Monday, October 27, 2008

Political Media

Where do viewers watch?

AC Nielsen and the Hollywood Reporter recently published some media consumption habits in the battle ground states by voter registration. Most of the commentary is about the media buying strategies of the campaigns. The last sentence is:
“Ads contribute to the overall narrative of the campaign and can
be used effectively as a tactical tool to shape press coverage,” he
said. “But overall, a lot of money is wasted.”

Given the nature of politics, it is unclear what 'wasted' might mean. Does an ad change a given vote (a direct response mind-set)? Probably not. Does a continuous presence affect tone and preference (a branding mind-set)? Possibly.

Are large TV buys the fastest way to spend money - yes.

Some tidbits: The networks that skewed one way or the other (index of viewership compared to average).
Republicans: Speed and Fox News
Democrats: BET and VH1
Independents: Speed and CNBC

And yes republicans lean toward Fox as a source of news (+48) while Democrats decidedly do not pay attention to same stories (-28).

Note: registration may be required to see the THR article.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Social Media and Counterknowledge

What is the biggest challenge of social media?

Stepping back from the marketing and social media question for a moment and thinking about the spread of information in general then the rapid diffusion and adoption of ideas has to be one of the greatest benefits of social media.

However, the distribution of 'misinformation packaged as fact', or what Damian Thompson defines as Counterknowledge in the book of the same name, may be one of the biggest downsides. In the past pseudo-history, quack medicine, and bogus science lived among the "cultic milieu" at the edge of society where it was tolerated and contained because the structure of society worked to weed out the riffraff. However, with the removal of hierarchy in our daily lives (school, church, jobs, government) we no longer rely on others to tell us what to believe but adopt ideas as part of our own brand. Thus the burden of proof, if one is even required anymore, now falls on the individual.

Social media, with penetration getting well beyond any tipping point, makes the transfer of ideas both meteoric, morphable and unfortunately too often presumed as 'true'. The result is the increased repeating of ideas and opinions based on facts that aren't facts. Example: pretty much any negative political campaign leverages counterknowledge.

If for no other reason than avoiding unwanted associations, marketers should listen to what now crosses easily into the mainstream.

Social Media Data and Our Day Jobs

How can social media data improve our lot in life? (or at least at work)

There is no doubt that social media produces a fire hose of data; there's even a Yahoo! Pipes application by that name. The question at the recent DMA in Las Vegas about social media was: How to make it actionable?

Now this audience is biased to a direct response view of things where every tactic has to be measurable in terms of sales, conversions, or other hard action. So, there is probably not much headway in using the 'Listen, Join, Participate' line of thinking. But how can social media data be used in direct marketing?

Here are three thoughts.

  1. the language people use to discuss a problem becomes very evident and provides excellent ideas for messaging, offers, and copy
  2. the social networks people use can be over laid onto a house file for both segmentation and modeling activities
  3. the creative assets people produce can be leveraged and shared as part of the brand's community through other media

UPDATE: an article in MediaPost's Search Insider made similar points. Came across it later in the day.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Communities Impact Businesses

Just how do you measure the impact of communities?

I had the pleasure of discussing this question with Darcy Bevelacqua, a database marketing expert now looking at the impact of social media on business performance.

My takes:
1) It is the right question since impact is much more than what might happen via advertising. For a discussion of that view of 'impact' see the iMedia interview with Steve Patrizi of LinkedIn.
2) All the dots between cause and effect aren't connected and may not even be connectable.
3) It is not a short term stimulus response problem.

Communities, by their very nature, are participative. So the business questions become: Is it in our interest to participate or support a given community? What can we gain from participating in this group?

It may be a time for a combination of both inductive and deductive logic where we have both some data and some ideas. Ultimately it may be that we can simply do our day jobs better because we have a deeper understanding of how our products and services are used.

If it weren't for customers, this would be easy.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Social Network Penetration - GenY

How many GenY folks have social network profiles?

In a random sample of 10,000 people aged 18-24 we found that 39% had one or more profiles; with an average of 2.2 profiles per person. MySpace led the list followed by Facebook and Hi5.

Income might be only slightly related to social network penetration since it dropped from 41% for those making less than $30k to 38% for those at $150k+. Penetration across marital status or presence of children at home doesn't vary much either.

Clearly social networks play a role regardless of 'standard demographics.' Its not just for that guy.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Lotion Spreads Through Town

How does influence spread?

Vaseline's new Clinical Therapy product launch purposely tracked how people share or recommend a produce. In Kodiak, Alaska they gave out a few bottles and asked new customers who had recommended it. The epicenter of the recommendations, Petal Ruch, was then featured in a commercial. (Source: International Herald Tribune via colleague Andrew Re.)

The commercial ends with what is in essence a Conversation Network Map of how the product spread via social networks. These maps document what resources people use in making a decision and work in two directions; who do you trust recommendations from? and who do you think would benefit from the product? Thus, each decision creates a unique network or social graph. While Ms. Ruch is the influencer for lotion, it is unlikely she would be just as influential for a wide range of different products. Since men were found to be less accepting of a lotion then women it didn't spread nearly as well among that segment. This fact led to an improved creative brief and positioning as a performance enhancer.

Understanding how influence works, above the Petal connection, should remain a goal for marketing as it works to align the solutions it provides to the needs of its audience it serves.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Red Networks; Blue Networks

How does party affiliation relate to the use of social networks?

We've seen articles about the number of friends Obama and McCain have on various social networks, but before we assume it is just kids befriending people there is the larger question of how social networks are used by voters in the two parties. To answer this question we appended party affiliation to a sample of US adults - in the end there were approx 5,000 people (44% Republican and 56% Democrats).

Some findings:
  • Democrats are more likely to have a social network profile than Republicans (30% to 23%)

  • As with general social network usage, it skews younger and only slightly female (this sample is adults and the folks at mininglabs documented that the gender ratio among teenagers skews significantly toward females).
  • People of both parties average 2 profiles, led by MySpace and Facebook

  • While they have lower penetration, niche networks like Hi5 or BlackPlanet are nearly twice as likely to have Democratic members as Republicans
The following chart comes from a Social Network Footprint and illustrates where registered voters have their profiles.

Understanding where and how customers or prospects use social media should be part of your overall marketing strategy.

And yes, Democrats have more 'friends' - averaging 70 to 65 in this sample.

Note on sources:
Social Network Footprint - something we do as our day job.
Party affiliation - appended to a benchmark sample of US adults by Genalytics.
Social Network - appended to benchmark sample of US adults with emails by Rapleaf.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008


Will the 'change' campaign succeed?

It is argued that changing a person's mind is the most difficult thing to do in marketing. This makes the focus on 'change' in the current political race such a fascinating challenge. The images of a 'tax-cutting, you're on your own Republican' and a 'government knows best, we can spend it better than you Democrat' are well ingrained in our minds. Yet it was the Democrats who did welfare reform and the Republicans did the most for AIDS in Africa. These attempts by both parties at remolding the cubby holes of our minds are a very tall order because the rules of the game are still the same - bills get proposed, details get worked out and pork gets added.

Two of the influential works on 'change' in a business context have been Christensen's "Innovators Dilemma" and "Blue Ocean Strategy" by Kim and Mauborgne. They argue that to shake up the establishment you need to change the rules of the game and first go somewhere the incumbents aren't - start by focusing on either the overshot or non-consumer. It's real hard to see how substantive change can occur when the political target market(s) are the same: Congress and the electorate. It may come down to the 'base' vs. the 'newbies'.

Why 'new and improved' usually doesn't work in the long run?

The 'new and improved' slogan might give a product a bump in sales, but unless the added features are truly beneficial to the consumer it ends up being more of the same.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Social Analytics

How should we frame the question to be answered?

In Simplexity, Jeffrey Luger's book about studying the continuum between the simple and complex he uses numerous examples of social behavior - traffic jams, evacuations, standing ovations, and other events. A point is made that the level at which you study these events dictates whether or not you can see the forest from the trees. Murray Gell-Mann's term for this is 'plectics' - which I take to be the understanding the granularity at which a problem should be approached.

Web 2.0 analytics, as reported in B2B poses similar problems. All those micro-events create a false sense of precision. If we can measure seconds of this, clicks of that, loads of something else, then we must be able to nail down this thing called engagement. Intent is still an abstract concept, even with tons of data about behavior.

Social media analytics seems to pose similar problems. There is a lot of attention focused on identifying influencers or an individual's web of connections. But since every decision is likely to involve a completely different network - my search for a camera involved a completely different social graph than the search for funding - maybe some attention should be on a more macro level.

Influence, like engagement, happens - no argument about that. But rather than who links to whom, shouldn't we be thinking more about how it impacts a business rather than a sale? What can we learn from social media data if we don't know the specific individual?

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Marketing the Credit Crunch

How would a marketer approach this?

It seems that voter anger played a role in rejecting the first bill. The Wall Street Journal reported on a number of initiatives where people 'joined the conversation.' OK, so now we know groundswells work but the interesting marketing (social) question is why the outrage?

Some potential answers from Marketing 101:

1. The buyers' needs weren't satisfied or even recognized. "Why is this good for me personally?"

2. The solution didn't align with the buyers' needs. "Your money is going to somebody else."

3. The product features weren't wanted by the audience. "Wall street isn't main street."

4. The benefit wasn't simple to understand. "This is too complex to explain."

5. Price/value was out of balance. "700 billion for just what exactly?"

6. The explanation wasn't authentic and transparent. "Trust me."

7. The positioning was inappropriate: "Bailing out somebody else's greed."

8. We don't trust the salesmen.. "We buy from people we like and trust."

9. Brand name is awkward. "Emergency Economic Stabilization Act" and "Troubled Assets Relief Program." Huh?

No wonder it failed. Unless some basic changes happen to the product and the company selling it, it will fail again (or at least be begrudgingly passed and then completely messed up.) We can ignore how and why we got in this predicament for the moment because bashing the people incented to do sub-prime lending isn't going to help market this; although it might score some political points.

Let's assume there is a simple statement of the problem: credit is extremely difficult to get right now. Tight credit is bad because people's jobs, homes and dreams are now at serious risk. No credit means no funding of growth which drives jobs, homes, and ultimately better lives.

So, the product's sole purpose is to loosen credit to a level that gets us back on track with each of our personal ambitions and aspirations.

Introducing the "DREAMS Act" - Distribute Risk Economically and Mortgage Security Act with the corresponding website . It's all in the name - nobody knows what PATRIOT act stood for but you weren't going to vote against that name.

The product accomplishes three things:
1. Reestablish confidence of people with money that they can safely lend it to you and me.
2. Clean up a spill so that it doesn't contaminate my part of pool of perfectly good money.
3. Provide a remedy so it doesn't happen again and I can continue pursuing my ambitions.

That's a message that might resonate.