I Kickstarted Diaspora – Step 1 in Quitting Facebook

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I’ve been wanting to make an investment in some Kickstarter program for a while. A friend of mine got involved in the early pre-alpha stage, but I couldn’t find a project that I got that passionate about until now. I love Kiva and the idea behind it, but the idea behind something that could radically change social networks is pretty sweet too. These guys could easily steal my percentage of the $70K that they raised and go buy beer too, which is cool too and I’m happy to support them for having the chutzpah for doing that. I’ve never really been able to get behind Facebook. I post all of my updates via Twitter and respond to email from about 4 people on it. I find it a bit mundane in terms of what is being shared and I, no offense, only have a few friends that add interest and value to my life. The rest is just kind of nice to see. I like these people, but I don’t need the updates about their lunches and they don’t need mine. Frankly, if I lost 90% of my friends (who aren’t really friends but mostly distant acquaintances), I wouldn’t lose a lot of sleep over it. Throw on all of the headache behind the privacy stuff and I start to think about dropping the whole program. I don’t know if I’ll go so far as to completely pull the plug on FB, but I find myself, in my old age, caring less and less about what other people happen to like nor do I feel so compelled to share what I like. Odds are, you don’t like what I like. Jason’s post really swayed me this morning. Not so much to quit FB, which I think is coming for me, but to also start exploring other alternatives. In the words of Archers of Loaf, the underground is over crowded.Diaspora was getting a lot of traction today. I loved the video and really like what these guys are trying to do. I think that old people are going to have a tough time getting it, but if you think about bitorrent for social networks, that sums the premise up nicely. It is obviously still a long ways away from going primetime and having grandma hit you up for a friend request, but I don’t think that it is as far away as others are saying. $70K buys a lot of coding time from 4-talented devs living on raman and Coke. If I can launch an open source version of FB for free in 15-minutes (terrible video), these guys can do it in 3-months.Of course, the Diaspora video also seems like this is the kind of scam that was concocted over large amounts of cheap beer and bad coffee, so who knows.UPDATE – TechCrunch, of course, has a another post on Diaspora.

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Twitter, Voyeurism & Small Towns

My friend Chris makes a great argument that Twitter, while getting popular amongst niche circles, will never cross over into true mainstream like Facebook has.
I don’t buy the idea that Twitter will be like the invention of the phone, cell phone or computer, where this narrow set of first adopters paves the way and then a floodgate of regular people follow. That time has passed. It’s actually the masses that have (ironically for a social technology) revolted from Twitter because it’s been crammed down their throats in the media and on the Web, and regular people have balked at it. They are happy to say “I don’t get it, and I don’t want to get it.” Facebook happened more organically in dorm rooms because people saw a need for it. People immediately find their friends there, and that matters.
If Chris is talking specifically about the brand Twitter, I would contest that it is too early to tell whether or not Twitter is the ‘it’ application that mass media portrays that it is.  Micromessaging, though, is here to stay.
I look at Twitter like the Friendster of micromessaging. There is a chance that Twitter could devolve and die like Friendster did, making way for MySpace which faltered making way for Facebook.
But I don’t see micromessaging dying anytime soon. In fact, I only see it getting more and more prominent.
People by nature are egotistical and everyone believes that they have something vital to say. As soon as the printing press became common, people were posting bills and handing out fliers sharing their ideas / opinions. I’m quite sure that there was some guy on a high hill shouting smoke signals. There was ham radio, CB’s, fanzines on photocopiers, CompuServe forums, email lists, blogs and now Twitter.
To further show my point, I looked at the town where I grew up.  A small town, not a very technologically sophisticated town of about 3,000 people.
People love to shout out their thoughts and love being voyeuristic and see what other people are doing. Micromessaging isn’t going away anytime soon.

My friend Chris makes an interesting argument that Twitter, while getting popular amongst niche circles, will never cross over into true mainstream like Facebook has.

I don’t buy the idea that Twitter will be like the invention of the phone, cell phone or computer, where this narrow set of first adopters paves the way and then a floodgate of regular people follow. That time has passed. It’s actually the masses that have (ironically for a social technology) revolted from Twitter because it’s been crammed down their throats in the media and on the Web, and regular people have balked at it. They are happy to say “I don’t get it, and I don’t want to get it.” Facebook happened more organically in dorm rooms because people saw a need for it. People immediately find their friends there, and that matters.

If Chris is talking specifically about the brand Twitter, I would say that it is too early to tell whether or not Twitter is the ‘it’ application that mass media portrays that it is.  Micromessaging, though, is here to stay.I look at Twitter like the Friendster of micromessaging. There is a chance that Twitter could devolve and become irrelevant like Friendster did, making way for MySpace which faltered making way for Facebook.But I don’t see micromessaging dying anytime soon. In fact, I only see it getting more and more prominent.People by nature are egotistical and everyone believes that they have something vital to say (bloggers especially). As soon as the printing press became common, people were posting bills and handing out fliers sharing their ideas & opinions. I’m quite sure that there was some guy on a high hill smoke signaling his ideas. There was ham radio, CB’s, fanzines on photocopiers, CompuServe forums, email lists, blogs and now Twitter.To further show my point, I looked at the town where I grew up.  A small, not very technologically sophisticated town of about 3,000 people. A simple Twitter Search of the town name reveals that people there are using Twitter.  These are real people, not some new-media elites grabbing on to this medium. They have a small community and Twitter offers the easiest way to reach them with their ideas and opinions.People love to shout out their thoughts and people love being voyeuristic. Yelling and watching aren’t going away anytime soon.  Neither is micromessaging.What do you think? Is Twitter a flash in the proverbial pan? Leave me a comment and let me know your thoughts.Photo by Fuffer – who has great cartoons.

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Hey Hombre, What’s Your Nombray?

My one or two regular readers know that I’ve been playing around with different life streaming services for the past few months.  I’m a big fan of building my personal brand, though it is hard to do in a single location.  I’ve got a great personal URL (yeah, Schnaars is tough to spell, but you get it), but anyone that is interested in finding out more about me needs to go to Twitter, FriendFeed, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.  So I have a brand that I’m cognizant of, but I don’t have everything in a single location.  If people want to find out about me, it’s like they have to go to 5 or 6 different stores, when they could just go to Target.I tried using SweetCron, but found it far too complicated to get installed, administrate and customize.  The cool part about SweetCron is how clean it looks for the end user, but at the end of the day, it was far too difficult for me to use.I love FriendFeed and I think that it is a great aggregator of content from various sources, but from a personal branding stand point, it is somewhat limited.  There are also only limiting ways to get your content from FriendFeed from their site to mine. Why send someone to another site that, while about me, is really about them?A few weeks ago, I was looking at my friend Sean O’Malley’s site and I totally dug the way that it looked.  He had everything that I wanted, a named URL and all of the sites that had his personal information all aggregated in a common site.  After doing a bit of poking around, I discovered that it was run by a service called Nombray, a service that lets you own your name and all of the content that you create.A few days after I mentioned to Sean how much I liked the site, he introduced me to Chris Lunt, CEO of Nombray.  Chris and I spent some time together recently talking about Nombray and the importance of having a personal domain.  As a personal branding service, I think that Nombray is second to none. I immediately signed up with http://schnaars.org.

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The admin screen, as you can see above, is incredibly simple.  You simply point to the site that you want to add to your page and it automatically adds a tab.  Tabs can be moved around, notated, added and removed as simply as anything. If there is a better tool for building your own brand, I haven’t found it.Chris and I also talked about the impact that a service like Nombray can have on small businesses that incorporate their name.  If you’re John Smith and you own Smith and Sons, you need to have an online presence that is more than http://smithandsons.com.  You need to have a Twitter account. You need to have a Facebook page. You need to have a LinkedIn page.  You need to have 8 – 10 other services as well that show off your business.This is poses a challenge to many small businesses that simply don’t grok social media.  Nombray can help.  Chris and his team are working on a really nice premium version that will be available to small businesses (think law firms or doctors offices). The service will not only help you manage your personal domain, but also will help to aggregate the other social networking services to help spread your brand.  The value for a small business should be pretty huge.If you aren’t using a site like Nombray, how are you managing your personal brand?

Fill The House – My Guest Post on Restaurant Job Board

I recently did a guest blog post on The Restaurant Job Board blog about how restaurants could use social media to drive traffic to their places.  Here it is.I have a great pizza place by my office SpotPizza. Being from Philadelphia, I’m kind of a pizza snob, but Spot is pretty good, plus the owner is a really nice guy that remembers me when I come in and has the staff make white cheese pizza exactly the way that I like it. He has a huge fan in me.What he doesn’t have, or it least as it appears to me when I’m there or walk by each night, is a lot of business. SpotPizza needs 1,000 fans of the place just like me. It is a shame, that with so many social networking companies being literally blocks away, that they aren’t taking advantage of some of these tools. Maybe they are, I just haven’t seen it.The great part about social media is that you can build your local presence with only a little bit of elbow grease, not a huge marketing budget. More importantly, social media offers much more of a personal touch. If I ran a restaurant, especially in a hip area, here are some of the tools that I’d leverage in order to drive more traffic and sell more high margin products.Search Marketing – When I was at Yahoo, I had a huge vision for local search marketing. When we announced that we would be able to target to a zip, I thought local restaurants would be crazy not to sign up for the service. It just seemed like the most no-brainer effort you could imagine. It’s lunch-time, someone does a search for ‘lunch 94089′, I want my restaurant to be at the top of the list. In fact, since you only pay per click, I’d want my name to come up every time a food related search is performed in the zip codes that are within a 10-mile radius of my restaurant.I’d leverage cookies to identify how frequently a person hits my site from this search and serve up different offers. First time here, come on down for ‘kids eat free’. Second time ‘Bring this coupon for free appetizers’ and so on. I’d work to be so pervasive that the person wouldn’t think of anywhere else to go eat.Facebook – Your town has a group in Facebook. It has to. The little town that I grew up in has a bunch of groups, so your town must have a group. Join it. Post to it. Post special offers just for people who are part of this Facebook group. The reason rock stars say things like “Nobody rocks harder than Springfield” is because people love to hear that stuff and they go crazy. Nobody gets a free desert except people who are part of the Facebook group. Wooooo, queue lighters.Make sure that people know that they can be your fan on Facebook too. If someone within 5 miles of your place becomes your fan, you can easily get them to come to your restaurant once a month with a group of people and drop $20 each. $80 for a party of 4. Do that with 100 of your fans and you’ve made eight grand. Should be enough to at least cover your rent.Neighborsville – My friend Ryan is about to launch a new social network called Neighborsville. This is going to be huge and restaurants are going to be all over it. In short, Neighborsville is the social network for your neighborhood. Who comes to your restaurant? People in your neighborhood. Get involved in your community, reach out to people, comment on issues. In general, make yourself well known to everyone within a 5 mile radius of your restaurant.LinkedIn – Are you open for lunch? Do you depend on a lot of business traffic to fill your store at lunch-time? Find the companies that are nearby and infiltrate their groups. Let employees or these businesses know that you exist. You want everyone at every business to think of you the next time that they have a meeting and need catering done.YelpYelp has your most vocal customers. These are people who have actually taken 15 – 20 minutes to complain or exclaim how lousy or great your service is. Not only that, but you, as an owner, have a chance to communicate directly with this most rabid fan base. Reach out to them, find out what they loved or what they hated. If they hated something, get them to come back and make it right. If they loved something, get them to come back and replicate it.Twitter – What a great way to have a real conversation with people that come to your place. Here is a chance, to send a message to people that like your restaurant every day, an hour before lunch or an hour before dinner. Remind them that you are there. Remind them that they are getting hungry. Remind them that if they come by and mention Twitter, the first round of drinks is on the house.Text Messages – I’ve noticed that some restaurants are doing this now, but I haven’t seen any type of consistency or noticed the technology. However, at some of the restaurants in busy shopping districts, I’ve been offered the ability to get a text message when my table is up. It is a great way to keep me close, but not force me to sit in some waiting area.Blogging – If Wolfgang Puck can make an amazing living selling his recipes and frozen foods you can too. Do you have some amazing dish that you serve? Put the recipe in your blog. Trust me, if I have an opportunity to make something and spend $20 on ingredients and probably screw it up or spend $30 to come to your place to enjoy it perfectly over a glass of wine and some friends, I’m spending the extra $10. If your place is good enough, and gets enough buzz, go Rachel Ray and just publish your best dishes in a book. Keep your place, license your name and enjoy the fruits of your labor on a beach in the Caribbean.Hustle Your Face Off – This is something that Gary Vaynerchuk always says. Social media is not a magic bullet. Just because you have a Twitter ID, doesn’t mean that business will some how just show up. You probably will need to spend at least a couple of hours a day monitoring these services and keep the conversation going. Engage with new people, set goals to add at least one new fan a day.Don’t be a Jerk – If you are just setting up these services to spam people that aren’t that interested in what you have to say, you will fail. Set up these services to have a conversation with your customers. The conversation should be no different than one you’d have with your customers if you saw them on the street or if they were at your bar.In the spirit of Kevin Kelly’s 1,000 True Fans, you may not need 1,000 or even 500, but if you can get a couple of hundred, fiercely loyal people to show up at your place just once per month, you’ll have a great business.Here is a link to 20 free books about social media to get you started.http://www.chrisbrogan.com/20-free-ebooks-about-social-media/

My Evil Mad Genius Idea for Social Advertising

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I logged into Facebook this morning and noticed the ad unit to the left.  ‘Hey’ I thought, ‘that looks like my friend Blake‘. Blake is in ad sales, but I know that he doesn’t work at Facebook, so it is obviously just a coincidence that the two of them look alike.But the ad got my attention.  So much so that I pinged Blake and asked him if anyone else had said that he looks like the guy from the Facebook ad. He hadn’t seen it, but did agree that the guy looked a lot like him.Here’s where the mad genius part comes in.  If I’m an advertiser, I buy stock headshots of 10,000 or so models.  Whatever the number is, make it a big enough sample that you have a pretty good chance that most people on the planet will look like someone in that pool.Next, create ad units of people using your product, but make the head dynamic and swappable with any of the 10,000 images that you previously purchased. This doesn’t need to be HD quality video, a simple banner ad will work a’la Facebook.Buy placements on social sites, especially social properties where people have uploaded photos of themselves and so have all of their friends.  Facebook, Google, Hi5, Yahoo, etc.Then, leverage basic facial recognition software to scour the viewers friends and map the friends basic features (skin tone, hair color, hair style, weight, etc) to the database of models. Drop that models head into the dynamic ad unit.The next thing you know, you’ll be saying to your friend ‘It’s amazing how much you look like the guy in the Mercedes, drinking a Pepsi, listening to the latest Nickelback CD’.More importantly, you’re interacting with the ad.Don’t believe me, even Seth Godin has a doppelgangerSo do I.

Yes It Can

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A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about how social media will make the world a better place .  The past Tuesday, I think that this point was proven to the world as a junior senator from Illinois was elected the President of the United States.Much has been written about the way that, over the past 2 years the Obama campaign, has leveraged everything from YouTube to Facebook to MySpace to Flickr to Twitter in order to convey a consistent message and increasingly gather support for his bid for President.  By the end of September, while the McCain camapaign seemed to be making a presence in these new fangled interweb thingies, the Obama campagin was moving full throttle, like Katamari Damacy , gathering up more and more supporters, $5 at a time, with a message of hope and change.In the end, Obama had out raised McCain by over 2 times.  But more importantly than the money raised was the way that Obama reached out so frequently and was so transparent and so consistent with his message.  When I look at the stats of their respective social media sites, it is clear that Obama was far ahead in having a medium that allowed him to communicate asynchronously with his supporters.

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Unlike politics over the past 12,000 years, another unique component of the Obama campaign was the level of transparency and the interest in reaching out to get the opinion of his constituents never before seen.  Obama and staff sent out regular missives, sometimes to the point of being spammy, to all willing to receive them.  These messages were fairly consistent – this is where I will be, this is what we are working on, this is why, please make a donation.  After 8 years of secrecy, this is just another one of things that Obama recognized that people wanted, a level of transparency in their government.  Sounds simple doesn’t it?The past 4 days, since Obama’s election have been no less interesting in terms of the usage of social media.  The day immediately following the election, the Obama administration (that sounds great) launched Change.gov , a site maintaining that level of transparency. The site keeps all of the public up to speed with what is going on with the administration and has even asked the public for ideas and job applicants.  Of course, all of this information has been available on some hard to navigate site.  What Change.gov does is make it easy to find and easy to communicate.This past week also saw a lot of Al Gore .  He supposedly signed up for Twitter .  He was on DiggDialog and make the closing talk at the Web 2.0 Summit .  All amazing stuff.As I mentioned in my previous post, I believe that people want to do what is best for the community and do what is best for the environment.  The election of Barack Obama shows that social media can really work to make a tremendous change.  We now have the soon to be President of the US that fully embraces social media as well as the person most outspoken for climate change both building armies of people willing to listen, spread and modify their lives based on their message.It is a great time to be alive and to be part of this happening.

Social Media Will Make (is making) the World a Better Place

I come from a pessimistic family.  Most of the conversations that I have with them, I leave feeling like the world is going to end in any minute. Whether it is the government, the economy, their health, there are only a few minutes left.The pessimism gene somehow managed to skip me.  I’m lucky.  I see everything as the glass being half-full.  More than half-full actually.  No matter how bleak and dark things are, there is always a silver lining.

Dow dumps 1,200 points in a couple of days – Buying OpportunityMcCain / Palin getting good numbers – Election is 4 weeks offHead of Lehman gets $480M – Well, even I have my limits

Part of that, I’m sure, is living and working in the heart of Silicon Valley.  When I moved here 13 years ago, I was confident that this would be the place that would change the world for the better.  I still have that same level of confidence.  This is an awesome place to live and everyday, I hear a new, world changing idea on the train, in the office, at Starbucks.  Everywhere. Like scripts in Hollywood and music in Nashville, everyone here has an idea that will change the world.This place is an idea mecca, but more importantly, people here have the drive and know how to implement these ideas.  People don’t care if they fail.  In fact, they anticipate it.  Who cares? They will come up with another world changing idea in a few more days, implement it and it may or may not succeed.Want some specific examples: Tesla Motors, Google Clean Energy, Twitter, Socialtext (;-P), Solyndra, TED, Pixelated, Facebook, Kiva, StockTwits, BetterPlace and Gnip, just to name a few that have received press in the last couple of days.  It is hard not to be overtly optimistic about the future when this is going on around you all the time.Truth be told, it has been hard to be optimistic the last couple of days.  One of my closest friends passed away, Sarah Palin scares the hell out of me and the stock market has gone into the toilet, yet when I spend any amount of time on Twitter, Facebook or Friendfeed, I’m filled with a tremendous sense of optimism.  The future is very, very bright.If you are a pessimist, you probably hate social media. I can only imagine that the average pessimist makes doom and gloom comments that aren’t productive and aren’t helpful on Twitter.  Eventually, like with any tribe, that person will be kicked out.  No more followers.  Who wants to hear that shit all day?What results is that optimism attracts optimism.  It always has and will as it is human nature.  What is exciting to me, in an optimistic way, is that we now live in a time, in which thousands of optimists, with great ideas and the ability to execute on them can have a conversation with thousands of other optimists and put these ideas into action almost immediately.That is how, no matter what happens in the short term, the world will become a better place.How have you seen social media used for good?  Send me comments.