Tag Archives: Social media

Beyond Social Networks: Making Connections That Cross Centuries

Eunice Cogswell early 20s*

Eunice Shepard Cogswell

The Internet makes it possible to create relationships beyond time and space. At Tribe, we often say that social media allows human connections without physical proximity. We can build relationships with people all over the world who share our same interests and passions. Geography — or space — is not an issue.

But how about bridging both space and time? In the past few weeks, I’ve been completely sucked into ancestry.com. The amount of information available online about people long dead and gone is amazing. Do a little digging, and you’ll find a treasure trove of WWI draft registrations, turn-the-century census reports, and even photos.

It’s one thing to picture your grandparents as they were when you were a kid (in other words, as old people) and another thing entirely to begin to flesh out the story of their lives. To see a federal census report from 1920, handwritten in fountain pen, listing my grandmother’s mother, Elizabeth Dezell Shepard, as head of household and a widow, her eldest Herschel as a secretary for a rubber tire company, other son Clinton as an accountant in an automobile company, daughter Grace as an accountant for the express company and my grandmother herself as a stenographer opens up a part of her history I’d never considered, before she was married to my grandfather and posed for portraits like the one pictured here.

Go back further and you find ancestors who came to the New World on ships, or fought in the Revolution, or were teenagers on the North Carolina Outer Banks in the years that Blackbeard and other pirates made those waters their home. Instead of names and dates, they become connections, even if part of their existence is extrapolated from the bare bones of facts and imagined in ways that might not be accurate, strictly speaking.

It reminds me that a friend who was a shrink once mentioned to me that human existence is a dance between the desire for intimacy and autonomy. For connections and independence. In a time when few of us live in small towns where we know everyone on the street, the Internet provides the sort of daily interactions that simulate those connections. We also live in a time when few of us have the continuity of several generations in one place. The Internet can provide richer connections with the ones who came before, as well.

Social Media for Old Folks, in Five Easy Pieces

SM FrontPlenty of reasonably (or even exceptionally) intelligent people still resist social media. Some don’t see the value in it; others just can’t quite figure out how to jump on that escalator. Social media keeps moving and changing every day, so it’s not easy to figure out where to start.

One problem is that there’s so much information out there on how to use social media. Try Googling “Using LinkedIn,”  “How to Facebook,” or “Learning Twitter,” and you’ll find yourself millions of links to explore. Not hundreds of links, not thousands, but really — millions. Most reasonably busy people will decide they don’t have time for that.

What you need is someone to break it down into simple, actionable steps. You don’t have all day, but maybe you could spend an hour a week. If you didn’t have to go anywhere. Like while you’re sitting at your desk.

That’s where the Social Media for Old Folks Webinars come in. If you’re young enough that you grew up with a mouse in your hand, then a lot of this material will be too basic for you. But if you’re one of those who remember when a fax was the new cool thing, then this might be right up your alley.

We break it down into five one-hour webinars, each Wednesday for five weeks. We’ll walk you through how to build your brand with social media, from a basic overview of the landscape and etiquette to specific, actionable steps to get yourself set up on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and finally, to start your own blog. (You’ll also learn why you really do need your own blog.)

You’ll be sitting at your computer and be able to see and hear us in real time. As we’re talking about various steps, you can complete many of them right then and there. When you have questions along the way, we’ll stop and answer them.

We’ll show you how to use social media for two important goals: to build your connections and to showcase your expertise. Think it would be presumptuous to consider yourself an expert? We’re not talking about having a Ph.D. in something; Your expertise is the narrow niche about which you’re passionate, the area of your deep experience, the problems friends come to you to help solve. It’s not about bragging, it’s about what you have to give.

If  you run your own business, or are in a corporate job and want to increase your visibility in your industry, then social media can be a powerful tool for you. It doesn’t have to be that hard. But it does take some effort. The Social Media for Old Folks Webinar is the easiest way we know to get you up and running. By Thanksgiving, you could be blogging and linking and friending and tweeting like someone half your age.

For more details, just click here. Or feel free to email (elizabeth@tribeinc.com) or call me (404-256-5858) with questions. (If you register today -Wednesday, Oct 7 – you can use the promo code EARLYBIRD for a $50 discount.)

Participate in the Slow Movement – via Social Media

snail“The best way to survive and thrive in the fast-paced modern world is not to speed up but to slow down,” says Carl Honoré, author of “In Praise of Slowness,” and key instigator of the revolutionary Slow Movement. Honoré  believes we’ve become addicted to speed. The tell-tale symptoms of this addiction are  “when you feel tired all the time and like you’re just going through the motions, getting through the many things on your To-Do list but not engaging with them deeply or enjoying them very much. You feel like you’re racing through your life instead of actually living it.”

What’s wrong with speed? Nothing, according to Honoré, who admits he actually loves speed. The trick, he says, is to blend fast and slow, to do whatever you’re doing at the right speed. That, he says, is where you’ll find yourself more deeply engaged and enjoying your days more.

Are social media and the slow movement mutually exclusive? Honoré mentions that social networks can tempt us to rush relationships and that when people claim to have thousands of friends on Facebook, it devalues the concept of friendship. True, but social media can also help us be more engaged with our friends, industry peers and the world at large.

Consider the many authentic and meaningful moments you share with others each day on social networks. The technology is fast, but the interactions can be slow, in the sense that, for those few moments, we are completely focused on the person or people we’re addressing online. We’re as engaged as if we were sitting across the table looking each other in the eye.

To keep your social media slow, think quality over quantity. Instead of following thousands of people on Twitter (or trying to get thousands to follow you), narrow it down to a smaller number of people with whom you truly share interests (or sense of humor. For instance, I always want to know what @Shitmydadsays is up to.) On Facebook, after the first few months of catching up with people you haven’t heard from in years, you might hide the updates of many you know less well, so you can better keep up with the core group of people who are most important to you. And on LinkedIn, although it’s nice to have tons of contacts in a wide variety of industries and roles, it helps if they’re people you truly consider trusted contacts. Before you invite someone to connect, ask yourself, “Is this someone I’d feel comfortable picking up the phone to ask, “Do you know someone who such-and-such?'” Also, think about participating more fully in LinkedIn groups that are good fits with your particular niche topics.

That doesn’t mean social media can take the place of face-to-face. Admittedly, it’s not the same as making time to take someone to lunch, or stopping by the house to visit. But social media is a tool, just like the telephone. We’ve all learned to get off the phone fast when it’s a telemarketer, and have all had long, relaxed conversations with people we love. In and of itself, social media is not fast or slow; it’s how you use it.

The long road to overnight success with an iPhone app

iTunesWatching our new iPhone app climb the charts in Apple’s ratings feels like watching election returns when your side is winning. On September 10, we launched the Start Your Own Company application from Starter Cards (the division of our ad agency that develops content and tools for entrepreneurs) and have spent the last ten days tracking its move through Apple’s rankings. After four days, it broke into the Top 100, debuting at 92 in paid business apps. The next day, it moved up to 66. Over the weekend, we broke into the Top 50, squeaking in at 47 and crawling up to 45 by Sunday afternoon. Today, we were ecstatic to see the app nicely positioned in the Top 25, holding steady at number 20, and by the time we all left the office at 5 o’clock it was sitting pretty at number 17. It’s starting to feel like we might be onto something here.

Anyone who runs a small business knows that there are plenty of days and months and even sometimes years when you wonder if your big idea is going to work. You have to train yourself to keep the faith, despite setbacks and quagmires and plenty of heavy slogging uphill. Some days that can be damn hard.

Then one day, everything in the universe lines up just so, and you have a major win. Suddenly, it all looks easy. It feels easy. You experience what I call the moving sidewalk effect, where you’re just strolling along yet propelled ahead at a satisfying clip.

But what makes one effort a win and another a dud? Why does one particular idea pop, while others fizzle out? I wish there were an app for that. I don’t know the answer, but this is what I think helps:

1. Sending out a lot of ships, as my old friend Chellie Campbell would say. To switch metaphors, the more irons you have in the fire, the more of a chance you have of one becoming really, really hot. Also, it helps cushion disappointment to have your hopes pinned on more than one good idea.

2. Surrounding yourself with talent. One thing you learn early on in the ad industry is that a great concept is only as good as its execution. If you have a brilliant idea for a commercial and turn it over to a lackluster director, your spot is not going to become the talk of the town. (At least not in a good way.) You want the best people you can get to bring your ideas to life.

3. Any flame begins as a tiny ember. This one comes from my old business partner B.A. Albert, now president of Grey Atlanta. Great ideas and big opportunities rarely present themselves as roaring fires. You have to recognize them when they’re  nothing more than a little glow. You blow on that ember, feed it tiny pieces of kindling, then larger sticks, finally logs. Steady as she goes, you follow one step with another with another.

4. Hope for a lucky break. In this case, our big break was Alissa Walker deciding the story of our iPhone app would be a great fit for Fast Company, successfully pitching it to her editor, and then writing a fantastic piece. That one article on Fast Company’s website is the most likely cause of the Start Your Own Company app’s amazing momentum in the Apple rankings.

5. Set the stage for lucky breaks. We had heard that the first week after launching an app was critical, and so we mobilized to maximize the moment. Before launch day, we had prepped to submit the application to reviewers, post a YouTube demo video, launch a Facebook fan page, mention it on LinkedIn and tweet about it on Twitter. We prepared a press release and jpegs to send to a core group of reporters, most of whom we’ve built relationships with over months or years. (In fact, I’ve known Alissa since she was an intern in my ad agency in the late 90’s, and have watched her blossoming career from afar.) Sometimes luck just happens, but it happens more often if you prepare the ground for it to take root.

That’s all I know. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Can Facebook make you happier?

FB logoq1063123023_8294This is what I love about Facebook: getting little tidbits of news each day from a wide collection of friends, family, and people I kind of remember from high school. And that, according to research by social scientists Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler, could be a key factor in my happiness.

Christakis and Fowler’s study used data from the Framingham Heart Study, which has tracked data on the same 15,000 people for over 50 years. (Clive Thompson’s article in The New York Times Magazine this Sunday tells the whole story.) The short version is that their research supports the idea that obesity, drinking, smoking and even happiness are contagious, and can spread through three degrees of influence. In other words, you affect not only your friends, but your friends’ friends’ friends.

“If you want to be happy, what’s most important is to have lots of friends,” Thompson reports. “Historically, we have often thought that having a small cluster of tight, long-term friends is crucial to being happy. But Christakis and Fowler found that the happiest people in Framingham were those who had the most connections, even if the relationships weren’t necessarily deep ones. The reason these people were the happiest, the duo theorize, is that happiness doesn’t come only from having deep, heart-to-heart talks. It also comes from having daily exposure to many small moments of contagious happiness.”

This is exactly what you get on Facebook. I relish knowing that my dear friend Janneke is “soaking in the hot tube with a glass of wine after a good workout,” and that my sister Amanda has “located the girls’ red slider turtle that escaped from the tank and has been missing all day.” But it’s not just the easy, day-to-day connections with those you’re closest to. It’s also knowing that my client Betsy and her daughter Julia “just made a blueberry-peach pie,” and that a photographer friend who grew up in South Georgia is spending a Saturday “with his 97-year-old grandfather, who’s considering the purchase of a new tractor.” It makes me glad to see that my high school classmate Rebekah is “thankful for many things about my 88 yr young father in law: he comes to my kitchen everyday for lunch and always leaves it much cleaner than I did,” especially knowing she recently lost her own father (which I would never have known if it weren’t for Facebook updates).

Facebook updates are not always happy news. Sometimes updates are about my childhood friend John Scott ending up in the ER after getting “my clock cleaned by the goal keeper in geezer soccer,” or that Scott Fullager, the nicest guy in the world,  is stuck in an airport on his birthday because it “looks like no flights home — weather, weather. Great!”

But according to Christakis and Fowler, “happiness is more contagious than unhappiness.” Each happy friend can increase your happiness by 9 percent, but the grouches only pull you down by 7 percent. So by maximizing your number of contacts, the happy and unhappy moods net out for a positive on the happy side.

The three degree factor may be why it’s so fascinating to see what people are writing on your friends’ walls, when you don’t even know those people at all. I’ve never met my friend Janneke’s neighbor, but I like knowing that her neighbors’ dog groomer also works for Janneke’s parents. (I especially like Janneke’s response about being glad to know who’s been keeping her parents so well-groomed.)

LinkedIn and Twitter don’t provide the same material for happiness, in my experience. LinkedIn is too dry. A useful network, but a little like sifting through a big stack of resumes. Twitter is such a fast-flowing river that it’s tough to keep up with any one person. What you find on Facebook is a small town, although a small town with no geographical boundaries. For many of us, Facebook is the new Framingham.

Content is king, but it’s also created by the people

GutenbergOn the World Wide Web, we are a nation of creators. According to a recent report from Forrester Research, almost a quarter of Americans online are “creators,” meaning they post content — blogs or videos or podcasts or other original material.

Since Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press in 1440, the development of content has been in the hands of a few, not the masses. The message was controlled by the church, then the earliest newspapers, and eventually the brands who could afford not only print ads but television commercials airing on networks and later cable.

Now content, at least online, is created by the people. A large percentage of what’s out there is not the product of any particular organization or corporation, but of an individual mind. Any of us — not just the creative and the brilliant but also the paranoid and the deranged — can post content the whole world can see, or at least the part of the world that has Internet access.

What does this democratization of online media mean? It might provide us more truth and it might provide less. It might increase the exposure of raw talent, or it might just clog our computer screens with a stream of self-promoting amateurism.

The thing I love is that it creates an entrepreneurial opportunity for content. Any kid anywhere can come up with a video concept that becomes the next big thing, after it’s posted on YouTube. Some out-of-work writer can start a blog that becomes a must-read for thinking people the world over. Anyone with an idea and the fortitude to follow through can contribute to our collective oeuvre.

In the true spirit of democracy, only the content voted worthy by the most people will rise to the top. The rest will be pushed to the bottom of the Google search. In other words, the content the people think is the smartest, the funniest, the most useful and the most true, will become the content that’s easiest to find. In the grand scheme of things, that can only be good.

Twitter Etiquette: Is it okay to TweetDeck or TweetLater your blog posts?

3251920072_b5527f10fe_oWhat do you think about people who use TweetLater or TweetDeck as a way to post a link to their blog many times a day? I was taught that technique by Michael Gass, the social media guru to the ad agency world. Michael has created a huge inventory of posts (most of which read like informative articles that remain evergreen) and has one of those posts appear as his Twitter update every hour, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I’ve also seen similar recommendations from others writing in the social media field.

There are some who are violently opposed to that method. Like  Aliza Sherman, for instance, who is known as a Web pioneer and social media maven. (Fast Company magazine named her one of the Most Influential Women in Technology in the blog category, and Newsweek called her one of the Top 50 People Who Matter Most on the Internet.) I was on the phone recently with Aliza, who was very kindly giving me some feedback on a social media product we’re developing at Tribe. When she got wind of the idea of using Twitter essentially as a publishing platform, via TweetLater or TweetDeck or some other tool, she said, and I quote:

“That is horrible. That is disgusting.” Aliza believes strongly that using a tool to imply you’re on Twitter when you’re not is totally unacceptable. She had a great line, while we were talking, and we were both so struck by it that she turned around and tweeted it while we were on the phone: “Social media is conversation; not a new form of advertising.” I wholeheartedly agree with that.

Businesses using social media as just another way to distribute advertising come across as boneheaded at best, untrustworthy at worst. The conversation part of social media is that it’s a two-way street. Unlike a TV spot or magazine ad, which is a company telling people what they want them to think,  social media allows consumers to talk back to companies, and to talk to each other about those companies. Today, more people get their information about a brand from other consumers than from the brand itself.

My rule of thumb is that tweets should be helpful or useful — or at least interesting — to others. Tweeting that is selling instead of engaging bugs almost everybody. I also try to veer clear of too many tweets that reek strongly of self promotion, although if I get booked for the Today Show, I’ll probably mention that. I also try to avoid tweets that fall into the “Who cares?” category, like “I’m eating a yogurt.” (I actually saw that tweet one time.) On the other hand,  I do enjoy seeing tweets that give an interesting glimpse into someone’s personal life, but then again, I classify that as “at least interesting.”

A link to a blog post can be helpful and useful — and interesting. But when it’s repeated over and over on a TweetLater schedule, does it become annoying? Or an abuse of Twitter? Or does it just make it easier for more people to discover something helpful to them?

Twitter is a river that we dip in and out of, a river that flows ceaselessly. I think it’s unlikely that anyone out there could possibly see every single one of your tweets, or even very many of them. Of course, those particularly curious about you could click your history of tweets and see numerous links to your own blog. But I don’t get why that would be such a bad thing.

So here’s my question to you: What do you think? Is it inappropriate to use Twitter as a way to promote your blog? Is it okay, but only once for each post?  Is that different from retweeting someone else’s article or post? Do you think it’s fine to set up links to each post as rotating, recurring posts? Or should we be tweeting only in real time, and just as a way of conversing?

Please post a comment below, because I’d like to know where other people fall in this debate. I respect and admire both Michael and Aliza, and I’d like to think they’re both right. Perhaps the answer to whether this practice is appropriate or not is really this:  “It depends.” But on what?