The following is a Google+ post. It is based on early observations about the network and larger social media trends. Consider it an open cognitive discussion and learning about the network. Please fee free to add your experiences, thoughts and hopes.
Much has been said about Google+ Circles, and their ability to filter content streams by the type of person in our life. In doing so, Google+ has also allowed each person to demonstrate how influence plays out in their lives.
In reality, influential people are the most trusted peers and family members in our lives — not the Chris Brogans, Seth Godins and Robert Scobles of the world. Yet, the land grab that has occurred in Google+ and all of the criticism of big voices dominating on the network would have you thinking differently. This again demonstrates belief in popular myths of top-down influence reigning supreme on social networks.
In reality, Google Circles allow us to band and view streams based on actual importance to our lives, possibly pictured as above. Of course, everyone’s personal lives are different. Family may have less weight, and different sub-circles, such as nuclear and extended family. The same could be said for any of the categories, for example work can have sub-circles like colleagues, professional networks, online contacts, and yes, bloggers/writers. Of course, there are people who may belong to multiple circles, too.
It is hard to envision the so-called influencer ever getting closer to the heart than the middle of someone’s social network. The only exception could be a bonafide real relationship. More than likely they lie to the far right, in effect turning the top-down picture we are led to believe in on its ear. In reality, the only reason why content creators seem so present is because individual followers — or as the circles become smaller and stronger, peers and friends — reshare them.
If peer trust is what matters in social networks, then the uberinfluencer garners strength from reach within our networks. It is the grassroots network that delivers the content to our screen. Depending on how individuals parse their circles, a Guy Kawasaki may rarely be viewed, while a Chris Pirillo is ever present.
It’s just conjecture based on three weeks of Google+, yet it seems to make sense. What do you think?
Centered around the Untethered Consumer — freed from the bondage of traditional marketing methods — the book helps marketers capture the true nature of mobile media. It serves as a solid primer, going into the history of wireless communications, and explaining why businesses have so little control over mobile stakeholders. Basically, anytime a customer interacts with a business it is strictly on their terms. It is completely an opt-in experience.
Martin’s strength lies in his discussion of mobile platforms. His knowledge of operating systems, application usage, international usage and different types of mobile media (web, apps, texting) is universal.
A pragmatic ongoing conversation in the book includes media usage patterns, and how people interact with their smartphones. Social media wonks maybe disappointed as interaction drops on the “third screen” (the first being TV, and the second is desktop computers). While interactions do occur on the phone, screen size and input methods change a person’s interaction with online media.
In addition, Martin uses significant case studies to illustrate his points, including a fantastic Cars.com case study. In the Cars.com case study, Martin details the thorough process the company went through to adapt mobile, including some a great research and listening phase. This case study alone is worth the price of the book, and could be run in Harvard Business Review (the magazine, not the blogs).
The book was written in 2010 so there is little discussion of the now growing tablet boom, though Martin does pick up the topic here and there. Martin does a fantastic job of using market statistics to back up his theories and observations.
Nitpicks include a slow start. The Third Screen‘s introduction and first chapter were repetitive, and could stand for some editorial cuts. In addition, the Pepsi Refresh case study was very questionable based on the actual business results.
However, don’t let these small items dissuade you. From the perspective of an online marketer and a former wireless reporter, this book was impressive. The Third Screen is a fantastic primer on mobile, and is a must read for any interactive professional.
A Book of Five Rings, written by Miyamoto Musashi in 1645, is one of the world’s classic sources of strategy. Its influence extends beyond military schools to the entire Japanese business culture, and has made its way into Western culture, too. Musashi’s work is one of the texts that comprises the foundation of Zoetica’s strategy services. This blog series looks at each of the Five Rings (chapters), and discusses how some of the phrases apply to the modern communications market.
The Fire Book is the third primary chapter of the Five Rings, following the Ground Book and the Water Book. This book is probably the most exciting of the five books from a strategic positioning standpoint as it delves into direct interactions. Here are five interpretations about how these approaches apply to today’s communications marketplace.
1) Seize First Place
“Because you can win quickly by taking the lead it is one of the most important things in strategy.” Musashi
This is a timeless truth in marketing. Once you have the lead, it becomes very difficult for competitors to unseat you. The superiority of the leadership position prompted one of the most famous ad campaigns from second place rental car company Avis, “We Try Harder.” Microsoft still has the leading computer operating system on the market in spite of numerous missteps with Windows. GM only surrendered its lead as top U.S. car manufacturer after an epic bankruptcy.
Leadership is a matter of seizing an open marketplace through marketshare. Achieving marketshare usually comes down to a single or a combination of critical differentiators with a product or service, such as quality, cost, or ease of use. Marketing the differentiator as unique and superior to competitive offerings fuels demand. If word of mouth ensues a leadership position can begin to develop. Marketing’s role at that point is to communicate the leadership position, why the product is superior and to expand market share to a dominant position.
Before Twitter became the globe’s leading microblogging service it faced significant competition from Pownce, Jaiku, Friendfeed and later Plurk and Brightkite. However, Twitter’s very simple premise of 140 characters differentiated it, and at SxSW 2007 the company caught a break and word of mouth created a huge spike in new users. The microblogging network, err information service, hasn’t looked back.
2) Create Desire
“You must look down on the enemy, and take your attitude on slightly higher places.” Musashi
Taking the high ground has long been a strategic truism for physical engagements. Translating that to products, services and causes is really about finding a market need or creating desire. If there is an obvious market need for a solution or if you can create one, communicating becomes much easier. Conversely, if you don’t have a need, your marketing “attacks” from the low ground, constantly trying to justify itself to potential buyers and donors.
Product marketing is the process that companies engage in BEFORE releasing new goods and services into the marketplace. It is a fundamental precursor that examines the marketplace from a variety of competitive, technological and market positions using extensive research. This is where Apple excels over its computing brethren. The principal of understanding a market to effectively position any kind of offering is a strategic value that all sectors can learn from…
For example, one of the continuing failings of the environmental movement has been its inability to effectively demonstrate or create a need for conservation. In many ways this failure stems from the approach environmentalists take as opposed to the actual scientific evidence. No one wants to be brow-beaten into behavior change.
However, one environmentalist organization, 350.org, has broken through in recent years, moving from a position of guilt to a position of making the cause fun and easy. Most recently, its day of action via work parties successfully created more than 7,000 climate “work parties” with citizens in 188 countries participating. 350’s efforts have made environmentalism approachable while keeping a serious tone about the issue. This is a result of smart engineering before initiating its campaigns.
3) Bridge the Gap
“In strategy also it is important to ‘cross at a ford.’ … knowing your own strong points, ‘cross the ford’ at the advantageous place, as a good captain crosses a sea route… This is how to win in large-scale strategy. The spirit of crossing the ford is necessary in both large and small-scale strategy.” Musashi
Ultimately communications between organizations and their stakeholders is about building bridges and relationships. Because many companies and nonprofits approach their marketing from aggressive positions a gap exists between their organizations and their people. Great communications efforts successfully bridge that gap. Smart organizations understand that they need to cross this gap, that a bridge needs to be built between customers/donors/volunteers to create successful, loyal communities of people that provide support. They foster the ombudsperson role and communicate to fill the gap.
The concept of PR serving as the ombudsman goes back several decades. In this role, the PR person acts as a trusted intermediary between community and people. In more recent years customer service and online community managers have filled this role (while PR devolved in many ways).
An example is the movement to move towards self publishing, a result of the publishing industry creating a massive gap between its market practices, authors and readers. Seth Godin’s Domino Project seeks to bridge that gap by creating a new means of self publishing. It claims to reinvent “what it means to be a publisher, and along the way, spreading ideas that we’re proud to spread… Ideas for our readers, not more readers for our ideas.” You can see how the positioning bridges the gap.
However, like the publishing industry the project only takes very select high quality ideas. One criticism on the author back channel is that the Domino Project selects authors in the same ways that the traditional publishing industry does, specifically seeking out high caliber voices that have marketing reach as opposed to publishing the best ideas. The proof will be in the pudding. If the product doesn’t match the Domino Project’s promise, it may soon find itself regarded as yet another publisher.
4) The Element of Surprise
“Attack in an unsuspected manner, knowing his metre and modulation and the appropriate timing.” Musashi
Boring marketing is just that. Providing the same formulaic approach to a communications effort yields little interest or value to stakeholder communities. This is why the “Mad Men” of Madison Avenue get paid millions of dollars for creative. There needs to be an element of refreshing excitement to a winning campaign, something that makes it feel unique or new.
Last month, Radiohead released a new album, “The King of Limbs” online. The King of Limbs announcement was marked by the release of the album’s first single, “Lotus Flower” on YouTube. But what was surprising abut their approach was not that they again circumnavigated the traditional recording industry, but that they also trumped its traditional release pattern. Radiohead offered the album for sale online a mere three days after announcing it!
This type of short “premarketing” ramp is unheralded, but it worked. The new single has been viewed almost 8 million times. While sales are unknown as Radiohead owns its own distribution system, it’s clear they have paved interest for the new album, which will be physically released in stores this week.
5) Testing for Surety
“…if the enemy takes up a rear or side attitude of the long sword so that you cannot see his intention, make a feint attack, and the enemy will show his long sword, thinking he sees your spirit. Benefiting from what you are shown, you can win with certainty.” Musashi
Sometimes we don’t know how a market will react to a new approach or an idea. Product marketing and research aside, there are too many intangibles. That is when it makes the most sense to test the market with an initial foray. This can take the form of focus groups, invite only alpha groups, announcement of intent, etc.
A classic example of this was Southwest Airlines’ decision to blog about seating policy changes. The would-be revised seating would create a business class assigned section. The negative response was overwhelming with seven hundred loyal Southwest customers expressing their disdain on the blog post. They did not want to lose the ability to choose their own seat based on check-in order.
The airline went back to the drawing board and created its now current seating system, A, B and C priority seating. Poles at the gates have groups of five to prioritize by check-in, but now Southwest has tiers of tickets, which allows people to buy priority pole position. A workable compromise was found to meet revenue needs, business customer wants, and appease the existing loyal customer base.
These are just a several of the lessons gleaned from Musashi’s The Fire Book. The next part in the series is The Wind Book.
Ace Blogger Seth Godin doesn’t participate on Twitter, but has a Klout score of 70 in large part due to retweets and mentions. This phenomena typifies what Klout calls the Warren Buffet problem.
Yesterday, Read Write Web published the larger findings from the open interview with Klout CEO Joe Fernandez responding to criticisms published here. Publishing the larger post separately seemed important, a way to provide a larger portion of the industry information about the most pressing Klout questions. In addition to the discussion about evolving the algorithm and the ethics of Klout Perks in the Read Write Web piece, Mr. Fernandez covered several other points raised by critics.
One of the more interesting aspects was a discussion about gaming theory, which has been considered in the design of Klout. The interface, badges, classifications and the way it looks is important to encourage people with lower scores to develop more influence. In that vein, Klout sees its system as a way to encourage people to develop their online networking skills and become more influential.
Social games as a community activity have become a huge web activity online, and is drawing more attention in the marketing space. This is a topic worth further consideration.
The party itself was an experiment to see what the algorithm could put together, and by accounts of attendees, it wasn’t the usual group of folks in the rooms. Attendee David Spinks said it was an enjoyable affair, and Mr. Fernandez said the experiment may or may not be repeated.
Also, by simply participating in the open call, Mr. Fernandez resolved the point about Klout not responding to criticism. Further, he took some tough questions, and should be commended for openly facing criticism with a kind attitude.
General Perceptions of Klout Moving Forward
Klout certainly has its hands full. That became crystal clear. Perhaps Mr. Fernandez said it best when he said the very word influence is a lightening rod, and Klout’s algorithmic approach to determining it will always attract debate.
As to the algorithm itself, it will clearly evolve. Klout is actively weighing the strengths and weaknesses of its system. It’s well marketed at this point, and as a result, has an opportunity to become the top influencer measurement.
Klout’s definition of measuring actions differs greatly from industry definitions of actions (donations, sales, etc.). Because data about these types of actions are not readily available to the industry by companies and nonprofits, participation data is what’s left.
It’s hard to sign off on quantitative metrics that focus on participation. The current output of this participation data still produces questionable results. But the commitment to diversify and scale to meet 20 disparate sources of social data (see Read Write Web piece) is more compelling than a simple solution like Twitter Grader or a blog solution like PostRank.
And so, if Klout successfully evolves per Mr. Fernandez’s remarks, it would be foolhardy for a professional not to give Klout the respect it deserves. For better or for worse, it looks like the leader at this point. And the business and nonprofit marketplaces want a solution to at least begin cultivating “influencers.” Whether that’s the right approach is another matter altogether.
When I wrote Now Is Gone, Long Tail theory was prevalent throughout social media conversations. Applied, WIRED Executive Editor Chris Anderson’s economic theory did a great job of visualizing the ascent of new media forms in context with old traditional media. Since that time, social networks and mobile media postings have arisen to assert their place within the world of media.
Let’s go back to the power curve for media now that the dust has settled with the ascendancy of some new media forms. The above chart plots the effectiveness or the weight of various media tactics in the current 2010 media environment.
Red hits have the most impact (top 20%), while the long tail (yellow, 80% of media) still makes up the majority of the media marketplace. This chart defines the marketplace as word of mouth power and readership.
Like my original chart three years ago, this is subjective and various earned media forms have disparate degrees of weight. General classification is the best we can do without the correct measurement tools using a real world full on case-study with all types of earned media opportunities. Further, this assumes PR owns social media within a company. As we know, social media is often divided amongst the larger marketing department.
As you can see at the head of the tail we have the following media forms:
National broadcast – ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX
Major newspapers – New York Times, USA Today, etc.
Top magazines – BusinessWeek, Fortune, WIRED
Major social networks – Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Foursquare, etc.
Top cable channels – CNN, ESPN, etc.
Top 100 blogs – Huffington Post, Techcrunch, Treehugger, etc. Generally speaking, blog content can vary from print to video.
The Turning Point and the Tail
At the turning point in the tail, roughly the 20 percent mark, you have several other forms of traditional media, which reflects the fall of some media, and the rise of new online and mobile media.
Major trade journals – Obviously, the powerhouse in any industry still holds sway, but the secondary journals have suffered quite a bit
Secondary social networks – For every FourSquare, there’s a Gowalla, not as popular, these secondary networks still drive tons of traffic
Regional newspapers: You don’t hear about the Denver Post much nationally. Still very powerful in the Rock Mountain region.
Secondary cable & TV: A&E, TBS, VH-1, etc.
National radio: ESPNRadio, FOX, etc.
Leading vertical blogs: And the winner here, no question. In PR for example, Brian Solis (who wrote Engage, and the intro to Now Is Gone), will get as many or more reads as a Secondary PR journal.
Major “influencer” profiles: Finally on some of the social networks, you have highly “influential” profiles which either through mass followers or strong engagement can set of tidal wives of action via their profile
After that, you have the long tail, the vast majority of content. From the old world, I think you can list the following: Local TV, local radio, local newspapers, secondary journals, corporate web sites, email newsletters, and press releases. From the newer social media world, you can list: Social network profiles, secondary blogs, videos, photos, maps, and mobile updates & check ins.
The Taxonomy Problem
The issue with this chart is the taxonomy, which seeks to isolate individual media forms and tools and their weight. In reality — given today’s fractured media environment — one hit in any of these areas can trigger successive hits in others. When a word of mouth campaign has actual substance it usually cascades. Smart communicators understand this. That’s why integrated outreach — not just social media or traditional PR & advertising — matters so much.
In Chapter Four of Now Is Gone, we talk about this “ping pong match” between traditional and new media outlets. From the draft material in June of 2007:
One great way to promote your new media initiative remains traditional media, who often use well-respected blogs as sources or even the subject of stories… [Social media attention] drives information into the spotlight forcing traditional media to pay attention – or look like they’ve missed the news, and most importantly the conversation. Blogs [can be] a more effective way of reaching and inspiring traditional media to react than most PR professionals and wire services combined.
Ping pong matches demonstrate that weighting one tool by its actual total community and eyeball impact fails. As Seth Godin said in Meatball Sundae, “It doesn’t matter if the socially generated earned media only gets one percent of the hoped for attention if it’s the right one percent.”