Facebook is the Gateway Drug of Social Media

FacebookaddictionNew joiners to Facebook go through phases – understanding privacy, etiquette and addiction.  But what happens when they settle down?  The functionality of Facebook is a “lite” version of many other social technologies many have come to know.

Facebook is growing strong, recently passing the 175 million members mark.  I’ve seen many folks go from skeptic to addict in recent months.  My parents are on Facebook.  My neighbors are on Facebook.  My high school class is now mostly on Facebook when 6 months ago it was the exception.  My CEO, clients and colleagues are on Facebook.  Campers from summers in the late 80s and early 90s when I was a camp counselor are on Facebook.  Facebook dominates dinner conversation with friends, and Facebook regularly freaks out my wife when people she talks to know what I am up to.

Take a look at what people are doing in Facebook after they get through the initial connection streak:

  • The “25 things about me” meme is one of a dozen different types of viral “notes” going around.  Isn’t this a form of blogging?  I doubt many would claim the “Blogger” title though.
  • Over time, more people seem to use status updates more.  I don’t have any scientific data to back this up, but I’ve noticed people slowly adopting using the status update for a funny anecdote, what’s for dinner, a victory potty training moment.  The status update has many similarities to Twitter.
  • More people are posting and sharing links, photos, and other content.  Enter (arguably) easy to use versions of Delicious.com, Flickr and Friendfeed.

acpromFor these reasons I think Facebook is an easy “gateway” for those who don’t use those other tools day to day and are building their communities – and it may even encourage more adoption of Twitter, Friendfeed and other tools down the road (especially with their integration to your News feed).  All of these features add up to introducing core social media technology functions to the average Joe – who also happens to own a scanner and is sharing pictures of me from my senior prom.  (The mullet was all business in front, party in the back, I swear).

Did Facebook introduce you or people you know to social media?  How’s it going so far?

Photo credit (above): escapetowisconsin via Flickr

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Some Lessons Learned

Wonder I am not a blogger, but I have a blog.  It’s the same way I would say I am not a golfer, but I like to play golf, especially with good company in nice weather.  About 6 months ago, I started this blog as a “parking lot” and an outlet to capture thoughts about many topics.  The topics are work related in nature, but I’m not looking to hawk wares from my company here.  I am learning a lot about conversation, engaging folks (or at least trying to), and what drives many of the social media blogging evangelists out there.  Frankly, it’s been a lot of fun.  I’ve decided to take a step back and look at what are some of the key things I’ve learned.  I know there are many, many better sources for blogging tips and advice, and to some of those authors what I have captured here could label yours truly as “Master of the Obvious.”  At any rate, anyone who jumps into social media has a learning path – I’m sharing some of mine, and would love to hear yours too.

1) Build It (Properly) and They Will Come

Search Engine Optimization is arguably more art than science.  Through looking at referrals to my blog in analytics, it’s easy to see Google searches are the number one search-related source of traffic.  What I did not imagine or anticipate is the types of search terms that got people to my content.  For example, “Working at Brulant” as search terms has brought a number of folks here.  This is a personal blog, although I do discuss my work on occasion.  Of course I immediately notified our recruiting operations and we are polishing up a more formal blog strategy.  In the meantime, two very interesting personal blogs have popped up from our recruiting folks at Talent Acquisition: What Would Darwin Say?  and the art and science of recruiting.  Hopefully the firm will see ROI from this but that is not my specific intent.  Either way, it’s cool to see how folks have found their way here.

2) I Like to Write

I was a political science major at UVM, and after a senior seminar on American Foreign Policy and a minor in American Literature I thought I’d never want to write again – too many late nights staring at my Mac Classic.  This blog has helped me to start building my writing skills again, and it’s fun to find a topic I’m enthusiastic about to let the writing fly loosely.  Of course, that leads to…

3) There Are Not Enough Hours In the Day

I like to write, but it’s far from ever being my day job.  There are statements of work, conference calls, strategy meetings, proposals, and seemingly endless other activities that consume my time.  I’m working on building social media skills internally in our organization, but most of that is on my own time.  Not to mention when I am home in the evenings I’ve got a very fun family to spend time with. (I have yet to hone my skills on the Wii, to the tune of my 7 year old beating me handily in MLB Baseball.  I would never have stood for that in the day, but I digress.)  This blog, not to mention other social media outlets like Twitter, Facebook, Friendfeed and others, could easily consume more time.  I need to manage all of the above with a balance, and this blog gets a post a week on average – less than the recommended twice a week to maintain loyal “readership” by many sources.

4) Good Content is Rewarded

Good content is essential to a blog.  I know not every post I author is a good one, but when one comes along, it gets noticed and rewarded with traffic, recognition, and comments.  You don’t need to ‘link bait’ to get people to that stuff, it just gets out there – a friend from Twitter posted a link of one of my posts on Mixx.com; Another made it onto Digg; The folks at Alltop were kind enough to list my blog there; Other better known bloggers have linked to specific posts or added this blog to their respective blogrolls; Offline, friends, family and colleagues have shared with me positive feedback.  I love hearing from former and current clients who noticed this site.  The whole thing has remained a fun cycle to watch and participate in, and I am inspired to try to “do good work” with my posts here.  A good analogy would be to the children’s book, Mike Mulligan and the Steam Shovel in which a steam shovel and its trusty operator work a little faster and a little better with each additional person watching them work. 

There are many who have given me pointers (knowingly or otherwise) so far, and I thank all of them for their insight, tips, comments and suggestions.  I could highlight many folks or websites here that have good tips, but I’m just going to say a collective “thank you” to the folks who are passionate about this medium.  This has been a positive learning experience all around and I plan to continue it at a minimum just for that benefit.  What are some of the best lessons learned you have found from blogging or other social media tools?  If you haven’t started to yet, what is holding you back?  By the way, what led you to this post?

Photo credit: Austin Kleon via Flickr.

“Cannonball comin’…”

A couple of college friends spotted my blog recently and asked why.  Some colleagues at work joined Twitter recently and found that I am already on it (in fact, I’m linking to this as my 1000th post), and asked why.  In the last three months both friends and family have seen me spend quality time on Facebook and asked why.  I gave it some thought.  To understand these tools, you have to immerse yourself in it – by diving right in.

As I learn more about interactive marketing – frankly, I know I have a lot to learn – social media is changing our industry.  Old approaches to connect with customers and communities are becoming less effective and less relevant.  What better way to understand how it is changing than to jump right in, drink from the fire hose and be baptized by fire all at once? 

After a few months, I have learned a lot and had fun doing it through Twitter, Facebook, this blog, and other tools:

  • I have met a diverse group of passionate social media enthusiasts who have been welcoming to a new participant, including the Social Media Club in Boston.
  • I found a group of strangers who love dunkin donuts coffee like it’s crack, just like I do. 
  • I have direct access to some of the folks in PR, venture capital and social media around the country that are defining how the industry will change, and there are amazing conversations taking place that I can participate in. 
  • I have reconnected with former clients and colleagues who are marching down the same learning path that I am.
  • I have caught up with old friends from elementary school, high school, college and work.  Not to mention summer camp (former campers who were 12 last time I saw them are now out of college!?).
  • I found a die-hard group of Red Sox fans to share a live game experience as if we were all in the same room.
  • I watched a campaign to raise money for Cancer research unfold due to the openness and honesty of a few core bloggers.
  • I watched a couple of social media companies leverage tools like Twitter to do their own PR about their new firm.
  • I have watched companies and individuals experiment, connect, ask questions and contribute thoughts and opinions.
  • I have found new ways to leverage being online and being connected every day.

Most importantly, I’ve experienced first hand how connecting to communities can add value to the experience – in this case my own – and am grateful for the connections.  I’m looking forward to seeing what’s next.

Work Hard, Play Hard – with Social Media

Practicewars_2 I work for a small interactive marketing and consulting firm called Brulant.  95% of the close to 400 employees are based in Cleveland, OH.  Every year, we have a traditional event called the Practice Wars, teeing up team members in the Java and Microsoft practices against each other, along with folks aligned to industry verticals.  The competition ranges from foosball and ping pong to Rubik’s cube and an engineering egg drop.  Other competitions include football, softball and other sports.  Everyone is encouraged to compete in at least one event, and the winning group maintains both a trophy and bragging rights for next year.

This year, we have infused social media into the fun, but as a communication vehicle and a way to educate the company on the tools and communities that are out there. 

  • We’ve launched a Brulant Practice Wars blog (internal only)
  • We’ve started a twitter feed @practicewars http://twitter.com/practicewars for all to follow, with live updates and scores during events
  • The folks followed by @practicewars show up in a real time feed on the blog
  • The blog has a RSS feed, comments, photos, a mashup of maps for the event locations

We used to just send out a big powerpoint of pictures and results – this time we can update everyone real time, solicit ideas, and even let folks talk smack.  This is a great way and idea to leverage social media internally and in the meantime we are teaching everyone the value of a tool like twitter.   Score: New Brulant Community 1, Old school lack of engagement, 0.