Bob Lefsetz had a great post the other day that I'd like to share:
Empowering the Audience
Go to a gig and you'll see a plethora of attendees filming the event. Not only taking photos, but literally recording the gig.
Old acts want to employ a no-camera policy. They want to ban the users. Newbies tolerate it. Why not EMBRACE the audience's activity?
Why doesn't every band have a page for audience uploads? Pics AND clips? Allowing the fans themselves to vote on which ones are the best, which ones are worth viewing?
Of course, you host on YouTube and you embed on the artist's page. If Google can sway L.A. to host its e-mail in the cloud, why can't bands utilize the company's free services to their advantage? Flickr is a great resource too!
The point is we've got it all wrong. We're trying to tell the fans what to do, when they should be telling US what to do!
Did you read the story on Twitter in yesterday's "New York Times"? All its good ideas come from outside. Like search, hash tags and referencing people by using the @ symbol. The company decried some of these innovations, they didn't even want messages to be called "tweets". Then they realized they had it wrong, that they should be embracing third party innovation, not stifling it!
People want to share music. Rather than trying to stop this, copyright owners should make it easier. You want to e-mail someone the track? Let the band's site do it for you! And if the person you send the music to clicks a button on the e-mail, saying he actually likes the new cut, you get points, allowing you better seats at the gig or some other swag.
What, do we think we're going to prevent people from swapping music? If you believe this, you must not have any USB keys, which even come in credit card-sized promotional form these days. It's not about stopping trading, but INCREASING trading!
Eventful has got it right. An act should go where its fans want them to.
Fans want more access, not less. Where is fan access to music business executives? Ashton Kutcher and every musician known to man can tweet, but Edgar Bronfman, Jr., Doug Morris and Jimmy Iovine can't? No wonder the business gets such a bad rap. If it's all about relationships, how about doing a spot of work, helping the cause? Believe me, hiding behind Mitch Bainwol will pay no dividends.
Speaking of Twitter, people like to tweet about tracks. Why not create a service easier than Blip, that allows people to hear what others tweet about? I should be able to tweet about a track, and if you want to check it out, all you've got to do is click the link. And I get the URL for the track from one central, easy to use database. Plug the name into a Google-type search engine and you IMMEDIATELY get a bit.ly shortened url for someone to hear the entire thing. This is better than radio promotion. You're getting people truly interested in the music checking it out right away. They're pulling it, you're not pushing it. And pull is where all the money is. It's just like Google AdWords. The people who click WANT TO BUY!
The fans want to hook up at the gig. Can't you make this easier? A special meeting station, with free wi-fi for iPhones. Believe me, you can get a sponsor to cough up the free wi-fi.
We've got it all wrong. We've been FIGHTING the customer instead of EMBRACING HIM! So worried about losing money, being unable to sustain the nineties model, we're closing the door to the future. The more you can get people excited about music, the more you can increase their access, the more money you ultimately make.
Sure, Twitter itself may not yet be profitable, but the tweets are evanescent. Music is not. Get someone hooked on an act, and they'll go see them live, buy merch, buy the music, whether it be the track outright or listening on a paid streaming service.
For over a decade, the technology's been more interesting than the music. Because music has been putting up barriers, refusing to play in the new world. This makes no sense. Instead of telling people how to use the music, let them tell US!
1. Back in my day, we only needed 140 characters. 2. There used to be so much snow up here, you could strap a board to your feet and slide all the way down. 3. Televised contests gave cash prizes to whoever could store the most data in their head. 4. Well, the screens were bigger, but they only showed the movies at certain times of day. 5. We all had one, but nobody actually used it. Come to think of it, I bet my LinkedIn profile is still out there on the Web somewhere. 6. * 7. Our bodies were made of meat and supported by little sticks of calcium. 8. You used to keep files right on your computer, and you had to go back to that same computer to access them! 9. Is that the new iPhone 27G? Got multitasking yet? 10. I just can't get used to this darn vat-grown steak. Texture ain't right.
* Translation: "English used to be the dominant language. Crazy, huh?"
I subscribe to a handful of magazines. Business Week, Fast Company, and Wired are the ones I read with any regularity. Add the slew of online publications from which I receive information daily, and I find it really tough to keep up.
I’m writing this as I sit on an airplane returning home to Los Angeles after a business trip. I’ve been catching up on my reading and I’ve actually stopped for a moment to transfer some of the content spewing from my brain onto virtual paper. I just finished some incredibly thought provoking stories and I had to share. Look, if you are like me, you like it when someone says, “You have to read this!” - with the exclamation point thrown in to give you that visual of your friend insisting that you do so, immediately!
Here are a couple must reads…
The App Economy – Business Week – Cover story of the November 2 issue (page 45) – Link
This is a great article about how applications for iPhones, Android phones, Facebook, and soon websites like Yahoo! are proliferating at an astronomical rate. According to the article it says the app market is $1 Billion dollars today and headed towards $4 Billion by 2012. Amazing for a business that didn’t exist 3 years ago.
The Answer Factory – Wired – November 2009 issues (page 158) - Link
On the flight out to my business meeting yesterday I looked over at the woman next to me on the plane and she was reading USA Today. I saw that there was an article about eHow. I’ll admit, I often sing the praises of eHow and other “how to” websites. If you want to know how to do almost anything, these sites will show you how. Both in written word and with video. The USA Today article was a good overview of Richard Rosenblatt, the CEO of eHow’s parent company Demand Media. It’s a good read and you can see it HERE. But if you want to dive in more and understand the landscape of the rapid expansion of “how to” websites and specifically Demand Media’s network and eHow.com, this article is a must read. Demand Media pays people about $20 to create “how to” videos and $15 per article. Demand has published 170,000 videos to YouTube and Rosenblatt’s vision is to publish 1 million videos per month by next summer. That in itself is amazing, but the way that Demand determines what to publish is even more fascinating. Using algorithms, they determine what people are searching for and they immediately commission videos to answer those questions. When asked what is the most valuable topic in Demand’s arsenal, the company’s chief innovation officer answered, “Where can I donate a car in Dallas?”
An Epidemic of Fear –Wired – Cover story of November 2009 issue (page 128) - Link
This article is not related to technology, it’s about the battle between science and parents. This one hit home for me because I have a two year old son and immunization is a very real and present topic. The article discusses how science has proven that immunizations are vital and not dangerous but that big voices like Jenny McCarthy, Jim Carrey, and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. claim that immunizations are causing autism. The article is riveting. It’s long. It’s packed with information. It really makes you think. In my social circle I hear both sides. I’ll admit, when my wife tells me about the schedule of immunization shots that our son has to endure, it’s daunting. And I know people who refuse to immunize their children. I’m not taking a stance here, just recommending you read this article if you have children and you are trying to gather all the facts. They do a lot of that for you.
Continuing on from the previous two weeks and wrapping up my topic, here is the final part of my section about Conversational Marketing in Message Boards and Internet Forums...
Message boards often have a member ranking system to identify seniority. Seniority is often identified by a system of names similar to military rank. This rank is defined by both time in the community and number of posts within the community. It is therefore in the interest of every member of a message board community to be in the community for the long haul and to contribute as often as possible. Give yourself at least 3 months to assimilate into the community and at least 100 posts.
Message board members will spot you if you are a marketer and using their community to advertise or broadcast a message. There are a series of names for those who do not enter these communities with these intentions:
N00B – “Newbie” is a member with little contribution to the community.
Troll – Someone that repeatedly and intentionally breaches etiquette (or “netiquette”), often posting derogatory or otherwise inflammatory messages about sensitive topics in an established online community to bait users into responding.
Puppet – Term refers someone who is simultaneously registered under different pseudonyms on a particular message board or forum.
Spammer – People who utilize a number of illicit techniques to post their spam, unpaid advertisements that are in breach of the forum's rules, including the use of bots.
Each message board community has its gatekeepers. These can be site moderators, site owners, site administrators, or a combination of each. Once you have established yourself as a welcome member of the community, you should then get to know the moderator. It behooves you to have their approval for transparent marketing so that they are aware of what you do and that you mean only to offer insight and not blatant advertising. If you are properly assimilated into the community, the moderator or other active members may seek your expertise to answer questions or settle disputes.
You can approach these gatekeepers through contact information on the site or create a basic profile within the board and approach them through a Private Message (PM). You should be honest about your identity and straightforward with your goals. In the long term, brands should provide gatekeepers with relevant, topical and, when possible, exclusive content and information that will clearly be of value to the members of the board. This will ensure a lasting relationship and the cooperation of these gatekeepers.
Social Media marketing as it pertains to message boards is a one to one process. It is marketing to people at an individual level and in order to do that, trust, honest, and transparency are the core values. The end result can be incredibly valuable and you can dramatically affect how people view a brand or a product. But you must devote time and build trust within a community to make marketing in message boards pay off and ultimately give you the positive exposure you are seeking.
I'm listening to Adam Carolla this morning and he's broadcasting from Blogworld in Vegas. He was interviewing Scott Monty from Ford and Scott said some very poignant things about social media.
This year individuals trust corporations 77% less than they did last year. And last year was nothing to brag about either, right? So who do they trust? They trust third party experts; Consumer Reports, articles in the New York Times, and... people like them. And if they are connecting with each other through Facebook, through Twitter, through all these other means online, they're talking about stuff that matters to them.
Let's face it, people have always talked about cars. People have always had car stories. And now some of those conversations are taking place online. So if we show up, and 'we' as human beings, not necessarily as Ford Motor Company. But representatives of Ford show up and start talking with people about stuff that matters to them, and introducing the notion of quality and the fact that Ford is now equal to Toyota in terms of initial quality... this is blowing the old perceptions out of the water. And we're arming people with information to let them do the talking and not us.
Well, it's like I always say with movies. It's just word of mouth. If it's a good movie, your friends go see it. First wave sees it. They come back, they report on it. For good or for bad. And there are plenty of movies I thought, oh I want to see that when I saw the commercial or the trailer a month before it came out and I had 5 people go, 'save your ten bucks, don't bother.'
And what's happening online now is social media allows that traditional word of mouth to become word of mouth on steroids. So if it's a crappy product or a crappy service that word is going to spread even faster than it had in the past. Conversely, if you've got great quality, if you have products that are worth talking about, people are going to spread the word for that too.
Last week I started a section about Conversational Marketing in Message Boards and Forums. Here is the continuation of that...
First, here are some supporting stats for Message Boards and Forums
48% of the active Internet universe claim they have consulted message boards for information on products and brands in an average month (source: Universal McCann)
71% of moms surveyed by BabyCentre think companies should interact with them through communities.
In an online survey of women by iVillage, respondents said they used message boards to "get information" (68%), "share opinions" (70%), "seek advice, recommendations" (49%), and "provide advice, recommendations" (49%).
Now, continuing from where I left off last week...
Standard of Ethics A standard of ethics should be considered when marketing to consumers in message boards and similar communities. The Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) has taken the lead on compiling a list of guidelines to help industry professionals navigate through the communication process. Though there are several principles that WOMMA enforces, all which can be found here, there are two of particular importance when developing any message board marketing strategy:
Honesty of Identity & Opinion - It is essential that marketers engaged in dialogue within discussion forums, fully disclose their identity in order to establish trust and credibility with members of the community. Additionally marketers should never tell consumers what to say or provide community members with unfounded testimonials or endorsements.
Respect the Rules of the Venue - Respect the rights of any online discussion forum or venue to create and enforce its rules as it sees fit.
Best Practices After becoming familiar with ethical standards and guidelines for marketing within these communities, industry professionals can begin crafting and executing their strategy by implementing these best practices:
Research - Devote several hours to understanding what topics are discussed and how they are discussed. Learn who the major voices are within the community and who speaks only on occasion. Understand how to communicate within the community and pay attention to which posts get rejected and which lead way to greater discussion.
Join for the Long Haul - Do not jump into a message board and start marketing. You must devote a minimum of 3 months just to gain some rank and recognition. And be wary of abandoning a community when you are done with your project. Message boards are often made up of very strong personalities and they will notice when people have left after accomplishing what they set out to do. The lineage of your posts are always available and members can track your whole process of entering the community, doing your marketing, and then leaving. Try your best to remain in the community as close to permanently as possible.
Join for the Bigger Discussion - Join the board to contribute to the larger, general discussion taking place around the vertical or topic(s) of interest to the board. Your participation and expertise in the overall space will do more for the brand you represent than any overt advertisement/endorsement of your products and services.
Be Transparent with Identity - Transparency with identity is not just a best practice, but part of an accepted code of ethics (See the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) for this explicit code)*. To properly implement this guideline, you should first establish yourself in the community, and then cautiously proceed with promoting your brand / product. When you do so, introduce the fact that you work for the brand/product you are discussing. This is best served when responding to a discussion topic. It is much better to say, “I can comment on that because I actually work for that industry. I represent Product X and we do it this way…” than to simply start a conversation around your brand/product.
Trust: WOMMA members are committed to engaging in practices and policies that promote an environment of trust between the consumer and marketer.
Integrity: WOMMA members pledge to comply with the requirements of applicable laws, regulations, and rules concerning the prevention of unfair, deceptive or misleading advertising and marketing practices. In particular, WOMMA members promote honesty and transparency in their practices and methods, such that all forms of consumer manipulation are rejected. Indeed, advertising is a creative enterprise that strives to convince the consumer that the advertiser’s product or service is necessary and valuable, but in the course of engaging with the consumers, WOMMA members are committed to avoiding consumer deception as an end result of their marketing practices. As a result, WOMMA members engage in practices that are designed to enable the reasonable consumer acting rationally to make better informed purchasing decisions.
Respect: WOMMA members promote and abide by practices that focus on consumer welfare. WOMMA members believe that the industry is best served by recognizing that the consumer, not the marketer, is fundamentally in charge and control, and that it is the consumer that defines the terms of the consumer-marketer relationship.
Honesty: WOMMA members believe that consumers should be free to form their own opinions and share them in their own words. Simply put, WOMMA members do not support any efforts that tell others what to say or how to say it.
Responsibility: WOMMA members believe that working with minors in marketing programs requires sensitivity and care, given their particular vulnerability to manipulation and deception.
Privacy: WOMMA members respect the privacy of consumers, and encourages practices that promote the most effective means to promote privacy, such as opt-in and permission standards.
It's Friday, I've digested many a podcast this week and it's time to share. My favorite new discovery is DishyMix. Dishy Mix is a peek into the world of digital media. The show's creator and host is Susan Bratton who seems to know everyone in the social media and digital media space. This week I listened to Susan interview social media gurus, Chris Brogan and CC Chapman as well as former Carat agency head, Sarah Fay, and digital media magnet Tim O'Reilly. But my favorite DishyMix podcast was Susan's interview with Razorfish's Social Media chief, Shiv Singh. I met Shiv on a panel in New York earlier this year and I've been following his Going Social Now blog ever since. If you listen to one Dishy Mix podcast after reading this blog, listen to this one. Trust me, you will feel so much smarter after you do.
How did I find out about DishyMix?
Word of Mouth.
Yep, I was having lunch with a friend of mine last week and we were sharing our love of podcasts. He told me about DishyMix and then followed up with an email pointing me in the right direction. Once I saw that the show had interviews with some of my favorite people in the Digital Word of Mouth / Social Media space, I jumped right in.
I still found some time to squeeze in a couple of Adam Carolla's podcasts, but when I looked at the guest list this week, I was a little underwhelmed. Don't get me wrong, I'll eventually listen to them all, but when I discovered DishyMix, I had to make a choice and Adam's interviews with David Allen Grier and Larry Miller will just have to wait. I'm in the middle of his interview with Dave Thomas which is pretty interesting so far. I grew up loving Bob & Doug McKenzie so getting the behind the scenes of the original Canadian Second City crew including John Candy, Eugene Levy, Martin Short, and Dan Aykroyd is very cool.
One last thing, I finally downloaded the Ricky Gervais podcast. I'm told this is the most downloaded podcast in history. And I know why. It's hilarious. I've only listened to a couple of them so far, but they are hysterical.
Over the past month, I received a significant amount of feedback on my recent MediaShift article, What Will Record Labels Look Like in the Future?. People from all areas of the music industry reached out and shared their feelings on future business models, and strategies for moving forward.
Regardless of their background, practically every person I spoke with agreed on a core set of truths about the future of record labels (and the industry as a whole). The consensus is that:
Financially, the current situation most record labels find themselves in is not sustainable, especially for companies whose main source of revenue is selling music as their primary product.
Sales of digital music have not come close to replacing the revenue lost from the decline of physical sales. Overcoming this requires a significant shift in label expenditures, and revenue sources.
Investors are finding it very difficult to find opportunities that have an acceptable chance of return on investment. This applies to releasing music, as well as ancillary services and products around music.
Power is shifting away from labels and back to the artist and management. Labels still provide valuable services, but, for the first time in decades, they are no longer the center of the industry.
The ultimate power now rests with the fan. The dollars they spend are being fought for harder than ever before. At the same time, fans are demanding more content than ever before.
Here's what the experts had to say.
Feedback From the industry
Paul Resnikoff, founder and publisher of music industry news site Digital Music News, has a bird's eye view of the entire music industry.
"I just wonder if music can ever be monetized to the same degree; I think that [NBC's Jeff] Zucker really hit the nail on
its head with his '"analog dollars to digital pennies":http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/10/technology/10online.html?_r=1' comment," Resnikoff said. "It might resonate for years to come."
George Howard, the former president of the Rykodisc label, an advisor to Carly Simon and an assistant professor of management at Loyola University in New Orleans, feels financial sustainability is directly linked to an artist providing more assets directly to their fans.
"Record labels in the future will
concern themselves with all the heretofore locked assets that an artist has, and [with] utilizing music as a sort of gateway to a more dynamic relationship between artist and constituent," he said. "It will be a direct relationship -- no middle-man. There will be an increased focus on so-called sentiment analysis, and utilizing the social media tools to create an accelerated word of mouth."
"As for the future, I think it really relies on the artists themselves forging a small team to build and execute what the major labels used to," he said. "I don't think the old model is totally dead, but more success will be found with hard working managers and artists...who focus on direct-to-fan marketing and sales. If they feel they need a label involved, then all parties need to do their fair share of working hard for equal rewards."
An Entirely New Model
FanscapeCEO Larry Weintraub is an industry veteran with 25 years of marketing experience. His extensive work in social media has given him insight into the relationship between the brand and the consumer. He has constructed a start-to-finish scenario of what the record company of the future looks like:
The record company of the future is a one or two person operation. It's the artist and if the artist is not a business person, it's their 'manager.'
The artist finds a way to record their music on the cheap. Whether they record it live at a club or multi-tracked on their home computer, it costs them very little. If they want to spend a little more, they have a job and put a little cash aside each month.
With the finished product they go to Craigslist and find someone who can help them do their artwork for next to nothing.
Armed with a finished album and a nice piece of accompanying art, they give their music away to the world. It's available to stream on their MySpace page; it's available for free download in exchange for an email.
To the paying world, it's available on a site like CDBaby.com that also helps them upload the music to iTunes, Amazon, Rhapsody, and everywhere else. When the artist plays a show, they sell their "burned" CDs for $5 with a copy of the artwork and a personal letter saying thank you. They give each paying customer three extra burned copies to give to their friends.
Music is free. And they realize this. If people are willing to pay, they may do so. But the music is the gateway to the live show, the T-shirt, the licensing for a movie trailer.
Then they promote their album by managing a fairly simple website; a MySpace page will do. They respond to every single person who makes a post. They blog about what is going on in their lives. They ask for opinions about the music. They respond graciously. They have a YouTube channel for live performances, they have a Facebook page and a Twitter account. They communicate with their fans. They let them in.
The chances for becoming a star are slim. But they always have been.
Now the artist is in control. They are not indebted to a major company that doesn't really care about them. It's up to the artist to make things happen.
The Artist's Perspective
Multiple Grammy Award-winning guitarist and independent label owner, Steve Vai has seen all sides of the record label equation. After years of major label releases, Vai recently released his new DVD "Live in Minneapolis: Where The Wild Things Are" on his own independent label, Favored Nations. (Disclosure: my company is managing the marketing for the DVD.) He offered an artist's perspective on the future of releasing music.
"The two things that will always be needed in the music business are the content (the artist and their work), and the people that know how to sell it (the labels or the glorified marketing team)," he said. "The brain muscles between these two entities are usually pretty different and nary do the twain meet. The way in which we create, record, distribute, purchase and play music will continue to evolve into technology that we are not even comprehending at this time; but there will always be the need for music to be made and for someone to know how to market it to the audience that craves it. Because ultimately there is a vital need for people to be stimulated by the music that resonates with them. It satiates the soul... for a time. "
Forgive me for my constant music talk. I know this is a Marketing blog, it just seems to be one of those times where I'm surrounded by music and I can't help but talk about it. When I wrote the post the other day about the music I'm listening to, it was just a stream of conscious momentary thing. I was actually procrastinating. It was easier to write about music than write a proposal.
But as long as I've brought it up, please allow me to continue and get it out of my system.
I'm sitting here typing this as the Bonus Features run from the movie I've just finished watching, Anvil: The Story of Anvil.
I first read about this movie in the LA Times about a year and a half ago. They were profiling the Sundance Film Festival and specifically this little independent film made about a metal band from Canada called Anvil. I saw the article and my heart jumped. I knew Anvil. I started singing their song, "Metal on Metal" in my head. Instantly I was 15 again. I had a red bandana wrapped around my wrist, sporting an Iron Maiden t-shirt, leaning against my buddy's Audi in the parking lot of the Long Beach Arena. Yes, that is what I did when I was that age. I listened to a ton of heavy metal music. And Anvil was one of my favorites.
And, like most of the people who grew up in that era, I assumed Anvil had broken up 20 years ago. Wrong. They never stopped. They formed in 1977 as kids in Canada and now as 50 year old men they're still playing music.
The movie spoke to me. It's not a must see for everyone. But it was for me. I'd been waiting for it to come out on DVD for months and it didn't disappoint. The best analogy I can give is that it is like Spinal Tap but for real. There was even a scene where the band visits Stonehenge.
But aside from that, I really enjoyed the film. It was the story of two guys who've stuck with their dream. They tasted fame early on and they've spent their entire lives trying to recapture that fame.
A song can send you back to a place in time and just the mention of the band Anvil transported me. Seeing the behind-the-scenes of their lives gave me added insight and made me think of my own life and where I've been and what I've experienced.
The Evolution of Music Blogs Music blogs and blog aggregators and networks are a key component of music promotion and discovery, serving as trusted filters and digital tastemakers like independent radio of the past. What are the current trends with music blogs? What is the relationship between blogs, artists, labels and fans? What new innovations are likely in the blogsphere? How will blogs evolve to remain relevant in the years to come?
Panelists Anthony Batt, Founder, & Chief Creative Officer, BuzzMedia Justin Gage, Founder, Aquarium Drunkard / Autumn Tone Records Lina Lecaro, Columnist, LA Weekly Francis Ten, Founding Band Member, West Indian Girl Larry Weintraub, CEO, Fanscape Moderator: Heidi Richman, Founder, HRMP Lifestyle Marketing & Promotion
My favorite thing about the panel was sitting next to Francis Ten. The reason being is that Francis gets it. I type blogs, I speak to whoever will listen, but I often wonder if anyone is listening. The future of the music business is in the hands of the musicians. If you're a musician you have to connect with your fans, much more than just from the stage or the recorded music. You have to talk to them. You have to respond to them. And Francis said that's what he's been doing on behalf of his band for 5 years.
Prior to being on this panel I was somewhat familiar with West Indian Girl. I'd heard a bit of their music and I've seen their name mentioned at many a music festival. But after the panel I came back to the office, fired up the Rhapsody and listened to the band's Top Tracks. And I got lost in their music. It's beautiful and spacey. I listened as I navigated to their website and clicked on Fran's blog. And, just like he said, he blogs regularly about everything. Not just the band but things he sees, music he listens to, events he attends. He lets the fans in.
Francis said from the stage that every band has to do this. They have to blog. One member of the band has to be in charge of connecting to the fans in this way. He admitted that there is a struggle between the historical notion that bands should be somewhat separated from the fans with the current understanding that direct connection is key. And that statement summed up what I've been preaching for most of my career. Check out West Indian Girls' website - www.westindiangirl.com when you can and listen to their music too - here's a link to their latest album We Believe via MySpace Music - http://bit.ly/WEGTc
I did an interview yesterday on Sharifah Hardie's blog-talk-radio show. It's an hour long peak into my business, how we started it and have grown it, along with some insight into social media / digital word of mouth marketing.
In case you are new to my blog, I'm writing a book about Digital Word of Mouth / Social Media Marketing. Each Monday I force myself to sit down and write a bit. Last Monday I touched on the topic of Conversational Marketing, one of the several tactics used in Digital Word of Mouth / Social Media Marketing. I listed several outlets for participating in conversational marketing including:
Message Boards and Discussion Forums
Question & Answer Websites
Product Review and Opinion Websites
Brand Evangelist Forums on Blogs, Websites, & Social Networks
This week I'm going to expand on the topic of conversing in Message Boards and Discussion Forums.
Conversational Marketing in Message Boards and Forums
Message boards (also known as Internet forums) are online communities where discussions on a variety of topics take place. Message boards represent one segment of the social media sphere; like all segments, they have become an essential part of our repertoire for sourcing information. While major social networks such as Facebook boast huge membership, there are no equivalent dominant message boards in the U.S. In other parts of the world, such as Japan (Mixi) and Mexico (hi5), there are massively successful message boards, but in the US message boards are mere components of websites, social networks, and online community destinations. The U.S. has literally hundreds of thousands of small niche message board communities and understanding how to communicate within them is a skill unto itself.
Communicating and Marketing in Message Boards
Message boards are micro communities; they are literally communities within communities, frequented by users that often form strong connections with the site, other community members, and the topics they are representing. Marketing to people within message boards is an extremely delicate process. To effectively market within a message board one must make a concerted effort to become a contributing member of the community. Patience is key and no effective marketing can be done until you are established as a trusted member of the community.
Before deciding to execute a message board strategy – marketers need to first identify their goals, and then determine if the long term commitment is ultimately worth the effort. Joining communities and engaging with their members is an effective tactic if you hope to obtain the following:
Key information about your target demographic. Message boards are a great place to collect information about your consumers and their habits. This is easily done through simple observation or by posing questions to community members and collecting their responses. Consumers are often welcoming of this 2-way communication.
Competitor information. Brands can learn a lot about their competitors and their competitors’ customers by observing dialogue within message board communities.
Developing brand personality. By engaging with the community as a real person, the stigma of a brand can sometimes fade into the background. Brand representatives should always be transparent about their initiatives but actively participate in discussions not necessarily directly related to their products. The key is to participate and not interrupt. If a discussion is irrelevant to you and you offer no benefit by joining it – stay out.
Unbiased brand opinions. Message board community members don’t hold back. Not only will they openly discuss product likes and dislikes, but they will often engage in a debate with other community members. This can be very insightful for a brand.
Customer service solution. Participating in message boards by answering questions about your product, similar products/topics, addressing troubleshooting queries, providing free trials and/or incentives to members, etc. is a great way to gain acceptance and improve sentiment about your brand.
I'll write more on this topic over the next couple of weeks. Then I'll move on to Blogs, Question & Answer Websites, etc. You get the idea.
The other night on The Daily Show with John Stewart, Wyatt Cenac did this hilarious report about how rappers are feeling the pinch of the economy. He interviewed Slim Thug who explained how he's had to downsize, how he's seen "video ho's" cut back as much as 60%, and that he now has to go to strip clubs to eat rather than "making it rain" with cash. Ultimately, like many small businesses, Slim Thug is forced to lay off some of his posse.
I'm sitting at my computer working on a proposal for a potential client. It's a very exciting opportunity and focus is key.
Music inspires me. I need it on all the time.
My door is closed. I've got a pad of paper and lots of related documents spread out on my desk.
And the music is flowing.
What I listen to changes from time to time. I tend to listen to something until I burn myself out and I can't listen to it any more.
I use Rhapsody. I pay $12 bucks a month or so and I don't mind. For that I get access to everything I'd ever want to listen. Including everything new usually the day it gets released. I'm not doing a commercial for Rhapsody, it's just what I use. It's uninterrupted access to music at all times. They've even got an iPhone app now that let's me take my music with me.
Here's some of the music I'm playing right now as I work on this proposal (I've put links in case you want to listen via MySpace Music which is now like a free Rhapsody):
1. Monsters of Folk - Album: Monsters of Folk. This is a great album. It's a supergroup featuring many of the top dogs in the "new" alternative/folk movement including Conor Oberst (Bright Eyes), Jim James (My Morning Jacket), and M. Ward. On Rhapsody they bill this as a modern Traveling Wilburys which is dead on. I remember hearing the first Traveling Wilburys album back in the late 80's and it made me appreciate George Harrison, Bob Dylan, and Roy Orbison a lot more. This album makes me want to listen to more Bright Eyes and MMJ. http://bit.ly/21Su9
2. Silversun Pickups - Album: Swoon. My favorite album of the year. I was a huge fan of Smashing Pumpkins' first album, Gish. I must have listened to that album at full blast about a thousand times. It had a sonic quality that I had never heard. I remember working on albums later in my life and trying desperately to find a producer and mix engineer that could convey that same sonic quality. I liked Siamese Dream too but after a while I lost interest in Smashing Pumpkins. Well, this album, is reminiscent of how I felt when I used to listen to Gish. http://bit.ly/uqAUq
3. Guilty Pleasure #1 - Mika - Album: The Boy Who Knew too Much. I don't know how to properly describe this. Is it rock or is it pop? Is it disco or is it Broadway? Mika lies somewhere between Freddie Mercury / Queen and Lady Gaga. I like some of his last album which was definitely the second coming of Freddie Mercury but this one seems more complete. It's the kind of album you listen to and then you find yourself humming these songs when you're in the shower. http://bit.ly/14EzPp
4. Guilty Pleasure #2 - Paramore. I just love this band. I'm listening to the new album Brand New Eyes, but on Rhapsody they have this great feature where you can listen to "Top Tracks" which basically strings all 3 Paramore albums together. I can't get enough of Haley and her band. http://bit.ly/9x7WZ ; http://bit.ly/zqGzy (last album: Riot)
5. Mars Volta - Album: Octahedron. This is the band that was supposed to be the new Led Zeppelin. But their albums have been way too chaotic and uneven if you ask me. On this one, they really got it right. There are songs on this like "Since We've Been Wrong" that are mind blowing. I love this album!!! This is the perfect album to write a proposal too. It's dreamy but hard too. You can listen but still concentrate on what you are doing. http://bit.ly/ogqDq
Those are the ones that play over and over. A few weeks back I was playing Jay Z's Blueprint 3 ( http://bit.ly/KQHJK) a ton. And when I'm in the mood for Jay I spin this one and also tap the Top Tracks button on Rhapsody for the hits. I'm also trying to find time to listen to the new AFI album Crash Love (http://bit.ly/17evZt) I love these guys. Just haven't been able to break myself of playing some of the above mentioned albums to really focus in and see if I like this new one.
Finally there are two comfort bands that I come back to over and over. When I want to get pumped up for a presentation or just wake myself up, I put on Metallica; either Death Magnetic or Master of Puppets. I blogged about my love of Metallica last year. I wish I could point you to their albums online but alas, they haven't quite embraced the whole digital music thing just yet. But they have a good set list on their MySpace page in case you want to get a pickmeup like I often do. http://bit.ly/11wAjR. And when I want to hear great albums from start to finish, I go for Jimmy Eat World. Especially their last album Chase the Light (http://bit.ly/4pbtUJ) Damn this band writes and records great songs. And I personally believe their last album was one of their best though it didn't get the attention it deserved.
Now when you picture me writing this here blog, you'll have a good idea of what is playing in the background.
In 50 years there will be almost no one left who remembers going into a record store. Sure, there will be some old timers still talking about the old days, but the majority of the people who spent time perusing through aisles of LPs, then cassettes, and finally CDs will be gone.
And then, finally, the music business can change.
My theory is this. Right now the people running record companies still remember when they used to buy records at the record store. They can't imagine getting their music any other way. So as long as they're around, they'll keep trying to sell music the way they remember buying it.
So flash forward 50 years and the young music consumer will have NEVER walked into a store to make a purchase. They won't be missing anything.
I know, I don't have to flash forward 50 years, it's happening right now. Many 10 year olds have never been in a record store. But they ALL need to be gone. All the people that have ever walked into a place that let's you browse through rows and rows of graphic album or CD covers to choose music based on how the package looks or what a clerk recommends or what it sounds like played on the stereo with the crappy headphones in the corner.
My son will grow up getting music first from me and then from his friends. He won't buy it. Why would he? He'll burn it or drop it on a portable hard-drive or just sync it wirelessly with his music player. (I was careful not to say iPod there, but hek, is anyone ever going to make something better?) Maybe he won't even own it. It will be an app on his phone that streams music from the largest music catalog in the world that is either part of a cable bill or underwritten by an advertiser.
Point is, he'll never go shopping for music. It will just be there.
And thus dies what I grew up with and several generations before me. And when I'm gone, there will be no one to mourn for the loss of that experience.
It is sad, no doubt. But it's evolution.
Can you imagine wearing a suit every time you get on an airplane? Traveling by plane was something special, now we wear shorts and flip-flops on our $99 Southwest flight.
What if you didn't have air conditioning on a 100 degree day?
Riding to work on a horse. Is there anyone around who remembers life before the automobile?
And like those things that we can't even imagine doing, when asked if they miss going to a store to buy music, our children and our children's children will shudder and say, "what a giant pain in the ass!"
"a website combining the dynamic online atmosphere of a blog with the researched, in-depth analysis of a book. Our online community is a collaborative resource created and used by academics, public policy officials, and journalists at the natural intersection of current events and the media. Everyday, these experts join OurBlook to engage in an on-going conversation with their colleagues that seeks out the responsible, sustainable ideas that will define our future."
The specific topic they asked me about what Social Media as it pertains to the press. Here's the Q&A.
OurBlook interview with Larry Weintraub, CEO of Fanscape, a digital "word of mouth marketing" firm
How do reporters use social media to send out information to people they want to receive it? Which media do they use, and is it easy?
LW: Many reporters are extending their own personal brand already. They have blogs, Twitter accounts, Facebook profiles, etc. Because they are so easy to use, reporters are allowing themselves to become friends with their readers through social media and solicit feedback and answer questions. This helps the publications for which they write as well as themselves should they leave that publication, write a book, or make a public appearance.
A great example of this is Rolling Stone reporter Matt Taibbi. Matt contributes to a couple of blogs including: Smirking Chimpwhere he elaborated on his story exposing the financial industry’s major meltdown or True Slant where he also continues to discuss the crimes of the U.S. financial institutions.
Matt continues to build his own brand which is evident by cover page story headlines on Rolling Stone magazine and his television appearances on shows such as "Real Time with Bill Maher."
How do reporters use social media to receive information? If there are replies coming in from dozens or hundreds or thousands of people, how can they be screened and arranged?
LW: The reality is that social media have given reporters tremendous access to news stories and leads. The old method was a phone call from a public relations person pitching a story. Then e-mail. Now reporters are pitched numerous times a day via Facebook, Twitter, etc.
Investigating those leads can also be facilitated via social media by viewing videos via sites such as YouTube, reading user-generated insight via sites like Wikipedia, or seeking sources via professional social networks like LinkedIn. What would have taken days previously to source can now happen in minutes.
Authentication still needs to take place utilizing the methodology engrained in a journalist, but lead generation and following trails is infinitely easier.
Do you know of any specific stories that social media have been instrumental in developing for newspapers or TV stations or online sites?
LW: The best example of this in the past year would be when the American Airlines jet crashed into the Hudson in New York . The story was broken via Twitter. Within minutes people all over the country were alerted to this near-tragedy. The human network of spreading this news led to places like CNN, which immediately jumped on the story that was started on Twitter.
Do you foresee much impact from social media in major news operations such as newspapers and TV news, or in the future of journalism generally?
LW: Yes. The impact is already significant. “Citizen Journalism” already exists. Every day, people become more used to hearing news from people they trust, oftentimes not a professional, just a friend or family member. That person may be originating the news or just re-posting something they heard from another source.
There is a certain level of trust from within your circle if the news comes back to you multiple times, you tend to believe it. For example, when Michael Jackson died, many of us didn’t hear about it from an established news source, we were alerted by a friend. If we checked our Twitter feeds, multiple voices were stating the same news, “Michael Jackson has died.” Thus we tend to believe it. When the news turns out to be true, it continues the validation of the Citizen Journalism concept.
So news becomes free. Why do I need to go to the Wall Street Journal or the New York Times? Aren’t they just re-posting the same information I already know? Do they write it better? Do they have more experience reporting? Sure. Do I need that? No. I just need the basic facts.
Which forms of social media do you think will endure, and why? Are there any you see as fads that will fade away?
LW: The headline will remain. Whether it is Twitter that will dominate is unclear. But what it has proven is that we are busy people with a ton of information coming our way. We only need the headline. If we want to know more, we’ll investigate and follow the link. But the Twitter methodology of delivering short bursts of information is here to stay.
The major social networks will not fade away. Facebook will not disappear in the near future. It will continue to grow until it hits the highest penetration possible and then it will level. There are only so many people in the world and its user base can only grow so much.
Meanwhile, someone will create something else. Someone will study what Facebook does wrong and build something that is better. This has happened repeatedly (Friendster to MySpace to Facebook). But Facebook will not disappear.
Additionally, people will start to splinter off from Facebook. Facebook is huge and people will look for something smaller. Something more focused. Niche social networks. Social networks that concentrate in areas that are important to that person. A plumber will migrate to a social network where plumbers congregate to talk about plumbing. Dentists will congregate at social networks about dentistry. Moms will congregate around social networks for moms. This is something that is already happening.
Is there anything else you'd like to say about social media?
LW: My belief is that all websites will have a social component. Many product and brand websites will become social networks. Traditionally most corporate websites have been locations where the user can find the information that the company chooses to share. If you wanted to know more, you could seek out the contact information and e-mail a question. But as companies such as Starbucks dedicate resources to engage their customer at multiple levels via social media and have success, others will follow.
There are countless strategies within the world of Digital Word of Mouth marketing and there are numerous tactics associated with each strategy. I'm going to to attempt to discuss many of them. I say attempt because the Digital Word of Mouth space is constantly evolving. What works one minute may not work the next. Meanwhile something new is always around the corner and people love to try new things.
At the root of Digital Word of Mouth marketing is the conversation.
The first part of any conversation is listening. At least it should be.
The second part is assessing. Taking stock in what is being said and determining a proper response.
Finally, you respond. Thoughtfully, insightfully, appropriately.
Do that correctly and you've just participated in conversational marketing.
So where does conversational marketing take place?
Message Boards and Discussion Forums
Question & Answer Websites
Product Review and Opinion Websites
Brand Evangelist Forums on Blogs, Websites, & Social Networks
These are a few of the online locations where a marketer can have a conversation. Each of the proceeding sections will talk about each location and discuss best practices on how to participate in the conversation.
I see much in life as a possible business. It is exciting, but also torturous. I just don’t have enough time. A new idea often sends me into hours of thought, research, and ultimately deviation from what I really need to do in a day. I believe that the Internet has made it easy for anyone to create a business. I believe that the Internet has made nearly everything in life easier. I believe that trying to impact the masses is a tough notion, but finding a group of people similar to you, is at your fingertips. I believe that music is free, and that is not a good thing. I believe that life is a collection of experiences and that every day I learn something new and forget something slightly new.
I have learned that the toughest part of running a business is inspiring your own employees. I have grown to understand that you have to show your family at least as much respect as your customers.
I went to college at the University of California, San Diego and majored in Economics and minored in Literature/Writing. I wish I had majored in Literature and only taken the one Economics class that taught me about Supply and Demand.