Why Google+ will replace ice cream

The Boy eating ice cream with two spoonsDisclosure: Post title is fatuous linkbait.

I was on vacation last week when Google+ happened. I kept my email inbox in pretty good shape when I was away, but when I returned I felt like I was a week behind on creating circles and +1’ing and learning all the new stuff. Some folks dove in head first. Chris Brogan, for instance, is all over Google+ and has even replaced his Facebook icon with a Google+ logo with the phrase, “I have moved,” and unless I’m missing something, he’s shut down his personal Facebook wall. He really has moved.

I’ve seen lots of useful how-to articles, and lots of posts from people pondering the significance of Google+ for social media in general, business in particular and, inevitably, whether or not Google+ will replace Facebook. That’s a big, thorny question. So I’m going to ignore it.

I’ve joined quite a few new social networks over the last decade and a half, starting with a (pre-WWW) forum on the old Delphi network (a competitor of AOL, Prodigy and CompuServe) called “The UK American Connection.” It consisted mostly of Yanks asking Brits questions like, “I watched Cracker last night. What the hell does ‘naff’ mean?”

I joined Friendster just in time for my girlfriend (now The Mrs) to tell me it was dead. I joined Twitter in May of 2008. I still remember the first person who followed me (former colleague Jeff Batte), and pondering my next follower, an American journalist living in Germany. I spent hours trying to work out how I knew him and why he would follow me.

My point, if there is one, is that I have yet to see a new social network take off as quickly as Google+. I’m sure there are statistics that either support or refute that, but for me it seems that my nerd friends (and I have created a circle for you called “Nerds”) are taking to Google+ extremely quickly. (Cynical Girl and Pixie of the Apocalypse Laurie Ruettimann linked on Facebook earlier today to a Mashable post that said Google+ was about to hit 10 million users, so as you can see, I’ve done my research.)

It takes me a while to work out how I feel about a new network or online tool, and I’m the kind of person the slow, dull-witted “how to” videos were created for. Unlike Brogan, who within minutes had written a post outlining 50 ways Google+ could be used, I have to be shown it, and shown it again. And again. Then I will become a violent convert.

So far I think Google+ has tremendous potential to unite messaging, photo sharing, video calling, chat, document sharing and other features. This may be the locus that brings the value of Google’s various services and applications into one place. But here’s why I think it’s gotten so popular so fast:

This morning I was flipping back and forth between Facebook and Google+. I have lots of good friends on Facebook, but also a lot of people I’ve accepted as friends who I don’t actually know, or know very well. I accepted some of those out of politeness, and I haven’t taken the time to hide or unfriend the people or companies who clutter up my stream. I scroll for a while before I come to an update from someone I really want to keep in touch with, or something I really want to read.

My Google+ stream, on the other hand, has been filled with interesting posts and long, enjoyable comment-thread discussions with clever people. It feels the way I’ve heard other people describe the early days of Twitter. Everyone I’ve added to my circles so far is someone who I know personally or have built an online relationship with.

So maybe we like Google+ so far because we haven’t cluttered it up yet, and because it’s easier to keep tidy? Time will tell. Just like Twitter, it will be months (years?) before we know the real value.

Should you join now? You don’t have to (and Doug Haslam has posted a cogent argument in favor of Google+ patience), but so far it’s fun. And if you’re a marketer or communicator, I suspect it will become mandatory before too long. Google’s previous attempts at social networking (Orkut, Buzz, Wave) didn’t take off, but Google+ is so much more than even the sum of all three.

image by me

I’m joining the team at New Marketing Labs

It’s well past midnight on the eve of SocialFresh Charlotte, and I should either be sleeping or going over my presentation for tomorrow, but I’m in a reflective mood. I was talking this evening with Tom Webster, Amber Naslund and Chris Penn and realized SocialFresh Charlotte 2009 was my first real social media speaking gig. I sat on a panel with Kipp Bodnar, Jeff Cohen and Nathan Gilliatt. It seems like a lot more than a year ago. Tom called it “Internet time.”

So much has happened in that intervening year. SAS has gone from having a few dedicated social media explorers to an ever-growing roster of practitioners using social media tools to support bottom-line objectives. People have stopped asking “Why?” and started asking “How?”

It’s been an exciting process, going from a grass roots effort to a company-wide priority backed up by training and educational resources. Plus, we launched SAS Social Media Analytics, using a coordinated social media approach that proved its value in the attention we received and the leads that came in the door.

For me personally, the past year has brought many more opportunities to talk with people about the value of enterprise social media and the ways you can structure your company for social media success. I’ve worked with dozens of SAS colleagues from offices around the world, presented at social media conferences and to groups of SAS customers. I’ve also just handed over the manuscript of The Executive’s Guide to Enterprise Social Media Strategy, a book I wrote with Mike Barlow, to be published by Wiley in early 2011.

In some ways it feels like this year has been arc. And now it’s time to begin a new one; I’m joining the team at New Marketing Labs, the new media company founded by Chris Brogan, Stephen Saber and Nick Saber.

I first became acquainted with NML when I started looking for someone to help with the Social Media Analytics launch. I knew we couldn’t introduce a social media product with a press release, and NML did a great job helping us define our strategy and outreach campaign. Through that process I got to know Chris, Colin Bower and Justin Levy and saw what a great team they made, from a client’s perspective.

That perspective should help me in my new role as Executive Director. I’ll be overseeing client relations, as well as helping to develop new enterprise products and services. It’s going to be challenging, but it’s also going to be a lot of fun. We’re at the point in the growth and adoption of social media where it’s getting harder and harder to impress prospects and satisfy clients. The honeymoon is over. Only bottom line results will keep agencies in business. I suppose that should scare me, but it excites me. New Marketing Labs is up to the challenge.

I know some people will think I’m crazy for leaving SAS, which has not only embraced social media as a company, but is also leading the charge in business analytics. It was the hardest career decision I’ve ever made. I’ve had a lot of great experiences at SAS and worked with so many talented and enthusiastic people.

Like no other company I’ve ever experienced, SAS really does understand the value of treating employees and customers well, and that philosophy is the foundation of their success. It’s also the reason that people treat one another so well. I feel lucky to have been there and made the friendships I did, and I know those relationships will carry on.

I start at New Marketing Labs on September 1, and as much as I’ve enjoyed my visits to Boston, I’ll be staying put in North Carolina and joining the workshifting ranks (which also means I get to go buy office supplies — I love buying office supplies).

I can’t predict what I’ll be reflecting on a year from now, and I’m realizing that’s one of the most exciting things about this. We’re making this up as we go along. All of us. We will do some things right and some things wrong, and we will learn. And in the end, we will all be better for it.

Join me at the New Marketing Experience in Chicago. I’ve got my own discount code!

New Marketing Labs does a great job with their conferences of distilling the essential information into easily understood chunks that you can take home and start, um… chunking with right away. One of the first social media conferences I attended was their Inbound Marketing Summit in San Francisco, way back in the mist-shrouded days of January 2009. We were so young and eager to learn back then.

So I’m really pleased that I’ll be on the agenda for their New Marketing Experience in Chicago on Sept. 21. It’s a one-day seminar with a great lineup of smart, experienced folks who will give you practical information you can really use to get actual results. And me. But I have funny slides.

Best of all, they’ve given me my own discount code: DBT5. Use that and you’ll get 50 percent off your registration fee.

I wonder if DBT10 would get you in for free?

Don’t try that. That was a joke.

Here’s the list of topics to be covered at the event:

  • What is New Marketing and how does it affect my business?
  • Innovative Marketing Programs Using New Media
  • Internet Marketing and ROI – we all know it is important / now we know how to do it
  • Sales 2.0 – using new marketing tools to change the way your sales team makes sales
  • Content Marketing
  • PR 2.0 – Getting the Word Out in a new way
  • Integrating Offline & Online Experiences
  • The Social Inbox: Extending the Reach of Email
  • Listening and Monitoring – The New Way to Market

photo by ChicagoGeek

Refocusing on my blog and trying new tools

When I spent some time with Chris Brogan in December, we talked about blogs and sharing tools like Posterous, and the different ways people use them. Chris thinks people are diluting their web presences by posting in too many places. (You can watch him say this yourself.) “Home is where the web page is,” he summed up nicely.

I had a blog on Typepad for many years. When I finally decided to move to this self-hosted WordPress blog you’re looking at, I realized I could import all my old posts, but all my photos were stuck. I looked into methods for bringing them over and found one small company that will do it for you, but admits it’s such a massive pain that they charge a lot, since they don’t really want to do it. (They even provide the step-by-step instructions, which run to about 50 steps.)

I really like Posterous, its simple interface, the web-based tools that allow you to share pictures and videos quickly, and the ability to post by email to multiple places. But I’m afraid that if I get too tied in to Posterous, one day I might have the same issue that I had with Typepad.

So here I am once again, using precious toddler napping time to mess with my blog. I just installed the TweetMe plugin, which should send out a tweet announcing this post once it goes up. (This whole post started out as a test of that function, but I got carried away.)

I like this blog. I like the idea that it will continue to grow, and that it will continue to be my home base as new tools emerge, rather than just another outpost I used for a while and abandoned when something more exciting came along.

By the way, my thanks once again to my friend Jeff Cohen from socialmediaB2B.com. I posted on Twitter that I was looking for the right tools to do this, and he called me within a few minutes to talk me through it. Good man.