Mario Sundar

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

Friendfeed’s IM & Twitter Broadcast works great

Twitter and Friendfeed may be a waste of time if not used in a disciplined manner. But one thing’s for sure, Friendfeed is giving users a slew of reasons to try it out. They have been relentless in their ability to churn out feature after feature that’s user focused.

Today, they launched the ability to channel your Friendfeed updates via IM.

Friendfeed on IM

Friendfeed on IM

It initially seemed like an interesting idea to me, but very soon I was overwhelmed with the updates and turned it off :) However, I’m sure there are others who have a “Need for Feeds”. I also realize that this may be put to better use if you prune your list of friends on Frienfeed and choose to receive updates only from them.

The other feature on Friendfeed I’ve begun using is the ability to broadcast specific updates to Twitter. I know. Pretty cool, eh? In addition to broadcasting what you do on Friendfeed, they also allow you to funnel other status updates from a slew of services like (Pandora, upcoming, YouTube, etc…) to Twitter.

I love the ability to select which of these features you can auto-tweet about on a regular basis. Nifty.

Twitter updates via Friendfeed

Twitter updates via Friendfeed

If you’re on friendfeed, update your settings here.

Follow me on Twitter

Filed under: Twitter

How often do you update your Status?

What started as a trickle, has now become a full-fledged industry standard. Yes, I’m talking about those tiny status updates you see on every social network. Let’s not forget that as much as the once derided IM has become a productivity tool, and IMO so will Status messages. But, with great awareness comes great adoption and finally confusion on how to use them efficiently.

Social Networks

In my experience there are two kinds of network updates I encounter these days: one comes from the simple content creator networks like Twitter, blogs, etc… which then feed into a container network such as FriendFeed. So, let’s take a look at proper network update etiquette & frequency for the two types.

1. Stand-alone Network Updates (where Conversations are started)

* Your Blog – Optimal # of content updates would be 2-3 short posts or 1 thought piece a day

* Twitter – Many, many times a day :)Add me on Twitter

* Facebook – Posted Items & status (purely social) many times a day

* LinkedIn – Professional status update once a day – Here’s my professional brand

2. Consolidated Network Updates (where Conversations happen)

* FriendFeed – Never – Follow me on Friendfeed

I know. I just let FriendFeed populate with updates from all my other stand-alone networks from Twitter to Pandora. It’s interesting that Facebook is now trying to move from being a conversation starter to being a conversation playground like FriendFeed. A case in point is their opening up of comments within the News feed earlier today.

How many social networks are you a part of and how often do you update content?

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Filed under: Facebook, Linkedin, Miscellaneous, Twitter

Comcast Cares if you’re on Twitter

In times past, I’ve shared my own Comcast horror story, and in more recent times I’ve shared with you what seemed like prompt customer service from Comcast; however through Twitter (an online micro-blogging site that’s used by tech edge case users in the Bay Area). But today, it was nice to see another such blog post from Josh Lovensohn of Webware, earlier today.

Feeling bullish I Twittered my disapproval, and shortly thereafter got a response from Frank Eliason, a customer service manager from Comcast. Eliason offered to get me in touch with someone who would let me bypass the software activation–a time (and registry) saver.


(Source: Webware)

But apparently it’s the same Eliason who’d responded to Arrington’s problems a month ago. I’m not sure if there are others from Comcast who’re on twitter or given that this is not a mainstream customer service tool, I’m wondering if he’s the only one from comcast on twitter. A search result on twitter shows him as the first result, and he tells Josh (Webware) that

Eliason tells me he’s “lost track” of the amount of people he’s helped through Twitter. A casual perusal of his responses to people’s problems range from the most mundane to the technically complex.

Given the huge negative furor Comcast creates each time their CS reps fall asleep and annoy the heck out their customers, I’d recommend creating a corporate blog with someone like Frank Eliason leading the efforts.

Why?
He’s out there and fielding numerous requests on twitter by himself (correct me if I’m wrong and there’s a team out there – it’s just that I can’t see them). That’s definitely the passion and character that goes into somebody like a Lionel Menchaca who runs Dell’s corporate blog and the same with Scoble when he was out there talking about Microsoft.

Until they do that, if you’re a Comcast customer, feel free to follow Frank on Twitter

@comcastcares

Too bad, the id reminds me of Comcast Scares! I don’t know if Comcast Cares but I sure as well, believe Frank does. Thanks, Frank!

Filed under: Business Blogging, Twitter

Comcast – Another Twitter Customer Service Success Story

Readers of the blog have probably read my earlier blog posts on customer evangelism and the new crop of social media tools that facilitate them (Read my earlier post on the triumvirate of customer feedback sites). As I mentioned at our SXSW panel, increased speed of response to customer complaints is one of the benefits of using tools like twitter.

The Past, Present and Future of Social Media and Business

Past

Social media provides a good way for users to either evangelize or deprecate products/services they use (remember Jeff Jarvis’ series of blog posts on Dell-Hell). From a company perspective, this then affords an opportunity for to either adequately respond or bury their heads in the sand. For e.g. since the Dell hell posts, Dell has not only established a blog but also a social media portal to receive and rank customer issues (Read about the conversion of Dell-hell in an interview with Lionel – Dell’s corporate blogger). And, today Dell is considered a prime example of how large corporations should utilize social media (Starbucks recently started their own customer idea portal, akin to Dell’s Idea Storm).

Present

In a similar incident, Mike Arrington of TechCrunch gave vent to his frustrations about a 36 hour Comcast downtime on twitter, which then got blogged about by Jeff Jarvis and actually got noticed by a Comcast executive who contacted him in a matter of minutes.

Within 20 minutes of my first Twitter message I got a call from a Comcast executive in Philadelphia who wanted to know how he could help. He said he monitors Twitter and blogs to get an understanding of what people are saying about Comcast, and so he saw the discussion break out

20 minutes! This was roughly the same time it took for me to respond to Steve Rubel and for Steve Ganz (my colleague and fellow LinkedIn evangelist) to respond to Erica O’Grady when she had issues with LinkedIn.

The really cool part of twitter is that we’re not necessarily talking about customer service reps monitoring thought processes but rather folks like you and me, who are truly passionate about products/services they use.

Future

This next phase of social media will see the focus on real-time video broadcast sites (like uStream) or mobile video broadcast sites (like qik, etc…) in addition to microblogging sites (like twitter, jaiku, pownce, etc…). The basic thought process around social media tools is that slowly but surely they’re going to enable customer service teams to respond to user complaints in a much faster and more effective manner.

What should I do as a user?

So, what are you waiting for, jump onto the Twitter bandwagon. Don’t do it for the customer service but rather to find like minded communities who organically form around common themes. For e.g. as I continue using twitter, I come across conversations that mention LinkedIn (because I track conversations around “linkedin”) and then I add users who have constructive thoughts on LinkedIn. That way I’m growing my community of users around a common theme – in this case, LinkedIn.

Feel free to add me on twitter

What should I do as a company?

1. Empower your employee evangelists

2. Facilitate smoother communication between them and the teams that can make a difference

3. Champion the cause

The coolest part is that anyone working in a company (particularly those evangelists/enthusiasts who who love your product) can easily track conversations around your favorite company. Here are easy steps outlined by Jeremiah to help any business/company/user get started in twitterland.

Filed under: Miscellaneous, Twitter

Advertisers now want to use social networks for what?!

Summary: As expected advertisers are jumping onto the social networking bandwagon – pitfalls ahead (Warning: Astro-network-turfing anybody?) — What should marketers do? — Follow the Social Networking LAMP (a variation on my recent presentation at the Online Marketing Summit).

Just a couple of weeks back, I gave two presentations on the “Impact of Social Media on Marketing”. I also took pains to identify some of the Ten Ways for marketers to engage organically in social networking (think word of mouth marketing). One of my key takeaways from the phenomenon of social networking (Disclosure: I work for LinkedIn as community evangelist), is that it helps spur true evangelism and word of mouth marketing in a way that no other technology development has been able to since the advent of the internet. And then, I read this in Advertising Age. Titled “Marketers start to use social networks for CRM instead of ads” (by Abbey Klaassen) the gist of the post was similar to the content of my recent presentations (particularly in reference to how social networks is more about evangelism and less about advertising. Here’s a comment from Chris Jones, former CEO JWT and currently adviser to FreeWebs (company that creates widgets/apps that run on social networks), about what I presume are old-school advertisers:

“[They say], ‘It’s not fair others can use the audience that we created for marketing purposes without us having a share of that.’ At the same time, it’s MySpace, not Rupert’s Space,” he said. (Mr. Jones is an adviser to FreeWebs, which creates widgets run on social networks.)

Advertisers/PR have used Social Media inappropriately before (think Edelman-Walmart fiasco), and with the current mindset as outlined above, one thing leads to another and before we realize it we could be staring into the face of another astro-network-turfing scandal! So, if you’re a marketer who’s considering social network as a means of connecting better with your target audience, you can still follow the LAMP — here are the first four steps for marketers/businesses to connect better with your audience either in social media or within social networks:

1. Listen: Yes, this is the most important and essential benefit from a social network. Find out how many groups dedicated to your product/service that you can find on these sites. It’s not any different from scouring Yahoo! groups, the only noticeable difference being you may actually be friends with some of the members of these groups and that’s a huge difference. First off, introduce yourself, listen and respond when there are appropriate questions about your product/service. Listening can sometimes be the most difficult thing to do.

2. Awareness: Once you’re a well established member within the group, you’ve got a decent awareness of what needs to be done. In terms of what users’ expectations are, their feedback on your product/service, their pain points. Once you’re aware of these, take that feedback back to your teams and try to get some traction in responding to some of these questions.

3. Measure: Within social networks, the only level of measurement we can attempt to quantify can be engagement – the holy grail within marketing these days (that’s another topic and another post all together). This is an ever evolving field. Feel free to share any ideas you have on this topic.

4. Participate: Let’s face it. All companies HAVE TO PARTICIPATE in the conversation, there are no two ways about it. No longer can a company hide behind PR. Just think of the PR fallout from the recent Skype outage where the users question their most recent press release. Other than this, why else should companies participate? Because you care about your product/service and would like to set the record straight when someone wrongfully blames your product, Why? Because you care enough about your users that you’re out there responding to their questions (esp. the oft repeated ones).

A social network is a great way to participate in these conversations with your users but it’s no different from a discussion forum or a blog. Let’s not forget that all of the above steps are inspired by relationship marketing (originating in the 60s and the 70s) but with an increasingly ubiquitous social networking world, it looks like the promise of relationship marketing will finally be felt today.

And for the rest of the advertisers, there’s always paid advertising. Are you listening to your users? If so, what platforms do you use currently?


Related posts:
1. Impact of Social Media on Marketing
2. Social Media LAMP (First four steps in social media adoption for businesses)
3. Is Marketing to your “friends” on your “social network” right?

Filed under: Facebook, Linkedin, Miscellaneous, Twitter

Is “Marketing” to “friends” on your “social” network right? Is that WOMM enough?

Summary: Jason nails the argument — “Is social networking all about being a marketing platform?” — Why use social networks? — How social networks brings to fruition what word-of-mouth marketing dreamed of!


“You talkin’ to me!” | Jason accurately summarizes the social networking affliction

Jason’s Social Networking Bankruptcy Theory

A week ago, Jason Calacanis in the middle of a blog sabbatical, wrote:

Facebook is a multilevel marketing platform where you agree to pay attention to people’s gestures in the hopes that those people will pay-attention to your gestures in the future. It’s a gesture bank.

Are we creating a social system to communicate with each other at a distance because the reality of creating and maintaining that social networking face-to-face is, well, scary?

How NOT to network socially?

IMO, Imagine if in real life you’d a chance to make friends and all you did was keep making friends and at the end of it, try to market stuff to them. It’s kind of like the Pyramid Scheme were your rationale behind making friends was to sell stuff to them. I know Jason means otherwise, but then the question to ask then, is who among your social network’s connections are truly your “friends”. I have around 180 “friends” on Facebook and almost 400 professional colleagues, networkers, etc… on LinkedIn. (I work for LinkedIn)

I haven’t seen even a single sponsored video, haven’t clicked on the ad for the movie “Superbad” that was on my mini-feed on Facebook. Why? For starters, it’s kinda like inviting your friends over for a party and then starting it off by running a trailer for Superbad. And, if I wanted to be marketed to, I’d then go watch TV, not be on a social network. However, if a friend of mine (from my social network) writes a glowing review of “Superbad”, I may go watch. Interestingly, I’ve seen a bunch of my friends announce on the mini-feed that they were going to watch the “Bourne Ultimatum” today. Now, that makes my ever-convinced mind that I should watch the film today. If you belong to my circle of friends, you’ll also see a glowing review of the film later tonight? I’ve an honest opinion that I’m sharing and you may be inclined to take my word for it.

How to network socially? And, the theory of Word of Mouth Marketing.

Well, what I’m trying to say is that never before did we have tools that organically helped spread word-of-mouth as well as social networking sites allow us to do today.

Word-of-mouth promotion is highly valued by advertisers. It is believed that this form of communication has valuable source credibility. Research points to individuals being more inclined to believe WOMM than more formal forms of promotion methods; the receiver of word-of-mouth referrals tends to believe that the communicator is speaking honestly and is unlikely to have an ulterior motive (i.e. they are not receiving an incentive for their referrals) Source: Wikipedia.[1]

There is no more organic way to do this than using a social network. And, maybe that’s what Jason’s referring to as the gesture bank. I wonder what Andy Sernovitz of Word of Mouth Marketing (WOMM) thinks of that? Or, what Ben and Jackie at the Church of the Customer think. Their most recent book was titled — Citizen Marketers: when people are the message. What should marketers do when that message is now dispersed on a social network? Think about it. More on this later.

(BTW, I love Andy’s post on how to use networking sites like LinkedIn, without pissing people off? A must-read)

Note to Jason: I also think I’ve subscribed to the rules of linkbaiting, Jason and this was the best picture of yours I could find :) BTW, I’ve gotta thank you for your response to my initial Top 10 CEO blogs. Made a whole lotta difference in my blogging life. Heard through today’s social networking grapevine that you love Kurosawa’s movies. If you do, check out this book by Donald Richie.

Filed under: Facebook, Twitter

Twitter meets Facebook in Pownce?

Kevin Rose of Digg fame is out with an interesting side project. Last week I wrote about how Facebook is probably a walled tumblelog, given its ability to mash your social interests ranging from movies to whatever into one very useful mini-feed. Pownce is an interesting concept, which was announced on Kevin Rose’s tumblelog today:

Today we’re turning on the splash page of Pownce, a side project that I’ve been working on with some friends over weekends for the last few months. The site isn’t quite open to the public yet, but if you want to try it out, enter your email and we’ll get an invite out to you shortly. Oh, and here is my Pownce profile.

The primary difference with Facebook is that Pownce allows you to unwall your garden, meaning Pownce’s “mini-feed” allows you to be either private or public and is focused on sharing stuff (text, files, links, and events). So, what exactly can you do with Pownce?

Pownce is a way to send messages, files, links, and events to your friends. You’ll create a network of the people you know and then you can share stuff with all of them, just a few of them, or even just one other person really fast.

Looks like Pownce zeroes in on a key feature of sharing “stuff” with friends (a la Twitter) and hones it nicely. So, while in Twitter you sent text messages, here in addition to text messages you can also send files, links and events. Can’t I do all that with Facebook. Yes and much more, but the key difference here is that Pownce is not just open to a closed network of your friends, but like twitter affords you the opportunity to send public messages as well.

Apparently, it also resembles a slew of other file sharing apps, although Rafe Needleman from Webware says it works just fine:

Pownce strongly reminds me of Tubes (review) and Izimi (review), and little less so of AllPeers (stories) and Pando (quick hit). It’s also reminiscent of the file-transfer feature of various instant-messaging clients.

There’s also a heavy dose of Twitter (stories) in Pownce. Every time you send a file or note, it’s added to your running feed of activities that anyone can view; likewise, it’s easy to see the public feeds of other users and the private items posted by your friends.

Currently, it’s only in exclusive invite mode, but if you want to be one of the early few to check it out, then leave your email address on their site. I just did.

Filed under: Facebook, Twitter

Twitter, Canon, and My Mac

Twitter: Well, after a bit of trepidation I’ve finally stepped into the “LARGE, loud and messy chat room” that is Twitter. For those who haven’t heard of Twitter. Here’s a brief intro:

A global community of friends and strangers answering one simple question: What are you doing? Answer on your phone, IM, or right here on the web!

What’s the fascination?

Twitter is addictive (thanks, Jeremiah!), owing to its unique blend of IM chat room meets persistent flash mobs. To me personally, once I have my friends on, it definitely is a great way to let them “read my thoughts”.

From a marketing perspective, looks like twitter could become a cool PR/News feed service (for e.g. BBC). It’s also a great way to get instant news on important earth-shattering items such as an earthquake, for example. But all this is based on the premise that you are addicted to RSS.

Here’s my twitter page and my twitter id is mariosundar.


Canon SD700 IS:

You may have read my not-so-recent post on my dilemma regarding purchase of a camera. I was then thinking of a digital SLR and received feedback from readers on a suitable camera. Nothing happened until now, I realize I needed a smaller, simpler point-and-shoot camera that’s easy to carry around for events, parties, etc…

I started with the Canon SD800 IS and the Sony DSC-T10, both of which were priced similar and had similar features. However, I ended up with the Canon SD700 IS since it has the features I am looking for, cost $50 lesser (than the 800) and looked better. Plus, my friend Jeremiah recently purchased it.


My Mac
: Yes, finally after months of thought I decided to go ahead and purchase my first Mac – the MacBook.

There is no doubt that the Mac has slowly reached a tipping point when it comes to sales growth but personally my conversion was wrought due to my tech-crush on the Mac, which was fueled by the persistent-yet-subtle evangelism of high-profile users such as Om Malik and Guy Kawasaki.

Anyways, if you are contemplating a Mac purchase, add Amazon to your list of options. No tax and free 2-day shipping (w/ Amazon Prime). Nice.

Any recent Mac converts out there? Any thoughts/tips?

Filed under: Twitter

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