With the prevalence of microblogging and status updates via Twitter and Facebook respectively, the question is whether or not blogging is a worthwhile endeavor for B2B marketing. In Brian Solis’ “The State of the Blogosphere 2010,” post, he writes:
“What might have started as a form of self-expression has officially graduated into fully fledged self-actualization. 30% of corporate bloggers admit to blogging as a way to get published or featured in traditional media. 57% of self-employed bloggers share their expertise and thought-leadership as a way of attracting new clients. Across the board however, the preponderance of bloggers speak their mind to meet and connect with like-minded people. Blogs form the basis for the formation of interest graphs, which, for all intents and purposes, represent the next stage of social networking. Close behind, a significant faction of bloggers use the platform to speak their mind as tied to areas of interest, specifically hobbyists, part-timers and the self-employed”
With any new initiative, the ability to tie results to objectives is instrumental for receiving continued stakeholder support for the initiative. While many vendors tout their capabilities to provide detailed statistics, the question is how to go beyond raw data to actionable data. Furthermore, how easily can I take this data to develop the right reports and analysis for my stakeholders.
Guest Post by Cortney Rhoads Stapleton, SVP and head of the Professional Servies Practice at BlissPR New York & Aven L. James, Account Supervisor at BlissPR in New York City
While most people have made their resolutions and predictions, there is still snow on the ground in NYC, so we feel that is our free pass to add our contribution. This is a synthesis of the thoughts from members of the B2B Practice Group of the Worldcom Public Relations Group, the world’s largest network of independent PR firms. In conversations with Worldcom partners in North and South America, a few trends emerged about the direction of our profession in 2011: Continue reading »
I recently caught up with Steve Gershik, author of the Innovative Marketer blog and producer of the upcoming DemandCon conference (May 18-19, 2011, San Francisco, CA). Steve shared his thoughts on the future of marketing automation and what we can expect from DemandCon, which will help marketers and sales professional realize revenue rapidly.
NOTE: While I am a listed expert on virtual events and social media, the below represent my own personal opinions and are not reflective of Focus.com’s.
In my blog posting, “Getting Beyond the Quora Hype,” I mentioned another site called Focus.com, which seeks to provide “millions of professionals with the expertise they need to make better business decisions.” Backed by Lightspeed Venture Partners, Trinity Ventures, and GGV Capital, Focus.com cites 1 million members with 5,000-plus business experts (Source: Focus.com Announces Increased Growth and Expansion Over Past Month, September 27, 2010 press release). Considering the buzz that Quora has received, I wanted to take a closer look at Focus.com as well.
Overview of Focus.com to Date
1. Designated Subject-Matter Experts: Focus.com has designated specific members as “experts”, who are considered subject-matter experts based on a few criteria highlighted under “what it takes to be an expert.” When Focus.com identifies an emerging topic to include, the company reaches out to a few industry experts to assist in building the expert network around that topic. Think of it as the Alltop for business experts.
For example, for virtual events, my colleague, Dennis Shiao, helped recruit experts for the topic. Since Dennis personally sent invites, this increased the likelihood of others, like myself, to participate as experts. And theoretically, increases the quality of answers. My concern is the number of vendors listed as experts compared to business end-users, which may add a level “selling” to answers.
You can also request to be an expert (see image to left).
3. Expert-lead Research Briefs, Roundtables, etc.: Focus.com has done a great job in leveraging its group of experts to provide insights on industry trends via research briefs, roundtable discussions and white papers. This provides three benefits: 1) members receive insights via the collective knowledge of experts, 2) experts share their knowledge to prospective audiences, and 3) Focus.com increases its position for quality content through the efforts of its experts.
As Scott Albro, CEO of Focus.com, wrote in response to “What are some tips for using focus? on Focus.com:
“Use Focus Research for seminal decisions. Research combines the data collected from end users with analysis and commentary from Focus Experts. It’s a great way to understand complex issues such as major purchasing decisions or what best practices to adopt for a particular part of your business.”
To my knowledge, the experts provide their contributions free of charge. As Focus.com gains more momentum and demonstrates a larger following, I anticipate that this relationship may change, with more experts seeking compensation for the fruits of their efforts.
4. Expert Promotion: With that said, many experts may be content with how Focus.com heavily promotes its expert network. Experts receive invites to participate in media opportunities sourced by Focus.com and exposure through Focus’ distribution to its members network and roundtable programs. This publicity may be enough for most experts who consider this part of their overall marketing and PR efforts.
5. Search Capabilities: For the life of me, I spent a good 10 minutes trying to figure out a way to search or filter questions on Quora. Maybe it’s cleverly hidden, but it was frustrating. OK, I just found the search function and it is cleverly hidden. I thought you could only add a question in the upper left-hand tool bar. In fact, this is the search engine – just don’t click on “add question” as you type in your search term. One thing I do like about Quora’s search is that it tries to identify if a similar question has been asked as you type in the words.
On the other hand, Focus.com has the search clearly visible on the top of the page, making it easier to find questions related a specific term. And according to the website, Focus.com plans to roll out a new search feature.
Conclusions: Use Focus for Business Decisions
Overall, the key difference is how Focus.com and Quora position themselves. Focus.com clearly states it’s a site for business decisions while Quora is a place for getting your questions answered as a collaborative research database.As such, I would recommend that marketers and businesses use Focus.com as part of your marketing mix while you’re evaluating Quora’s appropriateness. Focus.com has an edge with regards to a speedier service, search capabilities, and layout for finding the topics/questions related to your interests.
Where Quora has the edge is the quality of individuals responding to questions; though these range beyond business to consumer and entertainment. The question is whether this enthusiasm will continue in the next 3, 6 or even 12 months from now. What do you think? Are you planning to monitor both Quora and Focus.com or just one?
Other Articles of Interest:
1. AppAppeal, Review of Focus.com
2. Fast Company, Focus on Business Smarts for All
In this installment of PRMM Interview, I spoke with Dennis Shiao, author of the It’s All Virtual blog and “Generate Sales Leads With Virtual Events.” This video highlights the motivation behind writing his book, top tips for generating leads via virtual events, and a special offer for his book.
Over the past few weeks, there has been a wave of publicity about Quora, a service seeking to rival LinkedIn’s popular answers service. After reading some of the coverage, I decided to check it out and was a little bit disappointed. I’ve actually been an active participant of an alternative service called Focus.com. While I see the value that services like Quora can bring, I believe that most of Quora’s current hype is due to it’s founder and funding to date.
Right now, I’m keeping an eye on the service and seeing if Quora delivers on it’s hype.
Initial Thoughts About Quora
1. Faster Service: The last few times I’ve accessed the Quora site, the service was slow to load. This made finding questions, responding to them and posting quite laborious. I assume that these kinks will be figured out shortly. In the meantime, this will most likely slow the site’s adoption rate.
2. Registration Required: Since Quora is fairly new, businesses are still evaluating the value of participating on Quora. Unfortunately, you have to register in order to review the content. This puts a barrier not only to businesses but also to the very individuals you’re seeking to attract as subject matter experts. Furthermore, this requirement may drive the initial membership numbers; yet, the statistics will bear out how many are truly active on the site.
3. Quiz Before Asking: Before any member can post a question, there is a quiz on Quora’s recommended way of asking questions. This helps create a standard expectation about what is acceptable and unacceptable; though some may be put off by the approach.
4. Social Community: An interesting aspect about Quora is how the service brings in your social graph, instantly identifying members to follow who you’ve previously vetted. The community can also vote up or down topics, helping to filter out quality questions/discussions.
5. Perceived or Real Influence: Since signing up for the service last week, I already have 30 followers without much work on my side. I wonder if Quora will fall into the “more followers you have, the more ‘influence’ you have” issue that surrounds Twitter and subsequent “influence” ranks.
6. Technology Elite are Present: In discussing Quora to my friend, Dennis Shiao, he highlighted how questions are being answered by some of the industry’s technology elite. I agree with him that this presents an interesting opportunity for members to get a glimpse into the thinking behind some of the industry’s top venture capitalists, technologists and entrepreneurs.
Conclusions: Don’t Put All Eggs into the Quora Basket
Quora is an interesting model where individuals can establish expertise and drive conversations around topics, brands and products. While Quora has received all the “buzz” recently, I would closely evaluate services like Quora to determine which works best for your company based on your audience, objectives and staffing resources. Once such service is Focus.com, which I’ve been an active user of.
Previously started as a lead generation service, the company morphed into its current incarnation in May 2010. I’ll provide my insights about Focus in my next PR/marketing/social media post.
Do you agree – is Quora a case of the PR “buzz” machine getting ahead of the promise?
Other Articles on Quora:
1. Jeremiah Owyang, Quora for Business Not Allowed, But You Should Still Monitor and Respond
2. Mario Sundar, Should I Care about Quora?
3. David Armano, Quora Underscores Need for Corporate Ambassadors
Cece Salomon-Lee is director of product marketing for Lanyon Solutions, Inc. and author of PR Meets Marketing, which explores the intersection of public relations, marketing, and social media.
This blog contains Cece's personal opinions and are not representative of her company's.
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