Archive for April, 2008

Jason, Freddy and security on social networks: which is scarier?

What level of security breach or scandal will make social networkers more cautious about giving up personal information on Facebook, MySpace, et al? (Full disclosure: my agency represents MySpace Canada.)

Or are people so comfortable and eager to live their lives online that their risk tolerance is minimal to non existent?

Facebook’s Beacon is probably the best litmus test as to how far (or not) a social network can go before people start getting antsy. But with thousands of Facebook applications being downloaded daily, all with the ability to gather information on users, have people accepted the potential privacy issues?

A story from Associated Press today looks at that contradiction and implications, pointing out that nefarious use of personal information by Facebook application developers is randomly, but not constantly, policed by Facebook. It’s basically an honor system (yikes!). The story finds that targeted ads are too invasive for New Yorker Jonathan Gaugler:

“Getting married? Do your registry here!” read one recent ad that showed up. Another on his fiancee’s page was advertising for egg donors for fertility clinics. “Creepy,” Gaugler says.

Maybe a security (software or hardware) company should conduct a comprehensive attitudes and preferences survey that benchmarks people’s risk tolerance for privacy and then tracks those changes over time. Will people become too comfortable until something catastrophic happens? Or do the benefits and sheer momentum of social networking outweigh the potential dangers?

What do you think?


Top 100 Web 2.0 applications posted the 100 best Web 2.0 applications, with Webware readers and Internet users across the globe casting nearly two million votes to select the winners. Winners are being feted tomorrow at the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco.

As with any wide open Internet voting, Web 2.0 awards were subject to e-ballot stuffing, and certain apps — like Maxthon in the browser category. While it employed a widget on its website to help boost voting numbers, and it doesn`t show up on most marketshare reports for browser use in North America, Maxthon has been downloaded 140 million times. And as Webware points out, it’s the second-most popular browser in China and holds 30 percent of the market there as of late April 2008.

Notables: no Rhapsody in the Audio category.  Friendster still makes the top ten in the Social category, but no Bebo. In the video category, News Corp.`s Hulu didn`t the make the cut and, arguably because of U.S.-centric voting, neither did the BBC`s iPlayer. iPlayer has dramatically exceeded expectations, attracted a much younger demographic than the stodgy BBC is known for, and demonstrated that traditional networks can use the Net as an alternative distribution vehicle that can actually retain and expand its audience.


MySpace becomes YourSpace — for advertisers

News out of Los Angeles that MySpace has opened the kimono and bit more and will allow more control of commercial MySpace pages (full disclosure: my firm — Cohn & Wolfe in Toronto — represents MySpace Canada). It’s basically a self-serve platform called Community Builder Platform.

Ian Schafer, CEO of NY-based online marketing company Deep Focus, was one of the beta test companies. In one of his regular blog postings two weeks earlier, he raised the idea that marketers need to create another position, chief relationship officer (CRO), to optimize their foray into the social networking space. His message: ease up on the one-way promotional monologue that is the essence of most marketing/advertising vehicles, and create a true dialogue through social networking sites, with a CRO leading the charge.

The fine line that marketers walk is to walk gently in the grassroots environment of social networks and participate, not pontificate, about their product, service or cause. Just because marketers and advertisers can take more control within MySpace doesn’t mean they should. It takes some discipline to resist the old-style marketing strategy: communicate at people. MySpace and other social networks demand you speak with them, or not at all.

Don’t mess with my powder, dude!

My colleague David Gordon passed along a nice little reminder from “futurist” Jim Carroll (who I knew better when he was just a technology freelance journalist) about today’s challenges of hiring and keeping young talent. Jim wrote the piece, Don’t Mess with my Powder, Dude!, as a forward to the book The Rise of the Project WorkForce: Managing People and Projects in a Flat World by Rudolf Melik.

Carroll’s interesting forward got me to thinking about my own experience now dealing with what I call Generation Next, both as employees in the workplace and as a target audience for marketers. (Side note: The Pew Research Centre also used the Generation Next phrase in a recent report on how young people view their lives, future and politics).

Gen N are largely multitaskers with short attention spans (hence the preference for project work) who would prefer to work in groups collaboratively than alone independently. They want and expect more professional development and challenges sooner, often have higher impressions of their value to an organization and their expectations for compensation, advancement and recognition. Adapt to their perceptions and attitudes or suffer the consequences of attracting and retaining employees.

Now, intersect that with how Gen N respond as consumers, particularly in how they live and share their lives online. Their expectations are higher for the quality of content, the intelligence of the contact that is made with them, the way they like to collaborate and share information and how they are most influenced for purchase considerations and purchase decisions. It’s no wonder online communications and social media will be the most important vehicle (if that’s even the right term) to reach Gen N, influence them and create value and brand loyalty for whatever product service or cause marketers are promoting.

How do you address Gen N as employees and as consumers?

Buffet, Gates, Trump want to be your friends

Guess Gen Y and other commoners aren’t the only ones embracing online communities.

In case you missed it,  a recent the Luxury Institute Wealth Survey found that those whose net incomes averaged $280,000 annually (and whose net worth was about $2 million) are jumping on the bandwagon. Participation among the well-heeled in social networks jumped from 20 per cent in 2007 to 60 per cent in 2008. LinkedIn was tops, followed by MySpace and Facebook.

The news should come as no surprise, given that the affluent have long been adept at cultivating and using personal networks to advance their status/wealth, fundraise for charities, avoid incarceration, etc.

While LinkedIn might not be an exact substitute for the cigar aromas of a Granite Club or a private golf course, the rich can make a lot more connections — and faster — from the comfort of their personal library, or Bat Cave… 😉

Scrabulous and social media – Triple-word score!

Copyright infringement or golden opportunity?

I’d say the latter if you’re Hasbro and Mattel, the North American and worldwide distributors (respectively) of the Scrabble board game. They’ve been lawyer-rattling for several months with the developers of Scrabulous, the popular Facebook application that boasts more than three-million registered users. Last week, RealNetworks, which owns the e-rights to Scrabble, quietly launched its own version.

Marketing Magazine published an article for its Insight page, quoting yours truly, on the PR aspects of the issue. I’m no lawyer (and I haven’t played one on TV), but my take was that the marketing and PR opportunity to build on the Scrabulous success should not be dismissed simply because of the perceived copyright infringement. Organizations should protect their brand at every turn, but Hasbro and Mattel should also consider the power and influence of Facebook, social media and the Internet — and carpe diem. Hasbro has the chance to make either three-million friend or three-million enemies.

Top marketing bloggers get introspective

More debate over who owns social media and what role it plays in marketing. A panel of top marketing bloggers from Ad Age’s Power 150 network hashed out how blogging fits into the marketing mix. Lots of discussion on building loyalty through blogging and social media and the issue of its relative impact compared to traditional media buys. In other words, what’s more impactful to a brand or organization: five million clickthroughs of a banner ad, or 50 blogging sites creating conversations about your product/service? On the issue of the flood of marketing content, including blogs, I thought this was an interesting exchange:

AD AGE EDITOR JONAH BLOOM: You made a very good point: Do we need more content? Or do we need something that’s actually more useful for their consumers?

GEOFF LIVINGSTON (Livingstonbuzz): Think about Harley Davidson. I don’t want to see a Harley Davidson blog. But maybe I would like to get into a contest to take a photograph of my sweet, customized Harley, and win a contest to be February in a Harley Davidson calendar, and then buy the calendar. I don’t want to read some crap blog about how they are going to re-engineer their rubber. … It’s about engaging people, not just publishing.

It’s a reminder that blogging done poorly is simply a one-way monologue. Conversations and participation is what builds customer engagement and ultimate loyalty.