Could a new social search service with a name synonymous with ‘earth pig‘ have implications for marketing and communications? I think so.
Aardvark let’s you ask questions anonymously and receive answers from individuals in your or your friends’ social networks who may have relevant expertise. The service is opt-in, anonymous and questions can be asked and received on the Web, through Twitter, email and so on. There’s a homepage where you set up a profile but the process takes seconds and you never have to go back.
I’ve used Aardvark over the past few weeks and it’s enabled me to tap into distributed expertise – from people several degrees of separation removed from me – quickly and easily. It works so well that I find myself using Aardvark over Google for knowledge discovery.
So what are the implications for marketing and communications? Here are some preliminary ideas:
- Internal Communications: It’s no secret that large enterprises have a problem with knowledge transfer and it’s no secret that social networking has been suggested as a possible solution. I think Aardvark is more realistic for connecting employees. Why? Because an Aardvark-like service could be implemented and used so easily.
o HR managers could log new employees into the system without those employees having to take any action. Job descriptions could be used to set up areas of expertise.
o Employees would use it because the system can be accessed from virtually any medium.
o Older employees not comfortable with traditional social networks? That’s fine; they can use the system perfectly well through email.
o Younger employees more comfortable with a Twitter interface or mobile app? That’s easy to implement too.
- Customer engagement: Imagine enrolling every new customer/user in an Aardvark-like service when you close the sale. Customers would immediately be plugged into a network of experts (other customers) with similar challenges or issues and with almost no effort on their part. Customers could be empowered to ask questions about products as well as issues relevant to their industry, job function etc. As the broker of the relationship vendors benefit from delivering another value-added service (at minimal cost). There’s also the potential opportunity for valuable data mining.
- Thought leadership and expert visibility: This is the one that’s really captured my attention. Currently Aardvark is anonymous and the system routes you to the best resource based on user profiles. What if users had the option of selecting to receive answers from identified experts affiliated with a company, product or service? How might this work?
o Users might opt in to direct their questions to qualified and identified experts to obtain answers that require a higher degree of credibility (medical questions for instance)
o Vendors, of course, would benefit from having a direct channel to promote their expertise and thought leadership.
o Taking it a step further, users could rate vendor responses. Top rated vendors on a topic would get the first crack at relevant questions, thereby incentivizing them to provide value each time.
Answer sites, social networks and the chaos that is Twitter address each of these ideas/opportunities in their own ways but somehow Aardvark, because of its filtering, its simplicity, and the fact that it eliminates the burden of creating original content for a destination site, seems much more attractive to me. What do you think?
Disclaimer: I support Novell’s PR in Asia Pacific.
On Monday, Microsoft released code for the Linux kernel community. Stories found below:
Two years ago, when Novell bridged the gap between Open Source and Windows,by forming an alliance with Microsoft, the Open Source community was up at arms. Novell was derided for getting into bed with Microsoft. Websites, bloggers and even journalists took sides. Novell became what one might call a second-class citizen in the Open Source community.
There were blogs calling for Red Hat to be acquired, so that they can be strong enough to fight Microsoft, because there is no one else out there to stop them.
And now, this latest Microsoft move to give up code to the Linux community. While there are a few reports saying its a move to better compete with VMWare, other commentators have said it will allow for better collaboration of virtual machines between Linux and Windows.
This could only mean good things for customers, who more and more have multiple platforms in their organisations and they just want things to work, and focus on making IT work for their organisation - not having to spend money on middleware, worry about interoperability or lawsuits.
Perhaps its a realization of Microsoft that there is no one-stop-shop solution to computing needs.
Now, tell me if I’m asking a silly question, but why is there always a rethoric of “war”, “conflict”, “competition” when it comes to operating platforms?
Yes, I believe that with competition comes innovation. But innovation can also come from collaboration, from sharing, from focusing on solving the problems.
Isnt this what the customer wants - people collaborating, proprietary coders exchanging ideas with the open source community, solving problems, looking at how applications should all work together?
And why the continuing suspicion among the Open Source community of Microsoft? Perhaps, in the past, Microsoft has not played fair.
But that’s in the past. I think the future’s about collaboration, about talking and solving problems – for the customer, for the industry - rather than conflict and competition. I believe that Novell’s relationship with Microsoft has opened the way to bigger things. It’s all about the customers and what they need to forge ahead.
The “peace” process is a long road, but it all starts with small steps, no?
“I don’t oppose all wars. What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war.” – Barack Obama.
Change, we can indeed.
Savvis has expanded its relationship with Ogilvy PR for global communications support, expanding a U.S. market relationship in place since October 2007.
Last week I posted on the explosion of online video and how video can be incorporated into your traditional PR campaigns. In the post, I listed a number of “tips” for shooting your first video interview, and preparing company spokespersons and subject matter experts for what oftentimes, is their first foray into video. As a natural extension to that post, I thought I would check in with Ogilvy PR’s Moving Media Group–broadcast arm of our Creative Studio that concepts and creates TV Commercials, Radio, PSAs, B-roll, and Industrial products for both broadcast and non-broadcast purposes–to see if they had any additional guidelines for creating video. Here’s what I found:
Anyone who currently uses Facebook or is thinking about using Facebook to publicize a brand should be aware of the Facebook Usernames offering coming this weekend.
I’m sure it’s going to be a mad rush for everyone trying to secure a user name and Mashable suggests securing a username may not be as easy as it sounds.
If you have not already given some thought around a Facebook Username in the context of PR, you might want to read the FAQ’s that Facebook has posted on its blog.
We (Ogilvy PR’s tech practice) often hear from business to business technology marketers and tech PR professionals looking for a better understanding of Government – selling to it, benefiting from stimulus spending, and how the regulatory environment may evolve. I want to share a great piece that our Ogilvy Government Relations team has developed. Having access to thinking like this is one of the things I love about working at a full-service firm that knows tech PR but thinks far beyond.
For any of you with an interest in marketing products and services to the federal government, please take a look at these tips on how to build a stable and thriving federal sales market.
Selling to the Federal Market: Complications and Opportunities
With declining commercial sales and an uncertain economic climate, many tech and IT companies are looking to the one certain growth market in today’s economy – the federal government. Given the growth in federal spending projected over the next four years in every area from healthcare to border security, there is no doubt that federal agencies will continue to procure record amounts of IT services and equipment.
However, selling in this market can often be a frustrating dead end for companies not attune to doing business with the government. Most adventures in government sales for the uninitiated bear little fruit for many years. The most frequent refrain from disappointed vendors is that the government could not “see the wisdom or merits of their technology or services.”
There are ways to build a stable and thriving federal sales market, but it takes commitment, time, money and savvy to realize that goal. Below are a few tips for those looking to break into the federal market or to significantly expand their presence.
1) Know Your Market and Capabilities – Whether it is health IT, communications, data storage and retrieval, or complex systems integration, you must have active intelligence of federal opportunities before word hits the street. This task requires active knowledge of agency plans for future budget cycles, agency requirements and Executive Branch and Congressional Initiatives. Furthermore, you must know whether your technology aligns with that particular need and is either competitive or can represent best value to the government.
2) Be in Your Market – Simply coming to Washington from the home office, armed with minimal intelligence to meet with a government official is totally ineffective. At best you will get a meeting. At worst, you will be regarded as an outsider with an unproven track record. Government purchasers are loathe to trust the untested and unknown. Without a consistent physical presence in Washington, you will never gain the trust of careerists whose futures depend on making the right decisions.
3) Staff Up – To be successful at both step one and two, a company must have a dedicated federal sales force and a lobbying team to open doors and provide intelligence on an almost daily basis. In addition, the company must have employees who have experience in the complex world of government contracting and requirements, and relationships with agencies that they have worked for or with in the past. This is a particular type of expertise that is no different from that of a software engineer or other technician and it can prove invaluable in winning contracts.
4) Team Up – Often the easiest way to win government business is to team with larger corporations or trusted government service providers who already have large, flexible contracts in place with agencies. Going after large contracts with major players as a sub can get the company in the door and begin building relationships for future opportunities.
5) Brand, Brand, Brand – As noted above, lack of familiarity in Washington breeds contempt. A company in the federal market must be able to tout not only its name and technology, but its past and present performance as a government contractor. Again, without the commitment to advertise and use public relations in the federal sales arena, few government purchasers will feel comfortable enough to take a chance on an unknown vendor.
You have to give the Texans credit. They do some things incredibly well. Take economic development. Texas has the most Fortune 500 company headquarters in the United States (at 58 HQs). These guys and gals understand how to build financial structures that attract industry.
And now we see that those savvy Texans are making a land grab (photon grab) for solar manufacturing business in Texas. The state is expected to soon approve a $500M bill aimed at subsidizing small scale solar users.
Texas has executed so much better than some states (like mine, Colorado) at attracting headquarters and fostering development of market segment ecosystems that fuel the local business economy. If they crack the solar grail, I’ll have to say they’re brilliant. And I’m a New Englanda.
The business of solar is fascinating to me. How Germany has leveraged a feed-in tariff system to lead the world. And how, unlike the semi industry, solar manufacturing jobs are likely to be based where the projects are to be built and customer installed due to the sensitivities of glass and the cost of shipping it. So what does that mean? States need to get moving in their legislatures and get attracting those jobs, which means building the financing systems that will incubate the projects and ecosystems.
I’m told that citizens in Germany don’t scoff at the annual fee on their electric bill that underwrites their system as they see it as a direct investment towards clean energy and local clean tech jobs.
Could Texas be at the top of a future list of States With The Largest Share of the U.S. Renewable Energy Industry? They surely know how to attract businesses.
Crazy like foxes, they are.
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Behind The Scenes: Ogilvy PR, Washington, D.C.