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Archive for: March, 2008

Our colleague, Paull Young, was quoted today in the Christian Science Monitor story ‘Who’s That Selling at Your (Online) Door‘ about ethics within social media and word of mouth marketing. Social media and word of mouth marketing are successful due to the trust they engender, but as more brands move budgets into this realm, the pressure to “bend the rules” will increase. Stealth marketing, astroturfing, fake blog (“flogs”) and other “dark art” tactics will simply destroy trust and, in the process, the effectiveness. And once trust is lost, it is all-so-difficult to regain.

Converseon is proud to be a governing member of WOMMA which has taken a lead in developing a set of ethical guidelines. Now it’s up to the industry to self regulate. We applaud organizations like DuPont who have formally adopted the WOMMA code of ethics.

At Converseon, all our work is in compliance. We find that this does not in any way limit effectiveness or creativity. There simply is no need to resort to unethical tactics. We also work closely with our clients to help adopt the ethical code, train them and also help set up compliance mechanisms. We recognize our role in helping this industry flourish and hope others hold themselves and their clients to the same standards. In a world where technology is helping to create new bonds through new communications tools and technologies, we, as an industry and a society, cannot afford to accept anything less.

Categories: Converseon News

Converseon will be involved in wide range of upcoming conferences. We’re looking forward to seeing old friends, and making new ones. Don’t hesitate to give us a shout if you’d like to connect at one of the following.

Rob Key will be speaking at Search Engine Strategies in New York on March 17-20th. He’ll be hosting a panel focusing on using Conversation Mining to find new language/keywords. The session, which will take place on Wednesday March 19, is described as follows:

If search engines are tapping into human knowledge more widely through tagging, click through tracking, search history features and other methods, so can search marketers. Social networks, blogs, feeds, tagging, social bookmarking and immersive game environments provide 24/7 real-time focus groups. Learn how Buzzmetrics, Cymfony (and Converseon) and others help quantify and reveal critical insights.

If you’re interested in attending, please leave a comment and we can give you a code for a 20% discount.

The Converseon team will also be present at BlogHer Business in New York on April 3-4 as Christin Eubanks joins our client Graco presenting a social media outreach case study on the successful Graco Get-Together events. BlogHer Business promises to be an informative and exciting conference (check the full agenda here) as some of the leading female bloggers and corporate online marketers combine to share best practices.

For those with a more academic bent, our CTO Jeff Doak will be at the International Conference on Blogs and Social Media (ICWSM) on March 30 to April 2 where he will be engaged in discussion on new research and technologies for social media analysis. Sponsored by the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI), the Conference “brings together academic and industrial practitioners to present and to discuss new research, applications, thoughts and ideas that are shaping the future of social media analysis.” We’re always interested in meeting those who share a similar passion for the field and are doing interesting research and development, so contact us if interested in meeting.

Converseon will be exhibiting at Ad:Tech San Francisco on April 15-17. Please come by and say hello. Our focus will be discussing best practices in developing social media strategies, with a special emphasis on social media monitoring – what we call Conversation Mining. Please contact us if you’d like a demo of the service.

Also upcoming, Converseon will be speaking and exhibiting at the ACCM show in Orlando on May 19 – 22. As the site describes,

“ACCM is the only conference that provides education in all the areas of multichannel marketing you need to increase profits, control costs and grow your business.” With the continued rise of social media and a renewed focus on performance based acquisition programs (such as through “Affiliate 2.0”), it should be an interesting event. Converseon provides an array of innovative social media, search and affiliate marketing services to multi-channel marketers.

These are just a few of the upcoming events, keep an eye on our Upcoming.org account for more. We’ll update everyone with more details and events in the coming weeks and we hope we’ll see you at one of the conferences.

Categories: Converseon News

Rise of the FrankenAgencyCymfony’s new social media study just reaffirms what we’ve already been seeing: Traditional marketers are struggling to come to terms with social media.

Converseon was founded nearly seven years ago based on the premise that traditional communication approaches, technologies and agency models were largely ill equipped to deal with the rise of social media. Clearly not much has changed.

The natural question we may collectively ask is, “why?” Our response is both simple and complex. The simple response is due to a truism of human nature: if one has a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Humans, and agencies, tend to do what they best understand and gravitate away from the new and complex. It has been argued by some that we’re just very good pattern matching machines and naturally are quick to arrange all things new into comfortable old categories.

The second part of that answer is a little more complex. Social media strategies require a view of the world (and a skill set) that transcends traditional marketing disciplines. Speaking from experience, within larger, traditional agency environments, I’ve found that the infrastructure is often so firmly cemented that it can’t effectively accommodate innovation. Compound that with the emphasis on “making numbers” in a public company environment, there is a natural bias towards pushing services with proven revenue streams rather pushing forward with the new and innovative. How many agencies truly have an R&D budget? Some of the larger agencies have created new groups to experiment with innovation. The challenge of infusing it back into the parent though still remains.

When Converseon was first formed, a leading member of the board of a holding company (who I’ll leave nameless) said to us that the unfortunate truth was that it was easier to let a company spin out, be successful and then acquire them, than to innovate from within. The challenges of established, larger organizations collaborating across marketing disciplines, across separate P&L structures, added to the natural inertia of organizations and the fear of the unknown makes it difficult to evolve. For far too many, a new piece of business sets off a wrangling for budgets where the most influential groups (i.e. “more established”) often emerge dusty but triumphant.

So while agencies are increasingly using the right social media words, and issuing press releases about new social media capabilities, there clearly is often far more style than substance. While size and heft is useful when negotiating large media buys, it is something of a hindrance in the more nimble world of social media.

As in biological evolution, different species form in the presence of changing environments. Adaptation occurs through the development of new species rather than trying to morph old species into new ones (although indeed have common ancestors).

At the risk of making Stephen Jay Gould turn in his grave, the advent of social media to communications and marketing is akin of changing of transformation of the Toyonian to the Cambrian period (and the resultant explosion of new forms of life).

And in those periods, it is hard for organisms and organizations to adapt. Even today, there is very little cross pollination across marketing disciplines. PR folks tend to go to PR conferences for example. Direct marketers tend to gravitate to the DMA. Advertising talks to advertising. We’ve created mini, marketing discipline specific echo chambers.

The result is that the disciplines tend to view social media from the biased lens of their discipline. This means 30 second spots on YouTube, or an extension of media relations to blogger relations. These are just incremental extensions of current core competencies. It does not get to the heart of what true social media is: community. The result is some traditional agencies awkwardly positioning themselves as something that they’re not quite. Little pieces strewn together awkwardly that may give the appearance of social media adeptness, but look more like the assemblage of incompatible parts upon closer scrutiny: what we call the Frankenagency.

This is not to say that there isn’t interesting work coming from traditional agencies: indeed there is. And there are some very smart people. However, as the survey and our own experience shows, truly effective social media strategies requires new entities with new skills, technologies, infrastructures and cultures designed specifically for this new environment. It is not simply an “add on” to existing services.

Social media clearly is a different. It isn’t just a new channel or a new technology. It requires new cultures with new skill sets and a break with the traditional command and control marketing structures that have governed traditional agencies over the last generation. Some of our most sophisticated clients understand this. They have an advertising agency, a PR agency and a social media agency. They understand the differences.

These new social media entities, like evolutionary biology, do have common, but diverse, ancestors. Converseon has grown in part because of the alchemy that occurs when bringing together search, public relations, computer scientists, direct marketers, advertising creatives, issues management experts, independent film makers, and more. Out of this combination of the diverse comes mutation; and, from mutation, evolution.

And of course, as brands become more immersed in social media, we are seeing a second law of evolution kicks in: that of natural selection. For as long as brands select and cultivate these new entities, they will grow and evolve and be reflective and natural residents of the new social media world.

Image Dr Frankenstein and his Monster, uploaded by DuneChaser