Friday, November 27, 2009

Zipipop's Guide to Building Successful Social Media Services

This presentation outlines some of the key things we have learnt through studying, developing and consulting in the social media sector over the last three years. It provides some principles for concepting, developing, marketing, and analyzing “social media” services.

Note: Slide 22 was partially inspired by a conversation with Marko Artisaari, in relation to the reasons Dopplr created its Social Atlas "public space". He made the very interesting point that very few services that focused primarily on catering for exclusive groups were very successful.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Death of Middle Management

Networking is nothing new. It has helped human beings cooperate, collaborate and coordinate since time immemorial. And it has helped individuals rise above their own capabilities and extend their personal influence. However, social media is now significantly altering the nature of power within networks.

In the days before social media an individual's power within a hierarchical network was largely based on their position to moderate privileged information and give instructions. And although this has not gone away entirely, the power of social media to rapidly spread information is freeing up the information and eroding this power. In addition, the information sources are becoming more traceable and it is becoming harder for people to claim or limit the ideas of those further down the food chain – or indeed, information to be hidden from management – since the "conversations" are opening up in the online space for all to see. This is leading to what we are calling The Death of Middle Management.

The new power leverage comes from being recognized as generous thought leaders, who "gift" value to the network. In addition, we will also gain credibility and influence by our ability to rapidly gather and compile relevant information for the task at hand. And a large part of this ability comes form being able to obtain information directly from your networks. This is the reason why Zipipop's CEO Helene Auramo sometimes calls Twitter "People Google" – since you can have questions answered by real people in your network.

The new networked economy requires that we find existing or, even better, growing networks to which we can connect with: "As the number of nodes in a network increases arithmetically the value of the network increases exponentially. Adding a few more members can dramatically increase the value for all members." (Kevin Kelly, 1999). This effect can be seen in the success of Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter; however, it also applies to business in general and to our personal ability to influence.

"In the network economy, success is self-reinforcing; it obeys the law of increasing returns. The great innovation of Silicon Valley is not the wowie-zowie hardware and software it has invented. Silicon Valley's greatest "product" is the social organization of its companies, and most important, the tangled web of former jobs, intimate colleagues, information leakage from one firm to the next, rapid company life cycles, and agile email culture. This social web, suffused into the warm hardware of jelly bean chips and copper neurons, creates a network economy."

The beauty is that network effects can raise the boat for everybody.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Zipipop's Brand Friend Concept

"You shouldn't expect users to actively participate with a brand (especially a new one) in social media without out doing some initial friendship building."

* (Updated 4 Febuary 2010)

Over the last few months we have been developing Zipipop's concept of Brand Friend and it has recently been generating considerable interest. So we thought it was about time to start sharing some of the main findings more publicly.

Over the years we have noticed that one of the main reasons that social media campaigns fail is that they expect customers to engage immediately on an intimate level. However, just as you can't walk up to someone on the street and expect them to immediately be your friend, you shouldn't expect users to actively participate with a brand (especially a new one) in social media without out doing some initial friendship building.

Our Brand Friend concept was initially inspired by an Ed Cotton blog entry elaborating on an idea by Esther Dyson in which they explore the basic idea of brands behaving as friends. The basis of Esther's idea was that brands could be invited into our social media environments as friends to benefit from a symbiotic relationship, i.e. you let the brand have knowledge of your personal activity and it can then offer you personalized, contextually relevant offers. However, we felt that this great premise needed to be expanded into something approaching a concept with a more concrete framework to make it even more useful.

In its simplest terms, our Brand Friend concept recommends that – particularly in the context of social media – brands should behave like friends. And like many "simple" ideas, it has subtle and powerful consequences.

Brand Friend is related to the notion that communication and customer service must now be viewed as core components of marketing. This relatively new approach has been made possible – and essential – due to the explosion of conversations now taking place across the vast social media ecosystem.


The Conversation Prism (developed by Brian Solis together with Jesse Thomas ) gives an indication of just how many conversations are taking place inside social media.

Bloggers, Twitterers and the plethora of other social media users have become "The New Influencers" and brands must learn to engage with them in order to maintain a strategic competitive advantage; however, many social media endeavours have failed miserably as a result of failing to realize that effective interaction is an earned privilege – just has you have to go through a delicate series of stages developing a real-life friendship.

We created the Brand Friend concept as a way of reminding people of this common sense approach and as a strategic model for brands to reach the position of mutual respect and cooperation that ultimately benefits us all. It is still a work in progress and we highly value your opinions. We will be publishing a more comprehensive presentation of the concept in the near future.

One of the most poignant things to bare in mind is that customers can easily fall into the Anger stage at any time: however, if brands monitor the social media conversations – and there are now many tools for doing this, Google Alerts, TweetBeep, etc) — and respond quickly to issues they can quickly bring people out of anger and even bounce them up into a high level of friendship. When people have emotion towards a brand they are still engaged and the real problem arises when they become indifferent. Therefore it pays to be fast and friendly.


We had the pleasure of developing the Brand Friend concept together with our French summer intern Tiphaine Guillot. Although last summer may not have been the warmest, she left with our warmest regards. Tiphaine – the door is always open and best of luck with the future.

* The Conversation Prism is a useful summation of areas of web activity, however, we feel that it contains some confusion differentiating between types of services and technology, eg – the voice/SMS category.