How Social Networks Are Changing How We Do Business

Posted on September 28, 2010. Filed under: Business Strategy, Social Media | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Clara Shih, author of The Facebook Era

When Clara Shih set out to write a second edition of her bestselling book, The Facebook Era, she had her hands full trying to keep up with all the changes happening in the social media sphere, especially among the big three: Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. So much so, Clara had to change the publish date of the new book just to keep current.

The Facebook Era: Tapping Online Social Networks to Market, Sell, and Innovate (2nd Edition) is finally here, and it’s well worth the wait.

Clara did more than just touch-up the first edition: She added case studies, new chapters and a bunch of guest-written expert opinion sidebars.

All About Using Social Networks for Business

It’s all geared to helping businesses and entrepreneurs learn how to tap into social networks to market, sell and innovate.

Clara has plenty of first-hand knowledge in this regard — she created the first business application on Facebook (Faceconnector), which integrates Facebook with Salesforce.com.  More recently, Clara started Hearsay Labs, a provider of social customer relationship management software.

I enjoyed both Facebook Era editions (yes, I read the second one cover to cover, too). And so it was a pleasure to have the opportunity to chat with Clara, to talk about her new book as well as the social media landscape in general.

Interview with Clara Shih, author of The Facebook Era: Part 1

We had a nice long conversation, enough that it makes for a nice two-parter on this blog.

Here in Part 1 we discuss how Facebook and other networks are altering fundamental social norms.

You used social media to help determine some of the content of the book. Can you elaborate on how that process worked out?

Clara: The innovation in social media is happening from the bottom up. It’s happening in the groundswell from these grassroots initiatives that people are taking for their organization and their companies and in their personal lives. I really wanted to source these ideas and these best practices directly from the innovators in the space. And so I used my Twitter handle and my Facebook page as well as my personal Facebook profile to ask people what their ideas were. What were the things they were living and experiencing themselves? And I had a phenomenal response. A lot of the best material in the book came from people that I interacted with on Facebook and Twitter.

Are these people you knew?

Clara: What does it mean to know someone these days? I mean, many of them I’ve never met — they’ve connected with me and they’re following me on Twitter and vice versa and now I feel like I do have a relationship.

The idea of what is a “friend” changes a lot in these contemporary times.

Clara: That’s really at the heart of everything that I write about. I mean, yes, there are a lot of business implications, but at the heart of it is human relationships and how we interact with each other and connect with each other. How we connect with our customers. And that drives all the business use cases and opportunities.

One of the reasons I was so enthusiastic about your first edition is that you really delved into a human part, the sociology, the social ethos — whatever you want to call it — and then applying that to social networks and the new social norms, as you refer to them in your second edition. You explain it so clearly. So how important is it understand these social norms when, as a business, you’re engaging in this context?

Clara: I think it’s the most important thing you can do.  Understanding human behavior and how your customers and clients think. What makes them happy? That’s really the key to success for any business. Regardless of what product or service you may have.

In the last 13 years the internet gave us tremendous efficiency between buyers and sellers and giving everyone access to information. But as Jim McCann [founder of 1-800-Flowers.com] writes about in the forward to this book, the efficiency came at a great price. Oftentimes what we sacrificed was human connection. The feeling that customers had that they were actually special and valued by your company.

The great thing about social networks is the idea that we can regain some of that connection, without losing any of the efficiency. We can still connect to large groups of people. We can still market to and prospect to large group of people. But because there’s more information about people and relationships and connections we can still have that bond and invest in that customer loyalty.

Right, and on the flip side, it humanizes a business, too. Companies can seem like monoliths, even if they’re small, if you don’t have any communication with what appears to be a real person.

Clara: Exactly. And there’s nothing like putting a human face around a big company. Especially if it’s one that people don’t traditionally find very sexy. That just changes the whole set of interactions. We’ve seen great examples like Frank [Eliason] at Comcast, to show someone who really cares and be the face of a large institutional brand.

So whether you’re working externally with your customers, or internally with your employees, it’s human nature to want to connect with people and facilitating that process makes way for better business.

In your book you talk about how seemingly non-important details —  for instance someone says they play soccer — can end up making a difference between how people interact with one another and possibly be a factor in how a business deal happens.

Clara: People are always looking for common ground. Especially when you meet someone new. You’re trying to figure out if this person is trustworthy and whether you want to do business with them. Whatever business you’re in, people always prefer to do business with people they know and like. And they refuse to do business with people they don’t trust. And so to the extent that Facebook can help you see similar interests, hobbies, and friends. That carries a lot of weight in being able to establish trust.

Right, but five years ago people didn’t have that ability and yet business still occurred. Do you think that it will change, such that it will be incumbent on someone to be participating in this way, even with business people, on this level? How do you see it evolving?

Clara: I think we’re seeing it already. Because before five years ago, it was 15 years ago where we didn’t have the internet. And certainly before there was online a lot of business got done for a long time… and we see these technology cycles: first the mainframe, then the personal computer, then the internet and now the social web, where it doesn’t happen all at once, but certainly for many industries, it can give you a huge leg up to understand this new communication and technology paradigm and use it as an additional way to get customer connection and loyalty.

Stay tuned for Part 2

There’s more, folks: My next post will be Part 2 of our conversation about The Facebook Era.

Meanwhile, if you want to social network with Clara, why not visit the Facebook Era’s Facebook page, or  follow her on Twitter at @clarashih

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Recommended Reading: The Facebook Era

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Recommended Reading: The Facebook Era

Posted on February 9, 2010. Filed under: Books, Facebook, Social Media | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

It’s so easy to set up an account on Facebook or Twitter pretty much anyone can do it.

Knowing how to effectively use those sites for business purposes?  That’s more complicated.

Different social networking sites present different opportunities — and challenges.

You can try and figure it out through trial and error. Or, if you prefer to minimize mistakes, read The Facebook Era: Tapping Online Social Networks to Build Better Products, Reach New Audiences, and Sell More Stuff, by Clara Shih.

A cut above the rest & especially for business

Of course there’s an abundance of books about social media marketing. Why pick this one?

Well, few go at it so sharply from a corporate perspective, and fewer still are written by someone who has as much first-hand experience as Shih, who created a successful Facebook business application (Faceconnector). Her highly informative book goes deep with details, to include case studies and a plentitude of screen shots that help make things crystal clear.

It’s about more than Facebook

FYI, the book’s title tells but part of the tale. Sure, it’s full of tips on how to leverage Facebook — still, Shih delves into other social networks, too, as well as associated tools and applications. In fact, it’s an eye-opener in this regard.

Shih covers corporate-centric tools like Hoover’s Connect, which helps sales reps understand complex organizational structures, and Yammer, for intra-enterprise microblogging. Much attention is paid to salesforce.com offerings — Shih was working for the company when she wrote the book. If The Facebook Era sometimes feels like an ad for that company, well, so it goes.

The how and why of social networks

The book details how the online social graph — the world wide web of interconnected people — fundamentally changes ways we relate, both personally and professionally. It examines the intricacies of how and why social media works the way it does, including sociological factors that come into play. “We are moving from technology-centric applications to people-centric applications that conform to our relationships and identities,” Shih declares. ” It is the death of the anonymous Web.”

Building better business processes

Shih then breaks down how online networks can be a boon to the sales process. For instance, a sales rep can use LinkedIn to search out qualified leads and mine all kinds of information available on that site in order to prepare sale calls that are personal and relevant to individual prospects.

Other sections cover how to leverage social media for recruiting and product innovation, and again, Shih clues you into handy enterprise tools, like Connectbeam, a collaborative platform for building employee expertise profiles.

Step-by-step Facebook guide

When considering how online networks change the ways we receive information about brands, Shih writes, “The new mantra is don’t advertise to people, advertise between people.”

That’s the heart of the matter when it comes to social marketing. Here’s where Facebook takes center stage. Shih shines a bright spotlight on the site, via a step-by-step guide that digs into strategies, best practices, methods of interaction, hypertargeting and more.

Facebook applications get a fair amount of attention. “Apps are the new ads,” Shih writes. “The idea is people tend to spend more time on apps — such as playing games, looking through slideshows and taking surveys –than traditional advertising, so apps might provide more memorable and lasting interactions with your brand.”

Shih adds that creating your own app from scratch is risky business. You may be better off with sponsorship opportunities offered by existing apps that are popular with your target audiences. To help determine what these might be Shih conveniently lists Lookery — which provides a directory of ad network publishers, including Facebook apps, with analytics, demographics and other useful data.

This is mighty meaty material. Shih covers a tremendous amount of ground detailing how to power-up your business’ social media presence with a clear plan of action.

Now, if you want additional info, visit The Facebook Era’s Facebook page.

– Deni Kasrel

What are your thoughts on The Facebook Era? Have you read the book, too? If so, what’s your take on it? Comments welcome.

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Why You Should Make A New Year’s Social Networking Resolution

Posted on December 17, 2009. Filed under: Commentary, Social Media | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Think back on this past year: What had the greatest positive impact on the way you pursue professional endeavors?

I’ll bet plenty of you say social networking. Of the ways people advanced their careers in 2009, it’s number one with a bullet.

Twitter rose like a rocket and was named word of the year. Facebook has in excess of 350 million members and LinkedIn is in the 50 million range.

It’s all about exponential growth: One member entices others to join, who in turn solicit even more people, and so it goes, and keeps going.

Engaging at a distance

Social networks offer many benefits; one of the biggies being the ability to reach any number of people who share similar interests. You tweet, join Facebook groups, get involved in LinkedIn discussions, and so forth, to engage with followers, friends and colleagues.

How very nice. You’re being social.

But it’s all at a distance.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Even so, I propose making a resolution for the coming year to get more social with cyber acquaintances. Have an honest to goodness conversation, and meet, in person, some of the people you’ve come to know online.

Connect in the real world

This thought came to mind after I had a nice long chat with a Twitter pal named Avi. We’ve been following our respective public tweets, retweeting one another and occasionally direct messaging. Avi lives in the Middle East, I’m in the U.S.A. We’re both into web 2.0/social/digital media strategy and technology in general. From just those 140-character messages it’s clear Avi is an insightful, warm and thoughtful person. Part of his Twitter profile reads “believe in giving and help,” so what does that tell you?

Our conversation occurred after I tweeted Avi to let him know I’m working on a post about communications trends for 2010. I asked if he had any thoughts on the topic. He quickly tweeted back; yes, he’d be happy to share, and did I have five minutes for Skype?

I was pleasantly surprised by the offer. Of course I’d love to talk to my faraway friend.

But first I had to get hooked up with Skype, which as it turns out, is quick and simple to do.

Soon we were chatting up a storm. About communications trends, how different our cultures are, and much more. It was immensely enjoyable.

We’re still far apart geographically. However, Avi and I now share a closer connection. He’s not simply a face I see in a photo, but rather a genuine person that I can, from time to time, speak to in real repartee.

Make a resolution to establish more personal engagement in 2010

Avi is one of several individuals I’ve originally encountered through social networks and have subsequently spoken to over the phone. I’ve also met some internet pals in person. It’s great fun and adds another dimension to our relationship.

I highly recommend reaching out to some of your digital acquaintances in 2010. If they’re an international call, check out Skype — as noted, it’s snap to use, not to mention free.

So how about a New Year’s resolution to make your networking even more social through authentic personal engagement?

– Deni Kasrel

Are you up for making this New Year’s resolution? Do you have a story to share about becoming more personally engaged with an online connection? Comments welcome.

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Expand Your Network With Xing, The European LinkedIn

Posted on November 13, 2009. Filed under: Social Media | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

Xing logoIf you want to expand your network and gain global contacts, here’s a tip: join Xing.

Like LinkedIn and ZoomInfo, it’s a social network for business professionals.

The European LinkedIn

According to the corporate overview on its investor relations page (it’s a publicly traded company), Xing has in excess of 8.3 million members and the platform enables communications in 16 languages. Now that’s taking a worldwide web perspective.

Xing has free and premium memberships. The freebie version lets you post your work experience, make connections, join groups, search for jobs and businesses as well as add applications. With the premium package you can send messages to anyone in the network and post jobs.

All that’s close to what LinkedIn does; however, you get a strong Euro slant with Xing.

Gain global perspective

I recently joined Xing at the invitation of Urs E. Gattiker, an enterprising gent currently situated in Switzerland, whom I have come to know through LinkedIn and Twitter. Urs heads up My.ComMetrics.com a tool for tracking blog performance. He’s a super networker and a savvy entrepreneur.

Urs has me co-moderating a new Xing group he started called Social Media Monitoring. Topics include analytics, benchmarking, monitoring tools and ROI as pertain to social media usage. It’s got a nice international membership, which will no doubt help flavor the discussions.

There are plenty more groups to join, and I look forward to gaining an even broader perspective on my chosen field of strategic communications. Mobile marketing, for instance, is more advanced in Europe than here in the States.

Though I am admittedly new to this platform it does look to be a good networking tool.

If you too want to connect with more people and companies, it’s easy – just get into the Xing of things.

– Deni Kasrel

What do you think of Xing? Are you already a member of this social network? If so, how are you using it?

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Book Review: The New Community Rules, Marketing On The Social Web

Posted on September 18, 2009. Filed under: Best practices, Books, Social Media | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

There’s debate about whether anyone can be deemed a social media expert because the field is relatively new, and continues to evolve so rapidly, that it’s too soon for anyone to claim that label.

Well, if you go by what’s currently happening in the social media sphere, Tamar Weinberg is an expert.

Book cover to The New Community Rules:Marketing On The Social Web

Steeped in social media

Weinberg proudly proclaims that she’s “a member of just about every social network that has a name.” Along with being a prolific blogger, she’s the Director of Community for Mashable and is an independent social media consultant.

She’s steeped in social media.

This comes through loud and clear in The New Community Rules: Marketing on the Social Web, where she proffers observations that could only come from someone who understands the real intricacies of scores of social media outlets.

Acute insight

Wienberg’s expertise is trenchant. When discussing the topic of return on investment for social media (an oft-cited sticky widget) she reinforces and elaborates upon a comment by Social Media Explorer Jason Falls about how “The problem with trying to determine ROI for social media is you are trying to put numeric quantities around human interactions and conversations, which are not quantifiable.”

She covers how to properly engage in social media — the ol’ it’s a dialogue not a monologue — then digs deeper with knowledge and tips that provide true keys to success.

Throughout the book she drills home crucial aspects of effective social media practice, such as recommendations and the numerable ways these may occur, along with the unspoken rule that you need to discuss issues not only of your own interest, but also those of the community at-large. “Altruism rules above all,” she wisely writes.

Weinberg consistently explains how various elements relate to search engine optimization; the outcome of which can play a big role in the visibility of your web site and provide a powerful tool for reputation management, if you know how to work it right.

Delving under the radar

Discussion of blogs, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, videos and podcasts are to be expected in a book of this title. Though again, Weinberg’s perceptions are a cut above the rest.

With Twitter she advises not to dive in head first and instead begin by listening to conversations going on about your particular industry, to include seeing what your competitors are up to. She tells how Twitter is great for tapping into prospects and influencers and calls out tools to search for topics, trends and people.

Her attention to the assorted platforms includes outlining specific advantages; the “why should I care” proposition. With Twitter, she says, “One of the biggest benefits of using the service is the ability to get people to answer questions quickly.” She shows how it can be like an instantaneous focus group, not to mention an invaluable customer service tool.

More added value of this text comes in Weinberg’s coverage of topics that are somewhat under the radar. She delves deep into the bookmarking services StumbleUpon and delicious. She calls attention to Mahalo, a not so well known site that’s good to get a handle on because its results can achieve high rank on search engine results pages.

Her discussion of how social news sites operate — digg, mixx, reddit, Slashdot, sphinn, Tip’d, Yahoo! Buzz, and others — is a true revelation. Here’s an area gaining in adoption that can make a significant difference in attention to your brand. However, it’s tricky business: There’s a boatload of do’s and don’ts that can make the difference between wasting your time or having a big hit.

Injecting case studies to illuminate certain points, Weinberg covers a tremendous amount of ground. So much so that you might want to devour the material in bites.

Weinberg stresses that “social media marketing is a comprehensive effort,” and the same goes for this book.

– Deni Kasrel

What do YOU think of The New Community Rules? Have you also read it? What’s your take on the book? Comments welcome.

Related post:

Wonder Gals of Web 2.0

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