Mario Sundar

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

What went wrong with the SXSW Keynote with Twitter’s Ev

Many of you following me on Twitter may have been subjected to a relentless stream of tweets related to my weekend participation in South by Southwest Interactive (SXSW) in Austin, Texas. Every year around this time, imagine someone transplanted San Francisco (techies et al) and moved us over to the heart of Texas. Fun, learning and networking ensue.

Given that it was my second time at SXSW, I was hoping for a better keynote interview than the last with Mark Zuckerberg. But, it wasn’t meant to be. This year, it was the highly anticipated interview with Twitter CEO, Ev Williams that went awry. I feel for the interviewer, Umair Haque, since it isn’t easy to take the stage in front of thousands for the first time and score.

@umairh's interview with Twitter's @Ev

It’s a tough crowd and there are rules for winning em over. Right from the get go, things didn’t look too good and 30 to 40 minutes into the interview folks started streaming out the auditorium, and I didn’t realize it since I was in the front row. Close to 60 minutes, I couldn’t take it any longer and I had to walk out as well. Why? Well, here was my response on Umair’s blog that I thought I’d republish:

As someone who has read your blog AND as one who attends SXSW, here’s my candid $0.02 about the interview.

Hope you take it in the right spirit cos I understand the challenges inherent in interviewing or speaking before thousands. Anyways, here goes:

1. SXSW is not @HarvardBiz (HBR). Sorry. It’s more about geek innovation (it’s TED for for geeks), less about principles or policy.

2. The audience wants (a) to be engaged (b) to be challenged and (c) to be entertained.

a. ENGAGE: We’d have loved to learn more about where Twitter is going – moving forward – especially from an innovation perspective and less about what their business principles are.

The audience is participatory and would love to be included in the conversation. I know you asked your audience for questions prior to the interview but that didn’t come across in your speech.

b. CHALLENGE: The audience also has very little tolerance for anything that may even seem like talking up a business. Even simple public speaking mistakes are chatted up on Twitter (Sorry, it’s a tough crowd). Instead, they’d like to see a spirited debate that’s thought provoking and challenges assumptions.

c. ENTERTAIN: As with any medium, most importantly the audience wants to be entertained. I think Guy Kawasaki’s tips on moderating a conference is a great read and one I’d recommend all keynote interviewers at SXSW.

Again, these are but my comments as a SXSW attendee. And, thanks for listening!
Mario

Pls. do read the comments that follow mine. I commend Umair for opening up his blog for further comments. It’s not easy being panned on your blog but I admire his taking constructive criticism in the right light. BTW, here’s the post from Guy Kawasaki on how to be a great moderator. Below are my quotes from the article that were appropriate in this situation:

Make everyone else look smart. The goal of the moderator is to make the panelists look smart. It is not to make himself look smart–or grab the most attention. Moderators can make panelists look smart in two ways: first, give them a few softball questions that they can knock out of the park. For example, “What do you view as the most pressing issues of the industry?” Second, extract good information out of the panelists by rephrasing, summarizing, or clarifying what they said. A good moderator accounts for only 10% of the speaking time of a panel–she is the “invisible hand,” not the star.

Stand up for the audience. Making panelists look smart does not mean letting them bull shitake the audience. My theory is that the moderator is called the moderator is because her role is to ensure that there is only a moderate level of bull shitake and sales pitches. A good moderator is the audience’s advocate for truth, insight, and brevity–any two will do. When a panelist makes a sales pitch or tells lies, you are morally obligated to smack him around in front of the audience.

Involve the audience. Moderators should allocate approximately 30% of the duration of the panel to questions from the audience. Any more, and the audience will run out of high-quality questions. Any less and the audience will feel like it did not participate. However, don’t feel obligated to accept any stupid questions from the audience any more than you accept stupid answers from the panelists. Just in case, always have a few good questions in your hip pocket just in case no one in the audience has a question (thanks for the suggestion, Alek). Or, even better, you could “seed” the audience in advance.

Guess what? The wisdom of the crowds in this case (actually works). For e.g. with the 2008 Mark Zuckerberg interview when the fiasco led to questions here’s what we got:

After some more shouted remarks, Lacy turned the microphones over to the members of the audience, challenging them to come up with better questions. Attendees rushed to the microphones and got right to it, asking Zuckerberg about privacy and data portability, and requesting tools to help manage the growing flood of information on their Facebook profiles.

I’ve a couple more posts in me from the SXSW trip, but for the most part it concerns how one can benefit most from attending conferences and why it’s a necessary evil. Stay tuned.

Filed under: Miscellaneous

Previously on LinkedIn: Jobs, Marketing and a $1M success story

This was a blog series that was begging to be made. Every week, there are countless stories about LinkedIn, tips and tricks on using our site as well as stories on how professionals are using the social networking site. Here’s a weekly summary on the Top 5 such articles each week.

For similar awesomeness; either subscribe to Marketing Nirvana or follow me on Twitter.

Here are the 5 most useful articles on LinkedIn, week of Mar 1, 2010:

1/ HOW TO: Promote yourself on LinkedIn to find a job / Wall Street Journal:

This article takes on the vexing age-old question of should I or should I not update social networking sites with the banner: “Hire Me”? Is it too needy? The article suggests that in these tough economic times, it may not be a bad idea to reach out proactively to your network when in need of a job. For e.g.

While it’s acceptable to let people know that you are looking for a position, it’s important to approach it professionally and to be specific about your needs. One way to do this is to use LinkedIn’s “professional headline” to establish your identity. Ms. Karp recommends adding the words “in transition” or “seeking a new challenge” to your title. LinkedIn also gives you the opportunity to fill in a status box. “Use this area to describe contract or consulting gigs you have as well as any volunteer work you are doing,” suggests Ms. Karp. “This approach enables you to reinforce your brand through the headline as well as highlight current relevant projects.”

Terry Karp is the career counselor and co-founder of the Bay Area Career Center in San Francisco. The article also features suggestions from my friends Dan Schawbel (“If your network is unaware that you’re job searching, then how are they supposed to support your search?“) and colleague Krista Canfield (“Status updates remind your network that you’re looking for a position and what types of jobs you’re looking for“).

2/ 5 ways to weave LinkedIn into your Marketing Mix / Marketing Pilgrim:

A succinct summary of five ways to include LinkedIn in your marketing mix. Of particular interest to job seekers may be four easy steps to optimize your LinkedIn profile as you share that far and wide with potential hiring managers:

For the LinkedIn community, your profile will be this first item they see, so treat it as you would any landing page. To make the most of your profile:

  • Hyperlink using keywords. Include relevant URLs in your profile, and use links with anchor text. For example, instead of “My Blog,” use a keyword to describe it such as “SEO and Online Marketing Blog.” (see image below)
  • Use keywords in descriptions. That includes the summary, specialties, experience and all other description categories.
  • Include an image in your profile. LinkedIn, after all, is a social networking channel. So add as many personal touches as possible to maximize engagement and put a face to the brand.

3/ How a B2B company made $1 million in revenue through a LinkedIn group / Web 2.0 Journal:

Truly amazing! I’ve reached out to the group owners so I could share with you readers how exactly the group was able to accomplish this. SafeNet, is the 3rd largest provider of information security solutions in the world and were able to generate $1 million in revenue, directly related to LinkedIn Information Security Community (a + 50K member group, grown in over 2 years).

The company carefully measures ROI by tracking the original sources of leads and sales conversion via:

  • Marketbright marketing automation software
  • Systems engineers and product managers reporting on which members they directly connect with SafeNet sales for follow up (upon member request)
  • Salesforce.com

4/ A social networking starter kit for job seekers / Yahoo Finance:

I wish the article were put together, the way Mashable puts together posts. There’s a lot of valuable advice here lost in the terribly layout. So, let’s begin. To me, all the tips provided here can be summarily addressed by LinkedIn and it’s social rolodex address book. For starters, job seekers, GET LINKEDIN!

Social networking is a great way to expand your network. Set up an account on LinkedIn and post your profile and resume there. You can look for former colleagues, alumni, professional associations and other connections. Recruiters frequently search for applicants on LinkedIn, so put your best professional face forward.

True dat! But, all other tips like “Make a list of all your closest colleagues, college buddies and past employers and follow up twice”, “share job leads with other job seekers”, or “tell your tennis buddies” can be done by organizing your job hunt through LinkedIn’s newly redesigned address book or social rolodex as I call it. This may actually be deserving of it’s own post on this blog. Stay tuned!

5/ Building your cyber resume for job search success / Wall Street Journal Digital Network:

It’s my friend, Dan Schawbel, who kicks off this post with tips on building your professional identity. Sree Sreenivisan, suggests picking two or three networking sites and sticking with it. Agreed. As most successful users will agree, when it comes to professional opportunities LinkedIn should definitely be the heart and soul of your social networking world.

LinkedIn is the Place to Be
If you only have the time to join one site, most experts agree that LinkedIn, with 60-million-plus members, is the most essential — at least right now. “LinkedIn is the premier business social networking site, so it is the one crucial place to be if you are a business executive, professional or entrepreneur,” says Kaputa.

That said, you want to integrate your activities across the other two key social networking sites – Twitter and Facebook. For e.g. LinkedIn now allows you to sync your Twitter activity with your LinkedIn profile #in. Also, there’s a Facebook app that allows you to sync your Twitter activity to your Facebook status feed #fb. Do both and you’re good to go.


UPDATE: The jobs and LinkedIn #blogchat that I hosted with @mackcollier and a bunch of our fellow tweeps was very well received. We brainstormed insights into job hunting using social media and social networking. Live at 6PM Pacific as the Oscars go live!

We had over ~1000 tweets with over 130 participants in 60 minutes. The transcript of the chat can be found here and the  homepage can be found here.

Questions? Leave a comment below this post and you’ll be sure to get a response. Thanks!

Filed under: LinkedIn in the News

A cautionary tale: Do companies need a social media policy?

Let me clarify that the post title is a rhetorical question, not a blogging device to draw more readers into the post. But, hey, if it worked at drawing your attention, that’s great too. I wanted to spend a few minutes pondering the need for companies to invest some time in defining and educating their employees on social media guidelines.

What started with free form blogging in 1999, has now grown into a social media ocean of unmanageable proportions. Twitter being the latest in a slew of tools aimed at letting users share their most intimate thoughts to a broader public audience. So, it is but ironical that one of Twitter’s lead evangelist / engineers quit blogging due to a fiasco ignited by one of his tweets. Here’s the rundown:

Alex Payne, a Twitter engineer, is shutting down his personal blog after a comment he posted on Twitter became the subject of a TechCrunch blog post and caused a minor firestorm among Twitter application developers and others involved with the company. (Source: GigaOm)

From a companies’ perspective, this is a huge LOST opportunity to get the rock stars within your company build a brand for themselves and in the process, strengthen your company’s brand in the eyes of users, potential recruits and even your competitors. But, social media (as Alex Payne and Twitter now realize) is a two-edged sword that’s capable of causing as much brand hurt as brand love and one lil’ chirp can derail a fast moving express.

So, what do companies need to do proactively to avoid such situations?

The quick answer to this: a social media policy.

Develop social media guidelines with the participation of the internal evangelist from within your organization and share that with the rest of the company. Can that ensure that these mistakes won’t happen. Nope. But, education never came easy. It’s a constant process of educating your employees, revising the doc with examples of your rock stars. At LinkedIn, we’re lucky to have folks like Adam Nash and Steve Ganz who are great examples of my colleagues who get social media and use it responsibly.

But, don’t forget. To err is human. All of us make mistakes, but shutting us down sends a wrong signal to the rest of the company on what could be a great example of applying social media in the corporate setting. Remember: with lemons come lemonade. Interestingly, a few months back I’d authored a piece on what are the five questions companies need to ask themselves before delving into a social media policy and #2 on that list was finding the social media evangelists from within your company:

Are your employees already out there on the social web engaging with your customers? The answer to that question these days is mostly a resounding “Yes”, with chances that your employees are reaching out to your users through a slew of social media sites. Pick the most obvious avenues for such conversations and identify those employees who are engaging with your customers. An easy way to do that would be through a simple Google blog search, LinkedIn Groups search, LinkedIn Answers and / or Twitter search for your company brand.

These searches will also show you what are some of the gold standard examples of user engagement practiced by your employees and some opportunities for improvement. Factor this in when you put together your set of social media guidelines. Better yet, bring in your most active social media employees to collaborate and help craft your social media guidelines. If you need to get internal approval, these employees could be your strongest internal evangelists.

For those of you who are looking for good, simple examples of social media guidelines. Here are a few tips that could get you started:

  1. Five questions to ask yourself before developing a social media policy / LinkedIn Talent blog
  2. Should your company have a social media policy? / Mashable
  3. Coca-Cola’s shrewd new social media policy / Pamorama
  4. Military announces social media policy / New York Times
  5. 29% of companies have a social media policy / Marketing Pilgrim
  6. [Update] Social Media Policy Creator / hat tip to @shama

Remember: social media policy shouldn’t be stodgy legalese that you’d rather not be caught dead reading, but a practical commonsensical approach to creating true employee evangelists for your brand.

And, here’s hoping Alex will start blogging again! Soon. Best.

Filed under: Best-of, Employee Engagement

To (Business) blog or not to blog; that is NOT the question

Count me surprised when I stumbled upon a post on corporate blogging by Rex (Fimoculous), only to realize later that he’s now taking a break from blogging and has some of his friends guest blog for a while. But, I digress. Guest author ADM refers to an Inc post by Joel Spolsky: “Let’s take this offline“, which is surprisingly – you guessed right – not online! Bah! [Update: the post seems to be live right now]

The blog post focuses on the pros and cons of corporate blogging and most importantly its deficiencies, but unfortunately all I’ve access to are ADM’s post. So, here’s the gist from that source. I quote:

Blogging as a medium seems so personal, and often it is. But when you’re using a blog to promote a business, that blog can’t be about you, Sierra said. It has to be about your readers, who will, it’s hoped, become your customers… So, for example, if you’re selling a clever attachment to a camera that diffuses harsh flash light, don’t talk about the technical features or about your holiday sale (10 percent off!). Make a list of 10 tips for being a better photographer. If you’re opening a restaurant, don’t blog about your menu. Blog about great food. You’ll attract foodies who don’t care about your restaurant yet.

ADM doubts if corporate blogs are necessary these days but does go on to suggest that Joel may have gained a ton from running his blog for the past 10 years. (it seems to me that companies who lack a large customer base and name recognition could gain a lot by blogging the way he did.) True dat.

Of course, my answer to that question (to blog or not to blog) is biased, but I strongly feel that the question’s NOT, “should a company have a blog?”, but rather “how should a company blog?” (in today’s age of social networking). I’ve a couple more posts brewing on this topic. Plus, I’m currently working on making LinkedIn’s very own corporate blog better for our readers. So, I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas on what makes a corporate blog great? And, what makes it SUCK!? Comment away.

And, in the meanwhile, if you guys can ferret out that Inc post by Joel, please let me know.

Filed under: Business Blogging

The growing importance of managing your online brand

How many of you believe that finding a job is not about overnight success but rather the culmination of building your online brand painstakingly over time? Kudos to those who raised their hands for yours are the jobs of the future. Readers of this blog are probably aware of the many posts I’ve written over the past years on the growing importance of your online brand.

 

 

Bank Intern loses job because of above Facebook picture. Click pic for more examples.

 

I’ve debated with my good friend, Tamar Weinberg, on what’s the easiest way to control your online reputation. How that can save you from a layoff or after one. And, why it’s important that you keep your social and professional brands separate (hint: see above pic).

So, it is with great interest that I read Fred Wilson’s blog post on owning your online brand, which resulted from a recent panel discussion that he was a part of. As always, he raises a bunch of great points, some of which I thought I’d reiterate in this post.

Has the time arrived for “blog as resume”? Are we there yet?

I agree with Fred that a career blog is one of the best ways to showcase a portfolio of your professional expertise in long form. Fred writes:

Chris Dixon and Charlie O’Donnell both advocate the value of the “blog as resume” and recommend starting one to everyone who asked for their career advice. I’ll join that chorus as well. We have hired all of our junior investment professionals largely on the basis of their blogs, not their resumes or linkedin profiles. You can learn so much more about a person by reading their blog.

That said, I’m not sure if a blog is ideal resume material, when viewed within the traditional meaning of the term as a succinct summary of one’s professional qualifications. But more importantly, I see a couple of adoption challenges for the “blog as resume” in today’s world.

Problem #1:

First off, I personally know how challenging and time consuming the art of blogging can be and also know how most professionals may not have the time to dedicate themselves an extra two to three hours a day to share ideas and collaborate online with fellow bloggers. But, I do believe those who choose to make that extra effort will be duly rewarded.

Problem #2:

Most 9-to-5 professionals these days are probably most concerned with three things: their day-to-day work, family responsibilities and hanging out with friends to relive or relieve the stress of the day. I’m not sure career blogging is top of mind for them today.

Problem #3:

Aren’t there easier ways to establish a succinct online presence that could double as a resume for busy professionals. Whether it be LinkedIn where you can set up your online brand in a matter of minutes or Twitter where you can tweet relevant professional interests whenever you find a minute or two in the middle of a busy day’s work. Moreover, a dead blog does more harm than good for your brand.

Now, I’m of course playing devil’s advocate here given my immense passion for blogging in general. And, the question is not whether professionals need to manage their online brands. But rather, is blogging the simplest online brand building platform for professionals? Or are mainstream professionals content with easier ways to get that job done?

What do you think? What sites do you use to build and maintain an online professional brand that’s both current and relevant?

Filed under: Linkedin

Contact Me

Follow mariosundar on Twitter

Get my posts in your Inbox

Join over 8700 of my friends who read this blog. You can too. Now.

Recent Tweets

Recent Pics of me

webcom montreal 02

Sunil Saha and Mario Sundar

Mario on the SkyDeck

That's a bad idea!

Well, that was a great party!

More Photos

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 8,647 other followers

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 8,647 other followers