The Mountaintop Insights, Inspiration and Perspective for Enlightened Marketers

March 3, 2011

The Twisted Reality of Influence Scoring

What compels us to believe in something even when we know deep down it is inherently flawed? What emotional need does it fulfill in us that we are willing to set aside our reason and embrace a vision of who we are that is not true or, at the very least, is a murky reflection of real life.

The current drive to measure influence reminds me very much of Plato’s Theory of Forms from The Republic in which he uses the “Allegory of The Cave”. Through “The Cave”  Plato theorizes the world we believe to be real is in fact illusion. Rather than subjecting you to Plato’s actual works (although I thoroughly encourage it on your own time), I will draw from that information wonder Wikipedia to help provide an understanding of the Allegory of the Cave

From Wikipedia:

“…imagine a cave inhabited by prisoners who have been chained and held immobile since childhood: not only are their arms and legs held in place, but their heads are also fixed, compelled to gaze at a wall in front of them. Behind the prisoners is an enormous fire, and between the fire and the prisoners is a raised walkway, along which people walk carrying things on their heads “including figures of men and animals made of wood, stone and other materials”. The prisoners watch the shadows cast by the men, not knowing they are shadows. There are also echoes off the wall from the noise produced from the walkway.

Socrates suggests the prisoners would take the shadows to be real things and the echoes to be real sounds, not just reflections of reality, since they are all they had ever seen or heard. They would praise as clever whoever could best guess which shadow would come next, as someone who understood the nature of the world, and the whole of their society would depend on the shadows on the wall.

Socrates next introduces something new to this scenario. Suppose that a prisoner is freed and permitted to stand up. If someone were to show him the things that had cast the shadows, he would not recognize them for what they were and could not name them; he would believe the shadows on the wall to be more real than what he sees.

“Suppose further,” Socrates says, “that the man was compelled to look at the fire: wouldn’t he be struck blind and try to turn his gaze back toward the shadows, as toward what he can see clearly and hold to be real? What if someone forcibly dragged such a man upward, out of the cave: wouldn’t the man be angry at the one doing this to him? And if dragged all the way out into the sunlight, wouldn’t he be distressed and unable to see “even one of the things now said to be true?”

So I ask you now, is what you see in front of reality or illusion? Do you really believe that your influence score is a realistic representation of your true influence or simply a distorted reflection on a cave wall?

Am I Chained to the Cave Wall?

I think what we struggle with most is how inconsequential we really are in the grand scheme of things. We all want to matter of course, but do we really?

What I have come to recognize is that influence is far more complex than we realize. That its forms, dozens to be precise, all represented by adaptive layers around us (within us really but that’s another post) all fight to control our perception based on our emotional and rational needs at that specific time and for a specific situation. These layers of influence drive how we interpret the world and define our own role within it. I refer to this as an “influence persona”.

An influence persona does two things:

  • It interprets outside influential factors and forms for me to reinforce my beliefs, values and perception of the world.
  • It projects my influence on others around me.


Add to this the next layer of complexity where we interact with others we begin to see a deeper, more complex form of dynamic influence where our influence persona conflicts, succumbs or consumes other people’s influence personas within a given situation.

What adds further complexity is our level of self-honesty. Is what influences us building or destroying our image of who we are or want to be perceived as by others? Is that self-image honest? I would put forward that if honesty is a filter through which all influence flows and is interpreted; then our ability to be honest with ourselves determines whether we are chained to the wall of the cave or whether we see the world as it really is.

So how does influence scoring affect our self-image and our ability to be  honest with ourselves?

My Score is My Worth

We have been trained since childhood to accept scoring as a reflection of how well we are doing in the world. From school grades, to finishing first in the race, we are given scores.  Indeed the root of all competition, is about the score. The team with the highest score wins. Now, as we all know, when we have a low score… our parents reprimand us “why didn’t you get that A?” and our coaches berate us “train harder and maybe next time you can be 1st”. So at every turn, we strive to improve our scores in life and business. I mean, who wants the shame of having a low score right?

Now, enter the influence scoring companies and their desire to have us compete for influence ratings. So what happens when we apply a score to something as complex and misunderstood as influence?

  • It changes how we perceive ourselves in relation to others because suddenly a score defines value within our social network.
  • We change our behaviours to improve our score.
  • Our honesty filter adapts to accept this score as a true reflection of us and our influence in the world.

In essence, we begin to lie to ourselves because a score is telling us we are something we are not thus artificially inflating the ego. I mean, who doesn’t want to be more important… So what’s the result?

We chain ourselves to the wall of the cave and believe the shadows and echoes to be our reality – that a score dictates how influential we are.

Is an Influence Score Emotional Crack or Feeding a God Complex?

So why do we do it? Why do we choose to believe that a score defines our value to others (and to ourselves)? I would put forward that it stems from unfulfilled emotional need and falsely inflated self-worth from having “followers”; a term I have serious issues with. There was a time when followers was a term used in history in reference to those who worshiped gods, deities or powerful men. Does having followers then warp how we see ourselves? Is it giving us a God complex? Are influence scoring companies the new deities?

Perhaps its simpler than that. Maybe its more like an addiction to crack-cocaine. In this case, the more we look to “escape” the reality that we are inconsequential, the more we need a score to validate and feed our ego until it becomes an obsession – a method we actively use to define our “false self” to others. I guess this would make the influence scoring companies crack dealers who are constantly finding ways to feed the addiction and create clever ways for you to lure your friends into buying. Much like dealers, they are promising escape – to take you from not mattering, to mattering.

Do We Continue to Avoid the Truth or Free Ourselves?

The question really boils down to this… Are we ready to accept that having a score is a shadow on a cave wall? That it is not a reflection of influence, but more a reflection of our relevance within our social network. The more we believe that our influence score is reality, the more we secure ourselves to that cave wall.

Me, I choose to leave the cave and look upon myself in the world as it really is. For the most part, I am someone of little consequence. In certain situations with certain people, I can influence thinking; sometimes actions. This is my reality. Can I change this? Of course. But a score has absolutely no bearing on this reality and will never be a measure of my impact nor of others impact on me.

We all make decisions to chain ourselves to that cave wall or not. Really it boils down to how we want to honestly measure ourselves.

In closing let me be clear, while we don’t matter to almost everyone in the world, there is a small group around us in business and life who we do matter to. And they’re not keep scoring.

February 14, 2011

To Rule or Not to Rule

“What chance gathers she easily scatters. A great person attracts great people and knows how to hold them together.”

Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

Much debate has arisen in the marketing community (and others) about rules in and ruling online communities. This is my cautionary tale to you.

But before you SM fans read on, grab your Prozac, “Pass the dutchie on the left hand side”, do some hot yoga, spoon a friend or whatever you need to calm your anxiety and open your mind to the concept that, brace yourselves… online community existed before social media. I know it’s hard to believe, but back before FaceBook and Twitter many, many years ago when the web was young, people gathered together in online communities and they have some excellent lessons to teach us.

Don’t Judge Me!

For those that don’t know, I am/was an avid online gamer. No, I don’t put on tights and strap on a sword and run around swinging it at my friends, at least, not anymore… But it is a passion I thoroughly enjoy for many reasons:

  • Competition – I love to win. That could be an understatement.
  • Human behaviour – I love the dynamics of human interaction
  • Competition – Did I mention I am competitive?
  • Community – Truly the difference for any great game.

Community, you see, is a huge part of online gaming and Gamers in particular are a special breed.

A Look Inside the Gaming Community World

My perspective is based on not only being a member of multiple communities but also being a moderator and head moderator in many cases (what you would refer to as a community manager) for numerous gaming communities; some quite large at 100k+ active members.

The gaming community is hierarchical in nature when it comes to how it structures itself – I call this the “rule of threes”.

3 types of communities:

Official gaming communities: The game company’s “official” gaming community they create for the players. Typically policed, but a free for all for players to interact with each other and the game designers.

For you marketers, this is Twitter.

Unofficial gaming communities: This is really where the action happens. These communities are created, paid for and managed by super fans of the game itself. They love the community and enable them to the extreme, but typically they do not actively lead. They deploy moderators from the community to keep things civil and enforce basic rules of human conduct (no racial slurs, no porn, etc…). Further, these communities can have millions of active members.

For you marketers, this would be #usguys, #b2bchat, #smmanners, #ungeeked, #blogchat, #custserv, etc…

Clan communities: Clan communities are small, focused and leader driven with a defined chain of command and even ranks for people joining. New members typically undergo rituals or time-based trials to “earn” their stripes. Everyone has roles and it is highly regulated, even self-regulated for fear of being expelled from the clan.

For you marketers, this would be akin to a spin off group that forms a business venture together for a specific defined purpose.

3 types of people for each:

In official and unofficial gaming communities the people hierarchy is: (passive leadership)

  • Founders – Enabling the vision setting guidelines for participation
  • Moderators – Enabling the community
  • Members – Equal contributors


In leader-based communities the people hierarchy is: (active leadership)

  • Dictator/Leader: – Pushes down a single vision and rules
  • Commanders – Enforce and organize the vision and rules
  • Grunts – Do what they were bloody told


What can we learn from them?

  • In my experience, the truly great communities enabled their members and lead without leading, while the truly great clans galvanized their members into a sole purpose with firm but fair treatment.
  • Where certain individuals tried to insert a leadership-style into open communities, they failed – fracturing the community so that it either disbanded or becomes a shadow of its former self.
  • Selfish people destroy communities if they get any kind of influence or power. They subvert it for their own means even though many times their intent was for the betterment of the community.
  • The most selfish people are excellent at masquerading as the most unselfish people while they manipulate the community from different angles.
  • Great communities have basic guidelines for conduct and enjoying the community
  • Clan communities had strictly enforced rules and roles. You didn’t comply, you are out. But you knew that getting into it so eyes wide open.

In both cases however, one core thing made each community function well – honesty without political correctness. And believe me, its damn refreshing.

Politically Correct Community is an Oxymoron

“For evil to flourish, all that is needed is for good people to do nothing.” – Edmund Burke

For the hyper sensitive, ultra politically correct marketing community you are in for a rude awakening. The communities I have seen crop up are unnatural to the way vibrant communities actually work and in fact, build up negative undercurrents of drama and resentment that only surface in grand volcanic style.

You see in these environments built on Twitter especially, no one is really honest with each other in the open for fear of offending or being judged by the community. So what we get is truth draped in so much honey that it sends ambiguous messages, easily interpreted as something else. Further, we feel forced to accept whatever people throw at us for the same group of fears mentioned above.

Now what happens when someone does say something direct and honest? It shocks and upsets creating a slippery emotional slope that usually leads to regretful actions. Leaders or moderators within these communities are then tasked with trying to not only repair damage to the community brand as a whole (especially in live environments like Twitter) but these events polarize the community which requires tremendous effort to resolve.

Much can be gained from civil, constructive honesty and at the same time that not everything can be solved with group hugs. In my mind communities based on Twitter are in danger of becoming cultures of avoidance because the political correctness pendulum has swung too far to the left.

Suck it up Buttercup!

There is no doubt that your sensibilities are going to be offended fairly regularly in online communities. It’s natural. You could misinterpret what someone said or interpret correctly in some cases. It often arises out of civil discussions that become debates where one side refuses to acknowledge the other point of view.

Your reaction to that creates a chain reaction that is emotionally driven; both for you and everyone witnessing the interaction.

The best solution lies in how you govern your own reactions to others. You can’t control them, but you can control how others affect you and subsequently how you react. This can go a long way to improving your experience and interactions.

Me personally, I have a hide like rhino when it comes to online behaviour. It is exceedingly difficult for even the most controversial or opinionated person to phase me. This doesn’t mean I am necessarily tolerant of undo amounts of crap, I have just learned not to react emotionally to it. In fact, I am quite outspoken at times, especially when someone is acting in a way that is inappropriate.

But the one thing I never do is take it personally. Once you take it personally, you have shifted control to that person and your reactions will be emotional, defensive and irrational.

As my farmer father would tell me, “Pull up your socks boy. The only thing that got hurt is your pride”.

When Rules Ruin a Community

Many times, as communities grow, there is thinking that new rules need to be created to “govern” the masses. This is usually the brainchild of a small group of people that believe, rightly or wrongly, their community needs leadership, specifically their leadership. The rules are meant to empower the leadership to have greater control and leverage over the participants.

While it is true that some communities do need rules, many do not and this is the difference between natural, largely unspoken rules based on common values of the community and rules designed to “direct” the community.

So what happens when rules are introduced to an open community like Twitter groups? Well, it’s simple – you get conflict, resentment, and abandonment.

Guidelines on the other hand, while usually unstated, can enable the community and help them to understand how to participate to the fullest.

The simplest and only rule to apply to online communities is: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.

When Rulers Ruin a Community

So your community has grown, people are flocking and you have aspirations for leading them to glory! There is no bigger mistake you could make.

What I am going to give you are some questions to really acid test the true reasons for wanting to lead your community.

  1. Does the community believe they need leadership or are you projecting it?
  2. What are your true motives for leadership?
  3. Are you looking to make money off what the community has done?
  4. Does the community already have unspoken leaders and how are they doing?
  5. Will the community resent or disagree with the direction you want to take?
  6. Are you the best choice for leadership? Why?
  7. If you asked the community, would they agree with the answers you gave above?

The vast majority of my experience has been that when someone wants to lead, it’s for all the wrong reasons. Leadership in communities is granted by the community to those who prove they are worthy of it through exemplary behaviour.

True community leaders enable everyone around them. A good example is the leader who continually looks to improve the community via new programs and activities to improve collaboration, relationship building, attraction of new members and growth.

A true leader doesn’t seek praise, acknowledgment, titles or control. A true community leader selflessly and fairly empowers every person without expectation of return.

While a great leader can come from anywhere, not just anyone can lead. If you are considering trying to lead a community you are involved in consider what you risk if your intentions are not in the best interest of the community. What you stand to lose is far more than what you could potentially gain.

In the end, every action has a reaction. The more important the community is to the people that are part of it, the more change will be resisted unless it is driven by the people, for the people.

Communities govern themselves and are self-correcting.

Remember, “What chance gathers she easily scatters”.

Choose your path wisely…

As a follow-up to this post in the coming weeks, I will be looking at how this applies to branded customer communities. If you think they operate differently, think again.

December 31, 2010

Embracing Social Change in 2011

It seems predictive posts are all the rage right now so in my own mad style, I’ve taken a look at the tea leaves in order to share some “Sensei-riffic” (trademarking in the works) predictions for marketing, social, and the relationship between customers and brands. So rather than give you the usual obvious predictions, I am going to take a step towards the ledge and peer into the darkness. The signs I see  herald tremendous change that is just off the radar.

So sit back, relax, and prepare to have your liberal marketing senses offended while enjoying or becoming outraged at this rum-nog fueled post! Cheers!

Prediction 1: Social CRM will be a huge failure.

Why? Because you cannot quantify an emotional human relationship no matter how hard you try. The quest to do so has begun anew with sCRM. To be clear its predecessor CRM is about numbers, not people. What other system does that to people? Right! The prison system!

The same people who created CRM are now pushing sCRM. Same shit, different steaming pile. CRM completely dehumanized the customer by reducing the relationship to math. Next it is horribly lop-sided designed to deliver insight into how to get more money from a customer, not how to build a better, mutually beneficial relationship. Does it actually benefit the customer in any way?

Maybe we should call it CWM (Customer Wallet Management), how about CMM (Customer    Money Management) or even CDM (Customer Decision Management) because it has nothing to do with actual customer benefit. Call me jaded but every company that has a CRM profile on me uses it to try and get more money from me with no clue on how to actually gain my trust.

Is sCRM the second coming? Not in my books. All we have done is given marketers yet another source to gather data to try and soak more money from our customers without working on the actual customer relationship. Still waiting for a company to actually put the R in CRM or sCRM for that matter.

My prediction, it won’t amount to much and most of the companies offering an sCRM solution will be snapped by bigger CRM players as “just another feature” while the ones that stay on their own will go stale. Its a great idea with the same poor execution that CRM enjoys.

Prediction 2: Customer Loyalty, not Customer Acquisition will Become the Big Social Play for Smart Companies.

The greatest mystery to me is why almost every company (B2b and B2C inclusively) focus social marketing on new customer acquisition. Is it that old human failing that we ignore the ones who love us? That we barely appreciate those in our lives every day? Maybe its casual indifference or perhaps something far more mercenary… Whatever it is, we have been ignoring those most important to us. Maybe we are just too dense to realize we are risking our current relationships for the potential of a couple new ones? Like the man who wakes up one morning to find his wife has left him after years of passive neglect.

I live by some simple rules and one of them is “you dance with the ones that brung ya”.  It may be my bumpkin simplicity talking, but the first people we should be investing in are our employees and customers – these are the ones that “brung us to the dance”. So what happens when you ignore the ones that love you and step out to find others? You make an ass of yourself in the international media, lose your endorsements, your fortune and your game.

Looking at how social networks actually work, I am shocked how many companies remain clueless to the value of social solutions for their customers and employees.

Here is the relationship chain I have identified…

  1. Happy employees deliver better customer/social experiences.
  2. These better experiences create happier customers, in turn appreciating employees more.
  3. Happy customers spend more, are more loyal and will defend your brand.
  4. Happy customers are in the public social networks where positive brand experiences spread very quickly.
  5. Happy customers and happy employees are the best brand ambassadors and will actively engage in thousands of conversations in blogs, FaceBook, Twitter and other “traditional” social platforms like kitchen tables, events and cafes.
  6. The actions of your brand ambassadors attract new customers!! Because everyone who hears the stories wants to be with a company that appreciates them! Go figure.

So why oh why are we focusing on acquisition? As for the execution of a social solution for customers and employees all I can say is make them feel two things: appreciated and exclusive. This is the gas in the social engine.

Do yourself a favor at your next marketing strategy meeting and ask “Are we ignoring the ones who brung us to the dance?” and see where it goes.

My prediction is the next big social play will be private communities for employees and customers; perhaps even allowing them to (god forbid) intermingle. These communities must focus on delivering a positive customer and employee experience to thrive. Don’t be a Tiger.

Prediction 3: The Rise of Social Risk Manager and Social Experience Designer as Specialized Marketing Roles

So now that we have literally millions of so called “Social Media Experts” to set-up our Twitter accounts and FaceBook pages, we need to look at more specialized positions past the technology. My prediction is that two roles will emerge for mid and large size enterprise: A Social Risk Manager and a Social Experience Designer. Let’s throw some lose definitions behind these two roles.

Social Risk Manager: A strategic and tactical position serving to homogenize PR, legal, strategy, and operations into one accountable role. Custodian of the Social Policy and Social Risk Mitigation Strategy, adviser to PR and Social team on risk management techniques/training, and “eye in the sky” on emerging issues/trends that affect the business and the industry. Throw in a healthy does of analysis to continually adapt the strategy too.

Social Experience Designer: Again a strategic and tactical role integrating the brand/communications strategy to ensure a consistently positive customer experience in the social channels. Social has been largely “by the seat of your pants” execution with little strategy or rationale, so this role is meant to make Social make sense to the customer. The social experience is designed to utilize the unique factors of the social channels to build the positive perception of the brand in the same way you would design a retail interior or website.

Prediction 4: The Employee Revolution

One of my first posts ever was about the Relationship Revolution over at So we have seen a customer revolution via Social Media, now I predict a social uprising within the enterprise. Why? One simple powerful goal:  Improving the Employee Experience. A couple factors at play here…

  1. GenY employees are less loyal, so to retain them you need to understand and engage them in different ways.
  2. An employee experience, much like a customer experience, is based on how you engage with them and the experience you design that must be consistent across the company, but diverse enough to promote individuality – be that cultural, gender, social, tribal, regional, etc…
  3. Allow employees to socialize on topics other than the company! For the love of Pete, when will we learn that we are not the center of their universe? Let them engage on anything they want and let them know its okay to do so.
  4. Global competition means keeping talent. Being social with employees let’s you understand emerging needs and issues before they go too far. Plus Social Media has made it way too easy for your employees to get poached; Linked In is crawling with recruiters as is Twitter…

Prediction 5: The Awakening that Social Media is NOT a Big Deal, but Social Relationships ARE

No I am not trying to grab attention by being a contrarian, but I think many people just don’t understand the real drivers behind the rise of the big social media platforms; that being the rise of social relationships. The basis of every good, long lasting relationship for any human being is communication. Communication or our drive to communicate is like a river… its fluidity is its strength allowing it find the easiest course to continue its way to the ocean. In much the same way human communication is fluid finding the easiest route or channel to enable two or more people to socialize.

So now let me connect the dots on this prediction. Social Media is both the channel and the technology that enables it. The success of a particular social platform is based on its ability to enable its participants to communicate easily and quickly while delivering small, measurable improvements to enhance the experience. The companies that deliver this technology are madly looking for ways to monetize these channels driven by the fear that the competition will outmaneuver them. They are currently adding layers of complexity not just in the technology and interface, but to the communication process itself. They are also enabling “intrusive” communication from corporations looking to reach the participants.

As the channel becomes more complex and more difficult for simple, uninterrupted  social relationships to work, human communication will begin to look for a better channel. Let me be very clear here…

It is the company that invests in the social relationship, not the social media channel, that will achieve long term success. Its what i refer to as a socially dominant brand trait. More here on the struggle for existence and social traits.

Prediction 6: The Real Role for Social Media is Lead Nurturing

In the same way you can’t use one tool to build a house, you can’t use one channel to take a net new prospect and drive that relationship through to a sale; especially in B2B marketing.

Lead Nurturing is the art of the relationship and is a long play. Its the same space in time as that point between the first couple dates and moving in together. It takes investment, patience, understanding and time. Has there ever been a role more suited to Social Media?

My experience leads me to believe this is the advantage in turning quantity of leads into quantity and quality of leads. The big challenge? Marketing and sales must work together for it to work.

Of course, once this realization has sunk in, you can actually begin to target your social at specific audiences and behavioral types – greatly increasing the power of your social marketing to engage and accelerate sales efforts.

Do you have a lead nurturing strategy yet or is your social strategy doing everything for everyone?

Prediction 7: The Rise of Mobile Marketing

This is a big one and is by far the most exciting communication tsunami coming our way. I have always said that when we looked at social marketing, we were looking at the south end of the horse walking north by focusing on web-based social.

Think about it for a minute. All of the emerging nations (Brazil, China, India, Africa, etc) are bypassing laptops/pcs and going straight to mobile. The magnitude of these market behemoths and how global companies market to these unique populations will end some brand empires and give rise to new ones.

Take India as an example, it is it is projected that India will have 1.159 billion mobile subscribers by 2013 effectively passing China as the #1 mobile market in the world.

How does this impact our ability to compete in these markets? Check out this cool review of Indian and Chinese markets

If you haven’t started giving serious consideration to the importance of mobile marketing (whether you are B2B or B2C) what exactly are you waiting for?

First movers always, always, always get the market advantage.

Prediction 8: Social ROI Measurement is a Waste of Time

I have watched for about 2 years as marketers focus more and more on measuring customer relationships; social or otherwise. Then it came to me recently… ROI measurement is the equivalent of marketing masturbation – We do it to pleasure ourselves. Don’t get me wrong, we should measure our success along the way, but I have seen this grow into a very unhealthy obsession for many marketers. Is it because we find solace in numbers? Or maybe we can manufacture success in the absence of real proof…

Every time I speak with senior execs it always boils down to one thing: Is what you are doing generating profitable revenue? Its another strong argument for marketing and sales alignment to measure the customer life-cycle from first contact to sale.

It seems to be an inferiority complex we can’t shake as marketers. We constantly try to prove to the rest of the enterprise that we do matter to more than just ourselves. The obsession has to stop. It takes valuable resources away from activities such as lead nurturing that drives profitable revenue and delivers constant touch with a potential customer.

My prediction is that most marketers will continue to go overboard on ROI measurement endlessly because its their comfort zone. We will continue to measure things that don’t matter and report on things that have no bearing to the bottom line.

The marketers that can align with sales and keep delivering simple, bottom line-focused analysis will win the day.

Prediction 9: The Beginning of the Great Social Mergers

You can almost feel it in the air. Some big mergers are coming. There are some real hungry large companies out there looking to get into the social scene in a big way. Meanwhile we have some high potential targets that are not big enough to survive on their own for an extended period, but not small enough to die out quickly.

The Hunters: Apple, MSN, Google and FaceBook.

The Prey: Four Square, MySpace, Twitter, Second Life and a dozen smaller social platforms.

The Dark Horses: Linked In and Skype and other indirect social platforms like Ebay/Kijiji and CraigsList.

Apple: Apple needs a viable social platform past its devices. I don’t know that Ping has any merit for them, but a social platform like MySpace makes a great fit to continue to dominate consumer demand for music. Four Square might be of interest as well as this geo-social application gives Apple reach into retailers and their quest for mobile marketing dominance on the iPhone and iPad. Of course this all depends on whether Jobs can get over himself…

FaceBook: Is Facebook reaching the point where an acquisition of a smaller, niche player makes sense? Maybe an acquisition to build out its business offering? This is where I see something like Second Life really giving huge depth to Facebook for both consumers and business. Skype would be a very cool addition to the consumer side giving the ability for real “face time” via video. Lastly, buying out Zynga might be an excellent strategic move as well, but the relationship is dodgey already. Social gaming is a huge part of FaceBook’s future to be sure.

MSN: MSN needs a better social footprint for sure. Bing is not a social platform and their deal with FaceBook is simply a strategic alliance. They need to get into the scene. For them Twitter, Linked In and Four Square make excellent targets and integrate well with their business and consumer offerings. With Windows on mobile devices now, perhaps a stronger relationship with FaceBook is in the works. Who knows.

Google: Google is a fascinating and dangerous company in my mind. They already own You Tube, Buzz is a failure, and its easier to acquire a smaller player than try to risk failure again with an in-house project. I really see Twitter being a nice fit with Google. Its adds great depth and power to Google’s already dominant search and would really put Bing on its heels. Any of the Dark Horses like Skype,  Ebay/Kijiji or CraigsList would also be a very interesting for Google to expand/consolidate its reach.

Prediction 10: No One, and I Mean No One, Understands What Influence is or How to Measure it.

If there is one thing Klout and Fast Company’s Influence Project showed us its that no company understands human influence at all. Let’s be honest with ourselves… number of Tweets/followers does not an influencer make. But this hasn’t stopped the bandwagoners from jumping on it early as a possible solution- how many bot owners do you think take advantage of Klout Klub in Vegas?

To me, Klout is an ingenious social game that uses heavy game mechanics to feed two human addictions: acquiring  prestige and competing vs. friends/peers. The result? A compulsive need to constantly check and improve your score by ramping up your Tweets to an obnoxious level fueled by a fear of being beaten by a friend or peer.

Can't stop Tweeting, Klout'll eat me.

For such a simple word, Influence is potentially one of the most complex human conditions that exists today.  I lamented this complexity recently…. To me, everybody has an “InQ” or Influence Quotient; that is the first layer of Influence complexity, but that is the simplest thing to understand and what Klout and Fast Company based their rudimentary assumptions on. But your InQ is affected by dozens of other layers and types of influence that nobody even talks about or gives any credit to; the most powerful of which is Situational Influence – a topic I intend to explore in an upcoming article.

Want to begin to measure influence? How about giving every person a trust rating that is voted on by their friends and peers? Make the trust button come with a string attached which forces the person who hits the button to say WHY they trust that person. FaceBook “Like” is wishy-washy and any bot can have 500 tweets a day with 1500 people, but trust is a serious commitment. Trust is the root of true influence.

So my 10th and final prediction is that Influence measurement is the holy grail and anyone saying they have THE way to measure it is selling you something. Sure, maybe that makes me a Klown, but nobody listens to me anyway, my Klout score is too low…

Thus ends my rambling end to a new beginning in 2011. Enjoy it, become outraged, or whatever you choose to do. I’m cool with it and wish all of you immense success in 2011 and beyond.

Cheers and beers!

Jeff – Sensei

November 23, 2010

Is Social Media Just a Channel?

I have been in some interesting debates recently on Twitter in chats such as #mmchat and #techchat on whether or not Social Media is just another channel. While I disagree with almost every word these particular people type, I wanted to make sure this topic was approached objectively… well, somewhat objectively.

Why not just share my intensely subjective perspective on this subject? Well, here are a couple reasons…

  • Its a burning question for many marketers (and now senior executives) that once answered provides perspective on strategy, integration, approach, internal/external policy, and execution of your social program.
  • I take my responsibility as a blogger and consultant very seriously when it comes to presenting and arguing issues. The last thing you want is a lop-sided diatribe for or against… unless that’s your bag.


The Answer to the Question Depends on Where You Sit in the Enterprise

The key to answering this question is perspective and perspective depends on your role and your ability to see past that role to the big picture of how a channel affects the enterprise ecosystem; defined as the company, its employees, partners and customers.

In fact, each of these communities within the ecosystem most likely view the social channel quite differently ranging between passionate adopters and fiercely indifferent.  But before we get deep into perspectives, let’s look at  some of the past winners and see their impact.

Television- Definite impact on marketing and customers for mass market reach, but didn’t really change the business model. TV became a deeply embedded part of the customer’s lifestyle and a focal point for many decades.

The Web- Huge impact on the enterprise ecosystem affecting every party (for good and bad). I have always viewed web/automation systems as the slow death of service and customer relationships as well as enabling global competition amongst other revolutions. The Web is also the birth mother of Social and the enlightened customer. Again, another channel that grew beyond its intent to become part of the customer’s lifestyle.

Retail – A channel and a business model really, but worth noting as it plays double duty. Keeps evolving and impacting the enterprise as the number one way to transact with a customer. Probably the channel that has had the broadest impact on any business forcing huge changes in supply chain, operations, etc.. but doesn’t apply to everyone.

So What is the Social Channel and How Does it Compare?

Well, for starters, its very early in its evolution and adoption by companies is slow, so its impact is still based on educated guessing. For many B2C companies however, the social channel is increasingly gaining in strategic value as it redefines the customer relationship – driven largely by the customer.

  • Social Channel for customer acquisition: The most obvious and plentiful application of social media as companies look to establish foot prints in the big social networks. What’s the impact on customer acquisition? Well, for companies who are not inherently social, low. For those that are socially aligned, its impact is broad. Just look at how Ford has evolved itself to apply Social to build market share.
  • Social Channel for existing customers: Sadly, the most overlooked and highest potential application of social media is for existing customer communities. Why is it that we treat those most loyal to us the worst? The current impact is minimal in my mind, but the future potential of enabled customer communities is immense becoming a key source of driving product and service innovation for smart companies. This is a game changer.
  • Social Channel for partners: Is this even on the radar yet? My feeling is the impact will not be felt for quite a while. Feel free to enlighten me if you know more or have examples.
  • Social Channel for employees: Interestingly, many companies, especially B2B enterprise are just scratching the surface on this. The mother to internal social is the intranet of course; a channel with questionable impact. But, in the same way that social can rapidly evolve the business’ relationship with the customer, it can also do so with employees; the lifeblood of the enterprise. Again, the impact is minimal now, but as companies become more comfortable with social, my bet is game changer.


Some Big Wins:

  • Revolutionizing customer service and support. Think of how Best Buy is using it.
  • Reach is immense, cheap and fast with the right targeting. Yes, I said targeting, but that’s another post altogether.
  • It has dramatically improved our ability to get up-to- the-minute research on our brands/customers
  • It woke us up to real customer need. Sometimes quite rudely. Such is the case when we ignore those most important to us.


Some Big Challenges:

  • “Always on Air” is a huge risk for companies especially for publicly traded ones.
  • Paradigm shift from one way communications to two way communications.
  • Attitudinal shift from selfish corporate agenda to being perceived as not having one.
  • Figuring it all out before it changes yet again!


Potential Enterprise Impact:

It has the capability to truly integrate customers, employees and yet-to-be customers into one harmonious ecosystem. Companies that master this new channel will quite literally dominate in their categories. An unfair competitive advantage to be sure, but we are far from that Nirvana.

So the question still stands, is Social Media just a channel? To answer this, let’s ask some other questions that may help bring clarity and perspective!

If someone asked you to sculpt a statue would you make a David or a pile of unrecognizable rubble?

If you were asked to make a fine wine would you make a Domaine Romanée-Conti or a bottle of low grade hooch?

How about something simple like a meal. Would you make an award wining creation or pot of good ol’ reliable Kraft Dinner?

Could it be that much like the examples above, Social Media is what you make of it? So what makes a master work versus a pile of rubble?

The Difference Between a Channel and an Experience is Mastery

Channels deliver experiences and the quality of the experience relates directly to the effort, passion and innovative thinking you put into it. Much like great restaurants are a blend of sophisticated cooking, imaginative ideas and respect for ingredients, Social Media is a blend of sophisticated service, imaginative ideas and respect for people.

Mastery is a long process of course, but the point is that if you have the vision and the tenacity to see it through, Social Media can be much, much more. Great social experiences remind us why some companies deserve to be revered and others deserve to be ignored – effectively separating the wheat from the chaff.

So is Social Media just a channel? It can be. After all, the people that use it are just customers…

October 6, 2010

A Sensei Perspective on Facebook

A rather smart chap I recently met by the name of Tommy ( @tommyismyname ) asked me for my opinion on a recent blog post of his regarding whether you love or hate facebook. This does require a name and email to download his FB report so be forewarned, but it is worth the read as Tommy is a very sharp knife in a drawer full of dull cutlery!

So do I hate or love Facebook? Neither answer works for me really. For what originally started out as a way to meet chicks for a couple horny college kids, its a smashing success. Whatever you believe, you absolutely have to respect what Facebook is – A Social Media Leviathan.

Personally I don’t use it, but I’m fascinated by its current power and future potential.


Well, contrary to many other social platforms, Facebook has found one of the keys to success in B2C relationships – create an addictive positive experience. The constant flow of human drama from friends and friends of friends is reality TV served up in ADD fashion about your favorite people, your friends. It has taken gossip to a whole new level.  Add to this social games like Farmville and its ilk with the ability to compete and work with your friends delivers you addictive content of the highest order.

Think about it, last I knew back in March, Farmville had 82 million users a month on average planting crops and raising herds on Facebook… That is astounding in my opinion. If marketers and companies are looking for the future of social, Farmville and Facebook are harbingers of what’s to come for interactive social media. Its a fascinating mix of social influence, social obligation, personal accomplishment, competition and addiction.


The biggest question in my mind is how its going to work for big business. They are struggling to understand how it applies to business. For consumers, its a runaway hit. But business, well, I have yet to recommend to a client “make a Facebook page” primarily because I still see no tangible value to B2B enterprises. The issue for B2B adoption is the simple fact that Facebook was designed for personal use, not for business. That’s the conundrum.

If you re-invent or transform the current, you risk losing your core audience – consumers; the ones that bring them to the dance. So the B2B play has to be separate and focused on business. is it worth it? If done right, it could be a killer. If done poorly, its a tremendous loss of reputation and potential opportunity.

B2C on the other hand, has more of a fighting chance on Facebook due to their relevancy to the consumers life. But do consumers want brands on Facebook? Maybe they do or maybe they find the presence intrusive.

How do Consumers Perceive Business on Facebook?

Human behavior is such that we fiercely protect our “safe zone”- our homes, our close friends, and our online sanctuaries. We resent companies and individuals who try to force their way in without being invited. Its our turf and we defend it right? Maybe that’s the key to the future? Allowing consumers to invite brands into their inner circle to participate, even just listen. That’s powerful engagement!

Whatever the rationale you have for loving or hating Facebook (or any feeling in between) you have to respect it for what its done to advance customer relations and bring balance to how companies and consumers relate to each other.

Tell Us How You Really Feel Jeff!

Fine, I’ll stop avoiding the question and admit it. Fear might be a good description to describe how I personally feel about Facebook.

Fear for what could happen if they abuse their power or go too far in the wrong direction. The consequences could be devastating to the entire Social movement not mention the hundreds of millions of people and businesses involved. In many ways, the future of Consumer Social Media is riding on them.

Fear of monopoly is another type of fear I have. They are clearly the market leader by miles, perhaps not by growth now, but adoption in emerging markets like India, Brazil, and Mexico is just starting spurred by big improvements in 3G wireless technology and reliable mobile devices. And with a country like India having the lowest mobile web usage for females in the world, you know the real growth is just around the corner. For a monster like Facebook, they could conceivably reach a billion users in the not too distant future.

Just as an aside, were I an executive at Facebook, I’d be looking to Indian wireless companies for big partnerships to reach that female demographic as the social network of choice – the enabler of their social voice in a rapidly changing Indian socio-political environment. I might even consider buying a wireless company to serve that demographic. Just a thought though.

I mean in 4-5 short years, Facebook has surpassed most Fortune 1000 companies for reach to consumers, a task that took these traditional companies decades and billions of dollars to achieve. How many companies can say they have that many customers? The kicker is that Facebook doesn’t need to market itself, its customers do all of that for them accounting for the most magnificent viral marketing campaign in human history.

So where are they going?

I don’t think even they know, but their customers do and as long as they listen to them, keep responding to their needs and most importantly, don’t sell them out, Facebook will be king of the hill for a long time. Check out these March 2010 stats on their growth past the big search portals and shift of ad spending to Facebook.

If they can keep themselves at the center of the consumers life, as the enabler for their social interactions with friends and family, then their empire will last a long, long time. Which quite frankly excites me!

So how do I really feel? Fear and Excitement. Just like getting ready for a big date with the prettiest girl in school and hoping she isn’t going to punk me in front of all the cool kids.

Thanks for making me think Tommy and i hope I did your post justice!


Jeff – Sensei

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