Reverb P.R. Firm Settles Case on Fake Reviews

The Federal Trade Commission said on Thursday that a California marketing company had settled charges that it engaged in deceptive advertising by having its employees write and post positive reviews of clients’ games in the Apple iTunes Store, without disclosing that they were being paid to do so.

OK, so we’re taking this whole “paid promotion content” thing seriously.

Interesting.

(via NYTimes.com.)

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How the Old Spice Videos Are Being Made

A team of creatives, tech geeks, marketers and writers gathered in an undisclosed location in Portland, Oregon yesterday and produced 87 short comedic YouTube videos about Old Spice. In real time. They leveraged Twitter, Facebook, Reddit and blogs. They dared to touch the wild beasts of 4chan and they lived to tell the tale. Even 4chan loved it. Everybody loved it; those videos and 74 more made so far today have now been viewed more than 4 million times and counting. The team worked for 11 hours yesterday to make 87 short videos, that’s just over 7 minutes per video, not accounting for any breaks taken. Then they woke up this morning and they are still making more videos right now. Here’s how it’s going down.

So far, this is one of the best advertising pushes I’ve seen on the Internet. It’s truly inspired.

(via How the Old Spice Videos Are Being Made – Read Write Web.)

What I don’t like about department-based…

What I don’t like about department-based marketing is the belief that the only people who can send the messages about what the products are, who the company is, and what they believe in are the people in the marketing department. That’s the way I see most companies today operating. In reality, it’s everybody, every single person. The customer service department has some of the most important marketing people, but they’re not traditionally in the marketing department. Their impact is marginalized, when actually they have a huge impact. I don’t mean to say we’re perfect at this, but everything we do considers the overall impression we make on our customers to be our marketing. We want all our employees to worry about that.

Jason Fried, “10 Questions on REthinking the WORKplace”

Josh Bernoff on why traditional marketin…

Josh Bernoff on why traditional marketing and social media marketing are at odds with one another:

The problem is simple. Marketers don’t understand channels where you have to talk and listen at the same time. Like one of those maddening not-full-duplex speakerphones where you can’t interrupt somebody, this is what drives customers nuts. Think about it. None of those talking channels allows a response. None of those listening channels encourages actual feedback from the company.

The marketing industry’s idea of a two-way communication is to put an 800 number or a web address in an ad and take orders.

Like any shift in thinking, it’s already started with motivated individuals who wish to make a difference. It’s only a matter of time before this kind of thinking begins to permeate the culture of successful organizations.

Like Drinking, Be Reponsible when Using Social Media

Chris Brogan on company presence management:

Let’s say you build a pretty decent stream of conversations on Facebook. Maybe it’s your junior comms person and they’re just drumming up excitement for a new product that the people want. Everything’s going great, and there’s an active group, and people feel like they’re being treated like humans. Know who comes next?

Marketing. In some companies, they come crashing down from the hills like angry Mongol raiders, set on converting people from interested community members into hot leads to purchase. They start asking to push materials down the community channel. They ask for lists. They push for opt-ins for email marketing.

Is it the right move? Not as listed above. Not if that’s not how you set the presence up to begin with. It will feel like horrid bait and switch. People will flock away pretty darned fast if you switch them over into convert mode. They’ll also hate you if you just pull up stakes and run after the product is launched. If they’ve committed to talking with you at those points of presence, they want you there for the long term.

Be wary of this. Think further out than a single campaign. If you set up the direct line, you have to be willing to answer it for more than the short term.

I don’t always agree with Brogan (or even the rest of the article), but on this I think he’s spot-on.

The most important thing for you to do with social media and interactions is to talk with your customers and to listen to them. Give them the “direct line,” as Brogan says elsewhere in the article, and then embrace that method of communications. It shouldn’t be a single point of contact for all your customers, but instead a network of people who are invested in their work who are passionate about serving people and connecting with the people on the other side of their work.

Have We Learned From “Goldilocks and the Three Bears”?

Seth Godin:

A newspaper that only had a few dozen employees would be doing great today. But they have hundreds or thousands of employees because that was an appropriate scale twenty years ago. When I started my first web combany fifteen years ago, the idea that you could be successful with six or ten employees was crazy, but today many of the most successful companies have not many more than that. That’s 15,000 fewer employees than eBay has.

It’s tempting to get bigger. But is bigger better? In many cases, it’s worse, particularly when you can leverage reliable systems that are cheaper and faster and more stable in the outside world. If you can make your product better by assembling it yourself, you should. But if that action makes it worse, why do it?

Is your organization too big? Too small? Just right?

Something for Nothing Can Make You Something

Chris Anderson is the editor-in-chief of Wired.

I don’t expect that to draw you in for a very exciting post. What I do want to share with you is that he believes that the future of commerce and business, especially over the Internet, is in giving things away for free. An article about this very subject was the cover story in Wired about a year ago, and Anderson is writing a book that will be out in July called, simply, Free.

Pay attention to this one, because it’s possibly very revolutionary and is likely to turn some heads. He thinks you should be giving stuff away in order to make money.

He’s not necessarily talking about the Gilette model, either:

Thanks to Gillette, the idea that you can make money by giving something away is no longer radical. But until recently, practically everything “free” was really just the result of what economists would call a cross-subsidy: You’d get one thing free if you bought another, or you’d get a product free only if you paid for a service.

As examples, he mentions that after experimenting with paid content, both The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal are now free to read on the Web (excepting some information in WSJ). At the time of this writing, I can even browse NYT on my iPod touch, using an application they wrote that is also free to download.

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eBook Prices versus Print Prices – Are They Too High?

Are eBook prices edging a little too high for people’s comfort? Josh Quittner writes in Time:

If only the Kindle 2 were cheaper! Despite its other shortcomings, Amazon’s new and improved digital-book reading device does enough right that it could become the Model T of e-readers, capturing the imagination–and discretionary spending–of the masses. But in this wretched economy, in which most of us will purchase only nonessentials that save us money or make us money, I doubt folks will pony up $359 for a pleasure-reading gadget. And thanks to Amazon’s mysterious pricing policies, the old argument–that digital books are so much cheaper than their hide-bound ancestors–no longer holds.

Before a recent visit to my dear old mum, I purchased The Kindly Ones, by Jonathan Littell, a 992-page Nazi-palooza that, given the nearly 3-lb. weight of the new English translation, makes for an ideal Kindle selection. But when I got ready to buy it on Amazon, I blanched at the $16.19 price. Every Kindle text I’ve purchased since Amazon started selling the device in November 2007 has been $9.99. Indeed, that was one of the Kindle’s main draws: you could buy books wirelessly, on demand and at a fraction of the cost of their printed peers. Case in point: Littell’s book was listed in Amazon’s Kindle store with a hardcover price of $29.99, making the digital version seem like a real bargain. But later I discovered that Amazon’s bookstore was selling the new hardcover for $17.99. So the Kindle saved me all of $1.80. Big whoop.

Customers aren’t stupid. They realize that an eBook like that on the Kindle or on other electronic bookstores doesn’t cost as much to print, warehouse, or to distribute—because those things don’t cost anything. Quittner himself writes about an “old argument” that “digital books are… cheaper” than print pieces. A lot of people are used to purchasing a large portion of their books at the $9.99 price point on Kindle, because that’s an automatic discount applied to both new titles and to titles on the NYT bestseller list.

What shows the intelligence of the customer is that I don’t recall any publisher ever saying in public that eBooks would be less expensive than print ones. Amazon makes a big to-do about the $9.99 price point, enough so that Quittner believes in his article that Amazon is also the one who set the list price for the book he was trying to buy. (This is not true; list prices are set by publishers; Amazon decides what the sale price is, at least when it comes to Kindle titles. I don’t know how the print side of things works.) Customers are intuiting that digital books should not cost as much as print ones.

I ran into this myself just a few days ago. Now having the Kindle app for iPhone, I went to look at a few books to see if I wanted to buy anything. I landed on a book that in print is a mass market paperback. Its Kindle price? $7.99—identical to the pricing of the hard copy version. I don’t think I need to write long on how quickly that decision was made for me.

Companies—and this is not limited to publishers—are underestimating the human desire to own physical objects. To many people (and at least to me), physical ownership of a piece of property, such as a DVD on which a video game is coded, or a stack of paper on which words are printed, is more valuable than a collection of bits that make up even a functionally equivalent electronic version of the same product. In addition, I have more control over the physical piece of property, especially when DRM enters the picture on electronic files and I’m being told what I can and can’t do with it.

What do you think? When you have a choice, which one would you buy? Would you buy both? What do you expect to pay for it?

Discuss, and feel free to answer the poll in the sidebar.

We Need Blogging Ghostbusters

Michael Hyatt tells a story of meeting with another publishing CEO regarding blogging:

He asked, “How do I get started blogging?” My heart lept (sic). I knew he would have an instant audience. I, for one, would love to read what he had to say. I imagined all kinds of things I could learn from him.

Then he dashed my hopes. “Who do you use to ghost write your blog?” he asked.“Excuse me?” I choked.

“I mean, who do you use to write your blog? Could I possibly hire him or could you recommend someone that is really good?”

Honestly, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. The guy obviously did not get it. I blurted out, “I don’t use a ghost writer. I write every word myself.”

He then said, “Oh, I couldn’t possibly do that. I don’t have the time.”

Without thinking, I said, “Then you shouldn’t do it at all.”

The worst thing you can do with blogging or Twitter or social networking of any kind is to set it up and then make someone else do all the work for you (the second-worst is to begin something and then let it lay fallow). Engaging with people on the Internet and within social media spheres is about making personal connections, not about being a company mouthpiece. Read through Mike’s quote up above: he recounts his anticipation of another CEO from a large publisher actively blogging about what he finds interesting and what he can share about the industry and his unique position.

He’s then very disappointed at the impersonality of his peer’s request. Why? Because he was looking to make a connection. To learn and grow within the industry by reading what someone else has to say—and to engage in conversation.

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