I work with companies who are watching in the way of new ventures — weight risks against benefits. Lawyers try to keep them conservative, while the “common wisdom” seems to tell them they need a blog. I’m finding that often a blog isn’t the answer, at least not the appropriate first step. User participation has many forms.
One of the best examples of a social media, user-centered endeavor is Guy Kawasaki’s Alltop.com Alltop gets it right in so many ways. FAQ 3 is part of the magic of the Alltop formula, and what we’ve been talking about — let the community help build the barn.
3. Q. How do you decide which sites and blogs are in a topic?
A. We use a patent-pending, semantic computational algorithm derived from the post-doctoral work of Guy at Stanford. Just kidding. We rely on several sources: results of Google searches, review of the sites’ and blogs’ content, researchers, and our “gut” plus the recommendations of the Twitter community, owners of the sites and blogs, and people who care enough to write to us. Let us declare something: The Twitter community has been the single biggest factor in the quality of Alltop. Without this group of mavens and connectors, Alltop would not be what it is today.
You can tell a person wrote that.
I’m lucky to be talking to the man behind Alltop —
Guy Kawasaki — about his thoughts on how businesses
can engage people as they move online. I wondered about low-risk choices that businesses might make when forming new social media businesses and communities online.
Hi Guy! About Alltop, I’ve been through it all in the past few days. I think most folks don’t realize the scope of the accomplishment you’ve built … it’s no wonder you’re always smiling.
Alltop really is more than it seems. What is Alltop really and why does it work?
Alltop is a digital magazine rack. We assemble (“aggregate”) subscriptions by topics, and we have approximately 400 topics ranging from Adoption to Zoology.
It works because there is so much information on the web and search engines are too good at what they do. For any topic, Google would find millions of hits. Most people do not have the time or ability to winnow this down.
For example, try typing “China” into Google then look at
What’s special about Alltop is the way people have taken a personal interest in it — especially the Twitter community. Did the Twitter community come first or did you grow the community as you grew Alltop?
Twitter as a service pre-dates Alltop by several years. Fortunately, the people who follow me have taken a liking to Alltop. They provide suggestions for topic and feeds for topics, and they help us spread the word about topics. Alltop would not be what it is without Twitter.
What was crucial to making it all happen efficiently? What was crucial to getting the community to buy in?
Many factors came into play: I had a large following because of my visibility so Alltop had a jump start; the product is truly useful; and we were more than willing to hear and implement what the community wanted. Twitter was made for Alltop, and Alltop was made for Twitter–you couldn’t have designed a better synergy if you tried.
What advice do you have for companies who worry about the risks of their first steps into the social sphere?
The willingness to open things up and to seemingly lose control is the only way to control social media. If you think you can control social media in the traditional sense, you shouldn’t even try it. Just stick to buying Super Bowl commercials instead.
What sort of projects might you suggest would offer low risk but high profile community relationship value?
The first thing most companies should do is go to search.twitter.com and search for anyone who mentions their products, services, or the company itself. Then it should help those people in any way possible.
To see how it’s done, they should watch @comcastcares on Twitter. That is a Comcast employee who monitors Twitter for people who have issues with Comcast. This is a great example of how to use social media. The cost is $0 and the upside is huge.
Thanks Guy! It was a pleasure, as always.
Look closely and you see that Alltop.com is a magazine rack that draws people into a community. People help choose the topics. They suggest the sites included. People proudly display the badge of the Alltop domain and discuss Alltop blogs with @GuyKawasaki and @NEENZ on Twitter.
Guy let the people help build it, made the site about them and what they’re doing, and now they promote and protect it. It’s a community all right.
What do you think is the magic of Alltop? What bit of it could make work for you and the community you’re building?
–ME “Liz” Strauss
Work with Liz!!