1 + 1 = 3: Rosetta and Brulant

Rosetta Acquires Brulant How do you build a top digital agency?

In July Rosetta announced the acquisition of interactive agency Brulant, where I am a partner in the Consumer Product and Retail practice.  The first couple of days since the announcement have been some of the most fun in my career.  The two firms build a compelling value proposition when combined, and I’ve spent a better part of those two days calling clients and friends to talk about it.

Acquisitions and mergers have negative connotations to many folks.  They can mean personnel conflicts, culture clashes and diluting of the “juice” that makes either one of the parties successful – not to mention distractions to high performing project teams.  I have friends who have been through it in the digital industry (think large conglomerates eating up smaller independent agencies), and there are many horror stories.  In stark contrast, being a part of this merger is ripe with excitement and promise.  We remain independent, and the services each agency provides complement each other.

“We are creating one of the nation’s biggest interactive agencies which will allow us to grow current relationships and build new ones quite dramatically,” said Chris Kuenne, Rosetta’s founder, chairman and CEO. “The interactive marketing landscape is rapidly shifting from mass to personalized targeting and from fuzzy equity measures to precisely measured, managed and optimized customer relationship economics.”

There is a science behind the shift from traditional media to targeted, personalized marketing, and Rosetta has figured it out.  Look at their client list– these are advanced organizations where how they market is a key differentiator in their success.  Infuse that with the execution capabilities of the teams I’ve watched deliver at Brulant, and it’s a powerful combination.

“You put your chocolate in my peanut butter!”

Rosetta is technically acquiring Brulant, but in reality the firms complement each other.  The breadth of Brulant’s interactive services in customer experience, acquisition marketing and technology implementation are the “chocolate” to Rosetta’s marketing strategy and personalized targeting offerings “peanut butter.”   The value proposition of bringing those capabilities together, along with the ever growing significance of the online channel and its influence on other channels, is a compelling service offering that puts Rosetta in a unique place in the market.  (I’m actually writing that because I believe it; it wasn’t spoonfed by our marketing team, I promise.)

Hey, that sounds great, but we have a lot of work to do.  On the first day of the announcement being public, I had the privilege of sitting with one of our top clients and the CEOs of both Brulant and Rosetta.  It was very clear in the conversation that the value proposition can be applied right away, and I will be spending lots of time with the “legacy” Rosetta team to understand their offering more in the coming weeks.

New opportunities

For me personally, this provides an opportunity to work with talented people and expand my professional horizons up the value chain.  Being in Boston and working on several clients in the New York City area, I am thrilled to see the expansion in the Northeast. This is also the first time I have been through an acquisition and watched an integration team get up and running.  I look forward to participating in building the new organization.  Can’t wait to see it in action and share what I learn, and I look forward to working with the Rosetta team. 

Have you been through an acquisition?  What are some pitfalls you’ve seen?  How would you advise we keep the momentum going through this exciting time with all of the “buzz”?

Check out Rosetta.com for more information.


Choose Wisely: Scrutinizing Your Social Network Connections

Last week I conducted an overview of social media for a client.  After the meeting, I executed my usual drill: I followed up by taking business cards and checking if all the meeting attendees I hadn’t met before were on LinkedIn and Facebook, and sent out a series of thank you notes through those tools and requested connections.  In an email response, one of them asked me flat out, “So tell me how you stay in touch with 500+ LinkedIn folks??”  That got me thinking about how I leverage these tools personally.

Everyone has a different level of scrutiny on who would be a suitable connection in social networks.  LinkedIn has an army of folks who refer to themselves as LION – LinkedIn Open Networkers.  I’m clearly not one of those and try to ‘filter’ connection requests a bit.  While people in some professions, like recruiting, may value hoarding connections and “friends” on these tools, I’ve tried to stick to a guideline depending on the tool.  The following chart shows how I use some of the major networks out there, with the size of each circle representing the relative number of connections I have in each as of this post:

Social Media Tools

Set Parameters For Using Social Media Platforms

I primarily utilize 3 tools the most right now: Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.  Friendfeed is growing on me too. I could see that changing over time and have played around with many others for different purposes, like Dopplr, Plaxo Pulse, BrightKite, Upcoming, and others.  For now I’ll compare my daily usage, scrutiny of connections and number of connections on each of the major social networks I use.  I’d be interested in what works for you and whether you have set a “guideline” for using the same tools.

  • For LinkedIn, I prefer to keep the connections to people I know personally or have met in a business context.  Lately I’ve been meeting many in the social media space through events in Boston, but I will use LinkedIn like a rolodex that maintains itself once I connect.  I have many connections who are colleagues from the past and present, business partners and many clients as well.  I check the site regularly, but not much interaction going on.  I like to ask and answer the occasional question but there isn’t too much else that is sticky for me.  It is a great way to keep up with friends who change jobs over time, and I value that 98% of my connections are people I really know and could refer someone to down the road.  I’ve been a LinkedIn user for many years and like the direction the site is taking with adding more “Web 2.0” features.
  • For Facebook, I use a similar guideline – although there are many more people I know in a non-business context there including high school, college, elementary school and especially summer camp.  I do check Facebook regularly and am amazed at the velocity of new joiners.  There are more conversations happening in groups and commenting on photos, and the “stickiness” is improving.  I ignore many of the application requests out there unless I’m investigating how one works (or talking the occasional Red Sox trash).  I do value the interaction greatly but more in a friendly context and less so (although still relevant) for business purposes.
  • On Twitter, I have a much lower level of scrutiny on connections – I will block a spammer or someone with a high following to follower ratio, but if someone has something interesting to say, I’m happy to follow.  I find that Twitter has a very low barrier to entry, not to mention great tools for finding people, searching conversations for folks with similar interests, and learning about the platform.  The value is in the conversation, sharing of information and the constant flow of information.  I try to share and contribute there but it can be very time consuming if time management isn’t a strong suit.
  • Friendfeed is helping me to not chase down the same people across many Web 2.0 services.  I like it, I connect to someone with the same level of scrutiny as Twitter, but I haven’t spent enough time with it yet to become mainstream for me.  I also haven’t taken the time to build up connections yet.
  • Honorable mention is Plaxo Pulse (not going to share my link but feel free to find me).  I just can’t get into Plaxo – of hundreds of connections, a handful there are unique to that site.  I am already connected to people on LinkedIn or Facebook.  There’s something about the UI I just don’t like, but the sharing of feeds is helpful and “Friendfeed”-like. 

It’s important to set some parameters for how you leverage the tools.  What works for you? How do you choose who you connect to?  Do you have different standards in each network?  What are the pros and cons of your approach?

Widget Review: CokeTag Has Potential

Adam's Coke Tag in FacebookSeveral weeks ago, Coca-Cola launched an application in Facebook which is a “personal, customizable widget for individuals, bands, bloggers, artists, and companies to share links to content they want to promote and drive traffic to anywhere on the Web.”  I spent some time playing around with the app (which is still in beta) after I was contacted by Advance Guard and the Coca Cola company asking for an honest review.  I had also spotted it on C.C. Chapman’s blog

There are two areas around this widget I am going to review – First, the application itself, and Second, the approach to distribute, launch and promote it.

Simple Application, But Will It Take Off?

The application right now is still in beta and only available on Facebook.  The application let’s you build a slick looking tag, change it’s skin (including a design that promotes Coke’s we8 program uniting Chinese design firms and progressive western artists) and customize links to share, and anyone who sees it on your profile will be able to click through links.I added the tag to my Facebook profile in under a minute – it was easy to set up, put in some things about me and be done.  Ease of use for a widget is important and Coke nails it for the casual, generic user.

There are two differentiators for CokeTags that may contribute to its success.  First is the slick interface.  For a novice techie, the Web 2.0-like view is fun and different.  I am not sure I would put it on my blog (when available) since a) the style options are not consistent with the look and feel of my page, and b) I’m not sure why I would want to endorse Coca-Cola.  But to a casual user, this might spice up a web page, blog or Facebook profile enough to be different.  Style Issues with CokeTag on My Facebook ProfileThe interface does promote Coke, but it’s emphasis is on sharing content unrelated to the beverage.  Chris Abraham was spot on when describing that the widget “isn’t nefarious.”  Still, they have some kinks to work out.  After repeated attempts to edit and republish links, the widget looked fine previewing in the application (above) but the style sheet on my profile page still looked funky. 

The second differentiator is the ability for the CokeTag creator to go to one place, maintain content/links, and push out to all the sites/profiles/pages that have the widget.  For a mini version of a web content management system, that is empowering to a user.  The app also provides a mini version of web analytics, showing which users in Facebook have expanded your CokeTag and which links have been clicked on.  That’s a good amount of functionality built in to a simple widget.

A Challenge: Engaging the User

The challenge I have to Coke is to make this widget more compelling to use.  There are tons of tools out there to share links and fill in information about oneself.  I already have the ability to put this same information in my Facebook profile, so to me the information the widget provides could be a bit redundant.  The categories of links are customizable, but simply sharing links that I put in doesn’t make it very “sticky” for me.  Bands or artists looking to disseminate information and links can do this easily directly in the content on their Fan Pages or Myspace pages, even though this tool provides a way to maintain/publish the links in one place. 

Christopher Penn suggested to blend this widget with Coke rewards points, which would be great.  While admittedly I may be asking for too much, my suggestion would be to add a level of interaction within the widget itself – perhaps personalized recommendations, suggestions of related content, or allowing people to comment on what’s in there like the comment system in FriendFeed.  For example, if I was a band and posted a link to “Concert Saturday Night” with a click through link, it would be great to allow users to comment right in the widget – “I’ll be there!” or “Is it standing room only?” or “Hey, when are you coming to my city?”  I realize Coke needed to start somewhere, and what they have is great for the basics.

One minor question for the Coke team – I am curious when the widget is release through OpenSocial and other platforms for blogs if the links are exposed for SEO purposes.  That would make it at least as beneficial for promotion as putting links directly in content on pages.

Using Social Media to Promote Social Media

Using a Social Media Release, Coke and Advance Guard do a great job of announcing the widget, sharing what it is about and seeking feedback from the community.  I know C.C. Chapman worked on the project and has direct access to the interactive team at Coca-Cola, but it is still great to see Mike Donnelly, Director for Coca-Cola’s Worldwide Interactive Marketing team, respond within minutes to the first comment on C.C.’s blog post about the project – especially starting his comment with “Yup, we are listening…”  Coke is clearly committed to starting something innovative and different and learning from the experience.  I’d be interested if they are banking on ROI from the widget or have executive buy-in that this is an experiment that requires some investment in dollars, time and faith.  The way the promotion is being handled gives them a terrific shot at making the widget a successful campaign.

Thanks to Advance Guard and Coca-Cola for inviting me to review.  Would you add it to your profile?  Have you tried out CokeTag

Some Lessons Learned

Wonder I am not a blogger, but I have a blog.  It’s the same way I would say I am not a golfer, but I like to play golf, especially with good company in nice weather.  About 6 months ago, I started this blog as a “parking lot” and an outlet to capture thoughts about many topics.  The topics are work related in nature, but I’m not looking to hawk wares from my company here.  I am learning a lot about conversation, engaging folks (or at least trying to), and what drives many of the social media blogging evangelists out there.  Frankly, it’s been a lot of fun.  I’ve decided to take a step back and look at what are some of the key things I’ve learned.  I know there are many, many better sources for blogging tips and advice, and to some of those authors what I have captured here could label yours truly as “Master of the Obvious.”  At any rate, anyone who jumps into social media has a learning path – I’m sharing some of mine, and would love to hear yours too.

1) Build It (Properly) and They Will Come

Search Engine Optimization is arguably more art than science.  Through looking at referrals to my blog in analytics, it’s easy to see Google searches are the number one search-related source of traffic.  What I did not imagine or anticipate is the types of search terms that got people to my content.  For example, “Working at Brulant” as search terms has brought a number of folks here.  This is a personal blog, although I do discuss my work on occasion.  Of course I immediately notified our recruiting operations and we are polishing up a more formal blog strategy.  In the meantime, two very interesting personal blogs have popped up from our recruiting folks at Talent Acquisition: What Would Darwin Say?  and the art and science of recruiting.  Hopefully the firm will see ROI from this but that is not my specific intent.  Either way, it’s cool to see how folks have found their way here.

2) I Like to Write

I was a political science major at UVM, and after a senior seminar on American Foreign Policy and a minor in American Literature I thought I’d never want to write again – too many late nights staring at my Mac Classic.  This blog has helped me to start building my writing skills again, and it’s fun to find a topic I’m enthusiastic about to let the writing fly loosely.  Of course, that leads to…

3) There Are Not Enough Hours In the Day

I like to write, but it’s far from ever being my day job.  There are statements of work, conference calls, strategy meetings, proposals, and seemingly endless other activities that consume my time.  I’m working on building social media skills internally in our organization, but most of that is on my own time.  Not to mention when I am home in the evenings I’ve got a very fun family to spend time with. (I have yet to hone my skills on the Wii, to the tune of my 7 year old beating me handily in MLB Baseball.  I would never have stood for that in the day, but I digress.)  This blog, not to mention other social media outlets like Twitter, Facebook, Friendfeed and others, could easily consume more time.  I need to manage all of the above with a balance, and this blog gets a post a week on average – less than the recommended twice a week to maintain loyal “readership” by many sources.

4) Good Content is Rewarded

Good content is essential to a blog.  I know not every post I author is a good one, but when one comes along, it gets noticed and rewarded with traffic, recognition, and comments.  You don’t need to ‘link bait’ to get people to that stuff, it just gets out there – a friend from Twitter posted a link of one of my posts on Mixx.com; Another made it onto Digg; The folks at Alltop were kind enough to list my blog there; Other better known bloggers have linked to specific posts or added this blog to their respective blogrolls; Offline, friends, family and colleagues have shared with me positive feedback.  I love hearing from former and current clients who noticed this site.  The whole thing has remained a fun cycle to watch and participate in, and I am inspired to try to “do good work” with my posts here.  A good analogy would be to the children’s book, Mike Mulligan and the Steam Shovel in which a steam shovel and its trusty operator work a little faster and a little better with each additional person watching them work. 

There are many who have given me pointers (knowingly or otherwise) so far, and I thank all of them for their insight, tips, comments and suggestions.  I could highlight many folks or websites here that have good tips, but I’m just going to say a collective “thank you” to the folks who are passionate about this medium.  This has been a positive learning experience all around and I plan to continue it at a minimum just for that benefit.  What are some of the best lessons learned you have found from blogging or other social media tools?  If you haven’t started to yet, what is holding you back?  By the way, what led you to this post?

Photo credit: Austin Kleon via Flickr.