Case studies


How to use Twitter to crowd-source creativity

I have a “virtual” company. Well, it’s a real company, but I don’t have a building and employees and all that traditional stuff. I work with a posse of freelancers who might be spread out all over the country. So I have the best of both worlds. Great company, great people, but no worries about payroll and HR issues.

Everything works great about this model except for one thing. You can’t brainstorm by yourself.

This was the problem I was facing recently when I needed to come up with creative ideas to help a client company mark its 30th anniversary. I had some ideas, but I’ve been around long enough to know they weren’t the BEST ideas. For that, I needed to put some minds together. But how? I was on a deadline and needed to write a proposal quickly.

It dawned on me that this is what the social web is all about — networking, sharing, helping, creating. So with literally no planning, I wrote up an invitation on my blog to join a web meeting at 4 p.m. that very day and sent out one tweet asking if anyone would be interested in spending 30 minutes with me to think out loud. I was fortunate that seven people joined me, including one from Brazil and one from Spain. Some I didn’t know at all, some like Gregg Morris and Carla Bobka had become my friends over months of interaction on Twitter.

I used Citrix for the online meeting interface and conference call.  I wrote out ideas on my shared computer screen so all participants could build on what was being said.  On the notification on my blog I had given dial-in instructions as well as a little background on the problem.

In 30 minutes, I had two pages of great ideas.  I massaged the ideas into a proposal, presented it to company management and <ta da> they loved it!  But there were side benefits, too:

  • I explained to my client how I came up with the ideas, which further strengthened their interest and commitment to the social web.
  • The people who connected on the call enjoyed the exercise and have reached out to stay connected between themselves. I think that’s cool.
  • I had an idea that worked, will be repeated and it was something I could share with you.

What I could have done better:

  • Planned it ahead of time and allowed more time for people to learn about it.
  • 30 minutes was probably too short. Another 15 minutes would have made a big difference.
  • Two participants had technical problems which limited their ability to participate. A few additional people bopped in for a few seconds and left. I’m guessing they had tech problems too.

All in all, it was a  simple, cost-effective, successful people-technology mash-up.  Are you doing these kinds of things to support your business?

Social media measurement: Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand tweets

In all of the posts I’ve read about social media measurement, very few address the possible role of qualitative research — measuring when you don’t have data — so let’s take a look at that today, shall we?  This will not be boring, I promise.

To make sure we’re all on a level playing field, let me quickly review the difference between QUANTITATIVE and QUALITATIVE data.

Quantitative marketing research is descriptive and conclusive.  It addresses research objectives through numerical measurement and statistical analysis.  In the social media world, this means data you can easily collect and measure like tweets, page views, comments, and perhaps even sales.  These are the facts and figures that get all the headlines. 

Qualitative Research is more, well …  touchy-feely.  It uses small samples and may involve focus groups, interviews, and behavioral observation.  Although it does not lend itself to statistical analysis* it can still be a quick and effective way to tell a story.

Because of all the free and voluminous data available through the social web, most of the attention is on the sexy quantitative side, but it might not be the best way to show value or tell your story.

Story time

Let me give an example from my own experience …

In addition to marketing and management, I also have a background in organizational development.  On one of my projects, I was delivering a training program to help correct dysfunctional management-union dynamics in a large company.  The people who went through the program raved about its effectiveness and had concrete examples of how it was dramatically improving the workplace.  The company’s top managers — who would not go through the program — were very skeptical about any progress and, lacking measurable results, were leaning toward cancelling it.  Like most managers, they demanded quantitative measurement … and I didn’t have it.  Sound familiar?

At the next employee training session, I mentioned that the program was probably going to be cancelled. The result was an out-pouring of outrage by both union and management participants. I had a video camera nearby for a training exercise and said, “Excuse me, but would you mind if I just turn this thing on to record your views?”

The group proceeded to tell story after story about the benefits of the training and also scolded upper management for not attending.  I edited the video to conform to the 5-minute executive attention span and played it during their next meeting. The managers sat dumbfounded and impressed as their employees passionately talked about the tangible benefits of the training. By the end of the meeting they all committed to attending the training themselves and expanding the program — without one pie chart!

Apply this to the social web

I use this example because like PR, marketing, or social media programs, training is very hard to quantify on a nice, neat spreadsheet.   This situation was a perfect time to use stories — qualitative data — to define value in a very different, yet compelling, way.

When you’re struggling to measure the value of social media marketing in your company don’t overlook the possibility of using qualitative stories from customers, employees and other stakeholders.  They might be showing up every day in comments, reviews, and customer meetings.

The technology of the social web offers unprecedented ways to capture and display this qualitative output.  And you know, sometimes all it takes is ONE story to provide more new insight than a dozen graphs!

What are your ideas?  What are some of the ways we can use stories to demonstrate the value of marketing through the social web?

*Michelle Chmielewski wrote in a {grow} comment that values can indeed be assigned to qualitative data to create numerical analysis. In effect this is how sentiment analysis is conducted. However, I was just trying to keep it simple today! : )

An experiment in crowd-sourcing

This blog references a tweet I sent out today (Feb. 10, 2010) asking for help on a crowd-sourcing experiment.  Here’s the skinny:

I will open a voice and web meeting today at 4 p.m. Eastern Standard Time as an experiment to “crowd-source” a brainstorming session. To attend this meeting, all you have to do is click this link: 

https://www1.gotomeeting.com/join/710449008 

You can use your computer microphone or call in at  312-878-0206      ( Access code: 710-449-008) 

If you plan to attend, please link in at least five minutes early to assure your computer is on the Citrix meeting app. 

Here is the purpose of this meeting: 

  • My client is a company that installs, services and maintains business voice and data systems in the Southeast U.S.
  • The 30th anniversary of the company is April 1.
  • The founder of the company is still active as CEO
  • They do not currently have a high public profile. In fact, brand awareness is a very big problem.
  • With a budget of $5,000 or less, what creative PR activities could mark this milestone anniversary?

Hope to see you at 4 … Trying something new — we’ll see what happens! 

 Mark