August 2006

New Word of Mouth Book

My friend Andy Sernovitz, head of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association, has a new book coming out soon: Word of Mouth Marketing: How Smart Companies Get People Talking. Andy has been kind enough to provide me with a PDF version of the final book content, and I’ll be taking a look this weekend and reporting back here.

Thanks, Andy!

Jake McKee | 9:11 am | No Comments Tags: Blogs , wordofmouth , wom , andysernovitz , books | Bookmark on | Digg It

Stealth Mode is not smart

(Cross-posted to
Stealth Mode.

It’s a term that you often hear associated with either startups or poorly executed consumer interaction strategies. Like when Nvidia tried to “gift” gamers into saying good things about them. Or when an agency tried to sneak bloggers into the blogosphere to talk up Raging Cow milk, check and marching orders in hand.

I found a blog post today from the WinMarkets blog about the LEGO Ambassador program that I built. While this program was invite only, it was by no means stealth. The community at large knew all about it, and could apply to participate. (We had final say on who was invited in)

Nilofer on the WinMarkets blog post says:

This is a great example of how marketing can build a strategic fortress around the company and it’s customers and prevent competitors to steal them away. This one is branded and visible. Even more powerful can be the ones built more in stealth mode with key influencers. We’re doing a series of them right now with clients to help them enter new markets.

I responded in the comments, but I thought I’d elaborate here a bit. While the praise for the LEGO Ambassadors is much appreciated, I was saddened to read those last two sentences.

Ambassador programs (or any type of consumer interaction program) is almost always a bad idea in stealth mode. (There are exceptions, mostly involving top secret projects -  this was the case with the LEGO Mindstorms NXT project)

In a best case scenario, keeping  this hidden from public eye means that you’re missing a huge audience to show the world at large that you’re interested in consumer opinion.

The worst case is that consumers feel like you’re lying to them. It doesn’t matter what your original intentions were, you always come out looking sleazy. Just ask Nvidia.

Entering a new market should be about building an actual, ongoing relationship. What are relationships based on? Trust. How can you build trust when your introduction is based on a lie and/or secrets?

Jake McKee | 10:21 pm | No Comments Tags: Blogs | Bookmark on | Digg It

Snakes on a Plane: The Community Ecosystem

With my brother in town for the weekend, Snakes on a Plane Day didn’t come until today. I have to admit, I was one of the many suckers that got pulled into the fan-created hype machine. The funny thing about hype machines is that they tend to be largely ineffective and at best short-lived when they’re run by the studio, yet can be incredibly effective when fans take over. I had no real interest in the movie when I first heard about it. Even when the blogs, Web sites, text messaging flash groups, and even fan created video, comics, and apparel started popping up, my enthusiasm rose only a minor amount.

But by  SoaP Day, I was completely excited to see the movie. What caused the bump in interest? Two things… the first was the SoaP voicemail. Being able to send hilarious voicemails to my friends was a ton of fun. The second was seeing Samuel L. Jackson on the Daily Show. It’s not often that you see actors having so much fun when doing the press tour. Fun seems to be the key to this entire adventure, and fun has moved SoaP into lead spot at the box office. My review of the movie? Fun, fun, fun. Even my wife had a good time.

You’ll notice that, despite the attention being heaped on the fan efforts, what really sparked my interest was a studio created Web design project, and an old school media spot. Does this mean that fan efforts are still largely irrelevant? Not at all.

If you look at how the process of this movie creation played out, you’ll see a big mix of fan and studio efforts. You had the lead actor posting messages on online forums about changing the title, which kicked off a flurry of fan discussion. Fans found fun in the concept and started to develop content…by the metric ton. The studio changed the marketing efforts for the movie in reaction to the new found fan enthusiasm. Fans were engaged and thus more willing to engage, to give feedback, to offer support in building buzz. The studio helped to encourage these efforts by running traditional marketing efforts.

Snakes on a Plane isn’t a story about the power of fan support. It’s not even a story about the pitfalls of movie making by committee. It’s a story about the ecosystem that can be created when an organization works with their end consumers to create something bigger than either group alone.

According to Wikipedia, “in general terms an ecological system can be thought of as an assemblage of organisms living together with their environment, functioning as a loose unit.”

When in balance, ecosystems are surprisingly robust, growth happens, species flourish, everyone grows. In terms of consumer interaction, this is what I talk about when my mantra “Everybody goes home happy”.

But when an ecosystem is thrown off balance, it can easily and quickly fall apart. This is what happens when marketers think of the fan community as nothing more than “free marketing”. This is what happens when fans forget that businesses need to make money in order to stay in business. In an “Community Ecosystem”, much of the burden for maintaining that balance falls to the marketer, whether than like it or not. Marketers have the budgets, they have the time, and they have the vested interest in ensuring that the ecosystem stays viable.

Will New Line continue to foster and support the ecosystem that has formed around SoaP? Will it help it flourish into something far more encompassing than one movie? We’ll see. But if they don’t, and if this ecosystem collapses, they’ll have only themselves and a lack of vision to blame.

Jake McKee | 8:15 am | No Comments Tags: Blogs , community , snakesonaplane , ecosystem , movies | Bookmark on | Digg It

Dumb. . .

Scoble could’t get his son in…

photo credit Scott Beale / Laughing Squid

Alexander Muse | 10:11 am | No Comments Tags: Blogs , linux , linuxworld | Bookmark on | Digg It

Jake is interviewed at

I had the pleasure of being invited by Eric over at to talk about Social Media and Big in Japan and other assorted subjects. Eric is on a quest to interview 1000 marketing people, and I was number 79.

Check it out and if you’re interested in helping Eric drive to 1000, drop him an email and introduce yourself. He’s a great guy, and it’s a great project!

Jake McKee | 8:54 am | No Comments Tags: Blogs , socialmedia , podcast , biginjapan , jakemckee , interview , marketing | Bookmark on | Digg It

Breaking the Web?

When we launched the Hurricane Blog project we thought that it would be temporary.  Almost a year later we took the blog down and one of our former employees complained that we were “breaking the web.”  We are now faced with a similar problem.

The Real World: Key West sponsor, Mystic Tan, asked us to build and manage a blog to run in conjunction with the show.  The show ended in July and the client sees no need to continue the project.  The blog is called “Inside the booth” and is authored by Ricky Croft from Mystic Tan.

What do we do?  Are we obligated to keep it up and running forever even though Mystic Tan is not going to pay us for continued management and hosting?  There are hundreds of links into the site, by taking it down we effectively break the web according to Adaptive Path, Mike Arrington and David Parmet (guys I really respect).  On an ironic sidenote, the Adaptive Path post titled “The Web is Fragile don’t Break it!” now shows a 404 error.  I am not sure why they took it down, but I suspect it has to do with the veracity of the information they received.

Any ideas?  What obligation does the world have to continue to maintain electronic ideas in the form of websites when the ideas have run their course?  Some people say that bandwidth and space are cheap so you should just keep everything up and running.  But what about people to keep things running?  What about WordPress upgrades?  Do we upgrade the sites that are historical?  What about security patches?  If we are running various historical sites at various version levels and there are security issues we will have to resolve them on a blog by blog basis.  In some cases we will have to upgrade them to current software revisions.  At the end of the day, the cost isn’t just bandwidth and space - there is a management overhead that will grow with each piece of “history” we become responsible for.

Alexander Muse | 12:15 pm | [2] Comments Tags: Blogs , davidparmet , mikearrington , realworld , hurricaneblog , keywest , mystictan , insidethebooth | Bookmark on | Digg It

Wiki Tool Update: Apple Gets Social!

Our team is working more and more with companies seeking to launch wikis in their businesses (internal and external wikis).  This summer we spent some time with the Socialtext guys in our effort to recommend and support the best products available to our cliens.  Joshua Porter pointed out that Apple might be a direction our team needed to explore.  Boy, was he dead on!
Apple is now making push into social tools such as wikis.  With their new wiki server as described by Apple:

“Leopard Server includes a Wiki Server to make it easy for teams to create and distribute information through their own shared Intranet website. For the first time, all members of a workgroup can easily create or edit content right from their browser. With a few clicks, or by dragging and dropping, they can upload files and images, track changes, assign keywords, hyper-link pages, view and contribute to shared calendars and blogs, and search for content on the group Intranet.”

Of course the wiki server is only one great social tool included in Leopard.  Others include iCal calendar sharing (say goodbye to Exchange?), iChat screen sharing and social iTunes.  Oh, and of course Apple is going to allow “teams” to turn on these features.  Apple explaines:

“Leopard Server includes a Wiki Server to make it easy for teams to create and distribute information through their own shared Intranet website. For the first time, all members of a workgroup can easily create or edit content right from their browser. With a few clicks, or by dragging and dropping, they can upload files and images, track changes, assign keywords, hyper-link pages, view and contribute to shared calendars and blogs, and search for content on the group Intranet.”

Alexander Muse | 6:25 am | 1 Comment Tags: Blogs , socialtools , wiki , apple , joshuaporter | Bookmark on | Digg It

Blog Monitoring

We have been talking about blog monitoring for some time.  Last year we began offering it as a service.  Soon it became clear to us that monitoring served as a crutch for many companies allowing them to feel good, but ultimately not making much of a difference.  We would produce reports and client’s wouldn’t have the slightest understanding of what we were talking about.  They were not in the conversation, instead they were simply reading the translated trascripts we provided.

Today we still help companies monitor blogs, but instead of doing the monitoring we teach them the “how” and the “why” allowing them to join in the conversation.  Josh Hallett, our go-to-guy for design, wrote about his experience with Nikon in a post titled, “Big Thanks to Nikon.”  Josh details how Nikon’s team read his blog post about the D80 and his need for a new SLR before its release.

Nikon, to their credit, found Josh’s blog, recognized his interest in their product, understood his need and provided a solution.  I suspect they created a “fan for life” in Josh and it doesn’t hurt that he was already talking about Nikon.

If your organization needs to listen better.  Start by listening for problems - i.e. to avoid getting Dell’d - before they become nightmares.  Then begin listening to your fans, and think of ways you help your average-everyday fans become rabid sales machines for your company!

Alexander Muse | 11:40 am | No Comments Tags: Blogs , blogmonitoring , dell , nikon | Bookmark on | Digg It

Technorati on NPR

Logo Npr 125On the way home this weekend I heard David Sifry on NPR being interviewed by Scott Simon.  Crazy!  Here is David’s post on the interview and the interview.

Alexander Muse | 4:36 pm | No Comments Tags: Blogs , technorati , npr , davidsifry | Bookmark on | Digg It

Community as a Dating Relationship

A while back I was interviewed by John Winsor for his book Spark. He’s just posted the transcript on this blog, and it’s a fun read. Part 1 and part 2.

I thought I’d repost part of it here. I’ve never really talked about my “Community as a Dating Relationship” concept on the blog before, but trust me, in real life I talk about it all the time.

A Dating Relationship

What we really have here – when I talk about the relationship that I have with the fan groups and they have with me – is a dating relationship. If you show up on a date and you’re absolutely perfect, the person doesn’t think, ‘Wow, this is so great – he’s perfect!’ They think, ‘What’s wrong with this guy?’ Their defenses immediately go up and they assume you’re hiding something. When companies do that same thing you immediately think they’re just spinning it, that it’s just marketing crap and you don’t need to pay attention to it. But when you actually start to have an interaction with them, that back and forth, then you have a relationship.

Sometimes it’s bad, sometimes it’s good, but at the end of the day, as long as it’s more positive than negative, that’s what it’s all about. That’s what people really believe; that you’re not just messing with them, trying to get them to buy something.

Jake McKee | 8:29 pm | No Comments Tags: Blogs , community , spark , dating | Bookmark on | Digg It

Refresh Dallas needs speakers!

Just today I volunteered to take on the even coordinator role of a fun group here in town, Refresh Dallas. What is Refresh, you ask?

Refresh is a community of designers and developers working to refresh the creative, technical and professional aspects of new media endeavors in the Dallas area.

Do you feel like the web needs a new look? Interested in the latest web technologies? Care about design, but feel it must be usable? Then you’ve come to the right place.

Sign up on the site for updates.

Since I’m now in charge of booking speakers, I’m putting out a call. If you’re interested in speaking, or have ideas for topics, drop me a mail: jake AT biggu DOT com.

I hope to see you at the next meeting!

Jake McKee | 8:01 pm | [2] Comments Tags: Blogs , speaking , refreshdallas , event | Bookmark on | Digg It

small is the new BIG by Seth Godin

sethcover.gifSeth Godin compiled and updated entries from his blog in a book titled, Small is the New Big.  Jake got an advanced copy and said it was worth reading (he is a third of the way through).  Some of the content was a little out of date, but generally it was some great stuff.  Check it out.

[via Guy]

Alexander Muse | 1:38 pm | No Comments Tags: Blogs , sethgodin , smallisthenewbig , jakemckee | Bookmark on | Digg It

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