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
For nearly 3 years, I’ve been writing about PR, marketing, social media, and most recently virtual events. At times, I’ve been very prolific and other times I’ve gone weeks without a post. As a commitment to myself and to you, my readers, I wanted to share some updates for the site in a short video message that I hope will make the blog more useful for you.
Briefly, I am enacting an editorial calendar to help develop a schedule of posts and expectations. My writing schedule will be Mondays (virtual events), Wednesdays (pr, marketing, social media), and Fridays (PRMM interviews with industry experts).
I also want to invite you to submit your ideas for potential blog topics and interview subjects (email or video). Here are some high-level bullet points on what I’m looking for in guest posts, interviewees and/or blog ideas, such as surveys highlighting key trends, case studies that demonstrate ROI, interesting case uses of technology, someone who is truly visionary, etc.
But, most importantly, read my past posts first before connecting with me.
If you’re interested, please drop me a note either in the comments or via email. I look forward to hearing from you and watch here for future announcements.
NOTE: I am providing pr/marketing services to the Virtual Edge Summit. This post reflects my personal opinions and is not representative of the Virtual Edge Institute or Virtual Edge Summit.
I previously wrote about some of the efforts we undertook to promote the Virtual Edge Summit. I would like to highlight some of the buzz coming out of the Summit and what this means for marketers. Interestingly, I anticipated hearing some innovations from the key players in the US virtual events market – INXPO (Note: I was previously employed here), 6Connex, and Unisfair.
Rather, for me, I was intrigued by the number of mobile developments by other providers at the show, Altus, Digitell Inc. and Social27. While this was surprising, it fits into my overall predictions about the industry, that newcomers will help push the innovation for virtual and hybrid events. Here’s a quick summary of the announcements. I also had the opportunity to speak briefly with Altus and Social27. Here is a quick overview of the Altus and Social27 news, and I plan to post the videos once I get those completed.
Altus Brings Conferences to the Palm of Your Hand
Altus highlighted their announcement as an extension of physical to provide a “hybrid” experience. The mobile application allows conference organizers to put the conference agenda, sponsor information and even presentations on your mobile device.
Why you should take a look? Since attendees proactively download the app to their device (supports many operating systems), conference organizers can continue pushing updates to attendees long after the conference has ended. If you leverage this as an opportunity to continue a conversation, you can keep members engaged while driving interest for the following conference, as well as open up possible revenue opportunities via sponsorships.
Taking Social Interaction to the Next Level with Social27
Social27 originally started as a service to bring social collaboration to enterprises. Seeing an opportunity, Social27 is moving into events and conferences. The company has a philosophy of “Social, Mobile and Local”, which Ike Singh Kehal, CEO of Social27, explains in his video (coming soon). Like the main U.S. players in the market, Social27 provides an environment with 2D locations for networking, exhibitors and sessions. Since the company comes from the social collaboration space, Social27 provides a simple integration with the key social networks.
Why you should take a look? Social27 does the social collaboration and networking well. I would venture to say that it provides the simplest and most intuitive interface to date. Furthermore, the company leverages the wealth of your social graph to provide “matches” to assist with networking. Currently available on Windows mobile phones, expect Social27 to expand the services to additional mobile OS. By adding the geographic aspect as well, Social27 provides marketers with the ability to search, seek and network with prospects – virtually or in the real world.
The Virtual Edge Summit provided great insight into how marketers can leverage virtual and hybrid events as part of the marketing mix. And an integral part of the experience is extending the event to mobile devices. Do you agree or disagree?
My husband and I are huge electric car enthusiasts, but not as much as our friends Amy and Andrew. I was curious when they asked me to vote for their video for a chance to win a Nissan Leaf (click on the image to the left to launch their video). I personally think their video is great =) and a great way for Nissan to drive interest in their first generation Leaf.
The contest rules are pretty straightforward: Schedule a time to test drive the Lead, record a video and promote it to friends and family for votes. A winner is selected from the various regions, with one winning the grand prize – a quiet car that will sneak upon you with no warning.
While this is a great way to drive people to the event, grow its list of prospective buyers, increase engagement, and spread the word, here are my recommendations to make this an event better contest.
1) You can share the video via Twitter, Facebook and email, but there was no way to embed the video to blogs and websites. Hence, why I did a screen capture and link to the video.
2) While the link takes you to a single videos, there is no video gallery to view entries from a single event. By having a centralized gallery, Nissan could leverage it’s marketing weight to segment email lists and encourage people to vote for the best video. This could also drive interest in the contest itself. Instead, the contest depends on individuals to spread the word.
3) I’m actually on the Nissan Leaf mailing list and received emails about the Nissan Test Drive tour. But I had not heard about this contest until the email from my friends, who had scheduled a test drive. My assumption is that the contest wasn’t well integrated with the other marketing channels for the Leaf – email marketing, PR (first person who received a Leaf in the Bay Area made the local news), etc. Bringing these channels together could provide Nissan with great word-of-mouth, especially as this first generation of electric cars roll out.
What do you think? And don’t forget, Vote for Amy and Andrew now! I want to be the first to ride in the car!
This past weekend, a story unfolded in the San Francisco area about a Santa Claus, known as Santa John, who was fired from his 20-year job at Macy’s. The issue was about a joke that Santa John told two adult customers sitting on his lap (that’s another issue altogether =). He had said the joke often but this one time got him fired as the customers objected to his “knowing where all the naughty boys and girls lived.”
Now begins a story that pushes Santa John into the limelight, positions Macy’s unfavorably to a world audience, and takes a beloved watering hole, Lefty O’Douls, front and center.
Macy’s Continued Silence
In any other case, the firing of a Santa who told a raunchy joke would have blown over for Macy’s. However, this was a situation in which Santa John has been the face of Christmas for the Macy’s San Francisco flagship store for the past 20 years. As such, Santa John holds an emotional tie to many in the community which has further propelled this story beyond the Bay Area community.
And throughout all this, Macy’s continues to stay silent on this, considering this a “personnel matter”. And this is Macy’s biggest mistake. The company has failed to recognize this as a unique situation. This was an opportunity for the company to highlight their high quality of service to all customers and that they take customer satisfaction seriously. This was an opportunity to apologize for their mistake, acknowledge the 1,000 of emails and letters to rehire Santa John back, and hold a large cermony on Santa John’s return to demonstrate Macy’s Christmas spirit.
Rather, by remaining silent, Macy’s is seen as a harsh employer who fired a beloved holiday icon over one complaint despite 20 years of loyal service.
Lefty O’Doul’s Saves Santa
If you’ve been to San Francisco, it’s very likely you’ve frequented Lefty O’Doul’s, a bar off Union Square. As the story unfolded regarding Santa John, the management at Lefty’s did a brilliant move of offering Santa John a job at the bar – double the pay and a bigger seat.
While there have been job offers for Santa John, this one captured the local media’s attention: local angle, well-known bar establishment located blocks from the very same Macy’s store, and better benefits for Santa John. And best of all, permission to tell all the jokes he wants.
This move is what David Meerman Scott highlights in his book “Real-Time Marketing & PR: How to Instantly Engage with Your Market, Connect with Customers, and Create Products that Grow Your Business.”
Conclusion: The Holiday Spirit
The story of Santa John provides a blueprint on how brands, both small and large, should and shouldn’t handle communications issues. In the new era of transparency, Macy’s could (should?) have been more open and willing to admit a possible mistake. In the end, Lefty’s demonstrated a holiday spirit that benefitted Santa John and inevitably drive more traffic and business to Lefty’s.
And in a time when money is still tight and customers more selective, I suspect that the San Francisco Macy’s year-over-year sales and traffic may dip as a result.
What do you think?
I belong to several groups in LinkedIn and came across a case study regarding the use of social media to increase membership to a LinkedIn group, which then drove conference attendance. I interviewed Bob Etheridge, social media aficionado, to learn more about his experience.
Bob Etheridge’s background has been primarily in the online recruitment and job board industry. In 1999, he co-founded JobCircle.com, a regional job board in Philadelphia and 2003, started a physical Job Fair division for the company, thus entering the event production and marketing world. The economic downturn and lack of hiring had a large impact on the business, so in May, they took their event production experience and created a B to B conference called Social Media Plus, capitalizing on the growth and interest in Social Media. Bob can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
1) We both belong to the same LinkedIn Group and you mentioned how you increased membership to a group you were managing for a conference. Can you provide an overview of what you did?
Yes, creating a Linkedin Group is easy enough, inviting your first degree connections to join the group is also relatively easy. However, growing your group quickly after that becomes a challenge.
November 21, 2010 – Per Bob’s request, I have replaced the previous text with the below two paragraphs:
We utilized a service called Community Leadership offered by a company called Network Sunday. Network Sunday has virtual assistants that can help you with your Social Media marketing outreach. Network Sunday works with business development and conference marketing professionals to leverage Linkedin to help grow communities, create awareness and build personal and professional brand.
By joining relevant, Industry specific Linkedin groups using the Advanced People Search engine on Linkedin, we created a targeted list of members who would most likely be interested in learning about Social Media and networking with other Social Media Marketing professionals. We then invited these people, through Linkedin, to join the Social Media Plus Conference group using a simple, straight forward message. The campaign lasted for approximately 2 months before the conference.
2) Besides LinkedIn, did you use any other marketing and social media tactics? If so, how did you leverage these tactics for driving attendance.
Yes, we created a Facebook page and a Twitter account for the event. While Twitter was a great tool for communication during and after the conference with our #SMPlus hashtag, neither produced significant results in driving attendees.
3) What was the result of your efforts?
The response was phenomenal. In 2 months, our Conference group grew from 50 members to around 1800 and over 700 people attended the conference. We did some traditional marketing such as direct mail and e-mail marketing, but Linkedin was the most effective marketing tool by far. We tracked the click through bit.ly URL’s, measuring the use of unique coupon codes that we offered and by comparing the final attendee list to our Linkedin Group members. 450 attendees had joined the Social Media Plus Linkedin group prior to the conference. (Disclaimer – Bob was so impressed with the results that Network Sunday provided, he is now the US Partner helping other conference organizers in their Marketing efforts).
4) What three tips would you provide to those seeking to use social media to promote their conference?
1) Social Media Marketing is a two way street. Be prepared to spend time communicating directly with your audience.
2) Don’t over sell in your Marketing message. Less is more in this case. People want to explore and learn things on their own. If they have specific questions, they’ll reach out to you.
3) Don’t go it alone. Social Media Marketing can be time consuming and often companies start off with a bang, but burn out quickly. Social Media Marketing is a marathon, not a sprint.
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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