Your Real Name or a Pseudonym on Twitter

In the old days of the web pseudonyms were the rule. Anonymity was the web’s allure. You could escape from your real life and be whomever you wanted online. Then Facebook happened. Real names, real pictures. Authenticity starts ruling the interweb. And now Twitter. Seems like half the people go with a pseudonym (though most will have a real name in the bio) and the other half go with a real name or a variation involving initials. When a newbie wants to join Twitter, I’m at a loss to advise which format to go with?

I had a conversation about this with a colleague (who goes by his real name on twitter) and his theory was: If you’re going to be tweeting actively and often and you have a clever name, go with that memorable pseudonym. When you rock the twitterverse with your 140 character wit, the pseudonym adds a new dimension, maybe a level of mystique, to your personal brand. On the other hand, you know your real name, others know your real name, it’s your name why not use it? I suppose authors with pen names and actors/musicians with stage names go through a similar thought process…adding more fuel to my long-held belief that social media turns us all into public figures.


The Art of Marketing Recap

Last Monday, I had the pleasure of watching five amazing speakers at the top of their game at The Art of Marketing. Here are some takeaways.

Avinash Kaushik

We don’t like throwing around the G-word that often but Avinash is a true guru when it comes to web and social analytics. His blog Occam’s Razor, is a staple on many an analyst’s RSS reading list and he is an impassioned speaker that didn’t pull any punches. Fortunately, none of the companies that he pointed out needing improvements were Edelman clients J. Here were some key points from his talk:

  • The greatest thing about digital is that so much of it is measurable. The problem with digital is that a lot of the metrics we use are “glorious data puke”
  • We focus too much on the “what” of metrics (visitors, visits) and not enough on the “how” and “why” and “what else”
  • Separate the quality visits from the fly-by-night visits so separate out the behaviour of people who see 3 pages or more from the people who see
    less. Now among the quality visitors, how did they get to your site (top referring sites, top referring keywords by number of quality visits).
  • For the “why” look for mismatches between what people are visiting (why they’re there) and what you’re offering them.
  • For the “what else”, of course, look at conversions but look also at the visits that didn’t convert. What did they do? What were they interested in. This gives you an indication of what else you can offer.
  • On social analytics: Who cares how many followers you have, how many times were you listed since that means someone is sectioning you off for special attention (though there are a fair number of people who create lists and ignore them). Or number of retweets per 1,000 followers since that shows how engaged your twitter audience is.
  • At the end of the day it comes down to what interactions adds economic value…those interactions that have a clear line of site to net income. And what variables are those? Avinash then pointed to a slide by Queen’s University Professor Ken Wong.
  • There are four things every analyst should have in their heads at all times: Price, Cost, Market Share, and Market Size. Now map each metric you report to these four variables

Favourite Lines

“Why do I blog? Because I like irrational adoration.”

“To bloggers, RSS readers are relationships. Visitors are one-night stands.”

“Most web sites suck because Hippos created them.” (HIPPOS = Highest Paid Person’s Opinion)

“HITS: How Idiots Track Success”

“Bounce rate = “I came, I puked, I left”

Gary Vaynerchuk

  • Gary Vee is the Tony Robbins of business speakers; a high energy, mile a minute, tour-de-force presence who isn’t afraid to drop an f-bomb to accentuate his point. And here were some of his stronger points:
  • The future of business is that what was old is now new again. The small-town store where the owner knew your name and knew about your life, and might have started making your regular order just as you walked in? Social media allows that caring to scale
  • The technology is such that big marketers can do 1 to 1 marketing.
  • More content is created in 48 hours than in the entire human history from cave paintings to 2003 and you can tell a lot about a person’s preferences from that content. So imagine you were a chain of eateries and you got to know your loyal customers based on their loyalty card information. And you scanned their Amazon wish lists and bought them their favourite book on their birthday and shipped it to them. Wouldn’t that surprise and delight those customers? Wouldn’t they be praising you on every social channel they have? In Vaynerchuk’s vision of the future brands are going to have to act like sports teams and cultivate raving fans…and they’ll be doing it one customer at a time.

Favourite Lines

“Everyone in social acts like a 19 year old dude. They try to close to early”

“People who win in business are the ones that see what’s coming…More horses were bought before the car was invented. Guess who won?”

“Social media is scaled caring.”

“What is the ROI of your mother?”

Jeffrey Hayzlett

Jeff Hayzlett dropped almost as many f-bombs as Gary Vee. I think he was trying to one-up him on the volume. Hayzlett was hired as the CMO of Kodak to turn around the company whose bread and butter product had been rendered virtually obsolete by digital technology. He ended up turning the company from a B2C, to a B2B company. Kodak technology is still a big part of the captured images we see today. A passionate speaker Hayzlett had these thoughts centered on how to bring an “old school” organization into a “new school” way of thinking about marketing. Some talking points:

  • Kodak thought its main product was film and that their customers were interested in taking pictures. It wasn’t. People didn’t take pictures, they capture moments.
  • What Kodak needed to do was go back to its core. Kodak wasn’t a film company. It was a company that made emotional technology.
  • Tell your brand’s story. The first thing that people would take when they ran into their burning house…they’re pictures. They don’t want to lose their memories. That’s a powerful story about a powerful product.
  • Marketing used to be about eyeballs and ears. Get your message seen and heard by as many people as possible. Now it’s about hearts and minds. See above point.

Favourite Lines

“If legal says no, ask, ‘What’s the fine?’”

“HR and Legal’s job isn’t to drag you back. They’re job is to keep you from falling down”

“What’s ROI on social? I don’t know tell me what ROI is on IGNORING”

Sheena Iyengar

Dr. Sheena Iyengar has been devoting a good part of her academic career to studying how we make choices. It was a dense and fascinating talk and the following bullet points probably won’t do it justice. After reading this post, click here to see her talk at TED Global.

  • North Americans are acculturated to having lots of choices and are drawn to more choices. Paradoxically, the more choices we have the harder it is to make a choice. This results in less commitment, poorer decision quality, and lower satisfaction with our choice.
  • The exception to the above rule is experts. Experts have no problem with lots choice because they have the knowledge to understand and  spot the differences between choices. They set their criteria, categorize options, cut the categories that don’t apply to them and end up choosing among fewer options than given.
  • In North America, we often choose based on what we think that choice says about ourselves. And what we usually want to say is, “I’m unique, but relatable. I’m pretty much the same as you…just a little different.”
  • There are three ways for individuals to choose better. Marketers take note because you can use this to help your customers and consumers:
    • Cut the number of choices. Eliminate the options, flavours, models, that aren’t that different from the rest
    • Categorize the choices. Our brains can process more categories than choice
    • Condition your customers for complexity. For example, one of her experiments found that when car company that offered fewer choices per option category at the start and more choices per option category at the end (e.g. pick among 3 interior colours, now pick among 10 exterior colours) people would make more conscious choices. If given the more complex decisions first, they reverted to the default option more often.

Favourite Lines
“We’re born with an desire to choose but without the knowledge of how to choose”

“Despite the flavor explosion in ice cream, 50% of sales is still chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry”

“People may say what they want is more choices but what they really want is more control”

Guy Kawasaki

Guy’s new book is called Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions. Enchantment goes beyond persuasion. is not about manipulating people. It transforms situations and relationships. It converts hostility into civility and civility into affinity. It changes the skeptics and cynics into the believers and the undecided into the loyal. Enchantment can happen during a retail transaction, a high-level corporate negotiation, or a Facebook update. And when done right, it’s more powerful than traditional persuasion, influence, or marketing techniques. Some highlights:

3 steps to being likeable

Step 1: Smile. Genuine smiles can be seen in the eyes and the mouth.

Step 2: Dress for a ‘tie’…not so down (lack of respect), not so up (too intimidating, says, “I’m better than you.”)

Step 3: Have a perfect handshake

  • Trust is a two-way street but the order goes one way. Trust others first. How? Be a baker, not an eater. An eater figures there’s only one pie and takes as much as possible. A baker knows he/she can bake another pie.
  • Great products are deep, intelligent, complete, empowering, and elegant.
  • Tell a story, the best stories are short, sweet, and swallowable
  • “The best answer to ‘Thank you’ isn’t ‘You’re welcome’. It’s ‘I know you’d do the same’” it accomplishes two things. It says, “I trust that you’re a good person who does good deeds” and it also seeds the idea of, “And I might need that favour reciprocated sometime in the future”
  • Presentation tips: Customize the introduction, aim for 10 slides in 20 minutes, and use at least 30 point font.

Favorite Lines

“A good speaker never goes off track. A great speaker goes off track and later shows you why the off-track part was relevant”

“Apple Computers were originally designed to do spreadsheets and word processing. It turned out that they were great at desktop publishing. What made Apple was…Aldus Pagemaker”

“The best answer to ‘Thank you’ isn’t ‘You’re welcome’. It’s ‘I know you’d do the same’”

Twitter: Television’s Peanut Gallery

During this year’s Oscars, I had two screens going. The big one was showing the 83rd Annual Academy Awards. The smaller laptop screen was showing the #oscars feed.

In some circles, this “social viewing” habit might be the savior of TV. Some people believe this second screen is the savior of event-based television programming creating a virtual living room and restoring the old shared experience that once was a staple of TV viewing habits everywhere. Well, like most virtual things…it’s not exactly the same thing. When it comes to things like Superbowl parties and Oscar parties…I go mostly to socialize, the event provides an excuse to get together and a theme for the party. The twitter takes one element from that…the snarky heckles we do to the TV as we’re watching. That’s it. It’s one big virtual peanut gallery each person trying to out-snark the last comment in the #oscars stream.

It’s funny. It’s a nice accessory to the Oscar viewing experience…but it’s not social viewing.

Twitter Serendipity

Last year I wrote a post about how mobile internet access was killing serendipity. For example, rather than just go into that neat looking funky restaurant I just happening to be walking by while hungry, I end up checking it out on Yelp or UrbanSpoon first and only if it’s highly rated by a critical mass of people would I enter. I might even order the dish recommended by the majority of recent commenters. I read my Surowiecki; I’m following the wisdom of the crowds. But there’s an excitement of not having a map (or the Google Maps app) in turning down that alleyway or pedestrian walkway and sampling some random place that just looks good and feels right.

Well last week, I experienced a bit of twitter serendipity. It was already a quarter to one, I was hungry but not sure yet where I wanted to go for lunch. Just then I noticed that a friend of mine had tweeted that he was wondering if anyone was available for lunch in my neck of the woods. I checked the time of the tweet and it was 2 minutes ago, so I told him I was game and we met up. Turns out someone else also noticed his tweet within a few minutes and the three of us had a delightful lunch with great conversation in a new place I had never been. One tweet and I discover a new place and meet a new face. Serendipity has been restored!

Wiki Culture and the end of Practical Obscurity

I learned a new term the other day from Zeynep Tufekci, one that lawyers use to call information that is essentially accessible but not necessarily easily available…”practical obscurity”.

Think of all the Canadian government documents obtained through the freedom of information act. Yes, we’re free to obtain them but it can be a bit of a hassle to do so. As a result, only a fraction of the documents available through the act are actually obtained or disseminated. But wiki culture is changing that. Wikileaks is opening up our diplomatic cables and corporate files and Wikipedia has become the go to source for settling trivia arguments.

What else has digital technology freed from practical obscurity?

Fame vs. Influence

Over the past decade, marketers have been obsessed with influence. The pedestal on which influencers have been placed is tantamount to marketing sainthood. Thousands of hours have been spent finding and cultivating relationships with these influencers in the hopes that our products will fly off the shelves after their ringing endorsements. Under this premise, an influencer is someone who can get people to take action (and generally the preferred action is to buy the marketers’ products though it could also mean advocate for a position or vote for a certain political candidate).

I have no quibble with this definition of an influencer, I do wonder, however, if we actually choose our influencers on the basis of their influence. The measures we use for whether a blogger makes a given list are things like number of visitors and Google PageRank but these don’t measure the influencer’s ability to get others to take action, this measures the reach or “fame” of the influencer. Under this model, a blogger piece pretty much acts like a cheap (or sometimes free) and minor celebrity endorsement and we know from Laura Ries that celebrity endorsements need to be believable in order to work i.e. the reader has to believe that the person would actually use the product in order for it to be effective and the celebrity would be perceived to be an authority on the product’s quality.  Hence, NBA players are good for endorsing basketball shoes and PGA golfers are great for endorsing clubs and golf balls but when they endorse cars and shaving creams, the celebrity effect is muted or non-existent. And so it goes with online influencers. A sports blogger may watch a lot of games on TV but he or she is still less of an authority on the quality of a given HD TV as a consumer electronics blogger. A mom blogger is an authority on diapers only if her kids are still in diapers and even then only if she’s experimented with different brands of diapers. As marketers, we have to be vigilant when we choose our influencers. Are we choosing them because they have authority on our product category and therefore real influence on their reader’s purchasing decision or they merely famous. Believe it or not, fame doesn’t necessarily sell.

Why Quora Might Stick Around

Yahoo Answers, Google Answers, Mahalo, Q&A sites have been around for over a decade which means forever in Internet time. Google Answers is no longer, Yahoo Answers (check compete and google adwords, and Mahalo (again figure it out). Yet Quora has caught the attention of the digital chattering classes as the”next big thing”. From my own cursory observations I’ve noticed that both the questions and answers seem to be of a higher quality than most other Q&A sites with the exception of some specialized forums and LinkedIn Answers (LinkedIn is an Edelman client)

So why is Quora getting everyone’s attention? Why does it seem Quora might make it where many others have stumbled. A combination of authentic identities, good functionality, and an appeal to ego.

Authentic Identities

Behind the veil of anonymity, people are more willing to ask silly questions and give silly answers. It also creates an environment conducive to troll-like behaviour. With Quora, while you can sign in anonymously, no one seems to do so. From my poking around the site, most people are signing in with their twitter handle. Since it’s their public facing self asking and answering questions, some thought (or at least some thought behind humour) has been put into most of the questions and answers.

Good Functionality

This is pretty much table stakes for any online presence. If the user experience sucks, no one will use it. Quora’s pretty intuitive and easy to use. Signing up was easy and the method of searching questions is fairly robust so you can see if a question has been asked. The twitter integration is great. There’s always room for improvement but it’s a pretty good for version 1.0

Appeal to Ego

I like how the site eschews points, badges, and honorifics and sticks to little surprises that delight. Rather than ranking answers a questioner can thank each sincere answerer. The most popular answers can get voted up. Answerers who need to further show off their brilliant response can easily broadcast it to twitter.

New Features I’d like to See

Geo-targeted search: Makes it easier for those who want to answer questions in a particular jurisdiction such as lawyers and accountants .

Specific Requests: Send out your question to everyone but a lot of questioners would love for certain people to answer. It would be great if you could notify them. Of course for privacy reasons, they would have to opt-in to receive notifications.

Authority Rankings by Topic: Most people know a bit about somethings and not a whole lot about others. No Q&A site has cracked this nut. Authority rankings cover the overall quality of a person’s answers but this means nothing. I want to know if they’re smart in the particular topic area of which I asked the question.

Games Without Frontiers

After seeing Gabe Zicherman at Meshmarketing 2010 and after watching several talks from TEDster Jesse Schell, I’m starting to drink the gameified kool-aid. I’m fully convinced that the “game” is the best metaphor for marketing.

This is a good thing. The old metaphor for marketers was military and the jargon in many a brand planning meeting would be riddled with military terms like “targeting”, “positioning”, and “mindshare”. The social media era had marketers turning to a new metaphor, two-way conversations and the jargon shifted to participatory language such as “engagement”, “shareable content”, “crowdsourcing”. The problem with the former was that it treated consumers as trophies of conquest. The latter metaphor often got so engrossed in solipsistic banter that it forgets about the business goals. Perhaps a new metaphor might be more approrpiate for the current times. The Game.

Gamification refers to a broader system of challenge and reward, it’s not all badges and points. It’s the process of using game thinking and dynamics to engage audiences and solve problems, The best games tap into key drives and motivations that govern human behaviour. Marketers as well can tap into these drives in order to influence consumer sentiment and behaviour.

Take the Costco shopping experience. A quarter of its products change regularly. One day it’s a designer sweater is for a really good price; another day it’s an LCD TV. It’s not just a big box store…it’s a “treasure hunt”.

Now look at Groupon. It’s not just coupons. You can’t just buy a coupon. Other people have to buy a coupon as well. You have to gather allies to get the prize and there’s a new prize every day.

FourSquare. It’s game potential is just starting to be tapped. Right now it’s points, badges, and mayorships with a few retail promotions thrown in. In other words, status, bragging rights, and prizing. But the company is just starting to really tap into the competitive and co-operative spirit involved in game play.
That’s right, competitive and co-operative. A study performed by Richard Bartle, a professor and game designer, identified four kinds of game players: Achievers, who seek success and prestige; Explorers, who look for new and unknown things; Socializers, who want interaction; and Killers, who thrive on competing against, and defeating, other players. A skillfully designed game directs the energies of different players towards the same, or mutually supportive, outcomes.

The applications of game dynamics are at their infancy and I’m excited to see where they lead down the road. I leave you with a thought from Gabe Zicherman: Were he born today, William Shakespeare might remark that all the world’s a game, and all the men and women merely players.

Online + IRL -> Real Action

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Finally got around to reading Malcolm Gladwell’s controversial New Yorker article excoriating technophiles and technoutopians for overrating social media’s ability to effect social change. For those who don’t want to read the whole article, here’s the Coles/Cliffs Notes version.

Gladwell believes that social media activism is overrated. The #iranelections twitter campaign was largely a phenomenon in the West with little traction on the ground in Iran. Same with the so-called twitter revolution in Moldova. Yes, there is strength of weak ties (indeed the Tipping Point depends on it), but BIG CHANGE in the face of GRAVE DANGER requires strong ties and hierarchies. The master storyteller illustrates his point by recounting the story of a civil rights sit-in in Greensboro, NC, the sit-in was started by four friends who planned it for months and endured a barrage of sneers, taunts, and threats of violence. But because they were friends, because they had strong-tie connections, because they knew that their co-conspirators had each others back, they persevered. Weak-tie networks work differently. They mobilize a large number of people quickly to participate in a low-risk activity. The weak-tie collective can yield results whether it’s raising money for a cause (Save Darfur), saving an individual’s life (social media found a bone marrow transplant match for Sameer Bhatia) or ensuring justice is served (through a social media a stolen LG sidekick was returned to its rightful owner) but in Malcolm’s mind, these are hardly status quo game changers.

Only they are. Not in the sense that the world was changed (both the Bhatia and the LG sidekick stories benefit single individuals); but in the speed and relative ease in which movements get organized.

How do movements get started? Derek Sivers points the way in his 3 minute TED talk. “First, of course you know, a leader [of the movement] needs the guts to stand out and be ridiculed. But what he’s doing is so easy to follow. So here’s his first follower with a crucial role. He’s going to show everyone else how to follow.” the first follower is crucial because he “transforms a lone nut into a leader.” Then two, three, four, people follow, momentum build, the rate of new followers accelerates and a movement starts. And why do more people join? “…as more people join in, it’s less risky. So those that were sitting on the fence before, now have no reason not to. They won’t stand out. They won’t be ridiculed.” The Greensboro civil rights sit-in was started by 4 boys, then grew to 27 the next day, day after that 80 and day after that 300. The “grave danger” Gladwell felt was so critical for real movements to happen were only experienced by the original four. The risk was significantly lowered for the 296 others.

So now that we know how movements are formed, how does social media facilitate them? By making it easy for first followers to find their “lone nuts”. It’s propelled Twestival from a small gathering in London to a 200 city party and it’s what turned Movember from a single challenge made between a bunch of friends in an Adelaide, Australia pub to a worldwide phenomenon. Let me be clear, the organizing, the action, the “doing part” of the movement happens in real life. Social media helps you find collaborators needed to turn a little idea into a movement for social change.


A couple weeks ago, I had honour and pleasure of being selected as a delegate at TEDxToronto. Many of you are familiar with TED, the annual ‘meeting of the greatest minds’ where each speaker has no more than 18 minutes to share his idea and get his or her complex point across. TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. The theme this year was “A Call to Action” and the speakers were truly inspiring. Here were my faves:

Boonaa Mohammed’s slam poem on economics of prejudice

Bruce Poon Tip on the expanded the triple bottom line (people, planet, profits) to include “passion” and “purpose”

Drew Dudley on leadership and lollipop moments

Trey Anthony’s 1st standing ovation of the day on breaking the boxes people put you in

Neil Pasricha’s tale of how he came to write the blog 1,000 Awesome Things and The Book of Awesome

Not all the videos seem to be posted and I will update this post as I find out they’re up. Big thanks to the organizers and hope I get selected to be a delegate next year.