UGC at Blogging 4 Business

We’re into the home stretch – I had to drop out after lunch for a transatlantic conference call (daaahlink!) but I’m back in the hall and we’re now having a panel that seems to be about User Generated Content.

Rather predictable stuff. Lawyers are crap at blogging. Reuters have learned something from their photoshopping debacle in Lebanon last year. Euan had a good go at explaining why he’s uncomfortable in the room with all the talk about brands and pushing messages, but I think we’d probably be better off looking at this video and then talking about what we would do if we were at Somerfield.

Monitoring conversations

Moderated by Mike Butcher of mbites.com and vecosys.com
Simon McDermott – CEO Attentio
Heather Hopkins – Head of Research, Hitwise
Kris Hoet – Marketing Manager, EMEA Consumer Marketing, Microsoft Online Services Group
Scott Thomson – Analytics Director, Starcom

SMc: Monitoring conversations to evaluate for example campaign impact, identifying what influencers are saying about your products, monitoring reputation and understanding consumer behaviour. So the big questions are “Are we discussed?”, if so then “What are the issues that are being raised” and “What do they think?” We do some benchmarking and look at trends as well as understanding who the influencers are and how you can communicate wth them. for example we worked with a consumer eletronics player that had a lower momentum than other products.

MB: what’s the technology that you use?

SMc: we use a proprietary time-based search technology looking at buzz together with staff who look at what it all means. We’ve been doing it for 3 years.

MB: is Hitwise going to cede the market to these guys or are you doing something else?

HH: well I’m really here to talk about monitoring blogs and we don’t compete with Attentio.
So comparing Sony Rootkit with Diet Coke & Mentos – the Sony story resonated wildly with the tech community but it wasn’t such a big story elsewhere. At Hitwise we have some people who like data and a lot of data. We’re blogging and it makes our life a lot easier dealing with journalists, but also our engagement with our customers has gone up.

MB: so if you monitor your own brand using free tools why would anyone pay for a service
HH: well we can’t justify it given how small we are – it’s for larger brands really

MB: why not just give people laptops and let them get on with it?
KH: Well we did that but we also do a lot going out to the community and meeting people face to face, building a relationship with bloggers. For all that we need to track who’s using what so we can focus on the right people. We use Attentio, but we also use lots of free tools too. We use comment tracking and we get good results out of that. The best way of tracking is of course to be reading everything :)

This week we launched an update on maps but there’s no big launch around it, but because we’ve been engaging and tracking some of the people in the cities covered and we can then talk to them and then that gets picked up by mainstream media – also is good for getting feedback.

MB: interesting that comments are very important.

KH: everybody changes their opinion because of comments. Also comments are the easiest way for people to connect with each other – you don’t have to have a blog yourself. “Everybody is a customer” It’s a kind of early warning system. And people are still often quite thrilled to get a reply.

MB: what feedback do you get?
ST: there’s a difference between just listening and then trying to change people or affect their behaviour. So we use a number of services to provide contextual information about online conversations.

MB: so trying to influence the conversation can be dangerous? (ref Cillit Bang vs Tom Coates)
ST: yes it’s about finding the influencers and then treading very very carefully.

MB: So a replacement for focus groups?
ST: Yes, but I think that research industry is eager for revolution. We’re all interested in understanding online behaviour better and although you can do it yourself it helps to get help.

MB: how can you iron out differences in the results from different blog tracking methods?
SMc: we offer companies granular insights into the brand eg French blogosphere reaction vs German – we don’t have much demand for standardisation with other markets – what people want is a quick read of what’s going on but yeah, you have to tread carefully.

Q: Any research into the social profile of bloggers and whether they are representative.
A: HH: we can do this with blog audiences – slightly male skew, all social grades represented, but tends to be urban people under 35.
SMc: younger people are more involved in social networks and don’t blog as much but there are studies that show that people move into blogging more in their twenties.
ST: our focus is less on who is saying it and more on what is being said as the former is too much to ask at the moment.
HH: also demographics are very dependent on the types of blogs visited and the type of conversation going on

Q: After my Dell guarantee lapsed it went wrong. I blogged about it. 2 months later I got a comment from Dell apologising and putting someone in touch the next day, collected laptop and repaired it free of charge. So tracking does work.

SMc: if they’d been monitoring a while ago they’d have got a better response from Jeff Jarvis :)

Q: international tracking – how mature are the offerings? How close are we to saying “These are the 3 most influential” in this geography.
SMc: Quite a long way on the breakdown. We’re focusing on Europe and we’re getting there.
KH: we tried this for the launch of Windows Live. I think it’s a very human thing – the tools don’t really work, but getting in touch with people and talking to them is much better at pulling out who the most influential are. It’s not just about links, it can be just as much about community activities in real life as much as online.

Q: So once you know them, how do you start a conversation without them getting suspicious.
A: people have lots of ways of getting in touch. Be humble. Explain what you’re doing. Ask for help. Invite people to events. It doesn’t always work but we keep trying.

Q: There are very good metrics in academic circles for measuring influence – SNA is probably the way we should go.
HH: I think this is absolutely the way to go for larger brands.

Social software in business – use cases

Lee Bryant – Headshift
David Fitch – Simmons & Simmons
Olivier Creiche – six apart
Adam Tinworth – reed

Lee’s telling us about some of the cases and then looking real world perspectives of what is being done.

We’ve got mature well-developed products now and we have some good external services for getting people started without involving IT and then you can build your own mashups and services using things like Ning.

But it ain’t what you do…

So just putting in blogs isn’t enough, you need concrete business use cases, engagement and people support and (at least a degree of ) a connected infrastructure.

We’re just about to release a library of use-cases that might be useful for people to look at info & knowledge sharing, innovation & R&D, internal comms as well as Marketing & PR.

So here’s some cases.

OC: We just deliver bricks, the important stuff gets done by these guys who build interesting and useful houses. Last year we were still just explaining what blogs are and how we thought they might be used. Bob Lutz: “No better opportunity exists to engage”.

Web publishing is way ahead in this country (Adam’s going to talk about Reed’s experience) Most of the creative stuff starts with smaller businesses and that then gets picked up by bigger players EG Serious Eats, Huffington Post vs Washington Post.

Internal Communications eg Citrix were very fast growing and had new employees not staying very long so they wanted to hold on to a bit of that knowledge while they were there, across dozens of projects and going very fast. AEP is a much bigger company but with the same story – trying to stop e-mail becoming the central repository for knowledge. They start small, they experiment, nobody *knows* how it will work but one of the success factors is having a champion someone who has a better idea than anyone else which shows the way for others.

Marketing and Community types of blogs eg Arcelor and Mittal merger raises a lot of anxiety among various stakeholders. Launched a blog/2.0 site because they wanted to be very open about what they were doing and how they were going about it and they let people go out with cameras and interview people around the world about what they felt about it. still being evaluated, but they are very happy and the press coverage has been excellent.

David Fitch:

What’s key to us is providing an infrastructure for lawyers to share knowledge and expertise across practice areas but also offices, knowing what’s going on inside the firm and outside.
We’ve been experimenting for about 3 years pushing a group of conservative people towards using new ways of operating. Blogs RSS Wikis are words that frighten lawyers so we’ve been giving them new tools and our experience is that people are able to use the lighter tools very easily – especially like bringing the time to publish down.

Our business case – the investment was zero – we used open source and tested it internally, but once we started, other people followed very quickly. so we didn’t have to justify an investment decision but we now have good evidence for new investment.

AT: we got into social media entirely by accident. We set up a small team and started out blogging and suddenly got requests to provide it internally. Publishing firms tend to be quite balkanised but as we started moving into a new business of interacting with our readers, we had a lot to learn and this raised a hunger for people to share what they’re learning and keep conversations going.

We have a number of problems – education – we’re not dictating any solution and we bring people together who (aaaagh contact lens emergency…)

Q: Does it actually work?
A: LB: it devolves things down to the level of the basic unit of work which is the person. What has happened with enterprise knowledge sharing is that people get the pain without any payback, but the lightweight tools give you power to organise your stuff and your contacts with other people and work with it all better. What’s also interesting is putting it on top

Q: do you see this as the end of employee communications as we know it?
A: LB: I don’t think so – every generation sees itself as Luke Skywalker, but it’s silly really because it actually just gets layered over the next one so now that we’re at the human scale where things really do work – people can publish and develop some sort of collective intelligence.
AT: No as it’s a way of taking away the more mundane bits of internal comms work and lets people focus on face to face

Q: MB: Lots of companies have huge intranets – should we just wipe them away?
DF: very familiar with this – there’s a huge wealth of material that’s useful but just couldn’t be found – so we did some work about improving search and findability but also looking at using lighter infrastructure to start again, which will involve some pain, people will have to go back and look at relevance for example, but that change is going to deliver the benefit that we’re moving towards creating communities and connecting people rather than just producing static content.

Q: GC: How do you deal with info that becomes out of date?
A:LB: different approaches – the most interesting is that in a mature implementation anything acquires its own context, tags etc so out of date stuff falls down as sediment in these systems. So then you need some sort of review system, but it’s more about letting more timely stuff come to the fore.
DF: it’s also so much easier to keep your stuff up to date, even for lawyers :) so just using lighter tools helps a lot.

Massaging the Message – how PR is adapting

Ged Carroll – lead consultant for digital strategy at Waggener Edstrom – putting the public back into public relations.

Tamara Littleton eModeration.com moderation of networks

Darren Strange Office UK 2007 Product Manager Microsoft – we don’t think of ourselves as evil, so perhaps we have a bit of a perception problem, which is why I think a large number of us choose to be bloggers. Writes the office rocker blog

Bernhard moderating: So who should blog?

DS: well about 1 in 15 blog at MS but they vary between people who have a very narrow niche where they know everything there is to know, while others are more broad. The good bloggers are the ones who can handle dialogue and ambiguity, not the people who have to be right.

TL: the people inside the company are not the best people to blog – we look for ambassadors, people who are already championing the brand and want to get involved.

B: any examples of this?

TL: yup Budweiser and NASCAR actively seek people to champion the community and the brand.

B: is there ever anything unacceptable to Bud?

TL: sometimes images, but they try to be hands off around discussions and opinions and encourage open dialogue.

B: we’ve talked about brand evangelists

GC: there are probably people in your organisation blogging already without your sanction or not, so good advice is to reach out to them. The most important characteristics are passion, tone of voice and authenticity. Being able to draw on a depth of knowledge but also able to say “I don’t know, but I can find out”

Andyour findings – how many with policies and sanctioned bloggers

GC: varies widely and can be skewed by our client base, but it’s definitely becoming the norm.

B: I want to ask about brand reputation – isn’t it a PR nightmare to have a whole bunch of independent spokespeople

GC: work with HR on T&Cs and establish etiquette within the company for respecting private communication. People have different views, but the best you can hope for is that people will generally go in the same way.

B: what’s the most awkward thing you’ve encountered? If you’ve made a mistake do you get a torrent of response.

DS: yeah, but it’s all coverage isn’t it? MS see that we do far more good than harm on the whole. I’m an amateur journalist in a way and so if something comes across my desk that’s interesting… I have blogged things that other people didn’t want me to. Of course it occasionally undermines the big PR efforts, but I’m not going to leak confidential information. We already talk to journalists, friends down the pub etc so why would we suddenly start blurting things out in our blog. We have no blogging policy and if there ever is one, probably lots of people would leave. We have a whole bunch of people who get together for bloggers lunches for example.

B: so Scoble got into trouble over China working on censorship with GYM. What’s the view on political activity or support on your blog?

DS: well if it was relevant (someone was trying to ban MS Office :) ) then I’d obviously say something about it. It’s about us having a face and being human with our consumers. Something that’s annoying is journos trying to hijack my blog. I see my blog as my house, and my rules hold. So I’ve had them very keen to get a free copy of MS Office – I know him, we get on well, but instead of just mailing me – he put a comment on one of my posts ranting about whey he didn’t already get one. He ends up looking worse because I just ignored him. This levels the playing field – there are journos who feel free to bad mouth Microsoft, but of course, now I get right of reply. This changes the whole dynamic of dealing with the press.

B: Any other examples.

TL: defending journos – timesonline is a client and they now allow comments on every article (trying to make out it’s a blog) so when there were negative comments about the launch of the site, but what was interesting was that they let that be out there and it turned round over time.

DS: Not so sure about Times, but I think it’s important to have people behind them not just anonymous groups. Having comments doesn’t make it a blog. I also object to having to give info before being able to comment and what’s with no RSS feeds?

B: how about when a crisis hits? Old story of lock-picking (3 years ago) is still the stickiest most prominent story about Kryptonite. So how does this affect how you deal with crisis.

GC: the key issue with Kryptonite is that the problems were well known. The problem in 2004 was that they did a whole lot of stuff to fix the problem, but they didn’t tell people about what they were doing. This would have stopped the issue dead, it was the void of communication back that did the damage.

B: anything you can do about search and it’s stickiness

GC: well it’s all about content so how do you release plenty of compelling content that shows how you behaved well

DS: and if they had an established culture of blogging, their own bloggers would have come higher in results and they could be putting their ‘correct’ view across. So blogs can be a defence mechanism for you.

TL: also if something goes wrong, it’s really powerful having CEO or senior mgt saying this is what we’re going to do in response.

Q: Interested in Bud & NASCAR using ambassadors -I can see how people would be encouraged to blog about NASCAR, but not Bud – where’s the ongoing material
A: well it’s the association with drivers – it’s the sponsorship thing, getting people to see advertising, but also rewarding people with merchandise etc. Re-inforcing the brand’s involvement

Q: Are there good examples of people using blogs to push messages about themselves. Has anyone been successful?
A: GC: MS & Sun in the tech sector – but it’s not about putting a message out it’s about engaging with an audience they already have.
TL: also hi-jacking blogs can be a real faux-pas
DS: on a weekly basis i’ll have pr’s send me stuff – lots are very good, but I’m not going to look like a PR spin machine. I welcome people sending me stuff, but I have to ask myself whether it’s something I feel OK about blogging. Which is an amateur version of everyday in the newsroom.

Q: Transparency is big and Darren is a great example. I’m interested though in brand ambassadors getting schwag or incentives to say nice things. Is there any transparency in that.
A: TL: More to do with the ROI for the client and for the user/ambassador – it’s not about rewarding people in a surreptitious way it’s making an environment that people will go back to – because they get some fame, or early information, or an increase in status in the community. A lot of this is about more personal communication too and fame – giving people access to billboards in Times Square for example.
GC: there’s really 2 types of rewards – advertising to get a response, but also helping people build their reputation – they don’t have to be tangible, it can be as simple as providing some exclusivity.
DS: We got ordinary people (well journalists) to have a go with Vista before launch – gave them a laptop pre-installed. An interesting debate ensued – we said you can do whatever you like with the product, say what you like, but we still got accused of bribing bloggers. Professional journalists are already used to this sort of thing and have developed their own ethical standards about it.

Q:

Yahoo! Answers – Implications for Marketers & Publishers

Rough notes without comment from me – if you disagree with anything said, leave it in the comments :)

Stephen now talking about Sainsbury’s sponsorship of the food & drink category on Answers. A bit sticky for them because they couldn’t control the conversation – some people were rude about them, but when that happened other people chimed in and supported the retailer. Sainsbury’s was the first and a bit of an experiment, but the response overall is very positive – so the challenge for Yahoo! is to scale this sort of activity.

Look at the US Presidential Campaign sites (and compare perhaps with those in the French election) Hilary Clinton putting herself out there capturing quality feedback from citizens and engaging with it.

Providing Answers badges and widgets customised for small publishers and bloggers. So taking both those ideas further forward, we’re introducing “Knowledge Partners” – to allow businesses to participate overtly in the dialogue – not pretending that you’re Joe Bloggs with an answer that happens to be favourable to you, but being honest about the context in which you’re answering questions. So this becomes a channel for customer care, a way of answering real questions.

Now talking about the Wii tag debacle – businesses will make mistakes and upset the community occasionally.

Q: Do you have any ways of helping us monitoring the conversation?
A: Well that’s the idea behind Knowledge Partners – giving you tools to see what’s being said. Giving you the opportunity to share your “expert knowledge” as a brand owner. But people are going to talk about you, so get used to it

Q: [Playstation] How representative is your audience compared with say Sainsbury’s
A: It is the online audience, we haven’t seen any skewing. In any particular area, you may get a knowledge or interest skew, but not in terms of demographics. The interface is really simple and that helps. The new video version might skew things.

Q:[Playboy] How do you see this merging with online qualititative research?
A: Have to be very conscious that this service is firstly for consumers to share and exchange knowledge and we won’t do anything to stand in the way of that. That said, of course it can be a great way to do unstructured research on what is important to users rather than what’s important to the brand. We’ve already seen some of the researchy type of question “what’s your favourite movie?” but that sort of chat room stuff is sinking to the bottom.

Q: Blurring between PR & Marketing – where’s the driver for that?
A: I don’t know yet, it’s too early – Sainsbury’s was Marketing led – engaging in topics around how can you have discussions with your customers. They were looking for ways to have a conversation and this seemed quite a good way. Clearly for Clinton it’s more of a PR thing, but we don’t have a definitive answer yet. The challenge of PR is not just protecting and promoting the brand but really how you engage with people. I run the audience group for Yahoo, which is a new cross-functional team marketing, pr, community outreach and it’s less and less about pushing out messages and more about engaging with the community, so more and more I can’t make the distinction between all of these activities.

Blogging 4 Business

I’m at the Marriott in Grosvenor Square again at the second Blogging 4 Business conference, courtesy of Matthew Yeomans and Bernhard Warner.

Right now we’re listening to Stephen Taylor from Yahoo! talking about how social media is for everyone, not just for kids. He’s taking us through flickr as the perfect example of a social media tool.

Already in Matthew’s intro there was an emphasis on just how much has changed since last year – especially that last year, we were very focused on what the possibilities were, but this year we’re going to talk about what people have actually done since then.

Shows of hands are so last year, but we’ve already had one on flickr, though he didn’t ask how many of us were oldskool :P I may try keeping count.

Now he’s talking about social search and specifically Answers. Btw in related news, I saw this nice AFDJ from metafilter. Had me spluttering in my cornflakes anyway.

Steph has just sat next to me, Yay! But she can’t get on the limited free wi-fi. Boo!

And I’ve forgotten my USB cable for my camera so no pics on the day, sorry folks.