Mar 13

Thinking About Network Efficiency

Lately a topic that’s been on my mind is the idea of network efficiency. This considers how a topic can hit a group of networked individuals so that it effectively gets spread throughout its network.  To think about this topic another way, how many people  did the Harlem Shake need to hit for it to go ‘viral’ instead of just falling into obscurity like many other videos.  Could a small subset of people effectively have enough reach and traction to reach a few hundred thousand others?

An Intro To Networks…

Something to keep in mind about networks (social networks, interpersonal networks and the like) is that there are two key components , nodes and edges. A node is an individual entity in a network ( ie: a person) and an edge is the different connections between the nodes. Now obviously, certain nodes have more edges, this connects them to many more nodes. Depending on the connections of the nodes, some have similar connections or some that are not similar at all. Why is knowing this useful? Information shared by a node with many edges spreads messaging more effectively than one with just a few. Also, two unrelated but highly connected nodes can share messaging with  a larger reach and less overlap compared to two that are similarly matched. This means a higher rate of separate connections= more reach= more effective messaging spread. (To learn a bit more about network graphs have a look here)


Here is a look at my Facebook social network. The circles would be all of the nodes and the lines between them would be the edges.

Here is a look at my Facebook social network displayed through a program called Gephi. The circles in this picture are my individual friends (or nodes) and the lines between them displays how they are connected ( the edges)


Making Something the Next Big Conversation Topic

I could go into a bit more depth with this topic but I want to keep this post pretty short. At the end of the day, the idea of nodes and edges in a social or interpersonal network  sense can be related back to how quickly and effectively a message is spread. Imagine if we could know which people in a network are needed to best get a message across. Instead of spraying a group with your message you could get it to the right people and have it evenly distributed throughout.Knowing what efforts are needed to make your content reach your target group rather than become  some little known code on the web can ensure increased success and better use of resources.

Jan 12

Doing Measurement Right From The Start!

This post got its inspiration from  Building Data Into The Stuff That Agencies Make written by @kevinrothermel where he spoke about integrating data into the work that agencies do. I thought this was an important idea and perhaps something that is not often thought about enough when awesome and creative works of advertising, public relations or marketing are put in front of consumers.

In considering how to integrate data to effectively measure a campaign or initiative (as well as to ensure that measurement is most effective overall!)  it is in my honest opinion necessary that it is put in place from the very start! I don’t mean the first day of the campaign or when all the pieces of the initiative are starting to come together but starting when the very first utterance of the initiative is said long before it is even decided what is going to be done.

Measurement At The First Meeting:

All marketing and even more generally communications efforts have a goal of what they are to achieve. This is the basis of what the measurement initiative should be. In the end the firm wants to measure how effectively their efforts work to achieve the end goal. Having this goal set out clearly and  understanding of how measurement can be integrated will spark everything to come.

Reviewing Past Data:

Remember all of those reports you had from previous campaigns? They aren’t something that should be put on the shelf once you have reviewed it at campaign end. They should be categorized and brought out every time you start to plan an initiative. Why? Because they hold the key learnings that you can form your strategy around. From this data you can see what worked, what didn’t and what can be reused in your work going forward. Without consulting with what you previously did you doom yourself to repeat the same mistakes.

Realizing Your deficiencies:

With your goals and your plan nearly in place  you can begin to realize if measurement can be done thus allowing the project to move forward. Simply put, if you can’t measure an initiative based on its goals then it should be highly questionable if it should go forward. If you don’t know whether something did great or completely flopped there is no way you can go back to your stakeholders and prove that you didn’t waste their money.  Some limitations in measuring a campaign can be technical (does the technology exist to measure this?) or can be as a result of  a strategic or tactical issue where the campaign is improperly aligned or perhaps the campaign goal set at the start needs to be revaluated as its either not defined enough or just unrealistic.

Improving The Visibility Of Measurement:

The point in all this that I’m trying to make plain and simple is that measurement needs to be given as much attention as everything else. Effectively measuring your work cannot be done when measurement is brought in as an afterthought because then its effectiveness is compromised. When its brought in at the start of the process it is then kept at top of mind and as a result allows any opportunities or potential difficulties to be considered. In a continually competitive landscape measurement isn’t a nice to have but a must have to prove your work.

Mar 11

The Secret Code is….Hidden Promotions

When the word ‘promotion’ comes up in the context of retail stores,  large signs or banners describing a firm’s next big deal comes to mind. “Get some gear! 40% of everything” or ” 2 for 1 on all merchandise” and the list goes on. When you go to the mall or shop online you’re often inundated with different sales and offers. So much so that it sometimes seems like some stores are having sales every day. These kind of promotions are aimed to get the most attention and hopefully drive the most traffic and as a result need to be as obvious as possible. But what if retail promotions were more covert? Instead of being open to everyone  it becomes something that is found or stumbled upon?

At some restaurants you can find a ‘secret menu‘ where there are  items that they don’t advertise but if you’re in the know will make for you anyways. Its a bit like a secret club where customers get something that publicly no body knows about and as a practice is something that ( to my knowledge) hasn’t been really explored in retail as much.

Recently I came across an unadvertised discount from the GAP that spurred my interest in secret promotions. Its  since been taken down from this marginally legit sounding page.  I had come across this link on a Reddit sub forum from someone who had came across it somewhere else. It asked for my cell number and in exchange sent me a discount code to be used at checkout. With some hesitance I tried it out as the site didn’t seem to have much relation to the GAP other than having its logo. Had I not trusted my source for the link I would have passed on it thinking it was a phishing attempt. It did end up working even though not even the employees had much of a clue about it having just come across it once before.

How is a promotion like this useful? Well in my case it gave me a feeling of exclusiveness (mouhaha! I’m one of the few!) and it brought me into a store I don’t often place at the top of my shopping list. With this promotion being so out of the ordinary it encouraged me to research further and with no promotion time span given it placed pressure on me to use this sooner rather than later.

Looking beyond myself as the customer, I estimate the benefits of this approach would be even further expanded when an influencer or content creator comes across this type of content. By seeing this ‘hidden’ content they have the ability to share and build further credibility with their audience. As a result I would presume a two fold result: this person would have a greater affinity for the company (Hey this company had awesome content that I could share with my following. I like them!) and there would be the seeding of this content to this person’s trusting followers who will be more likely to go through with a  purchase.

So…. how is this type of promotion or even campaign implemented?  That’s probably the harder part. Does the firm put up a site and just wait for people to come across it? Should content be seeded through chosen users or be  placed on specific sites? As interesting as this idea is implementing it is the much more difficult part and needs to be explored further. But looking at this just as a concept there may be opportunity in this rather than continually   building larger advertisements to get into the faces of the company’s potential customers.


As always feel free to contact me at either @kevrichard on twitter or


*A note about this post. I’m not in anyway trying to say that lying or being not upfront with your customers can be used as a tactic. Obviously lying  equals angry customers which goes on to decreased sales. I mean to discuss the use of content delivery strategies that are outside of a firm’s owned properties (website, Facebook page, store front).

Oct 09

Is There Still Room For Corporate Communications?

I got commented not to long ago that my writing was to Business style/Corporate  and that kind of stuck with me for a bit. Having recently graduated with a business degree and having been rewarded for it for so long I thought of it as a stronger way of writing and a better way to get my point across. But then social media comes along and the trend of being much more informal and completely  the opposite of  this style begins to start. With this I’ve seen  some criticism of corporate writing  being seen as  the old or caveman  way of doing things and  it not having any practical use.  So my question is, is there still room for corporate writing or do I need to unlearn about 4 years of my educational experience?

Conversational or the ‘new’ way of writing?

So the biggest argument for moving away from the traditional style of writing is that its very cold and unemotional and that its better to write like you’re writing to a friend or like you’re talking to the person beside you. A lot of the time I’ve seen it to be very upbeat and full of personality.

C/ O Alex Barth

Photo from Alex Barth

Some Criticisms I have: I can see it very easily causing miscommunication especially as companies are trying to reach a larger more international audience. Writing isn’t the same as face to face communications you can’t completely express tone and emotion and everyone can have their own interpretation of things.  You can  also easily go overboard as well with  poor language, use of slang  and the appropriateness of subject matter ( ex: will someone be offended by a joke). My personal criticism of moving away from the business style of writing is that it can get too cutesy/expressive and not quickly get down to content .

Corporate or the ‘old’ way of writing:

In my opinion there was a reason that corporate writing became the norm. It standardized things and got right down to the point. When done right there is little ambiguity and the reader can quickly grab the information they need. It also made sure that nothing that was said would improperly anger anyone or put businesses in legal situations which could cost a company a lot of money in the courts.

Photo by  PinkMoose

Photo by PinkMoose

When it can be used poorly: This style of writing has also been known as being cold and very political. When there is pain being felt such as during a crisis event a corporate style press release or letter does not show much sympathy. On the other side of things it can improperly  show a company’s excitement for a new initiative or company win.

So here’s my look at both types of communications  and the benifits/drawbacks of both. I’d like to suggest a hybrid of both styles as they each communicate well in a specific way.  What are your thoughts? Is informal writing in  or is  business communications not going away?

Sep 09

Lessons from Peter Molyneux on Customer Engagement

This is a bit of an old experience of mine but  I was inspired by Brian Alkerton with his disccussion of cheezy gaming advertising . Someone I’ve really admired in the electronic gaming industry is Peter Molyneux current creative director at  Microsoft Game Studios Europe.  A saying  from him that really has stuck around with me was’ Reach for the stars and come out with something special’ ( can’t find the exact wording….). But what was really important  and that had a lot of impact for me was a game he developed a while ago ( 2000-2004) . Despite going through a name change ( Project Ego to Fable)  and  taking close to 4 years to make  its been hard to find a product that ever made me so excited. He made an experience around this product’s development that was memorable and stuck with me.

So what did he do to make this product launch truly special:

Shared His Excitement About the Product: While he received some criticism for his openness with game journalists he spoke with great  excitement about the game. He fully stood behind his product and weaved a strong story around it. Screen shots and game information were shared throughout the development process. Peter and his development firm weren’t afraid about sharing details  even those that weren’t completely solidified.  This excitement was contagious and kept fans wanting more.

Community engagement: During development and even after the game launched Lionhead Studios interacted with its  community. Through a central forum they released trailers and other product teasers and discussed the process of the game.  As a fan you really felt like part of the process. They weren’t afraid about being perceived as un-professional or whether they were going against industry norms they were more concerned about sharing with the community that came together around the game.

Fable Goes Gold!!

Fable Goes Gold!!

The above image  to the uninformed person just looks like a regular DVD. But this was the final tested version of the game, the final files before its sent to production. Most gaming studios never shared such a moment, but considering the development time of the game Lionhead felt it was important to share such an milestone.The long wait was almost done!

So what can be learned from this other than I’m a giant geek…. well to me it shows the importance of sharing with your companies fans and that product development and even day to day operations can weave stories and create relationships with your customers. By just releasing a product or just providing a service with nothing else  your company is forgettable and is  just like every other but by becoming more open and creating an experience you can turn your service or product into something much more memorable.

Sep 09

Corporate Twitter Accounts: Balancing Conversation and Frequency

So this is a bit of a long time coming but part 2 of my twitter ‘experiments’ can be found below:

Experiment 2:

My second experiment involved messaging and how much interaction cans a personality or twitter brand can have with its followers. Yet again I decided to take a twitter alias(@socialmediabot2)  as I’m far from the average twitter user. Going to wefollow I decided to follow 50 people (close to the average of 69 )  and posted intermittently hoping perhaps for some interaction with who I’m following … a bit of a downfall of this experiment lack of true connection with people.

Afterwards, starting on the Monday morning I started posting messages from another account. 1 for every half hour for 7.5 hours for a total of 14 with the messages ( TEST #_ )  to see how this would be viewed on my feed. I wanted to see how the everyday  messaging from the people I followed would fit with the planned ‘corporate’ messaging and whether it would overload my feed and possibly cause me to want to unfollow the account

The Result:

Twitter Overload

Twitter Overload

As you can see there are portions of my feed where the messaging overlapped, for a casual user of twitter this may just be too much!  Especially for accounts with little customer interaction (  just sharing links, company news etc) a strong consideration will have to be  made regarding how many times to post daily will work to allow you to build and retain your audience.

Overall Takeaways:

Twitter is still a difficult area to get solid data from and you can’t just jump on twitter hoping for success in your campaigns or awareness.It takes planning and organization but even then trial and error is needed. I think something that is often missed with twitter  for heavy users like myself  is we forget that the vast majority of people don’t follow hundreds of people or have the equivalent # of followers .

They follow friends and organizations that they are close to and that needs to be considered when planning out a campaign. While heavy twitter users may be able to withstand messaging it probably would be seen as spam to these casual users. I think an excellent example of how to avoid this sort of twitter spam is from Best buy and their Twelpforce where they have once central account but many separate support accounts.

Have any questions/comments ? Contact me at or send me a twitter message .

Aug 09

How I didn't get 100's of twitter followers!

Having a  traditional marketing background,  for promotional actions I always consider the end result or goal. In terms of twitter and social media  though there are a lot of unknowns and what ifs . Overall its untested territory for most people. Steming from a conversation I had recently I decided to do a bit of testing of the twitter platform and see if I can build a bit of test case.  This is part 1 of 2 twitter experiments I completed, stay tuned for the second one to come soon! * Note these  experiments are definitely not experimental and would probably not be replicated if redone, take my conclusions with your own judgement.

Experiment #1:

I think a lot of twitter users have come across the messages “Get more followers now” or ” Get X amount of followers today” and despite the general sentiment of  quality of followers over quantity I’m sure everyone even for a moment  where slightly tempted by this thinking that that more followers equals more people to get their messaging out to.  This is especially relevant  to  traditional marketing mediums as  more eyes =more marketing awareness= more customer action = money!  So I decided to put this to the test, can someone get tons of followers overnight using these follower programs.

The Scenario:

Starting off with an empty account ( @socialmediabot1) I joined the following  social media following programs:

Initially I started following 19 people and I noticed with all 3 of these programs that there were paid for premium options ( so basically paying for followers)  I also noticed that I almost immediately started sending out auto posts from these programs.  From there I left the account completely alone to let the followers come in, opting not to send out anything to not influence the result based on my content.




I started @socialmediabot1 on a Friday night, deciding to leave it  over the weekend. Checking it once I noticed that I was following over 100 people and had just 19 followers, no where close to the promised massive amounts of followers.  At the end of this experiment I come to above picture, no followers and 12 auto tweets and a suspended account.  I wasn’t completely surprised.


I am by no means a great twitter user but my account certainly didn’t popup over night and I certainly didn’t expect this one to. A major marketing/branding implication of this is communities need to be built and  its not a matter of massively following people or hoping that  people  run to your brand. Relationships need to be formed  and this takes a lot of time and effort.

Often times I feel that platforms like twitter are advertised as a panacea for marketing and that suddenly you’ll see huge results. FALSE! Like all marketing efforts hard work needs to be invested and careful planning and organizing should be done.  Social Media is just another touch point to your customers, the only ‘magic’ there is the opportunity to have further communications with customers and the general public.

I’d like to hear  what you  think about twitter and  any of your thoughts on  best cases or usage scenarios for companies and organizations so please feel free to leave a comment, send me a twitter message or email me at .

Jul 09

Relaunching an Online Community

Social Networks  are a great way of connecting people who share the same interests and encourage community discussion. Thinking that this may be a great tool to connect its more than 200,000  members across North America the Sigma Chi Fraternity (of which I’m a member of ) decided to create a community for its members where they can interact and connect. Hosted by Affinity Circles its a pretty robust system that allows interaction at many different levels and members are able to form their own groups based on location or interest. Its a great tool and it would be very useful in achieving its purpose… if someone actually used it.

This was the old network ( I personally liked the layout)

This was the old network ( I personally liked the layout)

As a an active member there was no discussion of this site within my chapter or when meeting members from other chapters, I only came across it when searching through  Sigma Chi’s central site. Because no one was active on it and because there was no real life connection or use for it this network was empty and barren. Instead members have reverted to using  larger networks such as Facebook to connect. The downfall with this is that disparate groups are made instead of gathering the organization  together as a whole.

Can this be fixed?

Well the headquarters staff is trying its best to . At a recent Fraternity meeting  this past weekend  they  launched  a new network with toned down features and a simpler interface hoping that it will appeal to both younger and older generations. While this may address some issues in the end I feel  it won’t fix the larger issue of participation.

The new network. Simplified and waiting to be used.

The new network. Simplified and waiting to be used.

So how can this relaunch become successful so it doesn’t become yet another empty community?  While I’m not claiming to be an expert here are some of my ideas in developing interest and use of this website by the general fraternity:

Community leaders: By getting volunteers ( either chapter presidents or designated  geographic community managers) to actively use , connect, and discuss this site  becoming evangelists for this initiative the hope will be to get people talking about it once again and  encourage its use.By building its use in day to day tasks  for active/alumni chapter operations or as a space for organizing events and initiatives among members, users will have a reason to return on a more regular basis and will come to associate the website as the space for Fraternity information/news .

Creating a Hub: Another important piece to this new site is making sure  that it offers something that other social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter don’t . A big part of this in my opinion is having  a central interaction point. While Sigma Chi has a central website, by creating a page where news and events from the fraternity as a whole are posted members will come to this page to keep up to date with whats happening within the fraternity . This can be as simple as a weekly blog posting or advanced as a news feed where members can recieve news and updates from the entire site or just the networks they are involved in.

Connecting Content : Bringing in and organizing the  content  located on other sites will be a good community building tool as well. There are many facebook groups, flickr feeds, Youtube videos and blog entries related to Sigma Chi scattered across the net. Allowing members to either link or post this content up will encourage interaction and discussion. While this may be a bigger undertaking I also feel posting up materials such as  pledge manuals, historic pictures  and other memrobelia on this site will also build  increased value with network users.

These are just a few points that I feel will help to ensure that this new site doesn’t go to waste. There will be a lot of work needed to build interest and to ensure the usability of this network. I’m curious to hear  more about people’s experiences in building community and thoughts of how one can be started/restarted. Feel free to post your thoughts/ideas in the comments section below.

Have any questions/comments ? Contact me at or send me a twitter message .

Jun 09

My Experience at Social Mastermind//Social Media for Social Change

A story not so often heard about social media  is how it can be a tool used by those who don’t wish to  make a profit but rather by those who want to make a change in today’s society. This past week I was lucky enough to get myself  out to see how some great people are looking to use social media tools for the better good and was able to lend my albeit limited knowledge to help out one organization in  effectively using social media  tools to reach their goals.

What was this? It was Net Change week described on their  website as a week to connect Toronto’s digital natives with the city’s social change organizations. Held at MaRs discovery district with the backing of both for and non profit organizations the week looked like it was a great success. Now where did I come in? I had the pleasure of volunteering my time as one of the social media ‘experts’ in  a one day session  with a charity to analyze their current operations and develop strategies to implement social media in their work.

I had the opportunity to work with a good friend of mine  Dan Hocking a partner in a digital agency. We were paired with Pencils for Kids a small charity based out of Markham who’s goal is to see all children with the tools needed to have an education. Currently they have projects in a community in Niger where they have worked to  help provide the school supplies and facilities needed for an education. Overall an organization that despite only having one full time (unpaid) staff  person has been doing great things to create social change.

While Pencils for Kids is doing some great things offline, Dan and I felt that building a stronger social media presence would work well in expanding their fund-raising efforts.  Here’s a bit of what we were able to discuss in our meeting:

Telling their story: The founder of this organization , Robin Mednic  who is in the thick of things when it comes to this organization’s projects has  an uncanny  ability to just grab you into the cause. By telling her experience with the organization and the changes Pencils for Kids has made  she almost immediately sold me on the charity.  We felt this strong message needed to be found on their website as well.  By better integrating the photos they already had on flickr and placing the content amassed  in her travels on the site in either blog or in web page form we felt Pencils for Kids could represent themselves as the amazing change creating organization that they are.

Fund-raising: We also got into the development of a fund-raising campaign with a strong on line component. Focused around the idea of providing every child in the community they support with text books Pencils for Kids would actively engage supporters in this campaign . Relying heavily on visual imagery ( X amount of money = X% of a child’s text books) Pencils for kids through its offline work could drive on line donations to its site. Through this campaign they would be able to directly demonstrate the effect an individual ‘s donation  would have to the cause and they would appeal to literacy groups, schools and the general public in reaching their goal.

Awareness: Pencils are a strong source of imagery for the organization and Pencils for Kids uses it as a initial topic for discussion about their organization. To build stronger feelings for this organization it was felt that Pencils for Kids could engage the public by encouraging them to  create content around this key item.  Some suggested mediums were photos, drawings, and videos and these would be posted on the Pencils for Kids website where viewers could vote and comment on these pieces of work  potentially with prizing to follow for  the most votes.

Overall this was a great experience and I was happy to have been brought aboard. I think I took away something from this experience as well. In the social media realm a lot of people with knowledge feel that organizations should be on all the major tools and they will then seem to have this major success.  I’ve learned that  certain tools aren’t for every organization.  Really I think that goes back to basic marketing. What tools will meet the organizations needs and goals? We didn’t go very heavy on a social media tool set in our ideas during the session because we knew that the volunteers of Pencils for Kids would be overwhelmed or not put in the  large  amount of effort needed to see  what would probably  be limited success. Instead we stuck to basics and worked on Pencils for Kids strengths.

PS: Remember how I said I was sold on this organization, after the session Dan and I  put our names down for working with Pencils for Kids in the future.

Have any questions/comments? Contact me at or send me a twitter message .