Leaders have to experience Social Media

May 16, 2011

Social Media is one of those things which cannot be understood until experienced. Business leaders have a responsibility to undertake this learning.

In an interesting article, it says:

The point is that I see this digital divide all the time: We all need to do a better job making sure digital competency is not something just for “digital specialists,” but that it’s a core competency of leadership.

Partly, it comes down to a fundamental misunderstanding of what digital fitness requires. For many leaders, particularly in the business world, I think there is a feeling that you can understand digital without actually being a part of it. That just isn’t true. Digital platforms are interactive by nature. To understand them, you have to use them. To “get” Twitter or Facebook, you can’t just read a white paper. You need to Tweet, you need to have a profile, and you need to engage with your friends, family and stakeholders online. I’m not saying you need to have 10,000 Twitter followers or have a “Verified Account,” but you need to understand why these tools matter.

Is Social Media really for you?

April 19, 2011

Experts OnlyLike anything that is hot and trendy, Social Media has seen people jumping on the bandwagon just to make a quick buck or a quick headline. Unfortunate, but true. I see the ‘wannabes’ all too often. And they actually manage to find some clients – yet it’s clear that they don’t have deep insights into Social Media. I am a Social Media Expert, if I may say so myself. And there are a number of us. We live Social Media. Day in and day out. We’re using the Social Media tools. We’re tasting the bitter and sweet tastes of this new revolution. Yet, we’re very nervous to call ourselves “Experts” or “Gurus” – and I will only do so here because this is my own blog. There has been a bad stigma surrounding those titles, because every other person suddenly became an “Expert” and a “Guru” – they made it bad for everyone who really deserved those titles. They are the bad apples. Bad apples are everywhere. Unfortunate, but true.

I found a real interesting post called Get Real Time: 44 Signs Social Media Is NOT Working for You. The post is intended to be funny, and I thought it was, but I also found some solids truths in it.

These are some of my favourite points:

4. You can’t remember the last time you got a lead online.
5. 95% of your leads are still coming from the chamber and local meetup groups.
8. You can’t understand why those other agencies are wasting time on plans and objectives? Why aren’t they tweeting and Facebooking for their clients?
14. Sales conversion funnel, what’s that again?
17. You have 500 likes on your Facebook business page but don’t know any of them because they won’t talk to you.
19. You have a blog but only write in it quarterly. Even when you did you just copied someone else’s work and added a link hoping nobody would notice and think it was yours.
20. You have resorted to asking your son & his best friend to retweet your content.
21. You have bribed your mom grandma, and great aunt Martha to login to Facebook once a week and like everything on your Facebook page
22. You could tweet with your eyes closed and sing Karaoke at the same time but can’t pay your rent.
23. 95% of your clients are either related to you or could fall in the category of BFF (best friend forever).
24. A lead with a budget? What’s that?
25. If you build client websites none of then have a sales conversion funnel either.
26. Your website knows how to tweet and you thought that would be enough.
27. You didn’t know you had to talk to your fans after the like! Why won’t they just buy something?
39. You haven’t changed or updated your web content in a year. It’s not needed as it must be working with all those followers you have.
42. You don’t understand why so many people spend money on their brand. Who cares if all the colors look the same. Social media is all about conversation anyway.

You can read the complete list here.

Photo credit

Facebook vs Twitter

April 18, 2011

Facebook and TwitterFacebook and Twitter are not the same. They function differently, and they serve different audiences. There are some overlaps, but there are also very distinct differences. When using Social Media as a serious business marketing tactic, it is incumbent to have deep insights into the differences between the Social Media platforms. I see the mistake everyday of people treating all the platforms equally. This is certainly a road to failure.

For example: most folks on Facebook and LinkedIn don’t understand what “RT” is. It’s Twitter lingo for Retweet, and it’s akin to a forwarded email. If you find an interesting message on Twitter, you forward it on using the RT function. I see RTs everyday on Facebook and LinkedIn. This is the result of treating all the platforms equally. It’s just wrong. Each platform is a house. We should respect the rules and etiquette of the house. That is polite.

I caught an interesting post tackling this topic. The post quoted Tim Webster as saying:

“The temptation, I think, will be to see Twitter as smaller, and therefore less important, than Facebook. Certainly, Facebook is the gateway to the masses, since it now reaches the majority. For brands and businesses, however, the differential character of Facebook users and Twitter users means that for some products and companies, Twitter might indeed be the best channel for outreach and customer communications, while for others…it might be terrible. It’s imperative for companies to cut past the hype, do their own research, and be where their users are, not where the noise is.”

And it quoted Morgan Stewart as saying:

“Twitter appeals to a niche audience. Most people simply have no interest in the real-time, condensed form of communication Twitter facilitates. However, this does not mean that Twitter’s role is insignificant or that its’ importance is overrated.

Comparing Facebook and Twitter in this manner is like comparing shopping malls and fashion shows. Malls, like Facebook, have mass appeal and are an expression of larger culture. In contrast, while only a small subset of the population actually attend fashion shows, the interactions that happen there influence the larger culture. Twitter is where online influencers congregate and share new ideas, and that alone is significant.”

I think these are brilliant opinions. Twitter and Facebook are both useful and both incumbent, but they should not be treated the same. They are different.

Photo credit

2,318 Cubicles around me

April 7, 2011

TrainingYesterday morning I was doing some research on entrepreneurship. While doing my research, I quickly put out a message on Twitter: “Who is your fav entrepreneur in the world?” This is very common on Twitter. People ask questions. Make statements. Share their feelings. Post links to websites. Rant. Twitter has it all. There’s never a dull moment. Seriously.

When sending out a message on Twitter, you can never be sure who reads it. Some people might only read it later. Someone that you don’t know might even pick up your message later in a search. You can never be certain. That’s part of the beauty of it though, for me at least.

So yesterday morning there were only two responses to my question. One person said Richard Branson. The other said Brian Tracy. I knew who Branson was (who doesn’t), but Tracy was unfamiliar to me. So I did the natural thing. I Googled him! I found his Wikipedia page, and I scrolled down the page rather quickly. Interesting. But Branson would be the focus of my research though. My initial inclination was to focus on Branson anyway, but the response from my friend of over 20 years, Razeen Carelse, removed all hesitation.

This is one of the reasons I love Twitter and Social Media so much. Because of the value one can get from these platforms. Many people think it’s a waste of time. Many people think we’re all fools when we use these platforms. But I respect those people. They simply don’t understand the value – yet.

Last night, after a long day of work, I thought about this little research I had done on Twitter. This is nothing new or special though. We do this all the time. But I was just thinking. And it dawned on me, that Twitter is like sitting in an open plan office, and every time you have a thought or idea or question, you simply shout it out. Some people will respond. Some won’t. Some will hear. Some won’t. After shouting you’d simply go on with your work. Few might respond. Many might respond. Then you’d hear someone else shouting. If it was something that concerned you, or something you had an answer to, you’d answer. If not, you’d ignore it and go on working.

Then I thought about writing this post. I have 2,318 Twitter followers at the moment. This is like having 2,318 cubicles around me. Someone’s always there. People come online and go off. Some stay offline for days. Some never go off, really. There’s always someone there.

It’s important to note here that the metaphor that sprung to mind was work-related. We sit in a cubicle to work. I don’t know of any type of cubicle that you play in. There is a message there. This is serious stuff. This is work. People think we goof off on Twitter all day. Not true. Yes we have a ton of fun. Yes there’s laughter. Yes we might even procrastinate a little. Some might procrastinate a lot. But how is that different to any other work environment. In the morning people actually greet each other on Twitter. As you would expect to see in a “real life” office environment. And it’s real funny when people in the West say good morning when it’s our afternoon. We have a lot of fun with that.

Then, this afternoon, I noticed a tweet from my friend Amanda. It’s the image at the top of this post. She said, “Open plan office. Constant risk of inadvertent over sharing.” Amanda, although she was talking on Twitter, was actually talking about a real open plan office situation. But that’s exactly how Twitter is. And people definitely do over share on Twitter as well. But still, there’s value.

I originally named this post “2,318 Cubicles behind me” – but that had some leadership connotation to it. It was as if I was at the front, and everyone was behind me, following me if you like. I changed “behind” to “around” because on Twitter there’s no hierarchy. Everyone is equal. I have spoken to all sorts of people on Twitter, even popular folks like Gary Vaynerchuk (with 871,091 Twitter followers) and Guy Kawasaki (with 331,982 Twitter followers). It’s really something.

I think this is a lot I’ve written due to one thought last night. I hope you found value in it though.

Social Media Revolution

June 17, 2010

Have you seen this video? It was published on 30 July 2009, and has been viewed 2,015,452 times to date. It reveals some interesting statistics, and I think it’s worth spending a few minutes to watch.

The Amazing Race, Facebook, and Twitter

March 12, 2010

MaskI’m a student of the world. Everywhere I go, I try to learn, and I try to think about what is really happening. Psychology is a subject that fascinates me, and I’m very fortunate that many of the successes and principles behind Web 2.0 and Social Media are grounded upon human behaviour patterns.

I’ve watched The Amazing Race a few times, and one of the reasons I like that show is because it exposes you to cities across the world. I think this is what is referred to as armchair traveling. As you know, the teams always comprise of varied relationships – best friends, married couples, engaged couples, parent and sibling, siblings, and so on. I think this is a smart move by the producers because it brings an interesting dynamic. The last show I watched (which was a few months ago, and I’ve had this post lurking in my brain since then) made me aware of something. I thought about the fact that certain teams, especially when they were behind in the race or in difficult circumstances, started to argue and be really nasty. They had a camera right in front of them, would that not deter them from showing their “true colours” and behaving just slightly more civil? Surely they knew that this was going to be aired to millions of viewers, including their own close friends and family.

I watched this and pondered about it. The camera didn’t matter. The millions of viewers didn’t matter. They wanted to win the million dollar prize – that is all that mattered.

I’ve been researching and monitoring behaviour patterns and trends on Facebook and Twitter for a very long time now. In fact, I capture most of these conversations using a neat application called Evernote. [You'd do yourself a huge favour by checking it out.] I have a few thousand clippings, and I intend to use them in 2 eBooks I’m planning to write. What is very clear to me is that when people are tested, and go through a bad time, they tend to say all sorts of things. They don’t seem to care who is watching or listening. I’m not talking about the moaners (I wrote about them here) – those who complain all the time – that’s a different group of people. I’m talking about people who are seemingly moderate and polite, but change when faced with even the slightest challenge or discomfort.

Stephen Covey refers to these behaviour changes as the Personality Ethic and the Character Ethic. You Personality Ethic is what the world sees at first glance. The Character Ethic is who you really are, but not all people see this – sometimes it’s hidden, but in tough circumstances hiding it becomes close to impossible.

He says:

In most one-shot or short-lived human interactions, you can use the Personality Ethic to get by and to make favorable impressions through charm and skill and pretending to be interested in other people’s hobbies. You can pick up quick, easy techniques that may work in short-term situations. But secondary traits alone have no permanent worth in long-term relationships. Eventually, if there isn’t deep integrity and fundamental character strength, the challenges of life will cause true motives to surface and human relationship failure will replace short-term success.

Furthermore…

Many people with secondary greatness – that is, social recognition for their talents – lack primary greatness or goodness in their character. Sooner or later, you’ll see this is every long term relationship they have, whether it is with a business associate, a spouse, a friend, or a teenage child going through an identity crisis. It is character that communicates most eloquently. As Emerson once put it, “What you are shouts so loudly in my ears I cannot hear what you say.”

Of course, if we’re people with true integrity, our Character Ethic will show that in tough circumstances, and this will validate our Personality Ethic. This is why customers now have a choice of who to work with. Customers can now monitor the ethics of an individual or company and then choose whether or not to enter into a business relationship. The same is true for personal relationships. The Internet has exposed us, so to speak.

I think it’s time we need to work on our Character Ethic.


Photo credit: place_light

Apponomics

March 11, 2010

Collaborate TshirtYesterday I tweeted the news of the newly opened Google Apps Marketplace, but I feel that I need to blog about this. This, I feel, is important for us all to understand, because the future of business and technology is being defined – and redefined – in and by online advancements.

One of the many things I love about the Web 2.0 world is it’s direct and natural resemblance to the real world. Web 2.0 – like the real world is all about sharing, honesty, transparency, and all those feel-good things. In the real world, no man can live alone. No man is an island, as they say. We need to connect, collaborate, and help each other to build a society. Everyone is important. The famous NASA story comes to mind. One of the cleaning ladies at NASA was asked what she does, she said: “I send people to space.” Now that is a profound understanding of common purpose and vision.

In the Web 2.0 world collaboration is fundamental. There is no surviving without it. If you want to “go it alone” in this space, you’re going to go nowhere slowly. Successful online companies (like Google, Facebook, and Twitter) have realised this. They’ve realised that they have to allow collaboration into and of their products, in order to provide more value to end users. This is not an easy thing to do – it is to some level a relinquishing of control.

If you’ve ever been on Facebook (who hasn’t!), you’ve at one time or another used an Application, an App as it is commonly known. There are Apps for everything, obviously the gaming Apps – like Farmville (reporting 83, 755, 953 monthly active users) – are very famous. There are Apps in all sorts of categories – Business, Education, Entertainment, etc. You can find a full directory of Facebooks Apps here.

Facebook wouldn’t be Facebook without the Apps. So picture Facebook as a big company in a big building. The company is theirs. The building is theirs. But they’ve opened up little side doors all around the building, to allow other companies (the App developers) to have access to their users. It’s a Win-Win-Win situation. Facebook wins because their users have a more enriched experience. The App developers win because they have access to millions of people. And the end user wins because we have a better experience on Facebook.

These little side doors are called APIs. An API is an Application Programming Inteface.

Apple has done the same with the iPhone. Apps really make the iPhone. And there’s an App for virtually anything. See the official Apple directory here. Some Apps are free, and some carry a price tag. Prices are very affordable though. Ranging from $0.99 to just a few dollars. App developers have already made a fortune selling millions of Apps in the Apple App Store. The Apple iPad is going to be released in a few months, and already there are Apps being created for it.

There are so many Twitter Apps available. TweetDeck, Tweetie, and Twhirl allow you to monitor and send tweets. Apps like Twitpic allow you to send photos on Twitter. It’s very interesting that the Twitpic founder was interview by Andrew Warner on Mixergy.com recently, and he said that last year he was offered over $10 million for his company. He didn’t sell, of course. What’s more interesting is that Twitpic doesn’t have offices. The founder works from home, and his parents also work for him – from their home, and he has also employed another developer – which he hasn’t even met yet, and who also works remotely. Yep, that’s how drastically the business world is changing.

If you look at the homepage of this website, you’ll see our Flickr photos displayed. This is an example of WordPress using the Flickr API.

The examples of API usage are endless, and it’s going to grow. To understand this dynamic of mass collaboration, I really recommend the book Wikinomics by Don Tapscott and Anthony D Williams.

It says:

Even ardent competitors are collaborating on path-breaking scientific initiatives that accelerate discovery in their industries

and…

McEwen saw things differently. He realized the uniquely qualified minds to make new discoveries were probably outside the boundaries of his organization, and by sharing some intellectual property he could harness the power of collective genius and capability. In doing so he stumbled successfully into the future of innovation, business, and how wealth and just about everything else with be created.

I suggest you buy this book. It’s well worth the read if this sort of thing is of interest to you.

The latest spark in the App world is the opening of the Google Apps Marketplace.

Google says:

More than 2 million businesses have adopted Google Apps over the last three years, eliminating the hassles associated with purchasing, installing and maintaining hardware and software themselves.

We’ve found that when businesses begin to experience the benefits of cloud computing, they want more. We’re often asked when we’ll offer a wider variety of business applications — from accounting and project management to travel planning and human resources management. But we certainly can’t and won’t do it all, and there are hundreds of business applications for which we have no particular expertise.

In recent years, many talented software providers have embraced the cloud and delivered a diverse set of features capable of powering almost any business. But too often, customers who adopt applications from multiple vendors end up with a fractured experience, where each particular application exists in its own silo. Users are often forced to create and remember multiple passwords, cut and paste data between applications, and jump between multiple interfaces just to complete a simple task.

Today, we’re making it easier for these users and software providers to do business in the cloud with a new online store for integrated business applications. The Google Apps Marketplace allows Google Apps customers to easily discover, deploy and manage cloud applications that integrate with Google Apps. More than 50 companies are now selling applications across a range of businesses…

Watch this interesting video to see how easy it is to use the Google Apps Marketplace:


Photo credit: cambodia4kidsorg

Google’s Buzzing, again

February 10, 2010

Google BuzzIn case you missed Google’s Press Conference last night, Google launched a new social platform called Google Buzz. The Web has shifted to becoming extremely social and interactive in recent years, and this is going to continue without a doubt. Twitter and Facebook have been dominating the “conversations” on the Web, and now Google Buzz appears that it might change things – perhaps totally, but definitely in some or other way.

According to Google, Google Buzz is “a new way to start conversations about the things you find interesting and share updates, photos, videos and more. Buzz is built right into Gmail, so there’s nothing to set up — you’re automatically following the people you email and chat with the most.”

Before I continue, I want to say this: In my talks and writings over the past 2 years I have been emphasizing the importance of principles, not technical intricacies. The technologies are ever-changing – these websites that we know now were not around a few years ago, and they will be drastically improved and changed, or even replaced, in the coming years. My focus is on the underlying principles and fundamentals about why Web 2.0 and Social Media is so powerful. Once you have a grasp of them, the technology changes will not affect your ability to harness the full potentials of the online tools available.

Back to Google Buzz…

We’re not sure about the affect that this new platform will have on Twitter and Facebook. Firstly, it allows for status updates, commenting, liking, and also integrates with blogs, Flickr, and YouTube. It has a “Friendfeed” feeling to it as well. The only thing that stumps me at present is that it sits within Gmail, and on a “Google Profile” page. Personally, I use my Gmail account very rarely – my business emails are all in Google Apps accounts. Buzz will be integrated, but only in a few months time. There has been no talk of an API – but I don’t see Buzz surviving without it. Due to the API of the other social networks, I manage Twitter, Facebook, and even LinkedIn via TweetDeck. This simplifies my life a whole lot, and makes my social interaction much more valuable.

I agree with Augie Ray from Forrester Research:

“While bringing relevance filtering to the noisy social media world could prove a significant advantage, this doesn’t (yet) seem to be enough to pull people away from the networks they’ve already created elsewhere. Buzz doesn’t update user’s Twitter or Facebook feeds, so I expect experimentation but not wholesale switching in the foreseeable future. Buzz could end up supplementing rather than replacing users’ other social networks for now.”

What does get me excited about Buzz is the mobile access – available at buzz.google.com – and the extremely advanced integration with Google Maps.

Google Buzz Google Buzz

Google says:

With Buzz for mobile, we hope you can start interesting conversations about places and be more spontaneous when you are out and about. How many times have you missed a fun event, even though it was nearby? Or a better choice of dessert, just because you didn’t know about it? How often have you wondered “Where are you?” when reading a text message from a friend? Now, you can use Buzz to learn that there is going to be a movie night at your favorite park, share with the world that there is an awesome ice cream place right around the corner, or tell your friends about that delicious homemade lasagna.

The Google Buzz for mobile video explains it all:

The mobile component of Google Buzz is believed to impact Foursquare, and I think that will prove true, at least to some extent.

Mashable’s article “Google Goes Social with Google Buzz” gives a very nice overview of Google Buzz – read it here.

Also, read these very useful Mashable articles (all posted only hours after the release of Google Buzz):

What Google Buzz Means for Mobile
The Location Implications of Google Buzz
target=”_blank”Google Buzz: What It Means for Twitter and Facebook
Google Buzz: Competitors and Experts React
Google Buzz: Will You Use It? [POLL]

I was surprised to receive access to Google Buzz immediately, I assumed US users would be linked up first. You can connect to me at http://www.google.com/profiles/jamaal786. I’ve been following the conversations on Twitter, and many folks can connect to Buzz via their mobiles, but not yet via their Gmail accounts on the Web.

Of course, if you want to avoid the Buzz altogether, this article might be of use to you: Banish Google Buzz Updates from Your Gmail Inbox.

At the time of writing this post, about 7 hours after the Google announcement, the topic is still very hot online, with blog posts being written, podcasts been produced, and thousands of tweets flooding Twitter. I’ve estimated about 2, 500 new tweets with the words “Google Buzz” every 3 minutes. You do the math.

Content is still king – but who’s content?

August 5, 2009

[Ok, so I haven't blogged in a while. A tad hypocritical of me since I advocate blogging so strongly in my talks. Each time I get an idea for a blog post (which is usually more than once a day) I shift it aside and make something else priority, I think I need to change that, now!]

Facebook FriendsEver since the start of the Internet, we’ve been saying that “Content is king” – and that’s been very true. A website with more content – be it text or any other type of content – always won over a website with no content. The content surely had to be good, make no mistake. As the Internet has evolved, I think the content paradigm has evolved as well.

I caught an interesting link on Twitter last night, it was a recent TechCrunch article titled: “Facebook Is Now the Fourth Largest Site In The World.” Facebook boasts 340 million unique visitors during June, 2009. This article returned a memory from a few months ago. I was consulting with a client and helping them understand how Facebook could help their business. I was setting up one lady’s Facebook profile, and it looked very strange. There was nothing going on there, there was more white screen than anything else. This was because she had not “connected” to many friends at the time, so there was little information displaying on her profile. I mentioned this to them, explained how “busy” my profile is, and we had a chuckle, but it’s stayed in my memory – perhaps waiting for me to write this post?!

Content is still the most important component of a website – but who’s content is an entirely new question! We visit Facebook every single day, several times a day, from our desktops, laptops, and mobiles. Who’s content are we looking at though? Facebook’s? Very rarely. We’re looking at content that we’ve created ourselves, or content that our friends have created. Twitter? Twitter without user content is an empty shell. When we go to YouTube, are we viewing their content? Nope. Flickr? Wikipedia?

User-generated content is what really drives the Internet today. And it’s going to get bigger, and bigger. Facebook et al will need to continually make it easier for users (that’s you and me) to publish our own content and share others’ content. It’s about the content, still, but there’s been a shift in who publishers that content.