Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Power of Influence

Influence comes in many forms. Last night, it took on the form of a six year old boy who could hit like Mark McGwire.

I coach my son's coach pitch baseball team and last night was our first practice, with the last half focusing on batting. The first two kids did a great job at bat, hitting about a third of the balls I threw to them. Then came the youngest kid on the team, a six year old slugger.

The first pitch I threw, he hit solidly over our heads. He continued to hit every ball that I threw near the plate. After a few good hits by the six year old, my son yells from the infield, "Can I use that bat too?" The bat suddenly had magical powers and every kid after had to use that same black and orange bat. Without even meaning to, the six year old had influenced the rest of the team's choice of which bat to use. We all know it had nothing to do with the bat. I am well aware that the kid's dad has spent plenty of time pitching to the kid before our practice last night.

Because of the kid's performance at bat, he gained instant credibility with the team. This credibility was validated and acknowledged by my son asking if he could use the bat too.

Influence is a powerful thing.

Photo Credit: kalderette on Flickr

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Power of Social Media

This is ancient news considering how fast news travels across the blogoshpere, but its still one of my favorite examples of the power of Social Media and is worth thinking about.

Ze Frank. (

It all started in 2001 when Ze invited all of his friends to his birthday party with an online invitation he created called "How to dance properly". The invitation went viral and quickly generated a large amount of traffic to his site. The site grew to include interactive group projects, short films, animations and video games that featured Ze's unique wit and sense of humor.

On March 17, 2006, Frank took on the ambitious task of posting a video blog every week day for an entire year. The video blog, which quickly became the most popular part of his site, was called "The Show" and consisted of commentary on world news, personal observation and challenges to viewers.

WARNING. Watching the show is completely adictive. If you watch one, you may just watch them all, so start at the begininng.

Ze named the viewers of the show, Sportracers and often challenged them to various tasks and activities. At one point he challenged all of the Sportracers to a game of chess. Every day Ze would make a move and everyday after a discussion on the forums, the Sportsracers would collectively make a move. After about 30 days, the Sportsracers won.

On one episode of the show, Ze dressed his vacum cleaner up in clothes and challenged the Sportsracers to do the same. Excited by the cause, Sportracers dressed up their vacum cleaners and uploaded the photos to the gallery.

The biggest task came when he challenged the Sportsracers to make an Earth sandwich. Just in case you are wondering how to make an Earth sandwich, this involves taking two peices of bread and placing them simultaneously on oposite sides of the Earth. To aid Sportracers in their task, he created the "If the Earth were a sandwich, find my oposite tool" to help them find two opposite points on the Earth.

For those Sportsracers that couldn't fly around the world with two pieces of bread, he encouraged them to participate by placing a piece of bread on the ground and then uploading a picture of it to the photo gallery. And as you can guess, they did.

The craziest part about this is that two brothers actually did it and made an Earth Sandwich. Thats the power of Social Media. A game of chess, pictures of dressed up vacums, pictures of people placing bread on the ground and flying around the world to make the first Earth sandwich. Its powerful stuff if you can just figure out how to use it.

Photo Credit: duncandavidson on Flickr

Friday, September 12, 2008

Social media is more than technology

I often hear people say "We have a social media strategy, our company has a blog and a widget." A blog or a widget, does not a social media strategy make.

Former Yahoo! chief sales officer Wenda Harris Millard said "Technology is very important, but where many companies go wrong is when they think technology is the answer or primary solution to proving a business solution to a marketing problem. The business of advertising is still a business of persuasion. Machines can't make art."

It seems that companies run around opening accounts with Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Youtube, Blogger, and any other platform that they can get their hands on. Like a wizard brewing a secret potion, they drop in every imaginable technology in hopes that with a wave of a wand and a puff of smoke out will pop a well executed social media strategy, and that the more technology they can add, the more potent the strategy becomes.

This just isn't the case.

While technology is important, it is simply the means that make social media possible. Social media is about people communicating with each other. Its about conversation. When developing a social media strategy, base it on the conversation. Answer the questions "Who is participating in the conversation?" and "What is being talked about?". Then you can decide which of the available technologies will provide you with the best means of executing your strategy.