Tag Archives: social media

Roadblocks to Fans and Followers: Ajzen’s Theory of Planned Behavior

You might have guessed from my business cards and blog posts that I’m an avid QR code user.  While the technology isn’t brand new and the adoption rate is still up in the air, I still urge people to use them.  The idea for this blog post began when I noticed that many businesses have the Twitter or Facebook logo in their advertising.  It looks something like this.   You might not think anything about it, but the social psychologist in my says “Why?”

You see the name of the business and two widely and easily recognizable logo.  You might think “the business wants people to know that they are on Twitter and Facebook.”  Even though smart phones and internet access 24/7 is a reality for many of us, having to look up someone’s Twitter handle or to search for them on Facebook (I still think the Facebook iphone app is wonky) is cumbersome and a roadblock to adoption.

You might also think that having the Twitter and the Facebook logo on advertising assets is branding you as a tech hip business, but it is really branding for Twitter and Facebook.  You pasting their logos for free on your ads.  That’s great for them, I’m sure.   If you’ve taken a social psychology course, you might have been exposed the Theory of Planned Behavior by Icek Ajzen.  According to Ajzen, planned behaviors such as planning to follow a brand on social media services goes through a series of complicated steps.  In a tiny nutshell, a person must endorse the behavior, the normative belief (perception of other people’s beliefs) must endorse the behavior, and the person much also believe that the behavior is within his/her control.  Those are factors that feed into intention that may actually feed into executing the behavior.

*Used with permission. Read up on the Theory of Planned Behavior here.

So, if only your brand name with a Twitter or Facebook logo appear on advertising, this process of getting people to follow you is complicated. Here’s some examples I found in a magazine.  I personally find the logos in print to be frustrating.   I can’t click the print advertising.  I can’t double tap a newspaper to go to a URL.

First, people have to notice it and intend on following you.  Then people have to go through the entire process of pulling out their phones, deciding whether or not use the appropriate app to search for your brand or to do a Google search for the link to your profile.  And then they have to actually find it.  Having a person go through the search process can be annoying, especially of the Twitter handle is nothing like the brand name or SEO for the brand name is pretty horrific.  If the person searching doesn’t include the words “Twitter” or “Facebook” in the search, it can be an even more painful process.  After the search process, the people have to decide whether or not they like you.  If the search process was painful, they probably won’t like you as much.  If the person has to remember to search for your profile on a desktop computer, the process becomes even longer.

With a QR code (or even URL), many steps of the process that would have to go through Ajzen’s Theory of Planned Behavior are cut out completely.   Here’s some examples of better ways of integrating social media with print or non-digital advertising.

The take away message from this post is that there are already enough road blocks to desired behavior.  You can remove some of those roadblocks by giving your audience an easy way to find you on social media, even in traditional advertising.

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@GoogleHotPot:The Evolution of Search, Social Media, and Community

I’ve been mulling over this topic on and off for the last couple of months. Google HotPot made it’s debut recently, and there are many more issues to discuss in this post. 

Isn’t everything social media these days?  If it is online and you can have “friends,” it must be social media.  Simon Salt and I have debated (friendly, of course because we’re both friendly) about this issue and Yelp.  We both run around in similar circles, and we both use similar tools. But we view them in different ways.  *My opinions are well, my opinions, and they do not reflect on any of the Yelp community managers or users. **I don’t work for Google, Yelp, or any other like website.

Side 1: Yelp is social media.  You can add friends. You can meet people who become your friends.  You can send messages to your friends.  It must be social.

Side 2: Yelp is crowd sourced content. People write reviews, and they sort through reviews.  Though Yelp has a community in select cities, those are free-standing and created after content starts to come in.

I used to be on side 2.  Simon was on side 1. Yelp is full of reviews that come from people who want to voice their opinions.  Those opinions are combined into a star rating.  That is the quick and dirty of it.

However,a deeper look into why Yelp was leaps and bounds ahead of similar sites like Chowhounds or Urbanspoon was because they had a community.  They built communities after there was enough momentum by hiring an official community manager (to keep the peace and to put on parties) and started the Elite badging system.  Having been in two separate Yelp communities (Houston and Austin) and attending a Yelp Elite event in San Francisco, I could easily see that each community has a distinct demographic, personality, and dynamics.  You might have remembered my post about the destruction of the Austin Yelp Community by de-eliting Michelle C. Since then, the communities have worsened in my opinion.  Long-time users began to fade away, the speed of reviews posted seemed to slow, and the talk threads because much less active.  During the 2011 eliting week, threads like this one and this one brought about heated conversations.  Anyone who crossed Yelp, created problems for Yelp, or  voiced their opinions louder than Yelp did not have their elite status renewed.

I was one of those people who did not have their 2011 elite badge, and I was surprised at first.  At SXSW 2010, I spoke at a core convesation with Addie Broyles about how review sites were changing the restaurant review landscape.  As Yelp was just slapped with lawsuits, it quickly became Yelp-centric.  I stood up for the Yelp community (the users), and I gave my unbiased opinion about Yelp’s role in the restaurant reviews.  I still think that they had a genius model.  Before community became a buzzword, they were building them.  Yelp was one of the first websites that hosted in person meet ups.  I wish I had thought of that and executed as well as they did.  Anyways, after my post about how they were destroying the community and my voice in the social media world, Yelp was displeased and did not renew my elite status as well.  They didn’t give my the axe after the blog post, when I was expecting it.  They waited four months later.  That portion of Yelp’s Corporate email to me read:

“We also understand that you are a social media consultant. Though not technically a business owner, there is an inherent conflict of interest with being Yelp elite and a social media consultant. Per the above, unfortunately we are unable to welcome you back to the Elite Squad at this time.”

I’m putting that on all my future resumes.  :o)  It’s kind of flattering that an individual that has my own consulting service on the side would be a conflict of interest with a giant website.

You might be asking yourself, “Who cares about the community?  I don’t care about those people, I just want to see the ratings.”  And you’re absolutely right in asking.  I don’t think Yelp is going to fold just because the communities are less loyal, less active, but I know that I’m going to shift how I categorize Yelp.  Yelp to me is turning into a search tool, a very useful one at that.  I frequently listen and read Jason Calicanus and Fred Wilson’s blogs and podcast, and both of them use Yelp (mobile too).  But I’ve never heard or read of Jason or Fred commenting about feeling right at home with the Yelp community.  Most of the comments are about the search features.  I too really like the search feature on Yelp mobile.  I can drive into a new location, hit find close to me button, and start weeding it through.  However, one time late at night, Yelp recommended that I get dinner at the Yellow Rose, the gentlemen’s club.  I declined that recommendation.  The numbers geek inside me really likes that you can get more data.  While there is more noise in Yelp data (variability in reviews), if I didn’t know the source, I would rather look at the reviews of 100 people instead of 5 people.  Statistically, more reviews are more favorable.

I’ll update my views of Yelp.  It isn’t crowd-sourced content driven by a strong community anymore.  Honestly, who is going to join a community just to find out where to eat a taco?  Now that a particular threshold of content already exists (at least in Austin and other larger cities), Yelp is a great search tool. I use Yelp to collaborate with my friend’s recommendations, and I often read reviews to see what dishes are extra tasty (or not).

The Evolution of Search : GoogleHotPot

Search is great, and who is the typical suspect in search?  Google.  Google recently launched their HotPot product that could throw a wrench into the current review sites.  I listened to the This Week in Startups podcast with Lior Ron (the product developer of GoogleHotPot) several times.  Lior Ron describes HotPot as the evolution of search, making search personalized and socially relevant – almost like a Netflix or Pandora for places.  I would add that there’s an even more social aspect to this type of search.

A different type of community.

Even though GoogleHotPot is a search, there are still community components to it.  Google users have friends.  You can share information with your friends and you can read information posted by your friends.  The community is already there, and users are sharing the information with each other which is similar to a social media tool.  Yelp on the other hand, tried to nurture a community by bringing together users to contribute content.  Sure, there is a community, but that community didn’t exist without the Yelp platform.  The Yelp community was created after the platform was available.  I view GoogleHotPot as giving a community a tool, and Yelp built a community on a platform.

You can watch/listen to TWIST episode with Lior Ron here.

What can GoogleHotPot do for users?

1. You wouldn’t have to go to multiple review sites (Yelp, Chow, UrbanSpoon) to see reviews.  GoogleHotPot collects the ratings and shows it to you in a pretty box.

2. You can start to personalize the searches, and thusly improve recommendations.  Every time you rate a place, Google starts to learn what you like and don’t like, and thusly adjusting recommendations to you.  I’ve asked Yelp about this several times to no avail.  I wanted a tool where Yelp would discard reviews from people who did not share the same taste preferences or styles of food as well.  From a data perspective, their ratings and reviews would be ignored by me anyways.

3. You are already in your community.  Since GoogleHotPot is on your Google profile, it is easy to add friends that are already in your email box.  No need to join a new community or to start one.  You already have your community of friends that you can add to your GoogleHotPot.  I have just shy of a quajillion contacts on Google.  I already know these people, and I already communicate with them.

What can GoogleHotPot do for businesses?

1. Your business shows up on Google.  They don’t adjust or change your rankings, but you get to highlight when you are on Google.  With Yelp, you have to hope that Yelp’s SEO will get your Yelp page ranked high on the first page.  And well, Yelp business pages aren’t getting as high as they used to.  There were some Yelp business pages that I couldn’t find on Google.  However, Yelp talk threads are still highly ranked. Like really highly ranked.

2. Information that Google gives business owners for free:

  • Update your details, phone number, address, hours, photos, or special announcements.
  • Business intelligence and insights via a dashboard.
  • Where are people coming from (physically)?
  • What queries are people searching to find you?
  • Impressions (and mobile impressions)
  • User behavior on your Google Places

3. The ability to add tags to highlight your business when it shows up in Google.  The fee to for the tags is only $25 per month.  That is very affordable, even to small businesses. You add tags to enhance:

  • Photos of your business
  • Videos of your business
  • Coupons for your listing
  • Menu for your restaurant
  • Reservations page for your business
  • Posts for your business

Other benefits are:

  • Easily and inexpensively highlight your listing on Google from Google Places.
  • Potential customers in your local area will see what you think is most important or unique about your business.
  • Track the effectiveness of your tag with your Google Places dashboard.
  • There is no additional work or ongoing management is needed.

3. Boost, which is like Google adwords.  I can tell you from experience that the Boost is effective on mobile devices.  I once searched for a business by name, and all the similar businesses who had Boost showed up on my Google Map.  The actual business I was searching did not.  That can be a very practical way for businesses to edge out the competition in the mobile space.

What’s in the future?

I can’t tell you how GoogleHotPot will pan out.  To be honest, Google has had their fair share of failed products like Wave and Buzz.  However, unlike HotPot, Wave and Buzz relied entirely on people to talk to each other using Google tools.  GoogleHotPot is capitalizing on content that already exists.  That might make or break this new product.  After attending the Launch Conference, I also saw that new tools that were quoted to be like the “Netflix of _________.”  Whether or not GoogleHotPot takes off, it is pretty obvious that search is evolving.

You might wonder why I’ve made such a big deal about GoogleHotPot, I kind of love Chinese hot pot.  That’s my comfort food, one of them anyways.


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Strategy Idea: Activity Based Social Rewards using Location Based Services

Note: I don’t work for any of the services mentioned in this post, but Gowalla was a Cupcake Smackdown 2.0 sponsor.

With thought about how to incorporate more social media tools into Cupcake Smackdown 2.0, I wondered if I could set up social social rewards for attending large events featuring a variety of activities.  Location based is popular these days. FourSquare, Gowalla, Whrrl, Yelp, and now Facebook are all in on it.  I was thrilled that Gowalla sponsored a special event for Cupcake Smackdown 2.0, but what’s next for location based services at events?

Earning a Ride a Caterpillar Activity Badge at Cockrell Butterfly Center.

I wanted to reward people for participating in all the activities via social media, but there was no way to differentiate who did or who didn’t participate as everyone checks into one location.  With most location-based mobile applications, the basic function is that a user checks in to a location.  The locations can have a check in range of at least half a mile, so trying to add activities as locations doesn’t really work.  They will just be mostly inaccurate.  For events like Cupcake Smackdown 2.0, The Smithsonian, universities, or even Disney’s Theme Parks, activity based rewards in location based applications can be useful for engaging visitors in activities, tracking engagement in activities, and an easy way for the user to share the activity with others.

The Kim Possible Interactive Game at Disney’s Epcot is one of the few activities and locations  that is using a similar system (but different technology).  For the Kim Possible Interactive Game, players are equipped with a cell phone and GPS.  They are sent to different locations with a mission (activity) to accomplish.  Once the activities are completed (confirmed via unknown technology), they are sent onto another activity.  Here’s some links to write ups about the interactive game:

Here’s two different strategies that can use the same tools in a very different way.  Currently, a user checks into a location by selecting it off a list of nearby locations.  My basic idea for these strategies is that users would check into the locations, and then receive badge, items, or points for completing activities.  For example: I would check into Disneyland (the location), and ride the Buzz Lightyear Astro Blaster, and then check into the “Buzz Lightyear” activity indicating I completed it.

Activities can currently be added as events to some of the available services, but that doesn’t people from checking in even if they didn’t complete the activity.  This could easily be remedied by password protecting the activity, and distributing the password to users after said activity.  There are two problems with this method: (1) The password gets out, and anyone can use it as long as they are checked into the location, (2) Some locations will have a plethora of activities.  The The Smithsonian has 18 museum, and a daunting list of exhibits and activities.  Scrolling through a list of 100 activities could be views as a pain.

If possible, one time use QR codes could be distributed to users post-activity allowing them to “complete the activity” on Gowalla or FourSquare.  They could also be posted at the end of a ride as users are leaving the area.  I’m not sure if there is currently an interface with QR code scanners and the location-based mobile applications, but it would be cool if they did.  It would also let people check in or find secret locations or activities that one cannot find unless they scan in.

Earning the Navigate a Submarine Activity Badge

Strategy 1:

Create a reward system for users who complete certain activities at a particular location.  This is similar to trips on Gowalla.  An example might be having a Super Scientist badge for users who view 12 of the 24 exhibits (I made up that number) at the American History Museum at The Smithsonian Another might be to award a Thrill Seeker badge to those who ride all the rides at Disneyland Badges and social recognition are important.  I don’t need to tell you that.  There are endless posts (like this one and this one) chronicling FourSquare badges.  Don’t forget about the use of badges in Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.

This strategy can also be kicked up by combining it with other similar locations.  For example,  The Smithsonian could partner up with another museum(s) located somewhere else to offer the same type of check in badges.  Users who collect all the badges from specified museums would be rewarded with a big badge, like having a star named for the user. The target audience for that type of reward does exist, and we want to be Super Scientists.  :o)

Earning the Crawling with Kids Badge at the Smithsonian

Strategy 2:

Show activities to users who check in our your location.  For example, Twin Liquors could show the “Taste X Wine” activity to users who check in frequently.  Disneyland could advertise a secret ride only to users when they have completed certain other rides.  Completing these advertised activities when people check in could earn users a badge.

This strategy has several advantages.

  • One advantage is that users’ friends will see the badge and want one too.  We already touched on the social value of badges.  That’s marketing for the business.
  • The second advantage is that there is exclusivity surrounding the activity.  It is only offered to people who check in (or other additional requirements), and people like getting things that are special.
  • The third advantage is the gaming aspect of it.  Like the Kim Possible Interactive Game, fun activities are hidden and must be discovered via clues.  A short game with an activity at the end could easily be embedded into a park or museum. Augmented reality could also be incorporated to show off new technology.  This engages the users and encourages them to discover new things that might not be related to the game itself.

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Social Media has gone to the dogs!

Social Media has gone to the dogs.  After training, showing, handling, and judging dogs for eight years, social media and dogs have their similarities in concepts and behaviors.  *Note: This post is mostly intended to be humorous.  Don’t be too offended.  Also, Happy 8th Birthday to @Mousethedog!

1. Classical conditioning is an old dog training principle.  Classical conditioning is simply the pairing and associating of two things. In Pavlov’s case, his dog associated a bell with dog food which lead to drooling.  Eventually, the dog would begin to drool with sound of the bell even in the absence of food.  In dog training, the trainer should always be in a cheerful mood regardless of what the dog is doing (much easier said than done).  The dog will associate the trainer with cheerfulness and other good things.  If the trainer is always angry and upset, the dog will begin to associate the trainer with angry and upset feelings.  It isn’t hard to figure out why some dogs avoid their owners in this case.

If your Twitter voice and Facebook posts are always unhappy and angry, people will stop following you.  You are a debbie downer, a stick in the mud, an angry cloud on a sunshiny day.  On the other hand, if your Twitter voice and Facebook posts are always cheerful and happy, people might start to associate you with positive emotions, engage with you more, and tend to follow you.  Classically condition people to like you, not to run away from you.

2. Everyone wants to chew on the new toys until it is broken. Dogs love to play with new toys until they are un-stuffed and shredded.  Just give a group of dogs a fuzzy stuffed toy and check back in a few weeks to see if you can find the parts of the stuffed toy.  This is the same thing with social media tools.  Today, Twitter is big.  It is so popular that it fail whales frequently.  Everyone wants to play with Twitter, and now we’ve broken it.  Tweets have gone missing. Twitter search is a joke.  While the Twitter toy has lasted a couple of years so far, how much longer under social media gets a new toy?  Other examples of broken toys include the iphone.  AT&T’s network (especially in San Francisco and Austin) just can’t support iphone users anymore.  Looks like the HTC Evo 4G is the new toy.

3. In dog training, like social media, there’s not only one single right way to do things (many wrongs as well). There’s countless numbers of dog training methods, and there are also countless numbers of social media strategies and tactics.  Different methods for different dogs.  My big dog doesn’t respond well to repetition methods.  He gets bored.  However, my little dog loves doing the same exercise over and over again, especially when she is very confident about her performance.  Different social media strategies for different audiences.  In social media, hard selling or spamming on Twitter usually get you a kick in the pants.  You’ll probably also get blocked.  However, hard selling or spamming in the adult website industry probably works considering how many wind up in my spam box.

4. In dogs, they all want to sniff the newbie’s butt.  Who’s that new dog at the park?  What’s his story? Should I pee on him?  In social media, we all tend to google and search for dirt on new users.  Who’s that new blogger?  Has anyone ever met that newbie with only 3 followers?  Before you get started in social media, be sure that you clean up your Facebook and Myspace (may it rest in peace) accounts.  No one needs to find that photo of you doing a keg stand in your sister’s bikini and high heels when sniffing your online butt.

5. Dogs breeds were developed with certain innate characteristics over hundreds of years.  Border collies love to chase moving objects.  Daschunds love to dig.  Huskies love to pull.  You can try to train them to not engage in those behaviors, but the dogs like to do what they like to do.  Your audience has innate characteristics.  They like what they like, and you can try to change it, but good luck.  If psychologists knew how to consistently and reliably invoke attitude and behavior change, we would have put an end to drug abuse, unsafe sex practices, and unhealthy eating habits.  We’re still working on those.

6. Motivation.  Dogs wake up in the morning wanting to pee on things, eat cat poop, slobber on the couch, and hump stuffed animals (maybe not in that order).  They are dogs after all, and that’s what they are motivated to do.  Users wake up in the morning and look for interesting news, follow new users, and play Farmville.  Face it.  They don’t wake up saying, “I would LOVE to spend my time writing a blog post about your product!”  Dogs have different motivations than their handlers.  Consumers have different motivations than businesses.  While your business might have fans who like your products, they aren’t as motivated as you are to stay afloat.

7. Be genuine. Dogs can smell a fake from a mile away.  They can read your body language much better than humans can.  Users can also smell a fake on social media as well.  You can’t put up a fake front for long.  We’ll call you out!

8. Dog training and social media never ends. I get asked frequently how long it took to train my dogs.  My reply is, “It never ends.”  The notion that one can take a dog through few obedience courses and get a well-behaved dog is pretty far from the truth.  Training a dog happens is a never ending process, especially if they are trained for performance activities.  Training lasts a lifetime.  Successful social media also never ends.  I’ve been asked “How long do we have to use Twitter? When do we are we finished with social media?”  The answer is: Unless your business or your internet presence ceases to exists, social media should not end.  Social media tools may come and go, but hopefully the social part never ends.


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The Age of Entitlment in Social Media

Disclaimer: The Age of Entitlement attitude is not limited to age, nor do all Generation Y-ers have that attitude.

Generation Y, those babies born in the 80’s and 90’s, have been dubbed the Generation of Entitlement.  There is a plethora of articles from business journals to psychology magazines describing the typical attitude of Generation Y-ers.  Early in my teaching career, seminars on how to deal with this type of attitude and expectations were common, even at major universities.  We were warned that these generation of students were demanding.  They wanted exams grades posted within hours of the exam.  They wanted credit for effort, regardless of mastery or completion.  The phrase “But I tried….” was fairly typical.

The first lecture class of 250 freshmen I taught was likely the poster children of this attitude.  While that class was soon under control with a reality check, I decided that there had to be a serious culture setting procedure right from the beginning.  I use old school teaching methods where I set expectations high, keep my grading scale difficult, and ban all misbehaviors from my classroom.  Any student that has an unpleasant attitude is asked to leave, forever.  I also show Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture video, and I insist that all my students perform as well as his students did.  Needless to say, by the end of the semester, the generation of entitlement is turned into the generation of hard work and gratitude.

There’s no attitude switch for the Generation Y-ers when they enter social media.  The attitude of give me, credit me, and make me feel special persists everyday on social media.  It doesn’t take long to see someone on Twitter complaining about what they should have gotten.  Just show up late to a party advertising free food and free drink.  You’ll hear the Generation Y-ers complaining about how they didn’t get any free food or free drink that they deserved.  Some businesses have reported hearing the “I’m a Yelper so you should give me free food/drink.”  Sadly, that’s not unheard of from unscrupulous bloggers as well.

It isn’t any secret that I was a born in the 80’s.  I’m technically a Generation Y baby, and I’m embarrassed about the attitudes and behaviors of my generation.  Some people assumed that I was given things like my house.  Sorry, I bought my house when I was 21 by saving up all that I had earned as being a nanny.  I could afford to invest in my hobbies because I worked many hours during my early years of graduate school.  Now that I started my own business, I get emails and phone calls from people asking me how I did it.  The short answer is, “I worked hard.”  Fortunately, my doctorate is in social psychology so I had a knowledge base that translates easily into marketing and social media.  But most importantly, I worked hard to build up my skill sets and to build relationships that now support my business.

I very happy to help others get started in social media.  On the other hand, I’ve been contacted by many generation y-ers about social media and food blogging.  Most recently, someone who had only been on Twitter for two months was now wanting to start working as a social media consultant.  This person was straight out of college with no work experience to boot.  I was speechless.  Had Generation Y babies completely forgotten about hard work, learning from mentors, and earning a reputation?  Did they not realize that many successful people worked their way up?  Gary Vaynerchuck is living it up now, but he started from a basement, literally.  Rachel Ray is highly successful now, and she started making only $50 per show.

So what can you do if you’re a business that faces the Age of Entitlement regularly?  I’d advise that you set a strict policy on how to deal with the most common challenges you have.  If your business regularly gets people asking for free product because they are active in social media, implement a policy on how to handle those requests.  Hint: A complicated policy requiring those people to send you samples of their writing and/or detail the impact their strategies have on your type of business usually sends them on their merry way.

If you’ve got that Entitlement attitude, don’t be hurt.  Just be prepared to work hard.  If you fail, just try again.  If you have a passion for something, look for a mentor to help you cultivate that passion.  Show gratitude.  Thank people for their time.  Thank people for helping you.  Open your ears to criticism.  You can’t improve if you don’t know where you need it.  Look for communities in which a hardworking attitude is required and rewarded. This Week in Startups is one I highly recommend. @Jason is the complete opposite of a Generation Y-er.  If you haven’t watched Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture, this is the time to do it.


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