Originally published on Michael Brito’s blog Britopian.

Recently, the good folks over at Lithium hosted a dinner to honor Dr. Michael Wu and the release of his book, The Science of Social: Beyond Hype, Likes & Followers. I was like the ugly guy in high school that went to the prom without a date — I was just happy to be there.

I was surrounded by some super smart industry influencers — Paul GreenbergSameer PatelMark FidelmanBrian VellmureChris CarfiSean O’DriscollSean McDonaldTodd ShimizuSusan EtlingerEsteban Kolsky,Kare Christine AndersonBecky CarrollSteve FarnsworthCharlie IsaacsBrian BlauChristine Crandell and of course the wonderful team at Lithium – Lyle FongKaty KeimDan Ziman and Erin Korogodsky.

Here is my attempt at reviewing Dr. Wu’s book, The Science of Social.

Chapter 1: The Science of Social

The first chapter is really about a brand needing a deep commitment to community building. Dr. Wu starts of the chapter highlighting 7 myths:

  • Myth 1 – Being there is enough: a brand needs to do more than just “be there” for the sake of “being there”. Community building is a commitment to listen, to engage, to act – just like a marriage.
  • Myth 2 – Social channels are an opportunity to broadcast direct, outbound marketing campaigns to a massive audience: most brands start off with this mindset but learn really fast that broadcasting marketing messages is grounds for community abandonment, lack of trust, and complete failure in social media.
  • Myth 3 – OMG, going social means I have to make every customer my BFF: finding a small set of “superfans” or advocates is the key to driving community growth and meaningful conversations.
  • Myth 4 – I am the authority on my company, products and services: the recent issues with Netflix, Bank of America and Verizon Wireless prove this time and time again to be false.
  • Myth 5 – If we go social, we must be on every channel: brands need to be smart and prepared to scale before they create a multitude of social channels. Listening to the online conversation will help determine which networks a brand should spend time in.
  • Myth 6 – Influencer campaigns don’t work: they do work if they are a part of a meaningful community
  • Myth 7 – Social media are all the same: social media encompasses more than just Twitter and Facebook; and Dr. Wu breaks down the difference between communities and social networks.
Chapter 2: Warning to toe-dippers: Being online ≠ going social

This chapter is about cultivating superfans and influence. Much of this chapter explores what makes superfans tick; and the underlying nature of influence, trust and relationships. According to Wu, superfans account for 1 – 2% of the community and can create real business value:

  • Lower support costs by answering questions from the community
  • Helps a brand scale and manage a multitude of fans
  • Helps with marketing because superfans will serve as evangelists and tell others
  • Contribute to ideation, co-creation and constructive feedback
  • Spend time with the brand, in the community (essentially becoming the brand)
  • Generate content on the site (articles, tutorials, Q&As)
  • Quantify ROI

Dr. Wu continues to analyze the 1% (or superfans) and examines their behaviors, the way they interact, act and influence others to act. He then goes into detail about the six factors of influence:

  • Domain Credibility
  • High Bandwidth
  • Content Relevance
  • Timing Relevance
  • Channel Alignment
  • Target Confidence

And, he points out that it’s not enough for someone just to be popular. It’s not even enough to have a big, influential, talkative following. Someone who is truly influential for the brand needs to have all six factors listed above.

The chapter concludes on the basis of trust and Dr. Wu even cites Richard Edelman“Trust is no longer a commodity that is acquired but rather a benefit that is bestowed.”

Chapter 3: Cultivating Superfans & Influence

Chapter three is about gamification and motivation. The biggest takeaway for me was that people buy products and services.  But they crave experiences and that’s what gets them to come back time, and time and time again. Throughout this chapter and the entire book, Dr. Wu gives quick nuggets and case studies that validate his thinking.

What also stood out for me was the concept of motivation; and Dr. Wu’s explanation that the goal of dynamic gamification is to create lasting engagement. And, that the job of game mechanics is to reliably, predictably and repeatedly drive customer behavior.

Chapter 4: Gamification and Motivation

Chapter number four is about a deeply engaged community. This is where Dr. Wu starts to bring all the points from the previous chapters together in one cohesive thought process – the power of the 1%, what motivates them and the altruism principle.

Dr. Wu also illustrates the characteristics of a well designed community:

  • prioritizes and ranks good feedback
  • acknowledges the most useful contributions
  • allows anyone to earn a good reputation
  • awards privileges to community members who have provided value to others within the community (i.e. writing blog content, early visibility into new products, co-creation of products, processes, etc.)

On the contrary, Dr. Wu also illustrates the problems with siloed communities:

  • offers little incentive for members to engage with others
  • decreases overall participation levels
  • prevents the influx of superfans

This book was very enjoyable to read. It’s full of insights, wisdom and key learnings that will help marketers, support professionals, executives or anyone else wanting to learn how to create meaningful communities on the social web. Dr. Wu is the ONE social media scientist and yet too humble of a man to even admit it, much less put it in his Twitter bio.

I highly recommend reading this book.

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