Style 2.0 – Wow!

As many of you who read this blog know, I am constantly searching for things that are new and social to write about. To that end, I couldn’t resist jumping on the news my friend, Mike Pratt, recently shared with me about some exciting things he and the Style Coalition (which he and his wife Jean co-founded with Yuli Ziv) are doing to change the fashion industry. To that end, last Wednesday, luxury handbag and accessories online retailer, Avelle, worked with the Style Coalition to launch their five year anniversary campaign. While Avelle’s campaign itself embraced social media, it was different in many ways from the run of the mill variety many of us a slowly getting used to experiencing.

A few highlights:

  • Because the campaign is run by the Style Coalition vs. going through an agency to the traditional media, Avelle is one step closer to the consumer and thus is more likely to be perceived as being “engaged in the conversation.”
  • The Style Coalition, which consists of 10 top shelf bloggers/online publishers, is posting and creating conversations/engagement about some of their favorite topics like, handbags and accessories.
  • Avelle wants to encourage conversation with its customers so the posts by the Style Coalition’s bloggers will be focused on the products & brands that Avelle carries but not explicitly about Avelle itself.

To sweeten the pot a little, the Style Coalition is going a little bit “old school” and will be giving away Avelle Gift Cards (substantial) via a variety of contests. The campaign itself will run over the course of three weeks with embedded widgets in each post by the Social Coalition providing cross linkages and additional value to each blog’s readers. Of course no good social campaign would be complete without Twitter – Avelle’s is using the hashtag #Avelle5Year.

For all this engagement and effort, the publishers will be compensated, in effect directly as the Style Coalition passes through revenues. Who doesn’t love a win/win where the Style Coalition can increase the effectiveness of its outreach and brand engagement while putting more revenue directly into the hands of the “value add-ers.” This “outside-the-box” approach is one that more businesses need to be thinking about where:

  1. Innovative thinking is encouraged and rewarded.
  2. A win/win is created for all stakeholders involved (as opposed to, “look at the great publicity you’ll get out of this ‘Joe/Jane’ blogger.”)

Oh, and my favorite part? The Style Coalition is providing full campaign tracking, stats and management. This way, brands like Avelle will not only suspect that the campaign is working, they can actually pinpoint which elements worked, which didn’t and how such successes (or failures) can be repeated again in the future in a more scalable fashion.

You go Mike! Way to combine beautiful people, their clothes and accessories and the world of social. To quote Facebook for a second, “Aaron likes this way of doing business.”

Live from Ad:Tech SF, Jimmy Wales

The good news is that Ad:Tech cares enough about the concept of “social” to go out and get one of the original consumer generated content guys in Mr. Jimmy Wales of Wikipedia fame. His session is titled: Wikipedia, Wikia and the Future of Consumer Generated Media.

The room is fairly crowded (3rd FL of Moscone West). We’re about 2 minutes from showtime…
Jimmy is walking through background data on Wikipedia (what it is, what it isn’t) as well as its global reach. One thing that is fairly impressive is the fact that Wikipedia is the fourth ranked Website on the internet (behind Google/Youtube, Microsoft and Yahoo). He predicts that by next year, Facebook will move up into top five. Interesting stat – 4th largest Web property in the world has 25 people that work for it full time. I guess this makes sense when you think of the thousands of people that volunteer to contribute all of the content.
A few high level thoughts/data points:
  • Amazing that Wikipedia was launched in 2001 (in the thick of the dot com crash). Wales said the tough economic times drove a lot of the innovation behind the genesis of the site.
  • “Most brands have been afraid to be associated with user generated content.” This is changing with growth/penetration of YouTube, Wikia and Wikipedia content.
  • “Online advertising has gone down the rathole of direct response marketing.’
  • Brands might want to start taking a look at advertising against user generated content.
Oops… gotta run to my next meeting. For a continuation of this and other Ad:Tech activity (#AdTech), go here for the live search feed.

Experts in the Industry: Bryan Person (76 of 45)

Let me start by saying that I know I’ve skipped a couple on entries in the Experts in the Industry series. That’s not by mistake. It’s so that my good friend, Bryan Person, can have the number that coincides with his birth year. I figure that this is my blog so I can do stuff like that.
Obviously if I’m willing to make such important sacrafices for Bryan — who is the social media evangelist at LiveWord btw — he’s a fairly important dude. Or at least he is a friend that is worth bending the rules for. Given the fact that he was one of about a dozen reasons as to why I decided to move to Austin, I’d say he’s worth it.
By way of history, Bryan and I first met on Twitter via mutual friend, Peter Himler. I was looking for someone to do some podcast production for me and Bryan was the guy that fit that bill. Subsequently, Bryan became a client of my old company, Mzinga (he was at Monster.com at the time) and we started getting together regularly for morning coffee since we lived in adjacent towns. Since then, we’ve roomed at Community 2.0 together, podcasted together, hung out for coffee, dinner, lunch, drinks etc. And as I metioned earlier, we both live in Austin. Yup, I’m a big fan.
Before I give Bryan too big a head, let’s get on to his questions:

How did you get into the world of online community, social media or social marketing?
In many ways, online community and social media are a natural evolution of what I’ve been advocating for years — using online tools to communicate when face-to-face conversation just isn’t practical or efficient (I was in BBS chat rooms in the mid-90s and using IM to connect to prospective students for our study abroad program in my first professional job a few years after that). But my true “light bulb moment” with what we now call social media really occurred in the spring of 2005, when I discovered podcasting. Geek News Central with Todd Cochrane and For Immediate Release with Shel Holtz and Neville Hobson were two of my early favorites (I still listen to FIR every Monday and Thursday). The shows offered rich, niche content that was relevant to me, that I could listen to on a portable device whenever I pleased (hello, mp3 player!), and that came right into my podcatcher when a new episode was published (hello, RSS!). Plus, the hosts of both shows were so welcoming and quickly built up a community of like-minded listeners. That’s the essence of social media, and I’ve been hooked ever since.

If you had $10 million to invest in one company and one company only based on their use of “social,” which company would it be and why?
Not that they necessarily need the money, but I’d invest the $10 million in the Boston Red Sox, the baseball team to which I’ve pledged my lifetime allegiance. The club and Major League Baseball are already doing some good “social” projects online — fan communities, connecting on Twitter, etc. — but I have a few more ideas kicking around in my brain that I’d be happy to tell them about.
Which business leader, politician or public figure do you most respect?
John Wood. His book, Leaving Microsoft to Change the World, is an inspiration. Since 2000, John’s Room to Read organization has built more than 7,000 libraries for children in developing countries around the globe. He’s this century’s Andrew Carnegie!
Would you join a toothpaste community? Why?
Not a chance; I can’t think of anything less compelling than a community based entirely around a commodity consumer product. But … what if a toothpaste maker hosted or sponsored an community around raising healthy kids? Now that might be interesting.  
Freeform – here’s where you can riff on anyone or anything – good or bad. Or just share a pearl of wisdom.
For marketers: When a company — either yours or one you’re reaching out to — is slow to adopt social media, don’t become overly criticial. Have patience with that reluctant executive. Consider it a golden opportunity to continue to share best practices and success stories from other organizations. Change will come.
Bryan is @BryanPerson on Twitter.

Experts in the Industry: Shiv Singh (74 of 45)

Today, we get to meet one of my favorite people in the social media space, Shiv Singh. In addition to being a new daddy (congratulations), Shiv is also the global VP of social media for Razorfish. In case that wasn’t enough to do, he’s also an active blogger and twitter enthusiast.

I’ve actually known Shiv for a few years now as he was kind enough to come and speak at some of the events for Shared Insights (now part of IIR USA) on portal technology. Since then, I’ve bumped into Shiv at other events like Office 2.0 and try and keep in touch with him semi-regularly on Twitter and e-mail. Given how long he’s been involved in Web 2.0 and social media and the level of clients he gets to talk to on an ongoing basis, why wouldn’t I want to stay in contact with such a bright guy?
With that said, let’s hear from Shiv:
How did you get into the world of online community, social media or social marketing?
Got into the world of online community originally through my experiences on The Well back in 1995 and 1996. This led me to starting an online community for my high school alma mater (which interestingly has the reputation of being one of the four most powerful alumni networks in the world according to The Economist Magazine). From there one thing led to another and at Razorfish (where I’ve been 10 years) I’ve advised clients in community building and social media on both sides of the firewall – getting employees to collaborate and communicate with each other and on the consumer side building customer communities and helping brands market on social networks and across the social influence marketing landscape.

If you had $10 million to invest in one company and one company only based on their use of “social,” which company would it be and why?
If I could invest in one company and only one company, it would be Ning. I think they’re doing an incredible job, have the right philosophies (open standards, cross-integration, letting a thousand flowers blossom philosophy) and have made their platform simple and accessible. There’s so much more that they could be doing though and I think $10million would help them a lot and serve to deliver the kind of value that companies and individuals want but aren’t getting from any other platform.

Which business leader, politician or public figure do you most respect?
There’s no shortage of business leaders and public figures that I learn from everyday. I suppose I’m currently watching Malcolm Gladwell, Duncan Watts, Seth Godin and Tom Peters a lot. I’m drawing inspiration and practical insights from them these days. They’re sharp, pithy and are basing their insights either in rigorous research or in deep experience. I suppose in another month it’ll be a different set of people. That’s how it is for me.

And yes, there’s a fifth person too – the anonymous crowds which makes its voice heard often. The meta influence of the crowds is definitely influencing and inspiring me in different ways.

Would you join a toothpaste community? Why?
No. Sorry, but I belong to more than enough communities and I’m simply not passionate about toothpaste. I need to nurture the relationships in my existing communities or leave some of them.

Freeform – here’s where you can riff on anyone or anything – good or bad. Or just share a pearl of wisdom.
It’s great to see the social space finally growing up but there’s more maturing that needs to happen. Marketers and businesses are still struggling how to take advantage of social media in a measurable, ROI driven business centric sense. I think we will all benefit if there was a little less hyperbole. Nevertheless, social and social influence marketing is transformative and I believe the best is yet to come.