Sunday, June 19, 2011

Each Month in Social Media... [Infographic]

This is my first-ever attempt at an infographic with my limited design skills.  Feedback welcome!

Also, the stat I REALLY wanted to put on the YouTube timeline was how many hours of programming the big three (or big four or five) television networks have produced since the beginning of television.  I searched for hours and came up dry.  If you have any idea, please let me know!


Thursday, June 9, 2011

Stop Fighting Social. Embrace it! A lesson on Twitter in the classroom

I normally do not post videos with little commentary, but this one stands on its own. You hear so many stories of educators (and business leaders) lamenting the distractions of mobile and social, but there is another way. If you can't beat them, join them. 

Here's a fun and inspirational CNN story of a teacher who tells his students to BYOT--Bring Your Own Technology.  He successfully weaves mobile technology, Twitter and other social media into his teaching style.

How might you put this model to work for your business or in your daily life?

Three Social Media Dilemmas Unfolding Now

One doesn't have to look far to find a social media blunder, crisis or event, but three interesting situations are occurring this week that are worth monitoring. (And no, I will not reference a congressman acting like a horny 15-year-old boy.)  For your consideration:

  • One if by Land, Two if by Campaign Bus:  You'd have to be living under a rock not to know that Sarah Palin inadvertently waded into a controversy this past week. While visiting Boston she was asked about Paul Revere, and her answer struck many as uninformed. She referenced Revere riding to warn the British and ringing bells, and while some dug deep into Revere history to defend Palin's account, others are not as convinced.

    Right or wrong, what is most interesting about this story from the social media perspective is how it's played out on Wikipedia. Visits to the Revere page on the crowdsourced encyclopedia increased 2,600%, but not everyone was there to figure out if Palin was correct or not. Some flocked to edit Wikipedia's version of history fit Palin's account; others stood against those edits;  and a third contingent actually tried to revise the Revere entry to match Palin's version not to support the potential presidential candidate but to mock her.

    In the end, all of this energy may have upended the Wikipedia entry for a few days, but the Revere page will end up being more accurate and better referenced as a result of this debate. The fact that some people attempted to edit Wikipedia to rewrite history but ended up encouraging a more thorough and accurate rendering is a phenomenon known as "The Streisand Effect."  In 2003 Barbra Streisand attempted to suppress photographs of her residence, and in doing so unwittingly created a wave of publicity that eclipsed the tiny privacy threat she was attempting to squelch.

    The Palin and Streisand situations are good reminders to social media professionals that every action can have a wildly disproportionate reaction in social media.

  • Ken dumps Barbie and Mattel: The second evolving social media situation involves Mattel, Greenpeace, deforestation, Barbie and Ken. Greenpeace has accused Mattel of using packaging derived from Indonesian rain forests, and to make the point they followed a template the environmental organization has used before. As it did in its earlier battle with Nestle, Greenpeace leveraged YouTube; this time the clip was of Mattel's Ken learning a dark secret about his beloved Barbie .

    Mattel addressed the accusations directly. Yesterday the company posted to its Facebook page:

    "Playing responsibly is important to Mattel. Over the past months, we’ve been talking to Greenpeace regarding paper-sourcing. As you may have heard, they’ve taken an inflammatory approach despite the open channels of communication we’ve established. You can learn more about our corporate responsibility efforts & packaging improvements here:"

    And today they added:

    "Today Mattel launched an investigation into deforestation allegations. While Mattel does not contract directly with Sinar Mas/APP, we have directed our packaging suppliers to stop sourcing pulp from them as we investigate the allegations. You can learn more here:"

    Greenpeace has vowed to continue the campaign "until Mattel shows 'due diligence,'" but will consumers support Greenpeace by keeping the heat on Mattel, or will they give credit to the company for working to resolve the problem? Yesterday's post from Mattel received a mixed bag of comments with some criticizing Greenpeace's approach and many demanding immediate changes from Mattel, but today's post (made an hour ago as I write this) has thus far received 26 "likes" and just two comments, including, "Nice! I hope Ken takes Barbie back now."

    One thing is clear: Mattel learned from the campaign Greenpeace waged against Nestle. Faced with a smoldering PR problem, the candy company inadvertently threw gas on the fire by threatening to delete posts from people who had profile pics containing altered Nestle logos. Mattel is taking a different tact--although some of its critics have adopted avatars of Barbie and Ken, Mattel is wisely choosing to focus on the bigger issues.

  • Delta soldiers on: Yesterday, some soldiers posted a video on YouTube complaining that Delta had charged them almost $3,000 of baggage fees for their trip home from Afghanistan. The original video has since been removed, but not before major media outlets such as CBS News picked up on the story.

    Delta tried to get in front of the issue with a rapid blog post explaining the company's baggage policies. That post was timely, empathetic and respectful of those who serve our country, but it was not enough to prevent a string of passionate and angry comments from people who felt Delta could do more to support service members.

    The airline reacted quickly; within hours an update was made to the original post. Even though Delta's baggage policies for service members was identical to other airlines, Delta announced an immediate change to permit US military personnel to carry on an additional bag without charge. Alas, even the rapid response from Delta was not enough to change the tone of the comments, which continue to express anger over both the original policy and the accommodation.

    In this case, it seems Delta's social media response was textbook--quick, caring, and responsive--but still most of the comments on its blog and Facebook are quite negative. Delta may simply be paying the price for having a middling customer experience rating within an industry known for mediocre experiences, according to the Temkin Group.

    What do you think?  Other than avoiding the original incident, how might Delta have managed the situation differently to arrive at a more favorable outcome for the brand and its customers?

Monday, June 6, 2011

How You Can Prepare for the Coming Social Media Bubble Burst

In late 1999, I traveled 1,300 miles to give a presentation about e-business at a conference in the San Antonio Hilton (which, ironically, is now just a half mile from where I live).  During the Q&A, one of the attendees said, "Since you know so much about the Internet, you must've made quite a bit investing in Internet stocks."  I vividly recall my answer: "No. I was a Finance major and am incapable of investing in companies with no plan for profits."

I'd like to say the reason I recall that story is because I was proven prescient once the dot-com bubble burst six months later, but if I'm being honest, the reason that moment resonates was that I was racked with doubt and projecting a false sense of confidence. I'd been an early adopter and evangelist of the Internet, but while the pages of Wired magazine were full of young dot-com millionaires, all I had to show for my vision was a good job as an exec at a small agency.  And the weekend before my trip to San Antonio, a friend of my mother-in-law regaled us with the tale of her 22-year-old day-trading son, who was worth more than $2 million. Had I been too conservative?  Did I possess the knowledge and vision yet somehow failed to answer the door when opportunity came knocking?

The dot-com crash of 2000 was devastating.  Even now, eleven years later, the NASDAQ Composite is just a hair over half of where it stood in March 2000.  The crash caused the loss of $5 trillion in market value, huge numbers of people lost their jobs, and the facade of most of those dot-com millionaires crumbled as their paper wealth evaporated.  (To me, the insanity of the dot-com craze is demonstrated by a single story told to me by a now-successful exec in a social enterprise company.  Back in 2000, he ran a tiny startup that got caught up in the dot-com hysteria; at one point it hit a market cap of $1 billion but was generating just $60,000 of revenue.)

I am taking you on this trip down Memory Lane for a reason: It's happening again. Investors in social media startups are looking to cash in, and valuations are soaring despite modest to no profits.  Last week, Airbnb, a site that allows people to arrange short-term vacation rentals of rooms, homes and apartments, received a round of funding based on a $1 billion valuation. While the company has not released financials, best guess estimates are that Airbnb only generates around $10 million of revenue.  To put this into perspective, Marriott has $12 billion in revenue and a market cap of $14 billion.

LinkedIn earned just $15 million in net income in 2010, yet the market is valuing it at $7.4 billion.  Groupon, a company that  lost $413 million last year and another $114 million in the first quarter of 2011, is planning an IPO based on a $30 billion valuation. I could go on, but suffice it to say the social media valuation craze is already drawing words of caution; speaking about social media companies this past March, Warren Buffett warned "Most of them will be overpriced." (In the three months since, Groupon's valuation has reportedly increased another 20%.)

So what does a social media bubble burst mean to you?  I'm not going to advise you on investing strategies, but keep in mind market bubbles are like giant Ponzi schemes--the people who make money are the VCs who get out early and those who lose money are the ones holding the bag once the speculation abruptly ends. And if you think you might get lucky at timing the market--getting out before the sell off--you might consider some other of Warren Buffett's words: “The only value of stock forecasters is to make fortune-tellers look good.”

Rather than focusing on investing, I'd like to consider what the coming social media bubble burst means to social media professionals.  Those tasked with social media in large enterprises still regularly deal with doubt, misinformation and fear. As happened following the dot-com bubble burst in 2000, we can expect the doubters to be emboldened as the house of cards falls. In 2000 people said, "See, I told you this Internet thing was a fad," and when the crash occurs in 2012 (or perhaps 2013) (or maybe 2014) we can expect the same to be said about social media.

There are things you can do to ensure your social media efforts don't grind to a halt in the face of a market correction in social media stocks, but you have to start now:

  • Don't buy into the hysteria:  Rising valuations will get others' attention, but you can be the voice of reason rather than adding fuel to the fire. It will be difficult! Just as I faced self-doubt back in 1999, you may find it hard to keep your feet on the ground while others seem to be flying so high.
  • Prepare others for the social media bubble burst:  Let people know the valuations are crazy but the business models are sound.  Preparing your peers for the inevitable will make you seem wise and lay the groundwork for consistent progress even during a shake out.
  • Remind others of what happened following the dot-com crash: Sure, the stock market still lags behind the heady days of 1999 and 2000, but what crashed was the stock values of Internet companies and not the value of the Internet.  In the years since, the Internet has continued to evolve, change human behavior, be adopted by every demographic, alter business models and change the way we work, play and communicate.
  • Recognize there will be survivors:  The sock puppet was famously laid to rest, but many Internet companies survived. It took Amazon almost ten years to get its stock price back to the level it was in late 1999, but it has accomplished that and more; in the past decade the Dow Jones is up just 10% while Amazon stock is up over 1,000%.  It's dangerous to make predictions, but I can't imagine Facebook or Twitter will go away any time soon (although they could pull an Amazon, lose 90% of their market cap and spend another decade clawing their way back.)
With preparation, the impending social media bubble burst can be put into perspective within your organization. Some social media companies may disappear and others' valuations may face a sudden and painful correction, but social media is here to stay. Just as happened following the dot-com flame out, the companies that succeed in the years following the social media bubble burst will the ones that recognize the opportunity and continue to invest while others misread the market correction as something more than it is.