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Why Personal Branding Begins at an Early Age (and What to Do About It)

December 7, 2013

Photo source: Dave Lawler on flickr.

Introduction

I asked a class of tenth grade students how many of them have a personal brand. A few looked around the room to see who raised their hand. One student did. And that was it.

When I grew up, the Internet did not exist. Back then, personal branding was centered around experiences and achievements and how they combined to form a reputation – you know, tangible things. Today, those things still matter for your personal brand, but so much of that brand is formed online.

Junior Achievement Program

San Mateo High School

Photo: I visited a tenth grade class at San Mateo High School.

My visit to a tenth grade classroom was part of a Junior Achievement program called JA Career Success.

Junior Achievement is “the world’s largest organization dedicated to educating students about workforce readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy through experiential, hands-on programs.” (learn more: Junior Achievement website)

The JA Career Success program consists of seven sessions. I participated in the seventh session, which is titled “Get Hired: Know Your Personal Brand.” The session’s objectives, as defined by JA:

  1. Explore how to hunt for a job and the tools needed
  2. Determine choices they can make to create a positive personal brand as they build their careers

Why We All Have a Personal Brand

An informal poll of the classroom determined that every student is on Facebook (although their teacher does not use the service), 15% are on Twitter and everyone has an Apple device at home (iPhone, iPad or iPod). In short, these students grew up with mobile devices connected to the Internet.

So I told the students: if there’s one thing you remember from today’s program, it’s this:

You’re online, which means that you already have a personal brand.

Well said.

In other words: whether you like it or not, the digital footprints you’re leaving across the Internet are the embodiment of your personal brand. By being aware and proactive, you can manage that brand. By being reactive and unaware, it gets managed for you.

So let’s consider ways in which you can start managing your personal brand. And yes, it’s NOT too early to start this in high school, or even middle school.

5 Personal Branding Tips

1) Always Be Mindful of What You’re Sharing

This photo could become a future issue

Photo source: Dennis Harper on flickr.

I know that high school students will do things that their parents would not approve of (example: throwing a wild party at the house when the parents are away for the weekend).

High school students will have their fun and should continue to do so. But take a moment to ponder before clicking the “submit” or “tweet” button.

Be sensitive to what you share and know that there can be implications and ramifications. If you post something online, accept the fact that it never goes away.

Even if you’re careful to limit your posts to particular groups, the fact remains that the post is online. Understand that when you apply for a job as a forty year old, what you posted as a teenager could come back to haunt you.

Here’s a good mechanism: when you’re ready to post something online, think whether your parent(s) and your teacher would approve. If they wouldn’t approve, then don’t post it (hat tip to Junior Achievement for this).

2) Pay Attention to Details

When you interview for a job, body language can be far more important than the words you speak. You might have an eloquent and insightful answer, but if you’re slouched in your chair and not making eye contact with the interviewer, your answer doesn’t really matter.

With personal branding, every little thing matters. Start with your email address. People will need to contact you, whether it’s a college admissions officer or a potential employer. Select an email address accordingly. “ilovetoparty” at (gmail dot com) will not curry favor with potential employers.

If you have an unfavorable email address, get a new one to use for college admissions and job applications. Next, have friends and family call your cell phone and listen to your voicemail greeting. Does it say something like: “Yo. Do it now. Over and outtie”? That would make a college admissions officer think twice about your application.

3) Sprinkle in Brand-Appropriate, Proactive Sharing

Photo of an academic award

Photo source: COD Newsroom on flickr.

Yes, you should do some proactive “brand building,” even in high school. Some tenth graders will apply to colleges in a few short years. When you apply to a college, the admissions officers will review your social profiles.

Did you recently receive an academic achievement award at school? Have a friend take a picture of you (with your award), then post that to Facebook. This digital footprint can make a difference, when discovered by the admissions officer (hat tip to a parent volunteer, who provided this suggestion).

4) Don’t Let Your Inside Voice Get Outside

In other words, keep your posts and status updates positive. We all have our dislikes, whether it’s jobs, other people or situations. Think twice before you share those dislikes with the entire world. Social media should not be a venting mechanism.

If you found a new job, but really disliked your previous job, keep your feelings about the previous job on the inside. Negative comments don’t play well when viewed by potential employers. And who knows? Things change and the employer you disliked years ago may be one that you return to years later.

5) Advanced Topic: Start Blogging

I started this blog five years ago and it’s helped a great deal with my personal brand. I’m able to share thoughts and ideas (with you!) and I consider it an add-on to my resume. In fact, blogs and social profiles (e.g. LinkedIn) are far more relevant than the old-fashioned resume.

One important point, however: figure out a “focus area” for your blog that’s tied to the personal brand you’d like to portray.

Your blog should not be an extension of Facebook, in which you share anything and everything going on in your life. Instead, it should be an outlet for you to share thoughts and observations.

Consider what you’re most passionate about and start writing about it. If you write well and share interesting things, I’m sure college admissions officers will take note.

Additional Thoughts on Personal Branding

Jonha Revesencio

Photo: Jonha Revesencio (@jonharules).

While writing this post, I posed a question on Twitter:

At what age should we start building our personal brand?

Jonha shared the following:

“In a world where technology has helped in facilitating questions, I think there’s not really an exact “age” to best build your brand, or as I like to put it, #BrandYOU. I think, though, that it’s most essential to “position yourself to be found so you won’t have to look around.”

That means it’s important to provide value even before you ask for one. I’ve given a presentation before college students about this and my main message is for them to use the time they spend on social networks by building their brand instead of using it for activities which will at some point break it (even before they try to build).”

Conclusion

Thanks for those thoughts, Jonha!

The concept of a personal brand was quite new to the tenth graders I spoke to. And that’s a big reason why I wrote this post: to create awareness around the fact that personal branding starts at an early age. Those who get an early start will have an advantage. Start working on your personal brand today.

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20 Social Media Predictions for 2013

December 17, 2012

20 Social Media  Predictions for 2013

Introduction

It’s December, which means that it’s that time of year. Predictions! While 2012 was an exciting year for social media, I find it challenging to look back and characterize it. Was it the year of the mobile app? The year of the pinboard? Pinterest was certainly one of the big stories of 2012.

What will 2013 hold for social media? Let’s explore.

Social Media Predictions for 2013

  1. Social media becomes a “given” and we no longer call it out separately. We use terms like “marketing strategy,” “engagement strategy” and “audience generation strategy,” and NOT “social media strategy.”
  2. Likewise, organizations with “social media” job titles broaden those roles to cover a wider set of responsibilities. For instance, the “social media marketing manager” broadens to become the “marketing manager.”
  3. We see the major players doing more blocking and disabling of each other’s services, not less. The measures taken by Twitter and Instagram (in 2012) were the start of what we’ll see far more of in 2013.
  4. Venture capital will dry up for “pure” social media start-ups. You’ll need to pair your social media offering with a mobile or big data angle – or, whatever will emerge as the hot new thing in 2013.
  5. The “social media darling” of 2013 will be a new app that uses your social graph, your “interest graph” and your location to facilitate face-to-face connections. It’ll have specific features to discourage its use as a dating app.
  6. There will be a drop-off in blog postings on the topic of social media (consider this one an endangered species).
  7. Twitter publishes its definition of “spam user / spam bot” and drops those users from its official registered user count. Its reported user base drops by 20%, but advertisers give them a pat on the back.
  8. One among Klout, PeerIndex and Kred will be acquired for an eight figure sum. My money’s on Kred.
  9. Yahoo! acquires Quora for $800MM. Quora remains an independent site in 2013, but merges its user database with Yahoo’s.
  10. Despite investigations of anti-competitive actions, Google places increased emphasis of Google+ content in its search engine results. This forces social media marketers to tell their clients, “If you’re not on Google+, you lose.”
  11. We’ve gone from blogging to microblogging. In 2013, our sharing isn’t 140 characters at a time, it’s 1 character at a time. As they say on Wheel of Fortune, “Can I have an ‘E’?”
  12. Twitter’s makes further progress with the stability of its infrastructure. The fail whale faces extinction.
  13. MySpace expands beyond music into sports, recreation and other selected hobbies. It makes some acquisitions to grow audience in those areas and becomes the talk of the town at year-end 2013.
  14. After making significant concessions to the Chinese Government, Facebook is made available in China.
  15. As Facebook, Twitter and others focus on growing revenue, their end users experience “ad fatigue” and response rates (e.g. clicks) take a hit.
  16. Finding success on Twitter, The Pope expands to Facebook, Google+ and Pinterest. He declines an offer, however, to become a LinkedIn Influencer.
  17. Facebook considers a move into the “data locker” space, figuring that they already have the critical mass of users – and, that it’s more effective than serving banner or text ads. See this related piece on data lockers from the New York Times.
  18. If there’s such thing as a “social media product of the year,” then in 2013 it will be Google+ Hangouts.
  19. Crowdfunding via social media is big. In 2013, it becomes huge.
  20. This post will receive precisely 17 comments. So leave your own social media predictions –and perhaps you can make this 2013 prediction come true in 2012.

Bonus Prediction Number 1

Bonus Prediction Number 2

Heidi Thorne (@heidithorne)

This prediction comes from Heidi Thorne (@heidithorne):

In 2013, I think that people will continue to collapse the number of social networks in which they participate to the Big Three: Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

YouTube, though I have a hard time classifying it as a “social” site, will continue to dominate the web. Google Plus, while an awesome platform, will continue to struggle to be relevant due to their late entry into the social game, but will be used for unique functions such as Hangouts.

Pinterest? I’m biased, but I think its sizzle will fizzle in the not too distant future. Other social sites, such as the reinvented MySpace, will become, for lack of a better term, “sites.” May have social sharing capability, but would not qualify as social “utilities” such as Facebook or Twitter.

Conclusion

Thanks for stopping by throughout 2012. Hope you had a good year and I hope 2013 is even better. Happy Holidays!

Note: I invite you to connect with me on .


Let Me Explain: Why I Have Not Endorsed You on LinkedIn

December 3, 2012

let-me-explain-why-i-have-not-endorsed-you-on-linkedin

Introduction

In September, LinkedIn rolled out Endorsements, “a new feature that makes it easier to recognize them [Connections] for their skills and expertise.” In their Q3 2012 earnings announcement, LinkedIn noted that “members have generated more than 200 million endorsements to their colleagues.”

I contributed just a handful of endorsements to the (quite impressive) 200 million total. While I’m fairly active on LinkedIn, Endorsements is one feature I haven’t used much. Let me explain why.

1) It’s too easy and convenient.

What skills do connections have? Asks LinkedIn

Yes, that does sound counter-intuitive. And granted, LinkedIn wanted to make it easy and convenient, a la the “Like” on Facebook. On Facebook, I’m happy to “Like” a friend’s witty comment or interesting photo. It takes less than a second and provides an endorsement of sorts.

But LinkedIn is a business setting. And if an action takes so little overhead to perform (just a single click), then the meaning and significance of that action is diminished. To “endorse” a post on Facebook is one thing, but to endorse a colleague’s work? That should take more effort.

That’s why I like LinkedIn’s Recommendations feature: you need to put some effort into expressing why you’re recommending your Connection. And you need to do so “in writing,” rather than via a single click.

2) It doesn’t describe quality or depth.

Notice the language used by LinkedIn: “Does [NAME] have these skills or expertise?” and “Does [NAME] know about [TOPIC]?”. So the Endorsements feature is a way to validate the skills that users list on their profile. That’s fine and good, but it doesn’t capture the depth or quality of the particular skill.

You could measure depth based on the quantity of endorsements received per topic. But all that says is that people confirm that you have the skill. It doesn’t denote that you perform the skill particularly well.

3) Creates awkward decision-making moments.

Does Diane have these skills?

I don’t know about you, but I find this process a bit awkward. Do I endorse Diane for all of the listed skills, or would that be too generous? Do I remove a few, then endorse her for the rest? Should I feel bad that I’ve chosen to NOT endorse Diane for particular skills? These are some of the questions that run through my head when I see the Endorsements “prompt.”

Feature Ideas: LinkedIn Endorsements

Let’s discuss ways to address some of the issues I list above.

1) Reverse the model.

What if Connections could view a set of skills and expertise and endorse you from that list? This way, the endorser determines the list of skills, not the endorsee. When making an endorsement, it would be ideal to hide the pre-existing endorsements (from others), so as not to influence the endorser. This model would make the endorsements more meaningful, as they’re independently selected by the “audience,” rather than being influenced by the user (i.e. via the skills that they choose to list).

2) Use up/down voting.

LinkedIn renders your endorsements in order of quantity received

Currently, proficiency in your skills is based on the quantity of Endorsements you received. Your Connections can influence your proficiency based on the specific skills for which they endorse you. An endorsement for a “highly endorsed” skill widens that bar, while one for a previously un-endorsed skill creates a small blip.

Instead, why not let Connections perform a set number of up/down votes. Is “social media marketing” listed too far above “lead generation”? If so, I’ll up-vote lead generation, if I think you’re not getting enough credit for that skill. This model allows Connections to more directly influence the relative order of your skills.

3) Endorse particular achievements or completed projects.

Did you work on an impactful project? Pull off a world class event? If you did, then I’m sure the project involved a number of people. List the project (or event) on your profile and allow those involved to endorse your work on it. And, they can leave a comment on how the project impacted them – or, how your role was instrumental to its success.

4) Use comments to capture depth of particular skills.

Ratings and endorsements, in the form of clicks, can be gamed. And that makes them less meaningful. It’s harder to “game” a written endorsement, however. So similar to LinkedIn’s existing Recommendations feature, Endorsements could have particular areas (e.g. the “project idea” listed above) that allow endorsers to chime in with their thoughts. Rather than long paragraphs of text, perhaps this uses the Twitter approach (140 characters or less).

Conclusion

I hope this post helps explain why I haven’t been active in LinkedIn Endorsements. I have participated quite a bit in Recommendations (rather than Endorsements), because I believe in the worthiness of the written (vs. one click) form.  Leave a comment below to let me know if you endorse this post!

Note: I invite you to connect with me on .


How a Pinterest Board Gained Popularity After I Stopped Pinning

November 19, 2012

@dshiao's MLB 2012 pin board on Pinterest

Read my prior post: 5 Things I’ve Learned About Pinterest

Introduction

At the start of the baseball season, I created a MLB 2012 pin board on Pinterest. Throughout the season, I’d pin images (mostly of players) as I read articles about the teams I follow.

I’d see a modest amount of Likes and Repins. I’d get more activity around popular or “interesting” players – injured closer Brian Wilson (of the San Francisco Giants) fitting into the latter category.

As the regular season drew to a close, my activity on Pinterest waned. My last pin was on September 30, 2012, before the start of the post-season. Throughout the playoffs, I’d continue to see modest amounts of activity on my board. And then the San Francisco Giants won the World Series.

Current Events Drive Interest in Pins and Boards

Once the Giants won the World Series, activity on Giants-related pins increased

While I’m a diehard New York Yankees fan, I reside in the Bay Area. And that means that I follow the local teams, the Giants and the A’s. Not surprisingly, you’ll find lots of Yankees, Giants and A’s in my MLB board.

The Email Settings menu in Pinterest

My Pinterest account is configured to send me email notifications for activity on my boards. And let me tell you, ever since the World Series ended, I’ve been receiving a daily stream of emails. Users are finding images I pinned (of Giants players) and they’re Liking and Repinning quite a lot.

Of course, shortly after the World Series comes the post-season awards (e.g. Cy Young, MVP, etc.). So it’s not a coincidence to see activity (on my Board) related to the award winners: Mike Trout and Bryce Harper (rookies of the year) and Buster Posey (NL MVP):

Activity for pins on Bryce Harper, Buster Posey and Mike Trout

What Makes Pinterest Unique

I found the result counter-intuitive: that activity would pick up on a social network after I ceased my own activity on it. That would not happen on Twitter, Facebook or Google+. And that’s what makes Pinterest unique. Let’s consider the reasons.

It’s Both Timeless and Timely.

I’ve written before about how Twitter rules the roost on the real-time web. Real-time content, however, is “forgotten” a minute, hour or day later. On Twitter, it’s quite rare to receive a retweet on content tweeted a few days (or weeks) prior. On Pinterest, as you’ve seen with my MLB board, the activity continues to occur on images I pinned weeks (and months) earlier.

And while the unit of content (an image) is timeless, interest around that content can be tied to timeliness (e.g. the Giants winning the World Series). So as far as content sharing goes, you have content that “lives longer” than real-time content – and, can spur activity around events happening in real-time.

It Drives a Different Consumption Model.

Twitter (and Facebook, too) is all about the “scan.” I have hundreds (or thousands) of items in my feed and I quickly scan for items of interest, not paying particular attention to any one item. Pinterest also drives “scans” (of images), but because of the timeless aspect, there’s more browsing than scanning.

On Twitter, the half-life of content is short: current events, sports scores and the like, and that adds to the “quick scan” consumption model. On Pinterest, users are more apt to browse, discover and take their time.

Its Attribution Model Facilitates Curation

Let’s compare the retweet to the repin. Here’s how a retweet (that I performed) appears in my profile:

How a retweet appears in the user's Twitter profile

You’ll notice that the original tweet is preserved, including the “author” of the original tweet (@AllthingsIC). Now, let’s consider a repin. I originally pinned this image of Brandon Crawford and here’s how the repin appears on another user’s board:

How a re-pinned pin appears in the user's board

You’ll see that my original caption (about Brandon Crawford) is preserved (although users have the option to change it when repinning), but notice that, unlike in a retweet, my identity (as the original author) is not listed. You have to click on the pin to see the attribution:

The original pinner has attribution listed on the pin detail page

This attribution model facilitates curation because it leaves a “cleaner” board, while providing proper attribution one level deep.

For Marketers, It’s The Gift That Keeps Giving.

My MLB 2012 board has taught me that on Pinterest, content can have nine lives. Online marketers using Facebook and Twitter should consider a Pinterest strategy. Pinterest can create an annuity around your content: an investment that continues to pay out over time.

And here’s the kicker: you pin content from pages, which means that users who find your pins have the option of clicking through to the page (on which the image is found). What does that mean for online marketers? The ability to drive page views – and even product sales, for online merchants.

Conclusion

Let’s recap. Pinterest is an entirely unique social network. It all starts with a timeless “sharing unit” (an image), which can gain popularity around current events. The consumption and attribution models help to drive sharing (via curation). And users (i.e. pinners), can receive ongoing returns for activity they generated months (or even years) prior.

Note: I invite you to connect with me on .


The Cost of Convenience on Social Networks

October 11, 2012

Introduction

Technology can do great things. It can save you time and save you money. With social media, it can connect you (via the device in your pocket) to people around the world – people you otherwise would never have “met.” But is there a drawback or cost to the convenience that technology provides?

An Example: The GPS

Consider the GPS (Global Positioning System). When I purchased my first GPS unit in 2005, I thought it was the world’s finest invention. Whether I was driving near home or in a remote town, I could plug in a street address and this magical device would take me there, turn by turn.

When I moved to the West Coast a few years later, my handy GPS helped me get around my new surroundings, from the department store to the movie theater to my new favorite restaurants. But now that I’ve been out West for five years, I’m finding a “cost” for the GPS that goes beyond the retail cost.

The “cost” was a dependence on this technological marvel, which meant that I didn’t truly know my own surroundings. Instead, I’d have the radio on, take the turns that the GPS called out, but not pay attention to the route I was taking (and, as a side note, I’ve since switched from a GPS device to the excellent Waze app on my iPhone).

Now, if I’m driving locally to a place I’ve never been before, I’ll plug the destination address into Google Maps and review the route. Then, I’ll drive to my destination without any technological guidance. And I find that curbing my dependence on the GPS has helped me better learn the local roads and routes. And not to worry, Waze – you’ll still come along for the ride when I go out of town.

Now, let’s consider the cost of convenience on social networks.

Liking a Comment on Facebook.

In 2010, Facebook rolled out the “Like” button on Comments. At first, I found this a bit curious: you have a button to “Like” the original post and now, Facebook is allowing you to “Like” interactions beneath that post. As I started using it, however, I discovered its elegance: you (the poster) could acknowledge interesting or witty comments with the click of a mouse.

The person whose Comment you Liked would see your action and perhaps they’d become more inclined to comment on your subsequent posts. There have been occasions where I ponder how to respond to a comment I’ve received. If it was a witty comment, I feel the need to return the favor with something equally witty. I’ll occasionally get “stuck,” and not know what to say. So instead I simply click “Like” (on the comment) and I’m done.

So what’s the cost? More substantial and meaningful interactions between you and the commenter.

Twitter’s Retweet Button.

In 2009, Twitter rolled out the retweet button (and function). The retweet (or, “RT” for short) was a capability conceived by Twitter’s users. And prior to the retweet button (or, the equivalent function in Twitter clients), users had to manually compose retweet’s by copying the tweet content, then sticking a “RT @USER” in front of the tweet.

The retweet function made it super convenient. With two clicks of the mouse (the first to retweet, the second to confirm it), you just published a tweet, while promoting the original tweet content. Because the retweet preserves 100% of the original tweet, the cost of this convenience is an absence of commentary (from you).

When I want to add my own thoughts (e.g. “Great post” or “Excellent points”) on a retweet, I’ll manually compose it (with a copy/paste of the original tweet), then change the “RT” to “MT” (for “Modified Tweet”). This makes the process less convenient, but I find the additional commentary worth it (and I bet the original tweeter may as well).

Location-based Checkins.

Location-based check-ins began on services like Foursquare. Their purpose was to alert friends (on the service) of your location. Perhaps you’re at Happy Hour and you see that some friends just checked in from the watering hole down the street. So you go there to find them.

So that was the original point – and a fine point it was. Soon, services such as Foursquare enabled you to broadcast your check-in to your social media accounts. And our tweet stream started to get filled up with tweets, like those shown above.

So the cost of the check-in convenience is a proliferation of rather trivial tweets. If I’m following you on Foursquare, then yes, a check-in is meaningful. However, if I’m following you on Twitter (only), your location at this particular point in time isn’t meaningful.

Facebook Check-ins

Similarly, Facebook has a check-in feature that enables you to list your location, along with tagging Facebook friends that you happen to be with. For friends and family on Facebook, I am, in fact, more interested in where you happen to be.

But, the convenience of the check-in means that more significant and meaningful descriptions (of  your location) go by the wayside. For instance, compare these two Facebook posts:

And here’s the more convenient one:

“Climbing to the peak – at Mount Everest”

Photo Uploads.

Don’t get me wrong: photos are great and pictures are, in fact, worth 1,000 words (or more). Sometimes, however, the convenience of uploading 50 pictures (to an album on Facebook) gives you the “excuse” that the pictures can tell the story (on their own). If a picture is worth 1,000 words, couldn’t you at least tag each one with 140 characters?

Conclusion

On the social web, we’re able to make connections and have interactions with people from across the globe. For me, that makes old fashioned, face-to-face interactions all the more meaningful. Similarly, the ease with which we can post, share, re-post and re-share on social networks means that we miss out on more meaningful dialog and interactions. This “cost tradeoff” is something to keep in mind as social networks continue to grow and evolve.

Note: I invite you to connect with me on .


The Role of Connectors (like @JeniseFryatt) in Social Networks

September 22, 2012

Introduction

In “The Tipping Point” by Malcolm Gladwell, there’s a chapter called “The Law of the Few: Connectors, Mavens, and Salesmen.” Gladwell introduces us to the concept of a Connector, “people with a particular and rare set of social gifts,” and he describes the most famous Connector in U.S. history: Paul Revere.

On the evening of Paul Revere’s famous ride (“The British are coming!”), a fellow revolutionary named William Dawes set out on a similar ride, but along a different path. Dawes’ ride, however, didn’t alert the community in the way that Revere’s did.

Local militia leaders were not awoken and compelled into action. It was a Connector like Revere who stirred people from sleep and rallied them to action.

10 Characteristics of Connectors

In the rest of the chapter, Gladwell tells the stories of modern day Connectors. By way of these stories, we come to learn common characteristics of Connectors:

  1. “An instinctive and natural gift for making social connections.”
  2. “More of an observer, with the dry, knowing manner of someone who likes to remain a bit on the outside.”
  3. Simply likes people, in a genuine and powerful way, and he finds the patterns of acquaintanceship and interaction in which people arrange themselves to be endlessly fascinating.”
  4. “Connectors are important for more than simply the number of people they know. Their importance is also a function of the kinds of people they know.”
  5. “People whom all of us can reach in only a few steps because, for one reason or another, they manage to occupy many different worlds and subcultures and niches.”
  6. “Finds everyone interesting … have some instinct that helps them relate to the people they meet.”
  7. “We rely on them [Connectors] to give us access to opportunities and worlds to which we don’t belong.”
  8. “Gregarious and intensely social.”
  9. “An uncanny genius for being at the center of events.” [in reference to Paul Revere]
  10. “They see possibility … while most of us are busily choosing whom we would like to know and rejecting the people who don’t look right…”

The Social Web’s Paul Revere: Jenise Fryatt

Chances are you know this person. Her name is Jenise and she’s a Connector. I “met” Jenise via Twitter – she’s quite active there (@JeniseFryatt), but also connects with people on Facebook, Google+, Pinterest and elsewhere.

If the “British are coming,” I’d want Jenise to be the one on that horse, shouting from the rooftops (and of course, she’d probably go on Twitter first, where she’d immediately receive 100 retweets).

When I got to “The Law of the Few” chapter while reading “The Tipping Point,” I said to myself, “Connector? You’ve just described  Jenise.” Coincidentally, Jenise recently wrote a piece on the Cvent blog about ways to think like a connector.

I had the pleasure of meeting Jenise (“in real life”) at PCMA’s Convening Leaders conference earlier this year. Prior to that, I had developed a friendship with Jenise entirely online. All ten of the Connector descriptions (above) apply to Jenise. Here are examples of how Jenise connected me to others (people, opportunities, etc.):

  1. Received mentions on Twitter (by Jenise) for #EIR. At first, I didn’t know what “EIR” stood for. Jenise was interviewed on Liz King’s blog and provides the background behind “Engage, Inform, Retweet.”
  2. Was asked by Jenise if she could re-publish some of my blog postings on Engage365.org (at the time, Jenise was that site’s Community Manager).
  3. Connected me with other users on Twitter, whom I otherwise would not have met. One example: Michael Eliopoulos (@TheReelMJE), with whom I exchange thoughts on the world of sports.
  4. Invited me into a “tribe” of event professionals on Triberr (a neat service that allows our “tribe” to share and promote each other’s blog postings).
  5. Jenise has an active and widely read blog called “Sound n’ Sight” and she often publishes guest posts from industry professionals. Jenise recently published a Q&A with me about blogging.

The Role of Connectors in Social Networks

For me, Twitter would be a far different (and less enjoyable) experience without Connectors. It’s through Jenise that I’ve met so many people on Twitter, both in our industry and outside it. In fact, when I met Jenise at Convening Leaders, I decided to join her group for dinner one evening, as I knew I’d have the chance to meet a bunch of other interesting conference-goers.

Let’s consider the role that Jenise (and other Connectors) play in social networks.

Makes the social fabric stronger.

Connectors are the ties that bind our social fabric. Like the ligaments in our body (that connect bone to bone), Connectors introduce people to one another – and from there, it’s up to those people to further build and nurture that connection.

Keeps participants engaged (and coming back).

If Twitter was just about sharing links (and, sharing what you had for lunch), it wouldn’t be as enjoyable. It’s the interactions and the connections to new people that make it exciting for me. When I first access Twitter, it’s the “Interactions” that I check first, not the tweets. And that’s what keeps me coming back, more than anything else. Without Connectors, we’d all have less Interactions.

Recruits future Connectors.

For those who are inclined to be Connectors themselves, it’s existing Connectors that serve as role models. For instance, Jenise’s #EIR (on Twitter) helps to acknowledge people who are actively interacting with others. This, in turn, causes some to share their own #EIR lists (much in the same way that #FF / #FollowFriday took off). And those who compile their own #EIR lists may become full fledged Connectors some day. And the more Connectors there are, the stronger the social fabric bonds.

Recruits from outside the network.

Social network Connectors help evangelize the service (e.g. Twitter) and encourage people to join (I bet Jenise has done this). They explain the benefits of having a Twitter account (for example), but it doesn’t stop there. They’ll provide guidance and mentoring on how to get started, along with a hearty amount of encouragement. Later, they’ll connect these new users to others. And once again, the social fabric bonds tighter.

Conclusion

Connectors play a critical role in social networks. If Gladwell were to re-write his chapter several years from now, perhaps he’d analyze the Arab Spring, rather than the American Revolution. With the Arab Spring, I’m sure that Connectors played a central role in rallying their peers to overthrow governments. Ironically, Gladwell would write that the revolution will not be tweeted. But I disagree.

Note: I invite you to connect with me on .


How Social Media Can Create Lifelong Friends (That You Never Meet)

July 12, 2012

Introduction

I thought it would be neat to create a Twitter List of people I’ve met “in real life” (you can find the list here: @dshiao/met-in-real-life). I’d scan both my Twitter stream and my “Interactions” tab and add people to the list.

And then a funny thing happened: for a few people, I had to think long and hard about whether we’ve met “in person.” For some people, I was about to add them to the list, then had to do a double take, think some more and realize that we’ve actually never met.

This exercise led me to conclude how wonderful social media can be. Some of these folks whom I’ve never met, I actually consider to be good friends. They may end up becoming lifelong friends, in fact, in which our interactions take place exclusively online.

Let’s consider a few other conclusions I’ve drawn from this.

The Killer Combo: Twitter and Facebook

In the early days of Twitter, I discovered #eventprofs, which I consider a community forged by a single hash tag. I followed active users, they followed me back and we’d check out tweets tagged with the #eventprofs hash tag regularly.

Some #eventprofs users (along with other, non-events folks I’ve “met” on Twitter) “friended me” on Facebook. I gladly accepted. In doing my Twitter List curation, I found Twitter+Facebook to form the killer combo. That is, if we follow each other on Twitter and are friends on Facebook, the lines blur to the point where I have to think hard whether we’ve met in person.

By looking at the links you share on Twitter, I’m able to better understand your interests (i.e. your interest graph). On Facebook, I learn about your interests – and much, much more. I’ll “hear” about your weekend plans, movies you’re watching, comments your kids made and updates on your favorite teams.

In addition, seeing pictures of your friends and your extended family makes me (by extension) a second order member of the family. The New York Times ran a piece about family estrangement in the Facebook Era, which made wonder whether I’m seeing pictures (in my Facebook Newsfeed) that some family members (of my Facebook friends) are not.

In any case, Twitter+Facebook are quite effective in sustaining friendships – and, in creating new friendships (online).

Status Updates Build a Complete Picture

Disney executive Bob Iger once said, “I’ve learned more about my daughters on their Facebook pages than I did while I was raising them.” (quote source).

I love that quote and happen to agree: family members can live in the same house, but learn more about each other from status updates. It’s a perverse thought that may be decried by the populace at large, to which I say: “it is what it is.” Here’s how status updates help to build a complete picture of yourself:

  1. Captures trivial moments. I may post about something that catches my attention or that I find entertaining. I may mention the moment to family members later on, but then again, I may not!
  2. Ongoing archive. Look back at your own Facebook Timeline. You’ll probably notice ideas, emotions, frustrations, elation and more. The series of status updates really do say a lot about you.
  3. Captures fleeting thoughts. Sometimes I’ll post a thought, idea or joke to Facebook that’s fleeting. If I didn’t post it at that moment, I might have forgotten about it. But I did, so it’s now part of that ongoing archive.
  4. Communicates goals and aspirations. Via status updates, people share what they want to do this weekend, what they want to achieve this quarter and what they want to do in life.
  5. Shows what’s important (to you) in life. Status updates also build a picture of what’s important in our lives: our family, our jobs, our values, etc.

Online Towns More Effective Than Physical Towns?

Let’s take all the people I’ve met online (and know fairly well) – let’s call it 250 people. Let’s put those same 250 in the same town as me. I wonder: would I have ended up meeting those people and getting to know them, in the same manner that I did online?

You know, I’m not so sure about that. Some of the 250, I may never have met in the first place – there are still families in my neighborhood less than ten doors away that I’ve yet to meet. This is again a perverse thought, but here’s why “online towns” facilitate more meet-ups:

Meeting doesn’t require serendipity.

In a small town, you often meet people via serendipity: you bump into someone at the post office or supermarket, or you take a run at the same time as a neighbor. There’s less serendipity online: people have a fixed presence and you can always find them, even if they’re not currently “online.”

Lower barrier to interaction.

When you meet someone face-to-face, there are certain social norms and customs that we follow. When you “meet” someone online, the social norms take a different dynamic and there’s often less holding us back.

For instance, I may tweet to someone about their awesome profile photo (on Twitter), whereas I’m less inclined to walk up to that same person (at the supermarket) and make a similar comment. As such, I wonder whether meet-ups and interactions I’ve had online would have worked out as well in person.

Lifelong Friends Should Meet (Eventually)

Now don’t get me wrong: despite my observations (above), I don’t believe in living life exclusively online. In fact, I crave face-to-face connections, especially meeting new people. So despite my observations of the “online town,” I’d love nothing more than a physical town, in which meeting others could be as convenient as happens online.

I have a colleague with whom I’ve had numerous conference calls, video conferences and related meetings. After a year working together, we had the chance to meet in person. I was prepared to say “great to finally meet you,” but she jumped in first. Her comment? “Nice to see you again.”

And that’s just the thing with these online friendships (or colleagues) – you develop such close ties online, that it’s a shame to never meet in person. At business conferences, I’ll run into people that I follow on Twitter (but have never met) and it’s a great feeling. You know each other so well that you tend to hug, rather than shake hands.

Conclusion

I often wonder what the world would be like if Facebook, Twitter and other social networks didn’t exist. Would I still meet new people? Would the Arab Spring have happened? I think the answer to both might just be “yes,” but one thing I know for sure: there’s just no way I could have “met” so many people from so many parts of the world without social networks. And when I come to a town near you, I may look you up (on Twitter).

Note: I invite you to connect with me on .


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