Friday, December 14, 2007

The Blogging Council

And finally arrives the council for organisations using corporate blogging as a tool for interacting with customers/employees.
Developed as a forum specifically for corporates who blog, members already include-
AccuQuote,Cisco,The Coca-Cola Company,Dell,Gemstar-TV Guide,General Motors,Kaiser Permanente,Microsoft,Nokia,SAP,Starwood Hotels and Resorts,Wells Fargo.

The Blog Council is a community for official corporate blogs and bloggers that represent major global corporations.

Their mission is to address the unique needs of blogging in a corporate environment. It exists as a forum for executives to meet, share tactics and advice, and develop best practices. The Blog Council is here to help create:

Best Practices: Promoting corporate blogging excellence through best practices, standards, and training.
Community: Providing networking and partnering opportunities for leaders of the corporate blogging movement.
ROI: Developing metrics programs that help deliver measurable ROI from blog activities.

Let's hope this emerges as a structured location to understand corporate blogging objectives, outcomes and benefits...Looks like the first place these big corporates have come together to share their corporate blogging activities.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

What's a Blog?

In this video at Pajama Market, Brian Brown offers an easy-to-comprehend tutorial on blogs that explains what they are and how they work.

So, what makes a blog a blog?

It's a Web site. This might seem too obvious, but for technophobes it might need to be said.
Adding articles is like writing an email. It's as simple as writing a title, writing a message, attaching an image and hitting send.
Readers can post comments. This interactive element differentiates blogs from many other Web sites.
Readers can subscribe. They don't have to check in all the time since they always know when new content goes up.

(Source:Marketing Profs)

Monday, November 12, 2007

Headhunting tools

An interesting tip by Ric McIver, following my post on Headhunting made easy using Web 2.0, a list of 50 freebie tools and resources that are frequented by prime job searchers.
50 Freebie Tools to Find Your Next All-Star Employee
Check it out!!!

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Branded Online Communities move to Television

Branded Online communities, set up by companies for Building brand equity are now tying up with the electronic media for greater visibility. As the interest of the youth increases in social networking, with humongous volumes of youngsters not only hanging around networking sites, but also eagerly participating in consumer communities,these branded online communities have found themselves most wanted on Television.

In a recent developmentin India, Hindustan Unilever's SUNSILK GANG OF GIRLS, an online community , and Zoom Television have come together to present a singing reality show called Sunsilk Gang of Girls - Spotlight Mein.

In response to online applications at the Sunsilk GOG site, this new television series will present four talented girls in the country who will be groomed and mentored by maestros from the music and entertainment fraternity, in preparation for a live finalé performance in front of a big audience.Reality TV, it's success, the impact generated and the huge volume of viewership it draws is not new to us.

As branded online communities embrace Television, the euphoria created by such shows will further increase traffic on the site-increased membership is a foregone conclusion.

Kelly Mooney's thoughts in an ADAGE article on For Relevance, Think Three-Way throw light on how corporates can leverage such situations.By looking at the Brand, the consumer and online communities as three components of a love triangle, she reiterates the need for brands to intersect with online communities, to be able to connect with their consumers.

An excerpt-
"There are no diminishing returns when brands think three-way, when they "triangulate" to communicate in a b-to-we world. Online communities are an infinite resource bringing not only preexisting participants within the brand's range, but new i-citizens formerly uninvolved until their passions are sparked by a marketing campaign or message that inspires them to spread the love."

In Sunsilk's case,the three sides of the triangle are aptly covered- the brand connects to each girl and the fan community; the girls connect to the brand and each other -- all tied to the community or the event as the center.While acting as excellent repositories for information, such communities help the brand marketers by providing information to validate their understanding of the market, while further bifurcating consumers with respect to preferences, expectations, and level of brand loyalty.

The CRM Forum, Mumbai

was invited to conduct a session on 'Social Media and the Customer Relationship' at the CRM Forum organised by Marcus Evans at the Le Meridien, Mumbai, in October,2008. The event was aimed at achieving business excellence through an integration of information, people, policies, processes and technology strategies-effectively executing CRM on its own.

The CRM forum aimed at providing a platform to receive top notch knowledge in capitalising the concepts of CRM, latest trends in customer strategies and technologies, and developing organisation cultures to achieve customer satisfaction , along with advanced applications in the areas of creating a ynergistic partnership between marketing and IT to drive forward CRM initiatives, utilising brand strategies, the media, as wll as data warehousing and data mining.

The event unfolded with an interesting presentation by Dr. G. Shainesh, Associate Professor at the IIM Bangalore, India, where he talked about identifying the consequences of the shift from CRM with technology orientation to a business strategy. This was followed by an interesting case study presented by Mr Gautam Anand, Vice President, ITC Welcom Group on creating outstanding service levels and designing a service design.As several industry experts including Anupam Jalote, Chief Process Officer, Bharti Airtel, Dr. Wolfgang Messner, Director Capegemini shared their experiences, my session on Social Media, and its impact on customer relationships and consumer behaviour was well received.

As I focussed on Corporate Blogging as a potential tool for engagement and reducing the perceived indifference of organisations to consumers, Gaurav Lalla, Director of Internet Marketing,Taj Hotels, Resorts and Palaces emphasised the need of organisations to listen to customers and use the internet as a medium for the purpose.His reference to the utilisation of Second Life as an upcoming medium to conduct brand led dialogues with avatars was interesting.

The event was well attended by delegates from several sectors ranging from Banking and Insurance to hotels, healthcare, retail, telcom and airlines.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The age of Consumer Generated Media and the unhappy consumer

In an article on Comcast must die Bob Garfield on Ad Age, solicited ideas for a consumer jehad against digital and internet cable company Comcast!!! As a hapless consumer out to get back at an erring organisation, Bob's post garnered umpteen comments and suggestions. Some interesting ideas he received , specially from a Web 2.0 and CGM perspective ranged from posting on technorati, adding flickr photos or youtube videos of any damage done, choosing tags and suggesting that folks tag their own blog posts and videos with same to forming a Comcast service group on Facebook.

While other ideas included spreading good WOM for Comcast competitors, sending posts to equity analysts who follow Comcast, or calling up Comcast Corporate headquarters,
the most interesting comment however, was to buy the web domain, establish a blog and issue a press release(to drive traffic) so that all dissatisfied Comcast customers would have a forum to voice their opinions!!!!...sounds so much akin to a DELLHELL in the making...Comcast....are you listening???

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Online videos and the marketer

An article by Jill Griffin, on Leverage the six stages of Customer Loyalty at Customerthink drew my attention...
In today's "connected" world, ideas drive buzz when they are:

Word-of-mouth friendly
Supported by tools to facilitate customer conversation

This three-step success formula worked exceptionally well for Blendtec, a small, Utah-based maker of high-end home and commercial blenders. The fledging company needed more business, so executives brainstormed: How do we earn more market awareness on a shoe-string budget? Their answer? Online videos with a simple, word-of-mouth friendly premise: CEO Tom Dickson, dressed in white lab coat and goggles, blending up a host of everyday objects (baseballs, a Tiki Torch, Transformers, an iPod, a video camera) in a light-hearted, don't-try-this-at home presentation schtick.

‘By Week 3, the company had dropped all other search engines from its budget.’
How did Blendtec facilitate online awareness and conversation? By posting the video on YouTube! Within a week, the Will It Blend? videos became a YouTube hit. Uploads followed on such other sites as and At the end of the first seven days, the Will It Blend? video campaign had six million views. But that's not all. Other product makers, anxious to leverage the campaign's popularity, began paying Blendtec on average $5,000 to film promotions for their firms using the Will It Blend? format. Bottom line, the videos became a revenue producer in their own right. Awareness went way up, along with sales. Blendtec reported a 43 percent sales increase for 2006. "

The features of Web 2.0 have definitely added new dimensions to the way organisations can reach out to prospective clientele. With 36,594 subscribers and 1,192,464 channel views, brand visibility is a forgone conclusion!!!!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Marketers start to use social networks for CRM instead of ads

An ADAGE article on Marketers start to use social networks for CRM instead of ads strengthens my understanding on the uses of social media as a tool catering to customer engagement, loyalty and satisfaction. The key objectives of CRM, at the end of the day are Customer Aquisition and Retention, and social media has offered tools to cater to each of these objectives by strengthening relationships, building networks and starting a two way communication process with the customers.

While the ad age article traces how first time product users can connect with experienced ones on these networks, creating a rich customer experience sharing platform, my article on how Corporate Blogs can make organisations customer centric had focussed on how auto giant General Motors had used its blog to maintain and nurture its relationships with its customers. By allowing companies to build product brands, create a customer-centric image, and by giving people a contact point by attaching a face or name they can interact with, corporate blogs serve as for a for consumer redressal and help build intrinsic relationships between the company and it's customers.

Social media and it's contribution to CRM maybe a subject of discussion today...but will definitely provide companies with a competitive edge, in the long term!!!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The 5th P of marketing-Participation

After Product, Price, Place and Promotion, Mario Sundar aptly talks about Participation being the 5th element of the marketing-mix.

"If you were wondering where does Social Media Marketing fit into the classic “4 Ps of Marketing” model, check this out. Traditional 4 Ps of Marketing encompass Product, Price, Place and Promotion. Social Media as well as social networking sites enable the Promotion aspect, especially the Word of Mouth part of it. (Related question I posed on LinkedIn Answers — 44 answers). Subsequently, the Word-of-Mouth component enables the 5th P of Marketing - Participation."

As the Web 2.0 mantra-
Create, Publish, Share, Connect, Influence and Collaborate, focusses intrinsically on Participation, the same is fast emerging as a tool for marketers to promote products, build brand equity, engage customers, and track customer satisfaction.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Consumer Reviews and the brand.

Effect of Consumer generated reviews on web site metrics, for a few selected companies , as per a Social commerce report, 2007, from e-consultancy and bazaarvoice, reiterates my earlier post on 'Peer reviews and consumer behaviour'.Consumer generated reviews are becoming an important source of consumer product adoption process.

As per the report, surveying retailers in the U.S., the U.K. and Europe, the findings were as follows-

77% reported site traffic increases
56% reported improved conversion rates
42% reported higher average order values

At least 73% respondents felt that these reviews resulted in Improved customer retention and loyalty, while Improved site conversion rates and Better search engine optimisation stood out as the other benefits accrued with these reviews.

Social media is decidely fast emerging as a tool for organisations to gain competitive advantage over others.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Product reviews and the collaborative web

As customer/consumer reviews gain importance,and become an intrinsic component of the product adoption process, by influencing consumer behaviour, a google trend graph on these key terms looks like this-

Customer Review is denoted in Blue while Consumer Review in Red and Product Review in Yellow. The regions included in this trend chart are U.S.A, U.K., India, Australia and Canada.

For market intelligence to collect and disseminate information across the organisation, finding relevant information on products strengths and weaknesses can be undertaken through the following ways-

Independent customer goods and reviews,,,

Distributor or sales agent feedback

Combo-sites offering customer reviews and expert opinions-
The advantage of this type of review site lies in the fact that a product supplier can compare opinions from the experts with those from consumers.A search for the 'iphone' yielded 1015 resources while the 'Apple iphone' yielded 655 results!!!

Customer-complaint sites-

Putting Customer-reviews on company websites-As per a social commerce report,2007,published by e-consultancy and Bazaarvoice, surveying retailers in the U.S., the U.K. and Europe, the findings were as follows-
77% reported site traffic increases
56% reported improved conversion rates
42% reported higher average order values

Consumer Generated media and it's impact on Brand visibility, product purchase and increasing customer-share is a foregone conclusion.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Brand Monitoring Solutions and Corporates

Following my post on Building Brand Equity through Social Media my feedburner stats showed an incoming link from a Brand Monitoring Tool from Unilever.

As Consumer generated media, thanx to the interactive and engaging web, raises issues with respect to brand vulnerability, it is increasingly important for organisations to have mechanisms to manage their brands and respond to consumer dialogues. If companies fail to do so, others will, and in the process also create oppotunities for brand damage.

A case in point here is 'Activestandards', an automated brand monitoring tool, created by Magus, for Unilever to manage it's brand standards across it's global web presence.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Building Brand Equity through Social Media

Paul Legutko's discussion at Customerthink
"......, but simply the fact that someone is staring at your company logo and creative for a certain period of time. This has an inherent branding value, and "branding" is something both marketers and management understand......high-volume sites can have significant brand-equity."
and Jim Sterne's response regarding brand impact, awareness and brand character attribution, can further be applied to the way major corporates are using the power of social media to garner brand dividends.

Coke, Hindustan Unilever Limited, Proctor and Gamble, Nike, Nissan, Pepsi are part of a trend where a large number of corporates are creating online communities and social networking sites, taking advantage of the interactivity that the internet as a digital medium provides, to capitalise on the huge number of cybersurfers.

With humongous volumes of visitors on these sites, organisations have successfully mingled customer engagement with increasing brand familiarity and distinction and focussing on solution importance, to try and create customer loyalty.

Hindustan Unilever's( India's biggest consumer goods company) brainchild Sunsilk Gang of Girls, promoting the shampoo brand Sunsilk, has a total of 579899 members in 34122 gangs. This has evolved into a huge medium where people participate, give their views and are really bonding with the brand. By discussing commonplace issues like hair care, shampooing and conditioning, hair tips, hair biology and hosting hair gurus by tying up with hairstylists like Javed, Sunsilk GOG has struck a chord with the readers. By tying up with leading magazines like NewWoman and Cosmopolitan,and Marjorrie Orr at, Sunsilk GOG has been able to delve into areas of interest for women ranging from beauty tips to love quizzes to astrology and with to cater to their career aspirations. Typically catering to the youth interests of today, members can even watch funky music videos, download wallpapers and screensavers and participate in exciting contests, Sudoku and word search games.

With a traffic rank of 25,500 the Proctor and Gamble brainchild Beinggirl aims at engaging the female segment for P&G's products targetted for the female community. By giving females an opportunity to discuss issues close to their hearts, without giving up their identities, P&G has been able to provide a medium for interaction and developing relationships with its customers thereby facilitating brand loyalty. About 62% of the clientele of beinggirl is from China and 14% from the U.S.

Most of these sites, especially those catering to niche audiences, use the skills of online community managers to nudge the conversation, seed chat forums with threads, recruit others to take a lead in various topics, and monitor the dialogue

Nike's for football lovers, Coke's and Pepsi's pepsizone for young adventurers out to network, share photographs,videos,music and have fun, Nissan's community for car lovers discussing car models and their features......the list is endless......

Agreed that there are no ways to quantify brand loyalty as a result of such ventures, but as Paul said, as long as larger number of visitors can identify brands , logos and products, garnering brand dividends as a result of such ventures is a foregone conclusion.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Harry Potter Marketing

Graham Hill's reference to the concept of "Harry Potter Marketing", while talking about marketers not taking the passage of time into account when marketing to loyal customers made interesting reading.The insensitivity of organisations in changing their product offerings to their loyal customers as they age is appalling.

The Harvard Business Review's February edition had a long article about Breakthrough Ideas. One of the ideas was keeping the brand (and its marketing) relevant to customers as they age by changing its value propositions, marketing messages and delivery capabilities. This the authors called 'Harry Potter Marketing' in recognition of the way the character both stays the same (at the core) but changes (in behaviour) as he ages.

Harry Potter Marketing defined-The concept of changing value propositions, marketing messages and delivery capabilities to loyal customers with time, while keeping the brand loyalty intact.

Businesses need to do the necessary cleaning up and updation of data time and again to keep abreast of developments. Besides, it is high time organisations stopped taking their loyal customers for granted!!!!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Walmart-Embracing CGM for better Search Engine Rankings?

Another new addition to the world of Consumer Generated Media...Walmart allows it's consumers to post product ratings and reviews
'Real Opinions-Smart shopping-See what walmart customers from coast to coast are saying about our huge selection of products.'

Chief Marketing Officer Cathy Halligan was quoted in a Reuters report as saying the opportunity to review products is the No. 1 customer-requested feature. Being the world's largest retailer, Wal-Mart has been putting up efforts in the last few weeks to integrate its Web site more closely with its stores.

According to the Wal-Mart estimates, roughly 130 million customers visit one of its stores or its Web site every week and 75 percent of those customers are active online.

So what are the benefits Walmart can hope to accrue from this move?

1.Better Search Engine RankingsAs per an adage article, the real outcome maybe an improved performance with respect to search engine rankings-a crucial factor in the performance of online retailers.

The reviews give Wal-Mart thousands of additional pages of content to be indexed by major search engines, which look favorably on unique content, such as reviews, compared with pages with basic product details that any retailer could have.
"Searches related to product reviews typically get a high volume of queries, so Wal-Mart could see a material increase in organic search traffic to its site," said Peter Hershberg, managing partner at the search-marketing firm Reprise Media.

2.Increased consumer loyalty

3.Encouragement to consumers to return to the website more often.

4.Incorporation of consumer feedback to facilitate product-decisions.

5.Influencing consumer purchase as large no. of consumers depend on peer reviews

The above endeavours usually lead to better consumer engagement which eventually leads to increased purchase intentions. How much these will impact sales, only time will tell.

Friday, July 20, 2007

The correlation between Consumer Generated Media and Sales

As the democratisation of consumer expression leads to a viral proliferation of information online, the newage communication ecosystem has prompted the need for a careful evaluation of the potential of CGM or buzz as it is called. With each passing day, consumers find innovative ways to express their satisfaction/dissatisfaction about a product or brand.

An investigation of the relationship between blog buzz, market promotion and sales in the Consumer Packaged Goods(CPG) industry, by Nielsen Buzzmatrix revealed the following-

1.CGM has the potential to influence and generate incremental publicity for products, enough to effect their commercial prospects, specially in the CPG category.

2.CPG Marketers should consider the role of Buzz in their Marketing Mix, with respect to New product communication plans.

3.Ad spend is a large factor involved in generating CPG buzz.

4.There is a strong correlation between buzz and sales.

5.Buzz helps in generating accurate forecasts.

6.Buzz Magnitude: Top 10 % of products were responsible for over 85% of total buzz generated. Buzz is higher

7.Buzz Timing: Buzz usually precedes product launch and sales and is usually highest in the initial stages

As the above reiterates the prime motivational factor for consumers to create and post CGM-To be on the forefront of something new, it is profoundly clear that CGM will need to be an intrinsic component of the new product communication plans for marketers.

Interesting way to express Consumer Dissatisfaction

Expressing dissatisfaction over the way cheese is inserted in a sandwich at Subway, this cartoon from Lefthandedtoons is an interesting way to use the power of Consumer Generated Media. Source:ADAGE

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Food Marketers and the society

More society concious corporates are venturing out to publically pledge their resolves not to advertise food products not meeting requisite nutritional standards to children under 12. As per an adage article on More Major food marketers establish food advertising limits', several major corporates like Cadbury Adams,Campbell,Coca-Cola,General Mills, Hershey,Kellogg's ,Kraft, Mars,McDonald's,Pepsi and Unilever are the coalition of companies who have decided to curb spending on unhealthy foods....

Friday, July 13, 2007

Consumer Behaviour-Engagement and the purchase decision

A comment on my post on Peer Reviews influence Consumer Behaviour, on my blog at Customer Think yielded an interesting discussion- That accepted that social media influences consumer behaviour, but are consumers really concerned about developing relationships with companies..while Graham Hill thought otherwise,
John's theory on the value of customer engagement and his citation from the Economic Intelligence Unit Study,

"Increasingly, executives are finding that the winning differentiator is no longer the product or price, but the level of engagement—the degree to which a company succeeds in creating intimate long-term relationships with the customer or external stakeholder.
…engagement refers to the creation of a deeper, more meaningful connection between the company and the customer, and one that endures over time. Engagement is also seen as a way to create customer interaction and participation."

was thought provoking.

My take on this....

The value of product features and pricing cannot be disregarded at all, but engagement definitely adds a measure of trust to the buying environment and the payoff yielded by this engagement eventually is increased purchase intention.

Besides, why would consumers not be interested in building relationships with the companies?
studies reveal that in the case of the B2C category, emotional associations create a comfort,familiarity and convenience, leading to purchase decisions and in the B2B category, consumers want to partner with businesses that are reliable, fair, consistent, and cooperative-the key outcomes of relationship building.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

NDTV more courageous than IBN?

As discussed earlier, Consumer Generated media, the voice of the empowered consumer and what he feels about products procured from companies has another dimension to it. When the product under discussion is NEWS, MEDIA and INFORMATION, another form of CGM is being tracked...Termed as 'Citizen Journalism', this form of CGM allows people to share their views about common issues and participate by contributing their thoughts on a particular subject.

As per Wikipedia,

"Citizen journalism, also known as "participatory journalism," or "people journalism" is the act of citizens "playing an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analyzing and disseminating news and information," .....
Citizen journalism is a specific form of citizen media as well as user generated content."

Browsing to take a look at how Indian News Corporates had taken to this form of CGM, I came across the NDTV Blogs-NDTV allows users to host their blogs, upload content, videos, photos etc.From serious political analysis and literary criticism to frivolous personal chatter and over-the-top protestations, blogs allow you to create your own private niche in the big and not-too-bad world of the Internet." Interesting!!

With sections across business, health, education etc. etc. etc., NDTV appears to be hosting a multitude of bloggers. Haven't taken a look at the content, but this definitely appears to be a positive act of NDTV in the wake of rising criticism of bloggers, as a community and the quality of content they generate, by journalists per se.

The IBN blogs have contributions only from CNN-IBN employees. Is fairly impressive...but that's what the job of a journalist is-to be articulate and informed. However, as knowledgeable citizens from the elite qualified communities adopt this media, to share and voice their thoughts, journalists are no doubt sitting up, fearing a competitive tirade.

The quality of content as produced by a qualified/enlightened journalist and an ordinary citizen may or may not differ, however, it is the voice of the common masses which matters more when companies need to evaluate CGM from a strategical perspective.

Journalists have jobs that are bound to stay, but here is a breed of consumers of media who want to be heard and there is no way the echo of their voices can be submerged, considering the offerings of collaborationware leading to technology facilitated network building.The more condescending ones like NDTV simply embrace this voice. Maybe the other counterparts need to take note!!!

Monday, July 09, 2007

Wikipedia's popularity

As google trend analysis indicates the volume of usage of a query,it can at times be interesting to see how the search of certain terms has evolved over time. A google trend for the word ' Wikipedia' yielded this graph.

Absence of data on the vertical scale does not give the exact number of searches in 2007, but definitely is indicative enough of how the trend has caught on.
Had to be so..Wikipedia is the primary source of information on various issues today and the very fact that it is positioned as an encyclopedia, adds to the credibility factor. I do understand debates are on over the relevance and accuracy of content hosted at the site, but that is beside the point.

Digging deeper, a Technorati search for wikipedia yielded 375,522 blog posts and a blogpulse trend for wikipedia indicated an interesting trend.

The jump in April 2007 probably coincided with April Fool's day-Wikipedia's thorough compilation of April Fool's day coverage across newspapers, websites, magazines.It also included television shows corresponding to the day. The single page dedicated to April Fool's day had 436 outbound links.Considering that wikipedia's article structure encourages linking within and outside wikipedia,and that the prime factor in Google's search results algorithm is the no. of links connected to a given webpage, wikipedia gets a shot at very high rankings on keyword queries.

No wonder then, that the Report published by Pew Internet and American Life Project in conjunction with Hitwise lists Wikipedia as one of the most heavily visited websites on the internet, courtesy the vastness of data on the site, the American affinity to search engines and the convenience of search.

Maybe someone can still throw more light on why Wikipedia's blogpulse graph shows the upswing in April 2007.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Consumer Generated Media - How peer reviews highly influence consumer buying behaviour

Here is something which corroborates my thoughts on Opinion Leaders and CGM and The era of the empowered consumers-
A report published at about Online Buyers scouring for deals

The findings of the report include-

1. More and more online buyers are turning to peer-reviews for product related advice, before adopting a product.

"When asked to note their most trusted information source, sixty per cent of online buyers said consumer reviews compared to 31 per cent who said newspapers or magazines."

2.Large no. of online buyers indulge in comparison shopping and use social networking sites to do so.

3.Online buyers are early adopters of social networking such as writing or reading blogs, customer reviews, and community websites. They're more likely to share their opinions and give reviews online than people who shop the old-fashioned way.

4.As social netwroking sites abound with users, they will be areas of most potential for e-commerce.

5.Embracing advertising in the web's community sites appears to be very promising for marketers.

Hope the heads of the organisations (The customer was king....)hesitant to adopt CGM as a promotional tool are listening!!!!

Friday, July 06, 2007

Social media and the iphone

The Apple iphone has been an explicit example of how social media was used to create a buzz around a product, in the pre-launch phase, as a marketing strategy.
Blogpulse graphs are a clear indicator that the buzz about iphone at the time of launch was higher as compared to the one around the time of release. With as many as 244,626 blog posts about the iphone being tracked by technorati as per date, it will be important to monitor the for the same post-adoption by consumers, as CGM will come into play to showcase the positive as well as negative reactions as product-users.

Case study on buzz created through social media for iphone posted by Nielson Buzzmatrix,is a graphic account tracing the amount of impact of social media as a marketing tool for a product.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Consumers can make or break brands

In the words of Chris Ward, Commercial Director, Microsoft Digital Advertising Solutions,

"Social networking has changed the rules of the game and consumers now have the power to make or break a brand. This type of relationship provides a two way dialogue where the brand receives feedback and the social networker could be monetised for their efforts – positive or negative.”

It is common knowledge now that the huge traffic on social networks has made them very interesting marketspaces for marketers ineterested in brand building and product positioning. The changing attitudes to social communication and research figures hugely indicative of the potential of these networks has not only made these social networks important components of the value chain but also a complete market segment that needs to be targetted.

As advertisers move to understand the dynamics of this media,the consumer demographics and behavioural aspects, it is important to understand that groups of people interacting socially observe an etiquette and targetting them will need to be sensitively planned and executed.

Some recent usage trends of social media by corporates have been -

1. The Apple iphone has a myspace profile and as of date, already has 469 friends.It may be recalled that the Apple ipod pink nano which had a profile to promote the product, had amassed as many as 80,000 friends on myspace, before the site was removed. Nice promotional strategy by Apple

2.UK based Topshop by maintaining an online profile on Myspace through a participation in the community, special offers and discounts was able to generate a sizeable amount of visits, as per a report from Hitwise.

3.SouthWest Airlines has a group on myspace,having over 1000 members for those working/associated with southwest airleins. This includes the loyal southwest fyers.The idea is to form a community to share information, plan trips, share travel tips and network.

4.Creation of virtual spaces by VOLVO and MSN on windows live spaces.Consumers were invited to write about their exciting experiences and adventures in a Volvo-brande "What's your story" area.
Here Volvo was able to tap into the motivational factors behind an individual seeking to be an opinion leader feeling like anempowered consumer.

In view of the need to engage the online consumers,Microsoft has released the ‘Word of the Mouse’ Advertising Guidelines recommendations for usage of social networks for proliferation of their brands.

1. Understand consumer’s motivations for using social networks
- 75% of British users use the sites to keep in touch with friends and family
- Approximately half use it to express opinions and views on topics of interest
- 49% use social networks to deepen relationships with like-minded people.

2. Express themselves as a brand
People are using social networks to express their individuality. Networks can be used to express a side of a brand people don’t normally see and encourage them to interact with it – but it needs to remain authentic.

3. Create and maintain good conversations
Individuals are powerful in this environment – they are the content creators, conversation creators and community creators. Brands that are willing to have a dialogue could benefit.

4. Empower participants
You are entering a world of empowered participants who control their own content, are expressing their individuality and would welcome having this power over branded properties on their Space.

5. Identify online brand advocates
Advertisers need to identify relevant networking sites i.e. a site which includes people who already use/buy a company’s product and align to this audience and existing customer segmentation models.
By researching blogging habits or comments on a product in this environment, advertisers can reach out to influentials and begin a dialogue, for example by offering free samples or advanced product releases.

6. Behave like a social networker
A fundamental principle is that the best advertisers on Spaces will behave like the best Spaces owners by:
- Being creative
- Being honest and courteous (ask permission)
- Being individual
- Being conscious of the audience
- Updating regularly

As Advertisers understand that they need to gradually focus on the networked aspects of these communities and use them for spreading messages virally, these social networks provide profound relationship building opportunities with the consumers.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Opinion leaders and CGM

As a consumer's pre-purchase research finds more value and credibility in an informal source of information,rather than a company's advertising campaign or it's salespeople, CGM and opinion leaders are fast becoming forces to reckon with.

Opinion Leaders (Schiffman, Kanuk)have an informal influence over consumer behaviour and impact consumer acceptance of new products and services and Consumer Generated Media has provided a new source of communication for these opinion leaders.

The question is-
What drives an individual to be an opinion leader?

Desire for Self-Actualisation-
A feeling of superiority or status by demonstrating expertise by generating content and on being considered an authority on a subject.

Desire for Self-Projection-
Desire to build a credibility for himself. Research shows that individuals categorised as opinion leaders are four times more likely to be asked for advice/voice their opinion on any subject under discussion.

Need for Self-Confirmation-Try to reduce own post-purchase dissonance or self doubt regarding a purchase, by discussing the product features in a medium which will garner some comments, which if positive, will reassure the concerned individual regarding the appropriateness of his purchase.

Need for Social involvement-
Some people love sharing product related experiences and use these conversations as a means of being part of the community.

As the keen desire for knowledge and information drives an opinion leader to be an innovative consumer and share his experiences, his gregarious nature and access to the community coupled with the fertile opportunities provided by the collaborative web, can be utilised by organisations to generate favorable conversations about their products and services.

It is upto the consumer marketers to decide how to 'identify ' these opinion leaders or 'create ' 'CUSTOMER EVANGELISTS'

Thursday, June 28, 2007

The consumer was the king and we all seemed to know it.

According to the fifth annual PRWeek/Manning Selvage & Lee Marketing Management Survey, polling 279 U.S. chief marketing officers, VPs of marketing, and marketing directors and managers, and focussing on new media/CGM, integrated marketing and industry ethics, only about 12% respondents had CGM on their mind when considering marketing platforms.

Now why is this so?
CGM or consumer generated media is gaining imporatnce as the newly empowered consumers finds himself with a voice to express his opinions and post purchase emotions.

Organisations on one hand have a set of satisfied customers generating content about their positive experiences and influencing product adoptions by their friends and relatives, and on the other hand have to contend with unhappy customers sharing their woes with the threat of doing so in a technologically empowered digital environment capable of replicating the thoughts umpteen times, as people take to reading each others creations and linking to them.

As per the ADAGE article on the above subject, reasons for non-adoption of CGM as a promotion tool by several organisations stems from-

1. Fear of empowering a consumer to the point of no control.
2. No clear ROI on the subject yet.
However, the cost-effectiveness of this media over traditional media is bound to eventually let it get into vogue sooner or later.

Agreed that organisations are wary of embracing a medium where the echo of the consumer voice may be uncontrollable, but in an era where marketers are talking about
-Customer Relationship Management
-Customer Lifetime Values
-Increasing customer shares rather than market share
-Product Customisation
-Customer data warehousing and datamining and
-Using customers as brand evangelists,

will it not be contradictory to keep the consumer voice muffled?...After all, the consumer was the king...and we all seemed to know it.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Society concious corporates and the consumer

Coca-Cola recently entered into a tie-up with environmental group WWF. As part of a $ 20 m initiative, Coca-Cola is investing in 8 fresh water programmes overseen by WWF in regions where it has bottling operations.In return WWF will advise the drinks firm how to improve it's use of water , make it's bottling operations more efficient and reduce it's carbon footprint.As companies balance their objectives of profits, by focussing on the consumer, while also taking care of society's interests, the Societal Marketing approach to marketing is much in focus.

In an era of environmental problems, resource shortages, population growth, worldwide economic problems and neglected social services, there is a rising need of organisations which are sensitive to these issues to adopt the SOCIETAL MARKETING CONCEPT .

This concept of Marketing leads organisations to determine the needs and wants of target consumers and deliver desired levels of customer satisfaction more effectively and efficiently than competitors in a way that maintains or improves the consumer's and society's wellbeing.

Responding to nutritional concerns across the world, the $11 billion Kellog's company has decided to phase out advertisments targetting younger children for most if their products in case they do not meet nutritional guidelines.Mc Donalds has started churning out advertisments for adults. As consumer advocacy groups fight against anorexia across the world, Uniliver has announced a set of guidelines barring subsidiaries from using excessively thin models in a bid not to promote unhealthy 'slimness' in their advertisements.

Approaches like the above showcase the dedication of the organisations towards consumer welfare and positively influence their credibility. As more and more corporates embrace the concepts of Corporate Social Responsibility and consumer welfare, good corporate citizenship breeds not only consumer satisfaction, but also aids corporates in their efforts towards customer aquisition and retention.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Social networking and the collaborative environment

An interesting post by Eric Kintz, CMO, HP to take a look at Facebook's marketing potential.Early explorations for facebook's potential for marketing

How facebook's integrated collaboration environment could be a one-stop shopping avenue is described best in The Teenybopper Network by Andrew Mc Afee, Associate professor, Harvard Business School. His description of Facebook as collaborationware that spreads like wildfire and what exactly motivates people to get involved with this technology facilitated network building -"The desire to be popular and make friends" sums up the concept behind the ever increasing numbers on these social networks.
Facebook now open to enterprising developers talks about the innumerable applications being offered to developers to customise facebook to needs of the enterprise.

Another interesting post at the Gilbane Group Blog Facebook and enterprise 2.0 throws up kindof unexpected results. On a query on which collaboration technologies youngsters would use over the next 2 years in their jobs, email emerged at the top of the list. This was fairly acceptable considering that email is the primary source of interaction ad formal data communication in any enterprise today, but the tremendously low expected usage of blogs/wikis and a networking platform like facebook was a departure from the current picture emerging with the increased usage of these networking platforms.After all, appearances are deceptive!!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Measuring Customer Satisfaction

As the value of customer retention increases manifold and becomes as important as customer aquisition, measuring customer satisfaction has gained impetus 'coz the key to customer retention is customer satisfaction. A highly satisfied customer is likely not only to indulge in repeat purchases,recommend the company and it's products, have lesser problems with pricing fluctuations, gives feedback and may be easier to service.

Methodologies for Measuring customer satisfaction-

1.Complaint and suggestion systems.
2.Customer satisfaction surveys.
3.Ghost shopping.
4.Lost customer analysis.

As I studied a whitepaper on Customer satisfaction metrics from Netpromoter , the strategy corresponding to the second methodology of customer satisfaction survey was thoughtful. While collecting customer satisfaction data, it made sense to collect information corresponding to repurchase intentions and likelihood of a customer recommending the product and brand to another consumer.Analysing data for satisfied, dissatisfied customers and further taking a look at those dissatisfied customers who could pose as detractors and generate negative inputs about a company and it's products made thorough sense.

NPS-The Net Promoter Score
By simply querying consumers on
"How likely is it that you would recommend (Company X) to a friend or colleague? " the "Net Promoter Score" or NPS, can be calculated. The NPS is simply the percentage of customers whose answers identify them as promoters minus the percentage whose response indicates they are detractors.

Three Categories of Customers
NPS is based on the fundamental perspective that every company's customers can be divided into three categories. Customers can be categorized according to their answer to the above Question based on a 0-to-10 point rating scale with "0" representing the extreme negative and "10" representing the extreme positive end.

Promoters (those who answer 9 or 10) are loyal enthusiasts who keep buying from a company and urge their friends to do the same.
Passives (those who answer 7 or 8) are satisfied but unenthusiastic customers who can be easily wooed by the competition
Detractors (those who answer 0 through 6) are unhappy customers trapped in a bad relationship.

A proactive approach towards collecting and analysing this data appears mandatory in an age where customer complaints no longer are an index of a company's customer relationships. More than 96 percent of dissatisfied customers do not complain, most just stop purchasing from a company.

Understanding that a customer is not dependant on an organisation, but the organisation is dependant on him, appears to be the fundamental goal of any organisation.After all, Managing Customer Relationships towards more satisfied customers is the order of the day...

Monday, June 18, 2007

Case study from Brandingwire

Interesting new blog containing case studies and having a set of bloggers solve them independently. The first case study from
Branding wire is about a fictitious coffee company and the objective is to work out a strategy for growth and expansion. Ideas of contributors range from branding strategies to expansion plans, to extensive market research with the current consumers, to managing customer relationships, developing web strategies for publicity, capitalising local strengths, employee training to kiosks etc. An exhaustive list of ideas..

The one that stuck a chord was the idea on using Coffee outlets for Social Networking by The Branding Blog
In the era of social and Business networking, using these premises for the same, would definitely act as motivation for the social groups and adding an image angle to the offer, can make way for elite/premium social groups to get associated with the coffee chain. This will automatically take care of the word of mouth/buzz marketing as interested groups would like to be part of the clique.The relationship equity can be built upon so that customer's tend to stick to the brand beyond subjective or objective assessments, so much so that sticking to that brand of coffee becomes a habit.
Using social media further, adding access to internet based social networking at such a hangout can further set the revenue registers ringing.

Adding further to Drew Mc Lellan's idea of collecting data to gauge a customer's point of view, maybe some online communities can be established to have people share their coffee experiences...rather than interviewing customers, maybe an online site where they could briefly document their experiences before leaving, and hence be part of the 'Coffee' community....

As suggested by Brand Impact
" go after influential bloggers; find a large number of bloggers inside and outside the coffee blogging arena, and send a complimentary 1/2 pound bag. Ask for their input, either privately or publicly (on their blogs). Bloggers like coffee (by and large), and have an outsized influence"

Having satisfied customers create content about their experiences is bound to set off a positive chain which is much more beneficial than any other marketing or brand building tool....After all, satisfied communities not only indulge in repeat purchases, but also are great customer advocates....

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Can social media be used by corporates to manage customer satisfaction?

It is common place knowledge that
Customer Satisfaction=Customer Perception minus Customer Expectation.
If the client perception of the product delivered is lower than their exepectations, negative satisfaction is the result.
If however the client's perception of the product delivered exceeds their expectations a positive level of satisfaction is achieved.

Companies have by far understood that by effectively managing the three elements of this formula, they can ensure client satisfaction and hence garner competitive advantages.
The question here is...Can social media be used to manipulate the above equation to garner positive differential between perception and expectation.

1. Can companies use this media to reduce customer expectations?
I guess yes, by being conservative and talking about their products with realistic expectations.
Customer expectations are typically based on past buying experiences,the opinions of friends, and marketer and competitor information and promises. However, reducing customer expectations too much can satisfy those who buy, but may attract few customers and can create a risk of competitors enticing the prospective customers with better products. So, for starters, this may not be the right approach.

2. Can companies use this media to increase customer perception of value?Definitely .
Social media can be used efficiently in 2 ways to achieve the above.
a)Companies can set up corporate blogs which are sophisticated brand building and product positioning approaches.By managing the customer's subjective and intangible assessment of the brand, they can increase the brand equity, hence adding to the customer's perception of value.
b)Companies can ride the CGM wave,and by suitably incorporating the same in the marketing mix,identify some evangelists. It is clear that a few influencers can generate a great number of product mentions if they decide to feature a particular product or service in their blogs. By building relationships with these individuals, companies can not only have positive media generated about them, but also increase the value equity of it's products in terms of quality, price and convenience.

Both the above strategies(a&b) can aim at increasing customer perception of value for the company and it's products. Agreed that customer perception is a final function of the quality of the product delivered, but considering an optimum condition where the product is of standard quality, an increased customer perception of value for a company's brand definitely helps in increasing the level of customer satisfaction.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

The era of empowered consumers-why do consumers generate content?

At times, as customer expectations are met and desired level of customer satisfaction achieved, a company is left with a happy customer.
What is a happy customer most likely going to do?
He is going to-
1.Refer to the company's product happily whenever he engages in a conversation in that regard.
2.Influence other people to adopt the same product.
3.Indulge in a repeat purchase.
4.Create positive content about the company in case he is part of any web 2.0 social media components.
5.Provide Feedback and maybe product related ideas to the organisation.
point of view

So far so good.
An unhappy customer is most likely expected to work on opposite lines.

The question is-
Why does a consumer bother to create positive/negative content about a company based on the product that he has used?
The feeling of empowerment is unique. It gives a consumer an immense sense of satisfaction to know that they have a tool to get back to the company they have bought a product from.
2.Helps a consumer augment his self-concept-
The thought that content generated by him may later be read and analysed by the concerned company gives a consumer a feeling that he has the ability to contribute to the customer management and feedback analysis systems of the company and becomes a primary motivator to make him create content.
CGM has provided a medium to the common man to unload his thoughts and sentiments.
The ability to create a conversation tool to build a community of people using similar products and airing their views.People love to talk and share their experiences and when a tool is available, why not.
5.Project a public self image-Consumers also try to develop a personal brand through the content they generate.

As organisations strive to be more Consumer centric,it is the consumer who finds himself suddenly becoming powerful, with the ability to influence the reputations of organisations. Managing consumer relations and aiming at consumer satisfaction are no doubt important keywords for the success for any organisation.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The 4 C's of Marketing

Chris Brown on the Marketing and Branding Blog talks about the C's of marketing

In a customer-centric era where
1.organisations aim at gaining competitive advantage by creating and managing excellent customer relationships
2.The emphasis is as much on customer retention as customer aquisition,

marketing tools have also evolved from being product focussed and seller focussed to customer focussed.From a buyer's point of view, each marketing tool aims at delivering a customer benefit.

In the words of Philip Kotler, a parity can be established between how the 4 P's( of marketing deliver a customer benefit and can pave way for the 4 C's of marketing

Four P's vs Four C's
Product=Customer Solution
Price=Customer Cost

Success will arrive at a company's doorstep when it uses the correct combination of the 4 C's and by developing products as per customer needs, provides economically viable options conveniently to it's customers through the appropriate means of communication.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Levels of social participation in Social Media

As per the Social technographics report published by Charlene Lee of Forrester Research, there are six levels of social participation in social media in the U.S.This comprises creators, critics, collectors,joiners, spectators and inactives.Interesting comparison of Apple and Dell users and relevant from the point of view of marketers who can identify their target market and which rung of the ladder they are on, thereby creating appropriate strategies towards using web 2.0 for onlime marketing and branding, developing customer relationships, and using customers from a CGM and customer evangelism point of view.
However, if we consider the case of a country like India, where the total population is something like 1,129,667,528 and 40,000,000 web users , with a .035% web usage, the majority of the population would be in the inactive segment.How relevant something like this would be in an Indian context is something for only the urban population to decide.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Leveraging CGM for understanding Consumer Behaviour

As consumer generated media reflects the voice of the consumer in a huge way, the study of Consumer Behaviour has now got a new source of information that can be tapped.
Wikipedia defines CGM as
"Consumer generated media (CGM) originated as a reference to posts made by consumers within online venues such as internet forums, blogs, wikis, discussion lists etc., on products that they have purchased. Shoppers who are researching products often use other consumers' opinions when making buying decisions."

As huge volumes of User generated content floats around, organisations need to sit up and take note of the voice of it's empowered consumers.As prospective consumers rely on the opinions of the already existing consumers, leveraging CGM and channelising it appropriately has become critical for organisations to understand and manage market performance.This creation of social media is now influencing consumer behaviour, affecting product positioning and driving brand reputations in such a big way, that the power of the ordinary content creator can no longer be ignored.

As per reports published by Nielson Buzzmetrics, there were as many as 25 million blogs, 90,000 Bulletin Boards & Online Review/Feedback sites, 45,000 Usenet newsgroups, in end 2006, and the huge volume of daily postage data( daily postings for blogs:1,500,000, the online sites: 3000,000 and the newsgroups: 225,000) generated by the above has made CGM a force to reckon with.

The message is clear-These new social media tools , by giving birth to CGM have changed company relationships with their consumers from a unidirectional "attract customer" strategy to a culture of participation and co-creation. As consumer voices start echoing, the need is to establish a meaningful interaction with them and use them as advocates for the company.

A miniature case study on Dell shows how CGM has started raising it's head...well the head can be ugly too at times....

Dell has a blog called Direct2Dell, which it claims is for one-to-one communications with DEll. With over 800 inbound links, the site can boast a respectable Alexa traffic rank of 72,529.

Further a Trend Result by the keyword "Dell" on Blogpulse indicates that in May'07, the word 'Dell' found place in almost 0.475 percent of total blogposts.
Also, a technorati search reveals that the total no. of blog posts about Dell is 688,024 and 3025 blogs have already written about Dell.

Sounds interesting. But is it?

Consider what this dissatisfied user posted on the Dell blog-

"I use other social networking sites with a much broader reach than most blogs... the videos, discussion groups and online postings are just as anti-dell as ever and this is creating an impression (negative at the moment) on the entire generation of purchasers dell needs to win over. Dell needs to watch carefully what is going on in those areas of the internet as well.
Me? If I am unhappy with dell and shop elsewhere, Dell will miss selling me probably 5 more computers in my lifetime, add in 5 for my wife too... (we won't calculate friends who learn of our nightmares and also choose not to shop Dell, the figures are too hard to quantify here), so no big deal in the grand scheme of things, BUT if they also lose (for example) my daughter, her friends, their friends, etc. they stand to lose a further 12 sales (for each person based on a purchase of one computer every 5 years) in their lifetime! On Facebook alone she has 162 friends! This should be setting off alarm bells across the board."

...And if this was not enough, the concerned gentleman maintains a blog called Dell Hell revisited....A quick read tells you that it is clearly a 'I Hate Dell' Blog.

To further take a look at Dell's woes, courtesy CGM, A video on Youtube, supposedly called the 'My PC is on Fire-Dell Laptop Tribute Video( Numa Numa Song) which is apparently a parody of a pop song, and is aimed at Dell has as of now attracted 229,076 views. It has 463 comments and has been favourited over 1200 times. The power of replication of data and how it travels virally across the internet is better left unsaid.

And the impact Dell is facing courtesy this negative CGM drive is eventually something that Dell needs to measure and understand. In a business universe where Customer Collaboration and Advocacy are the new found norms, it is time Dell wakes up to these new challenges to face its 'EMPOWERED CONSUMERS'.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Employee communities in the web 2.0 space

Sandeep Dadlani's post on Linked-in across the extended flat world enterprise reiterates the need of an information structure within an organisation wherein the offerings of Web 2.0 can be leveraged to gain access to an employee database with personal information and probably employee photographs to get a personal feel of the entire setup. He sites geopgraphical locations as the primary cause for organisations to feel the need of sucha set up. This is very relevant with respect to developing an employee community where employees can communicate and collaborate with others with si,ilar skillsets and objectives and at the same time giving them a forum to voice their views. Communities are important not only as they provide employees a sense of belonging, but also an opportunity to showcase their achievements. Networking helps them develop affinity with other members at the workplace while simultaneously increasing the approachability of the members at the higher level.The ease of access provided by this model definitely makes it a viable option for organisations.Several organisations have already developed such communication models-The Sun Microsystem blog system is a case in point and the site statistics are impressive-
Total weblogs: 3200
Total users: 3557
Total entries: 67200
Total comments: 63417

The ideology behind floating the blog is aptly reflected in the fine print on the first page:
"This space is accessible to any Sun employee to write about anything."
Well, employee opinions matter...don't they...and as the 67200 entries show, it looks like...employees do have a lot to say!!!!

Infosys Blogs...contd....

Mohan Babu, who blogs at the 'Managing Offshore IT Blog ' at Infosys tells me that Infosys has several more blogs. Thanx for the info Mohan.
The other blogs are
IT Matters:A blog for IT professionals interested in improving corporate IT performance and making IT needs evolve to support the business in a flattening world.
Livewire: An infosys blog for the emerging communications industry.
Infosys-Microsoft Alliance
Managing Offshore IT-Offshore Management Framework: The key to managing projects across time, distance and cultures
SOA–Snake Oil Applied?: An infosys blog on the application of SOA.
Think Flat
Web 2.0:Web 2.0 is about harnessing the potential of the Internet in a more collaborative and peer-to-peer manner with emphasis on social interaction.

As i ventured into the Web 2.0 blog, the archives made interesting reading. However the number of posts are few. Started in October 2006, the blog can boast of only 7 posts. Ain't that too less for a company the stature of Infosys?

The posts obviously are impressive. I like the post on
Dimensions of differentiation in Web 2.0 Business Models". The dimensions drawn include Differentiated User Interfaces, Differentiated peer-to-peer interactions and collaboration mechanisms, Differentiated Network participation,Differentiated collective intelligence creation and Differentiated aggregation mechanisms...Interesting.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Corporate Blogs and their objectives

Corporate Blogs are now becoming authoritative sources of information regarding a company. There value and importance can be gauged when a simple technorati search on the word ' Corporate Blogging ' yeilds more than 19000 results. Considering the amount of buzz generated by the same, their importance with respect to leveraging consumer intelligence and magnifying success stories is now undeniable.

As Linkedin launched its corporate blog , the objective they stated was interesting-
"Linkedin was started with the goal of helping you manage your professional relationships better, and today we’re launching our corporate blog to not only help you leverage LinkedIn more effectively but also to provide you a sounding board for all things LinkedIn. So, if you’re looking for a singular information source on LinkedIn with regular updates on upcoming product features, tips-and-tricks, and events or if you’d just like to hear about all the fun stuff associated with working at LinkedIn, you have reached the right place."

A query on the objective behind the Corporate Blog of Bill Marriott, CEO , Marriott Hotels states the following blog objective-
"The purpose of the blog is to create a forum for people to interact with Bill Marriott. We're proud of our culture, history, service excellence, and especially our 143,000 associates whose Spirit to Serve makes us so successful. Part of what makes us great is our belief in service to the customer and Success is Never Final.This blog allows us to hear from you and build on the community that we've nurtured for 80 years."

The DellBlog-
"Our goal is to build Direct2Dell into a community that’s driven by direct communication. We hope to provide you insights into Dell and the employees that drive the company forward."

Digital Straight Talk is a blog produced by Cox Communications. It's a source of views and news on the many issues affecting broadband providers and consumers.
"High-speed Internet, cable telephony, HDTV and a whole host of related innovations and issues in the digital space have created intense competition among providers. And, where there’s competition, there’s no doubt info overload for consumers and others trying to make sense of it all. With Digital Straight Talk, we want to make sure those in the industry, consumers and others who care have a clear understanding of our vision, direction and opinion."

Corporate Blogs are set up by companies to-
1.Build Product Brands.
2.Create a customer-centric approach for the company.
3.To give people a contact point by attaching a face or name they can interact with, hence catering to the concept of relationship building.
4.Create a buzz about New product/project launches.
5.Act as a source of consumer redressal.
6.Act as a source of viral marketing. Its a place where people chat about the company and the products and if they talk well, well you've got a word of mouth campaign already started.
7.Create communities for communication, collaboration,customer-interaction.
8.Image building purposes by showcasing any good work done by the company.
9.Showcase any achievements by the company and any recent successes...

At the end of the day it all boils down to securing more customers and retaining already existing ones....broadly....add to the value perception of a company's customers!!
Don't you think Customer Relationship Management is the ultimate goal of any corporate blog?

Monday, April 30, 2007

Internet etiquette_How to practise listening while communicating online

Effective use of interpersonal skills in communicating online is an essential component in making and keeping the internet a positive and useful force, as technology ushers in newer features with each passing day.

Online communication is limited in its capacity to convey non-verbal meanings and relies on symbols, acronyms, abbreviations and formatting styles instead.

Active listening-
Listening is the process of receiving and constructing meaning from and responding to verbal, non-verbal or online communication.

In a typical imterpersonal interaction, Social Psychologists state that usually 40-50% of meaning is lost in the transmission of messages from sender to receivers.While Language, noise related issues, misinterpretation of body language, ineterpersonal issues along with receiver distortion, defensiveness and distorted perceptions can be identified as the common barriers to listening, the same multiply in the context of online communication in the absence of face to face contact.
Hence it becomes important to be very careful in communicating online and the first step in this direction can be identified as Effective Listening.

1.Paraphrase and summarise comments made by others.Simply responding to other people's messages by an 'i agree' creates a feeling that reading or listening in this context has not transpired.
2.If you need to quote from the sender's message for clarity, select only the most relevant statements foloowed by your comments.
3.Ask questions. Empathise.
4. Do not immediately interject your own thoughts and feelings, while listening to(reading) thoughts and opinions of others.
5.Use online abbreviations , contractions, emoticons and acronyms sparingly.While a smiley may soften a comment, too many are a clutter.
6. Avoid perceptual biasisand stereotyping.

Hence to be able to communicate effectively online , one must do away with self fulfilling prophecies and concentrate on seeking intent, focussing and trying to analyse the written matter-Because at the end of the day 'the most basic human need is to understand and be understood.The best way to understand people is to listen to them.'

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Indian Firms enter the Blogosphere

Abhijit Bhaduri at the Frito Lay Blog sent me an interesting link on an article on Blogging which appeared in Asia Times in HongKong.Indian Firms enter the BlogosphereThanx Abhijit...

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Eric Kintz's response to Corporate Blogging and CRM

As i pursued my quest on Corporate Blogs as a tool for CRM, I decided to query a few writers behind these blogs...Response from Eric Kintz, CMO, Hewlette Packard, to my query on Corporate blogging as a tool for CRM

“As HP is substantially into corporate blogging (am an avid reader of these blogs), do u think it has been successfully able to levearage these blogs from a CRM point of view?Vandana”

“I think that blogging is still unproven, but is a great way to provide a personalized dialogue with customers. The vast majority of my readers are HP customers and they have through my blog a personal interaction and personal dialogue about what HP is trying to accomplish in the marketing space. Eric”

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Corporate Blogging and Infosys

Infosys has a corporate blog, “ Think Flat’ launched in 2006, after CEO Nandan Nilekani had discussions with Stephen Pratt, Head of its Consulting unit. Contributors include infosys board members, unit heads and executives.

In the words of Nandan M. Nilekani, “ You can’t run companies the old fashioned way anymore.The new challenge facing companies is a combination of demographics, emerging economies, globalization, technology, flat world and regulation” With this thought in mind, Infosys launched Think Flat( Source:

Infosys exceedingly believes that there existed a role for a trusted partner who could provide advice, guidance, consultation to help customers make a transition. Hence there existed a huge potential for commencing a dialogue with the clients, instead of simply sharing the perspectives of several of its senior executives, thereby lending greater credence to the thoughts behind Infosys.This thought process gave birth to the Corporate Blog- Think Flat

The blog increasingly talks about the concept of a flat world and discusses strategies on winning in a Flat world. Thomas. L. Friedman's paper on 'The World is Flat' made interesting reading. as he focussed on how a series of technological developments have contributed to globalisation and hence the concept of a flat world, his take on Globalisation 3.0 highlighted how the collaborative web had allowed individual's to work on a global scale.

As he talked about 'Flattening Technologies' , a couple of them were very relevant in changing the workplace climate and contributing to the evolution of workplace habits and relationships. Flattening Technology no.6 where he talks about Uploading and the impact of Open Sourcing, Blogging and finally Podcasting, is indicative of how web 2.0 has affected the typical corporate ambience.

His take on Flattener no. 10 where he says that VoiP, file Sharing and Wireless have put all the collaborative technologies on steroids is very true as these new technologies have provided such an ease to data-sharing that it has clearly changed workplace relationships from exclusive vertical ones to horizontal inclusive ones.

Truly web 2.0 has changed the environment in a typical workplace and also contributed to newer virtual relationships, between employees, between organisations and prospective clients, between organisations and current clients, between employees and management etc. etc. etc.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Web 2.0 Datasharing applications

The File Sharing Applications of the Collaborative Web have emerged as very important tools by creating synergistic atmosphere at workplaces and enhancing performance through transparency of data. In fact, as everybody moves forward to share their work, they have gradually emerged as resource pools of information, which can be tapped to improve productivity levels.

Youtube- Upload, view and share user generated videos

Flickr- Store, search, share and sort photographs

Slideshare- Host and share slideshows

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Web 2.0 and politics

Web2.0 has proved itself as an excellent communication tool. If it's being used for marketing, then how can politics be far behind....if we take a macro view of the situation, politics to some extent is a form of the candidate, marketing the political party etc.

Interesting evidence is available from overseas about the usage of this communication tool in politics...India of course cannot claim to be part of this...why would the Indian politicians bother... their vote banks lie in those lands where web 2.0 is of no consequence.

An interesting case in point is that of Barack Obama, a presidential candidate in the U.S elections. He started his own network Such networks help in-

1.Giving Visibility
2.Showcasing the entire campaign
3.Highlighting all good work towards social causes
4.Can generate online contributions and hence be part of the entire fundraising activity.

Hillary Clinton posted a message on Yahoo Groups -"What do you think we should do to improve health care in America"and got thousands of responses. She thus opened a new avenue to showcase her commitment to the welfare of the people, while at the same time opened up a discussion giving her own cause substantial visibility.
These tactics may not help a candidate win an election in totality, but they definitely open up a new avenue to reach the end-customer, who is the voter in this case.As more and more people join an online political network , courtesy the social causes they talk about, the volume of people a prospective political candidate can reach out to, at the click of a single button is amazing.

With Hillary already experimenting with online advertising, the time is not far when advertising on blogs,community sites and other high traffic websites will become the norm every election season.....

Monday, January 29, 2007

Web2.0, Networking and Image Building

Sat through a very interesting lecture by Bethany Cheney, the Marketing head, U.S.A. of Techtribe-an online community established courtesy Web 2.0. She spoke on
" Building the Brand of a Leader" and brought out how increasing visibility, networking appropriately and developing charisma were the key ingredients to a successful image building exercise, which inturn would be very useful for individual growth and success.

Her interesting observation that 'there are only six degrees of separation' highlighted the power of networking and how connectivity can be established between total strangers to accrue benefits for the others. Web2.0 in turn has opened a plethora of options to leverage this understanding of networking to build relationships.

These online communities have been setup for developing contacts with other people as well as sharing information and knowledge for growth,as also forge vital business associations. A valuable outcome of this new phenomenon is that senior corporate honchos, who could be well established names in their respective domains can service the community by functioning as mentors to the youth.The youth in turn can have the dual advantage of developing rapport with established industry names, as well as gain vital information through participation...