Mario Sundar

LinkedIn's 2nd PR hire. These are my thoughts on products, public relations, and startups.

Can you manage a community of users?

Is Community Management an oxymoron? — Check out Jeremiah’s recent post on the 4 tenets of community manager — There seems to be some debate on the four tenets themselvesLet’s ask the “community managers” themselves — Leave a comment.


Source: Not So Good Photography

Jeremiah had contacted me and a bunch of other community managers in companies ranging from Microsoft, Yahoo! and Disney to aggregate what he calls are the four tenets of a community manager. Now, it’s a given that the term community manager is not the perfect job title, and for purposes of this post let’s just call them community folk.

So, Jeremiah’s four tenets cover Community Advocate, Brand Evangelist, Effective Communicator, Product Feedback provider. Now, let’s look at the community evangelist roles in terms of what we do:

1. Listen: to users and internal teams

2. Converse: with users and internal teams

3. Build: “practices directed toward the creation or enhancement of community between individuals with a common interest.”

I think this is a good time to check out my earlier definition of the role of a community guy/gal using Hugh Macleod’s post of a Porous Membrane:

(Source: Hugh Macleod’s Gaping Void; May 9, 2005)

1. The Community/Customer (B)

Hugh calls B the customers. I’d like to take it one step further and see them as the community, esp. since we’re talking about a product/service that is “common, public, shared by all or many”. Now, there are some products that may not have as active a community (Enterprise servers, anyone) as the consumer oriented ones (iPods). Irrespective of that, the community manager will firstly have to be a customer evangelist thereby being able to identify with the community and its needs.

2. The Membrane (x)

Quoting Hugh:

6. So each market from a corporate point of view has an internal and external conversation. What separates the two is a membrane, otherwise known as “x”.

7. Every company’s membrane is different, and controlled by a host of different technical and cultural factors.

I’d like to think of the Community Evangelist as the one who connects the two entities A & B. They are the individuals entrusted with the task of pushing that membrane, aligning A and B.

3. The Troops (A)

This is the seemingly less important but critical component whose participation in the conversation is imperative. This would include your product, engineering, and customer support teams as Jeremiah elucidates. The more aligned the two groups, A and B are, the easier it’d be for the evangelist to start & keep a smart conversation going.

Also,

As you may have read in my earlier posts, customer evangelism is practiced by every passionate user within an organization. And, I see the role of every community evangelist facilitating easier communication between groups of users and the company.

Since this discussion will be incomplete without the thoughts of those individuals who practice what we’re discussing here – the community folk, I’m soliciting their response to this important discussion: Damon, Michael, Jeremy, Robyn, Chris, Scott, Alex, Betsy, Will, Craig, Thomas, Josh, Colin, Jeff, Dan and those peers of mine (community evangelism), I’d enumerated in an earlier post of mine. And, to you I ask:

What does a “community manager” do? Leave a comment.

Filed under: Miscellaneous

Facebook Beacon lights a firestorm in a teacup?

Summary: Beacon lights a fire storm of privacy issues — Word-of-mouth marketing or misplaced advertising? — Why Matthew Ingram and Justin Smith are wrong on the Beacon issue

Moveon.org is targeting Facebook Beacon as an invasion of privacy — Big Brother style (alright, I’m guilty of the gratuitous Apple reference, the 1984 Mac commercial)

What is Facebook Beacon?
Beacon is a way for businesses to let their customers “share the actions they take on your website with their Facebook friends.” In other words, it’s a new way for Facebook users to log and broadcast their outside-of-Facebook online activity inside Facebook.

Why is it bothering users of Facebook?
The chief privacy concern raised by MoveOn is that Beacon is opt-out, not opt-in. (via Inside Facebook)

What is Matthew Ingram saying?
Matthew Ingram, quotes Justin Smith (Inside Facebook) to make his case that Facebook Beacon’s woes are overstated by Charlene Li and that this one will also pass:

It was almost exactly a year ago that Facebook suddenly allowed everything you did on the site to be published to your news feed so that everyone could see it, and plenty of users went completely apeshit about it being a heinous invasion of privacy, etc. Facebook was excoriated for the way it handled the announcement, and for the fact that it forced people to opt out instead of allowing them to opt in and configure who saw what, and generally it was a tsunami of negative publicity.

As Justin notes, 100 times as many people got upset about the news feed as joined the Moveon protest, and that one blew over eventually.

Now, here’s why I beg to differ:

1. The furore over Newsfeed did not subside until critical adjustments were made to the newsfeed culminating in an apology by Mark Zuckerberg:

We really messed this one up. When we launched News Feed and Mini-Feed we were trying to provide you with a stream of information about your social world. Instead, we did a bad job of explaining what the new features were and an even worse job of giving you control of them. I’d like to try to correct those errors now.

Somehow we missed this point with News Feed and Mini-Feed and we didn’t build in the proper privacy controls right away. This was a big mistake on our part, and I’m sorry for it. But apologizing isn’t enough. I wanted to make sure we did something about it, and quickly. So we have been coding nonstop for two days to get you better privacy controls. This new privacy page will allow you to choose which types of stories go into your Mini-Feed and your friends’ News Feeds, and it also lists the type of actions Facebook will never let any other person know about. If you have more comments, please send them over.

BTW, the above blog post by Mark is one of the best examples of a CEO responding to user concerns in as timely a manner as possible. Another case in point of such swift response by a CEO would be Steve Jobs apology in response to the furore over the iPhone drop. Now, this is how CEOs should blog; not every day! (Read more of my posts on corporate blogging here)

2. While the news feed, after above changes turned out to be the “magnetic and social and addictive” as Matthew states, Beacon on the other hand is about monitoring your purchases outside of Facebook and it does so in many cases without your knowledge (Anyone in the know, please correct me if I’m wrong. Dave?). I’ve a strong suspicion that this also depends on the purchase site.

I’ve to state that although it looks like Charlene didn’t notice a msg. when she purchased stuff on Overstock, two other colleagues of mine, noticed a pop-up from Fandango and Overstock respectively saying that this information was going to be passed onto Facebook. What has your experience been?

Finally, what do I think of Beacon personally?

As an avid blogger/social media type, I don’t mind it, as long as I’m aware of it. I just noticed my colleague Steve Ganz had bought tickets to a movie via Fandango and he seemed fine with others on his feed knowing about it. However, I’d agree totally with Charlene Li of Forrester who recently had close encounters of the beacon kind that users need to be aware of such transactions being passed onto Facebook:

But I need to be in control and not get blindsided as I did in the example above. I was seriously wigged out, but wouldn’t have been if Overstock had simply told me that they were inserting a Facebook Beacon and given me the opportunity at that time to opt-in to Beacon.

Having said that let me clarify that both, Steve and I are edge case users/twitterers/bloggers who may not mind such “announcements” but the majority of users may either ruin their Christmas surprise or worse still aggravate their professional relationships (if they have professional contacts on Facebook) by exposing their personal choice/purchases in books (think hot button topics like religion, politics, etc…), and the like.

What do you think of Facebook Beacon? Is it similar to the News feed issue or is it far more of a privacy concern for you? Leave comments.

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Disclosure: For those of you not aware, I work as community evangelist at LinkedIn and these are purely my personal ramblings.

Filed under: Crisis Communications, Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, Public Relations, Steve Jobs

The Future of Reading is the iPhone, NOT Amazon’s Kindle

Update: Brian Caulfield from Fortune echoes my thoughts on the iPhone being Kindle’s competition, albeit for a different reason. He seems to think that free content on the web (powered by Google Book Search, maybe) could make the iPhone far more attractive than the Kindle.

The ability to grab free books online points to the device’s real competition: not paper books but Internet-friendly laptops, tablet computers and smart phones. The amount of content available online is growing fast, and devices for accessing the Net are getting better and cheaper quickly. One such device is already here. It’s called the iPhone.

Read on with my post on why the iPhone IS a great book reader and not the Amazon Kindle! (with a comparative chart showing the two side-by-side)

Summary: Well, I know it’s been a couple of weeks since my last post and I have a ton of catching up to do. But, what better way to start off the week than with a HOT piece of news on Amazon’s new e-book reader – Kindle! — Methinks iPhone would be the perfect e-book reader — (check out the comparative chart below) — Bonus: Trivia on dramatic quotes said while launching tech products

vs.
Amazon Kindle vs. Sony Reader

Or would you rather have this?

The original article by Steven Levy (Newsweek) suggests that “though Bezos is reluctant to make the comparison, Amazon believes it has created the iPod of reading.” I personally think that Apple has already created the iPod of reading and its called the iPhone.

Rex Hammock echoes my feelings best on what an ideal e-book reader would be like – an Apple product! Rex suggests a larger version of the iPod touch, although I think the extremely portable iPhone is a potential Kindle killer, more so because of its multi-faceted utility and its amazing readability given the pinch capability. In the midst of all this chaotic blog chatter is Arrington’s piece where he succinctly describes Amazon Kindle’s differentiator

The reason Sony failed? Perhaps because their device requires syncing with a computer to download content. That’s the Kindle’s killer feature – cellular and (probably) wireless internet access that will let users download content directly to the device from the Internet. And the cellular connectivity, which generally costs $60 or more per month, will be included with the device for free says a source close to the company.

Well, I don’t know if that’d suffice, particularly when compared to a killer device like the iPhone, which could really ride the wave if only they came out with reader like functionality. Plus, as Rex says, iTunes is the commerce engine that can drive these book sales. The only advantage Amazon has is their seemingly inexhaustible river of book content, which is probably what Bezos is betting on right now. Will consumers buy? I don’t know, but I’ve put together a simple comparative chart between the iPhone (a site for sore eyes) and Amazon’s Kindle, which you don’t want to be caught with! (positives in blue)
Marketing Nirvana’s comparative chart showing why the iPhone kicks Kindle’s butt (see the name sounds worse when used in a sentence. For those of you interested, apparently it was named Kindle “to evoke the crackling ignition of knowledge” he he)

Adding Books and GPS to the iPhone will definitely fulfill it’s destiny of being the coolest and greatest device ever assembled! However, much like iTunes holds the key to music content so does the Amazon Store for books, which could prove to be the only reason Apple hasn’t ventured into this territory!

Anyways, the iPhone is turning out to be a great way to consume content (just try out Google Reader or access a website on the iPhone and you’ll see what I mean). Moreover, it shouldn’t be a big deal to add reader functionality into the iPhone (methinks). If any of you’d like to speculate how feasible it is, feel free to do so in the comments section.

Trivia Quotes:

Steve Jobs announcing the iPhone: “Every once in a while a revolutionary product comes along that changes everything! Today, Apple is going to reinvent the phone”

Jeff Bezos announcing the Kindle (I hate the name): “This is the most important thing we’ve ever done…It’s so ambitious to take something as highly evolved as the book and improve on it. And maybe even change the way people read.”

Mark Zuckerberg announcing Facebook Social Ads: “Once every hundred years media changes. the last hundred years have been defined by the mass media. The way to advertise was to get into the mass media and push out your content. That was the last hundred years. In the next hundred years information won’t be just pushed out to people, it will be shared among the millions of connections people have.” (More on this, later this week)

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Filed under: Miscellaneous

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