Saturday, June 26, 2010

Greedy Marketing

There is a scene in the Lord of the Rings trilogy that describes the various flaws the different races of Middle Earth exhibit. Of the Dwarves, it is said that they delved too greedily and too deep. The Dwarves were miners, you see. They were good miners. They found riches galore, but it was never enough. Eventually, the Dwarves dug so deeply that they released horrible demons.

I've been thinking about this description a lot as I follow the tale of the BP oil spill. We dug too greedily and too deep. We didn't exactly release a Balgrog, but it's mighty close.

As a marketer, it is possible to dig too greedily and too deep, especially on the heels of a major project like a white paper or a webinar. An incident that happened to me last week illustrates this point.

Last week I received an e-mail from a source I trust indicating that there was a new white paper available. The white paper had been authored by a guest company, but since it came recommended by the source I knew, and since the title fascinated me anyway, I decided to take a look and I ended up downloading the document. After reading the document, I showed it to my boss and I also tweeted about it. Happy ending, right?


Every day since I downloaded this white paper, I have received an e-mail from the author of the document. The emails are bluntly "sell" oriented. They want me to sign up for a training that will expand upon the white paper I downloaded.

As a consumer, these emails seem well over the top to me. Getting an "open" AND a click on an e-blast is a win to begin with. For someone to download a paper and give you their personal info is even better.

As a marketer, I still feel that an email per day is overkill. By a long shot. Had the marketer handled the situation differently, I might well be blogging about their effectiveness right now instead of the point where they made me want to claw my computer's eyes out.

What to do

Okay, I know what you are thinking. As a marketer, I should have known that submitting my e-mail address was an opt-in. Well, I get that. But you have to be really REALLY careful when offering information-rich content like white papers. A lot of people who are inspired to download white papers are in a learning mode or a research mode, not a buying mode. How shocked would you be if a salesman jumped out of a book you're reading? Same kind of feel.

The conversion from content to conversion is a rough one, admittedly, but here's an idea that might have prevented me from wanting to put a hex on this person's email account.

1. Acknowledge that you appreciate the steps it took for someone to download your white paper. Whether they clicked from an eblast or from the web, they not only had to click, they had to fill out a form, then hit download, then wait for the massive document to load. That's valuable time. Send out an email thanking the person for spending that time. Make yourself available via email and Social Media to answer any questions.

2. Give people 3 days to read the white paper in peace. Assume that they spent their free time downloading the thing. Assume they are hanging on your every word. Don't drive them crazy.

3. After 3 days, send out a brief survey. IF you are trying to sell something, mention it briefly in your introduction. Ask if the person has passed on the article to a co-worker or boss. Ask if they have shared it via Social Media. Answers to these questions will establish a relationship (potentially) and inform you as to whether you have a budding "brand evangelizer" on your hand.

People responding is the gold

Never forget that someone clicking to and downloading your content is a major gift. It's the gift of time. It's the gift of interest. If your content is good, that person will look for more from you. They'll promote you. They'll quote you in blog posts. They'll look for you on Twitter. And eventually, if you decide to publish a book or host a paid webinar, that person will likely not only pay themselves but they'll also recommend that other people do so.

This person's content was extremely good, but I am not likely to promote them by name because I don't want other people to get bombarded with sell emails. If I really wanted to be ruthless, I could name the person and say, "Hey, don't download this person's stuff." That would be an epic problem.

Don't delve too greedily. Don't delve too deep. If you are just in it for the money, content is probably not your game. If you are in it to help educate people, you probably won't rake in the cash right away. Build your brand. Build your credibility. Build your network of supporters. Be patient. Don't release the demons.

Image Credit:

Friday, June 25, 2010

Antisocial Media?

I was going through some Facebook messages last night and thinking about how a lot of my friends have 400 friends or more. I have about 150 friends. They are primarily people I have met and/or liked in real life, or ya know, family. I take as much time as the day allows to get caught up on everyone's news. I comment, I interact. And I really enjoy it.

On Twitter, I like reading posts a lot more than I like making them. It's hard to get conversations started on Twitter if you initiate them unless you've already got a lot of pull. This is because people are highly driven to gather their own followers. When we're on Twitter, we post hoping that someone will respond or even better, retweet. We're not really looking to engage. When you read, you're the one who is replying or engaging.

This led me to yet another thought. If you are focused primarily on attracting followers or friends on Social Media networks, and you're not really conversing with anyone, are you really engaging in Social Media? Methinks not.

Don't get me wrong. I enjoy sharing my ideas. Boy do I. Anyone who has about 17 blogs going in various states of completeness clearly has too much to say! And when you post something that sparks a conversation, it's extremely rewarding. However, I encounter more people than I would have guessed who just post post post. People respond. People ask questions. People try to lure this person out of their "I post therefore I am" mentality. But it just doesn't work. What is the point of this?

I'm curious to know how you (yes YOU) approach Social Media from a business and/or a personal perspective. What do you look at first? If I have limited time, I look at the replies section to make sure I can respond to anyone that may be talking to me. Other people might check their number of followers, while others might go straight to the retweet section. Where do you go first on Facebook? Homepage to see updates or friend requests page to add followers? Why do you go where you go?

Let's talk. Your turn :)

Image Credit:

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Twenty Time Management Tips

A lot of people over the years have taken note of what I like to call my efficiency, my organization, my neatness, my punctuality, and other fine traits. They don't necessarily call these traits out by name. They might say things like, "Geeze, loosen up." Still, I feel like I have some pretty good insight on how to manage one's time effectively. Since it seems like this week is National Time Management Week, I thought I would take the time to list my ideas here for your reference.

1. Early is the new "on time." "On time" is late. I was at an appointment yesterday and the person helping me noted that the receptionist wasn't there. It was 8:15, or close to. "I like to get in early so I can see what I'm dealing with," said the woman who had helped me out. She is right. By the time you take off your coat, check the 20 blogs you read, get your coffee, go to the restroom, eat your granola bar, and check Twitter, you are officially starting your WORK day late.

2. As new things to do pop up, write them down on a list. It might seem like this takes time, and it does, but having a single place to find everything you need to do cuts down on time, increases efficiency, and makes you feel more productive as you cross things off.

3. Use your favorite website as a carrot. Everyone has a favorite website we like to visit, whether it's, a shopping site, or something...else. Part of the work day has been delegated specifically for checking out the site. Don't do it as soon as you sit down. Promise yourself you'll finish a project or send a certain amount of emails (work related only). Then reward yourself by scanning your favorite online destination.

4. Work ahead. We all have times, whether it's an hour or a whole day, where things lag a little. Use that time to write blogs. Just don't publish them yet. Do prep work that's hard to get done when you're crunched for time.

5. Do not post to Facebook about how busy you are. You know that we all have done this. Or have seen other people do this. Yes, that's better. I've heard rumors that sometimes a person will try to be funny about it. "I wish someone had told me to bring my shovel to work." "I didn't know I'd need a submarine to see my desk." If you are thinking of these little gems, you are either not really all that busy or you are really going to be stressed out when deadlines are coming down the pike.

6. Do not post to Twitter about how busy you are. See above.

7. Keep your work area clean and organized. How much time do you spend in a day looking for a job jacket or a stapler or a paper clip or a note your boss taped to your computer screen 2 days ago? Keep things organized. Take a little time to put things away. Save time in the long run.

8. Do not complain to a co-worker about how busy you are. You're not only taking up time complaining, but now you're also throwing off your kind-hearted peer.

9. Do not freak out. When I was in high school, I had a lot of homework to do every single night. Being a teen, I thought this was completely unfair. I wanted to watch Seinfeld. I didn't want to study Geometry. Had I not spent the half hour freaking out, I could have had my half hour of Seinfeld. There's a moral for ya!

10. Hide your phone. Sometimes it's hard to make people in your life understand that you have a job and tied to that job is stuff you must get done to keep that job. You love your friends, you love your family. But you don't need to talk to them every 10 minutes via phone or text. Give select people your work phone for emergencies. Let your iPhone or Blackberry or flip phone rest during the day. It's tired.

11. Prioritize. This comes back to a list. Despite what we believe at any given moment, everything does not need to be done NOW. There are projects tied to deadline, there are projects that are just pesky everyday things, and there are projects we're looking forward to doing. Get the deadline stuff out of the way, then switch off between other types of projects.

12. Get little stuff done, then focus on big stuff. This is a matter of personal preference, but I find this works really well for me. If I have a million little things to do, I can't seem to concentrate on the 2-3 huge things I need to work on. Set out a block of time and get as many little things done as you can. Then set up larger blocks of time for pure concentration.

13. If you know you're going to talk for 2 hours, hold off on calling. We all have work contacts that we love to talk to. These are the people we have long and winding conversations with that might begin with the family, travel to current events, and then at an hour and 45 minutes get to the reason for the call. If you know that you have that pattern of action with a person, email them or wait until you have time to talk a marathon.

14. Take care of your ducklings. If you work with other people, and if these people often need information or insight from you, call a meeting. Review projects, try to answer as much as possible, and then say, "Give me a couple of hours. I need to work on X project."

15. Set realistic goals. It would be great if we could all start our work day with one mammoth goal, like "create world peace," cross it off, and then be done. Sadly, this is not so. Set small, reasonable goals. We all know that there are going to be fires to put out, unexpected events, and who knows what else. Build in some fluff to absorb those distractions.

16. Stay away from Twitter and Facebook altogether. I don't know if some people know this, but you can actually log out of sites like Twitter and Facebook. Or you can navigate away from them. Try to go an hour without logging into your account. Compare this to an hour where you have 1 or both sites open. Publish your results.

17. Repurpose. If you are blogging or tweeting or facebooking for your company, repurpose. Tweet the same link that you post to your Facebook page. Use a blog post as an e-newsletter story or try the reverse.

18. Delegate. This is something a lot of us are terrible about. So many people now feel obligated to do everything tied to our jobs, from the mundane to the huge. Don't be afraid to delegate if you have that ability. Just make sure you don't get into a habit of delegating, then jumping on to a Social Media site to chat with friends. That's abuse of the system!

19. Multitask. Listen to an important podcast while answering emails. Cross things off your list while talking on the phone. We're getting trained to wire ourselves this way. Scary but true.

20. Refine the company process. If you work with and for others, you should all work together like a well-oiled machine. Everyone should know where everyone is and what everyone is doing. Avoiding the time it takes to track down people and projects is a HUGE time saver. Communicate now, save time for later.

These are some of my ideas. Do you have anything to add?

Image by Jonathan Natiuk.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

30 ways to use a paragraph of copy

Time is of the essence these days. Everyone is busy. Time is an endangered species, it seems. We all want the most mileage out of cars, out of our jobs, out of our networks, and out of everything else we do, too.

I maintain that one of the biggest time savers is, paradoxically, a lot of planning on the front end. To illustrate this point, imagine this hypothetical situation (or maybe it'll hit close to home). You're the CEO of a manufacturing company, and you've just introduced a new and exciting benefit-oriented product. You write up a description of the product, how it works, and how it will benefit your prospects and customers. Still, the roll-out process seems undeniably daunting. How can you get the most bang for your creative buck?

With a lot of planning on the front end, that little paragraph can form the entire backbone of a campaign. With some additions here, some revisions there, and some rewording when needed, an entire product launch can be built around that first little cloud of a product thought. Here are 30 ways to use a single paragraph of copy to promote a new product across a multitude of channels. Just imagine where 2 paragraphs could take you!

1. Blurb of copy introducing the product on the company homepage
2. Press Release
3. Copy for a sell sheet
4. Copy for a YouTube "about" description
5. Break it up into a handful of Tweets
6. Facebook Status Update
7. Facebook Note
8. E-Blast
9. Ad copy
10. Copy for a landing page to track ad performance
11. Blog
12. Description for a Flickr " post
13. Answer to a LinkedIn question in the Q&A section
14. Answer to a question that pops up in a LinkedIn group
15. Copy for Booth Graphics
16. Copy for a direct mail piece
17. Webinar Abstract
18. Answer to a customer email
19. Pull a line of copy for a promo/promotional item
20. Blurb for "on hold" customer to listen to
21. Submission for a value-added write-up (could be on product, lit, other)
22. Introduction to a case study
23. Centerpiece of an article
24. Slide for a presentation at a company open house
25. Presentation to a board of directors
26. Narration for a video on the product
27. Core narration for a podcast
28. Submission for innovative manufacturer award
29. Baseline for interview
30. Description for an industry buyers guide or directory

Image by Chris Gilbert.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Hey you, get on to my cloud

I decided to do some exploration tonight of some Social Media sites that I am not as familiar with as I should be -- sites like tumblr, for example. An interesting thing about tumblr is that the site really promotes the fact that you can share everything you post super easily. You can email to your blog, you can blog to your tweets, you can tweet to your blogs, you can Facebook all of it...

I got a bit overwhelmed.

Then an idea came to me. Maybe it's because at heart I'll always be a reasonably old-fashioned minded marketing person. Maybe it's because I've been trying to untangle the skein of yarn that is Cloud Computing. Whatever the reason, the following question came to mind. "Why are we sharing everything out when we could be bringing people IN?"

Take Another Little Piece of My Content Now Baby

Currently, I am sending out content in the following ways, directly or indirectly:

Company Website/Company E-Newsletter/Professional Blog/Personal Blog/Facebook Account/Twitter Account/LinkedIn Account/ Email Accounts

Compared to a lot of people, this list is short. Google Reader, Google Wave, Google Buzz, Tumblr, Digg, Delicious, multiple Twitter Accounts, YouTube, Podcasting -- the ways you can send information out are getting to seem almost infinite.

Then there's the sharing and cross-platform stuff that I haven't really engaged in much yet. My blog imports into LinkedIn. I had my Twitter account importing into LinkedIn for awhile till I realized it imported all of my @ responses. That was a bummer. There are people who can execute a single action, like "liking" a YouTube video, and have that action fed to 3-4 different accounts.

Let's Bring It In

So here is my dream. You log into your favorite browser, where a central hub is waiting for your input. This central hub has different groups that you can feed content to just by selecting them. If you are posting a professional blog that you want to send out to your LinkedIn network, your company database, and your Twitter account, you select those areas. If it's a personal photo of your kid riding an elephant at the zoo, you select your Facebook type friends.

On the other side of the dashboard, people could opt in to your communications, and you'd have to approve them for the different groups they'd want to be a part of. If they want to be part of your personal communications yet you don't know them, they get denied for that content, but maybe could still receive your professional stuff.

Maybe the control panel could also segment types of content. Professional photos go to this group and this group. Professional videos to the same groups. Personal photos just go here.

Web 4.0?

Instead of separate sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, I think the future of the web will be the technologies that those sites employ as available to everyone through a personal cloud. Much like we all pay for our internet connections (you do, don't you??) we would all pay for our content cloud. We'd build our network as we are now, through networking and content generation. But instead of having to click "share this", or instead of depending upon your network to share an e-newsletter story with other pros in your network, everything would be controlled by you, and all content would go to those who actually want it.

Do you think the web will go this way? What's your dream about Web 4.0?

Image by Mario Alberto Magallanes Trejo,

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Talk like an Egyptian

So I was thinking this morning that humanity might be headed backwards in the linguistic department. The evolution of language is endlessly fascinating to me. Our little cave man ancestors didn't have a whole lot going for them in the language department, though they drew some very pretty pictures on cave walls. Slowly but surely, languages developed, then huge language families. By the time of Charles Dickens, people were paid for their writing by the word!

This seems like a rather far cry from where we are now, I have to say. This was brought to my attention most acutely by the new "like a comment" feature on Facebook. Yes, now instead of responding to a comment, you can just click on a picture of a thumb pointed upwards. Just like you can now on YouTube or Flickr or news sites or anywhere else. But the like button on the web is not the only place where our words are disappearing.

Have you noticed that you no longer hear "You've Got Mail?" Now it's a sound or more likely, a flashing light and a sound that tells you to check your mail.

Have you noticed that we don't talk in words any more thanks to things like Twitter and texting? How many times do you use the @ symbol when setting up a meeting with someone?

We use :) to express happiness.

=/ Means kind of confused or bewildered or disappointed - it's open to translation.

In fact, maybe you have sent a text message that looked like this:

:o OMG! :)

What IS that?

I like language. Not just English, which happens to be my native tongue, but I love language in general. I love language in every day life and I love language as literature. But I'm a little concerned about language the way things are going. Not that writing in hieroglyphics is a bad'll just take some getting used to.

By the way, have you tried this reading test? All of the letters are jumbled, but I bet you can still understand the whole paragraph. Let me know :)

Image by Dariusz Rompa.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

From Black Hole Sun to MmmBop

The next book on my self-assigned summer reading list is Bob Garfield's The Chaos Scenario. I've read the first two chapters so far (plus the intro) and the stage is set for some pretty hard-to-swallow realities. Garfield has illustrated two points so far in undeniable, vivid color. First, people are not consuming content in traditional ways. No more TV watching, no more newspaper reading, no more radio listening. Second, we are living in what Garfield calls a "post advertising age" that will depend upon "listenomics" much more than a display ad or a 30-second spot.

There  are two reasons why these ideas cannot be debated. First, annoyingly, Garfield builds a really good case for both concepts. Second, we're living it. Here, let me show you. Answer the following questions in the comments section below:

1) When was the last time you listened to the radio, either public or commercial?

2) When was the last time you watched a television show live, when it was actually on, without fast forwarding through commercials?

3) When was the last time you learned about a news story from the newspaper or television BEFORE learning about it on the web?

Garfield presents all of this information with the passionate position that this is the new world order. This is a revolution in progress.

Where the title comes in

I don't argue with the fact that we're in a revolution now. But again I must come back to the fact that it is in human nature to counter things that are revolutionary eventually. Maybe right now nobody wants to pay for content. Everyone can be a resource. Nothing needs to go through pesky quality control. But maybe people will change over time. Maybe they'll say, "Man, I miss the days of the New York Times (before they were known for plagiarism) and Walter Cronkite. I wish we had content of a higher quality. Heck, I'd pay for it.

I was trying to think of a more recent counter-revolution, and what I came up with was the change in popular music from 1994-1997. Some of the hits of 1994 included "Black Hole Sun" by Soundgarden.

Or maybe Beck's "Loser" was more your style back then. Maybe "Closer" by Nine Inch Nails. Ya know, Trent Reznor:

In 1997, Hanson was one of the most popular groups of the year. That's right, these guys:

Mmmbop, that's a change. A quick change. A major change. I'm just saying, things are changing rapidly now. Who knows where we'll be three years from now. Maybe we'll be back to bunny ears and rotary phones.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Where Humanity Meets TMI

When I was younger, before I knew better, a shake of the hand was enough to get me to start talking like I was at a Confessional. "Hi, my name is Margie, and here is my life story as of now. How about you?"

Thankfully, it was pointed out to me at a fairly early age that this wasn't the smartest approach to take. However, this conflicts with the evolution of the internet, which has become everyone's Confessional Booth at one time or another. We say things online that we probably wouldn't dream of saying in any other situation, and we do it because the internet allows us to be both personal and anonymous.

There are a couple of things in my life that I talk about online that are very personal, but I talk about them among my friends because it's important to do so. You will not find those things in my professional blog, however. I will not be tweeting traffic or offering a "share this" button. I like to keep track of who might know what about me. Call me old-fashioned.

This is on my mind because over the last couple of weeks, I have seen a flurry of posts from professional blogs (as in, tied to a business) that have discussed deeply personal topics. I found a couple of these blogs because people I follow on Twitter recommended them. A couple more were tweeted by people I follow directly.

Be human, but put your clothes on

I kind of wanted to avert my eyes after reading the first sentence or two of some of these blogs. I felt uncomfortable reading such personal information from a person I only know as a face and a Twitter handle. And what if I get to know that person better? Then this knowledge will already be in my pocket. There won't be a need for the "discovery phase" of friendship.

I understand the value of adding some personal details to a professional blog. Brogan & Smith talk about this in Trust Agents. A picture of your kids now and then, a mention of a birthday, these things make you seem real, more accessible. But that is very different from laying your most personal, intimate life details into the internet ether. It might be a fine line, but for me, it's a line nonetheless.

Remember where you are

David Meerman Scott talks about "losing control" of your PR and advertising. Let people share, let people evangelize for you. But losing control of your personal details can create uncomfortable and perhaps even dangerous situations. Do you want someone you don't know retweeting a post about a spat that you had with your spouse? Do you want someone you don't know sharing a post on Facebook about how you think your boss is dumb?

I view this blog as sitting at a table in the middle of a really busy, crowded party. I'm over here doing my thing, and if you come and sit with me for awhile, that's great. Then you'll get up and go to a different table. Maybe you'll recount our little conversation, maybe you won't. Under *those* circumstances, would you use that little blurp in time to reveal your most intimate secrets?

That square box holds real people

Computers are kind of creepy in a way, if you really think about them. They are static little wonders that enable us to connect to tons of people. We have no idea who, but they're in this little box. It's important to keep track of your own humanity, but it's also important to remember you're dealing with other humans as well.

People often say that if you wouldn't say something to or in front of your grandmother, you shouldn't say it online. I go one step further. If you wouldn't say something in front of anyone in "real life," you shouldn't say it online.

Just something to ponder.

Image by Hilde Vanstraelen.

Monday, June 14, 2010

What is a professional blogger?

I had a very interesting exchange last evening during a Twitter "Blogchat." Basically a chat is just people getting together and talking (or tweeting) about the same thing (in this case Blogs). The comments are linked together because everyone uses a # before the name of the chat, and then you can follow the conversation by searching for that chat. Confusing if you're not on Twitter, but anyway...we were talking about Blogging :)

A fellow named Patrick Johnson asked me how I define a "pro" blogger. That question led us into a conversation that was unfortunately limited by the 140 character cage Twitter puts you in (as well as the fast-paced timing of the conversation). So, I thought I would revisit the conversation here (at least in sum) and get your thoughts!

Quality or Quantity

Do you consider a Blogger a "pro" because they have tons of comments and followers and links back to their blog, or do you consider a Blogger a "pro" because of the quality of the posts that are made? One might argue that if you base things on quantity, Al Gore's blog ( is professional. However, if I didn't know who Al Gore was, I wouldn't think the blog was all that professional. It doesn't have a particularly professional look to it (my opinion) and his posts generally are short and to the point, which doesn't seem to be the overriding style bloggers choose.

Is it possible to be a pro without clout?

Next question: can you be a successful or "professional" blogger if you aren't bringing some clout to the blog already? My answer to this question is yes. Blogging is attractive in part because it promises you that you can build a network. But not everyone's Blog achieves the status of say, Denise Wakeman's or Chris Brogan's. Are you more inclined to go to a Blog if it's someone you've heard of? Probably. Is it possible to get someone new into that cycle? Also probably, but that person might give up before that happens.

What is a "pro" and why do we need to define it?

I met a Native American artist once when I was in grad school. He was a Native American artist in that his ethnicity was Native American and his profession was "artist." However, he did not make traditional "Native American" art. He did what was in his head and heart. He said people kind of were confused by this, including his own family and friends. If you're a Native American you should want to present traditional themes so that your success can raise up those ideas into the mainstream. Similarly, he had trouble breaking through because when he billed himself as a Native American artist, people didn't see what they expected.

It's this kind of scenario that convinces me that categorizing people is dangerous. How would one define a professional blogger? In the end, it's probably a personal preference type of thing.

Does it matter if a person is a pro? I read blog posts if they're interesting. There are blogs that wander (for me) from really interesting to kind of blah. I don't think any less of that person...I just know that not every blog post is going to be a winner for everybody.

Then again, there are so many best practices for blogging that maybe it all does matter. Maybe I'm not taking the craft seriously enough.

What do you think?

Image by Faakhir Rizvi.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Any Job Can Be Your Dream Job

As I've referenced before, my educational experience includes a Masters in Library & Information Science and a Masters in History. I often joke about the fact that those two degrees explain perfectly why I ended up working in and loving marketing. However, if I may be so bold, I would like to say that my experience is one that could be helpful to people right now. A lot of people, because of the financial realities of today, are being forced to take jobs that they might not like or that they might view as beneath them or not ideal. I thought about my journey of transitioning my head from academia to business, from History & Library Science to advertising and PR. I think it can broken down into three steps. And here they are.

1. Dedicate yourself to your job. Sure, you might not want to even consider the possibility that you could be in this thing for the long haul. But you are not going to feel good about your experience until you take the bull by the horns and say, "I'm going to do the best I can." Standing out and performing well is a challenge no matter what job you have. The less familiar you are with the job, the more interesting this path can be. But you will not be able to feel like you are living the dream until you take this first important step. As a sidenote, dedication also means learning. Learn everything you can about your job. Why were you trained the way you were? Why do people do things the way they do?

2.  Look for things you love. No matter how unlikely it may seem, if you look, you will see traces of things you love in your new job. But you do have to look. I thought that I had wasted all of my time in school because I didn't see how there could be any remnant of Library Science or History in my marketing job. However, as I familiarized myself with my job and really dug into it, I realized that a key facet of marketing is understanding not only how to find things on the web but also to understand how people generally look for things on the web. Guess what a primary focus of the MLS degree is? I initially didn't see how my research skills could come in handy, but I found that I could enrich my experience as well as that of our clients if I brought my research skills, based on academia, into the business environment. You might be saying that that's all well and good. Maybe you're having to work retail or fast food or some other job that you just don't see how you can get any use out of. But look for things. Do you love dealing with people? Embrace that. Are you interested in business? Study how your managers delegate and do business. You never know what might pop up.

3. Strive to bring what you love to your job. Whether or not you find things already in place that you can love about your job, try to figure out ways to bring your own thumbprint to your work. Use your training and experience and make them relevant. You can't just do this to do this. It needs to make sense and it shouldn't end up creating any problems or more work for anyone else. But the possibilities are also endless. Bring your passions into your new job. Don't view them as mutually exclusive, but rather see how the jigsaw puzzle fits together.

If I hadn't actually pursued these three steps on my own and had some success with it, I might be sitting here saying what you might be saying. "All well and good, but..." Well, as Pee Wee Herman says, "Everyone has a big butt."

What do you wish you were doing right now? What elements of that job you had or really want are most appealing to you? How can those fit into what you are doing now?

We're all struggling to cope with this massively evolutionary environment we are in. We are all, in some way, either supporting someone who is having to settle in some way or having to settle ourselves. But this is not a dead-end path. It can be a fun path. A challenging path. A path of ambition and passion.

Try it out. Think about it. Let me know how it goes.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

I'm a Bibliography Nut

Even though I have been away from the Ivory Tower for six years now, there are still some parts of it that I just can't shake off. One thing that I would have shuddered about 6 years ago is that I seem to have developed a great love of bibliographies. When I read a book I really enjoy these days, I want to try to figure out how the author or authors came to that state of being. I want to know what molded them and what might have been on their minds as these ideas came into their heads.

I just finished Trust Agents. It is peppered with book references, and I thought it would be really interesting not just to look at the books that are mentioned by name but also to read many of them. I'll probably not read Polgar's Chess book, but otherwise...:)

I got permission to put out this list from the authors. Think I got everything. Hope it's useful!

Allen David Getting Things Done
Anderson Chris The Long Tail
Canterucci Jim Personal Brilliance
Collins Jim Good to Great
Covey Stephen The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
DeBono Edward Serious Creativity
DeBono Edward How To Be More Interesting
Edwards Betty Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain
Ferriss Tim 4-hour Workweek
Friedman Thomas The World is Flat
Gladwell Malcolm The Tipping Point
Hill Napoleon Think and Grow Rich
Hunt Tara The Whuffie Factor
Hurst Mark Bit Literacy
Joel Mitch Six Pixels of Separation
Madson Patricia Ryan Improv Wisdom
Maister David, Charles H. Green and Robert M. Galford The Trusted Advisor
Mann Merlin Inbox Zero
McLuhan Marshall Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man
Polgar Laszlo 5334 Problems, Combinations and Games
Putnam Robert Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community
Rheingold Howard The Virtual Community
Scoble Robert and Shel Israel Naked Conversations
Shirky Clay Here Comes Everybody
Surowiecki James Wisdom of Crowds
Taleb Nassim Nicholas The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable

Image by Dora Pete.

Why an army needs to build an army

So, before I begin with the official post, I need to put something out there. I abhor people who always say, "Oh, I would have done that THIS way" when they really don't know what they're talking about. Non-parental types should probably not tell parents how to care for children. Unless you have dated the person previously, you should not tell someone how to deal with a significant other. Along these lines, a person who has yet to publish a book (like me, for example) probably should not tell New York Times Best Seller authors how she would have approached a chapter of said best selling book.
Now that we all agree on that, I thought there were 2 missing elements in the "Build Your Army" chapter of Trust Agents.

Some people are missing from the staff

The chapter, in essence, is about how to leverage a lot of people and technology to spread your word, which of course makes all the sense in the world. Brogan and Smith mention the General. They mention the army. But in my limited experience, you need some other staff members in there too. One could say that maybe you need a Lieutenant Commander who you can send out there. He or she can get your army riled up and maybe can ask them to spread a message or a link so that you aren't always having to go out there and ask for favors (Brogan and Smith talk about how to ask such favors of your army, but it's nice sometimes to have someone else ask for you).

I was thinking a Drill Sargent might be good too. The chapter talks about a sponsored blog post Brogan did that earned him a lot of consternation from his army and his army's friends. If you have a person who can go out there and say, "Listen, you weasels, this is what it is, this is the right story, now go and tell your friends," wouldn't that be kind of nice?

I'm kind of joking. I'm also horrible at remembering the proper martial order of titles so I'm not even going to try to carry this analogy further. But my point is that every general, if you want to be literal, needs a supporting staff. Even if a general has an army, it's still the general by him or herself, but now with a lot of people to guide. It seems to me like delegation would become increasingly important and helpful in this scenario. You don't want to end up like George McClellan from the American Civil War, who thought he really could do everything by himself and then realized he had been held hostage by "Quaker guns." Bad PR, that.

Sometimes it's an army creating an army

Another thing I was hoping to see in this chapter was how a company or corporation could or should use employees to help build the army.

One of the things we have been talking to our clients about is that when it comes to Social Media, research and preparation are utterly necessary. You should not even sign into Facebook until everyone in your company has marching orders. The more employees you have, the more complex this can be, but here's why it's important.

* Do you know if your company is going to be represented via one central page or account or whether every individual will have a company-related account?

* Can individuals use their existing personal accounts to drive traffic to your corporate account(s)?

* Do you want individual employees to even have individual accounts that can't be monitored?

* What kind of persona do you want your corporate social media identity to evoke? Everyone has to understand this. You don't want a CSR to answer a tweet with "Hey dude" if you are trying to be button-down professional

These are just a few of the questions to which there should be solid, understood answers. And it's important to make sure that everyone within your company or corporation (your real-life army) understands that each of them have the power to build an army, but it perhaps should be an army following your company as the general, not just one person. This becomes a very difficult dance, because social media is innately about person-to-person relationships, and too many mentions of a company can come off as being "selly."

Because of these complexities, I was hoping that the chapter would cover a company's role when the general of a growing army. There were corporate examples, like GM asking people to submit photos or videos of their favorite GM car. But to me, that falls more into a promotion kind of relationship. Who was commenting on those photos and videos? Who was spreading the word about the opportunity to submit those materials? Was it a corporate GM account? Was it "suzyatGM"?

Even though Brogan and Smith are right in that our current society is increasingly based on individuals rather than companies with lots of employees, the fact is that there are still a lot of companies and corporations out there, and they are all running big risks if they are jumping into the deep end of the Social Media pool without considering questions and answers to those questions first. I think the chapter could have been enriched by delving into this side of things a bit more.

What do you think?

Image by Stephen Davies.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Is it possible to be a Human Artist on Twitter?

I just finished "The Human Artist" chapter of Trust Agents. Really good chapter, really strong advice. As has happened, eerily, through my time reading this book, what I read seems to contrast starkly with some thought or experience from my own life. I was just thinking a few hours before reading the chapter that Twitter is an increasing challenge for me. I like being human. I also like networking. Can you do both?

What does being a Human Artist Mean?

A lot of the advice that Brogan and Smith give in this chapter revolves around how to be human on the web. They return to the fact that we can't see facial expressions, we can't hear a tonality, so we have to depend upon online cues. One of the ways we can leave a really good impression is to make sure we have digital "touches" with our contacts on a regular basis. Offer assistance. Wish happy birthday. On time. Answer emails. Follow people back. Comment back.

I am already overwhelmed

I have been actively trying to grow my Twitter network for a couple of months now, and things are finally starting to mesh for me. A little. I joined a blog chat Sunday night (thank you Mack Collier) and, get ready for it...jumped over the "100 followers" mark. As Twitter users go, I am not even a speck on the planet Jupiter.

Even so, there is a giant difference between having over 100 followers (I am following a fair fraction of them as I am happy to say the majority of my followers are super interesting) and what I had a month ago. I enjoy being able to have personal exchanges with people just because I am naturally a people person and it's great to be able to "talk the talk" with people in a similar profession or a similar mindset. To be the kind of human Twitterer I want to be, however, I am having to allot more and more time to scanning everyone's posts. The other day I found myself wanting to just look at replies to see if I was missing any comments or questions, and I thought, "Man...what am I going to do if I get 175 followers?"

Or try 11,750?

So then I look at people like Julien Smith, Chris Brogan, Ann Handley, and others. They have thousands of followers . Now, I am not particularly worried about reaching those kinds of numbers, but it does beg the question. If I am struggling to keep my humanity intact with a little over 100 followers, how can you do it when you have 1,000 or 10,000 or 100,000?

I guess that's my only qualm with the "Human Artist" chapter. Sure, you can try to make sure, via a spreadsheet, that you leave a comment for everyone once every blue moon, but that is sort of placing a shroud of authentic conversation over what really is a mechanical reminder. What if your follower has been Bland Bonnie for days and then it comes time to leave a comment for that person? Normally, you wouldn't. On the other hand, you might be missing some real gems if it's not Bonnie's turn on your spreadsheet.

It's not just Twitter. I see a lot of people on Twitter talking about trying to respond to Blog comments or Facebook friend requests.

Diametrically opposed objectives

I see that the next chapter is called "Build an Army," and I can already surmise what that chapter is going to say. But I am really having a hard time understanding how these goals can co-exist. Get as many online relationships going as possible, but also remain human for all of those people. I just can't see how to accomplish that successfully. What am I missing?

Image by Stephen Eastop.

Always find your way to dreaming

Last weekend, I sat down in front of my television to unwind a bit from a busy week. I happened upon a show that was about a woman who was really struggling in her life. Her boyfriend of 26 years had passed away suddenly and she just could not pull herself out of her despair. She was asked what she was hoping for in her future. She had no answer.

If you've ever gone through a life-altering experience you probably have felt the same sensation, and life-altering does not have to mean the end of someone else's life. I look around at the news I see every day and all I can imagine is the people who are being affected. Every person that HP let go recently - they may be in a state of despair. The fishermen in the gulf and their families are in a state of despair as their entire world changes. I saw a story yesterday that this Summer may have the lowest job availability since 1970. What does that mean for this year's high school graduates who are dreaming of going to college in the Fall? It is a poor season for dreaming, it seems.

Dreaming does not mean doing

A lot of people find themselves spiraling ever downwards because they feel like dreams are a to-do list. My friends and I are entering our 30s now, and we all had dreams of what that would mean. The pressure to see all of those dreams come true is palpable. That is the way dreams are killed, though. Dreaming comes from the heart and soul. Dreaming is imagination and wishing and hoping. If you can't make a dream happen right away, you can still hope that it will happen later. But if you stop dreaming, it can be very hard to rebuild that little light that looks ahead and paints pictures for you.

A company can dream

Just as dreaming may be coming hard to individuals, companies may also be struggling to get back to a place of dreaming and hope. These are hard times, and dreaming may seem like a luxury. Who has time to dream, anyway? But for a company, dreaming is where big ideas come from. Dreaming is how you "make your own game," to quote Trust Agents. Wishing for things makes you act in new ways, which in turn can lead to newly opened doors that you didn't even know were there.

Do not despair

It's hard to uncover good news these days. I read an article in Fortune Magazine this morning that said that our unemployment rates may never bounce back to normal. Our society is going to have to readjust itself. Readjustment is hard. Change is hard. Change alters what we dreamed before, which can cause us to despair. But rather than sink into a swampy marsh of disappointment, find the path back to dreaming. Maybe there are other dreams that you haven't even thought about that you could return to. Maybe the loss of one opportunity could pave the way for a brand new, better one. Dreaming is the drumbeat we follow to the best future we can create. Dreams are our building blocks. Dreams are our foundations. Keep them coming.

Image credit:

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Chapter 5: Agent Zero, and why all agencies should read it

Being on Twitter as an advertising agency person can be kind of strange sometimes. On the one hand, working at an agency these days means wanting to keep your clients as informed as they possibly can be about everything that's going on everywhere. On the other hand, staying informed also means realizing that we are increasingly in a "do it yourself" era. Thriving as an advertising agency while nurturing your clients can be a difficult balance act sometimes. Teach, but learn to let go. Educate, but point out your own skills.

This was on my mind as I set out to read chapter 5 of Trust Agents, which is called Agent Zero. Perhaps that is why it occurred to me, about halfway through the chapter, that "Agent Zero" is really a chapter for and about agencies today. Of course, it probably was not intended to be that way, but let me show you what I mean.

Awareness: The first part of the chapter talks about awareness and the many meanings of awareness. Awareness of your own surroundings. People being aware of you. You being aware of people being aware of you. This is all in relation, primarily, to the online world, but awareness is perhaps one of the most important traits an agency must have today. Indeed, it is essential. An agency must be aware of everything every client is facing. This means that events in the world that are totally outside of the scope of an agency's business might suddenly become the agency's business. An agency must strive to show clients that there is an awareness there. After all, an agency is in the service industry and is trying to sell a service. To prove to clients that you legitimately care, you must show that you are aware. Agencies must be aware of everything that is going on technologically and in the marketing world. And of course, agencies must be aware of what is going on with other agencies.

Attention: The second major topic in the chapter is attention. How to get it, how to pay it. This goes hand in hand with awareness, but is more deep. Reading the news isn't enough. Reading the news and thinking about all of your clients is paying attention. A lot of the chapter focuses on how an individual can gain attention through online social networks like Facebook or Twitter, but then there is a section about meetups and the importance of face-to-face meetings. For an agency, this is absolutely key. A really good agency will strive to be present at major trade shows. This signals to clients that you are paying attention not just to your pretty booth graphics but also to what is going on in the industry. Is the trade show dead or crowded? How is your client's booth traffic? For an agency, paying attention can earn you attention. Alerting a client that an ad was placed really well in a leading publication is good news for everybody. Alerting a client that a competitor is talking trash can stave off major problems and prove that you are an invaluable team member. Attentiveness, following on the coattails of awareness, can be a game-changer for agencies today.

Influence: This is where Brogan and Smith talk about being the priest and building the church. There are two ways that agencies can do this today.

1) Be prepared to offer insightful advice regarding all of the new "stuff" going on right now. If your client, who is in the field a lot, wants to know if he or she should get a Droid, the new iPhone 4, or a Blackberry, you should be able to answer contextually with his or her best interests in mind. If a client calls and says, "My competitor is on Twitter, I want to start an account now," be ready to show your expertise by saying, "Well, I don't think they're really using Twitter effectively. I think you should wait." If that's the right answer.

2) Agencies can also work as an "agent zero" because agencies have the networking capacity to incorporate the talent of many different people not just within the agency but also externally. An agency works to build relationships with programmers, printers, artists, computer repair shops, and much more. The successful agency can use this network to influence a client to work with them, or to sway a client to try a new kind of project that will be a giant step forward.

Reputation: In the chapter, reputation is again about the online world. Who are you linking to? Who are you recommending? One thing agencies can follow word-for-word from this chapter is to get on the LinkedIn ship. The questions and answers section, participation in groups, and other methodologies are excellent ways to build reputation while also showing you know how to do so online. Reputation can also be built and improved in the offline world, and for agencies, this is key. In a marketing world that is changing rapidly, agencies need to differentiate themselves, preferably in a good way. What will you build your reputation on?

Authority: It is hard for an agency to do what Brogan and Smith advise and "make your own game." Again, working in an agency is a service business. Making your own game can equate to not listening or not caring about what the client wants. When an agency wants to build authority, there is one really important step to take. Propose things, execute well, and achieve success. Agencies strive for perfection because nothing else is acceptable. The difference between a person who just loaded Photoshop at home and a professional designer is immeasurable. Yet it is not tangible. When that professionally designed ad wins a Reader Study award or increases web traffic - tangibility achieved. Agencies should also strive to walk the walk, not talk the talk. If an agency is preaching that websites need to be revamped, that agency should have a site they are proud of. If an agency is preaching that Social Media is the next best thing after buttered bread, they should be able to talk about it. Intelligently.

The lessons in this chapter, again, are geared more towards people looking to build an online reputation as a trust agent. However, to me, the lessons work perfectly as a "must do" list for today's agency.

What do you think?

Image by Marija Rajkovic.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Twitter as Marketing 101. I'm your hero.

So a couple of days ago I posted a hateful, spiteful Blog about Twitter. And though I'm not really apologizing, I have to admit that there is a bit more to the story. Factually, if you're a marketer, experienced or aspiring (or a little bit of both) you can get an MBA's worth of education every day if you follow the right people.

I don't know if you noticed, but a LOT of people use Twitter, so finding the right people to follow can be a bit tricky. Have no fear, however. I will be your superhero. Having just read "The Archimedes Effect" chapter in Trust Agents, I feel inspired to share some of what I have learned in my Twitter experience. To wit, here are some people that I follow right now that I feel are helping me a great deal (whether they realize it or not). I think they might help you out too.

Marketing in General

There are quite a few people I follow who can offer wisdom on pretty much any facet of marketing. Some of these folks are:

Ann Handley: @marketingprofs. She keeps you up-to-date on what's going on at, well, Includes reminders about webinars that you will kick yourself for missing!

@BethHarte: Beth is another mastermind behind marketingprofs. She tends to moderate Tweet chats that are full of excellent information.

Fast Company Magazine @fastcompany Sometimes they post things that are just plain funny, but I find the majority of their tweets extremely informative. You almost forget that they're trying to sell a magazine.

Julien Smith @julien Co-author of Trust Agents, Julien tends to delve deep into the philosophy of and behind marketing.

@chrisbrogan: The other co-author of Trust Agents, Chris follows his own advice. There's a hint of self-promotion but also more than a dash of accessibility.

John Jantsch @ducttape I've seen Jantsch's name around for quite some time. He is a veritable fount of knowledge on all things marketing. It's great to be able to get his take on things every day!

@allenmireles Another woman who is unassuming yet brilliant. Don't ya just hate people like that?!? :)


If you are here, you likely have some interest in Blogging. Blogging is a topic that just seems to rev up more and more, so it's great to be able to get tons of expert advice for FREE! Here's who I follow for that.

@DeniseWakeman: Queen of the Blog Squad, you'll get 3-5 excellent tidbits of advice every day.

@kikolani: Another great resource. Lots of expert advice if you follow this account!

@mackcollier: If you need just 1 reason to follow someone, may I submit for your approval BlogChat (with a hash tag). I just "attended" my first one last night. This gentleman is responsible for this genius. 

Search Engines/Search/Analytics

If the more techy side of things is where you like to chill, you can totally geek out by following these folks:

@johnbattelle: Yep, the author of Search is on Twitter. Lots of insight plus blogging from all of the conferences you wish you could go to!

Rick Klau @rklau: I discovered Rick's expertise a couple of years ago kind of by accident. I happened upon a presentation he did for Google at a not-for-profit. He's a good guy to follow for all things Google related. I learned from following him about

@stephanspencer: SEO expert!

@avinsahskaushik: If you've ever had the experience of watching a webinar by this guy, you can imagine how fun it is to follow him. Lots of useful information plus non-marketing posts that are just as interesting.

PR/Social Media

Jason Baer @jaybaer Jay is a great person to follow on Twitter. Another person who demonstrates knowledge without being snobby. Good stuff!

@MariSmith: Queen of Facebook. Mari has her finger on all of the latest happenings on that crazy site. Plus she has the coolest accent out of any of the other marketing peeps I follow :)

David Meerman Scott @dmscott: Scott's book (what is that?) really changed a lot of my thinking about marketing. Now you can follow him!


If you're looking to add webinars to your mix, make sure you follow @shelleyryan. Formerly of marketingprofs, Shelley is working on a new webinar related project. She teaches and learns at the same time. Plus she's a foodie, so she'll make ya hungry!

These are (I hope) all of the people whose posts I really look for every day. They get me to think, they teach me stuff, and it just seems fair that I let you know that they are out there. All you have to do to drink from the fountain is step up :)

ETA: Fixed Rick Klau's Twitter Handle. D'oh.

Image by Julien Tromeur.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Yoga for Marketers

Do you like to do Yoga? Have you ever done Yoga? I'm in quite a Yoga phase right now. All different kinds. Some Rodney Yee, some Suzanne Deason, even some Biggest Loser Yoga (ouch). One of the great things about Yoga is that the advice and steps you take during a work-out can carry through to the rest of your day. It is not so surprising, then, that I realized that marketers could also benefit from some Yoga wisdom. Don't worry -- you won't be doing any physical stretches here. It's all in your head :)

Find Your Center

At the beginning of a lot of Yoga work-outs, you are advised to find your center while standing evenly on your two feet. For a marketer, finding your center means squarely standing on your two feet, which are knowledge and experience. Do not be swayed too much by what others are saying or doing. Listen, but remain conscious of what you want to achieve and what you want to accomplish. Keep your eyes on your goals, and if your knowledge and experience plant you in a way that is unique, all the better.


No matter what kind of Yoga you are doing, you will hear an emphasis on breathing. Breathe in deeply, exhale out tension and toxins. Even while you are asking your body to stretch its limits, your mind works on concentrating on how your breath goes in and out. For a marketer, breathing is actually important physically. The world is a stressful place, and at least for me, I only realize how shallow my breaths get when I sit down and actually try to take deep breaths. But a marketer can also concentrate on internal rhythms, goals, objectives, and desires while working on everyday tasks, while building a foundation, while going to meetings and/or conferences. This kind of approach -- concentrating on one thing in the foreground while in the background you are working on something else -- is behind many ideas that are floating out there today.

Stay balanced

There isn't a lot you can do in Yoga that doesn't require some amount of balance. Similarly, there isn't a lot a marketer can do that doesn't require some balance, and I don't mean just the bottom line. Are you balancing your online, offline, and Social Media campaigns appropriately? Are you balancing your time in promoting yourself versus promoting others? Are you balancing your time in completing tasks the regular way while learning all the time how to do things in new ways?

Turn things upside down

One of the more common poses in Yoga is called Downward Facing Dog. Your head is down, your legs are stretched back. The idea is that turning upside down will release toxins and stress. For a marketer, turning things upside down can shine the light on a new way to approach things. But upside down is also a good way to think about how a marketer can construct a campaign. We all know the ultimate goal: sell something. What is the last step before the sale? How do you get to that step? And the one before that?

Honor your body

Finally, a lot of Yoga instructors remind you to honor your body. Sometimes it makes you feel kind of bad. The instructor may be leaning backwards to reach his or her ankles and you are lucky to reach back even a little. But you are told to honor your body and its restrictions. The same holds true for marketers. Not everyone can do what the great gurus of marketing do, especially not at first. If you can't do the full pose in Yoga, you find an adaptation. The same holds true for marketers. If you don't think you have enough content for a weekly Blog, start with a monthly or quarterly e-newsletter, or start with comments. If you just can't seem to master a certain skill, accept that limitation. Not everyone can turn themselves into a human pretzel. Trying can result in serious pain. The same holds true for marketing. Do not extend beyond what you are comfortable doing. The result will not be favorable.

Do you have a hobby that feeds your soul and also carries you through your profession? I'd love to hear about it!

Image by Aaron Neifer.

Being human and the French Revolution

Just finished chapter 3 of Trust Agents. I liked this chapter a lot better than chapter 2, actually. The chapter is called One Of Us, and it's about how a trust agent must learn how to be one with the crowd and how that is a different game from brand evangelism.

A lot of people are talking about "talking human" these days. I already mentioned Harry Gottlieb's webinar about talking human. Avinash Kaushik talked about being human in his recent webinar. And Brogan and Smith also note that the authentic human is the one who will meet a lot of success on the web.

All great revolutions must face a counter-revolution

Turning marketing into a game of human relationships is a revolution of magnificent proportions. Selling by not selling may not be what Ogilvy ever could have envisioned. My love of History tells me one thing though. Any time there is a revolution, a counter-revolution follows. The French Revolution is a great example of this. While people were cutting each others' heads off for fun (and while women were knitting in the front row before the gallows to catch some blood), other counter-revolutionaries were already thinking that maybe this wasn't such a good idea. Out of all of that chaos came Napoleon, who not only wanted to rule France, but he kind of wanted to be Emperor of the whole world. Mexico's history is a patchwork quilt of revolutions and then counter-revolutions. Here in the US, the rebellious sixties were forced to reconcile with the super conservative 80s.

If everyone talks human, is anyone talking human?

A dear friend of mine always says that the words "trust me" are an automatic turn-off for her. For Star Wars fans, "trust me" may call up Han Solo's sort of false confidence too. So here is my question. Let's say that more and more people start following the advice of Brogan and Smith and Kaushik and Gottlieb. Everyone is authentic, everyone is doing you favors, lifting up the noobs, and life on the internet has become a kind of 21st century Pollyanna.

Is anyone really being authentic at that point?

If every person who comments on your blog or starts following you on Twitter ultimately mentions a product or a consultation service, are you going to start to wonder if anyone REALLY is interested in you as a human? Moreover, are YOU doing anything because you are really interested in other peoples' humanity?

I think that the idea of marketing via personal relationships is a wonderful idea, and the way that it's explained in Trust Agents gets no complaint from me. But statistically speaking, this approach is bound to run into a counter-revolution at some point. Maybe people will WANT to know on the front end if you're trying to sell something. Then you can talk about the baseball game.

What do you think? Will the online environment eventually tighten up in reaction to too much touchy-feely? How will that happen? Maybe "that guy" that Brogan and Smith talk about, the one who hands out business cards at every possible moment, maybe "that guy" will become the new Napoleon. You just never know.

Image by Michal Zacharzewski.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

15 things to hate about Twitter

I saw a post the other day by Julien Smith (I know, it's like I'm a one-track mind lately) about how hard it is to build a following on Twitter. For relative noobs like me this was great news. However, it released a Hulk-like amount of frustration that I've just been waiting to vent about Twitter. So here we go. My top 15 Twitter pet peeves.

1. Balance is not a rule on Twitter. If you look around, most of the people who have 500,000 followers are only following 1-2 people. Conan O'Brien is a great example of this - when the Twitter "follower" feed was hacked, it became noticeable when Conan seemed to actually be following people. So what is this about, Tweet prophets? I get why you can't follow everyone who follows you, but really? 1-2% of the people following you, if that, are worth you following?

2. I was under the impression that Twitter is a social network. I think this is slightly misleading. I have encountered people on Twitter that you could retweet, tweet, mention, or whatever else all day long and they still would not give a reply back. It is called SOCIAL media, right? Deodorant and teeth brushing aren't problems, so what gives?

3. People who #talk in #hashtags for no #good reason annoy the heck out of me. Talk English. I don't speak in pound symbols. And if your sentence doesn't really have to do with any of the 20 topics you just tagged, it's not going to help you either, right?

4. I find it both creepy and irritating when someone retweets your post because of a word you used rather than because of what you actually said. I retweeted an article about how Nancy Pelosi said that her policy is based on The Word. I got "mentioned" by JesusNews. Eh?

5. A person you are following can direct message you. When you go to reply, it won't work if they aren't following you. Do you know how frustrating it can be to try to send a direct message back only to find that you, well, can't, because you're not being followed? If you're going to send me a direct message, can't you follow me?

6. The self-promotion on Twitter is terrible. I'm guilty of this one to a degree because I drive traffic to this blog using my tweets. However, I never once have said, "Come see my brilliant post." I try to lure people in to this here sticky goo based on subject matter. I find it misleading when someone tweets, "Oh, a really interesting concept" and then it's their blog. I feel cheated!

7. 9 times out of 10, logging into Twitter does not work. 'Nuff said.

8. Twitter perpetually seems like a personal cocktail party that you are eavesdropping on. I do not want to be privy to what you and your friends are planning to do, or what you and your friends did, or what you and your friends thought about what you did. Even if you're famous. Well, maybe not that last part, but still...

9. Foursqure. Oh foursquare. You are the thorn in my side, the weight on my shoulders, the...well, you get the idea. People thought tweets were banal before. Now you can find out when your contacts are working out, when they're following that up by a trip to the bar, and when they have become mayor of a furniture store. Ay caramba.

10. Trending Topics. I read an article the other day about whether Twitter had the right to remove Justin Bieber from trending topics and whether trending topics are worthwhile anyway. Short answer: no, no they're not. Right now, at this minute, four of the trending topics have hearts in them. One of those also has the word Bieber. Another trending topic right now: Ghetto Spelling Bee. Really? I mean...really?

11. The quoters are just awful on Twitter. Now some people have done a good job with it. I know a lot of people who follow "Tiny Buddha," which is a good use of Twitter. But I followed a guy for awhile and ALL he did was alternate quotes by other people with links about ex-girlfriends. Creepy. And yet his handle indicated that he would be talking about useful info. I kept waiting...

12. If you are a grammarian, you should probably avoid Twitter. I can't tell you how many tweets I see that say, "Retweet if your single" or "Their the bad guys." Move away from the computer, drop the chalupa, and learn the difference between your and you're, their, they're, and their, and many other troublesome word sets. Duhrive. Me. Crazeh.

13. How does a person with 1 tweet get 100,000 followers? This would seem to argue against Smith's case that it's hard to get followers. I remain perplexed.

14. People pretending to be celebrities. This was a major problem with Myspace. For fun, once, I followed five accounts pretending to be one of my favorite actresses. I don't think any of them noticed. It was funny. But kind of creepy. People need to get lives.

15. People who post the same thought over and over again in different ways also annoy me. Yes, I notice. I'm not living in the movie Memento. Yet. Move on to your next winning thought, please.

So there you have it. My 15 least favorite things about Twitter. What are yours?

The downside of making your own game

So I finished chapter two of Trust Agents. The chapter is about "making your own game." Brogan and Smith give a lot of examples how to do this, and they expertly use the analogy of "hacking" a game to improve your experience. They also reference, often, Gary Vaynerchuk, who created The Wine Library. I really liked this chapter for about 80% of the time I was reading it. I am all about trying to put a new spin on things. If I were an architect, I'd probably always want to put additions on to a perfectly fine house. Motivational stuff. I dig it.

But then...I got to the last few pages, which talk about "hacking" at work. And I have to raise my hand (because I can't raise my eyebrow) and say, to quote a cowboy, "Woah."

Is this realistic?

A few times at this point in the book, there have been references to the fact that both Smith and Brogan have been able to be game-changers within their various jobs. Brogan convinced his bosses that he could work outside the office and be more productive. Neither man has submitted a CV to get a job for a few years. I'm sure that all of this is true, but in the world that I live in, being a game changer is not so easy. And I think that it's important to emphasize, though it is touched upon in the book, that trying to create your own way of doing things can actually make other peoples' jobs really hard or can cause mistakes that companies previously did not have to deal with.

In my experience...

I have been on both sides of the game Sometimes the endings are happy, but a lot of the time, a lot of bad feelings surface in the wake of the wild and crazy ship. Here are some examples.

I was training a person at a job once and going through a step-by-step process of how to accomplish a specific task. This methodology was something I had put together, which had been a bit of a game change in and of itself, but every step had a reason. The game-changer I was training kept asking if they could skip this step, or couldn't they do this and then this. I didn't want to squash the person's desire to improve a process, nor did I want to squash the person's desire to try to increase productivity, efficiency, or anything else. However, it was kind of like a toddler telling me that there was a much better way to walk now. It might be true, but till you're walking upright, I'm going to be cynical.

So it is for many scenarios within a company structure, no matter how big or small the company may be, no matter what kind of company it may be. Accounting is complicated. Production work is complicated. Media buying is complicated. Manufacturing is complicated. And it all needs to be perfect. All the time. Until you can prove that you understand all of the possible ramifications of your game-changing move, I think it's dangerous to think that rushing off to your own groundbreaking ceremony is a good idea.

I have been in the game-changer's increasingly restrictive shoes on numerous occasions as well. I have been involved in groups where I brought up ideas and was told that I was trying to fix things that weren't broken (a common retort to the game-changing attitude that Brogan & Smith don't mention). I have seen game-changers succeed but instead of earning respect, they receive snubs and stabs in the back. I have seen game-changers succeed, then leave, creating a situation where no one else can pick up where they left off. These are all risks that should be considered carefully before engaging in "job hacking."

To be fair...

Brogan and Smith do reiterate that you need to learn the rules first and that you need to be real with people. They do emphasize that anarchy, though the subject of many great songs, may not always be the best approach.

Given that, the ending of this chapter lost me a bit. As is the case with any reading experience, different things are going to resonate with different people for different reasons. However, with a fair amount of varied experiences under my belt, I would just put in a little footnote that before you try to hack your job, make sure you consider why the rules you're hacking were put in place. If you can't answer why the rules were there, you're not ready to break them.

Image credit:

Friday, June 4, 2010

my Summer of reading. #1: Trust Agents

The weather around where I live has been really strange lately. Mother Nature can't decide if she wants to go the sunny and humid as the Rainforest route or maybe the sunny and perfect weather route. Yesterday I actually saw lightning while the sun was shining! With that in mind, tonight I got home and thought, "Man, if only there was an activity that could one could engage in regardless of weather or location. If only there was SOMETHING I could do that wouldn't involve a computer or some electronic device. Wait! Wait! There IS! It's called...reading.

I've been making pretty good progress in watching television shows and movies that I "should really see." This Summer, I want to read as many books as possible that fall into the category of "books I should really read for my profession."

Top of the list is Trust Agents, Chris Brogan/Julien Smith, authors. I got Trust Agents, disgustingly enough, free of charge. I went to a Summit Up Conference in Dayton, Ohio last October and was lucky enough to see Mr. Brogan speak, and in my take-away bag was Trust Agents. Trust Agents was just a little baby book back then, but it has already exploded to "classic" status. I'd better get on this. As I read these "must" books, I plan on blogging whatever comes to my mind. Feel free to join in the conversation!

Blog #1: Trust Agents

I'm about halfway through chapter 2 right now, and I have to say, so far the book is reading smooth as silk (except for a typo on page 22). There is a lot one can talk about, but I want to riff ever so briefly on the topic of "voice."

Brogan & Smith talk about how amazing the first radio news broadcast must have been to people. Did they believe what they were hearing? If they did, it was probably because the voice they were hearing sounded authoritative and knowledgeable. Brogan & Smith then tie this "voice" to the game of being a trust agent.

If there's one thing I've learned from a great deal of drama from back in the day (not professional and VERY twenty-something), it's that voice in the online world is extraordinarily difficult to read correctly. As a person who tends to speak from the bottom of a tub filled with sarcasm juice, I am acutely aware of this fact. If someone doesn't know you but is reading your words, any sense of decorum you wish to bring to the exchange must reside in your words, which blink at the person from any number of machines. There is no intonation, and sometimes even emoticons don't solve all of the problems that can arise because of this "voice" issue.

The other difficult thing about voice in the online world is that we can all have multiple-personality disorder. To go back to the radio example, some of us would start out sounding like Walter Cronkite and then sort of meander over into sounding like a South Park character. This is because we converse in different ways depending on who we're talking to and where we're talking. I know a person who tweets like a moody adolescent and yet who spins pure gold in a blog. Which voice do you trust? Do you let the tweets turn you off, or does the blog lead you to look for hidden meanings in the tweeting style?

It kind of makes me wonder if we should begin to semi-formally introduce ourselves to people, even though it would never go down that way. But it would be nice to know, on the front end, whether a person's sense of humor is dry like the Sahara, potty-related, or absent. Do you get Monty Python references, or are you more a Miss Congeniality type? All of this frames out our voice, and how people read our online voice determines, I think, whether they will find us to be credible. Am I talking your language whether I mention Cartman or Friedman? Which reference makes you trust me more?

Food for thought. Can't wait to finish the rest of this second chapter!

There are times when (gasp) advertising is inappropriate

When it comes to the news, I generally have become a "hide my head in the sand" kind of person. When Brian Williams or Jim Lehrer warns me that the following scenes may be graphic, I turn the channel. Most of the time.

I make a few exceptions when I think it is necessary. One of the most gut-wrenching things I have ever seen was the families looking for loved ones after 9/11. Then there was the documentary that Jules and Gedeon Naudet put together. I felt obligated to watch these things.

Ever since the rig explosion in the Gulf, I've not just buried my head, but I've been covering it with some kind of mixture of mental block, a touch of denial, and maybe some concrete. I really have no stomach for suffering, and when it's animals, who have no real voice, I just can't deal with it. When it's suffering caused by greed, stupidity, and ineptitude, it's all just a little too much. However, yesterday some pictures finally surfaced of suffering birds, and I felt that sense of obligation again. This is something I need to remember. This is something I'm going to need to tell people about 50 years from now. I need to remember.

It's not just the animals

Of course, I'm not ignorant of the fact that people are already being deeply affected by what's going on here. Fishermen, the seafood industry, tourism -- tons of jobs. Suffering people on the way. Then I think about the Pointe Aux Chenes, who have born witness to American cruelty before. They were pushed to the very edges of our country, to the marshlands of Louisiana, and now, guess whose land is being soaked in the slick of greed and stupidity? And I wonder about things we aren't even talking about yet. For example:

1. How many generations must we wait till fish & seafood affected by the spill is definitely safe to eat again?

2. If the oil does indeed reach all the way up to the Atlantic, how will we possibly be able to track the effects of all of the sludge and chemicals floating out there?

3. Who will monitor these things? We can't even keep cadmium out of Shrek glasses.

Isn't there all this talk about crisis PR?

So as a marketer, I'm looking at all of this, and then I see a full page ad for BP in the Wall Street Journal. As Jay Baer points out in his brilliant Blog on the subject, the ad does not apologize. It's basically going through the motions. Now, as a media buyer and as a person rather familiar with media pricing, I happen to know that an ad like that is worth some serious change.

Maybe if the ad DID include even the slightest sense of guilt or apology, I wouldn't be so steamed. However, it really doesn't. So steamed I am.

There are a lot of things that could have been done with the some $50 million that BP has spent on these kind of pointless ads. Maybe they could have used the ad to ask people to donate to a special clean-up fund. Maybe they could have shared the space with the National Wildlife Federation. Maybe they could have given it to me so I could have purchased $50 million worth of dish soap to help clean up the suffocating birds. Really. That's what I would use it for right now.

Why be mad at BP?

In response to a lot of the "Boycott BP" talk out there, people are saying that BP is really, sadly, no better or worse than any other oil & gas company. And besides, boycotting the corporation will only, per usual, hurt people who are not to blame, like your local BP franchise manager. I've been trying to turn my attention to the National Wildlife Fund, who is asking people to spread the word via Social Media. Social Media which is, by the way, generally free.

I'm not saying that advertising in a crisis is bad policy. But the lesson here is that if you are, say, destroying a national treasure and an entire ecosystem at the same time, you might want to hold out on the "we're working on it" ad campaign until that money has been used to clean up the mess. In this particular case, advertising made BP's situation worse, not better.

Image from MSNBC.