In Praise of Failure

I was chatting recently with Sam Decker, chief marketing officer at Bazaarvoice, about his company’s somewhat counterintuitive business. Its customers use Bazaarvoice to enable their customers to post product reviews and ratings right on their own websites.

I asked why would a company invite visitors to publicly criticize its products this way.  He told the story of one importer who sells a large and eclectic collection of overseas goods.  Customer ratings revealed that about one third of its inventory of more than 600 products would never sell well because of aesthetics, utility or other reasons.  The company used this feedback to quickly overhaul its inventory. Had it waited for customer objections to show up in sales figures, the process would have taken months longer.

Fear of Failure

If you have ever worked for a large company, you know that failure isn’t considered a good thing.  Losing products or business initiatives are usually killed off only after long and expensive efforts to save them. Powerful people stick with pet projects even in the face of overwhelming customer indifference.  People who fail are reprimanded.  People who fail repeatedly get fired.

Social media offers unprecedented ways to avert this syndrome, or at least to cut it short. By listening to customers, we can identify and fix shortcomings much earlier in the product lifecycle. By engaging in continuous dialogue, we are more likely to hit the market head on with new products. If we don’t let failure become some kind of referendum on our self-worth, then we are much freer to experiment.

I look at Google as being the most visible practitioner of the philosophy.  Spend a little time with the company’s line of applications and you’ll soon discover its amusing portfolio of error messages. “Whoa! Google Chrome just crashed!” says one. Another moans “We know this is lame, but consider that Gmail didn’t even have folders in its first version.”  Google is a company that doesn’t mind admitting its shortcomings because it knows customers would rather see that it working to get things right than pretending that everything’s okay when it clearly isn’t.

Google_LivelyGoogle also isn’t afraid to cut its losses. The company has shut down more than a half-dozen products and services in the last year, including Lively, it’s virtual world (left). It has also closed a couple of high-profile business ventures. Google makes no attempt to hide these business decisions but rather explains its reasoning on employee blogs. That’s because Google sees itself as an innovator, and innovative companies don’t mind getting things wrong now and then.  In fact, a company that doesn’t make mistakes isn’t trying hard enough.

Shoot the Losers

Unfortunately, few corporate cultures are confident enough to work this way. One of the most common questions I am still asked by audiences is how to avoid negativity in social media. My honest answer is why would you want to avoid it?  The faster you correct problems, the less damage is done. It might have been possible to ignore mistakes a few years ago, but that’s no longer an option. We can talk with our customers about our shortcomings or they will simply talk amongst themselves.  Which would you rather do?

It’s often been said that the reason Silicon Valley became such a foundry of technology innovation is that the culture accepts and even celebrates failure as a consequence of risk-taking.  In today’s media landscape, failure is no longer a private matter. Social media tools enable us to minimize the risks and consequences of our mistakes if we simply own up to them. It turns out that’s not nearly as difficult as we used to think it was.

In Defense of Blogging

swiss_army_knifeI had to laugh last week when I heard the keynote speaker at a public relations conference refer to the conventional wisdom that blogs are “so yesterday.” Maybe it’s because I spend two to three hours daily tending to my own blogs and others, or maybe it’s just general frustration with trend-chasing, but blogs are more relevant today than they’ve ever been, and they’re growing more useful as options proliferate.

The blog is the Swiss army knife of social media. Simple to use and easy to update, it accommodates every type of media: words, images, video and sound. Blog entries can be of Twitter-like brevity or can go on for thousands of words. Content can be displayed in a wide variety of formats and designs. Visitors don’t have to register to read.

Blog content is automatically syndicated via RSS feeds, making it simple for the owner to republish information through other outlets. A blog can also act as a catch-basin for the owner’s other social media activities. All of a person’s tweets, Yelps, Flickr PhotoStreams and YouTube creations can be aggregated and displayed in one place.

Content can be automatically reformatted for display on devices ranging from text readers to mobile devices. A countless variety of useful widgets can be added to entertain and inform visitors. Web analytics can show detailed information about where visitors originated, what they read, how long they stayed and where they went next. Blogs can even incorporate order forms. Last but not least, blogs rock on search engine performance.

Not Perfect

It’s true that there are a few things blogs don’t do well. They’re not as quick and easy to update as Twitter or the Facebook status message. And they lack interactivity. While visitors can comment on individual entries, they can’t comment on the overall theme of the blog, and even threaded comment strings can be difficult to follow. There are also limits to what you can do with the simple reverse chronological format, although innovators like Brian Gardner are managing to make WordPress do things I never thought possible.

For businesses, blogs provide a critical element of control. They’re the social media equivalent of speaking to an audience. The author retains control over subject matter, tone and direction while offering interaction around subjects of his or her choosing. Businesses that shrink from the unpredictability of unmediated discussion can take comfort in the fact that blogs give them a healthy dose of control.

For business-to-business applications, blogs are the overwhelming tool of choice. That’s because b-to-b professionals often don’t have the time or patience to fill out profile forms, answer friend requests or join groups. Blogs are simply a fast and easy way to share information with very little overhead.

Blogs are the building block of nearly every form of social media. They are the tool you need to master in order to understand the rich nuances of other media that are available to you.

B-to-B Social Media: Yes, You Can!

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I’m frequently asked if social media has value in a business-to-business context.  The answer is emphatically yes, although these applications rarely get the publicity of their flashier consumer counterparts.  Over the next couple of issues, I’ll look at where social media tools can deliver the most B@B value and how some companies are putting them to work right now.

The term “social media” is almost a misnomer in this context.  Businesspeople usually aren’t looking to socialize when making buying or career decisions (LinkedIn is a notable exception) but rather want actionable advice as quickly as possible.  That’s why the tools that work best are those that let people easily discover what they’re looking for and extract value quickly. Blogs, podcasts, video and discussion forums can all be effective.

In fact, some of the most ambitious corporate blogging campaigns have been primarily aimed at B2B. uses.  Microsoft and Sun, which between them have about 10,000 corporate bloggers, use this tool to reach developers, business customers and prospective employees.  The blogs are easily searchable and they allow readers to pose questions to the best sources of information.

Among other b-to-b companies that are using blogs effectively are Emerson Process Management, the New York Stock Exchange, Marriott, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Boeing and Accenture, to name just a few.  You won’t find a lot of playful repartee and trivia contests here.  These blogs are intended to communicate useful information and reinforce their authors and their companies as authorities in their fields.

Podcasts are one of the least appreciated tools for business-to-business communications.  EMarketer says regular podcast listeners are twice as likely to have advanced degrees and to earn over $100,000 annually as non-listeners.  Nearly every information technology company now regularly uses podcasts as educational tools. Their busy corporate customers appreciate the fact that podcasts let them consume information while driving, exercising or waiting for the train.  It’s a great way to use otherwise unproductive downtime.

Discussion forums are the oldest form of social media around.  They’re a great way to cut support costs by giving customers a way to solve their own problems.  The new breed of social networking tools has given new life to this meat-and-potatoes application.  Members can now link their activity to personal profiles and earn points for their contributions; the more questions they answer, the higher their status in the community.

In many cases, this status is enough reward in itself.  In their best-selling book Groundswell, Josh Bernoff and Charlene Li tell of one Dell customer who saved the company more than $1 million in support costs by answering customer questions. He received no compensation for his work. Some people on LinkedIn regularly answer more than 200 member questions a week.  For them, the reward is the status that they gain from showcasing their expertise.  This can lead to promotions and consulting contracts.

There are even b-to-b applications of some of the flashier new social media technologies.  Next week we’ll look at some of those.

Colleges Race Ahead in Social Media Adoption

New research shows that educational institutions are leveraging social media far more effectively than businesses in finding and recruiting their key constituents: students.

Perhaps in recognition of the fact that high school students are already thoroughly invested in social networks and online video, college recruiters are using these techniques to identify candidates. The tools are particularly popular at small institutions, which probably appreciate the cost efficiencies that online promotion provides.  For example, the research found that nearly 8 in 10 private colleges use blogs for recruitment.

“Social Media and College Admissions: The First Longitudinal Study” was conducted by Nora Ganim Barnes, Ph.D., a Senior Fellow and Research Chair of the Society for New Communications Research and Chancellor Professor of Marketing at the University of Massachusetts and Eric Mattson, CEO of Financial Insite Inc., a Seattle-based research firm. It compares adoption of social media between 2007 and 2008 by admissions offices of four-year accredited institutions in the US. The findings are based on 536 interviews with college admissions officers.

Among the top-level results:

  • Adoption by admissions offices grew from 61% in 2007 to 85% in 2008.
  • Forty-one percent of college admissions departments have blogs, compared to 13% of the Fortune 500 and 39% of the Inc. 500.
  • Nearly two-thirds of college admissions officers now say they are “very familiar with” social networks and 17% use social networks to research prospective students. These tools are often used to protect the school from potential embarrassment.
  • Video is now being widely used to deliver virtual tours of campuses, virtual visits to the dorms, and sample lectures from the faculty.
  • Seventy-eight percent of private schools have blogs, versus 28% of public schools; 50% of schools with undergraduate populations of less than 2,000 have blogs.
  • Four out of ten of institutions not currently using social media plan to start a blog.
  • Nearly 90% of admissions departments feel that social media is “somewhat to very important” to their future strategy.

You can download the executive summary here.

The Best of '08

From my weekly newsletter. To subscribe, just fill out the short form to the right.

At this time of year, many publishers and bloggers do one of two things: look ahead at the future or back at the year just ending. Since Joe Pulizzi, Fast Company and iMedia Connection did a great job at social media predictions, I thought I’d rummage through my digital archives and offer my completely unscientific list of what made this year special for me.

Best Social Media Tool – That’s easy. It’s Twitter, the super-simple, deceptively powerful micro-blogging service that has people sharing their lives in 140-character increments. If you still don’t get Twitter, I feel your pain, but anyone who wants to practice marketing in the new media world needs to get with the program. If you need help, I’ll get on the phone with your people and tell them why it’s so important.

Best Social Media Disaster Story — Johnson & Johnson’s well-intentioned Motrin video turned into a PR nightmare thanks to — you guessed it — Twitter. To its credit, J&J earnestly listened, but the marketers’ failure to anticipate negativity and their eagerness to respond too hastily made this a bigger problem than it had to be.

Best New FaceChris Brogan blew out of the pack to become one of the world’s top bloggers thanks to his prodigious output and shrewd self-promotion. He’ll soon hit 30,000 followers on Twitter and the 14,600 subscribers to his blog are a thing of wonder. I don’t know when the guy finds time to sleep. I’m fortunate to work with him on the New Marketing Summit conference and have a chance to learn from his success.

Best BookGroundswell by Josh Bernoff and Charlene Li broke new ground by attempting to apply research and metrics to social media marketing. The book also told some great stories. Conflict of interest prevents me from choosing my own Secrets of Social Media Marketing, but that shouldn’t stop you from buying it!

Best New Software Application — In the ranks of software that tries to bring order to the barely contained chaos that is Twitter, TweetDeck does the best job I’ve seen.

Best Fall to Earth – Forrester reported that corporate enthusiasm for blogging was beginning to wane. That’s not surprising; most big companies do a lousy job of it. Expect retooling and new growth in the new year.

Best Viral Marketing Success – Cindy Gordon told just seven people about Universal Orlando’s plans to launch a Harry Potter theme park. Word of mouth spread the story to 350 million others in a matter of a couple of days. David Meerman Scott has the story.

Best New Product – The Apple iPhone 3G became the first true mobile Internet device and sold 3 million units in its first month. Expect plenty of new competition in 2009, which is only going to be good for consumers.Nokia has yet to play its cards.

Best Podcast – In the archives of the MediaBlather program that I do with David Strom, there were too many good interviews to choose just one. Among my favorites of 2008 were Mommycast, Brains on Fire/Fiskars, IDG’s Pat McGovern, Eric Schwartzman, Shel Israel and Brian Halligan of HubSpot. I think the most interesting podcast I listened to all year was Schwartzman’s interview with search-engine optimization expert Russell Wright.

Most Useful Blog Entry – Interactive Insights Group created a superlist of organizations using social media. You can find practically any case study on the Web by starting there. We have yet to hear what Tamar Weinberg has up her sleeve, though! Her 2007 superlist was a thing of beauty.

Best Article on the Media – The International Herald Tribune’s “Web Ushers in Age of Ambient Intimacy” explained the visceral appeal of Twitter and Facebook with admirable clarity. Eric Alterman’s epic examination of the collapse of the newspaper industry in The New Yorker was magnificent in its detail and insight.

Best Just For Fun – The most popular item in my newsletter is the squib about some crazy new Web resource we’ve found. Here are two of my favorites of 2008:

People always celebrate success, but they don’t give enough credit to really creative failure. Thank goodness, then, for The Fail Blog, a photographic tribute to failures big and small. Don’t look at this site in the office. Your colleagues will wonder why you’re laughing so hard. And don’t, under any circumstances, view it while you’re drinking milk, if you know what I mean…

Buddy Greene is the Yo-Yo Ma of the harmonica, and in this amazing clip from a Carnegie Hall concert, he will change forever your impressions of the capability and range of this tiny instrument.

It's Time For Corporate Blogs 2.0

Forrester Research continued a theme last week by reporting that only 16% of people surveyed said they trust corporate blogs. That makes corporate blogs the lowest-rated source of reliable information among the 18 categories Forrester rated. They even rated lower than personal blogs on the credibility scale.

If you’ve been following this blog, this information should come as no surprise. Back in July, Forrester also reported that the number of business-to-business blogs started by corporations fell by nearly half between 2006 and 2007. The reason: they were underperforming expectations.

The reason is simple: most corporate blogs suck. I ran a little test of my own in October, shortly after the financial markets began to melt down. I read 20 of the most prominent corporate blogs and found that only two of them — and only one in the United States — even bothered to mention the troubles on Wall Street. The extent of this disconnect was dramatized by Wells Fargo, which chose to devote an entry on September 18 – the day after the Dow suffered its single largest one-day decline in history – to a travel video. Big businesses continue to avoid discussing sensitive issues in public forums. (In fairness, Wells Fargo has since addressed the issue of financial crisis on its blog, but only tangentially.)

Corporations sometime look at a blog as a panacea, as if speaking to customers directly somehow makes a company more likable. But speaking directly doesn’t do you any good if you’re simply mumbling the same old platitudes. Too many companies still believe that their corporate blogs are a cheap alternative to the PR wire services. That strategy is dead on arrival.

If you’re going to blog, do it right.  Be ready to engage with constituents about topical issues that matter to them.  Take a stand and go out on a limb just a little bit. This is a great time to do it. The financial markets are in chaos, regulators are distracted and customers are desperate for guidance. Tell your lawyers to take the rest of the week off and just SAY SOMETHING INTERESTING!

Companies in crisis seem to lead the way. General Motors has discussed its financial issues in considerable detail on its FastLane blog. Johnson & Johnson admitted to offending some of its customers with a controversial ad for Motrin, although it missed the opportunity to create an open discussion about why a vocal few were put out. The Transportation Security Administration has used its blog to openly acknowledge the frustration that fliers experience going through airport security. These organizations have come the closest to adopting the spirit of conversation that blogs demand.

Most corporate blogs, however, still read like we’re in the Land of Oz. I believe 2009 will see the beginnings of a new approach to corporate blogging that is more genuine and open. Corporate Blogs 2.0 will admit that fallibility is not a sin and will trust their customers to help them make their businesses better.  The few businesses that have taken a risk and bared their souls have found that their transparency engenders sympathy, trust and support.  The business world will experience a great deal of pain during the first part of the next year.  There is no better time for them to ask customers for help and understanding.

Recommended Reading – 12/10/08

Apps: The Newest Brand Graveyard
AdWeek says most corporate Facebook apps are failing, the victim of over-engineering, complexity, abandonment, isolation and various other factors.

Email: still #1, still a drag
It’s been said that the people who made the most money during the California Gold rush were the ones who sold picks and shovels, not the ones who panned for gold. That homily came to mind reading Brad Berens’ blog entry about a new MediaMark study showing that e-mail is the #1 Internet activity by far. The fact that the most prosaic Internet application is still the most popular attests to a reality of technology evolution: the mass market is always five to 10 years behind the leading edge.

Repeat Ad Nauseam: TV Spots Risk Driving Consumers Away – Advertising Age
Advertisers are finding that consumers have a lower tolerance for multiple messages than they once did, and viewers are even organizing ad hoc groups to protest ad saturation. consumer tolerance for repetitive ads has fallen by about half in the last 10 to 15 years. This has forced some advertisers into a corner. They can’t afford to produce enough ads to keep consumers interested. In response, they’re looking at product placements to fill the gap. Quoting:

More than 26% of TV households will have DVRs by the end of 2008, according to Interpublic Group’s Magna — that’s nearly one-third of potential customers for a cellphone, credit card or can of soup.
While it takes only three ads to cause wear-out in print — about the same as it did 10 to 15 years ago — a TV ad these days can reach the same point after only eight showings, down from 15 to 20 during the same time period.
“With the fragmentation of the marketplace, advertising on a top top-10 show brings you about half the audience it did 10 years ago,” said Nissan’s Mr. Marx.

Did Google Issue a Bear Call? – GigaOM
Om Malik sees an ominous message in a recent Wall Street Journal story about Google’s future. He thinks CEO Eric Schmidt’s comments about cutbacks and uncertainty portend a tough 2009 for the search giant. Worse, he thinks the malaise could extend well beyond next year. Google has pulled back on a lot of its experimental projects and is funneling more of its resources toward revenue-generating products. Sounds like it’s not as much fun as it used to be. Could bad times force Google to be more targeted and less innovative? Um, yes. And what’s wrong with that? Tight economic times nearly always force innovative companies to retrench. That doesn’t make them less innovative; it just makes them more focused. Everyone’s going to pull back next year. Is it a surprise that Google isn’t impervious to the factors shaping the rest of the economy?

Online social networks | Socialising all over the web?
The Economist says Facebook is trying to succeed where Microsoft failed. The social networking site has launched Facebook Connection, enabling members to sign in to other sites using their Facebook identity. The cool thin is that Connect lets Facebook members continue to banter and kibbitz with each other about topics of shared interested defined in their profiles, even while on third-party sites. A group of competitors has endorsed OpenID as a standardized way to do the same thing, but have you tried to actually use OpenID? I’m pretty geeky and I was baffled.

Google Friend Connect launches, eyes Facebook Connect
Not to be outdone, Google has quickly rushed out Google Friend Connect, its own response to Facebook. The service “allows website owners to embed social tools like review forms, comments, or photo-sharing widgets that pull data from established communities like Flickr.” Baiscally, you carry your social meia tools with you to any site. The downside, according to Ars Technica, is that ‘website owners have limited-to-no ability to actually incorporate data that users choose to interact with or share on their site.” Still, the concept has promise.

What J&J Could Have Done

It wasn’t exactly a repeat of the 1982 poisoned Tylenol disaster, but Johnson & Johnson was struggling with a minor crisis this week after some vocal critics derided an edgy ad that implied that new moms could suffer back pain from carrying their infants. What can we learn from this episode and was J&J’s rapid apology really the best response?

The video had actually been online for more than six weeks before a few vocal moms on Twitter began trashing it this past weekend. The ad suggests, with tongue in cheek, that new moms who bond with their babies by carrying them in slings and chest packs may be inadvertently giving themselves back pain. The message wasn’t that moms shouldn’t bond with their children but that they should be ready for the consequences.

Seems innocuous enough, but a few vocal mommy bloggers didn’t see it that way. They thought the ad was insulting to mothers and they Twittered their criticism, calling for a boycott of Motrin. Bloggers picked up on the controversy and posted more than 100 opinions about the ad, J&J’s reaction and the media frenzy that surrounded it. There were even parody ads making fun of the whole affair. Forrester’s Josh Bernoff has a good account of the controversy with links to background material.

A chastened J&J pulled the ad off its website and issued an apology on its corporate blog. The promotion “was meant to engender sympathy and appreciation for all that parents do for their kids, but did so through an attempt at humor that missed the mark and many moms found offensive,” wrote Kathy Widmer, Vice President of Marketing at McNeil Consumer Healthcare.

J&J probably had no choice but to withdraw the ad, since the criticism was threatening to swamp any benefit the company had hoped to receive. But you also have to wonder if the company hurt itself by buckling to political correctness due to pressure from a minority of critics. After all, the ad hadn’t seemed to offend anyone in particular during the first six weeks it was posted. It was only after a few outraged mommy bloggers began drawing attention to it that the criticism spiraled out of control. At that point, it was too late for J&J to explain its motives. Its critics had taken control of the conversation and anything the company did would look defensive and stubborn.

The incident quickly created a lot of soul-searching on both sides. A backlash against #motrinmoms developed, with some people criticizing the critics for practicing mob rule. Even one of the most vocal motrinmoms, Jessica Gottlieb, suggested that J&J overreacted in pulling down the ad. In fact most of the recent blogger activity has focused more on untangling what happened than debating whether J&J was right or wrong.

Here’s my take. J&J’s choice of language in the ad was arrogant and dismissive. The ad talked down to mothers and was begging for a backlash. However, that wasn’t necessarily a reason not to run it. J&J could have mitigated the criticism, or even turned it to its advantage, by using social media channels more effectively:

  • The company could have invited a select group of mommy bloggers to preview the campaign privately and offer feedback. Even if the company had elected to go ahead without making changes, it would have been able to argue that it had sought guidance from its target group. And if the moms had blessed the video, it would have been the ultimate defense for J&J.
  • The ad could have been presented in a humorous context on the Motrin site. A message like, “We know your babies aren’t a fashion accessory, but since this is International Baby-Wearing Week, we thought you’d appreciate this good-natured parody,” would have gone a long way toward heading off criticism.
  • J&J could have listened. When a blogger tracked down the head of corporate communications for J&J’s ad agency for a comment on the firestorm on Sunday afternoon, the woman professed to know nothing about the controversy. This is despite the fact that more than 2,000 Twitter messages had already been posted. Take note: the blogosphere doesn’t take weekends off.
  • The company could have jumped into the Twitterstream and engaged. It didn’t, preferring to post a rather brief statement on the blog and issue a press release. Kathy Widmer should have responded on the critics’ own turf. Her message was constructive, but a little too disconnected.
  • J&J could have been more profuse in its apologies. A big donation to Babywearing International would have been a start. Or it could have taken Jessica Gottlieb’s advice and distributed baby slings in maternity awards around the country. I’m not sure I agree that branding them with the Motrin logo would have been such a good idea.

In today’s networked world, there is no excuse for a corporation to be surprised by negative response to a controversial message. Social networks and the blogosphere offer a cheap and speedy way to anticipate criticism. Ironically, J&J is one of only two pharmaceutical companies to host a corporate blog (Glaxo’s alliConnect is the only other one I’m familiar with). This company gets new media more than most of its peers, which makes this online ambush particularly ironic.

Recommended Reading, 11/18/08

This 49-minute podcast from iMediaConnection’s Brand Summit interested me not so much for the marketing case study (although it’s a very good example of viral marketing) as for the honest description of the barriers these two Kraft brand managers confronted in selling their word-of-mouth marketing campaign. You won’t often hear corporate marketers speak so frankly about internal politics.

Adam and Tyler had to repeatedly sell the concept of giving up control over the message to skeptical colleagues, corporate lawyers and top management. Even after the campaign had successfully concluded, they still faced opposition. In some cases, they dealt with it by simply ignoring it or telling people what they wanted to hear. There’s also a good account around minute 40 of how they entered the blogosphere to engage with online critics when the guidance from management and legal was to remain silent. Here’s a link to a written interview, but you’ll get a fuller story from the podcast.

Josh Bernoff has a nice wrap-up of the blog/Twitter/Facebook storm that erupted this past weekend over J&J’s ill-considered “Motrin Moms” ad. The company could have avoided the whole mess by testing the ad with a group of moms, who are some of the most active online networkers. Such a simple way to avoid embarrassment and the cost would have been minimal. Now J&J’s smarting from the whole experience. McNeiil’s VP of marketing has the mea culpa here.

The credit company is experimenting with a Facebook community that offers small business owners a way to connect with each other and to get business management advice from Visa. More than 21,000 members have joined and the repeat-visit rate is twice the industry norm.

Here’s a novel promotion for the forthcoming movie “The Day the Earth Stood Still.” 20th Century Fox is creating a global participation campaign that enables people to vote on what they would save if the earth truly stood still. From the press release:

Earth’s Vital List, which launches today, poses the question, If the earth was under attack what would you save? Consumers are asked to build a “Vital List” of 12 items (people, places or things) they would save on “the day the earth stands still.” Vital lists can be shared with friends encouraging feedback and votes on which items are truly vital. The world’s most vital items will be tabulated on a global microsite. The site also provides visitors with a view on how items are being ranked around the globe.

I recently criticized corporate bloggers for spewing happy talk while the financial world melted down. So it was nice to see this profile of Marcy Shinder, VP of brand marketing and stategy for American Express OPEN. Amex responded quickly to the Wall Street crisis with a series of articles and multimedia messages aimed at small-to-medium businesses and outlining what the crisis means to them as well as steps they can take to survive the downturn.

Metrics expert Mark Ghuneim suggests that we still have a long way to go in evolving our thinking about viral video metrics beyond view counts. Marketers are beginning to think more holistically about how to measure success. Quoting:

According to a recent FEED Company study, some 70% of ad-agency and media-buying executives plan to increase budgets for viral video marketing in 2009. In addition, 72% of ad-agency executives and media buyers say their clients are “interested” or “very interested” in using viral video as an integral part of their marketing campaigns….

“Favoriting,” commenting, linking to, embedding, social network amplification and other action all constitute a level of user attention that must somehow be accounted for and given appropriate value.

In addition, a marketing executive would also want to know how users were discovering their video, as well as how quickly the view counts were growing. The velocity of consumption and adoption is an important indicator as well as factors beyond the standard impression and stream data. For example, are bloggers talking about the video? Are users micro-blogging about the video?

With an average member earning about $110,000 a year and more than $100 million in investment capital in the bank, you’d think LinkedIn would be sitting pretty. Yet the company is laying off about 36 people. Smart move. Don’t let VC love make you fat and happy.

Om Malik has little nice to say about Jerry Yang’s stewardship of Yahoo. Yang now basically admits he should have sold to Microsoft when he had the chance and the collapse of a partnership with Google is particularly painful. With the economy now in the tank, what’s next?

BusinessWeek is all breathless about the energy that social networks brought to election day, and there are some good stories/examples here. However, listen to NPR’s story on turnout levels for a more sobering view. Turnout was good for the US, but we still lag far behind other democracies.

Privacy advocates may blanch, but I think this is a totally cool way to mine patterns from search behavior that contributes to the common good. What an innovative idea!

Where are Corporate Bloggers When We Need Them?

Web 2.0 makes it easy for corporate leaders to communicate directly to their constituents, right? So where the hell are they in our hour of need? I quickly checked a sampling of prominent corporate blogs. Chrysler, Marriott, McDonald’s, Whole Foods, Accenture, Boeing, Wal-Mart and Southwest Airlines have yet to say a word about the economic crisis. They’re all still focused on cheery good news. What are they thinking? Cheers to General Motors and PriceWaterhouseCoopers for at least attempting to lend some of their perspective to the conversation. Whether you agree with them or not, they’re talking.

Let’s hope the other guys are too busy listening at the moment to make time to state their own views. We certainly could use their perspective on how THEY plan to react to market turmoil. Why are their so strangely silent?