The Consumer Matters is the blog of Leslie Grandy, aka Gearhead Gal.  My passion is creating and delivering compelling products that delight customers through simple and elegant user experience design.

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Entries in social media (16)


Has Facebook Gone Too Far? New Consumer Research Tests Ethical Boundaries

In case you missed yesterday's headlines about Facebook's effort to redefine the relationship it has with their consumers - and the product they assume they are using - here is a sampling for you to review.

Facebook Tinkers With Users' Emotions in News Feed

Academics Question The Value Of Facebook’s Controversial Research

Facebook emotion study breached ethical guidelines

Facebook made users depressed in secret research: Site deleted positive comments from friends

These headlines about a previous year's research study sit eerily next to stories like this one from last winter.

Facebook used by cops to thwart George Washington Bridge suicide

And this one from around the same time, when the short days of winter and the holidays loom large.

Coroner warns of dangers of Facebook after student, 19, targeted by young women bullies online hanged himself.

In addition to the ethics questions this research raises, these stories made me want to go back and see what other things I have allowed Facebook to do in that ridiculous terms of service agreement I consented to before using the site. And it's not just the Facebook ToS, I want to go back and read the ToS of every cloud based service I use. The trouble is that even if I do read them, I still won't understand what defines some of the most essential terms, like "research" or "promotion", within them. Why? Because it is up to the individual brands to fill them with meaning, based upon how they are executed.

Another Facebook brand, Instagram, had its own controversy about its terms of service in late 2012 and early 2013, not long after Facebook researchers manipulated the feeds to test their theories on positive and negative posts. (Although Facebook's study occured in 2012, the results did not make it to a broadly published forum at the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in June of this year.)  Instagram's new policies, reported by the NY Times Bits Blog, state:

“You agree that a business or other entity may pay us to display your username, likeness, photos (along with any associated metadata), and/or actions you take, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you,” the new terms say. This means that photographs uploaded to Instagram could end up in an advertisement on the service or on Facebook.

The key takeaway here is that a brand chooses to define itself by accepting some boundaries and ignoring others.  The more we use a brand's products or services, even in the wake of this kind of revelation, the more we provide them our tacit approval to continue to gerrymander our relationship.


UPDATE on 7/1/14:

Watch this related NBC Nightly News Report on the topic of Terms of Service policies across our online services.


More Related Links:

Important lessons from the Instagram controversy

New figures reveal the photo sharing service Instagram has lost almost 50 per cent of its daily users in less than a month   

On Facebook, Likes Become Ads.



A Cartoon History of Social Networking


Who Really Has Influence?

There are a million ways to measure your influence across the social web. But it seems that being the Mayor of something or having a big Klout score really doesn't define us when we want something we can't have. 


5 ways social media will change your marketing plan

First published in iMedia Connection

Article Highlights:

  • Campaign ideas will be deconstructed into smaller, more digestible messages
  • Applications will continue to adapt to user behavior, leading to hyper-personalization
  • User-generated content will influence marketing strategy

Reputation and relationship management skills are foundational to architecting an effective customer development strategy for both B2B and B2C enterprises; this will be acutely true in 2011. No longer just the responsibility of a community manager, social communication will be integrated into service and support experiences, product, point of sale, and commerce solutions. Because official spokespeople are no longer the sole purveyors of your company's message, social channels can be counted on to accelerate and amplify the conversation between customers and brands. Look for the following trends to drive changes to integrated marketing plans in the year ahead... read more here


Favorite Tweets of the Day

@businessinsider iOS Is Half Of New Enterprise Mobile Activations

@greatestquotes "You just can't beat the person who won't give up." - Babe Ruth

Blogging is the democratization of publishing via @jeffbullas 

Fascinating piece by @: Identity and The Independent Web via @

Twitter CEO Dick Costolo On His "Technical Debt"

In this interview at the mini All Things Digital conference at CES, the Twitter CEO euphemistcally describes the "fail whale" and his plan to have us see it less.


The State Of The Blogosphere 

Over the last year, since I started this blog, I have learned a lot about social media. One thing I learned is how content syndication helps attract more eyeballs.  I set out to understand what syndication opportunities existed for nobodies like me, and one of the channels I discovered was Technorati. When I joined the team late last year, the company was looking for original content to maintain its SEO ranking and develop a robust advertising model. The serendipity of my timing helped me get exposure for my writing, and awareness for my blog, and helped Technorati adjust to Google's changing page rank algorithm and grow it's ad revenue.  

Like a lot of things in social media, the effort hasn't yet made either of us an abundance of wealth. That said, at least from where I sit, on balance it has been a win-win, which seems like a reasonable goal for activity on the new frontier of media. 

This year, Technorati's annual State of the Blogosphere report focuses on women who blog, like me. One "important trend is the influence of women and mom bloggers on the blogosphere, mainstream media, and brands. Their impact is perhaps felt most strongly by brands, as the women and mom blogger segment is the most likely of all to blog about brands." Hear here!

"In addition to conducting our blogger survey, we interviewed 15 of the most influential women in social media and the blogosphere," Technorati reports today in its introduction to the multi-part series. 

I am honored to be a part of the 15 women who Technorati deemed worthy of interviewing for this series, which I am told will be posted on Friday. In the meantime, you can access a great video interview with Charlene Li, a woman on the forefront of social media trends, whom I met when she was an analyst at Forrester. 

Read more:


US Army Soldiers Blog And Tell - And The Brass Encourages It!

This post first appeared on

As part of a campaign in the mid 1940’s to educate soldiers and their families on the perils of too much information sharing during wartime, the military issued communication guidelines for writing letters home, while public service ads proclaimed, “Loose Lips Sink Ships.”

With the reputation for non-disclosure that the US military has, it’s somewhat unexpected that the US Army represented one of the biggest brands exhibiting at BlogWorld & New Media Expo this month. But the US Army appears to have leap-frogged many familiar brands in corporate America by embracing user-generated content as a way to connect with and convert potential customers.
How did it come to be that the US Army designed a blog,, to actually encourage soldiers to tell their stories? According to Lieutenant Colonel Andre Dean, Chief of Strategic Communications for the US Army Accessions Command, which is responsible for recruitment, it was possible because of the vision of one very savvy Lieutenant General who knows a little something about taking risks.

General Freakley serves as the Commanding General for the U.S. Army Accessions Command and Senior Commander of Fort Knox. The General has served the Army for almost 35 years at every level of command from platoon leader through division commander. He has led Soldiers in combat three times, serving in Operation Desert Storm, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan). So, what kind of risk could conversational media present to a guy like this?

General Freakley did have to get an exception to Department of Defense policy to enable his team to launch the blog nearly three years ago. Lieutenant Colonel Dean pointed out the same need exists today as there was during World War 2 to keep the US military efforts confidential so soldiers in the field are safe. "Our troops don't want to jeopardize operations or put anyone in harm's way. Very few people have time or access to blog from the battlefield."

On leave, or when they are back at base-camp, soldiers may go online and share stories about their experiences. And Army Strong Stories is not limited to just Active Duty soldiers, and welcomes contributions from Reservists, National Guard members and cadets. Indeed, many of the top bloggers are not actively facing or writing about combat. Popular occupations for Army bloggers are public affairs, human resources and the Army band. The most prolific blogger is a Major in the Army Medical Department.

Blog stats

One frequent blogger is Major Benjamin Grimes of the Judge Advocate General, who is based in Tacoma, Washington. Major Grimes says he writes because “I really like what I do.” Struck by the transparency the blog provides, Major Grimes jumped at the opportunity to share both the good and bad about daily Army life. He is able to write about his disappointment in leadership and the responsibility that he feels to teach subordinate soldiers how to make tough choices. “Not every day is full of unicorns and rainbows,” he said. “By writing with Army Strong Stories, I help to give life and depth to many people’s image of a faceless, soulless Army.”

With over 1400 posts from more than 400 bloggers, and an additional 1300 comments to publish, you might imagine that the Army would have their hands full editing and fact-checking content, not to mention training soldiers fresh out of high school how to communicate effectively on behalf of the brand. But Lieutenant Colonel Dean says editorial work is limited to removing occasional content that doesn't comply with the site guidelines. "The biggest surprise has been that we have had to do very little of that. When we discover a story that is false we'll remove it, but for the most part the community polices itself."

Despite evidence that the site drives traffic to and brings fans to Facebook, it has yet to ignite a social media fire across other branches of the military. Lieutenant Colonel Dean says the Accessions Command team recognizes the blog isn't only about the conversion metrics for recruits and is committed for the long term. "When the war began seven years ago, there was a lot of positive press about what our troops were doing." But with media coverage focusing on the economic battles US citizens face back at home, soldiers' stories are simply not being told as often. Soldier bloggers fill that void, and help maintain top-of-mind awareness for the Army brand.


Marketing To Communities Of Interest

Fellow ex-Visio marketer, and Chief Innovation Officer at r2i, Holly Brown presented at the Social Media Breakfast on the challenges for marketers in a peer to peer world. Authentically engaging in relevant, real time conversations is job #1.




Favorite Tweets of The Day - Weekend Edition

RT @robertgorell: "Socializing on the Internet is to socializing as reality TV is to reality." ~Aaron Sorkin

RT @karaswisher: If George Lucas Directed “The Social Network”


More Mashup Momentum

The trend in mashups only seems to have picked up steam. Got this tip on  one of my favorites from Cool Hunting: Kanye West has close to a half million followers on Twitter, hanging onto every ridiculous Tweet. Inspired by his words, musical comedic group Paul and Storm had the idea to mash-up Kanye's Tweets with classic New Yorker cartoons, resulting in a genius collection of newfangled cartoons found on the website #kanyenewyorkertweets.



Will Consumers Be Better Than Broadcasters At Programming Online Video?

First published on Technorati June 22, 2010

Most days, the average Internet user curates a flood of content from multiple destinations into a patchwork of information, updates and insights that help them stay connected. It’s a lot of work to hunt, gather, personalize and sample all the content available, and even more if you are part of the growing percentage of consumers interested in watching video. Tubemogul reports Web media brands posted 326 million video streams in the first quarter of this year, which is an increase of more than 300 percent compared to Q1 of 2009, and does not include all the user generated content uploaded to photo and video sharing sites.

“Some times you just want to push play, and see what’s on,” said Blair Harrison, CEO of Frequency, a real time video site that lets you lean back and watch samples of video playing continuously from all over the Internet. “But with so much video coming online each hour, there really is no way for a consumer to get a sample of what’s playing on the web” Harrison contends that consuming video on the web has become a laborious and disjointed experience, forcing people who want to enjoy rich media online to jump from link to link, collecting clips or navigating between embedded players and web pages just to sample video content.

Launched earlier this month by Harrison, the former CEO of IFILM, which sold to Viacom for $49 Million in 2005, Frequency aims to make it easy for anyone to quickly scan and tune into what’s playing online at any time. He brought together a crew of experienced digital media engineers from that company, and built a platform that offers content publishers a promotional engine for long form video clips. Frequency’s tools create a continuous stream of previews, auto-generated in different bitrates, from feeds aggregated by the company’s platform. Users navigate the clips which play like previews of coming attractions, touting the longer version on the publisher’s website.

When consumers enter the Frequency site, there is always something playing. Like a stream of 140 character headlines on Twitter, the Frequency player cycles through fifteen-second clips from across the web, categorized by topic and source. If you want to learn more on a topic, simply pick a tag, and the player pivots to play previews that share that term in common. If you like to follow a particular publisher or collector of videos, you can create a personalized channel that just tunes into their “frequency”, or channel of auto-play clips.

“There are over 200,000 video clips being posted to the web every hour,” said Harrison. “We want to make it simple for anyone to quickly discover and watch what is appealing to them at any particular moment they’re looking to tune in. “

Frequency is a privately funded, early stage video network, and is also client of Waldo Finn, LLC, a business and strategy consulting firm, which employs the author of this post.


The M2 Generation, Mobile, Media and Marketing

As the video and presentation from the Kaiser Family Foundation below shows, kids between the ages of 8 and 18 spend over 53 hours per week with media. The behavior of the M2 generation, as they are labeled here, creates significant challenges for digital marketers'. With multiple devices in play, it becomes harder to create deep and meaningful engagement with brands, and a marketer or product designer must become astute at embracing the environmental noise created by multiple tangential interactions with other forms of entertainment being simultaneously accessed by the consumer.

As a passive medium, television has maintained a role in the multi-tasking mix thanks to the emergence of DVRs, which enable a child to rewind and replay whatever was missed while responding to a text or playing a game. Fragments of conversations unfold via text message are actually more interesting because they have a different pace and rhythm than voice conversations, and they have the added benefit that they can't be overheard. On average, the M2 consumer spends 50% more time consuming media on a cell phone than talking on it, even though mobile devices represent only 12% of their music and TV consumption by platform.

The study is compelling not just because it shows how little parental oversight really exists, despite the continuing evidence that unsupervised media and Internet access is correlated with poor performance in school and social situations.  What is so interesting to me is the quantifiable evidence that media fragmentation is becoming the norm for this generation, because they are effectively driving it and not just adapting to it. 



Why Being a Mensch Matters in Social Media

A recent year-end post by Guy Kawasaki on American Express's Open Forum highlighted twelve tips on how to be a mensch, a Yiddish term that is synonymous with being a person of integrity or honor. Each item on the list is built on a variation of the Golden Rule, and that makes for a great checklist for social brands. After all, it's a barter economy out there in the Twitterverse and blogosphere, and in order to receive, you need to give. And, of course, authenticity is the difference between making noise and creating meaning for brands on any platform.

I've taken the twelve resolutions and have tried to match them to lessons from the last 5 months I've spent exploring social media. Hopefully, in the spirit of karma that underlies this list, I hope you'll find something useful here.

Give people gifts other than those that you buy.  Thank people for enlightening you with a good post. Comment on their blogs, and tell them you appreciate them by a re-tweet. Credit them when you use their material.

Become a talent hunter.  Explore your followers.  Find people who have something to teach you. Seek out global experts and small businesses because, after all, it's the world wide web and a bad economy. It's a buyer's market for free agent talent. Reviews and references make it easier to find someone qualified to do business with, so there is no excuse not to strike gold through social media.

Sharing ideas and information that can enrich.  It's too easy to write a snarky post, a cheap headline or perpetuate a rumor. Anyone can be a critic. But taking the effort to be constructive and productive will pay dividends by creating more valuable discussions with your customers.

Spend more time in the “beginner’s mind.”  Who doesn't want to hear 'I can relate'? Empathy is a powerful emotion for brands that engage in social media. Whether you engage in customer support online or want to impress your customers with how innovative you are, consumers just don't have the time to figure out why or how you want to interact with them. Make it simple to find you, talk to you and enjoy your service.

Don’t tell people what they can’t do. When social media inspires audiences to act for causes you can appreciate the power of the positive. Mobilizing fans, followers and friends to act is the big win in social media. It's about motivation.

Minimize the space you take up.  This seems contrary to the goal of growing fans and followers, but in fact it can be the secret to building a big audience. A well written comment on another expert's blog post, a tagged video or a carefully edited tweet can end up reaching orders of magnitude more folks thanks to the power of sharing that is foundational to social media. You don't have to shout to be heard across the web. However, you do need to contribute something valuable so everyone will want to share it. 

Become a relationship anthropologist. Understanding what makes your audience tick will help you engage with them on the platforms and in the ways that are most convenient for them. Understanding how groups behave will help you develop and support communities that will ultimately grow your business. It's a relationship, so lshow you listen.

Get rid of grudges.   Social media does a great job of keeping companies honest about the service they provide or the quality of care they show their customers. Reviews and ratings and comments live on forever, even after a company has tried to make amends. The best advice is for brands not to allow a grudge to develop in social media forums, because forgiveness usually doesn't come with a written retraction. 

Be happy for others.   If you highlight other's wins, you make it easier for them to highlight yours. If you are a start-up CEO, share lessons on a blog or encourage other entrepreneurs with your feedback. If your customers are loyal, reward their satisfaction. Pay attention to the joy others have, because people share when they are happy, and who doesn't want happy customers?

Help others caress the rainbow. It takes a village to be successful, and just like you need help with your start-up or need to grow your audience, so do others. Social technologies are all about sharing the wealth, paying it forward and not hoarding traffic or monopolizing the conversation.

Make people feel better about themselves. Consumers like to choose brands that make them feel they can fulfill their aspirations. The voice that a brand uses  across social media can turn someone off in an instant. Your customers won't engage if they feel reprimanded or rebuffed for trying to connect with you.

View all promises you made in 2009 as an unpaid debt.  You've amassed fans on Facebook and MySpace, you've created a mobile app, you tweet company news, but have you created any new value for your customers through social media yet? If not, it's time...






First Citizen Journalists, and Now Citizen Designers

The power of social media to enable news to spread quickly is something we have understood for a while now. Breaking news headlines that race across Twitter and Facebook and status screens on your phone today are instrumental in saving lives, avoiding disasters and catalyzing change.

Should that same power be applied to improving the quality and agenda of product designers? For years, I have worked with designers who have tried to keep a mystique about what they do, separating themselves from the common Dilbert-cube masses through their discerning eye and high brow approach to the process of design evoution.  But with the emergence of design thinking as a viable business approach to creating sustainable innovation and differentiation for companies, there is a burning need for empathy for design processes among the cube crowd. courtesy of

In a non-corporate world, consumers also are fed up with low quality products that don't work as merchandised. They've taken to their social media soapboxes to catalog their woes, their bitterness and their disappointment with design for design's sake. Without formal design training they can tell you where you've missed their expectations, and show you how they have to work around the flaws designed into their product to produce a better outcome for themselves. More importantly they advise their circle of friends how to solve their problems with technology, too.

In his new book, ""Glimmer: How Design Can Transform Your Life and Maybe Even the World", Warren Berger describes this phenomenon of "citizen designers". He asserts that the power of the individual consumer to influence product design through accessible technologies and tools has dramatically increased in just a few years. This direct connection to the products which consumers love and hate creates new and diverse interactions for manufacturers, which can and should inform design.

Read more about the book in an interview with the author on, or check out the book in my Favorite Reads section on the sidebar.



Why Is Everyone Talking About YOU?

YOU are everywhere, and the trend for technology companies seems to be telling YOU how important YOU are to them. What's up with that? Why are YOU so important?  Seems YOU are in charge these days.

Click to watch a few videos and read more ...