The semi-professional blog of Albert Ciuksza Jr.

Category: Social

Grab Yourself a Rebound at

Blue Shirt Guy = Creep

Blue Shirt Guy = Creep

Step one: Go to

Step two: Log in with Facebook

Step three: Choose the friends-who-aren’t-really-friends-but-more-like-people-you-want-to-date-at-some-point-in-the-future-if-they-would-just-dump-their-loser-significant-other

Step four: Get an email when those friends’ relationship status changes

Step five: Listen to the video below, which accurately characterizes the person you’ve shown yourself to be…


Blogging is Really Hard

News flash to those thinking about or currently writing a blog — it is really, really hard.

Don’t get me wrong, I think blogging is one of the most important ways that an individual or company can show how they’re different/better than their competitors. A company’s business philosophy and technical competence shows through in the words they write. Plus, there’s something to be said for being forced to challenge current perceptions and having to articulate a vision. It’s a great mental workout and shows current and potential customers a window into how strong a company really is.

However, the reasons to write a blog are also the ones that make it a challenge. First, we’re not all first-class writers (if you’ve flipped through mine, I’m sure you’d find plenty of mistakes). Second, it’s tough to find a voice that balances a professional tone and the openness that the social media world requires. Third, there is a time and mental resource challenge associated with a blog and can sometimes let weeks go by before we have the chance to sit down and write. Finally, if you don’t get the readership you want, it’s easy to get discouraged and allow a blog to become a graveyard.

Confession: I have a particularly difficult time writing my blog. Should I be funny at the risk of being offensive? Should I be brief but short on details? Should I come off as an expert or open-minded learner? Who should I be writing for? Should I write for only myself, or should I try to build an audience? Is there anything I’m going to say that might come back to haunt me or get me fired? And what the heck do I write about, anyway?

I’ve been working on figuring out the best way to solve these problems. As a proud BlackBerry owner, I’ve downloaded and used the WordPress app, which lets me get some thoughts down that I can either publish immediately or develop more fully when I get time. I’ve been attempting to schedule time to think about certain topics and decide what might make sense to write about. However, these are just process solutions; they don’t get to the bottom of my main issue, i.e. what is it that I should be saying and how do I say it?

I’ve recently engaged an editor and PR veteran to do some analysis on this blog. One of his areas of expertise is in co-authoring and ghostwriting, and he has mastered the art of identifying a “voice” and applying it to developing copy. I can’t wait to hear what he has to say, even if it’s going to be tough to hear.

Have you done an audit of your blog? Have you gotten feedback on whether or not you’re saying the right thing, being brief enough, or speaking to the right audience? Do you think you’d benefit from a professional blog audit? I’d love to hear from others who might be suffering from this challenge.

Dunbar’s Number vs. Ambient Awareness

In February 2005, I was in the dining room of a friend’s house anxiously awaiting the last few seconds of the game clock to expire before I could celebrate my first Steelers Super Bowl. As soon as Coach Cowher lifted his arms in celebration, the fifty or so people gathered at the house party started to yell, cheer, hug and, in some instances, cry. While this didn’t surprise me much – as a faithful member of Steelers nation, I’ve shed a few tears myself – I was taken by the number of text messages I received from friends all over the country, many of whom I had barely spoken to since last time the Steelers were in the Super Bowl (1996). For about twenty minutes, my phone constantly buzzed with ‘Congrats’ messages. I was embarrassed by the number of replies that I sent that said, “Thanks! Who is this?”

This story came to mind when I happened upon a post by Seth Godin (thanks Twitter@paulfuriga), who had written about Dunbar’s number, a theoretical mental limit (150) to the number of people that can maintain a cohesive unit. Using the theory to reinforce his concept of tribes, he says the following:

Some people online are trying to flout Dunbar’s number, to become connected and actual friends with tens of thousands of people at once. And guess what? It doesn’t scale. You might be able to stretch to 200 or 400, but no, you can’t effectively engage at a tribal level with a thousand people. You get the politician’s glassy-eyed gaze or the celebrity’s empty stare. And then the nature of the relationship is changed.

As a result, he seems to suggest (but never says) that social media can’t really build a tribe because you/your company/your brand have to be pretty special to take the place of a friend/family member/colleague in someone’s life.

I thought about how this contradicted the concept of ambient awareness, a concept to which I was introduced in a New York Times Magazine article titled Brave New World of Digital Intimacy. The author, Clive Thompson, says:

But where their sociality had truly exploded was in their “weak ties” — loose acquaintances, people they knew less well. It might be someone they met at a conference, or someone from high school who recently “friended” them on Facebook, or somebody from last year’s holiday party. In their pre-Internet lives, these sorts of acquaintances would have quickly faded from their attention. But when one of these far-flung people suddenly posts a personal note to your feed, it is essentially a reminder that they exist. I have noticed this effect myself. In the last few months, dozens of old work colleagues I knew from 10 years ago in Toronto have friended me on Facebook, such that I’m now suddenly reading their stray comments and updates and falling into oblique, funny conversations with them. My overall Dunbar number is thus 301: Facebook (254) + Twitter (47), double what it would be without technology. Yet only 20 are family or people I’d consider close friends. The rest are weak ties — maintained via technology.

The author covers Dunbar’s number in the paragraph before, also saying that it is absolutely a limiting factor and that, in his interviews, he found that folks who are using ambient awareness tools to maintain weak ties are still living in that 150-person limit because, as he says, “deep relationships are still predicated on face time, and there are only so many hours in the day for that.”

This is where the Steelers story comes in — you build a brand and, because of the weak tie you build with the consumer, they take the effort to engage you (in my case, tracking my number down on Facebook to send me a text message). They didn’t need to know where I went to college or where I was living or what relationship I happened to be in at the time. All they knew was that I was probably pretty excited about the win and that they’d take the time to acknowledge that fact.

When I was consulting with a collision repair company, the general manager described his marketing challenge like this — you have advertise and market yourself enough for people to be aware of you in the not-so-good event that they need your services. Otherwise, who really wants to think about auto collision repair? As long as people had enough knowledge about the shop tucked in the back of their head, he figured, they would come to him when they needed his service.

Frankly, I think Seth Godin’s invocation of Dunbar’s number (despite what he says in his post, it is not a law), is misguided with respect to social media. No, I don’t think it is easy to develop that tribe  and yes, in order to do so, you have to fill one of those Dunbar circle spots in someone’s awareness. But, I believe social media works because of Dunbar’s theory, not at the expense of it. Those weak ties are exactly what makes it a killer app. No, your company might not be able to build a tribe, but few products can survive by selling to only 150 people. If you’re more worried about establishing a tribe than building awareness, you’re likely to fail. However, if you focus on building valuable ambient awareness (Paul Furiga and his team at Twitter@wordwritepr are a great example), you’re able to position yourself when someone has to think about needing your product or service.