Steve Grossman

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Information in the information age

People + Questions = Social Media

Despite their status as a pseudo-competitor to my sister company (how’s that for an opening line?), I have to hand it to Cars.com for a new feature that perfectly explains “Social Media” and why most explanations are wrong.

AutoRemarketing.com reports that “Cars.com rolled out a new sharing tool that basically can
push out potential vehicle selections through Facebook and Twitter.”

“”Before making a purchase, car buyers often turn to the people they
trust most to help them with this important decision. We wanted to make
it easy for shoppers to share cars of interest with their friends and
family,” explained Bill Swislow, Cars.com’s senior vice president of
product.”

Why the “perfectly explains” comment? Because there’s no mystery to social media – it is and will ALWAYS be people interacting. Anything that encourages or empowers interaction will succeed and the opposite is true as well.  In this case there are people who want help to turn to their friends for help with the important question of “should I buy this car?” Nothing new about that.

Filed under: Life_technology, Social_media, Trends

Too much stuff = confusion = opportunity

More evidence found today about what I believe we’ll see next online – acquisitions, mergers and convergence. Why? There’s too much information in the world, and it’s growing everyday. As Steve Rubel says here, “more information will be created in 2009 than all prior years.” Not prior years online, or prior years in your life, ALL PRIOR YEARS.

So how are you keeping up? You’re not.

But don’t worry, no one else is either and the need will bring the next wave of opportunity online.

Curation
The Steve Rubel post correctly describes one of the growing trends dealing with this overload: curation. He sites several examples of sites that are designed to find, sort and deliver relevant information to interested niches. Give it time, there will be niches of every sort and variety.

Social Media
And then there’s the six trends in the Social Media space described by David Armano. The two that stand out to me are his take on “serious play” – game based services that reward participants – and the growth of mobile. Both of these will sort and filter content: “games” will give us what other people in our network deem relevant and mobile will, by it’s nature, deliver information filtered by proximity.

But these will only be steps towards where we’re going as long as all the services remain disconnected and focused on THEIR interests. For example: I’m interested in Marketing, Social Media, the music business, auto industry (mostly wholesale) and my friends in TN and across the world. Some of my friends are on Facebook, others are on MySpace and still others are on LinkedIn. American Express’ Open Forum covers many of the business topics I mentioned and so does BusinessWeek. The problem is they also cover all other aspects of business and industry. So on any given day I have to sort through these curators to find what I want as well as the three Social Network sites named above.

It’s doable, but how much am I missing? Lots.

The coming years will see the acquisitions, mergers and convergences of all these services into hubs. Hubs that will be customizable and powerful in the way they’ll pull (and push) information based on detailed preferences.

What do you think? Would that help your life?

Filed under: Business_models, Life_technology, Social_media, Society, Trends

Product + Me = Success for Them So Pay Me

Mashable reports the possibility that iTunes 9 might integrate with Facebook, Twitter, etc. From Apple’s Social Media Strategy = iTunes? “At the heart of the supposed features is the ability to broadcast what you’re listening to…”

They go onto to discuss including short links to the music, movies, tv shows etc and how “that would directly translate to additional revenue for Apple. I couldn’t agree more.

I also think this is the tip of the iceberg as companies create better and better ways to piggyback on our online activities. And why wouldn’t they? At the heart of this trend is the fact that personal recommendations are the biggest factor in consumers decision making. Especially recommendations from friends. At the heart of this potential feature is a recommendation engine powered by you and me!

So where’s our take?

It’s the right question and I suspect we’ll see it answered in the coming years as the “everything’s free” model catches up with reality. There are costs involved in services like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. The hype that is driving the free mania will die off and there will be bills to pay – with Advertising being the likely revenue source. But not blind spending like today. The advertising model will only succeed if it’s affective. And I beleive that will mean paying individuals their share too.

Here’s what I mean. As I said here, “We will someday pay for a service that assists us in living our lives and we will do it one of two ways: literally paying or by merging our interests with sponsorship. Sure some will pay, but the majority will be a part of the “influence economy” we’re already seeing develop. Countless studies are showing that the number 1 factor in purchasing decisions is the opinion of a friend. Couple that with the fact that people are excited to include brand support in their personal profiles (Facebook fan pages) and I beleive we’ll soon see personal sponsorship arrangements paying for online services.”

There will come a day when your Social Networking Hub – your online desktop – will be paid for by sponsors you LOVE that pay you to simply be you. And your friends won’t mind the advertising because they will know it reflects you and your tastes. It’s a win/win.

What are your thoughts? Would you pay for a service you love online by allowing a beloved brand to piggyback on your activities?

Filed under: Social_media, Trends

Guidelines + Social Web = Corporate Success

Our company’s moving out onto the Social Web so I developed the following document to define our mission and establish guidelines. All reference to my company has been made generic for this example.

How did I do?

Online Networking, Blogging and Interactive Strategy and Guidelines

Introduction:

For quite sometime, our employees have been actively involved in the “social web” – a loosely knit collection of websites and online tools that allow 1-to-1 or 1-to-many communication and dialog. Though this activity has been personal in nature, it is not surprising to find that work and life at work has been discussed as well.

During this same period, there has been increasing corporate involvement on the web too. In addition to shifting advertising online, companies have begun to embrace the social web as a means to get closer to customers. GM and Comcast are two examples of companies that use a blog and twitter respectively to interact with customers everyday.

Because of the growth of the social web, the fact that we have employees engaged already, and our desire to grow our business, we’ve decided to get involved too. If we are to do this correctly, however, we feel it important to define our social web strategy and offer guidelines for success.

Our Social Web Mission:

Just like a company has a mission for products and services, we must have a mission for our online activities too. Whether you’re involved in an official capacity or not, please make sure that any departmental related online activity supports the following Social Web Mission without exception.

  • Feedback – our primary purpose online is to get feedback on what we’re doing. The Social Web functions best as a dialog and there is no better way for us to understand the needs of our customers – internal and external – than to interact with them 1-on-1. Seek feedback on what we’re doing and graciously accept whatever they may say.
  • Information – proactive communication about our beliefs, passions and expertise. Having a presence online affords us the opportunity to share information that will advance not only our plans, but the growth and success of our customers.
  • Subject Matter Leadership – an opportunity to direct the conversations about our industry

Guidelines for the Social Web

1. Sites:

  • • Corporate: we will establish official presence on a number of popular sites. If you wish to be involved, please talk to your manager.
  • • Personal: You are free to establish your presence anywhere you like as long as any and all work and business related information follows the rest of these guidelines.

2. Personal Responsibility: when writing/contributing work and business related information, be yourself. Use your actual name or identification that can be linked to who you are as an employee and take full responsibility for your contribution. In accordance with the Employee Handbook, please note that you will be held responsible for your contributions. We consider representing our company on the social web as an extension of our business.

3. Tone: be personal, authentic and fun – just like we are in our day-to-day work.

4. Copyrights and Fair use: respect all content related laws and give credit where credit’s due.

5. Proprietary Information: do not share any company or departmental secrets. This includes the use of client or client employee names without express permission. Everything online is searchable and permanent so when in doubt, leave it out.

6. Bring value: add to the conversations by seeking to serve our customers – inside and out – by responding appropriately and/or bringing them useful information.

7. Go beyond our business: at its core, the social web is entertainment first, business second. We will make a bad impression if all we do is tout our business. Information about things outside of our industry and business will be read and appreciated by your readers and give us a better foundation from which to accomplish our mission.

Conclusion:

We wish to support you in your online activities while ensuring the long term success of our organization. We’re hopeful that these guidelines will help. If you’re already involved, or get involved later, be sure to link up with our sites on the social web.

Filed under: Social_media, Trends

A Foundational Post

I launched this blog about a month ago and have posted random thoughts since then. I’ve also tried different themes, configured twitter to auto-post here (and vice-versa) and thought about writing a foundational post about why I launched this blog.

It’s time to write that post:

First, I am fascinated and dissatisfied with the web. Fascinated because it is the outward and interactive manifestation of the greatest global transformation of the last 400 years: the birth of the Information Age.  Dissatisfied because I can’t wait for it to get where it’s going.

And I have ideas about that.

Second, I am fascinated with business models and in light of this global transformation fully expect them to change dramatically too.

And I have ideas about that.

Third, I am immersed in the world of Social Networking or Social Media. I have multiple blogs, web pages, wiki’s, RSS feeds, integrated services and assorted other freely available web 2.0 tools. And all of them are pieces in an as yet unfinished web that I call online me.

And what’s unique about that?

Nothing except for the fact that I’m not a Gen-Y’er, I’m a 47 year old husband/dad/businessman/boomer. And that gives me a unique perspective on all the above.

And so I have hopes for this blog. Hopes that I can have an outlet for my ideas, concepts, observations and thoughts on the Internet, business and life at the dawn of the Information Age. And hopes that I can help other non-Gen-Y folks grasp the significant and life changing opportunities that are all around us.

And so I offer a blog about ideas, concepts, observations and thoughts on the Internet, business and life at the dawn of the Information Age.

It’s time to get excited.

Filed under: Business_models, Life_technology, Smart_technology, Social_media, Trends, Work_technology

The problem as I see it

In his post An Important Conversation About Conversations | chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan asks for input about what “you (in this case, “you” equals me and you and everyone when we’re on the “customer” side of the wall) want from interactions like blog posts and the like.”

Chris is a thought leader and expert in the Social Media space and he never ceases to bring insightful ideas and questions about this evolving area of marketing. This question is no exception and I appreciate the discussion he’s starting. That’s his specialty.

What jumps out to me though, is the word interactions and my immediate thought is “what interactions?”

With the possible exception of twitter, specifically @comcastcares, BankofAmerica and others that have nailed it, I can’t classify my experience online as interactive. I’ve had some conversations and rare moments of interactions, but on the whole, I have not been able to truly interact to the level I desire and the reason is tools. Or lack there of.

Take blog posts for instance. They’re only interactive if I a) come back all the time to see where the conversation is or b) subscribe to the comments feed (another option is to get e-mail updates). But I don’t have time for either one. Add in the fact that I often follow links to sites I’ve never been to before (isn’t that the point?) and I end up leaving a comment and never knowing what transpires next.

And blogs are just one example. Social Networks are even worse and news sites are the worst.

There are two fundamental problems with the current state of affairs online. Problems that will continue to keep the internet from it’s full potential.

The first is the fact that the current explosion is being driven by geeks: people that have a lot of time on their hands and are completely and hypnotizingly fascinated with all things web. I’m ALMOST one of those people except for the fact that I’m not. I’m a middle aged, businessman who loves learning and information.

Yes I’m fascinated by the web, but only so far as it actually helps me get things done – quickly and efficiently. Visiting 100’s of blogs can’t be done realistically if I’m to keep my job and stay married. Yes, I know what an RSS feed is and I use one to track the blogs I regularly read everyday. But that doesn’t help with the aforementioned linking and commenting on sites and the resultant tracking that I don’t have time to do. And oh, did I mention a lot of comments are useless?

Which leads to the second problem: we do not yet have the tools for true web interactions. We need tools that notify us when the interactions are actually of interest to us. Our comment, our topic, our…well…tags.

So what if we had an online identity that was truly an online identity? One that, just like in real life, had attributes, characteristics and traits – the very things that make us us? And what if everywhere we went and everything we did left these attributes too?

If that were the case, these attributes could also facilitate notifications when something relevant to us occured online. Anywhere. Anytime.

Which would mean that after leaving a comment on Chris Brogan’s blog saying “loved the post, but think it misses the point that we don’t have sophisticated enough tools yet” I would automatically get a message in my online hub (e-mail, IM, txt, whatever) anytime a relevant comment was posted.

Now THAT would be cool.

And it totally relates to Chris’s question too because these tools would allow for life changing interactions with companies. I’m not being overly dramatic either. What would life be like without the need for customer support because I would simply “get” the info I needed when it became available. Nothing less. But also, nothing more.

And I know that day is coming.

Filed under: Life_technology, Social_media, Trends

Links for 3/2/2009

  • Yahoo Finance brings us Businessweek’s Innovations of the Future. #7 Social Media Literacy is fascinating. 
  • Don Tapscott of Grown Up Digital has an insightful look at the future of government. 
  • Chris Brogan hits two ideas: why Facebook Connect isn’t enough and Cisco’s vision for the future.
  • The Future Banking Blog predicts the Future of Identity.
  • And you won’t believe the Sixth Human Sense designed by MIT students.

Filed under: Life_technology, Social_media, Work_technology

Facebook Connect is a step

With the introduction of Facebook Connect last week, Facebook took us all a step closer to where the web will go, but it’s only a step. Here’s the scoop:

What’s powerful is the connection back to Facebook that the widget provides. When a user leaves a comment at a site using the widget, the item and comment also appear on the user’s Facebook page. Considering content is king and it’s an interconnected, “viral” world, this is huge.

Filed under: Life_technology, Social_media