Digital Classroom: Questions about marketing and Web 2.0?

big%20classroom.jpg Here's the place to post them. Is there something you did not understand? Is there a new point you would like to make? Are there any new issues that you have discovered now you are applying your knowledge? Use this space to make your comments and to ask your questions.

Try to include the title of the topic disussed during the keynote that your question relates to (if there is one). Putting this at the start will help other participants find the topics they are interested in.

The classroom is open for one month and materials will stay here as a reference point for you for a further year.

Comments (59)

The conversation threads in this online classroom have now switched to a private classroom only accessible for teams taking part in training programmes in this area. If your team are interested in this type of training, workshops or strategy development then simply email to find out more.

Dave Michaels:

I'm a business to business marketer and been on one of your training programmes.

Looking for any new tips on usingsocial media for business to business marketing? How can I get custoemrs actively talking about us or is it too big an ask when you're in procfessional services?

Tutor - Danny Meadows-Klue:


Since launching this classroom we created additional support for the Social Media Academy, Viral Marketing Academy and community Academy. if Web 2.0 is of interest, then try this link too...

Tutor: Danny Meadows-Klue:

Exploring consumer interaction in meaningful depth

It's a complicated issue because it strikes at the heart of the new ways audiences are engaging. Bottom line? Just because they are there does not mean they will respond. The problem is that while audience volumes may be high, it doesn’t follow that the consumer’s engagement with brands will match this, and the nature of customer communications means many brands invest heavily in communication that just doesn’t get the traction they hope for.

This is something we explore in the advanced and masterclass levels of the Digital Media Planning Academy as what we’re seeing is a more subtle mix of consumer behaviours emerghe as people online in ‘creation mode’ (building blogs and writing) behave differently to those in communication mode (messenger, chat and email) to those in entertainment mode, and other more passive browsing modes.

Overlayed onto this are the cultural differences between internet users in each of country and this diversity suggests the best solution for brands is to think more about the target audience and try researching their unique behaviours to gain insights about how communications can unlock pass-on effects and deliver a real cut-through in the increasingly cluttered media landscape.

Here are a few questions to reflect on:

- Is the communication you are producing interruptive (like the normal TV commercial model) or something that invites discussion and pass on? There are a few examples of these in the Digital Viral Marketing Academy classroom, here:

- Can the web presence you have act as a hub for discussion or provide a service audiences actively want to engage with? Remember that the success of most websites is through the utility they provide: brand building messaging rarely delivers the engagement and repeat traffic so think about what people use and how you can satisfy that need.

- How can you find out more about the mindset of consumers and your own target audiences? In these new and unfolding marketing landscapes, commissioning some focus groups for how your own customers use the web might prove very insightful. But above all, use the websites themselves to unlock a rich vein of feedback about what people engage with, how, and why.

Brand manager, global FMCG, Korea division:

Do you have any specific insights on Digital in Korea (eg search, consumers, media planning etc)? Reason is that my colleagues question the depth of the consumer interaction online, they argue that there is no sharing and building but rather copy and paste from news sites. Although broadband penetration is amongst the highest in the world, we struggle to identify the opportunity properly.

Many thanks for your inputs.

Tutor: Danny Meadows-Klue:

Online moderation – Deciding when to moderate comments in social media

Having a policy and process in place for moderation is key to maintaining strong online discussion and removing risk for you as a web publisher. But the practice is difficult because it raises the deepest of questions about the relationship between publisher and participant. How do you deal with conversations between viewers that descend into a flame war? How do you maintain a thread of comments that are on topic? How do you build credibility in the debates on your site without censoring everything that's written? How do you avoid the legal risk of libel when you are the publisher but your readers are the author? Social media tools are great ways to engage audiences and boost page traffic, but moderation needs to be taken into account from the very start.

Publishing director (online business to business portal):

Should I moderate the discussion in the new social media and forum spaces we are creating?

Tutor: Danny Meadows-Klue:

Improving the quality of registrations

There’s a challenging balance between capturing audience data and capturing high quality audience data. At a simple level, the bigger the incentive, the better the quality of the data.

It’s a fair exchange to ask for some simple contact details in exchange for reading the content of a website for free, but this is just the start. Tagging your content and seeing who views what will help you build up richer profiles than you’ll get from asking people, and even of there are no demographics attached to the viewer, you’ll still know the key things most advertisers want to know: are they interested in the right products?

Try offering something that involves printed materials having to be sent. That might mean you need to give them a coupon, offer, or prize draw, but it’s a way of helping boost the quality of address details providing the inventive is high enough.

One of the most successful tactics is to build up profile data gradually over time, and not asking too much at the starting moment of registration. Smart publishing systems will let users see some of the information in terms of their claimed preferences, and encourage them to edit and add to it.

Try finding small incentives you can give them to gain additional information. It might be access to a different service, the download of a white paper, or the participation in a survey or poll.

We can cover some of these issues on the next Digital Publishing Strategy Academy - 27 March

But they also come up in the Digital Media Sales Academy (next programme in the UK is 7 March)

Karen Daniels (Advertising Sales Director):

How to we tell if registrations in our community sites are legitimate?

Tutor: Danny Meadows-Klue:

Reader loyalty: a new dynamic

The web is different when it comes to loyalty not just because every site is only a click away, but because the bond between reader and publication is often more transient. Consider a visitor who stumbles into a site once through a search term, sees a couple of pages and then hits the ‘back’ button. In the early days of web publishing, webmasters made the mistake of believing these viewers were similar in their nature to the readers of a printed magazine or newspaper: not so. With printed titles there is often a cash purchase, or in a controlled circulation title there is the relationship between giving data in exchange for regularly receiving a publication. This type of behaviour becomes part of the working or living routine of an individual and these readers are far more loyal and focussed than the causal traffic delivered so much of the time by search engines.

Think about the security of these relationships. Often print will have a higher share of voice and a stronger bond with the reader. The chances are that they also only receive a few titles whereas on the web everything is only a click away

We can cover some of these issues on the next Digital Publishing Strategy Academy - 27 March

Susan Clare:

Is there a difference in reader loyalty between the web and print?

Tutor: Danny Meadows-Klue:

What types of online communities are there?

There are many different groups of online communities and to help publishers new to the ideas of community and the issues they present, we put together a short report that explained some of the key issues.

Getting to grips with online communities:

Susan Jones (Publisher):

I’m lost in the maze of communities – are there different structures and formats in place?

Tutor: Danny Meadows-Klue:

Building online communities

Publishers can create the framework for a community, but nurturing the debate takes time and energy. Look for ways to engage participants and create dialogue by actively encouraging the star posters, and create opportunities for other posters to make light comments. Look for ways to engage readers and help them become posters (star ratings and voting can be a good way of doing this), and make the model of involvement an easy one to follow.

At Digital we normally spend a day looking just at communities, and the next Digital Publishing Strategy Academy - 27 March. Details are here:

Erin (Publisher):

How to build online communities? We’ve tried out forums and simple things, but not had great results.

Tutor: Danny Meadows-Klue:

Web 3.0: innovation doesn’t stop

There are lots of perspectives on the third paradigm, and a battle raging between the academics. The views of French intellectual Joel de Rosnay are particularly interesting, and following my interview with him, we wrote up a few words here:

Digital Manager:

What is Web 3.0?

Tutor: Danny Meadows-Klue:

Trends in online advertising

There are many ways to examine this, but we’ve highlighted a few key trends and placed them in the Digital Training Academy pages, here:

Digital Manager:

What are the big online advertising trends for the next 18 months?

Tutor - Danny Meadows-Klue:

Google's SocioGraph could be the answer to explaining how people are linked together

If you think of the web as being a mass of connected documents, then some of the new ideas from Google are profound. The SocioGraph project starts to attribute meaning to links by relating them to the context of the relationships between the people who connected the documents together. For example if two people are public friends on Twitter, then the nature of that relationship is contained within the identity of the link between their two twitter profiles. Brad Fitzpatrick talks through how Google sees these links and how the wave of social networking sites have started to log and make accessible those relationships, at least those which the people involved are interested in having shared.

This is one of those step-changes in the way the web is used and navigated. The Social Graph API could be the smart way around providing context of the connections people make and it gives developers the chance to use public connections their users have already created in other web services.
Watch the video from Brain and think more about what this could mean in terms of finding the key influencers in a discussion and building out an understanding of how customers connect together.

To watch the video from Brian, follow this link

Brand Manager (UK):

Social networks are great, but I'm having real trouble trying to figure out the relationships between people in a network - even when they're mentioning my brand! Any thoughts?

Tutor: Danny Meadows-Klue:

Marketing are only scratching the surface of social media Web 2.0 platforms are enabling us to create new models for how consumers and brands interact. Nike’s City Running activities are a one of my favourite examples of this because they use numerous channels all together as part of a complex mixed of media to initially build awareness, then work hard across brand image statements, then draw customers to the point of action, and all the while generate discussion and debate on both their own social media site and others. Alongside this there’s then a whole online community experience that acts as a hive of conversation once people sign-up; it’s a massive event where the website acts as the hive for all conversations.

Brand Manager:

Do you feel marketers are beginning to understand the best ways to advertise using web 2.0?

Tutor: Danny Meadows-Klue:

Marketing with social media takes an understanding of the context of the reader as well as the toolkits

Web 2.0 platforms are opening up powerful new communications channels for marketers

Before leaping into a social media ad campaign, just spare a thought about what it’s like for the people involved in the social space you’re looking at. These are private, semi-private and often intimate spaces where viewers may be either in communication mode with their friends and family, or in the act of content creation. That’s a very different mindset from the entertainment or browsing experiences of the earlier generation of online media. The social spaces are creating new ways for brands to generate and engage in conversations. Whether it’s the Arctic Monkeys finding fame in the blogosphere, or Cadburys enjoying a crescendo of customer voices asking them to bring back Wispa bars (and what a great chocolate that was!), social media is about more than simply taking the banners that worked well in online magazines and gluing them into the new pages.

Academy participant:

How would you say that the relationship between brand and consumer has evolved, and what ways do brands now need to communicate with consumers to get results?

Tutor: Danny Meadows-Klue:

Relationship marketing is moving into a new era. The relationships have the scope to become massively deeper and more personalised, while still enjoying the cost efficiencies of database marketing, but getting the formula right means rethinking many of the simplified relationship marketing practices the industry has become entrenched with. The Amazon mantra of ‘people who like this, also like this’ is a great place to start. Only by thinking about everything from the digital customer’s perspective can you see the real possibilities. Relationship Marketing in the Digital Networked Society has the scope to re-energise the connection between consumers and brands, creating meaningful and deep engagement. Media-savvy consumers are tuning out of classic media, becoming increasingly selective in the marketing messages they listen to. But social media can create the right thinking that permits re-engagement. Only by earning the trust of their friends will brands get recommended by those friends, and only by investing time and energy in listening and building that relationship will there be a meaningful relationship to enjoy. We are witnessing a watershed in marketing, and while it is certainly ‘all change ’ from the way most brands have behaved in the past, are not the new rules of transparency, equality and conversation simply how we would all like to be treated? That’s the challenge and potential that faces relationship marketers.

Marketing Manager:

Why do you think digital marketing, and in particular relationship marketing, remains such a hot topic of discussion for marketers?

Nielson/NetRatings has issued a study showing that the top 10 social networking sites saw traffic grow 47% over the last year, with MySpace seeing the biggest growth (367% increase) and MSN Spaces (286%) seeing the biggest growth. Hosted blogging systems were included in the study.

One thing to note about those numbers is that while Classmates had one of the lowest positive growth rates at 10%, they spend loads on advertising while MySpace, Youtube, and Facebook haven't spent a penny.

If I recall correctly, a couple years ago was one of the 10 largest spenders on online advertising.

There are plenty of new social networking sites poping up but what get's me why can't myspace there instant messenger working. $580 mill and can't afford to fix instant messenger BAD myspace.
There are so many better ones how about for example has all the features of myspace plus quizzes, polls, webchat with audio and video oh and hey they have instant messenger. You have a long way to go myspace.

Academy Manager:

Remember that there are dozens of tools on our Digital Training Academies that can help you put into practice the ideas we disucss here. If you missed the last Digital Training Academies in your country, then check the termtime pages to see when the next public access courses are in your areas:
... and remember that most of the time firms invite us inside their company to train the whole team in one go! Email me for details of how we could do this for you and your team. We're waiting to help boost your group's output straight away!

Tutor: Danny Meadows-Klue:


Integrating digital marketing into communications plans means changing the way a firm behaves. Change is difficult, and for many it can be uncomfortable. Even if there are huge opportunities out there for getting the new models right, people are naturally risk averse and it’s easier to repeat the same behaviour today as last year (the same media plans, marketing models, use of marketing channels etc).

The integration challenge is as much about the cultural framework of an organisation as it is about the rational arguments. If the management culture places a heavy burden of evidence on all new ideas before resources are released, then it follows that innovation within the firm will be stifled. That repression of innovation could take many forms, but often it can be as simple as a sceptical marketing or finance director, asking for incredible ROI metrics before rocking the marketing boat. The irony is that when the prevailing winds are hurling the same boat towards the rocks, common sense should have the whole team hoisting the sail and steering to safety. The larger the firm and the taller the management hierarchy, in general, the more stifled the innovation.

Successful online services tend to have a common history: rapid prototyping, constant refinement, live testing, and an adaptive path that encourages continued evolution. The difficult reality is that it’s only once the web services are up and running that the real testing can begin. However you try to model customer behaviour in the lab, the live experience almost without exception throws up surprises, and these are the triggers that lead to discovering how online services can be more useful. From the order of stories on the front page of a news site, to the steps in the conversion to sale in an online store, to the product information pages of a corporate site, follow the simple steps of launch, listen and learn.

Academy Participant:

Why are marketers reluctant to integrate social media and other digital channels?

Tutor: Danny Meadows-Klue:


There’s so much going on within the web that it seems crazy most marketers are not tuning in to the signals. This giant world wide wireless has maybe hundreds of thousands of voices all talking about your brand or your sector. Failing to listen would be a crime against market research, yet it’s almost common practice inside many firms. However, there is a real simple solution. Googling up your terms is a great place to at least start getting a handle on what’s happening out there in the unregulated and democratised webby world. Look for the match of keywords, follow the links and tumble down through the blogoshpere to the place where debate is happening. It’s a chance to hear from customers, prospects and stakeholders in their very own words, and being the web, conversations are often neatly archived so you can explore the bits you might have missed, as well as the links the participants came from. There has never been a market research tool like this, and any brand manager not regularly ambling through these spaces is missing a big trick.

And Google is just the start. For many brands, the web is now as much about reputation management as relationship management, and for smart marketers, there are no shortages in toolkit providers who can help crunch the numbers. Google itself offers a range of ways to see what content has been published, mid-weight tracking tools like Meltwater can take things further, while the heavyweights of social network analysis (tools like Onalytica) much more deeply join up the dots. In fact, the academic discipline of social network analysis, along with other parts of social geography, have enjoyed a rebirth on the web as communication models fleshed out in the 1970s suddenly get to be applied readily to issues, people and brands in a way their architects never envisaged.

In the digital networked society much of the friction preventing the flow of information is removed, but most firms still wholeheartedly fail to realise that even if they’ve never measured anything online before, by the end of today they could be enjoying fantastically deep knowledge about who is out there, what they are saying, who they are listening to, and what patterns are emerging.

Academy Participant:

How do we find out what’s happening to our brands on the web?


We've been asked lots about this in training over the last year. Sometimes as a joke and sometimes in all seriousness. Like much digital future-gazing, you can never be sure what the next step is, but when we interviewed Joel De Rosnay about the models for computing and the collision of the virtual and physical worlds, he had some pretty clear ideas - Web 3.0 could arrive sooner than you think. Lock down the digital glasses, plug yourself into the grid, read the interview, and then follow the links...

(And let us know what you think afterwards!)


There’s a huge excitement around social networking and social media, but that doesn’t mean the same techniques from traditional advertising placement will work here. For example, many of the social media are private or semi-private spaces, with content that individuals have chosen to share with their friends. Your brand may be able to buy media space that includes thousands of these pages, but there’s a question as to whether you really have their support, or whether you’re invading their space.

Next up, think about the nature of this content a little more. There’s a great deal of content out on the web that you probably wouldn’t want your brand associated with, so if your campaign includes social media then consider how your brand can be protected. Here are a few key questions to ask yourself:

What profanity filters are in place to block your ad appearing next to inappropriate content?
What gives your brand permission to advertise in this space?
Are you considering customising your creative to fit with the needs of social media?
If you have a presence in social media, then could your campaign benefit from integrating your social media advertising with your own social media content?
Can your campaign factor in social media from the very start to ensure the integration really works?

Social media give you a massive range of tools to work with, but even simply advertising in these spaces using simple online graphical formats can create risks unless you think them through.

Wojciech Wrzaskala:

Social networks need different types of advertising and smarter filtering, otherwise you have a great brand advertising in a poor content environment. Are the any examples, research in this area?

An end could be in sight for people wrestling with the challenges of maintaining their expanding number of social media profiles. Spacelift is the latest launch among apps offering a way of feeding data into and between personal profiles. This one helps you move MySpace profile data across to Facebook. This has been a massive weakness in social networking since the start: people don’t have enough time to maintain their profiles and if you’re not able to take part in a community then you have to question whether you should be there. Spacelift et al could prove a massive catalyst in preventing established social networks from withering.


How do you manage profiles across several sites?

Beats me! There's a massive jumbling around of time in the media mix going on, but this spoof article did catch my eye:

academy participant:

Where do people find time for social networking?


Second Life is awesome: it’s a fantastic window into how community, social space, virtual reality and conversation all collide. It’s one of the first mass market deployments of the type of virtual world William Gibson painted when he coined the phrase ‘cyberspace’ back in the days of Neoromancer. But that doesn't mean your firm has to be there.

I love the model and the concept; but I struggle with the fact most people can’t divorce the notion of 3D environments from Second Life itself. SL is a great brand and it’s riding the crest of a wave right now, but there will be millions of virtual environments and just because they’ve one of the first to get the package cracked doesn’t mean they’ll maintain their unique market position.

What excites me about all this is that we’ll have 3D virtual worlds acting as mirrors to many of our offline spaces, and when the audiences are there and the markets have moved, business logic will sweep firms along in the same way the Google effect has with search. But for the time being most of the SMEs in Nottingham won’t have much to gain from trying to harness SL. It’s a question of priorities and I can’t see it generating real business for them, particularly given that most are struggling to get their search strategies and their email working properly.

Saying ‘no’ is one of the toughest things in digital marketing, because savvy digital marketers will find amazing ways to get value from the new tools, but marketing teams need to really invest in the basics first. In this case it's just a straight forward cost/benefit analysis

academy participant:

Should I be on Second Life?


Hi Forwarded two mails to not sure of your proffered contact route.


My question is about generic domain names and the possible intrinsic value in terms of search engines relevance and type in traffic.

The subject of using generic terms to leverage low cost entry into markets positive or negative, in your valued opinion?

Access to broadband is almost standard across Europe and these generic domains can now be utilised as portals to direct traffic from the existing Italian insurance brands.

The domains include / (insurance) / / / (House)/ (Life)

Last month 108426 persons searched for (ASSICURAZIONE AUTO)
62897 searched for assicurazione moto, 5821 searched for assicurazione casa (house), 2356 searched for assicurazione vita (life)

The easy-to-remember domain names convey easy access to an area of interest or need of millions of people.

The search engines are important, Yahoo, Google Adsence makes millions of $ from companies buying placement under generic terms,
will ownership of keywords offer low cost entry as gateways to the Italian online insurance markets ?

In addition to the direct keyword registrations I also registered a number of other generic domains in the automotive industry to act as support and related commerce sites : (sports) / / / / (car sale) / / / / / (car magazine) / / /

I would not normally list all these domains as this much information can blind the reader, However, the support sites could a have an important role in the possible development of alliances and I feel sure you will be well versed in this area.

I would be grateful for your thoughts positive or negative in regard generic names and the value in terms of linguistics & SEO alignment



At the moment I'm really excited about web analytics. Analytics is giving the deepest of insights into how customers buy and at what point the buying process fails. Whether it's tracking the open rates on emails or the conversion rates within a website, the data is now there. You can tell exactly how many people did, and didn't respond to the most specific call to action. Apply the same thinking screen by screen across your ecommerce store and you can scientifically analyse exactly how people behave.

Harnessed well this means your organisation can become a learning organisation, ever improving the way it works, thinks and behaves. Constant improvements in customer conversion rates at each step in the buying process have a transformative effect on the business.

But right now there's a disconnect. Most firms have web analytics in place. Yet hardly any have the data analysts to make sense of the results. Worse still is that even fewer have empowered these data analysts to drive website design, to feed their knowledge back into the process of building and rebuilding web pages to deliver better conversion rates. It's another massive missed opportunity, and yet look into the leading digital retail businesses like Amazon, Tescos, LastMinute and EBay and you'll find a whole management structure that does this.

Take the guesswork out of marketing, unlock the potential of your customer data, transform your business.

This is a general question, but what's your favourite part of web marketing?


Simple question; tricky topic. Like all good exam answers we need to start by defining our terms and then fleshing out the context. The problem is that 'blogging' has several meanings here. It can describe the technology (the content management systems that power blogs) as well as the process of writing, both of which any company can readily embrace. At one level blogging technology is simply the use of accessible content management systems, and the explosive growth at which new blogs appeared from 2005 onwards reflected the way many smaller firms simply switched their website engines to blogs.

But blogging has a more emotive meaning as well. It's culture grew from the individual rather than the corporate, and in the early days blogs were synonymous with diaries and personal expression. Although that personal publishing has grown – and continues to grow – as the tools have broken into the mainstream the context of blogging has changed.

Some firms have succeeded in combing both of these strands; articulate business leaders writing passionately and personally about their industries and their firms. Leaders like the President and founder of Sun Microsystems have proved it can be done ( and, but unfortunately they're the exception rather than the rule. Much corporate blogging activity either tries to rework press releases into blog posts, reads like the marketing copy from the company brochure or sticks to the middle ground in a way that's as uninspiring as it is unchallenging and unreadable. Corporate governance and passion don't readily mix.

You've been showing examples of companies blogging, but how can companies really do this? Blogs are meant to be free and open, but companies all have their own agendas.


Yes, yes, and yes again! There's probably more argument for the sole trader to blog than any other type of firm. It's fast, simple, valuable, and introduces you as the face of your company, the person your prospective clients will be working with. Okay, so it may take some practice to get into the swing of it, and you may even need a little extra support from friends or family when it comes to developing your, but it's a phenomenally powerful tool and one every sole trader should explore.

It also gets sole traders over one of their biggest problems: small businesses just don't scale well - let's face it, when the chief executive is also the chief envelope-stuffer, bookkeeper and salesman, there's a lot competing for every hour of your day. Classic marketing is typically campaign driven: a burst of energy to produce marketing messages that are distributed and then lost. This perishability of classic marketing always struck me as a massive waste; yet not so in blogging. Perishability gets replaced with permanence. Your marketing builds over time into layers rather than replacing what went before. And a weblog let's you scale; always being there even when you can't actually be there.

For a sole trader like Zoë Streeter's 'Zoetrope Career Planning' consultancy, a blog could work like a magazine column, packaging up bite-sized chunks of information from recruitment to career development, giving enough information to deliver value, but holding back from publishing everything. This replaces the idea of small corporate websites as being the brochure-ware of the late nineties, with sites as a reference point of real value. Think through the audience needs and you may find your content plan already written for you. If you're struggling then try this little exercise:

1. Quickly list the top ten things your typical customers want to know. Give yourself only 30 seconds so you're forced to take your instinctive response.

2. Look at the list and rank them: which are the most important, which are the least?

3. Now draw a line through the middle and focus on the top five

4. Can any of the really big questions be broken down into two or three parts?

5. Is there an order or sequencing in the topics that makes sense? If there is then juggle the list around you have your editorial plan. Aim for one a fortnight and you have the next three month's topics lined up

In terms of what makes for good copy, enough has been written about column writing to fill a thousand magazine columns, and that's as good a starting point as any. Read other blogs, rough-out your ideas, practice your writing and develop your style. It's time to be bold and passionate; not staid or corporate.

Then think about images that enhance your writing. What would add value, and how? Demonstrating products may seem easy, but getting great photographs takes time and effort so look for strong images that you can use elsewhere in your marketing.

If you need more help in developing your blogs then ask us about our Online Editorial Academies. We designed these originally for magazine teams who found they were having to write for the web, but as soon as you create a site you too become a publisher and the extra training might be just what you need.

I'm a micro-business - a career planner – social networks and blogs sound great, but how could I get this to work for me?

Zoë Streeter,


Sadly it's true. For all the wonders of Web 2.0, your customers might not want to comment, post, debate, blog, chat or podcast, and all of the ideas and models that we see in online marketing need to be put through a clear reality check: what's in it for them? Why should someone spend ten minutes of their time taking part? If there isn't an answer then there's isn't going to be much participation, and certainly not much of value.

It's easy to get carried away with the new technologies. Some web developers seem like kids in the candy store, but it's also easy to dismiss the new tools too easily. Give people what they need and they'll readily respond. In the world of user generated content, think about what is motivating the users. Get the value equation right and something amazing can happen: discussion. 'Users' suddenly become 'people' again, and those people begin that wonderfully human, natural and unpredictable process of conversation. And that's where it gets interesting for publishers and web marketers.

If those conversations are on a clear topic and contain material that's perceived as valuable, then you're on to a winner. The format could be raw information, the answers to other people's questions, something thought provoking, or posts that are rich and entertaining – it will vary with the community and the nature of the discussion, but this is where the value is. For every one person who posts, a dozen or more may be reading. As posts build up, over time their value grows rather than weakens. Succeed in capturing your community's imagination and there's an asset that will start to pull audiences back in time and time again. Simultaneously this user generated content is helping drive search engine optimisation (think of the keyword density!), viral marketing (you now have brand advocates passing on news of your site to their friends), and a resource that can become self perpetuating.

I might just be an old sceptic, and I've been teaching marketing for long enough, but do audiences really want to engage?



Susan, you've raised one of the areas that is so often overlooked and really needs a heap of attention early on. Communities sometimes just ignite themselves, but more often than not they'll need some real hard work from you and your team. First up: don't fall into the trap of thinking it's about the technology – getting the technology built or buying it in is the START and not the finish of your work. There's a big need in encouraging involvement, keeping discussions on topic and dealing with the stuff that goes astray. This is about individual people: unpredictable, creative, messy and fantastic – all rolled into one. They might do what you expect, or they might do something so completely different you don't even have a way to reach. I find it handy to think of a community a bit like a successful dinner party: people know why they're coming, the host gets the conversation going and then steps back, providing some good food, dealing with any unruly guests and generally making sure that everything goes well. After a few dinner parties with the same people they'll not need much help because a bunch of social conventions will kick in and they'll start to look after themselves much of the time. The challenge for you as the community's manager is to make sure you have the resource you need to do this properly. It's toughest at the start because you really have to work hard to get that momentum; finding the guests for dinner, persuading you're a great chef, finding times for them to come over… I'm sure you get the idea. While there are a few companies emerging in this space, my hunch is that you'll want to take quite tight managerial control of the first steps your community takes. It's classic product development work and by listening closely to your audience you'll gain some fantastic insights into the business.



Great question Dave, yep: there are loads more sexy examples right now in B2C because more money went in earlier. But Gamespot, Nature, are all providing some nice examples of business to business case studies. And there's a lot more on the way (we know because we've been training many of the business publishers who are creating them!). Think of it more as an opportunity to leap into ahead of the pack; but do review the consumer examples to see what you could apply in your space.



Thanks Caroline, yep, this is a taxing one for me. Will virtual reality be huge? Sure. Will there only be one space? Nope. Will we all be earning Lindon dollars in ten years time - I can't see it. Beneath the hype Second Life's managed to show that VR is possible on a grand scale, but there's a sense that some of these technologies are looking for a business solution. I think of it like the 1960s and motor cars in the UK: an era when people like my parents use to 'go for a drive'. Back in the 80s William Gibson gave us Neuromancer, a cracking sci-fi adventure set in what he coined as being 'cyberspace'. Now that these environments are going mainstream you can be sure that the first few will hit the headlines, but it will be those with the real social and business benefits that act as the long term winners. I guess this makes me a brand-agnostic in the battle of the virtual realities.


second life: hype or serious?

John Rogers:

We're thinking about putting communities onto our site (we're a consumer magazine), we have the technology for it but I'm not sure about how much time it will take our guy to edit. Is it a full time role or just an hour or two a week? What do they do and how do they do this? Any advice would be handy!


In healthcare we want to use social networking to talk about pharma products but it's a tricky area because of the risk of consumers attacking our company. What are the things we have to do to get it right?


I'm a business to business marketer. All the Web 2 stuff looks like it's for consumers. Any good examples from b2b?

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