I Can Haz Skillz. Will Work.

November 11, 2009

I don’t like asking for help. I think there is way too much self-promotion going on on Twitter anyway, and I hate adding to the noise. I did it once when I was asking for your help and votes for my “Very Goode Job” social media campaign, where in the end votes, connections and good will of the community didn’t seem to matter (hmm, this was a social media job, right?). So after that experience, and seeing how many people “go to the well” too many times, I knew that it would be a while before I asked my network, my community for help. Well, that moment seems to have come sooner than expected. I’m back on the job market, and unfortunately it’s right before the holidays in a shaky economy – I am famous for my impeccable timing.

So what does looking for a job mean? Typically, and to most people, it means hunting the usual suspects: Classifieds, Indeed.com, SimplyHired.com, Careerbuilder.com, Monster.com, etc. I believe that the truly amazing jobs aren’t the ones that you find in ads. They are the jobs that you get referred to by your network, by people who know your skills, work ethic, passions, outlook on life and a chosen profession / industry. Besides, by the time that a job makes it to the job boards, it’s oftentimes “yesterday’s news”. Sometimes, even before posting a job online, the hiring manager already pretty much knows whom he / she will hire. Some other times, the hiring manager is only posting online to cross the legal t’s and dot the i’s. In short, basing a search on job boards is inefficient, lopsided, low ROI, energy sucking, bad use of your time. I am not saying that I won’t visit job boards. If I come across something amazing, I will certainly reach out to people I know for an introduction to the hiring manager. But I am starting with you, my network, my friends and colleagues, and asking you to introduce me to potential opportunities.

I work in, and want to keep working in, the online marketing and social media space – strategy, as well as execution. Since it’s social media, I am going to rely on my social networks and in-person networking to zero in on that amazing opportunity. Those of you who know me, know that I’ve been focusing on community management. Why community management? It’s an amazing field, albeit fairly nascent, for which I have a lot of passion, and which I think is well positioned for an exploding growth trajectory. Daniel Pink in his book “A Whole New Mind” corroborates Thomas Friedman’s notion of job fungibility – anything that’s not high-touch, experiential, or based on humanness and empathy (taking huge liberties in paraphrasing here), is going to be either automated or shipped off to China / India. I think community management is the future breed of of this high-touch human empathy, adapted to the age of social web. Community management, and social media in general, takes us back to the human tenets that are as old as humanity: community, relationships, trust, reputation. Social media, in some ways, strips you down to the core of who you are, back to your humanness. A little while ago, we hid behind email, chatrooms, anonymous avatars, and each man was an island. Now we are an archipelago. Now we come to each other as we are, asking for and giving acceptance, our lives and humanness exposed, celebrating community, openness, communication and ideas.

Why do I want to do all this? Because I love people, I love connecting with and helping people, have always been an “open book” (which is why the new social and very public means of communication don’t daunt me), and the times in my career when I was the happiest was when I could help a client, resolve conflict, and put my heart and soul into that communication. I also spend my day buried in my laptop, reading blogs, blogging, discovering new tools, chatting, exchanging ideas. I love the space, and I want to keep learning and apply what I’m learning to my clients’ and employer’s goals of engaging, growing and nurturing communities. Although forums have been around longer than I’ve been alive, and online community moderation is nothing new, the community manager of today is so much more: in addition to internal community management on your site, you are using social tools, going to events, monitoring online chatter, participating in discussions on external communities, reaching out to other communities, bloggers and partners to build programs together, and the list goes on. As Rachel Happe puts it so eloquently, “The Iceberg Effect of Community Management”, only a small percentage of what a CM does is actually seen externally. Sometimes it’s a thankless job, but for the people who love engagement, social media, being the voice of the brand, and really making a difference in an authentic way, this is the right job, and I think I’m the right person for this job. I want to do all of the above: external relationship building, internal community nurturing, branding and outreach in online and social channels, content and programming, monitoring and participating, etc.

I’m going to be very public with my job search, and hope to be able to update all of you on any great new developments, challenges, roadblocks, trials and tribulations. I am excited about the future, and I will not settle for anything short of spectacular, and I hope that all of you will keep me in check and won’t let me succumb to the pressures of just taking a job for the sake of taking a job (yes, the need for food and shelter has the ability to derail even the most brilliant of plans). I have settled in the past, and this time I’m going to make sure it’s different. If you like what I’ve done in the past, know me online or offline, like my thoughts, or just think I’m a good fit, I ask that you please send me introductions to opportunities. Community management and social media jobs aren’t always called that, which is why I’ve gone into detail above as far as what it means to me, and what I want to do. Sometimes, we are brand ambassadors, sometimes we are evangelists, sometimes we are listeners, sometimes we are social media marketers. I am not getting into specifics of my past experiences here; there are better places for it: LinkedIn, VisualCV and my “catch-all” site of social media goodies.

So what’s community management anyway?

July 28, 2009

photo-online_communityAs I am learning the art of community management (it’s not the kind of thing you can learn in the classroom, so it’s a bit of a baptism by fire), I am trying to crystallize what community management means to me. Working with different clients from different industries and at different stages in development, I hope to bring you a more complete view.

On the one hand, community management is easy to define, because the end result is always to build a strong(er) community via a) community growth, b) increase in engagement and c) the betterment of the user / community member  experience. The end result of all of this should be a business goal, such as increasing revenue / pageviews  /  profit / etc.  However, I am starting to discover by working with my clients, that community management varies hugely in methodology and goals, depending on the type of community you are building.

1. Type of company:

Is it a product-driven company or is it a destination site? The product that your community is centered around matters a lot in your approach and the tools that you will end up using. Regardless of the product, you will be spending time on external sites, getting the word out about your community, and building mini-communities on social sites like Twitter and Facebook. One caveat here: remember to be where your customers are: if they aren’t on Twitter, you probably shouldn’t tweet, regardless of whether or not Oprah endorsed it as the “next big thing.” If you are a destination site, you will need to focus on creating an experience around kick-ass content, for which your readers will feel compelled to travel to your site – not a small task, given the fragmentation of the World Wide Web. These days, people won’t go to your site just because you asked them to; you need to give them a compelling reason to go. You will need to figure out what works for your community: contests, events, original content. Of course, if you expect users to participate, you will need to incentivize them to do so – whether it’s via points, giveaways, bragging rights – it will depend on what works for your community.

If you are creating a community around a product, especially a tech product, part of your job, in addition to the above, will have to entail taking feedback from your customers and relaying it to the product team. A good community manager will know well what the community thinks of the product, will be good at curating this information, and will be influential in ultimately affecting product decisions. A community manager should also be the first point of contact when a customer service issue arises, relay the issues / bugs to the product and development team, make sure that the issue gets solved and relay the solution back to the customer. Tools like GetSatisfaction are great for this purpose, as they allow users to start a conversation thread  / bug report, track the status and interact with other users who have the same issue.

2. Age of company / product:

If this is a nascent company (with presumably still nascent traffic), a majority of your actions will be centered around raising awareness of the brand / product / company. Your efforts will be mostly spent on external sites, guest blogging, commenting, building a community on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and other sites. You will want to bring some of these users over to your internal community, while realizing that you also need to be comfortable interacting with your members wherever they are. People will come to your site when they feel compelled by the content, but it may take a couple of interactions on “outside” sites for some users to come “inside”. You should be patient and not expect them to click through the first time they see your name. You should be focused on building relationships vs. being transactional.

If the company or product is a bit more established (or has at least launched), you will also be monitoring mentions of the product name in the blogosphere / twittersphere / across pretty much the whole WWW. You will probably want to set up Google alerts and Twitter updates (via Twitter search or whatever client you use) at the very least. If you can spend some money, there are great premium tracking and anaytics tools like Radian6 and ScoutLabs. With an existing product, you have an easier job gaining legitimacy with your community, but you will have more work tracking, listening and acting upon your discoveries. Your task will be to neutralize and diffuse potential and existing customer services issues, making non-believers  into believers and believers into brand enthusiasts and evangelists (I wrote more about this in my previous post on Listening). As described in part 1, you can probably benefit greatly from a feedback and customer service platform like GetSatisfaction.

3. Age of community:

Are you building a new community from scratch or are you “inheriting” an existing community? If you are building a new community for an existing product or site, you will be doing a lot of the same stuff as #2. If it’s a product that just launched, you will be relaying a lot of feedback and bugs from early users back to the product team. You will be setting up the social tools for the first time on many external sties, identifying outreach strategies, creating buy-in among first community users to participate, as well as providing customer service. It’s up to you to set the tone of interaction with your community: are you lighthearted and casual or more formal? The brand and type of product will dictate a lot of your approach. If you are inheriting the community, you will still be responsible for all of the above, while also learning existing dynamics of the community and keeping the tone and frequency of interaction consistent with the expectations.

Obviously, there are more than just these three dimensions, and they will certainly be future topics, once I crystallize them better in my mind. Here are some basic tenets to remember, regardless of where your community falls on any of the above dimensions:

  • Be engaged, be human. It’s OK to make mistakes, as long as you admit them.
  • Emphasize and care. Acknowledge the problem first, never point fingers. Then go solve the problem, but keep the customer appraised of the progress.
  • Be consistent in tone and frequency of communication.
  • Be a great communicator. Communicate change diligently and gradually.
  • From time to time, you will have to moderate inside of your own community, and some communities are more passionate than others. Make sure to keep your cool and never lose sight of the big picture, which is to provide a stellar community experience. Never pick sides when moderating a conversation between two or more community members.

The filed of online community management is still developing, although the individual elements of it have existed for a long time. My understanding of it will be shaped by my future experiences, which I will capture them on this blog. What have your experiences been as a community manager? Any key lessons / DOs and DON’TS you would like to share?

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Life and Tetris

July 28, 2009

tetris - unsafeI like finding metaphors for life in what seems like absurd places. I was laying in bed playing Tetris as I floated off to sleep last night, and the following analogy struck me.

Life is like a game of Tetris. The objecct in both is to use the space and the resources most effectively and efficiently to achieve results. Like in Tetris, in life (at least this is my life goal), the goals  is to get the most meaning out of it, fitting as many tetris pieces (goals / accomplishments) into a finite space.

Huge gaping holes left when pieces don’t line up correctly remind me of wasted opportunities, things left undone and unsaid, caused by mistakes that we make. We all make mistakes, and they are absolutely human and a huge part of learning, but you must realize that you can still attempt to fill gaping holes afterwards.  I do not believe in do-overs, and neither does life allow it. But you can fill these holes with knowledge gained from the experience and the mistakes that you made. You can go back and say the things that were left unsaid, and attempt to  do the things that were left undone, but only if it makes sense at a later point. Some black holes will forever remain black holes.

Like a game of Tetris, the pace starts out slow in the begining and speeds up to an almost-frenetic pace, depending on what level you get to. Like in life, it speeds up at a precise time when one would give anything to have time go slower.

In life, and in Tetris, it’s all about those perfect moments when everything fits harmoniously with minimum black space. Those are the moments of bliss, when your work is aligned with your passion, and the people in your life are an organic fit to your grand vision of life. Then the mistakes made and the gaping holes of the past don’t matter anymore.

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How memorable are you?

July 17, 2009

A local gym in my neighborhood produces some of the most memorable and wittiest offline messaging I have ever seen. We get so carried away with the latest and greatest online tools like Twitter, that we forget about holistic marketing and forget to use offline channels in addition to the new media channels. If you are a brick-and-mortar business, you especially need to blend the two.

compensateOne of the guys who works in this neighborhood gym puts out a funny new slogan on a chalkboard right outside, every single day. Each and every day, it’s different and funny and almost always a bit edgy. Please see the picture to the left for this morning’s slogan. The guy who writes the messages saw me taking this picture and ran outside to introduce himself. We chatted briefly, and he asked me if I have a blog, and I told him that I was going to tweet and write about his messaging, because I thought it was very catchy. This type of messaging would translate very well into a medium like Twitter, because it’s short, pithy, funny and a conversation starter. I certainly hope that I can help him at least set up his social media presence.

The moral of the story is: be memorable and be everywhere. It sounds really simple, but most fail in executing on at least one of these points. Being memorable should be defined by your target demographic and the touchpoints at which they interact with your message. In this example, busy customers rushing to the train will likely not remember anything longer than the message from this picture. This chalkboard message successfully cut through the clutter, which is not an easy feat: these days we have as much clutter online as we do offline. Moreover, the catchy, witty messaging is just right for the young male demographic that they are targeting. As far as being everywhere: remember to be online and off. The temptation is to go chasing the latest tools, but communication with your customers is not about the tools, it’s about the message. Engage them where they are, in a way that they will remember.

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The Root of All Evil?

July 15, 2009

moneyI have been thinking about this post for quite some time. I recently re-read “Francisco’s Money Speech” from “Atlas Shrugged” by Ayn Rand. I have no idea why I had this neatly stapled printout laying around in my apartment, but I did. I read it, and it got me thinking. The money speech, if you aren’t familiar with it, it deals with our tension with money as a medium of exchange, the value of it, and the effect is has on people and events.

“So you think that money is the root of all evil?” said Francisco d’Anconia. “Have you ever asked what is the root of money? Money is a tool of exchange, which can’t exist unless there are goods produced and men able to produce them.” It amazes me how often we forget this simple truth. The natural human response to a lack of money is to be jealous of and blame people with money. Too often we jump to this response that’s driven by a “zero-sum” thinking about money and we focus on splitting up the pie into smaller pieces and taking each other’s pieces vs. increasing the pie. From a business perspective, it pays to grow a category and thus growing the brands within the category, more so than splitting up the category of the same size into more pieces or stealing share away from others, because brand-switchers will do just that: switch from brand A to brand B and back to brand A.

There’s nothing wrong with taking share away from competitors; all I am saying is that enduring long-term growth comes from continuously developing the category, as well as your brand. Whichever way you choose to grow sales, the only way to do so is by providing value continuously to your customers and consumers. Providing value sometimes takes upfront investment and delayed profits. And herein lies the problem: in our society that’s overly focused on short-term (especially as perpetuated by Wall Street), investing in the long-term is often unpopular. Focus on short-term, sometimes at the expense of creating real value, is what brought this economy (and subsequently the world economy) to its knees. Toxic mortgages were repackaged in a way that allowed to benefit in the short term and delay the discovery of the toxicity into the future. Short term and greed won out. Creating value and long term became unpopular. And now we are reaping the fruits of this behavior. I especially love this humorous primer on toxic assets.

When people and corporations act this way, profiting without creating value, they are building a house of cards. When they let greed rule them, with no regard for long-term benefit for customers, stakeholders and employees, money becomes “the root of all evil” and stops being a medium of exchange. When you start to exchange money for assets and products without value, the whole system will eventually crumble, and this is a guarantee. Turns out, it’s not money that’s the root of all evil – not the honest money anyway. It’s greed that’s the root of all evil.

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Try not to lose your voice

June 30, 2009

voiceI have been pondering this topic for a couple of weeks now; it’s been like a splinter in my mind. What brought this on was one of the liveliest exchanges I had ever had with my Twitter followers. Here’s some context: in the wake of the Iranian election, a lot of people on Twitter chose to change their pictures to green or spread a green overlay on top of their avatar. Don’t get me wrong, I support democracy as much as the next gal. In fact, I can appreciate it a lot more than some others do, due to the fact that I grew up in a repressive Communist society, where freedom of speech was nonexistent, snitches were plentiful, and Siberian camps were full of “dissidents.” As much as I consider what’s happening in Iran a travesty, I consider veiling your avatar in green a non-genuine, lazy and conformist attempt to follow the latest trend. So to stir up some discussion (because that’s why I am there: to discuss, express myself, and form relationships), I asked Twitter why they chose to do it. I wasn’t doubting the authenticity of all the green avatars, but because everyone seemed to do it at the same time, I couldn’t help but wonder if only a small portion of those people actually researched the cause. Of course, there are exceptions: there are some people with family and friends over there who are quite well educated on the issue or feel passionately about it. I am not stating that no one is passionate about it, I just seriously doubt that *everyone* is passionate about it.  Moreover, it strikes me as a half-assed attempt, done because you feel like doing something, but don’t have the bandwidth to do anything meaningful. If I was an Iranian blogger, I do not think that seeing an overlay or changed coordinates would do much for me. However, people raising money or another act of actual activism (alliteration intended) would go further.

Moreover, I think that such a display of conformity was a slap in the face of democracy. By trying so hard to fit in, without really understanding what you are doing, you are undermining the definition of democracy. Democracy is about choices, not following the herd mindlessly (that’s what they did in the Soviet Union). If you choose to follow the crowd, please make it a choice that you made. I think  exchanging actual thoughts on Iran and banding together to raise money go so much further than changing your avatar color. All it does is take away your voice and make your followers’ Tweetdecks look like they are “covered in Leprechaun droppings” (per my friend @toddhavens).

spamSocial media gives us all a voice. Unfortunately, a lot of times, it makes people lose their voice. This episode is not the only display of conformity on Twitter and other social media. Unfortunately, Twitter is home to more herd-like behavior. Case in point:  Follow Friday. When used sparingly and thoughtfully, it can be a valuable source of discovery, even though I think other sources, such as (thoughtful) RTs and @ replies, are better, because they offer more context and substance. If someone I respect and interact with suggests people to follow, I will at least take a look, although I have to admit, I have never followed anyone based on Follow Friday recommendation. Follow Friday was OK when it started, but like most trends on Twitter has been bastardized and spammed. Seems that every week I drown in mindless RTs of my friends’ Follow Friday recommendations. One friend includes my handle in their recommendation, then it gets retweeted by 10 spammers with zero context, and voila! my @ replies pane is full of non-relevant regurgitations of one meaningful endorsement. My question to people who do that: do you even read what you retweet? If you must participate in Follow Friday, please use your own head and give your own recommendations. I am not undermining the viral quality of social media, which is essential to all of our success. I am just asking you to think.

As with everything, I urge you, whether you are an individual or a brand, to think before you speak: online and offline. Really get to know the medium and interact with it in an authentic way. If you don’t understand why people do something, just ask. Whatever you do, please don’t follow the trend blindly; if you make a conscious choice to follow the trend, then go for it. Just promise me you will think about why you are doing something. What you put online is forever part of your brand, part of your legacy. Please don’t forget that.

Please share your thoughts: do you have any other examples? How do you develop your voice? How do you stand out amongst so much noise?

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A more powerful and precise firehose

June 29, 2009

fire_hoseIt’s no secret that we are overloaded with information. Social platforms like Twitter and Facebook (especially with the new Facebook “wanna-be Twitter” home screen) remind me of a fire-hose. A very powerful fire-hose passing a whole lot of water each and every minute. Sometimes I think that I could literally watch my social streams 24 hours and not do anything else – that’s how much is out there. Obviously, no one does that. You tune into what’s relevant, and tune out the “noise”. Twitter search tools (web search, as well as search tools on Twitter clients) allow to extract necessary information, and not just from your own “network”, but from the entire Twitterverse. However, search and organization tools are still rudimentary. If I was an account manager handling AT&T in New York City, I would like to see AT&T mentions only in NYC. Right now, there is advanced search on search.twitter.com, but not via Twitter clients. What about people I follow? I may have a good reason to follow someone, but not want to read their every tweet. How do I find what’s relevant? I think fine-tuning search and contextualizing tweets is the natural next step. For example, if I follow John Smith, I only want to see John’s tweets about social media, and not about the food he ate today. As more and more people get on Twitter, we will follow more and more people, and will need a better fire-hose to extract valuable tidbits. Or risk losing a ton of valuable information.

friendfeed logoAre there tools now that attempt to do that? I think Friendfeed is positioned to do that. Friendfeed helps you aggregate your social media activity, to be tracked by your subscribers. Conversely, you can subscribed to others’ aggregated feeds. On the surface, Friendfeed is an even bigger fire-hose, if it aggregates Twitter and other tools (Twitter alone is enough). This is why I haven’t been an avid Friendfeed user – I simply do not want more stuff, I want better and more relevant stuff. However, if Friendfeed does it right, it will intelligently learn users I follow (based on their aggregate streams), at the same time as learning about me, and automatically curate what I see. For example, Friendfeed would know that I am interested in wine tasting, based on my tweets, videos and blogposts. Then it would extract relevant material from the streams of the people I follow and add it to my “Best of Day” section. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if a tool like Friendfeed would also observe my activity outside of the social networks (with my permission, of course) – based on my Google searches, Twitter searches, etc? I think so! And I think this is where the social web will be heading next: a socially semantic web.

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LEER: Listen Engage, Empathize, and Respond

June 19, 2009

(this post was first conceived 1.5 weeks ago, but unfortunately, I wasn’t able to complete it until just now, due to my heavy blogging commitments at the Good Wine Journey blog, which I as part of my application to A Really Goode Job by Murphy Goode).

Last Sunday night, I went shopping for two airline tickets to Russia.  After I found my desired flight, I was all ready to check out. I input my credit card, and was one happy camper until… my card got rejected. What?? It certainly wasn’t my credit limit or the price of the ticket. “Ah, it must be because it shows up as a foreign vendor, and Bank of America (my card company) just wants to make sure that I  am cool with this transaction,” I thought. After receiving horrendous customer service online and via phone, and unable to unlock my account, I ended up losing my airfare deal. Within 30 minutes, the price went up, as is often the case, and 3 hours later I still couldn’t get BofA to unlock my account.

twitter_headerWhy am I telling this story and why should you care? While all of this was going on, I tried to find BofA on Twitter, but wasn’t successful. So I sent out a couple of tweets mentioning BofA, hoping that anyone monitoring Twitter from BofA would find my rants (note to readers: that is a practice of the best community managers). But no such luck. What did happen amazed me. I was tweeted and retweeted around 50 times, until someone pointed me at the BofA twitter handle. What amazed me was how quickly other tweeps jumped in with their negative sentiment of BofA and we formed a conversation around it. If BofA was watching these exchanges, they would know that they need to spend some time getting back to these disenfranchised customers, because there was quite a bit of dissatisfaction out there. And because the brand wasn’t interacting with us, we formed our own “BofA hate club”.

listenAs I am writing this, I am sitting at the 140 Characters Twitter Conference produced by Jeff Pulver. An earlier panel was discussing how brands are working with their consumers on Twitter, and how great customer service is the new marketing. Just take a look at the following customer service accounts from some of the most beloved companies: @zappos_service, @jetblue, @askseesmic, @comcastcares. These companies are so well-loved on Twitter because they provide excellent customer service and they have their “ear to the ground and “finger on the pulse” of the Twittersphere. If you are on Twitter, it is not enough to just broadcast your company news and blast all of your followers with product information. Twitter is not the right channel for that. Rather, Twitter is about creating and encouraging a 2-way conversation. Because word or mouth spreads virally and lightning-fast, it’s imperative to establish delightful experiences for clients by discovering conversations, taking part in them, jumping in with helpful answers when there are questions, addressing issues and making upset customers “whole” again, as well as rejoicing with happy ones. The truth is, your customers are out there talking about you, not necessarily to you, and it’s up to you to join the conversation in an authentic, empathetic and non-spammy way.

As a voracious student, observer and participator in social media, I am always watching how companies are responding to these customer service issues: are they turning the possible liability into an asset and are they doing it in a way that’s authentic, helpful and empathetic? Just today I was lucky enough to listen to and capture conversations about this very topic at the #140Conf, including a keynote by Gary Vaynerchuck (or @garyvee as he is known on Twitter). The resounding bottom line that Gary drives home is that you need to listen, you need to care and you need to engage. You need to stop obsessing about the number of followers and focus on the quality of the conversation.

So what happened with my BofA episode? Well, I sent a @ message to the BofA twitter account, and they eventually responded the next day (during normal business hours of course), and the only reason they responded was because I @ replied to them, i.e. they weren’t actively monitoring the sentiment. A true community manager would be able to pick up these rants via Twitter search tools and would respond to “tweeps” beyond the ones who send a direct message or an @ reply. Moreover, a good community manager doesn’t tweet between the hours of 9 and 5; a community manager is on whenever people are talking about their brand, all over the world.

cotweetFor some companies, there is so much twittering that has to be done, that they may need to hire an additional person. Do it! It’s worth it! Especially with tools like CoTweet, you can have more than one person “listening” and tweeting on behalf of your brand. As a rule of thumb, any brand that wants to be successful in social media, must listen first and talk second. Just like  individuals, businesses should act as if they have 2 ears and 1 mouth. But first, you need to make listening part of your corporate culture and provide the right infrastructure for your employees to be effective community managers.

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Twitter and Otaku

June 14, 2009

I wrote about the state of otaku and the near-fanaticism that some products, brands and product categories inspire. Seems that my favorite tool Twitter (including applications within its ecosystem) had produced quite a bit of otaku within its lead users. Its most active users have traded in real names for  Twitter handles when referring each other, and when we go to a new place, we feel the need to “check-in” on location-based services apps like Foursquare and BrightKite (which may or may not be synched to Twitter). When we need to ask people a question, we go to Twitter to crowdsource, we support each other by retweeting good and relevant information, we share our thoughts, feelings, blogposts and whereabouts with the Twitterverse, and we feel lost without our Tweetdecks and Tweeties. Twitter is top of mind, part of life; and the community is strong.

At least this was the case before Twitter went mainstream. I feel that among the “bleeding edge” users, enthusiasm is starting to wane, as Twitter crosses over into the mainstream. Although it achieves the same purpose, I think part of the excitement of being first and “in the trenches” associated with being on Twitter is starting to wane. As Twitter crosses over into mainstream, the demographic of who is communicating with whom, as well as the dynamics of the conversation. Businesses and individuals start to tweet, not because they love the service, but because they feel like it’s the hot new thing, and they have to be on it, because everyone is. When this happens, a lot of authenticity is lost, and the medium is used in a gauche and ineffective manner (i.e. one-way broadcasts, spamming, autofollowing and auto-DM’ing. Moreover, as people start to follow more and more people, there will be more and more noise, and relevant information will have a higher chance of getting lost. A lot of this has already started to happen.

To counteract these effects, tools have to be put in place that allow to funnel, search semantically and display information contextually (this merits a whole new post, which has ben swirling in my mind for a while, so look for it). As Twitter goes from a quaint neighborhood to a large, noisy city, I do not think that it can maintain its strong cult-like status past the early adopters. This is just my view. What do you guys think?

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Bacon Otaku

June 3, 2009

(originally posted on http://goodewinejourney.wordpress.com)

bacon I tweeted a couple of times today about Bacon, which always gets a ton of response. As I monitor the Twittersphere, the two        foods that come up most often are bacon and cupcakes. Not only are there a plethora of chatter about the two foods, there are also    multiple #bacon bots that follow you and interact with you as soon as you mention this greasy, yet delicious food. I even received  this  recipe that incorporates not one, but both foods (via user @baconinja) It seems that, especially on Twitter, there is a ton of    conversation about and loyalty to these quirky foods. I am still baffled by whether Twitter users are just more into bacon and    cupcakes than the general population, or if my view is just extremely skewed, due to the specifics of both groups (online and offline) that I participate in.

In any case, as a marketer, I always think about what generates buzz and instills loyalty. Bacon and cupcake aficionados are quite staunch fans, and every time I think of them, I can’t help but think about Seth Godin‘s “Purple Cow.” In this book, Seth talks about Otaku, people who are more or less obsessed with a certain product, hobby or topic. Originally, Otaku (of Japanese origin) referred to Anime aficionados, but it has been somewhat adopted outside of that realm. Godin posits that certain foods, such as hot sauce, inspire Otaku-like behavior, while others don’t.

If someone can tell me why bacon and cupcakes inspire such passion (other than being sinfully delicious), I am all ears. I would also love to hear from marketers some success stories on how they built a passionate community around a fairly mundane product or brand.

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 P.S. I feel that wine, especially wine tasting, also inspires loyalty and a lot of passion. Other than the obvious lifestyle benefits of being a  “social lubricant” and enhancing coversations at the dinner table (especially with a really good bottle), people who are good at tasting  wines seem to belong to a close-knit group that is rich in its own traditions and even vocabulary. Wine tasting is an art, and the people  who are good at it, have committed time and resources to learning how to be good at it, and I think that’s where the passion comes from.    For the rest of us, while the fine art of wine tasting is aspirational, enjoying wine is open to all.

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