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This goes with that

As Blogs, Forums, Newsgroups, and Opinion / review sites gain in both numbers and popularity, the purpose for “going online” is also changing. Rather than going online to “check the email and local football results”, consumers are spending a larger percentage of time online discussing, sharing and learning. Ironically, sharing of knowledge and opinions is where the internet began.

Is is possible that we are returning to days of old where people would gather at the market place to discuss new spices and fabrics found in distant lands?

Trust in mass media is in decline, as people realise they have a tool that allows them to seek, hear and also give honest feedback to others.

As part of an increasing trend to utilise the growing consumer voice in the online world, several companies have made it their business to create and encourage community ratings.

Audioscrobbler takes searching for Music to a new level. Extending the Amazon version of “People who bought this, also bought that”, Audioscrobbler allows users to create their own unique music profile and then connect with others who have similar profiles. In this way they help induce people to grow their music interests by downloading more songs.

Storycode is applying the same principle to books. They have a unique scoring system which you use to describe books that you have read, and then they are able to recommend other books based on matching your responses to others readers.

Movielens is research project being conducted by the University of Minnesota pitched along similar lines.

Whether these sites will still be around next year is hard to say, but they are picking up on an important trend. People do listen to other people, and the internet is making it easier for people to give and hear those opinions. Community voices are definately finding their pitch, but many companies are still not listening.

So what should companies do to stop this trend and ensure that people only listen to what the PR agency wants them to hear?

Well, I think rather than ignoring this trend, companies need to open up their intranets and let consumers get involved with their products!

Open Source Paparazzi

Changes are that next time you change your phone, one of the features you will get whether you like it or not will be a camera. Although you may still have a digital camera, you’ll be surprised how many times you forget to take it when you want to take a photo.

Quality of the camera pictures are improving, and several websites are allowing people to post and view pictures directly from their phones.

As I stated in my Phone shoot tv ad post, news reports are increasingly using the publics phone pictures to help with first on scene reporting.

So it’s hardly surprising that a company called Scoopt is wanting people to send in pictures or videos that they can on-sell to various magazines and they split the income 50/50 !

Video sharing

You Tube has created a place for people to share their videos, whether they be budding special efex short clips, or just videos taken from your mobile phone.

You can then share the URL with your friends and relieve the experience.
Videos are sorted by categories including Commercials, Top Rated, or by other tags. I particularly liked this one .. aptly named Legoman’s Great Return.

To help encourage submissions, they have monthly topics .. this month is Can you Dance?

Word of Mouth Marketing?

There are now more than a few text books on Word of Mouth or Buzz Marketing. Whilst most Marketeers understand that these mediums exist, many fail to realise that these communication channels can be used to reach out to existing and new consumers.

What is interesting is that research has found technologies and techniques that are now available to help to identify how Word of Mouth or Buzz Marketing works. In the book, “The Tipping Point“, Malcolm Gladwell demonstrates how often a seemingly irrelevant or inconsequential influence can have major unforeseen impacts. The ‘tipping point’ is that magic moment when ideas, trends and social behaviours cross a critical threshold and ‘take’, causing a tidal wave of far reaching effect.

How can Brands reach the “connectors” that Malcolm Gladwell refers to?

Finding Connectors
People with unusually high social networks, charisma and the pretense to pass on opinions either positive or negative about products are indeed worthy of special treatment. But finding them is often not that easy. However, new techniques are emerging that can segment a large group, filtering out the most likely connectors. Some are limited to using simple social network questions, but there are tools and techniques that include other factors such as the number of affiliations people belong to in order to gauge the “reach” of the person, and the degree to which people engage with the product / service segment.

Create a contagious experience
Once you have this segment, the second challenge is to create the right sort of “experience” and resulting “story”, that these connectors will pass on to their extensive networks. Ideally the experience of using your product or service can generate the story for you. Skype’s free telephony service is a good example because once you use it, you want your friends to use it to, so that the value of the product increases. Metcalf’s law states that as the number of users doubled, the value of the network quadrupled.

Enable the word to spread
Successful word of mouth requires a reason to pass it on, whether that be an incentive for the connector or just the fact that by passing it helps to add value to the receiver. Remember the Hotmail tag line of “get your free email” went with every email making this a particularly fast spreading tool. The tiny Japanese stickers that you get from a photo booth gave you 16 copies, thereby encouraging you to give them to your friends.

So, what can you do to improve the speed at which your product unique selling points get noticed and spread?