Tag Archives: Online Communities

What No One is Saying About the New Twitter.

The new release of Twitter has, predictably, put the Web in an uproar. The Internet pundits have been focused on the new UI, with many rehashing two tired themes which amount to who moved my cheese, and utterly fail to grasp the bigger picture, which is a strategic shift in the product itself.

Twitter has shifted to a product posture that puts consumption ahead of production. With this release Twitter has made the leap from “micro-blogging” to discovery engine. You can see it happening with the reduced prominence and location of the composer box on the web version, and the increased prominence of the discovery UI. It’s an acknowledgement that many people who use Twitter don’t actually use it for expression, but rather information gathering. This is an important shift, and something that people who are the publishers will have to get used to.

When half of your daily users don’t Tweet, but just login to see what’s happening, you have to make that discovery easier. And I think this new release is a step in the right direction. As for the criticism? It’s myopic and self-centered and fundamentally misses the broader implications and use cases of the Twitter user base at large.

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3 Videos Every Product Manager Must Watch

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Being a product manager is tough work. You’re constantly balancing out the needs of the business, the needs of the users and the capabilities and bandwidth of engineering to move the product forward and to make it more successful. It takes a lot of smarts, enthusiasm, communication, persuasion, editorial skill and courage to do the job well. (There are other traits, but those strike me first.) Products need strong product managers to thrive and succeed. Product managers need to have a clear vision of where the product needs to go and what resonates with users to reach that success. The product manager truly is their brother’s keeper.

Over the last day and a half I’ve watched three impressive talks from some of the smartest product people in the world and I wanted to share them with you here.

Fred Wilson‘s 10 Principles of Successful Web Apps

This is a great talk where venture capitalist Fred Wilson (investor in Foursquare, Twitter, Delicious, others) outlines the 10 essentials to making a successful web application. Every product manager should be considering how their product stacks up to these ten things.  His ten essentials are:

  1. Speed
  2. Instant Utility
  3. Software as Media
  4. Less is More
  5. Make it Programmable
  6. Make it Personal
  7. RESTful
  8. Discoverability
  9. Clean
  10. Playful


Fred Wilson at the Future of Web Apps Miami 2010

Jack Dorsey: 3 Keys to Twitter’s Success

In this talk, Twitter co-founder talks about the four keys to Twitter’s success (he says 3 but then throws in a bonus fourth at the end.) They’re powerful tools for any product manager in the product design and definition phases as well as the ongoing evolution of the product itself.

His 4 keys to Twitter’s success are:

  1. Draw, get your ideas out of your head and in front of others.
  2. Luck, understand when the market is ready for your idea.
  3. Iterate, take tons of feedback, edit like crazy and refine your product.
  4. Know when to stop, know when a product is finished instead of adding feature after feature.


Jack Dorsey: 3 Keys to Twitter’s Success from 99% on Vimeo.

Kathy Sierra on Creating Awesome Users

Kathy Sierra gives a great talk on how our focus can’t be on our product, service or company; but rather on our users and how we can move them from frustrated first-timers to passionate advocates who spread our product effortlessly to their social circles. Here’s her recipe for creating awesome users.


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Twitter, Comedy and Writing with Constraints

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Conan on comedy writing on Twitter, from one of my favorite blogs, Bobulate:

What’s interesting about Twitter is that because you’re limited to 140 characters … it’s actually a great comedy-writing tool. There’s this economy of words. So I’m constantly writing things, and I run them past [Blair] and he’ll say that’s actually three words over. That forces you to look back at the sentence. It forces you to crystalize your comedy idea, which is fascinating.

The Statusphere is changing the way we’re communicating.  In a world where every character counts, how is your communication evolving?  For me, less is more. Constraints in speech are a blessing.

Want more? Check out Conan’s full interview at Google and The Onion’s web editor, Baratunde Thurston’s Web 2.0 expo talk “There’s a #hashtag for that” below for an in-depth look at how comedy “works” on Twitter.

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If you’re reading this it’s a good bet that you are probably responsible for marketing your company in one form or another.  And if so, instead of another list of things to do in 2010, or another pile of resolutions to stick to for the first 6 weeks, I simply ask that you take responsibility to work on your craft in 2010.  I promise to do the same.

What does work on your craft mean?

It means refusing to be comfortable.  Resisting the urge to feel satisfied.  Remaining curious. Reading, thinking, pondering, improving, pushing, testing, trying, failing and succeeding.

The world is full of too many people who think they’ve done and seen it all.  I talk with digital marketers every day who still say Twitter and Facebook are fads.  Who still think digital marketing comes down to email, search and a Web site.  And that is the mark of someone letting their responsibility slide.

We owe it to ourselves, our colleagues, our profession, our families to continue to learn and push and get better.  Sitting still is the quickest route to irrelevancy in today’s world.

So I implore you (and me) to take responsibility for our craft as marketers. To refuse to know it all, to refuse to be satisfied and to open our eyes to what’s happening right in front of us and start asking questions – about it all.

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The Art of Access

Access. It’s what everyone wants.  Access to the best events, access to the famous people.  If the adage “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” is true (and, it is) then access is what gets you to the “who” that can make a difference.  But, more often than not, meeting the “who” that matter is a pipe dream – and any interaction is often little more than a passing handshake in the hall of a conference or a feeble “great panel” comment as you stand in a sea of others all clamoring to meet the person you really want to know.

Gaining access is an art. An art that they don’t teach you in business school, but one that changes everything, from the events you attend to the people that you meet to the jobs that you get.  It is the secret to getting to wherever it is you’re going.

Here are the key principles in gaining access:


If you’re not pre-gaming conferences and events you’re killing your chances at gaining access.  You or your company have spent hundreds or thousands of dollars to get you to an event (say, South By Southwest); you can’t simply walk-in without doing any prep work and expect to successfully connect with the people you want to meet.  These people have schedules at these events that are booked weeks in advance and your chances of just “running into” these people are zero. Do your homework.

  • Identify who will be at the event ahead of time
  • Make a “hit list” of people you want to meet
  • Mine Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to learn about the events outside of the conference (often unofficial) that will provide better settings to have a meaningful interaction
  • For your hit list: read their blog posts, twitter stream and articles so that you can talk intelligently to these people about topics that are important to them

Create a Platform

The people you want to meet are the same people that everyone else wants to meet.  Typically, you and everyone are not the people they want to meet, they want to meet with their friends and business associates.  Bottom line: they are busy.  In order to break through the noise and get a meaningful interaction with them you need to bring value.  And this is not about what your company does for its customers.  It’s about how you can help promote and advance the interests of the individual you want to meet.

You can do this by creating a platform that can help distribute their message and further their own goals.  For example at SXSW we created a platform called 100 interviews.  We went around and asked the top 100 social media and technology people if they would be willing to be interviewed on video as a part of this “experiment” at SXSW.  It took 4 days and we met and had meaningful interactions with people that you can only dream of.

Why did it work?

  • We created a platform – 100 interviews – that gave us a coherent and easily understandable value proposition for the participants.  Get your message out, be involved with 99 other luminaries, be part of the project.
  • We created value for them – a distribution network across all online video sites tied to a big, recognizable event (SXSW)
  • We played off of SXSW’s theme – by calling the project an experiment we played to the collaborative nature of SXSW.  People want to be a part of a cutting-edge way of doing things and participating in something novel.
  • We used social proof

Using Social Proof

Social proof is essential to gaining access.  It is the proof that gives the people you want access to confidence that you’re worth their time.  It is also the engine that drives the momentum of your access.  The concept is simple.  You get one notable person to say yes to get the next, and so on, until you’ve lined up meetings or interviews with everyone else you want to meet.  And it’s just like bowling pins – get one key individual and you can leverage that agreement to connect with the next person.

How to use social proof:

  • Make yourself look bigger than you are – If we had randomly asked people to interview them, they would want to know who we were and for what purpose.  Instead we created a powerful hook “100 interviews” that instantly created an easy-to-understand premise.
  • Create a presence – We instantly launched a web site, Twitter account and YouTube channels. By having these concrete elements people could validate what we were doing.
  • Use commitments to gain other commitments – We publicly announced when we secured big commitments. By Twittering and posting those commitments on our site we were able to validate our project and get more people involved.

Create Buzz

Promote. Promote. Promote.  We promoted 100 interviews like crazy in the days leading up to the event.  We asked our friends to Tweet about it on Twitter, we posted our commitment updates on our blog and tweeted them out.  By generating buzz we created additional credibility to what we were doing.  After a few days the people we contacted said “oh, you’re the 100 interviews guys!” Having the buzz gave us credibility and helped us gain even more commitments.

How to create buzz:

  • Create a brand – 100 interviews had a nice ring to it. We supported it with a logo, web site, Twitter handle and YouTube channel.
  • Cash in your Whuffie – Whuffie is social currency, the goodwill you accumulate with people you’ve helped in the past. It’s time to cash some in and ask people you know to help spread the word. Reach out on Twitter, email, Facebook, whatever, to ask them to help get the word out.
  • Leverage online tools – Create Facebook fan pages, event pages, a WordPress blog, a Twitter account, and more. Give people every possible way to interact and promote what you’re doing.

Make it Count

Look, even with a great platform and buzz you still have just one interaction with a person you want to meet.  Sure – it’s a more meaningful interaction than just shaking hands after a panel, but it is just one.  And one does not make a relationship.  The best way to move from interaction to relationship is to follow up afterwards. And follow up quickly and personally.

Write a personal thank you note to every person you met and interviewed.  Make it handwritten, and get it out the door in a week.  This will make you stand out from the rest of the folks who simply drop emails or Twitter direct messages.  Then, follow the person on Twitter, interact when appropriate and keep in-touch with them periodically.  Then when you see them at the next event you’ll have another reason to say hi and chat for a few minutes.

Guess what?  You now have access.  Welcome to your new world.

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The difference between ad:tech and Blogworld

I’m at ad:tech this week.  I just spent the last 10+ hours in a booth talking to people about online advertising.  All the big online agencies are here, WPP, Digitas, TribalDDB, etc. etc.  The big online players are here too, Facebook, Google, Yahoo!, etc. etc.  And I’m here.  A couple of weeks off of my trip to BlogWorld and New Media Expo.  And to be honest, I might as well be on another planet.  If BlogWorld represents the latest in social media and where the internet is going, ad:tech represents Web 1.0 and its desire to cling on to its cash cow with white knuckles.

The event is so amazingly different that I wanted to share with you some of the drastic differences that I noticed while grinding out a day at the booth.

Foursquare: When I checked in on Foursquare at BlogWorld there were nearly 50 people checked in, and it remained that way over the course of 2+ days.  Fatburger had a special offer running on the service for free burger samples.  When I checked in at ad:tech there were a whopping 7 people checked in and none of the exhibitors were running any type of Foursquare promotion.  Since ad:tech is at least 4 or 5 times the size of BlogWorld I’d call that a vote of no confidence for the hottest location-based social network.

Twitter: I was very conscious of the stream at #bwe09 and have been monitoring #adtechny and #adtech in the stream to see if I could glean anything off of what is happening here at ad:tech.  The streams are completely different.  BlogWorld was a river of quotes, nuggets of information from panels, information and feedback from sessions and crowd feedback as they interacted with panels.  People using it to connect and meet up.  ad:tech?  None of that. Just promotional tweets from companies trying to drive traffic to their booths.  (Disclosure, we did it too.) Sessions weren’t tweeted, no one was quoted in the tweets. No one challenged speakers and ideas via the Twitter feed.  Nothing.  It was simply a bullhorn for brands looking for foot traffic.

The Schedule: Social media is not the core of the agenda.  It’s a tangential.  It’s a channel to push advertising through.  It’s all about how to monetize eyeballs. Nothing about conversation, nothing about connecting as people – all about how to spend ad dollars there effectively as a brand.  Even Facebook is here with the tag line “reach people before they start searching” [for the competition on Google].  Social isn’t about a new way of connecting with a community here – it’s another arm on the wheel of digital strategy where people are trying to find a way to throw dollars at it while justifying it to their clients.

The Money: The one thing that is here that wasn’t necessarily at Blogworld is the money.  The money is definitely here.  The ad buyers, the strategists, the big agencies that represent the Fortune 10 brands with multi-million dollar online budgets are here.  You don’t see them at Blogworld.  We started to see some more big brands at Blogworld with Ford and Bud Light; but those two sponsors are just two of a constellation of hundreds here.

What this means?

The people that control the money have yet to make the leap.  They’re still 1.0.  I’d argue that most of the industry is still 1.0.  It’s all ad networks, pay-per-something-or-other business models all about driving traffic, reach and views.  Things like loyalty, engagement and reaching a passionate community are all secondary to the traditional metrics, and social is just another channel to throw ad dollars at to maximize impressions and reach of traditional media campaigns.

It’s eye-opening to me, as someone who embraces the new media and social marketing community to the fullest to see how far behind the money and the people really are.  The people talking here aren’t talking about human connections and building lasting relationships between companies and people, they’re talking about how to extend banner networks to socnets.

It’s a different mind set.  It’s an old mind set.  It’s a scary mind set when you consider how many millions of dollars are managed by these people.

My Challenge to ad:tech

It’s time to start listening.  It’s time to bring in some of the social media people who are on the bleeding edge and really learn.  Stop thinking of social media as just another avenue for your media buyer/traffic department to spend ad dollars at and start thinking about what it means for your clients, what it means to how your brand interacts with real people online.

There are real people out there, who given the chance and a good reason will do the work of your ad dollars.  Tell your clients to spend their money differently, to think about their customers differently, and to figure out ways to delight their customers rather than simply finding the next sucker.

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4C’s of Personal Branding

I’m still working on my keynote on Building a Personal Brand for November 7th.  I think I’ve come up with a framework for the talk that I’m happy with, now I just need to round it out and execute on the actual presentation.  One of the things I came up with in my brainstorming for the talk was what I’m calling the “Foundation of the Personal Brand” which is based on the 4c’s (not dissimilar to the diamond industry.)

I’d like to share those 4c’s with you here and see if you agree with them as the cornerstones to building a successful personal brand.

The 4c’s to a successful personal brand

Character – Character and integrity are at the base of everything.  Plenty has been written about authenticity, transparency and ethics when it comes to creating asuccessful brand on the Web.  I believe it speaks for itself and goes without saying that to win in the long run you have to be true to yourself and true to others.  You also have to have the mindset of helping others with what you’re doing.  If you’re not out to help others you’ll be talking to yourself.  Without character, without integrity and the desire to help others you’ll never be successful in the long term – with a personal brand or any other effort.

Commitment – Building a personal brand using social media tools is not a sprint.  Using social media to create a personal brand is the longest path to overnight success there is.  Building a personal brand is a marathon.  It requires a persistent consistency.  Without that commitment to success you’ll stop before you even get started.  You won’t make the connections  and you won’t create the body of work to demonstrate your expertise.  Without a true commitment to it you’ve lost before you’ve begun.

Create – Goes hand-in-hand with commitment.  The most well-recognized and successful social media luminaries create tons of valuable content.  You have to give to get.  Pay in with amazing content, insight and opinion and you will be rewarded.  Spend all your time on Facebook and Twitter and you won’t create the foundation of thinking that will give you the respect that you’ll need to propel yourself forward in your career/life.  Sure, you can build a viral following on Twitter by being witty; but that’s like catching lightning in a bottle.  Lay a solid foundation of your expertise by creating valuable content.

Connect – None of this is worth very much without connections to other people.  If you’re not building relationships with people in your industry you’re not going to find the success and recognition that you need to cement your personal brand.  While some of this is self-promotional, it is primarily being earnest in trying to connect with people in your industry that you can help and learn from.  This is where getting offline is critical. Sure, meeting people on Twitter or in the comments of your blog is a great way to break the ice; but the relationships really get built at conferences, mixers, meetups, tweetups and other real world gatherings.  You need to find the ones you need to be at and get to them one way or another.  If there aren’t any in your area, start them.  There is no way to succeed without connecting.

So what do you think? What are your building blocks for a successful personal brand?  Brad had a great comment in my last post about being yourself which is dead on.  What am I missing? Do you like these or not? How would you change/add/subtract to/from them?

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If you’re not using Facebook search you don’t know what you’re missing

Tonight while I was going through some of the different social networks like Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook I decided to do a search on the name of the company I work for “TurnHere.” Now I do this regularly and automatically on Twitter and the Web. I use Google Alerts to monitor for TurnHere mentions on the Web (they’re pumped into my Google Reader), I have a column of Tweetdeck assigned just to listen for TurnHere in the Twitterverse and we have a paid subscription to Scout Labs for monitoring the brand.

But I hadn’t drilled down on Facebook search yet with the brand name and none of the above tools give you insight into that community. Talk about opportunity. The new and improved Facebook search is a gold mine for opportunities to connect with people who are talking about your brand or topic of interest. Previously, Facebook would only search people, names, events, pages and groups. But now that they have added status updates in the search it’s a whole new world.

Take a look at what I saw in the results for TurnHere (note that these are just my friends, you can also click on “Posts by Everyone” below the “Posts by Friends for a broader view, note you’ll typically only be able to interact or engage with your friends depending on people’s privacy settings):

Facebook search

Don is looking forward to his TurnHere shoot next week. That’s a great piece of information and an opportunity for me to engage with him around that. Is he feeling ready? Excited? Nervous? Can I answer any last minute questions for him? Or can I just give him a word of encouragement and let him know that we’re excited to see the finished video? All sorts of opportunities are there to create a meaningful connection with Don around his video shoot experience.

Or further down the page:

Facebook search 2

With Debbie I have the chance to help spread the word about her new video and also check in to see how everyone felt about the shoot and the finished product. The same for Cindy.

Lastly, notice the note from Paulo (who works with me at TurnHere) and the retweet posted to his Facebook profile about the kind words some gave about a recent speaking opportunity I had. This is a great find for me personally and allows me to reach out to that person and thank them and see if there is anything I can do to help them out as well. I am also able to add that kudo to my speaking page which will hopefully give people more confidence in extending speaking invitations to me and helping me grow that part of my career.

So now I know to make sure that Facebook search is a regular part of my brand and personal monitoring to catch more opportunities to interact with people talking about TurnHere.

For reference here are the tools that I use to monitor personal and brand mentions:

More than just brand mentions:

Obviously search goes just beyond monitoring brand mentions.  It can be used to find people talking about the things your company does or areas of interest to you personally.  It could be about events or needs or anything really.  Search across these networks is a powerful way to identify opportunities to make new connections and grow your influence, whether for your brand or yourself.

Check it out and let me know what your tips are for using search to build and strengthen your network!

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Create shared experiences to build your community

In my post about what I learned about BlogWorld I mentioned the power of social objects to build community, and one of the commenters, Daniel Honigman pointed out correctly that I was referring to shared experiences rather than social objects.  I wrote that Fatburger got it with their BlogWorld Fatburger Challenges which pitted attendees against one another to eat a massive XXX WTF burger.  The winner won a t-shirt, certificate and some money donated to charity.  Everyone that finished the burger got a certificate as well.

Here’s a short video I made of the event:

To me the prizes aren’t the interesting part or the motivating part for the participants.  Instead it’s the shared experience of the burger challenge that makes it so appealing.  No matter how brief the interaction the participants now all have a shared, common experience that bonds them.  When they return next year they’ll talk about Fatburger and the burger challenge.  They’ll have common ground that will allow them to become closer with Fatburger facilitating that connection.

Positive shared experiences:

  • Create a bond between members of the community surrounding the brand
  • Put the brand at the center of memorable experiences that become part of the social fabric of the community
  • Create lasting memories for participants
  • Build goodwill and brand equity with participants
  • Increase mind share, loyalty and sentiment among participants

Brands that can place themselves at the center of shared experiences will gain more loyalty, more mind share and more attention than those that don’t.

How can you build shared experiences into your relationship with your customers?  How can you connect them around an event or experience to form the important community bonds between themselves that make community grow?

What are some of the shared experiences you’ve built into your business?  I’d love to hear about them.

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“From 1 to 1 million” – Kevin Rose’s advice on growing your site

Below is a great talk by Kevin Rose (the q&a not so much) sharing his insight on how to get from 1 user to 1 million, recounting his experience with sites like Digg, Pownce, Twitter and others.  Definitely worth the 20 minutes to hear from the man who has created countless hits.  In this talk it’s easy to see why.  He’s got the user-first mentality that is necessary to build sites that people are passionate about.

Here’s the video:


Taking your Site from One to One Million Users by Kevin Rose from Carsonified on Vimeo.

And here are the 10 things he highlights as keys to success:

1. Ego
2. Simplicity
3. Build & Release
4. Hack the Press
5. Connect w/your community
6. Advisors
7. Leverage your user base to spread the word
8. Does your product provide value to 3rd party sites?
9. Analyze your traffic
10. The entire picture

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