Creating value from the overlap between networks and communities


What does the difference between social networks and communities mean to
business when looked at from both a marketing and an individual participant (customer) perspective?

It’s often said that the single most important feature that distinguishes a social network
from a community is how people are held together on these sites:

  • Why people join networks vs communities: old/new relationships vs sharing common interest with strangers.
  • What grows networks vs communities: social activity (offline = drink with mates) vs cmty: relationships/recognition/reward around common interest.

But what isn’t always explored is how the power of social networks vs communities varies from a participant point of view. So here I go in just two paragraphs:

1. To put it simply the power of community is that of influence with strangers, especially of top contributors/superfans for branded communities.

2. In social networks the impact is viral, that is the so-called network effect, where like
online dating its power is the ability online to connect with networks of networks – also known as ‘degrees of separation’ – that makes online networks especially powerful. Likewise a participant in a social network can have a disproportionate effect when an idea or call to action ‘goes viral’ when it gets picked up and acted on by complete strangers.

So business strategists therefore have to approach them differently. What makes it confusing is that your market may contain both a community and a network, for example at Lego there is a community of enthusiasts which create a lot of content but contribute little relative to the business bottom line. And then there is a large consumer mass market for the Lego product which can be found online through social networks like Facebook. Of course this is an artificial distinction too, as in a real sense which takes time to value for both businesses and participants: “Everyone in the community is a customer.”

At KLM they are harnessing power of social networks to allow people to join up with other travellers and book a seat next to someone with a shared interest – creating a mini-community for the duration of the flight?

So the real objective to create value may not simply be to understand the difference between networks and communities, but in knowing how and when they complement each other when approached from an individual participant viewpoint, and how individuals can create value through their actions in your online community or social network, and how they overlap based on a participant perspective. Make sense?

I’ve jotted down the differences faced with the same challenge to better show what I mean, using the example of a new gaming device, as outlined below:

Mass market: social network  Niche: online community
Business goal: <where fits business goals> <where fits business goals>
Measure: <enter network measurement> <enter community measurement>
acqusition/activation/purchase engagement/purchase
Target activity: Example: launch of a new gaming device Example: launch of a new gaming device
Internal resources: Social media manager together with /design/marketing: reporting to Head of Marketing Community manager together with design/marketing: reporting to Head of Marketing
Market focus: New customers Existing customers
Social tools: Facebook page/top blogs Branded community
Social monitoring: Use tool such as Radian6 to monitor network virality -> conversions Community analytics -> conversions
Key participants: Bloggers/influencers Superfans
Cross-over between network and community: Blogger access to talk with superfans Superfan response to new gaming device
Comfort-zone killer: Allow influential bloggers to talk with superfans Allow superfans to feedback on early stage product design ideas via private community

Background notes

Branded community builders Lithium comes to online community via games which are a natural community where people did not know each other, but have acquired a shared interest!

For definition source see the Lithium post from Dr Michael Wu, who goes into greater detail on the difference between networks and community (wide but shallow vs narrow but deep) in his post ‘Still Fishing Where the Fish Are?':

Social networks
i. Everyone has their own social network (whether online or offline). Everyone has friends, families, and people they are acquainted with.
ii. In a social network, people are held together by pre-established interpersonal relationships, such as kinship, friendship, classmates, colleagues, business partners, etc.
iii. The primary reason that people join a social networking site is to maintain old relationships and establish new ones to expand their network.
iv. Primary ‘enabler’ are a [common activity] in a social network.

i. Communities are held together by common interest or specific objective in a business setting. It maybe a hobby, something the community members are passionate about, a common goal, a common project, or merely the preference for a similar lifestyle, geographical location, or profession.
ii. Clearly people join the community because they care about this common interest that glues the community members together.
iii. Some stay because they felt the urge to contribute to the cause; others come because they can benefit from being part of the community.
iv. Primary enabler in community is [relationships], as these develop as a result of shared interests.

Yes, I was in the audience wearing an orange hoodie. No, that's not me!

Orange Different Business


Having been on a lean start-up weekend for budding entrepreneurs, I know how tough it can be to get a great business idea off the ground. I’ve also gained some good experience working with entrepreneurs as a consultant, from online gaming start-up ‘Name That Place’ to a China-based surgical planning software company, to know it’s easier said than done. In thinking through the many issues around getting an idea to product stage and then into the marketplace – from validating the idea with customers, through to seeking investment, each stage requires time and effort. So it’s welcome news that mobile company Orange has launched the Win Your Business competition to give you the chance to follow in their footsteps.

Of course, the business-savvy folks at Orange aren’t just handing out investment cash, (but then money isn’t the key to start-up success). What they are doing is making sure you have the necessary support, advice and investment to get you started on the road to success – and change your life forever!

The competition panel of judges includes some of the UK’s most successful business leaders – Spencer McHugh and Martin Stiven of Everything Everywhere, the name of the combined Orange and T-Mobile business. Nigel Jones, head of one of the UK’s biggest integrated advertising agencies, Publicis Group UK. And Steve Neal, Partner at One of the UK’s top 20 firms of accountants Kingston Smith LLP. So why not tell them about your innovative new idea and you could become the UK’s next different business? They’re looking for a different idea, different approaches, clear strategies – something that is worth funding. The prize is worth up to £200,000 and includes not just investment capital, but legal advice, business planning advice, mentoring, and marketing consultancy.

To speed things up I’ve added the entry guide for you below, or access it online here (pdf). Then once you’ve registered and completed the application using the guide, you need to submit it by 31 March.


What is your different business idea? As a guide, describe your idea in 100 words:

  • What is it that you propose to do?
  • What is your vision?
  • Is your idea innovative? How does it differ from what has been done before?

marketing plan

Take the judges through your topline marketing plan — this is how you’ll bring your strategy to action. As a guide, try to do this in 500 words:

  • Evidence of your market research
  • An understanding of what are your competitors doing
  • What is your vision?
  • Identify your target market — who is it for?
  • Lead times
  • Any regulatory restrictions
  • Marketing penetration strategy

financial plan

Take us through your financial plan — have you identified the level of business financing you will need to grow? As a guide, try to do this in 400 words:

  • Balance Sheet
  • Cash Flow Analysis
  • Profit and Loss Analysis
  • Break-even Analysis
  • Personnel Expense Forecast

why different?

Tell us why your idea is exciting, different and innovative and why it should be considered for the prize. As a guide, try to do this in 200 words:

  • This doesn’t mean the product or idea has to be completely brand new – it may be a different approach to an existing idea or concept

operational plan

Tell us how your business will run and how you plan to get your products/service to market. As a guide, try and do this in 400 words:

  • Who is doing what?
  • What are the day to day activities?
  • How will the suppliers and vendors be used?
  • Who are the suppliers?
  • What are the labour requirements?
  • What are the sources of raw materials?

So that’s pretty much it. Just a reminder that the deadline for submissions is 31 March. So get involved, and share this opportunity with your friends.


Sponsored Post


Does winning at roulette takes something special?


It doesn’t take a genius to know that winning at roulette takes ‘something special’. Either you have a system based on some maths (especially relevant to those who celebrate today, as ‘happy Pi day‘), or a mobile feed to a remote computer to crunch the numbers, or you have intutition of some form or another. What’s your take on this? Before you make your mind up consider these examples borrowed from Wikipedia which nicely inspire the idea that it takes something special to win at Roulette:

Real-life roulette exploits

  • In 1873, Briton Joseph Jaggers made the first famous biased roulette wheel exploit. By taking advantage of this flaw they managed to win over $325,000, an astronomical sum in 1873.[19]
  • In the summer of 1891 at the Monte Carlo casino, a part-time swindler and petty crook from London named Charles Wellsbroke the bank at each table he played over a period of several days. Breaking the bank meant he won all the available money in the table bank that day, and a black cloth would be placed over the table until the bank was replenished. In song and life, he was celebrated as “The Man That Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo”.
  • In 2004, Ashley Revell of London sold all of his possessions, clothing included, and placed his entire net worth of US$135,300 on red at the Plaza Hotel in Las Vegas. The ball landed on “Red 7″ and Revell walked away with $270,600. [a neat example of the power of intuition?]
  • On 2 October 2009, Derren Brown (as part of his controversial “The Events” series) bet £5000 of a member of the public’s money on a single number of a roulette wheel somewhere in Europe. This was shown live across the UK using a camera hidden in Brown’s sleeve. His plan was to use the laws of physics to predict where the ball would end up, based upon the speed of the wheel and the ball. Brown took approximately three seconds after the wheel started spinning to place his £5000 bet on the number 8, only to see it land on 30 – just one number out. [is this educated intuition or based on a system?]

In film

  • In the 1942 film Casablanca, Rick’s Café Americain has a trick roulette wheel. Rick (played by Humphrey Bogart) uncharacteristically takes pity on a young Bulgarian refugee couple. The husband has lost most of his money at roulette, trying to win enough to bribe police captain Renault. Rick suggests the man bet on 22. After the number comes up, Rick tells him to let it all ride. He does, and wins again. Rick tells him to cash in his winnings … and never come back.
  • In the 1971 Western comedy Support Your Local Gunfighter, James Garner‘s character has a gambling addiction – he cannot stop betting everything he has on a single roulette spin. He loses several times, but finally wins at the very end.
  • Near the beginning of the 1973 film The Sting, Johnny Hooker (Robert Redford) takes his share of the money conned from a numbers runner and loses nearly all of it on a single bet against a rigged roulette wheel.
  • In the third part of the 1998 film Run, Lola, Run, Lola (Franka Potente) uses all her money to buy a 100-mark chip. (She is actually just short of 100 marks, but gains the sympathy of a casino employee who gives her the chip for what money she has.) She bets her single chip on 20 and wins. She lets her winnings ride on 20 and wins again, making her total winnings 129,600 marks (29,600 more than her smuggler boyfriend owed his boss, Ronnie). The odds of two consecutive wins on a European roulette wheel are exactly 1368-to-1 against. [and one of my favourite films of all time, btw]
  • In the 2011 film Fast Five, Don Omar and Tego Calderon play roulette and each bet their millions on red or black. The ball lands on green.

So where do you stand on this? Maybe you have a favourite online casino site you use to play – does this mean you have a different set of strategies than in the traditional casino gaming environment where different factors come into play? Certainly online casinos don’t face the kind of issues that real world casino owners faced in the past, as the randomness of the spin is 100% true. So what do you use to beat the house, when you play online, maybe just some plain old fashioned ‘lady luck’?

The simplest community manager training plan ever


OK, is this is simplest ever community manager training plan you’ve ever read? Note, this is designed for  a one-off one day workshop, with a couple of people new to community management.

1. Essentials of online community management:

  • Prerequisites of growing a successful community
  • Tactics for supporting member conversations – seeding discussions; rituals & events; content and curation using a mix of user generated media; rewards and recognition; responding to first timers;
  • The importance of top contributors – why & how to nurture them
  • Dealing with conflict – value of a community guide; how to moderate; why and how criticism can be good for your community and the insights created
  • How to develop community over the course of the year – the value of champions; what success looks like

2. Creating a daily/weekly community management plan

3. How to measure and record community insights, both qualitative ‘golden nuggets’ and quantitative.


Can you work hanging in mid-air?




What’s happening?
On Wednesday, O2 is challenging a local small business worker to spend his morning working from a mid-air, outdoor office suspended above Great Eastern Street in Shoreditch, to demonstrate that you really can work anywhere. He’ll go about his business completely as he would if he was at his usual desk – everything will be conducted outdoors.

Why is O2 doing it?
80% of UK workers are now employed by working for a small businesses – success of these organisations are really important, they’re increasingly central to the UK economy, in both driving innovation and creating new employment opportunities.

These businesses have to operate in an increasingly competitive landscape (especially against the backdrop of the recession) – flexible working can cut costs on property rental, bills and also helps small businesses to respond quickly, because their staff is more mobile.

O2 has picked East London for the challenge because the business community in Great Eastern Street, near to Silicon Roundabout, is one of the fastest growing in the UK capital – and it’s fuelled by small businesses.

At the beginning of February, O2 tested flexible working on a giant scale, asking 3,000 employees at its Slough HQ to work flexibly for the day to text to business’ readiness for Olympic disruption – Wednesday’s stunt takes the test to the opposite extreme, proving that with the right tools and technologies, if you’re a small business …you really can work anywhere – whether it’s home, a local cafe or suspended in the London sky!

Fun social dating mobile game


Title of the app: Late to Date?

Elevator pitch – the clock is ticking:

  • A mobile app where guess if your date is going to be late or on time.
  • Win points (like spread betting) depending how close you are, either early or late.
  • Works for both men and women to play:-)
  • Win more points the further away in the future you guess your date will arrive! So few points if you guess they are only 5 minutes away..
  • To avoid gaming through social learning points start to decrease the more regularly accurate you are!
  • Points increase again though if you switch to fractions of a minute to make your bet – then you’re in ‘date heaven’.
  • Promote the app with a community dedicated to tips for your first date, tales of dating hell and dating heaven.

OK, so maybe I am being a bit tongue in cheek but it shows there are plenty of everyday offline activities which can be turned into a potentially fun social mobile game just waiting to be developed.

Essentials of social media strategy


Talk Is CheapPhoto by Stuart Glendinning Hall

What are the essentials you need to get right in your social media strategy? It’s an easy question to ask, with plenty of gurus and consultants willing to give you 20% of the answer for free so long as you pay for the remaining 80%.

Lucky Seven EssentialsPhoto by Stuart Glendinning Hall

So let’s leapfrog over that and check out this useful video webinar provided by Radian6, with Christopher Barger, author of The Social Media Strategist. Why do I recommend it? Because he says upfront that it’s easy to say but hard to do, that internal issues can play a key part. And that aligns with my own experience; you need to possess a fair degree of resilience, to build bridges and create consensus, not to mention a great sense of humour both offline and online! Crucially, using metrics to demonstrate real results is a powerful tool to sell the value of social media internally (Slide 18; 42:07) which makes a lot of sense to me having been both a consultant and an internal social media & community practitioner.

OK, so on with the show..