31st December 2007

Satisfaction, Loyalty and Affinity…

I had the good fortune to eat Sushi, have some 1:1 discussion and participate in a short video for Jeremiah this past month while he was in Seattle attending the Web Community Forum.  The video gave me a chance to talk a bit more about finding, thanking and engaging influential’s as part of developing a more effective advocacy and user listening strategy.  Ultimately, I like to think of engagement in the following lifecycle:


  • Satisfaction is really just "brushing your teeth" - basic hygiene.  You have users who believe what you provide meets their needs.  Nothing more or less.  The barrier to be replaced here is pretty low.  And realistically, few mature companies have large scale customer dissatisfaction issues - they more likely have large scale customer apathy issues.
  • Loyalty is obviously a higher achievement.  At this point, you’ve earned users who show up in your Net Promoter scores and exhibit behaviors of likelihood to recommend. 

In my experience, this is where a lot of the measurement ends.  However, this is short of the destination that brands we envy elicit from their customers.  Does loyalty really capture the essence of the Harley Davidson or Four Seasons customers?  It doesn’t capture how I feel about Cookshack! The word "customer" is probably not even the right word in these cases!

  • Affinity is an even stronger measure of alignment with a brand, product or service.  What does it look like?  The behavior I look for is "likelihood to defend."  If someone "attacks" your product, service or brand, does someone show up to defend it?  We all know the credibility that the brand itself has in defending its products or services - pretty limited.  I’m not advocating the brand doesn’t participate here, I’m merely making the point that other users are generally more credible advocates. 

Note:  Overly supportive/pushy/argumentative "fanboys" can be counterproductive in this, so take care with the extremes.

A few questions for brand/product managers are:

  • What are the drivers that move users across this continuum?
  • What is the cost model for the drivers?
  • What is a healthy distribution in my relative industry and competitive market?  If I was Marriott, would the same distribution goal make sense as the Four Seasons?  Probably not. 
  • What is the my current vs desired state distribution?

Thanks again Jeremiah for taking the time for the video and here’s a link to watch.


Popularity: 89% [?]

posted in Business Strategy, Influencers, Social Media, Voice of Customer, Word of Mouth, web 2.0 | 4 Comments

28th December 2007

User Generated Help and How-to Content Model

Occasionally it feels like those of us focused on the social media phenomena live a little bit in a vacuum.  While the circle seems to be growing, there are times where it feels like we are all preaching to the choir - to the already converted.  We read each others blogs, follow each other on , friend each other in , attend many of the same conferences, etc.  Most of this is great!  Heck, it is a bit of the theme of how I named this blog - "group therapy."  There’s a lot of value in those of us with common interests and challenges getting together and sharing experiences, ideas and new learning.  I do wonder how we all measure whether we are broadening the circle of those embracing social media.  It struck me at a recent conference (that was great by the way) that everyone in the room was essentially bought in on the topic in a significant way.  This is good in that it gathered really amazing people and inspired focused conversations, and we need that.  It was bad in that it didn’t feel like the circle really grew that day.  Out of that conference, I committed that in 2008, I will focus more of my conference time on industry events where social media is a track, vs THE TRACK - for example, I just committed to speak at SSPA in May. 

What gets missed sometimes in our swarming with each other is capturing the simple examples that help illustrate how the business and user engagement model changes in a web 2.0 world.  Content is one of my favorite illustrations of this.  Many companies spend extraordinary amounts of money on content for their users - for this post, let’s focus on help and support content.  Here are a few examples:

Once the investment is made in an authoring model (in house or vendor), more money is spent to localize the content - all of which, at best, serves the fat part of the long tail of help and support content needed to really assist the breadth and depth of users.  There’s nothing unique about this model, this has been in place for many years and as we know, changing the model is not simple.  This is obvious ground for community models (Q&A support forums and wikis).  Most are doing this, though in very few cases are these different models integrated - look at the sites and it’s clear these are silo’d efforts.  If your users can draw your org chart just by navigating your web pages - you have an integration problem…ok, opportunity:)  Does a single search crawl both in-house and user generated content?  What about user generated content beyond the bounds of yourcompany.com.  For example, look at this 6 minute video on Youtube of   Note the # of views, stars, favorites and the two most recent comments!


How should Microsoft (Disclosure - I work at Microsoft right now) treat this content on Youtube?  What are the processes to discover content like this?  How do you decide what to include or not?  How much risk do you take with dead links to external content that can vanish?  What should be done about the video creator - this is an influencer - probably should thank him at a minimum - but much more should be done (another day, other posts on influencer program development). 

A more radical view of this would be the following question:  When do you stop authoring content in house? (and re-deploy that investment to drive a user generated content model?)

Before I go further, let’s be realistic. You probably can’t just stop authoring content.  There will be some content you may always need to author.  Security content for example - where many users will expect vendor created (and legally indemnified content).  You may also find that this enables a shift in which content you write - more pre-release and deployment/training content and less help and how-to content.  Likewise, there is a business scorecard problem.  Businesses measure results on a monthly/quarterly/annual basis - particularly when we are talking about investments like content.  So, how can you achieve a breakthrough in results from a new, user driven model, when your scorecard is assuming continuous quarter over quarter improvement.  This conflict quickly converts companies from being risk takers to risk averse. 

What would happen if you stopped writing content and converted your entire KB/FAQ process to a wiki?  In the near term?  There’s a high probability the quality of your content would initially go down (at least that is the right expectation to set).  User generated content is not the holy grail, it won’t solve world peace.  This is where the scorecard conflict is key - you need executive patience in longer term goals than quarterly results.  Look at Wikipedia…a few years ago there was plenty of debate about its accuracy - now it is generally accepted (and research has supported) to be as accurate, or more than, commercially published encyclopedias.  In fact, a simple example is to look at how current it is.  When will that old school publishing model be updated with yesterdays assassination of Benazir Bhutto.  Wikipedia took less than 24 hrs and it’s not just in English, but here in French, Spanish, Dutch…and many more. 

The real answer is more about percentage of content authored in-house vs via community - move from 80-90% internal to 80-90% user generated.  While the quality might initially go down, there is little question that ultimately a user generated content model will be more complete (topic and language) and at least  as good (likely far better) than anything that can be done in house.  Depending on your business, you need to forecast how long this transition might take - will it exceed the old model in 6 months, 1 year, 3 years?  What’s the bet?  What’s the tolerance for the duration?  How do you risk mitigate the potential quality dip?  You know you will have resisters who on day 1 will email around links to some user submitted piece that is terrible - are you prepared - is the corporate culture ready to withstand these bumps?

By now you should also be thinking about the revised scorecard.  Why are you doing all this?  To save cost on content?  Deflect calls from your call center?  Reach more users?  Increase satisfaction (users find what they want)?  All valid goals, but with only these elements, it’s likely a richer scorecard than what most organizations have today around help and how-to content.

Practical social media for business.  I like it, wonder what you think?


Popularity: 86% [?]

posted in Business Strategy, Examples, Influencers, Microsoft, Social Media, Why Community Matters, online communities | 4 Comments

20th December 2007

15 years at Microsoft, coming to an end…mixed emotions

Today I formally announced that I’ve decided to leave Microsoft.  I love this company…always have - it has been amazing to me.  I’ve had great opportunities for growth and worked with really incredible people both inside and outside the company.  Microsoft supported me through a difficult time medically - time off, benefits, security and genuine care and concern I’ll never forget.  To be clear, I’m not leaving Microsoft to get away.  Nor am I going off to some other company with a "grass is greener" dream.  That isn’t it. 

I’m leaving because I see an opportunity to follow a dream I’ve had for a long time.  In the weeks ahead, I’ll be a bit more specific about what is next, but you can expect me to use the year ahead to immerse myself in the intersection of social media, influencers and business.  I look forward to writing, speaking and consulting to grow my experience in this exciting space that promises to radically change the face of business and transform how innovation, service and support, and sales and marketing are done. 

I couldn’t be more excited about the time ahead, the opportunity to learn and the chance to demonstrate to my kids that risk-taking and uncertainty are a great part of life. 

Rather than go on too long, I thought it appropriate that I share the personal announcement I sent today to MVPs around the world.  For those who don’t know, I’ve led this effort at Microsoft for the last 5 years.   From our own website:

"Microsoft Most Valuable Professionals (MVPs) are exceptional technical community leaders from around the world who are awarded for voluntarily sharing their high quality, real world expertise in offline and online technical communities. Microsoft MVPs are a highly select group of experts that represents the technical community’s best and brightest, and they share a deep commitment to community and a willingness to help others."

But it’s more than that.  Today there are over 4000 MVPs in 90 countries around the world.  In recent years, I’ve personally met more than 75% of them and logged over 1M air miles connecting with them.  Given the step I’m taking, I owe them a deep thanks.  They were the catalyst, the inspiration and the source of most of what I’ve learned over the years about community.

Here’s what I shared with them today:



In my 15 years at Microsoft, I estimate I’ve sent nearly 500,000 emails, but without question this will be the most personal email I’ve ever written.  I’ve asked the MVP leads around the world to share this with you and I’m also posting it in the lounge and announcement private Newsgroups - given how global we are, I’m certain this won’t arrive at the same time for all of you.

Some of you I’ve known for years, others I’ve met more recently, and some I have yet to meet, but I wanted to share with all of you that I’ve made a very personal decision to leave Microsoft.  I can hardly begin to thank you for the past 5 years during which I’ve led the MVP Award program.  Your passion for community has inspired me more deeply than you can ever know.  Microsoft has been an amazing place and one I find difficult to step away from. I leave behind a deeply supportive and committed MVP team and thousands of fellow employees across the company who have come to appreciate the importance of communities and the incredible voluntary spirit of the world’s MVPs. 

So where am I going?  I hope what you’ll see is that I’m not leaving you, but joining you.  Communities, Social Media and Web 2.0 are transforming the way users connect with businesses and with one another.   I’ve seen, with you, that we are pioneers on the edge of what I believe will be a radical transformation across communities and ALL industries.  In the years ahead, we will see the arrival of the Chief Customer Officer, or more specifically, the Chief User Experience Officer – and great companies will differentiate around their ability to connect with their users in increasingly transparent ways.  I’m proud of my time at Microsoft as I think we are a leader in this transformation and that community and MVPs have been central to the evolution. 

There’s no question that there is more work to be done, but I’ve decided that I want to take on a different role in the industry as a catalyst for helping more companies make this change.  In order to follow this dream, I need to be independent – like each of you.  I won’t be joining another company, but forming one of my own, a company of one for now.  I’m beginning work on a book and over the next 12 months will focus my energy on writing, speaking and consulting in the emerging space of social media and communities.  You are most welcome to follow this journey at my blog (grab the feed), on , via , or via good old fashioned .

I’m sure you may be wondering what this means to the MVP Program.  In the immediate term, I’m still hereJ  You should see relatively little to no difference – it’s “business as usual.”  In my time here, the thing I’m most proud of is the talent we’ve grown to support our long term belief in community – I know this team and the conviction of the leaders around me will assure a seamless transition. We have not yet determined when my last day will be at Microsoft and frankly that is far less important than ensuring a smooth handoff.  The reality is that the people you talk to most often and who are really the ones that make our community efforts work are all still here – your MVP Lead and our global community team. The future of the MVP program simply couldn’t be more secure.  As soon as we have something more concrete to share with you, we will, but in the spirit of transparency, we wanted to share that this change was coming.

Regardless of where I am officially, I am looking forward to seeing you at the MVP Summit as I’m committed to joining you – no matter where I am – for your annual festivities!

Thank you again for the trust and support you’ve given to me, I know this work has changed my path and I deeply appreciate your contributions.


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posted in Events, MVP, Social Media | 74 Comments

15th December 2007

Podcast on Social Media, Communities and Influencers…


Stephen Ibaraki of the Canadian Information Processing Society recently asked me to participate in a podcast after seeing a speech I gave on the business implications of social media.  Stephen’s awfully generous to me to provide the opportunity.  I don’t really like to go back and listen to these after I’ve done them, but I thought I’d share the link here…it’s a bit long, but Stephen has index of topics to give some idea of the flow.  I thought someone here might give it a listen, I’d love to hear your thoughts.


Popularity: 63% [?]

posted in Events, Interviews & Speeches, Social Media | 2 Comments

7th December 2007

According to PQ Media, Word of Mouth a Billion dollar industry…

Nice to see my quote picked up:

“It is gratifying to have industry data and analysis to support what many of us already believed – that word of mouth is the single most important driver of every decision we make as consumers,” said Sean O’Driscoll, General Manager of Community Support Services at WOMMA member company Microsoft. “It reinforces the fact that one customer’s perception is statistically significant.”

Have a read of the whole story here.  What’s the secret sauce to really make WOM work?  Could it be…influencers?  That’s my bet if you’ve been reading this blog.


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posted in Word of Mouth, marketing | 1 Comment

6th December 2007

The arrival of The Blog Council…

Well, I’ve been slow to blog this today as I was at the Web Community Forum a good chunk of the day, but I wanted to get something up on this before the moment passed.

The Blog Council has officially launched.

Lots of discussion today about it…I think Lionel over at Dell does a good job of capturing how I feel about this so please have a read. 

In the end, the core issue for me is simple.  I have learned more about social media and community from talking with fellow practitioners than any other single activity.  It’s kind of an oh, duh thing to say, but it amazes me how few people really do get out and invest the time to listen, read and learn. The opportunity to be a part of this and listen and learn from other real world corporate practitioners was way to good to pass up. 

A number of other posts as well you’re welcome to cruise:


Yup, some controversy too and some of it good feedback to think through as this develops.


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Popularity: 77% [?]

posted in Blog Council, Blogging, Microsoft, Social Media, Voice of Customer, marketing, web 2.0 | 5 Comments

4th December 2007

Bad example of engaging with Influencers…

Ok, on the heals of my recent discussions on the topic of good models vs bad models with influencers, a friend shared with me a story brewing regarding Target’s efforts on their "Rounder’s" program - an attempted "stealth influencer" program. 

Have a read of "Bloggers seeing red over Target’s little secret"

Here’s my favorite nugget from the story:

The hubbub began in early October after Siman received a Rounders newsletter as Target was launching a new Facebook page. Like many companies now setting up sites on Facebook and MySpace, Target hoped to get people talking about new products, get feedback and continue to find ways to promote its hip image.

"Your Mission: Try not to let on in the Facebook group that you are a Rounder," the newsletter read.

"We love your enthusiasm for the Rounders, and I know it can be hard not to want to sing it from the mountaintops [and in the shower, and on the bus]. However, we want to get other members of the Facebook group excited about Target, too! And we don’t want the Rounders program to steal the show from the real star here: Target and Target’s rockin’ Facebook group. So keep it like a secret!"

The vendor running the Rounder’s program quickly took the fall for Target and to everyone’s credit the response and apology seems swift.  Good job there, I’ll assume sincere.  One piece of advice:  shouldn’t have deleted the posts!

Need we all be reminded of the logic behind stealth anything in social media.  I think the best thing to keep secret is the one thing you most want people to know - that way you can be assured of the word getting out!


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Popularity: 56% [?]

posted in Examples, Influencers, Social Media, marketing | 0 Comments

1st December 2007

"Who’s on First - The role of Early Adopters…"

I talk to a lot of people and invariably I’m talking about a lot the same things all the time - Web 2.0, Social Media, Influencers…  To be honest, all to often I lose track of many of these conversations - not the people - I’m good at tracking that…but it’s a lot of conversations.

Last week I picked up my mail at work and on my desk was the Nov. edition of Marketing News with a little note of thanks on the cover.  It didn’t really register, I just put in my to-read pile.  Today, I picked it up and tore off the outer wrapper and saw the headline story was "Who’s on First? Early Adopters spend more, share more and can make or break your product.  Rather than fear them, marketers today are building relationships with them."  (by )

Ok, that sounds right up my alley - I know instantly I’m either going to like this article or hate it for over simplifying the influencer model.  So, I sit down to read…

Page 1:  The set up - citizen marketers driving brand awareness and purchase influence through their conversations.  Relative authority of influencers increasing over historical rates.  Ok - I’m good, I certainly think this is true.  I find myself thinking about recent time I’ve shared with and Duncan Watts on either side of this position - debating the role of the influential.  I believe strongly in the influence model, but I fear its failure through over simplification (I blogged this recently).

Page 2:  Industry quotes and data/research supporting the concepts.  Low and behold, data and quotes from WOMMA co-presenter Ed Keller.  Cool, he’s one of THE guys on the topic.  A good warning from Charles Golvin at Forrester: "You have to be a bit more clever and thoughtful and engaging in developing your approach to this audience; the in-your-face, can’t-avoid-it advertising won’t fly."

Page 3: Wrapping it up with a b-2-b example…wait a minute, I know that guy.  The story turns to how Microsoft (disclosure - that’s where I work) engages with influentials (MVPs - disclosure - that’s the program I have global responsibility for) around the world to gather feedback on future products.  Suddenly I remember the conversation with the journalist as I’m reading my quotes.  Kind of a funny moment to be reading something and find yourself in it having forgotten the discussion:) 

Anyway, I like the article (good thing!) and was happy to see one of my signature statements included: "An important part of the ethos [of our program] is that MVP’s don’t do what they do in their communities to help Microsoft–they do it to help other users."

Thanks Daniel for sending me the mag or this is one I probably would have missed.


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posted in Influencers, MVP | 1 Comment

20th November 2007

Co-created Soft Drink…Join the "DEWmocracy"! (?)

Hmmm.  I’m not really a Mountain Dew guy, but why not, everyone seems to be experimenting with co-creation concepts, let’s see how it goes.  (updated: this is the link, but a error on the page tonight)

Help create the new Mountain Dew, complete with game oriented Back Story:

Help create the next Mountain Dew.

Starting November 2007, you are invited to join the movement to create the next Mountain Dew. Your journey will give you the power to select the flavor, color, name, logo, label, and tagline for the next Mountain Dew.

Your journey will take you through seven Chambers, where you will meet mythical characters, answer questions, and play games.

  • Upon entering each Chamber, you will be tasked to create a specific feature of the next Mountain Dew. For example, in the first Chamber, you will select your Drink’s flavor.
  • Creating the individual features of your Drink will be the first task of each Chamber. Once completed, you can wait for the next Chamber to open or can continue exploring the world of DEWmocracy by playing a series of games.
  • Your decisions in the first three Chambers will lead you to join 1 of the 3 Teams that will ultimately create the next Mountain Dew. After the 3 most popular combinations of features are determined, you’ll be aligned with the Team whose drink most closely matches your own.
  • Once aligned with a Team, you will be responsible for creating the logo, label, and ultimately the tag-line of the next Mountain Dew. Each Team will vote on which Drink candidate from those submitted by all Team members will be put forth for a national vote.
  • Points earned in the game get you higher visibility for your drink, increasing its chances of being selected as your Team’s candidate. Accruing the most points does not directly result in your drink being one of the 3 final selections.
  • In the final Chamber, your team will vote to determine the Drink candidate that you collectively would like to bring into the real world.

Ok, I’m not really sure this is all that good an idea, but I’ll bite for awhile. 

Note:  Some things they could have done to make this easier to blog about.


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Popularity: 37% [?]

posted in Examples | 1 Comment

18th November 2007

Influencer Marketing: An Oxymoron?

I recently found myself in a roomful of Brand marketers, Agencies and Boutique consultancies discussing the growing authority of influencers.  As social media has amped and marketing eyes a mixshift of investments to new media and Word of Mouth, the importance and debate around the role of Influencers has exploded. 

Just last week, Ad Age reported on research by PQ media that Word of Mouth Marketing crossed $1B in 2006…up from $76M 5 years earlier, in route to $3.7B by 2011. 

…in 2006, according to an independent research report on the field that will be unveiled during a session at the annual Word Of Mouth Marketing Association conference in Las Vegas today. The analysis, believed to be first in-depth look at word of mouth, reports that spending on the emerging discipline has increased from $76 million in 2001 to $981 million in 2006 and is expected to grow to approximately $3.7 billion by 2011.

These influencer conversations generally fall into a couple of buckets:

  • Data and examples designed to convince you that Influencers matter
  • How to find and "activate" them in the brand conversation
  • How to measure

I find myself invited to participate in a lot of these discussions as I have pretty strong views on the topic after 5 years of building one of the largest Influencer programs (www.microsoft.com/mvp).  Probably more important than the strong views, is the practical lessons learned from operationalizing a global program designed to find, thank and engage influencers both online and offline.  Like most things, the best way to learn about something is to go and personally engage in it.  I estimate that I’ve talked to over 3000 influencers of our brands from over 50 countries during the past few years. 

So, back to the conversation at the conference…As we sat in the room having the discussion, several people used the term "Influencer Marketing."  Each time I heard it, I cringed.  Something about this phrase seemed wrong.  In the moment, I couldn’t articulate why this phrase dug so deep, but by my afternoon presentation I had to discuss this topic.  I like to keep the following core assumption in mind:  Influencers don’t do what they do in order to help you (the brand)…they do what they do to help other users.  Forgetting this core point is probably the fastest path to a failed influencer initiative.  The term "Influencer Marketing" to me feels like it is attempting to get a direct response from an influencer.  Find the right people, tell them about "A" and they will go tell everyone about "A."  In my experience, it just doesn’t work this way.  There are a few "influencers" with whom this works - but they rarely influence much or sustain over the long term - they may just be loud.  Perhaps my issue with this is that most marketing feels very one way.  If you really want to get influencers talking, it’s about a two way, trust based conversation. 

Wrong model (marketing dream):  I tell you about "A," you tell everyone you know about "A"

Right model:  I tell you about "A," you tell me about "A1, B and C."  I listen, I make some changes or I don’t make changes but I tell you why.  This creates outbound conversation - but it’s a by-product of a relationship, not a channel for push communications.

In truth there probably isn’t anything wrong with the term itself.  There are influencers and brands will invariably market to them - and that’s not evil.  What might be "evil" is thinking there is a shortcut here - forgetting that this really only works when social media is creating a conversation between a brand and the users…and remember, "listening is not just waiting for your turn to talk!"

And finally, the right model makes another strong point - that the conversation isn’t just between your influencers and the marketing department - it’s the influencers and your company - cross functions.


Popularity: 100% [?]

posted in Business Strategy, Influencers, MVP, Microsoft, Social Media, Voice of Customer, web 2.0 | 7 Comments

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