Jul 27

Joi Ito Explains Creative Commons

My good friend and multi-talented designer of this blog Shyama Golden and I were discussing how confusing the internet landscape can be to an artist or musician. Seesmic founder Loic Le Meur asks Founder of Creative Commons Joi Ito what you are actually buying each time you purchase a CD, and how Creative Commons works.

Jul 26

How to Be More Pleasant on Google+

Apparently I’ve been dubbed some sort of queen of social media, and yet, it really can bore me quite a bit. From people ranting about some client they’ve had to people underhandedly pitching their brands left and right, it can get annoying. People aren’t trying to be noisy, mind you. They just aren’t given easy filtering mechanism to determine what they say to whom. This filtering is something we do naturally in the real world to keep ourselves from saying the wrong thing and the wrong time.

Enter Google+. I haven’t been the most active on Google+ yet simply because I’ve been playing with it and getting a sense of how committed Google really is to this project. I do like it though. I hope it succeeds for the sake of online communication everywhere.

It’s like Google put all the user groups I attend into one easy to use interface. I have a circle for “marketing”, one for “tech news”, one for “web developers and designers”, one for just my close friends, and another for acquaintances. I can see myself getting dozens of circles and I hope Google makes it easy to categorize these as I follow more people. I do this because I recognize that some of my followers really don’t care about marketing news, or what I did this weekend. Google+ also makes it easier to learn about different subjects because I can just click on a stream to see what is said by people who are experts in that topic.

I believe Google+ would benefit by allowing users to be transparent with at least some of their Circles. This would allow people to choose if they wanted to follow my posts pertaining to marketing, tech news, or just funny comments. I’m no UX expert so I’ll leave the details of something like this to them.

My biggest fear with Google+ is that people will get obsessed with the follower count game. As I’ve said like a broken record, it really doesn’t matter how many followers you have. If you can figure out how to deliver messages to people in a way that converts, you can be more effective with 50 people than with 50000. If people on Google+ get caught up in the follower count game, we risk just as much noise as we get on Twitter and Facebook.

I’m not sure how to stop people from using Google+ as a broadcast channel with little regard of what gets said to whom. I just hope people are mindful of their signal to noise ratio when they use it.

Jul 18

Caveats for Quantifying Online Influence

So Omar Gallaga wrote an Austin American Statesman piece about how our lives are increasingly becoming measured by our online presences. It was a well written piece and probably opened a lot of people’s eyes about how they are being judged in a way they had not previously recognized. You should read it if you have not already.

The piece talks about Klout, a startup that created a scoring system to measure one’s online influence. Klout uses algorithms that evaluate who you are talking to and how often in social media circles the same way Google PageRank does. Some PR and social media firms are using it to reach out to influencers, and Klout now has perks for people who have Klout scores above a certain number. To reach people with high Klout scores, you can contact the company to “get in”.

This approach is too simplistic, like an easy button PR firms can hit so they can say to their clients, “Hey, we got you covered on this launch”. While I myself value what Klout offers, it is a factor within many factors when considering how to expand your brand’s presence.

Let’s use this graphic/scenario on the right to show why brands really should take more care in managing their online reputation.***

1.) Influence is never static. The influence this would wield today would be much more damaging to my brand than it would a month ago. Although Klout scores do change over time, they don’t change overnight.

That being said, an awesome potential subject matter expert and influencer could have a low Klout score today, but could increase it over time. Is it wise to make that person feel less important than Rupert Murdoch?

2.) A person’s influence on a subject matter depends on his or her expertise in that field. Rupert Murdoch and crew don’t seem to get new media and the blogosphere. If people judged me by News Corp’s record in new media, I could actually lose influence by association.

3.) Influence must always be considered qualitative as well as quantitative. I don’t respect Rupert Murdoch. Say I went to a PR firm and said, “I want media influencers with Klout scores above 60 to tweet about my blog”, they could very easily return to me with someone like Rupert Murdoch. Do I want his endorsement, or the types of clients he would bring? What if he becomes my #1 nightmare customer and his followers are almost as bad? I marketed to him because he’s big instead of paying attention to whether or not his followers would benefit by my product.

4.) PR is just as much about building community as it is “spreading the word”. When you judge people purely on their influence number or Googlibility, you get a bunch of people who are “kind of a big deal”. People who are “big deals” can be demanding as customers, and often demand completely different things. That can make a product that appeases the majority of them very difficult.

I’m not saying you should ignore Klout completely. I just question practices like judging customers based on some sort of score instead of taking the time to evaluate how much value you can offer their friends and followers. Klout works best through a software API and paired with other metrics.

**Relax. I don’t actually know Rupert Murdoch and I’m not tapping your phone. I do sometimes sneak in your house and rearrange your furniture though. Anywho…

Jul 16

How @Expedia Demonstrated What Community Managers Should Do

People have told me that I shouldn’t expect companies to be perfect. Good advice. I don’t expect companies to be perfect–I do expect them to accept responsibility when it is appropriate and learn from the experience so it isn’t duplicated again. Basically, if you mess up, just do what you can to fix it.

So about a month back, I had some big headaches caused by an issue with Expedia. I’m happy to report that @Expedia referred me to their team at Corporate, who promptly issued me a credit for my inconvenience and recorded what my issues were so they could hopefully prevent issues in the future.

At a bigger company like Expedia, it makes sense for their social media team to act like a point guard for the company. In this situation, @expedia followed up and got me directly to the people I needed to speak to. So good job picking the ball up where you dropped it, Expedia. I will continue to book trips on your website.

Jul 12

The (Not So) Secret Truth Behind Successful Community Managers

What’s worth more–having your brands’ tweet retweeted a bunch, or having a tweet ABOUT your brand get retweeted a bunch?

It depends. If the tweet is about basketball shoes and it’s by me, it’s probably not worth anything. If it’s by LeBron James, it could be worth millions.

Numbers like retweets and reach can be addicting to a marketer, and it can be easy/fun to get caught up in them all day. Don’t get me wrong–I measure just about everything, primarily as a means to listen. I love tools like HootSuite, Radian6, and obviously Google Analytics because they help me determine what resonates in a community and what doesn’t. But there’s no use to bringing in a lot of people if they are just going to be unhappy with the product I am selling. Marketing is only one aspect of communicating with users.

I hate to define this role so broadly, but the only defining characteristic of a Community Manager is that he or she uses social media tools. Social Media tools are just communication tools, like telephones. You can use telephones for a lot of different purposes within a company. The question shouldn’t be “How can we get more followers?” The question ultimately is, “How can this Community Manager leverage online communication channels to help us serve our customers better?” You can have zero followers or one million followers and actually accomplish this result depending on the channels you use, and different Community Managers have different approaches.

Successful Community Managers aren’t just given follower metrics they must hit. They contribute to business goals that come from the top. This could mean reducing churn, or helping establish thought leadership which brings in more talent to build a better product, or reducing negative PR. The metrics depend on an individual company’s business objectives and you can’t blame a Community Manager if you don’t tell them what you are looking for. If my blog brings one superstar into my company or influencer on board to my product, who cares that my RSS subscriptions are low? I can get hype in arenas that are much more public than a measly company blog when I have the right people on my side.

Build rockstars. Everyday.

*insert LeBron joke by Mavs fan here.*