Archive for year 2010


Why politics may drive the social web

While President Obama’s use of the social web to connect with voters and raise funds has been well-documented, it may be Scott Brown’s impossible 2010 senatorial win that cements the social web’s role in politics — and perhaps sets it at the forefront of social web innovation.

To set the stage, this was one of the most important state elections in American history.  Healthcare reform was the centerpiece of the Democratic platform and its success hinged on the simple fact that the party held 60 seats in the U.S. Senate, the majority needed to overcome procedural tactics from the opposition that could prevent a vote. That tenuous balance of power shifted when Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts died of cancer last August. The future of healthcare reform and the political makeup of the Senate apparently would be determined by a special election in that state.

This Massachusetts senatorial seat has had a Democratic incumbent for 57 consecutive years and Martha Coakley, the state’s well-funded attorney general, was considered a prohibitive favorite to continue that trend.  Yet the victory went to Brown, a little-known Republican state senator, who surged in the final two weeks of the campaign and overcame a 30-point deficit in just over two months.

What could have caused this amazing turn of events?  While his election was certainly aided by growing concern over Democratic policies, tireless campaigning, and some timely Republican funding, his use of the social web, as documented by a new study, may be the tactic that will imprint state and local elections forever.

According to  research conducted by the Emerging Media Research Council, Brown’s effective use of social networking tools including Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. could have been a factor in his surge.  Here were his numbers as of election day:

Facebook Fans:  Brown (70,800), Coakley (13,529) He received 10 times more Facebook interactions than his opponent.

Twitter Followers:  Brown (9,679), Coakley (3,385)  Brown’s Twitter feed dominated his web page.  Both candidates tweeted about the same amount, but Brown offered twice as much original content, providing a more “engaged response.”

Ning:  The “Brown Brigade” had 6,000 members. The platform created a campaign community to announce events, organize outreach, and compile blogs about his campaign.

Blogging:  Did not appear to be a factor. Brown did not have one. Coakley’s discussed campaign events and received few comments.

YouTube Video Views:  Brown (578,271), Coakley (51,173)

While visits to both candidate webpages were about equal, the study concludes that Brown’s use of social media helped drive his election in several ways, including boosting name recognition both in Massachusetts, and out (which helped fundraising). They note that just 51% of Massachusetts voters had heard of Brown in a Nov. 12 poll, and by Jan. 14 his name recognition was at 95%.

An irony of this development is that Democrats have received the bulk of the credit for progressing campaign-oriented social media networks, but were out-done by the Republicans.  In fact, a report released this year found that Republican lawmakers were using Twitter more than five times as much as Democrats.  Leading tweeters are Sen. John McCain and South Carolina Senatoe Jim DeMint, who was determined by one algorithm to have more Twitter “clout and influence”  than any other senator.

Clearly, the use of social media will now be inexorably linked to political campaigning.  But the more interesting prospect may be what is yet to come. With the intense research, resources and scrutiny given to the use of the social web as a tool of stakeholder engagement, could political parties emerge as principle technology innovators?

Politics as social web innovator and driver brings up some other interesting questions:

  • How do social web lessons from the business world translate into the world of politics?
  • How will social media policies apply to political campaigns … to prevent potential embarassment from over-zealous tweeters, for example?
  • How will these lessons translate in other countries, especially where social media adoption is just beginning?
  • Why weren’t blogs more important as a mechanism for political response and establishing a voice of authority? Are they afraid of putting their stands in writing?
  • What business opportunities will emerge from this insatiable need for political social media consulting?
Illustration: New York Times

A podcast on blog community philosophy

I had the pleasure of being Trey Pennington’s guest on his Marketing Professor Radio Show last week.  I didn’t know where the conversation would lead but I spent nearly the whole time talking about YOU, meaning the {grow} community.  A few topics:

  • Blogging and leadership
  • The importance of kindness
  • Writing for yourself
  • How to be a conversation starter
  • Building true community

If you have a mild interest in the bizarre thought processes that go on behind the scenes of {grow} you might want to check it out:  http://bit.ly/ahchhk

Why comment on a blog? Do it for the money.

Well, I’ve written two recent posts on why people DON’T comment on blogs — one about re-defining engagement, and one with feedback on why people just don’t like to participate.

So today I thought I would write a post on why you NEED to comment.  But I’m not going to go into boring blogger mode by listing “Five Reasons You Should Leave Blog Comments blah blah blah.”  Instead I want to show you how leaving comments can result in serious business and financial benefits for YOU.  And I’m not kidding.

You see, this is not about just writing a little note at the end of one of my articles.  This is about showing up and joining a powerful business network.

So I’m going to put my money where my blog is.  Let me demonstrate just a few ways how the people who engage on {grow} have benefited …

  • Gregg Morris was one of the first regular members of this community. We have become dear friends and he has become one of my paid technical consultants for my customers.
  • Steve Dodd is another amazing guy I’m sure you’ve seen around here. He helped me land one of my best customers and we continue to help each other on joint commercial opportunities.
  • Michelle Chmielewski did a company video for me and received a new HD camera from me for her work. Michelle and I have subsequently worked on many ideas together and I’m sure we always will.
  • I’ve provided new customer leads to Trey Pennington, Christina Kerley, Lisa Foote and many others.
  • Michele Linn has been a paid writer for me on one of my biggest customer projects.
  • I helped Nathan Dube push his company promotion into viral territory and the case study I wrote up on him is being used by Jason Falls in a seminar this week.
  • Billy Mitchell has become a great friend and I’m helping him develop a very important webinar for his company.
  • I’ve pitched in to help charitable causes that were important to Billy, Danny Brown, Kacy Maxwell and others.
  • I’m helping John Bottom with a social media experiment he’s conducting at an upcoming conference.
  • I’ve helped edit a new book coming out soon by Rebel Brown and we help each other on all kinds of problems.
  • I’ve provided free advice through phone calls and emails to DOZENS of people from {grow} and from time to time I’ve also called on my new blog friends to help me too.

I’m sorry if I missed you and your story … I could literally fill three blog posts with examples of the wonderful people on {grow} and how we help each other.

But you see this is just the beginning.  Because when you participate in {grow}, you’re not just connecting to me, you’re giving yourself a chance to connect to EVERYBODY.  I am seeing tons of new business connections among people who first met each other right here. And how did they do that?  They COMMENTED.  They ENGAGED.  And together we’ve formed a cool little help network of friends.

So why not get on board?  We need you here!  And don’t use “I have nothing to say” as an excuse.  Of course you have something to say, even if it’s “I appreciated Steve’s comment,” or “Something like that happened to me too,” or “Mark, you need to shut up now.”

Remember, you’re not just commenting on a blog, you’re joining this community of dynamic business professionals … and you never know what might happen!

So now tell me again, what’s the benefit of invisibility?

The silent majority: Why people don’t comment on your blog

“Why don’t I get comments on my blog?”

This is one of the most common blog-related questions I receive.  My recent post on re-thinking community engagement — especially on B2B blogs — received a lot of attention.  In addition to a vibrant comment section, I received emails, DM’s and phone calls with more ideas from the majority of folks who are meaningfully connected with companies and blogs, but don’t engage in a traditional sense.   I wanted to pass on some new  ideas on why comments may not be the best measure of “engagement,” especially for B2B companies, courtesy of the {grow} community:

Comparisons to traditional consumer behavior

Brian O’Kane and I had a lengthy Skype call on a range of topics, including the fact that most people just don’t feel comfortable commenting … on anything.

“Conventional businesses have no way of knowing how many engaged customers they have,” he said. “Think about traditional brands.  A very tiny percentage of people would actually write in to express their loyalty or displeasure with a brand yet they know they have thousands or millions of loyal consumers.  We somehow expect a higher degree of personal interaction with social media .  Because you blog or make a comment, you may expect people to comment too. But consumer behavior is still the same — most people are just happy to read and enjoy and be engaged that way. For me, I would be less concerned about the intensity of the level of engagement and more focused on the long-term business objectives.”

Engagement outside of the blog

In my post last week, I mentioned GE as a gold standard of corporate blogging but they rarely attract a reader comment.  GE’s Community Manager Megan Parker provided her take on why:

“For GE reports, we have an active and interested audience, and they tend to show us their enthusiasm or concern, as the case may be, when one of our stories really strikes a chord. We don’t have an expectation that people will comment daily or even routinely, but we do make the option to comment available every day. We’re currently fielding a survey about GEreports.com to understand what we’re doing well and not so well now that GER is about 18 months old (barely a toddler).

“We also do not look at GE Reports as just one site but more as a news and information “system” with key extensions on Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, email and RSS.  So the commenting, interacting, downloading and sharing extends beyond the orbit of GER.com and out into this constellation of sites from GE.”

Emotional connection without sharing

Josh Kashorek told me he has been reading {grow} for about a year but had never commented.  “I still feel engaged with {grow} while I’m merely a listener, ” he said. “I think it boils down to a combination of authenticity, and time. I know that sounds a bit cliche but I don’t think having an authentic voice is so much about standing out as it is about allowing readers build their own connections. The more you show me who you really are the more ways I can find that we are similar and the more similarities I find the more engaged I become. For example, we both have a strong focus on business/capitalism. This gets me more engaged because many in the social media space are still talking only about puppies and unicorns.”

Technology and policy hurdles

Jeremy Victor called me to say the post had him thinking and offered a very practical reason why comments are few and far between on B2B blogs: “Studies show that more than half of company employees aren’t even allowed to access the social web from their computers at work and  even if they can, they may not be allowed, or enabled, to comment.” So you need to consider your core audience — do they even have the ability to make a comment?

I would also add that competitive considerations may prevent many people from commenting on a company’s public blog site.

The empty restaurant

Brian compared one psychological aspect of commenting to walking into an empty restaurant.  Some would be more inclined to only take a seat if other people are there. Commenting in an empty comment section might be similar. You don’t want to be the only one putting your neck out.  It’s easier to add a comment when somebody else has been there.

… and the crowded restaurant

“Another reason I don’t comment is if I see too many comments, ” Brian said.  “I saw one of your blogs had 53 comments.  I figured if I commented, nobody will ever see it.”

These interactions, and your generous comments on the post last week, have helped change the way I look at engagement, especially on corporate blogs.  Like many of you, I’ve been guilty of falling into the “it’s all about the conversation” myth without stepping back and looking at practical business realities, traditional consumer behaviors, and other ways people can feel connected to a blog without the tangible presence of engagement.

What do you think?  Does this change your view of the social media “conversation?”

Illustration: Ciudadano Poeta
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