Thanks to Kara who tipped me to this (I’m in it for all of .1 seconds):
If you’ve read The Search, you know that my fascination with media and technology flowered while an undergraduate at UC Berkeley, in the Anthropology department. From my first real book related post on Searchblog:
Back in the mid 80s I was an undergraduate in Cultural Antropology, and I had a class – taught by the late Jim Deetz,which focused on the idea of material culture – basically, interpreting the artifacts of everyday life. It took the tools of archaeology – usually taught only in the context of civilizations long dead – and merged them with the tools of Cultural Anthropology, which interpreted living cultures. He encouraged us to see all things modified by man as expressions of culture, and therefore as keys to understanding culture itself. I began to see language, writing, and most everyday things in a new light – as reflecting the culture which created them, and fraught with all kinds of intent, contreversies, politics, relationships. It was a way to pick up current culture and hold it in your hand, make sense of it, read it.
At the same time I was making extra money beta testing some software on a brand spanking new Mac, vintage 1984. Anthropology and technology merged, and I became convinced that the Mac represented mankind’s most sophisticated and important artifact ever – a representation of the plastic mind made visible. (Yeah, college – exhaaaaale – wasn’t it great!).
Anyway, today thanks to Professor Marti Hearst, I was invited back to Berkeley to lecture on search, media, and technology. And man, what a blast. Talking with 75 or so undergraduates (and a few grad students and others) for two hours helped me crystallize a few ideas that have been kicking around in my head lately.
As I started my talk (it’ll be available as a podcast (scroll down) on the UC site soon), I asked everyone with a Facebook account to raise their hand. Nearly everyone did. Not a surprise.
I then went through some of my tried and true thinking on Web 2, search as interface, and the like. But I came back to the idea of economics, and how people make money on the Web. I was really surprised at how interested the students were in this topic. The class is called “Search Engines: Technology, Society, and Business” (how perfect is *that*?), and the students were pretty smart on how Google makes money via Adwords and Adsense. But when I asked about Facebook’s new social ad platform, only a smattering of folks had even heard of it.
I was a bit surprised, given that this was Facebook’s core audience, after all. So I outlined how it works, why it’s an interesting and potentially important evolutionary step beyond search ads, and in particular I explained how Beacon works.
I then aired one of the questions about Facebook’s platform that has been rattling around my head for a while: Will users of Facebook see the sharing of their purchase decisions across the web with Facebook friends as valuable?
For me, anyway, the key to social ads is this: do the ads *add value* to the lives of the people who interact with them? I think the jury is way, way out on this question when it comes the current rev of the Facebook system. So I asked the students this question: “How many of you are interested in telling your friends, via your newsfeed or in some other way, about purchases you make on the web?”
Not one hand went up.
I then rephrased the question. What if sharing your purchase decisions meant that, say, you got a $5 credit in your “Facebook bucks” account that you could spend at Amazon, or for ringtones, or whatever?
About a third of the hands went up. Interesting.
We then went into Q&A, and an older gentleman who was auditing the class asked about philanthropy. He observed that while folks might not want to share their crass consumer purchases, they might want to share information about how they donated to particular causes. Another student mentioned that she would see the value of sharing certain kinds of information, including purchases, with certain groups of friends, but not others.
In other words, it’s clear that Facebook’s current system is simply not granular enough, at least for my focus group of Berkeley students.
But it didn’t stop there. I started to think about that gentleman’s observation about philanthropy, as it relates to how major brands are now approaching their roles as marketers. Steve Hayden, the vice chairman of Ogilvy, a major ad agency, noted at the Conversational Marketing Summit that brands must stand for something – that they must in fact differentiate by adding value to the lives of customers who might otherwise buy a competing product. The classic case of this is the Dove campaign for real beauty.
I asked the class again, might you be open to sharing your purchases of brands if those brands were somehow aligned with your core values, and perhaps, through your purchase, those values were furthered or expressed? The class seemed quite supportive of the idea.
I think therein lies a very important lesson. If marketers want to succeed in the world of Facebook (ie, the world of Conversational Media), they need to add value to the lives of consumers via their marketing. So far, I am not certain Facebook’s ad platform does that. But I’m willing to be that in the next few revisions, it will.
I was at Berkeley today, lecturing to a room full of undergrads (I plan to write that up tonight, man, interesting…), so I was a bit behind in email, till I caught up tonight. And there in my in box was a press alert:
GOOGLE’S MARISSA MAYER TO ANNOUNCE FASTEST-RISING SEARCH TERMS FOR 2007 AND HOST GOOGLE TRENDS TUTORIAL
Every day millions of people use Google(TM) (NASDAQ: GOOG) search to find information, and a snapshot of these searches presents a revealing look into the ideas, opinions, preferences and interests of internet users across the globe. Marissa Mayer, Vice President of Search Products & User Experience at Google, will host an interactive webcast to give reporters an early look at the fastest-rising searches conducted on Google.com in 2007. And, in time for end-of-year story planning, she will demonstrate how Google Trends(TM) can be used as a reporting tool to add color and even visual illustrations and elements.
Given that my book came about, in part, from the first ever annual zietgiest in 2001, I am interested to see what Marissa does. Of course, I am in staff meetings all day, so I cannot attend. Maybe one of you will, and tell us what happened in comments?
Update: Google announced on the Today show. Thanks, TC.
More to come, from Google in particular, but here are Yahoo’s trends for 2007.
Sure, Facebook had a tough weekend, but it’s still a phenomenon, and FM’s found two extremely talented developers – the folks behind Graffiti Wall and Watercooler – to work with on Facebook’s platform. Here’s the release on FM’s move into Facebook land, and here’s the results of one of our first conversational marketing campaigns on Facebook (one of the results is pictured at left).
I don’t use this space very often to talk about my “other” business, but as loyal readers know, that “other” business has become my passion, so much so that it has taken the best of my time away from Searchblog. I often say to folks that I started FM to create a model that would allow me – and hundreds like me – to write and publish full time. Well, two and a half years in, I’m proud to say that’s true for scores of FM partners, but I’m not quite there at Searchblog. I have so much I want to write about, but so little time to actually write – as writing, of course, also requires reporting, reflection, and editing. And FM requires, well, full time focus.
But given that the last two posts have been about pals – Casey at Dell, and the team at Six Apart – I figured I may as well do a bit of log rolling with regard to the latest deal FM has consummated – our partnership with Tina Sharkey and her colleagues at BabyCenter.
The mainstream media world has woken up to the power of conversational media in the past six or so months, with nearly every major company announcing a blog and/or social media strategy. At FM, we knew this was coming, and we welcome it – it’s a validation of the authors we work with – from Om and Mike to ProTrade and Graffiti. We’re at more than 50 million uniques worldwide, which makes us a pretty big media company, if you want to look at it that way. But we don’t, really. We focus on each of our authors, and the federations they are part of.
We started with a small technology federation, and our second federation was about parenting. Why? Well, besides the fact that I have three kids, one of our tech authors was a huge fan of Dooce, one of our anchor authors. And when we met Heather and Jon, we knew we had to figure out a way to make parenting our second federation.
As time went by, it became glaringly obvious that we were not alone in seeing the value of conversational media, in particular when it comes to an area that large media companies call “women’s interest.” Very large companies – from Martha Stewart to Conde Nast to Time Inc – were noodling their own social media plays. And while we were very proud of the voices in FM’s network, it was clear that we needed a partner if we were going to take our support of parenting authors to the next level.
That’s where Tina and BabyCenter came in. As I surveyed the landscape of possible partners, there was only one I saw as a perfect fit with our current authors. BabyCenter is not only the best (and largest) parenting resource on the web, Tina is one of the finest media execs I’ve worked with. It was a perfect match.
Together, FM and BabyCenter are integrating our authors’ voices into BabyCenter, and bringing new voices into the family. From the point of view of marketers, we have scale, quality, and safety; from the point of view of readers, we have extraordinarily deep resources and singular voices; and from the point of view of authors, we now have a partnership that brings both new readers and new marketers to their respective sites.
I’m looking forward to more partnerships like this one, and to continuing to scale FM while maintaining our focus on supporting independent conversational media. How does this relate to search, you might ask? Well, to be honest, search is what proved the whole idea of conversational media in the first place. With search as the navigational interface to media, we all started finding voices we could connect with. And a new form of media was born. It’s pretty cool, when you think about it.
It’s an evening of news from friends, this time, Six Apart, a company I have a very soft spot for, given that four or five pals are senior execs or founders, has sold its Live Journal business to SUP, a Russian company that plans to go big in the blogging market in Russia. I know this will be great for SA, allowing it to focus on Typepad and MT. Congrats, SA team!
(the link is not live yet, but will be soon I am sure).
After a long process that was referred to in this interview, Dell has chosen an agency partner, WPP, and together the two companies are going to start an entirely new agency. I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with Casey Jones, Dell’s VP Marketing, as he’s gone through this process, and I’m certain that this new agency will create all sorts of fascinating new models. Not only that, but it looks like the agency might be located here in the Bay area, which would be great for our media community. Congrats, WPP and Dell!
From PRWeek’s coverage:
The controversial move, which is unprecedented in scope, will bring Dell’s entire external marketing communications function under one profit and loss statement. WPP and Dell will create one agency, comprised of all marketing disciplines and staffed with professionals, at least initially, devoted full time to Dell. The agency and Dell will also co-invest in a significant analytics tool that will map the efficacy of all marketing disciplines against each other and provide measurement for marketing initiatives against business goals.