Interview with Jason Alba, author of the “Now What?” social media books

When Jason Alba, publisher of the popular new “Now What” series, asked me a few questions about how I use Twitter (I’m @DaveTaylor) I was intrigued by his work and asked if I could interview him about the series. Here’s the result…
Q: What social networks do you use actively?
A: This is a great question because I think a lot of social networking experts are more early-adopters, and not real users of the systems they write about. I log into LinkedIn at least once a day to do various activities (doesn’t take much time). Note, if I were a bus dev guy, or a recruiter, I would use it different than how I use it now… I login to Facebook about three times a week for general maintenance, and need to do more there as I know there is more I should do.
Now What?  Facebook book coverTime has become an issue for me. I’m on Twitter frequently, I’m guessing I’ll tweet between 5 and 10 times a day. I also consider blogging and Yahoo! groups social networking (in loose terms), and I blog at least once a day (I have 4 blogs), and I participate in at least one Yahoo! Group a day, usually probably sending out 3 – 5 messages per day to participate in the discussions there.
Q: Your books are on LinkedIn and Facebook, and a little bird tells me that you’ve got a Twitter one coming out too. Why these three?
A: I started with the LinkedIn book because I blog to professionals who are concerned about their careers (they might be in transition, or know they will be in a year or two). I figured a book would be a better format to deliver the information than a string of, say, 100 blog posts. I was amazed at what happens once you become a “published author,” and decided to coauther Facebook.
I chose Facebook because it gets so much traction – there are tens of millions of active users there, and many professionals are wondering if they should be there, and what they should do there. It was a natural second choice for my audience, even though I swore I’d never write another book.
My third book (no more swearing!) is on Twitter because it is such an amazing place to engage with other professionals. The communications there are very authentic and transparent, and I think it’s an excellent environment to help a professional develop their brand, subject matter expertise, grow and nurture their network, and more. I see it as a tool for professionals.
Each of these three environments are complementary, and helpful in career management. I wrote the book in a non-career voice, so it applies to either those in transition or working professionals and marketers wondering what they could/should do.
Q: Books tend to have a general theme or approach to them. For example, the Dummies series is focused on making things simple enough for, well, a dummy. Tell us what the theme is for your series and how you arrived at it?
A: My titles include ” – Now What???” … the idea is that I’m here, but I have no idea what to do! Some people are fine with the technology, the buttons and links and interface, but they really don’t get the point of the system, or understand where to derive value. My intention was to share concepts and techniques (two different things) with the reader so that they could (a) wrap their brain around the tool, and (b) know what they could specifically do as part of their online strategy.
How did I arrive at it? Dumb luck. We (my publisher (, my executive editor (Scott Allen) and I) brainstormed various names, but this one just kept coming back at me. Interestingly, I did not know it was going to become a series, but the “Now What?” concept really resonates with a lot of people.
Q: Tell us something we didn’t know about LinkedIn! For that matter, how many people are you linked to on LinkedIn?
A: Something you might not realize about LinkedIn is that it’s quite a versatile tool, providing value for you no matter what you do (as long as your work involves other people). It’s clearly a great tool for recruiters and bus dev professionals, but it’s also a great tool for the business traveler, college student, professor, author, lawyer, etc.
There is value here to be found, you just have to figure out what your objectives are and figure out how to achieve those objectives. I rarely invite people to connect with me on LinkedIn, and don’t use it the same way a bus dev person would, so I’m happy to say my connections number is still in the 3-figure range. When I hit 4 figures I’m going to write a post on my JibberJobber blog about how I feel dirty J
Q: Same question, but about Facebook.
A: There are two interesting ideas surrounding Facebook on the top of my mind. First, it’s okay, expected and accepted to share your personality there (unlike LinkedIn). I think this throws people off a little when they first look at profiles, but that’s just part of the norm on Facebook. Second, I’m not sure if this is still true but recently the fastest growing demographic on Facebook was twenty-five year olds and older.
This isn’t just a place for college kids to put dumb pictures up, there are a lot of professionals there. Again, my Facebook Friends are in the triple digits, and MOST of them have been out of school for quite a while!
Q: Now you’re adding a book on Twitter. What surprised you about Twitter once you really started to dig into it?
A: I’m always surprised when I tweet something and I get responses. I regularly think “people are really reading what I’m putting here??” It’s an engaging crowd, and an excellent place to throw ideas and questions out. I’ve had a number of experiences when I’ve needed ideas, sources, links or information and I post it as a question in Twitter.
When I had 300 followers, or 900 followers, I have had awesome, authoritative responses. I was also amazed that I could communicate with someone on Twitter when they wouldn’t e-mail me. For some people it’s become a communication means of choice, and while your e-mail might sit in their inbox for weeks, they’ll respond rather quickly to a tweet. Amazing.
Q: So what do you do when you aren’t writing or blogging?
A: Actually, my day job is running, which is a website that allows you to manage and track data important to your career. When I was in a job search I realized tracking all this stuff on a spreadsheet sucks, and why couldn’t a job seeker have a more powerful toolset?
LinkedIn does a small part of what I needed – I was looking for something like Salesforce for the job seeker – and decided to build my own. JibberJobber is my day job, and I steal quiet times to work on my writing projects.
Thanks for your insight, Jason! You can find Jason on Twitter by looking for @JasonAlba.

One comment on “Interview with Jason Alba, author of the “Now What?” social media books

  1. Nice little interview. Alba’s book highlight an important issue with web 2.0 stuff. The fact that it is necessary to write a book called I’m on LinkedIn… Now What? just illustrates the tech gap between 22 year olds graduating college and 35-40 year olds who make up a large portion of the managerial workforce. This is one challenge that web 2.0 is going to have to address.
    I work for Konnects, which is another professional network, and that understanding is something that I see with my work. Really there are two options… 1) leave the current working generation out of the web 2.0 wave and just make the transition when the new generation moves into the business world or 2) really take the time to figure out how web 2.0 can service the business world. The 22-28 year old workforce does not need a book like this, but the older business world needs it for sure.

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