The social media revolution came fast and furious over the last 5 years, and I believe that we’ve entered a new era over the last year. I wouldn’t call it “post-social”; while we are definitely past the heady days of early adoption, there are in my opinion still boundless opportunities in the social sphere. To use a financial analogy, with some big stocks like Microsoft, Apple and Google, if you had jumped in early, you could have become insanely rich and if you got in a few years later you’d only be very rich.
In my experience, social media is about social (connecting/community) and media (content). I’ve now been blogging for 4 years (I was on Facebook in ’07, Twitter in ’08, Tumblr in ’08, and WordPress in ’09), and it’s humbling how many connections I’ve made and how many people have read content that I’ve created. I’m a big advocate of getting people to share via blogs and Twitter (I just passed my 10,000th Tweet), so thought I’d share some thoughts on what most of us already know: there’s a big difference between just doing something and doing it well, but too often there are competing pressures or processes that get in the way of doing a great job.
Here I am with James Urquhart and Christofer Hoff at Cisco Live 2009, we were all Tweeting on our Blackberries at the beginning of this video. SQUIRREL!
First on the social side, I consider myself a people person and am active in a number of communities (lots of IT, innovation, social media). I read as much as possible, share what excites me and try and add to the conversation. Feedback through social interactions encourages me to put in the extra effort to write more or interact online (the Twitter retweet or Facebook comment provides the same dopamine ping that we used to get from email beeps in the ‘90s before email volumes became ridiculous). It always helps to understand the target audience for what you’re creating and being active in a community will give your shared items the network effect.
On the content creation side, in addition to blogging and Twitter, I enjoy giving presentations and recording videos that we do in theCUBE at conferences. Research, preparation and hard work separate a good presentation or interview from a mediocre one. A strong narrative or storyline help an audience to connect with both types of presentations. An audience can tell the difference between someone that is prepared, really knows the subject and can feed off of the passion of the presenter. As an example, readers of my blog will be familiar with my FCoE work and likely the YouTube video I did 4 years ago. The format was standard for EMC, there are 100’s of EMC whiteboard videos, yet that particular video has orders of magnitude more views. First of all, it was great timing (I was a non-Cisco person explaining a relatively “hot” technology–brought to market by Cisco–that spanned across storage, networking and virtualization). Second, it was a technology primer, not a product or company pitch. Third, I had seen lots of whiteboard videos, knew what I liked and didn’t as a viewer and worked hard to have a short, focused presentation (I try to follow Mark Twain’s advice – if I had more time, I would have made this writing shorter). Finally, once it was launched, I had the boosting of social media and the internet: I blogged about it, it was picked up and embedded by other blogs and news sites, and it was posted on FCoE.com. Good preparation, execution and follow-through are not easy, and my going “viral” isn’t something that I could ever hope to explain.
I work on many of the Infographics that Wikibon creates, and we strive to fuse strong data points, a good narrative and attractive design (we work with creative teams) so that we’re not putting out “Infocrapics”. Design is very important, as Dan Pink said in his book A Whole New Mind, those who can fuse right-brain and left-brain solutions together (Apple engineering + design is a classic example) can thrive in the economy where commoditization and globalization are disrupting so many industries.
Scott Adams (the Dilbert guy) said at a conference that we make our own luck by looking out for opportunities, trying and persevering on things that pop up that others would likely ignore. I got on Twitter because PR asked for help, did that YouTube video to help marketing, and started blogging thanks to encouragement from the social community. I try to say yes to most requests to share information; time spent with journalists looking for information or participating in podcasts or videos is always rewarding. There’s an insatiable demand for good content in the world. And while I’m a small fish in the blogger world, I know that it’s relatively easy to get connected to some very important people through engagement and sharing of ideas.
Some questions for the next phase of social:
As social adoption grows, is your network an echo chamber?
How do you keep community and fun in social so that it doesn’t become un-social and irrelevant?