Saturday, February 27, 2010

My First Forrester Report: Tapping The Entire Online Peer Influence Pyramid

[This blog post has been cross-posted with my new Forrester blog at:]

Three months after starting at Forrester, my first report for Interactive Marketers is now available: Tapping The Entire Online Peer Influence Pyramid.  Forrester subscribers can click the link to read about the Peer Influence Pyramid, which describes and shares recommendations about three types of online influencers: Social Broadcasters, Mass Influencers and Potential Influencers.

Each of the three types of influencer is important to marketers, and each must be engaged in a different manner.  Social Broadcasters are appealing because of their large followings, but they tend to assist more with awareness than with preference. Mass Influencers are a new category of influencer--28 million in number in the U.S. alone--created thanks to the scale afforded consumers by social media tools. (I'll be sharing more about Mass Influencers in my next Forrester report.)  Finally, the vast majority of social media participants are Potential Influencers, people who have modest networks rich with trust.

For me, the publication of this report marks the end of a long journey and the beginning of another.  I started this report back in September, before I was even a Forrester employee.  As part of the recruiting process, Forrester requested I write and present a report that demonstrates the sort of research and analysis I would offer to Forrester clients.  Version one of the report did the trick and I was hired.

At that point, it seemed the "Peer Influence Pyramid" report might be polished and published within a matter of weeks, but instead it took over three months; I have lost count, but I think the report now available on is version number seventeen. One reason for the time and edits is that Forrester reports adhere to a very particular style of writing. I am having to unlearn some bad habits and enjoying my continued development as a writer.

Another part of the challenge was that Forrester has a rich history of research on the topic of influence. Before Forrester could release my report, the concepts and language I developed independently as a job candidate needed to reflect and expand upon the work done by my new peers and those who came before me at Forrester.

Most importantly, I learned that Josh Bernoff had just completed some new and fascinating research on the topic of influence in social media.  That research was conducted for the upcoming book Groundswell HEROes, a follow up to the popular and very informative Groundswell. This good luck in timing afforded me the opportunity to work with Josh and leverage some groundbreaking research to further guide and strengthen the ideas within my report.

A lot of time, effort, and consideration went into Tapping The Entire Online Peer Influence Pyramid. I hope Forrester subscribers find it informative and interesting.  Within a month, I will be sharing some news about my second report, which dives even deeper into the new category of influencer--the Mass Influencer.

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Monday, February 22, 2010

Single ID: What Consumers Think and Why It May Not Matter

[This blog post was cross-posted with my new Forrester blog at]

I saw some interesting Forrester research this week. We asked over 4,000 consumers about Single-ID systems, which permit a profile to be used on multiple Web sites and eliminate the need to register, create and maintain separate profiles on each new site. While we didn’t ask consumers about the currently available options (such as Facebook Connect, OpenID, OAuth, etc.), the Forrester survey did explore what consumers care about when deciding whether to use a single-signon tool.

We early adopters were quick to use and see the benefits of portable IDs, so I was surprised by one big discovery out of this study: A lot of consumers aren’t yet that interested. When asked to select the most important features that would motivate them to use a single-ID tool, more than four in ten didn’t see any of them as compelling. With a list that included features as simple and appealing as “The ID worked with Yahoo,” “The ID worked with Google,” and “The ID would only be used with sites I select,” 44% of consumers surveyed instead selected “I'm not interested in creating a single ‘ID’ that works at multiple Web sites.”

There is demographic skew to this data; only 32% of young adults responded “not interested” compared to 52% of those 55 and older. Still, a significant number of people don’t yet see the benefit of portable IDs and unified registration systems.

What should marketers do with this information? Given the significant indifference, should they slow down efforts to implement single-ID profiles on their sites?

I don’t believe so, and here’s why: First of all, while many people may not understand the benefits, a lot do. Facebook Connect recently celebrated its first birthday with an announcement that 60 million Facebook users are using Facebook Connect across 80,000 Web sites.

Secondly, single-ID systems provide benefits for marketers now, and when implemented with a focus on the user needs and experience, consumers see the benefits. Take the Huffington Post, for example; thanks to their implementation of Facebook Connect, I can easily see what content my friends find interesting (which—not coincidentally—always seems relevant to my interests). So, although many consumers don’t see the benefits now, it is reasonable to expect they can and will adopt these tools as sites make the advantages more evident.

With all the buzz about Social Commerce, there was one more finding from the study that caught my eye: The number one factor that consumers say is essential for them to sign up for a portable “ID” is that it not be associated with their credit card information. Consumers are just not quite ready to make their financial data as sharable as they are their photos and status updates.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Google, Gmail, Relevance Filtering & the Future of Social Media

[This blog post was cross-posted with my new blog on the Forrester Blog for Interactive Marketers:]

Is the Social Media world about to change on Tuesday? Probably not, but all eyes will be on Mountain View tomorrow when Google announces their latest venture into the social sphere, reportedly a social add-on to Gmail.

Let me begin by saying that I know absolutely nothing about what Google has up its sleeve, but let's speculate. Why? Because like Apple, Google is one of those rare companies that can still capture our imaginations and make us hope for a new product or service that will dazzle our eyes and change our lives.

At first glance, the addition of status updates to Gmail--if that is in fact what Google is announcing--seems to add nothing new. After all, Yahoo added "Status-Casting" to their mail and IM offerings six months ago. Moreover, it would seem to make little sense for Google to try to compete directly with Facebook and Twitter, the reigning kings of the status update realm.

But what if Google isn't aiming to compete with Twitter and Facebook but instead with Seesmic and Hootsuite? What if Google doesn't care about owning the stream so much as accessing the content and owning the place where consumers look (and where AdSense ads can be served)? For some, it would be a powerful combination to aggregate email and status feeds in one simple and powerful tool. And add Google's Android and Nexus One into the mix for mobile viewing, and you begin to see the makings for a dominant and portable tool for managing highly personalized real-time information.

Let's not stop our speculation there. Where else might Google take us once they gather and display our friends' tweets, emails and status updates? Well, what is the one thing at which Google excels, more than anything else? Relevance! Search for it, and chances are you will find just what you were seeking at the top of Google's first search engine results page.

How might Relevance Filtering change our ability to monitor what is pertinent and ignore what is not? Admit it--you find Facebook and Twitter noisy. Do you care about Farmville? Some of you do; most of you do not. How about your friends' FourSquare check-ins? Some of you care where your local friends are, but most of you likely couldn't care less where I'm dining when I'm thousands of miles away.

That's the trouble with today's Social Media tools--they are largely based on People Filtering (following everything posted by select individuals) rather than Relevance Filtering (seeing only what is relevant while ignoring what is not). To get a sense of the power of Relevance Filtering, see the chart below; based on this simple example, Relevance Filtering cuts down on the data received by 50% and more than doubles the relevance. Less time, less noise, more pertinence--where do I sign up?

The company that not only aggregates our friends' lifestreams but turns them from data into interesting and useful information would own the world, wouldn't they? Google was the hands-down winner of Web 1.0. Might they be about to repeat the feat in the Web 2.0 era?

I'm not expecting anything that earth shattering from Google's announcement tomorrow, but you have to think the folks in Mountain View have more on their minds than simply tweaking Gmail to compete with Facebook and Twitter. Time will tell, and I'll be watching where Google is heading, not just where they are.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

My Thoughts on Forrester, Analysts, and Blogging

[This blog post was cross posted with my blog on]

Image representing Forrester Research as depic...Image via CrunchBase
A minor tempest in the research industry teapot erupted today on Twitter and elsewhere.  A SageCircle blog post entitled "Forrester tells analysts no more personal blogs with interesting implications for analyst relations" sparked a fair amount of dialog about Forrester and the rights and independence of analysts.  SageCircle shared rumors that a change to Forrester blogging policies would prevent analysts from having personal blogs and would aggregate analysts’ posts into Forrester-branded role-based blogs. 

I thought I’d share a few thoughts from my perspective as a newish Forresterite and a long-time blogger.  First of all, the term “personal blogs” deserves a bit of definition.  Forrester is not interested in limiting employees’ involvement in Social Media or their ability to blog on personal subjects.  I can blog to my heart’s content about travels, cats, politics, music, movies or any other topic of a personal nature. 

But there are changes coming to the ways analysts share information, ideas, and observations about the areas they cover.  Forrester is still developing its policies, but it is in the process of rolling out a new blog platform and will ask analysts to share their industry-related thoughts within this new platform.  So, there are elements of truth to SageCircle reports, but there’s more to the story.  For example, SageCircle speculated that the aim of the policy was to “restrict analysts’ personal blogs works to reduce the possibility that the analysts will build a valuable personal brand leading to their departure.”  This would be incorrect on a couple of different fronts. 

First of all, Forrester analysts will all have their own blogs within the new platform, and this will continue to furnish a platform for sharing our insights and building our individual reputations.  I will have my own Forrester blog, the contents of which will roll up into a blog focused on the needs and interests of Interactive Marketers. 

More importantly, the hint that Forrester might want to restrict individual brand building is quite the opposite of my own experience during my first three months in the organization.  If anything, Forrester demonstrates a strong and active desire to have analysts build their reputation and brand;  for example, there are discussions about how analysts can best “build their franchises.”  So strong is Forrester’s vision for its analysts that at times I can feel more like a self-employed specialist working within a loose collective than an employee;  I like this feeling, and it one of the things I’ve enjoyed most about Forrester thus far.

Am I thrilled at the prospect of giving up Experience: The Blog, my personal/professional blog?  Well no—it’s become part of my digital identity and represents thousands of hours of time and effort.  But I also understand Forrester’s reasons for the changes.  There are obvious benefits to the company of aggregating intellectual property on, including Search Engine relevance and creating a marketing platform that demonstrates the breadth and depth of analysts’ brainpower and coverage. 

Furthermore, it would be silly to believe that readers will recognize and understand the distinction between Augie, the guy who shares thoughts about marketing on his personal blog, and Augie, the Forrester analyst who covers the marketing industry.  There is only one Augie, and the thoughts I share on my blog are now based upon the research I do, the people I meet, and the information I am given access to thanks to my role at Forrester.

I’ll be sad to see Experience: The Blog go, but I’m also looking forward to digging into the new Forrester blog platform.  There, I will continue to do what I’ve been doing for years on my personal blog:  Sharing news, offering insights, connecting with others, asking for input, and—most importantly—continuing to build my reputation within my field.

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