McConnell and Huba know fury of Consumer Generated Media

August 14, 2006


If you run a business, citizen marketers can make you or break you. That's the view of two Chicago authors who want business execs to understand the power and peril of Internet-based Consumer Generated Media (CGM).

Chicagoans Jackie Huba and Ben McConnell say that Consumer Generated Media and citizen marketers "affect businesses" -- as Dell Computer and Paramount Pictures learned the hard way.

What are CGM? McConnell says, "CGM is anything created by an amateur -- a blog post, a podcast, an animation, a video -- that is posted on the Web and spread by social media." Who are citizen marketers? Huba says, "Citizen marketers are individuals who create CGM on behalf of brands, people, products or organizations."

In their upcoming book, Citizen Marketers: When People Are the Message, Huba and McConnell cite examples and examine the impact tech-enabled individuals have on businesses.

McConnell says the most influential citizen marketer is Jeff Jarvis, a widely read blogger ( who had a bad experience with his Dell laptop and service.

"He wrote on his blog that 'Dell sucks' that 'Dell is scamming us.'" McConnell notes. The story got picked up by major media and the term "Dell hell" was coined. Soon the company was doing damage control.

"Don't involve the legal department," McConnell advises. A leading blogger was turned on about an upcoming movie from Paramount. According to McConnell, other bloggers posted a few clips from the movie. Paramount's legal eagles swooped in, and forced the Web site to shut down. When it reopened, the advocate became venomous, and fueled Web outrage.

"They started talking about boycotting Paramount, and a lot of readers will," McConnell says. "Paramount reached out and apologized, but the bad news had spread across the Web to the opinion leaders." McConnell says it was a major faux pas.

In contrast, Huba points to Logitech, makers of Webcams. "A 17-year-old girl named Melody, who goes by the screen name BowieChick because she likes David Bowie, puts videos up at YouTube, and talks about her Logitech Web cam. Her original video attracted 1 million views. Amazon sales of Logitech Webcams spiked. They went way up. Logitech formed a partnership with YouTube as a result," Huba says.

"We call Melody a fire cracker," Huba adds. "She just exploded into YouTube culture." Logitech was smart to capitalize.

Call Huba and McConnell interpreters. They're explaining today's Web phenomena to businesses from their offices here in Chicago.

Chicago-based ClearGauge is helping companies such as Dow Chemical, DuPont, GE and Siemens analyze their Web presence and compete in today's world of CGM.

Senior Vice President Tim Barngrover says, "We understand what activities are going on beyond the click." Headquartered in River North, ClearGauge employs 17 in a growing practice. Barngrover attributes it to the company's ability to morph.

ClearGauge began in 1999 as an online advertising aggregator. When that business cratered in 2001, it migrated to Web analytics, creating a proprietary analysis package to help big companies monitor Web traffic for sales advantage.

Chicago high schoolers place No. 1

Black Data Processing Associates President Yvette Graham is cheering. The BDPA Chicago high school team took first place in a national computer competition. Chicagoans Lee Reed, Maurice Shelton Andreaus Robinson and Joseph Huggins are the 2006 BDPA High School Computer Competition national champs.

Reed is a junior at Walter Payton, Robinson a senior at Homewood-Flossmoor, Shelton was home-schooled and will attend Purdue University this fall, Huggins is a freshman at Chicago Hope Academy.

Graham, who doubles as an Allstate corporate IT exec, is proud of her students. "Our goal is to introduce our youth to technology and close the digital divide. These winners have bright futures ahead," Graham says. Plus they picked up $2,500 in scholarship money and new HP laptop computers.

Bits & Bytes

Advanced Diamond Technologies President Neil Kane landed a $1.4 million grant from DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, to focus on next-generation broadband communication devices built on his company's nano-based technology.

The Chicago Innovation Awards received a record 220 nominations. The nominees will be toasted at a reception at the Chicago Board of Trade on Sept. 14.

Michael Krauss is a Chicago area tech writer and consultant.



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