Beyond Second Life: Kids drive virtual worlds

While companies marketing to kids are jumping on the online community bandwagon, so are others. In a recent post at Enterprise 3, Thiago posted about IBM joining virtual worlds, in the form of Second Life. This goes to show that virtual worlds are not only for children, but they can provide a valuable asset for corporations that focus on adults. Instead of juvenile play worlds, IBM and Second Life have created a community that can foster collaboration and interaction between those who look to IBM for technical resources.
As with any virtual world online, each company can modify it’s uses to tailor fit the product to the atmosphere and product of the company. Whether its penguins on an online world for kids, or avatars working together for a solution to an IT problem, virtual worlds are becoming a huge part of interaction in today’s society.

Reading Meets the Internet

In an experiment to keep relevant with the ever-evolving social media tool, Penguin Books has set out to find a way to use Twitter to tell stores. As reported by ReadWrite Web, Penguin is diving into the realm of social media to try distribution of stores. They’re staring out by releasing six different books by six different authors and publishing them through several different social networking channels. All of this is coming to life through the Penguin website, We Tell Stories.
This week, they are telling a story by writing it live. They’ve already used Twitter and Google Maps. As we know, publishing companies are in trouble. As we’ve seen with newspapers, a physical piece of evidence with news or stories written on it has lost value in today’s society. So it’s nice to see a book publishing agency embracing the coming storm of social media.

TweetClouds Taking Over

There’s been a recent buzz about the latest applications released from Twitter called TweetClouds and TweetStats. This latest CNet article does a good job of explaining how each API works.
Tweet Clouds is an application that collects your most used tweet words, and generates a cloud varying in size depending on your usage. Obviously, the bigger the size, the more frequent you use that word.
Tweet Stats is primarily a statistical API that formulates numbers on such things as how often do you twitter, to whom you reply the most to, and at what times are you twittering the most.
It’ll be interesting to see if Twitter will release their own version of the latest Facebook application, ‘People You May Know’. While these two are different forms of social networking, aren’t applications ultimately created to help others connect? There is still a lot to be learned on both parties’.
Sometimes we overlook the importance of tag clouds‘What better way for an organization to aggregate a collection of choice words to help organize topics. Companies have been hesitant to join the social media bandwagon because relevant information is too often lost due to the spontaneity of its users. The weighted list tag clouds provide have become increasingly popular amongst blogs and other social media in order to aid users to access the right content they are seeking. It’s about time Twitter joined the revolution!

Levels of Engagement in Online Communities

In a recent blog at Social Media Today, Colin Delaney lists what he believes are the four stages to interaction with online social media. They are:
Observation ‘ monitoring of social media outlets such as blogs, discussion groups and YouTube channels.
–Interaction ‘ behind-the-scenes discussion with opinion leaders and others (basically, blogger relations).
–Contribution ‘ adding to the social media stream by creating your own content, such as blog comments, blog posts, Facebook groups and causes, MySpace pages and online videos.
–Solicitation ‘ encouraging others to create content, whether it’s text, imagery or video, by creating a blog submission process, a contest or another public outlet.
With these in mind, what type of user do you want using your online social media tool? Is it better to have someone who observes your forums and discussions or do you want a user who’s continually contributing to your online community? Contributors can be responsible for both positive feedback as well as negative feedback to the community. So where do you want your users to stand when it comes to your social networking community?

Budgeting for Social Media Marketing

At EMarketer, they recently took time to look into the current spending on social media by enterprises. In this article, they uncover that many companies do not plan to spend much on social media, one-third of marketers surveyed in the iMedia connection poll said they would spend less than $300,000. EMarketer also predicts that $1.6 billion will be spent on all things social media related, such as ad campaigns, searches, videos, and advertising via ad networks.

Although social media is booming right now, it’s still new to the marketing world. This may explain why so many companies are hesitant to climb onboard. Will it be the risky companies that are ahead of the game when social networks become a vital key of the advertising budget?

Building a ‘WE’ Company: The New Competitive Edge

At the Community 2.0 event, we’re dedicated to bringing you the most up-to-date information on opportunities in building your online web community. We’d like to invite you to join us at the ‘Building a ‘WE’ Company: The New Competitive Edge’ web seminar on Tuesday, April 9, from 2:00 to 3:00 PM EST. Barry Libert, co-CEO of Mzinga will be our featured speaker. Register now to attend this web seminar!

About the web seminar:
Facebook’s recent valuation of $15 billion — thanks in no small part to Microsoft’s recent multi-million dollar investment — sent a powerful message to corporate boardrooms across America: Social networks are no longer just for kids! Leading companies like Proctor & Gamble, Nike and Amazon have seen the light and all are demonstrating real value and reaping actual benefits from business social networks. Other smart companies are jumping on the band wagon fast and furiously.

To find out more about how your business ‘ big or small — can unlock the power of your ‘crowd,’ join Aaron Strout and Barry Libert from the We Are Smarter Than Me book project for a live, cutting-edge discussions on building a ‘WE’ company. During this session, we will provide a framework for how to become a ‘WE’ or collaborative, customer-driven company along with case studies of companies that are successfully making this transition.

Speaker: Barry Libert
Barry Libert is the co-CEO of Mzinga. Mzinga builds and manages social networks for leading companies that enable them to improve their top and bottom line performance.

Barry is also the co-author of the recent book, We Are Smarter Than Me, a guide to businesses on how to use community and social networking that was created by a crowd of more than 4000 contributors.

Mr. Libert has co-authored two prior books on the value of information and relationships in business; published numerous articles including those that have been published in Newsweek, Smart Money, Barron’s, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, and has appeared on CNN, CNBC and FNN and NPR. He has as spoken at more than 100 events worldwide, to more than 20,000 people, on the value of social networks and professional relationships in business.
Aaron Strout will be moderating this web seminar. He is the Vice President of New Media at Mzinga.
Register now to attend this free webinar.
The webinar is presented courtesy of the Community 2.0 event that will be held in Las Vegas May 12 through 15 at the Red Rock Casino.

Facebook Beacon’s New Enemy

Facebook recently launched privacy controls in which users are able to choose what part of their profile is visible to friends. The problem with this though, was that it didn’t allow for different levels of restrictions, blocked access was too general. This latest article in eWeek mentions how Facebook has updated its old privacy controls to allow for greater access to restrictions. Users are now able to create specific groups (ex: Social Friends, Professional Contacts, Acquaintances) and limit their profiles accordingly.

How will this privacy control affect marketers using Facebook Beacon? Beacon is unique because it allows for brands to gain access to viral distribution that is displayed on a user’s profile and on newsfeed stories. Now these word of mouth promotions will be severely reduced due to stricter privacy controls. The visibility of facebook social ads will also decline since there is a direct correlation to beacon. It becomes a chain affecting all aspects of social marketing within Facebook.
User privacy has become a huge concern in social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace. As privacy controls become more rigid, marketers will have to figure out new ways to reach this audience. Consumers ultimately have the right to privacy, Beacon will have to adapt or lose this battle.

Participation in your community

At Sean O’Driscoll’s blog, he recently wrote a blog contemplating the nature of participation in communities around the internet. First off, an amazing amount of companies do not notice what is being said about them in conversations around the internet. They may or may not be positive, but if a customer is caring enough to write about a product or service, then the company should take the time to listen and communicate with those customers.
O’Driscoll defines participation as: taking explicit external engagement actions. Start a blog, comment on others blogs, launch an ideation site, answer questions in your own forums, contribute content to a wiki, tag, rate, etc, etc, etc.
So those who participate can start a blog, begin by editing wikis or participating in other blog comments. The most important aspect to this, however, is to participate first by listening to the conversation. It is important to read the blogs and comments in order to fully understand the community one is dealing with. What are some important parts that should be observed when first doing this? Know what people are saying about you, know what else they are talking about besides your interest, know where they are having these conversations, who the key bloggers are and how big is the span of the conversation? If you can take the time to listen to your community of bloggers and participants, then it will be easier to take a step and join that community.

Social Networking: Will it ever be a huge business?

In a recent article at the Economist, they discuss the current state of social networking. The article began by addressing the fact that ten years ago, email was the huge thing. So the giant web portals at the time were looking for at how to start using it to their advantage and begin making revenue off of them. So when Microsoft bought Hotmail, they expected to receive a revenue stream from their new investment. The return was not what Microsoft was expecting. The article alluded to the fact that this is no different from social networking today. Email is still around and a vital part of everyone’s daily routine, but it never became a revenue monster. Instead, it gathers a crowd of people loyal to the service.
In a sense, social networking is today’s new email. With AOL buying Bebo last month, they’re trying to go in the same direction. So how is AOL going to make profit off of Bebo without infuriating the loyal Bebo users? When people log on to these sites, they’re looking for a connection between themselves and other people. Personally, I feel that this is a thin tightrope and it’s easy to fall off. It also depends on the network one’s looking for a revenue stream on. A new music community is going to be different from Facebook. Even though the advertisements can be extremely targeted, problems will arise.
We all remember last fall when Beacon came out on Facebook. Studies had shown that the new generation entering the workforce would respond better to offers that are recommended by their peers. Facebook’s about face in light of tremendous criticism showed that if you advertise to others without a certain amount of permission, then the backlash won’t be worth the income stream.
So now, I ask you, what do you think? Is it worth it for big companies to roll the dice and expect some profit from sites that simply connect old high school friends?