From Jeff: Born and raised in sunny, Southern California, I couldn’t wait to get away every summer to enjoy the best Maine has to offer; visiting family and friends, kayaking, water skiing and wake boarding, and best of all, hanging by the campfire listening to the loons’ eerie cries. Then reality hit and I shipped off to the University of Southern California where I graduated with a BA in Fine Arts and an emphasis in photography. While the art background has been immensely influential in my creative approach to business, it was never something that I turned into a formal business. Long hours working at a bank (where I was held up at gunpoint in Beverly Hills) was followed by a short stint in Seattle where I joined my old college roommate to start Wavii, an “intelligent” piece of search software. After deciding software was not the right path for me I got together with a few family members and close family friends to start Alodyne. Shortly thereafter we picked up shop (we had started in California) and moved to Portland to take what was once a business concept and turn it into reality. It took some time, but with much perseverance and hard work, the market is finally starting to feel and see the value that Alodyne brings to the table…
@Shaq, Yelp addiction, and the ultimate JDate
As with most of my interviews, what you’ll read here is a greatly condensed version of our conversation.
What was your first experience with social media?
Honestly, I think it was AOL Chat. Chatrooms and all that ridiculousness. I remember getting the floppy disks that were like AOL 1.3 or 1.2—finally, AOL 3.0 was like the big thing. It was definitely cool. For me, it was interesting because I was not a very social person in the real world—like at school and whatnot—I was a band geek/computer nerd/baseball player. So, AOL and chat rooms and instant messaging kind of became an opportunity for me to become social, to talk to a different set of individuals—which was interesting. It was great because I grew up in a small town, it was a bit of a bubble, people didn’t leave, not a lot of new people showed up, so AOL Chat was a big opportunity to gain access to a new group of people.
I met my first girlfriend on AIM. It was like the original online dating service. Anyone else remember a/s/l?
I didn’t really use Friendster. I didn’t really use MySpace. I may have had an account but I didn’t do anything with it. I signed up on Yahoo! I guess Flickr was really my next thing. I’m a photographer, so I enjoyed that. Again, it was the opportunity to share with people other than the ones in my classroom. Being in an art classroom you have your peers and you get critiques from them but this gave me a way to put it out there and see what people who you didn’t know thought about it. You know, as an artist you can always be a little vain about your work so it’s always nice to have positive comments. It’s an ego builder which is always fun. So I used Flickr pretty heavily for quite some time.
As I mentioned, MySpace I didn’t really do. I didn’t get on Facebook until 2006, which seems kind of late in comparison with other people. I didn’t get on it until after college. Everybody was saying that it was just a dating thing, and I was dating someone at the time so I didn’t see the purpose. So, I kind of regret not getting on earlier because that was when it was just colleges. There wasn’t all of the other stuff to wade through. It was just for connecting with friends and people you knew on campus and that was a nice experience. In fact, it would be great to have that back again on Facebook—that campus-feel.
So Facebook was my first foray into social networking as it’s known today. Then, I was working in tech and we were paying attention to everything going on everywhere, and one of those things was Twitter. So, my buddy and my business partner at the time signed up. I just remember @Shaq. And, he was incredible. Plus, you could follow along and see what was going on in other people’s lives and that was interesting. And, then people just started throwing stuff out there and seeing whatever would stick—let me blast out as much information as I can and retweet everybody. Then it became just a lot of noise for me.
It’s interesting how much of a world Twitter has created. What I mean by that is, things like Hootsuite and all of these different applications that then essentially use Twitter as a database.
I’m a little old school in that I use RSS Feeds to get my information. A lot of people use Twitter for that. I’d have to go through and really cull my Twitter feed in order to use it that way.
What do you like about social media?
Starting with the big picture, the amazing thing is that news travels like wildfire. This is a pro and con. Because, it could be one specific angle and not the whole story. All of a sudden the entire world has the same idea, but it could be the wrong idea. That being said it can get things from the Middle East to around the world in no time. It can bring information in from everywhere in the world which I think is extremely important and valuable. But, again, this can be very frightening because you may be getting the wrong information and acting on the wrong information. So, everyone really needs to vet what’s going on.
It’s amazing what you can do with ‘location’ now. You can geo-tag things. I neglected to mention this earlier, but I think I use Yelp more than anything else. It’s become a very valuable tool. If I go anywhere—if I’m looking for a place to eat, or a place for coffee, or anything really—I go to Yelp and look at what’s around me. I look at ratings, and photos, and all sorts of other stuff. It’s really helpful. I’ve been doing that since 2009 and I think it’s awesome. I mean, people laugh at me pulling out my phone and looking at Yelp. I use TripAdvisor too. It’s funny, I forgot about those being social networks but they definitely are.
Social media is such a great tool for businesses. If you take Yelp for instance, people put negative reviews out there and at least the business owner can have a dialogue. I guess the same goes for Facebook and Twitter. But, they all give business owners an opportunity to have a dialogue that they would not have had before. It becomes a very powerful tool.
Oh, and I would have to say the dating bit has improved greatly. Actually, I met my girlfriend Sam on JDate last year, and now she’s moved up to Portland from Boston! So a hearty thanks to the online wizards there for getting the two of us connected.
What do you dislike about social media?
It feels very much like a popularity contest at times. I guess the positive is that it’s very different than the popularity contest of, let’s say, high school. It becomes about, is this person witty or smart or do they just know what’s going on—it becomes a competition.
As I mentioned earlier, that potential for untrue things to spread is very high. Inaccurate things can easily get blown out of proportion and all of a sudden it’s gone viral and then the whole world is believing something that’s inaccurate.
What would it be like for you to disconnect from social media for six months?
I couldn’t use Yelp? What would I do? (laughs) So, I think I would be much more active at going through my RSS feeds. I would probably call a lot more people and my social network would be much more defined. It’s interesting, I might start writing letters. Old school letters, maybe with a photo included?
I think it would be nice. It might be a little painful with some slight withdrawals but it would probably be good for me.
If you could only use three words to describe social media, what would they be?
Hysteria. Coffee shop.
Is there a person or brand that you think uses social media effectively?
Shaquille O’Neal (at least when he first got on Twitter) @shaq
You can find Samantha on Facebook at: samantha.bayla
You can find Samantha on Instagram at: @samanthabayla
You can find Samantha Twitter at: @samanthabayla
You can find Samantha on LinkedIn at: samantha-stern
I want to thank Jeff for taking the time to talk with me about his opinions on, and experience with, social media.
You can find Alodyne on Twitter at: @alodyne