Marketing Technology » Blogging Communities Combining marketing and technology to develop new markets and grow existing ones Tue, 11 Jan 2011 16:47:54 +0000 en hourly 1 Augmented reality: the next killer marketing technology Fri, 10 Jul 2009 14:10:05 +0000 admin Since becoming the proud owner of an iPhone 3GS I’ve annoyed family, friends and colleagues silly be flashing it around and telling them which direction North is. I’ve also been marveling at the ecosystem of third party applications available (which, apparently, would cost over $140,000 if you bought them all).

But the apps – as these programs are called – that currently exist only just scratch the surface of what is going to be possible now that the iPhone knows where it is and even which direction it is pointing.

Welcome to the world of augmented reality.

Whilst at the time of writing there are no true augmented reality applications available, there are a number in the pipeline – and their developers have not been slow to post videos showing what they can do online.

The first I came across is Nearest Tube, and app that will quite literally point you in the direction of the closest London Underground station when you hold up the iPhone. Watch the video below to see it in action.

Today I discover TwittARound (geddit), or at least a video of the first beta version. In the words of the developer, “it shows live tweets around your location on the horizon. Because of video see-through effect you see where the tweet comes from and how far it is away.” Again, seeing is believing:

So why I am suggesting that augmented reality is the next killer marketing technology? Quite simply because as these apps show, the physical and virtual worlds have just moved closer together as a result of devices like the iPhone 3GS and the ingenuity and creativity of application developers.

How long then before we have augmented reality apps that do things like:

  • Show messages left by others at the same location (in fact, there are map-based apps that already do this)
  • Display internet ratings or reviews (or alternatives) for products in shops
  • Call up news/opinion about a company when you pass by their premises
  • Provide interactivity to any outdoor ad by pointing the mobile device at it
  • Help you find the nearest outlet for a particular brand (in fact, ING Direct already did this on Google’s Android platform with their ATM Finder)

To paraphrase the ad, there’s bound to be an app for that soon.

I for one am going to be watching this space with interest over the coming months. If you have examples of companies using AR as part of their marketing or communications, please let me know.

Update: Just discovered that Apple has already filed a patent for something called ID App for identifying objects in the user’s surroundings. Mashable has more on this.

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Dell goes one2one Tue, 11 Jul 2006 09:30:00 +0000 admin PC maker Dell – the subject of many presentations (my own included) on how not to engage with the blogosphere – has set up a blog.

Jeff Jarvis – possibly Dell’s most vocal online detractor – isn’t impressed:

The subtitle is “direct conversations with Dell” but this is as much a conversation as yelling at a brick wall. There is not one link there. It’s filled with promotions for Dell’s wonderfulness.

He advises: “The conversation is already happening out there without you. Join in that conversation.”

He has a point. There are seven posts currently, and only one of those has a link to another site – and that’s!

A bit of free (UPDATE: and friendly, just in case you’re mistaking me for one of the lynch-mob) advice for Dell:

  • Good communication is 80% listening and 20% talking. UPDATE: Check. Seems like they are listening and linking.
  • A blog is not just another distribution channel down which to shove your messages – it’s an engagement channel
  • People are asking questions in your comments about issues that matter to them. Take note of that, and make sure you respond
  • You have called your blog “one2one” – you’ll need to make sure it lives up to its name.

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Fortune 500 business blogging wiki Fri, 30 Dec 2005 16:13:00 +0000 admin Chris Anderson and Ross Mayfield have set up a wiki listing of all the Fortune 500 companies that have business blogs (defined as “active public blogs by company employees about the company and/or its products”).

This is an excellent idea, with the only caveat is that – being a wiki – it is susceptible to people misinterpreting Chris and Ross’s definition. For example, someone is suggesting that Interpublic’s Group news + ideas page is “kinda blogish”. Take a look at the page in question – a list of news items that link to PDF files. “Kinda blogish”? You’re kidding, right?

Unfortunately, some fake blogs have also made it onto the list, and well as others that haven’t been updated since 2004.

Luckily, it appears that Chris and Ross are sorting the wheat from the chaff by listing those that meet their definition on the home page. If you want to know which Fortune 500 companies are actually blogging, I suggest you venture no further from there. That said, I’m not sure the authors of the Motorola blog are really company employees – nor very active with the last post from January 2005. Looking at the trackbacks, it doesn’t seem anyone is weeding out the spam either.

The more interesting idea they have is to create a Business Blogging Index that will track and compare the share prices of those companies that are blogging with those that aren’t.

I actually thought about doing something similar for the FTSE-100 a few weeks ago. Maybe now I will…

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Sentiment analyis: one to watch Sat, 10 Dec 2005 17:47:00 +0000 admin For any company needing to listen to the blogosphere, sentiment is key. It’s one thing to know that there are conversations taking place about your sector or company; it’s quite another to realise that 74% of them are negative (or positive) towards you.

I’ve always been sceptical about monitoring services that claim to have technology that can automatically identify sentiment, particularly because you have to pay for them. Which is why I was interested to hear about Opinmind (The Basement via prdigest).

This new “search engine with a twist” uses an “opinion analytics engine” (called Opal™) to find what people like and don’t like. It then displays results in two columns – negative and positive – along with a Sentimeter™ which shows the relative number of both kinds of mention.

There’s another undocumented feature highlighted in their blog. To compare two terms, you can just insert “vs” between them, like this:

PR vs Advertising – and judging by the result, it must be accurate ;-)

I’m sure their engine doesn’t get it right all the time (as they admit, “the complexities of written language and of blogger grammar (or lack thereof) occasionally throw a wrench into our opinion analytics engine”, but for a free service this is pretty good. As long as it trips up on judging positive and negative in equal proportions, then as a dip test it should be pretty reliable.

Compared to other search engines, their database is pretty small (seems to be mainly indexing LiveJournal, Xanga and MSN Spaces at the moment), so I encourage you to submit your blog or xml feed at the bottom of the results page.

Now how about an API, guys?

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Corporate blogging as empowerment culture Tue, 06 Dec 2005 15:59:00 +0000 admin The students of Advanced Organisational Communication at Northeastern University have proposed three criteria that companies should consider when developing guidelines and policies. They argue that employees and companies that want to foster a communication climate of empowerment would do well to reflect on them.

  1. Autonomy of Judgement
    Covers criteria such as how much freedom employers give their bloggers, how rigid the guidelines are, whether the company trusts staff to make decisions for themselves, and whether posts are screened before being publlished.
  2. Level of Authenticity
    Do corporate bloggers feel like they can speak with their own voice, or do they feel they have to change how they speak to fit the style of how the company wants them to speak.
  3. Level of Subordination
    To what extent do corporate bloggers need to subordinate their own thoughts and opinions to those of their employer, customers, clients or colleagues.

I think this is a very interesting approach. I think that most corporate blogging policies focus mainly on the first, and less so on the other two.

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SixApart catches on to business blogging communities Tue, 15 Nov 2005 11:48:00 +0000 admin Anil Dash, writing on the SixApart ProNet blog says, “many companies need to start a number of blogs.”

Welcome to the party, guys. It seems that you have seen first hand why big businesses need blogging communities, not individual corporate blogs.

But let me give any company thinking of doing this some free advice.

Firstly, it’s not about what technology you use. The fact that Movable Type and TypePad support more than one blog is useful, but largely irrelevant. If you are going to reap the benefits of a business blogging community, you really need to think about the following:

  1. What are you trying to achieve? – sales, thought leadership, and customer insight are just a few of the objectives you might have
  2. Set policy and process – given your objectives, who in your organisation will be allowed to blog and how much control do you want to exert over them?
  3. Quality vs. quantity – will the people most likely to blog provide what you need to meet your objectives?
  4. Guidelines – what will your code of practice be?
  5. Communication and training – how will you get maximum engagement amongst your employees?
  6. Promotion – how will you let the world know what you’re doing?
  7. Monitoring – who, if anyone, will be reading what everyone writes and keep the conversations going?

You can read more about how we went about it in this article prepared for Global PR Blog Week 2.0 (site appears to be down, so here’s Google’s cached version).

If you want to talk about some of these issues, just drop me a mail at

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Blogging communities revisited Tue, 08 Nov 2005 11:30:00 +0000 admin Back in the early days of this blog, I regularly opined on the benefits of business blogging communities over individual blogs. As it turned out, this was what eventually drove us to launch our own business blogging community rather than have our staff setting up Typepad accounts left, right and centre.

21Publish is a hosted software solution for creating branded blog communities like ours, and to promote their service they have just released a white paper entitled Corporate Group Blogging: Building Business and Product Brands Through Group Blogs and Blogging (PDF download).

Even though we do not use their software, I’m pleased that they included Collective Conversation – our blogging community – as a case study:

“If a leading PR firm can marshal armies of people to help build their brand and to build top of mind awareness using blogs, it is something that every business should consider. Hill & Knowlton’s use is a great example of practising what one preaches.”

The advice in the white paper is sound, although I do have some sympathy for Fredrik’s argument that the reasons they include for why group business blogs can create more value that individual blogs could be applied to any business blog. Things like building tighter trust with audiences, presenting a personal rather than a sanitized face, touching base regularly with customers, and demonstrating thought leadership are all benefits of an individual blog, not just a group blog.

Group blogs do have some benefits over individual blogs, though. I’ve updated the ones I originally suggested back in January. You’d have to do a lot to convince me that any of these could apply to an individual blog created in isolation.

  1. They are easily aggregated into a single point of entry, demonstrating the breadth and depth of collective knowledge within an organisation
  2. They can be more easily “policed” by the creator to ensure the community reflects your own policies and objectives
  3. Readers of your blog can subscribe to an aggregated RSS feed, as well as individual blog feeds
  4. The success of individual blogs impacts on the wider community
  5. It is easier to consolidate categories to create sub-communities of interest
  6. All the blogs within your community can adopt the same branding and design
  7. Visitors can search across the entire community in one go

Anything I missed?

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Let employees do your blogging Fri, 04 Nov 2005 13:18:00 +0000 admin There’s an interesting article in today’s Financial Times (p12) by Kevin Allison, titled Who’s afraid of the big, bad blog? (also online). All the usual suspects (plus a few unusual ones) make appearances: Kryptonite; Scoble; Plaxo’s Mark Jen; Suw Charman; and IBM’s James Snell.

The main point of the story seems to be that letting employees blog could be the key for companies being successful in the blogosphere. I’ll gloss over the obvious question of “who else would you get to do it?”, and jump straight to the bits I found particularly relevant.

Firstly, I think Allison frames the dilemma that companies face quite well. He says that “on the one hand, avoiding the blogosphere altogether seems a bad idea” (cue Kryptonite story), and “on the other hand, companies that wish to engage with the blogosphere face an intractable credibility problem.” I’m not sure I totally agree with this latter point – surely it’s the companies that engage with the blogosphere badly that face the credibility problem? But there is undoubtedly a dilemma to be dealt with, and I think it’s more that companies don’t know whether or how to engage, or where to get the advice to do it well.

This credibility problem is compounded, argues Allison, by the fact that “bloggers are an anti-establishment lot, and messages from big business are automatically suspect”. Nothing like a good generalisation in a national daily, eh? That’s a bit like me saying that all journalists are an anti-blogosphere lot. Oh, hang on…

The article goes on to tell us that Robert Scoble (pictured in the article waving his hands around on a couch) “frequently promotes Microsoft products” on his blog. To be fair, we are also told that he is not afraid to criticise his employer but by then the inaccuracy is lost.

The rest of the article is essential about blogging guidelines. The best quote comes from Suw Charman who offers some sage advice:

“Business is used to inhabiting a broadcast environment, and that is not what the blogosphere is about. Companies need to learn that they can’t control the message any more, then they have to learn that that’s good.”

I think there’s your communicators and marketers dilemma in a nutshell.

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Five things that communicators should do about blogging Fri, 04 Nov 2005 10:09:00 +0000 admin At our IPRA Summit workshop on blogging yesterday, we had a great turnout and some good questions. But my sense is that awareness amongst communicators in UK companies still isn’t as high as we’d like to think it is.

I thought I’d share the five things that I told the audience they should do:

  1. Listen
    You cannot tell your CEO whether blogs are important to your business or not if you’re not actively listening to all the conversations taking place. The tools to listen are well developed (and some are even free), so there’s no excuse. But remember, monitoring does not equal listening.
  2. Understand
    You need to understand what you are listening to in order to make any sense of it. You also need to understand who you are listening to, what motivates them and who listens to them. You also need to understand the risks and rewards of engaging with them, and how best to do it.
  3. Expand your vocabulary
    The communications business already has its own language. So whilst a lot of the words you hear in connection with blogging are new and unfamiliar, you need to add them to your vocabularly as quickly as possible – and understand what they mean.
  4. Join the conversation
    There are rewards to be reaped from joining the conversation, and doing so is a statement of your desire to be authentic. But do it advisedly – the blogosphere can be intolerant towards those who don’t comply with the de facto conventions. If you want to get your business blogging, consider starting inside the organisation. Every company needs specific guidelines for employees – do not rely on existing IT policies.
  5. Prepare for a crisis
    Sooner or later, someone will say something negative about your company on a blog. That’s good – it means they care. Use it as an opportunity to learn. A crisis doesn’t always damage your reputation – responding badly does.

I’d be interested in your views.

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Time for some controversy? Wed, 26 Oct 2005 14:51:00 +0000 admin Easton Ellsworth recently reviewed Hill & Knowlton’s professional blogging community, Collective Conversation, of which this blog is part.

It’s naturally fair and well-balanced ;-) , having nothing but good things to say about us. He concludes:

You’re probably wondering if Hill and Knowlton paid me to write this. They didn’t, but they may as well have: I can’t find any weaknesses in this corporate blog.

He does have some suggestions that we need to listen to. In particular, he wants us to have a central blog to help people locate basic company news (you can always subscribe to the RSS feed in the news section of our site if you’re desparate for this in the mean time).

However, the comment that caught my eye most was in his analysis of our content. He asks, “Some people might get a little bored, but what kind of controversy would you expect from a company like H&K?”

So, in deference to Easton, I will attempt to make my next few posts controversial ones.

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