Archive for April, 2009
By Kyle Austin
Earlier this week the Society for New Communications Research (SNCR) came out with the most detailed research to date on Fortune 500 companies blogging (2008 list).
While the findings do not include new companies added or omitted for the 2009 Fortune 500 list which was announced in April (John Cass has been updating with new list on the Fortune 500 Business Blogging Wiki), SNCR’s research is updated with any changes in blogging / social media use of the 2008 Fortune 500 up to March 2009.
Nora Ganim Barnes, Ph.D. and Eric Mattson CEO of Financial Insite, who conducted the research found that:
• 81 of the Fortune 500 or 16% currently have public-facing blogs (John’s number is 61 companies or 12.2%).
• This compares with 39 percent of the Inc. 500; 41 percent of the higher education sector and 57 percent of the nation’s Top 200 Charities.
• 28 percent of the Fortune 500’s blogs link to Twitter accounts. (Other Fortune 500 companies have Twitter accounts, but they are not linked to their blogs)
• Five of the top ten companies have public blogs: Wal-Mart, Chevron, General Motors, Ford, and Bank of America.
• 90 percent of the Fortune 500’s blogs have the comments feature enabled.
• The computer software/hardware technology industry has the most blogs, followed by the food and drug industry, financial services, Internet services, semi-conductors, retail and automotive respectively.
• Ten percent of the Fortune 500’s blogs link to podcasts; 21 percent incorporate video
The findings came out at an ideal time, given that the blogwell conference, focusing on how big-business is blogging, took place in New York today.
At the conference companies such as Microsoft and Nokia shed light on how to make corporate blogging successful. They discussed the importance of allowing employees to use their own unique voices and opinions within blogs while avoiding backlashes, with ten magic words: “I work for ___ and this is my personal opinion.” Microsoft actually cuts their guidelines for blogging down to two: “blog smart.”
They also discussed why most corporate blogs struggle. They don’t create ”purposeful edutainment” – content with purpose, education, entertainment.
However, as we’ve mentioned before in citing numbers from the Wiki, the number of companies blogging should continue to grow as larger corporations like these continue to embrace blogging, social media and content creation – and discuss their best practices with their peer groups.
April 29th, 2009
By Ben Haber
It’s no secret that Twitter’s popularity has exploded in recent months, which coincidentally occurred during the same time as Ashton Kutcher’s competition with CNN and Oprah’s Twitter debut.
The chart below tracks Twitter’s Web site traffic over the past year, and shows a massive jump during the last 3-4 months. It’s also important to note that many Twitter users never even go to the main Web page, and use their phones or applications like Twirl instead of Twitter.com.
Even with so many people suddenly joining the Twitter world how many of them are actually using it? Oprah has clearly brought a huge audience onto Twitter, but she has only made 20 updates and is following a mere 11 people – not what you would call a regular user. I would imagine that many of her 692,530 followers joined because she was on it, not because they necessarily want to use the service.
Nielsen reports that Twitter is currently retaining just 40 percent of their new users (which is actually up from recent numbers), though Peter Kafka points out that this is being measured by Twitter.com visits and doesn’t take into account use on applications like Twirl. However, if you take a look through the the list of followers for celebrities like Kutcher and Oprah, you will notice many people that have made very few posts – the classic case of someone joining Twitter just to see what celebrities are up to.
Could Twitter be a fad? With some people, yes. But not for its core group of users. It has already become a central part of many peoples lives is showing no signs of slowing down.
April 29th, 2009
By Kyle Austin
When I have conversations about breaking into social media with VP’s of corporate communications and marketing – or even CMO’s – at B to B companies, I often hear “There is just so much noise.”
What they’re really getting at with this statement, is “the masses” of social media enthusiasts that they are communicating with via social media platforms.
The majority of those I’ve chatted with understand that by participating and engaging they are raising awareness of their companies, products, services and messages, but it’s hard to illustrate value and ROI to the corporate suite outside of measuring message penetration and the site traffic which the social dialogue is driving.
While connecting with the masses via Twitter and Facebook makes perfect sense for their peers at consumer-facing companies, their use and strategy behind social media needs to be better targeted to provide real value in the current economy. In the downturn B-B marketers are scrambling to provide leads, with both traditional and digital media, and connecting with “the masses” doesn’t necessarily assist them with their efforts.
Although I openly acknowledge that social media may not be the best tool for B-B companies for generating leads, launching a dual-track approach to social media that includes a program targeted at reaching decision makers at prospective customers (in addition to a broader program) through social platforms is jumping-off point that can supplement other efforts and bear fruit down the line. This targeted approach can assist marketers with tuning out some of the “noise,” by focusing in on decision makers and influencers at targets who control purse strings or have influence over making potential 5-7 figure deals.
PR and social media agencies can assist in this effort by working with companies to narrow down their top prospects and observe which relevant executives within those companies are active in social media channels (i.e. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc.). In observing where these companies and their executives are participating, the types of conversations they are having and the “social network” that they interact with, a strategy can be formulated to approach and begin dialogue with them. Some may argue that this is merely glorified assistance with personal / business networking.
However, given the current economic climate and the rapid digital evolution that the communications industry is witnessing, I believe it is a task that agencies and internal communications / marketing departments must take on to stay successful and relevant in the future.
April 27th, 2009
By Guest Author
Damon Darlin recently visited the Racepoint Group to share some thoughts about what it’s like to be technology editor of one of the most influential newspapers in the country and now the fifth most-popular online news destination.
While the New York Times like most major news organizations grapple with the ever-changing media environment, its early investment in online news is helping to keep its leadership position and enables the technology reporting team to “tell better stories.” According to Darlin, surprisingly many people still have a narrow and outdated view, thinking of the New York Times in only one dimension as a daily newspaper – a missed opportunity for companies that can now be featured in one of the publication’s many blogs, videos, online features and podcasts.
Given the influence and high credibility of the New York Times, reporters also have the added burden of ensuring their coverage does not appear to endorse or validate the companies they cover. This makes it sometimes challenging for start-ups and smaller companies, but Darlin confirms that they are still interested in great storytelling and that smaller companies should not be discouraged, especially if they have an offering that is truly game-changing and innovative.
Darlin also offered some key words of advice for technology companies targeting media coverage in the New York Times:
- Relationships continue to be important, now more than ever. With reporters receiving 200+ emails a day from eager PR reps and companies looking to attract coverage, and more distractions with social networking tools, it’s critical to have trusted sources with a reliable track record.
- Company spokespeople need to share a vision and tell a compelling story. Technology spokespeople, in particular, have a habit of just focusing on the product or marketing plan and would be better-served by telling the reporter what’s going to change as a result of their offering.
- Background briefings, while sometimes more difficult due to time constraints, are still helpful – especially if you have a market expert who is “plugged-in” to an industry.
- Think beyond the story. With multimedia options now available via the online news site, there are more angles and visual opportunities to enrich a perspective.
While Darlin leaves the frequent tweets to the reporting staff, you can follow him @ddarlin.
April 27th, 2009
By Ben Haber
Last week we published part 1 of our Q&A with Wade Roush, the Chief Correspondent for Xconomy. Below is the second part of our conversation, which looks at the explosion of Twitter.
(note: this interview occurred on 4/17)
RaceTalk: As Twitter has become more mainstream (with so many celebrities joining it) there have been a lot of individuals breaking stories themselves before the larger news outlets have been able to, such as earthquakes and eye-witness stories. While being first to a story has always mattered in the media, is it important to beat the Twitter universe to a story?
Wade Roush: I don’t think it’s possible to beat the Twitter universe to a story when in an age of mobile technology, basically everyone with a wireless phone has become a walking newsroom, in a way. I mean, you’re absolutely right. Things like the splashdown of Contintental Airlines Flight 1549. So the first accounts of that crash in the Hudson River came from people who sent notices to Twitter from their cell phones, and the first picture was not from a TV camera. It was from somebody who took a picture and uploaded it to TwitPic.
So that was basically the world’s first notice this thing had happened. And when you’ve got everybody out there basically carrying around a news-gathering tool, like today’s camera phones, they in essence become this giant nerve network for the whole world. So how could a news organization possibly hope to out-compete this population of billions of people equipped with mobile news-gathering devices? They couldn’t.
I don’t think that any particular journalist’s reputation or any particular publication’s reputation rests on whether they are necessarily the first to break a story. And I think it’s getting harder and harder to be the first to “break” a story. I think that what’s emerging is a different kind of world where journalists, because they ideally have a background and experience writing about news events in particular spheres of interests, can immediately bring some context to the stories that are breaking and help people understand what’s going on and bring a lot of threads together from different places, and help people understand not just the immediate breaking event but the bigger picture and how this relates to other parts of the same story.
I think at the same time people who are out there with cell phones are starting to think of themselves as the front lines in journalism in a way. They don’t think of themselves as reporters necessarily, but they know there are these ways to contribute pictures they might snap, or contribute first-hand eyewitness reports back into the mainstream media. There are organizations like CNN that have been pretty aggressive about explaining how people can contact them with tips, pictures and eyewitness accounts. There’s this sort of interesting synergy, almost, an interesting sort of crowdsourcing of news that is going on. That’s one way that I think the mainstream media is trying to cope with this, and they’re doing an OK job of it, but I think they’re probably being outstripped by the pace of technology and how quickly camera phones have made their way out into society.
RaceTalk: It will be even more interesting once video is out there and people can just pull out a video camera and start recording.
WR: That’s happening already. Although the trick there is its not very easy yet to get the video off your phone. It’s a lot easier to e-mail a photograph to TwitPic or CNN than it would be to e-mail a video.
RaceTalk: But if you can do live video from your phone that changes things even more.
WR: Oh live video, absolutely. Oh wow, just think. It’s a world where everyone is sensing in a way. Everyone is carrying around a TV camera.
RaceTalk: What’s your general opinion on Twitter?
WR: I think Twitter as a technology is amazing and unexpected, but wonderful. It’s one of these technologies that comes along every three or four years and completely changes the way we think about the internet and what the internet is good for. Sort of the same way blogs did eight years ago. Twitter comes along and suddenly we can’t imagine how we were able to get along without this ability to send out 140-character updates 12 times a day to all of our friends, or to share news instantly, or to get debates going about immediate controversies. I find Twitter as a technology really energizing. I’m making more and more use of it myself to alert my followers about what I’m working on and what stories are coming up.
But then there is also Twitter the company. Twitter the company, I think, has a lot of growing up to do and has a giant task ahead of it. Your readers probably know that today was the day when Oprah made her first Tweet. Instantly Oprah had over like 100,000 followers. Whenever Oprah turns her audience onto something, it immediately becomes part of the mainstream. That’s what she did with the Kindle, basically. I think it was Oprah’s endorsement that helped Amazon put Kindle on the map for real. That’s probably going to happen with Twitter. You’re probably going to have millions of more people flooding into Twitter at a time when they were already struggling to keep up with the load in terms of infrastructure, the number of servers they have, and how they handle all of these messages.
They are an incredibly small company and I think they are kind of overwhelmed right now by the magnitude of the uptake and the adoption. You can tell from the state of their customer service operation that they are just not prepared for the new role that they are being asked to take on. I think there are going to be serious questions that will have to be asked down the road about whether one company, especially a company as small as Twitter, can really be trusted to operate a global communications network that has become as central and as crucial as Twitter. I’m not sure what the solution is.
RaceTalk: Do you think they’re facing some of the same growing pains as Facebook?
WR: No, I think a lot of Facebook’s growing pains have been self-inflicted pains around policy changes and design changes. It seems like every time Facebook changes their terms of service or the look and feel of their home page they piss off half of their user base and they spend the next two months trying to calm everyone down. Then they make another bone-headed change that half of their users hate and they have to start all over. As far as I know, Facebook never really had an infrastructure problem keeping up with the number of users they had. Or at least that was never the main story with Facebook.
RaceTalk: They did bring it along very slowly, first just for colleges and then later expanding it to high school and everyone else.
WR: Exactly. Whereas Twitter has consistently been sort of unable to provide a basic level of service that is acceptable. The fail whale is famous. I think its just going to get worse. They raised a lot of money recently. I think they will have to spend a lot of that just buying servers. I hope they spend some of it upgrading their customer service. I hope they spend some of it making the tools even easier to use.
But I think in a way, that Twitter is headed to being so important, such a fundamental part of the Internet, that people will start to see it the same way they see e-mail. You wouldn’t want any one company to control how email works. [Just think back to the] era in the early 1990s when individual companies like Prodigy, CompuServe and AOL actually did control how e-mail worked, and what your email address looked like, and whether you could even e-mail people on other networks. That was a problem, and we outgrew that era and the Internet standards that were in place for things like e-mail became true standards of interoperability. Now we think of e-mail as just part of the infrastructure of the Internet that no one in particular owns and everyone is partly responsible for maintaining. I wonder whether we’re going to have to go in that direction eventually with Twitter. You don’t want to take away a great idea from an entrepreneurial, young company that had that idea. But I think it is going to be interesting to see if Twitter can keep up with the level of demand that they’re tapping into. I think they stumbled across an idea that turned out to be incredibly infectious and useful, much more than they even themselves imagined, and now they’re in the position of having to keep up with this phenomenon they’ve created. I’m not sure they can.
RaceTalk: When your readers comment on your stories, what method do you find most valuable? When they do it through Twitter, e-mail, or in the comments section?
WR: By far the most useful thing to get a conversation going is for people to come to Xconomy and actually leave a written comment. That way I can reply and everyone can see our conversation. If they do it by e-mail, I can respond to them one-on-one, but the conversation doesn’t grow and spread. If they do it by Twitter and they reply in public to something I tweeted, then the conversation is more public but it is limited to little 140-character chunks. So one push I’m trying to make with my stories and within Xconomy in general is for all of us on the staff to be more active engaging with people who leave comments, more active inviting people to comment, and getting more conversations going around our stories. I would definitely encourage anyone who has an opinion about an Xconomy story to go and leave it there on the website. We will go and engage with you.
April 27th, 2009
By Kyle Austin
After serving as a springboard to rally a groundswell of voters for President Obama’s campaign, Facebook failed to deliver much of a turnout to the social network’s governance vote.
However, there were initial concerns that the poor turnout would make the vote meaningless. In promoting the “election” Facebook noted that they were requiring at least 30% of their active users to vote in order for it to count, which seemed possible in their eyes given they assisted in getting 60% of the U.S. population out to vote for the 2008 Presidential elections.
But this wasn’t the presidential election. At 200 million plus that meant that they were aiming for around 65 million users to turn out. Let’s just say they fell a little short. So will the vote still pass?
Yes, says Barry Schnitt, a Facebook spokesman, to the San Francisco Chronicle. Although he noted for future elections the company will consider reducing the vote threshold. As others have mentioned, Facebook really had no choice to tweak the “voting rules” to make it count; given that they’ve spent so much legal, marketing and PR time organizing it in the first place.
Voter controversy… The more Facebook starts to look like a democracy, the more it starts to look like a government. A government that cares about its future a lot more than it citizens do, which is probably good for business.
April 24th, 2009
By Ben Haber
On Market Edge with Larry Weber this week, Larry was joined by special guest Leslie Reiser, program director for interactive marketing at IBM. Leslie is responsible for defining and delivering IBM’s Web strategy and driving social media marketing efforts in the small and mid-sized business customer set. She managed a $20 million budget to deploy Smart Market, an IBM program that has reinvented the way it uses the Web to deliver relevant, integrated solutions to small and midsized businesses through an applications-led Marketplace and Community.
Larry and Leslie discussed the future of B2B marketing and look at how IBM’s program was designed to leverage Web 2.0 capabilities, including social marketing capabilities.
You can listen to the podcast here.
April 24th, 2009
By Kyle Austin
The TEKgroup, an Internet software and services company that develops online newsrooms, has come out with findings from their annual Online Newsroom Survey which was given to nearly 1,200 journalists. With the rapid adoption of social media, this year’s survey took a closer look at the social media tools that journalists are interested in using to connect with companies.
Interestingly enough, TEKgroup noted that 38% of journalists indicated they would or would possibly (more on that later) receive news via company tweets. The finding, compared with recent results from the “2009 PRWeek/PR Newswire Media Survey,” seemed a bit high. PRWeek’s survey of 2,000+ traditional and non-traditional journalists in early April found that:
- 22 % of journalists were on Twitter
- Only 18% had been pitched via Twitter
However, when you take a closer look at TEKgroup’s data you notice that the findings were actually more in line with PRWeek’s findings than first expected. Only 7% of journalists indicated yes, they are definitely open to receiving news via company tweets, with 31% indicating that they would possibly receive news via company tweets. Obviously the question should have been posed a bit better, but the results make more sense when you actually look at the lack of journalists willing to answer yes soundly.
In addition, when TEKgroup slightly tweaked the question to ask if journalists were open to receiving “pitches” via Twitter, only 5% stated yes and 28% indicated they may, possibly be.
The drop-off wasn’t as sharp as what PRWeek found when they looked at journalists’ receptiveness to gaining information via social networks / platforms (Twitter, Facebook, etc), versus being pitched on one. While 20% of PRWeek’s respondents indicated they find information and do research on social networks / platforms, only 1% of the journalists they polled wished to be pitched via social networks / platforms.
TEKgroup’s survey also found that 70% of journalists want companies to provide links to all their social media profiles, handles and pages within their online newsroom – despite the fact that only 15% of the journalists they surveyed indicated that they visited Facebook, MySpace or YouTube specifically for company news.
So while it seems that journalists are growing more interest in keeping tabs on companies (and some of their news) via social networks / platforms, don’t expect too many of them to be interested in receiving tweets that bear a resemblance to “pitches” (albeit the 140 character variety) in the near future.
April 22nd, 2009
By Ben Haber
Last year we celebrated Earth Day with a rundown on what media outlets and companies were talking about. Here is a look at a few things that are happening on this year on Earth Day:
And here two desperate Earth Day marketing ploys (via Green Sheet):
- Wal-Mart will double it’s solar efforts at a grand total of 10-20 stores.
- Miss America does it’s best to go green.
April 22nd, 2009
By Ben Haber
Last week we had a chance to talk with Wade Roush, the Chief Correspondent for Xconomy. Wade is a veteran science and technology writer and previously worked for Technology Review. He has a weekly column called World Wide Wade and you can also follow him on Twitter at @wroush.
We spoke with Wade about two topics: the future for newspapers and the evolution of Twitter. Below is the transcript of the first half of our conversation – we’ll post the second half next week.
RaceTalk: Since the news that the New York Times has demanded $20 million in concessions from the Boston Globe, there has been a lot of news, especially in the Boston area, about how they can survive. While I don’t think it’s a surprise to anyone that the Globe has been in some deep financial trouble, hearing that the largest newspaper in our area might not be around much longer was a little shocking. What was your initial response when you heard the news?
Wade Roush: I wasn’t surprised about the extent of the Globe’s financial troubles, what surprised me was the public way it played out on the pages of the Boston Globe and the New York Times. What also surprised me was that of all of the things that the Times Co. managers could get really aggressive about, they chose to get aggressive about pursuing concessions from unions. I don’t hear such sort of aggressive language about how the Globe needs to do a better job for its readers or explore new revenue streams or become a nimbler or more flexible operation – all the things that are probably going to have to happen if the Globe is going to survive. That’s what surprised me.
RaceTalk: There has been a lot of discussion about how newspapers can increase their revenue, and one idea that has been heavily talked about is charging readers. After reading your story “Boston Can Survive, Even Thrive, Without Today’s Globe” and another story in Media Nation I was convinced that enough people will turn to other sites or news outlets if the Globe begins charging online subscription fees. Do you think Boston, and other areas around the country will see more niche sites develop as their regional newspapers struggle to survive?
WR: I think you’re right that charging people for content, even if you have a system where some content is free and some is behind a firewall, is a tricky and hazardous route to go. I think that has only really worked for publications like The Wall Street Journal, where the publication is indisputably the only place to get certain kinds of information and they have a captive audience in a particular industry, and obviously with The Wall Street Journal the captive audience is the financial industry. So I think that’s not a model that would really be transferable to a lot of other newspapers or publications. I do think that you’re going to see the journalism business breaking up, fragmenting in a way into lots of smaller publications, each employing a smaller number of journalists, publishing most of their content for free, and having to search around for a combination of other income sources to sustain themselves.
RaceTalk: What do you think about the way the Boston Herald charges for content that’s outdated by a week or so?
WR: That’s a really interesting practice that they have there. What that does for me personally, is when ever I go to the Herald looking for an old article and I run into that paid firewall, I stop. It stops me from searching the Herald. I don’t go further. It’s not worth it to me to pay for access to an article when I can’t really tell in advance if it’s something I need. There is no way to give a preview of the whole article without making you pay for it first so I think it retards people from having access to your content. I’d be really curious to know how that works out for the Herald; what percentage of people who hit that point where they’re asked to pay for something really do pay. I would be really surprised if it was more than ten percent. I’d be surprised if it was more than two or three percent. So I think the net affect is to drive people away.
RaceTalk: It seems like some newspapers are so used to the same revenue models that they have trouble adapting to the Internet and. Do you think newspapers will be able to find a successful online revenue model, or are they beyond that point?
WR: I think you need to separate out newspaper websites like Boston.com from their newspaper overlords in this question because I do think that there are a lot of newspapers that have a lot of smart people working on the website, who understand social media and have started to make use of it, and who have picked up on the more conversational and social nature of blogosphere and have emulated that and adapted it back to the newspaper setting in a way that also reflects the standards of journalism and objectivity. There are some promising examples of newspaper-owned websites that could well survive on their own as websites with a much smaller staff then the staff of the overall newspaper. So if you’re asking whether newspapers can find online revenues that would make up for the decline in print advertising and the decline in print subscriptions I think the answer is definitely no, there is no way that the Web is going to help newspapers survive as print newspapers. The print side is gradually going away, unless the newspapers can figure out some way that no one has seen yet to make print advertising more appealing to advertisers and to make paying hundreds of dollars a year to get a bunch of dead trees on your doorstep every day appealing to customers.
RaceTalk: It seems that some newspapers are reluctant to go online only. Do you think that they can learn something from Xconomy about becoming a successful online-only news outlet?
WR: I think Xconomy is just one example along a whole spectrum of examples of journalistic organizations that are making the decision to stay online only and looking for a number of ways to support that financially. In our case, we have a combination of venture and angel-type investing that’s backing us up, and relationships with local underwriters. Underwriters are basically companies that we have a long-term relationship with whom we promote by putting their logos on the site and we receive resources from them in return. It’s a very different kind of relationship than the very shallow relationship that a publication would have with its providers of display advertising. So that’s one way to do it. We’re only two years old and like most other start-ups, we have an idea, a proposition that we make to our readers and to our underwriters, and we’re still working really hard to show that our model can succeed. To be perfectly honest, it remains to be seen whether this model can succeed. We’re all going to work really hard to make sure it does, but I’m not sure that Xconomy in particular provides a solid model for newspapers to look to. I think it’s going to take lots of different experiments and lots of different types of revenue streams. Newspapers are going to have to look at lots of different ways of supporting themselves before they find a combination that works.
April 21st, 2009