Category Archives: Social Networking

Tagnic: Are You Playing the New Twitter Game?

tagnic_l.png

Tagnic is my new favorite game on Twitter. Unlike previous games like Spymaster that annoyed and alienated both friends and customers alike, there’s no DM spam and playing is pretty unobtrusive. In fact, your friends might not even know you’re playing until you let them in on it.

Tagnic is the first social game created by a young startup called SocialBomb. I am friends with its founders (@doryex, @scottiev and @rebelprince), which is how I came to start playing.

HOW IT WORKS

Start by signing up here and following @tagnic on Twitter so that the bot can keep track of your tweets. Then, when you’re writing to someone, you can assign them different descriptive words by adding a plus sign (+) before the word in your tweet.

For example, if I wanted to play with my friend Paull Young (@paullyoung), I could write, “@paullyoung is a PR +crimefighter and great +blogger.” Paull would then receive “crimefigher” and “blogging” points.

Similar to the popular iPhone/Android game Foursquare, Tagnic assigns badges based on various combinations of words. Here’s an example.

What I like about this game is that it’s social, it’s fun and it’s a new way to interact with your friends on Twitter. This of it as personal hashtags.

BRAND OPPORTUNITIES

Games like Tagnic are an opportunity to help better define our social interactions in a fun and engaging way. While I have no idea what Social Bomb plans are for further Tagnic development, imagine how a brand could get involved by sponsoring a badge.

For example, if a user receives a combination of words like “caffeine,” “addict,” “coffee,” “awake,” and “Starbucks,” that individual could receive the Starbucks Java Junkie badge.

Marketers could also reward users for obtaining certain badges related to their brand or gain insight into how people talk about their brand based on a combination of words.

CONCLUSION

Tagnic is still in its early stages of development. I want to be able to showcase my badges easily on my Twitter profile, not just on the Tagnic page. But the concept is really strong and has the potential to add a new level of fun on top of an already highly engaging platform. Give it a try. It might take a quick explanation to get your friends/followers involved, but once they catch on, you won’t be able to stop.

@Tagnic is +addictive, +fun and +easy to use!

Once you’ve played, please leaves some feedback about it below!

The Three Phases of Robert Scoble

Robert Scoble
Image by Thomas Hawk via Flickr

I’ve lately fallen out of love with Robert Scoble . If I were to meet him in person, I’d say, "It’s not me, it’s you." But since that opportunity is unlikely to present itself anytime soon, I’m going to share this post instead.

PHASE 1: THE MICROSOFT YEARS

When Scoble started broadcasting from within the depths of Microsoft’s corporate headquarters, he was a ray of light on an otherwise overcast Seattle day. He shared with the outside world that which Microsoft was unaware they possessed: a personality. We learned how companies could share their institutional knowledge and, as a result, gain the trust of their community and build new inroads to their brand. We connected with the employees in a way we never connected with the corporate entity.

Scoble showed companies that they should embrace their quirkiness, not hide it. And as a result, he rose to fame as the poster child for corporate transparency and gave rise to the notion of corporate social media. Many social media case studies used his career path as an example of how social media must grow from the inside out fueled by the passion of a company’s employees.

PHASE 2: PODTECH

With the notoriety that Scoble’s efforts received inside Microsoft came many opportunities. Speaking gigs, a huge following on his blog and of course, other job offers. Scoble moved to PodTech , where he went from evangelizing one company to evangelizing EVERY company. He transitioned from an important corporate social media voice to a new breed of infomercial creator.

For a small fee (and often for free), (UPDATED: Scoble did not charge companies for the videos he produced at PodTech) Scoble would come to your corporate headquarters and produce a prosumer-like video podcast that he would then publish to the PodTech network. Because so many people followed him from Microsoft to PodTech, this remained a large and coveted corporate audience.

A Scoble mention inevitably resulted in a spike for web traffic and attention to the companies he covered. The problem was, there seemed to be little editorial oversight. As long as their was budget and/or access, Scoble was in. And as long as a video was produced, most corporate communications or marketing teams felt comfortable checking social media off their "to do" list.

PHASE 3: FASTCOMPANY.TV

As the funding dried up, Scoble took his show to Fast Company, thus completing his transition from corporate poster child to certified media representative. He’s everywhere these days, tweeting, posting video and updating his FriendFeed status from the littlest start-ups in Silicon Valley to hanging out with titans of industry in Davos, Switzerland.

The problem is, there’s no editor. There’s no one telling Robert what is valuable. I get what’s in it for Robert, but I’m not sure what’s in it for me or for the rest of his audience.

In my opinion, Scoble is no longer the signal, but the noise. And as I find more and more corporate entities trying to build online communities, the lessons they share are much more worthy of my attention than the boastings of an online celebrity.

MY ANALYSIS

What I used to love about Robert was his passion. Early adopters were quick to find new tools and technologies just by following his blog, which he updates much less regularly than before. Conversations would take place there that were unlike any other blog community in which I participated.

That passion has become to voluminous for me to endure, and I’ve found that there’s little professional value for me in keeping up with his whereabouts these days. He no longer serves as a role model for how companies should behave in social spaces (instead I look to people like Tyson Foods’ Ed Nicholson , Richard AT DELL ) and his travels/interviews are less relevant to my interests.

I’m slowly unsubscribing from the various networks on which we’re connected. Robert won’t notice. After all, he has thousands of friends.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

Am I wrong on this? Are you watching his FastCompany videos and following his Twitter stream? Are you learning new things from keeping up with his globetrotting? If so, please share your thoughts. I’m curious what Scoble means to communicators today.

(This is a conversation. Please refrain from using any derogatory language in your response. I will not tolerate any personal attacks against Robert. The dialogue should remain around the topics discussed in this post. Thanks!)

Blog Analysis: Safeway

safeway John Cass had a post informing readers about some new additions to the Fortune 500 corporate blogging wiki.

If you haven’t visited the corporate blogging wiki yet, it’s a good place to see which large companies are using blogs as a communications tool. (It’s also interesting to click on some of the links and see how long its been since many of these blogs were last updated.)

There are some valuable takeaways from each of these new blogs, and so I thought I would share some of my observations and invite you to do the same. I’m going to start with the Safeway blog .

BLOG OVERVIEW

According to the About section on the right side of the page, the blog is written by a Safeway employee named Kate and it’s about, "family, food, value and fun." Kate makes a special point to ask readers to "join the conversation."

STRENGTHS

Audience: Kate writes that she is a mom, and that a large part of her job is getting to hear from a lot of women out there about everything that’s important to them. She has a specific audience in mind (women) that she’s writing for, which sets up certain expectations about the content. Targeting this demographic makes the content more relevant, which is appealing.

One Author: Kate is the only contributing author that I saw. She writes in a conversational tone and I don’t feel like she’s trying to sell me anything. She is a passionate participant, and that goes a long way.

Frequent Updates: The blog is updated regularly, and I like the diversity of the topics, from greener cleaning products to new foods and recipes. And even though the subject of each post changes, it’s always in some way related to Safeway and its products.

Images: Most posts have an image with them, which makes the overall site much more appealing. It also helps me as a way to navigate through the posts, since I can see an image of, say, frozen peas, and choose to skim over it without reading.

Integration: The blog is well integrated into the larger Safeway site with a prominent placement on the navigation bar on the main Safeway homepage. So many companies bury this link.

CHALLENGES

Zero Post Links: Despite the number of posts, there’s not one link, external or otherwise, in any of the entries. This is by far the biggest weakness. Not only would links improve the site’s SEO , but it would help readers to take action as a result of reading the blog. For example, the post on e-coupons should include a link to a few of the company’s e-coupons.

One Author: I know, I also listed this as a strength. As the blogger for Safeway’s official blog, I want to know more about Kate. There’s no picture of her next to her profile, nor does she indicate where she works or her job function. These details help readers to feel as if there is a true human behind the blog. It also helps us to better communicate with her as readers. If she works the deli counter in Oregon, I’m probably not going to ask her about the company’s work on improving the technology infrastructure for its chain.

No Conversation: It was encouraging that the blog asks readers to join the conversation, but nobody at Safeway seems to be listening. Not every post has a comment, and that’s fine. I don’t think a blog’s success should be measured strictly by the number of comments it receives. However, the comments (and questions) that are posited should be addressed by Kate or someone else at the company, and they aren’t. If Kate wants Safeway customers to participate, then she needs to actually engage them when they do.

Access: To see the blog archives, I’m asked to register. While this may be a feature of the blogging platform Safeway chose, it’s no excuse. I don’t want to sign up for company emails just to read your archives. Open those suckers up!

UPDATE: SAFEWAY’S RESPONSE

Shortly after writing this post, I received the following email from Rohini Jatkar, Safeway’s Online Marketing Manager. With her permission, I’ve posted it here:

Hello Aaron,

We want to thank you for your recent review of the Safeway blog on Disruptology. We are very excited about this opportunity to have a dialogue with our consumers and being reviewed by someone like you. You provide valuable information and feedback that will help us improve the blog and community experience on our site.

We are looking into expanding this section of our website significantly and making it more interactive. To this end we are exploring the addition of Forums and we are definitely looking into bringing in guest bloggers who are subject matter experts on occasion.

Your suggestion of providing links back to relevant sections of the site in posts (for example a link back to eCoupons) is great and we will implement more of that going forward.

Regarding the identity of the blogger, it’s her personal wish and a company requirement that she remain anonymous. We are not prepared to provide an interview at this time, but will look into this.

Regarding access to blog archives, you can currently access posts from each week via quick links on the bottom right of the page. We did notice that ‘View Complete Archives’ link at the end takes you to a registration page. We agree that this should be "free for all" so we’re going to open that up immediately!

Thank you on behalf of Safeway.

Regards,
Rohini

YOUR TURN

What do you think? Go check out the blog and provide some constructive feedback. And Kate, if you happen to see this, I’d love to hear from you!
Photo credit: mattieb

Monetizing Social Networks

socialmoney.jpg How do we, as corporate communicators, assign value to social networks?

There’s a short fiction story in last week’s issue of the New Yorker titled, "Raj, Bohemian " by Hari Kunzru that is certainly worth a read. It’s about a hipster who discovers that all of the other hipsters with whom he associates are now shilling products to monetize their social networks.

Choice quote from when the main character realizes the nice guy from the party was actually taking pictures to promote his product:

“But what about Raj? He never asked us whether we wanted to be on his damn vodka Web site. And all that patter about how smooth it tasted!”

“It was smooth.”

“But to talk to people and secretly be trying to sell them something—isn’t that, I don’t know, unethical? Surely you agree that it’s completely out of order.”

“He didn’t ask us to buy anything. He gave us free drinks.”

“I know, but the point was to get us to buy something later on. That particular brand. We generate buzz. We recommend it to our friends, it becomes hip, blah-blah-blah.”

“He should have given me image approval. Look at my chin! I’m going to have words next time I see him.”

“For fuck’s sake, Thanh! He was just using us. He wanted to make us into—into early adopters.”

“But we are early adopters. I got a free phone a few months ago. All I had to do was watch a film and say how it made me feel.”

“Jesus, you really are a shallow bitch.”

Social capital is very important in the blogosphere, and not just to PR people. We want our clients to get interviewed by bloggers with large audiences (i.e. social networks), but those bloggers also want to know they are sharing valuable intformation with their audiences. They don’t want to share your corporate messaging.

When we join Twitter, we typically start by adding influencers (Robert Scoble , Jeremiah Owyang , Chris Brogan ) as "friends" before we actually search for the people who our part of our social networks because we expect that having their network see our company’s messages is more "valuable" than our own networks because of their size.

A good barometer as to what type of messaging we want to communicate via social media platforms is to consider whether this is a message you would feel comfortable sharing with your own social network. If it’s just regurgitated press releases or the like, it’s probably not going to add much value.

Remember, the "cool kids" have built their social networks not by promoting products, but by being authentic. If we try to transform them into corporate spokespeople, nobody wins.

Campaigns need to be created with new goals in mind, lke those that take into consideration the way information is shared.

Facebook In China As A Community Organizing Tool

“Wen Jia-bao is my homeboy,” shouts one of the comments on the wall of Chinese Premier’s Facebook profile.

Portolio’s Daily Brief reports that Premier Wen has garnered more than 50,000 supporters in 30 days, primarily in response to his handling of the situation following last month’s devastating earthquakes. The profile, obviously not created by the Premier himself, displays his image as well as some publicly available information about him and relevant URLs in a mix of English and Mandarin.

Now the Party probably doesn’t rely on Facebook as a barometer for how their policies are received by its citizens, but perhaps a future generation of leaders will.

One of the opportunities here is to listen to the feedback from constituencies. It might seem obvious, but I doubt that many government agencies are doing this. Yes, they are monitoring these networks, but for security reasons, not for feedback.

But a lot of good can come from listening. Some companies are already seeing the value of this. It’s time for governments to do the same in a much more transparent way.

And if they’re smart, they’ll check the pulse of the population in other large Asian social networking communities like 51.com, Friendster or Hi5 as well.

What do you think? Am I way off base here?


Graphic: Facebook Application Categories

There are 23,160 Facebook applications, according to a recent post by Flowing Data with figures supplied from Facebook.

The overwhelming majority of these apps fall into the category, “Just for Fun.” In fact, less than 1,500 fall are categorized as “Business”:

image

If you’re a company looking to establish a presence on Facebook, know your audience. They want to be entertained.

PS: Back when there were only 4,000 applications, I wrote a post for my company blog outlining what I thought were the 29 best Facebook applications for PR professionals. Overall the list is probably still pretty good, but I’d add the ‘Blog It’ app that was recently released by Six Apart for good measure.

Do you use Facebook for pitching or do your clients? If so, which applications do you find most useful?

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