The Power of One

One may not seem like a powerful number… but it is. Like the well-known Pareto Principle (or 80/20 rule), there is another semi-universally accepted theorem about the ratio of content creators to commentors to lurkers. This is the 90/10/1 or 1% rule. Author and friend, Jackie Huba, has talked about this rule a number of times, mainly in the context of what companies and organizations can expect when it comes to expected contribution rates in social networking activities and online community.

What got me thinking about the power of one the other day was a graphic created by eMarketer that appeared in a post titled, Why should brands bother with twitter? This table says why. I’ve embedded the table below for ease of reference but one can pretty quickly see that when it comes to engaging in social activities, people that use Twitter over index off the chart.

Upon tweeting about the “Why should brands bother” post, my friend, Liz Phillips, chimed in…

Wow, could this be true? Obviously there is some self-selection because people who tend to be hyper-social also tend to be on Twitter. But looking at the chart, the difference in “social activities” between Twitter users and ordinary internet users is 100-400% greater. Jackie Huba (who I mentioned earlier as being a pro on this front) clarified that most of the research around the 90/10/1 ratio has been focused on online community which is important to keep in mind. But might this number be shifting?

In thinking about the numbers and what looks like a dramatic shift in the 90/10/1 rule (which is different for social media than online community), one explanation for this might be what I’ll call “the Facebook” effect. With 50% of Facebook users (now over 500 million) logging on to the service at least once a day for at least an hour a day, the general internet population is getting more comfortable and familiar with the idea of posting updates, links, pictures and video while also commenting and “liking” friends and colleagues content.

Getting back to Twitter, one thing that has always bothered me, especially when it comes to discussions around following to follower ratio is how many of the people I’m connected with actually tweet. I follow over 12,000 people and you might be surprised to know that I receive no more than 10-20 direct messages (DM’s) a day and those are mainly from close friends and contacts. I also suspect (although I have no direct evidence) that out of the 12,000 people I follow, somewhere south of 20% constitute 80% of the updates (there’s that 80/20 rule again). With 14,000 plus people following me on Twitter, I’ve also wondered how many people are actively monitoring my tweet stream. My guess is maybe somewhere around 1% at any given time.

To validate this number, I took a very unscientific approach. Last night while sitting in traffic (yes Oprah, I was at a complete stop when I tweeted this), I put out this tweet…

And then I waited… for 12 hours in fact before putting out another tweet. At least 50% of my responses came back in the first hour with the remaining 50% trickling in over the next 11 hours. The number of respondents was 78 (two coming via DM). As a funny side note, many people followed the rules and gave me a straight “yes” but several people got creative and a few even included one of my favorite lines, “I see you” in their response. Doing a little back of the envelope math, 78 responses is a little more than .5% of the number of people that follow me. Taking some statistical liberties, I’m going to estimate that the number of people who responded to me represented 50% of those that saw my initial tweet (the other 50% thinking, “why should I waste my time responding to you Strout.”) Guess what, if you double that .5% [drumroll please]… yup, you get 1%.

What does this mean? To be honest, I’m not sure. Except that there is a power in numbers. Whether it is 80/20 or 90/10/1, it shows that behavior can be predictable. What I’m more interested in seeing is whether my theory about the Facebook Effect really has legs. If anyone has any research on this front, I’d love to hear about it. In the meantime, if you have a different theory OR would like to dispel any of my VERY unscientific research, please feel free to do so in the comments below.

I would love to send a HUGE thank you to my friends who (at least some of the time) pay attention to what I have to say. Most of you are already in my “Trust Tree” column on Tweetdeck ensuring that I am more likely to see your tweets versus those in my general “friend” stream. For those of you that weren’t, consider yourself added (see, it does pay to play along sometimes). The folks that participated are:


@savvyauntie @slowrolling @GenuineJack @leslie @schneidermike @cbarger @smashadv @mtlb @jimstorer @ektrondave @FrankEliason @minesm @blogboy @joeyTWOwheels @CBMeitzner @angelicadevere @trishrc @jblock @Movember @adamgarone @ProPaintersAmer @kpitkin @willsmom @jpitkin @cselland @rehor @nealrap @glennbanton @techguerilla @KevinMSpence @TheChrisWalters @sdigregorio @Genuine @nickhuhn @marksylvester @micheliente @ecc1977 @banane @jenhorton @nciske @asilkin @RussThornton @michaelpearsun @mikepratt @asquillace @marting @mpace101 @AnkushKarnik @csoandy @JacquelinesLife @bryanstratton @stepchange @SiobhanDullea @vascocv @Aronado @mikeneumann @JohnKinATL @DrncPno @mkknief @Irdone @shawn @BigMikeInAustin @TTaxChristine @JohnKinATL @DrewCarls @Ed @gingerw @dead_tree_media @jtdoherty @myerman @CountXero @BlackDogPromo @dmcordell @DarrinSearancke @LevelTen_Colin @carriejbond @JeanTerranova @m750

5 Initial Thoughts on Facebook Places

My guess is that I’ll be 50% wrong about what I’m about to say in this post… In baseball that’s a fantastic batting average. In surgery… not so much.

In case you didn’t hear, Facebook made it’s foray into the world of location-based services yesterday with it’s announcement of Places. If you haven’t checked it out yet, it’s pretty straightforward. To checkin, you must use the most recent version of the Facebook iPhone app or the iTouch mobile site for Facebook. Although I’ve discussed the potential negative impact Facebook could have on existing location-based service providers like FourSquare, Gowalla and Whrrl, I’m going to change my tune a little (this is where the 50% wrong part could come into play).

To that end, here are my five initial thoughts about Facebook Places (hat tip to friend and fellow LBS enthusiast, Mike Schneider, for helping push my thinking on this front):

  1. Facebook ‘likes’ boring - I had an epiphany yesterday after ReadWriteWeb’s coverage of the Places announcement yesterday. Facebook doesn’t want to crush the players in the location-based field, it wants to provide the scale and infrastructure that they’ve been sorely lacking. Most telling was RWW’s interview with former Facebook engineer, Yishan Wong, who theorized, “My guess is that Facebook’s product tries to commoditize the ‘boring’ parts of location while providing a platform for the ‘real’ location-oriented companies (e.g. Foursquare, Gowalla, Booyah, Yelp) to build real products off of. Based on what I’ve heard from various sources, companies like Foursquare find the ‘venue management’ business to be quite tedious and not the real source of differentiating value… so commoditizing this aspect of their business doesn’t threaten their core value proposition.
  2. Businesses will seize the opportunity – It took all of 24 hours before all-in-one checkin rewards  site, Topguest, announced that it was including Facebook Places in its service. It won’t take long before others follow suit. The potential access to 500 million members/eyeballs/customers will do that.
  3. Places appeals to the masses, not the early adopters – Mike Schneider and I were going back and forth earlier on Twitter about how disappointed he was in the lack of innovation on Places. My Quick’n'Dirty podcast partner, Jennifer Leggio, and I had a similar conversation yesterday on our weekly show. My take is that Facebook intentionally didn’t include any sexy new features for two reasons a) they want to appeal to the masses so keeping the UI and functionality as simple as possible was essential and b) if bullet number one above is correct, Facebook wants other LBS players to do the innovating while it does its LBS platform thing.
  4. Facebook will make a killing in geo-targeted ad revenue IF Places takes off – I may hate ads, but the more relevant and geo-focused they are, the more inclined I will be to react to them. Check out eMarketer’s post yesterday for more details on this topic including forecasts.
  5. Places will create a privacy nightmare for Facebook – I bet you thought I was going to yadda yadda over this one. Nope. This is the thing that could make or break Places. The major sticking point being the ability to check people into a location. While I personally like this feature in theory (and it is unique to Facebook as far as I can tell), this will cause plenty of problems down the road. It will only take 1-2 times of someone being checked into a location that you either don’t want to be checked into or weren’t actually at… but by the time your friend/parent/significant other sees the update, it will be too late.
How about you? I’m sure I’ll get some push back on some of my predictions. But you know me, I welcome the discussion!

In Populus Nos Fides

You’re probably asking what the hell this title means. In case you failed Latin back in high school, it means “in people we trust.” The reason I chose this title is that I’ve read a lot of posts/articles recently talking about the risks of location-based services (a topic that is near and dear to my heart). And while I feel that there are absolutely risks with letting people know your location on a regular basis 1) the rewards outweigh the risks AND 2) that people are inherently good. As my friend, Michelle Greer, would argue, it only takes one bad apple. But still…

This past Friday, I had a chance to reaffirm what I already believed when I participated in my friend, Jim Storer’s, annual Island Pond Road Rally. Jim has been doing this all day race for 19 years now and the essence of the race is for 8-10 teams (usually 3-5 people per team) to get from a starting point in Massachusetts or southern New Hampshire up to Jim’s family place in northern Vermont. The race takes about 12 hours and along the way, each team must collect items and pictures of places. The way Jim sets up the race, it requires A LOT of interaction with folks who you wouldn’t ordinarily come into contact with. Some of these folks are store owners who are used to dealing with people/tourists on a regular basis. Many are not but rather are ordinary people.

Shannon, our faithful navigator

Scooch and his dopplerganger
Team Shuckri in a strangers pool
Liz Phillips posing at a barbershop with curlers in her hair

What’s amazing about this race is how helpful and genuinely giving most of the people are that we encounter along the race. And when I tell you that there are certain items like convincing someone to shave off their beard, allowing your team swim in their swimming pool while they take a picture or hanging upside down in a tree with you, this takes a higher level of faith (or craziness) than just giving directions or posing for a picture.

Tying this all back to the world of social and location-based services… I’ve mostly found that my positive interactions with people in the real world are not mutually exclusive to the online connections that I’ve made over the last several years. What’s different is that at least in the offline world, I can look someone in the eyes (or vice versa) and interpret their body language. In the online world, your taking a leap of faith. On the upside, you can find out a heck of a lot about a person via Google, LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. You can also hit the “un-follow” or “un-friend” button if someone decides to abuse your newfound friendship.

I know this concept is nothing earth shattering… but it’s how I feel. And while I may be alone in my beliefs, it’s gotten me through nearly 42 years of my life. As a result, I’ve lived a good life and have been fortunate enough to meet some amazing people. How ’bout you?

Photos courtesy Shannon DiGregorio (one of my friends and fellow road rallyers)

Get Out the (Powered) Vote for SXSW 2011

It’s hard to believe that it’s THAT time already but it is THAT time already. What time is “THAT” time you ask? Time to start voting for your favorite South by Southwest Interactive (SXSWi) panels.

This year, I’m in the enviable position of having several Powered colleagues have panels that made it to the next round. The only downside of having so many great submissions make it through is trying to promote everyone’s panels while NOT pissing everyone off that follows me/us. To that end, I’m trying to consolidate efforts by putting everyone’s entrees in the same place.

Below you will find the following information for each of the panels:

  • The title of the proposed panel
  • The first sentence of the panel abstract
  • The suggested speakers
  • A link to the session (SO YOU CAN VOTE FOR IT)
Just remember, you need to sign up to vote. It takes less than a minute and doesn’t cost you anything (and the folks at SXSW are very respectful of not spamming people to death).
  1. Marrying for Money: The ROI of Relationships
    You CAN measure the ROI of relationships – personally, and professionally, and this seminar will show you how. No spreadsheets needed for this lecture, and only minimal algebra…
    Jen van der Meer -  VP Analytics, Powered

  2. Flip the Funnel: Retention is the New Acquisition
    What if we got it all wrong? What if we’ve been going about marketing strategy completely the wrong way?
    Joe Jaffe – Chief Interrupter, Powered
  3. VideoBlogging: Go from Amateur to Outstanding
    You have a video camera and a YouTube Channel – now what? This panel will be a “Master Class” in online video and teach the next steps in building momentum in the online video space…
    Joe Jaffe - Chief Interrupter, Powered
  4. Is the Marketing Microsite Dead?
    Thanks to advances in technology and the rapid adoption of social media platforms by consumers globally,  marketers,  brand managers and their agencies are all discussing the pros and cons of driving consumers to marketing “microsites” vs. social media destinations like Facebook,  MySpace and even Twitter where they’re already spending time…
    Adam Keats, Weber Shandwick, Joe Jaffe, Powered, Bonin Bough, Pepsi.
  5. Everyone’s Wrong about Influence. Except your Customers
    What is influence? For a decade, Malcom Gladwell’s The Tipping Point has served as a touchstone for those who believe that influence resides in the hands of a select few. Not so, says a new generation of marketers. They believe that thanks to the democratizing power of the Internet, anyone can be an Influential…
    Valeria Maltoni – Director Strategy, Powered
  6. Your Content Stinks! Drive results with Content Marketing
     Are you creating content that drives results? Marketers are jumping on the content marketing bandwagon in droves, creating mountains of boring, useless, copycat content that has no impact on their business…
    David Meerman Scott, author, Jay Baer, Convince and Convert, Joe Pulizzi, Junta42, Valeria Maltoni - Director Strategy, Powered
  7. Get Big Results by Thinking and Acting Small
    Each day the world sees more than 1 million new blog posts, tens-of-millions of tweets, hundreds-of-millions of new pieces of Facebook content, and more than 1 billion YouTube videos…
    Greg Verdino – VP Strategy, Powered
  8. Cage Match: Social vs Video
    Social media and online video battle for mindshare among marketers. Which one totally rules? We’ll lock Craig Wax, CEO of Invodo and Natanya Anderson, VP of Content Strategy and Delivery at Powered, in a cage (metaphorically – or maybe literally) to duke it out. Tim Walker will enforce the rules…
    Natanya Anderson, Powered, Tim Walker, Breaking Point Systems, Craig Wax, Invodo
  9. Using Online Video to Build Your Company’s Audience
    With over 24 hours of video being uploaded every minute on YouTube and over 56 hours of video being uploaded per minute to lifestreaming sites such as UStream and Justin.tv, companies are starting to use videoblogs as a way of directly reaching out to new and existing customers…
    Melissa PierceVeriSign (Powered client)
  10. The Steroid Culture of Social Media: You Use?
    Ever think about taking shortcuts to boost your numbers? You know, the numb that show the success of all those interactive social media marketing programs. The numbers that decide your end of year bonus…
    Tim Walker (Breaking Point Systems), Laura Beck (Too Short Productions), Kyle Flaherty (Breaking Point Systems) and Aaron Strout (that’s me!)
  11. The ROI of Customer-centricity
    While some of us are single-mindedly focused on social media as a phenomenon,  we often lose sight of the source of its importance…namely,  its ability to enable companies to be more customer-centric…
    Frank Eliason (Citi), Jess Berlin (Cirque du Soleil), Reem Abeidoh (GroupM Search) and Aaron Strout
  12. Generation C: Changing the Future of Business… Forever!
    Forget about Gen X and Gen Y,  it’s all about Gen C — the Content Generation. Business is changing and content is becoming king…
    Edward Boches (Mullen), Sydney Owen (Weber Shandwick), Sherry Lowry (Lowry Group) and Aaron Strout
  13. Road Rules for Mentorship: What’s Appropriate (and What’s Not)In a world where the saying “it’s all about who you know” is more and more relevant across multiple platforms,  mentoring
    is more important than ever…

    Sydney Owen and Aaron Strout
What’s in it for you you ask? Include the name of your panel and a link and I promise that I’ll go over and throw you a vote as a little thank you for your participation. And if you don’t have a panel, just consider that I owe you one should you choose to vote for any/all of the panels above.

Quick’n’Dirty 55 – ‘What’s the ROI of this Tweet?’

In the spirit of centralizing the recaps from our weekly Quick’n'Dirty podcast, Jennifer, Rich, Ken and I have launched TheQuicknDirty blog. To that end, this week’s recap is over on that site. However, for the regular readers of our blogs, we will keep lite recaps coming.

  • Social app of the week: SCVNGR – “a game about doing challenges at places”
  • Guest of the week: Forrester sr. analyst, Augie Ray – focused on whether or not our addiction to Facebook was good or bad, the death of Google Wave and the ROI of social media.
  • Twitterer of the week: Mike Schneider – VP at Allen Gerritsen. Humble, smart, LBS genius.
  • Point / counterpoint: Can Google do “social?” Special guest co-host, Kyle Flaherty and I took off the gloves on this one.

Listen to the recording of this week’s episode. Or download it on iTunes (go to iTunes and Search for Quick’n'Dirty). And if you want the full recap, head over to our new TheQuicknDirty.com site.