Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Can Social Networking be a career?

Perhaps it is already. I think it is clear that social networking is here to stay - and is not some Gen Y phenomenon. The platform begs for viral marketing, and saavy companies should be exploring hiring full-time social networkers, if they haven't already. Social networking takes time, as a previous post of mine already outlined. If your organization is pursuing social networking as a viral marketing campagin, it should dedicate sufficient staff to the project, and should maintain a legitimate presence. An employed social networker should meld into the community with an honest profile, making it known that they work for a commerical interst, but participating in non-commerical online activities. The goal is for the employed social networker to be the go-to person for that brand, and perhaps that product category, within a particular social network. This hands-off approach, soft-sell approach should alleviate any concerns by the community that the network is being polluted by advertisers.

Employed social networkers will do more than be the online point person for that product; they'll also bring valuable intelligence about the target community. It's the kind of intelligence that's hard to gain from surveys, polls and research, if not costly.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Obama + Internet Marketing = President?

The Internet has been used in political campaigns for quite some time now. And each new election cycle brings a new way of connecting with voters via technology. In the past, we've seen heavy emailing and use of meeting software to get voters together and to organize volunteers. Barack Obama's campaign has taken this type of technology-fueled campaigning to a new level this primary season. As outlined in this article, Obama has connected with voters via social networks, timely emailing, and even wikis. Yes, Obama's campaign is using public-facing wikis to share information among volunteer captains. I have to wonder if the wikis get spammed and what level of controls they have from non-volunteers contributing.

I think that Obama's success this primary season with these types of tools is a signal that these types of technologies are becoming more and more mainstream. And it is inevitable that political battles will be waged in the future in a digital environment. This article calls Obama's campaign a potential model for online politics. I don't think that assertion is all that far off. It helps Obama that a core constituency of his is young, educated voters - a group that grew up on technology and is comfortable with it. It'll be interesting to see if the next President, whoever he or she is, will use technology to communicate in non-election years. That, in my opinion, would signal that politics have indeed changed.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Gen Y scares me

I learned in a meeting this week that neighboring generations don't like each other. And I agree, because as a brooding Gen X'er, I don't care much for the "it's always somebody else's fault" Gen Y'ers. They also scare me because I have no idea how to monetize what they want. Gen Y'ers are nifty and talented, and consume and create media and content in so many ways, it's hard to keep up with them. Even moreso, they're so damn skilled at this stuff, it's hard getting them to pay for anything either. I stumbled upon a couple of articles about potential marketing techniques for Gen Y'ers.

The first - Yahoo Live - is portrayed as a kind of MySpace but the person is there live. Pretty cool, I have to say. But how do you market that? How do you possibly build a model that interacts with people on an individual business. Sure, it'd be great if you had the time and resources to do that, but it's completely impractical.

The second is, I think, the wave of the Internet future - the growth of widgets. This is nothing new, but is far from mainstream as well. It allows marketers to become a piece of the user's life, rather than asking the user to pause their life to consume your message. The key is developing a useful and interesting widget, and it really is a strategy better suited for information giants than retailers. However, it doesn't mean that you can't create some interesting metric, feed, etc. that's is tangentially related to your product to build a widget around.

Monday, May 5, 2008

An online economy

This article on ReadWriteWeb, The Emerging Main Street Web (which is actually Part II of a three-part series), talks about how the recessed economy could rebound through an uptick in online revenue generation. The article meanders quite a bit and lightly addresses several different areas that really would be better served with a more drawn-out analysis. The monetization of Web 2.0 is discussed. The author suggests that social networks could create buying blocs that negotiate with retailers, such as GM, to buy in bulk and thus get a discounted rate. I think, though, that this is the exact opposite of where online marketing is going. It's not about lumping individuals into a big bucket and dealing with them like marketers have in the past. No, it's about dealing with them on a more personalized and ultimately customized level than they ever have before. A new age model that makes more sense to me is if GM were to employ "social networkers" that unabashedley worked for the company but intertwined into the communities and became the go-to for car purchasing for that brand. Then, in a medium that a whole generation is becoming increasingly comfortable using, they can discuss details, exchange images and video, etc., and create a wholly customized experience and product for the individual.

To this point, large corporations have mostly missed on the personal detail needed to effectively communicate via social networks. Instead, they've put up a big brand banner and pushed out corporate branding and information with no face. They should enter the communities more gently, and portray themselves as a member of the community first (one that particpates fully in many non-commercial aspects of the community) and as a retailer second.