I met Chris Brogan on twitter.com – which is a website you microblog on. Chris Brogan is a ten year veteran of using social media and technology to build digital relationships for businesses, organizations, and individuals. Chris speaks, blogs, writes articles, and makes media of all kinds at chrisbrogan.com, a blog in the top 20 of the Advertising Age Power150, and in the top 100 on Technorati. Chris is also the cofounder of the PodCamp new media conference series, exploring the use of new media community tools to extend and build value. He currently serves as VP Strategy & Technology at CrossTech Media, an integrated media and events business. Chris frequently speaks at and attends marketing and social media events, sharing his passion for all things social media.
Chris won the Mass High Tech All Stars award for thought leaders for 2008. He has been quoted in US News & World Report, The Montreal Gazette, Newsweek, and some other places. It is my honor to interview Chris.
Tell me a little about yourself.
I live in Northern Massachusetts with my wife and two small kids. I live in a reclaimed factory building one block from a swimmable lake and two miles from the ocean.
What is social networking and why should I care?
Social networking is an online tool for making relationships along the lines of interests versus geography. Though you can use the tools to find people in your town and keep in touch, it's a great way to share interests that might not correspond with your neighbors. Maybe you're a back yard model rocket maker or maybe you're interested in forensic computing (how to recover data from dead computers), or maybe you're passionate about growing the best tomatoes. Social networks can connect you with other folks.
Okay, say I don't know anything about this social networking phenomenon - how can it work for my company?
Imagine you are a company with a phone and a fax machine and maybe a Yellow Pages ad. Those are all great. That's how we've done business since the 1970s. In lots of ways, social media and social networks are just the new phones of 2008 and beyond. You need to install a social phone to be able to answer it and do business.
Should you rush out and start raving about your own products and services? No! But you should get into these communities, learn how people talk about things, and make a few attempts at getting to understand how conversations happen, and how people signal their readiness to talk business. Sound like work? It is, but is it important? Sure.
Professionally, I teach businesses how to build and then answer their own social phones. I show them which tools might work well for which organizations, and I give them ideas on how to use the web in a human way to deliver more potential business relationships. I do this through consulting and execution, as well as through running events like the New Marketing Bootcamps that I run all over the US formally.
We are big believers in shopping local. How does your business fit into that model?
I love shopping local! Here's the crazy thing: I travel ALL the time, so "local" to me equals somewhere that I've arrived at via an airplane. My first step off a plane is to Google, so that I can ask it where things are. If you're doing paper-only marketing and advertising, you've lost my dollars already. Because I'll probably browse the local newspaper, and I might or might not see the ads. But I'll definitely 100% of the time ask Google where things are. If you're not maintaining some kind of active, useful, indexed web presence (a page that acts like a billboard doesn't count), then I'm probably not going to see you.
What kind of things should I be learning - or be involved in - online?
You should be learning how to extend everything you do into the web world. It's great to have word of mouth in person, but that doesn't last. There's no trace, no artifact, no record. If it's done online, too, it's there forever.
Where are you speaking this year? Where can I get more info about you?
Where aren't I speaking? I feel more active than a rockband. I try to keep people updated on my blog at http://www.chrisbrogan.com . Hopefully, I'll see you in person at some point.
What's coming in the future - any predictions?
I think there will be "velvet rope" social networks, meaning much more targeted and private. Our profiles will move between them, like currency in a credit card. That will be good for us, because the networks that are prevalent now, things like Facebook and Twitter, take a while before they make sense, but there are signs of better things to come. Sites like Angie's List, Yelp, and Craigslist are the harbingers of what might come from more targeted networks, especially for smaller businesses. And while you're at it check out VendorCity.com, which might also be useful to a small business leader.
Thanks Chris - it was great speaking with you!