Social Media Overload – Is Your Brain Fried Yet?

The New Media Nouveaux Conference has been a magnificent catalyst for conversation.

nmn-toby-bloomberg-and-geoff-livingston.jpgGeoff Livingston gave an insightful introduction to new media – citing case studies from his upcoming book, Now Is Gone.

He started by mentioning the impact that social media has on today’s society. Being in the Northern Virginia area, the audience is intimately aware of the change that viral video had on the fall Senatorial campaign. George Allen was literally the front runner for the US presidential seat – however, after the “mecaca” disaster, his career is over, the Virginia senatorial race was radically changed (I know I changed my vote because of the incident), and ultimately the shift of power in Congress changed from Republican to Democrat. So yes, this stuff matters.

The main focus of Geoff’s talk was how pervasive social media is on our society and how it enforces a culture of transparency and honesty. It is an opportunity to engage your “community” (Geoff doesn’t believe in the word “audience” because it gives the perception of a one sided conversation), get immediate feedback and implement innovative business strategies immediately.

He referenced GM as the first fortune 500 blog and how the CEO responds in video format to comments posted on the blog.

Southwest airlines also demonstrates how the comments of a corporate blog can change the course of a business plan. After Southwest posted a blog about how they were planning on changing their strategy and move to assigned seating, they received over 700 comments against this change. Southwest listened to their consumers, took them seriously and created more brand loyalty because of their response.

Businesses Who Are Using New Media

new-media-nouveaux-jen-sterling.jpgThe first panel, led by Jen Sterling from Hinge (an award winning professional services branding firm) focused on the business impact of using new media.

Jill Stelfox, CEO and Cofounder of Defywire told the story of how her 13 year old son has had an influence on how her company uses new media. Defywire focuses on software and technology to keep children safe in school crises. After producing several videos on how to keep children safe (ex: how to prepare your kindergardener for their first day of school). The initial marketing strategy was to produce these videos to DVDs and distribute via mail. Instead, at the suggestion of Jill’s son, the videos were put on YouTube and as a result, Defywire has built a strong viral message that has spun new product lines and increased business.

Kim Hart from The Washington Post gave insight on how the traditional media relies on new media. Let it be known – this is straight from the horse’s mouth – the press release is dead. It does not work. Journalists are so busy, they do not have time to read a story with spin. Instead, a quick e-mail (literally a sentence or so long) with a link to a new story is the best new-media-nouveaux-business-panel.jpgway to peak this journalist’s interest. She also gave insight as to how the success of a story may not be a “traditional article on page D4 in the business section.” Now that more people are on blogs and the participation level is increasing exponentially, a company may very well have more success with a short blog post that can create viral buzz than they would in print.

Pamela Sorrensen, an active blogger on DC’s social scene showed how you can turn your passion into a profitable platform. Her blog was created after friends requested updates of her intense social life. She constantly attends parties and events, rubbing shoulders with the who’s who in the area. Her blog allows her to share her pithy posts without sending individual e-mails. Now her fans come to her and her readership is such that she can earn money from advertisements.

Strategists – How to Use Social Media

new-media-nouveaux-andrea-morris1.jpgOk, so I wasn’t able to live blog this portion because I was the moderator. The panel consisted of Alice Marshall from Presto Vivace, Qui Diaz from Ogilvy PR, and Jennifer Cortner from EFX Media.

This was an interactive discussion of not only the panel, but the audience (wait – I mean community) as well. We discussed strategies for how to blog, whether or not to use Facebook or Myspace, how the government is using wikis, why del.icio.us is a great tool, how you can use videos and podcasts to promote your business, and the all important question – how to avoid burnout.

new-media-nouveaux-specialists-panel.jpgAt the end of the fast paced discussion, Success in the City founder Cynthia De Lorenzi came up with the brilliant idea of creating a regional networking event digging deeper into each social media initiative. Be sure to check the calendar at successinthecity.org to learn when these events are happening.

What’s coming Next?

So this is the big question – what’s going to happen in the future. Although no one has a crystal ball, New Media Nouveaux featured the next best thing – a panel of experts who have their collective fingers on the pulses of the social media industry.

Sean Gorman from FortiusOne is the innovator of GeoCommons, a Web 2.o tool that allows users to create interactive visual maps.

Here are his definitions of the evolution of the Web:

  • Web 1.o – Read – Brochure like websites with a one-sided point of view
  • Web 2.0 – Read & Write – People can respond to information through comments and links.
  • Web 3.0 – Read, Write & Execute – Driven by massive amounts of data. Most of this data is housed in the government level. Governments are notoriously slow in investing in technology – so this is a large roadblock to overcome. One example is how you can househunt. In web 1.0 you would view pictures online and research crime statistics, schools, and community resources on individual websites. Web 2.0 allows you to blog with individuals who live in communities and get feedback on their lifestyle. In web 3.0, Sean predicts applications that will allow you to enter all of your preferences for a community in one location. Then, the program will go out, automatically aggregate your requests and arrange the data in an intuitive manner.

new-media-nouveaux-futurists-panel.jpgHe referenced the movie Minority Report is an example of where we can look to. For example, if you walk in front of a billboard, it will create a customized campaign based on your past purchase history. Technology will be more than mobile, it will be an integral part of every person’s daily life (even more so than today).

Aaron Brazell is the Director of Technology at B5 Media and his professional blog, Technosailor is highly regarded in the industry. Aaron referenced an experience that demonstrates the influence bloggers have.

A friend ordered a laptop and realized that he made a mistake on which shipping option he chose. HP gave him the run-around and pointed him into walls and dead ends. Aaron took matters into his own hands and wrote a blog post called “HP Gives Consumer Middle Finger“. The post ended up on the front page of Digg, the negative comments from the community flooded in and as a result, Aaron’s friends issues were suddenly resolved.

In Aaron’s opinion, Web 3.0 is “becoming untethered from your computer. Right now I’m tied to a 17″ monitor. With the introduction of the iPhone (although I will never own one) it will force competitors to innovate and create new mobile devices.” He also referenced smart homes, where you can walk into a room, say “it’s cold in here” and the smart network automatically interprets and executes the function of turning up the heat.

Place your bets now – Aaron gave predictions of Sink & Swim companies to watch for.

Companies that will sink:

  • Yahoo! – especially because of their recent corporate challenges (losing their CEO)
  • Myspace – the developers are growing up and becoming more mature. The application is also too widespread with little niche value.
  • Mahalo – A search engine that harnesses the power of humans. Aaron believes this technology is “very 1998”.

Companies that will swim:

  • Facebook – especially since they just opened their application to development – new plugins are going to create an ultrarich content.
  • Concept Share – allows you to put graphic images, videos, etc. that allow you make comments and collaborate. Estimates this company will be acquired by Google.
  • Twitter – While I agree that the concept of “micro-blogging” is a new wave, I think Pounce will outpace Twitter – especially since Pounce allows you to upload files, links, images, etc.

Brian Williams is the CEO of Viget Labs, a full-service web consulting, design and consulting firm who touts clients like Brittney Spears and Kenny Chesney.

Brian pointed out how younger audiences are less concerned about privacy issues as older generations. As more data is collected on individual users (ex: Amazon.com and their recommendation system) more customization will occur.

One member of the audience (damnit – I mean community – I’ll get it eventually) posed this question – What advantage does the US have in this industry, are we a leader? Brian’s response: “We are a country built around innovation and entrepreneurship. Look at YouTube – this is a new age of kids in their garages and new applications can be built with the collaborative brainpower of few individuals. You’re not limited by resources – people who we have yet to hear from are going to be the superstars.”

new-media-nouveaux.jpgLessons Learned

One of the biggest lessons I learned from this conference is how varied social media strategies can be. While a blog may be the best strategy for one company, a viral video initiative may be what works for another. It was also apparent just how new all this new media is. Even the experts are on their toes trying to keep up with the constantly changing technology.

I can’t wait for the next event, which closing keynoter Toby Bloomberg called, “one of the best social media events I’ve attended.”

I’d agree. Cheers to a great event and all the excellent panel experts.

Which New Media Tools are Worth Your Time?

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I don’t know about you – but I feel like I’m a pretty savvy person, yet my capacity for online gadgets and social media tools is starting to reach the breaking point. I think Steve Rubel says it best.

So with all of the tools out there, which ones are worth your valuable time and attention?

Well here’s my brash, unbridled, no-holds-barred opinion on some of the popular sites you may run across:

MySpace.com
I use myspace to keep in touch with all of my friends and family. That’s it – very little business (although I do have a link to my business website). I like myspace because I can send out event invitiations to everyone at once. For example – my birthday is coming up (June 28th in case you’re feeling generous) and I wanted to get a bunch of my friends together. Instead of calling each friend individually, I sent an event invitiaton through myspace (similar to evite.com if you’re familiar with that). Myspace then emailed all of my friends and showed them the invitation. My friends can RSVP and leave comments.

Which businesses can profit from a campaign on myspace? Well, most of what I’ve seen that has worked is restaurants and nightclubs. Check out my friend Dougie at the Element Lounge in Richmond, VA. He posts which bands are going to be on which night – so patrons can properly plan their partying. The other use I’ve seen for myspace is entertainment – book authors/publishers, bands, comedians, etc. So if you’re an accountant do you need a myspace page? Not really, unless you’re going to keep in touch with your friends and family. (P.S. – If you don’t have either – you may want to start at Facebook.com – they’re poised to become the #1 social networking site)

Linked Innewmediaimages2.jpg
This is the one site that I can absolutely say did make me money this year. I’ll get to how in a minute. Let’s first talk about what Linked In is.

The main complaint I hear about Linked In is how it doesn’t DO anything. People say they have a profile and contacts just sit there. Well, it’s kind of like potential vs. kinetic energy. Linked In is a database of your networking contacts and their history. I use LinkedIn as a followup to networking events. Instead of sending an e-mail I send a LinkedIn invitation. It’s all about building the database (potential energy) and using it strategically (kinetic energy).

Here are three ways I use LinkedIn. First, if I have two contacts who need to meet eachother and they’re both in my Linked In network, I forward the LinkedIn profile instead of an e-mail. This way the person who’s receiving the referral can check out the other person’s history & recommendations. They can also e-mail them directly.

Secondly, If I have a question I can send it out to my contacts. For example, I was doing research for an article about websites that make businesses productive. I sent out the question to my contacts and got some great responses. I only had to post once, and the information was sent out to everyone – great time saver.

Finally, the way I made money – when I left corporate and started my own business I updated my LinkedIn profile. LinkedIn automatically sent an e-mail to all of my professional contacts letting them know that I had changed my profile and was now self-employed. Within 24 hours I received 15 phone calls, set 8 appointments and landed my first 3 clients. Granted, this is a one time event – but again – it’s the kinetic energy.

***Update***

If you used Linked In in the past where you had to pay to send e-mails (which was a big fat pain and kickout for many people) check it out again. Linked In changed their business model to generate more users by allowing anyone to e-mail without charge (smart move, I think).

newmediaimages3.jpgMeetup.com
I started using meetup for personal use, but have to say that I have made some amazing professional contacts through this site, so it’s high up there on my value scale. Basically, meetup is an online tool to help you meet people in real life. You may want to check out my previous post where I discuss in detail how to use meetup for business.

Twitter
I’ve tried it and think that this site is a complete waste of my time. Why do I need to post what I’m doing all the time? Who gives a rip? Plus, I can’t even search to see if my friends are already on the site, which gives twitter a real big thumbs down for me. I know some people swear by it – I just can’t figure out why I should bother.

SpinThicket
A listing of PR/Marketing/Advertising news stories. Thanks to Geoff for turning me on to this great site.

MyRagan
Kind of like Myspace.com but for MarCom professionals. I like it because it’s easy to use and has a lot of rich content. Granted, if you’re not in the marketing/advertising/PR field, you probably won’t find it as interesting as I do. I wrote a longer review that you can check out.

Squidoo
Ok, I kind of get the concept and I started my own lens. It’s kind of like a website meets a blog and you get paid based on the number of visitors who come to your page. Frankly, the cutesy names are a little much – it’s not as intuitive as I’d like. Looking at the top lenses (my favorite one is about tofu) I noticed that the content isn’t really all that rich – I mean, I could definitely post a bunch of stuff there. I just feel overwhelmed and don’t have the time. I guess one bonus is that once your page is created you don’t have to bother with it too much after that. Unlike a blog, the work is definitely on the front end – which is why I just haven’t taken the time.

Blogsnewmediaimages4.jpg
The biggest mistake I made when I started my blog was going to wordpress.com (they host and it’s free) and not wordpress.org (I host, it’s still free but I can use a blog promote my links). About 2 months ago I got a slap on the wrist because I was including a link to my website at the bottom of each post. Now it’s difficult to switch because I have dedicated readers and I’m not sure if they would follow me to a different site. I tried downloading the software and uploading my previous posts, but it came out all wrong. The frustrating part is that WordPress.org has importing shortcuts for a Typepad or Blogger blog – but not a wordpress.com blog. Argh.

But enough about wordpress (who I really do like – it’s open source). Who should use a blog and how often should you post? Well, it’s kind of like a gym membership. Any business can benefit from a blog – but if you’re not using it it’s pointless. Keeping with the metaphor, I advise my clients to start slow when beginning their blogs. Have you ever joined a gym January 2nd, told yourself you were going to go 4 times a week and then that eventually turned into basically twice a year because you burnt yourself out? Same thing with blogging. Start slow – once a week. Once you have that under your belt go to twice a week. Then you’ll eventually become addicted and be posting all the time. It’s better to be consistent than to push yourself towards unrealistic expectations.

newmediaimages4.jpgDel.icio.us, Reddit & Stumble Upon
All these sites basically do the same thing – they allow you to bookmark your favorite webpages so you can refer back to them later. It’s good to include links at the bottom of each blog post so your readers can easily “tag” your posts and improve readership. It’s a habit I’m trying to get into – the blog I’ve set up is a template and I can’t seem to do it automatically. Argh again.

My favorite of these is Stumble Upon because it allows you to “channel surf” the web. I highly recommend downloading the toolbar – it makes surfing & tagging ridiculously easy. Basically, you enter the categories you are interested and every time you press the “stumble” button on the toolbar a new page will come up. You can also rate sites to refer to them later. The more people that positively rate the site, the more often the page comes up. I found how useful this is first-hand when stumble upon readers sent over 800 visitors to my post Put Your Mind In the Gutter in just hours of posting.

Bloglines, Google Reader, My Yahoo! & Newsgator
All RSS (Really Simple Syndication) readers so you can read all your favorite blogs in one place – BIG time saver! If you don’t know what RSS is, click here for a brilliant video – RSS in Plain English. I switched from My Yahoo! to Bloglines and I’ve been really happy.

I know there’s a bunch of new sites up too – so if there’s one that you love (or hate) post it in the comments section below. I’d love to check it out.

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Andrea Morris is the Chief Idea Officer of Write Ideas Marketing and specializes in helping visionaries, entrepreneurs, consultants and small businesses use high-ROI strategies to get the right message to the right people. For more information, please visit writeideasmarketing.com