Friday, 30 October 2009 - a slight return

I've written a lot about Spotify on here, because it's a great concept that (seems) to have a long term business model. But let's face it, there is a big hole in the model around socialised discovery of new stuff to listen to. While sites like make sharing possible, possible is a long way off where a brand like Spotify should be.

(Spotifylists also looks like it has attracted the same spam pollution that seems to mark anything that is becoming genuinely popular - check the 'small claims filing' playlist).

Of course there is a perfectly good way to find find what other people who share your taste in music like, on I deleted my account back in 2007 when they were taken over by CBS, as I personally didn't want to give a record label access to my hard drive, and I didn't know just how much access's scrobbling function would give them. So two and a half years on there don't seem to have been any prosecutions for whatever it is that constitutes 'things that record labels can prosecute you for' these days, and I'd largely forgotten about I was bemoaning Spotify's lack of sharing features a few weeks ago and someone pointed out that all the things I was after from it were so 2006, and I decided to give another go - lets face it, it was a bit ahead of its time.....

Ok, so I was wrong. And my profile is a bit lonely. If you're passing that way then look me up, and if you share similar tastes, I'm a little behind the curve on friends over there!

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Twitter's deals with Google and Bing - changing everything and nothing

There's not been a lot made of Microsoft's announcement earlier in the week that Bing would include real time results from Twitter (and to a lesser extent Facebook) in its search results at some unspecified time soon. It has mostly been interesting to the likes of Mashable and ReadWriteWeb because of Google's counter a few hours later that they would also being doing so, so removing any competitive advantage that this might have brought Bing.

Leaving aside the debate about how scalable this level of traffic increase will be considering Twitter's notoriously unreliable infrastructure (discussed in the comments of ReadWriteWeb's coverage of the announcement), it also raises some interesting questions for brands that haven't so far found a role for themselves on Twitter.

In most cases brands that are successfully using Twitter at scale are succeeding because they have understood that it offers an opportunity for dialogue with their customers - whether that is Comcast's customer service, Compare the Market's advertising character backstory (Disclosure - client), or Ford's combination of one-to-one dialogue, customer relations and comms campaign amplification. Those that successfully use the service as a sales channel (usually based on exclusive offers) such as Dell tend to have an established two-way communication presence on Twitter before pushing sales messages.

This all makes sense, as to maintain any sort of following of the scale that would be useful to a major brand their Twitter stream will need to offer enough regular interest and value to encourage people to opt in to it. Sales messages alone wouldn't fit with how most people use the service. The resource cost of monitoring and maintaining this presence has tended to scare some brands away from getting involved with Twitter at all - there is no value to them in involvement at low scale.

Google and Bing's ability to index the real time web fundamentally changes this. Suddenly the value for brands pushing direct sales messages on Twitter becomes their SEO juice. It's fair to assume that Google sees Twitter as a threat, and that as people are increasingly searching for real time or as near as results, the best way to see off the threat is to push recency in their own results so that Google, rather than any development of Twitter's own underpowered search engine, continues to be the first place that you go to search. And as long as paid links continue to show up next to them, Google still hoovers up brands' marketing budgets. So results from Twitter are likely to assume a greater importance in SEO strategies over the coming months.

It will be interesting to see how the search engines rank the Twitter data they now have access to. I'd like to think that Google has acquired deep enough integration with the data to apply its own version of 'tweetrank' algorithms, but given the level of competition between the two this might be unlikely. Microsoft has already announced that Bing will search either by recency or relevancy. Either way, there is now no reason for brands not to be on Twitter, as even running a sales channel feed to no followers has a potential SEO benefit.

However, a brand Twitter presence, however one-way and SEO orientated, will still attract lovers and haters of the brand to start conversations with it - it isn't ever going to be just a box to tick o improve ranking. While SEO will be the reason to get involved, brands will need a defined Twitter strategy covering customer relations, PR, marketing and SEO. And by the sound of it, they will need one fairly quickly given that both Google and Bing are going to be integrating their Twitter data access this year (indeed Bing already has a rebrand of Twitter's own search in beta at the moment)

Thinking through this, I worried at first that this was going to deluge Twitter with the sort of random direct response ads that you see everywhere else - after all, there is a strong rationale for DR advertisers to do this. Then I remembered that it won't make any difference to my use of Twitter because I won't see any of them, as I won't follow the brands. So while it does change how brands should view and use Twitter, the announcement makes next to no difference for anyone else.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Recruitment iPhone apps

This question made me think when I first saw it - 10 years if you're interested. Strangely enough after you've got one job, you tend to find other ones through people rather than through advertising. I'm sure that this was always the case to some degree, but making wide ranging connections with relevant people has become quicker and easier the same way everything else has.

It doesn't stop recruitment companies with vacancies to fill requiring the attention of suitable candidates though - they can't find everyone on LinkedIn yet. and one called Harvey Nash are approaching it in a slightly different way. I was randomly browsing web apps the other day when I came across this one in the social networks category. 'Are you a digital evangelist' not 'Techulus'. Even a geek like me doesn't want to join a social network for 'iphonians'.

So I couldn't resist, and had a quick look to see what the app was for.

Having never heard of Harvey Nash, I actually scrolled all the way through to see what it was for (well, actually I was looking for a place to comment)

and felt a bit let down when I got to the final screen and realised that this was all an elaborate job ad. An then I was really impressed, as these guys clearly know exactly what is going to grab the attention of potential candidates, and exactly where to put it. Not just making an iPhone app for the sake of it, but making a quick cheap web app that does a better job than any ad

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Twitter Times - Friend Powered RSS

(photo courtesy)
I'd guess that most of the people reading this used to share lots of links on Delicious, and now tend to share them on Twitter. I follow lots of people on Twitter that I don't know, and many that I'll probably never meet, and I do that because they are interesting - they share stuff from other industries or other continents that is related to stuff i like. I've found that over the last year or so that has meant I read things like newspapers a lot less (actually that is partly to do with having all the bits of newspapers that i like downloaded to my phone using clever stuff like Viigo) and read more things that i get referred to on the internet. Decisions about which Sunday paper to buy used to be based on which one best aggregated interesting people writing for it, and in one sense relying on friends' recommendations is similar - you follow them because they are interesting - but it differs in having the power of recommendation behind it. And obviously in being on a screen, so without the tactile, lazy, spread out on the table benefits that come with a newspaper.

I was thinking about this while stuck on a train with no wifi over the weekend, because i'd just been sent a link to my personal Twitter Times, which aggregates all the links that my friends share into one feed reader. It also recommends stuff from friends of friends. There's a video of how it works below.

It isn't rocket science, but it is a really neat use of the API. I've moved away from my feed reader and spend more time on Tweetdeck recently, so this is something of a halfway house - friend-fuelled RSS if you like. Anyway, I was looking around at all the people who had remembered to buy a newspaper and wishing that I'd printed my Twitter Times. I don't think that this is what it was designed for, but I wish it could turn into that. A few months ago I made up some things that I thought the magazine industry could do, inspired by some famous magazine or other ceasing publication, including this

People like magazines (ok not enough to make them profitable). If you are using a site every day to check a few favourite feeds, then surely it should be able to learn enough from what you, other people like you, your friends, etc read to be able to put a pretty decent package of content together that you haven't read. And then your subscription could offer you a couple of printed copies per year (printed specifically for you, content specific to you that it knows you haven't read). (Perhaps when you book a train ticket you could be reminded to order it for delivery the day of travel) - the printed version becomes the personalised collectors edition.

There's not really been a way of making 'your friends' recommendations' a physical product like this, although most people have pretty good printing technology in their houses. OK you can print your Google Reader, but when you look at what something like Twitter Times could be when coupled with something like Ben Terrett and Russell Davies's
Newspaper Club, which can provide the design templates and printing (I think that's what they're up to), or Marcus Brown turning his blog into a book then there are some exciting post digital niche publishing opportunities around, and one excited potential customer here

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Online Display ads can be awesome (who knew?)

Lovely work from Apple (less lovely handheld video work from me....)

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Is 'social media' the problem?

I wanted to write up the IPA Social event last week, but unfortunately I've had my arm in a sling for most of the time since, so here we go a week later! I've written a few things on here about how the IPA Social stuff kicked off, which was basically about a few people talking about what we thought other people might want to also talk about. The first event last week got a lot more folk joining in, and there seem to be a few themes that keep coming up - there's obviously a big piece around measurement, which I'll leave to people who know more about it, but I'm really interested in the role of brands, and their agencies, in "social media". Over on Advergirl, Leigh House makes the point that

When we talk about consumers paying for content, we skip over how brands get into the conversation. Can we really rely on WOM networks to do the work of mass advertising? Do we all want to turn into blathering mouthpieces for our favorite brands?

(as part of a much longer and very smart series of posts on the changing economics of mass media).

And a lot of the themes are around how things are changing for every type of communications business: brands don't believe for a minute that there is a whole population waiting to promote their products if they could only design that Facebook page right, but they are getting differing advice from their different specialists on what has changed.

Is the term 'social media' the problem for marketers?
It seems that the
term social media itself is counter productive - a fundamental change in how people are able to communicate with each other will naturally have knock-on effects to all businesses that deal with communications. But it will affect each differently. So 'social media' means something different to an ad agency than to a PR agency because it impacts what they have traditionally done in different ways. So the advice that clients get from their roster is that 'social media' means a range of different things. Meanwhile the customer services and IT departments are finding that it means a set of other different things outside of the marketing department but intrinsic to the brand.

When you have a range of different disciplines, advertising, digital, PR, media, etc, in a room talking about something that crosses over (and changes) each of their specialisms, you naturally get different views of what is important and how to go about achieving it. Will's written a great piece on why a brand might not want to be social, asking why you would care more about what sharing opinions with your bank than how good it is at managing your money. Which makes sense from the perspective of what has changed for advertising. There's obviously some brands that aren't inherently social. In a lot of cases, it might be counter-productive for brand built around functionality and cost to try and make itself social. But only in its advertising, in what it says about itself. These type of brands also have over-stretched customer service departments in which NOT being 'social' ie not trying to initiate open conversations with customers, is far more counter-productive to the way the brand communicates. But these are outside of the role of most of the agencies employed by a brand marketing department because they don't sit within brand marketing. One of the key challenges to brands and their agencies that people have been talking about over the last few years is moving from campaigning to committing - as in John Willshire's great analogy about bonfires and fireworks. Someone (not sure who, sorry) at the IPA Social event challenged to this, saying that surely it is about committing and campaigning. Which makes sense; there's nothing wrong with 'social media campaigns', as long as they are part of a wider change in brand behaviour; but there's no point in talking about how you are 'listening to consumers' on TV and then ignoring them in call centres, as you'll get found out quickly and publicly. Campaigning has been the domain of ad agencies, while committing fits more into what we traditionally called PR. As media relations has evolved to include geniune 'public' relations (eg liaising with non professional journalists) among other things, PR agencies have been on the coalface of brands' moves towards 'committing'. This doesn't mean that 'campaigning' doesn't still have relevance, just that it will look different from what ad agencies have traditionally done (as Robin Grant rightly points out in his write-up of the IPA event). However, lumping all these changes to various comms disciplines together and calling them 'social media' makes it harder for marketers to understand the underlying changes, or the need to act on them.

To me the terminology is wrong because it confuses cause (structural change in communications that is far bigger than just our industry) with effect (that clients' objectives are best served by having a group of specialists relevant to their business needs). In that in a lot of cases clients find it difficult to put the correct roster in place because they are equally confused by the conflicting advice from specialists who concentrate on changes happening to their own specialist areas.... which is all labelled social media.