Category: Advertising

Webinar – Online Communities: Surviving & Thriving in the Economic Downturn

Online Communities: Thriving in the Economic Downturn Webinar
A FREE webinar sponsored by Forum One Networks
May 7, 2009 @ 11:00 am PDT
Register here:

The economy is in a state of flux, but interest in and use of online communities and social media has never been higher. Hear from a panel of experienced community executives about how they are guiding their community-based businesses through the economic challenges, and hear about the opportunities they see on the horizon.

I’ll be leading an incredible panel that includes Thor Muller of Satisfaction, Chris Kenton of SocialRep and Scott Wilder of Intuit for an in-depth discussion around social media and online community strategies and tactics for surviving and thriving in the economic downturn. Session highlights will include:

– Buffalo culture as a new metaphor for your online business
– How stakeholder attitudes are changing in light of economic pressures
– Why solid community engagement strategies have never been more important (or valuable)
– Rethinking “ROI”
– Advice on how to navigate the downturn
– Budget & staffing implications during the downturn

Please note: Attendance is limited to 200 people. Register early to reserve your spot!

Thor Muller – CEO & Co-founder, Satisfaction
Thor Muller is CEO & Co-founder of Satisfaction, a startup delivering “people-powered customer service for absolutely everything.”

He is also the co-founder and former Managing Director of Rubyred Labs, a San Francisco-based web apps firm. Since its founding in 2005, Rubyred has developed social software for a range of startups and leading portals.

Prior to Rubyred, Thor was a first generation Web entrepreneur, creating Web success stories for companies such as Yahoo, Dell, Bank of America, Intel, Virgin Records, Fujitsu, Discovery Channel, and Sony. In 1995, he started and ran one of the early Web development boutiques, Prophet Communications, later acquired by Frog Design where he served as VP Digital Media. He subsequently founded Trapezo, a venture-funded company that made Web software for syndicating content, acquired by Perfect Commerce in 2002.

Christopher Kenton – CEO & Founder, SocialRep
Christopher Kenton is founder and CEO of the enterprise social media SaaS startup SocialRep, and cofounder and consulting partner at MotiveLab a social media marketing agency. Chris was formerly Senior Vice President of Corporate Strategy at the Chief Marketing Officer’s (CMO) Council, and its corporate parent, the international PR firm GlobalFluency, where he managed global business development, client consulting services and program development for business communities including the CMO Council, the Business Performance Management (BPM) Forum and the Forum to Advance the Mobile Experience (FAME).

With an extensive background in strategic marketing and software development, Chris specializes in market development, competitive positioning, marketing effectiveness and measurement, with a special emphasis on marketing technology and social media.

Scott K. Wilder, Group Manager, Intuit

Scott K. Wilder is currently the Group Manager of Intuit’s QuickBooks Online Community and User-Collaboration Web site. Previously, he served as Vice President of Marketing and Product Development at and eToys. He also has held numerous senior management positions at America Online, Apple Computer,, and American Express. While working at America Online, Scott helped create the first Web-based online advertisement and commercial Web site. Wilder has a Master degrees from The Johns Hopkins University, The New York University Leonard Stern School of Business and Georgetown University’s Leadership Coaching Program.

Most Communities Don’t Stick?

Steve Rubel had an interesting post this morning, titled “Historically, Most Online Communities Haven’t Stuck

Only a handful of community sites over the last dozen years have had staying power. If you study them you’ll find moats to protect them from competitors and fickle users. These barriers to entry include peer-to-peer commerce (in the case of Edelman client eBay), robust user reviews ( and deep entrenchment in vertical markets (

I think the spirit of Rubel’s post rings true, and I think that in general he was trying to make the statement “don’t bet the farm on Facebook”, but I think the post misses the mark on a couple of points.

First, (as commenters like David Binkowski state) there is a difference between an online community destination and an online community. Many communities of practice, interest and support travel from destination to destination over time.

Second, I’m not convinced that most marketing and PR firms are best suited to mediate long-term relationship building between companies and online communities. I say this with the utmost respect to both Steve (whose blog and twitter feed I read daily) and his firm Edelman. I think that if the “center of gravity” for community building and engagement isn’t internal to an organization, that organization’s efforts are likely in a lot of trouble.

I think John Hagel did a great job in his Community 2.0 post of assessing the community-related carnage of the bubble, and setting expectations for the period we are currently in online:

I am deeply encouraged about the commercial prospects for virtual community. When I published Net Gain ten years ago, it unleashed a huge wave of investment – there was a period in 1998 when virtually every business plan submitted to VCs in Silicon Valley claimed to be establishing a virtual community.

Of course, few of these ventures were actually virtual communities and even fewer had any real understanding of what was required to build sustainable virtual communities. As a result, much of this investment was wasted, consistent with the broader pattern of the dot com bubble. An inevitable backlash set in – virtual community became a suspect term. Lots of interesting initiatives continued to be pursued under the radar screen without much publicity or visibility, but helping to build skill sets, experience and performance results.

The net? Communities that don’t provide value, don’t stick. Those that do will grow and evolve. And there will be a lot more than a few.

Marketing & Online Communities Research Report Released

Our Online Community Research Network ( initiated the The Marketing & Online Community research study in June of 2007. The study explored the current state of marketing to online communities, from the perspective of both the online community host, as well as from the perspective of the marketer.

The research participants included large software companies, large community destination sites, niche community sites, platform providers and interactive marketing and advertising firms.

We discovered early on in the research process that while community hosts and practitioners were willing to share their experiences, most marketers were not. At the beginning of the research I conducted 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 unwilling to talk about their experiences. What limited success marketers have had is generally viewed as proprietary knowledge within the agency, and is closely guarded.

I’ve included excerpts from the report below. To download the full report, please go here (short registration required).

What are the biggest challenges you face working with third-party marketers?

It is clear from the survey responses that most online community hosts are still negotiating the relationship with third-party marketers, their messages, and their methodologies.

The main challenges in working with third-party marketers included:

• Third-party marketers want to control content/context in which their ad will be shown.
• Difficulty matching ads with content
• Overhead associated with helping marketer understand community culture
• The lack of a pre-screened third-party ad network
• Marketers seem to have no affinity with community / company brand
• Advertiser push invasive or unusual advertising to get results
• Difficult to determine fair rate and cost basis

What general advice would you give a colleague that was considering incorporating marketing and advertising into their community?

Respondents shared valuable advice about incorporating marketing and advertising activities into communities, from their direct experiences.

Recommendations included:

• When introducing marketing messages into your community, be very cautious and attentive to your member reactions, and open to their feedback
• Understand your audiences needs and sensitivities to advertising messages
• Establishing a good relationship with the agency account manager is key
• Establish creative and messaging guidelines for marketing to ensure appropriateness
• Make sure ads are appropriate and add value to community
• Be clear about policies and ensure that policies are available to and understood by community
• Involve the audience. Surveying members to determine which brands / types of messages they would
• Ensuring the right mix of content to ads
• Test and refine based on marketing effectiveness and feedback

Again, to download the full report, please go here (short registration required).

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:

• 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.

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, 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?