What I got out of Twitter – Part II

About a year ago I wrote my first (and probably only) post about Twitter so far, it was based around what I had learned from using the service up to the time of writing. During a conversation I had last week I thought about this post again and decided to look it up again… only to notice that much of it hasn’t changed at all.

It still are the Twitter users that make the service better both in adding features, applications and services. Think about features such as hashtags, RT, … mostly incorporated into most clients now. Some of you will be using Tweetdeck, I still hang on to Twhirl (that new search ‘activate’ feature is a killer!) but there are many many others. And finally things like Twitter Remote or Mr. Tweet are really powerful services. The last service is also good proof it really is the community that makes things better here, have you ever taken a look at Twitter’s own Suggested Users Feature?

People still focus too much on quantity vs. quality with constant chatter about number of followers, number of tweets, … and I still believe like I said back then that you don’t make better conversations by following everybody back. It’s just not true… and it’s therefore not all that suprising to see that people like Loic are actually cutting back on that.

Has nothing changed then? Sure it has. We’ve started to re-tweet aka RT, something I like and then again not. Sometimes a RT is expanding the network on a good topic which is good, sometimes it feels like the sender just wants you to know they’ve seen ‘it’ as well. And often it feels like the Retweeter’s reasoning is more to make sure the sender of the initial message notices you versus you actually trying to share interesting stuff to your audience. Like an alternative to an @reply almost.

Another personal change is that I’ve now (via the Live Writer add-on) linked my blog feed to my Twitter account, something I said a year ago is not done. I guess I was wrong, although it’s mainly the notion that people start putting something like {blogpost} in front of such tweets that got me convinced there’s a right way in doing this.

What else has changed? We got spam, auto-DM’s and a lot more tricks that try and build audiences by following and immediate unfollowing etc. Not sure who thinks that stuff really works but just like many other popular services there are some annoyances that we’ll just have to deal with.

Still very much hooked, so that hasn’t changed at all ;)

I’m listening…

But do you care? Did you really want to have a conversation to begin with? Well maybe not you you, but consumers in general? With all the talks about companies and their need to be part of the conversation etc… I get all that, I’m a believer and everything. But what about the consumer? Does he really want to have that conversation? Sometimes I believe they don’t, or at least not everyone does. Sometimes people just want to shout out, make a statement, … without expecting, hoping or even wishing for an answer.

Kris Hoet
Photo by Joi Ito – taken at the SIME08 Blogger Meetup

It was the Facebook discussion during the Kinepolis blogger meetup that got me thinking about this again, but it’s something I experienced on quite a few occasions myself. Someone calls out for support, feedback, … or complains about something on their blog, Twitter, etc and you reach out to see how you can help. I would say that in +50% of all cases you never get an answer back.

Therefore my question. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not pessimistic about ‘the conversation’ and believe companies should do a better job at listening, I’m just saying that sometimes consumers also just want to talk to/about companies and that they’re not always interested in listening to what those companies have to say in return.

About building your network

Networks like LinkedIn seem to benefit quite a bit from the recession. People unfortunately are losing jobs and need to look for new opportunities, for which the network asset is very important. The problem is that many start building the network when they need it and that’s a common mistake. You should build it when you don’t really need it, so it’s there when you actually do. Here’s what I do, maybe there’s something in there for you as well.

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Image courtesy of GustavoG, actually presenting the FlickrVerse

#1 Build a network based on people you know

I believe that your network on LinkedIn (and others like Xing) is only really valuable when you build it with people you know, people you have actually met, spoken with, engaged with, … any kind of interaction that was big enough for people to remember you. This connection can be face to face, online, over the telephone… but when you send these people an invite to join your network, your name should at least ring a bell. The reason this is important is that you want to count on your network when it matters. If your connections don’t know who you are or how you connected, why would they ever pass on a message to others? Why would they ever introduce you to one of their contacts? Your connections are the key to the second and third degree network, so make sure those connections are real.

#2 Strike the iron while it’s hot

You’ve met some interesting new people at a conference? You just ended a call with someone that you will probably do business with? You’ve been having a few discussions with someone online lately? First thing on the to do list – look them up on LinkedIn and send out an invitation (referencing how you connected if you think it’s appropriate). Now this is not a suggestion to quickly ‘run into people’, get their business card so you can say you ‘connected’ and invite them onto your network. Not at all, but if a real connection was made, you should solidify it ‘digitally’ and not wait to long before doing so either. After people accept I always download the vCard to my local address book, as it adds the person’s birthday to my calendar – always good to know.

#3 People change, how about your address book?

People change titles, jobs, employers, … and it’s important you know about this. Luckily networks like LinkedIn are amongst the first places for people to communicate changes like these, especially when they are related to the professional life. It’s not like you will go check out the LinkedIn homepage on a daily pages to track these changes, but LinkedIn add-ons like the Outlook Toolbar basically offer this kind of functionality for you. Every once in a while I will open up my LinkedIn Dashboard in Outlook and in there I can see all people that have made changes to their profile and I get the choice to update the contact info automatically in my local address book.

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#4 Network overlays – use it

Although my own rules for connecting with people on LinkedIn are not 100% the same as those on Facebook, and the reason for connecting on Blip or Flickr are different from other networks – there will always be an overlay. And sometimes you can benefit from that overlay, I’ll give you one example. Using programs such as Fonebook will compare your local Outlook address book with your connections on Facebook which will allow you to add additional data from Facebook (like the person’s photo for instance) to your existing Outlook contacts. I’m sure there are other examples of using the network overlays as well.

#5 Avoid spam

The biggest source of ‘spam’ these days seem to be your friends. Stronger connections will help avoiding much of it but still, sometimes it’s just powered by laziness. When you want to invite friends to a certain group on whatever network you most likely have 2 options – pick those friends that might be interested (takes time) or ‘select all’ (the faster solution). A lot of people tend to do the latter, knowing for a fact that you will ignore if needed but that is not the best option. Choose wisely amongst your network, there’s a limit to ignoring things as well.

That’s how I do it anyway, feel free to discuss.

Future of advertising in one afternoon

Sean Howard and Gavin Heaton pointed me to this rather interesting Slidecast on the future of advertising. And I agree with Sean it’s maybe not all complete on the real opportunity but nevertheless a good presentation, worth  watching:

And of course – if THE Craphammer and THE Servant of Chaos both like it, it’s got to be good right :)

Kinepolis meetup

My old friends at Kinepolis invited me over for a blogger meetup 2 weeks ago, something they had set up together with Proximity BBDO (represented by the one and only ‘Druppels’) and Adhese. I wasn’t too sure what to expect, but given the fact I worked at Kinepolis myself for some 7 years I had more than enough reasons to go check it out.

I don’t really want to cover the content of the meeting (as others have done that already) but I was mostly interested in the approach of the company towards the community. And the commentary after.

Kinepolis
Photo by Dipfico

I once wrote a post called ‘not for sale’ and featured it in my side navigation since then. And then people started asking me why I don’t like advertising on my blog… I tell them to read it again, it’s not what I’m saying. The whole social media approach, the whole thing about being more consumer friendly, about engaging in a conversation, … is something that needs to be in your soul so to speak. A lot of companies get some recognition because ‘they get it’ whereas they just started using social media technologies to do one way communications. Sigh. I like genuine innovation, genuine openness… and yes even when you could argue about why it didn’t come any sooner.

Kinepolis is a company that gets it, maybe late but they showed me they do. Why? Because of the genuine openness and honesty of the conversation we had with the Kinepolis management during the meetup, including their CEO. The 20-some bloggers present at the event will probably agree, when was the last time you had such an open conversation with the CEO of a company the size of Kinepolis? Very curious to see how this will evolve, I guess that’s where I still can go wrong. At least the goodwill is there…

Looking at the commentary after the event I realized even more people don’t seem to make the distinction between ‘I approve how they did this’ and ‘I will now believe whatever they say without thinking’. Did I buy everything they said at that event? Did I think they are now all saints? No. But they did show in a very honest way what their plans are and how they want to have this conversation. I liked that a lot. And for the naysayers, if you really care about this just tell Adhese about it and there’s no reason why you couldn’t be part of this.

There were only 2 things I missed really, one being some more food and the other one a demo of the big screen gaming they do because I always loved that. There’s really nothing that beats playing COD or other on a 24 meters wide screen in full THX Dolby Surround sound ;)

Marketer’s view on 2009

Mid December last year Peter Kim released his Social Media Predictions for 2009, for which he collected the thoughts of some 14 thought leaders in one nice little document. There’s a lot of good ideas and feedback in there, although I cannot resist thinking some of it is wishful thinking, hoping that some things will change or improve which probably won’t happen. Anyway, worth checking out.

SocialMedia09

Charlene Li (who was part of the people inputting in Peter’s document) added some extra thoughts on it later on her own blog and also ReadWriteWeb weighted in on the predictions.

More recently Valeria Maltoni asked a dozen marketing bloggers about their thoughts for 2009, and as Valeria puts it: “More than predictions, which is hard to do, we focused on direction. This eBook is the result of our collective energy and execution experience”.

marketing2009

Both documents collect the thoughts of marketing professionals in the field and are definitely worth reading so download the PDFs here: Social Media 2009 (Peter Kim)Marketing 2009 (Valeria Maltoni)

Hugh at LeWeb 08

As I mentioned about a week ago in the ‘Blue Monster in Paris’ post, Hugh MacLeod was a regular guest at the Microsoft BizSpark and Live Mesh booth at LeWeb in Paris this year. We had agreed with Hugh to try out something different than usual and everybody who stopped by while Hugh was there could get a personal Hughcard and maybe even something more… like say a signed Blue Monster wine bottle for instance.

"Amsterdam Blogs" by Hugh MacLeod @ Le Web 08  hermione

It was great to see a lot of people stopped by and had cartoons drawn on business cards, wine bottles, body parts, computers, etc. All good fun and a lot of times real conversation starters, just like we hoped it to be.

Those of you that were interested in the event will all probably have read what The Guardian had to say about it, well if you did then make sure you read Thomas Crampton’s answer to that as well. Every year when I look back at LeWeb it is with the eyes of both an attendee as a sponsor. Every year there are some things that could have been better (yes it was cold, yes I liked last year’s venue more, yes we were definitely spoilt re food last year, …) and there are always plenty of reasons why I will be back next year.

It’s still one of the best conferences for networking, there’s all kinds of great content to be discovered and you just know it’ll start a conversation just like the years before. When I checked with the program manager for BizSpark or the startups that were able to show off what they got as part of that program, feedback was very good. When I checked with the Live Mesh guys, feedback was good. And quite a few people went home with a personal cartoon… yeah it was good for me. Thanks again for joining us Hugh!

Crowd Surfing

Some 2 months ago David Brain (CEO Edelman Europe) launched his book called ‘Crowd Surfing’ and I was able to get a copy for review. One of the biggest reasons I wanted to check out this book was that my buddy Steve Clayton was mentioned in it together with the Blue Monster story (just like in PNI, only David did get Steve’s name right ;))

David (and Martin Thomas) write about this age of new consumer empowerment with a bit of a corporate focus, which is something I’m interested in most given my role at Microsoft. In an interview Hugh Macleod did with David, here’s what was said about this corporate angle:

“Sometimes it is easy for an entrepreneur or small business to be in tune with their customers or stakeholders, because their scale (or lack of it) means everyone is close to the customer (an obvious point I know, but size does sometimes matter). The bigger a firm gets the more difficult that becomes . Big companies need robust processes and structures to organize, to do what it is they do, and that can mean that the people inside can sometimes begin to focus on those processes and structures to the exclusion of the customer or the crowd. Dell and Microsoft have both worked really hard to find ways to bring the crowd inside the firm (at the cost of significant disruption) so that they don’t make that mistake. For me, where the crowd meets the organization is where the real action is.”

Crowd Surfing’ has a big piece on Microsoft, not only on the Blue Monster as I mentioned before, but it also features the whole “Successful Blogging at Microsoft: A Best Practice Guide” which is what Microsoft would like its employees to read when they start blogging. Remember I mentioned before that there is no policy re blogging at Microsoft. David and Martin also talk about Apple and the different approach it has taken, still benefitting enormously from this consumer empowerment.

I must admit there is one thing I missed though and that was a more European view on things. I’ve got another post in my drafts on this topic, but the reason this is important is because many of the learnings we have from the US aren’t easily applicable here in Europe. Given David is running the European part of Edelman and hence dealing with similar challenges for his clients I had hoped there would be more on that in the book.

And now, ‘The Fall of Advertising & The Rise of PR” by Al and Laura Ries, because Frank De Graeve told me to…. and because there’s a piece in it on the Mustang brand.

Web Economy Bullshit Generator

While I was reading about the “Top 10 Most Irritating Phrases in PR” I remembered something from a long time ago, namely the Web Economy Bullshit Generator. Just like Dave Fleet talks about how terms like 24/7, utilize, … annoy him the WEBG was created around a similar idea, sometime during the first dotcom boom. So bricks-and-mortar is not something we use anymore today but you don’t really have to add a lot of words to make this completely relevant again for your flashy corporate powerpoint presentations ;) It seems the world hasn’t changed that much after all :)

webg

As you can see it comes with very easy instructions.

Blogger meetups

Little over a week ago, I was part of 2 blogger meetups I wanted to highlight here as well. The first meetup was in Stockholm during SIME and was co-hosted by Microsoft and SIME. We both agreed it would be a great idea to have some small side-event during one of the breaks, a dialogue between the bloggers present at the event, both from the audience and speakers. It was a bit unfortunate the only room available was a small cinema theatre, forcing it a little into an audience vs. stage setup but I enjoyed the meetup nevertheless and only wished we had more time. I was happy Thomas Crampton was willing to moderate the mini-event and that also Joi Ito and Dave Sifry agreed to participate, and of course that so many people turned up for it.

Untitled
Click on the image for the video, only part 1 available but will update once that changes.

I like the way Johan Ronnestam described it on his blog:

“Absolutely one of the better takeouts from this years SIME (so far) even though I think it could have been more of a meetup rather than a ‘listenup’.”

I think we had a great set of topics that we wanted to talk about with all the bloggers (personal vs corporate blogging, sponsored content, blogosphere dead or not, …) but we only got halfway through it. Definitely a format I will try to replicate at other events since most of the feedback was really positive. And Joi, thanks for the nice photo!

The day after we had a blogger meetup in London with the purpose to have a discussion around the new version of Windows Live that was announced the night before the meetup. I had organized the event in the Coach & Horses (Soho) which was a nice location for it, although some wifi improvements are in place ;) We had Ryan Gavin and Jeff Kunins over from the Windows Live team and Redmond to give a rundown of the new stuff which sparked quite a bit of discussion so that was quite fun as well.

WLMeetup

The photo above was taken during the dinner after the presentation, but as you can see the discussion is still pretty much ongoing. From left to right you see Scott Lovegrove, Chris Overd, Neville Hobson and Ryan Gavin. Also present were Paul Walsh, Robin Wauters, Pieter Dom and Jamie Tomson. Too bad not everyone who accepted made it to the evening, but we’re definitely going to organize evenings such as this one again on several different topics so hopefully they can join us next time. In case you are interested in joining discussions like this, let me know in the comments or shoot me an email at kris [at] crossthebreeze [dot] com.