Mario Sundar's Speakeasy

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

Are you in Social Media? Come, join our LinkedIn group!

As LinkedIn’s social media guy for the past nearly five years, I’ve had an opportunity to talk to tons of folks at similar roles at companies big and small. Many of these conversations yield valuable insights into running social media programs but they never gets shared with the larger community who’ll find that super-useful.

With that goal in mind, a few of us folks, have created a group on LinkedIn.

LinkedIn group for Social Media practitioners


The Group Goal:

  1. Learning is good, Sharing is better: We wanted to get social media managers at companies sharing the lessons they’ve learned doing social media with the broader community
  2. More signal, less noise: No matter where you go as a social media manager you find groups with thousands of members who may or may not be working on social media projects. There’s a ton of noise out there that we’d like to avoid.
  3. Real social media expertise: There is a dearth of real knowledge on how social media is implemented by companies. And, companies are still grappling with questions after they have jumped onto the bandwagon. The group hopes to share some real-world wins with companies.

We had an original goal of hitting 50 group members in the first few weeks and and we have more requests than we can handle. And, we hope to grow the group purely through good old word of mouth. So, if you know someone who is implementing social media at companies or small businesses, you may wanna share this group with them.

What is the group mix? 

To achieve our goal of surfacing real world examples and helping the social media community, we aim to grow the membership along three broad categories. If you’re in the space, you’ll probably recognize a lot of the folks mentioned below. Here are some examples of the social media folks (areas as broad as community, marketing, PR at companies) you’ll find in our group today.

I. Companies, Startups, and Universities 

  1. Lionel from Dell
  2. Tom from Kodak
  3. Sonal at Xerox PARC
  4. Esteban at Samsung
  5. James from Genentech
  6. Ian from Stanford University
  7. Christopher at AT&T
  8. Umang from Microsoft
  9. Ryan at NBC
  10. Vanessa from Hilton …

II. Social Platforms 

  1. Yours truly at LinkedIn
  2. Karen from Twitter (just started at Twitter this week)
  3. Ramya at YouTube News and Politics
  4. Oliver from Google

I’ve also invited the social / community folks from Google, and Google+, but they are yet to join. I’m not sure who currently runs Facebook’s blog (social and community efforts) let me know or ping them with the group link. Or, just leave a comment.

III. Events, Conferences and Media

  1. Kristie from Social Media Club
  2. Amalia from TNW
  3. Robyn from RWW, besides others…

This should give you an example of what to expect should you join the group and your peers you’ll find in the group.

Of course, the ultimate goal is to surface any shared learnings we have as a group that will benefit the larger community of social media practitioners.  So, come join us.

p.s. Wondering why we picked LinkedIn groups. I considered a broad range of options and LinkedIn was not only the ideal setting (given most social media managers at companies can be found on the platform) but it’s also a great way to check out their latest social media work (through their up-to-date LinkedIn profiles vs. using Google Groups for e.g. that’s more email based).

Are you in social media? Come join us!

Filed under: Best-of, Miscellaneous

What Would Steve Jobs Do?

The entire technology world has collectively mourned this past week, the recent passing away of Steve Jobs. There have been numerous eulogies (most of them very well written) but the most important ones will always remain the personal anecdotes about Jobs. I myself mourned his loss with this tribute, and readers of this blog and my tumblr have probably read the countless posts I’ve written on Jobs, his words, and his work.

What would Steve Jobs do?

What would Steve Jobs do?

But, I think it’s easy to deify the man with all those eulogies and forget what he really stood for. I though John Lilly from Greylock Partners really nailed it by putting things in the right perspective.

I’m a little uncomfortable with the outpouring of sentiment about people who want to be like Steve. There’s a sort of beatification going on that I think misses the point. He was never a nostalgic man at all, and I can’t help but feel like he would think this posthumous attention was, in a lot of ways, a waste — seems like he’d have wanted people to get back to inventing.

Amen to that. I think this echoes one of my favorite essays of all time – Self Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson – which Emerson begins with:

To believe in your own thought, to believe what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men – that is genius. Familiar as the voice of the mind is to each, the highest merit we ascribe to Moses, Plato, and Milton, is that they set at naught books and traditions, and spoke not what men, but what they thought. A man, should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the lustre of the firmament from bards and sages.

So, what would Jobs do? John’s post, borrows from Naval’s tweet, summarizes thus:

Be yourself and work as hard as you can to bring wonderful things into the world. Figure out how you want to contribute and do that, in your own way, on your own terms, as hard as you can, as much as you can, as long as you can.

Oddly enough, that line reminds me of another line from Self Reliance and I think this is a great message to takeaway with us, as we aim to accomplish the best that we can, in our chosen lines of work — with passion, dedication and integrity.

Trust thyself; every heart vibrates to that iron string. Accept the place that providence has found for you, the society of your contemporaries, the connection of events. Great men have always done so, and confided themselves childlike to the genius of their age, betraying their perception that the absolutely trustworthy was seated at their heart, working through their hands, predominating through all their being.

So, let’s get out there and kick some butt! And, really make a difference in our lives and that of the people around us. Thank You, Steve!


Filed under: Miscellaneous

Companies: Why your LinkedIn Page is now a really big deal

As we’ve hinted at in the recent past, LinkedIn just launched the ability for companies to update their LinkedIn Company page, like companies could have been able to do on their Twitter and Facebook pages. In the past, LinkedIn’s Company page was populated only with select auto-generated content like job changes for e.g. Now, things have changed.

Moving forward, all companies or small businesses with a LinkedIn Company Page can customize updates to their followers (whether it is a customer, job seeker or a prospective client). Here’s why it’s a pretty big deal.

What’s new?

With this new release, companies (with an assigned administrator and whose company page is set to “designated admins only”) will have the flexibility to share the latest on the company directly to all of their followers on their company page’s “Overview” tab.

Keep in mind your status updates can be up to 500 characters long and can support URLs with multimedia as well. Given that any LinkedIn member can comment, like or share your Company’s status update, this is a great way to build engagement with customers, potential employees and prospects alike. – Ryan Roslansky, who runs our Company Pages product (though Ryan manages the larger team, I found that my colleague Mike Grishaver runs the specific product itself. Hat tip to Karen Chin!)

Why should it matter to companies or small businesses

1. The confluence of company and brand 

So, why is this a big deal for companies? For starters, this is something companies had been clamoring for a long time and given the recent pace of adoption we’ve seen with millions of company pages and tens of millions of LinkedIn members following companies already, the scope and impact of Company Pages is only gonna grow.

What I find most exciting about this development is that, while Twitter and Facebook focus solely on the mainstream consumer brand experience and its accompanying follower base, a LinkedIn Company page is probably the only place that you can cater to both external (consumers) and internal (employees) audiences. That’s a rare combination, which while possible on Twitter / Facebook, is way more powerful on LinkedIn, given the professional scale. (Disclosure: As a reader, if you don’t know this yet — I work at LinkedIn)

2. It’s just before the tipping point 

Getting in sooner vs. later on social platforms not only lets you claim your ground, but also helps you build a larger following faster. So, building a huge follower base on Twitter these days is more difficult than during those early days. On LinkedIn, the number of company pages, the audience and timing feels like it’s just before the tipping point.

It’s large enough to be a happening place (over 120 million professionals) but it’s not big enough that its unwieldy (only 2 million companies have their profiles on yet), so it’s a great point in time to create one for your company or small business before you get lost in the ensuing land grab.

3. Find a targeted audience and measure yourself

This is probably the most important reason for the right company in the right space (B2B for e.g.) or small business to capitalize on the opportunities posed by LinkedIn. The people on LinkedIn are different from the folks on other social networking sites.

As a marketer, if your goal is to reach professionals there is no better place on the planet than to engage with them on LinkedIn. Let the facts speak for themselves, but I’m amazed at how huge Fortune 500 corporations like IBM or Microsoft are on LinkedIn compared to their equivalent on Twitter for e.g. Here’s a sample:

  1. IBM Company Page: ~450,000 followers, +10,000 employees
  2. Microsoft: ~330,000 followers, +10,000 employees
  3. Oracle: ~230,000 followers, +10,000 employees
  4. HP: ~350,000 followers, +10,000 employees
  5. Google: ~320,000 followers, +10,000 employees

And, I could go on. But, if you’re running social media teams at any of the millions of companies on LinkedIn and you’re not taking a more active role on your LinkedIn Company page, you should be fired.

And one more thing.

ROI. As someone who runs social media for a social media company, it’s my job to figure out measurement models on the key social networks that LinkedIn (the company) has a presence on. LinkedIn Company Pages comes with an analytics component that’s similar to the one you’d find on Facebook for e.g. More on that in another post.

In the coming weeks, I’ll delve into more Company Page details. Follow me here.

So, whether you work for a large company or a small business, you better be setting up a LinkedIn Company Page. And, if you have one already. Start talking, start sharing your updates now — to the people who matter most to your business: Your Employees. Your Customers. Your Prospects.

Filed under: Linkedin, LinkedIn Features,

Pinterest: Attack of the Tumblr Clones

Pinterest has been in the news lately. Pinterest, who?

I bet most people reading this blog are wondering what is Pinterest? TechCrunch just quoted their CEO about Pinterest joining the ranks of Twitter and Facebook as self-expression engines?! Not sure whether Twitter or Facebook are self-expression engines today, but Pinterest is one of many Tumblr clones that’s been killing it, lately.

Episode I: Tumblr’s raison d’etre?

A while back I’d asked whether Facebook is a walled tumblelog, and since then Tumblr has taken off in a big way. I mean, BIG way. Tumblr has established itself as the de facto social creativity platform on the planet. They’re the intersection of social and the creative arts (much like Apple’s at the intersection of tech and liberal arts) and Tumblr has excelled at scaling their site (with its GIF-heavy traffic) while maintaining their niche street cred.

Yes, I've to quote Jobs in every post I write. Pic Source: Gdgt

Episode II: The Attack of the Tumblr Clones

Enter 4 new sites that are carving out a name for themselves by emulating the tumblr model: focus on creativity (fashion, style, photography, etc.), make it super-easy way to create content, reblog, and like, and most importantly — create a vibrant community that loves said niche creative content. Each of them are doing it in their own way, and some of them have hit critical mass: Pinterest (Shopping), Instagram (Photography), Fancy & Everlane (Shopping).

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Episode III: The Commercialization of the Tumblr model

For now, I’m gonna focus on the two that are closest to Tumblr’s model of “self-expression” but aim to monetize your creativity by focusing on stuff that you can buy. How do they do that? By making it easy for you to “want”, “pin”,  or “fancy” stuff that you can buy. I didn’t say that; they did.

“The best way for a startup to get a dataset like that is to create some sort of self-expression platform, a way to express what you’re into …,” says Lavingia, who also designed the iPhone app. “You can’t directly ask users, ‘Hey we’d love all of your data! List the songs you like and the albums you’ve bought and the places you’ve visited and the food you’ve eaten.’ But you need these answers to ultimately make money.”

It’s one of the reasons, I don’t “like” stuff on Facebook, since I think it’s like a holiday party turned pyramid scheme garage sale. How long would you stay at that party? Also, Pinterest shouldn’t be talking about “getting a dataset” at this point. I think Lavingia has a knack for designing socially desirable sites (Turntable, Pinterest) and they are obviously focused on exploding the virality of Pinterest, but talk of monetizing my wants at this early stage creeps me out.

I spend a lot more time on Tumblr and Quora these days than on Facebook, primarily cos there is a vibrant, authentic community that I enjoy hanging out with; not because I feel like I’m being sold to. The minute I feel that my actions subject to relentless ads, I’d spend less time there. But, maybe the masses are different and could care less. I think the key is how the ad’s done, cos we all know, ads (besides death and taxes) is a constant in life.

Tumblr too, has wisely avoided this conundrum thus far but I find it interesting that sites like Pinterest will come out and embrace the fact that they want to monetize your expression. I think, Alexia, nailed the conclusion.

And we become so obsessed that we fail to fully realize that our self-expression is subsequently being catalogued, repackaged, and sold to the highest bidder — if a company has reached that stage in its growth. For a chance at reaching the top of that pyramid, hell maybe it’s worth it.

Frankly, I don’t think it’s worth it. Sometimes you just wanna go, where everybody knows your name. That is all.

Filed under: Pinterest, Tumblr, , , ,


Problem with the game now, there ain’t no innovation
I see my shit all in your shit, we call that imitation
And they say that’s flattering, but I ain’t flattered at all
Matter fact y’all need to practice that more
J. Cole, Cole World

I’ve been planning to write a post ever since I watched Mark Zuckerberg’s keynote (where he launched Timeline – more on that later). But, then just last week I saw this and it creeped me out. So, Jobs, steps down as CEO and every Zuck, Bezos and Harry decide to literally rip off the presentation style of Steve Jobs. That’s just not cool.

But, I digress. Let’s catch some make-believe as CEOs try to play Steve Jobs.

Zuckerberg as Jobs

WTF! 7 minutes of Andy Samberg introducing a tech conference. You know that even in SNL segments we can’t take Samberg in more than 3 minute bytes. And, what’s with all the awful “humor” (I’m Zuckerberg, he’s Andy Samberg, and we couldn’t have Eisenberg here, so I’ll mimic Eisenberg). C’mon, guys. This ain’t high-school no more.

What’s worse is that this is a bit that Jobs introduced in his keynotes. First, in 1999 when Noah Wyle (who played Jobs in “Pirates of the Silicon Valley“) played Jobs on stage before Jobs’ adoring fans. Noah’s intro was less than a minute long. That was it. Well timed humor about the movie and a joke or two about Jobs temperament – for another minute. And, he’s gone. That’s how it’s done.

And, Jobs himself has overplayed that shtick. More recently, PC guy (played by the ever-adorable “The Daily Show” “reporter” John Hodgman) did a “I’m Steve Jobs” shtick and it was funny, short, and poked fun at Microsoft. Who doesn’t like an anti-PC ad, eh?

Bezos as Jobs

So, in short. The Samberg shtick was pure Jobs imitation. And, more importantly, it wasn’t funny and was way too long.

Things got a lil’ creepy when Bezos, whose maniacal laughter I fear, decided to jump on the “I’ll present as Jobs” world. This is him introducing the new Kindle at Amazon World or whatever it’s called. What’s with the deliberate stilted pacing that’ll make any viewer go nuts. C’mon, be yourself. Smile a little during your presentation. Don’t take yourself so seriously. And quit ripping off Jobs’ style. Trust me, it ain’t flattery.

One of the comments on the above Youtube video nailed it.

I love how dramatically he reveals things a la Steve Jobs to none of the cheers typical of an Apple presentation.

mgaums 1 day ago

This one’s even better…

and not a single fuck was given that day.

That crowd seemed so unimpressed it was almost sad.


yeah and?

MegatronSmurf 1 day ago

Please leave Jobs alone

As Jon Stewart would say: Zuck, meet me at Camera 3 (y’know, for a 1:1) – you’re a smart guy and developers love you. I know that for a fact cos they hate to see you embarrassed. I remember what a hard time they gave Sarah Lacy when you did a terrible job answering simple questions at SXSW.

They idolize you, the same way Mac fanatics adore Steve Jobs. There are very few folks in our tech world, who commands that adulation. You’re finally creating products that restore a sense of childlike wonder (more on Timeline later).

That doesn’t mean you can replace a black turtleneck sweater with a North Face jacket, sneakers with Adidas flip flops, Noah Wyle with Andy Samberg and turn into tech world’s great Houdini.

So, stick with creating great products, figuring out what works best for you on stage in your own unique way (it takes a while) and don’t let your handlers play you around.

And, I’ll let Jobs himself describe why a f8 or Amazon presentation will never be a Jobs presentation.

The problem with Microsoft is that they just have no taste. Absolutely no taste.
In a sense that they don’t think of original ideas.
So, I guess, I’m saddened not by their success. I’ve no problem with their success.
They’ve earned their success.
I have a problem that they make really third-rate products (replace with presentation).

There’ll never be another Jobs. You know that. So, quit trying.

Filed under: Best-of, Jeff Bezos, Leadership Communication, Mark Zuckerberg, Public Relations, Public Speaking, Steve Jobs, , , ,