How Social Media is Similar (and Different) to Swimming

June 22, 2012


I learned to swim in pre-school and continued with swimming lessons during my elementary school years. Besides wading in the water during pool parties, my swimming skills went largely unused for some time. Interestingly, to obtain my undergraduate degree, I was required to pass a basic swim test. So those early lessons helped me complete my education.

Recently, I supplemented my exercise routine by doing lap swimming at the local pool. It was there that I observed similarities (and differences!) between swimming and social media.


It Works Out Every Part of Your Body

While I run more often than I swim, I find that swimming exercises far more parts of my body than running. After a long run, I may “feel it” in my legs and calves. After swimming many laps, I “feel it” all over.

I compare this to marketers’ use of social media. Effective social media marketing “exercises” many key ingredients of marketing:

  1. Understanding your market.
  2. Understanding your target audience.
  3. Curating content.
  4. Sharing and publishing content.
  5. Crafting the right messaging at the right time.
  6. Engaging with your target audience.
  7. Generating demand for your products and services.

Marketers who utilize social media marketing, then, are bound to stay in great shape.

Must Keep Moving to Stay Afloat

To stay afloat in the water, you need to move your arms and legs. But just staying afloat means that you’re not getting anywhere. It’s similar with social media: you need to maintain constant activity in order to feel like you’re getting somewhere.

If you launched a blog, but haven’t updated it in 4 months, then it’s basically under water. Users visiting a “non-current” blog are unlikely to subscribe to its RSS link. If you started a Twitter account, but haven’t tweeted in 2 months, then you may need a lifejacket.

The Hardest Part is Getting Your Face Wet

Sometimes, the hardest part about an activity is taking the first step. When I took my first swimming lesson, my biggest fears were (a) getting in the water and then (b) putting my face in the water.

With social media, the hardest step can be taking that first step. But once you sign up for that first account and get acclimated to the features and customs of the service, you may find that things start to come naturally – similar to how you quickly progressed from non-swimmer to beginner.

Play By the Rules

Whether it’s a pool or the beach, most swimming environments have a set of rules (e.g. no diving, no horseplay, etc.). If you violate the rules, you’ll be called out – and if you continue violating, you may be asked to leave.

In social media, the rules are less hard and fast. Instead, there are customs and acceptable behaviors, compared to defined rules. That being said, it’s similar to a pool: others will call you out if your behavior is unacceptable. And if your behavior is extreme, a service may ask you to leave by shutting down your account.

Jack of All Trades, Master of None

Photo credit: The Swim Channel’s Facebook page.

My best stroke happens to be the breast stroke. My current focus is to improve upon my freestyle. Not many of us can be Mark Spitz or Michael Phelps, all-time great swimmers who mastered a number of strokes.

Could you imagine if in swimming, new strokes were invented every week? Well, that’s what it feels like with social media. We all have a fixed amount of time to spend on social media, so it’s not practical to be a jack of all trades.

There’s Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram and many other social networks. Find a handful of services to focus your time and energy on. The gold medal records (for social media) can wait.


Don’t Need Hands-On Instruction

It’s nearly impossible for toddlers (or adults, for that matter) to learn swimming on their own. Typically, children start out with a series of private lessons – they learn how to put their face in the water, how to float and how to perform the basic strokes.

With social media, you can learn by doing. I started on Twitter way back in 2007. Initially, I had a hard time grasping exactly what to do, so I got help from more experienced users. After that initial period, however, I learned by doing.

No Lifeguard on Duty

At most pools and beaches, there’s a lifeguard on duty. If you’re not able to stay afloat, the lifeguard will dive into the water and save you. There’s no lifeguard on social media. By tweeting or posting the wrong thing at the wrong time, people have lost their jobs and caused relationships to end. Social media can turn celebrities into villains and saints into Satan. So tweet with care.

Social Media is More Quantitative

You may not know it, but social media is highly quantitative, with a set of game mechanics built in. There’s connections on LinkedIn, followers on Twitter, friends on Facebook. Number of retweets, number of Like’s, number of re-pins. And of course, there’s influence scores, such as Klout and Kred.

If you’re a competitive swimmer, you time your laps and count how many you do in a given workout. But most people go to the pool or beach simply to hang out in the water and cool off. And there’s really nothing quantitative related to doing that.

You Don’t Need to Stay in Your Own Lane

When swimming laps at the pool, you must stay in your own lane. In social media, the lanes have been removed and that’s the great thing about it. You’re free to wander across the entire pool, meeting and learning from new people. You can join Twitter chats, publish comments on a blog posting and join Google+ Hangouts. This exploring and discovery has helped me learn a lot about social media.


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10 Reasons Social Media Addicts Should Go Camping

May 31, 2012


I’m a borderline social media addict: I spend a lot of time tweeting, posting to Facebook, checking my Twitter interactions, pinning to Pinterest, adding people to Google+ Circles and, from time to time, checking my Klout score.

So when Memorial Day Weekend arrived, I was excited to go on a camping trip with family and friends. Not only would it be fun, I reasoned, but I’d get to spend a few days completely “off the grid” – no email, no Twitter, no Facebook. A complete loss of voice and data coverage, in fact!

Along the way, I found many benefits on the camping trip. If you’re a borderline (or full) social media addict, you should consider a camping trip this summer. Here’s why.

1) Teaches you to manage scarce resources.

During our “everyday lives,” we take many things for granted. We often assume unlimited resources: the heat can stay on all night, we can microwave leftovers any time we’d like and if our fridge is empty, we can run out to the convenience store, any time of night.

On a campground, however, it’s clear that your resources are limited and scarce. You’ve only brought along so much firewood, ice and supplies. You have no electrical outlets. And the fire only burns so long – and you can’t bring it into the tent with you!

The result? You learn (quickly) how to efficiently manage the resources available to you.

2) Gets you off the grid.

With widespread 3G/4G coverage and WiFi available in most stores, restaurants and hotels, we’re never far from reach of phone calls, downloading email and sending status updates. We’re online all day long and when we turn out the lights to sleep, our blinking or glowing smartphones are often right next to us. It was actually a pleasant departure to be completely off the grid for nearly 48 hours.

3) Teaches you to find creative solutions.

In the picture above, the item on the right looks like a hearty chicken drumstick. Wrong! It’s dough. We discovered some online articles (before we left) on how to make biscuits on a campfire. We used biscuit dough, browned them thoroughly over the flame, then dipped them in melted butter, cinnamon and sugar.

While walking along a stream, we met another group who was fishing for crawfish. They found long, straight branches, affixed a strand of string, weighed the string down by tying on a rock, then attached bacon to the end of the string. They waited for crawfish to swim out from under rocks, then pulled them up when they went for the bacon.

4) Gives you face-to-face time for an extended period.

When spending time with family and friends, how often do we sneak a peek at our smartphones? There are times when I try not to, but invariably, I can’t resist the temptation to see how many unread emails I have waiting for me. Or, whether I have new interactions on Twitter.

And that’s the great thing with camping and being off the grid. You experience the outdoors with loved ones and there are no distractions pulling at you. You have everyone’s undivided attention and they have your’s. It was great.

5) Reminds you how to act responsibly within a community.

To be effective and respected in social media circles, you need to act responsibly and follow the “local” customs. A campground keeps you sharp on this front: no noise past 10pm, camp fires should be extinguished, etc. If you don’t act properly, you can affect the entire community (e.g. leaving a campfire unchecked).

6) Allows you to connect with nature.

It was great to be immersed in nature for an extended period of time. I walked through the woods and along streams. I skipped rocks through the water. The air was crisp and one morning, I awoke to the sounds of woodpeckers drilling a few holes into the trees above me.

7) Makes you appreciate what’s most important in life.

I got to spend significant quality time with family and friends. It made me realize that they are most important to me, far more than online friends, followers, tweets, retweets and Likes. If you feel like the pace of life has become overwhelming (to your family), a camping trip may be just the thing you need.

8) Makes you humble.

I got to sleep underneath tens (if not hundreds) of enormous redwood trees. When I’d stand at the bottom and look up, I could barely see the top of the tree. These trees, like other wonders of nature, make me feel humble. And feeling (and acting) humble is a good thing for interacting online in social media.

9) Makes you appreciate what you have.

With overnight temperatures in the 40’s, the sleeping environment was uncomfortably cold! I’d put on a ski jacket, then proceed to zip my sleeping back up to my neck. When I returned home, I had a renewed appreciation for my house: the heat, the stove, the shower, the TV. I swear that my first shower back home was one of the most enjoyable ever.

10) Makes you return with a new focus or perspective.

You may return with a new focus in life – or, your time away may lead you to develop a new focus or perspective on your social media activities. You could, like me, decide to blog about the experience. The respite from social media may be just what you needed.


In summary, consider going camping! Those of you who are regular campers may now consider me a wimp. But if you’ve never gone camping – or, you haven’t been in a while, take a break from our super-connected, 24-hour-news-cycle world and go pitch a tent in the woods!

Note: I invite you to connect with me on .

How Social Networks Facilitate Discovery and Engagement

May 24, 2012


Successful social networks rely on a combination of user growth and “stickiness” – discovering users, discovering content, connecting with users, and engaging with users and content. As I study some of the most successful social networks, I find that they use a common set of techniques to create and maintain this stickiness. Let’s take them one by one.

Second Degree Activity

“Second degree activity” refers to actions that your friends take within a social network.

The Quora home feed (pictured above) is a great example. When I login to Quora, my home feed does not display topics I’m interested in. Rather, it takes the set of users that I’m following on Quora and lists the actions they’re taking (e.g. “following a question,” “voted up,” “commented,” etc.).

The concept: if I’m following someone, then I’m interested in what they think and do. If they’ve published a comment, then I may want to read it (“what they think”) and if they’ve voted up an answer, then I may want to check it out (“what they do”).

Other examples of second degree activity include:

  1. Twitter’s Activity tab, which can be found on by visiting Discover -> Activity. For folks you’re following, it lists actions that they’re taking: follows, favorites, addition to lists and more.
  2. LinkedIn’s Home feed, which lists new connections (made by your existing connections), status updates, profile updates and more.
  3. Facebook’s Newsfeed, which lists new friends (made your by your existing friends), Like’s (on friends of friends status updates) and more.

Featuring Popular Content

Pictured: The “Popular” tab in the mobile app Instagram.

Featuring popular content is an excellent stickiness tactic, as it provides proof to users that there’s great content to discover and consume. Popularity is democratic, in that it’s measured by the “votes” of the social network’s users (e.g. views, likes, comments, etc.).

That being said, “popularity begets more popularity,” which means that once content is marked popular, it tends to get more popular, at the (perhaps) disservice of similarly worthy content. You see this same phenomenon with “Most Popular” and “Most Emailed” lists on many online news sites.

Examples of featuring popular content include:

  1. Instagram’s “Popular” tab.
  2. Pinterest has a “Popular” tab that lists popular pins.
  3. Google+ has an “Explore” tab that reads “Explore What’s Hot on Google”.
  4. Facebook posts receiving a high degree of engagement get “pinned” to the top of your Newsfeed.


Pictured: “Who to follow” on Twitter.

Amazon was an innovator in algorithmic recommendations, with its “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought…” LinkedIn, for some time, has had a similar feature, “People You May Know,” which is listed prominently in the upper right corner of the LinkedIn home page.

In addition to recommending other users, social networks have begun to recommend content. The thought behind this, of course, is the more interesting content you find, the longer you’ll stay.

Examples of User Recommendations

  1. Twitter’s “Who to follow” tab.
  2. Twitter’s “Browse categories” tab, which provides curated lists of Twitter users within particular categories. Here’s the category list for Technology:!/who_to_follow/interests/technology
  3. LinkedIn’s “People You May Know.”
  4. Google+ lists people “You Might Like” on its “Explore” page.

Examples of Content Recommendations

  1. Twitter’s Discover tab, which lists a series of “Stories.”
  2. Twitter’s Trending Topics – an innovative feature that is particularly unique to Twitter.
  3. LinkedIn TODAY, “The day’s top news, tailored for you.” – visible in the top area of your LinkedIn home page.
  4. Facebook’s “Recommended Pages.”

Email Notifications

It seems we’ve been writing off email for years. The rise of social media has brought into question whether email is still relevant. Well, it is. Despite claims to the contrary, we continue to be dependent upon our inbox.

In fact, I consider email to be “the glue” that connects (and returns you) to your assorted social networks. Email helps inform you of activities that occurred on a social network – and, it provides reminders for you to return.

Examples of email notifications:

  1. New followers or connections.
  2. A mention (of you) by other user(s).
  3. Getting tagged in an uploaded photo.
  4. A new comment or “like” to a post that you’ve liked.
  5. Follow-up comments to a comment you left – this is particularly useful on blogs, as well as discussions within LinkedIn Groups.
  6. Direct or private communications from a particular user.

Full-Mesh Communities

Pictured: The home feed on Nextdoor.

Nextdoor is a neighborhood-based social network that was recently profiled in The New York Times. There’s a Nextdoor community in my neighborhood (The Highlands in San Mateo), for which I’m a member. Nextdoor uses a “full-mesh model,” (my term) in which everyone “follows” everyone else by default. The newsfeed on your home page, in fact, displays posts from everyone.

There’s an absence of a follow/follower model altogether. If the size of a community is manageable (i.e. the number of members is at or below the Dunbar Number), then this full mesh model is ideal:

  1. It “removes friction” for establishing connections. I don’t have to worry about whom to follow, since the system’s done that for me.
  2. It “removes the risk” of my missing an important post because I’m not following the poster.
  3. It allows for “everyone to know everything,” and I think that’s completely fine in an online community based on your neighborhood.

I think the full mesh model is well suited to the online communities of small to medium sized businesses (i.e. for tools like Chatter, Yammer and Jive).

In a small business, I’d argue that similar to Nextdoor, everyone should know everything – and of course, private groups are always an option for things like compensation and employee reviews.


A quick recap of what we’ve discussed:

  1. The more (and better) social networks can recommend users and content, the stronger they’ll be.
  2. Second degree activity is an effective way to promote both users and content.
  3. Popularity and recommendations are additional avenues for discovering users and content.
  4. Email is the glue that ties your social networks together and keeps you coming back.
  5. Full mesh networks can be effective for particular use cases.


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Harness the Power of Your Personal Brand

May 17, 2012


In 2006, TIME magazine declared “You” their Person of the Year. TIME’s selection was based on the rise of YouTube and other social web sites that allowed individuals to become publishers. TIME’s cover concluded, “You control the Information Age. Welcome to your world.”

Some six years later, we have even more tools to publish, interact and discover. Facebook is approaching 1 billion global users, while the past 12 months has seen the rise of Instagram and Pinterest, to name a few.

In the midst of your status updates, posts, blog comments and photo uploads, I think there’s a larger meaning (and value) that you can achieve: migrating from simply “You” to “Your Personal Brand.” Let me explain.

Brand Around Your Passions

When I speak about personal branding, people often ask, “just where do I start?” I encourage people to identify their passions. For me, it’s sports, social media and virtual events! For others, it might be food, wine or art. Your personal brand has the highest potential when it’s based around your passions.

Personal Brand Benefits: PASSION

Now, let’s consider the benefits of your personal brand. I use the acronym PASSION. Let’s take them one by one.


Whether you’ve been at your current job for 20 years or 20 months, as an “at will employee,” you can be asked to leave tomorrow. Your personal brand, however, has guaranteed possession. No one can take it away from you – it’s your’s for the rest of your life.


An annuity is defined as “a specified income payable at stated intervals for a fixed or a contingent period, often for the recipient’s life.” As you manage and grow your personal brand, it routinely “pays you income” in the form of recognition, authority, presence and “real” income (if you so desire).

It’s important to realize, however, that while your personal brand’s annuity pays out over time, it’s an investment that must be actively managed to guarantee continued payout. It’s a bit more involved than a conventional annuity: it’s more like a mortgage, in the sense that you need to “pay back” (contribute) each month (or each day!).

I love the part about “for the recipient’s life” in the definition, because it ties back to Possession: the annuity, like your personal brand, is your’s for life.


Most businesses think and talk a great deal about “Search Engine Optimization” (SEO). It’s critical for your web site(s) to “get found” when potential customers are searching online. As you construct and develop your personal brand, a natural benefit is “searchability,” or the ability to “get found.”

In a 2008 blog post titled “Downsized? Fired? Here are the new rules of finding a job,” David Meerman Scott (@dmscott) tells us about Heather Hamilton, who describes herself as “Microsoft Employee Evangelist, Quasi-Marketer and Truth-Teller.” Hamilton performs an inverse of the typical job search process. Instead of posting a job description and receiving resumes, she proactively searches the web. As Meerman Scott writes, “So if you’re not publishing, you won’t be found by Microsoft.”

[As a side note, the above blog post by Meerman Scott is singularly responsible for the start of my own personal brand.]

As you join new social networks, it’s critical that you fully populate your profile there. This is a critical first step in establishing your personal brand. On LinkedIn, for instance, ensure that your profile is 100% complete. Don’t settle for 95%, make sure it’s a full 100%.

As you gain a presence across different parts of the web, be sure to “cross link” your presences within your social profiles. For instance, on my Twitter profile page, I link to this blog and to my book on Amazon. You’ll also notice that on this blog, I cross-link to many other “personally branded presences” on the right side of the page.

Now, let’s return to Heather Hamilton. If you’ve published content related to Hamilton’s search terms, then the following may appear in Hamilton’s search results:

  1. Your blog.
  2. Your LinkedIn profile.
  3. Your Twitter profile or a recent tweet.
  4. Your answer on Quora or
  5. An eBook that you published on your blog.
  6. An article in which you were quoted.

So in conclusion, the more you invest in your personal brand, the more visible you can be. And with more visibility comes more chances of others finding you.

Sense of Self

By “sense of self,” what I mean is that you learn about yourself as you build your personal brand! I’ve been blogging since 2008. It’s helped highlight (for me) my passions, my strengths and my weaknesses. In a post about her own blogging journey, Amber Naslund (@AmberCadabra) writes, “One of my favorite quotes is from the writer Joan Didion, who once said ‘I write to discover what I think.’”

As I became active on Twitter and LinkedIn, I discovered something about myself that otherwise wouldn’t have been obvious: I love to find, meet and connect with others. Twitter has been amazing in its ability to find and follow others, share thoughts and ideas and get to thoroughly know (in my mind) someone I’ve never met in person. This discovery has led me to consider ways in which I can continue this “connecting” in offline settings, as well.


While your personal brand should align with your passions, going niche (vs. broad) gives you a lot of advantages. Building a personal brand around “technology” is challenging. Go a step deeper, based on what interests you. Consider “social web technology” or better yet, “social and mobile web technology.”

My personal brand focuses on virtual events and social media. The social media part is challenging, in the sense that many, many others are more knowledgeable than me. The virtual events realm is smaller and more focused, so there’s more of an opportunity to build an identity around it.

By “identity,” I mean that your personal brand comes to be known for something. My personal brand is closely tied to virtual events – I suppose the name of this blog says it all.


Having a personal brand helps you set objectives around it. For some, it can be as basic as “continue to grow the brand.” For others, it might revolve around Twitter followers, a Klout score or page views on your blog. Yet others may seek to parlay their personal brand into a new job in a new industry. Your personal brand will evolve over time and objectives are there to help guide you.


Based on your employment history (or your small business), many of you have amassed a “network” of connections on LinkedIn. A personal brand allows you to significantly extend that network. Via social networks, your blog, comments on other blogs, guest posts on other blogs and articles submitted to publications, you can meet and engage with new people.

It can all start with a single Twitter hash tag. On Twitter, there’s a vibrant community of event professionals who gather around the hash tag #eventprofs. By simply reading, responding and re-tweeting (via this hash tag) over the years, I’ve gotten to know lots of event professionals that I otherwise would not have “met.”

Many #eventprofs are sole practitioners or run a small event business. So personal branding is critical to them, as their personal brand and their business’ brand are one and the same. In addition to the “#eventprofs network, I’m part of many others, including the networks on Quora,, Instagram and Pinterest.

Actively engaging in networks helps raise the visibility of your personal brand and brings with it annuity, searchability and many other benefits.


Got a passion? Then put some PASSION around your passion. Developing your personal brand can lead to business opportunities, speaking gigs, fame and fortune. Why not get started today?

Related Links

  1. Blog Post: 7 Tips for Building Your Personal Brand Online 
  2. Slides: How to Build Your Personal Brand and Advance Your Career with Social Media

Note: I invite you to connect with me on .

New Book: 42 Rules of Product Marketing

April 2, 2012

Book: 42 Rules of Product Marketing


A great new product marketing book has been published. It’s called “24 Rules of Product Marketing,” and it was assembled by Phil Burton, Gary Parker and Brian Lawley.

You get to hear from 42 product marketers, who share rules, tips and insights from the product marketing trenches. According to the listing at Amazon, “This book will expose you to the experience and knowledge of a group of the world’s leading product marketing experts with a range of perspectives in both consumer and business markets.”

In addition, the book includes some “bonus rules” from Phil, Gary and Brian.

My Top 10 Favorite Rules

Here are my Top 10 favorite rules from the book:

  1. Learn from Your Customers’ Digital Body Language
  2. Help Your Prospect Know “What’s In It For Me?”
  3. Make Your CFO a Social Media Fan
  4. Remember Your Internal Customers
  5. Use Online Metrics for Product Marketing Success
  6. Help Your Sales Team Communicate Your Message
  7. Always Test Your Message
  8. Speak in the Customer’s Language
  9. Turn Your Audience into Advocates
  10. Create Simple Messages for Complex Products

My Contribution

In the interest of disclosure, I contributed to the book. I authored Rule #10, “Make Social Media a Listening Platform.”

While product marketers can drive value (and results) by tweeting, posting to Facebook and uploading videos to YouTube, I suggested that we spend an equal amount of time listening.

I made the analogy that in any conversation, I learn more by listening than I do by speaking. Social media can provide an effective listening platform for market research, insights and pain points, that can all be used to inform you marketing language, launch plans and strategy.

You can purchase the book at Amazon:

Note: I invite you to connect with me on .

5 Ways, Tips, Things and Reasons on Virtual Events and Social Media

March 26, 2012


Regular readers (and pattern matchers) know that many of my 2012 posts have been lists of five. Continuing with my fondness for lists, I thought I’d make a list of lists. So without further ado, here are assorted “lists of five” posts that I recently published.


5 Ways to Get Started with Google Plus.
5 Tips for Organizing Your Google+ Circles.
5 Tips for Hosting Google+ Hangouts.
5 Reasons Google Plus May Be the Social Network of the Future.

As a special bonus, I’ve organized the four posts (above) into an eBook, which you can download here.


Top 5 Ways Virtual Events Are Like Football Games.
5 Ways Face-to-Face Events Are Like Family Reunions.
5 Hybrid Event Tips for Trade Associations.

Social Media

5 Things I’ve Learned About Pinterest.
5 Things Virtual Event Platforms Can Learn from Pinterest.
5 Reasons I’m Breaking Up With You, TweetDeck.
5 Reasons “Words With Friends” Is Awesome.

5 Reasons “Words With Friends” Is Awesome

March 19, 2012


While I may be late to the party, I recently started playing Words With Friends. While the game can create some interesting situations (e.g. I recently sat across from a friend at a café, as we silently traded turns from our smartphones – neither of us spoke a word to one another for quite some time!), it also has the power to connect long lost friends and discover new people who share a common interest.

It took me (and my family) 10 minutes before we were all hooked. Words With Friends is awesome. And here’s why.

1) It’s Universal.

You don’t have to be an English or language major to enjoy playing. In fact, words (and images, too) are the common language by which we share life’s experiences. While some games have difficulty crossing cultural boundaries, Words With Friends can be enjoyed in any language or culture. I’m interested to see whether Zynga expands usage of the game to other countries, languages and cultures.

2) It’s cross-platform.

You can play Words With Friends on iOS, Android and Facebook. In my household, we had games going across iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch among family members. And we also had contests going with friends, who were playing on Android phones and tablets. Several members of my parents’ generation are on Facebook (including my parents) – so I have the option of playing with them, too. And isn’t that an interesting statement in itself, where the major platforms include mobile operating systems and … FACEBOOK.

3) It’s cross-generational.

To my earlier point about word games being universal, I found it interesting that my daughter’s generation, who frequently use iPods and tablets, had an interest in playing the game with their parents. On a Saturday evening, my family had the following combination of games going on with another family (we were in our respective homes):

  1. Adults facing adults: 4 games.
  2. Adults facing kids: 2 games.
  3. Kids facing kids: 1 game.

So that’s seven simultaneous games across two families. Words With Friends is the new “Saturday night at the movies.”

4) It’s at a comfortable pace.

Unlike other games where there’s a “time and place,” the pace of Words With Friends is entirely dictated by the two players. And usually, that’s completely fine with both players. My “friend” could take 2 days to make a move, and I wouldn’t mind so much (though I may give him a call or send him a text message after 12 hours). Remember how excited you were to receive a new email, during the early days of email? I get the same excitement when I receive the “It’s your move” notification in this game.

5) It’s the “new social networking.”

While I’ll continue to enjoy reading people’s thoughts on Twitter and checking out friends’ purchases and song selections on Facebook, I think the “new social networking” is about shared experiences. What better a way to “network” with someone than to share the experience of word battles, which take place over the course of a day (or more).

Words With Friends has a convenient chat area, which means you can further share in the experience by passing compliments back and forth. Or, you can lament how the word “za” could be worth 31 points (and who even knew “za” was a word?). The “new social networking” is going to be less about status updates and more about in-experience updates.

Bonus reason: the new check-in (sort of).

I have ongoing Words With Friends contests with my wife. I often receive the “it’s your turn” notification (on my iPhone) during her commutes. In the morning when it’s my turn, I know that she’s safely boarded her commuter train. In the early evening when it’s my turn, I know that she’s on the way home. Isn’t that neat?


Thanks, Words With Friends, for the shared experiences you’ve enabled among family members and friends. To date, I’ve played with people that are geographically quite close to me. The real power, however, is staying with touch with people on the other side of the world through a shared experience.

And with that, I must be off – it’s my turn!

What Virtual Event Platforms Can Learn

March 12, 2012


If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then virtual event platforms may be well served by sending some flattery to social networks. This post is a compilation of past posts and looks at areas from which virtual event platforms can learn.

Social Networks

What virtual event platforms can learn from Pinterest.

What virtual event platforms can learn from Twitter

What virtual event platforms can learn from Facebook.

What virtual event platforms can learn from Quora, Groupon and FarmVille.


What virtual event platforms can learn from physical events.

What virtual event platforms can learn from the airline industry.

Virtual Exhibits

Photo credit: The Pug Father on flickr.

What virtual exhibits can learn from the Apple Store.

What virtual exhibits can learn from farmers markets.


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How to Use Social Media to Improve Your Products #prodmktg

March 7, 2012

Read the full post:


In my latest post for, I wrote about how product marketers and product managers can improve their offerings via social media. My post is titled “12 Most Powerful Ways to Use Social Media to Improve Your Products.”

The 12 Ways

My post covers the following 12 tips:

  1. Understand customer language and terms.
  2. Provide customer service.
  3. Crowdsource new features.
  4. Learn about the competition.
  5. Motivate internal teams.
  6. Share updates and roadmaps with the market.
  7. Ask for input and advice.
  8. Find and solicit beta testers.
  9. Host regular Twitter chats.
  10. Host a Google+ Hangout.
  11. Promote customer events.
  12. Vote for a product name or product feature.

To read all the details, visit the full post here:

5 Things I’ve Learned About Pinterest

March 5, 2012

Check out my Pinterest Boards:


Pinterest, an online pinboarding site, has gotten a fair share of press lately. In fact, TechCrunch shared exclusive data from comScore indicating that Pinterest hit the “10 million mark faster than any other standalone site in history.” Wow.

I’ve recently joined Pinterest, maintaining pin boards on Major League Baseball and social media, among other things. Based on my experience to date on the service, I thought I’d share five things I’ve learned about Pinterest.

1) Sharing Begets More Sharing.

I currently have 143 pins across 5 boards. Across those 143 pins, only 8 have received interactions, in the form of Likes, Comments or Repins. In some cases, those interactions were quite “strong” – a pin on Jeremy Lin received 24 Repins and 4 Likes. That being said, those 8 pins represent 5% of my total pins. This tells me that, while folks may visit and peruse my boards, the interactions stem from users seeing the pins on other users’ boards.

A few users Like and Repin a given pin, which then “promotes” that pin to their followers, who in turn share it with their followers. It’s not surprising, then, that a few pins receive the most attention and interaction.

Side note: it’s been reported that 80+% of Pinterest users are women. And it seems that the pins attracting interaction on my MLB Board (from women) are those of up and coming players, such as Mason Williams of the Yankees and Wes Timmons of the A’s.

2) Spend a Lazy Weekend Afternoon Shopping (Online).

Pinterest detects when you type a price into the description of a pin (e.g. “$100”) and overlays a price tag on top of the pin image (for example, this $5 Disney product). They then provide a “Gifts” option in the main navigation. When you click on “Gifts,” you’re able to select a price range (for instance, this $1-$20 set of gifts).

This is a neat way to browse through assorted shopping items curated by the Pinterest community. Beware, though. Another thing I learned is that Pinterest is inserting affiliate links in pins, which means that they may be earning money on the pins that you post.

3) The “Pin It” Button Makes All the Difference.

If you’re getting started, be sure to add the “Pin It” Button to your browser’s bookmarks bar. It made all the difference for me. When I first started, I’d find an interesting image, copy the URL, go to my Pinterest page, click “Add,” and paste the URL. Then, I’d have to click through the images that Pinterest found and select the one I wanted to use.

Now, I simply click the “Pin It” Button from the current page and it overlays all the images on top of the page (including the dimensions of each image). I click on the image I want, select my Board, then write the description. I’m done. And it’s made a huge difference.

4) Categories Are Selected by the Pinner.

When creating a new Board, Pinterest asks you to select the category (e.g. Art, Sports, Technology, etc.). Pinterest then allows you to browse by category, both on its web site and in its mobile app. While users have been pretty good about matching their pins to the corresponding Board’s category, it does mean that occasionally you’ll see an image that has nothing to do with its assigned category.

5) Boards of the Rich and Famous.

From the Pinterest site, you can select “About” -> “Team” and view the “Team” page: On this page, you’ll see photos of (presumably) the entire Pinterest team. And with a nice touch, they list an assortment of their pins and link to their Pinterest page (see this page for team member Ryan P). I’d like to see companies do this more often: let us get to know the team and let the team show the world how they’re using the product.


It’s been fun being a part of the Pinterest community. I’ll be interested to watch the assorted use cases that arise. We’ve already heard about it being used for planning weddings and sharing information at events. And oh, speaking of weddings, I have an anniversary coming up soon, so I’m headed to Pinterest to … do some shopping!

Related: 5 Things Virtual Event Platforms Can Learn From Pinterest

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