Five Years on Twitter, or How I Spent 18.1 Days of my Life

Updated April 5, 2013. Some content previously published.

I’ve been using Twitter for five years. It’s amazing to see how much Twitter has changed over that time. Actually it’s only over the last 24 months or so that they have made significant leaps, with the first years serving as setting the foundation. Twitter is about interests and has content from individuals (mostly), but brands are beginning to use it effectively as well. There are about 450 million Tweets per day with over half of the members active on mobile devices. It’s worldwide and has played an important part in furthering the Arab spring. Can you imagine how the Civil Rights movement in the U.S. would have benefited if we had Twitter back in the ’60’s? has undergone a redesign and is better, but it still falls short for me. I mostly use Osfoora on my iPad. It’s fast, easy to use and enjoyable. I’m not a Tweet Deck fan. On the iPhone I use the official Twitter app.

Here’s my Twitter take

(note some of this content has been repurposed from earlier posts about Twitter)

  1. Serves as a window into what’s going on in someone’s mind. These can run the emotional gambit from joy, disappointment and challenge, to triumph or simply stating a pet peeve. You are there with them as they experience it.
  2. Allows you to visualize what someone is doing at that moment, and one step further, what’s most meaningful to them about that moment. For instance, when someone Tweets that they are in a familiar restaurant enjoying a fine red wine and chatting with their spouse. It’s a rich picture that comes alive, especially when you know the couple and the restaurant.
  3. Can become the catalyst for later conversations. What were you guys talking about over dinner? What did you have? The wine? Etc.
  4. Provides the cadence of someone’s daily life. If they Tweet with regularity it’s a GPS of their thoughts as they navigate their day. They are turning left… right… now on a long straight track. You can sometimes watch them go off road.
  5. Is a rich digital network. In my unscientific study I have observed that Tweeple are generally early technology adopters, tend to be influencers, have fascinating jobs at leading companies and brands and generally love what they do. Of course some are just bored, which is to be expected with a media service with over 3 million channels. Surf past the noise.
  6. Keeps you in the know. Twitterers are constantly scanning the Internet for interesting and insightful ideas; including breaking news. Their Tweets are littered with tiny urls that lead you to a treasure trove of information and value hidden in the cloud. Great for impressing your friends and neighbors.
  7. Accelerates your knowledge. Tweets flow freely from user to user within the ever-growing social graph. Re-Tweeting, forwarding someone else’s Tweet, acts as an afterburner, further propelling that knowledge. A convergence of channels.
  8. Gets right to the point. After all you have to with only 140 characters. Short, sharp observations. Haven’t seen much Haiku though.
  9. Is entertaining. Some people broadcast on comedy central.

This is how I use Twitter

  1. Share my knowledge and experience I’ve collected over the years. I love solving problems and helping people solve problems. If I can give them a nugget or spark that advances their lives I’m thrilled. No great thought exists in a vacuum. If it’s a good idea then several people have it as well. If it’s a revolutionary idea then hundreds probably have it. It’s the universe’s way of improving the odds that great things reach the real world. Doing the work is much harder than having the idea, so share freely. when you share you get it back in large degrees.
  2. Learn from others much smarter than me. Of course not all smart people are on Twitter, and Twitter does not have only smart people. But it’s full of ideas and insights.
  3. Expand my network. All successful people are well connected. Who you know is critical. The smarter your connections the more power you have.

On May 1, 2011, it was announced that Osama bin Laden was killed by a team of Navy Seals in a compound inside Pakistan. The conversation on Twitter exploded.

I took a look at my Twitter bookmarks folder saved on my Safari browser today. Early on, when I earned of a new tool that leveraged Twitter feeds and users, I would check them out and if I found it useful I’d bookmark it. I have 56 bookmarks in that folder today. These days I hardly ever go back to this folder and pull one of them up. They might have been amusing at the time, but it’s only all about the content in the stream.

Time Investment

During those five years I have Tweeted 20,996 times. It takes me about 13 seconds to craft a Tweet, so here’s how it stacks up.

13 seconds x 20,996 Tweets = 272,948 seconds = 4,549 minutes = 75.8 hours = 3.1 days

Doesn’t seem too bad spread over 5 years. That’s the publishing part. Now for the incoming. I spend roughly 25 minutes per day reading (more like scanning) the river of Tweets. I do it on an array of devices; desktop computer, iPhone, iPad, and occasionally my TV screen, but that’s pretty much a pain in the butt, so I don’t do it often. My scan time is spread throughout the day at breakfast to mid-day, and late afternoon, with a break in the early evening so I can spend time with my son. Then comes my favorite time. Twitter After Dark. The night owls are out and many of them are under the influence. I make no judgements. It’s more fun and interesting, but not as professionally insightful. Out of 365 days a year, I’ll say that I check it 95% of the time, so that’s 347 days.

347 days x 5 years = 1,536 days x 25 minutes per day = 43,375 minutes = 722 hours = 30 days

Now to be fair, I’m scanning Twitter while doing something else, like surfing the web, participating in a webinar, attending a boring meeting, waiting in various lines and of course the all time favorite, driving (just kidding on that last one). So it’s not like I’m setting aside dedicated time for Twitter When I adjust for multi-tasking it comes out to.

30 days absorbing Tweets – 50% multi-task benefit = 15 days

Total days on Twitter over the past 5 years = 18.1

Eighteen point one days of my life over the past 1,825, is .9% of my time. Sleeping has taken up 365 days of my life over the same span of time, which works out to 33% of my life! Note to self. Next killer app wil enable me to Tweet while sleeping. Warren Zevon was definitely on to something.

I’ve made some good friends thanks to Twitter and it’s fascinating to observe how those relationships have progressed. Some of them move from Twitter to the off line world. Conferences, business meetings, even just passing through Chicago to pause for a drink or dinner. Others become Facebook friends and we have never met in person. I’m happy to say  that I’ve blocked only one person in the four years. Not a bad record.

There is No Social Media Playbook

As the calendar has turned to 2011, we have been inundated with an endless barrage of Social Media predictions compiled by experts and dabblers alike. Some of what I have read are excellent and well informed perspectives backed by data and research, while others appear to be, well, nil-informed. As Yogi Berra once said, “Prediction is very hard, especially about the future.” No predictions here, just some observations about Social Media based on 3 years of experience working inside a large firm.

There is No Playbook

This medium or channel, or whatever you wish to call it, is way too new to have a reliable playbook. What works for some brands will not work for others. I would go so far as to say that Social Media does not have any common marketing ground. Direct mail and basic advertising principles are largely transferrable across brands and verticals even though retail is very different from financial services which is different from manufacturing. Social lacks such helpful fundamental truths.

Outcomes are Slippery

Save one or two examples (Dell Computer coupon codes on Twitter comes to mind), there is low confidence that a marketer could reliably forecast results from activity in the social sphere. Your CMO wants to know what she/he can book if your Social Media team is given $500,000. The CMO isn’t getting good answers to that challenge.

Mobile Adds Complexity

Social and mobile are matching luggage. They just naturally go together. A very different beast from the early web days of the late 1990’s. Back then the channel was confined to the desktop computer, a narrow pipe and a basic interface. We were able to make progress with a measured development roadmap. But with today’s always on, high speed connections and smart phones, there’s so many more variables to consider. Location, screen size, gestures, cameras, text messages, etc.

You Will Always be Outnumbered

One of the things that raises the possibility that there may never be a Social Media playbook is the injection of the consumer into the mix at every turn. They chime in when you least expect it and on topics that are completely unpredictable. When they called you had a private conversation. Today it takes place in public. Consumers sometimes comment because they just don’t understand, or have unrealistic expectations, or forget (don’t care) that we run a business and need to make a profit, or are just plain angry over something. We need to respect the fact that employees in a firm will always be outnumbered by consumers. People will just keep coming at you.

Fail Fast and Often

We can’t take our own sweet time. Social years will make online years look like we were standing still. Remember 2000 when we joked about “Online Years?” One year online was equal to five years off line. If you thought that ratio spun your head, try “Social Years” where one month might equal five Online Years! Social Media is not about what we’ve been doing all along. It’s about what we’ve never done before. We will need to learn faster than any previous time. It’s not just a new language, it’s an entirely new world and the wheel has yet to be invented.

My best advice. Do lots of things and count on failure. In fact welcome failure so you can rule things out. The list will grow quickly, but so will your knowledge. Make Social Media everybody’s business in your firm and eventually you’ll develop an edge over the competition and who knows. You may be able to walk into the CMO’s office and say. Give me this and I’ll give you that.

Forrester Consumer Forum 2008: Maslow is Dead – First in a Series

I attended the Forrester Consumer Forum in Dallas earlier this week. It was my 16th Forrester event which speaks volumes about how I respect the company, value their people and study their work. It’s a day and a half of data, insights and big thinking with a sprinkling of small track sessions scaled down to snack size bites. They are also the consummate hosts. This year’s anthem was Keeping Ahead of Tomorrow’s Customers. An interesting theme, since most of the attendees (including me) were dialing back growth to match a briskly receding consumer. But Forrester did a great job at keeping things upbeat while recognizing the current economic climate and giving us some weapons we could take back and use.

One of the things that has been missing for me during the big top presentations as of late has been bold predictions. The research is still top notch, the analysts are smart, “wicked smart” as Carrie Johnson would say in her Boston accent, and they are frequently ahead of almost everyone. But some of the edge has dulled. I entered the main ballroom wondering if I would get something provocative, forward looking and passionate. My take? I got more stick your neck out than usual, and I was really excited about it.

James McQuivey, Ph.D. began with a talk called Satisfy Consumers for the Next Decade (and Beyond). He brought long lost relatives to life on the stage in an effective manner illustrating his story about why some consumers adopt early, and others late. His theme was: People share a set of universal needs. Satisfy those needs and you will win. He was really getting me to lean in until… Until he trashed Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. He said.

Maslow’s needs are not ordered, not orderly, and in fact they’re messy.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs - Graphic: Wikipedia

As I said, I was looking for provocative statements and guts, and I got both. As a formally trained psychologist I take umbrage to disparaging Maslow. He had sound methods and studied some of the most actualized people he could find to help him create this classic pyramid. I don’t claim it’s perfect, that would not be remotely possible in psychology. But it is a storied framework that has stood the test of time and is to be respected. I don’t believe Maslow intended his concepts to be the basis for business sales, but Mr. McQuivey made a strong case for how the current social media trend should cause us to rethink many things. He then laid out his own take at people’s universal needs.

  • Connection
  • Uniqueness
  • Comfort
  • Variety

According to Mr. McQuivey, everyone has all four, but they vary in importance by individual, can shift over time due to changing circumstances and people will ultimately trade off one need against another. These are interesting to ponder and even more so as he lays them out in a Needs Profile designed to help marketers target consumers better.

Forrester Research
Copyright © 2008 Forrester Research

He built his next section on the idea of a Convenience Quotient that can be found in research released earlier in the year. A Convenience Quotient (CQ) tells you how you compare with competitors as well as with other ways to meet the same needs. It applies to products as well as services.

I went from upset to inquisitive to interested by the time he wrapped up. At a high level it made sense, but I didn’t really know how to reliably arrive at a CQ for any of my products or services. Seemed very manufacturing focused. Will need to go back and ponder some more. Perhaps I’ll give him a call.

The event was held at the Gaylord Texan. Essentially it was like being in The Truman Show. A space the size of a city block enclosed in glass and steel. It looked more like a movie set than a resort. Perfectly manicured and very comfortable. We affectionately began calling it “The Bubble.”

Fellow Tweets Amy & Jayne
Tweeters Amy & Jayne

P.S. I attended my first TweetUp in Dallas. It was really a fantastic experience. Twitters send out Tweets and before you know it over 50 people descended on a BBQ restaurant in Grapevine, TX. All kinds of genuine, creative and fun people. Everyone is relaxed and talking about social media, politics, their start up efforts, etc. I felt so comfortable. You can get a better feel for what a TweetUp is by watching this video shot by Top Tweet and an amazing Forresterite Jeremiah Owyang. Check out his insightful and content packed blog here.

More to come on the Forrester Consumer Forum.

The Shifting Inbox and its Potential Effects on Email Marketing

My email habits are changing and I’ll bet yours are too. My desktop email client was the sole place I would go to check, read and send email. Unlike many, I never adopted Hot Mail and although I have a Gmail account I rarely use it. That was then, This is now, I’m fully embedded in online social community and the email functionality that goes with it.

I find myself using the facebook email feature exclusively with some people. And why not. I’m on my page more often than my main email account and it allows me the ability to do lots more activities while I’m there. When I’m on traditional email, I’m on email and nothing else. Not as efficient. My connections are on their pages more frequently, so they are more likely to see my message sooner. And the best part is no spam!

All of us hate spam and no matter what we do, it gets through. I have full challenge-response filtering on my Earthlink account and still I see it occasionally. On facebook I’m protected by their security and my privacy settings. This could have major implications for commercial email programs in the future. As more consumers shift their email habits to social networking sites, the power and value of marketing emails to a primary email client will suffer. So the question arises, what should email marketers do?

There is no way to really know how many of your customers are making their social networking email primary. Certainly it’s the younger population, so it’s only an immediate threat for marketers who target this demographic. Here are some things to consider if you send commercial email and rely on it to drive business objectives.

  • Watch the performance of your list closely. Open rates, click-throughs, etc. If you see downturns investigate further.
  • If you send email through a vendor, ask them for their thinking about this issue and press them for help.
  • Listen for any signs of this from your voice of the customer reports. Better yet, run a simple poll on your web site or in your email communications to get it first hand.
  • Accelerate your social media efforts. The more you establish yourself in the “hood” the better chance you will have to establish inbox preference there.

Adding this aspect to your email strategy is smart and will help you preserve this valuable asset.

Please take a moment to vote the poll and chime in if you have other thoughts.

Rethinking Social Media in an Economic Downturn

It doesn’t seem like that long ago we were in the midst of the dot com bust. Remember shredding the brokerage statements without even opening them? Remember going through all those organizational exercises at work and being asked to do more with less? We got really good at it as I recall, and it appears we will need to resurrect those skills once again. But let’s be wiser about it this time. Let’s not let our growth muscles atrophy. Let’s keep going to the gym no matter how painful it may be. Pain is gain. Most of us still have viable business models and products that consumers need. It’s fine to scrutinize, but don’t turn the burners off.

The last time we started coming out of the downturn we were woefully unprepared to get back up to speed. We forgot what it felt like to actually grow. Like going back to the gym after a three year hiatus. Can’t find the bag or the workout clothes, and by the way, what are all those new-fangled machines those people are using? Walking back onto the gym floor was like being a stranger in a strange land.

We have many more cost effective tools at our disposal now. Web 2.0 technology and the rise of social media completely changes the game this time around. Hopefully you have been paying attention to this and building social media skills and capabilities to leverage your assets in this new space. If you haven’t been doing this, it’s not too late, but it will be much harder to convince your senior managers now.

Even if you have been in the social sphere, you may need to rethink your social media strategy. If your management was on the fence they will likely be retreating from it in a big way unless they can see the value. Here are some things you may want to keep in mind as you approach this challenge.

  • Think really hard about your objectives: I love the Forrester Research listening, supporting, energizing, embracing, etc… framework. But in this economic climate it may sound too much like brand building. You will need to go back to key business drivers and reconnect these noble goals with something more tangible.
  • Listen closely to what your CEO is saying: His or her priority right now is to retrench, protect the business and weather the storm. Support this strategic change with how you frame your new social media strategy and be prepared for it to change.
  • Think narrowcasting: The broad media map has exploded over the last 20 years. Take that and increase it by a factor of 1,000 and you’ve got social media today. To make it work you need to do the opposite of broad media. Sharpen your target, find out where that target hangs out and customize the message to them. You may find out your segment count doubles or even triples. You won’t be able to afford this many more creative/marketing approaches, so either make a bet or lower your production costs, or both.
  • Burn your laundry list: Do two or three (one is even better) things extremely well, and quickly. Have your list of what’s next, but you must meet your objectives and demonstrate proficiency before anybody will give you more money or time. This will help everyone reset expectations, and allow you to keep going. Activities alone won’t cut it for the next six months or so.
  • Decide if you are building capabilities or skills: You probably won’t get the money or support for both, so choose wisely then…
  • Partner with experts for the other one: Your senior managers will be very jealous of every hour of your time. Find someone (or some company) that can help fill in where you can’t and manage them closely.
  • Make sure it scales: If it works (of course it will) they will want more and fast. So be sure your “what’s next” list can come to life repeating what you just did.
  • Measure, measure, measure: Enough said.

We will all need to work hard to keep our social media initiatives going and growing. But like anything else a business is doing it will need to be re-examined. Be proactive and do this now. Stopping social media efforts would be a big mistake. Consumers are more ready than ever to turn to other consumers for help and advice. If we do this right we will be well positioned to turn up the volume quickly and methodically when the we get on the good side of the cycle.

Would love to hear other thoughts on this.

Managing Your Career with Social Media

There are many reasons people use social media. Some use it as a forum for stating opinions, others to keep in touch or getting back in touch. Still some for no other reason than it’s interesting and fun. Most of us connect on Linkedin, to keep our eye out for a new journey or just in case the economy continues to tank and there may be a need to find a new job.

If you are a hiring manager you no doubt conduct searches on your candidates to learn whatever you can. Most of the discussion in corporations is about not hiring someone that has embarrassing photos or videos, or questionable friends. The internals of your firm are concerned about reputation and security. But there is another side to this issue. There are lots of people who are now well established in the social media space and are writing and creating exciting and insightful content. They have built formidable networks and are becoming influencers in their own way or on their own topics. An argument might soon be made that these people should command a premium when considering them for jobs, projects or unique roles. Perhaps even compensation.

Charlene Li, former Forrester Analyst and VP touched on a concept called Personal CPM. No proven formula exists yet, but to summarize, it’s based on:

  • Your authority on a topic
  • Your network’s interest and authority on a topic
  • The trust your network places in you for the topic.

She was connecting this to how marketers might look at social networks as a business model. They might pay to reach the higher CPM people, and networks might compensate them to join their network. Interesting. In this post I am taking a slightly different approach and aiming it as managing your career path.

Employers who need to make some tough decisions on who to keep when they re-organize their businesses, could look more favorably on employees who are more connected (higher CPM) in the social space. If you have a lot of followers and an impressive network you may in fact take them with you to your next job if you leave. That could translate across a wide set of impacts, from lost customers to reduced brand reputation.

For years most people could only connect with me when they physically saw me, via my phone, street address (a letter on paper) or e-mail. Thanks to the explosion of Web 2.0 and social networking applications my psyche manifests itself in many forms and as a result I have a continually growing number of identities. Getting in touch with me now, or leaving a comment is amazingly easy. Here is a sampling of who I am now.


I can compose or upload to any of these services from my browser and most of them from my iPhone with ease. There are services like that after a simple set-up allow you to update all your social networks from one place.

Building your social network is critical to managing your career these days. But how do you do it? Here are some simple steps to building your network and establishing your social identity to further your career.

  1. Move beyond your resume. Establish yourself on Linkedin and build your network. Connect with your peers from work, your past jobs and schools. Ask for recommendations on your work from trusted associates. Join and be active in groups that match your expertise and interests.
  2. Start a blog. You are one of millions, and so you must break through. Leverage what you get paid to do at work and connect it to your passions on your blog. Obviously don’t give up the trade secrets or publish the strategic or financial plan. A good way to start is to think about all those things you’d love to change about your industry or particular craft and write about it. What are others doing well or doing poorly. Critique them. If you affiliate yourself with your firm on your site put out a disclaimer that these are your own ideas and not ones endorsed by your company.
  3. Put your ideas on SlideShare. Create some powerpoints, set-up a SlideShare profile and upload them. Connect with others on SlideShare and join groups. You will be exchanging ideas and getting new ones almost immediately.
  4. One word, Twitter. You’ve heard about it. It sounds silly and a lot of work. Trust me, it’s a great way to find people who are interesting and influential. People who are active on Twitter are very well connected. They really “get it” when it comes to social media and are interested in helping people, not just stroking their egos.
  5. Set-up a FriendFeed conversation. You can start discussions and have them play out on FriendFeed. It can also be embedded in your facebook page for instance. It’s a way to subtly inject your more professional thoughts into your personal spaces. Helps expand the conversation.
  6. Keep the usual suspects fresh. That is facebook, MySpace, friendster, flickr, YouTube. These sites will normally display the more personal/family aspects of your life. We are all human and work-life balance is critical to success. This is the other side of your game face displayed in meetings.
  7. Promote, promote, promote. Communicate with your network to drive traffic to your sites and elicit comments and interest. The old saying, “It’s not what you know, but who you know,” carries some weight. When I attend forums or summits, I’m always exchanging blogs and Twitter IDs with people I find interesting and connected. No place is easier to connect than through social tools and spaces. Much faster and easier than those boring parties.

Now for what not to do. Never, ever plagiarize. If you read something on a blog and like it, no problem as long as you are building on the ideas. Give credit. Your credibility and reputation is at stake. Remember, you’re using this space to enhance your standing and expertise. Copying others doesn’t support that. Re-Tweet is a fine thing, just mark it RT. Same for photos. I try to use my own, but when I don’t I always give credit.

This only scratches the surface, there are many more ways to do this. Hopefully this has at least sparked some new thoughts on how to manage your career for greater success and satisfaction. More ideas? Let’s have ’em.

Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing without Organizations – Book Notes

Clay Shirky’s book, Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing without Organizations combines the revolution of social networking with real world, real people examples. Throughout the book, Mr. Shirky takes what could have easily ended up as classic case studies (boring) and brings them to life with characters and a sense of drama. This technique draws the reader in and gets them to care about what’s happening to these people, then adroitly connects the story line to the world of social networking.

His examples span the globe and cover both commonplace happenings (someone loses their cell phone) to lightning rod subjects (the Catholic church scandals). He effortlessly weaves psychology, sociology, anthropology and business into a compelling story that explains the world of social media as not something mysterious, but commonplace, even routine. Perhaps not so yet, but it’s definitely moving in that direction and quickly.

Mr. Shirky believes someone’s age has a big impact on social tool adoption. The idea that older people have to unlearn old things in order to embrace and adopt the new things. He says:

…young people are taking better advantage of social tools, extending their capabilities in ways that violate old models not because they know more useful things than we [older people] do but because they know fewer useless things than we do… Meanwhile my students, many of them fifteen years younger than I am, don’t have to unlearn those things, because they never had to learn them in the first place.

Doesn’t that mean that young people today are learning more things now, that will be useless much sooner than what we learned?

This evoked for me the concept of the disappearing internet. As so many things now ship connected to the web and access to it is becoming ubiquitous. So much so that the concept of the internet recedes into the background. This has energized the development of new devices that can access the web and replace older form factors.

George Colony, CEO of Forrester Research wrote a post on his blog entitled The Digital Vanishing Act. He has crafted a list of devices or platforms and what they have replaced. “Wikipedia made my Britannica go away, E-Z pass vaporized the friendly toll taker” and so forth.

It’s a bit of a wake up call to execs that continue to rely on their experience and track record as a rationalization against the growing disappearance of all things familiar. If they don’t unlearn that lesson, they won’t learn the new one, and it won’t end well for them.

Bottom line, the need for human to human connection is as strong as ever. People will instinctively organize to accomplish their goals and gain power, and the convergence of devices/platforms and the web is accelerating the process. Social networking cannot be stopped. It’s like life, it will find a way.

Here Comes Everybody is a bit long, but thoughtful and accessible. Well worth the time. You can find Clay Shirky’s Internet Writings here.

Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies – Book Notes

It seems all the marketing world is abuzz over social media. Everyone wants to do it, but there is no best practices approach to follow. That is until now. Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff, two high powererd analysts at Forrester Research published a book this spring containing their recipe for starting and nurturing social community.

It’s part blueprint, part self-help book and part research report. I found it to be comprehensive and exhaustive, at least as much as any study can be at this early stage of a new wave. The book can help brands of all sizes and from all verticals, but is tilted towards the bigger firms.

In typical Forrester style they have done their homework. Consumers, brands, software firms, you name it and they looked at it. The style is straightforward and easy to read, oftentimes playing back actual conversations they’ve had with clients. Case studies of course, and even some that didn’t work out.

My company is just beginning to explore this new way to market our brand and content and I found this book incredibly helpful. I’ve given 5 copies out to senior executives at work, and making it highly recommended reading for my staff. It starts with listening to your customers and ends with embracing them to help you make better products. But there is a whole lot of things to do, and not do, in between. It’s all mapped out.

The authors are realistic and clearly outline potential pitfalls, constantly reminding us to be patient, go slowly and get buy in at the highest levels.

Near the end they challenge the more sophisticated thinkers to imagine how working in the groundswell will actually transform their companies over time. How they market, conduct service, carry out PR and launch new products. I’ve been on a hunt for more sources of value for my company, and I believe this could be a viable one.

Highly recommended for anyone who wants to come up the curve quickly on social media and community. A must read for all marketers, even if you’re not looking to launch into community at this time.

To get a taste of the book and the Forrester style of analyses, visit the Groundswell blog here. Or you could just buy the book here.

P.S. Charlene Li has recently left Forrester. I have relied on her advice and work for several years and I will miss that. On her “Why I’m leaving Forrester” blog I wrote a three word description of Charlene Li; a rare person. Hopefully our paths will cross again some day as we navigate through our professional lives. Best of luck to her!

WordPress iPhone 2.0 Application

I’m writing this post on my iPhone using the just released WordPress application. Seamless install, and access to all my categories. Allows you to insert a photo from your iPhone library or take one with its camera. You can preview your work and when ready set a publish date and time.

If you are browsing your existing posts and notice a typo or simply want to say it differently, you can do it in a snap from your WordPress iPhone application.

A bit slow, and obviously you don’t have all the features of WordPress or a full keyboard, but it will come in handy when you just have to post. It’s also free. If you’re a WordPress blogger, you gotta get it.

Flock Seamlessly Merges Browser and Social Media

Social community sites are popping up all over the web. If you’re active on several of them, like me, you are constantly navigating back and forth to see what’s going on, comment, blog, etc. It’s constant clicking and page loading. Having all this inside a browser would be a cool idea wouldn’t it. Well it’s here. At least the first generation. A new browser from Flock has been designed to be the first social web browser.

It’s ready for Mac, Windows and Linux. Simply download for free and in a few fast clicks all your bookmarks, etc. are seamlessly ported over to the Flock browser. I have been using it exclusively on my Mac G5 running Leopard and it’s wicked fast. A close cousin to Firefox in look and feel, using the basic tabs structure. But it also has connective design tissue to the Mac Safari browser with its iconic design.

Flock has taken the browser up several notches with many interesting features. Here are a few of my favorites.

My World – A place where all your social activity is collected onto one web page and is a click away.

People Sidebar – Once you log into your social sites with the Flock browser it is possible to open a sidebar that displays a micro social site (facebook, You Tube, twitter, flickr, etc.) or all your sites at once. From here you can upload photos, update your status see messages, notifications and more depending on the site.

Media Stream – With a simple click you can view your photos or videos in a stream that appears directly below the toolbar. You can also see your friends photos and videos. Click the photo or video and be immediately taken to the web page. This is way cool.

There are many more tricks that make browsing much easier and more fun than that stuffy IE you may still be using. If you are not socially inclined then you probably don’t need to learn another browser, but if you are part of the online community, give Flock a try and let me know what you think.

More Thoughts About Social Media

You’re in a meeting with marketing execs (or you are marketing exec) and the topic is social media. The various constituents around the table have come with their usual analog playbook. “Tell them how great our products are, get them to buy, here’s where we make our money,” blah, blah, blah. One of the first things brought up is My Space. “We need to get out on My Space.” The task is assigned to a low level associate.

Fast forward two months later. The players reconvene to discuss progress. No My Space page has been launched yet. “The agency is working on it, and we’ll get a look any day now.” More pressure is applied to just get something out there. “Everyone in the organization needs to be on it!”  A suggestion is made to give everyone a small slice of the page and that should do it, right?

The above hypothetical conversation is being repeated in meeting rooms all over corporate America. It won’t end well. The community is not a company web site, or another surface for plastering the marketing flavor of the month. I put forth that social media is, in fact, closer to architecture than it is marketing or advertising.

Architecture is born of pragmatism. To be successful it must be built on a foundation of the necessity to serve people. Those not open to theoretical thought might want to skip to the next paragraph. Online community is a manifestation of dependent origination. This concept holds that all beings exist in relation to other beings. Everything is linked in an intricate web of causation and connection. Nothing exists in a vacuum. In this view, a greater emphasis is placed on the interdependent relationships between individuals than on the individual in isolation. Whew, that’s out of the way.

Does this mean that marketing dot points and advertising banners are off limits? Well not exactly, but they certainly need to evolve beyond the intrusive, shouting, stone age tactics marketers employ today.

People own the web. At least for now. We need to keep tabs on how Washington rules on net neutrality. If people want the corporate spiel they will fire up their browser and type in your URL. Once they do that all is fair game on your turf, but beware. Or is it be aware? The consumer is on to your little games. Most likely what they will do after reviewing your brilliantly crafted HTML is ask the community for their opinions. Many in body, one in mind. No amount of money can buy or influence what’s said in the community (for long). The currency in this world is connected to how someone, or a collection of someones (your company) behaves. Oh, and one more thing. It’s really strict.

Culture Flow: A Social Influence Marketing Framework

Humans want to connect with other humans by communicating what’s important in their lives. Each of us traverses life in their own unique way. But there are countless points of commonality experienced during the course of an ordinary day. Have you ever been driving your car or surfing the web with no one else around, and you wanted to share it with someone? Of course. You probably shared at the water cooler or on the phone with a friend later that day. An online community gives us a way to put those experiences on the web where our friends can see it. It’s a window into our life, but we are the one who decides when to open it.

So what should we do about those corporate types that are so very far behind the curve? I’m not advocating we ignore them. Their desires are genuine and objectives sound. They also hold the positions of power and got there because of an impressive track record. They’re smart, so we must convince them. Consider this.

  • Create a monitoring tool to help you listen to the groundswell. The community knows all. Shouldn’t you listen?
  • By listening you will learn. Learning makes you smarter. Smarter increases your chances of success.
  • Think like a media company. ABC TV has a Lost Facebook page, not an ABC Facebook page. Identify pockets of passion in your companies’ products. What resonates? Why?
  • Resist the standard marketing dribble.
  • Tap your internal research or insights team. BTW, they are the ones that are closest to the truth about consumer intent and behavior.
  • You must connect the somewhat abstract community world to stock price or other profitability measures. The sooner you can get that on paper with sound business metrics and projections the better. Safety tip: don’t even think about skipping this step!
  • Build a mother ship community on your web site. That’s the center of your universe. You must have this or you will spend lots of time and money chasing the influencers who are already visiting your web site and waiting for you to launch a place for them. Duh.
  • Don’t try to build this internally. Time waits for no man and funding is a premium.
  • Make real estate investments with the big community players now. Facebook, My Space, etc., those are the planets that will orbit within the solar system of your company.
  • Focus on the products that the community is passionate about. Remember it’s about people not the company.
  • Watch what others are doing with community. Look outside your vertical. No one knows all. We learn by doing and watching each other.
  • Create an internal community on your own intranet. Harness the power of all the people who work for you who are already participating in the groundswell.

It doesn’t matter how large or small your company is today. Online community is a level playing field. But it must be architected for the people. It’s not traditional marketing. The benefits will come if you do it right.

View and download the full PowerPoint presentation, Culture Flow: A Social Influence Marketing Framework from here.



Google in the Classroom – What if…?

I have always loved the way Google transforms their logo to draw attention to key dates or milestones. You can see a previous post on this topic here. Underway now is Doodle 4 Google. School kids from kindergarten through high school have been invited to create their own Google logo around the theme what if?

From the thousands of entries they have narrowed it down to 40 and put it out for public vote. It was so much fun to see the entries and cast my ballots. Imagine what was going through those little and not so little minds. There were recurring themes. The environment, world peace, reaching out to those less fortunate. Very encouraging.

In keeping with Google’s playful tone, they created a fun way to display the judging bracket as a chalkboard.

Looking forward to seeing the winner displayed on the site May 22nd. There are videos on You Tube that youngsters have posted about creating their doodle. Here’s one I selected that was professionally made and taken from the Google channel.


Human + Machine = Manifesto

For purposes of the post, Human is the Marketing department and Machine is the IT department. Manifesto is my rant. Nothing should be read into the terms. I have the highest regard and respect for IT and Marketing people (I am one) everywhere.

I attended Interwoven’s annual client summit, GearUp 2008, held in San Francisco April 22-24. Interwoven is a major player in the content management software space with over 4,200 customers in 60 countries. They develop enterprise strength solutions that help companies create, publish and archive all types of content.

A software application such as this has largely been the purview of the IT department. But Interwoven has been working to expand their offerings into a tool set suite in the hopes of transcending IT and engaging marketers, by allowing them to leverage content with increased relevancy. They are re-proclaiming that “content is king” and is the single most important asset firms have to influence brand consideration and purchase. With the explosion of online community and social networking this approach makes sense, and their extremely well run conference really got me thinking.

As a marketer myself, working in the Internet space, I rely heavily on my IT department to understand what I want to do in the online channel and then execute. We come at the world from very different mind sets, which sometimes makes communication challenging. I know the following dot points are oversimplified, but I believe they make my point.

  • IT works in machine code and Marketing works in human code
  • IT has build guidelines, Marketing has information architecture
  • IT writes code, Marketers employ goal-directed design
  • IT has an instruction set, Marketing uses personas

We have a great relationship with our IT team, but are always exploring ways to make it better and more effective. In my opinion a major point of convergence is in the offing.

  1. Companies should require regular strategic planning sessions that bring to the table the Internet solutions VP, the E-Business VP, the CIO and CMO. This will help the organization understand the breadth of what needs to get done from infrastructure to presentation layer, from database to targeting. These will be sobering conversations.
  2. CEOs should combine marketing and IT functions into one seamless high performance team. It will be required if firms want to accelerate the return on their already significant online investment and extend its effectiveness to drive business results.
  3. Get social or get served. This is a courage call. Think, smell, taste and breathe social (I know, duh). But not that many traditional companies are doing it for all the reasons we already know about. In order to get social, IT and Marketing must be one social team.
  4. Set up social tools for IT and Marketing to communicate and build their unique community. If given the chance and mandate, they will find common ground. Actually I worry less about the traditional marketing areas getting clued in, as their activities will continue to get more expensive and eventually will serve to support the richer interactive channels.

It’s all about having system(s) flexible enough to be both a marketing and servicing platform. Then it’s about the teams working to connect these systems in an online ecosphere. There are very big things looming on the horizon and companies that have not set-up their infrastructure and organizations to be more agile, will not grow. Or worse, they will be overtaken by competitors who are able to do this.

Now back to the Interwoven GearUp summit. Guy Kawasaki was a keynote speaker, tackling The Art of Agile Development. Guy is now a venture capitalist, but spent several years at Apple Computer in the late ‘90’s as their software evangelist, trying to get more coders to produce products for the Macintosh operating system. I first met Guy in 1996 in Chicago. He was on one of his road shows for Apple and spoke at the Chicago Public Library. He was engaging, funny and smart, and it appears that some 12 years later, none of that has changed. Guy knows the marketing speak, but he exposes the long held marketing doublespeak for what it is, and that rings true to IT. This is an important clue to getting the two teams on the same page.

You have to see Guy in person to really appreciate what he is saying. My notes can’t do that, so I won’t even try. I don’t have the slide deck presented at the summit, but this one is very close. Catch him live if you can. If you can’t visit Guy’s blog is here.

More to come.