Tag Archive for: Facebook

I really don’t care what you had for breakfast – how social sub-network tagging can end irrelevance on Facebook, Twitter, etc.

Net: Facebook and Twitter updates are becoming increasingly irrelevant and brand diminishing as users broadcast information to their entire networks that are of interest to only some of their friends and followers. A relevance increasing solution could be the ability to selectively send and receive updates using social sub-network tagging.

I have written before about the importance of relevance; it’s one of the Four R’s of developing relationships.  We believe it is one of the most important elements of any effective communication – be it advertising or talking to a friend.  Relevant communications have a chance at being listened to.  Relevant messages that are interesting to the recipient have a chance at being acted on and looked at again.  Junk mail and spam isn’t necessarily something you didn’t request; it is most certainly about something you have no interest in.  I’ll gladly click on ads for Lib Tech snowboards 50% off; but not for Single Under 40? I’m an avid snowboarder; I’m also avidly married.

How many social networking updates are actually relevant?

If your Twitter and Facebook feeds are anything like mine, you get a fair amount of info about the details of your “friends'” daily lives.  A recent Jeff Koterba cartoon from the Omaha World Record (no I don’t read the Record, it was reprinted in the NYT), parodied this fact.

If you are reading this on a small screen, it says in part:

” You waste time boring the daylights out of your  friends with the most mundane details of your life.”

The concept of Social Sub-Networks

I have been guilty of boring friends and followers when I post updates or pictures that I know are irrelevant to many on the receiving end.  And I check in with Facebook less often than I would if I didn’t have to wade through updates I just don’t care about – e.g. what the weather is like in London this morning or what someone had for breakfast.  But when I do read through updates and tweets, I often find something I wish I had know about earlier – “U2 concert tickets go on sale Friday” or “this is the last day to get a discount for the Web 2.0 Expo.”   Relevance is subjective.  You don’t care if had eggs Benedict for breakfast, but my sister would as it was one of our father’s favorites. Relevance is person specific and it is at least partly by your interests.  One way to think about things that are interesting to you is to look at your sub-networks of friends.  Mine looks something like this:

My interests include:  work – Web 2.0, loyalty, customer service; my family; my nonprofit interest – Year Up; Snowboarding; Red Sox; etc.

My friends on Facebook or followers on Twitter likely share at least one of these interests with me – updates about them are relevant.  It’s probably safe to assume my connections would like to read about my experiences in a shared circle.  But when I post a picture of the sign in Leicester Square asking Londoners (e.g. users) to go to a web site and provide their input to redesigning the square, it’s safe to assume that many of my friends don’t really care about that – but those in my Web 2.0 sub-network clearly would.  Similarly, most of you don’t care about a photo of Myles catching big air on his snowboard, but those in my “family” and “snowboarding” networks would love to see it.  As the Venn diagram of my social networks illustrates, there are very few people I have relationships with who share all of my interests – I can’t think of one right now.  Therefore the majority of my updates are irrelevant to those receiving them. And thus, if you believe the importance of relevance to creating repeating behaviors – like visiting Facebook and actively participating in Twitter – most updates are actually decreasing the utility of those and other “social networks” whose greatest hopes of delivering value for shareholders relies upon repeated usage by members.

Facebook and Twitter have attempted to address this phenomenon by letting users select those they want to “hide” or “follow.”  But these features offer only an all or nothing solution.  They are giving me a meat axe when what I am looking for is a scalpel to select only those relevant updates and tweets from the many some post.

Your choice:  All or none of Ken?

The solution (at least a non-technical one): Social Sub-Network Tagging

So, how could these growing and therefore increasingly irrelevant updates become more relevant and increase the value of sites like Facebook and Twitter?  What if we could all set up our own sub-social network groups (and even sub-subgroups like “immediate” and “extended” within “family”) and “tag” or categorize our updates with these.  The concept is already being used on blog posts and other Web 2.0 applications.  Because I write about four topics – collaboration, Web 2.0, customer service and loyalty – I categorize each post or white page with one of these topics. That way, those who only care about loyalty can click on the loyalty header and see only the posts in this categorized.

If Facebook, Twitter and others gave users the opportunity to set up their social sub-networks and then “tag” updates to be sent to specific groups, they would cut down a lot of noise and – at least I believe – brand diminishing irrelevant updates that clog member’s home pages.  This could also be “receiver controlled” as well, by making it easy for followers to select the update categories they wish to receive.  For example, I would select “Enterprise 2.0” and “Red Sox” from Andrew McAfee but maybe not “andyasks;” “For Immediate Release updates,”  but not “London weather” from Neville Hobson; etc.

Or better yet, why not develop a new site or application that would be a simple “input page” where we could all fill-in the “what are you doing/thinking about/want to share” box, attach URL’s, pictures and video’s, categorize them to send to relevant sub-groups and then post on Facebook and Twitter?

For now, I’ve secured www.myinputpage.com.  I’ll leave it to the programming teams at Facebook, Twitter and Echo Ditto to figure out how to make this work.


  • Does this already exist and is in high use among those under 50, but I am clueless about it?
  • If not, do you agree this would add value to existing social network sites?
  • How would you develop the concept of sub-social network tagging?

If the Mayo Clinic can use WordPress blogs, Facebook and YouTube to help achieve their enterprise goals, why can’t you?

Net: Despite being in a business where privacy is heavily regulated and systems stability can literally be a matter of life or death, The Mayo Clinic has established itself as one of the leaders in applying social media technologies to build their brand and engage employees and customers (i.e. patients). And they are doing so with great agility and very little incremental investment.

How many times have you thought or said one of the following rationales for not developing an internal and external Web 2.0 strategy to build your brand, engage your employees, customers and business partners in the co-creation of enterprise value, and increase profits?

“Our brand is a matter of life and death to our business.”

“We are in a serious industry.”

“We can’t diminish our brand by playing around with something my kids do.”

“We are one of the country’s oldest and most revered companies in our business.”

“Protecting our customers’ information is a top priority.”

“Our lawyers and IT executives will take years to even think about approving something like this.”

I just listened to an outstanding interview on the For Immediate Release (FIR) podcast. Started in January of 2005 by Neville Hobson, one of Underwood Partners UK colleagues, and Shel Holtz, from Concord, California, FIR is one of the longest running podcasts. In addition to their twice weekly podcasts on business and nonprofit enterprise applications of Web 2.0 and social media technologies, Shell and Neville frequently interview leading edge practitioners. The February 5th FIR Interview featured Lee Aase, Manager of Syndication and Social Media at the Mayo Clinic. The interview is very well done, lasts about 50 minutes and is well worth your time. A few highlights:

  • The Mayo Clinic began experimenting with podcasts in 2005 by taking interviews with their doctors they had developed for their web site and posting them on iTunes . They were surprised to see downloads rapidly grow from 900 to 74,000 a month. As a point of reference, the Mayo Clinic treats about 50,000 patients a year, or less than 4,200 a month.
  • Lee’s team found using flip video cameras to interview doctors to be an efficient way to get breaking news (e.g. research findings) to media and patients. Paraphrasing Lee: “It was low cost and enabled us to be a lot more nimble. Instead of going through the four day process to get copy editing done for a traditional news release, we shoot a ten or fifteen minute interview and pull out five minutes of it for video news releases.
  • The Mayo Clinic created what they call “a culture blog” sharing.mayoclinic.org, where patients share their experiences with diseases and treatments.
  • Mayo uses WordPress for their blogs with the full blessing and support of IT. Lee: “We have been very blessed with our IT colleagues who were supportive of using WordPress.” Mayo uses CSS customization and maps the blogs to a sub-domain of their patient web site. The Mayo Clinic is paying about $55 a year per blog or “about a couple of Starbucks per month.”
  • Health care providers are all bound by HIPPA regulations that prohibit them from providing information about patients’ conditions. But the legal team working with Lee, whom he describes as innovative, supportive and “enlightened folks,” determined that if the patient decides to tell their story it is the patient disclosing information, not Mayo Clinic. He adds that the Clinic has blog guidelines and encourages patients to think carefully about what they put on the site.
  • Mayo Clinic has a Facebook group with 5,577 members. The Mayo Clinic main page on Facebook offers people a chance to write on their wall. Said Lee: “We did this so that people’s friends would see that they wrote on our wall and what they said about us.”
  • The Mayo Clinic YouTube channel was established 12 months ago. Although some questioned “whether YouTube was the kind of place for an august dignified brand” like the Mayo Clinic, Lee’s team did research and found that among those who had an opinion, 39% were positive about  a Mayo Clinic page and only 6% were negative .
  • YouTube was also a no or low cost initiatives as the videos come from interviews used for other purposes and YouTube is free for nonprofit organizations. They use YouTube as their video server because is far cheaper than self hosting and easier for others to imbed in their blogs and share with friends and colleagues. (They also make the raw files available.)
  • The Mayo Clinic engages employees with an internal blog “Let’s talk” and has used it to engage Mayo’s 50,000 staff members in their strategic plan by inviting comments and asking employees to collaborate on such topics as “What does quality mean in your area?”

Why engage in social media? Lee states that the primary drivers of patients to Mayo Clinic are word of mouth and stories in the news media. Their social media programs combine the power of both while increasing engagement and collaboration of many of Mayo Clinic’s stakeholders. He goes on to add:

“We treat 500, 000 patients a year and have 50,000 employees. Our goal is to engage and empower them and to get them involved.”


If the Mayo Clinic can use Word Press blogs, Facebook and YouTube to help achieve their enterprise goals, why can’t you?

Facebook, Amazon and the 4R’s of relationship marketing

When 2 former Bain consultants and one recently minted Harvard MBA started AIR MILES Canada, we knew a lot about the economics of customer loyalty and how to quickly understand and model the profit drivers of almost any business. We also knew almost nothing about database marketing other than a few buzzwords one of us picked up from a girlfriend.

One thing we knew for sure was that if we could build a broad based coalition of leading Canadian companies who committed to market the program to their customers, we would have the opportunity to create and utilize one of the world’s best marketing databases. All of our friends got that as well; and every one of them thought we would “make a ton of money selling the database.” What they didn’t get was our founding principal of not selling the “list” to businesses outside of the Sponsor coalition (i.e. the companies who paid for the points. We believed we could create the future of database marketing (although we didn’t have a clue as to how we were going to do that), but only if we developed a relationship with our Collectors built on trust.

Before long, we began to talk about the 4 R’s of Relationship Marketing and sketching this diagram on napkins and tablecloths around Toronto, Montreal and Calgary:

The 4 R's

We described our thinking about building relationships like this:

1. If we recognized that when people showed their AIR MILES card at a retail Sponsor we were rewarding them for both their loyalty to the Sponsor’s business and the fact that they were sharing information with our company (by purchasing the good or service and identifying themselves as an AIR MILES Collector, they were telling us when and where they made the purchase, if they were responding to a targeted offer or coalition promotion, etc.), and…
2. If we respected the information Collectors shared with us – including demographic and shopping intention information millions shared with us in return for bonus miles – and didn’t sell or give that information to anyone outside of the AIR MILES coalition (and not even other Sponsors if so requested), and…
3. If we used the information to present relevant offers to Collectors based on their shopping habits, needs and interests (if a Collector was turned down for an AIR MILES Mastercard, we wouldn’t send them additional bonus offers to apply for one; if we knew there were only guys living in a household, we wouldn’t send them offers for women’s magazines; no car, no Goodyear offers, etc.), then…
4. We would create higher open, read and respond rates to both our basic offers as well as our targeted specific offers and bonuses, which would – in turn – give us the opportunity to reward both loyalty and the sharing of information.

If you think about this simple model, it doesn’t just apply to relationship marketing, but also to basic human relationships as well. If you begin to develop a relationship with someone and share something personal and confidential with them, that relationship will be short lived if they share it with others or otherwise don’t respect your confidence. Likewise, we tend to develop relationships with people we have at least something in common with – some point of relevance – be it kids, snowboarding or web 2.0. If these 2 elements are present, the potential for a relationship exits; without them, one probably won’t develop.

This model, along with a lot of other parts of the AIR MILES model, appears to have worked fairly well as the program now has over 70% (that’s 9 million) Canadian households as members. More pointedly, while I was CEO, we had open rates for our (snail mail) direct marketing programs of over 70%. Although AIR MILES doesn’t share specific data on email response rates, my understanding is that the company enjoys high open and click through rates for their email marketing programs.
Which brings me to Facebook, Amazon and Eons. Like Jeremiah and many others, I was amused to be served up a banner ad on Facebook last spring for “Thirty Plus and Single” when on the same page I clearly listed my status as “married.”

Facebook was clearly not getting the relevance part and I don’t need to go into all of the respect angles of Beacon. Business Week had a good article on the social networking sites’ challenges with developing advertising.

Like many, I use a separate email account for marketing emails. Last week, as I was cleaning them out, I found 2 other examples of online businesses not getting the 4 R’s from Eons and Amazon.
John Della Volpe, the founder of SocialSphere, always thought one of the challenges facing Eons was that many people over 50 aren’t really excited about standing up and telling everyone, or joining a social network for those over the hill. Do people really like to say, “Hey, I’m old?” Partially because I’m in the business, partially because I know Jeff through our work with Year Up, and partially because I was eligible (even before they lowered the age threshold) I joined Eons. But I never really got the value proposition. At least AARP’s mailings tell you right up front about discounts and other offers they bring. Not terribly hip, but getting a deal on anything will always be relevant to me.
So imagine how jazzed I was to open an email only to be greeted with an offer to “get pictures of your grandkids” or something like that. Surely, they have some way of knowing I am probably a couple of decades away from being a granddad. Not relevant and not the kind of email someone like me would open again.

Then Amazon, who has many features I dearly love and admire (Amazon prime may be the world’s best loyalty program – more on that in a future post) sends me an email with a recommendation to buy a case for the flip video I recently purchased.

So what’s wrong with that? Take a look at the user ratings – 2 STARS! This one stood out to me because I had already checked out the product and new it was a dud. Amazon served up the “people who bought this product also looked at these” content when I was purchasing the flip. After seeing the 2 stars and reading a couple of reviews (e.g. “This pouch is really cheaply made, hard to use, and not worth the money at all”), I didn’t bite.

Back to our core principle – building a relationship built on trust. As John Lederer, the longtime leader of Loblaws supermarkets often said, “the consumer has given us their trust to select products for them to be available in our stores.” Although Amazon sells many products through third party retailers and clearly lets you know they are not being sold by amazon.com, it’s one thing to sell products you have little control over and another thing completely to send an email to a highly active customer recommending a product other customers have given a 2-star rating. I have come to trust that Amazon will offer great products and extraordinary service. I have been less enamored with their recommendations and – given this latest example – am less even likely to look at their recommendations or open their emails.

The more time I spend in this space, the more I realize that on-line community builders and advertisers can learn a lot from those of us that also spent time in the traditional direct mail and loyalty space. In true web 2.0 fashion, combining the best of both models will create the most effective strategies.


Tim Horton’s and Facebook – A Case Study of Lost Opportunity

this post was also posted on Social Sphere Strategies

For the past six months, we have been recommending to clients, potential clients and anyone unlucky enough to sit next to one of us at a dinner party that all businesses need to do the following:

1. Get smart – find a way to get senior executives aware of the philosophy and applications of Web 2.0, including how other leading businesses are beginning to use 2.0 to collaborate with employees, business partners and customers.
2. Look around and listen in – audit competitors’ web sites and the greater web to see if others in your industry have embraced Web 2.0 and what your customers and employees may be saying about your business on the web.
3. Authentically interact – if your brand is being discussed within an existing community, assign someone the responsibility of interacting with the community so your side of the story gets out.
4. Activate your stakeholder communities – we believe all businesses have at least an internal sphere opportunity to use Web 2.0 to proactively engage their employees in creating business value and most also have partner and customer opportunities.

We often get push back along the following lines, “I know all about Facebook, my kids spend all their time there. But that’s because they don’t have jobs and mortgages. There is no way they’ll be able to spend that kind of time on-line when they are adults. This whole thing is a fad.” To this we usually respond with a non Facebook Web 2.0 personal example. Mine is often around an experience I had recently trying to find after market running boards for my Lexus 400h SUV by looking for a user group on the manufacturer’s web site. When that attempt was unsuccessful, I went to Edmunds.com. Although I found a user group for my vehicle, it was sponsored by competing SUV ads. By not hosting a user community, Lexus had driven me to their competitors’ ads.

Last week, a better example of the importance of understanding and embracing Web 2.0 was reported in the National Post in an article about the Canadian coffee and donut chain Tim Horton’s, “Tim Horton’s employees lay down rules for cranky customers.”
Tim Horton’s is the “Dunkin Donuts of Canada.” Their stores are ubiquitous and the product a cultural phenomenon (Horton was a Canadian hockey star). A reporter for the National Post – a Canadian nationwide business paper – found over 500 Facebook groups related to Tim Horton’s and chose to focus on one with 3,400 members called Tim Hortons Rules of Ordering and More which features employees and former employees complaining about customers. The group is described as:
“This is for everyone who gets fed up with people who don’t know what they want, and for workers who have to put up with this everyday. If people would just listen to these rules when ordering the world will be a better place,”

The Post reported that the “80 rules or so spell out how to make your visit to Tim’s more efficient: ‘When you want a coffee with no sugar, do not say no sugar it sounds like your saying one sugar” or ‘If you don’t say you want anything in your coffee don’t expect to get anything in it, we can’t read your mind’ and ‘Stop telling us to stir it well there is no button on the cash register for that.’ ”

The article continued “But the coffee slingers are not the only ones airing their beefs on Facebook. Frustrated clients also have their support groups such as Tim Hortons Screws up my Order Every Time and Tim Hortons Service Sucks.”

Although the reporter focused the bulk of her article on the negative aspects of this particular group, she did report “But there is a silver lining for Tim Hortons employees. Many Facebook groups, like Addicted to Tim Hortons, are very positive and they seem to always have time for Tim Hortons.”

Apparently unaware of what was on Facebook, Tim Horton’s PR did not return reporters calls. It appears Tim Horton’s didn’t invest the resources to “listen in” to what was being said about their brand on the web.

Imagine how different this could have been if Tim Horton’s executives were (a) aware of what was being said about their brand on the web and (b) embraced an employee community.
If the company had been monitoring Facebook, they would have found that some of the largest groups are actually positive ones – Tim Horton’s for Our Troops – has 16, 965 members and encourages people to send gift certificates to members of the armed services. There are actually 3 “addicted to Tim Horton’s” groups which total over 15,000 members and “Tim Horton’s is like a religion to me” has over 1,900 members. The application “We Love Tim Horton’s!” described as “The best coffee ever! Fans of Timmys can now send Double Doubles, Tim Bits, Steeped Tea, Cruellers, Iced Cappucinos & lots more to your friends! For Canadian and US Coffee Lovers everywhere!” has over 84,000 daily users. Keep in mind that Tim Horton’s is largely a Canadian company and that there are roughly 1/10th as many Canadians as Americans, so you can multiply these numbers by 10 to get an idea of how large their Facebook following is.

Redirecting the reporter to these facts would probably been a better response that not returning her calls.

Although many will see the cost of this article as at least a minor PR challenge, we see a greater cost in the missed (but not necessarily lost) opportunity to have engaged the employee sphere to help address the very real problem of customers that can be hard to serve. The fact that so many of Tim Horton’s employee (and customers) have written about their experiences – both positive and negative – is a clear sign of a very engaged community. You need look no further than this week’s post from the group’s administrator:

I just want to let everyone know that just because I made the group certainly doesn’t mean I hate my job. Personally, I love my job. I like the people I work with and the regulars that come in every shift …If I wanted to disrespect my job would have made a group called “I hate my job, Tim Horton’s sucks” but I didn’t. … And yes, I still have my job there.”

Management could have asked employees to create funny videos explaining how to order more efficiently, done “best and worst” customer stories, etc. Employees and customers could have rated the stories. Product or customer bingo and Tim Horton’s trivia games could have been created and challenge matches forwarded to friends.

So, the questions for those of you who still think Facebook, blogs and wiki’s are for your kids or a fad that will surely fade are:

1) What’s being said about your company on the web?
2) Will you be ready to take a reporter’s call or unavailable for comment?