The SXSW Startup Accelerator

Anyone who knows us at Harbrooke Group knows our passion for supporting startups- they’re some of our best clients! Again for 2012, Howard has been asked to be part of the team recruiting the best startups for the South By SouthWest (SXSW) Startup Accelerator contest. The fine folks at SXSW describe it as an event that “provides an outlet for companies to present their new online entertainment products, social media / networking technologies, or mobile, news, music, or health technology to a panel of industry experts, early adopters, and representatives from the angel / VC community.” Some of the past judges have included Tim Draper of DFJ, Chris Hughes of Facebook and Jumo, Paul Graham of Y Combinator, and Tom Conrad of Pandora.

I’d like to personally encourage and invite you and your company to join up for this incredible event, highlighting the technology market’s most impressive new innovations.  The application deadline is Friday, November 18, and the event itself will be March 12-14, 2012 in Austin, TX.   Please apply at (music technology companies visit

Then let me know that you’ve applied, and I’ll do what I can to help you get in!


Why you should pay attention to Google+

Over on LinkedIn, Des Walsh asks about the value of Google+ for small businesses. A few people there note LinkedIn’s great business value. I find I’m using it less and less. LinkedIn has turned into a networking free-for-all with people connecting to anyone at all. I keep only people I know, for real, in person, in my network. It also helps me be sure that if someone I value asks for an introduction, I actually know both sides and can make a true introduction, not just a pass-along.
Then there’s Facebook. People question the value of a ‘friend network’ for business. But, Who better to recommend you business than real friends – which is where Facebook excels. I saw this post from Anthony Kirlew today on “How Small Business Owners Miss the Mark with Facebook” and it resonates for me in the direction of Google+. Both of these networks need to bring in the concept of closeness, reputation and trust before they’re going to truly see their value.

So, what is Google+, and why should you pay attention? It is  a social network, with circles of your contacts at the center. You can make a circle of work folks and “huddle” with them in a shared mobile text messaging type environment. You can “hang out” with your friends via a video and audio chat room. You can see news you care about via sparks (which needs a lot of work to get to the value of Google Reader). And there’s photo sharing, integrated from Picasssa. So, a lot of the same stuff as Facebook and Twitter.
Google+ can take a giant leap ahead if they take the circles concept and add some trust and reputation characteristics. For those not yet using Google+, the concept of circles is simple – you put people into circles like “Friends” and “Family” and you can filter what you see based on the circles. You can also filter what you share, so your friends see the fun night out pictures, while your family is unaware of them.
Of course, Facebook and Twitter already have Friend lists and Lists, respectively, but neither is very good. Twitter gives no tools to help manage the contacts you already have to put them into lists, and Facebook has tried to hide the lists I spent time making to make their interface “cleaner.” What they’ve done is make it harder for me to keep up with specific groups of people. I’m hoping Google+’s circles will force Facebook’s friend lists back to the front page where they can be effectively used.
Google may be “late to the party” with G+ but they are clearly working to learn from LinkedIn and Facebook and innovate on their own mistakes with Buzz.
Finally, there’s the “take over the world” strategy for Google+. I thought a lot about this when
I wrote about Google Wave in Mashable last year, but Mashable never published a chart I created. The chart was about Wave, so I’ll re-do it below.

Function In Google+ Now? Google Related Property
Picture Upload and editing Upload Picassa
Advanced Editing Limited Google Docs, Blogger
Collaborative Editing No Google Docs, Google Shared Spaces
Voice Chat Hangout Google Voice, Gtalk
Scheduling Collaboration No Google Calendar
Contacts Yes Related to your Google Address Book
Friend/Colleague Discovery Currently Difficult but they are working on it Gtalk, Gmail Contacts
NewsFeed Discovery Difficult to search, but easier to filter via circles Google search, new Google Social Search,
Video Sharing Embeds via YouTube YouTube
Content Sharing No, but just needs a simple bookmarklet or browser extension Predict this will happen very shortly, plus APIs to integrate with ShareThis/AddThis will happen quickly too
Mobile Access Android App, Apple App coming, HTML 5 interface available now Google Mobile Ads
MobileCheckins/Deals Checkins Show in Google+ Now, and the Android client shows “Nearby” activity already Google Local, Google mobile ads, Google social ads, Google Offers

The fact that they can bring in Google Offers (local deals) that connect to Google Places (location, check in and verified business listings), search and advertising (including mobile ads) and a “Nearby” function is in their network from the start, and you have a very powerful potential.

We’re telling them who we’re closest to, and according to some folks using Google+, they’re calculating interactions to see our actual nearness and interactions with each other. If they can figure out a way to keep user’s trust (which they lost with Buzz) better than Facebook (up there with used car salesman in the trust category) and let us discover and work with reputational information about each other (something LinkedIn could have done long ago), again, I see a lot of power.

I hope Google can realize the potential.

Bonus reading:

The Google Plus 50 by Chris Brogan

This is Just the Beginning by Paul Adams

Google’s Six Front War

Sex Problems at Google Plus (he means gender problems but sex sells, right?)


Wired Workforce and Networked CSR

Wired Workforce, Networked CSR (corporate social responsibility) is the title of a white paper I wrote with Tom Watson about the use of social media in CSR. It was published in cooperation with the Heyman Center for Philanthropy and Fundraising at NYU, where I teach a social media course. The paper was sponsored by JK Group and we’re launching it today at JK’s Forum on Philanthropy.

You can read more about the paper via this post at called “Social Media and CSR.” The post also has the paper embedded for your reading pleasure. We welcome your comments.



Games, Gamification, and Empire Avenue

This year’s South By SouthWest conference had several panels on “Gamification,” which I didn’t get to see. However, there is a great summary of all the gamification panels.

The idea of “Gamification” is, according to Wikipedia:

…use of game play mechanics[1] for non-game applications (also known as “funware“),[2] particularly consumer-oriented web and mobile sites, in order to encourage people to adopt the applications. It also strives to encourage users to engage in desired behaviors in connection with the applications.[3] Gamification works by making technology more engaging,[4] and by encouraging desired behaviors, taking advantage of humans’ psychological predisposition to engage in gaming.

Applications like FourSquare use the “Mayor” badges and “points” for check-ins as incentives and encouragement to continue to use the app. We are all animals at some level – we like positive reinforcement, the emails that “so and so is following you” or “John is following your updates” and similar devices that give us incentives to keep doing what we’re doing. This isn’t a new phenomenon.

Mafia crime family structure tree

Image via Wikipedia

I remember just a few years ago when suddenly, all my friends were in the Mafia. They all turned into hit men (and women), looking for territory, weapons, and followers. Yes, sometime in 2008, (but it’s unclear when), this game got really popular, and quickly died off. But for a while, people were very enthusiastically asking for help, support, followers, endorsements, and more. It quickly grew to be too much noise, and I tuned it out. And now, along comes Empire Avenue.

Empire Avenue is a “stock market” type game where you buy shares in others who are online. If you want to join, you can try my link which gets both of us credit (full disclosure) for your joining in that way. The “value” of a particular “stock” or person (or brand – I’ve noticed both Ford and Intel on there so far, and Ford has invested in my profile) goes up based on interactions here in the social web.

Here’s a ticker showing my stock:

The more online social interactions, the more my stock will go “up.” In some senses, this is a prediction market about the value of someone’s online influence.

So far I’ve joined, initially to experience this so I can understand its value for my clients and the way my friends are using it. There are already some good posts on the subject, like Scott Monty’s “Gamification of Social Media,” Jeremiah Owyang’s Empire Avenue Provides Social Gaming Opportunities –and Challenges– for Brands, and David Armano’s “Is A Social Currency System the Next Big Thing?Scoble interviewed the founder of Empire Ave on YouTube.

I’ve invested in some friends (mostly ‘real friends’ and not just people I know online ; the “words for friend” is always a problem). I’ve connected my social accounts. But in order for my value to grow (and hey, I’ll admit to being a bit ego driven here), I have to post and contribute online. I do that pretty naturally, but will Empire Avenue change my behavior?

I’ve already thought of some ways to add posts and have connected my Inc. blog in addition to my personal and company blogs. The main way to “grow your value” in this system is to contribute (and also to be part of the site, log in, etc.).

Is Empire Avenue a better way to predict influencer value than Klout or similar systems? Or even general research – finding people who are of value in specific communities? Tough to know for now – I’ve just started using it, and I don’t know the volume of data or quality of data they’re collecting. I will be looking into that more soon. For now, hope you’re long on HOWARDGR.


Extra credit reading:

What my stock price doesn’t tell you

How Much are you really worth?


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Exploring the (Samsung) Galaxy

I’m at the Samsung Blogger Lounge at the South By SouthWest conference and I’ve been given (*disclosure) a Samsung Galaxy Tab. It is a 7″ Android tablet, Samsung Galaxy Tabsmaller and about as thin as an iPad v1. The tab fits in my hand quite nicely, as you can see from the picture below. The screen is really bright, and the device “feels” solid. It does resemble a large cell phone in form factor, and has a front and rear facing camera.

The one thing I’ve noticed as compared to my own DroidX phone, is that, though they both have a 1Ghz processor, the Galaxy Tab is much, much snappier in response. At about 14oz it’s pretty similar in feel to the previous version of the Kindle, but is way more functional. In fact, I’m much happier carrying this around than I am my iPad v1, which, with it’s case, is closer to 1.8 pounds.

Additionally, the tab is attracting a lot of attention. I’ve shown it around a lot over the 2 days that I’ve had it, and everyone has picked it up and commented on the form factor. It has a great photo gallery app, and I really like the calendar and Gmail implementations.

One disappointment is that Skype still hasn’t released a client that works with video on Android – this unit has a front-facing camera that would make calling home fun.

I’m still testing this out, but I’m pretty sure I’m going to be carrying this unit around a lot when I get back to New York . Let me know if you want to try it out. And, watch for me being interviewed tomorrow around 4pm Eastern on the Samsung SXSWi website.

*Disclosure: The views and opinions expressed are my own and did not come from Samsung or their agency. I was compensated by Samsung with this Galaxy Tab for my review and use.

Making a First Impression Pt 2 – contest summary

So, I wanted to be even more clear about the contests I announced the other day on this blog under “Making a First Impression.”

Dell has asked me as a social media and small business person, as well as a long time networker, to help find some good answers regarding a project they’re doing, and also to promote their new Vostro V130 laptop.

Contest summary:

  1. Starting Thursday 2/24 at 8am and going until Friday 2/25 at 8PM I’m asking you to give your best tips on making a first impression via Twitter. One entry per person, please. Be sure to use the Hashtag #tradesecrets and to copy me, @HowardGr. It’s important you follow me on Twitter since if you’re picked as the winner, I’ll have to direct message you the details.
  2. Contest 2. A Real-time twitter chat on Monday 2/28 at 2pm. Same idea – I’ll be asking questions about first impressions and looking for your responses, also with the hashtag #tradesecrets. This doesn’t require one entry a person – I’m hoping for some good chat engagement.

See the rules in the previous post. I hope you will participate and get a chance to win this nice, light, hot red laptop that I’ve been enjoying over the past few days.

*As disclosed in the previous post, this is a compensated gig, and I get to keep the laptop for that compensation. My opinions about the product are my own and not those of the agency or Dell or anyone.

Making a First Impression

This week I’ll be reviewing a Dell Vostro 130 (disclosure*), and asking that you participate with me via Twitter to share your wisdom about first impressions. We’ll be having 2 different Twitter contests, and I’ll be able to give away 2 Dells, one to a participant in each event. Read on (right after you follow me on Twitter.)

Update: A summary of just the contest info is here.

All my readers know I’m passionate about helping small businesses succeed. I write my Start-up Toolkit blog to give startups better tools, and I work with Wicked Start and write posts there regarding the 10 steps to take to start a company. And one of the key steps in starting or running a small company is to make a good first impression. Think of that impression as one of your  trade secrets.

The other day, we visited a deli that my wife’s friend started. She came out from behind the counter, gave us a big Italian hug and kiss, and proceeded to make our lunches a little extra special (Chicken Parmesan hero, but on Garlic bread instead of regular bread, mmm.) Meanwhile, customers came in and she and her husband greeted them by name. The ones they didn’t know, they were still friendly to, and I would suspect they’ll know they’re names soon enough. That first impression of a friendly neighborhood place will stick with these customers. But that’s only one kind of first impression.

Sometimes, you want to “wow” someone. Come up with something unexpected.  I received the package from Dell, and my first take was – Wow, a red laptop. Continue reading

Facebook’s Sponsored Stories

Back in June (wow, was it that long ago?) I was a guest on with hosts Deb Schultz and Heather Gold. On that show, I argued with Heather that “on Facebook, Advertisers are the client, and we (the users) are the product.” It’s not quite as bad as Soylent Green (where we’re the product and the consumer in an endless cycle) but it does have similarities.

I think this latest ad unit proves it. Our actions are being sold back to us as advertising content. See coverage on AdAge, HuffPo. As AdAge reports, “…if Starbucks buys a “sponsored story” ad, the status of a user’s friends who check into or “like” Starbucks will run twice: once in the user’s news feed, and again as a paid ad for Starbucks.”

What’s the value of this additional unit? Advertisers are looking for “social proof.” In other words, if you “Like” a movie, or Starbucks, or a brand, your endorsement may be more effective than an ad just done by the company. As commenters noted in the AdAge piece, many people ignore the banners, so this may give them even more reason to do so.

I think this takes away from the authentic preferences that people have by making us and our actions into content in an even more explicit way than Facebook already does as a platform.

I’m interested to see how this grows, and if it is more effective than other methods of sharing people’s preferences on Facebook. What do you think?