Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Recommendation in the age of collaboration...

Recommendation has and always will be one of the most powerful drivers for product purchase. The power of friends & family singing your brand's praises will always resonate more than a basic advertiser's message. In the age of social media however, the way we communicate has fundamentally grown, and subsequently, so has the way we recommend products to others. The consumer of today has communication options that have expanded not only his social circle past geographic and cultural limitations, but allowed brands to create a conversation with the consumer that previously didn't exist. With all of this communication expansion, what has digital & social networking really meant for recommendation?

With so many social media choices, what does it mean for how people recommend?

The requirements for an effective recommendation are relatively basic. It requires an informative statement about something, given credence by the trust level of the reviewer and the perceived relevance of the information. As trust grows, so does the power of the recommendation. Alternatively, the more relevant the recommendation seems, either through timeliness or quality, the more powerful it becomes. So as consumers communicate over greater distances, faster speeds and with a higher number of casual acquaintances, what happens to the power of recommendation?

Facebook Like

Product recommendations from our friends and family automatically gain power from existing trust and Facebook, as the social network du jour, is well positioned to exploit that. Through the 'like' feature we can easily share what products and brands we care for, slowly building a recommendation network amongst our contacts. The simultaneous distribution of friends' recommendations through news feeds, means that opinions about brands and products can be shared quickly and clearly, from both internal and external Facebook sources (thanks to open graph & FBML) and leading to content inside & outside of the network. However, though Facebook is well positioned to communicate peer recommendations, a high level of trust still relies on a close knit network. Recommendations from general acquaintances or those unknown outside of the network still lack the power given to closer 'friends'.

Aardvark's Social Search in Action...

Outside of traditional social networking, recommendation needs to rely on other sources to build trust. While Facebook uses existing ties, social search engines & sites, such as Aardvark or Yahoo Answers, rely on the wisdom of crowds and perceived authority as trust arbiters. Aardvark , acquired by Google earlier this year, seeks to answer questions based on a hybrid model, pairing user answers through existing social networks and based on topics that an individual has claimed expertise. Sites such as Yahoo Answers or review sites such as Qype, utilize a voting or user hierarchy model to attempt to signal which individuals are the most trustworthy. By considering a user's grade and his recommendation relative to others, individuals can begin to judge the quality of information, without the trust found in traditional relationships.

Badges & check-ins help to identify expertise

Alternatively, incentive based networks such as Foursquare or Get Glue use a mix of existing ties and accomplishment markers to signal trustworthiness. Through gaining badges based on accomplishments, users are able to signal that actions or qualifications have been completed, meaning they may be more trustworthy sources of related information. Requiring action may be a more effective way than asking an individual to show expertise, but it also involves a clear signaling system and direct links between signals and knowledge. Conversely, recommendations through action (such as Foursquare check-ins or tips at a specific venue) also have the capacity to prove more trustworthy than other sources, given the increased effort required.

Get Glue
So what do these differing online recommendation networks mean for advertisers and brands?

Regardless of network type, brands must make themselves available to users. Building trust through interaction and making content easily available to experience, recommend and widely share, can help brands to create and facilitate user to user communications. Be it creating a heavily produced piece of digital content for a large brand or simply curating the venue page or website for a small establishment, the ease of use with which a consumer can find, interact with or share content can aid with gaining effective recommendation.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

The Top London Ad Agencies by Foursquare Check-in (06.08.2010)

I decided to do something a bit different than the normal top 30 infographic with the Foursquare check-in data. While the infographic may still come out at some point, I thought it might be easier and more useful to try out Tableau public and visualize the data as a dashboard. First attempt is below, though I may modify it for more functionality as time goes on.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Outdoor Advertising Takes Us One Step Further to Living in a Sci-fi Movie...

Movies always seem to utilize outdoor advertising in some bombastic ways whenever they need a 'dystopian' future-scape. From 'Blade Runner', 'Idiocracy' & 'Robocop' to 'AI', 'Back to the Future', 'Minority Report' & 'They Live', outdoor advertising plays a role in conveying an emphasis on the conspicuous consumption & promotional opportunities of the future. However, this week, 2 stories in the mainstream press seem to have emphasized how close we are to having at least the capability, if not the consumer comfort with, some of sci-fi's outdoor advertising channels.

Something tells me these might be kinda noticeable....(via source)
First, the city of Miami has fast tracked approval for two 'skyscraper' sized digital LED screens within the city. The digital ad platforms would come in at a total height of 50 stories, with the first 100 feet being supplied by a parking deck. While event type installations are nothing new within outdoor advertising, this seems, given the mock-up, to take attention grabbing dynamic content to a new level. While sights such as Picadilly Circus neon signs barely go above 5 stories, the 22 story advertising installations would bring us a step further to the ever present advertising in films like Blade Runner (now if we only had a zepplin...). So, film associations aside, will something this big work? The panels come in a line of large, historic outdoor installations, so they may follow other examples and become part of the skyline. However, they must strike a pretty hard balance between being bombastic & noticeable without being a horrible eyesore.Either way, the creative opportunities for advertisers seem pretty varied (someone planning a monster movie campaign is salivating already).

Secondly, in smaller scale, but customizable advertising, the Telegraph (and my Daily Links section) featured a story about the advancement of consumer customized, digital advertising panels (ala Minority Report, as shown above). Technology such as this has been in development for some time, with previous installations tracking approximations of age and gender from a web cam monitoring consumers. Currently however, IBM has spoken of taking the tech a step further, utilizing RF-ID to obtain user information for a more granular customization.

 Whether consumers accept something like this or see it as an invasion of privacy depends on the implementation of the technology over the next few years. Consumer attitudes are a long way from accepting a very tangible and public representation of what advertisers know about them and the technology to do more than approximate characteristics is far off from being widely accepted. If advertisers, technology providers and media owners can slowly progress the general consumer attitude to a more accepting view of data customization through RF-ID or another wireless solution, then something like this may have a chance of occurring. Alternatively, high costs, privacy concerns and lack of a standardized information system may limit this technology to webcam based approximation.

Monday, 2 August 2010

Daily Links for 02.08.2010

Facebook and Amazon Team Up to Make Gift Shopping Easier | Fast Company
I may be in the minority for alot of the privacy vs. marketing issues given my inherent bias, but I quite like the idea of collaborative shopping and auto suggestions. Now, that being said, I like the ability to share product interests and items across the network more than suggestions (which entail the possibilities of a retailer having a mass of data on me), but I realize the two are somewhat linked.

The Facebook/Amazon feature should really have some traction on birthday and anniversary suggestions, though I imagine it will probably have to overcome quite a few hurdles on the privacy front first.

I think reach vs. 'depth of engagement' is a rather hot topic when it comes to usefulness of metrics for measuring digital marketing effectiveness. The basic instinct is to fall on the side of reach, but as creative examples within marketing communications have shown, with content and a target market that match the chosen channels, reach can be bounced as the defacto metric for all marketing choices. This isn't to say that reaching an effective amount of users isn't important, but as shown in the article, knowing the demographics of a user base can go a long way towards selling emerging networks/channels for marketing communications.
Tailored advertising content is already a given in digital channels, but somehow, it becomes a little creepier when it manifests in outdoor advertising. Given that there exists tangible evidence of what marketers know about you, right in front of you while on the go, it seems like any customization mechanisms need to be as subtle as possible. That's why when you look at the two methods used to tailor ads (facial recognition vs. a RFID carrying data), it seems like the less detail & extra parts involved, the better (at least for now). I'd assume in the near future, tailoring an outdoor digital ad to approximate age and sex of passers by may be more palatable than having individual level messaging.
A brilliant & snarky guide from Gawker on 'old media' discovering 'new media' darling Tumblr. I quite like Tumblr, even though my actual Tumblr has been consistenly neglected for the last 2 years. While I tend to prefer a full hosted blog set-up, I can definitely see the attractiveness of Tumblr given its ease of use and cool functionality.

That aside, the principles that come from all forms of mar comms online still hold true on services such as Tumblr. Consistent and interesting content and activity has to give users a reason to visit. Given the state of some of the pages (such as Rolling Stone's), it looks like some media outlets are getting this a little more than others.