Posted in marketing, online advertising, online community, trends

The Community Spirit lives!

I operate most of my life acting as I would like other people to treat me. This rarely guarantees that people actually WILL treat me as I would like to be treated. But I carry on, not so much to be a martyr, but because I like being a nice person. So, for the most part, I try to feign ignorance to the inequity of nice to not nice actions I see around me on a day to day basis.

In my professional life, I pride myself in that same level of quality. My mom has been in customer service jobs for as long as I can remember and brought me up to value and respect the customer. For years I have been managing online communities and teaching my staff to respect the users above all else. A decade ago, when having a staff to listen to and interact with our users and really putting those users first, was seen primarily a loss center, albeit a nice thought, I fought the good fight for them (and usually in kid communities, no less!). When the dot-com bubble burst and there were just handfuls of us left crafting ROI defenses for adopting, or not trashing, online community strategies, I ate my ramen noodles to the glow of my computer and typed away, confident that my justifications would matter someday.

All that was not some sort of weird confession of my tenacity and awesomeness, but rather to setup the fact that, I have been pleasantly surprised lately with the online communities to which I belong. I have been so happy this year with the notoriety that social networking and online community has been getting. The mass market is finally adopting, in a real way, what myself and so many others have been trying to convince the world of for years.

But this week I received multiple personal examples that these new communities REALLY get it:

  1. I was introduced to ConceptShare at Mesh 2007 in March and loved the idea of it. I talked about it with many clients this summer and finally got a chance to actually use it myself on a project last week. I twittered about this and said how happy I was with the product. That’s it – one tweet. The next day I received an email from Will Pate, ConceptShare’s Community Evangelist (and many other web 2.0-y things), thanking me for the nice words and offering assistance, if I ever needed it, on the product. I was floored by the personal message and wrote back to say so, offering to search our staff for testimonials for him. They made an even bigger evangelist with just one email.
  2. I was procrastinating last week and reading some twitters and saw a request for a to-do manager, based on the GTD theory. I posted about the program I used in the past (iGTD), but was also able to learn that one of my FAVORITE software companies, OmniGroup, had recently put out a new to-do list manager based on GTD as well (OmniFocus). I was able to download it and start using it that day. I have bought many of OmniGroup’s products before, but I would not have been aware that they had released this new gem, unless my community of twitter-ers had informed me.
  3. I received an email from Dopplr today thanking me for being a beta tester. As an early adopter, I have helped beta test countless sites this year. But I think this is the first simple thank you I have gotten for doing so. I may have gotten others, but this one didn’t offer any cool incentives, didn’t feel like a request to virally market for them or anything like that. Just a “Hey, thanks for helping us out”. I liked the service before, but now I feel even more a part of it.

Maybe it’s not that the sea change of the net that I and many others have been patiently waiting for. Maybe it’s simply a coincidence that these great acts of customer service and community all happened in the past week. Maybe it’s just the holiday spirit making everyone giddy with niceness. But I am going to think that it’s a sign of a new age. Where community and good will isn’t something you just share with your family, your workplace or your neighborhood block. But that community can also be felt and spread in nebulous virtual places as well – be it an online community, between a company and a customer or as a respected consumer.

Let’s hope the good cheer continues on in 2008 and beyond. I’ll do my part, you should too.

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Posted in marketing, online advertising, traveling

Events this month

So I was out of the country on various business trips for the past 3 months. Fun, tiring, informative, and cool.

But now it’s time to get back into my Chicago networking circles again. I thought I would share some of the events I want to go to (or at least try to). Please let me know if you want to go with me to any of them. Always nice to not walk into a room of strangers alone. 🙂

11/29 – Mashable Meetup, Fulton Lounge
12/1 – StarShaped Press Open House
12/6 – MediaBistro Holiday Party
12/6 – KEXP’s Equalizer
12/6 – CIMA holiday Party
12/7 – our holiday party 😀
12/8-9 – Bucktown Holiday Arts Fest
12/11 – I-Go Holiday Party
12/18 – Type A Meetup

Wish me luck on getting to any/all of them, as there are also many friends and family holiday parties littered throughout this time as well.

Also, let me know about any other Chicago events. I am always up for meeting more Chicago peeps in or adjacent to my industry.

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Posted in marketing, online advertising, online community, trends, web business

Animation/Cartoon Production Blogs

I know it’s been a while since I posted.  My new job has me busy working now.  Not that strategizing isn’t working, but the next phases are more resource intensive and allow less time for blogging.

That said, I am researching production blogs now, especially aniamtion/cartoon ones.  If you know of any more, let me know.  Also, any production blogs in video games, virtual worlds and toys would be great, too.

Frederator Studios
http://newtoons.frederator.com/
•    Industry Veteran Fred Seibert (Hanna Barbera) started his own company a couple years ago with a main teme of get the word out for free no matter how.  They have tons of tangent video casts, etc and multiple posters.  Their posting frequency is a bit high for me, but a great animators blog.
Yo Gabba Gabbahttp://brobee.blogspot.com/
•    One of my favorite preschool properties that I have been tracking since 2005.  The production blog is a mix of animation, behind the scenes with eccentric staff and fan submissions.  They also use an open blogging tool (Blogger)
Wow Wow Wubbzyhttp://wubby.typepad.com/wubby/
•    Another property that implemented a production blog early in their development and allowed us to track progress until they went on air and then after.  They also use an open tool (Typepad).
The Muppet Newsflashhttp://muppetnewsflash.blogspot.com/
•    Older property that is using new techniques to keep fans up to date on property news.  As their franchise is much older and more established, their updates are more on the caliber of new DVDs and Macy’s Thanksgiving float announcements, but the tone is the same as the others – light, excited and fan-centric.  They also use an open tool for posting.
South Parkhttp://www.southparkstudios.com/rss/
•    An old intern of mine is now one of the PA updaters on this blog.  Not one of my favorites due to tone, content and length of posts, but worth looking at for reference on scope of production blogs in this industry.

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Posted in gaming, kids, marketing, online advertising, online community, trends, virtual worlds, web business

Virtual Worlds Forum Blog » Blog Archive » Top 10 takeaways from the first day of VWFE 2007

10. Virtual worlds set up by toy manufacturers.
Another point from Lord Puttnam’s keynote, casting doubt on whether it’s such a good idea for toy firms to be launching their own virtual worlds – Mattel (with Barbie) and Lego being two examples. The idea of child entertainment funded by toymakers isn’t new (He-Man and Transformers, anyone?), but Lego’s Mark William Hansen had an elegant and considered response, pointing out that a virtual world launched purely to sell products is bad – but that kids will see that most quickly, and desert it.

Virtual Worlds Forum Blog » Blog Archive » Top 10 takeaways from the first day of VWFE 2007

I completely agree with this.  The first question that that needs to be asked when the topic of a virtual world (or any community initiative) comes up is “Why do we need/want it?”  It is the job of the web strategist to find the root of the request and to deal with the answer frankly. 

If the goal of adding community is to increase sales of offline product alone, community is probably not the correct strategy.  Starting a community is difficult work, maintaining one is even harder.  And there are risks involved that have to be dealt with in much more faster and comprehensive ways than just releasing a press release.

If the goal is, rather, to engage your audience in a very personal way with your brand and/or product, then you are starting on the right foot.  Sure, selling products is a fine goal, it’s the easiest way to sustain the community and makes complete sense, especially if the community is involved in some way.  But it shouldn’t be the primary goal – if it is, there are easier ways to achieve it.

Creating a community or virtual world is not a small decision, nor is it a finite decision either.  It’s funny to me how the enormity of a concept diminishes when the words become more common.  “Community” and “World” are BIG concepts – they are (or should be) big strategies for a company to adopt as well.

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Posted in Club Penguin, Disney, gaming, kids, marketing, mobile, MySpace, Nick, online advertising, online community, television, trends, tween, virtual worlds, web business, Webkinz, z friends

Proactive online content for kids

Those of us who understand the positive aspects of online play need to help shape the climate online in the next couple years. Gone are the days of bragging about how your child knows so much more about technology/computers/internet than you do. More and more of our lives are being spent online. Let’s treat that sea change with a bit more respect than simple awe/wonder.

If we don’t want EVERY brand space online to be blatant consumerism with no message or goal, we have to be proactive about preventing that from happening. We must work toward not just calling out the bad sites, but creating and commending the good sites. And not just ones that give lip-service to more holistic goals – ones that actually step up and do it.

I ducked out of the Kids and Teens talk at the Virtual Worlds conference last week in order to see a young girl doll brand case study. Oy vey, was that a hard one to sit through. The developer giving the talk continually talked sarcastically about the girly brand that he developed, which showed me that he didn’t respect the audience and community the site was trying to develop. How can you create a great community if you don’t care about them?

Through his talk, he talked a couple times about the core values of “Empowerment” etc that the site’s founders wanted to convey in the virtual world. But almost in the same breath, he would reiterate multiple times that the only purpose for the site was to “sell more dolls.” Makes you wonder if the brand managers of those dolls know and care how their brand is being conveyed to conference audiences and their online community.

If “to sell more dolls” is truly the reason that the parent company wanted to launch this world, fine. They certainly are not alone. But that doesn’t mean all the other sites that will be developed in this category have to be like that.

Sesame Street’s Panwapa world is a cool approach to get into a space that is bound to be crowded in the next 2 years – preschool to early readers, 4-7 year olds. Kudos to them for being there before anyone else with a solid idea for a world (and not just the mindless wandering and silly games that make up almost every world in this space).

Whether we like it or not, a child is assimilated into the tech space earlier and earlier as the years go by. To pretend that this isn’t happening or block the kids from sites on a micro level is not the way to improve the situation. It’s the ostrich effect and doesn’t improve anything for anyone, especially the kids.

People who grew up with technology are now having kids. These younger generation parents have less or no aversion to introducing their kids to the online/tech coolness that they have grown up with. As producers of content (be it for a marketing purpose or pure creative), we have to develop for the parents AND the kids. These younger parents will still want the educational aspects that the past decade of attentive parents wanted, but the younger parents understand all of this on another level. Many of them understand that you can have fun, build relationships, and develop as a human online. They also understand the importance of design, navigation and user interface in your online experience. AND they will, directly or indirectly, teach these concepts to their kids.

Hopefully the content will start to catch up with paradigm shift that is happening world-wide as I type. Is your content up to the task?

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Bunnybot has launched

Some of you may have known that this summer I was able to work on a
bunch of cool projects happening in the online world.  Most of them were prelaunch, so I didn’t get a chance to talk about them while I was on the project.  One of those
projects has just launched formally and I wanted to make sure you all
knew about it.

It’s called bunnybot.  Here is their announcement form their blog:

So we’re a new kind of shopping site. So we’re a new kind of instant messaging service. So we’re a new kind of… what are we? Here’s what we’re about:

– instant messaging (why wait?)
– instant feedback (about products or about anything under the sun)
– instant fun!

When you log in to bunnybot and tell us your IM credentials from AIM, MSN, Yahoo or Google we auto-populate your buddy list (soon to be changed to “buddies etc” since we learned yesterday that AOL owns the trademark to “buddy list”.

So if you happen to have buddies to shop with then you can share anything you want with them in real-time.

bunnybot blog

Check it out.  I did a focus group test with them and it had a great response.  Cute AND a good idea.

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Posted in gaming, kids, marketing, mobile, online advertising, online community, television, traveling, tween, web business

Can you say – travel?

Lord knows I will be able to this month and next. And I am not complaining, far from it. I have always wanted to travel, both professionally and personally. Whoa, am I getting my wish now.

So, I wanted to put my travel schedule up so that if any of you were in any of the towns when I am there we can grab a coffee or beer (or any other beverage you like). I love company and if it keeps me from watching the local news in my hotel room – even better!

London – 9/16-9/24
– Various meetings

NYC – 9/26-9/30
Tween Mashup, co-paneling with Erin Reilly

SF/Bay Area – 10/3-10/11
Online Community Summit in Sonoma
Virtual Worlds 2007 in San Jose

Shanghai – 10/31-11/5 (? actual dates)
– various meetings

If you are in any of those places (or within rental car driving distance) let me know! (joipodgorny at gmail.com)

And because I am a google apps fangirl lately, I made a google calendar with my “Joi is not in Chicago” schedule. I know, I know – but it’s handy for friends and family! 🙂

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"Kids” influence over parent’s buying

Now, a study conducted by Burson-Marsteller in partnership with Penn, Schoen & Berland has released a study called “The Youth-fluentials,” detailing characteristics of persuasive youth ages 10 to 18.

Nearly 100% of the group said they influenced their friends’ decisions about clothes and music, and over 80% carried weight with their parents’ purchasing decisions.

Kids and Teens Influencing Purchases – eMarketer

I love this article. I am not complaining. The more data that can be recieved from these populations the better. It helps the marketers AND the content makers.

BUT… Please Stop combining 10 year olds with 18 year olds!

I totally buy the assertion that a 10-13 year old can influence their parents food and clothing choices. I even buy that a 15 or 16 year old can influence their parent’s car purchases. But I want to meet the parent of a 10 or 11 year old that actualy listens to their kid in their car purchase. MAYBE there is a especially cunning automobile afficianado developing in your 4th grade son or daughter. But if there is, I highly doubt they have the comprehensive lay of the land knowledge to understand all the variables that go into a car purchase. If they do, they are an anomoly and large scale marketing campaigns should not be designed around their existence, imho. 

I focus on small age ranges of “kids” in the various projects I do – 10-12, 6-9, 3-6, etc.  Each of these age groups has widely varying characteristics from the next, as well as within the range. To lump 10-12 with the 15-18 demo seems similar to me as combining goth and preppy demos.  SURE there are a couple similarities, but they are more differences.  Lumping the age groups together also leads to false inferences.  I would be fascinated to know the more targeted demo numbers – do the %s change when you look at 10-13 vs 14-18?

And for those cases where that 11 year old is a wiz kid in a certain area, take advantage of the opportunity to help them out.  If your kid knows a ton about technology and you want to involve them in the purchase for your family’s new computer or family cell phone plan, make it a group learning project.  See it as an opportunity for you to learn more about that subject, and also for you to get to know your kid more.  Sure they learn a lesson from making the decision on their own and “just doing it” for their parent, but they learn a more powerful one if it’s a group effort.

(Wow, that was quite the high horse post – eek  🙂 )

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Google to buy Apple…

Rumors have circulated over the last couple days that Google may be interested in buying Apple. The rumors stem from a recent New York Magazine article, in which the author cites a source close to Steve Jobs implying that because of his past health battles (pancreatic cancer) and Apple’s stock back-dating options scandal, the iconic leader may be worn down and looking for an exit.

While unlikely, the companies have a similar culture, the same nemesis (Microsoft), and Google CEO Eric Schmidt sits on Apple’s Board of Directors. With Apple’s biggest product launch since the iPod just days away, the timing also seems awkward, but the rumor has been reported in several sources, including Channel Register in the UK.

Apple and Google already work together in several ways, and as we reported earlier today, YouTube will be a part of the iPhone launch. For now, though, we see this one as improbable.

Google to Buy Apple?

Mashable is so that girl in high school if this is not true. 

But they could possibly be my fav 2 super powers.  And I drink Starbucks sometimes.  That’s a trifecta.  Maybe it will prove favorable in the tech rapture that signs seem to be pointing toward. 

This “rumor” is very sci-fi.  I don’t really know how I feel about it…

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The problem with ads in communities

Last week at the Online community unconference, I lead a session where we had a conversation about Ads in Communities: What’s working and what isn’t. This really got my head thinking, not only about the issues but what can be done to change the situation.

So I talked with a bunch of people and started trying to get some change happening. If you read this and think there is an existing soution PLEASE let me know. There are TONS of people/companies/communities/platforms looking for something better than the current method. I am still working on my idea for a solution, but here’s the problem as I (and other) see it.

Problem:

There is currently not a universally acceptable way of proactively filtering and targeting advertisements to communities (and other sites) concerned with the content in the ads they serve.

Existing solutions:

  • Google and other large players in the ad space, have proactive filtering by context of ad description, coupled with the ability to remove ad from being served again to your site in the future. This method allows the process to be almost completely automated, thus scaling nicely.
  • PayPerPost and similar companies are using paid audience members to integrate marketing messages into user forums. This method allows for higher relevancy and

Issues with Existing Solutions

Accountability – Since advertisers are in charge of the ad descriptions, their text descriptions and self-categorization have a tendency to not reflect the complete context of the ad.

Relevancy – On the audience experience side, users are beginning to sub/consciously tune out the advertisements they see on sites due to low relevancy.

Objectionable Content – All too often, non-relevant, or worse, offensive, ads are served to communities/sites without anyway for the site to proactively prevent it.

Proactive Filtering – When asked for help, many sites have been told to simply remove the questionable ad from the pool of potential ads. This is often not a perfect fix, as the ad had already done damage to the quality of the experience for the audience.

Over-Filtering – Often times, removing one ad requires banning an entire IP address, eliminating other ads from the company serving the ads.

Traffic Requirements – Ad networks do offer higher levels of service, but these are only available to high traffic sites, leaving many lower traffic community sites without a viable ad option.

Frequency – Lower pools of acceptable ads means that super-users on sites are bombarded with the same ads, over and over, reducing their effectiveness and tending to frustrate users.

Credibility – PayPerPost methods sometimes cause credibility issues within communities where they are integrated.

As soon as I type up the proposed solution I have been dwelling on, I will post it here. Definitely let me know if one is already out there tho.

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