Mario Sundar's Speakeasy

Twitter's 1st evangelism comms guy, Linkedin's 2nd PR guy. These are my thoughts on tech, public relations, and life.

2020: Reflections on a Year Gone Wrong!

How I escaped my worst year and what it taught me about 2020

It was the best of times.

It was the worst of times.

2020 was the worst of times!


Table of Contents

2020 is unlike any other year in modern history. It is up there with 1918, 1919 and 1920; the three years suffused by World War I, that got decimated by the Spanish Flu. A pandemic of epic proportions that laid waste to 100 million lives, and came back wave after wave decimating hundreds of thousands more with each subsequent wave two and three times as awful as the first in the spring of 1918 1.

That’s where we find ourselves this beautiful summer morning in 2020. On top of the pandemic rearing its head, we find ourselves in a couple more pandemics; racial and informational, both of which have been exacerbated since the 2016 election leading to the most divisive climate in this nation’s great history.

But you wonder, what was my worst year and what does it have to do with 2020.


2016: The Worst Year of my Life, Until 2020

I lost my Mom.

I lost my Dream Job.

I lost my Girlfriend.

Snapchat from WayBack: Pics From my last trip that reunited me with my parents, sister, and nephew Gabe.

I didn’t see this coming — at all! To lose one of the above, and I’ve seen people lose their minds. To lose all three, albeit slowly, then suddenly and some in parallel; was an earthquake, on top of a tsunami in the middle of a hurricane. And to sit there in the middle of that storm unraveling, was an uncanny experience and one that has steeled me for the rest of my life. In particular, one that has steeled me for 2020.2

“There is no love of life, without despair of life.” – Albert Camus

Here’s my story of 2016, what I learned from it, and how I’m applying it to this Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Year.

“But there was no need to be ashamed of tears, for tears bore witness that a man had the greatest of courage, the courage to suffer.” ― Viktor E. Frankl’s, Man’s Search for Meaning

What I’d have given to not go through those months of distress, losing the most important people in the world to me, seemed cruel and incomprehensible 3, but as cliche as it sounds, those tears were meant to teach.

Turbulence clouds the mind, mists the future, and all I could do was silently spiral into a mental paralysis. As I now connect those dots; when all three had fallen through, it truly felt like falling off of a cliff and I was free-falling. And there was nothing to stop the fall.

And it was at that moment, that I found meditation.


Step 1: Find your High-Order Bit!

Steve Jobs calls it the High-Order Bit. The one that has the power to unlock other powers, exponential across other options. Jeff Weiner, in his very first week at LinkedIn, told all of us to come up with each team’s mission / vision statement, and then figure out our stack-ranked priorities as we re-aligned every part of the organization. And the high-order bit is the one that sits atop that pyramid of priorities.

If you could do just one thing right now, and one thing only with the most impact on every other priority, what’d it be?

For me, that was meditation.4

Fight, Flight or Meditate?

To be honest, at that point in 2016 when the bottom fell out, I wasn’t thinking straight. I was free falling, and my-then-girlfriend-soon-to-be-ex recommended guided meditation with former teacher of hers. And all it took was one session, and the free-falling turned to free-floating. A free association of ideas, possibilities and peace. And since then, I’ve tried my darndest to describe what meditation is, to the uninitiated.

3 Keys to Meditation: The why, the when (it works) and the how of meditation?!

The Why: Bend or Be Broken!

“The green reed which bends in the wind is stronger than the mighty oak which breaks in a storm.” – Confucius

The parables are as old as Time itself, but the lessons are simple, and frankly until you experience that moment of no return, when you lose someone you dearly love and can’t ever see them again; when you walk through and out that door.

That’s when shit feels real.

As Harvard University psychiatrist George Vaillant, describes in the most recent edition of Scientific American, describing the mental health crisis humanity faces, thanks to the pandemic.

A resilient individual resembles a twig with a fresh, green living core. “When twisted out of shape, such a twig bends, but it does not break; instead it springs back and continues growing.” 5

Apparently 2/3rds of individuals recover from traumatic episodes and may even learn from it, but a third of us are lost for months, maybe years.

My own experience from a couple of years ago, could have turned out vastly different, were it not for some opportune decisions I made; regardless, I did lose time to the vicissitudes of trauma. Decisions, like meditation, that came through a lot of soul-searching, a supportive family, and a few good friends that cared about me.

Without them, I’d have been lost, and my writing is an humble effort at educating even one lost soul how I came through that door, and lived to tell the tale.

When you lose a parent (especially, a parent); that’s when all bets are off. The foundation shows its true shaky premise and you have to hold on for dear life, spiritually. But what presents itself as an impossibility — “how could this happen to me,” and “how will I ever get out of this situation,” gives you the ultimate lesson in living — “Let Be.”

The Bard Said it Best: “Let Be”

Hamlet (Act 5, scene 2, 217–224):
Not a whit, we defy augury.6 There is special providence in the fall of a sparrow.
If it be now, ’tis not to come; if it be not to

come, it will be now; if it be not now, yet it will come — the readiness is all.
Since no man, of aught he leaves, knows what is’t

to leave betimes, let be.

Accepting I don’t have all the answers, that where I am isn’t the endgame, that I don’t even have a clue what the endgame is (!), and looking forward into the “abyss” with peace, not fear at the uncertainty — is what meditation teaches us. Much like Yoga isn’t just about the physical solace it provides, nor is Meditation just about calming the mind. It’s about using the storm, to find the calm — the eye of the storm.

If we commit ourselves to staying right where we are, then our experience becomes very vivid. Things become very clear when there is nowhere to escape. – Pema Chodron

The When: Meditation is the Cure, The Key is in the Abyss!

“The Arrival of Chaos should be regarded as extremely good news.” – Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche 7

With apologies to Winston Churchill, “We can all be trusted to do the right thing (in this case, Meditation), once all other possibilities have been exhausted.”

I had tried meditation in the past, but never felt the need for it, nor did I miss it. But, when things got ugly, I frankly had no other alternative, and the more I held on tightly to everything that was slipping, like sand, through my fingers; the more I needed an out, and that’s where meditation came in.

It’s as if someone found the secret to life, locked it in a treasure chest, threw the chest and the key down the abyss. And each time one of us stares into the abyss, we fear it swallows us whole. But, the journey to find the key must be made.

The journey to find the key is the right thing. The only option.

And so does fear. In fact, anyone who stands on the edge of the unknown, fully in the present without reference point, experiences groundlessness. – Pema Chodron

And the right thing… is meditation.

There is nowhere to hide.

Sometimes, however, we are cornered; everything falls apart, and we run out of options for escape. At times like that, the most profound spiritual truths seem pretty straightforward and ordinary. There’s nowhere to hide. – Pema Chodron, When Things Fall Apart

There is nowhere to run.

Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart. – Steve Jobs, Stanford Commencement Speech

Now, meditate.

The How-To Meditate: Zoom out, Zoom in!

Meditation is an invitation to notice when we reach our limit and to not get carried away by hope and fear. – Pema Chodron

The secret to meditation is letting go with focus, and to “not get carried away by hope and fear.” You’re watching your life unfold, without the affectation of your ego. It’s the real world mental equivalent of the Dolly Zoom, best encapsulated by the famous scene in Jaws:

“You can observe more of the background, while keeping the foreground in the same place.”

The Dolly Zoom as you can see describes meditation perfectly. In much the same way as the Dolly Zoom, employs both the telephoto and the wide-angle lenses at the same time, meditation is the deliberate practice to lose yourself-and-your-ego by focusing on two things at once — the foreground of your life, and the background of your life — until they both disappear and you experience this weightless, groundless feeling as described by Pema when you’re fully in the Now-minus-Ego.

The challenge with meditation is that it’s underrated and vastly misunderstood, so many folks let go of the practice before they master it. Let me walk you through my three simple hacks to get started. Stick with this for at least 30 days, and let me know whether it worked or not @mariosundar.

I study Sanskrit and Arabic to improve my mind

I wanna do things for the benefit of all mankind

I say to the willow tree, “Don’t wait for me”

I’m saying to hell with all things that used to be

— “My Own Version of You,” by Bob Dylan

Step 1: Third Eye First, Tune your Spine!

The three steps I outline need to happen at once, and there will be a moment when you subconsciously do all three, but I’m still at the stage where I’m tryna ride this bicycle of my mind, and those moments of blissful riding the mind are few and far in-between.

While there might be a lot of exaggerated stories about the “Third Eye,” the fact of the matter is that it’s a simple hack to focus on a specific point, it could be a mantra (as is common in Transcendental Meditation – that everyone from Howard Stern to Jerry Seinfeld swear by), but the answer is simple — find a word or visual spot to focus.

Personally, I shut my eyes, sit erect on my yoga pillow and focus on a spot between my eyebrows and trust me be — it is not easy to focus for a concentrated period of time on any spot (visual or mantric), and the trick is to pursue that for as long as you can. And if you can do that for more than a few minutes, you’ll see yourself floating away, while focusing on that spot.

Dolly Zoom your mind. Tuning Fork Your Spine!

In yoga meditation, the meditator withdraws the life force (prana) from the sensory and motor nerves — by a process known as pranayama (life-force control) — and directs it to the higher centers of awareness within the spine and brain. – Paramahansa Yogananda, Self-Realization Fellowship

That’s where you start. Keep your spine straight and your focus on either a mantra or a visual point between your eyebrows.

Step 2: Empty Your Breath

Equally important, I realize how crucial proper breathing is to achieve the meditative flow, after you hit the first two notes from Step 1. It’s amazing how bad we are at breathing right; anxiety and stress and alcohol and lack of sleep doesn’t help. But meditation can be a bridge to getting better at something so foundational to better living.

Controlled breathing, like what you just practiced, has been shown to reduce stress, increase alertness and boost your immune system. For centuries yogis have used breath control, or pranayama, to promote concentration and improve vitality. Buddha advocated breath-meditation as a way to reach enlightenment. – New York Times, The Benefits of Controlled Breathing 8

My first experience with this was during a particularly high-stakes conversation I had with Jeff Weiner 9 way back in 2010, who I had the pleasure of working with during my nearly 6 years at LinkedIn, and I recall him asking me to breathe in and out, in a measured way when I was about to have a panic attack (more on my anxiety in a later post). But that worked, and it’s clear why that is the case.

Consciously changing the way you breathe appears to send a signal to the brain to adjust the parasympathetic branch of the nervous system, which can slow heart rate and digestion and promote feelings of calm as well as the sympathetic system, which controls the release of stress hormones like cortisol. – New York Times, The Benefits of Controlled Breathing 10

Next week, I’ll outline the modern tools I use to track the effectiveness of my meditation, if you’d like to track that either subscribe to this blog here, or follow me @mariosundar.

Sneak peak (Week of June 29, 2020: Meditation Hardware)

  • The Apple Watch (Tracking Runs, Meditation and Workouts)
  • Core vs. Muse (Tracks Meditation)
  • Komuso Design (Tracks Breathing)

Sneak peak (Week of July 6, 2020: Meditation Software)

  • Headspace vs. Calm
  • Core vs. Muse
  • Transcendental Meditation (TM) vs. Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF)
Step 3: Empty Your Mind

So, the worst year of my life and what it taught me about 2020.

I didn’t think I’d make it out of 2016 in one piece. But, here I am. Thanks to family; thanks to a few close friends. And thanks to my biggest epiphany.

All happiness rests in one place. Between our ears! There’s the rub…

Happiness isn’t a given. Kurosawa, inarguably the greatest writer / filmmaker ever, once said:

“With a good script, a good director can produce a masterpiece. With the same script, a mediocre director can produce a passable film. But with a bad script even a good director can’t possibly make a good film. … The script must be something that has the power to do this.”

With bad software between your ears, even the best circumstances life gifts you might be wasted materially, and most definitely spiritually. But with good software buoyed by daily meditation, calm and equanimity, you will take anything life throws at you, and you will create a masterpiece.

Yes, it sure has been a long, hard drive

But someday every thing’s gonna be different

When I paint that masterpiece – Bob Dylan

Since 2016, right through to the Pandemic of 2020…

I ran most days (88% – 92%).

I quit alcohol.

I lost 50 pounds.


Finally, I’m back to writing.

SnapBack to Now: That’s me, 50 pounds lighter, before the Pandemic of 2020, in front of my favorite restaurant

Now, let’s do this all over again! Here we go…

The best way to follow my writing is Twitter. I’m also in the process of redesigning so you can find my writing in your Inbox!Please subscribe to @mariosundar, with 7500 other friends who follow me, or if you’re in Public Relations or Marketing, connect with me on LinkedIn, with 3500 other professionals in our space. I also have a secret project I’ll be launching shortly. Stay tuned.

It’s good to be back.


  1. Source: John Barry’s “The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History,” that outlines the excruciating spread of a pandemic that took 100 million lives and 5% of the world’s population, with two thirds of lives taken between 18 – 45 years, across three waves in the middle of a World War, via Peter Attia’s excellent podcast — The Drive ↩︎
  2. My experiences resemble this retelling in the New York Times by Eva Holland, Author of “Nerve: Adventures in the Science of Fear.” I call it “Deliberate Resilience.” ↩︎
  3. Everything at that moment, will feel random, meaningless, surreal, but make no mistake, it is suffused with meaning and it will take years to unwrap. The only gift I wish for you is to be open and curious over the next few years. ↩︎
  4. This is particularly true for those of us, stuck at home, with our inner demons. Sam Lansky, Author of Broken People, nails this dangerous time to slip-and-slide into binge-eating-or-drinking in his terrific TIME piece Stuck With Yourself: The Hidden Price of a Pandemic ↩︎
  5. An introspective Scientific American feature delves into similar themes I discuss in this post on the macro-psychological view of the pandemic and how 2.6 Billion people are coping with anxiety ↩︎
  6. The exact moment where Hamlet recognizes everything is out of his control, and learns in the following lines to accept with grace, and the moment shall arrive. More here ↩︎
  7. A beautiful primer on why “Chaos is Good News” from Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche ↩︎
  8. Lesley Alderman, Psychotherapist and New York Times’ contributor, outlines the Breathe-Exhale-Repeat Formula that is a necessary Step 2 in my outline for meditation efficiency ↩︎
  9. Jeff Weiner is currently Executive Chairman at LinkedIn, and I had the pleasure of learning and working with him during the first four years after he began LinkedIn’s comeback from layoffs back in 2008 ↩︎
  10. “Breathing is meditation for people who can’t meditate,” says Dr. Belisa Vranich, author of the book “Breathe”) ↩︎

Filed under: About Mario Sundar, Best-of, Jeff Weiner, LinkedIn Colleagues, Thoughts, Writing

Give me that reason. A reason to write.

I am 35 years old. Today.

Feels odd, since I haven’t shared that on Facebook and here I am for the first time sharing this with all you guys – my readers.

But this post is about you and me.

And, Justin Timberlake. Ha.

About Me

Sometimes the past 5 years seem like an achievement.

Other times, I look forward to the next 5 years and given my unique predicament (I’ll tell you about it someday), I’m filled with trepidation.

But 6 years ago, right around the time I should have packed my bags and gone back to India, I chose to stay. And it worked out great.

So there you have it.

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

And that truly made all the difference.

Bonus: There’s nothing like hearing Robert Frost read the poem himself.

About You 

Right around the time I should have packed my bags and begone, the world saw the democratization of writing with blogs.

We finally had an opportunity where writer met reader and talked. The key was talking. Like Humans Do.

With that I started my blogging. I know I may have neglected you at times, but now that I’ve picked up the pen again; it feels natural. Like riding a bicycle after a hiatus.

This time the words flowed more freely.

The motivation followed:

I had one of my most successful posts – on writing – that has already seen tens of thousands of views, and hundreds of shares on Twitter, Facebook, and over a hundred upvotes on Quora.

People who care about good writing and whose writing I love, shared it – Daniel Pink, Chris Brogan and Marc Bodnick (on Quora) – and it found an even bigger audience.

It’s moments like these that give you the motivation to write more.

For your applause. Your retweets. Your likes.

Keep me writing… creating. 

So thanks for your feedback! For reading, for sharing, for commenting on my writing. Writing which at times may seem to make sense only to me.

But if you don’t do the above, I won’t have a reason to write.

So thanks for giving me that reason.

And for the birthday wishes, guys!

Filed under: About Mario Sundar, Writing, , , , , , ,

Find your Inner Blog.

“Don’t censor yourself. Don’t go along with the crowd. Don’t be greedy. Don’t be cheap.

Young as you are, play dead — so that your eyes will stay open.” – Nadine Gordimer

bigstock_Diamond_In_The_Rough_6613316-e1313788970475

Thus ends Jeffrey Eugenides’ advice to 10 Whiting Award winners this past year. Words that resonate strongly with me during this holiday season for one reason: it’s a swift kick-in-the-pants I need to get me back to writing.

But, more importantly, it’s a welcome thought reminding me of the real reason I started this blog: to find my passion, and to find my inner voice. Words that give me hope that it may not be too late to revive my writing after all.

Other points of wisdom in the article that bestirred my writer’s conscience:

1. “A serious person should try to write posthumously”

That was Nadine Gordimer to Christopher Hitchens. Mortality’s a theme revisited by many artists because “almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.”

Or as Hitchens put it:

“By that I took her to mean that one should compose as if the usual constraints — of fashion, commerce, self-censorship, public and, perhaps especially, intellectual opinion — did not operate.”

Either way, it can be a most liberating thought. And one that frees up a creative block and forces you to think straight – for the long term.

2. Write with purpose, find your calling

For a while there, I halted my blogging coming up with a flimsy excuse that I needed to find an audience before I shared my words. Every day was an excuse to skip putting my words down on WordPress, while I evaded the hard work of capturing those fleeting thoughts.

I still recall the first time my blog got recognized with a spike in traffic (hat tip to Jason Calacanis). It was one of those magical moments where my passion met an audience. It can’t be planned, it can’t be faked.

You write your first stuff pretty much for yourself, not thinking anybody will read, much less publish, it, not thinking it’ll earn money, therefore not worrying about pleasing anyone or falling in line with any agenda; not worrying about censoring yourself, either, because who’s going to see it? And, miraculously, it worked out.

But once you find the audience, your mind starts working in reverse trying to please that audience, grow that audience, so you repeat yourself with popular “Top 10” posts, etc. And over time all you’re left with is drivel.

You might begin to forget the person you are in order to write and sound like someone else. Alternately, you might be tempted to repeat yourself. To follow the fashion of your own previous work, to stop exploring, learning and trying new things, for risk of failure.

If you try to write posthumously, however, fashion doesn’t apply.

As far as a blog is concerned all that’s within my control is to write with honesty and try to share that with a few good people who may appreciate it.

As Kurt Woolf, Kafka’s first publisher in Germany, wrote to him after Kafka’s book tanked, “You and we know that it is generally just the best and most valuable things that do not find their echo immediately.”

Fashion is the attempt to evade that principle: to be the echo of someone else’s success and, therefore, to create nothing that might create an echo of its own.

3. Remember when and why it all started

The fuel to keep going is simple yet elusive. My favorite passage in the entire article is Eugenides reminding the writers of why they started writing.

“When you started writing, in high school or college, it wasn’t out of a wish to be published, or to be successful, or even to win a lovely award like the one you’re receiving tonight.

It was in response to the wondrousness and humiliation of being alive.

Remember? You were fifteen and standing beside a river in wintertime. Ice floes drifted slowly downstream. Your nose was running. Your wool hat smelled like a wet dog. Your dog, panting by your side, smelled like your hat. It was hard to distinguish.

As you stood there, watching the river, an imperative communicated itself to you. You were being told to pay attention. You, the designated witness, special little teen-age omniscient you, wearing tennis shoes out in the snow, against your mother’s orders. Just then the sun came out from behind the clouds, revealing that every twig on every tree was encased in ice. The entire world a crystal chandelier that might shatter if you made a sound, so you didn’t. Even your dog knew to keep quiet.

And the beauty of the world at that moment, the majestic advance of ice in the river, so like the progress of the thoughts inside your head, overwhelmed you, filling you with one desire and one desire only, which was to go home immediately and write about it.”

That’s it. Every blog post I’ve written that was ever worth reading was a response to that overwhelming desire to describe…

“The majestic advance of ice in the river.”

And somewhere along the way, somewhere in 2012, I completely lost that wonder. Circumstances and stress may have had something to do with it but I’m sure there will always be opportunities for stress. I feel like it’s about time I once again started reacting to the magic around me.

And over time, I bet, the rest will add up too.

The magic will happen. The dots will connect.

As a wise soul once reminded us:

“Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking.

Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.

And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become.”

Filed under: About Mario Sundar, Best-of, Thoughts

What’s it like to work at LinkedIn?

I get that question some times and I felt Mashable recently did a great job summarizing what it is to work at LinkedIn. Check out similar posts they’ve done in the past for other companies. I was happy to share my thoughts on LinkedIn (where I’ve worked for ~4.5 years now) and glad that Erica Swallow chose to quote me in it. Thanks!

Good Times: That's me, Richard and Krista (Marketing / PR team) at LinkedIn's 5th bday party!

Back to the Mashable snippet:

Here’s what Mario Sundar, LinkedIn’s senior social media manager and chief blogger, told Mashable about the monthly shindig:

“One of the elemental pieces of our culture is the monthly inDay where folks from across the company are given a ‘No Meeting Day,’ to focus on projects they are most passionate about. This ranges from the very productive Hackday (started by Adam Nash) to the TED-like Speaker Series where we bring in transformative professionals ranging from MLK III to Suze Orman to speak. Education is an oft-repeated theme as we get to hear from the game changers in that space like Sal Khan (Khan Academy), Charles Best (DonorsChoose.org), etc. Many times these events lead to our colleagues contributing towards some of these worthy causes. For example, one of our engineers, Alejandro Crosa, built DonorsChoose.org’s first iPhone app after listening to Charles Best, the CEO, speak at an inDay where Charles announced their internal hackday contest.”

“Frankly, I think projects like inDay actually translate well across different cultures, languages, etc. and get teams working toward a common cause outside of the daily work environment. This lends to a more collaborative environment when it comes to work as well.”

While we’re on the topic of InDay and culture, I’d urge you to check out a video tour that Jeremiah filmed 4 years ago, at LinkedIn’s Lunch 2.0 — right after we moved from Palo Alto to our Mountain View offices.

Check out a 5 minute video tour of LinkedIn’s offices 4 years ago

If you’d like to work at LinkedIn, stumbled upon a role that you think you’d be great for, ping me and I’m happy to chat.

Drop me a note @mariosundar.

Filed under: About Mario Sundar, Latest at LinkedIn, LinkedIn Colleagues,

My keynote chat at the Online Marketing Summit 2011

A couple of weeks ago, I spoke at the Online Marketing Summit where I had an opening day keynote chat with Aaron Kahlow on topics ranging from the future of the social media strategist role (something I discussed on Quora recently) to discussing smart ways for marketers and businesses to use LinkedIn.

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Aaron Kahlow and Mario Sundar (Scroll down for more pics)

Here’s a quick write-up from B2B Magazine on the opening session:

During a packed opening keynote session, Mario Sundar, senior social media manager at LinkedIn, discussed the changing role of the social media manager at companies.

“There are two trajectory roles that are occurring at large companies,” he said. “On one hand, social media will be seamlessly integrated into other functions such as marketing, PR or customer support. At other companies, such as Ford and Citi, an executive social media role is emerging.”

He also discussed how companies are using LinkedIn features like custom groups to reach customers and prospects.

It’s interesting how businesses are trying to get their arms around LinkedIn, and some of my efforts in the coming months will focus on educating them on ways to accomplish that. Stay tuned.

While at OMS, I also had a chance to catch up with good friends like Chris Brogan and run into social media folks like Charlotte Blank (GM) and John Lustyan (Disney) – individuals responsible for social media at their companies. As always, it’s interesting to learn how companies approach social media, which teams are taking the lead on social media and how those skills are transferred across the organization.

Below are some pictures from my keynote chat with Aaron Kahlow (Source: Online Marketing Summit) with my favorite being the second one. Kudos to Aaron and team for a kick-ass event and thanks for the opportunity to speak.

As promised, more pics…

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Filed under: Speaking Engagements

In the News: Why Quora? Why Now?

Another month passes, and here are a couple more leading publications – Mashable and Ragan – who quoted some of my thoughts on social media, both of which came about through my participation on Quora.

So, if you’re serious about building your expertise online and sharing that with the rest of the world. Start sharing on Quora or start a blog. But I digress…

1. Ragan Communications / Matt Wilson: The Big Quora Question – What’s it good for?

Matt Wilson from Ragan, reached out to me after reading my answer on five stages of Quora adoption for professionals.

Most of my quotes revolve around my usage of Quora and my thoughts on it being a disruptive force. I truly think Quora is the alpha-information network and frankly, I have an upcoming post on how it poses a competitive threat to a whole slew of information based companies. In the meanwhile, dig this…

Still, a growing group of social media experts and communicators say Quora is and will be as useful as Twitter.

“I think those who ignore it as a flash in the pan are rather short-sighted and unfortunately don’t see the big picture,” says Mario Sundar, senior social media manager for LinkedIn, who blogged about how to get into using Quora. “They’re also probably the same folks who doubted Twitter when it came out first.”

Check out the entire article here.

2. Mashable / Erica Swallow: The Future of the Social Media Strategist

Interestingly, this was quite an amalgam of a post that Erica Swallow mined from Twitter, Quora and Mashable’s own social media community to posit three possible avenues for the social media strategist. Interestingly, this jumped off a paper written by Jeremiah a while ago for his agency, Altimeter.

Erica quoted from my Quora answer, on one of three potential career trajectories for social media strategists:

In large organizations, the need for an executive-level social media strategist who defines the role across different functional areas will become the norm… Kind of like what my good friends Frank Eliason (formerly at Comcast and currently SVP of Social for Citigroup) and Scott Monty (head of social media at Ford) do at their respective large organizations. Their cross-functional role helps define social media across the organization as it’s integrated more closely with all functional areas, projects, etc.

“This will become the career trajectory for social media expertise in much the same way a marketing manager evolves into a VP of marketing.

That and other awesomeness can be found in the post here.

Filed under: In the News, Quora

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

In the News: Being a Trust Agent

As LinkedIn’s social media guy and given my experience around community marketing, I get quoted on social media themed articles or blog posts. Here are the three most recent quotes that appeared in some of my favorite blogs and magazines – Inc. Magazine, Mashable and Chris Brogan’s blog – where I talk about social media best practices.

1. How to write a social media policy by Tiffany Black

Inc Magazine compiled a HOW-TO post for those social media marketers who are trying to put together a set of  social media guidelines for their employees who are active on social media sites. I’ve warned of the dangers of not having a social media policy and if your company doesn’t have one, this article should probably set you straight.

“I’d say there are two broad reasons for having a social media set of guidelines for every company: crisis management or brand opportunity,” says Mario Sundar, community evangelist at LinkedIn.  “Social media may be a huge opportunity for your employees to help build your company’s brand, but let’s not forget that there also exists a tremendous risk for individual employees to inadvertently damage the company’s brand and by defining a set of guidelines you help mitigate that risk.”

Sharing my tips on writing an effective social media policy on Inc Magazine

I’d also recommend your check out my other posts on Social Media Policy that I’ve written these past few years. They contain tips and tricks, pros and cons and even how to actually get it written.

2. 10 Tips for Aspiring Community Managers by Vadim Lavrusik

This is the most recent post I was quoted on. Thrilled to find that this post was trending on Mashable over the weekend. Vadim Lavrusik asked me and 5 other community managers – from Foursquare, Howcast, Meetup, Sears and Read Write Web  – to share our tips for aspiring community managers. A couple of my thoughts made its way to the post.

For anyone looking for a job (especially one in the social media space), I’d highly recommend your investing time in a career blog.

Sundar also got help from blogging. He said he found his job for LinkedIn because of blogging and believes taking an hour a day to blog on social media topics will help you stand out from the rest of the social media crowd.

“I’m constantly surprised by how few of those aspiring community managers actually spend time to manage a career blog where they share tips and tricks on what works and what doesn’t,” he said. “Everyone has a LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter account, but career blogs are few and far in between. Build a brand for yourself with your blog before you actually get paid to manage one.”

Mashable's post quoting Mario Sundar on Community Management

Here are posts I’ve written in the past months on Community Marketing. Feel free to bookmark for later reference.

3. Mario Sundar at LinkedIn is a Trust Agent by Chris Brogan

This is the most personal of the three blog posts but is thematically very similar to Mashable’s recent post, since it covers one of the most important traits for a community manager – earning the trust of your community. Chris is a dear old friend whom I’ve known for many years and I’ve often talked to Chris over the years about LinkedIn, what some of his pain points were and what would make his LinkedIn experience better.

This past month I had one such conversation and was happy to introduce him to two of my colleagues from LinkedIn product & design regarding some feedback he had for us. I’ve had similar conversations with numerous other folks on a regular basis, but Chris was kind enough to make the following observations:

What did Mario do for LinkedIn by listening to my thoughts about the service, and/or bringing in the appropriate team members to help me? He made me love the brand more. That love results in this post. It results in more conversations about how a company is doing it right when I’m on stage in front of thousands of people (tens of thousands if I talk about it over a year). He built more positive brand awareness via my channels than any ad will ever build.

Thanks, Chris! This truly made my day and so did the numerous other tweets that came in from people I respect and admire greatly – here, here and here (for e.g).

That's the picture Chris took of me while hanging out in Boston 3 years ago

That’s it for the past few weeks. Stay tuned for more and thanks for reading! Thanks to Tiffany, Vadim and Chris for reaching out to me. If you’d like to pick my brain on all things social media for an article you’re writing or a speaking engagement, feel free to contact me via LinkedIn.

So, here are the tweets from my peeps at LinkedIn whom I respect and admire greatly. Thanks, guys!

LinkedIn CEO, Jeff Weiner, on Mario Sundar

Thanks, Jeff!

 

That's from Kay, my former boss at LinkedIn, mentor and friend

 

And, that's Robby who's such a blast to work with...

Regular blogging will resume shortly.

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Filed under: In the News

Feedback on Blog World Expo panel – 7 Habits

I’ve blogged about the 2 panels I participated in at Blog World Expo 2008 (here’s the one I was a panelist in and here’s the one I moderated). Thought you’d be interested in checking out some of the twitter feedback that we received on the 7 Habits panel I moderated.

Thanks to Tom for both the pictures.

Tom, Lionel and Nicki at Blog World Expo 2008

Tom, Lionel and Nicki at Blog World Expo 2008

Carolyn and Nicki (Blog World Expo 2008)

Carolyn and Nicki at Blog World Expo 2008

Once again, kudos to Nicki, Lionel, Carolyn and Tom for being a great panel. I think the tweets are far more descriptive.

@marismith: Wow, just realized the corporate blogging panel room 227 is packed! Peeps sitting on the floor.

@trishussey: Retweet @gwenbell: Dell, Yahoo!, Facebook, Kodak and LinkedIn corporate bloggers. Powerhouse session.

@gwenbell: Dell, Yahoo!, Facebook, Kodak and LinkedIn corporate bloggers. Powerhouse session. #bwe08

@JayBerkowitz: BlogWorld Corp blog panel #bwe08 Thomas Hoehn from Kodak “A blog without comments is just a website”

@ccarfi: “the acceptance of negative comments FAR outweighs the comments themselves” – tom hoehn at kodak #bwe08

@alanunderkofler: “A blog without comments is a website” Thomas Hoehn Kodak #bwe08

@shaicoggins: is@ the 7 Habits of Highly Effective Business Blogs panel at #bwe08. Great insights in to corp communications fr Dell,Yahoo,Kodak& Facebook.

@alanunderkofler: At 7 habits of Highly Effective Business Blogs… Great panel, Dell, facebook, Yahoo!, LinkedIn, and Kodak, lots to learn! #bwe08

@marismith: I’m diggin’ the chick from Yahoo blog http://ycorpblog.com/ <http://ycorpblog.com/>  Nicki Dugan. Smart, confident, experienced, mature.


I’ve been traveling ever since my last post. In New York the past couple of days at the World Business Forum after my Vegas trip (Blog World Expo). I’m also flying out to Portland tomorrow. So, expect reduced blogging over the weekend.

Filed under: Speaking Engagements

Blog World Expo 2008: Wrap-up

At the Vegas airport after wrapping up the most instructive, anecdote filled corporate blogging panel I’ve been a part of. One that I moderated with my favorite corporate blogging peeps.

Lionel Menchaca, Dell
Nicki Dugan, Yahoo!
Carolyn Abram, Facebook
Thomas Hoehn, Kodak

First off, thanks to all four of them for being able to make it to Blog World. It’s definitely something I’d planned for a long time and the panel conversation was as educative to the audience as I’d envisioned it’d be. They shared with other corporate bloggers, best practices and anecdotes that I’ve heard during my conversations with them in the past. And, that is good for the industry in general. I’ll soon share the presentation on slideshare with my notes.

Presentation pet peeves: I craft my slides on Apple Keynote (and in this case “powerpoint on a mac”) but was bummed that the fonts were all messed up when I was forced to run it on a PC. And, I misspelled Tom’s name. Sorry, Tom! Keep these in mind when you dream up your next presentation as a moderator.

Content-wise, the panel was a gold-mine for any corporate blogger or company wanting to start a blog. More on this later. Stay tuned.

Now I’ve got a flight to catch!

Blogged from my iPhone

Filed under: Business Blogging, Speaking Engagements