Tag - social media

So David Brin personally edited my self-published scifi novel, No Other Gods

About 18 months ago I started my first science fiction novel, No Other Gods. I worked on it about 30 minutes a day, usually at 6AM before phones started ringing and emails started dinging.

A couple of months ago I finished it (edited three times, proofread by 2 pros I know) and self-published it to Amazon. It was doing OK, and got some great reviews, but nothing huge.

So I decided to take a leap of faith and started to @ message people on Twitter about it who were interested in science fiction. One of the ones who came up when I searched Twitter was David Brin, who’s of course a best-selling SF author with something like 20 books to his credit.

Shockingly, he responded.

I asked if he’d like a copy of my book, he gave me his email address, and I sent him a copy. A couple days later he made my day when he read the first chapter and emailed back: “Okay you got decent action chops. Still no promises when I can get beyond the wakeup scene. But you are no amateur.”

Then 7 days later, he blew my mind when he emailed again, having read the entire book. This time he said:

“John, thanks for sharing your novel. You have very solid skills. The work makes no pretense of being deep, but it is completely professional and successful at what it aims to be. I would be happy to provide a comment/blurb for you to use, if you like.

I went ahead and took some notes. Some inconsistencies I noticed and some typos. They are provided below. I hope they are useful.”

Obviously I wanted a comment/blurb from him (!!) but below I carefully read through his notes. There, David Brin had carefully compiled about three pages of detailed notes on my first attempt at a novel, ranging from a couple remaining spelling errors to suggestions on foreshadowing events, deepening emotional connections with characters, and one unbelievably critical suggestion on enhancing and clarifying the goals and motives of the main villain of No Other Gods … one of the “gods.”


Bestselling authors (and working scientists) don’t take time out of their day to edit unknown self-publishing “authors” books. They just don’t. It doesn’t happen.

Except … it did.

I made all the changes he indicated, re-submitted to Amazon as a second edition of the book, and included his promo blurb right on the front cover:

“Non-stop action! An eternal champion battles his way across centuries, gradually learning to ask the question: why?”

Wow, wow, wow.

With the help of that recommendation, No Other Gods is now climbing Amazon’s SF time travel bestseller list, hitting the first page of the list for the first time today at #18.

Thanks David Brin!

Sneak peek … and free first chapter: No Other Gods

I’ve both longed for and dreaded this day: my baby is being born. She’s coming out in the world and the world may not like her. But she must be born. And maybe the world will love her 🙂

And so you – thank you SO much – are the first audience hearing her little cries as she emerges.

I’ve already released the full version to my VIP list of beta readers. If you hurry, you can still get on that list.

But I wanted to open up the first snippet of the first chapter to a wider audience. Maybe you don’t have a lot of time. Maybe you’re worried that it will suck. Maybe you’ve got a little Missouri in you: you wanna see it before you commit.

So I’m releasing this first chapter on Scribd. You can read it here, you can read it there, or you can download it and read it anywhere. And no, it’s not a Dr. Seuss book 🙂

Read, enjoy, and let me know if you want more!

No Other Gods Chapter 1 by John Koetsier

Apple CEO Tim Cook photobombed me yesterday

Yesterday Apple CEO Tim Cook photobombed me while I was doing a Vanna White with the new retina Macbook Pro.

Dean Takahashi, also from VentureBeat, was videoing me showing the new laptop. We were at the Apple event in San Jose for the iPad Mini unveiling (and a lot else). Unbeknownst to me, while I’m showing the 13″ MacBook Pro’s new HDMI port, supermodel thinnosity, and super-sharp 4-million-pixel screen, Tim Cook showed up.

Of course, Dean never said a word.

If I had known, of course, I would have stopped interviewing me and started interviewing Cook. Ah well, I’m probably sucking – Tim doesn’t look super-happy.

Thanks for the photo, Dean!

Best pitch of the day

If there’s a skill journalists get good at, it’s ignoring. We get pitched incessantly, and end up deleting gigabytes of email just because there’s no time to parse it all.

But this one caught my eye:

Unfortunately, it didn’t work … there’s no way we’d cover that at VentureBeat. But it at least caught my eye.

And that’s job #1 for a pitch.

photo credit: Poppy Wright via photo pin cc

Less free, more lance

Today is a really, really good day. I just signed a contract with VentureBeat to come on board full-time as a writer.

I’ve been writing for VentureBeat on a freelance basis since April 30th of this year, taking a contrarian opinion on why you should be using Klout when making (some) hiring decisions. Since then, I’ve written about a hundred posts.

My favourite, so far, is this one: How a 1-man cat-drawing startup won a Mark Cuban investment, the story of how a cat-drawing web geek from Chicago got on Shark’s Tank and charmed Cuban into a $25,000 investment. That was a fun interview, it was fun to write, and … I got Mark Cuban to comment, which was a highlight for me.

My most successful post so far has been Microsoft. Kicks. Ass. which I wrote at about 5:30 in the morning after Microsoft’s Surface announcements. I think the company got its mojo back there, even though I’m a Mac guy, and I applauded them for it. At this point, it’s gotten over 6300 likes and about 1600 tweets:

I’ve learned a ton so far, and I know I have a LOT more to learn yet. But I’ll be doing it with a great team of writers and editors, and I’m looking forward to it.

Thanks, Dylan!

Welcome CGA-Canada!

It’s been in the works for some time now, but I’m pleased to be able to announce that the contracts are now signed: I’ll be doing a series of social media seminars for the Certified General Accountants Association of Canada.

We’ll be digging into what social means for CGAs in their organizations, how social media can help both CGAs and their companies, and how to utilize social technologies to both learn and connect with colleagues.

Thanks for the vote of confidence, and I look forward to delivering them soon!

CGAs do, in fact, see more than numbers 🙂


Of Klout and Klouchebags

My second post on VentureBeat is live: Why you should be using Klout when making hiring decisions.

Klout is a social measuring and monitoring tool that gauges online influence, mostly by analyzing data from Twitter, Facebook, and a few other social networks. There was a pretty major reaction last week to the Wired story about the marketing exec who lost out on a new job opportunity due to his low Klout score. A lot of people were pretty negative on Klout.

That’s understandable, to a degree. Who likes being measured and analyzed … especially when the results may not always line up with how we think of ourselves. Or, when there are concerns about the methodology and accuracy of the measurement.

In any case, I still find value in Klout … and here are a few reasons why.

Facebook apps & privacy (you don't have any, by default)

Facebook is amazing. Over 900 million people are connected via this social utility, and Facebook will soon be the first billion-person social network. But privacy is an issue …

Yes, for apps too
When we think of Facebook and privacy, we think about status updates. We think about friends, and “public by default” privacy policy updates. We don’t usually think about apps.

But apps are possibly the biggest threats to our privacy. And I’m not talking about updates from FarmVille outing your bad Farmer John habit.

Share my data with apps my friends use?
Facebook apps are notorious data hogs. Some want just your email and name. Some want access to your friends. Many want to be able to post to your timeline.

But did you know some apps that your friends have installed have access to YOUR data? I didn’t think so. Fortunately, Reginald Braithwaite blogged about this a couple of weeks ago.

My friend is my data
As he shows, BranchOut (the Facebook-enabled LinkedIn competitor) gets your data when you authorize it. But it wants access to all your friends’ data too. Nothing too personal of course: just their employment histories, schools attended, and places they’ve lived.

By default, it’ll all be made available.

It’s legal, but is it ethical?
You can bet that whatever privacy policy Facebook has in place now, and whatever decisions you’ve made and clicks you’ve committed add up to full legal authorization for Facebook and the apps to do whatever they want.

But is it ethical?

Most people don’t assume that apps their friends are installing will have access to their data too. Most won’t dig through the labyrinth of Facebook privacy settings to deny the possibility. And some that would prefer to disallow this might be almost forced into agreement due to the need to access and use apps themselves.

A perfectly valid question is, therefore: is this ethical? My answer is no.

Ask me, please
If Facebook would ask people first, before sharing their info, that would be ethical. And helpful, not to mention aboveboard.

How hard would that be?

Social Media Marketing: Brian Solis on Beating Digital Darwinism

Brian Solis has just released a new book: The End of Business as Usual, and he’s blogging about it, most recently with a post on beating digital Darwinism.

(In other words: avoiding extinction due to ignoring the rise of social … and the consequent change in customer expectations.)

Solis is a big thinker, and releases books with big thoughts. And I’ve had his blog post in a browser tab for almost a week now, wanting to blog about it but not sure how. Now I know how: simplification. Or, if not simplification, at least short-ification. Because if brevity is the soul of wit, Solis may not be the funniest man on the planet.

So, here are Brian’s 10 trends, shortened:

  1. Social networks & key influencers
  2. Geolocation & social
  3. Crowdsourced deals
  4. Social commerce
  5. Referral & recommendation systems
  6. Gamification of everything
  7. Mobile
  8. Multi-platformization
  9. Holistic branding & customer experience across MANY platforms & networks
  10. New expectations of the modern consumer

You really need to go and read the article, which is great. But I wanted to boil down the essence of why business is no longer “business as usual” in fewer words.

If I haven’t succeeded, castigate me ritually.

Top 10 social media tips for businesses just starting with social media

I’ve been doing a lot of work lately with businesses and organizations that are recognizing the need to do something – anything – with social media.

The why is simple: they want to be where their customers are. The how: not so simple. Where do you start? What’s important, and what’s nice-to-have? How do you enter a social space appropriately, and how do you connect with people?

Here are 10 tips for businesses getting started with social media:

  1. Claim your space
    Domainer squatters are capturing all available domain names. And social squatters are doing similar things. So protect your future interests by automatically claiming your brand on any social media site. You don’t always know which ones will become significant remember Pinterest’s amazing growth) so cast a wide net.

  2. Start by listening
    Just like you wouldn’t show up at a party in a foreign country talking at full volume acting like you own the place, start slow. Start by understanding a social network before you try to establish your own presence. Reddit is very different than Facebook. Twitter is not YouTube. And different communications tactics and strategies work in different places.

  3. Talk to a pro
    If you’re new to social, buy some time from a long-time pro – a consultant who does social for a living. Even if it’s just an hour a week, get some tips, get some strategies, and most important, get some quick feedback on your ideas. A small investment here will save big dollars down the road: especially if you do something catastrophically wrong and create a PR nightmare.

  4. Start a blog
    Participating in social networks is like renting: it may make a ton of business sense, but it’s not on your own turf, and you don’t make the rules. Tilt the field a little in your direction by starting a blog, where you own the land and you set the rules. Everything you do here is an investment in your own property.

  5. Connect with others in your industry
    See what your competition is doing. See what your colleagues are doing. You can avoid mistakes that others have made, and you can learn from successes they’ve enjoyed. You’ll need to travel your own path, but you don’t have to do it in ignorance.

  6. Know your story
    Just like coming to a business meeting for networking, know a few things before you go. Who you are (your brand, your story), and what you want (your strategy). People who don’t know who they are or what they’re interested in can be boring … and the same is true with companies and brands. So figure it out before you open your mouth.

  7. Be able to act on what you learn
    As you engage with current and future clients, you’re going to hear some things that are going to need to be acted on. So have good communication lines with people in your company who manage marketing, production, customer relations, PR, and so on. Nothing’s worse than hearing about a major problem at your company that you can’t do anything about because you haven’t built your bridges first.

  8. Lighten up and have some fun
    Social media is … wait for it … social. So reading from the corporate strategy manual is a non-starter. Selling like it’s a TV ad is a waste of time. And keeping the stiff, formal tones of the annual report is not going to cut it. Social is about people, so talk like a real person. Just like you’d want companies to talk to you.

  9. Be social, don’t just do social
    Social is not something you do, it’s a way you live. So don’t just do social for the company, participate in social media yourself. Get as many on your team and company to do likewise. This will teach you the culture and communication styles of tomorrow’s clients and partners.

  10. Set some goals
    Nothing in your company gets done just to get done. Everything has, or is supposed to have, some kind of strategy – some link to what makes your organization successful. Social’s no different. Establish goals and track progress toward them. And, obviously, align your goals with company strategy … but make them realistic given the character of social networks that you’re engaging with.

  11. And a bonus point: set up monitoring
    Set up cheap/free monitoring with Google Alerts or Social Mention (here are a few more options for listing to your clients). Nothing is worse than being ignored … unless it’s finding out that you ignored a small issue that is now a major one. So listen to mentions of your brand and products, and be prepared to respond appropriately.

Meetup: this is how NOT to treat paying clients

Earlier this week I set up a Meetup group for coworkers in BC’s Fraser Valley. It contained some information about coworking, some hints on the kinds of people who might enjoy coworking, and a link to our current landing page for coworking in Abbotsford.

Today I was informed that the meetup group had been terminated:

Needless to say, I was totally flabbergasted. Our meetup group was for people who wanted to help start a coworking community in the valley. It wasn’t about porn, and we weren’t selling anything. So why were we being closed? How were we not in compliance?

Well, the answer was simple.

For more information you can review the Terms of Service

This is one of those cases where something that is simple is not easy. Here are the Meetup’s terms of service – to the right. As you can tell … there are a lot of terms. And a lot of words. And a long, long, long web page full of reasons why we were not in compliance.

But which one was applicable?

After a lot of reading, I think it was this one: 5.3(b)(vii). Yeah, that’s number 5, section 3, subsection (b), sub-subsection (vii). Which reads under a heading titled “Grounds for removal, sanction, and/or suspension:”

[Posting any material] that uses the Platform primarily as a lead generator or listing service for another website;

Well. Perhaps the link to our coworking signup page violates that stipulation.

Here’s how you should treat that scenario, Meetup
Here’s a wild, crazy idea. I know it’s out of left field, so brace yourself. Be seated. Hold on to your hat.

How about: you send me an email, explain that stipulation, and ask me to remove it?

I know it’s ground-breaking and earth-shattering … but do you think that might be better than arbitrarily booting a paying customer with no reasonable explanation?

No, I didn’t read your terms of service
I’m sorry, but there are 14 pages of TOS, totalling 8319 words. And I have a life.

So no, I didn’t read your TOS. And I don’t think your TOS is reasonable or customer-friendly.

So please …
So I’m asking … please reinstate the group. I’ll remove the offending link (if indeed that is the problem).

A Pulitzer prize for blogs: a huge step, but did it have to be HuffPo?

We need to just pause for a moment and reflect: a blog has won the Pulitzer prize. Somewhere Bob Woodward (of Watergate fame, who just cast aspersions on journalism and the web) is squirming in his boots.

The prize is for David Wood’s 10-part series on wounded veterans and their families: Beyond the Battlefield, and it’s a validation that serious, old-fashioned, long-form, deeply researched journalism can happen via the web. Massive kudos to Wood, and equally massive kudos to the Pulitzer organization, which is putting a nail in the coffin (I hope) of those who say that bloggers are not journalists.

The only negative: it was the Huffington Post that won.

This series was excellent, but in the blogosphere, HuffPo is known more for semi-creative rewrites of other people’s posts (with grudging and tiny attribution links), and sensationalized linkbait. In other words, not exactly the poster child for sober online journalism. Ahh well, you can’t have it all.

This is the first, but it won’t be the last. Serious journalism is moving to electronic-only media. It’s just a matter of time until it will be unusual in the extreme to award a Pulitzer to a paper production.

Infographic about YOU: what you tweet, post, and share … according to Intel

Intel has posted a social media tool for social content creators like you and me. It connects to your social networks – Facebook, Twitter, YouTube – and creates an infographic of YOU.

Here’s a piece of mine:
Infographic: John Koetsier

Apparently, this is what I talk about online:

  • Tech (22%)
  • Food (15%)
  • Art & Photography (14%)
  • Sports (12%)
  • Gaming (7%)
  • Study (6%)
  • TV/Film (6%)
  • Travel (5%)
  • Fashion (5%)
  • Science (3%)
  • Music (3%)
  • Shopping (2%)

I really doubt some of what it’s saying. Gaming? I hardly play any games, except a few on my iPhone. Food? Seriously? I can’t recall the last time I posted anything about food. Same about TV or movies. Or fashion for that matter.

Still, it’s definitely interesting.

What does yours say?

Social Media Bootcamp: helping organizations go social

On Tuesday I ran a social media bootcamp for executives and managers of DiverseCity, a nonprofit in BC, Canada focused on helping new Canadians adjust to life in Canada. It’s a significant organization with an annual budget north of $10M, but has not really ventured too far into social media yet.

The goal was helping the organization understand social media, see the opportunities as well as the challenges, and kickstart the process of integrating social into their communications, learning, connecting, and community integration processes.

We traced the history of media and the evolution of the web, contextualizing social media. Then I talked about simple ways to start, to claim space (usernames), to listen, and to start communicating.

Some of the key learnings

  1. The entire culture is moving online
    When you see the numbers that we’re seeing come online, it’s impossible to ignore.

    • 2.4 billion internet users
    • 1.6 billion on social networks
    • 850 million on Facebook
    • 250 million on Qzone
    • 500 million on Twitter
    • 150 million on RenRen

    What people know, HOW people learn, what they see, why they think what they think, how they connect, how they communication, who they communicate to … it’s all moving online. Which means that not having a meaningful social presence on the web is simply suicidal.

  2. A website is so old school
    One of the key issues we discussed is that having a website is a little passé today. You don’t just build a website anymore. Rather, you cultivate a web presence. It’s a meshed approach, including many different components:

    • Your website, yes
    • Your blog
    • Your social media accounts
    • Other people’s social media accounts, posts, likes, tweets
    • Press and PR stories about you from the “pro” media
    • Your comments on other sites
    • Links, reviews, and more

    It’s a whole mix of what you do and what others do online that in sum adds up to an nuanced and somewhat nebulous web presence. Your brand is very closely bound up with this, it’s something you have at best limited control over, and what gets amplified, gets heard.

  3. Be remarkable … or you won’t “be”
    If you want to be noticed, if you want to have a voice, if you want to be heard … you better be remarkable. You better be interesting. You better have something to say.

    Because boring stuff dies. Irrelevant stuff dies. It’s not visible – it’s buried in the flood. And if you’re not visible, you don’t exist. Out of sight is out of mind … you’re not in the social graph, and you’re not in the interest graph.

    And that means you are not in the lives of your stakeholders and users.

  4. It’s easy to get started
    Most people at organizations that haven’t tipped to social yet are scared. They see a lot of noise, light, and danger. They don’t know where to begin and what to do … what the highest-leverage activities are, and what’s just flash-in-the-pan. Fool’s gold.

    But starting is easy.

    • Claim your space
      Get your accounts on the major social and content networks. Make it unique to you, but consistent across all the sites you choose to participate in. Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and YouTube are good starting points.

    • Start listening
      What happens on the major sites you’ve chosen to participate in? How do people communicate? What do they say, and what works and doesn’t work?

    • Evaluate your brand
      Is your brand – are you – able to stand up and be noticed in the busy, noisy dataverse? If not, what needs to happen? Does it need some updating?

    • Feed the data monster
      Start connecting. Start communicating. But pay yourself first – ensure you’re creating quality content on your own platforms (site, blog) as well as connecting on social networks. Share, retweet, and like others’ content as well as your own.

    • Set up some monitoring
      Ensure you understand what others are saying about your industry and you. Become part of the conversation – find your niche. And don’t ignore negativity: lean into it politely and humbly.

There is a ton more that could be said, and that was. But it was a starting point. Perhaps next time we’ll get into more specifics and actions.

(Full disclosure: I am on the board of DiverseCity, where I serve as VP and Chair of the PR committee.)

Highlight: Must must MUST enable Twitter

We are never going to run out of apps to find and connect with new people. They’re a dollar a dozen right now.

But one that’s getting quite a bit of attention is Highlight. Scoble has highlighted it (haha) as the connect with people around you app to beat at SXSW.

The app is cool, well-conceived, and narrowly focused. And it’s got great buzz. But, but, but.

Only Facebook
You can only connect to Highlight via Facebook. Highlight uses your Facebook info and friends to try to understand you, see who your friends are, and make educated guesses about people who are nearby that you might like to know or meet. IMHO, only using Facebook is a serious limitation.

A lot of people (and I’m one of them) use Facebook for actual – in other words, IRL – friends and family. It is, after all, your friend graph.

What about Twitter?
Twitter is a little different. For many of us (maybe most of us) Twitter is mostly for people that we have NOT met in real life … but find interesting nevertheless. Twitter is the interest graph.

Combining the two
Adding Twitter would create a much more powerful serendipity component to Highlight. Now not only would it find friends, and friends of friends, but also people that maybe you don’t know, but would find interesting and rewarding to meet, if you happen to be physically proximate to them.

This could be creepy for some – location-based social apps tend to have that tinge – but which social networks you link up would be totally optional … and who you meet is also totally optional.

Coming soon?
I’m sure it’s coming at some point, maybe even soon. I just wish it was there from the start.

. . .
. . .

BTW, Highlight’s logo breaks my brain:

Special K: Gamification is great if there's a game involved

Gamification is great. However, the game that is being “ified” should not just be the promoting company’s financial or statistical wellbeing … it should be something the user him or herself is playing.

Well duh.

And … real shocker coming right up … it should, actually, kinda, be at least sort of fun.

Ditto on the duh.

So why do so many companies “gamify” services that aren’t inherently games, or gameable, or even fun? Could it possibly just be that they want to manipulate users into doing things that are more good for them (the company) than for them (the users themselves)?

Couldn’t be, could it? Say it ain’t so.

Take Klout. No really, please do. Preferably away – far, far away. Maybe to a land beyond time. Or at least to a time beyond now.

I just unlocked this achievement from Klout. I am so excited I can barely contain it:

There are only two problems.

  1. Visiting a website is not an achievement (for the user). Unless you’re physically or mentally … umm … challenged.
  2. I haven’t actually been to Klout.com in 4 or 5 weeks. Exclamation point exclamation point, el-oh-el, etc.

Nice try, Klout. I actually responded to one of your emails about my Klout score changing, clicked the link, and now what.

I’m being praised for something that isn’t praiseworthy, and that I didn’t even do.

Even kids see through that crap.

1000 Foursquare check-ins

Yeah, whatta nerd:

I just wish I had been using Foursquare while I was doing all my travelling for EasyBits Software a few years ago. A bunch of checkins from Cairo, Tokyo, Shanghai, Bucharest, London, Amsterdam, Lisbon, and so one would have been really cool.

BTW, I haven’t used that discount code, so if you want some cheap Foursquare schwag … be my guest!

Social & You: my presentation at SOHO Vancouver

Here’s the slide deck from my presentation today at SOHO Vancouver:

I talked about the evolution of data from the spoken words to the Facebook timeline, and how that impacts business and branding. There are also four simple steps for businesses to take when starting out in social media.

It was a ton of fun … there were a lot of great people there. Smart business people all, with many of them already doing more than just dabbling in social media for their companies and their brands.

Speaking at SOHO YVR

Looks like I’ll be speaking at SOHO Vancouver in about a month. The topic? Social media, of course …

I’m looking forward to it, but I had to create/update a new bio to be posted on the site and in the conference literature. At first I sent in this:

John Koetsier is senior manager, online media for Canpages, the Canadian
local search company. He’s been connecting people and ideas online for over
15 years.

But our senior marketing manager, Cathy Greer, felt that wasn’t substantial enough. So, back to the drawing board …

Here’s what I came up with on the second go-around:

John Koetsier has been creating simple solutions for communication and connection for over 16 years.

He’s been director of product development for Premier (a division of one the largest education companies in North America, School Specialty), COO of a software startup, and has built 3 learning management systems for over 40,000 schools in the US and Canada. He worked with Disney to build a custom PC environment just for kids, and helped create the user interface for Intel’s Classmate PC project.

He is currently Senior Manager, Online Media for Canpages, the Canadian local search company, where he manages social media, search, and apps.

John has been blogging since the mid ’90s when he built his own blog infrastructure from scratch, and currently tweets (to over 4K followers), shares, updates, checks in, and Google+’s with alarming frequency. He’s spoken about technology, learning, and connecting to clients to audiences in Europe, Asia, Africa, and North America.

He has a Bachelor’s degree in English from Simon Fraser University and a Masters in Educational Technology from the University of British Columbia, and is on the board of directors of DiverseCity.

Sounds good – I should hire this guy. Marketing, marketing, marketing 🙂

Leaving Facebook for Google+? Unlikely

Brian Solis recently posted a poll asking his contacts if they’d abandon Facebook for Google+.

A shocking large number – 24% – are currently saying yes. Really? Are a quarter of technically-savvy social media types going to abandon the biggest social network on the planet?

I say no, and here’s the comment I made:

Facebook = friends & family.
Google+ = tech stuff.
LinkedIN = professional networking.
Twitter = not sure anymore…

Mom’s not going to G+. Not gonna happen. And neither are all your cousins, aunts, and other assorted relatives. Plus, most of your school friends who aren’t engineers or otherwise geeky won’t be there – at least not for a while.

So there’s room for all the networks to play.

Except maybe for Twitter, which is still super-strong, but which will (I think) lose a significant component of it’s more technical contributors to G+.

Time will tell …

Google+: don't add brand accounts if you want to stay social

As we all know, Google+ is about to add brand accounts. And, following the Myspace get-the-bands-and-the-fans-will-com strategy, they’re working hard to get Hollywood stars on Google+.

I think that’s a bad strategy … if you really want a truly social experience.

For those of us who are on Google+ right now – here I am, let’s circle up – there’s a real excitement, a buzz, an eagerness, and a charge to using Google+.

There’s a lot of reasons for that:

  • it’s new and we like shiny new toys
  • friending is more manageable than Facebook and Twitter
  • sharing media is easier, quicker than Facebook and Twitter
  • Google+ is integrated into much of (not yet all of) the Google world we live in online

But that’s not the most important reason. The key reason a lot of us on G+ are absolutely loving it is the MASSIVE ENGAGEMENT FACTOR.

People see things. People post. They reply. They argue. They circle. They +1.

In other words, this social network is social. Whoda thunk it? In fact, it’s intensely social. So social that people like Digg founder Kevin Rose redirected his personal blog to his Google+ profile.

My worry and my concern is that by bringing brands in, Google+ will turn into a less social experience. And instead of being a valid and differentiated alternative to Facebook … it will just become more similar. Facebook is a huge marketing platform. Google+ is an innocent, young, on-monetized social network.

I know it can’t stay the way it is forever. But is it possible there’s another path?

Twitter: caught in the Facebook/Google+ crossfire?

Twitter, I fear for you.

You rock, everyone knows that. Well, let’s put it this way: you used to rock. Maybe you still do, but I’m not so sure.

You were my other network:

  • Must-have: Facebook for friends and family
  • Must-have:LinkedIn for work & professional networking
  • Nice-to-have:Twitter for intellectual stimulation, learning, & sharing

Facebook – it’s good to be king
Facebook is pretty secure in its position. 750M users will do that for you.

Guess what: my mom isn’t joining Google+. Not going to happen. Same with most of my friends, who don’t know what SEO is, have barely heard of Android, and wouldn’t have a clue that iOS is the operating system (what’s an operating system?) for iPhones, iPads, and iPod Touches.

LinkedIn – prince is OK for me
LinkedIn is also pretty secure. Complete domination of a category will do that for you.

Everyone I know professionally who cares about their online profile is on LinkedIn. Anyone in marketing, biz-dev, leadership, and technology has a LinkedIn profile. They’re not going to pull their entire resumes and professional histories and recommendations and contacts out of LinkedIn anytime soon.

Twitter – contender or pretender?
Twitter is a little shaky. It’s not as big as Facebook. It doesn’t have a strong a niche as LinkedIn.

Where are the smart people going?
And guess what: all the smart connected people I know are spending almost all of their spare social networking time on Google+. It has become aspects of social and news and networking altogether.

Maybe some of that is because it’s the hot new girl in class. Maybe it’s novelty.

But there’s a LOT that Google+ does right. Media-sharing is next-generation. Conversations are awesome. Communities and groups are a dream to manage. Everything works, and there hasn’t been a fail whale in sight: if there’s one thing that Google knows best, it’s managing scale.

Twitter, how are you going to fight that?

Google+ … I'm in! Want an invite?

Kinda pumped here.

I indicated interest in Google+ yesterday, and when I check my email this morning and saw no invites, I thought I was out of luck. If you didn’t get an invite last night, you’re out of luck because invites have been shut off.

But when I went to Google+ this morning, I was happily surprised: I’m in!

Invites are still off right now, but they are sure to be turned on again soon.

Leave a comment here if you want an invite from me when Google expands the beta.

Social media is word of mouth written in stone

Why does social media matter?

I was recent speaking at a small gathering of sales people. And one of them asked me this question.

They sell marketing services to small businesses – mom and pop shops. Places like your local pizzeria, drycleaners, plumbers, doctors. Why should those busy business owners care about social media?

It’s not like they don’t have enough to worry about. Small business owners, after all, are probably some of the busiest people you’ll meet. Running the business, hiring staff, training, pitching in where and when needed, doing the books, planning marketing, dealing with unhappy clients … the list does not end.

The answer’s really, really simple. Of course, it also happens to be a question. And the question is: does word of mouth matter?

That’s an obvious one to anyone in business or marketing. Or anyone, actually. Word of mouth drive more business (sometimes away) than most major marketing campaigns. Good word of mouth means solid business and increasing client lists. Bad word of mouth means lonely, slow days with dollars flying out but only dribbling in.

Well, social media is word of mouth. But, this word of mouth lasts forever.

Thanks to Google, thanks to rating and review sites, thanks to the internet … everything is saved. Even the idiotic tweets of a horny politician. Certainly the passionate raves and rants of your customers.

And not only is it saved … it’s shared. And spread. WOM 1.0 usually died after a person or two. The words were spoken, they hung in the air, the sound faded. And that was it. WOM 2.0 is much different. They’re saved, they have a life of their own independent from their author, and they can be shared by the author or anyone else to an unlimited audience.

That means everyone in your town, potentially. Everyone who is on your client list, possibly. Maybe even all your friends at the gym.


Word of mouth is a big deal? Social media is a bigger deal. What are you going to do about it?

More on that later …

10 reasons Google's +1 will be a massive success

Google’s massive and long-awaited foray into social begins anew tomorrow morning: +1 is here.

I think +1 will be a huge success, and here’s why.

  1. Google needs this
    Google sucks at social. But the web has changed … and they need, need, need this to work. It’s mission-critical, and have you ever known Google to fail long-term at anything mission-critical? Me neither. ‘Nuff said.

  2. Google has scale
    There are lots of social sharing icons in roughly similar spaces: the Facebook Like button, StumbleUpon, Twitter’s tweet button … etc. etc. Reddit, LinkedIn, Digg, Delicious, you name it … they all have social sharing. But only Facebook has anything approaching Google’s scale. And Google’s massive scale is going to make +1 big, fast.

  3. There’s room for one more social sharing icon
    Right now sites focus on Facebook likes and Twitter tweets. Some will add in Reddit or StumbleUpon, or let you access 10-20 more social sharing networks via a drop-down menu. But there’s room in the higher pantheon of social sharing/recommending always-visible top-of-the-page icons to add one more biggie. That’s Google’s +1, and the only question is which of the also-rans will drop out. Tech sites surely will have Facebook, Google, and Twitter. Everyone else? You’re in a drop-down menu – sorry about that.

  4. SEO types are having wet dreams
    Social ranking signals influencing Google search results? SERPS that I can influence if I get my audience to vote? SEOs are all over that … and they will drive a lot of behavior on top 500 websites.

  5. The web wants a Facebook competitor
    We know Google is the Borg. But we also know Facebook is the Borg. When it comes right down to it, it’s better to have two Borgs than one. When there’s two, at least there’s competition. At least there’s a need to be user-focused instead of $$$-focused. So Google getting some traction in social is a good thing for all of us … maybe even Facebook. Or maybe not.

  6. It’s easy for site managers
    Adding social sharing icons to a site is dead easy. SharePost, ShareThis … there are lots of ways and lots of plugins. Adding one more is a no-brainer that will take virtually no effort for millions of blog owners and site managers.

  7. Google owns search and search traffic
    Because Google owns search engine referral traffic, which is most of many sites’ traffic, it has tremendous power in influencing what those sites do. Search engine optimization is pretty much Google optimization. As such, anyone who cares about traffic optimizes for Google … and +1 is not just a nice idea: it’s going to be critical.

  8. Google has hundreds of millions of users already
    For users, +1 is almost a Trojan horse – to use it, you need to have a Google account. Fortunately for Google, hundreds of millions of people already do: they’re called Gmail users. That’s an incredible installed based to start from … and hundreds of millions more will be jumping all over this. This alone is the key factor that is making Facebook red-faced and white-knuckled: now many, many more will have a reason to not just use Google, but sign up and get an account with Google. This will have significant downstream impact on future Google initiatives in social …

  9. AdWords costs could go down
    Let’s say you’re a big Google AdWords advertiser. You pay 25 cents a click. Now you start using +1, and your users drive up your ranking for all the keywords you are relevant for. And your noticeability goes up. You get more clicks, and more organic clicks. Now you’re paying less … because your organic SEO is improved (non-paid traffic) and your ads convert better (paid traffic that converts better is cheaper in the AdWords algorithm). Huh. You think you’re interested in that? Just a little …

  10. PageRank is over
    PageRank is so over. It’s been done. It’s been optimized for and gamed. It’s not able to provide great results anymore. Social proof is the missing piece, and users and Google alike know it. So both users and Google have a vested interest in improving search results.

Google’s +1 is going to drive major change on the web. And it won’t take long.

StumbleUpon is a traffic magnet for bloggers

I’ve recently incorporate social sharing icons from Share Post on Sparkplug 9 stories. You’ll see them on blog post pages … right above the story.

The interesting thing for me recently is the numbers from StumbleUpon. For example, check out stumbles on this recent post:

I’m not a long-term StumbleUpon user. In fact, I’ve just started, and it’s taken me a while to get a degree of comfort and familiarity with the service. It’s a very cool way of discovering new content.

From a web publisher’s perspective, however, it’s also a great way to get traffic and attention for content. As you can see from above … something that I posted a few days ago has been viewed by 681 SU users, while only tweeted, shared, or seen on LinkedIn a couple of times.

That’s cool, and that’s enough to make me want to continue to explore and use StumbleUpon, and contribute to the community as a user while benefitting from it as a content producer.

Twitter: the details matter

What makes an amazing product amazing?

Usually, there’s a few significant things it does really well. And just as usually, amazing products have amazing finish: there are few if any rough edges.

So while it’s good news that Jack Dorsey is back at Twitter, supposedly running product full-time … he’s got a lot to do.

Incredibly simple, trivial, and obvious case in point:

How hard can it be to see if only one person has re-tweeted, versus multiple people? And to have the right spelling/grammar in either case?

That’s right – not hard.

But it does take one thing: attention to detail.

Search on Facebook sucks, and so does ad targeting (on searches)

OK, so let’s just be honest.

In all this talk of Facebook being a huge competitive threat to Google … there’s a big missing piece. And that’s search.

Social is great, big, wonderful, exciting, profitable, and growing wildly. Social commerce is going to be big. Social discovery is already huge.

But when you really need to get something done NOW, or find something in real-time … there’s nothing like searching. And the Facebook experience is nothing like the Google experience.

The Google experience is obvious – we all use it. Need something, type something, find something (usually). The Facebook experience is odd … at least when you’re trying to do an actual informational search in a built-for-social world.

By default, Facebook says it’s searching ALL results, out of these options:

  • All results
  • People
  • Pages
  • Groups
  • Apps
  • Events
  • Web results (from Bing)
  • Posts by friends
  • Posts by everyone

This cannot actually be true. In fact, it’s completely false.

We’re currently listing ads for sales consultants in BC, Ontario, and Alberta. Wanting to see the ads in context, I searched for “sales jobs bc” … which ONLY brings up group and business pages, none of which are relevant.

Filtering by people or places brings up zero results. Filtering by groups brings up IDENTICAL results to All Results. Filting by Apps or Events brings up zilch again. Filtering by web brings up Bing results for the search query, which bears no relationship with the results in All Results or Groups. Posts by Friends brings up nothing (for me), and Posts by Everyone brings up a couple of personal status updates.

And then, on top of it all … the ads Facebook showed me while search barely changed from the standard FB ads I always see: local deals, products, groups or people wanting my attention. Few were relevant, and it took many refreshes to see my own ad for sales jobs in BC.

So …

  1. Searching by social doesn’t work well (for this kind of query, and for a lot of the standard Google types of queries)
  2. Facebook search results are not blended results; they are silo’d results … which, particularly in the case of Bing, is a problem in terms of utility (i.e., there’s less than there should be!)
  3. Search query terms do not carry enough weight in Facebook in terms of prioritizing ads to display
  4. Bing ads that are shown in Facebook are severely limited compared to the standard web Bing ads … Facebook’s Bing results show only 2 ads, while Bing.com shows 5.

The upshot?
Social and search may still meet. In fact, will still meet.

Just not today.

Twitter: how to fix the Quick Bar

The Twitter Quick Bar, as seen in Marco Arment's post.

Like any other company, Twitter wants to make money. Like most other companies that live off user-generated content, advertising is one of the methods they’re working on.

The Twitter Quick Bar is an attempt to insert an ad stream into users’ tweet streams. Unfortunately, it’s a massive fail – check out Marco Arment’s blog for an excellent overview and explanation.

It’s all about context
The problem is not that users are angry about advertising (or, at least, that isn’t the main problem). The problem is the complete lack of context. And that’s a problem due to the inherent nature of Twitter.

Twitter is the ultimate in contextual media. You follow people with interests you care about. When they tweet – presumably about things you care about – you get messages that you want and expect to see.

Disastrously decontextualized
The Quick Bar is decontextualized. It’s about something that someone else cares about … someone who has paid a stack of dollars to Twitter to shove under your nose. As such, it’s the opposite of permission marketing. To use Seth Godin’s language, it’s interruption marketing.

The Twitter Quick Bar is the Charlie Sheen of UI design. A catastrophic meltdown no one saw coming.less than a minute ago via Twitter for Mac

(This is clueless and tone-deaf for Twitter … a company that should get this stuff. One can only assume that co-founder Jack Dorsey’s departure from an active, day-to-day role in the company has had a negative effect.)

But easy to fix
The simple solution for Twitter: segment your users by interest and attention. Then, instead of selling advertisers a shotgun of promoted tweets or hashtags, sell a sniper rifle of specific interests.

Now, your promoted tweets and hashtags are more relevant to your users.

And now, your users are less upset.

Simple, no?

(But maybe not quite as easy.)