Alumni & Friends
Untangling the Web
Photo by Brian Solis.
A pianist since the age of four, Jeremiah Owyang (B.S., '02) grew up dreaming of becoming a touring jazz musician. But these days the keyboards he touches most are those with Q-W-E-R-T-Y in the top left corner.
Life as a Web strategist leaves little time for sleeping, let alone the piano. Still Owyang is reaching the biggest audiences of his life. As a senior analyst for Forrester Research, his insights on the evolution of Internet communication -- and its ramifications for business -- have made him a familiar name in The New York Times, USA Today and other outlets.
Not that Owyang needs a reporter to broadcast his views. Nearly 50,000 people follow his musings on Twitter, the online site that allows you to send short messages to subscribers. And his blog attracts 122,000 visitors a month.
"I get my creative kicks out of this now," he says.
Owyang's evolution from music major to social media maven began at SF State after he designed his first Web site in a computer information class. The experience opened his eyes to the Internet's power to involve all his professional interests—creative, social and business.
"It became clear what I wanted to do with my future," he says.
Owyang then parlayed his experience maintaining SF State's dorm computers into an internship at a San Jose start-up, working on the company's internal Web site. His mantra was to learn one new thing a day.
His eagerness fueled a rapid rise. Soon Owyang joined Hitachi Data Systems, spicing the data storage company's stolid Web site with executive blogs and public forums that built customer interest, involvement and loyalty.
At the same time, Owyang was taking the same social media medicine he was prescribing. He began his own blog, a personal Web site dedicated to thoughts on how companies could use social media like podcasts and Facebook to build relations with their most valued resources -- their customers.
The site filled a void, launching his reputation as an industry expert and helping land him at Forrester.
"No one else was blogging about it from a corporate perspective," he says. "It started out as a hobby then it became my career."
Now in his early 30s, Owyang came of age with computers but not the Web, putting him in an ideal position to interpret between those who can barely e-mail and others who have only known life online.
It's never too late to Twitter, Facebook or blog, Owyang says. Twitter is just like a coffee shop conversation, albeit with thousands of people.
"I can ask a question to a group of people I know and many I don't," he says. "It's more than a Google search."
He offers a few words of advice: stay skeptical, guard personal details to protect your identity, and know when to turn off.
"These tools should be used to enhance your relationships, not replace them," he says.
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