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. ;-)
Would you join a toothpaste community? Why?
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.