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Monday, June 30, 2008

Day 1 - Boston to Austin

Mobile post sent by jljohansen using Utterz. reply-count Replies. mp3

This is the first Utterz of my trip across the country. The move from Boston to Austin took about a week and you can hear the rest of my audio at

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

My Creative Side

This is something of a departure from my normal form. What you may not know about me is that I enjoy writing. Both the dry professional content on my blog here and creative fun writing that I do on my own.

And, on rare occasions they collide. So, with too much time on my hands in airports the other day, I came up with this little gem.

The Plan

William Tell* was a self-styled rebel.
"Ha Ha," he would say when he was
up to some new mischief.

"Ha Ha," he said to me one day on the bus.
He looked over his shoulder at the
passengers. A miasma of people.

"I have a plan," he confided, "to overthrow
the government."

I looked out the window at the trees planted
in regular intervals along the street
like sentries standing guard.

"Ha Ha," he said, "I need a slogan to rally the people.
"To call them to arms.
"And to bring them in..."

"You're singing again," I told him.

"Ha Ha," he said but also he looked a little
embarrassed. "My plan is simple," he said,
"I only need a way to monetize it."


* Yes, that William Tell. Long story short, it's a convention that I've used for years. He's less of a reference to the real person and more of a concrete name to apply to the abstractions I write about.

I hope you enjoyed it. But if not, please be gentle in your criticism.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Bi-directional Para-social Relationships.

I wrote a post about social media and parasocial relationships that explored how social media is creating a new micro-celebrity class in which the 'friends' of people who are popular on various social media services get an intimate look into their lives.

I want to carry that concept just one step further and propose that those parasocial relationships are now being developed not only between the popular and the masses (Parasocial 1.0) but between any individuals who are engaged in the social media space (Parasocial 2.0).

What makes these different from the concept of 'weak tie' relationships? That is an excellent question. I would contend that the two concepts live side-by-side depending on individual usage. The differentiating factor is the ratio of human interaction to broadcasting. Have you engaged in a personal conversation, one on one (whether online or offline) with the person? Have you made an attempt to share something personally with them that didn't go to your network? Do you remember their name or their handle?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Farewell -- Boston Style

Before I begin the story of my farewell, let me just say that Dmitri Gunn did an excellent job putting together the Gary Vee Wine Library TV event and after party. (I showed up for the after party.) It's not a task I would have wanted to take on but all I heard were positive reviews of it.

At the last minute, my mother-in-law came into town, which meant my wife had help with the kids and packing. Since we leave for Austin in less than 2 weeks, this is important. Some early conversation with Aaron Strout on Twitter had secured me a ticket and I was excited to go.

The drive in was easier than I'd expected but I had to loop several times looking for parking. There just wasn't any to be had, except for this vacant lot behind the bank (I know, red flags right). Well, after a few passes I read the sign and it seemed like I might be alright.

Inside the party, I was able to do some introductions. Great to meet Adam Cohen and Jonathan Yarmis in person (and reconnect Shelly with her business card). And I said some farewells to the people who I've gotten to know in Boston, in large part thanks to the social media groups and tools around the city. So I was enjoying the evening and having a good time.

Then, when I went to pick up my car. It wasn't there. I had to call the number on the sign, the Boston police, my wife to get the license plate number, the Boston police, and finally the towing company that had my ride. Fortunately when I went back to the party, a few people were still going strong and Adam Zand was willing to give me a ride. Huge thanks goes out to him. I owe you, talk to me about a couch if you come to SXSW.

But, before we got going we decided to get some directions from the hotel front desk. Sitting in the lobby happened to be Gary (yep, that Gary) and so we listened to him and talked with him for a while. The man has an insane amount of energy. We were joined by Laura "Pistachio" "Monetization" Fitton and had some interesting discussions about the next 10 years when we're all creating content and working for ourselves. (I'm paraphrasing.)

Finally, Adam and I head off... to the completely wrong location. The very helpful woman at the front desk didn't know how to use MapQuest and sent us into Roxbury. Fortunately, Adam pulled over (at 1am) to ask three guys walking along the street. An old man, with so much tape on his glasses I'm not sure how he saw out of them, was able to give us directions when I called the towing company again and got the name of the place. He must have been a local. :)

So, back on the road, we find the tow shop. I pay my $120 to the guy (cash, of course) and I'm ready to get back on my way. I really don't blame the tow guy, he even showed me how to get back to I-90 since I had no clue where we even were. On the way home, I made sure to stick to the speed limit. All I would have needed to cap this night off was a speeding ticket.

And so, in my final week of living in Boston, after not having been towed for 5 years, this is how the city decides to say farewell. Nice.

But, it doesn't have to be this way. You can stand up and say "Hell no, we're not going to let you do that." Just donate a dollar through ChipIn and you can set the city of Boston straight. ;)

Friday, June 13, 2008

Understanding Social Media - Platitudes vs. Fundamentals

Last week I was watching some snippets from an interview with two social software CEOs, guys who are supposed to be luminaries in the social media space. After just a few minutes I clicked away disappointed that they seemed to be reciting the platitudes without providing much insight.

To be fair to them, they were being interviewed at a conference and at a high level. They didn't really have much opportunity to dig into the details. And addressing a large, untargeted audience to introduce the concept of customer interaction and relationships, those platitudes may have been the right messages.

The trend that is starting to become apparent as social media catches the eye of more consumers and businesses is the divergence of understanding the platitudes and understanding the fundamentals.

We are past the point where saying "Markets are conversations" is enough to make you the 'expert' in new media. If all you're doing is reciting the catchprases without an actionable plan then you're stuck in platitudes.

On the other hand, if you can pass the You Test then you're probably more grounded in the fundamentals. And the most fundamental part of understanding social media is knowing the social rules that different communities play by. These aren't officially written down (though many people will blog them) so the way to learn them is by observing and participating.

And I want to be clear, you need to do both observation and participation. Just signing up for a site and watching what other people do will give you some general awareness but won't help you find out where the actual boundaries are. You have to find the boundaries by running into them and realizing that you need to pull back.

The trend that I'm see happening (and I'm not claiming to be the first to spot it) is that the disparity between people who know what they are doing with social media and those that don't is going to become increasingly apparent as people start using the tools personally. If you want to get ahead in business using social media, you can't learn it on the job anymore.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Copywriting for Hidden Audiences

I don't often write about writing. If you're looking for advice in that area, be sure to check out Copyblogger.

But, I had an interesting discussion with a new co-worker. In fact, with our new marketing copywriter. She's been a boon to our company, so I've been trying to help her with what I've learned about writing for our industry and company over the last 3 years.

When she asked me the other day about how to incorporate some feedback into a piece she'd written, my advice moved off the page and into a discussion of audience. In this case, the internal audiences that were doing the reviews.

I knew that some of the recommended changes by one department head would be contradicted by another. So, making the change now would only result in more changes when the content had to go back in. The same was true for some of the positioning, some of the key messages, and to a lesser extent, the actual words.

I'm not advocating that any writer shifts their focus away from the final audience that content is intended for. But once you've got the draft finished, and it's going into review, be aware of what your internal audiences are expecting. Getting familiar with their preferences takes time but will save you lots of time and headache when you find them out.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Social Media Killed the Attention Economy

Attention is a commodity (just like communications channels)

If all you are getting is attention, you're losing customers.

Relationships are the new online currency.