Making Social Business a Habit: Working Out Loud

5 Comments 01.25.14

Stepper coaches professionals on identifying key relationships they want to build, then developing new habits of offering whatever contributions they discover they can make to those key people and doing all of it publicly. That’s the TL;DR summary of this post, see the links below and please forgive me for such a long rambly bit of writing. I’m trying to get back in the habit a little but didn’t have the time to write something shorter.

This morning I was reading my Top Kanban Lovers Twitter list on my phone (exported from a Little Bird report on Kanban) and came across John Stepper’s week-old post Deepening relationships through contribution. (Good thing he re-shared an excerpt from it again a week later, something perhaps more of us would be wise to do.)

It was my first introduction to John, who describes his job as working “to change how people work at Deutsche Bank, using collaboration platforms, communities of practice, and public social media channels.” Awesome! I went on to read his posts on “Working out loud”: Your personal content strategy and Working Out Loud: the 12-week program, all of which I’d recommend highly enough that I’m blogging about them now when I should probably be cleaning my house before a brunch we’re hosting tomorrow morning.
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Life After Blogging?

6 Comments 01.22.14

I used to blog every day. Heck, I used to write 4 posts every day for AOL, 6 on forex as a subcontracted writer for a CMS company and 3 long form interviews (with people like Mark Cuban) per week for the non-profit Netsquared.

Now I struggle to put up one post a month here or on our company blog. I’d really like to be publishing at least twice each month.

I have a lot of other pressing priorities as a new startup’s CEO – and Twitter is so quick and easy. The feedback loop is fast there too, something I lost when moving from a major blog to building a startup.

Excuses excuses! I’m doing all of this for the joy of learning from new media, and blogging feels important to keep doing. I remember when blogging felt uncomfortable, now of course it feels very natural. I spend most of my days now doing things I’ve never done before. It’s awesome. I’d still like to blog on occasion though.

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Crossing over Portland’s Burnside Bridge, blogging.

I spend a lot of time learning about learning, building capacity so my execution each day can rock all the harder. Here are some of the ideas I’ve picked up recently regarding building new habits when it’s hard. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this too.
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I want to make sure you know about NTEN - the Nonprofit Technology Network.

NTEN helps nonprofits learn to use the web effectively.

Enterprise tech is awesome! Highlights of Constellation Connected Enterprise 2013 day 1

0 Comments 10.30.13

Everyone talks about startups innovating but some big businesses are doing really interesting work, they’re doing it at scale and they’re doing it in ways that reflect changes that could be unfolding in society at large. When those changes are about collaboration, learning and freedom – I get excited.

I’m in here at the Constellation Connected Enterprise 2013 conference in Half Moon Bay and I am really impressed. Upstart analyst firm Constellation Research has put on an inspiring event about the future of work, about the most innovative work being done in big businesses and about the impacts of technology on the human experience. And enterprise software. It’s awesome.

I’ll be demoing Little Bird on Thursday afternoon at 3:00 and I’m honored to have been invited.


Above: Constellation’s Ray Wang, photo by Michael O’Donnell

A few highlights from my notes:

Constellation’s Ray Wang is not only the most-connected man in enterprise software, according to our data, and a really interesting, smart guy – he’s also an incredible bundle of energy. An inspiration. Puts on one hell of a show.

The world’s leading expert on gamification, Jane McGonigal, was the first keynoter and she nearly brought me to tears. Her talk was incredible. Google around for more from her; you could probably spend all your time just following in her digital trail and learning a lot. She spoke about games and engagement in work. “There are now at least 1 billion people worldwide that spend 1 hour + per day playing video games,” McGonigal pointed out. 71% of workers are not engaged. The longer you stay in school, the less engaging and hopeful it is. Games are the antidote, she said, because they evoke lots of positive emotions and build resilience. “The opposite of play isn’t work – it’s depression,” she said.

The conference has a branded mobile app from Double Dutch, it’s really good. It’s a social network just for the event, with check-ins and activity feeds and a leader board. All of the interactions people have with it are measured and served up to conference organizers as data about who to invite back next year – not just among panelists but it determines who in the audience is most influential, too. Do people use it? Here they sure are. I asked in a thread in the app and founder Lawrence Coburn told me that the average user of one of their event apps makes more than 800 measured gestures per event. Whoa!

The Constellation Super Nova awards for successful enterprise software implementations were really interesting. For example, I learned that Mercedes Benz uses SAP’s new realtime collaboration platform HANA to deliver auto manufacturing QA data directly to engineers. Kelly Blue Book’s Karen Simmons said when accepting her Supernova Award: “My team is not the data warehouse; we are the *business*!” Cool.

If you’re here, I’ll see you tomorrow. If you’re not – I recommend it next year.


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

NTEN helps nonprofits learn to use the web effectively.

How big are startups when they raise seed and A round financing?

0 Comments 10.17.13

How many employees do most startups have when they announce Seed or Series A financing? I was thinking about that today and realized the data is available on Crunchbase. I didn’t want to bother our team’s developers because they are very busy building awesome tools for Little Bird customers, so I just clicked through by hand and grabbed the number of employees listed by the last 25 companies to announce seed and A round funding whose Crunchbase profiles disclose the team number. Benchmarks are always interesting and I thought I’d just take a few minutes to grab this and share it. I bet these same patterns would play out if we pulled more data; this makes sense to me. I can imagine the 1 to 5 category getting bigger though. I’d love to know your thoughts.

For what it’s worth, when we announced our seed financing a year ago this month, we were in the 5+ category. Today we’re in the 10+ category. Promotional conclusion: Startups, if you want to rock your go-to-market and connect with the most powerful, interesting people in your target market, you should check out the technology those 10+ people have built at Little Bird. Non-startups – if you want to do social business, content marketing and social sales more effectively, I think you’ll like what we’re doing too.


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

NTEN helps nonprofits learn to use the web effectively.

Getting more value out of old content

2 Comments 09.28.13

I just mentioned an old blog post of mine in an email to someone and thought, “hey I should repost that out on Twitter.” Titled How to Quit Your Day Job and Become a Professional Tech Blogger, it’s getting a bunch of retweets again, 3 years after I wrote it, on a rainy Saturday morning.

Here are three ways I’ve been experimenting with getting more value out of old content, whether it’s mine or someone else’s, whether it’s 1 day old or 3 years.

1. If you share it in an email or mention it to a friend, other people might like to see it too

I was telling my co-worker Shelby La Croix about this article “9 Things Successful People Do Differently” yesterday too, for example, and may as well re-share it publicly elsewhere. It’s still really good.

The river of news online plus our linear conception of time might conspire to lead us to believe that old content is inevitably forgotten, but just like time travelers we can loop back into the past and return to the present with gems for use in building the future!

2. Share pull-quotes and highlights later

I’ve been using Pullquote.com to post highlights of my and other old articles to the social web. It’s attractive and like a whole new piece of content! You, reader/writer, are a web content DJ – remix!

Pullquote is led by Henry Copeland, who also built the fabulous Twitter analysis tool Twiangulate and invested in Little Bird (thanks Henry!).

3. Take notes and re-read them

As Ben Casnocha says, If You Aren’t Taking Notes, You Aren’t Learning.

There’s no need to be so negative about it, though. Framed alternately, notes you take on the content you consume are like a deep vein of gold in the mountain of life. Tap into them and it will be awesome. This is something I’ve been thinking about right now when taking a moment to pause from the hustle of startup life, how can I get into a regular habit of taking and re-reading notes? I’m trying to use Evernote files tagged Notes. It is so wonderful when I do. It’s like a combination of Harold Jarche’s Personal Knowledge Management and renaissance man Robin Sloan’s Fish. (“Look at the fish!” I often tell myself.)

I sure do love the Internet. May you get loads and loads of goodness from it, old and new!


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

NTEN helps nonprofits learn to use the web effectively.

Real-time technology is changing the way I do business

0 Comments 09.25.13

I’m taking the time to write this blog post up real quick because I know that an email I sent this morning to one of our advisors about an urgent matter has been opened and read. A great service called BananaTag emailed me to tell me he opened it on his iPhone. Now I know he knows about the question I’m asking for help with and I can go do something else until he responds. (Thank you, Marshall, you rock!)

I love knowing when people open my emails. Thanks to Blake Robinson, who’s taught me about many things over the years, and who turned me on to BananaTag. I saw over his shoulder, by the way, that BananaTag data indicates Blake has an incredible email open rate. And he’s a cool guy, too.

This weekend Hubspot’s new app Signals told me, in real-time, about two key people visiting our website at Little Bird. Everybody knows that the best time to connect with someone is as close as possible to when they express interest – I think you can carry that out all the way to real time. I got great responses from both people I reached out to this way and I made a little podcast about one of them.

I’ve been paying attention to real-time technology for years, usually as a way to track news sources to report before anyone else. That’s how I got the job as the first hired writer at TechCrunch, I used an RSS to SMS alert system to get notifications in real time when a key vendor made an announcement on their blog. I was able to write it up before any of the other blogs and one day Michael Arrington called me up, saying “I don’t know how you do it, but you keep beating me to stories. I want you to come write for me at TechCrunch.” That was just one of many ways I used real time technology to build my career as a journalist. And now here I am. In a different stage of my career and exploring how to use emerging real-time tech for sales and marketing. Pretty exciting!

Hunter Walk says that you shouldn’t blog to show how smart you are, you should blog to convene a group of smart readers to discuss challenges together. So please, smart readers, share with us any thoughts, ideas or experiences you’ve got with real-time technology impacting the way you do business.


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

NTEN helps nonprofits learn to use the web effectively.

How to time your outreach to influencers and press

2 Comments 09.24.13

When should you start outreach to press and pillars of the community before you’re going to announce something? That’s something people ask a lot, something I’ll be discussing at this week’s inaugural HypePDX marketing event in Portland and something I’d recommend most people change their approach to. I’ve been on both sides of the equation, as a journalist for thousands and thousands of pitches and now as an entrepreneur doing outreach myself.

Here are your options as I see them for press and influencer outreach, an embargo may or may not be appropriate. (Here’s how they work. More general thoughts on promoting a product launch.)

The worst: Last minute cold pitch with an asserted embargo and weakly relevant reference to the person’s past content. (“I saw you once wrote about X, so I’m writing you out of the blue about an announcement tomorrow and it’s embargoed until 9am!”)

Less bad: A week ahead of time with a well-run embargo. (“We have an announcement about general topic X that we’ll be making next Tuesday at 9am PST. Can I send you info about it under embargo until that time?”)

Realistic: A month ahead of time with conversations online so you’re a known entity when you pitch. (“Hi, I’m that person who’s been commenting smartly and resharing your content with my own added editorial value for the past few weeks. You already have some respect for me! We have an announcement about general topic X that we’ll be making next Tuesday at 9am PST. Can I send you info about it under embargo until that time?”)

Ideal: You’re talking with them right now, you’ll have been around for awhile. When it’s announcement time you’ll be able to say “Hey old buddy, we have an announcement about general topic X that we’ll be making next Tuesday at 9am PST. Can I send you info about it under embargo until that time?”

Pitching is just one of many ways to build visibility for your company. It used to be the primary way when media was centralized, but now we’re all talking online all the time and just being visibly awesome and adding value to public conversations helps you build thought leadership. You’ll probably still want to pitch though and so I hope these suggestions on timing are helpful!


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

NTEN helps nonprofits learn to use the web effectively.