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Social Media Expertise

I am not an expert on social media.

I am passionate about it because I believe there is great potential to better facilitate communication, collaboration and knowledge sharing using social media.  There are tons of people and businesses I come across that present themselves as social media experts, and I guess in reality you just need to know more than your customer to hold the expert title.  Begin rant now:

Are you an expert in social media marketing claiming you can market for your customers on twitter when your own twittter account was last posted to in 2009?  Or even worse – you just tweet advertising from clients? Or leading people on with your posts?

Can you claim to sell the value of a blog when you don’t blog yourself?  Or you don’t allow comments, or you moderate comments on your blog to only display the comments you want?

Can you claim to be an expert in SEO when your own website fails miserably at SEO?

Really?  Am I missing something?  End rant.

As a business owner you might not know much about social media and how to approach it.  You still need to do your due diligence when selecting  a vendor just like you would with any other service provider.  And in reality if you hire a company to do social media for you, then you are missing the point.

I blog because I find it enjoyable, and because thoughts get into my head that need to be organized (or vented).  I have done talks for free on social media because I am passionate about it and find it fun to challenge peoples status quo.  And I work for an engineering company!

The first step to social media is to listen, then start interacting, sharing your insights and value, provide credibility and thought leadership genuinely about who you are as a person.  Don’t start selling until you have permission, or better yet, let your thought leadership speak for itself.  Solve people’s problems without them even talking with you.  Produce content that is valuable, interesting and unique. Cultivate the relationships you make and make sure you know how your followers are consuming your content.

Now I don’t know what will actually make a person an “expert”, but if people start interacting with you, and consuming your content, then I have to believe you are on the right track.

More good articles on this topic…

If You Call Yourself a Social Media Expert You’re Completely Full of Sh*t
7 Signs Your Social Media Consultant is Really an Expert
Social Media Expert Checklist


Posted in 2.0 Lessons, Business.

Are Gift Cards Keeping Stores In Business?

I was given a gift card awhile back from a big box book store, and while doing some Christmas shopping, I figured I should cash it in, before I lose it.   Normally if I even buy a hardcopy of a book these days, I buy it from, so as I stepped inside the huge bookstore and looked over the insane Christmas crowds, I pulled out my list of books that I was looking for.

Not knowing where to start, I found a fancy looking kiosk where I could type in the title of the book I was looking for. It said there were two in stock in the business section. I found the business section, it had a lot of books stacked on a lot of shelves, and I started looking… 15 minutes later and I had a friendly employee looking with me. Found it! Someone had covered the two copies of the book with another book, hiding it in plain sight! And since I am an efficient kind of guy, I found book number 2, while I was looking for book #1…

Back to the kiosk… and book number 3, now waiting in line behind a  guy whose list was way longer than mine… where did that employee go…  Huh, not in stock?  Book number 4 was in the general community section, whatever that means. I tracked down another employee who walked with me to the other side of the store to hunt this one down. There were 16 copies in stock so it was easy to find. I took my three books back to the front of the store to wait in line to pay. The line snaked back and forth and up the middle of the store (I did say it was Christmas time).  Finally got to the checkout, paid full price for my books and left the store.

So what is point of narrating this shopping trip? Because I rarely go into a store to buy anything anymore. What I can buy online, I buy online. My hour long $105 trip to Chapters would have been a 2 minute $62 sit down at my computer (I just tried it).

How does that make sense? Are gift cards keeping retailers in business? When was the last time you bought a real book, or even worse, a cd?  And boxed software?  Really?  Scott has a great post here on that topic. And how often does the internet not have something in stock?

Wow times are changing.  I don’t think retail stores are dead, far from it, but retailers definitely need to come up with other ideas and products to get people in their stores, or they are going to close up shop – it is happening right now to Blockbuster.

But, just like any other organization, you have to be flexible and change with the times (or lead the times).  Do you know the challenges and changes facing your organization?

Posted in Business, Random Thoughts.

Three Words For 2011

What is your new years resolution?  Don’t bother with one, because you never keep it anyway.

Chris Brogan has me thinking about something new this year. Instead of a new years resolution, come up with three words that are going to define 2011. Three words that can guide you though the year and provide a focus. Not long goals and objectives, just three simple words that resonate with you, and will help you make decisions. Here are mine.


Let’s face it, the last couple years have sucked. Business looks like it has finally started picking up in the last few months of 2010, but it has been a long haul and it has not been fun at work. It is time again to start having fun, play a bit more and enjoy work and family time.  For me that starts with a good work/life balance and training for my first triathlon.


Shout means something different to me than you might think, and in my head it prompts me to give that extra effort when communicating. I am by no means an extrovert or a type I personality. I use this blog, as well as my roles at work to try to keep people informed, share knowledge, and guide decision making. It does not mean getting louder or obnoxious, instead I want to continue getting my message across, find more campaigners, and more listeners. One of the best books I read this past year was Made To Stick, and I read it a couple times just to make it “Stick”. Along with the curse of knowledge, they discuss 6 ideas to get a message to stick. These 6 ideas really have me thinking more about messages I deliver so that they can be better received and followed though on.


I juggle a lot of different things. I find that I am always rushing from one thing to the next, with both work and family. I need to learn to take a break every once and awhile to savour the moment and enjoy it. Savour also has a good food connotation to it, since I am determined to start eating better and find some decent restaurants in London (where I can go play).  Just need to start shouting for a babysitter.

So there are my three words. What are yours?

Posted in Random Thoughts.

Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn – Confused Yet?

There are three main players in the social networking arena, and each has its place.  If you try to use each one the same way, you will get really frustrated, really fast.  And you are probably frustrated enough already.  There is a great tweet that I keep seeing on twitter (don’t know the original source):

Facebook friends are people who you went to high school with, Twitter friends are people that you wished you went to high school with.

I think this very accurately describes the difference between the two networks.

At one end of the spectrum, Facebook is personal and private, no matter how public Mark Z wants to make it.  It is used to plan events, share photos, and communicate with friends.  I don’t use Facebook a lot, but when it comes to getting updates and seeing pics of friends kids, there is no better place online.  A lot of people complain about privacy issues with Facebook, but hey guess what – Be prepared for anything you put up anywhere on the internet to become public, and if you don’t want something to be public, then don’t put it on the Internet!

In the middle is LinkedIn, a Facebook type site for professionals.  LinkedIn is your professional social network on the internet.  I maintain a pretty good profile there and I encourage people to connect with me, and maintain profiles.  There are good connections to be made, decent groups to join, and good conversations to participate in.  Your profile can be private, or it can be public, and your first degree connections pave the way to second and third degree connections, putting a lot of resources at your finger tips.

At the other end of the Spectrum is Twitter.  Twitter is public.  You tweets can be read by anyone at anytime.  I follow people and organizations on twitter that I find interesting,  and that I learn from; and I tweet news and articles that I find interesting, spreading my knowledge to my followers.  The majority of twitter users don’t tweet, they just listen, which is just fine.  It took me quite a while to “get” twitter, but now it is pretty much my single source for news and information.   There are people talking about Knowledge Management and Enterprise 2.0, there are people talking about SharePoint, there are a few good people talking about automation and controls, and a little bit of software, and there is a great local London community that I have started engaging with.  And of course news, some comic relief, and a few good corporate tweeters.

So I tried to explain at a high level what the differences are between the 3 main players.  There are way more details and opinions that could be discussed, but if you want to get into it, the above are good rules to follow.  The last tidbit I will share is this:  Your online profiles define who you are to your followers.  You are only one person, so don’t fake your online presence and try to be multiple people or someone you are not.  Be genuine and passionate.

Any other questions?

Posted in 2.0 Lessons, Social Media.

A Social Media Strategy To Get A Social Media Strategy

UPDATE:  Within 2 hours of this post, @titusferguson from rTraction called me at my desk, and @AndrewEchidna from echidna (who we had already met with, unknown to me) left a great comment below.  It seemed my post got  a couple people interested, but why not others?

So I have a dilemma, or at least JMP does. We know our website needs a refresh (and I am being nice).  Ken and I, along with Paul Wilson, our VP of Sales, have been discussing the website, a content generation plan, and a SEO/Social Media strategy, and have had a few discussions with some vendors.

We are a large control systems integration company. This is an industry in its infancy when it comes to social media and sharing content.  I started and it is like pulling teeth to get contributions, even though the site gets thousands of unique visitors a month… but I digress.

We have lots of smart engineers, and we have hundreds of customers, and have provided thousands of solutions to those customers. We want a new website to help market our company, our employees and our solutions, and a plan to generate consistent value added content. We also have some good ideas (I think so anyway) on a social media strategy, and would like to discuss our approach.

We want to be the number 1 site that Google finds when people are looking for more information on controls, automation, and information solutions!

Have I included enough buzzwords in this post yet? Ideally if someone is out there, marketing the fact that he/she can create functional websites, optimize SEO, and run successful online campaigns to attract more traffic to our site, shouldn’t that person be able to find this blog post?

I am waiting….is anyone listening?

Ok…. seeing as I have not done much marketing on this blog, and don’t have a huge following (yet), I will send this out to LinkedIn and twitter using a couple good #hashtags, and drop a couple of @mentions, hopefully to get a RT that peaks someone’s curiosity.

But don’t you agree I should not have to try too hard? Please RT!

Posted in Business, Social Media Tools.

The Curse Of Knowledge

What prevents people from sharing information or asking questions?

A book I am reading at the moment called “Made to Stick” talks about “The Curse Of Knowledge”.  (More on this awesome book later).  More specifically, they get into stories about people trying to teach a concept to other people.  The storyteller is very knowledgeable about the topic, the listener is not. So the listener has to get the concept from the teacher.  Easy right?  We do this almost every day, helping out our peers.

Try this experiment out (and this is the one that they did in the book):  One person “knocks” a rhythm to a song in their head, while a second person listens to the knocking and tries to guess what the song is.  You hear the song in your head, you are knocking out the rhythm.  It is such a simple song, why do they look so confused?  Why can’t they figure it out? When the researchers actually did the experiment, 50% of the knockers thought that the listener would guess right.  In fact, only 2% of listeners actually guessed right!

What stands out to me is that people take for granted what they know, and what their experience has taught them.  It seems that every single day I recognize this happening.  I catch myself in a situation where I need to pause and evaluate my audience, and I see others doing it constantly.  The other day  @Autom8it posted a question on asking about monitoring the status of an Ethernet module.  In my head I am thinking he just needs to write a simple instruction to get that information from the module.  But that is too easy, he must have a different problem, after all he is a smart guy, I don’t want to insult his intelligence thinking that he does not know about that instruction.  Talking to him a few days later, he had posted his answer – after doing some research and talking to tech support – on exactly the solution I was completely able to give. Doh!!  It never crossed my mind that he would not know how to use that instruction.

This is a curse that everyone with knowledge has – taking what we know for granted, and not thinking it is important enough, or being scared to share.  If you contribute to a wiki page, blog, or ask/answer a question, etc. what is the worst thing that is going to happen?  Someone is going to comment on it?  Improve it?  Re-write it?  Is someone in your organization going to take offense to it?  I doubt it.

The worst thing that could happen is not contributing, not getting the ideas out, and not getting the discussion to happen.

This concept is making me think really hard about how I interact with people every day.

So now that you know what the curse is, what are you going to do about it?

Posted in 2.0 Lessons, Business, Random Thoughts, Social Media.

It’s Time To Dance

It’s like the junior high school dance, everyone is standing along the wall of the Gym, the music is playing, the lights are flashing, and there are a few people on the dance floor busting a move. There are also a few kids on the dance floor that look completely idiotic to us.

The kids busting a move on the dance floor have been doing it for a long time, they are good dancers. We can’t go out onto the floor because we won’t look like them when we start dancing, they are too good, and will make us feel foolish. We laugh at the people dancing foolishly, because we are scared, and it is easier to laugh at someone than to admit that it takes guts to do what they are doing.

20 plus years later, those people that were on the dance floor are leaders and influencers, and are using social media tools to grow and expand their personal and professional networks.

Looking back, what we didn’t know, was that those people on the dance floor did not care what they looked like to everyone else, and they were encouraging us to get out there with them.  The people we thought looked foolish were taking a risk, trying something new, and now we envy them.

When we finally did get out on the dance floor, didn’t we have fun?  Wasn’t there some disappointment over not being there sooner, and missing all the fun others were having?

The safe thing to do was to stay on the sidelines, not give anyone reason to question or pass judgment on us.  The risky thing to do is to get out on the dance floor and just start dancing.

It’s time to dance.

Posted in 2.0 Lessons, Business, Random Thoughts, Social Media.

Setting Up My Blog, Part 2 – Happy Anniversary To Me!

“No single thing in the last 15 years professionally has been more important to my life than blogging” – Tom Peters.

It was one year ago tomorrow that I wrote my first blog post – Just Do It, after I had come across a youtube video with Seth Godin and Tom Peters talking about blogging.  I am a faithful follower of Seth’s blog and his books,  they are truly inspiring.  From leadership advice, decision making (just make one!) and encouraging me to just ship, he is full of seemingly common sense ideas that make major life changes sound so simple.

In part 1 of this post, almost a year ago, I spewed the technical details that got me going, and set some goals for myself.  Looking back, I did not post as much as I would have liked, but I think I nailed the rest of the goals.  My favourite post, Email Is Where Knowledge Goes To Die, has had hundreds of views, and I am getting comments from quite a variety of people on almost all of my posts.  It is also a lot of fun to watch twitter and the re-tweeting going on to spread the word, and even more fun to get quoted in another person’s blog.  That I was not expecting, but very appreciated!  (Thanks @elsusa!!)  By the way, Luis Suarez, is accomplishing what everyone else only dreams of – living in a world without email!!  His blog and Seth’s Blog are always at the top of my list.

So, the last year has been busy and fun.  I have a full time job and am a full time Dad, so taking time out to blog is hard to do, but I really enjoy it, so I make time to do it.  If something is important enough to you, you will find time to do it, and if you don’t than you are succumbing to your lizard brain.  Quite often I will be in a situation that that makes me think – “this would make a great blog post”.  And at that exact moment, that is exactly when it would make a great blog post – not a week or two later when the passion is gone and the idea has lost it original momentum. (Lesson learned for me)

I want to improve on my current pace of once a month and set a goal of publishing twice a month.  I also have other passions that I want to start sharing around Business Process Re-Engineering, Employee Engagement and Project Management, as I realize that there are opportunities everywhere to engage teams and facilitate process change using social media.

I also really enjoy blogging at work.  I can get my thoughts across easier to the company, and for some reason it just feels more personal, and I can be more candid, as oppose to sending out official emails and presentations.  But you have to know your audience.  I have come to the conclusion that blogging and micro-blogging will not be adopted by everyone.  But it is so powerful and rewarding to see the light bulb go off over someones head when they make the connection to twitter, blogging, or social networking, and how they can use it to their advantage to grow both personally and professionally.

I am looking forward to another great year, and don’t worry, there is still plenty of time.  All of your competitors are not quite there yet (but are figuring out how to get there), and most of your employees are still old school (but engagement and knowledge is more important than ever), so their is no hurry to be there first – right?

Just do it.

Posted in 2.0 Lessons, Business, Social Media.

What Is In Your Pocket?

Everyone loves to hate Apple – everyone without an iPhone that is.  When I got my 3GS a year ago, I was looking to buy myself a toy, not realizing how much I would use it.  Now I can say hands down, this is the best piece of technology I have ever owned – (and my brother in law just said that about his iPad).

So go ahead and call me a fan boi if you want, but use an iPhone for a couple months and tell me I am still wrong.  There are almost a quarter million apps for the iPhone – sure you say 90% are garbage, that still leaves 25,000 apps to choose from.

I love it when people complain about Apple being a closed system.  99% of these people don’t know what a line of code looks like.  I do know what a line of code looks like, and I am happy that I can install apps on my phone without worrying about my iphone slowing down or getting a virus, and I can remove an app just as easily with no mess left over.  Now think about how wary your IT guy gets when you start installing windows apps on you machine at work…

So why is my iPhone the best piece of tech ever?  In my pocket I have:

  1. A somewhat decent camera and video camera
  2. A web browser
  3. A music and video player
  4. My email, calendar and contacts, all synced with Gmail
  5. My favourite Twitter apps (Twittelator) and Yammer
  6. My RSS Newsreader, synced to my Google reader account (Reeder)
  7. My blog software (WordPress)
  8. Facebook and LinkedIn
  9. A file share synced to the cloud, my home computer, and 2 work computers (DropBox)
  10. Notepad synced with the cloud (Evernote)
  11. Dictation software (Dragon dictation)
  12. A full turn by turn GPS Navigation system, or just Google Maps if I prefer
  13. A remote control that controls iTunes on my computer, streaming music to my home theater
  14. A babysitter (lots of great kids games and complete seasons of Diego and Dora for the kids)
  15. My grocery list synced with the cloud, and my wife’s iTouch (Grocery gadgets)
  16. And of course weather updates (WeatherEye)

And those are just the apps I use on a regular basis, the list could go on.

Oh yeah, it is a phone too… but I use Skype to make most of my calls, so my air time charges are pretty low.

What does your phone do?

Posted in Random Thoughts.

Twittering and Yammering

Yes I do them both.

Day after day, I run into people who look at me funny when I start talking about social media tools.  “Don’t you have better things to do?  What is twitter good for, you are just wasting your time.  I don’t understand it.”

Well I love twitter, and am strongly encouraging the use of Yammer at my company. (Yammer is essentially Twitter for a private enterprise or community).

I tell people it is about personal learning and knowledge sharing.  It is about being part of a collective where you interact with people you otherwise don’t know.  It is about engaging with colleagues and staying in touch with the pulse of your company, and used correctly it can also reduce email!  Like blogging, microblogging is a great communication tool, even better maybe because you are posting quick messages for followers to read, and they can decide in less than a tenth of a second if it is of value to them.  It is the distributed office water cooler.

Luis Suarez posted a great article awhile back on the benefits of  micro blogging.  I am going to share some of my favourite points here.

  1. Questions and Answers: Probably one of the most popular use cases for enterprise microsharing; give people an opportunity to ask questions and get answers. If I have a question I need an answer for, there is a great chance I will go and ask my personal network first, before going elsewhere. And that’s exactly what enterprise microsharing enables knowledge workers to do. Regardless of where you may be.
  2. Informal Learning: Through the sharing of expertise across the board as well as links to other relevant content that other fellow knowledge workers would benefit from as additional reading. Right there, while they are at their jobs! On the spot, without having to go anywhere else and with their work context intact. Part of their work flow. Always learning new stuff by exposing yourself out there to all sorts of interesting resources, links and, above all, conversations.
  3. Knowledge Discoveries: or rediscovering new value by chance, which is another nice way of putting it.  “Cool, I always wanted to know that!  (I have experienced this time and time again through microsharing tools like Twitter)
  4. Find Experts: This is an easy use case for everyone out there; instead of hiding yourself away behind your Inbox, where no-one can see you and therefore everyone thinks you don’t have anything better to do than answering their queries, how about leaving your hide-out space, go out there in the open, start microsharing your knowledge and through narrating your work help raise the right level of expectations on how you could accommodate interruptions and handle them accordingly. In a way, experts are scared that they will get overwhelmed with queries, but, in reality, this is further from the truth! If they keep sharing and narrating what they do, they are already generating the right level of expectations of how and when they will be handling interruptions. Basically, if those seeking answers see how those experts are busy doing something else, there is a tendency they will respect that and go ahead and do something else waiting for their turn. Believe me, it works.
  5. Help and Support for Technical Problems:  Where knowledge workers can ask questions and help each other on how to improve their respective overall productivity, knowledge sharing and collaboration tools suite. Much along the lines of getting answers for the typical “How Do I…?” type of interactions.
  6. Announcements, News Items: Create an awareness with broadcasting messages, news items or major announcements that are going around you, instead of sending an email with those items. Ideal for top down, cascaded / forwarded emails no-one likes to receive! (Yes, I know, the ones you don’t even read anymore!)
  7. Knowledge Sharing out in the Open: that way we transition from private by default to public by default and allow knowledge workers, through real-time search engines, re-find and re-use the content they would need, much faster, much easier and much more immediate. Right there, right then.
  8. Personal Branding: Yes, I know most businesses may not feel comfortable with personal branding, but it is there. It’s your people. It’s your business. It’s your corporate brand. Your people are your brand. So microsharing will help them merge successfully both the personal and corporate brands into a stronger entity, one that can speak for you out there in the thousands and in short, but rather effective, chunks! Very easy to consume and digest, too!

I love the realization in people who start to use twitter – “I never got it until I started using it, now I understand!”  (Still waiting for that to happen in the office…). And when you start, don’t try too hard – pick some people and organizations to follow, and if you come across something on the web that you find interesting (like this blog!) then tweet about it.  I live in London, Ontario, and even in London, I can follow local tweets for news, sports, traffic, events around the city, as well as friends and others that I have connected with online.  Your number of followers doesn’t matter, start by joining the party and consuming what others are saying.  Mashable posted a great resource on twitter, and on the lighter side check out this video from the guys who should have used Lotus Connections (Great series on enterprise social computing).  And then follow me on twitter!

Posted in 2.0 Lessons, Business, Social Media, Social Media Tools.