On the last day of the Interactive, I am beginning to feel a bit wistful about the conclusion. I'm exhausted, yet sad to see it go. I must make the most of it! The first two sessions of the day, that I attended with former student and current employee Jordan Viator, were some of the best of the week.
Future of Corporate Blogs
The first session on the Future of Corporate Blogs, was fascinating in that it had panelist representation from some of the places with the most experience in this area. Mario Sundar, the Community Evangelist (yes, that's his title) at LinkedIn and Lionel Menchaca of Dell had the most interesting things to reveal. They spoke about the usage of comments and the difficulties in measuring success. The key to both was in the ways they articulate the power of the community. You need to be where they are, instead of trying to force the community to you, whether it be a blog, or Facebook, or Twitter or something else. And, they felt you needed to send employees in to these communities to engage. Wow, how different is that from a few years ago, when companies were concerned about employees wasting time in these spaces.
Menchaca from Dell said that the keys to success are listening, analyzing, and then taking action. He said a couple of times that he felt "blessed" to have the support at the top of his organization from Michael Dell, but that the culture throughout the organization must embrace the value of these activities. If you don't affect the culture, your job is only half complete. Another thing that I found interesting was his mantra "Get it off email," basically saying that these email threads are not as effective as going to a community in another forum.
LinkedIn articulated three goals: user education; product demos; and feature benefits.
Some additional resources can be found at http://del.icio.us/kamichat/sxsw2008
Peas in a Pod: Advertising, Monetization, and Social Media
I liked this one because it had the guy from Ask a Ninja on it, Kent Nichols. He keeps it real. The other panelists were Tim Kendall from Facebook, Ellen McGirt from Fast Company, and Seth Goldstein from Socialmedia Networks. There was a bit of disagreement, because the Facebook and Socialmedia guys were all about getting users to organically engage with products and services that would be displayed as advertising, a word-of-mouth strategy, just online. Ninja has short pre-rolls on their online videos, and they have mega page views, so it's working for them. But, their strategy is unique in that they can mention products in the pre-roll, usually funny, by the Ninja. It's part of the entertainment. It's not that easy for everyone, and only certain products would want to be associated like that. Ninja grosses about $100k/month in advertising, licensing, and merchandise. Not bad...
Goldstein from Socialmedia said to always provide context for users and allow them to easily invite friends to do things (in a not too spammy sort of way). The apps are the big driver on Facebook, and opening up the development and the sharing of revenue is the key to their strategy.
An example of good and bad context: feeding TechCrunch articles to your page vs. seeing how your friends were reading and commenting on specific TechCrunch articles.
One takeaway: for social media, metrics are hard. OK, they've always been hard. I'm still amazed that online advertisers are still fixated on click throughs. That is a much higher expectation than we have for any other form of advertising. And, anyway, read Convergence Culture. It's not even about exposure, it's about association and usually in The Long Tail.
Someone used the term "peerfluence," sorry I can't attribute, but that's a term to mean being influenced to do something based on what others you trust or know have done. That seems to be what these sites are banking on, and how they execute on this will define success.
An audience member asked about whether or not this was the "Amway-itization" of social media, the use of what the were calling "social ads." I had never heard it put that way before, but I think it is valid. Do I really want to be constantly barraged by what my friends are doing and how awesome it all is? Panelists agreed, and responded that these strategies work best for things like music and movies, things people already share, not so much with consumer products, like toothpaste. Those guys need to figure out something else. Try Convergence Culture... But, they said that social ads have about 2-4 times higher click through rates than regular ads.
And one final interesting comment, and this was alluded by Mark Z. Kendall said that in 2007 Facebook's strategy was about deep engagement with the platform. In 2008, it's all about seamless integration across the Web (can you say Open Social?).
Ninja at the Web Awards on Sunday night.