Social media analytics and accountability at SMB36

I had the opportunity recently to speak at Social Media Breakfast Boston 36 about social media analytics, accountability, and measurement, using apple pie as an analogy:

Special thanks to Bob Collins and Social Media Breakfast for having me!


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What Starcraft should tell you about your social media strategy

I’ve been playing the heck out of Starcraft II recently, having finally gotten around to buying it. It’s tremendous fun and is a true real-time strategy game, like Warcraft was before World of Warcraft. Starcraft teaches you a heck of a lot about tactical strategy because it’s fairly unforgiving of bad strategy. You know whether X idea is a good one or a bad one in short order.

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As you play the game, you have to build little buildings and troops, then place them on the map where you think they’ll do the most good. The catch is that you have a finite number of resources to work with and everything you build takes time. Thus, if you plan poorly, your opponent can kick your butt while all your resources are being used for unproductive things.

One of the strategies I play with to make sure I’m not open to an easy, preventable loss is the idea of outposts and headquarters. Rather than try to spread my forces out all over the map, I fortify one area near my main buildings, then send out scouts and builders to construct modest outposts around areas of interest. If I find an especially valuable place to be, I’ll add more troops and buildings so that it’s not easily overrun. The outposts serve as early warning systems – they’re well-defended enough that they put up at least a little resistance, enough warning for me to recall all of my troops if something bad is coming my way. Meanwhile, my headquarters is armed to the teeth so that I can continue to build my army.

This strategy plays out surprisingly well in social media and on social networks. Unless you’ve got massive headcount and resources, you can’t be everywhere all the time. You can and should set up outposts on every network that you practically and reasonably can, and make at least a token effort to customize them and tell people where to find you. Better to set up an outpost and tell people where to go than to spread yourself too thin and do nothing really well. Like the Starcraft 101 strategy, you also want to pick one or two places, maybe three, where you’re going to do the big building, where you’re going to “mine for resources” and construct the heavy guns.

Also like Starcraft, where you choose to set up shop can and should change. In the game, you can exhaust your resource nodes and be forced to find new ones. This is equally true in social media. A social network can stop delivering for you – anyone who invested heavily in MySpace can tell you that. Anyone who spend a fortune on Facebook Likes can tell you that. Be ready and willing to pick up and move to a place where you do get the results you want.

Take these basic lessons from Starcraft and see how they apply to your social media strategy!


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Business models of social networks

When it comes to evaluating a new social network, such as the new Ello, one of the most important questions you can ask is how sustainable it is. The best perspective on the sustainability of any business is summarized by Jerry Maguire:

show me the money!

How does this new social network – or any social network – plan to stay in business? After all, a social network isn’t free. There are servers – even in the cloud – that cost money. Bandwidth costs money. Disk space, even with platforms like Amazon S3 and EC2, still costs money, and the more popular a network is, the more money it costs. That money has to come from somewhere.

From a business perspective, there are three fundamental models for how a social network can make money:

1. The network charges users. This is the most straightforward business model. The user pays a fee and the business uses those fees to stay in business.

2. The business sells something that subsidizes the network. Path did this with stickers. Spiceworks does this with its user community.

3. The network charges advertisers. This converts the user into the product, and the advertiser as the customer. Facebook and Twitter are the most prominent examples of this.

There are hybrids of these models. Path sold stickers and also sold premium memberships. LinkedIn is one of the few networks that manages to do all three: charges users (Premium profiles and features), selling ad space (LinkedIn Marketing Solutions), and selling a product (LinkedIn Talent Solutions). But if a social network doesn’t do one of these, then in the long term it’s not sustainable.

Ello has made the bold statement that it is an ad-free network, which means that to stay in business, it must do either #1 or #2.

The thing we must know for any new social network, whether it’s Ello or perhaps a new wave of entrants, is simple: show me the money. If it’s not there, don’t place more than a token bet on the network’s long-term future.


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