Thursday, July 30, 2009

Microsoft-Yahoo! Partnership Needs a Culture Shift to Take on Google

As the escalating Microsoft-Google faceoff continues, Microsoft and Yahoo! have finally hooked up, but nobody seems too impressed with their search partnership.

Combining resources, they’ll still have only 30-35 percent of the market, compared to Google’s 65. Then there’s the looming antitrust scrutiny.

But we’re wondering about a separate issue: culture. Can Microsoft and Yahoo! mix successfully—and can they do it in a way that keeps pace with the open-source-innovation model parlayed by Google into Internet domination?

It takes a strong commitment to ingenuity to support a policy like Google’s “20 percent time,” whereby employees spend a day per week taking on projects outside their job description.

Microsoft and, to a lesser extent, Yahoo! are more entrenched, institutional organizations. They’ve evolved, sure, but they aren’t in a constant state of advancement the way Google is and has always been.

To be fair, Microsoft has fired some fairly strong volleys in this match, including the Bing rollout. Bill Gates’ behemoth baby isn’t accustomed to second place, so don’t count them out just yet. But the new MSFT-YHOO partners have big hurdles to clear as they try to cultivate a combined culture of creativity that’s a worthy rival of Google.

Friday, July 24, 2009

As Social Media’s Status Rises, Don’t Ignore the ‘Why’

In an interesting if unsurprising development, BtoB has released a study declaring that “Social media use soars among b-to-b marketers.”

Indeed, we’re all atwitter about the interactive, community-building possibilities. And as we’ve said before here, here and here, you should be experimenting in social media.

But at the same time, a word of caution. We’re talking about experimenting here. And experiments sometimes fail. As marketers, we can’t let ourselves get so tangled up in social media excitement that we don’t recognize when our efforts aren’t achieving any marketing objectives.

For example, as one BtoB commenter points out, it’s nice that we marketers are flocking to social media, but we should also consider whether our target audience in any given case is active in these emerging channels. If not, why waste the time?

So while we’re listening and chiming in online, we also should be thinking about how social media dialogs fit with our goals and strategy. Shooting for a quota of sales leads? Just trying to stay on top of what customers care about? We can’t expect too much from our Tweets, replies, status updates, etc. But we should expect something.
In social media, at a minimum, we need some idea what we’re getting into—and what we’re trying to get out of it.