A couple of decades back, Brett Borders had visionary aspirations. Instead of aimlessly wondering the halls of his high school, he took to the underground to search out threads of conversations that were beginning to surface in this new arena called the Internet. A unique but somewhat logical beginning for a fellow who would later go on to bill his blog the “Social Media Rockstar,” Brett was in search of digital networking way before its time.
In a recent interview I conducted with him, he sums it up as, “an extremely limited (environment)… the only social networking options were Prodigy/Compuserve, a handful of local Bulletin Boards and the the same 35 active users.” Along with a small group of hacker friends, he learned how to call overseas and obtain Internet access by sneaking through local university and business systems.
He would then hack into telephone systems that would allow access by dialing out without being traced. According to Brett, it “really wasn’t that devious,” as his group was the same kind of crowd that today “you would find on FriendFeed or Digg.” When the first public internet service became available in his area in 1994, he immediately quit hacking as he “finally had unlimited, bulletproof access to the ‘Net,’” where he found it “far more interesting to connect versus crack.” However he looks back on these early days fondly as it motivated him to become a resourceful out-of-the-box thinker who could forge a path into the future without the need of a guidebook.
Brett studied Sociology in college where he was able to reflect on some of the anthropological underpinnings of online social demographics. Metaphorically similar to a Margaret Mead uncovering tribes in Samoa or New Guinea, Brett observed and researched the collective consciousness of various online tribes. He proposed that “online social interaction mirrors real life (with parallels to) castes, circles, cliques and socio-economic groups.” And as a social marketer, he now feels that to communicate to each group and target them properly, one needs to analyze their social structures and online habitats.
When asked why institutions of higher learning haven’t embraced social media as an academic discipline, he feels that “universities are kind of reactionary in that they (will only) offer programs and classes after a job market emerges.” Since social media jobs are presently just beginning to take on a prominent role in corporations and organizations, it will take a while for universities to catch up.
Today Brett Borders is an independent “Web Traffic Developer.” Even though Borders’ blog is titled “Social Media Rockstar” he doesn’t view himself as rock star, nor Internet Famous. Similar to Liz Strauss titling her blog, “Successful Blog” and Hugh Hefner labeling his pop culture mag “Playboy,” his blog title is more about the content versus a moniker for himself as the originator.
According to Brett, ” I think with the exception of a small handful of established, elite social media people, pretty much everyone out there is ‘faking it till they make it.’ I wake up, explore, learn, make mistakes, improve and re-define myself on a daily basis. I try to be confident, but also completely honest about what I know about and what I don’t – and careful not to mislead or make false promises to people.”
However, Brett is also cognizant that online detractors can be more powerful than your actual followers. Non-fans (what Brett terms “your shadow”) are usually much more diligent about blocking the spread of your message than the average acquaintance is dedicated in spreading it for you. Here’s a visual interpretation of Brett’s perspective on this topic.
To become Internet Famous, according to Brett is to be an initiator, not a follower. For example, when social media first came on to the scene, those that became the most successful in blogging and developing apps were those that pushed the envelope, by using new tools and searching out new terrain to maneuver. Brett feels the ones that faltered in this regard were the less aggressive breed who settled for “aggregating or recycling” the work accomplished by the front runners.
Brett refers to some of these social media followers as “online snake oil salesmen” who are motivated by money. These are the folks that aren’t “at all shy about claiming they know stuff that they don’t or making promises they can’t deliver. There’s a boom of interest in social media and SEO – and there are only a few barriers to entry (all you need is a website and business card), so some less-than-scrupulous types of people are trying to cash in on it.”
“The truth is that you have to give something (time, energy, attention or $$$) before you can really expect to get anything in return,” notes Brett. Something he calls “Digital Karma,” where those that are serious about online marketing and invest their time strategically and ask for recommendations are the ones to reap the benefits. “Those who are looking for ‘quick fixes’ and too-good-to-be-true promises can easily get burned or disappointed.”
Narcissism is sometimes an unattractive by-product of Internet Fame “There’s something very hypnotic about watching someone with an over-blown self image get all excited about themselves (which is why sites like TweetingTooHard.com are funny),” notes Brett. “There’s also “bad boy” and “bad girl” rockstar types in social media who are outspoken, hostile and inevitably create drama wherever they go. Many people unconsciously placate them (to avoid getting on their “bad list”) and follow them to see what kind of exciting trouble they’re gonna stir up next.”
In retrospect having lived through the Web 2.0 explosion, Brett reflects that “today social media is definitely over-hyped. “Yes, it is very powerful. Yes, it changes they way business is done. Yes, it empowers people to make choices they never had before – and it changes the world in some ways. But people are still people – and we like to waste a lot of time and use social media to mindlessly distract and entertain ourselves.”
He also believes that social media marketing is not a great fit for many types of products and services. He affirms that companies could “definitely get more ROI with traditional advertising or other online marketing methods like SEO or PPC.”
Currently Brett is working for an automotive publisher that focuses on hybrid and electric car technology. He’s building buzz and connections around content that raise people’s awareness of next generation transportation options. In the past he’s worked for international e-commerce companies, product manufacturers, and local tech start-ups in Boulder, Colorado.
In closing, I think Brett Borders’ Internet fame came about as result of his invested time and energy in this field and that his advice is based on years of trial and error. While he feels that a lot of folks are just not cut out for this business (“it’s demanding, time-intensive, volatile, and requires much more creativity than people are able to give to it”), I think Brett Border is one of those experts that has sized up the social media landscape realistically and knows how to make it do his bidding.
If you’re looking for a social media coach to help you wade through those Web 2.0 waters, I would suggest you contact Brett Borders for the job. He may be just that Social Media Rockstar his blog refers to.
For other stories on the Internet Famous, check out my previous interviews with Nick Thune, Marina Orlova, Julia Allison and Alejandro Reyes… and stay tuned for more stories of the the Internet Famous in the weeks to come.
If Web 2.0 is about web applications and social networking, and Web 3.0 is said to incorporate the semantics of data interpreted by machines, what the heck is Web 4.0 going to look like? If we are in the midst of an evolution, what have the big thinkers been able to conjure up about our futures online? Let’s take a look at some of the insights and theories put forth by the futurists, as us mere mortals breathlessly await the next big shiny thing to capture our hearts, minds and soul.
“What the BLEEP Do We Know,” a movie first released in 2004 went on to become one of the most successful documentaries of all time. Now distributed in over 30 countries, it has stunned audiences with its revolutionary mind-jarring blend of quantum physics and evolutionary thought. While widely popular and panned at the same time, this film is not a journey for closed minded, limited thinkers, or faint-of-mind folks. This is a mystical journey that leaves you curiously rooted in an upside-down-world of invisible unknowns that challenge every belief you’ve ever held sacred. I post it here, because in searching for answers to web 4.0 in our future, sometimes you need to take a trip down the rabbit hole, before you settle down to some more concrete realities.
In 2006, Jeff Moriarty, a Community Manager for Intel was bold enough to suggest that Web 4.0 was an “impending state at which all information converges into a great ball of benevolent self-aware light, and solves every problem from world peace to why Lost stunk last season.” However Jeff also had a small part on the “X-Files” so you might not be so inclined to agree with his epiphany.
On the Brave New World front, Nova Spivack is a technology visionary and entrepreneur with nearly two decades of experience in pioneering ventures. In 1994, he co-founded EarthWeb , one of the first Internet companies, where he helped key cultural institutions and businesses develop their first large-scale Web presences, including the New York Stock Exchange, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, BMG Music Club, Sony, AT&T and US West.
As a futurist and publisher of Twine, Spivack has been contemplating the past, present and future of the Web for quite some time. His timeline of technology from our prehistoric desktop era to our synchronistic future is depicted here.
As you can see, according to Spivak’s predictions we are currently at the tail end of Web 2.0, just starting to lay the groundwork for Web 3.0 or semantic technology which arrives in 2010 (start your stop watches). Web 4.0 or WebOS will be like middleware, where the Web will start functioning like an operating system,or what he calls, “the Intelligent Web.” Nova says he isn’t sure about exact dates or technologies on the top end of the map, but in his view each phase runs in approximate ten-year blocks.
E-Learning Queen is a company that focuses on real-world e-learning issues and emerging technologies. Susan Smith Nash, the founder who goes by the title “Queen’s Assistant” believes that Web 4.0 will include a array of sensors that will gather information from one’s environment to create a deep profile of our behaviors and activities.
Raymond Kurzweil is an inventor and futurist. He has been a pioneer in the fields of optical character recognition (OCR), text-to-speech synthesis, speech recognition technology, and electronic keyboard instruments. predicts that by 2029, the WebOS will be parallel to the human brain. By that time, according to Kurzweil, “intelligent machines will combine the subtle and supple skills that humans now excel in (essentially our powers of pattern recognition) with ways in which machines are already superior, such as remembering trillions of facts accurately, searching quickly through vast databases, and downloading skills and knowledge.”
So are we approaching a moment in time when the Internet will actually transform into a “Learning Web,” where the Web is actually learning by itself, unprompted by humans? Seth Godin, popular speaker at Google and TED conferences and the man who popularized the topic of permission marketing believes Web 4.0 or Web4 (as he calls it) is all about “serendipity and the network taking initiative.”
Some of the future examples he conjures up sheds light on the potential innovation Web4 will be able to add to our lives…
- As a project manager, my computer knows my flow chart and dependencies for what we’re working on. And so does the computer of every person on the project, inside my team and out. As soon as something goes wrong (or right) the entire chart updates.
- I’m late for a dinner. My GPS phone knows this (because it has my calendar, my location, and the traffic status). So, it tells me, and then it alerts the people who are waiting for me.
- I visit a blog for the first time. My browser knows what sort of stories I am interested in and shows me highlights of the new blog based on that history.
- I can invest in stocks as part of a team, a team that gains strength as it grows in size.
- My PDA knows I’m going to a convention. Based on my email logs, it recommends who I ought to see while I’m there–because my friends have opted in to our network and we’re in sync.
As Godin sees it, Web4 is “coming from the edges (we see all sorts of tribal activities popping up in blogs, communities, rankings) as opposed to from the center. Web 2.0 happened in largely the same way…and it’s
entirely possible that Web4 will get here before the semantic web even though Web 3 makes it work a lot better.”
Well, there you have it, sports fans… some of the greatest thinkers of our day all looking into their crystal balls for answers to our digital futures. However, before leaving you, one additional theory did surface that I thought worthy of note. “Gnardonkeys” who describe themselves as “two funny guys from San Diego who naively think Twitter can make them famous” offer some gnarly insights into Web 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0 and why we can’t afford to let Web 4.0 happen…
So which ever fork in the road you decide to take…happy travels down the Rabbit Hole or the Brave New World!
I was only allotted a few questions, so I tried to cover as much as I could while attempting to draw out evocative and prudent responses. I understand that I was bestowed the responsibility to speak for many, so I hope I was able to draw out some answers to your own questions.
My Interview with the Internet
Me: Thank you for this opportunity, Internet. Let us begin.
Me: Sunday school had taught me that God is everywhere. I was told that God surrounds us and is in each and every one of us. You, Internet, are everywhere. I breathe you into my lungs, you pass through my head like radio waves do, you’re in every building, you float through the air, and I bet that if I had a waterproof laptop I could find you underwater. Internet, are you God?
Internet: Oh, I wouldn’t say so. I am not everywhere, only wherever humans are. Humanity is my restriction. Some people have argued that I am all-knowing. It is true that I contain nearly all of humanity’s knowledge, but what you humans do not know I also do not. My vast knowledge may seem all-encompassing to a human, but compared to the knowledge of a god I am negligible.
Me: Internet, will you ever be free to use?
Internet: There are a number of pioneers out there who are attempting to provide free usage for everyone, but it doesn’t seem likely. There is a system already in place where you pay monthly fees to access me. Companies restrict your usage depending on how much you pay, and there are others that are restricting your access if they find you using certain downloading programs such as torrents or P2P networks. There are too many ways for companies to take advantage of what I have to offer for me to ever be truly free.
Me: What do you think is your greatest contribution to society?
Internet: Well, I’d say that would have to be its evolution. Life as you know it has changed drastically over the last two decades. Businesses and the marketplace rely on me to make all sorts of transactions for them, so much so that they wouldn’t know what to do if one day I just disappeared. Beyond the fiscal world, I have been an integral force in evolving human communication and creativity. The freedoms of speech and expression can surpass national laws and restrictions. Any and every person has the ability to share their voice on the web.
I am also proud that writing has made a comeback as the prime form of communication. Telephones were the death of letter writing, but now emails and text messages have brought writing back, baby! I’m a big advocate of writing if you couldn’t tell, my entirety and existence is pretty much based on it.
Me: Over your short commercial life, you have evolved greatly. Internet, what do you think of today’s Web 2.0 and your future?
Internet: Web 2.0 is great in many ways. People find me easier to use these days and have become very good at searching for the things that interest them. Attention is being spread across my infinite number of websites, giving web entrepreneurs a better chance of being seen. The Web 2.0 movement has made the web better because there is now more competition amongst websites to capture the spotlight and bask in its glory.
The blogosphere is excellent as well. As I already said, everyone now has the opportunity to get their voice heard. I think this is great. People have different opinions, and some are very extreme. Whether what you have to say is good or bad– it is just wonderful that you have the chance to say it.
The future, I’m not too sure about. Things could get even better, but if the big guys get there way with things then it all could go to shit. I know that most of you have read about the different ideas being thrown out there, initiating class systems for web usage and web hosting. It’s total BS. Things have already started going in that direction. Companies want to make it so the big spenders get better and faster web hosting while the average user gets the crappier end of the bargain. It’s really up to what you guys can accomplish and what you guys fight against.
Internet: Thank you. I don’t want it to be that way. I encourage you to speak out and use whatever I can offer you in your quest. With your immeasurable numbers, anything is possible.
Me: One last question, Internet. Did Al Gore really create you?
Internet: (laughter) No.
Me: Thank you, Internet. It’s been a pleasure.
Internet: The pleasure has been all mine.
Today I received a curious tweet from Peter Cashmore, Mashable’s founder and CEO, pertaining to an ABC announcement and a somewhat biased story angle about social networking.
What seemed odd was ABC using one medium (the Internet) to solicit information for another medium (TV). As I read the tweet, the obvious irony was not lost on me!
Mashable founded in 2005 is the world’s largest blog focused exclusively on Web 2.0 and Social Networking news. When I hyperlinked from the tweet to the ABC website, it brought me to a “contributor pitch page” entitled: “Enough Already! Sick of Social Networking?”
The pitch read as follows:
Have you had enough of social networks? Are you weary of the constant stream of photos and status updates and friend requests? Do you want your privacy back? Or are you one of the last holdouts? Do you feel pressure to join social networks but don’t want to? Tell ABC News how you really feel. Share your story with us, and a producer may contact you.
Now, doesn’t it seem a little bit incongruous that an organization as large as ABC needs “social networks” like Mashable to get their message out to the masses. And then subsequently soliciting those same masses to ask them to turn on their own “social networks?” And when ABC talks about social networks, they are specifically targeting Twitter and Facebook subscribers.(note: while the ABC pitch speaks generically about “social networks” as a whole, the photo posted on the pitch page graphically depicts the “Twitter” and “Facebook” logos).
While Mashable has presently accumulated over 361,000 followers on Twitter and notes that their website has attracted over 5 million pageviews, I can only imagine how many 1000s of stories ABC will receive. Tales will flow in from the attention-deficit digerati waiting to bite the social networking hand that feeds, so they can move on to the next “shiny thing” that offers more topical “geek cred!”
People like Jeri Cartwright, President of Cartwright Communications might also agree with ABC, as she indicates she is unable to fight off “digital exhaustion” when she is inundated with “friend” requests on Facebook and LinkedIn.
On the flip side, it is very possible that ABC will receive a good number of positive responses that speak favorably about the advantages of social networking. There will be those who commend its ability to break news faster than any mainstream media could shake a stick at (sorry about that ABC!). Others might note that Twitter and Facebook have provided them with the opportunity to conduct business, build a brand image, provide hands-on customer service, and communicate regularly with a truly international melting pot of people, from all walks of life. Still others might shed some light on how social networking breaks down racial, political and religious barriers and how many of us feel we have become members of a global society who appreciate our similarities but can also address our differences, and relish in our diversity.
Or perhaps ABC will receive a humorous anecdote similar to one emailed to me from Lauren Turner, an interactive marketing manager at the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce, and a member of my LinkedIn network, who when asked the question if she thought social networking was “overexposed,” responded with,”I don’t feel like I am ahead of the curve anymore. My 72 year old grandmother just added me on Facebook!”
Or maybe they will be enlightened similarly to what I learned from Mike Sosin, an associate health & benefits agent in Chicago, who marvels at social networking as a space where “so many people never before connected can share ideas and perspectives with (just) a few keystrokes.”
We also could be just making too much out of this topic. As Corinna Martinez, senior technical project manager at the Department of Fish and Game states: “Cool tools are just tools!” They get us from point A to point B. However, she was also quick to add that “these apps give more power to the people…because they link PCs, mobile phones…and marketing in many exciting new ways.”
It just so happens that even while the “geek cred” of Twitter and Facebook is starting to fade, tens of thousands are still subscribing to Twitter and Facebook daily. At last count, five-year-old Facebook has tallied 175 millions while Twitter, two years its junior is closing in at 7 million!
So “NO,” Mr. ABC journalist, we haven’t had enough! We are just getting started. And if you want to learn more about our breaking social networking stories, all you have to do is tweet us. Not to say you were ‘scooped, but my best bet is as result of this blog and others like it, this topic will be searched, researched, tweeted, retweeted, commented on and discussed ad nauseum, before yours’ hits the airwaves. Social Networking may be a little bit “overexposed,’ and perhaps it doesn’t move at the speed of light, but it sure does move a lot faster than a TV news story!
So in closing, I wouldn’t be so impertinent or worse, “unsocial”… by telling this TV network that they are a little LOST in taking on this misguided story angle…. because I just realized… that’s one of the things ABC does best!
Squidoo is a website that is designed for people to create a single webpage on any topic of their choosing. These single pages are called lenses and can contain viewpoints, information, expertise, and recommendations.
Although content can be placed on these lenses about any topic a person can think of, that is not the only reason to create a lens. Through recommendations of products, websites and more, a person is able to create ad revenue for themselves, Squidoo, and/or a charity of their choice. Though many people would only make less then a dollar a month for themselves or a charity doing this, some people work hard to create a wealth of lenses that could generate thousands of dollars in total revenue.
One important thing to mention is that Squidoo lenses are often found fairly frequently in Google searches. Squidoo is a spawn of the Web 2.0 era where everything on the web is being found on high-traffic all encompassing websites. Marketers have been using Squidoo to promote products for some time now, and more are heading its way.
Squidoo is a very cool and original idea. Not only are marketers using it to promote products, but all others that fall in the majority of the Internet community are using Squidoo to share ideas and promote their own websites or blogs. Squidoo is ready to become the next MySpace, the next Digg.
From a planning perspective, Squidoo offers some unique opportunities. I picture using this platform much like trying to spread a viral video for a product. On Squidoo I believe an advertiser could capture lots of attention by creating a nifty story or sequence of stories that include or end with a product. Like a viral video, a blatant ad would probably not work; it would have to be much more subtle.
However, if a marketer could build a reputation as some sort of guru in a specific field, people may flock to that person’s lenses to see the products that are recommended. There are thousands of people posting lenses, but an account planner could create a lens in a specific category, such as technology, and cater to a specific audience about specific products they would likely be interested in. I’ve also talked with some users that believe some of Squidoo’s most recognized lens makers are influenced by companys that pay them to speak good of their products. This belief instills doubt in the lens makers, leading to mistrust of their opinions and recommendations.
What unique opportunities do you believe Squidoo can offer users or advertisers? Are there some good possibilities here, or is it more of a gimmick?