Live in DC and Wanna Learn Improv? Take This Class.

Hey guys, a few months ago I had the distinct pleasure of taking an improv class called “In the Moment”, at the Shakespeare Theater Company in Washington DC under a master teacher Oran Sandel.  It was really an amazing experience and it’s something that I highly recommend to anyone.

You come home after class so psyched because you have all this creative energy running through your veins at a level that you probably never have experienced before.   More importantly, you leave the class having a better understanding of how to live “in the moment” as well as more whole understanding of how to communicate with the people you interact with around you.

Well if you live in the DC area, you really need to sign up for his class which is starting June 8th.  Sign up for this Masters Acting Class at the Shakespeare Theater Company RIGHT NOW.

I’m not getting paid by these guys to write this.  I just really really dig the class.

Here’s the summary…

The art of improvisation is one we all practice every day, whether we are doctors, lawyers, artists or businesspeople. This class is offered as a way to add layers of mindfulness and technique to that skill set, thereby increasing confidence and communication skills, as well as enriching the quality of life. Through improvisational theatre experiences for the mind, body and voice, workshop participants will gain a deeper understanding of the role of imagination, playfulness and creativity in daily life. Anyone wishing to pursue improvisation and theatre performance will also find the skills taught in this class invaluable.

Being Accessible…

As a community manager, one of the most important things that I learned is that you have to be accessible.  This time, when I talk about being accessible, I’m not talking about making the Web accessible to people with disabilities.  I’m talking about being available and easily reachable.

When I was in college, my major had all these great computer labs with all the latest state of the art equipment.  The guy in charge of the Networking Lab was my Freshmen orientation teacher.   He was telling us about how he was getting ready to select the next set of graduate assistants that would work in the labs and help undergrad students with their home work.

He told us about how he wanted the grad assistants in the labs to be known amongst the undergrads.  He’d post photos and schedules of the grad assistants all over the building.  He wanted to makes sure that if we ever had a question that we knew who we could ask for help.

I talk to a lot of folks who work at companies that want to build these great customer communities but they setup all these walls so that their customers have to jump through hoops in order to get in touch with them.  That is stupid.

You have to be accessible.  You can’t form a relationship with someone… You can’t connect with someone if you can’t find each other.

So…you want users to send you feedback about how you can improve your product but you make them fill out this ominous looking contact form.  It looks like one of those deep whole in the earth that you can’t see the bottom of.  You’re going to put in your message and then never have anyone get in touch with you.

Put your person e-mail address on your Web site.  Spam filters have advanced A LOT in the last few years.  I hardly ever get spam and you’d have to be really bad at using the Web to not be able to find my e-mail address.

There are some companies that even have a phone number on their Web site, where you can call them and talk to a real person.  Shocking…

I put my photo on our company Web site. (click the link and scroll to the bottom of the page)

Travel and go to conferences that your users may be at.  Blog about going there.  Put a note about it in your company newsletter.  When you’re at the conference, Twitter about where you are so that folks can find you easily.

Finally, institute an open door policy.  I remember we had these in college in our dorm room.  The RA’s wanted us to keep the doors to our rooms open so that folks could stop on by and you’d make more friends.  It sounded silly but it worked.

Have an open door policy at your office.  Encourage folks to stop by and say hi.  It’s easy to know when I am and I’m not at the office.  I love having folks over to the office for lunch.   We keep our beer fridge pretty well stocked.  We have a killer espresso machine.  There’s nothing better then being able to sit down and chat with someone in person.  After a while, you get tired of sending e-mail.

In closing, it’s funny to me about how much folks want to build community and build relationships with their users but they don’t actually want to be close to anyone.  They don’t want to jump in and get their hands dirty.  There is no other way to do it.

Community managers often will compare the trade of building community to dating.  You’re never going to get to kiss the girl, if all you do is just look through the glass.  You have to be willing to go up, say hi, and introduce yourself.

So… go.  Put yourself out there.  Make relationships.  Build community.

The Power of the Poke

Back in college, Facebook was still relatively new on the world stage and folks were still discovering how they could use it the best way possible.  Well, there were a chunk of a that were obsessed with the poke functionality where you could poke someone else.  We had these massive poking wars.

Well, the other day,  I was in Facebook and I got thinking about poking.   While the task may seem inane at first, there is actually something really cool about it.  What you’re saying when you poke someone is “Hey, I’m thinking about you right now and I wanted  you to know about it.”

In Facebook, you see this type of interaction in other ways.  You can “like” something that someone has posted to their Wall.  You can comment on something that somone has posted.  You can post something on someone else’s wall.

When you do one of these things to a person, you’re telling them that you’re thinking about them and that you read their stuff.  They’re special to you.  They’re worth your attention.  You want to stay connected with them.

No one likes the feeling when they post something or share something that they’re posting it into a vacuum and no one will actually read it.  When you get that feedback or that interaction, it makes you feel special because someone to that time out of their day just for you.  It makes you want to share more.

These small interactions… these small touches help you maintain your social capital with your relationships. When you have social capital with someone, if you don’t stay in touch with them, the social capital… the desire to want to go of your way to help that person starts to have a shelf life.  It’s too easy for things to become “out of sight… out of mind.”

When you have a relationship that’s built on trust,  it’s important to do those small things which show the person that you continue to care about them and take interest in them.

It’s not all on Faceebook either.  If you read someone’s blog, take 2 seconds and write a comment like “cool post.” If you travel a lot, pick up a gift from that country for a friend of yours.

How have you been blessed by a small touch, interaction, or poke?

Love The Amazon Kindle But It’s Not Good at Sharing

So… about a month ago I bought the Amazon Kindle 2.  Its their e-book reader, which they’ve been touting on their home page for what seems like the last year or so.

Well, I love it.  I have about an hour commute to work everyday and I will use my Kindle to read the day’s Washington Post (just canceled my subscription to the dead tree edition today) or a book.  The best part is, when you’re on the subway, you can read the newspaper with one hand, while using the other hand to clutch a pole or rail if need be.

The only thing I don’t like about the Kindle is that it’s not good at sharing.  (Remember when your mother would tell you that you needed to share that toy with your sibling?)  Well the Kindle just can’t.

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m currently about half way through Tara Hunt’s book The Whuffie Factor and it’s great.  I’m really enjoying the book.  I’m enjoying the book so much that I have recommended it to a few friends.

Naturally, my friend asked me “Can I borrow your copy?”  I’m like… oh crap.  The book is on my Kindle.  There is nothing that i can give my friend.  I can’t get the e-book off my Kindle. I’m not giving her my Kindle so that I she could read the book.

Do I love the book enough that I’ll buy a physical copy that I can use to loan to friends?  Maybe.  I don’t feel like I should have to though.

I have had a similar experience when I’ve found a cool article in the Kindle edition of the Washington Post that I’ve wanted to share.  What do I do?  I can’t send them the article through the Kindle, even though the device does have an Internet connection.    I’d have to go to the Web, find the article, and send that URL.  That’s a pain.  I usually just end up forgetting about it.

The lesson is that a good chunk of media consumption is no longer done in private.  It’s done within a community or a network of people who want to share that content amongst themselves.   New devices that are created should take this into consideration.  Creating these great experiences that have these monsterous walls that prevent the content from getting out doesn’t work any more.

Managing Your Social Capital

Seems like everyday I see new job listings for a social media specialist or hear about the creation of a new media team at some large corporation.  This seems kind of rediculous to me.

Social media is made of tools.  They’re just tools.  Hiring a social media specialist would be like a restaurant hiring a knife handling specialist.

Instead of thinking about the tools, think about what they’re used for.  They’re used for reaching new users and communicating with your existing ones.

Or… as Tara Hunt put’s it in her new book, it’s all about whuffie.  Not whoopeewhuffie.   It’s a term that’s used in a science fiction book to describe and measure someone’s reputation.  I think of it as social capital.

Do people trust you?  Do they respect you?  Are they a friend?  This is social capital.  Once you are those things… Once you have social capital, how do you maintain it?  How do you maintain those connections with your community and not fade into irrelevance?

You can manage your social capital using social media tools.

Your social capital… your repuation is SOOOOO important.  People spend so much time studying and practicing accounting.  Those people grow up to become the Chief Financial Officers (CFO) for companies and track financial capital of a company.  What about the social capital?  It’s just as imporant.

If you’re too big for your CEO to do this that’s when you hire a community manager.  Yes that’s me.  I’m a community manager and I manage the social capital for my company.  I spend most of my day making new friends and keeping the ones that we already have.

Making friends… that probably sounds super trivial but it’s actually pretty complicated and SUPER important.  If folks don’t trust you, they’ll tell their friends about it or the sheer act of no one talking about you at all will affect your bottom line.  You’ll lose financial capital because you were bad at managing your social capital.

Let’s assemble some examples of social capital situations.  What’s a comapny that you’ve lost respect for because of something they’ve done?  What’s a company that you’ve gained respect for because of something they’ve done?