LiveWorld has been around since basically the beginning of social. Can you tell us more about how the vision that helped create LiveWorld and where you see social going in the next few years?
Friedman: Our core team began work in social, or rather online community, all the way back in 1984 and 1985 at Apple, with products such as AppleLink, which today would be called an Apple industry social network. The entire industry side of the world of Apple — employees, dealers, developers, user group leaders, point people at K-12, universities and IS — were all in that community. Later, our work included AppleLink Personal Edition, which later became AOL, as well as, eWorld and Salon. Our core team left Apple in early 1996 to do for other F1000 companies what we had done for Apple — use online community/social media to help them deepen their customer relationships to improve marketing, customer support, and insight.Our vision for social has its roots at Apple. We fundamentally believe social is about the transformative power of online dialogue and relationships. That conviction underlies our major focus on the human element, enabled by technology. It’s similar to Apple’s core belief in the transformative power of personal technology with a major focus on the human experience. And just like at Apple, we focus on the brand’s presence in social as a deep cultural experience.Social has had explosive growth; but it’s only the beginning. While we have a massive number of people in the medium, the strength and richness of usage patterns still has a ways to go. Certainly we see a continued shift to mobile social, as well more visual social. That shift will definitely include more video and live camera — but we think photos will dominate. On the business side, we think social media marketing is still mostly traditional advertising, print, digital, and PR broadcast messaging being shoved at customers through social channels. This is beginning to change as brands realize they have to focus on engagement. But even that, for the most part today, is about interacting with broadcast content. Where it needs to go, and will go eventually, is to a focus on dialogue and relationships that truly involve customers — building their commitment to the brand and affecting sales.
Many of the brands you work with have to address federal regulations. How has LiveWorld learned to navigate this area and still excel?
Friedman: First it’s important to define goals and strategies that factor in the regulatory environment: understand the regulations, how they affect the business goals, and how to manage, mitigate, or eliminate the associated risks. The customers have moved to social, and so must the brands. The regulations are intended to protect consumers but haven’t necessarily kept pace with the media. Still, the brands can manage in a regulatory environment by having a systematic, organized model, plans, and process flow, with support from appropriate technology. Again and again, we have helped our clients’ legal and marketing departments partner together; the issues can be dealt with as long as they are thought out well. One legal counsel put it this way: “We know we need to go into social and we want to help marketing do it. We just want them to plan well and execute more with a thoughtfully aimed rifle shot, not shooting from the hip.”
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