Social networks tied to every product, service and brand…Don’t laugh.

So the logical evolution of social networking is taking hold. In todays volatile marketplace, the success of manufacturers, advertisers, marketers, and media companies in creating long-term value and stickiness depends primarily on their ability to develop great stategies wrapped around great value propositions quickly. So what better way than to use the power of social networks?

I use the terms great strategies and value props. because todays consumers are as discerning as they have ever been. Why? Because they are armed to the teeth with more information than they know what to do with. And now with social networks, the ability for consumers to talk and share and recommend virally, is as big a challenge for marketers et al. as it has ever been.  But it can also be a major home run if done right.

That strategy appears to have taken flight with Viacom for instance. You may not know Viacom as well as you do their MTV properties. Having said that, MTV has recently announced that is jumping back into the social-networking game. In 2005, News Corp. outbid Viacom for social-networking giant MySpace.com. Since then, Viacom has largely been on the sidelines in the growing market. Now the company is focusing on creating a vast array of highly targeted Web sites that are loosely connected and focus mostly on programming such as VH1 Classic, Jackass, and Sucker Free on MTV.

When we mentioned product-centric strategies earlier, this is a case in point where Viacom/MTV has a solid brand they are looking to grow and expand  into new markets and new channels using all of the resources available to it. One of them being social networks.

MTV’s highly-targeted web sites will be at the core of the company’s digital efforts. MTV sees its content as its strength, and thus they have  decided to wrap that content with the power of social networking. In the past year, the company has constructed 32 new sites. The idea is to create a type of assembly line for Web sites. Those sites that find an audience will continue to be nurtured and those that don’t will be stripped down and “reskinned,” or refitted for the next experiment. Kind of like the 10 day “look-see” contracts athletes get in professional sports. They essentially have 10 days to impress. If they don’t, away they go. 

Interestingly enough, the company  doesn’t plan to spend a lot of cash in promoting the sites. The reason being that they have the utmost confidence in their content and the viral ability of the Web to spread the word. Given that lack of faith, I’m going to give Viacom/MTV a 10 day look-see to see if this particular strategy pays off. It almost gives you the sense that they are saying,”we love your idea, we just don’t want to sink much money into it, until it works”.

While killer business processes, off-the-hook customer service, and bleeding edge technology all play vital roles in todays web 2.0 world, companies that create and buy into solid product-centric strategies and processes with the customer in mind, will be those that build valuable loyal brands and profitable businesses beyond the 21st century. It remains to be seen though if this particular strategy will pay off for Viacom/MTV.

Randy Pausch- Profiles in courage

 I know, I’m usually all over the latest in tech. But todays post will be a bit different.

Awhile back I came across an article in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette about a Carnegie Mellon University professor named Randy Pausch,  who has incurable pancreatic cancer. What struck me about the story was that he was very cognizant of his ordeal. He articulated and shared his ordeal with his students.

Dr. Pausch’s ordeal began a year ago, when he began to feel bloated and his bowel movements changed, he said in an e-mail interview. When doctors did a CT scan to see if he had gallstones, they spotted a tumor.

“I got the news from my GP,” he wrote, “who said ‘There’s a mass on your pancreas, and it’s not fair.’

“As I later told him, it’s unfortunate, and it’s unlucky, but it’s not unfair.  This atttitude struck me throughout the post gazette article as I read daily about people who cheat death, who don’t cheat death and of others who go through the pains of trying to deal with someone who hasn’t much time left.

The article located here

He is concentrating now on creating videos for his children. With his oldest son, 5-year-old Dylan, Dr. Pausch went on a recent trip to Disney World and to swim with dolphins, thinking Dylan may be the only child who will have strong direct memories of him.

His wife and children, he said, “mean everything to me. They give a purpose to life and a depth of joy that no job [and I’ve had some of the most awesome jobs in the world] can begin to provide.

“I hope my wife is able to remarry down the line. And I hope they will remember me as a man who loved them, and did everything he could for them.”

I have been following this story intently, hoping for good news everytime I read his blog posts and as of this writing, things are ok. they are not good, nor bad, but they are stable for the moment. I want him to know that even someone that does not know him, is thinking of him. As I am sure others feel the same way, I will speak for you as well.  I pray for things all the time and sometimes I get angry when people only pray to their god, only when they need something; but here is a chance to thank our god and ask our god that this remarkable person be given a little bit longer. For that I will not be angry, merely appreciative and hopeful that their could be power and energy in collective prayer.

Buzzword Compliant

Can anyone add some scalable and yet granular social networking, web 2.0 buzzwords to this bingo card to essentially bootstrap this into a viral marketing message?

buzzword-compliant.jpg

What’s the deal with widgets?

Ok so I’m going to go out on a limb and here and say that chances are that most of the common masses do not know what a widget is. Even if you use your computer on a daily basis, there is still the slight chance that you might not know what a widget is. No big deal. Yet…

Simply put, a widget is a portable chunk of code that can be installed and executed within any separate web page by an end user( You or I) without requiring additional work or previous knowledge on the users part.  Other terms used to describe widgets include: gadget, badge, module, capsule, snippet, mini and flake.

Widgets often but not always use DHTML, JavaScript, or Adobe Flash.  A widget adds some content to that page that is not static. Generally widgets are third party originated, though they can be home made. They add a more rich, entertainment, multi-dimensional feel to a site that might be otherwise static.

Widgets are now becoming more commonplace and are used by bloggers, social network users, marketers, advertisers, and owners of personal web sites. They exist on home page sites such as iGoogle, Netvibes, Pageflakes, SpringWidgets and yourminis, and hundredes of other sites.

Widgets are used as a distribution method by ad networks such as Google’s AdSense, by media sites such as Flickr, by video sites such as YouTube and by hundreds of other organizations.

Applications can be integrated within a third party website by the placement of a small snippet of code. Which is now becoming a primary distribution or marketing channel for many companies. The code brings in ‘live’ content – advertisements, links, images, and video – from a third party site without the web site owner having to update.

Thus the end users can utilize widgets to enhance a number of web-based hosts, pages or drop targets. Categories of drop targets include social networks, blogs, wikis and personal homepages. Although end users primarily use widgets to enhance their personal web experiences, or the web experiences of visitors to their personal sites, corporations can potentially use widgets to improve their web sites using syndicated content and functionality from third party providers. They are also now using widgets as a carrier of their branding message or product.

So where can you find some widgets? The easiest source would be generally on the page you are currently reading, either on the left or right side of the pages. The widgets are dropped in via a widget managment system. Should you feel compelled, check out KickApps which states: The KickApps hosted, white-label platform puts social media and online video functionality directly into the hands of every web publisher who aspires to be a media mogul and turns every web designer and developer into a social media rockstar! With KickApps, it’s now easier than ever for web publishers to leverage the power of social and rich media experiences on their websites to drive audience growth and engagement.

If you are the casual reader, then hopefully this helps you. If you are a certified blogging fool, then this is nothing that you already don’t know. If you are somewhere in the middle, then now you have been enlightended.

The social networking experiment for business

Ok so much has been said about whether social networks are good for anything beyond poking someone and building a nice page that your six friends can check out, that I thought it would be interesting to see what the results would be if I had signed up for not 1 but 10 business oriented social networks.

Before I begin I need to set some specific goals though as to what I want to achieve. Do I want to meet potential business contacts? Sure I do. Do I want to help someone else get a project or a job or make a contact? Sounds like a good idea. Ok lets see what else? Drive traffic to the blog? Not a bad thing, but certainly not the end-all-be-all. Ok, so these are good starting points. However, I have no preconceived notions yet, but who does when someone signs up for one of these sights? What should be their expectations?

With that being said. I will have zero expectations but I will attack the 10 social networks with measurable goals so that we can see which has the biggest and quickest impact on me participating.  The first thing on the experiment list is how intuitive are the sites? How easy was it to login and register? and What are they promising? Below is the list:

Ecademy

Entremate

Friendly Favors

Konnects

Networking for professionals

Real Contacts

Ryze

Spoke

Teng

Facebook

Coming up in the next post will be what the intial impressions were, how was the account creations process and a more descriptive explanation of each sites service offereings. Am I missing any sites that should be on this list? Has anyone had any experiences that they want to share?