Archive for the 'Buffalo' Category

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theorycast.57 :: Social Media – Strategy Instead Of Tools @ PRSA Buffalo (Part 2)

As promised, here’s a video of the talk I gave yesterday at PRSA Buffalo/Niagara to kick off their Sunrise Seminar series.

Since it’s hard to see the slides in the video, view or download them from while watching me take fifty communication professionals on a thinking journey through the strategic uses of social media.

You can read the full background story and grab links to references from the talk in Part 1 of this blog series. Also see what others had to say via #PRSAtalk on twitter.

Meanwhile, here are some of the fine folks I got to meet yesterday…

Fine folks @ PRSA Buffalo
PRSA’s Jennifer on the left, while the girl closest to me is Jess Manocchio. Jess has been awesome for connecting me with the local PRSA chapter.

Fine folks @ PRSA Buffalo
Finally got to meet the amazing Rebecca Bernstein (@virtualr), mastermind behind the award-winning UB Web Team. I also got to meet Joe Brennan, Associate Vice President for University Communications at University at Buffalo. They plan to get UB more involved in the social media realm.

Fine folks @ PRSA Buffalo
@LarryRoth is president at BrandLogic Interactive, located in Rochester. He’s a swell guy on twitter too. :)

Fine folks @ PRSA Buffalo
Barbara Keough is Vice President of Operations at advertising agency Flynn & Friends, Inc. She’s invited me to join in one of their agency’s LOTs meetings (Learn On Thursdays).

Fine folks @ PRSA Buffalo
Kevin Manne (@k3v2) works for Catholic Charities as a Communications and Public Relations Specialist. He’s worked on all kinds of media, from print, to billboards, to television, and now he’s venturing into the realm of social media.

Fine folks @ PRSA Buffalo
Tessa Walker and Amy White chatted with me in length about how they were involved with the Obama campaign on the social web. They do great work at the Planned Parenthood of Western New York, which they explained had helped out on the campaign. I hope to learn more about their first-hand experience in what I’d believe is the most elaborate social media empowered national campaigns ever.

As I’ve mentioned over twitter (which got decent retweets): “Being rewarded for doing what you love is the best feeling in the world”. I love giving these talks because it’s a visceral, self-actualizing process. My lingering thoughts aren’t just shared, but fashioned by those willing to listen and talk to me about what they see as well. We’re essentially making sense of our crazy world together. :)

Speaking @ PRSA Buffalo: Social Media – Strategy Over Tools (Part 1)

PRSA: SocialMedia - Strategy instead of Tools
You can now download the slides (.pdf) directly from

Thanks to Jess Manocchio, I’ve been re-invited to speak at PRSA Buffalo, kicking off their Sunrise Seminar series on social media.

While my previous talk in February focused on listening in social media (Part 1 & Part 2), this time I’ll be bringing folks on a journey through how social media strategies are created. Along the way, I’ll recommend the use of conversation filtering and analysis tools such as cotweet and JamiQ. You should be able to follow along 8am EST today (Aug 5th) via twitter #PRSAtalk.

For your convenience, the must-have books I’ve mentioned in my talk today include:
Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies (2008) by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff
Community Building on the Web : Secret Strategies for Successful Online Communities (2000) by Amy Jo Kim
Designing for the Social Web (2008) by Joshua Porter

UPDATE 1: Jess told me that we had around 50 happy participants today! I’ve added the my presentation slideshow at the top of this post, and you can download the slides (.pdf) from (easier) or Please share these slides if you see fit, and do let me know what your colleagues think about it.

UPDATE 2: Part 2 is now available and it features the video from this talk. Enjoy! :)

Interview on CBC Business News: Examining eBooks

On 12th June 2009, producer @NishaPatel invited me onto CBC Business News to talk about the eBook phenomena. I think I talk a little slow for television, but oh well, that’s that.

I initially passed this opportunity to Dr. Alex @Halavais, whom I knew was in the process of digitizing his entire personal book library. He had given me great advice on the evolution of media industries from analogue to digital, specifically on how the book publishing industry is likely to mirror the course of music and movies industries into the digital domain.

Here are some questions from CBC News, as well as my responses:

1. Why are eBooks taking so long to turn mainstream?
Short answer: Aesthetic experience. Music and movies tend to be experienced same way be it analogue or digital (i.e. screens, headphones), while the experience of browsing a physical book hasn’t been replicated in the electronic form. I think we’re compensating by recognizing the new-found features of ebooks, including the ability to search within books and to carry along more books with us than physically possible.

2. Who are going to be the real losers here? Bookstores, publishers?
If we were to look at the demise of Tower Records, or the state of Blockbuster today, it’s quite certain that if ebooks were to take off, then the brick and mortar bookstores would be next to go. As much as we romanticize the loss of physical browsing, bookstores might have to adapt themselves around alternative aspects of business. I’m seeing many bookstores take the Starbucks route by turning themselves into The Third Place, which focuses the business on communal aspects of books, such as operating cafes, hosting author readings, and catering to book clubs.

3. Which device do you think will lead the ebook revolution?
I personally enjoy reading on my Amazon Kindle, as well as my iPhone. They compliment each other very well, and the convenience and comfort these devices bring to reading ebooks make them strong contenders as mainstream devices for the publishing industry.

If you’re interested to see why the Kindle and the iPhone rock for reading, check out this recent discussion I had with my fellow Kindle fans.

UPDATE: The RamblingLibrarian now offers his thoughts on ebooks as well.

Starting the social media journey for communication agencies

Social Media Primer @ Travers Collins & Company (panorama)
Click to see full-size panorama

Looking back at the emergence of popular social networks, I’m quite convinced that much of their success happened not through incredible planning and foresight, but by accident and adaptation. Youtube was supposed to be a video-based, Flickr was spawned off a MMORPG multiuser chat service with real-time photo exchange (called FlickrLive; I was there), and Twitter was meant to be a “livelier”

As serendipitous as this may be, we can still take time to observe the tendencies of social networks. Explaining this at Buffalo PRSA back in February, Kate Torok kindly invited me to give a social media primer for her colleagues at Travers Collins & Company (TC&C) on Tuesday morning.

The night before, I spent some time examining their online network presence, by checking out their professional group blog TC&C insights, their twitter @TraversCollins, as well as their LinkedIn company profile page which neatly displays their employee roster.

Social Media Primer @ Travers Collins & Company By around 8.45am, twenty-two friendly faces had descended around me at the TC&C conference room. Surveying the room, I was delighted to know that they all had experience with twitter as well as Google Reader. Soon after, I noticed that John Pitts @Pitts88 and @schoenorn tweeted in while I presented. I wished more of them did the same, so we’d have a backchannel for sustaining post-session discussion.

Since Travers Collins & Company is an all-rounded communication agency handling advertising, public relations as well as investor relations, I showcased my Phelps vs. Kellogg’s case study (as seen at Buffalo PRSA), with a few extensions towards user engagement and social media tracking tools.

Technology actually comes last
I kicked off the session by showing an explosion of social web services out there. While there are @#^$-tons of social networking platforms already available, I reinforced the idea that that strategy should always come before tools. A better way to understand this, would be to see Forrester’s POST (People, Objectives, Strategy, Technology) method where, ironic to many, the technology component comes last in the online social engagement effort.

The POST Method: A systematic approach to social strategy

Listening actually comes first
For organization embarking on the social web journey, there’s the temptation to broadcast and focus on getting as much eyeballs as possible. I’d argue that this method simply bootstraps traditional communication limitations onto the new media of social networks, which actually offers us new ways of engaging individuals. Instead, I’d recommend listening as the primary method of engagement. It’s the most natural (and respectful) way to start a conversation, create strong relationships and build advocacy. Particularly since we live in a much noisier online environment today, someone who actually takes the time to listen becomes a big deal. We’re more receptive of people who empathize with us.

Twitter / Thomas At UPS: @brainopera Good Afternoon ... For instance: For the past week, I’ve been trying to resolve a “delivered” package via UPS… the problem being, I never received it. Checking between the shipper and UPS, it seems that someone “took” the package left at my door. It’s strange since I usually get InfoNotices whenever I miss a delivery.

While I might have to file a police report, along comes @ThomasAtUPS offering an ear. It’s obvious that he watches “UPS” related tweets. While he couldn’t do anything to help me then, it’s nice to know that I have a real person inside UPS to rely on, instead of talking to random service reps over the phone. Think about it: Never before in communication history have organizations ever been afforded such precise omniscience and omnipresence over their namesake as today.

Media Monitoring the Social Web
From my previous internship with PR agency, Weber Shandwick Worldwide, I had first-hand experience with the tedious aspect of mass media monitoring. Add the surveillance of social networks, and what could be relatively interesting can quickly turn into pure drudgery. Thankfully, with more news and conversations being shared online, I showed that it is getting easier for us to track what mainstream media as well as individual users are saying about particular ideas. At the basic level, there are free tracking tools on the web such as Google Alerts and SocialMention. On the higher level, there are intelligence gathering services which would index the raw keyword search results into measures of online sentiment (e.g. ScoutLabs, JamiQ).

Scoutlabs: sentiment analysis tool

Taking online tracking even further, the ability to predict future events might no longer be stuck in the realm of science fiction. Horizon scanning, as defined by UK government scientific advisors, involves “the systematic examination of potential threats, opportunities and likely future developments, which are at the margins of current thinking and planning. Horizon scanning may explore novel and unexpected issues, as well as persistent problems or trends” (Sept 2004). While governments have long realized the value of horizon scanning, a recent example included the fairly accurate prediction of the H1N1 flu epidemic by Northwestern University and Indiana University (New York Times, May 2009). Imagine if we had such predictive powers to watch over our interests.

History of Individual-Authority Relationships
Beyond listening, organizations can also engage and enlist users/fans in a more proactive way. I shared a historic overview of the stages of relationships and interactions individuals have had with organizations, going from Ladder of Citizen Participation (Sherry Arnstein, 1969), to Forrester Research’s Social Technographics reports (Charlene Li, 2008). I also highlighted Mike Arauz’s infamous “Spectrum of Online Friendship” to illustrate the idea of friending in the online space, and how such friends could be measured in terms of personal investment.

Where do we find the time?
Towards the end of my presentation, most of the questions pertained to finding the time for social media. There might never be enough time, let alone people, to manage multiple client accounts and their relevant social media endeavors. The short answer is that we should come upon the social web as natural extensions for our cause. Once again, the technology should come last, as it should aid, not detract from, the larger strategy of our cause.

One possible and quite commonly cited workaround which participants suggested included paying bloggers to write about their clients. First and foremost, there’s the danger of turning blog campaigns into nothing more than the act of shilling, or worst case scenario, astroturfing. I warned that with so many pairs of eyes on the Internet, it would almost be unavoidable for someone spot or even whistle-blow such an affair online, thereby damaging the client’s reputation.

I suggested looking for alternative ways to encouraging participation. This includes looking for the experts or influencers in fields relevant to the campaign, then approaching them with information which would be of interest to them. If it’s worthwhile, sponsoring bloggers for a period of time would be a better idea than simply paying for blog posts (e.g. PayPerPost), so long as bloggers know to be honest by disclosing their sponsorship in the post. A good example given by Courtney Quattrini (correct me if I’m wrong) was how she noticed that rapper 50 Cent had his ghost-twitterers sign off with initials, so fans wouldn’t feel short-changed thinking that it’s actually him tweeting. For most fans, it’s simply about the principle of showing respect.

From Communicating to Socializing
Finally, I got to sit-down with TC&C’s social media team, consisting of Kathy Burns, Alyssa Mayer, Caitlin Waas, and Courtney Quattrini. This four-woman team manages TC&C’s blog and twitter account. They are also responsible for advising colleagues and clients on the inclusion of social media practices into their communication mix. They wanted me to be brutally honest with how they could improve in the social web front. For new entrants to social media, I could think of three quick points for them to consider:

1. Link, and Link Widely
While TC&C’s company blog was professionally written, with individual writers’ personality showing through, I noted that great content might not be enough to be noticed. I believe that being on the web, we would really have to link and cite others as widely as possible, not simply to make an educated case, but to recognize other personalities online. Done modestly, most professional bloggers would see inbound links to their site, and might even reciprocate with a comment or a link back as well. It’s a conversation starter.

2. Riding the Brain Waves
As Malcolm Gladwell once noted, there are essentially two kinds of geniuses out there: The Precocious (or born genius) and the Late Bloomer. He noted that while being born genius is amazing in itself, it is far more efficient to consider developing many more late bloomers. In effect, not all of us might be able to create a sensation on our own, but many more of us know how to ride it and hopefully learn from it. Done in moderation, understanding the ebb and flow of conversations online and participating in them would be a way for new comers be introduced in new social circles. The idea is not to write simply in void, but to situate our own personality and creations in a common space with others. It’s a give and take situations, and humility can be a powerful, recognizable virtue. Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh made sense when he said that “People relate to people, not companies“.

3. The Perpetual Beta
Most organizations might get hooked on the idea that they have to look perfect right from the start. Those of us in the web world know that unlike the mainstream media where you publish once and disseminate, the web is more like an organic space where ideas survive by being continuously adaptive. Unlike traditional media, the web is a space where you can actually hold multiple conversations. Understanding this means shifting the paradigm of communications towards the idea where speed and humility rules over perfectionism and authority. I’d even argue that imperfection gives people the sense that you’re as human as them, which is why some of the more interesting bloggers are those who share their best and worst of times. It’s the journey tells the story, not simply the success. On a related note, there’s an interesting documentary being produced by Melissa Pierce called “Life in Perpetual Beta” which I hope to catch.

Telling it like it is…
I don’t profess to be a social media expert, so these are brief heartfelt thoughts I have to share. There are many more developed ideas worth exploring from many others worth following, but I do hope these points provide a rough guide on how to think about the social web. The bottomline is that we can’t simply bootstrap traditional communication practices onto the social web if we wish to make the best from it. We’re going back to basics, working with real people who share our interests, so we ought to make our adventures a mutual investment.

Presentation: The Obama Way – Using Online Social Networks to Promote Your Cause

For Fundraising Day 2009 (which coincides with Earth Day), I gave a primer on how President Obama used online social networks (among many communication tools) to empower supporters and raise an incredible amount of public funding for his 2008 election campaign.

In particular, I focused on the idea of producing remixable media, so fans/supporters can produce their own variations, take ownership of the idea and ultimately help spread the cause.

AFP social networking panel
Click to see high-res panorama of our fundraising through social media session @ Statler Tower

KaraKane of Medaille College kicked things off with some social media definitions and concepts (see her slides), while AJ, founder of, talked about how organizations could establish presence online and integrate social media practices with their marketing communication mix. I’ve put some of the audience questions at the end of my Slideshare presentation for future reference.

This event was kindly hosted by the Association of Fundraising Professional (WNY Chapter).

UB tweetup #1: University at Buffalo folks on Twitter

UB Tweetup #1

With more of us from the University at Buffalo now on twitter, a UB tweetup was in order. Everyone met each other for the first time, and we exchanged ideas on how we used it for our various causes.

There are currently about 10 twitter accounts affiliated to the University at Buffalo. After our tweetup, these accounts were aggregated via CrowdStatus. This is the official list of UB faculty/staff on twitter, so feel free to follow them!

UB Tweetup #1UB Tweetup #1

Folks present at our first UB tweetup included:
@UBcfa – Joanne from UB Center for the Arts
@UBcommunity – Jessica from UB Community Relations
@UB_Alumni – Barbara & Gina from UB Alumni Relations
@UBLaw + @UBLawLib – Jim Milles & Kristina from UB Law Library
As well as Bridget (@bschu1022) from UB Libraries whose official twitter presence should be coming soon.

Those who couldn’t make it included:
@UB_SAS – UB Student advising services
@UBAcademies – Undergrad development beyond the university
@BuffaloBulls – our UB sports teams
@UBGreen – UB’s Green Initiative
@UBCitAlerts@jhsu‘s CIT computing network alerts

Watch our self-introduction video, as well as notes after the jump… Continue reading ‘UB tweetup #1: University at Buffalo folks on Twitter’

theorycast.55 :: Touring the Retro-Media exhibit @ UB

Talk about Geek Nostalgia! Walk with us in this 20 minute historic journey into memory devices lost and found.

Science librarian Ben Wagner gives us a tour of their new Retro-Media exhibit which features all kinds of recordable media over the past century.

Everything from computer punch cards, to floppy disks, to magnetic tape for data storage, to vinyl, 8-track, CDs for music recordings, to 8mm film, U-matic, laserdiscs for video media, and so much more.

The UB Libraries have put together a wonderfully comprehensive history of recordable media on the Retro-Media web site.

BarcampBuffalo: How it went… a narrated slideshow (voicethread)

Thanks to the WNYmedia folks, I totally enjoyed Barcamp Buffalo. You’ll see and hear why from my voicethread above.

I decided to use Voicethread to show Buffalo News journalist, Michelle Kearns, how she could take her trans-media story DVD project a step further. Voicethread makes multimedia storyboards accessible (embed anywhere) and collaborative (allow viewers to add audio/visual comments).

BarcampBuffalo #1 panorama
Barcamp Buffalo panorama captured using the iPhone

If you prefer, higher resolution photos are available in my BarcampBuffalo flickr set. Also, WNYmedia has produced a promotional video with clips from this Barcamp.

BarcampBuffalo: @jhsu’s LiveStreamMonitoring + @MikeCanz’s Codeswarm (Visualization)

As a sneak peek at BarcampBuffalo, UB undergrad and web developer Joseph Hsu of demos his prototype Live Stream Monitoring webapp written with Ruby on Rails. Yes, he says it’s an untitled work.

It’s very alpha right now, merely aggregating information streams (kinda like His next phase would be to process these streams in order to abstract our personal social web behavior / trends. Ultimately, it’s to become a form of social intelligence dashboard.

As you can tell by now, there’s a small visualization trend going at this Barcamp. Kicking things off was @MikeCanz’s Codeswarm demo as shown above (it’s open source). Since the crowd consisted of business folks as well, much of the conversations highlighted concerns about these tools being more frivolous than functional. Often heard was “what’s the point of this?”.

I argue that if we frame ideas in terms of monetization, we’d be extremely short-sighted. By the time an idea becomes obviously millable, it would be way too late. Instead, I believe that visualization tools provide a crucial way for to us humanly graze from the increasingly denser information environment we live in today.

Historically speaking, lots of popular web services we use today came by accident, including blogger, twitter, Youtube, flickr, just to name a few! Just look up their origins on Wikipedia.

BarcampBuffalo:’s Kevin Purdy on “How to write smarter & faster for the web” (Texter)

Nice to see Senior Editor of, Kevin Purdy, make a trip back to Buffalo to join in our first ever Barcamp Buffalo.

Kevin tells us how he transitioned from a newspaper journalist to a Lifehacker editor. Waking up 5am every morning, I overheard that he reads about 1,000 feeds a day. As part of his transition to the online realm, he shows us the way he writes smarter and faster for the web by using Texter.

Watch carefully… Texter’s ability to correct your “fuck you boss” statement is god-sent! [skip frame to 03:30]

You can download texter here.

Update: This video is now featured on!