Mario Sundar

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

Obama is a Leader from Hope & Community…

Quick Update: Techmeme has picked up on a thread that analyzes Barack’s social networking capability. Check out Steve’s (Zdnet) post here and a more detailed observation from Tony here.

Political brand marketing is a topic I’d love to investigate further. Many bloggers, including Scoble, have dissected the candidacy of the three leading Democrats in the fray – Clinton, Edwards and Obama. One of HBR’s list of breakthrough ideas is leadership that is rooted in Hope.

Our study of effective executives has uncovered many ways in which their decisions, words, and actions make the people they lead more hopeful. Collectively, these practices are the basis of a leadership tool kit for building and sustaining hope. But the most important change comes when a leader is simply more mindful of this vital part of her or his mission.

If you are an executive trying to lead an organization through change, know that hope can be a potent force in your favor. And it’s yours to give.

I believe this kind of leadership is all the more necessary in politics since it drives a nation. And I was pleasantly surprised to find those themes in Barack Obama’s address announcing his candidacy for President 08:

(Source: Flickr images — Barack Obama)

* community

I moved to Illinois over two decades ago. I was a young man then, just a year out of college; I knew no one in Chicago, was without money or family connections. But a group of churches had offered me a job as a community organizer for $13,000 a year.

* faith

It was in these neighborhoods that I received the best education I ever had, and where I learned the true meaning of my Christian faith.

* hope

It was here, in Springfield, where North, South, East and West come together that I was reminded of the essential decency of the American people – where I came to believe that through this decency, we can build a more hopeful America.

* symbolism

But the life of a tall, gangly, self-made Springfield lawyer tells us that a different future is possible. (reference to Lincoln)

Each and every time, a new generation has risen up and done what’s needed to be done. Today we are called once more – and it is time for our generation to answer that call. (call to action much like JFK’s “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country” quote)

Obama definitely hit all the right notes but questions remain over whether he can translate his charisma into a democratic party nomination. He’s surely a breath of fresh air and it’ll be interesting to see how it plays out in the days to come. Let me close with another one of my favorite quotes from his address:

For that is our unyielding faith – that in the face of impossible odds, people who love their country can change it.

Do you think Obama will “BARACK THE VOTE”?


Filed under: Miscellaneous

Where’s the Return in ROI of Corporate Blogging?

My recent post in Marketing Profs’ Daily Fix led to quite an entertaining and valuable discussion on the ROI of Corporate Blogging. Here are a few quotable quotes:


The thing that I find about blogging–and quantifying based on sheer volume of traffic–is that not all traffic is created ‘equal’.For many blogs, having 100 of the right, highly engaged readers far outweighs 1000 users that are either not necessarily in their target audience, engaged or in the purchasing cycle.

Stephen Denny:

Blogs give you insights, answer questions some of your users never thought to ask, and take good care of your 1%-ers (and probably the next 10%-ers, too).

Easton Ellsworth:

One way for a company to make it easier to measure the value of its blog is to clarify the blog’s purpose. Is it simply to address customer questions and concerns? Is it primarily to spread the word about new products? Is it to invite suggestions on where to take the business? The better defined the purpose, the more easily measured the ROI(ROB).

Also, Debbie Weil, author of the Corporate Blogging Book, wrote:

I’m currently running an informal survey on corporate & CEO blogging and the use of social media tools. The answer to the question: Does corporate blogging need to be tied to the bottom line (i.e. does a dollar value need to be tied to its success)?

60% say NO | 26% say YES.

I’m definitely surprised by those percentages and would love to know what Debbie’s target audience comprised of.

Feel free to participate in Debbie’s corporate blogging survey here

Any other comments to add on the corporate blogging ROI question?

Filed under: Business Blogging, Social Media ROI

Netflix + Community = Flixster?

I’m definitely going to evoke the “I told you so” sentiment, on this topic. A few weeks ago, we had a lengthy discussion on the survival of Netflix. Friends pitched in with their ideas and I stuck to my conclusion that “Only Community can save Netflix“. Well, today I stumbled upon an article on a movie based social network called Flixster that seemed to validate that.

What’s Flixster?

Flixster is a MySpace like site that’s focused solely on Movies. At its core, Flixster has a movie rating service akin to Yahoo! Movies and Netflix; only simpler. But it’s core differentiator is the social networking aspect; one that Netflix lacks.

My take:

Creating my Flixster profile and inviting friends was simple and easy. Adding reviews will be enjoyable and creating a community of friends who similarly enjoy movies will be awesome!

How well is Flixster doing?

i. Michael Arrington of TechCrunch, a self-professed movie buff, quotes ComScore data to predict healthy growth trends emerging:

They show Flixster growing from 4 million to 31 million monthly page views from March – December 2006. In that same period, unique visitors grew from 328,000 per month to just over 1 million.

ii. Alex Iskold of Read/Write Web, analyzes some of Flixster’s core features (movie profiles), its similarity to MySpace, its uniqueness, growth potential and the rise of the niche social network. Definitely worth a read.

If only Netflix had thought of this before? So, what do you think?

Is it too late for Netflix to incorporate community features or is it a totally different ballgame altogether?

Filed under: Miscellaneous

Corporate Blogging and Barking?

Just a heads-up. After a LONG sabbatical, I’ve finally posted on MarketingProfs’ Daily Fix. It’s a sequel to my earlier post on Corporate Blogging ROI.

Feel free to check out the new Daily Fix post here.

And do share your thoughts. Thanks!

Filed under: Business Blogging

User generated content, YouTube, SuperBowl 2007

Suffice it to say that all thoughts lead to YouTube when you think of SuperBowl ads. So imagine my pleasant surprise when I noticed the SuperBowl 2007 ads ranked by users, which gets automatically reconfigured every few minutes.

BTW, my favorite ad, was the (i think, user generated) Doritos ad

Here are a couple of interesting posts on the ads:

1. Doritos scores a touchdown (via Cymfony – a market influence analytics company):

Beyond just the raw amount of exposure, Doritos wins on another dimension: almost half of the discussions of the Doritos ads are positive and almost none are negative. At Cymfony, we almost never see this strong of positive reaction for any brand.

2. David Armano (On the SuperPoll)

David comments on the Youtube Poll and also has his own poll that you can vote for on his blog:

If you are looking for an alternative poll, I put a handful of the Ads here where you can vote if you think any of these were memorable.  If there aren’t any included on the list or you feel some were downright terrible—feel free to comment and expand.

 What was your favorite Super Bowl ad?

Filed under: Uncategorized

Digg this: Growth of the NEW influentials!

Here’s my 3-part corollary to my previous post on Community Rules w/ Digg.

Un: Is Digg in trouble?

The lingering question on my previous post was this: Will Digg’s new rule to remove the “Top Diggers” category on their blog, remove the incentive for their users to continue digging posts?

Deux: So who’s influencing Digg?

I know all of you are cognizant of the Tipping Point‘s definition of “influentials” — “tiny minority of special individuals, often called influentials, who are unusually informed, persuasive, or well connected”

A new HBR research paper (via Kottke) contends that the influencers are not as influential:

In recent work, however, my colleague Peter Dodds and I have found that influentials have far less impact on social epidemics than is generally supposed. In fact, they don’t seem to be required at all.

So what 2 factors influence the “global cascade”:

1. non-celebrity influentials:

Yet it is precisely these non-celebrity influentials who, according to the two-step-flow theory, are supposed to drive social epidemics, by influencing their friends and colleagues directly. For a social epidemic to occur, however, each person so affected must then influence his or her own acquaintances, who must in turn influence theirs, and so on

2. a critical mass of easily influenced people:

the widespread propagation of influence through networks—is the presence not of a few influentials but, rather, of a critical mass of easily influenced people, each of whom adopts, say, a look or a brand after being exposed to a single adopting neighbor. Regardless of how influential an individual is locally, he or she can exert global influence only if this critical mass is available to propagate a chain reaction.

Trois: The jury’s out, but here’s my take:

Steve Rubel believes Digg shall decline now that the “Top Diggers” category is gone and so is the motivation? However, I believe that’s NOT the case. Digg hasn’t existed for the sole purpose of the Top Diggers. They’ve thrived on the thousands of non-celebrity influentials that populate their core demographic — young, techie males.

In my opinion, Digg has a critical mass of non-celebrity influentials who can easily step in and continue digging for the opportunity to influence their peers. Furthermore, I’d agree w/ Ed Kohler that this development helps removed the intimidation factor that “Top Diggers” has caused until now.

What do you think? Will Digg survive and if so, how & why?

Quick Update: Since I haven’t been able to leave comments to this post, I’ve decided to respond to Mario and Damon’s comments right up here:

Mario, looks like Digg IS serious about reducing Top Diggers’ influence. Check out this recent blog post on further efforts to reduce the influence of top diggers. Also, Damon, I agree that this development may not be as damaging to Digg since it now gives hope to the other diggers to outgeek the Top Diggers. It’ll be interesting to see if they continue digging now that even the pride factor has been removed.

Thanks for your comments, guys…

Filed under: Uncategorized

Flickr & Digg | Community Rules

First it started with Flickr and now Digg — have begun to test the strength & resolve of their fanatical communities. Their actions now have the possibilities of either earning the respect of the community or chasing away their users to their competition. Here is a tale of 2 communities:

1. Flickr limits user options


Flickr is taking a beating in two key forums right now over their decision today to force “old skool” flickr users to merge with Yahoo accounts and new limits on both number of contacts and tags allowed on Flickr (Source: Thomas Hawk)

Flickr Response:

We’ve heard your feedback and we’ve made a wee tweak to the contact limit change:While you’re limited to 3,000 non-reciprocal contacts, we’ve lifted the limit for reciprocal contacts — that is, if you and your buddy have each other as contacts, it won’t count towards the limit. (Source: Heather via Flickr)

2. Digg kills the “Top diggers” concept


Some of our top users are being blamed by some outlets as leading efforts to manipulate Digg. These users have been listed on the “Top Diggers” area of the site that was created in the early days of Digg when there was a strong focus on encouraging people to submit content. After considerable internal debate and discussion with many of those who make up the Top Digger list, we’ve decided to remove the list beginning tomorrow. (Source: Digg blog)

Fallout: One school of thought stresses that “Digg kills Top Diggers kills Digg“. Another school of thought feels that Digg can afford to do away with the Top Diggers feature given the fact that they are big enough now. I’ll post my take tomorrow, but in the meanwhile, answer me this:

How do you think destroying “Top Diggers” will impact Digg?

Filed under: Flickr, Miscellaneous

Blogging ROI: what’s easy; what’s not?

Starting with the following caveat,

As you can see, this process and framework is not cut and dry, black and white. Rather, it’s highly subjective, requires tremendous judgment, and is open to interpretation. But it is a starting point for an otherwise nebulous activity.

… Charlene Li, from Forrester Research, takes a stab at defining what’s hitherto been an intangible pain-in-the-neck for all corporate blog evangelists (such as myself) for so long. Here’s the oft-quoted Figure 2, that outlines the measurement best:

(Source: New ROI of blogging report from Forrester)

What’s easy to measure:

(a) Press Mentions – this is the greatest indicator of current value and is also the easiest to measure
(b) Search engine placement
(c) Word of mouth

What’s not easy to measure: (due to amorphous value considerations)

(a) Savings on customer insight – this is not exactly impossible but may prove to be more time-consuming & nebulous than imagined; measuring the no. of times blog comments provide useful business insight.
(b) Blog traffic – what are similar content channels to blogging? is it advertising through RSS feeds?
(c) Increased sales efficiency – I believe an increased number of clients and prospects reading your blog will inevitably lead to increased sales but I’d love to read the Forrester Report to figure out how they measure that. Do you have a better idea of how it’s done?

It’s ironic how new media’s true worth is calculated on the basis of the old media it finds placement within!

Filed under: Business Blogging, Social Media ROI

Does Social Media work for the Enterprise?

1. Read this and 2. answer this question

1. A must-read from Jeremiah
My friend Jeremiah posted his manifesto (as Shel calls it) on Customer Reference Programs. Working at marketing agencies, I’ve had a ringside view of how customer references work presently and I agree that it’s time for the evolution of customer references.

Jeremiah gives us an insightful train of thought capturing the past, present and future of customer references with a generous sprinkling of how social media is going to transform the industry. Couldn’t agree more with J, however I’ve a question…

2. Is your product, Social Media Friendly?
I’ve dabbled in this philosophy in the past, and the more I focus on it, it seems to me that there’s a distinguishable difference between the corporate marketing of:

(a) consumer related technology products/services and (b) the enterprise customer

If social media is the aggregation of “online tools that people use to share opinions, insights, experiences, and perspectives with each other”, then I don’t see how the enterprise customer (read execs) has the time/inclination to generate content sharing their take on how their most recently purchased server or database amplified the brand or increased sales?

Here’s Justin Kestelyn, Oracle Technology Network (OTN)’s Editor-in-Chief questioning whether blogging has made a difference to their brand?

In summation, I couldn’t agree more that any consumer related product (PCs, lifestyle technology like Skype, etc…) should go the way of social media but…

…will the enterprise customer engage? That’s the billion $ question.

Feel free to check out my earlier posts on customer references The Rise of Corporate Podcasts – 5 Facts and Virtual Customer Lounges

Filed under: Miscellaneous

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