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

Settling Wagers the Social Media Way

So what happens when a bunch of social-media-savvy basketball fans decide to place a friendly wager on the NBA Finals?

For the Lakers, victory has never been harder -- or sweeter (courtesy of the LA Times)

First, Twitter was used to solicit participants and to talk ‘smack’:

Talking Smack on Twitter

Then, the wager was documented in a post on Aaron Strout’s Big Papelbon blog:

Wager Proposal on the Big Papelbon Blog

And finally, the loser pays off in a social media manner which is probably more painful than paying out of cold, hard cash.

With that, here are the new avatars from the Celtics fans who ended up on the losing side of the wager (and documented in my blog too of course).  Please feel free to let Aaron, Adam, Kyle, and Jim that you love their new temporarary Twitter avatars.  And Jamie, when are we going to see your new avatar?

@aaronstrout on Twitter

@adamcohen on Twitter

@kyleflaherty on Twitter

@jimstorer on Twitter

This settles the score for me, since I was on the losing side of 2 wagers in 2007/2008 when the Red Sox defeated the Angels in the 2007 American League Divisional Playoffs and the Celtics defeated the Lakers in the 2008 NBA Finals.  So, I am definitely savoring this sweet victory.  And thanks to my fellow Laker Fans in this wager – Liz, Jason and Bennett – where should we celebrate our victory?

June 21, 2010 Update – Jamie ‘finally’ updated his avatar over the weekend and is begging to be added to the Humiliation Wall of Shame.  And just in time for the Lakers Victory Parade in downtown LA this morning too!

@JPunishill on Twitter

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.

What Are the Characteristics of a Great Community Manager

The Community Roundtable and introNetworks hosted a live chat that covered this topic today.

Webchat Participants

Webchat Participants

The speakers included the following:

There was tremendous activity on Twitter during the call and you can find this thread by searching on the #introchat tag.  Some of the more interesting tweets included:

  • @keithburtis title means little, substance is everything…. need to link Social Indicators back to Boardroom speak
  • @eyecube Care for a community, don’t *manage* it
  • @maddiegrant The best community managers are people who care about people
  • @MsMizz As community manager, ur looking for ur “cheese heads” the ones that are so engaged & passionate that they’ll put a cheese hat on
  • @mrshasten Importance of a community manager: it’s like weeding the garden. You can’t just set up a community and neglect it
  • @JohnMLee Great point from the Community Manager Webinar: Communities don’t want to be managed, they need to be nurtured
  • @P_Lussier Community mgrs need to be “accessible & approachable; intensely human,” says @ambercadabra
  • @SocialGeekMe being a community manager is not a “this is not my job” type of job.
  • @spoonmovement #introchat@ambercadabra says that being a community manager is “not for the faint of heart” and that it’s a hybrid of many disciplines
  • @AdrianMabry Comm Mgr role follows 2 analogies – the ‘iceberg’ and the ‘duck’ analogies. Lot’s of activity that just isn’t glamorous

Several great links were discussed during the chat as well:

Jim solicited book recommendations at the end of the call from each of the participants and here is the short list:

The recording of the chat is available at the introNetworks website and the slides are on Slideshare too.

In the Beginning – My First Tweets

I ‘discovered’ a new website via Twitter yesterday (naturally) and found it to be quite interesting. The site is called My Tweet Sixteen and it uses the Twitter ‘wayback machine’ to display the first 16 tweets for any user.

My first Tweet was on October 31, 2007 and a lot has changed in the last 18 months.  Jim Storer from Shared Insights (now Mzinga) introduced me to Twitter and several of my initial tweets were with or about him.  When I first started with Twitter, I didn’t get it and it was a totally different experience than it is today.  With the explosion of people on Twitter and with a stable of interesting people to follow, Twitter is now my go to destination to learn and explore new ideas.

Here’s how I use Twitter differently now:

  • Daily use – it took me a month to get my first 10 tweets and now I am probably tweeting 5 to 10 times per day.  My browser always has at least one tab opened up to Twitter all day too.  I now follow more than 1,100 people and use it to keep in touch with friends.  Since my tweets dump into Facebook automatically, my Facebook friends are also able to keep up with what’s going on with me.
  • Twitter Search – I use Twitter search to explore what people are saying about certain companies or topics – and I will generally start on Twitter first before going to Goole.  It’s also a great way to learn more about someone by scanning their Twitter stream to discover their interests and ability to condense their thoughts into 140 characters.
  • Shared Links – Most of my tweets now include links to interesting articles or blog posts that I have encountered during the day.  Using tools like HootSuite makes it easy to share and tweet the links.  And HootSuite also lets me track the clicks on my tweeted links 122 times in the last week, so my sharing is making a difference.

So take a walk back in history and check out your first tweets.  Unfortunately, MyTweet16 can only go back 3,200 tweets – so for super active Twitterers like my friend Jim, you will not able to see all the way back to the beginning of your Twitter history.

And for those of you who are interested, here are my first 10 tweets:

1st 10 Tweets from MyTweet 16

1st 10 Tweets from MyTweet 16

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.]

How Are You Building Your Personal Brand?

Here is an interesting presentation I found on Slideshare.net titled “Brand U.0″ by David Armano who is a VP of Experience Design at Critical Mass and the author of Logic + Emotionabout.  He posted it yesterday and will be giving the keynote at the Chicago New Media Summit next week.

The presentation concludes with the 5 B’s of building the Brand U.0.  I have included my interpretations of the B’s and wish I could hear David’s explanations:

  1. Be ubiquitous – that means having multiple streams where people can find you such as your blog, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn for most professionals — see the My Social Media links from the top tab on my blog for an example of publicizing your links or how the Mzinga executives make it easy to find and follow them as noted in my friend Jim Storer’s profile on the Mzinga website
  2. Be social – you have to effectively maintain and manage your profiles on various social networks — ok it’s sometimes hard work to keep track of everything, but it will pay off over the long haul
  3. Be interesting – means you have to share consistently and freely — for example, I try to post an interesting article or link to my Facebook profile every day; this helps serve as a way for me to find them again as well as maintaining visibility for my Facebook newsfeed
  4. Be remarkable – you need to make yourself stand out from the crowd — you don’t have to be outlandish, but you do need to use some creativity to get some attention like my Web 2.0 and Beer blog post which has garnered the highest number of views for my blog
  5. Be yourself – which means letting your personality shine by being authentic – you cannot force your personality or fake authenticity, so don’t try

You don’t have to be a social media superstar or wannabe to worry about building your personal brand — and it’s not too early to start building it!