The totally uncool

I wish brands would get it. No, seriously “get it” and stop the bullshit contest of “get your friends to vote for your entry on our fan page”.

Why? First of all, it’s not cool. Begging your friends and pestering your family, so that “you” can win something is seriously rude. But that is the personal aspect of it.

But then comes the marketing aspect. I know most people in digital marketing have evolved from traditional marketing and so they still have lack the basic grasp of the whole concept of engagement. What they want is numbers. As long as they can believe they can rub their message into as many eye-balls as possible, they feel happy. And bullshit to their bosses/clients that they achieved something.

But hello? Dear bullshit marketer, have you ever considered that even if I press the “Like” button, that I still “don’t like” you, your brand, and don’t give a rats arse about whatever you want to tell me? That even if you magically spam my feed, my eyes will skip whatever you wrote, just as efficiently as they skip the advertisement in print media?

This seriously ticks me off. Because I have low tolerance for bullshit, and the whole concept of “oh, let’s get people to post something on our Fan Page and do the dirty job of drawing traffic to our website” is the no.1 tactic from the “Bullshit of Social Media Marketing” cook-book.

Ok, I hear your pain, that how to draw traffic to your website then. I say, go two ways about it. Either stop looking at the numbers, and focus on how many of your fans actually give a damn, and build on that. And keep in mind that freebies and contest often change our relationships with things: people who might have loved your brand and would speak about it from their own will, might change their attitude when prizes are presented to “oh, I’m doing it just for the iPad (or other typical prize)”. It’s a fast and efficient way to kill any form of brand evangelism in your true fans.

Another way is to get more creative. Don’t push the number value so much – maybe set a lower limit, like “get ten of your friends to “like” the photo on our fan page, to be considered for a lucky draw”. You might get lesser numbers, but the persons involved might actually take on the role of explaining your brand to people they will find most likely to join your page with minimal push, or with probable interest in your brand. Also, more people might be wiling to participate in your contest, even if their social media circles are not huge.
Or get the “likers” to be potential winners as well.

Regards,
The Ninja Cat “Protecting you from phony Social Media marketing”

Where Digg and Google failed, Facebook might win.

I totally get the point, why such aggregations like Digg, Delicious or StumbleUpon exist. With the Internet swelling and growing out of control, there is slowly more and more need for people to filter the content, and actually find bits that are truly worthy of attention. Google page ranking and search engine can feel suffocating for content. And no mechanical algorithm can actually find “value” in content, it has to be done “by hand” and with proper intuition.

But most Digg-like portals either fell into obscurity, or grew to the point where even valuable stories have a hard time to break though, unless they are spotted by a power-user or pushed to the top with a bit of viral luck from another medium. Additionally, with Digg and Delcous being dominated by male users, both portals are naturally skewed towards more technological, geeky stories. Question remains – is there no hope for valuable content, that just dose not have enough viral punch to get the “”top-story” status?

And here is where Facebook comes in. For long, Facebook has been doing great in spreading links and allowing people to share content. Websites keenly adopted Facebook social plug-in, and now with Facebook officaly pursuing the goal of becoming the aggregator of content worthy sharing, it might change the way we consume the web entirely (and undermine Google’s rank domination and how much we rely on search engines all together to find content).

With a bit of help from Facebook, and including all other trends (social plug-ins, making content easy to share, etc), our networks and friends all can become part of a global content-filter, that is at the same time “community-localized”. With our individual efforts combined together, we can quickly give proper credit to valuable content, saving it from drowning in the content noise. But at same time, the content will be relevant to the community we function in – skewed to be interesting to our age-group, country or occupation (unless we have nothing in common with our Facebook friends ;p). This is something that cannot be done by Google (no matter how hard they try), Digg or any other search engine or content aggregation.

So what’s next? Death of portals? Or revolution in SEO? Or maybe something totally different? Do share your thoughts!

3 reasons why community portals will die.

Be if football, baseball or poker, some activities are just not fun when you do them alone. Communities, real life or online based, are created with one goal in mind: to get needed people for some activates to happen and generate value. As much as in real life that can range from sport activities, to making the world a better place, in the online realm communities often were build around certain interest, and quickly became potent source of information and entertainment.

But for a while now, the on-line communities have been dying out. A quick surf around the web, and it seems the community portal illness has started around mid 2008, and by now has claimed many used-to-be buzzing community portals. How so?

  1. Community portals no longer fit the way we consume the Internet – let’s face it, going to a forum, logging in and browsing the content is time consuming and ineffective. With portals like Facebook claiming most of our on-line time, searching for anything on community portals seems tedious. With the current trend for convergence, where we pull together ways we consume the web into a single-portal consol (notice how Facebook offers anything from on-line games, to web-search and content pulling), activities unfit for this model fall into obscurity.
  2. Availability of content – remember how few years back, you had to ask on that cooking forum on where you can buy a rare spice, or asked on a medical forum if anyone had that exact set of symptoms like you did? Nowadays, chances are that the answer to your even most peculiar question is already somewhere on-line. With the multitude of content editors, ranging from bloggers to specialized “how-to” content-generators, we need less and less personal contact with other people to gain access to their knowledge and experience.
  3. Personalization of our social environment – forums and boards were very much like the benches in the park: most people could walk in, and sit there, unless a designed person said otherwise. Which in many cases meant, that the tone and troll-infestation of portals were at command of few people. But current products offer far greater personalization of who we let into our first-tier social circle, by allowing complicated systems of following, adding, liking, listing and blocking individuals. That sense of control is not available in traditional on-line communities.

Prediction: although there are still some community portals that do fairly well (like ikeafans.com), the derivation from traditional open-forum model is inevitable. Instead communities slowly try to fit themselves into Facebook – quite surprisingly there is a number of pages where people still keep the “community spirit” of sharing for everyone’s gain. Those communities are mostly build around such causes as sharing resources or helping each other with Facebook games like Restaurant City (http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/group.php?gid=330950722420)

Implication: For marketers – stop dreaming that you can create a riveting forum or other community. For business owners – don’t let marketers bullsh!t you into believing they can create a riveting forum or other community for your brand.

Ninja Cat asks, if business OD on Fan Pages?

Ninja Cat joined a few fan pages (for yoghurt, cute clothes and some pretty things). And for most time Ninja Cat was very content with the pages she joined.

But then many business noticed that Fan Pages could be a good way to have a Facebook presence. Even Ninja Cat has adviced clients to have Fan Pages. Then smart business owners noticed that the more they post, the more fans they get. So business owners post, post, post till they can’t post more. They post randomness, they post same thing they posted previous day.

Then one day Ninja Cat noticed, that her Facebook feed became very cluttered with Fan Pages posts. Few weeks later Ninja Cat observed that less and less fans join the pages she has under her paws. She discovered same for other Fan Pages she keeps her eyes on.

As much as just few months ago people liked joining any Fan Pages they stumbled upon. Nowadays they became more picky. No more joining, just because friends join. No more joining, because the brand is cool. No more joining, simply to avoid potential spam.

Does Ninja Cat think business shoot itself in foot by creating noise, rather than content? Yes. Will it be harder to benefit from having a Fan Page? Certainly, because it will be harder to break though the noise created by other pages.

So what now? – you could ask Ninja Cat. And Ninja Cat says, wait for hoomins to master the art of leaving Fan Pages that don’t give them valuable content and benefits. Also wait for hoomins to learn to remove spammers from their feeds and join pages of products they are interested in.

If you are a Fan Page owner, be graceful and respectful. Don’t post, if you don’t have anything to say. There is no need to post daily.  Show fans why the Fan Page has value. Talk to them, entertain them. But don’t spam them. They will appreciate you.

Viral is dead (or dying at least). So says Ninja Cat.

If you ever asked a marketing agency to offer you some wonderful way of promoting your brand, Ninja Cat bets her $5 that they offered you something “viral”, be it video, game or other activity.

Viral videos, games or even photos are specific interactive phenomenas (or memes) that quickly spread through Internet by people sharing and recommending the viral object to others.

No one really knows when viral marketing started, but a safe guess would be that for the Internet, it was the begining of the century, when the infamous “Blair Witch” Project interactive promotions helped the producers score some extra points in the box office.

And for years the Internet viral mechanism worked well and more and more companies tried to tap into its power. But over the years a lot of things have changed, and the pace of changes is greater than ever. That’s why Ninja Cat thinks many marketers have not noticed that viral is dying. And telling clients that it’s a cheap and effective way to gain brand awareness is a fat lie (or simply ignorant wishful thinking).

Let Ninja Cat explain her point of view. And for this she will take you on a time trip to early 2007.

Meet Accountant Ninja Cat.Acc-1

He is just a typical Accountant Ninja Cat, spending his days watching TV, reading porn mags, and occasionally chatting on msn. Accounting Cat regularly checks his e-mail, and knows e-mail addresses of his closest friends. He once send an e-card too.

Acc-2

Occasionally our Accountant Cat would receive e-mails or links from his friends to check a funny video or photo.

Acc-4

Now lets return to Ninja Cat nowadays. He spends most time on Facebook, when he is bored he will check out Digg and watch random videos on YouTube.

Acc-3

So what has changed?

1. No more are viral items distributed by personal recommendation of a link, made directly to friends and family. More often links are put on social networking sites for others “to check”. This is followed by popularity of viral aggregation sites, like digg, redit, leenks, etc.

2. We spend much more time on-line, hence consume more items. As much as just few years ago the trick was to make a person watch a video, now it’s more about being in the group of videos being watched. Barack Obama gathered a 6 million audience on YouTube, and we were all amazed by the number. A year later Susan Boyle got 37 million people watch her video within weeks. Was she more popular, or is it the Internet audience that is expanding?

If you don’t believe Ninja Cat, that the Internet is swelling, take a look at social platforms that grow, grow and keep growing out of control. View the average numbers of YouTube videos being watched – you will be amazed how many make it to a couple of milions in few weeks. Check out how many celebs have milions of followers on Twitter.

And it’s not just numbers – it’s real people consuming real Internet products.

3. The demand for quality of viral items has increased considerably over the months. Few years back a candid video of a woman falling on her ass, or a fat kid playing Jedi was enough to get a fair share of attention, whoever wants their piece of the viral attention cake, has to put in a lot of time, effort and money, to produce brow-raising stunts and still walk away with just a couple of million views.

As audience, Ninja Cat feels, people get more sophisticated and numb when it comes to intentional brand promotion. We still enjoy random silliness (especially kittens) or a fresh ideas, but it is not that easy to be perceived as worthy of sharing. And, even if a video or a link gets “shared”, it usually happens in a form of a shout-out on many of social networks we use; lacking personal recommendation; only rarely will we send the link directly though Instant Messengers, or via e-mail.

That is why Ninja Cat finds viral a dying breed – or rather a phenomena that used to be special, and now is no different that a typical ad in TV, fighting with the natural instinct of the viewers to switch channels. Thats why Ninja Cat strongly advises companies and small businesses not to believe that they can “go viral”. If that happens – then great! But like with miracles, it’s ok to believe in them, but never rely on them.

Ninja Cat likes how bloggers get engaged

Ninja Cat has been watching over Singapore’s social media scene and recently has noticed a lot of activities that involwe blogger in promotions:

Sony Vaio W promotion Fan Page gathers bloggers who create media about how their life was improved by their brand new laptops. Bloggers send traffic back to Fan Page asking their friends and fans to “Like” their media that is reposted on the page, but the page itself promotes the media created by bloggers with giving links back to their blogs.

Dove “go fresh” challenge again invited bloggers create a lot of media (with focus on video) and send traffic back to the fan page.  Ninja Cat is a bit disturbed by homemade videos of young girls under the shower, and hopes they don’t get to much stalking.

Happy it’s here – the organizers gathered a group of bloggers and occasionally link back traffic to blogs, if the bloggers touch on the relevant subjects. Bloggers use graphic design provided by organizers and propagate information given by the organizers.

What Ninja Cat really likes about those contests, are how the organizers give bloggers traffic and exposure in exchange for content. Traditionaly marketers used to be very greedy about traffic, and would not share it with bloggers. Such route was taken by Samsung Omnia II contest, where organizers took content from bloggers, but took a lot of effort in not sendign traffic back to their blogs.

For Ninja Cat it makes more sence to send traffic to bloggers – bloggers are naturally more trustworthy and amiable than any promo-page. Bloggers also have the ability to nurture relationships, that go beond promotion periods. Blogs are easier to follow though multiple RSS tracking applications, while promo pages require intentional visits.

Agencies and selfish corporations, that want to keep all the traffic to themselves are shooting themselves in the foot in Ninja Cat’s humble opinion. Google proved that as a business they need to make people use the Internet first, to earn of them later. In same manner companies and agencies must ensure bloggers who work for their promotions can nurture sustainable communities.

Being greedy is not the way. Ninja Cat says more love, can make the world a better place.

Ninja Cat likes those pages

Ninja Cat has been very buys recently, but still wants to post something. That’s why she decide to post two pages that have recently impressed her:

Saab technologies page – Ninja Cat love the clean, flawless execution and the engaging features

Halo 3 – Ninja Cat find amazing the marriage of real and fictional in this well designed site