.  I’d much rather see reviews from my circle of friends & co-workers than wade through hundreds of reviews from strangers.
  • Consult your friends at the point of purchase:  If your Social Graph is connected to an eCommerce engine, you could instantly ask your friends for advice on a purchase without leaving the buying process.

Obviously the potential of Social Graphs should not be debated.  Instead, the debate should be on which format offers the biggest opportunity for Brand Managers.  Should we side with one format?  Or should we offer consumers both sign-ins as part of our digital brand experiences?  Or should we sit on the sidelines and see what consumers decide?  Or should we use our influence as brands (and holders of marketing budgets) to force the companies to work together to create a common Social Graph for the entire web?

What do you think?

NOTE: For another interesting take on social graphs, you should read the thoughts of Louis Gray of Google Friend Connect.

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A Brand Manager’s Take on MySpace Music

September 25, 2008

If you haven’t heard by now, the much-anticipated MySpace Music is officially live after getting EMI to come onboard as the final major label on the site.  Though they still don’t have a CEO in place, they do have a rumored $2 billion valuation and some serious buzz at launch.  All the usual tech bloggers like ReadWriteWeb and Techcrunch have great summaries of the site so I won’t go into a rundown here.  Instead, I want to provide the perspective of a Brand Manager looking at this as a way to digitally connect with consumers.

First a little background since I have a pretty long history with MySpace.

  • For starters, when I was working as an Assistant Brand Manager on Secret, we did one of the first-ever CPG campaigns on the site, which included co-branded music page with a then unknown artist named Rihanna.
  • Second, I have some very good friends who work at MySpace, thanks in part to the above campaign
  • Finally, I actually met my girlfriend on MySpace, a surprising fact that has been pretty useful in games of “two truths and a lie.”

So what all this means is that I have a soft spot for MySpace and I’m usually pulling for them with new initiatives.  Thankfully on this latest program, they gave me plenty of ammunition to cheer about.

Here are my thoughts:

MySpace’s key to success will be capitalizing on their brand equity of “discovery”:  When I hear about a new band, MySpace is always the first place I go.  No matter if the band is signed to a major or a complete undiscovered, I know there is a 99% chance they have a MySpace where I will be able to hear a few of their songs.  Theoretically I could do the same with iTunes but it has always been hit or miss if they have new bands.  In the short-term, MySpace won’t be able to win by just promoting big, new releases.  Instead, they neeed to focus on their equity of discovery and promote the up and coming bands like crazy.

MySpace Music won’t win over marketers if it is just another “banner ad” media buy: There has been a lot of debate about the CPM’s MySpace will need to charge in order to make this ad-supported format work.  At the heart of the debate is the fact that current social networking media buy CPM’s are extremely low.  The fact is that if MySpace treats this program like more banner ad media inventory, then they have already lost.  What they need to do is create truly compelling, holistic campaigns that tie bands to brands.  The first appeal of MySpace to me 4 years ago as a markter was that MySpace gave me access to artists I couldn’t afford to sign individual deals with.  They were the gateway for me associating with some amazing music.  MySpace needs to leverage that strength to create some really compelling marketing campaigns that in the end make CPM’s irrelevent.   The type of advertising that Pandora offers on their site is a start, but MySpace needs to go much, much further than that.  Create marketing programs that exist on and off the web.

Amazon.com made a brilliant move partnering with MySpace and providing DRM-Free Music: Honestly until I read about the deal with MySpace Music, I didn’t even know that Amazon offered music downloads.  Now they are going to be a click away whenever I listen to new music.  However, the key to this deal working out for them as well, will be point #1 above.  If Amazon can become the place to buy new, up and coming music, then they can put a serious dent into iTunes market share.  When I hear about a band like Benjamin Del Shreve, I want to be able to go straight to their MySpace page, listen to their songs and buy them if I want.  I want to stop having to flip a coin in the hopes that iTunes might carry the band.

MySpace Music needs to bring the social back to music:  In order for MySpace Music to truly be revolutionary, I think they need to bring the social back to music.  Fred Wilson over at A VC has talked at length about his love of mix tapes and MySpace seems to be listening.  But they need to avoid having MySpace Music be a walled garden where how I listen to and share music is limited.  Don’t make me go to MySpace to use your service.  Let me download an Adobe Air player for my desktop.  Also make it easy for me to share my favorite music with my friends.  Give me a widget on my blog showing my playlist.  Hell, find a way to let that same widget live on Facebook since to me Facebook and MySpace aren’t competitors.  MySpace needs to not make the horrible mistake of acting like a portal and forgetting that the future of the web is social media…not isolation.

Treat MySpace Music like a brand and hire accordingly:  As a huge music fan, I see a lot of potential in MySpace Music.  But I also see them making a couple of mistakes that could have major negative impacts on the site being as revolutionary as they want.  In my opinion, the best thing they could do is hire a CEO who gets not only the Social Web, but also Brand Marketing.  MySpace Music needs to act like a brand, not an Internet Portal.  Don’t just hire a web guy…and please don’t hire a media/music person.  Get someone that can build this into the brand that it has the potential to be.

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Social Media doesn’t show any signs of slowing down

September 18, 2008

The good folks over at Mashable just put together a nice post on the growth of key social media sites over the past 12 months based on Nielsen Online data.  Facebook and MySpace get all the love in the space but there are some other key stats that Brand Managers need to pay attention to:

  • “Twitter recorded 2.3 million unique visitors in August (US-only), an increase of 422% from the same period last year.”  More importantly, I would say this is a highly concentrated group of influencers, especially in the technology and media world.  There has been a ton written about how you can start using Twitter for business so I highly advise you start listening.
  • “LinkedIn grew 146% year-over-year to 10.8 million unique visitors.”  If you are in the world of business, you need to join LinkedIn asap.  And send me invite in the process.
  • While massive in the tween set with ~4.5MM users, Club Penguin only grew 15% year over year.  More importantly, average time on site dipped 22%.  Not good numbers for Disney’s purchase.
  • MySpace growth seems to be flattening and Facebook is rapidly playing catch-up

I blog to find the 1 percent

June 4, 2008

I had a very interesting conversation this evening where someone asked me “Why do I blog?”….”Why am I trying to do the whole Hard Knox Life thing?”  It’s a question I have seen plenty of other bloggers answer.  Some do it for creativity, some do it to vent and some do it because they just love to write.  Frankly I do it for all of those reasons but for one important reason:

I blog to knock down walls and find the 1 percent

Anyone that has worked with P&G (or tried to work with P&G) knows that we have tons of walls keeping outsiders on the outside.  It is done with a good reason because it keeps Brand Managers from being pitched every idea under the sun…it keeps out the 99% of ideas that aren’t worth our time to evaluate.  But the problem is, it also keeps out the 1 percent of ideas that could be really worthwhile and breakthrough.  We’ve built this moat to protect us and basically no one can get in. Read the rest of this entry »


Weekly Round-Up 4-26-2008

April 26, 2008

The best from the blogosphere this week:


How do you measure Social Media?

March 24, 2008

Ian Schafer points us to a great article/discussion over at Adweek on the metrics of Social Media.  In my opinion, this is one of the biggest issues facing the industry right now.  The largest advertisers (like P&G) have embraced the traditional aspects of social media, putting up banner ads on MySpace, etc.  We are experimenting in order to figure out how to fully embrace social media but measures are the struggle in order to get total buy-in.  As the article points out:

That makes it hard to compare data from social media with other measures, said Marcel Lebrun, CEO of Radian6, a social media tracking firm. “The online ad world has page views, impressions and clicks,” he said. “That kind of thing doesn’t exist yet” in social media. 

I highly encourage you to read the full article here.  Also, I would love to hear your thoughts on how the industry should think about social media metrics?  How can we overcome the hurdle?


Weekly Round-Up 3-19-2008

March 19, 2008

Lots of great stuff around this week.  Here are some of the highlights:

  • Is the Agency Model Broken?:  I’ve had this debate/discussion with several of my agency friends.  I’ll write more on my opinion this weekend but great post to get you thinking.
  • The conversation at AdAge goes digital: I was really interested in how Twitter exploded at SXSW the other.  It seems that things are going the same way at the conferences this week.  This stuff interested me enough that I am going to give Twitter a shot to see what all this buzz is about.
  • Give Up Owning the Brand:  Love this.  Great advice for brands when thinking about Youth Marketing.
  • Facebook about to pass MySpace in worldwide traffic:  Very interesting.  “Facebook continues to close rapidly on MySpace’s visitor total: At 100.7 million uniques in January, Facebook is now just about 8% smaller than MySpace’ 109.3 million. A year ago, MySpace’s worldwide lead was nearly 4x.”