Social Media Startups love power influencer’s that have wells of followers that can promote their sites. They wine us, they dine us, they throw parties for us. They give us all sorts of free stuff. Why? Because we have big mouths, we’re broadcasters, WE TALK A LOT and because we do it well, people en mass listen to us. Personally, having been a CEO and having thousands of employees over the years and speeches, me having a big mouth is a job description. We endorse systems, use our big follower bases and people flood their startup. Its what some people have called “The Scoble Effect.” If you can get Robert Scoble (a very cool dude, read his blog) to endorse your startup, the traffic and enrollments flow in. Everyone love us in the beginning.
After that the visionary CEO dances off and leaves us with their system and the people left to police and run it. We’re usually massive users on any system but people love us for that draw to their startup and we show how great their system can be utilized. People usually also like us because of our usage, we’ll discover flaws and suggest ideas for improvements.
Many times instead of being thankful, suddenly we’re the assholes for pointing issues out. That or we’re the assholes for talking too much and dominating their system. Suddenly our big mouths, that they wanted so bad, are now a horrible thing to them. The low self esteem haters start to cry out because they lazily work the system and see us over workers as “spammers.” We go from embracing and supporting the CEO’s vision to pooled as the jerks of the system as the employee admin police turn against us. Alienated and offended, we leave to the next big thing. Myself and many influencer’s are really get tired of this treatment.
Heres some good examples below, you can learn from startups and how the “System Police” can make or sully your success. Its long BUT I’m going to give you some AMAZING examples. If you are going to run a company successfully this will be great for you.
1. Great SUCCESS Example: YouTube. YouTube early on, didnt embrace “Hollywood Stars,” they took normal people that worked hard to video blog and did everything to promote them and turn them into their “internal Stars.” By doing it and PROMOTING their top content providers they rose to incredible success and their stars keep rising to Hollywood levels. Instead of persecuting their top content providers they promoted them and even put them on tour to get out and meet people. Bottom Line: They embraced their top content providers and influencer’s and promoted them. YouTube even years later is still a raging growing success.
2. Great Success Example: Klout. @Klout and @Kloutperks know how to reward me for working and promoting their system. I’m a top influencer there. I get advertisers perks sent to me from time to time and I’ve worked hard to promote them if I like the product. I’ve blogged about their promotions, and bragged all up and down Facebook, Twitter and my networks. I’ve taken funny pictures of advertisers products and tried to make sure their advertisers got their money’s worth. Even offline it works. Klout and TNT sent me a cool flip card and Nike jacket for their new show Southland. I showed and talked about it to all my offline friends. Guess whose friends now watch the show regularly. Yes, Klout is smart, they know that influencers online also have a big mouth OFFLINE. I even get worried they might think I’m talking too much! Bottom Line: Great company that knows how to reward and integrate long term power influencer’s.
Some Very Destructive Examples:
1. Digg. Several years ago Digg expelled some of its top content providers and users under “allegations” of making money off selling the power to put stories on the front page. Those expelled were welcomed into the unknown Twitter and also Reddit, Diggs competitor. Its largely suggested those power users brought their followers with them and shortly after, Twitter and Reddit replaced Digg’s online success. Meanwhile Digg continues to decline. The grandest irony is Digg cut off their nose to spite their face. Now more than ever you can easily buy your way on to Diggs front page through whats left of certain power users. Bottom Line: Attacking and expelling the core content providers ruined Digg.
2. Quora. The Scoble Effect. Robert Scoble late last year fell in love with Quora.com. He brought all of his influencers into it. If you look at the traffic graph below you can actually see in December when Scoble and other top influencers started touting it by its volume increase. I like Scoble, it was a great forum to hear what many smart people where thinking. I came to Quora because Scoble promoted it!
During that time I noticed the policing admins deleting some of my posts or comments. Censoring. In one case I presented another post like mine that had been let to stay posted as hypocrisy and they relinquished reposting me. The Quora police didnt seem to have much humor and the rules seemed murky to the admins opinion. Then Scoble found that Quora Admins were down voting him in an attempt to “communist” the system making it fair to everyone. A big meltdown ensued, see blog: Scoble Post.
I didnt agree with some of what Scoble thought he did wrong. He didnt do anything wrong. He showed up kicked ass and jealous small minded haters won over the policing department. Suddenly Quora was a “hit” and didnt prefer the Scoble Effect anymore. Someone wrote a blog post (click) about “Scoble hoards” dominating the system. Interestingly about that time Scoble took a break to travel to Davos, his time dwindled on Quora. After that Quora censored/deleted another 2 of my posts and it lost its fun. If you look at the graph below, you can ACTUALLY see the traffic falling after the big influencers got sick of being abused and wandered off. Quickly the “Scoble hoards” left and they are almost back to the “hearing crickets” stage again. See Chart.
Bottom Line: The admins killed the Scoble goose that laid the golden egg.
3. Twitter. In 2009, I wrote to Fred Wilson whose company was major investor in Twitter. Our discussion was that Twitters suspension system was running amok, abusive, medieval and ruining its reputation among companies and CEO’s I was working with. CEO’s were getting tired of the crazy no warning suspension of employees accounts. Fred said they’d had board meetings over my points and would make changes. At the time many of us core users were practically running customer service for Twitter as there was nothing setup to provide it and users were frantic needing help with issues. I helped so many people I would get phone calls and people thought I worked for the company at one point. Two months later Twitter punished me for talking to Fred by sending me a letter telling me to stop growing my account or they will take it away. People ofter wonder why my @chrisvoss account hasnt grown in the last 2.5 years, while other people get away with rampantly growing their accounts. Now you know why its small.
Twitter punishes anyone who tries to be a high content provider on the system by limiting their grown in followers, removing them from search and taking away peoples account without warning. The 2000 follower limit has created a “dumbed down” effect. I know 1000s of people who’ve been suspended by Twitter. You can go into a convention hall and ask people to raise their hands if THEY or SOMEONE they know has been suspended on Twitter. Everyone does, its a horrible reputation. Twitter peaked with new users in 2009, at the highest point of their abusive suspension of accounts – Are you seeing any coorelation with the Quora Graph? Duh. The 2009 users are said to be the top content providers STILL left on Twitter.
The irony is, I was of course right. The other day my consulting firm got a marketing solicitation (technically spam to our site) from TWITTER! It was asking if we would suggest and refer our clients to advertise on Twitter. I dont think we’ve ever laughed so much in my office ever. Not only has Twitter driven the business people to Facebook, theres not a client I have that wants anything to do with paying for Twitter. That ship has sailed and they are all on Facebook and YouTube spending and making money. They see Twitter as a setting abusive sun.
Sure Twitters a great news service, but Facebook is slowing taking that, by slowly revamping to be more like Twitter.
In the end, the truth I’ve known since 2009 has finally come out. Only about 10-20% of Twitter users are the content providers that make the system seem successful and busy. Instead of embracing us, Twitter promotes “Hollywood Stars” and it has backfired. Studies have found their content isnt as popular as normal people core providers. People who unfortunately live with the threat of suspension all the time. The rest of Twitter is a large cesspool of largely dead accounts and languid listeners who check in when they arent on Facebook. As the great content providers are pushed out, Twitter is fading. I recognized it in 2010 when someone said “Twitter is where the stars talk and people listen, I dont like that.” Bottom Line: Facebook won the success war. You can see it where new startups only carry a Facebook Login lately. I would hope Twitter would change and embrace its core content providers and take steps to advance the system.
In summary, an old rule of business is 80% of your sales comes from 20% of your customers. I think the same thing, 20% of your core users provide 80% of your interesting content, is the new rule. DONT SCREW THE 20%.
I’ve given you two examples of how companies embraced and promoted its core users to achieve what is now, long term success. AND YOUTUBE DIDNT FORGET THEM WHEN YOUTUBE GOT SUCCESSFUL. I’ve given you two fail examples of companies alienating core influential users. When you build your startup business model you may want to think about how you care for your core content influencer’s over the long term and whose overseeing them. In brick and mortar you learn it cost something like 6 times more to get a new customer than to keep an old one. I wonder what the cost is to lose a core influencer?
Look at Quora’s graph – dont blow your wad with power influencer’s…they dont come back. Hopefully I’ve just give some startups some brilliant ideas on how to integrate long term influencer’s.
*Edit note after resolving discussions with EA’s CEO, elements of this post have been removed.