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Bits & Pieces?

Bits & Pieces

Looking back, I think I will remember 2011 as the year when everyone and his dog decided to launch a social platform of sorts: Google+, Quora, Empire Avenue, Path, Unthink, etc. Even before the newness of each network could wear off, another Facebook wannabe platform was launched. Of course, amid all launches and constant releases of growth numbers, there were a few social platforms that actually added value to users’ lives instead of just adding features. For me those few platforms are Percolate, Storify and Cowbird.

Percolate is a content-discovery/content-curation tool that is a great filter for everyone who complains how difficult and overwhelming it is to keep up with everything shared online. Percolate surfaces interesting and relevant content from a user’s online networks and presents it in an easy to use dashboard and a daily e-mail with just the most relevant links. Not only is Percolate a great tool for everyday users, but it can be a powerful social platform for brands as well. We keep telling brands to participate in communities, join conversations and share relevant content and Percolate makes it extremely easy to find what the communities with which a brand wants to engage are interested in. Counterparties (by Reuters) and Healthymagination (by GE) are two examples of how brands can use Percolate.

While Percolate is a great content-discovery tool, Storify (technically launched in 2010) is a great curation tool. The platform operates under the belief that real news unfolds on the web and Storify gives us the tools to capture, share and remember these stories. It allows users and brands to turn curated social content (tweets, photos, videos, links) into coherent stories and share these stories with a single link or embed them on a site. First to adopt the platform have been media outlets like The Guardian, but even the White House has joined.

The last platform that has the potential to change how we create, curate and consume content online is Cowbird, a collaborative storytelling platform launched earlier this month by Jonathan Harris (the artist who created We Feel Fine in 2006). Its purpose is to empower all of us to document the overarching “sagas”  that shape the world today (think the London riots, Occupy Wall Street, etc.), or just create a beautiful audio-visual diary of your life. As explained on Cowbird’s site:

“Our short-term goal is to pioneer a new form of participatory journalism, grounded in the simple human stories behind major news events and universal themes. Our long-term goal is to build a public library of human experience, so the knowledge and wisdom we accumulate as individuals may live on as part of the commons, available for this and future generations to look to for guidance.”

Powerful stuff from a platform that could easily win the award for the strangest name of 2011.

What makes these social platforms incredible is that they add value to our lives and allow us to collaborate and share with people with similar interests and passions. They make creating, curating, documenting and sharing an enjoyable participatory experience for both users and brands.

What were your favorite social platforms in 2011?

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I participated in a great #smmeasure (Social Media Measurement) Twitter chat yesterday. The topic was online influence and how to use it for social marketing purposes, a personal favorite. After the chat, several people asked me to define influence and explain how to find the right individuals. Since it seems that more than one person is interested in the topic, I decided to share my thoughts here.

First, what exactly is influence? Brian Solis has a great definition:

“Influence is the ability to cause desirable and measurable actions and outcomes.”

Sounds great right? Who wouldn’t want to cause desirable and measurable outcomes? In reality it is hard (should I say almost impossible, unless you use fMRI) to measure the changes one person triggers in the behaviors of others. Instead, online influence is almost always measured by impact, reach, visibility or authority.  However, online influence should not be confused with popularity. Influencers can be popular (e.g. Robert Scoble) and popular people can be influential (e.g. Kim Kardashian), yet not all celebrities are influencers.

How can influencers help with your social marketing goals?

They can help you increase awareness and/or share of voice, improve sentiment or increase positive sentiment, and sometimes they can even increase sales. Using influencers in campaigns leverages the power of third-party credibility in a very cost-effective way.

How do you find influencers?

First you need to define your audience and research which platforms they use. If your audience is teenagers, influential bloggers won’t help you achieve your objectives. If your audience is German businessmen, approaching  influential Xing users is a much better option than influential LinkedIn users.

After that, you need to define the topics and keywords within which you are looking for influencers. Is it a certain industry? A specific genre of music? Be as specific as possible.

The next step is to research the topic for volume. Some industries are much more social than others, thus they produce more activity. It is much easier to find individuals with high Klout or PeerIndex scores within the marketing industry than among mechanical engineers. The idea behind this step is to establish realistic expectations for the next step: using social/online influence tools.

With dozens of online influence measurement tools, how do you know which ones to use? Good question! And I don’t have a good answer because all tools are in their infancy stage (unfortunately). My solution is to use Klout and PeerIndex for multi-platforms rankings and then compare the results since they have different algorithms. If I am looking specifically at blogs, I’ll check Technorati. I look at TweetLevel (because it gives a trust score) and Twitalyzer, together with Klout and PeerIndex, when I am focusing specifically on Twitter.

Finding influencers is much more than relying on tools with obscure algorithms. You need to do some manual labour too. First, you should research each individual and see if the content he/she shares is relevant to your brand/product. Establish if they reach your audience in terms of demographics. Determine if you’d like these individuals associated with your brand/product. The process is the same as selecting a celebrity to endorse your brand.

What do you do after you discover the right influencers?

Engage with them. I know it is a cliché, but people say it for a reason. Build relationships with the individuals you want to reach. Comment on their blogs. RT their tweets. Ask them questions about things they find interesting. Send them articles they might find interesting. Help them before you ask for help. Give before you get.

After all this hard work, it is time to ask an influencer for whatever you want from him/her. That’s why you need an influencer, not just another friend. A few things to consider during this final step:

  1. Reach out to them using their preferred channel of communication. If they prefer e-mails then send an e-mail. If they prefer to be taken out for coffee then take them out for coffee at their favorite place.
  2. Focus on the influencer. What’s in it for him/her? How will your request help him/her? Will it be interesting to his/her audience.
  3. Personalize your request. Seriously! No one likes receiving mass e-mails that start with Dear Sir or Madam.
  4. Get straight to the point without long overtures. No one has time to read five pages. If someone is interested, he/she will contact you for more information.

What are your options if you don’t have time to build a relationship?

It happens. Actually that is the more likely scenario. So what do we do? Here are a few options: ask for an introduction from someone who knows the influencer well and/or optimize the request in a way that will really benefit the influencer.  If all else fails, give him/her a blank check. Not sure if that works, but you never know.

How do you find and approach influencers? What are your secrets?

P.S. I know this just scratches the surface. Let’s dig deeper and discuss more specific details in the comments.

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Millennials, Generation Y, Generation Me, Generation Why, Net Generation: all terms used to describe one generation. My generation.

Almost every time people mention Millennials they are trying to understand how to make us buy more of what they sell. Who would blame them when with 92 million members this is the largest generation in US history? Ohh, did I mention our $200 billion purchasing power?

Here is my problem with many of these articles, blog posts, podcasts, webinars, etc.: almost everything about marketing to Millennials inevitably includes connecting with us on social networking platforms because, apparently, Facebook is our life. Some of these articles even claim that connecting with us online is the only way to get our attention for more than three seconds.

I, as a Millennial, appreciate that brands are trying to connect with me where I spend the most of my time, but that is not Facebook.

It might sound surprising to some, but Millennials do have analog lives. Without them we wouldn’t have digital lives. If we didn’t attend live concerts and didn’t meet people, we wouldn’t have content to share on Facebook, Flickr, Foursquare, Twitter, and whatever platform is popular tomorrow.

Our analog lives power our digital lives. We love going to concerts, bars, clubs, etc. and we love documenting our experiences so that we can share them with our friends. Some even claim that my generation is more concerned with documenting our experiences rather than experiencing.

A generation documenting experience

What does this have to do with marketing to Millennials? The better question is: Are you providing experiences worth documenting and sharing? If so, how are you empowering us to share these experiences? Providing experiences worth sharing is probably the easiest way to harness the social graph because we trust our peers more than we trust brands and we tend to overshare.

Here are a few brands that provide experiences worth sharing and empower Millennials to share:

The Milwaukee Art Museum does a great job engaging with young people during events. Every month the museums has an After Dark event with arts, crafts, music, drag queen contests, break dancing shows, fashion shows, etc. Most of the attendees not only enjoy the events, but also document them and share the pictures on their social networks. Besides providing an experience worth documenting and sharing, the museum also has a photo booth and makes the pictures available to the attendees with a Flickr page.

Another example is the Milk Made site for New York Fashion Week. Yes, New York fashion Week is definitely an event worth documenting, at least for me, but that is only half of the story. The site allows attendees to cover Fashion Week live with their cell phones. Snap a picture and share it on the site. Sharing can’t get easier than that.

Providing experiences worth sharing doesn’t mean organzing only large, extremely popular events. It can be any experience that is different from your audience’s ordinary life. Remember what Estee Lauder did last year? Professional Estee Lauder makeup artists provided free makeover to ordinary women and took a picture. Of course, all these women used these pictures for their profiles and avatars with Estee Lauder’s logo in the background of the picture. Look at Jeep’s Come Together Flickr Pool, where hundreds of people from around the world are sharing their love for the brand and its vehicles.

Is the experience you create worth documenting and sharing?

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