January 28, 2011
Let's Talk SEO Mistakes & Myths
I heard Stephan Spencer and Mona Elesseily speak recently on SEO mistakes shortly after hanging out with him and his ten pound book The Art of SEO, which he co-authored. He graciously gave me a copy but it’s fatter than three bibles put together – translation: full of incredibly great content yet despite my laundry list of new tips and knowledge, I likely won’t be able to execute.
Here’s my thinking on experts, books, tips and tricks: unless it’s something you really love, breathe and wanna do, get knowledgeable by reading the best books, then hire someone to execute and map out a strategy who does live and breathe it and more importantly, find someone who’s wired that way. A lot of people ‘do’ things in areas where they’re not wired.
The book will make sure you don’t hire the outdated SEO expert wanna be’s who don’t really know how to get you to “go” never mind long-term success.
Stephan and Mona divided their talk into common mistakes to avoid when implementing a SEO campaign and a hands-on workshop, where they ripped apart a few sites, and shared what worked and what didn’t on those sites and why.
The summary of the mistakes they covered in their talk are below with my insights scattered throughout:
- Jargon – get rid of it. Your customers don’t care, don’t understand and don’t think that way. It’s interesting how often this applies to just about everything we do verbally or in written form isn’t it? Clearly, it doesn’t just apply to SEO.
- Poor Keyword Brainstorming – they encouraged folks to think laterally rather than choosing words that are simply not common search terms. In other words, it’s not rocket science – Google and others have tools that can tell you what the most common search terms are so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel.
- Not Using Keywords Properly - broad matching is a default in Google which give you inflated data. It’s key that you get as specific as possible – the broader you go, the less successful you will be. Give Google AdWord tool a try, which is free.
- Avoid Cannibalization which stems from poor or no measurement. Here, they talked about organic tracking versus results that may come in from other sources. Organic is obviously what you want.
- Ignoring Competition. Why reinvent the wheel? In other words, look at what is 'working for your competitors.' You can see what keywords they're buying, take a look at their ad copy. You can also use known tools on the market such as Spyfu.com (learn how much companies are spending, the top ten key word terms, the top ad competitors and so on), Semrush.com, Adwords and others.
- Playing the Social Media Game Minus the SEO. Social media with poor or no SEO is a tough game to play unless your story simply becomes so viral that linking and love just takes care of itself. Bottom line: combine the power of two tools for maximum impact. Social media should be driven by SEO needs. Use "link bait" and seed it into social media tools like Digg and others. Remember that power users on Digg, Delicious, Reddit and other platforms can get you a lot more mileage out of your submissions than if a no name Digg user simply throws up a link.
- Duplicate Content. This is one I hear about frequently because there are so many blog networks and other platforms that aggregate content. Duplicate content triggers Google's duplicate content filter and it can also result in page rank dilution. Personally, while I understand Google wanting diversity in its search results, I think that smart aggregators are key to us making sense of a never-ending cluttered web-world. I think that original content combined with aggregated content is an ideal solution, particularly if it means that reader has the best experience and doesn't have to filter through tons of other sites to get what they need. They also talked about how using the same tags, meta descriptions and page copy can trigger the duplicate content filter.
- Focus on Low Value Activities. Here's one we can all learn from and it most definitely doesn't just apply to SEO. The suggestion here is to be OUTCOME focused rather than ACTIVITY focused. Identify what your outcome needs to be and create a plan that gets you there in the most effective and efficient way.
- Unintentionally Spamming Search Engines. Examples include too many keyword stuffed text links, SEO copy which isn't meant for human consumption, reordering text with CSS for SEO, inappropriate use of CSS "Image Placement," hidden text or hidden links, and targeting irrelevant keywords.
- Buying into SEO Myths. SEO 'so called experts' and other industry folks have us confused about what works and what doesn't. A few myths worth noting:
--personalization means no one is #1 anymore
--metatags will boost your rankings
--country sites are duplicated content
--Googlebot doesn't read CSS.
--Update home page will make a difference.
--Linking out helps ranking.
--SEO is a one-time activity.
--Using flash will tank your SEO.
January 26, 2011
Peter Guber: How to Use Storytelling to Build Relationships for Life
Film producer and Mandalay Entertainment CEO and Chairman Peter Guber is a man of passion. He inspires people by sharing his stories about success and failures. He's well known for a number of Hollywood successes but most noted ones include Rain Man, Batman, The Color Purple, Midnight Express, Gorillas in the Mist: The Story of Dian Fossey, The Witches of Eastwick, Missing and Flashdance, all of which have led to more than 50 Academy Award nominations.
"You can't look at failure as something that cripples you, you have to look at failure as your partner, because with it comes great opportunities," says Peter.
"Stories are not the icing on the cake, it's the cake - it's everything," he adds. "Stories are the way we make sense of our world." And what are stories made of? Stories are our dreams he reminds and adds, "hits are not born in the head, they're born in the gut and the heart. The idea is when you're trying to get someone to do something, you need to connect to them viscerally and emotionally."
How do you create relationships for life? he asks. What is key he asserts is telling Purposeful stories. You first must have a purpose, and with conviction and heart, you then "tell" that story in a way that will motivate your audience to action. It's a combination of having great content, passion and purpose.
He then talks about motivation. He quotes Arianna Huffington and says he feels the same way about motivation and getting things done. To really get something done, you must get into the same room with the other person, breathe the same air as the person and then be congruent.
In other words, don't go into the room unless you really show up....show up and be congruent, because if you're not congruent and not in alignment, including the minute details, such as your breathe, your audience will know.
Once you're congruent and you're ready to to motivate, it's key, he says, "to motivate yourself first." "When you walk into the room and before you open your mouth, you're already telling your story. Your intention shows up first, long before your words do."
He encourages us to rethink our roles and what business we're in. He says that we're all in the Emotional Transformation Business. It's our job to transform, motivate and move people to action. Clients don't want to just be called clients, they want relationships. They want connection.
Connection starts with the dance you do the moment you walk in the room. Once you're in the room with an audience, they don't want a conversation, they want an 'experience.' Make the emotional connection first, not second.
He moves into the topic of preparation and presentations, encouraging people not to use notes when they give a presentation. He says he likes notes because they provide a good reference point to refer back to, but not to have it as the basis of your presentation. Once you begin your talk, he says you should speak from the heart and just see what comes out of you, "be spontaneous and let the canvas open up in front of you."
The key to get action from your 'story' is not just to be purposeful but to also have an end goal. All purposeful storytelling has a Goal. Peter says, "your role is not to hide it but to pride it. If you hide it, people will know and not trust it." In other words, the more generous your goals are, goals that include the "we," where they win too, they're much more likely to take the risk and dive in.
He also emphasizes the importance of Transparency in your story. It's important that your goals are completely transparent because people will feel and know what your true intention is.
Peter tells a touching story about a call he received from Nelson Mandela after he got out of prison, who called him directly to ask for his help. Mandela's mission was to come to the states to have two parties, with the following goal in mind: to get businesses and entrepreneurs involved in willingly helping South Africa through their transition.
Peter talks about the transparency and congruency of his pitch and because his pitch was authentic and with purpose, people opened up their wallets and moved to action. He said with conviction that if the world doesn't get involved, that "we" will keep their dreams in prison.
The fourth key component to storytelling is Interactivity. "The best storytelling is interactive," he says. It's not a monologue, it's a dialogue. When it's a dialogue, you metabolize it, you get your audience to own it in their bodies.
He tells people to Surrender Control. Peter says, "you're not in control of what your audience is going to do and how they're going to feel. When you surrender control, magic happens. When they own what you tell them, they pay it forward.
They become advocates for your proposition and then, they become your army. And, when you surrender control, you create space for them to come forward and act on their own. Detach yourself from judgment and just trust that the rest will take care of itself - that's part of the elegance of it, he says.
Now for the Story itself. Finding stories is easy, he says. "They're everywhere. There's no magic in it - stories are everywhere, they're the stories of our lives. They're all around us - use your nose, your eyes and your ears. It's really that easy." He says, "no gift from me to you, you already have it. It's the way we're all wired."
When we discover what our story is or what one we want to use, he says, "ask yourself, is it generous. Is it congruent with who you are? Is it transparent? Is it authentic?"
Stories live in your head - that's an experience. Stories live in your heart - that's an experience. Peter says that when the stories come from your own experience and we are reliving that expeirence in real-time in front of people, they will feel it. That's what I mean by us being in the "emotional transformation business," he says. "If you really own that story, then you will move people." The Methodology of the Tell is What Makes the Difference.
Wherever there is emotion, there's a story. In other words, there must be an emotional palette when you engage with someone. Essentially, you're trying to get people to Go on a Journey with you. He says, "I always look for a place where I can connect to a story I hear."
The stories we hear and that we tell ourselves are bits and pieces of data that we metabolize and soon, we become those stories. The narrative that we tell ourselves over and over again are the reality and belief systems we create. In other words, create empowering stories that inspire and invoke change for the better. "Tell a better story than the stories you hear around you. Don't we owe that to ourselves?" says Peter.
He reaffirms with conviction and passion: do it, enjoy it, own it and tell your story from that place and the story will be paid forward.
Photo Credit: UCLA School of Theatre and Television. Second image credit: http://janecanstant
January 22, 2011
Service on the Road: The ROI Behind Creating Stress or Creating Queens
When you're on the road and this is particularly true for frequent travelers, you pay more attention to service, because great service can really make or break your experience, particularly when you're longing for a bit of home comfort.
I have written extensively about service and the decline of it over the past decade, most evident in the United States, a country that was world renown for incredible service in the 50s and 60s.
On a recent trip I took to Las Vegas, I had a handful of what I'll call "remarkable" experiences because of people who didn't show up to do a job, but showed up to make their customers feel like queens.
I also ran into a couple of situations like we all do when we travel, where things may not go smoothly and the person you're dealing with does little to make it better and in many cases, makes it worse.
This journey included two hotels, one rental car company, one restaurant and an online retail company.
The first hotel was the Southpoint Casino and Hotel, which is on the outskirts of Vegas. I called the front desk to ask for a late checkout one morning because I had barely slept the night before because of a report I was working on and a scratchy throat was in the making.
Despite re-emphasizing the fact that I was feeling sick and reminding her that it was in the middle of the week during a non-busy time with no major conventions on, she gave me the standard late check out. I requested another hour which she not only refused but did so gleefully, in that tone that makes you feel not just bad about asking, but inferior because of the power she commanded in our exchange.
Erica's refusal to grant another hour under the circumstances, which cost the company ZERO, led to my immediate disatisfaction with the hotel (remember I was feeling ill when I called). What a price to pay given that I'm a frequent traveler who will share that experience with hundreds. What was she thinking? Isn't it common sense?
After getting nowhere despite two calls to her directly, I tried another avenue and ended with Joanne. Have a listen to this dialogue:
Me: Joanne, I'm feeling a little under the weather, have a scratchy throat and barely slept last night - what can you do about a late check out?
Joanne: I'm so sorry to hear that you're not feeling well. What time would you like the check out for? Would 3 pm work? If so, I'll call down and let them know and you'll be all set. And, let me know if there's anything we can bring up for you to make you feel better.
HUH? Is this the same hotel and casino?
My question to you is this: How many Joannes do you have working in your organization and how many Ericas do you have? If you don't know, FIND OUT and weed out the Ericas and make sure you only hire Joannes.
This isn't rocket science folks. There is CLEAR ROI in your employees creating stress for your customers and creating a negative memory or turning all your customers into queens. Joanne made me feel like a "queen" in one sentence. ONE SENTENCE is all it took.
And if you're not sure what the ROI is from an attitude that makes customers feel like queens and kings, look at the books and success of Zappos and Tasca Ford (who became the top Ford dealership in the world). Both companies built their entire vision statement around exceptional customer service.....real customer service, where each customer leaves the experience (whatever that experience may be), feeling like a king or a queen.
I repeat: how many Ericas do you have and how many Joannes do you have? And, what are you going to do to ensure you have all Joannes in your organization? (this applies to start-ups and established companies).
Speaking of Zappos, I finally went on the Zappos tour during this last trip to Vegas. They walk their talk folks......inside and outside Zappos' headquarters walls.
Tony Hsieh's book Delivering Happiness is more than inspiring. Using his model to make customer service a core priority would dramatically change our experiences with stores, restaurants, vendors, hotels and retail outlets, every single day.
The passion and energy of the employees is addictive. I shot two videos on-site last week: the folks who work inside the Zappos Blog Bus and the head of the call center group. Not surprising, they're all Joannes.
It doesn't end there. I was invited to the Zappos holiday party and while I know Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, the customer service employee who invited me did not know I had any Zappos connection.
While I was at their offices, I was running around shooting "shoes" of all things and when one of the employees saw my passion for shooting "all things shoes," he pulled out his 1920s rogues. After hearing my enthusiasm and learning that I used to spend a lot of time swing dancing, he invited me to their annual bash.
But, it doesn't end there. Two employees hand delivered the tickets to my hotel, but they didn't just drop them off at the concierge or valet. As soon as they got close, they called my cell and said, "hey, meet us downstairs at valet.....we'll be in this fun colorful truck that says Zappos along the side."
Their addictive enthusiasm and "happiness" was so intoxicating that despite the fact that I had not yet showered, I flew down to meet them. How do you think they made me feel? Like a queen.
(Photo to the right is Jeni (aka @spoiledtraveler) and I in full 1920s Gangster and flapper attire at the official Zappos holiday bash, both feeling like queens of course.
Forward wind to a fabulous sandwich shop that I walked into on my way out to Red Rock National Park, about 30 minutes outside Las Vegas. I'm not much of a sandwich person frankly so was on the look out for a sushi or salad shop. Nestled between a Chinese take-out and a Mexican taco cafe was a sign I didn't recognize called Capriottis.
Little did I know that the franchise was fairly well known in greater Las Vegas and they had won awards for their killer turkey sandwiches. When I walked in, I said, "Hey guys, I'm not sure I am in the mood for a sandwich so I'm just going to have a quick look at your menu, cool?"
"We've got chicken," he says with the same enthusiasm, so I begin to look at the menu more closely and sure enough, they have chicken, roast beef, turkey, vegetarian, tuna, prosciutini Italian, eggplant, burgers, meatballs and more.
They also have their infamous Cran-Slam Club, which includes homemade turkey with cranberry sauce, ham, mayo and lettuce.
I opted for the Cole Turkey with cranberry sauce and just to assure that I was happy with my selection, Corey cut off a sample I could eat while I was waiting. They then helped me with directions and were so enthusiastic and passionate about Capriottis, I had to ask them to pose. Shooting them and later eating my sandwich in my rental convertible heading out to Red Rock, added happiness and joy to my entire day, not just the 20 minutes I was in their shop.
What's the ROI of that experience? What's the ROI of people like Corey and Joanne and Tony, Zach, Jerry, Jamie and Randy from Zappos? The ROI is a repeat customer for life, a company evangelist for life, a testimonial for life and someone who will continuously send referrals their way, for life.
And, most of the time, the customer isn't asking for much when they're dissatisfied, but they are asking for respect and to be heard. Have you ever heard the phrase, how you show up for anything is how you show up for everything? I bet that the Joannes and Coreys of the world have many more fulfilling relationships in other areas of their lives too.
Now meet David, who is the Manager of Fox Rental Car just outside the Las Vegas airport. I was late returning the car (by two hours beyond my grace period....largely due to getting lost in the desert), and seeing that I was flustered yet thrilled to finally get the car back, he doesn't question, he doesn't dig for more details to my story, he simply listens quietly and then says, "I'll take off the additional charges so relax, don't worry, you're all set."
David runs the contract in for me to make modifications so I don't have to do a thing and helps me with my luggage, so again, I don't have to do a thing. How do you think I felt at that moment? Like a queen of course. I later learn that his wife is applying for a job at Zappos. Why am I not surprised?
Finally, meet Willy, a bell man at the Flamingo Casino and Hotel along the Las Vegas strip. When I arrived, I changed rooms twice, the first time because the room was on top of the ice machine and elevator when I specifically asked to be far away from both in my reservation request.
The second move was because they moved me to a much older room that was renovated over a decade ago, and because the floor was so soiled and dirty, that they really should either use a throw rug in that room, or replace it, because it was beyond acceptable and likely not past sanitary standards. The light switch in the bathroom looked as if it hadn't been cleaned in months.
Willy was the bell man sent to my room to deliver my luggage and he patiently waited while I was on the phone, with one big calming smile. When I finished with the front desk, he made me feel heard, understood and said he'd wait until I was sorted out, saying at this point, I should be upgraded to something at a level above my original reservation under the circumstances.
With the Flamingo for ten years, he has a history with the hotel and with both frustrated and happy customers. After getting moved to a room that was still an older refurbished room (the third try), I was too exhausted to say anything at this point.
At least the carpet was passable and there was a couch so I could work. The bottom line is this: what do I remember from that entire frustrating and uncomfortable experience where two hours of my time were lost and I was late for a meeting? Willy of course. He returns ten minutes later with my new keys and then says with a smile, let me know if you need anything else, extra blankets, or other amenities.
This memory too, will last a lifetime.
Attention Managers, Directors, CEOs, CMOs and CFOs: do you really need stories in this granular detail to learn that your companies are in severe pain if you don't have a team on board that only consists of Joannes, Willies, Coreys, Davids and Zappos' superstars?
January 12, 2011
Soundbites for Success: Boldness Has Genius, Power & Magic
In the spirit of inspiration for the new year, here are a few soundbites I found useful, from the Marketing Society Annual Conference I attended last month.
Be bold. “Boldness has genius, power and magic” – Goethe.
"Go global. UK products are good. UK prices are good (due to the weakness of the £). Go and find customers. BRIC is the big opportunity." Dennis Turner, Chief Economist, HSBC.
N.B. According to George Osborne (who looks like a boy on his gap year according to Dennis) we currently export more to the Republic of Ireland than the BRIC market combined. So the opportunity is huge.
Matthew Pinsent’s top tips for success:
Give honest feedback
No good leaving criticism until it’s too late.
"It’s not the big that eat the small it’s the fast that eat the slow." Damon Buffini, Permira.
"Do the right thing for the customer and align the business behind this." Damon Buffini, Permira.
"Stand out in a crowd." James Averdieck, Gu.
"Start with a great product." James Averdieck, Gu.
"Don’t forget to promote a positive post purchase experience. People can forget why they made the decision, particularly if they are buying the product on behalf of someone else." James Averdieck, Gu.
"Obsess about the detail and the customer experience." Mark Price, Waitrose.
“Hire someone brilliant.” Martha Lane Fox.
January 10, 2011
Advantages to Storytelling
Two nice stories - short and sweet but well worth re-telling - from the Marketing Society Annual Members Conference, 2010.
Seeing is believing!
James Averdieck, formerly of Proctor and Gamble, prevaricated for a long time before he started a company to make the sort of chocolate pudding he only ever found in Europe. Finally, spurred on by family and friends, he made the leap. He left P&G. He perfected the product and then briefed a design agency to come up with the packaging for him.
At his second meeting with the design agency they told him that they had bad news. During their research for the packaging they’d discovered a chocolate pudding, manufactured by a Swedish company called Gu. It was already on the market and selling really well. They put the packaging on the table in front of him. He nearly cried. 2 years’ work down the pan. His dream in ashes...
"Cheer up James," they said. "We’re kidding. It’s your product. It’s your brand."
Gu was born. They now are the go to brand for squishy chocolate pudding products and sell into Waitrose et al with a £20 million turnover.
It’s a lovely story of how to sell creative work.
Customer care, no matter the customer
The same James Averdieck, now Founder and Managing Director of Gu Chocolate Puddings Ltd, has a dog called Willoughby. The children love him. Even James is quite fond of him. But they were going on holiday and Willoughby had to go into kennels. The children were very upset.
James chose a kennel called Dog Holidays – because he thought it was clever that, by changing the term, they’d changed the owner experience from ‘guilt’ to ‘here’s something that makes me feel better’.
They lived up to their name. When Willoughly arrived they made sure they knew where he liked being scratched. And after they got back they emailed him a picture of Willoughby’s holiday – a shot of Willoughby and his new friend Patch going for a walk together. Their repeat purchase is assured.
Now who says clever marketing stuff doesn’t work?
January 07, 2011
Milk and Nuts: A Cautionary Tale
Creative Director Chris shared an experience with Twitter that shows the value of monitoring your brand, and the cautions of uncensored opinions, online. We originally posted this on our company blog, but it's such a great example that I had to share it here as well. Enjoy!
I like Twitter. I like the random comments, opinions, links and rants.
I like that I feel I know interesting people who I’ve never met in the flesh nor probably ever will.
But it’s a dangerous place. It lulls you into a false sense of (social) security.
It presumes anonymity but in reality it’s fairly easy to identify someone in the ‘real’ world.
And because it’s full of people venting spleen about all kinds of topics, it encourages you to join in.
At least it did me.
I tweet on two occasions – when I’m bored and when I’m drunk.
Three if you count when I’m bored AND drunk.
So fuelled with Shiraz and following an hour and a half of X Factor, it was a perfect storm when the latest Cravendale milk ad came on in the ad break.
Now to be clear, I don’t much like the ads. They strike me as an idea applied to the product rather than one extracted from the product.
But they’re not the worst ads on TV by a long chalk and, in terms of my existence, don’t really make much difference.
However I took this particular airing as a chance to tweet (and I paraphrase) ‘Would love to meet the creative team behind the Cravendale ads. I would kick them in the knackers from now till Doomsday.’
And once the thought went out into the Twittersphere I thought no more about it.
However, the following morning there was a reply.
It was from Wieden & Kennedy, the agency behind the Cravendale advertising (actually from their MD Neil Christie) and arguably the most creative ad agency in the world today.
Neil helpfully told me whose knackers I should direct myself to and copied him in on my tweet (Chris Groom @groomster).
Now I’m 6’5” and 18 stone, so potential physical repercussions weren’t particularly the issue. I was incredibly ashamed to have been caught having a go at a fellow creative – particularly as I know how hard this game is without having colleagues turning on each other.
And as I’ve lectured on IPA events about how important creativity is and how to achieve great ideas we have to be prepared to fail with some but stick together.
So I immediately sent an apology.
Chris replied saying that he understood and that he didn’t take it personally.
But it still ate away at me – mainly for the fact I’d been an idiot and insulted someone I don’t even know, poor bloke.
So a couple of days later, as retribution for threatening his genitalia, I sent Chris a parcel with some plums, nuts and cheese balls. All potential substitutes in a Viz-style way.
He received it graciously.
This event has caused me to reconsider my relationship with Twitter. And to be considerably more circumspect before spouting my vitriol.
As I footnote, I confessed this to my wife who told me that she really liked the Cravendale ads.
So the David Ogilvy-ism was right ‘The consumer is not a moron, she is your wife.’
Except that my wife married me, so in this case the jury’s still out.
January 06, 2011
Working Social Media For Your Business
By now, we know that businesses are using social media. Some are doing so brilliantly. Some are just testing the waters. Some have no clue where to begin. All of these are great places to be. They all mean that businesses are getting involved in social media which is good because, if I was a betting woman, I would bet that social media isn't going anywhere but forward. Getting involved and growing understanding to think more strategically starting now can only be of benefit.
We have our own approach of the way businesses can use social media to engage audiences and have created a graphic representation of this process; it's the one we follow with ourselves and our clients.
It all essentially boils down to the C's - content (curate others or create your own), conversation (engaging not controlling) and connection (because, after all, we know that relationships drive business).The time to start planning out your C's is now.
What's your approach to strategic social media planning?
December 31, 2010
2010: The Year of Multiple Digital Personas
This past year was one of my busiest years, largely because of 4 factors: I re-launched two sites, started shooting more (note: Canon 7D purchase), I seemed to be on the road non-stop and clients expected more than ever and yet they want to pay less for results.
Let's start by looking at some of the technology trends and mindshifts in 2010 which led to such a chaotic schedule.
Social media tools exploded. Living in Silicon Valley, you get hit with more beta trials than anywhere else in the world and testing new shit out is what I do among other things, so it's no surprise that I was hit with more than one person could possibly digest. Yet, some of those tools started to go mainstream, so suddenly things that were on my back burner couldn't go unnoticed anymore. For one, location-based services started to get a lot of attention.
Last January, I found myself in a hotel room in Munich desperate to connect and "check in" before heading out for a stroll in the fresh fallen snow.
How F-Ked up is that? Foursquare doesn't seem to want to acknowledge that I'm in another country when I am, regardless of how decent "connectivity" is, yet I can't seem to give in to technology controlling my environment even when it doesn't work. What's wrong with acknowledging that I'm not an engineer, don't try to fix this.....just let things/it be?"
Later in the year, I went through something similar in Paris. Refer to my blog post: When in Paris, BE in Paris, Disconnect.
That brings me to Part B of this story. Technology DID in fact control my environment more than any year in my life.
I relaunched We Blog the World this year because of its organic growth and growing interest from bloggers around the globe who wanted to contribute.
Launching a site isn't what it used to be because of the fact that a site isn't just a site anymore - it's connected to multiple digital personas on the web.
With the site had to be a Facebook "fan" page or whatever they now call it, a Twitter update to match the look-and-feel of the revamped site, as well as photo and video online personas to go with the rest of it.
Then there's maps, mobile optimization, geo-location, custom RSS feeds, online newsletters and editing to ensure the world sees what you want them to see rather than poorly curated clutter on the web. (see Linda Stone/continuous partial attention -- not new to 2010 but still highly relevant).
Enter the growing focus on curation. We're long overdue for attention on intellectual and relevant curation of content that matters to us most.
Since tools can't curate content automatically in a way that is useful to us yet, human curation needs to be part of the process and for anyone who has spent time curating and tagging content on the web knows, it's bloody time consuming. Pearltrees, a curation tool, was a big part of my life this year and I spent time alerting content creators in various vertical markets about the aspect and value of human curation as an integral part of their workflow.
I switched to Chrome this year as my main browser, suddenly I ended up with three phones, one of which was a Google phone that simplified my local calls and texting when in Europe, and I was nearly tempted to buy an iPad so I could carry around yet another device with me to ensure I was connected 24/7 just in case the three phones and two laptops were not enough.
What's important to note is how the 'always on' part of my life which used to largely happen in my office and to and from meetings during my work day migrated into every aspect of my life.
Not only were my digital personas growing in numbers, but so was my attention to them. Suddenly I had a flash page (see about.me, currently still in beta), 3 new sites, 3 new Facebook pages, 4 new Twitter personas, Foursquare and a growing number of international connections to "manage."
By summer, I was seriously feeling the effect of The Shallows (see Nicholas Carr's book: What the Internet is Doing to our Brains). In synthesizing recent cognitive research, he shares his own experiences, something that I could personally relate to. Carr writes "I've had an uncomfortable sense that someone, or something has been tinkering iwth my brain, remapping the neural circuitry, reprogramming the memory. My mind isn't going -- so far as I can tell -- but it's changing."
By late July, I found that I couldn't sit still when I was out without a device and moreso, my attention span had shortened dramatically. The same thing was happening to others around me. We couldn't concentrate for long without new digital stimuli, even if that be a simple text message. My reading moved from reading whole books to skimming them, the rest left for online editorial only.
Reading and re-reading books have always brought a sense of calm to my otherwise chaotic world and yet, I had stopped reading novels for awhile. Instead, my reading time was filled with learning how social media was changing our lives and the impact it was having and will continue to have on business and the world. I read about new tools, solutions and trends. Of course, none of it had heart and soul but it was great insight for what to adopt early on.
Carr asserts that "every technology is an expression of human will. Through our tools, we seek to expand our power and control over our circumstances -- over nature, over time and distance, over one another."
And so, with this growing tension between feeling and fearing that my brain was actually changing chemically and the need to be "always" be connected to some device at any given time, I decided to leave the country in August without a device.
Off to South America I went with a friend who brought a Blackberry with her and I, a netbook, largely to be used for checking email once every couple of days, but moreso to offload photos from camera to hard drive. So, while technology wasn't off limits for me, having a device in my hands so I could be reachable and in turn reach out whenever and wherever, was not an option.
When you have close to ten online digital personas you are 'managing' at any given time, not being connected for a few weeks is highly uncomfortable. As I was boarding a plane from Miami to Guyaquil, I noticed how many people fidgeted when the pilot told them to turn their electronic devices off.
Some people stared down at their devices as if they would give them something stimulating even though the screen was blank. A few picked up magazines but flipped through as if bored without the energy of their device, their "adult" pacifier.
I found myself going through the same awkwardness, yet because the device was "home" and not an option when we landed, I was forced to find both my energy and my calm from a static page of a book or an old fashioned notebook which I brought to record thoughts using an actual physical pen.
Since I was with someone who had not made the same choice, I was somewhat forced into the digital world by watching her fiddle with her Blackberry, nose down into its addictive energy while we were driving past the Amazon jungle. It was astonishing that she could get a connection up there and because she 'could,' she did.
There was a moment where I felt like asking her for "it" to check into the Amazon on Foursquare for the world to see, as somewhat of a novelty. There was a moment where I felt like asking her for "it" to tweet out to the world that the Amazon was in trouble and attach a photo of chain saws on the side of the road with piles of timber lined up in rows a couple hundred miles away from the nearest big town.
I had to refocus my energy away from the device and her fingers upon it and onto the lush green wildness out my right window and as soon as I did, slowly but surely, my center found calm. It found presence. It found wonder. It found marvel. It found gratitude. It found wow. It found real physical life that was breathing its beauty into me as I decided to participate IN IT rather than watch or engage with it on a screen.
I didn't blog about my experience that week since we were camping in the middle of the jungle, but I also decided not to blog about it as soon as we were connected in another town. I waited until I returned to the states, and for multiple reasons, it was the right thing to do. Reflections followed - here, here and here. I also wrote about my detaching experience called Hey Digital Maven, How Okay Are You With Silence?
Being present and recalling that presence later on because I had time to reflect on gratitude was key. Being constantly connected doesn't give us the time or more importantly, the 'space' to reflect and go deeper. Our ability to go deeper is limited because of what this constant digital stimuli is doing to our brains, and in turn, our behavior.
As Carr reflects from the discovery he made through his research, "while we know that our brain is an exquisitely sensitive monitor of experience, we want to believe that it lies beyond the influence of experience.
We want to believe that the impressions our brain records as sensations and stores as memories leave no physical imprint on its own structure. To believe otherwise would, we feel, call into question the integrity of the self."
Having a break from managing digital personas for a few weeks reminded me of the essential need for balance -- not just life/play and work balance but digital balance.
While I found that others were going through the same thing, the addictive quality of the lifestyle shift is gradual, and people often find it hard to talk about or perhaps explain.
When I first picked up the iPad and browsed through my blog using Flipboard, a wave of excitement flew through me as the pictures I created in the real world came to life on the screen. A beautiful screen.
The display was magical and an actual device was re-sorting or curating if you like, the content....my content. It was telling my story in its own way and the stories of other bloggers I knew and respected. I thought about how "cool" it would be to have this experience with me at all times, so wherever I was, I could have that dynamic engaging experience rather than a much blander web page.
Yet, when all I sometimes need is the information on the web, having that extra visual pleasure brings me into the web experience more than it does my physical surroundings. When I choose "it" more often than the people around me in the physical world, I'm losing something valuable as well am I not?
Digital addicts will argue not of course since for them, the additional dimension of what these devices bring to their online life (where they spend 90% of their time) is so much greater that they would argue making another choice is 'halting a change' that is not only inevitable but critical.
Inevitable as it is, it doesn't mean we can't be more aware on the impact it is having on our daily lives and decide with our human brains during this explosive evolution and revolution, that human interaction without a digital pacifier at our side, does still hold tremendous value.
Being present without anything in our hands or a list of "online to dos" on our mind makes us so much more aware of a friend's breath across the table as they listen to our words and the intensity in their eyes as they dance with a story they're sharing.
As more and more moves online and away from physical paper and objects, we're reminded of privacy concerns and location-based services knowing our every move and offering products to us as soon as we walk into a store or cafe.
We're reminded that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was a runner-up for Time’s most important Person of the Year regardless of whether you see him as a hero or a villain.
We're reminded that the world has changed as we know it and there's no moving back in time.
While I'm certainly not proposing that we fight the inevitable, or stop technological progress and advancement, I'd like to offer some suggestions as a way to have more physical experiences in our lives amidst the growth of all things digital:
1. Pick a Day a Week to Disconnect from the Digital World: Remember we're talking about only one day a week. Use that day to engage with the physical world - trust me, it still exists. Choose something you're passionate about that is physical and doesn't have a digital extension to it, i.e., skiing down a mountain, cycling through a forest without your cell in your pocket, playing with a child on the beach, or discussing philosophy over dinner at the table with a friend without your iPad or iPhone in a bag by your feet.
2. Practice Using Your Brain Not Just Your Digital Pacifier: When you're tempted to rely on something digital to get you through an experience, choose a time when you don't need to rely on it and use your brain instead. A great example is your car navigation system.
The time to do this is obviously when you're not in a hurry to get from A to B. It's an interesting exercise for those who have relied on a nav system for awhile now. Male friends have commented that they have lost their acute directional sense since they put that part of their brain to rest for awhile. It's not unlike what happened with the introduction of calculators and over time, discovering how hard it was to do math on the fly.
3. Automate some of your Digital Life: While it's important to have a presence on the web if you run a company or work for one, and as part of it, engage, engage, engage, some of it can be automated. Focus on the voices and conversations that matter to you most and automate the rest.
The more scattered your presence, the less you can truly engage and prioritize on the people and passions you most identify with. It's not just about numbers. Quality matters and quality takes time, concerted time and effort.
4. Become the Artist you're Designed to be and Backburner the Rest: Create don't react. Remember that you don't have to respond to everything and everyone all the time. When we're constantly responding to things on our screen, the "lizard brain" is taking over, not the genius inside us. When we're reacting to online chatter, there's less time to "create our true art," which is our gift to the planet while we're alive to share it. In other words, our purpose.
As Seth Godin writes in Linchpins, one of my favorite books this year, "the Lizard Brain often sabotages the progress we have made and stops us from creating our best work." Refer to a great post Seth wrote on 'quieting the lizard brain.'
In my opinion, albeit one of the most useful things to hit this decade, social media has given us so many distractions, that it's difficult to take a step back and realize that we don't have to choose and use it all.
Make the time to create the art you're designed to create and the life you want to have.
Once we realize that we have a choice to pick and choose what's most useful for us and leave the rest, we'll create an opening to create our best art. Let's remember that our digital personas are not the whole picture of our lives, just a piece of it.
As a wise Nepalese elderly man once said to me on my way up a long Annapurna trail many years ago, Patience on your journey grasshopper, patience.
December 31, 2010 in America The Free, Books, Entertainment/Media, Europe, On Blogging, On Branding, On Geo-Location, On Mobile & Wireless, On People & Life, On RSS, On Science, On Technology, On the Future, Reflections, Social Media, WBTW, Web 2.0 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
December 17, 2010
PeerIndex Tracks & Measures Social & Reputation CapitalI had an opportunity to chat with Azeem Azhar at LeWeb last week and get the latest demo of PeerIndex, which is a useful tool that tracks and measures people's social and reputation capital online. They look at social signals from social media platforms people are actively using online, the primary one being Twitter, with tools like LinkedIn, Facebook, and others in line.
What's interesting about their tool compared to others in the same category such as Klout for example, is their ability to drill down into specific areas of expertise. Focused on relevance, Azeem says, "it's about understanding your personal brand and whether it's developing in the right areas that matter to you. In other words, you could be increasing your score in one area, when your 'real' area of expertise is in something else."
It's a free tool today and since privacy matters to them, you can keep your PeerIndex profile private if you choose. Below is a short video clip of our exchange in the LeWeb Yahoo-sponsored blogger lounge.
December 16, 2010
Gary Vaynerchuck on Entrepreneurship & Passion in Paris
Gary Vaynerchuck in his typical form was on the LeWeb stage in Paris last week talking about entrepreneurship to an audience of largely European start-ups, venture capitalists, media and bloggers. As always, he exuded passion and broke all the rules, asking Loic Le Meur to pull down the Twitter board during his talk since he wanted to focus on the "people who showed up" first, suggesting that the board was only a distraction from being present to the "hear and now."
I couldn't help but agree since while having a back channel is useful, I was distracted by the energy on stage with a trailing stream of comments to my left and right as well. He encouraged people to rethink how we view our customers.....he views customers and 'interested fans' as equals and says he tries to respond to everyone. When someone asked about balance, he was 'all for family/work/life balance, yet at the same time, suggested we have to be always be available to respond to the people who give us life. (my words, not his). Translation - customers give us life. Fans give us life. Without those supporters, our voice can easily be lost in the noise.I've met Gary twice (it was in Paris in fact, a year ago at the Microsoft Biz Spark party -- and once at a Tony Robbins event in Vegas) and heard him speak a number of times, and while he is always inspiring, the most interesting response to a question about how to respond to clients who want the social media ROI was this: What's the value of your mother?
While corny on the surface, here's the gist of where he was going with the comment. How do you truly value the ROI of great customer relationships? How do you value a brand who has focused all of their attention on providing great service to customers, their primary attention on giving back, i.e., Zappos? Rather than focus all of our attention on numbers (which investors and the board always want), if you do NOT value time and effort spent on engaging customers, listening to customers and responding to customers, he says, "you shouldn't "fucking be in business."
While so damn simple, here's the sad thing about how I felt about his response - it's the way I was molded and frankly, it's in my DNA, yet it's NOT in the DNA of the majority of companies I've worked with or observed over the years. And as for the clients who have been a huge success, they have either gotten that at the core OR they were simply on a road to a quick exit and didn't really care about the longevity of the business anyway.
Once again, thanks for your most authentic share Gary. Below is the video I shot from the front of the room and it's also posted on our YouTube channel.