Archive for the 'social networking' Category

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:

FriendFeed: Stalk your Friends

Yet another friend-stalking social networking service to help us keep track of every move our friends are making. At first glance, it really does seem like an easy way to create and follow life streams of other people. FriendFeed makes it easy to add accounts from most of the top social networking sites and a few of the niche sites that don’t always get included (Magnolia and Vimeo, for example).

A bunch of people have been jumping on it today, and the performance has been a little shaky. I’ve also been having some issues getting Netvibes to accept the feed. Let’s hope they are able to quickly scale and work out a few of the bugs using some of that $5M in venture funding.

Feel free to follow me on FriendFeed.

Spock: A Highly Illogical Social Network?

Is Spock a social network, psychology experiment, or joke? I don’t really know at this point. Like many of you, I have been receiving Spock invites on a regular basis. I’ve also been hearing quite a few really smart people say that they just don’t really get why someone would use Spock. I tried it myself, and had the same reaction. Kind of a “why am I doing this?” thought.

This got me thinking. Is it possible that Spock could have another purpose? Maybe it is a psychology experiment being run out of a university research department somewhere to see how many of us are gullible enough to join and fill out a profile for a site with no benefits. It wouldn’t be the first time someone made up a social networking site just to see how many people would express interest for a site that didn’t even exist.

OK, I’m not really serious about the conspiracy theories, and yes, I did fill out a profile, but seriously, does anyone out there find Spock useful for something?!? If so, leave a comment; I am very curious.

Related Fast Wonder Blog posts:

Thanks to Todd for the idea for the title of this post.

Starter Kit: Social Media and Social Networking Best Practices for Business

Recently, I’ve seen a number of companies struggling with how to get more savvy about social media and social networking, and a few have jumped in to participate, but not in a way that is productive. According to Jeremiah Owyang at Forrester, participating effectively in social media may be even more important in times of recession. In the spirit of helping companies get involved, I thought I would put together a small Starter Kit to help companies get off on the right foot.

Definitions:

I will start with a couple of definitions of what “I” mean by a few of these terms for the context of this article. You can find quite a few definitions of social media and social networking, most of them conflicting. As a result, these are not meant to be definitive industry definitions; they are simply guidelines and starting points to help people understand the basic concepts in the context of this post.

  • Social Networking: Connecting with a community of people in your network through services like Facebook and Twitter with various methods of online interaction.
  • Social Media: Online media like blogs, podcasts, videos, and news with a strong participatory element through comments, ratings, or other mechanisms. Social media is generated by the people and for the people with content created by anyone with a voice (average Joes, village idiots, respected journalists, CxOs, …) I will also include the above definition of social networking as a subset of the broader topic of social media throughout the rest of this post.

Guiding Principles:

I wanted to start with some basic guiding principles that should be used to guide social media participation particularly for companies. These should apply to participation in most online social media environments and social networks.

  • Be Sincere: Sincerity is a critical element; if you aren’t able to be sincere, then social media is probably not the best medium for you. Being sincere in your social communications will increase your credibility, and if you appear to be simply going through the motions, people are unlikely to waste their attention on your messages. Sincerity goes a long way toward believability and credibility.
  • Focus on the individuals: Participation in online communities and social media should be focused on the individuals, not the corporate entity. For example, it is OK to have group blogs for a company as long as posts are tied to individuals (real people), but you wouldn’t want to have a blog where every post is authored by “company name” or “admin”. People work at companies, but the real connections and networks happen between individuals. Show a little personality and little bit of who you are from a personal standpoint.
  • Not all about you: Socia media is a conversation, which is by definition two-way. In other words, it isn’t all about you, your company, your products or your agenda. Participation involves listening and participating in the broader community of people. Don’t just expect people to help you; jump in and help other people in areas where you have some expertise. If all you do is pimp your products without adding to the broader conversation, people will lose interest in you pretty quickly.
  • Be a Part of the Community: Just talking at people isn’t going to cut it in this new social world where the community is critical. You should be a part of the broader community of people with similar interests both online and offline by participating in, but not trying to control the community. Engaging in conversations and when possible actually meeting those people who comment on your content, follow you on Twitter, or friend you on Facebook can go a long way toward making real, lasting connections with people. Attend local meetups, comment on content from people who read your content, engage in online discussion forums, and engage in other places where you can find people from your community of peers.
  • Everyone’s a Peer: The days of expert speakers who talk at us while we passively absorb the information with little or no opportunity for discussion are gradually disappearing. This is the old media model: unreachable experts are on TV, the radio, and in print. Now, anyone can publish video, audio podcasts, and online writing while commenting on the content produced by others. Granted, not all of it will be professional quality; however, with an open mind, I think you might be surprised at all of the opportunities to learn from others. We each come into a discussion with unique and diverse ideas, and we learn by listening and sharing ideas with our peers aka everyone.

Participate

You don’t need to participate in everything, especially to start. As a matter of fact, I would discourage participating in too many at once. Jump in with one idea to start, try it for a while, learn and build on it. I would recommend starting with Twitter or blogging. After you get a feel for what works and what doesn’t for you, pick and choose a few more that make sense for you.

  • Blogging: I recommend having both a personal blog and a company blog. I tend to like company group blogs, especially for small companies, where several people from the company regularly blog about various topics related to the company. The key is not to use your corporate blog only to pimp your products or for press releases. You should be talking about your industry and sharing your thoughts on the broader market as a whole in addition to talking about your products. Become a thought leader in your industry through your blog. Likewise, your personal blog shouldn’t be all about your company. It’s fine to talk about your company (the reality is that we spend most of our waking hours at work); however, this is your personal blog. Branch out a little. Talk about your other passions, especially the ones tangentially related to your work. Make sure your blog contains a blogroll linking to other bloggers you respect; not to have one is really bad form (see the above section: Not all about You). You might also be interested in reading a (slightly dated) Corporate Blogging 101 post that I wrote when I was at Intel.
  • Audio and Video Podcasting: Podcasting is a great way to distribute content that doesn’t fit as well into written form. Audio podcasts are really good for interviews to talk to other experts or to record interesting discussions that happen as part of conference panels. I occasionally do Fast Wonder podcasts as interviews with interesting people doing cool things in communities or as recordings of round table discussions. Video is great for demonstrations or presentations where you want to show people something. Screencasts with voice-overs work particularly well, especially for technical topics or marketing videos. I work with our developers to do screencasts fairly regularly for our Jivespace Developer Community.
  • Twitter: Twitter is a way to send short format (140 characters) messages to a bunch of people while also reading messages from others. People have mixed reactions to Twitter, but I think that Twitter is only as interesting as the people you follow. If you follow people with interesting things to say, you will probably get more out of the experience. Talk about interesting things (personal and professional), engage in conversations, interact with other people, follow friends and industry luminaries, and have some fun with it. Feel free to talk about your products, link to your blog posts, and talk about what you are working on, but if all you do is pimp your stuff, people are unlikely to follow your posts (again, it is not all about you). Read more about the Beauty of Twitter.
  • Facebook: You may be noticing a trend here, but I think your Facebook “presence”should be focused on individuals: people within your company, especially your executives, sharing information. Like with Twitter, people should create accounts and share some personal information along with the corporate information. If you want to have a “corporate presence” on Facebook, do it as a group that people can join or a page where people can be a “fan of” your company, not a company profile masquerading as a person.
  • More: The four ways to participate listed above are what I would consider the basics right now. However, there are many, many more ways to engage with your community: Second Life, discussion boards / community sites, Ning, Flickr, meetups and events, MySpace, Bebo, and more. In short, go to those places that make sense for your company. If the industry thought leaders in your market are participating in a social networking site, it is likely that you should also be engaging in conversations there.

As I said earlier, you don’t necessarily need to do everything. Use your best judgment and participate in ways that make sense for your company.

I think this post is just a starting point. I would love to have your feedback on what you think about it. If people are interested, I might want to put more detail behind it and turn it into a longer article.

Related Fast Wonder Blog posts:

Join Us for the First Lunch 2.0 in Portland!

I hope to see everyone at the first Lunch 2.0 held in Portland! Lunch 2.0 is a an excuse to eat lunch with other people (instead of at our desks) and to meet other interesting technology types around Portland. If you have never heard of Lunch 2.0 and want to learn more, you can visit the main Lunch 2.0 site.

You can get all of the details and RSVP on Upcoming for the Portland Lunch 2.0.

The Details:

Wednesday, February 27, 2008
12:00 PM – 1:30 PM
AboutUs.org
107 SE Washington Street, Suite 520
Portland, Oregon 97214

A huge thank you to Jake Kuramoto for reminding us that we needed to do one of these in Portland and then for working with AboutUs to actually make it happen!

Fast Wonder Community Podcast: Data Portability and Social Networking in Online Communities with Scott Kveton

I just published the 5th Fast Wonder Community Podcast today: Data Portability and Social Networking in Online Communities with Scott Kveton. Scott and I discussed a variety of topics related to online communities including data portability, OpenID, and social networking. Listen to the podcast to hear the entire discussion.

If you have any suggestions for people you would like to see interviewed on a future podcast, please let me know!

You can also subscribe to the Fast Wonder Community Podcast via RSS or iTunes.

Related Fast Wonder Posts:

Information Overload, Attention, and RSS

Marshall Kirkpatrick wrote a fascinating piece on ReadWriteWeb today about Ten Common Objections to Social Media Adoption and How You Can Respond. Those of you who follow Marshall on Twitter know that he frequently socializes ideas for posts like this one on Twitter as he writes the article getting real-time feedback on ideas. This one was a particularly interesting discussion to watch as it unfolded. I only wish I hadn’t been quite so slammed today so that I could have paid more attention to it.

I saw what I think is a common theme across a few of the items in Marshall’s list of common objections. Information overload. People increasingly have difficulties managing the stream of information vying for our attention every second of the day. If we participate in social media and the increasing numbers of new online tools, how can we possibly pay attention to all of it? Here are a few items from Marshall’s list of objections that seem to fall into this category:

1. I suffer from information overload already.
2. So much of what’s discussed online is meaningless. These forms of communication are shallow and make us dumber. We have real work to do!
3. I don’t have the time to contribute and moderate, it looks like it takes a lot of time and energy.
9. There are so many tools that are similar, I can’t tell where to invest my time so I don’t use any of it at all.

Quoted from ReadWriteWeb

This is where RSS and other tools that help us manage where we do and do not focus our attention come into play. I agree with some of these objections to a point. Yes, there is information overload; yes, it takes time and energy; yes, some of it is shallow and meaningless; and yes, it can be hard to figure out where to invest your time. However, and this is a big however, it can be easier than many think.

Tools like RSS can really help you prioritize where you focus your attention. I use Netvibes as my RSS reader with topics organized by tab and information organized by how important / credible it is. I have separate tabs for Web 2.0/social media, open source, community, Jive, and a few misc. tabs. Each one has the stuff that I want to pay the most attention to at the top with lower priority feeds near the bottom. It really helps me stay organized and focused on those things that are important to me.

Yahoo Pipes takes this one step further. You can aggregate information from multiple feeds and filter it by keywords and other items to create very specific targeted feeds. I’ve just started playing with Yahoo Pipes, so I hope to have a more detailed analysis on it in a couple of weeks after I’ve had time to explore more of what it can do.

The point is that we all have difficulty managing information overload and our attention stream; however, we can’t let this stop us from exploring new technologies and new ideas. The solution is not to avoid these new tools. Our focus should be on finding ways to better manage this stream of information in a way that increases, not decreases, our productivity.

Related Fast Wonder Blog posts:

It's Complicated on Facebook

A little social networking humor.


Courtesy of xkcd.

The Beauty of Twitter

I’ve been using Twitter for quite a while to keep up with friends and industry news, and I find it to be one of the most valuable and useful online applications. The critics point out that they don’t need to know the mundane details of people’s lives (when they wake up, what they eat, etc.) If you feel this way, then you just aren’t following the right people! Right now on Twitter, I see a debate from Tara Hunt about those who “write” and those who “do”, a reminder about the Portland Werewolf games tomorrow, thoughts on what happens to your blog and other online accounts after you die, and various links to really interesting sites.

Jeremiah Owyang blogged today about how Some Conversations have shifted to Twitter:

Twitter is becoming a major communication tool for me lately. There are more intimate conversations being held on this next-generation chat room, and it’s filled with early adopters and those who are trying to reach them.

If you’re in the tech industry, and in marketing, you should be paying attention to what’s happening on twitter. There’s even search tools that can help you find discussions and memes. Also, if you’re trying to reach early adopters, these are tools for you. This really reminds me of the the whole blogging industry in 2005, it’s the same type of pros and cons –it’s just much smaller now. If you don’t meet these criterion, then it may not be for you, always remember to find the audience you’re trying to reach first.

(Quote from Web Strategy by Jeremiah)

I struggle every day with whether or not to keep my Twitter account private. On the one hand, I can connect more intimately with my friends without worrying about random stalkers and creepy people. On the other hand, I could more effectively use it to reach more people if it were public. I tend to add more people to Facebook using it as a more public platform while keeping my Twitter feed private, which means that I can post specific details about where I am and how people can find me. Regardless of whether your feed is public or private, by following interesting people, Twitter can be a valuable tool for keep in touch and learning new things.

Related Fast Wonder Posts:

Communities as Games

Social networking sites (Digg, Facebook, and YouTube) can be thought of as games with goals, actions, play, strategies, and rewards. This idea comes from C. Weng’s free e-book, The Web: Hidden Games. On Read/WriteWeb yesterday, Richard MacManus talked about these Social Websites as Games:

The e-book goes on to tell you how to “win” at Digg and notes that “like all games, Digg’s system can be cheated.” It also compares YouTube to chess: “there are an infinite number of ways to win in YouTube but it only occurs under certain conditions. Every single method, strategy, and theory leads back to the essential factor: getting people to view your videos.” And as for Facebook, it is compared to The Sims: “The object of the game is more to monitor or to guide characters in daily life rather than to win at something. There’s no simple goal in sight but it is all about the process of playing.”

(Quoted from by Richard MacManus on Read/WriteWeb)

I think this idea extends past social websites and into communities as well. I recently blogged about using reputation systems in communities with a discussion about people can game community reputation systems. The important thing to recognize is whether people are gaming the system in a productive manner that helps the community or in a destructive way that serves only to clutter the community with worthless chatter that annoys other members.

Thinking about the community as a game where you can accumulate points and status can help the community when members use the points as incentives to post productive content and answer questions from other members. This productive gaming serves to improve the content within the community.

The danger with reputation systems (and social networking sites, like Digg) is when the gaming becomes destructive. In communities, people can post worthless one-line responses to discussions that add nothing to the conversations, but act only to accumulate points. In Digg, people can get together to Digg worthless stories to the home page solely to generate advertising revenue for the owner of the site.

The key, as I’ve mentioned before, is transparency and proactive adjustments. Community reputation systems can be adjusted to help prevent people from accumulating any significant amount of points just for responding to discussions without meaningful content. Digg has continually adjusted their algorithms to help prevent gaming. It is also important to recognize that no technical solution can entirely prevent gaming of reputation systems or social websites. Because you cannot entirely prevent it, transparency is the key to making sure that other people can see which members are gaming the system. As a community member, if I can see that all of Joe’s posts are one line responses of the “great post” or “thanks for the info” variety, I will start to ignore his responses, and if the system lets me block him from my view, I may chose to exclude his responses. On a site like Digg, I may also chose to block stories submitted by a user who always submits stories from a couple of sites (probably his sites).

I like reputation systems and think that they can be used productively in communities if monitored carefully. People are motivated in many different ways. While some community members will contribute freely without any reward for their effort, others will contribute more often if they can see some tangible rewards for their contribution.

Related Fast Wonder Posts: