A three-hour tour of Internet marketing

Hands up – who’s excited by the expansion of commercial television into new digital TV stations? Hmmm, as I suspected, not many hands….

I’m still struggling to understand the business model behind digital TV: It seems to be cannibalising your own audience and that of your direct competitors by broadcasting long-forgotten or obscure TV shows.

However, there is one good thing about digital TV; It’s introduced a whole new generation to the shows their parents wasted their time on when they were young.

One of my favourite shows growing up was Gilligan’s Island, the tale of a fateful group of castaways whose three-hour boat tour around Honolulu turned into a shipwrecked adventure that lasted for what seemed decades but was, in fact, three seasons.

Although the plotlines were as shallow as the island’s lagoon, when I watch the old episodes again after all these years, I can see some parallels, strangely enough, to modern-day business. For example, here are five lessons from Gilligan’s Island that can be applied to Internet marketing.

1. Be distinct, and be consistent.

Gilligan’s Island is full of archetypes – the gruff but lovable captain, his bumbling but well-meaning first mate, the unreconstructed capitalist couple, the geek, the glamourous woman and the girl next door.

You might love them or you might hate them, but you know what to expect from each of the archetypal characters in every episode. Gilligan is not going to behave like an intellectual, and Thurston Howell III is not going to become a tree-hugger; they all act in a way every week that matches their distinct character.

Online, as well as in traditional marketing, you need to differentiate yourself from your competitors, by presenting your own distinct proposition to customers. And you need to consistently deliver that proposition, whether it’s your focus on customer service, your playful humour, or even the style and colour of your logo.

2. Embrace technological change

Just as the Professor improved the lives of people on the island by developing coconut telephones, a bicycle-powered radio and a hot water system, you need to be prepared to continually seek out new ways of doing things. Today, that means making sure everything you do is mobile-optimised; think of how your customers want to interact with your business out of home and develop your online offering accordingly.

Read the full story on Smarter Business Ideas


We are all publishers

From the Zazoo blog:

In the digital age, if you’re a marketer you’re also a publisher. Rebecca Lieb has written a great piece in ClickZ which was republished the other day, and is well worth a read.

She argues that “Marketers have been creating content in all sorts of media in all kinds of channels since the beginning. But now that virtually every brand, manufacturer, service, and product you can think of is online (and likely runs its own Web site), content has blown wide open. Almost anyone involved in any type of online business can no longer hope to survive without a solid content strategy.”

In the 21st century equivalent of custom publishing, big brands such as Budweiser in the US even have their own online TV channel. Lieb writes: “Think of it as the online equivalent of a Disney or Warner Bros. theme park. You know the rides and merchandise are selling you something, but few people care about the church-and-state divide on branded territory.

“….Strong, well thought-out and executed content strategies create rewards for marketers. They go viral. They attract community. They can blow out SEO (search engine optimisation) to epic proportions. Rather than a company’s Web page showing up in organic results, content can generate page after page of relevant results.”

She concludes: “As an editor/marketer hybrid, I may have some bias here, but I’d be hard-pressed to think of a marketing problem that couldn’t be tackled head-on with a solid content strategy.”

Couldn’t agree more.

Patients embracing Web 2.0 / Health 2.0

The number of consumers in the US using Web 2.0 technologies in relation to health matters (dubbed ‘Health 2.0’) has doubled in the past year to 60 million people, according to a study just released by Manhattan Research.

Manhattan defines Health 2.0 consumers as people who have: 

  • read health-related blogs, message boards or participated in health-related chatrooms;
  • contributed or posted health content online such as: writing or commenting on a health-related blog, adding or responding to a topic in a forum or group, or creating health related web pages, videos or audio content; or
  • used online patient support groups, message boards, chatrooms, or blogs.

The report says, “Pharmaceutical marketers are catching on to the trends, but there’s a long way to go before brand media closes the gap between where consumers are and where budgets are going – only a small fraction of overall pharmaceutical advertising spend is currently allocated to online campaigns. But as we’re seeing with our clients, consumer trends are prompting marketers to put more weight behind digital strategies.”

“…. Social media is a powerful force impacting the pharmaceutical industry – whether or not brands choose to participate. Taking too conservative of an approach to a channel which thrives on two-way dialogue and open communication will undoubtedly distance brands from consumers – especially for those looking to reach the groups most engaged in Health 2.0. And even if brands aren’t yet ready participate in conversations, some sites sell aggregated data to pharmaceutical companies looking to understand the experiences and challenges that patients face.”

Moving on from Web 2.0?

A report published on the Computerworld website this week hints that the era of Web 2.0 and social media may already be on its way out. The Demo Fall 2008 conference in San Diego, which gave 72 start-ups six minutes each to display their wares, included plenty of social networking tools, but also saw an increasing number of business-related collaborative tools, perhaps suggesting a shift from the emphasis on social aspects back to business aspects of the web.

The report said, “Demo executive producer Chris Shipley and AllThingsD.com co-executive editor Kara Swisher… both suggested that the ‘hanging out’ type of Web 2.0 environments like Facebook and MySpace wouldn’t stay relevant much longer. In their place, Shipley predicted the rise of “collaboration for a purpose” sites and services that would come with lucrative business cases. Sites like Facebook certainly were critical for showing that the Web was about more than informational pages and transactions, but they wouldn’t have the same financial effects as either of the previous Web generations, she said. The purposeful sites she saw emerging would have that impact, Shipley proposed.

“….there were some indications of a change toward purposeful collaboration, Shipley predicted. Compared to two other project-collaboration services at the Demo Fall show, Qtask’s project service seemed to be viable, covering not just shared documents and messaging but actual project management tools to track schedules, approvals, and assignments. Given how much time people spend in e-mail anyhow, it’s unclear whether they can be convinced to use such a service and not fall back to sending out mass e-mails to project participants instead.

“Another example was Cinergix’s Creately, an online business process modeling tool that, in Microsoft Visio fashion, lets you diagram processes such as network design or mortgage approval workflows, with embedded rules that let you validate the process as you diagram it. Such tools have long existed, but not in a collaborative Web environment in which users can propose their own business logic.”

With the amount of time people are spending on the Internet at work, it had to be only a matter of time before more work-related options were created to stop people from spending so much time updating their Facebook pages on company time!

Web 2.0 and controlling the customer conversation

Gerry McGovern has produced another practical piece on the evolution of the Web for business. He writes, “Web 2.0 and social media mean that for teachers a declining part of their job involves telling. An increasing part is listening to the class and facilitating them in having conversations. Teachers should help moderate these conversations and draw new learnings from them. They need to say less of: ‘let’s open up a book.’ and more of: ‘let’s open up a conversation.’.

“The traditional manager is taught to command and control. Web 2.0 challenges that model…. Companies are not democracies, of course. And social media will deliver little value if it becomes some giant water cooler conversation because not all the best ideas are discovered at the water cooler. Huge quantities of absolute rubbish are talked there too. So, social media and Web 2.0 are not a replacement for management decision making, but rather a support to make better, more-informed decisions.

“The naïve tool-centric view of Web 2.0 still exists. ‘Just give them the blog and the wiki software and get out of the way’ has very limited logic. But it is classic IT-thinking. As if the tool was the be all and end all, and the only purpose of life was to discover the right one. As if it was the type of quill that Shakespeare chose that made him the writer that he was.”

“So Web 2.0 and social media still need management…. But the managers are not the only clever people in the room anymore. The room is much bigger and it is speckled with cleverness. To manage in the Web 2.0 world is to converse, to listen, to be honest and upfront, to collaborate, to moderate, and constantly watch out for the trends and patterns that always emerge when many minds mingle and mix in the network.”

The message needs to sink in that companies need to start giving up some control over the conversation with their customers. I know this is very hard to hear, and even harder to do, but it is happening whether comanies like it or not. Those that continue to keep a stranglehold on the conversation will eventually find that no one is listening…

Too much technology, not enough strategy

Jason Burby has written a terrific column in ClickZ about adoption of Web 2.0 by business. He writes, “In my opinion, companies focus too much on the individual technologies and not enough on the overall Web strategy of connecting a business, customers, and prospects. To build a successful enterprise Web 2.0, spend time to define what success means to you and how you want Web 2.0 technologies to change the ways you communicate with your customers, prospects, and partners.

“….make sure you aren’t just reviewing the coolest, newest technologies that everyone thinks every company must have. Instead, take the time to determine the strategy and forecast out the way these new offerings will impact your audiences’ behaviors, attitudes, perceptions, brand loyalty, etc. Think more strategic. Think about the impact, and not finding a use for a new technology.”

All ages and professions need to get with Web 2.0

This one is a couple of weeks old, but recently came to my attention. Richard Smith, ex-editor of the British Medical Journal, CEO of BMJ Publishing and now involved with open access journals, wrote a terrific blog on the BMJ about how doctors need to expose themselves to the world of Web 2.0/Health 2.0 and the possibilities it presents.

He writes, “Web 2.0 has the potential to improve global health greatly and to solve complex problems in health science. (However,) the barriers to these potential achievements are social and cultural, not technological.

“The machines we can fix. It’s the people – particularly old timers (that’s anybody over 40) – that are the problem.” Smith, who is 56, has some simple advice for his fellow old-timers. “The only way to really understand Web 2.0,” he says, “is to jump in and start using it.”

He recommends everyone sign up for Facebook and concludes, “The essence of Web 2.0 is that it’s bottom up and participative: it’s created by the many, not the few…. Doctors, I fear, are too fond of a top down world – because they are usually at the top. But that top down world is crumbling. Think of Nicolae Ceausescu’s statue being hauled down and smashed. That’s the old world of Web 1.0. Get with Web 2.0 in a serious way or become a yesterday’s person.”