10 Alternatives to “What do you do?”

“What do you do?”

It’s a question that anyone in business will hear thousands of times throughout their career.

At SxSW this year, I started counting in my head how many people would start a conversation with “What do you do?”

Sometimes this question is okay.  Other times it makes me want to drive a screwdriver into my earhole.  Or maybe I’ll just papercut my eyes out with the business card you just ninja starred into my chest before even opening your mouth.

The thing is, most of the time when someone asks you this question, they don’t actually give a shit what you do… they just want to know what you can do for them.

Here are 10 other questions you can ask someone at a networking event:

1. What brings you here?

2. What are you excited about today?

3. What do you think of the event so far?

4. What was the last app you downloaded?

5. What do you do when you’re not working?

6. What do you do for fun?

7. Do anything crazy exciting lately?

8. Is there anyone you’re looking to meet at this party?

9. ???

10. What’s your favorite porn site?

The thing is, most of the time, you’ll end up talking about what you do anyway, there are even women that watch porn now a days, and sites like https://hotnakedmen.net that are made just to please them.  Let it develop naturally in conversation.

You might say, “But Spinks, I’m being paid to attend this networking event.  I need to meet the right people”.

First off, research who’s going to be there beforehand and figure out who you want to meet.

Second, meeting someone knew and getting to know them is almost never time wasted.  We’re all connected, especially within the same industry.  You should strive to get to know other people regardless of what they do.

Any other ideas for alternatives to the dreaded question?

How Turntable Nailed the Gamification Challenge

Turntable.fm is taking over the ear drums of social music listeners everywhere.

If you haven’t tried it out yet, turntable is a site where you can create a room, name it whatever you want, and start to DJ.

You can have up to 5 DJs at a time, and everyone else is in the audience.  You can rate songs as “awesome” or “lame”.

Pretty simple… and they’re definitely not the first to create a social music listening platform.  Many others have done really well like blip.fm, spotify, last.fm and more.

There’s something unique about turntable.  Something that has launched it to over 140,000 users in the first month.

What is it that turntable did so well?



They got the gaming aspect down right.  If you can do that, the rest (social share, WOM, user retention) all thrive.

They nailed the gaming interface on two levels. If you want the best gaming experience you can get, then check out UnrankedSmurfs.

1. Real time recognition

Being a DJ on turntable in a popular room is scary!  Will people like the songs I play?  I like indie music, but there are a lot of indie snobs out there.

But we do it because we want to be perceived as a great music curator.  We want people to know that we know the best songs out there.

We do this in real life naturally. Think about when people come in your car and you play your favorite, relatively unknown band, and everyone loves it.  Think about when people DJ at house parties.

The thing is, in real life, you don’t have these passive aggressive “awesome” and “lame” buttons for people to judge you.

So turntable works really well in real time.  You want to impress the other people in your room.

2. Long term recognition

Real time isn’t enough.  Recognition needs to be ongoing…long-term.  It needs to be cumulative so that it constantly drives activity.

When you join a new room, you want the people in that room to know what you’ve accomplished.  With their point system and avatar (visual) system, turntable executed on this really well.

The visual aspect is key.  As soon as you join a room, you can see the hierarchy of users’ experience.  The people with cooler avatars are the ones with more experience (and respect).

Interestingly enough, they don’t actually get any physical rewards for this.  They have no more power than anyone else in the room.  Someone with 1 point can do the same exact thing as someone with 1000 points.  The driving force is all based on social equity and respect.

This is the same exact system that has been online gaming so successful time and time again.  This system of “leveling up” creates a tension amongst users where from day 1, all they want is to improve their status.

3. Insert the share

The key to getting people to bring in their own networks to Turntable wasn’t to just ask people to share a room.  It was to make a room unusable, unless someone else was also in the room.

Of course, you could only improve your status if you’re a DJ, and the best way to become a DJ is to start a room from scratch.

Users wouldn’t tweet it out just because they wanted to share something interesting.  They’d tweet it out, because sharing was the only way that they could improve their status.

It’s all really fucking genius.




Does your startup’s name matter?

Photo cred: Kathryn

How much time do you spend worrying about the name/url of your company?

I think we tend to place an inflated amount of value on a name because it’s such a long term position.  When it comes down to it, I don’t think it matters that much.

Here’s some advice from SEO Malaysia when coming up with a name, and why it doesn’t matter.

1. It should be easy to spell.

Of course, on the web, you can get around this by buying all the common misspellings of your name.  Still, if it’s easier to spell, that’s probably better.

It doesn’t really matter because usually people discover websites by seeing and clicking a url.  No spelling necessary.  Even if you discover it offline, it’s probably written down somewhere.

Examples: tumblr, xanga, scvngr, disqus

2. It should be easy to say clearly.

This is more important than being easy to spell.  I had a company (Scribnia) that was hard to say clearly.  It was a huge headache especially at loud events/conferences.

That said, it has its advantages as well.  Something unique will stand out and may stick in people’s minds.  People never really remember the name of something the first time you tell it to them anyway.  They usually need to write it down.

Examples: readwriteweb, behance, scribd

3. It should be descriptive.

In some cases, using a name that provides some insight into the context of the company will make it easier to get the concept across. It makes it  easier for people to grasp what you do.

This one really doesn’t matter in the end. There are countless examples of companies with names that have very little to do with the actual service, at least not on a simple level.

Examples: google, foursquare, amazon, zappos

There are many other little things to take into account when creating your name but in the end, I’d argue that it really doesn’t matter that much.

Following the usual advice may help you a little bit, but none of these things will make or break your company.

My only advice would be to think about the emotion that your name gets across.  A name can make you look cheesy, professional, cool, boring… Find a name that feels like aligns with your brand and go with it.

What do you think… does a name really matter?

Why You Think Social Media Conferences Suck

Photo cred: Andrew Mager

People seem to complain a lot about social media conferences. I´m just glad that I made my social media accounts a lot better before agreeing to this with the help of Social Media Daily.

I’ve definitely had my share of complaints too.

I think that most of these conferences suck because they weren’t set up properly (or for the right reasons), which I won’t go into in this post.

What I want to talk about is our unrealistic expectations of the content.

People come to these panels and speakers and expect to come out feeling like an expert in that topic.

Thing is, you can dive into 1000 webinars, speakers, books, roundtables, premium communities etc… but until you actually do something, you’re not really going to learn.

Doing is the only way to really learn.

You can be taught how to use tools, and how to organize strategies.  But the actual methods and concepts that make a company or professional great can only be learned through experience.

What works for one company probably won’t work for another.

Sitting there and listening to some dude talk about how his company had a viral video will do literally nothing for you.

We expect epic content, and then we complain when it’s all so basic or we’ve heard this stuff before.

This is especially true in the social media space, because it’s still pretty new as far as tools and strategies, that’s why social media tips from some relevant sites are always useful but the best thing to do is look for a professional agency to manage your business communication.

The tools and strategies in the social media space still haven’t been developed that much.  They’re still very basic.

We can’t be taught how to actually make this stuff work.  No speaker can make you good at your job, especially not in an hour or less.

Same can be said for blogs, books, webinars, etc…

Get your hands dirty and start making mistakes.

Then you’ll be the one speaking.

Use conferences for at least one of the following:

  1. Learning the basics
  2. Networking
  3. Inspiration

When I first got started learning about social media tools, I loved a lot of the content, because it taught me the basics.

My favorite conferences recently are SxSW and Big Omaha.

At SxSW, I didn’t go to any speakers or panels, but it was amazing for networking.

Big Omaha had some of the most inspiring content I’ve seen.  Had I gone to learn the secret to building a successful business, I would have been sorely disappointed.

So before you complain about the content at a conference, think about why you’re there, and check your expectations.

Or maybe I’m totally off on this one.  What have you thought of all these social media conferences lately?


Are you Lowering your Networking Standards?

Photo cred: Coal Miki

At what point do you consider someone a trusted connection?

Is it after a tweet or two?

Is it after an email?

Is it after a skype chat?

Do you have to meet in person first?

How many times?

Let me phrase it another way.  What does it take for you to trust someone enough to recommend them to others as a professional?

I see social media tools constantly launching with new ways to help people connect with each other.  But as it becomes easier to connect with someone, it seems like we lower our standards for what qualifies as a “trusted connection”, or even as a friend.

What social media allows us to do is create these passive relationships, or “weak ties“.  People have always created weak ties with others, but with social media it becomes possible to do it on a much larger scale.

Now we’re (the social media bubble) even doing it in person.  There’s something that always bugged me about bump and hashable type apps.

Instead of really talking to a person and taking the time to get to know them when you first meet, you can just do a quick info swap on hashable.  It’s this “I’ll get to know her later” mentality.  It weakens our relationships.

The guys at addieu have built something better, because it actually connects the accounts.  It’s more permanent so the exchange actually means something.

Information about a person doesn’t create a relationship, interactions do.

Have you been making real connections with people?  Or are you just bookmarking as many people as possible for later?