Notes from Jeremiah Owyang's social media for business presentation at Blogworld


Jeremiah Owyang from Altimeter Group led a fascinating panel at Blogworld today titled "Where Are We Going? The Future of Social Media & Business." As I did yesterday with Chris Brogan's session, I'm posting my tidied-up notes here. This session was without a doubt a call to action for corporate social media practitioners.

Key topics

1. Social is everywhere

2. Corporate websites are irrelevant

3. Real time is not fast enough

4. Customers don't care what department you're in

5. Social personalization - your marketing efforts will be personalized based on your customers social idenity

Where are we now?

Is social for real or is it a fad? When Obama launched his campaign and won, it became a moot point and the question shifted to how do we get started.

Culture impacts the adoption of social technology. It's very heavy in China but they tend to use online forums and anonymous identities, for instance. Some kids in the US have multiple MySpace profiles: a regular profile and a profile for people they don't really like.

Most brands are not engaging effectively. They're falling behind the curve.

Altimeter recently published a survey of companies that are engaging well with their community. Starbucks, Dell, eBay and Google were at the top of the list.

Social is everywhere. Mainstream media sites are incorporating social features.

The next trend to watch is Google Sidewiki. (People in the audience actually booed at the mention.) This is a great opportunity for customers and the brands who are ready to listen. Customers and competitors can leave comments on your Web pages and there's nothing you can do to stop them. It's a browser plugin for IE and Firefox, so it will take some time for mainstream adoption.

If your company is scared about the social web, it's too late. You can't stop it. One audience member replied, "This is like somebody coming to my house and painting it. This is my site!"

Unfortunately the control doesn't belong to us, Jeremiah said. Another audience member replied, "This isn't on your site, it's on my Web."

Google has launched a "stealth social web" with tools like Google Sidewiki, Google Profiles, Google Wave, Google Chat, etc.

You do not control your brand, but at the same time you could control your competitors' brands. You need to change your reaction from fear to seeing the opportunity.

Corporate Websites - Are they irrelevant?

Research shows you trust your friends' opinions more than that of companies and salespeople. These trusted discussions are happening off of your corporate website. You need to join customers where they are: fish where the fish are. Go to Digg, Slashdot, go to where your customers are and join them. One of Intel's goals was not to link to, but go to where the customers are. Fragment your website and put it where your customers are, don't try to get them back to your website. Stop measuring based on leads and how many people you bring back to your site.

In the future your product pages will look like a collection of conversations.

Products he mentioned to make sites more social include Echo and Liveworld's Livebar.

My question: How can we convince people within our company that we shouldn't be trying to drive traffic back to the website?

You need to measure success differently, Jeremiah said. The number of friends or fans, the conversations you're involved in, the mentions of your product. Change the way you measure. Think of it in the continuum of a marketing funnel. Frame it in that way. We may not be ready to bring them to the web site yet, but when we're ready, we can bring them in, when they're farther along in the sales cycle.

Real time is not fast enough.

Motrin Moms is an overused example but still has important lessons for us. It started happening on a Friday evening. By Monday it was mainstream. Johnson & Johnson tried to respond over the weekend but it wasn't enough; they didn't respond fast enough.

What can you do? Have a very robust and active listening program and be ready to respond. Only a few hands went up when up when Jeremiah asked how many in the room had a monitoring program, and even fewer when he asked if we had a social crisis response plan.

8 Objectives when listening, from least to most sophisticated:

1. No objective at all

2. Tracking of brand mentions

3. Identifying market risks and opportunities

4. Improving campaign efficiency

5. Meausring support efforts

6. Responding to customer inquiry

7. Better understand customers

8. Being proactive and anticipating customers

Develop an advocacy program. Understand your top customers and build them a platform to do the word of mouth marketing and support for you. Intel Insiders, WamMart Mom Bloggers and Microsoft MVP program are examples.

The key is to be an empowerer. Teach them how to do these things.

Jason Keath asked how this impacts staffing and resources. These things require staffing and funding. But what's the cost or benefit savings you can get out of this? Jeremiah responded that if you can empower thousands of people without paying them, there's a definite ROI. The business case comes in opportunity cost analysis.

Customers don't care what department you're in

Jeremiah used the Maytag/Whirpool/Dooce example where a prominent blogger (Dooce) had a problem with her machine and blogged and tweeted about it. Dooce didn't care if it was a PR, product development, support or other issue. She just wanted her machine fixed.

It's the concept of social CRM: There's a lot of data happening in the social web. CRM companies are mining that data so the right people can respond.

Many of the monitoring solutions in the industry, according to Jeremiah, are building disparate databases that aren't integrated to all areas of the company. You have to connect all areas and get a holistic view of your customers.

Develop a holistic strategy

"It's coming a lot faster than I thought it would." We call it social personalization. People are creating robust profiles on the Web with better information than they're giving you when they sign up for your site, and it's all connected (Twitter, Facebook Connect, etc.) Web sites can now provide a personalized experience based on the customer's ID. Customers can log in via Facebook Connect and not have to fill out the registration page. Registration pages are annoying to many people and probably not accurate. Customers can give companies access to your Facebook profile and choose how much information to give them. The company can provide you with personalized information relevant to you.

An audience member metnioned a legal issue they had encountered: If you log in with a third party tool your visitors aren't explicitly opting in to your privacy policy. How do you get around that?

Jeremiah repsonded that it's going to take a while to work out those issues.

If you use Facebook Connect or other tools, you do not get their email address. Once again you need to change the way that you measure success. Facebook will kick you off if you try to scrape information. One strategy is to have another page where you gather information.

Jeremiah talked about Layar as an example of augmented reality. You can point your smart phone at the Hilton and get information on your phone about what's happening around you, and personalize that information.


  • The social web is quickly evolving. Develop long-term strategies now. Stop playing the one-off games and think about how this is truly changing your business.
  • You need to integrate social technologies into your corporate Web site or Google will render you irrelevant.
  • Join communities where they exist.
  • Develop a listening and advocacy program.
  • Think holistically: this is not just marketing, it's sales and PR and recruting and support.
  • Prepare for personalized content to come to your web sites.

Jeremiah's final slide read, "For slides, send an email to"


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  1. Jeremiah Owyang on

    Thanks for capturing this, I'm glad (per your previous post) you're tweeting less at the conference. Blogging certainly is becoming a lost art.

  2. Thanks for your notes. Jeremiah did the same presentation at [re]think Hawaii and I was looking for his slides and/or notes.

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