Farewell to the Catalyze Community

Goodbye Catalyze - It Was Great To Know You

The announcement from iRise yesterday today that the Catalyze Community was merging into the ModernAnalyst.com Community probably didn’t even register a blip on your radar.  But the announcement has more than a touch of melancholy for me as I was the founding community manager from the conception of the community in late 2006 through its growth to over 4,000 members in July 2008 and I want to give the the community a proper send-off.

Giving birth to and nurturing a community is not unlike the experience of raising children as I lived and breathed the Catalyze Community for almost 18 months.  I cut my teeth in community management, tried to set the standard in what professional B2B communities could be, and got started on my journey into social media through my efforts with the community.  I learned a great deal and had a chance to develop many friends in the community space including the team from Mzinga who provided the white label social media software that powered the site (a special thanks go out to Jim Storer, Derek Showerman, Aaron Strout, Isaac Hazard, Mark Wallace and Barry Libert).  I am sure I drove the Mzinga team a little bit crazy as I pushed the envelope to ‘mold’ their software into my idea of what a community experience should be.  I also enjoyed hosting the monthly webinars we held with a wide variety of knowledgeable experts.  Most of all, I discovered my “blogging” voice, and was able to experiment with the new and emerging (at the time) social media tools like Twitter, Facebook, Slideshare, and LinkedIn.

Of course, a lot of credit also goes out to iRise who was the founding sponsor of the Catalyze Community.  iRise’s funding of  the Catalyze Community and mission to keep it ‘commercial-free’ is what drew many of the members into the community.

The demise of the Catalyze didn’t come as a surprise to me as the community has floundered without a community manager for the past two years – and the site had become a virtual ghost town with very few visitors and sadly, very little fresh content.  Anyone who understands community building realizes that a site that is not actively managed with fresh content cannot be sustained and is destined for failure which ended up as one of my blog posts in January 2009.  In fact, I shared many of my experiences with the Catalyze Community in a number of blog posts.

The original goal of Catalyze was to unite and “catalyze” the disparate factions of  business analysts, usability professionals, user experience (UX) and information architects, designers, software developers and others who define, design and create software applications.  The ModernAnalyst Community is a very robust community and boasts over 38,000 members – and most of the Catalyze members will be nore than well-served by the merger.  I hope that the analytical “left-brain” analysts continue to reach out to the creative “right-brain” designers and usability professionals, and that they can continue to find a common ground in defining and designing better software.  I send best wishes to Adrian Marchis and the rest of his ModernAnalyst.com team on continuing the Catalyze tradition.

Catalyze Community Home Page from March 2008

ModernAnalyst.com

Visible Networking with Tony Karrer – Los Angeles Social Media Starters

Tom Humbarger, Social Media and Marketing Expert

Tom Humbarger, Social Media and Marketing Expert

Tony Karrer reached out to me this week as he was seeking “Social Media Starters” in the Los Angeles area.  Tony is the CEO/CTO of TechEmpower, a software, web and eLearning development firm based in Los Angeles, and is considered one of the top technologists in e-Learning.  He frequently speaks at various venues about how he uses social media and particularly blogs, LinkedIn, Twitter as part of his services business.  Invariably, people are always asking him to follow up with how to get started or for help with maintaining their social media presence.

While Tony likes to be helpful, social media consulting is not part of his company’s core business.  So, Tony is developing a network of social media consultants who can help companies ramp up their efforts.

As part of his outreach effort to provide exposure to social media consultants in his network, Tony asked a series of questions to learn more about me and so he could share this post with professionals and businesses who have requested his help.  (and please see Tony’s blog post on Visible Networking for more information on his networking approach)

How did you get into social media?

When I look back on my career, I have actually been using social media since 1996 when I was working in product strategy for Oracle – except it wasn’t called social media at the time.  Much of my work had to do with evangelizing about our solutions, developing marketing collateral, and networking with other Oracle employees, the press and analysts.  My life would have been much easier in some ways if I had access to the social media tools that we have today such as blogs, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

My recent foray into social media started in 2006 when I was working in the Strategic Projects function at a small-sized software company.  I was assigned a project to launch an external B2B professional community for users and prospects.  Over the next 18 months, I was fully responsible for community strategy, day-to-day community management, content creation, marketing, business development and operations.  The community was called Catalyze and focused on usability experts and business analysts.  After coming out of beta, I was instrumental in growing the community to over 4,000 members in less than 15 months.  As part of my duties, I experimented with many different social media tools and techniques and got hooked on the possibilities of social media.

For the last year, I have been consulting with several different companies on social media strategy and implementation, marketing and community strategy.  For one of my companies, I am their outsourced marketing department.  I write blog posts, create marketing collateral, write call scripts and help maximize their use of Salesforce.com.  On a more detailed level, I updated their website, created and monitered Google Ads, standardized their company’s LinkedIn profiles, set up a LinkedIn and Facebook groups and created a profile on Yelp.  I also worked on the social media strategy for one of the clients of an interactive media company.  For another entrepreneur, I updated his LinkedIn profile and developed a mock up for his new website.  Finally, I spent the majority of my time in the last year working on the community strategy and management for a start-up professional networking community.

What are you working on now?

During the last year, most of my projects have been of a long term nature.  But I am now starting to focus on social media consulting for small-to-medium businesses as I see a need for these companies to do a better job with social media.  Many of these companies are lost about where to start, have trouble prioritizing social media against other competing projects or do not have the bandwidth to adequately maintain their social media presence.  In most cases, these companies cannot afford a full-time social media resource and do not really need someone to devote 100% of their time to the effort.

Social media lends itself nicely to a project-based focus – and with my experience and background, I can easily help companies get started and maximize their exposure via the key social media channels of Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

What are your thoughts on helping people get started with social media?

Social media is here to stay and customers are now in control of the message.  Companies must adapt to this new reality and begin the process of doing a better job of reaching out and interacting with their customers through social media channels.  However, social media is still relatively new and there are many ways to approach it and different starting points to apply social media in a business setting.   The best way to start is to have a conversation with the CEO or executive team about their business and develop an implementation plan and priorities.  The typical questions would cover topics such as: status of current strategy, analysis of social media readiness, results of marketing programs, overview of brand and company awareness, future growth plans, customer service issues, etc.

Even if a company does not have much time or budget, there are many simple things that they can do that have some pretty huge pay-offs.  LinkedIn is one example where companies can spend some upfront time, but which does not have much ongoing maintenance or management.  Blogging or using Twitter is a different story as these social media tools require a consistent commitment to delivering strong content.

What kinds of social media services do you provide?

My social media consulting services cover all aspects of social media, including developing strategy, training, implementation and outsourced maintenance services:

Strategy – on how to apply social media tools and techniques to increase brand awareness or connect better with customers

Training – on how to use LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, blogging and other social media tools

Implementation – and setting up of various social media tools or sites

Maintenance services – this is a retainer based service that essentially provides comprehensive maintenance of a social media presence, including blogging, Twitter and other tools/techniques that require consistent updates to be effective

Small, one-time projects could be probably be completed in as little as 8 to 10 hours.  Conducting training and implementation on social media tools could take anywhere from 15 to 40 hours.  And outsourced services could range anywhere from 5 to 15 hours of dedicated time per week.  At a minimum, I think most companies would benefit from several months of hand-holding under a maintenance program as using social media is not natural or easy for many people and you want to make sure you get it right.

You’ve been blogging for a while, what are five good posts that I should check out?

I have been blogging since March 2007 and here are what I consider my top five social media blog posts:

5 Ways to Maximize Your LinkedIn Profile

Best Practices for Corporate Twittering

Simple Advice for Brands on Twitter

Community Managers and Quarterbacks

Adding A LinkedIn Group To Your Community

What networking events in Los Angeles or Southern California do you go to?  What was the best one you’ve been to recently?

I have started attending the Social Media Club-Los Angeles events this year.  One of my friends, Geoff Brown, is the coordinator of the group and he has been encouraging me to get more involved and I have started writing blog posts for SMC website.  I have also attended two one-day community un-conferences put on by Forum One in Sonoma in the past year.  I love the format of these conferences and the content you gather in one day is amazing.  The primary focus of these conferences was community strategy and management, but they also include a great deal of general social media content.

Who are some of your go to people in Los Angeles ?

Most of my social media network is virtual and stems from connections I have made through Twitter and through my connections at Boston-based Mzinga.  Mzinga is the white-label community and social networking software company that I used for two communities that I used to manage.  The key social media people in my circle include:  Aaron Strout, Jim Storer, Rachel Happe, Derek Showerman, Mark Wallace, Jeremiah Owyang, Bryan Person and Barry Libert.  In the LA area, I keep up with Geoff Brown from SMC-LA, Mark Sylvester from introNetworks, Kevin Lucier from AccessDNA and Shara Karasic from Business.com.  I also have a fairly extensive blog roll on my website with the key bloggers I follow.  Finally, I use Twitter as my primary filter to keep current on the latest trends in social media.

How can people find you?

I am an active blogger and an avid user of Twitter and LinkedIn.  You can find me at:

Tom Humbarger blog

Tom Humbarger on Twitter

Tom Humbarger on LinkedIn

Thank you Tony for including me in your Social Media Starters network – and for helping me formalize my thoughts on social media.

Walking the “Social Media Walk”

Forrester came out their latest research note on “Community Platforms” today.  Jeremiah Owyang, their lead analyst, wrote a very extensive summary of the report on his blog too.  At a minimum, you must check out the blog post and read all of the extensive comments that Jeremiah has received so far.

Jeremiah made some great points in his post and this quote sums it up best:

Used correctly, communities can impact the top and bottom line of company’s financials…and communities matter more now than ever – especially during a recession.

Based on their research, Forrester believes that most companies are looking for a solution partner or a vendor that can deliver on strategy, education, services, community management, analytics and support.  As such, 60% of their weighted criteria for the scoring was based on this feature.

The graphic below summarizes where Forrester places the leading vendors in the space.  Their top four vendors include Jive Software, Telligent, Mzinga and Pluck.  I am very familiar with Mzinga as I worked with them for nearly 2 years with the Catalyze community and am working with them again on a start-up professional community.

From Jeremiah Owyang's Blog

After reading Jeremiah’s post and thinking about other circumstances that occurred this week, it got me to thinking about community vendors and their own social media efforts.  In fact, I wrote a comment to Jeremiah’s post and here is an excerpt of my comments:

…I want my social media vendor to be active and visible in the social media space – which means that I want them to be blogging, twittering and participating in other social media activities.  I thought Mzinga used to do the best job of any of the leading vendors with their participation in social media. Their management profiles set the standard for how people need to be socially available in today’s Web 2.0 world and they proved it by including office and mobile phone numbers along with links to Twitter, Facebook, blogs and LinkedIn in their profiles.

Mzinga used to have some very active social media people listed as Thought Leaders on their website. However, people like Aaron Strout (@aaronstrout), Jim Storer (@jstorerj), Rachel Happe (@rhappe) and several others are no longer with Mzinga.  Mzinga now lists just 4 Thought Leaders on their website and other than CEO Barry Libert, I’ll let you draw your own conclusions as to their leadership and activity.

Looking at the other leading vendors, they do not appear to be very active either. Telligent’s CEO Rob Howard has a blog, but his Twitter traffic is pretty minor. The positive is that Telligent does have a number of blogs linked to their website, which I do view as a positive. Jive has a blog on their website and their CEO David Hersch has written some posts, but it hasn’t been updated since November.

So my question is, can a social media company really be a leader when they don’t have any social media leaders or when their social media efforts come across as fairly weak?

Don’t social media companies have to walk the ’social media walk’?

So, is your social media vendor ‘walking the walk’ or just talking the talk?

[1/10/09 update - the Forrester report is available from the Telligent website. The download requires registration.]

Change and Lessons from Barack Obama

We are the change we seek…let’s go change the world.

Barack Obama, from the 2008 Presidential campaign trail

barackincIt’s probably fitting that I’m wearing my Barack Obama “One Voice Can Change the World” t-shirt as I write this post but I wanted to share some news about my friend, Barry Libert, CEO at Mzinga.  Barry has co-authored a book with Rick Faulk titled Barack Inc. and it will be coming out on January 19th in conjunction with Obama’s inauguration.

The book discusses about how Barack Obama used social media to energize and build a vast online community of followers.   The essence of the book is that business leaders must embrace change and “become the change” they offer to effectively lead their constituencies – employees, shareholders, partners and customers – to achieve it.

There is also a short 3-minute video  (nicely created by Patrick Moran) that  I found posted on the Barack, Inc website.  The video highlights three of the key points from the book which are:

  • Be cool
  • Be social
  • Be the change

Barry Libert and Rick Faulk will be holding a webinar on January 21st with Don Tapscott to talk about the important lessons that all of us can learn from Obama’s campaign.  You can learn more about the book and register for the webinar from the Barack, Inc. website.

iRise Fusion ‘07-Barry Libert and the Power of “We”

Barry Libert, CEO of Shared Insights, kicked off the final day of the Fusion User conference with a presentation titled “Putting the Power of ‘We’ into Your Career and Your Business”. All participants also received a copy of a new book called We Are Smarter Than Methat was just released last week. Barry was the lead editor on this new collaborative book about the power of we.

Before Barry could get started, 3 members from Stomp worked up and woke up the crowd with a couple minutes of vigorous drumming on buckets and other assorted implements.

Barry’s overall message is that building community works and emotive feelings are coming to business. For example, 36% of American adults use Wikipedia but nobody uses Encyclopedia Brittanica anymore, 85.9 million people blog, there are more podcasters than radio stations and more than 250 million pieces of tagged social media. There are now more than 35 million Facebookers and it is growing at more than 65,000 members per week.

Experts agree, WE is cool. Gartner says that community development is the single most critical success faction in the enterprise. Another analyst say that enterprise social software will be the biggest new workplace technology

Business are communitizing – why? Customers know better than companies what is important; customers are experts, they understand the products and their requirements; and customers are a crowd committed to your success.

Businesses are communitizing in many different areas, including customer service, market research, employee training, and product innovation.

We can Innovate
Example, Dell Idea Storm is outsourcing product innovation to their customers.

We can Service Ourselves
Example, user forums help others solve problems.

We can Sell Products
Example, eBay. More people make their business on eBay than work at Wall-Mart. The bottom line is that everyone who could be your customer could be your sales person

We can Finance You
Example, Prosper.com. We can ’show you the money’ all in the spirit of community transparency just like the old-fashioned ‘community’ bank by matching savers with borrowers.

We can Simulate Us
Example, Catalyze which is ‘Facebook’ for your business analysts and usability professionals. We are all a community of WE. Community will be important to insure the success of you, your group, your team, your boss and your company.

Leaders are becoming We Companies
Example, the Person of the year for Time Magazine last year was “us” or “we”. Community is not just true for kids, students – but for companies.

Did you know, we can Write a book too. For example, in writing the We Are Smarter Than Me book, there were more than 4500 contributors, 750 discussion forums, 100 bloggers and 50 podcasts.

Barry left us with 7 rules for We Success:

  1. think big, start small
  2. its not about the tools
  3. form a club of like-minded people
  4. communities require moderation (not self-service portals)
  5. give up control – communities don’t like it when you take control, if you abuse them even once, they will make their voices known
  6. don’t forget the content (content is king, queen and every other member of the royal content; content will include blogs, discussions, podcasts, resources and webcasts)
  7. good community takes time – community is built on relationships not on transactions

Welcome to the World of We – it’s happening faster than anyone imagined.

A PDF of his presentation can be found here.

[Barry Libert can also be contacted at blibert@sharedinsights.com or 1-781-995-4709.]