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

What’s the deal with post conference follow-up calls?!

How many times have you wondered after attending a conference or event, what you were supposed to do with all these business cards you collected as you try to justify the flight, boarding expenses to your boss or worse still to yourself (if you’re a consultant).

It’s kind of Seinfeldian: the question of how many hours or days after you meet someone at a conference do you follow-up with them or should you follow-up with them at all? Or, let me back up a bit – should I’ve attended that conference in the first place?

What's the deal with post-conference follow-up calls?

What's the deal with post conference follow-up calls?

The Simple Dollar (via Lifehacker), pretty much reads out a chapter from Keith Ferrazzi’s “Never Eat Alone”. And, it answers many questions that range from “what value do you get from attending conferences?” – to – “I’ve a stack of business cards, now what?”

The problem with events and conferences

I’m sure everyone reading this post has attended quite a few conferences or “networking events” in their careers, but unfortunately many of us don’t do the homework or follow-up necessary to derive some meaningful value from it. As Trent describes in the post, there are two inherent problems with attending conferences:

1. The Boondoggle

I began to realize that there were two problems. For one, I was often connecting with people who were just at the conference to goof off on someone else’s budget.

&

2. The Follow-up

The second problem is that I just wasn’t good at following up – so why should I expect that the other folks would be?

So, I thought it’d be interesting to break down the tasks one must do before and after attending the conference, so as to get maximum value from it.

PRE-CONFERENCE: Do your homework identifying goals before the event

Once you’ve figured out the Boondoggle problem by candidly answering the question: what lasting value is this particular networking event gonna bring me and / or my company, you now have to ensure that the $ you spent on travel / lodging be put to good use. It’s time to make some lasting connections.

Keith Ferrazi outlines some of the homework worth doing before you attend the event, which includes offering to help the show organizer if he / she needs an extra hand.

First, review the event’s materials, visit its web site, and find out who the main contact is for putting together the conference. Put in a phone call. The person responsible for these kinds of events is generally overworked and stressed out.

I’d just add, more importantly find out if the conference is listed in the LinkedIn events database for one reason, it allows you to find common connections who plan on attending the event and better yet allows you to check out their LinkedIn profile to learn more about them. This is of particular significance for those individuals you’d like to meet at the event.

In addition to LinkedIn, also try finding the same folks on Twitter (Try Twitter User Name Search or if you’re on the iPhone, the Tweetie app should allow you to do the same) and start following them. If you use Tweetdeck create a separate group for them so you’ve a clearer, less-noisy environment to follow individuals you’re gonna meet at the event. Finally, also check out Facebook events to see if the event’s listed there and find out if you’ve missed out on any common connections on that platform as well.

POST-CONFERENCE: How soon (after you make contact at a conference) should you follow-up?

Upon returning from the conference, promptly try connecting with the folks you met and interacted with. Try to recollect the individuals you struck a chord with and follow-up with them. It’s the most important part of building those relationships.

Do you want to stand out from the crowd? Then you’ll be miles ahead by following up better and smarter than the hordes scrambling for the person’s attention. The fact is, most people don’t follow up very well, if at all. Good follow-up alone elevates you above 95 percent of your peers. The follow-up is the hammer and nails of your networking tool kit.

In fact, FOLLOWING UP IS THE KEY TO SUCCESS IN ANY FIELD.

Trent from The Simple Dollar outlines three simple steps to any post conference follow-up action. Of course, you can choose to reach out to the individual via email. But, I’d recommend you reach out via a site like LinkedIn where connecting once allows you to stay in touch with these folks through the lifetime of their career. Also, use this as an opportunity to add them as a contact on LinkedIn instead of just sending them a message:

STEP 1 – The first follow-up: 24 to 48 hours is always the optimal time to remind them of your recent conversation. This minimizes the chances that they’ll ignore your request. Also, have a recognizable / professional profile picture on your LinkedIn profile to help them recognize you more easily.

STEP 2 – Remind them of your conversation at the event: While sending a connection request or friend invite, please start off with a personalized intro reminding them of your recent conversation vs. the stock message that LinkedIn allows for.

STEP 3 – The 2nd Follow-up: Finally, you may want to catch up with this connection after a month or two when you’ve had some time to get back into the swing of things at work. As Trent suggests, make it a point to add this either to your to-do list or on your calendar.

How does a social networking site change the dynamic of a follow-up call?

Finally, I think it’s important to maintain a history of contacts you’ve aggregated over the course of your attending different events and your communication with them. And, I couldn’t think of a better tool to do that than the recently launched Profile Organizer from LinkedIn (Note: this is a premium LinkedIn feature that has a one-month free trial in Oct 09).

I’ve been using it for some time and I’ve got to say it’s an effective tool to organize the profiles of various individuals you’ve met at the conference by moving them into different folders and adding notes around each interaction. This then serves as the history of your communication for each of those business relationships. As mentioned earlier, you should also follow these individuals by sorting them into groups for e.g. on Tweetdeck.

Once you’re connected to these individuals, you’ll notice their status messages in your network updates field which frankly obviates the need for the 2nd follow-up mentioned above. IMO, a relevant status message goes a long way in re-initiating that contact at an appropriate time rather than by your reaching out to the individual a month or two after your connecting with them.

These are just some of the ways I think you could get value out of events using social networking sites. How else do you think have sites like LinkedIn changed the dynamic for events or conference based networking? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section. (disclosure: I work at LinkedIn as a community evangelist, but have been talking about social networking best practices on my blog way before I started working there)

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Filed under: Miscellaneous

Google brings Sexy back with a Wave!

Bringing Sexy Back to technology! And, you thought that was solely Apple’s prerogative. Today was one of those “I was there” moments. It took me back to the day I watched Jobs demo the iPhone, when he had us all at “scrolls like butter“. Yes, I’ve watched that demo quite a few times since then.

Today, Google demoed a technology that has been 4+ years in the making to an adoring crowd of 4000 developers. A collaboration and communication platform that makes traditional email look like the abacus in terms of instant gratification. So enough with the teasing, you say.

Surfing a Google Wave?

Participating in a Wave is a little like an email chain, and a little like instant messaging; you can embed documents, Google Web Elements, photos and other multimedia, and the whole bailywick is presented as one stream of conversation. People can jump in or jump out at any time, and they can track back in conversations to see where things got started. [Source: Fast Company]

What Google continues to do is completely turn on its head the traditional understanding of a mainstream technology (with the iPhone it was stuff like visual voice mail and with gmail it was threaded conversations and tagging) and provide us with a radical, new way to get stuff done.

But, I digress. So, let me cut to the chase and outline for you the 5 key moments in the really long demo below that had 4000 developers cheering like they had just heard Steve Jobs announce the next version of the iPhone (read Arrington’s great piece on Google’s impeccable launch timing). Key portions in the video are highlighted after the jump.

Yes, at an hour and 20 minutes, the video is way too long. So if you’ve five minutes and want to catch the most interesting parts, check out the following timestamps in the video. And, could somebody slice-and-dice these clips together to create a succinct 3 minute video.

The Basics

5:05 – 7:05 The philosophy of Waves

The Components / Demo

7:35 – 12:05  The metaphor of hosted conversations. Quick usage scenarios on how a Wave takes multiple elements and  fits it into a Wave.

10:10 – 12:05 How a real time conversation within a wave mimics Instant Messaging

15:20 – 17:20 Sharing multimedia. How it’s done in a wave.

27:30 – 33:05 Inline discussion, content collaboration and the playback button. Oh, yae! it’s pretty cool.

35:05 – 37:42 Multiple individuals collaborating real-time on a single doc. It’s even better than what Google Docs does today!

And, two more things…

44:00 – 46:04 Spell checker. It’s different this time. Pretty impressive!

1:12:00 – 1:16:00 And, one more thing. Real time translation demo, followed by (what I think was) an extended standing ovation.

So, I’m way past my bedtime having taken a couple of hours to revisit the video embedded above.  And, one thing’s for sure, Google put on an Apple’sque show today and totally wowed us all with what they believe is the future of communication. I can’t wait to try out the product.

Filed under: Miscellaneous

Tweetie could improve its notifications

For the uninitiated Tweetie is a Twitter client for the Mac that looks like it may have come from the house of Jobs! There has been a ton of hype about the app. The more I think about it, I realize that it’s addictiveness stems from the notifications mechanism that Tweetie alone possesses (correct me if I’m wrong). It’s also something they could improve immensely.

Let me explain. As much as I LOVE Twitter I find it unmanageable because of the real-time stream of tweets that keep moving on without my ability to differentiate between what I’ve read and what I’ve not. The worst part of any Twitter app or Twitter itself is that there’s no notification mechanism to let you know that you’ve received a NEW response or a direct message unless  you drilled through the different tabs. Nor is there a way to identify which tweets I’ve read just by looking at my “All Friends” stream of tweets.

But, Tweetie solves that by visually notifying me when there are new tweets or replies/mentions or direct messages with a blue circle adjacent to that tab. Not only that the scroll-bar stays at the last tweet I read.

Tweetie notification icons

This reminds me of the red notification icon on the Facebook toolbar (one of the main reasons I preferred FB to twitter – notice how I used the past tense – more on that later).

Facebook notification icon

Tweetie also has a neat little visual notification box on the OS bar (see below) which turns blue when there are any new tweets for me to check out. I’d actually love it if there was a way to set my preferences so that it turns blue only when I have new replies/mentions or direct messages (quick update: I found out that’s possible. Go to Preferences -> Advanced -> Highlight Status Icon) and that way allowing it to grab my attention only with higher priority items. Showing the # of replies or DMs would be great too (see FB notification in red above).

OS bar notification tweetie

The other reason I love Tweetie is because it allows me to manage multiple Twitter accounts (the other account being the Twitter LinkedIn channel that I manage as well). The best part is it allows me to cross post or retweet between the two channels. So if I find an interesting tweet from a colleague (on my @mariosundar account) that I’d like to broadcast on our LinkedIn channel, then I can cross-post it from where I am. Sweet!

Cross-posting on Tweetie

As promised, here’s an interesting look into the design of the app, featuring a quote from the creator of the app (Loren Brichter), where he muses on the radical new design that has earned a few skeptics (not me):

How did you approach designing Tweetie for the Mac? It almost looks like a radical departure from the standard Mac app.

Radical, yet not. It’s an evolution of UI concepts, many borrowed and extended from the iPhone. It fits in as a Mac app, looks and feels like one, but the navigation and functionality is next-generation. The drill-down is inspired by iPhone, it was important to be able to make it easy to delve into tons of information without requiring the app to sprawl across your entire monitor.

The sidebar was particularly interesting to design. I needed a UI that worked well with exactly one account but also scaled to many accounts. Old school Mac implementations might have had a double set of tabs, or a Mail-style sidebar, or a tab bar with an account dropdown box. All of these are flawed. Some take up too much screen real estate, some aren’t good enough at providing at-a-glance badge notifications on a per-account-subsection basis. The sidebar design in Tweetie for Mac solves these problems in an extremely elegant and scalable way. It’s new and different, which is hard for some people to swallow, but somebody needs to push the envelope and try new things or we’re all going to rot in UI hell.

Read the rest of the interview here.

Filed under: Miscellaneous, Twitter

Singletasking

I had to share this terribly useful focus methodology that’ll help you get stuff done at work. This is of particular significance to those who are drowning in social media (hint to self). But, I digress.

Here are some useful tips in maintaining a zone of concentration while at work.

practicalist_-singletasking-1

While you’re enjoying the thought of such a simple/effective workstyle, go grab a print-friendly PDF of these simple productivity tips that you can hang in your work cube.

[Hat tip: Caterina Fake via Practicalist]

Filed under: Miscellaneous

Chicken/Egg? Product/Marketing?

Seth Godin argues that smart marketing comes before the product. Blasphemy! But, I concur. Here’s Seth’s rationale:

Well, if you define marketing as advertising, then it’s clear you need the product first. Marketing is not the same as advertising. Advertising is a tiny slice of what marketing is today, and in fact, it’s pretty clear that the marketing has to come before the product, not after. As Jon points out, the Prius was developed after the marketing thinking was done.

Now, that’s how Steve Jobs probably thinks before he creates the next Apple wonder of the world! But, interestingly enough, I just realized that movie marketing functions in exactly the same way. You dream up the movie trailer with its target audience in mind before you even attempt to put together a movie.

The producer Brian Grazer, whose films include “Frost/Nixon” and “A Beautiful Mind,” mentioned a potential remake of a James Dean film: “I have the book ‘East of Eden’ and a script by Paul Attanasio”—an A-list screenwriter—“but I don’t know how I’d ever make it, because I don’t know how I’d sell it. With this material, I can’t reach you emotionally, tell the story, or be visually transcendent in a thirty-second TV spot. And there’s no ‘Holy s#$!’ moment for the trailer.”

Some laws are universal.

Filed under: Miscellaneous

Using Social Media to help your friends find a job

How many of you have a friend who has lost a job recently? I’m sure many hands were raised as they read this. It’s unfortunate that the recent spate of layoffs continue unabated with Macy’s laying off 7000 employees today; an unfortunate follow-up to last week’s record setting 75K layoffs in one day.

I know of at least 5 friends who have lost a job in the past month. So, expanding on Guy Kawasaki’s post from earlier today (10 Tips to use LinkedIn to find a job), here are three quick tips to use the social media tools at your disposal to find that elusive dream job.

1. Use social media megaphones to update your status

Depending on the social media channels that you engage in, update your status on all of them that you’re looking for a job. In my case, my obvious choices would be LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and of course my blog. In addition, you may want to use a service like ping.fm that updates a slew of social networks’ status (all of the above 4) from one place.

2. Do smart research

But random status updates alone can’t do much good. Use all the company research goodness that you can find on LinkedIn to find the right people in your dream companies to network with. For e.g. find our historical career paths at companies, info on hiring managers, etc.

Read more tips #s 4 – 8, in Guy’s post

3. Build your networks

And, finally, do take the time to build your online networks (social or professional) if you’d really like to benefit from the many applications and tools that a site like LinkedIn affords. Remember: the bigger your network is, the more chances you have at reaching the right people. Size does matter.

And, the best part is it’d take you just a few minutes to build out your professional network. So, what are you waiting for…

Are any of your friends looking for a job? Share these 10 tips.

Filed under: Miscellaneous

ROI of Viral Marketing

Seth Godin pens a classic blog post that questions the effectiveness of “viral marketing”. And, while doing so, he raises an important challenge that bedevils marketers who create social media.

We create content that is hampered or selfish or boring. Or we create something completely viral that doesn’t do any marketing at all.

He’s absolutely right!

Something being viral is not, in an of itself, viral marketing. Who cares that 32,000,000 people saw your stupid video? It didn’t market you or your business in a tangible, useful way.

So, what is? A truly viral Product. Eureka!

If you want to do viral marketing, you can try to come up with a viral ad, but you’ll probably fail. You’re better off building the viral right into the product, creating a product that spreads because you designed it that way.

I couldn’t agree more. It actually reminds me of Guy’s mantra on evangelism being intrinsically tied to the worth of the product itself.

The starting point of evangelism is having a great thing to evangelize. It is a product or service that improves the lives of people, ends bad things, or perpetuates good things. It is not simply an exchange of things/services for money.

In your minds, as a marketer, what is the true ROI on virality? Have you worked on campaigns that involved viral marketing. How did you measure success and what were your goals/metrics? Feel free to share.

Filed under: Miscellaneous, Social Media ROI

Finding “Birds of Your Feather” on Twitter!

Twitter is the rage all again, what with folks following layoffs on Twitter, their favorite music celebrities (Kanye West, Britney Spears, etc…), sports celebrities and more. But most professionals I know give Twitter a try and then give up for a variety of reasons – chief among which is that Twitter can be a huge time sink and a distraction if not used properly.

PBS Media Shift’s Simon Owens laments the increasing frequency with which his email Inbox fills up with Twitter alerts of new followers, which owes its genesis to “reciprocal friending” – the compulsion to follow someone who starts following you! The post goes on to stumble upon an important commandment of social network “friending” (via Minjae Ormes):

For me, it’s just simple mathematics: Every person I add is just another set of tweets that I’ll have to scroll through to get to the ones I really want to read.

That’s the only rule I follow on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. And, that’s the one rule everyone will realize sooner vs. later…which is friend those individuals whose updates you actually want to read! Interestingly, LinkedIn started the trend of showing you who those valuable connections may be with a feature “People You May Know”. Facebook has something similar and now for Twitter you’ve got Mr. Tweet, which I highly recommend.

Step 1: All you’ve to do is Follow Mr. Tweet

In return, Mr. Tweet will suggest

1. Your followers you should follow

2. Influencers you should follow

Saves you time and ensures you follow the folks you ought to be following. Do you have a “friending” strategy? Explain in the comments. Speaking of Twitter friending, Jeremiah has put together a tweet-up at the British Banker’s Club in Menlo Park tomorrow. If you’re attending, let me know by leaving a comment or DM me on Twitter.

Filed under: Miscellaneous, Twitter

5 must-read articles on recession proofing your job/career

Not a great start to the week. Apparently, Yahoo! will be letting go ~1500 employees this Wed. Lately, I’ve noticed an increase in the articles that describe how to cope with such a situation. Here are five must-read articles on dealing with layoffs (hat tip: Lifehacker for the first two articles below).

  1. Web Worker Daily – 5 ways to recession proof your career
  2. Brazen Careerist – Maybe there’ll be a recession. Here’s what to do, just in case
  3. Get Rich Slowly – Living with and learning from layoffs
  4. Moolanomy – Recession proof your job: 4 ways to avoid the pink slip
  5. Harvard Business – Recession proof yourself: 4 tips for twenty-somethings

Also, do yourself a favor and subscribe to any or all of the above blogs (links above) since they continue publishing tips on dealing with the  economic nightmare we find ourselves in. And, count yourself lucky, if your current job is one of the following ten.

Feel free to share any other articles on this topic that may be of help to our readers.

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Filed under: Miscellaneous

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