by Sherry Heyl
Oftentimes after I speak to a group about social media I am asked if there is a book I would recommend. This is the one time that my response is a blank stare.
There are so many books. I have read so many books. Where to begin?
This week I am highlighting a few of my favorites, none of them are specifically focused on social media, but they have offered a number of key points that are related to interacting strategically on the web.
Let’s start with Malcom Gladwelll’s Tipping Point. Not a social media book, but a book that explains the power of individuals, or the “Law of the Few” who he has categorized as connectors, mavens, and salespeople. These are the people who are key infuencers in their network. But it is not enough to just identify these key influencers and for them to mention a product, service or idea for it to spread. Many other factors need to be in place such as content that is “sticky” and delivered at the right time, in the right place, or within the right context.
The next book that I recommend would be Universal Traveller by Don Koberg and Jim Bagnal. Again, not a social media book. The subtitle of this book is “a soft systems guide to creativity, problem solving and the process of reaching goals.”
The web is a highway of interconnected paths that can lead you absolutely anywhere, including places you do not want to be. If you know where you want to go, you still have an overwhelming amount of choices and obstacles to overcome. The Universal Traveller guides the readers to clear thinking and goal setting. As a bonus it has some incredible quotes throughout the book.
I am currently reading, thoroughly enjoying The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom. I suppose you could list this as a social media book, in that it covers how new collaborative and social technologies are changing the world, but it is not about the “How to be successful with (LinkedIN, Facebook, Twitter…). Whichever social networking site you are involved with now will most likely be displaced by the time you have figured it out. However social media itself is not going away. The tools and trends will continue to evolve at an ever accelerating pace. Books like The Wealth of Networks as well as Revolutionary Wealth are about how to be successful in this emerging world.
These three four books can help decision makers grasp the power of individual influencers, create a roadmap for success and develop their organization to be agile and innovative enough to move at the speed of today’s markets.
What are some of your favorite books that have prepared you for this changing world?
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I was first introduced to Twitter at SoCon07 (in Feb 2007). I believe it was the big buzz that was happening at SXSW which Amber Rhea was following via the blogs. I very much remember standing in the hallway with her as she was exploring Twitter.
140 Character mircoblogging platform…what would this be good for? That is the question that the early adopters jumped in head first to answer.
My handle was idealist (which was recently donated to idealist.org). I understood that twitter could be used to stay connected with friends and peers. I explained that it was like sitting in a cubicle farm, but surrounded by people you want to be surrounded by. In an office full of cubicles, we tend to announce simple things such as the latest news or “what we are doing now,” someone else may or may not respond.
I also saw Twitter as mass instant messaging which would be beneficial in event management and project management.
So what do I love about Twitter?
- I love being able to check in to see what my friends and peers are up to. When the tornado hit Atlanta, we were in Alpharetta where the weather was not bad at all. We heard a quick news snippet on TV about a tornado hitting the GA Dome and CNN. I quickly checked CNN.com to find out more…nothing had been posted (and um…it was not like they were not at the scene…) I checked weather.com, nothing. Then I checked twitter and was able to follow what was going on in real time by the people I cared about who were on the scene.
- I love Twitter search. During the last hurricane in the coast I logged into Twitter and followed the insights of people being evacuated. This was before CNN started integrating Twitter into their newscast. As I watched the news I would also follow the updates from the people who were expressing their thoughts.
To me it illustrates the overwhelming confusion, not just about Twitter, but about social media in general.
Journalism has it’s place, always has and always will. But news has always been a simple catalyst of conversations and connections. We hear or read the news and then we talk about it. OR we gather and do things to make the news…but we do not live for the news. Our lives are made up of the connections and relationships we have with our friends, family, and peers and the news is only a small part of the conversations that we are engaged in.
This leads to what I “hate” about Twitter.
Twitter is becoming more and more like MySpace. It is all about popularity – how many “friends” you have. People are actually measuring their success and status by the number of followers they have.
I also see a lot of similarities between Twitter authority and the blog authority. Like blog authority which is measured by incoming links and comments, Twitter authority is being measured by @handle responses and RT (re-tweets). This would be fine if it were all authentic, but just like in the early days of blogs where the same group of people were feeding their own circle, today these same trends are happening where many people are acting to promote their own authority as opposed to create authentic network circles of influence. This is not always the case…but it is a growing trend I have noticed.
But tweets are becoming influential, and there have been many cases where these microblogging conversations have raised awareness about a good cause or a bad campaign. Twitter makes information spread at an ever increasing rate – for better or for worse..
One of the things I love about Twitter is that it was created as an open platform enabling developers from all around the world to create applications that make Twitter much more useful.
One of my current favorites is TweetBeep which is like Google Alerts, but for Twitter. This is a very useful application to discover people of like minds and to join into meaningful conversations. Basically to fill up your cubicle farm with people of like minds, as well as your friends and peers.
I am also a fan of Twitter Hash Tags and Backrooms. Recently my friend Jeff Hilimire posted his interview via Twitter/twitterview with the Digital Marketing Director for Saab. Later in the week I found myself recommending Twitter for more interactive online townhall meetings.
However, the biggest challenge we face is still the accelerated speed of innovation and the lag of mass adoption. You can not reach and connect with everyone via Twitter because not everyone understands Twitter. Beyond that, not everyone wants to be on Twittter.
So, what is my current assessment of Twitter?
I am not a huge fan, I do not think that a lot of time and energy needs to be invested in Twitter, and I do believe that it can easily become a huge time sink.
However, just like many other social media tools, if Twitter is approached with a strategy and a purpose and the most relevant audience is involved, it can be an incredibly valuable resource.
So, do you agree? disagree? What is it about Twitter that I might be missing?
Please keep your comments to 140 characters or less
by Sherry Heyl
A few years ago I thought of the title for the book I would like to write about social media - Defeating the Ego.
The premise of the book is that Social Media was the catalyst that helped to defeat the egos that were so prevalent in big business, big media and big government.
Throughout the years social media tools have enabled anyone with Internet access to express themselves, to find and connect with like-minds, to share ideas, collaborate and create alliances. These people have created products and services that have rivaled established brands. They have also created communities of trust at a time when trust was being depleted by the actions of big business, big media and big government. These communities of people have oftentimes been the very forces that have exposed the misdealings of the big business, big media and big government.
Three years ago, as I considered writing this book, I thought that the future looked bright for smaller players who were trying to make their mark on this world. From my perspective I saw siloed walls being knocked down enabling more connections which would lead to more innovations. I saw trust coming from good business practices as opposed to good marketing and packaging. I saw a new world emerging.
Over the past year or so I have seen the very tools that were supposed to enable communities of collaboration, innovation, and overall good business being used by spammers and marketers who simply want to use the tools as a way to broadcast their messages through new channels. However it is not coming from big business, big media and big government, it is coming from the individuals who were supposed to be empowered by these tools – not abuse these tools.
However, recently I realized that Social Media is still the catalyst that will defeat the egos.
As I see people pushing themselves through the social media channels, pounding their chest and screaming “be my friend!, follow me! I am great!” – I think to myself “how’s that working for you?”
Social Media takes time and effort and it is a shame to invest so much into a medium that will capture an inappropriate image and behavior for many years to come.
For the past few years I have worked with businesses and organizations who knew very well that their actions online needed to be thought through, to represent what they had to offer but to also add value to the communities of people they wanted to engage with.
At the same time I have seen others jump into the world of social media with only the idea that these new tools were their personal megaphones. Stop it – Please!
Oftentimes I explain to people that what happens online is not much different to what happens offline. The way we interact with people in our real world leads to the kinds of business relationships we have as well as the reputation we have within our community. We typically run away from those who are constantly asking us for something or pushing a product, service or idea onto us.
Perhaps what social media will bring to us is a detailed view of when our tactics do not help us reach our goal as well as insight into what is working for others. Perhaps we will see that successful engagement is not about promoting or stroking our egos, but about serving others. Perhaps we will all begin to see that to be successful we need to focus on helping others succeed more than on promoting our own success.