Category Archives: Social Media

New Year, New Views

As the past year ends for most people, and as the new year picks up, many people are hopeful. Some more so than others. Some of the people that are focusing on a great New Year is the workers at Facebook, with their soon-to-be IPO, which they are hoping the company is valued at $100 B. And why not? Saw this on one of the news sites, but according to a ZDNet article, Facebook is now a primary cause for a third of all divorces in the UK. Communication methods are changing, and social networks are taking over the main avenue of interacting. Emails and texts still play a role, but more people are interacting with social media. But it does not need to be all about the negative aspects of the new communication streams.

For the end of the last year and going into this year, we are visiting family in another state. We have friends here and we always like to get together. When we set up the dinner re-union, it is done via Facebook. Not email, not texts, not even phone calls. Facebook is the main mode of communication and coordination. Everyone is part of the message, or post (all tagged so everyone can provide input), we all can comment and then we can go back to the message for reminders or directions.

Social Media has been around for a while now, but it is still in its infancy. Much like the internet boom and bust of the early turn of the century, we still have a lot to learn on this new front. We are still struggling to come to know what to do with all of these new avenues, and use them properly. We are most likely experiencing the same effects that happened when the telephone came to popularity and the TV took over.

Starting a new trend

It has been a while since I have written anything. I have been so busy that I have barely been able to catch my breath. But that just means that all of my thoughts have been festering for a while and now I get to share those with the web. We all have blogs, some kind of social media account, and cell phones, and other devices that keep us all connected. In some form or another, we are now Generation Connect. Forget the baby-boomers, the generation-x’ers or anything else. We are now Generation Connect. And this spans from very young to very old, from one continent to another, and in some cases, even to space. Yes, the human network is becoming the “Borg” in a matter of speaking.

This past weekend, the East Coast of the United States was preparing for Hurricane Irene. Any hurricane is a bad one, and it battered the Bahamas good. This is not to make light of the disaster, which affected many. If you followed some of it on Twitter on Facebook, some tweets and posts referred to the loss of power. Funnier people posted that now people would have to interact face to face for the first time in a couple of years. They joked it was so much of a shock that FEMA was getting involved to help people learn human interaction once more, setting up emergency conversation stations to help with this. And while this is funny, one thing that it made me think was how connected we are.

The older portion of Generation Connect may remember life without cell phones. People actually had to use pay phones if they were away from home and the office. Some of the more “important” people would carry things called a “pager”, this was a way that someone could call a number, type in the number (or numeric message) and it would get sent to that pager device. Soon, they were able to get actual text messages to these pagers. Sure the 1980’s had cell phones, but if you were ever unlucky enough to see it, you would think the military discarded their ancient communication phones. They were huge clunky and rarely worked. But people went out and interacted with each other. Even kids playing video games (usually at that time it was the Atari systems, as Nintendo was still working on their first version) had to go outside, travel over to their friends house and talk to them in person to see if they wanted to play games. Music sharing consisted of recording songs on the radio, or making a copy of the album on a blank cassette tape.

But why is any of that important? Why is it so important to understand where we have been as a human civilization? I feel in order to prepare for the future, we need to understand our past. Not necessarily learn from mistakes, but learn from successes. Mistakes are just that, mistakes. Can they teach you lessons? Sure. But the lessons you learn from successes are worth that much more. So where have you been in the social sphere, whether digitally or in person? What has made you successful in that sphere? The biggest thing I can see is the need and want to belong. Everyone is just looking for acceptance and wanting to be part of something. For some it is on a smaller scale. For others it is the grand scheme of things. Either way, in order to succeed and start a “new trend”, you must build communities. Communities where interaction happens, conversation driven. The day of the digital equivalent to the lecture is almost over. How will you grow your place in Generation Connect?

I am Here

Location! Location! Location! The three words you usually here when looking for real estate. But what about in the cyber world. What does this really mean? We have location services for GPS, and that works great for items like navigation systems, and locating devices. Location services for tracking purposes, like with shipping services and company vehicles. But now we have location services for Tweets, Updates, and Check-ins. What does this really mean or get one?

In previous posts, some of the things I have experienced, I have posted. Some of this has been on the business side, and some has been on the personal side. But the question I usually seem to get often, is why should anyone be a part of Foursquare, or use any type of location services. And that is a fair question. If some method is not useful for a business, then why use it? If some new technology comes out and the person is not that interested, why use it? And that is the question only one person can answer: you. Whether it is for yourself or for your business, it is something that you must decide if this is right for you. Not all technology or services will be a “one size fits all”. Especially in technology, if it is a one size fits all, then it usually will not be able to do what you need it to do.

So let’s first examine the personal aspect of the location based services. What are some of the benefits for a person to use it, besides broadcast/brag to the world where you are? One of the reasons I use it is when I travel. By checking in at different locations on the journey, I can let me friends, family and business associates know where I am. Foursquare has a great tool to post to Twitter and Facebook as well, so you can get all bases covered in one check-in. Another reason I use it is so I can still “play around” with friends and associates who are no longer close. We have contests to see who can check in the most, become mayor of as many places as possible, who goes to the most areas, etc. It is another way to keep those relationships alive. I also use check-ins when I go to new places, especially restaurants, to see if there are any deals, or suggestions, or better yet, cautionary advice to stay away from a place. And most important thing to remember about Foursquare, if I do not want to be found, I do not check in at all. Just because one has the service does not mean one has to use it all the time.

Next, why should a business use it. This all depends on what the business is. Obviously if the business does a lot of secret projects, then they probably do not want to check in all the time. But there are useful ways to use Foursquare. First, a business should register the place, venue, location. Once you are there, make it exciting for people to check-in (and by that, they make it in your door) by offering them something. Even if it is 10% off a drink, or copies, etc. In this economy, even 10 cents could be the difference maker. And on the same token, offer interesting items, or tips, about the place. Movie theatres can offer tips like all movies before 4pm are matinee and cheaper prices, or days when there are not as many people showing up to the theatre. This can drive traffic and revenue on some of the more slower times. And make sure you read what others post about the place. This is invaluable as it is direct feedback about the business and how it is perceived. A really good presentation examines what different companies have done with Foursquare and was presented by David Stutts, 20 Interesting Things: Foursquare. Yes this is 11 months old and technology changes quickly. But this should give a good start on generating ideas on what could be useful.

Following the Yellow Brick Road

Location services, another word for allowed electronic stalking. Yet it is something that is getting more traction. Sure it may not seem like a big deal to some, to others it is the lifeblood, and still to others, it is an answer to a question no one asked. So what is so amazing about social media/location services and why should anyone follow this yellow brick road?

Well, first off, lets answer that with some common sense. First off, I do not really care to know if you checked in at your bathroom. I also really do not care if some vending machine is giving you your favorite drink. I think the movie “Easy A” sums it up best:

Mr. Griffith: [to Olive] I don’t know what your generation’s fascination is with documenting your every thought…but I can assure you, they’re not all diamonds. “Roman is having an OK day, and bought a Coke Zero at the gas station. Raise the roof.” Who gives a rat’s ass?

Exactly! Some social media use goes way overboard and way too much information. It is like everyone in a room talking extraordinarily loud saying nonsense and spouting the first thing to come into their mind. Yes it can be funny at times, but it soon becomes annoying. People turn this off, and soon ignore all other information coming from these sources, even if it is important and pertinent. Make it worth the time to read/listen.

Restaurants are already seeing the value of this. Checking in at the place can give you a discount, free appetizer, etc. Movie theatres would be wise to step up with this as well, maybe even distribution companies too. Imagine this: Checking in at a theatre with a mention of which move you are seeing = free popcorn. Heck, my wife would tweet that without hesitation. And what does it really cost the theatre for the popcorn? (Besides, I am convinced that they make all their money on soda anyway, you pay $8 for a large cup that contains mostly ice and maybe a teaspoon of actual soda). Not only would the theatre be getting basically free advertising, so is the movie!

Not sure how to start this up? Try Mashable: HOW TO: Set Up a Foursquare Special. Great information in that article. Make it worthwhile, and make it relevant. Remember Mr. Griffith’s very astute observation.

Who Do You Like

By now, everyone and their dog has heard about Microsoft’s coup to acquire Skype for $8.5B. Based on what you read, Microsoft is going to have either the best X-Box Live experience, or create an Office web suite that will one up the online meeting space. Or the other news making the rounds, Google’s web based music service. Come on, be honest, which one did you really know about? And that is the whole thing. Two amazing things happened this week, and only one got tons of press, coverage and was talked about more. So who do you like?

And that is what it comes down to for you, or your business – who do you like? Are you following and friending people just so you can beat Ashton Kutchner’s records, or are you trying to build relationships? Social connections should be less of a race to get the most people and more of building a cohesive community. This community should be focused on your business goals mixed with ways for the community to be involved in the project or become part of the direction. Social connections are also more mobile, so that should also be a main focus. Gone are the days of the young geeks huddled in the basement, logging on chat boards while playing Dungeons and Dragons. It is no longer the “geeks” who are connected, it is everyone. They are connecting via the phones, pads, and laptops. Just today, as I pulled in fill up my tank with outrageously expensive gas, the station had 10 cars at the other islands. Seven of those people were out filling up the tanks, texting, chatting, checking emails, etc. They all had their phones out and using them, not to make calls, but connecting to their community.

This is the new direction of the connected world. It is not in front of a computer screen, but out and active. Now that Microsoft has purchased Skype, and Google is starting a web based music service, there will be less and less reasons to focus traditional read/write web applications. Interactions will build relationships, and in turn, build who likes you and bring lasting business relationships.

Everywhere and Nowhere

The Desert
Courtesy of Ducklips Photography

Ever get the feeling that the internet is everywhere and nowhere? Have you ever tried visiting the Internet in person? How many people have achieved this goal, (besides anyone from the Matrix)? In reality, the internet is just a long set of cables, switches, routers, firewalls, etc. Not too exciting of a place to go. The “location” of the internet is not as important as your location. And this can mean you as a person, you as a company representative, you as a salesperson, you as leader. Each facet has its own little niche of things that can happen. Last night, I saw a new Pepsi commercial. A lady was on the beach and there was a very long line to the drink vendor/cabana. So she quickly got on the phone and put in her location (actually a little off of where she was) and that she just saw David Beckham at the beach. Everyone from this line gets the updates on their phones and run to try and find him, clearing the line so she could get her Diet Pepsi. Not all location check ins will have this affect, obviously. But as either an entity or person providing services/products, you can strive for that.

Two major events happened this past week, (actually three – the Royal Wedding, but that is not covered here), Osama bin Laden was killed and a local inadvertently tweeted the whole event; and Facebook and Assange are fighting over whether or not Facebook has let the government in the backdoor to spy on the Facebook community. Each one has a lesson for location services.

Continue reading Everywhere and Nowhere

I am Not All Alone In the World

Chicken - Ducklips Photography
Courtesy of Ducklips Photography

As I scour the web and read, I come across many different articles. One thing that has been in the news for some time now is the unrest in the Arab world, and the different demonstrations, and subsequent backlash from those events. But it is not just about politics, it is about using the social media to be more than a way to play Farmville or Angry Birds. I love the social media outlets just as much as the next person. It is fun, I love joking around with my friends. The Hirdweb Facebook page is another extension of this blog, and I use it to suit my needs. However, many businesses set up a page, then let it flounder after a few months. It is not enough to just set up a social campaign, or page, or feed, the company must keep it going. And that can be easier said than done.

Doing any type of campaign, whether it is a traditional spot, or a new social campaign, there needs to be some type of sustainable presence and interaction. Whatever the product or service, if you want the people to keep coming back, it has to be more than just “Here is my product/service! Hope you enjoy” type of message. Some campaigns do not provide products or services, they provide messages, movement, and reshaping ideas. No matter what the message is, no matter what the end result target may be, a sustained drive will lead to better success than a quick one hit and bail.

Continue reading I am Not All Alone In the World

Focus on the Locus

Locus Curve
Locus Curve

Location services, good or bad? Well that depends on how it is used. If you you it to stalk other people, then it could be bad. It could also be a better way to stay engaged. Locus, defined as:
1. a place; locality.
2. a center or source, as of activities or power: locus of control.
3. Mathematics. the set of all points, lines, or surfaces that satisfy a given requirement.

In each of those definitions, it can apply to how individuals and companies react in the social sphere. Even extending the Math definition could help. Starting on the first definition, a place or locality, we can look at recent events to see how this plays out. Protests in the Middle East have been widely reported. Some countries shut down Facebook and Twitter and other sites because they do not want information getting out. By Tweeting or posting an update on Facebook, the people add locations and the world is able to see the events. The storms that swept the south of the United States and wiped out community after community. And location services played a role in re-uniting people, and being able to let others know outside of that area status updates. In the aftermath of the Japan quake, Google provided location services so people could be found and updated. Information flowing, connecting people is just one part of location services.

But it is not just about extreme conditions, or emergency services, it can be used for businesses. We can examine the hotel chains as a prime example. Their business model is to allow people to stay in a place away from home, and be comfortable (hopefully). Hotels needs to have rooms filled in order to make money. If rooms go empty, then it is hard for a hotel to make money. Hotels in larger cities are plentiful and more competition exists to fill those rooms. A new app available on the Apple line of mobile products, HotelsTonight provides a great service that some hotels have taken great advantage. This provides a way for people to get last minute deals on hotels in the city they are currently in. Imagine being in a city and having to stay over night because of a meeting that ran long, flight canceled, out for a night on the town, etc, and you need a place to stay. By using this app, it will provide different hotels with deals on empty rooms. If you ran a hotel in one of these cities, why not use this type of service?

And it extends more. At first, Twitter and Foursquare seemed like the perfect apps for college age friends to meet up, find out what is going on. I have friends in different cities across the United States, and it is funny to see them check in to different places and become “mayor”s of certain places. It is almost like a game of “King of the mountain” that we can play being in different cities, to see who can become mayor of most places. Foursquare provides more information as well. While traveling, we stopped in a restaurant. I checked in to to restaurant and found special deals for this place, and suggestions made by others who had been there before. Some places even offer discounts on the food when you check in at their location. We got a free appetizer for checking in at a local Greek restaurant. All we had to do was show them our iPhone with the check in.


So why should this matter to anyone? It will not if you do not care about technology. Like it or not, we are becoming an increasingly connected global society. Location services, whether by a mobile application, or by web app, can help. It can help in times of needs, in times of trouble, in times for fun, in times for business. it your place, your locality. Use it for a center or source of activities, provide knowledge of your product. It can be used to help promote your product/service as the solution for the potential customers’ set of requirements at that location. When we start to look at the location services as more than a mere annoyance, and another method to engage and build customer relationships, it can become a powerful tool.

Ideas for the Social Leper

image courtesy of Ducklips Photo

Social networking, check-ins, friending, linking-in, and other items have made for an interesting world. Some people may see this as a purely consumer/individual niche, with only the younger crowd getting into this new fangled technology. The internet has been around for a while and people sometimes have a hard time seeing how these new social areas can have any meaning to the world. Good or Bad, these items are here to stay, and eventually evolve. Today we know of things like Foursquare, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, StumbleUpon, and others to help us keep in touch with everyone, even people who are not really our friends.

But how can businesses take advantage of this? Some have tried, some have succeeded, some have failed. And still some, are reluctant to try this. One of the cases I saw with this I could not believe they were using social media this way to do a marketing campaign. As I always say, I am no marketing genius, but I do feel I know technology. This company had a product that they would market. They had a specific site set up for this product, and would try to highlight the different parts of this product. When it came to social media, the message was always the same. No matter which portion of this product was being showcased, the same message was being done on the social media outlets. And I am not talking about the same idea being conveyed, or the same thought. I am saying the exact same verbiage, for each time it hit the social sphere would be the same. I equated that to social spamming.

All Alone
image courtesy of Ducklips Photo

Imagine being around a person who said the same thing every time you saw this person. No matter what the conversation was, no matter what events were happening, this person would say the exact same thing every time you were around this person. Would you be excited to see this person? Would you start to ignore this person? And that is what one really needs to ask in these situations. I am sure we all have our “friends” (using Facebook) that we read their posts and just think, “I should hide their posts because they are annoying”. Or they just get thrown into the friend dumpster.

But this group looked at social media as another billboard, another TV spot, another magazine ad. And is that what social media is really is? Of course not. It is a chance that businesses can actually interact with their consumers. Years ago, the big push was to create sort of a “symbiotic” relationship with the supply chain, including distributors, suppliers, retailers, etc. This even extended to a certain extent for competition. Now businesses have a way to create that same relationship with the people who actually pay for the goods and services. And some companies would prefer to just treat this avenue as another billboard. Why would they think that would engage the targeted audience? Does anyone, besides children, get excited to see tons of pretty colors and the same message constantly? It is time to start interacting with the consumers to build those relationships. It is possible, and no matter what the product is, it can be done.

The Pet Rock
(image from wikipedia)

Anyone remember the pet rock? It was a freakin rock! Something you can pick up in the backyard. Yet people would buy these things. It was the way it was marketed. I am sure they did not just market it by promoting a purchase of an ordinary rock from the ground. It was marketed as a real pet, filled with funny play on words and relating it to a real pet. It came with a full instruction manual, and a box that looked like a pet carrier. But at the heart of the product, it was a rock. Most products have a lot more functionality than a rock, and fail. It is the message. Using social media should be the same. Interact with the consumers, build that relationship, and have them interact with the company. Sure, some people will be rude, and even try to degrade the company. Build the positive voice, and keep the engagement alive!

Whats the plan, Stan

After nearly a month off, I believe it is time for me to institute a new way I am going to blog. Topics range from a ton of different items, and I think we should have a specific way of what I am doing. So, starting today, and hopefully I will have enough time with this, I will be doing a post every day of the week. Some will be longer than others, and some with be short. But every day, there is a theme that will be followed. The format will be as follows:

Monday – Whats the plan, Stan; Planning ideas and thoughts
Tuesday – Have your Cake and eat it too; focusing on coding
Wednesday – Coding for the Social Leper, ideas and code segments for people like me, social lepers
Thursday – Focus on the Locus; examinations on location services, social integration and strategy
Friday – Fun Stuff to Knock Your Socks Off; fun stuff to finish up the week

Now, the next question ought to be, what makes me such an expert on any of these topics? Well, here is the answer, nothing, I am not an expert. These are my musing and experiences in these areas. I may be right on some of my endeavors, and I may bomb. I will share both with you. I figure one of the best ways to learn and grow is to share experiences with each other. And this is what I am intending to do, share my experiences with anyone who cares to read.

So lets get on with the post for today – Planning. This goes with any thing you want to do. Whether that is code, a social media strategy, or marketing campaign, heck, even mowing the lawn. I will share with you some of the things I do before writing any code for an application. There must always be a start to everything, so lets start with the basics. This will be a very high level overview into some of these items, and will get more detailed as the weeks go on.

What is really needed for the project at hand? Do we know what the goal is, how it should act, behave, grow? Has any research been done. In code, one of the things I like doing is understanding how an end user is wanting to use an application, what they expect. I go through interviews, process flows, and even user stories. This can be applied to almost everything else. We need to understand what it is that needs to be accomplished, and why it needs to be accomplished.

Next is to understand what success and failure metrics for this project. What needs to be tracked, and why. What is important to business groups and why would it be important. What is the success boundaries, and what consists a failure? I like to understand each of these items so I know what to plan for in the code, in the campaign, in the project. Statistics can be a real bugger if it is done at the very end. And it may affect how an application is coded, a project assigned out, or a campaign run.

Once we have these ideas in place, we can start with the next phase of planning, and that involves the documentation, the project write up, and the use cases, mock ups, design sketches, etc. Which can be very time consuming. This is what makes it hard to go this route for many companies. Time means money on a lot of ventures. Not just the money of paying people to do this, but the residuals that involve this as well, electricity to power laptops, internet connections, travel, focus groups, phone charges, etc. This phase can have a lot of monetary impact while yielding very little ROI. So it is finding the right combination of events to maximize those events, and get into the actual work quickly.

Planning is essential though. And it should not be passed over or taken lightly. Think of some of the major applications, or ads, or products out there. Each one of them required a ton of planning, and it paid off. The Old Spice commercials are amazing, and that could not have been slopped together quickly. Most online applications are ones that are well planned, and you can really tell the difference between the ones that are and are not. Companies that are successful plan. But a final word of caution on planning: Do not let it consume you to the point of where you lose focus on the final product. You can plan things to death. Find that perfect balance that works for you, and run with it.