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Big Brother is watching

Last week ended for me with a heated discussion on the subject of just how much companies of all sizes are restricting email and Internet usage these days. A colleague claimed that because the Internet and email had become accepted—and necessary—business tools, companies of all sizes were moving away from policies that restrict their employees’ email and Internet usage. I believed just the opposite. And, as it always does, the war of supporting stats began.

Partly in an attempt to stanch the flood of stat-filled emails flooding my inbox, and partly because I wanted to confirm or disprove my viewpoint, I took the opportunity to do a little informal (very informal) field work this weekend. A friend of mine works for a nationally recognized travel website that set up a booth at an event. The booth had two purposes: support brand recognition and boost subscribers for the site’s quarterly newsletter. Perfect for my purposes, eh? So, I worked the booth all day on Sunday trying to sign up folks for this newsletter.

I’m pretty good at selling—especially when I’m selling something I believe in. And I believe that this newsletter has valuable content: travel tips, special offers, great resources for business travel—and I’m not even the target audience. In the process I also asked people about their Internet and email usage at work. I talked to approximately 100 people and 95 percent of them told me that the company they work for restricts their Internet usage and/or monitors their email.

These folks worked for big companies and small companies, they came from all over the country (even a few from Europe and Latin America), and they worked at all levels doing all kinds of things. But most of them gave me the same message: My company controls/monitors my Internet and email usage.

Now, my methodology—if you could even call it that—was hardly scientific, and I know every legitimate researcher will be jumping on this entry with all four feet. But I’ve got to admit, even I was shocked to hear person after person tell me that, in their company, Big Brother is alive and well.

So, let me hear it from you. Does your company control/monitor your Internet and email usage? And if so, how? ―Chris Zender, VP, creative services


June 28, 2007 Posted by | Chris Zender, Email Marketing, Web Content | Leave a comment

Mindful TV

I’ll admit it: I love TV. I watch everything from network standbys to PBS specials to cable access programming. I’ll watch anything once, no matter how bad it is. I used to feel guilty about all the hours I’ve accrued to attain my couch potato status. No so anymore. These days, TV is teaching me something: how to create a better experience for Tendo’s clients.

Some of the best TV shows are leading the way in providing content-rich experiences online. Programs such as Heroes and Lost are extending their reach by creating brand-new content that adds deeper dimensions and richer context to their story lines. The key concept in that sentence is “brand-new”—the content on these sites goes beyond the simple blogs and episode synopses that most TV show websites routinely provide.

Sites like The Hanso Foundation , Oceanic Flight 815, and YamagatoFellowship.org  feature new material that extends and enhances viewers’ experience in totally new ways. Material such as maps of the island or profiles of historical “heroes” deepens viewer engagement, creating strong relationships between the show and its audience.

Of course, new content doesn’t come cheap, and I’m well aware of how much work went into creating these sites, but I think the payoff speaks for itself. —Chris Zender, VP, creative services

May 22, 2007 Posted by | Chris Zender, Custom Content, Multimedia, Web Content | Leave a comment

Me, too!

I’ve just met with yet another prospect who said to me, “We need to make our website more Web 2.0. We want a wiki, RSS feeds, podcasts, and a blog.” And while I’m always happy to get new business, when I asked the client about his company’s strategy behind developing these tactics, his answer was, “Our competition has them, so we need to have them as well.”

In other words, “Me, too!”

In fact, a recent scan of our inquiries box shows a decided uptick in the amount of requests we’re getting for “Web 2.0” work. Call it keeping up with the Joneses or call it competitive advantage—from my perspective, “Me, too” is driven by fear. Fear that Web 2.0 will provide business rivals with a magic formula that will grant them a permanent advantage.

And so, we have a bit of a conundrum: Everyone wants Web 2.0 tactics, but few are willing to put the time and effort into creating a strategy and roadmap for how to successfully deploy them. I think this lack of strategy stems, in part, from the immaturity of the Internet as a marketing medium. People are still unsure about how to best leverage the Internet, so when a hot new technology or technique surfaces, we grasp it without determining its real value.

Recently, I was talking about this with a friend of mine who runs the Midwest office of a national PR firm. She related a story that typifies the challenge of Web 2.0: Her team put together a Web promotion, which included a blog, for a well-known household brand. After just one week, the blog got a tremendous response—the traffic numbers tripled the agency’s projections and the team came running into my friend’s office, crowing about their success.

Which quickly diminished under my friend’s questions: What data did the team have about these visitors—age, income, geographic location? How many of the visitors had actually bought the product? Her lesson to the team: Response does not equal success.

The larger lesson for all of us is that “Me, too!” isn’t always the answer. Don’t just jump on the Web 2.0 bandwagon—use Web 2.0 technologies and tools just as you would use any others: as your goals, audience, and strategy dictate. ―Chris Zender, VP, creative services

May 3, 2007 Posted by | Chris Zender, Content Strategy, Metrics/Web Analytics, Web Content | Leave a comment