Real Time: Piano Humor

By now most folks have heard about Chatroulette, a site that allows you to randomly connect via webcam.  This video at posting time had 3.7 million views in less than two weeks.  A musician named Merton, in a nod to Ben Folds, does some great improv.

Saturday night in Charlotte, NC, Ben Folds set up a computer on stage and did an Ode to Merton in response.  Brilliant way to take advantage of a hot topic and viral hit.  Spotted via @BenFolds on Twitter, for that matter.  As of posting this video only had about 4200 views.

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The Real Purpose of SXSWi

SXSWiSouth by Southwest is an annual interactive, film and music festival in Austin, TX.  The interactive portion of the event (aka SXSWi) is the vertiable motherlode of social media.  Twitter was launched here two years ago, and last year’s infamous horrible interview of Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg (and the Twitter backlash) was stuff of legends. This is my first trip to Austin and in the first day I have already made  a conclusion that is clear to folks who have been to the conference before.  Not sure if this is just a first timer’s phenomenon, but here is my grand insight: SXSW is about connecting with people.

There are tons of great sessions and content scheduled throughout the many days, and of course the parties networking events in the evenings are great ways to connect.  While the sessions have great content, I’ve found the informal time in between events and in the evenings is much more valuable.  By a huge margin.   In my first 24 hours here I’ve connected with more than fifty people who I previously only knew through Twitter or some other online channel (blog, Facebook, etc).  It’s refreshing to “convert” those relationships from virtual to physical, and in many instances there have been shared experiences and potential business opportunities discussed.  Who knows where things will lead, but I am very grateful for meeting folks and getting the opportunity to build relationships further.  Just some quick examples:

There are many more – too many to capture, but these are the highlights and a primary reason for coming to Austin for me.  Of course I do need to make sure I don’t miss the good panels and content, but there is a lot to choose from.  Are you at SXSWi?  Want to meet? You can find me on Twitter most easily to arrange to connect.  I’d love to hear what you get out of conferences too.

Photo credit: adrants via Flickr (I also happened to share a plane and cab with him on thr trip down)

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10 Quick Tips for Retailers to Engage in Social Media Right Now

In the last year I’ve immersed myself in social media, Chris Brogan has been a continual source of inspiration and guidance. His blog,, is a virtual treasure trove of nuggets for social media junkies and new folks alike. Chris recently published an eBook called: Fishing Where The Fish Are: Mapping Social Media to the Buying Cycle. Today I was in a discussion with some colleagues about a client who is interested in “getting into social media.” While reading Chris’s eBook, I was inspired to jot down some very quick tactical tips and suggestions. I spun this toward retailers since it’s the space I work in but it really could apply to any company or industry. Thanks to Chris for the inspiration, who likely has written a similar list already for getting folks “plugged in.”  

10 Quick Tips for Retailers to Start Engaging in Social Media Right Now

1. Do a Google Blog search on your company’s brand, category and industry. Start doing this on a regular basis and read through the content. Start to get a pulse, subscribe to some Google Alerts on the topics.

2. Do the same search using There are lots of resources and guides on using Twitter and other microblogging platforms – but creating an account and getting acclimated is a longer term investment of time. I would start with looking for mentions and understanding what is being talked about. For that matter, Marc Meyer has a great post on many ways to listen to many sources in social media.

3. Join Facebook. Connect with friends, colleagues, get to know and understand how it works. Look for colleagues from your company and see how they are representing themselves. Are there Facebook groups mentioning your company? Does your company have a page? What about your competitors?

4. Join LinkedIn and set up your profile. Also connect with friends and colleagues. Get to know how the social network works. Understanding social networking will be important – as will the ability for customers and business partners to know you exist.  Learn about who you should connect to and who you should avoid on each network.  Here’s my view of how I scrutinize connections, but many people use social networks differently.

5. Ask around your company and find out who blogs, who is on Facebook, who is on Twitter or who is using other social media tools. You can learn a lot about social media by observing what they see and do in this space. I think you’d be surprised at how many folks in the organization already have a blog, even if it’s a personal one.

6. Start using a RSS reader like Google Reader. Search for reviews of your products or services. Find 5 sites where people are talking about them, in forums/discussions, blogs, or other sites. Subscribe to feeds from those sites to start listening.

7. Start using a bookmarking site like Delicious or StumbleUpon. Create a category or tag for blog and press mentions, and start to save/accumulate links about your company and industry.  Connect to colleagues with similar interests and see what they find.

8. Find 5 blogs in a related industry by searching in Technorati, Delicious or another bookmarking service. Read through posts, and comment on them. Be sure to disclose which company you are with if you are promoting or voicing an opinion on a product or service, including a competitor’s.

9. Go talk to Legal. Is there a corporate policy on social media? Does your industry have specific concerns about participating representing the company? Understand the guidelines and policies if they exist.  Scott Monty has talked about how this step was crucial when he joined the team at Ford as to lead their social media effort.

10. Go talk to PR. Chances are they are wrestling with understanding blogs and the importance of reacting timely to concerns. Let them know you are interested to and willing to share a voice.

a bonus tip:

11. Understand this is a journey, not a flash in the pan. Social media requires commitment and a lot of listening well before you will be in a position to come up with a case study in the space.  Just executing against this list will require some time investment.

What did I miss?  Was this helpful?  What has helped you ramp up in social media?

Photo credit: StephanGeyer via Flickr

Blog Action Day 2008: A common goal

Blog Action Day

Yesterday at the New Marketing Summit, I had the opportunity to listen to Don Peppers present on customer empowerment.  He talked about self-organization of crowds and showed a great example of this by asking the crowd to achieve a goal of clapping in unison.  The crowd started, and within a few moments were clapping in tune.  The example was poignant: when there is a common goal, the crowd or social network can be very powerful.

I’m going to make a stretch here to tie this to Blog Action Day, a one day event where bloggers “unite to discuss a single issue – poverty. We aim to raise awareness, initiate action and to shake the web!”  With a common purpose, today you will see thousands of bloggers unite around a common goal to address awareness of poverty as a significant global issue.  I’m glad to be a part of it.  Imagine a stadium of folks starting to clap in unison, then go visit and take a look at how bloggers from all industries, trades and backgrounds are speaking with a loud voice to millions of readers across the globe.

Poverty Awareness

I’m going to use my voice today to share some key statistics on poverty in Massachusetts, my home state, and to make a small action to contribute to the cause.  Without Blog Action Day I probably would not have taken the time to look up and share this information.

  • 320,000 people sought food assistance in Massachusetts in 2005, a 14% increase over 2001.
  • Of those, 45% had to choose between food and heat.
  • 39% had to choose between food and rent.
  • 30% had to choose between food and medical care.
  • Nearly a third say their children don’t eat enough because they can’t afford enough food.

All of these are long before the recent oil price spikes, stock market challenges and housing market problems.

A Quick Action

What can you do?  Here’s a simple suggestion – I just donated online to the Greater Boston Food Bank in honor of Blog Action Day.  You can donate online easily here or go to Feeding America to find a local one for you.

There you have it, blog and action together.  What can you do today to support Blog Action Day?

Social Media for Social Change Takes Off

A Great Event

Sm4sc This past Friday night I had the pleasure and honor of attending an event that represented what a small grass-roots movement can accomplish with some focus and a bunch of personal connections through social media.  At the Harvard Club in Boston, a gathering of folks initiated by the social media enthusiast community in both Boston and New York gathered for an evening to benefit JaneDoeInc., a non-profit organization focused on ending sexual assault and domestic violence.  With the help of sponsors and some passionate individuals the group sm4sc, Social Media for Social Change, kicked off it’s very first event by raising over $20,000.  Sweet.

Grass Takes Root

Back in late August I wrote, “I see this as a grass roots effort that can be spread to other cities as passionate people pick up the vibe.”  Just as any effort with social media, it requires commitment to make the first event a reality.  It will also take a long term push to make the movement into a continued success.  But if a start is an indication of the potential, Friday night’s kickoff of sm4sc can be just that.  The night had all the ingredients – A great turnout, an opportunity to meet some good people (many who I had previously only known through social media tools like Twitter), a beautiful location, some cocktails, and a series of genuine and passionate speeches about the purpose.  Not to mention some late night karaoke (which I avoided clearly to ensure no streaming video of yours truly got into the hands of my project teams at the office).


Of course, the effort ate it’s own dogfood – before, during and after the event.  See the respective blog, twitter account, Facebook group, Myspace group, and now the spread of the “sm4sc” tag in Flickr and elsewhere.  Great blog recaps and “Utterz” are popping up too.
Some Thank Yous

In the world of philanthropy there are many options to choose from – everything from donating personally to small causes to large, established organizations.  I am grateful to Rosetta (who recently acquired Brulant), the agency I work for, for participating as a silver sponsor.  I’m grateful to the other sponsors for everything from funds to great contributions for the raffle.  (I won a great messenger bag from Timbuktu and a pass to the New Marketing Summit, which I had Matt Knell draw another winner for since I was already attending).  While many individuals contributed to making the night a success, special recognition is deserved for four people:

Job well done.

The Sponsors
What’s Next?
See Gradon’s recap that says it all and sets the stage for future events.  If you are interested in planting some grass roots efforts in your city, take a look at for more info.
Photo credit: pictoscribe via Flickr

Connections with a Purpose

Web 2.0 and social media are changing the way we interact online.  Can it change how we interact offline too?  You bet it can.  I'm participating in two events coming up that are purposefully out to show how social media can affect change. 


Sm4sc Are you in the Boston area, interested in social media, and interested in social change?  A group of social media enthusiasts in the area have started Social Media for Social Change.  The background of the cause:

Social media has broken down walls and created conversations. IBM does product testing in Second Life. Old college classmates reunite on Facebook. Zappos does intra-office communication via Twitter. All great, paradigm shifting events.

But what about change for the greater good?

You don't have to be in Boston to be interested, and I see this as a grass roots effort that can be spread to other cities as passionate people pick up the vibe.  Here are some social media footprints around this group already:

  • A fundraiser has been planned for Friday, October 10th, at the Harvard Club in Boston, with all proceeds going to Jane Doe Inc:

    Jane Doe Inc., The Massachusetts Coalition Against Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence brings together organizations and people committed to ending domestic violence and sexual assault. We create social change by addressing the root causes of this violence, and promote justice, safety and healing for survivors.

  • sm4sc is on Twitter
  • Join the sm4sc group on Facebook
  • Check out the sm4sc group on Myspace
  • Vote for a panel on sm4sc at SXSW

More to come as the date approaches.  If you are interested in becoming a corporate or personal sponsor, drop an email to sponsors (at) sm4sc (dot) com.

Blog Action Day 2008

Blog Action Day is a consolidated blog outreach program asking bloggers of all genres to talk about what they do best, but relate a post on October 15, 2008, to the topic of Poverty.  Register your blog and be part of the awareness campaign.  It's easy – they even have ideas to help come up with a post.  This is an easy way to get involved in a good cause.  Check out this video, a well done production to give an overview of what Blog Action Day is about.

Blog Action Day 2008 Poverty from Blog Action Day on Vimeo.


Join in – the energy of the people behind these events is contagious.- for a good reason.

Is there such a thing as “too social?”

Diluted When I talk to clients and colleagues about social networks, most think of LinkedIn and Facebook.  A few more familiar with social media will talk about Twitter and other bookmarking tools like Delicious and StumbleUpon.  Lately, I am seeing niche social networks pop up through Ning and other tools.  With the profileration of community building online, is there a danger that communities become too diluted?

Take the following examples.  I was recently recruited by the business folks behind local Boston sports personality Jerry Remy to join, a community for passionate Red Sox fans.  Within minutes of joining, I had a few dozen connection requests from complete strangers – our only bond a passion for the good guys.  The community allows "friending," blog posts that are proprietary to the network, and the equivalent of Facebook wall posts.  The Boston chapter of the American Marketing Association has also changed up how folks interact with the site adding many social features, like ""friending" and wall posts as well.  (It's actually pretty slick – if you are a member please feel free to connect with me.)  Not too shabby. 

Here's the problem: I want to go to one place, one portal, to get all of my social activity.  I'd almost prefer the front end of Facebook as a single 'portal' that I can access from there, and to maintain contacts in one place.  Do we really need to perpetuate the YASN acronym?  Yet another social network?  I love the idea of connecting with other Sox fans, but I don't like the idea of another profile to update, another source of BACN with all of the connection requests, etc.  There is lots of proprietary content on Sawxheads, and maybe if I could RSS stream the activity to Google Reader it would be a lot easier to digest in one place.

There are startups looking to carry the torch on being content aggregators, whether it's merging activity streams to centralizing the management of profiles.  It seems a long ways off before the pain becomes so compelling that these services will emerge as mainstream…but I think it's going in that direction.  In some upcoming posts I am going to explore the functionality of some of these tools, thanks to some of the folks who have reached out to me to ask for a point of view.  This could be interesting – but hopefully each solves a fundamental problem of spreading out that social goodness too thinly.

Photo credit: cayusa via Flickr