Tag Archives: Social Media

Four skills every college graduate needs

I was shooting the breeze with a college professor friend of mine the other day because his son is getting married this coming June. We were musing over where the time goes and the topic turned to “kids today” as he was also trying to entice his nephew to an unpaid internship in his department. He is set to graduate after six years of pursuing a degree in journalism… no change that to communications… no, wait English.. oh, what I meant was education.

His mother — my friend’s sister — called him in a moment of panic, pleading with him to give her son an internship so he could build a reel or book of work. She does not want him sitting around the house, unemployed and unemployable for the summer and the following year. Worse, she does not want to foot the bill for grad school.

All of this led to a discussion about the core skills that every college graduate needs — regardless of the degree — but especially those with a Liberal Arts degree. They are; photography, videography, writing and social media.

The technical challenge of building web sites and containers to hold things has already been solved. Anyone can waltz into WordPress or Tumblr and set up an online presence in minutes without any coding skills whatsoever. You can set up a brand page on Facebook and Google+ without any design skills as the format is already handled. If there is anything more complicated, chances are you can buy a plugin to handle the task.

If you really wanted to branch out and customize your basic site, there are thousands of templates and skins to slap onto your site. While it may not make your site entirely unique, it comes close enough.

But what these sites need most is good content.

Photos. Videos. Blog posts. Social media engagement.

Learn these skills and you will never be unemployable.


White Room

The white room

White Room

I once saw this design makeover show on HGTV where the designer tried to get the family who was in the house to think about all design possibilities. She started out by removing all the furniture and painting everything white. The theory, as she explained it, was to start off with a blank canvass to illustrate that anything and everything was possible.

As I predicted, the family froze in the sea of possibility and lack of direction. The designer ended up guiding them into color combinations, design choices, etc., until they could see how everything was fitting together. Then, they came alive and started participating in the design of their makeover.

Very few people can see possibilities when presented with a blank canvass. Yet this is what happens time and time again with web sites and social media channels.

“You need to create content,” says the social media expert who has created the company’s new Facebook page, blog, Twitter account and Google Plus channel. “Y’know, stuff like videos and photos. Graphic content is always hot.”

And the client tenses up as if he is staring into a white room.

Unless you are prepared and skilled to provide the script, shooting and storytelling for the video or the art direction and shooting for the photos or crafting the blog article framework (or actually writing them) you may want to steer clear of advising a company to get into social media.

Simply setting up the social media channels and walking away is just painting a room white.

Five blind men, an elephant and social media

I was reading this blog post from Mitch Joel and his first paragraph reminded me of the old joke about the five blind men describing an elephant.

I think a lot of companies are so busy trying to figure out if social media is communications or customer service or advertising or –insert function here– that they do nothing and miss the opportunities social media would give them if they just DID something.

Social media is that elephant. If you feel comfortable with it being advertising, start there and do advertising. Then, when you have another blind guy in your company that claims social media is engagement, add him to your mix. Then customer service, then public relations…

Keep adding blind guys. The social media elephant is large enough to be all these things.

But don’t do nothing simply because you can’t all decide on what the elephant is. You’re always going to be somewhat blind to what social media is to the guy who is touching it most intimately.

Is social media for retail the chicken or the egg?

I was running through some stuff with a colleague on how retail is being shaped dramatically by social media. I threw out a few ways at-retail is changing on smart phones and how POP should be keeping up with the various ways people are weaving their virtual selves into their in-real-life selves.

“Isn’t this a chicken or the egg kind of thing?” he asked.

It’s actually both.

Social media is forcing retail change so fast that I think the chicken and the egg are in a photo-finish race with each other. If you are betting on one or the other, the only sure thing is you will lose. (unless you are Eggland’s Best or Tyson, of course)

Don’t worry about whether you have to develop a program first to attract followers or attract followers before developing a program.

Do them both together.

How to make yourself irrelevant in three years

In this faux case study, we’ll look at a restaurant’s adoption of social media tools like blogs, twitter, facebook, yelp and foursquare. I’m not picking on the restaurant industry but it is just the latest that will be undergoing this transformation.

By the way, we are already in Year Two.

Year One:
There are some winds of change happening in your industry, but you don’t know exactly what they are. Some of your slacker wait staff and idiot cooks in the kitchen are saying things like “I think we should be getting more involved with social media in some way” but you don’t have time for nonsense that is just a trend anyway. Yelp? What the heck is that? Sounds like the sound a chicken makes to complain about being roasted, you joke. Meanwhile, the crazy Italian-Asian fusion bistro guy down the street is twittering and blogging and doing stupid videos and the YouTube. “I don’t understand how he is still in business,” you muse to yourself. “He’s always doing goofy stuff.”

Year Two:
This is when tech blogs and some experts start hypothesizing about the use of some tech tools for your industry. You begin to see some of the industry leaders join in and experiment around with the tools with no clear direction. They are experimenting. You find yourslf saying things like, “We really need to see the ROI on that activity first” and “let’s wait and see what so and so does” when you should be saying, “where is that crazy cook who was talking about twitter the other day? Get him in here now!” A few more of your competitors jump into the fray, a few more marketing and tech people start calling you to sell you some of these services but you don’t return their phone calls. After all, you’ve got a busy restaurant to run. People eat in real life. They just chat and giggle online.

Year Three:
You open up the Wall Street Journal and they have done a special section dedicated to the restaurant industry and how some eateries are using social media to showcase their chefs, turning them into local folk heros. The crazy Italian-Asian fusion bistro guy down the street is shown smiling in a full-color, full-page story on how restaurants are using social media to connect with their customers and generating return business with almost no traditional advertising. “Twitter and Yelp,” he replies when asked about his success. Tomorrow, you read a story in the Sunday New York Times about the restaurant business and social media. Again, that crazy Italian-Asian fusion bistro guy is beaming at you. On Monday, you start looking for a web guy and a social media guru who can help you put a social media program together. You find some freelancers and they hastily set up a blog on Blogger, a twitter account under @FoodGuy665 and a Facebook fan page. They also help scan your menus and paste into your web site as PDF files.

“That was cheap,” you say. “Glad I waited until I realized how to use all this social media stuff.” And the newspapers ignored your press release about your blog and social media. The story has already been done, they have moved on. Since you are now just one of the me-too crowd, you don’t see any additional sales as a result of all your hard work. The social media marketplace has become crowded and it is harder for your voice to be heard. Besides, you were just tweeting out your hours and how busy you were.

“Social media. Big deal,” you mutter to yourself as you lock up the restaurant for the last time.

You can always buy a food truck and go on the road. That trend is just beginning. Oh, wait, didn’t that appear in the WSJ last summer?

Old Spice drops the ball ten yards from the endzone

I was wheeling my cart through the shampoo and body wash aisle of my local Kroger when I was stopped dead in my tracks by a familiar voice. He said:

Look at my body wash, now look in your cart, now look at my body wash and take a bottle and place it in your cart. You are standing on my abs.

And I looked down and I was standing on Mustafa’s rock-hard abs!

Nice story, only it didn’t happen. I made it all up. This is what the last ten yards of a well-executed Old Spice social media campaign would have looked like.

For all the adulations Old Spice received from blogger after blogger, media show after show, tweet after tweet, somehow everyone forgot to actually sell something. The Old Spice display at Kroger in Englewood, Ohio — just a mere sixty miles up the road from P&G — looked the same today as it did before the campaign started on Wednesday. I took a picture in case you didn’t believe me.

In addition to the whiz-bang marketing that Wieden + Kennedy did for the social media campaign, they could also have easily contracted several merchandising service organizations to execute at retail with shelf talkers and floor mats. Even a simple cut-out and case pack at the end of the aisle would have worked; probably better and easier to execute.

Perhaps the next brand will get it right and carry the ball at a full-run across the end zone for a touchdown. It’s time for social media to get out of marketing and media and into operational execution. Eyeballs and clicks don’t buy product; bellybuttons do.

And that just leads to another vignette featuring Mustafa’s rock-hard abs starring his manly bellybutton.

Your thoughts? Leave them below.

Why boomers are hesitant to adopt social media tools for serious business

I ran out of coffee filters the other day. Not a big deal, I’ll just hike to Kroger and get some more. When I got there, I saw the empty peghook that once held my filters. Moreover, there was a red tag on the hook informing me that this product would be discontinued.

Here’s why this is a big deal. A few years ago, the 53rd automatic drip coffee maker I have ever purchased in my life, died. Just quit. Arrgghh, there has to be a better way. And there was. Melitta makes this carafe and cone set that only requires hot water and gravity to make coffee. The only wrinkle is that it also requires a size 6 cone filter. But, since Kroger carried it, not a big deal. I adopted my new system. And it was great because it was so simple. It only really required gravity to work. And gravity was free.

Then someone at Kroger decided they were not selling enough #6 filters. And, without asking me, they just quit carrying them.

Amazon.com still sells the #6 and I just bought approximately 2.6 years worth of filters. Until my filters arrive, I am using paper towels to line the cone. In the event Melitta decides to quit selling the #6 cone filter altogether, I know I have 2.6 years to come up with an alternate solution to a perfectly good system. But, what I foolishly adopted outside of the normal 10-cup basket filter automatic drip coffee maker is now showing signs of that death-march to obsolescence. An inferior technology persists because it is ubiquitous.

We get change and new stuff. Really, we do. It excites us. It gets us out of bed every day. But we also have a library of 8mm reels our childhood is on that we can’t watch, a library of 8 track and cassettes our music is on that we can’t hear, a library of VHS tapes our children’s lives are on that we can’t relive and a mountain of Zip Drive cartridges our careers are on that we can’t share or pass on. We’ve seen the result of a system being brought to its knees when a tiny bit of the supply chain becomes obsolete right after we dedicate a large chunk of our lives to it.

We grew up in large families (which is why there are so many of us now clogging the ladder rungs to the top) where everything from dinner to clothes to mom’s attention was a competition with the people you lived with. Most of our families had one car and one income and choices were made based on the supply of resources. We got jobs that promised us work, retirement accounts and free benefits that seemed too good to be true. We took them and squirreled them away, believing that one day they would be gone (turns out we were right.) We’ve lived through and survived at least three recessions and a very large oil embargo. We’ve seen an explosive increase in the divorce rate. In short, we’ve been conditioned to know that free is never unlimited free. Free will run out. Free has a catch. The good times do not last. Commitments are broken every day without apology, remorse or obligation.

And now Twitter and Foursquare want to be the operations in our supply chains, somewhere between service delivery and invoicing. I can see the possibilities for several industries we do work for and it is very, very exciting. But Twitter is free, it has really no reason to be there tomorrow, no obligations, no contract with me.

As I reach for the coffee filters that are no longer there, between boiling the water and lining the cone with carefully folded paper towels, I pause and think, “What if Evan Williams decided to just quit doing Twitter?”

How social media is failing social media… and business

Screen shot 2009-11-02 at 1.18.35 PM

The Center for Media Research sent out their email Research Brief today about how small business are not into social networks for leads. As a small businessman myself, I agree with them. Kinda. I can’t recall the last lead I got twittering out my latest status or a coupon deal or where I am going to be at a certain time if anyone wants to chat, etc.

But then I got to thinking about how all the ways I use social media networks and how we employ them for a lot of our clients and kinda changed my mind. The problem is not the social media networks not being effective, but the MARKETING of the social media networks not being effective.

For example, one particular client uses Twitter to send out job posts, facilitate responses back to the post which enables qualified applicants to reply very quickly and the listing client to fill the job quickly. This in turn enables them to schedule in-store work faster and drive their completion rates higher with their clients. Yet, if you asked the primary client if social media networks are helpful in generating any leads, they would say, “Not at all.” Mostly because the process is automated and invisible, but also because it is not marketed heavily. They know traffic is up dramatically and that jobs are being filled exponentially faster, but because they don’t have a direct hand in the process, it is taken for granted.

Moreover, since the client is also on a WordPress framework, their bi-weekly articles are now more “Google/Yahoo!/Bing-friendly,” which enables potential customers to find them more readily as SEO/SEM is easier to implement. Since all of this is invisible, again, their answer would be, “Not at all.”

Tools like RSS, blogs, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIN are being used effectively by small business even if they are used invisibly. Just because the CEO doesn’t tweet doesn’t mean they are not using social media. Dig a little and you’ll find many probably are. They just don’t know it.

For small business, it is all about the return today for effort I put in yesterday. Market social media without the “engagement” and “conversation” hype and stick to the operational parts and only then will we see a rise in the “Very helpful” 3%.

Accuracy is important

This past week, most news organizations reported that Twitter had been hacked on Thursday, causing wide-spread outage to the micro-blogging service. As it turns out, this was wholly inaccurate as Twitter was the victim of a Denial of Service (DoS) attack, not hacked.

Why is this important? Because it is two different things and news organizations who pride themselves on being the trust agents of the media should know the difference and report it. On MSNBC, the anchor had an on-air argument with the guest who tried to explain what a DoS means for the security of her banking Web site. She clearly did not understand the difference between hacking and DoS and was doing her audience no service by trying to equate the two.

Simply, hacking is someone breaking into your home and messing with your furniture. A DoS is someone calling all his friends to pile outside your front door to prevent anyone from ringing your doorbell and being let in. One is a security concern; the other a major inconvenience.

Not every computer network is a “hack.” It is the same thing as calling every human death a murder. It is not always true and scares people. It is about time the media understands the difference and quit scaring their audience. Just use the analogy above and people will understand the difference.

When anger turns into creativity

This was published originally on TourneyCentral.com.

Watch the video above. It was written and produced by Dave Carroll after an unpleasant experience with United Airlines. As of this writing, the video has been viewed 433,294 times on YouTube, had 3,274 comments and appeared in the Wall Street Journal web site, the Huffington Post, LA Times, the Consumerist and various other news sites.. We’ve also sent out the link to a lot of our clients and friends who are in the customer experience business every day. You can read the back story here.

Dave Carrroll may have just written the next United Airlines jingle that will be chasing through travelers’ heads when they see the United Airlines logo in any airport anywhere. Nothing worms into the brain more effectively than music or scent. And country music is really, really sticky. I know it is in my head right now!

Our Advice: Don’t design team satisfaction systems that require levels and level of approvals for the purpose of frustrating the team. Resolve issues quickly and don’t let them fester. Answer emails quickly. Recognize the difference between the coach’s need to blow off steam at a simple frustration and a legitimate concern for which your soccer tournament may be liable.

And buy Dave Carroll’s album, Perfect Blue on iTunes. 🙂