Infocomm 09 follow up

June 23, 2009

Following on from my last post (Infocomm 09, A Social Media Perspective) and with many thanks to Benjamin Slayter (SGASI), Dawn Meade (AVDawn.com) and George Tucker (Crestron) It appears I missed more than I found. I was actively looking for SN penetration and I missed 3 companies efforts and 2 Tweet ups. They just didn’t come across my radar.

Why did I miss it?

Social networking is all about people groups and interactions within and between those groups. I missed them because I was too separated from their target people group and the tools I used to gain an overview (#IC09, perspctv and Technorati) didn’t pop them onto my radar. This could have been for many reasons, wrong keywords, wrong time of day, lost in the clutter, all of which meant that I missed them.

Networks and relationships.

My failure to find this outreach raises a point regarding networks. George Tucker from Crestron commented on my original post and summarized their SN results at Infocomm.

“During the seven days CEN-BLG(beta) was active at Infocomm, we gained 200 followers and had over 4000 hits. Twitter followers commented on the products and generated conversation beyond the original post. My metrics showed a potential reach of over 10,000 for each post.”

Fabulous, a veritable tsunami of interaction and I still missed it. I was not in George’s network during Infocomm. Maybe I would have been, somehow, in one of his colleagues networks. Maybe I know someone somewhere else at Crestron but as I didn’t know George I had no idea of the outreach he was implementing even though I was interested and actively seeking it.

Thought for the day.

This leaves me with  a thought. Or, in fact, a confirmation. No matter how hard you try or how successful you are at getting customers into your SN boat, you will always miss some of them. That is why SN isn’t a silver bullet, it’s a vehicle for deepening the relationships you already have and multiplying the entry points for relationships you don’t.

Make SN wide.

SN needs to be wide, the more people in an organization disseminating information the better. SN should not be the domain of the marketing department. In fact, the more I learn about SN the more I’m convinced that marketing should be the lowest generators of outbound SN in an organization.

Marketing should absolutely lead and construct the framework but the content should come from engineering, development, shipping and customer service. The conversations that users are having are not about marketing, they are about engineering decisions, development possibilities, logistics and support. These are the people customers want to have a relationship with. Customers normally only want a relationship with sales and marketing if there are bagels involved.

Next year?

I’m glad that Crestron are looking to expand their SN efforts at Cedia and Infocomm (#IC10). I’m sure that the SN presence by all manufacturers at IC10 will be greater than at IC09. Hopefully they will all be discovering that it’s not difficult, it just takes organization and hard work.

Thanks again to Ben, Dawn and George. Their conversation is what makes it interesting.

Advertisements

Tradeshows are a gift to social marketers. Thousands of people, interacting with you, your company and your product. Think of the photo opportunities for your Facebook page. The opportunities to get customers to follow your Twitter accounts (product, company news, tech support etc etc). The opportunities to create buzz, interest and traffic.

Infocomm

So, with great interest, I ventured onto the floor of Infocomm ’09 to see how many companies would use these tools to elongate and enhance the penetration of the show into their customer base.

Simply put, it was a desert. Not one company I saw was driving or enhancing the show through social marketing. There were individuals tweeting from and about Infocomm (#IC09) but hardly any companies were tweeting corporately. Audix, Draper and NEC tweeted about product launches and Crestron tweeted from their party but, as far as I could tell, no one exploiting social marketing tools to gain extra penetration.

Relationships Rule

I used to service the AV industry and checking back in with some of my old dealers revealed an interesting pattern. Those dealers that focused on building relationships, communities and engaging users have weathered the economic storm better than those that focused on closing the sale.

I maintain that social marketing is not difficult it’s just time consuming and requires planning. The extra effort required to provide a social marketing perspective to a tradeshow is minimal. All that is needed is a plan and briefing of the guys working the booth. If those manufacturers and dealers who focused on the relationship have succeeded to keep their revenues ticking along I’m wondering why there was so little attempt to build the relationship through the show.

What I would have done.

  • Start a specific tradeshow/new product LinkedIn group.
  • Start a twitter feed for new products.
  • Get photo’s of booth visitors, get their names and permission to post to Facebook.
  • Tweet about product demo times/launches.
  • Follow up tweets on products launches.
  • Ask the customers if Twitter would be useful to disseminate information (shipping info, order status, support ticket status etc etc).

Next year I hope to find companies building relationship using social marketing tools. It’s not difficult, it won’t hurt and the worse thing that could happen is that you and your customers may get to know each other better.

What was your experience at Infocomm? Was there more social networking going on than I was aware of? Let me know, I’d love to know.

Are market structures reverting to a niche, fractal, existence?

Are market hierarchies about to crumble?

One of the great side effects of long bike rides is that it allows plenty of time to ponder. To take a step back and look at the totality of a subject or issue instead of the constant focus on the immediate. For some reason as I was wending my way through the back roads of Chattanooga, dodging dogs and rednecks, this thought stuck with me.

(Fair warning, this post contains sweeping generalizations and reduction of complex socio-economic principles to their simplest form.)

Back before economies of scale

Back in the land that time forgot everything was local, mostly because you really couldn’t get there from here. This bred a local need for almost every service. Economies of scale were difficult to leverage because it was difficult to expand beyond a locality. In many ways each locality and it’s associated services was duplicated almost exactly every few miles at the center of another concentration of population.

I see these as being the main patterns of a fractal market structure, (fractal is probably not the correct mathematical term for this pattern but my use of it is to describe the repeating nature of a pattern at varying resolutions of population). A specific industry at the regional level would be a copy of the industry at the state level which would be a copy of the industry at the county level which is a copy of the industry at a city level.

The market was essentially flat with no national brands or presence. As the geographic area of study expands and contracts the same pattern emerges.

After economies of scale

Improvements of communication, road, rail etc etc broke that pattern. It allowed strong companies to take over weak companies and exploit underserved markets. It allowed a brand and presence to be built which allowed certain brands to stand above the others in its industry and exploit a national presence. Thus the hierarchy.

Few giants, multiple regional players and hundreds of local wannabe’s.

After hierarchies were established there was always some competitor to measure yourself against, take over, outsell or sell out to. So,  for a few hundred years, that’s what we did. We planned and measured our businesses against the hierarchy of our industry.

Then the internet arrived, bringing with it a whole new set of economies of scale which are now beginning to cause market structures to revert back to a fractal existence.

Web 2.0 – The consumer takes over

For me, one of the main differences between web 1.0 and web 2.0 is that the protagonists have shifted from organizations wanting to sell to consumers wanting to consume. Instead of the organization forcing consumers into a behavior to serve the needs of the company, the company now has to serve the consumer in order to maintain its success.

Consumer driven markets tend towards multiple niches as each consumer exercises choice in order to satisfy needs, wants and interests.

Replace geography with demographic.

I think that as markets were niche due to geography before road and rail, they are now returning to niche due to demographic. I believe that companies will discover that mountain bikers in Oregon are separate and respond to different messages and value propositions to bikers in Washington or Montana.

“All politics are local” is one of the great rules of politics. I think we’re moving towards “All industries are local.” I see this as a marketing and customer service transition rather than a manufacturing and distribution one. In fact globalization of the manufacturing and distribution chains may well have hastened this reversion to niche demographics. When all products in an industry come from several large suppliers who supply all to everyone the only thing to differentiate between competitors is how they relate to their customers.

Those who relate best to the most number of market niches will succeed. However I do not see one company being the best at relating to all niches. There will be variation in how each company succeeds in this relationship. It is a model built on accepting variances of penetration in specific niches and looking at the totality of success across the market as a whole, the macro of all the markets niches.

It’s all breaking up!

I just discovered from a great Wired article that Tom Malone at MIT pondered this same thought in the late 80’s. His paper dealt more with the effect of more traditional economies of scale forcing the breakup of industries into smaller more agile business units acting as an affiliation in a market, but his conclusion was still the same. Markets and the industries that serve them are breaking up into niches. As I’ve said before, you’d better know who your customer is.

What do you think?

Have I found the wrong tree to bark up? Did I miss something in econ 101? Are you seeing it in your own market? Let me know.