Not for sale.

This was a post waiting to happen and the flights to Munich and Hamburg this week were all I needed to write it down. When I started blogging almost 3 years ago it was mainly to find out for myself what the whole blogosphere thing was all about. Initially the idea wasn’t to keep on doing this for long but it caught on to me and I stuck to it since then. There are ever more signs thought that blogging is not quite the same anymore as 3 or more years ago.

Most people start blogging because it’s providing them with an interesting way to share their thoughts and interact with others based on that, whether it related to your work, hobby or personal interests. Just check the ‘about page’ on a random blog and in most cases this will say something like “This blog is about my personal opinion, my thoughts and my thoughts only, etc.” A blog is where you can be yourself. We say what we think, the way we think it without compromising. At least we did, but is that still the case?

Lately I get the feeling this idea of ‘honest personal opinion’ is fading out as more and more blogs seem to pick up on the cheesiest pitches from marketers, agencies and PR folks. Being a blogger myself I get a lot of the same requests, offers, freebees, … from agencies like many of my blogging colleagues do so it’s easier to see when someone picks up on an offer. And I got to tell you, when an agency sends you something like this (recent example via Facebook):

“Hey Kris, I had to contact as much bloggers as possible from my boss to show our latest project for brand X. Check it out and link to it if you like it. That way I have to pay less on banner advertising.”

… and when in the 2-3 days after that you see some of your valued blogging colleagues write about this, I can’t help thinking bloggers actually became a very easy audience. This particular case is a Belgian example but since blogger lists like the Power150  exist there are also much more global examples as well.

Not only the personal blogs seem to change though. Don Dodge noticed recently that blogging has gone commercial and that there aren’t much individuals left in the top bloglists. And the ones that are still there are also selling out, think of Scoble’s latest tweet ‘featuring’ Seagate!

The bigger commercial blog networks then? They became media… Techcrunch is going gossip, Valleywag is going naked and Pete Cashmore of Mashable is your next tech rock star. It sometimes feels like half of Mashable’s posts are about Pete, the meet ups and all the sponsors related to all this. And remember how I wrote earlier about how Marketing Pilgrim preaches Marketing 2.0 and at the same time is stuffed with display ads all over the site.

I guess I could go on and on for a long time on this. Every week I read something that shows how the blogosphere is changing: you can hire a blogger at Marketingfacts to live blog your event, Lifehacker Gina Trapani created a PR blacklist, … not sure if it’s all for the best.

Discuss. Just remember one thing, this is my blog with my opinion… and definitely not for sale.

Club Social

When brands make that step to be more social and decide to let go of control, we should applaud that. Sometimes we tend not to notice this, and focus just on those brands (still the most) that don’t get it at all.

Club Med is making a first step to engage with the community and in a very nice and smart way if you ask me. Interel – Club Med’s PR agency – worked with Caroline ‘Rolling Talks’ Maerten and Adhese for this first campaign. They asked blogger/photographer Ine if she was interested in going to Chamonix to one of the Club Med Villages. Nothing extraordinary here, but the nicest part of all this is that a special banner (developed by Adhese) is showing the latest updates of this trip tapping into Ine’s Twitter and Flickr stream. These banners are shown on a selection of Belgian’s most important blogs.

Here are 2 screenshots of that banner:

ClubMed1    CludMed2

I don’t know about you but I think that Club Med has made a very smart move here. And the choice of Ine as the blogger to be invited is a very important part of this smart move.

Congrats to Caroline for setting it up with the agency and for Adhese to keep innovating, also within the banner.

Euroblog 2008

This last Thursday and Friday I attended and participated in the Euroblog 2008 event in Brussels organized by Euprera – the European PR Education and Research Association. The symposium was very much an academic event with a lot of academic speakers and attendees, and less practioners (at least that’s how I experienced it).

That wasn’t a surprise though, as the event was clearly set up to try and have the academia embrace the need to change. Still, sometimes, I felt like I didn’t belong there. Now I don’t mean anything bad with this, there’s just a very clear gap between the way we all approach things. It made me think of trying/testing out the water in a swimming tool. If you’re a practioner like myself you will get ready for the pool, put your toe in to get an idea of the temperature, probably feel like it’s colder than you would have wanted it to be but you’ll get in the water anyway and start swimming. You’ll talk to other people in the pool, maybe about the water, or maybe about that new glide which you then try out as well. This is the way me (and other people) started their blog, signed up for Twitter, Friendfeed, etc etc. After the presentations from the academia, it became clear that they approach ‘the pool’ in a different way. They talk to people outside and next to the pool about the temperature of the water, use a whole bunch of metric equipment to test the water conditions, relate all that info to ideal human body conditions, etc etc (this still fully dressed of course) to work out a project trajectory to get into the water at some point in time.

And I know this analogy is a bit black&white, but I think you get my point. On Friday I sat on a panel myself that was a mixture between academia and practitioners and there the difference was less visible (on the panel itself). The discussion itself with the panel and audience was pretty interesting to me as well. It highlighted once more some of the fears but also strengthened the idea that there aren’t enough case studies to go by.  At one point I feel this is just another ‘reason’ to keep away of change as long as one can. But as you (might) know from an earlier post I do feel we have to reach out more to get more people embrace the need to change so maybe we should just see what we can do about it – there really is more than just Kryptonite you know ;)

Don’t get me wrong, I did like the event. Some discussions where pretty interesting, some presentations like the one’s of David Jennings and Martin Oetting where very enjoyable and it was very good meeting up with the Edelman Digital crew: Steve Rubel, Marshall Manson, Rick Murray, … but also David Weinberger or Neville Hobson, the latter whom I met in person for the first time after being in several online conversations before.

Birds Eye in 3D

I’m planning on doing a longer review of some of the recent updates on Live Search, Windows Live Spaces and a few other services but this was something that I didn’t want to hold back until then. This video shows a new feature in Live Maps that combines the 3D view with the Birds Eye view. Both were available for a whole range of cities (unfortunately not a lot of 3D for Europe) but also I was wondering how these 2 would combine in 1 view. The video does a great job bringing that to live though, check it out:

I think this looks really great. Disclaimer: I work for Microsoft.

[Via LiveSide

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What’s holding you back?

There’s an interesting conversation going on at MarketingProfs Daily Fix about what should come first: the policy or the blog? 

“Should a marketer simply start blogging or wait instead until all of the blogging policies and procedures are established before beginning? Although the absolute answer is that it depends on the organization, the industry, the product or service, I suggest strongly that the blog come before the policy.”

I think that is very well put, especially by adding the notion that it does depend on the organization or product, but basically saying that you should just go and try for yourself. It’s how I started little over 2 years ago and I it really is the only way to really understand what this is all about. I thought I knew as well, but the experience learnt me different.

Stephen Denny adds to the conversation by saying the policy should definitely come first, and I see his point. but too many people use this lack of clarity, this lack of rules as a reason for not trying out for themselves. And that’s my main reason why I wouldn’t focus on the policy first. Ideally you have a small guideline, but like Cam comments: common sense should apply. I couldn’t agree more, remember my chapter in the ‘Age of Conversation‘: you get a long way with common sense.

Also don’t forget that engagement with social media already starts by reading, leaving comments, … so there really is not that much reason not to try this out for yourself today. Congrats C.B. for your first post at Daily Fix – it’s a really good one ;)

Brands on fire

There are a few reasons why I got very interested in the email Chris Abraham sent me a week ago about Firebrand. Not only did it seem to be about a very interesting project, but also the approach Chris and Firebrand took to get the news spread was a good example of good engagement in social media. Since Firebrand is not live yet for public viewing (launches on October 22nd) I will talk a bit more about their outreach to bloggers and leave the review for once I get access.

firebrand

Here’s just a little introduction to Firebrands though, so you know what I’m talking about:

“Firebrand is a new, opt-in entertainment and marketing destination that gives consumers interactive access to their favorite brands, products and promotions.  Firebrand programs the “coolest” TV commercials the way MTV used to program music videos and its multi-platform network, slated to launch on October 22, is the first to go “live” simultaneously on TV, the web and mobile.  Firebrand even has CJ’s (commercial jockeys), the same way MTV had VJ’s, who will contextualize the commercials as art and entertainment, and guide consumers through playlists, contests and promotions.”

And while the above copy may sound like your average PR speak (and it is from the press release obviously) the approach taken by Firebrand is interesting:

  • The email from Chris Abraham announcing Firebrand was personalized enough to make it feel personal. I know many people will have received an email that was pretty similar to mine, using my name and blogname in the email shows the effort to make it personal. And I can tell you that – even though that simple – that doesn’t happen very often.
  • They invited influential bloggers to their press event together with press, not as a separate event.
  • It’s right on target as well. Advertising, marketing, etc are amongst the topics I cover regularly so telling me about Firebrand makes sense. Again, pretty obvious to some, ignored by many. I receive emails about the most random things and I don’t even consider myself influential… think about the silly stuff bigger bloggers are getting.
  • Apart from their blogger approach, they also used social media in a smart way. Not by just creating the next Youtube video, but really making good use of the power of MySpace, Youtube, Delicious, Flickr and Facebook. All links which were included on the PR site (click on the links to see the examples).

It remains to be seen whether the service will become a success but I can only notice they seem to have their act together at Firebrand and given some of the most popular videos on the web are actually ads there’s definitely potential. Hopefully I can tell you more in a few days/weeks.

Nokia & Microsoft join forces!

I think this is some very exciting news for both Nokia and Microsoft, more specifically for Windows Live. From the press release:

“Starting today Nokia customers in eleven countries with compatible S60 devices can download the new suite enabling access to Windows Live Hotmail, Windows Live Messenger, Windows Live Contacts and Windows Live Spaces. Starting next year, customers who purchase compatible Nokia Series 40 handsets will also have access to these popular Windows Live services.”

Here are some screens of the application:

\NOKIA\AALTO\Jun192006_170102_000040.cr2<br /> CaptureSN: 302089.046990<br /> Software: Capture One PRO for Windows<br /> \NOKIA\AALTO\Jun192006_170102_000040.cr2<br /> CaptureSN: 302089.046990<br /> Software: Capture One PRO for Windows<br /> \NOKIA\AALTO\Jun192006_170102_000040.cr2<br /> CaptureSN: 302089.046990<br /> Software: Capture One PRO for Windows<br />

Not only will Nokia add new devices that will get access to these services, more countries will be launching over time as well. For more information on which devices exactly as which 11 countries are included in this release:

“Nokia customers who own the Nokia N73, N80 Internet Edition, N95, N76 and the N93i can get the Windows Live services via the Download! application in the following countries; Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, UK , Sweden, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Customers can visit http://www.nokia.com/windowslive to learn more, and check if their country is on the availability list. Initially the service will be available as a free trail and then customers in select markets wishing to continue using the service may be asked to pay a monthly fee”

I’ve played a little with the Windows Live client on the Nokia and it’s a very nice experience. Especially the Live Messenger part is a very rich application that allows multiple chats, voice clips (very handy on mobile) and instant photo sharing over IM. And it’s nice to remember that you could already get Live Search on your Nokia for a while.

More information about all this on Phil Holden’s blog.

(disclaimer: I work for Windows Live)

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Technorati: where’s the innovation?

I don’t understand Technorati, and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone. Here and there I see people thinking the same as I do. Why didn’t Technorati come up with that feature? Why hasn’t Technorati improved that part of the process? Hell, why hasn’t Technorati changes virtually anything but the design during the last 2 years? Alright, they did add Authority, but not too much science behind that is there?

I don’t understand Technorati. They have the first mover advantage, but I’m thinking bloggers mainly stick to it because it is Technorati. It’s what they know since the beginning and everyone refers to it. You can wonder how long that’s going to last though. They also have nearly every blog on their system so they own the place, isn’t that a good start to do good – better – best?

Now I don’t know much of programming, APIs, … and that sort of stuff so maybe all of what I’m going to write here might not be possible, but these are just a few ideas of what I think Technorati should be working on today:

  • Blog claim: Make this a real blog claim, so more than just a URL claim. Many WordPress.com or Typepad users have more than one url. One given by the service (or even more) and maybe their own domain. How difficult can it be to claim both URLs as being one and the same blog. Now I have 2 authority ranks, one for each URL, instead of something combined. Plus, I see links from myself to myself… like I wanted that.
  • Extended profile: Create the possibility for bloggers to add additional data to their profile, to their claimed blogs. This information can be very useful to build a real and meaningful authority ranking. Like the blog feeds for instance, on many occasions there are more feeds for the same blog. But also the Twitter feed for instance or other useful social network data. Some information can be linked to a blog’s authority, some to a blogger’s authority rank.
  • Use the APIs: Considering a blogger would add this data (and I’m pretty sure they will add it), work with it. Use the APIs of other services like Bloglines, Digg, Delicious, Twitter, … whatever to capture data that belong to the claimed URLs and Feeds. How many times was blog saved in Delicious or Digg, did it ever come up on Techmeme, how many Bloglines readers does it have, … This will give Technorati some data from which something called authority makes sense.
  • Create categories: Across the globe people are creating several blogger hotlists: top 150 on Marketing, top 100 blogs of Belgium, etc etc. That’s all good, but most of the time the list you want doesn’t exist. I want the Top 15 in Belgium on cars, where do I go? If I had to put in my home country with my profile, that would solve one part. And introduce categories. Now I hear you, everyone will put themselves in so many categories that it doesn’t make sense anymore… well, only allow a few categories then (2 or 3) forcing people to be specific.
  • Technorati Pro: I worked in the cinema industry for 7 years and one service that always proved to be great was IMDB Pro. I guess, most of you here know IMDB and you have to admit that the public service is already a good information source on movies. IMDB Pro will offer at least double the amount of information. Nothing interesting for me now, but when in cinema it was very useful. Technorati should be able to do the same. General information on trends and authority as the public service it is now, using some of the information I mentioned before. And then add a Pro service that would allow every user to do a lot more specific & personal queries and comparisons on blogs, introduce improved brandtracking etc. Not every company needs or can afford Buzzlogic or other, there’s an opportunity for Technorati here.

Finally, before anybody starts commenting on this. Many bloggers find this focus on authority and ranking useless. Especially the bigger they are, the less they claim it’s interesting. First of all, I don’t buy it. Second, it’s not for the bloggers themselves that we should fix this ranking issue. It’s the people and companies that want to work with bloggers that need this kind of data. Tracking conversations about your brand and jumping in where needed is one thing, but if you want to be a bit more proactive in your approach you need to know where to go.

Overall, authority and influence measurement fascinates me and I can only applaud several exercises being done by Forrester’s Peter Kim, Edelman’s David Brain (and team), … hopefully Technorati innovates in this spaces.

Feel free to chime in. And get it to Technorati for me please. I know emailing them doesn’t help. The thing is: I want Technorati to be great, it’ll serve me well. I just don’t think it is great anymore. David?

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