I haven’t been fooled since, but I’m sure plenty of people are fooled every day, particularly when the come-on is from a person they know.
The difference between the Nigerian princess plea, the PayPal password reset email and other famous online security scams we know and love is that social networks make it appear as if the requests are coming from your friends. How can you not stop to help out a friend who’s marooned in an overseas village somewhere after his wallet and passport were stolen?
Digital Defense,a security assessment and software firm, has published this free guide to the most common security dangers in social media. While experienced netizens know that you never click on a link without first checking out the URL, for the vast majority of casual users don’t know how to do that (hint: hover over the link). This free download is worth sharing with the people you work with, and any IT organization should make it required reading for users.
Note, you have to fill out a registration form to download it, but the company doesn’t ask for much. Also, I received no compensation for this post.
A client asked me to prepare a one-hour seminar on the basics of search engine optimization (SEO), and I thought it was worth sharing. This is more than your standard chalk talk. I pulled together slides from several presentations I’ve used over the last few years, updated them and wrote a complete script, which is included as slide notes in the in the PowerPoint. You can download the presentation and read the notes or watch the video.
I’m not an SEO expert by any stretch, but I’ve learned a lot by osmosis. For those who are mystified by Google magic, this deck will get you up to speed. If you’re already a guru, skip it and head to more advanced sites like Search Engine Land, SEOmoz, TopRank or Biznology.
I’ve probably spent at least a couple of thousand hours with PowerPoint over the last 15 years and believe me, familiarity breeds contempt. I find conference organizers’ obsession with “getting the slides in advance” to be a bit annoying at times, as if the slides are more important than the message, but I suppose that’s the world in which we live.
Tomorrow I’m keynoting a local conference of educators, and my message is that they need to make some pretty fundamental changes in the way they do their work in order to meet the needs of today’s young people and tomorrow’s markets. So I thought the least I could do is to change the way I create my message. I tried Prezi, the online presentation service that comes at presentations from a completely different angle. Instead of a slide deck, Prezi uses a “canvas” onto which you can drop elements. The presentation zooms and pans around in an order you specify. It’s amazingly easy to use once you get the hang of it, and there are some very cool things you can do that you’d never consider with PowerPoint.
On the other hand, motion sickness is a real risk with Prezi. My wife, Dana, who is prone to migraines, took a look at the first version of this presentation and said it gave her a headache. I toned it down, but the experience still takes some getting used do.
Prezi isn’t right for every scenario, but it’s a nice new addition to my presentation toolkit. And it’s so NOT PowerPoint!
I picked up Erik Qualman’s Digital Leader expecting a very different experience from the one I got. Qualman is a thought leader on the transformative potential of social media whose 2010 bestseller, Socialnomics, is considered a textbook in its field. I expected Digital Leader would instruct me on how to further immerse myself in these tools of change.
But quite the opposite is true. While Digital Leader is unabashedly enthusiastic about technology, it is more about about restoring balance to your life, getting your priorities straight, learning to relax and even disconnecting from the grid on occasion. I’ve already made three or four changes to my daily routine as a result of insights I gained from this book, and that’s good enough to merit an enthusiastic endorsement.
Qualman (left) lays out his thesis in the book’s very first words: “Life is complex; those that simplify it win.” What follows is an engagingly uplifting read that focuses on making the most of your productive time so that you can maximize the value of your downtime.
The phenomenon Digital Leader addresses is familiar to many of us. Our world increasingly demands that we be constantly connected and always available. Our greatest challenge is no longer how to connect with others but to keep our digital lifelines from entangling us.
Qualman cites numerous examples of people who have found this balance. They range from Monster.com founder Jeff Taylor, who refuses to check e-mail after he leaves the office every day, to football star Rosie Grier, who found relief from a pressurized career in needlepoint. Chapter 5, entitled “Simple = Success,” has many practical examples of how we can simplify daily tasks, and I’ve already put some of them into practice. For example:
Don’t be a prisoner to your inbox. The fact that someone sends you an unsolicited e-mail does not mean you are obliged to respond. Most e-mail messages that demand a reply can be dispatched with a delete key or a one-sentence response. Someone else’s needs are not necessarily your problem. This advice is already saving me time.
Focus on completing the tasks that matter. Multitasking actually makes us less productive. Set out two goals to accomplish each day and make them your first priority. Everything else can wait.
Follow your passion. Qualman is particularly taken with the examples of legendary innovators like Thomas Edison and Henry Ford, who refused to accept the conventional wisdom that what they were doing was futile and who treated failure as a necessary step on the path to success. Innovators have big dreams.
Unplug occasionally. Qualman recommends completely shutting off e-mail, Twitter and the like once a week. I’m not there yet, but it’s a laudable goal.
Rest. Sleep deprivation and 17-hour workdays ultimately impair judgment and lead to bad decisions. Let your body, not your alarm clock, determine how much sleep you need. I heeded that advice and got an extra hour of sleep just this morning.
Failure is a persistent theme in Digital Leader, but always in a positive sense. “I failed my way to success,” says Edison in a quotation leading a chapter that highlights the virtues of what Qualman calls “failing forward.” Veterans of the tech world will recognize this willingness to learn from one’s mistakes as a core ingredient in the success of Silicon Valley. Other parts of the world have tried to attract technology entrepreneurs with tax breaks and subsidies, but none has duplicated this essential trait.
Don’t interpret these examples to mean that Digital Leader is some kind of self-help tutorial. Substantial sections of the book are devoted to the stories of successful leaders, although not all of them are digital. The overarching message of this book, however, is that balance, passion and a willingness not to take oneself too seriously are qualities that many leaders share. Digital tools are a means to an end, but they shouldn’t be a lifestyle.
Most small businesses are terrible at marketing in general and online marketing in particular. That’s understandable: The founders are usually more passionate about what they do than about promoting themselves.
But with Facebook becoming the place you just have to be for businesses of all sizes, a little marketing know-how comes in handy. I recently spoke to Mark Schmulen, general manager of social media at the small-business-focused e-mail service provider Constant Contact about how to go beyond the Facebook wall and make the social network a practical and measurable small business marketing platform.
“When we look at what platforms our small business customers are using for social media marketing, 94% of them are on Facebook,” Schmulen said. However, “Most small businesses are doing Facebook without knowing why they’re doing it.”
That’s the herd mentality at work. While it’s pretty easy to create a Facebook page, the task of convincing visitors to create persistent relationships through the “Like” button and to engage in conversation requires different skills. Forrester Research has estimated fewer than 15% of people who click a Like button ever visit the page again. Getting that repeat traffic is the special sauce of Facebook success.
Here are five tips that Schmulen recommends:
Tip #1: Know what your goals are. Sounds simple but it ain’t necessarily so. Depending on the business, goals might range from generating orders to attracting subscribers to building thought leadership. Whatever your goal, you need an offer to match.
Archway Cookies and Fortune Cookies are both focused on trials, the first through coupons and the second via a contest. Vindale Research isn’t in the food business, though; it wants to recruit people who are interested in getting paid to take surveys.
Each company matches its offer to its goal, whether it’s a free trial, information or downloadable assets like ringtones. Offers should always include a clear call to action, and you can use rotating FBML (Facebook Markup Language) pages to test different offers. If you lead with your wall, you’re missing an opportunity.
Tip #2: Make your offer shareable. There’s a Facebook phenomenon called the “power of 130.” The average Facebook member has 130 friends and the fastest way to spread a message is through social sharing. Facebook automatically offers members the opportunity to share a Like, but the real creativity comes when you can convince people to share some kind of unique content or offer you provide.
For example, Intrepid Travel invites visitors to play a trivia game and share results with friends. Players can also sign up to visit the exotic places highlighted in the game. Each answer to the quiz is shareable, as is the final score.
Tip #3: Keep it simple. Intel’s Facebook welcome page features product promotions, a gateway to its international pages, jobs, discounts and even a Twitter feed. Intel can get away with all that because it’s Intel, but for most small businesses, less is more, Schmulen recommends. He favors an approach like that of Fitness magazine, which rewards new fans with “our all-time favorite abs workout!” Fitness has a variety of other offers on its Facebook presence, but it leads with the simplest one.
That doesn’t mean you can’t have multiple offers, but give each one its own page and rotate them through different promotions. It’s easier to test results that way, too.
Tip #4: Promote everywhere. “’Field of Dreams’ was a horrible move for people who are learning about marketing,” Schmulen says. “Just because you build it doesn’t mean people will come. When you create a campaign, share it across all your social networks and e-mails. Use every channel you have.” I couldn’t have said it better.
Tip #5: Measure. Surveys, A/B tests, website analytics and marketing automation are essential tools for professional marketers, but you don’t have to be a statistician to understand whether or not your campaigns are working. Facebook’s built-in analytics give you a pretty good idea of what’s sparking conversation on your page. Take the 10-minute tour and learn what they mean. PageLever is one of the first independent Facebook measurement tools, and I expect there will be more. You can also use free and simple utilities like Bit.ly and Google URL Builder to track the popularity of links you post on Facebook. Most commercial e-mail services also offer pretty good metrics to show which messages are resonating.
Schmulen ticks off some factors to consider: “How many people visit the landing page? How many participate in the offer? How many share the offer? If people visit the page but don’t take the offer, it isn’t compelling enough. If they accept the offer but don’t share it, it isn’t distinctive enough. A great campaign gets people to connect, accept your offer and share it with their friends.”
Getting people to Like you is just the beginning, of course. A really effective Facebook presence is an ongoing conversation with lots of questions, challenges and responses. For inspiration, you could do worse than look at Constant Contact’s Facebook wall, where the company constantly seeks input on everything from new product ideas to the choice of band at a celebration party.
This is one in a series of posts sponsored by IBM Midsize Businessthat explore people and technologies that enable midsize companies to innovate. In some cases, the topics are requested by IBM; however, the words and opinions are entirely my own.
Want a low-cost, fun and effective way to reward your most active Facebook contributors? Steal a page from Cisco, whose corporate page is one of the best B2B presences on Facebook.
Last year, Cisco started the SuperFan program to recognize its best community members. Each month, administrators recognize one fan and highlight him or her at the top of the page. Two of the monthly winners were just chose as SuperFans of the Year and celebrated on the Facebook page as well as on the Cisco Platform Blog.
Winners get no cash or large prizes, just some Cisco swag and lots of thanks and exposure. Co-winner Sandee Weiner commented, “VERY VERY proud of reaching SuperFan status with Cisco! I’m pretty passionate about technology and the way social collaboration brings folks together.”
Cost to Cisco: next to nothing. Value: a lot more than that. Next up is a photo contest challenging people to show the Cisco logo or products in the most unusual or exotic places. That’s another great low-cost idea.
As part of my work with IBM Midsize Business, I monitor and contribute to an active IT community called Spiceworks. This collection of hard-core geeks (1.8 million as of this writing) loves to get down and dirty about the day-to-day issues of managing infrastructure at small and midsize businesses, but they also like to have fun. The Water Cooler group features an unending stream of discussion about everything from the Zombie apocalypse weapon of choice to clueless user stories. There’s a curious fascination with bacon.
If you’re a fan of The Big Bang Theory, you know that techies love superheroes. UDReplicas sells full-blown costumes of most of the great characters (right). They’re gorgeous, but they aren’t cheap. Most cost more than $1,500 fully loaded. Still, for that special geek in your life, it’s an investment.
if you’re on a budget, consider satisfying the superhero within. Superherostuff.com sells wearable accessories for just about every superhero you can imagine. This includes pajamas and underwear for men and for women. Just please remember to do the laundry.
Just Geek Gifts
Save time hunting for geek gifts on Brookstone and Hammacher Schlemmer by heading directly to ThinkGeek.com. The people who put together this bountiful store clearly know their audience, because it was the most-mentioned e-commerce destination by the Spiceheads. Highlights include the Blade Runner-Style LED Umbrella ($19.99), the LED Binary Watch (which requires you to translate 10 LED lights into the time, $69.99), and the awesome Star Wars Jedi & Sith Bath Robes ($89.99).
Geeks are fascinated with time, as evidenced by several recommendations of clocks and timepieces. The Time Machine Ball Bearing Clock ($49.95) lifts a ball bearing onto “a durable concentric track at regular intervals. Here it moves with others on a slow downward course, both halted and propelled by ‘see-saws’ that tip when correctly weighted. Correct time can be read by observing the numerals that the balls are aligned with.” It sounds like a lot of effort to find out what time it is, but maybe not as much as reading the binary watch.
Burning down the house
In the category of Stuff That Has No Practical Value But Is Too Awesome Not to Own come products from WickedLasers.com. Many of this retailer’s products are simply super-bright flashlights, but a few might require FAA approval. In particular, the S3 Krypton Series and S3 Arctic Series ($299.95 each) both vie for the title of “brightest laser you can legally own.” Of the Krypton product, WickedLasers says, “Our Earth’s atmosphere ends at 62 miles, but the Krypton goes beyond as it breaks through our atmosphere, into outer space.” Who says the U.S. space program is dead?
The Arctic model is “currently being tested by Guinness World Records [as] the world’s most powerful handheld laser…The 1000 mW output power of the blue laser beam is able to burn through balloons, plastic, and much more.” If you don’t believe me, see the video below. Enjoy, but please stay away from my neighborhood.
Practical and Cool
Not everything on the geeks’ shopping list is pointless fun. There are Floppy Disk Sticky Notes ($9.99 for a pack of three) and my favorite: the Nest Learning Thermostat (available early next year for $249). This little marvel is a programmable thermostat with a brain. It learns from your behavior and over the course of a week or two automatically changes the temperature settings in your home to match your living pattern. “One-off temperature changes won’t confuse it, but change the temperature a couple of days in a row and Nest will catch on and adjust its schedule,” says the site. “Lower the temperature two Mondays in a row and Nest will remember for next week.” It has a lot of other bells and whistles, including a feature that tells you how much energy you’re saving. There are iPhone and Android apps, ‘natch.
Did I Mention Bacon?
Most geeks I’ve known drink sparingly, shun tobacco and avoid recreational drugs. But that doesn’t mean they’re complete health freaks. One major weakness: bacon. The Cooking with Spice group on Spiceworks has dozens of discussions on the topic, and breakfast meat came up several times on the holiday wish list. For $9.75 Geek Cantina will sell you a thick slice of pork to hang on your Christmas tree. The bad news: It’s out of stock. But my favorite is Tactical Canned Bacon. That’s right, it’s bacon in a can. A 9 oz. container provides 18 servings of porcine pleasure that lasts more than 10 years on your shelf. I can’t say it better than ThinkGeek.com:
The zombies have fought long and hard, but the tide is seeming to finally turn. We will survive this invasion…because we were smart enough to stock up on Tac Bac – Tactical Canned Bacon. That is why we are strong; that is why we’ll win.
The folks at the Webby Awards sent along a super-helpful list of Web resources to use over the holidays. They range from social shopping to gift recommendations to real-time TV and music sharing. While I was familiar with several of these sites, I hadn’t heard of gems like Yap.tv, Wantful and Trippy. Definitely bookmarkable. The descriptions below were provided by the Webby Awards.
Video chatting is now a standard activity for most Internet users – in fact, earlier this year, Skype reported that their users log 300 million minutes of video calls daily. Skype has recently added a new multi-party platform that allows up to 10 people to video chat with each other, which is a great way to get the family together, even if you’re all far away from each other.
Sony has brought together two of its popular platforms by creating virtual movie theaters on Playstation 3 that stream content from Crackle - and it’s planning to add more digital hangouts later this year.
A great app that brings people together around their favorite TV shows – it shows every program on television at any moment and lets you socialize with other viewers. It pulls in tweets about the show and has a built-in chat functionality so you can talk while you watch. This is especially useful for every “Elf” re-run on TBS or if you’re sucked into another “A Christmas Story” 24-hour-marathon.
Through sites like this, shopping online is no longer an isolated event. Shopping online is now social. These sites allow you converse with friends (through Skype and chat), compile lookbooks for your friends and family’s seal of approval, and most importantly, buy online.
SocialVest is an online retail platform that allows customers to buy and give at the same time. With SocialVest, you can make purchases at your favorite stores - like Target, Walmart, Bloomingdales, and more – and a percentage of all your purchases will go to a charity of your choice.
Make someone’s day brighter with this site that allows you to send a lucky person a gift of your choosing. All you need to submit is your first name, general location, and a picture of the gift you’re sending, and the site will generate a random address.
With a well-designed, streamlined interface and smart use of filters, Hipmunk makes it easy to find the right flight or the best hotel. The site also has an app available for your phone or tablet device.
It makes it easy for you to get recommendations and tips for what to do (whether you are heading home for the holidays or on a dream vacation) from your friends who already know you and your interests and needs, helping you travel better.
Whether it’s a 6-hour flight home or over-the-river-and-through-the-woods, every trip is a little shorter with good book. Now, Amazon allows you to share your favorite books with your friends. Each loan lasts 14 days and are automatically returned to your library at the end.
With Facebook presenting a tempting target of 800 million potential customers, small businesses are flocking to social network as a fast and easy way to generate business. But many SMB’s don’t take full advantage of the Facebook platform because they’re intimidated by the learning curve and the technical knowledge that Facebook applications demand.
Against the GrainThis is one in a series of posts that explore people and technologies that are enabling small companies to innovate. The series is underwritten by IBM Midsize Business, but the content is entirely my own.
That doesn’t have to be the case, says David Brody, Managing Partner at North Social, a software as a service company that specializes in serving small and medium businesses (SMBs) with a suite of Facebook apps that they can quickly integrate into their Facebook presence. I talked to Brody about tips for SMBs that want to optimize their Facebook presence.
It’s not about the likes. Research has shown that few people who “like” a Facebook page ever return to it. That means that getting a like is a means to an end, but not a goal.
“This is a test-measure-modify world,” Brody says. In other words, experiment with different offers and incentives to build fans and then measure those that deliver engagement and return visits. Remember, this isn’t direct mail, and your cost of trying something new is basically zero. On the flipside, simply getting someone to click a button is not enough. “‘Excite, Educate, Motivate’ has replaced ‘Awareness, Trial, Purchase,’” Brody says.
Match the offer to the business. Those ubiquitous iPad giveaways may not be doing much more than delivering business to Apple. Brody tells of one business owner in Atlanta whose offer of a flat-screen TV as contest prize yielded only 60 new likes. Maybe the problem was that the company is in the heating/ventilation/air conditioning business. An offer of offer of free or discounted air conditioning equipment might have played pretty well in Atlanta during the summer.
Capture and communicate. Facebook pages and apps offer easy ways to collect e-mail addresses. This creates a permission-based vehicle to continue a conversation. E-mail and news feeds can be used to deliver an ongoing stream of information that reminds people of who you are. Clif Bar asks first-time visitors to like its page in order to sign up for a newsletter, while Moosejaw Mountaineering touts giveaways, rewards points and tips..
This doesn’t mean e-mail is obsolete, but with inboxes mail clogged and people spending an hour a day on Facebook, the newsfeed has become an attractive alternative channel.
Use Facebook for sampling. Conventional wisdom holds that product samples need to be distributed on the street or unsolicited to the mail. It turns out Facebook can be an even better channel. One North Social customer that makes pretzels distributed 10,000 samples in less than 24 hours by sending them to people who liked its page. People who have opted in for a sample are more likely to be buyers than passersby in a supermarket. Audience quality more than compensates for the higher cost of distribution.
Buy ads against pages of competitors or similar products. The great appeal of Facebook ads is their narrow targeting. Davids can ride on the backs of Goliaths by targeting ads to fans of much bigger brands. “If your product is candy, buy ads on the Skittles page,” Brody says. It’s the fastest way to find candy lovers online.
Keep the message simple and change it often. Don’t flatter yourself by thinking people will spend a minute on your page trying to figure out your message or offer. “Facebook is the equivalent of an out-of-home billboard,” Brody says. “You only have a few seconds to make an impression. Keep your message to a few words and make it compelling.” Remember the earlier point: You can always change the offer and test something new.
Get people involved. Brody is no fan of the automated tools that enable page owners to auto-post content across multiple social platforms. “No one wants to be friends with a robot,” he says. “Motivate your alpha evangelists.” Games, quizzes and giveaways work well, particularly if they challenge the audience to be creative.
One midsize business that Brody thinks does a lot of things well on Facebook is footwear maker Sanuk. From its provocative “like” message to its offbeat video to an online store that juxtaposes user comments with product shots, it provokes conversation at every turn. North Social’s examples page has plenty more.
I was privileged to be on a panel with some outstanding social media practitioners from the insurance industry at the 2011 Social Media Conference for Financial Services put on by LOMA LIMRA this morning. Financial services firms – and insurance companies in general – are often seen as boring, but what these companies are doing within the confines of a heavily regulated business is anything but that. Farmers Insurance for example, hasn’t accumulated 2.3 million Facebook likes by boring people.
I actually think insurance is a fascinating business. It involves taking calculated risks about the unexpected. Insurance companies need to know a lot about the world around us, because their business deals with so many variables, from accidents to earthquakes to the chance of being hit by a meteor. This morning’s audience of about 100 social media practitioners truly believe in the value of new platforms to reach their customers, although they have understandable concerns about the many regulations that govern what they can say.
Here are some notes I took away from the three speakers on my panel.
Gregg Weiss (@greggweiss) of New York Life says the company’s social media content strategy is driven by constantly asking, “What can we do that isn’t about life insurance?” This was a theme that was borne out in every presentation: It’s not about the company but about what motivates customers.
His best story actually had nothing to do with insurance but everything to do with using social marketing to build loyalty and word-of-mouth awareness.
He told of buying a coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts: milk, no sugar. But when he got to the office, he found the beverage was loaded with sugar. “I couldn’t drink it.” He tweeted his dissatisfaction. Within two minutes he had a reply tweet from the head of corporate communications at Dunkin’. She asked for a phone call, during which she apologized and offered a gift card, which arrived in the mail two days later. “I tweeted about Dunkin’ Donuts’ great response,” he said. “It was a huge win for them. “
His advice to social media marketers: “Think big. Everyone in this room has the power to change things at your company. That’s incredibly empowering.”
Quotable: “The VP of Social Media at New York Life is the hundreds of thousands of people who have online relationships with us.”
And finally, “Seek a higher purpose. I hope someday to hear a story of a kid who got to go to college because a parent bought a life insurance policy from us.”
State Farm got started in social media when it set up a blog to find New Orleans-area employees and agents who couldn’t be located after Hurricane Katrina. “Within 24 hours, that blog was key to our locating ever agent and employee,” Thul said. Today, State Farm is all over Facebook, with pages for the corporation, careers, Latino customers, the Bayou Classic football event and an innovative youth-oriented forum called State Farm Nation (right), where people can “discuss life’s challenges and opportunities, connect with others facing life-shaping decisions [and] find helpful tips and information.” With 1.3 million likes, it’s doing pretty well.
The insurance company’s YouTube channel has had more than five million views, many for its TV commercials. The ads have spawned parodies, but Thul says the company is pretty sanguine about them. “If people care enough to have a bit of fun with you, that’s OK, as long as it isn’t brutal,” he said.
State Farm evaluates social media opportunities using four criteria:
Relevance to business strategy;
Role clarity: who is responsible for talking and responding;
These four criteria provide a framework for making a rapid and relevant decision about new platforms and opportunities like Google Plus.
Words of wisdom: “People want to be heard. If they believe you’re listening to them, they’ll like you a little more.”
Theresa Kaskey (@TheresaKaskey), Director of Brand Management and Strategy at the John Hancock Financial Network, joined the company without any plans to get involved in social media. John Hancock had no social media strategy at time. Today, it’s 80% of what she does. There’s been a long education and adoption process, but company management is buying in, she said. John Hancock recently launched its first blog, Build4Success, and it’s posted nearly 40 videos on YouTube. Unlike the other two speakers on the panel, who speak primarily to consumers, John Hancock Financial Network’s audience is financial advisers.
YouTube has been one of its early successes. “We created more than 80% of our launch content in one day,” Kaskey said. “We had a meeting of our advisers and brought them into a room one by one to talk about how they delight their customers.” It’s been a low-cost, high-return recruiting success.
Words of widom: A key element of successful social media programs is “It’s not about us.”