Archive for year 2010


Social media and the Rutgers suicide

I’m sure you were disturbed, as I was, by the story of a young man who committed suicide when his sexual encounter was secretly captured on a video and posted on the Internet.  The tragedy is doubly sobering for me because it occurred at Rutgers University where I begin a social media teaching assignment in a few weeks.

I have read no fewer than three blog posts blaming the social web for this incident and after three it was time for me to stop reading.

Humans have an incredible capacity for evil. We like to think of ourselves as civilized but we are not. We are simply contained.

The social web shines a bright light on whatever humans are already doing, both good and bad.  Blaming the social web for human evil is like blaming a gun for a war.

Awhile ago I wrote a post predicting that by the end of 2011 there would be a social media crime or crisis that would force the channel to be legislated to some degree, probably around privacy.  I doubt this suicide was the case that will do it, but it is inevitable I’m afraid, not because of the inherent problem with the social web, but because of the inherent problems with people.

The Associated Press found at least 12 cases in the U.S. since 2003 in which children and young adults between 11 and 18 killed themselves after falling victim to some form of “cyberbullying” — teasing, harassing or intimidating with pictures or words distributed online or via text message.

In probably the best-known case, a 13-year-old girl hanged herself in 2006 after she received messages on MySpace — supposedly from a teenage boy — cruelly dumping her. An adult neighbor was later found guilty of taking part in the hoax, but the conviction was overturned.

The social web has the ability to heal, connect and create but unfortunately, like its human creators, it will always have the ability to destroy.

Illustration: Original news feed for this article can be found here.

Social Media and the Start-Up (video)

What would you think about starting a high-end coffee business — in a location that had already housed a failed high-end coffee business — in the teeth of a recession?  Oh yeah … there’s a Starbucks down the street.

Sound like a recipe for disaster?  Well, it can be a sweet success if you have the marketing moxie of Brian Myers of Javerde Coffee, the subject of this video interview.

Brian talks about creating an “organic” relationship with customers, bootstrapping with social media, and eventual world domination.

If you’re eager to learn more about entrepreneurship, guerrilla marketing and creative business uses of social media for a start-up, you’ll love this short video clip!

P.S. Sure, they roast their own beans but I was there because they use ice cream to sweeten their coffee drinks.

This is why you will have a career in social media

I’m about to make a prediction that surprises even me.

Social media management will not be absorbed into most company marketing departments and instead will emerge as a stand-alone professional discipline.

I know I’m sounding like some wild-eyed social media hype master here but hear me out, OK?

I’ve been around long enough to see how emerging technologies are absorbed and deployed by corporations.  Believe it or not I can remember a day when I worked without email, let alone websites and search engines.  And over time, the buzz subsides, the technology standardizes, and these new ideas become part of the daily routine. We don’t have “email departments” or “website departments.”  These tools are assimilated by the organization and leveraged by individuals as needed.

So I assumed this is what would happen with the social technologies too but I am begninning to think I’m wrong. Here’s why.

Observe.  In the past four weeks,

  • Twitter announced a major change to its user interface that has significant implications for marketers and many third-party applications.
  • Google unveiled an enhancement that some say will obsolete 80% of conventional search engine optimization strategies.
  • LinkedIn rolled out not one, but four upgrades.
  • Foursquare changed about 50% of its user interface and added new social functionality.  The newcomer also secured a major round of funding and both Facebook and Twitter sought to aggressively enhance their location-based offerings.

In the social space, it’s not just the technology that is changing constantly, it is nearly every rule of engagement.  It’s as if you have finally equipped your tank in time to discover that you’re fighting a battle in the ocean tomorrow.

And to me, that is a very, very big difference compared to any technological integration that has challenged a marketing department before.  There will be relatively few companies who will want to fund their own team of social media experts to stay on top of the daily tsunami of change and provide consistent, meaningful counsel. Over the long term, it will be more economical for companies to hire consultants who are paid to study this stuff day and night and then tell them what to do next.

Simply stated, “social media management” will emerge as a stand-alone career discipline because it will be the most economical and effective way for companies to compete in a world of hyper-change.  It may take some time for companies to realize this, but in the long-term, that’s my forecast of how it will shake out.

What do you think?

Social media and the big conversation “fail”

I am feeling sad and a bit ashamed of myself.

Something happened — a wake-up call about this notion of social media “community” and “conversation.” It’s making me pause and reflect on what we’re really all about here on the social web. What I’m about.

Last year I collaborated with a bright young woman named Jenn Whinnem.   I didn’t know her at all and in fact I kind of pulled her out of thin air to help with a post on sexism on the social web.  She had made a random Twitter comment to me about women and blogging and I suggested that she write about it instead of talking to me about it … and one thing led to another, including a great post called “Is Blogging a Man’s Job?”

Since then, Jenn and I have been regular Twitter buddies and she has been a frequent contributor to {grow} through her comments in the community.

She recently revealed on a guest post on Jayme Soulati’s blog that she has a terminal disease, cystic fibrosis, and suffers every day.  Until this moment, I had put Jenn in the category of “friend” but realized I did not even know this single important fact that dominates her life, in fact dominates every breath she takes.   I hadn’t even talked to her on the phone. I would have heard the coughing. I would have asked her about it. I could have, and should have, known.

I lost sight of what it means to be a friend. It’s a word that has been social-media-cheapened and distorted for a new generation and I got caught up in it too.

While many of us pontificate and debate about the heralded Age of Conversation, I’m realizing we’re not having conversations at all.  Twitter is not a conversation. Commenting on blogs is not a conversation — it’s usually just a comment.  We see these little smiling avatars each day without really having a clue about the person behind the picture.

Isn’t it ironic that a thousand blog posts have been written about the importance of “the conversation” and more truthfully, the social web enables us to avoid conversations through status updates and other non-invasive procedures.

After a speech last week, I hung around to meet people and answer questions.  One young lady had some in-depth questions about how she could improve her business. Obviously I could not effectively answer the questions with 10 people waiting in line to talk. So I gave her my card and said, “Look, just call me. We can talk next week. I’ll try to help you.”  She looked like I had just hit her with a club. Funny how a phone call is regarded as something extraordinary these days.

I’ve decided that I want to do better. I want to have real conversations and make real friends.  I have gained so much from actually talking on the phone — and even meeting — the people on {grow}.  And yet, most of you are still strangers.  Want to talk?

I’ll trust you to handle this in a sensitive way, but if you’re interested, I would love for you to call or Skype me. Seriously. Let me know who you are and what we can do to help and support each other. My phone number is all over the website.  And who knows, I might just randomly call you.

In fact, I think I need to start with Jenn.

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