6th October 2008

WOMMA Publishes Influencer Handbook…

Influencers are more than a passing interest to me…generally speaking I don’t take projects that aren’t about reaching out and connecting with influencers as part of a community strategy.  Some time back, WOMMA approached myself, of Keller Fay and of Comblu about being co-chairs of the Influencer Committee within WOMMA.  We met and gathered a broader group of experts - primarily practitioners - with the idea of documenting some practices and recommendations regarding influencer marketing and influencer engagement.  While we didn’t agree on everything (what fun would that be), I’m pleased with the outcome of the work, the Influencer Handbook.  Have a look and let us know what you think.  It includes the following sections:

• Definition of an influencer and influencer marketing
• Types of influencers
• Methods to engage and thank influencers
• Guidelines for influencer self-regulation
• Bibliography of influencer communication research and practices

Working effectively with influencers was the section most near and dear to me.  I’m sure we missed some important points and examples that can further contribute to increasing practitioner success with influencers.  If you’re new to this topic, or not, I simply hope you’ll consider a few key principles:

  • An Influencer program is different than a loyalty program and requires more comprehensive planning and long term commitment to succeed
  • Influencers rarely do what they do to help your brand, they do it to help other users - your benefits are by-products of your commitment and engagement
  • Consider the idea of "fair exchange of value" or an influencer "balance sheet" - ensuring the benefits to your influencers are in balance with the benefits that accrue to you as a brand - if not, the likelihood of failure is quite high.
  • Knowledge, specialized access and relationships are of substantially higher value to all parties than swag/give-aways. 

And if you really want to know about influencers…connect.  Throw away the data, analytics, tools and economy of scale for a few months and go sit down face to face with as many as you can.  There’s "tactile knowledge" required to really understand a brand’s influencers.  When I was a practitioner, it was this seemingly over-investment in face to face that really changed my perspective.


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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.


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posted in Business Strategy, Influencers, Social Media, Voice of Customer, Word of Mouth, web 2.0 | 4 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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20th October 2007

Will I see you at WOMMA?

November 13-15 is the annual Word of Mouth Marketing Summit & Research Symposium.  More information and registration information here.  I got involved with WOMMA less than a year ago, but the relationship has really been beneficial to me in expanding my thinking on the implications of communities, social media and influencers.  I have the pleasure this year of both speaking on the topic of influentials and co-chairing the launch of a new Influencer Council with Peter Hershberger and Brad Fay.

The topic of influentials has really taken off this year and I’m excited to present and help launch a council focused on thinking through the discipline of finding, thanking and engaging the enthusiasts that are radically changing the conversation on the web about products, brands and services.  Whether you’re a customer service/support, product development or marketing leader with robust communities or staring at the cold start problem, there’s no more important place to begin than with the enthusiasts.  Far to often our functional silos are disconnected from one another, but this is a critical place to bring these groups together.  Marketers often talk about the conversation starters.  Find those starting brand/product conversations and work to reach and engage these word of mouth leaders.  I prefer to think about finding the conversation stoppers.  Why are your users in your communities?  A substantial number of conversations started on the web (in forums, blogs, newsgroups…) are actually questions - requests for help.  This means I want to capture two things…what are people commonly asking for (feeding a voice of the customer process- a post for a later date) and who are the people giving all the best answers - the conversation stoppers!  And guess where word of mouth (both positive and negative) usually comes from?  Someone requests help and gets either exceptionally good service or exceptionally poor service.  You know who talks more about a brand than someone who loves it?  Someone who has a bad experience.  Any idea who talks even more than that person?  Someone who had a bad experience that the company shows up and makes it right.  Take a look at this well known example from Dell.

Such a rich topic to debate and discuss and a core place to tear down organizational silos as you think about flat companies!  I hope you join us in Las Vegas or at least stay tuned here for more on the topic from me.

One final thought on WOMMA.  Ultimately, I judge the value of my participation in events and associations pretty simply.  I take a one year view and as I get close to that anniversary, I ask myself about the quality of learning and people I have met through the activity and it’s likelihood to continue to impact me professionally, personally and/or academically. By this measure, consider this post to be positive word of mouth on the Word of Mouth Marketing Association

WOMMA Facebook group here: 

WOMMA Blog: http://www.womma.com/blog/ 


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30th September 2007

Some thoughts on "5 P’s" of Social Media…

I’ve been doing a number of presentations as of late on social media and I thought I’d share a slide I’ve been using that I call the "5 P’s of Social Media."  I figured posting here might be a good place to get some feedback to make this even better.

The marketers out there will remember the 4 P’s of marketing popularized by E. Jerome McCarthy:  Product, Pricing, Promotion and Placement.

In the 2001 book High Intensity Marketing by Idris Mootee, the author proposed a new set of 4 P’s for the Internet age: Personalization, Participation, Peer-to-Peer, and Predictive Modeling.  Overall, I like this model and had never seen it before doing some research in prep for writing this blog post (I’ll have to get the book).  While social media has matured a great deal in the 6 years since this book came out, I think the model applies very well.

What I was looking for was a prescriptive and informative model for describing the various forms of social media as well as the underlying components required for describing a social media strategy.  Here’s what I came up with:


note:  It’s a build slide that starts with People and builds clockwise.

In fairness, it probably needs to be 6 P’s by adding "Purpose" - but for me, purpose is the overall talking point for the slide, therefore, you don’t see it here.  And 6 P’s? - Getting carried away!! :)

Here’s a short summary of definitions (though this is made more real by using examples that are relevant to the audience).

  • People:  The talkers, authors, contributors - empowerment of the individual.
  • Places:  All the diverse venues the conversations can take place in.
  • Process:  What collaboration (and moderation) you enable, how you entitle contributor types and how you integrate with existing systems.
  • Platform:  Where and how you tie together the places, processes, people (identity/privacy) and privileges.
  • Patterns:  Presenting, tracking, filtering, measuring, monitoring and decision support.

That’s it…let me know what you think, what I missed and what examples you might use.



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posted in General Community Discussion, Social Media, Word of Mouth, online communities, web 2.0 | 4 Comments

3rd September 2007

Some word-of-mouth on "Word of Mouth Marketing"

I’ve been on hiatus from online for most of the past two weeks - a bit of needed vacation.  I didn’t quite spend the time the way I had planned, but I think I spent it the right way.  I had planned to read a couple of books, stay on top of my blog, catch up on RSS feeds that I’d fallen behind on, and work on some longer range personal objectives.  Well, I read one book.  Beyond that, I frankly just relaxed and enjoyed the time with family and friends.  Good for me!!  Not sure why I thought I could or should try to do all that other stuff while on vacation!

As I prepare to immerse tomorrow in my day job, I’m anxious to catch up on what I missed and get on with planning for what looks like a very busy fall schedule.

The one book I did read was a good one.  Earlier this year I joined the Word of Mouth Marketing Association.  I certainly didn’t see myself as a marketer, but I felt it would be a good way to connect with some industry peers focused on similar issues involving social media.  Well, it was - and I certainly recommend it.  I have met many great thinkers and experts on the topic of WOM over the past several months.  I’ve been particularly taken by the convergence social media is driving between marketing, customer service, online support and product feedback functions - driving connections across these silos should be a top priority for any company that wants to continue to have long term success.

A friend introduced me to Andy Sernovitz who I’ve had the pleasure of talking with now on several occasions.  Andy wrote an excellent book called Word of Mouth Marketing:  How Smart Companies get People Talking.  Andy has been a great contact for me and I certainly owe him a personal thanks for the conversations, but also want to recommend this book to anyone looking for smart, easy to follow guidance on how to implement Word of Mouth in your marketing strategy.


This is the book I wish I had read 3-4 years ago (though it wasn’t out then:)).  I can certainly see how this book would have changed how I thought about and implemented the programs, practices and internal negotiations I’ve been responsible for in recent years.  Andy brings nice structure to action planning through the 5 Ts:

  • Talkers:  Find the people talking about you
  • Topics:  Give people a reason to talk
  • Tools:  Help the message spread faster and farther
  • Taking part: Join the conversation
  • Tracking:  Measure and understand what people are saying

Now, here I am "Word-of-Mouthing" on the book - uh, hmmm - nice job Andy.

Hope to see you in November at the Word of Mouth Marketing Summit where I get to present this year!


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13th July 2007

Re-Org news….Marketing Department to report into Customer Service organization

I attended a talk this morning by Andy Sernovitz, author of Word of Mouth Marketing.  Lot’s of good points from Andy, but two things in particular stood out for me - both coming from the Q&A.


Question (paraphrased):  "Andy, you made a strong case for how customer service/support functions should not be separate strategies from marketing.  The challenge is call centers are cost centers and it’s difficult to change the investment model.  Would you say that customer service should report into the marketing organization?

Answer (also paraphrased): "No, the marketing organization should report into the customer service department."

In the room of 80+ people, there were maybe 5-6 people I recognized from the support business and I’d guess the rest of the room from marketing functions.  My colleagues and I got a great chuckle from that…while watching the rest of rooms heads snap back in some amount of bewilderment - great moment- thank you Andy.  In all seriousness, changing organizational lines in very large corporations often just creates new problems, but I think the overall point is very valid.  I think the question to ask is whether 1:1 discussion and joint planning occur between your call center business and your central marketing organizations?  I know this will be an item for me to follow up on in my own world.


Question (paraphrased):  "This word of mouth stuff makes sense, but how would work in a B2B context vs B2C."

Answer (also paraphrased):  "Ahh, this is the 1st or 2nd question at every speech.  Why would it be different?  Yes, the messages might be different, but the motivation and influence issues are exactly the same as in B2C."

This question (and answer) reminded me of an issue I’ve long been passionate about.  Many B2B companies struggle accepting the validity of the evidence of the methods of B2C companies (and vice verse) as there is a fundamental assumption that the marketing rules are different.  Even in companies that are both B2B and B2C, these two marketing functions sit in different places organizationally and really don’t typically interact with one another:  co-existence vs co-learning.  Ok, some things are different; the messages and the delivery vehicles would be good examples.  But what influences buying or trust or referral behavior aren’t different, are they?  Businesses don’t buy products, people inside businesses buy products.  I work in a large corporation and I approve many large POs on a regular basis to buy good and/or services.  When you sell to me, you are not selling to a business, you are selling to a consumer who represents a business and your track-record for success (ie references or past experiences) is still the #1 deciding factor in who gets the business.

So, while there are some functional differences between B2B and B2C, I’d offer the following:  Every business is simply a collection of individual consumers.  Buying is a emotional decision in either case (you are taking a risk - perhaps a bigger risk when it’s your job).  This is especially true if you represent a business that sells to both businesses and consumers.  If you don’t think your users experience with your consumer products will impact how they talk about your business products, you are making a huge mistake.



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23rd May 2007

What makes communities work - in a picture.


3 people helped each day, "paid forward" by each person helps 4.7M people in two weeks.


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2nd April 2007

Are you "Tag Drafting?"

Ok, I think I coined the phrase…but certainly not the activity.

I’ve been playing more and more with it via Technorati tags, Delicious and now I’m actively looking forward to tagspace.   I’ve been tagging my content since I launched this blog…now I’m trying to be more consistent about tagging other content I like.  I’m curious how you might be using Tagging?

I really like the notion of "Tag Drafting" as an efficiency and effectiveness tool - the analogy here to racing.

From Wikipedia:

Drafting, or slipstreaming, is a technique in sports racing where competitors align in a close group in order to reduce the overall effect of drag or fluid resistance of the group. Especially when high speeds are involved, drafting can significantly reduce the average energy expenditure required to maintain a certain speed.

Drafting is usually to reduce wind resistance and is seen most commonly in bicycle racing, car racing, and speedskating though is occasionally used even in running. Some forms of triathlon allow drafting. Drafting is sometimes seen in swimming as well, particularly in "open-water" swim events where competitors are not separated into distinct lanes.

In cycling, the main (largest) group of tightly packed cyclists in a race is called a peloton, while cyclists riding in straight-line formation, each (but the first) drafting behind the one in front of him, is called a paceline. Drafting can be cooperative, in which several competitors take turns in the lead position (which requires the most effort and energy consumption). Or, it can be competitive or tactical, where one competitor will try to stay closely behind another leaving him or her more energy for a break-away push to the finish line.

So, what is Tag Drafting?  It’s really the same concept:  how I can I reduce the resistance to discovering useful information in territory others are already covering? To me, it falls into two categories:  Topic drafting and Author drafting.

1)  Topic drafting:  This allows me to go to a social bookmarking service like Delicious and "draft" on a topic that others are also interested in and actively tagging.  This seems a far more relevant way to discover new information on topics of interest than a search engine.  Search gives me everything, whereas this will give me just the info others thought "tag-worthy."  Example:  Let’s say you are like me and interested in Web 2.0.  Go to delicious and search web2.0 (done for you). Once you have registered on Delicious, you can even get an RSS feed to content users are tagging with Web2.0 (not recommended at this volume, but you could).  There is a lot of content here, but I think easier to explore than the 220M results found with live search.  More useful yet is creating Tag Bundles (Web2.0 + Social).  Keep playing - find the right tag bundle for you/your topic, grab a feed and draft for a few weeks and tell me what happened - The good, the bad and the ugly.  I’m trying this with the following Tag bundle:  Web2.0 + Social + business.

2)  Author drafting:  I like this even better.  In this approach, you are finding a fast "rider" you already know tags topics you care about and you are "drafting" behind them.  Here are some people I draft for Web 2.0: Bobreb, Alexbarn & leelefever.   Want to draft me?  Here are two topics to follow:  Web2.0 and BBQing.  Now I haven’t been at this as long as others, so I have work to do, but hopefully this gives you the general idea of the power this can have.

So, tell me what you think.  Try it out.  Start tagging and then start drafting!!  Have other cool techniques for leveraging social bookmarking…fill me in!!!!

Sean (aka seanodmvp at Delicious)

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4th March 2007

Word of Mouth Basic Training - user participation in your brand…

Do you know about WOMMA?  WOMMA is the word of mouth marketing association.  And if you are a "Web 2.0-er" in your organization, you need to know about WOMMA.

First a little about WOMMA:

WOMMA is the official trade association for the word of mouth marketing industry. WOMMA’s mission is to promote and improve word of mouth marketing by:

  • Protecting consumers and the industry with strong ethical guidelines
  • Promoting word of mouth as an effective marketing tool
  • Setting standards to encourage its use

Web 2.0 and Word or Mouth are inseparable concepts in my view.  Take the look at this recent cnet article:  Experts: Let customers help brand your product.  I blogged about how Search might effect your brand, but what about real user participation in your brand!!  This isn’t without some risk, but I’ve said before this is the direction, so time to get out in front.  (thanks to Andrew Brown for sending me this article!).

I’ve been part of WOMMA for the past several months and already made many great contacts through the network of professionals that participate both online and through their events.  This year I’m working hard to adjust my calendar so I can join the Word of Mouth Basic Training conference - and selfishly, I’m hoping I might see you there!  WOMBAT this year is April 17th-18th in New Orleans.  The keynote line up looks good:

Sessions look like they are lining up good as well.  I know this will be a great event.  My friends at WOMMA shared a special discount code as a courtesy to my blog readers, so you can register with "friendsofsean" for a $75 discount on attendance.

Hope to see you in New Orleans!

Don’t forget to Digg it…



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