Who is Powered?

Normally, it is realistic to think that a company’s website can easily answer the question, “who are we.” That’s because in most cases, companies start off as something and grow organically. Occasionally, however, companies acquire (or are acquired by) other companies. And while this adds accretive products and services to their general offerings, it doesn’t radically change the focus of the business. In the case of Powered, nothing could be further from the truth… but we see that as a good thing.

In case you missed it, last January, Powered announced that it had acquired not one, not two, but THREE other companies. To borrow a term from Bill Watterson’s well-known cartoon series, Calvin and Hobbes, earlier this year Powered Inc. was transmogrified from a company that focused on building online communities to a social media agency.

Given what we were hearing in the market, this was the right move. But at the same time, January is a tricky time to merge four companies together because in our case, all four companies had a bunch of business that they were trying to close before the year got started in earnest. So all four companies were given a fair amount of leash and allowed to continue using their own names and pitching prospects using products and services that were in their wheelhouse.

As the head of marketing for Powered, you can imagine that my job of trying to promote a business comprised of four distinct entities located across three geographies — Austin, TX, New York, NY and Portland, OR — could be tricky. Up until a few months ago, that was absolutely true. But over the last three or four months, our collective companies are starting to gel and we now have a much more cohesive story to tell when asked “who are we.” But it’s taking a little time to catch the website up (kind of like changing the tires on a moving car).

In the spirit of giving people a little bit better sense of who we are, I thought it might not hurt to give a quick drilldown of what we say we do, who we we work with and then provide a few case studies. Oh, we also have a number of folks that work here who blog and tweet and podcast. If you haven’t met those folks (or didn’t know they were all under one figurative roof), I’ve provided links to them as well.

Powered is a dedicated social media agency that helps brands fully capitalize on their social initiatives, make them more relevant in an increasingly digital, connected and social world. Now with 75+ employees in its offices, we bring our clients “best-in-class” expertise across the social spectrum by offering a combination of strategy, planning, activation and management for social presence and programs including those centered on Facebook, location based/LBS, mobile applications, influencer activation and community building, content marketing, earned media and experiential marketing.

Clear as mud, right? Well they say that a picture is worth a thousand words…

At our simplest, you could say that we actually do three things:

  • Help companies “socialize” their websites
  • Build branded presences in places like Facebook, Twitter and Youtube
  • Get prospects, customers and enthusiasts to “do stuff” on behalf of companies. The “stuff” includes evangelizing, sharing, buying, referring and educating among other things.


Powered is lucky enough to work with A LOT of really cool brands. Rather than trying to list them all here, I’ve provided links to the various industries that we work with — each one contains company names and mini case studies about what we did (or are doing) with each of the brands:

Note: for a deeper dive on some of our active Facebook projects, be sure to head over here (StepChange is one of the four companies that is now a part of Powered Inc.


As I mentioned before, we have the benefit of working with some extremely smart people here at Powered… many of which try and practice what they preach (myself included). You can find the blog and twitter activity for many of us on the Powered.com home page. But for a slightly more comprehensive list, here are the folks that are regular content creators (alphabetically):

So what did I miss? What more can I tell you about Powered? Just let me know in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer!


Weekly Social Marketing Links: August 11, 2009

Each week, the members of Powered’s marketing, business development and product teams pick a news article, blog post or research report that “speaks” to them. With that article, they need to come to our weekly staff meeting prepared to give a 120 second update on what the article was about and why they found it useful. I’ve been a little behind in my updates recently so you’re getting a few weeks worth in one fell swoop.

Links are below:

Beth Lopez (Marketing)
I enjoyed reading the article, Desperately Seeking Personal Brand, which talks about how you can tell if a social marketing “expert” is really a true guru or pretender.

Marketers Like Twitter More Than Consumers Do
Interesting stats between the different views of marketers and consumers re: Twitter. While marketers see Twitter as a platform that is here to stay, consumers either don’t have an opinion or think it’s somewhat useful or dead. Both marketers and consumers feel it’s not a good platform for advertising or promoting products, which is interesting considering we get a lot of questions about using Twitter for just this purpose.

I do agree with the article that Twitter can be useful for awareness efforts, but I don’t think that by promoting your business you will generate leads or new business from Twitter. Twitter is about relationships. It’s about connecting with people that you find interesting. It’s about people…not about businesses. And if consumers don’t know or don’t care about Twitter, then it begs the question – Are marketers wasting time and energy in trying to figure out how to use it to propel their business?

DP Rabalais (Marketing)
In doing competitive intelligence this week I cam across an interesting story about Passenger and how they’re helping Mercedes Benz tap into 20-somethings (some current, but mostly future customers) help shape their future product offerings. Definitely worth the read if you get a chance.

Fortune 100 CEOs & Companies: Social Media Use & Statistics

Good article on how CEO’s at top companies use social media, and also how companies are using tools like Twitter, LinkedIn and Twitter.

I liked this post by blogger, Mack Collier titled Why Many Marketers Struggle with Social Media because it does a good job of succinctly calling out where traditional marketing and advertising is relevant vs. where SM is beneficial to companies. My favorite quote:

If you’re Burger King and you’re looking to influence whether I go there or not, use plain old marketing. It’s just fine. It’s the right tool for the job. So is advertising. You don’t HAVE to use social media for that.

But, if you’re Burger King and you want to understand me, to get what’s really going on inside my head, and know what we have in common, then THAT is where social media can be useful. Talk to me. Get to know me. Ask me about me and the things that aren’t about you.

Doug Wick (BizDev)
The danger of being an innovative start-up that is a little resource-challenged is that your innovations can be easily imitated. Facebook has been slowly learning from Twitter and incorporating their features while Twitter struggles with problems like infrastructure that Facebook solved long ago. This article does a nice job of showing where the endgame for Twitter might be, now that Facebook has acquired another sophisticated Twitter-imitator, Friendfeed.

My article this week is Virtual Worlds are Getting a Second Life. Some interesting stats about the rebounding explosive growth of virtual worlds (especially among youngsters), and how they have been faster to develop revenue models than their 2-dimensional social counterparts like Facebook and Twitter. I would guess that is related to the fact that Facebook and Twitter ultimately deliver stickiness through the exchange of content (an activity that is complementary to our real lives), where 3D simulations can expand the possibilities for other social behaviors – such as commerce – more naturally since they do not complement, but instead emulate, our own reality.

Jay MacIntosh (BizDev)
Women are more relational and nurturing while men are more transactional…at least that’s the theory from a study by RapLeaf. http://digg.com/u3AQJa I’ve always been fascinated by how women and men think and behave differently. To see it in action, pay attention to the dynamics the next time you’re in a group setting (children or adults). You’ll likely see female energy more focused on understanding others and connecting with them by validating their experiences and feelings. On the other hand, male energy is usually more focused on being understood by others especially in terms of what we know and our past success. How do these differences show up in social media environments? Though I don’t have the data to support this…yet, I’ll bet women use “friending” features more than men, while men participate more in things like reputation management. Anyhow, something to consider when talking strategy with clients.

Bill Fanning (BizDev)

Bill’s been out doing some major sales stuff but time to get him back on the “article” wagon. 😉

Don Sedota (Product)
This is a good list from Jay Baer on 11 Timely Social Media Takeaways. It’s basically a short-list of 11 recent social initiatives or planned initiatives by companies/brands and a key takeaway from each. My favorite is the one on Lane Bryant and their recent announcement of a “Plus-Sized Community” for women. It’s a great example of striking an emotional chord with the customer for a brand that on the surface may not seem to be a great social candidate. Lane Bryant is also hoping to leverage member questions/comments for the purposes of product innovation which seems to be an increasing trend.

In the spirit of interesting stats and prospective customers potentially finding Facebook Connect as an attractive demand generator, here’s a post from Brian Solis on up to date Facebook stats . Unfortunately, he doesn’t mention the source of his information but he says that the statistics will be used in his next book so take that for what it’s worth. Anyways, some highlights that could be used to sell prospective clients on the attractiveness of Facebook/FBC as a demand generation source include:

  • More than 5 billion minutes are spent on Facebook each day (worldwide)
  • The average social graph equates to 120 friends
  • 120 million users log onto Facebook at least once a day
  • 15,000 and counting websites, devices and applications have implemented Facebook Connect since its launch in December 2008

I found this article pretty interesting, Please Don’t Follow or Friend Me, posted by Steven Hodson on the Shooting at Bubbles blog. It talks about how the concept of “friends” is different across different social networks and whether being someone’s “friend” on one social network is an obligation to accept that person as a “friend” on all social networks. A good quote from the article that sums it up (and I tend to agree) is “The richness and value of the Friending Economy comes from the quality and closeness of your ‘friends’, not the number of them. By blindly reciprocating we dilute the value of our ‘Friending’ not just for ourselves but also for those people who do decide to follow or friend us.”

There’s also an excerpt to another thoughtful post in the article’s sidebar (near the end) called “What Have You Done for Me Lately – Keeping Score in Social Media” which is similar in spirit but speaks to the viewpoint that just because you’ve followed someone, re-tweeted their comment, linked to their blog post, etc. doesn’t mean you should hold them in debt until they return the favor. The payback will be eventual and long-term, and in the end everything evens out.

Audio from 1st Social Marketing Help Desk Webinar

A few weeks ago, we launched a new flavor of webinars called the Social Marketing Help Desk. You can read more of the details here in colleague, Doug Wick’s excellent post. The goal is to focus more on the questions vs. the content since we always get way more questions than we can answer during some of the recent thought leader webinars we’ve done like:

Our special guest for this webinar was Adam Cohen, a good friend and a partner at agency, Rosetta.

If you missed the first webinar, we’ve provided the audio portion as a podcast below. If you’d like any of the slides (more just links to our bios/blogs/etc., let me know and I’ll e-mail it to you. My address is aaron DOT strout AT powered DOT com.

Weekly Social Marketing Links: July 7, 2009

Each week, the members of Powered’s marketing, business development and product teams pick a news article, blog post or research report that “speaks” to them. With that article, they need to come to our weekly staff meeting prepared to give a 120 second update on what the article was about and why they found it useful. Links are below:

Beth Lopez (Marketing)
Facebook’s Own Estimates Show Declining Student Numbers; Now More Grandparents Than High School Users – Intereting article that speaks to changing demographics of Facebook users. What’s even more interesting is that the data is from Facebook’s own ad platform and the data is showing there are fewer high school and college users on FB today than there were six months ago. Interesting read to say the least.

DP Rabalais (Marketing)
My weekly article is, Three Ways Healthcare Brands Can Leverage Social-Media (from MarketingProfs). While the lead-in is actually quite good, the three big points that are promised… well, let’s just say they didn’t blow me away.

Here’s the Cliff Notes from this article. The big “Three Ways” are:

  1. Listen
  2. Participate
  3. Learn

I have to say, I’m a little disappointed that this article didn’t deliver a little more value (because MarketingProfs is usually pretty awesome)

Bill Fanning (Business Development)
The first post is from Scott Berkun (The Berkun Blog) titled Calling Bullshit on Social Media.  Similar to the post I shared a few weeks ago predicting the demise of Twitter, I had to read this one simply based on the title.  Scott takes an honest and somewhat cynical look at “Social Media”, the hype, history and the behavior of both participants and marketers of social media.  While he makes a lot of good points, I don’t think of most PR firms or Social Media Consultants as the “greedy” gaming the system.  Sure, there are always a few but typically they don’t stay in business long.  Call me naïve.     

The second post was written by Tim Walker and titled In Defense of Social Media Manager.  This post highlights the debate between Chris Brogan and David Thomas about the necessity of the role and job title “Social Media Manager”.  Included are links to each of their blog posts stating their positions.  Both worth the read.  In part, I agree with Chris that companies ultimately should focus measuring what they need to change like sales, trials, PR coverage etc and that Social Media is a set up tools to help facilitate the necessary changes.  He also says that using these tools is “part of a job function, not a standalone vocation.”  This is where I have to agree with David Thomas, especially with larger organizations.  Until everyone clearly understands the tools that are available to them and how to behave while using them, it probably makes sense to have someone focused on understanding the medium thoroughly.  As the medium becomes more widely understood, we will probably see fewer and fewer “Social Media Manager” titles.

Jay MacIntosh (Business Development)
The article is entitled A CMO’s Guide to Social Media. It’s authored by a woman named Dana Theus who is a strategic marketing consultant with years of client-side experience. Though it’s much longer than the 140 microbites we’re accustomed to, I found it to be very worthwhile (but of course I did else I wouldn’t be sharing it with y’all now would I?). Anyhow, it’s an insightful POV on the societal and technological trends that have made the world more “social”. AND she offers a few strategies that marketing leaders might actually pursue. One of the things she discusses is something I’ve been hearing a lot of marketers say during my past 8 months of social media immersion – “Social media is simply another communications channel.”

I agree that social media is a communications channel but it’s not “just another” one. It’s radically different. As one of my social media heroes, Doug Wick, points out social enables three-way dialog to take place; brands with consumers & consumers with consumers. That changes all the rules of engagement. Which reminds me, wasn’t it Einstein who said “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results?” Time for marketers to stop the insanity!

Doug Wick (Business Development)

This article is about Moonfruit’s high-exposure campaign on Twitter where they gave away Macbooks in exchange for retweets and followers. While the campaign was a wild success, it provides a little context on the downside. First, the campaign giveaway didn’t exactly link with Moonfruit’s real business, which is web design. There is a relevancy issue. Also, there are reports that Twitter had to cap or control the buzz because it was a strain on their infrastructure, showing that these free tools have their limits when used for marketing. An interesting case study in the evolving medium.

Don Sedota (Product Management)

Based on some of our recent prospect efforts, I found the latest Razorfish Social Media “Fluent” report  had some interesting info regarding the financancial services industry and social media. The report was Twittered pretty heavily yesterday and was also Yammered internally, but thought I would mention a few takeaways I had regarding their financial industry insights:

  • Out of 7 industries, Financial rated last with regard to propensity for social context interaction with a brand (only 13% being likely to interact)
  • As an industry, the financial industry ranks a very distant second to the Auto industry (92 vs. 6.3) as far as positive consumer sentiment (as determined from positive/negative conversations on the web) and ranks 6 times better than Pharma (6.3 vs. 0.96)
  • BofA has the highest share of voice (31.6%); almost 3 times more than Wells Fargo
  • Wells Fargo has the highest brand sentiment out of 6 financial brands at 71%
  • Online share of voice and sentiment is closely tied to offline voice and sentiment
  • With the recent tumultuousness in the financial industry, there’s a ripe opportunity to improve these metrics for financial companies

What You Can’t See: 78% of Your Business

eye-chartRecently, I’ve been a little obsessed with ROI as it relates to social marketing, as I seek to put in more tangible terms what I feel intuitively about this new toolset’s value.

To this end, Adam Cohen hit my Reader just right with a nice real-world post on measuring the marketing effectiveness of social media in general (not another post just on how important it is that it be measured, thank goodness). As Powered has done in our 2009 ROI Report he focused on purchase path as the main way to address the value created by social presence. Truly, resultant sales is the most logical way to measure marketing, and Adam rightly calls for social media tools to be linked along the clickstream more directly with end purchase. Powered’s self-reported data is a compelling indicator, as we typically find on the low end that 1 in 5 consumers report a purchase as a result of social engagement within one of Powered’s client communities.

But there is more here than just getting people to consider a purchase. In our ROI report and with our customers we do focus on a number of statistics that address things like loyalty, advocacy, brand affinity, and insight into consumers. All of these words are abstract; they all refer to things that are intangible. But nevertheless, a marketer’s intuition tells you that these things are the essence of what we seek to impact. Unfortunately, those outside of the marketing profession see those terms as arcane and would rather you just “show them the money.” You can’t really blame them.

It was while considering the intangible and social marketing’s impact on it that I found this article by Christopher Kenton (via David Churbuck) that I found fascinating. Christopher’s article isn’t about social media/marketing, but rather about why CMO’s are being pushed more toward true financial measurability of marketing in general. The premise of his article is built around this finding:

According to Jonathan Knowles of Brand Finance, a consultancy that specializes in the valuation of businesses, the tangible assets that used to account for 75 percent of a company’s stock market value in the 1980s now only accounts for 22 percent of market value.

Wow, I can imagine the CFO-head-scratching that this sea change likely causes. Seventy-eight percent of my company’s value is in assets that I can’t see? Granted, some of these intangibles will reside in the internals: the IP, the human capital, the processes and technological know-how of a company. But no doubt much of this intangible value exists outside: in the brand equity that a company has built with consumers/customers – the affinity, loyalty, advocacy, and market insight that is the department of the CMO.

Today, what the stock market knows has forced the CFO into that CMO’s office to ask for a firmer grasp of the unseen – and for less arcane ways to measure it. Popular but still nascent measures like NPS (Net Promoter Score) seek to fill the gap and make loyalty/advocacy tangible, but more research and development is needed to tie it to financial impact – and that impact likely differs structurally from company to company.

In the meantime, as we wait for more widely accepted measures, I would suggest this hypothesis: there is currently no more powerful tool in the marketer’s toolbelt to impact intangible marketing assets like loyalty, affinity, advocacy, and insight than social marketing. Proof points abound outside of Powered’s walls, but our statistics show an extremely powerful effect that I believe dwarfs other marketing mediums when you take into consideration relative cost. Aaron Strout blogged about them earlier.

And when you’re talking about assets that make up as much as 78% of your company’s stock value, you might as well be talking about your entire business.

In the world of the CFO and company valuation, the two main forces on the positive side are cash flow and assets. So it’s reasonable to predict that someday in the not-so-distant future, the ROI of social marketing (and marketing in general) might not only contain a short-term conversion-based model that looks like the ROI models of old, rolling into cash flows . . . but will also include a more powerful new-world long term model that analyzes the impact of social marketing on intangible assets.

Are you already there? If so, how are you measuring?

Give Before You Get [My Stump Speech]

For what it’s worth, the original title of this post was originally “Are You Smarter than a Drug Dealer?” It came out of a conversation I was having with our CEO about the fact that the business model we encourage our clients to quartersadopt – namely, “give before you get”  in many ways is no different than that of a drug dealer’s. Well, except that in our case, we are asking our clients to give value away for free to get their customers “hooked,” vs. causing a lifetime of pain and addiction. But you get the point.


Up until the writing of this post, I toyed with keeping the original title but realized that as much as it may have piqued people’s interest, it ultimately sent the wrong message. So instead, I went with the title of my latest stump speech, “Give Before You Get.” As I mentioned above, it’s something that we talk about incessantly with our customers and prospective customers. Having worked at a large corporate for nearly 10 years (Fidelity Investments), I understand how counterintuitive this feels for many companies. But what I can tell you is that it works!


A recent Seth Godin blog post that my colleague, Doni Wilson, seems to encapsulate the essence of “Give Before You Get.” Amazingly, this is such a short post, I’m going to quote the entire thing here with attribution and a link back to Seth’s The Panhandler’s Secret. Hope Seth doesn’t mind:

When there were old-school parking meters in New York, quarters were precious.

One day, I’m walking down the street and a guy comes up to me and says, “Do you have a dollar for four quarters?” He held out his hand with four quarters in it.

When there were old-school parking meters in New York, quarters were precious.

One day, I’m walking down the street and a guy comes up to me and says, “Do you have a dollar for four quarters?” He held out his hand with four quarters in it.

Curious, I engaged with him. I took out a dollar bill and took the four quarters.

Then he turned to me and said, “can you spare a quarter?”

What a fascinating interaction.

First, he engaged me. A fair trade, one that perhaps even benefited me, not him.

Now, we have a relationship. Now, he knows I have a quarter (in my hand, even). So his next request is much more difficult to turn down. If he had just walked up to me and said, “can you spare a quarter,” he would have been invisible.

Too often, we close the sale before we even open it.

Interact first, sell second.

Not only have I seen this approach benefit me time and time again in the form of leads, awareness, job candidates and free research but it’s also had a tangible ROI for a number of our clients. One client in particular, Sony, cited some amazing results in a recent case study they did with our friends over at MarketingProfs.

  • Engaging more consumers, growing member registration, and increasing return visits to the site: Year over year, in 2008 Backstage 101 experienced a 388% increase in the number of user engagements, 34% growth in member registration, a 31% increase in unique visits, and 179% more repeat visits.
  • Retaining high-value global segments: Return visits accounted for 20% of all traffic in the first half of 2008, compared with 10% for the first half of 2007. And 15% of users who registered on the site prior to 2008 remain active. Currently, 90% of users match Sony’s target user profile, and 53% are considered “innovation enthusiasts.” In addition, 79% of users say they plan to purchase a consumer electronics product within six months.
  • Increasing consumer loyalty and advocacy: The program has a 90% usersatisfaction rating, and 78% of users report that they are more likely to purchase a Sony product as a result of Backstage 101. Sony’s NPS (Net Promoter Score) for 2008 came in at 44%, with 59% of users classified as “promoters” who are likely to recommend Sony electronics to a family member, friend, or coworker.
  • Providing increased value to the Sony Electronics business: The number of users claiming to have purchased a Sony Electronics product grew to 36% for the first half of 2008 (prior to the launch of Digital Darkroom and Frontline Community), compared with 20% for the first half of 2007, and Center reports that sales on the Sony Web site “continue to increase month over month.” In addition, survey completion is up 12% this year, providing Sony with valuable additional consumer insight. And retail syndication along with the addition of Backstage 101 to the company’s CyberScholar site are allowing Sony to better support its retail relationships. 

For the full version of the case study, you can grab it on MarketingProf’s site or download it from Powered.

So what are you waiting for? Start giving and then maybe your customers will be willing to share a “quarter” back with you. Or maybe more!

Engagement is a Means to an End – Measure the End, Not Just the Means.

Many marketers, PR reps, pundits and analysts are seeking proof that social media has a demonstrable impact on business. A Google search of “how to measure engagement” yields over 12M results with claims of “how to REALLY measure engagement,” and proposed formulas that are smart but insanely complex and still don’t answer the question regarding business impact.
The truth is that companies are just beginning to tap into the possibilities of leveraging social behavior into the marketing mix and naturally, it’s begun very tactically. After all, brand ambassadors are NOT comfortable with two-way conversations and if consumers weren’t forcing it via non-branded social networking channels, we’d still only be talking about reach, frequency & CTR. 
What I’m referring to as ‘tactical’ beginnings for social inside the enterprise include but are not limited to – support forums, e-commerce ratings & reviews, the corporate blog, a brand’s Facebook page, a brand’s twitter stream, etc. 

Next-gen branded social initiatives are highly strategic (and thereby measurable). They engage consumers on their terms with strong value propositions that complement the brand. They do not broadcast a 30-second ‘brand message’ – they create an attentive audience for relevant information from the brand. In this strategic context, engagement is a means to an end, not the end itself. 

And like most online marketing initiatives hosted by brands – the objectives are or should be consistent – to acquire new customers, maximize revenue, inspire loyalty, enlist advocates and retain customers. Strategic marketing initiatives are designed to influence these metrics and have associated measurement plans to benchmark and trend impact over time. These measurement plans must include both web analytics and primary research because the desired outcomes include brand perceptions.

As long as we are focused on the ‘media’ in social media – measurement will seem elusive at best and have lackluster impact at worst. It’s like trying to measure the impact on my company’s revenue because they bought me a phone.