Mario Sundar

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

Give me that reason. A reason to write.

I am 35 years old. Today.

Feels odd, since I haven’t shared that on Facebook and here I am for the first time sharing this with all you guys – my readers.

But this post is about you and me.

And, Justin Timberlake. Ha.

About Me

Sometimes the past 5 years seem like an achievement.

Other times, I look forward to the next 5 years and given my unique predicament (I’ll tell you about it someday), I’m filled with trepidation.

But 6 years ago, right around the time I should have packed my bags and gone back to India, I chose to stay. And it worked out great.

So there you have it.

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

And that truly made all the difference.

Bonus: There’s nothing like hearing Robert Frost read the poem himself.

About You 

Right around the time I should have packed my bags and begone, the world saw the democratization of writing with blogs.

We finally had an opportunity where writer met reader and talked. The key was talking. Like Humans Do.

With that I started my blogging. I know I may have neglected you at times, but now that I’ve picked up the pen again; it feels natural. Like riding a bicycle after a hiatus.

This time the words flowed more freely.

The motivation followed:

I had one of my most successful posts – on writing – that has already seen tens of thousands of views, and hundreds of shares on Twitter, Facebook, and over a hundred upvotes on Quora.

People who care about good writing and whose writing I love, shared it – Daniel Pink, Chris Brogan and Marc Bodnick (on Quora) – and it found an even bigger audience.

It’s moments like these that give you the motivation to write more.

For your applause. Your retweets. Your likes.

Keep me writing… creating. 

So thanks for your feedback! For reading, for sharing, for commenting on my writing. Writing which at times may seem to make sense only to me.

But if you don’t do the above, I won’t have a reason to write.

So thanks for giving me that reason.

And for the birthday wishes, guys!

Filed under: About Mario Sundar, Writing, , , , , , ,

Find your Inner Blog.

“Don’t censor yourself. Don’t go along with the crowd. Don’t be greedy. Don’t be cheap.

Young as you are, play dead — so that your eyes will stay open.” - Nadine Gordimer

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Thus ends Jeffrey Eugenides’ advice to 10 Whiting Award winners this past year. Words that resonate strongly with me during this holiday season for one reason: it’s a swift kick-in-the-pants I need to get me back to writing.

But, more importantly, it’s a welcome thought reminding me of the real reason I started this blog: to find my passion, and to find my inner voice. Words that give me hope that it may not be too late to revive my writing after all.

Other points of wisdom in the article that bestirred my writer’s conscience:

1. “A serious person should try to write posthumously”

That was Nadine Gordimer to Christopher Hitchens. Mortality’s a theme revisited by many artists because “almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.”

Or as Hitchens put it:

“By that I took her to mean that one should compose as if the usual constraints — of fashion, commerce, self-censorship, public and, perhaps especially, intellectual opinion — did not operate.”

Either way, it can be a most liberating thought. And one that frees up a creative block and forces you to think straight – for the long term.

2. Write with purpose, find your calling

For a while there, I halted my blogging coming up with a flimsy excuse that I needed to find an audience before I shared my words. Every day was an excuse to skip putting my words down on WordPress, while I evaded the hard work of capturing those fleeting thoughts.

I still recall the first time my blog got recognized with a spike in traffic (hat tip to Jason Calacanis). It was one of those magical moments where my passion met an audience. It can’t be planned, it can’t be faked.

You write your first stuff pretty much for yourself, not thinking anybody will read, much less publish, it, not thinking it’ll earn money, therefore not worrying about pleasing anyone or falling in line with any agenda; not worrying about censoring yourself, either, because who’s going to see it? And, miraculously, it worked out.

But once you find the audience, your mind starts working in reverse trying to please that audience, grow that audience, so you repeat yourself with popular “Top 10″ posts, etc. And over time all you’re left with is drivel.

You might begin to forget the person you are in order to write and sound like someone else. Alternately, you might be tempted to repeat yourself. To follow the fashion of your own previous work, to stop exploring, learning and trying new things, for risk of failure.

If you try to write posthumously, however, fashion doesn’t apply.

As far as a blog is concerned all that’s within my control is to write with honesty and try to share that with a few good people who may appreciate it.

As Kurt Woolf, Kafka’s first publisher in Germany, wrote to him after Kafka’s book tanked, “You and we know that it is generally just the best and most valuable things that do not find their echo immediately.”

Fashion is the attempt to evade that principle: to be the echo of someone else’s success and, therefore, to create nothing that might create an echo of its own.

3. Remember when and why it all started

The fuel to keep going is simple yet elusive. My favorite passage in the entire article is Eugenides reminding the writers of why they started writing.

“When you started writing, in high school or college, it wasn’t out of a wish to be published, or to be successful, or even to win a lovely award like the one you’re receiving tonight.

It was in response to the wondrousness and humiliation of being alive.

Remember? You were fifteen and standing beside a river in wintertime. Ice floes drifted slowly downstream. Your nose was running. Your wool hat smelled like a wet dog. Your dog, panting by your side, smelled like your hat. It was hard to distinguish.

As you stood there, watching the river, an imperative communicated itself to you. You were being told to pay attention. You, the designated witness, special little teen-age omniscient you, wearing tennis shoes out in the snow, against your mother’s orders. Just then the sun came out from behind the clouds, revealing that every twig on every tree was encased in ice. The entire world a crystal chandelier that might shatter if you made a sound, so you didn’t. Even your dog knew to keep quiet.

And the beauty of the world at that moment, the majestic advance of ice in the river, so like the progress of the thoughts inside your head, overwhelmed you, filling you with one desire and one desire only, which was to go home immediately and write about it.”

That’s it. Every blog post I’ve written that was ever worth reading was a response to that overwhelming desire to describe…

“The majestic advance of ice in the river.”

And somewhere along the way, somewhere in 2012, I completely lost that wonder. Circumstances and stress may have had something to do with it but I’m sure there will always be opportunities for stress. I feel like it’s about time I once again started reacting to the magic around me.

And over time, I bet, the rest will add up too.

The magic will happen. The dots will connect.

As a wise soul once reminded us:

“Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking.

Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.

And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become.”

Filed under: About Mario Sundar, Best-of, Thoughts

What’s it like to work at LinkedIn?

I get that question some times and I felt Mashable recently did a great job summarizing what it is to work at LinkedIn. Check out similar posts they’ve done in the past for other companies. I was happy to share my thoughts on LinkedIn (where I’ve worked for ~4.5 years now) and glad that Erica Swallow chose to quote me in it. Thanks!

Good Times: That's me, Richard and Krista (Marketing / PR team) at LinkedIn's 5th bday party!

Back to the Mashable snippet:

Here’s what Mario Sundar, LinkedIn’s senior social media manager and chief blogger, told Mashable about the monthly shindig:

“One of the elemental pieces of our culture is the monthly inDay where folks from across the company are given a ‘No Meeting Day,’ to focus on projects they are most passionate about. This ranges from the very productive Hackday (started by Adam Nash) to the TED-like Speaker Series where we bring in transformative professionals ranging from MLK III to Suze Orman to speak. Education is an oft-repeated theme as we get to hear from the game changers in that space like Sal Khan (Khan Academy), Charles Best (DonorsChoose.org), etc. Many times these events lead to our colleagues contributing towards some of these worthy causes. For example, one of our engineers, Alejandro Crosa, built DonorsChoose.org’s first iPhone app after listening to Charles Best, the CEO, speak at an inDay where Charles announced their internal hackday contest.”

“Frankly, I think projects like inDay actually translate well across different cultures, languages, etc. and get teams working toward a common cause outside of the daily work environment. This lends to a more collaborative environment when it comes to work as well.”

While we’re on the topic of InDay and culture, I’d urge you to check out a video tour that Jeremiah filmed 4 years ago, at LinkedIn’s Lunch 2.0 — right after we moved from Palo Alto to our Mountain View offices.

Check out a 5 minute video tour of LinkedIn’s offices 4 years ago

If you’d like to work at LinkedIn, stumbled upon a role that you think you’d be great for, ping me and I’m happy to chat.

Drop me a note @mariosundar.

Filed under: About Mario Sundar, Latest at LinkedIn, LinkedIn Colleagues,

My keynote chat at the Online Marketing Summit 2011

A couple of weeks ago, I spoke at the Online Marketing Summit where I had an opening day keynote chat with Aaron Kahlow on topics ranging from the future of the social media strategist role (something I discussed on Quora recently) to discussing smart ways for marketers and businesses to use LinkedIn.

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Aaron Kahlow and Mario Sundar (Scroll down for more pics)

Here’s a quick write-up from B2B Magazine on the opening session:

During a packed opening keynote session, Mario Sundar, senior social media manager at LinkedIn, discussed the changing role of the social media manager at companies.

“There are two trajectory roles that are occurring at large companies,” he said. “On one hand, social media will be seamlessly integrated into other functions such as marketing, PR or customer support. At other companies, such as Ford and Citi, an executive social media role is emerging.”

He also discussed how companies are using LinkedIn features like custom groups to reach customers and prospects.

It’s interesting how businesses are trying to get their arms around LinkedIn, and some of my efforts in the coming months will focus on educating them on ways to accomplish that. Stay tuned.

While at OMS, I also had a chance to catch up with good friends like Chris Brogan and run into social media folks like Charlotte Blank (GM) and John Lustyan (Disney) – individuals responsible for social media at their companies. As always, it’s interesting to learn how companies approach social media, which teams are taking the lead on social media and how those skills are transferred across the organization.

Below are some pictures from my keynote chat with Aaron Kahlow (Source: Online Marketing Summit) with my favorite being the second one. Kudos to Aaron and team for a kick-ass event and thanks for the opportunity to speak.

As promised, more pics…

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Filed under: Speaking Engagements

In the News: Why Quora? Why Now?

Another month passes, and here are a couple more leading publications – Mashable and Ragan – who quoted some of my thoughts on social media, both of which came about through my participation on Quora.

So, if you’re serious about building your expertise online and sharing that with the rest of the world. Start sharing on Quora or start a blog. But I digress…

1. Ragan Communications / Matt Wilson: The Big Quora Question – What’s it good for?

Matt Wilson from Ragan, reached out to me after reading my answer on five stages of Quora adoption for professionals.

Most of my quotes revolve around my usage of Quora and my thoughts on it being a disruptive force. I truly think Quora is the alpha-information network and frankly, I have an upcoming post on how it poses a competitive threat to a whole slew of information based companies. In the meanwhile, dig this…

Still, a growing group of social media experts and communicators say Quora is and will be as useful as Twitter.

“I think those who ignore it as a flash in the pan are rather short-sighted and unfortunately don’t see the big picture,” says Mario Sundar, senior social media manager for LinkedIn, who blogged about how to get into using Quora. “They’re also probably the same folks who doubted Twitter when it came out first.”

Check out the entire article here.

2. Mashable / Erica Swallow: The Future of the Social Media Strategist

Interestingly, this was quite an amalgam of a post that Erica Swallow mined from Twitter, Quora and Mashable’s own social media community to posit three possible avenues for the social media strategist. Interestingly, this jumped off a paper written by Jeremiah a while ago for his agency, Altimeter.

Erica quoted from my Quora answer, on one of three potential career trajectories for social media strategists:

In large organizations, the need for an executive-level social media strategist who defines the role across different functional areas will become the norm… Kind of like what my good friends Frank Eliason (formerly at Comcast and currently SVP of Social for Citigroup) and Scott Monty (head of social media at Ford) do at their respective large organizations. Their cross-functional role helps define social media across the organization as it’s integrated more closely with all functional areas, projects, etc.

“This will become the career trajectory for social media expertise in much the same way a marketing manager evolves into a VP of marketing.

That and other awesomeness can be found in the post here.

Filed under: In the News, Quora

Why I moved to Toronto

This is surreal.

Just last week, I was chilling on a sailboat with my friends in San Francisco. And, here I am writing this post from a hotel room in Toronto, the culmination of a week of hectic activities that’s been months in the making.

My LinkedIn story, continues…

I’m stoked at the continuation of a super-exciting journey I began at LinkedIn close to 4 years ago (here’s a video Jeremiah took when I just started out here), and boy, what an awesome roller coaster it’s been. The opportunity to work with some of my favorite social media peeps in the world, a mentor from whom I’ve learnt a ton, a CEO who truly gets social media, some really smart, funny, entertaining, colleagues, and a chance to change the way our users and companies perceive and use LinkedIn.

But, I digress… So, what am I doing in Toronto at LinkedIn’s Canada office? My role moving forward, will be to take LinkedIn’s social media marketing efforts global. Toronto, is the central hub from where I can work with our global teams at creating a new paradigm for our marketing and PR efforts across the globe.

Moving forward, my focus areas at LinkedIn:

1. Global blog editor of the LinkedIn blog

  • When we started the LinkedIn blog, our primary goal was to not just create the source of information around LinkedIn but more importantly to create a dialogue between the folks behind LinkedIn (product, engineering, design, developers, etc.) and our users. Since then we’ve had over 80 contributing bloggers from within the company and over 8000 conversations.
  • The goal now is to tailor this information to users in different parts of the world as well as craft content that’s more in tune with users in different countries. For starters, we’ve LinkedIn in 6 different languages, and half of our users are from outside of the US. So, that’s a starting point, right there.

2. Localization of social media strategy globally

  • As my good friends Lionel Menchaca and Jeremiah Owyang say repeatedly, you always find where your users are and engage with them on their platforms of choice. We’re currently engaging with our users on multiple channels including LinkedIn (of course), Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, and YouTube.
  • The next goal would be to create a comprehensive strategy around content and engagement on these different platforms, whether it be better integration of social with our blog or better routing of this feedback with customer service (for e.g.). Jeremiah just hinted at how 2011 is going to be the year of the social corporate website and I’m sure corporate blogs will be no exception to this development.

3. Working with companies on how-to do LinkedIn right

  • Increasingly, I’ve been having conversations with my social media peers at different companies – Tom Hoehn (Kodak), Esteban Contreras (Samsung), James Musick (Genentech) for e.g. – to share LinkedIn and social media best practices. Something I’ll continue to share these with you on this blog.

And, now with Shannon Stubo leading our PR team back in HQ, the ever dependable Krista Canfield – my colleague, friend and “shoe fanatic” (it’s true), and some new additions to our team, it’s the right time to take this program global and I’m excited that I get to do that from a city as vibrant as Toronto.

So, if you’re a professional in – Marketing, PR, HR or Customer Service – come back to the blog for more information on topics like: business blogging, ceo communication, employee engagement, linkedin tips and more.

And, if you or your team is responsible for social media in your small business or corporation, I’d love to hear from you. Leave me a comment or @mariosundar me.

Wanna follow my adventures in Toronto – find me on Twitter? Want to learn more about social media and corporations, subscribe to my blog.

Filed under: About Mario Sundar

In the News: Being a Trust Agent

As LinkedIn’s social media guy and given my experience around community marketing, I get quoted on social media themed articles or blog posts. Here are the three most recent quotes that appeared in some of my favorite blogs and magazines – Inc. Magazine, Mashable and Chris Brogan’s blog – where I talk about social media best practices.

1. How to write a social media policy by Tiffany Black

Inc Magazine compiled a HOW-TO post for those social media marketers who are trying to put together a set of  social media guidelines for their employees who are active on social media sites. I’ve warned of the dangers of not having a social media policy and if your company doesn’t have one, this article should probably set you straight.

“I’d say there are two broad reasons for having a social media set of guidelines for every company: crisis management or brand opportunity,” says Mario Sundar, community evangelist at LinkedIn.  “Social media may be a huge opportunity for your employees to help build your company’s brand, but let’s not forget that there also exists a tremendous risk for individual employees to inadvertently damage the company’s brand and by defining a set of guidelines you help mitigate that risk.”

Sharing my tips on writing an effective social media policy on Inc Magazine

I’d also recommend your check out my other posts on Social Media Policy that I’ve written these past few years. They contain tips and tricks, pros and cons and even how to actually get it written.

2. 10 Tips for Aspiring Community Managers by Vadim Lavrusik

This is the most recent post I was quoted on. Thrilled to find that this post was trending on Mashable over the weekend. Vadim Lavrusik asked me and 5 other community managers – from Foursquare, Howcast, Meetup, Sears and Read Write Web  – to share our tips for aspiring community managers. A couple of my thoughts made its way to the post.

For anyone looking for a job (especially one in the social media space), I’d highly recommend your investing time in a career blog.

Sundar also got help from blogging. He said he found his job for LinkedIn because of blogging and believes taking an hour a day to blog on social media topics will help you stand out from the rest of the social media crowd.

“I’m constantly surprised by how few of those aspiring community managers actually spend time to manage a career blog where they share tips and tricks on what works and what doesn’t,” he said. “Everyone has a LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter account, but career blogs are few and far in between. Build a brand for yourself with your blog before you actually get paid to manage one.”

Mashable's post quoting Mario Sundar on Community Management

Here are posts I’ve written in the past months on Community Marketing. Feel free to bookmark for later reference.

3. Mario Sundar at LinkedIn is a Trust Agent by Chris Brogan

This is the most personal of the three blog posts but is thematically very similar to Mashable’s recent post, since it covers one of the most important traits for a community manager – earning the trust of your community. Chris is a dear old friend whom I’ve known for many years and I’ve often talked to Chris over the years about LinkedIn, what some of his pain points were and what would make his LinkedIn experience better.

This past month I had one such conversation and was happy to introduce him to two of my colleagues from LinkedIn product & design regarding some feedback he had for us. I’ve had similar conversations with numerous other folks on a regular basis, but Chris was kind enough to make the following observations:

What did Mario do for LinkedIn by listening to my thoughts about the service, and/or bringing in the appropriate team members to help me? He made me love the brand more. That love results in this post. It results in more conversations about how a company is doing it right when I’m on stage in front of thousands of people (tens of thousands if I talk about it over a year). He built more positive brand awareness via my channels than any ad will ever build.

Thanks, Chris! This truly made my day and so did the numerous other tweets that came in from people I respect and admire greatly – here, here and here (for e.g).

That's the picture Chris took of me while hanging out in Boston 3 years ago

That’s it for the past few weeks. Stay tuned for more and thanks for reading! Thanks to Tiffany, Vadim and Chris for reaching out to me. If you’d like to pick my brain on all things social media for an article you’re writing or a speaking engagement, feel free to contact me via LinkedIn.

So, here are the tweets from my peeps at LinkedIn whom I respect and admire greatly. Thanks, guys!

LinkedIn CEO, Jeff Weiner, on Mario Sundar

Thanks, Jeff!

 

That's from Kay, my former boss at LinkedIn, mentor and friend

 

And, that's Robby who's such a blast to work with...

Regular blogging will resume shortly.

If you like similar content you should subscribe to my blog or follow me on Twitter!

Filed under: In the News

Feedback on Blog World Expo panel – 7 Habits

I’ve blogged about the 2 panels I participated in at Blog World Expo 2008 (here’s the one I was a panelist in and here’s the one I moderated). Thought you’d be interested in checking out some of the twitter feedback that we received on the 7 Habits panel I moderated.

Thanks to Tom for both the pictures.

Tom, Lionel and Nicki at Blog World Expo 2008

Tom, Lionel and Nicki at Blog World Expo 2008

Carolyn and Nicki (Blog World Expo 2008)

Carolyn and Nicki at Blog World Expo 2008

Once again, kudos to Nicki, Lionel, Carolyn and Tom for being a great panel. I think the tweets are far more descriptive.

@marismith: Wow, just realized the corporate blogging panel room 227 is packed! Peeps sitting on the floor.

@trishussey: Retweet @gwenbell: Dell, Yahoo!, Facebook, Kodak and LinkedIn corporate bloggers. Powerhouse session.

@gwenbell: Dell, Yahoo!, Facebook, Kodak and LinkedIn corporate bloggers. Powerhouse session. #bwe08

@JayBerkowitz: BlogWorld Corp blog panel #bwe08 Thomas Hoehn from Kodak “A blog without comments is just a website”

@ccarfi: “the acceptance of negative comments FAR outweighs the comments themselves” – tom hoehn at kodak #bwe08

@alanunderkofler: “A blog without comments is a website” Thomas Hoehn Kodak #bwe08

@shaicoggins: is@ the 7 Habits of Highly Effective Business Blogs panel at #bwe08. Great insights in to corp communications fr Dell,Yahoo,Kodak& Facebook.

@alanunderkofler: At 7 habits of Highly Effective Business Blogs… Great panel, Dell, facebook, Yahoo!, LinkedIn, and Kodak, lots to learn! #bwe08

@marismith: I’m diggin’ the chick from Yahoo blog http://ycorpblog.com/ <http://ycorpblog.com/>  Nicki Dugan. Smart, confident, experienced, mature.


I’ve been traveling ever since my last post. In New York the past couple of days at the World Business Forum after my Vegas trip (Blog World Expo). I’m also flying out to Portland tomorrow. So, expect reduced blogging over the weekend.

Filed under: Speaking Engagements

Blog World Expo 2008: Wrap-up

At the Vegas airport after wrapping up the most instructive, anecdote filled corporate blogging panel I’ve been a part of. One that I moderated with my favorite corporate blogging peeps.

Lionel Menchaca, Dell
Nicki Dugan, Yahoo!
Carolyn Abram, Facebook
Thomas Hoehn, Kodak

First off, thanks to all four of them for being able to make it to Blog World. It’s definitely something I’d planned for a long time and the panel conversation was as educative to the audience as I’d envisioned it’d be. They shared with other corporate bloggers, best practices and anecdotes that I’ve heard during my conversations with them in the past. And, that is good for the industry in general. I’ll soon share the presentation on slideshare with my notes.

Presentation pet peeves: I craft my slides on Apple Keynote (and in this case “powerpoint on a mac”) but was bummed that the fonts were all messed up when I was forced to run it on a PC. And, I misspelled Tom’s name. Sorry, Tom! Keep these in mind when you dream up your next presentation as a moderator.

Content-wise, the panel was a gold-mine for any corporate blogger or company wanting to start a blog. More on this later. Stay tuned.

Now I’ve got a flight to catch!

Blogged from my iPhone

Filed under: Business Blogging, Speaking Engagements

Blog World Expo 2008: Corporate Blogging Myths and Reality

Just wrapped up my first panel discussion with Paula Berg, Southwest Airlines, moderated by Chris Baggot. What I loved about the panel was the level of Q&A interactivity that permeated the entire session – from start to finish.

Some of the key topics we touched upon were related to the motivation behind corporate blogs – goals, strategy, tactics, implementation and ROI.

Most of the questions we got asked are questions I get asked all the time when I speak at events and have addressed on this blog in the past:

For e.g.

1. Why should my company start a corporate blog?
2. Why should a CEO blog when he has more important things to do?
3. What about privacy laws?
4. What about the argument that corporate bloging is but a trend?

Etc…

Once I’ve access to a laptop and wireles connectivity (moving from the Marriot to Hilton later today since I currently don’t have Internet access there), I’ll probably link to posts from the past that address the above questions.

I’m currently heading to the luncheon keynote with Guy Kawasaki and Steve Rubel. Should be fun.

Feel free to throw in questions you may have on the above topics. I’m currently blogging this from an iPhone – on the WordPress app.


Blogged from my iPhone

Filed under: Business Blogging, Speaking Engagements

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