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July 22, 2008

Six Questions with Kendall Allen

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We’ll be conducting a couple of speaker interviews as we prepare and get excited for next month’s big Search Engine Strategies San Jose show. We were lucky enough to get Kendall Allen from Incognito Digital to sit down with us for a brief chat.
Here’s what she had to say!

Greetings, Kendall. For those unaware, can you tell our readers a little bit about what you do at Incognito Digital and how you came to be involved with social media?

Incognito Digital is a full-service independent digital media agency and creative studio. My partner and I run a very tightly-knit planning environment where our team orients entirely around marketer objectives and market informed knowledge of consumer demand related to that marketer’s particular product. We develop plans, programs, media mix and creative solutions deploying the right media mix for the objective and the precisely identified, characterized consumer. It’s our intimate working style and attention to these insights from even the first conversation with a client that truly differentiate us.

The service offering is fluid – touching a spectrum of digital platforms and methods. Its earliest incarnations of course were pure “online” media. Today – it’s Search, display, viral, WOM, video, mobile, and more and more social media. We focus largely on Entertainment (News & TV brands), Consumer Electronics, Consumer Appliances and some Health & Wellness. Social Media has been a natural evolution for us, given our focus on consumer demand, behavioral analysis and experiential marketing in general. Our Entertainment clients in particular are quite adventuresome with this media and its methods.

Where do you think the future of social media is headed? Are we going to see a similar model remain as the sites change or is it going to be figuring out how to monetize?

It is of course key to remember that social media is not all that new. It’s just got a new name, upped its game and has a better body. The early years of content and community online – message boards, chat rooms, online auditoriums, etc. — foreshadowed the heyday we are now experiencing. We launched an AOL/Time Inc. joint venture, Thrive Online, back in the mid-nineties as one of the first content and community sites on the Web. I used to monitor chat rooms in my pajamas and issue TOS (terms of service) warnings in the middle of the night.

It’s always fascinating to watch any medium and method come of age. What I see is not only the increased power of the consumer to control social media – but a greater focus by marketers on “planning” and “creating” to that control and then arming consumers with an evermore incredible set of tools, conduits for sharing, communicating and building relationships and immersive, connective social media experiences. And with these developments also comes shrewder monetization. It’s all coming along.

Excellent insight. What’s your favorite social media site out there? Which one do you think packs the best rewards for search marketers? Any off-the-radar social sites that have grabbed your interest?

One sort of wise, interesting trend I see is marketers using bigger, established social media sites to drive traffic to their own microsites or well-optimized areas or specific landing pages of their own sites. Kind of a cool site I’ve seen work is Squidoo, where people build pages/profiles within the networks that rank well to sell their products and create additional points of entry. Another VERY snazzy social media platform we’ve started exploring is Ning, where marketers can create their own social media environments and literally create their own defined networks and optimize accordingly. The design options and flexibility are supreme.

What’s the one social media faux pas that search marketers absolutely have to avoid? What aren’t they doing that they should be?

There are a couple things. The first is not spending enough time at the very beginning to truly profile their consumer and understand media consumption and community habits, content affinities and platform preferences. The next faux pas is somewhat related – and that would be sloppy, maverick execution of social media. I see this more often with individuals or celebrities who happen to be brands unto themselves. One needs to be extremely mindful of the concept of digital identity and how that can propagate in today’s social media fueled marketplace. If you don’t plan to it, set a path and monitor it – it absolutely will take on a larger life of its own than already is a given. You want it to flourish and extend – you DON’T want it to spiral desperately out of control.

Lastly, there is so much more to social media than “apps”. Let’s get creative. You are only limited by your imagination. This is truer now than ever before in this space.

At SMX Seattle, we heard Marty Weintraub talk about leveraging multiple social media accounts and participating in vanity bait to gain authority in social communities. What do you think: Good approach or not?

Yeah, no. In the purist’s spirit of authenticity and brand – I would not favor this fragile stretch to authority. Authority should be based on real roots, history and establishment of true connections. Anything along the lines suggested creates false path and in effect undermines the “social” in social media. It certainly undermines the community flow – one you want to harness, not dupe.

Okay, ultimate death match between your co-panelists Liana Evans and Dave Snyder. Dave has the giant head (he said I can make fun of his head) but Li has the cunning SMO smartz. Who’s going to come out on top?

Hmmmmmmm. Unsure the nature of the match. Whoever demonstrates fanatical smarts but the ability to really delve into the questions at hand without too many preconceptions and without getting their head stuck – will win.

Hmm, I think that means Liana, don’t you? ;)

A big thanks to Kendall for giving our readers a lot of great nuggets to think about here.

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