Shiv Singh: December 2008 Archives

Razorfish files Patent to measure Social Media. What do you think?

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We've talked a lot about social influence marketing over the last year and what it means to account for social influencers. From the trends, to the academic research, our client work and our own experiments we're methodically bringing social influence marketing to life for all our clients and for all our disciplines as well. 

Well, now we've taken that a step further with a patent filed on how to measure social influence. This is one more proof point of how measurable and meaningful social influence marketing can be for marketers everywhere. Its not the whole solution but a key piece to understanding the measurement and why and how things go viral. Please tell me what you think about this. Is it a big deal, is it a no brainer, does it add value?

The Data Problem:
Today social media apps (widgets, applications, viral media, etc.) cannot track or account for unique individuals other than those who download the application and those that download the application from a friend. Couple that with the lack of known quantitative methods for identifying key influencers within a social network in regards to a specific application and you’ve got a big problem for the industry. Certainly a billion dollar problem and one that matters a lot if we want to make social influence marketing more real for marketers.

Core Questions We Tried To Answer:
  • What is the value of a key influencer? 
  • How viral or how many generations of influence has my social media application achieved?
  • What is the value of someone who receives a social application from a friend versus someone who receives it via media or a paid seeding strategy?

The Razorfish Incrementing Action Tag Solution:
Our solution is the Incrementing Action Tag which is a set of functions within a social media application that creates a variable that may be read externally based on where the user acquires the application.  When a user downloads the application from the original source, the Incrementing Action Tag notes the source and assigns the downloader the value of first generation (or one). When another downloader obtains the application from somewhere other than the original source (e.g. a friend, other website, etc.), the Incrementing Action Tag looks at the variable (or generation) assigned to the current source and increments it by one; thus making the next downloader generation two or other appropriate generation number.

The Incrementing Action Tag is thus able to identify (via a cookie and unique identifier and not through personally identifiable information) and track social media, identify how far removed (generation) cookies are from the original source of the social media, and identify key influencers (again no PII- see note above) of users of social media. In essence, this technology enables our agency to create a system that allows us to value and reach key influencers across the Internet, regardless of property.  

In everyday language, this is very important as social media spreads through the viral influence. Brands really need to know how and why something goes viral so that when they optimize who their efforts, they can target and seed more efficiently.


Successes Thus Far:
We’ve successfully used the action tag in three instances with three different clients.  We’ve seen as many as four generations of pass-along for these social media applications and are now looking  to begin using the Generational Tag on all social media applications so that we can build our knowledge of social media applications.

Thought this is still in its early days, we’ve definitely taken a big step forward towards tracking social influence across the web and maybe, just maybe, starting to crack a billion-dollar problem. We're excited about it and hope it contributes in its own small way to the evolution of our industry and social influence marketing in particular.

Congratulations to the Seattle team that made this all happen: Marc Sanford, Sandy Schlee, Steve Ebeling, Kelley Maves, David Niffin, Christopher Castle, Frank Kochenash, and Jesse Drogin.

Also visit our Digital Design Blog for more information on digital trends and consumer behavior.

Portable Social Graphs, A Popular Topic

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Our Portable Social Graphs deck has been getting a lot of attention since we published it last Wednesday. Its been featured on ReadWriteWeb, Web-Strategist, The Huffington Post, MediaBistro and a bunch of other influential websites. Its been viewed by 13,002 people, embedded 90 times, favorited 142 times and has scores of tweets about it (one of the first written by Jeremiah over at Forrester). The fact that Facebook Connect has just left beta definitely made the deck more timely. We've also gotten a lot of positive direct feedback from clients, the press, peers in the industry and Facebook too. Within Razorfish, we've been discussing Facebook Connect for months on our social media list and as a result were a little surprised by all the attention the deck has gotten.

We're obviously bullish on Facebook Connect and really believe in its potential to allow for friends and family to influence each other across the web (something that's at the heart of social influence marketing). In many respects, it represents the true blurring of the social web and the mainstream web. Needless to say, every other social platform is paying close attention to Facebook Connect. LinkedIn has an API that lets websites integrate LinkedIn's social graph. Its not available to everyone but its a start nevertheless. MySpace just announced that they're formally joining the Google Friend Connect bandwagon allowing universal login. MySpaceID (as its now being called) uses the OAuth, OpenSocial and OpenID open standards. Facebook Connect is not built on open standards which is why it gets some criticism from the web community.

Imagine if Amazon integrated Facebook Connect

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There's been a lot of talk about Facebook Connect lately as more websites integrate it. In fact, just today Techcrunch announced that they were integrating Facebook Connect and rumor has it that Digg and Hulu will be adding the functionality too. 

Here at Razorfish we're big believers in the potential of portable social graphs and with Facebook Connect out of the gate first, we've been playing around with it quite a bit. In fact, its been a really hot topic on our voluminous internal social media list for six months now. So we thought we'd brainstorm some provocative uses of Facebook Connect. Here's what we came up with. Tell us what you think and whether as a digital marketer or web product manager you'd think of implementing ideas like these.

A Thanksgiving to Forget. Mumbai Attacked

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tajonfire.jpgIt has undoubtedly been the most difficult Thanksgiving for me with the Mumbai terrorist attacks starting virtually the moment my holiday began (around 2:00pm EST on Wednesday). Having spent several years in Mumbai as a child, I know both the hotels that were attacked rather well. I used to visit them often and I would drive past the Oberoi on my way to school every morning. 

But closer to home an old friend of my parents (who incidentally was at my wedding this January) was dining at the Taj Hotel when the terrorists attacked. His wife was able to escape but he was marched up to the 18th floor of the hotel by the terrorists and later shot. Yesterday, my mother attended the funeral of a fellow journalist who also died. All in all a horrible, tragic few days. And I can't begin to imagine how it must be for the families who were directly affected. 

Nevertheless, I've been impressed by the courageous citizen journalism that kept the world abreast about the crisis as it unfolded hour by hour and minute by minute. It was another example of ordinary people using social technologies to get the word out, give each other faith, provide needed information when the authorities weren't communicating and help save lives too. Twitter, Flickr, SMS and the blogs were just some of the social technologies used as people communicated with the hotel guests holed up in their rooms telling them when to escape out of the buildings. In fact, 80 messages were being sent to Twitter every five seconds about the attacks.  Twitter also reported that there was still gunfire inside the Taj Mahal hotel long after the mainstream media had said it was finished.

Sure in some cases sensitive information may have been transmitted but the social technologies and social media more broadly once again proved how central and useful it can be in times of crisis. But to me the most important benefit is that social media allows our all our ordinary voices to be heard loud and clear. The most encouraging and dynamic response to the terrorist attacks that I've come across is that of the Mumbai Twitter users. They decided to meet for beer at Leopold Cafe (one of the targets) yesterday. Why? Because they wanted to stand up defiantly and show the terrorists that nothing will stop them from living their lives the way they want to. How were they able to organize this so quickly? By using Twitter.

Nothing is going to lessen the pain of the tragedy for anyone even remotely connected to it. But we can all draw strength from the courage of others and recognize that as ordinary individuals that may get caught in the midst of events that are well beyond our control, there are social technologies that can help today in ways that we never thought possible even fifteen years ago.