CNN Senior Executive Producer
It’s going to be hard to keep your eyes off the photo in this piece. But the story of a construction worker’s thumb impaled by an 8 inch serrated blade provides me with a weapon in my final 50 days before turning 50. The weapon might be valuable as I battle those who plan to kick me out of the 18-49 year old audience demographic. Don’t worry, I won’t use the blade.
What Would You Do?
The story of the saw in the thumb was shared at a CNN editorial meeting by one of the most popular leaders in the field of internet social networking. His name is Chris Brogan.
Brogan has more than 106-THOUSAND followers on Twitter (you’re all invited to lunch at his place.)
He was at CNN to explain how companies like ours can enlarge our audience and build trust through social networking.
I had one question for Brogan. So many of us on Facebook, Twitter, and similar networks, find ourselves swamped with inane thoughts, often from very bright people. We’re losing faith in social networking. We’re tempted to tune out.
That’s when Brogan brought up a new phenomenon called velvet rope networks – which are evolving as we speak. They’re designed to address this very problem of - let me coin a term here – FACEBOOK FATIGUE. (Oh – too late – I just Googled “facebook fatigue” and got 70,500 hits.)
The Velvet Rope Network
Brogan defines a velvet rope network as: “… a social network that has a bit of a gate on who would enter, who would participate, and what matters to the people inside.”
One example he pointed to is www.sermo.com, which is a doctors’ only web site with more than 110,000 members. You have to be a practicing physician to get past the velvet rope at Sermo. It’s a place for doctors to brainstorm, get input from qualified colleagues, and solve urgent problems like the one posted by a member when that patient showed up with a saw through his thumb.
Before we address the thumb problem, let me say, 110-thousand doctors is a heck of an audience. They are what the marketing people now call influencers - people to whom others turn for trusted advice.
By their very nature though, the population of velvet rope networks and the influencers within them, are more limited than the mass audiences advertisers have generally sought out.
That’s where Chris Brogan brings in the concept that drives his strategy and that of others in his field: Yield. It would be nice if we could have a precise formula: One influencer yields xx other members of an audience or customers. 1 influencer = xx couch potatoes. But there are no formulas yet. Only a growing acceptance that influencers produce a superior yield.
We also know that influencers often GAIN influence in their 50s. (At least I hope so.)
In fact I was THRILLED to hear the average age of Sermo’s membership: 46. Put THAT in your pipe Madison Avenue.
As for the saw in the thumb, the most popular answer from the 78 Sermo members who responded was basically: get thee to a hand surgeon. But the most novel approach was submitted by an emergency medicine physician who said he “has seen this before.” Here’s an excerpt:
“Cut flattened straw end in a “V” point. Open and flatten straw with concave side against blade and slide it through wound. Grasp both ends of straw which is now through wound with saw blade. Pulling in direction of saw teeth and with pressure toward the base of thumb, slide the staw dorsally and proximally until it encircles or covers the blade teeth.”
It goes into much more detail. And I’m confident the next time I try it, I’ll succeed.
It may be that the doctor who recommended that straw procedure slept at a Holiday Inn Express the night before.
But that’s OK.
He’s a real MD.
And MD’s are very valuable members of an audience, even if they’re older than 49.