Monday, 27 August 2007

Being Social Media Ready

As mentioned in my previous post, Facebook and other social media tools have been receiving some pretty bad (old) media attention lately, especially in relation to the loss of productivity of workers.

To a certain extent, I agree that this can be a issue with some people, but I think those people would find other ways to be unproductive if they weren't using Facebook. I'm sure they were just as unproductive before Facebook entered their lives.

The other day I came across this post by social media and networking expert (and PodCamp co-founder) Chris Brogan, which puts the issue of social media and productivity into perspective I think. Chris asserts that nowadays, if you "want to be considered for something, or if you want greatness to find you, or if you want to be part of all this great, amazing stuff going on", you need to be ready. Here are 5 ways in which Chris advises people to be ready:

  1. Make it easy for people to contact you.
  2. Make it easy for people to understand what value you bring
  3. Be there. It’s easier for people to include you.
  4. Be EVERYWHERE. Use social media tools.
  5. Have something to bring to the picnic.
I think this is great advice. It makes the claim that people are wasting their time using social media tools all the more ridiculous don't you think? Is it actually possible to really "be ready" these days without using social media tools on a regular basis? It really opens up a world of opportunities that would not exist without these tools.

I'm beginning to hear stories of people connecting through facebook for work and business purposes, as well as for play. Social media tools such as Facebook are becoming part of the way people make additional work connections. Connections are being made with people in regional offices, partner companies, with potential clients, with previous colleagues and even with potential recruits.

I myself have been able to take advantage of work opportunities secured through LinkedIn, and I've made numerous new work connections through Facebook and Twitter. I've even made contact with people working in US offices through a new work Ning network. I would not have made many of these new connections without the aid of social networking tools.

Thursday, 23 August 2007

Time To Bash New Media, Again

Is it just me or has there been more than the usual amount of new social media bashing going on in old media lately?

Earlier this week Steven Lewis and Laurel Papworth wrote posts about the ridiculous SMH article, Facebook labelled a $5b waste of time. Steven asserted that this article brought into play his "favourite media ploy: the nonsense statistic"

Laurel maintained that "They HATE us. With a passion. Every article about blogs, wikis, Facebook, MySpace and social networks is one about stalkers, paedophiles, time-wasters at work, mis-information, and- God help us - poor grammar/spellingz?"

In addition, there has been more than the usual amount of Second Life bashing going on lately. This post outlines the string of articles that have appeared recently in publications such as Forbes, the LA Times and The Wall Street Journal.

The question is: why is this happening now? Could it be that old media is beginning to feel more than a little threatened by new social media, and that people feel compelled to criticise what they can't understand?

Could it also be that most brands entering SL (or rather those advising brands) are approaching the Second Life community in an inappropriate way. Surely it's a bit early to be declaring the brand experiments in virtual worlds to be a bust. I'm sure the brands that have experimented with social media have learned a lot from the experiences they have already had - others are being left behind by not participating.

Haven't we seen this kind of thing before? I seem to remember that the first time around there were some ups and downs, but in time things began to work out pretty well for a lot of people (and brands) who began working with (what was then) new media and stuck with it.

Monday, 20 August 2007

Are We Always One Tweet Of Separation From Apple?

I had an interesting brand experience today. It began when I phoned the shop where I'm buying a new 17" Apple MacBook Pro. I was disappointed to find out that the non-standard computer I had ordered two weeks ago had not yet been built as promised. Apparently it will take at least another week.

Naturally I was fairly disappointed with this turn of events, and vented a little on Twitter, as a lot of twitterers tend to do in these situations. It was then that I realised that out of my 260 odd Twitter followers, I wasn't aware of anyone who said that they worked at Apple. Considering that there are a few enthusiastic Microsoft Twitterers, this seemed fairly strange.

Somewhat provocatively, I decided to try and find someone, anyone from Apple via Twitter, to see if I could connect to them. I asked my existing Twitter friends if anyone knew someone from Apple on Twitter.

Within half an hour I received a notification that my twitter was being followed by a guy who then tweeted that he hoped he could help me. It turned out that he worked for Apple. A bad experience had eventually turned into a good one because someone from the company was prepared to engage with me. The mere fact that he was prepared to communicate with me in that way made me feel more positive towards the company.

He mentioned that many people from Apple are not actually allowed to "be Apple" on the internet; that is, they are not supposed to let a lot of people know they are Apple employees. Apple does of course monitor the web to see what people (and employees?) are saying about Apple, but it appears that they won't allow most employees to respond for various reasons.

What do you think about this? As far as social media (blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Second Life etc) is concerned, do you think this is a good policy to have? In general, do you think that companies are missing the boat by not being fully engaged with social media, and with the millions of their customers using it?

Sunday, 12 August 2007

Are Interconnected Virtual Worlds The Future Of The Web?

A LOT seems to have been going on in the arena of virtual worlds lately. Amongst other events, Disney acquired Club Penguin (a virtual world for kids) for $350 million. Mattel has even launched a Barbie Girls virtual world. According to Techcruch, Barbie Girls hit 3 million users in just the first 60 days in operation.

Some other virtual world efforts include There, Entropia Universe, Cyworld, Zwinktopia, Stardoll, Haboo Hotel, Web Kinz, Gaia Online, Neopets. In addition, the newly released Multiverse platform allows people to actually create their own online 3D worlds.

All this activity begs the question: are we going to see an eventual migration to an interconnected network of different 3D virtual worlds on the web? Will we then be able to wander around a 3D virtual web, moving from world to world, perhaps with the same avatar and user profile? If this becomes the case, we would of course still be able to jump back to the 2D web at the click of a button.

A current Business Week article Just Ahead: The Web As A Virtual World addresses this concept. The article points out that Google, Linden Lab and IBM are all working on products based on the belief that this scenario is not just possible, it is on the way.

It does seem clear that it's not going to happen any time soon, but I can't help wondering what the web will be like in 10 years. Is that enough time for this idea to become a reality, and then for it to become mainstream? It does pay to think about what has happened during the last 10 years. This kind of change seems equivalent to the amount of change since the early days of the web.

Significantly, Linden Lab (makers of Second Life) plans to publish the software code for its servers. Developers will then be able to modify it to create their own worlds and build connections between them.

The previously mentioned Multiverse Network, which was founded by some early Netscape employees, has developed avatars that can move from one world to the next. However, people need to use the company's browser which surfs only worlds created using the Multiverse software. Multiverse gives away the tools so that users can build their worlds for free. The Business Week article maintains that more than 200 are in the works.

Within 18 months, the Web3D Consortium (a 3D web standards group) also hopes to launch an avatar that can jump between sites. The Web3D Consortium was formed to

"provide a forum for the creation of open standards for Web3D specifications, and to accelerate the worldwide demand for products based on these standards through the sponsorship of market and user education programs."
It seems clear that highly engaging and entertaining virtual worlds are going to become a big part of the future of the web. I for one have decided to spend more time in Second Life, as well as trying out other virtual worlds. Apart from having fun, I'd like to achieve a good understanding of the the Second LIfe community and how it operates while it's still reasonably early days. However the story plays out, it's certain that there is a lot more for virtual worlds on the near horizon.

What do you think? Are interoperable virtual worlds going to play a central role in the future of the web, or is this just more 3D virtual hype?

Monday, 6 August 2007

Using Twitter In A Crisis

I made an interesting discovery the other day, thanks to @tastybit. It seems that the LA Fire Department is now twittering.

Last week I heard Robert Scoble mention in a Facebook video that if an earthquake struck, he would now turn straight to Twitter to get the latest on the disaster (if his web or mobile infrastructure was up that is, or as soon as it was). Scoble also mentioned that when the (non-terrorist related) explosion happened in New York a couple of weeks ago, he heard about it first on Twitter, well before the mainstream media got hold of it. He was even able to indirectly alert people living in the neighbourhood before they knew about it.

It strikes me that Twitter is a natural source for up-to-the-minute crisis information such as this. It would be an effective way to get information out to quite a few people during an emergency situation - the LA Fire Department obviously thinks so too. There is no doubt that the word would spread very quickly. It may well be the case that people working in the mainstream media might be alerted to a crisis by their Twitter friends in the area.

Thursday, 2 August 2007

What Is Your Social Media Content Worth?

During the past couple of days I've been thinking a lot about what C.C. Chapman said in his passionate Managing the Gray podcast episode Is New Media Selling itself Short.

Amongst other thoughts, he suggests that many new media content producers may be selling themselves short. He thinks that if people are serious about monetising their work (and sure, many people don't want to at all, apart from adding value to their personal brand), it's time to start thinking bigger and more seriously about what it's worth.

If I'm understanding him correctly, he is suggesting that people should be careful that they don't get taken advantage of by some big companies with a LOT of money to spend. He suggests that people should think hard about what their work is worth and not just accept anything they are offered.

I think C.C. has a very good point here. I think that some companies know the real value of some of this content, especially content with sizeable and/or desirable niche audiences. I agree that there is a risk of people being taken advantage of just because it's new media. These are uncharted waters, but I'm sure some companies know they can get a pretty good deal for their marketing dollar at the moment.

I will say that C.C. is speaking from a different environment than we have in Australia. I'm sure the social media landscape is more developed in the U.S. Having said that, it is often a global audience, and coincidently, he does mention and Australian example. I noticed the same example myself. On Twitter, Cameron Reilly from thepodcastnetwork recently mentioned that a high end glossy magazine asked him to write a major article for them for free!

What are your thoughts? In general, do you think that people producing social media content such as blogs and podcasts should take anything they can get at this stage because they are lucky to get anything at all? Is a very small amount better than nothing, even it you think it's worth more? Is it time right to start thinking bigger?