With so much information moving around online communities these days, it’s not often that I watch and then re-watch a 5 minute video. This morning I did just that, with the video embedded below called “Did You Know 4.0”.
You won’t see babies rollerskating or a funny wedding entrance in this…what you will see in a lot of data coming at you quickly. Data that talks about the changing communication landscape, the convergence of media and the massive impact that social networks are having on day to day life. I think it’s all incredibly fascinating, and is a brilliant and useful follow-up to another powerful video, “Shift Happens”. If you are connected to media, social networking, marketing or crowd communication in any way, please check this out and let me know what you think in the comments…not just about the video (which is top quality) but about the concepts and statistics brought up in it.
I’m often asked about online behavior and how businesses can tap into certain market segments to find new customers, whether for their services or products. It’s interesting to me that so often the online world seems so foreign to those that haven’t used it for much more than paying an electric bill on a website, and the questions I am asked usually end up being some variant of “what exactly does the online person look like…who are they?” These questions come to me from seasoned business professionals that have sold tangible goods or services to people in real life; people they could see, talk to, shake hands with and ultimately sell to. Why then, would they presume that the online community is so different?
The “real world” primarily consists of three groups of people in the goods and services lifecycle: creators, reports and consumers.
The Three Real World Groups
Creators represent the smallest segment, and most people that come to me for business and marketing consultation are in this group. They are the makers, the business leaders, the companies that are producing something that they want to get into others’ hands. In the virtual world there are a few standouts like Amazon and Zappos (or is that now Zamazon?), but there are also millions of smaller players, and they aren’t necessarily distributing products; many service companies now what to sell you ideas to make your life better or service professionals to do work for you. It doesn’t stop there; non-profits have hit the scene with causes and social ideas that they are creating and distributing through social networks and other online venues. The creators make the things that we need…or think we do.
Reporters represent the pundits, the talking heads, the reviewers and the public square criers. These are newspaper sites, blogs and other groups that tell us about what the creators are doing, because frankly most creators are pretty lousy at getting that information out themselves. These groups usually have massive audiences (distribution channels) and produce content rapidly, in short and easy-to-digest segments (most readers lose interest before they hit the 600 word mark). What is interesting to me about this group is that they are often hailed as collective industry leaders, change agents and cultural guides…yet very rarely do they produce any original content beyond a pithy opinion at the end of a press release usually written by the a creator.
Consumers by far represent the largest of the three groups, yet are the hardest to talk to. As creators and reporters argue back and forth about how the one needs the other more, the reality is that neither group can survive without the consumers and they know it. The consumers read the blogs, try the goods and ultimately spend the money that keeps the other two going. If you were to look at the online world as a cocktail party, the creators and the reporters are making all the noise and seem to be the life of the party, but they are surrounded and outnumbered by the consumers on a staggering scale, though usually the consumers will only sit quietly by, observing and occasionally writing something in the comments section.
That was the world before social media.
The New Class of Hyrbrid
Now things are different, and in a dramatic fashion. You see, no longer do these three groups need to be so separated…there are a couple of new groups that have entered the scene: hybrids of the existing classes.
Creator/Reporters: whereas the old mom and pop manufactures (those that didn’t have massive PR and marketing budgets) were really confined to smaller, local markets and relied heavily on personal word of mouth advertising, now they are able to reach a global audience with the same ease as their seaminlgy-overwhelming big box competitors. In the real world, a small company that makes mismatched socks in sets of 3 could probably only survive on a boutique street in a trendy neighborhood. Thanks to the web, companies like Little Miss Matched can not only survive, but thrive! They can use outlets like Twitter and Facebook to spread the word about their products, then let the users from around the web continue to comment, report, review and react to their brand.
Reporter/Consumers: up until recently, consumers didn’t really have a voice. I grew up in a small town, and the only way one could praise or condemn a company was either a letter to the editor in the newspaper or a chat with the neighbors at the park. Seriously. Now what do we have? Consumers can (and will) set up blogs, Twitter feeds and Facebook pages with just a few clicks of a mouse to share these same thoughts, but usually on a much larger scale. Sometimes the “reports” of the consumers are circulated around a small group of friends on Twitter, and sometimes they make big waves around the world, such as the case of “United Breaks Guitars”. Big or small, it doesn’t matter…the ability for the consumer to report is incredible and powerful, and should never be taken for granted.
People that are stuck in the first model, where the groups are in three distinct buckets, are missing the point of social media. No longer is there merit in a company complaining that they just don’t have the ability to reach out like the big companies. While there are some obvious truths to a complaint like that (have you seen the prices of Super Bowl ads?), for the most part a little bit of time and money can produce incredible, far reaching results and allow you to skip right over the previous middle man that was the reporting and communicate directly with your customers…or future customers!
Likewise for the consumer, bad customer service and shoddy craftsmanship in overpriced products really should not be tolerated any longer. This is not to say that you should constantly complain on Twitter about every little corporate pet peeve or bad experience you have…because I do not personally advocate that. It does mean that you are closer than ever to the companies, and you likely have the ability to reach out to them. I try to stay positive online and praise companies far more than I condemn them, hopefully this is no different than life outside of the keyboard and monitor. Before I rant about bad service online, I do what I can to reach out to that company. Sometimes this takes place on the phone, but hopefully now I can reach most folks on Twitter.
With the new connectivity that we are experiencing globally, leverage the opportunities that are before you, whether you are a creator or a consumer. Jump into the conversation and tell your sphere of influence what you think…what you like, dislike and hope for. That, my friends, is the joy and responsibility of social media.
(Photo used under Creative Commons License http://www.flickr.com/photos/purpletwinkie/ / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Although I do most of my work in my office, I am constantly on the move, and as such I need to be able to move my office with me. If you are a consultant or a road warrior, or just want to be more efficient away from your primary workstation, I hope this post will offer some good suggestions for you. Running a mobile office should be simple, but can get a little tricky. Don’t be caught coming up short when travelling, just remember that today’s work is important, and in a recessive economy even a simple mistake like not being able to take a phone call when you don’t have a cell signal may cost you a job. As always, I welcome any tips or tricks you have, please drop a note in the comments to share. With that in mind, let’s get started!
I advise companies about how to optimize social media for brand exposure, adoption and support. Because of this I am constantly talking to potential clients on the phone, discussing their goals and desires for an effective online campaign. If you are in the business of consulting or are thinking about moving in that direction I’ve put together a short list of tips and tricks for preparing for that phone call, because as I’ve learned the hard way, if you aren’t prepared you’re not going to get the job. With the economy in the condition it is, every call is critical.
- Know the client. There is nothing worse than being asked a question about the company that you are pitching and not knowing what they are talking about. I’m not talking about obscure facts, this is about their core competencies. Make sure you have done your research, have at least a general familiarity with the key leaders, products, services and areas of operation.
The micro-blogging platform Twitter has blown up in the last few months, with over 5 million new users signing up in March alone, the mega-popularity of the service is now without question. Although it certainly lags behind most social networks (like Facebook with over 200 million users) in total number of registered participants, it is getting more press time and attention that most of the other networks combined. Arguably Twitter is the flavor of the month, but how long will its popularity last? More importantly, what does the future user of Twitter look like? Geeks and Nerds everywhere are starting to complain about the influx of celebrities to Twitter, and are now throwing temper tantrums, gathering up their toys and storming off because they don’t want to share the space with the ultra-popular.
At least once a day, sometimes more, somebody tells me that they don’t use Twitter because they can’t keep up with it, that it’s too fast, too “now”. I understand what the sentiment is, but really it just doesn’t make sense. Twitter is too good for communicating with groups and individuals, for learning new things from like minded people, and for getting useful information. So, if you are using Twitter but aren’t sure how to make the most of it, or if you are thinking about diving in, this article is for you.
Did you know that you don’t have to use the main web page for your Twitter communication? There are some neat applications available to you for free that will help you sort things out. My favorite desktop application by far is Tweetdeck. You should go download it right now, install it, sign in and then come back and read this.
Are you finished installing? Good. Let’s move on.
If you click the picture above you will get a much larger view of the Tweetdeck layout. I’ve made notes on the page in red text so you know what you are looking at. I’m going to bullet point a few of the features that make this product such a must-have for anybody that uses Twitter.
- The ability to easily view replies and direct messages. The replies (in the picture it is the 2nd column from the left) are from people that use your screen name in tweets. It doesn’t matter where in the tweet it is (beginning, middle or end), Tweetdeck does a great job of picking them up. This is really handy so I don’t miss something that may be said to me or about me. I like to try to respond to most comments. Afterall, Twitter is interactive like a cocktail party, not one way like a lecture.
- Creation of custom groups. This is huge for me. Although I follow a lot of people, I certainly don’t know them all personally. I created a group called “Friends” (in this picture, 3rd from the left) that is exclusively for people that I know personally. I like to keep an eye on this so I can see what is happening in the lives of the people that I know the best. As far as I know, you can create as many groups as you want. I also have groups called “Tech SFO” and “Tech LA” so I can keep track of goings-on by geography, and some other groups that are related by the type of person that I am interested in keeping track of. While the public stream on the far left (All Tweets) is like the entire newspaper, the individual groups are like sections of the newspaper (sports, business, etc.) The newest release of Tweetdeck has a little button (+) that you can click in an individuals tweet that adds them to a group of your choosing. I love this feature!
- TwitScoop. I keep this column open because it shows trends that people are discussing on Twitter. This particular screenshot has an interesting mix of boobies, congress and earthquake. Mashable is squarely responsible for putting boobies up there for the first time that I’m aware of, with their article about Victoria’s Secret coming to mobile phones. You can click on any word to be taken to a web page that will show you different people that are using the particular word.
- URL Shortening. Have you seen all those links people put up on Twitter that look odd like http://is.gd/3IZL ? That is a shortened URL. Since Twitter only allows 140 characters at a time, you don’t want to take up all of your space with some crazy long link to a website. Using Tweetdeck, simply copy/paste your link and press “shorten” and it will automatically be truncated and added to your message. Pretty slick!
- Create search groups. The night of this writing, I am heading out to Mindshare LA. I was curious who is going, so I easily made a group in Tweetdeck that searches the public timeline for anybody that says “Mindshare”. Within a few seconds I got a list, and it continues to update as new people mention it. This is a great feature for anybody that wants to keep track of their brand or product, or to find new people to follow that may have common interests as you.
If you enjoyed this post, please consider subscribing to my RSS Feed, getting email updates when new posts are published, or following me on Twitter for information about what I’m doing every minute of every day.
In the last post we talked about creating a blog, this post will talk about following other bloggers.
I currently follow just over 200 bloggers. You may wonder how I keep up with all of them without spending all day clicking from one page to the next. The answer is simple: I use a feed reader.
A “feed” is the name for a post that goes onto a blog that is supported by RSS (really simple syndication). RSS allows people to dump their feeds into one place so they can neatly sort and read them. Think of it like a newspaper: the blogosphere is the entire newspaper, made up of different sections and articles. One blog post equals one article. Just like you wouldn’t expect the newpaper company to deliver one article to you at a time, likewise you should not expect to have to read one blog at a time. Enter the feed reader (the newspaper), which help you collect them all.
While there are many choices of feed readers, I’m going to explain how to set this up through Google.
Step 1: Set up an account with Google
Look in the upper right corner of the Google homepage. You’ll see an area that says “sign in”. Click that, then on the next screen, click “create an account now”, which you can find on the right side of the page. Your next screen will ask you for several pieces of information, but should be quick and easy to fill out. Got it? Great…sign in and move on to step 2
Step 2: Log into Google Reader
Google Reader will store and sort your blog feeds that you want to follow. Go to www.google.com/reader to get started. Once there, let’s go find a blog to subscribe to! Open a new tab or window and go to www.LeadingWithALimp.com
Step 3: Add a Feed
Once you have arrived at the blog you want to subscribe to there are a few ways to add this to your Google reader. First, look for the universal RSS symbol, which is a orange square with white waves in it. At Leading With A Limp you can see that it appears in two different places on the page…on the right column and in the address bar. It appears in the address bar in Firefox, in Internet Explorer it’s going to be in the menu bar that stretches across the screen right above the main viewing area. When you click these they should give you an option to subscribe in Google or in a feed reader of your choice.
Another way of subscribing, which a lot of people find even easier, is to copy and paste the address of the blog right into the Google reader. It will magically find the feed and at it to your list! This is particularly effective when services like Feedburner mess up. It happens, technology isn’t perfect yet…but it’s getting there!
Step 4: Sort
Just like a newspaper has sections (sports, business, metro life) I like my feeds to be sorted into categories. I have labeled mine things like “Pure Geek”, “Marketing” and “Bel Air Blogs”. Using the settings found in Google Reader, I categorize and sometimes even rename the blogs that I subscribe to. Since I follow so many blogs, this makes it easier for me to read what I want and when I want it.
Step 5: Start Reading!
You will naturally find blogs over time that you want to subscribe to, so don’t worry about finding everything all at once. Very often bloggers keep blogrolls on the sides of their main page, so if you find a blogger you like, browse through their blogroll since they likely subscribe to similar people. Add away! Here are some tips for the morning reading time:
- In Google Reader your bests friends are the “J” and the “K” keys. Striking “J” moves you forward to the next unread entry, striking “K” sends you back one. Very useful.
- If you find something that you want to read more in depth or refer to at a later date, just “star” the item! You can find “Add Star” at the bottom of each post you are reading. Later you can go back to your starred items and go through it closely, or refer it to a friend.
- Speaking of referring to a friend…you should share the most interesting stories! Right next to the “Add Star” button is the “Share” button. This will put it onto your shared blog (everyone in Google has one, here is mine), or if you are a geek like me, you can add a widget to your blog that will show all of your shared stories. Another cool and recently-added feature is that your shared posts will go to friends of your that have gmail accounts and have agreed to see your shared items. I love this…people that are similar to me recommending blog articles to read!
That’s it! Well, that is to say, that is it for this post. You can explore Google Reader or another feed reader, they will have plenty of other options for customizing your reading experience. If you follow more than a handful of blogs, I strongly recommend using the RSS technology to keep track of them.
See you in the next post, where we will explore Facebook with a little bit of depth.
This is the first entry into a mini-series I am writing about the New Media. To some, the NM is a way of life, to others it’s a foreign concept and to still others it’s a threat to the old way of communicating ideas and actions. No matter where you fall in this, I think this series should be of some interest to you. Today I will cover blogging, how to set one up, and what to do once it is set up.
Blogging has been around for the better part of a decade, although it’s really come into maturity in the last few years. I actually missed my billion-dollar idea about eight years ago when I coded an entire blogging platform by hand, but then never pursued the commercial application. I thought, “sure, I like to post up my thoughts and have others comment on them, but would this idea really take root in the real world”? We all know the answer to that question now. So instead of owning my own country, here I sit in front of my computer in SoCal, telling others about blogging and it’s benefits. :) Me? Bitter? Nah…
The word ‘blog‘ is a shortened version of ‘web log’, in other words, an online journal. Most people have kept a journal or diary of some sort at some point in their life, so think of a blog that way. The difference? Anybody can read your journal, and not just read it…but leave comments about what they think! Yes, the New Media is about radical transparency and global information collaboration.
If you are comfortable with the idea of blogging and want to get your ideas out there for the world to see, I’m going to tell you how to get started now. BTW, as a side note, most blogging platforms can let you set your page to ‘private’ so that only people you allow or invite can read your blog. You’ll have to figure that part out on your own however, I’m going to tell you how to share your information with the world.
Step 1: Select a Platform
There are many, many blogging platforms (services) that you can use. I have been using TypePad for about 2.5 years and I love it. This is a pay service, and it allows me a tremendous amount of control over content and code. For about $15/month I can do what I want, when I want to my blog. This may be overkill for the beginning blogger, I’ll talk about free services in a moment. If you want to get started on TypePad, just click here and you will be taken to a page where you can start a free trial. It should take about 10 minutes to set up, and it’s very intuitive, you just follow the prompts and fill in the information that it asks for.
Another very popular platform is WordPress. This is a free or paid service, depending on which features you want. I don’t use WordPress, but I know a lot of people that do. A lot.
My favorite totally free service is Tumblr. It’s a very simple platform without a lot of bells and whistles. I like that! I like it so much, I started a mini-blog over there a while ago, intended to be my floating thoughts. I saw a Twitter stream the other day between Kem Meyer and others that involved Tumblr as a destination for some beginning bloggers. I totally agree. From sign-up to first post should take you about 2 minutes…if you’re slow.
Google has a great blogging service called…well, blogger. It’s free and very popular. This is also a great option for people to use, and signing up is simple. You never know who you’ll find there, people like my wife and my son.
Now is the most important part…select one of those platforms (and this is far from an exhaustive list, but I don’t want to overwhelm you with choices) and sign up! Then on to step 2…
Step 2: Know Your Audience
Are you writing your blog for Uncle Floyd and Aunt Mildred in Kansas so they can keep track of the kids, or are you wanting to share your business knowledge with a broader audience? If you want people to follow you…and keep following you…then you need to know the answer to this.
A personal blog, that is, one that is familial and very personal, can be done very well. Take a look at my friend Alli McKenney’s blog. She takes approximately 6,430 pictures of her kids every day and then puts the best of the best online for her friends and family to see. It’s very well done! That’s an example of a good personal blog. Cute kids, too!
Think you know a lot about your industry? Then write about it! Check out VC and marketing guru Guy Kawasaki’s blog. He gets a ton of traffic through here because he is an authority on many things, and people want to know what he has to say. Same thing with Seth Godin’s blog. He’s an author and speaker, and very well respected. He’s an authority, so he writes about what he knows. That isn’t to say that you have to be super popular to have a great blog. Perhaps you like to knit. Hey, who doesn’t? Make a blog about it and share your passion and knowledge with the world.
Step 3: Write, Baby, Write!
Want a lot of readers? Keep your posts short. I know, I am totally violating that right now. Call it creative license. But do write…and write often! I lost 500+ regular readers over the last 8 months because I haven’t been blogging with frequency or passion. If you stay regular, and if you stay passionate, you will have people find you and follow you, it’s just that simple. I think if you are putting up posts (the name for an entry on your blog) 2-3 times per week, you’ll be just fine. Of course some people have to post every 15 minutes, but that is more of a spiritual gift than anything.
Step 4: Interact
At the bottom of most posts is an area for people to comment on what you just wrote. There is a reason that is there…people want to interact with you! A blog is a platform for you to get your ideas out to others (like a lecture of sermon), but the big difference is that it’s also a place for people to respond. So suddenly your thoughts have moved from a lecture to a roundtable discussion! I’ve found that fewer than 10% of the number of people that come by and read actually comment, so if you only get one or two people leaving their thoughts, don’t be discouraged! Make sure you talk back to them! Leave a comment in your own comment section in reply to them! One blogger that does this just about better than anyone is Anne Jackson. Reading through her comments feels like eavesdropping on a fireside chat…it’s very conversational, and she often replies directly to those that say things about her posts. Very cool.
Of course some people don’t want to have comments on, and that’s fine. Seth Godin, who I mentioned earlier, doesn’t allow any comments on his post. This works well for Seth, but probably not so well for start-up bloggers.
Step 5: Share The Love!
Once you start blogging, others are going to follow you (which I will explain in detail in the next post). You will follow others as well. When you find some bloggers you like, share the love with your readers! Create a blogroll. That’s an area in the sidebar where you link to other blogs. Some people have blogrolls as extensive as a phone book, others (like myself) believe that too much information just makes people ignore it. On my blog I have a rotating blogroll, so every time you refresh the page it’s a different group of people. Three categories (soon to be four), five people in each category per page load. Simple is better. If you want to know how to create a rotating blogroll, check out my post here.
If you made it this far….God bless you for your persitence! In the next post we’ll look at how to follow other people’s blogs without clicking through to each page one at a time. It’s easier than it sounds, I personally follow 201 blogs and it takes very little time or effort to do so.