Archive for category Social Media Club

My Weekly Look Forward

Well, maybe its me looking back, but only because I want to learn from what I just left behind to inform where I am going…

I am for the first time in a long time sitting in a moment that is pretty near the present.  For most of my life, like many of you I am sure, I invested a lot of energy into worrying about the future over which I have little control, or regretting my mistakes made along the way.  I have learned from the books I have read on Buddhist and Zen principles a scant little, but this one thing was driven home in all the works:

be here now

So simple, yet so hard – especially for an ADD rattled mind that would be equally happy facilitating a large conversation between a few hundred people or having tea with one of our wise elders learning their life lessons.

I guess it really is just about getting older, gaining more perspective from experience.  As I turn 40 this summer, the number just weights heavy on me, eventhough it is still looming in the distance some 4+ months from now.  So I clearly see the only thing I can do is type the next word and the next.  While I could of course now delete those words, or edit them, I can’t have the first seconds back in which they were typed.  I can only be here now, as I was there then and as I will be when I am there.

OK.  Philosophical rants aside, I have a new accupuncturist at Kaiser Permanente and the guy is fantastic – not only has he helped relieve the rotator cuff pain, but he must have hit my ‘bliss’ spot on my forehead because each time I leave, I feel more grounded then ever before, more here, more here now.  Don’t get me wrong, I am still blurting and hitting the hot button still causes a reaction more times then not, but it is bettter.  Better still, I feel healthier.

But there is another element of that too, which is Grace Di’Laura, a great administrative manager, but more importantly a great person who has the crucial ability to think, to question tasks so that she can perform them more effectively and efficiently.  It’s so crucial and so few people have this talent – great questions mark the beginning of great conversations, and great conversations lead to innovation.  Ultimately, the implementation of those innovations will lead to transformation… of organizations, of people, of communities and even of entire societies.

To get back to the story, the reason for being so extraordinarily pleased with Grace is that she has helped me get near to the ever elusive inbox zero.  So if you dont hear from me on some email you sent in the next week or so, please do followup again – clearing through 10,000 or so emails from the last year or so took several weeks to do and I am sure it was not done without missing something important (in fact, we just deleted everything prior to January 1 actually ;).  But the feeling of being able to let go of all those old emails I knew I wanted to respond to, but couldn’t, due to the 24 hr daily time limit… Grace freed me from those and so much more already in the first couple of months.  We are really going to miss her when she goes to law school this summer.

Of course, this is also why I am able to be here now better then ever before.  Unfortunately, it has meant that I spent the majority of the last week clearing up old open issues, preparing to file taxes (ok, Kristie’s doing more of that then me, but it still takes energy), dealing with settling old debts, completing a project for a client, doing the weekly Social Media Club work, getting the social media workshop series redesigned and now finally thinking that each Friday should be my day to create content and nothing else. OK, maybe a lunch meeting, like I just did with Timo Heuer, family from the old country 🙂

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the great time we had at WoolfCamp, where I got to debut my Tweet Story which we will be publishing next week.  WoolfCamp was a bit different this year, but still held its charm – coming together with a group of kindred spirits to honor Virginia Woolf and the writer inside us all.  Given the difficult times we have all seen it was just as much about being together, celebraring our humanity and our community, as it was about talking about topics of mutual interest.  Kristie and I were so glad we made it down there, though bummed we missed StartupWeekend SF.

If you care, which you probably dont, I allso made some progress on a few different businesses we are starting up to build some residual income sources, more to come on that shortly.

Now, next week will be all about catching up on the Social Media Buyers Guide Project and getting into final production mode for the workshops we are doing in Birmingham, Hamburg, Paris and London.  Still trying to see if we can do something small in London – maybe our friends at the Paul Young Foundation can let us borrow their main room for the afternoon?

As long as I am writing about it, I should mention that we are now embarking on producing a lot of events, so I am starting to look for sponsors from communications agencies and social media technology vendors.  If you want to get in front of the people who are implementing social media solutions in their organizations and I don’t call you next week, please do reach out to me.

Next week’s Social Media Club Question of the Week (#SMCQ5) is going to be a good one I think.  Something along the lines of our responsibility to check our facts, ensure we are clear when something is opinion and when we are stating facts and the general harm that can be caused by intentionally ignoring such important ethical tenets, as we saw yet another detractor of social media club do this past week. C’est la vie.  Some people will just never get it and we can’t do much to help them except continue to explain what it is we really stand for and continue to live the values that we find to be important.

Also next week is the beginning of regular 24 Hour Fitness visits – finally feeling healthy enough to get that back into the routine.

So that’s my first Weekly Look Forward, thanks for stopping by.  Hope your week ahead is a good one.

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Is it ok for companies to pay to be featured users in Social Media sites?

TwitterI don’t know how I let this distract me from my work I am doing in my hotel room [oh wait, is that an Eagle flying over the BC Place Arena out my window? shoot, where was I? oh yes, Twitter] – So I stopped in on Twitter and happend to see this tweet from Robert Scoble and mistakenly clicked the link, only to get my panties all in a bunch at the level of pettiness and noise in the comments on his post about the importance or unimportance of having more followers on Twitter and on this one about whether or not TechCrunch paid to be featued on Twitter’s list of suggested user’s to follow. [if you can spare a few hours and resist the temptation to scratch your eyes out, there are some really good points in both of the threads if you can get past the baseless and off-topic ones]

As Robert admitted in the comments, he did a bad job of framing the question on TechCrunch and Twitter, partly driven by a desire to get you involved in answering it (ie getting more ppl like me excited and upset which is what people with journalism degrees sometimes do, obviously with some effectiveness).  As such, I want to try to reframe the issue with some clearer questions and thoughts. NOTE: I did not read all the comments because I don’t think I cold avoid the impulse to scratch my eyes out or go deaf because of all the noise in that thread (personal aside: wow, do we need Insytes more then ever today).

Before going further, I want to point out that we should not unfairly target our good friends Ev/Biz and their hard working team which needs a real business model to ensure their service is sustainable.  The reason for me dropping what I am working on for Social Media Club Portland tomorrow night and Social Media Club Seattle Tuesday night (both sold out unfortunately) is that this is really important question that should receive some critical examination.  The issue is important to consider for all organizations online, most especially social networks, blogs and web services – but also for media companies, associations and other non-profits who work with advertisers, sponsors, donors and/or patrons.

This is clearly a discussion on disclosure first and foremost, but as a result, I hope other important lessons can be learned too…

Q1: Is Twitter adopting a pay to play model for being featured anywhere on its site? Are other sites doing this without making it clear? If so who?

A1: I don’t know, do you?  Besides answering here in the comments, maybe we need a wiki page to list those who do things like this but dont disclose it properly?

Q2: Does this sort of advertising (and the sort that has GaryVee using adsense to promote his twitter account) have a positive or negative impact on other users? on the Web 2.0 / Social Media era? on the broader society?  Does it matter at all? Q2b: Does this conversion of dollars into the power to get attention take away from our open/transparent/meritocratic ideals? In which situations is this ok?

A2: I think it is ok accompanied by simple disclosures and transparency as that will reveal true intentions and we, as informed citizens, can make our own judgments on the value of that reccomendation. In the case of Garyvee, it just seems odd, but there is nothing wrong with that.  Strategically he is the BRAND of his company (do you know what his company is?) so advertising his Twitter account does help his company/.  Personally, I believe that strategically he would be better off putting WineLibrary.TV in the ads for increasing the overall awareness of his great wine buying advice site, despite the likely decreased click through rate from a non-personal, company branded ad. Of course, the mere fact of breaking ground in this way has led to plenty of other new followers for him as a result of people like me writing about it… but that’s Gary, always passionately leading the way for others to follow…

Disclosure: Just last week I contacted the folks behind TwitterCounter to see if we (aka me for @SocialMediaClub) could buy a ‘follow us’ ad on their top 100 page – as the noise gets louder, we need better ways for getting noticed. @SocialMediaClub was in the top 100 on TwitterCounter for several months until recently being kicked off the list by the volume of hollywood celebtrities joining conversation (which is a more interesting issue in itself to talk about a bit later).

Q3: Will the user community (especially new registrants) be better off if Twitter is open about how they are doing it?

A3: This is the only one I will answer in detail because I am sure that everyone will be better off.  This is similar to the need to put the word advertorial on top of paid placement in print. People know a banner ad when they see it, but a ‘friendly recommendation’ that is soley based on the ability of people to pay that doesn’t inform the consumer is harmful to the  spirit of transparency we are trying to manifest in the world. It may even potentially be an issue for the FTC, so let’s do our best to solve this before someone else does.

This hits on two of Social Media Club’s missions, both Media Literacy and Ethics.  It’s hard enough for most people to know when they are being advertised too already, so this, if true, is a real problem for me personally and professionally.

Q4: Should celebrities and companies be on separate lists – should we have user ‘types’ to differenentiate and allow people to see different accounts? Shouldn’t companies (including perhaps our non-profit Social Media Club) with over 10,000 followers pay a reasonable fee for the service? It certainly would still be cheaper then a newswire for a press release]

A4: Well, let’s be honest, this is my suggestion not a question, so my answer to these questions is yes.

What do you think?

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Chris Heuer Speaks: Social Media Workshop Miami

At the Miami Social Media Workshop Chris Heuer gave his presentation, “Social Media Principles and Introduction to Conversational Marketing.” The Workshop is designed for small businesses, communications agencies and tourism related businesses.  Workshop leaders will help attendees figure out how to effectively use Social Media for their businesses, learn how Social Media marketing is different from than traditional marketing, and take home some very practical knowledge they can apply to their businesses immediately.

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Chris Heuer Speaks: Social Media Workshop Hawaii

Social Media Club dispatched a team of experts to PodCamp Hawaii on October 23, 2008 to conduct a one day workshop on social media. Chris Heuer will present “Conversations aren’t Marketing,” a presentation focused on how companies can talk with their customers using Social Media. Check out It’s About Conversation, Not Marketing, Living in the Era of Conversation, and his presentation “Don’t Just Join Conversations, Participate and Contribute.”

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Podcamp Hawaii Interview of Charlene Li

Since Charlene Li, author of Groundswell, isn’t going to be able to make it over to PodCamp Hawaii or Social Media Club Workshop Hawaii, I had the pleasure of interviewing her.  In this first part of the interview, I focused on items more relevant to businesses in Hawaii.  An additional interview focused on enterprise concerns will be released next week.

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Foundational Fixes For Economy #alt2bailout

Face-to-face trading interactions on the tradi...

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This morning over sausages and beer at Citizen Space, the talk inevitably turned to the economy and whether it was going to turn around or tank.  The great thing about co-working is the diversity of perspectives you can get in any conversation.  Without the corporate silo walls preventing us from interacting, without being organized by similarity of activities performed, and without anything connecting us more then a shared sense of place, we get by the bullshit and get real.

Anyway, I digress, because my point is more about what we really need to change in order to correct for our broader market problems (though I clearly think the silos between us are uber important).  What will it take? Less Greed?  Sure, but how do we stop one of the most powerful and highly motivating of the 7 deadly sins?  We certainly don’t legislate it all away, its an emotionally charged human behaviour.  No, we must really start the change from within.  Microsharing is perhaps an appropriate meme to leverage – now we need to get on to microgrowing, where we each grow a little bit each day in terms of understanding how connected we are to the world around us and the other people in it.

This was one of the original purposes of BrainJams, and then Social Media Club – to bring together people from a large diversity of backgrounds to see past the differences of culture, style, economic status and intelligence and see into the hearts and souls of each other.  To see that as much as we are individuals, we are also all one.  We are on this earth together.  We are part of this ecosystem less then we are masters over it.  We are in it together.

Whether or not you believe in the butterfly effect or chaos theory, you certainly have experienced the impact that another person can have on you and that you can have on them.  There is no denying that we are all connected in some way – the homeless man and Donald Trump, George Bush and Cindy Sheehan, and even Charlie Manson and the Benedectine Monks.  What we do affects others.  Simple.  What we do affects the earth. Simple.  What others do affects us.  We need to be mindful of this impact and find a way to ensure its balance.  To balance our self interest and drive with the broader interest of the world around us and its needs for our unique contribution to it.

What we need to fix to help our economy is to not reward greed and excess with tax breaks and bailouts but with meaningful penalties.  Perhaps they can use their great talents to serve as community organizers – to solve big problems.

One specific place where a change in perspective can have a potentially big impact is in looking at our unrealistic expectations of investment grade returns of our investment capital after a company has developed a mature market.  We probably need to fix the general public perception about investment markets in the US really.  We need to get beyond the expectations of constant never ending growth of our investments and look more to the long term. More like the Europeans with a 5 year view of the market instead of a quarterly perspective.

We need to shift our thinking of investments into alignment with reality.  At some point, investments in mature markets become consistent profitability instead of a doubling of revenue. The investor reward on this investment has a ceiling, but if it is successful will always reward your risk with income in the form of dividends.  Wow, what a concept!  So instead of looking for my money to grow exponentially, I realize it is providing me with $250,000 in income each year.  That sounds pretty darn reasonable to me.

Wasn’t that how utilities and railroads used to operate?

This is clearly a sociological problem. A psychological problem.  So it is hard to imagine any scenario where our government is going to be able to force this sort of change in society.  That change needs to come from inside of us. Each and everyone of us. We need to be aware of the world we inhabit, our role in it, our stewardship of it and our responsibilities to each other that when honored will reward each and everyone of us.

It starts simply with microgrowth.  Personal development and an acceptance of the reality we are facing as a result of a way of thinking that is not based in reality.  Humans Don’t Scale no matter how big our appetite for growth is.

Is it possible for this change in thinking to ever take place? Whats good about it and whats bad about it?

A view of the world in balance with our place in it is all I am seeking,  There are many ways to that path.   Tag yours with #alt2bailout and lets learn from each other and discuss other issues we need to address along with potential solutions to our problems.

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My New Space @ Citizen Space

Citizen Space LogoVery excited to make this other announcement today that I am going to be joining a bunch of my friends and colleagues at the local co-working offices of Citizen Space!

When we first secured our offices for BrainJams/Social Media Club in the LookSmart building, we very much wanted that to be a co-working space, but the facilities management policies didn’t allow for it to be a full co-working space.  Instead we sub-leased desks to Stowe Boyd, Greg Narain, Ujogo, My Currency, The Conversation Group and a few other friends.  It was like co-working, but not…

Fast forward to today and I am really happy to be a part of a real co-working space where I can spend my time in a multi-disciplinary environment, hanging with friends, putting on some more community events/salons and generally doing what I love, helping people out.  It is a real stroke of luck that this weekend I saw Tara Hunt tweet about the openings just as I had decided to move on from The Conversation Group – serendipity works in mysterious ways, and this time, in a very awesome way too!

Funny thing is that all my offices in San Francisco have been on 2nd Street, a few blocks apart from each other. I am looking forward to hanging out with Tara, Hillary, Ivan and all the other co-working folks and hopefully also contributing to the broader co-working community.  See you there really soon!

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A Few Anniversaries

I meant to write this up earlier in the week, but have been overwhelmed by the great response we have received from the latest Social Media Club announcements. There have been quite a few anniversaries lately, only one of which really got any attention, which was my first wedding anniversary with Kristie Wells-Heuer on July 7, 2008. Love you honey….

It was also the 2nd anniversary of the Social Media Club blog on Thursday July 10, 2008 and the 3rd anniversary of this blog on June 23, 2008 (though my official first post goes back to May 13, 2002 on a Movable Type install setup by my old friend David Pruitt – thanks buddy, if only I realized back then how cool this thing really way).

So I want to take a moment and revisit those first posts and a few others from early on, just to share some of the early thinking and writing with you to see if any of it has changed a bit…

Well, what do you think, anything interesting to note there, other than the fact that there are no comments on those posts?

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It’s About Conversation, Not Marketing

After reading The problem with ‘conversational marketing’ I was inspired to express my views on the importance of conversation and the evolution of marketing.

Let’s be clear, the real problem with conversational marketing (other than the God awful term itself) is the ‘marketing’, not the conversation. The human problem with many traditional marketing practices is that they are exploitative in nature, selling/hyping goods and services in the market that are of dubious value, and only benefit those doing the selling. Of course this is not the case with the majority of marketing or marketers, but the extent to which a few bad intentioned actors can create a stereotype that is harmful to an entire group of people is quite stunning.

The gist of the article is correct that product and experience are the most important aspects of the business by providing goods and services to the market that create profits and satisfaction. I wrote about this after our awesome SxSW panel earlier this year in a post called The Golden Rules of Marketing. If you are more interested in the importance of great products as the first step to great marketing, listen to the podcast of the Self Replicating Awesomness session.

My problem is with the article’s dismissal of the importance of conversation over messaging to create understanding. It demonstrates how badly a few buzzword spewing charlatans can hurt the efforts towards transformation across an industry (communications in this case).

As I have demonstrated in unplanned exchanges in numerous workshops I have facilitated over the past year, it is very easy for people to mean the same thing, use different words to describe it and have an argument resulting from their different viewpoints. Conversation in this case, creates understanding, bridging cultures and differences in the use of language – something that a simple published statement or headline (aka message) can not do if no one is able to be engaged, listening and responding.

When those of us who understand what is happening say the words ‘listen and respond’, we are not limiting ourselves to the words we say back to someone after listening. We are talking about what we DO as a result of HEARING them as well as what we say. By listening, and truly hearing what is said, we are also showing that we are paying attention – it speaks volumes about the true intentions of our actions in the market place.

The post’s author sees the biggest proof of the failure of conversational marketing in a 2007 study from 9 months prior to their post:

According to the University of Michigan’s American Customer Satisfaction Index, Dell was at the bottom of the pack in 2007 and actually lost 5 percentage points from the previous year

The author is correct in noting that it is much more difficult to provide a product that meets the market’s needs/expectations then it is to talk with them. Duh! The point isn’t so much that they are talking together, but what they do as a result. To expect conversations between representatives of a company and the market to turn around the culture and operational systems of that company within a matter of hours or days is of course impractical. These things take time. We are all human, people misunderstand, and of course, people make new mistakes which need to be understood and corrected all the time.

The article goes on to further state:

As such, companies should invest first and foremost in making sure that they do a good job of providing consumers with the products and services they want and need.

But of course, in order to understand what products they want, the companies need to listen to them FIRST, deliver the goods, listen to them again, change, deliver the goods again with improvements and so on. This quote shows how backwards the thinking is – companies need to do more up front to understand the needs of the market (traditionally thought of as research, which is of course a form of a conversation) before they invest in producing the goods.

The post goes on to say:

I would also point out what may seem counterintuitive to conversationalists – the fact that sometimes silence is the best indicator of consumer satisfaction.

Apparently, the author – Drama 2.0 – hasn’t read one of Kathy Sierra’s best blog posts called Be Brave or Go Home, which explains why customer silence is not golden if your company lives in the zone of mediocrity. Nor have they read Ken Blanchards book called Raving Fans, nor do they understand the importance and impact of Word of Mouth.

The thing is, that if I buy a computer from Dell (and I am a Mac guy, so the chances are slim), I hope I don’t have to talk to Richard Binhammer about a problem, but he hopes I talk to him about how much I love it. Either way, because I know that they are listening, as humans do to one another, I know that he will help to fix any problems. I know that their intentions are to serve us with better products and that sometimes shit happens. If the intention is made clear that they are not a faceless corporation here to take my money and harm me by selling me bad products/services, I would rather buy from them then anyone else.

This is our philosophy at The Conversation Group, and the main purpose we came together as an agency – to help more companies embrace the spirit of conversation with markets and to move beyond marketing by discovering, engaging and serving their markets in a more respectful and effective way.

Thanks to Rebecca Caroe from Creative Agency Secrets who pointed out this article called The problem with ‘conversational marketing’. (disclosure: two of the subjects of that post, Richard Binhammer and Shel Israel are friends) This is something I was writing about last summer in the post entitled, Stop the Insanity, Don’t Call it Conversational Marketing, and more recently in response to a Doc Searls post (keep getting better Doc, we’re with you) called Clues vs. Trains.

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Friend Feed Rooms Replace Mailing Lists

Friend FeedI won’t bother with an in-depth comparison right now, but it is seemingly obvious how Friend Feed Rooms replace mailing lists.

We can have them

  • public or private
  • open or closed (members invite other members or not)
  • we can message each other
  • we can share links
  • we can let people know what we like
  • we can have a comment thread
  • we get to have it on the Web instead of locked in our email inbox
  • it has RSS feed so I can access it in my Google Reader

This is the first real step that I have seen towards what I originally wanted to do with Insytes back in 2005… it still has a long way to go to get that full potential, but maybe I can get a consulting gig with them, or some options or something and I can help them really build it all out as the best communications and collaboration tool on the Web.

For now though, join us in the Social Media Club Friend Feed Room and lets start sharing and learning from each other as it was originally intended 🙂

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