Larry Weber, the founder of the W2 Group and Chairman of the Massachusetts Innovation and Technology Exchange has written a useful and helpful guide to the world of social media in his new book, "marketing to the social web." In the book Larry describes the important trends on the web; the development of blogs, the growth of social networks and online communities. The book gives marketers ideas and tools on how to successfully navigate the social web. I especially enjoyed the section on Communispace, where the CEO of Communispace, Diane Hessan, provided some great insight into how to successfully build communities and retain community members.
- Invite the right people, keep it private and small.
- View members as advisors to the company.
- Find the social glue, make it member-centric
- Work at building the community.
- Be genuine, encourage candor
- Just Plain ask.
- Pay even more attention to what members initiate.
- Don't squelch the negative.
- Don't ask too much, too often.
- Use the right mix of technologies and methodologies, and keep experimenting.
I believe that Larry's book effectively captures what is happening with customers on the web today, and provides both tactics and strategies on how to develop an integrated marketing strategy that includes social media for today's Chief Marketing Officer.
The book is extremely well written and structurally designed, however I would note that Larry Weber collaborated with a co-writer, Wally Wood, who was not acknowledged on the dust jacket he was in the acknowledgements.
In the first chapter on page six I was a little surprised to see Larry use a Gillette and Digitas case study, where Gillette made an online video about the lack of attractiveness of unshaven men to women, which was posted by Gillette on YouTube. According to Larry, Gillette did not reveal the company produced the video. While Larry did explain in some detail the Wal-Marting across America example, though I don't believe he mentioned Edelman. Other than that example of astroturfing I thought Larry did a good job of explaining how building relationships work in the world of social media, that individuals and companies have to be transparent to gain authenticity and trust.
I also thought that Larry did a good job of illustrating how social media can be used for product development and customer feedback, yet in his overview of defining marketing; he suggested marketing is focused on attracting customers and retaining only. Which is true, but I think there is a broader definition of marketing- that companies have to understand what customer's wants and needs in order for them to develop products that will be successful. I believe social media's success comes in part from recognizing this, because by asking customer's for feedback, a company can turn ordinary customers into evangelists because they had a chance to develop the product, which in turn is seen by the wider community. Dell’s IdeaStorm is a good example of asking for feedback from customers to develop websites. After all in marketing you conduct marketing research in order to know what you want to develop.
I did note on page eighteen that Larry claimed that Buzz Agents are paid shills. Unfortunately Buzz Agent is very close to the name of the Massachusetts based company BzzAgent. The company BzzAgent involves volunteers in product reviews, which they will then hopefully pass onto their friends through word of mouth. BzzAgent has very publicly changed its operating procedures to tell its Agents that they should reveal their connection with the company when they talk to other people, this change moved them in compliance with the Word of Mouth Marketing Association’s guidelines.
Here's quote from one of my posts about BzzAgent:
"BuzzAgent changed their policies on what their agent’s disclose because of the Federal Trade Commission Guidelines. What was particularly interesting is that BuzzAgent discovered that an agent’s contacts responded more positively if the agent revealed their connection with BuzzAgent."
(ha, I notice I spelt BzzAgent incorrectly in the post!)
I really, really enjoyed Larry's analysis of the Ford Bold Moves website, he provided a lot of good constructive criticism, the site’s lack of connection with customers, and use of professionally produced video, instead of a focus on customer opinion. Many professional writers were hired to write for the Ford site. I wrote a series of posts about the Ford Bold Moves website in April.
It was really strange to me that Ford did not understand it would have been better to have had Ford employees write many of the blog posts on the site. It seemed to me some agencies pitched the idea to Ford and the company went with the idea because it seemed as if they would be doing something in social media but would not have to have any employees actually write the content, as outside guest writers wrote most of the pieces. The site has since been pulled down and you now the URL takes you to Ford's vehicle website. Here's a quote from one of my posts:
"Key to running a successful interactive social media website is dialogue, otherwise why bother allowing comments on a website. I have not seen any attempt at dialogue with the audience from Ford Bold Moves, and therefore I'd give this website a low rating in terms of its effectiveness with its audience, I think the decline in blog reader comments over the six month period the site was running is a reflection of that."
Larry gave some great search engine marketing advice, especially the overview of many of the engines, though I wish Larry had included more of the RSS feed engines: IceRocket.com, Sphere.com etc.
Oh, I noticed one typo, on page 174; Larry stated "team ember," instead of team member. Though I am not one to talk as I had at least industry terms misspelled in my own book.
Overall a good book, and one you should add to your library if you are involved in social media or marketing.