Tag Archives: community

what does Twitter look like from where you sit?

My Twitter Map

My Twitter Map

Well this is a rather amazing tool.

Marshall Kirkpatrick’s recent piece on ReadWriteWeb about The Inner Circle of 10 Geek Heroes listed me as a person with whom the remarkable Beth Kanter interacts often on Twitter.  Which surprised me a bit, only because I have been totally submerged in school for the last seven months getting an MBA at Simmons in Boston, and have radically curtailed my twitter usage (and bloggage) as a result of the intense and all-consuming workload of an accelerated MBA program.  So I thought I was pretty well out of the loop — things move fast on Twitter, and seem to have been moving even faster of late.

I love the visualization of my network that this tool provides — you can tweak it in all sorts of ways, too, to find out who lives where (if your network is particularly complex geographically, as mine is), what they talk about, and what their network maps look like.

One of the most common things I hear in conversation with other Twitterers is Well, do you know so-and-so? And the answer is no, more often than you might think.  Because Twitter provides you with a personalized view of a very broad and multi-layered conversation, it is easy to allow yourself to believe that your view is at all similar to the view of others… just because you share a few connections.

It’s pretty worthwhile, I think, to take a moment and click on some of your friends’ links within your network map — see what Twitter looks like from where they sit, and maybe see what angles you’ve been missing.


twitter honor roll

Liz Strauss just published a generous, helpful, and useful post (those adjectives tend to follow Liz around wherever she goes, if you haven’t noticed), celebrating the behaviors she admires on Twitter, and the people she admires for embodying those behaviors.

I’ve been thinking recently about how much I need to do a Spread-the-Love post about all the amazing people I’ve met in this space in the last year, and Liz’s call just spurred me into action.

First, read her list.

My favorite Twitter behaviors on her list?

5.  talk mostly about the accomplishments of others.

9.  have a different conversation with every individual and every business.

14.  are incredibly curious about what works, what doesn’t work, seek feedback often, and look to improve what they do.

19.  get paid to strategize business, build tactical plans, but won’t “monetize” relationships.

21.  keep their promises.

What would I add to this list?

1.  share some pieces of their real, personal selves online, with dignity and in moderation, but enough so that the tie we build is real.

2.  respond well when others do the same, understanding how vulnerable this can make people feel, and that we all need encouragement.

3.  ask questions that they don’t know the answers to, that aren’t rhetorical, that reveal the asker’s “ignorance” (or lack of expertise) if necessary.

4.  maintain a tone of hopefulness, helpfulness, and fun.

Who is on my list?














Who’s on yours?

like swimming

What good is Twitter? What’s the practical use of it?

I’m leading an eight-week course for artists on how they can use a combination of new and old media to promote themselves and get the word out about their art, and tonight one of the artists asked me that question. (You can visit the class blog here.)

I explained that I use Twitter to create new relationships with people I don’t already know, and to strengthen relationships with those I do.

Then we went off on a long tangent about how to actually get started using Twitter, because it doesn’t make perfect intuitive sense to many people, and you do need a critical mass of people on your “follow” list to really get the hang of it — and many people are stumped about how to go about getting that critical mass.

So we looked into using various search terms (artist, art, dance, painter, etc.) to try to find like-minded people. I showed them twitterpacks, and twitterkarma, and even gave them a quick tutorial in cruising your friends’ follow lists to find new friends.

When we were done, one artist followed me into my office to tell me something I had forgotten to mention:

The best thing about Twitter to me is the community — the support I’ve gotten from everybody on Twitter after just a few days. I had no idea that was a part of the deal!

So yes, I guess I neglected to mention that.

Twitter is a place where I have found, begun, nourished, and maintained, real relationships with real people.

To me, that part is taken for granted, like air.

It’s like: trying to describe to somebody what breathing is. You can talk about lungs filling with air, and arteries and capillaries and red blood cells all carrying vital oxygen to all corners of the body, and explore ways to breathe deeply and fully and usefully during exercise.

You might still forget to mention that you need it to live.

Do I need twitter to live? Of course not. But I do need community, and friends, and new thoughts and ideas, and support and encouragement and testing and challenging of my ideas.

Like oxygen. Like a fish needs water.

tava and pepsi miss the point

To build trust between a consumer and a brand, people need to feel they’re sharing it with other people instead of a corporation pushing it down on them… The goal is to have people experience the product on their own terms and turn them into brand ambassadors.” -Frank Cooper, vice president for flavored carbonated soft drinks at Pepsi-Cola North America

Pepsi is apparently releasing a new fruit-flavored sparkling drink, called Tava, through what the New York Times calls an unconventional approach — by placing banner ads on popular websites, through which they hope to draw visitors to their product website.


Interestingly, Pepsi is not trying to reach young people — the much sought-after “Digital Natives” — through their banner ads and website, but a group they refer to as “Digital Reborns.”

There used to be an assumption this target was not online… But there’s a group in that category that’s ‘reborn digital.’ They’ve lived through the change and learned to adapt to it.” -Frank Cooper

Targeted at 35-49-year-old women and men, the soft drink is promoted on its website through an odd combination of straightforward, though limited, actual product information (flavor selection, nutritional information, etc.), alongside information about music festivals and artists whose connection to the brand is largely left unexplained.

The company is also trying to reach influencers by providing free samples to employees of Google, Apple, and MTV, as well as at events like plays, concerts, and festivals (presumably the ones highlighted on the product website).

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with any of this — it all seems like a pretty standard new product roll-out, using internet ad buying and sampling events to promote positive word-of-mouth.

It just seems like there’s something missing, namely, a motivation and a method for the “targets” to start talking about the product, in a way that makes them feel like the company might be listening, and caring.

The problem is that after one or two points of contact with the product (ad, sample, word-of-mouth), the interested and engaged consumer gets turned unceremoniously over to a static website where they are only allowed to consume information, not provide feedback or contribute to the conversation in any other way.

I care about this because I care about the example that major brands are setting in online marketing. I think large nonprofits with an interest in and a budget for online marketing look to these major brands as models of Doing It Right, and I think that this major brand might be Missing The Point.

It isn’t enough any more to lead a horse to water. You have to be willing to splash around with us, too, and get a little wet yourself.

The experience of being led to the Tava website and then just left there made me feel like I had been gotten, like I’d been rickrolled. As a healthy member of Tava’s target demographic, I am used to being asked my opinion about things when I grace your website with my presence.

A poll? A comment section? A forum? An honest blog?

Without this implied question mark, this open ear, this blank space ready for me to fill in, I feel used, ignored, and undervalued.

Why would I recommend something like that to my friends?

You should date my ex-boyfriend. He won’t shut up about himself, he doesn’t ask your opinion, he doesn’t listen if you give it, but he’s pretty sure he knows what kind of music you’ll dig anyway.


one simple thing done well

…what makes a successful online community? A single, easy-to-use feature. Click here to participate. Do only this one thing. After you get your participants “addicted,” go ahead and add another thing.

That’s the buried nugget of gold from Francine Hardaway’s excellent post about what makes an effective online community. (Hat tip to Jeremiah Owyang for pointing to this post.)

Do One Thing. Do It Well.

Like Twitter. Or like the weekly email that Francine has been sending to her friends for years. In both cases, it — Twitter’s One Simple Thing– serves the unique needs of the community it serves. And, at least at first, it doesn’t really have to do anything else.

Many social networks are actually burdened with features. When extra features detract from that One Simple Thing, they cease being benefits, if they ever really were.

This is one reason why so many of Twitter’s most devoted users raise a mighty cry at any suggestion of adding features to what is a very simple, streamlined user experience.

The only improvement that seems to be universally desired on Twitter is not that it do more than One Simple Thing, but that it Do It Better — Twitter has a history of apparently inexcusable amounts of downtime, with a propensity for crashing at times of heavy use.

But it does an excellent job of doing what it does (which I’ll leave you to define), when it does it. I have also been a part of group blogs and message boards that stayed true to a simple mission and did One Simple Thing Well.

What are some other examples of this beautiful simplicity in online community?

creating community awards

Beth Kanter, from Beth’s Blog (of course), presented the Bloggers Who Create Community Award to Small Dots!

bloggers who create community award

Beth named three bloggers to receive the award — the other two are Amy Sample Ward’s Version of NpTech and Michele Martin, The Bamboo Project. If you don’t know these blogs, I strongly encourage you to check them out.

Here’s what Beth said about Small Dots:

Beth works in the arts and nonprofits world. She’s only been blogging for a couple of months, but already you can see the lively community and conversation happening on her blog. I appreciate her deep engagement in conversation, listening, and cross-disciplinary thinking.

Thank you! I am energized beyond words to be writing in this new blog-space (I’ve actually been writing a personal blog — and contributing to several group blogs — for many years) and by the community that supports it. The encouragement I’ve received from other bloggers — Beth Kanter in particular — has been astonishing, and I am very grateful to her and to everyone who reads and comments.

I’m going to continue the pay-it-forward thread of this award and confer it on:

Connie Bensen

Connie is the community manager for ACDSee, and has a lot of very thoughtful and valuable insight to share. Her blog covers a lot of ground with a lot of verve, and is one of my favorite reads these days. I admire her willingness to share her experiences of what works and what doesn’t, especially for the web worker and the community manager.

Len Edgerly

Len is a prolific and engaging podcaster and technology advocate. He is interested, as am I, in ways to bring technology to artists and arts organizations in thoughtful, practical ways, and I learn a lot from him. I admire his curiosity and open, inquiring mind – and how he shares his interest with us in a variety of media.

Jeremiah Owyang

I feel almost presumptuous giving Jeremiah this award, but I think his blog is such an excellent source of inspiration, node of thought, and hub of activity that I just can’t omit him from my list. Jeremiah writes about social media, emerging web technologies, and the ongoing evolution of online communities, and I deeply admire his adept use of a variety of different technologies to draw his community together and provoke meaningful discussion.

Thank you to these bloggers and to everyone I’ve met and interacted with in 2007. I can’t wait to see what we cook up together in 2008.