Monthly Archives: June 2011

Strong and weak ties: Why your weak ties matter

imageStrong and weak ties are both relevant and important in your social networking interactions. They perform different functions in relationships but they can extend your network far beyond your normal reach.  Using and maintaining your socially weak ties can bring far-reaching benefits outside of your normal relationships. 

Think how you use LinkedIn for example.  Are all of your relationships “strong ties?”  Do you count all of your connections as good friends?  Or are they colleagues who you occasionally interact with?  Are they important to you at all?  Should they be?

Are your Facebook relationships all strong ties, or do you stick to Dunbars number theory?  You’ll probably find several sets of weak ties in your social networks once you start to look.  Do you connect with them?  Do you watch their activity feeds?  Do they look at your feeds to keep in touch?

Mark Granovetter refers to your strong ties as your friends and your weak ties as your acquaintances in his paper “Notes on the strength of weak ties”  Mark talks about the interpersonal relationships between different, disparate groups of people  and how they hold different sections of society together.  As humans, we can have both strong and weak tie relationships in our normal networks.  We can multiplex these relationships.  We are weak ties to some of our connections and strong ties to others.  Just like a network multiplexer our weak ties can carry both types of signals around our network.

In social networking these ties are crucial.  Think about strong and weak ties in the following way:

A strong tie is someone who you know well. You’ve probably got their number on your phone.  You interact with them on social networking sites. There is good 2 way conversation, and even if you don’t know everything about them, you know them pretty well and information flows freely.  We know the same information. 

  • Think about a group of geeks talking about technology.  They all follow the same news streams and all know what’s going on in the technology world.

A weak tie is a more tenuous relationship.  Once a year, you may  send them a Christmas message promising to be in touch more often.  If you look up their number, they are surprised to hear from you. You have different interests and don’t interact much.  You might have kept their business card in case it comes in handy one day. 

  • Think about a couple of your friends who understand technology but you wouldn’t class them as geeks.  Whilst they are on the edges of your circle of influence – they don’t follow the technology news as much as you do.  They have interests in other areas and aren’t as up to date technology wise.

However, these weak ties are crucial in binding groups of strong ties together.  They bring circles of networks into contact with each other, strengthening relationships and forming new bonds between existing relationship circles.

 as Mark says:

The weak tie between Ego <sic> and his acquaintance, therefore,becomes not merely a trivial acquaintance tie but rather a crucial bridge between the two densely knit clumps of close friends

These friends might have information that is mutually beneficial to each other, but more importantly, these ties encourage sharing of information across different groups.

Lets say I lived in a socially cohesive group consisting almost entirely of red wine drinkers. (Actually that could be true!). I would never get any information from the coffee drinkers at the edges of my network, as I only communicated with the red wine drinkers.  I might miss the new brand of red wine flavoured coffee that would add to the range of red wine I drink.  Focusing entirely on red wine means I’d miss the opportunity enjoyed by all of my coffee drinking weak ties. You get the idea..

I might miss other opportunities too.  Back to Mark:

…individuals with few weak ties will be deprived of information from distant parts of the social system and will be confined to the provincial news and views of their close friends. This deprivation will not only insulate them from the latest ideas and fashions but may put them in a disadvantaged position…

Weak ties might bring you the crucial information about a new job opportunity, a new start up business or new connections into other areas of your peripheral business.  Your relationship with your weak ties should be maintained and cultivated, knitting your networks together to encourage information free flow between the different parts of your networks.  This information flow could be information you need to get ahead in your own work, or it might be recommendations and information about your skills and abilities to get you the job / contract / opportunity you’ve been looking for.

Perhaps its time to get in touch with some of your long forgotten acquaintances and see what information you’ve been missing…

Image credit: flickr

Eileen Brown is a social media consultant and author of Working The Crowd: Social Media Marketing for Business.

Contact her to find out how she can help your business extend its reach.

Extended marketing: Gaining 3rd Party reach


Now this is cool.  My publisher at the BCS has just sent me this image, snapped from his phone at the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) stand at the Marketing Week Exhibition at Olympia in London.

My book, Working The Crowd got a great write up the other day on the CIM site and a positive email review went out to all of their members too.

Here’s what they said about the book:

For those still stumbling around in the dark, Working the Crowd helps shed light on the game-changing nature of social media, its tremendous opportunities and the many dangers that await those who insist nothing has changed and it is just another route to market.
Social media guru Eileen Brown provides vital information and advice on every aspect of social media marketing, including:

  • Specific sites for various types of networking and engagement.
  • Blogs and microblogs.
  • Brand perception and reputation.
  • Legal issues.
  • The global audience.
  • How different age groups interact online.
  • Viral marketing.
  • Creating brand advocates.

Make sure this highly acclaimed title is the social media marketing book you keep to hand this year.

This example of extended marketing demonstrates how a key influencer – (the BCS) can influence one of their value connections (the CIM) to spread the message on their behalf. 

The message must still have value to the 2nd tier connection otherwise the message will not be propagated. 

By extending the message across different disciplines help you reach a new and wider audience.  This concept of mapping your connections and taking advantage of the weak ties in your social graph can bring you value in your social media outreach activities. 

Utilising the power of your weak ties can bring you significant benefits 

Its good to see that the value extends beyond my traditional geeky arena and onto the broader world of marketing.  It’s nice to see the topic crossing boundaries like this.

“Highly acclaimed”,”help sheds light on the game changing nature of social media”, “the social media marketing book”  All good strong comments in their review.  It’s great to see such a positive review of my work from a large credible organisation like the CIM.  I’m delighted.

I notice that the CIM say I’m a guru too.. surely this means I can buy more shoes?  Well, I reckon any reason at all is a good enough excuse to buy shoes… Now I’m off to the shops to hunt for some high heels…Smile

Eileen Brown is a social media consultant and author of Working The Crowd: Social Media Marketing for Business.

Contact her to find out how she can help your business extend its reach.

Changing corporate culture: 1 person at a time

imageI met with an old colleague this morning who was very involved with changing the leadership and management culture at Microsoft. It’s great to catch up with colleagues from the past and I always try to keep in touch with as many folks as possible when I’m over in Seattle.

This leader has transformed the lives of many team members, and managers at Microsoft through his Management Excellence programme.  This program, in addition to growing and developing managers, also highlighted poor managers, brought up their behavioural and cultural issues that needed to be remedied by people further up the leadership chain.  In short, the programme produced some truly great managers.

He saw my post on 10 career limiting moves from yesterday and he pointed me towards this great article on the journey to values based cultures written recently by David Greenberg.

David has some really great points about culture and change.  Here’s the last paragraph from his post

Culture as a strategy, fuelled by values that are translated into tangible behaviours and embedded in the gears of a business, can create a sustained competitive advantage in the marketplace. Ethical cultures are not created overnight. But ultimately, tomorrow’s winners will be those who invest in systems inspired by values-based culture.

In order to embrace the culture of the business, you need to embed the culture right across the organisation.  That means:

No senior leaders creating cliques and exclusivity amongst their “gang”

No ‘alpha females’ behaving like aggressive, domineering men in order to get promotion or get into the clique

No side meetings, politics and behaviour designed to exclude a subsection of the group

Great leaders should be willing to step off their podium and let others step up to take the challenge, grow and develop themselves.  Great leaders should take responsibility and ownership if their chosen person fails.

Great leaders shouldn’t have to ‘re-invent’ the company culture – it should be embedded at all levels throughout the company

Culture should be allowed to organically grow – not embedded into a training program.  The culture should define the company, the company shouldn’t define the culture.

With a programmatic approach, diversity will fail.  Embracing the culture and rewarding cultural diversity not homogeny will change the way that organisations behave. 

Our challenge is to drive this across our organisations by the people who can really make it happen.  My buddy in Redmond was the man who started to change Microsoft’s culture one person at a time.

What a shame he was moved to another role before he could complete his task…

image credit: Flickr

Eileen Brown is a social media consultant and author of Working The Crowd: Social Media Marketing for Business.

Contact her to find out how she can help your business extend its reach.


10 career limiting moves

imageI caught up with some old friends today in Redmond, old buddies and co-workers.  We were chatting about life, Microsoft and careers and I noticed a definite theme appearing. 

All of them had examples of serious career limiting moves that had impacted them in the past. 

Stacey had a great few leadership tips things that you should do and things that you definitely shouldn’t do.  I’ve summed some of the conversation tips below:

  1. Don’t pass up a great career opportunity because you feel loyalty to your team
  2. Don’t miss the opportunity to get a mentor.  Get a mentor who will challenge you – not agree with you.
  3. Don’t let yourself be bullied or intimidated.  Speak out now.  Others who get the same manager after you will thank you for your action to correct this,
  4. Don’t burn yourself out.  No job is worth it.  It’s your job not your life.
  5. Don’t post inappropriate pictures on Twitter.  Twitter is far too public and screenshots of your photo are easy to do.
  6. Don’t bitch or flame anyone online.  You will come to regret posting online.
  7. Don’t use the Reply all button in haste. Set a 10 minute delay in Outlook
  8. If someone gives you a day to ‘think things over’ make sure you ask for someone’s advice.  Don’t chew it over by yourself, you’ll probably make the wrong decision the next day.
  9. Don’t try to go it alone.  We all need help and advice – even on your own pet project.
  10. Don’t try and read absolutely everything that falls into your inbox or RSS reader.  Your head will explode with all of the information you need to process. Filter the fire hose and get some time back in your life.

Good tips – I’ll be implementing them as soon as I can…

Image credit: Flickr

Eileen Brown is a social media consultant and author of Working The Crowd: Social Media Marketing for Business.

Contact her to find out how she can help your business extend its reach.


When to post your social media update

I’ve often seen data that points to repeating your social updates to catch all time zones.  Guy Kawasaki mentioned that he rebroadcasts on Twitter 3 times per day 8 hours apart to catch the correct audience around the globe.

If you’re following a large amount of people, you might miss their updates – even if they are rebroadcasted.  your messages might also get lost in the spam and other messages in your stream.

But what is the ‘right’ time to post an update like a blog?  Well it depends on the audience you want to attract.

Dan Zarella did some research – covering the US only, which indicates that 80% of your intended audience are online on Eastern and Central time (GMT – 5 and GMT – 6).  If this is your intended market, then this is when you should be broadcasting. 

But when Eastern or Central?

Well if you’re broadcasting information linking to your blog, its best to do this at mid day eastern time, or 6pm:


Spikes when people are at lunch or home from work.

There’s more data contained in this infographic from kissmetrics which has the data for other types of click through behaviour on the blog.

Some interesting information if your target audience is in the US.  Shame its not worldwide…

Eileen is a social media consultant and author of Working The Crowd: Social Media Marketing for Business.

Contact her to find out how she can help your business extend its reach.

Speaking for free

imageI receive requests to present at conferences at least once per week. I’ve got a great pedigree from speaking at conferences and large events and I work with large corporate clients on their social media strategy and online branding activities.

But most of the enquiries I receive want me to travel to the location and present for them for free.  Take these recent requests for my time for example:

One organisation wanted me to speak for them at a social media strategy event.  One of their corporate speakers had dropped out at the last minute and a week before the conference, they had no one to take their place. They had charged each delegate £495 to attend the strategy workshop, but because they sourced their speakers from Agencies and corporates, they would not pay any of their speaker fees.  They reasoned that the great networking opportunity would be worth the investment in my time

Another event in London later this year, boasts some large corporate names.  They are charging each delegate a fee of £500 for the day.  They never pay their speakers a fee and they don’t usually pay any travelling expenses.

Each of these events have costs to bear for hosting the event so it’s understandable that they would have to charge a fee.  They would have to pay the venue, the events team and the marketing team for their work around the event. For the event itself, a venue would normally charge about £50 – £100 per delegate for catering and use of the hotel room for the day.

Yes – you’ve done your sums correctly.  Take away marketing and logistics and the company has turned a  nice profit for each event they run.

And by speaking at their conference,  I would have helped them with their revenue stream.  At my own cost.

I’m happy to speak for free. I regularly talk to networking groups and non profits. I run workshops showing businesses how to use social media to their advantage. Non profit organisations will always pay a reduced fee and my travelling expenses. But I believe that this should be different for profit based organisations.

Of course, I’ve got a great opportunity to meet new businesses, and network.  I’ve got a great opportunity to showcase my knowledge outside of this blog, and I can get to meet and network with other speakers.

But does this actually turn into revenue?

Customer opportunities have to be worked on.  Relationships need to be made and built upon.  Trust needs to be gained, and credibility established, 

That’s hard to do in a 45 minute session on stage.

So when you want to hire a speaker to speak at your event, consider things from their perspective.  The speaker has to spend time preparing for the presentation.  They will have to research, and create the slide deck and interact with the organisers of the event.

They will need to spend their own money travelling to the event, and they will not be able to do any funded work whilst at the event.

If you’re planning to hold an event similar to the type of event that I’ve described above, then don’t be surprised if the ‘free’ speaker lets you down at the very last moment to deliver some funded work for a client.

A client who values their time – and is willing to pay for their knowledge and experience – which will ultimately add to the clients revenue stream and profit.

Think about that when you’re trying to get someone to do something for nothing. 

You might just get what you pay for…

What do you think?  Would you speak for free to a company that makes money out of your efforts?  I’d love to know

Eileen is a social business consultant and author of Working The Crowd: Social Media Marketing for Business.

Contact her to find out how she can help your business extend its reach.

Image credit: flickr

Time lapse social tourism

This is a visually stunning wonderful time lapse video – and its a very compelling way to get visitors to visit your location.  Have a look at this time lapse video of New York, filmed over a 6 week period.


Josh Owens from Mindrelic shot these time lapse images, staying in many different hotel rooms to get a great perspective of the city.  He credits all of the hotels that he stays in too, and lists the gear set up that he used.

Its a simple enough way of marketing his own services, but an incredibly difficult thing to do something like this well.  Josh has created something visually stunning and effective and he has created a video that really captures the essence of Manhattan.   Brands with huge budgets would struggle to create something as simple or as effective for their budget.

I hope Josh goes on to capture time lapse images of cities in the same way.  The tourism industry would get a much needed boost from visitors wanting to experience the pulse of the city for themselves.  As I look out at the lights of the Las Vegas strip, I can’t help wondering what an amazing and visually impressive project it would be if it was repeated here…

Eileen is a social media consultant and author of Working The Crowd: Social Media Marketing for Business.

Contact her to find out how she can help your business extend its reach.


40 years of email triage

imageSo email is 40 years old?  How much has it changed your life?  Can you honestly say that it’s changed your life for the better?

It’s not something many of us like dealing with.  We spend our lives trying to reach inbox zero, deleting messages that shouldn’t have been sent to us, and trying to respond to key business messages that might have been better as a phone conversation.

email seems to be the bane of our lives – much more of an intrusion than social media seems to be.  We constantly check our messages on our phone.  We’re always on, always connected, always rushing to respond to that business critical email.

But was it always like this?

Not at all.  If you’re lucky enough to remember the days before instant delivery of email straight to your inbox, you’ll remember the peace and quiet in your working day.  What happened to the time we spent before we became productive?

Well here’s a timeline showing just how far we’ve come since that first email was sent:

1965: Email started from users logging on to the same host based mainframe

1966: Sage system had a limited form of email

1971: The first email sent using the @ sign from one DEC 10 to another

1978: the first email advertisement goes out over the university network

1982: The word email first used – and the first smiley emoticon used

1989: AOL’s “You’ve got mail” message recorded

1990: first spam started to appear from botnet machines

1997: Microsoft buys Hotmail (And releases the first version of Outlook)

1998: The film “you’ve got mail” is released and the term spam  referring to junk email is added to the dictionary

1999: an email claiming that Bill Gates will give you money if you forward the email begins to circulate on the internet

2003: CAN-SPAM Act comes into force

2004 Internet acronyms officially recognised by Oxford English dictionary

2004: The ability to add other types of media to emails is introduced

2007: Gmail becomes available


Thanks to reachmail for the infographic that gave me the inspiration – and Wikipedia of course

As you can see fro this screenshot – even after 40 years.  We still get it wrong sometimes.

Have we got it right yet?  Like our 40 years of social media and the Internet – it seems like we’ve still got a heck of a long way to go!

image credit:flickr and Flickr


Eileen is a social media consultant and author of Working The Crowd: Social Media Marketing for Business.

Contact her to find out how she can help your business extend its reach.


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Social collaboration with Women in business

imageIts fascinating to watch the dynamics of interaction between women business owners at the WBENC conference in Las Vegas this week.  Even business owners who compete in their areas of business try to find some areas of synergy to be able to collaborate and help each other out.  Its a different dynamic to the behaviour that I usually see in networking events. 

Everywhere I look, there are groups of women businesses sharing their challenges, trying to find synergy, offering help to each other and offering to mentor.

I’m humbled at the resilience that these women have, facing rejection day after day from corporates that prefer to work with men owned businesses. They show tenacity and courage to secure the deal.  There are women at this conference that run constructions companies, sell abrasives, manage call centres across the world as well as the more traditional types of women owned businesses selling health food, beauty products and recruitment services.  There’s a massive spread of skills, talent and ability.

In the US there’s a process for a woman owned business to work with a corporate.  US companies like to make sure that their procurement process includes diverse groups such as ethnic minorities, women owned business etc.  So certification here is a big thing.  It means that the corporate can justify to the board that they have a diverse set of suppliers. Cultural diversity in business is important to make a sustainable business and keep it agile.  Large companies like Chubb already recognise the business case for diversity.  Other companies less so…

Being certified as a women owned business circumvents all of the checks and measures that companies need to put in place to ensure that they have procurement services from all types of businesses.  It benefits both sides of the connection – and the case studies show this time and time again.  For example the company that cleans out the lions cages at the MGM grand is run by a woman who runs other janitorial services in Las Vegas.  The job wasn’t too attractive to other cleaning companies, but her company established that the lions wouldn’t be out of their cages when she was cleaning them out!  A simple question that secured her the contract..

Having a diverse workforce really benefits business. Hiring outside of your comfort zone give you a competitive edge to innovate. There are 5000 women here who would give you a competitive edge in business and innovate for you.

Spend some time getting to know them and see that they have to offer your business…

Image credit: Flickr

Eileen is a social media consultant and author of Working The Crowd: Social Media Marketing for Business.

Contact her to find out how she can help your business extend its reach.

This helps them to innovate more effectively than with a homogeneous group of suppliers, They can stay agile and focus on their core business

Brand responses: The 6 levels of social CRM

We talk about using Twitter for customer service and using Twitter to engage with our customers and improve social CRM.  We list our top tips and we blog about our rules for engagement.  We talk to our clients to try to encourage them to join all of the social channels together and to use Twitter merely as one component of their social CRM strategy.  But do companies embrace this way of listening?  Does the brands’ customer experience make customers more satisfied with the brand?

Unfortunately No. Not often.  With some notable exceptions, as customers, we’re often left high, dry and disappointed.

There are a few steps that brands can take to improve their levels of customer engagement.  Say, for example, you, the customer, posts a tweet about a brand.  Perhaps your tweet is a criticism about poor service you’ve received, perhaps its just an observation or a comment about the brand itself.  You broadcast your message and wonder whether you’ll get a response.  Sometimes you get a great response, sometimes you don’t hear anything.  There are different levels of engagement responses ranging from zero to hero.  Lets have a look at the different levels of the brands’ response to the customer.

Level 0: You get no response at all.  The brand doesn’t have a social media listening policy.  They are not listening to any feedback about them.  Does the brand care about you, the customer?

Level 1: You get a response through Twitter several days later.  The brand has probably been notified of your comment by someone more socially savvy than you.  Their late response only serves to make you angry with them for their attitude towards you.

Level 2: You get a response through Twitter several hours later.  The brand does listen to you – eventually.  They have no engagement framework in place detailing when they should respond.  You are pleased that they bothered to get in touch at all.

Level 3: You get a response a few minutes later – even though you had tweeted your initial message about the brand outside of normal business working hours.  The brand cares about you.  You are impressed that they are listening to you.

imageThis approach seems all well and good – if the brand is operating at Level 3 but their level of customer service could be improved.  There are other channels that brands can use for customer communication.  Communication doesn’t have to focus exclusively on Twitter.  If the customer wants to communicate using only Twitter, then let them.  But you as a brand can offer so much more than a single channel experience for the customer.

Bret Simmons blogs about leadership and organisational behaviour on his blog and I was lucky enough to meet him, and present for his class when he was over in London last year.  Bret doesn’t tend to complain much.  He prefers to see leadership and positive qualities in people.  He’s recently blogged about a poor experience that he had whilst he was in Las Vegas.  He posted a comment about his meal onto Yelp!  A few hours after he had posted his review, he got an email from the manager of the restaurant offering to follow up with his staff about the quality of the food, and furthermore, send Bret coupons by mail. 

Bret noted how the restaurant had bothered to make the effort to put things right. Further more, they went outside of using Yelp! alone and had used email to make the connections and carry on the communication.   

This type of behaviour transcended a single channel to make the customer connections a more personal experience.  Bret commented that unfortunately the restaurant didn’t tell everyone that they were fixing the problem for him.  They only told Bret.  Anyone else reading Yelp! would see the poor review and wouldn’t see the positive outcome.

I often blog about BT Care in the UK and its excellent customer communication through Twitter. @BTCare is quick to respond, gives proactive support and will switch channels if I want it to. It doesn’t use Twitter exclusively for their customer business.  BT Care responds to its customers on at least level 3 and adds a personal touch to its communications .

So we now need more levels to deal with the enhance ways that brands can respond to customer service issues.

Level 4: You get a response a few minutes later, followed by a direct message on Twitter asking for your contact details so that the brand can follow up with you – You give them your number and you receive a call from the customer service representative.  That’s nice personal service.

Level 5: You get a response from the company, followed by an email.  The brand has followed a link on your Twitter profile and found your email address from your blog or your web site.  They get in touch with you showing that the brand was prepared to invest a little effort in trying to contact you by other channels.

Level 6: You get a quick response from the brand followed by some excellent in person customer service. This is what customer service is all about.  You wish more brands behaved that way.

Occasionally there are some great examples of cross channel communication and social CRM.  Sometimes there are examples of customer service behaviour that tries to go the extra mile to help customers.  Lauren McKay tweeted about how much she loved cornbread when she was staying in the Gaylord hotel.  Like most socially aware companies the company responded quickly (Level 3 behaviour).  Laurel was offered some cornbread which unfortunately she couldn’t take advantage of as she had left the hotel.  4 months later, Laurel stayed at another branch of the Gaylord hotel chain.  She received room service delivering a selection of cornbread and a hand written note referring to her tweet 4 months before.  Now she has blogged about her great cornbread Twitter experience with Gaylord hotels.  She closed the communications loop and it’s obvious from her blog that she’s a very satisfied customer.  Her post has even made me want to stay at The Gaylord if they’re so socially savvy. 

That level of customer service goes above and beyond my level 6 behaviour.  To remember a customers preferences across multiple social media channels is a great enhancement to the customers experience.  To remember your customers preference 4 months later and make the effort to connect across social media channels is a level of customer service that brands should strive to achieve.

Unfortunately, for a lot of brands, this is still just a pipe dream…

Image credit: Flickr

Eileen is a social media consultant and author of Working The Crowd: Social Media Marketing for Business.

Contact her to find out how she can help your business extend its reach.