What Makes an Idea Go Viral?

Viral marketing is a hot buzzword these days. It’s a simple enough concept – get others to spread your idea and before too long, thanks to the beauty of exponential math (“I told two friends, and they told two friends, and so on, and so on.”), you’ve reached a lot of people.

The challenge is, how do you get people to want to tell two friends? Or two hundred? Or two thousand?

Seth Godin shared 20 ideas on this on his blog yesterday. Here are a few of my favorites:

I spread your idea because.

.because I feel smart alerting others to what I discovered.

.because there’s a financial benefit directly to me (Amazon affiliates, mlm).

.because both my friend and I will benefit if I share the idea (Groupon).

.because if everyone knew this idea, I’d be happier.

.because I care about someone and this idea will make them happier or healthier.

.because I’m in awe of your art and the only way I can repay you is to share that art with others.

14 more at Seth’s Blog

Why do people spread your idea? What compels them to tell two friends, and so on? If you can’t answer that, don’t expect them to.


5 Reasons You Need LOTS of Twitter Followers NOW

By most people’s standards, I’m doing very well on Twitter. TwitterGrader currently gives me a score of 100% and has me ranked #265 out of nearly 2 million users it has analyzed.



I’m adding an average of a little over 30 followers per day, and have had days where I’ve added almost 100 new followers (#FollowFriday has been very good to me lately – thanks to all have included me in their lists).

I could toss up a bunch of other metrics here to convince you, but let’s just suffice it to say that, more or less, I’m “doing everything right” (I’m sure a few people will argue one or two points with me, but whatever).

But I want more followers. LOTS more followers. And so do you.and here’s why:

1. Only a handful of your followers are actually paying attention.

Some of your followers are heavy Twitter users. Guess what? They’re following a ton of people, and the odds of them actually picking any one of your tweets out of the noise of the thousands of people they’re following is very slim. Others are light Twitter users, and the odds of them actually being online and seeing your tweets in a timely manner is fairly slim also.

Even with nearly 4,500 “true” followers, I typically find that any one given tweet of mine generates less than 10 reactions – a reply, a retweet, a click-through to my blog, etc. [Point of clarification: I’m talking about first-order reactions, i.e., from my immediate followers. The network effect is typically much higher – anywhere from 20 to as many as 300-400 actions in the extended network after the retweets.]

That’s 0.2%!

That is a worse response rate than Google AdWords. It’s a worse response rate than cold calling. Heck, it’s a worse response rate than junk mail!!!

I’m not saying that means it’s ineffective for the time/effort you put into it, because it’s a) free and b) not terribly time-consuming. Still, point is, the response rate sucks. You need larger numbers if you want significant action in response to your Twitter activity.

2. More followers = more visibility = more “true” followers.

I couldn’t care less about my follower count for its own sake. It’s not a “badge of honor”. But there’s a basic truth about social media that Clay Shirky wrote about way back in 2003 in Power Laws, Weblogs, and Inequality: the sources who get more attention tend to get way more attention.

There are several reasons for this:

For one thing, psychologically, those with more followers are perceived by many to be more authoritative.

For another, there are dozens of tools out there that rank sources based on follower count (or at least that’s one of the metrics). So tools like TwitterGrader, TwitterCounter’s Top 100 lists, Twitterholic and others give more visibility to those with more followers. More visibility = still more followers.

And finally, if you have more followers, there are more people re-tweeting your posts, replying to you, etc. So their networks are exposed to you and more likely to add you.

Does it actually work? Anecdotally, yes it does. I had something I had posted about several times, even asking people for re-tweets. I got several – almost 20, in fact, but it took like 5 posts to get those 20 re-tweets. I then asked my friend @PerryBelcher to re-tweet it for me. At the time, Perry had a little over 10x as many followers as I did. Perry got 10 re-tweets off his one post. Now that’s obviously not proportional, i.e., he doesn’t have as much average attention per user as I do, but that just proves my point as to why you need larger numbers.

3. Even if you’re currently B2B or in a narrow niche, you don’t know what the future holds.

For the past six years, I’ve worked social media almost entirely from a B2B perspective myself. Some of my clients have been B2C, and I’ve advised them on strategies that I never implemented myself because I didn’t see them as a fit. My latest project, however, is a B2C play to a very broad potential market. Simply put, I can serve that project much better the farther my reach/influence is. Certainly, stronger relationships create all kinds of opportunities, but I also just simply need to raise awareness.

And relative to my goals, I’m practically starting from scratch. I want to have 10-15 times my current follower count on my personal account, and I’m starting from square one on the account I set up for that project, @AmerGuitarAcad.

Regardless of what your current job or business is, what does the future hold for you? And when suddenly you do find yourself in a position of needing a much larger network, do you want to be starting from scratch? Or already have a head start?

As Harvey Mackay says, “Dig your well before you’re thirsty.”

4. The celebrities are coming! The celebrities are coming!

Take a look at the Twitterholic Top 100. Everyone on there is a celebrity. Even if you don’t recognize their name, trust me, they are. They’re either a blogging celebrity, an author, a TV personality, a technology CEO or something. These people already have huge other platforms from which to announce their Twitter presence and rapidly grow their follower count. For example, my uncle, David Allen (@GTDGuy), has been on Twitter barely six weeks and already has about 175,000 followers.

The more celebrities show up on Twitter, the harder and harder it will get for you to reap the benefits described in #2 above. Three months ago, the Twitterholic list looked completely different. I mean, consider this: @GuyKawasaki and @Scobleizer don’t even make the cut any more.

The window of opportunity is narrowing rapidly. If you want to be on the high side of that power curve, you need to get there NOW!

5. It doesn’t cost anything to have followers.

The incremental cost of adding one more follower is $0.00. Not only that, there’s zero (or near-zero) time cost. You can rapidly grow your follower count in just 15-20 minutes a day. Now sure, you may have to follow more people to grow your follower count rapidly, and they may create more noise in your Twitter stream, but there are tools like TweetDeck that will help you manage that (just create a “high attention” group of people whose tweets you absolutely don’t want to miss).

There’s simply no downside, that I can see. By all means, if you think there is, say so in the comments below.

So of course this begs the question:

“How do I get LOTS of followers?”<

If you’re interested in getting new followers at the rate of 20-30 a day, here’s what I’ve done that has achieved that:

  1. Create value for your followers by sharing excellent content – a mix of your own and from others.
  2. Follow new people “organically” by adding people who send you @ messages, people on the other half of a conversation with the people you’re already following, etc.
  3. Promote others on #FollowFriday. If you’ve done #1, many of the people you promote will reciprocate and promote you.
  4. Participate in hashtag chats as a way of meeting new people, some of whom may follow you.
  5. Use Twitter recommendation engines like Mr. Tweet and TwitterGrader to find relevant new people to follow. Again, many of them will reciprocate and follow you back.
  6. Promote your Twitter ID on your blog, social networking sites, your email signature, business cards, etc.

For many people, those practices will get them all the followers they think they would ever want. But as I said, I’m interested in accelerating even beyond that.

So I’ve been studying the practices of Twitter users who are not celebrities (or at least internet celebrities), and I’ve found one person in particular who really seems to know what he’s doing: Richard Bryda, aka @BigRichB.

Rich has over 75,000 followers. That makes him the most-followed non-celebrity on Twitter. And he built that following all since last November, entirely on Twitter, i.e., no blog, no YouTube videos, no TV/radio show, etc. I’ve been watching him the past few months, and what he’s accomplished is nothing short of amazing. I’ve also had the chance to meet him in person, visit with him, and talk about what he’s been doing. Simply put, he has devoted the past few months to scientifically researching how to get more followers on Twitter.

This past weekend, Rich launched his info-product, Brute Force Twitter, which spells out over a dozen tactics he has developed for rapidly growing your follower count. I can tell you I personally won’t use every single one of these, but only one of them is a technique I’ve ever used myself, and even then, not to full effect. The rest of them, I never would have thought of.

I could spill the beans and tell you these techniques, but hey – that would be enormously disrespectful of the intellectual property Rich has spent countless hours developing over the past few months. And besides, if everybody had access to these techniques, you (and I) couldn’t use them to get on the steep side of that curve, right? 😉

This is NOT a “how to get rich on Twitter” scheme. This is about helping you get more followers to support your business model on Twitter, whatever it may be.

Rich is offering his system for just $97. If you’d like to learn along with me how to get not just 20-30 followers a day, but dozens or even hundreds, you can get more information or order now.

Seeking data on Yahoo! Groups and competitors

I’m curious to see if anyone has data on the biggest providers of online network services. According to my sources, they include:

Yahoo Groups-90m users
MySpace-100m users (and many thousands more in the last day or so, no doubt)
Classmates.com-40m users
Neopets-30m users
Facebook-7.7m users

Jeff Weiner, SVP of Yahoo Search and Marketplace, reported at Yahoo Analyst Day on May 17 that Yahoo Groups has 90 million members. Does anyone have any more detailed information on this number? Are these 90 million members receiving and reading their Yahoo Groups emails, regularly visiting the Yahoo Groups website, or doing anything else to prove that they are “active” members in some way? Or does 90 million simply refer to the number of users who at some point in the past registered with a Yahoo Group, but who are not necessarily participating or involved in the group in any way anymore?


Multi-sided markets, online

HBS Professor Andrei Hagiu is an expert on multi-sided markets, and recently interviewed me on that topic: Market Platform Dynamics–Catalyst Conversation: Conversation with David Teten. His site requires that you submit an email address to read the article (but I should note that he doesn’t actually test if the email address is functional.)

MySpace, Facebook and Other Social Networking Sites: Hot Today, Gone Tomorrow?

Knowledge @ Wharton reports on: MySpace, Facebook and Other Social Networking Sites: Hot Today, Gone Tomorrow?:

Popular social network sites, including MySpace and Facebook, are changing the human fabric of the Internet and have the potential to pay off big for investors, but — given their youthful user base — they are unusually vulnerable to the next new fad. As quickly as users flock to one trendy Internet site, they can just as quickly move on to another with no advance warning, according to Wharton faculty and Internet analysts, who offer some ideas on how these new sites can both increase user loyalty and generate revenues.

Leverage and Networking

Fellow Ryze member Walter Paul Bebirian and I were having an interesting discussion about the concept of “leverage” and how it applies to networking.

“Leverage” is a term we all have a pretty good concept of physically, but perhaps a more vague concept in business. Perhaps the most common use of it in business/finance is, as Walter pointed out in our conversation, in financial investments where we can use margin to have control over more shares than we could otherwise work with.

Simply put, “leverage” is the ability to accomplish more by use of a tool than we could through our own direct effort. I have an idea of three ways that this can apply to networking:

  1. When you have strong enough relationships that people take action on your behalf proactively, rather than just responding reactively, that’s leverage. Your relationship with them leverages their entire network. But it takes a certain strength of relationship for them to act PRO-actively — that’s when it’s leverage. Just having a lot of contacts who only respond to requests doesn’t count. That’s why I tend to favor “quality” (of relationship, not of people) over quantity. As one networking expert put it, “It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you.” If your relationships aren’t above that “action threshhold”, they’re not really serving you.
  2. Any time you interact in a public forum rather than one-on-one, that’s leverage. The same conversation exposes you to and connects you with dozens of other people, all for the same amount of effort. When my readers write in at About.com, I reply with a blog post, not a private e-mail. That’s leverage.
  3. You can also leverage your writing by repurposing it for other venues. What you write in a discussion forum, use as as a discussion starter in another one, then post it to your blog, include it in your newsletter, and expand it into an article. Walter made the excellent suggestion to take our private conversation and post it. It takes me two minutes, and I leverage the effort I’ve already put into creating the content.

So there are three ideas for applying the concept of leverage to networking. What’s your idea of how to apply the concept of leverage to networking?

Joining the Conversation Drives Innovation

Leading up to their upcoming Innovation Forum, Fortune has launched a new blog, Business Innovation 2005, which features interviews with a diverse collection of business thinkers on what’s driving innovation today. Kudos to them for talking to people besides “the usual suspects” and for using the blog platform as the vehicle. It’s a great read – I spent a couple of hours there between the original content and the links out to other good stuff.

They interviewed me on joining the conversation, featuring my responses to the following questions:

1. How can mid-size to large companies use blogs, social networking sites and virtual communities in innovative ways?

2. What are the current buzzwords about innovation in the entrepreneurial world?

3. What Fortune 500 companies have been able to create a successful, entrepreneurial culture?

Check out the full interview. You can also stop by my longer commentary on About.com for a short reading list of my favorite picks for entrepreneurs from the Business Innovation blog .

Get Paid to Blog

Ever wondered how you could get to paid to blog, but you weren’t quite ready to set up your own blog from scratch?

Or maybe you have your own blog, but you’re having a hard time getting enough traffic to it to make any money at it?

Or maybe you have a blog that’s about one particular topic, and you’d occasionally like to write about other topics, but don’t think it’s a good fit for your existing blog?

If any of these describes you, then you’ll definitely want to check out Creative Reporter. The deal is simple — sign up, post to any of Creative Weblogging‘s blogs and you get paid $10 per 1,000 page views (FYI, that’s a very good pay rate). They do have some basic guidelines – they’re looking for original posts, not just links and summaries (those won’t usually attract as much traffic anyway).

In case you’re not familiar with it, Creative Weblogging is a blog network similar to Weblogs Inc., Corante or AllBusiness.com’s Business Blogs. The big difference is that all of these only have one blogger per topic, with occasional guest bloggers by invitation only. With Creative Reporter, anybody can contribute to any of Creative Weblogging’s 40+ blogs, including topics ranging from aviation to VOIP.

I think this is a really smart move on Creative Weblogging’s part from a business standpoint. Not only will it increase the amount of content on their site, it should also increase their readership because of the network effect from new contributors, who will have a vested interested in helping promote the site to their friends and acquaintances. Since they apparently have enough advertisers paying per impression to cover this, it’s a no-lose proposition for them. And it couldn’t be easier for bloggers, since there’s nothing to set up. Just register and start posting.

Today is BlogDay

Did you know that today, August 31, is BlogDay 2005?

One of the things that happens as we get more and more blogs out there is that existing bloggers spend less time reading new weblogs, and there are some really great ones out there that are being overlooked.

Blogger Nir Ofir dreamed up the idea of BlogDay to address this. To participate in BlogDay:

  1. Find 5 new Blogs that you find interesting
  2. Notify the 5 bloggers that you are recommending them as part of BlogDay 2005
  3. Write a short description of the Blogs and place a link to the recommended Blogs
  4. Post the BlogDay Post (on August 31st) and
  5. Add the BlogDay tag using this link: http://technorati.com/tag/BlogDay2005 and a link to the BlogDay web site at http://www.blogday.org

I’m off to find 5 new bloggers. If you decide to participate, feel free to provide a link to your BlogDay post in a comment here.

Oh, and this will be my first entry using Technorati tags — I hope I get it right! 🙂

Tags: , , ,

Repurposing Content for Different Contexts

One of the essential skills that allows you to reach more people with less effort is the ability to repurpose your content for different contexts. Some examples:

– Take what you write in a private e-mail, expand on it and post it in a discussion forum
– Adapt what you wrote in a mailing list to work as a stand-alone piece and put it in your blog
– Use excerpts from your best blog posts and link to them as an e-mail newsletter
– Formalize your best blog posts into articles for publication on other sites
– Compile your articles and blog posts into a book
– Take old articles or excerpts from your book and re-frame them to fit the context of a new publication venue

This is all stuff David and I practice routinely, to the point that I’ve practically forgotten about it as a “practice”. I was pleasantly reminded of it this morning by John Stephen Veitch, who wrote four reviews of The Virtual Handshake on various sites: two of his blogs, his Ryze network and Amazon. What intrigued me was that he used the same basic review for all four entries, but framed each one for its context so that it was relevant to that readership.

In his Step by Step for Newbies blog, which provides simple, how-to instruction for people new to the Internet, he writes:

Until now too many people have been unsure what to do “now that I’m online”. The Virtual Handshake is a solution to that problem. It’s plain and clear that what you choose to do online is important, and the authors give you strong, specific and easily understood instructions about how to “do it” right.

For internet newbies The Virtual Handshake has detailed instruction on the simple things you need to do to get started. The Virtual Handshake also tells you how to create an online presence that will attract to you the people who are most likely to help you to succeed. Read more…

On Open Future, his blog which looks at innovation and adapting to change, he starts differently:

CEO’s and business managers is general have been slow to get online. Those who have been early might have made all the mistakes, but a good number have also made significant money by trading with or doing services for somebody they first met online. Until now too many people have been unsure what to do “now that I’m online”. The Virtual Handshake is a solution to that problem. It’s plain and clear that what you do online is important, and the authors give you strong, specific and easily understood instructions about how to “do it” right.

For the business executive The Virtual Handshake has detailed instruction on the need to maintain both face to face and virtual communications. Managers tend to be siloed by their work. The Virtual Handshake tells you how to create an online presence that might attract to you the partners you need to succeed. Read more…

On his Ryze network, Veech Innovation Network, he frames it yet again differently:

Chapter 30 of this book tells a story of innovation. People in every part of the USA have worked hard on the internet for many years and developed understanding, skills and abilities that most other people do not yet have. Scott Allen in looking for success stories for his book about success online wrote a request to a Yahoo Group. David Teten in New York who was also planning a book saw that request and responded.

The books each author had planned were not the same. The skill sets of the two people were different. But they both had experience and expertise and they were able to work together on it. I’m sure the resulting book is stronger for that.

For the innovator The Virtual Handshake has detailed and specific instruction on the need to maintain both face to face and virtual communications. Innovators tend to be isolated by their work. The Virtual Handshake tells you how to create an online presence that might attract to you the partners you need to succeed. Read more…

From there, the reviews are all pretty much the same – almost verbatim. But by properly framing it for each context, John makes it relevant for each audience. Context creates meaning! By simply repurposing the same basic content, he was able to get four reviews done in a fraction of the time it would have taken to write each one individually, and yet each one reads as appropriate for that venue, rather than just a copy/paste job from somewhere else.

Of course, now the secret’s out… 🙂