Archive for Social Media

Google Wave – First Impressions

Applications, Social Media, Toolson October 2nd, 20094 Comments

The biggest tech news today was the release of Google Wave to 100,000 beta testers. Because of the limited number of invitations, the usual outrageous behavior by members of the tech community ensued. At one point sources reported that an invitation was being offered on eBay for $5100 dollars. After many of these outlandishly priced offers were pulled, remaining invites were being hawked for a more reasonable $70 to $100 dollars. Similarly Twitter users who tweeted about receiving Wave invitations were flooded with requests from users begging for invitations. At the LightThread office we were lucky enough to have received our invitation at 12:32 a.m. yesterday morning and we wasted no time in trying it out.

waveinboxWhen one logs into Wave the very first time, one is greeted with several messages created by the Wave team.  Cleverly they actually use Wave to illustrate how it can be used.  How’s that for a recursive demonstration?

Though initial reviews highlighted the less-than-enthusiastic response from certain high-profile tech geeks,  the usefulness of Wave and its interface design are most apparent when more than one person is using it.  It was immediately apparent to us that Wave solves a few of the most obvious issues with the Twitter interface:  conversations that are totally sequential yet threaded at the same time.  In other words, Twitter’s interface only presents tweets as they occur.   Streams of conversations between various people that are threaded have  the tendency to become lost in the relentless wash of tweets from everyone else.  Google Wave solves that problem by allowing replies to anyone anywhere in the stream of messages.  Thus one can have multiple simultaneous real-time conversations with a number of people without losing the thread of any of the simultaneous conversations.  Without a doubt this takes a little getting used to–many people aren’t naturally adept at tracking more than one simultaneous conversation–after all how often does this really happen during a verbal discussion?  I’m certain however, that people will quickly adapt to this paradigm.  Making it easier is the fact that the conversations don’t simply fade into the ether–they persist on the page.  The Google Wave team has also incorporated a handy feature–the ability to “play” the wave, step-by-step to catch anything that might have been missed when it occurred in real-time.


As reported previously, the application also allows those participating in a wave to insert videos, graphics and other files.  The inclusion of rich media makes this more than simply a many-to-many text messaging application.  In addition, gadgets are also supported by Wave.  This enables the platform to be extended in ways that will increase its usefulness.  Included in the Wave beta are a mapping gadget and an yes/no/maybe gadget.  These are both used in demonstrations to highlight their usefulness for tasks like making group plans and planning trips, respectively.

Ultimately, like many new tools and applications, we’ll have a much better understanding of Google Wave and its usefulness after it has been tested by the initial group of users.  The LightThread team is looking forward to using Google Wave in our day-to-day activities and we’ll be eagerly reading others’ impressions of the platform in upcoming weeks.  We’ll report back to you as our testing continues.  In the meantime, if you’re also on the platform, start a wave with us!!

Social Media and Online Security – A Conversation with Wirevibe

lightthread, Social Mediaon August 19th, 20091 Comment

We recently had the privilege of hosting Terrence Shaw, managing partner at Wirevibe and Kerstin Deppe, COO at Patricia Seybold Group at our LightThread office to discuss social media and online security concerns. Terrence is known for creating fun and informative interviews that are posted regularly at his Wirevibe blog. He typically hosts these interviews at local watering holes in the KC and Dallas areas so we were excited when he asked us if we would like to host one at our place. Even better he asked me if I would like to be part of the interview and share my experience with social media and how I address the growing concern of online personal security risk. When I found out that Kerstin would be sharing the couch with me I would have paid Terrence to participate.

You will notice in the interview I make the analogy that online isn’t all that different from offline when discussing female security vulnerabilities. I think this is an important point as it can become all too easy to forget the number of eyes watching your updates, pictures, status, and comments when online. You have a similar situation when you are consumed about your shopping list as you walk in to the store and forget there could be “bad” people hanging out in parking lots. The answer to minimize the risk is the same for both offline and online…be aware, pay attention to your surroundings, and prepare for the unexpected.

A few tips:

In the offline world – Keep your head up and look for people just “hanging out.” Look under your car and in your backseat before entering the vehicle. Have your keys held so you can poke someone in the eye. Take a self-defense lesson or two so you can defend yourself if needed.

In the online world – Know who your friends, followers, and connections are online. Read profiles and look at a person’s online activity before accepting their invite. Understand the applications you are using and how to block people, hide your updates from non-followers, and who to notify regarding security concerns.

At the end of the day, vigilant observation and preparation can keep you safe so practice them always.



Facebook + FriendFeed = FaceFeed?

Social Mediaon August 11th, 2009Comments Off on Facebook + FriendFeed = FaceFeed?

Facebook announced today that it had acquired FriendFeed.  Multiple sources carried the news after Technorati broke it, minutes before Facebook made its own announcement.  Largely believed to be an acquisition for talent, the 12 members of the Friendfeed team include founder Bret Taylor the creator of Google Maps and Paul Buchheit, who developed Gmail.  Facebook indicated that the four Friendfeed founders would all serve as senior executives in their product and engineering departments.

Articles have already been written about what FriendFeed brings to Facebook, including public profiles, conversations that involve people you don’t know, aggregated content from multiple sites and real time information.  Whether some of these features will continue to be supported if Friendfeed is fully incorporated into Facebook or not remains to be seen. Without question the biggest impact of this acquisition might be on Twitter.  Past analysis has shown that a majority of the content that Friendfeed aggregates is from Twitter.  Given Twitter’s very recent and very public snubbing of an acquisition offer from Facebook, is this simply the first volley in a capabilities war where Facebook will use its superior financial funding position to acquire companies that have advanced Twitter-like features so that they can eventually eliminate Twitter’s dominate position in microblogging?

But it’s not as though Facebook should be worried.  With over 250 million users against Twitter’s 4-5 million, adding Friendfeed, a site that reached over 1 million visits earlier this year, will not make an appreciable difference in the lead it already enjoys.  In Facebook’s and Friendfeed’s press releases, in addition to talent,  shared platform and work culture philosophies were cited as reasons for the acquisition.  But what might be good for these two companies might not be good for Friendfeed users.

Most of the feedback was negative when the deal was announced.  Indeed Friendfeed oftentimes seemed to be a haven for social media practitioners.  Prominent members of that community, including Robert Scoble, are avid users and as one commenter stated on Bret Taylor’s feed, “Uh, well that’s the end of that.”

Friendfeed now joins Pownce as yet another Twitter-like social media service that was hyped by the “social mediarati” only to be acquired by another company with different designs on the industry.

Social Media ROI – More Than Just Revenue

Business Strategy, Social Mediaon June 7th, 20094 Comments

I spent quite a bit of time this evening reading articles and posts highlighting the challenges associated to measuring social media Return on Investment (ROI). Simon also mentioned in his Social Media for Business post the challenges associated to social media metrics, specifically engagement metrics. Measuring dollars is more important than ever so if we want to see companies accelerate their social media adoption we need to show a direct correlation to the bottom line. I speculate this is why the ROI topic is getting big buzz as of late.

Leads, sales, and new revenue get most of the headlines when discussing ROI. However, cost reductions need to be considered as well when figuring/estimating ROI. Social media introduces new possibilities to traditional business practices such as customer care/service, research and development (R&D) and internal communications. These may not be as “sexy” as marketing and sales but anyone of them can be the Achilles heel to even the strongest of companies.

Customer Care/Service: listening & engaging = retention ($$)
Customer care/service is a huge cost area for companies. Social media provides a cheaper and faster way to address customer concerns vs. having to call an 800 number. With the various sentiment monitoring tools available (check out local KC companies Spiral 16 and Social Radar) a company can proactively help customers. Not only does this help decrease call volumes but a company can get good PR and positive brand recognition for reaching out. If a company isn’t quite ready to make an investment let me suggest Google Alerts. You can’t beat the ROI on this handy tool as it’s FREE and super easy to set-up.

You may not be able to get rid of an entire call center but even a 10% reduction in costs can be significant. Don’t forget about customer retention “save” possibilities too…keeping existing revenue is just as important as generating new revenue, especially if your company is being pressured to maintain their customer base.  The cost associated to getting a new customer is high so keep that in mind when considering retention dollar benefits.

Using social media in this manner may also introduce an opportunity to reduce labor costs. Many companies are organized by function so you may have one employee who is a sales person, a second employee that handles the customer service call and a third employee who serves as a retention specialist. Social media may allow a company to employ one resource who can support sales, care and retention all at the same time. Again, this is a much lower cost than the 3 individual resources that they more than likely are paying today in the individual business units.

Research and Development: gain access to the WORLD
Research and Development (R&D) is another cost area that can be supplemented using social media. Market research, product research, strategy considerations, and user groups are just some examples of information that can be gathered through social media. A smart company knows that R&D is important to long term health and growth but during tough economic times R&D becomes vulnerable to cuts. Utilizing social media as a knowledge gathering tool provides a cost effective method to supporting R&D which can save or possibly even grow this very important part of the business.

Internal Communications: knowledge sharing = accelerated growth
One more cost area to consider is internal communications. Big companies typically have an entire organization focused on nothing but employee oriented communications. By leveraging social media and online communities specifically, they can lower their costs in this area. Security and keeping proprietary information safe is often a concern when considering online communities. Doing your homework and developing an effective but simple social media policy can typically address any security concerns.

At the end of the day remember to under promise and over deliver, especially when discussing money matters. Be honest about worst/best case scenarios and forthright that there is still a lot to be learned in this area. If you would like more information about the tools or methods discussed in this post please give us a call or send us an email. Would love your comments on other costs to consider when evaluating social media ROI.

Cheers! Lisa

Social Media for Business

Business Strategy, Social Media, Twitteron May 23rd, 20096 Comments

Though social media is often thought of as entertainment, a way to keep track of friends and family or as a medium used most frequently by those under 25, there are many business applications for it.

Social media includes any web site that supports social interaction like user participation or user-generated content. This includes sites like Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, Flickr, Yelp, Digg, Twitter and many others. Using these sites allows businesses to interact with customers in their own domain. For a customer, this is a more natural, less intimidating way to have a conversation with a company.

The fastest growing demographic on sites like Facebook are those over the age of 35. According to iStrategyLabs, in the six months ending in January 2009 the number of people using Facebook between the ages of 35 and 54 increased 276%.

Here are some of the advantages of using social media for business:

Social media is a good way to promote your business, whether it is large or small, during difficult economic times
• Most social media sites are free to use or very inexpensive. They cost less than traditional marketing or advertising, and unlike television or radio commercials or even print ads, content for social media sites can be created without the assistance of an ad agency. According to Jacob Morgan, co-founder of Mighty Mouth Media, a social media campaign can cost a fraction of what traditional advertising costs.
• It’s fast and accessible – social media is Internet based, can be updated rapidly, and can be reached 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
• Large audiences already exist for YouTube, Facebook, MySpace and Twitter and therefore social media market reach is much wider than local advertising
• Studies have shown that social media is more effective than traditional advertising. According to a Forrester study, Proctor & Gamble found that their community for adolescent girls was 4 times more effective than television advertising for their products.
• Social media can help your business to connect with potential customers, for example, a local photographer who put his portfolio on his Facebook page gets most of his business from people looking at his work there.  Since there are large communities on Facebook and MySpace already, they can be very effective channels for promotions as well as a good way to interact with customers outside of a business transaction.

It’s a great way to find useful information and connect with business resources

• There are many examples of businesses using Twitter or other social media to connect to people who have the expertise they lack. Answers can be rapidly obtained and connections made. For example recently I received this message on Twitter:

“Twitter friend @mistersterling needs real estate agent who knows Lee’s Summit area.”

A California-based real estate broker needed to find a Realtor in the Kansas City area who knew Lees Summit. Within a few hours, I had connected him with some friends on Facebook who are in the real estate business. These kinds of interactions happen every day on Twitter.
• On LinkedIn, the online work profile and resume site, people can create groups focused on special topics like entrepreneurship or job hunting, ask questions of these networks and use them to organize events, among other things.

It’s an excellent way to monitor how your business is doing.
• Twitter can be used to check customer sentiment. Well known examples include companies like Comcast which looks for bad customer experiences using Twitter and solves customer problems.
• Social media monitoring tools like Spiral16’s Spark platform or Infegy’s Social Radar, are available to enable a business to monitor customer sentiment through “chatter” on social media sites and blogs.
• Rather than simply reacting (oftentimes much too late to change perception) when the feedback that a customer has had a bad experience finally reaches you through word-of-mouth, a business can proactively manage its reputation interacting directly with customers; this allows you to fix a bad customer experience before it is virally spread everywhere.

Social media is a good way to differentiate your business
• Traditional marketing is about “positioning,” and many people have grown to distrust it because they consider it a company, rather than customer perspective.
• On the other hand, the key to successfully using social media is to be yourself. The more authentic you are the more customers will trust you. The more they trust you the more they will recommend you.  Third party recommendations are a powerful way to attract new customers.
• As companies develop reputations for not being in tune with customers, the ones who use social media reap large rewards:
• President Barack Obama has been credited with a very skillful use of social media during his election campaign. He has over six million fans on Facebook, more than anyone else and was active on Twitter during his campaign.
• Zappos has a very loyal customer base. CEO Tony Hsieh’s amiable style and personal response to customer problems on Twitter has made it one of the most successful dotcom companies with an enviable reputation with customers.
• Whole Foods considers it’s broad use of social media sites like Twitter, Flickr and Facebook a key part of it’s marketing strategy. They have increased the buzz about the company, helped create a positive feedback loop and made customers more aware of its passion for community involvement.

For individuals, especially ones who have been laid off, social media can help increase the size your personal network, connect with companies that are hiring and find new jobs.
• Placement agencies will tell you that most people who are laid-off from jobs find new ones using their personal networks, rather than though blindly sending resumes in response to job postings.
• Business social media sites like LinkedIn and Plaxo enable people to post information about job history, form groups that are focused on specific industries or professions and ask questions to people who might be able to assist with a job search.
• There are many companies, including executive recruiters who routinely look for people with certain skillsets by first messaging their Twitter or LinkedIn networks.

What are some of the barriers to companies using social media effectively?
• Many companies still don’t have a social media strategy today. Conversations about your company will occur whether you have a strategy or not. However, you have the option to either participate in these conversations or to not participate. Not participating means you aren’t managing your reputation during those conversations.
• Social media is different than traditional advertising and marketing so companies have to change their thinking about it to use it effectively. Many companies still believe in tightly controlling their communications, including identifying precisely who can represent the company and what can or cannot be said by a company representative. Social media is most effective when company representatives are allowed to be themselves. Avoid using social media as a channel for traditional “positioning” marketing messages. People see through blatant self-promotion on sites like Facebook and Twitter and don’t like it. Be authentic. Don’t be afraid of interacting with customers at their level.
• Not having defined policies around social media use or prohibiting it entirely.  Rather than barring any use, it is much more effective to define the rules around the use of social media, accept that there needs to be some freedom associated with this method of communicating with customers and enabling employees to work within them.
• Not ensuring that there are clear metrics associated with social media campaigns. Since social media is all about engagement, there are many cases where it is easier to measure success than with a traditional ad. Engagement is directly connected to behavior and is more relevant to a specific outcome than traditional advertising’s more passive activities like watching or reading an ad. Failure to establish success metrics will compromise the effectiveness of social media efforts.

For More Information
• Please e-mail us at: or call us at 816-298-9913.

Big Fun, Big Crowds at Big Omaha

Social Media, Technologyon May 13th, 20096 Comments

Omaha, Nebraska is a dynamic city that is really embracing its startup community.  So, I was looking forward to Big Omaha, the first major social media conference held in the heart of the midwest.  Organized by Jeff Slobotski and Dusty Davidson, the one and a half day conference would feature some of the most popular names in social media and technology today.

The drive from Kansas City to Omaha is a short one and three hours and one hail storm later, we arrived at the lovely Magnolia Hotel in time to check in and freshen up before heading out for the evening. The first event was a mixer hosted by What Cheer and Secret Penguin in their upstairs spot on Webster street in the rehabbed warehouse district. It was a great way to catch up with StartUp Weekend KC friends, Omaha entrepreneurs and social media-ites. We munched on raw vegan appetizers and quaffed beer from the Lucky Bucket brewery as the sun set over the city.

Whitney Mathews & Elizabeth Parmeter at Slowdown

Whitney Mathews & Elizabeth Parmeter at Slowdown

A few hours and many introductions later, everyone began to drift around the corner to Slowdown.  Esquire Magazine’s “Club of the Year” for 2008 was a neat rock club and bar that is a favorite of those who are into the local independent music scene. There we had a chance to sip some of the wines that Gary Vaynerchuk rated later that evening for his broadcast of Wine Library TV. The place was jammed with people and it was fun seeing Gary and the other tech luminaries there.

Day two of Big Omaha was packed with insightful speakers and all of the sessions were held at KANEKO, a terrific, creative space in the Old Market area of Omaha.  Envisioned and created by internationally acclaimed Omaha artist Jun Kaneko, the building was perfect for a high tech meeting.  The wide open spaces were tagged with clever signs like “I’m a Bathroom” and ones that directed people to the various services that were available, including the lounge, where the wifi coverage seemed to be the best.  Catering to the crowd, the cylindrical ice chests that were scattered about were continuously stocked with three flavors of Redbull and soda.

Kaneko in Omaha, Nebraska

Kaneko in Omaha, Nebraska

We were a little disappointed to learn that WordPress developer Matt Mullenweg had missed his flight and would not be there.   But that quickly dissipated when 37Signals founder Jason Fried began to speak.  Some of the notable comments he made:

“‘Collaboration’ is another word for ‘interrruption.’ Work days have become ‘work moments with interruptions.’”

“Don’t see each other.  Have a ‘don’t talk Thursday’” [to be more productive]

On learning from old business:  “Everything produces byproducts…knowledge is a byproduct…figure out how to sell the stuff you are making each day as you make things while you work.”

Jason Fried of 37Signals and Gary Vaynerchuk of Wine Library TV

Jason Fried of 37Signals and Gary Vaynerchuk of Wine Library TV

Fried very much advocated learning while doing, and leveraging those things that are produced to achieve greater value for the business.  He spoke of 37Signals’ decision to compile the company’s blog entries into a book and then of their surprised as sales reached half a million dollars in just 6 months.  The company has also had great success in the marketplace with Basecamp, a product that was originally developed for internal use.

Adriana Gascoigne highlighted the problem of the lack of women in the technology industry.  Only a handful of women are Chief Executives of technology companies despite the fact that almost half of the population are women.  She asked for a show of hands of all of the women in the room who had studied computer science in college and discovered that no one had pursued that major.

Micah Baldwin of Lijit Networks offered a counterpoint to Jason Fried’s talk when he said  that “failure is a process, not a destination.”  And offered up one of his favorite mottoes:  “Sometimes the best way to learn to duck is to get punched in the face.”

Jeffrey Kalmikoff, Chief Creative Officer of skinnyCorp

Jeffrey Kalmikoff, Chief Creative Officer of skinnyCorp

Jeffrey Kalmikoff of skinnyCorp, known for the Threadless t-shirt design site, moderated a very funny panel session that featured all of the day’s speakers and also spent some time riffing on the value of transparency and having fun at work.  Key takeaway?  “Transparency and accessibility are not the same thing.”

Gary Vaynerchuk’s keynote was a madcap, furious, 45 minutes of pure energy, laden with exclamations like this one on competing:  “I want to crush everyone, I want to beat everyone’s face in, in a positive, business way.”  And his evening message could be summed up:  Do the one thing that you are most passionate about and you will be more successful than you can ever imagine while having the greatest time of your life.

The early evening wine tasting sponsored by Girls in Tech was held at the very cool Urban Wine Company right across the street from Kaneko Center.  After a very nice dinner with fellow Kansas City Social Media experts Jenn Bailey and Christina Maki and security expert Jim Nemer at Ahmad’s, a Persian restaurant recommended by locals, we headed to the Nomad Lounge, a contemporary dance club also in Old Town Omaha.  This was a great time to catch up with other Big Omaha attendees, mingle and chat with the speakers and generally relax over a cold microbrew after an exciting day of presentations.  A live twitter feed kept everyone current on events.

On Saturday weary participants met for a Tweet Up at Aroma’s Coffeehouse and Bakery to share weekend stories and to talk about upcoming meetings and meetups.

Big Omaha was a great event.  It really highlighted the strong community of technology entrepreneurs and compelling companies in the Omaha area and the partnership between the city and it’s tech businesses.  It also reinforced that the social media community, though growing, still predominantly comprises companies that are full of friendly, familiar faces and that all seem to be connected to each other by common tools, philosophies and great events like this one.  We’ll definitely be at next year’s meeting!

StartUp Weekend Kansas City & TopChirp

Applications, Social Media, StartUps, Technology, Twitteron May 8th, 20091 Comment

The first StartUp Weekend Kansas City was held at the end of April. Founded by Andrew Hyde, StartUp Weekend has been hosted by over 20 cities around the world since its inception. The Kansas City event, organized by Dan Melton and his dot Next crew, drew over 75 people for fifty hours of brainstorming, business plan creation and coding. Nine concepts were launched including the overall winner of the pitch session, Activism2Go. We pitched an idea that ultimately became TopChirp, a rating site for the microblogging site Twitter.

topchirplogo-1From concept development to completed code, the effort to develop this application took less than 50 hours. The end result? A working application that allows users to “chirp” tweets that they find interesting. Tweets that are chirped, or rated highly, are then presented on the website, much like content that is given a “thumbs-up” on Digg is presented on An easy-to-use application programming interface allows third parties that are developing Twitter clients to easily incorporate TopChirp rating capability in their own applications.

We are excited about TopChirp and the team that formed over StartUp Weekend has already made plans to continue to enhance the application even as we refine its business plan.

It has been reported that although StartUp Weekend events are popular, few of the applications that are develop maintain a long existence or raise appreciable money.

We think that such concern is misguided. StartUp Weekend serves an important role in the startup community–that of connecting business development experts, designers and developers. The networks that are formed can be powerful ones for catalyzing the growth of new business opportunities in a given community. We feel privileged that we were able to meet so many talented people in just a few days, some of whom traveled from as far as Great Britain.

If there is a StartUp Weekend in your city, we highly recommend the experience!

We Don’t Say Goodbye Anymore . . .

Business Strategy, Social Mediaon March 23rd, 20092 Comments

Have you recently connected with anyone from your past?  If you have a facebook account, the answer is probably a big fat resounding “Yes!”  If you want to frame Web 2.0 as a paradigm it can be done thusly:

We don’t say goodbye anymore.

Back in the day, if you wanted to stay in contact with someone, you had to be “pro-active” — call them, schedule something, etc.  If you graduated high school, moved on to a new job, or moved out of state, you also lost touch with those people you shared space with.  Today, the act of staying in contact with someone is “passive.” Just log onto facebook, myspace, or twitter and read what all your friends, old and new, are up to.

Case in point, I recently tweeted the following:

“Incidentally we are going to see @average_jane‘s band this evening at the lake “whatever” pub by Lake LottaWatta. c’mon out. no big whoop.”

Because I use my twitter account to auto-populate my facebook status, two of my best friends from high school instantly knew what I was up to and surprised me by already being there before I arrived.

It was one of the most pleasant surprises of my adult life.

And as the paradigm shifts for individuals, the same thing is happening for business.  Companies are becoming defined more and more by identities, (i.e. people who actually work for the company).  For instance, the twitter world recognizes “Frank” as the man behind comcastcaresjgoldsborough is the man behind Sprint. GaryVee is really the brand, WineLibrary is just where he sells wine.  And for their companies/business, these identities are becoming of premium value.

If one of these people happen to say “Goodbye” to their respective companies, who will you say “Goodbye” to?  The company or the person?

Let’s Marinate the Social Media Sizzle, Shall We?

Social Mediaon March 19th, 2009Comments Off on Let’s Marinate the Social Media Sizzle, Shall We?

I appreciate the social media communities’ high expectations. We agree that if you are going to do something then you should do it 100%. However, I wonder if our bar isn’t too high sometimes. I recently read a post about Charles Schwab’s “embarrassing attempt” at social media. I checked out the site and yes it is internally focused and makes attempt to monitor the conversation by having comments sent to their PR department for consideration. You could say they are only testing the waters by just dipping their toe and not fully embracing social media. If you have never worked in a big corporation then you may struggle to understand this approach.

Why don’t corporations get it?

When you are a big company with millions customers you analyze every move. You spend lots of money and time with “experts” (many of whom are traditional in their thinking) to decide how you move in the marketplace. Especially in this economy, you are diligent and prudent prior to making any kind of splash as there is no room for costly mistakes. So, you can imagine that getting a company to adopt new practices is like getting a huge ship to turn. Often times, getting a company to just “dip the toe” is a big accomplishment. I speculate this is why we have seen such a slow adoption of social media by companies.

The social media community hasn’t been that accepting of those dipping their toe (Charles Schwab) or patient with companies that may have made mistakes (Motrin) trying something new. I understand the frustration both on the part of the community and the corporations, however we need to find some middle ground or both sides lose the influence they so desire.

Why the control?

The social media community has a disdain for anyone who attempts to control their conversation. The corporation has concerns about losing control of their message since they appreciate the significant risk in doing so. The social media community understands that there is no such thing as message control and have proven time and time again the impact to companies who get caught in the negative viral channel of social networking sites. The corporation senses the need for change and transparency but just like many of us who approve comments on our own blogs to protect us from spam, they want to protect themselves by maintaining some approval control.

It is one thing to understand what to do and another to take action. An analogy might be that  I want to get in shape but instead of committing to the $1000 treadmill and the room it will take in my bedroom, I’ll challenge myself to work out every day for 30 days before making the purchase. I do this to justify the investment and risk of cluttering my room with something that I may lose interest in a few months. Nothing is black or white and those of us in the social media space have seen where a few key influences can cause a lot of negative feeling when it might not be justified. As various sites become more mainstream this risk only grows. We have also discussed the long-term sustainability of various platforms…what is hot today may not be tomorrow. Trying to prepare contingency plans to minimize the risk is what scares the hell out of corporate America and is why they tend to move slow in to the space. They don’t want to spend big dollars on something that might negatively impact their brand and/or no longer be relevant tomorrow, hence they test by dipping the toe.

Accelerating adoption and INFLUENCE

To understand why open conversation is so important to us we must understand the value we get from it. Ultimately, we want to participate, be heard, and matter…we want our voices to mean something and be valued…we want to INFLUENCE. The more opportunity to influence the more power we have to get what it is WE want (almost sounds like control doesn’t it? Ahh, the beauty of irony). The more people/companies that are listening the more opportunity we have to influence. We need to accelerate the companies’ adoption of social media space and not slow it down. I am not saying we shouldn’t be critical and demand better, smarter efforts by companies, we absolutely should…it is our responsibility to do so. I am saying we need to be more mature about it. Triggering an assault on companies that might have taken a mis-step or are moving too slowly isn’t going to help with adoption. Quite the contrary. We need to offer solutions, suggestions to improve, and encouragement by welcoming their efforts vs. slamming the door. Think of it as an opportunity to introduce yourselves and offer quality help.

Inviting us to email our opinions to the PR department is better than nothing at all and companies who are giving us an opportunity to influence their decisions should be applauded. Let’s give those companies who are trying the benefit of the doubt that they are listening and attempting to practice new ways to engage with us. Those that don’t will begin to lag behind because our money will be spent on what we want anyway and not what they shout at us.

Before you jump on the next corporate bashing bandwagon think about the very sermon you preach … are you listening? Are you engaging? Are you helping? Or, are you just shouting?

The Pitfalls of Inorganic Growth on Twitter

Social Mediaon March 9th, 20095 Comments

With the rise in Twitter usage and the publication of a plenitude of stories on influential news sources, there has been lots of guidance provided recently on how to get thousands of followers using “follower-pumping” practices. These usually recommend using “pyramid-scheme-” type tools, following people with similar interests who will follow you back, writing press releases, among other approaches. The more followers you amass, the greater the likelihood that the new people that you follow will follow you also. The use of Twitter-related rating services like Twitter Grader can also work in tandem with having a large number of followers to attract even more people, since numbers of followers is one method such tools use to calculate influence scores.

So what is the downside to such approaches compared to getting followers organically? Getting lots of followers increases your influence, right?

These tactics can be likened to startup companies that obtain venture capital funding early in their existence but don’t have a compelling value proposition. Just like VC funding can speed the development of promising platforms, rapidly increase a company’s market share due to spending on advertising and help a company grow rapidly in size, tactics to increase followers using schemes do work well enough to guarantee that one builds a large following.

But what happens after that? What do you do after you get a few thousand followers? Are your tweets interesting enough or valuable enough to sustain that number? Have you interacted directly with enough of your followers that they’ll remain with you even as you focus on gaining more followers? Are you producing enough content on other channels to sustain the number of followers you’ve amassed?

If your answer to these questions is “no” then you run the same risk as a promising startup that has created initial market momentum through outside funding, but doesn’t have a good enough product or management team to continue building profitable growth. Inevitably the funding runs out and since the company doesn’t generate enough revenue to remain profitable with a less-than-compelling product, it goes out of business. Likewise, on Twitter your followers will eventually leave you if you cannot sustain your follower count with authentic and useful interactions and you’ll be left with little credibility. Building a new audience when your reputation has been compromised is even more difficult than building that audience organically, one person at a time, through authentic and direct interaction.