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Anya and I attended the WorldRG-sponsored Business of Community Networking conference in Boston last week.  The setting was very intimate, and there was a great line-up of speakers.  I’ve given a run down of several of them below, with some of the main takeaways.

Clara Shih on her thoughts on Facebook and Online Communities

Panel on how various online communities and community platforms have worked or not worked

Lena West on Viral Marketing

Liz Strauss on Successful Blogging

Michael Cayley on Social Capital Value Add

A panel discussion on ROI measurement

Susan Getgood on Social Media and Customer Service

Marketing, Branding and Community: How social networks are rewriting the rules of marketing, branding and community

Clara Shih, author of The Facebook Era

  • Facebook is a way for humans to interact with each other, it’s not just a tool.
  • How can collaboration/productivity tools be incorporated into Facebook? Can it be used as a CRM?
  • It’s now become a social norm to share personal information publicly.  Facebook can be used as a channel to access information via “trusted online identity.”  You can connect with friends about what’s important to you, both personally and professionally.
  • How do you as a company insert yourself in the conversation in a way that’s valuable and not invasive?
    • Know your customer: use transitive trust, a personalized interaction.  It’s up to the individual to share their information.  Customers expect that you know them and that you’ve done your due diligence on them personally.
    • Weak ties are very important in this setting, leverage them.
  • Facebook offers a personal contact database.  A traditional CRM is uni-directional (companies push), now it’s bi-directional (the customer is empowered).

[Faceconnector demo]

  • There is a loyalty magnification effect in Facebook: Passive word-of-mouth (you can become a fan of something right from your own newsfeed.  If one of your friends becomes a fan, it’s very easy to follow suit).
  • Facebook offers precision marketing with hypertargeted ads
    • You can minimize wasted ads
    • Leverage latent interest
    • Test new segments and messaging
  • How do you reach them before intention sets in and get them to become intention-based buyers?

[Resources: You can install Faceconnect here on the apps page of and learn more about The Facebook Era here.]

Learnings from a Facebook Group in Business Investigation

Jenny Ambrozek, Victoria Axelrod, Francois Gossieux

  • You can now tap communities once only reserved for companies with deep pockets
  • Community development/management has to be considered a real investment
  • Facebook isn’t great for managing huge groups
  • Ning provides a platform for rich conversation (discussion threads, blogs, subgroups, etc)
  • Fundamentals
    • Good content
    • Allow for members profiles
    • Don’t think market segments, think tribes
    • Think about behavior, not demographics
    • Don’t think of the tool as a channel, think about it as a conversation between you and them
    • Content must be picked up to become part of the conversations
  • “Whether there’s an ROI or not, [social networking] is something you have to do.”
  • “We haven’t been able to assign a dollar amount to [social networking], but you still have to play.”
  • What is the relationship of new people coming to the site to those current members?  How did they get there?
    • Known name
    • Known friend of a friend
    • New face
    • New member, source unknown
  • Align your activity measurements with network measurements and analysis
  • It’s about behavior, not attributes
  • Reciprocity in people is a reflex
  • We either behave in a market framework (contract, employment, cold, calculated) or a social framework
  • Provide structure and house rules (top-down) while nurturing the bottom-up interactions
  • Facebook ends up being a lot of work
    • Much harder for B2B to get companies to interact
    • People don’t want to necessarily go to Facebook to do business
    • It’s still difficult to put a “face” to a company
  • Find out where your trive hangs out, go there, and deliver results

[Resources: Tribalization of Business Study (Beeline Labs)]

The Chicken or the Egg: The real deal about “viral marketing”

Lena West, Founder & CEO of Xyno Media

  • Viral Marketing is any marketing tactic/content that encourages “pass along” sharing, which then changes that messages level of influence.
  • 3-7-3 Frameworks
    • 3 Rules
      • Viral marketing is created, not born
      • People hate the term viral marketing, and probably always will
      • Not all viral marketing is good
    • 7 Criteria
      • Free & short rule
      • Doesn’t force behavior change, but allows for it
      • It’s not just entertaining, but people can see themselves doing it
      • Feeds off how people work
      • Scalability is hardwired (support structure needs to be there)
      • Facilitates easy sharing
      • Leverage Other Peoples’ Social (OPS)
    • 3 Imperatives
      • Listen/Monitor (if you don’t listen, you don’t know what’s going on)
      • Set the kill switch (how can you pull the plug if you need to)
      • Once your campaign goes viral, it no longer belongs to your brand

Understanding the Conversation Online Between Consumers: Focusing on blogging

Liz Strauss, Social Media Strategist and blogger at Successful Blog

Please see separate post complete with video for this presentation.

Social Media Reality: Achieving cultural shifts

Michael Cayley, Founder of Social Capital Value Add

[Video coming soon]


  • Two main points of this video:
    • We’re going through exponential change
    • Bandwidth is one of the key drivers
  • What’s In It For Me (WWIF Me) has become WIIF Them
  • There is an authentic connection and self-fulfillment found through organization
  • Would some companies survive if they weren’t aligned with CSR?
  • Shared perception is mediated
  • The medium is in the message
  • The scale of human beings has changed, so how we architect around that will change
  • Brand Valuation is an estimation of the future earnings of products and services
  • Social Capital in not based on a product line

[Resources: Introducing Social Capital Value Add e-book]

Understanding the ROI with Community Marketing

Chris Carfi, CEO of Cerado (Moderator); Myles Bristowe, President of Boston American Marketing Association and CMO of Commonwealth Creative Associates; Michael Cayley, Founder of Social Capital Value Add; Jenny Ambrozek, Founder of SageNet; Erica Farthing, Director of Social Media for

[Video coming soon]

  • Anything in marketing is a risk
  • Measure everything you can
  • You can measure so much more now than you could
  • Give your members a reason to join your network (for AMA is was to communicate with professionals in their field and get relevant information)
  • Instead of just having events or a newsletter, an online community offers value from the association or company every day
  • For AMA, in order to convert people from community members to Association members, there needed to be someone who reached out to them, they needed to find continual value, and they needed to participate in order to convert to membership.
  • Integrate the back end of your community for data capture
  • Most measurements are happening ad hoc, but creating a company picture with the most applicable measurements is key
  • Set realistic goals

Examining Social Media & Customer Services

Susan Getgood, Principal of Getgood Strategic Marketing

  • Your starting point is your customer
  • Customers are online talking about you
  • It’s about the social part.  The tool is just a medium and they’re changing every day
  • Public social netowkrs are where discussions are taking place
  • 85% of social media users say that companies should be online in a social networking way
  • It’s not just about outbound marketing, it’s about engagement and what the customers do once they reach you
  • 4 Ps of online engagement: Prepare, Participate, Pitch or Publish
  • Constistency, Honesty and Value

We’ve been discussing (beating to death) the topic of measurement and ROI in social media for a while now.  How do you measure ROI?  What elements go into that measurement?  How do you talk about the lack of a “traditional” ROI measurement to bosses or clients who want to see it?  Can you make a convincing argument or feel good about results without it?

Well, if you’re in the industry, hopefully the answer to the last question is clear.  As Anya said this morning:

“The answer is clear: You don’t need hard numbers and a specific percentage point ROI to know if your efforts in social media and marketing are worth your time and money.”

That’s part of the point that Professor Andrew McAfee made this morning at the Boston Social Media Breakfast.  And it’s what I’ve been wanting to hear from someone of authority for a while (he’s said it before, in his blog).

A few of his points (among many others):

  • Why can’t you look at the data, not have an ROI, and still feel ok with the results?
  • Business leaders should be able to think about a situation and whether it’s outcome is good or bad without a bold and highlighted ROI number in front of them.
  • Business leaders should also trust each other without being provided an ROI (Please note: I’m not saying trust anybody, this is in conjunction with the above point)
  • Really, what has ROI ever meant?

I’d like to add one thought or expansion  that I think McAfee was hinting at.

Playing with the elements of the ROI equation has always happened.  It’s as follows:

Once you’re past your core finance or marketing class in business school, where they ever-so-conveniently but ever-so-unrealistically give you the perfect numbers, you’re usually figuring out what specific elements are the best to put into the equation and sometimes it gets pretty creative.  What’s your gain?  What are your costs?

But more importantly, what are we talking about when we say return?

ROI has really never been straight forward.  It can be different in different companies.  In some cases, the inputs have been easier to recognize.  In most cases, the ROI measurement has been used long enough in a company or industry that it takes about 30 seconds to compute and either write out bonuses or work longer hours.

I found something to think about in a really quick search I did (not the best market research, but oh well):

  • Only 7% of senior-level financial executives say they are satisfied with their company’s ability to measure [traditional] marketing ROI.
  • In contrast to the low level of satisfaction among financial executives, an April 2006 survey of senior-level marketers by MMA and the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) found that nearly one-fourth (23%) were satisfied with their company’s ability to measure ROI.
  • Though one-third of marketers in the MMA-ANA survey agreed they could forecast the impact on sales of a 10% budget cut, only 16% of financial service executives expressed agreement with that statement.

Traditional ROI measurements have never instilled a large amount of confidence in marketers.  Yet people continue to rely very heavily and narrowly on this number.

Part of the “problem” of ROI in the social media space is that, in a sense, we’re back to square one in choosing the best inputs, figuring out what the best measurement for ROI is, for each company or campaign, without a heck of a lot of the above mentioned standards you find in traditional ROI measurements.

We’re uncomfortable because we’re stuck on the same old numbers.

As Brian Halligan of HubSpot stated in his talk at the breakfast, they do a full set of intangible measurements as well.  What’s your reach?  How many websites are linking to?  What are people saying about your brand? Etc.

The point is, people who are so strictly concerned with the numbers that go into ROI and have been looking at the same calculations for the last 10 years are missing the concept altogether.  It’s the return on your investment.  To Andrew’s point, if you can take one step back (and it’s really just one little step!) and think about the concept of ROI, you may get a little more comfortable with the input numbers that go into it.

He’s right: business people are smarter than they give themselves (and others) credit.  But any good businessman knows what it’s like to analyze something with less than perfect data, and decide whether it “looks good” or doesn’t.  If you find yourself consistently second-guessing in situations like this and looking around for numbers, frankly, I don’t think a perfect ROI calculation will make you any more comfortable….nothing probably will.

This is a bit of an extreme, but a while ago I did a post on Saul from Freshbooks.  I won’t forget what he answered when asked about ROI.  He said that he pays no attention to ROI.  He doesn’t care about it.  He works his magic and he recognizes that there are beneficial outcomes to his actions.  Now, he’s lucky and has a boss who “gets it” so he gets the go ahead for his initiatives.  But he couldn’t have gotten to that point without going with his gut a little more and thinking about the overall concept of ROI.

When the “Return” and/or “Investment” portion of this equation is different than what you’ve been measuring, don’t just say “the hell with this” and back away (in my humble opinion, I think this an absolutely horrible a pretty bad characteristic of any business person, the inability to think more broadly or creatively about these sorts of things, the answer is there with a little more work).

Rethink what returns means.  Rethink what investment means.  Then look at the results, and I’m pretty sure you’ll be able to figure out whether they’re good or bad.  That’s your ROI, right there.

Honestly, I feel the same way that Andrew and Saul feel about ROI, but kept thinking I needed to have the perfect answer for people, particularly potential clients, when they asked.  Well, maybe I’ll ask them everything I just asked you and see where that gets me instead.

For the record, Matt Cutler of Visible Measures also had a great talk this morning, but I remember that I pretty much listened and watched and said “that’s so cool!” for most of his talk, which isn’t a bad thing…. I was particularly pleased with his analysis of the DNC and RNC speeches by McCain, to which he applied a simple cloud map… I went to find it on their blog.  I didn’t find it, but in doing so I realized that the blog is really great (new information for my RSS feed!)

And one last, but not least, thank you to Bob Collins for putting SMB10 together. 

UPDATE: Please check out David Meerman Scott’s short answer from the New Marketing Summit a few weeks ago.  It’s up on his blog.  It’s a great addition to the conversation.

This is the first of many posts written by Anya, the new principal at Other Side Group.

We’ve been talking a lot about measurement in the new media space lately, and inspired by a great post on ROI on Mashable, I thought I’d take a minute to discuss one of the areas I think is often struggled with in planning a new media program to optimize the ability to measure success and demonstrate results during the course of the project.

Each company or organization should have unique and specific goals it hopes to reach with a new media program, before the program enters the implementation phase. This will not only allow for a targeted approach to the effort with specific tactics tied to the goals the company hopes to achieve, but will also facilitate the proper methods for measurement of success. As with any marketing or public relations program, new media plans will have aspects of ambiguity in measurement, but proper efforts should be made to ensure measurement methods are in place as much as possible, and that expectations are set properly for the kinds of feedback the program can expect.

Like any business initiative, you need to have goals in mind before you begin a new media program. This is not to say that you should have a sales goal or a number of new clients goal, because this may push you into using your new media strategy in a way that screams sales, and that is not what I am arguing. The kind of goals I am referring to are things that involve conversations, corporate reputation or customer relationships. Things like “We want to create a community where we can get technical feedback from users and help to resolve issues” or “We want to establish a channel of open communication between our CEO and our customers” or even “We want to give employees an outlet to comment on industry trends and engage with clients and customers.”

There are of course many other options, each of which have different outcomes and different methods of implementation, but most importantly, they all result in different methods of measurement. If your goal is to reach customers and encourage interaction with the brand, then the number of comments on the site, questions answered, speed of response and customer satisfaction levels become the benchmark for success. A blog for employees and employee interaction could be measured in number of posts, overall traffic and traffic sources, employee satisfaction and retention rates, rate of adoption, interaction between members etc.

The goals of the program determines the measurement possibilities for the program, and because each company and situation is unique, there will never be a cut and dried method for measuring the success of new media efforts. Each program will require its own method of measurement. The important thing I believe is important is that those goals and measurement benchmarks need to be in place before you begin working on your new media program in order to ensure success. For some ideas on what kind of benchmarks can be used, check out a comprehensive list here…

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