Marketing & Online Communities: Factors affecting change in consumer and marketer attitudes

It’s just a little over a week away from the Marketing & Online Community conference. The conference agenda is almost set, and we have a great list of speakers and topics. I’m pulling together my thoughts for opening remarks, and I thought I would share some thoughts about how marketing techniques and consumer and marketer attitudes are changing.

The marketing equation to date has been something like this:
Corporate marketer engages agency with a specific goal in mind, like sell more widgets the next 2 quarters. Agency comes up with campaign that pounds consumers via available media with call to action to buy more widgets. Single digit “conversion” is deemed successful. Wash, rinse, repeat.

So how are the players in the above equation changing?

Consumers / Community Members
More and more people are flocking to social networking and community sites every day. More social media is being created and consumed every day, as traditional media consumption falls. Consumers have never been so empowered, and have also never been so overwhelmed with options and content. The connected consumer generally trusts her peers more than a c-level exec or slick campaign.

Brands / Companies
Companies are starting to realize that they can’t control the message or the medium. The best are acting as good hosts of their communities, and creating clean, well lit places to host the conversations and experiences their customers want to have. They are also extending their efforts to reach customers and prospects at the other places they work and play online, and to engage them in appropriate and interesting ways. These efforts go well beyond the traditional marketing and PR efforts of the past, with the end goal of creating unmediated relationships with their customers.

Agencies
Agencies have traditionally been paid to achieve campaign-driven results quarter over quarter. Most are struggling to evolve their approach, and to help client companies build meaningful and direct relationships with their customers. Authenticity (becoming part of the community) and transparent intentions (being clear about what you want / are trying to do) are key elements in this evolution.

We have a great group of folks coming to discuss these issues, and much more. We do have a handful of tickets left to the conference, including 2 discounted tickets. If you would like more information, please send me an email.

Who Owns Community? – Webinar this Wednesday

 I’m doing a webinar with Matthew Lees from the Patricia Seybold Group this Wednesday about how the community team functions and is funded in the corporate environment.

Please join us if you can.

Who Owns Community? – Webinar
Aligning Business Sponsorship and Responsibility with Community Goals
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
11:00 AM Pacific / 2:00 PM Eastern
Free Webinar hosted by Forum One and the Patricia Seybold Group

Online communities and social networks are changing the ways
organizations do business in this customer-empowered, Web 2.0 world.
Different companies have taken different paths in defining the
ownership of community initiatives.

Join Matthew Lees of the Patricia Seybold Group and Bill Johnston,
Director, Community & Research of Forum One Communications, for this
live Webinar in a discussion of these questions and issues:

• Who should be responsible and accountable for it? Who should fund it?
• What problems can arise — both within the company and within the
community — if the “wrong” group owns it?
• Do the answers to these questions depend on the industry, the type
of community, or other things?

Space is limited. Click here to register.

Marketing & Online Communities: An update on speakers and topics (and a kick ass reception)

Cross-posted from the OC Report: Following closely on the heels of the Online Community Summit, The Marketing & Online Communities conference is less than a month away.

The Marketing & Online Communities conference is intended to be an in-depth discussion on the current issues and opportunities in marketing to communities. Marketers and brand managers seem to be struggling with effective and appropriate techniques when marketing to the connected consumer. For instance, Edelman, the renowned PR firm that publishes it’s annual Trust Barometer, has had a couple of recent campaigns for Wal-Mart that clearly violate consumer trust. Conversely, online communities seem to be very reluctant to experiment with new and appropriate marketing techniques, and seem to fall back on crude tools like banner ads. Personally, I’m stunned every day at the crass and off-target ads I’m served in Facebook. We can all collectively do better.

In short: the point of the conference is to bring marketing agencies, brand managers and community hosts to the table to talk about how to market more effectively and respectfully.

Our topic list includes:

• Marketing to Communities – The Brand “Us”
• Anatomy of an Integrated Campaign
• Creating Successful Campaigns With Established Communities
• Hosting the premier community for your Brand
• Using Social Media in Your Campaigns
• Measuring The Success of Your Community Campaign
• Children & Tween Communities: Engaging the Future
• Boomer Networks
• The Future of Community-based Marketing

Our session lead list includes:

• Dave Bottoms – Yahoo!
• Betsy Burroughs – Future Catalyst
• Andy Chambers – Digit
• Mary Furlong – Mary Furlong & Associates
• Marcien Jenckes – AOL
• Michael Leifer – guerilla PR, Inc.
• Tim Manners – THE HUB Magazine / Cool News of the Day
• Bree Nguyen – Warner Bros Records
• Jeremy Welt – Warner Bros Records

A partial list of the organizations attending includes:

• AOL
• APC
• David X. Manners Company
• Digit London
• Eastman Kodak
• Fidelity Investments
• Guardian Investment Management
• guerilla PR, Inc.
• Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.
• Lightworks New Media, Inc.
• LiveWorld
• Marketmaker Interactive
• Microsoft
• Omidyar Network
• Strategic Marketing
• The Luxury Institute
• United Nations
• WebEx
• Yahoo

Last but not least, we have added a reception following the event in the ultra hip Sanctum lounge. This is the prefect place for both sides of the community and marketing debate to sip a cocktail, relax, and network after what promises to be a full day of heated discussion.

If you would like to request an invitation to the event, please fill out this short form.

A few speaking and sponsorship opportunities are still available. Please let me know if you would like to discuss. bjohnston@forumone.com.

Marketing & Online Communities: Techniques still rudimentary

Cross-posted from the Online Community Report.

I initiated the Marketing & Online Community research study in June of 2007, as a function of the Online Community Research Network. The study was conceived as an investigation into the current state of marketing to online communities, from the perspective of both the online community host, as well as from the perspective of a marketer.

We had over 60 completed surveys, and participants included large software companies, large community destination sites, niche community sites, platform providers and interactive marketing and advertising firms.

One of the most interesting findings from the study actually surfaced early in the process. We discovered that while community hosts and practitioners were willing to share their experiences, most marketers were not. After several in-person interviews, it became clear that most marketing and advertising agencies have not met with great success in their community marketing efforts, and are generally unwilling to talk about their experiences to date.The responses from the marketer’s perspective are proportionally less than those from the community host’s, but the insights provided are still of high value.

From the community host’s perspective, one of the most surprising takeaways was that community hosts were still largely relying on banner and text ads as their main marketing and advertising vehicles.

I’ve included 2 of the most relevant question summaries from the report below:

Q: What types of marketing and advertising activity do you support on your community sites?
Summary: Banner and text ads were the most common forms of marketing activity, followed by RSS, branded content and surveys. There was activity indicated on most categories of community marketing, which seems to indicate willingness on the part of online community hosts and practitioners to experiment with new forms of marketing to their communities. Virtual world storefronts and sponsored podcasts scored surprisingly low, given the media attention in the last 6-9 months.

Q: Is advertising targeting available on your site? If so, please select all options that apply.
Summary: Run of site and contextual targeting were available on the majority of respondent’s sites. More sophisticated technologies, like behavioral and demographic targeting were only available on a few of the respondents communities. Given that there is generally a large amount of demographic data available in a community members profile, it would seem that there is a large opportunity to engage in more sophisticated ad targeting on sites currently just offering run of site or contextual targeting.

The Marketing & Online Communities report is published by the Online Community Research Network, a collaborative research series for online community professionals. If you would like to learn more about the Marketing & Online Communities research report, or more about the Online Community Research Network, please visit the OC Research Network home page.

Cool News OTD: One of the best marketing resources you’ve probably never heard of

I’ve been subscribed to the Cool News of the Day newsletter (also available in convenient blog form) for several years. It’s the ONLY email newsletter that I read daily.

Cool News highlights innovation in marketing strategy and execution. A lot of the articles skew towards retail, but they  is always some gem of information in each of the articles.

As an aside, I’m pretty sure that Tim Manners, the editor, is going to join us on the Advisory Board for the Marketing & Online Communities conference.

Metrics: Page Views Out, Time On Site In

Nielsen/NetRatings is dropping page views as a key site ranking metric, PaidContent.com and the AP report:

Now, news that Nielsen/NetRatings is planning a major shift in web metrics, moving, according to the AP, from page views as the key metric to time spent on a site.

This new approach will likely shake up current rankings, for instance:

…under the current system, AOL ranked sixth in total page views for May but first in total minutes: 25 billion. Using total time, Google drops to fifth from third in page views. (The reason given is Google’s mission to send people off quickly for answers; that’s probably true but ignores Google’s other mission now, which is to keep people engaged on its own sites.)

In our Online Community Metrics 2007 study (to be released in August), we found that page views were far and away the most collected and reported metric. If general confidence in this metric starts to erode, what will take its place? Is “Time spent on site” the most meaningful metrics for communities?

The other big issue is with online advertising. Most sites are using page views to correlate “impressions”, similar to traditional marketing campaigns. If page views become meaningless, who do marketers communicate value back to clients?