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Ignite X is a recognized, integrated marketing agency in Silicon Valley that delivers content marketing, executive branding, and public relations services.  

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Ignite X specializes in helping technology startups grow their market visibility and brand. We bring expertise, connections and tenacity to helping brands break through the noise. Here are some of the things we've learned along the way. 

Filtering by Category: Web 2-0

PR Tip -- Avoid Losing Your Company's Good Will Created

Carmen Hughes

Yesterday's some of the social media biggest barometers were off the charts. Why? Facebook essentially chose to pull the rug out from under its users with a highly questionable Terms of Service (TOS) change. Almost 6000 people have dugg Facebook's move on Digg and on Twitter yesterday both TOS and Facebook were top 5 trend topics all day and into the night. I think it was a bad PR move that could have been handled differently. Was there only one option for Facebook to make here? I understand, as I think all users of social networks and other social media sites, that increasingly the web is opening up so sites can share data more easily with each other. When a user chooses to share their data publicly, it no longer distinctly belongs to them. However, the mistake that Facebook made was that they originally told their users that they were free to delete their account and with that account deletion, their data went with them. Then without any warning or grace period, Facebook pulls an about face (pun intended) and reneges on its own TOS with users, basically telling all 100+ million of them, guess what? We changed our mind and your data, it isn't yours any longer, it's ours and we can do whatever we want with it, whenever we want. Period. Instead of following their lawyers' advice, perhaps Facebook ought to have followed their PR's advice and taken a different approach instead. I'm surmising here that this is how things unfolded but too often companies follow the legal advice (say no comment) instead of taking better control of the situation and having less fallout. Right now, Facebook has created a tremendous amount of bad will and that is unfortunate. It is a hard lesson that others may want to remember and avoid.

The Power of Word-of-Mouth Marketing

Carmen Hughes

Building consumer-generated word-of-mouth is a great way for companies to enhance their overall PR efforts.  We recently applauded Amazon for its smart PR move around its push for more crowdsourcing of user-generated product reviews.  Amazon’s efforts paid off; the online retailer reported that the 2008 holiday season was its best ever.  Nielsen Online reports more than 80% of online shoppers read consumer reviews, validating their use as an important research tool for online consumers. Whether researching online as a consumer or business user, positive customer testimonials will go a long way.  Young tech startups that are looking to generate positive conversations around their own product or service need to bear in mind that it’s ultimately determined by the users’ experience.  Get that right and meet the needs of your targeted audience and, then as Amazon is learning, leveraging consumer-generated reviews as part of your online marketing efforts could reap additional viral PR and growth for your product or service.

Amazon Makes Smart PR Move with Crowdsourcing of Holiday Product Reviews

Carmen Hughes

Amazon issued this press release announcing its new “holiday customer review team.” The idea from Amazon is simple: appoint holiday product reviewers from its very own customers to compile lists of their favorite items in order to help other shoppers pick out that perfect gift.  The team is comprised of Amazon’s top reviewers selected for their expertise and interests based on the number and breadth of products each reviewed.  In addition to reviewing personally-selected items, Amazon’s review team were given early access to test some of the top Black Friday products for free in exchange for their reviews. 

 

It’s a clever idea overall; crowd-sourcing that taps customers to create user-generated content in the form of product reviews to help shoppers decide on their purchases.  Some Web 2.0 startups have done phenomenally well applying this concept, including Yelp, Digg and Wikipedia.  Consumers are increasingly comfortable researching and shopping online and having access to straightforward, unbiased product reviews helps guide their selection process.  It’s also a great PR move by Amazon to recognize their most active customers who post reviews and involve them at a deeper level within their business. Amazon is building and leveraging a grassroots program to effectively connect with and expand its online community. 

 

Yet Amazon still needs to be mindful that it doesn’t try to sanitize or unduly influence the reviewers for any group of products, brand or manufacturer. Candy-coated reviews won’t work for consumers who have honed their screening capabilities to spot biases or questionable reviews wherever they may be (ie: TripAdvisor). If Amazon can proactively require its reviewers to make any full disclosures this will help keep the quality of these reviews in check.  Kudos to Amazon for its crowdsourcing product reviews initiative. It’s forward-thinking as well as a smart PR move to boot.

Early and Often -- focus on new features or customers?

Carmen Hughes

For any startup looking to gain a strong foothold in the market, customer traction is the name of the game.  All too often though, many Web 2.0 startups focus instead on pushing a product or service to market that they built without involving beta customers beforehand.

 

Innovative ideas need to incorporate early user feedback and testing and that shouldn’t mean just before the product or service is “baked.” Working with beta customers should start at the onset in order to really understand what customers’ needs are and reiterating the product or service to win their nod of approval. Since early stage, tech startups have such limited resources, the startups early version of their product/service should focus on solving the most critical customer pain points: the product/service has to be “a must have” and not — “a nice to have.”  This can be best achieved by focusing on beta customers — early and often.  Happy customers will become referenceable customers and your biggest champions.  In their words, they can best articulate why the product/service solved their problems and why it was of value.  Other prospective customers will self-select by identifiying with the same problem/pain points and move to seek out the solution.

 

Being on the PR side of things, we still see far too many Web 2.0 companies, as well as established companies, not involving their customers soon enough or often enough before they roll out some “beta” offering (or even worse launch a new product).  From the PR side, the best advice we can offer is not to push out new whiz bang features early and often but instead to work closely with customers, early and often, in order to build that better mousetrap.

The Rebirth of PR

Carmen Hughes

Hummer-assembly-plant

 

I attended the Girls in Tech / Horn Group event that examined the notion of whether social media tools are killing PR.  The event was in part to address the ongoing backchannel blogger chatter, which is essentially asserting that PR is dying on the vine.  Kudos to the Horn Group and Girls in Tech for taking the opportunity to move beyond the negative bickering and look forward to the role that social media tools are having and how PR must harness them.  I agree with the stand that Sabrina Horn took in noting that, no, PR is far from dying and the industry is, in fact, on the cusp of being reborn. In other words, there is opportunity on the horizon for those agencies that choose to transform for the future.  The panelists were fantastic, each bringing a different and highly relevant perspective: Sam Whitmore of Media Survey served as the moderator and did an excellent job of prodding the audience for feedback while trying to cover a number of areas and keep all participants on track.  Susan Etlinger, from the agency-side, Jeremiah Owyang, provided the analyst and blogger perspective, and BoomTown’s Kara Swisher lent perspective from her traditional media experience.  Unfortunately, the 90 minutes didn’t afford the time to really dig down into how different social tools are enhancing PR or could be integrated more successfully.  Nevertheless, the exchange was positive and fruitful, providing some good take-aways.  Kara Swisher was vastly entertaining and provided a dose of reality related to the drama and antics some bloggers are exhibiting.

 

A few folks from the crowd provided a client perspective, noting that they want their agencies to be more expert at product marketing and SEO and web analytics.  Jeremiah was spot on in his assessment that today the PR industry has to build out core competencies in SEO, web analytics, product marketing, viral marketing and beyond in order to be able to offer a new brand of PR services and expertise to clients; This new brand of PR is one that will blend core practices of traditional PR with online marketing -- while harnessing existing and future tools that disseminate information faster and farther. There are indeed new revenue streams to be realized here for PR firms.  PR is at a crossroads in its need to evolve and become savvy in online advertising and other marketing competencies so that we can help clients navigate how they can most effectively apply their marketing efforts and dollars to drive company revenues. 

 

Like the auto industry’s need to retool their manufacturing plants, now is the time for the PR industry to also retool.  Future core services that we begin to offer clients need to be creative and closely align with how to leverage the expanding communication channels and the different avenues in which content and services and conversations are being disseminated, shared, and consumed.

Great Tech Startups will Get Funding Despite Tougher Market Conditions

Carmen Hughes

We worked with San Francisco-based Syncplicity recently on their funding announcement.  The timing for the startup was fortuitous because they managed to get their post-seed funding just before the market conditions and environment for tech startups became much more challenging.  Syncplicity and their VC firm, True Ventures, have been sharing their perspective related to the funding environment and tech start-ups.  Here are a few postings that we wanted to highlight that touch up some of the notable points of Syncplicity’s funding.

http://profy.com/2008/10/31/simplicity-still-viable-investment-syncplicity-gets-2-35-million/

http://www.thealarmclock.com/mt/archives/2008/10/cloud_computing.html

VentureWire’s Scott Denne’s piece captured that Synplicity found one of the biggest challenges in closing the round was that most venture capital firms wanted to put in more money than the company was willing to take. Since Syncplicity runs largely on hosted infrastructure, like many Web 2.0 start-ups, its capital needs were out of sync with the amounts that larger venture firms look to put to work over the life of a company.

VentureBeat’s Matt Marshall just did a post related to the current VC model and startup environment that elicited insightful, provocative comments from readers as well.
http://venturebeat.com/2008/11/12/the-vc-model-is-broken/

 

 

How to get your Twitter On

Carmen Hughes

For those of you who have not tried Twitter yet, we'd highly recommend it. Twitter is a way to tap into another world literally of real-time, ongoing communication by thousands of people who are busy tweeting away. You can choose to follow real-time tweets (short written notes) from a select group of friends, interesting people, or the public at large. Just as important, you can engage in the conversation or add your own two cents-- whatever those might be. Whether it's breaking news or real-life drama unfolding, or frankly mundane everyday things affecting people ("Stuck in traffic due to major accident on 101. Traffic at a stand still.") After diving into a world of twitters and tweets, we found it to be a highly informative and an influential, dynamic communication tool. The nice thing about Twittering is that brevity rules. Your tweets are limited to just 140 characters, so keep it short and sweet. Tara Anderson of Citizen Agency and HorsePigCow blog wrote an exceptional primer titled, "Tweeting for Companies 101." It's a how to guide on the world of Twitter and tweets, highlighting many of the cool new tools one can use to become more Twitter proficient. Check it out here: http://www.horsepigcow.com/2008/04/21/tweeting-for-companies-101/ We believe the practice of Twittering is going to grow like wildfire so you might as well figure out how to get your Twitter on sooner than later.

Cool web 2.0 tools

Carmen Hughes

Here are a few cool new web 2.0 tools that we've been recently using and wanted to share with you. Snurl: used for shortening unnecessary (and annoying), ultra-long url addresses. You just paste the cumbersome ulr address in snurl & voila! Snurl gives you an easy-to-use compact url that you can share with bloggers or the media. http://www.snurl.com

Twhirl: was recently bought up by Seesmic, an up & coming online video streaming site. Twhirl is a great Twitter client. What makes Twhirl even more powerful is that it can be used with competing Twitter services like Pownce and Jaiku. Twirl also embeds snurl, which is extremely helpful because Twittering services max out at 140 characters. http://twhirl.org

Perl: Okay, we really don't use this and it's not a cool web service. Just our attempts to be witty here. Perl is actually a dynamic programming language derived mostly from C language and predominantly used for Unix-based operating systems. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perl