Brian Keaney

Tag: social media

With (Facebook) friends like these

Saturday was my sister’s wedding reception.  Her second wedding reception in three months.  For a marriage to the same guy.  That’s a post for another time, but even though he’s been around for a couple of years now, her husband just got around to adding me as a friend on Facebook the other day.

Why have I never added him?  I have a no-add policy on Facebook.  I figure that I’m friends with the people I want to be friends with in real life, and everyone who I don’t see very often but in whose life I am interested is already a Facebook friend.  Only in extremely rare occasions, such as when my childhood best friend  joins, will I click the friend request button.  As has been noted previously, I am just that cool.

I won’t hazard a guess as to how many or to what percentage, but a number of my Facebook friends are not friends at all.  Some are former acquaintances at best.   It got me thinking: how many of them know me well enough to know when my birthday is?  To test it out, I changed my birthday on Facebook.  Rather than pick a random day, I selected the day of my little sister’s birth.  As a bonus, that way I could see how many people would wish both of us a happy birthday.

In July, 66 of my 606 friends posted on my wall to wish me a happy birthday.  I don’t know what the problem with the other 90% is, but I probably don’t like them anyway.  In September, slightly fewer, 54, wrote on my wall.  The best part is that almost half of them, 22, wrote both times.  The worst part is that someone who I would hope would remember my actual birthday wrote in September, but not in July.

Both my sisters picked up on this, and one even wrote on my wall questioning why I was stealing her birthday several weeks ago.  So as to not ruin the experiment, I promptly deleted the post.  A few other cousins also noticed that something was amiss, and one even facetiously mused about how he could have gone all these years without knowing that Krissy and I shared a birthday.

A couple people did recognize that September 29th wasn’t my birthday.  A girl I haven’t seen since 1998 commented that she knew my birthday was a week before hers.  Another who I haven’t seen much since college also knew it wasn’t my birthday, but I don’t know how she remembered that.  Finally, one cousin who loves to remind me of how old I am pointed out that two birthdays in a single year must mean I am even older than previously thought.  I didn’t like that one very much.

Now comes my favorite part.  A total of four people, consisting of two high school classmates, including one who was a good friend at the time, one of Krissy’s classmates who I probably knew better, and a second-cousin I haven’t seen in at least a decade wrote on both our walls and wished both of us a happy birthday.

I don’t know that my experiment has any great importance, but perhaps the fact that the Ig Nobel awards were awarded on the same day as my fake birthday might be significant.  Laugh at me if you will, but it makes you think.


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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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!

Before that, 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    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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Social media as a marketing and campaign tool

Today at the 2.0 Life, David says that he is “a serial early-adopter” of social media.  I’m most certainly not, for a few reasons.  Most importantly, it’s  for the very reason David says he quits most of them:  “Most of the time, social networks don’t have any real value unless everyone you know is using them, and most don’t have any value even if everyone is.”

Like most people I know, I’m a busy person and I have neither the time nor the inclination to try every new fad that comes down the pike.  If I am going to invest in a technology, I want it to have a proven value.  This is often the advice I give to clients.  Many feel they should be everywhere at once.  I disagree, and counsel that rather than trying to do too much at once, they should focus on a few that 1) they (or I, under their name) can do well, and 2) give you the most bang for the buck.

Facebook is an obvious choice, simply because it is so ubiquitous.  It is the place, as David says, where everyone you know (and many you would like to know) is already.  It doesn’t take much to set up a fan page or group, and, once you let a few friends know about it, then it can spread like wildfire.  Each time someone joins your group a notification is sent out letting their friends know they support a candidate, or enjoy shopping at a particular store.   If the friend also join up, a notification is sent out again to all their friends, and so on.  Even if they don’t join, simply seeing the notification is a free endorsement.

Twitter grows in popularity each day, but can be slightly tougher to do well.  It requires more work than Facebook, but the payoff can be even bigger.  At b.good (disclaimer: I am the winner of a contest there), they know how to “tweet” effectively.  b.good has an interesting marketing strategy.  Disdaining things like newspaper ads, they will tape coupons for free burgers and fries to objects in the neighborhood of their restaurants.   When they do, a tweet will go out  to their followers alerting them, often with a photo showing you where you can find them.  It’s a great way to get people in the doors who might not otherwise.

For the professional set, blogging is probably your best bet.  Of the three social media mentioned here it takes the most amount of work, but there is no better way for you (or me) to showcase your talents.  This morning Jay Donahue posted to his real estate agency’s blog the do’s and don’t’s for holiday decorating while trying to sell your home.

No one will want to buy the cow if you give away all the milk, but supermarkets know that by giving out samples they can entice you to buy.   The same is true with blogging.  If you are a tax professional, you don’t want to provide step-by-step instructions on how to file your tax return.  However, you can use it to alert your clients (and potential clients) of a change to the federal tax code that could affect them.  In doing so you can establish yourself as an expert on the topic.

All three formats mentioned here, plus many others out there, provide a very cost-effective way to expand your base of clients, customers, and constituents.   And, as they are social medias,  you might even find yourself making a few friends along the way.

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the G-Bomb

I have a pretty varied set of interests, and nowhere is this more clear than by the list of 100 or so blogs and websites to which I  subscribe.  Thrown in the mix are some comic strips (who doesn’t love Calvin and Hobbes?),  a couple good political ones, a fair number focusing on economics, a few newspaper columnists I enjoy, and a folder I simply labeled “Learn,” because whether it is Constitutional law or cognitive psychology, I am constantly discovering something new from them.

A few months ago I transfered all of my feeds into Thunderbird.  I thought it would be convenient to have them in the same place as my email, and it theory it would be.  The problem is that Thunderbird did a lousy job with them.  It was difficult to add and remove feeds, and hours and days later the same feeds would get repeated .  I’d go back to check what was new, and would instead find a week-old post somehow landed in the feed again and was showing up as unread.

I went back to Google Reader, and I’m so glad I did.  I have become completely enamored with Google.  No matter what program you are running, it just works.  No error messages, no crashes, no lost data.  Add to that a web-functionality so you can find your work wherever you are, and throw in the myriad of great new programs that are constantly coming out, and it all adds up for me.

Not only are there far fewer problems with Google Reader (actually, I can’t think of any), it has a much greater functionality as well.  One of my favorite features is the popular items thread.  As you use Google programs more and more, it begins to learn what you like.  Many others have written very eloquently on the privacy concerns this entails, but I’ve come to terms with them.  I’ve accepted that this is a brave new world we are in, and I trust Google not to be evil.

Using the popular items thread, Google suggests things that people with similar interests also enjoy.  If peanut butter often  shows up in my account history, and others who like peanut butter also like jelly, it starts suggesting feeds on jelly as well.  A fair number of my now daily reads have been discovered this way.

More and more I find myself suggesting these tools to my clients.  If you are going to be a leader in your field, be it in commerce or politics or anything else, you will do well not only to keep on top of the latest developments, but to be constantly discovering and considering new perspectives as well.

Using Reader’s Send To feature, you can also easily send a link to your favorite social media program.  Say your city posts a notice on its website that a meeting is taking place to discus a new development in your neighborhood.  Since you are subscribed to the city’s RSS feed, it pops up in your Reader.  With just the click of a button you send it out to your constituents (and anyone else who follows you) on Twitter.  Soon after, the state releases a report saying that crime in your city is down 15%, and you pass it along as well.  The next week a fundraiser is being held for the local elementary school, and you use your network to promote that, too.

These are feeds you are probably going to be following anyway, and passing the information along only takes a minute of your time.  In the process, you become a central hub for information of concern to your constituents (or business partners, or customers, etc).  It also helps brand you as someone in the know, an expert in your field.  That won’t hurt the next time someone goes to cast a ballot, or makes a decision about where to buy a widget.