Influence: The Big Picture

A client called B.S. on me today. I was asked to judge the potential influence of a blogger and twitterer who had posted a detailed response to some claims that my client had made about his company's product. I came back with an answer which was informed not by our usual in-depth analysis, but by a quick scan of Google, Klout, Twinfluence, Technorati, LinkedIn and several other social media tools and networks -- and one which completely missed the boat when it came to that person's actual influence.

Was my research wrong? No. It accurately reflected the person's reach on social networks. But it didn't capture his real reputation. Someone with little social capital online had a lot of social capital in real life, and without a comprehensive insider's perspective that comes with spending years in an industry (as opposed to a couple months), my characterization was challenged by the Big Boss at my client.

The funny thing is that Chuck and I talk about this all the time -- but I was asked to quickly come up with an assessment so I did, without the usual caveats that I usually attach. Don't fall victim to this: social media influence does not reflect real life influence.

The Four Rs of Influence
In identifying and prioritizing reporters, bloggers, editors, analysts, etc., we measure influence through a proprietary mix of four primary factors, what we call The Four Rs:

  1. Reach. How many people see this person's content, not just directly, but through other influencers and sharing?
  2. Relevance. How relevant is the person to your organization's community?
  3. Reputation. What's this person's reputation with your community?
  4. Receptivity. The counterbalance that affects how much energy we expend to influence any particular influencer: how receptive will this person be to our outreach and key messages?

In my haste, I ignored the broader aspect of reputation when I whipped together my research, probably costing me a few reputation points myself. While I stand by the internal validity of my conclusions, the external validity, taking into consideration the bigger context, brought me a little embarassment when I referred to an apparent industry bigwig as someone of relatively little influence. A lesson learned.

How are you measuring influence broadly, across both online and offline social networks? Don't forget this important lesson when you do!


Facebook Places: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Unless you live under a rock (or are part of the ever decreasing part of the American population not on Facebook) you have probably heard the news about Facebook Places. On the surface, Facebook places is the social-behemoth's attempt to take over the growing market being pioneered by companies like Gowalla, Foursquare and SCVNGR*. The success of Facebook Places is yet to be seen, we've all seen other companies stumble when trying to move into other markets (see: Google Wave) and Facebook hasn't yet made a dent in Craiglist with its Facebook Markets.

It's certainly not a foolish move. The fact is, many large companies are trying to get their hands around location-based services. Even Major League Baseball. I noticed that my MLB iPhone app has a feature buried deep in its functions that lets you check in at ballparks. I'm not sure what they're planning to do with this functionality, but now that Facebook has moved into the market they can probably sync up with the big boy.

But let's take a look at what's good and bad about the way that Facebook currently has this configured.

The Good

Places opens up the idea of location-based services to a much larger audience than Foursquare could reach. At its heart, Facebook is about connecting with friends and finding out what they are doing with their lives. Why wouldn't location play a role here? Don't we all love the surprise meetup? Case in point: one night my wife and I were out to dinner in Brookline. While walking by a Thai restaurant we heard banging on the window, and there were friends we hadn't seen in a while. We talked and ended up getting dessert together. It changed an evening that probably would have ended early to a fun evening with friends.

Now imagine we checked in at our restaurant earlier and were informed that friends were nearby. Now it's not so spontaneous, but we can actually seek them out, or avoid them. Either way. But in this case Facebook is about connecting friends, not just online, but face-to-face.

The Bad

I can't imagine what my newsfeed will look like once people start checking in. If the Facebook newsfeed becomes a noisy mess, the utility it brings me drops and my use of it will as well. So this is something Facebook will need to manage.

Also, I'm wondering about the impetus for people to check in. I believe that the market of people who want to earn badges is relatively small, certainly not the mass audience that Facebook reaches. So it will be interesting to see what drives the checkins and whether Facebook can utilize relationships with advertsers or local merchants without alienating its users.

Finally, I'm not thrilled with how Facebook continues to apply its features as opt-in rather than creating an automated "asking" process on a login. Lifehacker has a great article outlining how to adjust your privacy settings. Facebook should take note that when Lifehacker puts out an article specifically telling people how to TURN OFF a feature, it may not be something people want.

The Ugly

The idea that someone else can check me into a venue is a horrifyingly bad idea. In a wonderful perfect world where everyone is actually friends and no one plays practical jokes, this would work. And if you live in a place like that please let me know.

But I'm not interested in letting people decide to tell the world where I am. That's a decision that is mine and mine alone. Facebook should disable this feature immediately, and in lieu of that, I suggests that everyone disable it in their privacy settings.

* It's worth noting that SCVNGR has funding from Google Ventures.


Updating Mad Men: The Focus Group

This week Mad Men featured a staple of the media world: the focus group. Whether it's a telephone survey, like the call I received from Nielsen this weekend, or grabbing a group of people off the street, the focus group is a key part of any media outreach campaign. Before understanding the messaging and positioning that world work for the whole, you must first undersand what will work for a small, carefully selected group.

The women of the Mad Men focus group

But today the focus group is open to everyone with a search window. You can open up Twitter and be greeted by a flood of information or check out the LinkedIn groups to find out what business folks are truly feeling. You can even enter traditional forums and hear the complaints and concerns of thousands of people. However, like the PhD who is running the Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce focus groups, people need a guide to understand what they're reading. It's very easy to get lost in the "Rats Nest" of social media.

In fact, sometimes you need to entirely dismiss what you're reading or, in other cases, provide additional emphasis. I was quoted in Mashable saying that the social media realm offers imperfect data. The point is, just a few numbers will never tell you enough of a story, you need to understand the context of the person conveying the information, online and off.

Coming back to focus groups for a moment, how they are compiled affects the information you glean from them. In Mad Men the group was made up of young, unmarried women. In fact, just before grabbing the last unmarried secretary an older secretary commented that she wasn't wanted in the room because she was, in fact, older and married.

The results of the session were that women want to be beautiful to attract a man, according to the doctor who ran it, but it could have turned out differently with the older women in the mix. Of course, this is where Pond's finds itself today, with an older, more mature demographic. The eventual conclusion that women are simply looking to be married and that's why they use beauty products was rejected by top Mad Man Don Draper, who noted that putting out a year's worth of messaging would change the conversation.

In the social media world, people put out information for a reason. When looking at social media for market intelligence you must ask yourself "why did this person say what they're saying." Otherwise you're only getting half a story. Social search tools can help you find information and many social CRM tools exist to help you get graphs, charts and numbers to show certain trends, but there is so much more available within the social stream.

Over here at Fresh Ground we have started working with customers on a social intelligence service. That is, we look at interesting pieces of information, put them in context and then distribute that information to the appropriate internal audiences. This is how we help our clients dig up everything from sales leads to competitive intelligence.

So what would Pond's do differently today? Well, first they'd have a lot more information about their target demographic. Then they would use that information to understand the individuals who visit their site. If they wanted to try out new messages they'd probably do a bit of A/B testing on their site to see what works. They may also test certain messages in certain demographic areas, either through online advertising, carefully located display ads or buying air time in specific programs. They'd also dig into the social media intelligence to find out what people in their targeted demographics are discussing, then find ways into those conversations.

And hopefully, when they're done, no one ends up crying or throwing heavy objects at Don Draper.


Please help support Gulf Coast families in need

6PM - 11PM

Citizen Effect’s CitizenGulf project will become a National Day of Action on August 25th, in alignment with the week of the fifth anniversary of Katrina. The benefit — to be promoted by Gulf Coast Benefit — seeks to help fishing families find a new, more sustainable future by providing education resources for their children.

The Boston Event

We'll be kicking things off at 6pm at the Precinct Bar in Union Square, Somerville with a reception. At 7pm, we'll enjoy presentations from one or two of our special guests, speaking about the situation and efforts in the Gulf. Raffle and LIVE music will follow -- stay tuned for more info on the band, guest speakers and raffle items. Sign up today at

Your $10 cover charge will get you in the door, a drink ticket for your favorite New Orleans - inspired cocktail, free food, and the opportunity to listen (to great bands), learn (from smart people) and win! Prizes will include a vacation package in Cape Cod, gift certificates and much, much more!

Go here for parking and directions:

Sign up now!

Become a Sponsor

Because all of the cover charge goes directly to the charity, we need your help to offset the costs of running the local event. If you would like to share a prize or otherwise help offset our costs, please drop Todd Van Hoosear an email at and consider signing up for one of the sponsorship options above.

CitizenGulf Education Program for Gulf Oil Spill Families

All ticket sales and donations from CitizenGulf Day of Action events will give families living in affected areas the extra support they need to get their children off to a great start this school year and to help ease stress on families with after school support services and activities.

The most vulnerable victims of the disaster are children. As part of our response to helping fishing families, Citizen Effect and Catholic Charities of New Orleans have created an education fund that will provide assistance to families in the form of school supplies and uniforms, as well as after school programming that includes tutoring and homework assistance, enrichment classes, recreational activities, and healthy snacks.

The Nationwide Effort

CitizenGulf is a collaborative initiative between Andy Sternberg, Citizen Effect,, Live Your Talk, Sloane Berrent, Social Media Club, Taylor Davidson and Zoetica.

Again, please sign up now at See you there!


Join me for "Social CRM Demystified" on Aug. 18th

I'm really excited to be able to share what I've learned so far about the growing space of Social CRM -- the intersection of social media and what some people are calling demand generation. Join me on Wednesday, August 18th at 2pm for "Social CRM Demystified: The Business & Customer Benefits."

Social technologies have become a new mainstay in the way we not only communicate and interact, but increasingly in how we work and form relationships with the people who matter most. With Social CRM, your business can transform and deepen the overall customer experience to improve your business performance—and more importantly, your customers’ overall satisfaction and loyalty.

Join social media pioneer Dan Bruns, Mzinga's Sr. Vice President of Advanced Technologies, and me as we explain how social CRM is changing the way companies engage and interact with their customers, prospects, fans, and even employees. We'll explore, among other things:

  • What is Social CRM, and why is it relevant to your business and your customers?
  • What are some of the common use cases and benefits?
  • How can you get started in turning Social CRM into a reality for your organization?



Updating Mad Men: Pond's Cold Cream

This week the Mad Men crew got a present just in time for the Christmas episode: Pond's Cold Cream. One of the old characters returned, having just left one of the big agencies in town he showed up at the doorstep of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce holding a chance to win the business of Pond's Cold Cream. In 1964 dollars this was worth about $2 million a year. Not a bad little piece of business.

The story line pits the old-school copywriter, Freddy Rumsen, against Peggy Olson, the young, brash and bright copywriter who also happens to be a woman. While working on the ad the two argue over who should be the spokeswoman for Pond's. Freddy pushes for older actresses, some who have never left Broadway, while Peggy wants someone younger, like Elizabeth Taylor. Freddy also focuses on what Pond's does for your face and how it can help younger women find a husband, while Peggy wants to focus on the act of putting on the cream and how it makes you feel beautiful, not for a man but for yourself.

All very interesting arguments, so how does Pond's look in the cold, harsh reality of 2010? Well, it happens that it more resembles Freddy's vision than Peggy's.

Pond's is a subsidiary of Unilever, so this is a company that knows a thing or two about marketing. They've obviously positioned Pond's at the over-40 crowd. But one of the first thing that I noticed in looking for Pond's Cold Cream was that it's hard to find on Google. When you Google the brand a link to comes up first, with the "Pond's Institute" the brand's main site, is buried deep in the selection list, though right above the Unilever brand site for the same product line. So the first thing we here at Fresh Ground would do is get a big jar of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and schmear it on the site.

I've also noticed that the forums seemed to be filled with people saying that they love the product, so why not try to capture that a bit? Sure, continue with the "over 40 celebrity" message, but start to incorporate some testimonials. In fact, start soliciting them a little stronger, both through forums and social sites like Facebook. Keep in mind that Facebook has great growth with people over 40, so it's a perfect venue for this kind of targeted demographic.

Message wise I may take things a bit further and look for mother/daughter combinations, or even grandmother/ mother/ daughter. A big part of the brand is that it has a long history, so why not bring that to the people? Actively look for mothers who helped their daughters discover Pond's Cold Cream and ask for their pictures together, either through a Flickr campaign or on Facebook by tagging images with "Pond's Cold Cream." You can drive that action by offering up something like product (free samples), coupons or even a chance to be featured in an ad in a major publication. This would be a great way to combine the social side of things with the tradition outlets that they're already accessing.

Dove, another Unilever brand, did something similar with its Real Beauty campaign, so it's certainly something that worked before and would work again.

All that being said, Dove is a sponsor of Mad Men, so I wonder if featuring Pond's in the script was part of the deal. If so, good move marketing folks at Pond's! Though, judging by the fact that someone started a Twitter account called PondsColdCream that appears to be a Mad Men thing, not belonging to Pond's, I'm going to guess that the folks at Unilever haven't yet figured out social media for this brand.

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