Rising above: Communities of practice

Let’s talk local on foursquare

When thinking about rising above the global social media fray, it appears to me that certain people are helped by their local communities of practice.

If you have ever studied strategy from an academic point of view, you may be familiar with the lesson contained in the case of the Italian ceramic tile industry.  In a nutshell, it’s a story about how the competitive dynamics of a tiny town in Italy helped local businesses capture 30 percent of global market.

I see similar factors at work when seeing how local communities help individuals connect and gain attention.  As the old saying goes, “out of sight, out of mind.”  And while having an active online presence raises one’s visibility, it must be backed up by a real-life community of practice.  Let me show you a few examples of what I mean.

These local goings-on are frequent and low key compared to big-bang events like SXSW, BlogHer, or Web 2.0 Expo.  Serendipity can happen on a more regular basis, if you’ve got the right local community.

Moreover, all of the events I’ve mentioned above are the ones that are actually blogged and tweeted about.  They’re just the tip of the iceberg.  The really valuable conversations are the ones happening as a result of 1-1, live conversations.

I know there’s an apparent irony here – that all of this social media stuff is virtual and location is less important than before.  That may be true at a surface level, but the digital world has never and will never replace the physical world…except in Hollywood stories.  DMs, hashtag chats, threaded conversations are all useful and can help us initiate and maintain relationships.

But the core of credibility is your local community of practice.  Rising above is much easier with a strong one.

Social Business Meetup – New York, Monday July 20th

Dachis Group will be hosting a social business meetup in New York, one week from today. If you’re in town, we’d like to meet you in person.  Click here for more details and to RSVP.

UPDATE: Thanks to everyone who made it out. Here are some pictures from the event:


Reputation matters

Tugg's Reputation Bridge

Hot on the heels of David Armano’s successful and generous #Daniela outreach, I’m seeing charity requests start to crop up for all kinds of causes.

Simultaneously, reports of phishing online and Ponzi schemes offline are on the rise as well.

Reputation matters.

This brings numbers come into play, i.e. friends and followers.  Links to many people hint at a conspicuously public presence, where one would have little to hide.  But numbers aren’t everything – certain figures like 2,000 friends on Twitter should be a warning sign.

So relationships matter.  If people you know are participating or connected already, then you might be inclined to join in.  When you receive a friend request from someone on Facebook who you can’t place, the ability to view mutual friends may help you decide to confirm.  But as our grade school teachers rhetorically asked us, “if everyone was jumping off a bridge, would you?”

Thus we require personal interactions to help bridge the trust gap.  These consist of content and quality within direct conversation.  Recency and frequency matter here which should temper the “monetary”/intangible risk of any action.  Behavior bundles in here as well.

These three factors work best together as a set – think of it as a bridge of trust between two people.  (The image in my mind is illustrated above, inspired by Tropic Thunder…and as Tugg Speedman knows, sometimes your understanding turns out to be all wrong and you need to blow it up.)

So with a half-hearted apology, that’s why I’m not going to blog about your PR spam, trade links with you to game search engines, or help you transfer $17.7 million out of Burkina Faso.  Even if you really did write the email with tears, sadness and pains.  It’s also why I steer clear of grey areas like sponsored blogging.

Reputation matters.  After all, in a world of weak ties, what else do we have?

Digesting Boston’s Social Media Breakfast #9

#smb9, Cambridge.
Flickr: stevegarfield

Yesterday, I had social media for breakfast with a group of Bostonians.  I shared thoughts on "starting community programs with a reluctant executive" along with Jamie Pappas from EMC and David Alston from Radian6.

I presented some slides.  But instead of just reposting them, I thought I’d give you all of the raw content instead, by section.

What is community?
To see where this thinking started in my head, read this post.

Does it scale?
To see where this thinking started in my head, read this post.

Can we allow it?
To see where this thinking started, read this post.

Can we make money?
To see where this thinking started, read this post.

Other references
For some of the things that were mentioned off-hand…

You can see the Twitter stream from before, during, and after by searching for #smb9. Photos of us taking Q&A are in Steve Garfield’s photostream.

Thanks Bob!

Digesting The Austin Social Media Breakfast

Rudy’s Country Store, Austin.

Earlier this week, I had social media for breakfast with a group of Austinites.  I served up the topic of "does social media marketing matter," with ingredients including scalability and interaction.

Here’s what some attendees had to say:

  • "In a sense, [social media] owns you, and requires that you be authentic…" – Jon Lebkowsky
  • "…the session had a chaotic feel to it [which] might be expected, given the protean nature of corporate social media at this point" – Tim Walker
  • "…a burning issue that is often misunderstood by entrepreneurs, but the buzz-words of Social Media can create some confusion that needs clarification." – Fred Castaneda
  • "Peter Kim generally isn’t afraid to stir things up, and today was no exception." – Bryan Person
  • " …it’s really the spirit behind the technology that is most profound." – Mike Chapman

You can see the Twitter stream from before, during, and after by searching for #smbaustin.  Photos of me doing a karate chop and more are in the LiveWorld photostream.

Thanks Bryan and Amie!

Let’s Do [a Social Media] Breakfast

Chicken = Involved, Pig = Committed.

Hey, it’s great to be connected online and even better to connect in person.  I’ll be participating in two Social Media Breakfasts in the upcoming weeks and we can socialize about social media if you’re around.

– In Austin, Tuesday October 7th at 7:30 am, Rudy’s "Country Store" & Bar-B-Q.  We’ll try to answer the question, "Does Social Media Marketing Matter?"  Organized by Bryan Person and Amie Paxton.  Breakfast taco, anyone?

– In Boston, Thursday October 16th at 8 am, Ryles Jazz Club.  The topic is "Starting Social Media and Community-Building Programs with a Reluctant Executive."  With Jamie Pappas from EMC and Sam Lawrence from Jive.  Organized by Bob Collins.  Watch out if I don’t get enough coffee before we get mic’d up.

You can register by clicking through on the city links, above.  It would be great to connect on Twitter before (and after), it’s conversation you know.

What is community?

Credit: Gapingvoid
I posted some thoughts over on the MarketingProfs Daily Fix blog about community – and a response has me thinking about community.

Lewis Green commented, "Question: Don’t mean to spark controversy (yes I do) but I am troubled by women (or men) only groups. I think exclusion hurts everyone,
including members of the exclusive group.

Is this true?

What is community?

Communities are groups of people defined and separated by common interest.  A community’s core looks like yin and yang, relying on supporters and detractors to define inclusion and exclusion.  In the UK, Conservatives wouldn’t be Conservatives unless the Labour and Liberals existed.  Red Sox Nation needs its Evil Empire.  The survivors of Oceanic 815 need The Others.

Communities need barriers to entry – whether natural or artificial.  Does being human make you part of a community?  Ask your dog or cat.  Green marketers would have us think so.  Hollywood, too.  I know Lew alludes to issues of gender, race, and religion…but I’m going to steer clear of those here and focus on community in a business sense.

We all know that "the conversation" exists.  By definition, community exists as well.  That’s why companies run into problems when they use social media for marketing communications.  It’s good to listen to the conversation and to acknowledge the speakers.  But the speakers expect a response, because the company is a participant.  That’s why many individuals are afraid to participate – companies can’t blog/tweet/podcast – only people can.  And people often don’t know if they’re allowed to speak for the company.  While the people who can (e.g. PR, Corp Comm) stick to traditional one-way channels.

The core of community lies within the corporation.  Companies are already social – we have business units and divisions, functional departments, and softball leagues and charity outreach groups.  Your corporate community connects all the time – company meetings, hallway conversations, and via email or phone.  However, when it comes to external communication and connections, companies operate like a jail, preventing contact with the outside world and releasing inmates every evening into the community, returning to lock-up the next morning.

So what’s so tough about enabling connections in corporate communities with social technology?  I.e. allowing the company to connect with the outside world during the day instead of only every night during work release?

Well, most companies don’t resemble the "porous membrane" as pictured above by Hugh McLeod and operate instead like a castle with moat.  Moreover, many brands secretly fear that connecting with the community will lead to dilution and destruction.

It’s notable that castles today aren’t seats of power, but are maintained as reminders of a distant past.  Lew is spot on, that "exclusion hurts everyone, including members of the exclusive group" – especially when it comes to your corporation and its community.



My Day With The C200

I wanted to share a pretty cool experience from this week with you.  On Friday, I had the honor of participating in Committee of 200’s (C200) Annual Conference.  Have you ever heard of C200?  They are a fairly low-key and extremely high-powered group.  Membership is invitation only for women who either own businesses over $15 million or manage a corporate division over $250 million…making this a very tight-knit and exclusive group.

The conference started in a way that said, "Texas."  Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison rode into a ballroom at the Four Seasons Las Colinas on a horse.  (!)  I can just imagine the discussion between the event planners and the Four Seasons staff to make that idea turn into reality…

I was part of a panel moderated by Gay Gaddis of T3 with Nick Bomersbach from JCPenney, discussing the "digital ecosystem and advertising today."  I’ve done a lot of public speaking and I don’t think I’ve ever shared a discussion a room full of CEOs before!  They had great questions, as you’d expect.

At lunch, three awards were presented to:
– Marsha Serlin, Founder and CEO of United Scrap Metal, for entrepreneurship.  I never knew that scrap metal could make for such a compelling story of determination and perseverance.
Susan Arnold, President of Global Business Units at P&G, for corporate innovation.  A woman who directs $83 billion of brands that the world uses daily.  Who enjoys being barefoot around the office.
Jacqueline Novogratz, Founder and CEO of The Acument Fund, for philanthropy.  Her experiences with making water accessible in India and fighting malaria in Africa were mesmerizing.

Although geography and gender were highlighted at various points throughout the day, I can tell you that the inspiration and energy present were awesome, especially for a guy from Boston who by definition can never be a part of the C200.  But I hope that someday my other family members may be!