The Great Social Experiment – Roundtable Question 5: Getting Feedback

REPOST from original series started on blog.thinkfree.com back in September of 2007

Back in September I began a series experimenting with social networks to view their effectiveness in helping organizations expand their reach, and be included in conversations about their industry wherever those conversations occur.

Now it is time to look at the results. The other day I introduced the panel (Aaron Brazell, Chris Brogan, Doug Haslam, Cathryn Hrudicka and Brian Solis) and the questions on the table.

Thanks
Before getting to the responses I want to thank Doug, Chris, Cathryn, Aaron and Brian for giving generously of their knowledge. This has been a wonderful experience and I know I have gained a lot from their experience. I am in their debt.

One way that I wanted to thank Cathryn personally was to ask everyone who has read this and gone through the experiment with me to contribute to the Frozen Pea Fund in honor of a friend of hers (and many others including Doug supporting her experience through twitter), Susan Reynolds who is undergoing surgery today to get rid of breast cancer.

And thanks enormously to Marc Orchant who provided the rocket fuel to get this thing off the ground and for Aaron’s original round table that inspired this discussion.

Today the fifth and last question: How can I build better mechanisms into the framework to increase feedback?


Brian Solis

We’ve all heard that participation is marketing. As well, we’ve seen the banner that reads conversations are marketing.

Great.

So, what about relationships?

We speak of building mechanisms into frameworks and while we search for the right answers, we’re overshooting the very thing that Social Media revolves around, people.

Social Media isn’t a catalyst to summon marketing for marketing’s sake. It’s an opportunity to engage with groups of people by tapping into conversations that mutually serve the benefits of the very people we wish to reach.

The key is participation and I define participation as the ante that’s determined by each distinct community. The minimum investment to play is sincerity, authenticity, trustworthiness, and genuine intent.

Answer the following questions. What do you want to get out of each network and why should people care about your involvement?

Then identify those you want to reach by monitoring the very conversations you wish to join.

There must be value associated with the dialog as most are seeds for potential relationships. But, these things take time, focus, and nurturing. This isn’t broadcast marketing. This is one-to-one discussions that can provide incredible value back to you and your company as long as the rules of engagement are clear and not manipulated.
Social networks provide the foundation for one-to-one interactions and even one-to-many without losing its openness, as long as the intent is clear and honest.

Basically everything comes down to how you relate to the communities you wish to embrace and in turn, how they embrace you and your involvement. It’s pretty natural to enhance feedback when your stature in each community represents your investment.

It takes time, patience, sincerity, and value. This is about relationships and it’s much bigger and more relevant than just you and the company you represent.

Again, companies will earn the relationships they deserve.

This is about people and the evolution of business marketing, from broadcast to interaction, from marketing to solutions.



Aaron Brazell

This is the mother-lode question and I would actually rephrase it as, “What steps should I take to increase my engagement?�?

The reality is that you engage people in everyday life. You start a new job and you engage your coworkers. You read an entry on a blog you’ve never been to and you leave a comment. You sit in a Starbucks and talk with a friend. This is engagement and the fact that there is a computer sitting between you and the world doesn’t change the dynamics of engagement.

I think social networking has watered down the word “friend�? quite a bit and understanding and pursuing the real meaning of that word will cause your mileage to increase in your marketing efforts.

I travel to a lot of conferences and have met a lot of people. I can say I know this person or that person. There are some of these people though who I truly consider friends and through those connections, I’ve been able to very effectively extend reach into other groups and crowds. You can get this benefit from social networking friends, but social networking friends who truly are friends can get you so much more.



Chris Brogan

Feedback comes from creating reasons to say something and then making it really easy to say something. Great examples of things that promote feedback: Flickr, LinkedIN, YouTube, Amazon products. In all cases, there are opportunities to give an opinion where the people providing the feedback are the experts (at least for the moment at hand).



Doug Haslam

Feedback is the hardest part of social media and social networking (or any marketing campaign). One thing to remember is that the things you say (ok, your “messages�?) get heard far beyond the folks who actually respond. A recent personal example: I posted some videos to my blog (and via Twitter, YouTube and Seesmic in my own little experiment) about my horrid commute (gratuitous link).* I got some comments, maybe a few more than usual, but not many. However, I found when I ran into people from my peer group a t a Boston Social Media Breakfast a few days later, almost everyone greeted me with “I saw your video.�? So, message received; but how to call people to action? Here are my thoughts:

  • Ask: did your outreach specifically ask people to do something? Go to a Web site? Answer a question? Provide advice? Begging can work as well (how did you get your Pownce beta invite?), but let’s not call it that.
  • Offer: What do people get if they act? A free trial? A gift? Membership in a group? Think about what would motivate people to respond back. Let’s not go overly cynical and call this a bribe, but when I was in market research you could not get a survey completed, even with your own panel, without offering incentives for completed questionnaires. Sure, a nice outward message, a great product or service, and a stellar reputation helps, but sometimes people just want something.
  • Give Value: Dialing back the cynicism and bribery theme a bit, let’s invoke the Golden Rule: treat others as you would like them to treat you. This goes back to participation, and becoming a part of the group you have joined or started. Do you answer the questions others pose? Do you check out there links and offer feedback? If you don’t, should you really expect others to do for you?

So, if you want something; ask, have something they want in return, and reciprocate (or “pre-reciprocate�?). Plus, don’t forget all the people that didn’t respond. They’re probably not ignoring you.



Cathryn Hrudicka

For one, I think you have to give it more time. It took at least 60-90 days of fairly constant social networking before I got a major media interview, and I didn’t pitch it or ask for that one specifically—it came to me because I had started an ongoing conversation with the journalist involved, met him at an event, to which I was invited due to a social networking connection, and I happened to be up late at night when the journalist was looking for someone to interview, and I fit the criteria needed. There have been several other media interviews since, and I didn’t directly pitch any of them. I happened to be immersed in conversations with either the contacts themselves, or people who knew them and had noticed my comments on a social network.

I have also received business referrals, from people I did not know before getting on the social networks—and again, I did not pitch them asking directly, but got to know people through a series of conversations where they were able to read or hear my ideas that were relevant to their referral. More recently, I have set up phone calls with some of my social network friends to explore collaborating on projects and looking for new clients together.

As far as feedback mechanisms, if you build a community around your blog and social network “brand,�? whether as an individual or an organization, you will get feedback eventually. Social networking takes a while—I would give it no less than a year to really test it out.

Definitely ask for feedback about specific questions, in your blog or on other social media, and really converse with people about it. You may also want to link them to a survey you’ve created, and make that fun to fill out. You can offer a contest where you give away something to the first few people who respond, and you can send out an e-letter with a survey, but don’t make it spam-like. You may want to form a smaller group around a specific issue (such as a Ning group). It seems that people are often willing to comment on short video clips (under five minutes), so you might consider doing a seesmic or Kyte or Blip-TV clip and ask for comments.

If you comment on other people’s or companies’ blogs, you are likely to get into a discussion with other commenters or the owner of the blog. It is helpful to think strategically about which blogs and issues to comment about, although you may just want to do it by personal interest as well. Obviously, commenting on a blog that will raise your company’s profile, that has a large group of readers that would include your business audience, would be an obvious advantage.
******
Jonathan
One of the reasons I started this experiment was that quite by chance I came across a question in LinkedIn asking who had used online office tools such as ThinkFree, and a few others. As a marketing person, I want my company to be included in any and all relevant conversations. What I began to realize is that these conversations were happening in conferences, through traditional media, and increasingly through social networks. But, I wanted to validate that this was an appropriate use of my marketing time and resources. The best way I could think of was to dive right in and get immersed in the culture which led to this round table and getting advice from the experts.

Along the way what I learned (in no small part thanks to this group):

  1. It isn’t really a choice of if anymore but a question of when and how companies will start devoting resources to social networks in disseminating their messages.
  2. Be willing to invest the time over the long haul. I went into this thinking it was going to save me time in getting my marketing messages out. It hasn’t! But it certainly has been fun getting to know that a certain blogger has a one year old that he takes to the park, or that people are doing some amazing things to support causes they believe in. And in the end the company has certainly benefited from my interaction in these communities.
  3. You can’t expect a friendship to develop overnight. In some ways building your online network is a little scarier in that you basically have to ask someone up front if they want to be your friend which, as Aaron pointed out, is just not the right terminology. No beating around the bush – will you be my friend? But don’t be shy either. in the end what is the harm if someone ignores your friend request of Facebook? What does it cost you to start following someone on Twitter? And as was mentioned earlier in the series, people are fairly forgiving.
  4. Reciprocate. In building relationships with journalists, it is just plain rude to go around pitching them at every opportunity. For goodness sake would you be friends with someone who was always talking about what they were doing and never asked about what you are doing? The same is true on social networks. Take the time to find out what they are interested in. Ask, advise, view their links, suggest things of interest.
  5. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get the immediate results you wanted or expected. But, this is true of other marketing activities as well, who knows what leads the next tradeshow will bring. A business partnership at one conference may be worth 1000 leads at another. If you are being an active member of the community you will see results. They may not come in the form you expected, or from a place you expected, but you will benefit one way or another.

And now for your comments…
What do you think about the advice these people gave? Do you agree? Disagree? Care? If you have an opinion now is the time to trot it out.

Social Networking round-table articles:

  1. Did I devote enough time to the exercise? More to the point, where should social networking be placed in terms of marketing priorities? Does this change for companies that are more or less mature?
  2. How should we be judging the outcomes from social networking activities? Are there tools you recommend?
  3. Is social networking the right tool for the tests I created? Are my expectations of social networking in line with what it can do? What is social networking best geared to address?
  4. How much of getting social networking to work is the contacts you bring with you? How aggressive should one be in reaching out to new contacts? Should I, for instance, try to befriend Chris Anderson even after I have composed a note meant to appeal to what he is interested in?
  5. How can I build better mechanisms into the framework to increase feedback?

Previous blog articles in this series:

Can you digg it? I knew that you could – The Great Social Experiment

The Great Social Experiment – #1 Getting Started

The Great Social Experiment #2 – Will You Be My Friend

The Great Social Experiment – #3 owwww, i’m u’r biggest fan

The Great Social Experiment – How has it gone?

Oh and don’t forget to use the social networking tools below to share and enjoy – part of the experiment right?

tags

Advertisements

The Great Social Experiment – Roundtable Question 4: How Aggressively Should I Try to Get Connected?

REPOST from original series started on blog.thinkfree.com back in September of 2007

Back in September I began a series experimenting with social networks to view their effectiveness in helping organizations expand their reach, and be included in conversations about their industry wherever those conversations occur.

Now it is time to look at the results. The other day I introduced the panel (Aaron Brazell, Chris Brogan, Doug Haslam, Cathryn Hrudicka and Brian Solis) and the questions on the table.

Today the fourth question: How much of getting social networking to work is the contacts you bring with you? How aggressive should one be in reaching out to new contacts? Should I, for instance, try to befriend Chris Anderson (see the original round table from Aaron Brazell for the reference to Chris Anderson) even after I have composed a note meant to appeal to what he is interested in?



Hrudicka

It probably always helps to bring more offline contacts with you to your key social networks, but I don’t think it’s absolutely necessary. It is very important to be aware of who each new contact you befriend is, and to know whether they are in the category of a potential client, a potential client referral, an influencer or thought leader, a media contact and what type, a professional colleague, a potential marketing partner, and the like. You would not approach any two people in the same way offline, and that applies even more online.

No two media contacts should be approached in the same way, either, which is contrary to how some traditional PR people have pitched media in the past (which, in my opinion, never was the savvy way to do PR). For example, Chris Anderson (Wired) requires a much different approach than Robert Scoble (Scobleizer, PodTech) or Walt Mossberg (Wall Street Journal), or anyone else, and pitching individual bloggers is very different than how you would pitch a story for a print magazine, a trade, radio, podcast, or television. This is key, and you will get in trouble if you try to send everyone the same email or socnet message, or make a traditional, blanket “pitch�? to all sources, regarded as “spam�? these days. The need for an individualized approach does make public relations and marketing campaigns more time consuming, complex, and research intensive, but the results you’ll get, and the good will you’ll achieve on behalf of your organization, will be worth it.

I do think that meeting your key social network contacts in person or at least by phone, is crucial. I have found my online contacts in any category are significantly enriched by learning more about each of them in person, making that face-to-face connection, and discovering more about their personal interests, especially which ones you share. This is true for marketing or sales contacts as well as media contacts.

How aggressive should you be? Again, that depends on the individual contact. I have found that it works best to start out with a genuine, friendly, but professional approach, ideally mentioning a common friend or interest, and pay close attention to how the new contact responds. Usually, if you listen and remain aware, you’ll be able to discern what type of approach and how frequent, will work most effectively. If in doubt, you can tactfully ask how each person prefers that you contact them.

Most media outlets have guidelines, although not all bloggers do, for instance. You can simply ask individual media contacts for their contact or public relations guidelines. They probably will not fault you for being a “newbie�? or for asking an intelligent question; or you can ask someone who knows a particular contact how to approach him or her.



Brian Solis

The art of relationships is based on the same principles and intentions online as it is in real life. In Social Media these days, we tend to get caught up in the coolest tools and forget that this is all about people.

Getting Social Media “to work�? has less to do with what you have and more to do with who you know, who you should know, and how you communicate with them now and in the future – and it’s ongoing.

Before you can reach out to new contacts, it’s absolutely critical that you monitor where the conversations that matter to you and your business are taking place. Observe. Listen. Read. Embrace the unique dynamics that are inherent to each community.

Once you get a feel for it, participate as a person and not a marketer. This is such an important and pivotal step and is both easy and natural to overlook. Marketers are good marketers. But in the realm of Social Media, the community benefits from people who are good listeners as well as those who are helpful and provide value.

It’s not about how aggressive you engage or whether or not you’re worthy of befriending a-listers. This is about finding opportunities to do so. And, it’s an investment of time in communities, conversations, and relationships; an investment that is radically underestimated by most businesses who wish to reap the benefits of Social Media without the due diligence or effort.

This shares more with the principles of good customer service and relationship building than marketing, popularity contests, or cursory attempts achieving ROI by hollow engagement.

Each community requires dedication and a unique approach to how to find, listen to, and interact with the people that matter to you and to your business. Relationships are based on mutual benefits, so think about what you bring to the table and why before you jump in.

How do you want to be remembered within the social networks you participate? Answer it and then reinforce that impression in everything you do.



Aaron Brazell
I take the approach that everyone who is interested in me, interests me. Therefore, if I have totally random people follow me on Twitter or friend me on Facebook, I inherently trust them enough to add them as friends as well. As long as that trust isn’t violated in some way, I’ve found it to be an incredibly productive way of engaging with people I might not otherwise know.

There are these “social media starter kits�? floating around which gives a person or company a headstart on important people they should be engaging with. I find this concept tremendously offensive because it puts some individuals on a higher plane than others and, though that is the nature of life, it counteracts the “level playing field�? that new media is supposed to create. It also prevents a company marketing a product from having to do their own homework and engage in the community themselves.

Traditional PR put Chris Anderson on a list of “important people�?. He was probably on one of these “social media starter kits�?. The folks that engage in the community in this way are asking to be burnt, or in the case of the hundreds of PR people who pitched Chris, outed.



Chris Brogan
The contacts are the key, but it appears from your question that you’re comparing social networking to traditional, schmooze-based networking. Neither are especially effective at getting a trusted network in place. Instead, you have to build value with the network of contacts you select. How? Sometimes it’s as easy as communicating with them, paying attention to what’s of interest to them, and then slowly introducing things of yours that matter to you. It’s not the same as old fashioned handshaking, business card exchanging, and “what can I do for you?” exchanges.



Doug Haslam
Any social network, online or off, is defined by the people in it. A combination of number and quality will get you results. Bringing contacts with you gives you a head start, but is not necessary. For one thing, are you already getting value from those contacts outside of the social network you are entering? If yes, then their best value here is to extend your network.

As for aggressiveness, use the same common sense you would in any outreach campaign. Find that line between effective outreach and spam, and come as close as you can without going over. That sounds cynical, but my point is: yes, you need to be aggressive to grow a network quickly. To use a personal example, to grow my network on Twitter, I looked through friends’ networks for potentially like-minded marketing/public relations individuals and followed them. If they “followed�? me back, great. If not, I might eventually drop them as well. The percentage of success, because I targeted, was high, and I feel I get a lot of value, personally and professionally, from this network.

To bring those two thoughts together, the network you grow through aggressive-enough outreach becomes the contacts you take with you to other platforms; my Facebook network, for example, is largely made up of people I know from Twitter.

As for your Chris Anderson example; as a public relations person, I would be looking for feedback on whether my pitch is suitable for Wired magazine. Generally, a note isn’t enough. If you have an opportunity to connect on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, or some other network, you should do it. You need to be where your audience/targets/customers are most likely to engage, and those can be different places for different people.

******
Jonathan
In my experiment I believe I tended to take much more of a wait and see mentality, which was probably good given my experience level within these communities. But my expectations were definitely not in line with my level of activity. Now that I understand better how these things work I feel like I can be more proactive in reaching out to people. And as many have said here, in general people will not fault you for being new to the game as long as you a) do your homework, and b) are genuine in your approach.

Last up on Friday – how can I build better mechanisms into the framework to increase feedback?

Social Networking round-table articles:

  1. Did I devote enough time to the exercise? More to the point, where should social networking be placed in terms of marketing priorities? Does this change for companies that are more or less mature?
  2. How should we be judging the outcomes from social networking activities? Are there tools you recommend?
  3. Is social networking the right tool for the tests I created? Are my expectations of social networking in line with what it can do? What is social networking best geared to address?
  4. How much of getting social networking to work is the contacts you bring with you? How aggressive should one be in reaching out to new contacts? Should I, for instance, try to befriend Chris Anderson even after I have composed a note meant to appeal to what he is interested in?
  5. How can I build better mechanisms into the framework to increase feedback?

Previous blog articles in this series:

Can you digg it? I knew that you could – The Great Social Experiment

The Great Social Experiment – #1 Getting Started

The Great Social Experiment #2 – Will You Be My Friend

The Great Social Experiment – #3 owwww, i’m u’r biggest fan

The Great Social Experiment – How has it gone?

Oh and don’t forget to use the social networking tools below to share and enjoy – part of the experiment right?

tags

The Great Social Experiment – Roundtable Question 3: The Right Tools for the Job?

REPOST from original series started on blog.thinkfree.com back in September of 2007

Back in September I began a series experimenting with social networks to view their effectiveness in helping organizations expand their reach, and be included in conversations about their industry wherever those conversations occur.
Now it is time to look at the results. The other day I introduced the panel (Aaron Brazell, Chris Brogan, Doug Haslam, Cathryn Hrudicka and Brian Solis) and the questions on the table.

Today the third question: Is social networking the right tool for the tests I created? Are my expectations of social networking in line with what it can do? What is social networking best geared to address?



Doug Haslam
First, I would like to make sure we are defining terms, even though we are already into the third question. “Social networking�? does not need to mean “online social networking,�? and your experiment dealt with the online world. So to answer the broad question, any form of social networking is germane. To answer about online social networking specifically; according to your stated goals, yes. If you are “talking about things that interest us in the Web 2.0 space,�? then online social networks will likely find a receptive audience. Plus, if you are building a “better social media marketing toolkit,�? then there is no better audience for giving you quality feedback than one that is already there.

My question for you, and it addresses the last part of your question: who are your customers? It strikes me that there is significant opportunity for ThinkFree outside of the social networking early adopters (not early? How about “already” adopters then). If you are relying solely on the input of the people on the social networks already, then you are missing some potentially valuable feedback from a much wider audience. In this case, traditional marketing communications methods: direct mail, email, even telemarketing; may be necessary. I suggest that knowing that they are not typically interactive media, but still may be the only way to reach some parts of your audience.

To summarize, to get to your audience, go where they are; don’t make them come to you. The best part about your experiment is that you certainly must have found where your best audience resides, at least within the realm of the online social networks.



Cathryn Hrudicka

From my own experience with my business, and from doing campaigns on behalf of my clients (or advising them), I would emphasize that you or your organization needs to plan a strategic, integrated branding, marketing, public relations, advertising and social media campaign—everything needs to work together. Just signing up for a bunch of different social networks and hoping something will stick or gain traction is not enough. It is also essential to keep track of your results, as much as you can, in each of these areas over a period of at least six months to a year. In particular, Social Media and social networking are so new that we are still figuring out how to get accurate demographics to track results.

Instead of thinking only in terms of isolated “tests,�? which is more of a direct marketing tool, it is important to think more holistically and long-term. Social networking is best geared toward having a real, two-way conversation with other participants. It may even take you a little while to figure out how specific individuals will be able to help you or add value, and you also need to be able to understand what you or your organization can contribute to them—it works both ways. Sometimes valuable feedback can come from unexpected sources, and connections can be made by serendipity as well as strategically.

You need to be open to different possibilities you may not have considered before. The concept or paradigm of social media and networking is based on mutual contribution, conversation, community and collaboration. That is a relatively new way for companies to think, in comparison with older styles of public relations, marketing and advertising, which were based on one-way communication and competition. Social networking fosters alliances and collaboration. It requires creative thinking, flexibility, adaptability, and ongoing innovation.



Brian Solis
In order for businesses to understand the value and focus of a valuable social media campaign, it requires a dedicated strategy, goals, metrics, and a tactical plan.

It all starts with answering two simple questions, “why do we want to participate?�? and “what do we hope to get out of it?�?

The process of answering these questions will define how and where to participate and how to measure success.

The next step is to listen and answer the following questions.

Where are your competitors?

Where do key words take you?

Are there conversations taking place about your company, products, and if so, where?

You’ll find that there are hubs across Social Media that will require your participation. In ThinkFree’s case, Facebook, LinkedIn, Digg, ThinkFree Docs, and most importantly, the company blog, would be the areas of immediate concentration. Plaxo, Twitter, and others, might require attention and effort at a later time.

ThinkFree’s business would benefit from the promotion of the great content residing in ThinkFree Docs, the capabilities of ThinkFree Office and also the ability to source and promote content from and to the community across other networks.

But it requires time, investment, cultivation, sincerity, and, it is not an overnight process.

Each network represents a collective of various groups of people who orbit an axis of common interests and each group as well as each network maintains its own ecosystem. Basically, what this means is that each community serves a different purpose, not just in who you reach, but how and why. The discussions and the very nature of the conversations are different from network to network.

The point that I can not emphasis enough is that you get out of Social Media what you put into it.

You have to observe before you can participate. Doing so will answer all of your questions and even dictate how to engage.



Aaron Brazell
Social networking is an incredible tool, and useful in many cases. In my opinion, the challenge of finding a business partner or an employee is a perfect job for social networking. Other forms of social media also lend themselves to this. For instance, blogs can be a tremendously effective way to passively evaluate candidates.

Press releases are a different matter. Traditional press releases don’t play well in the social media sphere, but some companies like Ford and Dell have discovered amazing success with the social media press release that crosses into the YouTube and Facebook realms. Social networking can actually be a doomsday prophet for a traditional PR effort.



Chris Brogan
Social networking isn’t something as easy, absolute, and measurable. It’s all about trust networks, not just online pathways. So though social networks were probably a great tool for what you set out to do, it really depends more on HOW you leverage them.

******
Jonathan
In answer to Doug’s question, we know that a substantial amount of ThinkFree subscribers are probably not avid users of online social networking tools. Obviously some are, and this exercise has, as Doug suggested, given us a better understanding of which networks. I think where we can draw the most leverage from our marketing campaigns – to comments that everyone made – is in finding innovative ways to integrate all facets. To be honest I have been running this test in a bit of a sandbox, off to the side. I think I could have done a lot more to use direct email, social networking, traditional press releases in combinations that make sense and improved the results. Again, I probably did not lay the groundwork enough ahead of time – proving that as a member of any given community I can be expected to participate rather than just sit back and try to push my agenda on everyone. And as the experts said last time – know your tools, which ones are best for which jobs.

Next on Wednesday – how aggressively should you try to get connected?

Social Networking round-table articles:

  1. Did I devote enough time to the exercise? More to the point, where should social networking be placed in terms of marketing priorities? Does this change for companies that are more or less mature?
  2. How should we be judging the outcomes from social networking activities? Are there tools you recommend?
  3. Is social networking the right tool for the tests I created? Are my expectations of social networking in line with what it can do? What is social networking best geared to address?
  4. How much of getting social networking to work is the contacts you bring with you? How aggressive should one be in reaching out to new contacts? Should I, for instance, try to befriend Chris Anderson even after I have composed a note meant to appeal to what he is interested in?
  5. How can I build better mechanisms into the framework to increase feedback?

Previous blog articles in this series:

Can you digg it? I knew that you could – The Great Social Experiment

The Great Social Experiment – #1 Getting Started

The Great Social Experiment #2 – Will You Be My Friend

The Great Social Experiment – #3 owwww, i’m u’r biggest fan

The Great Social Experiment – How has it gone?

Oh and don’t forget to use the social networking tools below to share and enjoy – part of the experiment right?

tags

The Great Social Experiment – Roundtable Question 2: Judging Outcomes

REPOST from original series started on blog.thinkfree.com back in September of 2007

Back in September I began a series on experimenting with social networks to view their effectiveness in helping organizations expand their reach, and be included in conversations about their industry wherever those conversations occur.

Now it is time to look at the results. The other day I introduced the panel (Aaron Brazell, Chris Brogan, Doug Haslam, Cathryn Hrudicka and Brian Solis) and the questions on the table.

Today the second question: How should we be judging the outcomes from social networking activities? Are there tools you recommend?


Chris Brogan
If you’re asking how to track who’s saying what about you, I highly recommend Radian6. Great new tool that does a lot of what I used to do with Technorati and Google Blogsearch.


Doug Haslam
As a PR practitioner, I hear “measurement�? as that big scary word that makes us hide under our desks, or behind large piles of cow manure (Brian may disagree, but he’s smarter than I am). Any measurement needs to be taken back to basics: what are you measuring? Will traffic generation suffice if you are really looking for leads? Will leads suffice if you are looking for revenues or downloads? How can you measure conversations and relationships?

That’s right, your question begets more questions, and is complicated by the way you spread your campaign over several social networking platforms. You have me thinking about how I can do that better for my own campaigns. So, some thoughts about measurement:

• You were right to demand metrics from the social networks. I doubt you will get them from the providers, unfortunately, but we can hope. The ones that do will forge some very interesting business relationships.

• Since you are experimenting with different social networks, you will probably have to come up with your own metrics for each one. Perhaps you can rate effectiveness per “friend�? in each network. How many inquiries/leads/downloads/sales do you get per friend? Did you have better luck on Facebook or MySpace with those metrics?

• Against my better judgment, or perhaps because of it, I love to go with my gut. If the numbers don’t smell right—if you think something is worth doing despite your metrics—you may be right. Just think about how you are going to sell that gut feeling to your client (or boss).

• More than three bullets in any report of recommendations better be worth the extra reading

As for tools: again, it depends what you are looking for. If you are monitoring online reactions and sentiment, several tools with different features, like Custom Scoop, Umbria, or Buzzlogic, depending on your budget (and other services can get really pricey). Caveat: many of these are media monitoring that extend to –or focus on—blogs (I told you I was PR guy), but the evolution to social networks may already be in place. Perhaps a simple blog analytics tool will suffice? The field is still really an early-growth forest.


Cathryn Hrudicka

There are qualitative and quantitative metrics for results, and since social networking is still relatively new, it is particularly more difficult to get accurate quantitative metrics. The various social media sites do not all provide demographics or accurate numbers, and the numbers change frequently. Many of these sites are likely to come and go within the next few years, as new types of social media are being developed all the time. I’m a member of the Social Media Club, and several members of it and other progressive public relations organizations are trying to develop (and continually update) metrics for social media.

There have recently been some interesting articles on the topic:

http://scribb.typepad.com/marketonomy/2006/12/social_media_me.htmlChristopher Kenton

http://scobleizer.com/2007/10/17/techcrunch-valleywag-and-engadget-teach-us-about-new-metrics/
Robert Scoble

http://www.socialmediatoday.com/SMC/11160Nathan Gilliatt

http://chrisbrogan.com/help-someone-understand-social-media/Chris Brogan

http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/118/the-next-email.html – Fast Company article by Robert Scoble

http://overtonecomm.blogspot.com/2007/11/social-media-measurement-let-talk-about.htmlKami Huyse

http://redplasticmonkey.wordpress.com/2007/11/20/online-community-roi-2007-report-released/Bill Johnston

On a qualitative level, I think you can judge outcomes by noting how other social network members are perceiving your brand and company, if it is positive—and if negative, how much you are doing to change their perception by authentically conversing with them and adapting to a more positive direction.

If other key influencers in your social networks are blogging, podcasting or video blogging about your company, products and services with enthusiasm, then your social networking investment is worth it.

What is especially valuable is the viral effect, which you can measure—here are some questions to ask yourself about your social media ROI:

• Is the media coming to you as an expert, rather than your having to constantly do PR outreach? In other words, are you being asked for interviews by all types of media (print, broadcast, trades, wire services, in addition to online), as a result of their finding you on social networks or seeing and hearing about you on blogs, podcasts, and other social media?

• Are you being asked to join expert industry roundtables, guest blog by popular bloggers, or speak at conferences and other events as a result of your presence on social networks?

• Are you seeing a significant increase in number of new potential clients or customers who at least contact your company for information?

• Do you have a significant increase web site and blog traffic, podcast downloads, and RSS subscriptions following your social media campaign?

• When you do regular Google and other searches, do find your SEO (search engine optimization) has significantly increased? Some social media sites definitely boost your SEO and the number of back links to your web site and blog. Are you using Google Analytics and other tools to measure your site and blog traffic?

• Have your Digg, Technorati, Alexa, or StumbleUpon rankings increased significantly?

• Are you or your company being increasingly referenced as a “thought leader�? or “industry leader�? or “industry expert�? since you began your social media campaign?

These are just a few areas where you should be able to measure metrics. The viral aspect of having your quotes, articles or blog posts about you jump from one type of media to another, and move from local to national to international coverage, is a key marker to watch.


Brian Solis
As I mentioned in my last post, in order for businesses to understand Social Media, it requires a realistic strategy, goals, metrics, and a tactical plan. It all starts with answering two questions, why do we want to participate and what do we want to get out of it?

This is usually where traditional media and new media split. Traditional marketing is rooted in tangible results such as press coverage, traffic, revenue and those things should still matter in conversational marketing. This can’t be solely driven by experimentation because time is money!

Metrics must be determined before engaging and then actively monitored and analyzed to modify future interactions and targets to stay on track.

However, there is an investment component in all of this that’s somewhat comparable to the model of having a great customer service infrastructure. It’s actually a significant cost center to all businesses that care about having a global community of happy, satisfied, and enthusiastic customers. The difference is that with Social Media, an outbound element is added to the traditional inbound model.

No it’s not a copout for aligning metrics to engagement. It is, though, a different way to look at things. And, it brings the discussion outside of just PR and marketing. Meaningful engagement can also be led by product marketing and customer service.

Last year I discussed the concept of scientifically analyzing the Return on Participation (ROP) or Return on Engagement (ROE), which called for feedback to help determine what it is that matters to businesses in order to justify the expense of running social media campaigns.

The easy answer is as true today as it was then. It’s different for each company.

It’s also different specific to the campaign you’re running.

I think it creates new line items that are separate from traditional marketing and should receive funding and resources from both marketing and customer service budgets.

In general, some of the most effective ways that we’ve measured success to date include community feedback, trackable conversations, traffic through landing pages, referrals, and also registrations specific to campaigns. Really, it’s similar in concept to Web marketing. However, measuring conversations and tracking associated activity is an interesting and creative art.

The tools that we use to track activity and conversations include Technorati, Twitter, blogpulse, Google Blog Search, Compete, Google Analytics, Alexa, specific social network searches, among others.

What’s the value of a conversation?

What’s the value of transforming an unhappy customer into an enthusiast?

Many companies can learn from big businesses who are shifting their reward-based strategies from who can take the most calls in an hour to who can create the most enthusiasts.

Like I’ve said, customer service is the new, new marketing and there’s a lot to learn from separating (or expanding) engagement from PR to those immersed in the product, its value, benefits, strengths, and weaknesses.

Measurement is a combination of customer service, brand resonance, brand loyalty and bottom line business traction and lead generation.

And like I’ve always said, businesses will earn the respect, and ultimately the business, of the customers they deserve.


Aaron Brazell
Determine your desired goal before you even begin. If you are looking for that Latin American business partner, then your goal in using the social sphere will always be finding and hiring that partner. Maybe it’s not even hiring. Maybe it’s building the relationship necessary with him.

If you’re looking for traffic to a story, then getting on the front page of Digg is probably your means to success. Failing to do so may not mean you failed. You just might try StumbleUpon instead. If you fail to get the eyeballs, do you call it a total failure? I don’t know.

******
Jonathan
Another great round of answers. The main points I take away from all this advice is:

  1. Understand your goals to begin with.
  2. Know the tools you are using and their target demographics (which is a great segue to the next article) and be selective.
  3. Use whatever analytical tools those services have, but don’t be afraid to use your own self-defined measurements, or as Doug said, use your gut.
  4. Try, test, repeat. If one tool doesn’t work try the next.

As many have said I think I spread myself too thin. Being able to adequately judge outcomes based on efforts takes time and focus. Without that high level of focus you both decrease your chances of success, and decrease your ability to measure.

The conversation on Monday will turn to understanding expectations and finding the right tools for the job.

Social Networking round-table articles:

  1. Did I devote enough time to the exercise? More to the point, where should social networking be placed in terms of marketing priorities? Does this change for companies that are more or less mature?
  2. How should we be judging the outcomes from social networking activities? Are there tools you recommend?
  3. Is social networking the right tool for the tests I created? Are my expectations of social networking in line with what it can do? What is social networking best geared to address?
  4. How much of getting social networking to work is the contacts you bring with you? How aggressive should one be in reaching out to new contacts? Should I, for instance, try to befriend Chris Anderson even after I have composed a note meant to appeal to what he is interested in?
  5. How can I build better mechanisms into the framework to increase feedback?

Previous blog articles in this series:

Can you digg it? I knew that you could – The Great Social Experiment

The Great Social Experiment – #1 Getting Started

The Great Social Experiment #2 – Will You Be My Friend

The Great Social Experiment – #3 owwww, i’m u’r biggest fan

The Great Social Experiment – How has it gone?

Oh and don’t forget to use the social networking tools below to share and enjoy – part of the experiment right?

tags

The Great Social Experiment – Roundtable Question 1: How Much Time Should Be Devoted to the Care and Feeding of a Social Network?

REPOST from original series started on blog.thinkfree.com back in September of 2007

Back in September I began a series on experimenting with social networks to view their effectiveness in helping organizations expand their reach, and be included in conversations about their industry wherever those conversations occur. Now it is time to look at the results. Yesterday I introduced the panel (Aaron Brazell, Chris Brogan, Doug Haslam, Cathryn Hrudicka and Brian Solis) and the questions on the table.

Today we answer the first question (ok set of questions): Did I devote enough time to the exercise? More to the point, where should social networking be placed in terms of marketing priorities? Does this change for companies that are more or less mature?


Aaron Brazell
Ultimately, this question comes down to what you’re trying to market, who you’re trying to market to, and why you’re trying to market. For instance, generalized marketing can benefit from the Facebook/Twitter approach. Message can be blasted to whomever is listening very quickly and without too much angst with anyone.

However, specific marketing is different. For instance, part of your experiment dealt with a press release and using the social sphere to engage that press release and run with it. If you’re press release pertained to a launch of a new makeup product for women, blasting it across Twitter and LinkedIn will probably do you no good. However, engaging through iVillage may be a better proposition. Looking to hire a product manager? LinkedIn is definitely the tool of choice. Ultimately, the message determines the network you should use.

In regards to time, you can disseminate a message very quickly if you have the “street cred�? to do so. Coming into a social sphere and expecting immediate results probably is short sighted, but a 30 day turnaround is very possible if you’re successfully building those relationships during that time.


Chris Brogan
For MARKETING efforts, social networking should come up front and early, even pre-campaign launch. I believe that word-of-blog and other similar methods of getting the word out greatly improve your ability to move information out to more influencers, versus more people overall. Less mature companies probably need even more lead time, because there’s a trust factor that has to be gained first, as well as an “attention fatigue” factor.


Doug Haslam
It is usually hard to judge how much time is enough time. When it comes to online social networks, I tell colleagues—in fact I just said this the other day—that they should be familiar with them, and ideally established in them, before you need to use them.

There is a ramp-up time for any social network to grow not only in numbers of people, but in the level of trust you engender and value you give. How much time that is, is hard for me to pinpoint except: “You know when it’s working.�?

One thing that stood out in your methodology: your foresight to move messages and contacts across social networking platforms. The community is truly independent of the platform when it works well. Do you notice when you ask a question on Twitter and get an answer on Facebook? Perhaps (I barely notice, but that’s my peculiar problem), but do you care? Here is an example of a seamless cross-media conversation in one of my daily streams: http://gischeleman.com/2007/11/02/cross-media-conversations/.

Where should social networking lie in the marketing mix? Again, it is dependent on the goals of your program. I don’t think a social network should necessarily be born of a project, but can be used as a great aid and expeditor to a project. Again, this speaks of building up your networks well in advance of any specific needs you have for them.

As for company maturity, the only change is in knowing what the initial reactions will be. A monolithic Fortune 500 company needs to make sure they have a personal touch down to show they are interactive and communicating, not just dictating or pushing out “messaging.�? A smaller, newer company needs to show they have the chops; something to offer the network.


Cathryn Hrudicka
I don’t think there is a blanket answer to how much time one should devote to social networking, and with each company or organization, the answer would be different. If your company is a start-up or fairly small, and you do not have a wide network of personal contacts from which you can draw referrals to the best potential clients or business, than I would say to spend more time on social networking. If you are trying to brand your company or a new product or service, social networking is very valuable, if you use these networks strategically and are consistent in your branding messages.

Even a casual post on a social network can be either effective or ineffective as a branding message, so social media staff need to be very careful and thoughtful about what, when and how they post and respond; and they need to remember at all times, that conversation is key. You are not posting on a bulletin board or event calendar; you are posting to initiate or respond to real conversations that will help people understand your brand, products and services, but in a friendly, interesting and less formal way than one would use in other forums. Also key is to listen—don’t do all the talking. Listen and learn from others about how they perceive your company, services, products, and what they need or want. This is valuable information you cannot get as effectively elsewhere.

However, in terms of efficient time usage, I would advise that you or your organization focus on those social networks where your target clients, media contacts or other influencers are likely to actively participate. For instance, if MySpace and Friendster are not where those first-tier contacts hang out, unless you’re doing a major campaign to their demographics, I would not bother with setting up an account on those sites, or if you do, just set up a very basic profile, with a link to your web site and contact information. If your client, media or referral prospects are on Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook (for example), then you’ll want to spend more time on those networks.

There is the category of “cultural influencer,�? which means that, while a specific social network may not have many obvious potential clients or major media presences, there may be a significant presence of respected bloggers, podcasters and other thought leaders who are on the cutting edge of cultural trends and innovation. It is worth being noticed by, and having a way to contact, these people, because they will be noticed in turn by more mainstream journalists and eventually, by your potential clients. Twitter, Jaiku and Pownce are examples of this phenomenon, and again, it depends partly on demographics. Jaiku has a larger number of European users, so if you want to reach European markets and media, it would be worth your time to have a Jaiku account as well as Twitter and Pownce. You have to do your best to get demographics from social media sites. They are not all available, or trustworthy, depending on the source.

For larger companies, I would say the same principles apply, but you would need to scale them. You may find that certain product launches, branding or service pushes, for instance, benefit from social media and networking, whereas others don’t. (Please see more in my answer to question #3 that may answer some of this question.)


Brian Solis
Honestly, Jonathan did not invest enough time, effort and sincerity in his quest to cultivate meaningful relationships within each community of not just peers, but also users. His experiment, while ambitious, was spread way too thin, only allowing for a superficial interaction with very little value for him and also the people who participate in the communities in which he wished to reach.

Jonathan has a full plate of marketing activities to run and therefore can’t be everywhere at the same time. This challenge is common throughout marketing departments everywhere. This is why businesses are starting to consider hiring full-time community “managers�? or build community teams to dedicate the required time and resources to cultivate relationships online.

The development of friendships must be based on something meaningful, interaction, basically invested in, before a community can give back. It’s just the nature of things.

What’s the intent? What value do you bring? What’s the goal for participating?

Social Media requires cultivation and a genuine desire to help those around you. It’s more aligned with Customer Service than marketing I would say.

I’ve always believed, among others, that Social Media shares many principles and beliefs with anthropology. Any in-the-field engagement requires a “holistic” view, observation, and complete understanding based on a “four-field” approach, Biological, Socio-cultural, Linguistic, and Archaeology. Of course, not everything applies, but it’s pretty close.

There’s much to learn from approaching Social Media and online communities from this foundation because it forces us to think, learn, and observe before we pretend to be part of any new culture. And the only way to truly “go native�? is to spend time acclimating into the very culture you wish to join.

You have to start as a person and not as a marketer in order to fully appreciate your surroundings. It requires immersion.

In order for businesses to understand Social Media, it requires a strategy, goals, metrics, and a tactical plan. It all starts with answering one simple question, “Why do we want to participate?�?

Is it about trends?

Is your competition devouring customer mindshare?

Is it a new avenue for sales?

Or, is it because you wish to bring value to communities and increase customer service and loyalty?

Should you even be here?

It all starts with why and what you expect to get out of the engagement that helps define how to participate.

The next step is to listen and answer the following questions.

Where are your customers?

Where are your competitors?

Where do key words take you?

Are there conversations taking place about your company, products, and if so, where?

At that point, and only at this point, can you answer the question of where Social Media fits into a company’s marketing hierarchy – regardless of maturity.

But everything comes down to the investment made into each community. You get out of it what you put into it. And, in the era of Social Media, companies will earn the relationships that they deserve.

******
Jonathan
Maybe I bit off more than I bargained for. I would have to say that I did go into this from the perspective of – oh here is this little sideline project that I can devote a maybe an hour a day for a couple of months and see results. As everyone has noted part of it depends on your starting point but it also depends on your goals. More importantly start early and start often.

The conversation tomorrow will turn to judging outcomes.

Social Networking round-table articles:

  1. Did I devote enough time to the exercise? More to the point, where should social networking be placed in terms of marketing priorities? Does this change for companies that are more or less mature?
  2. How should we be judging the outcomes from social networking activities? Are there tools you recommend?
  3. Is social networking the right tool for the tests I created? Are my expectations of social networking in line with what it can do? What is social networking best geared to address?
  4. How much of getting social networking to work is the contacts you bring with you? How aggressive should one be in reaching out to new contacts? Should I, for instance, try to befriend Chris Anderson even after I have composed a note meant to appeal to what he is interested in?
  5. How can I build better mechanisms into the framework to increase feedback?

Previous blog articles in this series:

Can you digg it? I knew that you could – The Great Social Experiment

The Great Social Experiment – #1 Getting Started

The Great Social Experiment #2 – Will You Be My Friend

The Great Social Experiment – #3 owwww, i’m u’r biggest fan

The Great Social Experiment – How has it gone?

Oh and don’t forget to use the social networking tools below to share and enjoy – part of the experiment right?

tags

The Great Social Experiment – How Has It Gone?

REPOST from original series started on blog.thinkfree.com back in September of 2007

As some of you have followed, I started an experiment on social networking a while back. The experiment attempted to find out how well social networking sites (defined very loosely) can help businesses expand outreach, generate conversations around topics of interest, and increase their friends and family network. To see the humble beginnings you can check out the first article.

The time has come to analyze how the experiment went. But instead of li’l ole me judging the outcomes I was inspired by the roundtable that Aaron Brazell put together over at Technosailor. So I asked some of the same group to take a look at my methodology and give me the news – how well did I fair at this new social networking game. First let me introduce the panel:


Aaron Brazell is the Director of Technology for b5media and a social media consultant in his own right. He is a fan of anything that allows regular people to connect to the world around them. He writes about this and other topics relating to business and social media at his blog, Technosailor.com.


Chris Brogan is a social media expert specializing in building and strengthening online and offline communities. He has blogged since 1998 (when it was called “journaling”), and makes media in several forms, including audio, video, and through the use of social networks like Twitter, Facebook, and more. He is co-founder of PodCamp, a free unconference that explores the benefits and uses of new media community tools. Co-founded with Christopher S. Penn, and organized with Bryan Person, Steve Garfield, Adam Weiss, the first PodCamp was held on September 2006 at the Bunker Hill Community College in Boston. Other PodCamps are organized by local community leaders. Chris works as Vice President of Strategy & Technology at CrossTechMedia.


Doug Haslam is a public relations professional with Topaz Partners, specializing in technology clients in the Web 2.0, mobile, storage and networking industries. Doug comes to public relations after a decade in broadcast journalism, and has spent his years with Topaz putting to practice his observations on how new media affect branding, reputation and communications.


Cathryn Hrudicka started her original company, Cathryn Hrudicka & Associates, working primarily in public relations, marketing, record promotion, arts management and event production in the entertainment industry. She has also worked on projects for technology and other Fortune 500 companies, universities, museums, major nonprofit agencies, trade associations, entrepreneurs, artists, performers and authors. She was recently quoted in Fast Company by Robert Scoble, about her use of social media, including to brand her new company branch, Creative Sage™, offering creative thinking and innovation training and consulting. She is also an executive coach and management consultant, a blogger, journalist, editor, media producer and social media consultant. She is on the planning committee for the San Francisco Social Media Club. See http://www.CreativeSage.com and http://www.CathrynHrudicka.com.


Brian Solis is Principal of FutureWorks, a PR and Social Media agency in Silicon Valley that “gets it.” Solis also runs the PR2.0 blog. Solis is co-founder of the Social Media Club, is an original member of the Media 2.0 Workgroup, and also is a contributor to the Social Media Collective.

Marc Orchant was supposed to participate and was key in putting together this panel. His way too soon departure from this world has left a huge hole in all of us. Oliver Starr has set up a page for donations to the family. I thank him from the bottom of my heart for everything he has done for us, personally and professionally.

The Methodology
Here is what I did:

  1. Set myself up on a number of social networking sites (you can see them on the side of the blog under “follow me on:”).
  2. Brought in as many contacts as possible from my world into the social site.
  3. Expanded those networks through connections.
  4. Hooked in feeds from one social networking site to another.
  5. Published, commented, referenced interesting articles both from a personal and business perspective.

The Test

I wanted to see how well my social buddies did on the following:

  1. I needed a success story for an interview with a magazine, so I asked my network.
  2. Tried to push out a major press release, and other minor blog articles.
  3. Tried to find connections in Latin America for business opportunities.

The Results

The short answer about how the tools performed is – good, bad, and I don’t know. Both 1 and 2 were unqualified failures. The 3rd test was somewhat successful, although the success primarily came through more influential members of my circle. But, more importantly there hasn’t been a lot of feedback so I really don’t know if people noticed or not.

The Analysis

Some questions come to mind:

  1. Did I devote enough time to the exercise? More to the point, where should social networking be placed in terms of marketing priorities? Does this change for companies that are more or less mature?
  2. How should we be judging the outcomes from social networking activities? Are there tools you recommend?
  3. Is social networking the right tool for the tests I created? Are my expectations of social networking in line with what it can do? What is social networking best geared to address?
  4. How much of getting social networking to work is the contacts you bring with you? How aggressive should one be in reaching out to new contacts? Should I, for instance, try to befriend Chris Anderson even after I have composed a note meant to appeal to what he is interested in?
  5. How can I build better mechanisms into the framework to increase feedback?

Tomorrow round one – how much time should be devoted to the care and feeding of a social network?

Previous blog articles in this series:

Can you digg it? I knew that you could – The Great Social Experiment

The Great Social Experiment – #1 Getting Started

The Great Social Experiment #2 – Will You Be My Friend

The Great Social Experiment – #3 owwww, i’m u’r biggest fan

And the round table discussion:

  1. Did I devote enough time to the exercise? More to the point, where should social networking be placed in terms of marketing priorities? Does this change for companies that are more or less mature?
  2. How should we be judging the outcomes from social networking activities? Are there tools you recommend?
  3. Is social networking the right tool for the tests I created? Are my expectations of social networking in line with what it can do? What is social networking best geared to address?
  4. How much of getting social networking to work is the contacts you bring with you? How aggressive should one be in reaching out to new contacts? Should I, for instance, try to befriend Chris Anderson even after I have composed a note meant to appeal to what he is interested in?
  5. How can I build better mechanisms into the framework to increase feedback?

Oh and don’t forget to use the social networking tools below to share and enjoy – part of the experiment right?

tags

The Great Social Experiment – #3 owwww, i’m u’r biggest fan

REPOST from original series started on blog.thinkfree.com back in September of 2007

It has been a while since I last wrote about the Great Social Experiment. I hate when work gets in the way of your blogging. But back at it I am.

The Social Experiment has been rolling along, picking up a little steam here and there. the first big test is going to happen next week. I am going to pre-release some info through social networks, and then push the press release through conventional media. We shall see how it works.

The last time I had indicated I would write about the use of language in social networking. Other people have talked about this topic more eloquently than I have so I will touch on it ever so briefly and move on to something that I got to thinking about in the last few weeks that got me a lot more excited.

Language
Give me a hi5. Will you be my fan, or my friend. Are you married, in a relationship, or did you just break up? Do you have a crush list? I know that most of these sites are more heavily consumer focused. I get it. But please, even in my consumer life I demand a little more sophistication in how we relate to each other.

In fact the way that MySpace makes me interact with it has made me decide I don’t want to use that account any more. I mean do I really want to be browsing around – seeing adds for singles when my wife comes into the room? And most of the time it was just spam anyway.

Now for what I have been thinking about over the last two weeks:

Social Network Classifications
I got introduced to Flock a while back, but the article over at PGreenblog got me to check it out in more depth recently. First of all, great job guys. Elegantly simple with hints of fruitiness. First set up your accounts and services. Then when you open up the left bar you can view the people you are connected with through your various networks and what have been up to. You can blog, or upload pictures from the browser and post through your publisher of choice.

Flock.gif

(this picture was uploaded to Flickr from Flock, and I dragged it to my WordPress blog from the media bar)

You can choose to have the media bar on and view the latest pictures and videos from your contacts. I am not that much of a media freak and it takes up more space than I want, so I have it turned off in general. I like the fact that the feed reader comes pre-loaded with a feed from The Onion.

Obviously with all of the news coming out of Google and their Open Social APIs the whole world of social networking is going to change. But, Flock was there first. And I think they have a good chance of staying there. Sure Google has everyone wanting to write to their APIs. But, will that really stop them from writing to Facebook’s APIs, or Flock’s?

All of this brings me to the topic of social network classifications. Flock technically speaking is not a social network but it is an aggregator of social networks.

Aggregators
These pull together feeds from other profiles and sites, keep track of what you and your contacts are doing. Great examples of this are: Flock (as I mentioned already), Plaxo, and Pownce. Somewhat Frank has a great list.

Connector Sites
These sites connect people, groups, networks, make suggestions based on profile information. The best example is LinkedIn, but obviously Facebook, and I have to admit MySpace wasn’t bad at it (before I cut them off). But the problem is always about SPAM. And no it isn’t only about the more prurient sites. There are plenty of people who want to get to know you because they want to sell you things. Which I understand is what using the social networking is good for. But come on, how many times can I ignore the request for joining the under water basket group. Enough is enough.

Feeder Sites
These sites feed data that is then used in other sites. Typically media based, examples would be YouTube, Flickr, Google Maps, iLike and ThinkFree Docs. While many people use the sites themselves to view the media, a lot [most?] of the media is viewed through the use of embed codes people use within their blog or website to push out their favorite stuff to their network.

Publisher Sites
These “sites” are where people come for their entertainment or information. Twitter, Jaiku, and obviously YouTube, ThinkFree Docs, Flickr, etc.

My advice to get the best bang for your buck in using social networking for business:

1. Start with the sites that best do contacts. Most of the other sites allow you to add your contacts from Yahoo or Gmail. Through Plaxo I was able to synchronize my Outlook, Yahoo, and Gmail contact information. I am sure you could probably do the same through other tools, but…

2. Connect with others. Expand your network – LinkedIn gives you suggestions of people you might want to connect to. Twitter lets you follow the people who follow the people you follow.

3. Get your aggregator sites going. Make sure that all of your feeds are coming into your aggregator sites. But, make sure that you don’t get into the mirror effect where aggregator sites are also feeding aggregators sites (hmm is it possible to get into an infinite feedback loop where your article gets replicated over and over again?).

4. Publish away. Get involved. Don’t just sit on the sidelines. But don’t just talk about your stuff. People get bored by that easily (ok, I might be a little guilty of that but…). But also the line between being involved within the community and SPAMMING is easily crossed when you focus too much on what you are trying to push.

By the way, check out the new Plaxo Pulse widget on the right hand side. What do you think? And of course the ThinkFree Docs embed code from my profile.

Here is where to find me:

ThinkFree Docs
digg
del.icio.us
Facebook
Pownce
Technorati
Reddit
Twitter
Jaiku
Newsvine
Flickr
Plaxo Pulse
StumbleUpon
Yahoo!360
MySpace
Friendster
LinkedIn
hi5
orkut

Previous blog articles in this series:

Can you digg it? I knew that you could – The Great Social Experiment

The Great Social Experiment – #1 Getting Started

The Great Social Experiment #2 – Will You Be My Friend

Future blog articles in this series:

The Great Social Experiment – How has it gone?

And the round table discussion:

  1. Did I devote enough time to the exercise? More to the point, where should social networking be placed in terms of marketing priorities? Does this change for companies that are more or less mature?
  2. How should we be judging the outcomes from social networking activities? Are there tools you recommend?
  3. Is social networking the right tool for the tests I created? Are my expectations of social networking in line with what it can do? What is social networking best geared to address?
  4. How much of getting social networking to work is the contacts you bring with you? How aggressive should one be in reaching out to new contacts? Should I, for instance, try to befriend Chris Anderson even after I have composed a note meant to appeal to what he is interested in?
  5. How can I build better mechanisms into the framework to increase feedback?

Oh and don’t forget to use the social networking tools below to share and enjoy – part of the experiment right?

tags