Category Archives: Blog

Pinterest’s Affiliate Controversy and Path’s Privacy #Fail: One Company Does The Right Thing.

Two social media platforms have been involved in controversy this week.  One of them has done the right thing.

Pinterest, the fast-growing darling loved by scrapbookers and traffic-drivers alike, has been outed for using a service called SlimLinks to add affiliate links to some users’ posts.  After some initial confusion, outrage and debate, the consensus among bloggers and comenters seems to be that it’s perfectly all right for the site to use affiliate links to generate revenue, but the company should disclose what exactly it’s doing–especially in light of the tight disclosure rules for bloggers, as Shelly Kramer so rightly points out.

The Pinterest affiliate controversy has been brewing since at least this January 20 post from Joel Garcia.  To date, Pinterest has not commented on any of the posts.  It has not updated its blog since January 18, and the last tweet sent by the company’s account was on January 26.  Its millions of fans are still waiting for answers and a clarification on how it is monetizing the content they post.

Meanwhile, Path, a site valued for letting its users create intimate and private social networks, found itself embroiled in a potentially more lethal privacy controversy.  On September 8, Arun Thampi posted that he had noticed that Path uploaded the contents of his entire address, including names, emails and phone numbers.  Within moments, the news was spreading among the hacker community and to irate users.

Just as quickly, Path Co-Founder and CEO Dave Morin posted a comment on the original blog post, and began to field questions and criticism from users, engaging in debate about the best way to manage friending and matching on the site.  24 hours later, Morin has posted a detailed apology, titled We Are Sorry, to the company’s blog.  The company has fixed the controversial process it was using to match friends through its member’s address books, implementing a 100% opt-in policy, and has deleted all of the data it collected from its old process from its servers.  The post is signed by David Morin personally, and has his picture on it.   You should read it.

Moments later, All Things D and other big tech blogs are reporting on the story–but instead of using Path as the poster child for the latest privacy fail, they are reporting the fact that the problem has been solved.

How would your company respond in a situation like this?  Do you think Pinterest should be taking steps to communicate with its users?

Walgreens Partners With LocalResponse to Tweet Customers Who Check-In

I’ve long been a fan of the idea that you can use the information that a customer shares with you on the realtime web to then deliver value to that customer.  It’s one of the key principles of realtime marketing, and the subject of the article I wrote for the first issue of The Social Media Monthly, How to Use Realtime Marketing To Deliver Value to the Right Customer at the Right Time.

But this weekend Toyota came under fire for attempting to do this by using automated tweets, responding to hashtags, in a way that was perceived as spam.   Now Walgreens is planning on using the same technology from a startup called LocalResponse that Toyota used in its campaign to send messages to customers using mobile apps to check in at its stores.

Will the Walgreens campaign be more successful?

According to AdAge, Walgreens will monitor public check-ins at its stores and then sends users reply messages via Twitter.   For example, when customers check in to a Walgreens via an application such as Foursquare or Yelp, and then publishes that check-in to Twitter,  they might receive a message back from Walgreens with an in-store promotion.  VatorNews published a great graphic last December describing the process in detail.

Walgreens isn’t new to check-in promotions.   Last fall, it offered customers who checked in via Foursquare the opportunity to donate free flu shot vouchers to their choice out of five national charities. vouchers to flu shot.    For Energizer, Foursquare check-ins at Walgreens served up a mobile coupon for a four-pack of batteries.   But Walgreens is the first retailer to use LocalResponse to push deals or promotions, and it will be the only drugstore chain to use this feature for at least one year.

Walgreen’s Director of  Social Media Adam Kmiec says that the brand has check-points in place to make sure that it is providing content that’s “relevant, appreciated and business-driving.”  He looks for campaigns to meet the following criteria:

  1. Did the customer express an appetite for this type of content, as demonstrated by the team’s social monitoring and analysis platforms?
  2. Does this approach map back to the brand’s overall social strategy, which is built around realtime, local, personal and innovation?
  3. Pay close attention to the details of the execution:  selecting an appropriate  launch date and time, and how frequently to communicate.
  4. Monitor and analyzing the receptiveness to the program, and make adjustments as you learn from your customers.
“Net-net,” Kmiec told me, “We have strong insights that guide our decision and safe guards in place to always make sure we are providing value.”

That said, Kmiec is also careful to emphasize that Walgreens is an innovator–and innovation carries risks.  Walgreens will be the only drugstore chain to use this feature for at least one year.  “Being first may bring its share of learning pains, but it also allows us to create relationships that are exclusive and ultimately create a competitive advantage for us because our competition will be unable to work with A-Level partners like Local Response.”

LocalResponse CEO and co-founder Nihal Mehta told me that the company will be releasing best practices for brands using its platform at its official launch next week.

It seems to me that the Walgreens check-in program is far more targeted, and reaching customers at a time when they are in a mind-set to buy with a message that is likely to be perceived as adding value to the shopping experience–whereas Toyota was  messaging customers who were settling in with their friends to watch football.

What do you think?  Can an automated realtime messaging platform like LocalResponse be effective if the messages are targeted enough?  Or do you think automated messaging is always a bad idea?

How Facebook Power Users Fuel the Social Graph

Thanks to a small group of power users, the average Facebook user gets more than he or she gives.

According to a new study released by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, these power users represent between 20% and 30% of users depending on the type of activity, and they contribute far more  than the typical user does.  Because of them, the average Facebook user gets more friend requests and personal messages than they initiate, is tagged in photos more than they tag others, and receives feedback in terms of “likes” at a higher frequency than they contribute.

Interestingly, the researchers also found that power users tend to specialize, with about 43% being power users in at least one Facebook activity: sending friend requests, pressing the like button, sending private messages, or tagging friends in photos–but only 5% of Facebook users were power users on all of these activities, 9% on three, and 11% on two.

Your Facebook Friends Share More Than You Do

  • On average, Facebook users get more friend requests than they make: 63% received at least one friend request during the period we studied, but only 40% made a friend request.
  • Unless you’re one of the power users, you receive more “likes” than you like other users’ content:  Users in the sample pressed the like button next to friends’ content an average of 14 times per month–and received feedback from friends in the form of a “like” 20 times per month.
  • And users receive more messages than they send:  over the month analyzed by Pew, users received an average of nearly 12 private messages, and sent nine.

The same types of findings apply to commenting and photo tagging, too.

Long-time Facebook Users Are More Active

Pew also found that, the more time that has passed since a user started using Facebook, the more frequently he/she makes status updates, uses the “like” button, comments on friends’ content, and tags friends in photos.  And the more Facebook friends someone has, the more frequently they contribute all forms of Facebook content and the more friend requests they tend to send and accept.  In other words, there’s no sign that users grow tired of Facebook overtime–in fact, the opposite is true.

Your Facebook Friends Have More Friends Than You Do

In this sample of Facebook users, the average person has 245 friends. However, the average friend of a person in this sample has 359 Facebook friends. The finding, that people’s friends have more friends than they do, was nearly universal (as it is for friendship networks off of Facebook). Only those in our sample who had among the 10% largest friends lists (over 780 friends) had friends who on average had smaller networks than their own.

Facebook Social Networks Are Less Dense Than Offline Networks

Not surprisingly, online social networks are less tigthly inter-connected than real-world relationships. A fully connected list of friends on Facebook would mean that everyone knows everyone else.  The average Facebook user had 245 friends, and only 12% of the maximum 29,890 friendship linkages exist between those friends.

But this is what gives online networks there potential reach.  Facebook users can reach an average of more than 150,000 other Facebook users through their Facebook friends; the median user can reach about 31,000 others.  And at two degrees of separation (friends-of-friends), Facebook users in the sample can reach an average of 156,569 other Facebook users.

Once again, however, the Facebook power users skew the average.   In the Pew sample, the maximum reach was 7,821,772 other Facebook users–but the median user can reach 31,170 people through their friends-of-friends.

Are you a power user?  

And could brands be doing more to try and leverage these power users?

Toyota Under Fire For #CamryEffect Twitter Spam Superbowl Promotion

Like other advertisers, Toyota spent millions on its Superbowl commercial this weekend.  But instead of enjoying positive word of mouth about the new Camry, the brand is dealing with backlash against a Twitter campaign that sent unsolicited @ reply messages to users who were tweeting with Superbowl-related hashtags, inviting them to enter a contest to win a 2012 Camry.

What’s worse, the tweets were sent from a series of accounts that had been verified by Twitter, provoking additional backlash against Twitter for appearing to endorse the spam campaign.   The @CamryEffect1 through @CamryEffect9 accounts are now marked as Suspended Accounts, and the main @CamryEffect account has been changed to a Protected Account.

The tweets were sent using technology from LocalResponse, a start up that “helps marketers respond to real-time consumer intent.”  This is a great idea in principle–but this fiasco shows that there is a fine line between an unsolicited message that’s appropriate and welcome to the user–and one that’s perceived as spam.

Toyota is reacting swiftly to address the firestorm, including an apology posted by  Digital Marketing and Social Media Manager Kimberley Gardiner at The Next Web.

The bottom line:  be very, very careful about any social media campaign that involves automated messaging.  There’s a huge difference between getting an unsolicited phone call from a skilled telemarketer, and getting a robocall.  The same is true on Twitter.


UPDATE 2/22:  Under new guidelines created by LocalResponse, the platform that Toyota used to send these messages, this type of campaign could no longer be run on the LocalResponse platform.  Details here:

New Gremln Social Media Management Platform Includes Integrated ROI Analytics

HootSuite and PeopleBrowsr have a new competitor: Gremln formally launched its social media management platform this week, and it includes several unusual features that you may want to check out. In addition to being a feature-rich, user-friendly integrated management, scheduling and collaboration platform, Gremln offers some unique analytics features that let you track your social media activity directly to a web site landing page.

Gremln lets you manage your activity on all of the major social networks at the same time. The main dashboard resembles a TweetDeck layout, with the ability to set up multiple panels that track different types of activity across different accounts. You can add panels that track Twitter activity–including some fairly sophisticated Twitter searches–Facebook accounts and Facebook Pages, and LinkedIn. You can also add RSS feeds and blog searches, which makes this a truly integrated home base for anyone managing content across social networks and blogs.

Once your panels are set up, you can manage the content across all of your networks. Gremln has included a nifty translation feature that lets you translate posts into all major languages, from Afrikaans to Vietnamese. You also have the ability to “quote” tweets — modify the content before re-sharing it, in the original ReTweet style.

Gremln makes it easy to post content across multiple networks and to manage multiple accounts from the same dashboard. You can schedule one-time posts or schedule recurring posts with a great deal of flexibility.

Where the tool really starts to go from useful to interesting, however, is when it comes to social media analytics and ROI measurement.  The platform pulls in analytics from Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, in addition to offering you web site traffic analysis.  It has the ability to set goals and track performance against those goals.

The company has also created its own URL shortener, called, and if you use it to create the links you send out, you will be able to track your clicks all the way through to your landing page, a feature that Gremln calls Target Pages and which is available to users who pay $59/month for the small business version.  Down the line, the company is planning to add integrated analytics features that will  let you see the flow of traffic from your social media efforts to your web site, according Ryan Bell, the president of Gremln.

Enterprise-Level Collaborative Social Media Management

Gremln offers a number of enterprise-level team and franchise social media management features. It includes the ability to grant different levels of access to additional users. If you specify guest-level access, then all of the content from that user is subject to approval. The company also offers a white-label version of the platform, which lets you create a custom skinned and branded environment, creating a tool to manage decentralized content creation across multiple divisions or franchises.  Bell told me that his team is currently working with a financial services company to develop a compliance management panel that lets you specify certain words that would automatically trigger a moderation requirement–he expects these features to be available in mid-March.

The basic version is free, and it lets you manage up to 5 accounts, a slightly more robust version (up to 10 accounts; ability to manage Fan Pages, include web analytics, etc.) is available for $6 per month.  More details are available at

Gremln currently has 100,000 users, and hopes to reach 1 million in the next 12 months.  Will you be one of them?  Which social media platform do you use?

Social Media Stats: Avg. Facebook User Worth Up To $118, #RLTM Scoreboard

The #RLTM Scoreboard:  Social Networking Stats for the Week

Facebook: over 845 million users via Facebook
Twitter: over 200 million users via AllTwitter
Renren: over 170 million users via iResearch iUser Tracker
Qzone: 500 million active users via China Internet Watch
Sina Weibo: over 250 million users via Forbes
LinkedIn: 135 million members via LinkedIn
Groupon: 115 million subscribers via Reuters
Google Plus: over 90 million users via Larry Page
Tumblr: 42 million blogs via Tumblr
Posterous: 3.9 million members via SF Gate
Pinterest 7.5 million monthly uniques via TechCrunch
Foursquare: 15 million users via Mashable
Instagram 15 million users via The Next Web

Please email if you have additional updates, or a social network that you feel should be on the list.

Facebook’s IPO Estimates Put Market Value of Average User at $89 to $118

According to Facebook’s SEC filings this week, the site now has over 845 million active monthly users.  Analysts are estimating that the company’s IPO could value the social network at between $75 and $100 billion.  At the high end, that means the market would place the value of the content and other interactions produced by the average Facebook user at $118.

The filing included a Letter to Investors from Mark Zuckerberg’s, in which he positioned the company in light of the social value it was creating.   Among other changes, Zuckerberg believes that Facebook will change the way consumers interact with brands:  “We hope to improve how people connect to businesses and the economy.  We think a more open and connected world will help create a stronger economy with more authentic businesses that build better products and services.”

Some other links and noteworthy facts related to the company’s filings:
  • Facebook Inc. filed for an initial public offering Wednesday that could value the social network between $75 billion and $100 billion, putting the company on track for one of the biggest U.S. stock-market debuts of all time. (
  • Facebook’s astonishing rise is a metaphor for the emergence of the Internet as a tool for individual self-expression and collective organization. (Time)
  • Facebook’s future growth is being driven by user behavior that it has so far failed to monetize: mobile. (GigaOm)
  • Facebook’s Platform paid out $1.4 billion to developers in 2011 (Inside Facebook)
  • “In the event that Mr. Zuckerberg controls our company at the time of his death, control may be transferred to a person or entity that he designates as his successor” (New York Post)
  • How the average investor can get in on the action… (Reuters)
  • … and here’s why you shouldn’t bother:  Facebook’s IPO: Do Not Buy (CNet)

In other news, Paul Allen estimates that Google Plus has passed 100 million users this week

Social Media ROI: 24% of Marketers Track Increased Revenues

Most marketers agree that social media provides business value and helps increase  brand awareness, according to a fall 2011 survey of 700 marketers worldwide by social media marketing software company Wildfire Interactive–88% agreed with that statement.  Other social media business benefits include engagement (85%), an increase in sales or partnerships (58%) and reduced costs (41%).

When it comes to measuring ROI, the largest percentage (38%) measure interactions with consumers: the number of fans or followers, likes, comments, etc.  One in four tracks increases in revenue, and 15% track increases in brand awareness from social media marketing activities.

Of those that did not have a strict ROI measurement in place–measuring the increased value against the cost of the investment–100% still believe that social media delivers business benefits.

Most marketers (94%) still rank Facebook as a top channel,  followed by Twitter (74%), blogs (41%) and LinkedIn (32%).  Google Plus was not yet on the radar at the time this survey was fielded.  Why do marketers value Facebook fans?  44% said the reason was new customer recruitment; 18%  suggested that Facebook fans have higher conversion rates and make more frequent purchases.

See more stats from this study in this Wildfire infographic.

How close are you to being able to track a return on investment from social media?

Vestas Builds a Humble Social Media Strategy

There’s a lot of talk about first-mover advantage among social media pioneers.  But sometimes it’s better to take your time, according to the folks at Vestas, the big Danish wind energy company.

Even though a majority of its employees already were quite active on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, Vestas did not see any need to rush into social media.  The company stuck to its knitting, building more of the 43,000 turbines it has installed for customers in 66 countries across six continents, while it studied this new thing called social media.

The company’s group communications department started by monitoring social media sites to find out what people around the world were saying about Vestas. They didn’t want to jump in too soon with nothing to say.

“We approached it with curious caution and slowly started to build a presence, says Kasper D. Borch, Web Editor of  “If you engage in social media activity, you need to have some interesting and substantial content for the other users. Done wrong, social media can backfire and create bad will and angry users instead.”

Slowly, Borch and his team turned from passively listening to actively engaging in dialogues and conversations.  While he admits that “we are only at the very beginning,” Borch likes to point out that more than 5,000 people have hit ‘Like’ on its Facebook page, it has more than 4,000 followers on Twitter and the videos that Vestas has uploaded to YouTube have been viewed more than 140,000 times by people from all over the world.

Being active in social media has begun to pay off for the communications team.  Sky News reached out to Vestas via Twitter about a burning turbine in Scotland.  Borch was surprised the news outlet relied on social media rather than the phone or email, but he and his team were prepared to respond quickly.

As it gets more experience, Vestas’s social media efforts are expanding.  While most of its Facebook and Twitter posts are rather dry press releases about new sales or installations, the company’s marketing team has been promoting contests such as the Global Wind Day photo competition from related organizations to encourage more interest in wind energy.

Borch just has one simple piece of advice for anyone who wants to participate in the online conversations, regardless of topic: “Listen!” he says. “And always be humble and polite when asking or answering questions.”


Are you feeling pressured to keep up with social media first-movers?  Or are you taking the time to listen before jumping in?

In-Store Mobile Commerce: 52% Use Phones to Make Purchase Decisions

According to the latest research on mobile shopping from Pew, more than half of adult cell phone owners used their cell phones while they were in a store to get help with a purchase decision during the 2011 holiday season.

A total of 52% of all adult cell owners used their phone to call a friend for advice, look up reviews of a product online, or look up the price of a product online while they were in a store.  One third (33%) used their phone specifically for online information while inside a physical store—either product reviews or pricing information.

The study found some demographic patterns.  Cell owners who look up online product reviews are more likely to be between the ages of 18-49, to be urban or suburban (vs. rural) and to have attended college–but they are less likely to be white.  These groups are generally the same ones more likely to use their phone for online pricing information.

This has huge implications for brick-and-mortar retailers:  One in five “mobile price matchers” ultimately made their most recent purchase from an online store, rather than a physical location.  Of the respondents who use their phone to compare pricing while in the story, 35% purchased the product at that store.  But 37% decided to not purchase the product at all, while 19% purchased the product online, and 8% purchased the product at another store.

Pew points out that this equates to 5% of all cell owners who purchased a product online this holiday season after looking up its price online from a physical store.

Do you use your phone to comparison shop while you’re in a store?

Twitter in Africa Study: 57% of All Tweets Are Sent via Mobile; More Demographics and Usage Stats

African Tweeters: Twitter As News Source via Portland studyA study by Portland Communications and Tweetminster measured tweets throughout the African continent to create the first comprehensive report on Twitter use in the region. Reviewing more than 11.5 million location-tagged tweets and conducting a survey of the region’s 500 most active Twitter users, “How Africa Tweets” revealed that South Africa has the most prolific tweeting on the continent, with more than 5 million tweets posted in the last quarter of 2011.

South Africa’s tweets were more than double those of runner-up Kenya, with 2.47 million tweets.  Nigeria was ranked third with 1.65 million tweets, followed by Egypt (1.21 million) and Morocco (745,620).

The majority of tweeters (57%) in Africa are posting via their mobile device.  The population using the micro-blogging service skews quite young: 60% of Twitter users on the African continent are in their 20’s, while the average age of Twitter users world-wide is 39.

What are they tweeting about? 81% of African Twitter users polled reported that they use the platform to talk with friends.

When does Twitter serve as their main source of information?

  • For 76% of respondents, it’s the place to find international news
  • 69% use it to find the latest entertainment/gossip
  • 68% use Twitter to stay updated on national news
  • 43% check Twitter for their sports updates
  • Just 22% search for jobs on the micro-blogging platform

Study data also revealed that Twitter users on the continent are generally active on a variety of platforms, including Facebook, YouTube, Google+, and LinkedIn. The study found that “Twitter is helping to form new links within Africa,” as at least half of the Twitter accounts followed by survey respondents were based on the African continent.  60% of respondents “mainly follow African tweeters.”

One surprising element of the research was finding that, for the most part, public figures haven’t joined Twitter in Africa. According to the study (with some exceptions) “business and political leaders were largely absent from the debates playing out on Twitter across the continent.”  Study authors concluded that as Twitter grows across the continent, governments, businesses, and development agencies can’t afford to stay out of this digital space, as reported by PCMag.

Click here to see Portland’s infographic on how Africa tweets.

  • Twitter Icon
  • Facebook Icon
  • Goolge Plus
  • Email Signup
  • Rss Icon