Facebook: The Social Network for Revolutions?

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I can say with 95 percent confidence that when Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook in 2005, he did not create it with the purpose of sparking political revolutions.  Yet, it seems that in 2011, Facebook is doing exactly that.

If it holds true to its early form, 2011 just may be remembered as the Year of the Revolution. Feeling the aftermath of Tunisia overthrewing its government in late 2010, Egypt just deposed President Hosni Mubarak from power, and it seems that Algeria, Libya and other African and Middle Eastern nations may soon follow.

Political revolutions are nothing new. It’s just that in 2011 Facebook and Twitter have overtaken the traditional outlets of print and television as the conduits for political protest across the Middle East.

Which is why Newsweek’s piece on Wael Ghonim, Google’s head of marketing for the Middle East and Africa, is so fascinating.

There is always that one still image that defines a revolution and marks its beginning.

Khaled Said was a businessman who was beaten to death by local police after using Facebook to disseminate a video of police stealing pot from a drug bust.

The beating was captured on film and disseminated around the web when Ghonim saw it, and inspired, he created a Facebook page titled “We Are All Khaled Said” in Said’s honor.

Running the page as “El Baradei”, or the Martyr, Ghonim was able to convince 50,000 people to attend the “revolution” on Facebook. The most interesting line of the article comes on page 3,

In another conversation, he mocked the idea that any politician could corral the growing protest push. “A virtual guy that they don’t know is telling them what to do,” he said. “I have the people on my side.”

What is so extraordinary, is that Ghonim was able to translate virtual support into tangible support by using the Facebook page to promote democratic ideals and schedule and organize individual demonstrations.

“El Baradei” was the perfect storm of Ghonim’s expertise and the unfortunate death of a businessman – Khaled Said was viewed as a martyr for dying to uncover injustice by the local police, and Wael Ghonim used his marketing savvy to channel the online frustrations of Egyptians into productive demonstration.

Wael Ghonim was just one example of an individual exerting influence on a network of people. No doubt, there were hundreds, if not thousands of individuals exerting influence on their neighbors, family, friends, strangers, and fellow Egytpians to participate in the revolution.

What do you make of the revolution in Egypt? Do you think you have what it takes to spark a revolution?

5 Ways to Win Friends and Influence People Online

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1. Check your Klout Score and PeerIndex Score.

I’ve already spoken at length about the pros and cons of both services, but they do have a use and a place. Use them to gauge how active you are online, and then see which areas you can improve.

Did you only connect your Twitter account. What about your Facebook? Or Linkedin? Or your blogs?

The more the merrier.

2. Write a blog.

If you aren’t already blogging, what are you waiting for!?

Blogging is a great way to establish authority and credibility on a subject.

If you work hard at blogging, market your blogging, and actually stick with blogging, over time you will end up with dedicated readers.

3. Read and share interesting or useful content.

After you read an article, you shouldn’t just keep it to yourself. You should share it! Sharing content that is relevant and interesting to your social networks, you will increase your value to individuals in your social network, and they will come to rely on you as trusted source for interesting and useful content.

4. Brand yourself across social networks.

This is an important one. By establishing a consistent brand image across multiple social networks, you ensure that your posts reach as wide an audience as possible. For example, I can rely on Facebook for people mostly college students, Linkedin for more professional connections, and Twitter for everyone in between. There are even more social networks you can use to establish influence online, but those three are the most important.

5. Leave comments on other blogs.

And not spam comments like, “Hey check out my post here!” If you do this, no one will want to follow the link back to your website, especially the blogger, for fear that you are a spammer.

If you do leave comments (and you should), you should seek to add something meaningful to the conversation along with a link.Leaving comments provides two benefits: 1) the blogger will be thankful that you contribute regularly to the conversation and will be more likely to help you and 2) by leaving insightful comments, you can help brand yourself as an expert and draw that bloggers readers to your own blog.

What do you think of this advice? Do you have anything to add?

 

 

How My Embarrasing Facebook Photo Went Viral

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It was 10:30PM, and I had just gotten out of my fraternity’s chapter meeting when I felt my Blackberry buzz in my pocket.

Is this an email, a text, or a bbm? I thought as I reached into my jeans pocket, and pulled out my red-flashing Blackberry.

It was an email from Facebook, with a subject line that read (I’m using a fake name to protect my friend’s identity),

“Jane Doe has tagged a photo of you.”

I’ll check it when I get to the library, I thought, and stashed my phone back into my pocket, Facebook photos an afterthought.

As I continued walking, my phone began vibrating again, but I ignored. But then came a second vibration, and a third, and then a fourth.

Intrigued, I whipped out my phone to read more emails from Facebook. More of my friends were tagging me in photos but added captions like,

“So easy a caveman could do it,” and “Save money on Geico car insurance”.

Confused, scared, and intrigued, I rushed to the library, logged onto Facebook, and saw 10 notifications waiting.

Heart racing, I braced myself for what the embarrassing, job-prospect-destroying photo would be.

It wasn’t that bad, just a goofy photo of me that all my friends made their profile pictures.

I have no idea what I was doing.

Amused by my friends’ creativity, I decided to join the game, “@” replying each them and writing, “I hate all of you.”

In under a minute, there were half a dozen likes and comments, and more friends were getting in on the action.

And then the Facebook chats began.

Their profile defaults set to that picture, all my friends simultaneously chatted with me, and when I responded to one, they would coordinate their message and all respond at the same time.

Faced with a lost cause, I logged off Facebook, thoughts of revenge on my mind.

Dissecting my first Viral experience.

The prank got me thinking about how and why content goes viral, like the Old Spice campaign. Obviously my photo was not on the same scale as the Old Spice campaign, but I think there are some commonalities:

1. Humor.

It’s almost a sure bet that if a video or graphic is funny enough, and enough people see it, it will go viral.

Comedy works. Ask Old Spice.

That photo of me is pretty creepy, but also kinda funny. Who wouldn’t want to tweet that?

2. Relevance.

The photo is funny, but it is not on the scale of Old Spice.

The Old Spice campaign was geared towards males, ages 18-35, who I’m sure were more inclined to engage with the campaign than anyone other demographic.

Likewise, my friends and I found it funny because we have a history together, a certain context that an outsider would not have, and therefore the photo means more to them than any outsider.

3. Personalization.

For content to be viral, people need to engage with it. Old Spice allowed ordinary people to submit their own captions, which Isaiah Mustafa would then respond to.

This clever idea no doubt caused people to spread the message, because the chance to be part of history was too alluring.

4. Game Mentality.

This is tied to personalization. Old Spice allowing individual input created a sense of competition among viewers: who could come up with the funniest caption.

A similar competition arose between my friends and I, as we all tried to one-up each other.

5. Social Media.

This one is rather obvious, but Facebook, Youtube and Twitter are all mediums that allow you to 1) comment and participate in real-time, and 2) share content easily within your social network.

It was like my friends were in the same room with me, and we were all laughing and talking about the photo. Except it was through Facebook, and all the people I’m friends with on Facebook could see, and join in.

6. Influencers (or as Seth Godin calls them, Sneezers).

These were the people who were responsible for making the photo go viral. They were the ones who saw the Old Spice video on Youtube, and then shared it via Facebook, Twitter, email, etc.

They exerted influence over their social networks, and helped the video go viral.

The same for my photo. My friends and I all have a certain measure of trust with one another, so when someone posts content on their wall, our network is likely to listen.

In my case, my friends saw that initial person tag a photo of me, and then from there the firestorm started.

Recreating the Viral Experience.

I’m glad to say that my first viral experience wasn’t an embarrassing one and now I’m tempted to recreate the experience.

I don’t know what it will be, but you can bet you’ll find out first.

Online Social Influence: A Review of Klout and PeerIndex

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There’s a movement that is currently happening online, a movement towards a single metric that captures an individual’s online influence.

How influential are you? What actions do you drive? Who do you impact?

These are just some of the questions that people are asking as services like Twitter and Facebook have largely changed the way people interact with each other.

To measure the changing nature of influence, companies like Klout and PeerIndex have developed services that provide a single metric as an indication of influence.

These services might prove useful to marketers and businesses who are recruiting influential individuals to tap into their own social networks and a brand’s awareness, products, or services.

The web has already seen this happen with Klout. Klout made huge headlines in 2010 when both Peter Shankman and the Palms Hotel in Las Vegas decided to offer VIP access to guests based on their Klout Scores.

Since I find the debate around online influence interesting, I decided to do a side by side comparison of both services.

How do both services calculate influence?

I’ll begin with Klout since it is older and more well-known.

Klout measures influence on a scale of 1 to 100, with a higher number correlating to a higher sphere of influence.

Klout claims to use 35 variables from Facebook and Twitter to measure concepts such as True Reach, Amplification Probability, and Network Score.

True Reach is “the size of your engaged audience”. That means all your friends and followers, and to its credit, Klout does eliminate inactive and spam accounts.

Amplification Probability is pretty straightforward as well – it is the “likelihood that your content will be acted upon,” whether that be a retweet, a comment, or a like.

And finally Network Score is “the influence level of your engaged audience.” So you are more likely to have a higher network score if Britney Spears follows you than if I follow you.

PeerIndex on the other hand, goes about measuring influence, or as PeerIndex calls is, “online authority”, a little differently.

Like Klout, there are three major items that make up your PeerIndex score.

The first is called your Authority Score. PeerIndex chooses up to 8 benchmark topics that you have authority on, and then calculates your score relative to other people in your network.

Your Resonance Score measures how much your opinion on a topic may resonate within a community. This is highly correlated to comments, likes, and retweets as well.

Next is your Audience Score, which is not a measure of how many followers or readers you have, but rather the number of people who listen to you and are receptive to what you are saying. If you have 1000 followers, but only 5 actually retweet what you have to say, you’ll have a lower audience score.

Finally there are two lesser scores called you Activity Score and your Realness Score. Your activity score is simply a measure of how active you are on social networks, and realness determines whether you are a human or a robot.

Scores are normalized to be out from 1-100, with higher scores meaning a higher degree of influence.

What Social Networks do they measure?

Before, people could be influential on the web, but Twitter really took the idea of influence to another level.

Not only were celebrities such as Ashton Kutcher or Justin Bieber able to amass millions of followers, but everyday people were able to gain significant followings and actually become influential. A clever line can be retweeted by thousands, and a movement can start with a simple hashtag.

Therefore it’s no surprise that Klout initially focused on Twitter as the sole measure of online influence.

This line taken from the About page on the website says it all:

“The Klout score is highly correlated to clicks, comments and retweets.”

In 2011 however, Klout offers Facebook and Linkedin integration (beta).

PeerIndex on the other hand offers a more robust selection of social networks to integrate. The obvious ones are there, Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin, but PeerIndex also includes blogs which Klout does not.

Neither service includes lesser used social networks, such as MySpace or Friendster.

Which service is a better measure of online influence?

Like so many others, I initially was intrigued by Klout. When I first began using it, I was only able to sign up my Twitter account, and Facebook was still in beta.

The first score I got was around 30 something. Since then it has fluctuated and is now around 17.

My score dropped so low because I don’t really interact with that many people on Twitter.  I just tweet articles. So as a result, my score suffered.

My PeerIndex score however is higher, at 48. Why is there such a large discrepancy? I believe my higher score is a result of PeerIndex including Linkedin and blogs into my influence score. I’m much more active on Linkedin and I blog regularly, so I was not surprised by my higher score.

My issue with Klout is that it doesn’t tell the whole story (neither does PeerIndex but it does a much better job). There are a lot of bloggers out there who probably aren’t active on Twitter or Facebook (like Seth Godin) and their Klout scores suffer as a result.

PeerIndex also does something interesting that Klout does not: it also mentions what topics you are talking about.

That’s huge. So if I have a PeerIndex score of 75 and my most talked about topics are Social Media and Digital Marketing, then it would be fairly easy to identify me as an expert in those fields.

Conclusion

I believe that PeerIndex offers a better indicator of online social influence than does Klout. There main reason is that Klout leaves out a few networks where many individuals exercise online influence.

That being said, both Klout and PeerIndex have a long way to go before the services can be reliable indicators of influence. In my later posts, I’ll be discussing better ways that Klout and PeerIndex can measure online influence.

The Rise of the New Influential

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In this age of the internet, anyone can achieve celebrity-type status on the web. The playing field is leveling; no longer do individuals with enormous wealth and fame act as the gatekeepers to power – the common man is increasingly grabbing a bigger chunk of the influence pie.

What we are seeing is the rise of the New Influential.

I made up that term but I believe that it accurately describes what this blog will be all about. I am interested in studying how the concept of influence has changed as a result of social media.

Since this space is still being defined, there is much to talk about.

“Influence” according to the dictionary is defined as thus:

the capacity or power of persons or things to be a compelling force on or produce effects on the actions, behavior, opinions, etc., of others

The basic idea of influence remains the same, but the tools, methods and perspectives we apply to obtain and keep influence have changed dramatically.

As social media begins to mature, many believe that the New Influential will be increasingly defined by a number. There are a number of startup companies that are built around measuring your online influence across social networks and then assigning you a score.

Two companies set to be huge players in this space are Klout, and PeerIndex, who are both clamoring to become the definitive service for online influence assessment. Klout recently made headlines by partnering with the Palms Hotel in Las Vegas. People with high Klout scores were eligible to receive perks typically reserved for traditional influencers.

A slightly different but similar service comes in the form of Empire Avenue, where users can buy, sell, and trade “shares” of online personas, and the stock price is directly correlated to a user’s activity and authority across social networks.

Klout’s partnership with the Palms raises many interesting questions. Although the web is considered to be The Great Equalizer, history tells us power is ultimately concentrated in the hands of a few. It will be interesting to see if a new social caste system will be created, which is especially interesting given that the gap in inequality world-wide is increasing.

Will these scores operate similar to credit scores? Just as a poor credit score dictates how much credit one can get, will a low Social Influence Score dictate my place in society? Will having a low credit score determine where my children can go to school, or what jobs I can get in the future?

How will the government handle the rise of the New Influential? Will we see more governments crackdown on social media as platform for protest like Egypt is doing?

Also, how would a service like Twitter affect the messages of Martin Luther King or Gandhi? Who are the Martin Luther King’s and Gandhi’s of today, and how are they using their new-found influence to drive social change?

Finally, is the argument concerning influence vs. popularity a valid one? Do influence and popularity mean the same thing? Is Britney Spears more influential because she has over 1 million followers on Twitter? Or is John Doe, the marketing expert more influential because his tweets have a 50% chance of being retweeted by his 200 followers, with whom he interacts frequently?

We have only seen the tip of the iceberg when it comes to measuring online influence. I’m excited to see what is in store.