Archive for May, 2009

If ever you run into me at a conference, or out with some of the other #yyc Twitter folk, I’ll have all sorts of good reasons for you to join Twitter (or start a blog, or Facebook group or LinkedIn account).   I may even get you to sign up.  I love this stuff, I love talking about it, using it, seeing opportunity after opportunity come up, cheering for those with successes, learning from those with failures.

When I first got started in the online social media realm (which wasn’t that long ago), there was some ruffled feathers (not mine, nor did I cause them) over people calling themselves social media experts, and other contributors calling these people out.  There have been discussions about whether there are even social media experts, what constitutes an expert or if we should even be using the term ‘expert’ at all.  The latest post I’ve read, Beware the Social Media Charlatans cautions you to take all of these ‘experts’ with a grain of salt.  I agree.

I think, if you want to get started in the social media realm, either as an individual or as a business, you need to ask one question:

Does this make sense for me/my company?

If you can see an obvious benefit, then yes, absolutely, jump in!  We’d be glad to have you.  But if you cannot see a clear cut benefit to using social media, maybe it’s not the right time for you.  Maybe you need to spend some time lurking and listening to fully appreciate the opportunity it can bring or maybe, and I cringe at these words myself… but maybe it just won’t work for you.

There are so many factors at play in online social interactions that really are barriers to entry for a lot of folk.  Knowing the tools, having the time to devote to listening, conversing, sharing information… it’s a lot of hard work and you will only get out of it what you can put into it.

So, if you have the time, the resources, and a clear vision of what you think you can gain from this… kudos.  I’ll be excited to read about your experiences and successes.  But if you’re still fuzzy on where the benefit can come in for you, I suggest you talk to some people using these tools first… perhaps not the social media cheerleaders out there, but just the real day to day people who can maintain an impartial view.  But where do you find those people?  Well… in the social media realm of course.

I was reading about the 9 Worst Social Media fails of 2009 and a point made in the Motrin Moms example about Mommy Bloggers tarnishing their own reputation made me recall another post I had read about how agencies could potentially represent communities rather than companies someday.

What does this mean to the online communities we are creating?  How does the content and perceptions we put out there define the community we are a part of, and what can we do about perceptions that are created that we do not want to be associated with?

I think that, like any offline community, online communities will slowly develop a set of characteristics that define them and their members.  For those members who do not like what the community has become, they’ll leave and find something more aligned with themselves or create something new.  Much like neighborhoods, religions, political parties, etc. evolve, so too will online communities.  The evolution of the online community could be in support of it’s offline community, or it could be something entirely new.

So what does a community use to define itself online?  Can it be defined by the tools it uses?  For example, the Twitter community is continuously growing here in Calgary, but is it right to call it the Twitter community?  Or is Twitter simply the means by which like minded individuals choose to communicate with one another?  What happens if a large enough group of individuals joins Twitter and changes the primary function of the tool?  Or the perception of what this community is all about?  Does that kill the community?  Does an individual person using Twitter come with a preconceived notion about what people on Twitter are like? And if functions do change, or users do not like the evolution of the community, does the original community continue to exist, but simply moves elsewhere?

It’s a bit nomadic, but if you think of the web as a flow of information, it seems natural to think that communities will seek out more like minded individuals, and in a space where they may not like what new users bring to the table, there will either be enough of a majority in the community to preserve what it has built, or the community will move on and find a different way of defining themselves.

How do you define an online community?  Where do you fit in?  And what do you do if you don’t like what’s happening?

Social Media is about transparency.  It’s about perception of truth.  It’s about honesty.  It’s meant to take away the shrouds around corporations and bring in the human element.  It’s about telling your story.  At it’s core, I believe that social media is about the good in people.  There are a lot of good people out there, here in Calgary (#yyc), up in Edmonton (#yeg) and in places without airport codes (how do you label those btw?… #millet?).  Social Media is about finding the good.  Finding the great.  Sharing things that add to life rather than subtracting from it.  Social Media is about connecting and empowering.

I think about the places people lay themselves exposed and vulnerable.  Art first comes to mind.  An artist pours their heart and soul into a piece and puts it on display for the world to appreciate… or to critique, but they still put it out there.  Musicians, painters, fibre artists, bead makers, sculptors, writers… They have stories to tell and they are telling them.  The web gives each of us a medium in which to tell our story.  How are you putting yourself out there?

I value those who have nothing more to gain than what they give. As the rest of the world becomes more transparent, it means we’ll see right through those who are not.  If you’ve got an ulterior motive, it will become obvious.  If you take more than you give, it will come back to you… a bit of a lesson in reciprocity (with a pinch of karma).  That’s how I believe this medium works.  Those who help will be helped.  Those who take frequently and give seldomly will find themselves shut out when others discover their game.

But back to the point about stories.  Stories are in everything.  Stories make art interesting, stories make people interesting, stories make companies interesting.  Story telling in and of itself is an art.  I think that makes social media a bit of an art.  Anyone willing to expose themselves to the world like this is offering something unique, something beautiful, something only you can give.  It’s your thoughts, it’s your perceptions and opinions.  It’s the footprint you are able to leave now and have it multiply where before you could not.

Live long and prosper (forgive the Star Trek reference from the weekend).  I wish each and every one of you prosperity in everything you seek… and please, if I haven’t heard your story yet, please tell me.  I would love to hear it.

Email: wjpeters@gmail.com.

The best hotels have the most amenities.  They make your stay pleasant and carefree.  Everything is at your fingertips, a well stocked bar fridge, satellite TV, wireless internet in all rooms, dry cleaning, room service, you name it, they’ve got it.  They carry your bags for you, their goal is to make your stay as enjoyable as possible.  After all, it’s the experience that keeps you coming back… and how many of you really don’t take the lotions and shampoos with you when you check out…?

Now cue your website.  Your website should be like a 5 star hotel.  Your guests shouldn’t have to lift a finger to find the information they’re looking for… or at the very least no more than their little finger.  The look, the ease at finding information, all of the little extras, the bells and the whistles… should all be geared toward a pleasant experience.  On every page your visitor should feel right at home, and help should never be farther than a click or a phone call away.

Those little shampoos we all love to leave with?  Think nuggets of content they want to walk away with or share with their friends.

And don’t forget the chocolate mint on the pillow… I love the chocolate mint.

Or rather a time waster.  Like right now for instance.  If Twitter and Facebook had been around when I was in university it would have been a miracle that I made it out with my degree.

I have always been highly productive in the late hours of the night and into the wee hours of the morning.  That is when I wrote my best essays, solved the calculus problem I couldn’t wrap my head around, memorized history and classics facts quicker than by day.  I don’t know what it is about the night and why it’s when I do a lot of my best work.  A part of me ventures to guess it’s because that’s when most of the world around me sleeps.  In the dark hours, there is less distraction, less chance to wander away from the task at hand.

I could typically count on finding at least one person in the common lounge if I needed a break.  But after that, there wasn’t much for online networks, I got bored of surfing site after site, so it was either sleep or work.  And especially on a deadline, I worked.  These days, the social networks are my lounge, and there’s always a ton of people awake and chatting away.  I’m finding myself following recommendation after recommendation from links sent to Twitter, chatting lightly with friends via Facebook, scanning blog posts for interesting content, and at the end of it all, filling out some of the thoughts I’ve wandered upon with a blog post.  There are things I should be doing… like sleeping.  But really, this is much more entertaining.  It’s a great time waster.  A great way to keep me away from the task at hand (like finishing off that proposal so I can actually head to bed)… and yet, I always come away with more gained than any other thing I could be doing to waste time.