Are we “too connected”?

IMG_8534Over the past six months, I’ve noticed an overwhelming (and somewhat shocking) trend at almost every in-person meeting I attend. Before I tell you what it is, I bet you either have one right beside you, or you may be reading this blog post from one. That’s right – I’m talking about cell phones – those wonderful little devices that allow us to hold the whole world on our fingertips. Now, I’m not saying that I’m not guilty of having my iPhone by me at meetings from time to time, but now that I’m tuned into the fact that many of us feel we “need” to have our devices inches from our reach, I’ve been consciously putting my phone away. This rant isn’t to scold anyone who may keep their phone next to them, but I’m hoping this may serve as a gentle reminder that it’s OK to put your phone away. I promise you that the withdrawal from your device won’t kill you. Sure, you may get the shakes or feel anxious about missing the next great selfie your friends post to Facebook- but I can guarantee you (and most importantly) your co-workers and client will secretly be happy that you were fully engaged in the conversation.

Are we capable of multitasking? 

Multitasking is a skill that many people think they are good at. But can the human brain truly process multiple things at the same time and process them well? Ira Hyman, a Western Washington University cognitive psychologist and professor believes multitasking comes at a significant cost.  “Whenever people are in a situation when they’re both trying to track a social interaction they’re engaged in and track something with their cell phones, they’re engaged in a divided-attention task,” Hyman says. “What this means is that they’ll do both things more poorly than if they did one of them.”

Meeting Etiquette

I guess the point I’m trying to get to is that having your phone out at a meeting just seems rude. So please, the next time you’re in a face-to-face meeting, make it just that. Face-to-screen just isn’t the same.

Author: Allison Ewing[Google+]

Time for a Facebook Break?

facebookbreak 2Every generation has its breaks. For my grandfather it was a lunch break. For my parents it was a coffee break or a smoke break. So what breaks do we take today? Increasingly we check our favorite social media channels to see what’s going on.

True Digital Media Strategist Shannon Wallace pointed out a new social media trend. With so many people using mobile devices to access social media, it’s common to take a quick break during the workday to check Facebook, Twitter or Instagram to see what’s going on. Shannon refers to it as a Facebook Break. It’s the Millennial’s and Generation X’s version of a coffee or smoke break, which they might be doing too since they multitask constantly.

When you’re developing a social media strategy, remember to think about how your target audience consumes social media. They’re probably not Facebooking for hours but instead are checking in for five to 10 minutes. You need to grab their attention and not ask them to do too much. They don’t have time. Remember, no one likes to work when they’re taking a break.

Digital Nomads – A new approach to mobile marketing strategy

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It’s no secret that mobile is the future of marketing. So I won’t restate that truth. However, I will beg you not to underestimate the statement. It’s easy to do. Marketing is all about connecting an audience with products and services. We do this by knowing and understanding the audience.

That audience is changing. All of it. Not just 18 to 25 year olds or affluent professionals. All of it. We are now perpetually in motion and it’s all thanks to our phones.

We aren’t embracing mobile

The concept of mobile is unnatural to us. Thousands of years ago, people learned life was easier if they stayed in one place, harvested crops and domesticated livestock. Since then, we’ve evolved the concept to the point of infallibility. We’ve swapped trade for a monetary system, commercialized food production and engineered endless technological advances to make stationary life simpler. The idea is so baked into our ethos that it’s become a core tenant of marketing: place. The physical location of a good or service.

But we made one mistake. We got too good at developing and refining agricultural, industrialized society. You can get in your car and drive as far as you’d like in any direction. As long as you have a wallet and credit card, you’ll find food and shelter. Add a smartphone, and suddenly you have a traveling stationary life – a new form of nomadic living.

Overcoming instinct

People aren’t just looking for your product or service from their computer chair in a home office. This is no surprise. But look a step further and you can see nomadic living in everything about how audiences interact with your product or service. Are your mobile users at work, on the couch watching TV, sitting in traffic or in a hotel room? What do they want to know in those times and places?

We’ve heard marketing teams talk about responsive redesigns as failures because mobile bounce rates don’t change. But mobile users are often only looking for a name or address. They will go to a page, get the info they need, leave the site and register as a bounce.

Sometimes marketers miss opportunities in lead generation because a site doesn’t cater to customers on the move. This can mean a lot of things. Maybe you’re asking for information that’s too cumbersome on a mobile device. Even if you think your mobile strategy is buttoned up, consider this scenario. True was recently at SMX Advanced (a search marketing conference for SEOs and search engine advertisers) where Matt Cutts, the head of Google’s Webspam team and overall Google guru, asked a room full of top digital marketers if they felt they had outstanding mobile strategies. Every hand in the room shot up. Then he asked if their lead-gen forms were coded to autofill on mobile devices. The majority of hands slowly receded and everyone looked kind of embarrassed.

Now what?

This post isn’t a roadmap to a better mobile strategy. It isn’t even a lesson in mobile marketing. It’s a strong recommendation to re-evaluate your audience and learn how and why they move. Because they are going somewhere. If you can’t help them get there faster, then someone else will.

Author: Tyler Norris [Google+]

Our New Favorite Pinterest Tool

When Pinterest introduced analytics for business accounts in early 2013, marketers could finally gain some insight into what works and what doesn’t work for their brand. Pinterest’s built-in analytics show what’s popular (most pinned and most clicked), what’s been pinned from your website and documents impressions, reach, clicks and visits for a specified date range.

But what if you want to go beyond metrics for individual pins? How do you know what boards are working well, which ones have the highest potential to go viral, and where to focus your efforts for maximum visibility? That’s where Tailwind comes in. We’ve been using the free version for the past few months and we’re impressed.

The profile view gives you a quick snapshot of the basic stats (followers, pins, repins and likes), but then goes a step further to translate those stats into engagement indicators that  tell you how your entire account is performing.Screen Shot 2014-06-05 at 3.22.22 PM

 

From there, Tailwind digs into each individual board in an account and provides a snapshot of activity (pins, followers and repins) plus the same engagement indicators. Using this information, marketers can begin to zero in on boards and topics with high engagement and use that information to further drive Pinterest strategy.

Screen Shot 2014-06-05 at 3.31.45 PM

How about you? What are your favorite Pinterest tools or tricks?

 

What’s the Key to Digital Networking? Make it Personal.

Screen Shot 2014-05-15 at 10.32.55 AMIt’s that time of year again when thousands of graduating college students begin their job search and realize how tough making it in the “real world” can be.  Young marketing professionals often ask me how they can stand out as they search for their first job.  My advice to all jobseekers is to engage with prospective employers through digital networking and to make it personal.

Have a plan when you start your job search and do research on the companies and industries that interest you. There is a wealth of knowledge available online, but don’t stop there. Invest time and effort into digital networking with key individuals at your target companies. This is just like regular networking but is done through online channels.

Google the name of the gatekeeper who you would like to meet. I know this isn’t new advice but don’t stop there. Are they on LinkedIn? How about Twitter? What are their social media habits? For example, are they posting articles on LinkedIn or engaging with contacts on Twitter? Do they actively write a blog? Watch and learn more about how they engage with others, their interests and the types of information they read and share.

After performing your research, go ahead and connect or follow them, but you need to stand out. This is where you need to make your digital networking personal. Tell them a little about yourself. When you follow them on Twitter, let them know you like their tweets. For LinkedIn, do not just send them the standard, “I’d like to connect with you” request. Send a personalized request to connect instead of the standard LinkedIn request. Don’t share your life story but let them know you are genuinely interested in them.

Social media channels like Twitter and LinkedIn provide a very nonthreatening forum to meet and network. Facebook may be a good channel too, but for me, it’s too personal. While each is a wonderful platform for expanding your network, they lack the personal touches that are so important in a business or personal relationship. The key is to stand out by making your communications personal with them. Share articles and stories you believe will be of interest with them. Comment or engage in an interesting post. All of these activities will help separate you from everyone else.

And when you see a job posting or are ready to ask for an informational interview, you’ll already have been engaging with this person. Trust me, this is a huge advantage during the interview process.

Finally, in this world of instant communications don’t forget about the value and significance of writing a personal note after an interview. A thank you letter sent through the mail gets noticed. It is far more valuable than an email.

 

 

 

The Social Update Checklist – Process in Posting

Chris Baldwin and Tyler Norris recently spoke at the YouToo Social Media Conference presented by Akron PRSA in Kent, Ohio. Their session focused on True’s checklist for posting social media updates. The following post highlights insights from the presentation.

Wtrue-postchecklisthether it’s from a content calendar, under direction from a marketing manager or off the top of your head, you post new content on social channels daily. You type a sentence or two, maybe include a photo or a link and you send it of into the social ether with your fingers crossed – hoping for retweets, waiting for shares, longing for engagement. Instead of relying on the fictive social gods to lift your post onto the wings of social prosperity, apply some strategy to help. We recently finished a book called the Checklist Manifesto for our agency book club. The book is a nonfiction account of how some of the most complex professionals (surgeons, pilots and civil engineers) have implemented checklists to be more efficient and save lives. While social media and marketing strategy may not save lives, we thought we could learn a thing or two. The result was a checklist to make sure every social update, no matter what the focus, is as engaging is it can be.

VALUE Providing value in social posts

Value doesn’t have to be a discount, a freebie or contest. We define value as anything that would make your followers say “thanks.” Sometimes this is affirming quotes, humor or helpful tips. It all depends on your audience. What do they want from you?

MESSAGING

Make sure anything you post caters to your band messaging. It sounds selfish and may not directly influence engagement, but remember what you’re here to do: benefit your brand. A lot of times we see organizations break this rule when posting topical content that has nothing to do with their brand. For example, “Yay! It’s the first day of Spring!” or “Can you believe the How I met Your Mother finale? #disappointed.” Maybe these are relevant in some cases, but odds are, you should steer clear. Stick to topics that allow you to create a direct connection.

TONE

How does your brand talk to its followers? Things like user personas and competitive research are particularly beneficial here. The more you know about your audience, the more you can effectively talk with them. Beyond some of these traditional tactics we use a basic Excel function to determine which words and phrases resonate with audiences. “=AverageIf” tells you the average of a range of data based on a specific criterion in a separate range. Put simply, it can tell the average reach or engagement of posts including specific words or phrases. Just export your data to excel. Using the syntax below, include your posts in the column A range, the word or phrase (surrounded by asterisks and quotes) and your metrics in column B. =AverageIf([post copy],”*[word or phrase]*”,[metric you’re measuring]) True-AverageIf

CONTEXT

Provide context for social posts Last but not least, make sure users can understand your posts. It’s scary how often I come across updates online that make no sense. If I view the media or click the link, I can piece it together, but it’s 2014 and this is the Internet! It should be easier! You may not agree, but your followers think this way. We like to give posts a new-follower test. Will the post make sense to someone who just heard about your brand? This is typically your basic who, what, where, when, why and can be tougher than it sounds when dealing with 140 characters, but it’s worth the additional clicks. So think before you post. Stop relying on social magic and be a social master!

Author: Tyler Norris [Google+]

When #Hashtags Go Wrong

hashtag 2Hashtags are funny things. It’s easy to get so caught up in coming up with a few perfect words to sum up a new campaign that you completely overlook potential problems. Even breaking news stories and big brands fall prey to hashtag fails:

  • #nowthatcherisdead was intended for mentions of Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher following her death. However, US audiences frequently misread it as NowThatCherIsDead, leading to false reports that the singer had passed away.
  • When The Hobbit movie was released tweets promoting the movie in Switzerland included the movie title and the country code for Switzerland (CH), leading to…#hobbitch.

Even perfectly appropriate hashtags can fail due to bad timing.  Local Kalahari Resort is located in Sandusky, Ohio and used the #sandusky hashtag to promote Father’s Day events in 2012. Probably not a good idea at a time when “Sandusky” was in the news for other (definitely not family-friendly) reasons.

With those warnings in mind, a few quick tips before you slap a hashtag on your next campaign:

  • Google it – Is the term you’re considering already associated with something? Can it be connected to current events?
  • Translate it – Does the term mean something negative in another language?
  • Drop the capital letters – If you run the term together with no capitals, can it be misread? (For an epic fail on this one, just Google “susan album party.” Susan Boyle’s PR team wasn’t having their best day…)
  • Research it some more – Run the term through tagdef.com to see if it’s already in use, and check UrbanDictionary.com for alternate meanings.

A little research now could save you from appearing in the next edition of  “How Not to Twitter.”

Giving the Gift of Life: Paint it Forward

#TaylorBlue #OutliveYourself

#TaylorBlue #OutliveYourself

For those who know me, you already know that I love to paint my nails. However, when I stumbled across OPI’s “Taylor Blue” nail polish, I didn’t know it would have the impact on me that it did.

On March 15, 2010, Taylor Storch lost her life in a tragic skiing accident while on vacation with her family. It was then that her parents made the decision to donate Taylor’s organs: the ultimate gift of life.

Taylor’s organs saved the lives of numerous people, including a 39-year-old mother in Arizona who desperately needed a heart transplant. This tragic, yet beautiful story of donation was featured on ABC News and brought Taylor’s mom and dad  together with the recipient of their daughter’s heart.  With a stethoscope in hand, Taylor’s mom was able to listen to her daughter’s heart beat one more time. (I highly suggest having tissues close by when watching this.)

Taylor’s Gift Foundation was formed to spread awareness on organ donation and re-gifting life. As one of its fundraisers, the Foundation partnered with OPI to create the Taylor Blue nail polish.  When you purchase this nail polish, you are encouraged to post photos to social media with #TaylorBlue and #OutliveYourself along with a message about organ donation.

I purchased my bottle of Taylor Blue back in December- but it’s not too late to buy it! It’s actually perfect timing because April is National Donate Life month. So whether you purchase this nail polish for yourself or a friend, please remember how important organ donation is. According to Lifebanc, Northeast Ohio’s nonprofit organ and tissue recovery organization, more than 3,000 Ohioans are on the national waiting list with approximately 1,700 in NEO alone. That number grows to 118,000 people on the national waiting list when you include the other 49 states.

But YOU have the ability to save the lives of up to 8 people through organ donation and enhance the lives of more than 50 people through tissue donation. All you have to do is say YES. If you do one thing today, please consider signing up to be an organ donor. It only takes a few minutes of your time–which may give someone else a lifetime.

How to become a registered donor:

  1. Visit http://taylorsgift.org/register/ and select your state from the list
  2. Fill out your information
  3. Share your decision with friends and family- it could spark them to do the same!

 

Do you control technology or does it control you?

photo courtesy of: www.modernmami.com My name is Chris Baldwin and I suffer from smartphone anxiety and technology overload. As I watch my Google mail load, I’m often holding my breath. I have a to-do list every day but often get sidetracked from emails, texts and social media distractions that I can’t seem to push aside.

Do you feel like you’re always checking your smartphone? Or always sending a text or reading posts on Facebook? You’re not alone. On average, Americans interact with their smartphones 150 times a day. That’s a recipe for information overload.

According to author, scholar and consultant Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, I’m not alone. I heard Alex speak last week at the National Association of Independent Schools conference in Orlando. Alex is the brainchild behind Contemplative Computing or learning to use information technologies in ways that help you be more focused and mindful, and to protect you from being perpetually distracted.

I highly recommend turning off your technology to hear Alex speak and if not, read his book, The Distraction Addiction. As he points out, nothing great ever happens through distraction. The key is learning how to use technology to focus.

We’ve never lived without technology but just because you can sleep with your smartphone doesn’t necessarily mean you should. Reading a text or checking Facebook or LinkedIn is like a shot of dopamine for your brain. Social media companies have figured this out and know how to grab our attention… and never let it go.

Alex’s message is to use technology to “extend our minds rather than facture them.” He mentioned there is a big push to turn off or unplug from technology. Ad agency JWT notes this in its 2014 trends update. There are even apps to control the interruptions on our laptops such as Ommwriter, Mac Freedom, LeechBlock and Stayfocused.

I guess I’m ready to put my smartphone away for a weekend. My wife refers to my iPhone as wife 2.0 because it never leaves my side. Want to try to put down technology for a day or two? Your timing couldn’t be any better. March 7 and 8 are the National Day of Unplugging. I can’t wait to give it a try but am a little nervous about all of the email waiting for me on Monday.  

Want to Stand Out in a High Tech Business World? Go Old School!

image (4)With the world moving faster and new toys and technologies making communication easier and less personal every day, how can you stand out in business today?  How can you let a client, associate or prospect know you are truly interested in them and not just sending them another impersonal email?

My advice: Don’t do what everyone else does. Don’t post another note on Facebook or send out a Tweet. Try something different that will stand out because it’s not fast, it’s not techy and it’s totally personal.  A handwritten note sent through the mail gets noticed because it takes time, effort and planning.

Note writing has become a lost art. Think about it. When was the last time you received a note in the mail when it wasn’t your birthday or a holiday? Or when was the last time you received a thank you note for a job well done. It has probably been a while. Just ask the U.S. Post Office.

When I was a child, I learned from my parents the power of a nicely written note to family and friends. Thank you notes were always done without delay. A note to simply let someone know I was thinking about them was always extra special.

This is still true today. A handwritten note says, “I appreciate you” in ways Facebook, Twitter or an email could never do. Try it. You’ll be surprised by the reaction you receive. An email is quickly forgotten and deleted out of your inbox. A note, is noticed.