Facebook is the Gateway Drug of Social Media

FacebookaddictionNew joiners to Facebook go through phases – understanding privacy, etiquette and addiction.  But what happens when they settle down?  The functionality of Facebook is a “lite” version of many other social technologies many have come to know.

Facebook is growing strong, recently passing the 175 million members mark.  I’ve seen many folks go from skeptic to addict in recent months.  My parents are on Facebook.  My neighbors are on Facebook.  My high school class is now mostly on Facebook when 6 months ago it was the exception.  My CEO, clients and colleagues are on Facebook.  Campers from summers in the late 80s and early 90s when I was a camp counselor are on Facebook.  Facebook dominates dinner conversation with friends, and Facebook regularly freaks out my wife when people she talks to know what I am up to.

Take a look at what people are doing in Facebook after they get through the initial connection streak:

  • The “25 things about me” meme is one of a dozen different types of viral “notes” going around.  Isn’t this a form of blogging?  I doubt many would claim the “Blogger” title though.
  • Over time, more people seem to use status updates more.  I don’t have any scientific data to back this up, but I’ve noticed people slowly adopting using the status update for a funny anecdote, what’s for dinner, a victory potty training moment.  The status update has many similarities to Twitter.
  • More people are posting and sharing links, photos, and other content.  Enter (arguably) easy to use versions of Delicious.com, Flickr and Friendfeed.

acpromFor these reasons I think Facebook is an easy “gateway” for those who don’t use those other tools day to day and are building their communities – and it may even encourage more adoption of Twitter, Friendfeed and other tools down the road (especially with their integration to your News feed).  All of these features add up to introducing core social media technology functions to the average Joe – who also happens to own a scanner and is sharing pictures of me from my senior prom.  (The mullet was all business in front, party in the back, I swear).

Did Facebook introduce you or people you know to social media?  How’s it going so far?

Photo credit (above): escapetowisconsin via Flickr

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The Power of Social Media: Support for Caroline

carolineCaroline Stitcher is home. Details of her disappearance from Friday afternoon until Saturday evening are still being determined, but she is with her family which is all that counts.

Given that outcome, I thought it would be helpful to highlight the power of social media.  I am both amazed and humbled by the outpouring of support on Twitter and other channels, and wanted to capture it here.  If anyone is still doubting the compelling viral nature of the technology, this should help convince them that it’s here to stay.

Starting on Facebook

On Saturday morning, Doug, a colleague from work, posted the following note in Facebook:

My god daughter has been missing now since yesterday afternoon. She went running by herself after school. Her friends saw her leave and she has not returned. We are all very frightened, as you can imagine. Please pray for her and her family. If you have friends at church who pray for people in trouble, please let them know about Caroline.

Several folks from work commented, and later in the day Doug posted that he was leaving Cleveland for Chicago with two of his sons to help with the search.  He also shared a link to the Chicago Sun Times article with the story (which has continued to be updated with the latest information). What transpired after that is nothing short of remarkable.

Outpouring of Twitter Support

Angela Moore, Jon Anhold, Chris Boggs (all folks who have worked with Doug) and I all started to share an article  from the Chicago Sun Times on Twitter and Facebook, outlining Caroline’s disappearance and information to reach the Deerfield, IL police department.  I reached out to several Chicago based contacts on Twitter, and the retweeting began.  David Armano [blog] added a hashtag #Caroline to be able to track on search.twitter.com, and was kind enough to respond to his network asking for people to retweet as much as possible.  Some other notes:

  • Several others began appealing to those with large constituencies on Twitter to help in the retweet effort.  Amber Naslund [blog],  Chris Brogan [blog], Mack Collier [blog], Jessica Smith [blog] and Julia Roy [blog] were among the many to respond and share with their networks.
  • MCHammer, Kevin Pollak, Soleil Moon Frye and Wil Wheaton were among the celebrities that responded.
  • Several groups conversing on Twitter at the time also shared the news, including #typeamoms.
  • Services like HelpFindMyChild and the TrueCrimeReport picked up the news.
  • By 8:30PM ET, #Caroline hit #1 on twitter trends.
  • The Sun Times article showed up on Digg and started to get some momentum.
  • A Facebook group named, “Help Find Caroline Stitcher” approached 3000 members by late evening.
  • All in all I’m sure thousands were reached – I’m working on digging up a report on number of mentions and the likely reach of the viral effect and will share it when it’s ready.

At the end of the day on Saturday, the good news broke that Caroline had returned home via a text message Doug sent me.  A few minutes later Chicago Breaking News confirmed the details, and another round of “good news” retweets went out.

The Power of Social Media and Thank You

Take a look at search.twitter.com for #Caroline and drop back a few pages to what transpired during the wave of the evening spike.  The support really speaks for itself.  Here’s to a speedy recovery, Caroline – there’s no harm in that happening as fast as the news spread.

A very sincere thank you to the broad Twitter community for helping out and responding with your thoughts and retweets.  Not this time, but I will not be surprised if community through social media tools one day is directly responsible for solving another situation like this one.  In terms of my involvement, I’d like to think friends at work would take a moment to do the same if the situation were reversed.

Update:

Doug has shared another note on Facebook at 1:30am Sunday morning which I figured I would post here too:

Caroline is alive and we have her now
We are all unbelievably relieved and happy. Caroline is alive and with her loved ones now. No details have been sorted out, yet. As you can imagine, there are lots of people caring for her and it will be a while before the complete their work.

I also wanted to recognize several other Twitter MVPs who helped spread the word with fervor last night.  Liz Strauss [blog] was already aware of Caroline’s situation and had engaged her network before I had contacted her.  Dave Kerpen [blog] made several appeals to parents – as a father of three boys perhaps that was part of my motivation to help Doug.  Senia Maymin [blog] also did a terrific job of asking celebrities and others with large networks to retweet the information.  Thanks again everyone.

Photo credit: Deerfield, IL Police Dept

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How has Social Media Helped You?

This morning while doing a demo of Twitter I asked the question, “How has social media helped you in an unexpected way?”  Industry knowledge? Building relationships? Free hat? Catching an unreal bacon recipe?  Thanks much to a responsive group of followers, I received many responses – some deep, some funny, some insightful, all valuable to once again show the immediate response and community value of Twitter.  Thanks to everyone who replied – as promised, here are their insights and Twitter IDs.  (I’m at @adamcohen).

mattceni@mattceni @adamcohen – user validated data has helped me cut through the noise to find whats relevant and good.

aapjerockdt@aapjerockdt @adamcohen boost downloads of an open source app we made to 1000 downloads in 48 hours: [url removed – love the twitter feedback but not trying to promote biz]

patrick_grady@Patrick_Grady @adamcohen Wow. Lots of ways. 1 – exposure to info I wouldn’t have seen. 2 – met peeps with great synergy and things to share / learn.
@Patrick_Grady @adamcohen tech support… idea bouncing… more.

starrgazr@StarrGazr @adamcohen How has SocNets Helped? It’s all about the people you meet which is even better to meet F2F. I can’t even begin to list the ways.
@StarrGazr @adamcohen How about the loan of a camera when mine died days before covering Obama’s camp NH Primary night from someone who …
@StarrGazr @adamcohen …I had never met before in person.
@StarrGazr @adamcohen Of the offer of a power generator from another person during the ice storm and an offer to help pick it up from CT?
@StarrGazr @adamcohen Or perhaps being published all over the world through exposure in SocNets?
@StarrGazr @adamcohen Or perhaps just being able to have an amazing year covering the primaries and being able to attend the inauguration.
@StarrGazr @adamcohen Or being a guest in a church and the home of a minister in the United Kingdom while traveling out there.

4spoken@4Spoken@adamcohen It has allowed me to take a fairly small niche, and connect with people I would have never been able to connect with otherwise

jordansalvit@jordansalvit @adamcohen SM has taught me a lot about businesses and fields I am not involved in. It also keeps me better connected with those that I am.

tippyz@tippyz @adamcohen Social media/net has increased my knowledge of people I already knew, well beyond what I expected –> stronger relationships.  [Great one Dan]

rsomers@rsomers @adamcohen for me benefit is creation of new & expansion of existing offline relationships. Twitter esp b/c time cost of interaction is low

barbarakb@BarbaraKB @adamcohen Social sites forcing OpenID transparency thus easier to make & trust online friends. W/this trust, grow business. 🙂

boggles@boggles @adamcohen the biggest surprise for me was how Facebook has grown into a free version of long-lost friend-finder. High school memories!

marc_meyer@Marc_Meyer @adamcohen I now have an instant knowledge base that I can tap via SM which opens up sometimes a better way to do what I do-  [I agree – much to learn from these folks]

stuartcfoster@Stuartcfoster @adamcohen I got a sweet hook up on a hat at the TD Banknorth garden courtesy of the tag team of @mbrinkerhoff and @michele_moore 🙂

hereitcomes@HereItComes @adamcohen How about the loan of a camera when mine died days before covering Obama’s camp NH Primary night from… [URL removed]

barndance@barndance @adamcohen My own involvement helped me help Lindblad Expeditions jump-start on Twitter. And that’s great for eco-minded tweeps & them!

nhscooch@nhscooch @adamcohen All I can say is that is where I found the Bacon Explosion – TY twitter and @adamcohen [just don’t come after me for cholesterol medication]

chadnorthrup@ChadNorthrup @adamcohen I love having an extended network to banter with during sporting events. It made last year’s Sox playoff games even more fun.  [Couldn’t agree more, especially with Red Sox games.]

shonali@Shonali @adamcohen Making unanticipated connections that have helped me personally and professionally. And give me courage.

beverlycornell@beverlycornell @adamcohen got to meet you. Actually, I have a few interesting stories. 😉

For me, much of my surprise in social media is the general willingness of people to help – this demo is no exception.   How has social media helped you in an unexpected way?

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Brand Motivation for Listening

listeningThis post is co-authored with Gargi Patel, Rosetta‘s new Director of Social Media. Gargi has spent several years as a community manager for large consumer brands and we’re fortunate to have her join the Rosetta team.

Everywhere in social media it’s clear: Listening is important.  It’s probably the most important thing you can do to make the most out of social media, whether it’s for your business or for personal interest.  It’s easy to start – Chris Brogan‘s posts on starting with listening channels make up an all-time great reference kit and should be Chapter 1 in the Great Social Media Reference Book.  If every spammer read those posts first, they’d realize they have the wrong idea, but that’s another blog post topic.  If “start listening” is Chapter 1, Chapter 2 should be all about motivation.  Is the motivation for listening different for every brand?  You bet.

Listening, qualifying and quantifying to channels in social media is going to yield different information for every company.  A key to sifting through this is understanding the company’s brand perception and position in the market. Here are some factors that may influence how to move to the next step before turning listening into action.

1.  Brand Development Lifecycle

Does the brand need to build a fan base or just largely maintain its reputation?  For brands with a large public presence or existing polarity in the marketplace, robust analytics and tools with real time alerts are probably necessary.  For very young brands or small businesses, free DIY tools on the web may suffice.  The lifecycle of the development of the brand will influence the reasons for listening.  For example, Budweiser is going to have different motivation for listening and perhaps require different tools than Magic Hat, a lesser known (and personal favorite) microbrewery based in Burlington, VT.   Don’t forget that all of these tools can be used to listen to non-branded terms and competitors in the same way – the lifecycle of the brand will influence those too.

2. The Customer’s Level of Risk

How much risk does the customer need to take on to buy your product?  Is it expensive, does it carry social risk (bad outfit) or have potentially big consequences (insurance)?  The extent to which recommendations from an online social source are impactful depends on the degree of involvement in the purchase.  Cars, insurance policies, and electronics are examples of categories which are highly researched prior to purchase.  Online reviews and chatter in forums can be extremely beneficial or extremely dangerous for these types of items.  Many lesser known items such as books or CDs can also be highly dependent on social reviews.  On the other hand, a low ticket or lesser known consumer brand will have very different needs from its social media monitoring, and customers may be less concerned with doing research.  Building brand awareness may be more important to these brands and subsequently influence what companies are listening for.

3.  Brand Differentiation

Are purchase decisions based more on objective product or service features or based on emotional brand affinity?  To a large extent, products/brands fall somewhere in the middle of this continuum, but many will lean heavily one way or the other.  For example, most people choose a particular airline based on objective service, price and benefits.  Some people buy computers based on an objective evaluation of features to price, but then there are brands that have built an emotional connection (Apple).  Chocolate milk is a commodity, but a brand name can draw a premium based on brand affinity (Nesquik).  Listening to why people differentiate brands will be key in developing an approach to engage those folks down the road.

How we listen, why we listen, and ultimately, how we use this information to engage with consumers will be different depending on the brand proposition.  Does your company listen?  What is your motivation?  What else did we miss?

Photo credit: Okinawa Soba via Flickr

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