The Social Media Jackpot

LinkedIn customized IconMay 19 was a great day for social media enthusiasts as they watched the price of LinkedIn stock rocket.  The commentators were almost breathless as they reported each extraordinary increase in price over the course of the day:

CNNMoney.com (@CNNMoney)
LinkedIn shares open at $83, an 84% premium over the IPO price of $45. http://CNNMoney.com
Thu May 19 14:03:04 2011

Breaking News (@BreakingNews)
Shares of LinkedIn Corp open more than 80 percent above their IPO price in public trading debut, continue rising http://bloom.bg/kS53YC
Thu May 19 14:15:57 2011

For CRM vendors, this may have been a slightly more challenging day.  What do you say to businesses that have spent millions on your software to create internal electronic databases of customer contact information that require huge ongoing effort to keep current?  What do you say when the alternative is having millions of customers and colleagues contributing their contact details and educational and work histories to a giant global database, especially when they do this voluntarily and without charge?

That’s the beauty of social media.  People participating without compulsion and for their own reasons.  Yet collectively creating something much bigger than the sum of its parts.  Best of all, we’re only just beginning to see the potential in this type of collaboration.  Perhaps it was the intuition of such potential that drove the stock price.  Granted, once the initial euphoria dies down, the stock price will undoubtedly settle at what some consider to be a more realistic level.  And LinkedIn will have to work hard to justify high stock prices over the long term.  Regardless, the events of today were a nice validation for the folks at LinkedIn.

Can you imagine a comparable validation for the CRM system your firm uses?

I’m just sayin’…

[Photo Credit: ideagirlmedia]

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Social Media’s Slow Cooker No More

Have you discovered the wonders of a slow cooker? It works in a deceptively simple way: you toss the raw ingredients in the pot in the morning, turn the pot on and then, when you return at the end of the day, you’ll find delicious food in that pot — all ready to eat.  As you can imagine, this is a great help when you’re at the office all day and cannot be home to tend a pot on the stove.

Social media used to have a kind of slow cooker called LinkedIn.  You could open an account, create a profile, toss in a few facts about your work experience or a status update and then walk away.  That information could be left largely untended.  Over time, you might get invitations to connect or, better still, a fantastic job offer.  It worked like magic — just like a slow cooker.

However, LinkedIn has decided it doesn’t want to be quite so passive any longer.  In fact, LinkedIn is set to become an even more critical source of information for the business world.  How are they doing this? By turning a new search engine on all those bits of information we’ve been tossing in the LinkedIn pot.  And, to make the search worthwhile, LinkedIn will be exposing information not just from your contacts, but from any status update created by its more than 70 million users. Here’s how David Kirkpatrick described this new LinkedIn functionality called Signal:

Signal appears, for now, as a separate page inside LinkedIn. In the center is a list of posts—links to articles, statements of opinions about current business or other developments, or whatever else someone posts on their profile. On the left hand column is a set of filters. You can pick your direct connections, second-degree connections (friends of friends), third degree, or anyone on LinkedIn. Other filters are for specific industries, companies, the time something was posted, or where the poster is located. All of these functions are customizable.

So now, if you want to see all the posts over the last day by Facebook employees who work in New York which reference the new movie The Social Network, you can do it. Or all posts by General Motors employees in the past month referencing Ford cars. Or everything said by people in the Internet industry who live in Columbus, Ohio about the book The Facebook Effect (a search I tried, since I’m the author—there were four posts). Your imagination is the only constraint.

With this new search engine in place, it will become doubly important to keep your LinkedIn profile in good shape.  Check it frequently to ensure the information is accurate, current and compelling.  And, above all, make sure that your status updates represent you well.  After all, many more people will now have access to all of it.  Why take a chance?

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In you’d like to participate in LinkedIn’s Signal Beta, you can request an invitation.

Further Reading:

Some Slow Cooker Recipes:

[Hat tip to Euan Semple for pointing me to the David Kirkpatrick piece.]

[Photo Credit: Food Thinkers]

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Is LinkedIn Working for You?

So now that you’ve moved past the early infatuation stage, is LinkedIn working for you? I’ll freely admit that I’m thrilled that LinkedIn provides a way for others to update my rolodex. But past that, I’m not entirely sure where the value lies for a person like me.

It’s a different situation for folks in sales and marketing. The ones I talk to rave about the enormous, extensible list of contacts they can develop via LinkedIn. To be honest, that’s also why some friends of mine have locked down their contacts — they don’t want their vendor friends harassing their non-vendor friends.

And what about those 59 million LinkedIn groups? Have you joined any? What percentage of the proposed discussions are more than thinly veiled marketing ploys or pleas for social media contacts?

As you can see, I’m struggling to find a way to make LinkedIn really work for me. Do you have any advice? What’s working for you?

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Managing the Fire Hose

People talk about the velocity of current flows of information and inputs and say it’s like drinking from a fire hose.  That’s wishful thinking.  On far too many days, it feels more like living in the Lower Ninth Ward during Hurricane Katrina.  For Clay Shirky, that sense of drowning in information is a sure sign not of overload but, rather, of inadequate filters.  If he’s right (and I think he is), we have to find a better way of coping.

A great deal of daily life now consists of filtering and managing the inputs so that we can be productive.  For me, this is a matter of personal knowledge management:  the art of gathering, organizing, storing, searching and retrieving the information we need to live well.   I’m an avid  student of the subject and have discovered that one never quite masters it.  There is always a new challenge and always something to learn.  So I thought I would collect some resources in this post for myself and any others who are seeking a slightly saner way of managing the fire hose.

Gathering Information:

  • People First – If you’re looking for reliable information, you need not look any further than your friends and trusted colleagues.  Building your social network and ensuring you have accurate contact information will go a long way to helping you find what you need when you need it.  Once you know who is in your trusted network, how do you tap it?  Social media tools such as Twitter, Facebook and FriendFeed help you stay in touch and share information you consider interesting or important.  The beautiful thing is that when you use your social networks to gather information, your friends do the filtering for you.
    • See the quick tutorial in the Common Craft video:  Social Networking in Plain English
    • Twitter does much more than simply provide updates on your friends.  It can also be a great research tool.  However, it all starts with connecting online and here is a Common Craft video to explain how:  Twitter in Plain English
  • Let the Information Come to You – Through the magic of electronic subscriptions and web feeds (e.g., Really Simple Syndication (RSS)), you no longer have to go hunting for current information.  It will come to you.  All you have to do is place your order — and that just takes a couple of clicks of your mouse — and then sit back and wait for the content to be sent to your e-mail inbox or your RSS reader (e.g., Google Reader).
    • See the quick tutorial on how RSS readers work and how to subscribe in the Common Craft video:  RSS in Plain English.

Organizing Information:

  • Create a Personal Archive – When I first started practicing law, each lawyer would create an elaborate set of folders (aka the “form file”) that housed every piece of paper that seemed interesting.  That’s where you stored precedent documents, research results, notes, etc.  The idea was that you created a private archive of useful information designed to help you work more efficiently.  We still need personal archives, but today they consist primarily of electronic content.  And, given how cheap electronic storage has become, there really are not many physical limits on how large your personal archive can be.
  • Organize Your Electronic Materials Electronically – A few years ago hand held label makers were all the rage.  They allowed you to create the illusion of order despite the underlying chaos of your system.  An electronic storage system can be every bit as chaotic and electronic labels every bit as illusory.  However, employed properly (according to a scheme that makes sense to you and that you diligently apply in a consistent fashion), these electronic labels can help you organize enormous amounts of information.  You can apply these labels via a variety of Google applications (e.g., Bookmarks, Mail, Reader, etc.) or through social bookmarking, as discussed in the next section.
  • Let Others Help You Organize Information – through social bookmarking tools (e.g., Delicious), you can enjoy the benefits of the organizational efforts of others.  When they identify interesting content and label that content electronically, that creates an organizational scheme that is available to anyone else who is interested in that content.

Storing Information:

  • People Information – In the olden days, all you needed was a simple address book (hard copy or electronic).  Now, just sign up to that giant rolodex in the sky known as LinkedIn and let others take care of keeping contact information up to date for you.
    • For information on how LinkedIn works, see this Common Craft video:  What is LinkedIn?
  • Electronic Storage Only – Don’t store information in hard copy unless it is something you really need at hand in a physical format.  Otherwise, store it all online.  If you don’t have concerns about information security, store it remotely in an externally-hosted blog or wiki, or via Google or any other comparable service provider.
  • Minimize the Number of Storage Sites – Remember that old paper form file?  The great thing was that it was the only place you had to check for information you had saved.  Now, you have to check your e-mail folders, the favorites on your web browser, your social bookmarks, your hard drive, etc.  Stop the Madness! Try to consolidate as much as you can in just one or two places online so that you don’t have to search over and over again for the information you have saved.
  • Make Your Personal Archive Portable – If you work exclusively at the office,  relying on a hard copy form file is still feasible (barely).  But if you have lots of electronic information you need to keep, then putting it in a paper file is neither convenient nor considerate of the environment.  Further, if you’re ever working at a client’s office, at home or in a hotel, you won’t have access to those paper files and then you’ll understand why so many of us believe in the value of a portable electronic archive that is accessible anywhere you have an internet connection.  And, given today’s economic realities, I should mention that having a portable personal archive means that if you should ever part company with your current employer, you can keep the archive you’ve built up so carefully, provided it is outside your employer’s firewall.  (Obviously, client confidential information should not be stored outside the firewall, but information you obtain publicly via the internet is yours to store and organize outside the firewall.)

There you are — an introduction to some personal knowledge management information and techniques.  Try them out and see what works for you.  And if you have other suggestions for effective personal KM, please leave a comment below and let us all know.

[Photo Credit:  Anxious223, Creative Commons license]

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