Tuesday, October 14, 2008

How Social Media Users Influence Others

I just watched a very interesting video from a sociology professor at Columbia University, Duncan Watts. He did a study on how the presence of "popularity" data on a website helped influence music downloads on a social networking site. In a nutshell, two different sites were created for the study, each with the same list of songs for downloading. However, one list of songs also showed the total number of downloads. Simply by listing which songs were more "popular" (higher number of downloads) greatly inflenced the behaviors of the social network users.

Check it out for yourself on this video:

Several of my blogging friends have wondered whether to show the number of subscribers to their blog. Some feel it shouldn't be done until a critical mass of subscribers has been reached. Others feel that there is benefit in showing the numbers in order to help "prove" that the blog is worth reading (if others are reading it, then you should, too!). I have chosen to show the number of subscribers to my Customers Rock! blog as I think it gives the site more credibility. The above study done by Mr. Watts helps to support my point of view.

In our class we have talked about the Critics, from Groundswell, that group of social media users who rate and review other sites. A company who has customers that are willing to rate and review should most likely embrace those customers and enable them to share their thoughts and ideas on the corporate site/blog. Even if the ratings and reviews are not all good, there is an opportunity to open up a dialogue with customers, right on the site, to look into and address any concerns. Being willing to be open, transparent, and honest is a key to social media success.

What do you think? Should blogs show the number of subscribers? Should companies showcase reviews of their own products and services? Let me know what you think!

(Hat tip to The Market Research Event blog for the info on Duncan Watts.)

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Blogging: Gotta Try It!

One of the most interesting homework assignments I give my students is to start a blog and maintain it over the class term. This assignment really helps the students understand what it takes to create and maintain a social media property. Last night, we discussed the process of blogging and the student reactions to it.

Choosing a Topic

Some students found it difficult to find a topic they could blog about for several weeks. They had a lot of ideas but weren't sure which they could sustain!

Teacher's Advice: Always choose a topic you are passionate about. If you hope to make money from your blog someday, be sure to choose a topic others are passionate about as well. :)

Naming Your Blog

Other students struggled with finding the right name. They had noticed that, given a list of blogs, they would be more inclined to read those that had interesting names.

Teacher's Advice: While a good blog name is important, the more critical aspect of blogging is the actual content that goes on the page. A good name may bring someone to your blog once; great content brings them back!

Finding Your Blogging Voice

Students also shared they had a hard time deciding what the tone of the blog should be. Should it be very professional, with sentences properly thought-out? Should it be casual, as if one was carrying on a live conversation? The students are writing blogs on both ends of that spectrum, and both are generally OK!

Teacher's Advice: Write in a way that is natural for you and also encourages your readers to participate in the conversation.

Determining Blog Goals

One of the most important aspects of creating a new blog is deciding what you want the blog to accomplish. Is it a blog to educate others on a certain topic? Are you trying to persuade people to your side? Do you want to be seen as a content expert in a certain area?

Teacher's Advice: Determine your goals, and your audience, before writing even one post. Then, use those goals to guide you on future content, frequency, voice, and linking strategies.

Let's Blog!

Please check out the blogs from both this term (Fall 08) and last term (Summer 08) on the right. A blog to note is Blogging Around the World. This blog was started last term here in the USA which the student, Nicoletta, has decided to continue now that she is back home in Rome. She even attended a Web 2.0/blogging conference in Italy - both as an observer and as a participant. Well done, Nicoletta!