Intermediation Biz Opportunity: Matchmaking

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Let’s talk about arranged marriages. OK, not quite – but have you ever thought about how matchmaking can apply to business? Read on…

In an introductory post, I opened up the idea of potential business opportunities that exist by thinking about The New Intermediation. The Ugly Graphic below depicts how this works:


In a second post, we discussed the opportunity of Curation (filtering and delivering information) in the world of new intermediation. Today, let’s look at another manifestation of the new intermediation: Matchmaking.

A matchmaker is a key individual, platform, or company that has deep connections with a pool of people/providers, and then brings the right (targeted) resource to a client with a business or personal need.

Think of what recruiters (headhunters) do. It’s that kind of intermediation, but scaled in new ways and applied to other business problems beyond staffing.

My Impactiviti business (identifying optimal outsource vendors for my pharma clients looking for training/marketing suppliers) is one example of business matchmaking (see graphic here).

In Kansas City, my friend George Weyrauch has launched Rock Creative to provide a very similar service for creative types.

Another example familiar to many is HARO (Help A Reporter Out), the news/resource matching service launched by Peter Shankman. Reporters have always had a need to find subject matter experts. Many people who could be valuable resources are invisible to media types. So, HARO was born – a daily e-mail service where journalists looking for sources post what they need, and targeted individuals respond. Simple, brilliant matchmaking. And Peter is smarter than me, because HARO is fed-by-both-sides e-model that was able to be increasingly automated. I’m not jealous. I’m really not. OK, I’m jealous.


(on a side note, HARO was bought by Vocus a year or two back. Creating a winning intermediation service can have quite a significant ROI!)

Our world of business has always run smoother because of intermediaries. There are bridges that need to be built – today, and tomorrow. Gaps are everywhere. Intermediaries see them, and create beneficial connections<<–(click to tweet this)

Many roles, of course, have been disintermediated through technology advancements. But other, digitally-fueled models have arisen. Sometimes, they are ePlatforms, like and eHarmony (where “matchmaking” is not a metaphor, but is the whole point!) Do you know of other matchmaking business approaches that you’ve seen recently enabled in our networked world? Do share in the comments!

Transcendent Communications

This is a ramble based on a thought in the shower this morning – you know how that goes, right? I’m not even sure what station this train of thought is going to end up in. Here goes…

Why has digital social media so riveted our attention? It’s an evolutionary advance on a pre-existing massive trend – the desire to communicate without the barriers of time, geography, filtering, culture, and language.

Books enabled the communicating of ideas way outside of the physical sphere, and even time frame, of the writer’s direct influence. What once would have been spoken around a campfire or in a small gathering can now echo down through generations.

Radio transcended geography. Recorded audio broke the limits of geography and time.

Television added the visual element, and some of what was communicated through the eye-gate leapt over cultural and linguistic barriers.

Social media broke down the filters between one-to-one communication. Digital audio, video, and writing enable all barriers to come down, though linguistic and cultural elements are still problematic to a degree. Communication can be both real-time and archived.

Interestingly enough, when it comes to computing, we see a parallel trend toward natural and frictionless interface – we’ll slowly but surely abandon the very artificial keyboard and mouse for the more natural elements of voice and gesture. Siri and Kinect are glimpses. In 10 years, we will laugh hysterically at our current digital/human interfaces.

So what? Well, here’s a couple so-what’s to think about:

  1. Digital social media as we have experienced it for the past few years is not some isolated or uniquely amazing thing. It’s part of an inevitable current of communication evolution. And it cannot be static because the current has been rapidly flowing for centuries in one direction (toward communication without the barriers of time, geography, filtering, culture, and language).
  2. We can opt out of participation in specific elements of digitally-fueled communications, but we can’t avoid the direction of the current.
  3. Any business approach based on the above inexorable trends stands a far better chance of long-term success than tweaking some existing business model that tries to maintain the status quo or go upstream against the current.

A lot of loose ends here, but I’ll just hit publish and ask what you think (feel free to wax eloquent in the comments with your thoughts).



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Open Doors

When you start talking about social media in the business world, you quickly begin to bump into the ROI question (and if you do, get the insight you’ll need from Olivier Blanchard and buy his book, Social Media ROI).

ROI matters. But for many individuals, consultants, entrepreneurs, small businesses – and yes, even larger businesses – that’s not the only measure of value. There’s another factor to weigh in the balance.

Is this activity likely to produce new opportunities? Potential referrals? Broader awareness? Open doors?

Much of what I – and many others – do via social networking is driven by this long-term view, which is based, not on immediate hard returns of dollars-tied-to-specific-efforts, but by what we might call natural human and marketing principles.

Building deeper human bonds with quality people will, in ways both direct and indirect, lead to increased business opportunities. Do you believe this? I do. And I think it’s true for the solopreneur as well as the biggest brand. That means networking – whether the digital/social variety, or good old-fashioned pressing the flesh (note: I believe in both, together).

An example from my own experience: #LeadershipChat on Twitter. Very little direct revenue has come to the co-hosts (Lisa Petrilli and me) for all the time and effort we’ve put in. HOWEVER – the expansion of our networks, the quality contacts with some very influential people, the collaborations that have occurred, not only for us, but among others in the community – these are worthwhile returns, and the future opportunities yet to come as a result of this initiative will, I’m quite convinced, impact business on multiple levels.

I will trade immediate resources of time and effort for open doors tomorrow and next year. Not only for me, but for others.

Speaking of LeadershipChat, this coming Tuesday (April 10), we’ll welcome John Jantsch, Mr. Duct Tape Marketing himself, talking about referrals and small-business marketing in a networked world. Join us for some new thinking, new network contacts – and, who knows?, maybe some new open doors!


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What’s Up With Kony 2012?

One of my kids came to me all worked up about the rapidly-going-viral, must-see video Kony 2012 (here’s the link on YouTube. Warning: half-hour length).

In short, this video is part of an orchestrated campaign to bring an unsavory African guerrilla leader (Joseph Kony) to justice. He is the one you may have heard about that kidnaps children and turns them into his soldiers. His track record as a scourge on the earth is well-established, but according to Invisible Children (the organization who made the video), he is not nearly well-known enough. The campaign aims to fix that.

I almost never watch 30-minute on-line videos, but I did see this one through. It is well-made, with solid production values, a well-constructed story-line, emotional appeal, and a big dose of aspirational involvement – viewers are urged to become part of something big, something ground-level. My guess is that it’s going to work as an attention-generating campaign.

So – is there a downside?

I’m not sure yet. Who could be against capturing Joseph Kony? Sounds like a noble cause – but the storyline of the video seems just a bit slick, the hype level a bit over the top. My vague unease about the whole thing finds some reinforcement in a few scattered Internet postings about the organization (go ahead and Google it), and with this level of exposure, I’m sure that the goals, and practices, and people behind Invisible Children will be much more intensively vetted in the coming days. There will be fact-checking. I hope that they won’t be found to be (mere) attention-grabbing mercenaries of media promotion. I don’t want to be cynical, but I’ve been around the block a few times. Where there’s fund-raising, there’s always potential danger lurking. And sometimes, when we jump very quickly on a convincing-sounding bandwagon, we later realize that a bit more prudence was advisable.

The little blond son (Gavin – see picture above) of the filmmaker makes the production, by the way. Very cute, and very effective.

As far as effective media production and promotion – give these guys a high grade. Another high grade for a creative campaign concept. As far as what we’ll see in the full light of day as more information comes out – here’s hoping.

And it’s doubtful that anyone will mourn if Joseph Kony is actually captured!

Update: The Invisible Children folks respond to a number of the criticisms/questions that have arisen.

Update: The campaign is now making news in traditional media outlets, like the NY Times.

Update: My friend Amy Fitch touches on one aspect of this phenomenon that has been quite remarkable – how many of us learned of this video from our kids.


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Business As Usual. The End?

Tonight, on LeadershipChat, we welcome Brian Solis, author of multiple books (including his latest, The End of Business as Usual). We’ll be covering some themes from that book, including the idea of an adaptive organization.

While you’re gearing your mind up for the chat, be sure to read my talented and lovely co-host Lisa Petrilli‘s blog post (The End of Business Leadership as Usual).

Brian is clearly a smart guy, and a very effective presence in social networks. And if you want to gain a clear statement of how businesses must go beyond business as usual, here’s a juicy passage (p. 13):

In other words – connected consumers are now driving the revolution. Adapt or die.

But Mr. Solis also tends to make my head swirl, as I’ve read his writings over the years. Why? Well, I’m kind of a practical, plain-spoken guy. Brian’s thought process tends to be at another plane – shall we call it the Solisphere? – and his loquacious use of industry jargon is unparalleled. What do I mean? Well, here’s an extract from the book (p. 34):

Whew! With language like that, my guess is that this book will likely find its biggest appeal among the digerati – although the concepts are important for everyone in business.

As a fun experiment, I decided I would go through each chapter, and seek to extract one (or two) pinnacle statements that summarize the thought of that section – then string them together into a brief narrative and see if it presents an accurate overview of the main themes of the book (in Brian’s own words). Here goes:

This book will introduce you to the connected consumer, and how they search for, discover, and share information, and ultimately, make decisions. In many significant ways, they’re not at all the consumer you know (Introduction)

How people are connecting is setting the foundation for a powerful distribution network that rivals the greatest of news and broadcast networks (chapter 1)

The democratization of information is connecting everyone, not just Millennials, distributing influence and making the role of the consumer and its impact on business more important than ever before (chapter 2)

The medium is no longer just the message. Now, the medium is the platform and people now represent both the medium and the message (chapter 3)

Researchers believe that the lure of social networks and the gadgets that link us to one another are rewiring our brains to constantly switch tasks. In the process, we lose our ability to preserve attention and focus (chapter 4)

Businesses and media networks looking to attract connected consumers must earn every click by providing contextually relevant information and deliberate value. This changes the game for content production and engagement strategies (chapter 5)

Many early adopters are betting on the importance of the connected consumer, investing in the cultivation of communities in areas where they don’t necessarily control, but as participants earn the privilege to steer experiences and interaction (chapter 6)

At the center of the transformation of the audience is the ability for individuals to capture a moment through text, video, audio, or still images and share them in real time to the hundreds or thousands of individuals in their social and interest graphs…this is the dawn of an audience with an audience with audiences (my favorite expression in the book – SW)  (chapter 7)

On the train to enlightenment, an important stop is at the convergence of media and human networks…TV is a shared experience and the Web is often a personal activity that connects people through shared experiences (chapter 8 )

By understanding the dynamics of social capital and its relationship to influence, organizations learn how to identify connected individuals who reach ideal communities and offer the ability to amplify reach, build relationships, and drive beneficial outcomes (chapter 9)

Reviews and experiences from trusted peers, experts, and influencers form the foundation of the network. The information that flows into the stream from multiple networks sparks conversation and triggers clicks, while shaping perception and steering decisions in the process. Social customers are highly connected and trust networks are affecting outcomes with or without the businesses the affect (chapter 10)

Connected consumers purchase in public, and as such, they influence the decisions of others through the public stream (chapter 11)

Retailers are bringing experiences to the connected consumer from virtual dressing rooms to cash registers, letting them shop, share, and pay on their own terms (chapter 12)

In these interactive online colonies, brands are not only created, brand stature and strength are co-created. The new social landscape is rich with emotion (chapter 13)

The decision-making cycle is evolving away from a linear process to an elliptical cycle that publicizes touchpoints for brand connection  (chapter 14)

Connected customers are not cogs in the business machine, but they play an instrumental role in the progress of progress, the adaptation of business, and as such, become part of a new era of customer-centric business mechanics…the roles of the social consumer require different aspects of recognition and engagement and will eventually demand the complete socialization of your business (chapter 15)

The adaptive business will weave customers into its culture, development, process, and story…businesses must design products and services that create meaningful and shareable experiences (chapter 16)

Customer-centricity begins with a culture of change…introducing purpose into the business model and operating under a veil of transparency, customers and businesses collaborate in something bigger than they are  (chapter 17)

Control was never there, however – at best, businesses possessed the semblance of control. In a connected global society, customers are in control of the brand experience and it didn’t take new media to bestow this power on them. That’s the gift of free thought. Opinions are universal, and now the ability to share them with the masses and affect the impressions and decisions of others is equally democratic (chapter 18)

The future of business starts with change and ends with change management. Customers represent only one side of the equation, however, and for the adaptive business, engaged and empowered employees represent the balance (chapter 19)

Becoming an adaptive business is not the final stage of evolution…the next level for companies is to become a predictive business. The essence of evolution and the ability to outpace digital Darwinism lie in the ability to embrace change and illustrate the attributes of those models that improve opportunities for relevance and leadership (chapter 20)

So – there’s a very condensed taste of how Brian sees the future.  Every book tells a story. This is the story of how digital connections are changing business as usual. And what it may take to lead business in the midst of a revolution.

How do you see it? Is this just so much social network Kool-Aid, or a glimpse into a future moving inexorably upon and within us? Join us for a lively discussion on Twitter during #LeadershipChat tonight, December 13, at 8 pm ET.


Hire Steve Woodruff  if your identity and message need clarity (Brand Therapy)

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ROI in Context of Business Value

The next time someone asks you, “what is the ROI of social media?“, I suggest the following reply:

We can project the potential ROI of specific tactics using social media, but first let’s talk about BV (Business Value).” Specifically:

BVER – Business Value of Embracing Reality

BVIO – Business Value of Ignoring Opportunity

Networked communications – the use of point-to-point communications via social networks, and particularly through mobile – are simply the new normal. People don’t ask about the ROI of the Internet or of a computer anymore (though you can look at the ROI of a specific initiative) – these things are simply assumed. That’s what social networks – and mobile computing – are rapidly becoming. Assumed.

You don’t do ROI on assumed. You use the assumed to do something specific that will generate ROI.

So, what is the business value of being able to connect with your customers? What is the business value of being connected in a connected world? What is the business value – and the opportunity cost – to staying static in a world where digital networking in growing inexorably?

Put negatively – what is the business value of keeping one’s head buried in the sand? Can we start attaching minus dollar signs to that strategy??

There is no calculable ROI to “social media”, just as there is no ROI to common sense or breathing. Ubiquitous digital networks are just reality. Mobile communications are simply the new normal. Only a very small subset of the population calculates the value of using a horse-and-buggy vs. using a car. You do your calculations based on which car, and for what type of use. You’ve already decided the overall business value.

What is the calculated ROI of doing (this) using social media as (part of) the approach? Now, you’re starting to ask the right question.

Seek to direct ROI discussions to tangibles that can be measured, not something do broad as social media. The “ROI of social media” is a question that, as so framed, cannot be answered.


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Trend Currents in Social Media

No, that’s not a typo. Trend Currents, not current trends.

Trend Currents are the large-scale cultural, economic, and technological shifts that drive our ongoing communications revolution. And I’ll be speaking on this topic September 23, at the Social Media Masters one-day intensive in NYC.

What are these Trend Currents that shape social media now, and will shape the future of networked communications? Not to to give the whole talk away, here are three main things that every marketer and business person needs to keep his/her eye on:

  • Ubiquitous Connectivity
  • Disrupted Intermediation
  • Global Individualism

Current trends are the outgrowths we see today. MySpace, Friendster, Facebook, Google+ – those are all (temporary?) outworkings of much bigger Trend Currents.

Wayne Gretzky put it this way: Skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it is now (paraphrase). By looking at the larger Trend Currents, we’re able to cut through the fog of current trends and see where the marketplace will be heading in the future.

Intrigued? There are still a few available seats at Social Media Masters – make your reservation now, and join Chris Heuer, Sam Fiorella, Kat Mandelstein, Matt Hicks, Sean Moffitt, myself and others as we explore what is – and what is to come – in social media.

The event is produced by Social Media Club and Sensei Marketing.

Post-event update: Bob Knorpp captured this brief video beancast interview touching on some of the themes of my presentation, which focused on the future of digital networks/social media.


Hire Steve Woodruff  if your identity and message need clarity (Business Identity Therapy)

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No Place to Hide

This week, our town (Boonton, NJ) experienced a very unusual tragedy – a fatal shooting. Specifically, and man and wife were out with a young one in a stroller when they were fired on by someone(s) with an assault rifle a gun of some sort. The woman was killed, the man injured, the child unhurt.

This happened several blocks away from us in this quiet residential town, our first hint being a hovering police helicopter overhead very early in the morning.

The husband’s tale of what happened quickly unraveled, and he and a woman whom he knew were charged with murder. The man and his wife were not getting along and this was his plot to get rid of her – a staged shooting.

Senseless, brutal – and now, two young children have to live with the aftermath (as well as the entire extended family and community).

The smoking gun, in this case, wasn’t necessarily the assault rifle. It was text messages, between the man and the shooter during the hours leading up to the shooting. Shoe-leather detective work figuring this crime scene out was vastly aided by damning bits and bytes found strewn all over the place.

Digital footprints. No need for photos, witnesses, fingerprints. The whole scheme was sketched out as a before-the-act confession.

There will always be people who get away with shady stuff, in business and in life. But the hiding places are getting scarcer. Cell phone records, texts, digital cameras, electronic toll tags, traffic cameras, digital documents, copier memories – as digital nodes proliferate, they shine light on previously-darkened hiding places.

I’d be a fool to think that people will stop doing evil things. And sometimes, I have deep concerns about the encroachment of digital everything on privacy. But as a citizen of a peaceful town, when something like this happens where we all walk our dogs and wave to our neighbors, I feel a certain sense of gratitude that there are fewer places to hide.

The helicopter didn’t find the perpetrators. They phoned themselves in. Criminals, crooked business people, and politicians – take note.


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Purpose-built Networks

The initial social media gold rush is about over.

Remember the exuberant early days of the e-commerce and portal bubble, and the huge paydays attained by some first movers? Then it all shook out, and we settled down to business.

Now, with social media, we have these big, broad, public networks (Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, etc.) sprawled all over the web, enabling people to make connections and share stuff – which is great. I’m all in, and have been for five years. However…

…as with any shiny new toy, the first-movers have made their big bucks. The new platform-creators, the evangelists, the top bloggers, the book authors – those in the vanguard have broken the fresh ground and social media is now moving into mainstream adoption. As it should.

These big, unfocused networks have some major limitations for serious business use, however. So, I’m thinking that the next high-impact evolution will be purpose-built, purpose-driven networks. Especially for business.

While we love the idea of the public social web, a whole lot of business communication goes on in smaller rooms. Controlled environments. And large swaths of business networking/communications have to be regulated (particularly in pharma, where I do a lot of my work). In fact, while I do a lot of public networking in the pharma space through my company Impactiviti, most of the significant business happens through private communications in a purpose-built trust network. That’s not really going to change for me, or for many other businesses. The wide-open social web is not a panacea – because often, the real business need is for targeted communications that have some business rules around them.

Social-media-style digital networked communications is great for individuals, and has huge potential for some kinds of more retail business. But it’s not optimal for everything. Much of the potential of social technologies will reside behind firewalls and in digital networks that are purposefully designed with business purposes in mind. Think about it – was Facebook, or Twitter, specifically designed for business? Um – no. We’re just trying to adapt them. And, truth be told, it’s often a bit of a mismatch.

The company that’s in the best position to deliver on this is Google. They have all the tools, many of which are growing up into enterprise level. Google Plus gives us a glimpse of private, multi-media selective communications with Circles and Hangouts. What we need is a platform that allows companies to naturally build their (multiple) networks with (multiple) different purposes according to the business rules and goals that apply to those groups. A platform that truly integrates voice, text, video, search, filtered layers of intimacy, real-time and asynchronous comms – and Google has all the pieces. With the cloud-based infrastructure to back it.

Apple will give them a run for their money. Because they have started with the user experience and nice integration, and thus built a lot of momentum. But they need to make the leap into business-focused networking. Microsoft – sigh. All the infrastructure, but so much legacy baggage – I don’t know.

These Lego blocks that we’re playing with now are cool. They are great for the individual experience, and for public exposure. But whoever cracks the purpose-built networking nut will find the real gold. Who do you think will win this race?


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Publishing Perma-links: Steal This Idea

Lately, I’m reading more books that use hyperlinks as references.

It’s ugly.

(from Guy Kawasaki‘s new book, Enchantment)

But I can understand why authors choose to do this, instead of using URL-shortening services like and tinyurl. These services may be transitory and unreliable, while books are meant to be more permanent archives of knowledge.

Here’s the problem: links are transitory, too.

So, is there a business opportunity to solve this problem? I think so. Please feel free to steal this idea if you agree:

Someone should launch a combined URL-shortening service and cloud-based archiving mechanism (similar to the wayback machine) that will take and store a snapshot of the referenced page in an archive, as well as have a pointer to the URL in its current state (which may be either the same, or with altered content, or a 404 Page Not Found).

This way, we can have nicer and more compact perma-link URL pointers in print materials (it would work for on-line content too, actually) which will have a permanent record. Tie it also to a generated QR code (used creatively in The Now Revolution by Jay Baer & Amber Naslund) for the archived link and you’ve got a real winner.

Call the service or something like that.

I could easy see a 2-tier free (personal) and paid (professional) version of this, so it could be used by individual researchers, students, and the like. Every publishing house would be on the professional version, and each book released would have links formatted something like this: (The Now Revolution, chapter 1, first link)

I don’t have time or expertise to create this. So do us all a favor – steal this idea. Just put a perma-link back to this post when you’re done, for the first test case!


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Roddenberry was Right

Gene Roddenberry, the genius behind the early years of the Star Trek series, had an amazingly prescient view of the future.

In the original Star Trek TV series, crew members used devices called communicators which bore a remarkable resemblance to cell phones.

Then, in Star Trek The Next Generation episodes, items that seemed for all the world to be touch-screen computers, iPads, and iPhones were constantly in use. Digital everything. Ubiquitous screens.

Roddenberry got it.

And now, as we daily put to use that which he foresaw decades ago, we reach a point where old labels are shedding their meaning. We still use the term “phone” in various ways, but the idea of an analog device dedicated only to audio voice communication seems rather – quaint. But, we still cling to terms like cell phone, iPhone, Smartphone – heck, the phone is the least-used aspect of my iPhone!

In 10 years, we’ll look back and wonder at the old legacy labels that described separate “things” like phones or cameras or computers.

I’d like to suggest that ultimately, Gene Roddenberry had it right again. You know what these increasingly portable devices are, in their various configurations and form factors?

That’s right. Communicators. Personal Communicators. With which we send and receive messages, info, voice, video – it’s really a far more accurate description than phone, computer, tablet, or what have you.

Kinda brings a whole new meaning to the acronym PC, if you think about it…


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Purpose or Tech?

Looking back over the past five years or so, it seems to me that a lot of our social networking has been driven by technology.

LinkedIn is launched, and we jump in and adjust to its structure. Ning. Twitter. Facebook. YouTube. Bits and pieces of technology solutions, with people gathered around and meeting each other – well, mostly because of the tech first.

Maybe it’s time to think more seriously about purpose-built networks. Where technology is incidental, and the tie that binds is shared purpose, shared mission, shared direction. This has been happening, of course, to some extent, but it often seems that the technology precedes, even shapes, the purpose.

I don’t merely want to build a Flickr community, a Twitter network, a Facebook gathering. I have personal and business dreams to pursue, and goals to accomplish.

A nice stadium in which to gather and cheer is not the same as a single-minded, purposeful team driving downfield to score 6 points.

At least for me, it’s time to put purpose first. How about you?


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First Look: Skype Video on iPhone

This morning, I just finished a post on when things don’t “just work”.

Then I downloaded the new version of Skype for the iPhone, which includes the ability to do video calls with other Skype users. Jim Long (@newmediajim on Twitter) wanted to test it out also, so we had our first real-time conversation via iPhone-to-iPhone Skype video. Jim on a 3G network, and me from my home Wi-Fi.

In a word: Awesome!

It. Just. Worked. As with Skype on the computer, this was a totally intuitive process, and we connected right up and started chatting without a flaw or hiccup. Call me impressed. This may very well catalyze a changeover for me from casual (but happy) Skype user to a paid, heavy-use account.

If you haven’t tried it, give it a whirl. The future keeps arriving in the palm of our hands.

Photo credit: Jim Long


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When it Doesn’t Just Work

We came back home after a few days away to a rather amusing note from the gal who house-sat out home (and dog) while we visited family over the holidays.

She noted a few “issues” with our digitally-controlled stuff, summarized thusly:

  1. The radio in the kitchen does not work like a radio,
  2. The TV in the family room does not work like a TV,
  3. The TV in the master bedroom does not work like a TV,
  4. The atomic-interfaced alarm clock is now into 2017.

Anyone who, like us, has more modern digital video/sound systems knows the problem with the proliferation of remote controls and the occasional complexity of doing simple tasks, like, say, turning the thing on and changing channels. What if the prior input was for the Tivo, and now I want to watch a broadcast channel, or a DVD, or skate on over to Netflix-on-demand? Eventually, you get used to which buttons to press and in what order, but when someone else comes into the house, you now have…utter confusion.

Back in the day, when you walked into someone else’s house, every TV pretty much worked the same. And radios had on-off buttons and simple station selectors. It wasn’t HD, but it was simple. It worked.

We’ve come a long way in making great technology. I was reflecting with Joe Cascio over coffee a few days back how we old-timers were trained, by Microsoft primarily, to expect disaster and hardship and trouble with every new version, every peripheral, every update (the “Microsoft Flinch”). I still get angst-y whenever I install something or bring up a new device – except now, stuff mostly just works (OK, so I am now mostly working with Apple products, but the PC stuff is WAY better as well!)

But we’re not there yet. When a house-sitter can’t even get a TV to work, we have a user-interface problem. When I STILL need my kids to occasionally remind me that I have to press button Q on remote #3 in order to actually reach the proper menu to do X, this is not good design. We’ve crossed the threshold of easy on a lot of products and systems, but we still have a ways to go to make everything just work. I guess that’ll keep some of our talented people permanently employed!


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Can We Re-Make Business via Social Networking?

I think so. You?

Our goal should not be so small as to get corporations to adopt a social media strategy. That’s fine – but, frankly, I want to transform how business gets done. Who’s with me?


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Social Media: Start Here

You are considering how “social media” fits into your current or future business strategy.

Or, you are already on board with social networking but have to convince colleagues or clients who are skeptical.

Here’s my advice: Don’t start with social media. Start with the much bigger trends, which are making social media inevitable.

It’s all outlined here: The New Normal: Networked Communications. This Slideshare explains that technology-fueled Trend Currents (not current trends!) are shaping society in such a way that the use of social media/networked communications is inexorable – and inevitable.

If you’re looking for help educating professional colleagues and clients about how networked communications are (inevitably) re-shaping business, let me know. That’s my consulting/speaking sweet spot.


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[This post is the summary of a series of posts, each covering a certain aspect of the topic: see part 1, The New Normal; part 2, The New Normal is the Old Normal; part 3, The Microphone is Mine Now; part 4, The Incredibly Shrinking Middleman; part 5, Someone Took Down the Fences, part 6, The New Digital Neighborhood; and this final post – Social Media: Start Here]


As you may already be aware, I’ve recently transitioned this blog from the name StickyFigure to my updated identity, Connection Agent.

The major reason is that I’m intent on exploring new ways to connect people and networks, and build new business structures based on Networked Communications.

As part of that effort, The Connection Agent blog and Twitter account (@ConnectionAgent) will be places where we experiment with stuff. New technologies and approaches to tie people together.

In the past few weeks, I’ve been test-driving, which automagically curates a daily newspaper based on the items shared by a Twitter list you create. Ross Dawson just wrote a helpful overview, and an explanation of how curated news apps work (and why they’re becoming so popular). Louis Gray also put up a helpful post on the broader topic of information curation.

I’ve created multiple papers for two types of audience: thematic interest (pharma/healthcare), and local interest (social media folks in a given geographical area), to see if this is a helpful tool in promoting people and exposing them to their peers: (pharma news drawn from links shared on Twitter) (drawn from top links shared by pharma’s influential social media types on Twitter) (healthcare news drawn from Twitter, with a bit of focus on digital/eHealthcare) (links and news shared by influential ePatients and advocates on Twitter) (links and news shared by influential Boston-area folks on Twitter) (links and news shared by influential CT folks on Twitter) (links and news shared by influential NJ folks on Twitter) (links and news shared by influential Chicago-area folks on Twitter) is cool in that it auto-tweets when a new daily edition is out, AND features in that tweet a few of the Twitter handles that are included – thereby increasing exposure. And yes, it does provide regular exposure for the creator of the paper – a nice benefit if you’re a network-builder. If you subscribe to a Daily (using Alert Me button), it sends an e-mail to you with a link each day when the edition is ready – very handy.

Two major upsides:

– Automated curation in a build-once leave-alone format. You set it up once, and it just runs.

– It brings together a group of resources/links into one place at one time, in easy to read format. Many of these are links you might have missed in your standard tweetstream.

Here are two downsides I see thus far:

– The paper roughly comes out each day at about the time of day you originally created it. The creator should be able to specify a delivery time.

– If you create multiple papers, as I have (and I’m probably an exception), and people subscribe to your Twitter feed, they may feel that they are getting “spammed” by links on a daily basis ->

My experience with the tool and approach has been mostly positive so far. But that’s me – what matters is you, the readers.

So, now I want to hand the microphone over to you. What do you think of Are you getting any papers from others, or have you created your own? Does it help in network-building? Do you see downsides? Let’s discuss this – the whole approach is not going away, so let’s start brainstorming together how it can be refined and improved.


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Networked Communications (part 6): The New Digital Neighborhoods

Your community used to be your extended family, your neighbors, your schoolmates and members of various community groups.

The ties were physical and, by and large, local.

They still are – but now we take part in whole new neighborhoods. Communities built around shared interests and common causes, all brought together with digital tools.

The new neighborhoods are found on digital networks. They’re local, global, temporary, permanent, rooted in the past or purpose-built for the present and the future.

And businesses that don’t recognize this sea change – people who remain rooted in legacy thinking about communities – will lose a wealth of opportunities. People are fed up with being bombarded with one-way, manipulative marketing messages. They want to hear from people like themselves. People in the communities they choose (or even create themselves).

And just as neighbors always have, they have a powerful influence on each others’ buying decisions. Not in the game? Not part of the discussion? You lose.

Involvement in social media is not a difficult decision, when this larger context is understood. We want to be where customers are. We want to influence communities, generate neighborhood referrals, and build tribes. The fastest growing businesses will be where the most efficient networked communications occur. Social media is crucial to any strategy of reaching people “where they are” now. Because where many of them are gathering, and talking, and influencing, is on-line.

If your co-workers or clients have cold feet about social media, simply ask if they have a smart phone. If they use the Internet. If they are on Facebook. If they use these tools and more to…connect with people. If they’re influenced by ratings on Amazon, if they’ve used Yelp to find a good restaurant, if they’ve used LinkedIn Answers – all of that is taking a dip into the pool of on-line neighborhoods.

Customers are swimming in those pools, some in the shallow end, but increasingly, many in the deep end. Seems counter-productive to sit on the sidelines when buyers and influencers are already in the game…

[This post is part of a series of posts, each covering a certain aspect of the topic: see part 1, The New Normal; part 2, The New Normal is the Old Normal; part 3, The Microphone is Mine Now; part 4, The Incredibly Shrinking Middleman; part 5, Someone Took Down the Fences, part 6, The New Digital Neighborhood; and the summary post – Social Media: Start Here]


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Someone Please Make This

Backstory: A lot of what we do in social networking really ends up NOT being conversation.

So…here’s the real-time, conversational social networking platform I want:

– I can be inside a wide open area (the Lounge), or grab a Room with a few friends for a more private chat.

– I can lurk quietly and observe, or make my presence known and interact.

– In the Rooms, I can engage using text/chat, audio, or video. With 1-10 people.

– I can classify my contacts by level of intimacy, so that I can more quickly and easily connect to closer friends (knowing when they are present)

– I can set up my own fixed “Room” for scheduled meetings

– I can use geolocation (mobile) or zip code entry to go to “local” sections of the Lounge and see who is actually close-by in the real world

– I can archive threaded chat, audio, and/or video conversations (this would become the killer interview platform!)

A lot of this has been done in bits and pieces – Second Life, FourSquare, Twitter, Facebook, Skype, TinyChat, Stickam, etc. etc. But no-one has pulled all the pieces together to make a flexible, intuitive, real-time conversational social platform.

Google, are you listening? You’ve just announced Gmail phone calling, with a tie-in to Google Voice. You’ve got so many of the pieces and this is your chance to finally launch a social platform that rocks the house…


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Networked Communications (part 4): The Incredibly Shrinking Middleman

Disintermediation (Wikipedia link).

That’s what we’re talking about. When the people and processes and barriers between point A and point B shrink or disappear. Making things faster, cheaper, more direct.

This week, Seth Godin announced that he was “done” with publishing traditional books. This was actually a logical progression – the book industry has been undergoing disintermediation for years, and the fact is, we can now reach audiences without all the overhead (and cost) of the traditional publishing and distribution process.

Digital technology, including social media/networked communications, shrinks the middleman.

Just this past week, Chris Brogan wrote about how he purchased a new car, sight unseen, via the Internet. Traditional local dealers weren’t cutting the mustard.

So, with the cultural and technological advances making various walls crumble, and causing middlemen to disappear, how do we talk to clients and colleagues about social media?

We tie the use of networked communications to this inexorable trend of disintermediation. Digital networked communications are removing (or radically changing) all the traditional methods of distributing information and reaching people. Social media is not a blip on the radar screen. It’s a component of something that is re-shaping culture globally – disintermediation.

The distribution of multi-media messages; the ability to touch customers directly; the bypassing of newspapers and magazines and billboards and TV in order to interact in a non-mediated fashion – this is both the present and the future.

I mean, you don’t write too many letters on paper anymore, putting them in an envelope, using a stamp, and entrusting them to the Post Office for several days in order to communicate – right? Disintermediation is written all over our increasingly digital and networked communications. It’s not a fad. It’s a fact.

[This post is part of a series of posts, each covering a certain aspect of the topic: see part 1, The New Normal; part 2, The New Normal is the Old Normal; part 3, The Microphone is Mine Now; part 4, The Incredibly Shrinking Middleman; part 5, Someone Took Down the Fences, part 6, The New Digital Neighborhood; and the summary post – Social Media: Start Here]


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Networked Communications (part 3): The Microphone is Mine Now

(This brief series is an effort to help us make the reasons for using social networking for business clearer to the skeptic, by rooting usage in overall cultural/technical trends that are…well, inevitable! See also part 1, the introductory post; and part 2, The New Normal is the Old Normal)

Here’s an excerpt of what I wrote a couple of years ago for the book Age of Conversation 2:

We are hardwired to communicate. We think, we share, we listen, we pass along information. We are storytellers and story-listeners.

However, as we’ve moved to a more modern society, with means of mass communication, a funny thing began to happen. Designated storytellers began to take over the place. And the rest of us were supposed to just listen.

The microphone was given to newscasters. Journalists. Professors. Authors. Experts. Marketers. The vast majority of people became listeners. Recipients. Consumers.

The tide has now turned. With social media tools, we have the microphone now. All we have to do is turn it on, and begin speaking. And we’re not giving it back!

The barriers to the average person having a “public” voice used to be pretty high. Influencers became such through a long (and usually expensive) process. No more. Ideas can flow, through social media tools, into the public marketplace within minutes. At virtually no cost.

This cultural and technical trend utterly upends the communications apple cart. A digital camera and a blog can expose wrongdoing at lightning speed. A musical talent can be uncovered overnight. Shoddy journalists and crummy businesses can be upstaged by mere citizens with an array of digital “microphones.”

Which is why we don’t want to talk about social media in isolation. The issue is digitally empowered expression. That train has left the station, and is hurtling comfortably down the track. Even if the details about Facebook and Twitter and “social media” aren’t well understood, any business that wants to remain relevant can understand this one Trend Current:

The customer has the microphone now. And s/he is not giving it back.

[This post is part of a series of posts, each covering a certain aspect of the topic: see part 1, The New Normal; part 2, The New Normal is the Old Normal; part 3, The Microphone is Mine Now; part 4, The Incredibly Shrinking Middleman; part 5, Someone Took Down the Fences, part 6, The New Digital Neighborhood; and the summary post – Social Media: Start Here]


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Networked Communications (part 2): The New Normal is The Old Normal

(see part 1, the introductory post, here)

When two people catch up on neighborhood news across the backyard fence, what is it called? Networked Communications (some might call it gossip, but we’ll leave that out for the moment…!)

It’s just people communicating with other people in some form of connected network. Like – what we’ve always done. And do now.

Water cooler talk? Networked Communications.

Telegraph? Hard-wired phones? Cell phones? Networked Communications.

E-mail? IM? Social gatherings? All of it is Networked Communications.

So what is Social Media? What about blogs, Twitter, Facebook, on-line video, and the next new shiny thing that pops up? You guessed it. Networked Communications. People are sharing, connecting, communicating (as we have always done), with the enhancement of a digital web.

Each technological advance over the centuries has simply made communicating/networking faster and easier. Today’s social media is not to be thought of as some radically new thing. It’s Networked Communications, turbocharged. Nothing more, nothing less.

So here’s the point – when we talk about these approaches with our clients and colleagues, we need to de-mystify the whole thing by discussing the broader context. What we’re doing with digital social networking tools is simply accelerating something we’ve always done – build and participate in networks, and communicate within them.

All this newfangled social media stuff can be discussed as facilitation tools for communicating. Like a cell phone once was (now, of course, it’s an assumed appendage). In very short order, what we now call “social media” will be like the combustion engine or a cell phone. A given.

Whether it’s marketing, or PR, or internal silo-busting communications, or whatever, it’s all Networked Communications. It’s an inevitable progression, not some exotic new fad. When we talk to clients and colleagues, we should talk about inexorable trends. It’s the New Normal.

And the New Normal is the Old Normal. On steroids.

[This post is part of a series of posts, each covering a certain aspect of the topic: see part 1, The New Normal; part 2, The New Normal is the Old Normal; part 3, The Microphone is Mine Now; part 4, The Incredibly Shrinking Middleman; part 5, Someone Took Down the Fences, part 6, The New Digital Neighborhood; and the summary post – Social Media: Start Here]


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Networked Communications (part 1): The New Normal

When trying to make the case for using social networking approaches in business, advocates often make a fundamental mistake.

We talk about social media.

Social media/social networking is often presented in isolation. In fact, to properly evaluate these approaches, it all needs to be seen in a much broader context:

You can debate the utility of using this or that social media approach for a given objective or audience. But you cannot debate the inexorable nature of a tidal wave. And when having these discussions, we need to move away from “social media” or “Twitter” or “Facebook” and put a spotlight on much bigger issues. Tidal wave issues.

Remember when people debated about whether or not we’d use personal computers (let alone the distant dream of “smartphones”)? We don’t have that discussion anymore, do we? The INEXORABLE movement of computing power into smaller and cheaper packages made it inevitable that the argument would eventually end with one, and only one, outcome.

Social media – social networking – networked communications – is like that. Except, any debate will end faster!

So, it’s time to look at the bigger trends shaping society, where the real case is made for using these new tools and approaches.

What are these bigger trends?

Social media is actually part of a larger category (Networked Communications), which is itself  being shaped by large scale cultural and technical trends. Let’s call it the Trend Current – whereas “current trends” has the connotation of temporary shallowness, the Trend Current is deep, broad, and inexorable.

Trend Currents make the case for us that this “social media” thing is not some fad, and is definitely not some add-on to a marketing plan. In fact, there are at least 5 Trend Currents that demonstrate how social networking already does, and increasingly will, pervade the landscape of business and life.

We will look at each of these trends in separate posts this week. Here’s the bullet point overview:

  1. Networked Communications: The New Normal is the Old Normal
  2. Self-Expression: The Microphone is Mine Now
  3. Disintermediation: The Incredibly Shrinking Middleman
  4. Peer-to-Peer Engagement: Someone Took Down the Fences
  5. Communities: The New Digital Neighborhoods

That’s a lot of words, but here’s the point: when business stakeholders realize that the river is flowing downhill and will only get wider and faster, that makes the argument for using a boat much easier. If you think that social media is a fad, or may dry up, or isn’t woven into the fabric of unstoppable Trend Currents, then the battle to get engaged is an uphill one. Which is why we have to focus more on the river than on the boat.

Make sense? Tune in this week as we open up each of these trends. Perhaps by Friday it’ll be easier to make the case for networked communications!

[This post is part of a series of posts, each covering a certain aspect of the topic: see part 1, The New Normal; part 2, The New Normal is the Old Normal; part 3, The Microphone is Mine Now; part 4, The Incredibly Shrinking Middleman; part 5, Someone Took Down the Fences, part 6, The New Digital Neighborhood; and the summary post – Social Media: Start Here]


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The Question I’ll Never Ask You

“Will you be my virtual friend?”

My kids accuse me of having a host of virtual friends. Wrong, kiddos.

I have a network of very real people – friends, acquaintances, colleagues, clients – some of whom I just haven’t met face-to-face yet.

They’re no less real than anyone else. The fact the we “pre-met” and communicate via virtual platforms doesn’t change that.

By all means, let’s connect. But there’s no virtual person in the relationship. Perhaps we should stop talking about “real-life” and “on-line” friends and just be…friends.


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The Influencer Project


If you missed this event, you can download the full mp3 file and the .pdf transcript of all the 60-second clips right here.

Here is what I had to say in my minute of fame:

My main secret for building influence online is to identify gifted up-and-comers that are just getting into social media, but clearly have the right stuff, have good experience, have drive, have a message—but really need help getting launched on platforms like Twitter or in blogging. By coming alongside them and becoming an advocate, and taking their material and exposing it to a broader audience and connecting them to key people, you end up creating for yourself an advocate for life.

This is someone who will absolutely feel a debt of gratitude to you, and will be your biggest fan and supporter. And one of the keys for digital influence is not having the biggest number of connections; it’s really having the most rabid advocates. And when people feel a sense that you are a helpful, very unselfish helper in their growth then they will absolutely help you in your growth.


What happens when you get 60 of the web’s leading thinkers each sharing how you can increase your digital influence – all in 60 minutes?

Find out on Tuesday, July 6th at 6 pm ET. Here’s the scoop: The Influencer Project.

(Disclosure – yes, I somehow got included in the 60. Clerical error, I believe….!)


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