Mario Sundar's Speakeasy

Spero Ventures. Early LinkedIn, Twitter. These are my thoughts on tech, brand, marketing and community.

The 3 sides of the Community Coin!

Time just flies by, when you’re having fun. It’s been really busy at work, and there are times when I think to myself — so I get paid to do this 🙂

I’d like to “Thank You” all for your kind words and best wishes. And, of course, to Jeremiah for the video intro. Speaking of Jeremiah, he had a great post on community marketing yesterday.

Taking a cue from Hugh Macleod’s illuminating post on the “Porous Membrane” (simple and brilliant), I’d like to distill Jeremiah’s ideas even further into just 3 components:

(Source: Hugh Macleod’s Gaping Void; May 9, 2005)

1. The Community/Customer (B)

Hugh calls B the customers. I’d like to take it one step further and see them as the community, esp. since we’re talking about a product/service that is “common, public, shared by all or many”. Now, there are some products that may not have as active a community (Enterprise servers, anyone), as the consumer oriented ones (iPods). Irrespective of that, the community manager will firstly have to be a customer evangelist thereby being able to identify with the community and its needs.

2. The Membrane (x)

Quoting Hugh:

6. So each market from a corporate point of view has an internal and external conversation. What separates the two is a membrane, otherwise known as “x”.

7. Every company’s membrane is different, and controlled by a host of different technical and cultural factors.

I’d like to think of the Community Evangelist as the one who connects the two entities A & B. They are the individuals entrusted with the task of pushing that membrane, aligning A and B and aiming for nirvana (see my definition in the “About” page). And did I mention, they also help humanify the company.

3. The Troops (A)

This is the seemingly less important but critical component whose participation in the conversation is imperative. This would include your product, engineering, and customer support teams as Jeremiah elucidates. The more aligned the two groups, A and B are, the easier it’d be for the evangelist to start & keep a smart conversation going.

And, it’s not always an easy task.

Jeremiah ends his post, with a ton of great examples of community marketers. Here are a few community evangelists missing from that list — Colin Devroe (Viddler), Craig Cmehill (SAP Developer), Anand Iyer (Microsoft Developer Evangelist) and Jake McKee (Community Guy). And I know a really cool community marketer who can throw the best parties in town… Anyone else, I’ve missed?

And, Yes, my post title doesn’t make much sense. Just sounded interesting!

Filed under: Miscellaneous

…and one more thing…

I started this journey of blogging almost a year ago (nudged on by my good friend, Jeremiah – thanks, buddy!) and here I am less than a year later embarking on another journey – this time as community evangelist at LinkedIn!

Jeremiah Owyang interviews Mario Sundar (this was right when I started at LinkedIn)

Play Video

I’m really excited at this opportunity to convert my preaching into practice. My immediate goals are pretty simple:

1. Help our users understand LinkedIn better
2. Help LinkedIn understand our users better

To accomplish that, my goal is to engage with the different communities of LinkedIn users out there; whether it be in the blogosphere, at discussion forums, or physical events with a goal of listening to their feedback.

Blog Focus?

The focus of this blog will continue to be centered around customer evangelism and community marketing; both of which I’ve been talking about ever since I started this blog. Moving forward, you’ll also see some examples of implementation, lessons learnt, social media experiments, etc…


To get uninterrupted access to my marketing thoughts, feel free to subscribe to the RSS feeds:

My Thoughts – Marketing Nirvana (subscribe)
My Career – LinkedIn Profile
My Photos – Flickr (subscribe)
My Email –

Thank You

I’d like to thank my fellow bloggers with whom it’s been great learning and sharing ideas — Damon Billian, Noah Kagan, Mack Collier, Karl Long, Ann Handley, CK, David Armano, Chris Thilk, Eric Kintz, Paul McEnany, Mike Wagner, Anand Iyer, Easton Ellsworth, Mukund Mohan, Debbie Weil, Will Pate, Tracy Sheridan and Shel Israel. (Have I missed anyone?)

The journey continues…

Filed under: About Mario Sundar, Business Blogging

Top 10 CEO Blogs Redux (03/07)

I know…It’s too early for a redux, but Damon pointed out that cool blogs such as the Marriott blog were missing. And, he was right — the New PR Wiki (maintained by Constantin Basturea) has been updated recently with new listings and so I had to re-rank the Top 10 CEO Blogs, taking into account these changes.

The result is that our good friend David Armano and Ogilvy PR blogger Rohit Bhargava (Influential Interactive Marketing) have crept into the Top 10 CEO rankings. However, former Top 10‘er Bob Lutz (GM) narrowly missed the cut. I also wasn’t sure if I should include my long-time (in blog years) friend, Ann Handley in the Top 10 since MarketingProfs Daily Fix is technically not a CEO blog 😦

# 10: Rohit Bhargava — Vice President, Ogilvy PR
(Blog | Technorati Rank: 5138)

#9: Richard Edelman — President & CEO, Edelman
(Blog | Technorati Rank: 4555)

# 8: Brad Feld — Managing Director, Mobius Venture Capital
(Blog | Technorati Rank: 3027)

# 7: David Sifry — Founder and CEO of Technorati
(Blog | Technorati Rank: 1594)

# 6: Jonathan Schwartz — COO, Sun Microsystems
(Blog | Technorati Rank: 1436)

# 5: David Armano — Creative VP, Digitas
(Blog | Technorati Rank: 1414)

# 4: Jeff Jarvis — President & Creative Director of Advance.nett
(Blog | Technorati Rank: 210)

# 3: Mark Cuban — Chairman, HDNet & Owner, Dallas Mavericks
(Blog | Technorati Rank: 138)

# 2: Robert Scoble — Vice President of Media Development, PodTech
(Blog | Technorati Rank: 111)

# 1: Steve Rubel — Senior Vice President in Edelman’s me2revolution practice
(Blog | Technorati Rank: 98)

All Technorati Ranks as of 03/13/07 (What’s the Technorati Rank? Learn more)

Note: As the source for these rankings, the New PR Wiki notes, “this is a list of weblogs authored by CEOs. Actually, this might be a misnomer. It’s a list of weblogs authored by people who are in a leadership position in various organizations (corporations, non-profit, etc.).”

However, it is easy to understand and so I’ve decided to stick with it for now, unless you have a better term. Any suggestions? Leave a comment.

Filed under: Business Blogging

5 Questions w/ Bill Lee of Customer Reference Forum

Customer Reference Management is the branch of Marketing that aims “to improve and enhance the level of advocacy a set of customers displays related to a vendor’s products & services”. The Customer Reference Forum (CRF) is the premiere event that brings together marketers from across the globe to share best practices on customer references.

I recently had an opportunity to ask Bill Lee (President, Customer Reference Forum) 5 questions on the Art of Customer References. If you’d like to find out what exactly is the value of customer references to a company’s marketing teams, read on…

Q1. This year’s CRF event seems to be focused on topics such as citizen marketers, customer communities, social media, etc… In your opinion, how has social networking impacted customer references within Corporate America? Is 2007 the year, social media will reach a tipping point among the customer reference community?

A: We’re going to cover a broad array of topics at the CRF, but yes, we are definitely going to explore social media and its implications on reference programs. I think social media will indeed reach a tipping point among all marketers, in terms of awareness. Corporate marketers of all types are very concerned that they are losing control of the conversation about their firms’ products and brands. But among all marketers, I think reference professionals — many of whom have spent years building close relationships with customers — are in a great position. With social media, they’ll simply take these relationships to new places using new forms.

Q2. How are enterprise customers adapting to the newly evolving paradigm of social media?

A: So far the lone users and bloggers who can send shockwaves through a major corporation seem to be getting a lot of the attention. In comparison, I think enterprise customers are going to find lower-key, but more systematic — and very effective — ways to use social media and other community tools to exchange information about vendors. If I’m a CIO contemplating a major technology implementation, for example, why should I limit myself to talking to the references provided by the buyer? When you’re talking about 6, 7 or even 8-figure implementations, I’d like to be part of a community of other CIOs who regularly exchange information in a sophisticated, systematic way about vendors

Q3. A few examples of evolutionary/revolutionary customer reference programs (maybe using social media) that you have been impressed with lately?

A: One of the best models for a reference program is SAP’s. In the last couple of years, Coleen Kaiser built it into a sophisticated global operation. Among other things, the SAP reference program has incorporated Fred Reicheld’s Net Promoter Score (NPS) into its operations, developed a reference program with its partners that created roughly a thousand new references in a matter of months, and is at the forefront of establishing the connection between references and revenue. The SAP program even trains sales on how to use references! As for reference programs making the best use of social media, stay tuned for our upcoming forum in Berkeley on April 23!

Q4. I’d recently written a post on the 5 New Rules of customer references, in which I spoke about the level of control that users of a community should have? Do you think there should be a difference in the level of control provided to B2C users vs. B2B users?

A: Both your post and the Creating Passionate Users post you refer to provide some valuable perspective. The rise of social media does not mean users will take total control. They don’t want total control. But they do want more information and more transparency than they’ve been getting, and I think they see social media and other community forums as a way to get these. That means that marketers are going to have to get used to giving up some control — a very scary thing for us! But the ones who don’t panic and find the opportunities to get their message out in this new world are going to thrive.

Q5. In the years past, there has been a perception that customer references “especially in the realm of big enterprise software projects like ERP and CRM—have ceased to have much real meaning” (Source: CIO Magazine). How do you think that has changed since the article came out in 4/2002?

A: I linked to that article shortly after we started our newsletter. It was a clarion call, in my view, to avoid the tendency we have to sugar coat everything that is said about our products and services — even to the extent of rewarding a customer in exchange for acting as a reference! That, of course, destroys their credibility. In the years since, I’ve sensed a growing movement — particularly among the leading programs — to move away from rewards, points programs, free consulting, etc, in exchange for acting as a reference. It’s OK to provide a reasonable “thank you” gift to a customer who’s spent a day presenting at your industry conference. It’s not OK to provide a quid pro quo.

Thanks for your candid responses, Bill. So what do you think will be the greatest takeaway for corporate marketers from Customer Reference Forum — Spring 07?

A: The greatest takeaway will be the relationships participants establish and build with their peers. With respect to social media, the great takeaway will be that this phenomenon, scary as it may seem, will present tremendous opportunities to reference programs and the professionals who run them.

Feel free to leave a question for Bill in the comments section below.

Filed under: Business Blogging

Top 10 CEO Blogs (March 2007)

Well, it’s Monday again, and there’s no better time to take a look at our Quarterly listing of top CEO blogs out there in the blogosphere. This time around, we see very few changes to the list, but the one common theme happens to be that most CEO blogs excepting Mark Cuban’s seems to have fallen down a few notches in the popularity/links contest as can be verified by their Technorati rankings.

Here are the Top 10 CEO blogs (as of March 07, listed by Technorati rankings):

# 1: Marc Cuban, HDNET & Dallas Mavericks

# 2: Jeff Jarvis, President & Creative Director of Advance.nett

# 3: Jonathan Schwartz, COO, Sun Microsystems

# 4: David Sifry, Founder and CEO of Technorati

# 5: Brad Feld, Mobius Venture Capital

# 6: Richard Edelman, President & CEO, Edelman

# 7: Bob Lutz, Vice Chairman, General Motors Corporation

# 8: Adam Kalsey, CTO of Pheedo

# 9: Jeff Clavier, Managing Partner, SoftTech VC

# 10: Brian Carroll, CEO, InTouch

Joshua Porter from Bocardo had a post earlier today where he summarized 9 lessons for would-be bloggers (in general) and I was surprised to see how many of those rules actually explain the need for corporate blogs. Take a look at the 9 Lessons for Would-be Bloggers here (via Joshua Porter‘s blog)

What is your favorite corporate blog, yet?

Filed under: Business Blogging

Twitter, Canon, and My Mac

Twitter: Well, after a bit of trepidation I’ve finally stepped into the “LARGE, loud and messy chat room” that is Twitter. For those who haven’t heard of Twitter. Here’s a brief intro:

A global community of friends and strangers answering one simple question: What are you doing? Answer on your phone, IM, or right here on the web!

What’s the fascination?

Twitter is addictive (thanks, Jeremiah!), owing to its unique blend of IM chat room meets persistent flash mobs. To me personally, once I have my friends on, it definitely is a great way to let them “read my thoughts”.

From a marketing perspective, looks like twitter could become a cool PR/News feed service (for e.g. BBC). It’s also a great way to get instant news on important earth-shattering items such as an earthquake, for example. But all this is based on the premise that you are addicted to RSS.

Here’s my twitter page and my twitter id is mariosundar.

Canon SD700 IS:

You may have read my not-so-recent post on my dilemma regarding purchase of a camera. I was then thinking of a digital SLR and received feedback from readers on a suitable camera. Nothing happened until now, I realize I needed a smaller, simpler point-and-shoot camera that’s easy to carry around for events, parties, etc…

I started with the Canon SD800 IS and the Sony DSC-T10, both of which were priced similar and had similar features. However, I ended up with the Canon SD700 IS since it has the features I am looking for, cost $50 lesser (than the 800) and looked better. Plus, my friend Jeremiah recently purchased it.

My Mac
: Yes, finally after months of thought I decided to go ahead and purchase my first Mac – the MacBook.

There is no doubt that the Mac has slowly reached a tipping point when it comes to sales growth but personally my conversion was wrought due to my tech-crush on the Mac, which was fueled by the persistent-yet-subtle evangelism of high-profile users such as Om Malik and Guy Kawasaki.

Anyways, if you are contemplating a Mac purchase, add Amazon to your list of options. No tax and free 2-day shipping (w/ Amazon Prime). Nice.

Any recent Mac converts out there? Any thoughts/tips?

Filed under: Twitter

5 Posts for the weekend

Let’s close this week’s blogging with five of my favorite blog posts I’ve collated over time; two on corporate blogging and three on community marketing. Here goes:

2 posts on Corporate Blogging

1. Should Steve Jobs blog?

A fascinating thought convincingly established by Arik Hesseldahl of Business Week. While some commenters believe Steve already has a plethora of delivery platforms to choose from, my personal belief is that his blogging will definitely be a great way for Steve to connect with his audience in the most authentic and honest manner possible.

It will also be a great way for Apple to counter some negative perception of being arrogant, given their recent trail of phenomenal success. And boy, what a great example, we blog enthusiasts would have to persuade our peers to start blogging. If Steve can, you can too.

2. Dell: Look who’s not talking now

Business 2.0’s ever aggressive blogger Owen Thomas, who’s been getting a lot of TechMeme face time recently, throws down the gauntlet:

It’s disappointing to revisit our story from three years ago and realize we got it wrong. We did note that Dell’s business model was about to face “its biggest challenge.” What we didn’t realize was that Michael Dell and Kevin Rollins weren’t up to it.

Would this be a good reason for Dell to use their corporate blog to respond to criticism?

3 Posts on Community Marketing

1. 5 New Jobs of the Web 2.0 generation:

Web Worker Daily, one of my favorite blogs talks about the 5 New jobs for a web-worker. I’d my fingers crossed as I read through the five, all the while thinking “there’s gotta be something on community”, and voila, I give you the “community curator”:

The final entrepreneurship example is to build a community. Sites like simply the software setup for your social network. All that’s left is creating a site that’s sticky; a place where what’s shared is valuable and worth coming back to again and again.

I’ll definitely agree with Matthew that this would be a tough, challenging, yet extremely rewarding job. If you’ve a product or a service used by millions of users, there definitely ought to be communities built around it, and web 2.0 is only making it easier.

2. Can Social networks drive traffic?

Heather Hopkins (Director, Research – Hitwise UK) shows how targeted community campaigns utilizing social networks such as MySpace doubles web traffic to relevant shopping websites. And here’s the example to showcase that.

3. Difference between viral marketing and community marketing

A great post that shows the major difference between a viral marketing campaign and community marketing campaign (via The Daily Graze) through Alexa graphs. Here’s a teaser:

Viral Marketing graph (EepyBird):

Community Marketing graph

Hope that’ll keep you going for the rest of the weekend. Read the entire post here.

I’ll be back with more on Monday. Have a great weekend!

Trivia: This is Marketing Nirvana’s 200th Post and we just hit 488 subscribers!

Filed under: Uncategorized

Customer References | The 5 New Rules

Before we start, let’s take a look at the Wikipedia definition of what we’re talking about here. Customer Reference Management is used

… to improve and enhance the level of “advocacy” a set of customers displays related to a vendor’s products & services. Specifically, a vendor’s objective is to gain referrals and positive “word of mouth” from this advocacy

Here’s my take on the five new rules in Customer Reference Management:

1. From “creating advocates” to “finding evangelists”

The wave of the future hinges on the ability of companies’ to embrace their customer evangelists and to enable them to preach the benefits of the product/service to the non-believers/in business terms – prospects. So, the goal shifts from creating advocates to instead finding evangelists and helping amplify their “word-of-mouth” message.

2. Focus on community

Once you start utilizing your corporate website to bring together your customer evangelists, you’ve got to create a virtual sandbox to let them interact with one another. This has definitely been the utopia that customer reference managers have longed for, but now technology is enabling that for even the smallest of websites/blogs. On the simplest level, technology like MyBlogLog helps you provide that feature to your community of readers.

3. Keep it real

Speaking of community, Mack Collier in a recent post, laments the use of social media (corporate blogs) as online brochures!

Readers don’t want to come to your blog to hear about your company every day, that doesn’t excite them. But what does excite them, is when you respect your customers enough to tailor your content so that it appeals to them. That builds readership, and loyalty.

Customer reference material too will have to be made more accessible to users based on their specific interests. And more interestingly, I believe customer references will embrace user-generated content in addition to corporate content?

4. How much control?

Now, once you create a community of users, the next question that you may have is: what level of control should users have?. In the era of “more control is good”, I’d recommend your reading Creating Passionate Users’ brilliant piece on the pain-to-perceived-payoff ratio when it comes to defining user control.

To give you some insight into the piece, let me just say that the post is based on the fact that “Putting users first does not necessarily mean putting users in charge“.

5. Video to supplement text/audio/events

Until now, customer reference material was defined as

…participation in a written case study, speaking on a telephone call with a potential customer or the media, or engaging in an event or seminar to share the story of a product or services success.

As you can see from the above definition, the deliverables in all the above cases is text, audio and events. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! However, social media and user-generated content is definitely the wave of the future, when it comes to customer references. Here’s my friend Jeremiah’s blog post on the “Impact of Social Media on Customer References

Want to find out more, you may want to check out Jeremiah’s presentation on the “Rise of Customer Communities” at the Customer References Forum in April 23-25 at Berkeley.

Filed under: Miscellaneous