My Top 10 Social Media Moments

Over the years, social media has challenged, amused, embarrassed, inspired and enlightened me. In no particular order (but numbered, so I can call it a “top-10” list) here are some of my favorite moments:

10. Opting out of a page in ” the Facebook” in early 2005 with the quip, “I just don’t see why anyone would want one.” doh.

9. Sending what was meant to be a funny tweet about spending my 12th night in a month at JFK’s Terminal 5, only to get a reply from someone I didn’t even know 5 minutes later confirming my *prepaid* reservation at the Marriott down the street.

8. Discovering the Twitter backchannel at an academic conference–and getting WAY more value out of it than I ever had from any plenary, panel, or keynote.

7. Watching bloggers who had never actually met greet each other like long-lost sisters the first day of a social media conference. Being baffled. And then doing it myself the next year.

6. Finally “getting” Facebook as dozens of people from my graduating class (most of whom were never really “friends” in high school) came together to support a classmate whose baby daughter was born with a hole in her heart.

5. Watching a dozen inner-city teenagers actually fact-check–and spell-check–their homework, because their audience was the world (aka Wikipedia)…instead of just their over-earnest teacher.

4. Being brought up on stage and called out as the only person in the audience of a social media conference still rocking the flip phone.

3. Seeing my blog called “wise and delightful” in a tweet from someone I would have been tempted to faun over had I we ever been in the same room.

2. Realizing that one of the projects we’d funded through TippingBucket had helped to launch the Arab Spring.

1. Signing the check for our first $1,000,000 crowd-funded grant. (This one hasn’t happened yet. But it will.)

Those are my moments…
What are some of yours?

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Mirror, Mirror in the Cloud

It’s been a while since something dramatically altered the way I think about social media, so I figured this insight warranted a post:

During the launch of the #domosocial experiment, Josh (our undeniably brilliant CEO) made a pretty big deal of an ex post facto pardon for an employee who’d challenged one of his tweets.

And it bothered me.

My colleagues tried to explain that Twitter simply wasn’t the right forum for a challenge like that, which just irked me more because for me, social media is the perfect forum for “spirited debate.”

Then suddenly, I got it!

When you interact with people on social platforms, you do it on their terms.

Listen for a while. Try to understand the value they’re looking for from social media. And then try to give it to them.

It’s not pandering. You don’t have to become some sort of social chameleon. This is really just another example of the subtle mirroring that makes so many aspects of life easier (and more successful).

So, by all means, challenge and debate with the theorists. Send personal messages to the socialites. Pass interesting news to the information sponges. Sincerely compliment the promoters. Respond to the conversationalists. And don’t call out the brand-conscious CEOs.

Count Me In.

Like (I imagine) most employees here with a more-or-less established social media presence, to describe my initial reaction to yesterday’s presentation as “reserved” would be generous. If I’m honest, the internal monologue went something like this:

“Um. No. My social networks are my space. And I use them the way I want to. They’re not a part of me you’re entitled to benefit from as an employer. I’ve cultivated what little influence I have carefully—and I have it at least partly because I don’t use it to market stuff. And the fact that I just know you’re going to ask me to (even though you say you’re not) just proves that you really don’t ‘get’ social media…”

Well, I’ve taken some time to process some of that rather self-righteous paranoia, and while some of those reactions expose really interesting questions I hope we’ll explore as we build this case, I’ve ended up pretty excited about the whole thing.

Here’s why:

1. This is a real-time case. “HBR cases are so 1999,” Josh quipped in the launch meeting. And he’s right. The technology to invite a community to observe and analyze business process in action has been around for several years now. Domo (and Josh) might just have the balls to actually do it.

2. In contrast to nearly every other corporate social media initiative I’m aware of, #domosocial is not just social for social’s sake. It’s not even social for brand’s sake. One of the hypotheses the experiment sets out to test is that increased exposure to and engagement with social media on the part of strategists, engineers, designers, developers, even sales people, will make the product better. And that’s an audacious goal I can get behind.

3. The #domosocial experiment acknowledges (while throwing a punch at) the truism that “geography is destiny.” Lindon, UT is most emphatically not Silicon Valley (heck, I opt for a 40-min commute because it is so not Silicon Valley.) But the idea here is that effort and engagement can offset distance—that you don’t have to carpool to soccer practice with employee #2 of the next big thing to get, and stay, on the cutting edge of what’s possible. It just takes a little more work.

So, yeah. Count me in for the experiment.

Too Busy to Blog

too busy to blog
Lately, whenever I think to myself, “I really need to start blogging again,” the mental response has been instant and consistent: I’m too busy.

The revelation here is that while I do lead a full (borderline overflowing) life, it’s not actually scheduling that makes me “too busy” to do some of the things I’d really like to do. In fact, for me, “busy-ness” doesn’t have much to do with time at all.

Busy, for me, is a mind game. Come to think of it, last time I had this revelation I think I called it “cognitive white space.” (yes, I am apparently an exceptionally slow learner)

Feeling “too busy to blog” is less about the time to sit at the computer and write and more about the mental state to come up with something worth writing. When I feel “too busy,” what I’m really experiencing is a mind too cluttered, too frantic to process my life. When mentally too busy, I can’t step back and take in the big picture, make connections and weave meaning out of my somewhat schizophrenic interests and engagements. The peculiar corollary is that with a “free” (that’s the opposite of “busy,” right?) mind, I seem to develop an astonishing capacity to take what we typically think of as “busy-ness” (the calendar variety) in stride.

And just like the kind of busy-ness that has to do with blocks of time on the calendar, this kind of “busy” is entirely up to me.

The Irresistible Offer

Pearls of Wisdom from Liz Straus on how to build a value proposition that is truly irresistible.

Connect with their Intellect : It has to make sense. “I know the fiber and whole grain in Frosted Mini Wheats is good for me”

Satisfy their Emotions : It’s got to feel good. “The hint of sugar on Frosted Mini Wheats makes me feel like a kid again–makes something that’s good for me enjoyable.”

Fit Effortlessly into their Lives : It has to be easy. “Neither the fiber nor the frosting will get me to eat Frosted Mini Wheats if I don’t eat breakfast.” [But, convince me that it’s a great snack for when I’m stuck in traffic, or that my three-year-old will love them and you might have a chance.]

*Note: don’t confuse attractiveness with irresistibility. Attractiveness grabs, Irresistibility retains. One is about you, the other is about them.

Water Wings for the Social Stream: Blogging

Anyone can blog. But blogging that’s more than ranting, regurgitation, or simply routine is well, rare. Here are some practical tips from our public relations and social media mentors on how to RAISE the quality [and the impact] of your posts.

Relevant: The most important, and most overlooked question to ask about any piece of writing is SO WHAT? Why does the topic matter to your reader–if it doesn’t yet, why should it? Anything that doesn’t communicate that in the first few sentences probably isn’t worth reading…or writing.

Actionable: No one becomes a guru, or a witch-doctor, or a highly-successful consultant without making a concrete difference to people. Thinking through possible applications and spelling them out for the reader will help them realize [and recognize] the value of your content.

Imaginative: Blogging should be fun! [and blog posts should be fun to read, but that’s not an automatic corollary] As Tom Davenport points out in his very fun recipe for good online content a dash of humor and a pinch of personal context go a long way. So does a fresh, unexpected perspective looking energetically beyond the typical.

Short!: In a world defined in 140 characters, people with time and inclination to read essays are few and far between. 250 words or less. Period.

Erudite. Do become an expert–just don’t talk like one. Contribute, explain what you know, but do it simply, accessibly. Which probably means you shouldn’t use words like erudite.

Here Comes Everybody : Clay Shirky

“Linux got to be world-changingly good not by promising to be great, or by bringing paid developers together under the direction of some master plan, but by getting incrementally better, through voluntary contributions, one version at a time.” – Clay Shirky, Here Comes Everybody

The social world does not run on averages. Shirky points out that there is no “average” social network. We have incredibly successful ones like facebook, and then lots of failed ones that we never even hear about.

This makes sense when you look at where the value lies in sociality. It isn’t the people per se, but the connections between the people. New users strengthen social networks because a new user isn’t just another person, it is another potential contact with every other person on the network.

Social media represents a new kind of Democracy–one in which we vote not by ballot, but by with our effort. With social media, we can pool our time, talents, and resources to effect changes that were impossible even 5 years ago.

The 4 C’s of Catalytic Connections

Some of the best social media advice I’ve heard came from David Jay at SoCAP09: “Don’t just talk about yourself, talk about the world and show that you’re listening.”

Here are 4 simple ways to start:

  • Compliment. Affirmation has always been a powerful social currency. RTs, comments, track-backs and diggs have put flexible, convenient new denominations at our fingertips. Spend freely! Look for reasons to congratulate, to thank, to encourage and to acknowledge to efforts and contributions of others.
  • Critique. Obviously not as easy or as fun as the previous option, thoughtful criticism (carefully given) can build even deeper, more active social capital.
  • Coordinate. Connecting individuals and organizations with potentially synergistic interests/objectives/resources etc. can be rewarding in so many ways. A simple introduction can inspire loyalty and the oh-so-valuable (sometimes even sub-conscious) desire to reciprocate.
  • Collaborate. Taking time to understand someone’s thoughts/ideas enough to actually build on them is a significant investment–one not commonly made in today’s information-saturated world. Don’t underestimate the potential impact of the effort.

The obvious corollary to this sort of strategy is that it’s not the world you’ll be listening to. The world is too big, too loud for anyone to really listen to. Listen to your tribe, that self-selected sub-population you want to lead. Get to know them, engage, and reap the benefits.

Who knows, with all this engaged listening, you might just learn something.

Becoming an Agnostic

Question from an application I recently completed: “[fantastic mentoring organization] attracts leaders from a wide range of fields: traditional non-profit, social entrepreneurship, traditional for-profit, public service, and academia. What sector do you most closely associate yourself with?”

This question comes up a lot–in my opinion, more than it should.

I have started describing myself as “sector agnostic,” a term I first heard in a presentation by David Bornstein. It’s not merely a matter of semantics, either. For years, we’ve talked about and worked to move past the “silo-ing” that wastes resources, squelches collaboration, and limits the impact of all kinds of organizations–businesses, non-profits, agencies, and departments alike.

Perhaps one of the greatest strengths any social entrepreneur (or intrapreneur) can offer is an ability and commitment to “associate closely” with ALL these sectors; to take lessons, adapt best practices, seek inspiration and integrate principles from each of these traditionally segregated arenas to get beyond the semantics and the status quo and focus on solutions.

So what does that look like? How do you recognize a sector agnostic?

I think there are some subtle cues: Their circle of friends and mentors is wide and varied…so is the magazine selection on their coffee table. The examples and stories they bring up in conversation come from everywhere and nowhere, yet they always end up relevant. You might even find yourself stumbling as you describe their work; “well, technically…” But they never seem to.  In fact, you seldom hear them using neat conceptual handles at all. Labels just don’t stick with them. All they seem to think and talk about is what works.

The world looks pretty different as a  sector agnostic. And I like it.

Social Venture Startup: Lessons Learned(?)

Had some fun with a presentation for a group of students at BYU last night.

For those who don’t have 4 whole minutes, or who just find my voice annoying, here’s a quick recap:

Be Social.

This isn’t referring to some sort of holistic life balance—since I obviously haven’t figured that one out. I’m talking here about the social life you give your idea.

When something truly innovative and exciting takes root in us, a lot of people have this really counter-intuitive reaction to protect it, to be afraid to share it, to put it out in the world. Trust me. I did this. All it took was one person asking me “what’s to stop Causes from just implementing this next week?” and I panicked. I deleted the blog post I’d put up about TB, I didn’t attend any of the social venture competition networking events. I really guarded that idea.

And I regret it.

Talk to people. Share with them, ask for feedback, let your idea have a life. The chance of someone actually stealing it is a tiny price to pay for what you’ll gain by talking to people.

The second way I would tell you to be social is to purposefully engage with social media. That means you have to get beyond Facebook stalking  You don’t have to produce a lot of content, probably the best thing you can do is listen to other people, and then let them know that you’re listening in meaningful ways.

And, if you haven’t figured out Twitter yet. You need to. Period. Let me just say that I the two most lucrative and beneficial connections I have made to date both happened through Twitter. You’re missing out if you don’t get it yet.

Double-Dip at Every Opportunity

Second piece of advice is to double dip whenever you can. Please don’t apply this at parties—that’s not what I mean…
I just mean that you should find ways to get credit for your work. Better yet, find a way to get paid for it. If you can’t make the things you’re doing that you’re passionate about fit into your studies, your work, etc. it may be time to change your major/job. There’s a lot more flexibility to the academic system than most students take advantage of.

“They’re more like guidelines anyway…”

Speaking of flexibility. Your business plan is a working document. Remember that.

Use ALL the resources that are available to you to get ideas, mercilessly edit your own work, and perhaps most importantly, do everything you can to get things as concrete as possible—the numbers you need are out there. And if you carefully track both your sources and your assumptions, you’ll be much better able to adapt when things come along and change your plan—and trust me, they will.

Oh, and remember to put your contact information in your business plan. We got all the way through the competition without catching that little detail.

ASK!

The last thing is to ask for help. There are people out there just waiting to get excited about your idea and jump on board. Open your mouths. My favorite question has become “what would it take to get this for free?” After getting into a few $1500 conferences in exchange for a few hours manning the registration desk (an awesome networking opportunity anyway!) I ask this question all the time now.

You’ll be surprised what you can get.