Tag Archives: social networking

Will your brand be Twit-jacked?

twitter

Beware: a painful phenomenon from the Web 1.0 world is creeping into Twitter and other social media platforms. Opportunists of the same stripe that reserved Coke.com for themselves in the cowboy days of 1993 (hoping to make millions, of course) are beginning to try similar tricks with Twitter, Facebook and other Web 2.0 identities.

The twit-jacking phenomenon hasn’t moved as quickly as most people feared. Sure, there have been some incidents–about a year ago, for example, one questionable fellow tied up the Twitter versions of CNBC, MSNBC, Newsweek and Business Week–but I haven’t heard anything about a large-scale attack. I think you can be pretty sure it’s coming, though. Domain squatters may not be geniuses, but they’ll catch on soon enough.

Why? Publicity is peaking. Twitter (and fellow social media platforms) are reaching the critical mass of mainstream media coverage which attracts the predators in every business community. Once the coverage reaches them, they’ll be registering social media IDs like mad.

In the mean time, I’m recommending to my clients that they to a social media naming audit (write to me if you’d like our form for doing this) to make sure their core brand is protected on all of the major platforms. It’s worth probably analyzing and leveraging a few of the lesser ones, as well, as you want to hedge your bets.

I also suggest that clients do what they’re probably already doing in the Web 1.0 space, which is to reserve multiple spellings of their corporate name, keywords they consider important to their mission and personal names of their corporate executives. Be thorough, and be thoughtful; and remember that nobody though something crazy like an “URL” would make much of a difference in 1994. We’re at that point again.

Besides, it never hurts to think how your brand is positioned today’s hottest emerging media, and if you’re lucky, you may develop new ideas to reach these audiences as you dig through their layers of social participation. If nothing else, though, you’ll have protected yourself against Twit-jacking for the near future. Believe me, you’ll be glad you did.

Anne

P.S. This Network World editor has his own interesting take on the subject, including some interesting details on the extent to which Twit-jacking is already picking up steam

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Great idea for connecting with your Twitter followers

Now here’s an idea that makes sense not only for Twitter, but also for other forms of social media (including blogs, social networks and bookmarking sites). I love it — not only does it provide great information for the marketer, it also builds a sense of community in the process. Great stuff!

What’s got me stirred up is a site mounted by Eric Miltsch of car dealer AuctionDirect. The site, Tweet and Greet, challenges Miltsch’s Twitter followers to answer 10 quick questions about cars.

The results Miltsch gets are entertaining, revealing and most importantly, memorable. Not only that, the survey is likely to engage rather than frustrate users. As ProBlogger Darren Rowse notes, the odd thing is that people tend to be more committed to your product when you ask them to do some work.

Readers, what’s your favorite technique for learning more about your social media followers and fans? Have you ever built a campaign around information gathered from social media-based research? — Anne

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Twitter ‘spam’ threat leads to paranoia

Folks, I’ve tried to stay out of this, as I know my opinion isn’t popular, but I just can’t take it any more. Over the last few weeks, I’ve increasingly seen the term “spammer” used to describe some users on Twitter. That’s true despite the fact that you’ll never see a single tweet (post) unless you choose to follow that person, and moreoever, that nobody can even follow you unless you give permission. In my view, the whole thing is paranoid almost beyond belief.

Sure, it’s annoying to get e-mail notifications that someone is following you if you don’t consider the follower to be welcome. And yes, I can imagine a world in which we Twitter users (I’m @annezieger) are swamped with thousands of followers, which effectively translates into e-mail spam since the notifications land in our inbox. (I do hope Twitter’s management is prepared for that eventuality, and has tough enough security in place to prevent mass follows by creepy folks.) So I understand why people are concerned.

That being said, why on earth has a segment of the Twitter community decided that virtually any follows by corporate Twitterers (say, @JetBlue) constitute spamming?

What right has any one segment of the Twitterati to decide that they, alone, know how many people you should follow and how many must follow you if you’re to be a “legit” Twitter user? (What, you didn’t know that the Twitter clique plans to ostracize you if you follow too many folks and they don’t follow back? Well, guess what, they do.)

And how dare some self-appointed zealot(s) create a Twitter “blacklist” which purports to protect me from undesirables? I’m quite offended by the idea. OK, I realize that some people are thrilled to ‘make the list’ and dub it a piece of cheap PR for them, but I doubt the list’s creators had that in mind.

You know, we went through this whole thing almost 15 years ago or so when the Internet started being swamped by commercial interests. (Remember Canter & Siegel spamming Usenet in 1994?) People went insane and started turning on each other in much the same way we’re seeing today–and look how effective that was! E-mail spam disappeared for good, right? (Uh, not exactly.)

Haven’t we learned anything from the experiences of the last decade and a half? If the first wave of spam showed us anything, it taught us that you can’t change a medium by lashing out at people who use it in ways you don’t approve of–it’s a waste of time and often, changes the character of the medium in ways that do significant damage.

Please, please, let’s be smarter when it comes to Twitter? — Anne

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Do you deserve to be called a social media marketing pro?

Over the last few weeks, I’ve seen a growing number of marketing pros tag themselves as “social media marketers,” but few stop and define what they mean by that. The question is, what defines a social media marketer, anyway?

Here’s my take on the ideal social media marketer:

* They’re people who are intimately familiar key social media communities (e.g. Facebook, MySpace, Twitter), with lots of real connections there and experience with a given service’s back channels.

* They’re knowledgeable about social network advertising options, including Facebook pages, apps and PPC-style ads, MySpace pages, video advertising on YouTube and PPC ad integration on B2C services like Flickr and Squidoo.

* They’re experienced at (or at least familiar with) Internet marketing in other contexts, including banner placement, e-mail, SEO, PPC campaigns, copywriting for the Web and affiliate marketing.

* They’re extremely current with Web 2.0 news, both traditional and bloggish, and can shift strategies on a dime based on what they learn.

The big question I haven’t addressed here is whether one can call themselves a social media marketer if they’ve never run a major campaign on these networks. (People who specialize in B2B, like myself, are particularly unlikely to have run such campaigns–our clients are not usually the early adopter type.)

Should we stay out of the fray until we’ve spent real money on this medium? Sounds good in theory, but that would pretty much shrink the profession down to a few fortunate folks whose clients/employers are way ahead of the curve.

OK, now it’s your turn. What core skills do you think marketers should have before they hang out the “social media marketer” shingle? Why? And do you think the social media marketing profession needs an association of its own?

Please feel free to comment or write to me at annezieger at gmail.com…I definitely don’t want the last word here!

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Twitter advertising models emerging, quickly

Well, it was inevitable–but I’ve got to say that I’m a bit surprised at how fast things are moving. While it’s still very early in the game, it looks like advertising and marketing activities are beginning to creep onto Twitter.

As regular readers of this blog know, I believe that Twitter can support advertising without ruining the experience. That doesn’t mean, however, that all models are equal. As in any other Net medium, spam is a pain, and reports are already surfacing of spammy advertisers following people. On the other hand, I do think Mashable‘s story, headlined “Twitter Spam Spirals Out of Control,” goes a bit overboard, as I, for one, haven’t attracted any spam followers yet.

More interesting than the spammers, by far, is the eBay auction by Twitter user @andrewbaron, who’s selling off his Twitter account and nearly 1,400 followers. With nearly a week left to go on the auction, Baron has already attracted 40 bidders. What’s more, the bids have now topped $1,500–valuing the followers at more than $1 each. While Baron doesn’t describe his follower list as a marketing opportunity, I’m doubting the people bidding on it see it as anything but that.

Then, you have rumors floating around that Twitter has begun testing out short advertising messages of its own over the past few days, allegedly within friend feeds. The company roundly denies this, and execs may be telling the truth, but it does seem likely that Twitter will need to try something like this fairly soon, as it’s currently not making money despite its smash success with users.

As for me, I’m enjoying the innocent, ad-free days of Twitter, but I’ll be OK with it when those days end. I suppose it’s possible that Twitter will monetize its users some other way, but advertising is so dead-on obvious a play that it seems inevitable.

You know, I never thought an ad medium would develop which makes PPC ads seem like novels. Writing for tiny Twitter spaces is going to be an art form all its own. — Anne

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LifeAt takes social networking to housing communities

At first blush, I liked the idea a lot. Brooklyn-based start-up LifeAt has built a social networking platform apartment communities and other housing developments can use to connect residents with each other, the management and the neighborhood. With the help of some persistent PR reps, the idea has gotten some attention, including a feature in The New York Times.

Conceptually, the model makes a great deal of sense–and I’m guessing that the real estate investors behind the venture can keep it afloat for quite some time–but as I looked things over, I realized that I have some problems with LifeAt’s execution.

First, the basics. LifeAt, which developed all of its technology in-house, charges building managers a flat $6,000 to get access to the platform, which includes templates for personal profiles and “friend” connections, a community discussion forum, profiles of local stores, restaurants and services and a “marketplace” where residents can post free classifieds. To make sure only residents access the sites, no one can enter unless they get a username and password from the property manager.

As of late 2007, when the Times wrote its profile, almost 1,000 communities were live or scheduled to go live within a few months.  (Note: While CEO Matthew Goldstein didn’t say how many, at least some of the buildings are those already owned by the investors behind the project.) More interestingly, at that point more than half of residents in the already-launched properties had created personal profiles. In other words, yes, people do use the service.

So, other than the one-time $6,000 fee–a pittance as software development licenses go–how does LifeAt plan to support itself? Well, there’s the rub. Goldstein told me that the company plans to sell local advertising on the sites, something I very much doubt will work over the long term.

I’m skeptical of the local ad sales model for a few reasons. First, there’s already a huge array of local advertising options available to national companies who might want to go local, so the competition will be stiff there. Second, the local businesses immediately adjacent to the building are not exactly lacking in local channels either. Among other plays, there’s local newspapers, big city newspapers like the Times, Yellow Pages (both online and offline), ValPak and its ilk, plus local Web advertising plays by radio and TV stations. And unlike these local players, LifeAt’s sales folks aren’t going to be intimately woven into the life of that community (unless they have plans to hire thousands of local salespeople).

Sure, they’ll sell the “our people are more engaged” concept, but I don’t think merchants will be that impressed. After all, unlike the Facebook communities they imitate, as far as I know they’re not selling advertisers in-depth demographic and behavioral info on their users. So it’s just plain-vanilla advertising, even if sold by nifty partners (and it does have more than a dozen of those).

Meanwhile, another big issue is that LifeAt is relying on residents to create the local business content which plays a key role in its model.  As local search gurus know, it can be fatal to wait for people to create good content–especially business content. Instead, I think LifeAt’s going to have to eventually break down and license Internet Yellow Pages or other neighborhood business listings content from somewhere else. Then, they’re still providing a nice variety of local business content even if residents aren’t review-happy.

Ultimately, I think LifeAt will end up having to raise its initial charge significantly and make all of its money there as a white-label social media network technology player (albeit a rather specialized one).

But we’ll see…I’ve been wrong a gazillion times. Hey, I though Yahoo was a big waste of time in 1995, and look, it’s still alive!

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Facebook is a local search threat

Let me preface the following by saying that while I’m not a local search expert, I did pretend to be one on TV for a while, while doing an extended marketing communications consulting gig for the cool local search peeps at Localeze.com. (Hi guys!)

Now, with that consumer warning in mind, check this out. Having poked around Facebook’s advertising options for a week or so, I’ve drawn the conclusion that they may be competitors in the local search space before you know it. Specifically, if you look at their free “Facebook Pages” advertising option, you’ll see that it allows businesses to offer as much information on themselves as many basic Yellow Pages or directory listings.

To see what I mean, visit my sample Facebook page, “My Business.” If you’ll check out the “Information” section, you’ll see that I’ve entered a dummy address and one set of business hours just to illustrate my point.  When I set things up, Facebook collected this information into a back-end database. Given this set-up, Facebook’s almost certainly capable of indexing local business data and spitting the information out in the way, say, Yahoo Local does when it’s ready. 

Don’t get me wrong, Yahoo Local and its ilk are way, way ahead of Facebook in this regard, as they’ve already developed beautiful local search interfaces, amassed tons of local reviews and integrated mapping, tag clouds, sophisticated business classification schemes and other cool functions. 

More importantly, to my knowledge Facebook entries aren’t currently searchable from the outside Web, which limits their current value despite the social network’s huge size and reach (69 million current reasonably engaged users at last count). That’s certainly a large obstacle.

Still, I don’t think a company with Facebook’s clout and resources will be held back by technical issues when they’re ready to fight for local business/search market share. All they’ll have to do is figure out how to monetize the pages effectively, and you know what, I’m pretty sure that they will.

Watch out, local search folks! Facebook’s a’ comin, mark my words.

Like what you see in What Matters Online? Want to stay up to date on the latest in Web 2.0, social media and old-school interactive marketing? Get notified of our latest updates by e-mail or RSS. I will never sell or exchange your information, and I won’t deluge your inbox — I promise!