Tag Archives: Influence

Weak tie connections link to new business

My Facebook Network is an app that visualises how your Facebook friends are connected to one another.  Here’s mine:


The graph is interesting in two ways.

The white lines in the graph indicate the people that are connected to most other people in my Facebook friends group. They’re my ex-colleagues from Microsoft so it’s natural that they will be connected to lots of other friends in my network.

But it’s the friends, marked in red that are the most interesting people in my graph.  These people are my weak ties.  And weak ties matter.

Your weak ties are your link to new networks and new opportunities

My weak ties are connected to me, but, more importantly they are connected to other networks that could become important to me. They are my connection to my local networks, my diving buddies, my friends from my work with women in technology and my techy geeks

My book reinforces the need to maintain relationships with your influencers and how weak ties can help you do this.  Maintaining connections, no matter how strong can link you to other networks to benefit you and your business.  If you use Facebook for your business connections then its good to understand your social graph, but LinkedIn also has the ability to map your business social graph with its InMaps feature.

Knowing your social graph is just the start of discovering how best you can use your new networks.  Managing your relationships with these key connections to your influencers in these external networks takes an investment of time and effort.  Your online influence has a huge effect on engagement and relationships

Making them reap appropriate rewards is entirely down to you…

Eileen is a social business strategist, ZDNet columnist 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.


Followers and Fans: Why Quality, not quantity matters

Do you follow people who follow thousands of people on Twitter and claim to be Twitter gurus? Do you wonder why celebrities and other ‘famous’ people never respond to your comments?


This screen shot is an example of someone I follow who’s profile says “You follow me, I’ll follow you back”.  Can you really have an intelligent conversation on Twitter if you follow this many people?  Even if you have carefully sorted people you follow into meaningful columns on Tweetdeck, you’re going to miss something.  Twitter is a sliding window of information, if you follow this many people, you’re bound to regularly miss messages intended for you.  Information will be flowing too quickly for you to keep up..

Can you really be classified as an influencer because you have this many followers?  Do people REALLY listen when you talk to them?  Can you influence people without following thousands? The Dalai Lama offers wise words and inspirational messages and yet he doesn’t follow anyone at all. Bill Gates follows a few but influences many, and the Queen only follows updates from Clarence House – presumably to see what her offspring are up to.

How would you feel if you know that Bill Gates Read your posts?  Michael Dell?  Barak Obama?

Its not about the value of your Klout score, it’s not about your score on peer index. It’s not about the quantity of your followers, its about the quality of your interaction with your connections.

And if one of your connections turns into a happy customer, a customer that give you on-going business and talks about you to all their connections, then you have achieved your goal.  That’s a much better result than buying followers which is a heck of a lot better than trying to communicate with people who are following thousands of people – and who will give you no quality of interaction at all…

Eileen is a social business strategist 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.

Twitter: The time waster?

I don’t think so.  For me Twitter is a useful source of information and news.  But you might think differently.  Here’s a neat infographic showing some interesting Twitter facts such as:

  • 33% of Traffic comes from the US
  • 20% of users produce 80% of content (not known whether this is all valuable content)
  • 25% of users have no followers at all.  (Spam accounts, or pseudo marketing accounts)
  • 19% use Twitter to get customer support
  • Twitter is the most successful platform for sharing links to videos

More below

The most useful point?  Twitter messages are archived and searchable.  Forever.  Remember that.  Especially if you’re angry, drunk, feeling vindictive or stressed.

Thanks to problogger blog for the image and research…

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.




Online peer influence and its effect on engagement

Image credit: Flickr

imageMarketers try to work out how social interaction and its effect on uses and consumers behaviour and spend lots of time trying to thrash through their social analytics and metrics to try to find the cause of this behaviour.

How does one peer influence another?  How do we capitalise on peer influence and use it to our advantage?  how do we make a campaign go viral?

If you think about all of the digital traces, we’re leaving every day. Think of the amount of data we’re leaving as our digital fingerprint.  Digital traces all waiting to be analysed.  we’re signalling our behaviour on a world wide scale.  Every status we like on Facebook, Every link we share on Twitter leaves a trace of our desires, wants, needs and moods.  Its an amazing digital map of how we behave online. 

Imagine if there was a program that was able to mine all of this data. and understand who influences us in our lives.  To understand how peer influence works.  An influencer to one person might not necessarily be an influencer to another person.  how do we capture this data and more importantly, how do we use this to our advantage

Identifying the cause of the peer effect is difficult.  What influences me at the moment might not necessarily influence me in a few months time.  The latest fad now, might be old hat in a few months. How do I grow and more importantly maintain my list of influencers?  how do I get them to influence their friends?  Influencing the influencers doesn’t necessarily cause them to influence others.  How do I get my message to spread effectively?

Identifying what causes peer influence is difficult.

European Starlings in the evenings flock together and cause amazing patterns in the sky, giving weight to the adage that birds of a feather flock together.  This could also be said of the theory that having fat friends is more likely to make you fat.   We tend to identify more strongly with people like us.  We love those who are like ourselves.  We identify with them.

Is social commerce more engaging that commerce alone?  Consumers shop for, and are persuaded what to buy by the influence of their friends.  How does this work?

    • Friends buy something (depending on the type of consumer they are)
    • They talk to their friends and influence them to purchase
    • Their friends talk to their friends and they buy. 

This last point is an example of 3rd tier influence.  And this 3rd tier has the potential to become viral depending on how influential you are, the product itself, its topicality, its usefulness, or its unexpectedness.  Your initial purchase has got the potential to go viral.  Think about Crocs shoes.  Think about those key rings that chirped when you whistled.  The unexpected can go viral. 

So how do you get your message out so that it does take advantage of the peer influence effect?  Should you use a passive broadcast or an active broadcast.

    • Active broadcasts are more personalised:  They resonate with the strong ties in your network.  The fact that the message resonates is similar to the birds flocking together analogy. We like this because we are similar to you. 
    • Active broadcasts encourage reciprocity: I have personally recommended this to you. You are more likely to recommend this to someone else because you trust me
    • Personalised broadcasts are more persuasive:  I trust this information because its from one of my trusted advisors.
    • Active broadcasts creates sustained engagement: this is because you have personally recommended this to a friend
    • Passive broadcasts are less persuasive: But passive broadcasts can potentially reach more people due to their less targeted approach



Image credit:  Aral, Sinan and Walker, Dylan, Creating Social Contagion Through Viral Product Design: A Randomized Trial of Peer Influence in Networks (November 30, 2010). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1564856

Facebook is an amazing place to study peer influence and the knowledge it has about users likes, loves, shares and behaviour is something that Google can never hope to achieve even with its +1 button.  You can analyse peer influence in your own Facebook social graph.  Share a link and note the people who forward different types of links to their networks.  You’ll notice that there are different types of people who are influenced.

According to Sinan Aral at MIT peoples relationship status also determines their susceptibility to being influenced:

    • Single people are 20% more likely to be influenced
    • People ‘in a relationship’ are 50% more likely to be influenced
    • People who are ‘Engaged’ are 60% more susceptible to influence
    • People who are ‘Married’ are 13% more susceptible to influence
    • People who state their relationship is ‘it’s complicated’ are 90% more susceptible

You’ve also got to think of the cost of spamming people and weighing this up against the effects on long term engagement when you consider influence.  If you want your campaign to go viral, there are more things to think about than just a cool video or interesting graphics.  Adding a feature to make it go viral, may just be the additional feature you need.  O2 in the UK managed this with their singing squirrel which appeared in other O2 videos but achieved far more hits virally without any mention of the brand.

Perhaps its just luck after all… Smile



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.

Getting paid to tweet about products?

I’m encouraged that the UK Office of Fair Training are clamping down on Tweeps  and bloggers that are paid to be effusive about products whilst not admitting that they receive payment.  The use of Twitter reaches new heights for communication (there were 6,939 Tweets per second sent on January 1st according to the Twitter blog).  People are communicating more, and celebrities have a huge set of followers.  So should they append tweets with ‘ad’ or similar to show that they have been paid to do this?

In companies like Microsoft, bloggers and Tweeps receive a salary, so it’s natural that they would enthuse about company products.  Their opinions are (generally) their own and they put a personal perspective to the standard PR campaign about the product.  But celebrities don’t tend to work for companies so is it right that they get paid to talk about consumer products.

Look at the TV adverts.  The voice over, or the ad itself shows celebrities talking about the product.  They don’t explicitly say that they are being paid to advertise the product.  We’re intelligent enough to assume that they are.  So why do the OFT need to get Tweeps to ‘explicitly state’ that they are promoting products.  Surely we all just assume that they are being paid when they enthuse.  or are we assumed to be so dim. that we blindly assume that they love these items AND have been paid for them?  Did all of those women actually buy those dresses they wear at the Golden Globe awards or the Oscars?  Surely not…

But does the fact that these celebrities endorse brands, and enthuse about them mean that  we’re going to be more influenced by them and buy goods?  We’re much more likely to buy products recommended by our peers (figures vary from twice to  4 times more likely to do this).  But are we more likely because a celebrity endorses the brand.

Do we now class these celebrities our peers and our friends just because we follow them on Twitter? 

There are new rules for online advertising that are coming out in March and they now include User Generated Content (UGC) on web sites.  Here’s a snip from the code


When the new code comes out in March 2011, will Tweets from paid celebrities be included in the CAP remit?  Will it change the way that Facebook page campaigns work.  It will be interesting to watch things develop…

Perhaps I’m too cynical – but I’m less likely to buy something that a celebrity has endorsed  – whether they are paid for endorsing the product or not.  I’d much rather consider something that one of my first degree connections has enthused about. 

Or AM I too cynical?? Smile


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Proactive Twitter support from BT

I’ve praised BT in my book about their attitude towards social media and how they effectively use it for customer service.  Well, not only do they have reactive support towards queries and complaints (they listen for mentions of their name on Twitter) they also do proactive follow in care.

I’ve had problems with my broadband for a few months now, with intermittent outages and reduced download speeds and I noted my issues by web submission followed by this Tweet. BT  responded really quickly on Twitter, sent an engineer round and I had service back within a few days.

This morning I got the Tweet below.  BT were proactively checking up to see if my broadband was ok.


Actually, my broadband is a bit slow, but up constantly.  I reported the change in download speeds, got the other tweet on the screen grab above followed by a phone call from an engineer.

That’s really proactive service – and all over Twitter.

Social media can work really well in customer service situations.  Companies can really get close to their customers and engage directly with them for the issues.  Adding proactive follow up can only enhance the customers experience and improve perception about the brand. 

However, this customer service plan needs to be implemented alongside the existing customer service process and seamlessly incorporated with all of the other ways to connect.  The customer can then choose the way that they want to talk to the company, switch between modes of communication without loss of information, whilst moving towards a satisfactory customer conclusion.  My communications with BT so far have included SMS Text message, Twitter, phone, face to face and web.   The experience hasn’t been too bad, although in each of the face to face visits I’ve had, there has been a little breakdown in communication.  The engineers weren’t fully briefed on the complete fault history.  A small hurdle – easily fixed.

But overall, the follow up tweet has really impressed me and My perception of BT is so much higher than it would be if I’d received a damn satisfaction survey assuming all was hunky dory.  Nice one BT Smile

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Convincing the Executives

You already know that social media is changing the way you work and will fundamentally change the way you interact online.  Generation Y have known this.  It’s the way they work.  It’s the way we’ll ALL be working in 5 years time.  So how do you persuade the executives to consider this newer open form of communication?

Often consultants go into meetings and talk acronyms and jargon designed to show their experience. (I’ve been in SO many meetings like this where the sales guy starts talking incomprehensible business terms and the consultant baffles the business people with his technical expertise around the technical feature set of the product.  The business doesn’t want to know about stuff like this.

You need to be able to speak the language that the executives understand.  No jargon. And you need to talk to the executives so that you can find out how the organisation works.  You’ll also discover what happens in a crisis and how the power really flows in the organisation.  Often people are reluctant to hire an external expert as they feel that social media tasks can be quickly learned and delivered in house without any external help.

  But the great thing about hiring an external consultant is that they will have been focused exclusively on social media mechanisms, trends and, strategies so will be able to get to the solution point far quicker than people inside the company.

Companies also have challenges on where to focus their social media efforts.  Typically they look at outbound communication only, and they tend to view outbound platforms as Twitter and Facebook only.  They don’t consider blogs and wikis in their social platforms.  They also forget about social collaboration inside the firewall.  The board don’t actually care about technology – they just care about where the money is going to be spent.

It’s also a good idea to find someone within the organisation who become the social media evangelist.  In your research on the company these people will bubble up.  Watch what they talk about so that you’ll have a good idea how to engage with them.  Often the company doesn’t realise the commitment they have already invested in the company, so to have them on your side is invaluable.   They will help sell your strategy to the execs.

You also need to have different strategies for the same brand – and be prepared to change direction quickly if your chosen strategy isn’t getting any traction.  That way, you’ll be able to see which strategy generates the best ROI.  ROI is what the execs understand.

I talk about the social media strategy, but what about implementation?

I struggle with this sometimes on my engagements.  I honestly don’t believe that you should hire an external company or agency to implement your strategy unless the company is really small.  If you have a reasonable sized company, the voice of the brand needs to be authentic, and an external agency can never speak with the true voice of the brand.  Conversely, if you do work for an agency that offers social media implementation, then be honest about what you can and can’t do.  Where you can add value and help – and where you can’t.  Don’t try to do everything.  Stick to what you know.

And remember – if your executive is still not convinced, remind then that 50% of his competitors are using social media and will be quite happy to have the conversation instead… Smile 


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Does IT make you happy?

I’m not sure I agree with the research reported by the BCS showing that IT makes you happy. Whilst social networking sites like Facebook enable older people to keep in touch with their families and connect with their extended friends, there’s a darker side to it all.



Often people become so wrapped up in online, multiplayer games that they spend an inordinate amount of time on their laptops, games consoles and Xbox live, that they lose all sense of time and reality.  They don’t get enough sleep and they don’t spend enough time with their families. Kids suffer at schools due to their inability to concentrate and there’s a new book out that argues that our brains are becoming rewired to a shorter attention span so we can’t concentrate   Some women have even broken off a relationship due to excessive gaming.

I see people with full time, 9-5 jobs (it’s more like 8.30 – 6 now though) online on Twitter and Facebook well after 10pm.  I can ask myself what am I also doing on Facebook and Twitter at that time?  I’m certainly not just using these tools for social reasons – but to see what the rest of the world is saying (It’s afternoon in the US).  I try to limit my time when the family is here – but it’s not always possible. I’m sure other families must feel the same and resent the time lost.

But what impact does this have on families, when we’re sitting in front of the TV, distracted?  Do they suffer in silence as you smile when an amusing retweet comes in?  Or do they seethe that your attention is directed away from home and family life – on to your virtual connections somewhere – anywhere else but at home.

I think it does…

So whilst the report talks about enabling access to the internet making people happier, it doesn’t factor in the heartache caused by the excessive use of internet and social sites – at the expense of human social relationships

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Connecting with customers at Hard Rock

I’ve never had a speakers shirt that is – well – this cool…

hard rock 1

I’m in Orlando for the weekend.   Yes, that’s right.  The weekend.  I’m delivering the keynote at the Hard Rock hotel for the world wide sales and marketing conference.  I’ve been asked to speak about connecting to your customers using Social Media from a European perspective.  After all, I’ve worked for an international brand for a long time, and I bring an external (non US centric) point of view to a global company with a really strong brand identity.

So what am I going to talk about?

I’ll talk about age profiles and how the redefinition of the web has changed consumer spending – especially amongst Generation Y.  I’ll talk about age profiles and the sort of customers that are lovers of Hard Rock.  I’ll talk about their amazing set of Influencers – not influencers as we’d think of in the techy world, but those influencers who are really knowledgeable about the memorabilia and the pin collectors who scour eBay and other sales sites for collectors pieces.

Hard Rock has lots of pins.  Lots.  They sell a huge amount of pins each year.  And there are collectors of pins who go to pin conventions to trade rare pins.  They are really influential at getting people excited about the brand.  I’ll talk about some suggested strategies to bring these influencers closer to the brand – so they can become brand advocates and defenders.  They can then reach out beyond their immediate fans to reach a whole new generation of new fans.

I’ll talk about the amazing opportunity that mobility brings to brands.  in the US, when you check in to a place on 4sq, you can get vouchers from the vendor.  But if vouchers aren’t available in your local country, there are still lots of other opportunities for you to take advantage of the mobile opportunity and the rise in geolocation aware applications will bring a whole new raft of opportunities as companies take advantage of this throughout the world. 

I’ll talk about creating buzz and making things viral, I’ll probably demo my new favourite viral ad – the Tippex one, with another couple of examples showing where companies have created massive buzz with their campaigns.

And then I’ll drive to the airport for my flight home.  I’ll have been in the US for less than 48 hours in total.  Just like a rock chick on tour. Wow

And I shall wear my speaker shirt all the way home, grinning like crazy at my hectic weekend.

Life is good :)

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Finding your social network influencers

I came across these videos when chatting to my pal Jonathon who pointed me to this post on the Dollywaggon blog.  They are a really easy introduction to how social networks actually work.  its a really simple explanation of how influencers work, and their importance in cultivating your influencers in your network.  Most of my work with clients is trying to understand who their influencers are, why they are influential, and what to do with them once they have identified them, so the work that DollyWaggon do is really interesting to me.

Anyway, have a look at the 4 videos and lean about networks and influencers

Part1: an explanation of the differences between network nodes and edges and the relationship between them


Part2: This video explains how there are many hidden connections underneath the main part of the network which introduces complexity and structure to the network itself


Part 3: This talks about the topology of the network and how the fundamental properties of the network gives rise to influencers within a network that can survive changes and damage to the network due to its structure


Part 4: This shows the difference between the broadcaster and the communicator and how the communicator has more credibility than the broadcaster (who might be looking to increase his influencers).  This video also brings in the concept of routing hubs


Great stuff Jason – keep it up :)

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