Brian Keaney

Month: January, 2010

This blows my mind

I was recently asked to opine on my three favorite social media tools.  Number two on my list was Google Reader.  Here’s why:

Now that is a pretty cool trick (and I love the old school NES controller), but how does it make me a fan of Google Reader? Because without it, I never would have discovered this video.

Most social media let friends recommend items to you.  If  I am friends with you then there is a good chance that I’m interested in the same things you are.  I learn, read, and see plenty of interesting things that are recommended by my friends on social networks.

Google Reader also lets you share items of interest with your friends and contacts through email, Reader’s own sharing system, Twitter, and the like.  However, it also goes  one step further.  It learns about the things I enjoy – both from the feeds I follow and the items I mark as liking – and uses that data to find other, similar items out there on the web.

Then, when I have a couple minutes to kill, I check out my recommended items.  With Reader the success rate of the items I read is much, much higher than on other social media sites.  I have a friend who specializes in 17th century French theology.  That really isn’t my thing, but her links still pop up in my Facebook news feed.   It’s not a perfect match.  With Reader, it is.  At least it’s a lot better.

The recommended items feed is how I came across this amazing illusion.  I don’t spend much time browsing YouTube, and I never would have found it on my own, but I’m glad I did.  Both this illusion, and the service that brought it to me, blows my mind.

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Jesus was a party animal, and other things I learned on blogs

For those of us with an interest in social media, we know that it is here right now.  For those of us immersed in it, however, it helps to remember that not everyone is.  My grandfather says with great pride that he wouldn’t even know how to turn a computer on.  He’s being slightly facetious, but just last week I saw a woman at Staples struggling to use a fax machine.  We are now several generations beyond the fax machine, but there are still those left behind.

There are plenty who get it, though.  At my alma mater, the Campus Minister has a blog and a Facebook account.  He will usually  post his homilies on the blog, and this week he began with an account of how he is using social media to keep tabs on his flock.

Recently I saw a facebook announcement for a 5 keg party and I thought to myself ….. that’s a lot of beer.

(Sometimes people obviously forget that when they “friend me” I see all of their status updates.)

Like any good fisherman, Fr. Bob goes to where the fish are.  When you are dealing with college students, the fish are on Facebook.  He’s not the only one.  On Twitter, the person I am most proud to be followed by is His Holiness the Dalai Llama (@OHHDLInfo).  Not to be outdone, the Pope is on YouTube.  Plenty of other religious leaders are also increasingly turning to social media to engage and evangelize.

I can no longer stand in the back of St. Vincent’s Chapel and listen to Fr. Bob preach any more than I can listen to the Pope at the Vatican or the Dalai Llama in Asia.  Through social media I can continue to be enriched by their teachings, however.  How else would I have known that Jesus was an even bigger party animal than my classmates?  As Fr. Bob told the students,

Being an inquisitive soul, I asked myself how many gallons 5 kegs would make?

The incredible internet told me that each keg has 15.5 gallons so 5 kegs is 77.5 gallons of beer

It sounds like a lot but a five keg party has nothing on the wedding feast of Cana.

With his first miracle Jesus made 120 gallons or 444 bottles of wine…That’s a real lot of wine.

You have to reach your audience where they are.  That means both in a place (Facebook)  and with a message (keg parties) that they can understand.  Fr. Bob gets it.  If only more did.

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I get all Constitutional on Scott Brown

I happened to be at a stoplight on West Broadway in Southie yesterday morning when I saw a stand out for Scott Brown.  I didn’t think too much of it until I saw the TV cameras there.  At that point I rolled down my window and called out to one of the volunteers, asking if the candidate was there himself.

“He sure is!” was the response I got.  “Pull over and come meet him.”  I turned to my dad, who was driving, and he just rolled his eyes.  He thinks all politicians are crooks, but knows me too well to try to stop me.

Despite the sub-freezing temperatures, I opened the door and jumped out wearing nothing but jeans and a t-shirt.  I had a question I wanted to ask him, and this time I was going to get an answer.

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Go anywhere – with Jeep or Twitter

I wouldn’t call it a New Year’s Resolution, per se, but I am trying to use Twitter more, and to use it better.  I’ve installed Chromed Bird to my browser, and while it is certainly helping me keep more up to date on whats taking place in the Twittersphere, I can easily see it becoming a distraction.

Regardless, there are some great and some poor uses for Twitter.  Some one of the people I follow tweeted today that dismissing Twitter because of ‘what I had for lunch’ tweets is like dismissing newspapers because of the National Inquirer.  Like anything else, it’s not the medium itself, but how you use it.  The same technology that published the Bible also published Mein Kampf.

An excellent example of a good use of Twitter came to me personally last spring.  Just as the weather was warming I tweeted

Sing hallelujah! The doors are off my Jeep for the summer!

Within minutes, a company using@AllThingsJeep responded to me by saying

We reccomend the CVS (crotch ventilation system) foot pegs for those hot summer days!http://bit.ly/2qjX0

Before that, AllThingsJeep.com didn’t know me from a hole in the wall, and the same was true in the opposite direction.  I’d never bought anything from them, and as that was my first Jeep tweet I’m fairly certain they had no idea who I was or that I drove a Wrangler.  Still, they searched Twitter for a term relevant to their product line, in this case Jeep, and discovered what I was doing with mine.

That gives them an idea that I’m a potential customer, but it’s how they used that information that really sold me.  There’s a common expression among Wrangler owners – you may have even seen it written across some windshields: “It’s a Jeep thing.  You just wouldn’t understand.”

We Jeep owners are a fun loving bunch.  Most Saturday nights in the summer I take my Jeep out onto the beach down the Cape.  The very fact that they sell a product specifically for people who remove the doors from a vehicle at a high risk of rolling over should tell you something.

They had a pretty good idea of the type of customer I was, and used a fun marketing technique like calling foot pegs a “crotch ventilation system” to pitch the product to me.  It’s not something you would do with a Cadillac customer.   For a Caddy it would be completely off-brand.

I didn’t end up buying the CVS, but now before I do anything with my Jeep I check out their website first.  I’ve got a sense of humor, and as long as I’m going to be spending money I’d like to spend it with a company that has one, too.

For politicians, I’ve seen a couple great uses of Twitter, and plenty of pols who think it is a new tool to use for old strategies.  Those who do better with it include Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick.  About this time last year His Excellency made a visit to an office building in Cambridge.

A couple of employees at HubSpot, a company in the same building, tweeted him (@massgovernor) and asked him to stop by.  Guess what? He did.

As I tweeted yesterday, I think a mayor in New Jersey has accomplished not only the best use of Twitter for a politician ever, but also at the same time performed the best constituent service I’ve ever heard of.  A woman tweeted Newark Mayor Cory Booker and asked if he could send someone to her 65 year old father’s house to help him shovel the driveway.

His response came five minutes later:

I will do it myself where does he live?

That’s a vote for life right there.  Should any of my elected officials be reading this, tweet me at @BrianKeaney for my address.   My driveway is still a mess.

The power of social media

A few years ago I had the great fortune to live in Waikiki and work for the Vice President of the Hawai’i Senate as her communications director.  It was a great job in a dream location but, being the parochial New Englander that I am, I missed home (even the snow!) and knew that eventually I would return.

In the meantime, I knew that life at home was not frozen in time and that there were conversations taking place that I wanted to participate in.  At the time, a major conversation was ongoing about the special election for state representative, but there were plenty of others as well.  Fortunately, in the day and age in which we live, residing half way around the world does not prevent  you from taking part in those conversations any more.  At least, it doesn’t have to meant that.

From my lanai overlooking the Ala Wai Canal and the Manoa Valley, I started a blog about the town that is home to the Charles River and the Peanut Butter Valley.    Nearly three years later, I’m back in Dedham and a different special election is taking place, this time for the U.S. Senate.

In the world of state politics, I’m nobody special.  I’ve worked and volunteered on campaigns, but I don’t command an army of volunteers, nor do I have a platform like Blue Mass Group in which I can reach a statewide audience and speak with credibility.

I did, however, have myDedham.org.    With an audience of roughly 2,500 unique visitors each month, it was a pretty healthy chunk of a town with 8,600 households.  I also think that I’ve built up a fair amount of credibility with those 2,500 visitors.

Dave Atkins of Dave Atkins Media!, an expert in the field of social media, has written on my LinkedIn page that myDedham “is notable for the high level of participation by residents and responsiveness of elected and representative officials. I don’t know how he finds the time and forges all the connections he does, but the result is a must-follow site for anyone who wants to know what is going on in Dedham.”

So, too, apparently, did one of the candidates running for the Senate seat think that I had audience that I could speak to with authority.  I was invited to several conference calls for bloggers with Congressman Mike Capuano.  Since myDedham focuses strictly on local issues I didn’t avail myself of the opportunity to participate, but it told me that the Congressman “got it.”

We all have personal networks, and increasingly they are moving online.  I have a network of family and friends that I speak to in person frequently, and I have a much larger network of friends, business associates, and acquaintances  online.  They put the social into social media.

My friends and I will sit over a beer and discuss politics, or sports, or technology, or just about any other conceivable topic.  I take their thoughts and advice seriously, and I will often incorporate it into my own life.  The same thing happens with social networks.  If I know that a friend that I know is politically astute, and I read on Facebook that he is supporting candidate X, I’m that much more likely to dig into Candidate X’s beliefs myself.

Why? Because my friend is an expert in politics, and I value his judgement.  I can’t sit down with all my friends every day and pick their brains on all topics.  I can, however, log onto Facebook or Twitter once or twice a day and read what they are thinking.  It takes just a minute of their time to update their status, but they reach hundreds of individuals.

Incidentally, my friend Mike Lake is running for State Auditor.  I would appreciate it if you would give him your consideration.   See?  That’s the power of social media.

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