Monday, February 22, 2010

The Power of Social Technology

After the a nostalgic reminiscence of the world before Windows and a now considered primitive little game called The Colossal Cave, Graduate Business School Dean Garth Saloner, spoke about his experience with Twitter - through which he informs students and alumni on what's going on in the Business School.

"It's hard to find your voice in Twitter," he said. And then he proceeded to give us some homework: "All of you tweet this: 'Saloner said that the future of social technology is to Twitter and Facebook what Guitar Hero was to The Collosal Cave. It is impossible to imagine how its going to evolve."

He warned that twitter and other social media should be regarded as what they are: part of a set of tools.

"This kind of technology increases the need for traditional content – we should spend more, not less on these resources," he said.

Robert Scoble, the technical evangelist and blogger of Podtech and Building 43 was the first one on the podium after Dean Saloner. The Economist has described Scoble as "a minor celebrity among geeks worldwide."

Scoble joined Microsoft in May 2003 as part of Channel 9 MSDN video team. He produced videos that showcased Microsoft products and employees. He became sort of a hybrid between a PR and a tech guru while he often criticized Microsoft or praised the competition.

He told the story of when he quite Microsoft in 2006. He told a room of 15 people he was quitting before telling his boss and told them to keep their mouth shut. Within three days, 15 million people knew he had quit Microsoft.

"Every eight mins it doubled. When it hit eight blogs I called my boss, because I thought he would be even more pissed if he saw it on the screen."

He took this as a lesson. Social media allows messages to multiply exponentially, cutting costs considerably for companies who want to get their images across.

"Would you rather have a thousand dollars today or a penny that doubles every day?"

He also explained how these networking tools helped him get interviews and the trust of people who, if he would have called out of the blue, would have probably shot him down.

"Study who’s following who, take that person out to lunch, and he might introduce you to the person you need."

He mentioned how many companies - like Ford, for example - use social media to engage and solve problems in real times, giving companies a human face.

But, like Dean Saloner, he also warned entrepreneurs - or future ones, to not get caught up in the tools, and focus on the content.

Loic Le Meur, founder of a Seesmic, a web application helping to bring all the social software in one interface, and Web3 in Paris - the largest tech event in Europe. It started with 300 people and grew to 3,5 thousand. He used no traditional marketing material - just social media.

On his blog,, Le Meur posted 22 points on how to change marketing strategies along with the growth of social media. If you want a summary, the best one I could come up with is this: be everywhere, always, responding, listening - simply unwrap the entirety of your social capabilities upon your web audience.

He said that volunteering information and criticism on your own business is better than trying to make everything look perfect.

"I’d rather have people criticize our brand than not say anything," he said. "People will forgive you for not being perfect but not for concealing. If you talk about the negative parts of the company, it might make it even stronger."

"You have to identify your best fans. Its not about getting a million fans like MC Hammer, but good ones..." A soaring chorus of lighthearted 'boos' drowned out the last words. He had a point though - a thousand fans can get the word out to millions.

Yes, MC Hammer did say "Hammertime!" - twice.

The Oakland born hip hop star who coined the pants and the slippy dance moves, told us how he transformed his image through social media.

For those who want to get a taste of what I'm talking about, check out MC Hammer's DanceJam has been called 'the Facebook for dancers.' Dancers make their own profiles and upload their videos, not only dancing to 'U Can't Touch This,' but to a myriad of other genres - some of which you've probably never heard before.

He sees social media as a way for entrepreneurs to insert themselves into conversations to test the waters for new products or projects. At the same time, entrepreneurs can give brands or future collaborators a heads up on what they're thinking about.

He said social media can even beat the media at breaking news, which may damage one's image. David Letterman, for example, beat the news in revealing his sex scandal, and even made the audience laugh.

But, back in the 90's, when he started seeing all these media outlets pop up, he was appalled, he said.

"Now there were two outlets for my art and that was a barbaric thought." It diminished the value of a nicely crafted product - his music for one.

"People are throwing themselves from buildings and landing on their back for views," he said.

But there's an obvious good side to being able to publish your ideas without having to go through a middleman.

"You show your idea to a guy whose wife said 'no' last night, and he says 'I dont like it' – who made you judge!" he said,

"Who says that because you don't like it, I can't show it to the world?"

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