There are regular debates these days about twitter and whether it is a valuable social media tool for business. For those of you who are unfamiliar with twitter , it is a free microblogging service that allows users to share snippets of information called “tweets” (up to 140 characters) about what they are doing.
See the Business Week Debate room - today’s question is whether twitter distracts and encourages poor behavior in business settings. Well what do you think?
Here is my opinion. All technologies, if used inappropriately, can encourage poor behavior period – in both business and personal settings. I fail to see how using twitter is any more distracting than a cell phone or blackberry.
Twitter is a great way for me to stay on top of important news, relevant events, and knowledgeable people. Yes, I find many of the “tweets” are worthless. And yes, I get upset when I know someone I am speaking with sends one out when I am sitting across from them! However, I am not sure I am any more upset than I would be if that same someone were to take phone calls or send emails.
I remember one of the most important business lessons I learned early in my career was from a Dale Carnegie Leadership Training for Managers program. They stressed that when you are having a conversation with a customer (employee, partner, prospect), they should receive your undivided attention. Otherwise, the perception, and really the reality, is that there is something else more important than their needs. And, if you had an urgent situation, you should let them know in advance that you needed to take a call or perhaps an email if it came in during the meeting or conversation.
In summary, I do believe that in some cases, twitter does encourage rude behavior and self absorption in business settings. And, I strongly believe that the folks that abuse twitter etiquette are the same people that violate cell phone and blackberry etiquette. However, the majority of users share great information and viewpoints that I feel are quite valuable.
With the new year now in full swing, business strategies laid out, and new challenges on the horizon, I am researching events that I would like to attend this year. With so many really good ones to choose from, there is much homework to do to determine which events offer the best education and content, opportunity to network with peers, and perhaps a warm learning environment (vs the cold of New England).
I suspect that many of the environmental professionals who are members of commonground have your favorite environmental events that you attend annually and they are already on your calendar. Please do feel free to let me know which ones you feel are the best as I welcome your suggestions on which ones you find of value and think I should attend.
Today though, I am evaluating social networking, user generated content, and new media events that will help me to execute our social media strategy to continue to provide additional value to the members of commonground. Therefore, I thought I would would pass along some information that might be helpful to those of you who already have a social media strategy or are considering it.
I recommend you check out Mashable's Tech Events Guide. It offers a pretty comprehensive list of events as well as discounts available to Mashable readers. There are a number of events in there ranging in focus and price that cover many of the hot topics in social media. There are a few others that I am considering that are not included in Mashable's list yet.
South by Southwest 2009 - SXSW March 13-17th is considered to be one of the better social media events out there with enough content to keep you busy for months.
The Community2.0 Conference - In addition to conference content, the full day pre-conference session titled "Getting Started with Community" is great way to get started (full disclosure - I have a slight bias towards this one as I was part of the team that launched the first one in March 2007).
Whether you choose one of these events or any event, I encourage you to check out the sites of the media and program partners as most of them have some type of affiliation discount attainable by using a priority code during the registration process. And, every little bit helps.
Hopefully, I will see you at one of these upcoming events.
Last week, one of our members posted a question in a commonground discussion thread asking for insights from members concerning the environmental impact pharmaceuticals and personal care products can have if they are disposed of via the toilet or sink.
This question seemed like a great question for me to broadcast to my followers on twitter, many of whom are either in the environmental and property due diligence arena, or, are just passionate about helping improve the environment. So, I thought I would try to help the member out by broadcasting the following message:
"does anyone have any knowledge about the environmental impact of flushing expired medicine down the hopper? http://tinyurl.com/brsyop 11:45 AM Feb 6th from web
Shortly after 12:00 PM, a former colleague of mine responded with a suggestion to check out Earth911.com to look for additional data on the topic.
The outreach via twitter helped our commonground member receive a very valuable suggestion from someone who was more than willing to help and share knowledge. And, each receives value. The member with the question is happy because she received some feedback, and the member submitting the suggestion is happier because she could be helpful. Who does not want to be helpful? Lets face it, it makes us feel good about ourselves to help others.
Why do I blog about this? This is a great example of how social netowrking provides real value and connectivity. Would they ever have connected otherwise? Probably not. In the past, how did we find this information? We asked colleagues, we asked friends, we searched online, we visited the library, etc. Today, our social networks are enabling us to find answers and solve problems faster, thus improving our knowledge, productivity, and efficiency.
It is that terrific time of the year when all the sports seasons seem to converge. For a sports nut and washed up athlete like me, I am like a kid in a candy store each Saturday and Sunday! The decisions are tough ….. College Football, Pro Football, College Hockey, Pro Hockey, Major League Baseball, Professional Basketball, Golf, etc... Which one(s) do I watch?
Recently, it seems like the sporting events I have watched have been more enjoyable. I believe the reason why is because some fairly new technologies have slightly improved facets of my experience.
Below, I have highlighted three primary tools I find myself using during the past few months while I am watching sporting events at home or in person.
1) Twitter – I am a huge Red Sox fan. During Red Sox games, especially this postseason, passionate Red Sox fans had ongoing discussions via tweets on twitter that included sarcasm, great commentary, and interesting insights that not only made me laugh, but added a completely new dimension to my game day experience. Therefore, I began to religiously follow the #redsox threads. I got a chance to see a different side of some of people I know and am following on Twitter. During one of the Red Sox come from behind wins, Shel Israel, one of the true twitter pioneers (@shelisrael on twitter) pointed out that although he could not see the game, the Red Sox chat on Twitter and updates made him feel like he was watching it and that it was one of the coolest things he had ever experienced on twitter. I would also rank it right up there.
2) SportsTap – On the iPhone, there is a free application called SportsTap. At any time, I can get real time updates on all my favorite teams within a few seconds. While watching a specific game, I simply check my phone to see if there is another game that might be more interesting than the one I am watching. During the limited time I have to watch games on TV these days, this helps me to ensure I am watching the exciting ones.
3) Plusmo College Football – Also on my iPhone, I have this application. It provides an ondemand dashboard of all my favorite college football teams and how they are doing. I am a huge college football fan, but if you are not, they offer plenty of other sports applications too.
I have completely eliminated the need to sit and watch the Ticker on ESPN for 10 minutes to have them cut out to a commercial exactly when the scores that matter to me are up next. I suspect that many of you know exactly what I mean! I now have real time access to opinions, scores, and my favorites.
Although this post has nothing to do with property due diligence, it is another example of how technology that I primarily use for work including twitter and my iPhone, is helping me to enjoy one of my favorite hobbies, and life outside work (yes, we have those).
If there are other technologies like these that you are using in a similar way, I would love to hear back from you.
Each day I come to the office knowing that my team is blazing a new trail with commonground. We are developing something that is entrepreneurial, valuable, and in many ways still unfamiliar, to many environmental professionals. It is never a dull moment especially these days as we take commonground to the next level.
Each day, I am lucky to gain access to so many great articles, blogs, and experiences because of my social networks, feeds, and Twitter. Today, I was thrilled to find this one. I believe it might be one of the easiest reads on the simple ways to embrace social media that I have seen in a long time. I encourage any of you who are exploring your online and social media strategy to read Valeria Maltoni's recent blog Conversation Agent: 7 Things I Learned Online That I Use at Work.
The key takeaways are:
1) Business relationships are taking new forms as customers, colleagues, and partners are communicating in new, more effective, and social ways. Zappos is a great example of a company that exemplifies this.
2) People and companies that are charged with social innovation typically start by just trying things to see if they work and either stick with them if they do or bail on them if they don't.
3) Delivering stuff to your customers (employees, partners, prospects) that is timely, transparent, and valuable will enable you to develop much deeper relationships than any of your traditional marketing collateral ever could.
One line that stands repeating from the article is this - "People are no longer a company's best asset, they are its best technology. Contribution and connection are the new currency".
Don't forget to set some reasonable goals before you start sampling. Remember the saying which is posted here in our office "a goal without a plan is just a wish" - Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Today, I have been thinking about what technology I use each day to be more productive. Given that I live in the b2b social media world, and there is so much great technology available, it makes for some very difficult decisions. After all, there is only so much time in each day.
So, here is the list of the top 10 social communities, technologies, and sites I find valuable this week. Please note that this list could change tomorrow.
1. commonground – my blog and source for property due diligence, answers, news, and knowledge
2. twitter – share and consume social media news and updates
4. Yammer –departmental communication
5. LinkedIn – manage relationships and contacts
6. facebook – started using it again this week – 100 million people do, so it seemed like I should
7. Internet Archive –live music to keep me sane
8. Webex – presentations over the web
9. VendorCity–peer reviews on things that can help me with business issues
10. YouTube.com –access to some cool videos to integrate into typically boring powerpoints
Now, just because this list works for me, does not mean it works for everyone. I can quantify real value from using each of the above and a number of others that did not make the top 10.
My simple advice to employees, clients, and friends who ask me about what to use is:
· New technologies are like vegetables – you do not have to order them again if you don’t like them
· Set a reasonable timeframe to do a proper evaluation – I typically give it 30 days
· When you are stressed out, you will not give it a fair shot – It will be there tomorrow (and if it isn’t you saved yourself some time)
· Make sure you quantify the value you receive to make a sound decision–like with anything else
I am curious to hear if there are any technologies, web sites, communities, etc. out there you find valuable and recommend I check out. Well, I need to run – think I am going to go buy a new iphone.
All I think about these days is search engine optimization (SEO). Well, that is not exactly true, but I do think about it a lot. It is fascinating to me how much online search has impacted our lives and the business landscape.
Over the past month, my coworkers and fellow bloggers have asked me to provide some basic SEO suggestions. Rather than just share it with them them, I thought I would share my recommendations with all my fellow commongrounders.
1) Add hyperlinks to your blogs, discussions, and web content. See the following blog written by Julia Schopick about their value. http://www.webbasedpr.com/2008/07/hyperlinks-use-them-right-and-youll-shine-as-an-expert.html/
3) Add the ShareThis button to your websites, blogs, discussions, etc.. It allows folks to easily share your content with other folks in their “social” circle thus driving traffic to your content.
Viral or influence marketing is quickly overshadowing traditional marketing methods. The reason why is because friends, co-workers, consumers, and others who have some type of a “social” connection are much more likely to influence a decision than a great marketing campaign or sale pitch. Why? When your friend says I lost 15 lbs as a result of a particular diet, or that a restaurant is great, there is instant credibility. No infomercial or marketing piece will have the same influence and Google recognizes this.
Although you may feel like you are busy and time spent on this might be a waste of time at first, I can assure you that it is not. Please be patient and stick with it. You, and your company, will reap the rewards. According to Brian Halligan - CEO of Hubspot, 75% of us choose organic search (left hand side of Google) over the paid placements on the right side. Each of the above will help improve your positioning on the left hand side.
If you have any other SEO pointers or great SEO successes to share, I would love to hear them.
Most of the time I write about social media topics and trends. However, today I am switching gears a bit from the norm.
We all know how pivotal righting the real estate market ship is in the turnaround of our current economic crisis. This past weekend, I was on weather.com and came across the following link titled the Top 10 Most Polluted US Cities as published by the American Lung Association for 2008. See below results.
Top 10 U.S. Cities Most Polluted by Short-Term Particle Pollution:
1) Pittsburgh, Pa.
2) Los Angeles/Long Beach/Riverside, Calif.
3) Fresno/Madera, Calif.
4) Bakersfield, Calif.
5) Birmingham, Ala.
6) Logan, Utah
7) Salt Lake City, Utah
8) Sacramento, Calif.
9) Detroit, Mich.
10) Baltimore, Md./Washington, D.C./Northern Virginia.
Top 10 U.S. Cities Most Polluted by Year-Round Particle Pollution:
1) Los Angeles/Long Beach/Riverside, Calif.
2) Pittsburgh, Pa.
3) Bakersfield, Calif.
4) Birmingham, Ala.
5) Visalia/Porterville, Calif.
6) Atlanta, Ga.
7) Cincinnati, Ohio
8) Fresno/Madera, Calif.
9) Hanford/Corcoran, Calif.
10) Detroit, Mich.
Top 10 U.S. Cities Most Polluted by Ozone:
1) Los Angeles/Long Beach/Riverside, Calif.
2) Bakersfield, Calif.
3) Visalia/Porterville, Calif.
4) Houston, Texas
5) Fresno/Madera, Calif.
6) Sacramento, Calif.
7) Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas
8) New York, N.Y./Newark, N.J.
9) Baltimore, Md./Washington, D.C./Northern Virginia
10) Baton Rouge, La.
Today, I read CNN's 10 Worst Real Estate Markets in 2009. All of the following areas are expected to lose 20% or more of their property value in 2009. Eight of the ten included are in California and many are from cities determined to be the most polluted.
California - Los Angeles, Stockton, Riverside, Sacramento, Santa Ana, Fresno, San Diego, and Bakersfield.
Florida - Miami
District of Columbia - Washington (Virginia too)
After reading this and thinking about friends who are in CA, I am concerned about what might happen to them. I also cannot help but speculate about exactly how much impact the air pollution and other environmental issues have in the "big picture".
There are many talented people working on a long term plan. What is the short term plan? Clearly, the ripple effect could be unimaginable if we do not plug this leak in our ship.
What are your thoughts on how to potentially address these issues in 2009?
For those of you who think my New Year's Resolution is to go on a crash diet to reach 140 pounds or less, my apologies.
I am talking about twitter. Whether we like it or not, twitter is how friends, families, peers, and co-workers are communicating and keeping in touch. It is even changing how news is being communicated and consumed. Just take a look at what happened yesterday when a plane crashed and one of the passengers used twitter on his phone (but not his phone) to communicate the play by play with his family.
Although there are many people who have been using twitter for a couple of years now, it's popularity is still emerging. Recently, Hubspot published a report titled the State of the Twittersphere that produced the following statistics.
- an estimated 5,000 - 10,000 twitter accounts are registered each day
- 70% of twitter users joined in 2008 and 20% of those users have joined in the last 60 days
- 75% of users have 50 or fewer followers, 5% have over 250 followers, and fewer than 1% have over 1,000 followers
If you have not yet signed up for a twitter account, I would strongly encourage all property and environmental due diligence professionals to integrate twitter into your plans for 2009 to:
Plus, it is a easy - if you consider yourself a beginner with social media, twitter is as about as easy as it gets
As you set up your account, I would encourage you to read CNET's the Newbie's Guide to Twitter. It is a bit dated, but it is very simple to follow and touches upon the basics in an easy to understand way.
For those of you who do not know me personally, I was hired by Environmental Data Resources (EDR) as the VP of Social Media about six months ago. During that time, I have had the pleasure of speaking with a number of terrific people in our industry who are members, non - members, and partners of commonground.
What is interesting to me is the consistency of questions I have been asked. Therefore, I have written this blog post to publicly answer some of those questions that I and other members of my team have received about commonground.
Q: Why has EDR invested in building commonground?
A: Social media is something no one in the environmental and property industry, or any other marketplace for that matter, can ignore. If harnessed in the right way, it will have a significant impact on the future of our industry. The new professionals entering our market, who will be the future leaders of companies in our industry, as well as seasoned professionals are demanding that social media is part of mainstream media. As a result, business to business social media is one of, if not the, top technology trends right now. Thus, we created commonground to enable people of like minds, interests, and professions to network with one another in a business to business social network that is targeted, unique, and valuable.
In addition to helping the industry, we do hope there will be many direct benefits for EDR including increased customer loyalty, improved understanding of what is important to the industry and our customer, and better/faster product information based on direct feedback from our customers.
Q: How is EDR making money from commonground?
A: We are not making money. We have invested significant resources to build and grow this community for our members. When you consider the elements involved in creating a social media strategy, building and maintaining the site, scaling membership and content, and responding to member requests, our costs have been significant.
Q: Do we expect commonground to generate revenue?
A: Yes, at some point - isn't that why we are all in business? Our plan is to generate revenue by delivering added value services to environmental and property due diligence professionals that have not been available in the past.
Q: I knew you were going to charge fees on commonground at some point. Do you think that is fair given the turbulent economic times?
A: All commonground membership benefits are free. We have only charged a fee for one upcoming premium web seminar, but most likely will be lucky to cover our costs to deliver this premium webinar. Our hope is that our members will appreciate the investment EDR has made and find significant value in being a member of commonground. And, if we have achieved our objective and are providing new, unique, targeted products and services, that enable our members to achieve important business objectives such as generate revenue, reduce costs, make better decisions, and be more successful, we feel that our members will be willing to pay a reasonable fee.
Q: When do you plan to charge an individual membership fee?
A: As of today, we don't plan to charge an individual membership fee on commonground.
Q: Do you plan to charge sponsorship fees?
A: Yes. We feel like we can deliver significant value for marketing departments via the use of todays social technologies.
Q: What does EDR stand to gain?
A: A lot. We are helping our customers and the market during some of the most difficult times ever. We are enabling environmental professionals to network with one another to ask difficult and timely questions to win business. We are creating a place where our members can share insights, download information, network with one another, secure discounted conference passes, get access to timely information, and learn. As you know, there are many benefits to helping your customers be succesful. EDR wants to send the message loud and clear that there are no other companies out there that have made this kind of investment during a time when companies are cutting back, to enable its current and future customers to realize success.
Q: What has the response been?
Positive beyond our wildest expectations...and we have just begun!
I hope the above information and transparency has answered any questions that may have existed. If you have any further questions about commonground, feel free to include the question as a comment to my blog, contact me via twitter, or send me a direct email. Thank you all for your continued support.