Marketing Technology » Marketing Technology Combining marketing and technology to develop new markets and grow existing ones Tue, 11 Jan 2011 16:47:54 +0000 en hourly 1 Quora: What marketers need to know Tue, 11 Jan 2011 16:47:54 +0000 admin In case you hadn’t heard, there’s a new kid on the social software (I’m loathed to call it ‘media’) block. Quora is, in essence, a social network based upon questions and answers. It’s amassing a huge following and the Twitterati in particular simply cannot pass off another opportunity to show the world how clever they are by taking part.

I resisted the lure until yesterday when I finally signed up, and I have to say that it is strangely addictive. By the time you’ve answered a question, followed a topic or two and automatically followed everyone that you’re already following on Twitter, you may as well write off the rest of your day and spend some time understanding how it works.

If you don’t have a day to spare, then here’s a quick guide to what I think Quora means to marketers:

  1. Thought leadership - what better way to demonstrate your firm’s expertise than by answering questions on the topics you want to be associated with? Search for and follow the topics that match your thought leadership strategy and start answering some questions.
  2. Market research - if you care what the digerati think, then Quora could be a great way to find out. I haven’t done a scientific experiment (yet), but I’m pretty confident that you’ll get more, better quality answers than if you asked your Twitter followers. Ask a question and see what answers you get.
  3. Influencer marketing - Quora could be the answer to the elusive influence question. Each topic has ‘Top Answerers’ and the algorithm for calculating these doesn’t seem to be based just on the number of answers. Track the top answerers for topics relevant to your brand and follow them.
  4. Reputation management – As with other platforms, chances are that people may be asking or answering questions about your brand or products. Chances also are that they may be spreading misinformation by answering incorrectly. Quora allows you to suggest edits to others’ answers as well as answer yourself. Search for questions and answers mentioning your brand and contribute where you can. If your brand is well known enough to have its own topic, then follow it then update your preferences to get notified by email when a new question or answer is created.

If you are going to engage with Quora, then remember the basic rules of community management:

  1. Be honest about who you are Quora allows you to add short bios to demonstrate your interest in a topic/question – keep them short and to the point
  2. It’s about marketing, not sales By asking and answering questions intelligently you will gain credibility that might turn into sales. Trying to flog your products or services in response to a relevant question will get voted down.
  3. Respect others’ opinions Contribute and extend the range of response rather than pick fights with others who have answered in good faith.

If you have other advice for marketers interested in how to use Quora, then follow and respond to my questions on Quora itself:

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Announcing Hill & Knowlton’s New Social Media Principles Wed, 23 Sep 2009 17:53:32 +0000 admin Almost a month ago, I asked for help to update Hill & Knowlton’s social media principles.

This afternoon, our CEO sent out the final version to all staff worldwide. We’ve already updated our public principles on our website, but I also wanted to share the full document here and explain a little about the process we’ve been through, what we’ve changed and why.


Our principles are split into three sections: personal use of social media; professional use of social media on behalf of our company and clients; and use of our official social media platforms. You might say this separation isn’t necessary, but we have found that not all of our staff operate in all these spaces so we want to make sure they can quickly identify the bits that are relevant to them.

You might also say that this makes them too long, and the only guideline should actually be “use your common sense”. That is undoubtedly a valid approach but if we are talking about being accountable to ourselves, our clients and the social media community, that simply doesn’t wash.

Our principles are centered around encouraging staff to participate appropriately not restricting their ability to do so. As communications professionals, it is essential that we are able to explore, understand and participate in social media in order to credibly advise our clients how to do the same.

A few other things worthy of note:

  • We have a 24/7 email hotline – as well as our extensive digital practice – where staff can ask questions about what is/isn’t appropriate. Again this is designed to help, not hinder.
  • We have defined a complaints procedure designed to be fair to everyone. Too often, we see knee-jerk reactions that don’t look at the issue objectively.
  • Unlike version one, this time we have asked all staff to click a link in order to confirm that they have read and understand the principles.

The Process

For those of you trying to conduct a similar exercise in your own organization (or with clients), you might be interested in how we did it. If not, skip to the next section. Bear in mind that this was an update to existing guidelines not creation from scratch.

  1. We put the existing guidelines on our internal wiki platform and invited everyone to edit or comment on the different sections.
  2. Someone took all the feedback and created an updated version of the guidelines
  3. This was circulated as a draft to that community, socialized with senior management for comment and shared externally on this blog
  4. Final feedback was incorporated (mainly clarifications) before being signed off by the CEO, COO, CMO and digital practice head.

The Principles

Links to the text of each section of the principles can be found below.

Please feel free to use, copy or adapt these principles as part of your own social media policies. It would be nice if you could let us know if they’ve been helpful too.

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Augmented reality, part two Wed, 16 Sep 2009 08:12:19 +0000 admin I keep getting drawn back to the topic of augmented reality and how it might impact on marketing and communication. When I wrote my first post on the subject I was beginning to explore some examples of the technology. After a period of reflection, I’m left with two questions:

  1. How to describe it in layman’s terms
  2. What the applications to marketing/PR might be

For the first, I think I’m getting close. Get people to think about a physical object (reality) and data about it (or data about that data) that could exist online. These are the two core components.

Augmented reality is the technology that connects the two together. This technology has to do a number of things:

  • Provide the user with a way of capturing the object
  • Recognise the object
  • Search for the relevant data about the object
  • Display the data in a way that augments the physical representation

Let’s take the simple example of a painting in an art gallery:

  • User points device at painting
  • Software recognises the painting
  • Software searches for information about the painting or artist
  • Device displays data to user as an overlay on the image

So with description, let’s turn our attention to the applications for marketing and PR. The first question to ask is what the physical objects are. People, products, buildings, headlines, newspapers, etc. all spring immediately to mind. Now let’s think about the associated data. Profiles, reviews, comments, articles, sentiment, etc. all come into play. So augmented reality applications that can tell you whether a headline in a newspaper is positive or negative and what people are saying about it is not beyond the realms of possibility.

The key technology challenge is recognition, and this is where I expect to see developments in the future. I’m already imagining a world where every object – animate or inanimate – can be recognised (visually, aurally or otherwise) and given a unique identifier. If that happens, then the process of tagging information and looking it up becomes as straightforward as sending an email is today, opening up a whole new world of augmentation.

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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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Twitter: The New Mobile Marketing Tue, 10 Feb 2009 11:06:37 +0000 admin As micro-blogging platform Twitter enters the mainstream and its founders contemplate charging for commercial accounts, marketers should begin to explore its application as a direct response channel.

This blog has been critical in the past of companies and celebrities tripping over themselves – and their virtual tongues – to climb aboard the Twitter bandwagon. Appropriate use of the platform is going to be relevant for some time yet. However, as it moves from the early adopter to early majority group of the technology adoption lifecycle, the Twitter community will become more open and receptive to marketing activities that deliver value to them.

The biggest opportunity might lie with direct response. Much has been made in the past of the benefits of using SMS as a channel for soliciting responses from customers. However, unless SMS is also used to elicit the response, it requires the customer to consciously change their device in order to respond. Call me old-fashioned, but I also believe that consumers are more cautious about sending texts that reveal their phone numbers to anonymous recipients, in part because of a plethora of scare stories and the use of the channel by unscrupulous companies.

Instead, marketers can now experiment with Twitter for direct response. Rather than use a mobile shortcode and keyword, they can invite customers to “D @company keyword” via Twitter, without any of the inbound or outbound SMS costs associated with mobile marketing. Yet like text messaging, the company can begin to build a relationship with the customer via Twitter – and even follow their updates to understand what motivates and interests them.

Now that Twitter is mainstream, how long before we see the first mainstream use of Twitter as a direct response channel?

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Obama’s Inauguration Address: How Did You Read It? Wed, 21 Jan 2009 15:31:00 +0000 admin Following on from the time lapse analysis we conducted on the US Airways crash landing yesterday, today we turned our attention to President Obama’s inauguration speech.

There has already been some interesting analysis (like this Wordle image), so we dusted down an internal application built to score the readability of news articles and put Obama and some of his recent – and not so recent – predecessors through the mangle.

Here’s Obama’s result:

Let me explain the numbers (note that there may be a slight margin of error so please don’t write in if you get different values).

The Flesch Index is a measure of reading ease. Obama has hit “Plain English” spot on, with his text easily understood by 13-15 year old students at the minimum.

The Fog Index (or rather Gunning fog index) is an indication of the number of years formal education a person requires in order to easily understand a text on the first reading. Assuming you start school aged 4/5, again he hits the 14/15 year old minimum.

So how does he compare with previous Presidents’ inauguration addresses?

Slightly better than the guy he replaces, that’s for sure. George W Bush’s second address scores 58 on the Flesch Index and 11.5 on the Fog Index (his first was actually better: 62 Flesh and 10.1 Fog).

Daddy knows best, though, because George HW Bush’s speech came in with a Flesch score of 75 and a Fog score of 8.2.

Head back in time and you have to say that, considering language was generally more complex, Abe Lincoln did pretty well. His second inaugural address of 1865 gives him a highly respectable 57 on the Flesch scale and 12.8 for its Fog counterpart – only just shy of George W’s oratory.

The nation’s first chief executive, George Washington, set the ball rolling in 1789. I doubt he thought some blogger would turn his historic moment into two numbers 220 years later, but for what it’s worth those numbers are 16 and 23.4!

So there you go Mr President. One Bush behind you, but one still ahead.

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Five steps to a successful corporate Twitter presence Mon, 08 Dec 2008 13:16:00 +0000 admin As Twitter gathers pace, we are seeing more use of the micro-blogging community by companies and brands. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, but like blogging that went before they will come unstuck if they don’t take the time to understand the platform before just wading in.

First let me state my opinion about companies and brands using Twitter – or any social media for that matter. The “screen name” you use says a lot. On Twitter I see an increasing number of accounts that are identifiable only as a company or brand name, rather than an individual. Personally, I’m not a fan of this. My logic goes something like this:

  • For me, social media is about human interaction.
  • People are human. Brands and companies are not.
  • The people who work for those brands and companies are.
  • I would prefer to interact with real people using their real names than anonymous company or brand names.
  • I would rather someone use their real name and include their brand/company in a profile than the other way round.

I accept that this is a personal point of view. Yours may differ. But companies need to tread carefully.

With this in mind, and appreciating that some companies will want to use brand, company and department names for their Twitter account – my definition of a corporate Twitter account, here is a suggested five steps etiquette guide for them:

  1. Listen. It’s easy to set up and subscribe to a search of your brand or company name.
  2. Add value. Provide useful content for those that choose to follow you.
  3. Only follow when followed or mentioned. Having an anonymous entity follow you is a bit like receiving spam – you don’t know who it is or why you’re getting it. If your following:followers ratio is more than 2:1 then you are probably being a bit desperate.
  4. Reply. Respond to every tweet directed at you.
  5. Use replies rather than direct messages. Be transparent about what you’re saying to others on Twitter.
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Cook’s Hierarchy of Social Media Backlash Motives Fri, 05 Dec 2008 15:19:00 +0000 admin I’ve
been thinking a lot about social media backlash lately – when companies
find themselves on the receiving end of a social media kicking. I
recently asked some colleagues for examples and got a handful of great
references, including Jeremiah Owyang’s excellent chronology of the most high profile hidings.

Jeremiah has attempted to categorize these based on their impact, as follows:

  • Category
    1: Consumer revolt and use social media tools to tell their story, the
    brand doesn’t flinch, and there is no mainstream media coverage.
  • Category
    2: The backlash extends beyond just social media tools, the brand makes
    changes based on consumer feedback, and coverage extends to mainstream
    media and press.
  • Category
    3: Consumers use social media tools to spread backlash and there is
    considerable mentions from mainstream press. the backlash is more
    severe resulting in significant changes from the brand (hiring, firing,
    processes, policies or new teams put in place). This becomes a case
    study for social media books and is often discussed in social media
  • Category
    4: Number three plus short term financial impacts to the brand
    resulting in reduction of sales, revenue, increased costs, or impact to
    stock price less than 30 days.
  • Category
    5: Number three plus brand backlash from social media tools resulting
    in long term financial impacts to the brand including reduction in
    sales, revenue, increased costs, and most importantly, stock price
    lasting over 30 days. In the most extreme cases, it causes closure of
    the business or bankruptcy.

I feel that there’s a missing factor here that needs to be considered, which is the motivation for the backlash. With that in mind, here is my suggested hierarchy of social media backlash motives and the things that companies ought to do to counter them:

is rarely intentional. The Internet makes it easy for people to
repurpose incorrect or out-of-date information that they believe to be
authoritative and accurate. The biggest culprit here is information
posted on Wikipedia.When you come across examples of misuse, you should
offer help by providing the right information or – if you cannot be
impartial – point people to an independent source.

that is left unchallenged often leads to misinformation as more and
more people repurpose the same opinion. Inaccuracy spreads online
faster than accuracy. It can be self-correcting, but that’s by no means
a given.In most cases* misinformation needs correcting, but companies
need to be very careful to use proportionate force.

* There
will be times when the motive behind misinformation is actually
malicious. In these cases, it will never get corrected and could even
fuel a bigger fire. Proceed with caution.

easy to mistake the motive behind mischief for malice, when all people
want to do is ruffle your feathers, teach you a lesson or vent their
frustration over something your company has – or hasn’t – done. In most
cases they want to know that someone from your company is listening and
might even apologize or even solve their problem. In my view this is
the most common motive behind social media backlash.Unless there is
clearly a malicious motive, there is no reason not to respond. Even if
you can’t fix the problem, at least show that you’re listening.*

Hint: in order to show that you’re listening, you have to actually
listen. You can search blogs, YouTube, Twitter, Flickr and many other
social media platforms for your company or brands and subscribe to the
results by email or RSS.

backlashes are intended from the outset to do damage. They are few and
far between, but general originate from people who have a real axe to
grind. They could be disgruntled employees or suppliers intent on
hitting you where it really hurts, denting your reputation and worse
still your revenues or profits.Where legal recourse is warranted,
you’ll have no option but to use it, but I suggest it should be the
last resort after all other avenues have been expended. Instead, try to
use the networks of supporters that you have built by participating in
social media (which you have done, right?) to fight your corner for you.

I’m sure there’ll
be disagreement about some – if not all – of this, but I’d love to hear
your thoughts. Does this work for all the examples you can think of,
and could it be used alongside Jeremiah’s impact categories to help
build a profile of the kinds of social media backlash that companies
are experiencing now and in the future?

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To block or not to block… Wed, 03 Dec 2008 20:52:00 +0000 admin Since writing my book, the most common question I have been asked during presentations of my research is “should companies block access to Facebook?”. The answer, in my opinion, is not a straightforward yes or no, but usually “it depends”.

However new research from the Chartered Institute of Management suggests otherwise, going as far as to say that “the failure to allow widespread use of technology will hinder UK business in the long-run.”

There is, the organisation argues, a disconnect between employers who view Internet activity as a “massive time-waster” and the enthusiasm for Internet-based applications amongst Generation Y managers aged 35 and under.

The survey of 862 Institute members (which is apparently “almost 1,000″ according to the press release) found that 65 per cent of their employers block “inappropriate” websites and 18 per cent impose curfews that dictate when the Internet can be used at work. The study also claims that 65 per cent monitor employee Internet access, although I suspect that is considerably understated.

Whilst some of the other findings are somewhat dubious (relying yet again on respondents’ recollection of what they have done online in the last three months) and trying – and failing – to jump the Enterprise 2.0 bandwagon (“web-casting” is apparently a “new Internet (Web 2.0) technology”), this is further fuel to the argument that senior executives need to start boning up on what their future managers are going to expect – and demand – from them.

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Obama’s Technology Commitments Wed, 05 Nov 2008 09:08:00 +0000 admin As I write, it appears that Barack Obama will become the first black American President in history – but aside from the colour of his skin, what impact is he likely to have on marketing technology?

Well according to Hill & Knowlton’s experts on the other side of the Atlantic who have been up all night preparing a full report to clients (link to follow), President-elect Obama has already identified three key areas of technology policy that he intends to focus on:

“Open” internet and media
Obama supports network neutrality and will encourage diversity in the ownership of broadcast media. He favours parental controls over what children see on the Internet and tough penalties for those who abuse it. He also aims to strengthen privacy protections, holding “government and business accountable for violations of personal privacy”. ISPs and online media take note.

Modern communications infrastructure
Obama wants to bring “true broadband” to every community in America, planning to better use the nation’s wireless spectrum and promote next-generation facilities, technologies and applications. This is sure to present opportunities for technology hardware, software and service companies.

Technology in government
Obama has stated a commitment to creating a transparent and connected democracy, using technology to “reform government and improve the exchange of information between the federal government and citizens”. To deliver this, he will appoint the nation’s first Chief Technology Officer, who is sure to have a substantial budget and need help from technology providers and e-government consultants.

Will we see the promised change any time soon? I very much doubt that. The biggest change is likely to be fewer blog and Twitter posts talking about the election!

But if Obama is to be believed, technology is going to play a key role in his administration and marketers in all sectors – and technology companies in particular – need to pay close attention to his every move.

If you’d like to receive a copy of the full report produced by our team, please drop me a note with your name, job title, company and email and I’ll pass your details on to them.

UPDATE 6 November: Duncan Burns has written a more in-depth analysis on the new Tech & The District Collective Conversation blog.

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