Top 10 Reasons Why Skydiving Is Like Social Media (part 2)

Skydiving IS Social Media

Welcome to the concluding session of “All I Really Need to Know I Learned While Skydiving… or, Top 10 Reasons Why Skydiving Is Like Social Media.” Glad to have you all back… the first post generated THE MOST traffic this blog has ever seen, and the most RTs on Twitter @replies, comments, emails, you name it (thank you PRDaily of course for linking to part 1).

One quick side note, I do feel that one of the most important parts of a sound social media strategy is LISTENING (cc @GaryVee) but, despite what you’ve seen in Point Break or Cutaway, you cannot hear another skydiver during freefall. The wind traveling past your ears at well over 100mph pretty much makes you deaf to all sounds… as much as I tried to connect and spin it to compare to Skydiving, I couldn’t… so, consider yourself unspun.

#6) Empower and give kudos!

–                    SD: Without a few minor exceptions, every single person I met through and while skydiving have been just about the most welcoming people ever. From offering lighthearted jokes to ease the nerves (“I promise you, we will wind up back on the ground…”) to offers of joining the crew around their weekend bonfire, and the constant reminders to smile while the camera is on you during freefall… the continuous high-fives, hang looses and rock on hand gestures only fuel this impression.

–                    SM: Social media really only works when you are being generous to those you interact with. Self-promotion isn’t a crime per se (depends on how you do it sometimes it’s not even a faux pas), but things can truly take off when you give others the plaudit and spotlight that everyone (who tries at least) deserves. The “RT-culture” – as well as the adoption of the new RT feature – on Twitter showcases how far giving credit can go in the social media space.

#7) Collaboration is crucial…

–                    SD: Even if not jumping with a large group (like my headline photo) to create record breaking formations during free fall, the process of skydiving is incredibly thorough, meticulous and involves team work across various levels. From the pilots, the parachute packers, logistics admins on the ground, teachers/trainers, and of course to the Tandem Masters themselves… frankly everyone at the dropzone work like a well oiled machine, if you do not see that on the ground, imagine what will happen up top.

–                    SM: Again to echo CRUSH IT author Gary Vaynerchuk (@GaryVee), social media gives you the power to find those out there who are doing it better than you, then you can tap them, partner with them and mutually benefit… case in point: he ghost wrote the book (cause he’s clearly a video guy). Collaboration, as a catalyst for success, is not limited to social media or skydiving, it’s an integral part of a healthy social structure and of any winning strategy in sports as well.

#8) It’s the community, stupid…

–                    SD: To play off #7 and #6, the skydiving community is one of the most tightly knit communities I have ever seen, and I’ve been in drama/improv circles, youth groups, cover and original bands, as well as an early participant in Facebook and Twitter… I will tell you this, the camaraderie I saw both on the ground, on the plane and in the air was unparallel. I think when you put your life on the line you understandably grow closer to the people involved.

–                    SM: I don’t think there is anything to write here… if you don’t know that the community is the most important part of Social Media, I think you’ve stumbled on the wrong post/blog. The first step, whether in professional or personal brand building, is grow your community… the better you do it, the more success will come for you via Social Media.

#9) Don’t forget the video…

–                    SD: Your first skydiving experience (and key milestones in the future) has to be documented, how can it not? Sure, it’s pricy (genius business model by the way) but what about the memories, what about the conversation, what about the chest thumping self promotion!? In reality though, like other major ‘coming of age’ events, this need to be documented for posterity… besides, imagine yourself being the coolest grandpa one day.

–                    SM: In Social Media, video and pictures (as much as I hate to admit it) have been growing exponentially… here are some hard facts: According to a recently published UMass/Inc. Magazine survey, in October alone, more than 77% of Internet users combined to watch 13.5 billion videos online, a metric that represents a dramatic shift in how consumers are engaging with content. Among even the most modest of predictions, 2009’s online video viewership is being estimated at 144 million and expected to grow to 188 million by 2013 in the U.S. alone.

#10) When it goes right, it’s the biggest rush!

–                    SD: The adrenaline pumping through my veins upon landing back on the ground safely is not something I can describe in words. The range of emotion is insane; from awe to shock, hysteric happiness to true disappointment that it’s over, and of course the rising addiction to do it again (right then and there). The phrase I was using, in a non morbid or depressing sense, upon finishing my first jump was: the earth seems kind of boring when you’re on the ground… *sigh*… Who’s in for a Skydive Tweet Up this spring?!

–                    SM: While this pertains mainly to professional use of Social Media (i.e. on behalf of a brand, or as part of a Marcomm strategy), nobody would keep Twittering and Facebooking if it wasn’t for the recurring positive experiences. If you’ve ever seen your tweet, a blog post, a placement or whatever go viral through Social Media, you may have an idea of the rush I’m talking about here. On the professional side, the stuffy boardrooms I often work with on the Corp PR side are not ready for change for the sake of change… they need to test the water out, dip a finger in, see if it suits them and so on… the success of these baby steps is crucial if you want to keep your program, take it slow with the execs, they need to see success to get the rush.

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All I Really Need to Know I Learned While Skydiving… or, Top 10 Reasons Why Skydiving Is Like Social Media (part 1)

First and foremost, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention and thank Peter Shankman, in all his Skydiver glory, for his recommendations and hyper-excited lobbying in making my first skydive happen… it was for my 3rd year anniversary, and ultimately my wife’s idea, but also a life-changing experience for both of us.

The more I look back on it, the more I feel there is a ton to learn from Skydiving (SD) and specifically, the parallels I saw to Social Media (SM) struck me as no coincidence at all… read on, and I welcome thoughts, comments, edits, and will gladly offer a guest post to fellow skydiving and social media enthusiasts… Peter Shankman looking right at you bro. Either way, without further ado:

All I Really Need to Know I Learned While Skydiving… or, Top 10 Reasons Why Skydiving Is Like Social Media

(Part 1)

#1) To do it right you will need training and mentorship…

–          SD: Your first skydive has several options; the most common is the Tandem jump, where you’re strapped in to a professional and jump out together with them doing most of the work. You can go at it alone if you choose, but that 15 minute training turns into a solid 6 hour session/crash course (har har har), without which you will most certainly flop (har har har).

–          SM: This rings truer and truer each day for those not yet in, or just looking to get into, the social media space. The days of early adopters are gone… what you need now is some key mentors from that ‘era’ whom will help you find and understand that which you can’t on your own. Think of those folks as your parachute, the bigger that circle the better off you are.

#2) It takes trust to succeed…

–          SD: Your tandem master (yes, that’s really the official title) holds the key to your life… from packing the parachute to stabilizing your initial free fall and finally the landing… trust them, that’s all, it really is easier just to trust them. Moreover, statistics say that skydiving is the safest sport (safer than skiing, bungee jumping, rollerblading, driving, flying, etc.), you really have to believe in those metrics too when you’re dropping from 13,500 feet at 120 mph.

–          SM: Trust in social media builds communities and trust cements brands, personal or otherwise. Because social media is crowdsourcing on steroids, you have to trust the masses decision, even though you can nudge and tug in any direction you choose, the final push is really up to them to make.

#3) All good things come to those who wait…

–          SD: You have to take time when making the decision to skydive, even before you get there. On top of waiting for ‘the day’ and that precious first appointment date/time, you wait upon arrival; there are 7 back to back pages of consent/release forms. Also, you can’t skydive until you’re at least 18 — though in certain states you only have to be 16 with parental consent — chances are you won’t know how to truly use social media before that age either (would love to hear arguments otherwise here).

–          SM: At a recent book (CRUSH IT) signing event with Gary Vaynerchuk (@GaryVee) he talked about doing daily posts and segments on Wine Library TV for 18 months before pushing it out. His advice was pace yourself, do it right, wait for the right moment… sounds like a sure way for better skydiving to me.

#4) At these speeds everything seems to stand still…

–          SD: At 120 mph you would think you feel like the floor gave under you and the stomach is in your throat. In reality, all you feel is the pants flapping, the wind gusting, your cheeks compressing… and yet, the earth doesn’t seem to get closer and everything seems to stand still, almost like you’re in a block of jell-o. It’s by far the most serene experience I can point to, mainly because of the irony of it all.

–          SM: The ‘real time’ speed of Twitter, Facebook and all the other major a social media tools/platforms is undeniable and is unlike any other medium out there… However, if you are indeed entrenched in following a topic or theme (and any true Twitter hashtag addict can tell you) the updates come at you seemingly in slow mo…

#5) You can’t sue…

–          SD: The 7 pages of back to back release forms are all legal speak telling you in 1000 ways that you may die or get hurt as a result of the jump… the document dances around this theme over and over, but they do make one thing crystal clear though: you sign, you CANNOT SUE, so don’t even try.

–          SM: Never underestimate the power of the freedom of speech which to me is a cornerstone of Social media… don’t get me wrong, you may get in trouble (Amanda Bonnen’s story comes to mind) or even hurt (i.e. #iranelection) in the process, but never forget you are in the right, always. Negatweeting is our right, nay duty… remember?!

In the long while since I’ve updated this blog, I’ve done 2 tandem skydives (within 8 days of each other, and in 2 states), so I decided that my entry will also be in two parts… the second set of Top 5 Reasons Why Skydiving Is Like Social Media will funnel later this month. FYI, Sonya and I have at least 3 more planned for the spring… WHO’S IN?!

In the meantime, please enjoy the video of my first dive… Wooooooo.

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Negatweeting, it is our right, nay duty…

rant_smallPhoto credit to: http://redstaplerchronicles.com/
Editor’s note: forgive me reader for I have not blogged in nearly three weeks… it’s planning season, sorry folks


First, some background on why –

However snobbish or passé (perhaps even condescending) the term Foodie may seem to some, I consider myself one; I’m a foodie with my restaurants, my menu picks, my ingredients, my home cooking, my books, my TV choices… I just am, and not that there is anything wrong with that. Even though I babble about food and restaurants all the time, the one thing I refrain from doing is talk negatively about the service of a restaurant.

To me the food and the chefs are the stars, so why bias people about décor or service if the meal is great… that is until recently when my mom, brother, wife and I were at Fig and Olive (Fifth Avenue location, the ‘new’ one; bottom line: I recommend the uptown location, food is the same) and had one of the worst services. So I decided to enact the age-old marketing perspective: negative experience = 10 people told vs. good experience = 3 people… I went to town, and told all who’d listen about it in addition to those I usually babble about food with.

The next day my frustration was met with an interesting read from the Chicago Sun-Times about a Horizon Group Management LLC lawsuit against a tenant’s ‘slanderous tweets’… then as if on cue, I started catching up on the Sam Sethi/TechCrunch libel suit over published ‘slanderous articles’ (see more TC coverage: here, here and here) this week… hm, I thought “the power of words you say?”

So, a new Tword is born–

The other day I came up with (per search results) a cute term… Negatweeting, seemed to just roll off the tongue, quite self explanatory given the recent occurrences around me.

Now that I work a lot with corporate reputations and though I’m young, I can seriously say (with a straight face) that I remember when people only had to worry about reputations in print and on TV. All of us, my current clients included, aren’t so lucky… we have to counter and encounter the public head on; the virtual soapbox of social networking and social media mandates us. If we don’t engage and define ourselves, someone else will or already is. Oh, if I had a dollar for every time I heard that phrase recently (again, planning season)…

I take the side of Amanda Bonnen (obviously) as well as that of Michael Arrington in these cases, and frankly everyone else that took a stand. It is the power of free speech, if not consumer power through preference and opinion, which is the foundation of American society… hence Michael Arrington wanting his case tried here and not in the UK, as it is now. And that perhaps is the problem with such outrage as my own at the legal system hamstringing free speech online… the internet, though democratization at it’s finest, is not a democracy.

Recent Exhibits:
a)      Google’s power to ban sites
b)      Marines banning social networking
c – e) Iran, China, Russia

And so on… internet is not a democracy, it is a powerful populous tool that is used to spread information and opinion, but there will always be those who control the switch… and yes, there is a switch. Again, do I even need to link to yesterday’s Twitter/Facebook hacker slowdown/deny of service attacks? Seems quite reasonable of an argument to me.

Thus, I decree: onward with your negatweeting my masses, go forth with your opinions and free speech consumerism. Use social networking and social media to bunch up and grow your numbers. Have your cake and eat it too, until they take away the fork.

So go on, exercise the right to express dissatisfaction with things and make yourself heard through tools available… because if we don’t engage and define ourselves, someone else will or already is.

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Did Twitter Save Brand America…?

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One of the things that I’ve been following as part of monitoring for major trends that impact corporate reputation (I do corporate PR, remember?), is the so called ‘fall of brand America,’ in lieu of the perceptual waning based in part on Bush’s years in office, as well as the economic crisis leading to a global downturn that followed. The trend is not new, but looking at America as a brand is something I haven’t done before seeing it through the lens of public relations and communications.

I will note, I always looked up to America as an image and pillar of democracy, opportunity, and freedom; after all I am a naturalized citizen, who had to survive communism to get here (born in Moscow).

It’s no secret that the Bush years wreaked havoc on the image of America, both at home and abroad, so what changed? Is it possible to reverse at all, or is the damage too long lasting (two wars going on, an endless recession, etc.)… My thinking is a resounding yes; like the old Spanish phrase about food, a little bit often (shouldn’t that just become Twitter’s motto too?!).

In my opinion, first step was electing Barack Obama… love or hate him and his policies, the 180 degree change to the Bush tenure was needed to start a process of global reconciliation on the right foot… moreover, I credit the Obama campaign for bringing twitter and social networking into the fray of politics (sorry Mr. Dean), a necessary final step in its full democratization for the masses.

As Victoria Esser recently wrote, in her fantastic byline for Politico:

“Is social media diplomatic window dressing or can the U.S. Twitter its way into the hearts and minds of other countries? While the answer is somewhere in between, the U.S. cannot afford to wait while these channels are perfected in order to direct them in service of President Barack Obama’s priority of renewing America’s global leadership. Indeed, Mr. Obama can use the themes and technologies that helped him generate huge grass-roots support in his presidential campaign to build support for America on the world stage.”

Mrs. Esser continues to source Pew Global Attitudes Survey finding broad anti-Americanism around the world, with the image of the United States declining in 26 of 33 countries since 2002; while characterizing the U.S. image as ‘abysmal’ in most Muslim countries in the Middle East and Asia… so far down has the image fallen that not even the newly elected government could make a dent in the negativity (read: Poll: Obama Not Helping U.S. Image In Iran)

So what’s step two? For me, step two came not during the watered down ‘social media town halls’ from the Obama administration at the onset of his presidency, nor from the YouTube/CNN debates earlier in the campaigns. Rather, it was the election in Iran, and the social media/citizen journalism combo, into what I call open source protesting.

The telling sign of this was the #iranelection crowdsourced outrage over the election results (read: Staggering #IranElection Stats: 2 Million+ Total Tweets), where the world joined hands where the president could not… I’m not blaming Obama at all, diplomacy is hard and not black/white, but I will say that he could have said what he said louder and faster.

By following the conversation on Twitter, we saw American citizens showcasing US ideals in 140 characters, with RTs, links, photos and genuine care for the cause of freedom… without Twitter it would not come to be, and the Iranians would not be able to see the willingness to collaborate and unite in cause, as long as that cause is just. Because of the flat world and the access to open (somewhat, I’m looking at you China, Iran, et al) communication platforms, the ‘face’ of a nation is no longer just based on its leaders, but also the interaction of it’s citizens.

Of course, Twitter never was and never will be the tell all solution to everything, and  I’m not claiming it to be either. I just think that without it, there would be no such level of interaction… a solid building block. I agree with Mrs. Esser, when she concludes her poignantly intellectual analysis of the situation with:

“There are limits to this virtual dialogue, and so it must be continued on the ground with engagement in “retail” public diplomacy — the critical dialogue with political leaders, opposition, minority groups and others needed to demonstrate that the U.S. is willing to come to the table.”

I could not have said it better myself, so I won’t. I will agree though, a ton of work is yet to be done, mainly on the ground, because even the most solid of foundation is not enough… now it’s time to build.

To be sure, however romantic about the topic I may sound, I am NOT endorsing the notion that Twitter founders should receive a Nobel Peace Prize for rescheduling planned maintenance… regardless of that though, didn’t Twitter save Brand America?

If not yet, then it will… just watch.

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No longer exception to the rule… OR Why I finally got a blog

Today is a big day for me… I decided to finally start a blog (again) only this time I mean it; not because it’s time, but because it’s overdue… I may have jumped the shark with blogging in lieu of all the Geocities (Intellectual Confusion and Sonic Intoxication) activity I did in High School, and surely with the Looks Cool (entrapy.ismad.com) effort I mustered in college… I may have been ahead then, but now I’m behind, way behind.

The proof is in the pudding, given the fact that Geocities and Looks Cool are both long gone now, and I barely understand WordPress or HTML. Obviously, I had to act sooner or later, or risk winding up shooing kids to get off my lawn in my late 20s, and then turn into Mr. Roper by 30. NAY, I say!

In order to readjust and dive back into the fray, I needed to do extensive research; what changed, evolved, or democratized since I’ve become a mere observer and not a participant… does a world need another blogger… and exactly how many blogs are there in the world?

Over a year ago the Blog Herald estimated there was roughly 185.6 million (adding those tracked by Technorati and The China Internet Network Information Center). Indeed, staggering numbers, but a year old none the less; so let’s estimate a modest growth of 10%… that number is now 204.2 million! However, with the dawn of microblogging and social networking by way of Twitter and Facebook, those taking advantage of the virtual soapbox presented by the Web 2.0 world has to grow as exponentially (a la Moore’s Law) and linearly to the growth of those two sites alone… which as we know has been uncanny (read: Twitter.com Quadruples to 17 Million U.S. Visitors in Last Two Months).

I would be remiss if i were not to blame my profession for the hiatus, since right after college I was hired into corporate PR and top tier media relations work for Fortune 500 clients and some of the world’s top C-levels… and, as we recently learned, those folks are STILL holding out not just on social media but also blogs (read: Heads of top U.S. companies snub blogs, Facebook: study, with the key finding that not a single Fortune 100 CEO had a blog). Monkey see, monkey do, I guess, but at least there are others behind me; even if they are twice my age.

Today, I stand up and take my rightful place on the babbling mountain that is the blogosphere. Tonight, I embark on my own leg of the 400m relay that is Web 2.0. Tomorrow… well, we’ll see about tomorrow, I have a very busy day.

Here we are, (am I really going to do this? seems like I already am), so strap yourself in, don’t hold your breath, and please don’t hang on every word… after all, who am I anyway?

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Is A Picture Still Worth 1000 Words…Or Maybe 100 Characters & A Link

By Alex Aizenberg (Guest post on Aerocles Blog on June 23, 2009)

First, a definition and origin, “a picture is worth a thousand words” is an adage stemming from an old Chinese proverb, popularized by several 1920’s articles from Fred R. Barnard in the advertising trade journal Printers’ Ink, promoting the effectiveness of images and graphics in advertising, a campaign that also appeared on the sides of streetcars.

What jumps off the page for me is the word “OLD,” and it is the age of the phrase that leads me to this conclusion: the further away we get from the present, the more impressive pictures, as an idea, become… today however, the phrase is growing more stale with each day.

Whether looking at timeline of art (from sharp focus of renaissance pieces, to nearly moving impressionists subjects, all the way to modern art’s avant garde ideas) or broadcast technologies (from telegraphs, to radios, TVs and the internet), pictures as a novelty have been losing steam while words have steadily been reclaiming their rightful place on top. This makes all the more sense today, given the fact that the ‘content currency’ of the social networking and social media catharsis that is Twitter, is built off of verbal descriptions of activity or initiatives (visual or otherwise), truncated to 140 characters or less.

Even still, this shift back to words does not deter visual search offerings – like ambitious www.searchme.com, or inclusive http://spezify.com and cutesy http://visibletweets.com/, among many others – from emerging. As a tool though, visual search is entertaining more so than useful, and often kitschy. The condensed forum of Twitter however, provides the ability to mine real people’s verbalized conversations and opinions for direct feedback (read: 6 Reasons Why Twitter is the Future of Search). Words, and character limitation, gives everyone the same modus operandi of driving content creation; add ‘real time’ and you have a boondoggle of information begging to be sourced… nearly all of it is words.

Of course, pictures still reign under certain circumstances. Take this powerful image of an Iranian protester… it was pictures, videos and other continuous chatter like this, via the #iranelection hashtag, which triggered a U.S. State Department call for Twitter to delay scheduled maintenance during the protests, to keep the information flow going.

The more time I spend on Twitter, the more I think of pictures as being very finite without as much as a caption attached to them, it’s almost as if you can’t say that much with just a picture anymore. I’ve always said that I’m in PR because “I can make words dance,” and now because of Twitter’s mandate of editing for conciseness, we all have to learn to tango.

So, is a picture still worth those 1000 words… or at most 100 characters and a link?

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