May 2012


More Evidence that Providers Drive Healthcare Costs

 of Benefits Pro reports this AP news story that adds more evidence to my conclusions that Providers and Suppliers, not Insurers, are the drivers of U.S. health care costs.

House Republicans are releasing emails and documents that shed light on dealings between the White House and the drug industry as President Obama worked to move the health care overhaul through Congress during the the summer of 2009.  Republican members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee obtained emails from industry to ascertain some interesting facts.

Interesting revelations about how the influence of the drug industry on the legislation:

  • An $80-billion financial commitment by the drug companies gave the bill some momentum.
  • The deal included better prescription coverage Medicare recipients.
  • Drug makers succeeded in avoiding new requirements to pay rebates to the government for Medicare drugs.
  • They were able to preserve an existing ban against patients importing lower-priced medications from overseas.

Memo from the Energy and Commerce Committee Republican Members

This is based on an executive summary obtained by BenefitsPro:

  • The White House negotiated a deal with the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) in mid-June 2009.
  • After attempting to secure a commitment from the industry for $100 billion in payment cuts, eventually the White House settled for approximately $80 billion in payment reductions through expanded and increased Medicaid rebates and a new health reform fee. PhRMA also had direct input into the actual legislative policies that produced the $80 billion, including the proposal for closing the Part D doughnut hole.
  • Under the deal, “the White House and Senator Baucus agreed” that neither price controls nor a government-run Medicare Part D plan would become law, the White House would oppose price controls on dual eligible beneficiaries, and that savings from a follow-on biologics proposal would be applied to the total $80 billion commitment.
  • White House Office of Health Reform Director Nancy-Ann DeParle told PhRMA’s chief lobbyist for negotiating the deal that the White House would oppose new drug importation policies because of “how constructive” PhRMA had been. According to PhRMA’s lobbyist, White House Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina told him that the “WH is working on some very explicit language on importation to kill it in health reform.”
  • Despite countless promises of televised negotiations and transparent government, the White House met in private with PhRMA representatives and drug company CEOs in July 2009, “to look the other side in the eye and shake their hand on whatever deal we work out.”
  • The White House was not above threatening PhRMA to get its way. According to PhRMA’s chief lobbyist, the White House was going to have President Obama call for rebating all of Medicare Part D, a policy PhRMA staunchly opposed, in his Weekly Radio Address unless PhRMA cut a deal with the White House to support health reform.

Beyond the Partisan Hype – Some Conclusions

While it’s clear that the hyper partisan environment looking to dig up dirt is driving this kind investigation, the information has no smoking gun for the Administration. But it should be an eye-opening look into the incredible clout that Providers have in health care today.
  • Big Pharma exerts power – over every level of government.
  • It isn’t partisan – Big Pharma works both sides of the aisle.
  • Lowering health care costs is impossible – until Americans see the reality of Big Pharma and the Hospital Groups’ role in controlling costs.

Obscene Profit Margins

To put the issue squarely in perspective, profit margins for the major pharmaceutical companies are typically in double digits, with several are over +20%. These margins contrast sharply with most other areas of consumer goods and services, where margins are in the 0-5% range – assuming they’re profitable.

Profit margin data as of 2009

Consumer Goods & Services:
  1. Walmart         +3.47%.
  2. Best Buy          +2.0%
  3. Home Depot  +3.5%
  4. Lowes               +5.87%
  5. Target              +5.2%
  6. The Gap           +6.65%
  7. CVS                   +3.72%
  8. JC Penny         +1.46%
  9. Staples             +2.84%
  10. Starbucks       +4.00%
  11. Unilever           +9.8%
  12. Sears                  0.00%
  13. Yahoo                -1.41%
  14. Office Max       -5.57%
  15. Office Depot   -14.95%
  16. Time Warner  -43%

Big Pharma margins, by size of net revenue:

  1. Johnson & Johnson  +21%
  2. Pfizer                               +17.7%
  3. Novartis                          +18%
  4. Astra Zeneca                 +22.6%
  5. Abbott                              +18.7%
  6. GlaxoSmithKline        +18.5%
  7. BristolMyersSquibb  +23.5%
  8. Lilly, Eli                           -1.0%
  9. Amgen                             +31.8%

(Ortho-McNeil-Janssen and Schering Plow are not publicly traded.)

Despite the recession, Big Pharma continues to rake in huge profits due to factors, including:

  1. Massive subsidization of their sales by government purchases at federal, state, and local levels.
  2. Massive consolidation within the industry. For example, Pfizer alone swallowed up Parke-Davis, Pharmacia, Upjohn, Wyeth, & Searle. Novartis swallowed up CIBA and Sandoz.
  3. The fraudulent extension of patent exclusivity by Big Pharma by numerous means. Pharm companies always apply for patent extensions, which are almost always granted
  4. Intra-company agreements to not sell generics–even after patents have expired. In other cases, another company will buy the drug once the patent has expired, and re-patent it, thus again preventing the generic from entering the market.

Snap! principle of health care cost drivers:

It’s the Providers and Suppliers, not the insurers, stupid!

The Disconnect

Digital and direct marketing maven Heidi Cohen thinks that, on social media, consumers are from Venus and marketers are from Mars. In other words, there’s a big disconnect between what consumers want and what marketers think they want. The proof:

  • Recent IBM research shows a wide chasm between marketers’ assumptions about what consumers want and consumers’ real reasons for engaging with brands on social media. As the chart above shows, discounts and purchase top the list for consumers – and yet these two items are at the bottom of marketers’ lists.
  • Yahoo and DDBO research shows a consistent pattern of marketer-consumer disconnect. Here, marketers correctly placed price, product attributes and proof points at the top of the list, but they failed in consistently underestimating consumer preferences. 

Counter Intuitive Findings

Marketers should be careful about making hasty assumptions with Social Media. For instance:

  • Performics-ROI Research shows that in social shopping activities, men are more active than women on five out of six attributes.
  • However, both place money at the top of their list: deals, coupons and specials. 
  • Nielsen data, shows that one out three consumers “likes” a brand or celebrity – not simply because they like them – but to get a discount or special offer.  In North America, this increases to almost 50% of customers. 

Do Consumers Only “Like” You For Your Money?

Exact Target research shows that a good proportion of consumers only “like” you on social media for the money. Roughly one out of four respondents either “liked” the brand temporarily for a one-time discount or didn’t get a sufficient discount to please them.

s.

5 Ways To Give Consumers What They Want

Ms. Cohen offers five suggestions to help marketers maximize social media opportunities with consumers.

  1. Use discounts, specials and coupons to attract prospects on social media platforms.
  2. Use social media to better understand what motivates your customers.
  3. Know what competitors are doing because your customers will check it out while they’re in your store.
  4. Price social media promotions and discounts to at least break-even rather than expect repeat sales.
  5. Provide post-purchase content to give customers additional reasons to engage with you and extend their product experience or related offers.

It’s The Money, Stupid!

The research so far points out that it’s still all about the money when it comes to social media shopping. So give them the discounts and coupons and find other ways to keep your prospects engaged and do the math to ensure that you at least break-even on any promotions you offer via social media platforms.

Snap! principle of Social Media Marketing Disconnect:
Whether you’re just building a buzz or looking for a transaction, adopt the appropriate strategies.

Pepsi Builds Music Series Around Twitter Data

PepsiCo‘s head of digital Shiv Singh has helped mesh digital marketing with music events like South by Southwest partnering with Foursquare, Instagram, Stickybits, and BreakOutBand. Now he has debuted a new Social Media marketing campaign  with Twitter to connect digital eyeballs with concert performance. Singh says:

“Twitter is about capturing the excitement of now. [The effort is] content-driven and experience-driven…It’s about consumer participation. And then to a smaller extent, it’s about ads as well.”

For a full 12 months, PepsiCo will analyze data about music-related tweets and publish video commentary about what bands or artists are creating the biggest buzz. Based on the data, they will give away weekly music downloads.

Ears & Eyeballs on the Prize

Forty-nine percent of Twitter users follow at least one musician on the social site, according to Twitter.

The data will also be employed to develop a series of so-called pop-up concerts, which will take place across the United States this summer. Pepsi will alert its hundreds of thousands of Twitter followers to concerts two weeks in advance. The shows will be live-streamed on Twitter. Singh explains that the Twitter data “can affect which artists are asked to perform. It can affect where the performance may happen. It can affect what song choices are initially selected for the artists.”

“Live for Now”

The global campaign, titled “Live for Now” allows Twitter’s more than 140 million users to listen to and discover music through free weekly music downloads, music-focused original videos, and a series of pop-up concerts this summer and fall.

The “Live for Now Music” partnership has several elements, including:

  • A new music-oriented video series: Pepsi and Twitter will help fans stay on top of music trends with “Live for Now Music,” a new short-form video series. Each Wednesday, over the course of 52 weeks, “Live for Now Music” will provide fans an instant overview of the artists, music and music news trending that week on Twitter.
  • Free music downloads. Each week, @pepsi will tweet about the exciting and current music that people who live for now are passionate about. Pepsi will also offer free music downloads from the Amazon.com MP3 Store to consumers who follow @pepsi and include the hashtag #PepsiMusicNOW in their Tweets.
  • Pepsi pop-up concert series. Pepsi will stage a series of pop-up concerts in the U.S. this summer and fall. These concerts — featuring major music artists — will be announced first on Twitter and streamed live on Twitter through Pepsi’s enhanced profile page and on PepsiPulse.com.  The concerts will also be available on-demand afterwards for fans who want to watch later.

The global campaign was created in partnership with an integrated cross-agency, multi-disciplinary team of Omnicom agencies, including Alma, BBDO Worldwide, OMD, Organic, TBWA Worldwide and TracyLocke Partners. Pepsi has slated up to $600 million in additional marketing for this year for the campaign.

The Pop Wars Begin!

Pepsi isn’t the only one using music to tap into the youth market. Coca-Cola earlier this month announced a partnership with the online music provider Spotify; the companies are unveiling the details of their campaign later this year. The music-streaming service will be the centerpiece of Coca-Cola’s “Year of Music” campaign in 2013.

The marketing push comes as Pepsi looks to revive the cola wars with The Coca-Cola Co. Investors have criticized PepsiCo for losing market share to Coca-Cola in recent years through relative neglect of the brand  as PepsiCo focused on other brands in its portfolio, especially those with a health conscious focus. In 2010, Pepsi was bumped from its No. 2 spot by Diet Coke in the U.S., with Coca-Cola remaining in the top spot, according to the industry tracker Beverage Digest. was broadly regarded as

New Venues for a Proven Formula

Coke and Pepsi both have a long history of using music to connect with young consumers. Over the years, Pepsi has featured musicians including Michael Jackson, Ray Charles, MC Hammer, Britney Spears and Beyonce in its marketing.

Songstress Nicki Minaj is the initial poster child for the campaign, which will cross-promote Pepsi Pulse, as Pepsi’s website is branded, reflecting the interactive hub that will serve as the social-media nexus for Pepsi’s campaign.

Pepsi is also launching a version of Pepsi Pulse targeting bi-cultural, Hispanic consumers called “Mi Pepsi” that will feature relevant content for this audience.

Pepsi’s Interactive Marketing Gets Serious

Hiring social media strategist Shiv Singh away from digital shop Razorfish in mid-2010 was a clear signal that the company was getting deadly serious about interactive marketing.  Since his appointment as head of digital, Pepsi’s digital activity has increased dramatically. Singh and his team have worked in the geo-social realm, while partnering with Facebook to insert the “like” button into display ads across publisher networks.

In the video interview below, the guru of geo-social discusses what Pepsi has accomplished and what the future will hold.

ROI: One of their best years ever, with 10% sales growth and 2.4 million new households purchases . 

 The Challenge:  People Don’t Want a Relationship With Your Product

The reality of a social media campaign is that if people are really not interested in a relationship with a box of dog food, how can you realistically expect them to have an engaged relationship with intangible financial services products?

“The challenge for us was that people don’t want a relationship with a box of Milk-Bone, but they do want one with a puppy.”—Doug Chavez, senior manager of digital marketing at Del Monte Foods

Milk-Bone learned how to leverage their brand to meet business objectives by taking advantage of people’s identification with the emotional impact pets make on people’s lives.

A Dogged Strategy

Campaign Overview:

The campaign, extensively reported by, among others, eMarketer and B2C,   teamed Milk-Bone (a Del Monte brand)  with its longtime charitable partner, Canine Assistants, an Atlanta-based nonprofit, which trains and provides service dogs to people with disabilities or other special needs, on a campaign called “It’s Good to Give.” The company gave a percentage of every box purchased to the charity.

The campaign was created by Draft FCB, part of the Interpublic Group of Companies, with a budget estimated at more than $10 million. The ads began appearing on Sept. 21 and ran through the spring.  Other agencies working on the campaign, in addition to Draft FCB, are Starcom Worldwide in Chicago, part of the Starcom MediaVest Group division of the Publicis Groupe, for media buying, and Catalyst:SF in San Francisco, the digital agency of record for Del Monte, for executing the interactive part of the campaign.

Campaign Objectives:

  • Generate national attention for “It’s Good to Give” campaign.
  • Raise the profile of Canine Assistants on a grassroots level.
  • Drive viewers to the PBS documentary by creating widespread media attention.

Campaign Strategies:

  • Use the Milk-Bone brand’s long absence from television to create buzz for new advertising campaign.
  • Leverage Canine Assistants recipient’s stories in their local communities.
  • Secure A-List celebrity narrator to drive national interest in documentary.
  • Create compelling angles to place the documentary story on the TV pages and beyond.

Campaign Execution:

  • The “It’s Good to Give” campaign kicked off in September 2009 with national advertising spots.  Knowing the significance of this return to television after a ten year absence, Coyne PR arranged an exclusive interview withThe New York Times to hit the same week as the advertisements debuted.  Trade media was then targeted to continue the buzz about the new campaign.
  • Coyne PR developed a list of local recipients to pitch to their local media markets, training and interviewing each recipient to compile their unique stories, which highlighted the challenges they face due to their disabilities and the relationship they share with their assistance dogs.
  • As the air date for a documentary, “Through a Dog’s Eyes” drew closer, Neil Patrick Harris signed on as narrator.
  • Knowing it would be difficult to keep the brand in the AP, an AP photographer was hired, ensuring that Milk-Bone was mentioned as the documentary sponsor in the photo cutline.  Coyne PR also offered “EXTRA” the broadcast exclusive on Harris’ documentary role.
  • Coyne PR developed a comprehensive media strategy that included outreach to TV critics, pets, features, lifestyle and celebrity writers.  Working with Canine Assistants, they compiled a list of recipients across the country so that a local angle could be offered up to reporters.
  • When the documentary became available, extensive media outreach began to daily newspapers, online news outlets and bloggers.  Each outlet was offered interviews with Jennifer Arnold, Canine Assistants founder, and a recipient featured in the documentary or a local Canine Assistants recipient, all of whom were trained to deliver brand messaging and discuss the special.
  • Coyne PR arranged a syndicated story with Tribune Media Services, whose writer wrote a large feature piece after an in-person interview with Jennifer Arnold and included the documentary in his “Best Bets” column the week of the documentary airing.  Restricted to just one day, the team pitch Neil Patrick Harris to the top national broadcast outlets and scheduled segments with “The View” and “The CBS Early Show” the Monday prior to the documentary airing.
  • While brand messaging was not the objective, Coyne PR worked to keep the brand in the story by training Jennifer Arnold, Canine Assistants founder, to deliver the message that Milk-Bone, a long time funder of the organization, had sponsored the documentary.

A Social Animal

The most prominent elements of the integrated marketing strategy included TV commercials and a Facebook fan page,  under the label “It’s Good to Give Milk-Bone,” which is tracking the progress of a service dog in training named Noble, a lab and golden mix puppy. Photographs and brief text reports have been posted since Sept. 10 and more than 660 people on Facebook have become fans.

The media mix included:

  • The first television commercials for Milk-Bone in several years.
  • Print advertising.
  • Ads in coupon inserts in Sunday newspapers.
  • Information on the Milk-Bone Web site (milk-bone.com or milkbone.com).
  • A primetime PBS documentary, “Through a Dog’s Eyes,” which Milk-Bone agreed to be the exclusive sponsor of, highlighting Canine Assistants and the incredible impact they have on the lives of people with disabilities.
  • Elements in social media like Facebook, Flickr,Twitter and YouTube. Users of Twitter can follow the brand through #Milkbone.

Results To Bark About

The ROI: Milk-Bone had one of its best years ever, with 10% sales growth and 2.4 million new households purchasing Milk-Bone treats year over year. 

The brand’s “I Give TV commercial was the highest scoring pet ad ever produced, landing within the top 1% of 65,000 ads tested through Ipsos ASI since 1962, according to Jason Wehner, senior brand manager at Milk-Bone. The success of the campaign has been so great that it has been widely reported in media outlets including this New York Times article. More results:

  • The campaign generated 1,393 stories and over 1 billion media impressions.
  • The resulting CPM was 43 cents.
  • 75% of stories included brand messaging.
  • Canine Assistants web traffic increased 700% the week before the documentary
  • Canine Assistants added 300 donors to its database the week after the documentary.
  • Over 50,000 YouTube views of the trailer 2 days before the documentary.
  • Viewership for “Through a Dog’s Eyes” was 30% higher than the national average for a PBS primetime show; 113% above average in NYC, PBS’ toughest market; and more than 100% above in other large markets such as San Diego, and Minneapolis.
  • The local outreach generated stories for Canine Assistants in major outlets, including The Washington PostArizona RepublicAtlanta Journal-Constitution, PeoplePets.com, and New York Daily News Online.
  • The documentary received extensive coverage with television critics and pet/feature writers.

Teaching New Tricks to an Old Brand

Milk-Bone is so dominant in its category that dog owners talk about “a Milk-Bone” regardless of the brand.  Milk-Bone® has been the category leader in dog biscuits for more than 100 years – so much so that the brand was entering into a dangerous territory – commoditization.  It was evident to brand leadership that they needed a clear point of differentiation for Milk-Bone. According to Christie Fleming, vice president for marketing at Del Monte, it was time to wake the sleeping giant:

“As we thought about the next generation of growth, reminding consumers why they should continue to purchase Milk-Bone is critically important to us, because they have not been buying the brand as frequently as we would like them to.”

Emphasizing the “Emotional” along with “Functional”

The term “pet parents” is used by marketers of pet foods and products to denote the devoted pet owners who treat their pets like children. The idea of playing up the emotional aspects of the brand is encapsulated in this language on the home page of milk-bone.com:

“When you give the wholesome goodness of Milk-Bone dog snacks, you’re giving more than cleaner teeth and fresher breath. That’s because every time you buy Milk-Bone dog snacks, a portion of the proceeds goes to help the Canine Assistants organization.”

Cause Marketing is Key in Social Media Campaigns

“Cause marketing, we believe, will work well,” Ms. Fleming says,  “because of the emotional connection pet parents have with their pets. Service dogs and what they can do for their recipients is a very compelling story to help consumers think about Milk-Bone in a new light.”

Cause marketing is a good way to woo consumers in tough times because, according to  Sean Hardwick, senior vice president and group management director at the Irvine office of Draft FCB, “my personal view is that there’s only so much value advertising people will accept in this climate. There’s tons of ‘save this’ and ‘dollars off’ that,” he adds. “I think people will welcome a respite from it.”

In other words, research continues to show that consumers are put off by “push marketing” and comoditization.  They want to establish an emotional connection with a brand that involves mutual dialogue and personally meaningful interests.

The link between heartfelt giving and the attention that consumers lavish on their pets forms a perfect synergy.

“In Dog We Trust”

Focusing the campaign on cause marketing was not the first concept considered by Draft FCB, says Sean Hardwick, senior vice president and group management director at the Irvine office.

“We went through a number of different creative approaches before landing on this one,” Mr. Hardwick says, which he summarizes as “doing something good for your dog and something good for the planet, if you will. In dog we trust.”

However, as altruistic as cause-marketing campaigns may be, you’ve got to be pretty clear why you want people to buy the product.  And this advertising makes it clear that pets will be getting superior nutrition through Milk-Bone products.

Snap! Principle of Integrated Marketing:

Establish rigorous synergies of brand personality, message,  cause, and consumer-based emotional connection in a well integrated campaign with broad outreach.



the 90-9-1 rule for participation in an online community

According to Jakob Nielsen‘s Alertbox, in most online communities, 90% of users are lurkers who never contribute, 9% of users contribute a little, and 1% of users account for almost all the action.

A tiny minority of users usually accounts for a disproportionately large amount of the content and other system activity. This phenomenon of participation inequality was first studied in depth by Will Hill of Bell Communications Research in the early 1990s.

 When you plot the amount of activity for each user, the result is a Zipf curve, which shows as a straight line in a log-log diagram.

User participation often more or less follows a 90-9-1 rule:

  • 90% of users are lurkers (i.e., read or observe, but don’t contribute).
  • 9% of users contribute from time to time, but other priorities dominate their time.
  • 1% of users participate a lot and account for most contributions: it can seem as if they don’t have lives because they often post just minutes after whatever event they’re commenting on occurs.

Early Inequality Research

Before the Web, researchers documented participation inequality in media such as Usenet newsgroups, CompuServe bulletin boards, Internet mailing lists, and internal discussion boards in big companies. A study of more than 2 million messages on Usenet found that:

  • 27% of postings were from people who posted only a single message.
  • 25% were posted by the most active 3%.

Obviously, if you want to assess the “feelings of the community” it’s highly unfair if one subgroup’s 19,000 members have the same representation as another subgroup’s 580,000 members. More importantly, such inequities would give you a biased understanding of the community, because many differences almost certainly exist between people who post a lot and those who post a little. And you would never hear from the silent majority of lurkers.

Inequality on the Web

Blogs have even worse participation inequality than is evident in the 90-9-1 rule that characterizes most online communities. With blogs, the rule is more like 95-5-0.1.

There are about 1.1 billion Internet users, yet only 55 million users (5%) have blogs, according to Technorati. With only 1.6 million postings per day and some people posting multiple times per day, only 0.1% of users post daily.

Wikipedia inequalities:  More than 99% of users are lurkers. According to Wikipedia’s “about” page, it has only 68,000 active contributors, which is 0.2% of the 32 million unique visitors it has in the U.S. alone. Wikipedia’s most active 1,000 people — 0.003% of its users — contribute about two-thirds of the site’s edits. Wikipedia is thus even more skewed than blogs, with a 99.8-0.2-0.003 rule.

Amazon.com, for example had sold thousands of copies of a book that had only 12 reviews, meaning that less than 1% of customers contribute reviews. At the time this was written, 167,113 of Amazon’s book reviews were contributed by just a few “top-100” reviewers; the most prolific reviewer had written an incredible 12,423 reviews.

Downsides of Participation Inequality

Visualization of the amount of contributions from different user segments

Is Participation Inequality Unfair?

Participation inequality is not necessarily unfair because if lurkers want to contribute, they are usually allowed to do so.

But it is not representative of average Web users. On any given user-participation site, you almost always hear from the same 1% of users, who almost certainly differ from the 90% you never hear from. This can cause trouble for several reasons:

  • Customer feedback. If your company looks to Web postings for customer feedback on its products and services, you’re getting an unrepresentative sample.
  • Reviews. Similarly, if you’re a consumer trying to find out which restaurant to patronize or what books to buy, online reviews represent only a tiny minority of the people who have experiences with those products and services.
  • Politics. If a party nominates a candidate supported by the “netroots,” it will almost certainly lose because such candidates’ positions will be too extreme to appeal to mainstream voters. Postings on political blogs come from less than 0.1% of voters, most of whom are hardcore leftists (for Democrats) or rightists (for Republicans).
  • Search. Search engine results pages (SERP) are mainly sorted based on how many other sites link to each destination. When 0.1% of users do most of the linking, we risk having search relevance get ever more out of whack with what’s useful for the remaining 99.9% of users. Search engines need to rely more on behavioral data gathered across samples that better represent users, which is why they are building Internet access services.
  • Signal-to-noise ratio. Discussion groups drown in flames and low-quality postings, making it hard to identify the gems. Many users stop reading comments because they don’t have time to wade through the swamp of postings from people with little to say.

Skewed Lurker–Contributor Ratio for Non-Profit Social Network

According to the Washington Post, the “Causes” application on Facebook had 25 million users in April 2009, but only 185,000 had given a donation, even though the application offers the ability to give to 179,000 different non-profit organizations.

Thus, social networking for charity fundraising has a 99.3% lurkers and 0.7% contributors rule — even more skewed than the other participation inequalities we have seen. The data doesn’t say how many of the 0.7% of users who donated have been frequent contributors, but most likely it’s less than 1/10, meaning that the full rule would look something like 99-1-0.

This finding has three implications:

  • Facebook is just another collaborative environment, in which long-established laws for online communities hold.
  • Donating money is a stronger form of action than writing content, so extremely strong participation inequality should be expected.
  • Research on the user experience of donating to charities online found that most non-profits don’t provide the information users want before they’re willing to donate, or don’t provide it  in a sufficiently Web-oriented way.

Can You Overcome Participation Inequality?

To dealing with participation inequality is to recognize that it will always be there, and has existed in every online community and multi-user service that has ever been studied.

Your only choice is in how you manage the inequality curve’s angle. Are you going to have the “usual” 90-9-1 distribution, or the more radical 99-1-0.1 distribution common in some social websites? Can you achieve a more equitable distribution of, say, 80-16-4?

Some ways to better equalize participation include:

  • Make it easier to contribute. The lower the overhead, the more people will contribute. Netflix lets users rate movies by clicking a star rating, which is much easier than writing a natural-language review.
  • Make participation a side effect. Users can participate with no effort if you can make their contributions a side effect of something else they’re doing. For example, Amazon’s “people who bought this book, bought these other books” recommendations are a side effect of people buying books in which your book preferences are automatically entered into the system. Will Hill coined the term read wear for this type of effect because, like a dogeared page in a book, the very activity of reading or using something will register.
  • Edit, don’t create. Editing a pre-existing template is more enticing and has a gentler learning curve than facing the horror of a blank page. In avatar-based systems like Second Life, for example, most users modify standard-issue avatars rather than create their own.
  • Reward — but don’t over-reward — participants. Rewarding people for contributing will help motivate users who have lives outside the Internet, and thus will broaden your participant base. Money is always good, but you can also give preferential treatment such as discounts, advance notice of new offerings, or recognition, such as gold stars on their profiles. But too much reward to the most active participants will only encourage them to dominate the system even more.
  • Promote quality contributors. If you display all contributions equally, then people who post only when they have something important to say will be drowned out by the torrent of material from the hyperactive 1%. Instead, give extra prominence to good contributions and to contributions from people who’ve proven their value, as indicated by their reputation ranking.

Your website’s design undoubtedly influences participation inequality for better or worse. Being aware of the problem is the first step to alleviating it, and finding ways to broaden participation will become even more important as the Web’s social networking services continue to grow.

References

Laurence Brothers, Jim Hollan, Jakob Nielsen, Scott Stornetta, Steve Abney, George Furnas, and Michael Littman (1992): “Supporting informal communication via ephemeral interest groups,”Proceedings of CSCW 92, the ACM Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work(Toronto, Ontario, November 1-4, 1992), pp. 84-90.

William C. Hill, James D. Hollan, Dave Wroblewski, and Tim McCandless (1992): “Edit wear and read wear,” Proceedings of CHI’92, the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (Monterey, CA, May 3-7, 1992), pp. 3-9.

Steve Whittaker, Loren Terveen, Will Hill, and Lynn Cherny (1998): “The dynamics of mass interaction,” Proceedings of CSCW 98, the ACM Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work (Seattle, WA, November 14-18, 1998), pp. 257-264.


It’s The Community, Stupid!

According to   of ClickZ, companies debating social marketing tactics are probably centered on the wrong issues. The organization needs to focus on how to support and enhance the social media community, not the firm. 

Marketers have followed consumers to social media because advertising requires large numbers, and it’s where consumers are. But consumers on social media tend to be interested in themselves, their family, and friends. They are there to socialize, not be bombarded with marketing messages. 

What Marketers Need to Know About Social Media

Five pieces of research show social media content is just social engagement.

1. Consumers are on social media just to talk. For marketers, while Twitter may be useful at building hype around a product or event, it yields insufficient information from which to make predictions.  Princeton researchers analyzing sentiments expressed in tweets about popular new movies and their ratings found that buzz from Twitter was not sufficient to predict movie sales. By contrast, Rotten Tomatoes and IMDb have been used as predictors of movie quality and box office potential.  What does this Twitter research mean for marketers? People on Twitter want to engage and have conversations, and, in general, these exchanges tend to be more positive than negative. This means marketers engaged on Twitter have the ability to change prospects and customers’ impressions by increasing the number of positive interactions.

2. Consumers indulge in social media to satisfy their need for attention. People are on social media for their own internal motivations, which aren’t fully known to them and aren’t always positive! Based on JWT‘s research on Social Media’s Seven Sins, people crave social media attention. They feel their lives would suffer without constantly checking what’s happening in their social circles. 

3. Consumers are becoming more selective about with whom they associate on social media platforms. While about two-thirds of Americans are on social media networks, according to Pew Internet Research, members are getting more savvy about their public, social media presentation. As a result, more members delete friends from their networks and remove comments. This translates to increased selectivity across social media platforms including Facebook.

4. Consumers associate with brands on social media to get savingsIt’s like going out with someone just to eat out not because you want to be with them. Almost 70 percent of consumers expect some form of coupon or discount for following a brand on Facebook, according to research by The CMO Council and reported by eMarketer. The second reason is that they want to engage with other customers.

5. Consumers who like your brand aren’t necessarily more likely to purchase from you. While about 60% of Facebook users “liked” a brand in the last six months, according to research by eVoc Insights and reported by eMarketer, for almost half, the act of “liking” a brand had no influence on their purchase decisions.

facebook-emarketerlike

How Can Marketers Break Through To Inwardly Focused  Social Media Consumers?

You need Social Media because:

  • Social Media occupies one out every five minutes online 
  • Social Media sites are among the top sites visited.

To craft a strategy that responds to these hurdles while enabling you to be active in this engaged media, here are five social media marketing tips.
1. Have social media guidelines. Develop a set of guidelines to lay the groundwork for what your employees can do when they represent your firm and what they can do when they’re acting as individuals.

2. Train your staff to be able to respond in a timely manner when needed. Educate your employees on how to respond to prospects, customers, and the public on social media. Make sure that your staff can respond using a variety of platforms in the event of an emergency.

3. Do your homework to know whom you’re addressing. Before implementing a blogger outreach or answering comments on your firm’s social media site or blog, take a moment to look the individual up. It can shed some insights on where they’re coming from, what they’re asking, and give you some idea of how influential they are.

4. Respond calmly and deliberately. If the comment or issue is irritating, take a cooling off period, and don’t try to help the problem by addressing it under a full head of steam. 

5. Have a PR crisis plan ready in case of emergency. Be prepared with a back-up plan and  ensure that it is up to date with everyone’s cell phone number.

Social Media platforms are important to marketers because they provide the context for public social discourse and are a form of media customers can’t get enough of.  But to maximize your impact, meet customers on their turf on their terms.

Snap! Principle of Social Media Planning:

Converting fans and followers to buying customers means valuing the community.


Social Media Meets Wellness

Want to get employees up and moving? The Hotseat Pilot opportunity offers an opportunity for companies that understand that employees who sit all day are less productive, less collaborative and less healthy.

View the Infographic below or here to see why sitting all day is a health hazard.

Making Activity Easy

Hotseat is a health app offered by Context Communication Consulting that unseats employees through nudges, social competitions and game mechanics. Employers can give employees two minutes a few times per day.  They can use their phones to help “unclog your mind and uncramp your body.”

The solution is advertised as a good fit for companies that:

  • Understand that pedometers only work if you get up and small fitness breaks lead to major health benefits.
  • Have desk workers, on-the-road sales folks, delivery and truck drivers, tellers—people who sit too much.
  • Figure employees’ attachment to their smartphones can work in their favor.
  • Want to offer hotseat to 5,000 or more employees.
  • Are interested in innovation and collaboration.

What the Pilot Offers

Pilot companies receive:

  • Ongoing access to the hotseat app for pilot employees
  • Ongoing access to an employer dashboard that shows who’s using hotseat and how (excluding hosting costs)
  • A ready-to-roll launch communication packet to drive participation
  • Project management and customer support
  • Post-pilot year participant survey

The brilliant call to action: “If this is you, don’t just sit there. get in touch.

Sitting is Killing You
Via: Medical Billing And Coding

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