Sunday, September 28, 2008

"Yes, We Can" or "Yes, I Will"?: Supporter Commitment in the Obama Campaign

Barack Obama's campaign website ( makes excellent use of some of the influence techniques discussed in Robert Cialdini's book Influence: Science and Practice.

In the book Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies authors Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff share some their data on the "Social Technographics Profiles" (demographic use of social media) of Democrats, Republicans, and independents. What they found is that Democrats are "about 10 percent more likely" (pg. 55) to make use of social media than other groups. As noted in groundswell Barack Obama's campaign for President had tapped into this advantage with his social network for supporters:

The site uses a couple of the Cialdini's "commitment and consistency" techniques to reinforce support for its campaign.

(Before I go on and imply that the campaign of Barack Obama is using trickery and deception to shore up support I want to disclose that I am a supporter of Obama and his campaign. Chapter 3 of Cialdini is all about consistency, right?). :)

When you set up a profile page at you are asked to answer a few questions about yourself. Some are looking for basic biographical information ("How do you want to be identified to others on this site?", "What is your birthdate?"). But based on Cialdini's writings the most important question on an Obama supporter's profile is "Why do you support Barack Obama?". By soliciting a reason from the new supporter the site is reinforcing the voter's support by also committing them to their reason for supporting Obama. Cialdini's data suggests this is a very effective strategy for sustaining support for the candidate.

It will be interesting to look at data after the election to see how effective the site was at getting its users to show up at the polls on election day. Do you think this method will increse support for Obama or will it just recommit the already committed?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Simpsons and WORDLESS Word of Mouth Marketing

I was fascinated by the book Word of Mouth Manual II by David Balter. When word of mouth (WOM) marketing works it's as if the advertising campaign comes alive. Exciting stuff. The book cited the iPhone and Tickle Me Elmo as examples of successful WOM campaigns. These cases got me thinking about a WOM campaign which successfully engaged me and my friends without anyone uttering a word. The campaign was the SimpsonizeMe campaign which promoted The Simpsons Movie in the summer of 2007.

My first exposure to the campaign was a TV commercial. The commercial featured animated aliens from The SimpsonsTM working in a Burger King® who were turning live-action actors into popular animated Simpsons characters. It was a cool gag. You can watch the commercial below:

As you can see the commercial only spends the last couple seconds on direct messaging. Three of those seconds are devoted to a URL and only the last two seconds are spent on the "Burger King" and "The Simpsons Movie" logos.

After watching the commercial I didn't go to the link. I thought it was a fun yet strange ad but I didn't think any more about it. A few days later something interesting started to happening. I noticed that many of my friends had changed their Facebook, gMail, and AIM profile pictures to Simpson-like versions of themselves. One of my simpsonized friends posted a link to on his profile page and explained that at the site I too could easily generate a Simpsonized version of myself.

This Simpsons/Burger King strategy is a great example of Balter's "Collective Shared Experience" form of WOM as discussed in chapter I.3. (pg. 18). The personalized images got people talking with each other about their personal Simpsons portrait and whether or not it actually bears any resemblance to the real life person. The site even garnered a fair share of websites complaining that it doesn't work very well. (Of course, each critical article included a Simpsonized version of the author). It turns out the only real problem the site had was keeping up with the overwhelming web traffic.

What's so smart about the campaign is that it takes advantage of social media. The site was successful because people shared their Simpsonized images. Without the web 2.0 infrastructure (social networks, buddy lists, blogs) this campaign couldn't have existed.

The final product (to the right) looks nothing like me. (At least I don't think it does). But to anyone familiar with The Simpsons the style is unmistakable. The SimpsonizeMe campaign was a unique WOM campaign because it was able to get people to communicate to their friends "I like The Simpsons" simply by changing their profile picture. While the images would inevitably lead to a real discussion this WOM campaign is unique because of its ability to silently get those conversations started.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Web is to TV as TV is to Radio

Peter Hirshberg gives a TED Talk on the relationship between TV and the Web. He reaches back and shows some facinating parallels to the shift from radio to TV. Watch for video of Marshall McLuhan talking about "global communities" decades before the blogoshpere.

Peter Hirshberg: The Web and TV, a sibling rivalry

Monday, September 15, 2008

read this link

At least through page 45

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Social Bookmarking in Plain English

Great tutorial on social bookmarking

Monday, September 8, 2008

Blogging Assignments

From the class wiki: (link to source)

Blogging Assignments - 12 weeks

 Maintaining Personal Blogs and posting Comments on classmate blogs
 Assignment Summary

Weekly Blog Postings: Each week, students will write one blog post on topics covered in the reading and class. Each post must be at least 500 words and should follow best practice blog post format: Students must write at least 1 comment on team members’ blog posts per week. Both must be posted by Saturday 6pm. 
  • Posts: 2 points
  • Comments: 1 point (students must write 1 meaningful comment to qualify for this point)


Each week, students will write their blog post (or more). The post should engage with the topic of the previous week's class and reading. You can analyze and summarize, challenge a reading/POV or synthesize several of the readings/POV. You should use good, traditional writing style and good blog etiquette. The latter includes:
  • writing great headlines with strong keywords
  • stating your POV in teh first paragraph
  • some cross-linking (don't go too crazy)
  • clear references to other's work (with cross links)
  • A conclusion OR a questioning challenge for your readers

You will need to write your blog posts by Saturday at 6pm. I will find your blog posts via your RSS feeds. If you choose to write more than one post and want me to focus on evaluating one in particular, just shoot me an email with a link.

Each week, students will post a Comment on at least one other students blog post. This can be the post from the previous week. I strongly encourage you to do more than this but one is all that I will grade on. The comments should feature a POV but need not be more than 100 words or so. Quality over quantity.

You will need to write your Comments by Saturday at 6pm, as well. For now, shoot me an email with a link to your comment. Please put "COMMENT FROM STUDENT: (name)" in the subject line of the email.

Outside Resources

Good Blogging