Blog Action Day 2010: Measuring the impact of Water use

Bottled Water Bar in Chicago's Museum of Science & IndustryWater is one of those things we never notice unless it’s unavailable. Sure I’ve been known brag about my hometown’s great tap water and am known to enjoy tasty beverages made from this resource, but besides the occasional outage I rarely consider it’s impact on my everyday life.  Yet for millions of people, access to clean, safe drinking water is not available, even if the solutions to this basic Human Right are simple.

As long as Water is a finite resource with limited availability to many, we should conserve this natural resource while increasing access to those who deserve our help. When I was writing my Master’s thesis on Energy Conservation (and last year’s Blog Action Day post), I had water in mind as well because it is another resource subject to increasing demand and inefficient use we take for granted in the United States.  Among my findings were that consumers were best encouraged to improve their usage of a resource when they have concrete examples of steps they can take to reduce their consumption (and the tools to measure them).

To better understand this issue, here’s a few ways to measure how we use Water everyday: Continue reading Blog Action Day 2010: Measuring the impact of Water use

October’s 10

Matthew Hurst riding on a boat by Lower Manhattan, New York City

In the last month I’ve begun new endeavors, publishing my first major Press Release and attending AdWeek as representative of my new employers. You could say I’m on a roll, so In celebration of 10.10.10 here are the Top 10 ideas shaping my life over the last month.

Blog: Mashable. I read Mashable every day because it is the best source of current news on social media and online marketing, period. When Facebook was down this month I looked to them for the first to explanation of what was happening and why. Ditto on Foursquare and Twitter. It’s become such an obsession of mine a friend recently asked “when did you become the Mashable promoter?”. Thanks to Pete Cashmore and company for giving me something to look forward to reading everyday.

Colleague: Sean Ludwig. I want to recommend Sean because he’s a talented journalist and writer with in-depth knowledge of technology (especially mobile) and experience using social media.

Film: The Social Network. As a Film Studies major and Communications grad, I think I’m qualified to say this film lives up to the hype. Audiences should already be aware that the film is not biographical, and I like it better that way; their writers created dramatic (if oversimplified) characters who would make this film enjoyable to anyone, even if they’ve never used Facebook (including Mr. Sorkin). In other words, Mark Zuckerberg is going to become the Bud Fox of this generation; see this movie and bring a Friend.

Meme: Rally to Restore Sanity. I plan on attending this satirical event, organized by the producers of The Daily Show and Colbert Report, at the end of this month. Establishing once again my own zealousness towards this radically irrelevant television program, I’m looking forward to renewing irony in DC. Hopefully with thousands of other friends of rational discussion. Continue reading October’s 10

Brooklyn Skillshare returns!

Because education doesn’t end after you graduate, last year I attended a day-long series of workshops during the first annual Brooklyn Skillshare. There I learned how to brew Kombucha Tea, an experience I speak about 0:30 seconds into this video filmed at last year’s event. That same curiosity to learn from my neighbors has me excited for this year’s Skillshare event, which will take place this upcoming weekend.

Bringing out the best talent and knowledge from around the borough (my new home at the time), the 2009 Brooklyn Skillshare (BKSS) focused on sharing knowledge for the purpose of community building rather than merely professional development. Organized by individuals who understand that learning happens best in a social context, these event demonstrate the motivation for adults when they learn from their peers. After all, Brooklyn is well-known to be populated by creative souls with talent and knowledge to match, which would ordinarily be lost if individuals kept these talents to themselves. Continue reading Brooklyn Skillshare returns!

September’s 7

Matthew Hurst inspects artwork based on the DC metro transit map
Every month I share a short list of ideas that I think deserve recognition, or at least have some currency in my own sphere of influence .  It’s been a little while since I shared my latest influences, so I’ve included an extra thought this month I hope will introduce you to something worthwhile.

App: Chump Dump. I admit that I have a problem: too many friends and followers on Twitter to keep tabs on those who’s ideas I care about the most. This app should help me attain a better balance (or at least a lower ratio) by helping me loose random twitter followers, particularly those most prolific narcissists currently clogging up my Twitter stream.

Blog: Wonkette. With Election season in full swing, I’ve become a daily reader once again of this DC-based liberal rag with its tongue planted firmly in cheek. Sarcasm runs thickly through each post, pulling together the best (and most embarrassing) news clips from around the blogosphere to add their irreverent take on our nation’s partisan political dysfunction.

Film: Scott Pilgrim vs The World. Comic books, video games, rock and roll; what’s not to love in this romantic comedy? Of course it’s geeky, so I love it.

Meme: Check-in Fatigue. As an early adopter of location-based social media, I’ve been anticipating the growth and inevitable backlash against these platforms as they mature. It’s interesting to watch my friends walk through the same curiosity, excitement, and disappointment as these services start to become adopted by the mainstream, most recently Facebook.  What was first a fun, new way to connect with friends and meet people has grown into an all-consuming competition that frustrates new users with legitimate privacy issues.  Of course I’ll still be playing along, so don’t hate the players (hate the game). Continue reading September’s 7

Why I joined Myspace (again), and why you should too

Everyday I tell my clients they need join the social media conversation, securing their business’ brand names even when they’re not sure of best practices (much less how to leverage them).  As a social media evangelist I usually mention the benefits of using these tools to build their brand.  So last month I decided to put my money where my mouth was and did something I never though I’d do again: I signed up for Myspace, years after quitting the social network.
How I quit myspace, the first time around
Of course I didn’t always feel that way: over 4 years ago I wrote a guide of how to quit Myspace. At the time I had grown enamored with the emerging social networks and what was being called Web 2.0, so I created a one of a kind blog post explaining why I wanted to leave Myspace and detailing how I deleted my account. Since then I’ve joined hundreds more social media websites, become an online marketing professional, and embraced building my personal brand through public conversations rather than using private accounts.  Indeed these days you’re more likely to hear about someone quitting Facebook over privacy concerns than signing up for Myspace.

Since then Myspace has changed.  After signing-up I found some important changes, such as integrating Twitter to update my status.  I’ve noticed significantly less spam in my message inbox, something which MySpace was notoriously annoying for during its heyday, possibly from all of their new spam controls.  Myspace remains increasingly driven by content (musicians mostly), which makes it unique among the social networks.
Along with these changes in how the community functions have come some behavior changes among this audience: Continue reading Why I joined Myspace (again), and why you should too

Links with Your Coffee: News and Notes from Matthew Hurst

Watch live streaming video from smw_newyork at

At IDEO’s Humanizing Social Media event in February 2010, we explored the implications of social media on interpersonal communication. Rather than perpetuating the discussion of case studies and e-commerce during Social Media Week, this social experiment left us questioning how the communications shifts have impacted the way we develop new friendships online. Our cellphones were left at the front door and we exchanged our clothes for a plain white t-shirt affixed with buttons which carried tags that describe ourselves, like “blogger” and “geek” in my own case.

It was an thought provoking exercise, and now I can  finally share the results from this experiment with you.  We had a great night at this event, so much that I was awarded the honor of “Person with whom you’d most like to stranded on a desert island with”!  Look for yours truly to take a staring turn during the panel discussions, as captured in this video.

A little further news and notes not quite long enough to warrant a blog post of their own: Continue reading Links with Your Coffee: News and Notes from Matthew Hurst

How to become a social media marketing professional (or at least how I got a job)

Matthew Hurst at a Future of Local Media event in October 2009

What can you do with a BA in Film Studies (or a minor in Philosophy for the matter)? Graduating into an otherwise uncertain job market can be scary; many of my classmates still weren’t sure how they could use their well-developed new media skills, much less where they might be employed.  For me the answer seemed obvious: I went right back into school to study strategic communication.

Yet this time last year I graduated once again, with an internship lined up but without a clear direction for my own career.  I could only dream of working as a social media pro, but my inexperience and overeducation seemed like insurmountable hurdles to post-graduate employment. Only recently was I finally able to find employment with a like-minded group of professionals who shared my passion for creating innovative websites and reinvigorating established brands through strategic online marketing.

Recently I heard from an old friend who wanted to break into online marketing and new media as well. Although I knew first hand of their knowledgeable understanding of online communication and social networks, their challenge was to demonstrate that knowledge to an potential employer. It’s the same reason why I went back into school to study communication, but in this business environment experience is valued more than education.

While I can’t speak for everyone, here’s what I think might help from my own experience:

  1. Create a resume website: ideally using your own name (like me), or else build your personal brand around a site you can make.
  2. Connect it with your social media profiles. Secure your name across platforms (even if your not sure how to use them yet).
  3. Continue reading How to become a social media marketing professional (or at least how I got a job)

Twitter by the Numbers: measuring influence within my own social network

Graph showing the number of tweets per month for @matthurst on Twitter

Since Twitter was a start-up it has fostered a strange fascination with numbers: 140 characters, following-to-follower ratios, and a whole ecosystem to measure RTs and @’s from influential people.  Since I’m a communications professional working with social media, I’ve made it my business to try using many of these measurement tools, both for clients and my own (perhaps narcissistic) profiles.  Of course numbers only tell part of the story of interpersonal influence; gross popularity means less than the net of mutual friends who can trust each others’ judgment.

I share this fascination with measurement, especially in understanding interpersonal influence. As a result, my use of Twitter has been synonymous with my professional growth at the beginning of my career, charting my own progress all the while.  On this blog alone I’ve written about Twitter nearly a dozen times; to date search results for “Twitter Internship” bring the most organic visitors to this blog. My use of Twitter is frequently the first thing people learn about me, often before we’ve ever met.

So to celebrate tweet #8888 (88 is sort of a lucky number of mine), I wanted to thank 8 followers on Twitter who have been following me since the beginning (or at least the longest):

Happy Birthday to me: Matthew Hurst and dot-com domains turn 25 years old

Recent graduate Matthew Hurst sleeps on a campus bench of American University, in full cap-and-gown regalia

Today I celebrate my 25th birthday and the first anniversary of this website, which neatly coincides with the 25th anniversary of dot-com domains. In the year since I started writing this blog, so much in my life has changed:

If I haven’t been keeping up with the blog as much lately, it’s because I’m finally applying the insights I’ve written about here through my new work.  I’m proud of what I’ve been able to accomplish working as a social media and online marketing pro, so expect to hear more about those experiences soon. Until then, thank you for sharing this journey from student to professional along with me.

Location, Location, (social media) Location

Map of friend's check-ins on Brightkite in DC

Everyone is checking themselves in, but this is hardly rehab; it’s Social Media Week in New York City.  On Foursquare, Gowalla, and now even on Yelp, people are sharing where they are and vying to become the “Mayor” of venues they frequent. They say that all news is local, but instead this is Where word-of-mouth, real-time, and overshare intersect.

Location-based social media have become the next-big-thing as opinion leaders look for new ways share their influence.  Over the last year Twitter has cemented our collective desire to share what we’re doing, who we’re with, and increasingly where we’re doing it. When individuals share their ideas using hashtags for events (or HotPotato), they’re telling us more than which venues are hip by adding an online dimension to reputation management.  Just ask any restaurant owner how Yelp has changed their business.

As a rule people tend to trust the opinions their friends and neighbors better than any agenda setting news source.  In the new media landscape we can find out instantly if any of our friends share their impressions of places (and business).  It’s a mental shortcut that’s easy to fall on; almost a year ago I wrote about how becoming a DC transplant was impacted by social media:

I ended up in Glover Park not just for the rent, but probably because Wikipedia gave me the clues that the location was right. Google Maps helped me find an apartment within walking distance to the grocery store. (This move would not have worked so well for me only 10 years ago)
Once I moved in, I could use HopStop to find the right Bus/Rail times. Later I found the WMATA’s site worked a little better. I found out the sort of places other locals would like using Brightkite. I traded in for an iPhone with GPS . Yelp is still pretty invaluable for me.

Of course the importance of location to communication is nothing new: newspapers, the phonebook, and whole publishing businesses are built around guide books. But social media has changed where we get our information from has opened up new kinds of influence, amplifying word-of-mouth discussion into sacrosanct reputation management.

With new technology come new opportunities; as with real estate before it, the value of both location and networking become readily intertwined.  Every real estate agent already understands that our social networks reveal which place might be the right fit for us, whether in real life or online communities.  These new location-based social media in turn mirror the patterns of individuals to settle in like-minded communities where they feel most comfortable.

Where only a decade ago the internet opened up opportunities to connect with others over common interests, no matter how strange or remote they might seem, today social media has introduced us to common interests of our own neighbors.  Local bloggers understand the value of neighborhood news, and so does Google while they roll out local search as a key feature for their service: what you’re looking for online may already be in your own backyard.

Public Communications, Online Marketing, and Social Media Strategy