Tag Archive for 'social networking'

Social Networking Sites for Conferences

A few days ago, I was asked if I had any thoughts about event-specific social networking services. After responding to the email, I thought that I would turn it into a blog post to see whether people agree or disagree with my views.

I went to a few conferences this year that set up event-specific social networks for the conference. Some I joined and then neglected without contributing anything, and others I never bothered to join at all. I didn’t stay engaged with any of the services.

I have to admit that I’m not a big fan of social networking sites specifically for conferences. There are a couple of reasons:

  • Most of us already belong to more social networks and communities than we can effectively manage. Joining one more social network and maintaining information and contacts in one more place is not something that most people will spend time doing.
  • Conferences and events are bound by time; we attend them for a few hours or a few days a year. We learn new things and meet new people during the event, but few of us will spend time trying to extend this networking time online for any significant period of time before or after the event.
  • There are so many better ways to keep up with people after an event that fit more easily into our everyday lives (Twitter, blogs, Facebook, etc.)

I like the goal of making it easy for people to connect before, during and after an event, but there are better ways to do this:

  • Engage with people on an existing social network that is already heavily used by your audience. Facebook groups, for example, are a good way for a conference to encourage information sharing and networking among 20-30 year olds or people working in technology.
  • Provide a way for members to find each other with an online member directory linking to contact information, Twitter handles, blogs, etc.

Here are my questions for you:

  • Have you ever found an event specific social network useful to you over any extended period of time?
  • If so, how did you use it?
  • If not, why do you think it wasn’t useful?

Related Fast Wonder Blog posts:

Social Media Policy: Does your company need one?

Maybe, maybe not.

I’ve been thinking about this topic for the past week or so. For some reason, it keeps coming up in conversation, and I keep running across discussions about blogging / social media policies while I’m reading about related topics.

Paul Dunay did a survey with a question about blogging policies and found that 63% of companies surveyed did not have a formal policy in place regarding employee blogs. As an aside, please notice that only 86 people responded to this question and his research does not include any demographic or research methodology data, so I would be cautious about using this data to make any significant decisions. With that said, it got me thinking about whether blogging policies were important or not. He also suggested in his analysis that it might be better to think of social media policies, rather than limiting it to blogging policies.

I also ran across one of Jeremiah Owyang’s posts about Social Media Policies from a couple of months ago where he suggests leveraging and building on the existing ethics policies while trusting employees to do the right thing.

In my experience, stringent rules and regulations encourage people to find ways to work around them. When companies come up with big lists of specific do’s and don’ts, too many employees use them as an excuse to skirt the rules (well, they didn’t say that I couldn’t do x, y, z). Broad guidelines based on good practices might be a better way to go. When I worked at Intel, we had frequent ethics training, and I remember an instructor saying that most things could be decided by thinking about the following 2 questions:

  • Would I want my mother to know that I did this?
  • Would I be embarrassed if I read about it on the front page of the Wall Street Journal?

As far as I am concerned, that just about covers it for me :-)

It seems like quite a few companies go with a list of rules and regulations approach. While social media policies of the rules and regulations variety may not be the best way to encourage participation in social media sites, some social media guidelines for your employees might be a good start. The guidelines should cover blogging, podcasting, comments, Facebook, Twitter, and other social sites. I would keep the list of guidelines short and broad with a focus on helping employees participate in social media rather than restricting them to a list of “approved” activities. Again, this is not intended to be a list of rules and regulations.

Here are a few things you might want to include in your company’s social media guidelines for participation:

  • Be authentic, honest and conversational in your posts. Leave the marketing speak and press release format for other parts of the website.
  • Use good judgment about content and be careful not to include confidential information about your company, customers, or vendors.
  • Listen to people and respond to as many comments as possible with constructive feedback. Allow negative comments (delete the spam) – the key to managing comments is to respond rather than censor. Avoid getting defensive and ignore the trolls where appropriate.
  • When you talk about your company or competitors, do so under your real name making your alliance with your company clear (no company wants a repeat of the Whole Foods message board fiasco). If you are providing your opinion, it is also a good idea to make sure people know that you are giving your opinion.
  • Peer reviews, especially for lengthy or complicated posts, should be encouraged, but not required. It’s always nice to have someone double check grammar and technical details before it goes out to the world.
  • Personal blogs for employees should be encouraged. They are a great way to show the world that you hire smart, interesting people.

A few things that you might not want to include in your social media policy:

  • Lengthy approval processes for content. They not only stifle creativity and spontaneity, but they can also render many posts obsolete. Social media often requires quick, short responses to questions, trends, and issues. You want your employees to be involved in those discussions as they happen, not days or even hours later.
  • Restrictions about who is allowed to participate and who is not. Assuming that you hire great people, you should be able to provide employees with guidelines to participate and trust them to do the right thing. If someone isn’t playing nicely with others online, it should be addressed as part of a broader performance management plan with that specific employee.

I also have several other posts on similar topics about best practices for blogging and participating in social sites:

This is not meant to be an exhaustive list, and it probably wouldn’t work for every company; however, I do think it provides an interesting starting point and approach for working with employees to help them participate in social media (rather than restricting them from participating).

What do you think is important to have in a corporate social media policy?

Plurk: Twitter Replacement or Not?

I’ve spent a little time today playing with Plurk.  If you want to check it out, this link has an invite code for Plurk.

A few observations

  • The verb and emoticon drop-downs provide the potential for some interesting targeted search features, but I don’t think these actually exist yet.
  • This morning, the RSS feeds were mangled, but by the time I got around to writing this post they’ve been fixed, so they seem to be on top of the bugs & able to respond to issues fairly quickly.
  • The timeline view puts quite a bit on a page, but I’m not sure how well it would scale to 100, 1000, or more friends.
  • It would be nice if you didn’t have to mouse over every update to see the entire text.
  • You can leave comments on Plurks, but you have to click on the update to see the comments.
  • The Karma aspect is fascinating, but it is only calculated once a day. You get Karma by you and your friends activity on the site. The algorithm remains a mystery, which along with the one calculation per day helps prevent gaming, since it is much more difficult to see which activities are worth the most points.

While Plurk is interesting, I suspect that it is doomed to failure unless it finds a way to integrate with other services, like Twitter and Facebook.  I’ve enjoyed playing with it, but all of my friends are on Twitter, and ultimately your friend network is what matters. For this single reason, I don’t really see Plurk as a Twitter replacement.

Chris Messina on DiSo at Community 2.0

Here are my notes from Chris Messina’s presentation at community 2.0. In other words, these are my interpretations of his words (not my words). I might have some typos or other errors.

Enemies (I missed a few of these)

  • inviting friends
  • profile filling out & linking to other services
  • finding and joining your groups
  • duplicating content

Users are not the same thing as customers

The Web Citizen

  • has identity
  • has provenance
  • has friends
  • has enemies
  • has agency (ability choose & pull out of network with the content)

The building blocks

  • Activity: noun verb noun with context. Chris tweeted niches bitches from sms
  • Contacts, friends & identity: Google Friend Connect, for example
  • Messaging & Notifications: moving toward less siloed messaging
  • Permissions: right now it’s a nightmare – different & conflicting across sites
  • Groupings: services grouped together like Fire Eagle + Dopplr
  • DiSo Project: microformats, openID, OAuth, etc.

BlogHer Recap: Day Two

Here are a few nuggets of information that people have been talking about at BlogHer Business.

It is important to be a real person with a real personality when working with online communities. You have to be authentic, and in order to do that your personality has to come through and you become the face of the company for that community. You represent the company, but you also represent yourself, and it’s important to maintain your personal credibility.

People’s identities can get too wrapped up in their company, especially when it is a startup, to the point where their online identity is entirely based on their job at one company. What happens when they need to move on to the next thing? Will they be perceived as credible on their own merits?

Human part of blogging is that people will make mistakes. The biggest way to overcome an issue is to be transparent, honest, and admit mistakes. People will be more forgiving if you are transparent and honest. Allowing negative comments can also increase your credibility. People will say negative things about your product or your blog whether they say them on your site or their blogs. The way that you respond to the negative comments can help you rather than hurt. If you delete the negative comments, people will find out, and you (or your company) will look bad when people find out that you delete opinions that you don’t agree with. Delete the spam and discriminatory comments, but leave the objections as an opportunity to respond and engage in the conversation.

It is amazing how many senior managers at very large companies are not aware of what people are saying about their brands online on blogs and other sites. More people are becoming aware of what people are saying, but it doesn’t always make its way to the top.

Companies who want to blog need to either have time or money to dedicate to the effort. You need to have someone to manage the content, keep track of comments, respond to feedback, etc. Either you have to devote someone’s time to it or you need to pay someone to do it for you.

In social media, figure out success indicators & how you are going to measure them before you do anything. If you don’t, they can change the game on you halfway through. Focus only on a few basic metrics ~3 things. Pick the most important ones to measure success, especially in the beginning. Then start looking at other metrics to figure out where and how to improve.

It’s all about the content. Write really compelling content before worrying about stats, digg, whatever.

Yahoo’s new Shine site for women. Hugely unpopular with the women here. One panelist referred to it as like a car wreck on the side road that is terrible, but you can’t help but take a look on your way by. Women don’t want to feel like they are being targeted to as just women/

Print is being funded by dumb marketing dollars right now, and the move is shifting to searchable content online. Make it easy for people to find the information they are need quickly. Trend is also moving toward video. This doesn’t mean that you want to have everything as video. You want to have video as an option along with written content. This gives people a choice of how they want to receive the information: written or video.

Many others have been blogging about the event in much greater detail for anyone who wants more information.

Portable Social Networks session at sxsw

Here are my relatively raw notes from the session with David Recordon, Chris Messina, and others.

People are tired of re-creating our data and friend lists on every new sites. We need to make it easier to move content from one site to another. Every website starts from scratch instead of building on things you have already created. This is why Facebook apps have been so successful – you can use the apps with your existing friends and existing information.

You don’t necessarily want all of the same friends on every service, and you don’t want to impose your new apps / sites on all of your friends by flooding them with friend requests. You may also want to message people on other services and integrate with various services so that you can use the sites you like, your friends use the ones they like, and both can still communicate and share information between them.

Who owns your friends email addresses? Do you have a right to port your friends email addresses from Facebook to Plaxo? You want to be able to contact your friends and easily find their email addresses without violating the privacy of your friends.

Terminology is getting confusing for people. Social networking, social graph, etc. The web is way more than terminology, it is really about the people and the experiences. Should we be using the terminology “friends”? Are these people your “friends”, are they contacts, etc.? There are many more interesting ways to frame it around actions (Dopplr with fellow travelers).

Contacts can be imported by giving them your email address and *password*. Do you really want to do this? Does it set users up to be phished?

Google released an address book api that can be used to get your contacts without giving away your email address and password.

Building blocks exist today to build portable social networks:

  • hCard can be used to import contact information from other public services into another service. The point is to make it like magic: let them know what it does, what information would be shared, and how it will be used without necessarily confusing normal users with the terminology (leave it as a link or on an about page). Focus on explaining what you are doing for the user and not necessarily how you are going to do it. Also need to give people the option to only pull in certain contacts – just the ones that you want on a particular service.
  • Need better ways to validate which accounts belong to a friend by following a trail of links. Is the David Recordon on Twitter the same one as the one on Facebook. Once you can specify your accounts and your friends accounts, you can also focus on using the same methods to bring in additional content and information. You are already creating the information, but adding some additional annotation around it makes it easier to find and make the data portable. Google social graph api is one way to do this – all based on public data.
  • Enabling trust on the web with OpenID – you already have these accounts on the web, and OpenID is a good method of verifying your identity. You can use it to log in now and say who you are. If you have other profile information in your hCard, then the other site can discover it. But maybe you only want to share certain information.
  • OAuth is more about authorization than authentication. Authorizing access to your resources using tokens to sign messages, like what you do with Flickr uploader by going to the Flickr site to log in and give the uploader authorization to access your photos. OAuth is really important for giving control to certain websites without giving them access to your username and password, which on Google would give them access Google Checkout in addition to mail / contacts. You can also revoke the tokens and not have to change your password to revoke access. A lot of the big players are moving in this direction.

These ideas are a big part of the evolution of the web. It will be difficult, but it’s a bit of tough love in the meantime.

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!