Friday, February 27, 2009

Social media hitting Tipping Point

Published Feb 2, 2009, Business Examiner

When I read Malcolm Gladwell's book The Tipping Point several years ago, I was fascinated by his theories about the drivers of social change and the powers ? or people ? that create it. He defines people behind change in three categories; Connectors are those who influence others; Mavens are those who are information specialists, and Salesmen as those who persuade. When these three groups work together, momentum builds and the general masses follow. Gladwell terms the moment where mass adoption or social change happens as a Tipping Point, or the point where "the levels at which the momentum for change becomes unstoppable."

It is my estimation that we have reached a Tipping Point in the adoption of social media tools such as FaceBook, MySpace, LinkedIn and our own local Web2.0 company, Konnects. I had scoffed when Konnects co-founder Jim Crabbe explained to me several years ago that he believed all business cards in the future would list an individual's social networking site as prominently as their e-mail address.. I was not an early adopter of this new media. Upon urging from Jim, I put my general profile up on Konnects and forgot about it for several years.

Three years ago, I reluctantly created a MySpace profile when I realized it was the only way I was going to reach my 16-year-old stepsister. It worked. I followed her life and interactions with friends, her music interests and stayed current on her ever-changing hair styles and colors. I also discovered that many of my friends and acquaintances were on MySpace, sharing photos, thoughts and current events in their lives.

Then I was persuaded to join Facebook because in one week's time, more than 10 people referred to their sites and the information that I would already know, if I was connected. Amazingly I found Facebook was populated by people from all stages of my life, current and in the distant past, and have passively kept up with all of them.

Professionally, I am on both LinkedIn and Konnects, and receive valuable information about colleagues long before I would, if I wait to run into them or hear through the grapevine of their promotions, career changes and even layoffs. These are powerful tools for checking references, affiliations and staying in contact.

I sit on the advisory board for the Center for Ethical Development at Tacoma Community College and the most recent campus forum we coordinated was around the ethical implications of social media ? how is it used, what information is accessible to whom and how the generations view accessibility of personal information. What you probably already know is that the generational gap regarding privacy is vast, as is the way social media are used and regarded.

The fact that we have reached a Tipping Point in adoption of this media does not mean that it is used universally the same way, and that means, for those of us who are late adopters, that we have a pretty steep learning curve.

There is still a lot of fear, trepidation and frank dismissal of social media tools by many business persons. And I, the early skeptic, am now saying that those who don't get with the program and demystify this powerful communication tool for themselves, will be left in the dust. Social media sites are free to set up with your profile and you determine what information is published on it. You have control regarding your privacy settings and those with whom you are affiliated. Take the plunge, and while you are at it, Google yourself. You might be surprised to find what is already out there free for the world to know about you.

We at the BE are in discovery mode as to how to harness the power of social media for the dissemination of news, connecting our readership, and sharing ideas and information. You can expect to see new tools and seminars in the coming months to help our readers to do the same. Together, we will demystify and make these tools work for all generations and business applications.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

NWEN ThinkTank Event

The Northwest Entrepreneurial Network's ThinkTank event at Seattle University last night included our own Web 2.0 business owner, Nick Huzar, co-founder and CTO of, in a panel discussion with Ian Lurie, President and CEO of Portent Interactive and Nathan Kaiser, founder and CEO of, talking about social media's business application.

The panel offered advice and information consistent with our morning seminar. Each group of presenters supported the notion that the CEO or business founder must be engaged in online media, particularly blogging, or even Twittering. The conversation lead online by the business leader brings fresh content to their company's Web site, driving up search engine listings, as well as personalizes their brand.

The entrepreneurs in the room were particularly concerned with the time demands that staying current in social media circles puts on a business owner and leader. Nathan suggested that "you just have to arbitrarily draw the line" on where you choose to devote your energy. Blogging was identified as one of the easiest ways to begin - starting simple, engaging with others offering similar content and linking to them when it makes sense. Ian advised to begin with "cornerstone" content, or the "biggest, toughest issues facing your audience" and to answer those questions first. All panelists urged patience with a social media strategy, and said that success is incremental. Companies looking to leverage these new resources need to give their efforts time and know that consistent and relevant content will generate a following over the long term.

There was much discussion about content, and the appropriateness of personal vs. professional information posted on CEO blogs, twitter feeds or social media sites. The litmus test the panel seemed to agree on was "don't post anything online that you wouldn't want your mother or children to read." Advice from Ian also included "don't blog angry, or drunk, or drunk and angry," and "Don't make it personal, it's just not worth it" saying that it is never a good idea to engage in personal attacks or criticisms.

The Business Examiner recently provided some guidelines to our staff regarding social media, adapted from a policy I found online written for Edelmens PR agency. Other sites I liked that addressed the same issue were from Bryon Person, a self-proclaimed social media evangelist, and Fast Wonder Consulting's blog. The BE thought it necessary to create a written policy because, although much of the rules are common sense, the reality is that not everyone's definition of "common sense" is the same. As these tools are becoming more integrated in our business, it just seemed prudent to address the issue head on.

The panelists were asked to provide three things they would like attendees to take away from the discussion. Nathan offered this advice "Get online, be active and don't offend your mother or children." Ian suggested that all company execs should tune in to the conversation already happening out in cyberspace by learning to use Google Reader, or another feed reader. The reader allows them to monitor and respond to many relevant feeds without making it overwhelming to sift through all the posts. He also said that it's important to "demythologize this stuff," and to get engaged in the conversation.

On a final note, the panelists urged CEO's not to be afraid to open themselves to comments or feedback. As Nick pointed out, whatever it is, it is already being said - you just may not be hearing it. They all agreed that the best way to approach social media is not to try to control the conversation, but to be a part of it.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Social Media for CEO's seminar

We at the Business Examiner were pleased to bring Social Media for CEO's, presented by Clay Loges of Yodio and Blaine Millet of Customer Experiences, Inc., to sold out room of business executives at SeaGrill in downtown Tacoma this morning.

Thank you to those who attended, we hope the information and conversation were valuable to you and your business.

We've been exploring for some time how to leverage social media for the purpose of disseminating information to the business community we serve. It is amazing how much has changed and how quickly it is affecting our business and our clients. We hope to bring more information to our readers and partners and will be updating this blog over time with new media announcements and more.

We welcome attendees to continue the conversation started this morning here, on the Social Media and Your Business blog.

We also welcome comments to our general readership regarding your experience or feedback on the BE Daily blog. Also, check out the full spectrum of news and information available at