Is Hulu changing our online video habits?

Not sure how much higher the numbers can go, but the latest online video figures for December 2008 are out from comScore and they just keep on growing.

US internet users viewed a record 14.3 billion videos in December, up 13% over the previous month. Google sites, which include YouTube, accounted for 2 of every 3 users who watched video.

What is interesting to me is that Hulu made some big gains, meaning that the AMOUNT of time people spend watching video is also increasing. The average duration of online videos watched was just over 3 minutes, but that number jumps to over 10 minutes on Hulu. Not sure if Alec Baldwin’s Super Bowl commercial for Hulu will bump those numbers up any further- something worth watching (pardon the pun).

How and how much online video do you watch? Do you seek it out on your own, or do you rely on forwards? And what did you think of the Alec Baldwin ad? I thought Hulu missed a big opportunity by almost insulting us. Do you agree?

The message is the message

For companies and organizations considering adopting new media or social media strategies, there is one piece of advice I would offer above all else: have something to say!

With all the talk in the media, and on this blog, about the Administration’s use of new media to both get elected and communicate with the public now that they’re in office, very often the news peg seems to be how well Obama team used social media and new media  to communicate their message to a large and previously underserved group. This morning on NPR, I heard a story that several GOP congresspeople were now using Twitter to talk to their constituents because, as the correspondent put it, they had “got beat [sic]” at the new media game.

What gets left out of this discussion is that perhaps the Obama MESSAGE was what resonated with people, and the whole social media thing was just a hook to communicate it better and mobilize people to act. Blogs, Twitter, YouTube, message boards- they’re all great. But they ain’t worth a damn if you don’t have anything of value or interest to communicate.

This is not a repudiation of the GOP platform. The point I am trying to make is you have to avoid the temptation to pick up every shiny new object and, instead, focus more on what it is you’re trying to communicate. There is no “delete” button on the internet, so you better make sure you are giving the folks “news they can use.” Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and all the TOOLS might all be gone in 5 years, replaced by something we cannot identify today. But the strategies and methods are here to stay.

Not sure if there are any Jim Rome fans who read this blog, but he is a TV and radio host who always warns his callers to “have a take- don’t suck!”

The medium is not the message. The message is the message.

Trouble figuring out your social media strategy?

So you’ve been hearing how social media can help with your overall communications and marketing plan and you want to get started. Maybe you’ve even got the boss to buy in and you’re beginning to see the opportunity to move the plan forward.

But it can be confusing knowing how to get started. You may even have technology issues. Or internal disagreements on messaging or who is going to manage the community. You think you got it bad?

At least you’re not the President of the United States!

The nimble and effective online netroots campaign that helped launch the Obama-Biden ticket into the White House is still feeling its way during the first days of the Administration. But the point of this post is not to point out the problems that they may be encountering as they try and turn what was a powerful campaign movement into an equally effective governing movement. But, rather, to illustrate that while the Obama team is operating on a scale larger than what you’re probably facing, the lessons are instructive to the rest of us, whether we run small, medium or large organizations or businesses.

Organizing for America is the Adminsitration’s attempt to redirect all that Facebook-Twitter-YouTube iTunes mojo into an opinion shaping entity. (No website yet for Organizing for America. I TOLD you this stuff can be hard!)

Just like in the “real world,” figuring out an effective social media strategy inevitably implies what some like to call “failing fast.” Not everything you will try will work right away, or work at all. But flexibility is critical. David Plouffe, Obama’s campaign manager said in an e-mail to around 13 million members of  “Obama for America” (notice how “Organizing for America” and “Obama for America” yield the same acronym? Clever, huh?) “This has obviously never been undertaken before, so it’s going to be a little trial and error.”

The weekly radio address is now also a weekly video address, and has been since Election Day. The YouTube channel, as of this writing, reports over 800,000 views in two days, with almost as many flame throwing and offensive comments. (The videos are also on iTunes, and probably lots of other places, too) Still, I wonder how many of you, even the most hardened politcal junkies, ever actually heard the weekly Presidential radio address since they began with FDR as “Fireside Chats?” (As a video guy, I have to mention the the quality of the videos have improved signifcantly from the President-Elect versions to now. Amazing what a couple of lights, a decent background and an HD camera can do for your image.)

The principal takeaways are these:

1- Starting, or in this case maintaining, an effective social media strategy is hard work and requires committment, dedication, attention to detail and continuity.

2- Be ready to shift on the fly if the law of unintended consequences kicks in. Just because something is not going how you planned, does not NECESSARILY mean it’s going badly. Your “perfect” strategy may be revealed as “imperfect” the second you launch it. Study the lessons and adjust.

Pay attention to the difficulties someone else is having, and use them to your advantage. But do SOMETHING. The success of your business may be at stake.

Marketing in 2009

In our ongoing effort to share resources that focus directly on social media, we wanted to direct your attention to this free eBook offered on the terrific Conversation Agent blog by Valeria Maltoni.

Twelve social media professionals talk about what they see as the key imperatives and trends for 2009, and it’s well worth downloading and referring back to all year long.

It’s free, yet it offers invaluable insight and advice.

What are you waiting for?

Did I mention it was free?

How to get started with your social media marketing strategy

We want to use the podcast as a complement to what we post here on the blog, as it allows us to dig down a little deeper, offer more advanced tips and practical information and it can be an alternative to those of you who prefer passive learning by listening.

In this episode, we wanted to direct your attention to a few great blogs, a couple of indispensable books and a brilliant website that, taken together or separately, will give great insight into the “hows” of implementing a social media marketing strategy.

Referenced resources:

Blogs- Jason Falls’ Social Media Explorer

Chris Brogan’s blog

Amber Naslund at Altitude Branding

Books- Groundswell and The New Rules of Marketing & PR

Website- Common Craft

Please go get the podcast in iTunes, or you can listen right here on the blog.

Download How to get started MP3

And please make sure to post your comments here on the blog. Was this useful for you? Too much information? Not enough?

Online video is an unstoppable force

Since we are video producers, we are partial to this kind of news:

comScore announced that US internet users watched 12.7 billion online videos in November 2008, up 34% from November 2007. That translates to 77% of users watching nearly 4 hours of video per month EACH with the average video duration being around 3 minutes. THAT’S OVER 90 VIDEOS PER MONTH FOR EVERY MAN WOMAN AND CHILD ON THE INTERNET, or
four videos a day. It boggles the mind.

Another recent survey says that 66% of marketers plan to implement online video into their 2009 plans. Uh…YEAH. You think?

Using social media to market your business or organization is more than setting up a Facebook page, as 59 of the top 100 US retailers have done, including BestBuy, Kohl’s and Wal-Mart. You need to connect with people and there is still nothing more powerful than the moving picture, whether it’s coming from your TV or, increasingly, your computer screen.

We’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: videos get shared, commented on and passed around endlessly. When was the last time you forwarded a banner ad to a friend?

How much video do you watch online? Has it changed your TV viewing habits at all?

Social Media Marketing and women of a certain age

There are a lot of misconceptions about social networking and social media, chief among them being that it is a domain reserved for 13-year olds endlessly texting each other while updating their Facebook status.

While this is demonstrably false, it’s not enough for me to say things like “demonstrably false” from my high horse. So consider this: eMarketer reported on a survey that showed 40% of 40-something women had a social networking profile. And the way to reach them was not by taking out ads on social networking sites, because they actively avoided them. Instead, engagement and more sophisticated marketing would be the key in reaching this influential group, as 70% of women with kids ages 13-17 had talked about products on social networks, connected with others, researched products, got their news or monitored their kids’ activities. In other words, THEY USE THE INTERNET!

Interestingly, women aged 45-54 make up a larger group of internet users than men of the same age.

Does this data surprise you? Do you fall into this demographic? If you are a marketer, what have you done to reach out to this key demo? Leave a comment and share your knowledge.

A new kind of Social Media Consultancy

As we head into 2009 on rather wobbly economic legs, I wanted to do my part to try and ease the anxiety that so many of us are feeling.

2008 proved to be a good year for our consulting practice here at Clearcast. My suspicion is that in this time of businesses contracting and looking for savings where they can find them, coupled with the ever increasing interest in social networking tools for business, 2009 will be busy, too. The pundits would have you believe that all business has completely ground to a halt, but we all know that is simply not so. Slow, yes. Stopped, of course not.

I will endeavor to make this blog more useful to those of you working in businesses or organizations that are trying to figure out how best to navigate the social web and extend their digital influence. We will continue to offer tips and useful information, as well as analyses of industry trends, and maybe even the occasional link to a cool program or funny video, just as we have always done.

I realized that a lot of you derived great value from our podcast, based on the number of downloads we received last year. I plan to make that an integral part of our overall offering, beginning with a new episode next week. If you’re new around here, head over to the “Podcast” channel over there on the right, or, better yet, subscribe for free in iTunes so you never miss an episode.

For your part, I would only ask that you participate in the comments section and help to shape the blog into something that is as laser focused and useful as possible. Post comments, send e-mail, follow me on Twitter, friend me up on Facebook- whatever way you find most comfortable to interact with me. (All the relevant links are also over there on the right…)

Social networking is an additive element to your overall marketing plan. It is not the be all and end all. But it IS vitally important to understand the tools and their implementations, so let us help you.

Here’s to defying all the predictions for 2009. It can be a great year for all of us.

How a big company tried to make things right using social media

OK, this post wins the award for worst title ever. I did, however, want to highlight an example of a company doing it right at a very grassroots, down-and-dirty level: posting an apology/explanation in the comments section of their product listing on Amazon.

Intuit, the makers of QuickBooks and other financial tracking software, recently released the 2009 version of their product. I need to upgrade my version since a lot of useful features sunset after a few years. (I will leave out how annoying, and costly, that is because I want to stick to the point of what a smart thing Intuit did in this case.) As I shopped around online for the best price and read reviews to familiarize myself with what I might expect from this newer version, I noticed a LOT of irate customers posting about how Intuit had taken the inexplicable step of deleting one of the more critical features of the software, the one that allows you to match transactions online automatically with your bank.

“Just say no!,” “Don’t buy this upgrade until they fix it,” “I wish Amazon allowed zero stars” are some samples of what people were writing. As we all know, you are in for a world of pain when you take something away from people that they really liked- and don’t even bother to explain why!

Enter “Intuit Greg,” aka Greg Wright, director of product management at Intuit. He posted a comment on Amazon that is excerpted here:

Hi, I’m Greg Wright. In full disclosure… I’m a director of product management at Intuit and I wanted to provide an update on the new online banking feature in QuickBooks 2009. (I put in a midpoint 3-star rating because I couldn’t submit a response and leave the rating blank. Just wanted everyone to know that I’m not trying to “game” the review ratings.) 

As many of you know, we work very closely with customers and accountants as we design the software. When we redesigned online banking, we were hoping to provide an easy to use start-up experience because the vast majority of users were not using online banking in QuickBooks. Unfortunately, it looks like we are not meeting the needs of our existing online banking users, especially those with lots of transactions. You spoke, we’re listening, and we are responding to the feedback.

Here are some specifics and timelines for our online banking fixes. We have our engineers working nights and weekends to deliver as quickly as we can because we know many of you rely on online banking. We will be releasing some of the fixes via a downloaded update on December 11th for QuickBooks 2009 Pro, Premier, and Enterprise Solutions. The following updates are now available by a web download at the QuickBooks support site:

I won’t post all the fixes planned, but you get the idea. If you want to read the whole thing, here it is.

The steps to conversational media success:

  1. Loyal customers complained.
  2. Company listened.
  3. Company RESPONDED.
  4. Relationship (hopefully) salvaged.

Sometimes, you just gotta listen, folks.