How a meme spreads on LinkedIn

I always find it interesting when things get used in unexpected ways, like using a nutcracker as a bottle opener or using rice to dry out a smartphone that got soaked. So when I saw that Koka Sexton had run an experiment that sought to understand how a meme could travel on LinkedIn, I was intrigued.

What Koka did was share an on-brand and topical image into his LinkedIn network which, frankly, isn’t something one sees every day. In this case, the image was a riff on the Liam Neeson “Taken” character.

taken_linkedin_meme_koka_sexton

A couple of weeks ago, we linked to an article about how scientists had solved the fundamental problem in viral distribution of information. The research showed that seeding information into key groups in a network could significantly affect at what velocity and distance information spread throughout the network. Koka found that by sharing this type of content as a LinkedIn update, as opposed to the more typical link to external content, he was able to have an initial interaction with many more individuals than he typically would.

Perhaps even more interestingly, however, was Koka’s recognition that certain individuals in his network act as bridges between different parts of his overall network. (Social network analysis researchers measure this concept being a bridge or a broker as an individual’s “betweenness centrality.) In this case, he saw that many of the links to his third-degree network went through one of his colleagues and once the meme “jumped” into this other part of his network, it continued to propagate. This also showsthe strength of weak ties.

Once someone interacted with the meme, the most important thing was to take some form of action to take the first step in turning what could be a one-off engagement into the start of a business relationship. Four ways to do that included:

•   Liking their interaction

•   Thanking the individual for their interaction

•   Messaging the individual directly

•   Connecting with the individual on LinkedIn

“The idea isn’t to create the content, get engagement and then start pitching your product. The idea is that you share great things and then use the engagement to expand your network.” – Koka Sexton, LinkedIn

In reading the original post, it clearly cast the network that the meme traveled through into an explicit model of “1st, 2nd, 3rd degree connections.” While I know that’s how LinkedIn technically refers to individuals in the system, I don’t think I’d ever really used that frame as actively. When I look at the world, I typically didn’t go through the mental action of “do I know this person, or do I know someone who knows this person, or are they further away than that?”

A few key takeaways for me:

•   I’m definitely going to start to look for more instances where LinkedIn has worked as a medium through which information can travel, and not solely a place to build connections.

•   Need to do some more thinking on this “1st, 2nd and 3rd degree” framing of the world

•   Liam Neeson still kinda spooks me out a little bit with his intensity

What do you think? Have you seen other examples where this type of content achieved significant distribution through LinkedIn, as opposed to the more obvious venues such as Facebook or Twitter?

Bonus link: The voiceover is pretty funny

Mac Lethal fast-raps the news


(I also wanted to try out the Facebook embed post thing, just to check it out.)

How to be luckier

maneki-neko_lucky_cat

Weekends are usually “catch up on reading and drink a lot of coffee” days around the homestead, and last Sunday was no different. One of the most interesting things I came across was this article out of The Telegraph (UK) entitled “Be lucky – it’s an easy skill to learn.” In it, researcher Richard Wiseman, a psychologist at the University of Hertfordshire, shares his findings of ten years of research into the differences between “lucky” and “unlucky” individuals. Based on his research, he feels that lucky individuals “generate good fortune via four basic principles.”

• They are skilled at creating and noticing chance opportunities

• They listen to their intuition

• They create self-fulfilling prophecies via positive expectations

• They adopt a resilient attitude that transforms bad luck into good

Does this apply to business as well? Could these traits apply to organizations and organizational strategy, in addition to individuals?

The first point above reminds me more than a little bit of the OODA loop (“observe, orient, decide, act”), a concept developed by Air Force Colonel John Boyd. In the model of the OODA loop, the organization (or warrior) that can make it through all four steps of the loop faster than its opponent will have an advantage. Agility wins, and the more agile entity is the one that has more control of its own destiny vis-a-vis its competitor.

Notice the first “O” in the OODA loop is “observe.” This feels like it connects directly to the first point of Wiseman’s findings about luck, as both are tied to the concept of awareness.

The faster you can “observe” in the OODA loop, the more dogfights you’ll win. Similarly, the more you can notice opportunities, the more luck will come your way.

Entrepreneur and professor Steve Blank tells a great story in his post “Why startups are agile and opportunistic.” In it, he tells a representative story.

At a board meeting last week I watched as the young startup CEO delivered bad news. “Our current plan isn’t working. We can’t scale the company. Each sale requires us to handhold the customer and takes way too long to close.  But I think I know how to fix it.” He took a deep breath, looked around the boardroom table and then proceeded to outline a radical reconfiguration of the product line (repackaging the products rather than reengineering them) and a change in sales strategy, focusing on a different customer segment. Some of the junior investors blew a gasket. “We invested in the plan you sold us on.” A few investors suggested he add new product features, others suggested firing the VP of Sales. I noticed that through all of this, the lead VC just sat back and listened.

Finally, when everyone else had their turn, the grey-haired VC turned to the founder and said, “If you do what we tell you to do and fail, we’ll fire you. And if you do what you think is right and you fail, we may also fire you. But at least you’d be executing your plan not ours. Go with your gut and do what you think the market is telling you.  That’s why we invested in you.”  He turned to the other VC’s and added, “That’s why we write the checks and entrepreneurs run the company.”

Photo sharing site Flickr is a great example of a company that made its own luck early in its days. Out of the gate, Flickr wasn’t a photo sharing site. Flickr actually started out as a mutliplayer game called “Game Neverending,” a web-based, massively multiplayer game. However, the observation that the most engaging part of the game was actually the photo sharing component resulted in refocusing the 11-person team from game development to create the photo sharing pioneer that was later sold to Yahoo!

The Flickr story certainly seems to hit all four points of Wiseman’s definition of “lucky,” does it not? The founders were observant enough to notice the opportunity (check). They listened to their intuition (check). They had positive expectations (check). They had a resilient attitude – “we can do this!” and not “our game doesn’t work” (check).

So. Are you going to get lucky this week?

Why word of mouth matters

There are many aspects to the marketing mix, with “paid, owned and earned” being the three key pillars as illustrated by Jeremiah Owyang and the team at Altimeter Group. Which of these is the most trusted? Earned media – or word-of-mouth – wins by a wide margin in general and with women in particular. Not only is it the most trusted, but word-of-mouth also can drive measurable ROI.

viral
Photos by 30 Lines

But how does one “create” word-of-mouth by design, rather than by accident? (We’ve all heard the apocryphal stories of the CMO who instructs his team to “make a viral video,” right?) Research by the brothers Chip and Dan Heath in their book Made to Stick found that things that were passed along via word-of-mouth had particular traits in common. These traits are:

• Simple: Easy to remember, easy to share
• Unexpected: Something out of the ordinary or surprising
• Concrete: Visual, visceral and tangible
• Credible: From a trusted source
• Emotional: Taps into human emotion
• Stories: Stories, rather than tomes

(You can get a one-pager of this model from the Heath brothers here.)

Why do people share?

The fact that people *do* share is itself an area worthy of conversation. Why bother? With all of the other demands on our time, why bother to post to Twitter or Facebook or Pinterest or a blog? Research from the New York Times indicates that the key reasons are:

• To bring valuable and entertaining content to others
• To define ourselves to others
• To grow and nourish our relationships
• Self-fulfilment
• To get the word out about causes and brands

So what about you? Why do you share online, or with friends around the water cooler?

Content marketing that drives engagement

As the marketing world gets more complex, there are a number of approaches that can be employed in order to increase engagement with prospects and customers. In particular, if you’re responsible for driving higher engagement with your brand through online channels, items such as content lists, photos, surveys, stories and personality are items that should be in every marketers toolbox.

Content lists

Increasingly, easily-digestible articles with lists of content (now going by the unfortunate name of “listicles”) are a growing part of the content marketing landscape. Sites such as Buzzfeed have driven millions of engagements on the back of this strategy. The rise of mobile devices, in particular, has been a key contributing factor to this trend. Short, snack-sized bits of content can be easily consumed on smartphones and tablets.

Photos

If your community connects on services such as Instagram or Pinterest, photos are de rigeur. Additionally, photos are becoming increasingly critical for Facebook engagement as well. Facebook seems to give preferred exposure to images, especially on mobile (for example, check out tip #8 here from our friends at HubSpot, which notes that according to an internal Facebook study, “posts including a photo album or picture can generate 2X more engagement than other post types”). As such, if your community is on Facebook, relevant, eye-catching imagery is required.

Surveys

One thing that we’ve found is that short surveys such as this one from Care2 and this one from BlogHer can be highly engaging for readers. In fact, in both of these cases, the engagement on the Swipp surveys was significantly higher than other types of engagement such as Facebook likes, Twitter shares or even comments. (In the BlogHer case, they received 80 engagements with the survey vs. a total of sixteen Facebook and Twitter engagements combined).

Stories

People tell each other stories, and brands can have stories too. At the recent Blogwell event in Santa Clara, CA, Coca-Cola’s Ashley Callahan shared Coca-Cola’s strategy for turning their corporate site into a story portal that shares the history of the brand. Stories bring humanity to the conversation (and they are more interesting than product feeds and speeds, anyway).

Personality

Most importantly, however, choosing to infuse personality into your brand and communications is the aspect that will drive the most engagement. A great example from Twitter is the @daily_kale handle. An example:

Daily Kale

 

Twenty-six words (the right twenty six words) yielded over 8,000 interactions with readers, either through helping to spread the word via retweets or favoriting that post.

What’s worked for you to increase engagement with your prospects, customers and community?

Transcript of my presentation at HubSpot #Inbound13 – You Must Be Present To Win

YMBPTW

image: http://www.etsy.com/listing/62651817/motivational-quote-you-must-be-present

You Must Be Present To Win

Christopher Carfi (@ccarfi)

Presented at HubSpot #Inbound13

August, 2013

I am about to commit an act of blasphemy. I know we’re all marketers. I know we’re all connected. I know that most of us when we go to conferences are taking notes and snapping photos and tweeting the hell out of the conference hashtag.

I’m going to ask you not to do that.

Please close your laptops. Please pocket your phones.

Please be here in the room, just for ten minutes.

Introduce yourself to the person on your left. Introduce yourself to the person on your right. Let’s just be here for right now.

Being present and mindful reduces stress, lowers blood pressure, and has host of other benefits as well, according to research from the Mayo Clinic. There are many ways to be present – from meditation and disciplines line qi gong, to simply being mindful of what’s in your immediate environment.

It’s possible to be present, really present, when we’re in conversation. When we’re driving. When we’re at dinner.

Even when we’re in a room like this.

There are things we can all do, exercises we can all try, to develop this “presence” muscle. Here’s one. It’s called the “ten meter challenge.” Perhaps some of you have done this, especially if you’re photographers. At any given time, no matter where you are, there are a host of really interesting things within ten meters of you. Always. The ten meter challenge is an exercise to take ten photographs within ten meters of where you are. It’s great because it causes a change in perspective. To find ten interesting photographs, you need to really look, you really need to be present in order to succeed. There’s no right answer to the challenge, other that focusing and dropping the filters and distractions that we normally have. There is interestingness everywhere, but you have to seek it out. Maybe it’s looking more closely than you typically would. Maybe it’s taking a different perspective. Maybe it’s capturing a shadow or a reflection or an insight you wouldn’t typically notice that is usually lost in the noise of one’s thoughts being elsewhere.

We can practice being present as marketers, too. We can always get better at being present, and we can always try harder to look at things from the customer’s perspective. It’s engagement, but not in the form of “here’s a cute cat picture” or in putting out yet another lame listicle. Presence is connecting with customers and coworkers in mindful sense; it’s asking them “what do you think?” and listening to what you hear. It’s asking your customers “what do you think about _our service_” or “what do you think about _this feature_” or “what do you think about  this topic ” and deeply absorbing the answers you receive.

Being present in this way puts us, as marketers, in listening mode, not talking mode. It puts the customer first. When we listen, we have the opportunity to engage in real real-time marketing, vs. pre-canned B.S.

The challenge – and the opportunity – we have is that we need to be present – and be present – in all channels. It’s email. It’s web. It’s mobile. It’s at point of purchase. It’s on Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest and Instagram and wherever else our customers are.

It’s hard. But it can be done.

One of our designers is a brilliant guy. He’s a stellar designer, a helluva soccer player and fluent in multiple languages. That said, he is always trying to listen and improve, even in the emails he sends around the office internally. Here’s what he did.

Yes, he includes a one-click, “How was my grammar in this email?” signature block in every one of his emails. I found this amazing and wonderful for a number of reasons. First, just the simple fact that he thought to do this; I love it. Second, that it shows a level of interest and presence and transparency that most brands, let alone most individuals, shy away from. It also causes the receiver of the email to think about something in a new way, to think about things from a perspective of “how can I continually improve what I’m doing, even at the level of every email I send?”

He even shows the results to everybody who is interested as well, which I think is kind of cool.

So, one last story.

I was divorced about a decade ago, when my son was just a little guy. (This is actually a picture from the Monterey Bay Aquarium in 2002 or so.) Now, since the late 80s and early 90s, I’ve been doing ski trips to the mountains. These trips started out as guy trips with a buddy of mine from university, which then turned into guys and girlfriends trips which turned into guys and wives trips which eventually turned into family trips with kids by the time the early 2000s rolled around.

The 2003 trip was the first plane trip that the little guy and I took alone together after his mom and I split up. We met all the other folks up in Montana and had a great week. Now, it’s important to note that at this point in time, there was very limited jet service into the airport in Kalispell, Montana, which is the nearest airport to Whitefish, Montana, which is where we were skiing that year. So, it was usually a jet into Helena or Missoula, and then a little puddle jumper into Kalispell.

We had a great week up in the mountains, which was a blast. At the end of the week, we were flying out, and caught our puddle jumper flight for the first leg, which was fine. However, there was an issue with our connecting flight in Missoula. It was not leaving for a long time. A very long time.

Yes, we’d had a good week, and I was also quite ready to get home. I was a little tired, a little strung out from a week of solo kid-wrangling and was looking forward to a smooth trip and a quick trip back home. Like most of us, I’ve traveled a lot, but at the time, I was not the most patient of sorts. We had a schedule. We were supposed to be going. This trip was supposed to take four hours at the most. That was my expectation.

The reality was different. There was a delay and, when all was said and done, were delayed for the better part of the day. The trip that I had expected to take four hours ended up taking about thirteen hours, end-to-end.

Now, I’ve been through a lot of airports over the years. I had the studied, thousand-yard-stare of the experienced business traveler down cold. When one gets delayed during air travel, you get frustrated because of the waste of your time, and you sigh and clench your jaw and you count the minutes, you count the seconds, until you’re moving again. And here I was, by myself, with a toddler, in the middle of an airport, in the middle of Montana, in the middle of winter, with hours upon hours of waiting in store.

Toddlers don’t think this way. Heck, toddlers don’t know what “time” is. At that age, everything is new. Everything is in the moment.

Everything is present.

Over the course of that day, I learned an immeasurable amount from my little guy. I learned that the big stuffed grizzly bear is really exciting (if a little scary). I learned that if you push the silver button, the water squirts out of the little hole in the water fountain. I learned that you can stack coins up, and then unstack them, and then stack them up again, and then unstack them again and then put them into the little slot in the big machine with bright colors and if you push the buttons with the letters and the numbers on them on the big machine with the bright colors, the part of the machine that’s behind the window that looks like a snake will turn around and around and the pretzels (pretzels!) will fall all the way down from the top of the machine to the bottom and then you can push on the door and get the pretzels out.

That day, my toddler taught me how to be present, because it was the only way he knew how to be.

So here comes the ask. My ask of you is this: for a few minutes today, and a few minutes tomorrow, and a few minutes the day after that – give yourself the permission to really be in the moment and listen and hear and feel and see what’s really there, and clear away the fog and the noise of the worries and distractions that normally conspire to drown out the now.

Because you must be present to win.


Chicago trips!

YankeeHotelFoxtrot

Going to be in the homeland twice in the next couple of weeks! This weekend I’m representing Swipp speaking at the World Future Society annual conference on Rateocracy: When Everyone and Everything is Rated with esteemed colleague Bob Moran (@robertpmoran). Will be in town Saturday night 20Jul if anyone is interested in getting together.

And then, will be back again next weekend for the 9th(!) annual BlogHer conference, which is taking over the Sheraton and McCormick Place with over 5,000(!!) attendees.

Let me know if you will be around!

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Wishful thinking

It’s funny. People who do dangerous things are often said to have a “death wish.” Skydiving, whitewater rafting, building dangerous contraptions, playing with fire…all often invoke the “death wish” turn of phrase. That’s completely wrong. Those things are signs of wanting to live life to the extent it can be lived. That’s not a “death wish.”

That’s a “life wish,” don’t you think?