How Technology is Compromising the Human Condition

August 30, 2014

alone with our phones

I see dead people. No, I see zombies. They walk aimlessly down the street and swerve into my lane on the highway. They’re not under the spell of a witch or voodoo overlord; they’re controlled by their smartphones.

I See Zombies Everywhere

Zombies have taken over planet Earth. As I walk past a gym, zombies (in workout clothes) exit. Arm extended, phone in palm, shoulders hunched forward. Forget about making eye contact. These zombies are focused on the latest text, tweet or email. They can’t be bothered by humans.

texting-while-drivingWhen a car swerves briefly into my lane, or when a driver is going 35 MPH in a 70 MPH zone, it’s invariably driven by a zombie: one hand on the wheel, the other holding a phone.

Eyes pointed straight down. Talented zombies use two phones, while steering the car with the backs of their hands.

Visit a restaurant these days and you’ll see zombies seated at the bar, eating a meal by themselves. Fork in one hand, phone in the other. It’s difficult to tell which they enjoy more (food or phone). Forget about talking to the bartender or to other patrons. The phone rules.

Oh, and have you seen the deranged zombies? Their Bluetooth earpiece is neatly hidden. As you approach them, they’re talking really loud. It’s just the two of you on the street, so you say, “What?” The zombie pays you no attention, walks on by and continues his conversation.

Technology and The Human Condition

Call me an old timer, but I’m concerned about technology’s impact on the human condition. I remember the B.C. era (“Before Cellphone”). We made eye contact, we made conversation. We talked to strangers. We talked to friends.

Today? We make more eye contact with our phone’s camera lens (selfies!), while human-to-human conversation is at historic lows. We’re so concerned about the email that arrived two minutes ago that we may not see the car that’s swerving onto the sidewalk.

Let’s consider how we got here.

Why We’re Victims of Technology


blackberry smartphone

It all started with the BlackBerry. Early generations of the device looked like extra-large pagers.

But these pagers were electronic handcuffs. Now, your inbox followed you wherever you went.

To the gym, to the beach or to sleep, the BlackBerry would buzz on each new email.

And the world would never be the same.

Now, you could email the VP Sales for a pricing request and she’d reply one minute later. You could invite a friend for dinner and know that he’d reply in an hour or less. You could lie on the beach for the afternoon, but still keep tabs on your inbox.

It’s Our Primary Channel of Communication

The phone was a fabulous piece of technology. We could speak to one another across large distances. Today, smartphone users under 20 may not know about the “phone” in their smartphone. Adults have followed suit.

Related Post: 10 Reasons Texting Has Taken Over the World

We speak to each other far less than before. Instead, we text, email and chat. For important life moments, we no longer call family members. Instead, we’ll post to Instagram or Facebook and let them learn about it there.

FOMO becomes FOMU

Our “fear of missing out” has become a “fear of missing (the most recent) update.” I’m guilty of this for sure: I’m quick to check for the latest email and the most recent Twitter mention or Facebook Like.

Technology has created this constant anxiety of “staying on top of things,” as if there’s value in seeing an email minutes after it arrives. That’s why some people sleep with their phone by their side, and invite it to buzz on each new message. When you disrupt sleep, you disrupt the human condition.

Why I’m Concerned

Health and Safety

Scientists have studied links between cell phone use and cancer risk (see this fact sheet from the National Cancer Institute and this CNN article about a World Health Organization study). My gut tells me that prolonged use of cell phones can have harmful, long term effects on the body.

There are more direct hazards, too. One afternoon, I left my office to grab lunch. I was checking email as I walked to my car. Because I wasn’t fully aware of my surrounding environment, I nearly walked into an oncoming car.

A Forbes article notes that “texting distractions may have been a contributing factor in the 4,280 pedestrian traffic fatalities recorded during 2010,” according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Technology Will Continue to Develop and Evolve

together yet alone

Consider Google Glass.

On the one hand, technology gets more seamlessly integrated (e.g. check email via Glass).

On the other hand, it makes it even easier to disengage from more meaningful human connection (e.g. check email on Glass while your friend is trying to talk to you).

When they visit my house, I say hi to the friendly delivery staff from FedEx, UPS and the US Postal Service. Those conversations will take a different form when those deliveries are performed by drones.

I’m concerned about the evolution of the human species. With continued advances in technology, will we lose the ability to talk to one another?

What We Can Do About It

Let the Phone Wait

I used to have a rule where I’d come home from work and put away the phone. It would sit in a drawer until after dinner’s been eaten and the dishes washed. Later that evening, I’d open the phone to check for calls, texts and emails. Sadly, that rule fell by the wayside.

But I ought to return to it.

We need to seize control back from the phones who rule us. Aside from emergencies, let the phone wait! The email you received a minute ago can wait an hour. Heck, it’s not the end of the world if you reply to that email tomorrow.

The key is to condition yourself. Maybe you need a habit like mine (though I hope you do a better job sticking to it). We’ll live healthier lives if we arrange for periods where we “make the phone wait.”

Alternatively, you could go to a summer camp like the one described in this New York Times article.

Go Out and Meet New People

go out and meet people

Technology has a way of hardening our shell or keeping us within a bubble.

When you’re immersed in your email, checking your Twitter stream or responding to a text, you’re not “available” to those around you.

Technology makes it too easy to be in a room full of people, but really be alone to ourselves. So make it a point to meet five new people each week. Beyond getting their names, get to know their stories, their interests and their passions.

If you’ve developed online relationships (e.g. via Twitter), arrange to meet in person. The human connection is unique and special.

Learn to Enjoy and Appreciate Your Surroundings

In the Bay Area, my average weather day is 70 degrees and sun. Depending on where I am, I can get views of the Bay, giant Sequoia trees or the Golden Gate Bridge. But I can be blind to it all if my face is planted in my phone.

When we immerse ourselves in technology, it makes us take things for granted. We must find occasions to leave the world of our inbox and explore the larger world around us. This is a behavior that must be learned and reinforced.

Now when I grab lunch at work, I’ll leave the phone in my pocket and enjoy the afternoon weather. But I can feel the phone calling out to me and I’ll sometimes suffer a relapse. I’ll pull out the phone and check email. Meanwhile, another car is pulling out of its parking spot.

Share Your Thoughts

What do you think? Are you comfortable with where technology is heading? Are you concerned about the future of human-to-human connection and interaction?

Let’s continue the conversation below. And if I ever bump into you on the street, please call me out if my face is stuck in my phone. I may have been zombie-fied!

Attending an Industry Conference? How to Find the Right Conference-Twitter Balance

April 29, 2014

Tweeting at conferences

Photo source: S&S Media on flickr.

Note: This post was originally published at LinkedIn.


I’m about to give you advice on things I’ve failed miserably at.

You see, I love Twitter. I use it every day. Put me at an industry conference? My love grows into an addiction. Armed with a smartphone, you can become a Twitter rock star at industry conferences. Take this to the extreme, however, and you can miss out on a lot of what the conference has to offer. After all, your goal was to attend a conference and not to spend the entire day on Twitter.

An Acid Test for Twitter Overuse

Here’s the perfect acid test to know whether you’ve overused Twitter at a conference: do you need to re-charge your phone before the conference is over?

It’s happened for me at every conference I’ve attended in 2014 (thank you for those sponsored charging stations!) My use of Twitter has taken away from other things the conference has to offer. I’ll always be able to connect with like-minded people on Twitter. I won’t have the same opportunity to engage with them face-to-face.

Here are six ways to keep your conference Twitter use in check.

1) For every 10 new people you follow, introduce yourself to 1 person at the conference.

I follow the event’s hash tag on Twitter. I like to read attendees’ observations about a session. I even like to hear what sponsors have to say, aside from the invitations to visit them at booth #317. When someone shares an interesting tweet, I follow them.

It’s quite easy to follow 50+ new people in a day. It’s harder to introduce yourself to real people in real life. So make sure you do that.

Photo source: TopRank Online Marketing on flickr.

2) For every 5 tweets, share 1 thought with another attendee.

It’s very easy to quote the keynote speaker and add the event’s hash tag to your tweet. It’s even easier to retweet someone else (yes, those get counted towards the 5). But how about the old fashioned way of communicating: face to face? Sharing your thoughts on Twitter is great. A lot of people can see it. Mix that with the more personal approach of expressing your thoughts to other people. In person.

3) Find and meet 5 people from the Twitter stream.

Once at a highly-tweeted conference, I got into the elevator during a break. I recognized another attendee from her Twitter profile photo. She and I had been tweeting during the same session. I knew her name (from Twitter, of course), so I introduced myself, saying that I recognized her from Twitter. Do this five times.

4) Put the phone down every 5 minutes or every 3 slides.

Photo: these two ought to take breaks to put their phones down. Photo source: Ed Yourdon on flickr.

There are some conference sessions (especially workshop sessions) that are learning-focused. When I’m in such a session, I take a lot of notes. If I’m tweeting every two minutes, I’m not able to take as many notes. And, I’m less likely to have heard all the valuable nuggets shared by the presenter. So force yourself to put the phone down. I recommend an interval of 5 minutes or 3 slides.

5) Collected business cards > number of tweets.

Sometimes, I’ll collect a business card from an attendee and the exchange will be superficial. We bumped into each other while waiting for coffee, but didn’t have a meaningful conversation. That being said, business card collection is a good proxy for the amount of networking and conversations you’ve had. Aim to have your collected business cards exceed the number of your tweets at the conference. To date, I’ve failed miserably on this metric, but hope to achieve this goal in future conferences.

6) Include 1 out of every 4 shared photos in a post-conference blog post.

Photos are becoming an increasing percentage of the tweet streams at events. They also work very well in blog posts about the conference. Write a blog post to share your takeaways from the conference. For every four photos you share on Twitter, pick one of them to include in your post.

Photo source: JD Lasica on flickr. Follow JD on Twitter: @JDLasica.


To get the most out of a conference, set some goals before going. Remind yourself of those goals throughout the day(s) of the conference. Twitter can help you achieve some of those goals, but stop to ask yourself whether (and when) it’s getting in the way. I’ll be sure to do the same for my next conference.

10 Steps to Building a Culture of Content in Your Organization

April 10, 2014

Photo source: Graham Lavender on flickr.


Note: This post was originally published on LinkedIn.

While Marketing is the voice of many organizations, a lot of subject matter experts reside elsewhere. They reside in Engineering, Product Management, Customer Support and Sales. Look at the last ten posts published on your blog. If more than half came from Marketing, then ask yourself why there aren’t more posts from the folks building, selling and servicing your products or services.

By extending the list of contributors on your blog, you present a broader range of perspectives and knowledge. At the same time, you create a stronger sense of trust from prospects and customers. They’ll respect and admire the collective expertise that your organization exhibits.

To make this happen, you’ll need to establish a culture of content in your organization. Here’s my 10-step plan to do just that.

1) Explain the Big Picture.

I tell my colleagues about the power of content and give examples, such as HubSpot and Marketo. I explain how those companies grew their businesses via content: ebooks, blog posts, SlideShares, white papers, etc. Next, I talk about personal branding and how important it is to be published online. If search engines don’t find you, then you don’t exist.

2) Gain Executive Buy-In.

It’s easy when you have executive buy-in from the start. It’s trickier when you don’t. Tell executives about other organizations in your space and show them how they used content to grow their business or cause. Employees take direction from above, so this step is crucial to gaining employee involvement.

3) Utilize Extrinsic Rewards.

For each blog post published, I reward employees with a $25 Amazon gift card. It’s a small token of appreciation for their effort. As employees publish more and move beyond the blog (to other forms of content), the extrinsic rewards are elevated.

Photo source: Richard Bao on flickr.

4) Reinforce Intrinsic Rewards.

Extrinsic rewards are important for establishing contributions early on, but they’re not sustainable over the long term. Intrinsic rewards come from the enjoyment and achievement sustained from the core activity performed. Once employees buy in to the intrinsic rewards (e.g. visibility and personal branding), they’ll contribute without the need for extrinsic rewards.

5) Convince Everyone They’re a Writer.

Photo source: Mike Licht on flickr.

“I don’t write well” is a comment I often hear. Not true. There’s a writer in everyone. And everyone has knowledge and expertise to share. Your job is to serve as mentor, coach and editor, to bring those words to life. I’ve given an employees an “outline template” to help them plan out their blog post. I then offer to write the first paragraph to get them started.

6) Look for Content Opportunities Everywhere.

My top source for blog post ideas is our company intranet. There, employees use an Activity Feed to post what they’re doing. I’ll chime in, “Sounds neat. How about writing a blog post about it?” As I chat with colleagues by the coffee machine, I also look for interesting stories, especially those involving customers.

7) Share Successes.

One of my colleagues landed a speaking appearance from her very first blog post. A regional user group discovered her blog post, found it interesting and invited her to speak at their next meeting. I was sure to tell that story to the entire company at the next “All Hands Meeting.” If there’s someone on the fence about participating, hearing successes like this may push them over the top.

8) Recognize Contributors.

I use this slide at company meetings. It contains the profile photo of every person who published a blog post. When I receive the first submission from some employees, they’ll comment that they wanted to have their face appear on this slide.

9) Find and Empower Evangelists.

You’ll find a few employees who jump on the “culture of content bandwagon.” Enable them to become evangelists for the cause. Show them your editorial calendar and ask them for suggestions. Let newbies know that they can lean on these evangelists for help, advice or tips.

10) Evangelize, Evangelize, Evangelize.

My colleagues are beginning to think that I’m addicted to content. And they’d be right. I consume a lot of content (OPB = other people’s blogs), which gives me ideas on how to better create our own content. As the facilitator for your organization’s culture of content, you’ll need to serve as principal evangelist. Find your ABE Lincoln = Always Be Evangelizing.


Whether you work for a commercial business or a non-profit, content can create wonders for your cause. It helps you get discovered and builds trust with customers and constituents. It’s hard to scale your content solely within Marketing. Establish and foster a culture of content and you all win.

For a look at our culture of content, have a look through the DNN blog.

10 Indisputable Reasons Communities are the Center of our Lives

March 20, 2014

Communities are the Center of Our Lives


Photo source: Steven Warburton on flickr.

Note: I originally published this post on the DNN software blog.

In my day job at DNN, I spend a lot of time creating marketing content around our online community solution. As a result, I read a lot of content on community management and speak to quite a few community managers.

One afternoon, I published a blog post about online communities, then left the office to run an errand. As I walked to my car, a thought occurred to me: while we spend a lot of time in online communities, we spend far more time in offline communities.

Consider an online enthusiast community (e.g. gamers, sports fans, etc.). Then, consider your family. We don’t call our family a “community” (at least I don’t), but there are similarities between our enthusiast “family” (of like-minded people) and our real family (of parents, siblings, cousins and more).

Let’s highlight ten “communities” that form the center of our lives.

1) Family

family photo

Photo source: User Kables on flickr.

As we exit the womb and enter the world, we’re welcomed by our first community: our family. It starts with our parents and extends to grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Down the road, a sibling or two may enter the fray. Our childhood is a series of “community events” and community rituals: gathering at the dinner table, elementary school graduation, grandparents’ fiftieth anniversary and so on.

2) Work

In a traditional office setting, our work community is the colleagues we see in the office every day. The community extends to remote offices, partners and clients. For some, the “work community” is a key reason for taking a job. For those who are self-employed (i.e. and work from home), there’s still a community of clients (note: the self-employed might have a few pets that sit to the side (or on top) of their desks).

3) Professional Associations

To quote the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE), “A sense of community coordination is at the heart of the association profession.” According to their website, ASAE estimates that over 90,000 professional associations exist in the United States. Here in the Bay Area, I belong to the Silicon Valley Product Management Association, which holds a meeting every month.

4) Sports Teams

Photo source: Elvert Barnes on flickr.

I root for a mix of Bay Area and New York teams: the Sharks (NHL), Warriors (NBA), Yankees (MLB) and Giants (NFL). Every professional sports team includes a rabid community of fans. We gather at arenas and we gather online. Sometimes, we call in to sports radio stations after the game. We share a strong common bond.

5) Neighborhoods

The house we purchase or the apartment we rent comes attached with a community: the neighborhood. I’ll check in on a neighbor’s house when they’re out of town and catch up with them at a Labor Day block party. Our neighborhood uses Nextdoor, an online community platform. In our Nextdoor community, we converse about school events, list items for sale (or for free) and ask about plumbers and accountants.

6) Circles of Friends

We build and establish friendships through all works of life: school, work, play, etc. When we go out and have fun, we’ll invite a number of friends along. Sometimes, we’re the single common bond among these “friends.” We introduce them to one another. In that way, we serve to forge new connections among people, like any good community manager would do.

7) TV Shows


Photo source: Gino Carteciano on flickr.

Whether it’s 60 Minutes or House of Cards, we all have a favorite TV show (or series). Some lend themselves more to passionate communities (of fans) than others. My favorite series include Chicago Fire and The Americans. If I get a chance to catch a program “live” (in prime time), I’ll peek on Twitter to see what viewers are talking about. There’s also a service called tvtag (formerly called GetGlue). Services like these help build stronger bonds within a given community.

8) Alumni Groups

My alma mater has an alumni magazine. I receive the magazine a few times a year, along with separate mailings that urge me to donate to the university. Regionally, my alma mater has a Bay Area alumni group with a corresponding Facebook Group. There are events scheduled every few months.

I recently discovered a Facebook Group for my high school graduating class. It was fascinating to see familiar names and faces there. For past jobs I’ve worked at, I find numerous alumni groups on LinkedIn, where we can keep in touch.

9) Parenting Groups

Those of us with kids know how parenting can serve as a strong bond (with other parents). Parents of newborns will gather to talk about the shared experience of raising a baby. In elementary school, parents will volunteer on the PTA, as well as at school events and fundraisers. As our kids graduate to a new school, we’ll meet new parents and make new friends.

10) Politics

Some of us are far more passionate about politics than others (I consider myself less passionate). Regardless, we associate with communities. In the U.S., we might align with the Democratic or Republican parties. We might declare ourselves independents. Or we might align ourselves with the Tea Party movement.


If you work in online communities, take a step back from time to time and think about life in general. As you leave the office (or go offline), you’ll begin to see all the amazing communities that form the center of our lives. Go be a great community manager. Of life!

Community Management Blog Series

community management blog series

Colleague Clint Patterson published a great blog series on how to create sustained engagement in online communities. Check out Part 1 of Clint’s series, where you’ll find links to Parts 2 and 3.

Engage Influencers on Twitter in 8 Easy Steps

February 23, 2014

Your Guide to Engaging Influencers on Twitter

Twitter user

Photo source: User mdgovpics on flickr.

This post was originally published on the DNN Software blog.

Recently, I presented a webinar with Leadtail titled “How Top Marketers at Mid-Size Companies Engage on Social Media.” The webinar related to a Social Insights Report that DNN and Leadtail collaborated on.

In the report, we provided insights on how marketers at mid-size companies use Twitter: the links they share, the brands they retweet, the users they mention and more. Among the lists included in the report are the “Top 50 People Most Retweeted” and the “Top 50 People Most Mentioned” (on Twitter).

Prior to the webinar, I was reviewing the slides with Karri and Carter of Leadtail. We were looking at some of the “actionable insights” we included, on how brands (and people) can engage influencers on Twitter.

The Light Bulb Moment

As long as we’re including tips on how to engage influencers on Twitter, we thought, why not practice what we preach? We thought we’d reach out to the Top 50 List (on Twitter) and ask them how they like to be engaged by others.

We were able to hear back from these influencers quickly. As a result, we inserted a number of their tweets into the webinar slides. So we considered it a successful exercise in influencer engagement. From that exercise comes this eight step guide for doing your own influencer engagement on Twitter.

1) Build Relationships Before You Need Them

Credit goes to Ann Handley (@annhandley) for these words of wisdom (thanks, Ann!). The first step is quite easy: follow influencers on Twitter. The follow gives influencers an indication that you exist. Even influencers with 100,000 followers will check to see the “new followers” they’re getting. Some influencers “follow back” liberally, while others are more selective. Don’t expect an immediate “follow back.”

In the meantime, observe the sorts of content the influencers are sharing and publishing, as well as the nature of their interactions with other users. Occasionally retweet some of their tweets. Don’t retweet everything they tweet, as that can border on creepy. Look at the articles or blog posts they’re publishing. Tweet a link to the article, include some of your thoughts and be sure to “mention” their Twitter handle in the tweet.

Also, focus on sharing useful and relevant content on Twitter. As an influencer gets mentioned by you, they’re likely to “check out” your Twitter profile. In addition to your photo and bio, they’ll probably view your most recent tweets. If you can interest them with your tweets, they may decide to follow you back.

If you do receive a follow back, that’s great. Now, you can “direct message” (DM) the influencer and s/he can DM you back. This gives you a communications channel to the influencer, but I would not rely on that channel, as many Twitter users ignore DM’s (due to volume, spam, unsolicited offers, etc.).

Instead, take the follow back as a good sign, but keep doing useful things: sharing useful articles, sharing their content, replying to some of their tweets, etc.

2) Partner Up to Widen Your Reach

We used the “power of three” in our influencer outreach: Karri, Carter and myself. Each of us built relationships with some influencers. Now, it was an opportunity to make use of them. By pooling together our outreach, we tripled our combined reach. We took the Top 50 lists and divvied up the outreach across the three of us. But we didn’t seek to engage the entire Top 50 lists.

3) Identify the Influencers Most Likely to Engage

President Barack Obama

Photo source: User vox_efx on flickr.

If you’re looking to curry favor with U.S. President Barack Obama, you’re unlikely to do so via Twitter. By checking the President’s Twitter feed, you’ll see a lot of content sharing, a few retweets (mainly of the White House) and very few interactions with other users.

Now look at some of your target influencers. If they interacted with you before (e.g. retweet or mention), there’s a chance they’ll do so again. Check how often they interact with other users (count how many of their tweets begin with a Twitter user handle). Also, look at how quickly they respond. Some influencers are on Twitter all the time. They receive a mention and reply back within minutes. If you find a user like this who’s also interacted with you before, they’re likely to engage with you again.

Of course, if you “know” the influencer (perhaps you met them at a conference and connected with them on LinkedIn), that’s a good sign, too. With our outreach, we looked at a Top 50 list and determined the 10-15 people who were the most likely to engage with us.

Once you identify your “most likely” list, throw in a few “reach for the stars” attempts, because you could get lucky. While he didn’t respond, we did tweet out to Jimmy Fallon.

4) Define Your “Ask”

With few exceptions, you won’t facilitate business or transactions via influencers on Twitter. It’s challenging to get influencers to provide an action that directly benefits you. Instead, you need an arrangement that benefits both of you.

Often, that’s about inviting influencers into a conversation. Choose a conversation topic that interests them (or, if you have a pre-defined topic, use that topic to identify relevant influencers). In our case, the “ask” was pretty simple: share some tips with us.

5) Communicate Your “Ask”

Get this step wrong and your entire plan may backfire. To start, be open and transparent. That means explaining (in your tweet) what you’re looking to get and why. The “why” is important, since it provides influencers with the right context.

Next, communicate how you’ll use what they provide and whether there are any next steps. In our outreach, we communicated to influencers that we were compiling quotes to use in a webinar. For them, that signaled where their tweet may end up. This gives them the chance to decline the opportunity or, tweet back, but ask you NOT to include the tweet in the webinar.

Be sure to address the what, why, how and where.

Bonus Tip: If the first word of your tweet is a Twitter handle, insert a period (“.”) at the beginning, like I did in this tweet to Ian Gertler. If I did NOT preface the tweet with a period, the only people who’d see my tweet are Ian, plus my followers who also follow Ian (though I bet many of them do just that). By sharing your tweet with a wider audience, you may draw others into the conversation, such as Don Power, who’s influential in his own right.

6) Make “Digital Eye Contact”

When we ask for something in person, we always make eye contact with the person we’re asking. In the online world, I call it “digital eye contact” — looking directly at the person means being present and available. Don’t auto-tweet your “ask” at a scheduled time. Make sure you’re ready, willing and able to respond (quickly!) to any question or comment from the influencer.

If influencers respond and it takes you a day to get back to them, they’re less likely to take action. But if you reply back minutes later, they’re more inclined to give you what you want, on the spot.

7) Follow Up to Close the Loop

Circle back with the influencers (who participated) to show them how you used their contributions. When we uploaded the webinar slides to SlideShare, we tweeted to our contributors, pointing them to the slides in which their tweet was listed. In addition, we created a “story” of tweets using Storify and tweeted the Storify link to the influencers.

8) Continue the Conversation

The Twitter engagement could (and should) be the beginning of a long term relationship. Continue to read influencers’ blog posts and tweets and engage with them when appropriate. If you continue to provide value, there may come a day when the influencers come to you to ask for a favor.


Following this list will give you a strong chance of engaging with influencers in your target market:

  1. Build Relationships Before You Need Them
  2. Partner Up to Widen Your Reach
  3. Identify the Influencers Most Likely to Engage
  4. Define Your “Ask”
  5. Communicate Your “Ask”
  6. Make “Digital Eye Contact”
  7. Follow Up to Close the Loop
  8. Continue the Conversation

View the Slides

Feel free to view our webinar slides. The tweets from influencers can be found on Slides 30 and 31.

Steal These Community Management Tips from CMX Summit Presenters

February 8, 2014

CMX Summit

This post was originally published on the DNN Software blog.

Community Management Tips Learned from CMX Summit

The first ever CMX Summit was held in San Francisco. It’s “a new event bringing together the world’s greatest community minds to share unique perspectives, experiences and ideas all around community building.”

The event included a full day of captivating talks from community management experts. And as you’d expect when a group like this assembles, there was a lot community building among the participants. Let’s take a look at some community management tips that I took away from attending this event.

The Importance of Building Trust

Community managers should understand how the mind works. By understanding how to inspire trust, you can motivate community members to take actions aligned to the goals of your community.

Robin Dreeke

Robin Dreeke, photo courtesy of CMX Summit.

Look no further than the head of the FBI behavioral analysis program to help show you the way. Robin Dreeke ( @rdreeke) is a behavioral and rapport building expert (at the FBI) and author of the book “It’s Not All About Me: The Top Ten Techniques for Building Quick Rapport with Anyone” (here’s the link to the book on Amazon ).

With regard to community members, it’s pretty simple:

  1. Understand what they want
  2. Help them achieve it

Community Management Tip:

“It’s not all about me” is a perfect mindset for community managers . It’s not about you (the community manager) and it’s not about the community. It’s about “them” (your members). Have a single-minded focus on helping them. Your members will begin to trust the community manager, then the larger community, then your organization’s brand. Help them first and then they’ll help you.

Read the summary at The Community Manager:

Why Should They? Trust Strategies for Every Situation (by Ashley Hayes)

Build Your Community Around Rituals

Emily Castor

Emily Castor, photo courtesy of CMX Summit.

You’ve probably heard of Lyft, especially if you live in the Bay Area. Lyft is a popular ride-sharing service that’s grown its business via community building. In an article published by TechCrunch , Lyft co-founder John Zimmer said, “Building community is what drives me and makes me so happy to work on this.”

Emily Castor is Director of Community Relations at Lyft. She presented the Lyft story, which revolves around its community and the rituals that have emerged within it. Castor noted the importance of the pink mustache that’s attached to the front of drivers’ cars (side note: it’s intentionally shaped in the form of a smile).

Riders are invited to sit in the front seat. This alters the nature of the driver/rider relationship . It’s no longer vendor/customer: instead, it’s simply two people having a conversation on the way to a destination. Lyft drivers give a fist bump (to riders) to thank them at the conclusion of a ride.

These rituals help shape Lyft’s customer experience. In turn, it helps shape their brand and makes their brand unique.

Community Management Tip:

For online communities, seek and encourage similar rituals. Rather than be creator of those rituals, be the sponsor. #FollowFriday is a ritual that emerged on Twitter. What if your community started something similar?

Read the summary at The Community Manager:

Crafting a Self-Sustaining Community Culture: The Power of Ritual, Purpose, and Shared Identity (by Ashley McGregor Dey)

To Build a Sustainable Community, Have a Firm Foundation

Ligaya Tichy

Ligaya Tichy, photo courtesy of CMX Summit.

Ligaya Tichy provided community management insights learned from managing communities for Yelp, Airbnb and others. Oftentimes, community managers like to get deep into the trenches with tactics, metrics and the like, before taking a look at the big picture.

And that was my biggest takeaway from Tichy’s talk: focus on the key pillars of any community:

  1. Learning
  2. Play
  3. Support

Community Management Tip:

At the end of each week, assess the activities in your online community that week . Did you help members learn something new? Did you afford them the opportunity to have some fun? And finally, were they able to get answers to their questions, or resolutions to their issues? If you do this exercise weekly, then take action to address any shortfalls, your community will be the better for it.

Side note: there’s a fourth pillar I’d add, which is “recognition.” Being recognized (within a community of your peers) helps build a sense of reward, which creates tighter bonds within the community.

Read the summary at The Community Manager:

The Evolution of Communities – Social Design and Key Metrics for Every Stage (by Ashley Hayes)

Connect Individually with Community Members

Ellen Leanse

Ellen Leanse, photo courtesy of CMX Summit.

During the 1980’s, Ellen Leanse was a user evangelist for Apple and founder of the Apple User Group Connection. In other words, Ellen was a community manager before the term was coined. On her first day on the job, Ellen received a stack of papers well over two feet high. They were letters from angry customers.

Ellen jumped right in and started calling them. One of the customers Ellen called was Dave Lavery, a NASA scientist who would later play a significant role in the creation of the Mars Rover. Not only did Ellen address Lavery’s issue, but she continued to check in from time to time. “ It’s important to stay in touch,” Leanse said in her talk.

Community Management Tip:

This tip is taken directly from Leanse’s talk: each week, pick up the phone and call 3-5+ community members. Ask them how things are going and how you can make their participation more useful. You’re guaranteed to have a positive ROI from these calls.

Read the summary at The Community Manager:

Lessons from the History of Communities – Why They Matter Today and Tomorrow (by Ashley Hayes)


The first ever CMX Summit was splendid. If you were there, perhaps you had similar takeaways as mine. If you weren’t there, I hope you’re able to apply some of these tips in your own communities.

Community Management Blog Series

community management blog series

Colleague Clint Patterson published a great blog series on how to create sustained engagement in online communities. Check out Part 1 of Clint’s series, where you’ll find links to Parts 2 and 3.

How Mark Schaefer Made a Splash with Content Shock (And What You Can Learn From Him)

January 29, 2014

This post was originally published on the DNN Software blog.

Insights for Content Marketers

I consider 2014 “The Year of Content Shock and The Conversation that Ensued.” Mark Schaefer is Executive Director at Schaefer Marketing Solutions, where he provides marketing consultation to businesses. He’s the author of the {grow} blog, along with a number of books.

Photo: Mark Schaefer on Twitter (@markwschaefer)

Shortly after the New Year, Schaefer published a blog post, “Content Shock: Why content marketing is not a sustainable strategy.” The post received 400+ comments, along with thousands of tweets and hundreds of articles. This week, Schaefer followed up with a new blog post to address all of the dissenting opinions.

My Quick Take on Content Shock

Content Shock
Image via Mark Schaefer.

Too many dissenters took a “black and white” view of Schaefer’s piece. Either content shock will doom us all or it won’t. In fact, this was my original interpretation. As Schaefer’s follow-on piece notes, however, we don’t live in a world of absolutes – there’s grey matter in between the black and white.

As a content marketer for a “small” brand, you’re not doomed to hopeless failure. In fact, if you’re a small fish in a big pond, Schaefer prescribes the following:

“If you are facing a possibility of content saturation in your market, you need to be thinking of ways to change the game.”

Mark Schaefer’s Winning Formula

Mark Schaefer
Image via Schaefer Marketing Solutions.

Schaefer Marketing Solutions operates in a highly crowded space. First, consider their direct competition: individuals and agencies who offer similar consulting services. They’re blogging and publishing books, too. On the agency side, there are hundreds (if not thousands) of agencies with far bigger budgets.

Next, consider the “indirect competition” – the rest of us who are publishing related content. Whether it’s social media marketing or content marketing, Schaefer competes with HubSpot, Marketo and KISSmetrics for attention and readership. It’s not a zero sum game, but it’s competition nonetheless.

So with the two blog posts alone, let’s consider how Schaefer combats content shock for his own business.

Find a Timely Topic

While some trace “content marketing” back to the age of cavemen, it’s hard to avoid the fact that the discipline and the term are getting a lot of buzz in 2014 (and, earlier in 2013). We’re all talking about “content marketing” – but more importantly, brands are putting serious dollars behind it. I’ve worked with journalists in past jobs and many of them (today) are heading up content marketing at B2B brands. So January 2014 was a good time to introduce “content shock.”

Take a Well-Reasoned Stand

Taking a stand garners attention. Taking a well-reasoned stand gets attention, but also drives dialog and conversation. If you wrote a blog post about “Why World Peace is Overrated,” you’re taking a stand, but you’ve lost credibility with most people in the title alone. Schaefer presented a well-reasoned argument that combined with a timely topic and a little controversy, generated a firestorm.

Side note: a search on Google shows that the original Content Shock piece has 12,500 inbound links pointing to it!

Be Open, Inviting and Genuine in Your Interactions

If he had enough time in the day, I bet Mark Schaefer would reply to every single blog comment and every single tweet. If you look at his blog posts, he gets rather close to doing just that. It takes a lot of time for Schaefer to respond to people.

blog comment

But consider his competition: other marketers, agencies and vendors like Marketo and HubSpot. They might have bigger budgets than Schaefer, but some of them do NOT interact as much – or if they do, they don’t do it in the inviting and genuine style of Schaefer.

Advantage: Schaefer.

To combat content shock: having a plan in place to genuinely engage with the readers of the content you produce. Schaefer, “predicted” all of this (in a sense) with an earlier post  that he published, “How to beat Hubspot at its own game.”

Follow Up

Sometimes, it’s not enough to reply to comments and engage with your readers (and dissenters). If you were fortunate enough to have your content spark a conversation, then take the time to carefully review all of the input (both in favor and in opposition of your stance) and follow up. Your follow-up should summarize the dialog, then provide your response. Just like Schaefer did.


So how can smaller fish survive in the larger content pond? Consider what Mark Schaefer did:

  1. Find a Timely Topic
  2. Take a Well-Reasoned Stand
  3. Be Open, Inviting and Genuine in Your Interactions
  4. Follow Up

What are you waiting for? Go do it!


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