Tag Archives: social media

The power of consequential strangers

Social network marketing (a.k.a. “social media”) has a mystique that will soon fade. That is both inevitable and a good thing.

It’s an effective technique that will join other similarly important marketing tactics. But hey, it’s not a cure for cancer. In fact, it ain’t even a shortcut to success, fame or riches!

At its best, when combined with hard work and a sure hand, social network marketing can help you sell stuff and improve customer service. (And I would say social media does far better at the latter than the former).

So: It will soon become yesterday’s news. Before it does, let’s remember its humble origins — or become acquainted with them for the first time.

Relationship Revolution

Before the web as we know it today was invented, Stanford sociologist Mark Granovetter wrote an influential paper called The Strength of Weak Ties. The ties he described, between acquaintances (as opposed to trusted friends and family, who supply strong ties), are what social media is all about. But get this: Granovetter first described them back when Richard Nixon was still in office.

I was reminded of this when I read a quote from the more recent past, by Michael Schrage.

You see, 13 years ago, while writing in something called the Merrill Lynch Forum, Schrage used the phrase relationship revolution. It didn’t stick as a buzzword, but its meaning and power has only grown.

Schrage was asked in the Forum to analyze how new technologies would transform businesses. His response follows:

Along every conceivable dimension — from the intimate to the institutional — digital media force both individuals and organizations to redefine what kind of relationships create value. [Schrage continued, to paraphrase:] The result of this paradigm shift isn’t about data and information, it’s about the value and priority that people place on the quantity and quality of their relationships.

The emphasis above is mine. Schrage and others wrote about weak ties as the power of consequential strangers — those who provide new value to us in this digital age. The new value can be as simple as helping us find new musical artists we’ll like (as I did in the screen capture above, using Twitter), or something as important as choosing a good school or seeking a reprieve from physically or social isolation.

All of this sounds far more recent than the mid-1990s (or the Nixon Administration!). It’s worth noting. As we all happily experiment in this exciting new medium — and before its bloom of “newness” has faded — let’s take a moment to remember the work of Granovetter and Schrage, and the power of consequential strangers.

Twiducate concept is too good to stay in the classroom

Yesterday Naomi Harm give a keynote address at the Lake Geneva Schools Technology Academy, an educational event for elementary, middle school and high school teachers. Although I wasn’t at the event, word reached me about a social media-inspired educational platform called Twiducate. Similar to Yammer (“Twitter for intra-business communication”), Twiducate does not use the already overtaxed Twitter platform, but instead uses many of the principles that make Twitter so useful.

I took a test-drive of Twiducate last night, and two things struck me. The first revelation I had became the title for this post; The developers of Twiducate will be hard-pressed to stop work groups other than classrooms from using the tool. The other revelation is about education reform. Yes, reform won’t happen on its own. But certain facets of it will happen naturally, “seeping in” from the emerging social media zeitgeist. Avoiding new teaching environments like Twiducate will be like holding back a rising tide.

Here’s a video:

So: Will the subversion of this tool be harmful?

I think asking the question is moot. This type of thing will happen regardless. I’m thinking of at least two other examples of where a social network is forced to morph because of the unintended uses those pesky members decide to put it to.

  1. Fotolog.com started as a primarily photo-sharing site, similar to Flickr.com. But its meteoric growth in the last decade — especially in Chile, Argentina and Brazil — was due to users hopping on to connect and generally socialize. Sharing favorite pics became secondary.
  2. If the above sounds like dumb luck — like simply being in the right place with the right product (read: social toolset) — you’re right. And you’re also probably thinking of my second example. Although Mark Zuckerburg might posit that Facebook’s growth was all part of some master plan, we shouldn’t forget that he built it in his dorm, six years ago, as merely a “Harvard-thing” — primarily an easy way for him and others to organize study groups.

Check out Twitucate. Do you agree that it’s more than education’s new “Moodle-killer?” Does it have “legs” beyond academia, and is that a good thing?

Planning an event? Use online marketing as your hamburger helper

Once the event is over and the hall is cleaned up, the marketing and PR value of that event doesn’t have to fade. Chris Brogan wrote about how social media and internet marketing can act as hamburger helper for the event. It’s an apt metaphor for these two reasons:

  1. It’s inexpensive to use online marketing
  2. It stretches everything!

Chris’s post describes how online social network tools can improve event outcomes by helping with all five of its phases:

  • Awareness
  • Attention
  • Engagement
  • Execution
  • Extension

Are social media efforts the meat? No way. But they can be used throughout to maximize effectiveness.

Need to reach B2B buyers? Ignore social media at your peril

Business-to-business (B2B) marketing executives may comfort themselves that they don’t have to think about social media because, “That’s for consumer products.” That excuse has just been exploded by Forrester Research. Although no one should storm into an uncharted jungle unprepared, Forrester advises that B2B marketers had better start donning their pith helmets and sharpening their machetes.

In research findings released last month, Forrester reports the following:

If you’re a B2B marketer and you’re not using social technologies in your marketing, it means you’re late. … [Although there are some strong b2b companies doing well in the social media space], a lot of the blogs, communities, and other social outreach from business to business companies is less than mature, to say the least.

This is your chance to stand out. Take this report and show it to your boss to convince her that it’s time to get started.

This chart shows the Technographics of the B2B buyers they investigated. Although they are an admittedly “plugged-in” audience (they are technology buyers for the most part), Forrester discovered that 91% of the group were Spectators, the highest percentage they’ve ever witnessed in a Social Technographics Profile.

b2b_social_participation_sm

Even the overall Creators (i.e., bloggers, forum posters, etc.) and Critics (those who use social media to rate products and post reviews) are quite high, at 43% and 58%.

The Takeaway

The way businesses buy is changing fast, and in the direction of ignoring the marketer altogether. Instead, they’re talking amongst themselves, in conversations that B2B marketers should ignore at their peril.

Wish you had a map to the social media landscape? Here you go

This post, describing what the social media ecosystem looks like today, offers some excellent insights. Kudos to Fred Cavassa … brought to my attention by way of Jennifer Van Grove‘s “favorited Flickr” images, by way of her FriendFeed. Got that? If you’re unsure, Fred’s map may help:

Social Media Landscape

In Fred’s post, he defines these social media categories as follows:

  • Publication tools with blogs ( Typepad, Blogger, etc.), wikis ( Wikipedia, Wikia, Wetpaint, etc.) and citizen journalism portals ( Digg, Newsvine, etc.)
  • Sharing tools for videos ( YouTube, etc.), pictures ( FlickR, etc.), links ( del.icio.us, Ma.gnolia, etc.), music ( Last.fm, iLike, etc.), slideshows ( Slideshare), products reviews ( Crowdstorm, Stylehive, etc.) or products feedbacks ( Feedback 2.0, GetSatisfaction, etc.)
  • Discussions tools like forums ( PHPbb, vBulletin, Phorum, etc.), video forums ( Seesmic), instant messaging ( Yahoo! Messenger, Windows Live Messenger, Meebo, etc.) and VoIP ( Skype, Google Talk, etc.)
  • Social networks ( Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, Hi5, Orkut, etc.), niche social networks ( LinkedIn, Boompa, etc.) and tools for creating social networks ( Ning)
  • Micropublication tools ( Twitter, Pownce, Jaiku, Plurk, Adocu, etc.) and alike ( twitxr, tweetpeek)
    Social aggregation tools like lifestream ( FriendFeed, Socializr, Socialthing!, lifestrea.ms, Profilactic, etc.)
  • Platforms for livecast hosting ( Justin.tv, BlogTV, Yahoo! Live, UStream, etc.) and there mobile equivalent ( Qik, Flixwagon, Kyte, LiveCastr, etc.)
  • Virtual worlds ( Second Life, Entropia Universe, There, etc.), 3D chats ( Habbo, IMVU, etc.) and teens dedicated virtual universes ( Stardoll, Club Penguin, etc.)
  • Social gaming platforms ( ImInLikeWithYou, Doof, etc.), casual gaming portals ( Pogo, Cafe, Kongregate, etc.) and social networks enabeled games ( Three Rings, SGN)
  • MMO ( Neopets, Gaia Online, Kart Rider, Drift City, Maple Story) and MMORPG ( World of Warcraft, Age of Conan, etc.)

It’s a huge social media world. If you haven’t already, start exploring!


NOTE: The last days of my summer vacation are near an end. My friends will be able to view photos and accounts on my Facebook profile once I get home!

Of social media, exploding churches and imploding airlines

In Hawaii, Aloha can mean both hello and good bye, but for Aloha Airlines recently, it meant only bankruptcy. Likewise for ATA, Skybus, Skyway, and most recently Frontier. For those holding useless tickets, the news spelled delays, hassles and lost money. Naturally, the public outcry was covered by television news and various bloggers. But for my news, I didn’t have to go farther than Twitter. Using keyword search, I could tune into the griping and gnashing of teeth in real time. Twitter gave me “News I can use,” and I didn’t even have to look at a newscaster haircut.

Twitter also reported something that local news simply cannot: Are any of my friends directly affected? The answer was No, to the airline implosions, but two Twittering friends were delayed by the American Airlines wiring harness problems.

Map showing church

Another colleague inadvertently acted as Breaking News reporter, when he reassured his Twitter audience that his office is a safe distance from the “exploded church.” Here is what raster reported on the day that a hundred-year-old church in his city blew up due to a leaking gas line:

don’t worry about us, we are not that close to the church that exploded: map

As you can see from the map he supplied, raster did a great job of showing why he was unharmed, but also, what had just happened. That night, when I watched the local news, I was already well aware of what happened.

What Twitter will evolve into is anyone’s guess. But where it is right now is a place I could never have imagined: Squarely between me and local journalism.