What The @NFL Can Teach You About Virtual Events

April 20, 2012


News flash: The National Football League (NFL) is an event planning organization. And they happen to be among the best in the universe. The NFL runs a year-long series of events, from mini-events, to large scale events to mega events (e.g. The Super Bowl).

Recently, the release of the NFL’s 2012 schedule coincided with 3-hour, prime time specials on both ESPN and NFL Network. Wow. Unlike any other major sport, the NFL is top of mind (in their fans’ minds) 365 days a year, 24×7.

While I’m not suggesting that your virtual event become a year-round, round-the-clock sort of thing, I do think the NFL can teach you some things. Instead of your annual virtual event being a “one and done” experience, steal some ideas from the NFL to extend your event’s livelihood. Let’s take a further look.

The Ecosystem

While the NFL is the arbiter of its brand, it relies on an ecosystem of partners to extend and reinforce that brand. The ecosystem includes:

  1. Individual teams
  2. Broadcast partners
  3. The Press
  4. Related content providers
  5. Merchandise retailers

The point here is that the NFL can’t do it alone. Where would it be without CBS, FOX and ESPN? Similarly, consider your virtual event. Your ecosystem includes:

  1. Exhibitors and sponsors
  2. Speakers and presenters
  3. Content providers
  4. Service providers

Be sure to fully leverage your own ecosystem in areas like monetization, audience generation, buzz building and media coverage.

Owned Media

The NFL, over the past several years, concluded that it needed to beef up its owned media, to complement its ecosystem. Have you visited NFL.com recently? It has as much original content as its ecosystem partners (e.g. ESPN.com, SI.com, SportingNews.com, etc.), written by a growing team of writers.

And of course, there’s NFL Network, which launched in 2003 and is carried on cable and satellite TV systems. With its talented team of analysts, I often find myself tuning in to NFL Network before and after games, when I’d formerly watch ESPN.

As a virtual event planner, you need to consider owned media, too. This could take the form of an event web site, a related blog and social media channels. If you run an annual, mid/large scale virtual event, realize that you’re now in the publishing business. Devise an Editorial calendar and start banging out content. Start by linking to and commenting on existing articles, then consider developing content of your own.

Generate Online Chatter

Is there any other sports league where the release of the season schedule is an event in and of itself? That’s the genius of the NFL. For an organization where most of the action takes place on the field, the NFL finds ways to create action (and generate related commentary and discussion) off the field.

The release of the 2012 schedule is an example of using its ecosystem (e.g. ESPN) and its owned media (e.g. NFL Network) to create an event (“2012 Schedule Prime Time Special!”). The prime time specials were the “main event” and it generated a wealth of discussion and commentary online, in the form of social networks, blogs and web coverage.

Think of similar ways to create news about your event that results in online chatter.

Select and Announce Speakers

Speaking of which, how about generating buzz around the selection of speakers for your virtual event? Madden NFL (from EA Sports), a key partner in the NFL’s ecosystem, runs an online tournament to select the player to appear on the game’s cover.

This not only puts the power in the hands of its fans, but generates buzz and chatter about the upcoming season’s game. Why not do the same for your virtual event? Allow your attendees to vote for the speakers they’d like to see and build some buzz at the same time. You could generate additional registrations, while creating a loyal attendee base at the same time (which will help your attendance rate).

Create an Off-Season Schedule

If your virtual event makes up your season, consider how you engage with your audience during the remaining 11+ months of the year. The NFL loves to generate online chatter, but it also knows that it needs to connect directly with fans via off-season events. Consider the following “mini events,” which occur after The Super Bowl:

  1. NFL Combine
  2. NFL Draft
  3. Training Camp
  4. Pre-season Games

Fans are invited to attend each of these events and all build up quite nicely to opening day. Like I said, with the NFL, it’s a year-round schedule that doesn’t have an end. Consider ways in which your virtual event can be complemented with off-season events. Speaking of which..

Re-broadcast (i.e. re-purpose) key content

Ever notice how NFL Network re-broadcasts a selected game from the prior week’s action? They don’t re-broadcast the entire game, mind you. They edit out the “between play” action, where players stand up, walk back to the huddle, etc. If you missed the game, this makes it quite convenient to view the action you missed.

In virtual events, you can provide access to all sessions for on-demand viewing, but why not take it a step further? Create abridged versions of the sessions (e.g. the top 10 slides from the presentation), then schedule a mini event during which the presenters appear (online) to engage with the audience.

Further Monetize Your Audience

The NFL has numerous ways to monetize its audience, in the form of ticket sales, merchandise sales and corporate sponsorships. There’s also TV commercials, the content of which has nothing to do with football.

According to Wikipedia, NBC generated $75MM in advertising sales for the Super Bowl XLVI broadcast (2012). The NFL benefited in the form of broadcast rights paid by NBC. Consider ways in which you can leverage your ecosystem to generate additional revenue from your audience. Hint: it could be in the form of unrelated content!

Conclusion: This takes work.

I can hear you already: you’ll tell me that your organization has nowhere near the resources to pull any of this off. And I’ll agree, somewhat. All of this takes work, which involves resources. You must first analyze how much you’re willing to invest (dollars, head count, etc.) and whether the anticipated ROI is there.

The NFL decided it was. It now employs writers, analysts, broadcast engineers (and more) – but, it continues to wisely tap into its ecosystem to widen its reach. Leverage your ecosystem to make this year’s Super Bowl your best ever.

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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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5 Things I’ve Learned About Pinterest

March 5, 2012

Check out my Pinterest Boards: http://pinterest.com/dshiao/


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: http://pinterest.com/about/team/. 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

Note: I invite you to connect with me on .

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


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.


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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My 2012 New Year’s Resolutions for Social Media

January 9, 2012


On the one hand, social and mobile technologies have made a huge and positive impact on my life: I can read and share content wherever I am. I’ve met and discovered new people that otherwise would not have been possible.

On the other hand, I now stare immediately into my iPhone when I enter an elevator. When I walk to grab a sandwich for lunch, I stare into the same iPhone, despite the presence of clear and sunny skies. When I’m at home, I find myself checking on tweets, rather than enjoying quality time with my family.

In short, I need a better balance between “online and offline.” As I begin 2012, here are my 3 resolutions related to my use of social media.

More books, less tweets.

If you follow enough people on Twitter, have a bunch of folks “circled” on Google+ and connect with friends and family on Facebook, then you could view streams on your social networks for days without end. Content flows like a waterfall and the social media waterfall never runs dry.

I still plan to stay current with my tweeps, find interesting content and do quite a bit of tweeting and plus’ing. But, I won’t be obsessive about it. No checking tweets immediately before going to sleep and then again when I wake up (although I admit, I still check email immediately after the alarm goes off in the morning.)

When at home, I’ll now leave my iPhone (and laptop) in another room for extended periods of time, making me “offline.” To fill the “gap,” I plan to read more books in 2012. And yeah, I’m referring to books printed on paper and not e-ink.

Friends over followers.

I’m flattered that folks want to follow me on social networks. Like I said earlier, being followed and following others has allowed me to “meet” lots of interesting people. Connecting and interacting online can be quite fun and rewarding.

But if I’m successful with these resolutions, I’ll establish more meaningful relationships “in real life” compared to online followers. That being said, “connections” that I make online have led to “meeting in person,” and that’s been great. I’d love to do more of that in 2012.

More enjoyment of destinations.

When I visit a new museum, try a new restaurant or go to the ballpark, I’ll look to see if they’re promoting their social media channels. I’ll then spend time checking out the activity on those channels (via my iPhone), follow them on the spot and tweet to them.

The result is less attention and energy towards truly enjoying the destination. Instead, I’m again immersed into my smartphone. In 2012, I resolve to remember the social channels promoted and save the tweeting and browsing until after I return home. I resolve to focus on the exhibit, enjoy the grub and savor my seats (not tweets).


Yes, I consider myself a social media junkie. For 2012, I need some therapy. For now, I’ve set out a personally assembled plan. Let’s see how well I keep to my resolutions. I think it’ll help bring more enjoyment of … life! Use the comments section below to share thoughts on your own use of social media. Thanks!

Note: I invite you to connect with me on .

5 Ways to Get Started with Google Plus (#googleplus)

December 12, 2011


According to statistics provided by comScore, Google+ had 20 Million unique visitors in its first 21 days of service. comScore’s statistics were measured between June and July of this year (2011). While it took me a few months to jump aboard, I’ve been actively using Google+ for the past month. I thought I’d share some things I did to help me get started with the service.

1) Add People to Circles.

Like Twitter’s tweet stream and Facebook’s Newsfeed, your experience on Google+ is largely defined by the people you follow. In Google+ parlance, this is called “people in your circles.” Visit your “Circles” page, then click on “Find people”. As you add people to your Circles, Google+ gets smarter about its recommendations, since it can find people that both you and a recently added user have in their Circles.

As you find people you’d like to add, determine which of your circles to place them in. I currently have 221 people in my Circles. This is quite manageable for me and quite different from the 1,300+ people I follow on Twitter. As a result, I place nearly everyone in a single Circle and my default mode is to read the Stream from all Circles.

2) “Go Out” to Find and Discover.

Unless you’re a celebrity or a social media A-lister, you’ll find that a modest number of people have added you to their Circles. So think of Google+ as a cocktail party that you just arrived at. No one’s coming to chat you up, so grab a drink and go mingle. As you meet and interact with new people, you’ll start to gain attention.

How can you do this? It’s easy:

  1. +1 other people’s posts.
  2. Comment on other people’s posts.
  3. +1 other people’s comments.
  4. Comment on other people’s comments.
  5. Re-share other people’s posts.

If you’re new to Google+, posting to your page (alone) won’t cut it. “Go out” to find and discover interesting content (and people) and you’ll feel that much more a part of the community.

3) Check Out “What’s Hot.”

Click the “What’s hot” link on the left side of your Google+ page. Your Stream then gets filled with popular posts on Google+ – those that received a higher number of +1’s and comments. I use this as an effective way for finding interesting content – and, discovering interesting people (or Google+ Pages) to add to my Circles.

4) Start a Blog!

When I gave a presentation on personal branding earlier this year, several audience members asked my opinion on whether they should start a blog. With Google+, there’s apparently no character limitation on posts. I’m seeing some users opt to publish long-form content on their pages. These longer posts look a lot like blog posts.

So if you’ve been wondering whether (or when) to start a blog, experiment on Google+ and drop a long-form post here and there. There’s no set-up required and you can connect it right into your Google+ social graph. Perhaps you’ll find my next blog posting there (and not here).

5) Be Different.

I use Twitter for “all business” and Facebook for “all pleasure.” So it didn’t make sense to me that I’d use Google+ in an identical (or even similar) fashion to an existing social network. Instead, it’s served as a nice middle ground between the two. I mix business-related content with personal interests and I can use a “voice” different than what’s possible within 140 characters. For instance, here’s a recent post I made about Amy Grant.

3 Things You Didn’t Know About Google+

You can grow an instant moustache.

You can tell the world that you talk to yourself.

You can provide feedback and send a screen grab of the Google+ page.

Bonus Tip: Follow Me and I’ll Follow You Back… Um, Maybe Not

The following tip is provided by Heidi Thorne (Heidi on Google+.)

Remember the early days of Twitter (like 2008 and 2009) when people were putting statements such as “follow me and I’ll follow you back” in their bios? Tweeters were anxious to build their Twitter street cred by having kaboodles of followers. And you also saw people who followed anyone whose Twitter handle they could find, hoping for a reciprocal follow. Didn’t care if they were relevant or not. Only the numbers mattered.

Now it’s a social media lifetime later. We’re more cynical and overwhelmed with Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and a host of social network wannabes flooding our streams and attention. Active social media types were rejoicing at the prospect of starting over with a network from a technology powerhouse like Google. They could get rid of the junk followings and followers, put their contacts in appropriate categories or “circles,” with the goal to only see what’s relevant. And Google+ delivers on that. Kind of like what Twitter lists and Facebook and LinkedIn groups hoped to be, only in an easier to manage and manipulate format.

But you still see people trying to use Google+ as if it’s the early days of Twitter. In a day, I might have a dozen or so people circling me that I have no idea how they’ve connected with me. Do I automatically add them to my circles as a reciprocal courtesy? No way! If it’s not someone from one of my established networks or someone I regularly follow, or doesn’t have a bio filled out, I don’t circle them. But I will follow people I’ve met in discussions on other people’s posts who have fun, interesting or intelligent conversation. In fact, I’ve found some incredible new people on G+ that way.

So use Google+ as a clean social media slate, only filling that stream with what matters to you.

Bonus Tip: Try Google Hangouts

The following tip is provided by Jenise Fryatt (Jenise on Google+).

Most of the time I use Google+ for the Hangouts function.  I’ve found hangouts to be easier and more consistent than Skype for video chats.  You can chat with up to 10 people and starting a Hangout and inviting people to it is very easy.  I’m going to try using it for regular company meetings when some of us are out of town.


I’m enjoying my time on Google+ so far. It’s a neat mix of Twitter, Facebook and a few other services. Use the comments section below to let us know how you’re using the service. In the meantime, you can find me on Google+ here: http://gplus.to/dshiao.

4 Social Apps and Services You Need to Know More About (@socialtables, @ideaflight, @MeetMeme, @sonarme)

November 28, 2011


The social web, mobile devices, apps, location awareness and more: it’s a great time to be an entrepreneur. And by extension, it’s a great time to be a consumer of technology. There’s an abundance of apps and web services that can bring you tremendous value, for little to no cost. Let’s take a look at four services you need to know more about.

Socialtables (@socialtables)

Socialtables provides web-based seating charts for any occasion. Event planners are provided with a simple and intuitive web-based interface. You can load guest information into the service, then drag and drop guests to particular tables. The service includes a social component, which encourages guests to share pictures, tell stories and get to know one another (e.g. with the guests you’re seated with at a wedding table).

Ideaflight (@ideaflight)

Idea Flight allows you to share ideas easily on the iPad. A “pilot” controls the flight and can provide a presentation to “passengers.” We bring our iPads to meetings today, don’t we? With Idea Flight, you can leave the projector in your desk drawer. This service would also be a great fit for college lectures and trade shows, to name a few.

MeetMeme (@MeetMeme)

I discovered MeetMeme social trading cards at JiveWorld11 in Las Vegas. For me, the “trading” of MeetMeme cards replaced conventional business card exchanges at the event. Most events have networking components (e.g. mixers, cocktail hours, dinners, etc.) and these sort of social trading cards are perfect for the occasion. I returned home with a large stack of cards, getting to meet people I would never have met without the cards.

Sonar (@sonarme)

Search engines, along with services like StumbleUpon, help us find content. But what about finding and discovering people? Check out Sonar, “a mobile application that uncovers the hidden connections you share with people nearby.” One afternoon in a pumpkin patch, I wondered whether a “people discovery app” existed. I returned home, discovered Sonar and tried it out. Wouldn’t it work great at conferences and trade shows?


I’ve only scratched the surface on all the neat sites and apps that are hitting the market these days. Use the comments section below to let us know about neat services that you’ve recently started using.

Related Links

  1. Blog Post: Social Networking and Seat Management with Social Tables
  2. Blog Post: Share Ideas Across iPads with Idea Flight
  3. Blog Post: Conference Networking with MeetMeme Social Trading Cards
  4. Blog Post: Turn Outings into Professional Networking Opportunities with Sonar

Turn Outings into Professional Networking Opportunities with @sonarme

October 19, 2011


Recently, I took the family out to a pumpkin patch. As my daughter rode off on a guided pony tour, I had some free time on my hands. As I looked around, I saw a few other dads with wandering glances. Because I’m quite “networking oriented,” I wondered what these other dads did for a living and whether we shared any common interests.

It occurred to me that a mobile app could work well in this scenario. You could “check in” to a particular location and see “profiles” (e.g. LinkedIn profiles) of other individuals who checked in to the same spot. Perhaps you discover an individual who works for a company that you’re trying to sell into. Or, perhaps you volunteer for a non-profit organization and find an individual who’s a potential donor.

When I returned home, I did a search for such an app. I found Sonar™ (@sonarme).

Sonar Overview

On its web site, Sonar describes itself as “a mobile application that uncovers the hidden connections you share with people nearby. We bottle the 1000s of connections that you miss every day- friends, friends of friends, fellow alumni, likeminded strangers- and put them in the palm of your hand. Sonar helps you use the information you share about yourself online to connect with the person sitting next to you.”

Sonar searches publically available data on Foursquare (checkins), Twitter (tweets) and Facebook (posts) to determine who’s nearby and how you may be connected to those people.

Finding People via Sonar

In the image above, I’m at (or near) the Jacob Javits Convention Center and see a list of people who recently checked in there (presumably, via Foursquare).  From here, I can click on a user and see their profile card.

The profile card shows me that I have mutual friends, connections and interests on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, respectively. I can drill down to find out more details on the common connections. For Twitter, “shared interests” include common friends and common followers. In addition, I can “Say Hi” to the user, which posts a public tweet (Twitter at-reply) directed to the user.

Here’s a tweet I generated via my own use of the service:

Hi @(username-removed). I saw on @sonarme that we’re both checked-in @ Cisco – Building 9 so I thought I’d say hello!

Sonar’s design is elegant, as the service can be useful even without a lot of users (downloads). I download the app, but since Sonar parses publically available data, the people I find do not need to be users of the service. Also, rather than encouraging random (if not intrusive) introductions, Sonar seeks to find common attributes that connect you with others, so that you may leverage those common elements as a means of introduction.

Recommendations for Sonar

That being said, here are a few things I’d like to see added to the service.

Opt-In for the Random Introduction

While Sonar seeks to find common connections tying two people together, I’d love to see a “random introduction mode,” in which those who opt in can introduce themselves to one another at random (i.e. without any connection whatsoever). If I’m selling into a company and I see people listed from that company, I want to introduce myself (virtually) and let them know I’d like to chat. The key here is that they’ve already opted in, so an introduction is not unexpected.

Saving of Contacts

Sonar allows me to find new people and send them messages. However, I don’t see a means for saving discovered contacts within the app. I’d love to have a record of whom I discovered (and where) and be able to view their “discovered” profile, including the common elements Sonar discovered on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Built-In Messaging System

Currently, Sonar allows me to send messages to other users via Twiter. I’d like a built-in messaging system that allows supports “SMS-like texting” to other users.  I’d use this capability to reach out to other users (privately) and invite them to meet up at a particular time and spot. In addition,  for groups of users that discover each other via the service, a built-in group messaging service (a la GroupMe) would be neat.

Linking Additional Services

How about linking to Instagram (a popular photo-sharing app for the iPhone). Location data can be parsed from Instagram users who choose to share it. Posting a picture (with location information enabled) becomes a form of “check in” and Sonar users could use commentary on the shared photo as a means for starting up a conversation.


Now that I have Sonar installed on my iPhone, I’m planning on “checking in” to it from time to time. It will be especially useful when I’m out and about, and happen to have some idle time. Shopping malls, airports and sports stadiums come to mind. And don’t even get me started about trade shows and events!

Here’s a short video about Sonar:

The #SocialMedia Revolution Is Here. Here’s How to Adapt.

September 26, 2011

Image source: “Social Media Revolution 2011” video on YouTube.


“We don’t have a choice on whether we DO social media, the question is how well we DO it,” notes Erik Qualman (@equalman) in his video, “Social Media Revolution 2011.” I knew that technology and social media have created a revolution. But, it was Qualman’s video that made me take a step back and realize how much the world has changed and evolved. And with that change comes a need (for many) to adapt and adjust, in order to take advantage of what’s unfolding in front of us.

Facts and Figures

Qualman’s video contains a series of fascinating facts and figures. For instance:

  1. 50% of the mobile Internet traffic in the UK is for Facebook.
  2. Generation Y and Z consider e-mail passe.
  3. Social gamers will buy $6 billion in virtual goods by 2013. Movie goers buy only $2.5 billion in real goods.
  4. If Wikipedia were made into a book, it would be 2.25 MILLION pages long and would take you over 123 years to read.
  5. 90% of consumers trust peer recommendations. Only 14% trust advertisements.

Generation Y and Z are entering your organization today. Some short time later, they’ll be running your organization. These generations were not born with a silver spoon in their mouth. Instead, they were born with an iPod in one hand and a texting device in the other. How do you adapt to these new generations of digital natives? Here are my thoughts.

Learn from Your Kids

Those of us with kids in school have an advantage: we interact with this generation on a daily (or hourly) basis. We can directly observe their social interactions, learning styles and learning preferences and understand the role technology plays. We can pick up on lingo and hear about the hottest new “toys.” Apply your parental lessons (from this generation) to your organization or workplace.

Empower the Incoming Class

Think outside the box. Generation Y and Z do not need to enter your organization at “entry level” positions. Consider making the leap to place new hires (from these generations) directly into middle manager roles. After all, your customers are (or soon will be) from the same generation.

Reverse Training

Your tenured employees will need to “onboard” and train the incoming crew of Generation Y/Z. But it’s those same tenured employees who can stand to learn a lot in return. Have the new generation train the “older generation” on new technologies, such as instant messaging, Skype and Facebook. An organization more informed on Generations Y and Z is one that’s better suited to achieve growth.

Learn the New Engagement Models

Everything today is instantaneous: obtaining facts (Google), asking a question or favor (SMS), obtaining feedback (gaming, social media). Your organization’s engagement models need to parallel the feedback systems that social networks, games and technology provide. If Generation Y/Z needs to “wait” too long for answers and feedback, then you’ve “lost them at hello.”

Plan for Mobile First

Instagram launched on iPhone (only). Other platforms (including web) will follow. I think that’s the right model. Whether you’re a producer of content or software, deploy first on mobile. That’s where Generation Y/Z prefers to engage with you.

The Video

Here’s the video that spurred my thoughts on this topic. Check it out, it’s worth it.

Related Resources

  1. Web Site: Socialnomics
  2. YouTube channel: Socialnomics
  3. Erik Qualman on Twitter: @equalman


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