Jennifer Golbeck: The Curly Fry Conundrum

Why social media “likes” say more than you might think

Jennifer Golbeck is the director of the Human-Computer Interaction Lab at the University of Maryland. Her lab predicts things like political preference, intelligence, age, just by using Facebook. One study was done just using people’s Facebook likes (looking at which pages they liked). A list of the top 5 likes indicative of high intelligence showed that one of those likes was actually for the “curly fries” page.  Why? Because the action of liking reflects back to the attributes of the other people who liked it. If someone intelligent created the page, than their friends who like the page are probably smart as well.

In the below TEDTalk presentation Golbeck explains how this science has evolved and how some applications of the technology are not so benign — and why she thinks we should return the control of information to its rightful owners.

Social Media Strategy – Part 3

In my previous post I covered the Implementation phase for your new social media marketing strategy.

Equally, if not even more important in many ways, is the final phase, when you review your efforts and analyze the results.­

Step #3: Monitoring and Measuring

It will take a good month or two before you will be able to have enough consistent data to truly evaluate your efforts. Hopefully, you have religiously stuck to your calendar, or you might as well start over and wait another two months.

I suggest scheduling your evaluation date into your calendar, even before you get started with your implementation. It’s like having a date in the future when your diet needs to pay off and you want to look good for that beach vacation. It’ll help you stick to the schedule. And, it turns the whole process into a challenging game.

The Metrics

Unlike other digital marketing components, like Adwords, measuring the results of your social media strategy can be a bit of an exercise in ambiguity. After all, the primary thing you’re evaluating is whether people trust and like you, not necessarily if they click to your site and buy/engage.

Because it is so ambiguous, I recommend starting with whatever metrics you have. It will stabilize the measurement process and give you a jump-off point from where you can apply the “it appears people are…” element.

Facebook has moderately decent tools to get you started. One of the biggest drawbacks to the information they make available is the ability to only pull data for a three month period. This is another reason why you’ll want to schedule your evaluation two months out from your date of implementation.

The Insights page has the information you’ll want. It shows a history of your “likes,” your “reach” and who is “talking about you.” Don’t get mislead by the “talking” label. What Facebook means is how viral your posts have been. It’s the measure of shares and comments people are making on things you have been posting to your page.


All of this data will help you get a feel for how successful your strategy has played out. You’ll be able to see what days you posted really good, viral content (the cat video) and the days when you caused people to unlike you for being too serious (or, yes, even too silly).

With Twitter, it’s a bit more difficult since they don’t have built in measurement tools. You’ll need to use something like Klout (

With Klout, you not only get a breakdown of data similar to what is provided by Facebook, but you get an overall Klout score showing the effectiveness of your efforts. The score is compiled by average sub-scores for Reach, Engagement and Velocity (the measure of how likely your tweets are to be retweeted).


One cool thing with Klout, other than it is free, is that you can link all of your other social networks such as Facebook and YouTube and get an overall measurement.

Time to SWAG

Once you have the metrics in hand, it’s time to use your brain and unbiased, best guess at how you’ve been doing. I say guess because you’ll need to go back through your networks and get a feel for how your audience has interacted and responded to you and your posts. For example, can you tell by their Facebook comments or @tweets that they get a sense of your voice?

Make notes on what looked to be successfully popular and what scared people away. Write down anything significant, such as a share by a much larger and potentially perfect partner company, or comment by someone influential in the industry. Add all of those to your documentation so you have something to guide you through the next two months.

Don’t Blow the Momentum

If it looks like you’re on the right track, then now’s the time to add fuel to the fire and build on the momentum!

Here are a couple ideas to take it to the next level:

  • Consider buying some Facebook ads. They aren’t all that expensive and they are a great way to build up your audience. You’ll be amazed at how granular you can get with the targeting.
  • Try a contest or giveaway integrating two or more of your social networks (i.e., Facebook, Twitter and YouTube). Make sure it is super compelling and has a great payoff and you’ll be thrilled with the viral results.
  • Try hosting a live Q&A session on one of your social networks. Promote it well in advance and make sure your resident experts are pulled in to participate.
  • Host a Twitter party. Invite people to storm Twitter and help you trend. Make sure they get a reward for their efforts.

That’s about it! You should have just about everything you need to build a strong and comprehensive social media strategy.

Good luck…and don’t forget to follow me on Twitter! 😉

Social Media Strategy – Step 2

In my previous post I outlined Step #1 of creating a social media strategy: The Assessment. This time around I will go into the process for implementing the plan.

Step #2: Implementation

The implementation portion of your social media strategy is all about focusing on the nitty-gritty details and day-to-day tasks.

Create a Content Calendar

It is extremely easy to lose focus and, to put it bluntly, blow off your social media marketing. Even great plans and intentions can turn into sheer failure when one or two weeks of inactivity turns into months of neglect.

Social media marketing is like a houseplant. It needs sun, water and a little talking to…on a regular, scheduled basis. Otherwise, the day comes when you walk into the room and notice all the leaves are on the floor.

Having a calendar keeps you and your team on track. It makes you accountable and serves as a guide. Think of it as not only an actionable calendar, but an editorial one as well. The more information and detail you include, the better you can measure effectiveness.

Here are a few things I suggest you incorporate into yours:

  • The theme or purpose of your content.
  • Who will create the content (i.e., blog author or, perhaps from a third-party site/provider).
  • How the content will be delivered (i.e., blog, video, photo, etc.)
  • When and where will it be shared.

Have a Promotion and Growth Plan

There are a ton of ways to promote your content and all that you are doing on your social media platforms. But all of them are useless unless you have a plan built in for growth.

Not everything you post is going to be instantly viral. I would even venture to say the things you value the most, such as real brand-building, informative content, may even appear to fall flat. That’s okay!

The goal in social media is to resonate with and build an audience. It is from there that you can engage. In other words, it’s better to have 10 friends, even if only two of them seem to pay attention to you when you tell them about your day, than two friends who aren’t listening.

Your growth plan, therefore, must take into account content that is viral, fun, silly and in most cases, seemingly pointless. Intermingled in all that nonsense, which people love, is the relevant, focused and informative material that will truly build your brand and generate sales.  But, I caution, too much serious stuff is toxic. Think of the friend analogy again. No one wants a friend who is a Debbie Downer and is serious all the time.

Here are a couple tips for implementing a growth and promotion plan:

  • Integrate social media on your website with plugins, links, buttons and icons.
  • Include these buttons and links in your company’s email strategy (including employee signature blocks) on your letterhead and business cards.
  • Have contests and promotions or offer rewards that drive people to your social platforms.
  • Create virality by posting photos of mundane things (your lunch, someone’s shoes and other silly things) or fun videos. Bonus points if you can merge fun and informative.
  • Showcase your expertise and build a reputation by offering webinars and training programs, interviewing experts and guest blogging. Don’t be offended if those things aren’t as viral as the video of your cat chasing a shadow on the wall.
  • Always include humor and lightheartedness in your social voice.
  • Never stop promoting your social networks.
  • Never give up.

Identify Sales Opportunities

I realize I have made it sound nearly impossible to put social media to good (business) use, but there couldn’t be anything further from the truth.

While the primary goal is always about making and building relationship, and creating a loyal following, the opportunity to sell most definitely exists.

Once you’ve built those solid, genuine relationships online, you’ll have people who are ready to eat from your hand. But, like any wild animal, they will only eat from your hand occasionally and when the offered snack is truly enticing.

Therefore, your implementation strategy should definitely include an action plan that allows you to capture and nurture leads.

Just make sure what you are offering as bait doesn’t come across as bait (too pushy) or is too frequent. And, monitor your followers. If they start to un-friend you or disengage it’s time for another kitty cat video.

Next time around I will talk more about Monitoring and Measuring.

Social Media Strategy – Step 1

I recently implemented a social media strategy that saw the company’s Facebook “likes” swell but nearly 1000% and Twitter followers jump 3000% in just three months.

How did we do it?

We had a plan.

Achieving success with social media marketing isn’t difficult, but it will be an uphill and possibly futile battle without a pre-defined strategy.

Over the next few posts I will outline a basic three-step plan that can help you develop an effective, streamlined road map for social media success.

Step #1: Assessment

The first and most important place to begin is by truthfully accessing the situation. That means realistically taking into account where you are and where you want to be with social media. This isn’t the time to snow yourself or your management team. If you have been failing in the past, admit it. And keep the goals simple. Don’t shoot for the stars or you’ll become discouraged quickly.

You’ll also need to outline what you believe is your audience’s needs, wants and challenges. Re-examine your customer demographic data (hopefully you have that already). Run some surveys. Do some research.  You’ll want to know everything you can about your audience so you’ll be able to:

  1. Create content that resonates.
  2. Build trust through relevancy.
  3. Have a voice that your audience can relate to.
  4. Listen and respond to specific customers needs, feedback or complaints.
  5. Become a resource in your niche or industry.

You’ll also want to define the theme of your strategy. Are you looking to create awareness, generate sales or build brand loyalty?

It’s likely that you’ll want to do all three (or others), but it will only work if you set one goal and let the others nurture from the success of that singular theme. Consistency and simplicity are the name of the game here.

How will you measure your strategy’s success?

Another key component of the assessment is determining exactly how you will measure success. The simplest advice I can give here is: Listen.

Listen to what people are saying on Facebook, Twitter and on blogs all around the web. Use Google Alerts. It’s a perfect tool for people who are just starting out. It’s easy to set up and, best of all, it’s free.

Facebook also has some relatively helpful tools that allow you to see your “likes,” what is trending and your daily reach. I say they are ‘relatively’ helpful because the data can seem a bit arbitrary and speculative, and is only accessible for three month periods. Plus, I would not recommend getting too wrapped up in what the numbers say. Use the data to support the activity and comments you are seeing.


Put It All in Writing

Finally, you will want to finalize the plan by writing it down. This allows you to have policies and procedures in place as situations arise. For example, what if there is a negative comment posted to Twitter by a customer? The plan should tell you who deals with it and what the strategy is for diminishing the impact.

Other things you will want to include in your written strategy:

  • What is the goal?
  • Who is responsible for what?
  • Where is the content coming from?
  • Where are your focused goals for each platform (Facebook, Twitter, etc.)?
  • When are you engaging (days and times)?

Once you have your strategy in writing you are ready to get started.

Next time around I will explain the Implementation process, where you apply your establish strategy and focus on the day-to-day tasks.

Why Invest in Social Media

It wasn’t but a little over a year ago when I had the CEO of an online retailer tell me that they wouldn’t be “wasting” any time whatsoever on social media.  Of course, considering they made the majority of their money online, I didn’t let that go without some sort of back and forth. But, the day ended with him firmly entrenched in the notion that time spent on Facebook and Twitter was a frivolous use of resources.

The truth of the matter is, social media marketing is hardly a waste of time.

According to the 2012 Social Media Marketing Industry Report, 85% of marketers report that with just 6 hours a week invested in social media marketing they have had a positive increase in brand awareness, and 74% say they have experienced a significant increase in web traffic.

For those who have been using social media for more than 3 years, 58% say it has definitely helped to improve sales. And, nearly half of those who spent 11 hours per week or more on social media efforts saw an overall reduction in other marketing expenses.

When it comes to acquiring a loyal fan base, social media truly plays a big role. Of those who have been using social media for at least 1 year, 65% found it useful for building a loyal fan base. Time invested made a significant difference with results. Sixty percent of those who spent at least 6 hours a week found benefit, compared to 46% of those spending 5 hours or less.

Even with those who spent as little as 6 hours per week, 61% reported a positive uptick in lead generation.

In the long run, each company’s social media strategy will be different—with unique results. But, the statistics show even a little effort will prove worthy in building a brand, finding leads or establishing a following. I’d say with the relative low-cost of investment, and almost guaranteed return, it is hardly a frivolous use of resources.

As Michael Stelzner, the author of the Social Media Industry Report and Founder of the Social Media Examiner has said, “The old mantra of ‘be everywhere’ will quickly be replaced with ‘be where it matters to our business.’…It will be essential to focus on where you’ll see results.”

You Scratch My Back Social Strategy

I recently came across an article on Social Strategy by Mikołaj Jan Piskorski that appeared in the Harvard Business Review late last year, and felt his analysis was extremely insightful. Successful social strategy, Piskorski surmised, is primarily about helping your audience build relationships, something he calls the You Scratch My Back strategy.

Piskorski studied more than 60 companies across industries ranging from manufacturing to consumer packaged goods to financial services and determined companies that performed poorly in social media settings were employing digital tactics as their overall social strategy. Essentially, they had broadcast commercial messages or sought customer feedback on social platforms…things we all know (or should know as marketers) customers adamantly reject. After all, people join social platforms to connect with other people, not with companies, and especially not with advertising.

I like the example Piskorski provides:

Imagine sitting at a dinner table with friends when a stranger pulls up a chair and says, “Hey! Can I sell you something?” You’d probably say no, preferring your friends’ conversation over corporate advances.

Employing digital marketing tactics in a social (media) setting can not only be detrimental to the brand, it comes across as just plain rude.

What was interesting, was his supposition that companies who devised social strategies that help people create or enhance relationships experienced significant positive returns. Specifically, he details cases where the company introduced the customer other customers or companies. This strategy works, he says, because they’re consistent with users’ expectations and behavior on social platforms.

Returning to Piskorski’s dinner analogy:

A company with a social strategy sits at the table and asks, “May I introduce you to someone or help you develop better friendships?” 

It’s really not an earth-shattering revelation the companies that fared poorly were being stupid. But, the idea that a smart social strategy is primarily focused on helping people establish or strengthen relationships–relationships where the company may serve merely a facilitator or host–is pretty unique.

His theory is sound…in a B2B setting. This strategy would be extremely unique and definitely supports the notion of playing socially in a social environment. It allows the company to engage in the sharing of ideas and while simultaneously positioning itself as a helpful mentor.

However, in a B2C setting it could prove too risky. Playing host means a company may actually be introducing their customer to a competitor. Piskorski’s simplified theorem also ignores the value social interaction brings to a company. Customers want to feel close to their favorite brands, and social media sets a perfect stage for this to occur, giving the customer a voice and medium for expressing themselves. Of course all of that serves as useful intelligence and gives the company a platform to surreptitiously encourage buying decisions.

A properly deployed social strategy will truly impact a company’s organization, culture, processes, systems and bottom line. It shapes the perception a customer may have of a company and the way they will engage with that company in the future. While I find Piskorski’s ideas useful, I don’t think I would define my social strategy as narrowly as he, especially in a B2C marketing environment.

Could I Be a Social Spammer?

A colleague of mine, whose insight I respect, told me the other day that he thought I was spamming my followers. At the very least, he said, I was treating them without dignity and as if they were idiots.

Here’s the backstory:

When I publish blogs postings, such as this one, I like to release them to the social channels I am participating. Namely, Twitter, Google+, Facebook and Linkedin. Of course there’s also the RSS feed. Feeds are automatically created when an article or posting is published. That’s one of the many nice things about blogging on WordPress.

In theory, that means there’s five different ways someone could come across my ramblings. Seems like a good strategy, right? After all, I’ve done a lot of research on blogging and social media over the last several years, and just about every opinion (I’ve seen) adheres to the idea that it’s just plain smart to promote yourself in any way possible. And, because I’m in the business, as one might say, I know by staying on top of my audience that there’s little duplication of followers across the different social networks.

However, as my colleague pointed out, what if someone is following my blog though the RSS feed…and they follow me on Twitter? What if they’re also following on Google+?

If that’s the case, they would get my new posting notice three times, and as he asserts, they’re getting spammed. Not only that, he says they’re being treated disrespectfully, as if I think they’re so stupid they won’t realize I’m feeding them the same stuff over different mediums.

I’m not entirely sure how I feel about that.

A counter argument I posed with him went like this:

What if on my drive home I hear a BMW ad on the radio? Then, as I’m watching TV that evening I see a BMW ad with a similar message. Later, I’m on my iPad reading news on a site like CNN and encounter another BMW ad. Is BMW spamming me? Or, is that just the nature of modern day marketing?

Wouldn’t the process I go through to promote this blog be the same? Wouldn’t my followers simply ignore something they’ve seen already?

What do you think?

Should a blogger limit or restrict the avenues they use to distribute their blog so they don’t overfeed or spam their audience?

There’s a New Social Network in Town…

There’s a new social network in town and it’s called Unthink. It’s the site that is branding itself, in a bit of an angry fit, as the “anti-Facebook” network.

The basic premise of Unthink is its claim to be the “emancipation platform,” a place for people who want to be social online but are frustrated by unfavorable privacy policies, excessive advertising and unexpected updates that keep them unsure if their information is actually protected or not.

Since their launch on Oct. 25th, Unthink has registered over 100,000 new members, and claims they are doubling new registrants each day. Those are actually pretty impressive numbers considering it took Facebook a year to reach a million users and it looks as if Unthink could be on its way to that mark in just a few weeks. That is, if the hype and curiosity doesn’t suddenly waver. After all, there are a whole lot of industry folks and rebels that just wait for things like Unthink to pop up.

Whether they find success or not, they are executing a very interesting marketing strategy with their blatant attack on Facebook. Unthink CEO and founder Natasha Dedis has openly called Facebook the “place that looks like a palace, but in which users are slaves.” Unthink, she points out, is instead “a promised land [where users] own and can build what they want to build.”

Hmmm….is that a little over the top?

Check out the promo video:

There’s a whole lot of revolutionary language in there, and it goes with Dedis’ vision to radically transform the way people interact and share online. “It’s not a business,” she has said, “it’s a cause.”

With revolution, freedom and personal causes as the central theme, Dedis has gone on to say that there will be no place for traditional advertising on Unthink. Instead, the site will let people pick who they want to market to them, with Unthink protecting members’ data from advertisers. It’s actually a promise that is explicitly made on the site: “No ads. Not now. Not ever.”

However, the reality is that Unthink encourages users to choose a brand “sponsor,” who will cover the costs of maintaining their profile. In exchange, the sponsor will be showcased or displayed on the user’s page (in the form of an advertisement). If you’re the sort who wants a page free of sponsors (or advertising — even though we’re supposed to be thinking the whole jist of this thing is to be free from all advertising), you can make that happen by paying $2 a year.

I suppose $2 a year is a small price to pay, and the site’s design does put privacy as a primary focus. Unlike Facebook, who automatically makes a great deal information on new profiles public, Unthink’s default settings are in favor of the user’s privacy.

But I do wonder about the anger and hype. Especially when it comes to the “sponsors” and their roles.

In the end, is it all that different from Facebook?

I suppose time will tell.