Archive - Sep 2007

September 26th

Another canary sputters

If you've been reading the Connecticut section of this blog, you will have heard plenty about Avery Doninger, the student in Burlington, CT, who was banned from running for re-election to class office after writing a blog post critical of the school administration. In addition, students were barred from wearing T-shirts showing their support of her.

I am proud to now have a 'Team Avery' T-shirt.

Well, this isn't an isolated event. Today, I read over on the John Edwards blog as well as on DailyKos about a student who received a one day in school suspension for wearing a John Edwards T-Shirt.

As I've posted in both places, students around the country need to gather together to fight to maintain their basic freedoms.

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September 25th

Wordless Wednesday

Twitter Social Map, originally uploaded by Aldon.

White Labeled Social Networks

At the OMMA show, there were several vendors out their touting their white-labeled social networking tools. My initial reaction resembled that of the beloved NPTech humorist kitty cat. Yet I have to admit that my work in Deanspace (as talked about in Mousepads, Shoe Leather, and Hope, was essentially my part in creating white-labeled social networking tools several years go.

I spent a bit of time talking to four different vendors. I’ll list them here in the order in which I spoke with them.

The first vendor I saw was The Port. The are located down in Atlanta and have a .NET based system. Their clients include the Atlanta Falcons and the Atlanta Journal Constitution. They are also partnering with Convio as they reach out to non-profits and other associations. They focus on providing the infrastructure and having others handle community outreach strategies, design issues and so on. They are not doing anything with XFN, microformats or OpenID.

They do have a sample site up. I set up a page there, as well as a blog. They support RSS and have a widget in beta.

The second vendor was KickApps. They started early in 2006. They are based in New York and use Java as their underlying software. I was told that their main selling point was that people could get up and running very quickly with them, where other firms the engagement process could take several months. They did not have a demo community available.

The third vendor was CoreSpeed. They came out of enterprise project work, and tout their interconnectivity to back end enterprise systems. They are based on PHP and SOAP. They mentioned BMC software as a client, but wouldn’t give details about what any of their clients had done with data gathered from the portals citing client confidentiality.

They partner with What a concept! “the first social media agency in the Southeast.” Sherry Heyl, CEO was “a key organizer of SoCon07, the first Social Media un-conference in Metro Atlanta and is currently planning SoCon08”.

Like ThePort, CoreSpeed has a demo white labeled social network up and running at CoreSpeed Community. I’ve set up an account there as well. They provide the ability to import external blogs, Flickr photos and much more. They support RSS. They even have OpenID support was part of their “ID Hub”, which they describe as a work in progress. Unfortunately, I received errors when I attempted to use my OpenID.

The final white-label social network firm that I visited was Prospero. As Miranda’s father, I’ve always had liking for the name Prospero. In addition, they had cool swag; refrigerator word magnets with words like Live, Moderation, Share, Believe, Message, Today, Build, Smart, Think, Attract, Blog, Chat, Cool, Engage, Community, Social, Widget, Create, Crazy and others.

They are located in Boston and their software is .NET based. They grew out of the old Delphi communities and have iVillage as a lead client. They talked a bit about their abilities to deal with moderation issues. They were live blogging the event, but didn’t have a demo site available to use.

One other company that I visited was Reality Digital. They don’t speak of themselves as a white-label social network provider but as a “A hosted service platform for storing, sharing, managing and monetizing user-generated content including video, photos, games, text and more”

One of their clients is Lonely Planet. I’ve always loved Lonely Planet travel guides and the idea of Lonely Planet TV is very appealing.

So, while other people spent time talking about where to place their banner ads to maximize clickthrough, some companies are providing services to help make marketing a meaningful part of people’s conversations.

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OMMA: The ROI of a Smile

In my previous posts about the Online Media, Marketing and Advertising Conference and Expo, I wrote about my perspective as a user generating content that feels someone disconnected with the advertising and marketing folks at OMMA. Here, I explore the ROI discussion a little bit.

First, let me outline the issues as I see them. As these worlds collide, online digital media is having a big impact on the advertising world. Here, I’m less concerned with the movement of content away from radio, local papers, or broadcast television to hyperlocal journalism sites online and to YouTube. Yes, that is manifestation that people are seeing. But ad executives are smart. They can buy advertising in whichever medium is the choice du jour. Instead, there are two important aspects of this change that are much more significant. The first is that advertising needs to become much more of a conversation. I touched on that a little in my previous posts. The second is that in this wonderful new digital age, everything can be measure, or so many people seem to believe, and so, we should be able to come up with much better ROI calculations.

This results in some fairly detrimental black and white thinking. Either the advertisement results in a sale or it doesn’t. As an advertiser, you should only pay when you get a sale, or at least a clickthrough. Yet this ignores how people really act. Instead, people may see multiple ads before they decide to make a purchase. They may develop brand loyalty independent of advertisements and then simply use the advertisements as an easy way to act upon their brand loyalty.

One company that seems to get this, at least somewhat, is eyeblaster. They ran a session entitled Campaign Management: The Holistic Approach to Digital Advertising. I only caught a little bit of their session since it overlapped with some other good sessions. Yet the takeaway I got from them is that if you use eyeblaster, you can track not only who clicked through to buy your product, but also where else they saw your ad, and then you can allocate the revenue across multiple impressions.

There were plenty of other firms touting their ability to track behavior and more carefully target advertisements, but generally I didn’t bother with them. To me, it seems like there is so much more to advertising than the direct sale. Not only are you trying to maximize brand loyalty, but on a greater level, you are focus on increasing corporate goodwill.

Eric Kessler, Co-President of HBO did a great lunchtime presentation about this. He started off his presentation talking about how to build a positive brand image. It was a humorous look at what HBO did with The Sopranos, but the bottom line boiled down to, have a good product. He then spoke in detail about HBO Voyeur. This was not an effort to allocate revenue based on some pay per click basis. This was about communicating the HBO brand.

In essence, the HBO brand is to be innovative, and Kessler did a great job of communicating that. He spoke about creating online campaigns as creative as the shows they were promoting. He talked about creating avatars and streaming part of a Justin Timberlake concert in Second Life.

The HBO Voyeur campaign did this incredibly well. Kessler spoke about how today’s viewers want to be in control and discover things for themselves. Perhaps this gets to the biggest issue. Traditional advertising wants to be in control, and until they relinquish some of that control, they will continue to spiral down to obsolescence. Kessler and HBO seem to get this. Others there get it, but too many don’t. Too many are still trying to calculate the ROI of being in control, instead of the ROI of a smile.

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Countless Galaxies Stockholders Meeting

In two recent posts, I provided the background to the Countless Galaxies (CGI) stockholders meeting that happened Saturday in Second Life. This post will provide my thoughts about the meeting itself.

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