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.
CNET just released a slideshow of the decades 25 biggest tech flops.
While HD DVD made the list since Blu-ray is now industry standard, I am not entirely convinced that Blu-ray is here to stay. A recent Harris Poll report indicated that consumers were uninterested in adopting Blu-ray Disc. However, a report earlier this week cited that consumer spending on Blu-ray discs was up by 91 percent, to $407 million. It will be interesting to see if Blu-ray is still around come 2019.
For any PR professionals out there who have helped launch a tech product, what are some lessons learned to avoid having a product on this list?
The New York Times article on PR and the Michael Arrington response have been a must read among PR people. I find Richard Edelman’s post the one that most clearly identifies some of the misconceptions our profession battles with.
One additional thought I’d add is that many people in Silicon Valley and in the social media space believe PR is one-dimensional: they define it as media relations. PR is not a “one-hit wonder”. It does not stand for “press release”. We build brands, enhance and protect the reputation of our clients and are here to stay. To use a music analogy, we are the Bruce Springsteen of the communications world. Not Right Said Fred.
Savvis has expanded its relationship with Ogilvy PR for global communications support, expanding a U.S. market relationship in place since October 2007.
I can’t help but shed some more light on a very interesting article on the cover of the Business section of the NY Times this Sunday titled, “Spinning the Web: PR in Silicon Valley.”
Although it provides a good broad-brush overview of some of the social media work PR practitioners are engaging in, the story is much more about a particular PR professional who is very well connected in the Valley.
Brooke Hammerling is not only noted as a good publicist for her start-up clients, but as someone who is well connected to the tech industry’s elite cognescenti, she does some business development as well. Because of her expansive rolodex of contacts, she can make the right introductions to the right dealmakers on behalf of her clients.
By now, a somewhat loosely defined influencer relations program is part of what most PR firms can offer - but biz dev is a very different beast altogether.
While PR agencies may never truly deliver business development as a distinct offering, a lesson learned here is that all agencies have their own ecosystem of contacts.
Connecting them and proactively making the right introductions within their own ecosystem can be a huge value-add and build customer loyalty.
There is a new web application that we have been using within our Digital Influence practice that I believe can be beneficial when beginning just about any initiative. It’s called “Tag Crowd” (http://tagcrowd.com/) and essentially, it allows you to make your own tag cloud from content that you either upload or copy and paste. You can also add in a URL and they will create a visual tag cloud of the word frequency contained in that entire site.
So how would this tool be useful in a PR setting?
For those of us who spend countless hours a day in front of a computer screen, chances are, we’ve spent some portion of that day on video sharing sites such as YouTube, Blip.TV or AOL Video. According to the web analytics site, Compete.com, YouTube alone had over 76 million unique visitors to the site in May 2009 alone.
With millions of people watching hundreds of millions of videos per day and uploading hundreds of thousands of videos daily-ten hours of video is uploaded every minute according to YouTube-the task of guiding users to your video content, can be quite a challenge!
In June, I provided tips for “Implementing Video in Your PR Campaigns,” and discussed “Best Practices for Creating Video Content.” But once you have begun creating video content and posting to video sharing sites, how can you ensure that your videos will ever be viewed?
Right about now, the Global Financial Crisis has probably hit most companies marketing budgets, with CEO’s tightening the belt on expenses as their revenue lines come down. Prudently these chief executives seek to bring costs into line with revenues.
A study by the Aberdeen Group, a Harte-Hanks company, found ‘82% of companies have reallocated their planned marketing spend for 2009 to varying degrees on account of the recession.’
The Aberdeen analyst continues with what would seem to be the bleeding obvious: ‘Companies need to ensure that they’re allocating their limited marketing funds in the most productive ways possible … In other cases, companies are actually investing more aggressively in various types of marketing programs, sensing an opportunity to capitalize on the grim economic headlines.’
So for PR managers across the globe this means that marketers are probably beating a direct path to their doorstep looking to leverage ‘free PR’ to augment their dwindling demand generation dollars. This is good news.
It’s good because like the Marines, PR comes to the rescue and to the forefront of marketers’ consciousness. It’s good because PR executed and managed correctly can do enormous good for awareness, consideration and preference. And finally it’s good because social media is the next black and PR as a discipline is primed and ready to take to this new vehicle with a vengeance.
Smart PR managers will be evaluating and prioritizing their core dollars and then looking to see how they can maximize and deliver results on the incremental dollars that some of the marketing folks will bring to the table. The even smarter ones will start to factor into their PR programs effectiveness metrics and will be able to provide a correlation between the campaign or program spend and execution and whatever pre-determined measures were agreed with the marketing folks. That then provides clear accountability and enables PR to talk the marketing talk and walk it at the same time.
Unlike traditional media, social media metrics provide a fantastic opportunity to highlight PR ROI, if done correctly. Linking back a PR-specific program to traffic, or eyeballs or community conversations can be easier (and cheaper) than the more traditional qual and quant analyses of print and broadcast media. There are powerful online tools that allow you to do this and even automate the reporting.
All in all, now is a great time to be in PR.
There are many differing opinions on the value of citizen journalists, and often they can be negative. But no matter what your own personal opinion may be, I think we all have to agree there is a place for it. The recent Mumbai terrorist attacks, the Hudson plane crash or the events that have unfolded in Tehran are all good examples.
In an interesting move, TechCrunch has just reported that You Tube launched a new channel called Reporters’ Center over the weekend. The goal is to educate us on how to be better citizen journalists. A number of journalists and media experts will share instructional videos with tips and advice for better reporting. Media training is a better way of describing it.
It also shows that real journalists DO embrace citizen journalists, which is great to see. I know from comments here in Australia, a lot of journalists have been very negative. Their reasons vary, but largely it’s either because they feel threatened, or they just like to bag the quality of it. On the latter, they often have a case, but really there is no real threat here. There is always a place for quality journalism and I think citizen journalists now provide a new source for stories, with several major events breaking first from video or a tweet.
I think this will be a great training resource, and if it means the quality of citizen journalism will improve, that has to be a good thing right?
I guess there will be some journalist’s that will still trash it, but if they do, at least they now have a chance to improve it. Like Katie and Bob, they can simply jump in front of a camera and share their tips with the rest of us. We shall see.
Sustainability and Corporate Responsibility