Friday, February 27, 2009

Experts in the Industry: Kathy Warren (33 of 45)

How lucky am I? In one day, I get to post interviews about two of my favorite women in the world (my wife, mother and sister excepted of course). Minutes ago, I just put up an inteview with Ann Handley of MarketingProfs. Now I have the chance to highlight my colleague and good friend, Kathy Warren.

When I met Kathy five or six months ago, I knew immediately that I liked her AND was going to like Powered. She ran the gamut of being funny, smart, sassy and innovative -- all traits that I would look for in any of my co-workers. Over the last four months, my appreciation for Kathy's skills -- she's our VP of Account Planning & Management -- have grown exponentially. That's not to say that I didn't understand her value out of the gate, but rather that in many ways she's like an onion. The more I learn about her strategy, analytics and overall online community building skills, the more I appreciate what she does.

Before Kathy gets TOO big of a head, here are the answers to her Experts in the Industry questions:

In one sentence, please describe what you do and why you’re good at it.
I help brands drive business results by building marketing strategies that lead with consumer needs vs. marketing messages and I’m good at this because I use data to avoid subjectivity like the plague.

How did you get into the world of online community, social media or social marketing?
Multiple client-side marketing roles and an obsession with the potential for relationship marketing I found could be realized when I arrived at Powered. Creating a value exchange between a brand and its audience is the real challenge – community will follow if there’s real value there.  

If you had $10 million to invest in one company and one company only based on their use of “social,” which company would it be and why?
Aside from Powered, I’d say Netflix because they make the best use of my behavioral data and that of my network to drive my loyalty & high volume video consumption. But seriously, Powered, because if brands don’t start seeing measurable ROI, we’re all in trouble.

Which business leader, politician or public figure do you most respect?
Ann Richards for her candor, her wit, her intelligence and a leadership style that uncompromisingly leveraged it all.

No, because toothpaste is a transactional purchase in my household. A health and beauty community sponsored by a toothpaste brand on the other hand…..

Freeform – here’s where you can riff on anyone or anything – good or bad. Or just share a pearl of wisdom.
I don’t think it’s particularly difficult to measure social marketing programs or branded communities. If those communities are not based on audience needs and/or are not delivering value however, it can most certainly be an unpleasant experience. Marketing practitioners should think through social marketing initiatives as they would any other marketing program and in fact should analyze the contribution of their online communities against other online marketing efforts. Desired business outcomes should drive data strategy (behavioral and attitudinal) which will establish benchmarks for effectiveness and efficiency metrics throughout the life of the initiative.

Experts in the Industry: Ann Handley (32 of 45)

Where do I start with Ann Handley, chief content officer of MarketingProfs? I met Ann for the first time at a blogger dinner held in Jeremiah Owyang's honor in Fall of 2007. I was (and still am) a big fan of MarketingProfs and had started following Ann on Twitter. My conversation with Ann at the Rattlesnake Bar in Boston didn't last long that night but as I've talked about before, it was nice to make a personal connection with Ann.

Since that time, Ann and I have done Webinars together, talked regularly via Twitter, e-mail and occasionally on the phone. It's always refreshing because Ann is such a wealth of knowledge and just a nice person in general. To that end, here are her answers to the Experts in the Industry questions:

In one sentence, please describe what you do and why you're good at it.
I have two sides: I create and manage digital content to build relationships for organizations and individuals (right now at www.marketingprofs.com), and I'm a writer (right now at www.annhandley.com). I am good at it because I love it, I suppose, but I'd rather leave that judgment up to others. 
 
How did you get into the world of online community, social media or social marketing?
I invented blogging when I was a kid. It just took 30 years for the technology to cach up.  

I am only partially kidding: I have always been a believer in interaction, feedback and community, and in the power of talking to an audience in an intimate and immediate environment, and in hearing their voices talk back. I've embraced it as a business tool, certainly, as a way to educate, elucidate, and be educated. But, at the same time -- just as I did when I was a kid -- it's rooted for me in the joy of communicating, the creativity of writing, and the thrill of the conversation.
 
If you had $10 million to invest in one company and one company only based on their use of "social," which company would it be and why?
I'm not sure I'd invest in anything "only based" on their use of social, since I see social as a tool, not a business model. That said, I'm impressed with what lots of companies are doing to embrace social media tools -- but that usually requires a shift in mindset more than an influx of cash. p.s. I would, however, invest in MarketingProfs. There's lots of things we'd like to do here, and $10 million would sure get us there quicker.
 
Which business leader, politician or public figure do you most respect?
Politician: Barack Obama. Business leaders: Arianna Huffington and Tina Brown. The writer I'd most like to meet: David Sedaris
 
This reminds me of my favorite inner debate, which do I hate more? The dentist or the gynocologist? Which would you say?
 
Freeform – here's where you can riff on anyone or anything – good or bad. Or just share a pearl of wisdom.
Thanks for including me here, Aaron. I'm grateful to anyone who wants to hear what I have to say, both in the physical world, and online, both in business and in life. My pearl, my mantra is this: Your community is everything: Foster it. Feed it. Respect it. Don't abuse it.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Experts in the Industry: Len Devanna (31 of 45)

Len Devanna, director Web strategy, EMC is one of the few people on this list I haven't actually met in person. There have been several times where we were supposed to be at the same event but one or the other of us ended up blowing it (mostly me I think). However, between Twitter and our mutual friend, Adam Cohen, I feel like I've gotten to know more about Len and the great work he's doing to bring "social" to a little old company called EMC.

Len is a smart guy and I think you're going to enjoy how he answered his Experts in the Industry questions:

In one sentence, please describe what you do and why you’re good at it.
I help drive online evolution at EMC Corporation, and am good at it because I am truly, truly passionate about the topic.
 
How did you get into the world of online community, social media or social marketing?
It all started with the big bang...  Wait – probably going too far back. In’ 94 I fell in love with the web – well, Usenet at the time. I achieved 30% helpdesk call deflection by simply putting answers to common questions online (trust me – it was an epiphany at the time). Since, I’ve focused my career on helping companies leverage the online realm to better communicate with their audience. The emergence of social is simply the latest step in the evolution. Where the notion of one way information flow was appealing in the past, the ability to now engage and interact opens a world of opportunities that we’ve not even started to tap. 

I’d be remiss if I didn’t also mention the impact of friends Jeremiah Owyang and Sean O’Driscoll. Both have a contagious passion for the online world and helped me understand just how powerful the opportunities at hand are.
 
If you had $10 million to invest in one company and one company only based on their use of “social,” which company would it be and why?
Tough to cite a particular company – Rather would focus on the notion of common credentials and reputation management. Many have toes in this pond, but no one has nailed it, yet. To me, this is a MASSIVE opportunity. The ability to traverse the web, leveraging common credentials and being able to bring my likes, dislikes, network, social capital, etc; along with me is truly exciting.
 
Which business leader, politician or public figure do you most respect?
I’ve been impressed with the adoption of the social web by some political heavies. President Obama did a masterful job engaging the younger generation via the usual social channels. I can’t think of any of his predecessors that were so successful in tapping into the younger crowd on ‘their’ turf. I’m a recent transplant to the San Fran area – and have also been impressed with Governor Schwarzenegger’s use of social tools to engage CA residents.
 
If only I had a dollar for every time I was asked this...  I’d join any community if the subject matter was interesting to me. Toothpaste, unfortunately, is not.
 
Freeform – here’s where you can riff on anyone or anything – good or bad. Or just share a pearl of wisdom.
You get one trip on this ride we call life. Make the most of it. Don’t sweat the small stuff and enjoy every minute of every day. 

Lastly – Aaron – thanks for the opportunity to share a bit about myself and for coming up with such a creative way to connect folks in the community! [Aaron: My pleasure Len!]

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

How We Market

As the CMO of Powered, I try and share whatever and whenever I can. Maybe to a level that makes my boss, our CEO, a little uncomfortable. But it's my style and at the end of the day, it's what we ask our customers to do.

To that end, we were asked a question in an RFI today that I helped our sales guys answer. The question was, "How do you employ social media to market your own company's services?" Here's how I answered:

At Powered, we look at “social” as being more of a philosophy than a set of tools or tactics. As a result, all of our activities in the marketing world are predicated on the theory of “give before you get.” What this means is that when we send out e-mail campaigns, create newsletters, blog or deliver webcasts, we ask ourselves the question, “what do our customers and prospective customers care about? Or How can we make them smarter?”


With this as our premise, we do use tools like our corporate blog, my personal work blog a Twitter account as well as several of our bus/dev and exec teams personal twitter accounts -- mine being one of them. Because we are so bullish on creating content, we also help marketers better understand the rapidly emerging discipline of social marketing and what it means to their company’s marketing mix though monthly webcasts with thought leaders like Forrester’s Jeremiah Owyang and MarketingProf’s chief content officer, Anne Handley OR the social media leads at Ford, GM and Edmunds.com. We also are regular contributors to publications like MediaPost and DMNews, again talking about things that marketers might care about.

At the end of the day, we realize that our marketing efforts need to deliver brand awareness and lead generation but we’ve found that the most effective way to ensure their success by “eating our own dogfood.”

How do you YOU employ social media to market your own services?


photo courtesy of: http://dogs.lovetoknow.com/

Experts in the Industry: Francois Gossieaux (30 of 45)

I've mentioned in previous posts that Francois Gossieaux, Partner at Beeline Labs, is one of the people I hold chiefly responsible for teaching me the true meaning of Marketing 2.0. I bring this up because Francois was the conference chair for the event, Community 2.0, that we kicked off when my former company, Mzinga, was still Shared Insights. I was the CMO at Shared Insights and relatively new to the way of tapping social media/social networking to generate leads, create awareness and help drive attendance. Francois was instrumental in not only teaching me how to successfully engage in social/community to accomplish these goals, he also introduced me to a boatload of smart people like Jake McKeeMukund Mohan and Bill Johnston.

As a side note (reinforcing my point of Francois' influence on my career), yesterday I realized that he was one of the first people I followed on Twitter. With that as our backdrop, let's see how the master of Marketing 2.0 answered the five questions in the Experts in the Industry series:

In one sentence, please describe what you do and why you’re good at it.
I am first and foremost a passionate marketer, a product innovation enthusiast and a customer advocate with a deep understanding of how social media transformed all those disciplines.

How did you get into the world of online community, social media or social marketing?
In the early 90’s I built a partner community on Compuserve at Agfa, a division of Bayer. In 1996 I organized InterAct ’96, an online trade show and conference which attracted 40,000 attendees and exhibitors like Time Magazine, Infoworld, Microsoft, Netscape, DEC and many others.

I was the CMO at eRoom Technology for 5 years, where we helped companies build collaborative environments – or work communities. In early 2003, I founded a software company that focused on leveraging internal and external communities for the front end of the product lifecycle. After that I joined Corante, the first blog-based publishing company, which led to the founding of Beeline Labs, a marketing innovation consulting firm focused on helping companies create new customers by humanizing themselves and their brands.

I also used blogs and online petitions for grassroots local political issues in early 2000’s, created a worldwide community around the chasm that exists between haves and have not’s after 9/11, and finally started blogging frequently on Emergence Marketing in 2005.

If you had $10 million to invest in one company and one company only based on their use of “social,” which company would it be and why?
I would invest it in my own company. Our approach to helping clients is very different from other consulting firms and I believe that we could scale that faster with extra funding. I am also still a firm believer that there is an opportunity to build a software platform based on social media principles that is designed to better align with existing business processes like product innovation.

Which business leader, politician or public figure do you most respect?
Without a doubt – Barrack Obama. He leveraged the power of the crowd by empowering his volunteers, he understands how to influence the message while letting go of trying to control it, and he is embracing transparency in ways that go way beyond the lip service that most business leaders and politicians give it. He truly has the leadership skills required for a web 2.0 world – and many business leaders could learn a lesson or two from how he managed his campaign and how he is now managing his early administration.

I would if it had something in it for me and if it were not centered on toothpaste.

Freeform – here’s where you can riff on anyone or anything – good or bad. Or just share a pearl of wisdom.
We have seen an evolution from a production economy to a service economy to an experience economy and now we are witnessing a move to a participatory economy.

Social media based business is not about doing business using social media; it’s about allowing the social, with all its messiness, to penetrate all of our business processes. And whether companies like it or not, this social messiness will infiltrate everything we touch. In many cases customers already gained an equal share of voice with or without companies’ help, and with employees bringing their own tools to work (think 3G phones), they too will increasingly bypass organizational hierarchies and behave the way they were hardwired to behave in the first place – tribally, humanly.

Those business leaders who can live with this social messiness and provide leadership to harness the unbelievable power that can emerge from all this will be the true winners.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Experts in the Industry: Jim Storer (29 of 45)

Ahhhh, Jim Storer. So many things I could say -- all are good but some are not fit for print. The reason I know this is that Jim -- someone I worked with for three years at Shared Insights/Mzinga -- is one of my closest friends in the socialsphere, and in life in general. While at Mzinga, Jim (Twitter handle) was the sr. director of social media. He is now one of the most valuable free agents on the street (think Manny Ramirez but without the attitude or the $25 million/year salary). Did you hear that potential employers?
There are three things I will tell you about Jim (he'll appreciate the irony of my making it "three"):
  • He is one of the most savvy community people out there having spent several years managing numerous communities both big and small.
  • Jim is every bit the sports nut that I am -- and in fact is one of the most regular commenters and contributors on our group sports blog, Big Papelbon.
  • Up until four months ago, Jim was the guy that I turned to to vett most of my big ideas. Oh yeah, he also was a GREAT partner in our podcasting efforts. Two particular instances stand out -- one at SXSW last year where we did 15 or 16 podcasts in one night (part 1, part 2, part 3) AND a tour de force at last years Community 2.0 event where we interviewed the likes of Charlene Li (in a limo), Tony Hsieh of Zappos and David Weinberger, co-author of Clue Train Manifesto.
I could go on forever but I won't. Here's how Jim answered the five questions from the Experts in the Industry series:

In one sentence, please describe what you do and why you're good at it.
I help companies build better relationships with their customer and employees, often through the use of social technologies. I've been at it for a while (see below), have tried almost everything and have a pretty good sense of what does and doesn't work. 
 
How did you get into the world of online community, social media or social marketing?
In the 1990's I worked for a trade show company and we found some of best customer relationships were started/developed by participating in newsgroups. Around the turn of the century (I just love saying that), we decided to launch a series of communities to support the technology topics we covered with our events. We didn't always know what we were doing, but we learned a lot and developed some very strong 
customer relationships that helped the company weather the tough times in the early 2000's. 
 
If you had $10 million to invest in one company and one company only based on their use of "social," which company would it be and why?
I thought about this for a while and really can't justify giving it to anyone but Zappos. There are a lot of companies that talk social media and some walk social media in certain segments of their business, but very few companies live it to the core. Zappos is one of them. Tony Hsieh is both a 
very smart businessman and social leader rolled into one. He and the Zappos team are building something special and I'd love to support their vision. 
 
Which business leader, politician or public figure do you most respect?
Ok, I'll spread the wealth and won't pick Tony again. I'll go with Jack Welch. He may be seen as an old school businessman, but he always been pushing the envelope of business practices. Just the other night I caught a video of him discussing how businesses need re-invent how they think about human resources. He's simply an amazing man... and it doesn't hurt that he's a UMass/Amherst alum. ;-)

Community? Probably not, but it really depends on what the sponsoring company decides to do with it. I'm not sure there's enough in it for me to join a toothpaste community. If they wrote a blog with tips on getting kids to brush and floss every night and gave me coupons to save money on brushes and toothpaste I *might* subscribe. If they started following me on Twitter, I *might* follow them back. I'd love to see them humanize the company, but I probably won't engage around a product. Check out Rachel Happe's excellent post on the difference between community and social media for more on this topic. 
 
Freeform – here's where you can riff on anyone or anything – good or bad. Or just share a pearl of wisdom.
I get the sense that companies spend a lot of time thinking about getting into social media, often over-evaluate the options (and there are a LOT of them). It's not expensive (often free) to dip your toe in the water and start listening to what's being said about you and your brands. Most social media "gurus" would advocate this approach. My advice? Just get started.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Experts in the Industry: Howard Greenstein (28 of 45)

My first meeting with Howard Greenstein, principal of the Harbooke Group & co-founder Social Media Club was under some unusual circumstances. For one, it was at the UN building in New York City. Second, Howard was moderating a panel on Web 2.0 meets ICT Entrpreneurs -- not your usual SXSW or DMA kind of event. Since then, Howard and I have stayed in touch via Twitter and blog posts. We even managed to catch up for a quick podcast at Stephanie Agresta and Brian Solis TechSet event last fall in NYC.

With that as a backdrop, let's see how Howard answered the questions in the Experts in the Industry series...

In one sentence, please describe what you do and why you’re good at it.
As a life-long early adopter of technologies, I help people understand the possibilities inherent in these new technologies, and how that translates into opportunity for their marketing and business efforts.

How did you get into the world of online community, social media or social marketing?
I've been building real-world communities and networking groups since the 1980s and was one of the earliest people doing online communities as well. In 1994 I started wwwac.org, the World Wide Web Artist's Consortium, which was an in-person web user group in NY with an online email list. The online list helped develop the community, which met in person regularly. I really saw the power as people formed companies (like Razorfish and Agency.com) by finding people at our meetings. My interest in what we now call Social Media grew out of how I saw people starting to use the web in the late 90s and early 2000 when I was at Microsoft. The early ability to blog, instant message, and form groups online was powerful. My ideas about this phenomenon formalized around mid 2006 after I joined my 4th or 5th Social network.

If you had $10 million to invest in one company and one company only based on their use of “social,” which company would it be and why?
It may seem trite, but I believe Facebook is doing a better job than anyone these days. LinkedIn is a close second.

Which business leader, politician or public figure do you most respect?
I think Warren Buffett is a wonderful example for my kids of someone who made a huge amount of money and gave it away, and his friend Bill Gates, for all the cut-throat business done at Microsoft, is now putting that passion to work fixing the world. These guys can actually buy the change they want to see. That is great.

No. I have no passion around toothpaste. I have limited time, and my online time is spent talking with others around things I'm interested in, and frankly toothpaste doesn't raise the bar enough for me to spend time on it. Now, a flossing community, well, then we're talking.

Freeform – here’s where you can riff on anyone or anything – good or bad. Or just share a pearl of wisdom.
People keep asking me for that 'one thing' they can can do in social media to make a difference for them or for their brand. It is not a secret. I wrote it up here. I really believe that being generous, useful and most importantly helpful to others online means more than any advertising, search optimization, or outreach you can make. 

Experts in the Industry: Adam Cohen (27 of 45)

It's hard to say enough good things about my friend, Adam Cohen, partner at Rosetta and fellow Big Papelbon contributor. In my mind, Adam not only opitimizes how the business world and world of social should interact, he's also a perfect example of someone that "pays it forward." One other fun note about Adam is that he's one of the first people I started following on Twitter. While that's only been for a year and a half, that feels like dog years in the world of social.

Before I give him too much of a big head though, let's see how Adam answered the five questions (as well as the questions submitted in the comments) in the Experts in the Industry series.

In one sentence, please describe what you do and why you’re good at it.
I am a partner at interactive marketing agency Rosetta, and I’m good at it because I hold myself and my team accountable to deliver value.  That sounds lame, but I’ve seen lots of consultants that don’t.  I’m passionate about building high performing teams and finding ways to exceed expectations.

How did you get into the world of online community, social media or social marketing?
A couple years ago a former client, Len Devanna, invited me to a social media cocktail hour sponsored by EMC in Boston.  It happened to Jeremiah Owyang’s orientation week at Forrester, and I had the opportunity to meet many folks in the social media industry.  Len told me that I would be hooked on this space and he was right.  I immersed myself in Twitter and started attending social media related events even though it was not directly related to my day to day work responsibilities.  I’m probably one of the few that started on Twitter first and added a blog later, in order to capture observations and conversations that need more than 140 characters.  I’ll always be learning, and most recently have been able to build social media into our agency starting with helping our clients listen to what their brands mean to the marketplace.  I continue to be amazed by and grateful for folks I have met through social media – they are willing to share and collaborate on ideas.  Aaron is one of them.

If you had $10 million to invest in one company and one company only based on their use of “social,” which company would it be and why?
Facebook has something going on that is different from other platforms.  Don’t roll your eyes.  While many folks in the social media business have embraced Twitter, Friendfeed and other services, Facebook has the most universal appeal to connect people.  My wife went from skeptic to addict in days.  Facebook has a low barrier to entry and is the ‘gateway drug’ of lifestreaming technologies.  If it is leveraged properly – mind you, people don’t go to Facebook to shop – it has the potential as an amazing marketing tool with the amount of data (demographic, behavioral, and preferences) available on each user. Privacy concerns aside, people are really using it to share experiences day to day.  

Which business leader, politician or public figure do you most respect?
Warren Buffet has been an inspiration because of his emphasis on value and people.  Berkshire Hathaway acquired a family friend’s successful business, and the transaction was about keeping the best people in place and letting them “do their thing” more confidently.  He doesn’t come in looking to tear up, break up, re-invent – he looks for a value proposition and solid management to execute.  Seems simple, doesn’t it?

I might.  A good angle I’d be interested in is a toothpaste community targeted at kids, adding advice, tips, etc to make it fun for them.  There has to be value outside of the product, otherwise it’s not a product I’m passionate about.  

Freeform – here’s where you can riff on anyone or anything – good or bad. Or just share a pearl of wisdom.
I have to share one of my favorite quotes, from Calvin Coolidge:

Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.

How many successful people do you know who weren’t persistent?  

Do you have a favorite Social Networking/Social Media medium, application or site? If so, why that one?
No doubt Twitter.  There is an “always on” conversation happening with smart people contributing.  More so than Google Reader, it’s been a constant learning source.  

Which non-social media industry person do you follow and why?
There are many, many folks on Twitter who don’t work in the social media industry but have something interesting to say and a compelling view point to add.    

How many folks do you think will read other's answers before answering themselves?
Honestly, I tried not to but couldn’t resist.    

What does 'Social Media' or 'Social Marketing' encompass?
In your contest post of describing Social Marketing in 100 words or less, I defined it like adding “in bed” at the end of a fortune cookie.  Take any standard definition of marketing and add “leveraging personalized interactions” at the end.  Technology is a vehicle that enables those interactions but they are offline too.  

It would be interesting to ask these folks which of their peers who are being interviewed most inspires their work.
Leveraging social media is a natural extension of the ways my agency, Rosetta, helps our clients.  I’m working to build out a social media practice the right way, and so many folks in the #45in45 list have been resources to learn from.  Folks like Amber Naslund (@ambercadabra), Jeremiah Owyang (@jowyang), Peter Kim (@peterkim), David Armano (@armano) and yourself Aaron have provided phenomenal insight through their day to day contributions.  Ken Burbary (@kenburbary) and I are in very similar boats in our respective agencies and talking with him on a regular basis has provided a healthy sanity check.  This #45in45 series has shed light on many more folks to learn from that I didn’t know of previously.

From a business and marketing strategy standpoint, how do you track, converse, communicate and otherwise curate your various social media activities?
I’ve still got much to learn – I have not yet established a formal pattern or method for how I engage in activities, but I do spend time daily catching up on Google Reader, Twitter and other feeds.  There is a virtual fire hose of good content and it’s impossible to “drink” it all, but the more I drink the thirstier I get.  What I do know is that every day and hour I spend connecting and interacting with people has a direct correlation to the value provided in both directions.  I feel a blog post brewing about “Return on Engagement” applying both to personal involvement and company involvement in this space.

Thanks again for including me Aaron – and I think you should take all of these posts and make it into an eBook.  - Adam [Aaron: Thanks Adam!]

Friday, February 20, 2009

Experts in the Industry: Mukund Mohan (26 of 45)

You know that I have to REALLY like Mukund Mohan, co-founder of BuzzGain, to do two posts (here's the other) about him in one day. It doesn't hurt that he's been one of the most influential and helpful people in my social media career -- introducing me to people like Shel Israel, Ross Mayfield and Sam Lawrence. What I like most about Mukund is the fact that in spite of having launched four successful startups and knowing a zillion people in the online/social space, he's still one of the most humble guys I know.

With that as our backdrop, let's see how Mukund answered the five questions from the Experts in the Industry series:

In one sentence, please describe what you do and why you’re good at it.
I am the CEO of BuzzGain, a company that empowers individual and organizations to Do It Yourself PR. I have a passion for taking ideas from the stage of conception to market adoption, which is why this is the perfect role for me.

How did you get into the world of online community, social media or social marketing?
I have been blogging about communities and social networks for over 5 years now, after first learning about LinkedIn, which was my first introduction to social marketing back in 2002.
 
If you had $10 million to invest in one company and one company only based on their use of “social,” which company would it be and why?
I have invested in BuzzGain myself, so any more money would go into it without doubt. The reason is we are creating a scalable, defined and measurable way to find, learn about and engage with influencers in the media (social and mainstream). This is the one area of growth in the next few years, so I am sure the investment would be returned multiple-fold.
 
Which business leader, politician or public figure do you most respect?
Gandhi. He's also on my twitter profile image. I admire his ability to persist through obstacles, adopt unconventional means to achieve goals and stay true to his ideals.

If my friends hang out there and discuss more than just toothpaste, sure. I am not very particular about the where as much as who. Keeping up with, discussing and collaborating with friends and colleagues is more important than where we do it for me.
 
Freeform – here’s where you can riff on anyone or anything – good or bad. Or just share a pearl of wisdom.
I have this quote that I read daily. It's by David Packard. “You shouldn't gloat about anything you've done; you ought to keep going and find something better to do.” 

BuzzGain - Why I like it.


In honor of my good friend, Mukund Mohan, whose interview in the Experts in the Industry series is coming up later today, I thought it was about time to do a quick post about BuzzGain, the company he co-founded with PR 2.0 guru, Brian Solis. In full disclosure, I'm on Mukund's advisory board which means that you now know that I can't be completely unbiased in this post. But if you know anything about me, you know that if I'm not passionate about something, I don't write about it.

By way of background, BuzzGain is "an online service for discovering and connecting with the people who will help your business thrive in today’s social economy – where attention is a precious commodity." It also allows companies – big and small – to find "long tail" communities where hidden influencers (or detractors) may live. The tool is able to look across traditional online media, blogs and other social sites like Flickr, YouTube, Twitter.

What inspired me to write this post is that our team at Powered has recently received demos from "listening service" providers like BuzzGain, Radian6 and coming next week, Techrigy. What makes our selection difficult is that I have friends at all three companies and like what I've seen so far of BuzzGain and Radian6. In BuzzGain's case, I'm realizing that while they are in the same category of Radian6 and Techrigy, they really are an animal unto themselves.

Here are three things I like about BuzzGain's offering that help differentiate it from other listening or "do-it-yourself" PR services:
  • Ability to get detailed information on blogs including their reach, search engine rankings, readership trends, post frequency, contact information and related/ relevant blogs
  • Provision of contact information on main stream media reporters with their email, beat information related to my campaign and their areas of coverage 
  • Sentiment analysis and tonality including positive, negative posts, news mentions and comments in a single place
I also like that Mukund and Brian are open about not only their shortcomings but are also transparent about their pricing. According to Mukund, pricing is $99 per month for companies under $100m in revenue, $100m - $1 billion is $500 per month, those with over $1b is sales is $1,000 per month.

Brian and Mukund have also responded quickly to initial feedback. See a step by step walk through of their new "user feedback" driven features.




Have you tried out BuzzGain yet? If so, how do you like it?

Experts in the Industry: Melanie Notkin (25 of 45)

I became friends with Melanie Notkin, founder of SavvyAuntie.com, quite accidentally. One night, I was driving home from work and peeked at Twitter (as I was stopped at a light of course). Melanie was closing in on one of her early milestones (I think it was 200 followers) and was asking for help getting there. As a result, I couldn't resist throwing out a quick plug for her and asked friends @dough and @scottmonty to do the same.

Melanie of course hit her milestone and hasn't looked back since. Now she owns her own business -- SavvyAuntie.com -- and has surpassed me in Twitter followers. We've also had the chance to catch up a few times in person for lunch in the city and for drinks at Brian Solis and Stephanie Agresta's Web 2.0 Tech Set event last fall.

So let's see how this savvy, cool and funny entrepreneur answered the five questions from the Experts in the Industry: 45 Interviews in 45 Days series:

In one sentence, please describe what you do and why you’re good at it.
My career motto has always been: “I’m passionate about building something spectacular from nothing at all,” and I’d like to think the launch of the Savvy Auntie brand reflects that. 
 
How did you get into the world of online community, social media or social marketing?
 I had worked in digital marketing and communications for blue ribbon companies including NYT, AMEX and L’OrĂ©al since 1999, but all along I was also reading books and magazines  -and in more recent years blogs - on emerging technologies and how smart people and fast companies were leveraging them for business and market growth.  In June of 2007, after 15 years of testing the waters, I jumped right in.

If you had $10 million to invest in one company and one company only based on their use of “social,” which company would it be and why?
Google.  Beyond their own current capacity with YouTube, Google Android, Gmail, etc, Google is also perfectly positioned to acquire some of the companies that do ‘social’ best, like Twitter and Skype.  With all this combined, Google could create new, profound and valuable ways for an individual or group to open a conversation with one person, a group of people we know, a group of people we’ve never met, or Oprah’s audience.  Oh, and they’ll actually make money doing it.

And that’s just on the consumer level. Google is also primed for the enterprise, but that’s not my area of expertise.  (Yes, I am aware that Google has its own native ‘Skype-‘type application, but by virtue of its limitation to those on Gmail and UI, I doubt anyone in Oprah’s audience is using it. (PS: I watch Oprah.) )
 
Which business leader, politician or public figure do you most respect?
That’s a tough one because I have learned so much from so many, from near and from far. So I am going to go with my new favorite – Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos. Why is Tony brilliant? Because he’s got a natural curiosity about people which causes him to constantly be inspired by the people he meets. And he meets a lot of people – and engages as many of them as he can. He invites them to Zappos HQ and has dinner with them when he’s in town. (I know from experience). Leaders who are not curious about other people lose touch with their mass consumer base, don’t learn new tricks, and don’t hire the most diverse talent (squandering opportunities for innovation). No wonder Zappos was just named one of Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For.

Tony’s innate curiosity is the primary reason why I respect him. His authenticity, transparency and humility as a leader are together a close second.

Community is not about ‘toothpaste’ or ‘widgets’ or whatever the end-game is. Rather, it’s about the people who are curious about other people who like toothpaste and widgets that’s key.

I didn’t develop a ‘nieces and nephews’ community. I built a community for the women who love them. I called it “Savvy Auntie” so that they could become savvy by learning from each other. After all, they have more than nieces and nephews in common. Their PANK profile - (Professional Aunts No Kids) – offers them a number of commonalities, e.g.: careers; travel; perhaps pets; and all too often, familial challenges. 

Back to your example - if I were a person who was curious about other people who liked dental hygiene, then a toothpaste community might be right for me.  Then again, if Colgate gave me $1mm, I’d build it and join it right now.  

Freeform – here’s where you can riff on anyone or anything – good or bad. Or just share a pearl of wisdom.
I launched SavvyAuntie.com in July of 2008, just a few weeks before the fall of Lehman Brothers and the end of the economy as we knew it. But I also launched just at the right time to develop zero-cost community support for my company on Twitter and Facebook so that even in times of trouble, I can still be successful.  For example, through Twitter, I found beta testers, members, advertisers, members of the online and offline press, and advisors. Like you @aaronstrout.  Yep, I can honestly say that Social Media is my life saver….

Oh wait! I think I just thought of a sponsorship idea… gotta run… gotta see if anyone on Twitter knows someone at Wrigley… see ya…. (Follow me at Twitter.com/savvyauntie)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Experts in the Industry: Warren Sukernek (24 of 45)

In the world of social media, I have friends and then I have "Friends." Warren Sukernek - Director of Content Marketing, Radian6, falls into that second camp in a big way. I can't remember how we first connected but it was on Twitter early last spring. Since then, we've chatted regularly via e-mail, direct message, phone and in person at one of Mzinga's semi-famous BBQs last summer (picture below). Oh yeah, he's also a contributor to our group Red Sox blog which makes for a good time during the season.

But enough about us... let's get onto the questions:

In one sentence, please describe what you do and why you're good at it.
I'm an online marketer, focused on establishing relationships with customers that are measurable and achieve results. Because the response is measureable, the results tell me when I'm good or sometimes, not. Hopefully, more often, they are good.

How did you get into the world of online community, social media or social marketing?
 I got into social media because I found it a very effective way to meet, network and learn from  business leaders, authors, and people with common interests beyond borders.

If you had $10 million to invest in one company and one company only based on their use of "social," which company would it be and why?
It would have to be Twitter.  The growth has been phenomenal, even without a public business plan.  There is still a lot of upside as few companies have yet to capitalize on its ability to listen to customers, engage, and meet their needs.  Probably no surprise since no only am I a big user and fan, but I also write the Twittermaven blog

Which business leader, politician or public figure do you most respect?
 Obviously, the popular choice is President Obama.  But Warren Buffett is a business leader that is pretty inspiring. Sustainable longterm success and always having the conviction to do the right thing, even if it is against conventional wisdom.

As we discussed on that excellent blog post you wrote a few months ago, we don't have passion for many commodities like toothpaste, ball bearings, or drain cleaner.  However, there is a lot of passion for how the products make us feel or what they do for us. So for a community focused on laughter and smiles sponsored by a toothpaste company, I'm in.

Freeform – here's where you can riff on anyone or anything – good or bad. Or just share a pearl of wisdom.
I get to write on Aaron Strout's blog on any topic I want? Then you know it's got to be about sports and the Red Sox.  I can't believe that pitchers and catchers are reporting in just a few weeks! That makes up for another dismal year from the same old Jets.  Anyway, the Sox seem to be well-constructed this year. Even with weak catching, I am convinced that we will beat the Yankees and Rays to win the World Series in 2009.  And in social media fantasy baseball, I am going to avenge my loss to Jaffe last year and crush him.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Experts in the Industry: Mack Collier (23 of 45)

Mack Collier, social media consultant, speaker, trainer is one of the few people on this list I haven't met in person. Although I did get to actually LISTEN to Mack in person last year during a panel he led on corporate blogging at SXSW. I was so impressed by the job he did that I immediately started following him on Twitter. Since then, I've continued to like what he's delivered -- both on his blog, and on Twitter.

So with that as the backdrop, onto to Mack's answers to the five questions (plus those from the comments) from the Experts in the Industry: 45 Interviews in 45 Days series.

In one sentence, please describe what you do and why you're good at it.
I help companies and small businesses better connect and communicate with their customers via social media. I'm good at it because I understand that the tools aren't what's important, it's the people using the tools that matter.

How did you get into the world of online community, social media or social marketing?
I started blogging in 2005 because I thought it would help me land a job. There was and still is a lot of excitement about how social media helps empower customers and gives them a voice. But I was even more excited about the potential for companies to connect with these newly-empowered customers to better connect with them, to the benefit of both the customers, and the company.

If you had $10 million to invest in one company and one company only based on their use of "social," which company would it be and why?
Threadless. I like how they have embraced their customers as co-creating their business, and understand that their business is a byproduct of their community. Many companies miss this, and want to 'create' the community, so they can then 'monetize' it.

Which business leader, politician or public figure do you most respect?
I am a big fan of what Nettwerk Music CEO Terry McBride is doing in connecting his artists with their fans. He has some pretty progressive ideas about how music should be sold and distributed, including embracing music fans as marketing, distribution and sales partners, not as people to be sued for downloading music over the internet.

Possibly. Most communities don't form around the actual product, but a common association among the people using the product. Is The Fiskateers a community formed around people that use scissors, or scrapbookers?  

Freeform – here's where you can riff on anyone or anything – good or bad. Or just share a pearl of wisdom.
Don't focus on the tools, focus on the connections that the tools help facilitate.  And remember that the customers you are trying to reach via social media have next to zero interest in hearing marketing messages.  You have to shift your usage of social media to align with their's, because they definitely aren't going to change for you. And you shouldn't expect them to.  


Here's some questions left by others in the comments of the original post:

Do you have a favorite Social Networking/Social Media medium, application or site? If so, why that one?
Twitter.  Mainly because it's the quickest and easiest way for me to connect with the most people. During last Summer, Plurk was my favorite tool, because of functionality (threaded conversations), but also because Twitter was having a lot of downtime, and many of the people I frequently talked to on Twitter, moved over to Plurk. In general, I will stick with the tool that makes it as easy as possible for me to connect with, share and learn from other people, because that's primarily why I use social media.

Which non-social media industry person do you follow and why?
On Twitter especially, I like to follow people that work for companies that are experimenting with Twitter and social media. It's interesting to see how they react to customers there, and how the customers react to them.

How many folks do you think will read other's answers before answering themselves?
I did. I am smart enough to realize that I'm too dumb to think that I have all the answers.

What does 'Social Media' or 'Social Marketing' encompass?
First, 'social marketing' is not the same thing as 'social media marketing'.  Second, we have to be very careful in using the term 'social media marketing', because to companies, that means 'doing marketing with social media'.  But companies need to understand that social media are communication tools, and it's a very BAD idea to take tools that customers are using as communication channels, and attempt to funnel marketing messages through them.  So to me, smart marketing via social media means using social media as a way to better connect and communicate with your customers.  Not as a better way to market to them.  The better marketing is a BYPRODUCT of using the tools in the way that your customers are.

It would be interesting to ask these folks which of their peers who are being interviewed most inspires their work.
Can I cop-out and say 'all of them'?  Seriously, almost all of the people you have lined up have influenced me in one way or the other.  To keep from listing everyone, I will pick three; Ann Handley, David Armano, and Lionel Menchaca. Ann and David have taught me that you become influential in social media by creating value for others, and being real to everyone. Lionel inspires me by showing me what can happen at a big company if they have an internal social media evangelist that cares about helping their customers.  

From a business and marketing strategy standpoint, how do you track, converse, communicate and otherwise curate your various social media activities?
I measure the success of any time I spend with social media by asking myself if I am connecting with other people, and giving them a reason to connect with me. The more interaction I have with other people, the more I learn.  So in order to create more interaction, I have to give people a reason to interact with me.  And for companies, this goes back to being successful with social media.  You have to create value for your customers first.  That's your DIRECT goal.  Your indirect goal is growing your business.  That happens as a BYPRODUCT of creating value for customers and giving them a reason to interact with you.  I view my social media activities through the same lense.

Thanks again for asking me, Aaron! [Note from Aaron: My pleasure Mack!]

Photo is courtesy of friend @BethHarte

Austin American Statesmen: Texas Social Media Awards


"Wow!" is all I have to say. I started in a pool of 125 REALLY smart, clever, funny people that put a lot of blood sweat and tears into their work and I've now gone to "Hollywood" and moved on to the final group of 25 award winners. A few of these folks are good friends, some are folks I follow and are inspired by, all are people that a well-deserving of the Austin American-Statesman's first-ever Texas Social Media Awards. [link to article thanks to Peter Kim]

From the press announcement...

Judges for the winners were Internet Editor Robert Quigley, food writer Addie Broyles and technology culture writer Omar Gallaga. An overall Texas Social Media Award winner will be announced at an awards show and party on March 15 at Ballet Austin's downtown building (501 W. 3rd Street). The public is invited to honor and celebrate with the winners. Tickets are on sale now for the event, which will include a cocktail party and an awards show. You can buy them here: https://www.tickets.balletaustin.org/public/

They 25 winners are as follows (in alphabetical order):

  • Henry "Rizo" Adaso, Houston
  • Joshua Baer, Austin
  • Perry Belcher, Austin
  • Michael Chapman, Austin
  • J.R. Cohen, Houston
  • Michael Cote, Austin
  • Jenn Deering Davis, Austin
  • Sam Decker, Austin
  • Lori Falcon, Abilene
  • Kyle Flaherty, Austin
  • Matt Glazer, Austin
  • Lisa Goddard, Austin
  • Michelle Greer, Austin
  • David Guenther, Austin
  • Kami Huyse, Houston
  • Cali Lewis, Dallas
  • David Neff, Austin
  • Erica O'Grady, Houston
  • Bryan Person, Austin
  • Connie Reece, Austin
  • Benn and Lani Rosales, Pflugerville
  • David Silverman, Houston
  • Aaron Strout, Austin (that's me)
  • Paul Terry Walhus, Austin
  • Michael Williams, Austin
New friend (via Twitter) Robert Quigley, Internet editor and social media coordinator at the Statesman, had this to say about the process, "there were many great nominees. Every person on this list of 25 is a leader in social media not only in Texas, but in the nation. Texas has taken the lead in this fast-growing field, and these are the people who have made that happen." 

FYI - The Statesman's Twitter efforts have gained national attention. The main account, @statesman, is one of the top 10 most-followed newspaper Twitter sites in the nation. The Statesman has more than 40 staff members tweeting the news.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Experts in the Industry: Tim Walker (22 of 45)

Tim Walker, editor & blogger for Hoover's; journalist, historian, & speaker, is not only one of the smartest guys I know, he's also a huge Red Sox fan. If you know anything about me, you'll understand what a huge plus this is for me. Interestingly, Tim and I had followed each other for several months on Twitter before finally meeting in person a few months back at one of Bryan Person's Social Media Breakfasts (Tim was the main presenter during that morning's breakfast). Since then, Tim and I have had a chance to get together for a few coffees and most recently, lunch at Quality Seafood (a great choice btw).

Two quick comments before we move onto Tim's answers. One, Tim requested that I use a picture of him that I took with my iPhone from one of our group coffees because he felt like it captured the essence of who he was. Two, Tim of course went in and decided to answer some of the questions that folks posed in the comments of my original Experts in the Industry post.

In one sentence, please describe what you do and why you’re good at it. 
I touch every aspect of social media on behalf of Hoover's (blogging, tweeting as @hoovers, shaping our social-media strategy, etc.); I'm good at it because I'm highly verbal, highly extroverted, permanently interested in other people, and -- thanks to my background as a Hoover's industry analyst -- well-informed about the broader business world.
 
How did you get into the world of online community, social media or social marketing? 
In terms of my whole career, I was moderating listservs and serving as a user-group administrator in the 1990s. In terms of my current role at Hoover's, I moved into it two years ago, after six years as a Hoover's industry editor and a couple of years of writing a personal blog. (In other words, by that point they knew what a motormouth I can be.)
 
If you had $10 million to invest in one company and one company only based on their use of “social,” which company would it be and why? 
My heart says Twitter, because I love it so and because I think its leaders will figure out the business model eventually; my head says Google, because that's just the smart way to bet. (I'm mindful of the possibility that those could amount to the same thing if Google buys Twitter. If that happens, watch out.)
 
Which business leader, politician or public figure do you most respect? 
Paul Farmer of Partners In Health, by far.
 
Would you join a toothpaste community? Why? 
Not if it were just about toothpaste. As you and I have discussed before, a toothpaste community might work best if it were really a moms-and-families community, and I spend a lot less energy in that direction than my wife does. But there are consumer-oriented communities I would join, on the basis of my own interest in what the merchant is doing. (Example: I love my local wine shop and would gladly participate in a social network around it.) 
 
Freeform – here’s where you can riff on anyone or anything – good or bad. Or just share a pearl of wisdom. 
I'm constantly thinking about how the social media affect the working lives of "ordinary" people -- by which I mean cubicle workers who aren't immersed in social media like we are. The #1 online social medium for these people is e-mail.
 
The overarching problem of e-mail, at least as most people use it, is that it interrupts workflow. By and large, the best work in any field is done by people who aren't multitasking -- and in fact there's a very good neuroscientific case that multitasking actively inhibits the human brain from doing its best work. So I worry that Twitter and the other social media, for all of their obvious and non-obvious benefits, are exacerbating our pandemic of multitasking.

NOTE: THERE WERE SOME ADDITIONAL QUESTIONS THAT FOLKS ASKED IN THE COMMENTS SECTION OF THE ORIGINAL POST. TIM CHOSE TO ANSWER THESE AS PART OF THE BONUS ROUND:
 
Do you have a favorite Social Networking/Social Media medium, application or site? If so, why that one? 
Twitter, because of the free-flowing discussions there, and because of the chance for serendipity to lead you to new people. I've made many friends in my time on Twitter, and not just "online friends."
 
What does 'Social Media' or 'Social Marketing' encompass? 
Two very good questions in one (which is what I would expect from the mind of Alex Jones). First, I'm adamant that social media is not synonymous with marketing -- and in fact I suspect that in the long run its explicit use for traditional marketing will be one of social media's minor aspects.
 
Second, as I've elaborated in various forums, I believe that the online social media we chatter about today are just extensions of the many different social media that have existed for millennia. Insofar as they bring people together, all the means (i.e. media) of human communication are social. Face-to-face talking is social media, as is a handwritten letter or a telephone call. Yes, these new online social media have amazing technological aspects that make them worthy of special study, but they don't represent a fundamental shift in the desire for people to communicate and connect emotionally with other people.

Which non-social media industry person do you follow and why? 
There are many. My favorite bloggers ever are Kathy Sierra (to the point that I just think of her as being on hiatus from blogging, because I can't stand the idea that she'll never come back to it) and John Scalzi (because he's just that smart, that witty, that self-deprecating, that cocky, and that much of a smartass).
 
My favorite living writers of any type -- whose work I "follow" in the sense that I buy every book of theirs as it comes out -- are Michael Lewis and Michael Chabon.

It would be interesting to ask these folks which of their peers who are being interviewed most inspires their work. 
Wow, I have several personal friends on this list, plus many others whose work I admire. But among those listed, the "dean" in my mind is Doc Searls. As for why . . . dude, he's Doc Searls.
 
How many folks do you think will read other's answers before answering themselves?
I've been reading the replies as they've been published, but as I type this that means only the first four responses. (I thought this question was highly appropriate, coming from the ex-professor!)

Experts in the Industry: Dennis Howlett (21 of 45)

Dennis Howlett, full time blogger for ZDNet and AccMan, is not only a funny guy, he's also not afraid to pull any punches. You can follow him on Twitter to see what I'm talking about. The first time I met Dennis was at one of the weekly BBQ's that Mzinga put on during the summer months last year. Friend, Chris Brogan (interview coming), brought along Dennis and Francine McKenna (interview also coming) and we all hung out for a couple of hours and discussed the meaning of life during this podcast.

With that as a backdrop, enjoy Dennis's answers to the questions in the Experts in the Industry series:

In one sentence, please describe what you do and why you're good at it.
I communicate and have a natural love for language and its power 
 
How did you get into the world of online community, social media or social marketing?
Through an identified need to bring the professional world from which I came into the 21st century.
 
If you had $10 million to invest in one company and one company only based on their use of "social," which company would it be and why?
That's hard because I don't think we're at a point where anyone has really worked out which 'moving parts' are the right ones to assemble. Some companies have pieces of the puzzle - I just don't think we've got 'enough.' My context is enterprise so I have a different perspective to many others.

Which business leader, politician or public figure do you most respect?
Jeff Nolan of Newsgator. A great guy, competitive, fiercely loyal and a smart operator.
 
 
Hah - funny that - I need a ton of dental work right now. Ask me in 3 months 
 
Freeform – here's where you can riff on anyone or anything – good or bad. Or just share a pearl of wisdom.
With my enterprise hat on I think that most who are playing in this game are missing a massive part of what needs to happen. Until there is serious engagement with semantics experts, process engineers and social psychologists that have deep organizational experience, much of what we are seeing today will be wasted. That's because the real changes that need to occur are internal as that's the way you change focus to the outside. 

Friday, February 13, 2009

Experts in the Industry: Jason Falls (20 of 45)

I first met Jason Falls, "social media explorer" and director of social media for Doe Anderson -- last year at SXSW (shocking, I know). Not only is Jason a cool guy to hang out with, he's also an avid blogger (something he's been doing since the 90's) and savvy social media-ist. Some of the things he's doing with Doe Anderson clients, Jim Beam and Louisville Slugger are downright impressive (ping him on Twitter and he'll be happy to give you details).

Here's how Jason answered the five questions from the Experts in the Industry: 45 Interviews in 45 Days series:

In one sentence, please describe what you do and why you're good at it.
I'm good at having and managing conversations, both written and verbal, because I'm a social butterfly, a good writer and a fast thinker.
 
How did you get into the world of online community, social media or social marketing?
Besides always being fascinated with computers, I wrote a newspaper column for my hometown rag a few years back and wanted to find a way to publish it online so my non-hometown friends could read it. That evolved into a personal blog. Also, I grew up in a small town and have a genuine love and interest in the folks I grew up with. When social networks started popping up and I realized I could find my old friends and keep up with them, even peripherally, I jumped on it. I only regret taking 6-7 years to figure out I could make money doing it.

If you had $10 million to invest in one company and one company only based on their use of "social," which company would it be and why?
Apple. Because there is real community and conversation everywhere about Apple despite the fact they barely use social media at all. They just make good stuff. People talk about good stuff. But to be fair and answer the question posed, I'd say Dell. Elevating the social media platform to the collaboration level with customers is groundbreaking stuff.
 
Which business leader, politician or public figure do you most respect?
 Jon Bon Jovi because he surrounds himself with his family and friends, is loyal to them first and foremost, contributes a great deal back to the community and, oh yeah, rocks. [Aaron's Note: I love this answer btw]

No. I find nothing compelling or engaging about toothpaste. I might comment on a company's site that I don't want them to change the flavor, but join a community? Nah. 

Freeform – here's where you can riff on anyone or anything – good or bad. Or just share a pearl of wisdom.
My grandmother once told me I should never do anything I couldn't tell my grandmother. For a while, I thought it was sage advice. Then I realized she was just trying to get me to admit to doing something sinister. From that point on, I told her everything. She regretted the advice after that. I'm not sure if that's a pearl of wisdom, but if you tell your grandmother (or mother for that matter) everything there is to tell, they don't nag you as much.