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.

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!)

1 comment:

  1. Tim, I really liked the book about Paul Farmer, Mountains Beyond Mountains. It made me think about the world and how we can change it. Paul Farmer is inspiring because he makes change seem possible.

    Aaron, I am really enjoying this series. Thanks.

    Heather | @heatherjstrout