maandag 18 oktober 2010

Twitter as eWoM-cashcow?

Sander Jansma already discussed the phenomenon of ‘word-of-mouth’, the so-called WoM. The idea of passing information from person to person has been around since humankind could communicate orally and has evolved with the rise of different means of communication. WoM is no longer all about speaking but also found his way in face-to-face, texting, telephone, email and nowadays ofcourse the Internet, a platform where it seems to have reached its boiling point.

With the current Internet being all about social communication platforms and the idea of words and ideas spreading through conservations between members of those platforms it has become really significant and a big impact on a lot of our practices online. One of the practices it has an impact on is the key element in the costumer-company relationship: brand image and brand awareness.  While the power and influence of WoM on costumer buying decisions has already been recognised by marketeers as a powerful tool to influence consumers, a new kind of WoM-marketing seems to emerge: electronic WoM (eWoM).  ‘Brand management is transforming as communication technology changes’ (Jansen & Zhang, 2009: p. 2170) we are leaving the uncontrollable WoM campaigns and enter the era of eWoM:
‘eWOM offers a variety of means to exchange information, many times anonymously or coindentially, as well as to provide geographical and temporal freedom; moreover, eWOM has at least some degree of permanence’
Twitter as microblogging website has been put forward as a new form of this eWoM marketing, the latest tool in our attention economy: ‘microblogging is a new form of communication in which users can describe things of interest and express attitudes
that they are willing to share with others in short posts (i.e., microblogs). These posts are then distributed by instant messages, mobile phones, email, or the Web’ (Jansen & Zhang, 2009: p. 2170). The conversational power of Twitter has also been recognised by Honeycutt & Herring who ‘predict that tools such as Twitter will soon come to be used in formal collaborative contexts, as well for example, in work involving distributed teams, much like instant messaging before them’ (Honeycutt & Hering, 2009: p. 9). But what makes microblogging websites so much stronger as eWoM marketing tool than full blogs, webpages and online reviews? Micro-branding comments are immediate, ubiquitous, and scalable and offer companies an immediate insight in reactions toward products and the decisions costumers make:
‘The essence of eWOM communicating and customer relationship management is knowing what customers and potential customers are saying about the brand. Microblogging provides a venue into what customers really feel about the brand and its competitors in near real time. Additionally, microblogging sites provide a platform to connect directly, again in near real time, with customers, which can build and enhance customer relationships.’
Most of the research that has been done on eWoM primarily focused on webpages, blogs and online reviews and until recently did not include microblogging websites. Jansen & Zhang try to answer some questions surrounding these sites like ‘What types of branding sentiment do these microblogs express?’ and  ‘What are their effects on online reputation management? And deliver us insights like ‘the ratio of positive to negative branding tweets is about 50% to 35%, with the remaining being neutral’ and ‘general patterns in how companies are leveraging microblogging for eWOM branding’. And I can not deny that Twitter can be considered as some kind of cultural and business thermometer: just take a look at the trending topics on Twitter and you know what people are talking about or search for a product and see what people are saying about it. Twitter is also undeniably a platform where companies can create the feeling of presence: an answer to your question or announcement is just a tweet away as Dutch companies UPC and HEMA show us. But the fact that we are still dealing with a social networking site for me creates some implications.

It is the same implication that Wired adresses when talking about making money on Twitter through advertisement: ‘The most obvious solution to how Twitter can make money would be to serve advertising directly in a user's Twitter feed (or "timeline" as the company calls it), or elsewhere on the site. But Stone and his fellow execs are wary of alienating Twitter's hardcore user base, which has grown accustomed to an ad-free service.’ Surely the difference between these advertisement and eWoM-marketing is that user choose to follow a certain corporate account and want to get messages instead of the mostly unwanted advertising. But like I said before there is nothing wrong with a company trying to get closer to its costumers and offering a helpful service but for users on a social networking site there exists a delicate balance between seeing something as a helpful service and the feeling that companies are just trying to make money out of them. There is the danger of companies seeing Twitter too much as a cashcow and therefore paradoxically ruin their chances of using it as a eWoM marketing form: do they suffer the same fate as spam on Twitter?  So it seems that companies carefully must choose how and whether to expand their eWoM marketing strategies beyond service and monitoring because Twitter as social networking site implies that users are still in control. Further research should be done on the pitfalls and dangers that companies could encounter when expanding their marketing practices on Twitter.

Are you an e-book sinner or saint?

The people at the church of Google believe we do not have to dress up every Sundaymorning anymore, go to church and watch the preacher to experience something like a God. We experience an actual God everyday at work or at home: but forget all those supernatural Gods that are not scientifically provable but Google is the closest thing to a ‘god’ human beings have ever directly experienced.
It is this kind of divine metaphor Liza Daly, consultant and president at Threepress Consulting, used when talking about the flaws of e-books at the 2010 Digital Book World conference. Forget about greed, envy, sloth, lust, gluttony, wrath or pride it is time for the seven ways e-books are failing according to Daly and it is time for those hyped digital books to meet the same quality standards of their physical counterparts. The first ‘sin’ Daly introduces is one that has aroused a lot of discussion between e-book-atheists (let’s keep talking in divine metaphors) and digital books believers: the fact that e-books don’t include the same covers as the original books and often offer a simple text-only cover. The common response to this critique would be that you read the inside of the book and not the cover and therefore doesn’t need a beautiful cover: isn’t the book all about the content? But like Mokoto Rich says in his article in the NY Times: ‘You can’t tell a book by its cover if it doesn’t have one.’ The absence of a cover on e-books means that its done with seeing what people read in the train or in a café and with that sparking your curiosity or trying to project that on your own taste. It is erasing that bit of luck that publishers and authors need nowadays: a bit of free advertising. But also for bookstores and marketeers that are trying to sell a bookcover plays an essential role in alluring readers. All these facets become obsolete when using e-books.
At a more technical level Daly describes that in e-books often, before coming to the actual content , you have to go through a lot of blank pages that are originally meant for the printedition and a lot of editorial information and this combined with the fact that e-readers still navigate very slowly, looking through a text becomes really frustrating. But that isn’t Daly’ only source of frustration because often  wrong and misleading metadata, the unnnecessary table of contents and the editorial errors that we can find in those e-books makes Daly consider whether  they are an addition to our media-use right now. But how come do those e-books fail to meet the same standards as the physical books? How can e-books contain so many errors? Daly’ blames the fact that e-books often are created before the final proofs and they are outsourced and with that publishers lack the resources to evaluate the quality of the resources. Beforing hyping e-books publishers should ‘get their act together’ and deliver quality. Because quality is what (e-book)-readers want.

Besides the argument of the cover all of them can be described as flaws and frustrations that are due to e-books being a new technology, and with every new technology there are flaws included: even Rome wasn’t built in a day, right?  But this is a story that is not completely technical, because what is technical can be fixed. It is more about a feeling. Ever since Gutenberg made it possible to print books we are used to the fact that we can read our book in the safe environment of our home and drift away in a world apart from ours: ask any bookreader why they read books and most of them will answer in that manner. Although Apple-goeroe Steve Jobs stated that ‘people don’t read anymore’ publishers of e-books should not waste energy to impose them to people that don’t want or need them but finding the right readers and adapting to them. The average woman that reads a romantic novel on the train or before sleeping might not be the right target for a Kindle or a Flipboard as opposed to a reader who is all about liking things on Facebook and wanting to show this. And a Kindle can surely help a PhD-student who has to read a lot of articles for his thesis. Maybe publishers should stop naming e-books as the ‘next big thing’ as the replacement for traditional reading: lets try to fix Daly’ technical frustrations first. They have to teach e-books to walk first before they can run. And than publishers can find a way to cater to the sentiments people feel about reading a book. Because naming it as a revolution does not necessarily mean that people will adopt it, it is the same as with calling Google a real God: people do not suddenly leave their churches and go to Google every Sunday.

maandag 13 september 2010

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