mindshare presence and mindshare enhancement for small businesses

A client has asked me to propose how I’d do a “social computing audit” for them — essentially, they want to see (1) how their competitors are using things like blogs and YouTube, or FaceBook and Twitter and (2) what tools or methods *they* might want to adapt.

Something interesting – and unexpected – came up in the research I put into the proposal for that gig. The CEO who’d asked for ‘some thoughts on a proposal’ was politely skeptical about the bottom line value of these new tools. Still – off I went to do some preliminary work.

I found two things. Sure enough, the company had a very scant presence in these new(ish) venues.  And — as minimal as it was — it was *about* par for the course for that particular industry. The surprising thing was that a lion’s share of tweets and blog comments came from a handful of clearly dissatisfied customers!

Bottom line? It’s one thing to monitor how you’re ‘keeping up with’ competitors in terms of online visibility, it’s another to see *what* your online reputation is.

Really big companies know this difference and pay dearly for reputation management — for their company as well as for their c-level execs!

As far as I know (that is to say, as far as 5 minutes on Google searches popped up), the company that does this kind of small-company and (and their senior people) reputation management is a local (Bay Area) firm,   Reputation Defender   ( http://reputationdefender.com )

‘might be worth your while to check them out !


when branding moves from critical to dysfunctional

Naomi Klein’s is an equal oppt’y critic whenever she sees form getting more attention than substance. Today’s Guardian article is a sobering commentary on how corporate, and yes  — governmental — branding is anything but an invisible hand shaping our culture   http://portante.9mp.com/4NK2w

things come, things go

The disruption of change, the poignancy of thoughts of what were, and what may never be.

A quote from the first line of a book review seems appropriate here:

Sicily is the key to Italy, as Goethe once wrote, and one novel is the key to Sicily: “The Leopard,” Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa’s masterpiece. This tale of the decline and fall of the house of Salina, a family of Sicilian aristocrats, first appeared in 1958, but it reads more like the last 19th-century novel, a perfect evocation of a lost world.

Something I believed in, something I wanted to believe in, is undergoing a kind of change that will benefit so many people, and that will, as the saying goes, ‘make a more inclusive tent.’ And yes, to put a metric on it, it will make more money for a lot of people. Careers will bloom, reputations will be made.

And yet, I think of the book’s protagonist, looking out over the totally silent and searingly hot vineyards of his old Sicilian town, worrying if his way of life can ever be the same again. My own view is different here – it’s of container ships moving into ports, of San Francisco Bay and the sounds below my window are those of a working marina.

Lampedusa’s “The Leopard” is as fitting a commentary on the inevitability — and heart wrenching pain — of change. Should you ever wonder about whether the sights and sounds you have come to love will change, and how you will adopt and adapt, I can think of no better recommendation than to wander through this novel.

Ah– the review the quote above came from:



$10Billion here, $10Billion there … pretty soon you’re up to a small percentage of …

Each year Americans spend a LOT on Christmas. OK, the number is hard to pin down but if you’re generous with taking into account the whole ball of wax, from money spent on Secret Santa stuff, to the Politically Correct Happy Holidays banners that go up everywhere, from staff parties to Christmas getaways to points south and sunny – the number is really REALLY Big.

Like … $450 Billion Dollars.

To put a little perspective on this. Several non-aligned research and aid organizations remind us that the leading cause of death, worldwide, every year, is the lack of water. People can’t get it. OR, when they get it, it’s not potable. Best estimates of a massive global effort to eliminate this shortage of water would could in the neighborhood of $10Billion.

$450Billion.  $10Billion.

You’ve possibly heard of The Advent Conspiracy. These are sane people with a modest request: that we remind ourselves this is a time of year where we can be so, so much more than consumers. A time of year we can find time to slow down a bit, a very small bit, to spend time with loved ones. A time of year when we can forgo one or two presents. A time of year when we can make a difference.

An old friend, a professor at Harvard (a woman as unlikely as anyone you’ll ever meet sending links about searching for meaning) sent me this link.

Take the time, please, to look at it. http://9mp.com/OOEbl

The annual Great Chestnut Road Test

years and years ago, when blogging was ‘edge-y’,  I wrote this in one of my blogs.  A friend’s reminder of the smell of chestnuts roasting outdoors made me look around for this.   Merry Christmas to all …

Roasted chestnuts were one of the culinary wedge-issues in my childhood.

And once a year I try to find a kind of epicurean accommodation.

In food, as in so many things, my parents were from different worlds. My father was raised in an ethnic New York neighborhood that would someday lead to stories about my grandmother teaching her seven children which streets were safe and which where places where no-matter-what-you-see-you-never-tell-anyone. It was a world of sweatshops and growing Communist sympathies. A world of daily market shopping with net bags and noisy, argumentative banter taking place across expanses of decidedly un-Heart-Healthy food.

My mother was raised in what nowadays we’d call Appalachian Ohio, one of eight children of a modestly successful Gentleman Farmer. Hers was a more boundaried world, sounding at times like a cross between Lake Wobegan and Walton’s Mountain. I remember her stories about Pinkie, the family pet lamb, eating the grapevine clinging to lattice outside their summer kitchen, stories about the short-legged Shetland pony — Trixie — who always tried to be as fast a runner as her mother. Mealtimes at the farm were as full of genteel manners as they were of Scots-Irish comfort food.

These were two people, it should come as no surprise, with very different ideas of good food.

It was the 1950’s — food selection and preparation were my mother’s dominion. Now and then, though, it seems my father yearned for something from his childhood. Somehow, he’d routinely manage to find a local farm stand or delicatessen on his way home and surprise my family with something totally unexpected: Basketsful of out-of-the-ordinary fresh and dried fruit, smoked oysters, dry-cured fish, and an un-ending range of vegetables packed in oil or aspic, with spices and herbs that had never been part of *our* kitchen.

Tolerant as she was, my mother could never hide her dislike for the smell of roasting chestnuts. And as my mother’s son, I somehow inherited the idea that the sweet, musky smell of chestnuts baking in the oven was something that should occur in the homes of other people. People we’d not have to visit too often.

A generation later I began to suspect that some of my father’s food tastes had merit. One by one, I’d end up trying some of the treats he’d brought into our world of shepherd’s pie, pot roasts and garden salads. And far more often than not, I’d have to admit I’d missed something by being reluctant to try those foods.

Five years ago I began a new family tradition —  the Annual Chestnut Road Test. Each January, around New Year’s, I lay in a supply of fresh chestnuts. The shells are dutifully scored with a penknife, and are placed into a hot oven for varying times. Results so far have been uneven.

While I can’t honestly say I *like* the flavor of these roasted nuts, the truth is, I’ve gotten to the point where I find the smell charmingly evocative of cozy afternoons in my parents’ New England house.

So, on this late Sunday night (just after midnight) two days before Christmas and more than a week ’til New Year’s Day, I’m sitting in the kitchen looking at a bag of chestnuts. *This years* Road Test batch.

Who knows, maybe this’ll be the year that I actually enjoy them.

Thinking now is SO not the right time to do a start up?

Well, maybe conventional wisdom isn’t the best way to think about this decision. The current (Dec) BusinessWeek publication has just launched its first annual “most intriguing 25 new businesses created in the last year” list.

The list is displayed alphabetically, so you’ll have to do a big of homework to come up with your own persona ranking of these efforts, but the point is this: great companies have often started in tough times.

Things have been tough, and they remain difficult, but there are some glimmers of hope Out There.

This year – 2009 – witnessed 24,500 startups financed by angel investors. Down a whole bunch from a few years earlier, BUT, up 6% from 2008.

Better still, according to estimates from the Center for Venture Research, this coming year should see over 50,000 startups funded by angels.

SO… we can hunker down til people in the streets are singing “Happy Days Are Here Again” or we can do what entrepreneurs do best – take calculated risks.


A new world for bringing information to customers and business partners

There’s no secret that I’m a fan of the idea that ‘virtual worlds’ have a serious place in business. ‘problem is, most pushback against these immersive computing environments is that they’re too weird, too difficult to learn, too much overhead, too.. too.. too…

Maybe that’s about to change. Take a look at a product – still in Beta – that really seems to be an ‘inworld experience’ meant for real business people.