Is McKinsey and Nielsen’s social media division a backwards step?

I saw this story earlier in the week and now Drew B's blogged about the announcement that the media metrics people Nielsen have teamed up with the management consultancy McKinsey to launch a social media division.

Drew's rather positive about the venture, called NM Incite, suggesting that it's "good to see [this] type of advisory coming from the bright sparks
at McKinsey
". I'm rather more skeptical and wonder whether they can offer the level of depth and understanding of the social space as social media and even communications consultancies. Of course, that may not be the primary motivation for McKinsey – rather the lure of lucrative contracts.

Without being able to comment in-depth on McKinsey's reputation at management consultancy I am  suspicious about management consultancies offering genuine communications consultancy. Only last month I was chatting with a senior PR consultant who was lamenting a 'brand strategy' put together by the client's management consultancy.

What I find particularly fascinating about this move is that NM Incite appears to be offering products *as well as* solutions. According to the 'Offerings' section on their website they can provide:

  • Customisable dashboards
  • APIs
  • Tracker reports and alerts

Interesting that as 'social media' becomes more about strategic business consultancy to socialise organisations, the traditional management consultancies are turning to selling widgets rather than knowledge.

It just goes to show that not even the bastions of the global business management empire are immune from disintermediation.

Chinwagging tonight

Whoops – I meant to post about this in advance but clearly I have to organise my time better.

I'll be on the panel tonght at Chinwag's event: Xmas Futures, Crystal Balls? discussing, um, I guess, what 2009 will bring.

Others speaking on the panel include:

  • Neville Hobson – blogger, communicator, digital luminary
  • Jonathan Mitchener – Futurologist & Principal Research Scientist, Devices, BT
  • Jamie Coomber – Head of Digital Strategy, Profero

I'll be bringing up the issues of the economy, the perennial echo of "next year will be *all about* digital, the direction a lot of digital PR and marketing seems to taking compared to the route I believe it should be and how this leads my thinking right up to Doc's vision of the "end of the social bubble."

Hopefully see some people there.

Technorati tags: Chinwag, Future watching, Crystal balls

Quote du jour

Pure poetry:

“…companies so lobotomized that they can’t speak in a recognizably human voice build sites that smell like death.”

[Context]

[Via Doc Searls]

Phatic Communciations and other interesting ideas from Grant McCracken

I came across an interesting interview with the advertising anthropologist, Grant McCracken, the other day.

I recommend taking a read, but here are a couple of stand out points for me:

Firstly, Grant (prompted by the interviewer) talks about ‘phatic communications’:

"those little murmurs, exclamations, grunts and sighs with which we communicate our emotional condition."

I like this idea. It is essentially how social tools like Twitter and Facebook capture and share meaning without using explicit information.

Secondly, Grant also points out that:

Consumers are no longer one set of tastes and preferences. They are bundles of tastes and preferences.”

This means that dividing people into one market or demographic doesn’t work; we need to recognize

an individual’s “multiple selves” and appeal to them accordingly.

Grant doesn’t discuss this phenomenon directly in relation to the Internet, but for me the power for people to explore different desires, needs and wants that are all traditionally tied up in conventional marketing terms such as ABC1, 22-34 has been awoken and opened up by the Internet.

I believe this isn’t just the ‘alter-ego’ scenario displayed by tools like Second Life or WoW, but is in fact more basic and everyday. We are all complex characters; the Internet simply allows us to realise this more adequately than the physical environment.

I tried to explore this idea in more depth with a post last year invoking Jean Baurillard and online identity.

Technorati tags:

Grant McCracken, phatic communications, online identity

The Berocca Blogger Relief pack lands

My Berocca goody-bag arrived last night full of cool stuff. For all that I have blogged (which I stand by) I still think this initiative was a great idea – only it could have been better executed.

I also still stand by the fact it has been executed by Bayer‘s marketing team or agency in conjunction with the legal department.

The blogger’s pack contains a letter telling us our email addresses will be used to send us occasional emails about Bayer’s future blogging initiatives, but we can opt out if we want. That’s fair enough.

The letter is as impersonal as the rest of the campaign, beginning ‘Dear Blogger’ and ending ‘The Berocca Team’ which is unsurprising.

And as per the rest of the campaign it takes a very tactical – dare I say narrow-minded – approach to blogging by emphasising the great link love we get from Berocca’s blogger relief page on their website.

All in all I think it has been – and continues to be – a really interesting foray into blogger engagement; certainly different from most.

Likes – the origins of the initiative, the news story about bloggers’ stress levels, was spontaneous and fun and was something Berocca could really piggy-back.

Dislikes – the impersoanl communication with bloggers: generic intros and sign-offs to emails and letters; infrequent communications and periods of radio-silence.

Tips for next time -  "Hey, Berocca, this cool thing called email means it’s really easy to contact people directly, cheaply and quickly. You should try it sometime!"

Technorati tags: blogger outreach, Bayer, marketing

Berocca Blogger Relief Update

After my bitterness tainted whinge/objective critical analysis (delete as applicable) post last week about the Berocca Blogger Relief engagement programme stunt what turned up in my inbox today? Lo and behold an email from Berocca saying I could expect my blogger relief pack some time soon.

Am I satisfied? Not entirely. This is partly because I’m vindictive and hold grudges, but mainly due to some unanswered questions I have about why I am being sent a pack now, at least a month after the first batch was mailed out to recipients.

In particular: why am I being sent a pack now, a week after critiquing Berocca’s campaign? Is it coincidence? If it is in respnse to my post it would be nice to get a personalised email explaining so.

In fact, the email I received appears to be an automatically generated one. In double fact, don’t take my word for it:

Hi Simon Collister
 
Thanks for your submission; your blog has been accepted!
 
Look out for your Berocca Blogger Relief Pack that will be on its way to you soon.
 
The Berocca Team

I could be wrong but I don’t start many emails with ‘Hi Simon Collister’.

While I’m on a roll, my blog has "been accepted"? Um,. Sorry, what? Has been "accepted"? I didn’t know I was undergoing a vetting process. Thank you. I’m deeply grateful.

Maybe I am being overly harsh. Perhaps I may have gone a bit overboard for the sake of some fizzy vitamins and a USB stick. Perhaps.

But I simply think that what was a really good idea to connect with a potentially target audience has turned into an impersonal marketing exercise.

Perhaps that was the aim at the outset. But if it wasn’t, then I really feel Berocca have missed a good opportunity for quality online engagement and the opportunity to build some long-term relationships with their consumers.

Still, I’m not complaining about the fizzy sweets though!

Technorati tags: Berocca, blogger relations, PR fail

Thoughts on Havas Media Lab’s The New Economics of Consumption: User Generated Context

I downloaded Havas Media Lab’s latest strategy paper, The New Economics of Consumption: User Generated Context, a few weeks back but only got around to reading it last night.

And what a nice little strategy paper it is too. It’s fair to say it is more of a thought starter than a fully fleshed out document which tells businesses and investors how they can adapt to the ‘new economics of consumption’ – but that’s what Havas’ clients pay for I suppose.

The authors’ (I presume Umair Haque must be in there somewhere) argument is that business models based in user-generated content are failing. This failure is based on the idea that value doesn’t reside within user-generated content, but in fact within user-generated context.

To illustrate the point, Havas suggests:

The vast majority of blog posts are context for newspaper articles. Connected consumers on MySpace spend much of their time discussing and connecting with bands … consumers aren’t creating content: they’re creating content for goods.

Furthermore:

it’s by letting connected consumers contextualise content that tsunamis of new value can be unlocked (just ask Google)

In conclusion, Havas pulls out three general observations that reinforce how context is very different from content.

  1. Context is not really ‘generated’ in the sense of simple creation, but evolves in a more complex way, often linked to specific cultural references that can often make no sense to outside audiences.
  2. Context is not produced by single users, but only emerges when the views and information produced by users is aggregated.
  3. The production of context does not open up direct competition with existing content producers – e.g. the advertising industry

I really like the paper and its challenge to conventional thought about socal media and UG content, however I think we need to put some its ideas into a wider framework.

For example, based on an analysis of Techmeme Havas argues that the most talked about and viewed content online is produced by professional content producers e.g. Techcrunch, CNET, New York Times, while amateur users produce context.

While I absolutely agree with their overall argument, the strategy paper does seem to ignore the fact that non-professional content producers exist… and produce compelling content.

And if we accept that there is professional and less professional content being produced online how does this fit into the idea that connected consumers produce solely context, rather than content?

Technorati tags: Havas Media Lab, Umair Haque, user generated context, digital strategy

10 immutable laws for measuring conversation

Er… so it seems Edelman held an academic social media conference the other week in Chicago.

There is a good round up of some of the topics discussed at the conference live blog, but I like this post from one of the delegates, Karen Miller Russell, who teaches at the University of Georgia, about measuring social media.

Readers of this blog will know that I haven’t brought myself fully into the ‘how we measure’ social media debate because I haven’t yet decided why we need to measure social media (apart from the usual "so we can justify our existence to the client" which is the one reason not to use to develop metrics, IMHO).

However, the following list of "10 somewhat immutable laws of measuring conversations" from Sean Moffitt helps get us a step closer to defining why we measure social media:

  • REACH—how far does it go?
  • RELEVANCE—does it support your intended direction?
  • INFLUENCE—who shares and with who? How many generations of
    impact?
  • AUTHORITY—how trusted is the source?
  • ENGAGEMENT—how involved do they get?
  • INTERACTION—did they do anything with it?
  • VELOCITY—how fast does it travel (viral)
  • ATTENTION—how much time do they spend?
  • SENTIMENT—how positive are they?
  • NET PROMOTER—are they recommending you to others?
    Would you
    recommend Brand X to a friend or colleague? (On a scale of 1-10, the
    formula is "People who say 9-10 (extremely)" minus "those who answer
    1-6" = your score). And this is what really matters
    most.

Hat Tip Karen Miller Russell

Technorati tags: Edelman, social media measurement