Blogging: A View From the Inside

Posted July 18, 2009 by Cindy
Categories: Blogs

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

After nine weeks of blogging, here’s my take on the whole experience.

Ernest von Rosen, www.amgmedia.com

Ernest von Rosen, http://www.amgmedia.com

It is time consuming. It takes time to research topics, locate credible sources to link out to, hunt down free-use photos, apply personal context or analysis, and write and edit it so that it hopefully winds up being interesting. Don’t forget you then have to promote it.

While this may not seem that difficult, try doing this twice a week while also writing five weekly classroom discussion posts, a weekly class paper, and working anywhere from 65-75 hours a week. It probably won’t come as any surprise to learn I have a love/hate relationship with my blog. But all in all, it’s been fun and interesting and it’s got me thinking about other blog themes.

As for just how much time it takes, that depends on you and your goals. Technorati’s State of the Blogosphere shows that the majority of top bloggers spend anywhere from one to 10 hours a week on their blogs.

I spent anywhere from two hours a week, when a really great subject just sort of fell in my lap – like “Okay, Who Pooped?” – on up to five hours when finding a relevant topic took much more digging – like “Is Crowdsourcing A Mass-ive Concern for Marketers or Opportunity?”

Technorati: Time spent blogging each week

Technorati: Time spent blogging each week

Frequent postings keep readers engaged and coming back. Again, I started this blog as a requirement for my graduate class, which specified a minimum of two postings a week. While researching topics each week, I’d run across a lot that interested me and wish I’d had the time to write additional postings about them. I had to rein in my curiosity because I found myself being sidetracked by ideas swirling in my head. There’s no hard and fast rule about frequency – my advice is to be realistic about goals and time constraints.

Technorati: Posting frequency

Technorati: Posting frequency

Hot topics or controversial subjects tend to draw the most conversation. Of course this requires a certain amount of courage to be willing to bring them up and give an opinion that others may or may not agree with. But it also is what will attract readers from outside your circle of friends. When “Okay, Who Pooped?” elicited a comment from Talula, who I don’t know and who later returned to read and comment on others’ comments, it really drove home what this medium can do to connect with people. Thank you, Talula!

There are many styles of blogs. I’ve been reading my classmates blogs and they’ve had some great topics that made me think, gosh, I wish I’d thought of that! Some examples are:

 – Joe’s “The Sixth Sense – Get Ready for Your Jaw to Drop!” and Anna’s “Wikis… Stop Trying to Boil in a Frying Pan”

– R Petty’s “I May Not Be Famous Here, But I Am Very Well-Loved in Prague” and Maureen’s “Bad Video Can Do More Harm than Good” (caution: don’t watch the accompanying video while eating)

– Mitzi’s “NewsGator: The Corporate Alternative to Facebook at Work” and Shannon’s “542542 Is Not Code for the Russian National Security Agency”

And these are just a few. I highly recommend you read my classmates’ blogs linked at right under IMC619.

Appreciate your community. I’ve been amazed by the people who have returned to read my blog, participated, and told me they’ve found it to be interesting. Thank you for your thoughts and opinions and the dialogue – and turning what started out as a class assignment into a really cool experience.

Plastic Surgery Company Will Need Brand Facelift After Faking Consumer Reviews

Posted July 18, 2009 by Cindy
Categories: Internet

Tags: , , , , , , , ,
Ernest von Rosen, www.amgmedia.com

Ernest von Rosen, http://www.amgmedia.com

The Word of Mouth Marketing Association’s ethics code clearly states that “Word of mouth cannot be faked. Deception, infiltration, dishonesty, shilling, and other attempts to manipulate consumers or the conversation are bad. Honest marketers do not do this, will not do this, and will get caught if they try. Sleazy behavior will be exposed by the public and backfire horribly on anyone who attempts it.”

Let’s hope word of mouth spreads about Lifestyle Lift. This plastic surgery company was caught posting fake consumer reviews online.

New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo said this week the company has agreed to a settlement over its phony reviews. As part of the settlement, the company must pay $300,000 in penalties to the state and stop publishing anonymous reviews.

According to the Associated Press, the settlement appeared to be one of the first to address so-called astroturf marketing, or creating a bogus grassroots buzz about a product.

Good. As a marketer and a consumer, I’m disgusted by companies that resort to lying, cheating and stealing and to duping the public to enrich themselves. If they put half as much effort into improving their products and services, they wouldn’t need to stoop to such unethical practices.

Internal company e-emails allegedly directing Lifestyle Lift staffers to pretend to be satisfied clients on various Internet message boards was the Attorney General’s smoking gun:

“Friday is going to be a slow day – I need you to devote the day to doing more postings on the web as a satisfied client.” Another internal email directed a Lifestyle Lift employee to “Put your wig and skirt on and tell them about the great experience you had.”

As if that isn’t bad enough, the company also registered and created stand-alone Web sites, such as MyFaceliftStory.com, designed to appear as if they were created by independent and satisfied customers of Lifestyle Lift. In reality, however, Lifestyle Lift either provided all the “user comments” itself, or closely monitored and edited third-party comments to skew the discussion in favor of Lifestyle Lift.

In the settlement, Lifestyle Lift did not admit or deny any wrongdoing. The company in a statement said that “All ‘before’ and ‘after’ photography is of actual patients and their results. However, as ABC News reported, “some of the postings were representative of patient testimonials and comments rather than actual verbatim comments.” Lifestyle Lift also said that management at the company has changed since the illegal postings and that a new internet policy is in place.

This sort of deception is all too common. Another recent example, also reported by the Associated Press, is TripAdvisor, the travel Web site that cncourages customers to rate hotels online. It has added disclaimers to warn readers that hotels could be writing fake reviews to improve their rankings or hurt their competition.

Both of these situations reflect the growing influence of Internet review sites and increased efforts by companies to sway public opinion with glowing testimonials about their own products, or harsh critiques of their competition, the Boston Herald says.

Knowing what you now know about astroturfing, how will it affect your trust in consumer reviews?

The Power of Consumer-Generated Content and Broken Guitars

Posted July 11, 2009 by Cindy
Categories: Internet, Viral

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Trust me, I’m not getting paid a cent to write this blog. Anything you read here has been written by me personally – not by a ghost blogger – and I’m not part of any blog syndication. Nor has anyone offered me the use of “free” products in exchange for coverage.

I know this doesn’t put me in the same league as Guy Kawasaki, who reportedly didn’t disclose he had other writers tweeting for him on Twitter until he was exposed, or Chris Brogan who accepted $500 from Kmart for a “sponsored” post, or Beccah Beushausen, the blogger who lied about being pregnant with a terminally ill child and received donations from readers.  But I’m okay with not being in their company.

People put a lot of trust in what they read online. Personal recommendations rank at the top, along with consumer opinions, of the online sources consumers worldwide most trust. According to the results of a new Nielsen survey of 25,000 Internet consumers from 50 countries, 90 percent of the respondents said they trust recommendations from people they know, while 70 percent said they trusted consumer opinions posted online.

However, in this new age of consumer control, advertisers will be encouraged by the fact that brand websites are trusted at that same 70 percent level as online consumer opinions … despite the authority of word of mouth when it comes to consumer decision-making, advertisers still have a major say in the process. This is backed up by past Nielsen studies which showed that the majority of people posting comments online went to the advertiser website or emailed feedback to the company before they posted. The website, and monitoring feedback through it, is a golden opportunity for advertisers to shape the tone and content of consumer opinion before it reaches the digital masses

trust_in_advertising

The growth in consumer-generated media over the past few years is a sign of consumers’ dependence on word of mouth. Handle a customer complaint badly and watch word of it spread throughout the Internet.

United Airlines knows what I’m talking about. Its baggage handlers smashed a guitar belonging to Dave Carroll who was traveling with his Sons of Maxwell band mates. Carroll complained several times but got neither sympathy nor compensation from United. So he wrote a song about his experience and filmed a video. His “United Breaks Guitars” has gone viral with 1.8 million views and Carroll has told his story to reporters on the CBS Early Show, CNN, and several newspapers. Here are some of the comments on YouTube about the video:

“Hey United? I had a round-trip flight from San Diego to Winnipeg booked for August with you. Guess what? I just cancelled it and rebooked it with someone else. There’s no way I’m giving you my money for treating these guys like this. What treatment do you have in store for me? if I’m your customer?”

“Wow–United sucks at customer service!! I just had a squabble with them–Thanks for singing it all for me– way better than I could.”

“Outstanding! you’ve [sic] spoken for all of my dearly departed lost luggage through the years.”

 “Finally, we, the People, have power! Thanks to technology we can band together around issues from Unted [sic] and customer service, to Iran and human rights. WE need to stick together.”

Now take a look at the video:

United is listening now and, well, singing a different tune.  Carroll plans to go forward with two more songs and videos about United anyway.  But the damage for United is already done as a result of this customer service fiasco. People are definitely talking and switching to competitors based on Carroll’s experience and the posted comments.

It bears repeating:  People put a lot of trust in what they read online.

Bag It and Tag It – With Augmented Reality Technology

Posted July 9, 2009 by Cindy
Categories: Internet, Technology, Uncategorized

Tags: , , , , , , , ,
Source: Brandweek

Source: Brandweek

Hungry for a blink-182 concert but unable to make it due to other commitments or a cash shortage? Dive into a bag of Doritos for your “ticket” to a virtual concert of 3-D performance.

Specially marked bags of Doritos Late Night Chips have markers that are recognizable by augmented reality technology that enhances video imagery with computer-generated graphics in real-time. The concerts are being billed by the company as the first-ever augmented reality experiences to showcase live-action video within a 3-D, interactive environment.

Sounds pretty cool, doesn’t it?

Here’s how it works. Buy the Doritos Late Night Chips and then logon to Doritoslatenight.com and point a special symbol on the back of the bag at a Web cam to launch the virtual performances that pop directly out of the bag. Promo magazine says fans can personalize the performance by the way they hold, move and shake the bag, offering up a new experience each time.

Outkast rapper Big Boi also performs a song using the same augmented reality technology as part of the campaign.

Enlisting famous faces to push products isn’t anything new, but as brands fight for attention in an increasingly saturated media market, advertising campaigns often turn to the Internet and the latest technologies to capture interest. According to Doritos’ parent Frito Lay, young consumers have come to expect the ability to enjoy music 24/7:

“That’s why we’re putting Doritos lovers in control of when and where they access actual performances by two of the best musical acts across rock, pop and hip-hop, in a totally unprecedented way – a concert in the palm of your hand.”

In a Marketplace interview, Emotional Branding’s CEO Mark Gobe says this goes beyond the typical marketing gimmick:

“At a time when traditional media is less powerful, they are trying to make the packaging the message. They are bringing people to a reality and an experience that is unique and can be shared.”

This is another good example of the way emerging technology is changing the way consumers get information and marketers present their messages. RSS, video streaming, videopodcasting and podcasting, augmented reality – they’re all rapidly transforming the marketing landscape. It’s an exciting time to be in marketing and a part of what Wall Street Journal and Business 2.0 columnist Clay Shirky calls the “greatest revolution in individual expression.”

 

Is Crowdsourcing A Mass-ive Concern for Marketers or Opportunity?

Posted July 6, 2009 by Cindy
Categories: Uncategorized

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

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What’s a cost-effective way to create and produce a TV commercial? Do like the Texas Department of Transportation and crowdsource it.

Crowdsourcing occurs when a company or institution invites a large pool of external people to perform a function rather than handling it internally.TxDOT has issued an open call to Texans 18 or older giving them opportunity to submit their own videos in the search for the next Don’t Mess with Texas® TV commercial. The idea behind Car2Can™, a first-ever video contest by Don’t Mess with Texas, is to creatively show how to get trash from cars to trashcans instead of the side of Texas roadways, according to the Woodlands Online.

–  The grand-prize winner’s video will air during prime-time television this summer, and the winner will also receive a $500 Wal-Mart gift card.
–  The second-place winner will receive a Gibson Epiphone Les Paul II guitar branded by Sweet Leaf Tea.
–  The third-place winner will receive a prize package from Sweet Leaf Tea.

$500 for a TV commercial is pretty cheap considering it normally costs thousands of dollars to produce one.

Crowdsourcing isn’t new, but according to a BusinessWeek opinion piece by Crispin, Porter + Bogusky executive John Winsor, the recession is making it more prevalent. He points to LG’s use of crowdsourcing for a new cell phone design as one of several companies turning to the masses for ideas and solutions:

Customers, of course, are increasingly demanding participation. They expect the ability to co-create and lead innovation, and their volubility has forced companies to devise creative solutions to be competitive in a new bottom-up age. Procter & Gamble, Starbucks, Dell, Best Buy, Threadless, and Nike have all created digital platforms that allow customers to help them create new products and messages. Starbucks received over 17,000 coffee ideas in the first 14 months since the launch of its proprietary online forum, mystarbucksidea.com.

Paula Whitla spells out the pros and cons of crowdsourcing in “Crowdsourcing and its Application in Marketing Activities”:

The advantages of crowdsourcing are that it gives firms access to a potentially huge amount of labor outside of the firm which can complete necessary tasks often in a fraction of the time and at a fraction of the cost than if the same activities were conducted in-house. Some of the available ‘crowd’ may have limited skills but they will be willing to take on repetitive, menial tasks which cannot easily be performed by computers. On the other hand selected crowds may have a degree of expertise not available within the firm which can work to solve more complex issues or tasks. With particularly [sic] applicability to the marketing field, crowdsourcing allows firms to harvest ideas from a wide and diverse collection of individuals with experiences and outlooks different from those that exist within the firm.

Whitla says there clear disadvantages to crowdsourcing, as well:

Although the method works on the principle that ‘two heads are better than one,’ sometimes a crowd can return a vast amount of noise that may be of little relevance. As Jeff Howe has put it ‘sometimes crowds can be wise, but sometimes they can also be stupid’. For crowdsourcing to be effective tasks need to be focused and clearly explained and the firm needs to have procedures in place for effectively filtering and considering ideas that come in. For some types of work crowdsourcing will not be effective, there is a limited ability to use the methodology where the information to be gathered or project being worked on is secretive in nature.

Crowdsourcing doesn’t seem to be fading away. Consider the recent launch of Logomyway.com, a Dublin online company that allows designers to submit entries to contests held by companies looking for new logos. Microsoft’s Task Market is another crowdsourcing platform aimed at buyers and suppliers of business-oriented services such as design, copywriting, and Web site development.

The increasing use of crowdsourcing has the potential to radically change marketing, and I’m not sure it will be for the better even though it may be inevitable.

What do you think?

Setting Out on an Advergaming Expedition

Posted July 5, 2009 by Cindy
Categories: Gaming

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
http://www.CustomDigitalMaps.com/

CustomDigitalMaps.com

Could you guide an expedition on a 970-mile trek from Zanzibar to Ujiji and avoid leopards, snakes, crocs, fever and other obstacles before running out of food, ammunition and porters? This is the challenge posed by The History Channel’s new advergame, Expedition.

Advergames are a special type of game created solely for the delivery of an advertising message, and they are increasing gaining in popularity among marketers. According to Parks Associates, US spending on in-game advertising is expected to rise from $370 million to $2 billion in 2012.

 A 2008 report on The Future of Advergames by Casual Connect, cites a study by Nielsen BASES and Nielsen Games with insight into why advertisers are becoming more interested in this medium.

Among those exposed to ads while playing a game:

–  82% felt the games were just as enjoyable with ads as without

–  61% had more favorable opinions of products advertised after playing the game than they did before exposure

–  Aided recall increased 44% compared to pre-game levels

–  Positive brand attribute association increased 33% across all brands compared to pre-game results

Expedition is part of The History Channel’s new interactive Web site promoting the launch of the new show Expedition Africa. According to DM News, the site was launched as part of a multiplatform marketing campaign that also includes online video, social media, out-of-home and TV ads.

The site features eight interactive promotional landscapes that correspond to each episode of the show, as well as videos, photos and interactive games. The idea behind this design strategy was to bring the show to life on the Web. It is highly interactive and has a lot of Flash and HTML design, without sacrificing search engine optimization.

The History Channel is using social media sites to spread the word about its new show and to pull viewers to its site. It’s promoting the game on its Facebook page to its 89,000 fans, for example. There’s buzz about the program among 6,800 Twitter followers.

As marketers work to tie interactivity with social media tools, advergames seem poised to pick up steam as a vehicle for getting a brand out to a broad, receptive audience.

 

Try the game. Let me know if you agree. See if you can beat my score

of 1100.

 

Hello, Netflix – Are You Listening to What People Are Saying About Your Pop-Under Ads?

Posted June 28, 2009 by Cindy
Categories: Internet, Social Networks

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

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What’s up with Netflix? The internet is rife with complaints from Internet users – including current Netflix customers – about the company’s use of pop-under ads. And you can 753468_earcount me among those who are irritated by constantly being bombarded by these ads.

Netflix Underground, an unofficial company blog that bills itself as “the dark side of Netflix, laments the overuse of these ads, which far surpass the annoyance of all of the company’s other forms of advertising:

“Here’s how it works. You visit a Web site, complete your business, and close the browser window. That should be the end of your experience, but do not be surprised to find another small window remaining on your desktop after you are finished. In bold and bright letters, Netflix beckons you with tantalizing offers of free trials and low introductory pricing. Even though you did not intentionally open the advertisement page, it is there whether you care to see it or not. If you want the obnoxious ad to go away, you must manually close the window. That is when you start to wonder what sort of cookie data is now on your computer and how much extra bandwidth the ad page consumed while loading. If you did not want to see this sneaky Netflix pop-under ad, why were you inconvenienced by it? Sure, you can install software to fight these ads, but the software is not 100% effective. Besides, why should you have to install software on your computer to battle Netflix’s marketing efforts? Why should you have to take any steps to close or impede a window you did not want to open in the first place?”

Another site, Netflixsux, urges visitors to complain to Netflix. Netflix pop-under ads are a popular subject on Twitter, as well. Here’s a recent sample from one of its customers:

“Please, you NetFlix pop-under scumbag pieces of garbage, I am ALREADY A CUSTOMER! Stop it, I beg you. I hope you die. Seriously”

 Bloggers have plenty to say about it, too:

“… Just got off the phone with Netflix. Apparently they have no control over how their ads are served. The person I spoke with said that anybody can sign up to be an affiliate and as a result they have no way of doing any sort of quality control with their ads. It sounds like the format of the ads are controlled by individual websites and/or ad services. Boo! Looks like we won’t see an end to this anytime soon. However, the person I spoke with did say that they would do an investigation if they get enough concerned calls about this issue, so call in and voice your opinions about these pop-unders!”

In looking at the Netflix site, I wasn’t able to find anything that addresses the pop-under issue, which is a shame considering the amount of online complaining. Nor did I run across any replies from Netflix representatives to these complaints.

It may very well be that pop-under ads are pulling traffic to Netflix where they are successfully being converted into customers. I haven’t found any data that indicates just how effective this is for Netflix, so I will assume that is. Nevertheless, I think it is poor strategy on Netflix’ part to ignore what so many people are saying about the use of these ads and the Netflix brand.

Online discussions in forums, on blogs or elsewhere are a modern replacement for customer satisfaction surveys or focus group reports, which can take months to compile and analyze. The discussion is taking place in real time and companies can pick up very quickly on what consumers are saying. Ultimately, the point of tracking what online consumers are saying about brands is to be able to react quickly if something bad happens or learn from the good things people say. Either way, companies are learning they have to pay attention. (Terdiman, 2006)

According to Gillin: (2008)

–  Silence is the worst response to criticism – it simply becomes another negative.

–  Most negative customers simply want to be heard. If you engage with them constructively, you almost always turn them around and they often become your most vocal fans.

–  A few angry customers can’t do much damage and, in fact, they’re usually shouted down by supporters. Negativity is only a problem when a large number of voices are involved; and the earlier you head off that mob the quicker you put down the revolt.

Do you think Netflix should be addressing the issue of its pop-under ads?

 

References

Gillin, P. (2008, February 11) Learning to live with a bit of negativity. B to B, 93(2), 10. Retrieved June 25, 2009, through the EBSCOhost database.

Terdiman, D. (2006, January 3) Why companies monitor blogs. CNET News. Retrieved June 26, 2009, from http://news.cnet.com/Why-companies-monitor-blogs—page-2/2100-1030_3-6006102-2.html?tag=mncol.