How to make a new professional connection by blogging

0 Comments 11.22.14

An incredible thing just happened: I got an email from my WordPress system telling me it just got a notification from someone else’s blogging system that someone has linked to a post on this blog! :)

Called a Track Back, these kinds of messages used to happen all the time. Now they are so noisy and spammy that almost no one uses them; and fewer people blog, it seems. But this is what blogging is made for: not just for blogging but for connecting.

The blogger in question is a professional development specialist named Kate Pinner. Kate puts up posts each weekend with a few curated links to things she found online that inspired learning on her part, she shares those links with her readers and then she offers some of her own perspective on what the links discuss.

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NTEN helps nonprofits learn to use the web effectively.

The power of note taking and re-reading

3 Comments 11.20.14

I love taking and re-reading notes. Rereading your notes about an experience after some time has passed offers a whole new level of insight, I believe. I’m trying a new experiment now where I take notes about something in near real time, throw out open questions in my notes, put down working answers, then set an alarm to revisit those notes, questions and answers in a week. I’ll see if another week or month of experiences offer re-enforcement or revision of my thoughts. I’m really excited about this experiment and it’s one more reason I love Evernote.

I keep coming back to notes I took in Evernote more than a year ago about this article, If You’re Not Taking Notes, You Aren’t Learning. Great perspective in there, I highly recommend it.

This is something I want to continuously make small improvements on. Along with running, meditation and blogging! In that spirit, I’m going to put up this blog post short and sweet, just get it up and see if others have thoughts to share. I’m not going to worry about making it a fully thought out set of ideas, I’m just going to post it. I’ve been wanting to make the time to say something deeper all week and as a result, I’ve said nothing. So let’s ship it! I’m a little inspired to do that by this week’s online event, Work Out Loud Week. That’s a really interesting phenomenon, led by some really interesting individuals.

Those are my notes on notes for now!

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NTEN helps nonprofits learn to use the web effectively.

Social listening is evolving towards strategic value

0 Comments 11.05.14

Kate Kaye writes in AdAge today about how social listening and publishing platform Sprinklr helped the Republicans regain control of congress.

“We are working with about half-a-dozen [Senate] campaigns to deliver daily and weekly updates along with social analytics,” said Lori Brownlee, social media director for the RNC. Rather than simply using Twitter and Facebook as a “broadcast tool,” she continued, “We centered our plan around using social as a strategic listening and data collection tool.”

Hear that? It’s not just about reacting anymore! It’s about listening, learning and being strategic!

That’s good thinking, but even more is possible.

The US Geological Survey says they discover earthquakes faster by listening to Twitter than they do from their own geological monitoring technology. I like to use that as an example of how the social web is one of the fastest ways to learn about new developments.

The follow-on thinking though is that if (a) you know what you’re looking for and (b) it’s as clear as the earth shaking under peoples’ feet (or conversation about Ebola in the RNC’s case), then listening to historical keywords in peoples’ content is a good way to do it. But if you’re looking for unknown unknowns and you want to see the future emerge, then I believe in focusing on figuring out who to listen to in advance.

That’s what we do at Little Bird, for some of the biggest companies in the world: delivering insights sometimes in real-time, sometimes an hour or a day ahead of time and sometimes 3 to 6 months before key trends go mainstream, our customers tell us.

But I’m really glad to hear about mainstream organizations engaging with social like this: for strategic listening. I would contend that the next, complimentary stage of doing so is to discover the subject matter experts that the rest of the community trusts before they talk about a particular issue, and set up systems to monitor what they say in the future. It’s also good to hear that these organizations are listening to more than just what people are saying about them, but what people are saying about matters of general interest.

Forward we go, learning how to use these networks to learn and communicate and work more effectively, together.

I want to make sure you know about NTEN - the Nonprofit Technology Network.

NTEN helps nonprofits learn to use the web effectively.

How automation in social media marketing can make you smarter instead of dumber

3 Comments 11.04.14

It’s tempting to try to put your business’s social networking on auto-pilot, but that’s not a way to get great results. Used effectively though, smart automation can be an important part of the game and help real-live humans up their impact in competitive markets.

I’ve used, built and seen examples good and bad of automated social media for years.

Here’s my perspective: The best automation saves time but it doesn’t replace hard work done by hand. Instead, it provides a foundation for you to shift your energy from drudgery and filtering through people and content, over to more high-skill and high-impact work, like responding, replying, resharing and creating great content and strategic connections. Let the machines do what they’re best at, so you as a smart professional can do what you’re best at: thinking and communicating.

Here are some examples of good and bad automation in social media, in my experienced opinion.

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NTEN helps nonprofits learn to use the web effectively.

So you want to make an announcement: 7 steps to make it a big one

4 Comments 10.31.14

I have been on one side or the other of thousands of tech company announcements – from making tiny feature announcements at a startup that doesn’t exist anymore to reporting under embargo on many, many other peoples’ startup launches and keeping it a secret that Neil Young was going to make a big announcement at Sun’s user conference that I was consulting for. (I got to interview him after the announcement too! It was awesome.)

Here’s what I recommend in order to make your announcement the biggest success it can be. I keep telling people about this, so I decided to just blog it real quickly. I must confess, sometimes I’m good about following these steps and sometimes I’m not. For our most recent feature announcement, I did not – but for many other announcements by my company Little Bird, we did and we got huge results (scroll back on that page to see). It’s all about taking the time to build the social capital and connections.

  1. Start planning as early as possible, weeks or months in advance.
  2. Make a list of who you’d like to talk to about your announcement in advance, in hopes they’ll talk about it with their communities come announcement time. Make special note of people you already have relationships with. (We can automate a lot of this with Little Bird, we just worked with Little Bird investor Jay Baer to do this, for example, which is what made me think I should write this post real quick. Advanced tip: I believe that the people you’ve been connected to the longest, and that you’ve connected to most recently are your most powerful opportunities – as your strongest and freshest connections. We automate discovery of that too btw.)
  3. Don’t have relationships with big voices online yet? Get ready to start investing time, brain power, emotion and communication skills in building those relationships.
  4. (more…)

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NTEN helps nonprofits learn to use the web effectively.

How I raised millions of dollars for our startup from famous investors like Mark Cuban: by blogging a lot

12 Comments 10.30.14

Blogging is awesome, it can change your life, it can change the world and I recommend it as a key way to join the global conversation around your area of interest online.

Other people at startups often ask me how I connected with Little Bird lead investor Mark Cuban, among the many other awesome investors we’ve raised money from for our startup. Our technology finds the most influential people in any industry and helps you build relationships with them, it’s used by some of the biggest companies in the world – but our first fundraising relationships were mostly built the old-fashioned way: by blogging a lot. Blog, blog and blog some more.

This morning I started to respond to an email from Portland’s mega-connector Rick Turoczy asking me to offer some advice about connecting with famous investors to a current member of the PIE startup incubator. I thought it would be helpful to answer the email in a blog post.

Dear fellow startup founder,

The primary thing that has made a big difference for me has been to blog. To write about my thoughts on my industry in a publicly visible way so that my personality and perspective were discoverable.


That’s how Mark Cuban found me, from reading my personal blog, before I was blogging on a big site like TechCrunch. No SharkTank in this case.

One day, years ago, before I had written for TechCrunch or ReadWriteWeb, when I was just blogging on my personal site,, I got an email out of the blue, from Mark Cuban, asking me to take a look at some proposed changes by one of his portfolio company’s website. There was an odd link to a Russian-hosted server and I thought “why would Mark Cuban email me? This has got to be some kind of scam.” But it had his email in the Reply to field, so emailed him. “Mr. Cuban,” I said, “I think someone is impersonating your email address and sending this weird link out to bloggers.” “No!” he wrote me back, “that was me! I read your blog and I like what you write about search and RSS, and I wondered if you’d take a look!”

And so I did, and our relationship was sparked. Seven years later I was raising money for Little Bird and Portland Startup Mentor Carolyn Duncan said “just shut up, sit down and write out the names of all the high net worth people you’ve met in your work that you think might be interested and email them!” My wife and co-founder Mikalina said, “don’t forget Mark Cuban!” Sure enough, I never delete a GMail, so I went back, opened the old thread and hit reply. The rest is history, and is detailed in this awesome Wall St. Journal article.

But it was all about my blog posts. That’s how I built the connections that led to investors like Howard Lindzon, Jay Baer and Matt Haughey too. Smart people who work on the internet read blogs. Admittedly, Mark Cuban especially reads blog posts. He’s an active blogger himself, he funded the first blog network in Weblogs Inc. (where I later went on to work for Jason Calacanis), he’s a blog guy.

But sometimes other people read my blog posts, liked them, liked me, then were interested in my work (including Little Bird) and when they saw it – told their famous investor friends they should check it out. Deb Landa knew my blog, then one day when she was visiting Portland and was in PIE, she knew me, asked to see my work, and thought Howard Lindzon would like it. Howard has now been our most helpful investor source of big intros. Dylan Boyd, one of the most-connected people in Portland, knew me as a blogger and told Jay Baer to check out my company. Jay is one of the smartest investors in the world about our industry. Andy Baio knew me as a blogger and told Matt Haughey about my startup. When old-school social media innovators hear Matt’s an investor, they know we’re the real deal. Not all of our financing has come as a direct result of blogging, our biggest investor is now the awesome Oregon Angel Fund – but even they were no doubt encouraged to invest in my social media startup because of my domain expertise.

So blog, is my suggestion! As our great investor Jay Baer said yesterday on Twitter, “Keep putting out great content. It will come back to you tenfold in unexpected ways.” What should you blog about? That’s one of the questions we can help answer at Little Bird, in fact – by helping find the hottest conversations among the leading thinkers in your industry.

How can you do that while busy doing everything else you need to do to create a startup? I really struggle with that now. But one way that social media pioneer Dave Winer does it is this: he answers interview requests with blog posts. Dave helped invent blogging (as well as podcasting, RSS and more) and goes so far as to say “Blogging is a lifestyle, not something you do inbetween things. For a guy like me, it’s the background, it’s what I do when idle, and when busy, it’s what I think about every waking hour.”

I tried to do that here, because this is a topic people ask me about a lot and I’m really struggling to consistently blog while building a startup now with 17 people in it. But that is a big part of what got me to where I am today and I shouldn’t lose it just because my primary focus is now on company building. The best evolution, says Ken Wilber (whose book I would have been reading over coffee if I hadn’t been writing this email – which is fine), combines transcendence and integration. I’ve moved on from my days as a full-time blogger, but I’ve not integrated the best practices from that experience well enough in my new life. Thanks for inspiring me to do something about that this morning.

Let me know if you’d like to hop on the phone or drop by our office to discuss this further.

best wishes and good luck!

I want to make sure you know about NTEN - the Nonprofit Technology Network.

NTEN helps nonprofits learn to use the web effectively.

Gary Vee is wrong: the expertise edition

2 Comments 10.21.14

I like Gary Vaynerchuck – I love his new video podcast Ask Gary. But Gary put up an important blog post yesterday titled “Are experts the only people who should put out content?” and he argues that expertise is subjective, that it doesn’t objectively exist. I disagree and think it’s important enough to write a blog post.

Just because he’s seen several ways that people have been wrong about their assessments of expertise does not mean that the concept of expertise is invalid. TL;DR: I believe you can build expertise through consistent participation in global discourse on the social web. And I think that’s pretty awesome.


I want to make sure you know about NTEN - the Nonprofit Technology Network.

NTEN helps nonprofits learn to use the web effectively.