The Case of the Missing Wallet: How to Use Social Media to Save the Day

I thought this was a really important article to repost on my blog and I’ve kindly asked the author, Kyra Savolainen to grant me permission to do so. If you’re still wondering about the power of social media, look no further. This one says it all. Thanks Kyra

Social Media win starts with a walk in the park

In late August, one of my most innovative clients successfully turned to social media to execute a manhunt. The man they sought was Steven Neil Crawford.

After lunching in Toronto’s Brant St Park, I returned to work holding a wallet with Steven’s name all over it.  A call to notify Toronto Police that the wallet had been found proved frustrating. So, I fired up my personal social networks in the hopes that at least one of my friends would be able to connect me with Steven. After a round of Google searches and call outs on Facebook and Twitter, a mutual acquaintance had yet to be found.

Meanwhile, Steven, a young post-production assistant at a local animation studio, was busy cancelling cards and wondering if his identity would turn up on some no-fly list in a year. He knew he had lost his wallet sometime during an exciting night out with friends, but didn’t know where. It looked like Steven might just have to pass the long weekend without his identification and other cards. (No lost wallet report was filed with Police.)

Social savvy Client to the rescue

Realizing that my own social reach wasn’t broad enough, I eyed the brand’s social media channels with hope. What better way to help establish this self-proclaimed ‘edgy and bold’ brand in the social space and prove the value of its motto based on non-conformist thought than to find Steven through its community of friends and fans online and reunite him with his property before the long weekend.

With one Tweet, the real social media rescue mission began.

“Hey Toronto, one of you lost your wallet (and I found it).  Anybody know Steven Neil Crawford?”

The brand’s friends echoed the call. Even @PepsiCanada threw in its support.

Success by numbers

The same message was posted to the official Facebook Fan Page. Results came fast, once the brand took up the cause of finding Steven. Within a day, a fan named Maria saw the call for help on Facebook and dug up a profile. It was a winner. (The requested reward? Gift cards from the brand.)

After contacting Steven and adding him as a friend on Facebook in order to verify his identity, I sat down with the eloquent youth in the same park where the wallet had been found. We chatted over a Client-sponsored lunch, touching on the lost/found/social media connection coincidence before barrelling off into more expansive, timely topics – it had been a full two days, afterall. (Aside: Who says there’s no such thing as a ‘free lunch’ or that social media is merely ephemeral hype? I pity the foo.)

In a matter of only 2 days, my client’s commitment to connecting with Canadians at the personal level clearly demonstrated the value of social media for brands and the public at large.  With just 220 Fans on Facebook and a Twitter following of less than 500 at the time of the event, Client X managed to demonstrate the true, simple value of social media to brands and the public at large.  We were personable, we were adventurous, we were helpful, and above all, we were social. And it worked. (And when I say ‘worked,’ what I really mean is ‘eat my dust, yammering display media.’)

Cluetrainplus 10: Thesis #89 We have real power and we know it. If you don’t quite see the light, some other outfit will come along that’s more attentive, more interesting, more fun to play with.

I have been privileged to take part in the 10th Anniversary of the Cluetrain Manifesto. I was made aware of and signed up for a blogging event in which 95 bloggers each write a post on the same agreed date, April 28th, about one of the “95 theses” from the Manifesto. Details about this event and Cluetrain’s history are found here. I will provide viewpoint on thesis number #89.

For years marketers like me have believed that advertising had the strength to influence consumer attitudes and behaviour. Advertising had more power when ad vehicles were few. As consumers, we were easy to get a hold of – we read the same papers, listened to the same radio programs, and watched the same television shows as everyone we knew.  Marketers had it easy…but it was rare for consumers to see an ad that was relevant to them. That was ok for marketers because 2% response rate or a break-even ROI was all they required to deem a campaign successful.

These days, technology has made it increasingly difficult to reach consumers. Media has become fragmented. Access profileration has allowed the consumer to be in multiple devices simultaneously including:  access from radio, TV, mobile, MP3s, search, print, billboards, videogames, IM, email, video consoles etc. Overlay the incredible explosion of the number of radio and TV channels, magazines, newspapers. This pace of change is making it increasingly difficult to pin target consumers down with a relevant message at the right place and right time.


It’s become increasingly apparent that the difficulty in reaching the consumer has been compounded over time. Access proliferation has put the consumer in control of how, when and what media they consume. At the same time these same channels are giving the tools to communicate to many people at a much faster pace. Universal McCann’s Worldwide Comparative Study on Social Media Trends, April 2008 indicates the growth of social media since 2006. Some highlights include:

  • 73% of active online users have read a blog
  • 45% have started their own blog
  • there are over 184 million bloggers worldwide, with approx. 1/4 from China
  • 57% have joined a social network
  • 34% post opinions about products/brands on their site/blog

People are talking about brands to each other and surprisingly many brands are oblivious to this; or if they are aware,  they don’t realize the enormous impact it has to their reputation as a company.  The power shift from the corporation to the consumer is apparent. Advertising messages do not influence as effectively as marketers have always believed.


The very medium that divides the brand from the consumer also has the ability to bring them together. Consider this stat from the Universal McCann Study:  36% of active online consumers think more positively about companies that have a blog.  Start-ups have easily figured this out and from day one are leveraging the conversation with the consumers to help shape and evolve their businesses. They have figured out that unless they listen and respond to the market needs, there will be no market for their product or service offering. Coming from a start-up, the lack of big marketing budgets forced me as a marketer to really understand social media if I was to effectively drive reach:

  • Use the networks to bring awareness of your offering.
  • Engage with relevant target groups to help you fix the current bugs and improve your product over time.
  • Take it on the chin and be willing to accept the good with the bad.
  • Continually engage your consumers for feedback. Develop relationships and nurture them over time. Do NOT bail on your community.

Malcolm Gladwell’s “The Tipping Point” provides the best illustration of the power of conversation. He points out, ” I’m convinced that ideas …. move through a population very much like a disease does….Ideas can be contagious in exactly the same way that a virus is.”  It doesn’t take much effort to pass along a cool idea but the very nature of one idea being passed along from person to person can result in an epidemic. “The virtue of an epidemic, after all, is that just a little input is enough to get it started, and it can spread very, very quickly.”  In this way, the effectiveness of word of mouth begins to produce a clear picture of the power of the individual:


Dell found out the hard way how consumer opinion could negatively impact their business. Now, the emergence of Ideastorm, and Twitter engagement has catapulted the company into social media success and has effectively put their Dell Hell days behind them.

Customers talking about brands are making it clear what they want, how they want to be serviced, and what they consider good value for their dollar. The great thing for marketers is that engaging in these discussions limits the guessing game. Companies can now provide a product or service that the customer wants….what a concept!

Other top brands are getting on the band wagon and they are capitalizing as early adopters:

  • Starbucks Coffee created a site that allows users to submit suggestions to be voted on by Starbucks consumers, and the most popular suggestions are highlighted and reviewed. Their heavy presence on Twitter has also helped the company to disseminate information and gauge consumer opinion in real time.
  • Zappos and CEO Tony Hsieh have become known for embracing Twitter as an essential tool for exceptional customer service. Tony, himself, through his Twitter account has become accessible and has helped personify Zappos as a company who is friendly, trustworthy and helpful. Twitter is ingrained in the company much so in fact that the Zappos site aggregates the Twitter streams.
  • Ford Motor Company and its head of social media, Scott Monty have used the channel as a way to inform the public in real time of company happenings especially during periods of volatility. It was this kind of transparency in communication that helped quell much negative public opinion and, in my view, has helped elevate Ford’s brand presence above GM and Chrysler during the government bailout period.

So, for those brands that are afraid to dip their toe in this new conversation, who are afraid to engage with consumers, it will only be to their detriment.  Consumers will continue to speak about your company and your brand(s) with or without you. Social media is not a fad. It will continue to grow and evolve and as new devices are invented, conversation will multiply at alarming rates. The opportunity for big brands and businesses is enormous. Begin to engage in discussions at a peer level…listen and understand…develop important relationships…and build strong brand advocacy and a sustainable model in the meantime.


Credits for this thesis go to P Furey and A Wong for some really cool slides I used from their presentations.

How Social Media Challenges Traditional Thinking

I often wonder what was the tipping point for social media? Why is it receiving more attention now than ever? It has always been there and those in the know — whether they are the tech savvy or the digital youth — saw its benefits much sooner than the rest of us.  But now it’s really gone mainstream:

  • Every radio station, newscaster, broadcast media has a Twitter account. My late night TV news station uses it as a crowd-sourcing mechanism to gauge immediate opinion on key news issues;
  • Charities/causes are popping up and its organizers are wising up to the fact that they can raise awareness and donations within hours of launching their campaign;
  • The newspaper industry is dying as consumers increasingly look online to find their news and information for free. As a result, a large scale shift in ad spend is expected in 2009 away from traditional print and broadcast to online. eMarketer verifies this transformation:


  • Marketers have been told that this channel not only offers true measurability but it results in strong customer engagement and sustainability;

For someone like me, whose marketing roots have evolved from traditional mass to direct and database; then to online display, search and now social media –> my profound learning comes in understanding that it is a medium that continues to evolve and has yet to establish standards for marketers. I continue to hear that no one should have the right to call themselves “social media experts” and while I believe that is absolutely true, I will place my bets with those marketers and organizations who are using this medium everyday to establish their brand, and create a true understanding of their customers.  These guys practice what they preach. Other industry notables have gotten their names because they’ve seemingly held the answers to a space that was virtually untravelled by the mainstream. But I have yet to see any validation of their preachings.

Could it be that the new US President Barack Obama will be known as a key instigator in bringing this whole notion to the masses by his very acknowledgement of the pervasiveness and influence of technology and its ability to shape consumer perception and build incredible momentum?  The strength of Obama’s campaign and his revolutionary move into office are based on the ideals set by the Founding Fathers: Election for The People and By the People…. and NOT by the lobbyists or constituents who have traditionally influenced policy and government spend. He has seemingly abolished this practice and has brought on a new idealism of transparency (as per the video: White House 2.0: Social Media and Government Transparency)

As I evolve Ammo Marketing in Canada, the social media space is exciting and yet daunting. I have been able to convince some clients that traditional research does not compare to the unfiltered, unmoderated insights they will get from social media. The very research has opened clients’ eyes who become keenly aware of the honest commentary on their brands: the good..the bad…and the ugly.  This immediately creates a sense of urgency to jump into the conversation and clarify misperceptions and diffuse detractor comments.  Little by little, participation in this new media is slowly revealing its true worth: as a true engagement device that leads to a sustained dialogue and eventual impact on revenue.

One of my staff came to me today and was so excited to be in a ground-breaking and evolutionary space.  As someone who supports client initiatives by participating in relevant discussions, she is delightfully surprised by the willingness of people to embrace corporate presence and engage with them peer to peer with no strings attached. It’s amazing how much people are willing to tell you if you give them the platform to speak.  The results we’ve seen have been immediate. But be warned, it will take some time to fulfill that ROI. Effort must be consistent and committed. Consumers will become your advocates if you continue to maintain that connection and you openly respond to their concerns.

Christopher Barger, Director of Social Media, General Motors ( said it best: Look for the return on conversation…not immediately…but when it comes it will sustain itself long-term.

SOHO, Toronto: Social Media Marketing in Uncertain Times

I was privileged to be a part of the SOHO Conference in Toronto and speak about Social Media Marketing. Unfortunately, I don’t think I was effectively able to get my main points across due to some time constraints. So what I’ve done is provided the presentation on my site so attendees can download it. I’ve also included my speaking notes so you can get a full view of my message. Please note, as part of my presentation I pursued a few online marketing colleagues through Twitter in an attempt to provide important insights on how this medium can help drive your business. In the coming days, I will post my interviews with Joselin Mane of LITBeL Consulting and Alejandro Reyes of

In the meantime, please don’t hesitate to download my presentation, The Art of Conversation.

I’d like to give credit for parts of the presentation that I pulled from Forrester’s “Groundswell”, IBM’s “The End of Advertising as we know it,” “Stompernet” (a strong resource for all my learning) and “Universal McCann’s Wave 3 Study”. I’d also like to give credit to David Jones, a good friend of mine, who was my first coach on the social media scene. Alejandro and Joselin, excerpts of our conversation were also part of my presentation. Thanks again for taking the time to help me get my message out there.

Here’s the slideshow:

Speaker Notes:

Social Media Marketing stems from this phenomena called Web 2.0. This presentation will discuss how the web has evolved in the last few years and why it makes sense to take advantage of this growing trend called Social Media, harness its benefits and help you grow your business and entrench your customers.

Slide 2 What is Web 2.0? It is a living term describing changing trends in the ways software developers and end-users use the Web that have helped shape this new creativity, information sharing, collaboration and functionality of the web. Web 2.0 concepts have led to the development and evolution of web-based communities and hosted services, such as social-networking sites, video sharing sites, wikis, blogs, and folksonomies. An important distinction for you is that Web 2.0 has huge implications for what we call the Long Tail –> ie niche communities. Pareto’s Principle states that 20% of the population control 80% of the wealth. These are the Coke’s and Mcdonald’s of the world. What’s more important is the immense opportunity for the remaining 80% of the web population, who can NOW can start leveraging 2.0 to help move the needle for their businesses.

Slide 3 Before social computing, the web was static; centrally managed; slow to change – content wasn’t always refreshed; and unidirectional ie top down where information was provided and dictated by experts/establishments — libraries, research institutions who traditionally were the sources of information. These were sources we didn’t question.

Now, in this new space there is this a shift:
– From Centralization to decentralization. This means the move away from what we remember as the “mainframe computer” to the emergence of peer to peer networks.
– From Unidrectional to participation. The participation from the masses means the audience is contributing to conversation and information exchange taking place. All this is creating new knowledge streams through user generated content. Simultaneously, this audience is not readily accepting the content provided by mainstream media and traditional sources as truth.

Slide 4 People formerly known as the audience now have the power and technologies are making it easier for the audience to have some control over content. In a nutshell, we are harnassing collective intelligence that is very much a user-submitted and user controlled.

Generally, if people can submit links to content, submit content, make comments and vote good/bad content up/down thus affecting the amount of traffic that content can generate, it’s Web 2.0.

Slide 5 This is some data obtained from an IBM study completed last year that provided a view into how the future of advertising needs to change. Important to note is that media has become increasingly fragmented and the consumer’s time is split among many mediums and devices through newsprint, TV, radio, mobile the internet. Marketers, in general, are challenged more than ever to find those consumers where they are and how to message them appropriately.

Despite this fragmentation, the one area were a significant adoption is being realized specifically for those between 18-34 are social and User generated content sites, where, by the way, there exists little advertising. Interesting to note the significant adoption percentages among 35-54 on social networking sites as well.

Slide 6 Forrester authors, Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff came out with a publication called “Groundswell”. They sought to analyze the web population, how they approach social technologies and the level of interaction in which they engaged. They defined as “the groundswell” as “the social trend in which people use technologies to get the things they need from each other instead of from companies.” IMPORTANT: they find interest in each other BUT they expect you as a company to listen. They divided up the groundswell into 6 distinct personas: creators, critics, collectors, joiners, spectators and inactives”. You’ll notice the majority of the web population are passive consumers or what we call spectators or inactives. They read blogs, video, browse . But increasingly we’re find a greater move in other areas of participation ie people who actually comment on blogs, rate and review, use RSS feeds. Participation is increasing. Your creators and critics are your early adopters, bloggers, key influencers in this space who can also command a huge following and may be integral to the success of your business.

Slide 7 Forrester looked at this population to determine the age segmentation applied to each segment on the technographics profile. Groups 25-34 over index in pretty much every segment category stated here. Interesting to note are that the 35-44 group are beginning to be a bit more active in these areas as well showing the move towards social networks is not limited only to these young kids. We’re starting to see a move within the older demographic especially within the creators and critics segments. This medium is increasingly being leveraged for the business value that it holds.

Slide 8 While Web 2.0 defines an era that has changed the face of the web, social media as a subset include those online apps, platforms and media that are making it easier for social computing to expand.

Slide 9 Universal McCann did a study earlier this year called Wave 3 that sought to understand the prevalence of social media from a global perspective. It looked at over 29 countries, 17,000 internet users to determine the frequency and usage of each of these social media behaviours. In all these cases since 2006 social media behaviours show a significant increased over 2 years. Some of the highest gains were found in: creating a social network profile, downloading a podcast, reading blogs. There was only one non-gainer among the bunch: ” leaving a comment on a news site”. This again is your traditional centralized, established information source which is still not perceived as a forum for real sharing or reviewing, but significant gains are being made in this space as well and news organizations like CNN are leading the way.

Slide 10 Some of the major findings in this study: 1) The largest participation of social media is in Asia 2) Blogs are now mainstream with over 184 MM bloggers worldwide. China alone has the largest blogging community in the world 3) The fastest growing platform is video.

Social media impacts your brand’s reputation : 1) 36% think more positively about companies that have blogs 2) 34% post opinions about products and brands on their blog

Slide 11 The essence of social marketing is NOT about selling, or being misleading. It’s not about you. The end goal is selling and it will be realized but heed the principles of the space and tread cautiously.

Social media is about about reaching out and connecting and hanging out with like-minded individuals and socializing and creating relationships. Let me illustrate some of the points above through examples. I had a conversion with Alejandro Reyes last week. I met him on Twitter. If anybody knows Alejandro’s story, he launched April 1st of this year as a social media experiment to test the power of this medium. To launch his site he had he no marketing dollars. So he went onto Twitter and started watching conversations. Once in a while he would interject and provide comments or responses to questions. Before you know it he was gaining a huge following on Twitter and connecting with some very important influencers in the space. Within a few months he had garnered over 2000 followers on Twitter and over 17,000 backlinks to his site. By becoming this “resource of information” he began to raise the level of his influence and credibility. When I asked Alejandro to what he attributes his success, he said, “If you meet the right people, they will teach you the right things if they have your best interest in mind.” That is authenticity. He also indicated that social media is very fast-paced and the minute you put yourself out there you are defining your brand, and raising your level of awareness. How you engage in this medium will determine your success. “If you’re out there making offers on your stuff continuously and you’re not engaging with your audience, you’re just diluting your list and your brand. No one will listen to you anymore.”

Joselin Mane runs a company called LITBeL out of Boston. He is another social media success story.  Joselin left mainstream business to venture out on his own about 8 years ago. By his very nature, he is social and he found it easy hanging out and talking with marketing people on the web. Joselin’s advice to small businesses: “Businesses NEED to keep in tune with the stuff that’s happening around them. LISTEN and try to understand what people are talking about, especially with respect to your business. Do you have an immediate solution or suggestion? Put it out there and see if it has legs. There is a premium on being a Convenient Resource — someone who provides a solution to a question when it’s asked. The value you get is consistent with the value you deliver. Be open, respond and embrace and most of all RESPECT the medium.” With Twitter, Joselin states, “Twitter is fast-paced, real-time and you have an amazing opportunity to be part of a full-fledged conversation with influencers who have their pulse on the market, as well as potential customers.” In combination, they have the power to elevate your business to a new level.

I spoke with one of my blogger friends, Tizio, who I met on scribd. As part of a blogger network, he puts it this way, “In my opinion, the great revolution in marketing isn’t the technology, the creativity or the WOM. The real revolution is to speak the truth. Engage discussions and don’t be misleading.”

Slide 12 If you do it it and do it right what you’re going to do is build sustainable traffic to your site from people who have subscribed to you, based on the value you’ve provided to them. It takes a lot of effort but you’re building yourself a credible foundation based on virtually no monetary investment. The caveat to that is the time you need to invest to reach the right people. Once you do, WOM will kick in, further increasing the business opportunity. Once you have conversion, you’ll need to continue to leverage the medium to maintain/grow the connection beyond the sale.

Slide 13 Important: Building credibility is equivalent to building authority and eventually you will get the attention in the form of traffic.

Understand your Page rank or Quality Score. This is a measure of number of links point to your page and how many links point to the pages that point to that page. How do we get your page rank up?

You cannot get ahead by using the tools of web 2.0 without a blog — PERIOD. Blog content systems are the darlings of search engines. Having a blog means that you have a search engine magnet and an interactive community builder that will drive targeted visitors to your site.

Scribd and technorati can be other ways to build your own authority because again they’re based on what you’re sharing ie your blog content, relevant documents. If viewers like it, they’ll subscribe to you. Use this as opportunity to occasionally drive traffic to your own pages.

Comment on other blogs. Use track backs to add your URL and drive viewers to your blogs. If what you’ve had to post is interesting or valuable then people will come to you.

Flickr and video through some really cool streaming video tools like Mogolus and UStream are making it easier for people like you and me to create some real web-branding with professional-looking interfaces.

Yahoo! Answers gets excellent rankings on search engines. Easily build authority on the number of categories for your niche business.

Reciprocal Links — exchange links with your affiliations ie like businesses, vendors or resellers to help drive traffic back to your site

Social bookmarking:
1) Bookmark stuff on a regular basis that has nothing to do with making you money or building your business: articles, thought-leadership
2) Bookmark frequently ie several times per day
3) Social Bookmarking is measured by the number of times other people book your stuff – delicious, reddit, digg, stumbleupon
4) Bookmark things that haven’t discovered yet
5) Bookmark stuff that the group has bookmarked that’s consistent with your beliefs/or not
6) Use your expertise to show others what is good in several categories
7) Comments take more time but add depth to the bookmarking process
8) Add friends, join groups and participate in discussions
9) Only post your own stuff — your business stuff – after proving your worth

Slide 14 Be accessible to your current/potential customers.

Squidoo: Become an expert in your field simply by having a lens on your specific product/service. Use Squidoo as a niche barometer to to judge whether people are actually interested in your product. Finally, use it to build customer community — bring people together who have used your product and have them communicate with you and to each other. This gives you an opportunity to obtain product suggestions, testimonials, and feedback for future revisions

Twitter: This is a form of microblogging that allows you access to experts in your field and your customers/potential customers. You have 140 characters to say what you’re doing. Engage in conversation and share some important sites or current events or make inquiries to your list. But, add value. This medium is used by strong influencers to get a pulse on the market.

Get Satisfaction Develop a profile on this site if you have an online product. Use this as a forum for discussion or product inquiries.

Final Slide As per Joselin Mane: The Value you Get = The Value that you Give.

David Jones gave me these succinct points which I will share:

Monitor Look at what’s being said about you through your customers, and your blogs and manage your brand proactively.
Analyse Distill what’s being said and develop an interaction strategy on how you respond
Interact Engage with the community. Do it often and have the open dialogue. Remember to look out for people’s best interests.
Lead Be the Subject Matter Expert. Establish your authority and ensure you continue to add value and are consistent in your effort.

Joselin sent me this video that depicts the very nature of the Web 2.0 world. It’s called  “The Machine is Us/ing Us”

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