Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Getting Started with Twitter: A Smart Newbie's Perspective

As you know, I'm a big fan of serendipity. This morning, it struck again as I invited folks in the great city of Austin, TX to join me for coffee at one of my favorite spots, the Hideout. I had low expectations given the fact that I gave people less than 18 hours notice AND the fact that it was two days before Christmas. While we didn't get quantity, I got quality in spades with my friend, Michael Pearson and new friend, David Patton.

Why I mentioned "serendipity" is that David happens to be quite an interesting fellow. What intrigued me the most was the fact that he had just started on his Twitter adventure about six weeks ago so this was my opportunity to relive those early moments of "holy shit, this thing is a game changer" of Twitter. Since I didn't have an audio recorder, I went the old fashioned route and sent David six questions via e-mail to answer. Being a good doobie, he turned them around within a few hours.

For anyone that's new to Twitter, I REALLY like the way David is approaching the space. If I were to have a do over, I'd likely take an approach to Twitter that's similar to his.

1) Talk a little bit about your role at Hush and the jobs/paths that led you up to your current position.
My association with Hush began in late '90s as an initial investor, and subsequently, after helping secure several rounds of funding, as a director.

Starting and growing a real estate development company in Austin during the malaise of the savings and loan crisis, and a securities/investment firm in the latter part of the decade, provided much of the experience necessary to help guide Hush through the dot com meltdown.

More importantly, very early on we decided it was important to gain credibility with encryption experts, by publishing our source code, and with our customers, by offering swift, honest and detailed
customer service, often provided by our CTO, Brian Smith. This was completely uncharacteristic of the industry at the time, and it built a high level of trust between the company, our industry peers and our subscribers. And this trust is the foundation of our business, because without it the technology means nothing.

2) When did you get started on Twitter? What was the impetus for joining?
Uncharacteristically, the early phase passed passed me by. But the Twitterstorms which erupted during the Hudson River plane crash, and after the Iranian election voter uprising, got me to take notice that something had changed in the way we communicate as a society. News procurement and provision would never be the same.

3) What has been your greatest “aha” moment on Twitter?

There were two. The first was replacing decade old website habits with my real-time Twitter timeline. It didn't take long to realize Google is a horrible search engine for up to the minute news. And
even once cutting edge sites, updated daily, began to appear stale. If it's happening now, it's streaming on Twitter.

The second was the realization that the Cluetrain had picked up steam and was making speed right down Madison Avenue. This was a game changer. Who buys anything anymore without reading customer reviews? Who went to see Bruno? James Cameron should pay a portion of Avatar's box office receipts to Robert Scoble and [Mike] Arrington.

4) What do you find most annoying about Twitter?

Not much. It's all pretty fascinating to me. Democracy can be messy. Democratization of industries can be downright ugly, and that's what we're seeing. But like the dust, sweat and noise of travel, it's all part of reaching a better place!

5) Talk a little bit about your follow strategy.

This can be tricky.  To get right to the crux of any matter you have to go where the action is, so I right off the bat I followed almost all of the employees at Twitter, listened to the buzz, followed who they followed and who followed them, and gradually got a better feel for the etiquette and protocols of the Titterverse. Scoble followed me then you followed me, so I said, wow, anyone can engage anyone else here, and that was key. I made it a point to follow, and to be followed by, anyone who genuinely wanted to engage in a conversation that was meaningful to both of us.

6) Words of wisdom (this is the freeform section)
  • Listen. It takes a lot of patience, but you can learn so much more by paying attention to what's going on around you than by interrupting a conversation.
  • Give. Link people who may gain something by knowing each other, without expecting anything in return. It will come back around (The twizzang effect!).
  • Say "Yes" to hyper-caffeinated, outgoing marketing types who randomly arrange early morning coffee tweetups ;)
What about you? Do you remember your first few weeks on Twitter? Please feel free to share in the comments section below.

Ten Most Poplular Citizen Marketer 2.1 Posts of 2009

For the record, I'm totally following the pack on this one -- something I don't normally do. But give the fact that I had a lot of posts this year, I couldn't resist putting out a list of the ten most popular posts on Citizen Marketer 2.1 aka ""

One funny aside, my Experts in the Industry interview with Ken Burbary - a good friend and the head of digital strategy and social media at Ernst & Young -- got 6,786 hits in one day. Why did this not make it into your top ten you ask? It's certainly not because I get so much traffic that Ken's post didn't rate. But rather, it was due to a misdirected shortened URL in a tweet by a Ms. Demi Moore. Yes, that Demi Moore. I wonder if any of the 6,786 people that visited Ken's interview that day actually stayed and read the post.

With that as the backdrop, here are the top ten in reverse order. I tried to provide a one sentence summary to help you decide whether or not you want to spend the time reading. Enjoy!

10. Experts in the Industry: Jennifer Leggio - I'm going to go out on a limb and assume that the popularity of this post is 50% due to Jennifer being a rock star and 50% due to her being my Quick-n-Dirty podcast partner. #justsayin

9. What's the Deal with Movember - While the post itself was shit, I am most proud of this one because of what #TeamAustin did with Movember [hint: it had something do with raising $17,800 to fight cancer in men]

8. The Virtual Tongue: How to NOT Use Facebook for Business - In fairness, this one was a little bit of a rant but it got a surprising number of comments and retweets, mainly because I think many folks knew exactly what I was talking about.

7. Five Reasons Why Your Comany's Website Sucks - To be honest, this one is a little bit of a headscratcher because while the topic is an interesting one, it was definitely not one of my better posts.

6. How We Market - This was definitely one of my favorites, probably because it spoked to the value of "eating one's own dogfood." The fact that it got 19 comments also didn't hurt.

5. Experts in the Industry: Diane Hessan - No real shocker here. Diane, the CEO of Communispace is a smart woman and one of my favorite people in the world of community.

4. Marketers Beware the Age Wave - I co-penned this post with my good friend, and now semi-regular blogging partner partner, John Cass. It speaks to the risk that marketers face if they ignore the impact of GenY consumers in the coming years.

3. Can Social Marketing Save the Auto Industry - this post (which wasn't really even a post but rather a teaser for a kick ass webcast I did for my company, Powered) was an amazing discussion with the heads of social media at Ford  - Scott Monty and GM - Christopher Barger, along with the fabulous executive director of community at, Sylvia Marino. Definitely worth the hour of time investment.

2. Social Marketing Challenge: In 100 Words or Less... - Amazing what a $20 iTunes giftcard and a challenge to describe "social marketing" in a 100 words or less can do. 54 comments on this one and one winner in the smart and witty, Shannon Paul.

1. Experts in the Industry: 45 Interviews in 45 Days - I would have been shocked if this handn't been the winner (it was twice as popular as #2 on this list). In short, the concept of creating a series of 45 interviews with smart online/social people leading up to South by Southwest was one of the better ideas. Not only was it great blog fodder but it had crazy SEO implications. I've also had at least half a dozen people ask me if they stole the concept - of course I agreed. Oh yeah, I ended up interviewing closer to 75 people and ran way past SXSW but that was neither here nor there.

So these are according to the numbers. What was your favorite post on Citizen Marketer 2.1? Let me know in the comments so I can better plan my content calendar for next year.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Semantic Web: A Treasure Trove for Marketers

Co-written by John Cass and Aaron strout. First posted on ReadWriteWeb on March 12, 2009.

What is the semantic web, you wonder? Don't worry, you're not alone. The term "semantic web," or "Web 3.0" as some folks have started calling it, means different things to different people. In this post, we'll clarify what it is and why we think it will play an important role in the world of marketing.

Two technologies in particular (natural-language search and content enhancement) promise to bring companies much closer to their customers and deliver to consumers more relevant content than ever before.

A little background may be helpful first in understanding what the semantic web is before we talk about why it's important. Tim Berners-Lee, the man best known for his role in "inventing" the World Wide Web, is credited with coining the term "semantic web." In fact, as early as 1999, Tim is quoted as saying:
I have a dream for the Web [in which computers] become capable of analyzing all the data on the Web - the content, links, and transactions between people and computers. A 'Semantic Web', which should make this possible, has yet to emerge, but when it does, the day-to-day mechanisms of trade, bureaucracy and our daily lives will be handled by machines talking to machines. The "intelligent agents" people have touted for ages will finally materialize.
Heady stuff, to say the least. An easier way to think about the semantic web is to boil it down to a few baseline concepts:
  • The web as we know it is mainly comprised of HTML documents, or web pages, as opposed to data repositories. Sure, mega-sites such as Wikipedia,, Amazon and YouTube sit on mountains of data, but by and large most sites have little to no real connectivity with each other.
  • Because most web pages and websites were built for people (to browse and search) rather than machines (to crawl, collect, and interact with), there is very little "meta-data," or information that actually describes the data on an HTML page. For instance, most HTML tells a web browser where to put text, images, and video on a page but beyond that doesn't do a good job of categorizing the information required for search engine optimization.
  • In that sense, search engines don't actually understand what they read; they see only patterns or primitive contextual pairings of words. For instance, searching for "semantic web" will lead most search engines to scour billions of documents for those two words (preferably near each other) and then return results based on set SEO criteria. What they won't return is a list of companies using semantic technologies, unless those companies' websites scream it in the title, header, or body text.
  • Until more sites are built in semantic-friendly formats such as XML, OWL, and RDF, intelligently collecting, compiling, and connecting the billions of web pages out there will be nearly impossible. This becomes increasingly problematic as more and more consumer-generated content (CGC) is created on blogs and social networks such as Facebook and LinkedIn.
With this baseline, we can now dive into the two particular ways that the semantic web is beginning (and will continue) to help marketers like us. The first, natural-language search, is implicit in nature insofar as it will help companies consume, digest, and interpret terabytes of conversations. The second, content enhancement, is more explicit because it makes existing content more valuable by reaching out to the vast resources of data available on the web.

Natural-Language Search

Consumer-generated content gives companies an opportunity to understand their customers' concerns and conversations. Yet because so much content is out there, companies need filters to find the most relevant conversations. Natural-language processing can provide this function by automatically summarizing online content for useful analysis by filtering compiled conversations.

Natural-language processing is the process of analyzing web content for meaning. Using sophisticated linguistic technologies, large volumes of content would first be collected into a database. Then, identifying information, perhaps the sources or authors of the content, would be tagged. All of the data would be standardized into one relational database. Lastly, key metrics would be drawn from the raw data. The metrics might include the specific issues being discussed or the "sentiment" of a conversation (that is, whether it is favorable or not).

Semantic technology enables companies to understand the meaning of content and, hence, determine how people feel about their brand. Natural-language processing can help determine how much conversation is happening around an issue, the importance of that issue, and the growth rate of new issues. Natural-language processing can also help determine who is influential on a given issue and if a company's marketing communications engage and resonate with customers.

As companies become more sophisticated in their understanding of what it means to engage customers, they recognize that the entire company needs to be involved in the process of engaging customers and community online. Semantic web technology vendors have developed workflow processes that copy the manual systems developed by companies to triage online opportunities. These workflow processes are CRM tools. In the process, semantic technologies have moved from just search and monitoring tools to engagement tools that allow sophisticated response management across the enterprise.

Examples of companies that are exploring ways to help businesses tap into the power of true natural-language search are Visible Technologies, Radian6, Nielsen Buzzmetrics, Cymfony, and BuzzGain. (Disclosure: Aaron Strout serves on BuzzGain's Advisory Board.)

Content Enhancement

While natural-language search helps companies interpret data and see deeper into the trends in the conversations of their customers and prospects, think of content enhancement as a way for companies to make their existing content more valuable. As "social marketing" -- or the practice of deeply engaging customers through content and social tools -- becomes increasingly important, so too is finding ways of giving that content life and context.

Companies can pursue content enhancement in two primary ways. The first is to find out more about the explicit likes and dislikes of their customers -- think favorite music, books, products, movies, activities -- and then to find related pieces of content that are semantically tagged and bring them back for users to interact with. Companies like Twine (in private beta) promise to deliver on this concept.
The second way is to take existing content -- think company blogs, press releases, product descriptions -- and add in "semantically charged links." If you created a blog post, podcast, or video a couple of months ago about the credit crisis, technology such as the kind provided by AdaptiveBlue can add suggested links to it after the fact.

As the treasure trove of consumer-generated content on the web gets richer, these types of semantic technology could go a long way (with the right filters and human oversight) towards helping companies better allocate scarce resources. Content will not only last longer but increase in value exponentially from the contributions of billions of other virtual contributors.


Semantic technology enables consumers and companies to find information that is difficult to discover using traditional search technology. Companies can use the results of this technology to improve their marketing intelligence and provide more relevant content to their customers.

With the cost of monitoring and providing relevant value to consumers lowered, the stage is now set for the development of semantic technology: building out a customer engagement infrastructure. Technology for finding relevant data may still be new, but the deployment of semantic technology is giving a boost to the next stage of development for mapping the engagement workflow to customers, in which opportunities that appear on the web are brought to people who can take advantage of them, whether marketers or consumers.

In essence, semantic technology will help marketers listen easily to the increasing volume of content, sort through the clutter, and find what's relevant to companies and consumers.

About the authors: John Cass is Online Marketer & Author of Strategies & Tools for Corporate blogging and the blog PR Communications. Aaron Strout is CMO, Powered Inc.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Quick-n-dirty Podcast Recap 26: Let's Get it Started

Not surprisingly, my podcast partner, Jennifer Leggio, and I were a little punchy as we geared up for our two week hiatus during the holidays. This was a good thing and the momentum -- along with some silly behavior -- carried over into the chat room (I think we had a record number of participants). It didn't hurt that was had a true social mediast on as our guest in Jess Berlin.

Jess is the social media manager of Cirque du Soleil and not only does she kill it on Twitter and Facebook but she brings her social nature (and awareness) into the offline world. I witnessed this at BlogWorld Expo '09 as did Chris Brogan at BWE '08. During our call, Jess talked about engaging Cirque's customers via social media, their fan run group on MySpace that is 40,000 strong and the importance that bloggers play in helping share the good word about Cirque.

Prior to bringing Jess on the line, Jennifer and I talked about social platform, Squidoo. In a nutshell, it's parts Wikipedia and Mahalo or in other words, human currated pages or "lenses" for a variety of popular topics. Mike Arrington of TechCrunch did not flatter Squidoo or Seth Godin (one of it's backers) in the background post I read. And to pile it on, Jennifer had read a lot about people getting spammed with malware links on Squidoo pages. However, our friend and occasional guest host, Kyle Flaherty, demonstrated how good a Squidoo page could be with his company, Breaking Point's, presence.

Next up, we showered Boston PR man and Twitterer extraordinaire, Doug Haslam, with all sorts of praise. In summary, Doug has pioneered on Twitter using it for Red Sox tweets, raising money for charity and of course, providing "love" for his company, clients (I'm one) and occasionally his podcasts/blogs.

Finally, we came to our signature part of the show: the point / counterpoint. Unfortunately for Jennifer, I took the wind out of her sails a little bit by agreeing with her recent post about branded online communities failing to evolve. While I am still VERY bullish on the future of branded communities, I know that many companies have not done them well, failing to focus on the crucial elements like strategy, content, ongoing management and measurment. Jennifer and I did have a productive conversation about some of the successful communities out there like Nike+, Sears and Powered's very own, Sony community.

So as I mentioned up front, we are off the next two weeks although look for wrap up posts listing out all of the social networks, guests, featured Twitters and point/counterpoints over the last 26 shows. Speaking, if you missed our last show, you can read the recap here or you can listen to archived shows here (also available for download on iTunes). Happy holidays!

2010 Predictions from Social Media Breakfast Austin

Earlier this week, my friend, Bryan Person, invited me to be one of ten speakers to offer a prediction up for 2010. Bryan wisely segmented the group into categories (see below) so that you didn't get the same prediction several times.

Wesley Faulkner | fundraising
Dara Quackenbush  | education
Sheila Scarborough | travel/small biz
Lisa Goddard | nonprofit
Mike Chapman | public policy/politics
Tim Hayden | media & events
Kathy Mandelstein | B2B Marketing
Aaron Strout | brands
Deirdre Walsh | B2B marketing & community
Jen Wojcik | recruiting

My prediction (branded online communities) comes about three quarters of the way through but I strongly recommend that you listen to all ten as you'll find some interesting and useful insights.
What are your predictions for 2010?

Photo credit: Callie Richmond Photography

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Two Questions: Netpromoter Score for Social Marketers?

The other day, my boss handed me a recent AdAge article by B.L. Ochman titled Two Questions Every Marketer Should Ask Its Social-Media Agency. He didn't say anything but he had a smile on his face as he laid the article on my desk. The reason for the smile? B.L.'s two questions 1) Do they [the agency] walk the walk? and 2) do they have case studies were squarely in Powered's wheelhouse when it came to prospecting for new customers.

Addressing B.L.'s first question, one of my top three priorities as the CMO of Powered is "walking the walk" or getting the company to eat its own dogfood. We blog (as evidenced here and on Powered's blog), we podcast, we engage in Twitter, etc. and not just infomercial style. We also speak at quite a few different events (social and marketing focused) and webcast. For this reason, we can feel comfortable preaching to our clients that "content is king" and that "giving before you get" has a huge impact on a client's return on investment.

As for B.L.'s second point, we are also big believers in case studies. To that end, we've worked hard with our customers like Sony and HP to come up with relevant write ups spelling out methodology and results. In the cases of Sony and HP, we were fortunate enough to have our numbers validated by MarketingProfs -- in the first instance via a third party interview with our client at Sony, in the second, our client at HP actually co-presesented their results (key slide below).

In addition to liking B.L.'s Ochman's two questions for the reasons I spelled out above, her article also got me thinking about how these questions are in some ways the equivalent of Fred Reichheld's now famous and widely used Net Promoter Score (NPS). If you're not familiar with NPS, it suggests that a barometer for any company's customer satisfaction should come down to one question i.e. "How likely is it that [your customer] would recommend [your] company to a friend or colleague?" If marketers start thinking this way when chosing a partner to help them with "social", knowing if the social media agency has in depth knowledge through practical application AND past success stories with clients seems pretty straightforward.

What do you think? Is this a good measure of a company's social media chops? If not, what else is missing? Or do you agree with Chris Brogan who feels like companies may be missing the boat by focusing too much on case studies?

Back to School Podcast: Talking Future of Advertising with Simon Mainwaring

Simon Mainwaring is an author, blogger and speaker who comes from a big agency background (Wieden Kennedy, Saatchi and Ogilvy). Not too long after we started following one another on Twitter, I began noticing that Simon's updates contained a large dose of valuable links to articles, blog posts and research reports. Many of these reports were on the intersection of social, digital, advertising and marketing -- four areas that are all crucial to day-to-day role as CMO of Powered Inc

After featuring Simon as "Twitterer of the week" on my weekly podcast show with Jennifer Leggio, I decided to invite Simon to do a Back to School podcast with me to talk about the future of advertising. During our conversation, we discussed the following topics:
  • Advantages of social over traditional media (as summarized in his recent post on, top 10 advantages of social media over traditional).
  • Why Simon thinks social media is easier to measure than traditional media.
  • Ways traditional and social media “play nice in the sandbox?”
  • Why do you think more companies aren’t getting “social?
  • Why advertising agencies are having a difficult time "getting" it.
  • Examples of a few companies that are mixing social and traditional well.
  • A few blogs that Simon draws his inspiration from (I like the fact that this isn't your traditional fare):

To download this podcast, right-mouse click here.

If you want to hear more from Simon on "the Future of Advertising," check out this Blog Out Loud video on Youtube.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Tiny Bubbles, Beancast Style

Sunday night, I had the privilege of participating in Bob Knorpp's BeanCast show for the third time. This go around, I joined big thinkers, Joe Jaffe, president and chief disruptor at Crayon, Bill Green, owner of Make the Logo Bigger and Adverve and Matt McDermott, assistant creative director at, Renegade.

During the show, we covered a lot of ground (Bob demands a lot of his guests):
  • Google's realtime search - namely, will it make a difference and will marketers care?
  • Astroturfing - why it's a bad idea.
  • Method's "bubble" ad - should they have pulled it?
  • Augmented reality - does it have legs?
  • Abbey Klaassen - do we agree or disagree with Abbey's assertion that advertisers are missing the boat on doing more around Super Bowl ads.
Great show. I highly recommend that you check it out here (mp3), here (show notes) or here (iTunes).

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

What Would Happen if Burning Man Met Facebook?

A few months ago, my friend Sam Lawrence (former CMO of Jive Software) and the lovely April Donato launched a velvet-roped social network called Black Box Republic. I covered it here with a post and podcast with the two founders. While I kind of understood what BBR was about, I am much clearer about the value proposition of this new type of online community.

At the simplest level, think of BBR as a way of bring the exhilirating experiences from a unique event like Burning Man to an social network environment like Facebook. However, unlike Facebook where people come to connect with friends, colleagues and former college friends, BBR is completely private and focuses on non-work things and experiences (thus the Burning Man comparison). Yes, dating/sex do come into play but a lot less than you think. According to their stats (see below), only 10% of the folks that join BBR do so for "lovin'" and "3%" for sex. I'm guessing the numbers on Facebook are much higher in those two categories.

Personally, I think these types of communities are going to become more and more prevalent as people's social and personal lives continue to crash into one another in places like Twitter, MySpace and Facebook. As a side note, Chris Brogan predicted that 2009 would be the year of the "velvet roped social network." While the economy put a serious damper on that (and many other predictions), I think this will be much more of a trend in 2010.

What really intrigues me about the relaunch of BlackBox Republic is that they are creating social network 2.0 type features (learning from sites like eBay, Facebook, Twitter). As an example, instead of making people list favorite movies and books, they put interests into "word clouds" taken from member's conversations and "corkboards." The feature that really impressed me was a vouching system they use which limits the number of connections people can make. It also makes "separation" if after you've connected with someone, you realize that they aren't your cup of tea since you need to re-vouch people every three months.

One other capability that Sam and April included in this "built from scratch" social network is the ability to publish to three different audiences:
  • one's BBR "connections
  • the entire BBR network
  • or to the outside world via tools like Twitter and Facebook
Events also work in a similar fashion where folks from both within and outside of BBR can be invited.

With all that said, is BlackBox Republic for everyone? No, just like a Burning Man experience or a Rage Against the Machine concert isn't for everyone. But it's a cool concept and it's much different than what I originally thought (the "sex positive" thing clouded my judgement a little). I look forward to tracking their progress.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Quick-n-dirty Podcast Recap 24: @Skydiver Style

While episode 24 of the Quick-n-Dirty podcast show ended up being a lot of fun, it definitely didn't start off that way. Without going into too much detail, technical difficulties prevented my partner in crime, Jennifer Leggio, from dialing into the show until about 2 minutes int. Having done hundreds of podcasts and webcasts, I am pretty good at rolling with the punches but this definitely took me out of my "Zen" mode for the first five minutes of the show. To that end, I apologize to social network of the week, Sponty, because I was definitely a little distracted during this portion of the show.

To make up for my distracted state, I'm going to give Sponty a little more ink here than I usually do. I also want to note for Jennifer's sake (listeners of the show know that she's a Blackberry gal and any SocialNetwork that doesn't provide a BB app gets a black mark in her book) that Android and Blackberry users CAN use Sponty via their mobile web interface (native apps coming sometime in the future).

In their own words...
Sponty is a mobile and web app that lets you create and discover social activity feeds around you. Many of our users create topical feeds that tell you about fun things happening around town, like indie music and hipster parties. Others use it to organize casual get togethers with friends. You can see the current activity here:

While location is important, Sponty's premise is that the type of the activity, and which of your friends are going is a bigger determining factor for whether to go to something. I mean, if you're already at the bar, it's too late for me to join because I'd still need to jump and the shower and then the T (Boston's public transportation). Sponty let's people broadcast their social intentions so that their friends can join them.

So I can see why Sponty might be interesting to folks but my biggest concern -- like any other geo-based social network -- is that without critical mass, the tool becomes irrelevant. Can Sponty overcome this issue? Perhaps. But it might be a whole lot more useful if it could tap into Facebook and Twitter's social graphs.

[postscript: I had forgotten that Sponty uses Google for it's login. Not only is this smart (and a trend that will continue to grow IMHO), but counters one of my biggest critiques of Sponty and any other geo-based social network i.e. mass adoption/critical mass.]

Now onto our guest of the week who was none other than Peter Shankman, aka @Skydiver on the Twitter. You may have heard of him because I interviewed Peter during my Experts in the Industry series back in the spring. Peter has also built up quite a business for himself through is "Help a Reporter Out" (HARO) network of over 100,000 reporters, bloggers, PR folks and experts. In a nutshell, think of this as a matchmaking network where reporters can request information from experts via e-mail alerts that go out three times daily from Peter himself. Peter makes money off his service (while filling a huge need) by selling sponsorships of his daily e-mail alerts.

During our 25 minute conversation, we all got a good laugh (Peter is a funny dude) at some of Peter's insights and remarks when it came to "social media gurus." In fact, his quote of the show, "If you have the word guru or expert in your Twitter name or bio, you're not" got retweeted over a dozen times. Personally, I loved Peter's prediction for next year that social becomes ubiquitous vs. companies trying to "do social." He's also endeared himself to me because he is a fellow hater of voice mail (a future post from me on that topic is in the works).

Next up was our Twitterer of the week, Dave Fleet. Dave is the account director for social media at Thornley Fallis Communications and does a little blogging in his spare time. I let Jennifer take the lead on this one as Dave was her choice. Jennifer likes Dave because of his cynical yet smart writing style. Personally, I've followed Dave for a couple of years and enjoy him for exactly the same reasons. Maybe we'll have Dave on the show live sometime in the not too distant future.

For the signature portion of our show, our point/counterpoint, Jennifer and I focused on the topic of religion and social and more specificially, whether the two should mix. Jennifer wrote an eloquent post on this just a few days before and truth be told, I tend to feel pretty similarly to Ms. Leggio on this one. While I did disagree with Jennifer's assertion that including one's religion in their Facebook or Twitter profile wasn't inappropriate, I did concur with her distate for those that prostheletize via the social web. It will be interesting to see how this plays out as our personal and professional lives continue to become intertwined over the years.

If you missed last week's show, you can find the wrap up here on Jennifer's ZDNet blog. You can also find archives on iTunes as well as at our Quick-n-Dirty podcast site over on BlogTalkRadio. We hope you'll join us next Thursdsay as we talk to Karen Auby of Plantronics.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Following 10,000, Filtering and the Value of Large Numbers

As a person that appreciates symmetry and patterns in nature, I was intrigued this morning when I saw that I was following exactly 10,000 people on Twitter. Even better, I am only 8 followers away from 11,111 which in some ways, is an even more perfect number (no official reason, I just like the symmetry better). I don't normally mention following numbers in public as it's a turn off but I couldn't resist if for no other reason than the fact the reason I mentioned in the first sentence.

I wasn't really expecting any responses other than maybe a snarky "who cares" or "I just unfollowed you so now you have 9,999." Instead, I got some thoughtful replies from folks like Adam Zand, Chris Selland, Dan Blank, Alex Howard and Hadley Stern.

The gist of the comments/questions (as you can see from the answers above) was, "how do you follow so many people?" and "do you really see value in following so many?" My immediate answer was:
  • Out of the 10,000 people I follow, only about 500 or so of that group do most of that tweeting. Of that group, I pay close attention to about 200-300 (a relatively manageable number) using Tweetdeck
  • To Chris' point, I may not "really be following" all 10,000 of the people I have connected with on Twitter, but I believe that my willingness to follow back gives these folks a feeling of connection and makes them feel like they can DM me or @ me when they like (I try and respond to all personal @'s and DMs). In fairness, I also have an "all friends" column in Tweetdeck and at least a few times a day, keep an eye on this open stream for new folks to add to my inner circle of people to follow.
  • Adding a third item to this that I tweeted after the fact, the serendipity that I've enjoyed as a result of engaging with such a broad audience has led to some amazing things like new business, podcast interviews and even the opportunity to write the foreword to Janet Fouts latest book.
While I realize that my strategy doesn't work for everyone (just like I'm finding out that my blog-reading strategy varies wildly from person to person), it seems to be working for me. I'm not sure what happens when this number grows to 15,000 or 20,000, right now, I'm going to keep adjusting my filters and enjoying the benefits of lots of social "friends" to give and receive valuable information on research, restaurants and rollodex access).

What is your Twitter follow strategy?