Social influence social reality

Below are three interesting research articles that focus on “influence” within social networks:

Determining Influential Users in Internet Social Networks The study proposes a model for determining weak friend links from strong friend links within social networks. This is important because strong links indicate who is an influencer within a network.

Spontaneous emergence of social influence in online systems This study, reported in 2010 by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, analyzes the popularity of games within Facebook. By analyzing 100 million application installations, the researches found that once games crossed a break point threshold with respect to popularity with individual users, social influence directly affected overall popularity of a game. And games that did not experience this “social influence effect” essentially disappeared from the online community environment at rates far higher than would otherwise occur in an offline environment. This is important for two factors: (1) here’s an interesting case-study as to how Facebook makes its (“our”?) data available to analyze that wily creature home sapiens, (2) when launching a new product/service within a social network, it behooves a brand to focus on strong influencers (see study above) in terms of product development and outreach.

Seeding Strategies for Viral Marketing: An Empirical Comparison In this study, the authors found that effective viral campaigns within social networks are dependent on hubs (subnetworks of “strong” influencers) and bridges (pathways between “strong” subnetworks). This is important because by targeting hubs, and nurturing activity within these hubs, brands have an opportunity to exert some control over social influence. Of course, this puts pressure on brands to ensure that their product/service is excellent, incorporates elements that appeal to their targeted hubs, etc. If the product/service fails in this regard, it will suffer (see second article above).

Innovation in social analytics

Data analysis is the new plastics. Remember this scene from the movie the The Graduate?

Below is a curated list of articles from this week of innovative social analytics and business intelligence initiatives.

In this article from O’Reilly Radar, we learn that social network analysis is amalgamation of social science analysis such as sociology, political science, psychology, and anthropology combined with traditional mathematical measurements. At it’s core, social network analysis measures relationships between people and organizations. But cutting edge research is also looking at ways to leverage social network analysis as a form of early warning system for natural disasters. Much social network analysis has been regressive in nature, the future will focus more on real time analysis.

And speaking of real time analytics, the article from the Washington Post makes the argument that real time results may have a significant influence on the up-coming 2012 elections.

Perry is done,” came a Twitter posting from a viewer called (at)PatMcPsu, even while the Texas governor struggled to name the third of three federal agencies he said he would eliminate as president. Another, called (at)sfiorini, messaged, “Whoa? Seriously, Rick Perry? He can’t even name the agencies he wants to abolish. Wow. Just wow.

The key point to remember is that the “real time citizen” is no longer content to remain passive. Additionally, will the “real time citizen” quietly wait for poll stations and voting counts to close in other states before announcing the results of his/her own state? Will be interesting to watch how quiet or loud Mr. and Mrs. Real Time Citizen will react in 2012.

Finally, social app analytics start-up Kontagent snagged $12 million in a Series B round. According to an interview with Kontagent’s founder, what makes Kontagent unique is that does not perform “traditional” social analytics function (such as conversation monitoring, tabulating likes, etc) but performs deep analytics, with a focus on teasing out profitability KPIs, and has a team of data analytics and data visualization scientists working to help clients understand, interpret, and make informed business decisions based on Kontagent’s proprietary data visualization techniques.

 

Demographic shift, Google stealth social network, rich media

Three blog posts that recently piqued my interest:

Wake up, the demographic shift is flattening us. Although targeted at catalog marketing executives, what Kevin Hillstrom has to say is relevant to the marketer in us all. Here’s the essential take-away:

Right now, “The Big Shift” is steamrolling us.  We are essentially addressing the 55+ audience, and wondering why our businesses are eroding?  We must begin investing in the 18-44 year old audience, if we want to remain relevant in 2020, while optimizing profitability from catalog mailings to the 55+ audience.

Very poignant observation, and very applicable concepts to the real estate industry.

Is Google building a stealth social network? Well-reasoned argument that Google is doing this, and that Google’s +1 initiative is part of a series of tactics Google has recently deployed to continue playing its ground game in the social sphere.

Rich media + display ads + social = advertising perfect CTR-engagement metric storm? “Rich media” (aka multimedia) has been around for some time. Similarly, rich media has had periodic bursts of hype and utilization for over a decade (anyone who was in the email marketing space around 1998/1999 will recall the covey of rich media vendors present at the variety of “internet conferences” that occurred during the same time period). Well, it seems rich media is back again (like a poltergeist?) and advertisers seem excited (according to the article). What’s interesting to me is whether there’s an opportunity for enhanced engagement via a rich media ad conduit that will support social CRM initiatives.

 

Creating a culture of participation while leveraging a culture of creativity and innovation

Previously I wrote about creating a culture of creativity and innovation. The salient points to remember in such an initiative are: foster a high level interaction, discussion, debate and have a leadership team that nurtures such an idea generating ecosystem.

sideways

Related to this topic is a fascinating research article I found that focuses on creating a culture of participation (.pdf). The article discusses collaborative design projects (as in architecture, landscape design, etc), but the premises are transcendent to many industries:

  1. Creativity is an inherently collaborative and social activity and social-technical infrastructures facilitate such by organizing people around shared concerns as opposed to shared location
  2. Diversity (as facilitated by shared concerns) promotes new ideas, insights, etc, by building bridges between local knowledge sources and exploiting “conceptual collisions” (related to Von Hippel’s studies in innovation at MIT).

The article elaborates on a couple of case studies and points out the following areas for further exploration: (1) the role of curators—as supported through technological infrastructure—to organize “living information repositories” (see related article on how the BBC uses data mining principles to enable more informed curatorial choices) and (2) enhanced tagging mechanisms that support heuristic knowledge discovery activities.

Additionally, there are two blog posts that relate to the themes raised above, courtesy of Daniel Rothamel and Rob Hahn respectively, essentially “create, then debate”  and “embrace your inner auteur“.

Photo: Håkan Dahlström

 

 

Decentralized online social networks, spatial properties of location based social networks, and geo-social cascades research

Three papers for your geeky enjoyment (all .pdf):

Online Social Networks: Status and Trends is a great summary of current research and opinions regarding the current and future status of social networking. Section five has an interesting discussion of decentralized online social networking services and applications.

And here’s some excellent work, creativity, and analysis from University of Cambridge, University of St. Andrews, and Imperial College London researchers:

First, Socio-spatial Properties of Online Location-based Social Networks, which is a total geek special and offers a detailed analysis of the spatial properties among users of Brightkite, Foursquare and Gowalla. Here’s a peek inside:

We provide evidence that mechanisms akin to gravity models may influence how these social connections are created over space.

[Gravity models] have long been used to model connections in spatial networks such as trade flows across countries[.]

Second, Track Globally, Deliver Locally: Improving Content Delivery Networks by Tracking Geographic Social Cascades delves into how tracking geographic social cascades could aid in the development/exploitation of…

[P]re-fetching of Web content, caching of normal HTTP traffic, datacenter design and placement and even to devise security mechanisms.

This research also relates to a better understanding of social cascades generally (i.e., understanding how information flows through links in social networks) and improving the performance of content distribution networks.

 

Research from CISCO, innovation in business intelligence services, and predictive Web data mining

Below are three articles discussing emerging analytical theories on the nexus between Web+Social+Mobile:

Executive Primer: CISCO CIO Summit (.pdf): Excellent primer on how The Cloud, generally, is affecting enterprise IT strategic direction. Two gems: Chapter 6 “Together, the Customer Is Everywhere and Everyone” and Chapter 10 “Scenario Planning: Are You Ready?”.

Business Intelligence 2.0:  Are we there yet? (.pdf): Excellent paper focusing on innovation in business intelligence; includes and excellent benefits analysis chart.

Toward Emerging Topic Detection for Business Intelligence: Predictive Analysis of ‘Meme’ Dynamics (.pdf): This is for analytical geeks only (:-D). The paper discusses the problem of monitoring the Web to spot emerging memes. Essentially, using predictive algorithms to tease out future memes, which would be useful to brand managers in terms of seeding current campaigns with flavors of the future as dictated by the algorithm. The risk is that it can get a bit tautological.

 

Research on new media social influences and context

I recently dug up predictions Gartner made in January 2010 about IT and new media (Gartner’s recent predictions are referenced here [.pdf]). The two 2010 predictions that piqued my interest are:

  • By 2012, Facebook will become the hub for social network integration and Web socialization.
  • By 2015, context will be as influential to mobile consumer services and relationships as search engines are to the Web.

social hub reverb

Following the “Facebook as hub” meme as a research concept, I came across empirical studies focusing on the Web and “socialization” of family units (i.e., new media as a “hub” within the family unit). Similarly, I wanted to see if empirical research existed that explored how “context” is defined or determined via computer science. I found two interesting studies:

Relating to tech-media “socialization”:

Media, Communication and Information Technologies in the European Family. A couple of key findings:

  • (Finding 1) Two tech-media trends contribute to familial tension. Trend one: families using emerging media to generate and reinforce communal experiences. Trend two: increasingly personalized consumption of media used in private spaces. These trends consistently collide and cause familial tension.
  • (Finding 2) Promoting media literacy (which one could extrapolate to mean “Internet literacy”) is a key policy concern given “today’s technologically convergent, globalised market” and is critical to ensuring that individuals have the means and methods to participate in all spheres of society.

Facebook—despite its autocratic set of rules—could be seen as an enabler of promoting “new media literacy”, essentially a democratizing and leveling tool regarding “Web socialization” globally.

Relating to “context”:

Context-Aware Recommender Systems is an excellent academic article exploring how a recommender system uses “context” as a primary factor to deliver relevant results. The authors distill “context” using six vectors: data mining, e-commerce personalization, ubiquitous mobile data, database management systems, effective information retrieval, marketing and management processes. Further, @briansolis authored a great post, Behaviorgraphics Humanize the Social Web, where he essentially argues that understanding behavior is a key factor in determining and understanding context, which will enable marketers to more meaningfully and relevantly communicate with individuals who are within social networks.

Photo credit: ViaMoi

 

Research on social proximity

In response to a request by @Gahlord to research the concept of “social proximity” I have found eight articles that broadly sketch the primary issues and principles related to “social proximity”.

In Towards Design Guidelines for Portable Digital Proximities A Case study with Social Net and Social Proximity (.pdf), the authors apparently introduced the concept of social proximity, which they define as:

[T]he relationships between people in space, within social networks, and through time.

In Life in the network: the coming age of computational social science, the authors discuss the rapidly changing pace of computational social science.

In To join or not to join: the illusion of privacy in social networks with mixed public and private user profiles (.pdf) the authors discuss privacy issues related to social media and the natural tension between “public” and “private” information (see also my earlier article relating to this topic).

In Inferring friendship network structure by using mobile phone data, the authors found that it’s possible to infer with 95% accuracy friendships based on mobile data.

In Bridging the Gap Between Physical Location and Online Social Networks (.pdf), the authors demonstrate how to predict friendship between two users using their respective location trails.

In Social distance, heterogeneity, and social interactions (.pdf, and I hope you’re good in mathematics to understand this article), the authors propose a new model to analyze peer group interactions.

In Connectivity Does Not Ensure Community: On Social Capital, Networks and Communities of Place (.pdf), the author proposes that the strongest online communities are those create senses of social ownership within the community.

In Semantic Grounding of Tag Relatedness in Social Bookmarking Systems (.pdf) the authors discuss how collaborative tagging systems can be used to derive a global tagging relatedness structure from an uncontrolled tagging folksonomy.

In The anatomy of a large-scale social search engine (.pdf) the authors present Aardvark, a social search engine.

Information sharing across the social web: usability, minimalist design, and consumer choice

This article in the Atlantichttp://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2010/11/the-undesigned-web/65458/ by Dylan Tweney (@dylan20http://twitter.com/#!/dylan20) essentially argues that as consumers adopt a minimalist approach towards reading, sharing (i.e., reformatting content to meet their needs and the needs of their social sphere), and generally consuming content (information), devices like the iPad will engender even more pressure on publishers align usabilty concepts with sound information architecture concepts. Indeed, the iPad imbues a sensual, tactile element to information consumption. Fingertips are one of the most sensitive areas on our bodieshttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Merkel_nerve_ending, and by virtually touching, massaging, moving, aligning, etc, information via the iPad transfers a degree of intimacy unmatched by even printed material. Tweney seems to argue that the tactil nature of iPad represents an inflection point in future information design, publishing, and consumption.
As a slight counter-point to Tweney’s missive, this articlehttp://www.fastcodesign.com/1662630/is-undesigned-the-next-great-web-trend-fat-chance argues that Tweney misses the point by claiming that design is dead and makes some excellent points:
“The future is all about designing for multiple use cases[.]”
“Digital design isn’t fading, but it is changing: to keep pace with evolving technology, to drive new economics, to satisfy users’ dynamic desires. Indeed, the fact that we tend to call them “users” in the first place–instead of viewers, readers, or audiences–is important to keep in mind when considering the role or future of digital design.”
The author, John Pavlushttp://twitter.com/johnpavlus, cites many useful sources to support his argument that a minimalist-centric interface is actually the result a complex design-thinking (ala, a Ferrari on the outside appears simple and elegant but underneath the hood it’s a complex machine). Similarly, a minimalist approach can actually be brilliantly enhanced by restricting consumer choice by presenting consumers with well thought-out, curated, and highly selective choices (ala 37 Signals). Finally, both Tweney and Pavlus are joined by researchers who are conducting some very interesting research on this topic: The Paradox of Simplicity: Effects of User Interface Design on Perceptions and Preference of Interactive Systemshttp://aisel.aisnet.org/mcis2010/30/ (registration required), A Model of Experience Test for Web Designershttp://eprints.qut.edu.au/18371/1/c18371.pdf, A Model for Understanding Social Commercehttp://proc.conisar.org/2010/pdf/1511.pdf
Photo credit: seier+seierhttp://www.flickr.com/photos/seier/493929328/
This article in the Atlantic by Dylan Tweney (@dylan20) essentially argues that as consumers adopt a minimalist approach towards reading, sharing, and generally consuming content (information), devices like the iPad will put even more pressure on publishers to align usability concepts with sound information architecture concepts. Indeed, the iPad imbues a sensual, tactile element to information consumption.
Fingertips are one of the most sensitive areas on our bodies, and the iPad transfers to a consumer a degree of intimacy by enabling him/her to virtually touch, massage, move, and align information in a very personal way. Tweney seems to argue that the tactile nature of an iPad represents an inflection point in future information design, publishing, and consumption.
As a slight counter-point to Tweney’s missive, this article argues that Tweney misses the point in claiming that “traditional” digital design is dead; as counterpoints, the author points out:
“The future is all about designing for multiple use cases[.]”
“Digital design isn’t fading, but it is changing: to keep pace with evolving technology, to drive new economics, to satisfy users’ dynamic desires. Indeed, the fact that we tend to call them “users” in the first place–instead of viewers, readers, or audiences–is important to keep in mind when considering the role or future of digital design.”
The author, John Pavlus, cites many useful sources in his article to support his argument that minimalist-centric interface design is actually the result of complex design-thinking. Similarly, a minimalist approach can actually be brilliantly enhanced by restricting consumer choice by presenting consumers with well thought-out, curated, and highly selective choices (ala 37 Signals theories). Finally, both Tweney and Pavlus are joined by researchers who are conducting interesting studies on this topic: The Paradox of Simplicity: Effects of User Interface Design on Perceptions and Preference of Interactive Systems (registration required), A Model of Experience Test for Web Designers, A Model for Understanding Social Commerce.
Photo credit: seier+seier

Influence in the social web and social commerce

http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/2010/11/02/altimeter-report-social-commerce-how-brands-are-generating-revenue-by-lcecere/
http://www.briansolis.com/2010/11/the-rise-of-the-social-consumer
http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/150/the-new-influentials.html
http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.156.8795&rep=rep1&type=pdf
This article on social media New Influentialshttp://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/150/the-new-influentials.html raises an interesting question regarding “incluence” on the social web: what’s the core driver of influence in the social web when it comes to commerce, a person, her community, or both? The article profiles six individuals who have variously used YouTube, corporate resources, quasi-anarchist tactics, and curation to attract dedicated audiences to their brand (whether personal or corporate). Indeed, the question of “what constitutes influence in a social network” has captured the interest of researches, as is evidenced by the articles “A model of influence in a social network”http://halshs.archives-ouvertes.fr/docs/00/49/65/60/PDF/td08.pdf and “Learning Influence Probabilities In Social Networks”http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.156.8795&rep=rep1&type=pdf. Similarly, Brian Solis has written an excellent post on the genesis of the social consumerhttp://www.briansolis.com/2010/11/the-rise-of-the-social-consumer. According to Solis:
When a brand does its job right, it creates an emotional connection. The affinity it engenders contributes to who we are as individuals and how others perceive us. In the social web, sharing our purchases and experiences serve as social objects which are essentially catalysts for sparking conversations. At the center of this discussion is the product. Experiences, impressions, and perceptions cast bridges that link us together. As the conversation unfolds, the hub connects the product to individuals who not only respond, but also consume, where information directly or indirectly influences behavior and opinion. This form of subconscious empowerment seemingly builds confidence according to some new research. As social capital factors into the equation, these conversations represent touchpoints where positive experiences take the shape of endorsements and ultimately c0ntribute to the overall branding process.
Solis’ sentiments are echoed by a recent Altimeter Reporthttp://www.slideshare.net/loracecere/rise-of-socialcommercefinal (also accessed her on Jeremiah Owyang’s bloghttp://www.web-strategist.com/blog/2010/11/02/altimeter-report-social-commerce-how-brands-are-generating-revenue-by-lcecere/:
<div style=”width:477px” id=”__ss_5637236″><strong style=”display:block;margin:12px 0 4px”><a href=”http://www.slideshare.net/loracecere/rise-of-socialcommercefinal” title=”Rise of social_commerce_final”>Rise of social_commerce_final</a></strong><object id=”__sse5637236″ width=”477″ height=”510″><param name=”movie” value=”http://static.slidesharecdn.com/swf/doc_player.swf?doc=riseofsocialcommercefinal-101101160620-phpapp02&stripped_title=rise-of-socialcommercefinal&userName=loracecere” /><param name=”allowFullScreen” value=”true”/><param name=”allowScriptAccess” value=”always”/><embed name=”__sse5637236″ src=”http://static.slidesharecdn.com/swf/doc_player.swf?doc=riseofsocialcommercefinal-101101160620-phpapp02&stripped_title=rise-of-socialcommercefinal&userName=loracecere” type=”application/x-shockwave-flash” allowscriptaccess=”always” allowfullscreen=”true” width=”477″ height=”510″></embed></object><div style=”padding:5px 0 12px”>View more <a href=”http://www.slideshare.net/”>documents</a> from <a href=”http://www.slideshare.net/loracecere”>lora cecere</a>.</div></div>
Going back to the original question I posited, I’ll say “influence” is a combination of both a brand (personal or corporate) and respect and empowerment of one’s community, but community is the main driver. Solis describes how American Express empowers its community by facilitating conversations along with promoting commerce (and doesn’t this remind you of fundamental concepts discussed in the Cluetrain Manifestohttp://www.amazon.com/Cluetrain-Manifesto-End-Business-Usual/dp/0738204315, particularly chapter four?). But for an empassioned–and spending–community, American Express would not necessarily be influential. Thus, the core question of what defines influence hinges on how committed you are to your community, what value you bring to your community, and how well you are developing and fostering that community.

This article on social media New Influentials raises an interesting question regarding “influence” in the social web and in social commerce: what’s the core driver of influence?  A person? Her community? Or both? The article profiles six individuals who have variously used YouTube, corporate resources, quasi-anarchist tactics, and curating to attract and sustain dedicated communities. Indeed, the question of “what constitutes influence in a social network” has captured the interest of researches, as is evidenced by the articles “A model of influence in a social network” and “Learning Influence Probabilities In Social Networks“. Similarly, Brian Solis has written an excellent post on the genesis of the social consumer. According to Solis:

When a brand does its job right, it creates an emotional connection. The affinity it engenders contributes to who we are as individuals and how others perceive us. In the social web, sharing our purchases and experiences serve as social objects which are essentially catalysts for sparking conversations. At the center of this discussion is the product. Experiences, impressions, and perceptions cast bridges that link us together. As the conversation unfolds, the hub connects the product to individuals who not only respond, but also consume, where information directly or indirectly influences behavior and opinion. This form of subconscious empowerment seemingly builds confidence according to some new research. As social capital factors into the equation, these conversations represent touchpoints where positive experiences take the shape of endorsements and ultimately c0ntribute to the overall branding process.

Solis’ sentiments are echoed by a recent Altimeter Report (also accessed here on Jeremiah Owyang’s blog:

Going back to the original question I posited, I’ll say “influence” is a combination of brand (personal or corporate) and respect and empowerment of one’s community, but where community is the main driver. Solis describes how American Express empowers its community by facilitating conversations along with promoting commerce (and doesn’t this remind you of fundamental concepts discussed in the Cluetrain Manifesto, particularly chapter four?). But for an empassioned–and spending–community, American Express would not necessarily be influential. Thus, the core question of what defines “influence” hinges on how committed you are to your community, what value you bring to your community, and how well you are developing and fostering that community.

Social cues, social responses, humans know when a computer is engaging them

This research paper from Nokia Research Center, Stanford, and Queens University implies that humans can ascertain with an uncanny degree of certainty when a social message is sent from a computer versus a human. Social responses to communication technologies theory (SRCT)  predicts that humans cannot reliably ascertain such nuances. This research contradicts this premise.

The research team, using prior research in SRCT theories, tested whether humans could discern whether a text message was sent via a human or computer when flattery was an element of the message. They found that humans reliably discern the originator of the message apparently because certain social cues were missing in the computer-generated messages.

Why this is relevant research: SRCT theories could be used by software designers to create computer programs to engage social network users with the goal of getting them to increase self-disclosure under the guise of an interaction seemingly being conducted with a human. With the FTC recently considering allowing people to opt-out of behavioral targeting on the Web, the issue of nudging people towards more self-disclosure is timely given all the issues surrounding privacy and use of PII in social networks, especially if a user discloses such PII under the assumption they’re interacting with a human. This is a very interesting article and quick read (four pages).

New media innovation issues and risks

This research paper, Power, media culture and new media, delves into social justice issues surrounding the democratizing effects of new media. The paper points out that new media benefits (e.g., easier access to information through widespread platforms like mobile devices) are not equally shared or distributed across class, race, or national origin. The paper also implicitly points out that the use of mash-ups along with the increasing diversity of media outlets could create a “ripe” environment for effective government-sanctioned propaganda campaigns.

Similarly, the new media environment where essentially everyone can be a “content producer” offers unprecedented opportunities for government surveillance and ultimate suppression and/or obfuscation of speech by using new media outlets as viral engines to discredit speech that’s counter to government views or objectives. The author does point out some positive reverberations from new media harmonics; and this is the alignment of human rights initiatives with new media (as embodied in such organizations like Mothers Fighting for Others). Nevertheless, the paper ends with a caution that discriminatory (and by implication, repressive) actions can re-emerge in new media, despite the overarching democratizing effects of the medium.

Does this paper relate to real estate? Not directly. It’s simply a great education piece on the broader implications of our new media economy and society.

List of social web resources 6-12-2009

Brand engagement

This presentation, The Audience is Always Right, by TBWA\ Berlin Media Arts team is one of the best I’ve seen explaining how brands need to reconstruct their core ethos pertaining to consumer communications. It delves deep into a situational analysis and then delivers some very meaningful aphorisms as guidelines:

  • Start with a simple truth
  • Create time, don’t try to buy time
  • Tell a story that makes peoples’ conversations more interesting
  • Leave room to think and ask questions by being imperfect, weird or contradictory
  • Make the idea easy to find (searchable) and easy to tell (spreadable)
  • Content isn’t king. Conversation is king

Online community lifecycle

This research article chronicles major research and studies on how online communities begin, mature, and evolve. The article focuses on a lifecycle analysis (inception, creation, growth, maturity, and death) and success metrics (for example, size and number of contributions and how willing any one member shares details about him or herself and how widely these details are shared). The article is very well researched and offers a compelling list of ideas marketers ought to consider when considering when, how, and why to engage consumers via social networks and other online communities.

List of social web resources 5-21-2009

Metrics
Here is a great primer on RFM analysis, which I believe has applicability to social media marketing. The foundation of RFM is something that can drive the establishment of engagement metrics as well as allowing marketers to do a better job at managing the social media marketing channel.

Social media
Scoop44, an online “newspaper” founded by college students, received a two-year grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation (nice to see the support of online journalism pure-plays; eventually we likely will not even make the distinction). This site is a nice blend between traditional reporting and new media functionality.

General coolness
Anyone interested in exploring and discussing graphic design issues should consider visiting this site. It’s an excellent compendium of thought-provoking topics and trends related to graphic design. Cutting through social media chatter will depend more and more on effective design to engage people once they’ve stepped past the social media veneer.

List of social web resources 5-1-2009

Social media coolness
Henry Jenkins, Director of the MIT Comparative Media Studies Program and the Peter de Florez Professor of Humanities, has contributed to a seminal eight part series whitepaper on redefining theories underlying how information spreads across the globe. This series’ concepts are particularly important to brand management practices employing the social web as a strategic messaging tool.

This is an interesting research paper compiling a list of research about online communities. The article details the social, psychological, and emotional benefits people derive from online communities. The article relates these benefits to organizations and defines success metrics for online communities. This is one of the best research articles I’ve found in recent months concerning social web communities and organizations.

Here’s a short article describing how federal chief information officer, Vivek Kundra, is launching a new site, data.gov, which purportedly will allow for the development of more public-facing applications using raw data feeds from government sources. The article also discusses some very innovative uses of Washington D.C. government data that developers submitted for a contest called Applications For Democracy that Kundra directed while he was chief technology officer for Washington, D.C.

List of social web resources 4-24-2009

Blogging:

Here’s a good history of SEO since 1999, which is valuable to understand how things have changed over the last 10 years. Change is a constant with the Internet and SEO…what “worked” yesterday may not “work” today. Thus, focus on passionate, relevant, and niche content as a way to ground your SEO efforts on a solid foundation. My opinion: relevant, niche content will remain king for SEO.

Social networks:

According to comScore, Twitter gained the most visitor traction in March 2009 (9,313,000 unique visitors), a 131% growth over February 2009 (4,033,000 unique visitors).

Social media coolness:

UC Berkeley’s Opinion Space allows you to visualize your opinions relative to others. This article gives a good overview of the process.

Here’s a nifty resource on topics related to setting up Key Performance Indicators for your webiste. KPIs allow you to measure the success and effectiveness of your website.

Mashable has a Social Media Hub series and has compiled a list of the social media scene in New York City.

List of social web resources 4-17-2009

I’m starting something new this week. My goal is to compile a weekly short list of quality resources about blogging, social networks, and social media coolness.

Blogging:
The FutureBuzz is one of the finest blogs I’ve found discussing how to market your blog and blog posts. Adam Singer, really takes the time to dig deep into issues. His posts take some time to read and digest, but you’ll be a better blogger for taking that time.

This post on the Conversation Agent blog has 50 tips on content ideas that generate buzz. Similar to the FutureBuzz blog, I encourage you to peruse this blog, as it really challenges you to think through issues, like this post that digs into the future of the press and its historical role as the “Fourth Estate”.

Facebook:
This post discusses a new Facebook app that lets you choose which Twitter updates to sync to Facebook. TweetDeck also has a nifty feature that lets you do the same. Both are easy to use; the former app, however, requires you to add the hashtag “#fb” to any post you wanted synced to Facebook (useful if you want to add your posts to the “#fb stream” that’s searchable)

The Huffington Post has a page devoted to Facebook. It’s a nice compendium of Facebook-related information.

Twitter:
Sending photos to Twitter is fun. Currently, the leading app for this is TwitPic. A competitor to TwitPic is on the horizon. TwitGoo has quietly launched a competitive service. I have not tried this yet, but it seems well-positioned to give TwitPic some competition.

Random social media coolness:
One of the hottest topics in social web is “crowdsourcing“. The issue is meaty because if the concept plays out favorably, brands conceivably will begin releasing more engaging and consumer centric products and services. This article discusses the broader concept as to whether creativity itself can be crowdsourced. For a previous discussion of creativity and innovation see my earlier post.

Photo credit: .Martin.

Peering Under the Hood at Facebook

If one stops and ponders the amount of data and content users add to Facebook on a daily basis, it’s truly staggering. I’ve often wondered what the Facebook data team does with this data and content. Recently, I stumbled across two insightful articles and a video series that sheds some light on this.

The first article discusses how the Facebook data team uses statistical analysis to make informed product development decisions (the article also touches on Google’s use of data modeling and statistics).

Facebook’s Data Team used R in 2007 to answer two questions about new users: (i) which data points predict whether a user will stay? and (ii) if they stay, which data points predict how active they’ll be after three months?

For the first question, Itamar’s team used recursive partitioning (via the rpart package) to infer that just two data points are significantly predictive of whether a user remains on Facebook: (i) having more than one session as a new user, and (ii) entering basic profile information.

For the second question, they fit the data to a logistic model using a least angle regression approach (via the lars package), and found that activity at three months was predicted by variables related to three classes of behavior: (i) how often a user was reached out to by others, (ii) frequency of third party application use, and (iii) what Itamar termed “receptiveness” — related to how forthcoming a user was on the site.

The second article, posted by the Facebook data team in response to this Economist article, gives a very insightful description as to how the Facebook data team uses statistical analysis to answer an important question:

We were asked a simple question: is Facebook increasing the size of people’s personal networks? This is a particularly difficult question to answer, so as a first attempt we looked into the types of relationships people do maintain, and the relative size of these groups.

What the Facebook data team found was that a user’s passive network is 2 to 2.5 times larger than their active network (i.e., a reciprocal network where there is an active two-way communication happening), and that a passive network is just as important as a reciprocal network in building buzz.

The stark contrast between reciprocal and passive networks shows the effect of technologies such as News Feed. If these people were required to talk on the phone to each other, we might see something like the reciprocal network, where everyone is connected to a small number of individuals. Moving to an environment where everyone is passively engaged with each other, some event, such as a new baby or engagement can propagate very quickly through this highly connected network.

I’ll take a leap and say that these findings helped drive some of the reasoning behind the updated profile home page and business page “lifestreaming” functionality. Facebook’s focus on having people set up a profile–and updating this profile–and immediately engage with other people, coupled with an emphasis on increasing a user’s penetration within their passive network, is critical to Facebook’s continued growth. [Update: for an excellent three series analysis of the new Facebook pages go here, here, and here]. We can see an example of this passive network effect below where a Facebook user posted a short note that his twins are soon to be featured on CSI, the news spread quickly and opened up several channels of commentary:

passive network buzz using facebook newsfeed

Here’s an additional link to some interesting insights by Facebook’s former head of data and analytics, Jeff Hammerbacher, into Facebook’s approach to data analytics and lessons learned (these are fairly long videos, but really really fun to watch). Hammerbacher discusses how they analyze terabytes of data in near-real time to allow their various business units to make more informed decisions. My key take-away from the videos is that a graphical display of data that allows users to also “hack” the data to gain deeper insights yields great product development and customer relationship management gains.

New Facebook Home Page Useful for Real Estate Pros

Here’s an excellent article on the PR 2.0 blog about the new homepage design features Facebook will soon release. The article gives a reasoned analysis of the new Facebook feature-set as well as possible implications for brands, individuals, and services like Twitter and Friendfeed.

What could be considered the Wall 2.0 or quite simply, a personal or branded activity stream or timeline for people, public figures, and brands, the company is placing your in-network and external network activity at the front-and-center of your public profile for friends, associates, and followers to not only stay up to date with you[sic] aggregated Web activity, but also participate in the stream.

New Facebook Home Page
New Facebook Home Page

The new Facebook home page likely will have positive implications for real estate professionals. First, the new filter feature presumably allows you to separate your contacts into separate channels, monitor those channels, and more easily converse within those channels. This allows you to use Facebook as more of a social media multichannel marketing tool (i.e., by monitoring separate channels you can prioritize those channels and, thus, respond appropriately and in a timely manner as needed). Second, the real-time “stream” feature will give you an accurate pulse of your sphere’s goings on, which is useful in choosing which contact to engage immediately or at a later time (this feeds into the multichannel marketing nature of the filter feature). Finally, the “publisher” aspect of the new Facebook home page seems to give you a more useful–and engaging– way to update your sphere.

Creating a culture of creativity and innovation

Real estate firms need to realign, indeed rethink, their team culture and structure to keep abreast of rapidly evolving marketplace and competitive pressures. I touched on this topic last week on the “Content is King” panel I shared with Mr. Hahn at Inman Connect NYC. I certainly share his sentiments regarding developing a content strategy. But to execute on such a strategy, firms need to delve deeper and essentially conduct a cultural/structural 365 degree analysis, with an overall goal of fostering “innovation” as a cultural norm.

After the panel presentation, I engaged in many conversations about how firms need to “innovate” and how the real estate industry needs to push for more “innovation”. Conversations generally whipped from how to create more innovative products and services, to how to be seen as more innovative by one’s customers, to how to “out-innovate” one’s competition. In my opinion, innovation begins with a culture that fosters unbridled creativity tempered by a disciplined development process–a thesis meeting its antithesis, if you will, to produce a synthesis (i.e., an innovation); similar to Eisenstein’s film theories explored in his books The Film Sense and Film Form.

With respect to innovative culture, the authors in “Climates and Cultures for Innovation and Creativity at Work” define the following factors as hallmarks for innovative firms:

  • High levels of interaction, discussion, and debate
  • Interpersonal and intergroup relations defined by trust, cooperation, and a sense of safety
  • Senior management that’s open to new ideas and improved ways of working, and proves its openness by encouraging such actions and funding them when meritorious
  • The organization is under strong external pressure

Creativity can be defined as

the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations, etc.; originality, progressiveness, or imagination – creativity. Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/creativity (accessed: January 14, 2009).

Professor Jonathan Feinstein of Yale studies Creativity and has developed a great web-based resource on this topic.

I posit that fostering creativity is essential to competitive advantage. This thesis states that creativity is essential to the production of knowledge and its exploitation, and argues firms should create a creative knowledge environment (CKE). A CKE has the following salient attributes: clear objectives, positive group climate, active group participation, relatively flat hierarchical system, adequate resources, keen hiring decisions, engaged and visionary leadership; this definition aligns with the creative culture attributes outlined above. Both studies essentially conclude that such culture is essential to fostering innovation.

But once this culture produces an innovative thought, what framework induces it’s ultimate productization and monetization? It’s at this point where ultimate success or failure is determined. If such creative or innovative thoughts are always–or 80% of always–run through a control committee comprised of a “team” of senior managers, marketing types, IT types, and accounting types, chances are the innovative thought is squashed like an annoying bug as each “team member” sifts through respective intra-firm turf battles, alliances, resource jealousies, and personal fiefdom integrity and longevity issues. Countering this drying-like-cement-slow-death-approval-process, the set of authors above imply in their research that by hiring capable people who are naturally inclined to think through issues from all angles, management can relax a bit and “trust” their employee team to make the right decisions and manage the process themselves, which naturally leads to a culture of creativity and innovation. Peter Drucker touched on these themes and concepts. This is not to say that these “knowledge workers” should run amok, which is where disciplined development processes come into play.

There still needs to be strict adherence to processes that bring innovative products and services to market for the ultimate benefit of consumers. And in my opinion these processes are based on iterative design principles, or rapid application design principles, layered over agile stage-gate approval processes. Real estate firms that are hindered by stilted and overly obtuse ideation and development processes will suffer in the coming years; that is, firms that over analyze every move (or 80% of every move), allow poisonous turf battles between Marketing and IT to continue, and feel that nothing should be released to the public unless its “perfect” will suffer in the coming years. On the other hand, firms that realize that iterative design principles coupled with sound expected valuation analyses yielding rapid deployment and testing of prototype products (be they widgets, new website UI design, whatever) will benefit from the wisdom of crowds (see my earlier post on crowdsourcing) and release products and services that meet–and exceed–consumer needs and desires; which I’d say is innovative in its own right.

Engagement and consumer value propositions

Here’s another recent article on the changing consumer landscape regarding brand affinity and marketing. It parallels themes from my Crowds, Hives, Mobs, Swarms post.

The contemporary savvy consumer is seen as someone who combines areas of competency (particularly technological sophistication, network competency and marketing/advertising literacy) with empowerment (especially self-confidence and self-efficacy).

The paper points out that consumers are focused on value in their online interactions: value-for-time, value-for-attention, and value-for-access for their personal information. In searching for this value, consumers have become self confident in utilizing new technologies to filter and control brand-centric messaging. Additionally, consumers are by and large comfortable tinkering with new technologies on a trial and error basis as opposed to following a script or reading a manual, which has resulted in mega-brands like Google, iPhone, etc. As other brands attempt to match the success of these mega brands, ad spends are increasing in places like social networks as these brands go for consumer “engagement gold”. But there is a downside.

Organisations that serve consumers, employees and citizens in the world of person-centric commerce will be beneficiaries…but along the way there will be losers and casualties, including some businesses that over-estimate the desire of their consumers for engagement at the expense of offering basic value-for-money.

Accordingly, brands need to account for the differences among consumers and their attendant needs regarding value. These differences fall largely along generational lines, but even these lines are blurred as older consumers learn to adopt new technologies and adapt to novel ways of socializing and networking. In conclusion, the paper posits that despite a brand’s overt focus on highly customized, highly relevant, and highly emotional appeals, these efforts may not be enough to get these customers “involved” with the brand because the consumer landscape is too fragmentized and unstable.

Crowds, Hives, Mobs, and Swarms

Here is a great article discussing intriguing concepts in consumer innovation.

With the diffusion of networking technologies, collective consumer innovation is taking on new forms that are transforming the nature of consumption and work and, with it, society and marketing[.]

The authors argue that marketers should redefine “consumer” as an individual belonging to various creative/collaborative communities (Crowds, Hives, Mobs, and Swarms), where routine information consumption and disgorgement leads to unanticipated insights and innovations.

The authors define Crowds as large groups organized around a specific purpose or goal that disbands at the completion of the goal. The authors state that an example of Crowd innovation is the Frito-Lay Super Bowl Doritos advertising competition “Crash the Super Bowl”.

Crowds tend to emphasize a particular project, or bounded set of projects. They are organized, focused, and purposive. They are centered on the achievement of a particular objective, after which they usually disband.

The authors define Hives as groups formed to reach a specific goal; these groups are typically small in size but high in skill (e.g., the authors point to the open source community as an excellent example of a Hive, with its attendant focus on fostering innovation but creating a creative commons licensing struture to prevent corporations from gaining a hegemony over innovation within the community).

Usually Hive sites have many different forum topics including sections for expert talk, exhibiting creations, and/or providing downloads.

Mobs are defined by their singular focus on a specialist topic, providing targeted expertise solely to that topic. The authors point out single fathers, registered massage therapists, or nineteenth-century coin collectors as Mobs.

[The Mob’s] specific focus lends them particular value, especially to marketers who are able to capitalize on the value of segmentation, and the insights that come from understanding the unique needs of various segments.

Swarms involve communities engaging in mass behavior where individual contribution may be low but aggregate (output) value is high. The authors categorize Swarm behavior along four vectors: hyperlinking (think Google page rank), creating a “nation” of consumers so vast and complex it cannot be easily duplicated (eBay), ranking and rating (ala Amazon), and finally tagging (del.icio.us).

[H]ighly adaptive and complex solutions can emerge when large numbers of slightly diverse individuals with different expertise follow simple rules in pursuit of their objectives.

It is the convergence of childlike play, adult rules, passionate fandom, and serious work that make these communities so intriguing to marketers.

In an attempt to overcome the utilitarian notion of work and creativity, many of these [new types of consumers] reaestheticize their creations and re-enchant creative labor in a way that is not typically found in the many mundane jobs which the typical industrial and postindustrial information economy offers[.]

But therein lies the difficulty in trying to “study” or “tap into” or “utilize” these groups; that is, the authors point out that a Mob can spin off into a Crowd, which can turn into a Swarm, etc, a process the authors label as “Elicitation-Evaluation” (i.e., inducing a Mob to create something, like Frito-Lay’s Super Bowl ads, which then spins to a wider audience that rates, ranks, and tags submissions, which then distills a “winner”, but then disbands to go participate elsewhere). It’s more like trying to manipulate an amoeba rather than command nanotechnology.

Nevertheless, the end result, the authors argue, is a serious organizational network with roots in medieval craft guilds, art studios, and organized work networks with four implications for marketers: (1) marketers should address Crowds, Hives, Mobs, and Swarms differently, (2) marketing managers need to think of themselves and their brands as a thread in an ongoing communal tapestry, (3) these communities should be considered as fiscal partners in product/service innovation, and (4) companies need to understand that these communities operate as powerful counterbalances to corporations perceived to be acting unethically, irresponsibly, and abusively (e.g., see Google search steak and shake and look for “A Deaf Mom Shares Her World: Steak and Shake Denies Service” about position three).

Innovation considerations for real estate firms

Real estate professionals looking for sources of inspiration should consider the following quip from the book Chasing Cool:

The next time someone says they want to be the iPod of their industry, ask them this: before he came up with the iPod, did Steve Jobs walk around telling people he wanted to be the Sony Walkman of his industry?

The Chasing Cool book goes on to explain that innovators have a knack at assessing where a potential market “is” and what this potential market wants or needs, even though this potential market may be incognizant of such, because innovators employ various forms of focus groups (from the traditional, to the mostly non-traditional) along with intuitive insights.

Following this thread, in the paper Permanently Beta: Responsive Organization in the Internet Era, researchers point out that continual testing is a way to gauge user feedback and gain invaluable break-throughs in product innovation (the development of Linux is an example of this). Nevertheless, this article (abstract) looked at software company start-up success and found that prolonged beta phases and collaborations with universities delay product launch but that team tenure and experience favor faster product development and launch. This finding corroborates a premise in Chasing Cool that looking within rather than without (i.e., consultants) often drives true insight and innovation.

What does this mean for real estate firms striving for innovation? Perform a 365 degree analysis on your team and products and services. Analyze your company through the eyes of a competitor to better understand your weaknesses. Quit strategically as Seth Godin admonishes in the book The Dip.

Long tail search data

Despite the sentiments expressed by Google’s CEO about long tail search (see previous post), Bill Tancer of Hitwise presents an intriguing alternative view. Tancer shows that despite brand-centric search saturation in the head, the long tail presents a panoply of opportunities to online marketers willing to invest the strategic and tactical resources necessary to leverage such.

Top 100 Search Terms by Percentage of All Search Traffic

And, according to the New York Times real estate blogs offer consumers some of the best information available about real estate.

For brokers, blogs are, of course, a handy marketing tool: they’re economical, practical and easy to update. But for prospective buyers, a sophisticated blog — one with more than an agent’s plea, “check out my new listing” — can help potential buyers forge a connection to a faraway community, learn the landscape of an area and, ultimately, make informed purchasing decisions.

Since blogs are long tail feed machines, real estate professionals ought to embrace blogging as a viable online marketing channel.

Reality mining in real estate services

As always I am grateful to Owyang to lend his insight and foresight. Here’s another excellent missive on the “Intelligent Web”. In summary, he posits that machines will begin extrapolating relationships and driving recommendations for connections from the juxtapositions and nexus between “our behaviors, context, and preferences”. Sounds a bit like the semantic web. Spinning through the comments on this post brought me to the Innovation Insight blog where Guy Hagen explores MIT research related to “reality mining”, which you can find more about on the MIT Web site. And this research paper out of UC DAVIS demonstrates how the MIT Reality Mining data set was utilized in tracking behaviour via mobile phones.

Imagine an iPhone application overlayed on a real estate firm’s listing data set, where the iPhone reports back over time thousands of user’s mobile browsing habits (i.e., driving around looking at homes for sale or rent). Having such data would allow firms to target advertising, Web site promotions, and give predictive insight over their competitors with respect to fluctuating markets (e.g., patterns will emerge over time that will tell a firm which neighborhoods, etc, are capturing consumer interest, thus enabling a firm to deploy marketing and agent resources towards these locations ahead of their competition).

Measuring marketing influence

This research paper by Deloitte is an excellent summary of important considerations firms should make when re-valuing their marketing team’s contributions. The gist of the article is that it’s incumbent upon firms to set up a marketing measurement scorecard that accounts for the systemic impact marketing expenditures have on the bottom line.

The paper argues that the measurement system needs to go beyond typical CRM-system level reporting (i.e., moving beyond just measuring ROI as the primary indicator of marketing performance) and align with overall company strategy, account for competitive influences on a product or service’s marketplace success or failure, eliminate silos between separate business units, and measure across product development and roll-out lifecycles.

Keyword influences on paid search click-through rates

This research paper investigated how specific keyword characteristics affect click-through rates. By modeling a set of keywords in a pay-per-click environment, the researchers found that searches conducted by brand-loyal consumers, typified by “retailer-name” searches, had the highest predictive value relative to click-through rates. The researchers noted that when consumers searched for specific brand names, however, click-through rates on paid searches were not as easy to predict. The researchers surmised that this is because consumers were more likely conducting “competitive” searches–surveying the market–and were not swayed by clever calls to action but focused more on securing the lowest price.

Revenue considerations of social networks

This paper points out that social network sites such as MySpace and Facebook have huge potential for high advertising revenue gains because “the cost of gaining new customers is practically nothing [since] users join voluntarily and provide their own content through their profiles. In addition, the cost of running the sites’ web servers is relatively low.”

The authors do point out, however, that significant revenue gains might be limited because these sites must constantly innovate to retain and attract new “customers”, it’s easy to launch rival social networks, and consumers have lots of choices as to which social networks to use.

Managing online “spillover” reputational crises

This paper includes an interesting analysis of online reputation management. It discusses “reputation spillover”, which is defined as a “reputational crisis that impacts a focal organization [and] spread[s] to others.”

Reputation crises are triggered by financial crises or accidents and spread virally because consumer “link” like firms together, even if one of the “linked” firms has nothing to do with the crisis. The paper limits its analysis to “within-industry effects”. For example, a large player in an industry can casts a wide reputational reverb:

In the mid-1980s, the FDA released the results of a study that showed an unusually strong link between a tampon manufactured by Procter & Gamble and toxic shock syndrome (TSS) – a rare, life-threatening bacterial infection (Behr, 1980). The cause of TSS seemed to stem from a unique and innovative material used by Procter & Gamble (but by none of its rivals). In response, Procter & Gamble began a recall of their product from store shelves. Interestingly however, Tampax, the next largest rival in the product category, also began to experience declining market valuation, even while their product was recording record revenues (Metz, 1980). Arguably, had the crisis struck not Procter & Gamble but a much smaller organization, rivals would probably not have faced the same generalized and negative reactions.

Behr, P. (1980) ‘Toxic shocks, tampons under scrutiny’, The Washington Post, L1, Washington, DC.
Metz, R. (1980) ‘Toxic shock and Tampax’, The New York Times, 8, New York.

The paper points out that “any organization is at risk for a negative impact aimed at its reputation due to the actions of others in its competitive environment.” In response, the paper suggests that managers should have response plans in place along “marketing and public relations, legal and technical considerations.”

Innovation, John Kao’s insights

With respect to new product development initiatives, he challenges us to embrace a dexterous and daring approach rather than a artless and timid one; a paradigm especially relevant in a Web 2.0 marketing environment.

John Kao, author of Innovation Nation, offers a great perspective on innovation (one hour interview). His analogy to jazz performance and composition is especially compelling. With respect to new product development initiatives, he challenges us to embrace a dexterous and daring approach rather than an artless and timid one; a paradigm especially relevant in a Web 2.0 marketing environment.

Social networks, marketing choices

Social networks will change the way real estate professionals interact with their clients. Terms like engagement, conversation, and community underpin social networks. And in “off-line” environments real estate professionals have likely “engaged” in meaningful and relevant “conversations” while building a “community” of long-term clients.

Yet many real estate professionals are reluctant to embrace social networks as a new marketing channel. One refrain I often hear is “it’s hard to get going and sustain my ‘involvement'”. Aside from asking the question, “So when has it ever been easy to earn a client’s trust and payment?”, one also senses a certain fear of not making a mistake, or in not taking the time to fully grasp the profound change that’s occuring.

As to the former issue, fear is, indeed, a legitimate emotion to overcome, but can be overcome with a step-by-step approach to getting involved; and the Social Community section of this Web2.0 map is a great place to begin. With respect to the latter issue, Charlene Li of Forrester Research presents an informative road map of the future of social networks.

Privacy and social networks

Research papers:

Identifying inherent privacy conflicts in social network sites

Assessing the privacy risk of sharing anonymized network data

Proposed algorithm for automatically extracting social hierarchy data from electronic communication behavior

Discusses how rumors, viruses, and ideas propagate over social social networks

Web 2.0 communities, declining home prices

There will be no online real estate revolution. No tipping point. No tidal wave of change. Just a slow rising tide that swells almost imperceptibly, carrying upon it those who seek, in time, the higher ground. citation 

This viewpoint has some synergy to Yale finance professor Robert Shiller’s comments Feb 25, 2008 that lower home prices operate as a net benefit for society. I also agree with Brian that there really is no “killer app”.

But researchers and entrepreneurs are doing great work in creating applications to exploit Web 2.0 communication mediums. For example, this lecture proposes a system for automatically defining communities in social networks, and this lecture details how messaging and surveys could be analyzed to define communities.

Why are these studies important to real estate professionals? Because in about 18 to 24 months the viable models derived from this type of research will see market application. In turn, this means you can then use those models to communicate more effectively with a Web 2.0 audience when the housing market rebounds and consumers–who’ve been feasting on Facebook, MySpace, etc, in the interim–will expect you to communicate with them in a “Web 2.0 savvy” manner.

Web 2.0 Digest 2008/1/2

When bloggers attack, has some great tips on how to respond to blogger swarm attacks. Many real estate firms are leery of bloggers and allowing their agents to blog; this post has some thought-provoking ideas on how to respond.

Interview with Jordan Behan explains how Web2.0 consumers are more informed in real estate search.

Another great post by MineThatData describes the difference basic differences between web analytics and multichannel analysis. The latter analysis lends itself to looking at the life time value of real estate consumers under the multi-generational marketing rubric rather than as one-off buyers that are forgotten as soon as a deal closes.

Here is a great post on how to build / support brands using Web 2.0 tools.

Engagement is the heart of any website. Occam’s Razor has an excellent post on the issues pertaining to creating a viable engagement metric or index.

(repost of 10/07/2007 entry)

Social network marketing corporate forays

Here’s a reason why Microsoft invested over $200 million in Facebook. It’s all about the data Facebook has compiled on its user base and the time this user base spends on Facebook. What’s the “veracity index” for this data? One assumes it’s higher than other data sources, since users’ incentives to enter data honestly is relatively high (why lie to my friends?, why lie about what interests I share with my friends?, etc). Accordingly, some companies are stumbling into this space, and getting ripped because of their stumbles. On the other hand, some other companies are “getting it” (looks like Target’s winning).
Obviously, these companies want to tap Facebook’s rich data stores and its users’ apparent nonchalance concerning how marketers will use such data within the Facebook community (read the comments in this post). Real estate firms (or agents or agent teams) interested in establishing a viable Facebook presence should follow Target’s model, rather than the seeming corporate topdown foray employed by Coke. This is not to say there are no strategy considerations; rather Coke’s plight is a cautionary tale that militates against myopically stumbling into the social networking space.

11/12/2007 Research

The link-prediction problem for social networks

Link prediction and link detection in sequences of large social networks using temporal and local metrics.

Multiplicative latent factor models for description and prediction of social networks

Modeling Trust and Influence on Blogosphere using Link Polarity

Detecting invisible relevant persons in a homogeneous social network (.ppt here)

Social network data mining research 10-17-2007

This paper, Inferring Social Network Structure using Mobile Phone Data, explores how to use social network analysis to predict individual behavior indicators.

Privacy considerations are explored in this paper, Wherefore Art Thou R3579X? Anonymized Social Networks, Hidden Patterns, and Structural Steganography.

Here are some Videos of social network data analysis, and here is a presentation on the same

This paper, Social Network and Genre Emergence in Amateur Flash Multimedia, explores the concept of predicting emergent genres by mining social network data sets, which could be applied to trend-spotting.

Multichannel marketing forensics

Kevin Hillstrom, President of MineThatData has written an excellent whitepaper on conducting a multichannel forensics analysis. Why is this whitepaper an important resource to real estate firms? Because real estate firms are engaged in complex multichannel marketing endeavors. But only a handful of these firms analyze their data from a multichannel perspective.

How does a firm begin its forensics analysis? Hillstrom explains:

  1. Understand the Retention Mode your product, brand or channel resides in.
  2. Understand the Migration Mode your product, brand or channel resides in.
  3. Combine the Retention and Migration Mode, understand which of twelve retention/migration modes your business operates in. This determines the way you will grow your business, long-term.
  4. Map the Ecosystem, so that the executive can clearly understand how all products, brands and channels interact with each other.
  5. Forecast the Ecosystem. This allows the executive to understand the long-term health of the ecosystem, given various marketing initiatives.

A key point Hillstrom makes is to look at multichannel businesses as ecosystems, where each product and division is interdependent on one another (a biodiversity perspective would also apply). Unfortunately, many companies are still balkanized in this regard.

For the most part, real estate firms have at least centralized their focus around a core product and service: representing buyers and sellers of homes and other forms of real estate, combined with highly related ancillary businesses such as rentals, REO, mortgage and title services, etc. This is a real estate firm’s ecosystem.

Hillstrom, in this whitepaper, has identified several business modes and strategic considerations related thereto. With the exception of certain commercial divisions and investment services, real estate firms fall within one of the two following modes: Acquisition / Equilibrium Mode and Acquisition / Transfer Mode. Both modes imply a constant sourcing of new customers with differences in how customers adopt new products or services. In the case of the former, Hillstrom states customers occasionally migrate, whereas in the case of the latter, the assumption is that customers will migrate to another product (much like a professional baseball player over his career migrates between teams).

So how can real estate firms a) position their products and services more relevantly to new sources of customers while b) targeting the “may migrate” class to the “probably will transfer” segment? Hillstrom advocates mapping the ecosystem

A key aspect of Multichannel Forensics is the mapping of the ecosystem you work in. Each combination of products, brands and channels are mapped. Any relationships in equilibrium or transfer are mapped with arrows, arrows that indicate the direction of the relationship.

The next step is to forecast the ecosystem, which, Hillstrom argues, enables executives to engage in valuable scenario analyses.

The benefit to a real estate firm in undertaking these analytical steps is that it will have a deeper understanding as to how its agents influence (negatively or positively) the firm’s sales of its primary and ancillary products and services. What’s also beneficial about Hillstrom’s whitepaper is that he actually gives you a step-by-step process by which to perform the analysis.

Direct / social media marketing research 9.04.2007

Below is some fairly recent research on motivating and behavior factors underlying social networks. The theme of this set of research is to explore how the “echo boomer” or “millennial” generation uses social media. Since real estate is an engagement-oriented Internet based service, firms should study the motivations underlying their potential recruits and future customers to ensure they are well-positioned to serve them in the future.

Applying Common Identity and Bond Theory to Design of Online Communities

Mobile Text Messaging and Connectedness within Close Interpersonal Relationships

Leveraging Social Networks To Motivate Individuals to Reduce their Ecological Footprint (interesting analysis as to how a social structure nurtures affinity, loyalty, and evangelism).

Digital Relationships in the ‘MySpace’ Generation: Results From a Qualitative Study

Direct / social media marketing research 8.28.2007

McKinsey Web2.0 survey

Visual analysis of blog content

Web site semantic analysis

Emperical basis for social networks

Identifying brand influencers in social networks

Impact of trust in social networks

Target marketing in social networks

Correlation between LinkedIn and Facebook

Correlation between LinkedIn and Gmail, YahooMail, and HotMail