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Books Related to CGM Theme

  • Gerald Zaltman: How Customers Think: Essential Insights into the Mind of the Market

    Gerald Zaltman: How Customers Think: Essential Insights into the Mind of the Market
    Gerald Zaltman doesn't write specifically about CGM, but his core themes about the unconscious drivers of brand affinity provide some critical clues and insights behind what's really going on among today's passionate and viral consumers. (*****)

  • Don Novello: The Lazlo Letters

    Don Novello: The Lazlo Letters
    My dad was in advertising, and he would uncontrollably laugh while reading this book that. In many respects, Lazlo was the first "citizen's journalist" or blogger for that matter. His CGM was all about experiences with companies, brands, or VIPs. (*****)

  • Seth Godin: All Marketers Are Liars

    Seth Godin: All Marketers Are Liars
    I'm a huge fan of Seth Godin, but this one was just OK. I probably read it with a higher set of expectations that the book would be a bit more critical of the marketing industry. It's hard to disagree with the core premise of authentic story telling, but some of his points overstated the obvious (**)

  • James Heskett & Others: The Service Profit Chain

    James Heskett & Others: The Service Profit Chain
    A major inspiration for much of my thinking about CGM. Heskett's a former b-school professor.

  • Seth Godin: Free Prize Inside

    Seth Godin: Free Prize Inside
    I'm not going to tell you what's inside, but I guarantee you'll be surprised. (*****)

  • Jeffrey Rayport: Best Face Forward

    Jeffrey Rayport: Best Face Forward
    Rayport taught the HBS class that fueled my fanaticism for the "marketspace." The inspiration continues. (*****)

  • Malcolm Gladwell: The Tipping Point

    Malcolm Gladwell: The Tipping Point
    How does the ripple create the wave? Read on! (*****)

  • Malcolm Gladwell: Blink

    Malcolm Gladwell: Blink
    Trust your gut! It's not as irrational as some claim. (*****)

  • Marc Marson: Think Naked
    Marc Marsan has opened up my head in ways I can't even express. Inspirational, catalyzing. He gets it! (*****)
  • Kelly Mooney: The Ten Demandments

    Kelly Mooney: The Ten Demandments
    Kelly gets it! She's been working with some of the nation's top brands. Deep understanding of shopping behavior. (****)

  • Jon Berry: The Influentials

    Jon Berry: The Influentials
    A solid case for why so-called "Influentials" matter. Authors really know their stuff. (****)


  • Sonoma0025
    Brands I love. Brands I probably need to stay away from.

The Shopper Bytes Back?

Consumerist_3 In case you missed this, Gawker Media just launched their latest title, the Consumerist.  "The Consumerist loves to shop, and is reconciled to utilities, but hates paying for shoddy products, inhumane customer support, and half-assed service," Gawker writes in the site introduction. Steve Rubel questions who would want to advertise on such a service, but I actually think there are plenty of advertisers who would reap huge upside from advertising in such an honest, candid, no-nonsense environment.  A big reason why brands are jumping into the blog space -- or the so-called "conversation" -- is that they are striving to be real, authentic, contextual, and relevant, or at least perceived as such.  Advertising works best when it's in a trusted environment.  Some brands (especially the ones who consistently fall short of expectation) will want to avoid the site like the plague, but there's probably more there on the ad front than meets the eye.  Here's a PR Week interview with the site editor, Joel Johnson. 

CGM Odds and Ends

Shankar Gupta of MediaPost digs deeper on the PriceRitePhoto controversy this morning by raising broader questions about the integrity of consumer-generated ratings on sites like PriceGrabber and Yahoo:Shopping.  Expect a ton of CGM on this topic, especially on Slashdot.  ClickZ's Pamela Parker, meanwhile, offers additional perspective on BzzAgent's recent "disclosure policy" ("Spill the Beans, or Else!").  Speaking of which, Dr. Walter Carl, a word-of-mouth academic pioneer, and early supporter of WOMMA, tees up this excellent question to my "Is Disclosure Good?" post, which I need to mull over before offering a thoughtful response or counter-point. Importantly, he highlights a potential distinction "between compensation and reward."  He notes:

"...being paid (compensated) to spread word-of-mouth might invoke a different set of inferences than receiving rewards (for example, if somebody from my gym becomes a member and mentions my name when they sign up then my membership fee is waived for a month; that is, my reward)."


While getting ready for a "2005 Blogs in Review" webinar, I stumbled into yet another "add-water-and-stir" tool to dial up the power and impact of blogs.   Turns out, only yesterday, TypePad launched yet another tool (at no extra cost to consumers) to add video blogging to the site.  Yes, I've uploaded videos before, but it was always a clunky process.  Now, it's got much more of a professional "my video is the real deal" polish.   My 3-month old son Liam, brother of twin sister Leila, helped me produce this latest high-quality CGM production advertising the miraculous wonders of the pacifier.


Is Disclosure Good?

Soapbuzz This from MediaPost on BzzAgent's recent analysis and report suggesting that disclosure is a win with consumers, and a net positive for brands.  The BzzAgent analysis is a very important read, but I frankly think the issue is a bit more complex than the report suggests, and the impact of the debate goes well beyond the buzz-building practices of brands like Tremor and BzzAgent to broader questions around other ad models.  The practice of "product placement," for example, is the subject of recent and spirited debate over what constitutes "reasonable disclosure."   Here's some data related to BzzAgent issue and question from our CGM Study.

Apple, Evangelism, and Buzz Building

Apple4What is Consumer Generated Media?   Ask, Daphna Kalfon, who's making big waves on the web with her highly evangelistic  "I Love My Mac" song, which has actually been around for quite some time but got "re-discovered" by the blogging community in recent days.  The song reflects strong passion and brand evangelism, although it's important to note that its impetus stemmed from a contest and promotion. (Hence it's not 100% unaided CGM, but very close.)  Here it might be useful to return to some earlier statistics I shared about how Apple users tend to over-index on CGM creation. This benefits Apple enormously from a free media perspective, and the "CGM Hall of Fame" list below includes a few additional gems, including the less flattering classic by the Neistat brothers.  Daphna's song tops my personal list because the jingle is so darn memorable, and the lyrics are so sincere and relevant.  Lovemymac_2 As an iPod user (now an iPod Video user), I can relate.  Interestingly, this so-called "evangelong" (I'm inventing words on the spot) got reappeared on blogs November 11, but really found it's tipping point in the last couple days.  This conversation tracker chart provides some guidance.

Rapid Fire Buzz Spreading:  Coincidentally, I spoke at a "Blogs and Social Networks" conference yesterday along with folks like uber-blogger Steve Rubel.  I dedicated a few slides to how Apple users often serve as coveted "free advertisers" for the brand, even well before a product launches.  For example, you'll note in my next slide that the very instant that Engadget published a blog entry speculating on the new iPod Video -- as far back as early June 2005 -- passionate Apple bloggers gave the "rumor" unprecedented liftoff.  Applechart2_1 Most of the buzz was highly favorable, and all of this content subsequently indexed on search engines, so "average" consumers exercising basic curiousity about the new product would stumble into generally favorable, enthusiastic, and highly-anticipatory commentary.  (Remember, that's what advertisers try to do before a product launches.)   Next, it's instructive to then look at the actual buzz building around the actual event.  The great news for Apple is that their own website played a huge role in "feeding" bloggers with CGM "raw-material" for the their blog posts.  Applechart3 You can also see from the last chart that Engadget once again significantly fueled the fire of continued (and high, targeted reach) blog commentary that continues to this day.  Interestingly, many of the same folks who spread the word about the ACTUAL launch were the same folks who speculated about it back in June.

CGM & Emotion- Related?

This morning's ClickZ column -- Tis the Season of Brand Emotion -- Are You Listening -- tackles the issue of CGM and emotion?  Is there a relationship between the two?  My contention:

"How people feel typically correlates with how much they talk, share, rant, rave, or communicate with others, which has real financial implications for brands. Remember, CGM doesn't just act like media; in most cases, it's more trusted, credible, and permanent than media. Most of the billions of archived consumer comments online owe their permanent residency to an emotional catalyst."

Put another way, you can't really understand the nature and dynamic of consumer expression, CGM creation, or even what's evolving in the fascinating blogophoshere, unless you have your finger on consumer's sentiment or emotion.  Heardchart_1 "Being heard," for example, is a core driver for spending time on message boards, forums, or ratings and reviews sites.  Message boards and blogs do a wonderful job of satisfying the emotional desire to be heard because they provide a constant, perpetual feedback loop.  Companies or brands who fail to absorb, accept, or properly manage direct consumer feedback increase their risk of exposure because consumers find other (often more public) venues to release their emotion.  What Steve Rubel and others refer to as the "Conversational Gap" is as much "emotional fluency" as it is about promoting the value of blogs.   How well are business processes designed to manage sustained and varying degrees of consumer emotion?   I list a number of key question brand should be asking themselves in the ClickZ piece.

TV is Dead! Long Live TV!

IpodtvMy recent purchase of a video iPod has triggered some fresh, re-energized thinking about the transformation and evolution of television.  As I write in my ClickZ column this morning, "TV is Dead! Long Live TV,"  "the dead medium formerly known as television is on a time-shifting comeback. It's coming back in a different form, on a smaller screen, and courtesy of existing and new content creators."  My term for this is Fwee-TV ("free" as in "liberated" and "we" as in consumer-generated media).  Read on and let me know what you think!  

TypePad, Consumer Choice, and Free CGM

MenaI just received a most remarkable e-mail from Typepad, which hosts this blog and about 10 other blogs I manage, including my beloved  In a nutshell, as compensation to me for shaky service over the past month or so (which I will admit was quite frustrating), Typepad offered me a choice of "recovery" options, from 15 days of free service to 45 days of free service.  I couldn't imagine a more consumer-centric and respectful model for managing a difficult customer service experience.  Now, the cynics out there would assume all consumers would readily grab the "45 day" option, but in fact I chose the "30 day" option.  That's fair as far as I'm concerned, and I have little interest in "gaming" a service that is so openly showing respect for me.   To Typepad, I express my deepest appreciation.  TypePad's founder, Mena Trott (photo above), has consistently stood for building a user-centric model, and this is a great example of putting that philosophy to work.  It's also  a classic example an "operational" decision that generates positive word-of-mouth or CGM.   3typepad_1

Wikipedia & CGM

Wikipedia_2Alex Mindlin of the New York Times "Drilling Down" column today writes about the growing popularity of the Wikipedia.   Alex and I talked for a bit last week regarding the growing tendency of bloggers to embed targeted links to Wikipedia definitions in their blog entries.  Quoting some of our data, he notes, "Wikipedia is consistently used by bloggers - about twice as often as the term "encyclopedia" - and showed up in roughly one out of every 600 blog posts last month; it was one of every 3,300 posts in October 2004."   As noted in an Intelliseek release back in September, a number of key factors are driving Wikipedia growth, including:

  • Influential, top blog authors are embedding Wikipedia links in their blog postings, exposing the site to wider audiences.
  • Major news events, especially July's London subway bombings, Hurricane Katrina, and the Supreme Court nominations.  Wikipedia is emerging as a source of immediate and thorough background - more reliable and timely than other encyclopedias or knowledge databases.
  • The rise of Consumer-Generated Media. Because Wikipedia involves thousands of collaborative authors and contributors, many of them are passionate about accuracy and focused, thoughtful usage, increasing the level of trust among users.
  • International appeal. Of the growing number of foreign-language Wikipedias (French, German, Italian, Spanish, Japanese, Polish, Portuguese, Dutch & Swedish), blog citations to the German-language Wikipedia increased the most, nearly doubling in the past six months.Wikipediachart_1

Lastly, as I noted to Mindlin in the story, there's the credibility factor: "For bloggers, it's almost like a badge of credibility to embed Wikipedia in their blog references. There's something about Wikipedia that confers a degree of respectability, because multiple Web users have converged on it."   At the end of the day, we're all looking to maximize credibility.  As a blogger, I quote Wikipedia constantly, versus other sources, because I have higher confidence that the real-time "group definition" is closer to the truth than a time-stamped old definition. 

Now for a Customer Generated Service Announcement!

JackietvThis is the future...consumer generated multi-media (or CGM2).   Like television, it will be more persuasive and it will also connect with consumers at a deeper, more emotional level.   Every brand should be reflecting on how they will thrive (or survive) in a world where any consumer can broadcast their opinion (in Technicolor) about their brand experiences and choices.   Don't take this lightly!  Again, here' the link, and here's the messenger's influence profile.

Sisomo, Misisomo, or Cisisomo?

Sight, sound and motion....better yet, Sisomo. That’s the big idea Kevin Roberts, CEO of Saatchi and Saatchi, introduced to Ad-Tech attendees yesterday in an energizing keynote address. “For marketers this is the big action point. Consumers are beaming a blaze of sight, sound, and motion, and electric orchestra of ideas, stories, and emotions,”  Roberts said.  (He also wrote about the same topic in yesterday's edition of Ad Age.)  Surely all of this relates to consumer-generated media...or does it?

I've yet to actually meet Roberts (the line after his speech was too unbearably long to even attempt a superficial greeting),  but it’s hard not to stumble into awestruck raves about this ad pioneer and visionary, especially from folks that work at Saatchi or some of my former colleagues at P&G.Roberts_1 His energetic, media-rich keynote certainly measured up to his reputation, and I especially liked his almost uncompromising Zaltmanesque insistence that emotion is what truly matters in advertising. “What makes stories compel, attract, and grip is emotion,” he said. We simply don’t hear enough of that in advertising circles, especially in the context of interactive or online marketing, where so much of what we are doing is little more than repurposed direct “count the click” marketing.

That said, as with my reaction to Bob Garfield’s recent Listenomics Ad Age cover story, I couldn't help but feel that something really important was missing from Robert's speech.  Virtually every example he offered (with the sole exception of an innovative auto campaign that involved solicited consumer content contributions for a Times Square electronic advertisement) bordered on what I’d dub Misisomo (Marketer-Inspired-Sight-Sound-and-Emotion). Misisomo_1It still felt like a world where the marketer, not the consumer, remains in the drivers seat.   “The vectors of the Attraction Economy are stories,” he tell us. But whose stories?  Is the technology of Sisomo about making marketers better “emotion” based story-tellers, or is about making marketers better, more attentive listeners and managers of the mushrooming CGM and blog-catalyzed stories emerging front consumers themselves. What about all the consumers out there exercising real emotion attempting to “attract” the attention of advertisers?

Roberts recently wrote a provocative book called Lovemarks (which I devoured) and there's a website by the same name that includes hundreds of genuine consumer testimonials about brands.  This Lovemarks theme came up in his speech, but it felt like a non-integrated extra "add-on" to the Sisomo concept, and this, I think, was a huge missed opportunity.  LovemarksThe two share a deep symbiotic relationship. The strong emotion toward brands being shared on the Lovemarks sites is taking place at an unprecedented rate across the web -- in full "sight, sound, and motion" or what I dub consumer generated multi-media (CGM2) -- across millions of CGM venues, from blogs to board to forum to direct company feedback.  We need to think beyond “attracting” consumer attention to catalyzing their passion and propensity to share their own stories, messages, and branded-advertisements. For example, Roberts shared an intensely emotional Pampers TV ad.  As a new parent, my eyes got watery, but the emotion was nothing compared to the feelings I have when I post photos and videos to my own blog dedicated to our twins Liam and Leila, some of which implicate (positively or negatively) brands.  And I'm not unique.  There are tens of millions of emotion-rich, consumer-created "points of expression" blossoming across the web.  Nearly 50% of consumers are now content-creators, and emotion is the core driver behind why they share experiences and feeling openly with other consumers. 

Here's the rub.  Most brands do a lousy job embracing consumer emotion. Feedback pipes are thin and corroded. Response loops are emotionally agnostic.   "Contact Us" forms push consumers away in the name of operational "fewer consumers the better" efficiency.  (Agencies rarely touch this arena.) Even categories where "emotion" and "experience" is central to the product appeal, brands marginalize the listening process. You'll be hard pressed to find a single brand anywhere that actually accepts emotion-rich photos or video as "extra-texture" to a written comment. SilentnightSite, sound, and motion will never be a big idea if it's a one-way flow with consumers.  Leaders like Kevin Roberts can change that mindset by expanding the vision and scope of what advertising is all about.  If the "consumer is boss," or "in control," or "in the drivers seat" -- as all of us are so fond of saying -- what are we doing to give the boss a meaningful and sincere venue for expressing his or her feelings.  It's as much about Cisisomo (Consumer-Inspired Sight Sound and Motion) as Misisomo or Sisomo!

Teens & Consumer Generated Media (CGM)

TeensUSA Today recently published a story citing different numbers from PEW Internet Life and Intelliseek regarding teen blog usage & creation.  PEW suggest that 4 million teens have created blogs while Intelliseek puts the number closer to 8 million.  Why the disparity?  First off, both of us got it right on the core message: teens are creating lots of content on the internet, significantly more than adults. PEW's report "Teen Content Creators and Consumers, " provides much detail on this front.  The recent study we completed at Intelliseek, drawing from a rep panel of online consumers taken in August 2005, reaches similar conclusions. 

Still, what's going on with the teen blog numbers?  If  you just look at the raw number of blogs or personal web journals on teen-centered sites like LiveJournal or MySpace, four (4) million seems to pale in comparison with the total number of actual teen blogs.  BlogPulse alone monitors close to 20 million blogs, and we're probably missing millions of them.  We know teens are over-represented on the authorship front.  Why is there such a delta?  I have a couple hypotheses:

  1. Timing of Study:  2005 was undoubtedly the "Year of the Blog."  By all accounts, usage and penetration skyrocketed, aided by a proliferation of new players entering the blogging space, from AOL to Yahoo.  Ironically, if you read the fine print of the PEW Study, it notes on the second page that the data was gathered "between October 26 and November 28, 2004, among a sample of parent-child pairs."   The study may have missed one of the most significant migrations of consumers to blogs.
  2. Survey Requirements: But let's assume the fine print is a mistake, and they actually completed the study recently.   The other part that concerns me is the use of "telephone interviews."  I'll stop short of heralding online research or surveys (they have issues, innacuracies, and biases), but I do worry about how representative folks are who actually answer the phone in this "do not call" culture.   My wife and I feel pretty "typical" from a consumer perspective, but we rarely answer the phone anymore. It's actually gotten worse since we've had kids.  In 2003 I co-presented data to the Association of National Advertisers with the head of one of the largest market research firms, who lamented how phone based research is being severly compromised by consumer frustration and "do not call" trends.  I suspect PEW has a great technique for managing around these issues, but it's still a good question to ask.

Other Data:   As long as we're on the subject, what else did we learn about teen in our study.  Here's a couple nuggets.  Teens are nearly twice as likely to own an iPod or MP3 player than everyone else.  Interestingly, they also screen advertisements at a higher rate than other segments.  Nearly 50% said they use devices "that screen out online advertisements, pop-ups, or SPAM," but there's a catch.  Relative to other age groups, they have higher levels of trust in advertising.   Cynicism and distrust appears to grow with age (and heightened expereience with advertisers).  What's going on with teens and ad screening, I believe, is a higher level of expectations around user experience.  It's not that they don't "trust" Chrysler or GM to embed an ad in an online game, they just don't want the brand to interrupt or interfere with the flow. Consider, 77% of teens play video games.  31% download video clips or movies to their persona computer (far higher than other age segments except Age 20-34 yr olds).  11% of teens now subscribe to RSS feeds.  Business Thought-Starters: All of this creates a genuine dilemna for advertisers: the "elusive" teen audience is, well, ever-elusive and increasingly attentive to everything else but marketing.   How do you get through?   Or should you? 


CGM & Electronics

David Pogue's New York Times piece this morning centered on "electronics" hits the hammer on the nail.  The piece is entitled "10 Ways to Please Us, the Customers."   What the argument doesn't note, but which elevates the importance of his commentary, is the depth of virality and CGM around such experiences.  As we learned earlier about iPod users (arguably the gold-standard in CGM creation), active users of electronics products tend to shape and spread CGM at higher levels than other segments, which means their good or bad experiences have a greater impact, often intercepting other consumers during the "purchase cycle" or indexing via Google or other search engines where buyer prospects and other "influencers" can find them in a highly targeted needs-based manner. Electronics_1 Interestingly, the electronics category produces more indexable or archived CGM than just about any other category.  But let's not get too overly simplified here.  There are many ways to cut an electronics experience, and certain issues drive higher levels of virality. Poque notes: "Thou shalt not charge tech-support fees for thine own mistakes."   He also raises red flags over "rebates." The big "aha" here -- informed by advanced text mining -- is that issues related to "billing" or "fees" in the electronics category elicit a higher emotional reaction, often to the point of outrage.  Depth of emotion and spread of CGM share a symbiotic relationship. Key Takeway for Brands:  Understand how certain experiences catalyze CGM, even at the broader "category" level. 

So Is CGM Actionable?

Brucelee_2How "actionable" is consumer-generated media?   Brands are often looking for guidance on this important question.   After all, who wants to listen just for the sake of listening, right?    My ClickZ column this morning offers a few thoughts on how brand and companies can leverage and exploit consumer-generated media, from optimizing websites to driving greater efficiency in media buys.

Teen Bloggers Wearing Too Much on Their Hearts?

USA Today features a story (plus a side story and a couple sidebars) echoing tough questions we have all heard in the past about teen blogs.  Are teens sharing "too much information" in such a public arena? Is there a risk of teens wearing "their heart on their blog."  The article stops well short of endorsing a moratorium or ban on teen blogging -- few consider that appropriate or realistic-- but it does underscore many of this vulnerabilities and sensitivities.  The issues of marketing to teens is already under the radar. As new technologies continue to unfold that continue to super-charge social networks, I suspect even more questions to emerge.  Marketing simply need to be proactive in thinking it all through.  

Forbes: Attack of the Blogs?

Forbes_80_100tm Today's Forbes magazine's "Attack of the Blogs" article (free registration) and a quote attributed to me warns that bloggers can be a threat to companies and corporations. It's a sentiment I've expressed numerous other times iin presentations, speeches, workshops, seminars and articles about the impact of consumer-generated media (which includes blogs) on corporate and brand reputation. The two are intertwined, postively AND negatively. Was I quoted out of context?  Sure, in the sense that the article focused on extreme (e.g. Bloggers as "Lynch Mob") examples of what can go wrong in the blogosphere. These attacks are not commonplace, and this kind of behavior is only a tiny piece of what blogging is about.  My very long interview with the reporter centered specifically on the new rules of "accountability" and how real consumer experiences with products and brands are heightening corporate exposure and vulnerability.

Bad Advice from Forbes for Companies:  What I will really take issue with, however, is a sidebar to the story that includes tips for "Fighting Back." Some of them are way off base and represent exactly what NOT to do, including suggestions to pay bloggers to write on your behalf, or dig up dirt and feed it to sympathetic bloggers as part of a discrediting campaign. This is just plain bad advice for companies and brands. Transparency is essential, and any attempts to fudge identities or fudge the truth will only taint (and backfire in) the blogosphere. It will also further erode the already-fragile "trust" factor between consumers and companies. 

Beyond the "The Conversation Gap"

Grandcanyon_1Uber-blogger Steve Rubel hits an important theme in a recent post entitled "Mind the Conversation Gap."  He describes a technique he puts to work in brand consulting that highlights the extent to which brand are receiving their "fair share" of online conversation.  I often employ the same technique with clients and prospects, albeit with different terminology such as "CGM Deficiency Syndrome" or "Talk Deficit."   Irrespective of terminology, I enthusiastically agree that the technique hits a real sweet spot in arresting and captivating the attention of brands who have little idea that their brand is divorced, detached, ostracized, or exclused from the broader conversation.  It also helps re-engineer brand thinking from a "there's no buzz about my brand so I don't care" mindset to a more actionable "what marketing triggers am I failing to execute to make me part of the broader conversation" framework.   Put another way, the absense of conversation, buzz, or CGM tells as rich a story as the having truckloads of it.

Interpretation Nuances:   I'd be remiss if I didn't suggest there that it's not always a good thing to be part of the conversation.  P&G's Tremor brand has significantly closed the "Conversation Gap" in the context of broader conversation about buzz-marketing, but is that a good thing for the brand?  Context matters, and search engines often remind us that bad conversation is permanent.   Indeed, there may be some instances where brands benefit from "less than fair share" of the conversation.    Our role as experts and consultants (Rubel, Blackshaw or whoever) is to help brands appreciate and understand such nuances.

Builds on the Model:   As long as we're talking "gap analysis," we probably should extent the metaphor to other areas where we can measure how brand data or behavior figures into the larger picture.  Here are a few that I typically employ:

  • The Blog/Feedback Gap:   Often brands want to blog (start conversations) who have a history of doing a horrible or inadequate job of listening to consumers through their existing tools.  My most common refrain for brands who want to jump into blogging is "Before you blog, first look into the mirror, and then call your 800 number."  It's critical that we look at "new" tools through a broader lens of current corporate DNA.  We don't want to set brands up for failure.  In large companies especially, failure is viral. 
  • The Listening/(Web) Site Deficit: Most brand websites consistently fail to provide content that's relevant, germane, or "in touch" with broader CGM conversations.   Go find an pocket of active CGM related to a brand or category then type relevant keywords from that conversation into a brand website search engine.  Most of the time the search engine fires "blanks."  Same with the FAQ, or even the feedback form scripts.  How can a brand expect to be referenced or revered when they snub the obvious building blocks of relevant conversation.  Bloggers are constantly giving me an excuse to write about them. They are "in touch" with the broader conversations.  Most brands are not, and hence they often don't receive their "fair share."

This topic itself is a very important conversation, and it should continue. 

Rosa Parks & Real-Time Blog CGM

1rosaparksWhat I absolutely love about the consumer-generated media (CGM) space is the real-time intimacy it provides into real, genuine consumer emotion.  My work colleague Sundar Kadayam just so happened to observing the blogophere late last night through a powerful new (yet to be released) tool that tracks blog comments the moment they are posted.  He recorded a short video capturing the waterfall of commentary and emotional outpouring related to the death of Rosa Parks, the civil rights pioneer.  I'll let the video speak for itself.

iPod Data Buzz Confirms Point

IpodcgmYesterday Intelliseek dropped a press release about how iPod owners are more likely to create and spread consumer generated media than any other online user segment, a topic I've written about before on this blog.  What blew me away (but then made a world of sense after I stepped back)  was just how much "pick-up" and traction this body of data received.   Whether on Google News or blogs in general  this piece of news seemed to resonate...and certainly prompted a decent amount of conversation.  This may be half the story about iPod users.  Evidence of iPod brand passion may extent well beyond actual usage to the active consumption of "news" and "buzz" about their product.   There appears to be a broader sense of "ownership" users feel about the iPod franchise, and maybe even a bit of pride (on the extreme end, hubris) about a release suggesting they are more "influential" than others.  I don't have the full answer, but I know there's an "aha" embedded in the usually robust spread of this release. 

CGM in the News

AhybridphotoThe New York Times has an interesting piece today entitled "Blogs Capture the Attention of Some Companies," which discusses how brand evangelists (or detractors) exploit blogs as a platform to spread or reinforce the love (or disappointment).  I can relate to the story in a big way, having set up blog over two years ago dedicated to my hybrid car.  What brands need to most understand is that such sites (whether they are blogs or forums or review sites) generally mirror real brand experience.  There's no guarantee the buzz will be positive.  In my case, my early hyper-evangelism (reflected in my license plate) was tempered by the fact that I didn't get the full advertised mileage.  Key lesson for brands: blogs present a ton of opportunities, but at the end of the day, the consumer's in the driver's seat.

New Consumer Empowerment Blog

Martin Oetting, who I met around the time WOMMA was established, just gave me a heads up about a blog he's co-authoring entitled ConsumerEmpowerment (a title I love, of course).  As Martin puts it, it's "about how about how companies strategically empower their consumers, clients and customers - not only for better results, but also to foster and improve advocacy." It looks promising, and I expect to cross-link to it here and there.  I've bookmarked it below as well.

Meet The Sploggers

Let's keep talking about blog spam -- it's timely, relevant, a threat to CGM, and must be addressed. Robert Stockton, an Intelliseek software architect who's at the bleeding edge of some of the "yet to be seen" features on BlogPulse, penned a wickedly funny "segmentation profile" of sploggers.   It's spot on, and I daresay the key to figuring out how to win the splog wars is to know how to sniff it out...especially when it looks benign or innocent on the front end.  And so...Meet the Sploggers.

Meet the Sploggers
By Robert Stockton

There's been a lot of discussion recently about the "new" flood of spam blogs (aka splogs). It appears that some folks have just come to notice the problem recently, usually when their vanity searches got hit by a particular wave of splog posts.

To help the rest of the 'sphere feel more comfortable with your less-than-popular neighbors, I'd like to introduce you to some of the other colorful players on the block and their wily splogging ways. I do want to assure all the sploggers out there, however, that this list is by no means complete. If you don't see your name on the list, don't despair: we know about you, and we are watching you.

Hexadecimal Dan: This guy is just a run-of-the mill splogger, though he does produce more volume than most. Until he caught everybody's attention, he pretty regularly named all his blogs with a common word followed by a six digit hexadeximal number. Thus, it was really easy for the folks at Google to filter out those blogs, but you know that he'll change his spots and be back at full volume soon enough. Most of his accounts were caught in the grand purge, but you can check this splog as an example. Note the inclusion of keyword-based clippings from Moreover and the direct hyperlink to "info" site at the bottom of each post. This is a heartwarming example of good ol' down-home link farming.

Max-Volume Pete: Be it football, baseball, or the Breeder's Cup, this guy's schtick is sports, and with site names like Gambling Handicappers, you aren't likely to forget it. He has just one purpose in life, and that is to get you to (or, if you are too smart for that, one of the 40 other betting sites referenced at the same time). For all I know, he actually writes his own original material, but he's so proud of it that he'll simultanously post dozens of copies of each article. Then he'll come back later and do it again in case the first few dozen didn't get your attention.

Affiliate Fraud Fred: Fred is a lot like Pete, except that he's into sex. (Again, with site names like (warning!) Nude Amateur Wife, he's not terribly subtle about it, though some of the names get pretty creative.) He really wants to get you into the Adult Friend Finder network. The nifty thing about Fred is that you'll probably never even see one of his blogs. He's set them up with some javascript frame-busters so that you end up directly at adultfriendfinder (or "shaggle") without ever seeing the intermediate blog, and he'll make sure that any enclosing frames are taken out in the process. (As a side note, in case you think that spam blogs are typically caught and cleaned out quickly, the above-mentioned blog was populated on July 26th and is still happily sitting where it was established).

Search Term Sally: You know that Sally is all about search engine optimization, because she builds her posts by pasting popular search terms into pre-built templates. You might mistake the result (such as the text at BSNN) for human-written text if English is your third language, or you are a computerized grammar-checker, but probably not. The links on the page take you to a maze of cross-linked pages without a bit of content, but that's all right. The only entity who was supposed to read it was the Google spider.

Pen-Pal Patty: You probably don't think that any of Patty's creations (such as Samantha Arthur Diary) are splogs at all. They look fairly normal. There are no ads; no hyperlinks; no common themes being pushed. But there are hundreds of them, all sporting 100% stolen content, and when they de-cloak sometime in the future they are going to be firmly entrenched inside Google's sandbox. Patty is hoping that this sneak attack is going to make her very rich.
And there's more...


Blog Spam - Threat to CGM?

This morning in my ClickZ column entitled "Spamlalot: Broadway Hit or Blogosphere Epidemic" I raise some very tough questions and issues about the explosion of blog spam across the web. This was a very tough piece for me to write, and it thoroughly put to the "torture test" the tension I sometimes between being an "evangelist" for CGM and also being honest, objective, and dispassionate about numbers and measurements.

By our estimates, a conservative 30% of blog posts are now spam, and nearly 50% of blog comments are spam.  My colleagues at Intelliseek count blogs and CGM for a living, and they've spent the last six months diving deep into the sobering world of blog spam.  The root causes, I write, "...can be traced to the practices we righteously beat to a pulp in marketing: click-throughs, PageRank, contextual targeting, and "next-day" ROI."  Search Engine Optimization (SEO), in particular, is playing a major role in the growth of spam blogs.

You can comment on this topic below.  Prompted by the current BlogOn 2005 conference, started a discussion on this topic on the WOMMA blog.  Here's the link.   

CGM Analytics In Review

Megaphone_1Matt Galloway offers a well-researched, and well-articulated overview of CGM analytics space the New Communications Forum newsletter.  As with starting WOMMA, it's always a tad bizzare drawing attention to an article that highlights competitors, but when you helicopter up a bit you realize that Matt's piece is about so much more than three vendors in the CGM space.  He's talking about a fundamentally new, consumer-centered approach toward media measurements, informed and reinforced by the presence of a growing roster of players.  That's a very big deal, and a game-changer for marketing and consumer understanding. 

Seeding CGM:  Some important perspective here.  I left P&G in late 1999 after leading or co-leading over a hundred "tests" in the interactive marketing space, from online sampling to online ad testing to multi-brand online "content" initiatives.  It was all incredibly rewarding and stimulating, but my #1 conclusion after this dizzying "test and measure" dance was that the web is first and foremost about "listening."  You can't target or start a meaningful conversation with consumers without first listening, or "respecting" the boss.  You also can't manage what you can't measure.  The web, it struck me, was not only blossoming into the world's most potent "focus group" --  far more insightful, candid, and even honest than traditional research -- but also unleashing an almost unstoppable flow of highly-measureable consumer-generated media (CGM) that in effect was stealing "attention" from the controlled grasp of marketers.  The CGM analytics movement that Matt Galloway describes is about putting a meaningful "meter" on that process.  I really could not imagine a more exciting time to be in marketing.  Yes, I really mean that!

Blog Spam - The End of CGM Innocence?.

Blogspam1_1This morning I logged into my gmail account and found a big fat pile of "blog spam."  Two years ago I started writing a blog dedicated to my new Honda Civic Hybrid.  Until about a month ago, I enjoyed a steady stream of excellent comments (even critical pushbacks) from various readers about hybrid car experience. Now I'm swimming in blog spam.  Yes, I had heard growing warnings from my work colleagues at Intelliseek, especially those who managed BlogPulse, that blog spam was posing a growing threat to the blogophere.  But it didn't really sink in till one of my own blogs was subjected to an avalance of meaningless, irrelevant do-anything-for-a-damn-click spam.  It's been truly disheartening to say the least, and I can't decide if my reaction is borne of naivette or just being a hopeless romantic about the power and potential of the internet.   I can't be the only one feeling such dissonance. Spamblog2_2 The blogophere is bursting at the seams with blog passionistas  -- we'll see a ton of them next week at BlogOn -- but blog spam represents a significant "chink in the armor," so to speak.  Not insurmountable, but a real challenge,and certainly an issue bearing on the ultimate "trust" scorecard for CGM.

Blog Spam Characteristics:  Spam bloggers are masters at finding a creative or contextual hook for arresting eyeballs around a given message.  Once clicked, they barf up irrelevant, self-serving and useless garbage.  It's classic bait-and-switch, but most of it is automated.  Spamblog3Many of the same techniques that search-engine optimization firms tout to increase search engine page rankings for brands or companies are put on steroids in the blog-spam space.  Just about every blog platform is vulnerable, but some appear more vulnerable than others, especially Google's Blogger platform, which is where I'm receiving an almost endless flow of "no one is accountable" garbage.

The Road Ahead: Some of my work colleages such as Sundar Kadayam, Natalie Glance, and Matt Hurst have been applying advanced text analytics to fully "dimension" the spam issue.  Expect more news on this soon.  In the meantime, let's keep the faith and hope for a light at the end of the tunnel.   


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