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Let’s Hangout, Then Share Our Conversation with the World

July 21, 2012

Introduction

I’ve met neither Heidi Thorne (@heidithorne) nor Marti Konstant (@martikonstant) in person. I’ve known Heidi for quite some time (via Twitter) and earlier this week, she introduced me to Marti. It’s the sort of thing that I wrote about previously – how magical social media can be in forging new connections.

Here’s the sequence of events:

  1. I met Heidi (via Twitter) – several years ago.
  2. We followed (Twitter) and circled (Google+) each other.
  3. I caught up with Heidi (via Skype) – this week.
  4. Heidi introduced me to Marti (via Twitter), because she saw a similar background and set of interests (between Marti and me).
  5. Marti and I followed (Twitter) and circled (Google+) each other.
  6. Marti invited me to be interviewed in her Marketing Hack Chat (#marketinghack) on Google+.

Looking back on this sequence, I found it interesting that these connections and conversations occurred via Twitter, Google+, Skype and Google+ Hangouts. What was absent? Phones, emails and automobiles.

Marketing Hack Chats

I wanted to further highlight these Marketing Hack Chats that Marti has put together. You can view these on Marti’s Google+ Page and on her YouTube Channel. Let’s cover some reasons I find Marti’s chats appealing.

Simple Logistics: Video at the Speed of a Mouse Click

Marti’s own marketing hack involves the use of the “Hangouts On Air” feature, which live streams the interview to YouTube, but also records the session, for on-demand playback on YouTube – and in embedded players, such as Marti’s Google+ page.

The video logistics are super simple and so is the publishing process. In fact, there’s no “process,” as Marti can publish the “finished product” to her Google+ page instantly. In addition, the video becomes available for viewing (and search) on YouTube at the same time.

How’s this for efficiency: I joined Marti’s Hangout at 12PM PT and the video was published on her Google+ page a mere 22 minutes later. Nice.

Cost Effectiveness

With Google+ Hangouts, Marti doesn’t have to worry about a video studio, a video crew, editing software or purchasing mass amounts of storage. As you’ll see in these videos, Marti records them from home, with a staff of one (herself).

So, assuming Marti already had a computer, webcam, broadband line, etc., then her incremental cost for the Marketing Hack Chat is ZERO. She plans to interview and record 20-30+ marketing professionals from all over the world. Where else (besides social media and social technologies) can all of this be coordinated and executed at a cost of zero?

Now, of course, by “cost,” I mean hard costs. There is the time and energy required (by Marti) to network with marketers, recruit speakers, prepare for the interviews, hold the interviews, promote the videos, etc.

The Theme

Marti told me that the idea behind her program is to provide marketers with actionable advice that they can use right away. I love this principle. As a marketer herself, Marti is finding a great recipe to connect with other marketers:

  1. Advice from peers “in the trenches.”
  2. Video as the delivery mechanism.
  3. Useful information (a “hack”) that can be put to use right away.
  4. Shorter is better (3-5 minute videos).
  5. A hash tag (#marketinghack) to further brand and promote the program

Conclusion

Thanks for having me on your program, Marti! I enjoyed chatting with you. I’m working my way through all of the marketing hacks and look forward to the subsequent interviews you’ll publish. And for those of you interested, you can view my hack below:

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Initial Impressions of Google+ Events and Hangouts

July 14, 2012

Introduction

I attended my first Google+ Event this week. It had no physical venue, taking place exclusively on Google+ and YouTube. The New York Times hosted the event. In the lead-up to the 2012 Olympics, the Times has been hosting Google+ Hangouts with Olympians. I came across the Hangouts while visiting the Times’ London 2012 Olympics page.

You can still check out the Google+ Events page. On that page, as well as on YouTube.com, you can view an on-demand video of the entire Hangout.

The Hangout was hosted by Ken Belson, a sports reporter from the New York Times and featured Shalane Flanagan (a U.S. marathon runner), Mary Wittenberg, (President of New York Road Runners) and Bob Sherman (a recreational runner, who’s completed 29 consecutive NYC Marathons).

I’d like to share my initial impressions of Google+ Events and Hangouts.

What I Liked

Logistics

As far as streaming technology goes, the Google+ Hangout experience (which broadcast via an embedded YouTube viewer) was quite good. The video picture was sharp and crisp. Google+ Hangouts auto-detect who’s speaking and switches the focus to that person.

These transitions worked so well that it reminded me of watching television (where there’s a human being controlling those switching decisions). As the host, Belson did a fine job of detecting ambient noise and asking whether a participant wanted to speak. He’d pause to ask, “did you want to jump in?”

Experimentation and Exploration

I commend the New York Times for exploring and experimenting with emerging technology. The Times has always been a primary news source for me, but the experience has revolved around articles, with occasional on-demand videos.

A live event brings an entirely new experience for Times’ readers. First, the event allows Times’ columnists (e.g. Ken Belson) to connect more closely to their readers. Second, readers can see and hear from personalities that otherwise would not have been possible (e.g. an Olympic athlete).

The use of emerging technology comes with some risk. For instance, at one point in the Hangout, Ms. Flanagan’s image froze, and then her presence dropped off completely. She re-joined a few minutes later and continued to field questions.

To me, that was completely fine. It’s a learning experience. The Times learned from this and we’ll all learn and evolve – I’m sure it was the same with television broadcasts in the early days. Let’s keep experimenting and exploring.

What I’d Like to See

The Times has done a great job of connecting U.S. Olympic athletes to its readers. And to start, it’s not surprising that they sought a controlled environment, with a host (Belson) who steered the conversation among the three guests.

As media outlets continue to use online (and social!) broadcasting tools, I’d like to see them take more advantage of the interactive and engagement capabilities that these platforms provide.

Stronger Connection from Audience to Guests

Users could post questions (for Ms. Flanagan) within the Google+ Events page and I noticed that a number of good questions had been submitted prior to the Hangout. In addition, during the Hangout, I noticed a number of comments and questions posted.

While Belson did pose a user-submitted question to Flanagan, it was from “a reader,” rather than a question posted within the activity stream. In the future, I’d love to see more questions selected directly from the social platform, with guests actively reviewing and commenting on thoughts posted by viewers.

A More Active Role for Audience Members

I’m sure the Google+ Team is busy at work on product features to support a more complete Google+ Events and Hangout experience. Beyond the existing commenting system, I’d like to see more tools for users to provide feedback and to collaborate with one another.

In addition, audience members should have the opportunity to help steer the direction of the conversation. How about integrating Google Moderator to allow audience members to read and vote on the submitted questions?

Conclusion

While I concluded my first Google+ Event wanting a bit more (interactivity-wise), I commend the Times for what they’ve done. There’s something about a Hangout (compared to a TV interview, for instance) that puts you closer to an Olympic athlete. You hear about their diet and their training regimen, all with the intimacy of seeing them from their laptop’s webcam.

I look forward to subsequent Hangouts. And to Shalane Flanagan, best of luck in London!


5 Reasons Google Plus May Be the Social Network of the Future

February 20, 2012

Photo credit: birgerking on flickr.

Add me to your Google+ Circles: http://gplus.to/dshiao

Introduction

No, Google+ will not be displacing Facebook any time soon. However, the Circles component of Google+ is the “killer app” that, in my mind at least, is a game changer.

Previously, I provided tips on how to organize your Google+ Circles. Organizing my Circles made Google+ so much more effective for me. That’s led me to wonder whether Circles could propel Google+ into a leadership position among the major social networks. Let me list five reasons.

1) Topically Focused Social Surfing.

Facebook and Twitter have conditioned us to peruse streams. Whether it’s our Twitter stream or our Facebook Newsfeed, we’re used to browsing through a set of tweets and updates that are not connected by topic or theme. Google+ Circles, if organized well (by you), changes things.

I’ve created Circles around selected topics, which means that when I select my “Event Profs” Circle, I know up front that most of the posts will be about event and meeting planning. This allows me to surf my social streams topically – and I find that to be very powerful.

On Twitter, I could follow the #eventprofs hash tag – or, I could create a Twitter List comprised of EventProfs folks. But for me, the Circle approach is the best solution. Not only is my Circle private (unlike a Twitter List), but I can also publish to selected Circles, rather than to all of my followers. I find this “bi-directional management” (consumption plus publishing) quite elegant.

2) Time-Segmented Social Surfing.

Let’s say you have 15 minutes to surf your social streams. That’s not enough time to get caught up with everything. If you’ve organized your Circles well, you can now surf 1-2 Circles, saving the rest for later in the day (or tomorrow).

You don’t quite have the same flexibility on Twitter and Facebook, since they’re organized around a more holistic stream. If I go half a day without checking Twitter, I don’t go back to try to consume the tweets I missed. Instead, I peruse through recent tweets to see what’s going on – and as a result, I’ve permanently missed the earlier tweets.

Facebook addresses this by retaining active posts (those that received a lot of Likes and Comments) in my Newsfeed, as a way of saying “you ought to check this out.” With Google+, I can simply check one Circle for those 15 minutes, then check my other Circles later in the day. And the result is that I’ve missed a lot less.

3) Continual Segmenting.

Louis Gray posted a neat tip about searching within your Circles. Let’s say I’m learning about HTML5. I could search for mentions of “HTML5” within my Circles. The search results will show users in my Circles that have mentioned HTML5. I can then create a new Circle (e.g. called “HTML5”) and add them to my new Circle. In this way, I can continually refine and further curate my Circles, making the service more and more effective (to me).

4) Search, plus Your World.

It’s the elephant in the room for your corporate or personal brand. With Search, plus Your World, Google is incorporating content from Google+, from users whom you’ve added to your Circles. While some have criticized Google for not including results from other social networks, the impact is clear: being present and active on Google+ is now part of your search engine optimization (SEO) strategy. And that alone, will cause brands (including personal brands) to sign on.

5) One Size Could Fit All.

With Circles, Google+ may be the only social network that allows you to combine business and personal use simultaneously. While many prefer to segment their social media use across distinct services (e.g. Facebook for friends/family and LinkedIn for work), Google+ gives you the ability to manage this segmentation in a single application.

You can create Circles for your business interests, your hobbies, your friends and your family. From there, you can segment your social surfing (as discussed above) and segment your (outbound) sharing.

Conclusion

Having said all that, I understand that to become the “social network of the future,” Google+ needs to get Mom and Dad using the service (instead of Facebook). And frankly, many of the points I’ve made (above) don’t apply to Mom and Dad.

So time will tell how well Google+ is able to capture the Mom and Dad audience. In the meantime, I’m happy to continue with my topic and time-segmented social surfing.

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5 Tips for Organizing Your Google+ Circles

February 6, 2012

My Google+ Profile: http://gplus.to/dshiao

Introduction

Want to get the most of Google+? It’s all about the Circles. I’ve been using Google+ for a number of months; however, it wasn’t until recently that I made the investment in time to organize my Circles properly. Having done that, however, I can state with confidence that it was more than worth the time. Here are five tips on organizing your own Circles.

1) Prioritize to Organize.

It’s best to “get organized” when you first start using Google+ (e.g. when you add your first batches of users to your Circles). Since I’m used to the “full stream” on Twitter (where I’ve been similarly lax on organizing), I figured that I’d simply add all new Google+ users into a single Circle. For a while, this seemed fine. But the reality is, there are some users I’d like to hear from more than others (just like on Twitter).

And Circle management helps you do just that. First, define the categories or topics you’d like to organize around. I went with the following:

Event Profs
Social Media
Digital Book Club
VCs & Execs
12Most
VWs & Gamification
Brands
Friends
Misc
Sports

Since I organized late in the game, I worked backwards to create some Circles. If you’re starting out early, you’ll have less work to do on organizing people, but you may find the need to create new Circles as you go (which is completely fine).

2) Order Your Circles.

Did you know that you can define the order that your Circles are listed? Simply visit your Circles page (you can click on the “Circles” icon in your Google+ navigation), left-click on a given Circle, then drag it in front of (or behind) another Circle. Return to your Google+ home page and you’ll notice that the list of Circles has been re-ordered.

3) Tune Your Stream.

The default view in your Google+ home page is “Stream,” which is a combination of all your Circles. You can “tune” which Circles appear most/least in the “Stream.” Simply click on a Circle, then adjust the “tuner settings” left (least) or right (most). What I like to do, however, is glance briefly at “Stream,” then navigate directly to individual Circles.

4) Find Shared Circles.

In my list of Circles (above), you’ll notice one called “12Most.” This Circle was created by +Peggy Fitzpatrick of 12Most.com. Peggy created a Circle of all 12Most authors and contributors, then shared it with the Circle members. I added the shared Circle and now I’m able to conveniently view a Google+ stream from authors at 12Most. Be on the lookout for users who share their Circles.

5) Share Content Wisely.

Once you’ve organized your Circles, sharing content becomes more efficient. I may share event planning links with my Event Profs Circle, while sharing the latest Mashable article with my Social Media Circle.

Similarly, a picture of my dessert may be best shared with “Friends” and not “Social Media.” Finally, note that users in your Circle will only see content you share (with that Circle) if those same users have added you to their Circles.

Conclusion

Putting in the time and effort to organize your Google+ Circles is well worth it. Start organizing up front and you’ll have less to do over the long term. Use the Comments section below to let us know your tips for organizing Circles.

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5 Tips for Hosting Google+ Hangouts

January 30, 2012

My Google+ Profile: http://gplus.to/dshiao

Introduction

A bunch of us started a digital book club. On a regular basis (well, soon to be a regular basis), we meet via Google+ Hangouts. We recently held our first meeting, for which I was the host of the Hangout. I learned a lot from my first Hangout, so I thought I’d share these five tips.

1) Do a dry run in advance.

Another way of saying this is, “when hosting your first Hangout, don’t enter the Hangout five minutes prior to the start.” Similar to hosting a webinar, you need a dry run prior to the “live date.” I discovered that one browser crashed [perhaps I need to install the latest version], while on another browser, the Google Talk plugin seemed to consume 100% of my CPU, rendering my laptop (and the Hangout itself) unusable. I ended up moving to a better equipped laptop, but in shutting down the Hangout, it bumped everyone else out.

2) Have a backup host.

In the off-chance that you experience technical difficulties, have a designated “backup host” who can fire up a new Hangout. You know how some events publish a “rain date” in advance? Do the same with your Hangout and let your target audience know about your backup host (e.g. “for any technical difficulties, be sure to join a new Hangout that <BACKUP> will create”).

3) Create a Circle of your Hangout’s participants.

In the case of our book club, we asked interested people to “opt in” to our club. Once they did, I added them to a Google+ Circle that I created. I then “shared” the Circle with its members, allowing them to conveniently add the same Circle to their Google+ account. The Circle makes it easy to invite “members” to the Hangout – when the Hangout begins, you can invite the members of the Circle to join.

4) Encourage use of the “Chat” tab.

Text chat can add an entirely new dimension to a multi-party conversation. While one person is making a good point, others can write “Thumbs up!” in the chat area. Or, they can provide a related comment, or perhaps a hyperlink to a relevant article. In this way, the chat creates “more bandwidth” within the Hangout, without the “overhead” of switching from one speaker to another.

5) Set expectations in advance.

Participants in your Hangout ought to have a clear expectation of the agenda and flow. If you want to have 30 minutes of completely free form discussion, state that up front. For our book club, I created an agenda that included introductions, discussion points and a wrap up. Of course, I didn’t do my dry run, so my first Hangout didn’t follow the agenda as outlined.

Conclusion

My first Google+ Hangout was a lot of fun. They happen to be a great tool for digital book clubs. Use the comments area below to let us know your tips for hosting Hangouts.

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