Saturday, May 4, 2013

Using Social Memory to Cure Lurkers

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
Sunday, March 10, 2013

Horizontal 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.

What do you think of this Brand? (On Scale of 1-10)
What do you think of their specific product? (On Scale of 1-5)
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...

SideBar: I was asked who we should target in a past marketing meeting.. I said “The Etsy Girl” and you can find her on Etsy or Pinterest ... Well, Mashable saw what I saw...

    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...

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Freedom from The Clutches of PR Pro's...

The 7 Reasons why Social Media should be pulled out of the clutches of PR: 

1) Building your  Book is not equal building a Community. 
-Understanding game mechanics, feedback loops, rewards, integrating community features and understanding group dynamics is just not a PR function. 

2) Despite every Social Media Fluff piece, Social Media is not 1 to 1, relationship building, its building communities or Brand armies. 
-To manage the onslaught of messages coming in you must build armies or communities to segment, score and analyze that kind of mass communication. A well crafted message does not work, it requires implementing messaging systems, triggers, and rewards that only someone who understands community technologies and applications should handle. 

3) PR is about building a 1 to 1 single contact that can broadcast to many, Social is about building 1 to 1000's. 
-I apologize for all the fluff you have read in the last five years on social. But enterprise social media is not about 1v1, if you are receiving 10-20K messages a day or even 2-3K a day, you are not responding to every post or tweet. But I doubt any PR rep would not return the email of an established Blogger or Newcaster, or Reporter... 

4) Social is about Big Data, PR is not, placement and reach is just a sliver of similar data points shared with PR, the majority of Social now is Social CRM, PR has no place there. 
-Social data is being stored, it is being pulled into e-commerce and consumer acquisition models, campaigns are being designed to capture social data, wrangle that data, and push that data into columns and charts where decisions can be made in real-time. This is not what any PR expert should be expected to do. 

5) Social Campaigns, are about building Brand Advocates, not identifying Brand Experts or significant New Media Outlets. 
-Simply put If an individual node aka person or enterprise has 100K followers in which you want to reach that is PR. If you want to marshal 1,000's of nodes that have less than 500 connections that is Social Media... Period Stop...

6) Social Media provides the heartbeat, blood pressure, and temperature of your brand in real-time, PR media reports while important are about how established thought leaders respond as opposed to complex social networks. 
-The analytic tools used by Social Media today, are not needed by PR. From segmentation based on product Affinity to Demographics about gender, age, location, content contexts, and etc are designed about developing resonance within a community and segmenting that community. The social media message changes per segment, so its about the voice of the community, not PR which is about the Voice of the Brand...

7) Conclusion: Whereas Social Media has been the ugly step-child of PR, Marketing, and Support, its role in providing real-time analysis, instant response, campaign conceptualization and management is too critical to be left to a seasoned PR rep with a great set of contacts.. PR is critical for the enterprise, but it is not a Social Media function...