Posts Tagged: networking

Is Your Network Portable?

This is a question I ponder frequently. Have you focused on building a micro network and a nationwide network, or have you isolated yourself by walling off your garden?

I’m big on the idea of helping people and networking at a hyper local level. I also believe that your network is most effective if it also reaches far and wide – across borders of city, state, country and nation.

Think about it for a minute. If your network is made up of only your existing friends and family and a few existing coworkers, you have built a walled garden. What’s inside my be your own lovely garden, with prize-worthy flowers that are well tended, but any bad weather or difficult event can shake it up.

What happens if you move for an illness or a job? Have you built a network that will follow you? If your company is ready to expand, will you have the support outside of your existing world view to do so? What if the perfect job is a tweet or status update away and you miss it because your eyes aren’t open?

People often wall themselves off out of fear. Fear of change, fear of failure, fear of harm… there are a hundred different kinds of fear. Don’t let it rule you or your company. Add a gate to your garden and see who comes in. You’ll be surprised how it grows your network and where it takes you in life.

Blackberry, Windows Mobile Join the Apps Store Fray

All you Blackberry and WinMo users out there that have been dejected, watching iPhone and G1 users download fun and practical applications from each phone’s respective application store, finally have something to smile about. This week’s big mobile news, at least thus far, has been the announcement of an application store for both Blackberry phones and Windows Mobile phones.

Why all the fuss? Well, obviously this means that a much larger number of handsets around the world will have mobile access to a wide selection of mobile applications. RIM and WinMo phones make up the vast majority of handsets in the corporate world, and although the corporate world doesn’t revolve on having a wide range of apps for various tasks, it does mean this: all those business users who, for whatever reason, haven’t adopted handsets like the iPhone that already have apps stores, they will now have the access to apps they will want to use in their personal time.

And aside from those users that have chosen to sport two phones, one for professional use and one for personal use, most folks prefer to pack only one phone on a day to day basis. So most folks will now be able to download mobile apps to whatever phone they’re tied to.

Again, for many of you, so what? Application stores mean that users have access to a wide array of social applications; beyond that, developers compete aggressively to produce the most intuitive and powerful applications every day, and to offer them at the best price points. Right now there are certainly aren’t enough applications for the most popular social platforms, but we’re going in the right direction. With the added stores for Blackberry and Windows Mobile, even more developers will be drawn to projects for mobile platforms. I can almost taste the quality to come.

Also, one of my biggest problems with the nature of mobile social networking to date was that social media really can’t be mobile until every phone is able to partake in the community. Until now, that wasn’t possible; when you rule out Blackberrys and Windows Mobile phones, you’re left with just a piece of the pie. Now we can at least say that we’re at the right staging point from which developers can now start working on truly intuitive cross-platform apps that allow everyone to connect, regardless of their carrier or handset.

This is big. Get excited.

iPhone 3.0 Update Brings Proper Mobile Social Networking Closer

The iPhone’s next update, 3.0, was just unveiled yesterday.  For all of you that don’t own iPhones (which includes me), you might very well be wondering how I can connect the progress of a single phone to the advancement of mobile social networking as a whole.  I’m going to explain, so try to keep up.

Like it or not, the iPhone boasts the best platform and App store for mobile social media and networking.  A couple worthy mentions should go to Google’s G1, and maybe even Samsung for its latest batch of TouchWiz-equipped handsets.  

Working from that assumption, I’d point out that iPhone sales have soared recently, even considering the fact that AT&T, a carrier not known for its shining quality, is the only service that can claim the iPhone.  The mass adoption of the iPhone coupled with the success of the Apps store is making the iPhone the best platform for real mobile social networking to occur.

As I’ve said so many times before, there’s quite a ways to go before we reach true mobile social networking.  But, if you believe as I do that the iPhone will most likely be the platform to boast true mobile social networking, you’ll have to agree that a couple of updates announced yesterday certainly go a good way towards brining true mobile social networking closer.

First up: push notifications.  The iPhone (and iPod Touch) will now automatically receive application updates even if the app in question is not running.  You might be thinking, “Well, gee, why didn’t they already have that?”  A very good question.  

Now that apps can receive updates automatically (that is, without a user having to open each individual application, such as Mail, Twitterfon, Loopt, Facebook, MySpace, etc.), users will be alerted of updates to their different social accounts real-time.  Being aware is a huge tenet of social networking, and having your apps note updates displayed as they come in without having to update each app individually will help users streamline their online social activity.  

Second: maps access inside other apps, and turn-by-turn directions.  I consider both of these to be big steps towards advancing mobile social networking.  Loopt, perhaps the best mobile social networking aggregator app out there, allows users’ locations to be visible to other Loopt users on a map.  What better way to help users connect with each other on-the-go than to provide mapped, turn-by-turn directions to activities or your friends?

Let’s say you’re in the city.  Your friend updates her status on Facebook, raving about this band that’s about to play live in a venue across town from you.  You aren’t familiar with the quickest way to get there, so you open Loopt and use your current location and your friend’s location to generate turn-by-turn, GPS-rendered directions, which get you there before the second opening band comes on.

I can’t say as to whether the Loopt team has any designs on integrating the functionality I just described, but my point is the technology is there, and it is now possible.  Talk about a very real way to bridge your online social presence with your real world social life.  THAT is what mobile social networking is about.  

Third: data tethering.  Yes, that sounds quite lame in comparison to what I’ve detailed above, right?  Though I’m all about having everything you need in the palm of your hand, the fact is we just aren’t there yet.  Failing those advancements, there’s not much better than whipping out your Macbook wherever you are at and doing some surfing or social networking when you’re out of WiFi range.

 If mobile social networking still isn’t quite realized (and I’d say that it certainly isn’t), then why not use your familiar and powerful, computer-based social networking tools wherever you’re at by tethering your iPhone’s data to your laptop?  It’s social networking made mobile, is it not?  A bit cumbersome, but it fits the description.  

There you have it: three updates to the iPhone that will further the cause of mobile social networking.  

P.S. – If you weren’t aware, Loopt isn’t just limited to the iPhone…it’s available on the G1 and Blackberrys, just to name a couple prominent handsets.

Mobile Social Spreading, but Still Stunted

I just got my first iPod Touch, and suffice it to say that I’m officially hooked.  In fact, I’m more than hooked.  In less than 24 hours, I’ve effectively decided that lugging around a Blackberry Curve with the wonderful Touch is too much, and that I need an iPhone.  Leslie called the iPod Touch a gateway drug, and I couldn’t agree more.

Of course, now that I have an Apple Touch device, my first move was to jump on the Apps store and look for all the mobile social networking applications I could find.  I have to say, I was a little disappointed.  There just weren’t the plethora of applications I expected to find.

That isn’t to say I didn’t find some great tools.  First off, the Facebook app for the iPhone and iPod Touch is simply stunning.  It is far superior to its counterpart for Blackberry.  If I wasn’t already a Facebook junkie (and I was), I’m probably a lost cause, as it will now be fused to my hip in waking and sleeping.  

I also found a fantastic Twitter platform called TwitterFon, a FREE app that, in my opinion, bests any offering I’ve seen thus far either for mobile phones or computer platforms.  You’ll probably hear me harping on “free” for quite some time, as I’m sure there are many great mobile apps available for all mobile phones, but it seems some developers feel the need to charge for their creations.  I’m all for paying for apps that are well-developed, but there aren’t any trial opportunities for many apps that could be very good…in that sense, developers lose out because many won’t be willing to pay for something they’re not sure of, and consumers lose out because they’re more apt to stick with free apps than apps that might very well be superior. 

Also, I installed the Yelp! app to my iPod Touch.  Though it’s far from perfect, it’s a nice addition to anyone’s mobile device as it offers great search and localizing functionality for finding activities, restaurants and businesses in your area.  Today I searched for Starbucks, and found one 1.5 miles away; when I clicked “Google Maps” to get directions from my house, Google didn’t know the location existed.  Luckily I already knew where it was.  The point being, it isn’t perfect but it’s better than not having it.

And yet, I still find myself less than enthused with the current plight of mobile social networking.  Why?  Because, dear friends, the mobile social networking world is in serious need of multiple cross-platform social aggregators.  By cross-platform, I mean available with every major cellular carrier in the U.S, and by social aggregator, I mean a platform that ties in most of the best and most popular social networking and media sites like Facebook, Twitter, FriendFeed, LinkedIn, YouTube, Flickr and others.  Though it’s all well and good to update each application separately, it just isn’t time effective to type out the same message for all your different services. 

I was surprised to find no evidence of a FriendFeed application for the iPhone/iPod Touch.  Though it isn’t my favorite computer-based aggregator, I think it would be a huge hit on mobile platforms. I’m familiar with what is currently the most widely-used aggregator for the iPhone, Blackberry, and other platforms — Loopt — but I find it lacking.

It does seem to be a perfectly fine social locator that integrates Facebook and Twitter, but if that’s it, there’s certainly a lot of room for improvement.  If you can use it, give it a try and see whether it fits your needs.  But it isn’t the be-all end-all to me.  

There are options, and mobile social networking has certainly come a long way from where it was even a couple years ago.  But competition between developers, and more so carriers, has effectively stunted the growth and restricted the adoption of universal mobile social networking.  For now, the best offerings seem to be available on the iPhone and the G1 (T-Mobile), and some of Samsung’s latest phones with the TouchWiz interface have some interesting (albeit limited) social applications.  For now, Facebook and Twitter seem to be the two big platforms, and your best bet is to find an app that suits your needs for each of those platforms.

Announcing: Social Media Breakfast in NH

Over the last few weeks I’ve been quietly planning and plotting a new branch of the nationwide Social Media Breakfast in NH. It isn’t that we don’t love Boston, because we do, but our neighbor to the north is rich in technology and social media, and often overlooked when events are planned. I saw a need for networking opportunities that were easier to get to for the northern tech and social media crowd, and decided to step up and fill it. Because NH itself is a diverse and scattered state, the Social Media Breakfast there will be just a little bit different than the one in Cambridge/Boston.

What is a Social Media Breakfast?

From the official description: The Social Media Breakfast was founded by Bryan Person in August 2007 as an event where social media experts and newbies alike come together to eat, meet, share, and learn. Marketers, PR pros, entrepreneurs, bloggers, podcasters, new-media fanatics, and online social networkers are all welcome to attend.

The breakfast series began in Boston and has now spread to more than a dozen cities throughout the United States and around the world.

How will the Social Media Breakfast in NH be different?

The main difference between Social Media Breakfast NH and other SMBs will be all-inclusiveness. I do not want only social media people and companies to attend, I also want technology types, programmers, coders, tech writers, tech companies and more to attend. As a state that is rich in technology but scattered in distance, I think the best networking and connection making effect will be achieved by combined our different cultures. You never know, as a social media type you might just meet the coder you’ve been looking for to create your dream project if we all come together to connect and to learn from each other!

Planning the First Social Media Breakfast NH

The first Social Media Breakfast NH (hashtag #smbnh) will be in February. I will be announcing a date and venue shortly, as well as calling for speakers and sponsors. If you’d like to sponsor, contact me via email or the phone number in the navigation bar above and we can talk specifics.

Important note: To honor the fact that NH is spread out quite a bit, and the fact that our friends in surrounding states (ME, VT) are welcome to attend, I will be moving the location each time. That way people who may have to drive a little further for one month’s breakfast can look forward to their turn for driving less for a future meeting, and people who don’t live close to each other and wouldn’t normally meet will be able to meet people out of their area as well. To that end, feel free to email me your favorite local venue for consideration. It needs to hold between 50 and 100 people, be able to serve continental style breakfast, and have WiFi and wall space for projectors if people bring slides to show.

Things we need currently: A reliable source for projectors. I do not own a projector, and I want to be covered in case our presenters’ projectors have technical glitches. Also, sponsors for the first SMBNH and future SMBNH. Feel free to submit comments telling me themes you’d like to cover as well – each breakfast will have speakers and address issues important to social media and technology.

I am excited about this project, and hope that those of you in NH are as well. I look forward to your emails and comments with ideas, venue possibilities and more.

Getting Hyper for Social Media – Hyper Local, That Is

We all love to talk about the national and global reach of social media, and that is a very cool thing. But it is also very intimidating to an often overlooked segment of the population: your local businesses. My goal in 2009, in addition to bringing more of the global business like wineries and musicians that we already service to the web, is to bring every single person and business in my immediate area to the web as well. After all, what good is going national if the smaller businesses and solo-preneurs back home get left behind?

I’m talking local here – hyper local. Super small, super localized, one-town-at-a-time growth. I’ve started with a local contractor, a local bar and grill, a local clothing consignment shop, a local craft maker and an artist collective, all right here where I live. It feels almost easy to sell a global business like a winery, brewery, distillery, distributorship, entertainment business in comparison to other, smaller businesses – it’s what we’ve been doing all along and what we will still be doing. It’s quite a bit harder to teach a small business how to be heard and how to be relevant in the vast stream of big fish online. If I can do that, and make my community successful in 2009 and beyond, I’ll have reached one of my goals.

In the coming weeks on Twitter I’ll be introducing these small businesses as they come on board. Some have opted not to use Twitter, but to concentrate on other online avenues for their social presence – just like I tell all of my clients, choosing what works for you is always the right choice. That may not be Twitter. The clothing store is leaning toward YouTube as their primary vehicle for social marketing, for example, so that they can tell you the story behind each item they showcase. If that works for them – more power to them – I’m happy to give them the right social blueprint for their needs and comfort levels. Social media is very a la carte, after all. How will you be reaching out to your hyper local network to join it with the global network this year?

Mobile Social Media Makes it Big in ’09

Though I’ve said almost incessantly that social media will, in the very near future, start migrating as a whole to mobile devices, it is always nice to see a little evidence to back that theory up.  iSuppli, an analyst group focused on interpreting trends in electronics, claims that the massive adoption of smartphones and internet-friendly handsets in 2009 will force businesses to radically revamp their business models to address the new mobile social phenomenon.  With many social business startups gaining support in the mobile platform arena, iSuppli estimates that the scope of this shift to mobile social media could surpass the current impact of the technology, media and telecommunication industries, which currently control approximately 5% of the gross global domestic product (estimated at $3 trillion dollars). 

Information Week claims that the adoption of smartphones like the iPhone is the catalyst for the market’s shift towards mobile-based social platforms.  I agree with that opinion whole-heartedly, but there are a few very large roadblocks standing in the way of widespread adoption of social mobile platforms.

First, many consumers just aren’t ready to spend money on data transfer plans with mobile carriers because either the handsets that properly execute internet are too pricy, or the plan rates are outrageously priced.  The U.S. carrier market is preying on consumers; while other countries have high-speed networks and advanced handsets available at competitive rates, the U.S. market is exploiting customers while the getting is good.  For the U.S. market to truly adopt mobile social media, plans and handset prices will need to become truly competitive — what a novel concept!

Second, handsets will need to be powerful enough to operate mobile social platforms full-time without putting a huge strain on battery life, system performance or any other aspect of mobile communication.  Apple isn’t allowing mobile social platforms to run constantly in the background on the iPhone for fear of system slowdown and drained battery life.  Though that is a legitimate concern, by not allowing social platforms like Facebook and Twitter to run as background processes, the iPhone (which is the most popular touchscreen handset on the market) is stunting the growth of mobile social media.  If the industry is truly going in the direction iSuppli predicts, Apple and other manufacturers will have to bulk up their handsets to compensate for the shift towards proper mobile social networking.  

iSuppli also estimates that the cost of basic mobile social packages will be an average of $15.30 monthly.  I have to say that I disagree with this analysis, and here’s why:  the entire point of social networking is to share and communicate with friends, family and new people.  Sharing, by definition, implies no cost.  Do you think social networking and media would have become so successful if there were monthly price tags on every platform?  That obviously won’t stop carriers from attempting to tag social packages with price tags.  However, you can bet that people will choose to pay standard data rates and use free social platforms instead of opting into any carrier-exclusive for-pay mobile platform.  If carriers can’t see that simple fact now, they’re wasting time by building or purchasing mobile social platforms they intend to charge users for.  

It is likely that, like many other things in the mobile world, the U.S. will be stuck quite a few large steps behind other markets, simply because carriers aren’t willing to sacrifice a few pennies in the name of progress.  Though other markets might see a drastic shift towards mobile social networking by next year, our nickel-and-diming U.S. carriers probably won’t have any problem shooting up the party here.  

Why Limit Yourself to a Computer?

Often times, we think that being socially connected means fingers on a full keyboard, seated at a chair, staring into a display.  That assumes, of course, we’re talking about socially connected in the internet sense.  The fact of the matter is that being socially connected doesn’t mean you’re locked into a chair at home.  You can very easily mix your in-person social life with your web social presence at the movies, the pub, your favorite restaurant, or the ball park.

Of course, you’re now curious what I’m referring to.  Social media is starting to find a home on mobile devices so you don’t have to stress about staying connected at your home machine 24/7.  If you’re the kind of person who loves taking pictures with a mobile phone, many mobile social networks will allow you to upload photos to an entire mobile social community dedicated to sharing different media content.  If staying connected to a plethora of social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and others is more your flavor, there are quite a few newly-emerging platforms that aggregate all of your most important social activity right on your cell phone.

That, friends, means freedom — freedom from the confines of your home office, freedom to live your life as you want and still stay in contact with your social communities.  With smartphones, touchscreen handsets and very affordable standard handsets being compatible with these mobile social platforms, answer me this:  why are you still sitting at your computer toiling over each and every update your friends send you on all your different platforms when you could be out?  Instead of answering me, go out and go mobile!