Mario Sundar

LinkedIn's 2nd PR hire. These are my thoughts on products, public relations, and startups.

Zuckerberg ain’t Jobs. 3 Ways to Try.

This post has been a long time coming. As someone who earns a living in the PR space and one who obsessively follows the unique craft of tech CEO presentations, I had to concur with CNN’s recent piece on Mark Zuckerberg’s recent product announcement and why it was a giant FAIL compared to a Jobs presentation!

C’mon. Comparing Zuckerberg to Jobs is like expecting Shia LaBeouf to act like Marlon Brando. While Transformers may sell $750 million in box-office receipts — that doesn’t a Brando make. This seems like a perfect time to finally share my thoughts on Steve Jobs’ virtuoso D8 interview – yet another instance of Jobs’ public speaking savvy.

Here are three of the Jobs’ unique speaking skills that you can glean from his presentations — seemingly simple but tough to emulate:

Jobs’ Reality Distortion Field can be emulated. 3 Simple tricks below.

If you’re telling a story, make it gripping:

There are a million boring ways to tell a story. Just ask Bill Gates or Steve Ballmer (don’t even get me started), but Jobs has a penchant for telling an elegant story that hooks you from the get go.

Juxtaposing Jobs’ d8 presentation with Zuckerberg’s presentation would be interesting, but if you ran a word cloud through Jobs’ presentation, here’s what you’d have seen. It’s all about people.

His very first anecdote about Apple’s resurgence (overtaking the market cap of Microsoft) recounts the bygone days when Apple was down in the dumps to highlight what a glorious triumph this is:

Well, Apple was about 90 days from going bankrupt… (Boom!) in the early days. It was much worse than I thought when I went back.

But there were people there (I’d expected all the good people would have left), and I found these miraculous people, great people and I asked them as tactfully as I could: Why are you still here? And, I’ll never forget. A lot of them had this phrase: because I bleed in six colors. (Note: I remember having a “Apple bleeds six colors” poster on my cubicle wall a few years back)

You know what this reminds me of:

Don Draper, Season 4, Episode 1 (Public Relations). After learning the craft of telling stories to reporters, Don is asked if he’s the definitive entity in his newly formed ad agency. Here’s the story he relates:

Last year, our agency was being swallowed whole. I realized I had two choices: I could die of boredom or holster up my guns. So, I walked into Lane Pryce’s office and I said: Fire us! (Boom!) — Cue Background Music.

Two days later we were up and running at the Pier Hotel, within a year we had taken over two floors of the Time Life Building.

Again, start with the nadir of the story to pique the viewer’s curiosity and build up to the finale. The cadence of story-telling between the two quotes is uncanny but good story-telling always remains the same.

Use evocative metaphors that ring true and wise:

Throughout history, all the great teachers have spoken in parables. More importantly, when asked questions use plain speak metaphors from every day life that each and every one of us can relate to. Before you frame your answer, ask yourself: would a 12 year old understand what I’m about to say? And, go…

Here are a couple of examples from Jobs (from just this interview):

On why they ditched Adobe: Apple is a company that doesn’t have unlimited resources (Reality Distortion Field in effect). They way we do that is by looking at technical vectors that have a future. Different pieces of technology kinda go in cycles: they have their springs and summers and autumns, then they go to the graveyard of technology.

We try to pick things that are in their springs. And, if you choose wisely you can save yourself an enormous amount of work rather than trying to do everything. (true and wise)

To a question on whether the tablet will eventually replace the laptop:

I’m trying to think of a good analogy. When we were an agrarian nation, all cars were trucks cos that’s what you needed on the farm. But, as vehicles started to be used in the urban centers, and America started to move towards them. Cars got more popular and innovations like power steering, etc. happened.

And, now, maybe 1 in every 25 vehicles is a truck where it used to be like 100%.

PCs are gonna be like trucks.

Such a nuanced answer that yet again, aims to simplify and would communicate effectively to any 12 year old in the audience.

Here’s one more from the past on how computers are like a bicycle for your mind. Watch the video.

Clarity and consistency in thought and messaging

I recently read an essay on “Politics and the English language” by George Orwell, 1946, that I’d recommend to anyone with a fleeting desire to revisit their usage of the spoken and the written word. The essay culminates in 6 simple rules for clear writing and I think that can be extended to clear speaking as well.

These rules sound elementary, and so they are, but they demand a deep change of attitude in anyone who has grown used to writing in the style now fashionable. One could keep all of them and still write bad English, but one could not write the kind of stuff that I quoted in those five specimens at the beginning of this article.

If you simplify your English, you are freed from the worst follies of orthodoxy.

I think Jobs best defines this in every single interview he’s done. I could go on. But, let me pick an example from D8’s interview for his thoughts on privacy – an area where every company from Google to Facebook have had their fair share of stumbles but I think the clarity and simplicity of Jobs’ definition of privacy is startling.

We’ve had a very different view of privacy. We take it very seriously.

Privacy means people know what they’re signing up for… in plain english, and repeatedly.

I’m an optimist and I believe people are smart. Some people want to share more data. Some people more than others do. Ask em. Ask em every time. Make them tell you to stop asking them.

Let them know precisely what you’re gonna do with their data.

And, finally speaking of consistency of values that shines through every single interview Jobs has done, was this quote:

You know (long pause). When this whole Gizmodo incident happened, I got a lot of advice, that said: you’ve got to let it slide. You shouldn’t go after a journalist because they bought stolen property and they tried to extort you.You should let it slide.

And, I thought deeply about this. And, I ended up concluding.

That the worst thing that could possibly happen as we get big and gain a little more influence in this world, is if we change our core values and if we started letting it slide.

I can’t do that. I’d rather quit.

We have the same values now as we had then.

And, that consistency is true of Jobs impeccable communication skills. Watch the entire D8 Jobs interview here.

Filed under: Best-of, Facebook, Leadership Communication, Mark Zuckerberg, Public Relations, Public Speaking, Steve Jobs, , ,

Why do fans “unlike” or “unfollow” your brand?

Exact Target released a report last week that reiterates what we already knew about brands and companies testing the consumer’s patience with non-stop promotional material. It fails.

Apparently, the #1 reason across all three platforms – email, Facebook and Twitter – for folks unfollowing brands is too many postings or updates. Just like with any person to person engagement on social platforms.


Interestingly, this was also in line with Seth Godin’s Permission Marketing post (wow! how long ago was that in social media years). For e.g. when Seth launched his Permission marketing book, here’s what he had to say about it:

Permission marketing is the privilege (not the right) of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who actually want to get them.

Social networking sites are the very epitome of how Permission based marketing works. And, yet what do marketers do? They treat it like traditional email marketing and push messages non-stop and end up driving away the same consumers who opted-in to following your brand.

The study actually interviewed folks about email marketing, Facebook and Twitter marketing and it’s nice to see how in all three mediums, the #1 reason you drive away your “fans” is by bombarding them relentlessly with useless promotional content.

What can your brand learn from it?

I think Seth Godin said it best.

In order to get permission, you make a promise. You say, “I will do x, y and z, I hope you will give me permission by listening.” And then, this is the hard part, that’s all you do. You don’t assume you can do more. You can promise a newsletter and talk to me for years, you can promise a daily RSS feed and talk to me every three minutes, you can promise a sales pitch every day. But the promise is the promise until both sides agree to change it.

So, what is the type of content and the frequency with which you update your Facebook and Twitter pages? If your company has a social media business page on Facebook or Twitter, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Leave a comment.

Filed under: Facebook

Email Sucks! How Facebook email can fix that.

Update: I’ve added my thoughts on a perfectly timed post from Steve Gillmor on the same topic. See end of this post.

Note to self: Never go to bed on an unpublished blog post, esp. one that I was tremendously excited about. Cos, when you wake up you realize someone has written up an awesome piece on those ideas. Well, I did think Gizmodo articulated very well, how FB could create your ultimate priority inbox. After the jump, my original post with my thoughts.

There has been a ton of twitter chatter on Facebook’s looming launch of an email system or a revamp of their messenger system. Of course, there are rumors of their partnering with Microsoft to incorporate Outlook email as the foundation for this email.

Facebook’s Priority Inbox will beat Gmail’s lame Priority Inbox

Despite its best intentions, Gmail’s priority inbox is still a melange of mistakes that I’ve to keep training and fact is it never learns, cos it really does NOT know the people I’m communicating with. Instead the algorithm does a bad interpretation (I’m guessing) based on frequency, senders, etc. And, that’s the problem with email. The senders range from people we know, trust to the spammer next door.

Enter Facebook’s social graph.

Since Gizmodo, articulated this so well, here’s Jesus Diaz’s speculation about Priority Inbox.

Moreover, it’s not only about separating what is important and what is not. Their data tracking and analysis could allow them to do many other things. For example, they just have to analyze who is tagging you in photos, who is with you in those photos, to know who are your real friends, and categorize mail accordingly. They can automatically classify mail from the person who just became your fiance or lower the priority of that ex who keeps mailing you. The possibilities of using your social interactions to enhance the mail experience are endless.

“People tagging” emails will kill the suckiness of group emails

In addition, I think Facebook could use their secret weapon – tagging – to help reduce noise and clutter in your email as well. They’ve  used tagging most famously in photos, but also notes, groups, status updates and places to spread “targeted virality”. The art of tagging offers a targeted high to the individuals who then come back to the site to use it more. The red alert sign on the top left hand corner probably elicits a pavlovian response from its users by now. Y’know it does.

This is something I aggressively requested from Tweetie (before they were Twitter, nearly 18 months ago) but still notifications is not a well thought out twitter mechanism. But on Facebook, imagine, if you could tag just the friends you wanted to respond to an email even when you send a group email. That way the red alert symbol in the top left hand corner will constantly remind you when you actually have priority emails from folks in your social graph or could feed into the social algorithm that prioritizes your email.

I’m sure there’s so much more FB could do to make emails less sucky, but this would be a start. [Would love to hear from you how you think FB email will change email? Comment away!]


Updated: I just stumbled upon a perfectly timed TechCrunch post from Steve Gillmor on this same topic:

What happens now is that these stream objects are lit up with transactional properties. Code gets run based on incoming events, pulling it out of the teeming inbox before we see it and converted into actions predetermined by our inference engines and workflow rules. This is not AI or smart computing; it’s harvesting social signals in the context of realtime economics. If Facebook reinvents email by submerging it in the stream, they’ll have something to announce.

This reminds me of a couple of things, the notifications do mean that your Facebook stream will now contain messages from your FBmail Inbox. But, I do think these notifications could be far more targeted, valuable and productive given hints you give Facebook on your usage of their different social apps (photos, etc.) as well as explicit permission you give it through tagging.

Techmeme also just picked up the thread.

Yes / No? You don’t think this will be the case. Discuss in the comments section or @mariosundar me.

Filed under: Facebook

The ROI on Social Sharing vs. Email

My “LinkedIn” twitter search is buzzing with this recent blog post by Tamara of Eventbrite (h/t: All Things Digital), where she compares the ROI on social sharing for their company. Social commerce is a growing phenomenon (think Groupon) but data like this helps marketers understand the true value of incorporating the social graph into their websites. A couple of interesting tidbits from the post:

  • The growing increase in the effectiveness of sharing on social networking sites – Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter

When someone shares an event with their friends through social media, this action results in real dollars. Our most recent data shows that over the past 12 weeks, one share on Facebook equals $2.52, a share on Twitter equals $0.43, a share on LinkedIn equals $0.90.

  • The resilience of email

…and a share through our ”email friends” application equals $2.34

That’s not bad at all. In terms of effectiveness, they’re ranked – Facebook, email, LinkedIn and Twitter. And, here’s the methodology:

We use a custom suite of social analytics tools that we have developed entirely in-house. Our reporting lets us track and analyze not only which sharing options our users leverage, but where on our site each share action takes place. These tools also tie back into our conversion funnels, so we are able to attribute ticket purchases to the specific social distribution channel that drove them. So, for example, we can compare not just the value created by a Facebook “Like” vs. a tweet, but also the performance of shares initiated before or after a purchase.

Reminds me of a post from Dan Yoo on the LinkedIn blog, where he talked about the effectiveness of Groupon.

“You can see the initial spike in revenue in the graph below. That’s to be expected after distributing a coupon. What we found even more interesting was the “new normal” that resulted. Even after the bump from Groupon, our revenue has leveled off to almost 50% higher than before.”

Of course, Dan works at LinkedIn and was profiled in our Talent series, where we feature employees who do cool stuff outside of their day job at LinkedIn. And, if you haven’t guessed by know, by way of disclosure, I work at LinkedIn.

Are there other studies that compare sharing ROI around? Let me know in the comments section.

Filed under: Facebook, Linkedin, Social Media ROI, Twitter

Does a Facebook Pages study debunk the Tipping Point?

I guess most of you reading this post by now have come to assume that the influencer model of word of mouth (made ubiquitous knowledge thanks to Gladwell’s tipping point) is pretty much the infallible truth. That said, here’s a recent study on Facebook pages that may question that.

No single person is accountable for the popularity of a Page; instead, we consistently see that roughly 15% of all fans arrived independently and started their own chains (which merge together as the rest of the fan base takes shape). These patterns hold for Pages with a few thousand fans and for those with more than 50,000.

I know what you’re thinking. Of course, it’s got nothing to do with one individual but rather the few (Law of the Few): the connectors, the mavens and the salesmen. Do “15% of all fans” comprise “the few” then? Or…

Pages grow if people are easily engaged by the content, not because of the actions of a couple trendsetters.

Do influencers really matter then or are they most effective only when sharing great content? hmm… I also can’t help but wonder if this holds true with Twitter’s asymmetric model as well. I always believed Twitter’s phenomenal success has hinged on the Influencer model; specifically thanks to obsessive celebrities and twitterstruck journalists.

What do you think?

Read the Facebook blog post here and check out the entire analysis here.

Filed under: Facebook

Is Twitter a fad or the next Facebook?

The faster a fad rises in pop-cultural consciousness, the faster it falls in the popularity ratings. Thus says a recent study that surmises that “people believe that items that are adopted quickly will become fads, leading them to avoid these items, thus causing these items to die out”. Weird, uh?

Besides baby names, the symmetry between popularity rise and fall can carry over to other cultural items. For example, the scientists noted that similar outcomes have been observed in the music industry, where new artists who shoot to the top of the charts right away also fall quickly, and so have lower overall sales than those who rise more slowly. While this finding seems counterintuitive, since a quick rise in popularity would seem like a good thing, it shows that a backlash to perceived fads should be taken into account. As the researchers explain, people who want to ensure the persistence and success of particular items should seek to popularize the items at a slow but steady pace.

I’ve read a bunch of articles in the recent past, that talked about users’ disillusionment with Twitter after signing up en masse, thanks to (maybe) Oprah. But my experience has more closely mimicked that of TechCrunch’s Erick Schonfeld who explains Twitter’s adoption curve thus:

Ever-increasing waves of hype, links, and attention bring in the newbies to Twitter.com where they get their first taste of Twitterdom. Some portion of those set up an account out of curiosity or a fear of being left behind. They try sending out a few Tweets, look around, get bored by the initial banality of the service and abandon it for other pursuits.

But that is not the end of it. A lot of them come back, either because they keep getting links from friends or keep hearing about it on TV or whatever, and then they slowly start to see the usefulness—a funny Tweet from a friend, a link to breaking news, a way to keep an eye on the general zeitgeist. Twitter is the kind of thing that is easier to experience than it is to explain. But it is an acquired taste and often requires repeated exposure before people get hooked. Once they do get hooked, there is no going back.

So, what do you think? Is Twitter a fad or the next Facebook?

p.s. And if you’re wondering what the chart above means, read the entire article here. (via Rex)

Filed under: Facebook, Twitter

How To Filter Out Facebook “Friends” Without Them Knowing

I’m probably one of the very few who actually has friend categories set up on Facebook, but frankly I’ve never used it. What I didn’t know was that if you move any category above your “News feed”, FB.com auto-loads with only updates from that group. Sweet!

Filed under: Facebook

How often do you update your Status?

What started as a trickle, has now become a full-fledged industry standard. Yes, I’m talking about those tiny status updates you see on every social network. Let’s not forget that as much as the once derided IM has become a productivity tool, and IMO so will Status messages. But, with great awareness comes great adoption and finally confusion on how to use them efficiently.

Social Networks

In my experience there are two kinds of network updates I encounter these days: one comes from the simple content creator networks like Twitter, blogs, etc… which then feed into a container network such as FriendFeed. So, let’s take a look at proper network update etiquette & frequency for the two types.

1. Stand-alone Network Updates (where Conversations are started)

* Your Blog – Optimal # of content updates would be 2-3 short posts or 1 thought piece a day

* Twitter – Many, many times a day :)Add me on Twitter

* Facebook – Posted Items & status (purely social) many times a day

* LinkedIn – Professional status update once a day – Here’s my professional brand

2. Consolidated Network Updates (where Conversations happen)

* FriendFeed – Never – Follow me on Friendfeed

I know. I just let FriendFeed populate with updates from all my other stand-alone networks from Twitter to Pandora. It’s interesting that Facebook is now trying to move from being a conversation starter to being a conversation playground like FriendFeed. A case in point is their opening up of comments within the News feed earlier today.

How many social networks are you a part of and how often do you update content?

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Filed under: Facebook, Linkedin, Miscellaneous, Twitter

Hooked on social networks? Try decaf; no seriously.

Troy Wolverton from the Mercury News outlines his experience trying out “The Three” social networks out there: MySpace, Facebook and LinkedIn (Disclosure: I work at LinkedIn; in case you’re wondering that’s probably why I’m interested in this space!).

Here’s a quick summary of Troy’s experience:

In January, I received an e-mail through Facebook from a college friend with whom I’d long regretted losing touch.

Last month, as the Mercury News was about to announce layoffs, a contact on LinkedIn alerted me to some job openings at his research firm.

And last week on MySpace, for at least the 16th time in the past three months, I was asked to be friends with a flirtatious young woman – in this case “Stephanie” – who was a front for a porn site.

Funny, eh… Anyways, the reason I’m bringing this up, is that as community evangelist I reach out to folks who’re trying to get more value out of LinkedIn. Now, Troy goes on to describe his experience of LinkedIn more in detail and I can assure you that he’s still skimming the surface and can use it for a slew of professional purposes (particularly as a journalist) that he’s currently missing.

Unlike Facebook, LinkedIn positions itself as a tool for professionals. After joining the site last fall, I now have more than 200 mostly professional contacts, with a few personal friends mixed in. While I visit and use the site more often than MySpace, I’m still not convinced of its necessity.

Alright, here’s an open invitation to Troy. Give me a chance to walk-you through some of the LinkedIn usage/features you’re missing right now. I mean it, try decaf, seriously :)

Read more about Troy’s experience on the three social networking sites here

Filed under: Facebook, Linkedin

Facebook Beacon lights a firestorm in a teacup?

Summary: Beacon lights a fire storm of privacy issues — Word-of-mouth marketing or misplaced advertising? — Why Matthew Ingram and Justin Smith are wrong on the Beacon issue

Moveon.org is targeting Facebook Beacon as an invasion of privacy — Big Brother style (alright, I’m guilty of the gratuitous Apple reference, the 1984 Mac commercial)

What is Facebook Beacon?
Beacon is a way for businesses to let their customers “share the actions they take on your website with their Facebook friends.” In other words, it’s a new way for Facebook users to log and broadcast their outside-of-Facebook online activity inside Facebook.

Why is it bothering users of Facebook?
The chief privacy concern raised by MoveOn is that Beacon is opt-out, not opt-in. (via Inside Facebook)

What is Matthew Ingram saying?
Matthew Ingram, quotes Justin Smith (Inside Facebook) to make his case that Facebook Beacon’s woes are overstated by Charlene Li and that this one will also pass:

It was almost exactly a year ago that Facebook suddenly allowed everything you did on the site to be published to your news feed so that everyone could see it, and plenty of users went completely apeshit about it being a heinous invasion of privacy, etc. Facebook was excoriated for the way it handled the announcement, and for the fact that it forced people to opt out instead of allowing them to opt in and configure who saw what, and generally it was a tsunami of negative publicity.

As Justin notes, 100 times as many people got upset about the news feed as joined the Moveon protest, and that one blew over eventually.

Now, here’s why I beg to differ:

1. The furore over Newsfeed did not subside until critical adjustments were made to the newsfeed culminating in an apology by Mark Zuckerberg:

We really messed this one up. When we launched News Feed and Mini-Feed we were trying to provide you with a stream of information about your social world. Instead, we did a bad job of explaining what the new features were and an even worse job of giving you control of them. I’d like to try to correct those errors now.

Somehow we missed this point with News Feed and Mini-Feed and we didn’t build in the proper privacy controls right away. This was a big mistake on our part, and I’m sorry for it. But apologizing isn’t enough. I wanted to make sure we did something about it, and quickly. So we have been coding nonstop for two days to get you better privacy controls. This new privacy page will allow you to choose which types of stories go into your Mini-Feed and your friends’ News Feeds, and it also lists the type of actions Facebook will never let any other person know about. If you have more comments, please send them over.

BTW, the above blog post by Mark is one of the best examples of a CEO responding to user concerns in as timely a manner as possible. Another case in point of such swift response by a CEO would be Steve Jobs apology in response to the furore over the iPhone drop. Now, this is how CEOs should blog; not every day! (Read more of my posts on corporate blogging here)

2. While the news feed, after above changes turned out to be the “magnetic and social and addictive” as Matthew states, Beacon on the other hand is about monitoring your purchases outside of Facebook and it does so in many cases without your knowledge (Anyone in the know, please correct me if I’m wrong. Dave?). I’ve a strong suspicion that this also depends on the purchase site.

I’ve to state that although it looks like Charlene didn’t notice a msg. when she purchased stuff on Overstock, two other colleagues of mine, noticed a pop-up from Fandango and Overstock respectively saying that this information was going to be passed onto Facebook. What has your experience been?

Finally, what do I think of Beacon personally?

As an avid blogger/social media type, I don’t mind it, as long as I’m aware of it. I just noticed my colleague Steve Ganz had bought tickets to a movie via Fandango and he seemed fine with others on his feed knowing about it. However, I’d agree totally with Charlene Li of Forrester who recently had close encounters of the beacon kind that users need to be aware of such transactions being passed onto Facebook:

But I need to be in control and not get blindsided as I did in the example above. I was seriously wigged out, but wouldn’t have been if Overstock had simply told me that they were inserting a Facebook Beacon and given me the opportunity at that time to opt-in to Beacon.

Having said that let me clarify that both, Steve and I are edge case users/twitterers/bloggers who may not mind such “announcements” but the majority of users may either ruin their Christmas surprise or worse still aggravate their professional relationships (if they have professional contacts on Facebook) by exposing their personal choice/purchases in books (think hot button topics like religion, politics, etc…), and the like.

What do you think of Facebook Beacon? Is it similar to the News feed issue or is it far more of a privacy concern for you? Leave comments.

If you like content you see here and want to read more of my thoughts on marketing and social networking, subscribe to marketing nirvana.

Disclosure: For those of you not aware, I work as community evangelist at LinkedIn and these are purely my personal ramblings.

Filed under: Crisis Communications, Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, Public Relations, Steve Jobs

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