Archive for the 'Social Networking' Category

Is Social Media a Fad?

I put this post up on StartupCoast, but thought I would also put it up on the buzz.

There are still quite a few entrepreneurs and business leaders who think that Social Media is a passing fad. I think this is an extremely short sided viewpoint. Erik Qualman, author of Socialnomics, is certainly agrees. He put up a short video on YouTube the other day that stresses his point and is certainly worth looking at. For one, he gives an answer to the always asked question, “What is the ROI of Social Media?”

As a side, I like that he used “Right Here, Right Now” by Fatboy Slim.


Talking to Entrepreneurs – Bay Schmooze IV

One thing that I like about talking with entrepreneurs is when you realize that a lot of what you know and take for granted is completely new to someone else. Two of the conversations I had yesterday were with entrepreneurs who are very early in the creation of their new busineses. Both are focusing on completely different different customers and attempting to solve different problems. However, they did have something in common. They are creating service business using the Internet as the place where they will conduct business.

I believe that anyone using a website as the primary communication tool between them and their customers should be either creating or re-designing their sites using software and tools that are designed to easily build communities, manage content easily, and support a wide range of media. This is not  based on some “Aha” moment of insight recently but from working with these types of tools for the past three years.

With so much press about MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, WordPress, and other tools, I just assume that most people, especially in the age demographic of the entrepreneurs I was talking with, already know all about the capabilities these tools provide.

Entrepreneur one is about six month into development. The business is focused on providing information about an industry and the people and companies in that industry. Clearly this fits nicely into to social media/marketing space. I ask, “Are you going to provide your customers the ability to talk about their experiences, good and bad, with people and companies?”. “Not in the first phase, we are thinking about it as in Phase 2.

We talk about how the site is being created. The old way is to use standard web development tools including some combination of XML, CSS and PHPmaybe with something like Dreamweaver. Certainly a solution, but unless you become functional with these tools, you have to rely on a web developer for all changes to the site , which can be time consuming, frustrating and expensive (I realize that there are some supposedly higher level tools to help with changes like Contribute, but learning Contribute and managing content on a blog are miles apart).

Being so early into the development, I ask if they had considered using a Content Management System(CMS) based solution like Joomla or Drupal? More importantly they are open source (think Free Software), and have all the basic community tools built in. They hadn’t heard of this but were dealing with slowness of getting content on and off their current site.

Entrepreneur two is just beginning and has not selected a platform as yet. In fact, getting some insight on what to consider was among the list of things she wanted to find out during the Schmooze if possible. We had the Open Source conversation. She asked if I know of any developer resources that I would recommend, and I tell her about the San Diego Drupal Users Group that meets monthly (currently at the Hall of Champions at Balboa Park). I also mention that, if she wants to learn more about Drupal, meet more people and talk with some great resources from both San Diego and LA, there is a LA Drupal Camp scheduled for August 8th and 9th at UC Irvine. It is free, all you have to do is sign up.

Someone else mentions looking at similar, complementary  or competitive sites. She says she is having difficulty finding out who is talking. I ask if she knows about Technorati? “Doesn’t that have something to do with blogs?” I explain what Technorati is all about, and she writes down the web address.

Whenwe have been working in an area for a couple of years, especially one that is still pretty nascent to smalland medium business, we tend to forget who much we really know. So, it is great to talk with people who are just starting out and all this is new to them. You get to share some information, hopefully help them move forward and feel good about the conversation as time well spent.

Earned Media – Fred Wilson Post

I just read through a post that Fred Wilson put up on the topic of “Earned Media“. I won’t go into here since he does a great job explaining it. One thing I do want to point out, a lot of people are hearing about Twitter. It is everywhere. Many TV news people give out their Twitter address for us to follow, the President has a couple of Twitter accounts to follow, and the list goes on.

A lot of business people are scratching their heads and wondering just how to use this in business. Well there is a great example in Fred’s post about kogibbq which is the twitter account of a Korean BBQ Taco truck that goes throughout LA and uses twitter to update people on their location. Now this is just pure genius. What a fabulous solution for someone with a wheels based business that allows them to keep their customers up to date and their whereabouts. And let’s consider the cost of the real time solution, oh yeah, that would probably be $0’s, free, nada,…

Thanks Fred for finding this and blogging about it. It was a nice way to end the evening.

Is Social Media Now a New Buzzword to Entrepreneurs?

For some time, I have been writing and ranting about how Social Media/Networking tools are making their way into small and medium businesses. Well, it seems that more early stage companies are incorporating these concepts into their startups. You would think I would be happy about that; something I predicted coming true. Truth is I think it’s great, but the bad news is that many of these entrepreneurs really don’t know what this means and a few, like one I saw yesterday, must have been told to just add the words “Social Media” to their investors presentation and then claim that they are like Facebook or LinkedIn including creating completely ridiculous exit valuation predictions.

I did see a second company yesterday who is looking to brand and grow their busienss using a combination of on-line and social media tools in lieu of attempting to raise lots of funding for a major consumer marketing campaign. A real new tools versus old school thinking, and just the formula in these times when cash/funding is hard to come by.

So, if you are putting together your plan for a new startup and someone suggests that you somehow use the words “social media” or “social networking” and not necessarily incorporate these into your web presence, you are going to be caught and fast. More importantly, if an investor thinks you are trying to pull a fast one on them, they dismiss you immediately. You need to understand, we have all seen numerous social media/networking companies over the last few years. So, we are pretty familiar with these concepts.

My recommendation, for what it’s worth, embrace these tools and aggressively add them to your business and use them to work on your growth.

Who Controls Your Brand?

My last few posts I have been talking about how using social media and communitiy development tools can help companies establish and/or grow their brands. So, I was reading Groundswell, a relatively new book, by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff. Josh is a Vice President and Principal Analyst with Forrester Research and Charlene was with Forrester when this book was written and released. She has since left the company to pursue other things.

Groundswell talks about how to find out more about what customers are talking about and how to capitalize on the conversations. They use 25 case studies to make their points.

What caught my attention was paragraph titled “your brand is what your customers say it is”  Now a lot of companies and their marketing departments think that they own their brand. Afterall, it’s their business, and their money they are spending talking about their products and business. Makes perfect sense to them that they own and control it.

Well, the team at Groundswell makes a great case that it is your customers and how they talk about you and your company that controls your brand. That being the case, you can use the old techniques of market and customer satisfaction surveys and studies and find out what your customers SAID about you (hint: the data that you get back is probably six months old or more).

Alternatively, you can take the new media approach and open direct and continuous communication channels with your customers and find out what they are SAYING about your company. (bigger hint: the data you back is current and may be hours or days old).

Think about, in the first scenario, you can attempt to fix something that might not even be a problem still or has gone on so long that customer are too frustrated. On the other hand, you can address problems whilte they are still fresh in your customers minds.

OK, this doesn’t mean to react to every issue as it comes up before you completely understand whether something is really a problem and how to best address it.

So, the tools are available, easy to use once someone sets them up for you, and you can get into conversation immediately. By the way, if your customers are talking and your not listening, I wonder who is? Maybe it’s your current or future competition. Now that should be a scary thought!!!

My Big Surprise at Drupal Camp LA 2008? Dmitri Gaskin!

So, those who know me might be asking why I was at Drupal Camp, or, more importantly, what exactly is Drupal camp. Drupal is an open source content management system (CMS) and also a content management framework. In a discussion about the hot CMS’, three are at the top of the pile, Drupal, WordPress and Joomla. One of the really great things about open source applications is that there are thousands of individuals who contribute to building, testing and furthering the software. Drupal has just such a community with thousands of contributors. Here is where Dmitri Gaskin comes in. But first…

I was walking around the conference, in Drupal terms large at around 430 attendees, but rather small for conferences held at the LA Convention Center, and noticed a young boy who seemed to be attending with a relative and maybe just hanging around waiting for the sessions to finish. As I was sitting at a table in the break room checking my emails, this boy sits down and pulls out a Mac with a ton of stickers and does some work.

A short time later I see him as the next sessions are starting and I am walking into the Beginners track and he is entering the Developers track with his laptop under his arm. I figured he was in the wrong place.

During my session, the presenter starts talking about one of the contributed modules as being developed by Dmitri and then she starts talking about the very talented 12 year old. That’s right, twelve years old. I’m thinking this can’t be, 12? During the next break session, they mention that Dmitri is one of the real powerhouses in the Drupal development world! More importantly, they mention that there is an Awesome Testing Party scheduled that is being moderated by, you guessed it, Dmitri Gaskin!

I think it is great to know that there are still wunderkids out there. I have to admit this is the first one I have seen up close. At another time, it might have bothered me that me, the adult, was walking into the Beginners track while the 12 year old was going into the techie Developers track.

In any event, kudos to Dmitri. Kudos also to his family for supporting and encouraging him. I think we are going to continue to see some great things from him over the next, 60 or 70 years. When I was twelve, my biggest accomplishment was learning to hit a curve ball. Technology is great!

In my next post, I’ll explain why I was at Drupal Camp.

Halographic Conferencing? WOW!

Every so often, I see something that just stops me in my tracks. Well today it was a video from Cisco Systems’ John Chambers where he is using halographic technology in a conference setting with two of his team. He is an Bangalore and they are in San Jose. They have partnered with a company called Musion to extend their Telepresence application to the next level.

Imagine having a day where you participate in a conference in one part of the world, two or three meetings in other parts of the world and never leave your office. I also got the impression that the duo in San Jose could see the audience in Bangalore.

Now, I am sure that the cost side of this is currently pretty hefty, but Chambers talks about having this eventually available for the home! I can’t wait to see this develop.

The video is definitely worth the 11.5 minutes of your time.

The other thing that fascinated me is their talk about a new contest at Cisco where, over the next three months, they are having people go to their site and post ideas for new products on their Wiki system. They can put together virtual teams and create a prototype or product definition. Cisco will look at all the entrants and select those they think have potential and, this is the payoff, hire the team, give them a $250K signing bonus and develop the products! I find this is a interesting use of Web 2.0 technologies. Sure, the idea people who are chosen might be better off in the long run turning their ideas into products for their own business, but there is a benefit to having deep pockets during the early stages of product realization.

I want to thank Guy Kawasaki for posting about this and bringing it to my attention.

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