Posts Tagged ‘social media’

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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Attending the 140 Characters Conference

May 26, 2009

I have attended several of Jeff Pulver‘s events in the past (Social Media 1 and Social Media Jungle 2), and have always been impressed with the content, as well as the amazing connections I had made. I am even more excited for the 140 Characters Conference (#140conf as it’s known on Twitter). This is a not-to-miss event for anyone who is passionate about Twitter as the hottest emerging communication platform.

Those who read my blog know how completely and utterly enthralled I am with Twitter, above and beyond any other social network. Most of my blogposts have at least something to do with this extremely disruptive, efficient, insightful, ubiquitous and open communication platform. Hence, my interest in a Twitter conference is tremendous. Monitoring the Twittersphere and the event site, some of the top voices in social media and Twitter luminaries will be attending the event. Networking is also a top reason of why I am extremely interested in this event.

Unfortunately, due to financial constraints I am unable to pay the fee to attend. So I am applying for and hoping to win the #140conf Scholarship. If I was selected to be a scholarship finalist, I would diligently cover the event via Twitter and blogging, adding my own insights. I will also help promote the event via all social media tools available to me.

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small is the new black

April 20, 2009

Seeing the STREB show a couple of weekends ago, and discussing it several times with my friend Josephine, has got me thinking about the changing business models, and the reason they are changing. Let me explain.. What I forgot to mention in my previous post is that STREB is using an innovative platform of “10 second dance”. In exchange for a $10 donation, you get to co-produce a 10-minute dance, which will be presented at the next show. This does 4 things well, in my opinion:

  1. Creates a stronger community around STREB, giving all co-producers more “skin in the game”, and allowing them to be your ambassadors and telling all of their friends about it
  2. Allows everyone to participate by making the threshold so low ($10), illustrating the power of the “power in numbers” concept.
  3. Appeals to human vanity (oh c’mon, we all have it 🙂 – in my opinion, you need to be somewhat vain to want to put your life out there with social media like we all do, and imagine that others may and will care about it.
  4. Duh! raises money!

Seems that more and more things are getting processed in bite-sized pieces. There is microlending (,, and of course, microblogging (Twitter and other platforms). Seems that small is the new black. Even the Web2.0 conference this year was themed “The Power of Less.”

I think this reach for “less” is happening due to a confluence of several events, caused by the evolution of our society.

Firstly, and more gradually, our society (online and offline) has gotten inundated. Offline store shelves are packed with brands and brand extensions, with each brand extension in several flavors, colors, smells, textures, etc. Most innovations that corporate America parades around, are actually not that innovative, but rather are updates to the same-ole-same-ole.

There is a lot of noise. Consumers are lost and overwhelmed, and manufacturers feel like they are drowning among noise.

Online, a similar thing is happening: with the “Web2.0” bubble, there are more websites than eyeballs (seems like, but please don’t quote me, I don’t have the actual statistics), and more and more are created each day. Unfortunately, most fail to differentiate themselves. A successful solution that can cut through this noise will have to successfully build around the user, wherever the user is (mobile + twitter + web), and not make the user go to its website (this is an entirely different topic that merits another post, so I will stop here).

Secondly, in addition to this overwhelming quality of online and offline “stuff”, the global economy crash is causing us all to rethink how we spend, how we save, what we value and how to course-correct the mistakes we have made so far. I think this process is a vital one, as it will separate the companies, processes and people who add value (education, where addition of skills downright changes lives) from those that don’t (repackaged toxic assets, where no value is created). Again, this is fodder for its own blogpost.

So because of this economy of “more”, followed by a downright economy crash, we seem to be embracing the concept of “less” and basking in simplicity and authenticity. Who knows, perhaps it’s this yearning for simplicity is what is propelling Susan Boyle to such astronomical heights of popularity.

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In Twitter We Trust

March 24, 2009

I had been thinking about trust over the past couple of weeks, for a variety of reasons. Naturally, my mind started to wander towards social media and online interactions, and how they relate to issues of trust.  Perhaps this is a topic that can not, and should not, be tackled in one brief blogpost. But I would like to start with an observation of the underlying culture of Twitter and Twitterers. Across the board, the Twitterers who have amassed a significant number of followers and social capital, share a similar attitude towards “sharing and caring”.  They have been generous with their insight and advice to other Twitterers, and in turn have let us all into their worlds. They don’t tweet simply about their business, but also about their personal lives, dreams and worldviews – from the mundane to the phillosophical. (Unfortunately there is such a thing as oversharing at the far end of the spectrum, and yours truly is definitely guilty of that :).  At the end of the day, their “humanness” jumps off the screen, as they are trusting the larger Twitter community with their insights, thoughts, dreams, problems, trials and tribulations – in professional and personal lives. They are putting it (almost) all out there, to start conversations, be part of the conversation, and form meaningful connections.

This is a very cultural thing. The Twitter / web entrepreur / social media community is very much like that, and it seems to be the norm rather than an exception. As a very tightly knit community, we normalize this behavior and sometimes forget that not the entire world is like that, and other communities are drastically different. This culture of “sharing and caring” is a total antithesis to the real estate community, for example. Before I started to revolve in social media / tiwtterati circles, I spent time in the real estate investor community. My personal path evolved in quite a curious way: from a real estate investor to a real estate entrepreneur (I saw just way too many problems that weren’t being solved), to a web entrepreneur and admirer of all things social, web and Twitter.  The real estate investor community is as opposite from the social web community as can be. Not only aren’t people forthcoming with information and tips on how to be successful, you can’t even beat it out of them, if you wanted to (of course, I don’t condone any beatings of any sort). Every time that I asked fellow seasoned investors for their advice on how they became successful, and what steps I should take, their response was, without fail: “take this class, I took it and paid for it, and so should you.” It is a cutthroat, scammy community, who is anything but collegiate, with most people out to make a quick buck, and then move on to a new scam, ahem, class. It’s no wonder that no one trusts anyone, everyone guards his / her secrets and constantly looks over his / her shoulder. It is my hunch, based on years of observation and practice, that they would be so much more successful collaborating with each other than spending energy on shutting each other out.

The real estate investor culture is a significant reason of why I have started to disassociate myself from the investor circle and have started to embrace this web technology circle more closely. This happened because the “Twitter” type of attitude and spirit is much closer to my own personality and worldview, and I am just much happier here. I am very open, trusting, and don’t mind sharing my life and living it in the open (within reason of course – still plenty of personal stuff that I won’t share on Twitter or any other platform). I hold the belief that if we all work together, we can achieve a whole lot more than if we all dispersed to our corners and tapped away on our laptops alone.

Thinking about my journey brought me to this next realization: your social media personality is really just an overemphasized extension of your IRL (in real life) personality. If you are an authentic person who enjoys sharing helping, believes in Twitter Karma, believes in “paying it forward”, then Twitter and other such tools are for you. But if you like to keep all your cards close to your chest, and people at an arm’s length, then your success on Twitter will be limited. You will certainly be able to use it as a platform to communicate very sterile pieces of information (devoid of any “humannes”) in a broadcast fashion. But will anyone really care? Probably not. Unless you take the time to get to know others, interact with them, help others and share yourself. And all of this can only happen when you trust. When you trust your followers to not judge you, to not slander you, to not ridicule your “humanness”. And you have to trust that they trust you back, trust you enough to share themselves and help you. After all, you have to trust to be trusted. So take a plunge. This is a new era of openness, transparency and humanness (even our government is working on being more transparent – now that is something that I never thought I would live to see).

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Wisdom of Crowds

February 18, 2009

Today I realized that I hadn’t posted a blogpost in a while. There are several reasons for this. Firstly, Twitter has spoiled me. With Twitter, as soon as I have a thought, I can just put it out there and get immediate feedback / start a conversation.  There are so many random thoughts each day, and they are so disparate, that it would make little sense to either: 1) pack them into one giant post that would ramble, or 2) have several drafts going at the same time. So what ends up happening is inaction: I wait to collect enough thoughts under the same umbrella, then write a post that’s too long, and then don’t write for a while. I psych myself out with writing a long, carefully crafted blogpost, then put it off, and nothing happens. It becomes an ordeal, to the point where I have to schedule some time to blog – and who has time for that? Blogging on command inevitably also leads to writer’s blog, which also contributes to inactivity. So I am trying out something different: writing short posts with higher frequency – something between a tweet and a full blogpost, literally 1-2 paragraphs. Perhaps Tumblr is a more suitable platform for that, even though I couldn’t figure out how to turn on comments.

I am not trying to be a professional blogger or make any money with this blog. My reasons for blogging are simply to force myself to explore a topic more deeply, to chrystalize ideas, develop my voice, start a conversation and eventually have all of the above contribute to the building of my personal brand. And, to be honest, I simply enjoy writing. I consider myself a creative person, but since I have been devoid of any artistic ability, I have always found solace in verbal expression. The only way to achieve the above goals is to, simply, ummm, write! So I want to try this higher frequency approach.  Besides, readers prefer shorter posts; they are more fun to read, and we are all so crazy busy and ADD anyway. In Russia, where I am from, we have a saying “Brevity is a sister of talent.” I think that today is more relevant than ever.

So my thought for today is around crowdsourcing. Having used social media on a personal level, I have discovered many cool tools. However, the next step is to streamline, separate the wheat from the schaff. Application of social tools to business (anything from a small nimble startup to a large global organization) is tbe next natural step. Having worked for both, I am going to attempt to navigate the landscape and figure out what works for what type of organization.  Crowdsourcing is fascinating (crowdsourcing, if you don’t know, is the process through which a business / individual can take a pulse of a market / segment / country / world / twitterverse / whatever unit interests you, around a particular issue / product / brand / whatever you are measuring). Now that we have all been putting out a ton of user-generated content out there via a variety of social tools (blogging, soc nets, microblogging, social bookmarking, etc.), we need to make sense of all of the produced content. We can leverage 2 types of content: 1) already produced content (via tools like Twitter Search and others like it), as well as 2) stimulate new discussion.

Today, a friend’s tweet about prompted me to think about the latter. It’s a cool tool by which you can create a temporary chatroom, tweet it out and start a discussion around a topic. It’s like any multi-user chatroom, but optimized for Twitter. Several participants in this exploratory chat noted that this is a perfect extension of Twitter, because crowdsourcing / discussion on Twitter has 2 major limiatations: 1) 140 characters, and 2) inability to direct a thought to more than a couple of people at once. Very very cool. This is a winner. So easy to use and with a laser focus on doing one thing, and doing it well. Moreover, your ability to leverage others’ participation is directly related to your reach on Twitter; tinychat isn’t very useful if you don’t have a lot of followers.

What are some other tools that are effective at quick’n’easy crowdsourcing? I tried ask500people, which was another tool suggested by someone in that same tinychat session. I created a simple question, just to test it out, created a link and threw it up on Twitter to see what happens. Immediately a friend contacted me saying that he needed to login in order to answer my poll. Well, that’s a definite downer. Making people sign up to use your service is a serious user experience issue, and a point where you stand to lose the most users, as we all know. So using a service like that for crowdsourcing is not very effective, as your universe of potential respondents shrinks to the point where it’s challenging to get any meaningful results.

So above is a quick and dirty review of just a couple of tools that work and don’t work. Please share your wisdom and experience in the comments below: what has worked for you?


January 13, 2009

After spending the holidays with my parents, my dad and I somehow got into a discussion on revolutions. My dad, who is the smartest person I know, and is also a walking encyclopedia of jokes, anecdotes and quotes, told me the following quote from Otto Von Bismark: “Revolutions are conceived by intellectuals, executed by fanatics, and the fruits of their labor are used by freeloaders.”

Wow, these words ring so true as I reminisce about my (albeit poor) knowledge of world history, thinking of famous revolutions,  such as the Russian Revolution, the French Revolution and others. It also got me thinking about the revolution in which we are now, which is the social web revolution. With the advent of blogging, commenting, microblogging and social networking tools, everyone now has a voice, the web has become a two-way conversation and much more democratic than ever before. There is no doubt in my mind that this is a true revolution, albeit a non-violent one (which is always a good thing in my book).  In a true revolutionary sense, it has altered, and in some cases, upended and disrupted current companies, business models and even industries.  For example, traditional journalism has had to change to accommodate a new brand of citizen journalism. Shareability and streamability of web music engines like,  is making the once insulated music labels of yesteryear feel nervous.

So if we were to apply Bismarck’s wisdom to our current digital revolution, what cycle would we place ourselves in? Are we at the stage of  conception (thought of  by intellectuals), the execution (carried out by fanatics,) or the mainstream use (used by freeloaders)? Or do these stages even apply anymore? I am inclined to think they do. I am also leaning towards evaluating our stage as late fanaticism to early freeloader mainstream cycle. Just like in the dot-com bubble at the turn of the century, during which web companies without real business models got created and funded, a whole slew of me-too social networks and other wanna-be’s have been dominating an impending Web 2.0 bubble.

Remaining winners who are left standing at the end of this inevitable bubble, will go mainstream (arguably Facebook has already gone mainstream long ago) and “cross the Chasm.” As they do so, the temptation will be for  (mostly corporate) users to to “bastardize” this method of communication. Without really understanding the authenticiy and the comaraderie that characterizes the contributors and consumers of social media, companies will start jumping in (already started, by the way) head first into social technologies and using them the same way they have been using TV advertising: as a one-way talking platform, used to talk at consumers, not with consumers. We must realize that this new style of communication must come with a very different conversation style. Or else become inauthentic “freeloaders” who have hijacked the platform and thus altered the initial intent of an authentic two-way conversation and relationship building.

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Customer Service is Dead. Long Live Customer Service!

November 20, 2008

An unsavory customer experience today has prompted me to think of customer service. Here is what happened. I am totally swamped, and didn’t have time to run down to the neighborhood deli to grab a sandwich or to cook my own lunch. So I opted for a delivery of a salad from a nearby restaurant. As a co-founder of HomeShopr, I tend to frown upon takeout, but desperate times call for desperate measures (i.e. too busy and no time for grocery store right now). At least the salad is a healthy option; I get steamed calamari, not fried. I call over there, only to find out that my salad option is not available, as they didn’t order enough calamari. They did offer me fried calalmari instead (yuck!). I inquired about alternative steamed / grilled seafoods, and they told me that the shrimp salad was an option, but it cost $2 more. I asked to speak to the manager, explaining to him that I would like to have the shrimp salad for the price of the calamari salad. The manager wouldn’t budge. I explained that I really want the calamari, and not the shrimp, but I would settle for shrimp, if it was the same price (it certainly is not my fault that I can’t get my preferred choice). He said no again. I reminded him politely that I had been ordering from there for months (I don’t order all the time, once a week maybe, and it’s the only takeout I really order). I also asked him if he thought it was worth it to potentially lose a loyal client over $2. To which he quickly retorted, in a very rude tone: “I don’t care. I have enough business.” After which, I told him that he lost a customer for life, and he told me to go F myself.  He could still reject my plea, but his tone and cursewords were completely uncalled for.

Hmmm!!! He gets more than enough business? Really? If and when this recession gets deeper, I wonder if he would sing the same tune. If another joint with excellent salads opened up in his neighborhood, taking all of his clients, would he sing the same tune still? Does he realize the power of word of mouth, and especially negative word of mouth? He probably doesn’t know that I can quickly ruin his reputation via virality of Twitter, Facebook, Yelp, blogging, etc. Personally, I am not going to stoop to his level and slander his establishment. I am sure another slighted consumer will do that. The point I do want to amplify is that in this day and age of social media, word of mouth can spread like wildfire (just look at what happened with the Motrin ads). The social web is making everything so transparent, and as more and more people go to the web as a resource (especially listening to other users’ feedback), companies can no longer take the lackadaisical approach to managing their reputation. Even though this restaurant is an old-fashioned establishment, and I really doubt that the manager uses too many social tools, and thus not managing the restaurant’s reputation proactively, he should at least be aware of the damage that negative word of mouth / bad will can bring.

Before, bad word of mouth could spread through the neighborhood. Today, bad (and good) word of mouth can spread virally through the whole world in a matter of minutes. If you don’t know what your users are saying about you, please make it your business to find out. And even better, take steps to proactively change it for the better. Reach out to your most local haters and try to make them whole. Most likely, they will stop bashing you. Above all, listen and be authentic in your response. Problem-solve and reach out. Most likely, your haters are just hurt and need to know you care. In this age of social media and rapid communication, every company needs to be a service company. No matter what you produce.

For great examples of companies that do this extremely well, check out Zappos. Even though they sell shoes, they consider themselves a service company. Internally, they say: “We are a service company that happens to sell ________” Service is so deeply part of their culture that their social media approach reflects those values. The channels of communication with customers via Twitter is wide open (click here for all Zappos-related conversations, or chat with the CEO directly here).

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Will Twitter Moms Ever Buy Motrin Again?

November 18, 2008

Any blog talking about social media and traditional marketing in consumer products companies would be remiss if it didn’t address the recent fiasco of the Motrin “babywearing commercial”. By now, the ad has been taken down, so I am not going to link to it on YouTube. If you missed it, it basically was a throwback to Babywearing Week, which is happening right now. Babywearing week celebrates wearing your baby in a sling or a similar device vs. in a carriage or stroller. Motrin created a web ad, which I believe was put on their own website, as well as YouTube (not sure about other web video sites). This ad, while meant to commiserate with the physical pain in women caused by babywearing, in an “I feel your pain” kind of way, didn’t stay on message. The goodness of the original intent was paved over by a condenscending tone, delivered in a “valleygirl” fashion, as well as by an almost mocking first sentence that referred to babywearing as nothing short of a fad. Now, I personally didn’t think it was the most offensive commercial in the world, albeit somewhat insensitive (judging by the voluminous outcry on Twitter, one would have thought that Freddy / Fannie failed again. It IS only a commercial) . However, it doesn’t really matter what I thought, as I am not part of the target demographic (babywearing mom). Which brings me to my next point.

Oftentimes, marketers, despite their best efforts, have a hard time getting “outside of themselves” to really “walk a mile” in their customers’ shoes. I saw it all the time during my career with CPG brands. Oftentimes, focus groups get conducted within geographic proximity to the market research office. Hmmm… That is bound to produce muddled results. You know, birds of a feather…. Just because everyone in your high school, college, workplace, city, etc. thinks a certain way, does NOT mean that all of America thinks this way. I fall into that trap myself all the time, and forget that the whole country is not using Twitter and is not on Facebook. What? You are not on Twitter? That’s preposterous! In short, Motrin should have done a better job of testing this ad with social media moms.

The great thing about tools like Twitter is that advertisers / brands have an almost-immediate feedback loop about their product / ad / PR effort, etc.  Smart marketers will figure out how to utilize it. Tools like Twitter Search (you can search for a term and watch the conversation in real time) or Tweet Beep (like Google Alerts for Twitter – it emails you each time a keyword is mentioned), can be used to understand what the users are saying about your brand / effort. Even though Twitter is not mainstream by any stretch of imagination, it can at times serve as a proxy for understanding a certain demographic. Twitter users tend to skew towards the more sophisticated / cutting edge / educated of the population. The moms on Twitter felt offended by the Motrin commercial talking down to them. These are thoughful, educated women, and they don’t need to be “talked at” in a condenscending tone. You can see their angry responses in the video below.  My understanding from following these conversation threads, is that Motrin didn’t respond fast enough to the Twitter backlash, and when they did respond, the angry Twitter Moms didn’t consider it a sincere apology written by a real executive.

If the insensitivity of the Motrin commercial may have gone unnoticed among some moms, the highly-educated social-media-consuming Twitter Mom demographic was certainly going to recoil in horror. This is classic segmentation gone bad. You have to talk to your consumer segments via different channels, while adjusting your message and voice  to that particular segment. You simply can’t carry over the same commercials from one channel to another. The web allows for much more granular targeting and segmentation vs. TV and print. So it’s up to the advertiser to change the message for each segment and subsegment.

As far as the impact that this snaffu will have on Motrin, it is hard to predict. I have no idea if anyone outside of Twitter Moms and YouTube Moms was as enraged. But I do know, that there are a lot of “influencers” who hang out on Twitter, so making them unhappy is not a good thing. Myself and other marketers will certainly be watching how this story develops, and if Motrin can figure out how to use social media to be authentic in their apology.

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I Tweet, Therefore I Am

October 30, 2008

As many of my social media friends would agree, ever since Twitter burst out onto the scene a couple of years ago, communication has never been the same. In the circles of the tech elite, the communication paradigm has been completely upended. I am neither the most popular twitterer (expressed in number of people following you), nor the most prolific (expressed in number of “tweets” – short messages of 140 characters or less), nor the most long-time twitterer (I only started this summer). However, since I started using it, and started relying on it more and more every day for communication.  I think I do more communication via Facebook and Twitter combined than I do via e-mail these days. Twitter is how I find out about news, talk to my friends, do market research, spread my message, microblog events, make social plans, etc. The uses are endless, and I will continue to explore it in several posts, because it’s way too much for one post.

Let’s back up for a second. For those that don’t know, Twitter is a microblogging platform that allows you to answer one question, and one question only “What are you doing?” – it’s like the status update on Facebook. There is a catch: you need say whatever you need to say in under 140 characters (genius! we could all use a tad more brevity in our lives). Twitter does one thing and does it well (after they seem to have surmounted their downtime issues, that is), it is genius in its simplicity and has a clear brand and a focused marketing message. Huge turn-on for a marketing person like me!

How does it work? You enter your tweet (status update) and everyone who follows you gets your tweet in their stream. You get the tweets of all those whom you follow. You can reply to anyone’s tweet by placing an @ sign, followed by that user’s handle. Your tweets and @ replies are public, and you can also send a direct message to someone by typing D, followed by the user’s handle. Direct messages aren’t capturedin the public stream. You can tweak your settings to either receive the “statement” tweets from folks you follow, or to receive their tweets AND @ replies. This choice is going to be driven primarily by the reason you are on Twitter in the first place.

The inspiration for this post came from a conversation I had with a friend this morning about relative volumes of tweets that different twitterers produce. He tends to be of the school of thought that less is more. And I agree, if your goal is to share a few gems of wisdom and make those gems stand out, which would be hard to do if you consistently pump out mediocre tweets: even for the most brilliant of us, it is very difficult to make every tweet a gem. I don’t put out a ton of volume, unless I am microblogging from an event, but I do use @ replies quite a bit. And that’s because what Twitter has become for me is a rich conversation platform. When I decide to follow / not follow a person, I look at several indicators of their Twitter behavior (let’s coin a term “Twitterhavior”: you heard it here first!), one of which is the ratio of their tweets to @ replies. I am not going to have a very rich experience with someone who talks AT me, not TO me. When I first joined Twitter, I had no idea what I wanted from it, but as I started to make it my own, I have formed my own Twitterhavior. As a sidenote: my friend’s offline personality does not stand for “less is more”. He is definitely more than more, talking over others and feeling the need to dominate each conversation. I am the opposite: much more demure and appreciative of a collaborative conversation. I suspect that your online identity is somewhat complimentary to your real-life identity, helping you fill gaps and become a fuller person. Your online self is, or at least should be, an extension of your offline core values and belief. Now that everyone “has a microphone”, development of an authentic online self is key. If you aren’t authentic, your message will get lost and dismissed. While extending yourself from offline to online in an authentic way, we also seek to fill in our real life shortcomings. I think this is key.

So as far as reasons to be on Twitter, we have discussed a couple so far:

  1. To share what you are doing, in hopes that someone reading is doing the same thing and will join you. This is the social element that will only get enhanced by further developments in the mobile GPS arena. Although, the privacy issues and stalker potential scares me a bit. Network effects kick in here, and for this to work, your friends need to be on Twitter too.
  2. To share your wit and wisdom without nurturing a conversation, talking AT people, which is neither wise nor witty. In my opinion it turns people off. There are a couple of those types I used to follow in the real estate industry (my startup MeetMOJO is in the real estate space); their streams rarely show @ replies. These types heard of Twitter, decided to add it to their toolbox of promotion, without really understanding or internalizing how to nurture the Twitter ecosystem. As a result, they come across unauthentic and not much different from a TV ad, talking AT you. I will focus several more posts on this point, because one of the missions of this blog is to marry traditional marketing to social media, I do hope that marketers will find this useful. As business units enter Twitter (and Facebook for that matter) for business purposes, they must be exceedingly careful to not disrupt the authenticity of exchange on these platforms. One business person that does it well is @zappos, the CEO of Zappos, a mail-order shoe company.
  3. To share your wit and wisdom in hopes of starting a conversation, talking TO people. I put myself in this group, although I use reason #1 quite a bit as well. Starting authentic conversations is key to establishing your brand, whether your brand is just you, or your product, or your company. As a business unit, you could tweet for market research / to gain input on what’s important to potential users. Or you could provide a customer service tweet-line, allowing people to vent and proactively fixing issues. You can make it do whatever you want. But don’t put a tweet out and ignore the @ replies that come back to you. People will stop trying to talk to you. If you care and if you talk back, your announcements about new products will be received with more open arms than if you used Twitter one way. I have even met strategic partners on Twitter. Create a community, ask for feedback, make people feel appreciated. You should do this online and offline.

I will stop here. There are more uses that I am only learning about. Twitter is a living, breathing thing. The more we use it, and the more of us that use it, the more tools that get developed around it, the more uses we will find for it. One thing is clear, it is a culmination of the online conversation paradigm shift. Web 1.0 talked at you. Web 2.0 lets you talk to it and other people on it. Now we have all this information, all this user-created content. Web 3.0 will be all about making sense of this stuff we created in 2.0, as well as creating new stuff of course. As someone commented on Fred Wilson’s blog (I read that comment weeks ago, and can’t get out of my head still) – “Twitter is the railroad tracks for communication in the 21st century”. That sums it up. It not only allows for conversations to happen in real time, across geographies and industries, it also allows for community creation, as well as leveraging the richness of conversation for a business goal. Whatever you reason to join Twitter, you can certainly make it your own. Just remember to be authentic, in 140 characters or less.

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A New Blog is Born

October 22, 2008

I am excited to introduce my new blog to the world. I have been blogging fairly prolifically (some months more than others) at the company blog of my startup MeetMOJO.  I felt the need to start my own personal blog that would deal with anything from my views on the world, technology and social media, which I have come to learn and love through building my 2 startups, to marketing and general business, which I studied extensively in undergrad and MBA.

I used Twitter to source the name of the blog, and one of the suggestions really struck a cord with me. This person recommended that I take advantage of the fact that my initials are M.O., which also stands for Modus Operandi. I thought it was very clever, and decided to adopt it.  “Web 2.0” fascinates me, as it allows you to have so many conversations with so many people at the same time, or asynchronously. Being able to reach out to all my friends on Twitter AND Facebook and tap their collective creativity for a question / issue I am exploring is priceless. Individuals, as well as companies, must take advantage of these technologies to initiate conversations that are more than 1-way or even 2-way.

I look forward to sharing more of myself and my thoughts.