Who Do We Trust?

Any business owner can tell you that word of mouth (also known as a referral) is the best way to get business. As marketers word of mouth is the type of interaction we strive to offer online. We want interactions with our brands to be relevant, honest and within the context of the existing conversation. Social media platforms like Facebook provide a perfect platform where friends, trust and brands all come together. As marketers our goal should be to find a way for to put our brand in a position to be spoken about in real, “organic” ways on social media platforms.

From Word of Mouth to “World of Mouth”

In Eric Qualman’s 2010 book Socialnomics, he talks about how putting word of mouth onto social networks amplifies it reach exponentially. We may have a conversation at a party with three or four people, but an online conversation on Facebook could potentially reach much much more. For example, If I post a recommendation on Facebook and a friend comments, all of my friends and his friends can see the conversation. So if we each have 300 friends, that’s, 600 people! for each new comment or “like” all of the new commentators friends can see it as well. Those numbers can get really big very quickly!
It is worth mentioning that word of mouth is much more powerful (as all interactions are) face to face. There is some dilution of trust in the online world. But what more effective way is there to leverage the power of word of mouth to reach large groups of people?


LinkedIn Updates to Some Familiar looking Features

When I logged into LinkedIn’s group section today I was greeted with a message announcing that LinkedIn groups have been updated.
When I clicked on on the prompt I was greeted with the following screen:

One thing that I’ve noticed lately is that the more social media sites evolve, the more they look the same!
For example, the Like button (via Facebook) is one of the features LinkedIn has included in their upgrade. This is a quick and easy way for people to show that they read and agree with a post without having to write a comment.

Comments, likes, shares
; these are the of currency social media.  Social media sites like Linkedin are always trying to make user interfaces easier as well as making “the hurdle” to give approval to “things” (discussions, posts, etc..) lower, thereby encouraging more interactions or engagements. That is the same reason why Facebook changed becoming a “fan” of a page to “likes” a page. It’s much easier thing to say you like a brand  than it is to say that you are a fan of the same brand- lower hurdle, and less commitment.

The next notable thing about LinkedIn’s changes is under “Member info and Activity”. (see snapshot above) This is a feature that lets you find out more about a person by hovering over their profile. This neat little pop-up style box was first seen in WordPress blogs where you could hover over hyperlinks and get a glimpse of the linked site. Twitter implemented this feature a few months ago, allowing you to follow (or mention, or block) people without leaving your current page.
Most recently, Facebook rolled out the pop-up/hover feature just two days ago. If you hover over people’s names it will allow you to request to be a friend, or comment. Similarly hovering over brands and organizations will allow you to “like” them along with showing you who among your friends likes it as well. 

Linkedin, Twitter and Facebook, as well as numerous other sites are consistently looking for ways to make the user experience better. After all, they want you to join and continue coming back day after day. They have all tried several  improvements that didn’t work, so when one network sees a feature or protocol that works on another, it’s not long until they claim it for their own. Over time these features become “best practices” and industry standards, allowing users of one site to become familiar with the interface on others sites. In the end this makes the overall user experience better and more comfortable for all!

For more information on the new group features on Linkedin try this link: http://learn.linkedin.com/groups/

Career Coaching and Layoffs

Last week I volunteered as a career coach for an event called “Passport to Success” that was produced by a local TV station. As I told my friends, I’m not really a career coach, I just play one on TV! Actually I was very comfortable slipping into the role of coach to help this group of 130 recently unemployed professionals.

As a technology coach I met with people for 6 minutes each in a “speed dating” type of format. Throughout the morning I met with 32 people. Afterwords my voice was hoarse and I was exhausted, but it felt great to help people with their career search. The biggest thing I did was to encourage people to establish a personal brand and bring it online through social networking sites like Linkedin.com, (amazingly 90% of the people I met with didn’t have LinkenIn profiles).

As someone who was laid off from a real estate marketing position just two years ago, I felt a real empathy for their situation. This is a terrible time to be in their position, and their road is bound to be hard in many ways, but it’s also a potential opportunity for them to grow personally and professionally.

In the two years since my layoff I have grown professionally in ways I couldn’t have imagined previously. Being a pragmatist I would have never taken “the leap” to venture out on my own without the firm shove given me by my previously employer. Here is a link to a video clip from Durham, NC where I talk about turning my layoff into an opportunity.

The other side of this is that I’ve suffered huge personal and financial hardships during this same time. I won’t go into these, but suffice to say that it “ain’t been easy!”
I’m not sure what the future will hold for me, but I know for sure that I have been changed by the events of the past few years, and I will never be the same!

As I think about the people who have been recently laid off I know that some will find another opportunity right away, some will stay in their industry, and some will not find anything for a long time. But I know that some will, as I have, use this opportunity to transform themselves an reinvigorate their career. But for almost none will it be easy!

The following link has a video from the  “Passport to success” event with a short clip of me talking about the power of blogging.

Where Are You Now? Thoughts on Foursquare and Marketing

Foursquare now has roughly one million users.  If you haven’t heard of it, it’s a location-based social network, software for mobile devices, and a game rolled into one. Users “check-in” at specific venues (i.e. restaurants, coffee shops, or other retail locations) using text messages or apps on smart phones. People are awarded points and badges. Whomever has checked in the most at a specific location becomes the “mayor”.

I’ve been using foursquare for several months now. I’m impressed more with its potential than with the actual functionality. I’ve got to admit that it fun to “check in” places, get points, badges, and become mayor. The game aspect of Foursquare stirs my competitive nature. It’s fun, but I see this as a bit of a novelty. I’ve already seen a steep drop-off of check-ins from the early adopters of foursquare whose check-ins would show up incessantly in my twitter feed just a few months ago. The network was adopted readily at first. Earlier this year I would receive 5 or more invitations to foursquare daily, now I receive one or two a week. In order to retain its users, foursquare will have to add functionality and new ways to interact.

Built into foursquare is the ability for businesses to offer discounts and specials for people based on the number of check-ins (the discount and the number of check-ins can be adjusted), but this is just the tip of the iceberg of marketing potential for this network. I still think there is a huge un-tapped potential here for marketers and I’m looking forward to the creativity that can be unleashed on foursquare and other location-based social networks. Like most things in the U.S., New York City is leading the way in marketing innovation with foursquare. The following post gives some good examples for successes: How NYC businesses are using FourSquare to drive more customers

I’d love to hear any ideas or examples of success with foursquare, (or other location-based networks) that you could share….

What is the Significance of the iPad?

We all know that the iPad is “Cool“. And by selling over 700,000 units in the first few days is also “Hot“. The iPad is fun to play with, show-off and even do work on. But what is the real significance of this mobile tablet device?

If you ask different people you are bound to get different answers, but to me I can see that the beginning of the end is here for print as we know it. I’m not saying that there will cease to be newspapers, magazines and books altogether. The vision of a “paperless” world of a few years ago is still a far off dream.  Many people will never change reading the written word on paper. But I am saying that the mass-adoption of hand-held “reader” devices like the iPad, HP’s Slate, Amazon’s Kindle and many other similar devices will be a game changer when it comes to the way we receive and digest written information.

Why do you think partnerships are forming between companies like Barnes and Nobles and Best Buy? Smart companies are thinking about how to take advantage of the way they deliver content to people. Google reader is a platform that will inevitability grow as more people adopt their reading habits. Companies like http://www.mygazines.com/ are positioned to help publishers make the jump to mobile.

I see a day in the not so distant future where local newspapers and magazines can be downloaded based on location. So let’s say you are visiting Atlanta, you can pull out your iPad, do a quick search, and easily download the complete “Creative Loafing” to find out about local events, restaurants and more. Or you can easily download the entire Atlanta Constitution for a small fee, and read on your device of choice.

Besides publishing, there are numerous other applications for these devices. How about a restaurant menu? Do you know how much an average restaurant pays for printing menu?  Believe me, over the course of a year it’s enough to pay for several iPads.

When it comes to developing applications for the iPad, the possibilities are endless. Do you have any thoughts as to how these types of devices will fit into our not so distant future?

Google Buzz vs. FriendFeed

As I’m getting used to logging on to, and posting on Google Buzz on a regular basis, a thought occurred to me: “This is just like “Friendfeed!”
Friendfeed is a aggregation of (almost) all of my social media accounts. So if I post to any of my 3 twitter accounts, or a few other places my post shows up in my FriendFeed.
Now Google Buzz does pretty much the same thing. As a matter of fact, all of my Friendfeed posts show up in my Google Buzz!

When Google Buzz was first launched Paul Buchheit, the creator of Gmail and a founder of FreindFeed, was among them and his initial reaction was: “This seems vaguely familiar . . .” Or, as he put it elsewhere, “There’s a FriendFeed in my Gmail. Sweet! :) “ Read more of Paul’s reaction at Tech Crunch.

Both services not only support text, and images, but comments and “likes” as well. Right now I’m only checking my Friendfeed because of some of the great people and sites I’m connected to there. If I could find a way to subscribe to all of these people through Google Buzz I would. After all, a guy can only check so many social media accounts. I’m currently active in like 12, so cutting one lose definitely won’t hurt. Especially if it’s not offering anything unique!

How We Connect

I'm no sociologist, but I know that humans are social animals. It's a fact that in thousands of years of human history most people tended to live in small villages, towns or some other type of community. I can imagine that growing up and living in these communities people got to know each other pretty well. They talked on a regular basis,  worked together, laughed together, disagreed together and in general, were a part of each others everyday lives. 

Then the 20th century came and things started to change. With the industrial revolution came mass-produced items, then came the dawn of the automobile. The car made it much easier to commute farther distances and to live farther away from the community or town centers. And that’s just what they did. Mass-produced food and products distributed to local stores allowed us to be further away from food sources. In the 1950’s  Mass produced communities were developed and people were firmly divided into their neat little boxes.The developments in technology and industry brought us to this place.

Next Mass media- Radio, and then television allowed us to be connected to people and events throughout the nation and eventually across the globe. So now you could watch things happening and feel like you were actually there. However this new “connector” was lacking  one important way, there is no interaction. All messages sent via Radio or Television are implicitly one-way. You can talk, yell, or curse at your TV, (like I sometimes do when watching a good ball game) but our cries all falls on deaf ears. The one thing these devices did do was to get us off of our front porches, away from our town centers, and communities  and plant us firmly on our living room sofa!

Ah, but there is one break-though device, that came out of this era of technology, the telephone, was and perhaps still is the single most powerful and immediate way to connect with those who are far away. But here the connection was with individuals–  friends and family.

There are group and conference calls, but they are rare, and often just for business.  The telephone helped individual connections to be strengthened, but what about the "community"?

Next, comes the PC, the personal computer. Did this help to strengthen our sense of community? Well certainly not at first.

like the TV, it planted us firmly on our butt's, but now we're not hanging out on the sofa with the family anymore. No, we’re off on the other room by ourselves. Not a great way to foster a social life, or a sense of community.

But wait, a glimmer of hope! email and the internet comes along and opens our computers up to the world.  We can email individuals and even groups of people.

A quote by a twentieth century scientist states: "The Internet is the single most important development in the history of human communication since the invention of the human language" The human language allowed us to communicate with others near us, the internet enables to communicate with those around the globe.

Next AOL introduces us to the idea of chat. Not only can we chat one on one, but we can join a chartroom, or even an online forum to discuss ideas.Ok, so what if it's just a bunch of guys who want discuss Star Trek, This is the kind of thing that I'm talking about. Forums were a break through because they represent the coming together of people to discuss common ideas and interests.

Chat is a break though because it has immediacy, meaning it happens (more or less) in real time.  But it's Still missing one important factor, Mass Adoption.

So now we are in the era of “Web 2.0” along with it comes new ideas and new ways to interact. Web 2.0 is defined as “The second generation of the World Wide Web, especially the movement away from static webpages to dynamic and shareable content and social networking” (en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Web_2.0)

I believe that humans are drawn together by common interests, conversations and the exchange of ideas. We were together in communities for so many thousands of years that social interactions are engrained in out psyches. Technology has worked to separate us for over a hundred years, and now, like water seeking it level,  we are beginning to find more significant ways to use it to bring us together.

Facebook now has over 400 million users, 60% of these people logon every day! That's Mass adoption. If I want to see what my cousin in New York is up to I visit Facebook, If I want to look up my best friend from Kindergarden I go to facebook. If I want to send a message to my 70 year old uncle… you get the idea.

Many people haven’t haven't use twitter, but it brought about one important change in online communication: immediacy, conversations, and the exchange of ideas take place among large groups of people, all in real time.  Think about one big chat room for the whole world.
If you want to keep in tune with what's happening right now across the world, you can find out on Twitter.

Another type of technology that has great applications are location based networks, including the rapidly growing foursquare. Foursquare knows where we are at any given moment, using GPS tracking all through mobile phones. Ok, so maybe it's scary that people can know where you are at any given moment, but this is the type of technology, once fully developed, will help bring us together.

As more and more people join social networks it's like the walls around them are dropping away. We can not only connect to people in our town or city. But we can connect with people globally over issues that connect us.New innovations are announced daily and right behind them, new applications and ways to use these technologies.

So how do we connect?

Nothing beats face to face contact, but if we must be in our own separate spaces, connecting through technology isn’t a bad substitute, and it getting better all of the time.

what is all of the Buzz about Google Buzz?

Right now it kind of feels like a social network has hi-jacked my email client.
But in just a matter of days I'm connected to dozens of people through the newest social network, Google Buzz.
Even though I'm a big Google user, I'm a little leary here, mostly because of my disappointment I have after the tremendous hype surrounding the Google Wave.
Google Buzz launched in relative obscurity, and perheps this time Google will deliver the kind of product that we are used to seeing from their labs.
Everyone is still trying to figure out the relevance of Google Buzz- but from where I'm sitting it looks like it going to be big!

The following article by Jeremiah Owyang has an awesome comparison matrix between Buzz and Facebook, Twitter and MySpace.

Is Twitter just Noise or a Valid Business Tool?

This is a question that people ask me all the time. What does twitter have to do with business?

Isn't it just a waste of time? People thing it's just a bunch of self-obsessed people talking about what they are doing at that moment.

I'm here to tell you that Twitter is the real deal for businesses. As a marketer it is an awesome tool when used right.
The following post is a good explanation of how to approach twitter for business.
As with any successful marketing effort it takes strategy and planning.


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