I've been caught up in all the buzz around a vertical search engine called Spock. I just signed-up for their private beta, so I can't yet speak on all the great features that everyones talking about. What makes them different? From the screen caps circulating online, here is a breakdown of their approach:
o The query is specific to people
o Results based on people attributes (geography, occupation, etc.)
o Tags that link the relationships between people
o Wiki-like self-editing capabilities
o Feedback loop (is this so and so's daughter/son, etc.)
So its a search completely tailored to people - and it looks like their database will include important (entertainers, politicians, etc.) and ordinary people like you and me.
I'm assuming that they will draw on MySpace, Facebook, and other social networking sites to aggregate their people data. So we might find typical stuff like name, age, country and links to known online profiles. Might get interesting if they are able to tie-in people's blogs, domains they own, or other more obscure online involvements (ie. avatar-based personalities on message boards and other virtual communities).
While this might not be such a good thing for some, there might be a huge potential for a vertical search engine focused on people, especially for employers and recruiters wanting to do background checks on employees or prospects.
Indeed, Social media requires clear strategy - and Melcrum has released a report that attempts to deliver the most practical explanations of social media, with examples and advice on how to develop a social media strategy.
“How to use social media to engage employees” is a global survey of attitudes toward social media technology and could be useful if your in the area of corporate communications. Its also the kind of report which makes it perfectly clear that you may not be alone in terms of deciding on the right social media strategy for your corporation, but with some 60% of organizations committing to having some form of social media strategy in place by 2007, you soon may be.
Just as I was stringing together some thoughts in a previous post about my own purposes for blogging, and elaborating on the "honesty" of conversation, "conversational marketing" makes the headlines once again.
The current issue involves Microsoft's ad campaign which involves FM Publishing. Specifically, as the Valleywag headline reads, "Federated Media: Microsoft pays star writers to recite slogan," suggesting John Battelle's Federated Media "paid" A-List bloggers to participate in a slick Microsoft ad campaign.
Most of the blog storm centers around the "ethics" and responsibilities" of blog authors. FM VP Neil Chase chimes in on the Valleywag post, and describes this as the new age of conversational marketing - and that there is no harm of foul in a three-way conversation between the reader, blog author and the business which is engaging the readers. He goes on to describe how the authors weren't paid to engage in the conversation, and the only monetizing aspect comes from the ad impressions delivered by way of Microsoft ad campaigns.
If the next step in the evolution of online discussion is to involve marketers into the discussion, and history can teach us anything, then maybe its the conversational marketing methods themselves that might require more careful consideration. Its not a conversation when conversational marketing campaigns turn social marketing into a shill machine before the conversation ever has a chance to flourish. Under such pretenses, conversational marketing can potentially hurt the editorial integrity of the authors and the reputations of people and businesses connected to the marketing campaign.
When they launched their Vista operating system, Microsoft became all too familiar with the kind of online attention and controversy that can stir when the social engagement doesn't require that every participant have their hands in front of them. In fairness, Microsoft isn't alone as its happened to many great companies including Wal-Mart, Sony and Dell.
Egregious or minor faux pas? The one thing we do know is that bloggers are taking notice. Its interesting how history and research continues to reinforce how the online community has already become this finely tuned, self-regulating mechanism that ultimately proves to be accurate in its views. Like it or not, the online crowds in their wisdom will make the final determination whether blogger reaction is justified or not.
I received an email notification this morning from PayPal. I've been a PayPal customer for some years now, and have received spoofing emails in the past. They have however become more and more convincing. I've also received Bank of America emails as well as from other financial institutions, but those don't stand a chance in convincing anyone who isn't even a customer.
With PayPal emails, its a little different because I have had legitimate notifications from them in the past concerning chargebacks on my account. This happens in cases where people use fraudulent credit cards to send you payment. Below is the most recent email I received:
I've magnified the link that appears in the email when you hover over the link they ask you to visit. It is clearly going to an unauthorized location. The other clincher that this was a scam email was that the email arrived at an email address not tied to my PayPal account.
I'm sure I'm not alone in receiving these kinds of emails, but the incident prompted me to write about my views as they pertain to Net security. More specifically, this notion that establishing trust continues to be one of the Internet's greatest challenges. Ironically, one of the underlying themes in the most recent battle between eBay and Google was eBay's claim that Google checkout is unproven. The question that remains is how does one establish "proven" systems of trust when a site like PayPal continues to have problems associated to preventing identity theft and fraud? Does one take away from this that this just one example which represents the negative perpetuality of Net security?
There is absolutely no doubt that the way the Internet works now is wonderful because it is able to grow without limit, and capable of handling any application. But the idea that someone may stand in the middle of an established system of trust raises some concern over scalability issues as it relates to Net security. Do we retreat from this problem, and accept this as a cost of taking our business online?
Amazingly, as I interpret the location of the link from the bogus PayPal email pointing to a non-trusted site, and its attempt to take me to a site in the Eastern block if it isn't a spoofed address, its lesson also allows me to recognize how successful IP addresses and domain ties have been all along in providing us with the rudimentary capability to combat online fraud.
And as we strive towards establishing smarter networks and suspicion detection systems meant to stay on par with the kind of growth the Internet is experiencing, establishing trust in Net security still needs to allow the Internet to be this fantastic place with huge growth potential, open to innovation at will.
Fixes that make the experience more obtrusive through processes and functionality designed to put in place stricter safeguards will come with considerable cost and penalties. Keeping networks open also doesn't mean pushing everything to the edge allowing it to evolve on its own because so far we have not had any success being able to apply this principle very well to Net security.
Earlier last week, I caught Drew Myers blogging about the topic of social media measurement. I meant to expand on the interview with Jeremiah Owyang and Eric Peterson the day I happened across the post, but its been difficult to keep my blogging regular, and after Jeremiah added our company to his list of companies that measure social media, the least I could do is keep my word to him that I'd blog on a more regular basis. I'm still working on keeping my posts tighter.
The "value" part of my promise to Jeremiah brings us to the first in a series of topics I'm going to string together in this one post. It deals with the purpose of blogging, and how some bloggers use the medium as a form of conversational marketing. On the one hand, excessive flamboyance isn't necessary if your purpose is to get people talking, unless you're into the kind of chatter laced with words which might include "rich," "pompous" and/or "arrogant."
On the other, Jeremiah's point about being totally naked and his willingness to share his stats draws on the theme of blogging as a marketing vehicle which is used to influence and effect change. I believe this means being genuine, and taking the time to contribute. What I take away from Jeremiah's post is that he's a person who is passionate about what he does and his numbers reflect the kind of following that appreciates it. Its the kind of inspiring post which informs my own reasons for posting. And that includes listening to suggestions on how I can improve and make my own blogging a more engaging experience for my readers.
The other topic I wanted to cover relates back to Drew Myers post and the video interview - more specifically on the point of arriving at a working framework for measuring engagement. Some interesting observations that I'd like to add to the mix involve comment tracking, and how comment handling seems to have taken on a life of its own.
The other relates to practical measures of engagement - in my experience, this is the trickiest. While RepuTrace(TM) is able to score, track comments and measure blog influence through its tra.cktion platform (blogrolls, blog linking to help determine blogger influence), the other important parts of our monitoring scope include measuring the footprint of mirrored, rebroadcast and repeating instances of the same online discussion. While we know blogrolls are one example, we've seen examples which include posting email communication between two people unknown to one of the parties involved in the original communication, as well as newsletters, internal memos or announcements intended for a limited viewing audience, and rebroadcast online on a forum, consumer site or blog for public consumption.
Which leads me to the final point on determining the volatility of online discussion topics. Its becoming increasingly important that the business culture focus its attention in the area of internal risk awareness - specifically as it pertains to the potential for past problems to resurface. That includes an approach to measuring the potential for incidences of negative online attention to repeat and expose that business to a form of risk which might have been averted.
The Internet provides an opportunity for written words to linger, and this could be especially problematic if a disgruntled employee decides to connect a hot-topic issue with one which occurred in the past. What I'm suggesting here is a form of media measurement which can bridge commonalities in scored analytic data, with an ability to develop relational patterns to interpret the potential of recurring risk. An aspect which may provide significant advancement in this area might come from formal measurement vendors interpreting correlations using incident data from a number of organizations and professional sectors to determine risk probability scores and ratings.
I just signed-up for the Reuters InterActive Community - an interesting debut for the news vendor and its attempts to create a social community around news topics. Built on the Blogtronix platform, it seemed interesting enough to consider becoming a member.
Similar to my views on the Topix.net site, I think its a great idea that will hopefully foster a community of interaction between citizen journalists and established media types like Reuters.
I noticed a couple of things that might put off the Web 2.0 crowd. The first is that it seems you can't register with a yahoo, gmail, or msn email account. I had to use my corporate email account. I guess the question I take away from this is whether they are looking for interaction and engagement to occur strictly within the corporate community? My hunch is that they might get a few people complaining about it, or worse, not bother to sign-up.
The other was with the email I received upon signing-up:
Thank you for registering with Reuters InterActive. We will review your details and get back to you within 48 hours.
This process is in place to protect the integrity of the Reuters InterActive Community.
An email will be sent to you when the review is complete.
It made me wonder how an email address could possibly help them to determine any level of "honesty" or "integrity." I guess what they mean to say is that they want to reduce any incidences of fake or anonymous posters trying to subvert the media or topics being discussed. Despite the blunders and controls to sanitize the community discussion, I think that like any experiment they need time to figure out what works and what doesn't. I'm interested to see how this new community works and grows.
Social Target's main man Nathan Gilliatt just released his Guide to Social Media Analysis and we are just as thrilled as anyone about being a part of it. This comprehensive guide includes information on over 30 companies in the social media space, and after months of interviews, research and compiling information from different vendors from around the globe, it is available for purchase.
While doing our interview and demo, I immediately got the sense that Nathan was the right man for the assignment - he just has a way of articulating the things we do in the social media space that I believe will make it simple and meaningful for anyone thinking of jumping in on paid services and springing on formal measurement.
We were also pretty excited about being a part of the Forrester's Brand Monitoring VPC. These sources are extremely valuable in the decision making process.
The ITtoolbox/PJA study identifies "user-generated content" (blogs, discussion groups, online communities, wikis, etc.) as having a more significant role in influencing a number of key areas of business decision-making.
The study reinforces a lot of our own firms findings on social media's impact on media consumption patterns, and the increased relevance of Web audiences, their online opinion and expertise and the challenges they are presenting to the enterprise and industry.
I thought I'd share a pie-chart breakdown of the different forms of social media our firm identifies and monitors. Some footnotes are that online news has become much more versatile (primarily to stay toe to toe with its online brethren the blog, forum and consumer site), allowing visitors to post their own comments and opinions. Forums incorporate chatroom type discussions (ie. message boards, groups, etc.). Social media content in social networks like MySpace and Facebook as well as multimedia (ie. Video, Images, Podcasts) may represent a small part of the current content mix, but are definitely the up and comers.
Information, news, allegations, innuendo - all traveling at warp speed.
People everywhere are linked, communicating and deliberating with hyper-connectivity.
So how does business stay in control? By recalibrating the corporation’s sense of reputation and using those same communications technologies to its advantage.
RepuMetrix Inc. recognized that access to precision Web searching of real-time news and information intelligence drives informed business decisions.
As a result, RepuMetrix has pioneered a suite of trademarked search services that is based on an advanced framework of Web tools developed exclusively to serve business sector interests.
Already, RepuMetrix products and solutions are trusted by growing number of organizations and professional sectors.
To find out more about our search intelligence technology, products or services, feel free to contact us anytime.
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Below are some links to product or company mentions in mainstream media:
Protecting the firm’s name on the web | Law Times
Safeguard Your Brand Reputation Online | Inc. Technology
They’ve got their eyes on you—are your ears burning? | ComputerWorld Canada
Blog author threatens to go "on a killing spree" | CNW Group
Blog author threatens to go "on a killing spree" | PR Newswire
Tips on Safeguarding Your Online Reputation | WSJ Startup Journal