Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Social Media, YouTube, and Us

A lot’s been happening on the social media front, with financial executives, attorneys, auditors and other professionals getting into the mix, along with marketers, government regulators, Congress and the President!

Social Media Defined
What is social media ? According to Wikipedia (one of the flagships of social media itself): “Social media are primarily Internet- and mobile-based tools for sharing and discussing information among human beings. The term most often refers to activities that integrate technology, telecommunications and social interaction, and the construction of words, pictures, videos and audio. This interaction, and the manner in which information is presented, depends on the varied perspectives and ‘building’ of shared meaning among communities, as people share their stories and experiences. Businesses also refer to social media as user-generated content (UGC) or consumer-generated media (CGM). Social media are distinct from industrial media, such as newspapers, television, and film. While social media are relatively cheap tools that enable anyone (even private individuals) to publish or access information, industrial media generally require significant financial capital to publish information. Examples of industrial media issues include a printing press or a government-granted spectrum license. ‘Industrial media’ are commonly referred to as ‘traditional,’ ‘broadcast’ or ‘mass’ media.”

FEI Engaging on the Social Media Frontier
FEI’s engagement in social media to date includes the FEI Financial Reporting Blog, which currently has over 1,000 email subscribers, is viewed by others via RSS feed, and is carried on a number of blog aggregators, and the FEI Group on LinkedIn, which currently has 2,875 members. FEI also has established a beachhead on another social networking site, the FEI Group on Facebook. Besides our traditional webcasts and conferences, you can view some short educational programs on FEI TV. Some of us have also begun to dip our toes in the water on SecondLife, with FEI staff recently receiving a virtual training session on Second Life, courtesy of the cutting edge folks at the Maryland Association of CPAs (MACPA). (MACPA is the creator of CPA Island on Second Life - more about MACPA below.) We have also written previously in this blog about FASB's Research Office Hours program in Second Life, in which FASB board or staff members meet for an hour with academics through the virtual world of Second Life.

More and more people are using Twitter, which is a means of staying connected to people through posting short messages, called ‘tweets’ – which are limited to 140 characters (hence, the term ‘microblogging’). Unlike Facebook or Myspace, I find most of the people I follow on Twitter are generally focused more on breaking news and related commentary than answering Twitter’s generic question of ‘what are you doing?’ – although people do post the occasional personal news flash, and serve as a sounding board on other’s questions.

The 140 character limit on tweets makes http://www.tinyurl.com/ and similar programs essential for those who wish to share links to, e.g. their most recent blog post, or articles they are reading. The main function of twitter is you can enter names (twitter user names, which begin with an @-sign) of people, news websites or organizations you want to ‘follow’ (i.e. if they have a registered user name on twitter, which is free, by the way); and other people can chose to ‘follow’ your updates or ‘tweets.’ You can, if you wish, place a security lock on your updates – which I have chosen to do (although only a couple of the people I follow have chosen to lock their updates); those who are not ‘locked’ have maximum visibility, but I personally prefer to have my updates accessible only by those followers who I ‘approve.’

Some people and news websites on Twitter have over 1,000 followers and follow over 1,000 others themselves; I am a relatively new user and my numbers are on a much, much smaller scale. If you want to know more about who follows me – see this word cloud of my followers –via twittersheep.com.

If you are not familiar with Twitter, you may be surprised to know there are websites like Tweet Congress, which help you follow members of Congress and the Senate that are on twitter; also, did you know the SEC is on twitter (user name: @SEC_News) - mainly as an additional vehicle to send out press releases; probably encouraged by their Director of Social Media, Mark Story.

A number of public officials and celebrities have an ‘unsanctioned, unofficial’ presence on Twitter, such as the twitter feed for then-President Elect Barack Obama (user name: @BarackObama), whose last tweet prior to becoming president was posted on Jan. 19 (inauguration eve), and numbers over 300,000 followers. Under Obama’s administration, a White House Blog has been established at http://www.whitehouse.gov/; to my knowledge the White House does not have an official twitter presence (at least, not yet), although there is an ‘unsanctioned, unofficial’ twitter feed (user name: @WhiteHouse_Blog) which links to the official blog.

Companies are also increasingly using Twitter to post news updates. Other widely read legal and accounting sites you will find with a presence on twitter include @brocromanek (The Corporate Counsel.net blog), @retheauditors (Re: The Auditors), @irwebreport ((IR) Web Report), @footnoted (Footnoted.org), @CPA_Trendlines (CPA Trendlines), @brucecarton (Securities Docket), @macpa (The MACPA), @accountingweb (AccountingWeb), and more. Probably the most eclectic twitterer I follow is comedienne/writer Susie Felber (@felbsie) who writes for TruTV’s Dumb As A Blog – recently nominated for a web award by South By Southwest (SXSW). (Full disclosure: @felbsie is my cousin.)

Much of the power of twitter is thru its immediacy, as well as its viral aspects, i.e., if you send a message - say a link to a press release, a news article you are reading, or your latest blog post - to your followers, and they ‘retweet’ it or recirculate it to theirs, and their followers to theirs, etc., you get a geometric progression of spreading the word. The downside is the more people and sites you follow, the harder it may get to see the forest for the trees. I am trying to learn more about software that helps in sorting input in various social networks, particularly twitter; I welcome comments with any suggestions you have.

Survey: What Are CPAs Doing Online?
Whether you are a CPA in an audit firm, or working in business & industry, you are invited to take part in the survey currently under way: “What are CPAs Doing Online,” being conducted by Rick Telberg of CPATrendlines. Some preliminary results were published in CPATrendlines today in CPAs Join the Online Social Networking Party; the survey will remain open for a short time.

Survey results will be presented at upcoming programs sponsored by the Maryland Association of CPAs (MACPA), one of the mavericks in the field of harnessing the power of new media and social networking. MACPA created and runs conferences, training and other programs in the virtual (online) world of CPAIsland on Second Life; they also host a blog called CPASuccess. I’m looking forward to participating in an upcoming program sponsored by MACPA featuring Jeff De Cagna of Principled Innovation. Here’s a link to a Podcast interview of Jeff De Cagna circa Aug. 2008 about social technologies and Web. 2.0, the podcast interview was conducted by Bill Sheridan, MACPA’s Electronic Communications Manager and Editor. In addition, I’m looking forward to attending my first Tweetup this Thursday evening, hosted by MACPA in Columbia, MD. For further info on the tweetup and other MACPA programs, contact Tom Hood, MACPA’s Executive Director and CEO.

Huffington Post Editors on Blogs and Blogging
Rounding out today’s topic of social media - earlier this month (Feb. 5 to be exact) I attended the program, “Huffington Post Editors” at the 92ndStY in New York City. Editor Roy Sekoff, Senior News Editor Katharine Zaleski, Senior Blog Editor Colin Sterling and Columnist Jason Linkins talked about the stories that they find newsworthy – and the balancing act of providing visibility to what they believe people should be reading (e.g. analysis that challenges the status quo), and what people want to read (e.g. other news stories or gossip). My main takeaways from Huffington Post Editors program were comments by Senior Blog Editor Colin Sterling, who said:
  • “To get your (blog) post promoted, say something nobody else is saying; if you latch onto a new part of a story no one has, including every major op-ed in the country,” then it’s something that is more likely to be promoted, and

  • “The best blog posts are when someone who should write about something - does.”
It was also interesting to hear Editor Roy Sekoff explain how the Huffington Post was started to fill the ‘vacuum’ they felt existed vis-à-vis The Drudge Report. Aside from content, they described The Drudge Report as utilitarian and ‘sui generis,’ and were looking to provide something ‘bloggier.’ Sekoff explained blogs are about tone: ‘like something you’d write in an email to a friend, and they’d say ‘holy mackerel.’ Further details from the program can be found in “HuffPost Editors Warm Up 92Y,” by John Tepper Marlin, published in - where else – The Huffington Post. If you wish you had been there (or wish you could be there again) – a youtube video of the program has been posted in the 92Y Blog.

Joining me in the front row at the Feb. 5 Huffington Post bloggers’ program were some of my blogger friends & colleagues - pictured further below, left to right, are Cara Patterson, Melissa Lajara, myself, my BBF (best blogger friend) Francine McKenna, and Francine’s colleague from their former JPMorgan days, Paula Storonsky. Cara is Public Relations Associate at the New York State Society of CPAs (NYSSCPAs) and a writer on their CPA Blog; Melissa is Associate Editor of the NYSSCPA’s newsletter, The Trusted Professional, and is also one of NYSSCPAs bloggers, Francine is author of the Re:The Auditors blog (newly revamped, wow!); and Paula is President & CEO of Athena Enterprises Inc.
By the way, one of the best and most honest writeups I’ve ever seen on the topic of blogging was written by Kevin LaCroix, author of The D&O Diary, in his Nov. 13, 2008 post: On Blogging.

You-Tube and Us
Many people have heard of YouTube, particularly as a site for entertainment, and particularly for the younger set. But, more and more, you can find mainstream material of interest to professionals - try typing in YouTube’s search box things like accounting, audit, FASB, SEC, and PCAOB - it’s interesting what you’ll find. Some professional organizations also offer their own internet TV programs, as noted above, like FEI TV.

Does social networking help bring people together, or distract them from real world networking? In this economy, is real world networking across distances more of a challenge due to budget constraints, and does social networking provide an efficient and/or effective substitute or add-on to traditional networking? How do events like Tweetups, and ‘mixed reality’ events combining programs in Second Life and real life blend the old and the new ways of networking and social networking? These questions and more are still being debated, but it seems from all indications that social networking and social media are here to stay.

Would you like to join FEI on the journey of networking (both traditional and social networking), through our educational events, publications, advocacy and more? Visit our website http://www.financialexecutives.org/, check out our membership information and our career center, sign up to receive our blog by email or RSS feed, join our LinkedIn group. And feel free to DM me, IM me, call or email me if you have any questions!

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