Posts from Social media

The Thank You Economy

A few years ago, I was doing a talk at some conference. As I came off stage, a guy came on after me. He grabbed the mic and started rapping. Or at least it seemed like he was rapping. I stood on the side of the stage and was mesmerized. Out came advice, stories, staccato, fast and furious, with intensity and passion. I said to myself, "I have to know who this person is."

That person was and is Gary Vaynerchuk and after that moment we became fast friends. We share the same passions; social media, community, technology, business, entrepreneurship, and the Jets. Some of those passions have worked out better than others.

Gary's first book, Crush It, was more or less a bookification of the talk he gave that day. If I could pick one book that would make you quit your job and do a startup, that would be it.

He's followed up Crush It with a second book that went on sale yesterday. It is called The Thank You Economy. Gary sent me an advance copy of Thank You and he asked me to hold off on talking about it until it went on sale.

Thank You is a different book. It is about the power of social media, communities, and real people on your business and brand. Gary talks about how the small store owner knows his customers, greets them when they walk in the door, knows what they want, their family members' names, and what is going on in their lives. And the result is loyalty, trust, and repeatable business. He talks about how social media and communities allow entrepreneurs and brands to do a similar thing at scale online.

Readers of this blog have seen this in action here at AVC. This is a lesson I learned myself seven or eight years ago when I started blogging. And it has impacted everything I do in business. The same is true of Gary.

This is an important lesson for entrepreneurs, business owners, and brands, large and small. Some of you have already adopted this way of doing business. If you have, then maybe you won't find this book that eye opening. For those who are just dipping their toes into these waters, this is a book you need to read. You can get it on Kindle or in hardcover form.


Building Better Social Graphs

I'll say right upfront that this may be a feature that many people don't need. But I need it so I thought I'd post it anyway.

As software becomes social, the creation of the social graph on each web service becomes a chore. I do not believe that you simply want to port your social graph from Facebook and Twitter into new web services. I believe you want to curate the social graph for each and every web service. And that's how I try to do it on each new social web service I encounter.

The people I want to follow on Etsy are not the same people I want to follow on Twitter. The people I want to follow on Svpply are not my Facebook friends. I don't want to share my Foursquare checkins with everyone on Twitter and Facebook.

I am slowly but surely building social graphs on Etsy, Svpply, and Foursquare (and many other services but I thought I would focus on these three for this post). Each service has a slightly different relationship model. On Etsy, you join circles. I am in almost 100 circles on Etsy, some of which I would like to join back. Svpply uses the Twitter follow model, and close to 100 people are following me, some of which I'd like to follow back. Foursquare uses the Facebook model and there are 3815 friend requests for me there. I am sure there are a bunch of people in the 3815 that I'd like to share my checkins with.

So here is the feature I want. I would like to be able to run these people through all my social graphs on other services (not just Facebook and Twitter) and also my phone contacts and my emails to help me filter them and quickly add those people if I think they would make the social experience on the specific service useful to me.

I don't want to get emailed everytime someone follows me or friends me. I'd like each service to build up a list of relationships and let me query that list against other social graphs. I think that would be a much more efficient way to build social graphs.

I do add people myself. I use Twitter's Who To Follow service to build my Twitter social graph. I join circles in Etsy when I see a seller who has a store I like. I follow people on Svpply when I see something they added that I like.

But the more people you have in your social graphs on these services, the more valuable they become. So making it easier to curate application specific social graphs is a big part of making the services more social and richer experiences for all of us.


Peer Index

I've been following Peer Index for a month or so. Peer Index is attempting to "help you discover the authorities and opinion formers on a given topic."

The idea is to use the world of social media (blogs, twitter, facebook, linkedin, etc) to determine who are the "authorities and opinion formers" on the web.

I like the idea. The execution is the hard part. When I first tried it out about a month ago, I thought the service was too thin. Too few topics and too few "authorities" in each topic.

Sometime in the past week or so, they added a bunch of new topics and a lot more authorities in each topic. And they've added a bunch of new ways to navigate the service. I like where they are headed with this.

In a perfect world, you could enter literally any topic, like "sushi in london" and find out who the experts are. Then you could follow them, read their opinions on the topic, and possibly even contact them.

In order to reach that perfect world, I think they are going to need to open this up. Let the "crowd" source the topics and the authorities and then use their algorithms and systems to maintain the topics and rankings. At least that is my gut on how this would work best.

In any case, this one is worth watching.


Retooling Stale Businesses

There was a great conversion in the comments to yesterday's post that I'd like to highlight. It was about retooling stale businesses and it was initiated by comment blogger JLM. A "comment blogger" is a person who leaves comments that can (and should be) entire blog posts, but they leave them on other people's blogs. We've got a bunch of comment bloggers here at AVC and JLM is certainly one of the very best. Here's what he had to say on the topic of retooling stale businesses:

There is a huge opportunity in America today to acquire "old school", low tech businesses and retool them with modern management, modern marketing including social media, a well crafted financial structure and a dab of leadership to make an otherwise boring business into a highly scalable and expanding enterprise in which the growing size provides an enormous financial operating leverage.

In effect, this approach takes the cutting edge of the evolving technology (including the basic impatient thinking and genius of the entrepreneurs in that space) and cycles it backwards to apply it to other opportunities.

If you click on this link you'll find the start of the discussion and you can follow it down the thread.

When my partner Brad and I were starting Union Square Ventures in 2003, we both read Carlotta Perez' book called Technological Revolutions and Financial Capital. We were inspired by her description of the "second phase" of technological revolutions where the revolution is applied to the broad based business sector and society itself. An example from her book is the way the auto revolution allowed for fast food and malls to develop as big industries. They auto revolution reshaped the food and retail industries along with most other industries.

So when we wrote the business plan for Union Square Ventures, we consciously decided to focus on the "applications layer" (ie web services and now mobile web services) and not on the infrastructure layer which we saw as the largely played out "first phase" of the Internet technological revolution.

But as JLM so rightly points out, there is a much broader opportunity than the one Union Square Ventures is focused on. You can invest in existing but stale businesses and apply the lessons and benefits of the Internet technological revolution to them. But not only that, you can apply good old fashioned leadership to these businesses. This is not a new idea and I know of a bunch of entrepreneurs who have been doing this for a while now. But there is enormous opportunity here and I think we need to see even more of this kind of investment of time and money going forward.


Sony Dash

A couple months ago, my friends at Sony sent me a new device called the Sony Dash. I brought it home and gave it to the Gotham Gal. She is using it as a bedside clock radio and not taking advantage of very many of its features. But my son expressed an interest in having one on his bedside table and so I got another.

He set it up to do four things; tell him what time it is, tell him what the weather is, give him his ESPN fix, and give him his Facebook fix. The clock rotates through sports news from ESPN, and photos and status updates from his friends on Facebook.

Here's the clock showing sports news from ESPN:

Josh's dash espn 

And here is the clock showing status updates from Facebook (sorry about the blurry photo):

Josh's dash 

In light of all the buzz about Flipboard, which I still can't connect to Facebook and Twitter, I think we are seeing an important new development. Social media clients are moving beyond the desktop, laptop, and smartphone onto new kinds of devices like the iPad and the Dash.

I was skeptical about the Dash when I first used it. It is a bit clunky to set up. The UI could use some serious simplification. But once you set it up, it's largely a "set it and forget it" kind of thing. And every time I walk into my son's room, I learn something about sports and his friends. It is actually an excellent user experience for a bedside clock, at least it is for my son.

You can connect the Dash to much more than ESPN and Facebook. It does Twitter, of course, and YouTube, and a ton of other web services too. It's a bit pricey for a bedside clock, but I expect the cost will come down pretty quickly for devices like this and we should be looking at sub $100 price points in the next year. If you are into gadgets and the web, this could be for you.


How To Defend Your Reputation

Mike Arrington has a timely post up today titled Reputation Is Dead: It's Time To Overlook Our Indiscretions. He says:

Trying to control, or even manage, your online reputation is becoming
increasingly difficult. And much like the fight by big labels against
the illegal sharing of music, it will soon become pointless to even try.

It's a good post and a really good discussion to be having right now. Go read the post.

I agree that controlling your online reputation is becoming increasingly difficult. But I do not think it is pointless. Reputation is everything and there is a way to fight back. I talked about it in a post a few weeks ago called Own Your Online Brand.

I care deeply about my reputation and have defended it vigorously when others have said things about me that are untrue. But you can go one step further with social media. You can establish your reputation and others will stand up for you as well.

Here's an exchange on Hacker News that happened a few weeks ago.

Hacker news convo

This person fnid2 has an axe to grind about me and has been doing it frequently at Hacker News. You'll see that Mark Essel, an active member of this community, took the time to come to my defense.

So while I agree 100% with Mike that defending your reputation is getting increasingly difficult because of social media, I also believe that social media is the key to defending it and maintaining it. If you want to hear more of my thoughts on this topic, read the Own Your Online Brand post where I explain in more detail.

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The Personal Touch: Social Media Style

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog post about the way I plan to setup the voice service in our new home.

I'd link to that post but I'm typing this out on my blackberry at 30,000 feet on my way to San Francisco this morning.

That post generated a lot of comments. I can't go online and check but I recall it was close to two hundred.

The discussion helped me out immensely and I want to thank everyone who contributed to the discussion.

In particular, I took away two big things; try to use mobile as the primary voice service in the home, and use ATAs as a bridge between traditional telephony handsets and SIP/VOIP.

Both of those takeaways are going to make it into whatever we end up doing.

I still plan to use a cloud PBX provider to host and route our numbers and calls and provide dial tone to the non cell phone handsets in our home.

There were about twenty such providers suggested in the comment thread. I have made a list and am working my way through them.

Three of the suggested providers actually weighed in on the comments. All three avoided pitching their wares and simply offered a name and number to call if I wanted to learn more.

I thought that was a great move by all three and as a result, they are at the top of my list to check out.

I may end up going with some other provider in the end but the social media smarts exhibited by these three providers impressed me and is an example of how social media can and should be part of every company's marketing strategy.

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Social Recruiting

I'm giving the keynote talk at the Social Recruiting Summit in NYC on Monday. I've been working on my presentation over the past few days and some themes are worth talking about.

1) Since we started Union Square Ventures in 2003/2004, we have only been involved with one retained search. Our portfolio companies have certainly used search firms, but our use of them has been extremely rare. We prefer to source candidates ourselves using our networks, and increasingly our social networks.

2) We sourced both of our junior investment professionals, Andrew Parker and Eric Friedman, with blog posts at

3) We have sourced countless senior hires for our portfolio companies off of this blog and I would bet that we've done a couple dozen successful hires that way in the past couple years.

4) Many of our companies have internal recruiters and we work hand in hand with them, sourcing talent, vetting talent, and closing the sale.

5) LinkedIn is a terrific place to find talent and to find references. When I want to check someone out, I invite them to connect to me on LinkedIn, I find who we know in common, and that is my reference list. Charlie O'Donnell taught me these LinkedIn tricks about five years ago and I use them all the time. 

6) is also a terrific place to find talent and figure out who they know. Let's say you wanted to find the top execs at LinkedIn. You can find them all in one place here.

7) Hunting for talent is necessary but not always sufficient. You need to get the word out. Like all things on the internet, there are free ways and paid ways to do that.

8) The best free way is get your jobs indexed by Indeed so they can be found by the over 10 million people a month who go there looking for jobs. We feature all the jobs in our portfolio on the front page of by running an Indeed stored query of all the jobs in our portfolio companies.

9) Social networks like Twitter and Facebook are also great free ways to get the word out. Post the job on your website and tweet it out, get it retweeted, searched, and discovered and the resumes will start coming in.

10) You can also pay to get your jobs "sponsored" in Indeed. You can post job ads via Facebook's self serve ad system and target them at very specific locations and job types. And we'll see more social media/networks offer paid systems like this in the next year.

11) There are all sorts of niche communities on the web you should be hanging out in if you want to find talent. For tech/engineering talent, we like to look at Meetup groups on certain tech topics (there are eight Ruby On Rails meetups within 25 miles of NYC), open source projects, and niche communities like Hacker News and Stack Overflow. You can play the same game with communities for other kinds of job types. The key is you have to hang out there a bit, get to know the community and the people in it, and build trust and add value.

That last point is the big point. Social media is about showing up, hanging out, and earning trust. If you want to use social media to source talent, you can't fake it. You have to really participate in these systems. But if and when you do, they are incredibly powerful and are changing the face of recruiting.

I look forward to talking to the recruiting community about this topic more on Monday. And if you have ideas for other things I should be talking about, please leave them in the comments.

#VC & Technology