Behind the Tweets: Engage Digital Media Founder & CEO Chris Sherman

Posted by on May 20, 2011 in Behind the Tweets, Follow Friday Profiles, Social Media |

Happy Friday everyone! What’s this – two Fridays in a row with sunshine in Seattle?? Yes, it’s true – and we might even see the mercury tip 70 degrees for the first time in six months. So needless to say, I’m in a great mood (as is the rest of the area). The question is – how to stay motivated to work when the weather is so tempting outside? We’ll see…

Chris poses while engaging in one of his favorite hobbies - scuba diving!

I’m really excited about today’s featured profile, Chris Sherman. I’m very fortunate in that I have many relationships (both personal and professional) the span years – and in some cases decades. Chris is one of those long-standing relationships that I value. We first met nearly 20 years ago when he was a young reporter and I was a young PR agency co-founder. Chris covered “multimedia” for an influential newsletter at the time and our agency had many clients in this space – so I was often pitching Chris (and visiting him on press tours). Chris also had the serious entrepreneurial bug and soon launched his own successful industry newsletter – which he sold for a profit. This propelled him into a series of successful start-ups and businesses that he has built (and sold) over time. Most recently Chris has been focusing on developing and producing events on social media, games, virtual worlds, and user engagement through his company Engage Digital Media.

Unlike those featured in my earlier profiles, Chris is not a heavy Twitter user (although he does have an account). However, he is very active on Facebook and Linkedin. I thought it would be interesting to interview Chris for his views on social media given his successful experience as an entrepreneur as well as the fact that he’s not heavy into Twitter. Not surprisingly, Chris doesn’t disappoint with his thoughts and insights. Check out his three predictions for social media – very interesting stuff! Thanks Chris for participating!

Also – if you know of someone you feel would be an interesting profile for this feature, please feel free to share with me. I would like to expand this feature in the future by including more people each week beyond Friday. Have a great weekend!

Which social media networks do you use consistently?

When it comes to personal use Facebook is my pick. Right now it gets the job done. I’ll turn to Twitter on a rare occasion, usually when I need to know something right away.

For professional use its Facebook and Twitter. The conference business is all about relationships – connecting people, networking, providing attendees with engaging speakers on a variety of topics. I stay connected to many of our speakers, some sponsors and attendees. Not only can I keep in touch but I can learn from them depending on what they are posting.
You confessed to me that you’re not much of Twitter user – why is that? You seem to be pretty engaged on Facebook and Linkedin.

Twitter is a fire hose. It is more distracting then anything else. As a news junkie I already spend to much time read RSS feeds. You can get lost in the information that comes at you from twitter. The thing about Twitter is there are many more people talking rather than listening.

Location is the new “the next big thing” and as someone passionate about travel I find this potentially very powerful but I’m too private to want to share location on a regular basis in a broadly social way.

What was your “Aha” moment regarding social media (when/why did you decide to become engaged)?

1994. The launch of Total Entertainment Network (TEN) and Mpath/Mplayer. These services provided the ability for PC gamers to go into an online social network, meet people and play games with each other. Now we take that for granted with Xbox Live, World of Warcraft and 1000s of other destinations and games.

Looking back it is hard to believe there that there is a 10+ year gap between TEN and Facebook.
Has the way you use social media changed? If so, how?

Since 1994? The biggest change has to be social networking using your real name, via a web browser and for business. Online games pioneered social networking but was always through dedicated client software and real names were common. And of course no business ever got done. I’m still “Killerdog” in those rare instances I do get a chance to play online.

Social media is changing faster now than at any time in the past. There are a host of services I’m playing with at any one time. Recently: Lanyrd (for events), AngelList (for angel investing), Plancast (events), Keepstream (twitter curation), MeetUp (community event management).

The trick with any of these and others is: will they achieve a critical mass or do they have the feature-sets that are important. Some are already valuable: AngelList. Others, I’m not so sure: Lanyrd. All this exploration takes time. You could get lost in it.

How has social media changed for me? I use it more for work than anything else.

You’re a successful entrepreneur as you have built and sold numerous companies – primarily because you’ve been able to identify key trends. Based on your experience, do you want to take a shot at predicting how social media is going to change business?

That’s like asking: How will the Internet change business? How social media will change business depends on the business. I’m in the events business. That business is all about bringing people together in the real world. So I’m always on the look out for social media tools that can extend or enhance that real world engagement, keeping like-minded people engaged during or between our physical events.
Can you give me 3 crazy-ass predictions for Facebook, Twitter and Google for 2011?

1. Facebook become the most highly valued company in the world. When the company IPO’s next year everyone will want a piece.

2 Twitter will be forced to sell. They won’t want to but they will not be able to create a revenue generating business that can sustain itself.

3. Google will have a massive security violation that will expose details of it huge user base – businesses and individuals – to the world. Think Sony’s PlayStation Network breach (which affected 70 million people) but on a grander scale.
Most recently you’ve been heavily involved in the conference business – how is social media impacting this world? One would assume that it might cause more people to stay home if they can connect via social media…but attendance at shows such as SXSW hasn’t been impacted. What do you think?

The recent downturn in the economy has crushed many events. So the industry as a whole is facing its greatest period of change ever.

Social media has the potential to make events more powerful and more valuable to all parties involved (speakers, attendees, sponsors, etc.) I don’t think the killer app has arrived just yet but a lot of people are trying.

You have to remember, twitter got its first real boost was at SXSW because it provided attendees with a new, powerful way to communicate in real time.
Do you use FourSquare, Quora, Yelp or Linkedin? What is your perception of these platforms? How do people have time to actively monitor/participate in multiple social media services?

I think social media for most people fall into two categories: Core Services and Fringe Services. The core services are those that people use everyday – those you cannot live without. These may be different for different people. The fringe services are those people use only when they need them: find a solution, solve a specific problem, increase my knowledge, through the power of social media.

For me core is Facebook.

Fringe: Quara, Yelp, AngelList, LinkedIn, Twitter or others. They are there when I need something from them.

As an operator of a social media service you’re of course trying to make your service Core. Or you have to amass enough “part time” users or “demographically focused users” that you can still be successful.
Some people think that its dangerous to share too much personal information online. How do you manage this? Do you keep things fairly private or are you OK sharing personal details?

I’m pretty private. Even though I enjoy Facebook and use it regularly I do not fill out a complete profile with likes, preferences, etc. etc. It’s not that I don’t mind certain people knowing that stuff but in reality I really don’t need Facebook knowing any of that stuff.

Most of social networking I do is in a business context.
What is your most memorable social media experience so far?

In April I took a diving trip to the Maldives, the other side of the world, in the middle of the Indian Ocean. It took me 3 days to get there. I was on a liveaboard diveboat for 7 days. I liveaboard is a boat (this one had room for 20 passengers) which takes you from dive-site to dive-site – some of the best diving is remotely accessed through liveaboards.

The strangest thing was, I was expecting to be off-line the whole time. Off the grid and looking forward to it. But the liveaboard had a satellite internet link and boat-wide wifi. So here I was in the middle of the Indian Ocean, miles from land, with complete internet access through my iPhone. Amazing.

Yes, it’s exciting to share your experiences, and I do so often when traveling, but in this particular instance it would have taken away something from the whole experience so I chose not to interact on social networks.
You’ve lived in Austin for awhile now – how come you haven’t developed a Texas drawl?

Austin is not Texas. Well except for the BBQ.

If I wasn’t living in Austin I wouldn’t be living in Texas.
What is your favorite non-tech hobby or activity?

Scuba diving is my newest passion, having secured my advanced open water certificate.

Have you met any fun/famous celebs?

I suppose that depends on who you consider “famous”

Michael Dell (of Dell Inc) and Darryl “D.M.C.” Matthews McDaniels (of RUN-DMC) have spoken at my events.

I bumped into Bill Gates in a crowd at the Comdex Chilly Cook Off 20 years ago. I was a young reporter at the time. “Hi Bill, that Video For Windows product you just released was pretty neat.”

Place you most want to visit (and will post from)?

Earth orbit. International space station. But I don’t see that happening soon. Would I post from space. Sure! At that point it’s bragging rights more than anything else.

Funniest Business or Social Media moment?

With 1,900 some odd Facebook friends someone’s always being funny. If I need a laugh, I’ll browse Facebook.
Biggest Business or Social Media pet peeve?

Social media has it’s place. For me it’s mostly business. But still, it can be too much.

Perhaps that’s why I enjoy scuba. It’s pretty hard to be connected with you’re 120 feet beneath the ocean’s surface, breathing off the tank on your back, watching your depth, your air consumption, your bottom time, the water current and the topography – not to mention the wonderful marine life swirling all around you…. although, I’m sure someone will find a way, soon.

Thanks for participating!

Thank you!

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