Melissa Campanelli’s The View From Here: Google, Bazaarvoice Partner to Bring Reviews to Google Search and Ads

I heard some interestng news this week: Google and social commerce firm Bazaarvoice announced an industry-first partnership to bring product reviews to Google search and ads.

I heard some interesting news this week: Google and social commerce firm Bazaarvoice announced an industry-first partnership to bring product reviews to Google search and ads.

Through the partnership and with client permission, Bazaarvoice said in a press release, it can now “share high-quality product review content from Bazaarvoice client sites on Google Web Search, Google Product Search, and Google AdWords ads.”

Bazaarvoice said the partnership will enable retailers and manufacturers using its services to “easily leverage their product review content to drive more high-quality traffic from Google, as well as provide brand exposure to qualified shoppers.”

What’s more, “consumers benefit from immediate access to opinions from other customers as they research and complete purchases, adding relevance and authenticity.”

The integration is immediately available as Bazaarvoice’s SyndicateVoice for Search offering.

To me, this is an important partnership. It elevates the value of user-generated content as a search tool. I imagine retailers will be excited about it, in that it will bring more exposure to their brands with minimal effort on their parts. What do you think? Any retailers out there care to comment? Let me know by posting a comment below.

Melissa Campanelli’s The View From Here: Business Schools Offering Social Media Courses

To meet the demand from companies for skills around social media strategies, tony business schools — including Harvard Business School; London Business School; Insead, the international business school based in Fontainebleau, France; and the École des Hautes Études Commerciales, known as H.E.C., in Paris — are incorporating courses on social media into their M.B.A. curriculums. Social media strategy courses, according to the article, “aim to build on existing skills to teach an understanding of social media, of how to build marketing strategies within social networks and of how to track their effectiveness.”

I read a March 30 New York Times article that said that many national and international business schools are incorporating social media strategy courses into their curriculums.

Take that, all of you social media marketing naysayers!

To meet the demand from companies for skills around social media strategies, tony business schools — including Harvard Business School; London Business School; Insead, the international business school based in Fontainebleau, France; and the École des Hautes Études Commerciales, known as HEC, in Paris — are incorporating courses on social media into their M.B.A. curriculums.

Social media strategy courses, according to the article, “aim to build on existing skills to teach an understanding of social media, of how to build marketing strategies within social networks and of how to track their effectiveness.”

While most of the students entering these programs may be adept at using social networking tools in their personal lives, that’s not enough, says the article. Companies want executives that “can transfer this experience into the commercial world.”

Textbooks aren’t required in many of the courses; instead, students are asked to follow industry-specific blogs to keep up with developments. They’re instructed to communicate with people involved in the social media industry, listening to the issues they deal with on a strategic level.

Schools are teaching social media marketing in a variety of ways. In an upcoming course at Insead, students will work on a project for the luxury brand Hermès, generating detailed social media marketing strategy ideas for the brand. A course at London Business School required students to participate in the 2009 Google Online Marketing Challenge, where teams were given $200 of free online advertising with Google AdWords to work with companies to devise effective online marketing campaigns. Meanwhile at Harvard Business School, a second-year elective course on “competing with social networks” is being offered as part of that school’s M.B.A. program.

The article made the argument that the high level of engagement of top digital media professionals with these courses has reciprocal benefits. Students get to learn from the skills and experience of the executives, while the companies get to make contact with potential future hires with the skills needed to exploit social media channels for commercial gain.

Sounds like a win-win to me. But what do you think? Do you think social media strategy or social networking skills can be taught, or can they only be mastered by folks after they’ve gotten their hands dirty with them?

And should elite business schools — elite, expensive business schools, that is — bother with social media strategy or social networking courses? Should they be instead focusing on more lofty subjects?

Let me know by posting a comment below!

Michael Della Penna’s Conversations: How to Spark a Conversation Revolution!

Creating conversations is hard, despite all the knowledge and tools at our disposal today. it should be easier than ever, right? Not quite. As is all too often the case, fear can get in the way. More specifically, fear of the social media unknown.

Creating conversations is hard, despite all the knowledge and tools at our disposal today. It should be easier than ever, right? Not quite. As is all too often the case, fear can get in the way. More specifically, fear of the social media unknown.

For many marketers, that includes the biggest “what if” of all: What if someone talks badly about your brand? The simple fact is consumers are already talking. Therefore, learning how to spark and manage conversations isn’t only essential on today’s social internet, but it might just save your job or, better yet, get you promoted.

To do it right, marketers must abandon their comfort zone of hiding behind their marketing efforts, including crafting and delivering messages, measuring sales, and then hitting the rinse and repeat button. Instead, they must be open, transparent, adventurous and unafraid. So what’s the formula for sparking and facilitating a great conversation? Here are a few suggestions.

1. Focus on relationships, not technologies. Take the time to understand what your customers want and do online, then determine the kind of relationship you want to have with them.

2. Start with a clear and simple goal. Is your goal about improving customer service (like @comcastcares) or sharing a passion for a topic or issue (e.g., sports, fashion or music)? Have a specific goal in mind at the beginning and add to it over time as you learn.

3. Monitor and survey. Use social monitoring tools to understand what kinds of conversations are already taking place. Investigate your customers’ interests. You may find vastly different interests and engagement levels across certain demographics and customer segments — this often gives you some direction on where to start and who to target first.

4. Start small and experiment.
Most of us have limited resources, so start small. Go narrow, but deep. Then take some chances and do something unique to create value. For example, one of my clients hired a photographer to take exclusive photos at sporting events in order to share those photos with its fans and followers. Needless to say, it generated huge interest and continues to spark conversations around the communities’ shared passion for sports.

5. Try focusing on an industry development or event rather than your product or brand. Leverage big events and share your unique perspective. People will likely jump in as you build trust and establish credibility.

6. Feed the conversation with integrated marketing efforts.
Don’t forget to support your community efforts by using existing tools and resources. Socialize traditional channels such as email to grow awareness, interest and engagement.

7. Don’t forget the “social” in social media. Listen and respond quickly; be conversational, authentic and transparent. Recognize and support contributors by sharing their content with others and thanking them.

8. Measure everything.
What kinds of communications are resonating? Measure each effort’s impact against your objective. Look at quantitative and qualitative metrics. For @comcastcares, that might mean looking at how much customer service has improved and how it’s impacted the perceptions of consumers and the media.

9. Be flexible and willing to change direction. Go with the flow. If an approach isn’t resonating, try something new. Let your customers guide the conversation. In fact, the most successful communities are the ones in which the hosting brands eventually get to a place where they post the least. Over time these brands have been able to earn the trust of the community. They simply spark and facilitate the conversation rather than dominate it. Remember, trust = money.

10. Stick to it. Engaging visitors and customers in conversation doesn’t happen overnight. Stick to it. With a little practice and patience — and lots of listening and flexibility — you’ll find your way.

Building successful conversations is really about listening, relinquishing control and being willing to fail. While this is new thinking for many marketers, it can and is being done well among brands that focus on their relationships, not campaigns.

Finally, success also requires practice. This was best said in Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers”: “Practice isn’t something you do until you’re good. It is something that makes you good.”

‘Til next time.

Melissa Campanelli’s The View From Here: A Social Media Sweepstakes Platform, From a Traditional Direct Marketer

Perhaps one of the most recognizable names in the traditional direct marketing arena — Publishers Clearing House — is partnering with social media marketing tools provider Wildfire Interactive on a cool platform that enables companies to launch, administer and fulfill social media sweepstakes.

Perhaps one of the most recognizable names in the traditional direct marketing arena — Publishers Clearing House — is partnering with social media marketing tools provider Wildfire Interactive on a cool platform that enables companies to launch, administer and fulfill social media sweepstakes.

To me, it’s another example of traditional and social marketing worlds colliding.

Wildfire Promotion Builder, according to a press release that appeared in my inbox this week, is a “scalable and self-service social media marketing platform that makes it easy for companies and agencies to build online sweepstakes and simultaneously publish them on Facebook fan pages, Twitter and company websites, which are automatically integrated with Facebook Connect.”

Promotion Builder has also been integrated into PCH Boost, an application programming interface that automates the legal and fulfillment aspects of running sweepstakes — also known as the unsexy stuff. With PCH Boost, according to the release, “companies can easily offer their customers winnings of up to $100,000 without having to deal with the administration, high costs, legal issues and logistics associated with managing sweepstakes and awarding prize money.”

I think this will be a great and useful tool for online marketers who want to launch sweepstakes programs — which have had a rebirth of sorts thanks to social media — with the expertise of a traditional direct marketer.

Young Affluents Love to Go Social Shopping

Many young affluents are using a social networking niche — social shopping sites — at least according to a new report from Unity Marketing.

Many young affluents are using a social networking niche — social shopping sites — at least according to a new report from Unity Marketing.

What are social shopping sites? They’re sites like Woot.com, Gilt.com, HauteLook and Rue La La that offer “in-the-know-shoppers” deals on cool merchandise. Woot.com, for example, has one product for sale daily until it’s sold out or the clock strikes 11:59 p.m. CST, when it’s replaced by the next day’s item.

Rue La La, on the other hand, is an invitation-only social shopping site, which means you have to be invited by an existing member to enjoy its benefits. Exclusivity adds to the interest factor in this site. It also features premium designer clothes and accessories in private-sale boutiques that are only open for a limited time.

The report, How the Affluent Luxury Consumer Uses the Internet and Social Media: An In-Depth Profile, found that one in three affluents surveyed have visited a social shopping site in the past three months. Social shopping sites are most popular among young affluent consumers under the age of 45. In fact, 43 percent of these young affluents use social shopping sites versus 33 percent of affluents as a whole, the report found. What’s more, affluent consumers’ use of social shopping rose from only 3 percent in 2007 to a whopping 33 percent this year.

“Social shopping sites are going to continue to grow in popularity among the affluent market, especially among young affluents,” said Pam Danzinger, president of Unity Marketing, in a press release about the report. “They offer young affluents shopping experiences they enjoy: quick action, limited access and value pricing. For luxury marketers targeting young affluents, these are the places to be.”

For the study, 1,614 affluent consumers with incomes of $100,000 or more and who bought luxury goods or services in the fourth quarter were surveyed from Jan. 8 to Jan. 27. The average age of respondents was 45.9, and the average household income was $239,300.

Almost 20 percent of those surveyed were classified as “ultra-affluents,” or those at the top 2 percent of U.S. households with incomes of $250,000. Virtually all respondents use the internet for personal uses, including shopping, and nearly 80 percent are social media users.

So if you target affluents (and who doesn’t?), examine the sales models of these sites to see if you can emulate anything like them on your site. Can you offer your customers or subscribers a “special, one-day only” promotion or the like? Or try selling a different, cool or unusual item each day? I bet this approach will keep your customers coming back to your site each day. I mean, everyone wants to be “in-the-know,” right?

Have you ever tried social shopping techniques? Have they worked? Do tell by leaving a comment here or sending a message to me at mcampanelli@napco.com.

Melissa Campanelli’s The View From Here: Two Signs That ‘Traditional’ and ‘Social’ Online Marketing Are Becoming One

Two announcements were made this week that in my eyes signify a true integration of traditional and social marketing.

Two announcements were made this week that in my eyes signify a true integration of traditional and social marketing.

The first was the announcement that Omniture and Facebook have joined forces to provide online marketers with solutions to optimize Facebook as a marketing channel. The partnership builds on the Facebook analytics and Facebook application analytics capabilities Omniture announced last year.

This alliance is designed to help companies integrate Facebook as a marketing channel and connect to relevant conversations with the site’s 400 million active users.

Initially, “the two companies will focus on the most fundamental needs of online marketers today: the ability to automate Facebook media buying and access analytics that measure customer engagement on Facebook,” according to an Omniture press release.

The solution, for example, will enable advertisers to buy media and track media on Facebook through Omniture tools such as SearchCenter Plus. It will also enable them to generate reports designed to understand ad effectiveness of Facebook pages and other Facebook applications.

The two companies will continue to expand their partnership as marketers increasingly use Facebook to optimize visitor acquisition, conversion and retention, Omniture said.

The next announcement came from email marketing provider ExactTarget, which announced this week that it has acquired CoTweet, a web-based collaboration platform that allows companies to manage multiple Twitter accounts from a single dashboard, support multiple editors, track conversations, assign roles and create follow-up tasks.

The acquisition will enable ExactTarget to offer marketers a solution for managing communications across all interactive marketing channels, including social media, email and mobile.

A key reason for the acquisition was because ExactTarget was finding that while “organizations are moving quickly to try to capture the potential of social, they’re also discovering that it’s siloed and not integrated effectively with other forms of digital communications,” said Scott Dorsey, ExactTarget co-founder and chief executive officer, in a press release. “By combining the power of ExactTarget and CoTweet, we can provide businesses with a complete solution to tie together all forms of interactive communications and drive deeper customer engagement online.”

I’ll bet there’ll be more announcements like these to come in 2010, as digital marketing software and service providers really begin to understand the impact social media is having on consumers and marketers alike.

Melissa Campanelli’s The View From Here: From the ‘Now I’ve Heard It All’ Twitter File

Mattel, for one, is set to release Puppy Tweets this fall, a $29.99 high-tech plastic tag toy that will allow dogs to publicize their everyday activities on Twitter via a sound and motion sensor.

I came across a couple of wacky Twitter ideas this week and wanted to share them with you.

Mattel, for one, is set to release Puppy Tweets this fall, a $29.99 high-tech plastic tag toy that will allow dogs to publicize their everyday activities on Twitter via a sound and motion sensor.

The plastic tag attaches to a dog’s collar and generates one of 500 canned tweets when it detects barking or movement, and automatically posts an update to the dog’s own Twitter page, according to a Feb. 11 Los Angeles Times article.

To use Puppy Tweets, dog owners are outfitted with USB receivers they connect to their computers. Then, they download the toy’s software to create Twitter accounts for their dogs. When a dog moves or barks, a signal is sent from its Puppy Tweets tag to the receiver, which updates the dog’s Twitter page. Owners can check Twitter to see their dogs’ latest posts.

Mattel executives say the toy bridges Americans’ love of pooches with the growing popularity of sites such as Twitter and Facebook, according to the article. Amazon.com has already signed on to sell the toy.

Silly, no?

And here’s another one:

At the 2010 Grammy Awards, avant-garde singer Imogen Heap wore a self-designed Twitter dress on the red carpet, according to a Jan. 31 Mashable article.

A Twitter what? Yep, a Twitter dress.

The dress, which had its own Twitter feed, displayed Twitter pictures sent by fans in real time using the hashtag “#twitdress.” Heap tweeted on the morning of the award show that the dress was envisioned as a way to let fans “accompany me on the red carpet.”

Yes, these ideas are offbeat and a little silly, but they verify one thing: Twitter has made it into the mainstream. It’s turning up in real products targeted at American consumers, and as part of internationally broadcasted television shows.

The message for marketers? If you’re not taking Twitter seriously, you’d better start.

Michael Della Penna’s Conversations: A Marketer’s 12-Step Program to Accepting Social Media

The rise of social media as a critical communication channel cannot be ignored. In fact, according to a 2009 Nielsen study, social media has overtaken email as the most popular online consumer activity. Yet it remains the most misunderstood and feared of any communication channel.

The rise of social media as a critical communication channel cannot be ignored. In fact, according to a 2009 Nielsen study, social media has overtaken email as the most popular online consumer activity. Yet it remains the most misunderstood and feared of any communication channel.

While the proliferation of social networks, social shopping and the corresponding tools needed to facilitate these connections is new and exciting, social media can also be overwhelming to marketers as they struggle to learn the new skills necessary to reach and engage key audiences across the social web.

Consequently, the thought of engaging customers and the fear that those conversations may not go as intended often cause the most experienced marketers to cling to the traditional marketing channels they’ve become most dependent upon. So, how to break free of old habits? Like any good rehab, it starts with a solid 12-step program.

1. Admit you’re an addict. Advertising, direct mail and, yes, even email are seen as comfort food. While still useful, they remain, for the most part, one-way communication channels. Recognizing this and embracing the need to change and be “open” to truly creating dialogues with customers is the first step.

2. Get wet.
Use social networking in your personal life to familiarize yourself with the tools. Don’t be shy because you’re new to the party — you’re not the last one in the pool.

3. Learn some history. Find case studies in your industry, as they’ll often help you identify new opportunities, best practices, cautionary tales and potential business models. Two dozen good ones can be found on my association’s (PMN) website.

4. Evangelize and find an advocate.
Often, embracing social media requires a sea of change, and support is critical. Find an executive sponsor to help push your program through, and continue to evangelize.

5. Get to work. I love starting with Forrester Research’s POST methodology. Take the time to understand your customers, set some objectives, build a strategy and search for the technologies you need to embrace the medium. You may also want to start by socializing some of your traditional channels to test the waters. For example, try adding sharing capabilities within your emails.

6. Build incrementally and listen. Ultimately, you want to be everywhere your customers are. But you need to start somewhere; take small steps. I always recommend starting narrow, but going deep. Take the time to understand each channel, and listen and learn before adding additional networks into the mix.

7. Take chances. Don’t be afraid to try new things. Be open to the possibilities of the social web, but keep customers’ needs front and center.

8. Create value. Take the time to understand the value of each channel and how each channel and program can add value to your customers’ experiences with your brand.

9. Be honest, transparent and responsive. Anything otherwise will be quickly noticed in a social environment.

10. Be a team player. Create cross-functional teams to brainstorm and share learnings.

11. Measure success. Review and track activity, measure programs against your business objectives, and calculate ROI. And don’t lose sight of how your programs impact customer satisfaction, as well as customers’ likelihood to recommend and purchase more products.

12. Communicate success. After all, it’s about creating conversations. Share your insights and create excitement for your efforts both internally and externally so others can learn from your experience.

Building conversations and relationships is hard, but when it’s done right and with the best of intentions it can be very rewarding. Welcome to the Age of Conversations.

Michael Della Penna is co-founder and executive chairman of the Participatory Marketing Network, an industry association dedicated to helping marketers transition from push and permission marketing to participatory marketing. He’s also the founder and CEO of Conversa Marketing, which helps brands build social and email marketing programs. Reach Michael at info@thepmn.org.

It’s Official: Social Media Marketing Is Here to Stay

Despite some grumblings out there in the blogosphere that social media marketing is a fad, difficult to measure and a waste of time for marketers, a recent study I came across this week says social media will become the focus for many marketers this year.

Despite some grumblings out there in the blogosphere that social media marketing is a fad, difficult to measure and a waste of time for marketers, a recent study I came across this week says social media will become the focus for many marketers this year.

Sixty-six percent of 1,068 marketing professionals surveyed by Alterian recently for its Annual Survey said they’d be investing in social media marketing (SMM) in the next 12 months. Of those investing, 40 percent said they’d be shifting more than a fifth of their traditional direct marketing budgets toward funding their SMM activities.

What’s more, the survey revealed that the majority of respondents (67 percent) feel SMM is either “increasingly important” or “critical to success.”

“2010 marks the start of the digital decade for marketing,” said David Eldridge, Alterian’s CEO, commenting on the results in a press release. “Untargeted and irrelevant marketing techniques are now redundant and the results of this survey show many in the industry recognize this.”

Thirty-six percent of respondents also said they’re investing in SMM and analysis tools this year. In my opinion, this is key: I think this year will be the year marketers finally figure out how to monitor, measure and track their SMM programs and investments. Many marketers consider this the holy grail.

The survey also explored whether organizations integrate marketing technologies across their organizations. Surprisingly, almost half of the respondents (42 percent) said they don’t incorporate clickstream and web analytics data into their customer and email databases.

The research also explored the importance of customer engagement, finding that more than half of respondents (51 percent) are placing a “fair” or “significant” amount of effort on moving from a campaign-centric direct marketing model toward multichannel customer engagement. In fact, only 7 percent are making no effort at all, the survey found.

Social Networking Suicide

No, I’m not talking about accidentally sending embarrassing personal information out through a “SWYN” link in an email.

I’m talking about Web 2.0 Suicide Machine. (Now just try to get Bruce Springsteen’s masterpiece “Thunder Road” out of your head!)

No, I’m not talking about accidentally sending embarrassing personal information out through a “SWYN” link in an email.

I’m talking about Web 2.0 Suicide Machine. (Now just try to get Bruce Springsteen’s masterpiece “Thunder Road” out of your head!)

In case you haven’t heard about it, Web 2.0 Suicide Machine, which launched in December, is an anti-social media site that lets subscribers “sign out forever” from social-networking services such as Twitter, LinkedIn and MySpace.

The idea behind it? That people are spending too much time on social media sites and it’s affecting the fabric of society as a whole.

“This machine lets you delete all your energy sucking social-networking profiles, kill your fake virtual friends, and completely do away with your Web 2.0 alterego,” it says on its website, where you’ll also see its logo, a pink hangman’s noose.

Here’s how it works: After logging in to the website and choosing which social network you want to be deleted from, the “Suicide Machine” servers begin walking through your targeted account, friend by friend, deleting your connections one at a time via a script.

It also changes your profile picture — to the pink noose, of course — and your password, so you can’t log back on to resurrect yourself.

Until recently, the service also let you kill your Facebook account. On Jan. 5, however, Facebook blocked the site’s access to its website.

“Facebook provides the ability for people who no longer want to use the site to either deactivate their account or delete it completely,” Facebook said in a Jan. 5 statement. “Web 2.0 Suicide Machine collects login credentials and scrapes Facebook pages, which are violations of our Statement of Rights and Responsibilities. We’ve blocked the site’s access to Facebook as is our policy for sites that violate our SRR. We’re currently investigating and considering whether to take further action.”

I personally think Web 2.0 Suicide Machine is not a threat to the social-networking world — either from the consumer or marketer perspective. (After all, if you want to remove yourself from a social site right now, most sites let you do so by using the end-of-account tools on the sites themselves.) Instead, I think it’s really been created to send a message. And in that respect, it may be working. It got me thinking, for instance, about how much time I spend on social-networking sites — for business and pleasure— and what purpose that really serves in the long run.

Do you think you spend too much on social networking sites? Tell me about it here.