Mark W. Schaefer put together a nifty presentation on Social Media Best Practices For Economic Development (thanks @Handshake2.0 for the tweet heads-up) . A couple things stand out to me on this presentation. First, I love that Roanoke is used as the archetype for a Twitter-engaged business community. Second, while this presentation is targeted towards the economic development organizations, I think it does a great job of identifying the place where individual businesses should be operating in  the social media universe.

From the big picture perspective, a regional economy will be more attractive on the web only if there is an active community of businesses and representative individuals. It does no good for the EDO to tweet in a vacuum, for example. The networks of collaboration, and even competition need to be vibrant and public for social media to have an effect. This is a concept that I believe already resonates in this region.

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I have a new guest piece on Handshake 2.0 today. Let me know what you think.

The point I make at the end is critical. “The Cloud” is most certainly a buzzword with a fuzzy meaning a la “Web 2.0”. The idea behind the term is real, but it’s not for everyone. Every business is going to have its own compatability profile for deciding to offload services like email to Google Apps or Rackspace, or data storage to Amazon, etc. Companies who are proficient at IT, should be able make these determinations on their own. Most other companies do something other than IT, and this is a scenario where a consulting company (Shameless Plug Alert) like Vision Point Systems can help.

As has been well published in the local Twitterverse/Blogosphere, Robert Scoble visited Blacksburg, VA yesterday. For those who don’t know who he is, Handshake 2.0 has a good summary. The RNR has had a budding Social Media footprint for a while now, but the visit from Mr. Scoble is one of the few events that ties us back to the Internet ground zero of Silicon Valley.

Why is this noteworthy? Well, stemming from his interview with the Roanoke Times yesterday, a bit of a communication issue arose involving the web presence of the restaurant where the event occurred.   There’s a good discussion on Robert’s friendfeed. The issue to me centers around an “old-media” perspective on Internet marketing. Robert suggested that the chef should communicate with customers about the menu. The reporter interpreted this as the restaurant needs to post its menu on the website. Being that the website already contains the standard menu, the restaurant took offence and a rather awkward correction is added to the end of the article.

To me, this is a teachable moment, and an example of why we need “high-tech evangelists” like Mr. Scoble. Most of us who are tuned into social media would have known exactly what he meant – the chef should reach out to customer’s collaboratively in real time and develop a dynamic menu that reflects timely feedback. The unfamiliar interpreted the suggestion in a very flat manner. I hope, as a result of the continued discussion of the matter, that the light goes on in many new people’s heads as to what the collaborative web is all about.

After a few months of posting blog entries, I’m still building a base following of interested readers. I’ve been pleased with how Twitter provides a broadcast medium for notifications of new posts.  My worry though, is that I tend to only have time to write these posts in the evening or late night and if I send a tweet to announce it it may never be seen. I think my target audience is fellow business people. Is this group more likely to check their Twitter feed at night, or during the work day?

I call this the Twitter Time Shift because compared to something like RSS which is sticky, tweets seem to have a brief shelf life, especially if the follower has a large list who she follows. There’s a phenomenon here that needs to be fleshed out more.

I suppose I’m looking for feedback.

If you were interested in reading my posts, would you be more likely to see my tweet in the morning or evening?

Is there any stigma to a repeat tweet spread over time? Does it become spam when content is duplicated? What are the time boundaries on this?

I’ll tweet this now, and again in the morning and see what happens. I’m interested to hear comments on the above questions as well as a general review of the content I’ve produced to date.

Thanks!

Twitter, while certainly developing an identity of its own, is usually lumped in with other social media such as MySpace and Facebook. Twitter is an entirely other animal, however. True social media derives its value from the real-life relationships between the users. Twitter, on the other hand gives value to the users because of the desired social connections that become public. There is no notion of a “friend” on Twitter, just followers. This is an objective term that is appropriate in this circumstance. The term “friend” should be reserved for relationships that truly exist outside of the internet. LinkedIn does a great job of enforcing this and reinforcing the concept.

Twitter, in my opinion, would be better described as a “Personality Web“. There are three pillars of equal standing that define an individual (or other entity) on Twitter: Tweets, Followers, and Follows.

The first point, tweets, seems obvious. You are what you say. This is how most people try to leave their mark, and impart their style. There are other aspects of the tweet that define public perception as well. This could be frequency of tweets, frequency of @ replies, re-tweets, content of posted links, etc. There’s no right answer on what the correct ratios or content should be. Twitterers should just be aware that in addition to what you say, your overall patterns of tweets serve to define you.

The second point, followers, is also fairly obvious. I would venture to say that most users of Twitter are putting themselves out in the open in the hope that the rest of the Twitterverse will find them interesting in some way and add them to their follow list. I am impressed by those with leagues of followers who are not the everyday name celebrities of the real world. I would conclude that these people have found the sweet spot on point number one.

The third point is probably the most overlooked. Who you choose to follow defines your personality as much as what you say. The meaning of this is clearer with a small number of followers. If you see the list of celebrities and companies a person follows, then you get a good sense of their interests. In a way, Twitter might be seen as a Create Your Own Reality Show device. The ratio and volume of types of followers has an effect as well. My opinion, but a real example of this effect, is that my impression of those who follow an extremely large number of users (I don’t know what the critical mass is) is that they can’t possible be that interested in any particular set of users. Sure, there are tools that one can use to filter the tweet streams, but it seems like the point has been missed.

A fourth pillar, which maybe isn’t as meaningful but still has an effect, is the Twitter username itself. I think the creators of Twitter understand this because twitter is one of the few applications I’ve seen where the user can change their own username. It seems the norm is trending towards Twitterers using some form of their own name instead of the historically popular “handle” approach. In my case, I noticed a big uptick in my own presence on Twitter once I changed my username from yankeehoo to JimSchweitzer. This again reinforces the notion that Twitter is about personality first an foremost.

Twitter for MBAs

March 24, 2009

My school chum, Brian Gracely, does a great job summarizing Twitter with a summary on usage and a summary of Twitter’s business. I know there are a ton of tutorials on Twitter out there, but this might give you a glimpse on what we’re talking about in B-school. 

As you may be able to tell, I use Twitter to supplement this blog and to try to put a personal face on my company. I’m also in the process of kicking off a corporate Twitter presence, but I’m still trying to figure out the strategy there. Vision Point Systems is by no means in the mass market, so I can’t take the approach of the Starbucks or the JetBlue‘s of the world. I suppose my goal is benefit from associations with the rest of the local Twitterverse. 

I’m open to suggestions.

I had an interesting meeting today. 

I met a gentleman – I’ll call him RP for now – last week at a networking event in Roanoke. He gave his pitch as doing marketing and “i-commerce” consulting. It seemed pretty tangential to what VPS does, so I didn’t think too much of it when he called me later in the week saying he had some consulting work that was out of scope for him and he was looking for a local partner to help him fill a gap. He spoke in pretty generic terms, but it sounded like the kind of opportunities that can be lucrative for a consulting company like ours. 

So I met him today in Roanoke at a coffee shop. He showed up late so I had already bought my own coffee. Once we get to talking he gives me a spiel on marketing and how Ebay and Amazon make money because their brand does the work for them. True enough. To his question of “What does eBay sell?”, my answer of “an opportunity for buyers and sellers to get together” seemed to surprise him as the best answer he’s ever received.  After that he gets into how he’s got affiliation deals for product reviews for big companies like Circuit City, ahem, etc. He also briefly comments on some “exclusivity deals” on products his unnamed company sells, but makes sure to gloss over that part of the conversation quickly. 

Finally, he gets into the “for only 4 hours a week you can make $500 a month; 3 years after that you could be making $10,000 and in just 5 years you could be bringing in $150,000 a month,” part of the conversation. After politely declining his offer to set me up in a webinar, he quickly packs his briefcase and walks out the door. I never got a business card or brochure on what his organization is. 

I guess this is interesting to me because it seems so unnecessary. If you have to deceive people to even work for you, I don’t want to imagine the deception that would go on in “customer” interaction. I’ve been around other legitimate business people to know that good, trustworthy relationships are what get you far. I guess I’m also surprised that there are likely to be people who sign up for this type of thing thinking it’s a shortcut. It’s always a way to make money “on the side” – probably because anyone involved knows a “job” like this wouldn’t be taken seriously on a resume. 

I’m tempted to call the guy out, but I’m not sure what good that does for anyone. The best I can tell he has no web presence. I suppose I’ll leave him to the shadows he’s been lurking in so far.