Equivalency (?) Between Ketchum And BzzAgent

(n.b. this is a continuation of this discussion)

Armstrong Williams and Ketchum (well commented on here). BzzAgent.

Any difference?

Both situations have an individual being compensated (or having the potential to be compensated) for talking about something. Both situations have a behind-the-scenes intermediary (Ketchum in the former, BzzAgent in the latter) that is itself compensated to have individuals start a conversation. These conversations take place in situations where the other parties in the conversation would typically feel that the commentator is speaking from the heart, and not as part of a part of a program (or under contract). In both cases, the others in the conversation feel duped afterwards, upon learning that an interaction that seemed genuine was actually staged and part of a program of payola.

Despite all the metrics and process, I still feel the BzzAgent model is broken. How to fix?

1) Explicity lose the incentives (per here). If only a small portion of the BzzAgents are redeeming them anyway, what’s the harm? Even if half the current participants drop out, there still are (if the claims are true) many tens of thousands of people who are participating.

2) Require disclosure. When BzzAgents are buzzing, anything less than stating (either verbally or in writing, if blogging, etc.) “By the way, I’m a volunteer part of an organization that’s getting compensated to promote this product, and I will be writing a report on it at some time in the future,” is disingenuous. Just say it. The Marqui people do. (I’m not thrilled with the Marqui model, but I do respect their upfrontedness about it.)

3) Aggressively change the meaning of the word “agent.” For this to work, “agent” needs to mean “agent, as in catalyst,” not “agent, as in shady operative.”

Communication is good. An increase in interpersonal interaction is good. Making money is good. But doing the first two as a means to the third without disclosing it is a good way to rile up a lot of hornets. And that’s not-so-good.

The Business Blogging Field Guide, Part 4: The Maven

“Maven” blogs (the maven moniker shamelessly stolen from the Malcolm Gladwell book The Tipping Point) are business blogs that highlight an individual’s expertise in a particular area.

Contrast these to the “Tour Guide” blogs mentioned earlier in this series. Where the tour guides are showing an inside view of the company, the mavens are putting their expertise out there for readers to discover. Want to know about the latest trends in PR? You’ll likely trip across Steve Rubel in short order. Want to know about wikis and collaboration? Ross Mayfield is your man.

The most interesting thing about the maven business bloggers is that, typically, the blogs are centered around a business area or concept, and are not focused on the blogger’s employer or associated organization. Instead of being directly tied to the corporation, the blog is tied to the individual. The assumption is, if you are an expert in your field and provide a reason for readers to frequent your blog, then you will be “top of mind” when a particular reader is looking for someone to help him or her with a particular business need in a related area at some time in the future. Most of the examples of mavens shown here are in “services”-oriented fields — PR, marketing, consulting, etc. — areas where the individual’s ability to contribute has a direct impact on the final result of an effort.

“Maven” example #1

Blogger: Steve Rubel
Area of Expertise: PR
Company: CooperKatz
Blog Location: http://www.micropersuasion.com

“Maven” example #2

Blogger: Johnnie Moore
Area of Expertise: Marketing & Branding
Company: The Clarity Partnership
Blog Location: http://www.johnniemoore.com

“Maven” example #3

Blogger: Carolyn Elefant
Area of Expertise: Solos and small law firms
Company: The Law Offices of Carolyn Elefant
Blog Location: http://www.myshingle.com

“Maven” example #4

Blogger: Russell Beattie
Area of Expertise: Mobile Technology
Company: Independent consultant
Blog Location: http://www.russellbeattie.com

“Maven” example #5

Blogger: Ross Mayfield
Area of Expertise: Wikis and collaborative technologies
Company: SocialText
Blog Location: http://ross.typepad.com

Minimizing Comment Spam: The Big Kumbaya

The big search engines have just announced that through the addition of “noFollow” tags in links in comments, they will no longer be weighting links that come from blog comments in their search results. This, in theory, will cause the incentive for comment spam to disappear. The big blog providers will be adding these tags to links in comments automagically.

Who’s on board:

(hat tip: ross)

Two Great Social Customer Examples From The Last 24 Hours

Got an email yesterday from Brian Dear, of brianstorms.com:

“Hi Chris…Big fan of your Social Customer Manifesto blog here…Just went through a delightfully awful customer experience with Intuit. Blogged the whole thing, thought you might find it amusing.”

Indeed! Brian blogged his whole convoluted experience trying to get his QuickBooks Pro 2005 “Slowbooks Amateur 2005” up and running, including a hysterical* exchange with a customer service rep who sounds like a cross between Jeff Spicoli and Patient Zero. The comments indicate that Intuit may have lost a potential customer or three based on Brian’s experience.

Then, not 10 minutes after reading Brian’s account, I’m listening to Adam Curry’s Daily Source Code for 18JAN2005. He not only talks about his ongoing hassles with British Telecom (BT) and EasyNet in getting the last 15m of wire put in place so he can get broadband, but records and podcasts the entire conversation with EasyNet customer service. (Click on the MP3 link; the EasyNet conversation starts at about the 4:50 mark in the recording.)

What does this mean? It means that the barrier to entry of publishing…be it via blogs, web pages, podcasts, what have you…has gotten so low that customers, at any time, can share exactly what their experiences are with the vendors with whom they are working. Not only that, but these experiences become persistent and searchable, sometimes to the point of being more visible than the contrivances the companies themselves are putting out.

Warms my heart, this does.

* – well, hysterical if you’re into schadenfreude, that is…

The Business Blogging Field Guide, Part 3: The Recommender

“Recommender” blogs (commonly known as “link blogs”) are not designed to be a destination in and of themselves, but are instead a resource for readers of a particular business blogger. One can almost think of these types of blogs as reviews or, as the name suggests, recommendations of items that the blogger believes will be of interest to his or her readers. In contrast to almost all of the other types of business blogs, Recommender blogs oftentimes do not contain commentary on or visibility into the company for which the blogger works. Rather, the blogger becomes a resource for his or her readership and, as a side effect, brings more attention to the organization for which the blogger works.

“Recommender” example #1

Blogger: Jeremy Zawodny
Role: Platform Engineering
Company: Yahoo!
Blog Location: http://jeremy.zawodny.com/linkblog/

“Recommender” example #2

Blogger: Robert Scoble
Role: Technical Evangelist
Company: Microsoft
Blog Location: http://www.scobleizer.com/linkblog/

Doc And Adam Need To Think Different About Podcasting

Adam Curry and Doc Searls slag on the iPod shuffle and its appropriateness as a device for listening to podcasts. In an article today in InternetNews, Doc comments on the device:

“It’s neither a boon nor a bust. It’s just not useful for listening to podcasts. Navigating inside a long podcast — and many are very long — is difficult even with a regular iPod, as it is with all players. So, rather than fix the one feature that’s lame about the iPod, they eliminated it completely.”

Adam echoes the sentiment.

“Apple hasn’t picked up on podcasting because they are thinking about how things work from Apple to the rest of the world. They are not seeing what is happening.”

Adam, Doc…I respect the hell out of both of you. But blaming the device is only looking at half the problem.

The other half of the problem is in the structure of the podcasts themselves. When a broadcaster podcaster constructs a long, monolithic podcast of, say, forty minutes or so, it is a black box. It is monolithic. The only current way around this is to create detailed “show notes” to give the listener (who is your customer, btw) some visibility into the inside of this black box. This is the core of the problem, not the device. This currently needs to be done separately from the podcast.

Let’s take a step back, and look at another example of monolithic content that is delivered digitally…DVDs. The DVD makers figured out early on that they needed to break their creations into “scenes” to make them navigable. Podcasters need to do the same thing.

Three solutions:

  • The pragmatic one: Podcasters…break a monolithic ‘cast into parts, and post them separately. More work on your part, but solves the problem. And its doable today.
  • The midrange one: Create a way to easily bundle the monolithic content with a cue file or the equivalent that tells where things are. If a customer is interested in better navigation, the customer can split the podcast based on the cue file prior to loading it to a device.
  • The long range one: After the podcasters do their part to indicate the cues, Apple, Creative and others build devices that take into account the bundled MP3 and cue files, and allow random access navigation.

To dismiss the device is only looking at a small part of the issue. The onus is just as much on the creators of the content to provide clearer navigation clues into the things that they are creating.

(hat tip: nevon)

Update: Come to think of it, the midrange option could be handled inside of iPodder, iPodderX, or Doppler as well, I s’pose. Have the podcatching client split up the podcast on its way in, based on the cue file, and then automatically write out the component parts for easier navigation.

The Business Blogging Field Guide, Part 2: The Tour Guide

“Tour Guide” blogs are the ones that give a glimpse into the company. Not unlike an actual physical plant tour, this type of blog gives a “behind the scenes” glimpse into the goings-on of the corporate machinery. Sometimes they cover current events at the organization, introduce the reader to some of the members of the company, or highlight particular products or items of note. All this talk of transparency for the customer? Tour guide blogs are a start.

“Tour Guide” example

Blogger: Noah Acres
Role: Director of Sales and Marketing
Company: Bigha
Blog Location: http://www.bigha.com/blog/index.php

The Business Blogging Field Guide, Part 1: Intro

Think of this as our little safari into the wilds of the blogosphere. An expedition to create an initial taxonomy of business blogger species, if you will.

There have been lots of folks who have done the “what is business blogging” thing. What I haven’t seen, however, is a good description of the different ways that companies are using blogs at the point of interaction with the customer. There seem to be a few:

Over the next few posts, we’ll take a look at each of these in more detail.

And another thing. Some of these will now be podcast as well. You can subscribe to the feed right…up…there if you want.

More Thoughts. More Discussion. And A Lot More Space.








“I think you mean ‘thesauri.'”

“You know what I meant. Do we have ’em?”


Looks like the list is in pretty good shape. Now, I’d love your help.

Todd Sattersten has announced the More Space project. What is More Space? Todd:

“So, I have this idea. There are all of these great bloggers talking about the subject of business. The trouble is the format of blogging only allows for maybe 500 words in a post before most readers lose interest.

What happens if you gave these writers more space?

I know you have a ton of questions about the project. Here are the major points:

  • There will be 10 writers.
  • The essays will be published online in text and audio and we are going to publish a really cool book.
  • The project starts today and will drop sometime in April.
  • Everything will be done in the open. Bloggers are going to write their essays on their blogs. We are going to publish everything we do from vendor selection to costs to sales. The project is going to be as transparent as it can be.”

There is also an FAQ on the project here.

Other folks involved are:

Now, here’s where you come in. Per Todd’s open request, I’ve submitted a proposal to join this august group. The proposal starts with the Social Customer Manifesto itself…but there are a lot of different directions where this could go. The points in the Manifesto need to be fleshed out in much more depth. There could be more reporting similar to what was done with RealNetworks a couple of weeks back. There are a whole bunch of thoughts that are starting to coalesce around how blogging, wikis, social networks, etc. help to significantly reduce the time it takes for an organization to notice and respond to customer, competitor, and marketplace issues. There is the opportunity to highlight companies that are doing these things well, and use this as the beginning for a series of vignettes on the people and organizations who are moving in this direction. But, ultimately, it boils down to the answer to this question: what do YOU want to discuss and think about? Because, in this scenario, you are the customer.

So…if you have some thoughts on where this might be able to go, the More Space blog is the place to capture them. The link to the proposal is here…would love your input!