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This is the second half of our two-part discussion on crowdsourcing with uTest’s VP of Marketing and Community, Matt Johnston.  The first installment of our interview is here.

So, you’ve gathered a bunch of information and data from your users.  How do you address issues of IP and who owns the content, both from the perspective of your client companies and from your users?  How do you protect the rights of both of those groups?  Do either of those groups give certain aspects up by using your model that they may not have to otherwise?

That’s a legitimate issue for crowdsourcing companies who are creating something new – for example, in categories like copy writing, design, development and animation.  In such instances, companies like Guru, crowdSPRING or GeniusRocket have to think carefully about fairness and address these issues head on and up front.  Clear communication (and consistent enforcement) of the rules is vital to maintaining a level playing field in a B2B crowdsourcing model.

In the case of uTest, we don’t have to worry about issues of IP ownership because the customer created the apps and simply wants to test them with our community.  The IP issues that are sometimes a concern for new customers are around IP protection.

Again, in this case our job is to establish the ground rules that protect everyone, and then to communicate them clearly and consistently.  In the case of uTest, the client created the app and they own it.  Testers have no rights to the app or to any of the bugs that they discovered within that app.  Beyond that, companies can require testers to sign an NDA and testers are forbidden from sharing any information about customers, their apps, or any bugs outside the uTest platform (including blogs, message boards, Twitter, Facebook, etc.).

You’ve spoken about 90-9-1 Rule, which says that 90% of your community will be passive users, 10% will be active and engaged, and 1% will be the “stars.”  Can you shed some light on these numbers and how each group can add value to the process?

We had a great discussion about this at the recent TiE event!  The 90-9-1 rule states that 90% of community members will be “lurkers,” 9% will be part-time contributors and 1% will fully adopt and become “super users.”  While the math changes from crowd to crowd, the underlying premise does not:  the vast majority of the contribution or participation will come from your top users.  This isn’t just true in crowdsourcing, it’s true on message boards, social networks, blogging services, and most online user bases.

If you’re building an ad-based revenue model, you may not care, because even “lurkers” generate page views.   However, if you’re building a transaction-oriented revenue model like uTest is, you need participation in order for a community member to make a direct contribution.

Thus, one of uTest’s keys to success is to identify those future “stars” early on so we can nurture them along the path to success.  We recognize that some testers join our community because they want to use their testing skills to earn money, while others join because they want to network with their peers and consume the educational content that we provide.  We welcome all testers into our community, but we make a special effort to engage those who want to participate in projects.

We talk a lot about “inside-the-transaction” vs. “outside-the-transaction” types of participation.   The former refers to testers who are participating in projects, reporting bugs and getting paid (as well as building their reputation).  The latter refers to those who don’t participate in projects, but could still make meaningful contributions.  This could be by subscribing to our newsletter, commenting on our blog, participating in our forums, or contributing content, ideas and expertise to other members of our community.  Both types of participation are valuable to uTest’s long-term future, but the wants and needs of these two groups are unique, so we cater to them as such.

Your company didn’t just come to the decision to implement crowdsourcing one day, you actually built the entire company on that model specifically.  It’s in the name - uTest.  Do you feel you could have gotten similar results had you been offering the same end-products through more traditional methods of production/testing?  Would they have been worse?  Could things be better using a different model?

If we tried to do this with a traditional model, the results wouldn’t even be close to what we’ve achieved to date.  It would be impossible from a logistics or financial perspective for us to have built the level of testing coverage that we have today.  We’re doing testing for some of the top software companies in the world in our first year of operations – no small feat.  And we couldn’t do it without our community and our investment in our community.

The testing needs in the world of software have become exceedingly complex. Companies now have to test their apps across locations, languages, operating system, browser, as well as handset makers and models, and wireless carriers.  This is a prohibitively expensive task for even the most mature and sophisticated companies.  And crowdsourcing is uniquely suited to meet the challenges of software testing.  That underlying belief is what prompted our co-founders to build uTest based on a crowdsourcing model – and what led me to join the company.

About uTest

uTest is the world’s largest marketplace for software testing services. The company provides real-world testing services through its community of 20,000+ professional testers from 158 countries around the world. Hundreds of companies - from web startups to global software leaders - have joined the uTest marketplace to get their web, desktop and mobile applications tested. More information can be found at or the company’s Software Testing Blog at

I decided it was a good time to rein in on the many social connections I have and that we’ve set up for the Other Side Group.  I started out by going through the list and drawing it out…. it’s a little messy, but it got the job done.

I wrote down every outpost (and threw in blogs there) and drew arrows to determine where the connections were.  From there, I was able to get a better picture of where all the content was going and coming from.

A few things I was able to do:

  1. Clean up (I don’t use Jaiku or Tumblr, so I deleted the accounts)
  2. Find overlaps (For instance, I have Twitter fed into Friendfeed, but I also had Twitter fed into BrightKite, which fed into Friendfeed, so it was posting twice)
  3. See what I use the most (I use Twitter and Facebook)
  4. Find holes (Could we maximize our company LinkedIn page more?)
  5. Identify hidden potential (I’m thinking Posterous might play a larger role in the future)
  6. Ask questions (I have a lot of stuff going into FriendFeed, but don’t ever actually use it… is it doing me good? Is that best practice for social media usage?)

It was a fun exercise, and I was able to learn a lot, and get a grasp on what all of my social media tools were doing for me out there.  I’d highly suggest it for all of you heavy-users!

If you want to connect to me or to Other Side Group on any of these platforms:

Other Side Group

Other Side Notes (Anya’s blog)
Anya on Twitter

Kate Brodock

Today and Tomorrow (website/blog)
Google Reader
Portfolio (Still needs work)

I recently had a conversation with someone about numbers and social media.  It was not unlike many conversations I’ve had before.  I was asked to defend my mere 2,000 Twitter followers against someone else’s 5,000 or so.  Doesn’t that make them better at social media?  To his credit, he was merely playing with me, and was not necessarily a numbers guy himself, but many people DO base your skill level on this!

My answer is flat out no.  I’m a huge proponent of value.  Value, value, VALUE.  I can’t even say it enough.  And that’s why I’m very picky about my own numbers and my company’s numbers when it comes to what that audience means for me and Other Side Group in the long term.

As an example, let’s talk about my Twitter following.

So firstly, I don’t think 2,182 is so paltry in terms of followers.  Secondly, I feel that over 75% of my followers (basically, the ones I’m following back) are of high value.

I have not actively sought additional followers since I reached the 300 mark or so. Which means almost everyone past that followed me.  Which then means that, as mentioned above, the 75% that were not spam, found me worth following in the first place. I’m offering them something.

What type of qualities in a follower or fan do I define as valuable? Everything that we say is important in social media:

  • They are seeking value from the people they go to
  • They engage in discussion and conversation
  • They seek two-way communications
  • They are actually listening to the people they are following - in this case me - because of these things.

I follow people that I know will have great ideas, pass along great articles or resources, respond to me when I’m seeking advice or answers, be receptive to my discussion and advice-giving, and want to have “meaningful” online relationships.  That’s what I’m here for.

Fred Wilson had a great post about total users versus active users in which he said:

“Your best advocates are always your most active users. So focus on them, make them successful in your service, focus on growing that number, and the non-active problem will take care of itself.”

In my opinion, you should work from the get-go to get users that have the most chance of remaining active and engagement in the long-run, which further lessens you having to “deal” with the problem of non-active users.

A few more numbers that I would be interested in, or that I’d love people or potential clients to be asking me (and that I care about when people tell me their social media “numbers”):

  1. I am regularly “nominated” by at least 5 people each week for #followfriday.  Now, some people will scoff at it, but at the very least I feel this is testament to the fact that I am offering them at least some reason to follow me.  Yes I have to work at it, but it’s worth it to me because they’re loyal and I know I can go to them when I need to.
  2. When I need answers or advice, I get responses to questions within minutes from people following me.  They are engaged in their community (of which I’m a part) and they want to give back.  I love this, and I thank them.
  3. When I invited people to the Other Side Group Facebook Page, I could have easily sent it to every one of my 700+ friends and Boom! I would have an envious fan following for a firm our size.  But I didn’t.  I went through each of those friends and decided who I thought would actually value what we were doing and providing, who might interact with our content, etc.  That’s all that matters to me.  We’re at 113 fans right now, and it slowly grows every day with new people who are being exposed to our information through those initial fans.
  4. I was able to organize - which means find speakers, find sponsors and promote - an event that brought 150+ attendees in the short span of about three weeks using almost solely my following on Twitter and Facebook.  I’m not tooting my horn, I’m highlighting how darn powerful that is! (Thank you guys!).

These are just a few examples, but my biggest question remains.  Why don’t people ask more about the value of these networks rather than just the numbers?

We talk a lot in marketing about Reach (R), Frequency (F) and Impact (I).  From my observations, too many people are focusing on just the R and F when it comes to social media marketing.

R and F cater to the 0.5 second blasts that people send out, which are usually memorable for perhaps 1 second total by the majority of “listeners.”  This can be useful for general brand awareness.  But what about the I? The brand IMPACT?

More emphasis needs to be placed on the I and how to achieve that, because that’s really all that matters in the long run.  This is the only way to achieve long-term brand loyalty.

I would venture a bet that my 2,000 Twitter followers have way more Impact than someone who went out and aggressively sought followers from anywhere just to get their numbers up, which is what I see time after time again. [I've met so many people at social media networking events that say things like "yeah I just reached 5,000 followers."  Great, I say, what's their profile?  What are they doing for you? Will they still be around in and paying attention in six months?

This may not matter as an individual (although it may), but it becomes poor strategy (or no strategy!) when it comes to business.

Case in point:

I recently spoke to a company that was marketing the fact that they were "social."  What this meant, to them, was listing on their homepage the number of Twitter followers and Facebook fans that they had.

Well, that could be great if it weren't for the fact that the way they GOT those fans was by running a promotion for a giveaway of a prize completely unrelated to their product offering.  The "fans" rallied behind the brand for the prize giveaway, and once the prize was given out and the contest ended, the majority of the fans were completely uninterested in the product offering, and those that may have been were left idle because of a lack of sales follow-up on the part of the company.

This is a waste of money and a missed revenue opportunity.  Period.

Yet they still tout their numbers on their homepage.....

So let's start talking about value more when you're both increasing your own social media presence and when you're analyzing others.

What do you think about numbers?  Are you getting value out of your numbers?  Are you wishing you got more value?  Have you found a straight numbers approach to social media useful in anyway?  We'd love to hear from you!

Image via CrunchBase

This is a little delayed (I was reading an old TIME at the gym this morning), but I feel compelled to respond to Lev Grossman’s article from the 16 March issue, titled “Quitting Twitter.”

The subtitle of the piece is “It’s the social network du jour.  But what do we really get out of it, aside from interrupted?

I certainly can’t blame Lev for thinking this.  Heck, 90% of my friends always ask me “What’s the deal with Twitter?”  And maybe 30% of those still haven’t even heard of it.  So I thought I’d take a few minutes to throw my own observations out for people in this position to ponder about.

My biggest piece of advice for Lev, since he seemed to not being finding value out of people’s Tweets is to find where he value is and who’s giving it!  Search for people in your field or interested in general news, or nerd topics like technology.  Read their bios, read their first page of Tweets.  If the tweets are mostly about getting burritos with hot salsa instead of mild or how awesome it is to watch their cat playing with a tennis ball… it sounds like that might not be valuable to you.  If they’re on interesting news, observations on specific topics, or they seem to be having good conversation, that’s a great start.

Just as I could pick up a romance novel to read in bed at night, I could also pick up a book that had substance and meaning.

Awesome (and useful!) ways I’ve seen Twitter being used

  1. Early crisis warning, like what Nate Ritter is doing with CrisisWire. (@nateritter) [Note: In my opinion, the aggregation of Twitter is one of the coolest things I see happening to Twitter's future].
  2. Speaking of aggregation, how about getting updates from around the world on Inauguration Day experiences on Inauguration Report?
  3. Getting yourself out of Egyptian jail, as was the case for student James Karl Buck last April.
  4. Finding out about local and national information on industry networking events, gatherings, news, information, products… you name it… all from Twitter.  Oh!  I forgot to mention we got a paying client too!
  5. Raising a lot of money for charities or social good, as was the case with Twestival (among many, many other cases).
  6. Starting meaningful conversation, like PR professional Sarah Evans (@PRSarahevans) has done with #journchat.
  7. Helping people and families close to you using your social network, as David Armano did for his friend Daniela and her family. (@armano)

Some of my big favorites to follow for value, aside from those already mentioned? @guykawasaki, @shelisrael, @timoreilly, @knealemann,…. I’m gunna stop here, I could go on for a really, REALLY long time.

If you want to check in with the funders of Twitter?  Follow @Fredwilson at Union Square Ventures, or you can check out his blog, A VC (search for “Twitter” and you’ll get all the information you need to see why he supports it).

Lev ends by reminding us all to “just remember, the un-Twittered life is still worth living.“  Lev, thank you, really, but most of us do know that.  Some people, of course don’t.  Some people also don’t think regular old life is worth living either.  It’s all about how you use it, and how you work it into your life.

Do you have any other examples of great Twitter usage?  Anyone Lev should be following?  Any advice for him about getting the most out of Twitter?

[Sidenote: I'm currently watching an ABC News clip on this exact topic, pointing to several cases where maybe Twitter is getting out of hand.  I can't find the video at the moment, because it was literally just on, but when I went to search for the video, I came up with this nice clip about using Twitter to teach.]

These are in no particular order, but some of my favorites during the year.  Some them include profiters of the blunders.

  1. Laughable Competitor: Microsoft’s attempt at funny-ness in response to Apple’s actual funny-ness Apple vs PC commercials are humorous.  They got laughs, they got eyes, and they did the trick.  Microsoft’s response?  Let’s try and out-funny them!  Jerry Seinfeld!  Result?  Fail.  Not funny, regardless of Seinfeld, as many critics will tell you.
    Bill Gates may be brilliant perhaps, but he’s much of the unfunny-ness of this series.
  2. Poor Management Choice: McCain campaign, Palin and all I’m going to credit this explanation to the Collateral Damage Blog post (which includes more marketing blunders you might enjoy).
    • “Our economy, I think, is still — the fundamentals of our economy are strong.”
    • Has no idea how many houses he (or his wife) owns.
    • Picks Sara Palin, the Broad to Nowhere who couldn’t find Russia or Africa on a map.
    • Campaign adviser and former HP CEO Carly Fiorina says Palin couldn’t run a major corporation.
    • Campaign adviser and former senator Phil Gramm says Americans are whiners about economic problems.
    • “Shutting down” his campaign to fix the bailout.
    • “Lipstick on a pig”
    • Egregious attack on Dungeons & Dragons that clearly cost him the election. (OK, maybe not so much the last one).

    My own additions would be Joe the Plumber, who ended up telling the nation post-campaign how much he hated the whole thing (in not so pleasant of words), and of course the campaigns complete oversight on not having a competitive new media strategy. I’m biased, but that was just dumb.

  3. Poor Customer Service: Nike and Arien O’Connell
    When Arien O’Connell had the fastest time in the San Francisco Marathon in October, Nike only

    clocked in the elite times (O’Connell was a regular woman who was “just doing it”).  Even after they realized what had happened, they didn’t grant her first place.  It was only after competitor Reebok

    stepped up to “console” O’Connell that Nike changed its tune.  Nike doesn’t seem to understand how this works nowadays, does it?

  4. Executive/Consumer Gap: GM Execs Fly to Washington to get federal bailout money
    I don’t think this requires too much explanation.  You’re in dire financial straights.  You’re going to ask someone for “help.”  If you’re a good marketer, you might put on some grubbier clothes, enter with slightly disheveled hair and a week-old beard while eating a 99¢ Whopper to make your story a little better.  But instead, you throw on your $2000 suit, have your make-up people make you look fantastic, stroll in fifteen minutes late and sit down while checking your Rolex.

    UPDATE: Perfect timing GM!  You didn’t let me down on this one.  GM ticks off consumers by spending half a million dollars thanking them for their bailout.

  5. Scent Marketing: Burger King goes a little overboard
    Burger King
    ’s “Flame” cologne, which smells like a flame broiled burger, is a toss up in terms of whether it’s really a blunder or not.  It’s gross, absolutely.  And if I ever smelled someone with it on, I would likely get sick.

    However, it’s apparently sold out and it certainly got Burger King some love.  I might at the very least question their brainstorming sessions.  My guess is that this sort of thing can only happen once (Dragon Garden Chinese , do not do this at home please).

    Profiters: Anyone selling this on eBay, some as high as $50, since the stuff cost $3.99 from the Burger King Website.

  6. Brand Departure: Levi’s “Unbutton Your Beast” Campaign Levi’s history is rich with good ‘ole American roots.  A story of pioneering new land, helping the little people, and revolutionizing the way people felt in a piece of clothing (for those who don’t know the Levi’s story, please see here or here).You can imagine my disgust surprise at the following ad.  I don’t even know who they were targetting (since it seems morally wrong to be marketing to anyone who might find this appealing, namely teenage boys).[youtube][/youtube]
  7. Freaking Out: Mommy Bloggers
    No, I don’t mean Motrin.  I mean the mommy bloggers.  I refrained from commenting on this when it occurred (though will likely have a post on it sometime next month), but I found this excessive response on the part of mommy bloggers to be a move in the wrong direction for social media.

    It made me question where the line would be drawn between increased ability to respond and converse with brands, and just plain (very costly and detrimental) over exaggeration.  I really felt that Motrin got the lousy end of the stick here.  While companies need to respect their consumers much more, consumers should really think about the full extent of their actions as well.  BOTH parties should be thinking unselfishly.

    Ford Truck

    Did anyone notice that about 2 day after the Motrin viral video came out (which I personally thought was very well done, most notably in terms of how you followed the words throughout the ad, it really kept you locked in), they came out with this commercial?  Way to use something that “messed up”  and had to be pulled to your advantage.

  8. Personal Branding: Plaxico Burress - ‘nuf said
    Profiter: LandLine TV.  This is just hilarious.[youtube][/youtube]

We’re at Web2.0 NYC this week and so far I wanted to highlight my favorite keynote of the day: Jason Fried from 37Signals.  Incredibly dynamic speaker, knew his stuff, got to the point, and made the point a good one.

He talked about “being a curator (of a museum)” while developing software.  What do I care about software?  Well, probably not a ton unless it’s working (or not working) for me, but his analogy is applicable to every business owner, or anyone trying to get something done.  A few key points are below.

  1. Learn how to say no. The job of a curator is not to say yes.  It’s to say no.  It’s to refine and make the most informed decisions and only bring in the art pieces that make sense for the museum.  Careful selection.
  2. Remember all of your visitors, not just the most vocal.  If you had to listen to the most vocal minority of your visitors, you’d likely have the art pieces that appeal only to them, in limited styles.  But that’s probably not what’s best for the majority of your visitors.
  3. Don’t be a warehouse, be a museum. In a warehouse of art, you have so much stuff, and things stay in inventory, don’t get used and just take up space. The great thing about a museum is that there are pieces NOT in there.  You’ve chosen the key pieces of artwork, and you’ve spent time putting them together in a coherent and meaningful way.

For a rundown of the full line up, check out Anya’s blog.

Blog Day 2008

Aside from our participation in Blog Action Day, we’ll also be trying to promote five fellow bloggers in Blog Day, which was “created with the belief that bloggers should have one day dedicated to getting to know other bloggers from other countries and areas of interest.”

We may include one blog from our industry, but will try and diversify (which will be easy for me to do).

According to Wikipedia, it’s

a web application that combines data from more than one source into a single integrated tool; an example is the use of cartographic data from Google Maps to add location information to real-estate data, thereby creating a new and distinct web service that was not originally provided by either source.”

Well, according to one of our favorite blogs, Six Pixels of Separation (to which I owe this wonderful finding), it’s

“Two individually awesome things that make up one even more amazingly awesome thing.”

This can best be demonstrated with the following video:


You may have come across this in the last few days, but Vimeo has challenged the blogging community to a Blog Action Day, “to post about the same issue on the same day. Our aim is to raise awareness and trigger a global discussion.” The topic will be on poverty. Hopefully you can join!

Blog Action Day 2008 Poverty from Blog Action Day on Vimeo.

Atlanta development

You may or may not know that I’ve just graduated from the Goizueta Business School at Emory University in Atlanta, GA.  If you’re wondering if it’s hot, yes it is.  One of my classmate, Yaniv (who’s great!), posted this blog link on the problems with the Atlanta start-up community (and how to fix it!). Well, I couldn’t help but reply with the below comment to the blog.  I come from the start-up world in Boston (another interesting article on the CIC in Cambridge, where the first two start-ups I was part of were housed… and a specific shout out to Nabeel at Conduit!) and I was heavily involved in the Entrepreneurship community at Emory, which had significant contact with the Atlanta community of Entrepreneurs and Investors, so i feel pretty strongly about the topic.  I could easily write more than the below, but at least it’s a start:

Jeff -

I’ve just graduated from the Emory MBA program, and you’re right, more of my classmates should be clamoring to get jobs in the start-up community, but part of that situation is getting administration to realize the importance of entrepreneurship. I took a very active part in starting (back) up the Entrepreneurship Club, and was a teacher’s assistant in multiple entre. classes. One of the major pushers for increased traction in that arena is local serial entrepreneur/investor Charlies Goetz, who pretty much teaches all of the MBA-level Entrepreneurship classes at that school and gets students excited about it. And a lot of us are. But it take more than one professor. When the Dean of the school and the Career Center are more concerned about placing people in more “visible” companies (read: safe and guaranteed visibility), they won’t put any effort into pushing entre. programs. So that’s another thing that local entrepreneurship and investors can do, is reach out to those communities that can offer prime talent (we tried to do a LOT of work to get y’all in there, and for the most part, I think we accomplished a lot, but it’s got to keep going and growing!). I can name a handful of classmates who went into start-ups after graduation, but it’s still an area that students are exploring, and most go back into big corporations. They need more than job postings from local start-ups (which takes no more than an email to the career center). They need convincing, encouragement and more entre/investor presence around.

Another opportunity I see: I’ve just started up my own business consulting group, and we focus primarily on marketing strategy, but definitely offer overall business strategy and consulting (I must admit, it’s located in Boston, where I’m from). After experiencing the Atlanta entre/investor community, I walked away feeling that investors were, as you highlighted, timid, and that perhaps collaboration could be useful. I don’t mean combining funds. I mean making partnerships between Entrepreneurs, consultants and funders to make the most successful business out there. I’m currently trying to reach out to investors both in Boston and Atlanta to see if some sort of partnership can be achieved, one where the start-ups get the business side up-to-par (let’s be honest, a lot of start-ups have great ideas or products, but sometimes lack on the business side) to a point where the investors start getting more confident in the company. If people tried to work together on this problem, Atlanta could really move forward. It’s the fastest growing major city in the US right now, and that means HUGE opportunity.

I could write a TON more right now, but your post really hit the nail on the head, and someone needed to say it.

I wish you luck in the Valley!


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