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Is Social Networking Building Internet’s Caste System?

Ah! To be an internet user in the 90s. When modern browsers introduced us to webpages and hyperlinks.  Click, click click and you were away, connecting random things. Girlie pictures, right click to download. Football scores I know the address. Email, done in minutes.

No pressure really. If you could log on, you could be online. No one knew who you were, and really no one cared.

How could the net just meander along like this, asked the Internet gods? Soon people will get bored. Let’s throw in some complexity, they said. And Google was born. Out of a paper that Larry Page wrote. With Page Rank, Google’s algorithm for ranking pages, we started to see changes in the way we consumed the web. We moved away from individual web pages and started visiting to the Google home page. Search for something and out came a bunch of results. Simple we thought, yet complex it was. Who decides which result should come up tops? Not Google surely. No.

Thus was born the origins of Internet’s caste system.

I have more heads of cattle then you have; if you are a villager living on the Serengeti plains of Africa. I rank higher up in Google search results than you do, if you’ve decided to make the Cyberspace your playground.

Thus was created a new generation of narcissists. Googling their names to find where they stood when compared to their peers and namesakes. I have done it myself secretly, I must admit.

What Google started didn’t end there. When platforms like Blogger, Typepad, WordPress and others gave anyone online the opportunity to create, it also started to create a pecking order of sorts. Arianna Huffington, Robert Scoble, Michael Arrington. India’s own Amit Agarwal, Rashmi Bansal, soon became the Brahmins of the web. Six figure speaking assignments, insider tips, first looks at new stuff, publishing contracts.

The social media curation business was in full flow, creating clear class systems with award shows, lists and more. Bloggies. AdAge’s ranking of top marketing bloggers. Indiblogger complied India’s own list. I saw your blog, chipped in an enthusiastic intern who dropped by my office. I have one too, he said, has an Indirank of 67. Crash! My world went down. With a score languishing in the 20s. Woe to ye writer for a blog few care to read.

It wouldn’t end there. Nike+, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and more. Some of us were just better at doing stuff and the world could know. I just ran 18 Kms a friend’s Nike+ status update mocked at me. The last I ran for exercise was 18 years ago.

NigaHiga has 4 million YouTube subscribers my son told me the other day. I looked up mine. Four. As if the zeroes really didn’t matter.

Facebook fans and friends, Twitter and Instagram follower lists – I wasn’t making a mark. Falling away in the social media leaderboard.

And then came the rating guys. Standard & Poor’s of the internet, as it were. Size does matter, they say, knowing my abysmal record so far, I wasn’t sure how I would measure up.

The big name around in this nascent business is Klout, as the name suggests measures your clout, online.  Klout, the standard of influence they claim, 80 million people have apparently compared themselves using the algorithm. Justin Bieber scores a 100 on 100. Unless you are a movie star or someone such, I urge you to stay away. With a score in the low 50s and my activity across various social networks I am classified a specialist. If it were like India’s multilayered caste system I would be a barber, probably. Nice hair! Oh go away now.

There are others out there waiting to divide us. Each one with a proprietary method. Peer Index, inviting you to understand your online social capital. One that groups you basis your activity, authority and your network.  There’s Twenty Feet described an ego tracking service. Carl Jung has met his match. The Times UK has another The Social List, a system set up to measure your social wealth. Could a bribe help, I wonder?

So why these class systems you may ask. We are seeing some answers already. Klout has introduced Klout Perks, a system to reward people basis their social influence. They worked with Facebook and Audi to deliver different experiences to people depending on their Klout scores. Stephen King recently gave away his new book Mile 81 free to select members of Klout.

Looks like I am falling short in the ranking game, with middling numbers across the board. Wish I could go back to the simpler days of the Internet. Or maybe I need to move on.

Gardening, anybody?   

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Creative Testing At Cannes Lions 2009

Millward Bown Global CEO Eileen Campbell and Millward Brown Optimor CEO, Joanna Seddon teamed up at Cannes this year to talk creative testing and how inputs from research can help improve the creative product. Worth 45 minutes of your time.

Learning By Listening. New Services Delivering. Better Customer Experiences.

There’s a lot of talk these days around companies needing to listen to customers, even if many of these customers are wrong. At Future Lab, John Cadell lists out a few reasons. Elsewhere Peter Kim pointed us to a review by Forrester of listening technologies. He goes on to add that the future lies for companies who go beyond offering just products. He feels the need of the hour is to offer services around such products. On the 1 to 1 blog is another interesting tidbit about customers helping other customers. How when the designated Comcast employee was on leave for a day, his colleagues who were also on Twitter picked up from where he had left off and continued to support those in need. Not long ago, we had written a piece on how companies can help customers help themselves. On Jerimiah Owyang blog is a list of white label social networking products. Yes there’s an explosion of such services. Needless to say companies need to do their best to keep their ears to the ground and computers logged in.

Stories From The Aisle. Boom Time For Shopper Marketing.

Not the first time are we writing about shopper marketing. And there’s good reason for doing so. Because the dynamics in the media landscape have changed, and now the one place you can still aggregate a mass audience is in-store. If 35 million Americans watched the season ending finale of American Idol, the most watched show on television, some 150 million Americans pass through the revolving doors of WalMart, Costco, Walgreens, Safeway and Kroger to boast weekly shopper counts of 20 million, 30 million, 44 million and 68 million, respectively. Point of sale is probably the most important point at which shoppers makes choices, and if you can hit them with a message, you can measure it with a sales lift. A study by Booze & Co found that over the next three years, in-store marketing activity will grow at a higher rate than any other marketing tactic. One of the key inflection points in this space has been WalMart’s decision to start an instore TV channel. With over 2600 locations around the US and hundreds and thousands of TV screens the network will rival the reach of traditional TV network. The IPTV based network is capable of delivering a precise message at the moment of purchase, down to one single screen. In India too such networks are beginning to proliferate. Future Group’s Future TV is one such player connecting up 10 million customers a week. Although there is a lot of buzz surrounding these latest in-store shopper marketing strategies, there’s still an ailing economy driving decisions. That could cause companies to pause before jumping into the newer in-store networks and rely on the tried-and-true shopper marketing tactics. More in AdWeek.

Do you have a customer experience management checklist?

1 to 1 Marketing Editor Ginger Conlon was at Strativity Group’s two-day customer experience management (CEM) certification course and came away with a list of things to do for companies looking to make CEM a part of their DNA. She suggest that companies value customer not from a market share perspective, but from a relationship perspective. “How many unprofitable customers”, she asks, “are you doing business with in the name of market share?” A one-size-fits-all is the enemy of any customer-centricity program. And unfortunately for many companies, it’s the prospect not the customer who’s king. When companies are asking customers to be loyal to them, they have to be ready to reciprocate. One of the interesting examples she cites is that of Apple and iPod, when they launched the device, they also made iTunes available–in other words, a complete customer experience: a device, software, legal downloads, and more. Apple was never in the music business, but they had to re-imagine the music business so that they could become the dominant player in the device market. So, when considering what more your organization can do, ask yourself, “Are there mature and tired markets, or just tired executives? She also suggests that for companies to roll out successful CEM programs, they need to listen to customers, and to ensure that every employee in these companies learn that customers are their most valuable asset. Read more on the 1 to 1 blog.

What Was Buzzy In The Financial Sector. Yahoo! Tells Us.

Yahoo! looks at all the things that caught the web’s imagination in their buzz index page. The index is divided into many different areas of interest, the economy is one area where we can take a look at. A quick look at the top searches on Yahoo! As the year comes to a close, 2008 reveals this expected list. $700 billion bailout. Foreclosures. The plummeting stock market. Dig around in Yahoo! Buzz Index.

Open-Source Data Mining

Free tools are everywhere, but nothing could come close to the power that Maltego could unleash. Billed as an open source analytics tool, Maltego is already getting rave reviews around the world. Maltego lets just about anybody do the kind of data mining that in the past only fraud investors, government specialists and hackers typically could do. Since Temmingh released the first commercial version of Maltego this past summer, even several national intelligence agencies have made use of the software, he says. Like with all new age ideas, the basic version of the software is free, download and play around here. And the commercial version costs under US $500. Read more from Forbes Magazine.

Better Customer Service, Better Loyalty, Better Profits

According to a recent Harvard Business Review study, U.S. companies lose half of their customers every five years, with two-thirds of them claiming that customer care was their reason for leaving. Pleasing people, on the other hand, really pays off: Studies show that improving customer loyalty by 5% can increase profits by a whopping 25%. More in the Motley Fool.

Recession Marketing Strategies

Neil Steward has some advice for people looking for ways to beat recession blues. Here are the two best tips that we picked out of his list of seven.

Find ways to engage in conversation with your heavy users and fanatical consumers. More than ever, your brand’s stalkers are going to help you spread the word.

Get uber-focused on your goals. If your marketing tactics aren’t directly affecting your core business objectives in a positive way, you probably shouldn’t be doing it.

The full list is here.

Towards Better Email Standards

Email Standards Project (ESP) works to help designers understand why web standards are so important for email an the one hand, while working with email client developers to ensure that emails render consistently. This is a community effort to improve the email experience for both designers and readers alike. Among the many things they do, is test popular email clients like Gmail, Outlook Express and Lotus Notes and rates each one of them. Discover the many parameters by which emails are tested at ESP. See how some of the top mail clients came through. And make the ESP blog a regular read…

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