All posts by Nick Gundry

Who are you really?

You know the nuances of your personality better than others. You know that when you’re quiet and focused at work it doesn’t mean “Go away, I don’t like you!”. You know that when you exclaim with surprise “Huh! You look really nice today” to your wife it doesn’t mean you think that she normally looks terrible. But, what people hear or perceive is often different from real truth or intention.

The old adage “Perception is reality” is probably more important than it ever has been before. As we live our life online we constantly create new relationships, build new networks of friends, and put our innermost thoughts out there.

If you’re reading this you’ve probably got an account on at least one of the main social media platforms, and you likely have many “friends”. With the proliferation of social apps your connections are continually categorizing, tagging, grouping and molding their perception of you based on three things:

  • What are you doing?
  • Where are you?
  • Who are you with?

We willingly answer these questions with status updates, check-ins, photos and interactions in the real world. We are building a highly visible outward perception of ourselves. There’s more data about you passing through the Internet than ever before. For some people this frightens them, they may join the revolution but they lock it down and try to control their outward persona. Others let it all show for everyone to see.

The mobile web and location aware applications are further blending our online personas with our real world interactions and it’s chipping away at the wall that was online/offline personas. You have a good sense of the type of person you are (or are working to be) so maybe it’s time to follow some advice from songwriter Sting (real name Gordon Sumner, oh the irony) “Be yourself no matter what they say”.

If you’re not going to be yourself and be real, authentic and transparent then it will catch up with you. It seems to me it’s just easier and better for everyone to be true to yourself, what do you think?

Attention seekers, why you need context as well as great content

Yesterday morning I woke up with  a strong desire to get away from it all and drive to San Francisco for the day. I tweeted my craving for some city time and received some great tips for events and much encouragement to go. I also received an email that arrived five minutes after my original tweet. It was from hotels.com, the subject line…

Great Hotels in San Francisco & More – Book Now!”

I normally delete emails from hotels.com straight away but the timing of this one was impeccable, it was like a sign. This email tipped the scales and changed my behavior. I got serious about  booking a room, grabbing the family and hitting the road. If it wasn’t for a scheduling conflict I’d probably be writing this post from Emporio Rulli coffee shop on Union Square.

Content Context is King

The email really got me thinking about the subjects of context and attention. It’s already been on my mind since I saw Brian Solis speak at Social Media Masters in San Diego. He delivered a fantastic keynote presentation.  One of his slides told us content is no longer king. It’s true, we have become overwhelmed us with too many messages. We don’t want to listen anymore, many of us spend significant time creating filters in our social tools to narrow the focus of our attention to brands, relationships and products we are interested in.

The filtering of noise has made it harder and harder for marketers to deliver the message THEY want us to hear. The smart marketers however have realized that they need to deliver a message that WE want to hear. Context is now king.

Although the email from hotels.com was surely a coincidence imagine if it wasn’t. Just think of a world where companies spend significant time crafting personalized messages not for segments or specific demographics but you, not someone like you, actually you!

Some companies already create content on the fly targeted at individuals based on reading habits, what they’ve tweeted about, who their friends are and more. This method might just sound too perfect. Companies get to put their products in front of people who are receptive, and those people get a message that’s not intrusive, but timely. It’s the perfect solution right? Well, it’s definitely a step in the right direction but we have to remember that people are smart. It wasn’t the marketers that decided content was no longer king it was the consumers. One day they will decide context is no longer king, then what?

I suspect context will be king for some time as it really is a valuable way of thinking about your customer. It’s beneficial all round, but it does take work. Please share what you are doing to help deliver messages in the right context. I’d love to explore the subject more deeply.

Oh, and while we’re on the subject of context, have you got involved with your local Social Media Club chapter. You really should, we’re all in this together to learn.

Can Klout and Quora really tell us anything about influence?

Klout Score
Klout Score

My Klout profile has a list of people who influence me. It includes some friends and also some recognized “influencers” like Brian Solis and Tim O’Reilly. Avinash Kaushik is also in the list. If you don’t know Avinash he published Web Analytics 2.0, works for Google as their Analytics Evangelist and publishes a pretty popular blog Occam’s Razor. But wait, something’s wrong…my Klout score is more than double Avinash’s. If you consider Avinash is a Googler and published author he surely has more “Klout” than I do.

I think everyone would admit that influence and sentiment is difficult to measure. That said, there’s something fundamentally wrong with how we are defining influencers. We’re relying too much on automated algorithms. Adrian Pelzer recently created a bot that tweeted computer generated quotes every minute and achieved a Klout score of 51 within 80 days. Read the article but please take note of the comment by Joe Fernandez one of the co-founders of Klout who has a great response to the test. I like Klout and what they are trying to do, but it’s a difficult task.

Influencers are those people that have the largest direct impact on a group of people. By definition influence is a force that can affect the actions of others. Influencers are change agents, they share ideas and move people.

With the explosion of social media the walls are down and the “markets” for influence are global. Influence is closely aligned with trust and without it the opportunity to forge long term relationships (business and personal) are greatly reduced. Trust is earned, and that’s more important than ever for businesses today.

I don’t believe influence should be measured solely on reach, or the likelihood that content is going to be shared as I don’t trust that information is always relevant. What should it be measured by, or can it even be measured? If measurement is important  it should always be tied to context.

Finding Value, Finding Answers

In the last few weeks we’ve seen Quora completely take off, I am getting daily emails alerting me to new people that are following me. At a basic level Quora is a simple question and answer site, but it’s more than that. The openness of twitter and social media in general have allowed people to connect and interact with “big names” with greater ease. These big names may not be recognizable to the much of the general public but when you bring it down to niche markets and topics as Quora does the access to these people is astounding. It allows me to trust the people I am connecting with by allowing them to demonstrate their knowledge, there’s no smoke and mirrors…well maybe some, there’s always Google for research.

It’s becoming a repository of knowledge and by doing so is shifting the balance away from purely numbers.

What seems to be missing in this race to define influence is the importance of relevance. Shel Israel recently posted an excellent article on “The Importance of Measuring Relevance”. I encourage you to read it (when you’ve finished this one).

So how do we look at all this information and give it value. What makes a tweet, or an answer to a question relevant to me? What’s important about these relationships and shared knowledge we are creating and can we measure it’s value?

Introducing the Smart Score

Influential people online and offline have a common trait, they move ideas into action. Once an idea is in the action phase if it resonates with the right people it will likely have an impact. The impact may be as small as a new way of preparing a common dinner dish, or it could change the world. The principal is the same, the movement from idea, through action resulting in impact changes behaviors. Think of the people who change the world, it always happens at the intersection of smart thinking, smart action and smart impact. For examples of this in action check out some TED talks. The world changing ideas are those where the end result is one having a smart impact on society.

Can this be translated to a system where people are able to get the best value from their connections? We’re tackling these issues at smartagious.com by creating a smarter network that allows people to spread brilliance, yes there’s a score but if you want to game it feel free it’s going to have an impact in your chosen niche or community. We hope it’s going to be a world changer!

The algorithm that drives the smart score is not calculated solely on actions you take online it’s curated via your relationships and how you have shared your knowledge to create impact. Smartagious knows the value of trust so we’ve created trusted connections. These are your most valued relationships that are having a smart impact.

You don’t need to be Mother Teresa or Brian Solis to be an influencer. You can focus on becoming a valuable connection by asking yourself these questions.

  • What ideas are you sharing?
  • How are you turning your ideas into action?
  • What impact are you having?

If you want to find out more about Smartagious check out the videos below and sign up. We’ll be launching to the public soon.


Travis Sheridan introduces Smartagious

Why “just doing it” will help your social media strategy

Photo by jayneandd

There’s a lot of people in my social graph doing really active things like half marathons, triathlons, cycling … basically getting off their butts setting goals and going for it. It’s been both encouraging and disheartening to hear their stories. Encouraging because I’m really impressed with their commitment and achievements and disheartening to me as some of their achievements are things I’ve thought of doing too. I’ve tried to create a strategy to be more active but have got bogged down.

  • Could I get up that early and go for a run/bike ride
  • I have too much work to do to make time, how will I fit it in?
  • I need to develop a training plan
  • How far should I run to start?

It reminded me of the hours people spend creating extensive social media strategies and long term plans. It can be lengthy, frustrating and is often discarded months into implementation as social media moves way too fast.

Test small pieces of  your strategies and adapt

This morning I got up and put on my running shoes and hit the road. I hoped to find answers to some of my running questions.  I didn’t know exactly where I was going , but I ran and I learned some things along the way which I think apply to any strategy.

  • Start small and test – If you’re creating any type of strategy it’s best to take a small piece of your strategy and test it out. Get up, go for it and see what you learn.
  • Be adaptable –  Just like I couldn’t know about those dogs that came hurtling out of the fields to chase me you won’t be able to plan for everything. You’ve got to  adapt and run faster. The same goes for your social media strategy. You never know what’s going to happen next, be flexible.
  • Set a goal –  Create a target and make small adjustments along the way. This morning’s goal of five miles was a bit of a stretch for someone who doesn’t run. But three miles was still a good run and I now know what it will take to hit five miles next time. In your social media strategy create small goals that will help you achieve your long term goals. For example,  respond to x number of customers, create x number of blog posts, start x number of conversations this week.
  • Ask questions and reflect - When you’re done with the smaller test ask yourself  “What did I achieve? Where did I fail and why? Is this a worthwhile strategy, what are the benefits?”

We can get bogged down creating long term goals, long term plans and complete strategies for our businesses. Take it in small chunks,  the world moves too fast for you to always stick to the original plan.

There’s nearly always something you didn’t think of that will surface. I learned something this morning. I HATE running long distances, the only bit of the run I enjoyed was the sprinting away from the dogs. It was exciting (I’ve always been a sprinter at heart). I need to focus on that type of exercise if I’m going to achieve my goals, the same principals are relevant for a brand. Know thyself, and know your audience first.

Join me for a twitter chat on email marketing

On Sep 30th at 6pm EST (3pm Pacific) I’ll be hosting a twitter chat about email marketing to coincide with an event at Merc Bar in New York by Sailthru. We’re going to be discussing how marketers can engage their core audience using email marketing. To follow along on twitter use the hashtag #emailchat

We’d love you to join in the conversation and share your thoughts on the following questions.

  1. Using email marketing, how do you target your core audience?
  2. How do you find your most engaged users? How do you target them?
  3. How do you get email readers to visit your site more often and stay longer?
  4. What metrics do you measure to track engagement?

If you’re in the NYC area and want to attend you can register for the event on eventbrite.

Why your web team should not be in the IT department

My friend Dan Serrato recently asked for articles and reasons why the web development team should not be under the purview of the IT department. I strongly believe that the web team should not be under IT and here’s my reasons. Some of these may be sweeping generalizations so if you’re an IT guy/gal please don’t take my server out “because you can”.

The web is about communication not technology

There’s no doubt that the advancement of the internet is due to really clever people developing cool things like web servers and protocols and languages like HTML, or is it? The reason these technologies came into existence was so that people could communicate, whether it be during war or to share scientific knowledge with other people with huge brains, you know who you are Tim Berners Lee. The web is about communication and people have consistently found or developed new ways to use the web to communicate and connect with each other. Come on you know you checked Facebook and Twitter or [insert web app name here] this morning to see what your friends were doing. Yesterday’s startup will become tomorrow’s big business and the cycle will start again. People will flock to a new web app that allows freedom and opportunity to communicate.

What’s your department’s primary focus?

Read these:

  • Sparking conversations,
  • Creating a brand awareness
  • Providing excellent customer service
  • Generating leads
  • Sharing knowledge
  • Maintain security of servers
  • Providing a solid internet connection
  • Measuring effectiveness of marketing campaigns
  • Utlizing social media to create engaged consumers and brand advocates

Ok so it’s a little marketing heavy, but I’m hoping you get where I’m going. The requirements of of a solid web presence require that you connect to your customer to promote engagement and help you serve them better. You need a rock solid infrastructure to do this, that’s where the IT department comes in. In my experience sparking conversations online and creating brand advocates is not always in the skill set of many IT departments. Now I know you can totally take down my server if I’ve upset you with that statement. I respect you and am in awe of that skill but let’s not go to the dark side please.

Look at the stereotypes?

Remember that ad campaign by Apple playing on the PC versus Apple stereotypes? So, that campaign was focused on operating systems but If you swap PC for IT and Apple for marketing you’ve got the same situation. I know what stereotype I want to be creating my web site.

What’s critical is that the relationship between IT departments and a web team in marketing is good. These two teams need to work together with understanding and a common purpose to deliver customers a quality experience online. It takes both areas to really make magic online, but each area should do what it’s good at. In my mind this means web teams need to be in the marketing area and IT departments focusing on rock solid infrastructures.

gas-pumps

Market what’s important to your customers, not yourself.

Image by Barbara L. Hanson

Last week as I was driving to work I reached a usual intersection where I make a left turn. The light turned green and I gunned it to make it, but something caught my eye as I veered round the corner . On the opposite side of the road I saw a sign displayed at the gas station.

“Brand New Pumps, Fill Up Here”

The sign was pretty large, garish and had an array of colors, the type of sign that would make your head turn while taking a corner at 50 mph – not that I was doing that, I said it WOULD make your head turn if you were doing that kind of speed.

We all filter advertising but this one made me look because it was so ridiculous to me. I mean seriously, I couldn’t care less if your pumps are new unless your gas prices are also cheaper. It was a sign made without thought to the customer, a clear case of a business giving themselves a pat on the back about “new features”.

If you’re a person that develops web apps like me then there’s a lesson in this drive by sighting. Don’t celebrate or add features that your customer really couldn’t care less about, focus on what benefits them. In the case of the gas pump maybe the message should have been “Brand new pumps, Less explosions for you”. That’s a joke but you get the picture.

Oh, and If it doesn’t benefit your customer then you probably didn’t need to add it in the first place.