Mashable says brands don’t belong on Twitter

December 15, 2008

Mashable sparked an interesting debate on Friday when Dr Mark Drapeau made the bold statement that Twitter should ban brands from the site.  In the post “Do Brands Belong on Twitter”, Drapeau stated that:

Thinking about what might be best for people, in my opinion Twitter should not only not charge brands for membership, but also ban them altogether. Not unlike Facebook and other sites, every account would represent a person using a real name, location, and picture.

Drapeau explains his stance by arguing that a brand must have a person behind it:

Twitter is about people sharing information with other people. So how do one-dimensional organizational brands fit into this mix? When you really think about it, they don’t. As an analogy, when you call customer service, a human answers the phone (eventually) and tells you their name – and you’re not talking to “Sprint” or “Dell” but rather “Steve” or “Danny.”

Now while I completely disagree with that statement that Twitter should “ban brands altogether”, I do see the rationale that Twitter is about sharing information with other people.  I actually think the brands doing Social Media right are the ones that base their strategy off of this simple point.  If you just throw up your brand logo on Twitter (or any Social Media platform) and expect to have a conversation with consumers, you are doing it all wrong.  You are just trying to act the easy way out with one-way communication.

Brands belong in Social Media, but you need to humanize the brand

On the same day that Mashable said brands should be banned, the folks at iMedia highlighted “How to be a Twitter All-Star.”  Focused on brands like Flying Dog Brewery, Zappos and Southwest Airlines, the article proves the point that brands can enjoy great success on Twitter or any other Social Media platform.  But doing so requires them to humanize the brand by putting a person behind the logo.  And requires them to work with a different set of rules.

Christi Day, the Social Media face for Southwest Airlines, explained their approach as follows:

“Twitter empowers us to be authentic.  Getting real means being empowered, engaged and prepared. It is necessary to have the person in the Twitter role equipped to handle news management, customer communications, to be able to write compelling tweets and be willing to be engaged at all times.”

Let’s face it, this isn’t the type of marketing approach that most Brand Managers are use to.  But Twitter is just the latest technology to force us to think about change in our jobs.  If you haven’t sat down and thought about the impact of Social Media on your brand (and your career), maybe it is time you did.

NOTE:  Michael Brito from Intel joined in on the discussion with a great post on why brands do belong on Twitter.

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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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Why I’m Loving the new LinkedIn Applications

November 3, 2008

I have been a big fan of LinkedIn for a long time.  But its never been one of those social networking sites that I visit every day or spend much time on.  Instead, I would bounce onto the site when I needed to add a new business connection or update my profile.

But that might just change thanks to the new LinkedIn Applications that were launched last week.  While they only have a handful of applications right now, I am already finding them tremendously useful for tapping into information about my business network.  While they have similarities to what you might find on Facebook, the real difference is the type of network you are tapping into.  Each and every application on LinkedIn is extremely relevent to my business network.  Take for instance the following:

SlideShare: If you are regular reader of Hard Knox Life, you know I love presentations.  Now, thanks to the LinkedIn App, I can see when my network posts a new presentation.  Why is this so important?  Despite my heavy use of SlideShare, I don’t follow many people on the site, which means I miss new presentations from friends.  That’s all going to change now.

Reading List by Amazon: I’m a big reader and I’m always looking for recommendations from friends.  But I’ve found most of the recommendations happen face to face, which means I end up reading what every P&G’er is reading.  Now I can get the opinion of all my friends to see if that new Seth Godin book is worth the time.

My Travel by TripIt: I started using Upcoming a few months ago to track my business travel.  So I was a little disappointed to see TripIt as the travel app on LinkedIn.  But I still see a huge value of being able to see who else might be where I’m traveling, especially since the new job means my travel will be increasing quite a bit.  We’ll see if TripIt wins me over.

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Why the Digital Shopping Experience should matter to Brand Managers

October 9, 2008

Digital has emerged as a dramatic influence of both online AND offline purchases over the past year according to Resource Interactive.  In an extremely engaging and though provoking presentation on the importance of the Digital Shopping Experience, Resource outlines what brands needs to pay attention to in this channel.  They also go into deeper detail in the White Paper they wrote for Shop.org that went along with this presentation.  Both are worth spending some time with.

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Microsoft makes a bold move to understand direction of social networks with their latest new hire

September 22, 2008
Danah Boyd

It seems to be Microsoft day here on Hard Knox Life, but they just made a key new hire that should be getting a lot more attention than it is.  According to the folks at ReadWriteWeb, Microsoft Research has hired danah boyd, who is probably the most famous academic in the world focused on youth and social networks.  As RWW points out, the hire is important because “If Microsoft is going to be relevant to the next generation of computer users, who better to pay attention to than the leading expert on how the next generation is using social networks?

danah hit the radar of most folks when she published that kids were moving from MySpace to Facebook.  As danah wrote somewhat controversially in her research:

“The goodie two shoes, jocks, athletes, or other ‘good’ kids are now going to Facebook. …MySpace is still home for Latino/Hispanic teens, immigrant teens, ‘burnouts,’ ‘alternative kids,’ ‘art fags,’ punks, emos, goths, gangstas, queer kids, and other kids who didn’t play into the dominant high school popularity paradigm.”

I have been following danah’s work for quite some time, largely thanks to the frequent coverage she gets on Ypulse.  She is truly one of the sharpest minds in understanding youth and how their use of social technology will transform culture and business.  It is going to be really exciting to see the impact danah makes at shaping the future vision of Microsoft and their view of the social web.

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Weekly Round-Up 4-26-2008

April 26, 2008

The best from the blogosphere this week: