Friday, 26 October 2007

Viral marketing vs Traditional Marketing- is the Facebook model destined to rule?

After you have sorted thro the messages, checked out your and your friends' feeds, bitten (vamipres, zombies), poked, superpoked, petted (fluff friends) etc, take a break to ponder on the phenomenon Facebook has become. Here is a social networking applications which, apparently is the second most " in" activity on US college campuses, tied to beer and sex. A website, that with very limited revenues (!) has hit a valuation of 11 figures, whose founder with all the mighty weight of his 23 years of existence is on the negotiating table with Steve Ballmer, the CEO fo Microsoft who is willing to buy a stake on facebook valued at $ 15 Billion.

So, what has this got to do with Viral marketing? Lets get to the same plate first in terms of semantics - when I say viral marketing, I mean the aggressive spread of awareness through recommendations from users, as compared to a top-down advertising led approach- the crux of the issue is- your users are responsible for marketing, rather similar to the way a virus spreads.

I wonder though, does this mean the early "end of days" for the traditional model of Advertising? This model relies on a budget led, planned approach has a specific purpose- expend all your energy on creating awareness- sort of a centralized planning model. But Viral marketing is, ofcourse, entirely different. Being viral, in many senses is about designing for aggressive propogation, but actually have no control over how this propogation happens. The fundamental questions in the approaches are diffent- the first model is about what are my outcomes, (TRP, GRP, awareness percentages etc), whereas, the second model's fundamental question is- How do I design the campaign so the user will recommend this to other users on an infinite propogation loop and trials happen through the user generated propogation.

The benefits of a viral approach seem to be very compelling- the biggest being you don't have big budgets for marketing, and of course, user engagement is, by definition very high- hence very loyal. But there are issues too- look at how rapidly MySpace seems to be falling out of favour- virus propogation is very spiky, and akin to a fad- here today, gone tomorrow…But hey, definitely a potent weapon in your arsenal…


Friday, 19 October 2007

What the Web 2.0 means to the enterprise

This is part 2 of my ruminations from the Web 2.0 event in SFO today. In an environment where the Web 2.0 buzz seems to float around a 19 something youngster (typically from Stanford, based in the Silicon Valley), I wonder how all of this would affect all those other entities and people that so obviously did not fit into the former category. Specifically, my quest was to find what the Web 2.0 meant to the enterprise…

Here are a few thoughts

  • It will probably mean an end to the packaged software industry as we know it today. Today's paradigm is too oriented towards organisational process or functions adapting to the way the software is designed, and yet it seems so blatantly obvious that no two organsations are really the same, despite similarities from the outside! Every organization has different work cultures, think and act differently, have different behavior and of course, do things differently. So why should they be asked to mould to one way of working, the best of breed way? Now, you might argue that this is old wisdom, so how will web 2.0 impact it. Well heres the thing, with the advent of web 2.0, u can choose to get a receivables management from App provider A that is spot on for your organisation, a general ledger from App provider B which gets accountant Tim worked up in ecstacy , etc… if you sort of see where I am going, even a single functional group can be serviced by a whole mashup of apps from different app providers . U get the picture… no need for big monolithic black boxes- the age of micro optimization is in.
  • It will mean creation of a "enterprise workspace" not bound by the limitation of physical devices or space. In an era of "clouds", where your access and work is not locked up in just your machine, your access to information, data and resources and knowledge is only limited to having a browser, and an interface to engage with-why do u need to carry your own laptop, pray? And come to think of it- can we do away with having come to the office everyday?
  • Finally, and this part is the one I find the most exciting- it will fundamentally change the meaning of the word "collaboration". For far too long has the system worked with a small group of individuals making the rules and decisions for a much larger group, and in the process a huge chunk of intelligence, innovation capability and talent basically goes unharnessed. Now, Web 2.0, with its ability to create online and offline collaboration, can help tap into this collective talent.

Fully played out, we are looking possibly at massive change…

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Do no Evil…

Whilst the web2.0 world is an exciting new paradigm, i am, thro this post, exploring a reputational risk posed to the leading brands.

I was in the web2.0 summit the other day and listened to Mark Zuckerberg (ceo- facebook) on how he saw the social graph evolving, followed by Marissa Meyer (head of search, Google) who spoke about Google's foray into health. Both are companies i really admire, and are leading the charge in an entirely new movement on behaviour on the web- whether it be termed social networking or context aware web or anything inbetween...

However, as I listened to them, i started to wonder about how they epitomised a key challenge, that many other organisations are confronted with- given the huge information that the individual inadvertently or otherwise puts up into these organisation's platforms, the enormous information power held by companies Google and Face-book poses a reputational risk to their brand in terms of how user information could be used for nefarious activities.

They have tried reassure with the "Do no evil" cache- by building a brand of trust and being seen as doing good, they seem to be successful in ensuring that the world continues to adopt their platforms. But huge lacunae remain. Particularly in platforms such as Facebook, which do not have an effective answer to how they are going to avoid their users (particularly the gullible) being targeted ?

A smaller challenge, albeit a plausible one is what is to stop an engaged employee of an organisation with a lot of information from doing more profiling than would qualify under the "do no evil" cache.

My view- this is a land mine, that will need to be tackled- and much more proactively, including things like proactive customer education, defining an industry code and enforcing it, putting together strong processes internally and externally to ensure this would not happen ,and of course, hire lawyers J!.