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While the new site is being built and I am on a well deserved workation, here is a piece from the vault that you will find just as relevant today as it was when I first posted it. Back by popular demand, Game Change: Moneyball and the reality of social business.

I finally watched Moneyball over the weekend. I’m not a big baseball fan but it held my interest, partly because it was based on a true story and partly because the movie really wasn’t about baseball at all. It was about old thinking vs. new thinking, about industry politics vs. the heresy of innovation, about dinosaurs desperate to hang on to a failing model that sustains their livelihood even when that model is clearly broken, ineffective and no longer relevant.

The scenes in which Oakland As’ general manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) locks horns with his cadre of coaches and scouts over how to do more with less, about how to break the cycle of mediocrity plaguing their organization, about how to get results again is brilliant, not because of the writing or the acting but because it is spot on target. How do I know this? Because I have been in that meeting hundreds of times. Well, not that particular meeting, but in others exactly like it. And every week that goes by, I find myself sitting in that meeting again and again and again.

In the US, in Europe, in Asia, the same meeting goes on almost daily. The conference table is always basically the same, the fluorescent lighting too. The players, they’re the same as well, everywhere I go. Only the vocabulary changes, the industry lingo, but the meeting, it’s the same and it goes pretty much like this:


Billy Beane
: Guys, you’re just talking. Talking, “la-la-la-la”, like this is business as usual. It’s not.
Grady Fuson: We’re trying to solve the problem here, Billy.
Billy Beane: Not like this you’re not. You’re not even looking at the problem.
Grady Fuson: We’re very aware of the problem. I mean…
Billy Beane: Okay, good. What’s the problem?
Grady Fuson: Look, Billy, we all understand what the problem is. We have to…
Billy Beane: Okay, good. What’s the problem?
Grady Fuson: The problem is we have to replace three key players in our lineup.
Billy Beane: Nope. What’s the problem?
Pittaro: Same as it’s ever been. We’ve gotta replace these guys with what we have existing.
Billy Beane: Nope. What’s the problem, Barry?
Scout Barry: We need 38 home runs, 120 RBIs and 47 doubles to replace.
Billy Beane: Ehh! [imitates buzzer]

What we see in this scene is a roomful of insiders with a century and a half of industry experience between them, and yet they haven’t figured out that their model is outdated, that their “experience,” is no longer enough to keep moving forward. They carry on day after day, season after season, doing the same thing over and over again, half-expecting a different result, but then again, maybe not. Worst of all, most of them have no idea what the problems plaguing their organizations actually are. A lot of it is just operational myopia. Some of it is also ego: they couldn’t possibly be wrong. All that experience and intuition, the entire industry’s decades-old model… how could things have changed that much, right?

And yet they are wrong, the model isn’t working anymore, and instead of listening to the guy in the room who sees it and knows how to fix it, they treat him like a punk. When he wants to do something about it, they push back. Hard. In Moneyball, he’s their boss. Imagine when he is just a Director or a VP, or even just an account manager. Imagine how quickly he gets overruled then. I’ve seen amazing people get shut down and pushed out of organizations over this sort of thing. I could give you names and dates. I could make you ill with true stories of stupidity and petty politics, of wasted opportunities and complete operational failures that turned what could have been huge wins for companies that needed them (and customers who demanded them) into case studies in wasted potential. And as tragic as  these stories would be, they are no different from the opportunities that will be wasted this week, and the next, and the one after that, always for the same reasons, always because of the exact same thinking and business management dynamics.

I see that scene, that meeting, that discussion being played out almost everywhere I go, especially when it comes to social media and social business: guys sitting around a table, treating social like it is just an extension of the same old traditional digital marketing game they all understand and desperately want to stick to. And so they make strategy decisions based on models that don’t apply at all to the social space, they insist on using measurement schemes that aren’t the least bit relevant to it or the business as a whole, and worst of all, they make hiring decisions that absolutely make no sense at all for the new requirements of social communications. Why? Because even though the game has changed, no one in the room wants to accept that it has. No one in the room wants to adapt. No one in the room wants to look reality in the eye and do what needs to be done to actually win. Talk about it, sure. Use cool new words like earned media and engagement, definitely. But actually change anything and adapt to a new model? Nope. Not happening. The change management piece that comes with social business integration, the piece that is absolutely vital to it actually working, that piece is still DOA.

Here’s another conversation that also goes on “offline” at every company (agency or brand) around the world right now in regards to hiring decisions that touch on social media management. Here it is again, through the filter ofMoneyball:

Peter Brand: There is an epidemic failure within the game to understand what is really happening. And this leads people who run Major League Baseball teams to misjudge their players and mismanage their teams. I apologize.
Billy Beane: Go on.
Peter Brand: Okay. People who run ball clubs, they think in terms of buying players. Your goal shouldn’t be to buy players, your goal should be to buy wins. And in order to buy wins, you need to buy runs. You’re trying to replace Johnny Damon. The Boston Red Sox see Johnny Damon and they see a star who’s worth seven and half million dollars a year. When I see Johnny Damon, what I see is… is… an imperfect understanding of where runs come from. The guy’s got a great glove. He’s a decent leadoff hitter. He can steal bases. But is he worth the seven and half million dollars a year that the Boston Red Sox are paying him? No. No. Baseball thinking is medieval. They are asking all the wrong questions. And if I say it to anybody, I’m-I’m ostracized. I’m-I’m-I’m a leper. So that’s why I’m-I’m cagey about this with you. That’s why I… I respect you, Mr. Beane, and if you want full disclosure, I think it’s a good thing that you got Damon off your payroll. I think it opens up all kinds of interesting possibilities.

Every company has a Peter Brand either on staff or sitting in a stack of CVs. Not necessarily in the sense that they are geniuses with statistics  but in the sense that they see the forest from the trees, that they see what needs to be done, but every time they open their mouths, they get shot down. Worse, if they open their mouths too much, they’re gone. And if their CV doesn’t have the bullet points and keywords that hiring managers were trained twenty years ago to find relevant, they don’t even get considered for the position.

If I see one more social media leadership position go by default to candidates with “big agency digital experience” or “big brand digital experience,” I am going to throw my pencil at somebody’s head. There is the medieval thinking in action, right there. There’s the primary reason why almost every social media program on the planet is failing to produce results, why three fourths of companies still can’t figure out how to calculate the ROI of their social media programs, why most brands see less than 1% of engagement from their followers and fans after the first touch, why “content is king” is failing, and why increasingly, “social media” strategy and budgets are shifting to ad buys on social networks. That’s right: For all the talk about earned media and engagement and conversations, social media account roles are starting to go to media buyers now. (Here’s some insight into it.) Everyone loves to talk the talk. Almost no company is willing to actually walk the walk. That sound you’re hearing is the banging of traditional marketing hammers pounding nails into social business’ coffin.

You want to know why most big brand social media programs aren’t gaining real traction? Why they don’t work without a constant influx of ad spending? Why nobody sticks around when the “free iPads for likes” promotions are gone? Start there: no one in the room gets it. No one in the room wants to get it. And when someone in the room does get it, he or she doesn’t keep their job for very long. You think most companies are going to hire, promote and support change agents all on their own?

So the real question is this: Do you want to actually score some real wins or do you just want to spend big marketing budgets and play at being a digital big shot?

It’s a real question. In fact, it’s the most important question you might ask yourself all year. Because the answer to that question will determine whether or not you still have a job in two years. No wait… I misspoke. The answer to that question will determine whether or not you have the job you want in two years, and yes, there’s a difference. A big one.

When you find yourself looking for your next gig (and you will eventually,) do you want to just be the guy who was SVP digital at (insert big brand/agency here) or do you want to be the guy who took (insert big brand/agency here)’s theoretical social media and social business programs, and turned them into the new industry standards, into the business model that everyone will be copying and basing theirs on for the next decade? It’s a real question. Which guy do you want to be? The dinosaur or the pioneer? If the answer is the latter, then are you going to have the huevos to go against the grain? To take chances on whom you hire, what kinds of programs you launch, where and how you invest your budgets? Are you willing to stick your neck out and do it right? Or is it more likely that you’ll just play it safe, hoping that the system will just carry you for another decade or two, that the CEO or CMO you will interview with next won’t notice that your job was basically to spend ad dollars and shuffle digital board pieces for the CEO’s monthly show-and-tell meeting?

Who do you want to be? What do you want to build? Do you want to just wear the jersey or do you want to win? Hold that thought. Here’s another key piece of dialogue from the movie, after Billy Beane’s gamble has paid off, after he has started turning some wheels in a big way. He responds to an invitation from John Henry, owner of the Boston Red Sox, who tells him this:

John Henry: I know you’ve taken it in the teeth out there, but the first guy through the wall. It always gets bloody, always. It’s the threat of not just the way of doing business, but in their minds it’s threatening the game. But really what it’s threatening is their livelihoods, it’s threatening their jobs, it’s threatening the way that they do things. And every time that happens, whether it’s the government or a way of doing business or whatever it is, the people are holding the reins, have their hands on the switch. They go bat shit crazy. I mean, anybody who’s not building a team right and rebuilding it using your model, they’re dinosaurs. They’ll be sitting on their ass on the sofa in October, watching the Boston Red Sox win the World Series.

And a couple of years later, they did.

So let’s talk about our world again for a minute. Let’s talk about what’s coming, about tipping points, about momentum: Ford not only hired the right guy (Scott Monty) a few years back but gave him the authority to build a solid program there. The result: some serious wins on just about every front, from customer perceptions to purchase intent to customer loyalty and recommendations. Evencar design was impacted in 2010 by the importance of social communications in the Ford organization. Edelman Digital seems to be doing something similar (I keep running into some pretty solid folks there, notably Michael Brito and David Armano). Want to see something cool? This is one of the things they’re working on. Starbucks caught an early train with that too. So did Dell. What sucks is that in 2012, virtually no one else has even tried to keep up with them. For all the money being spent and all the “case studies” being pushed around the conference circuit, most companies are still fighting it, still refusing to accept that the game has changed – worse, trying to keep playing with old methods, with old thinking, with old, outdated skills and CV bullet points. But there will come a day when someone will be given the authority to build out this new model, when it will blow everyone out of the water, and when the blindfolds will have to come off. That day is coming. What side of change do you want to be on then?

Old thinking will not score wins here. Old tactics, old hiring, old measurement, they’re all wrong for these new marketing, communications and business models. They just don’t work anymore. If you don’t believe me, that’s fine. Keep watching your margins erode. Keep watching your digital dollars go to waste. Keep laying people off and outsourcing every last business function you can’t afford to keep in-house anymore. Keep pretending the world is the same today as it was five years ago, and that what you were doing five years ago will still be relevant five years from now. Whatever makes you feel better. Keep doing the same old thing that used to work, back before people carried smart phones and iPads. Keep thinking that the guy you just hired because he spent ten years managing digital for a fast-food brand knows fuck-all about building capacity and traction for a social media program, let alone produce concrete business results for you. Keep coloring the same old boxes with the same old crayons and see how far you’ll get.

_ Okay good. What’s the problem?

We need to fill a VP Digital role.

_ Nope. What’s the problem?

All right… Whatever. We need to fill a VP social media strategy role.

_ Nope. What’s the problem?

We need to hire someone with proven global digital management experience, Billy. Someone with Disney or Nike on their CV. Someone with serious digital campaign experience.

_ Nope. What’s the problem, Barry?

The problem is, we’re not growing our Facebook community fast enough, and our content isn’t seeing the numbers we want. We need a…

_ Nope. [Imitates buzzer]

Get unstuck. Watch Moneyball and let the light bulb go off in your head. Then go find your Peter Brand and hire the shit out of him before someone else does. If you’re lucky, you’ll save both your career and your company in the process.

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Here it is. A whole book on how to make social media work from a business standpoint. ROI is covered, along with a lot of process elements that tie back to it. If your favorite social business “expert” doesn’t seem to get this stuff yet, don’t feel bad about sending them a copy. Knowledge is never a bad gift.

CEO-Read  –  Amazon.com  –  www.smroi.net  –  Barnes & Noble  –  Que

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Why I stopped blogging:

My last post here is dated February 25th. I wish I could say that was the last time I was genuinely interested enough to write and share something pertinent with you guys about brand management or marketing strategy or social business, but that isn’t true. If you scroll back through my posts for 2013 and the second half of 2012, you will probably notice that I was already kind of losing interest in blogging for the sake of blogging. Truth is, sometimes, even someone as outspoken as me just doesn’t have anything really all that pertinent to write about on a blog like this one, and though the discipline to carry on writing “content” day after day anyway is admirable in many ways, I found the exercise pretty much mired in futility.

A friend of mine in the industry told me about a year ago that I needed to publish something on this blog at least 3-5 times per week. He was pretty adamant about it, and I suppose he should know. He has 10x the readership and the twitter followers. He has published 10x more books than I have (I only have the one), he gets paid a shit-ton more than I do to spend half as much time on stage. He’s big time. Career-wise, he is in every way my better. I should listen to him. The thing is, I don’t think that post quantity or post frequency or even an editorial calendar’s consistency really matters. Traffic to this blog remains strong even if I don’t post a single thing for months. I have so many posts here that I could probably never publish anything again and my traffic would stay consistent for the next 3+ years. More importantly, I don’t really care about pulling traffic to my blog anymore. I used to. For ego, mostly. A 12,000 visitor day was like Christmas morning to me once. I felt important and validated. I look back on that now and ask myself what the fuck I was thinking.

Oh yeah… that’s another thing. I probably shouldn’t curse here. This is a business blog. Well, so much for that rule too. I live in the real world, and in that world, people say fuck. In fact, they get pretty creative about it. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but at least it’s honest, and there’s a lot to be said for people who aren’t afraid to speak their minds.

I have always prided myself on publishing quality content. As much as I hate the term “content,” I will use it here to describe what you are reading right now, if only to make a point: I stopped doing that months ago. I did. I was just going through the motions. Writing a blog post just because I am supposed to fill space robs a blog like this one of its value. Even though I never intended to shift from publishing quality blog posts to publishing “content,” it’s where I was headed. I woke up one morning and sat at my desk and realized that I was turning into just another social media asshole who publishes shit just to have something to publish. Just to get traffic to a stupid website. Just to see his name mentioned a couple hundred times in a Twitter stream and feel important and validated. That’s not who I want to be and it sure as shit isn’t why I got into blogging. I didn’t like where things were going, and since I didn’t know what else to do, I backed off and worked on other things.

Why some of my “peers” might want to back off for a few months as well:

Top 10 Ways to Create Successful Content

Why Net Promoter Score Is The New ROI

5 Strategies to Better Engage With A social Media Audience

8 Ways Klout Is Revolutionizing Business

11 Reasons Why Google Glass is the Most Important Technology in Human History

Stop. Just stop. Shut the fuck up. Really.

You want to feel important, go do something important, something that actually matters:

Help a company solve a real problem. (Selling them a product doesn’t exactly qualify.)

Help curb domestic violence in your state by even 1/10 of a percent.

Help create a digital bipartisan policy innovation exchange. (Holy shit! Using social media to depolarize discussions about real issues and even crowdsource real solutions to real problems? Shut. Up!)

Develop social business systems and protocols aimed at boosting customer retention (loyalty is a process, not just a marketing buzzword).

Do something. But for fuck’s sake, stop filling empty space with “content.”  It’s gotten so bad, even I was getting sucked into it just to keep up with this shit:

The CMO is dead. 

Digital is Dead. 

Marketing is Dead.

Advertising is Dead.

Print is Dead.

Stop. In case you haven’t noticed, we’re all just writing the same shit over and over again, and most of it is utter nonsense. There’s no value to it. Most of it isn’t even accurate, let alone helpful to anyone. Hell, it isn’t even entertaining. If any of you wrote even one of those blog posts as an email and sent it to your boss, you would probably be fired shortly thereafter for being an incompetent dumbass. So what makes a digital editor or a social media “expert” think it belongs on a blog (or worse, on major pubs’ blogs like Forbes.com or HBR.com or Money.com)?

Please, if you’re that kind of blogger/writer, back away from your computer and give some thought to what you’re about to write. Better yet, go find something relevant to write about. You’re making my brain hurt with this shit. Why are you even here? What are you doing? What value are you bringing to your industry? Stop. Go for a walk or a run or whatever, and think about what you should really be doing instead of throwing your very own personal turds at the same giant pile of turds everyone is already busy throwing their turds at. It’s big enough as it is. It’ll do just fine without your latest “contribution.”

An apology:

Even if my blog posts aren’t quite as awful as some, truth is that it’s been a while since I have contributed anything particularly intelligent or new or even special to our overall conversation. I woke up one morning and I realized I was just creating content, and it really turned me off from the whole thing. That break I just suggested, I took one. I’m not sure I’m really back yet, but I’m back today anyway, and I suppose that’s a start.

I don’t think I need to apologize for my physical absence since my last post on February 25. That was actually a good thing. What I do need to apologize for though, is my substantive absence since whenever the hell it was that I started posting “content” on this blog just to keep the wheels spinning. I let you guys down and I’m sorry. I didn’t mean for that to happen. I’m still trying to figure out exactly how I got sidetracked. Burnout maybe? Caught in the momentum of a flawed trajectory… Maybe it was a bunch of little things. I’ll give it some thought and let you know if I ever figure it out.

What comes next for this blog:

Moving forward, The BrandBuilder Blog will have no set editorial calendar. Maybe I publish something every day for a week, and maybe I don’t publish anything at all for a month. It will all depend on whether I have something relevant to share or even the time to share it. If I have nothing intelligent or pertinent to say, I won’t waste your time pretending that I do. Believe it or not, I don’t have awesome advice to give every damn day of the week. Most days, I’m just like everyone else: busy, confused, and filled with far more questions than answers. I don’t need to pretend that I am an expert or a guru… and though I hope to become an expert at something someday, I sure as shit don’t ever want to be a guru. Robes aren’t a good look for me.

So anyway, stay tuned. I’ll be back with more. Thanks for your patience.

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If you haven’t yet, pick up a copy of Social Media R.O.I.: Managing and Measuring Social Media Efforts in Your Organization. The book is 300 pages of facts and proven best practices to help you build, manage and properly measure your social media efforts against business objectives. (You can go to smroi.net and sample a free chapter.)

If English isn’t your first language, you can smROI is also available in Spanish, Japanese, German, Korean and Italian now, with more international editions on the way.

CEO-Read  –  Amazon.com  –  www.smroi.net  –  Barnes & Noble  –  Que

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During the Superbowl on Sunday, there was a little glitch with the lights. They went out. We’re talking blackout. Within minutes, Oreo released the above image across several key social media channels. Not Duracell, not Energizer, not G.E…. Oreo.

Clever. And it paid off for the brand.

Why was this a win? Four interwoven reasons: Velocity, relevance, wit and execution.

Wit, relevance and execution, most ad agencies can handle. Velocity, on the the other hand (generating ad-quality content and publishing it as meme-like social content), not so much. That’s still rare.

I want you to think about obstacles vs. enablement.

I want you to think about culture and operational agility.

Something like this doesn’t happen by accident. You have to have the right people in place, the right presence on key channels, the right support from management, the right kind of relationship with your community, and an eye towards real-time community management and content creation.

How many levels of approvals and sign-off do you think that image had to go through before getting the okay? Judging by the speed with which it appeared on the interwebs when the lights at the Superdome went out, not many. How did Oreo pull that off?

1. At some point, Oreo decided it needed a nimble, agile, self-sufficient social media team.

2. At some point, Oreo decided to trust that team to do its job without having to micromanage it.

Easier said than done? Sure. But only by fine margins. Want to guess what separates Oreo from other companies that haven’t been able to do this yet? They hired the right people.

Instead of assigning social media duties to some intern or the cheapest content creation team they could find, they made sure that the people running that piece of their digital business were witty, capable, professional people who understand brand voice, who understand their fans, and who understand how memes and social marketing work.

This happened because the right people were hired and then allowed to do their job.

We can talk about tools, we can talk about processes, we can talk about platforms, but Oreo’s real genius can be traced straight back to having the right people in place.

If you want to celebrate brand management and superbowl advertising secret sauce today, the two words you should keep in mind are velocity and competence.

 Here’s how they did it. (via Buzzfeed)

Whether or not this ultimately translates to business growth, well played, Oreo. Well played.

Let’s close with two simple graphs:

1. Immediate impact on Twitter:

(Feel free to compare this graph with those of every Super Bowl advertiser.)

Oreo tweets

2. Impact of Twitter on conversations about the Super Bowl:

Superbowl Tickr

See that enormous horizontal blue line up there? That’s the volume of Twitter mentions against Facebook, Instagram, blogs and news for the same time frame. [source]

Long term, platforms like Facebook, Youtube, and Instagram are probably stronger bets for stickiness and reach, but in terms of real-time impact (especially during events), Twitter matters. It matters a lot.

PS: You’ll want to read this too. (Real-time marketing) by David Armano.

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If you’re interested in how to make something like that happen, then convert that attention into real sales, pick up a copy of Social Media R.O.I.: Managing and Measuring Social Media Efforts in Your Organization. The book is 300 pages of facts and proven best practices that explain how to do what Oreo just did – and then some. (Go to smroi.net to sample a free chapter first, just to make sure it’s worth the money.)

And if English isn’t your first language, you can even get it in Spanish, Japanese, German, Korean and Italian now, with more international editions on the way.

CEO-Read  –  Amazon.com  –  www.smroi.net  –  Barnes & Noble  –  Que

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You know how legitimate social business case studies are sometimes hard to come by? Well, Tickr (client) is looking to remedy that with a little contest for the next two months. And the deal only gets sweeter from here. In their own words:

The rules are simple: You sign up, we grant you access to Command Center for a little while, and you submit a cool little case study by March 15, 2013. Whoever comes up with the best case study in each of three categories listed below will win a year’s free access to Command Center, bragging rights, and maybe even a little extra swag. 

The three categories of entries are:

    • For-profit
    • Non-profit
    • Journalism

The case study doesn’t have to be centered on Command Center, but it has to show how you used Command Center to do something. (Read more about that here.)

What’s in it for you?

  1. Free Beta: You get to beta-test the pro version of Command Center for free. (Usually, the free trial version is a throttled-down version. Not this time. You get to use the real thing.)
  2. Case Study Support: Tickr will help you build your case study. I’ve agreed to help out as much as possible, so if you need help with formatting, measurement, process, strategy, etc., it’s likely that I will be assisting you in some way. If you’ve ever wanted to work with me on something, it won’t be exactly like that, but it’ll be close. I only have so many available hours in my day, but I’ll do what I can to help.
  3. Eyeballs, Eyeballs, Eyeballs: If you want to draw a lot of attention to a project, cause or campaign that you’re working on, this contest will be a good way to do that. Solid case studies collected as a result of this contest (whether they win anything or not) will get a lot of mileage out of this.
  4. Street Cred: Impress the world with your social business savvy. Whether you are looking to impress your boss, your peers, your rivals or recruiters is up to you. Just give us your best, show us something real and valuable and clever, and you will be amazed how much you and your project will get out of the process.

Agencies, brands, small organization, big organization, journalism students, consultants, newbies, veterans: all are welcome. The more varied the contestants the better. You can create a completely new project/case study specifically for this contest or you can incorporate the contest into something you are already working on. It’s 100% up to you.

To read a little more about the contest, click here.

To register for the contest, click here.

Note: Once you register, Tickr will send you all the info you need to get started. No strings attached and no obligations. If half-way through the process, you decide you don’t want to submit a case study, no one will hold that against you. The folks at Tickr will do whatever they can to make sure you get all the support you need though, so I hope everyone will complete the process.

My advice: Simple is good. Simple is easy. Simple often wins. This doesn’t have to be a huge time-suck unless you want it to be. It is something you can easily incorporate into your daily routine. The case study submission process amounts to filling out a submission form at the end of the contest. You can do more if you want (videos, presentations, white-papers, etc.), but you don’t have to. The contest is supposed to be really easy. The idea is to make your job easier, not harder. Keep that in mind.

Okay, that’s it. Pass it on, have fun, and let me know what you think of the new Command Center. (Here’s a 1-minute tour, by the way.)

This is going to be pretty cool. I can’t wait to see what you all come up with.

Cheers,

Olivier

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Looking for straight answers to real questions about value, process, planning, measurement, management and reporting in the social business space? pick up a copy of Social Media R.O.I.: Managing and Measuring Social Media Efforts in Your Organization. The book is 300 pages of facts and proven best practices. (Go to smroi.net to sample a free chapter first, just to make sure it’s worth the money.)

And if English isn’t your first language, you can even get it in Spanish, Japanese, German, Korean and Italian now, with more international editions on the way.

CEO-Read  –  Amazon.com  –  www.smroi.net  –  Barnes & Noble  –  Que

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 FGS

Facebook Graph Search explained in 15 seconds. It’s really simple. Ready?

Think search your community/network instead of search the web.

That’s all it is.

If that doesn’t work for you, think about search in terms of degrees of separation. Remember David Armano’s influence ripples? Imagine search working the same way. It’s basically search coupled with social relevance.

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If that still doesn’t work for you, here’s Zuck:

ZuckAlso check out Christopher Penn’s insights here. (Relevant to marketing, digital and bizdev pros.)

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Looking for straight answers to real questions about value, process, planning, measurement, management and reporting in the social business space? pick up a copy of Social Media R.O.I.: Managing and Measuring Social Media Efforts in Your Organization. The book is 300 pages of facts and proven best practices. (Go to smroi.net to sample a free chapter first, just to make sure it’s worth the money.)

And if English isn’t your first language, you can even get it in Spanish, Japanese, German, Korean and Italian now, with more international editions on the way.

CEO-Read  –  Amazon.com  –  www.smroi.net  –  Barnes & Noble  –  Que

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Since everyone is rolling our their predictions for 2013, here’s mine. Don’t worry, it isn’t that 2013 will be the year of mobile or Social TV, or that social media “experts” will finally figure out what R.O.I. actually means. (They won’t. They don’t want to.) I have only one prediction for you, and it’s basically this: there is a very good chance that 12 months from now, we will learn that 90% of CEOs have lost faith in marketers.

It should be said that there are tons of solid professionals in Marketing professions, and they will continue to do great work – ethical work – and kick ass. They will solve problems, innovate and teach to others what they’ve learned. Their work and real success will drive everyone forward. Look for new knowledge, new methods and new insights. Real ones. Also look for new software, platforms and products they will have helped design or improve that will help you get more done. You already know who these people are. Even if you’ve never met them, you know who they are inside of five minutes when you hear them talk or watch them work. You know the real deal when you see it.

But the flip side is that the same hacks and posers who faked it all through 2012 and 2011 and 2010 and 2009 and 2008 will continue to lie and sell bullshit in 2013. Why? Because it’s easier. Because they’ve gotten a free pass so far. Because there’s good money to be made, selling bullshit. Because there’s a business model behind it and an “industry” to drive it, complete with metrics and equations and conferences and publishers all lining up to make their buck off confused senior managers with budgets to burn. There’s no incentive for any of this to stop. None. Nobody who has spent the last five years selling bullshit and building a personal brand around it is going to wake up tomorrow and have an epiphany. They know what they’re doing. They’ve been doing it long enough. If they had a conscience or an ounce of professional responsibility, they wouldn’t have chosen that path. They won’t “self-deport” from their trajectory of made-up success and industry status. Not until the speaker invitations and the money dry up. We’ll have to wait until they get fired or move on to the next scam.

So here we are then: 2013. What’s changed? Nothing. As long as there are people who want to believe that President Barack Obama’s birth certificate is fake, there will be people who will want to believe that the “I” in social media ROI stands for influence or interest or insights. As long as some people want to believe that more guns in schools will solve gun violence in schools, there will be people who will want to believe that likes and followers are legitimate measures of brand awareness. As long as some people want to believe that the Earth is only 5,000 years old and came preheated and ready-to-serve, there will be some people who will believe whatever nonsense you want to sell them. An equation. An algorithm. A methodology. A marketing religion. A measurement scheme. It won’t matter that it makes no logical sense, that it is mathematically incorrect, that it is a complete fabrication. It will still sell.

Fact is that if you are willing to lie your ass off, there are people out there who will believe you. Tons of them. Out of stupidity, out of laziness, out of sheer incompetence, it doesn’t matter. They won’t bother to fact-check. They’ll buy the lie, hook, line and sinker, because they don’t know any better, or don’t care, or just don’t want to do the work. If you can sell them something that will deliver good metrics to their bosses with minimal effort or risk from them, you will find eager clients in these people. It’s a simple business arrangement: They need to score that next bonus or promotion. The next case study they publish might even be their ticket to a better job. Sell them a product or vehicle that will make that happen and you’re in. And as long as nobody complains, everybody wins, right?

Well no. The only people who win are the hacks who betrayed the trust of those they ought not have taken advantage of in the first place. The companies that get defrauded don’t win. At all. Their CEOs sure as hell don’t win either. And that’s the rub: every time a social media director or a CMO or a digital consultant repackages a pile of bullshit into a “win” for the executive suite, the already fragile trust between marketers and CEOs further erodes.

For some insights into how bad things are and why, check out this study of the current state of social business. Here are a few takeaways: Only 5% of organizations are highly satisfied with their social media programs. Most of them don’t even have the right goals in place. Almost 40% of social media managers surveyed don’t think that measuring the success of their programs is even important. A business background is only important to 3% of organizations in considering a social media hire.

No wonder hardly anyone in social media understand the first thing about how to measure ROI properly or effectively deploy a social business program across an organization. It’s a shambles. A house of cards. I’ve never seen anything like it.

If you have the time, go to some of the big social media conferences this year and listen to all of the awesome success stories being sold there. Let yourselves be convinced that most companies out there aren’t failing miserably in the social space. Ignore the fact that most of their monitoring practices are operationally disconnected from the rest of their organization, that their “engagement” strategy has slipped into flacid 3rd party content schemes that might as well have been devised by SEO robots, that the connection between social activity and business results is still at best a muddled abstraction, that most brand managers still don’t know that a chunk of the likes and followers they paid digital agencies to acquire for them are fake, or even that the guy they just hired to run their social media program emails and DMs me three times a day to ask me questions someone getting paid what they get paid to do the job they lied about being qualified for shouldn’t be asking in the first place.

Let’s keep pretending that everything’s fine and that those of us who shake our heads at damage being done by the social media guru industry year after year are wrong for demanding more than this giant stinking heap of bullshit.

Here it is again: Only 5% of organizations are highly satisfied with their social media programs80% of CEOs no longer trust marketing professionalsA year ago, that number was 70%.

So welcome to 2012, part 2: Bullshit vs. the real deal. Same people on either side of that divide. The tools have gotten better but no other progress has been made. The cause behind this industry-wide fiasco will be the same in 2013 as it was in 2012, and it boils down to a simple word: choice. We all choose to either know our shit or fake it. We all choose to do the work or pretend to. We all choose to report adequately on what is working and what isn’t, or just select pointless KPIs we can easily manipulate to tell the story we want to tell. None of our choices have changed, and none of us have changed either. In spite of all of our new year’s resolutions, we’re still the same people we were in 2012, and for a lot of organizations, that’s a serious problem.

So what will happen this year? Maybe nothing. Or maybe I’m wrong and things will turn around. Maybe a bunch of social media gurus will retire or go find something else to do with their time. Maybe this will be the year when they finally start to lose traction. We’ll see. I won’t hold my breath, but we’ll see. Looking around though, I won’t be surprised if 12 months from now, a study comes out reporting that 90% of CEOs don’t trust marketers anymore. From 70% to 90% in just two years? Is that where we’re headed? There’s a good chance, yeah. And that really bothers me.

I am usually pretty full of ideas, but I have to admit that this time, I am stumped. I have no clue how to fix this.

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I’m also blogging over on the Tickr blog these days too, so if you want more stats, facts, infographics, insights and less opinion, go check it out. You won’t miss the bite, I promise.

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And as always, if you are tired of bullshit and just want straight answers to real questions about value, process, planning, measurement, management and reporting in the social business space, pick up a copy of Social Media R.O.I.: Managing and Measuring Social Media Efforts in Your Organization. The book is 300 pages of facts and proven best practices. (Go to smroi.net to sample a free chapter first, just to make sure it’s worth the money.)

And if English isn’t your first language, you can even get it in Spanish, Japanese, German, Korean and Italian now, with more international editions on the way.

CEO-Read  –  Amazon.com  –  www.smroi.net  –  Barnes & Noble  –  Que

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You can actually do the work, or you can fake it and try to make an easy buck. It doesn’t matter what industry or profession you’re in. Athletes cheat. Accountant cut corners. Political consultants adjust poll numbers. Teachers hire surrogates to take their certifications for them. And yes, social media gurus make up magic equations that promise to measure everything from ROI to the value of a like.

We are surrounded by people who have chosen to make bullshit their vehicle of “success.”

Why? Because it’s easier than doing the work. Because it’s a faster path to revenue. Because for every executive or fan or client who sees bullshit or bad science for what they are, there are two or three who won’t know any better and will gladly pay for the next “big” thing.

Selling bullshit isn’t any different from selling anything else: at its core, it’s just a numbers game. You don’t have to sell to everyone. You won’t. You just have to sell to enough people who don’t know better and you will make a living. If you care more about positive cash flow than your reputation, about your next bonus or potential book deal than professional responsibility, about appearing to build value than actually providing any, then you can do pretty well selling complete crap.

Welcome to the world of gurus, of cult leaders, of chief tribe strategists.

About once or twice a year, I run into an example of social media bullshit that I find worthy of sharing with you on this blog. Sometimes, it’s a egregious money-making scheme whose sole intent is to prey on desperate, gullible, underemployed would-be “consultants” looking for an easy in to the “social media expert” space. Sometimes, it’s just bad science – a lousy equation or even a poorly conceived (insert acronym here) “calculator” whose authors didn’t really take the time to test and submit to any kind of legitimate peer review. Assumptions were made. Corners were cut. The whole thing was rushed.

I want to stress that not all social media gurus and self-professed digital experts are out to rip you off or sneak a sordid scheme past your bullshit detector. Many are just scam artists, but many are not. Sometimes, bad science just happens. Bad math, silly equations, erroneous reporting and made-up acronyms don’t get chucked into the FAIL pile because their author didn’t really know any better. Because they didn’t take the time to really put their own work to the test. They weren’t diligent with the proofing and peer review part of their experiment. Whether it’s laziness, incompetence, distraction, convenience or denial is for you to decide. All I know is that regardless of intent or reason, bad math is still bad math, and bad science is still bad science, and none of that ads net positive outcomes for those of us trying to make things work better in the social business space.

Today’s example illustrates how easily this sort of thing can happen. And before I get into the meat of it, let me just say that this post is in no way meant to be a bashing of Dan Zarrella. I’m sure he is very knowledgeable and supremely competent in a number of areas. I don’t know Dan. We’ve never worked on a project together. I have no idea who he is or what he does other than that he works for HubSpot. So what I am sharing here today isn’t meant as an attack on his character or competence or on whatever HubSpot is selling with this VOAL “model.” I just want to show you how easily business measurement nonsense can become “legitimized” by leveraging and combining personal brands, trusted publishing channels, market confusion, and the absence of a legitimate academic peer review process in the publishing of mathematical and measurement models anymore.

So before some of you jump on me for criticizing your best bud, stop. Breathe. Get some perspective. I’m not trying to hurt Dan or Hubspot. I am doing what someone around them should have done before this equation was published. This isn’t me bitching or making noise because I like the attention. This is me explaining something important and making sure that unsuspecting executives and decision-makers don’t fall for the latest flavor of bad social business measurement “science.” We’re never going to get out of this vicious cycle of “hey look at me, I invented a whole new social media equation” bullshit unless we have these kinds of discussions. We need to have them, even when they aren’t pleasant.

This industry is in desperate need of a serious dose of reality.  And if that sometimes comes with a swift kick to the balls, then sorry but that’s just what needs to happen.

An overview of the VOAL Equation:

This week, Dan Zarrella published a piece in the Harvard Business Review blog titled “How To Calculate The Value of a Like.” In it, he attempts to loosely equate the value of a like (VOAL) to ROI, then offers the following equation to calculate this so-called “value”:

The beauty of an equation like this is that virtually no one is going to take the time to try and make sense of it. Most marketing execs looking for a simple and easy way to calculate the ROI of their activities in digital channels will simply assume that the person behind the mathematical model is qualified and smart and competent. In fact, this was one of the argument provided by Dan on twitter yesterday when I questioned the equation.

For sport, we could dig into the equation itself. We could look at all of its components and determine whether they can be thrown into a bucket together, and through the alchemy of selective math, be twisted and bent into a legitimate measure of the value of a like. here’s how it breaks down:

L (Total Likes): The total number of audience members connected to your social media account. On Facebook, these are Likes of your page, and on Twitter, these are followers.

UpM (Unlikes-per-Month): The average number of fans who “unlike” your social network account each month. On Facebook, this is an “unlike,” and on Twitter, this is an “unfollow.”

LpD (Links-per-Day): The average number of times you’re posting links, and potentially converting links driven from your social media account. On Facebook, this is the number of posts you’re making, per day, that lead to a page on your website. On Twitter, this is the number of times, per day, you’re Tweeting these kinds of links.

C (Average Clicks): The average number of clicks on the links to your site you’re posting on your social media accounts.

CR (Conversion Rate): The average conversion rate of your website, from visit to sale or visit to lead. This can be an overall average, but for increased accuracy, use the conversion rate measured from traffic coming from the social network you’re calculating.

ACV (Average Conversion Value): The average value of each “conversion.” In this context, a “conversion” is the action you’ve used to measure CR for. It could be average sale price or average lead value. For increased accuracy, use the average conversion value of traffic coming from the specific social network.

If you went through the process of actually making sense of the equation, you would realize fairly quickly that because the ACV is a subjective value that can be pretty much anything you want it to be, the math can be bent to deliver any kind of “value” you want it to. You might also notice that for whatever reason, “unlikes” are measured monthly but likes are measured along an indeterminate timeline. You might also be driven to ask yourself why LpD (links per day) even needs to be part of this equation or why it is multiplied by 30 (days per month) when the clicks and likes are not.

Let me pause here. The point is that, already, the logic behind equation is already a mess.

What is wrong with this VOAL “model” (first sweep):

1. Its bits and pieces don’t make a whole lot of sense.  We have “total likes” up against “average clicks.” If we have total likes, why not also have total clicks? As an aside, what does one even have to do with the other? (Which brings me to item number 2…)

2. The relationship between the bits and pieces doesn’t make a lot of sense. Why are we multiplying net likes by links per day x30, then again by clicks divided by likes, then again by the conversion rate, and then again by (an admittedly subjective) conversion value? That’s a lot of multiplication. A x B x C x D  = LV? Really? That’s the model?

3. The cost of any of these activities is not taken into account anywhere. Tip: It’s hard to calculate the value of anything without factoring the cost somewhere in the equation. That’s a problem.

4. C = Average Clicks. Okay. Per day? Per month? Per day x 30? What am I even plugging into the equation? Not clear.

5. In what currency is the “value” of a like measured? Is this value a monthly value? An average value? An average monthly value? Is it even a $ value? Not clear. (Again.) What about offline transactions? What about transactions that can’t be measured by a last-click-attribution model? Are they divorced from the “value” of a like?

6. I see no metric for shares or comments. Another major oversight given the importance of sharing and commenting in regards to attention and propensity to click on a link or consider a purchase.

What else is wrong with this VOAL “model” (second pass, caffeinated this time):

For what little time we just wasted on this pointless exercise, we haven’t even touched on the more relevant aspects of why this equation fails to deliver a mathematical solution to the question of like value. Seven of them in particular:

1. A Facebook fan’s value (now called a like) is not the same as the cost of that fan’s acquisition. I bring this up because measuring the value of a like without taking into account the cost of that like makes the process null and void.

Also, give some thought to the difference between page likes (fans) and update/content (likes). What likes are we measuring again? Oh wait… here it is:

L (Total Likes): The total number of audience members connected to your social media account. On Facebook, these are Likes of your page, and on Twitter, these are followers.

So… the equation doesn’t measure those daily “little” likes. The ones that are attached to content and updates. To measure that kind of engagement on a Facebook page, the equation instead looks at clicks on posted links. But for some reason, it looks at average clicks, not net clicks.

????…

(Why? Your guess is as good as mine.)

No details on whether those are average daily clicks or average monthly clicks either. Could they be average hourly clicks x 24 x 30 x 12? No idea.

2. Since “likes” really stand for fans of a page, let’s talk about that: A Facebook fan’s value is relative to his or her purchasing habits (and/or influence on others’ purchasing habits). A like/fan is worth absolutely $0 unless that individual actually purchases something. Let’s start there.

If your intent is to measure fans/likes to transaction dollars attributable to your Facebook page, no need for a complicated VOAL equation. Save yourself the trouble and just measure inbound traffic from Facebook against online sales $. It will only speak to a last-click attribution model (a pretty limited way to measure the impact of a channel on sales if you ask me) but at least it will be much easier to measure and far more accurate than a bullshit equation that makes no sense at all. Then just divide your online sales from Facebook links by the number of fans/likes on your page, and voila. Done. It’s still a crap way to measure the average “value” of your Facebook fans/likes, but at least your math won’t be wrong.

3. Determining the average value of a fan may be interesting as a baseline for other measurements, but give some thought to the fact that each Facebook fan’s value is unique. One fan may engage with your content in a measurable way 300x per month but never spend a penny on your products. Another may engage with your content only on occasion but spend $3K per month on your products. Averaging your fans “value” won’t only give you a false sense of the relationship between likes and transactions, it will also obscure genuine lead generation and customer relationship development opportunities in a space that begs to be social. What’s the value to your business of averaging out net lead generation values again? None. If this is what you spend your time on, you might as well stop wasting your time on social channels.

4. A Facebook fan’s value is also likely to be very elastic. Some customers just have erratic purchasing habits. They might spend $3K with you one month and not buy from you again for a year. Depending on the size of your community and your type of business, this elasticity’s effect on that equation will drive you nuts and won’t help you make sense of what is going on with your Facebook strategy.

5. There is little correlation between a Facebook like and an actual transaction in the real world. (Maybe I should have started with that.)

6. Likes can be bought and/or manufactured, and often are, rendering this kind of equation (even if it made any sense at all) completely worthless. If you have no idea how many fake followers/fans/likes you have and try to measure VOAL you’re basically screwed. Have fun with that.

7. Once again, what about offline transactions? (What about any and all transaction behaviors that don’t neatly fall into a last-click-attribution model, for that matter?) The equation seems to completely ignore the relationship between Facebook fans/likes and offline sales. For most businesses, that’s going to be a tough pill to swallow.

And since I haven’t yet mentioned proxy sales structures (distribution channels, like Ford dealerships vs Ford’s brand pages, or Best Buy vs. HP for instance), maybe this is a good time to bring them up, because this “model” doesn’t address that either. At all. If I ask my local VW dealer to measure his page’s likes against his monthly car sales using Zarrella’s VOAL & digital conversion model, somebody is going to walk out of that discussion with serious hypertension, and a social media manager somewhere is going to be out of a job.

(If you still need convincing, click here for a more in depth discussion.)

Bad Math in Action: Try the VOAL Equation for yourself.

If you can’t make heads or tails of Zarrella’s equation or my explanation, don’t worry. He has built a nice little website for you where you can just fill in the blanks and go see how it works for yourself. Here it is: www.valueofalike.com. Try it. I plugged in several of my clients’ numbers and according to the tool, the average value of their fans/likes seems to hover around $73,736.25.

Yes, you read that right: According to the site’s math, every additional 14 fans/likes I bring to their respective pages amounts to over $1,000,000.00 in value/potential revenue. (Over how long, nobody knows, though evidently, the average fan-customer spending $25/month with them has an lifespan of about 245 years.) My clients will be thrilled to hear all about that. Maybe I should start charging more for my services.

In the meantime, check your numbers against the math and see if you get more accurate results than I did. Maybe I did it wrong. I’ve been known to be wrong before, so it’s possible. Or maybe the calculator is off somehow. That’s possible too. Or am I just missing something? Was I supposed to move a decimal point over at some point?  I’ll try to do this using the long form of the equation later, just to see if I can make it work. Or maybe not. I don’t really care anymore. This whole thing is so stupid, pointless and overly complicated that it’s giving me a genuine headache.

We get it. It doesn’t work. Now what?

Let me share four final things with you and we can all get back to work:

1. If all you are looking to do is determine the average value of a fan/like in the context of a last-click attribution model (linking a transaction to the last link someone clicked on to get to your site before pressing “buy”), then just add up sales $ resulting from inbound traffic from Facebook and divide that by the number of fans/likes on your page. That will tell you the average value of a fan/like – which is to say it won’t really tell you a whole lot but at least you’ll be done in under a minute instead of spending ten minutes filling the blanks of Zarrella’s VOAL equation, and then another week trying to figure out why your numbers look so weird. Bonus: It will be just as useless, but it’ll be so quick that you’ll have more time to get back to doing real work.

Also, if you want to measure the ROI of your Facebook activity, you’ll have to work a little harder at it, but item 3 on this list ought to give you a few simple guidelines that will get you on the right track. What’s nice about it is that my example focuses mostly on linking offline (brick and mortar) transactions to channel activity, and that’s actually harder than linking digital activity to digital transactions. So have fun with it and I’ll be glad to answer any questions.

2. Because Zarrella’s article was published via the Harvard Business Review’s blog, scores of people won’t think to question it. The fact that he works for Hubspot (a reputable company) makes the equation seem that much more legitimate. And because it looks complicated as hell, who is going to take the time to figure out if it actually works (or how)? Nobody.

In other words, the assumption of competence on the part of the author (a) the perceived complexity of the equation itself (b) and the assumption of an editorial review process on the side of the publisher (c) will combine to ease readers into assuming that the contents of that article are solid. This is why we can’t have nice things.

Too many assumptions, not enough fact-checking. Again.

Shame on HBR for not making sure that what they publish has been verified, by the way. It isn’t the first time something like this has slipped through their editorial review process (assuming there even is one). Remember this gem?

Tip: Next time someone tells you they’ve invented a metric, run. Seriously. Turn around and start hoofing it.

3. I spent a little time explaining to Dan on Twitter how to actually measure the value of channels as they relate to actual sales, so you might want to check that out. (Feel free to skip the initial petty bickering and scroll straight to the process I outline in the example.) There are two versions of that exchange for you to pick from:

Rick Stillwell’s capture (go say hello) and Paul Shapiro’s capture (both unfortunately miss a few of our wittier exchanges, but that’s okay. The process part of it is far more important.) That method can be replicated by small and mid-sized businesses with little to no access to social media management tools like Radian 6, by the way. It takes a little work, but it’s simple. And yes, simple works. if you need more details on it, I talk about it in Social Media ROI.

4. Dan and HubSpot: Let me extend the following invitation. If you are serious about building a channel and fan/follower measurement model that actually works online and offline and will bring value to organizations you work with, I will gladly help. I can show you how to do this and how not to do it too. Get in touch if you want to. Or don’t. Totally your call.

For everyone else, also check out this piece by Zachary Chastain on Thought Labs. He gets to the point a lot faster than I do, and with far less bite. And also Sean Golliher’s brilliant piece, which outlines further problems with Zarrella’s VOAL model.

And if you’ve noticed that my writing has been scarce here lately, it’s because I have been writing about digital command centers and real-time social business intelligence over on the Tickr blog. No worries, I’m still here, but I have to split my time between both blogs right now. New project with exciting developments coming very soon, so stay tuned. (And go check it out.)

Until next time, have a great day. 🙂

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Not to take advantage of bad science to sell books, but since I go over real measurement methodology vs. bogus social media “measurement” in  Social Media R.O.I.: Managing and Measuring Social Media Efforts in Your Organization, it’s worth a mention. If you are tired of bullshit and just want straight answers to real questions about value, process, planning, measurement, management and reporting in the social business space, pick up a copy. The book is 300 pages of facts and proven best practices. You can read a free chapter and decide for yourself if it’s worth the money (go to smroi.net).

And if English isn’t your first language, you can even get it in Spanish, Japanese, German, Korean and Italian now, with more international editions on the way.

CEO-Read  –  Amazon.com  –  www.smroi.net  –  Barnes & Noble  –  Que

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