The social media adoption spectrum

When it comes to attitudes toward social media, companies fall along points of a spectrum. At one end are those who refuse to participate, even despite the myriad benefits social media can bring, as well those who participate minimally, if grudgingly. Often the latter recognize that, in today’s connected world, they cannot afford to ignore social media (Dutta, 2010). Where once negative comments or reviews about a company or its products and services were confined to survey or comment cards, letters, and telephone calls, social media empowers individuals to spread their stories widely. It provides them with an open forum for airing grievances that can damage company reputations quickly, and executives are realizing that it is important to have, at the very least, a social media listening program and a crisis plan and strategy in place (Blanchard, 2011; Dutta, 2010).

Many companies have moved past these minimums and are becoming more sophisticated in using social media, such as establishing multiple accounts on a variety of social media sites and using them in a targeted way to speak more effectively with different clusters of customers (Burson-Marsteller, 2012). At the same time, however, studies show that the number of companies that have truly moved past social media adoption and into social media integration remains low (Smorgon, 2012).

A benefit of integrating social media into an organization to the point that the company can be considered a social business is increased dialogue and connection with customers (Chandra, 2012; Sawhney, Verona, & Prandelli, 2005). By establishing forums or sites that allow customers to participate in—or even drive—conversations about the company and its products gives businesses unprecedented levels of access to feedback from the people actually using the products (Sawhney, Verona, & Prandelli, 2005). As Piche (2011) mentioned, by listening to end-users, a company can reduce development costs because developers gain a deeper understanding of consumer needs. Likewise, having robust support communities where customers can assist each other with questions and problems can alleviate the burden on customer service or help desk departments.

At the very end of the spectrum of social businesses are those that tap into the power of the crowd and engage in co-creation with customers or individuals outside of the company. Eli Lilly’s InnoCentive site is one example. Sawhney, Verona, & Prandelli (2005) describe InnoCentive as “a Web-based market where solutions to problems are traded and participation is enhanced through competitive problem solving” (p.10). Anyone within the InnoCentive network can propose solutions to the problems listed there; the site’s chief scientific officer estimates that “more than 30 percent of the problems posted on the site have been cracked, which is 30 percent more than would have been solved using a traditional, in-house approach” (Howe, 2006). Crowdsourcing and co-creation work because they tap into the diversity of knowledge that exists around us. There is no known limit on the well of human creativity (Howe, 2006).


Blanchard, O. (2011). Social media ROI. Indianapolis: Que.

Burson-Marsteller. (2012, February). Burson-Marsteller’s global social media check-up 2012. Retrieved from

Chandra, M. (2012, November). Strategic management of social media: Session 9. INFX 598. Lecture conducted from University of Washington, Seattle, WA.

Dutta, S. (2010, November). What’s your personal social media strategy? Harvard Business Review, pp. 127-130.

Howe, J. (2006, June). The rise of crowdsourcing. Wired. Retrieved from

Piche, G. (2011, August 9). The Clorox Company. BlogWell. Retrieved from

Sawhney, M., Verona, G., & Prandelli, E. (2005, August 23). Collaborating to create: The internet as a platform for customer engagement in product innovation. Journal of Interactive Marketing, 19(4), 1-14.

Smorgon, M. (2012, February 7). Social business: Social media integration. Social Media Max. Retrieved from

Not on social media? That’s OK, but businesses need to prepare anyway

Despite the benefits that social media can offer, many companies have chosen not to participate. However valid the reasons for this decision, it’s important for all organizations to recognize that not participating in social media directly does not mean they can ignore it (Dutta, 2010). Even those most ardently opposed to social media should engage in a listening program; that is, monitoring social channels for mentions of their company, brands, products, and competitors (Blanchard, 2011). Social media enables news to travel faster than ever, to more people than ever, and a few individuals sharing bad experiences about a company or product can damage a brand quickly and—unless it is monitoring online conversations—without the company’s knowledge (Blanchard, 2011; Dutta, 2010).

Hand in hand with establishing a listening program is having a plan to respond to potential or real crises that emerge from social channels. Owyang (2011) observed that the number of social media crises is increasing, and warned that “companies must prepare to respond rapidly and in a coordinated manner” (p. 16). Consequently, even companies that have decided not to create online profiles should identify personnel who are aware of how common sites like Facebook or Twitter work and invest time in training so that they will be ready and able to speak on behalf of the company when needed (Hyatt, 2010).

Proactivity is key; there will not be time to do any training once a crisis begins. Negative comments or posts about a company must be handled as quickly as possible (Chandra, 2012). Skill is involved as well. The person speaking for the company must do so in a way that humanizes the organization while simultaneously recognizing and empathizing with the person who has a grievance. KitchenAid serves as a recent example of handling a social media crisis effectively. When an employee mistakenly tweeted an offensive political message on the company’s Twitter account, the brand manager immediately identified herself on Twitter, apologized, and responded to negative comments and posts (Chandra, 2012; Kleinberg, 2012).

The key is to be authentic, and that can only come if an organization—and the people who speak for it—understand the company and the environment in which it works well. Like it or not, social media is now part of that environment and companies must account for it in their planning. Relying on an outside agency in a time of crisis may be a natural thought but it directly challenges the authenticity requirement of successful social media engagement (Blanchard, 2011). As Dutta (2010) said, “in social media, authenticity in your message is key, and only you can provide that” (p. 130).


Blanchard, O. (2011). Social media ROI. Indianapolis: Que.

Chandra, M. (2012, November). Strategic management of social media: Session 8. INFX 598. Lecture conducted from University of Washington, Seattle, WA.

Dutta, S. (2010, November). What’s your personal social media strategy? Harvard Business Review, pp. 127-130.

Hyatt, J. (2010, December 14). The ethics of social media: Part I: Adjusting to a 24/7 world. Retrieved from

Kleinberg, S. (2012, October 4). Lessons from KitchenAid: Even the worst social media mistakes are preventable. Retrieved from

Owyang, J. (2011, August 31). Social business readiness: How advanced companies prepare internally. Altimeter Group.

Measuring social media

Having worked for a marketing communications company for the past 10 years, I can attest to the difficulty that many marketers have in measuring the effectiveness of their efforts. There are a lot of reasons for this, but often confusion stems from a lack of understanding about how marketing campaigns or initiatives tie into overall goals. Another contributing factor is that articulating a measurement plan and getting the pieces in place can require a considerable amount of work. And that is true, regardless of the communication channels being used. Social media might be a newer tool in the marketer’s arsenal than direct mail, but marketers still have to identify what to measure and how to make use of the results (Etlinger, 2011).

The key to establishing an effective analytics program is to understand the goals of the social media program—and how those in turn tie into larger business goals—so that impact can be measured (Buchanan, 2012; Etlinger, 2011). For example, an organization dedicated to raising awareness of colorectal cancer might have an objective of creating a community where people can share their stories about colorectal cancer screenings or treatments. Given that colorectal cancer can occur anywhere, the organization could decide to create this community online, using social media.

The initial strategy involved in building up this community could involve identifying influencers and monitoring conversations about colorectal cancer (Buchanan, 2012). This could be done through social media listening tools like Google Alerts or by using Google Adwords to identify key words or themes to what people are talking about on the topic (Lopez, 2011). Once influencers have been identified, the organization could reach out to those individuals to invite them to participate in the online community and to share it within their networks. To measure the impact of these tactics, initially the organization could track the number of contributors, followers, and commenters. As the community grows, content analysis could be conducted to determine which posts or contributors get the most comments, likes, or shares (Buchanan, 2012). And the organization could begin setting monthly goals to acquire a certain number of new followers or readers, and to convert followers into commenters and commenters into contributors.

Several of Kaushik’s (2011) proposed social media metrics lend themselves to this example. Kaushik suggests working toward building a high conversation rate, where the conversation rate is the number of audience comments per post. For an online community built around sharing stories, the conversation rate metric could be applied not just to comments per post but to contributions to the site. Kaushik also recommends measuring amplification, or the number of shares (retweets, forwards, rebloggings, etc) per post, as well as applause, or the number of likes each post receives.

Measuring the impact of any marketing campaign is hard work. But ultimately, having a plan that covers everything—right down to managing a crisis (Webber, 2012)—will pay dividends when the CEO or manager asks for data on marketing’s impact. Being able to show them actual data can mean the difference between preserving or losing funding or even employment. But a marketer cannot show data if he or she has not been tracking it. And tracking is ineffective if it is not done to support the organization’s overall goals and objectives.


Buchanan, J. (2012, November). Banyan Research & Analytics. INFX 598. Lecture conducted from University of Washington, Seattle, WA.

Etlinger, S. (2011, August 10). A framework for social analytics. Altimeter Group.

Kaushik, A. (2011). Best social media metrics: Conversation, amplification, applause, economic value. Retrieved from

Lopez, J. (2011, January 12). The social media marketer’s SEO checklist. Retrieved from

Webber, A. (2012, August 9). Guarding the social gates: The imperative for social media risk management. Altimeter Group.


Kim Barnes reading from In the Kingdom of Men – Part 2

When I heard that Kim Barnes, a Pulitzer Prize-nominated author, was going to be speaking and reading from her latest book, In the Kingdom of Men, at the Walla Walla Public Library, I immediately wanted to attend. When I found out that a friend of mine also would be attending, I asked her if she’d be willing to answer a few questions about her impressions of the evening. Here is our conversation:

Q. How did you hear about the Kim Barnes reading?

A. Through the local newspaper. There have been a few ads about it. And the Friends of the Walla Walla Public Library posted about it on their Facebook page.

Q. Why were you interested in going?

A. I read In the Wilderness several years ago and really enjoyed it. Back in the late ‘60s I worked for the Forest Service and did training in Idaho above the Clearwater. So the setting of In the Wilderness was familiar to me, and as is often the case with regional writers, I was able to identify with Barnes on a certain level.

Q. Have you read any of Barnes’ other books?

A. No.

Q. What did you think of the reading?

A. I thought it was interesting. I thought she’d been careful with the parts of the book she chose to read so that she could share with us insights into how the book came to be and give us a broad outline of the story without spoiling it for us. And I thought it was a nice touch for her to bring the books she used in researching the novel for us to look over.

Q. Will you read In the Kingdom of Men?

A. I’m not sure. Maybe. I have a lot of books on my stack to get through first. It sounds interesting, though.

Q. What were your impressions of Barnes?

A. I thought she seemed like a fun person to hang out with and spend time with. Like a lot of authors, I think she’d be a good storyteller.

Q. Does seeing an author in person color your impressions of his or her stories?

A. It can. Sometimes it changes your impression of the characters somewhat and I catch myself trying to figure out where the author is in the characters. Or which character is the author.

All in all, it was a fun evening and a nice break from school and work. The Friends of the Walla Walla Public Library put on a great event and it was good to see their work rewarded with a large and enthusiastic audience.

Kim Barnes reading from In the Kingdom of Men – Part 1

This Thursday, I had the opportunity to hear author Kim Barnes read from her latest novel, In the Kingdom of Men, at the Walla Walla Public Library. Kim is from Lewiston, Idaho, which is just up the road from Walla Walla, and it’s always interesting to hear from regional authors. Kim has written several other novels, including A County Called Home, but she is perhaps best known for her memoir In the Wilderness, which was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. In the Wilderness, which is about Kim’s childhood in rural Idaho, includes some of the themes that characterize her other writings, such as Pentecostal fundamentalism and the relationships between men and women. Both of those themes also appear in In the Kingdom of Men, in which the main character, Gin, a woman from a strict fundamentalist background, navigates life in Saudi Arabia, where her husband, an oil company employee, has found work. Yes, the book does portray the stark contrast between the lives of the lives of the Saudis and the Americans, but Gin also comes to realize that, regardless of the setting—whether America or Arabia—she has always lived in the kingdom of men.

It was interesting and fun to see Kim Barnes in person and hear her read from the book, talk about her creative process, and discuss how the idea for the novel came to her. Attending this reading was interesting on another level because it was the first time I have attempted to live tweet from an event. Prior to the reading, I searched for a Twitter account for Kim Barnes because I wanted to include her handle in my tweets. Her website had a link to a Twitter account, but it was no longer working. Nevertheless, I did include in several of my tweets the handle for the Friends of the Walla Walla Public Library, which sponsored the event. Over the past few days, I’ve checked to see if the WWPL has responded to those messages and searched for other mentions of the event on Twitter, but haven’t found anything. As a consequence, the only other reaction to the reading that I’ve been privy to is that of the friend who accompanied me. I did a short interview with her after the event and I’ll include that in my next blog post.

Read more about In the Kingdom of Men

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Content is king

Companies that specialize in creating information need to find ways to let potential clients and others in their marketspace know what they offer. They can do that through a myriad of channels, ranging from paid advertising to social media. Since word of mouth is less expensive than paid forms of advertising, it makes sense for information companies to try to capitalize on social media by relying on brand ambassadors and other satisfied customers to spread their reach. However, the success of this strategy hinges on the quality and depth of the content that an organization possesses.

Content is everything. It needs to be well written and crafted with the end-user firmly in mind, as this is the only way for the host organization to demonstrate its expertise and build credibility. It needs to meet the organization and potential clients’ goals simultaneously. It needs to be relevant, effective and yet also be approachable and usable (Chandra, 2012). Doing this is extremely difficult.

I once worked in the marketing department for a communications company when it decided to establish a corporate blog. This blog was designed to be a resource for clients and prospects as they worked on their own marketing projects. It turned out to be an enormous undertaking, as every phase of the project—creating a content schedule, generating writing assignments, conducting research to support assignments, finding writers within the company, setting up internal processes for copyediting and approval, and more—required considerable effort. As Hunt (2012) observed, “creating content on a regular schedule is one of the most challenging (and daunting) aspects of blogging” (p. 6).

We eventually did turn to repurposing other content to supplement the editorial calendar but even so, it was the limited return for the time investment that eventually ended the blog. In hindsight, the project likely would have been aided by a specific content curation policy that would have enabled the blog editor to replace some of the original content with carefully selected links from other relevant sites. This can reduce some of the pressure on writers to constantly generate new information and also allows a company to keep “feeding and tuning” its network (Kanter, 2011), para. 8).

In addition, having an articulated strategy for disseminating the information likely would have extended the reach of the blog, thereby boosting interactions that could have helped bolster management support for the project. Such a strategy could include tactics such as optimizing keywords for use in the blog and actively working to identify other key voices in the industry (Aaker & Smith, 2010; Chandra, 2012). Reducing all barriers to participating (Hinchcliffe & Kim, 2012) and making everything imminently shareable by others is important for generating more inbound links.

In an information age, having access to relevant data that can help an organization do business more effectively is vital. Likewise, with the explosion of information available, businesses are seeking guidance on how to use it effectively. Therefore, any company that possesses a deep well of content, experience in helping others use content to the best effect, and is able to communicate effectively within its marketspace is well-positioned for success.


Aaker, J. & Smith, A. (2010). The dragonfly effect. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Chandra, M. (2012, October). Strategic management of social media: Session 6. INFX 598. Lecture conducted from University of Washington, Seattle, WA.

Hinchcliffe, D. & Kim, P. (2012). Social business by design. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Hunt, C.S. (2012, February). Blogging: A comprehensive beginner’s guide. Social Media in Organizations. Retrieved from

Kanter, B. (2011, October 4). Content curation primer. Beth’s Blog. Retrieved from


The 7 kinds of people in the world: Poll

Young & Rubicam’s Cross Cultural Consumer Characterization (the 4Cs) divides people into seven categories based on their core motivations. Their goal with the 4Cs was to help companies craft their campaigns to appeal to different groups of consumers and speak to those motivations.

Young & Rubicam outline the seven types of people in this article: Please take a minute to read through this article and then answer each of the 4 polls below:

And just for fun, here is a bonus question: