March 12, 2013

The Commons Revolution

The Commons Revolution on Atlantic BT

Commons Revolution Is Happening, You In?

There is a “consumption revolution” going on and it will NOT be televised. Friends including @MarkTraphagen, @1918 (Phil Buckley), @DavidAmerland, @SergeAndrianov Gregory Esau (@VevoRevo) (and others) and I have been nibbling at this cracker for weeks on Google Plus. Yesterday I wrote Why Your Klout Score Matters and the Idea of the Commons fell into place. Thanks to my growing FOM (Friends of Martin’s) army for contributing to our journey. Your guys ROCK!


The Idea of the Commons

This post defines The Idea of the Commons and will be followed over the next few days with definitions for component parts including: The Ask, The Give and The Share.

The Internet Commons Defined

Before jumping into the Internet commons let’s share the Wikipedia definition of a traditional commons:

Traditional Commons
Refers to cultural and natural resources accessible to all members of a society, including natural materials such as air, water, and a habitable earth. These resources are held in common, not owned privately. The resources held in common can include everything from natural resources and common land to software.
The commons contains public and private property, over which people have certain traditional rights. When commonly held property is transformed into private property this process alternatively is termed “enclosure” or more commonly, “privatization.” A person who has a right in, or over, common land jointly with another or others is called a commoner.

What is the web but one huge “common” where “rights” or “best practices” are becoming established almost as we write? “Established” is too strong a word since any guidelines will flex, breathe and change as fluttering memes, cultural ideas we understand, interact with, pass on and change.

Once your company, brand, product or service is online you are part of the Internet Commons.

Once online you’ve made a contribution. You may seek support (links, likes and shares). Presence says you and your website understand the give and take, support and share guidelines of the Idea of the Internet Commons. Try to game the commons, steal or betray and your website will be dealt with harshly. Even if your website simply talks or creates more than it listens your Internet marketing will not produce desired results. Ignorance of stated or unstated guidelines is no defense (sorry).

Unique Customer Aspirations (UCAs)

I was trained to think about marketing in terms of Unique Value Propositions (UVPs) and Unique Selling Propositions (USPs). These ideas remain important, but, by themselves,  are too solipsistic now. Internet marketing is NOT about talking to yourself about yourself.

Internet marketing in our post-social Connection Economy is form from conversational give and take. We need to add an organizing idea that speaks to our union with visitors, customers and advocates. We need to understand and include our customers’ Unique Customer Aspirations (UCAs). UCAs are how our marketing speaks to and supports our customer’s aspirations and resolves their pain points.

ScentTrail Marketing Unique Customer Aspirations

(ScentTrail = my blog)

  • Share relevant experiences to help visitors, members, readers and ScentTrail Marketing advocates understand Internet marketing better, become more efficient in their campaigns, make more money (or other forms of web currencies such as traffic, larger subscription lists and increased Google-Juice) and have fun as we learn together.
  • Create a community, a commons, where rising tides created from the increasing scale of the commons lifts all whose Internet marketing boats dock with us even for a short time.

Once you know your Unique Customer Aspirations (UCAs) creating building blocks such as websites, social profiles and campaigns is easier and guided by an “umbrella” idea, an archetype. When in doubt check a campaign or activity against your Unique Customer Aspirations. If the Internet marketing you contemplate contributes do it, if not don’t.

Unique Curator Goals (UCGs)

Don’t forget to define your personal and company aspirations too. What are your Unique Curator Goals (UCGs). My Unique Curator Goals for ScentTrail Marketing are:

  • Learn from an assortment of friends, gurus and experts located around the world and be appreciative and generous to those working so hard to educate me and other Internet marketers.
  • Grow my thinking, empathy and vision in ever increasingly faster cycles since time is short and there is much to accomplish.
  • Create a team of FOMs (Friends of Martins) who can be counted on to contribute to the commons and who will appreciate and support my contributions, as I do theirs.

Talk Too Much graphic on The Idea of the Commons on Atlantic BT blog

Common Mistake: Talking Too Much

When I created (now RIP) in 1999 my first website could afford to be one sided, more talk than listen. Today your website must be open and social to survive and thrive. Here are things that make a website “open” and “social”:

  • * Easy to add comments or other User Generated Content (polls, games, etc.).
  • * Easy to support what you like with reviews, Likes or social shares.
  • * Easy to find, copy and pin graphics about the website.
  • * Easy to subscribe.

There is more, but you see the trend. Make it EASY to join, contribute, interact with, mashup, find “like me” members and reinforce, at every turn, how your website is a shared commons. Good rule to apply to your Web 3.0 social website riding on the connection economy is LISTEN and CURATE more than you TALK or CREATE. The way you treat YOUR website will be how visitors and advocates assume you will treat the commons and by extension THEM.

Everything Is In The Commons Now

Nothing you do is isolated from the commons. Best Buy recently killed their Results Only Work Environment (ROWE) as their new CEO cracks the whip and lowers the boom on employees. That was a mistake (discussed on the Revolutions on here). How CEO Herbert Joly treats his employees will be seen as how his company will treat US (customers and advocates).

If your company is highly secretive, views customer interactions as painful and turns to lawyers to define relationships you will have trouble with The Idea of the Commons (and good luck with such an “un-common” approach). Drug companies remain well behind other business verticals online. Their lawyers run half of their Internet marketing. Drug companies are always too little and too late to form an effective commons so drug company websites have trouble scaling a tribe of supporters.

Drug company websites violate the “give and take” rule of the commons since they mostly GIVE and fear the TAKE (they fear User Generated Content and questions since any answer would need to be checked with a lawyer first, good luck with that approach).

The Idea of the Commons Guidelines:

  • Generous and kind work better than stingy and mean.
  • Open and honest work better than cloaked and manipulative.
  • Remember Newton’s 3rd Law: for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.
  • Everything is in the commons and the commons can be as small as 2 and as large as infinity.

This last bullet deserves explanation. Writing Why Your Klout Score Matters for ScentTrail Marketing I realized Atlantic BT and I created a commons. I contributed social status as they contributed their high PageRank, website and blog. The commons is a “sum is greater than the parts” idea. By being very CAREFUL about how we supported each other we avoided spamming. That last sentence will confuse people new to Internet marketing.

If you link to yourself too much Google views those links as spam.

Even if you have separate websites Google’s algorithm knows they are all you. I tried to play the random IP inter-linking game and it is impossible. Eventually a pattern forms because humans are incapable of “random”, so Google’s math always wins. When Atlantic BT and I formed a commons we contributed into a third space, a new space capable of supporting each other and making Google happy (always a good idea).

The Commons Graphic from Atlantic BT Blog

The “commons” was formed from the combination of our inputs and legitimized when OTHERS linked in and contributed. Have you noticed I rarely ReTweet @Atlanticbt tweets on@ScentTrail? Google and Twitter know I work both accounts. I may share the same information at the same time, but I rarely ReTweet between the two since to do so is spamming and could get one or both accounts thrown in Twitter or Google “jail”, a place you never want to go since getting out is HARD (trust me).

By contributing to a commons Atlantic BT and I avoided spamming, created a new third thing that included others and became powerful enough to generate a rising tide. Did it work? YES, as the gain in Klout score chart below from Why Your Klout Score Matters illustrates: **

Why Your Klout Score Matters Use Case Study by Atlantic BT and @ScentTrail graphic

Practical Application of The Commons

This all sounds so philosophical it may feel remote and removed from the daily grind of ecommerce or B2B marketing. The commons is important and relevant for all Internet marketing. Let’s examine how a B2C Ecommerce website and B2B lead generation content marketing website can generate greater Return On Investment (ROI) by using the Idea of the Commons.

B2C Commons Use Case
Most ecom websites have reviews, an example of User Generated Content (UGC) contributed to the commons. Some also have “review the reviewer” grades with special awards attached to reviewers who are seen as valuable by readers. These are both GREAT ideas, ideas sure to increase ecommerce conversion and bring “the commons” to a website.

What if your ecommerce website went a step further and allowed a handful of trusted reviewers to consolidate reviews from other websites onto their profile page on your website? Reviewers have reviews all over, so offering the ability to consolidate reviews on a single profile page provides a commons for the reviewer and for reviews.

If a top reviewer has 10 products in their review archive your ecom site doesn’t sell then watch the click traffic on those products to determine if you should sell them. Let’s say some of the reviews are for products your ecom site will never sell. Any ecommerce website can easily “sell” the click via affiliate programs and other “pay for conversion” ideas. Even when your website will never sell the products you can SELL THE INFORMATION (and the profit margin on selling information as Amazon proves is wonderfully HIGH).

This cycle of helping others as you too are helped happens all the time when thinking about the commons. The more you help the more help comes to you and so on to infinity. The old Beatles saying is true, “You get the love you make” or something like that (lol).

B2B Commons Use Case
Can customers create or maintain a profile on your website? Why not? If your website is a commons why aren’t you sharing your Google juice and link love with customers who are helping to pay your bills? Return the favor and help pay their bills since one SEO hand can and should wash the other (just be careful about over optimization and too many fraternal links).

“Why would someone want to create a profile on our website?”

Never underestimate the value of the commons. If your website supports others with pages and links they will appreciate it and find ways to repay the “debt”. Break down proprietary thinking and understand the Idea of the Commons to take your Internet marketing to the next level.

More on how to build a commons and key features of The Idea of the Commons such as: The Ask, The Give and The Share soon.

** Note For ROI Police
Some ROI Police will jump up and down about Klout score not being an adequate metric for ROI. I would NEVER argue for such a singular allocation, but I would argue something that will drive the ROI Police equally crazy. This isn’t my first Internet marketing rodeo.

I’ve been doing this kind of thing long enough to know that we only need two consistent markers to know Internet marketing truth. Money FOLLOWS metrics like gains in Unique Visitors, conversions and yes your Klout score. Some companies and websites have the systems to know to the dime how much ROI gain was created (or they think they do and we will allow some to maintain illusions LOL).

If Atlantic BT’s Klout score was the ONLY metric up 272% it would be suspect, but when Klout is up along with unique visits, slight gains in time on site and pages viewed with Bounce rates not falling out of bed then a consistent mathematical story is being shared. Here is another thing that drives the ROI Police crazy. Could I deep dive all of this and do the proof? Sure and a week of my life would be lost. I don’t do that anymore. I don’t have that kind of time. TO the ROI Police I say catch up, keep up or get the heck out of the way (lol). My new motto.

Join The Commons Revolution:, Pinterest is a cool social media marketing tool I love. I added a new feed to my “Revolutions” feeds called The Commons Revolution. If you would like to be able to curate content into the feed email Martin.Smith(at) and I will add you to the feed.

The Commons Revolution on

The Revolutions On

Created a Commons board on Pinterest too (if you would like to contribute follow the board and we will add you in).

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