12 posts categorized "Social Search"

May 24, 2011

Are Your Words Being Filtered Out?

Screen shot 2011-05-24 at 7.15.32 AM Do you trust your search engine?

Through access to free publication on the Internet, we are finally able to express ourselves and embed our spirit into the common society only to have it silo'd into a group think mentality. ERrrrrrr Ladies, beware. 

It's one thing to put out new information and another to know that it may never meet with readers because their readership pattern and practice pre-determines what they will see on the web. Scary, eh? No wonder the red states are getting redder and blue states bluer, there is no cross-pollination of information. 

Google, Facebook and other tools are serving up an echo chamber of ideas and people to users. For example, if you read about dogs several times, then you would start getting more and more pet articles in your searches even if you didn't request them.

Below, this TED talk of "Beware of Filter Bubbles" by Eli Pariser explains the issue in a more compelling way. Or you can pick up the book.   It's given me a new respect for RSS feeds that you can select and not have changed.

October 18, 2010

Who is Tracking Your Kids (and you) Online?

Screen shot 2010-10-18 at 8.03.50 AM
Check out this interactive tool from the WSJ that explains how everyone is being tracked on the web. On first blush, it's disturbing; on the second, as an eco-marketer I wanted to know what I was missing...

Nuf said, follow the link and learn...


April 06, 2009

Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble as mom's create their own tipping point for change

Ducks When you start asking moms to promote products that other moms and organizations find troubling and maybe even toxic, you can expect a backlash of conversation.

That's what happened in April, 2009 when Johnson and Johnson launched a contest Big Bubbin Stars, with the best video of kids having fun in a bubble bath. The winner gets $10,000.  You didn't have to buy the J&J products and yet, wouldn't you? It's $10,000 afterall, and it seems fun and safe enough.

The troubling part for many moms was that it promoted the use of products that contained dubious chemistry that over time can build up in little bodies soaking in it. The launch of Bubblin Stars also coincided with a report from the Safe Cosmetics organization titled "No More Toxic Tub". In the bubble bath case, the moms were specifically questioning the use of products containing 1,4-dioxain and formaldehyde.

What's the big deal? It's not just in J&J products according to a report on a site focused on reducing breast cancer.

Laboratory tests released today revealed the presence of 1,4-Dioxane in products such as Hello Kitty Bubble Bath, Huggies Baby Wash, Johnson’s Baby Wash, Scooby-Doo Bubble Bath and Sesame Street Bubble Bath. The tests also found the carcinogen in Clairol Herbal Essences shampoo, Olay Complete Body Wash and many other personal care products.

1,4-Dioxane is a petroleum-derived contaminant considered a probable human carcinogen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and a clear-cut animal carcinogen by the National Toxicology Program. It is also on California’s Proposition 65 list of chemicals known or suspected by the state to cause cancer or birth defects. Because it is a contaminant produced during manufacturing, the FDA does not require it to be listed as an ingredient on product labels.

So what did these concerned moms do?

Green mom carnival Within 2 days, they mobilized, conducted research, wrote blogs and posted their own spoof of a contest. Sommer Poquette also hosted and posted a mini carnival of concerns on her Clean and Green Mom blog.

Then See Jane Do, an online radio program got wind of it and asked Lynn Miller, Lisa Frack and Jennifer Taggert to join a discussion along with another prominent mom activist Joan Blades of Mom's Rising. Lynn Miller is a marketer and founder of the blog Organic Mania and the Green Moms Carnival. Lisa Frack is the online parent coordinator for the Environmental Working Group and Jennifer Taggert, is a lawyer, engineer and author of The Smart Mama, a blog promoting a toxic-free life for our kids. She also wrote the Smart Mama's Green Guide: Simple Steps to Reduce Your Child's Toxic Chemical Exposure.  

The Green Mom Carnival crowd isn't the only concerned group, in a newsletter the same week the Eco Mom Alliance announced their partnership with the Seventh Generation and EWG to provide product samples and education on how to reduce your exposure to bad chemistry.

 Remember, the issue is long term build up, not one-off exposure. Jennifer Taggert recapped it well on a follow up post here. She was justifiably irked that moms are looked upon as crazy for caring. She also noted in background research report she prepared for the green carnival group that the EU has already not allowing dioxane.

If the EU has disallowed it, what is happening in the US? We asked the two popular potions standards to comment. Eco Logo and Green Seal which are both coming out with new personal care standards this spring. Cheryl Baldwin, PhD and VP of Science and Standards at Green Seal said, "We have a new standard that will be released soon (any day now) that covers soaps, cleansers, shampoos, and other rinse-off products (GS-44).  It prohibits the use of the components that are the sources of the chemicals found by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics (.e.g 1,4-dioxane and formaldehyde).The SMaRT Standard also won't certify any product that has the Stockholm "Dirty Dozen"chemicals which include dioxanes.

After first being ignored or sent to underlings with no knowledge of the subject, Johnson and Johnson provided a statement to Jenn Savedge of the Green Parent.

"The trace levels of certain compounds found by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics can result from processes that make our products gentle for babies and safe from bacteria growth. The FDA and other government agencies around the world consider these trace levels safe, and all our products meet or exceed the regulatory requirements in every country where they are sold. Experts such as MDs, toxicologists and clinical scientists regularly review the safety data for all ingredients used in our products. In addition, we test our final baby product formulations for safety. Once our products are in the marketplace, we continually monitor consumer experiences and review evolving scientific data.

The mom's aren't buying it - literally. If they have a choice (and they do) they're going to buy products that are erring on the side of NO 1,4-dioxane no matter how "trace" it is and they are encouraging others to do the same.

From Sommer Poquette's Carnival of Concerned Moms:

1. Sign the Declarationand tell your friends to sign the deleration to get the Kids Safe Chemical Act passed.

2. Write your legislator, as the Mindful Momma suggests.

3. Use safer products by using the Skin Deep Data Baseand tell companies, such as Johnson and Johnsonand the others listed on the reportwhat you want as consumers.  Check out the Safe Mamaand her hundreds of reviews and cheat sheets for safe baby care products and Healthy Child Healthy Worldfor suggestions and tips. For reviews of products I have tried view my green cleaning category.

4. Promote this post anyway you can to get the word out there. #NoToxins to follow the Green Mom’s Carnival on Twitter!

5. Send any bottles back to the manufacture that aren’t used or half used but stop using them and demand for safer ingredients and full disclosure!

Lessons learned for companies selling personal care products:

1. Don't ignor women bloggers who are concerned enough to call. Bad idea.It really ticks them off.

2. The standards for what is safe or not have changed, update your product line to get in line with world expectations. (If Detroit can drop Hummers, you can drop dioxanes.)

3. Mommy blogger's all know one another. If you don't think they are comparing notes with each other - think again!

photo credit: Krikit


March 06, 2008

HomeStars Champion the Best in Fix it Services

HomestarsWhen it comes to evaluating a product, standards and labels can do most of the up front work, but what about a service? How do you evaluate a personality and a work ethic and do it quickly because the plumbing just broke and the ceiling needs to be patched and painted? HomeStars is a free online service that provides those answers; it's a rating service for renovators, retailers and repairmen.


PetersonNancy Peterson conceived of the idea after having her own hard luck finding good-for-your-word-and-your-work contractors. She left her corporate marketing job at Kraft to start HomeStars. Shortly after she put the concept together she partnered with Andrew Goodman who provided his online marketing talents to make the idea fly. She notes that it is a major change to walk out of the corporate safety net and start something from scratch - ego is checked at the door and you are building a team on a vision, not a business plan with a few million bucks to spend.


Given that, I asked Nancy in an E-terview, could you go back to a corporate position again?


NANCY: It would be hard to go back to 5 days of meetings and see a product launch in 12 - 24 months versus 1 month. The Internet is a fun fast paced environment and you have to be focused and moving things forward daily. A big joy for me has been making decisions faster and not having to defend it in a board room with multiple decks, over many weeks.  I love building a business that's meaningful so I hope I can do that together with the small band of great people and evangelists at HomeStars.


I agree, I couldn't go back either, I'd fall asleep waiting for things to happen inside corporation walls. I then asked her why HomeStars is different from the other sites I have listed on the left.


NANCY: We came out in Toronto in 2006 with personal funding. Last year we raised an angel round to expand the business geographically. The main point of difference is allowing homeowners to share their joy, pain and experience so everyone can make better and faster decisions on hiring great local companies. We read EVERY review and weed out "fake" ones as best as we can. You can't buy rank or manufacture it, only homeowners determine that. Word-of-mouth is our first source to find great trades and services - you want to know as much as you can about the guy coming in to rip out your floor and install the hardwood you spent thousands of dollars choosing.  My girlfriend hates her front foyer now as the tile installer made the grout too wide - we need to know more granular information about companies as home improvement purchase decisions are much more complex and expensive than buying a car or eating out.


I had to ask, What about green contractors will you be focusing on them more?


NANCY: Other than a Green Products and Services category - we are not focusing on this (important) aspect of home improvement at the moment. Green Companies can list themselves and describe their creds in their listing. We'll be adding a talk forum shortly to channel the important home improvement questions and concerns that matter for people. I personally hope green issues rises to the top. Cathy Rust, who writes our Toronto Blog has an environmental degree and is very involved in the community working on green building projects at local schools.


What trends are you seeing? What do people seem to care about the most?


NANCY: They are currently asking  - what's your track record? Can I trust you to deliver on your promises and do quality work? Am I being charged a fair price? Can I contact your happy clients? And show me pictures of your work! [hear that small biz types? Make sure these questions are answered on your websites as well.] We estimate around 60% of our reviewers are women. We do read reviews as people want quality, not quantity when it comes to reviews and don’t have time to sift through garbage. We are getting better at this process too.


Any specific examples to share? This review concept terrifies most small companies.



Rafina is my favorite. I met him at the home show and he told me how much he believes getting his clients to post reviews has helped his business. His first review was terrible, and he said he was devastated when he read it. It was a client that decided to use a cheaper flooring material and he'd recommended against it. Long story short, they had problems afterward which were no surprise to Rafina. The company owner responded to the review with his perspective instead of fuming about it. He asked other clients to write reviews and he makes the effort to respond to all of them. Clients told him they thought the negative review made Rafina a more legitimate company to them as they know not every project will be a 10 star. They believed his response actually made sense and found Rafina a more credible and trustworthy flooring contractor.


That's so true, people have common sense and they can tell if someone is being honest or covering up something. I think most people want to give others the benefit of the doubt. They want to believe that someone will give it to them as well.


NANCY: People say to me - well what if he's done a bad job and the person hasn't written on HomeStars. My answer is that the word will get out quickly on Rafina or anyone else that is doing consistently bad work. If you do a search on Rafina in Toronto - their reviews on HomeStars come up immediately. And his negative review is still there as well.


How can your readers use HomeStars now when there are no reviews in their community?


NANCY: If your readers are interested in helping us build your neighborhood - please contact melanie@homestars.com as we are actively looking for expert homeowners that can share their stories and build valuable content that their neighbors will value. We are just formalizing a grassroots community program and we need some passionate volunteers on the ground floor!


That works for me. I grew up in a small town where we didn't need this kind of service, word of mouth was the only way my Dad found jobs as a home decorator. Thanks Nancy! May you and your team have much success connecting good workers with paying jobs.

March 11, 2007

International Marketing by Women's Day

March 8 was International Women's day, but if my feedblitz email was any indication, it was International Marketing-by-Women's Day - marketing via blogs.

First Steve Ruble lead off with a report on a blog started by Genevieve McCaw, a disgruntled Jet Blue customer/turned blogger. Remember the flight that held it's "customers" hostage for 11 hours on a snowy runway? One customer, a woman, was so irritated that she started a blog to recap her frustration and voice her opinion. I have no idea how many people read it, CNN did and then did a story on it mentioning Steve. Steve put it again on his site. I'm not sure who has more readers, CNN or Steve, but now millions have read about Jet Blue's lack of customer service during that day and later, the so-so treatment Genevieve received while having a face-to-face with the President of Jet Blue.

Re: the CNN article:

"McCaw, who described herself as "a huge fan of JetBlue" for years, said she plans to continue blogging but will shift the focus to advocating a federal passengers' bill of rights.

Before her meeting March 2, McCaw said she would not boycott the airline. Instead, she said, she would shop for the best deals on flights rather than remain "a brand loyalist."

Now, she's not so sure.

"I've got two round-trip vouchers with them," she said. "I'm going really to make a point to not put any more money in their pocket. I'll use the vouchers, and then I'll likely be done with them."

Never mess with a woman scorned by love or money or TIME.

Next up, Britt Bravo churns out another fantastic interview. This time with Jody Van Horn. a woman in the Bay area who is doing what she can to get electric cars endorsed and used by large city governments.

"In the first six months we had five Bay Area partner municipalities; San Francisco, Berkeley, Oakland, Alameda and Marin County have all sign on. Out of those, Marin County, Alameda and Berkeley have all placed their soft fleet orders. We're also working with those cities on generating some demonstration projects."

I hope that other car-mazing Jody, Jody DeVere over at Ask Patty, is reading this. She's a big green car supporter as well as just helping women in general figure out what they need to know about buying and servicing their transportation.

Last up was Yvonne DiVita's post on "Sizing up Marketing to Women Online." It focused on - what else - women bloggers and their cumulative clout. She'll be speaking at the BlogHer.org conference in NY in a couple of weeks on the same subject. She quotes an Advertising Age article that stated:

"The average mom blog reader is a 29-year-old female with an annual income of $70,000 who hits five blogs a day and spends four hours a week on them."

She adds that the stats came from BlogAds, the place the has statistics on 56,000 blogad readers. BTW, did you know that women who read blogs tend to be democrats (about 60% of them) Check this out. BlogAd women readers also buy more electronics on line than men 47% to 39% respectively (go figure). Sign more petitions, call more policians... I'll let you filter through the survey and draw your own conclusions. Bottom line, once women or men cross the line and become a blogger, they become part of an elite club of social movers and shakers - be it markets or politics.

My thanks to all the women who type and talk at the same time.

November 15, 2006

Today at 5:30 NEW Enterpreneurs

Are you a member of NEW Entrepreneur? If so come hear me speak today, Nov. 15 at 5:30 PT. We'll be discussing the new social search tools that are popping up everywhere and how to make yourself search proof.

Join NEW and get into the conversation in this very supportive group geared for those just staring out in the business world.

October 24, 2006

Zipingo and Quicken Intersect

Zipingo_logo Have you Zipingo'd? If you're a Quicken 2007 customer you have a new way to post consumer comments. Intuit, who owns both Zipingo and Quicken products, is linking the two formats.

For those who don't know, Zipingo is their yellow pages with ratings system. Quicken is the popular personal financial system. Now, instead of taking care of just your business, you can take care of other people's business as well. As part of the 2007 package, when you go to post your purchases, you get a prompt that will take you to Zipingo where you can leave a rating on the services you used that month.

Let's say you went to a new restaurant. The food was outstanding, but the service was lacking. What kind of rating would you give that? Does it deserve 3 stars out of 5, or 5 stars with a warning note attached? Do you trust them? The ratings and comments are totally up to you as a consumer, which makes the whole system suspect, but better than nothing.

According to Bazaarvoice, a rating software, 82% of the time people will give ratings in the 4 out of 5 level. Is that because it's a new system and most of the people leaving the ratings are the people who own the company and therefore only want positive ratings? Or is it because most of those leaving a comment are the women who are managing the home finances and we have been taught to play nice?

Who knows for sure, but we do know that these systems are becoming more embedded in our consumer mindset. The more that consumers say, the more that consumers will play.

All of the current systems available are fighting for content - a directory without comments is just another directory. They only become truly valuable to the public when the company's or products listed have multiple people rating them providing a level of trust-in-numbers. This is where Intuit has a big leg up. The Quicken products have a huge marketshare and high trust value already. Adding the Zipingo product line to it, just adds another level of financial guidance.

It's organic word-of-mouth at it's best, reviews are given after a product is tried and tested. That's where consumers really win. Instead of being passive receivers of goods and services, now they can play an active part in improving offerings for the rest of us.

Remember the old days when someone would snippily tell you, "No one asked for your opinion." Those days are over. These sites can't get enough of them.

October 10, 2006

Women's "Issues" Investments are good for the portfolio

For the past decades, the democratic vote has been seen as one that is heavily weighted for women's issues, but do women's issues make good investments? According to www.bluefund.com they are. They don't come out and say it, but you can connect the dots from here.

Blue Fund is a new mutual fund based on companies who support progressive ideals and put their money behind democratic candidates. When you look at past political elections, more women than men voted for those issues. The younger the women, the more progressive they were in their views. (taken from "What Women Really Want.")

Blue Fund is a spin off of www.buyblue.org which started tracking companies political leanings a couple of years ago. Besides following the money, they also give them a rating based on human rights, the environment, corporate and social responsibility, employee equality and industrial practices.  It was another way of evaluating who you wanted to do business with besides just comparing products and price. Customers now could "vote" using their wallet everyday as well as their ballot every four years.

Here's where it gets interesting... supporting and living  "soft issues" means higher profits. The companies that donated the most to the dems and also lived the creed are creating a better base for business.

In today's announcement, Blue Fund offers a white paper, titled "The Blue Factor":

http://www.blueinvestmentmanagement.com/the-blue-factor.pdf. In this paper they did a little analysis. Let's say you had $100 in the 500 current members of the S&P 500 on June 30th, 2001. Today that would be worth $145. If you had invested that same $100 in the 76 companies comprising the Blue Fund's large cap fund you'd have more than $200 after fees. If on the other hand you'd invested in the companies not in their fund, the "red" companies - your return would be worse than the return on the S&P 500. They have a nice chart of that in their white paper and at their site at http://www.blueinvestmentmanagement.com.

You can read it and draw your own conclusions, but it's an interesting argument and something that won't be going away now that it's flagged. Is your company on this list? Would you like it to be? If the answer is "Yes," then you can see where this trend is heading. Economics will be driving future social advancements faster than politics.

October 04, 2006

Are you Social Search Proof?

With social search increasing daily, that question will be answered a million times a day by customers using sites like those listed to the left to help them determine what to buy and from what store. This is a great for consumers who always worry about whether they can trust a product or service to perform as advertised. They can also see if the companies selling them are good for their warranty word as well.

What's Social Search? Think yellow pages with a layer of personal opinions at your disposal.

They all have their nitch; Judy's Book and Zipingo are based in everyday services found in any town and Epinions lets you compare products at a glance and then compare prices. Ask Patty and Mother Proof are two car sites geared for women to help them evaluate cars and become more educated on car buying and servicing. Go ahead and click through the list to get an idea. These are just a snap shot of what's available.

If you're not sure what site to use for what, try typing in "COMPARE_________" and see what's offered back. Most likely you'll find 3-4 sites that will give you an idea of what features are worth comparing along with brand names. For example I just searched for "COMPARE CELL PHONE PLANS" and My Rate Plan popped up along with other sites. Besides comparing cell phone plans it also offered info on Voice Over Internet Protical (VoIP) as a way to cut down on cost. If I didn't think of VoIP before, it just became an option.

This is a great social development for consumers and good for business as well. It forces everyone to behave better as views are made public.

If there is a loser in this, it's the Better Business Bureau as each one of these provides additional information the BBB might lack. They fragment the marketing lock the BBB had on consumer advocacy. Having a BBB symbol on your site is still important, but not as important as having a good write up inside one of these directories. Without a good write up first, that customer will never be inspired to click over to the mainsite and see the BBB label. Consumer Reports will take a hit as well since they charge for their reviews. (but still worth the price)

Who's commenting?

People who are happy and many who are not. If what happens offline, happens online then you can expect to see more people posting their grievances than their good comments. The good news? In the case of many such sites, the more people post, the higher their comments are listed. That means that while one bad post can be read, those who post many reviews will have more and more of them rise to the top. Multi-post reviewers aren't disgruntled consumers, they are on the street reporters. Just like in real life, the good can outweigh the bad.

September 28, 2006

My second Margaret Mead Moment

"Never doubt that a small group of committed citizens could change the world, indeed it's all that ever has."  Margaret Mead.

I'm not quite home from attending my second Margaret Mead moment for the year.

The first moment was while attending BlogHer.org in July and seeing 750 women blogging their thoughts to the world. The BlogHer women were part of over 5000 women in the BlogHer's directory. If you don't think they will have a profound effect on consumer business, think again. Consumer power is definitely shifting as the everyday person understands their clout as much as those trying to market to them.

The second came this week while attending a women's leadership conference. This time the viewpoint wasn't coming from consumers, but from inside a mega corporation. More on that soon.

Both groups are giving women the tools and support they need to change their own personal and professional world. Small groups of connected women - you're going to love the world they are creating.