Mario Sundar's Speakeasy

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

Email Sucks! How Facebook email can fix that.

Update: I’ve added my thoughts on a perfectly timed post from Steve Gillmor on the same topic. See end of this post.

Note to self: Never go to bed on an unpublished blog post, esp. one that I was tremendously excited about. Cos, when you wake up you realize someone has written up an awesome piece on those ideas. Well, I did think Gizmodo articulated very well, how FB could create your ultimate priority inbox. After the jump, my original post with my thoughts.

There has been a ton of twitter chatter on Facebook’s looming launch of an email system or a revamp of their messenger system. Of course, there are rumors of their partnering with Microsoft to incorporate Outlook email as the foundation for this email.

Facebook’s Priority Inbox will beat Gmail’s lame Priority Inbox

Despite its best intentions, Gmail’s priority inbox is still a melange of mistakes that I’ve to keep training and fact is it never learns, cos it really does NOT know the people I’m communicating with. Instead the algorithm does a bad interpretation (I’m guessing) based on frequency, senders, etc. And, that’s the problem with email. The senders range from people we know, trust to the spammer next door.

Enter Facebook’s social graph.

Since Gizmodo, articulated this so well, here’s Jesus Diaz’s speculation about Priority Inbox.

Moreover, it’s not only about separating what is important and what is not. Their data tracking and analysis could allow them to do many other things. For example, they just have to analyze who is tagging you in photos, who is with you in those photos, to know who are your real friends, and categorize mail accordingly. They can automatically classify mail from the person who just became your fiance or lower the priority of that ex who keeps mailing you. The possibilities of using your social interactions to enhance the mail experience are endless.

“People tagging” emails will kill the suckiness of group emails

In addition, I think Facebook could use their secret weapon – tagging – to help reduce noise and clutter in your email as well. They’ve  used tagging most famously in photos, but also notes, groups, status updates and places to spread “targeted virality”. The art of tagging offers a targeted high to the individuals who then come back to the site to use it more. The red alert sign on the top left hand corner probably elicits a pavlovian response from its users by now. Y’know it does.

This is something I aggressively requested from Tweetie (before they were Twitter, nearly 18 months ago) but still notifications is not a well thought out twitter mechanism. But on Facebook, imagine, if you could tag just the friends you wanted to respond to an email even when you send a group email. That way the red alert symbol in the top left hand corner will constantly remind you when you actually have priority emails from folks in your social graph or could feed into the social algorithm that prioritizes your email.

I’m sure there’s so much more FB could do to make emails less sucky, but this would be a start. [Would love to hear from you how you think FB email will change email? Comment away!]

Updated: I just stumbled upon a perfectly timed TechCrunch post from Steve Gillmor on this same topic:

What happens now is that these stream objects are lit up with transactional properties. Code gets run based on incoming events, pulling it out of the teeming inbox before we see it and converted into actions predetermined by our inference engines and workflow rules. This is not AI or smart computing; it’s harvesting social signals in the context of realtime economics. If Facebook reinvents email by submerging it in the stream, they’ll have something to announce.

This reminds me of a couple of things, the notifications do mean that your Facebook stream will now contain messages from your FBmail Inbox. But, I do think these notifications could be far more targeted, valuable and productive given hints you give Facebook on your usage of their different social apps (photos, etc.) as well as explicit permission you give it through tagging.

Techmeme also just picked up the thread.

Yes / No? You don’t think this will be the case. Discuss in the comments section or @mariosundar me.

Filed under: Facebook

Tips: 3 easy steps to find a job on LinkedIn

Here’s one of those videos that does a good job of explaining why LinkedIn works better than any other site at helping you find exactly the job you want with a lil’ help from your friends.

Steps 2 and 3 are key. A lot of folks don’t perform these steps thoroughly enough and wonder why it doesn’t work. For starters, learn how to do an “Advanced Search” ( on LinkedIn correctly (trying out many permutations is key, much like searching on Google) while others ignore the power of a mutual intro.

If you’ve a friend who’s looking for a job, please pass on this video. And, check out other LinkedIn tips I’ve gathered here.

If you find this content useful, subscribe to my blog, or talk to me on Twitter!

Filed under: Linkedin

Stats: More B2B firms (not B2C) use social media

Now that’s a surprise. A lot of companies are dabbling in social media and trying to figure out what’s the right approach to social marketing. But, it’s telling that more of these firms trying it out are from the B2B world than B2C. There’s a lot to consume in this graphic but a few key points after the jump. Hat tip to Mashable.

Key points:

  • More B2B companies (than B2C firms) dabbling in social media cluelessly (will explain)
  • Those B2B firms are less active on social media than their B2C counterparts
  • B2B firms also have less executive approval, less budgets and more of them think it’s irrelevance (uh!)
  • Looks like Facebook and LinkedIn were ranked as the top two social networking sites that these B2B companies have tried out (Yes, I work at LinkedIn)
  • Those that do measure social media ROI (half of them) find online marketing more effective than traditional (and I’m guessing online – encompasses social)

That’s your stats for the day. Hope you enjoyed it. I’ve got a couple more interesting posts lined up. So come back tomorrow for more.

And, the only thing I’d add is – whether you’re a B2B or B2C firm, NEVER start with the tools in mind. Always, start with goals and ROI. Here’s a post I wrote on the very same topic when corporate blogging was all the rage among companies.

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Filed under: Miscellaneous

How to source $180K of business on LinkedIn

Ever so often, I find myself talking to a sales or biz dev person who’s a big fan of LinkedIn. While I’d rather not spend too much time extolling the virtues of a company I work for on this blog, I’d still like to share valuable tips and tricks that will be useful to folks in sales and bizdev – even if it’s about my company.

Here’s a great case study (via Smart Blog on Social Media) on how the Carlton group of hotels sourced new business worth $180K in 90 days. What’s even more useful for you (if you’re in sales) is how they did it:

  • Build a closely held network. Contrary to conventional wisdom, Freesource (the consultancy that helped their client – Carlton group of hotels) recommends only connecting to people you really know and trust. Managing tightly held, individual communities on LinkedIn will maximize the value of the platform and the quality of in-bound/out-bound business opportunities for your representatives.
  • Teach sales representatives how to benefit from search engine optimization. Encourage sales reps and staff to identify with the hotel’s offerings on LinkedIn and align their profiles to meet their goals. Have them incorporate strategic keywords into their job titles, summaries, specialties and job descriptions to benefit from increased Web hits.
  • Learn about your prospects. Use LinkedIn for “social CRM” throughout the entire sales process, Freesource recommends. Active, daily use of LinkedIn will give employees a better understanding of their current and future clients — turning cold calls into warm handshakes, shortening sales cycles and giving you greater share of wallet through stronger relationship management.
  • Create prospecting efficiencies. In-depth knowledge of Boolean strings, LinkedIn’s basic and advanced search capabilities, as well as its newly revamped ”Company Pages” will help a sales team find new, qualified leads faster. Lastly, use tools such as LinkedIn’s SlideShare application to provide virtual property tours so that the profile can bring in leads around the clock.

My $0.02:

Don’t do one-offs. Stay the course on LinkedIn.

We recommend many of these tips to our users (connect with people you know, SEO benefits, prospect management), but I think it’s worth reminding businesses that the key to success on LinkedIn is a consolidated strategy that spans your entire team that will bring you success both in the long term and the mid-term (see above story).

Be creative.

I’d also add, be creative about your usage of LinkedIn. There are a lot of untapped resources as well as new features on our site. A case in point: using our slideshare application to provide virtual property tours. Or, using our newly redesigned Company Pages, both of which can be put to best use in this situation. If you’d like to keep track of the latest product innovation, bookmark this.

If you find this content useful, subscribe to my blog, or talk to me on Twitter!

Filed under: Linkedin

Companies! Shape up your social media policy or else?!

Update: Check out Techmeme for a slew of interesting viewpoints on this topic.

I’ve always been a strong advocate of companies proactively creating and sharing social media guidelines within their organizations to encourage their employees to both build a strong brand for themselves on social platforms like Facebook or LinkedIn but at the same time, help them avoid painful pitfalls.

HuffingtonPost just picked up a New York Times piece that shone the spotlight on a “ground breaking case”. The National Labor Review Board called the firing of an employee (on the basis of a Facebook post), illegal.

He said. She said.

A company fired an employee for disparaging remarks she made about her supervisor on Facebook. They quoted their social media policy “that bars employees from depicting the company “in any way” on Facebook or other social media sites in which they post pictures of themselves.

And, the National Labor Relations Board now accuses the company of illegally firing the employee, arguing that “workers’ criticisms of their bosses or companies on a social networking site are generally a protected activity and that employers would be violating the law by punishing workers for such statements.

What does this case mean for companies?

It remains to be seen how this case pans out as it’s pending review on Jan 25th. That said, if you’re a small business or a corporation, first check if you’ve a social media policy or guidelines but more importantly, have you shared this information across your organization, the larger you are – the more complicated that may be.

As for this case, the resolution could go either way if the company can make a good case for defamation. That said, it was super-interesting that the supportive comments the employee received from her colleagues is what made the labor board equate this with a union, which they argue is protected speech.

As a company, there’s not much you can do over your employees’ usage of social media in their personal time. That’s a given. But, trying to get them to understand what responsible usage of social media is, can and should be done.

Education is better than a cure.

Having a social media policy is mandatory. Tip: getting your employees to help craft it collaboratively is ideal. At LinkedIn, over a year ago, we hosted two brainstorm sessions where we invited all interested employees to learn, share and help craft our guidelines. This led to our first set of social media guidelines which we socialized internally, but guess what. Since then we’ve more than doubled in the # of employees and so we now include the guidelines during orientation.

Also, keep in mind all your global teams and the international laws that are in play here. Stay tuned for more how-to posts on this topic. In the meanwhile, check out my other posts on social media guidelines here.

Does your company have a set of social media guidelines? Leave a comment.

For more thoughts from my peers in this space. Check out Techmeme.

Mario Sundar on TechMeme

Filed under: Best-of, Employee Engagement, Miscellaneous

Why I moved to Toronto

This is surreal.

Just last week, I was chilling on a sailboat with my friends in San Francisco. And, here I am writing this post from a hotel room in Toronto, the culmination of a week of hectic activities that’s been months in the making.

My LinkedIn story, continues…

I’m stoked at the continuation of a super-exciting journey I began at LinkedIn close to 4 years ago (here’s a video Jeremiah took when I just started out here), and boy, what an awesome roller coaster it’s been. The opportunity to work with some of my favorite social media peeps in the world, a mentor from whom I’ve learnt a ton, a CEO who truly gets social media, some really smart, funny, entertaining, colleagues, and a chance to change the way our users and companies perceive and use LinkedIn.

But, I digress… So, what am I doing in Toronto at LinkedIn’s Canada office? My role moving forward, will be to take LinkedIn’s social media marketing efforts global. Toronto, is the central hub from where I can work with our global teams at creating a new paradigm for our marketing and PR efforts across the globe.

Moving forward, my focus areas at LinkedIn:

1. Global blog editor of the LinkedIn blog

  • When we started the LinkedIn blog, our primary goal was to not just create the source of information around LinkedIn but more importantly to create a dialogue between the folks behind LinkedIn (product, engineering, design, developers, etc.) and our users. Since then we’ve had over 80 contributing bloggers from within the company and over 8000 conversations.
  • The goal now is to tailor this information to users in different parts of the world as well as craft content that’s more in tune with users in different countries. For starters, we’ve LinkedIn in 6 different languages, and half of our users are from outside of the US. So, that’s a starting point, right there.

2. Localization of social media strategy globally

  • As my good friends Lionel Menchaca and Jeremiah Owyang say repeatedly, you always find where your users are and engage with them on their platforms of choice. We’re currently engaging with our users on multiple channels including LinkedIn (of course), Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, and YouTube.
  • The next goal would be to create a comprehensive strategy around content and engagement on these different platforms, whether it be better integration of social with our blog or better routing of this feedback with customer service (for e.g.). Jeremiah just hinted at how 2011 is going to be the year of the social corporate website and I’m sure corporate blogs will be no exception to this development.

3. Working with companies on how-to do LinkedIn right

  • Increasingly, I’ve been having conversations with my social media peers at different companies – Tom Hoehn (Kodak), Esteban Contreras (Samsung), James Musick (Genentech) for e.g. – to share LinkedIn and social media best practices. Something I’ll continue to share these with you on this blog.

And, now with Shannon Stubo leading our PR team back in HQ, the ever dependable Krista Canfield – my colleague, friend and “shoe fanatic” (it’s true), and some new additions to our team, it’s the right time to take this program global and I’m excited that I get to do that from a city as vibrant as Toronto.

So, if you’re a professional in – Marketing, PR, HR or Customer Service – come back to the blog for more information on topics like: business blogging, ceo communication, employee engagement, linkedin tips and more.

And, if you or your team is responsible for social media in your small business or corporation, I’d love to hear from you. Leave me a comment or @mariosundar me.

Wanna follow my adventures in Toronto – find me on Twitter? Want to learn more about social media and corporations, subscribe to my blog.

Filed under: About Mario Sundar