Shel Israel is a well-known social media author and public speaker who co-wrote the book “Naked Conversations” with Robert Scoble in 2006. Mr Israel has contributed editorially to Business Week, Dow Jones Co and FastCompany TV.
His new book: Twitterville: How Businesses Can Thrive in the New Global Neighbourhoods, will be released September 8, 2009, and talks about potential business uses of Twitter.
Walter Schwabe had a chance to chat with Mr Israel and have a few questions about his views on social media answered. This will be the first interview in a series of them with Shel Israel, so be sure to check back often for the next interview!
Walter: How would you describe to an “outsider” the value of social media?
Shel: Social Media allows you to speak with people all over the world who share your interests. The places where you meet tham may be virtual, but the relationships that form there, the trust that builds there and the influence on what people buy, sell, read, watch, listen to or visit is very real.
Walter: How would you define “social media expert?”
Shel: I think words like “expert” and “guru” are over-hyped in a field that is this new. When it comes to business, they become marketing gibberish. Social Media has been around for business since 2006. There are no best practices just yet, only good ideas.
I flinch when I’m called an expert. I’m a writer. I’ve talked to a lot of people in a lot of places about how social media is changing their businesses and their worlds in general. I’m a good story teller. But to claim expertise, would assert a level bordering on infallibility. And I am among the most fallible of people.
Walter: How did you manage to write a book and do all the other activities that you do each day?
Shel: Vitamins & coffee.
Walter: How has Twitter impacted relationship building in general?
Shel: Well this week it is allowing everyday people in the West to support and interact with the people on the streets of Iran. In so doing, we are bypassing government processes, many of the barriers of language or geography. We are discovering that we in the West and on the street of Iran both love freedom, for example. I don’t know how it will come out over there, but the relationships between many people over there and many of us in the west will change things in some way that is not yet definable.
That’s in specific. You asked in general. Twitter lets people behave online closer to the way we do in real life than any previous social media tool. For example, have you started more business conversations by saying something like: “Are you going to buy anything,” “You ate in ABC Cafe? I love that place, what did you have for lunch?”
Walter: What is the most offensive thing you’re witnessed on Twitter? The happiest moment?
Shel: Offensive: The Florida-based creep who asks new mothers to send him breast milk. Can’t do “happiest,” but most inspirational was seeing @jkrums iPhone photo of US Air Flight 1549 landing on the Hudson river.
Walter: If you couldn’t use social media anymore ever what would you do?
Shel: I would use whatever came along to replace it.
Walter: Some psychologists suggest Twitter and social media are for people who cannot build “real” relationships, do you agree?
Shel: Pundits have been declaring the dangers of everything new probably since the kids hauled out of the cave using daddy’s newly created stone wheel.
Pundits now have academic titles so they sound like “experts” talking about technology that they do not use and do not understand. In the old days, they had clerical degrees and were called “witch-finders.”