“Influencers Who Inspire” Interview with Ari Herzog, Digital AH

As we continue to connect with influencers within the industry, we’re delighted to share an interview with Ari Herzog, Digital Media Strategist and Principal of Digital AH. As a digital media strategist, Ari Herzog provides services in auditing, marketing, and training (http://digitalah.com). A former columnist for Mashable and the Huffington Post, Ari explores new and emerging media on his 5-year-old blog at AriHerzog.com. He is also President of Social Media Club Boston and a 2-term elected city councilor in Newburyport, Massachusetts. Tweet him at @AriHerzog.

You are an elected city councilor.  What role do you feel social media played in the election process?

“I want to be the first Jewish President of the United States,” I told Mrs. Stockus in third grade when she asked the class about our future aspirations.

While I no longer have desires to run the country, I do enjoy local government and ran for elected office as a city councilor in 2009.

Integrated with neighborhood mixers, candidate debates, newspaper interviews, and yard signs, social media played a big part. I blogged, Facebooked, Tweeted, started an email newsletter, and uploaded a few videos. They were all a hit — and residents were excited to meet me in person after reading my blog or receiving my emails.

I continued to use the web during my first two years as a councilor — and people began to appreciate my prompt response times when they emailed me. They told their friends about me, and their friends subscribed to my civic blog (http://councilorariherzog.com) or liaised with me through other media.

My passion for the web and my sincerity to connect with residents helped me win re-election to the council last fall. I’m currently serving my second term. You can listen to me elaborate on some of my campaign tactics in a government radio podcast  recorded in the days after my first election.

You have a diverse background and wear many hats. Which role do you find most rewarding and why?

My favorite hat is the political one, being a city councilor. While I’d worked in both state and local government previously (and earned much more money than the $5000 I receive every year as a councilor), my 2009 election was proof — to me, more than anyone else — that I could do anything I wanted to do, including reaching for that political gold ring I fantasized about in third grade.

I choose to do business as myself and not work full-time in Corporate America. I’ve been there, done that, and, while I may return to a full-time job someday working for someone else, I like being my own boss as a digital media auditor and digital marketing instructor. I like awaking on my schedule and deciding when and if I want to go the gym or take a walk. I enjoy networking with other people and I’ve discovered how to perfect my elevator pitch so the other person instantly understands what I do and how to help me.

As a college instructor, what is your overall goal in terms of teaching your students? As they complete their coursework, what is the one major element you hope they have learned/gained from having you as a teacher?

Among the ongoing courses I teach (http://ariherzog.com/teaching) is a 4-week interactive course on social media marketing. My syllabi include the following course objectives:

1. Introduce core concepts of social media including interactivity and relationship building.

2. Increase awareness of how social media can help organizations enhance their objectives.

3. Learn the importance of listening and the best ways of doing it online.

If a student walks away with one new fact or tidbit that was unknown when sitting down, I did my job. If the student walks away with three or more facts to help improve Internet knowledge or online productivity, there is nothing more to make a teacher proud.

Where do you find inspiration for your blog posts?

I used to write at AriHerzog.com every day — inspired by social bloggers in my RSS reader such as Danny Brown, Kristi Hines, Phil Gerbyshak, John Haydon, Louis Gray, Mark Schaefer, Shelly Kramer, and others.

While I still read their blogs and am inspired to comment or socially share, I lack the desire to take something they wrote and either echo it or re-slant it on my own blog. I am also trying to write less about the “what” or the “how” and more about the “why” of new and emerging media. For instance, I recently opined why sole proprietors and freelancers should consider deleting their Facebook pages, and as you can gauge by clicking the link, people are engaged to respond.

I am reading Gip Plaster and Farnoosh Brock more frequently these days, enjoying their blog posts on smart living and improving your life.

What is your “ideal client” (if you could hand pick one) for Digital AH?

Cookie Monster’s spoof of Carly Rae Jepsen’s song “Call Me Maybe” is a great example of the social content being created by Sesame Workshop — and that is the ideology of company I’d enjoy working with in the coming months. Much of my development as a toddler, adolescent, college student, and beyond is based upon the social interactions between Big Bird, Oscar the Grouch, Mr. Hooper (remember him?), and Ernie and Bert.

While I have zero experience in childhood development or social work, I do possess a bachelor’s degree in sociology — and societal issues such as race, ethnicity, and power – which I wrote about in college papers – are coming to life every day on the social web. Kudos to Sesame Workshop for their strong usage and evangelism of social networking channels. I’m sure there are countless TV shows or producers wanting to use the web to promote their versions of Big Bird and Oscar. I’d really like to help them.

What is next for you in 2012?

I will teach my first digital marketing course to MBA students at Endicott College this fall.

I’m reaching out to government technology vendors to partner with them in digital marketing areas.

I am stepping up my schedule of submitting proposals to speak at conferences in New England (and around the country) and am hopeful their organizers like my ideas.

And, there are some other surprises I can’t talk about yet!

 

“Effective Executive” Series with Kris Duggan, CEO & Co-Founder of Badgeville

This week’s “Effective Executive” interview series is with Kris Duggan, CEO and Co-Founder of Badgeville.

Kris is a serial entrepreneur with a passion for building innovative, fast-growing SaaS companies with thousands of delighted customers. He is dedicated to helping brands on the web increase user engagement by leveraging proven techniques in social gaming and loyalty. A sought-after speaker on gamification, analytics and user engagement, Kris is a thought leader of innovative ways to incorporate game mechanics and social loyalty programs into web and mobile experiences. Prior to founding Badgeville, Duggan worked in leadership roles at a variety of successful companies, including WebEx (a former PerkettPR client), and across a wide variety of verticals.

You have a great deal of expertise in startups.  What is it that you love about the startup environment?

I’ve worked in many different companies at this point in my career, from startups I’ve founded or held leadership roles in, to very large, global companies. I have learned a great deal from all of these experiences, but one thing I find most exciting in the startup environment is creating something from nothing. Over the last 20 months, with the help of an extremely talented and intelligent team, we have built a healthy global business with nearly 200 customers and 75 employees. There is nothing more exhilerating, fun and fulfilling than being part of this journey. I also really enjoy building a company from the ground up – defining the culture and team, and being a part of the larger product vision.
Gamification appears to be a solid solution to improving customer loyalty and employee performance.  Can you explain how Badgeville is leading the way in this effort?

Gamification for business is a strategy based on game mechanics to help measure and influence user behavior. With the proper psychological application for each audience, these techniques can drive behavior 20 to more than 200 percent. Badgeville is the global gamification leader, with nearly 200 customers across the globe, including Deloitte, EMC, Autodesk, VMware, Symantec, Bell Media, Interscope Records, Opower, Barnes & Noble, and more.

 

How is Badgeville leading the way in this effort? One of the main reasons customers tell us that they choose Badgeville is our unique view on gamification as part of a larger engagement strategy. We offer a full spectrum of engagement mechanics, including game mechanics, reputation mechanics and social mechanics. Instead of offering gamification for siloed applications, we offer a true Behavior Platform. This means that down to the way our platform database is architected using NoSQL, we are able to integrate our platform across multiple websites, mobile apps, and enterprise applications owned by a company.

 

This architecture design is extremely important for us, as large businesses don’t want to reward user behavior in one small area of their online experience – they are looking for a holistic gamification program across their online communities, websites, blogs, mobile experiences, CRM systems, training applications, support programs, and other digital experiences. The ultimate value of gamification lies in being able to connect the behavior dots between all of these disparate applications, and this is unique to Badgeville in the market. We like to call this “portable reputation” – where the user experience can tie together all of these online experiences. For the business, there is also the value of having this connectivity from a data perspective, being able to easily identify trends and insights around user behavior across their entire digital ecosystem.

 

What do you think is driving the rise of social gaming?
 

Gaming is nothing new. Social media enabled gaming companies to create new types of games which are largely tied to reputation. Instead of playing games by oneself or with a few friends, success in these social games can be viewed by many friends and online peers. This is the same concept used to inspire many behaviors with gamification. Another key factor in the success of social gaming is the rise of mobile technologies. Now game devices are in everyone’s hand. People have a few minutes of spare time in between their busy lives and they want to be able to get entertainment on the train or during a free moment. This is changing the types of games we play. Now, the important part of gameplay is being able to participate for a quick minute or two, and truly engage with this experience, and to come back later to engage even more.

Can you tell us a little bit about the recent launch of Social Mechanics?

Integrating Badgeville’s Behavior Platform begins with tracking important user behaviors. With Game Mechanics and Reputation Mechanics, customers can use the Behavior Platform to reward users for performing these high-value behaviors. With Social Mechanics, we take the behaviors we are tracking and surface them in ways that you may typically see in a social network. For example, our customers can use Social Mechanics to add real-time notifications, live activity streams, and even user-to-user or user-to-topic following. This enables every online experience to have the same social engagement qualities of today’s top social networks. When Game Mechanics or Reputation Mechanics are added to Social Mechanics, the experience is extremely powerful and engaging. The more social an experience is, the more value social rewards and status within that community will be for the user – and the greater the success of the gamification program one will see.

How do you explain your job to your children?

My two sons have a very good understanding of gamification. They would explain it as “making things more fun and engaging.” I’ve gamified a lot of experiences as a parent. When I was coaching T-ball it was hard to get the team of 20 kids motivated… they were more interested in jumping around on top of each other than paying attention to learning how to improve their game. I started to use points to help the kids focus. I created a whole points system where if you caught the ball you get a point, and soon found out the more points catching the ball was worth, the harder the kids tried to catch it. The points were never worth anything, but just adding a point value to the experiences made them try that much harder. The T-ball gamification got increasingly sophisticated. I added virtual rewards like a treasure chest or virtual space shuttle for catching, hitting the ball, and so on. I’ve never seen them work so hard. Gamification is part of everyday life for my kids, so it’s not hard to explain the core concepts to them.

You have traveled extensively. Do you have any memorable trips or spots you would like to share?

I’ve traveled to over 35 countries around the world and have had some very memorable moments… such as visiting the Pyramids of Giza and staying on a houseboat in Kashmir, India for a month. But most recently, the most interesting moment that stuck out in my mind related to gamification was an experience I had on my visit to Japan for the Japanese Gamification Summit. In Japan, aspects of the culture are heavily focused on gaming. When I visited a standard mens restroom, I found a completely gamified urinal. I’m not kidding. Without getting into to many details, there were many options to play this game and win. I thought that was pretty incredible, so I decided to investigate this product further. It turns out it’s made by Sega and it’s call the “Toylet.”  We’re actually working on having one special ordered for us to have at the Badgeville headquarters, with some special Badgeville ads and games built into the machine.

What is next for Badgeville for the remainder of 2012?

Badgeville is growing at a very rapid pace. We recently raised our Series C round of funding in under two years of our business launch. This funding is being dedicated directly to product innovation and team growth. This September, we will move to our fifth office in two years with 25,000 square feet for long-term growth. Our employees enjoy “leveling up” each time we move to a new space. Beyond the move, we are constantly working on new products and overall growth. Hiring is a major focus of ours as we continue to seek out top talent in our Silicon Valley, New York and European offices, as well as among our regional teams around the world. We are also fast expanding our global partner network, with emphasis on System Integrators, ISV/OEM partnerships, Agencies, and VARs.

In addition, our inaugural Summit — Engage 2012 — which occurred August 8-9, was a huge project for us — our first two-day event featuring customer stories, key industry analysts and gamification workshops led by our team of expert game designers and producers. We have a lot of photos to share from this great event, here.

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“Effective Executives” Series with Bill Piwonka, Janrain’s VP of Marketing

This week’s “Effective Executives” interview is with Janrain‘s VP of Marketing, Bill Piwonka. Bill’s background is firmly rooted in B2B marketing operations. Over the past 20 years he has led marketing teams and initiatives spanning strategy, product marketing, product management, demand generation, marketing communications and business development. Prior to joining Janrain, Bill was the vice president of marketing at EthicsPoint. He has also held marketing management positions at Centennial Software, Serena Software, MeasureCast, WebTrends, Intel and Oracle. Bill earned a Master of Business Administration from The Wharton School at the The University of Pennsylvania and a Bachelor of Arts in quantitative economics from Stanford University.

We caught up with Bill and asked him about his leadership style, how marketing has adapted to the changing economy and what is next for Janrain for the remainder of 2012.

Can you tell us a little bit about Janrain and your role?

Janrain is a leader in providing User Management solutions for the Social Web.  You’ve probably encountered our technology many times without even realizing it.  You have, if you’ve ever been offered the opportunity to login or register on a website using an existing identity from a social network such as Facebook, Google, Twitter, Yahoo!, LinkedIn, etc. – rather than fill out an onerous registration form.  Not only does offering social login help business by increasing registration conversion rates, decreasing cart abandonment on eCommerce sites, improving data quality of the user database and reducing support costs from not having to respond to lost username/password requests, it also can significantly improve efficacy of marketing programs.  That’s because when a user logs in using a social identity, the business has the opportunity to ask for access to a rich set of profile characteristics, such as interests (e.g. music, sports, movies…), location, friends, birthdays and more.  This data can then be used to more finely segment customers and deliver richer online experiences and targeted promotions and offers.

At Janrain, I am responsible for overseeing our marketing efforts, including driving demand for our solutions, preparing our sales team for success and launching new products, services and solutions.

What kind of data do you use to make marketing decisions? Analytics apps, etc.?

We are very much a data-driven organization, even though we are still relatively small.  As an organization, we use Salesforce.com for CRM, Act-On Software for Marketing Automation, and Google Analytics for web traffic.  From these solutions, I monitor which campaigns are driving the highest quality leads, the health of our sales pipeline, our sales cycle length, average sales price, win/loss percentage, cost per lead, sales funnel conversion rates and a host of other metrics.  I encourage my team to take risks and try new things, but I want to know if those efforts succeed or fail, and have a common barometer for making those assessments.

Favorite CMO-type media outlets you follow?

I actually don’t follow CMO-specific sites as much as I do Analysts (Altimeter Group, Forrester, Gartner, etc.), industry specific news (GigaOm, News.com) and general business sites and email groups (All Things D/WSJ, McKinsey, Wharton, Harvard Business Review, Marketwatch.com, etc.).  I also try to follow interesting, insightful people on Twitter, where I get access to articles and research that they find compelling.

What do you see as your chief role? What’s your leadership style?

I see my role as setting direction and strategy and providing the tools and environment necessary for my team to succeed.  I tend to be very collaborative, seeking input from both my team and peers within the company to help guide my thinking.  I also am not a micro-manager.  I want to hire the best and the brightest people I can find – even if they don’t have direct role-specific experience – and give them the freedom to deliver outstanding results.  We set quarterly objectives that are tied to our overarching corporate goals, and identify how we will measure whether those objectives are met.  Then I’m available to review progress, suggest approaches, edit written content, and roll up my sleeves to help when needed.  But I want my team to feel empowered to do what it takes to be successful – not be afraid to take risks or make mistakes, and know that they are developing skills and experience that will help them progress in their own careers.

How has marketing changed with the economy’s twists and turns?

I don’t know that it really has.  Of course I’m held to my budget and am always looking for ways to drive costs down while improving results, but that’s always been the case.  And while technology has changed the way we can interact with our prospects and consumers, the fundamentals still hold.  You need to have a product or solution that solves a specific pain point, communicate that message simply and elegantly and be the type of organization with which customers want to do business.

How much do you weigh social media in marketing goals?

Social media provides a great way to interact with customers, communicate your company’s personality, culture and values and developer higher brand advocacy and loyalty (when done right).  All of those things are important to me; thus social media is an important part of our overall strategy.

If you had to make a pie chart of your marketing goals, how would you divide?

Ideally, it would be split into three equal wedges – Drive Demand, Enable Sales and Launch Products.

What is next for Janrain for the remainder of 2012?

The biggest challenge we have moving forward is managing our growth.  We just about tripled in size in 2011, and are on a path for similar results in 2012.  That has meant additional headcount, the implementation of appropriately scaled processes and a never ending list of deliverables to support this growth.  It’s a really challenging environment, but one that is super fun – I can’t wait to see where we take it!

 

 

 

“Influencers Who Inspire” with Sarah Evans

This week’s influencer interview is with the ever-popular Sarah Evans. Sarah Evans (@prsarahevans) is the Chief Evangelist at Tracky (www.tracky.com), an open social collaboration platform, and owner of Sevans Strategy, a new media consultancy.  It’s her personal mission—to engage and employ the use of emerging technologies in all communication—that connects her with a rapidly growing base of more than 120,000 people.

A self-described “social media freak,” Sarah initiated and moderates #journchat, the weekly live chat between PR professionals, journalists and bloggers on the microblogging platform, Twitter.

Sarah shares her social media and tech favorites on Sarah’s Faves (sarahsfav.es) as well as a daily resource for PR professionals called Commentz.

Sarah previously worked with a local crisis center to raise more than $161,000 via social media and is a team member of the Guiness Book World Record-holding team, #beatcancer.

Sarah can be seen in Vanity Fair’s America’s Tweethearts, Forbes’ 14 Power Women to Follow on Twitter and Entrepreneur’s Top 10 Hot Startups of 2010.

We caught up with this busy entrepreneur and asked her some questions about her favorite social networks, how she grew her business and what she is passionate about.

If you had to choose one social network to use which one would it be and why?

I prefer Instagram (with a direct feed to Twitter and Facebook, LOL). I’m a visual learner and also feel more connected to people through their photos. Instagram allows me a way to share photos in a fun way, let people know where I’m at (i.e. location), add a caption and share the post across other networks.

And, although, it’s not a social network, my employer Tracky (www.tracky.com) is ahead of the game in celebrating all that is good in open, social collaboration.

You have had some interesting clients. Which one has been your favorite and why?

I’ve loved working with all of our clients, most recently taking on the role as Chief Evangelist of Tracky, an open social collaboration platform. Asking a PR person to choose a “fave” is tough! I have to go with my current role. I’ve spent so much time promoting and writing about tech startups that I ended up working directly with one. In fact, I’m relocating my entire family to Las Vegas to take on this latest adventure. That’s how much I believe in the platform. In my life, I don’t do anything unless it’s 100 percent. Tracky is my favorite because co-founders David and Jennifer Gosse not only eat, breathe and sleep the platform, they are passionate about creating a better way for people to get things done (#GTD).

What blogs/newspapers/magazines do you read daily?

If I gave you the entire list, it might make your head spin. ;) I keep a blog roll over at Sarah’s Faves (http://sarahsfav.es) where people can see my favorite media outlets. Here are a few:

How do I keep up with all them you might ask? For each, I use a combination of its tasks, emails and mobile Twitter alerts. All of these outlets are set up so that I see what they post real-time from my phone.

You grew your PR consultancy pretty quickly. What was your strategy and how did you make it happen?

From the outside (or social side) it probably appeared “very fast.” However, a lot of work was put in behind-the-scenes for a few years. In fact, for at least a year I was both working a full-time day job and freelancing in the evenings and on weekends.

My strategy?

1. Build a network when I don’t need one.

2. If I couldn’t get experience I needed in my day job, hustle to get it off the clock.

3. Have at least three clients on retainer by the time I started the business.

What PR campaign in social media has been successful this year? Why and how did it become successful?

There are so very many. Is it cliché to once again say I can’t pick one? What I can do is share the attributes I believe made many successful:

  • They disrupt. Think a bit of “not playing it safe,” mixed with a different or better way of doing things. Even klouchebag.com challenged the status quo and got some good press.
  • They allow people to do these three things: personalize, participate and portable (i.e. available on mobile).
  • They have a lot of time and money behind them. The most successful integrated marketing and communications campaigns typically have either a lot of time or money (or both) backing them. Granted it takes talent to put them together, but again that means time and money.

Can you tell us a little about Sarah’s Faves?

Boy, can I. Sarah’s Faves is my latest passion project. I think my tagline sums it up, “All my geeky favorites, in one nerdtastic place.” I only write about things I really like and think others would, too. It’s a personal recommendation site.

What are you passionate about outside of work?

My family, including my husband, 10-month-old son and our two furry babies. Sleep. Fashion.

What is next for you in 2012?
A big cross country move to Las Vegas.

More speaking and interacting with others passionate about social media and technology.

A new web show called Track Stars I’ll be shooting inside the Switch SuperNAP.

A few surprises I can’t mention right now. ;)

 

 

Effective Executive: Akemi Williams, TeetheMe.com

This week’s Effective Executive interview is with Akemi Williams, a busy mother who has founded an exciting new baby products business called TeetheMe.com. TeetheMe is a monthly subscription service that delivers functional and fun baby products to parents on a monthly basis. Subscribers receive mini care packages that arrive just at the right moment and are for children ages newborn to 3-years-old.

We caught up with Akemi and asked her some questions about what inspired her to start her own business and the challenges she has faced in doing so.

What inspired you to create Teetheme?

As a busy, working mother of a 3-year-old little girl, I found myself completely overwhelmed by all of the baby products on the market today. I knew there had to be a simpler and more efficient way to find quality baby products that would grow with my child. I founded TeetheMe.com to do just that!

How long did it take to get your Company up and running after creating the concept? Did you encounter any obstacles along the way?

It took me about 6 months and I was still working my corporate publishing job while launching TeetheMe. I think everyone who starts any company encounters obstacles! But as I have learned, it really is all about the journey and I am having so much fun and absolutely love going to work every day.

How do you explain your career and your Company to your daughter?

She thinks mommy works with babies all day long! She loves learning about all of the products that mommy brings home and pretends to use some of them on her babies! It’s too cute!

What excites you most about your job?

I am so fortunate to wake up every day and do something that I am truly passionate about. I love working with other mompreneurs as well as meeting real moms and being able to relate to what they are going through as parents. TeetheMe is not just a service; it’s a community of real moms going through real life experiences. We are all, every day still trying to figure it all out and to be the best parents we can be. I am so honored to be a part of this process with thousands of moms!

You have a social community for moms launching soon. Can you tell us a little bit about it?

Baby bragging without boundaries or worries! Subscribers are granted access to our exclusive user-controlled Teether Social Network where the parent-to-parent connections are priceless and no milestone is too little to share! We have created a place where parents can share every last detail about their child. Post photo albums, organize play dates or just update fellow Teethers on their little one’s sleep schedule in our safe and secure network.

The review section of our community is a place where like-minded parents rate, review and share their experiences on the latest products, giving you an invaluable buyers’ edge in today’s overstuffed market. The information provided through our community will help you make smarter, more informed and most importantly, time saving buying decisions for your little Teether.

Do you have any hobbies or passions outside of work?

I love to read (what mom isn’t reading 50 Shades of Grey right now?), a good spin class and spending time on the beach! I’m also very involved with my church and can’t live without my weekly bible study with some amazing ladies!

What is next for you in 2012?

Focusing on the growth and expansion of TeetheMe! And, continuing to have fun while I do it! Spending as much time as I can with my daughter, family and friends. Life is all about balance!