My 13 Fav Web/ Social Media/ Whatever Internet Related Books of 2010

NB: These are recommended books that I read throughout 2010, which is not necessarily the year in which they were published.

Marketing in the Age of Google: Your Online Strategy IS Your Business Strategy
– Vanessa Fox

Forget the SEO smoke and mirror brigade – you need to approach search from a more important marketing perspective. This book shows you how to do that. After all, you won’t be able do anything really great online without the fundamental search principals kicking in behind you.

Building Findable Websites: Web Standards, SEO, and Beyond
– Aarron Walter

A solid reference material for anyone about to get involved with a website build. The disturbing thing is how many sites are still being built without their searchability as an integral consideration.

How Wikipedia Works
Phoebe Ayers, Charles Matthews, Ben Yates

I had previously thought that Wikipedia was a lawless Wild West style environment – and now I know it’s not. There are evolving rules and you need to know them before diving in.

Get Content Get Customers: Turn Prospects into Buyers with Content Marketing
– Joe Pulizzi, Newt Barrett

I’ve been on the content marketing bandwagon for some while, but GCGC crystallised some of my thinking around the subject – especially their use of historical, off-line examples.

Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability
– Steve Krug

Not sure why it took me so long to get round to reading this, but I’m oh-so-glad I finally did. I now consider this to be one of a handful of essential first reads for anyone getting into online marketing and communications.

Cognitive Surplus
– Clay Shirky

Cognitive Surplus affected a subtle switch in my thinking: I had been observing online social activity from the perspective of ‘what’s happening?’  – I should have been asking ‘why is it happening?’

Search Patterns
– Peter Morville & Jeffery Callender

I’ll never look at a set of search results the same way again. I now see search engine optimisation for what it really is: the peudo-science of exploiting deficiencies in our ability to gather, categorise and display information properly. One day SEO will be a dead marketing concept.

Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?
– Seth Godin

Strong personal affirmation as to why I left my salaried corporate job to start up my own business. There’s no going back now…

The 4-Hour Work Week
– Tim Ferriss

Convinced me of one thing more than anything else: the value of outsourcing. As a result I now make extensive use of graphic designer based in Poland. It’s a start and yes, it works.

Confessions of a Public Speaker
– Scott Berkun

Laughed my pants off! If you speak in public a lot it’ll do you good to share the pain of a seasoned and kindred talking-head.

I Need a Killer Press Release–Now What???: A Guide to Online PR
– Janet Thaeler

A quick read full of simple and highly effective advice – I’ve used several of Thaeler’s online press release ideas over the last year to great effect.

Trust Agents: Using the Web to Build Influence, Improve Reputation, and Earn Trust
– Chris Brogan, & Julien Smith

Despite being too long by 50 or so pages Brogan & Smith achieve a good balance of practical advice, with the larger concepts of pay it forward, online karma, community buy-in, etc, etc.  What’s old is new again: trust and ‘local’ reputation.

Read This First: The Executive’s Guide to New Media from Blogs to Social Networks
– Ron Ploof

If you’re getting push-back for your online and social media ideas at work, Read This First. Ploof’s been there and see that – forewarned is forearmed.


Business Model Generation – Osterwalder & Pigneur

Gamestorming – Gray, Dave, Brown, Sunni, Macanufo, & James

The Future of the Internet – Zittrain

Content Rules – Handley & Chapman

The Master Switch – Wu

Remix – Lessig

You Are Not a Gadget – Lanier

The Dragonfly Effect – Smith

LinkedIn’s Underbelly

Let me say this upfront: I like LinkedIn – I use it frequently because it delivers tangible professional value to me. It’s my uber online calling card, a searchable rollerdex and a cross-industry research tool rolled up into one; and the live status updates from my 500+ connections for market intelligence purposes are profoundly useful.

But here’s what I don’t like about LinkedIn. They’re a law unto themselves; a private company based in a faraway land with the ability – and sometimes the will – to arbitrarily suspend or delete your profile account. It has happened to me.

Many people fail to realise that their profile information which may sit on an online networks such as LinkedIn and Facebook is not their property. Yes, it’s your profile, but it’s not legally yours. If LinkedIn for instance were to delete or suspend your account you would have no legal redress. And where your account goes your profile information and network follows, resulting in immediately reduced online outreach and online visibility.

Some of us have spent years building up our profiles and our network of professional connections; for many it has become an important business asset. But again, an asset I have only limited control over.

LinkedIn suspended my account without notice because they claimed I owed them money. I ran some ads as a trial and authorised $100 to come out of my credit card (as an aside the click-thru results were fairly ordinary). But LinkedIn kept running the ads after the $100 had been exhausted. By the time I had worked out what was happening, several hundred dollars worth of advertising had been spent. LinkedIn asked for the money, and I replied by email as to what the situation was – pleaded my case – and heard nothing back. Then one day shortly after my account is suspended. Talk about rotten customer service: no discussion, no notice, no compromise. Just a big heavy hand flicking the off switch.

This is the kind of service you would expect from a monopoly – which is exactly what LinkedIn and Facebook have become for millions in their respective categories of professional and social networking. These are monopolies not in the traditional sense of there being no other choice, but rather they have each acquired the critical mass necessary to render other online networking options as practical non-options.

Yes, I paid the money and they restored my account – I had no (real) choice. But now I know who’s really in control here – and it isn’t me. As a professional I would advise anyone to maintain at least one other strong online presence aside from LinkedIn – a personal website or a blog would suffice from a search perspective. After all, professional online invisibility, whether by accident or design, is not a desirable thing these days. And I would also regularly export my full network contact data for safekeeping – just in case.

LinkedIn contact export option


6 Cloud Based Apps that Rock my Business

Highrise – our contact management system. My virtual PA also routes all customer email communications through it.

Dropbox – Great for moving synchronised files between my 3 desktop and laptop computers.

Google Sites – We use Google Sites as a private wiki. My virtual PA dumps all of my interstate travel info here: client research, hotel and flight booking attachments, Google Map embeds showing routes to and from various meeting points, etc.  Like all wikis it has a full revision history.

Google Docs – I upload all of the docs, mostly Excel files, that I want to share with others, e.g my virtual service providers, bookkeeper, accountant, etc.

Gmail – Always on, always there. I never delete anything sent or received, including attachments, because the storage allowance is huge; it’s sort of become a de facto file back-up.

Google Calendar – I share different calendar layers with half a dozen people; I have layers for flight and accomodation bookings, tax dates, meetings, workshops, home, etc . The multiple email/ SMS reminder function is a lifesaver.

Photo by tashland

International Credit Union Day Address: ‘The Why of Social Media’ – Tim Martin

This breakfast address was given by Tim Martin to Melbourne credit union members as part of 2010 International Credit Union Day – 14th October, 2010, Melbourne. [Inspired by Clay Shirky’s ‘How Cognitive Surplus will Change the World’]

So, for the next 45 minutes or so I’ll be talking about Social Media; but rather than look at WHAT social media is, I want to offer some insight into WHY it is. There are many people capable of explaining the mechanics of the bird and the book to you – Twitter and Facebook. But as business operators I believe you’ll all be better off by getting a look at the big picture first. And by better off, I mean more capable of seeing why social media is fast becoming a game changer, and why it will likely become an important and integral part of your collective marketing, communications and research strategies.

I’ve also deliberately gone out of my way to give you some very unusual online examples which we’ll get to shortly. But first, a few quick definitions to set the scene: Mass media – we all know what this is because most of us consume it in volume every day: it’s mostly the output of commercially orientated organisations who own and operate most of the world’s pressing presses, studios, television and radio transmission towers, and theater chains. No conspiracy in this, it’s just a fact.

Mass media content is very public – its publicly accessed and consumed by mass audiences. It’s a one directional flow of content, typically produced on daily, weekly, monthly or seasonal cycles – they produce, we consume. And to the most part mass media content is ephemeral – we throw away yesterday’s newspapers and we don’t record and save most of what we watch or listen to throughout our day. And there’s no need to hold on to mass media content because there’s a fresh production flow which is constantly on tap: new television dramas roll out, 24/7 television news, music played through radio stations or downloadable from iTunes, new books, new magazines, and hot-off-the press newspapers.

Now let me introduce a familiar idea in a new light: the concept of Personal Media.

Personal Media is content – or information – that we create as individuals every day: a telephone conversation, a note on a fridge door, an email, a drawing, a photo or a love letter. Personal media content has traditionally been private – or at least private to a very small group of people: your partner, a friend, your family, your work colleagues or classmates. But in contrast to mass media it tends to be a dynamic two-way process and it’s interactive – I show you a photo and you smile; or you ask me a question and I respond, and you respond to my response and so on – that’s called a conversation. Personal media content is also mostly ephemeral – our talk vanishes into the air, notes are thrown away – in fact most physical media we have traditionally communicated through will eventually decay and be completely lost in time.

Social Media is the cross-over of mass media and personal media. We continue to produce our personal media – conversations, notes, drawings and so forth – except now it’s easier and more efficient to transmit and share our communications with each other through the web – through social networks such as Facebook or LinkedIn, through blogs, Twitter, forums, and wikis.

Simply put, we can communicate with more people within our chosen tribes in real-time, less expensively and with less effort. And easier will always win out over harder given enough time.

But personal media – our formally private content – when passed through the web becomes public content. And to the most part this content is not ephemeral – it’s in digital format and will stay on the web forever – and all of it will be searchable forever – retrieved as easily as typing a few keywords into your favourite search engine. So, what’s behind the creation of this digital content? Why are people uploading images of funny faces to the web or tweeting about Australian credit unions? And all done without a coordinated directive, and no financial incentive. Yet it happens and is happening at an accelerated pace: individuals are collectively creating publicly accessible and sharable content for people they’ve never met, and will probably never meet or even know exist.

There are considered to be 3 main drivers at work here, 3 intrinsic motivations for people to create, publish and share their personal media:

Engagement – the intellectual stimulation the process offers. Many people love problem solving, discovery and creating order.

Attention – look at me. Notice me by association of what I’ve produced.

Reputation – see how much I know; establishing credibility

So let’s pull these ideas together: social media is the interplay between mass media and personal media. People are producing personal content and sharing it with others online because they can, and it feels good to do so: engagement, attention, reputation. These personal media outputs – mundane or funny or profound, it makes no difference – are formally and informally indexed, categorised and made findable thanks to organisations such as Google. And discoverability through networks and active search moves us into some very interesting space: it facilitates connections, connections give rise to communities, and communities foster a sense of collective membership and the potential for uncoordinated social collaboration.

We’ll shortly look at some of the ways these dynamics are playing out. But as interesting as the examples coming up may be, reflect that we’re really only at the online evolutionary equivalent of the steam engine. The next decades will be an extraordinary time for all of us, both from a social and a professional perspective.

And before you ask where these people find the time to create, share and re-purpose the world’s online personal media – well, many of them – myself included – will have simply swapped their passive, isolated TV viewing time for activities which provide richer, more personally rewarding social media based experiences.

In summary I’ll make these points:

The social media genie is out of the bottle – for increasing numbers of people there is no going back to a time of passive, unconnected, one directional information consumption, or being solely reliable on mass media for their leisure time entertainment

Organisations that dismiss social media as a minor blip on the radar or a side distraction are missing the point (big time.) This is a powerful transformative wave – it will be easier and more productive to go with the flow than against it. Ideally your organisations will become valuable contributors within the online social communities who already share the credit union ethos and your reason for being, i.e. membership, and the value that infers.

No-one fully controls corporate messaging any more. Social media runs by it’s own set of rules. And it you don’t like all of this change, well, you’re going to like irrelevancy even less.


Note – NET:101 is running full-day internet marketing & social media workshops in conjunction with the Australasian Mutuals Institute during 2011. Please contact AMI directly for more information.

Online Reputational Capital

Reputation – so hard to build up, and oh so easy to lose. Your reputation online greases the wheels of business and personal networking – it’s capital, it’s currency, it helps get things done – so look after it.

Take one example, online business reviews. As these become more visible within search results, business owners are starting to tune into their importance for lead generation purposes; a typical first reaction to this new dynamic is to want to give your own business a shining review (and/or diss a competitor). My advice is to avoid doing either. Firstly, it’s just not professional; secondly, the risks are too high; if you get found out – and chances are that you will –  you’ll start eating into any store of reputational capital you may have built up over time. People talk, online amplifies talk, and online brand stains are indelible. This in turn will make it more difficult to engage meaningfully in various forms of social media and online networking – both for you and for your brands. Here are my guidelines for online business reviews:

– Never write reviews for yourself.
– Never bad-mouth a competitor.
– Don’t be afraid to ask for reviews.
– Never incentivise anyone for a positive review.
– Post positive reviews for those businesses around you that do good by you.

I’m not a spiritual person, but I do believe in online karma.

Illustration by mushon