A week with Google+

Note: Yes, I have some Google+ invites available. Get in touch if you're lacking.

After trying to enter the social market ineffectively with Wave and Buzz, Google is trying something new this year: Google+ (g+).

On its surface, g+ looks like a cleaner (interface) version of Facebook. It's primarily a news stream of people you follow, but with some key features I'm starting to find useful. Ahmed Zeeshan writes more about Google+ for the average Facebook user, but these are the things I like most about g+:

Circles. You can break your Facebook friends into lists and vary permissions on those lists, but it's really difficult. I've seen this used most often by teachers who put their students into one list with very limited permissions, and everybody else in another list. Circles use a drag-and-drop interface to sort people, and as you go to share something, you can share it with everybody or with one or more of your circles. Maybe you're a photographer and a lacrosse player; you don't want to bore all of your g+ contacts with every aspect of your life, so maybe you only share your photography stuff with fellow photographers. Or maybe in your "other life" you're a bartender, and you only want to share the wild and wacky stuff with your patrons who are following you, not your boss at your accounting firm.

Lack of reciprocity. In Facebook, you have to agree to have your stuff shared with someone by accepting a friend request. Like Twitter, if you find me interesting, awesome. I don't need to find you interesting as well in order to let you see my stuff.

Discovery. Like Twitter and unlike Facebook, it's easy to find new people who might be of interest for you to add to circles. Cool.

Sparks. Get a news feed of your favorite topics (think location, sports teams, workouts, recipes, that kind of thing).

Another thing people seem to like is the Huddle feature, which is basically a group live chat (remember AOL chat rooms? yes, like that).

While the g+ mobile app is still awaiting approval in the Apple app store for iPhone/iPad/iPod (though there is good mobile website functionality), it did launch with an Android app, which has a clean, crisp interface. It's missing the ability to read sparks, and the ability to re-share, both of which I think are going to be important.

Due to its late entry into the social market, I'm initially wary of building out much of my g+ use. It's tough enough keeping up with Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, while at the same time remembering to actually live life. What would entirely destroy my use of g+ is if people start moving their Twitter streams through their news feeds – it's why I only use LinkedIn for groups, and probably not as often as I should.

The other thing I need is the ability to play word games (seriously – it is by far the thing I use most on FacebooK).

Down the road, I'm likely going to have to pick either Facebook or Google+. G+'s entry after I've spent five years with my Facebook profile means I'm probably going to choose Facebook, unless g+ can reveal to me a brand new way to use the network that I haven't thought about (other than using a huddle to have a virtual meeting with my coworkers).

Turning around a customer using a Facebook-facetime combo

It was 10:30 on a Tuesday night when I got a notification that someone had posted on our Facebook wall – and he wasn't happy. Rather than respond right away, we discussed our response among management and slept on it, which led to a mildly productive exchange (blacked out boxes are the complainer's name, red boxes are the name of an employee):

The member came into the club a few days later, and I asked if everything had been taken care of, noting that I was the person responding to him on Facebook. He noted that it had, and apologized for the way he reacted.

That was all well and good until he went to work out. When he came back up, he told me the real story: He had a really bad experience at a prior gym and didn't want to get roped into anything. He described that prior experience, and it was definitely not the way any gym should have treated him. He seemed happy.

The next day, here's what came up on our Facebook page:

I think with the initial Facebook follow-up and the phone calls and emails from the membership team, we were able to at least get him into the gym. It was the experience of seeing us face-to-face and talking to us that really clinched the deal, though.

Remember that your customers are people, not just complaints (or kudos). Invite them into your world, and you'll learn a lot from each other.

Got passion? Good. Worry about content, not production value

Check out this video from strength coach Zach Even Esh. It's him holding a camera, pointing it at himself and his stuff. He's half-in, half-out of the frame much of the time. If you get motion sickness, it probably hurts worse than The Blair Witch Project did.

You know what, though? It's about Zach's passion, not about his camera skills. That's what I want to hear about. I don't need flashy editing, I need Zach's take on things.

On the blog post in which he used that video, there's a second video of a BMX race through Manhattan, much of it shot with a helmet cam. It's not winning any production awards, but it provides an energetic kick in the butt for the morning. Or your afternoon lull, whatever.

Check out Zach's post on not letting your passions slide. Go do something you're passionate about. Worry about the content of it, not the production value.

Self-reflection via Strawberry Jam

Strawberry Jam is a new app from Hettema & Bergsten, currently in private beta. It pulls together links from your friends' Twitter accounts to cull popular trends so that you can just get down to it and see what multiple friends are talking about.

» Follow @strawberryapp

It also allows you to search on a term, such as "Syracuse," and get popular links about Syracuse, not necessarily from your friends.

It appears they're also going to try to work with the Facebook API to do roughly the same, though I'm guessing they're going to have to come out of private beta before they'll be able to do that.

What I've discovered after two days of using Strawberry Jam is something that's probably obvious if you're an outside observer of my Twitter account: I don't like redundancy.

I follow about 125 Twitter users, and I'm followed by a little over 1100 right now (though by mentioning the follower number, I'll likely lose a few; weird how that works). When I run a couple of searches on Strawberry Jam with tweets in the last 24 hours, here is what I get:

• Syracuse: 2 links with 9 mentions and 2 with 6 mentions
• Red Sox: 1 link with 6 mentions, 1 with 4 mentions and a bunch with 3 mentions
• Obama: 1 link with 23 mentions, 1 with 12 mentions and a bunch more with more than 5 mentions.
My friends: No links with more than 1 mention

What that says to me about my own habits:

(1) I follow a few people with a lot of variety in what they like and decide to share, with no redundancy (I don't follow two accounts that are tweeting the same stuff).
(2) My friends don't retweet each other's links. Maybe that's a reflection of my own selfishness – I don't follow people who flood their timelines retweeting other people. They are, instead, creative and independent minded.

I think this app has a future; I can think of a few ways I'd like to be able to integrate it into my reading (particularly in partnership with other API-based apps), but I'll need to flush those ideas out before I share them with the folks who make the magic happen.

Crowdsourcing news coverage: Springfield, MA tornado

This video has an AP logo on it, but that's primarily because it was shot from a camera that happens to overlook the Connecticut River in a television newsroom. I don't think it's significantly different in quality than this one (other than the NSFW audio):

We've heard a lot about the Joplin, MO, tornado over the past month. Even with video, it's tough to understand until you know the places you're seeing, and you hear voices you know describe people you know and neighborhoods you know. When all the traffic lights are down, it takes three hours to get a cell phone call out, and the highway through town isn't accessible.

This is when even a privately held, monopoly newspaper in town can open up and say, "We can't be everywhere. Help us out." And people did.

Videos from the tornado | More on YouTube
Newspaper photos | Reader photos
Full story »

I'm sure there will be more photos and videos today, both from people venturing out for the first time, and from news outlets getting out into the neighborhoods in daylight. Wow.

Why I’m becoming a HootSuite affiliate

I've been using HootSuite for a couple of years now to manage multiple social media networks – multiple Twitter accounts, my Facebook page, LinkedIn and Foursquare. In addition to the multiple accounts, it allows you to schedule tweets, which I do daily for the Gold's Gym account I run, because it gives me the opportunity to get through my feed reader in the morning, space tweets throughout the day, and be present to handle mentions and DMs without having to bounce out to my reader for more links.

HootSuite - Social Media DashboardThey also allow you to manage teams (multiple users on one Twitter account) and give you analytics.

HootSuite went freemium in late 2010. You can still use it for free, but if you want to fully take advantage of the analytics and multiple accounts, you pay a nominal rate (about $5 a month).

I'm not nuts about ads everywhere on a blog, and I don't expect to make my living (or even a decent secondary income) from affiliating, but I'm a big fan of HootSuite, and I'm willing to recommend them without being compensated – so why not get compensated?

Check them out (they'll give you a free one-month trial), and if you like them, stick with them for a while. If you click on a link from my site, it's an affiliate link.

Promoting vs. Engaging

There's a product I've been following the last couple of months, and, while I find it intriguing, I haven't tried it. It's called Fitness Coffee – a coffee meant to aid in weight loss (my best guess is there's some additive, probably natural or near-natural, designed to kick your metabolism into high gear).

They're fairly active on Twitter and Facebook, and they're looking to get further into the social space by giving away an iPad.

You can enter by sending them a picture, blogging, vlogging or doing some Facebook or Twitter something. Give it your best shot, you might be able to monetize your youtube videos.

OK, comprehensive-ish, but there are some instructions I just don't get. For the blog entry:

Blog about us on your blog with by posting the following and send us the link...


Once you are signed up and following us, simply tweet this to your list of fellow tweeters...

For Facebook:

Simply become a fan or like of Fitness Coffee on Facebook and post the following on your wall...

So, rather than hearing what their customers think about their product (except the vlog, where they want a 15-second clip – not exactly a review), they're steering the message. Why bother?

If you really want to spend $500 on a give-away, get something out of it. People who read blogs, by-and-large, are not stupid. They'll know the copy was written by someone other than the blogger, and they won't care about your product.

Instead, ask for links of reviews to your product. You'll learn where you can improve, and...wait for it...when you get a positive review, you'll get more customers. Because I read blogs written by people I trust, and if someone I trust thinks enough of your product to write a positive review, that might be the thing I need to push me over the edge to spend $10 on an 8.8-ounce bag of your product (when I'm more than happy to spend $6 on a 40-ounce tin of Folger's at one of those bulk membership clubs).

When people are talking about you on the social web, are they really talking about you? Or are they just regurgitating canned copy for a reward?

3 Social Media Books You Don’t Need to Read but Your Clients Do

If you're reading this blog, you probably fall into one of four categories:

  1. You're into social media in some way
  2. You're a Central New Yorker wondering when I'm going to start writing about Central New York again
  3. I've bought you coffee/a beer/lunch and you feel obligated
  4. We're related

If it's the first or the third, this post is for you. If not, you can wait until next week, when I'm doing a whole week of childhood cancer, because you don't feel bad enough about the world these days.

If you're in category number one, you might remember back in August when Mitch Joel reminded me he wasn't writing for me, but rather for people who weren't already sold on the power of the Internet for marketing.

Here, I'm going to give you three must-reads for people who are slow to get into social media, but that you, the person who is already doing social media well, probably don't need to read.

In fact, if you're doing the consulting thing, every time you enter a contract, buy these books for your client and include them in your price. Also, insist that they read them in this order.

1. Trust Agents by Chris Brogan & Julien Smith. The first thing I like about these two gentlemen is that they walk their talk. This book will explain to your clients why they need to give away knowledge, if not product, for free, and why they need to build relationships, even with non-customers, even outside of working hours. If they're not sold on social media after this book, tell them what Brogan charges after a couple of years in social media ($10,000 for a speaking engagement, $22,000 for a day-long consult). If they're still not sold, exercise your out clause.

2. The Zen of Social Media Marketing by Shama Kabani. My favorite part of this book is that it provides how-tos. Most other social media books talk about how to best utilize the platforms (this one does as well), but this book actually walks you through setting up Facebook pages and the like. And because social media is always changing, Kabani and her staff keep the book updated online.

3. UnMarketing by Scott Stratten. Stratten even tells you in the introduction to this book that if you're already using and succeeding with social media to not read his book. Use this book to reinforce what Brogan and Smith write about. There are more old-media comparisons in this book, which might help the stodgier of your clients think about their practices and the way they behave themselves as consumers. If you have initial resistance, start with this book and have them read Trust Agents third.

I hope that saved you some time.

Keeping Your Network Happy On LinkedIn

I've been getting miffed at my LinkedIn network lately. Here are some reasons, and what you can do to keep yourself in good favor with your professional contacts.

Stay on topic

I posted a while back about places I like to bring colleagues and clients. It's received renewed interest lately, and it had a little blip in the comment stream.

One person (who's a friend and who runs an organization I belong to) said something that was only slightly off-topic, pumping the organization I work for. And someone slammed him as unprofessional for advertising on the thread.

To stop that quickly, I left a comment that basically said, anybody else who only mentions one business might also be advertising, but that maybe we should consider another discussion about staying on-topic, since his comment about unprofessionalism was certainly off-topic as well.

Sell to new connections on first full contact

Your first opportunity to reach someone on LinkedIn is to personalize a connection request. You get about 255 characters, so there's not a whole lot of room for error. If I accept your connection (and chances are I will, unless all indications are you're a jerk), I really hope that five minutes later I don't get a message that says, "Hey, I see you do something. My company makes something that helps people like you do what they do. You should totally come check it out!"

Because that makes me not want to send you any business.

How you should approach that is to introduce yourself and ask what I do, because chances are, no matter how many times you've read my profile, you don't know exactly what I do or how I do it. You just assume you know my business.

Make me trust you first.

Personalize your request.

I feel like a broken record when I say that, but if we're connected on several other platforms, have each others' phone numbers, and occasionally have a beer together, there's no need to customize a request. But if we've met once or twice, or not at all, or only heard about each other, send a note. You wouldn't walk up to me, shake my hand, tell me your name, walk away, and consider me a good connection, would you? [If you answered yes, let's talk about that.]

What other ways are you killing it on LinkedIn?


I wanted to give a quick shoutout here to Jen Pedde and Kelly Lux, two Syracuse-area Twitter rock stars who co-moderate a Twitter chat called #cmgrchat.

The chat is for community managers (and people who hate community managers, except not really). It's still in its growing stages, but in its fourth week, 126 people contributed.

» #cmgrchat transcripts

I'm learning a lot and I think contributing some useful information as well . It takes a fair bit of concentration to keep on track and to keep up, but ultimately it's definitely worth the hour each week.

Do you have any other Twitter chats worth mentioning, or that I should join in?