Is Reddit’s Controversy About the Content or the Digital Revenue Model?

Reddit’s forums are famous for hosting some of the most vibrant and some of the most disturbing (my personal opinion) discussions on the Web. The New York Times article by Jason Henry stated, “Mr. Huffman reappeared last Friday as chief executive to pull off a turnaround of the online message board, which has grappled with a series of missteps and is embroiled in a battle to win back the confidence of its users.” The San Francisco Chronicle reporter, Greta Kaul wrote, The new CEO of Reddit hosted an “Ask Me Anything” forum to clarify its content policies, which have been debated by free speech advocates and an antiharassment contingent for weeks. The site, known for everything from elevated conversations about political philosophy to photo collections of dead children, rolled out rules designed to curb harassment.

There were more than 40,000 Reddit users tuned in to Thursday’s forum at various times and generated 9,000 comments ~an hour. CEO Steve Huffman wrote, “We’ll consider banning subreddits (forums) that clearly violate the guidelines in my post — the ones that are illegal or cause harm to others. “There are many subreddits whose contents I and many others find offensive, but that alone is not justification for banning.

While most of the controversy is about Reddit administrator’s who have drawn both praise and criticism for their hands-off approach to regulating what could be said on the site and, which leaves many decisions up to volunteer moderators, there is an all together additional issue that not only Reddit has to face, but so do many other brands in this Age of Digital Disruption. In Ray Wang’s book: Disrupting Digital Business: Create An Authentic Experience in A Peer-to-Peer Economy says Digital Darwinism is not kind to those who wait to understand the transformation and choices business have to make, and make now.

My POV: Reddit has to decide what is going to drive their company. Are they defined by the type of brand they want to be or are they defined, as a company, by their digital business model? Over five thousand years ago our marketplaces were the hub of civilization. They were where traders returned from remote lands with exotic spices, jewels, silks, monkeys and parrots and told us fabulous stories. The Internet is still a place for storytelling. That’s not going to change. But what is changing is how businesses make money in this new storytelling-based marketplace call the Internet. Here’s what I mean by that.

Option 1: Choose Your Brand and It’s Values: If Reddit wants to be the “anything goes brand” then they mostly likely will have to change their business model (i.e., if the revenue model is ad-based then with the “anything goes” brand values, Reddit many be rightly worried that many or some of the ad sponsors would stop posting ads. If that would be the case, Reddit wouldn’t have the same revenue base.  And thus if Reddit chooses to the the “anything goes brand,” they would possibly have to look at other revenue sources.
Option 2: Choose Your Digital Revenue Model: Or Reddit can decide what their digital business model is and then that would dictate whether they are the “anything goes brand” or if they want to moderate some of the content. If their digital revenue model is ad revenue, then, depending on the ad sponsors, that might change how much ad revenue they receive.

There are brands out there, like Fiat that used Charlie Sheen in a Fiat TV commercial, that may like to be on the “edge.” I’m not suggesting that the Fiat TV commercial is in any way representative of some of the content that is at the center of the controversy at Reddit. But there are some brands would find some of the content on Reddit “off brand.” So as a brand, a CMO and CEO,  one has to answer the question, “What is the edge, and when have we gone off the edge to a place of no return as a brand?”
For Reddit, either decision means that there are stakeholders  – ad sponsors or the site’s administrator’s and / or volunteer moderators that may be upset. It’s a rock and a hard place and probably the tip of the iceberg for facing the idea that the Internet is the place to be COMPLETELY unedited, authentic, genuine and honest. However, Reddit is not the only brand that is facing this challenge. Many brand face this issue. While it’s not “in fashion” some brands do still take down posts that are not “on brand” to avoid a PR disaster. I’m not saying whether they are right or wrong in doing so. Just looking at what is happening and reporting what I see.
The author’s of the book The ClueTrain Manifesto wrote back in 1999 “Through the Internet, the people in your markets are discovering and inventing new ways to converse. They’re talking about your business. They’re telling one another the truth, in very human voices. You have two choices. You can continue to lock yourself behind the facile corporate words and happy talk brochures. Or you can join the conversation.
Perhaps an addendum to that today is – “You can join the conversation, but have to decide on your digital business revenue model, which will determine how completely unedited, authentic, genuine and honest your conversations are going to be.”
The Bottom-line: For those that are not clear, the digital disruption means that we are having to change our business models. We can no longer operate business the way we used to. And we have to consider how far is too far and how far is far enough to maintain what the author’s of the ClueTrain spoke about – which is the idea that one can step outside the typical, sterile, overstarched blandness of the old days of brands and just be human. But how far does one go, still be human, and not be offensive? How does one decide where the boundary lines are drawn? That is up to each and every individual and each and every brand.
And as I talk to CMOs, Customer Experience Professionals, Customer Care and Customer Service Professionals and IOT experts, these are the questions brands and those that spend money to sponsor those brands will have to decide. We are over the hype-cycle that the Internet is the place to be totally honest. We are now in a new era where we have to get serious about how brands are going to make money and what are the limits to what a brand can and can not do or will not do. Interesting times we live in.
What’s your take on what is on or over the edge in the area of Internet content and the editing or moderating of it?
@drnatalie   VP and Principle Analyst Covering The Digital Disruption and All It’s Consequences

 

 

 

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The TOP 25 Most Engaged Brands on Twitter: A Study by @DrNatalie & Big Data Cruncher InfiniGraph.com

Wondering what brands are the most engaged on Twitter? We wondered too. This New York Times article explores engagement and Twitter.

I also wondered what drives engagement on Twitter and I began my own study by looking at the top 100 brands who had the most Twitter followers. Then using the InfiniGraph.com platform, we added those brands into platform which did the big data crunching. InfiniGraph is different than social media monitoring. It is a interest graph platform.

Mashable has a ton of articles on how social networks like Twitter are trying new things to increase engagement. Here’s a recap article about the study and the actual engagement of the brands we evaluated on Forbes by Mark Fidelman.

Top 25 Most Engaged Brands on Twitter

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There’s certainly lots of definitions of engagement. Here’s a great article by Jay Baer who interviewed David Armano on how brands need to create a iterative strategy around engagement- micro-interactions & incremental customer experience victories. The LA Times has many articles on how brands are using social media and networking. Jon Swartz writes about the abundance of platforms for customers to engage on, hinting that perhaps more is not the answer. Maybe really understanding what engagement means is a beginning. In this case, the InfiniGraph Engagement Platform looked at Twitter engagement as measured by RT’s, clicks and @ replies.

Study of the 25 Most Engaged Brands on Twitter was written about on Mashable and it provides a very nice overview of the study’s results.  The details and the results of the study are in this report found here:

Graph of the Brands with the Highest Engagement @DrNatalie

Here’s the of the top 25 most engaged brands on Twitter:

1.  Notebook of Love2. Disneywords3. ESPN4. Funny Facts5. PlayStation6. Disney7. Chelsea Football Club8. BBC Breaking News9. NASA10. CNN Breaking News11.  Instagram12.  YouTube13. Facebook14. NBA15. Arsenal16. The Onion17. Disney Pixar18. FunnyorDie.com19. CNN20. National Geographic21. UNICEF22. Dropbox23. MTV24. WWE25. Chanel

Here’s more details on how the study was conducted:

1. We looked at the brands with the most Twitter followers and created a list of 100 of the most followed brands for the month of February 2013

2. We used InfiniGraph.com to crunch all the “BIG” Data in this report

3. See the Engagement Analysis and Platform powered by InfiniGraph

4. The 100 brands with the most followers were put into the InfiniGraph Platform for the time period of 02/2013 to 03/2013

5. The InfiniGraph Platform took the information about each brand and gathered the data you see in this report:

      • The volume of posts

      • The level of engagement

      • The content that is shared by each brand

      • What days / times during the day it is shared and

      • Compares and ranks it

6. Then the InfiniGraph system creates the graphs you see in this report.

If you are wondering how your brand’s engagement compares to your competitors, you can find out by following these steps:

  • Search on your own brand at: http://smo.infinigraph.com

  • Or click on the industry analysis on the right

  • If your brand is not in the system, request that it’s added

  • Then select the brands you want to compare to your brand and run the report in InfiniGraph

  • Study the results of the comparison

  • Compare how much you post vs the level of engagement

  • Study the other brand’s engagement capabilities and tactics

  • And make changes to your strategy and tactics

The study I did was commission by Nestivity and Evolve Capital. And in full disclosure, I work with InfiniGraph and I am proud to be on InfiniGraph’s Advisory Board.

 

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Could Social Media Monitoring Have Saved Netflix & Blockbuster from Themselves?

Word Cloud On Netflix from Social Media Monitoring

I teamed up with my friend Jennifer Tyler, @JenHowell4, at Sysomos and we did a little social media monitoring on the Netflix situation. One of the goals of this blog post is to show that data can be used to tell a story. When you tell a story, the audience listens.

A Cause for Pause I hope that this case study gives every CEO, CMO… a cause for pause — to consider social media as well as social media monitoring –to give it a real, hard consideration. Not just because you want to avoid risk, but because you can begin to see that there is mission critical, real-time data that you can use in your business. And so now to our story, aided by the social media monitoring data.

Blockbuster’s Customers Didn’t Like the Delivery System Because It Involved Late Fees If we examine what was being said about Blockbuster in social media prior to bankruptcy, the negative conversation was around late fees. Clearly there was something not working about the delivery of movies. Customers had to come in, rent the DVD and remember to return them on time. Or else the “evil” late fees would consume their positivity around the brand.

But was Blockbuster listening? It doesn’t appear that they were “hearing” the feedback, at least not enough to shift their business model. Here’s a word cloud that can be generated via social media monitoring. It tells you what was being said about Blockbuster in social media. You can clearly see- in the word cloud- that the main jist of the conversation was about late fees. (In word clouds, the larger the words, the more times they are mentioned in social media.)

Social Media Monitoring Word Cloud on Blockbuster

If Blockbuster was using social media monitoring, they could have seen that their customer sentiment was not positive. They could have clicked on the red part of the pie chart to understand what customer’s were upset about. By clicking on the graph they could choose to look at tweets, at blog posts, etc… that pertain to that negative sentiment.

Blockbuster Sentiment Chart in 2010

But Blockbuster didn’t listen — or at least they didn’t hear and shift their business and had to file bankruptcy on Sept 23, 2010. You can see in the word cloud about Blockbuster’s bankruptcy, that Netflix is showing up in the conversation. Clearly something to pay attention to — when the word cloud is supposed to be about your business and your competitor is showing up in the same cloud! YIKES!

Blockbuster Word Cloud Sept 23 1010 Bankruptcy

Social media monitoring can show you what is being said about your company. Below are clips that represent blog posts in social media about Blockbuster’s bankruptcy.

Conversations on the web about Blockbuster's Bankruptcy

And here’s customer sentiment around Blockbuster’s bankruptcy in tweets:

Blockbuster Twitter Conversations About the Bankruptcy

July 12, 2011 Flash Forward to July 12, 2011. Was Netflix listening to their customers? If you look at the graph at the top left hand side, you see a yellow-ish curve. It is pretty much the same height until July 12, 2011.

What you can do in social media monitoring is to click on the peak and then see what that is attributed to. In the upper, right hand corner, you can see the blog post by Netflix’s CEO Reed Hastings is what gave rise to the spike in social media and online conversations. The screenshot is of the Facebook post with a link to the CEO’s blog post. There are 81,789 comments. Out of those comments, there are 1,429 Likes. That’s about 1.7% positive responses.

If we do a word cloud on the same peak, we can see what the main topics are. That’s the group of words to the lower right. The key words are: Netflix, price, hike, streaming, dear…. It’s clear what the crowd is upset about. If we look at the lower left screen grab, you can see a buzz graph. The buzz graph tells you what words are being used in association with other words and the thicker the line, the more prominent is the use of the word. Those words are: increase, stream and redbox…

Social Media Monitoring Data on Netflix July 12 2011 Price Hike/ Change

Here’s the actual blog post by Hastings— note that he ends the post with telling customers that they can cancel their services at any time.

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings Blog Post July 12 2011, With Invitation To Cancel Customer Subscriptions

Here’s some of the thousands of comments to the CEO’s posts, most all negative, about the changes to the Netflix services:

Customers Reaction to Netflix CEO Reed Hastings Blog Post July 12 2011

Despite the >23,000 negative comments on the blog on July 12, 2011, Netflix sent out a notice on the price hike on Sept 19th, 2011. What happens when you don’t listen or hear & you act without considering what customers think, feel and know? Customers were outraged… and the press picked up the coverage… If for no other reason than the press looks to social media for stories, companies MUST start taking social media seriously.

Press That Covered Netflix Price Change and Splitting Up the Company

And here’s some of the titles of the articles below. Companies work very hard to get coverage like this. Unfortunately, it wasn’t positive coverage.

Titles of Articles About Netflix

Here’s a sample of the tweets about Qwikster (Netflix’s new offering) – Sept 19th, 2011.

Sample of Tweets About Netflix Qwikster

And the three top words in the Buzz Graph?

Reed
• Hastings
• Apologize
 

Buzz Graph on Netflix CEO Reed Hastings

Here’s Doug Gross’s article, from CNN Tech and The Daily Dog’s Report on Netflix:

 

Daily Dog's Story on Reed Hastings and Netflix

And Tom Loftus’s Wall Street Journal story on Netflix and Reed Hastings:

 

Wall Street Journal's Story on Netflix's CEO Reed Hastings

 

And more stories from some great journalists:  

, Mashable: Netflix’s @Qwikster Problem: Twitter Account Controlled by Weed-Smoking Elmo  

Ben Fritz, LATimes: Netflix CEO admits ‘arrogance,’ renames disc business Qwikster  NPR: Netflix’ News: Signal Of DVD’s Demise?

Scott Cleland, Forbes: Netflix Crushes Its Own Momentum

Matt Burns, TechCrunch: Netflix Stock Erases 12 Months Of Massive Growth, Crashes Through 52 Week Low

Mike Issac, WIRED: Meet Qwikster: Netflix Spins Off Discs-By-Mail from Streaming Video

Austin Carr, FastCompany: Netflix: What We’ve Got Here Is A Failure To Communicate

What was interesting is that I checked Blockbuster’s twitter handle… and guess what I saw? Blockbuster is NOW listening! They are offering 1 year subscription to the people who provide the best reason for leaving NetFlix:

 

 

Blockbuster is listening now!!!

What makes this whole situation even worse, like Stan at Mashable said… Netflix didn’t even check the twitter handle– @Qwikster. Someone else has it. Here is one of his typical tweets. It’s not “on brand” with Netflix and Netflix doesn’t own the twitter handle. (Note to companies- before you pick the name of a new company, go to Twitter and check to see if the name is available!!)

 

Qwikster Tweets

Deming On Steroids Maybe its good to listen to your customers. Deming said it years ago. Listen to your customers and employees. Take the feedback and integrate it into your company. What we have in social media is Deming on steroids. We have feedback that is honest, genuine, and transparent. What’s worse is that, like cave paintings, it is something that will last forever for whomever is searching to find it.

Did Blockbuster cross the chasm of it’s time? No. It’s customers were saying, “We want a different delivery system where we don’t get dinged for late fees.” It didn’t shift with the changes in the marketplace. Did Netflix take their spot. You bet. Did Netflix get arrogant? One would think that after >87,000 comments or 24,000 comments, that if the customer’s weren’t good with what was being proposed, and Netflix went ahead anyways, yes, it appears so.

What could Netflix have done better? Ask the customers what they think before making a declaration. Explain that to keep the company profitable and to keep delivering the streaming services, that there might need to be some changes. Ask, don’t tell is the VERY FIRST things good leaders learn in and out of business school. Asking vs telling would be a paradigm shift for most CEOs.

Netflix announced the deal with Facebook and Michael Drobac, director of Government Relations at Netflix is asking customers to help bring Facebook Sharing to the US. Has Hastings done so much damage that fans and customers will not rise to help? Did the apologies and explanations by Hastings help or hurt the company? Do you think Hastings understands what he did wrong?  Todd Wasserman of Mashable.com reported rumors of Blockbuster to launch a Netflix rival. Is it too late for Netflix?

A Social Media Teaching Moment What can we learn from this? Call it a “teaching moment.” We can conclude that’s its important to listen to our customers. It’s important that executives listen to customers and use that feedback to make good decisions. The information about a company that is contained in social media is real-time and real relevant. It’s your customers, your advocates, your influencers, your ambassadors, the press and your nay-sayers giving you their point of view. And it lives forever, it can go viral and change not only what customer’s think but also what investors think, as well as stock prices. Social media is clearly a medium, that if you don’t understand it, it can get you!

So where is your company in the adoption of social media? If it’s stuck, then perhaps consider social media monitoring. It will give you:

  • A benchmark on where your sentiment and share of voice is- especially compared to your competitors
  • Assurances that what you are doing is working; fair warning when it isn’t
  • Mission critical data to adjust your products and service
  • Data to help create a business case for the decisions you are making
  • And give you data that can be used to calculate social media ROI.

Where is Social Media Going? Many people are asking me what’s the next phase in social media? They’ve got their Facebook and Twitter handle and they are posting. They have somewhat of a content strategy and interaction plan. And they are trying to drive customers through a marketing funnel and help customers with their customer service issues.

The Third WAVE of Social Media Adoption The next phase, and maybe it should be one of the first phases, is to do social media monitoring. Why? A good case study in this is re: Netflix and Blockbuster situation. Where we are in the social media lifecycle is the Third Wave. Wave One was lead by the Innnovators. Wave Two was championed by the Early Adopters.

The Social Media Adoption Curve by Dr Natalie Petouhoff

For social media to become the business-changing paradigm shift that it can be, it must win over the Early Majority. If that happens, then the business world would be entering WAVE Three, in the Social Media Adoption Curve. (I adopted Geoffrey Moore’s and Roger’s Diffusion Theory thought leadership around this concept.)

So what will it take to get the majority of the business world to buy into social media? The Early Majority are pragmatists. They want assurances that what they are going to do, is gonna work. They want business cases and they’d love to see ROI. One of the ways to show companies that social media matters is all of the above. And one of the best ways to create a business case is to do a little social media monitoring. At least that’s my take!

Don't do the Ostrich

Take your head out of the sand and cross the chasm

What’s your take on where business is in the social media adoption process?
Does this type of social media monitoring data make it easier to understand why someone should invest in social media? Love to hear your thoughts!

The Social Media Adoption Chasm - Don't Fall Into The Gap

@drnatalie Learn. Share. Grow!

Here’s more information to that might help you:
A link to the powerpoint presentation on slideshare: http://www.slideshare.net/doctornatalie/social-media-breakfast-club-and-sysomos-presentation-sept-22-drnatalie

Link to my Social Media ROI videos: http://www.drnatalienews.com/blog/did-u-see-the-videos-on-the-roi-of-social-media

Link to my white papers on the ROI of Social Media: http://www.drnatalienews.com/blog/roi-of-social-media-white-papers-by-dr-natalie-petouhoff

 


 

 

 

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Customer Service? Ask a Volunteer

HERE’S the job description: You spend a few hours a day, up to 20 a week, at your computer, supplying answers online to customer questions about technical matters like how to set up an Internet home network or how to program a new high-definition television.

The pay: $0.

A shabby form of exploitation? Not to Justin McMurry of Keller, Tex., who spends about that amount of time helping customers of Verizon’s high-speed fiber optic Internet, television and telephone service, which the company is gradually rolling out across the country.

Mr. McMurry is part of an emerging corps of Web-savvy helpers that large corporations, start-up companies and venture capitalists are betting will transform the field of customer service.

Such enthusiasts are known as lead users, or super-users, and their role in contributing innovations to product development and improvement — often selflessly — has been closely researched in recent years. There have been case studies of early skateboarders and mountain bikers and their pioneering tweaks to their gear, for example, and of the programmers who were behind open-source software like the Linux operating system. These unpaid contributors, it seems, are motivated mainly by a payoff in enjoyment and respect among their peers.

But can this same kind of economy of social rewards develop in the realm of customer service? It is, after all, a field that companies typically regard as a costly nuisance and that consumers often view as a source of frustration.

A look at the evolving experiment that Verizon Communications began in July suggests that company-sponsored online communities for customer service, if handled adeptly, hold considerable promise.

Mark Studness, director of e-commerce at Verizon, is a software engineer by training and an avid consumer electronics tinkerer whose home projects have included installing high-end audiovisual systems. In those projects, he has often visited Web sites where users offer one another tips and answer questions. Verizon, Mr. Studness determined, needed to find a smart way to try to tap into that potential resource for customer service.

In talking to people and surveying the research on voluntary online communities, Verizon concluded that super-users would be crucial to success.

“You have to make an environment that attracts the Justin McMurrys of the world, because that’s where the magic happens,” Mr. Studness said.

Natalie L. Petouhoff, an analyst at Forrester Research, said that online user groups conform to what she calls the 1-9-90 rule. About 1 percent of those in the community, she explained, are super-users who supply most of the best answers and commentary. An additional 9 percent are “responders” who mainly reply and rate Web posts, she said, and the other 90 percent are “readers” who primarily peruse and search the Web site for useful information.

“The 90 percent will come,” Ms. Petouhoff said, “if you have the 1 percent.”

Verizon explored the alternative of building the Web site and managing the forums itself, but it decided to call on outside expertise. Several suppliers, including HelpStream, Jive Software and Telligent, offer corporate social networking software with customer service features. Verizon chose Lithium Technologies, a fast-growing start-up based in Emeryville, Calif.

Lithium comes to online customer service from a heritage in gaming. Its chief executive and co-founder, Lyle Fong, was a founder of GX Media, which developed a leading Web site, Gamers.com, and created technologies for professional rankings and tournaments.

Lithium’s current roster of 125 clients includes AT&T, BT, iRobot, Linksys, Best Buy and Nintendo.

The mentality of super-users in online customer-service communities is similar to that of devout gamers, according to Mr. Fong. Lithium’s customer service sites for companies, for example, offer elaborate rating systems for contributors, with ranks, badges and “kudos counts.”

“That alone is addictive,” Mr. Fong said. “They are revered by their peers.”

Benchmark Capital, a venture capital firm that invested $12 million in Lithium last year, was impressed with the company’s gaming background and its focus on catering to super-users to build communities. Peter Fenton, a Benchmark general partner, said that many of the most popular consumer Web sites and services, from Wikipedia to Twitter, are animated by a relatively small percentage of avid users.

“In customer service, it’s still very early, but I think it’s likely the same pattern will play out,” said Mr. Fenton, who serves on the boards of both Twitter and Yelp, a site where users post reviews of restaurants and other local businesses.

At Verizon, Mr. Studness says he is pleased with the experiment so far. He calls the company-sponsored customer-service site “a very productive tool,” partly because it absorbs many thousands of questions that would otherwise be expensive calls to a Verizon call center.

But the online forums, he added, also provide customer ideas for improvements in hardware and software for the company’s fiber optic service, as well as a large, growing and searchable knowledge base online.

“One answer can help thousands,” he said.

Mr. McMurry, who is 68 and a retired software engineer, is supplying answers by the bushel. He joined the Verizon-sponsored forums in August after reading about them on another technical Web site. A scan through his lengthy list of posts shows a range from the straightforward (programming a DVR remotely by computer) to the arcane (the fine points of HDMI technology, for High-Definition Multimedia Interface).

As a software expert, Mr. McMurry has taught training classes. “Seeing the light turn on in their eyes when they understood was exciting,” he said.

His online tutoring, he observed, brings a similar satisfaction.

“People seem to like most of what I say online, and I like doing it,” he said.

MR. McMURRY has a lofty ranking as a “Silver II” contributor to the site and as a community leader, denoted by “CL” in a red box next to his name. Community leaders also have their own forum, have direct access to Verizon technical staff members and get early glimpses of new products — all a part of cultivating super-users.

“Who knows how long I’ll keep doing this,” Mr. McMurry said, “but I’m enjoying it now.”

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: May 3, 2009
The Unboxed column last Sunday, about online volunteers who perform customer-service work for companies, misstated the amount that Benchmark Capital invested last year in Lithium Technologies, which supplies software for customer-service communities. It was $12 million, not $9 billion.

source: NY Times

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