Monday, November 30, 2009

Book Review: The Cluetrain Manifesto

The Cluetrain Manifesto was one of the more frustrating books I’ve read on the subject of the Internet and marketing. Not only do the authors assume that all marketing and PR workers shamelessly misuse the Internet for their profession, they also slander them in the process (p. 160, “Dishonesty in PR is pro forma. A press release is written as a plainly fake news story, with headline, dateline, quotes, and all the dramatic tension of a phone number.”). Additionally, the authors presume that their way of leveraging the Internet (by joining the conversation online, giving up corporate control of online communications, and relating to real people rather than a “target audience”) is the best and only way to do business. However, the one-size-fits-all-people-versus-the-man approach to PR and marketing through the Internet is just too simplistic, arrogant, and frustrating for the little valuable insight that I got out of the book.

While this book may have been revolutionary when it came out at least ten years ago, the main point – that individuals doing business need to leverage the Internet with authenticity, truth, and with a sense that the people on the other end of the computer want to be a part of a conversation - seems to be common knowledge to most marketing and public relations professionals today. Most good marketers, public relations officials, and general business people need to contend with a number of strategic issues that were not addressed in the book and that would help make the author’s ideas more realistic: budgets to hire enough staff to join all of these Internet conversations, and finding the appropriate target audiences, and if, how, and when those target audiences use the Internet to know how to best shape a strategy.

Contrary to what the authors assume, there there doesn’t seem to be just one way to address customers through the web. Instead, the authors make claims like the one on page 159, “Engaging in this open, free-wheeling marketplace exchanges isn’t optional. It’s a prerequisite to having a future. Silence is fatal.” Yet, in some circumstances, silence may make sense. Law firms may not want to staff for online conversations when they'd ideally like to bill for them, organizations that work in high-security situations probably don't want to have free wheeling employees presenting their ideas and opinions online.

I found the most useful chapter to be the one on the hyperlinked organization (Chapter 5) and that was primarily for classification purposes. It talks about the democratization of the Internet through hyperlinks. The authors provide seven basic traits of the web that I found useful. They include:
1. Hyperlinking, which is a way to connect one web page to another, enabling the linking of information.
2. Decentralization. No one manages the Net.
3. Hyper time. Internet time moves much faster than normal time. People want faster answers and faster connections.
4. Open, direct access. People can access information directly.
5. Rich data. Information is linked, contains graphics, and can contain data from a number of sources.
6. Broken. The web isn’t perfect, and will never be so. It is ever-evolving.
7. Borderless. Hyperlinks make it unclear where one person’s stuff begins and another person’s stuff ends.

Overall, however, I don't believe the information gleaned from this book justifies its arrogant tone.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Book Review: Millennnial Makeover

According to Morley Winograd and Michael Hais, the authors of Millennial Makeover, a major political realignment occurs nearly every four decades. The causes of these political shifts are generally attributed to greater-than-average population growth in the years leading up to the change and rising immigration. This book was written before the 2008 presidential election, however the authors were eerily accurate in predicting that the next man or woman to govern our nation would be the person who can transcend the communication traditions and political styles of past generations to reach the next generation of voters, the Millennials.

Millennials are individuals born between 1982 and 2003. They are the largest generation of Americans and are also the most ethically diverse. They grew up in homes where parents were more likely to raise them through co-parenting, a system where both mothers and fathers played an equal role in child rearing. Most Millennials have mothers who have entered the work force, making this arrangement necessary.

Millennials largely grew up in supportive, encouraging environments and perceive themselves to be valued members of their families, schools, and communities. Therefore, their outlook on life can be both optimistic and idealistic. They have a strong group orientation and are very comfortable with the Internet, mobile communications, and online social networking.

Politically, Millennials are more tolerant of policies that encourage inclusiveness, and are more willing to rely on the government to deal with economic and social issues so everyone can have a chance at a better life. Due to the extent of racial diversity that this generation grew up with, this generation favors policies that support racial preferences and affirmative action programs. This group does not discriminate against homosexuals, however, they do cling to more traditional family values in terms of policy. They are also more supportive of women entering the workforce.

And finally, Millennials (thus far) identify more with the Democratic Party. Results from election polls in 2006 indicate that 43% of 18-29-year-olds (the majority of people in this group are Millennials) aligned themselves with Democrats while only 31% aligned themselves with Republicans.

So what does this mean for the future of politics, campaigning, and advocacy? Anyone who wants to reach this group of people will have to meet them were they spend their time: online. Like radio, motion picture, and television before it, the Internet is changing the ways campaigners communicate with and reach their target audiences. History indicates that, though new communication tools won’t replace tools of the past, they most likely will become a dominant force in the communication mix in the present and future.

Young voters are two times more likely than others to use the Internet, rather than newspapers, to find information about candidates, so candidates need to post profiles and campaign information online. Their online communications should support, rather than replace their more traditional offline channels of communication (television, radio, print). However, since Millennials are the largest generation ever to vote, campaigners need to develop thoughtful and effective online strategies to reach and engage them.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Twitter hump?

The longer I stay on Twitter, the more I wonder if I've crossed the Twitter "hump"? When I first joined, I had a large number of followers and I followed a large number of people as well. Now I've noticed that most people who follow me seem to be spammers. Is this because my tweeting has slowed or is it that I've saturated my network of potential followers?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Summary of "Best Practices for Political Advertising Online" Report

10 things you may not have known about effective online advertising campaigns, based on the report, “Best Practices for Political Advertising Online”:

1. Planning ahead means three weeks! To build an effective ad campaign, the report recommends just a few weeks of planning, hiring a professional team that can help place and track the ads, and hiring professional creative services to help develop an effective message. (I was surprised by the short amount of lead time recommended in comparison with more traditional forms of media.)
2. Online advertising is most effective when it is integrated into a strategy that uses other forms of traditional advertising. It probably doesn’t make sense to conduct a major online political or advocacy campaign without a print and/or broadcast presence. Offline viewership typically drives online information-seeking.
3. Education level is positively associated with Internet use. Regardless of ethnicity (Caucasian, Latino, or African American), the more education a person has, the more likely he or she is to be online.
4. In the political arena, the demographic groups that are most likely to respond to political communications include: young voters and democrats, men (38%) who respond more than women (28%), and liberal constituents (39%), who respond more than Republicans (29%) or moderates (25%).
5. Poli-fluentials are defined by the George Washington University’s Institute for Politics, Democracy & the Internet as individuals who are both politically active and involved in their communities. They are an especially appealing group to political campaigns in that they are more likely to volunteer, read the news, be highly educated, be an equal mix of men and women, make more online political contributions, and have broader social networks.
6. Political consultants rank the Internet as one of the top ways to reach loyal voter bases. However, the Internet is not the best way to reach swing and Independent voters. Television advertising is twice as effective for those groups.
7. Search engine marketing is a powerful tool for political campaigns. It is cost effective, can be tracked and adjusted easily, and reaches potential voters who are actively seeking political information. Google, Yahoo!, and MSN are the top three search engines to use. Informational key words drive the most traffic.
8. 30-second commercial ads that run on websites that reach the target audience can be effective in building the brand of the candidate and increasing likeability. This relatively new information may surprise marketers who believed that impact could only happen through television ads.
9. ‘Lead generation’ is the technical term for supporter recruitment.
10. To conduct an effective lead generation campaign, it is best to work with a professional vendor with a strong track record. The vendor should be able to ensure security of the transfer of potential supporter information, should be able to monitor and measure your efforts in real time, make modifications as needed, and ensure that a clear privacy policy is displayed.

Friday, November 13, 2009

NY Times Article on Social Media and Non Profits

This NY Times article from November 12 has a quote from Charity: Water founder, Scott Harrison. He mentions that his organization uses social media for the sake of scale. He wants to involve more supporters in his organization than those who will solely write large checks.

Monday, November 9, 2009 is a cross-partisan website that provides insight into the web usage of the 2008 political campaign and beyond. With a focus on politics at all levels, President Obama's initiatives, and user-generated political content, founders Andrew Rasiej and Micah L. Sifry, and their staff provide timely coverage and analysis of online politics.

The website offers blogs, charts, writings, and resources that users can access free of charge. Membership isn't required to participate in the online community, though users are encouraged to sign up for a newsletter or register for the site.

One interesting and humorous interactive portion of the site is called VoteVid. It asks users to vote on their favorite political videos. When I clicked today, the first two videos were called Beyonce - Single Ladies Spoof, which started with the image of President Obama raising his right hand to be sworn into office. The other video that appeared above the fold was called Yes We Can - Barack Obama Music. Users can vote and share the video with the click of the button.

The "Resources" section of the website includes links to official candidate website and blogs. There is also a section titled "Grading the Candidates Tech Policies" where the editors of evaluate Republicans and Democrats based on their policies and reverence for the Internet.

This website is well-designed and is easy to navigate. I wasn't overwhelmed with large amounts of information, which I appreciated.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Twitter Note

So I have noted that the more active I am on Twitter, the more responsive others are to me. When I lag in my tweets, I get very few new friends and its almost as if my profile has completely disappeared.

What I gained in knowledge through the social media 101, I have now experienced through firsthand practice: that to be successful or even relevant with social media - things like Twitter and Facebook - you need to be an active participant in the community.