Tag Archive | "influence"

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Cheezburger Network as a Model for Citizen Engagement?


I was fortunate enough to attend a talk series at Google DC earlier today featuring Ben Huh, the CEO of Cheezburger Networks. These are the folks responsible for fun, engaging, user-generated content sites like FAILblog, LOLcatz, GraphJam, ThereIFixedIt, and ThisIsPhotoBomb.com – good stuff. They get over 11 million viewers a month, and have more people vote on an average LOLcat than people that vote in a typical Congressional election.

The government and other large organizations, who typically are not great at engaging their citizens and customers, might want to take this stuff more seriously. Their motto, to “make people happy for five minutes a day” isn’t a bad one. Wouldn’t you like to work for an agency that had that motto?

Someone actually asked Ben a question about the topic of Government 2.0, being in DC as we were. What is the role of concepts like these websites contain in a participatory government? Paraphrasing greatly, to build big, fun communities that can accomplish something, the government must make it very simple to get involved. They have to “narrow the number of variables involved in the decision process,” Ben said. Then, people who want to get more involved can take a second and a third step in a process if they want. I think the key takeaway for getting busy people involved in something within five minutes is: “low barrier to entry.”  Does your government website meet that standard?

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The President’s Peace Prize Problem


The same week that Saturday Night Live skewers President Barack Obama for accomplishing absolutely nothing, he has won the Nobel Peace Prize? Spin this: President Obama was 11 days into his presidency when nominations closed for the Peace Prize.  What exactly was he nominated for? Forget Jimmy Carter waiting over two decades for his – One could argue that George W. Bush should have gotten the Nobel Peace Prize, since he literally may have done more for world peace by leaving office than Obama did by entering it.

I like President Obama, and I suppose I’m proud that the U.S. President won the Nobel Peace Prize.  But I don’t think I’m going to go to parties at the Swedish Embassy for a while.  In the meantime, I’m sure Kanye West plans to disrupt Obama ’s Nobel ceremony, saying that the award should have gone to Beyonce.

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I Unleash My Journalism Students To Critique Newsweek’s Daniel Lyons


September 17th, 2009 – a day that will live in infamy.  It is the day I officially became bored with defending Twitter to columnists that “don’t get” the popular microsharing service.  On that day, Newsweek columnist Daniel Lyons (who frankly, I’d never heard of until that day, even though I knew of his Fake Steve Jobs work – great PR!) wrote a piece called “Don’t Tweet On Me: Twitter shows that stupid stuff sells,” which I immediately hated for at least three reasons.  One, most things people say seem stupid and useless to random people, so this is not novel observation.  Two, everyone who has observed general society knows that stupid sells (maybe Lyons should visit a comedy club sometime?).  And three, Lyons effectively insults 99.9% of the population with his remarks (of course, they didn’t notice because they don’t read Newsweek – whew, bullet dodged).

But honestly, I’m bored with writing posts about Twitter.  I don’t really care if anyone “gets it” at this point – frankly, the less people and businesses use it the more advantage those that do gain over the others, and that’s much more fun to watch.  There are tangible benefits quantified and qualified out there – and I feel no need to share them here.  But please don’t think how busy I am means that I don’t think Daniel Lyons should escape a good skewering.

So, taking a page out of the Web 2.0 playbook I’m fond of, I crowdsourced the task to my journalism students (each writer volunteered and no one was graded) in the School of Media and Public Affairs at The George Washington University in Washington, DC.  I’m currently teaching a class called Sustainable Journalism in a New Media Age, and I felt this would be a perfect opportunity for some of my students to publish something on True/Slant, to work out their contrarian / critique style, and to perform a useful service to humanity – picking apart Daniel Lyons’ arguments about how stupid Twitter is.  (And maybe they will even personally experience mainstream media blowback!)

Starting on Monday, look for brief, funny, engaging, authentic and biting guest posts from four of my undergrad students in my column at True/Slant.  They’re going to be great.  Not only do they poke, poke, poke at Newsweek until its measly article looks like Swiss cheese (sorry Jon Meacham, I like you), but keep in mind that these writers are ages 18-21 – and by the time they graduate this hot young talent probably wouldn’t be caught dead working for a dinosaur like Newsweek.  But I’ll let them speak for themselves.

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Conversations Are Intelligence, Not Invitation


Fox’s recent experiment of overlaying live tweets on an episode of Fringe was an epic failure unwelcome to Twitter enthusiasts and traditional viewers alike.  It’s hard to imagine anyone who understands social technology thinking that this was a good idea. It’s almost impossible to imagine anyone working in entertainment thinking that this would add to, and not detract from, a fictional television drama. Conversations that happen via social media are not necessarily an invitation for businesses to join them. They are, however, business intelligence that can be collected, analyzed, and adapted to. In one of the best simple articles I’ve read on this topic, media and entertainment entrepreneur Patricia Handschiegel writes that,

If TV wants to have a presence online or integrate its offerings online, it needs to think like a user. Not BE a user, not be “part of the conversation,” but understand what is valuable to the user and deliver it. You all should be on Twitter telling us when your shows are going to air and what we can expect, showing trailers, driving us to YOUR website for contests, special footage, etc…Your job is to entertain and inform your audience. Nobody cares what people think of your shows but you, and nobody cares what people have to say about your shows but you… Just because you can “hear” the direct conversations about your brand via the web today doesn’t mean you have to go bananas with it. Listen, use it for insight, adapt your offerings around it, etc. Brands of all kinds are taking all of this way, way too seriously. Your message has always been reshaped and shared among people — the only difference now is that you can see and hear it. This is not something to be afraid of. This is something to use to your advantage.

This is related to what I’ve previously written about on O’Reilly Radar how for businesses and brands (including personal brands) Twitter should mainly be viewed not as a conversation to be involved in, but as a mechanism for providing great content to people. This can be derided by critics as “broadcasting” but there is a happy medium between being in a multiplex chatroom “engaging” with people and merely broadcasting. Listening, understanding, and some interacting is important – but it is not an end goal in itself. This is also related to what I’ve recently written about on PR 2.0, something I call proactive social media (or offensive social media) – filling the information space with great content that people will find if they’re looking for information about your area of expertise or your business sector. This is the strategy that I am beginning to talk about with individuals, government employees, and large and small companies that ask for my advice about how they should best be using social media to interact with the public.

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Proactive Social Media: Filling the Information Space With Great Content


I recently gave a talk titled Free the People! at the Potomac Forum’s Government 2.0 Leadership, Collaboration, and Public Engagement Symposium in Washington, DC that generated enough interest for me to post my slide deck and write a summary for a wider audience. These thoughts constitute some of my early ideas about “offensive social media” for organizations (this talk was particularly geared towards a government audience, but the fundamentals apply to the private and public sectors more broadly).

Read the rest of this article at the PR 2.0 blog!

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Proactive Social Media: Filling the Information Space With Great Content


This post was originally published on BrianSolis.com on September 4, 2009.

Guest Post by Dr. Mark Drapeau – read his blog, follow him on Twitter


Source

I recently gave a talk titled Free the People! at the Potomac Forum’s Government 2.0 Leadership, Collaboration, and Public Engagement Symposium in Washington, DC that generated enough interest for me to post my slide deck and write a summary for a wider audience. These thoughts constitute some of my early ideas about “offensive social media” for organizations (this talk was particularly geared towards a government audience, but the fundamentals apply to the private and public sectors more broadly).

Anti-social vs. social government communications: Typically, there are a number of layers between a government employee communicating with a citizen – bosses, committees, lawyers, public affairs, and so forth. This is an anti-social approach to citizen relations. There are good reasons for the current system, but the problem is that new social technologies allow this system to be easily bypassed, even accidentally, by “government socialites.” Admiral Allen, the commandant of the Coast Guard, commented that we want to honor the past, but not operate in it. So how can we slay some sacred cows and modernize government-citizen interactions?

Social media is about being social – Sharing is caring: Social media is about being social both online and in real life. Its mastery is primarily not about technology but about people sharing information through social networks. Technical savvy is needed far less than leadership. If you understand collaboration and communication, you can understand social media. How many government leaders understand how the inside of a phone works? Social media is a very powerful force, because anyone with a phone or a computer can create, comment on, and spread content. And increasingly, this is done in people’s personal lives – and the lines between work and play have blurred considerably.

Remember that citizens are your ‘end user’ – change the public’s expectations of you: Craig Newmark, the founder of Craigslist, once said that customer service is public service. But how many public servants consider themselves in the customer service business? How many citizens interested in the environment can name someone working for the EPA? How many schoolteachers can name a senior official at the Department of Education? How often does the average government employee meaningfully interact with a citizen who cares about what they do? The government is not “usable” to the average citizen. It can be, and it should be, though. You can play a role in making that happen. Interact with your agency’s biggest fans online and in real life; listen to them and let them help you achieve your mission. The Bloggers Roundtable from the Department of Defense is a good example of this.

Saying “It’s not in my job description” is not in your job description: Often people resist change because they fear the unknown, are afraid of losing control, or have some other interest in the status quo. Unfortunately, social tools are empowering collaboration behind their backs, and they’re going to get stepped on or over, directly or indirectly. Do you know how I met ADM Allen from the Coast Guard? Facebook. The lines between work and play are blurring, particularly when it comes to things like networking and participation. Is checking someone’s GovLoop blog “work”? Who knows. What I do know is that the people doing it are better off than the ones ignorant of it.

Tactics are nothing, Strategy is everything: No talk would be complete without quoting Sun Tzu: “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy are the noise before the defeat.” You need to start off with a strategy for yourself, for your office, or for your agency. What do I want to accomplish? What could we be doing better? Make a list of goals and stick to it. Social media is not a generic toolbox. It’s not a jumble of names of companies. It’s a set of functionality that if used right can provide innovative solutions to specific problems you’re facing.

The best offense is a good offense – Being only defensive is offensive: I think that being only reactive can be a radioactive strategy. Yes, of course you should monitor what people are saying about where you work and the topics you work on. But the really powerful behavior is anticipating what’s coming and seeing it before others do. A broader strategy is playing offense and defense with social media. It’s being proactive and reactive. You either put out information on your own terms, or someone will fill the vacuum for you. I term this “offensive social media” and I think that this is the behavior which truly generates word of mouth about your organization and its activities.

Content is king, but marketing is the queen (and we know who rules the castle): [That’s a Gary Vaynerchuk line from a keynote I heard him give.] The most important thing you can do with social media is share quality information that contributes to the knowledge base, and adds value to people’s lives. Ask yourself, will citizens be better off for having seen this content? But beyond that, don’t forget to market your content. In the future, you won’t find the content, the content will find you. Talk about your content at events, link to it off other people’s websites, use social bookmarking, Facebook Wall posts, Twitter, and other mechanisms to publicize what you content is. Furthermore, be where your audience is. Don’t use Plurk if you know most of your audience is on Twitter, don’t use MySpace if you know your fans are on Facebook, and so forth. And where applicable, use multiple formats to provide the same information.

Sometimes the message is the message – dominate the information spectrum: That said, sometimes the message is itself the message. What I mean by that is merely having a presence, sharing any kind of information, showing citizens that you care about them, can actually be in some sense more powerful than the actual information that you’re sharing. Borrowing from the military, I call this the full-spectrum dominance strategy. You don’t necessarily have to use every tool, but when people are looking for information about defense, or education, or environment, do they find information that you shared? That’s the real question you need to answer.

Discover your internal ambassadors and set them free within your microniche: Charlene Li has said that for large organizations, social engagement with stakeholders cannot remain only in the hands of a few social media experts – it must be embraced culturally by entire organizations and used tactically by many people in many places at many times. Everyone to some degree is a communicator, as the Air Force has said. Give up the idea of message control. People inside your organization are already using these tools at work and at home. And they’re already talking about their work while they’re golfing with their friends or cooking dinner with their spouse. So instead of cracking down on these government socialites, reward them – they’re the most likely all-star public ambassadors you already have. Unlock their hidden potential. Education and training is required, though. Train against stupidity and embarrassment, don’t micromanage, and trust your employees. You already trust them to fly fighter jets and manage hundreds of millions of public dollars, but you don’t trust them to tweet from a Blackberry? That notion is quickly becoming antiquated.

Choose the right tools for the job. Ignore the hype. Experiment. Fail safely: Once you have your strategy, have mapped out some goals, and have identified some leaders who can help you achieve this, choose the right tools for the job. Some tools are better than others for achieving different missions. In some cases, writing will be better, in others photos, and in others video. Maybe you want to offer interactive video chat. I can’t answer these questions about your organization. But I can say that you should largely ignore the hype. MySpace isn’t dead, Twitter isn’t the answer to every question, and WordPress might be more complicated than what you need. Read about the technology, attend events that prolific users actually go to (hint: not government conferences), and conduct small experiments. Fail safely. Or fail small. Don’t use new tools in ways that if they don’t work they’ll be very embarrassing for people or groups. Look at others’ best practices, start small, and learn a little bit as you go along. Don’t take big risks.

Metrics are answers looking for problems. Ask: Is what I’m doing adding value to the community? People get very obsessed with measuring things. Critics especially will ask, what’s the return on investment from a blog, or what’s the ROI on tweeting 10 times a day. I say, what’s the ROI on a meeting that runs too long, or the ROI on a lunch break? I’d also like to know the ROI on actually collecting, analyzing, and discussing the metrics in the first place. How does 10 people sitting in a room for two hours discussing the relative benefits of 450 vs. 750 Twitter followers help people? I like to say, “I count thank you’s, not click through’s.” I count the number of times someone says “I know you from Twitter” or “I read your Federal Computer Week article.” So ask yourself, is what I’m doing helping my community of interest?

Don’t just feel the pulse. Be the pulse: This was said by someone from one of the most successful crowdsourcing companies out there….Jeffrey Kalmikoff of Threadless. [show of hands: no one in the room had heard of it] When people think of the environment, or national security, or education, do they think of your blog, your Twitter feed, your YouTube video channel? Probably not yet – but they could. And that has huge indirect positive effects for you, your boss, and your organization. This goes back to using social media in proactive vs. reactive ways. When you’re proactive and incredibly giving of time, energy, and information, you’re what Shel Israel calls “lethally generous.” http://redcouch.typepad.com/weblog/2008/10/using-lethal-ge.html You become a very trusted member of a community. And therefore information starts flowing back to you, and you can anticipate rather than merely react. Don’t just talk about your office and your agency – Intelligently curate information about your sector, your industry.

Influence = Brand x Experience x Trust. So, what’s your brand? Who are your experts? Does anyone trust you? [This slide title borrowed from @micah’s talk from Gnomedex] – Distrust of the government and its messages have never been higher. http://people-press.org/report/95/ So how can government social media help combat this attitude in the country? One, think about your brand. Yes, the government has brands even though we’re not selling breakfast cereal like on Mad Men. But we are in some sense selling ideas and information and giving products like Social Security to people. And we do have brands – think about photos of the Capitol, or a Marine in full dress uniform, or a dollar bill. Second, who are the ambassadors that are presenting your brand to the public? What are they saying? How can they help your office or agency better achieve its missions? Third, does anyone trust your content? Provide great content, make it accessible, pervasively interact with the community, and build trust over time.

Indecision is not a decision. Plans are nothing without action. I want to conclude by saying that you can think about this and plan all you want, but none of it means anything without taking some sort of action. There’s no ROI in planning your social media strategy for a year – by the time you have one, it’ll be outdated. Make connections, read about emerging technology, start learning and experimenting, and begin moving forward on your offensive social media strategy that provides incredible value to citizens and fills the information space with great content from your organization.

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Trashy Viral: Spreading Ideas That Don’t Matter


I’m coining the term Trashy Viral to describe the spread of thought-provoking let ultimately useless ideas.  These are memes that might be entertaining (like “chimpanzee riding on a Segway”) or just plain media-catchy with little underlying value (”Twitter is 40% useless babble”).

The aforementioned study by relatively unknown firm Pear Analytics went viral after a sensationalistic and completely uncritical Mashable story by Jennifer van Grove set the wheels in motion.   The incredibly unscientific, subjective study gave readers a list of unsatisfying out-of-context numbers that ultimately have no use to anyone with a serious interest – you know, like the color-coded Department of Homeland Security terror alert system.

Hey, good for the company – people like me are talking about them, I suppose.  And the blog and mainstream media love a controversial story that looks scientific, calls out something beloved, and has no concrete conclusions.  But if I were the CEO of a shop like Pear Analytics I would find this amount of negative criticism embarrassing rather than a “call for refinement of the research study.”  But I think there’s a mile of difference between something going viral because it’s deliberately useless and going viral because it’s accidentally so.

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Jeremiah Owyang, We Hardly Knew Thee Brand


jermiah-owyang

Numerous people have now written, and written well, about high-profile Web 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0 analyst Jeremiah Owyang leaving Forrester Research.  Many people look forward to seeing what his next endeavor is.

Marketing expert Dave Meerman Scott blogged about the interesting, modern conflict and cooperation between personal brands working at corporations, and corporate brands that benefit from their people.  There are no current answers.

But I heard Howard Kurtz say something to the effect of “we reported it, so the public should know” on his CNN show this weekend.  No, sorry.  The way most people learn now is not by watching a television channel like CNN (just look at the ratings of your average news show), but by talking to someone who talked with someone who had an opinion derived from watching one.  News, and all information, is now commonly filtered through our social networks before it gets to us.  That’s right – we don’t find the news, the news finds us.

Owyang is influential because he provides value and generates tremendous word of mouth, and empowers his information to find us.  He doesn’t broadcast and expect you to find it so much as consider himself part of a community that he wants to help.  To some degree, this is how entrepreneurs can beat the big dogs.  He is someone to emulate.

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Making Whuffie With Julia Allison


This post was originally published on BrianSolis.com on August 14, 2009.

Guest Post by Dr. Mark Drapeau – read his blog, follow him on Twitter

You can’t eat whuffie, but it’s getting harder to eat without it, as Tara Hunt says in The Whuffie Factor.  For the uninitiated, think of whuffie as an alternative to money – a reputation-based currency that started as a concept in a science fiction novel, now being applied to online business. Hunt’s interesting central thesis is that in order to successfully change social capital into market capital, company employees need to be authentic community members engaging in meaningful participation where their contributions often outweigh personal gains.

Typically, someone can raise whuffie by promoting something bigger than one’s own self-interests. This kind of community participation, as Solis and Breakenridge write in Putting the Public Back in Public Relations has become certral to marketing, branding, and influence: “Social media enables one to aggregate and promote your online brand while nurturing and managing important relationships.”

When I think of using online tools for public relations I often think of Julia Allison, who one year ago graced the cover of Wired ostensibly for her mastery of so-called “internet fame” and possibly translating it into real fame, and a profitable business. Since reading her relationships advice column in AM New York when I lived in Manhattan circa 2003, I’ve been familiar with Julia for a long time. More recently, with each of us shifting our interests to social technology, I’ve had the opportunity to hear her speak and meet with her. (Stealing a page from the fameball playbook, I even got the requisite photo with her and her dog during Internet Week 2008 – almost the same week of the Wired cover story.)

She is nothing if not a fascinating enigma; I believe we talked about the neuroscience of dating. So when pondering what I might write as a PR 2.0 guest column, I thought it would be interesting and instructive to look at the rise of Julia Allison as a “case study” in personal branding, and compare and contrast her career path with the tenets of raising whuffie.

Field Guide: Julia Allison

In August 2008 (roughly four years ago in “social media time”), few people were more talented at intermingling social networking in real-life and online to promote one’s own lifestyle, as Wired pointed out in their enlightening “how to” article.  This magic happens with three basic tactics. Step one: Get noticed by finding a niche, positioning oneself at its “choke point,” and then staying there until you get discovered. Step two: Keep your audience hooked by living life as if one is the subject of a magazine profile, always “adding logs to the fire” to keep the story from fizzling out. Step three: Extend your brand by exploiting new niches, converting friends into colleagues and advocates.

These three steps sound like a deceptively simple plan for raising one’s profile, but as someone who’s used these tactics to some degree, and observed others doing it as well, I can say that it takes a combination of hard work, street smarts, and an understanding of social networks to create a self-supporting public relations machine as Julia had done at the time of the Wired piece. Andy Warhol’s claim that everyone would have 15 minutes of global fame in the future hasn’t materialized just yet; for now, one still has to slave in very crafty ways to make it happen. But my question for the readers of PR 2.0 is, does such “real fame” when achieved necessarily translate social capital into market capital? In other words, is fame bankable without whuffie?

Keeping in mind the tenets of raising whuffie, it’s instructive to see how things have changed before and after Julia’s global fame as a result of Wired. Remember, accumulating whuffie that can be “cashed in” at a later date is about being an authentic community member, having meaningful interactions, contributing more than what one personally gains, and fighting for causes larger than oneself. With regard to getting noticed, whereas before Julia had a core community-based career of writing advice and lifestyle columns in various New York publications and appearing at New York-based events, she now tries to get noticed by tech moguls, economists, famous authors, and anyone else everywhere from Silicon Valley to Davos, Switzerland and has a video blog mainly about her own life and personal interests.


Credit: Brian Solis

And lack of engagement with a community hasn’t been a strategy for keeping an audience hooked, either – for example, her Twitter followers lag behind “peers” like Justine Ezarik (roughly 14,000 vs. 600,000), and Julia’s mentions in Gawker have plummeted from 76 mentions during April-June 2008 (prior to the Wired cover) to only 16 during the same period in 2009. Brand extension hasn’t be easy either: As a replacement for writing (which she’d done since college) she’s gone almost entirely to video with a The View meets Sex in the City type video show called TMI and at least two pitches for television shows which haven’t been picked up by Bravo. This is all the opposite of raising whuffie – and sounds an awful lot like broadcasting.

Converting fame into broadcasting is tempting, no doubt, but I think this “case study” of Julia Allison describes to some degree what happens if anyone forgets to engage with their community in a meaningful way at the grassroots. The key, in my mind, is to never, ever, ever give up your core talent. For me, it’s being an analytical thinker due to my formal training as a scientist. Julia’s is writing columns – still, in my opinion. Gary Vaynerchuk’s is selling wine.  Craig Newmark‘s is customer service.  Marina Orlova‘s is philology. Gary’s now a keynote speaker, and author, and marketing consultant – but he still sells wine. Craig is involved with the Government 2.0 movement, but hasn’t given up on helping craigslist customers one bit. Marina tempts her audiences with scantily clad photos from the south of France , but she’s also publishing a book about…linguistics. Everyone knows what Gary and Craig and Marina and others like them stand for, and everyone knows they care first and foremost about their core communities – with which they’ve built up tremendous whuffie.

Avoid the Stillborn Rebirth of Fame

It may follow from the above that Julia Allison went from internet famous to actually famous to irrelevantly famous, that she squandered her moment of truth into a “jumping the shark” moment rather than capitalizing on her core strengths simultaneous with her peak of exposure to the world. But another lesson to learn about whuffie is that it’s a commodity that can be raised at any time if one is willing to put in the work. So, besides not straying far from a core talent you possess that engages a strong community you belong to, what else can be learned from this?

One, whuffie is a local commodity, and so in new communities it must be earned from scratch. Julia’s whuffie from her New York activities didn’t necessarily translate to the tech world. My whuffie from scientific publications didn’t translate into respect in the Government 2.0 scene. Gary Vaynerchuk’s talent at selling wine in New Jersey didn’t automatically make him respected among book publishers. No one initially knew what Craig Newmark might offer to government decisionmakers. And your first glance at Marina Orlova doesn’t make you think “best selling author.” But they’ve all proven themselves in other arenas (and have probably “failed small” in some endeavors along the way as well).

Two, even if life takes you in nearly a completely different direction than what you intended, show people that you’ve still got the chops from your “former” core occasionally. That’ll help you maintain a least a minimal amount of whuffie in your older community while still leaving plenty of time to spend in your new one. For example, Ana Marie Cox, who, despite formerly being a full-time blogger (and currently being a Twitterholic goofball of a White House correspondent for Air America Radio), can still write brilliantly when she periodically chooses to. The actor Ashton Kutcher (a former bio-engineering student) has practically become a posterboy for Twitter and engaging in conversations with his fans, but don’t think for a second that he’s forgotten how to model, act, or produce; IMDB shows that he’s got eight projects in the pipeline.

And last, if you want to raise whuffie, humble pie is the best thing you can eat, particularly if you’ve grown a little (or a lot) more famous than most people in your community. Be authentic to who you are and what you’ve achieved, but also never forget that the collective wisdom of your community is smarter and more connected than you are. Even as your star rises, be sure to continue to give to the community – promote others selflessly, help people where you can, and continue to think about giving rather than adoration. Try to stay small even as your stature grows. And rather than using social media platforms to talk about only yourself, use them to intelligently curate information about topics of interest to you and become a resource for the community you’re a part of, as NYU professor Jay Rosen is for journalists and scholars. Lethal generosity to a community yields whuffie, which yields opportunities flowing back to you; grow with your community, not at their expense.

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Making Whuffie With Julia Allison


You can’t eat whuffie, but it’s getting harder to eat without it, as Tara Hunt says in The Whuffie Factor.  For the uninitiated, think of whuffie as an alternative to money – a reputation-based currency that started as a concept in a science fiction novel, now being applied to online business. Hunt’s interesting central thesis is that in order to successfully change social capital into market capital, company employees need to be authentic community members engaging in meaningful participation where their contributions often outweigh personal gains.

Typically, someone can raise whuffie by promoting something bigger than one’s own self-interests. This kind of community participation, as Solis and Breakenridge write in Putting the Public Back in Public Relations has become certral to marketing, branding, and influence: “Social media enables one to aggregate and promote your online brand while nurturing and managing important relationships.”

When I think of using online tools for public relations I often think of Julia Allison, who one year ago graced the cover of Wired ostensibly for her mastery of so-called “internet fame” and possibly translating it into real fame, and a profitable business. Since reading her relationships advice column in AM New York when I lived in Manhattan circa 2003, I’ve been familiar with Julia for a long time. More recently, with each of us shifting our interests to social technology, I’ve had the opportunity to hear her speak and meet with her. (Stealing a page from the fameball playbook, I even got the requisite photo with her and her dog during Internet Week 2008 – almost the same week of the Wired cover story.)

She is nothing if not a fascinating enigma; I believe we talked about the neuroscience of dating. So when pondering what I might write as a PR 2.0 guest column, I thought it would be interesting and instructive to look at the rise of Julia Allison as a “case study” in personal branding, and compare and contrast her career path with the tenets of raising whuffie.

Read the rest of this article at Brian Solis’ PR 2.0 blog.

Posted in Mark's BlogComments (1)

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