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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I’m The Mayor of Your House – #crime

At the end of the year, I read Michael Fertik’s great post, 2010: The Year of Atomic Branding on my friend Jennifer Leggio’s blog. I file this under ‘scary – interesting’ and I thought that was the end of it.

A couple of weeks later, I’m in the city for the weekend with my family. We had just trudged through the rain and were sitting in the bar of the St. Francis. The kids having hot chocolate, me having a martini and I checked in on Foursquare. The act of checking in on Foursquare when I’m with my family delights my kids because they like to know the Mayor of places. The act of checking in on Foursquare pisses my wife off to no end and has been the cause of many a shopping spree.

This time, she simply said “So now everyone that follows you knows that we aren’t at home and we are over an hour away. How many people follow you and how much do you trust them not to rob us?’ I wish she would have stopped there, but of course, she follows that up with “How often do you check in, telling the world that you aren’t home, but maybe me and the kids are?”

Flashback to Michael Fertik’s article, the potential threat of oversharing on social networks.

Of course this got me thinking about how safe location based social networks are. How vulnerable are we?

I’ve heard interesting stories about people & stalkers and being dumped or being fired because of FourSquare. I haven’t heard about people being robbed. Yet.

A week or so later, I did a simple check to see how vulnerable we really are. I did a quick search for people in San Francisco sharing their status on Twitter and checked in on FourSquare or Gowalla. It’s a simple query using Twitter’s advanced search capability.

What I found amazed me. People checked in all over the place. FourSquare was living up to it’s reputation. However, an easy cross check from Twitter – where people tend to put their full name and where they live, with WhitePages.com let me easily figure out where people lived. I don’t mean just the city, but also their exact address and even a nice little Google Map with directions to get there.

Of course, not everyone is easy to find on WhitePages.com, but my quick little informal experiment yielded about a 25% hit rate. I got freaked out. No more FourSquare for me. In the old days, burglars would prowl around neighborhoods looking for empty houses.  Today, they simply need to search for affluent neighborhoods and look for people who have checked in at places more than a few hours away.  The movie theater for example.

I took it one step further.  Here is a feed for people who have checked in or are posting “I’m at” the key phrase for both Gowalla and FourSquare.  When people say where they are, they also say where they aren’t (home, for example).

Glad I have an alarm system. How long until someone really malicious does a nice little Twitter / WhitePages mash-up?

Photo by Johnny Grim.

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Putting Email In It’s Place – My SCU Presentation

I had a great time yesterday presenting ‘Putting Email In It’s Place’ with Terri Griffith at Santa Clara University.I always have a tendency to be a bit hard on myself when I present and I’d give myself a mid-low ‘B’, if I had to grade myself.Ideally, this will turn into something that I do once a semester with Terri and I’m looking forward to teaching future classes.Here is my presentation:

UPDATE – The awesome people at Slideshare put me on their home page as a featured presentation. Love them…

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Put Email In It’s Place

Are you sick of being copied on email threads where you really shouldn’t be? You know, ’cause FYI or people want to keep you ‘In the Loop’?Do you spend too much time searching for that old email about that old project for that new employee?Do you get more than 50 emails a day? Are most of them occupational SPAM?If you answered yes to any of these questions, you need to put email in it’s place.Come see me speak at Santa Clara University with Terri Griffith and learn about how email got to this point and how Enterprise Social Software can help to reduce the glut.

SocialText Microblogging Appliance Delivers at Twitter for your Intranet

I’ve been really excited about this latest announcement from my company, Socialtext.  So many organizations are looking for a micro-blogging platform, but don’t want a.) it hosted in the cloud or b.) a full collaborative suite.As a customer of mine said recently, micro-blogging is the gateway drug to social networking. Today it is 140 characters, tomorrow it is blog postings and wiki edits.SocialText.

Why Sales People Need Social Media

If you are in sales, you need to read this white paper put out by Axel Schulze and his team at Xeequa: 10 Reasons Sales People Need to Care About Social Networking [PDF].It offers a number of very compelling reasons why you, as a sales person, need to leverage social media as much as possible.  Some hits:

A) All of the following 10 aspects have one common objective:Create a better customer experience for your clients that allows you to compete in a smarter way with a much higher degree of effectiveness.B) The “Social Media Question” is not whether you or your company is ready.It is whether you or your company can catch up with your customers who are already there.

Today, prospective customers (like all of us) search the Internet, read blogs, forums & group discussions, ask questions in their social networks, join on-line communities, and, in the end, know very well what they want, where to buy, and how much to pay. The more significant the purchase, the more completely the customer educates himself.

All in all a social media savvy sales person has 3 major advantages over the one who care less:1) They know much more in much less time about the same customer than their competitor2) Even more important, that same customers knows so much more about the sales person and where and how to reach them, that the competition has a hard time to even have a conversation.3) A positive relationship between buyer and seller has begun, even before any direct contact or face-to-face meetingThe rest of the paper is excellent.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Convince your boss to let you use this stuff.  It will make  you a better sales person.

BuzzGain – Do It Yourself PR

My friend Mukund Mohan launched his new company, BuzzGain, today.  BuzzGain is an awesome service allowing companies to do their own public relations and keep track of media relations in a web 2.0 world.First, the overview from Mukund himself:

BuzzGain is an online service for discovering and connecting with the people who will help your business thrive in today’s social economy – where attention is a precious commodity. It empowers businesses to identify the previously hidden communities who are actively defining and shaping its future, including blogs, flickr, YouTube, Twitter, and also traditional media.Much more than a Social Media monitoring solution, BuzzGain reveals influential voices and corresponding conversations so that companies can listen, learn, and effectively engage in the connection and culmination of vital and mutually beneficial relationships.Key Points:- BuzzGain provides socially networked suite that connects companies to the conversations that will help foster valuable relationships, increase customer acquisition and loyalty, and garner invaluable market intelligence.- It is ideal DIY solution for PR, marketing, competitive analysis, sales research and customer engagement.

- Pricing is $99 per month for companies under $100m in revenue, $100m – $1 billion is $500 per month, those with over $1b is sales is $1,000 per month.

I’ve been using BuzzGain since last summer as part of the alpha and just love it.  I’ve used it in two ways that I find really helpful from a sales and to manage my personal brand.  Managing your personal brand with BuzzGain is great.  I run a campaign on “Scott Schnaars” regularly to see who is linking to me and mentioning my name.  I’m not that popular so it is pretty easy to do, but I just love the way that BuzzGain scours so many sources.  Most recently, I discovered that one of my Flickr photos was linked to an article on Enterprise 2.0, which spawned a great conversation with the writer.From a sales standpoint, I run regular campaigns on both my company and on all of our competitors.  Because BuzzGain goes so deep, I get much more information than I would from a Technorati search.  I also get a great glimpse as to how the various brands are being perceived in the marketplace and I’m able to keep negative competitive reviews in my arsenal of tools.The service is in beta and the UI still requires a little bit of work, but I know that the team is working hard to clean that up.  Leaving that aside, the content that BuzzGain will pull for you will be invaluable and you will easily be able to overlook the short term looks.  At the price point, it seems like a no-brainer for companies, large and small, looking to make immediate impact with their own PR push.[UPDATE] Check the review on TechCrunch.

If This is Twitter’s Business Model, It Isn’t Good

There was much hubabaloo yesterday about a potential business model for Twitter.  ReadWriteWeb, Jason Calacanis & The Blog Herald all echo’ed kind of the same thing.  I even had a brief conversation, via Twitter, with Elizabeth Potts Weinstein.  The subject was of a possible business model for Twitter suggesting companies to follow upon a new users sign up in exchange for a nominal fee for advertisers.  A $1 was the suggestion.I don’t buy it.  In fact, I think that it is a horrible idea for a business model for Twitter.

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First, for adoption, I think that it is great that Twitter is suggesting people that you should follow.  Nothing is worse than not following anyone.  But I don’t expect that new people signing up for Twitter will want to rush right in to follow some brand, Woot for example, just because it is on the list.  Nor do I expect that anyone will want to scroll through a long list of advertisers to find one they like.Second, as an advertiser, Twitter is free.  Why do I want to pay even a dollar to get followers?  Twitter offering such a service to advertisers simply creates noise that is worthless to users and advertisers.  Rather than paying $1,000 to get 1,000 followers that don’t care about my brand, why not pay someone to build a personality and relationships and gain followers that really do care?People don’t follow companies to be advertised to.  I don’t follow Gary Vee to get specials on wine.  I don’t follow Zappos to get discounts on shoes.  I follow these and other brands because I like the personalities and I like that I can interact with Gary or Tony or Frank or Morgan.  The fact that I periodically get a discount on shoes or wine or flights is a perk, but if it got to be just a rolling ad, I’d stop following them.So this doesn’t work for the end user.I kind of see how it might be attractive at first to advertisers in the short term, especially class 2 advertisers that are looking to just push ads and not interact with followers, but long term, why pay for something that is free.No, Twitter should focus on offering a premium version and limiting the free version.  Look at the success that Flickr has had with the same model.  For those that it is important to, they will pay for it.  For those that don’t care, they can get a limited version for free.  The free version would have limited API calls and ads in the streams to lower bandwidth and increase revenue.The premium version would have a much higher number of API calls (though I think the current 100 an hour is plenty), no ads in the streams, no limits on followers, etc.There is some debate about how many users are on Twitter today, ranging from 3 – 8M users.  Assume that 5% of the users are willing to pay $25 a year and that gives Twitter a $3.75M – $10M revenue stream.  Not a bad start, plus they will be able to deliver significant cash flow right away under this model. Perhaps, even in the free version, they push the occasional ad stream.  Twitter ads could even be contextual.Now that would be scary.

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/