Books – Social media business strategies blog Tue, 24 Apr 2018 10:34:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Books – 32 32 Book review: ‘Angel: How to Invest in Technology Startups’ Wed, 19 Jul 2017 20:10:39 +0000 Continue reading ]]> angel

Title: “Angel: How to Invest in Technology Startups—Timeless Advice from an Angel Investor Who Turned $100,000 into $100,000,000″
Author: Jason Calacanis
My rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Release date: July 18, 2017 on Amazon (hardcover & Kindle), in bookstores and at angelthebook

JD LasicaWith Silicon Valley at the center of tech culture – and much of pop culture these days – you might be tempted to get in on the startup action. Not founding a startup but investing in one … or a dozen … or, as Jason Calacanis advises in his new book “Angel,” investing $1.5 million in 50 startups over a three-year span.

Now that’s a bold and provocative set of marching orders. Which is what we have come to expect from Calacanis, the Brooklyn-bred journalist turned entrepreneur turned podcast impresario—and one of the top five angel investors in the world.

“Angel,” Calacanis’ first book, went on sale Tuesday. It’s brash, candid and opinionated, much like the author, and it’s a refreshing change of pace from the dry and oh-so-serious angel investing tomes that have preceded it.

More important, “Angel” is a fun, practical, accessible, rigorous and smart tutorial on how you, too, can become a gazillionaire—assuming you have the requisite stomach for startup flameouts, countless meetings and the likely downsizing of your bank account.

The formula for successful investing

As anyone who has spent serious time investing in startups knows, it’s often more art than science. If it were science, then algorithm-powered robots would make the best investors.

But that’s not how it works. So Calacanis provides the formula, you provide the gut, and in five to 10 years we’ll see how you do.

Your instructions begin with plunking down ten $1,000 investments as part of a follow-the-leader angel syndicate, followed by “making twenty $25,000 bets and quadrupling down on the winners with a $100,000 follow-on investment.” As a result, no investment in your portfolio is more than 1.25 to 2.5 percent of your net worth. Smart.

The author shares some hilarious spot-on anecdotes, as when he jabs ‘the precious little snowflakes from Y Combinator’

Jason—and he is one of those eponymous one-name wonders who’s a recognizable brand on just about every social platform: @Jason on Twitter, Jason on Instagram, etc.—warns readers that this is not an endeavor for the faint of heart. The regimen includes meeting with twenty-five founders per month at the outset—“thousands of meetings,” all told—in addition to regular meetings with fellow investors. New investors must learn to say “not yet”—investorspeak for “no.”

“Angel” covers all the major bases. Calacanis outlines cap table basics, deal memos, due diligence, the pros and cons of joining startup boards, how angel syndicates work, how to identify businesses that scale, the right questions to pose to founders, the importance of traction, how to determine a reasonable valuation, the value of information rights (monthly updates from the founding team) and the No. 1 rule: Invest in the founders, not in the idea.

Along the way, the author shares some hilarious spot-on anecdotes, as when he jabs “the precious little snowflakes from Y Combinator” who think they’re so special that the normal investment rules don’t apply to them.

Predicting the future

I always like to have a bit of fun with my fellow Bay Area tech enthusiasts’ predictions, as when I reviewed Robert Scoble’s book “The Fourth Transformation” in December. Scoble spoke at Calacanis’ Launch Scale gathering last November and predicted we’ll all be wearing mixed-reality headsets within 12 months. (Spoiler alert: We won’t.)

I give Jason credit for having the cojones to take these stabs at how the future will unfold. Here are four of Calacanis’ provocative prognostications in “Angel” and my reactions—go ahead, play along at home!

  • “The jobpocalypse is coming [and] it includes the elimination of most white-collar jobs we were told were careers, like being a lawyer, doctor, teacher, accountant, pilot, journalist, or—wait for it—a software engineer.” (No, no, no, possibly, unlikely, no and perhaps.)
  • “In another ten years, you will look into a retina scanner at checkout and carry no money or credit cards.” (Not a chance, if Jason means most of us and not just techies.)
  • “People don’t just want to give up car ownership, they never want to even be in possession of one!” (Not remotely true, outside of a handful of urban enclaves.)
  • “Instead of a Starbucks on every other corner in a city, there will be a [robotic] Cafe X machine in the lobby of every building on the block.” (Very unlikely. While Silicon Valley exalts automation and prizes productivity, most people will still crave interactions with other people rather than meekly accept the advent of our robot overlords.)

This is half the fun of reading “Angel.” You’re making bets on how to read cultural signposts and social megatrends. Angel investors will either go with the flow while sitting around the bargaining table (he calls it Groupthink, I call it Sheepthink) or you’ll go your own idiosyncratic way.

And in the end, whether you agree with how Calacanis reads the tea leaves or not, the bottom line is that he has an impressive track record as an investor. He has built a portfolio worth more than $150 million, much of it because he hit an inside straight with an early investment in Uber: He invested $25,000 in Uber when it was valued at $5 million, and it’s now worth somewhere between $50 billion and $70 billion.

I always include some feedback for the author in my book reviews, so here are two nitpicks: I would have liked to have seen “Angel” explain the shortcomings of some of the newfangled investment vehicles like equity crowdfunding that a lot of first-timers might naturally gravitate toward. And an old-fashioned index for the book wouldn’t hurt, either.

Four possible end-game scenarios

When all is said and done, if you read “Angel” and follow Calacanis’ prescriptions for successful angel investing, what will be the outcome for all your trouble? There are four possible scenarios, he writes (pages 269-272) if you’re really serious about this and not just taking a flyer on a diverting new hobby:

  • You get back less than you invested.
  • You break about even.
  • You get two to five times what you invested.
  • You score returns of 5x or more—perhaps even “200 or 300 or 400 times your money” because you placed your bet on a future “unicorn.” Congrats, you’ve hit the lottery, many times over!

So, who’s a good candidate for being a successful angel investor? Calacanis describes the ideal investors as those with assets of $5 million to $10 million who are willing to risk 10 to 20 percent of their net worth. (“If you lose it all or make back half, you’ll be fine,” he writes.)

Are there waves and waves of wannabe angels waiting in the wings?

Personally, I’m skeptical that there are waves and waves of wannabe angels waiting in the wings, as it were. Yes, there are lots of one-percenters out there, and yes, there are lots of rich folks who would love to get in the game. But how many of them will actually go through the rigors of a proverbial Camp Lejeune, the Marine Corps base camp that separates the wusses from the warriors? How many will have the patience for taking thousands of meetings? Perhaps I’m hanging out with the wrong group of rich people, but most millionaires I know are incredibly risk averse and already have the wherewithal to send their kids to the best colleges, leave them a trust fund and buy a big ol’ boat.

I hope I’m wrong about that. I hope there are thousands of people who buy “Angel,” take its lessons to heart and help launch the next wave of disruptive tech innovation.

Calacanis has provided a detailed roadmap. Now who will be brave and foolhardy enough to take up the quest?

Disclaimer: Jason and I are longtime friends and I shot the photo of him that appears on the book jacket of “Angel.” 

J.D. Lasica, an entrepreneur, author and former book editor at the Sacramento Bee (among many other things), releases his book reviews under a Creative Commons license; his reviews may be republished with attribution.


Book review: The Age of Context captures the pulse of new tech

JD Lasica’s book reviews

Promote your book with influencer marketing Mon, 04 May 2015 09:45:09 +0000 Continue reading ]]> ‘Never forget that every profile, website & blog represents a person, a soul, an ego & a heart’

Target audience: Marketing professionals, authors, self-publishers, PR pros, brand managers, SEO specialists, educators, Web publishers, journalists.

Moran_3E_COVER-230x300Chris AbrahamAfew days ago at GroupHigh’s Outreach Marketing Virtual Summit I gave a presentation on how to promote your book (or your client’s book) by engaging online influencers. And I cited six books that I’ve promoted over the past couple of years on behalf of their authors: Glock and Law of the Jungle by Paul M. Barrett; Search Engine Marketing, Inc., by Mike Moran and Bill Hunt; Mindful Work by David Gelles; and The Creator’s Code by Amy Wilkinson.

The most important part of the premise of this entire presentation is that I have never been retained by a publisher, only by authors who have taken it upon themselves to span the marketing gap in the absence of serious marketing efforts by their publishing houses. They all took responsibility for the success of their books online with online influencers.

Remember, publishing isn’t the same animal it was even 10 to 20 years ago:

  • The publishing industry has changed in the last decade
  • With eBooks, self-publishing, and a decrease in traditional book reading, the margins on all but the top-sellers is paper thin
  • First-time and niche authors have much less support and resources towards book-promotion
  • Mindful Work by David GellesMarketing budgets have been slashed or preserved for top sellers and top earners (that’s assuming you can even get a book deal these days)
  • Unlike advertising or a book tour, there is no barrier to entry to social media
  • Social media enables both intimate one-to-one relationships with online influencers
  • Social also enables access to one-to-many and many-to-many social media shares
  • Influencer marketing allows authors to identify and then engage topically-relevant online influencers and bloggers
  • Time, talent, and treasure are all you need to support your online “shadow” book launch and book tour
  • You can do it on the cheap using just your time and talent or you can subscribe to a dedicated blogger outreach platform like GroupHigh with a little bit of treasure
  • Or, you can open your wallet and either collaborate with an expert or hire a publicist to do the outreach on your behalf (I’m always happy to help)

3 essential rules for social media marketing

While social media marketing lacks formal protocol, there are three essentials:

  • Treat everyone as if they’re a Kardashian: be excited and grateful and don’t take anyone for granted – no matter how little clout (or Klout) — and be willing to lavish time & attention on everyone
  • Be responsive and follow up more than once: “no reply” doesn’t mean “no”
  • Provide an exceptional gift: bloggers love bound galleys, they love hardcover copies drop-shipped. They’ll take paperbacks, some prefer Amazon-compatible downloads – but nobody at all loves a PDF attachment.

The Creator's Code by Amy WilkinsonIn each of the preceding books, each author was willing to lavish as many books, at much attention, and as much time was as required to make a connection and honor each influencer:

  • Paul M. Barrett was willing to brave the gun message boards for Glock.
  • Amy Wilkinson hosted a reddit IAmA question and answer session.
  • Mike Moran & Bill Hunt never met an interview they weren’t willing to take.
  • David Gelles took podcast interviews as readily as NPR interviews.

Why you should reach further than the A-List

  • Top newspapers, journals, celebrity sites, and high-status A-level blogs are highly competitive.
  • Don’t forsake the crème de la crème but don’t only rely on them to fuel your book’s promotion – everyone’s fighting to go to prom with the prom king and prom queen.
  • If you don’t already have a brand, it’s entirely possible to build a powerful brand from the bottom up: blog by blog, influencer by influencer.
  • Social media goes beyond blogs, Facebook, and Twitter – don’t ignore message boards and specialty sites.

Rule #34b – If it exists there is a blog about it.

There’s so much more than mommy bloggers

Law of the Jungle by Paul M. Barrett

  • Paul M. Barrett made best mates with both the pro-gun and anti-gun online – I helped him connect with shooting sport hobbyists on both general sports shooting and Glock-specific message boards for his book Glock.
  • I found David Gelles hundreds of influencers connected with the mindfulness movement, both spiritual and secular.
  • I helped Amy Wilkinson connect with both entrepreneurs and women with the goal of connecting with women entrepreneurs.
  • Mike Moran tapped me to help him and Bill Hunt track down everyone outside of their personal SEO/SEM database of contacts.

Run your campaign on any budget — here are some tools

  • For years, I did all of my blogger outreach campaigns using Excel spreadsheets and then Google Sheets.
  • I discovered bloggers using keywords on Google and blog search engines and tracked engagements on those blasted spreadsheets.
  • You can do it cheap and hard or spend a little money to make it easier.
  • I currently use a combination of Google, SDL (formerly SM2), InkyBee, and GroupHigh to do my blog and blogger research.
  • I use GroupHigh to manage my outreach campaigns, including contacts & follow-ups.

Never forget that every single profile, website, blog, and email address represents a person, a soul, an ego, and a heart. Never lose sight of the fact that you’re reaching out to people and not just reviews, ratings, blog posts, or earned media mentions.


]]> 1
Review of ‘Dot Complicated’: A guidepost for our social era Mon, 04 Nov 2013 12:38:05 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Randi-Zuckerberg
Randi Zuckerberg at her book release party in San Francisco on Thursday night.

Randi Zuckerberg’s new book offers wise advice on how to balance our personal & professional lives online

Target audience: Small and mid-size businesses, entrepreneurs, marketing professionals, social media managers, college students, job seekers, Facebook users and anyone navigating the social media landscape.

JD LasicaCool your online jets, kids. You too, mom and pop. Step away from the habit of 24/7 smartphone gratification. Friend only real friends. Treat others with respect. And don’t try to carve out an Internet persona different from your real-world self.

Those are a few of the common-sense prescriptions Randi Zuckerberg offers for the legions of always-on overindulgers bingeing on a social media sugar high in her new book Dot Complicated (249 pages, HarperCollins), coming out tomorrow.


Randi Z., Facebook’s former marketing chief, is profoundly bright, affable, empathetic and sweet in real life (IRL, as the kids say), and those qualities abound in her book. She also has an accompanying children’s book, “Dot,” and for the big kids there’s a cool DotComplicated website.

One part behind-the-scenes look at Facebook’s early years and one part survival guide for our connected lives, “Dot Complicated” rolls along sprightly with stories and anecdotes right from the opening scene, where Randi, a gifted storyteller, recounts the frenetic behind-the-scenes activities in preparation for President Obama’s live-streamed Facebook town hall in 2011.

Randi, the former Facebook marketing chief who now heads up Zuckerberg Media, keeps it down to earth throughout. She breaks our journey into roadside stopovers on identity, modern friendships, romance, family, career, community and where all of this is heading. (By the way, news flash: life-casting your first date? never a good idea.) In other words, it’s about how to navigate our tech-infused modern life in all its online and offline messiness.

Authentic identity means merging our online & offline selves

The heart of the author’s message centers on the theme of online identity. “In a world of authentic online identity, there is increasingly little difference between our real and our online selves,” she writes. “The two cannot be thought of separately.”

Randi has taken her share of criticism for this notion of authentic identity, but I think most of the criticism is misplaced. Facebook’s positive effect on online community today can hardly be overstated. Before Facebook, those of us who routinely revealed our real names and identities in our online forays were a distinct minority. Facebook’s lasting legacy, I think, will be the gift of authentication to the Internet — the simple idea of, Hey bucko, stand behind your words by telling us who you are.

Today, thousands of companies use Facebook’s authentication feature to put a real name to the person who just registered on your site.

The author urges companies to become social businesses by empowering employees to be good ambassadors for their firms. A 21st century company should welcome a multiplicity of voices and points of view within the workplace rather than insist on a single bland institutional identity. She also points out the rich skills that a new generation of employees is bringing to the office, particularly the social media-savvy staffer who becomes “a kind of PR representative for his or her firm.”

But “Dot Complicated” is geared less to the business community than to young professionals, parents and especially women who look to Randi as a digital role model.

Some wise counsel to new & longtime parents

Kids need love, not search-engine optimization

The book is studded with little jewels and discoveries. It’s been years since I ran the show at BabyCenter, but I had no idea about this new wrinkle that new parents face:

“It’s perfectly normal these days to hear expectant parents say things like ‘I wanted to name my chld XYZ, but the domain wasn’t available, so we chose a different name,'” she relates. Who knew that baby naming had turned into a cutthroat land grab?

Her advice: “Make sure you proactively secure your child’s digital identity as early as possible. Register e-mail addresses and a .com domain for your kid, and at least Google your baby’s name once before choosing it. … But don’t get carried away by this process. Kids need love, not search-engine optimization.”

She wisely counsels parents of teenagers to buck up — to be attentive and knowledgeable but not fearful of the Internet, which underlies much of our future, after all. “Let’s remember to stay focused on the light,” she writes.

How to balance the personal & professional online?

“In the era of smartphones, social media, and authentic identity online, it’s no longer possible to separate your personal and professional identities”
— Randi Zuckerberg

In webinars I’ve done in recent years, a question that frequently comes up is: How much of myself should I put out there in social media? What’s the dividing line between my personal life and professional life online?

The author makes a case for the proposition that there should be no dividing line. (It’s the same argument Mark Zuckerberg has articulated over the years.) She writes: “I am now convinced that the people who think we need to create a purely professional, one-dimensional brand online have got it totally wrong. … In the era of smartphones, social media, and authentic identity online, it’s no longer possible to separate your personal and professional identities.”

She calls this “360-degree identity,” where the personal and the professional blend seamlessly. Randi’s peers — at 31, she straddles the Gen X and millennial generations — grew up with social and know it’s no longer possible to compartmentalize our lives into neat drawers. And it does sound old school to think your professional life should reside on LinkedIn, your social life on Facebook and your mommy self on BabyCenter or CafeMom.

So you won’t get an argument from me there. Authentic identity is a compelling idea as a weapon against cyber-bullying, in bringing signal out of noise and in connecting our online and offline lives. Yes, there’s a place for anonymity when needed, for patients, crime victims, the marginalized, dissidents in repressive regimes and other examples — but these are the exceptions to the rule.

‘Always put yourself in other people’s shoes’

Randi also has some advice for journalists: “In a world where people can finally yell back at the television and be heard, those on the screen better be prepared to listen. … The media correspondent of the future will need to have a new kind of skill set: the ability to be a correspondent, a community manager, a curator, and a member of the audience, all at the same time.”

The workplace is still roiling with the unsettled question of how far corporate HR managers should go in evaluating a job candidate’s life stream. Should job seekers ditch the college party photos and sanitize their online accounts to make a better impression? The underlying premise of “Dot Complicated” is that, once millennials take the reins at these companies, those wild frat/sorority party photos will no longer be an issue. I hope she’s right.

We’ve read dozens of stories of employees being fired or job candidates not being hired because of social media indiscretions. “Dot Complicated” could have probed some of these issues in more depth. We get the example of the corporate CFO with a personal blog and Twitter account who overshared a bit too much about company activities and was a bit too flippant in his tweets. He was fired. But the author misfires here: “The answer to this, as I’ve discussed throughout this book, is all about being true to who we really are, both online and off.” Really? Seems like he was all too true to himself.

But this is a small quibble. “Dot Complicated” brims with great stories and wise counsel about sharing, social conduct and online etiquette.

Perhaps the wisest advice comes early in the book: “In the end, the new rules of the digital world are like the old rules: they center on empathy, understanding, and common sense. Always put yourself in other people’s shoes, care about the real people on the other side of the screen, and most important, always make the effort to invest time and attention in the people you care about.”

Thank you, Randi Zuckerberg, for reminding us of this simple truth.

J.D. Lasica was, among many other things, book editor at the Sacramento Bee.


Review of ‘Your Network Is Your Net Worth’ (

• Reviews of ‘Brand Advocates,’ ‘Attack of the Customers’ and ‘What’s the Future of Business?’ (

Photos of Mark Zuckerberg by JD Lasica (Flickr)

• Are you using social media to serve your needs? (

Book review: ‘Age of Context’ captures the pulse of new tech Wed, 25 Sep 2013 09:00:54 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Robert-Scoble-Google-Glass
Robert Scoble, co-author of “The Age of Context,” wearing Google Glass at the 2013 Startup Conference (Photo by JD Lasica).

New book, out today, identifies ‘five forces’ animating modern culture

Title: The Age of Context
Pages: 248
Publisher: CreateSpace
Release date: Sept. 5, 2013

JD LasicaEvery few years someone comes along and pulls the camera back to reveal a wider view of the technological changes coursing through the business world and larger culture. Robert Scoble and Shel Israel have done just that with their new book, “The Age of Context: Mobile, Sensors, Data and the Future of Privacy” (paperback, self-published).

The authors nicely contextualize what they call the “five forces” in what amounts to a technology megatrend: mobile, sensor devices, social media, big data and location-based technologies. These forces add up to a formidable package, one that deserves scrutiny far beyond the boundaries of greater Silicon Valley, where much of the action takes place.


The book goes on sale today on Amazon (though Amazon lists its release date as Sept. 5).

Scoble and Israel (both friends) convey their thesis – generally about the public good that will be served by the new contextual technologies, accompanied by the occasional caveat or warning – by stringing together short anecdotes about how people are adopting and adapting to this quickly emerging landscape.

Throughout the book, the authors raise provocative questions about how society should navigates an era of pervasive data: Who owns data being collected on individuals? How are the rules of privacy being reshaped, and who gets a say?

As someone who is immersed in Silicon Valley culture, I found myself nodding along more often than not, bemused by some of the bouts of optimistic boosterism and skeptical of some of the more grand claims. But that’s precisely why “The Age of Context” works: It raises the right questions and takes square aim at many of our cherished beliefs. We all have opinions about the effects that these transformations are casting on society, and you’ll have your own chance to cheer or jeer at the conclusions the authors draw.

For instance, why do smart gestures represent a better way to turn on the lights rather than simply flicking a light switch? (Hotels, I can see. Homes? Not so much.) How will “voice and gesture input” possibly supplant keyboards for the millions of us creative types? Will we really see tens of millions of “right-time experiences,” where store employees make offers tailored to customers’ personal needs based on implicit and explicit data they hoover up? And how does a one-click pizza delivery button — or a smart home that times your microwave popcorn to coincide with a commercial break — bring greater context to our lives?

The passages on Google Glass are predictably upbeat, given Scoble’s vow to wear them every waking day until something even more mind-bending comes along. The writers bemoan the fact that no automaker seems interested in exploring the use of digital eyewear for automobile drivers. (Well, OK, as long as the eyewear keeps the Internet shuttered while on the road, but the authors don’t say that.)

They predict that Google will sell a minimum of 100 million units of Glass, at an average of $300 each, over the next three to five years. We’ll have to check back in 2018. I think Google will fall short of that mark and will have to make major changes to Glass for it to reach mass popularity. (Friendly wager?) Of course, when digital technologies become integrated into mass-market eyeglasses and contact lenses we may finally see the tipping point that the authors so eagerly anticipate.

But disagreements like this are what make “The Age of Context” fun as we collectively navigate the churning waters of modern culture. What’s your take? See, predicting the future is fun!

Riveting observations on sensor technologies & business models

Just when my skepticism meter starts beeping, a few pages later, the promise of the new technologies become much more apparent when the authors report on GE’s Grid IQ insight tool, which mines social media for geo-tagged mentions of electrical outages, allowing crews and first responders to respond to power outages, floods, tornadoes or fires. Smart grids may some day minimize the damages from wildfires that claim the lives of firefighters and unaware residents.


I was also riveted by the chapter on sensor-based health technologies, where chips the size of a grain of sand are already being embedded into a pill that can be swallowed for diagnostic purposes. I was unaware of “geographic asthma hotspots,” which can be tracked through access to big data to help people avoid asthma attacks. And I didn’t know about the new context-aware brassiere invented by three college students in India that jolts assailants with an electric shock and alerts authorities via a cell network and GPS geolocation. Genius!

Those who want to remain ahead of the game on the business front won’t want to miss the chapter outlining a vision of a micro-commission marketplace that scales to millions or billions of customers. The authors predict that Google will pioneer a new micro-payment system based on real-world actions people take whenever they act on a tip or lead from a Google device. Microsoft may get in the game too, they suggest.

In short, this insight alone could help augur the most important change in the online marketplace over the next generation and is worth the price of the book, and the five-star rating, alone.

A quibble: Some of the history is a tiny bit off. They write that the term “social media” did not exist in 2005; while the term didn’t gain mass acceptance until 2007, the term was already in use in tech circles and I launched the blog in 2004. (Here’s my photo of Mark Pincus and his dog Zynga at the BlogOn conference in July 2004 where I made the announcement.)

The authors write of Marc Andreessen’s Netscape: “To get everyday people to use Netscape, he offered the browser for free.” Actually, Netscape charged for its browser from 1994 to 1998, and I still remember plunking down to buy every new browser release. Netscape dropped the price to zero only after Microsoft’s Internet Explorer initiated the browser wars with a free product.

But, as I said, those are quibbles. Everyone will come at “The Age of Context” with a different perspective. But they’ll come away with a deeper understanding of the technological and business forces reshaping our lives.

Go. Buy it on Amazon and support two of the deepest-thinking chroniclers of our tech-infused age.

A self-publishing note

An interesting side note: The authors could have gone the traditional route through a publishing house but smartly noted that the long lag time in bringing a book to market would work against a book like this. So they raised $100,000 from six sponsoring companies earlier this year to research and write the book. It’s a brave new approach to self-publishing and one that I suspect will be emulated many times over.

J.D. Lasica, a former book editor at the Sacramento Bee (among many other things), releases his book reviews under a Creative Commons license; his reviews may be republished with attribution.


Robert Scoble video interviews for the book

The Age of Context, and How It Will Change Our Lives (Robert Scoble,

Announcing Age of Context a New Book with Robert Scoble (Shel Israel,

JD Lasica’s book reviews

]]> 2
‘Brand Advocates’: How to enlist armies of loyalists Mon, 08 Jul 2013 12:00:54 +0000 Continue reading ]]> cheering
Photo by the Irish Labour Party on Flickr (CC BY ND)

Reviews of 3 new books on social businesses

Target audience: Businesses, brands, digital marketers, agencies, entrepreneurs, educators.

JD LasicaI‘ve been head down working on a cruise startup for the past few months, but the weather has been so beautiful the past few days that I carved out some time for reading on the back deck. It’s been rewarding — doubly so in that I’m friends with two of the authors and know the third.

So let me line ’em up and offer some brief highlights. If you’ve read any of these books, please share in the comments!

‘Brand Advocates’: Chronicling the revolution in fans & supporters

brand-advocatesBrand Advocates: Turning Enthusiastic Customers Into a Powerful Marketing Voice
By Rob Fuggetta
276 pages, John Wiley & Sons (hardcover)

One of the most important changes in the relationship between businesses and customers in the past few years has been the move by forward-looking companies to harness the power of the crowd. Rob Fuggetta’s “Brand Advocates: Turning Enthusiastic Customers Into a Powerful Marketing Voice” is the ultimate guidebook that explains the hows, whys and what-not-to-dos of this powerful phenomenon. (And yes, that harnessing thing is a big part of what we do here at

I met Fuggetta, founder and CEO of the brand marketing platform Zuberance, at a “Brands and Word of Mouth” event in San Francisco two years ago. Now he’s taken his and his team’s learnings about brand advocates and compiled it into a smart, timely, jargon-free book that covers the basics of listening, “activating power advocates” and launching a full-fledged brand ambassadors program, as many businesses have begun to do.

Brand advocates go by many terms: customer advocates, word-of-mouth champions, customer champions, customer evangelists. Companies that largely relied on their fans for the bulk of their marketing include Zappos, Trader Joe’s, Method, The Body Shop and SodaStream.

For the uninitiated, here’s a sampling from “Brand Advocates”:

Top 10 Things Advocates Will Do For You
  1. Give you referral leads and help sell your products and services, serving as a virtual sales force.
  2. Write highly positive reviews of your products or services, boosting your online ratings.
  3. Create glowing testimonials about their experiences with your company or products.
  4. Answer prospects’ questions, overcoming buyers’ objections and reducing shopping cart abandonment rates.
  5. Share your content and offers with their social networks, driving referral leads, clicks, and sales.
  6. Help you launch new products.
  7. Create better ads than your high-priced ad agency and more compelling copy than your most skilled wordsmith.
  8. Defend your cherished company and brand reputation from detractors.
  9. Alert you to competitive threats and market opportunities.
  10. Give you profitable ideas and product feedback.
Symantec’s Norton doubled its product rating on Amazon and increased sales by 200 percent through an advocates program

Accessible, engaging and crisply paced, “Brand Advocates” is at its best when it chronicles some of the successes that businesses have already seen thanks to their advocates — brands such as Norton, the consumer brand of Symantec, which doubled its product rating on Amazon and increased sales by 200 percent through an advocates program; a San Diego restaurant whose supporters organically shared over 75,000 offers with friends; a consumer electronics company that unleashed a small legion of advocates to recommend the company’s VoIP service and convert one out of three targeted customers; and GMC, where more than 25,000 GMC truck owners created authentic testimonials and posted them to Facebook and Twitter.

But Fuggetta does more than simply document. He adroitly takes these examples and builds a scaffolding for this still-evolving movement. His 10-step presciption of how to reward advocates and how to set up an advocacy program are worth the price of the book, if you’re a digital marketer, entrepreneur or consultant.

Fuggetta smartly counsels that the most effective brand advocacy programs take place through genuine passion rather than from payments or rewards, though I think he ignores some successful examples of companies that have used what’s-in-it-for-me to good effect.

There’s much more to explore in “Brand Advocates,” particularly for large, mid-size and small businesses looking to put brand ambassadors at the top of their marketing mix. For more info and to order, see the Brand Advocates website.

‘Attack of the Customers’: Brand management for the social media age

attack of the customers

Attack of the Customers: Why Critics Assault Brands Online and How To Avoid Becoming a Victim
By Paul Gillin with Greg Gianforte
209 pages, self-published paperback

Most businesses don’t put a great deal of thought into how to manage their reputations — until it’s too late. In “Attack of the Customers,” Paul Gillin lays out a set of strategies that go beyond a traditional crisis communications program by showcasing example after example of the new world that companies now find themselves in, and what to do about it.

“You may think you’re immune from customer reviews because you never registered your business on the sites that publish them,” the authors write at one point. “The reality is that anyone can create a profile of your business on Yelp, TripAdvisor, Foursquare, Google+, Facebook and lots of other services without even knowing it.”

Scary, right?

“Attack of the Customers” offers a fast-paced, clear-eyed roadmap to navigate this constantly shifting landscape. It brims with smart, practical advice for brand managers, marketers, PR pros, social media managers, communications department staffers — anyone with a stake in how a brand interacts with its customers.

Paul (whom I’ve known for some years) details scores of examples of social media crises: the customer exasperated with the customer service of Aviva, the UK-based insurance company; the Twitter brouhaha that threatened a black eye for Ford’s Ranger Station; Walgreens’ public rift with Express Scripts; insurance provider FM Global’s name snafu; the beef industry’s “pink slime” fiasco; a popular icon that turned negative for Progressive Insurance, and many others. All of this comes across without judgment

The book describes different kinds of potential attackers, how to respond to each one, which tools and platforms to use and how to lay the groundwork so that you’re not caught flat-footed in an era when a disgruntled customer’s tweet, negative review or blog hit piece can spread across the Internet in minutes. Silence is not an option. Genuine engagement, on the other hand, can neutralize a potential PR disaster and occasionally turn critics into fans.

For anyone involved in the crafting of social media strategy or customer engagement, “Attack of the Customers” should be high on your reading list.

Attack of the Customers on

‘What’s the Future of Business?’: A roadmap for the social business

whats-the-future of business?

What’s the Future of Business?: Changing the Way Businesses Create Experiences
By Brian Solis
214 pages, John Wiley & Sons (hardcover)

Brian Solis, a longtime friend and colleague, appeared at a Social Media Breakfast I co-hosted last year and wowed the attendees with a slide show and talk about the end of business as usual. Social is far more than a convenient channel for marketers to interact with customers, he said — to survive and thrive in today’s marketplace, companies need to become full-on social businesses.

“What’s the Future of Business?” beautifully lays out Brian’s vision in a stylized, highly visual package that could easily serve as a coffee table book.

Among the topics Brian touches on are branding, business transformation, disruptive technology, influence loops, engaging with empowered customers, four major stages of change, six pillars of social commerce, different strategies for dealing with Generations X, Y and Z, and much more.

For those baffled by the tectonic shifts confronting today’s businesses, “What’s the Future of Business?” offers an elegant primer that’s free of jargon but brimming with ideas, such as his taking us through the “hero’s journey” in becoming a business that engages with the public, informs its products with users’ insights and explores the various touchpoints that an individual might have with a company before becoming a customer. I was especially taken with the Zero Moment of Truth – the minutes just before a person buys, where impressions are shaped and brand affinity is forged.

“WTF” is a fun, chewy read, made doubly so by the original color drawings of Hugh MacLeod (another friend), whose contributions pepper the book from beginning to end. Add it to your summer reading list and take it in at a relaxed, languid, satisfying pace.

What’s the Future of Business? on


5 questions for the author of ‘Engage’ (

Review: ‘Social Marketing to the Business Customer’ (

8 books for your Summer Reading List (

Review of ‘Your Network Is Your Net Worth’ (

]]> 1
The power of content marketing for business Mon, 25 Feb 2013 16:31:00 +0000 Continue reading ]]> ValuableContent
Image by 10ch (Creative Commons)

Valuable content gives companies a leg up on the competition

Target audience: Marketing professionals, SEO specialists, businesses, brands, Web publishers.

FM_Valuable_Content_Marketing_234x156 v5.inddEditor’s note: Quality content has always been a hallmark of quality websites. In “Valuable Content Marketing,” a new book by Sonja Jefferson and Sharon Tanton, the authors provide a deep dive into content marketing to explain how businesses can create high-quality content that targets your customer base and elevates your site’s ranking in search engine results. Here’s an excerpt from their book.

Guest post by Sonja Jefferson and Sharon Tanton

With potential customers being inundated with companies’ marketing efforts, standard marketing practices and mediocre content is quickly dismissed by most audiences; buyers no longer tolerate or respond to marketing that is less than good. To stand out, content should be truly valuable, providing a unique, educational, and perhaps even inspirational element to readers. In short, it should be content they appreciate — content that is generously shared and willingly received.

Creating valuable content

So, what elements constitute valuable content? The following attributes form content that gets read, shared and acted upon:

  1. UsefulnessContent should educate, inform or entertain readers
  2. FocusedContent should be relevant and should be meaningful to its target audience
  3. Clear and compelling – It should tell a story that people understand and respond to
  4. High quality – The content should be substantial, interesting, and well produced
  5. Genuine – Content should be written from the heart by people who genuinely care

Publishing valuable content that bears the above traits is also a way for you to showcase your professional expertise and achievements and to situate yourself as the go-to in your field. “Cast your net wider by publishing your knowledge, expertise and achievements online – you never know who might be searching,” says businessman Brian Inkster.

Here’s the deal: when you’re up against a competitor, valuable content gives you an edge. When consumers see your passion and expertise shining through, you gain an added level of credibility. Buyers will be more likely to want to work with thought leaders and experts in a given field, and your published content helps solidify that title for you.

Balsamiq grows on the strength of their referrals

Screen Shot 2013-02-20 at 1.06.03 PM

Think blogging is a thing of the past? Balsamiq, a software company with a popular website mock-up tool, essentially blogged their way to the top! From day one, founder Giacomo ‘Peldi’ Guilizzoni blogged about his experiences, shared details  of his revenue, and let his audience in on the inner workings of his company. His blog garnered a substantial following with a community that wanted to see him succeed, helping him go from newbie to leader in just 18 months.

Today, blogging is commonplace at Balsamiq and all team members are encouraged to share valuable content with their communities (the key here is relevant content, not sales-y spam). Their website is rich with useful and authentic content that has helped boost their reputation and help consumers see them as industry leaders.

Inside Scoop helps Intel humanize its brand

In addition to providing knowledge for your readership, sharing relatable content is an opportunity for a company to showcase its human side. Intel did just this when trying to humanize its brand.

Inside Scoop, Intel’s blog, allows company experts to share their knowledge and tech tips with different communities to provide a human connection with their readers. Through creating, curating and sharing content that informs and engages their audiences, they continue to stay top of mind when their buyers are ready to purchase.

Content is one of your most cost-effective marketing investments. Stay engaged, share your knowledge and provide valuable insight to your readership. To echo top consultant MD Tony Restell’s thoughts:

“Deliver content that is either unique, more engaging, more timely or more conveniently delivered than your competition. Businesses that get successful from their content do at least one of these things really well.”

How do you engage with your audience to ensure you position yourself as a thought leader in your industry?

Excerpted from Chapter 2 of “Valuable Content Marketing” by Sonja Jefferson and Sharon Tanton (Kogan Page USA, 2013 All Rights Reserved). Get more insight and tips from Valuable Content Marketing, which hits shelves on Feb. 28.
‘Optimize’: A discussion with marketing expert Lee Odden Tue, 15 Jan 2013 13:31:05 +0000 Continue reading ]]> LeeOddenLee Odden on stage (Courtesy of ionSearch via Creative Commons)

How to achieve an ‘optimized state of mind’

Shonali BurkeIdon’t do a lot of book reviews because I don’t like to skim books. I really read them, and that takes time.

OptimizeHowever, one book I couldn’t put down was Lee Odden‘s Optimize, which he graciously sent me earlier this year (disclosure: I received a free copy of the book but was not even asked to write a review). I was so excited when it arrived that I immediately started thumbing through it.

Yup, that’s a photo of my copy of the book, with all those little flags, and sticky thingummies.

It’s just a terrific book – not just about SEO (search engine optimization) but much more about getting into an “optimized state of mind.” That is “where you integrate social principles and a community element into content marketing – and to which you naturally apply good SEO principles – to grow a business that flourishes through attraction and engagement.”

And if you’re going to stay competitive in today’s marketplace – forget about excelling, it takes so much to just stay abreast – you have to be able to do this. Ideally, you’ll start to do it better and better.

Since I met Lee at the 2008 PRSA International Conference, I’ve been blown away by not just how smart he is but how kind and generous he is with his time and expertise. I’ve emailed him so many times with random questions, and he’s always found the time to answer me — and he is way busier than I am. He is one of the top SEO PR experts of our day.

Talking ‘Optimize’ with Lee Odden

A while back Lee took time out from his hectic schedule to chat with me about the book.

The video clocks in at around 11:36 minutes, but I do think it will be well worth your time. Among other matters, Lee discusses:

  • What constitutes an optimized state of mind, and which business functions need to be in that mindset
  • Optimizing B2B v. B2C communications
  • How to keep prospects moving through the sales funnel
  • How to stay competitive in the world of search

… and much, much more!

Here’s the video (click here if, for some reason, the video doesn’t show up below):

Good stuff, right?

I don’t often urge people to run out and buy a particular book, but Lee’s book is one of the few that I’ve been recommending for just that particular aerobic activity.

This would be a terrific gift for anyone who wants to learn more about how communication should work today, who wants to learn more about SEO itself from one of the leaders in the field, and who knows success doesn’t just happen. Go grab Optimize as soon as you can.

Republished from Shonali’s Waxing Unlyrical blog.

]]> 2
Encourage visitors to save your site as a mobile shortcut Tue, 21 Feb 2012 13:22:39 +0000 Continue reading ]]>

Deltina HayYou don’t need a mobile app to help your audience keep your website top of mind on their smartphone or tablet. Your site visitors can easily save your website as a shortcut on their mobile device, keeping your content as fresh in their minds as their Angry Birds.

The problem is that many of your site visitors may not know how to create a mobile shortcut, so you should offer instructions on how they can. There are any number of ways to do this: You can offer a link to a page with instructions or place a short video on your site showing how they can create a shortcut on their mobile device.

Above is a short video on how to create a mobile shortcut that you are welcome to embed on your own site. (If so, grab the embed code on YouTube.)

I’m sure your next question is going to be: How did you get the mobile devices to use those nifty little shortcut icons to represent your website? And a good question that is!

Creating your own mobile shortcut icons

The first step is to create the icon. Create your icon as a .png file that is at least 128px by 128px (this size will accommodate newer mobile devices, too). Check out the ICONJ iPhone Style Icon Generator if you want a quick solution to creating icons.

Next, name the icon “apple-touch-icon.png” and place the icon file in the root directory of your website.

This is all you need to do to accommodate Apple devices, but you need to add some code to your site to accommodate other devices like Android mobile devices.

Add the following code to the head section of every page you want the icon to represent as a mobile shortcut icon:

<link rel=”apple-touch-icon” href=”/apple-touch-icon.png” />
<link rel=”apple-touch-icon-precomposed” href=”/apple-touch-icon.png” />

Once you add the icon file and code, mobile devices will use your icon as the shortcut icon.

You can take the process a bit further by adding an automation script but I only recommend doing this for full-fledged web apps or fully mobile-optimized sites.

This post is based on the book The Bootstrapper’s Guide to the Mobile Web, which will be released in May 2012, but you can get a review copy from the author today.

]]> 3
How do people use the mobile Web? Wed, 15 Feb 2012 13:57:42 +0000 Continue reading ]]>
Image by rzymu on

People browse differently on mobile devices than they do on their desktop computers

Deltina HayMobile device users don’t typically “surf” the Internet using mobile devices. Their motives tend to be more intentional and action-based. They usually know what it is they are looking for and are more likely to act once they find it. Consumers use mobile search mostly to access local information, stay informed, buy products, and download music and video.

In a study from Google conducted by Ipsos OTX:

  • Search engine websites are the most visited websites, followed by social networking, retail, and video sharing websites
  • Nine out of 10 smartphone searches results in an action (purchasing, visiting a business, etc.)
  • 95% of smartphone users have looked for local information
  • 88% of these users take action within a day, indicating these are immediate information needs
  • 79% of smartphone consumers use their phones to help with shopping, from comparing prices and finding more product info to locating a retailer

Take these facts into consideration when creating your mobile website. When a potential customer lands on your site, assume they are there for a specific purpose. Try and predict the customer’s intentions, and make certain there is a way for them to take action easily without navigating away from your site.

It is important that your site is properly optimized for mobile devices. If your site loads too slowly, does not clearly present actionable items, or if content and buttons are too small for visitors to access, they will likely move on. Stay tuned as we discuss solutions to these issues throughout 2012!

This excerpt was paraphrased from The Boostrapper’s Guide to the Mobile Web by Deltina Hay. This book will be released in May 2012, but you can request a review copy today. This post originally appeared on

]]> 5
Why you should care about the mobile Web Fri, 03 Feb 2012 13:22:06 +0000 Continue reading ]]>
Image by BigStock Photo

Ready or not, the mobile revolution is upon us!

Deltina HayThere is a lot of hype out there about how many people own mobile devices and how much time people spend on them.

Over the past two years, I’ve been charting and chronicling the rise of the mobile Web and the changes that it is unleashing on American society.

Let’s look at some overall numbers:

So everyone has or will have a mobile device. Everybody needs a phone, right? What’s the big deal? What does this matter to our website optimization or online marketing efforts?

The following numbers reveal the impact more clearly:

Now the issue is not that everyone has a mobile device, but that they all have Internet access via that device. Many of them access the Web only through their mobile device. More importantly, they are taking advantage of that access by searching, purchasing and clicking through on mobile ads at unprecedented rates.

This is great news for those of us who market on the Internet. But it can be equally bad news for those who are not prepared for this mobile opportunity.

Imagine that someone visits your website from their mobile device and your site loads so slowly the user just moves on to the next site in their search results. Or, perhaps your site eventually loads but with no images and with a gaping hole where that spiffy piece of Flash you paid so much for is supposed to play. Or worse, the user receives a message from her browser informing her that your site cannot be viewed on her mobile device. These are very possible scenarios for a website that is not mobile-ready.

There are many things you can do to get your existing website ready for the mobile web, as well as other tactics you can use to market within the mobile web. Stay tuned as we explore these tactics in more detail throughout 2012!

Bootstrapper's Guide to the Mobile Web

This post was paraphrased from Deltina Hay’s latest book, The Boostrapper’s Guide to the Mobile Web. The book will be released in May 2012, but you can request a review copy today. This post originally appeared on

]]> 5