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October 23 2013

Malcolm Gladwell Disabled Part of His Brain to Research Latest Book

Author Malcolm Gladwell met with MashableReads, Mashable's social book club, for a Twitter chat on Oct. 21 to discuss Gladwell's new book David and Goliath. In his book, Gladwell uses the story of David and Goliath to outline the hidden advantages of being an underdog.

In the Twitter chat, Gladwell and Mashable readers discussed instances when they felt that they were underdogs as well as their strategies for making the best out of a challenging situation. Gladwell revealed that to research David and Goliath, he had his prefrontal cortex disabled to mimic the effects of Attention Deficit Disorder. The hidden benefit to this supposed "disadvantage" was a surplus of creativity. If you missed the chat, check out the highlights below. Read more...

More about Books, Non Fiction, Malcolm Gladwell, Lifestyle, and Work Play

July 13 2011

HOW TO: Turn Fans Into Brand Ambassadors

The Behind the Social Media Campaign Series is supported by Oneupweb, an award-winning agency specializing in search marketing, social media and design for mid-to-enterprise level brands. Download Oneupweb’s free whitepaper, “Measuring Social Media’s Contribution to the Bottom Line: 5 Tactics.”

The introduction of Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point in 2000 was a tipping point in its own right. Ever since that book was published, marketers have been obsessed with cultivating influencers — those members of the public whose messages go further than most.

The Tipping Point preceded social media as we know it today, but Gladwell’s model of “connectors + mavens = marketing success” fits well in the age of Twitter and Facebook. For a marketer, the mission is pretty simple: Find a bunch of influencers, get them charged up and then sit back and reap the rewards.

Of course, it’s not that simple. Just look at the range of brands in the market. On the one hand, there’s Apple which has a cult-like following that is so pervasive and dedicated that it doesn’t even need to be on Twitter or Facebook. But if you’re marketing something less buzz-worthy, like paper towels or frozen pizza, you might find that cultivating brand ambassadors is a bit more tricky.

Nevertheless, experts on social media marketing have a few tips that any brand in any category can use to create a devoted following. Here are a few.

Rate Your Fans

Dave Balter, the CEO of BzzAgent, a word-of-mouth marketing agency, says the first thing you should do is take stock of your existing fan base. “Understand who is a fan and who is already an advocate,” he says. Of course, there are tools on the market, like Klout, that let you do this. Audi USA is one of the first brands to integrate Klout scores on its Facebook Page, letting you earn a desktop or a ring tone based on your score.

Klout uses an algorithm based on various factors to create its rankings, but it’s tempting to try to short-circuit the process by looking at which fans have the most followers. Balter says a better metric is sharing: “It’s important you place value on elements like how often they share and how often others engage with what’s shared. Another, simpler way of identifying potential brand advocates is to simply ask them how likely they are to recommend the brand to a friend. When rated on a 1 to 10-point scale, that is known as the “Net Promoter Score.”

Give Them Something to Do

Getting people to “like” your brand on Facebook is great, but you still have to generate discussion and activity. That can be fairly easy to achieve. Last year, for instance, Oreo got its fans to weigh in on a Pandora playlist, and Philadelphia cream cheese spurred conversation by soliciting ideas for recipes and offering how-to videos.

Another, simpler, way to create engagement is by asking fans questions. “You have to create a compelling dialogue,” says Paul Longo, vice president and group digital director at MediaVest, a media-buying firm. Such give-and-take should fit in with a brand’s image and make the fans feel like insiders who “get” the brand. Here are a couple of recent status updates from the Skittles candy brand’s Facebook Page. Both got tens of thousands of “likes” and thousands of comments: “If you drop Skittles on the floor, you should abide by the 3 million-second rule,” and “I need to stop adopting every octopus that follows me home.”

Use Exclusivity

Give your fans exclusive opportunities to make them feel special. For example, Walmart has been known to court mommy bloggers by flying them to its Bentonville, Arkansas headquarters and letting them test new products. On the other side of the marketing universe, Howard Stern lets his self-proclaimed “Superfans” host a call-in show on Sirius XM’s channel 101 once a week. “One quick way to turn someone into an advocate is to ‘bring them into the fold’ and to help them feel part of the deeper community,” Balter says.

Pamper Your Advocates

Walmart doesn’t just give its Walmart Moms exclusive products and experiences. The company also hosts a blog and YouTube channel for them, using its huge media reach to reward its most loyal brand advocates. Similarly, Oracle has a program called Oracle ACE that spotlights various IT pros as Oracle experts. SAP’s equivalent is the SAP Mentor Initiative, which recognizes SAP experts and gives them a forum (an SAP site plus a YouTube channel.)

Go Up a Lifestyle Level

So if you don’t market new computers and smartphones, how do you get people to care about your brand? Jeremiah Owyang, a partner at Altimeter Group, calls this practice “going up to the lifestyle level.” For instance, it may be hard to get people excited about a tile cleanser that gets rid of soap scum, but keeping a house clean and germ-free is something people can feel passionate about. That’s exactly what Lysol, the disinfectant spray, is doing. The brand has more than 460,000 fans on Facebook, whom it engages with live chats and tips on how to keep your house clean.

Beyond those basic tips, MediaVest’s Longo suggests something counterintuitive: Doing nothing. At least for a while, he says, let your fan base breathe a little bit and avoid heavy-handed interactions. “In general, brands are so caught up in the technology because it’s so cool right now,” he says. “But don’t rush into anything.”

Series Supported by Oneupweb

The Behind the Social Media Campaign Series is supported by Oneupweb, an award-winning agency specializing in search marketing, social media and design for mid-to-enterprise level brands. Download the Oneupweb sponsored Marketing Sherpa free study, “Measuring Social Media’s Contribution to the Bottom Line: 5 Tactics” to learn how to cut through the clutter and be sure to catch up with them on Facebook and Twitter.

Images courtesy of Flickr, bnilsen, navets, Daehyun Park and iStockphoto, terraexplorer, Yuri_Arcurs

More About: 360i, altimeter group, Behind the Social Media Campaign Series, facebook, Malcolm Gladwell, MARKETING, twitter

For more Business & Marketing coverage:

November 20 2010

Who Will Speak on Behalf of Social Media to the Next Congress? [OP-ED]

Maury Litwack is a lobbyist, former Hill staffer, opinion writer, and founder of Capitol Plan – A Comprehensive Washington Advocacy Strategy.

A great deal of ink has already been spilled attempting to “read the tea leaves” on what the midterm election results from earlier this month mean for social media. I would surmise that most of the prognostications are reading the relationship between social media and Washington incorrectly.

Analysis has focused on which member of Congress supports or opposes important social media issues such as net neutrality and privacy. This analysis is off because it doesn’t address the bigger question — who speaks for social media in Washington? Who speaks to this group of more than 100 new members of Congress?

Winning Influence by Lobbying

Social media is popular among politicians as a conduit to communicate with their constituency. Recent elections seem to indicate that its usage is prevalent among voters as a tool to learn more about candidates and their positions. But the use of social media doesn’t translate into legislative movement on the issues.

Advocacy is key in driving social media policy. Whoever speaks for social media in Washington, like other lobbying entities, must be adept with a majority of the traditional lobbying tools — money, good issues and voters. Money, in the way of corporate or individual donations, is what funds campaigns for reelection. Good issues translate into name recognition for supportive legislators and thus also helps win reelection. Finally, voters are obviously important — if not the most important — to reelection.

An outside influence will vocalize support for a position by demonstrating a representation of a large or key bloc of voters. The AARP and NRA are consistently ranked among the most influential advocacy organizations because they demonstrate time and time again that they represent engaged seniors and gun-owners, respectively. An effective social media entity that can speak for the industry should be able to fire on two of these three cylinders — money, issue or votes. Do any of the current social media giants do that?

Twitter, Facebook and Google

Twitter, Google, Facebook in DC

It is surprising that it took so long for a company valued at $1.5 billion to finally determine it needs a Washington office, but Twitter just opened its home base in D.C. However, the man they hired to run it isn’t planning on being a lobbyist; instead, he told the press that he wants to help politicians manage their Twitter feeds, build online voter bases and facilitate general campaign outreach. This proposal sounds eerily familiar to Facebook.

Valued at $30 billion, Facebook only has two registered lobbyists in Washington. One of its lobbyists described its small operation as more educational in nature, due to the fact that “other people have to write checks to get in front of legislators; we have members using Facebook at their desks.”

The approach Facebook and Twitter are taking is heavily reliant on their value as social media giants with large user bases. Facebook and Twitter assume that they can stay above the political fray by reminding politicians how valuable their services are to them and their constituencies. The problem is that this approach not only lacks the necessary financial investment in advocacy, it also lacks issues and makes social media dependent on the personal usage and whims of politicians. Honestly, who really cares that members of Congress use Facebook or Twitter? They also drink Starbucks, own Verizon mobile phones, and shop at Brooks Brothers — social media isn’t alone in its popular usage among elected officials. Facebook’s and Twitter’s approaches to advocacy scream, “We have a constituency of your voters, but we are afraid to tell you what they think.” Social media should not follow this model.

Google, meanwhile, takes a different approach and has embraced the influence money brings to politics. Google’s lobbying is up by 11% this year, it has staked out serious positions and its executives have invested serious money in politicians who support their issues. But social media can’t rely on Google to be the face of its issues. Google has its own reputation and individual battles.

Google is also not able to turn to everyone who uses YouTube as a clear constituency that can be galvanized; they lack the power to influence voters. They don’t really represent you like a group such as AARP or NRA does to their constituencies; they represent themselves and their money in Washington is vested in their self-interest and not necessarily the broader and persuasive social media issues.

The Community Model Emerges

Reddit PAC

Post-election, a group of passionate Reddit users formed a political action committee (PAC) to fight for net neutrality, and within that movement lies an interesting voice for social media — the users (i.e., you). If such a group is able to get this off the ground, it will have created an important model that can utilize money, issues and voters. Unlike other social media political groups, Reddit’s is wisely starting by pursuing issues its members care about. If it can galvanize enough people to support a position, it will have demonstrable voting numbers that politicians can’t ignore. Finally, any fundraising done through such a political action committee can be used to bolster supporters of its positions and to combat its opponents.

This type of advocacy would have to be built with active, in-person support that collects donations, contacts member of Congress, and spreads information on the issue. The success of such a group would address Malcolm Gladwell’s assertion social media cannot create true change. Among other things, Gladwell identified social media’s lack of strong ties and lack of financial or personal risk as key factors that inhibit its ability to engage in social activism. I think that if social media users can become actively engaged advocates by voting, lobbying, and investing money in what they believe, then it is possible for the social media community to bring change while avoiding the pitfalls that Gladwell articulated.


Social media as a whole can’t rely on large corporations to lobby for its needs; their approach is often either too meek or too self-interested and therefore destined to fail at bringing to the table the voters, issues or money required to change policy.

Yet the potential for engaged social media users, advocating for positions they care about to have an effect has already been demonstrated — only without actual users making it happen. A recent study noted in Technology Review, indicates that special-interest groups have been faking public interest on Twitter for a variety of positions in an effort to highlight issues to the public. Now imagine if that support was real.

More Politics Resources from Mashable:

- Social Media’s Impact on the Midterm Elections [INFOGRAPHICS]
- The Future of Social Media and Politics
- 4 Ways to Visualize Voter Sentiment for the Midterm Elections
- How the “Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear” Nailed Social Media
- Social Media: The New Battleground for Politics

More About: AARP, advocacy, elections, facebook, Google, government, lobbyist, Malcolm Gladwell, midterm elections, net neutrality, NRA, PAC, political action committee, privacy, twitter, U.S. Congress, White House

For more Social Media coverage:

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