Innovate 1st Interview Part 3 – Social Media Myths and Truths

January 10, 2011

I was recently interviewed by Innovate 1st for an upcoming edition of Innovate eZine’s “Conversations on the Cutting Edge” series. Following are excerpts from the interview, which was conducted by Doug Berger, Managing Director, The INNOVATE Company.

To read the full interview series, start with my earlier blog post: “Challenges in Advertising & Media Effectiveness.” 


Social Media Myths & Truths

Doug:        Let’s shift gears to social and digital media.  Why don’t you start with some basic facts and then move into some of the wide-spread fallacies.

Randall:     Globally, in 2007, there were about 210 million people using social media.  Today, it’s over 500 million people.  The time per person spent between 2007 and 2009 has gone up about 82 percent.

So more people are doing it, and they’re doing it a lot more.  Secondly, it is big everywhere.  When you look around the world at the percentage of people using social media, globally it’s 73 percent as of last year, from a low of 59 percent in Germany up to a high of 84 percent in Brazil, with the U.S. at the global average of 73 percent.

It started skewing a bit younger, but as the penetration of social media has grown, it’s become almost a truly representational population.

Social Media Myths & Truths

Doug:        What are the trends around social media in terms of brand building?

Randall:     We all know that a recommendation from a friend, or a family member, or an acquaintance is the most powerful form of marketing there is.  That is the underlying phenomena of social media.   Engaging people to ultimately have them speak positively on your behalf is the real opportunity of social media.

Let me just give you one example of this.  Nielsen (Disclosure: I work at Nielsen) has a partnership with Facebook, where they measure ad effectiveness on Facebook. They have looked at a basic ad for Virgin Atlantic and we can see the recall for the ad.  Facebook can serve up that same exact Virgin ad, except below its ad it says, “The following friends or people in your network are also fans of Virgin.”  These ads score much higher than just the regular ad without the social context.

Virgin Atlantic: Facebook Fan Page

One of the developments that advertisers need to be focused on are ways to leverage social context that validates having people seriously think about using or buying your brand.

A lot of our clients are moving to a media model that we like to call POEM – Paid, Owned, Earned Media.  Paid media is the traditional advertising.  Owned media is your own website, or you own your own content on a website.  Earned media is how consumers are talking about your brand.

This POEM framework is an interesting one to think about for reaching consumers.  Now advertisers can look at people who viewed an ad; the percentage who went online and searched for my brand; the percentage who went onto my Facebook page; the percentage who went to my corporate website.  You can measure all of that.  You can start to understand the interaction of paid and earned media in a way that hasn’t been possible before.

POEM Framework: Paid, Owned, Earned Media

Doug:        In the world of social media, there are myths that companies are acting on, but based on your statistics don’t have validity.  What are turning out to be some of the places where social media is not delivering marketing effectiveness?

Randall:     Social media is part of earned media messaging that’s carried out voluntarily by consumers on behalf of the brand. That voluntary messaging can be positive or negative.

The biggest myth is in viral marketing.  There is a belief that you can do a viral video and achieve much of what you would achieve, for example, with TV advertising at a fraction of the cost.

The reality is, first of all, that there are a rare few videos that ever go viral enough and get enough voluntary messaging by consumers to come anywhere close to the reach you can achieve on TV.  It really has to be earned through consumers giving you great ratings because your brand really worked; the product or service is a great one.

Old Spice & Viral Marketing

I remember a time when my wife and I went on vacation.  We came back to the Philadelphia Airport and her Lexus wouldn’t start.  I called customer service and I expected that they would send a tow truck. Instead, they walked me through a five-step process to get the car started and it all worked out.

That’s a fantastic example of where I could then go online and talk about my great experience with Lexus.  That is what advertisers need to be focused on … how do you drive voluntary positive messaging by consumers on behalf of your brand?

People have gotten hung up on going after something really cool and creative and different and having it go viral, as opposed to focusing on the real activities that build advocacy for your brand.

Doug:        What else have you found people to be really interested in?

Randall:     Let me come back to cross platform measurement.  You know that the cross platform exposure is driving much greater effectiveness among the people who see your ad in more places, and yet the media planning hasn’t caught up.

The media plans are still constructed in a way that drive more reach across each media instead of driving more overlap.  This area is going to get more attention.

Next:   Marketing in the B2B space

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Guest Post: Responding to the “Reset Economy” — Musings from Thomas Edison

August 3, 2009

This begins a series of periodic guest posts by people with something important to say. The first is by Sarah Miller Caldicott, co-author of “Innovate Like Edison,” and the great grandniece of Thomas Edison.

I’m just returning from my annual vacation to the wilds of western NY state (Chautauqua, NY).  Somehow, WiFi actually works even amidst the remote beauty of wildflowers on our cottage porch, allowing me to fire up my laptop to check the weather forecast while watching buzzing boaters and fishermen on Chautauqua Lake.  One morning I had a chance to catch up on a few recent issues of Business Week.  The July 20th “Facetime” piece by Maria Bartiromo particularly caught my eye.

The Reset Economy -- What Would Thomas Edison Do ? (visual courtesy of

The Reset Economy -- What Would Thomas Edison Do ? (visual courtesy of

Bartiromo mentions that, in a recent letter to shareholders, General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt coined a new term for the current economic environment: The Reset Economy. In choosing this term, Immelt states that he feels the entire global economy – and indeed, capitalism itself – will be “reset” in the coming months and years.  He believes the ability of our economy to recover depends on the ability of organizations to “reset.”    

Immelt notes that one part of this resetting process will include a shift in priorities.  Although Bartiromo’s article offers no insight into what this specifically means, here are four areas where I see this “reset” process holding potential to positively impact innovation at the organizational level, drawing upon some of Thomas Edison’s own innovation best practices.

Thomas Edison - 4 Ways to Reset Marketing

Thomas Edison - 4 Ways to Reset Marketing

1. Reset Your Organization’s Mindset to a Solution Orientation

Fully 50% of innovation success lies in the mindset of the leaders and employees in an organization.  Edison believed innovation requires a “solution orientation” – a positive outlook.  Use your “reset” process to weed out individuals who are continually negative and pessimistic.  These folks suck precious time and emotional resources from the bones of an organization.  You’ll find there’s more room for debate and constructive dialogue when those bearing a negative mindset have been released.

2. Reset Your Key Teams

Edison ensured that he had generalists and specialists on all his teams.  This created a Learning Organization which sustained innovation success for decades.  Everyone – at every level – was always learning something new…always “resetting.”  Reset your key teams in configurations which maximize knowledge contribution and minimize emphasis on organizational tenure or titles.  Focus on outcomes and value creation as your metrics.  You’ll create a leaner, flatter organization that “resets” faster, as Edison’s did.

3. Reset Your Business Model

In May 2009, I had an opportunity to attend the World Innovation Forum in New York City.  In his keynote address, business strategist and author C.K. Prahalad indicated a key to innovation success in the next decade will be the ability of organizations to create business models that can expand or contract quickly.  He used the analogy of Velcro®, saying that portions of these new business models will need to be added or peeled off – i.e. “reset” — just like Velcro.  Edison’s manufacturing business model enabled his companies to produce multiple styles of the same product (i.e. light bulb fixtures) under one roof, allowing him to add or pull capacity as needed.

4. Reset the Size of Your Systems

I recently read an article on complexity theory, talking about how one dysfunctional kink in a large system can bring down the entire system. (Think the global financial services meltdown, or FEMA’s response to Hurricane Katrina.)  Reset your value chain, customer service, and other core systems so they are smaller, with fewer moving parts lying beyond your control.  Edison licensed distribution rights to his motion pictures, realizing he didn’t have the ability to create an efficient system for penetrating large and small markets across the country.  This reduced the size and financial exposure of his movie operations, while still offering him control of overall movie production quality.

I believe the Reset Economy complements what we already know about the “Experience Economy” and the “Knowledge Economy.”  The difference is, the success tools driving the Reset Economy allow us to focus on key innovation levers that can significantly impact short term and long term results. 

Sarah Miller Caldicott is a 25-year marketing veteran who served a large portion of her career as an executive driving product development in large organizations including Pepsico and Unilever.  A great grandniece of Thomas Edison, Sarah recently co-authored a book offering a first-ever examination of Edison’s own world-changing innovation practices, entitled “Innovate Like Edison.”  (Dutton Penguin 2007)  She currently works as a consultant and speaker, igniting innovation in organizations of all sizes. She can be reached at or at the PowerPatterns website:

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