Posts Tagged ‘Facebook’

Verdict on American Airlines’ Bankruptcy Comms – Good So Far

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

Courtesy AA.comDuring my putative lunch today (29 Nov) the erstwhile Roula Amire of asked if I’d write a quick post on the bankruptcy communications coming out of AMR Corp., the parent company of American Airlines.  At first I said no, too busy, but as my home office was still captive to contractors, I quickly reconsidered and wrote something (thank you, Panera wi-fi!).

Bop over to read my piece. I’ll tell you this much — given the requirements of lawyers and the, I don’t know, 12 different constituencies they needed to satisfy, I think they did a good job.  I like the Facebook video from AMR’s CEO, and the customer service Twitter stream pointing people to FAQs.

This is another case of “Dirt-sandwich-and-everybody-has-to-take-a-bite.” There’s not much we can do but smile and chew.




WSJ: Buzz May Not Matter

Thursday, November 17th, 2011

Many of us in the measurement community strive to get people to connect communication activity to business results — outcomes, not outputs.  The reason for this fanaticism got ink in the Wall Street Journal today with a story about how TV shows that got great social media buzz wound up flopping once people actually saw the shows.

This should be no surprise.  Mainstream hype often produces a big opening weekend, but if the film is crappy, the grosses deflate pretty fast.  It makes sense to be the same in SocMed.  Still, I know there are some SocMed consultants in Hollywood right now trying to convince the studios that all that Twitter and Facebook traffic built on the back of a hot trailer will lead to bigger receipts at the box office.

For the right films, that’s probably got some truth. But for everyone?

That’s why we cannot ascribe attaining squishy communication targets as ROI. They aren’t.  If success is Twitter mentions, Facebook fans and other hype, all that stuff had better lead to business results of some description. Outcomes, baby, not outputs.

By the way, how’d you like Green Lantern? Charlie’s Angels (the reboot?) The Playboy Club (on NBC?) They all got terrific buzz…


Surprise! Innovation is a Change Issue

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

As part of my Knowledge Management class, we’ve been looking at innovation, specifically the twin paths of evolutionary innovation and disruptive innovation articulated by Prof. Clayton Christensen of Harvard Business School. The base concept is that incumbent companies always win in an evolutionary innovation race (a sequential improvement or step-change – think hybrid cars), while new entrants always win in a disruptive innovation race (think iPods.)  But I could see how even evolutionary innovation could be considered disruptive.

This casts the innovation cycle as a change management issue, and that made me think of Harold Innis, the Canadian political scientist whose landmark collection of essays, The Bias of Communication (1951), precede Marshall McLuhan (the Medium is the Message.)

I wrote a paper on how Innis, who saw almost all technological improvements in communication as the path to decline for societies, might view Facebook (answer: not happily.) This material came back to me as I thought about the concept of disruptive innovation, which gets written about favorably nearly all the time. After all, do we want to give up discount retailers, community colleges, cell phones and doc-in-the-box medical clinics?

Christensen likes disruption — he sees it as the only way we move forward. But I can think of the dark side of such changes fairly easily.  Ask Kodak about digital cameras. They had the technology well in place for eons, but failed to grasp how it would change conventional photography.  Of itself, digital photography is more of an evolutionary innovation, but ever-smaller chips and other, seemingly less important innovations shrunk the cameras, improved the quality and let Canon and others rule the space.

Innis would call that shot — he’d have seen the negatives early on.  It’s a change issue, and in a change, only infrequently does everyone win. Usually, someone loses. We have cheap cameras, and professional photography is going the way of the iceman.  I’m now looking at innovation as a problem, and suddenly the reasons why companies grapple to make the creative, innovative and inventive processes cogent and repeatable makes a lot of sense.  So too the difficulty of organizational learning, and of knowledge collection and application, and the issues around losing talent.

Innis said:

Mechanization has emphasized complexity and confusion; it has been responsible for monopolies in the field of knowledge; and it becomes extremely important to any civilization, if it is not to succumb to the influence of this monopoly of knowledge, to make some critical survey and report. The conditions of freedom of thought are in danger of being destroyed by science, technology, and the mechanization of knowledge, and with them, Western civilization.” (Innis, 1951, p. 190)

Just thinking out loud here.


Lies, Damn Lies, & Stinking Loads of …

Thursday, March 10th, 2011

Courtesy CBS Interactive & Star Trek

Remember that Star Trek episode where Captain Kirk is stuck on some barren planet with a 9-foot Godzilla-like lizard, and the two of them are supposed to fight rather than their respective armies? The big lizard hisses, “I grow weary of the chase. Wait for me — I will make it quick, and painless(sssss). That’s how I’m feeling about measuring social media right now.

It would be so easy to just give in.

I’ve been pondering how to measure influence, in particular, after a spirited discussion on both Justin Goldsborough’s and Shonali Burke’s blogs. That led to a bunch of posts on how we might use the structure of measuring relationships (Hon/Grunig).   This is heady stuff for peanut-brains like me.  The high-forehead types who make their living in the academe are used to thinking in these terms, but all of this stuff is pretty new for me. I’m just some guy, trying to puzzle out how to make sense of the concepts of influence in the social age, and apply the both new and hoary theories in the process. If I have to explain this stuff, I better have some ideas.

But there’s a lot more traction in just inventing a method and telling people it’s the standard, never revealing the contents of the magic box.  From Altimeter to Syncapse, to Vitrue to Klout, we learn that more-social companies have higher revenue than less-social (correlation is NOT causation); Facebook fans of a brand buy more stuff than non-fans (but which drives which?); Facebook fans are worth $3.60 (no, $136, no…), and that the “standard for influence” has something to do with Facebook and Twitter, but we’re not sure what because the formulas are secret.

H-E-double hockey sticks! I want to fight them all!

But, jeepers, why not just join them?  I came up with an idea last year to evaluate political material — know at a glance whether an article is left-or-right wing, moderate, or a combination of both.  I cooked up how it would work (programmed like automated sentiment), selected someone to write the code and even chose a name.

But it would have been a stinking load of … crap! I wasn’t basing it on any kind of research, just my own desire to make money, preferably by selling the company quickly to someone with deeper pockets, poor analytical skills and a short attention span.  Why go to all the trouble of vetting it, ensuring it actually does what it intends? That hasn’t stopped the flow of snake oil!

The class I teach at Kent State meets Wednesday nights, and on 9 March, the estimable Chuck Hemann, SVP for Ogilvy, joined us by Skype to talk to the class. He’s SUCH a smart dude (and he’s humble, claiming that I taught HIM stuff…) What my takeaway was: There are no easy answers to the social media measurement questions, and the snake oil is still gushing in the space. It takes some primary research, some actual analytical work, to figure this out. No shortcuts, no one-size-fits-all formula.

Here, I thought I’d missed the boat and should be hawking the Oil of Genius.  It’d be a lot easier than fighting the good fight, for sure. But I’m glad I’m still on the ramparts, exalting the troops to victory.

Even if I do, occasionally, “weary of the chase.”


Metrics on Relationships May Apply to Influence

Thursday, March 3rd, 2011

Creative Commons

Influence has been on my mind for a while, and on Feb. 24, I posted a thought about using the methods recommended in a paper on measuring relationships by James Grunig and Linda Hon to apply to measuring influence.  The post of Feb. 28 looked at the first three of the six components of that relationship measurement strategy.  This one finishes off the list, but I’ll have more to write on this topic later on as this all percolates.


Commitment — The extent to which each party believes and feels that the relationship is worth spending energy to maintain and promote. Two dimensions of commitment are continuance commitment, which refers to a certain line of action, and affective commitment, which is an emotional orientation.

With no criticism intended, these last two terms are a little tough for me, so a bit of explanation. Affective commitment is the sense that the organization wants to have a relationship with me, there’s a bond between us, and I value this organization over others, so it’s my emotional perspective about that relationship. Continuance commitment if the sense that I see the organization’s actions in support of our relationship… I think.

This may fit with Twitter followers or Facebook friends. If my Twitter posse is retweeting and engaging me in discussion, I can conclude they’re interested in a relationship with me.  Their actions are the continuance commitment and my own feelings about them are the affective commitment.  This type of measurement seems like a good proxy for influence, as I can conclude that the absence of such commitment would stop influence in its tracks.

Exchange Relationship — In an exchange relationship, one party gives benefits to the other only because the other has provided benefits in the past or is expected to do so in the future.

Exchange relationships are the heart of commercial propositions. We pay someone for something and get it.  But, we could say that blog consortia could be evidence of exchange relationships – we agree to promote each other’s posts and comment on each other’s blogs in exchange with one another.  I am not sure whether the extent of that relationship is evidence of influence or commerce. {and not in a bad way, mind…}

Communal Relationship — In a communal relationship, both parties provide benefits to the other because they are concerned for the welfare of the other — even when they get nothing in return. For most public relations activities, developing communal relationships with key constituencies is much more important to achieve than would be developing exchange relationships.

This one’s the stretch, in my mind – organizations have an increasingly hard time convincing stakeholders that they’re really interested in stakeholder well-being. The management-employee communal relationship comes to mind. But on an individual basis, we could say that the maturity of social media depends on creating communal relationships online.  Actual friendship.  It seems like we’d need to see a low quotient of exchange relationship if the communal quotient is high for there to be solid evidence.

I want to explore this further – and I’d like you’re help… How do your own influencers (those who influence you) align with these elements (or not?) Does this make any sense at all to you?



Measuring Influence ‘Might’ Use Relationship Metrics

Monday, February 28th, 2011


Creative Commons, by Brian Hillegas

I’ve been thinking again. Last time, I tossed out the idea that measuring influence might be gleaned from Grunig and Hon’s work on measuring relationships.  Usually, you need to get people to fill out a questionnaire to determine the quality of the relationship, but maybe looking at the public evidence is enough.  Here are three of the six elements, with comment following about the potential for adapting to qualitative influence measurement:

Control Mutuality — The degree to which parties agree on who has the rightful power to influence one another. Although some imbalance is natural, stable relationships require that organizations and publics each have some control over the other.

Think about that in context of online influence – being “Facebook friends” might imply a mutual influence, but being friends with an organization if one’s not a customer or other stakeholder wouldn’t seem to greet the same implication.

Still, the idea that an organization would change its behavior as a consequence of interaction with its stakeholders is the essence of Grunig’s Excellence Theory (two-way, symmetrical communication.) Retweeting on Twitter, and a content analysis of the @reply sequence (actual conversations) might lead to an index by topic – it could demonstrate the extent of control mutuality as a surrogate for mutual influence. The question is whether there’s enough in the stream to properly analyze.

Trust — One party’s level of confidence in and willingness to open oneself to the other party. There are three dimensions to trust: integrity: the belief that an organization is fair and just … dependability: the belief that an organization will do what it says it will do … and, competence: the belief that an organization has the ability to do what it says it will do.

This, too, could be accomplished by content analysis, substituting individual for organization. Establishing the extent of trust could also indicate the opportunity for influential behavior, which could be apparent from the stream. We’d need to define the language trusted people use, but that doesn’t seem much different from a normal content analysis.

Satisfaction — The extent to which each party feels favorably toward the other because positive expectations about the relationship are reinforced. A satisfying relationship is one in which the benefits outweigh the costs.

This one’s tough – the nature of the relationship plays in to the analysis of satisfaction. Celebrities may make general comment about loving their fans, but is that a sincere platform for mutual satisfaction? Also, if the expectations are very low (as in celebrity culture, where the connection is, um, tenuous in reality but provides a simulation of a close relationship), does that negate the influence string?  My putative 14 year-old son may get his hair in a Beiber, demand I buy Beiber music and Beiber-esq purple garments, but is that influence or a phase? Or merely effective marketing?

Next post: the remaining three elements.


Could Measures for Relationships Work for Influence?

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

What IS the formula for calculating influence?

This isn’t a stab at Klout. After reading a number of recent blog posts on influence, and participating in several of the associated discussions, I’m just weary of the chase.

My gut tells me that measuring influence is situational and specific.  You simply cannot look at tweet streams, numbers of followers, frequency of @ replies or retweets, number of Facebook friends, etc., and draw conclusions about someone’s influence, and there’s research that supports that idea.

Trey Pennington, Justin Goldsborough, Shonali Burke and Mark W. Schaefer are in the fray (and I’ve commented in a couple of cases), and I wrote my own post on the topic.  It’s been an interesting conversation split between the “Klout is useless” – “Klout is making a good attempt” and my fringe element rantings that we need better research to figure out how to measure influence.

The deal is that there are few independently researched efforts to investigate the claims of well-intentioned entrepreneurs.  There’s inevitably a black box that contains the algorithms and secret formulas, and no one wants to subject their potential cash cow to measurement that might render it an Edsel.

James Grunig and Linda Hon wrote a seminal paper about measuring relationships that might hold a key to figuring out how to measure influence.  To determine strength of relationships, they write, focus on six components: Control Mutuality, Trust, Satisfaction, Commitment, Exchange Relationship and Communal Relationship.  Coming up next week, a look at each element and how they may or may not apply to measuring influence.

BTW, I found out recently that my Technorati Authority score is 406. My Klout score is 46.  I have no idea what that means.  But I want to better understand influence, so I’m going to run this down for a while.


Dump Sharepoint for WordPress?

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010

The open forum of the last #icchat of 2010 on Nov. 30, brought several main themes, and the most discussed was whether free tools like WordPress could prove a substitute for custom applications like Microsoft Sharepoint.  It’s a worthy question, as most content management systems are complicated, expensive and require lots of IT support.

valeriehoven: @mhellstern no we wd use wordpress as a CMS. it’s more than blogs. allegedly others have done it with success. free, easier to use. #icchat

CommAMMO: @valeriehoven all 4 CMS I’ve used were complex-focused, multi-category, content repeated sev locations, multimedia… CN WP handle? #icchat

Wedge: Underestimating the governance for an intranet based on WordPress would be almost as disastrous as on SharePoint. #icchat #future #scale

steveshultz: SP2010 better social UX. looking @ Newsgator add on. # of studies recomnd keeping knowledge inthe enterprs &off consumr tools #icchat

WordPress isn’t built to be an intranet — it works OK as a website-builder if you’re not looking for mighty robust capabilities, but as intranets are more than just content vehicles, it probably makes more sense to work with tools that are built for that purpose.

We also discussed email newsletters — specifically, whether they’re still of value, and the comments were, well, kind of all over the map.

mhellstern: hi #icchat, I was hoping to hear some thoughts on email newsletters within orgs… we all get so much email every day, are they effective?

mhellstern: and, I suppose, if they aren’t effective, what are some alternatives to email newsletters? #icchat

wheati: I’ve seen email newsletters used as news consolidators for senior leaders. Feedback was positive, and I liked them, too. #icchat

BaehrNecessity: @CommAMMO @mhellstern We didn’t email nwslttrs. Publish print instead, for complex issues, & send employees to intranet 4 news. #icchat

CommAMMO: @mhellstern We used an int e-mail nl at @goodyear – daily, heds/ledes of #intranet stories, opt-in only. 4-day promo (1/2) #icchat

CommAMMO: (2/2) got 5000/28000 to subscribe; 2 add’l promos got 3000 more a year later. #intranet traffic up 200% afterward. #icchat

Related questions arose about measuring the effectiveness of such email newsletters, and further descriptions about how news/info is “pushed” into the organization:

dan_larkin: @mhellstern Have you been able to measure how much traffic the email drives to intranet pages? #icchat

steveshultz: our goal for email nl is to create topical channels and let emplys subscribe to interests. We can seed key news into their feeds #icchat

steveshultz: e-NL with headlines and intros to drive them back to #intranet. Mobile optimized content and site will also be important for us. #icchat

Mobile optimization, ability to handle RSS feeds, targeting to specific audiences were all critical issues, much more than I can put into this very brief summary (apologies!) — Read the transcript: for the whole story.

We’re done for the year, but plan to resume #icchat at 2 p.m. North American Eastern Time on Tuesday, January 11, 2011.  Hope to see you then!


‘Who Moved My Cheese?’ Newly Relevant

Sunday, September 19th, 2010

Image via Creative Commons

Twelve years ago or so, Dr. Spencer Johnson wrote a slender volume about change and dealing with it that featured mice and “littlepeople.”  I read it somewhere around that time at the behest of my boss, discussed it with my colleagues and promptly moved it into the “management cliche” category, soon to be followed by Total Quality Management.

When I saw “Who Moved My Cheese” (and its intellectual compadre, “The One-Minute Manager“) on the syllabus for my grad class on media management, I remembered just enough of it to see where the conversation was heading. “Cheese” tells a simple little story about two mice, Sniff and Scurry, and two littlepeople who ostensibly are smarter than the mice, Haw and Hem. The four live in a maze equipped with Cheese Stations and spend their days going to and fro, stuffing themselves with cheese.  The mice notice a change (less cheese at Station C) and take off to look elsewhere, whilst Hem and Haw (wait for it) dither until all the cheese in Station C is gone.

They’ve refused to change. They like Station C and expect that one day, the cheese will magically re-appear. That is, until Haw summons up the courage to face his fear of the unknown and leave Hem behind.

Haw finds new cheese, tries to convince Hem to move on, Hem refuses, and Haw goes back to the new treasure of cheese, but keeps his running shoes handy just in case he needs to move again.

Part of the books appeal is that it’s not complicated, and it seems to speak to many people in many ways.  The discussion 12 years ago was about who we saw ourselves embodying among the characters. Thus, we’re supposed to discover the wider truths of the book as it applies to us.

In the media management course, we’ve begun looking into media business models, and I see that most media organizations have been Hem — they’ve stayed with what worked in the past despite the warning signs, and are failing. A few are like Haw — they’ve realized their errors and have forged ahead, albeit slowly in some cases: “The Christian Science Monitor” dropped its paper edition; television news organizations now put “packages” together for both broadcast and Web; Slate and Salon stuck it out as online-only magazines, eschewing the temptation to put out print; “The New York Times” and “The Wall Street Journal” are planning to put most of their content behind paywalls.

But the cheese is still on the move.  The most popular online news sites are aggregators — Yahoo! News, Drudge, Google… Whither their models when the original content others are producing disappears?  What about the role of citizen journalism (or citizen curation, a la Digg, Reddit, etc.)?

The New York Times has an article today on Digg — positing that Twitter and Facebook have taken the space that Digg blocked out in 2004, and we know MySpace is hardly the force it once was.

Station C is already cheese-less, and so is Station D (the first social media station). The path to the new cheese is mighty narrow, strewn with boulders and broken glass.

Got anything to do with media at all?  Better re-read “Who Moved My Cheese.”


Crisis Analysis, SocMed Use, Get Globe/Mail Attention

Friday, June 11th, 2010

Canada’s outstanding The Globe and Mail has two stories today worth noting.  Vancouver, B.C., retailer Lululemon is using Twitter to gather intel from its customers about what sizes and colors to stock; British Petroleum gets second-guessed in its crisis communication strategy under the headline, “Lessons in Leadership Spill from BP.”

BP’s feckless communication strategy, especially demonstrated by company CEO Tony Hayward’s frequent gaffes when speaking off the cuff, deserves to be pilloried. Hayward and company were obviously led by lawyers in this regard, minimizing the potential impact of the disastrous gusher, appearing too rarely in public and pointing blame to subcontractors. Hayward’s “I’d like my life back” rang especially tone-deaf in the wake of 11 deaths and the potential for catastrophic wildlife impact (not to mention the economic peril for the gulf fishing industry.) Several communication experts get quoted in Wallace Immen’s excellent piece, including Michael Stern (Michael Stern Associates), Prof. Julian Barling (Queen’s University School of Business), and Guy Beaudin, (RHR International).

Lululemon sells athletic ware, and by all accounts does a bang-up job of it. Some of the success, according to CEO Christine Day, is due to its use of social media — Twitter and Facebook.  Reporter Marina Strauss quotes Day: “We learn more about [which items are in demand] on Facebook and social media: what are the guests really screaming for, and so we use [the feedback] to get a little bit more indication.”

Keeping an eye on its 127,000 Facebook fans and 32,000 Twitter followers gets Day and company a faster view than its store performance metrics (and offers perspectives from people who are just thinking about going to the store, rather than having bought something there — that’s an interesting view on potential demand, the pipeline, some call it.)

The social media use has two purposes, according to the article — to gather information, and to drive traffic to the company website. When we’re looking for ways to measure the effectiveness of social media, website traffic is more often cited than the research value, which is a pity.  Going back to the ROPE method of communication planning (Research, Objectives, Programming, Evaluation), you don’t have anything without the research.

If social media served no other purpose than market intelligence, it’d still be worth the investment, no?

{P.s., my Canadian sojourn is nearly complete – back to a more regular schedule next week.)