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Facebook Needs Relationship Pages October 2, 2011

Posted by Brian Link in Internet culture, socialmedia.
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Now that timeline is coming out, I’d love to tell stories that are more interesting than just ones that decorate my own history. In fact, to help reconnect and reminisce with people, why not give us a place to tell stories like how we met. Or of old college friends, and the stories we share. Old work friends, the projects with crazy bosses. I know I can just create entries in the timeline and only share them with certain people, but what I’m looking for is Facebook to encourage people to share stories about their relationships with other people.

When you click on a friend, it shows you what you have in common as far as interests and other friends, but why not expand that into a full page. Prompt me for how we first met, things we did together and pull in any photos that have us both tagged. And use the timeline interface. The default should be to only share these timelines between the people who are mentioned in them but could of course be shared more broadly.

High schoolers would love the BFF-ness of it. College friends might enjoy talking about the raging multi-keggers they had. And married people would love to tell their joint stories, whether just to preserve them somewhere or to share them with just family or with everyone. I’d also like to capture a few fun stories about some of my lifelong friends, which would be fun to share with their wives, for example. Things like a running dialogue with a childhood friend and I remembering random things like trading star wars cards and what we were for halloween years and years ago.

Think about family vacations that could be told jointly, with entries into all of our main timelines too. And more importantly, our collaborative stories all in one place. We all upload pictures separately, but since we created this relationship page with its own timeline it would automatically capture our separate photos as a joint collection (think iPhoto event). And as photos are uploaded and tagged by anyone who was there on the vacation, they’d be included in this timeline and be able to contribute to the stories.

I’d use this product. And it would make my own personal timeline a lot more interesting.

What do you think?

Google+ and Facebook Observations July 12, 2011

Posted by Brian Link in Internet culture, socialmedia.
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Jason Calcanis recently sent out an email asking for some feedback on Google+, so I took the time to reply.  Thought I’d post it here as well since there seems to be no shortage of discussions around the topic. It’s hard to get a really good summary of the issues and salient differences though, but it’s out there.  Here’s a quick attempt to round up some of the discussion:

1. Is Google+ better than Facebook? If so, why?

You’ll undoubtedly get a mixed result of answers to this question. The average user won’t be able to tell the difference, once they take a close look. But the subtleties will matter to us geek users. Three topics matter: Sharing, Privacy and Integration.

SHARING: You might love circles, for example (even though almost everyone I talk to or read on G+ doesn’t realize that Facebook actually still has better functionality here, they just don’t have the beautiful drag n drop UI. You can share or consume through friend lists or circles on either platform but you still can’t *exclude* circles from an update on G+).  Google has clearly brought some much needed attention to the creating and using of friend lists when sharing, which I’m happy about, but users who care do this on Facebook already. [Google wins the perception battle due to the fancy circles UI, but I think Facebook still wins, mostly because of the next topic – privacy – when it comes to sharing]

PRIVACY: So, to get even more granular in the sharing topic is the public vs. public debate. Strangers can jump into your conversation on G+ which some people like, but would scare the crap out of people less techie (or less Twitter-aware) over on Facebook who love their little walled gardens.  Google is encouraging more public sharing and people with large follow lists get a ton more engagement (which is great for the big geek early adopters, which is why folks like Scoble really like Google+ and Kevin Rose has redirected kevinrose.com to point to his Google+ stream) but Google clearly has an issue with privacy and I suspect news like this MSNBC article will continue to spread. [Facebook wins the privacy game, oddly by not making it front and center, but rather a de-facto walled garden of who you’ve friended – you just need to make sure you’re actually friending people you know!]

INTEGRATION: So people tout the google tie-ins that exist already (the sandbar, upcoming gmail integration and how easy you can bounce into G+ from an iGoogle home page) and the fact that many people are already in google apps; this will undoubtedly help tie together all Google services. If you’re a googler, this may be super compelling. Facebook has its hooks in people for many other reasons too. Not just the friend list lock-in (which is reason enough for the 40+ demographic to stay put I think) and the fact that Facebook doesn’t want you to take your contact list with you (see here and here). But the ubiquitous “log in with Facebook” and all those apps people have already authenticated is not going to change anytime soon. OAuth through Google will also be a factor, but I think the mainstream is already much more comfortable with those little Facebook pop-up login windows. And do you know anyone playing Zynga games? Yeah, they’re not going anywhere either. [Google is a strong contender here, but many people will not be leaving Facebook due to the various social lock-in factors.  This particular point is soon to be moot however, as people will soon learn how to connect their Google+, Facebook and Twitter all together at least for sharing and consuming their big streams, cross-posting everything everwhere even to LinkedIn. Many users will end up using both just as many of my friends use Twitter and Facebook equally today. The real trick will be if some new player can create a true friend-list syncher that keeps your circles, Facebook friend lists and Twitter lists all straight and privacy settings included]

2. Is it possible that Google+ could compete with Facebook?

It will, because it appears clean and open and everyone uses Google. But I wonder if the privacy concerns don’t hamper it’s growth beyond the early adopters and hardcore Googlers.  (And I wonder if some of the fresh and new wears off after extra noise from brands and spammers and too many people crowd into the network.  I’ve been playing with Google+ with the early adopter crowd which was kinda nice, but I wonder what it’ll be like once there’s many more people.  Pretty sure I’ll need to prune my follow lists and spend way too much time cleaning up my circles.)

Scoble has said it will be wildly popular with the geeks, and that might be enough of a success. Many millions will “just try it” and get hooked. But once it becomes easier to hook up all your networks and share once and engage everywhere (much like people send their streams to friendfeed or twitter into facebook) it doesn’t really matter, does it?

3. Facebook: buy, sell or hold at $100B market cap?

I thought 80B was pretty huge. But those secondmarket sales keep rising… The more interesting story to me is the non-public markets and whether Facebook has a chance of evolving that drastically, more than they already have. I wonder if they don’t ever go public, just stir up the pot and tease us that they will – then go crazy with the secondmarket where they and the employees can control demand.

4. You can only have one, pick now: Facebook, Twitter or Google+?

There is no need to pick one 🙂 But if I personally could only share (and engage) on one it’d be Twitter because I have the largest audience there, including a wide variety of my friends. But Twitter isn’t as personal – and if I really thought about the most meaningful conversations to me, not just link-sharing and banter, I might just pick Facebook instead, because it’s a more comfortable environment where I know exactly who’s consuming my messages.

5. Any other observations two weeks

Huge hype deflated after invites became less scarce – I wonder how many people will try it once then bounce because their graph isn’t in G+. Most main streamers, I suspect. If you’re Facebook-only and don’t dabble enough with Twitter, then Google+ won’t appeal to you that much. It takes a little more savvy to figure out how to really navigate and control your signal to noise on Google+ – which is exactly how the bitheads at Google think, so I don’t suspect they’ll change that too much. Facebook will always cater to the lowest common person and focus on simplicity. They’ve tucked away their privacy controls because most people don’t care – the same people who’d freak out if a stranger started commenting on a public message in their stream… and they will blissfully stay ignorant in their Facebook walled garden.

My conclusion is that Google has created a very surprising and impressive social network with explosive growth that will capture a large part of the market, but there are hundreds of millions that are going nowhere on Facebook.  Personally, I think it’s great that we have a new network and I’m glad that Google finally got a social solution with some traction (RIP Buzz, Wave, etc.) but I won’t be using it extensively.  Time, ultimately, is the biggest opponent to a newcomer even if you’re Google… I just don’t have the time or inclination to setup the synchronizing/reposting strategy to be able to span both and its too easy to just keep doing what I’m doing.

Did I just share my location with an axe murderer? January 4, 2011

Posted by Brian Link in Internet culture, location-based services, socialmedia.
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You never know who’s out there on the Internet. Mike Myers didn’t know he was marrying an axe murderer either and he knew Harriet IRL.

Many people are just getting into the craze of LBS or location-based services. You’re an LBS user if you check-in on Gowalla, Foursquare, Facebook Places, Yelp, Loopt or use services like ShopKick or even Instagram.  And the trend is likely to continue as these services are integrating deals into their platform, so while you’re out and about with your GPS-enabled phone, you may learn about a special deal at Starbucks or a sale going on at The Gap.

As these services mature, there is still a large number of early adopters that are just using these services, like myself, because they’re fun.  By checking in, I’m telling my friends that I’m at Panera right now.  And once in a while, someone notices and we have this serendipitous meet-up just to say hi.  Friends of mine have discovered friends while making connections in airports or while visiting other cities.  (Honestly, in Columbus we don’t get the same advantage that my friends in NYC get with the greater density of people and LBS-users though.)  I also find myself, for absolutely no good reason, competing to win mayorships at the places I visit frequently on Foursquare. How proud am I that I’m the mayor at my local Kroger and the two Paneras that I work out of frequently.  It’s silly, but fun in a warped kind of way.

But here’s the thing.  And the real reason I wrote this post.  LBS is yet another way to broadcast some very personal information.  And it’s another filter through which you should look when adding friends on social networks. When you friend people on Gowalla and Foursquare, for example, you’re saying something like “I’m OK with you knowing when I’m away from my house or out of town on vacation”.   You wouldn’t go broadcasting that information to just anyone, so please be careful about broadcasting it online.  Last year, a site called PleaseRobMe.com was created just to illustrate that point – people oversharing on social networks.

What’s my advice?  Simply put: be diligent about adding friends to your network. And take a good look at your privacy settings.  Posting on Facebook, for example, seems so innocent, right? Because you know everyone there – or at least you should.  But it’s very easy to post using the setting “Friends of Friends”


Oversharing on Facebook

or “Everyone” and not realize that you’re broadcasting personal information to potentially thousands of strangers. And when posting to Twitter, realize that all messages on Twitter are public by default (which is part of what PleaseRobMe.com was trying to raise awareness of). Also be especially mindful of your status updates being shared between or sent to all of your social networks.  It’s hard to keep track of all your friends everywhere online and services like ping.fm and Facebook apps for Twitter make it all too easy to send everything everywhere.

Personally, I love sharing and believe in the openness of the web.  But I’m also very careful about who I friend on networks through which I share my location.  I try to never send my location updates to Twitter and make sure my location related updates on Facebook are set to only certain groups of friends (if you haven’t yet segmented friends into lists, you should).  It may seem strange to you to be so careful about these things, but privacy is a big deal online and a little bit of time and effort will help keep you and your family safe.

UPDATE: For those interested in learning more about LBS, Danny Sauter created a very well written summary of why people even use LBS apps on Quora here: https://www.quora.com/What-do-users-want-on-a-location-based-app/answer/Danny-Sauter

Happy sharing,


* photo credit Sony Pictures

Myths and Fears of Social Media October 4, 2010

Posted by Brian Link in Internet culture, socialmedia.
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There are many misconceptions about the ubiquitous term “social media”. Let me start addressing this first with a truth: Social media is not going to immediately or perhaps ever radically change your business.  It can however, make significant changes to the way you think about your brand, finding leads, recruiting, and communicating with and supporting your customers. I tell my clients that it’s the modern telephone; back when phones were brand new, not everyone had one, but soon everyone expected you to be using them. The same is true with every milestone in the way communication has evolved. Social Media is just another communication medium that facilitates conversations over the Internet.

Social Media may seem like a fad because of all of the buzz.  But it’s important to be able to see through the flurry of activity to the larger trend: 79% of Fortune 500 businesses are using social media everyday (according to the 2010 Burson Marsteller study).  There may be thousands of social networks of different kinds on the Internet, but there are really only so many places you are likely to find a significant portion of your customers, partner businesses and prospective clients. Most US based businesses need only address the following: Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. I also recommend that you produce a blog and share multi-media content on one other site regularly such as YouTube or Flickr.

Today’s Internet culture is unavoidable. Can you imagine a business forbidding their employees from even using the Internet to do their job?  It will soon be the same for social media sites, but today many businesses block Facebook, Twitter and other social sites at the firewall.  Clearly, businesses need to make a decision about how much their business will embrace the new social web and enact and enforce policies that both caution and encourage their employees to do the right thing appropriately.

Creating a culture that accepts the social web and having a management team that sets a strong example (think Zappos) is perhaps the best strategy, but it starts with great employees and an open culture.  If your business isn’t there yet, it’s important to start taking steps in that direction in a way that makes sense for your company. I think you’ll find if you trust your employees, you’ll be happy with their innovation and productivity. Employees are free to say what they want over email and in public already aren’t they!?  With a little training, you can trust them with social media channels as well.

On Being Efficient in the Startup Internet Culture September 22, 2009

Posted by Brian Link in entrepreneurialism, Internet culture, socialmedia.
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Coffee and a LaptopI’ve recently cut back the number of hours I’m working during an average day. Time with my family is very important to me. But it doesn’t change the fact that I’ve got a huge appetite for being involved with the high tech Internet startup culture. Being involved with startups often means you’re doing more than the average person in corporate America. That’s not meant to be a competitive statement – just a fact – startup entrepreneurs need to wear multiple hats. The CEO is often the product guy, the finance guy, the technical guy and HR rolled into one. It begs the question of how to keep up and stay efficient with all the context switching you need to do. This isn’t a new problem; it’s just exacerbated in the startup culture.

If you’re in San Francisco, you can witness said culture in any Royal Grounds, Peet’s or Starbucks from Fillmore to Sausalito to Palo Alto and everywhere inbetween. But here in Columbus, Ohio – I carry that culture with me everywhere I go. Sometimes like a badge of honor but usually like a cheerleader, trying to get the crowd here on their feet. (Somedays I feel like I’m begging them to participate, but that’s an entirely different blog post.) It’s too bad the Internet and social media aren’t closer related to OSU Buckeye football, I’d have a better chance of getting the crowd roaring here. But I digress.

My plate is extremely full: My fulltime job is the CEO of Toobla.com (which *will* be something I blog about soon because I seriously need to grow users fast). But I’m also a public speaker with thoughtLEADERS, LLC and a partner in weBuild, a web accelerator for mobile and Internet companies. I’m also on the board or an advisor or part-owner in 5 other companies: MobileXpeditions, Tixit, Innogage, 2CheckOut and eSoluTech.

I don’t recommend taking this much on. But if you do, or if you find some parallels between your life and mine, you might find the following tidbits of advice and tool recommendations helpful.

  • First of all, you need to pick your primary area of focus. For me, it’s my full time paying job: Toobla. When any conflicts come up, Toobla wins.
  • Next, and this may sound very idealistic, you need to know what your goals are. If you’re going to dabble, decide why. Maybe you just want to learn Ruby or Python and are going to tinker on weekends. Maybe you want some excitement to complement your cubicle job. Whatever it is, be aware of it and let your goals guide you. Without goals, you can meander and just end up with a clutter of things to do that aren’t helping you.
  • Make sure you work on your own personal brand in parallel with whatever you do. Social media is not a job, in spite of how many people are trying to be social media consultants out there. It’s so easy to learn and master, everyone should at least try it on their own. Read the blogs of the people on my Luminaries tab and try things out yourself. Be active to some degree daily on Twitter and Facebook and weekly on LinkedIn and you’ll make great progress very quickly and figure it out as you go.
  • Centralize your contacts if you haven’t already. One single repository. Whether it’s Outlook, Gmail or the Mac Address Book, do it. Add every new connection to your address book of choice. And sync them to some online source (I recommend Gmail) every week or two (if not real-time) so you can keep your online world synchronized with your desktop and/or email client. Gmail does a great job as the source for importing into Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn so you can be sure to establish connections there with people you’ve added recently to email.
  • Follow people on Twitter that you aspire to be like. Find them on WeFollow or look closely at the people you do know and see who they follow.
  • Use TweetDeck, Tweetie or Seesmic or some tool that helps you get comfortable with keeping up with your closest friends and business sources and influencers. I use TweetDeck because I like how it lets me create groups of friends; there’s only so many people I really want to read every tweet from. Everyone else is my virtual cocktail party: I pop in and out, learn something, bookmark something, comment on something, retweet something or just occupy time at stoplights browsing 🙂 Find a client you like for your main computer as well as your mobile – there’s a ton of great apps for iPhone and Blackberry.
  • Let me focus on Twitter a sec. If you do it right, it finds its way into your normal routine and doesn’t take over your day. If you concentrate and stay focused on what you’re doing, you’ll get good at finding 15 seconds every 15 minutes. Twitter is the filler for me – I visit my cocktail party every time I get a chance. Walking, driving (carefully), while getting ready in the morning, waiting in line somewhere, and probably 20-50 times throughout the day. But in such small chunks, I try hard to not let it be the distraction – but rather where I go when I am distracted.
  • In order to stay focused during 9 to 5 on Toobla, I schedule my other meetings outside that window, often meeting with startups once or twice a week at 7 or 8AM and sometimes over lunch. To make it easier to schedule meetings with multiple people from multiple companies, we use TimeBridge to find good timeslots. We used to meet on early morning weekends but that’s gotten more challenging to do. Maybe we will again once the weather gets nasty. And all my calendars are integrated and up to date with iCal on my Mac and wirelessly through MobileMe to my iPhone (Google Calendar works well to consolidate calendars too)
  • Google Apps.  Add instant enterprise email capabilities with Google Apps, on your own domain. Google Docs, Google Calendar and Google Analytics are critical to many of the businesses I’m involved with.  Amazing free stuff.  I have 4 gmail accounts consolidated by gmail into one mailbox on my iPhone and laptop.  Use IMAP wherever possible instead of POP so items are perfectly synched no matter whether you read them on your iPhone or laptop.
  • DropBox. Share files seamlessly with distributed groups. Auto-synchronizes your files in the background with whomever you’ve invited. Much better than clogging your inbox with lots of big files.
  • PBworks. Collaborate with disparate groups with a wiki. Everyone contributes, everyone wins. I’ve created more dozens of wiki’s for various projects and brainstorming efforts.
  • 37 Signals. Basecamp is a great tool for managing projects and tasks with people across company boundaries.
  • Things. On Mac, this is my favorite ‘Getting Things Done’ task manager. There are many GTD clients – find one and break up your task list by project, or by company and prioritize ruthlessly what’s absolutely critical. Now, if only I could keep up with all the little things…

One of these days I’ll finish my eBook on “Utilizing Best Practices in Social Media for Small Businesses”. If you’re interested, send me an email – it might encourage me to finish sooner 🙂

What do you do that helps you stay focused and productive while working on multiple projects or companies?


Timeslicing like a Banshee May 5, 2009

Posted by Brian Link in entrepreneurialism, socialmedia.

3387189144_955030cc27_mThere was a time when I worked my job all day then went home.  In consulting, I often worked 60+ hour weeks. But, back then (in the 90s), I wasn’t so obsessed with Internet startups… and there were periods of time where I could clearly say I was working and times when I wasn’t working.  Now, I don’t know about you dear reader, but I’m sorta glad I don’t count exactly how much time I spend working. There are only about 5-7 hours a day you can send me an email or text message that I’m not aware of.  But if you catch me before about 2am, I’m pretty likely to send you a response right away.  I often keep my email up to date even when I’m on “vacation”.  The line between work and personal time is increasingly blurred thanks to technology.

So, while I may trick myself into thinking I only work 9 to 6 or something.  The reality is my iPhone is under constant surveillance all day long.  And after my son goes to bed, I often find time to get some more work done – dedicated bursts of work, not just quick email checks.

But the opposite is true as well. We all sneak some personal time during the day don’t we? How else are you going to survive with all the silly banks and customer service jokers that only stay open 9 to 5, right?  And writing this blog post reminds me I need to continue to be diligent with my time. I’ve got way too many things going on.  But my family time is more valuable than anything else.  So I make sure to carve out time every day and if my son wants to chase me around the house and tell me to pretend I’m a gorilla and play with Darf Vader and Formfroopers, that’s what I’m gonna do.  My schedule may be sporadic and unpredictable in general, but we make sure to have dinner as a family almost every night.

If you’re an entrepreneur you’ll understand.  There’s no such thing as a predictable work schedule anymore.  My schedule is rarely planned beyond a few days in advance. But it fills up quick.  I’m running an Internet startup Toobla (www.toobla.com), in the process of launching an Internet company accelerator called webuild, working with a team to launch another Internet startup in the small business productivity space, writing content for a thoughtLEADERS social media leadership course and writing an eBook on Social Media for Small Business.  Life gets *real* busy.

The point of the list isn’t to brag, it’s to illustrate that I, like many other people, juggle multiple “jobs” these days.  And because perhaps I’m addicted to multitasking, I wouldn’t have it any other way.  But with timeslicing and overclocking ourselves, these kinds of things are more than just possible, it’s pretty normal.  I use ‘Things’ for to-do list tracking, based on ‘Getting Things Done’ on both my iPhone and MacBook Pro, which helps me keep track of everything.

Who knows, 5 or 10 years from now it may actually be strange to have just one job.  One thing’s certain, entrepreneurs are paving the way to the future.  And the smart people I find myself hanging around with are embracing new and creative ways to get more things done in a day.

How much are you juggling? What do you do that helps you multitask?

The Culture of Twitter (Why Twitter Works Part II) January 18, 2009

Posted by Brian Link in socialmedia.

booksMost people think all social networks are basically the same. Twitter is similar enough to other networks but its capabilities are severely limited – on purpose. Your profile is limited to a small snippet and your communication is in 140 character bursts. Because of this, microblogging (as it’s called), caters well to people who want to consume a lot of messages from a lot of people or catch up quickly with friends very efficiently.

You choose who you want to follow. And then you’ll see all the messages and replies from and to people that are on your follow list.  Important yet perhaps subtle note: Twitter calls these people “followers” not “friends”. This implies Twitter is more of a tool than a social network, doesn’t it? A tool to do what though? Well, to communicate, right? Which I suppose means it *is* a social network, but it’s definitely a different kind of one.

The difference is that with these bite-size pieces of information, you have some choices about how you consume them. There are also different ways people interact and participate, but first let’s discuss consuming:

  1. Some people (and I think most people actually, especially new Twitter users) treat Twitter like a new inbox. And it’s why people get overwhelmed when they first start using it, feeling like they have to keep up.  It’s a fine choice actually, because it means you’re truly interested in everything everyone has to say.  (It’d be really hard to run around a large party and hear every conversation, but that’s why with this strategy you probably keep your follow list under 200 to stay sane and not let Twitter entirely absorb your whole world).
  2. For others, 200 isn’t enough.  You need to graze more in order to find more of the stuff you like. Maybe you’re like me and you’re reading everything you can about social media. There’s a lot of people sharing links, providing advice, having conversations about it – and you might decide to follow 500-1000 people in order to throw your net wide enough to glean enough of the information you want.  At this rate, however, chances are you can’t really keep up.  When you step away for a while, there could easily be too many messages to get caught up, but you also don’t want to miss any of the good stuff. So you get good at skimming and glancing through those familiar avatars (it’s amazing how well you can retain 500 recognizable images – and notice immediately when Chris Brogan has changed his image again, but again I digress.) At this rate and beyond you become more concerned about the signal to noise ratio and to optimize you may need to unfollow people who don’t contribute enough to why you read Twitter and add others that do.
  3. Super users follow thousands of people. Similar to following several hundred people, you must skim through the tweets (or only plug in and read in short slices of time). You might focus more on @replies and individual conversations, but realistically you’ll dive in an out of the stream of conversations and likely miss much of what’s going on. At the risk of sounding like a total Chris Brogan fan-boy, I’ll reference him again and a post of his here where he talks about how he manages to follow tens of thousands of people. In real life, if you walk away from your friends sitting around talking and drinking beer, you miss that part of the conversation, but when you get back you jump right back in and don’t worry about what you’ve missed. It’s like that.

One other point about consuming. I’m often reading tweets from my phone. But mostly what I’m looking for on Twitter are great shared links but as much as I love my iPhone, it just doesn’t download web pages fast enough for me to do it frequently. So, I like to bookmark tweets to follow up on later by favoriting them. Then, next time I can afford to spend some time reading those pages, I do from my MacBook Pro. 

Which of these – or other ways – do *you* use and consume Twitter?  

More to come soon in Part III: on the Twitter culture of interacting and participating.

How are we going to pay for these phones? January 11, 2009

Posted by Brian Link in socialmedia.
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phoneNo one writes a business case for having to purchase phone lines with voicemail anymore, right? And hopefully not for Internet connectivity either.  We just need these things to do business.  It will be the same with social media someday.

It seems ludicrous now, but just eight years ago I encountered a business that was afraid to put the Internet on their employees desktops because of the potential productivity loss.  They locked down the Internet.  To me, that’s like turning off the phones because of the occasional personal call that’s made during work hours.  Ridiculous, right?  Well, if you can admit that social media is simply the next stepping stone in the way that we communicate online, it’s not hard to see the benefits either.  Sure, your employees might do nothing but sit around and talk on the phone all day.  Or they might do nothing but play solitaire or read news on the Internet.  And Social Media currently has a reputation for being a time-suck and distracting people with all the possibilities and the fact that it broadens the sheer volume of people with whom you might talk to everyday.  It takes discipline to learn how to use social media appropriately.  And that’s true of our personal lives as much as it is in business.  With some simple guidelines and a company’s leadership setting a good example, I believe Social Media will quickly evolve into a critical communication tool that every business will use to run their company.

Any reason to think it won’t?

Echo-chamber paralysis January 3, 2009

Posted by Brian Link in socialmedia.
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Echo ChamberI, for one, am looking forward to an awful lot of doing in 2009 rather than analyzing. Don’t you feel like you’ve read the same things a few times over?  (I’m guilty of rehashing things too.)  I know it’s still new and everyone’s excited about thinking about how social media will play a role in the future of business.  But I’m so impatient… I want the future technology trends to arrive already.

Everyone’s making their predictions for 2009.  Well here’s what I hope will happen:  That people will stop analyzing and screwing around and just start experimenting already!  I want to see new case studies crop up every week.  I’d like to see more WSJ, NYT and CNN articles on Social Media.  Not dispelling myths and fears, but true journalism and reporting.  Now, I know there’s lots of good examples (if you don’t know – check out Peter Kim’s list) but the industry is still very young and many brands are still just dabbling if they’re doing anything at all.

So, how does an organization jump start (and not end up one of the predicted failures Gartner says will happen to more than half the companies trying on social media)?

Be smart.  Don’t tell everyone in your company to start blogging and tweeting at once without direction.  But do take some volunteers and run a trial. Ask those folks to do some self-education. Bring in a social media consultant for a group seminar to help get you started and maybe some sporadic guidance. Read the key social media bloggers, read a few good intro docs, read a smattering of other stuff.  Then let them loose.

The world of social media is ready for you. Come and get it… Just give it a whirl.

Photo Credit: Meister Des Zirkuss

Above the Funnel > ROI December 26, 2008

Posted by Brian Link in socialmedia.
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There’s a lot of discussion about ‘return on investment’ with all the new social media buzz lately.  It’s decidedly hard to measure the value of human conversation. It’s not something concrete in your sales funnel.  It’s the conversation I like to call “above the funnel”. And that’s largely what we’re talking about isn’t it when we talk about social media?  Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and anywhere else you decide to make connections that may help your business. These are the conversations that someone may normally IRL have on the golf course, pause briefly to chat about on a sidewalk, leave an exchange of voice mails, chat while watching you kid’s soccer game, or have while sitting next to someone on the plane. You’re meeting people, getting to know them, talking about things both business and personal and hopeful that the connection may lead to doing business together in some shape or form, but mostly and most importantly you’re just being you – talking and meeting people, not writing a record of these exchanges or putting a dollar figure on them.

And yet it’s more than that.  On social networks, people are forming new kinds of relationships. For example, I’ve met some people in the last few months, where one of the following happened: I’ve either been given some great personal advice, pointed to a series of really helpful sources of information or exchanged a few messages that helped me decide what to do with my business.  These may seem like surface relationships to a lot of people, having barely discussed anything else and never having met face to face. But these same people I follow on Twitter and through this magical thing called Ambient Awareness I know all kinds of things about these people, have formed opinions about them, seen how they interact with other people and have witnessed many samples of their personality in different situations.  I honestly feel like I know them. And trust them. 

So, why do I conclude that “Above the Funnel *is greater than* ROI”?  It’s because that’s what social media is all about. You have to take a leap of faith that the connections will pay back. No one writes a business case for buying telephones for the office anymore, right?  Or even getting Internet access, right?  But it most certainly is a time investment.  And if you work for someone else, or if you want to decide how much time is worth it for you, as an entrepreneur, to invest in it, you need some justification, right?

So what do you do?  It’s simple really. Pick some metrics that you know how to measure and watch them. Create or unearth your companies goals and objectives.  Look at them and see where they might entwine. You company’s goal may be to get x% more visitors to your site, or attract a new client in a new market segment, or reach a new demographic.  Or you may be using social media to try to find new talent to hire and are counting resumes or emails or page views on your site.  Whatever your metric, make it specific, learn how to measure it, and see if your efforts in social media can make a dent in it.  Look at the trend before you started your social media related efforts and pick a point in time, preferably more than a few weeks later, review the data and compare.  Some organizations may be able to put dollars against some of those metrics.  1000 more page views on an ecommerce site for example usually relates to an increase of sales.

I can’t tell you who to befriend, what networks you should be on or what strategy to use in your social media efforts. That’s a whole new world you’ll have to figure out on your own (or hire a consultant to work with you personally on). But what I can tell you, because I believe it myself, is that if you focus on your “above the funnel” conversations and be transparent about yourself and your business and follow the most basic forms of online common sense and ethics, you will earn a following, create a digital identity and build your own tribe.

And then, you and your tribe will be one step closer to conquering your world. Good luck, and please let me know if I can help you with that.