Monthly Archive for July, 2009

Blogging Elsewhere

Here is this week’s summary of links to my posts appearing on other blogs (actually, I neglected to post one last week, so this is a special double episode):

GigaOM’s WebWorkerDaily*

Intel Software Network*

I just began blogging on the Intel Software Network as part of my work on the new Open Source at Intel site that launched today.

Portland Data Plumbing User Group (pdpug)

If you want a feed of all of my blog posts across multiple sites, you can also subscribe to my über feed.


  • I am a paid blogger for the GigaOM network.
  • I provide consulting services to Intel, and these blog posts are one part of my consulting engagement.

Twitter 101 for Business

Twitter recently posted a Twitter 101 guide for businesses. It is a great resource for companies considering using Twitter or who are just starting to use the service. Historically, Twitter’s documentation has been pretty weak, and I was a little skeptical, but this resource is very well put together. It does a nice job of highlighting what to do and not do with a strong focus on the social norms and user expectations on Twitter. I want to highlight a few specific sections, but you really should take some time to review the guide for more details.

The first three sections are targeted at people who have never used Twitter and really don’t understand how it works. If you’ve been using Twitter already, you can safely skip the What is Twitter, Getting started, and Learn the lingo sections. However, if you are working with people who are new to Twitter, this would be great background reading for them.

The Best practices section is where the social norms and user expectations are covered along with some ideas for measuring the impact of Twitter. While this is all very basic introductory information, I encourage you to read it. It contains useful information to help you understand how to make better use of the service without running afoul of the Twitter spam policies or violating their terms of service.

The Case studies section is the best part of the guide. It has the usual suspects, Dell and JetBlue, but it also has several less well known examples. They do a really nice job of covering many different types of businesses and different use cases. People always ask me for case studies for business users, and I can always cobble something together, but this is the most comprehensive set of case studies that I’ve seen for Twitter.

The guide also has a link to other resources with books and articles about using Twitter. I also wrote short guide about using Twitter for brands or corporate identities that you might find useful.

Overall, Twitter 101 for Business is very well done and is a great resource for organizations just jumping into Twitter for the first time. Having all of this information in one place is going to save me time when working with clients who are new to Twitter.

Recent Links

Here are a few interesting things from this week that I wanted to share …

Social Media Brand Engagement Report – ENGAGEMENTdb

Community Manager Survey: The Results Are In

Tom Fishburne: The Management Cartoonist: corporate twitter

How to Use Interns In Your Social Programs

More Factlets about the Rate of Adoption of New Services by the 50-plus

The Key to Marketing in an Online Community? Not Marketing.

Screen Scraping and Creating a Feed with YQL and Yahoo! Pipes

Online Community Expert Interview: Dawn Lacallade, SolarWinds

A new community manager in an existing online community

Twitter 101 for Business — A Special Guide

Contests and Customer Relationships

You can find all of my links on Delicious.

Living in an Online Fish Bowl

MissingEarlier this week my WebWorkerDaily editor, Simon Mackie, disappeared for over 24 hours. No Twitter updates in 2 days from @spiky_simon. His IM status showed that he was last seen over a day ago. What really tipped me off to his disappearance was a quick glance at the WebWorkerDaily post queue. Only two posts on Monday and by early Tuesday morning, no posts had been scheduled for the rest of the day on Tuesday. All of this with a pending queue of over a dozen posts just waiting to be published! This is the online equivalent of the newspapers piling up on the doorstep of the person who is trapped inside of their house under an avalanche of neglected recycling.

We worried. We panicked. We sent emails that went unanswered. I began imagining the worst. Had he been kidnapped by a rival blog network with plans to torture him to learn our secrets? Those guys over at ReadWriteWeb can be pretty devious*, so they were my prime suspects. I was just getting ready to organize a Twitter flash mob to storm the castle of our blog rivals to see if we could get him back when I was stopped in my tracks by an email. An email from Simon: “Sorry, I should have let everyone know. I’m at a GigaOM offsite meeting.”

Oh well, so much for my conspiracy theories.

This is bound to happen when we work online all day with other people that we only see online. I know that I am not the only one with fleeting thoughts about friends and coworkers who drop offline for a few days (or hours) wondering why they had been offline for so long. Are they OK? What could they possibly being doing that would require so many disconnected hours?

Admit it, you’ve had similar thoughts once or twice.

* Disclaimer: I know quite a few of the ReadWriteWeb authors, and they are some of the nicest people I know. They would never really kidnap Simon, but it makes for fun speculation.

Newsletters for Your Community

I spend all day working with social web technologies and spend much of my time in an RSS reader and visiting various social websites while email takes a back seat to other forms of gathering information. Plenty of people are just like me, but many others are not. We need to remember that many people, especially those working in corporate environments, spend much of the day in email. We each choose to consume our information in a way that matches our personal work style. No method will be right for everyone, so we need to have options. For any community, you should look at how you can provide updates to people in a variety of formats: RSS, daily / weekly email alerts, and newsletters.

Yes, newsletters are a little old-school, web 1.0, not very sexy, etc., etc. However, don’t underestimate the power of a monthly email newsletter for your community. I’ve had newsletters for most online communities that I’ve managed in the past, and I work with clients to start newsletters for their communities. Newsletters are a great way to get in front of people once a month to update them with new information. They key word in that last sentence is information. If you want people to stay subscribed to your newsletter, you have to provide them with plenty of new and interesting information while keeping the promotional items to a minimum. You’ll know when you’ve swung too far in the direction of sales and marketing because people will not view the newsletter (at best) or will be unsubscribing in droves (more likely).

I have a newsletter for Fast Wonder, which is a blog and consulting practice, not a community, but similar practices apply. I started the newsletter when I began expanding out of just blogging and consulting with some training classes and the launch of my book. I found that many people were having a hard time keeping up with everything that I was doing with Fast Wonder, so I thought that a monthly summary would be a good way for people to consume the best of Fast Wonder. It’s also a great way to remind people that I exist once a month. The reasons for starting a community newsletter are similar.

Why have a newsletter?

  • Deliver important information: Hopefully, you have an active community where people have a hard time keeping up with all of the content. The newsletter is a great way to make sure that your members don’t miss something important.
  • Engagement: People get busy and might drift away from active participation in your community. You want to remind any stragglers that they joined your community for a reason and give them an excuse to return.
  • Recognition: Recognize your community members who have written something particularly interesting or had outstanding participation in some way.
  • Summarize: Use the newsletter to highlight popular discussions or other activity in the community that people might be especially interested in viewing.

This sounds like work. Can I make it easier?

If you spend your month focusing on content, the newsletter can be a breeze to put together. The first one will take a little more time, since you’ll need to come up with a format and theme, but you can make the content really easy.

I generally use a format similar to this one:

  • General Information / Announcements: Anything important enough to put in this section should already be a blog post. Start by thinking about what story or announcement you want to feature. This will be the most important item from the past month and will be your lead story and subject line. Now come up with 2-4 additional items (a total of 3-5 stories in this section). For each one, have a title, a paragraph summary (usually the first paragraph of the blog post), and a link to the rest of the blog post for more information.
  • Popular Content: Use your community analytics package to find the top discussions, blog posts, documents, resources or other activity in your community. This section will have links to the top 5-10 posts.
  • Member Spotlight: This takes a variety of forms depending on your community. This could be one member that you spotlight or a list of the 3 most active community members. Pick something that makes sense for your community.
  • Other Information: Every community is different. You will probably need a section for something specific to your type of community. For developer communities, this section might be recent code releases, bug fixes, or other development status. Some communities have frequent webinars or other special content that you want to feature. In my Fast Wonder newsletter, I use this section for links to articles written by other experts and links to recent research reports.
  • Thank You: Always remember to thank people for reading your newsletter. In this section, I often include links to other ways to get updates (RSS, etc.), and it should always include a way to unsubscribe.

Don’t make your newsletter more complex that it needs to be. Pick a simple template that is unlikely to cause headaches across the million email clients available, and focus on using content that you already created over the past month. Creating great content throughout the month makes it much easier to do a newsletter.

What do you include in your community newsletters?

Your Twitter Followers Are Smarter Than You Are

Mack Collier wrote an interesting post recently with five reasons why no one likes you on Twitter. If you use Twitter, especially on behalf of a company, you should read his post along with the post that I wrote about using Twitter for brands. Both have quite a few tips for what to do and what not to do on Twitter. I read Mack’s post this morning, and one particular idea really resonated with me after an experience that I had last night on Twitter. Mack said that on Twitter “the people that are following you, are smarter (as a group), than you are.”

I’ve known this to be true before last night. I’ve received all kinds of great information, links, recommendations, and more from people on Twitter over the past few years. However, last night is a great example of how incredibly smart and interesting my Twitter followers are as a group and as individuals.

Yesterday afternoon right before a trip to Powell’s Books, I realized that I had lost my to-read list of science fiction books. I remember putting the list together right after a Beer and Blog discussion with Craig and Amber who made several great recommendations. I even remember adding a few more books to the list based on suggestions from other friends. I suspect that I stored the list in some service in the cloud that I no longer use or maybe doesn’t even exist anymore, and no amount of digging could uncover my lost list of books. Sigh.

Since I needed to compile a new list, I put the request on Twitter to help me get started.

SciFi Tweet

I also provided people with a link to the list of books that I have been reading recently (over the past couple of years) to give people a sense of what I might like. I was looking specifically for science fiction books. I also read quite a few business and technology books, but from my desk, I can see a couple of stacks of books (20+) that I already need to read, so no shortage of ideas in those categories.

I started the list with a few authors that I have already been reading, but haven’t finished reading enough of their work, and by the time I got back to Twitter, the storm of recommendations had started. New recommendations have still been trickling in today, too. The end result was dozens of recommendations for books that look exactly like the type of thing that I enjoy reading. I spent a huge chunk of the evening reading about the books and authors being recommended as they came in through Twitter. If you are interested in the list of recommendations, I have added it to my reading page here on the blog. I’m starting with Cryptonomicon, since Neal Stephenson had the highest the number of recommendations of any author and Todd already owns the book, so it was a convenient place to start.

Let’s get back to Twitter for a minute. Twitter is a give and take relationship. I suspect that I got this overwhelming response for a few reasons: 1) many of my friends are science fiction geeks, so the topic resonates with people; 2) I try to provide recommendations to these same people whenever I can; and 3) I was providing credit and thanking people for their suggestions (I probably missed a few, but I tried to catch everyone). Twitter is a great place for these types of experiences, but you have to be willing to give back and help others when they need it, too.

The moral of the story? Yes, my Twitter followers are smarter than I am.

UPDATE 7/22: Corrected a typo in a name. Sorry, Mack :)

Recent Links

Here are a few interesting things from this week that I wanted to share …

Get Ready As Corporate Sites and Social Networks Start To Connect

Fluent: The Razorfish Social Influence Marketing Report

33 Ways to Use LinkedIn for Business

Save the Date and Submit Your Talks – Ignite Portland 7 is Nov. 12, 2009

FriendFeed struggles as a channel, shows promise as a service

The Future of Search: Social Relevancy Rank

The Ultimate Community Management FAQ

The Easiest Solutions To Your Community’s Biggest Problems

Breakdown: The Five Ways Companies Let Employees Participate in the Social Web

Community Influencer Programs

How to convince your skeptical boss social media has merit

Hire Smarter with Social Media

You can find all of my links on Delicious.

Blogging Elsewhere

Here is this week’s summary of links to my posts appearing on other blogs:

GigaOM’s WebWorkerDaily

If you want a feed of all of my blog posts across multiple sites, you can also subscribe to my über feed.

Disclaimer: I am a paid blogger for the GigaOM network.

Recent Links

Here are a few interesting things from this week that I wanted to share …

Caveat Emptor: Do You Know Enough to Buy or Hire Social Media Expertise?

Red Cross Social Media Strategy/Policy Handbook: An Excellent Model

Guidelines are important, but interpretation is key

2009 Facebook Demographics and Statistics Report: 513% Growth in 55+ Year Old Users. College & High School Drop 20%

With Social Media, fmyi Makes Enterprise Collaboration Pay

Who Uses Social Networks and What Are They Like? (Part 1)

What the 20% fall in marketing budgets means to CEOs

Marketers: Consumers Just Aren’t That Into You

You can find all of my links on Delicious.

Demystifying Social Media Tools and Techniques

I was in Eugene today to talk to the Willamette Valley AMA about social media. The presentation was similar to the one that I gave earlier this year at WebVisions, but with a few more details on how to use some of the various tools. Here are the topics that I covered and a copy of my slides.

  • Guiding Principles & Strategy for Participation
  • Social Media Activities / Tools
    • Twitter
    • Facebook
    • LinkedIn
    • FriendFeed
    • Blogging
  • Monitoring
    • RSS
    • Monitoring Twitter
    • Yahoo Pipes
  • Managing your social media efforts

Contact me if you would like to have me train your company on online communities or social media.

Related Fast Wonder blog posts: