Our Klout Stars series highlights top influencers and how they got to where they are today.
Day to day, I am the Developer Evangelist and Editorial Lead at Microsoft BizSpark, a program that is helping nearly 50,000 startups connect with each other, with partners and with events and other entrepreneurs around the world. The program is run as a media ecosystem, where we work with partners and startups to find the best content and the best avenues that build relationships that support a healthy startup world.
Basically, I am immensely interested in startups and I go around interviewing them and helping them connect to the right people by delivering them to the BizSpark blog and in the social networks, like the BizSpark Facebook page.
Before I did all this, I lived in Manhattan for about five years, running my own company that helped small businesses and small startups figure out their social media strategies and content execution. I was a conference director once, and I currently run a global series of meetups in the education technology space.
I’ve lived, worked, and slept in about 47 countries. I was a tv reporter in Hong Kong for a brief period, and a newspaper reporter. I’ve done some freelance writing stints in Indonesia and Burma.
I was born in the Midwest and educated on the East Coast, but not at Ivy Leagues. My alma maters are Wake Forest University and Syracuse University, where I studied literature and fine arts, respectively. And I think I am the only person I know who has indelicately – and in an uninvited way – touched the first folio edition of William Shakespeare’s complete works.
1. How did you get started in social media?
When I was a teacher in Northern Virginia, I would actually blog during reading periods, while my ninth grade class was relegated to leafing through paperbacks. During lunch, I would day trade, and in order to find interesting data that I would use to make decisions on investments, I would visit financial blogs. This was right around the time Yahoo! had a great financial porthole. I think they still do.
When I moved to Hong Kong, blogging was my primary way of making friends in the city. I found that using blogging was a great way for me to meet people, especially since Hong Kong is so filled with a variety of
people. Blogging was a way to process the incredibly jarring experience of living in one of China’s most modern cities. It opened up avenues to make money, and it even helped me figure out how to become a journalist. I am pretty sure that my blogging improved my writing and kept it sharp enough that people would have me at University of Hong Kong, where I got my journalism degree.
In fact, it was blogging that I focused on in my journalism. I joined a team with former HKU New media professor Andrew Lih that covered a live news event through a blog. It may have been the first one ever in Asia.
2. In what ways does social media play into your current job or industry? Do you have any examples?
Social media not only created my job, but it is my primary function at Microsoft. Blogging and social media are Microsoft’s way of telling far out stories in Silicon Valley and delivering them to the rest of the world, and vice versa. I am very much a hub mentality kind of person. I believe that media networks need air traffic controllers – or curators – who can find really great compelling content and form relationships and networking opportunities out of that content.
Social media smooths out some of the rough edges that I found in the traditional media cycles on mainstream press sites. You are not confined to one column, or one story at a time. You can manage and articulate several streams at once, which is something that the world’s largest software company benefits by, because social media puts them in touch with so many of their customers all at once.
I use social media all of the time, primarily for helping people solve problems in communication, network access and finding solutions for their product development. I sent two emails out today, for example, to a team in Montana called Submittable.
There were some people at the BizSpark Facebook page who were curious about how a team in Montana could get access to the kind of capital, networks and solutions they needed. This is exactly what BizSpark helps with – we connect people in the startup program to what they need.
So, I connected them to the guys at Submittable, gave them information about Azure and let them take care of the rest. I think of it as relationship media. It’s a constantly moving feast of information and most people are really hungry. You have to give them what they need.
Essentially, as social is related to my work, social is a meta-tool that helps me see how I am thinking and interacting in the world, and see how others are thinking, so that I can understand values to a point that I can link those values to interactions with other members, to offers, to stuff happening in the brand that is of benefit to the community in BizSpark.
3. What does influence mean to you? Who influences you the most online, and why?
Influence means that someone has some kind of relationship to you. I don’t argue that there is such a thing as impact. People might read a post and read a tweet and then react to it. Influence is a little different.
To me, influence is the ongoing relationship you have with someone who compels you to act, think, deliver, or have an emotion that connects you to what you do, what you like, or to that person themselves.
Influence is very subtle at times, and also very powerful and overarching. It depends on what you are doing. I think about it in terms of influence vs. impact.
Influence: People flock to Yankees games because over time, the Yankees have proven to be a powerful team in the baseball pantheon of champions. One could say that the Yankees have created a habit of influence. They created a devoted following. There is a brand there connected to a legacy of habitual actions. In this case, the habit of winning.
Impact: Mickey Mantle hits a home run, the crowd rises to its feet as the ball sails over the wall. The crowd goes wild. That’s one instance. That’s an impact. Mantle makes an impact, because it’s one action that produced a dramatic result.
I think in social media, we’re trying to blend impact with influence and calling it the same thing. Social media is a fast moving game. I think in terms of influence, it’s the kind of thing that really takes a lot more time than that.
Who influences me online, the most? It depends on the day. I think there is no such thing as time, and every instance is its own moment. It depends on what is happening in the moment. When I look at who has strung together the most enduring and effective impacts over time, I would have to say it is Sumaya Kazi. She’s always proven herself responsive, loyal to her friends and to her beta users at Sumazi. And that endears her to me and my sense of ethics online. She’s classy and intelligent. Stable. An influencer.
4. What recent social media trends do you think are interesting or helpful?
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