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Profile Posery

One of my hobby horses is the myth of authenticity in regarding consumer blogs and profiles. We’re all performers! And nowhere do we perform most when there’s a chance we might get a hot date.

Anyway. Great article touching on this on Salon today: Megan Hustad’s You Are Not Your Bookcase. I particularly like how she approaches it from the angle that it’s a really weird way for us to interact with each other, the ceaseless posting of our favorites on MySpace profiles, facebook profiles, and who knows what else.

It’s a new angle on the modern condition: our self-definition according to brand. I like x, y, z; do you? No!?! Well, fuck you. And so it goes.

But then, I still think it’s crazy that people ever rapped about their favorite champagnes.


Bloggers, cheats, and swindlers

Well, it’s not that bad. But Forrester agrees with Edelman (or vice versa?): bloggers aren’t trusted. They ain’t trusted worth squat. Again, the people you know, you trust most.


Grand Theft Auto Social Network & MP3 Downloads

It’s just not possible to post something unrelated to GTA today. From WIRED:

Calling ZIT-555-0100 on your in-game cellphone tags whichever of the 200 included songs is currently playing on one of the game’s 16 radio stations, so that later, when you log in to Rockstar’s new social network, you’ll be able to preview,  buy and download them in the 256 Kbps DRM-free MP3 format for 99 cents each or less.

Obviously I think the idea of marketing through a social network is brilliant, but I think it’s a bit clunky to have to go from game to PC to Amazon to get your music. I wonder how many people will actually use this feature, as opposed to just checking previews of Amazon’s GTA soundtrack compilation.


Morgan Stanley’s Internet Trends Report

Just a quick hit: Grud3008 found this report via TechCrunch. 95% of Facebook users have used a 3rd-party app! And social networks are the big snowball rolling down the hill onto Daffy Duck.


Blogs vs Social Networks

How do next-gen consumers relate to content on blogs and social networks, and what does it mean for marketing?

I thought I’d unpack some of my thoughts about the Edelman Trust Barometer survey and the Universal McCann Wave 3 study. So all the helpful research & numbers & graphs come from their great work, and the dumb thoughts about them are just my rambling on.

1. The Relative Unimportance of Blogs & Social Networks

Edelman Trust Barometer, 2008. Page 11.

According to Edelman, blogs and social networks are among the very least used and least credible sources of information about a brand or product. They are less credible than a company’s own website.

Social networks have the edge, however: they tie with corporate advertising at 22% credibility. That’s almost twice as good as a blogger’s credibility (a measly 12%). A CEO blogging about his own company is also roughly 22% credible. A regular employee blogging about his own company is almost twice as credible as that.

On the other end, of course, are traditional media sources such as news reports and industry analysts. And friends and peers.

The conclusion Edelman drew: consumers trust “people like me.” That’s a 60% credible group.

A different conclusion I drew: consumers trust a certain degree of objectivity coupled with insider knowledge. Thus a CEO is more credible than a random blogger. A regular employee carries a greater expectation of objectivity, and thus is even more credible. At the far remove, disinterested journalists and analysts who have performed objective research.

2. The Limits of Socializing

Some quick hits from the Wave 3 study:

  • 26% of US internetters have begun a blog
  • 57% have joined a social network
  • 55% have uploaded a photo
  • 22% have uploaded a video
  • 33% manage their social networking page daily (total 65% do it weekly)

Keeping in mind the low trust all this content creation engenders, it raises some obvious questions: Why? Well, looking at some other numbers in the study, 56% percent say blogs are about self-expression. And most post about their personal life. And almost 2/3 of blogs read are personal diaries.

Blogs aren’t about persuasion. And they aren’t about other people. They’re about you, talking about you.

Blogs are top-down. Commenters can’t drive topics.

3. Blogs vs Social Networks

Universal McCann Wave 3, page 38

Universal McCann Wave 3, page 39

Note the heavy, frequent usage of social networks, and also that 74% of it is messaging friends.

The social networks are social. They are peer-to-peer. They are word of mouth.

4. So What?

This is the part where I make even wilder leaps of reason, desperately reaching for straws to grasp. But I swear all this is just to engender discussion.

A. Don’t stop blogging. Just stop dominating the discussion.

Consumers say that a company that blogs is 1/3 more trustworthy (accordig to Edelman, of course). But watch for blogs to become less top-down and more open. Like on Daily Kos: the Diaries open things up to many more contributors, and they’re even working on their own wiki.

B: Meet your consumers.

Trustworthiness skyrockets to almost 2/3 for “people like me”–that is, people who share interests and activities with the consumer you want to persuade. (Edelman again!) So find out what those interests are, and engage with them. Even if they don’t have much to do with your brand.

C: Be Honest.

Remember that objectivity raises trustworthiness. So if you make a mistake, own up to it. If you’re critical of something you’ve done, open up about it. Then when you praise yourself it’s more credible.

D: Take blogs with a grain of salt.

Consider the level of performance that goes on: these aren’t unpracticed voices. I disagree with Edelman McCann (edit!) when it argues that blogs are an accurate source of consumer opinion. And consumers seem to agree, given the lack of trust they put in blogs.

E: Most importantly, focus on social networks.

I dissed Edelman McCann (edit!) in the last point, so I’ll grant them one here: social networks are becoming the way consumers organize their internet experience. In the latest Fallon Brainfood talk, Aki Spicer notes that applications need to be “slippy.” By this he means APIs and Widgets that let users take good functionality and use it as they want, where they want. Look for social networks to become more interoperable, and maybe more like aggregators. Like Netvibes.

The point is, become an enabler of this: sponsor social networks. Or sponsor widgets. Or just make it easy for consumers to do.

But avoid interruptive ads. No page takeovers. And maybe banners and their sub-1% clickthroughs are dying out. Enable the peer-to-peer conversations, don’t interrupt them.


Brands battle on Trendpedia

Andersen vs Marvin vs Pella

Trendpedia gives you nice graphs that compare how your brands are being talked about in blogs. Then it links to those blogs so you can follow up to find quality posts


McCann on the growing importance of social media

Universal McCann just released their Wave 3 report on the increased importance of social media to online users:

  • 73% of internet users have read a blog (21% read a blog daily)
  • 27% of blog readers read blogs about products and brands
  • 26% of US users have begun a blog
  • 36% of users think better of a company that has a blog
  • 32% trust bloggers’ opinions on products and services
  • For the 184 million bloggers worldwide, the #1 blog topic is personal and family life
  • 57% of users have joined a social network
  • 55% of users have uploaded a photo

And then there’s the great insight that users are turning their social networking pages into ways to organize their online experiences.

However, the McCann survey also finds some insights I don’t agree with. One, they argue that blogs are “an accurate barometer of consumer opinion” which I think overreaches. Their own numbers show that only a quarter of users write blogs, and less than a third of users trust their opinions.

Additionally I think they overgeneralize when saying that bloggers appreciate advertisements for the credibility they lend to their site. This seems like wishful thinking, and overlooks the conflicts inherent in what is usually an almost completely uncontrolled ad platform–how many political blogs have been forced to apologize for automatically generated ads for products, services, or candidates they don’t support?

Read the whole Universal McCann Wave 3 PDF.