Kitchen Tour – Benefit for Literacy Program

At yesterday’s board meeting for the Volunteer Center of Santa Cruz Barbara Davis, the Executive Director for the Literacy Program, came by and gave us an update on the Kitchen Tour. The Kitchen Tour is a benefit for the Literacy Program which is really an undersung program of the Volunteer Center.

Kitchen Tour
Sunday, August 24th, 2008
12-4pm

The project has tutored unbelievable numbers of English learners and has an engaging curriculum that includes things like following recipes to cook meals in class and on the job teaching. What really impressed me about the program is that in a study comparing test scores around the state this program has equaled or surpassed the English as a Second Language programs in most of the community colleges throughout California. And this from volunteers! The California Department of Education feels the same way about the program. In June 2008 the Dept. of Ed. honored the Literacy Program with a Promising Practices award.

The Kitchen Tour is a great way to support the Literacy Program and see some amazing kitchens. The 9 kitchens on the tour can give you some new ideas for your own kitchen. Not only that but raffle tickets are available at each of the tour sites. You can win a trip to Kauai or the Yucatan Peninsula.

Pick up your tour booklet for $15 at any of the following locations:

You can contact the Literacy Program for more details at 831-427-5077 or by email at literacy@scvolunteercenter.org

Update: Just saw that MetroActive posted an article about the Kitchen Tour

The following article is at the bottom of the page.

Ogling for Dollars

Everyone does it–you go to someone’s house, you check out their décor. An innovative fundraiser capitalizes on the human urge to snoop.

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Why Intellectual Property Doesn’t Make Sense

When I was in college I wrote a paper about the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trades (or was it Trade and Tariffs, I could never get that straight) which became the World Trade Organization. The general thesis of the paper was that Intellectual Property (IP) rights have gone overboard in favor of corporations. You have companies trademarking or putting patents on things like seeds and farming techniques that have been in practice for hundreds if not thousands of years.

I am not saying that all IP rights are bad. But I am really struggling about where to draw the line. On some level I question why it is that someone gets to say “I can make this and nobody else can.” The argument for IP protection is that people put all this time into something and they should be getting compensated for it. On the other hand shouldn’t the value, and therefore the compensation, derive from a combination of continued innovation plus the benefit of being the first to market and the halo of thought leader?

The thought process stemmed from reading a bottle of liquid soap and seeing that there was something called honey calendula that was trademarked. Now I have no idea what calendula is, but I have to believe it was some clever way putting together already existing molecules with honey to make something that apparently I shouldn’t be cleaning my hands without. So some company now gets to have a lock on this creation for a very long time. A creation that stems from something that everyone has access to or “owns.”

My wife was a brilliant childcare professional for a very long time. I started thinking – what if she had IP protection? Her creation is a child that has amazing communication skills and is incredibly creative. (Obviously other people, like parents, are involved in the process, but lets leave that out of my absurdist logic). What if she were able to trademark that child. Think of the money she could make off of her/his work throughout their lifetime. Obviously this could never happen, but what is it that gives some industries the right to patent things and others not. And why can some things get patented by people who don’t even own the building blocks for those things to begin with?

My knowledge of IP is not the best, but if memory servers the protection is on the process not the ingredient. But then could my wife have protected the process by which she does childcare? I know it is a lot more complicated than I can really tease out in this little blog entry. But, I guess the bigger question is where does it end – where do you say “ok, the world has enough patents?”

I know there are lots of really talented people who deserve lots of money for the tremendous work they do. And companies invest significant research and development into the things they patent. But it really seems like there has to be a better way. Will people really stop inventing things if there are no more patents?

Santa Cruz Volunteer Center – Human Race

Every year the Santa Cruz Volunteer Center puts on the Human Race – a non-profit run/walk (ok, let’s be honest more like a leisurely stroll for us) to benefit hundreds of agencies throughout the Santa Cruz county.

My family and I have been doing it since 2003, but it has been going on for 28years. Other Vounteer Centers throughout the nation also put these on and if I am not mistaken ours is the oldest Human Race in the country. My daughter wants to make sure that I mention the food at the end of the race – there are hot dogs and veggie burgers and salad and cookies.

Kristin at the Volunteer Center recently posted a photo retrospective of the 28 years. I helped design the posters in 2003 and that poster was in the slideshow, so that boosted my ego a bit. But, my daughter was disappointed her picture wasn’t included;).

Oh yeah, and if you feel like donating (ok, I know it was a bit late seeing as how the event was in May but there is still time) you can check out my donation page.

Gratuitous photo from the event

4th of July and Patriotism

Yesterday for the 4th of July we bbq’d, played games, didn’t really catch any fireworks (this being California, the fires took it out of me), and of course had a great political discussion. As a Democrat I am really torn about the issue of patriotism as it has played out in the political landscape during the election season. Of course the play it has gotten about whether Obama is patriotic or not is way over the top and just doesn’t need to be dignified here by a response. But what I find interesting is the discussion about what it means to be patriotic and whether we as Democrats should be trying to “take back the flag”. The baseline of this argument is that conservatives have hijacked and draped themselves in the flag, and that loving this country is perceived as solely the domain of the right.

As far as loving this country goes – yes, Democrats should stand up and be vocal for what we love about this country, and there is quite a lot. As far as criticizing the country goes – yes we should be vocal about that as well. We love the US warts and all and we want to improve the country not be blind about its imperfections. But let’s get back to patriotism. First of all I think that criticisms against Obama’s patriotism are veiled arguments that “he is not one of us”. Second I believe it is important to understand our patriotism rather than buy into the hype.

The “he is not one of us” argument is an us vs. them mentality. It goes right along side “America love it or leave it” and calls of people being “anti-American”. I remember the alternate version of “This Land Is Your Land” that went – “This land is my land, and it ain’t your land.” It is an exclusivity that brings with it an unquestioning loyalty at a time when we should be questioning more than ever.

When you put up a flag, what does it mean to you? For a long time when I thought of this mentality of America love it or leave it and people putting up flags everywhere you could see it conjured up notions of how Nazi propaganda brought such patriotism to a boiling point that it meant Hitler could get away with… well the Holocaust. Now, before you go and claim that I am comparing the US to Nazi Germany, or Bush to Hitler – I AM NOT DOING THAT. All I am saying is that patriotism taken too far is dangerous. And what I see right now is taking it too far.

Furthermore I don’t get the us vs. them. Aren’t we all a part of this earth? I understand the reality of borders, but in the abstract they are not something I believe in. Countries imposing borders on populations have gotten us into tremendous problems – the Middle East, Yugoslavia, etc. Sure they have their uses, but why is it that an arbitrary line makes me different than the person on the other side. And in the end why am I proud of the fact that I was born on one side of that line vs. the other. For a long time the idea of being proud of, in essence, the luck of where I was born seemed very strange. Yesterday, I thought about it another way. Not as being proud of what America is, but about celebrating the values we hold in America that make it great – liberty, freedom, and as my daughter says hot dogs and lemonade. So by all means I can get behind celebrating those things.

As I wrote this I thought about pride in America in another way as well. One of the reasons why I don’t feel the pride is because the justice system, the governmental system, all of those things were created before I was born and therefore I didn’t really play a part in them. Because of the way politics has worked recently I haven’t felt like I had a voice in that either. So, because it wasn’t something I was a part of how could I feel proud about it. I guess there are two sides of that I need to work on. One being more active, that would certainly help me feel more a part of the process of democracy that I think is amazing about the US. Two not feeding into this notion that America, and the stuff I admire about it, is something separate from what we do in our daily lives. The act of raising a caring daughter, of having political discussions with my neighbors (even if we agree 99.9% of the time), of supporting other members of my community, these are all acts that feed into the system that I love. And that is something we can all be proud of.

So what is your vision of patriotism?

The Great Social Experiment – Roundtable Question 5: Getting Feedback

REPOST from original series started on blog.thinkfree.com back in September of 2007

Back in September I began a series experimenting with social networks to view their effectiveness in helping organizations expand their reach, and be included in conversations about their industry wherever those conversations occur.

Now it is time to look at the results. The other day I introduced the panel (Aaron Brazell, Chris Brogan, Doug Haslam, Cathryn Hrudicka and Brian Solis) and the questions on the table.

Thanks
Before getting to the responses I want to thank Doug, Chris, Cathryn, Aaron and Brian for giving generously of their knowledge. This has been a wonderful experience and I know I have gained a lot from their experience. I am in their debt.

One way that I wanted to thank Cathryn personally was to ask everyone who has read this and gone through the experiment with me to contribute to the Frozen Pea Fund in honor of a friend of hers (and many others including Doug supporting her experience through twitter), Susan Reynolds who is undergoing surgery today to get rid of breast cancer.

And thanks enormously to Marc Orchant who provided the rocket fuel to get this thing off the ground and for Aaron’s original round table that inspired this discussion.

Today the fifth and last question: How can I build better mechanisms into the framework to increase feedback?


Brian Solis

We’ve all heard that participation is marketing. As well, we’ve seen the banner that reads conversations are marketing.

Great.

So, what about relationships?

We speak of building mechanisms into frameworks and while we search for the right answers, we’re overshooting the very thing that Social Media revolves around, people.

Social Media isn’t a catalyst to summon marketing for marketing’s sake. It’s an opportunity to engage with groups of people by tapping into conversations that mutually serve the benefits of the very people we wish to reach.

The key is participation and I define participation as the ante that’s determined by each distinct community. The minimum investment to play is sincerity, authenticity, trustworthiness, and genuine intent.

Answer the following questions. What do you want to get out of each network and why should people care about your involvement?

Then identify those you want to reach by monitoring the very conversations you wish to join.

There must be value associated with the dialog as most are seeds for potential relationships. But, these things take time, focus, and nurturing. This isn’t broadcast marketing. This is one-to-one discussions that can provide incredible value back to you and your company as long as the rules of engagement are clear and not manipulated.
Social networks provide the foundation for one-to-one interactions and even one-to-many without losing its openness, as long as the intent is clear and honest.

Basically everything comes down to how you relate to the communities you wish to embrace and in turn, how they embrace you and your involvement. It’s pretty natural to enhance feedback when your stature in each community represents your investment.

It takes time, patience, sincerity, and value. This is about relationships and it’s much bigger and more relevant than just you and the company you represent.

Again, companies will earn the relationships they deserve.

This is about people and the evolution of business marketing, from broadcast to interaction, from marketing to solutions.



Aaron Brazell

This is the mother-lode question and I would actually rephrase it as, “What steps should I take to increase my engagement?�?

The reality is that you engage people in everyday life. You start a new job and you engage your coworkers. You read an entry on a blog you’ve never been to and you leave a comment. You sit in a Starbucks and talk with a friend. This is engagement and the fact that there is a computer sitting between you and the world doesn’t change the dynamics of engagement.

I think social networking has watered down the word “friend�? quite a bit and understanding and pursuing the real meaning of that word will cause your mileage to increase in your marketing efforts.

I travel to a lot of conferences and have met a lot of people. I can say I know this person or that person. There are some of these people though who I truly consider friends and through those connections, I’ve been able to very effectively extend reach into other groups and crowds. You can get this benefit from social networking friends, but social networking friends who truly are friends can get you so much more.



Chris Brogan

Feedback comes from creating reasons to say something and then making it really easy to say something. Great examples of things that promote feedback: Flickr, LinkedIN, YouTube, Amazon products. In all cases, there are opportunities to give an opinion where the people providing the feedback are the experts (at least for the moment at hand).



Doug Haslam

Feedback is the hardest part of social media and social networking (or any marketing campaign). One thing to remember is that the things you say (ok, your “messages�?) get heard far beyond the folks who actually respond. A recent personal example: I posted some videos to my blog (and via Twitter, YouTube and Seesmic in my own little experiment) about my horrid commute (gratuitous link).* I got some comments, maybe a few more than usual, but not many. However, I found when I ran into people from my peer group a t a Boston Social Media Breakfast a few days later, almost everyone greeted me with “I saw your video.�? So, message received; but how to call people to action? Here are my thoughts:

  • Ask: did your outreach specifically ask people to do something? Go to a Web site? Answer a question? Provide advice? Begging can work as well (how did you get your Pownce beta invite?), but let’s not call it that.
  • Offer: What do people get if they act? A free trial? A gift? Membership in a group? Think about what would motivate people to respond back. Let’s not go overly cynical and call this a bribe, but when I was in market research you could not get a survey completed, even with your own panel, without offering incentives for completed questionnaires. Sure, a nice outward message, a great product or service, and a stellar reputation helps, but sometimes people just want something.
  • Give Value: Dialing back the cynicism and bribery theme a bit, let’s invoke the Golden Rule: treat others as you would like them to treat you. This goes back to participation, and becoming a part of the group you have joined or started. Do you answer the questions others pose? Do you check out there links and offer feedback? If you don’t, should you really expect others to do for you?

So, if you want something; ask, have something they want in return, and reciprocate (or “pre-reciprocate�?). Plus, don’t forget all the people that didn’t respond. They’re probably not ignoring you.



Cathryn Hrudicka

For one, I think you have to give it more time. It took at least 60-90 days of fairly constant social networking before I got a major media interview, and I didn’t pitch it or ask for that one specifically—it came to me because I had started an ongoing conversation with the journalist involved, met him at an event, to which I was invited due to a social networking connection, and I happened to be up late at night when the journalist was looking for someone to interview, and I fit the criteria needed. There have been several other media interviews since, and I didn’t directly pitch any of them. I happened to be immersed in conversations with either the contacts themselves, or people who knew them and had noticed my comments on a social network.

I have also received business referrals, from people I did not know before getting on the social networks—and again, I did not pitch them asking directly, but got to know people through a series of conversations where they were able to read or hear my ideas that were relevant to their referral. More recently, I have set up phone calls with some of my social network friends to explore collaborating on projects and looking for new clients together.

As far as feedback mechanisms, if you build a community around your blog and social network “brand,�? whether as an individual or an organization, you will get feedback eventually. Social networking takes a while—I would give it no less than a year to really test it out.

Definitely ask for feedback about specific questions, in your blog or on other social media, and really converse with people about it. You may also want to link them to a survey you’ve created, and make that fun to fill out. You can offer a contest where you give away something to the first few people who respond, and you can send out an e-letter with a survey, but don’t make it spam-like. You may want to form a smaller group around a specific issue (such as a Ning group). It seems that people are often willing to comment on short video clips (under five minutes), so you might consider doing a seesmic or Kyte or Blip-TV clip and ask for comments.

If you comment on other people’s or companies’ blogs, you are likely to get into a discussion with other commenters or the owner of the blog. It is helpful to think strategically about which blogs and issues to comment about, although you may just want to do it by personal interest as well. Obviously, commenting on a blog that will raise your company’s profile, that has a large group of readers that would include your business audience, would be an obvious advantage.
******
Jonathan
One of the reasons I started this experiment was that quite by chance I came across a question in LinkedIn asking who had used online office tools such as ThinkFree, and a few others. As a marketing person, I want my company to be included in any and all relevant conversations. What I began to realize is that these conversations were happening in conferences, through traditional media, and increasingly through social networks. But, I wanted to validate that this was an appropriate use of my marketing time and resources. The best way I could think of was to dive right in and get immersed in the culture which led to this round table and getting advice from the experts.

Along the way what I learned (in no small part thanks to this group):

  1. It isn’t really a choice of if anymore but a question of when and how companies will start devoting resources to social networks in disseminating their messages.
  2. Be willing to invest the time over the long haul. I went into this thinking it was going to save me time in getting my marketing messages out. It hasn’t! But it certainly has been fun getting to know that a certain blogger has a one year old that he takes to the park, or that people are doing some amazing things to support causes they believe in. And in the end the company has certainly benefited from my interaction in these communities.
  3. You can’t expect a friendship to develop overnight. In some ways building your online network is a little scarier in that you basically have to ask someone up front if they want to be your friend which, as Aaron pointed out, is just not the right terminology. No beating around the bush – will you be my friend? But don’t be shy either. in the end what is the harm if someone ignores your friend request of Facebook? What does it cost you to start following someone on Twitter? And as was mentioned earlier in the series, people are fairly forgiving.
  4. Reciprocate. In building relationships with journalists, it is just plain rude to go around pitching them at every opportunity. For goodness sake would you be friends with someone who was always talking about what they were doing and never asked about what you are doing? The same is true on social networks. Take the time to find out what they are interested in. Ask, advise, view their links, suggest things of interest.
  5. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get the immediate results you wanted or expected. But, this is true of other marketing activities as well, who knows what leads the next tradeshow will bring. A business partnership at one conference may be worth 1000 leads at another. If you are being an active member of the community you will see results. They may not come in the form you expected, or from a place you expected, but you will benefit one way or another.

And now for your comments…
What do you think about the advice these people gave? Do you agree? Disagree? Care? If you have an opinion now is the time to trot it out.

Social Networking round-table articles:

  1. Did I devote enough time to the exercise? More to the point, where should social networking be placed in terms of marketing priorities? Does this change for companies that are more or less mature?
  2. How should we be judging the outcomes from social networking activities? Are there tools you recommend?
  3. Is social networking the right tool for the tests I created? Are my expectations of social networking in line with what it can do? What is social networking best geared to address?
  4. How much of getting social networking to work is the contacts you bring with you? How aggressive should one be in reaching out to new contacts? Should I, for instance, try to befriend Chris Anderson even after I have composed a note meant to appeal to what he is interested in?
  5. How can I build better mechanisms into the framework to increase feedback?

Previous blog articles in this series:

Can you digg it? I knew that you could – The Great Social Experiment

The Great Social Experiment – #1 Getting Started

The Great Social Experiment #2 – Will You Be My Friend

The Great Social Experiment – #3 owwww, i’m u’r biggest fan

The Great Social Experiment – How has it gone?

Oh and don’t forget to use the social networking tools below to share and enjoy – part of the experiment right?

tags

The Great Social Experiment – Roundtable Question 4: How Aggressively Should I Try to Get Connected?

REPOST from original series started on blog.thinkfree.com back in September of 2007

Back in September I began a series experimenting with social networks to view their effectiveness in helping organizations expand their reach, and be included in conversations about their industry wherever those conversations occur.

Now it is time to look at the results. The other day I introduced the panel (Aaron Brazell, Chris Brogan, Doug Haslam, Cathryn Hrudicka and Brian Solis) and the questions on the table.

Today the fourth question: How much of getting social networking to work is the contacts you bring with you? How aggressive should one be in reaching out to new contacts? Should I, for instance, try to befriend Chris Anderson (see the original round table from Aaron Brazell for the reference to Chris Anderson) even after I have composed a note meant to appeal to what he is interested in?



Hrudicka

It probably always helps to bring more offline contacts with you to your key social networks, but I don’t think it’s absolutely necessary. It is very important to be aware of who each new contact you befriend is, and to know whether they are in the category of a potential client, a potential client referral, an influencer or thought leader, a media contact and what type, a professional colleague, a potential marketing partner, and the like. You would not approach any two people in the same way offline, and that applies even more online.

No two media contacts should be approached in the same way, either, which is contrary to how some traditional PR people have pitched media in the past (which, in my opinion, never was the savvy way to do PR). For example, Chris Anderson (Wired) requires a much different approach than Robert Scoble (Scobleizer, PodTech) or Walt Mossberg (Wall Street Journal), or anyone else, and pitching individual bloggers is very different than how you would pitch a story for a print magazine, a trade, radio, podcast, or television. This is key, and you will get in trouble if you try to send everyone the same email or socnet message, or make a traditional, blanket “pitch�? to all sources, regarded as “spam�? these days. The need for an individualized approach does make public relations and marketing campaigns more time consuming, complex, and research intensive, but the results you’ll get, and the good will you’ll achieve on behalf of your organization, will be worth it.

I do think that meeting your key social network contacts in person or at least by phone, is crucial. I have found my online contacts in any category are significantly enriched by learning more about each of them in person, making that face-to-face connection, and discovering more about their personal interests, especially which ones you share. This is true for marketing or sales contacts as well as media contacts.

How aggressive should you be? Again, that depends on the individual contact. I have found that it works best to start out with a genuine, friendly, but professional approach, ideally mentioning a common friend or interest, and pay close attention to how the new contact responds. Usually, if you listen and remain aware, you’ll be able to discern what type of approach and how frequent, will work most effectively. If in doubt, you can tactfully ask how each person prefers that you contact them.

Most media outlets have guidelines, although not all bloggers do, for instance. You can simply ask individual media contacts for their contact or public relations guidelines. They probably will not fault you for being a “newbie�? or for asking an intelligent question; or you can ask someone who knows a particular contact how to approach him or her.



Brian Solis

The art of relationships is based on the same principles and intentions online as it is in real life. In Social Media these days, we tend to get caught up in the coolest tools and forget that this is all about people.

Getting Social Media “to work�? has less to do with what you have and more to do with who you know, who you should know, and how you communicate with them now and in the future – and it’s ongoing.

Before you can reach out to new contacts, it’s absolutely critical that you monitor where the conversations that matter to you and your business are taking place. Observe. Listen. Read. Embrace the unique dynamics that are inherent to each community.

Once you get a feel for it, participate as a person and not a marketer. This is such an important and pivotal step and is both easy and natural to overlook. Marketers are good marketers. But in the realm of Social Media, the community benefits from people who are good listeners as well as those who are helpful and provide value.

It’s not about how aggressive you engage or whether or not you’re worthy of befriending a-listers. This is about finding opportunities to do so. And, it’s an investment of time in communities, conversations, and relationships; an investment that is radically underestimated by most businesses who wish to reap the benefits of Social Media without the due diligence or effort.

This shares more with the principles of good customer service and relationship building than marketing, popularity contests, or cursory attempts achieving ROI by hollow engagement.

Each community requires dedication and a unique approach to how to find, listen to, and interact with the people that matter to you and to your business. Relationships are based on mutual benefits, so think about what you bring to the table and why before you jump in.

How do you want to be remembered within the social networks you participate? Answer it and then reinforce that impression in everything you do.



Aaron Brazell
I take the approach that everyone who is interested in me, interests me. Therefore, if I have totally random people follow me on Twitter or friend me on Facebook, I inherently trust them enough to add them as friends as well. As long as that trust isn’t violated in some way, I’ve found it to be an incredibly productive way of engaging with people I might not otherwise know.

There are these “social media starter kits�? floating around which gives a person or company a headstart on important people they should be engaging with. I find this concept tremendously offensive because it puts some individuals on a higher plane than others and, though that is the nature of life, it counteracts the “level playing field�? that new media is supposed to create. It also prevents a company marketing a product from having to do their own homework and engage in the community themselves.

Traditional PR put Chris Anderson on a list of “important people�?. He was probably on one of these “social media starter kits�?. The folks that engage in the community in this way are asking to be burnt, or in the case of the hundreds of PR people who pitched Chris, outed.



Chris Brogan
The contacts are the key, but it appears from your question that you’re comparing social networking to traditional, schmooze-based networking. Neither are especially effective at getting a trusted network in place. Instead, you have to build value with the network of contacts you select. How? Sometimes it’s as easy as communicating with them, paying attention to what’s of interest to them, and then slowly introducing things of yours that matter to you. It’s not the same as old fashioned handshaking, business card exchanging, and “what can I do for you?” exchanges.



Doug Haslam
Any social network, online or off, is defined by the people in it. A combination of number and quality will get you results. Bringing contacts with you gives you a head start, but is not necessary. For one thing, are you already getting value from those contacts outside of the social network you are entering? If yes, then their best value here is to extend your network.

As for aggressiveness, use the same common sense you would in any outreach campaign. Find that line between effective outreach and spam, and come as close as you can without going over. That sounds cynical, but my point is: yes, you need to be aggressive to grow a network quickly. To use a personal example, to grow my network on Twitter, I looked through friends’ networks for potentially like-minded marketing/public relations individuals and followed them. If they “followed�? me back, great. If not, I might eventually drop them as well. The percentage of success, because I targeted, was high, and I feel I get a lot of value, personally and professionally, from this network.

To bring those two thoughts together, the network you grow through aggressive-enough outreach becomes the contacts you take with you to other platforms; my Facebook network, for example, is largely made up of people I know from Twitter.

As for your Chris Anderson example; as a public relations person, I would be looking for feedback on whether my pitch is suitable for Wired magazine. Generally, a note isn’t enough. If you have an opportunity to connect on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, or some other network, you should do it. You need to be where your audience/targets/customers are most likely to engage, and those can be different places for different people.

******
Jonathan
In my experiment I believe I tended to take much more of a wait and see mentality, which was probably good given my experience level within these communities. But my expectations were definitely not in line with my level of activity. Now that I understand better how these things work I feel like I can be more proactive in reaching out to people. And as many have said here, in general people will not fault you for being new to the game as long as you a) do your homework, and b) are genuine in your approach.

Last up on Friday – how can I build better mechanisms into the framework to increase feedback?

Social Networking round-table articles:

  1. Did I devote enough time to the exercise? More to the point, where should social networking be placed in terms of marketing priorities? Does this change for companies that are more or less mature?
  2. How should we be judging the outcomes from social networking activities? Are there tools you recommend?
  3. Is social networking the right tool for the tests I created? Are my expectations of social networking in line with what it can do? What is social networking best geared to address?
  4. How much of getting social networking to work is the contacts you bring with you? How aggressive should one be in reaching out to new contacts? Should I, for instance, try to befriend Chris Anderson even after I have composed a note meant to appeal to what he is interested in?
  5. How can I build better mechanisms into the framework to increase feedback?

Previous blog articles in this series:

Can you digg it? I knew that you could – The Great Social Experiment

The Great Social Experiment – #1 Getting Started

The Great Social Experiment #2 – Will You Be My Friend

The Great Social Experiment – #3 owwww, i’m u’r biggest fan

The Great Social Experiment – How has it gone?

Oh and don’t forget to use the social networking tools below to share and enjoy – part of the experiment right?

tags

The Great Social Experiment – Roundtable Question 3: The Right Tools for the Job?

REPOST from original series started on blog.thinkfree.com back in September of 2007

Back in September I began a series experimenting with social networks to view their effectiveness in helping organizations expand their reach, and be included in conversations about their industry wherever those conversations occur.
Now it is time to look at the results. The other day I introduced the panel (Aaron Brazell, Chris Brogan, Doug Haslam, Cathryn Hrudicka and Brian Solis) and the questions on the table.

Today the third question: Is social networking the right tool for the tests I created? Are my expectations of social networking in line with what it can do? What is social networking best geared to address?



Doug Haslam
First, I would like to make sure we are defining terms, even though we are already into the third question. “Social networking�? does not need to mean “online social networking,�? and your experiment dealt with the online world. So to answer the broad question, any form of social networking is germane. To answer about online social networking specifically; according to your stated goals, yes. If you are “talking about things that interest us in the Web 2.0 space,�? then online social networks will likely find a receptive audience. Plus, if you are building a “better social media marketing toolkit,�? then there is no better audience for giving you quality feedback than one that is already there.

My question for you, and it addresses the last part of your question: who are your customers? It strikes me that there is significant opportunity for ThinkFree outside of the social networking early adopters (not early? How about “already” adopters then). If you are relying solely on the input of the people on the social networks already, then you are missing some potentially valuable feedback from a much wider audience. In this case, traditional marketing communications methods: direct mail, email, even telemarketing; may be necessary. I suggest that knowing that they are not typically interactive media, but still may be the only way to reach some parts of your audience.

To summarize, to get to your audience, go where they are; don’t make them come to you. The best part about your experiment is that you certainly must have found where your best audience resides, at least within the realm of the online social networks.



Cathryn Hrudicka

From my own experience with my business, and from doing campaigns on behalf of my clients (or advising them), I would emphasize that you or your organization needs to plan a strategic, integrated branding, marketing, public relations, advertising and social media campaign—everything needs to work together. Just signing up for a bunch of different social networks and hoping something will stick or gain traction is not enough. It is also essential to keep track of your results, as much as you can, in each of these areas over a period of at least six months to a year. In particular, Social Media and social networking are so new that we are still figuring out how to get accurate demographics to track results.

Instead of thinking only in terms of isolated “tests,�? which is more of a direct marketing tool, it is important to think more holistically and long-term. Social networking is best geared toward having a real, two-way conversation with other participants. It may even take you a little while to figure out how specific individuals will be able to help you or add value, and you also need to be able to understand what you or your organization can contribute to them—it works both ways. Sometimes valuable feedback can come from unexpected sources, and connections can be made by serendipity as well as strategically.

You need to be open to different possibilities you may not have considered before. The concept or paradigm of social media and networking is based on mutual contribution, conversation, community and collaboration. That is a relatively new way for companies to think, in comparison with older styles of public relations, marketing and advertising, which were based on one-way communication and competition. Social networking fosters alliances and collaboration. It requires creative thinking, flexibility, adaptability, and ongoing innovation.



Brian Solis
In order for businesses to understand the value and focus of a valuable social media campaign, it requires a dedicated strategy, goals, metrics, and a tactical plan.

It all starts with answering two simple questions, “why do we want to participate?�? and “what do we hope to get out of it?�?

The process of answering these questions will define how and where to participate and how to measure success.

The next step is to listen and answer the following questions.

Where are your competitors?

Where do key words take you?

Are there conversations taking place about your company, products, and if so, where?

You’ll find that there are hubs across Social Media that will require your participation. In ThinkFree’s case, Facebook, LinkedIn, Digg, ThinkFree Docs, and most importantly, the company blog, would be the areas of immediate concentration. Plaxo, Twitter, and others, might require attention and effort at a later time.

ThinkFree’s business would benefit from the promotion of the great content residing in ThinkFree Docs, the capabilities of ThinkFree Office and also the ability to source and promote content from and to the community across other networks.

But it requires time, investment, cultivation, sincerity, and, it is not an overnight process.

Each network represents a collective of various groups of people who orbit an axis of common interests and each group as well as each network maintains its own ecosystem. Basically, what this means is that each community serves a different purpose, not just in who you reach, but how and why. The discussions and the very nature of the conversations are different from network to network.

The point that I can not emphasis enough is that you get out of Social Media what you put into it.

You have to observe before you can participate. Doing so will answer all of your questions and even dictate how to engage.



Aaron Brazell
Social networking is an incredible tool, and useful in many cases. In my opinion, the challenge of finding a business partner or an employee is a perfect job for social networking. Other forms of social media also lend themselves to this. For instance, blogs can be a tremendously effective way to passively evaluate candidates.

Press releases are a different matter. Traditional press releases don’t play well in the social media sphere, but some companies like Ford and Dell have discovered amazing success with the social media press release that crosses into the YouTube and Facebook realms. Social networking can actually be a doomsday prophet for a traditional PR effort.



Chris Brogan
Social networking isn’t something as easy, absolute, and measurable. It’s all about trust networks, not just online pathways. So though social networks were probably a great tool for what you set out to do, it really depends more on HOW you leverage them.

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Jonathan
In answer to Doug’s question, we know that a substantial amount of ThinkFree subscribers are probably not avid users of online social networking tools. Obviously some are, and this exercise has, as Doug suggested, given us a better understanding of which networks. I think where we can draw the most leverage from our marketing campaigns – to comments that everyone made – is in finding innovative ways to integrate all facets. To be honest I have been running this test in a bit of a sandbox, off to the side. I think I could have done a lot more to use direct email, social networking, traditional press releases in combinations that make sense and improved the results. Again, I probably did not lay the groundwork enough ahead of time – proving that as a member of any given community I can be expected to participate rather than just sit back and try to push my agenda on everyone. And as the experts said last time – know your tools, which ones are best for which jobs.

Next on Wednesday – how aggressively should you try to get connected?

Social Networking round-table articles:

  1. Did I devote enough time to the exercise? More to the point, where should social networking be placed in terms of marketing priorities? Does this change for companies that are more or less mature?
  2. How should we be judging the outcomes from social networking activities? Are there tools you recommend?
  3. Is social networking the right tool for the tests I created? Are my expectations of social networking in line with what it can do? What is social networking best geared to address?
  4. How much of getting social networking to work is the contacts you bring with you? How aggressive should one be in reaching out to new contacts? Should I, for instance, try to befriend Chris Anderson even after I have composed a note meant to appeal to what he is interested in?
  5. How can I build better mechanisms into the framework to increase feedback?

Previous blog articles in this series:

Can you digg it? I knew that you could – The Great Social Experiment

The Great Social Experiment – #1 Getting Started

The Great Social Experiment #2 – Will You Be My Friend

The Great Social Experiment – #3 owwww, i’m u’r biggest fan

The Great Social Experiment – How has it gone?

Oh and don’t forget to use the social networking tools below to share and enjoy – part of the experiment right?

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