Influencers and Social Recommendation


In a world where the impact of traditional advertising is shrinking and where the option to simply block ads from our internet use is an easy option, it is clear that marketers the world over are having to rethink the way that they do business. In fact, they’re having to rethink the way that they do everything.

Some are leaping onto the hackathon bandwagon. Some are becoming more social. Some agencies are diving head first into data. And some are imploding, sending shockwaves through the lives of the freelancer networks who rely on their steady patronage.

And while everything is changing, in many ways, it all remains the same. Back in 2009, I came up with a concept I called the Auchterlonie effect. It was the digital version of playground storytelling and the concept seemed to ring true. In order for a story to spread through a network (think a class of 12 year old boys, or a group of connected Twitter friends), there are certain conditions which need to be met. It is about building and spending your social capital within that network. It is about generosity, action and reputation.

Years later, and despite various efforts to map and score our “influence”, it still remains elusive. But we do know a little more about the conditions and the triggers. And this infographic from the Smiley360 folks helps connect some of the dots. It’s just that there are always new and emerging dots that we have to take into account.


Forget Millennials – Trust is the Secret Sauce of Online Commerce


The topic of “trust” is one that we return to over and over again. No matter whether we are wanting to build awareness, consideration or purchase for our business, or establish ourselves online as thought leaders, every word we write, every video we produce and every image we take and share online has ONE CLEAR MISSION. To build trust with our audiences.

When Acquity Group surveyed 2000 US-based consumers on brand engagement, there were plenty of insights and data points. Take a look at the infographic below for a neat summary.

But look deeper. The underlying theme of every data point isn’t the shifting power of millennial consumers. It isn’t about the devices we choose or use. It isn’t even about what we buy or when. It is the REASON we TRUST.

And when it comes to social media, the TRUST EQUATION is simple:

TRUST = Reputation + Action

So the question you need to be asking yourself about your next campaign, your next innovation or project is not “who can I target” but “How do I build trust”. And if you answer that question, you may find that the rest of the marketing funnel falls into place.



Five Insights into the Psychology of Twitter


Statistics and sampling are an amazing thing. Even if, like me, you have a healthy scepticism about the way that data is analysed and interpreted, it is difficult – if not foolhardy – to downplay the inevitability of data. Just look at the various disputes around the veracity of climate change – where statistically irrelevant interpretations have derailed important decisions, changes and commitments. Eventually, even the hardiest data curmudgeon will need to yield to the truth of the climate science data – perhaps only as their seaside apartment is swept into the arms of the sea. For though there may be outliers and anomalies in the data, sampling – where carried out correctly – can yield tremendously accurate insight. As Margaret Rouse explains on the TechTarget website:

Sampling allows data scientists, predictive modelers and other data analysts to work with a small, manageable amount of data in order to build and run analytical models more quickly, while still producing accurate findings. Sampling can be particularly useful with data sets that are too large to efficiently analyze in full — for example, in big data analytics applications.

And it is sampling that makes Twitter one of the more fascinating social networks and big data stores of our time. While Facebook grows its membership into the billions, its underlying data store, its connection and interaction architecture and its focus on first tier networks also limits its capacity to operate efficiently as a news source and distribution network. Twitter on the other hand, with its 200+ million members, provides a different and more expansive member engagement model.

During our recent forum presentations on the voice of the customer, Twitter’s Fred Funke explained the view that Twitter was “the pulse of the planet”. Using tools as simple as Twitter search or Trending Topics, Twitter users can quickly identify topics that important to them – or to the broader local, regional and global communities. And, of course, with the new IBM-Twitter partnership, there are a raft of tools that allow businesses to go much deeper into these trends and topics.

In doing so, however, we have to ask. What are we looking for? What information will create a new insight? Which data points will reveal a behaviour? And how can this be framed in a way that is useful?

Five Buyer Insights that Drive Engagement

Just because interactions are taking place online doesn’t mean that they occur in isolation. In fact, our online and offline personalities are intricately linked. And as the majority of our digital interactions take place via text, linguistic analysis will reveal not only the meaning of our words but also our intention. Some things to look out for and understand include:

  1. Buying is an impulse: As much as the economists would like to believe we act logically, we know that buyers are emotional creatures. We buy on whim. On appeal. On impulse. And there is no greater impulse these days to share an experience (good or bad) via Twitter. Look particularly at the stream for comments tagged with #fail. It is full of opportunity for the responsive marketer keen to pick up a churning customer having a bad customer experience.
  2. The customer journey is visible: While we are researching our next purchase, digital consumers leave a trail of digital breadcrumbs that can be spotted using analytics software. For example, we may tweet out links of videos that we are viewing on YouTube, share blog posts related to our pre-purchase research and even ask directly whether a particular product lives up to the hype. Just take a look at the #lazyweb stream around the topic of Windows10.
  3. Understand the pain to optimise the opportunity: When engaging via social media, it is important to understand the challenges or “pain points” that your customers (or potential customers) are facing. Rather than spruiking the benefits of your own products, focusing on an empathetic understanding of your customer’s needs more quickly builds trust and is grounded in a sense of reality. The opportunity with social media is to guide the journey, not short cut it.
  4. Case studies build vital social proof: No one wants to be the first to try your new product. Showing that the path to customer satisfaction is well worn is vital. Use case studies to pave the way.
  5. We buy in herds: Mark Earls was right. Not only do we want social proof, we prefer that proof to reflect on our own sense of belonging to a group or movement. Remember that we go where the other cows go, and structure your social media interactions accordingly.

The folks over at have put together this infographic on the psychology of Twitter. They suggest that we tweet for love, affection and belonging. It may be true, but sometimes we just also want to vent. And every vent is a market opportunity.

psychology of twitter

With Social Media We Are All Swinging Voters Now


State and Federal elections are a galvanising moment in our society for many reasons. It’s the chance for the masses to “have their say” about the policies, processes, interests and focuses of the political rulers, an opportunity to change what is – for what will be, and it sets in train a framework that governments and bureaucrats will use to make decisions in the years ahead.

For political parties contesting the election – there were tried and true methods to become elected. Before the 1980s, the approach was to set out an agenda – a vision – and to sell that in to the public through a rigorous series of public meetings, television appearances, letterbox drops and, of course, media. In the 1980s this changed. Rather than setting out your public agenda, a “small target” approach was adopted, with political leaders avoiding policy detail at all costs. Policy direction and costings would be announced at the “appropriate time” – meaning close to the election so that the opposition would have limited chance to respond or to argue with the details.

Throughout this time, the public heavily relied on two groups – the media’s political analysts and the parties themselves. For it wasn’t just the opposing parties who struggled to understand the broad range of policies, economics, social impact, and business and tax implications contained in party policies. The public were largely left out of the debate – included only when forced to by media campaign or protest. Most of the policy setting was accomplished well ahead of the election cycle through lobbyists, fundraising dinners, speeches and industry consultation. For while the public voted for the political parties, without joining a party, there were few avenues through which we could exercise our democratic rights with any force.

With a relatively controlled environment to operate within, political parties became experts at managing marginal seats. Those seats that were in jeopardy come election time drew the focus and attention of all parties – vying for the voters who had not yet firmed their voting decision. As a result, marginal seats received not just attention from politicians but also resources, investment, policies designed to appeal to voter interests and so on. But the 2015 Queensland Election has shown us that much has changed.

Social Media is the new Political Hustings

Just as social media has “democratised” the media, it is also democratising democracy. Finding a new voice, new influencers, analysts and commentators, social media is giving a new sense of mobility to voters. As the Edelman Trust Barometer for 2015 indicates, business and government are facing a challenge:

For the first time since the end of the Great Recession, trust in business faltered in the last year, signaling the finale of an era of recovery for business.

Trust levels in business decreased in 16 of 27 countries. The majority of countries now sit below 50 percent with regard to trust in business.

In fact, the credibility of spokespeople – a government official like, say, a  Premier or Prime Minister, sits at the lowest end of the spectrum at 38%, while “a person like yourself” commands 63%. Academic or industry experts rank higher still at 70%.

How does this play out in reality? A quick review of social media using the Hashtracking service shows massive spikes in conversation and engagement coming from non-mainstream media around the #Qldvotes hashtag.


Professional and “citizen journalists” from Margo Kingston and Tony Yegles’ No Fibs website led the charge – connecting Twitter and longer form commentary sourced from the community. But there were plenty of individuals joining the debate. Kiera Gorden garnered almost 100 retweets and 45 favourites for one tweet alone. With her over 4600 followers (each of whom can be assumed to have 100+ followers), the network impact can be imagined. Turned into votes, this could be enough to change the fortunes of a sitting member or even a government.

Self proclaimed “swinging voter”, Sir StanDeSteam (obviously not his real name), was exceptionally active through the weekend’s election, tweeting and retweeting conversations, discussions and articles.

The shift in trust here shows the challenge that lays in front of all political parties – not just those in power:

  • We prefer and prioritise people like ourselves
  • A vast majority distrusts elected officials

And understanding that our news consumption, engagement and discussion around politics has shifted out of the hands of the broadcast media and into the hands of the population, means that electorates can – and seem determined to be – more volatile. We are, in effect, exercising our social judgement effectively, rapidly and in a volatile manner.

The Abbott Government’s massive investment of over $4 million in social media research indicates that they are taking this change seriously. But we are yet to see anything like a shift in policy. Either they are listening to the wrong conversations, unclear of their own digital objectives or simply inept at taking insight and translating it to action.

Revising the 4As of Trust in Social Networks

Just as businesses and organisations have been struggling to come to grips with the realities of the digital revolution, so too, political parties and governments must accelerate their use of, understanding and strategic opportunity available through social networks. The first step is building trust – the very thing that most politicians squander too early and easily. Only by taking a strategic – not a knee jerk – approach to digital (and not just social) media can politicians begin rebuilding their social and political capital.

There are elections ahead. They’d best get started now.

Disrupting Banking? It happened in a snap


When we think of banking, as consumers we rarely think of the complex mechanisms behind the scenes. We just think of our financial institutions as very large, powerful brands – rather than individual businesses that focus on deposits, investments, mortgages and loans, payments and clearing, risk management and insurance, broking etc. But the reality is far more complicated.

Even within one area – like payments and clearing for example – there are several different dedicated systems. From cash to cheques, direct entry and EFTPOS to BPAY and credit cards and beyond, these systems ensure that our economy ticks over day-in, day-out. And while the banking system – especially in Australia – is highly regulated, we have seen a great deal of disruptive activity taking place over the last couple of years. Innovators like eBay and its flagship PayPal have had their eye on the lucrative payments prize for some time. And with the iPhone 6, Apple is moving into the space with its Pay product.

And now, Snapchat – the massive online messaging service that turned down Facebook’s $3 billion acquisition offer – has stepped into the contest, partnering with payments innovator, Square, allowing Snapchat members to pay another member by sending a message with a dollar amount (eg $19.50). Called Snapcash it takes online payments to a whole new level, bypassing banks altogether.

Currently only open to Snapchatters in the USA, it requires that the member have a debit card and be over 18 years of age.

It’s an audacious move. And one that is bound to be rolled out to other countries in the near term.

But more than that – its a warning to all slow-acting executives – especially in countries like Australia where the pace of digital transformation has been abysmally slow. A recent report by Frost and Sullivan calls out Australian executives as some of the most digitally complacent in the world, leaving plenty of opportunity for smaller, more nimble innovators to sweep up market share faster than you can say Bankcard.

Looking more closely at the financial services sector, however, I see a much graver issue. Take a look at the launch announcement. Look at how it was amplified. Look at the production and messaging. And then think about who it targets and where their financial allegiances lie.

If the Boards of Australian banks are not rethinking their strategies, then the problem runs far deeper – and change will come faster than we (or they) could possibly imagine. In fact, it could happen in a snap.

Trust is Up across Australia–Edelman Trust Barometer


One of the more useful and interesting regular reports is the Edelman Trust Barometer. Each year, thousands of people are surveyed – and the global and national results for 2014 have now been published. It’s well worth a deep dive into the information, statistics and analysis. But one of the standout observations is that “Trust in every institution is at its highest point”.


This is particularly interesting for a number of reasons:

  • Locally we have emerged from a particularly tumultuous election cycle. While trust in government has improved – the growth in trust in the NGO sector has accelerated. We increasingly place our trust in independent organisations NOT governments
  • Business leaders and CEOs remain at the bottom of the trust heap. This may not be an issue for many organisations but for businesses that operate in high-touch environments, CEO profile can have a significant impact on a range of indicators from share price to employee morale, net promoter score etc
  • Experts are back on the favoured list – with the public increasingly supportive of experts and academics.

If – as we expect – the connection between social media / business / life becomes much more nuanced and integrated through 2014, then trust will become a much more important factor in our business, professional, personal and social lives. And for organisations wanting to remain relevant in the lives of connected consumers, that trust counts.

The question for marketers is – have you built trust into business DNA? Because now more than ever, marketing = business and business = marketing.

Pungent Granularity – Penn and Teller take on the Anti-Vaccination Conversation

Hungry? [Explored]

Social media has a powerful ability to stimulate and create conversation. But when you are planning your communications, it’s essential to know your audience. And these days, “knowing” your audience isn’t just about mapping, analysing and researching. It’s about understanding their “pungent granularity”.

Pungent granularity and the social audience

To survive in a world where consumers expect one-to-one marketing and real time business responsiveness, we need to move beyond the simple targeting of our consumers. This means responding to:

  • The three forces of self-segmentation: Before we take an action, make a decision or puts our hand into our pocket to actually transact, we make a quick personal assessment. We self-segment according to our needs (does this “thing” solve a need state that I have), behaviours (does this “thing” reinforce, challenge or shift my behaviour) and attitudes (how does this “thing” make me feel?). Marketers must understand the nuances of this self-segmentation and bring this understanding to their efforts
  • What we already know about our consumers: Whether we capture “big data” or just quickly trawl the social web, we can quickly amass a detailed knowledge of our consumers. The challenge with this becomes not one of data collection but of frameworks for making decisions and taking actions. This is where I quite love Sam Gosling’s OCEAN framework. Moving away from the MBTI mappings, he suggests that Openness, Conscientiousness, Extroversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism can be easily assessed via our digital footprints. And in doing so, we can plan our communications accordingly

When we pull together all this information, we get a deep sense of our consumers. We know not just what they say they “like” but how this influences their actions and decisions. We understand their connections, social graph and the way that they operate in a digitally-connected world. And deeply buried amongst all this is the “trigger” – what motivates.

The “trigger” is the kicker

Take a look at this fantastic video featuring “illusionists and entertainers”, Penn and Teller. It’s on the subject of vaccinations. It’s forceful and NSFW (with a few F-bombs scattered throughout). The language is direct, the message clear and in your face.

But will it achieve what it is intended to do?

Unfortunately, I don’t believe it will. The motivation here – not of the creator – but of the viewer is triggered by the same level of frustration shown by Penn. Those who are pro-vaccination will be keen to share and validate their own position. Those who are anti-vaccination will reject the facts, figures and approach outright. The frame is out of focus for the second group – and the argument will be based on the framing of the data as a way of disputing what is “true”.

This is why wheeling out big data will also be challenging. While the Mayo Clinic clearly states:

“Vaccines do not cause autism. Despite much controversy on the topic, researchers haven’t found a connection between autism and childhood vaccines. In fact, the original study that ignited the debate years ago has been retracted.” Mayo Clinic – Childhood Vaccines: Tough questions, straight answers (here)

… many still view this sceptically.

But if there really is a desire to change the point of view (or point of belief), behaviours and attitudes of anti-vaccination folks, there is a need to more deeply understand them.

Hungry? [Explored] Riccardo Cuppini via Compfight

Social Recommendation in Action

Jawbone Up

I like marketing and branding, but I have always been more interested in action. In movement. In change. And how we make decisions in a digitally connected world.

I like seeing the way that words, image (and sometimes) music, can set a ball rolling.

And this is precisely why social media is fascinating. Take today for example. I had been thinking recently about my lack of exercise and had been looking for a way to break my own personal deadlock. A random tweet on the subject resulted in a relatively quick outcome – I went from thinking about fitness and a solution like the Nike Fuel Band to the purchase of a Jawbone Up in hours.

How did this happen? Take a look at the Storify below to see.

Now tell me, do you make decisions this way? Are brands listening in? Do you think they care? They should.

Pitch the Future–Young Social Innovators in Action


You know what it’s like when inspiration hits … an idea galvanises in your mind like a bolt of electricity, sending your pulse racing. And the more you think on it, the more you feel your nerve fibres tingling.

But what happens when you tell someone about your idea? Your mouth dries. The words tumble out one on top of the other … you get tongue tied, excited and afraid. What happens if someone steals your brilliance? What if your idea is no good?

Now imagine, that you are taking your idea and pitching it to a room of strangers. Imagine that this idea is a deep seated passion and could have a real social impact if successful. And then imagine pitching your idea against four other people just as passionate about their idea as you are about yours.

Pitch the Future event at the Vivid Ideas Festival last night. Check out the story as it unfolded below. And who won? You’ll have to follow along to find out!

Putting Experience Back into Customer Experience


Yesterday I wrote about the importance of reading mean tweets. It’s a post about the rough and tumble nature of online conversation and what can happen when you step out into the gaze (and full throttle voice) of the social web. And then today, almost on cue, comes what BuzzFeed calls the most epic brand meltdown on Facebook ever.

It began with an appearance on Gordon Ramsey’s reality TV show, Kitchen Nightmares. As you can see from the footage from the show, the episode did not play well for the owners of Amy’s Baking Company Bakery Boutique & Bistro in Scottsdale, Arizona.

No doubt, BuzzFeed did a great job of amplifying an already hot story. But a story can only take you so far. It needs to be stoked. Fed. It needs to be cultivated, fanned and coaxed to become a raging fire.

And that’s exactly what is continuing to happen.

With each comment on Reddit, Yelp or even BuzzFeed, for every tweet and mention on Facebook, owners Samy and Amy step into the breach to fan the flames of this conversation. They continue to take brand experience to a new level with each and every comment or tweet. Take a look at some of the Facebook comments and conversations captured on the BuzzFeed page by way of example.

I am always fascinated at the way that people behave under pressure. Some deal with scrutiny gracefully. But not all of us are able or willing to. And I admit, I was drawn to this unfolding drama … to the flaming tentacles that lashed at every passing message. And then suddenly, the kraken appeared and I became part of the story. A small moment where the story was not part of someone else’s drama, but part of my own.


And I must admit I was a little flattered. To be singled out here, on the other side of the planet, for my limited cameo appearance. But all jokes aside, there are salient lessons here – not just about social media, crisis communications and brand management.

What intrigues me is that certain point where the social media experience eclipsed the brand experience.

I can already imagine this restaurant becoming a Mecca for an inverted kind of customer experience where diners choose to expose themselves to the Samy and Amy experience unplugged. It has happened before and can happen again. But maintaining this level of performance comes with a cost. And there are precious few who can continue to operate at that level indefinitely.

Where will this go? Who knows. But it is a brand performance that few will forget in a hurry.