Monthly Archives: July 2009

Maybe spam filters will sponsor Izea


Networked spam is nothing new — telephones and fax machines and emails are all systems that got polluted over time, like PCBs building up in the Hudson River, until eventually people rebelled. The FTC, for instance, now allows consumers to register for phone Do Not Call lists and imposes significant fines on marketers who cross the line; DIRECTV and Comcast agreed this spring to pay a total $3.21 million to settle complaints that they called customers who asked not to be dialed again.

Why should marketers care if Twitter rings like a phone sales call over dinner? A few reasons. If you push unwanted messages into social media streams, you will be identified, and the negative backlash can harm your brand. Response rates on spammy messages tend to be low, and the few who do respond tend to be consumers of lower incomes and poorer education who, as bad as this sounds, don’t make good candidates for paying bills or repeat purchases. Leads generated from aggressive pushing — similar to telesales leads of the 1990s before DNC really kicked in — tend not to “stick” as well, meaning customers can be pressured into saying yes and then will wave off your product at the door.

Blogger Chris Brogan and Izea founder Ted Murphy may say sponsoring human opinions is OK as long as participants disclose, but what their myopia fails to see is the damage to the very network they rely on for their paychecks. Izea is plowing full-speed ahead with a planned launch of Sponsored Tweets, in which you can get paid pennies to annoy all your online friends. When the stream of social media is darkened with brand mentions that have no authenticity, consumers will seek fresh communication elsewhere.

At least Google says no

Google, one of the biggest information networks in the world, has already recognized this threat and polices spam, requiring blog shillers to tag their silliness with no-follow tags to keep the posts out of Google search results. Bloggers who fail to do so will be punished by Google by having their own PageRank reduced. Matt Cutts, Google’s spam czar, has said “Those blogs are not trusted in Google’s algorithms any more.” The biggest search engine in the world seems worried that a wave of shilling posts could gunk up its findings, turning off Google users and draining its revenue from real advertising.

The pendulum will swing until consumers rebel, then defenses will arise, and we’ll all end up blocking each other again with a medium that is a bit more cumbersome … like your email In box that protects you with spam filters but occasionally ditches vital messages. Oh well. It’s human nature. Maybe if you’re lucky you can wrangle a few gift cards out of it.

(Twitter is polices unwanted messages in its stream. You can alert them by sending a message to @spam. Be careful not to retweet the entire spam message if you report one, however, since Twitter warns it may mistake you for a spammer too and suspend your account.)

Maybe spam filters will sponsor Izea


Networked spam is nothing new — telephones and fax machines and emails are all systems that got polluted over time, like PCBs building up in the Hudson River, until eventually people rebelled. The FTC, for instance, now allows consumers to register for phone Do Not Call lists and imposes significant fines on marketers who cross the line; DIRECTV and Comcast agreed this spring to pay a total $3.21 million to settle complaints that they called customers who asked not to be dialed again.

Why should marketers care if Twitter rings like a phone sales call over dinner? A few reasons. If you push unwanted messages into social media streams, you will be identified, and the negative backlash can harm your brand. Response rates on spammy messages tend to be low, and the few who do respond tend to be consumers of lower incomes and poorer education who, as bad as this sounds, don’t make good candidates for paying bills or repeat purchases. Leads generated from aggressive pushing — similar to telesales leads of the 1990s before DNC really kicked in — tend not to “stick” as well, meaning customers can be pressured into saying yes and then will wave off your product at the door.

Blogger Chris Brogan and Izea founder Ted Murphy may say sponsoring human opinions is OK as long as participants disclose, but what their myopia fails to see is the damage to the very network they rely on for their paychecks. Izea is plowing full-speed ahead with a planned launch of Sponsored Tweets, in which you can get paid pennies to annoy all your online friends. When the stream of social media is darkened with brand mentions that have no authenticity, consumers will seek fresh communication elsewhere.

At least Google says no

Google, one of the biggest information networks in the world, has already recognized this threat and polices spam, requiring blog shillers to tag their silliness with no-follow tags to keep the posts out of Google search results. The biggest search engine in the world seems worried pollution will choke its revenue model if users bail.

The pendulum will swing until consumers rebel, then defenses will arise, and we’ll all end up blocking each other again with a medium that is slightly less effective and a bit more cumbersome … like your email In box that protects you with spam filters but occasionally ditches vital messages. Oh well. It’s human nature. Maybe if you’re lucky you can wrangle a few gift cards out of it. At least one surefire way to monetize social media is to sell spam filters.

(Twitter is trying to police unwanted messages in its stream. You can alert them by sending a message to @spam.)

The many faces of Microsoft’s Bing


The Bing rollout since June 3 has been a masterstroke of finesse. After years of Vista fumbles that culminated with Jerry Seinfeld making a TV spot even he looked uncomfortable in, Microsoft rebuilt its Google competitor into a sophisticated search engine with elegant design, user competitions, celebrity trending, and a customer service presence on Twitter. Punch in “the answer to life the universe and everything” and Bing will respond “42,” showing Redmond has a sense of humor.

So now Bing has melded with Twitter in a new BingTweets microsite, most useful for tracking urgent updates about chocolate, and one has to wonder — when did Microsoft get so light on its feet?

Sure, there was juice behind this. A massive $100 million ad campaign helped Microsoft boost its share of the search market from 7.8% in May to 8.5% in June. But perhaps the most intriguing finding is that focus groups show users spending 150% more time viewing ads at the top of Bing search results; if Microsoft can maintain that once the novelty wears off, advertisers on Bing could see a lift. Bing has combined design usability with a fragmented, multipronged presence on the web.

The lesson for marketers is if you still have only one static web site, tweaked every 12 months after debates with the Planning Committee, you are missing out on how people use the internet. Conversations, microsites, segmentation, hub-and-spoke points of entry, search, even dedicated human response … you need many online doorways to attract many different viewers. Even Bing needed a few Bings.

The curious case of GOP.com


The U.S. Republican party is redesigning its web site with a touch of crowdsourcing appeal. But just a touch. Visit GOP.com and you’ll see requests for developers or regular people to submit their contact information.

Curiously, that’s about it. There is no incentive to participate. No parameters or vision for the site are given. And any language about moving beyond a single web presence to a social media network, microsites, embeddable widgets, cascading viral … all are missing in action.

Crowdsourcing Star Wars


Casy Pugh wants to refilm Star Wars (perhaps to prove it can be done better than the last three overwrought prequels). So he’s crowdsourcing the effort, inviting people to download 473 separate 15-second clips of the movie and redo them. When done, Casey will reassemble the clips for a result Coolhunting’s Mike Frank predicts will be hilarious.

It’s all a fun experiment, but you can imagine a world in which some network outsources a complex film production to hundreds of talented amateurs. With the right incentive and competition, beauty might happen.

Which form of advertising works best?


Dirk Singer at London PR shop Cow has posted several recent studies on how consumers evaluate different forms of advertising. Word of mouth and online opinions carry the greatest weight as advertising with “some degree of trust,” which explains why brands are racing to get into the stream of Twitter and Facebook conversations.

But what people don’t like can work

However, marketers should be careful not to read too much into the hyperbole about emerging media. U.S. consumers spend 5 hours and 9 minutes a day on average in front of the television set, so TV remains a powerful ad medium for brand launches and product education. Online member communities get buzz, but use of search engines has consistently outpaced social media for the past six years. Twitter and Facebook are everywhere in the press, but ad formats inside social networks are still struggling with low response rates, and it’s worth noting Facebook missed its revenue projection for 2008 — derived mainly from advertising — by more than 33 percent.

It’s also noteworthy that advertising is judged by the economics of those who respond, not those who don’t. So even if 99.9% of people fail to trust your medium, if 0.1% do — and they become customers at an acceptable cost per sale — then the ads have worked. After all, you once dated before you married, yet you didn’t marry every potential mate in the world. Your “romance marketing” gave you just the right personal response.

We suggest advertisers view emerging media as a worthwhile investment, but only for a fraction of their media budget. The best source of data remains monitoring what works in responses, and then adjusting your mix based on your own results.

For a detailed methodology of how to monitor advertising effectiveness, visit our whitepapers here.

Cisco strokes our ego guru

(Yes, click to play.)

God bless Cisco. Appealing to the egotistical retweet-me-please instinct of social media, their new rich media ads on sites such as BusinessWeek.com invite you to upload your photo and become a thought-leading guru. Then email it to your friends. Or post it on your blog. And, what was that Cisco campaign about? Something about collaboration ready mid-sized networks? Doesn’t matter. Cause it’s now about us, Cisco, your guru. But enough about us, what do you think about us? Cisco who?

(Memo to Cisco agency: You should include a preview in the black video box. And maybe a message about what the heck this campaign is about. Gurus.)

Smashing guitars on the tarmac? United, call Radian6.

Here’s one more reason why your business should monitor social media. Musician Dave Carroll watched in horror from his plane window while luggage guys on the tarmac broke his $3,500 guitar. So he posted a musical to YouTube yesterday spilling the beans on United; the video already has 15,000 views and is trending fast. The most interesting stat: the YouTube video has spawned 950 comments, most with similar angry stories about airlines customer service. As Darryl Ohrt notes, this is not the kind of viral any business plans for.

College kids flee Facebook. Maybe it was the poke from Grandma.


Many is the fad that reached a crest of hyperbole right before crashing. You know, like your Uncle Milt telling you to invest in real estate in 2007. Now Peter Corbett at iStrategyLabs has run the numbers on Facebook and found college users are down a whopping 21% in the past six months, right when mass media can’t get enough. Overall Facebook users are up, sure, but that’s driven by huge increases in the over 55 set. Have the cool-hunters moved on, as they always do, an early warning for mass exodus?

Facebook seems to be working to stop the slide. It recently announced changes to its privacy settings that would allow you to build custom controls to publish thoughts to different circles of friends. If that takes off, it would create switching costs — why switch to the next social network if Facebook remembers your personal settings?

Call it a fence for social media. Alas, the cool kids may already be off of the farm.

Via Patrick LaForge.

The little threat behind Bogusky’s open conversation


Crispin Porter + Bogusky, the agency behind the creepy King and subservient chicken, has followed Skittles by relaunching its web site as a conversational hub — 80% feeds of what others are tweeting or blogging about it. Tim Leberecht at CNET explains that this is more than a trend; it also creates a potential threat for marketers everywhere.

After all, if a conversational hub is intriguing, what happens if someone else builds one for your brand? For example, Leberecht says, imagine “if McDonald’s suddenly saw itself confronted with a site aggregating blogs, videos, news, and tweets, all about but not by McDonald’s?” Leberecht goes on to suggest brands would have little legal ground for fighting this, since they can control their own intellectual property but not the conversations compiled elsewhere.

Aggregation, it seems, opens the doors for anyone to erect an exciting hub about a topic. Google has become the world’s largest case study of offering up content without ownership. If what people say about you has become more important than what you say, what happens if someone else gains control of your conversation first?