Monday, March 26, 2012

The Social Loafers

How to engage a community? As you grow your community you may find that it has lots of members but not a lot of activity. The term being bounced around in social science is called “Social Loafing” and it means that people online are using their anonymity to shy away from doing any activity at all. 

In doing research for our communities, we took a look at the latest academic papers about “Social Loafing” and by doing what academics call a Literary Review, we found that what we know as consultants is true. 

One of the most interesting findings of one of the studies about forum communities was that while infrequent posters were similar to posters with regard to trust in benevolence/integrity, lurkers were very different from both groups. 

Thus there may be a trust barrier to overcome with regard to this specific dimension of trust that is essential before a user will begin to post in the community.

Here we introduce what Kenwyn K. Smith  and David N. Berg call the Paradox of Disclosure, from their book Paradoxes of Group Life. The idea being that if you the community face / leader(s) are not willing to disclose who and why they lead a community, they probably shouldn’t expect others to on their own. 
So if no one knows who you are, that makes trusting an online stranger almost insurmountable. Activity on the site may continue, but the lurkers are only there because they “Trust” that there is activity, just not sure of who, what, and where these activities are.

An image of a boy watching a public park basketball game comes to mind. The boy watches, but does not engage. Whereas if the boy comes every week and watches, a familiarity may either encourage the players to ask if he wants to play, or he may ask himself. But in a virtual community were presence is anonymous this is impossible. 

The Social Loafer has a higher perceived risk of interaction, which is formulated by the spatial and temporal separation among the members of online communities. This separation forms an information asymmetry, which gives rise to the members’ perceived risk. 
Information Asymmetry is the inability of one individual to see that any other individuals have the same amount of information about each other. In the offline world, if two strangers walk into a room, if both are new to the room and each other, their information is symmetrical. A new member to a group may perceive risk as they do not know who anyone is, what social ties these individual have, their norms, values, and expectations. 

Therefore, a different tack must be taken. Each social community software platform has different options. 

In this article we will use Meetup dot com

Here are some of the tools we use to create more participants in our communities on Meetup:
First decrease Information Asymmetry.
  1. Post pictures of past events and future locations of events
  2. Speak into a camera and explain who you are and why a member should participate
  3. Post Maps and Directions to next event
  4. Post a list of things needed for event / meeting
  5. Post expectations of Meeting activity
Tip the Balance of Paradox of Disclosure.
  1. Post pictures of who the Leader(s) are are in multiple settings appropriate to the community
  2. Describe your Leader(s) expertise in leading the community
  3. Provide links to information and other groups you participate outside the particular community that support your passion for the community
  4. Be available online via email or forum
Decrease Spatial and Temporal separation.
  1. Create online Chat event for new Members to ask questions and chat with members
  2. Create smaller meetings of just “New Members” or create safe space for them prior to an event
  3. Create Teleconference via Skype or Phone
Target & Moderate Activity:
  1. Send emails to non-active members
  2. Create Narrative for non-active members
Finally, there will be new options in the future. Recent developments with Facebook and its Social Graph API, show that there will be opportunities to create a longer tail to our social memories. 

The consultants will discuss the implications more in a future post. But we include it here because Facebook is another tool to convert lurkers. 
Prior to Facebook, our social memory consisted of our cognitive abilities, our little black book, and maybe a photo album or shoebox.. 

But as Facebook increases its reach. Using it to share your Values and Norms as supported by your Facebook “Likes” becomes increasingly easier to do. By sharing this information via a link to your leader(s) social community profile, you provide a “longer tail” to the social memory of your community. 

This provides an opportunity for members with higher perceived levels of risk of engagement another way to learn what your values and activities are. So if I have a Coffee Party Meetup, having my profile linked to Huffington Post, is an opportunity to extend the long tail of my social memory to other platforms.. 

The implications of using various platforms to extend the long tail of social memories is enormous, suffice to say here, use other platforms, like Twitter or Facebook to create one. 

Mitigation of Social Loafing
Computers in Human Behavior
Volume 26, Issue 4, July 2010, Pages 768-777
Emerging and Scripted Roles in Computer-supported Collaborative Learning
Psychological Barriers: Lurker and Poster Motivation and Behavior in Online Communities," Communications of the Association for Information Systems: Vol. 18, Article 16.
Paradoxes of Group Life; Understanding Conflict, Paralysis, and Movement in Group Dynamics Wiley Press Smith / Berg

Social Media Scape

    There are a lot of lies out there. First you can rarely bump into someone who has a really big firehouse no matter what they say they have and second once you turn on their hose, you need to boil the ocean to the point it will probably stink up any assumptions you had about the space you are looking at. 
    What they don’t tell you in Industrial Social Media College is what you find when you begin to boil the ocean. What really happens if you look at 90-120 days of Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, Blogs, Forums, and more blogs streams of data?.. The amount of data is amazing. So what do you find? 
    Well, that depends on what you are looking for. Say you are looking for a competitor. Say you have a software suite that offers many different solutions to various use cases. Where do you start? Do you use your industry terminology? Nobody says on Twitter “Do you know of a great Media Management Solution?” Or “BTW , just tried a great Transcoder Video Solution”. 
    For the most part, what you find is what we find in our ocean, garbage. Sssshhh! Don’t tell the social guru sipping a cocktail next to you about how you have to engage in conversations... If a guru tells you that, or tells how to create “Viral” content, then I suggest you stick his or her nose against the screen of a Radian6 query for 30 days and tell him to go at it... 

    You can try to find that set of organic conversations but you will sadly be disappointed. It turns out that affiliate bots, marketers, and wanna be social capital entrepreneurs have spammed the space...
A word to the wise. 
    So when you use a tool like Radian 6 or Meltwater Buzz, or Sysmos or Jive. You need to brush up on your Boolean Logic. Because that’s how your going to query the social data sea or Boil that Ocean. So if your company is say Issac Bernbaum Management, your going to need to set up a NOT statement for “IBM” or at least for NOT Computers” and a range of other statements to clear out the detritus. And there is a lot of detritus...
Luckily I aced Symbolic Logic in College. 
    Next, to create these filters of phrases you want to find go into Google Adwords, go to the keyword tool. And start thinking like a customer not mid-level tech management geek. Look for phrases that reach at least 100K Nationally or Globally. If the phrase is less than that it will probably not show up in the Social Media Query. 
    So you have scrubbed the phrases as best you can. You have knocked out every piece of crap you can. Then what? Did you scrub out competitors? Did you scrub out affiliates for competitors? Did you scrub out patterns for associated verticals? Say you are looking for scrapbookers but knocked out photobookers because mixbooks ran a Groupon for Photobooks? Even if you don’t then what? The truth is you put garbage in and you get garbage out. And there is a lot of garbage going into the social verse. So let’s say you take a middle approach looking for an average guy or average gal? 
    But here you must hold back your analysis too. You see, average joe and average josephine are not what you find in the social verse. I am not going to bore you with statistics, but UGC is not a conservative or pragmatist function. Its for the early adopters or first movers or tech enthusiasts. 
    Please don’t hand me Mommy Bloggers, I list those under “Affiliate Sites”. That means they have insignificant followers, and over produce content that is either a re-post of a deal or have their own real - world social network supporting their blogging efforts. I know, I look at dozens of blogger sites daily, and well, they don’t have a lot of readers.. Some do, and they actually generate good distinct vertical content. But they are so rare it is ridiculous. 
    So what you find is not what you want. What you find is what you get. And that is not academically actionable data. At least my professors would find the sentimentality, number of mentions, and other data stats supplied from your Sysmos, Radian6 or Meltwater Buzz totally un-usable. 
    Now the Social Media Guru’s who are selling Mom and Pop’s the Social Media Bubble Gum, talk about hugging the user, developing relationships with each follower. While none of that is bad advice for a very small company that can afford to pay a social media guy a wage. As a consultant, if you were a brick and mortar company and you had even 35K a year to spend. I would not spend it on a social media guy or gal. 
    I would suggest spending that on a good small PR agency. Yes, walk away from social media if you are not national. If you are regional, but have many storefronts then again, get your marketing gal or guy on a few things “Social” but really, don’t waste your time. Branding via LBS or Facebook ads really are not cheap. And doing them at small numbers are ineffective. 
    Spending 35K on Facebook ads is a waste as well, when I can get you 35K new emails for that price via voluntary double opt-in programs.. But more data and tools for next time.. For now as I ramble sarcastically along. Suffice to say this: 
    As with any free-scale network, 90% of the nodes are not connected to much. There is a lot of salesmen, and very few buyers. Most of what we see in boiling the ocean is absolute crap. So if you were to follow most of the suggestions of those Social Media Books.. Take a Seth Godin book and burn it. Because once you boil the ocean you can’t hug every starfish to develop a relationship. 
    It all comes back to the new dirty word in Social Media.... Complexity. Because if you want to understand complex human systems, and that is what social media is, you better understand complexity, and you better understand the science of how complex systems work. And you best understand systems, so you can model and figure out how they might behave before you begin another promotions or game-ification of your community...  

Brand Salience

Recently I had a discussion with a CTO of some very popular video portals. The question he raised for my feedback was whether to develop a “Horizontal Approach” or a “Vertical Approach” to a Social Media Product Development. 

He had been having some meetings with Facebook management. He posed this question:

What do you think Facebook wants? Do they want you to build brand pages on Facebook and bring traffic to Facebook? Or, build your own site and bring Facebook users to your own branded site? 

To his and my unconsidered surprise was that FB management wants you to bring Facebook users to your branded site... Thus Facebook is not trying to build vertically, its trying to build horizontally. Makes sense once you use Facebook Connect as a social login, right? 

Okay, so that is Horizontal Branding. Providing a layer across products or services that work without sacrificing the brand equity of the horizontal or the platform. In fact the horizontal should enhance it in a kind of symbiotic brand equity exchange.  This works in various schematics and environments, take Sirius, or Tivo, or Dropbox... Sirius is offered in several different rental car services. Facebook Connect is another example of this, but its insidious nature was not something I was able to comment on in this brief encounter with this CTO. The antithesis of this is of course “White Labeling.”

Before we investigate Reed’s laws here (which I will return to), let’s take the third word “Salience”. Here is where things get really interesting. Salience is the implicit impact of bounded rationality on behavioral actions, in that as we raise the salience or awareness of a brand, research shows we crowd other brands out. And conversely we enhance brand loyalty with the salient brand. This can be somatic markers or embedded consensus maps depending on the marketing guru you follow. 

We also know that many things can and do raise Brand Salience. Last week, I was having a conversation with the VP of Customer Experience of a company that unbeknownst to itself sells “Brand Salience”...  Their core offering is a web page application that asks two simple questions and based on the answers given the selected users get one basic request. 
  1. What do you think of this Brand? (On Scale of 1-10)
  2. What do you think of their specific product? (On Scale of 1-5)
  3. If they score above 9-10 and 4-5 - They request you to share your thoughts. 
That’s it. And it works brilliantly. By identifying the individuals who like the brand and the brand’s products, they take that group and request that they share those positive thoughts... A Simple Brand Salience Function. 

But how do you provide Horizontal Brand Salience? The fact is most major brand companies don’t or don’t do it well. Ford does not, Dell does not, neither does Apple. Well, that’s not really true. Apple does provide Windows users with iTunes on Windows. “That glass of ice water”... But that’s it and its very rare for a major platform brand to not build and protect vertically. Of course, Microsoft does provide Office for Mac and some iPhone apps. 

And that brings us to the real title... Ubiquitous is the New Black. From web sites to mobile phone platforms,  we are confronted by “uneven” networks. Yet we know from Reed’s law that the exponential power to reach new pockets of users is in these subgroups or subnets. And its not always the technology that creates the barrier... Sometimes its content... 

Meaning there are pockets of users or technology bounded communities or networks like Blackberry users or iOS users or Chrome users or Symbian users or Apple PC users or Android users or Windows Phone 7 users or Windows 8 Beta Tablet users... Or even combinations such as PC Gamers of WOW. And the list goes on.. 

And so services that can maintain their “Brand Equity” Horizontally have additional “Brand Cache”.. As their ubiquitousness is part of their attraction. Its everywhere...  

Take Dropbox, recently valued at over a billion dollars. Its a frickin slick “FTP client”.. But it works on every conceivable platform from mobile phones to PC operating systems. 

So do you put Office on the iOS? Do you put iTunes on Android, seeing the effect from iTunes on Windows? These are and were heated discussions within their respective platforms. But, as all things indicate creating a Horizontal Brand Salience is the gold ring. Which is to say, if you have an iPad tablet and Microsoft Office comes to it, and you are aware of the MS Office Experience working seamlessly between iPad, Mac and say the work Windows PC you have enshrined your product or service within the users set of cognitive brand constructs.. This is a major shift from the days of only building in features for your platform and walling off the platform like an AOL online experience. 

But does the platform lose? If I can run MS Office on iPad, why would I buy a Windows 8 Tablet? But if I have a PC does Apple lose if iTunes works on Windows? Observationally no of course...

So what was my answer to the question: Do we build a vertical or horizontal Social Media Product? I suggested a hybrid approach. But as I was limited in time, I had to skip the importance of granularity and abstraction. And more importantly do you lose if you tie yourself to Facebook’s Social Connect... Is this any difference than the trade-off MS will make by placing MS Office on the iPad/iPhone? 

And here is where it gets really messy and I will dig deeper in a new post in the future.

But briefly: You use FB Connect you get the aggregate data and maybe more if you are creative. But they have privacy concerns breathing down their neck. Ultimately you don’t want aggregate data of users, you want granular or atomic. That brings you back to thinking you need email as a unique id. Or Twitter id, or extracting an FB id. But ultimately, you need a unique identifier separate from FB/Twitter/Email. 

So getting started using FB sounds good at first because of its low friction social spread, but you need abstraction. That means you need to understand that once you begin building granular data around your user ID, you can then abstract the social identity and re-architect the branding from the game logic of the Social Media Product you are delivering. 

Thus, visually each product appears separate on each domain, but that is because you are applying game logic that takes both the granular and the organic emergence of subnet/subgroup/product verticals in mind. While still using the horizontal social dynamics across multiple verticals... Example might be a “Point and Shoot Game”. On the kids site you shoot butterflies and on the adult site you shoot ho’s and pimps. The login, the number of inputs and outputs are the same, but the kids game may have some control over not allowing vulgarity in chat and allow only small subgroups to form, while the adult would not. You’re still shooting by tapping a flash button at moving objects in a 3X3 Window, just the visual layer is different... 

And yet I understand that this example does not dig deep enough into our discussion on Horizontal Brand Salience (I said it would get messy)... Unless, we return to opening the game API to other game developers or user generated content? Again this is for another post... 

Yet in the end,  the result is Horizontal Brand Salience that adapts to each community, by  individually delivering experiences you want to provide. Where as Dropbox wants to be similar on each platform thus providing a Horizontal Brand Salience, a Social Media Product does in a different way. See how giving Meetup Groups the ability to customize their community works? Their UI is not dramatically different, but UGC will be. And most importantly, the Social Media Product will scale horizontally across the long tail of new bounded communities you have yet uncovered.

The horizontal is that your brand will remain. The code base will remain horizontal. The user database will remain horizontal yet delineated. But the product will be socially, visually and interactively vertical... If you have architected the brand strong enough you will have Angry Birds like ubiquitousness and be seriously in the black...

Post-PC Social Media Era

The coming of the Post-PC era has been long heralded. A little company called Oracle said the PC is dead, and every business desktop would be a slim / dumb / terminal connected to big iron.

Well, as we know that did not happen... 

Recently,  the new iPad came out and many considered the original iPad the beginning of this Post-PC era. And is some ways it was. But in my humble opinion, really it started with the smartphone. Now whether you want to use the Newton, or Palm, or Blackberry, or WindowCE based devices as starting points you may. Others might say it was the iPhone that truly “Did it”. But I would say those very smart devices that had a powerful CPU, had powerful multi-tasking OS’s, and had 3rd party application communities supporting them were very much the beginning of the Post-PC era. 

One could argue though, that each device was tied still to a digital hub or PC. Yes you could make calls, but each smart phone or smart device generally had a PC dashboard to help you update, organize, and sync your content to the device and with your PC. And that ultimately, these were advanced data organizers, reference manuals, and pocket game players.

But this week three things happened... One Adobe released Photoshop Touch for the Tablet (Android & iOS), Apple released a new Tablet, and Instagram is about to be valued at 1/2 billion dollars

The first two seem related, but what does the third have to do with anything? You can not have the third without the other two. Or rather the technology, infrastructure, the adoption rate, and the ubiquitousness of the other two, the third can not create a value of 500 million dollars. 

Instagram is now a 27 million member social network. Their is no web interface. Repeat, if you visit there is nothing there but a request to download the iPhone app. Now of course, the pages or pictures you share are posted into an HTML shell. And the links you share outside of the app can be viewed by any web browser, PC or otherwise.. 

But there is no URL, there is no web based navigation ala the new social media darling “Pinterest”. It is solely an “App driven Social Network”... 

The technology today exists on this multi-core low energy ARM processors to do amazing graphics. From Tilt-Shifts, to Missile firing overlays, to complete layering and editing of photos and videos. You simply do not need a PC... The PC’s raison d'ĂȘtre was desktop publishing of graphic intensive media or graphic rich interactivity in gaming. And now the PC’s power to fight off the Net-PC of Oracle will be replaced with the slim touch based, and cloud connected smart device. 

But where does that leave Social Media? Well, Facebook is still a PC friendly social layer, though higher and higher percentages of FB users connect solely through smart devices. Twitter? It may have started as a web service, but its platform was solely designed for quick mobile blurts. Youtube? Hmm, let me test out that 4G LTE iPad, with iMovie and I will get back to you... But their embrace of non-flash wrappers was another shot at the PC’s strength. 

So, while the Post-PC era started years ago and we are just entering its second act, the Post-PC Social Media era has just started so what are some rising forces to be aware of?

#12 Post-PC Social Media Things to Take Note:
1) The creation of rich social media messages will no longer require a desktop
  1. Mobile is the Message, small quick, intimate, and instant characteristics will rule
  2. Social will be more and more GEO, as GPS continues to push social forward
  3. Social Media Communities will live and die on their API
  4. Social Media Manager Toolset will have to have Street Team Experience
  5. Augmented Reality or Ghosting will be mainstream Social as data smog increase
  6. New Query Tools to analyze Locale vs. National in social media analysis
  7. Hangouts will become mob-outs as Trending Stats will be mainstream
  8. Media Communication skills will change how we communicate
  9. The powerpoint will finally see the end of bullet points ruling the day
  10. App Markets with include Semantic Rankings
  11. Smart Device + Television, Shazam to the Rescue
Sure not all of the above “12” will come to fruition. Just to elaborate on some of the few that seem more peculiar or far-out. 

“Ghosting” we are already seeing in mobile social networks, businesses or localities that don’t exist. People in Foursquare create “virtual spaces” to call there own. And these “Virtual Spaces” have comments about their activities even though they only exist in Foursquare.  So as more people post not just comments, but also photos, videos, and other media artifacts the data smog it leaves will become more and more interesting and more valuable to business... 

Hang-outs become mob-outs. We are already seeing this happen with such recent events in Hollywood, where a DJ tweeted for others to “Come on down” to the Chinese Theater.. Using Twitter was rudimentary, the next generation of tools are already being developed to send and amass people to places through mobile networks. 

The death of cursive writing skills will only decline until Edwardian Script ITC  is lost forever... The skills to create meaningful multi-media messages will only increase. This means that the bullet points on your powerpoint are getting duller every minute. And classes in iPhoneography will increase.  

As we continue to move to App Eco Systems, inter-operability and ranking will continue to gain in critical ways. Already we see “Zombie App Armies” trying to tweak rank. But we are only on the cusp, where just as in Google Adwords we pay to own “Local Mexican Restaurant” , the day when App vendors bid on key categories... Yelp app against Urbanspoon app for the same from Siri, is just waiting around the corner... And Social Media has always been tied to SEO, Ranking, and Awareness.

Already we see that the PC died before it could get a hold in the living room. It tried with the Home Media PC, and other iterations. But now you can grab TV, vote TV, and stream back and forth to the TV with devices that do not run windows, have no intel based chips, and do not have keyboards or mice. 

In conclusion, the job of the social media director or manager is going to get more dynamic and of course more mobile, no surprise there. Understanding the API’s of each mobile friendly web service will be key... The Facebook post will be less words and more pictures, as most recommend. Social Networks will slowly be more tied to the mobile experience of location and aggregating groups around types of social events and social behaviors that don’t tie you to a desktop... Think more Red Bull type of live events and less just “Like us” click work.

The building of communities that truly marry online with mobile to utilize these new smart devices, will have an edge. Social Networks like instagram will either expand their API to reach more people on more devices as they have promised. Or other players will help you organize, share, and create diminishing any first mover adoption advantage...