Clay Shirky really has something here. Because I have to say, I just plain love this book. I am a fan! In addition, this book ended up tying with Groundswell for being my favorite of the six books that we were assigned to read in my first Quinnipiac University social media class, Social Media Platforms (ICM 522).
At the time, I started classes thinking I would only get a certification and nothing more. However, I ended up staying long enough to get my Master’s of Science in Communications in Interactive Media (social media). And a part of that decision can be traced directly back to reading this particular work.
Philosophy To Go
Furthermore, I really liked the philosophical and sociological aspects of his work. Essentially, what he ended up saying was – society is changing. It’s not just the Internet; it is happening to humans ourselves. We are in the process of becoming new, and different. Hence there is a seismic shift going on, in our society.
Of course, that is likely to just be the wealthiest slice of society. Because heartbreakingly poor people in Third World countries simply aren’t going to be adding to online or offline content any time soon. Or, if they are, it is far more likely to consist of content that is survival-based. Hence this would be items for sale, rather than the products of truly creative pursuits.
Amateurs vs. Professionals
In addition, I really love what he had to say about amateur participation. Because in Chapter 5, on page 154, Shirky persuasively writes:
“As more people come to expect that amateur participation is always an option, those expectations can change the culture.”
So here’s to amateur participation. Because it is here to stay and I suspect it will never, truly go away.
Offsite sharing is a fascinating concept. Perhaps the most compelling feature of Facebook consists of the availability of the Like Button.
The Like Button
Because the offsite Like Button dovetails beautifully with its presence on the site itself, i. e.,
“The Like button lets a user share your content with friends on Facebook. When the user clicks the Like button on your site, a story appears in the user’s friends’ News Feed with a link back to your website.”
Drag and Drop
Furthermore, the site certainly tries to make it easy for even novice programmers (and people who can really only do drag and drop) to place a Like Button on their own sites for offsite sharing. The premise is irresistible: you add the Like Button, people “Like” your own site, and that information transmits back to Facebook and to the Likers’ friend lists. In addition, their friends, who may not have know about you at all, suddenly do, and the offsite sharing spreads even more. They, hopefully, check you out, Like you, and the process repeats on and on, ad infinitum, or at least in theory. And with enough intersecting friends with enough non-intersecting additional friendships, a few Likes could translate into dozens, if not hundreds, or even thousands, of new people who know about you.
Engagement and Reach
However, engagement and reach are both going down. And Facebook actually has the gall to try to get people to pay for what it does! Quelle horreur!
But, seriously folks, how do you think Facebook pays its bills? They do it with advertising. If the users won’t be charged (and Facebook would be mighty foolish to start charging all of those free sources of detailed consumer data), then advertisers will be. And of course that already happens. What gets a lot of people’s undershorts knotted is that the freebie style of advertising is becoming harder and harder to implement. Facebook seems to push everyone with a page to start buying likes to get more offsite sharing.
Thumb on the Scale?
Whoa, Nelly! Because that would be kind of unethical, if the site was deliberately putting a thumb on an imaginary scale and making it harder for people to reach their fans without paying for reach and engagement.
So, are they doing that?
While the jury is still out, I’m inclined to say no. After all, the site grows by leaps and bounds on a minute by minute basis. And engagement and reach dilute without Facebook having to do a damned thing.
Finally, does the site benefit from making it harder for page and group administrators to connect for free? Absolutely. But do they have to work in order to create this condition?
But I don’t think I ever truly understood it until now. Lee Odden has taken an almost mysterious concept and made it comprehensible. I definitely liked Optimize.
Google doesn’t have a lot of options for its spider bots when it comes to reading your content. It can read your text. And that’s about it. While there are, I am sure, plans to try to make it so that Google can better read flash, PDFs, PowerPoint slides, Images, and Videos, the truth is, it’s currently pretty much all letters and numbers. That will eventually change, but right now that’s it.
Hence Google doesn’t know that the picture you added to your blog is an image of, say, Dame Judi Dench. It needs a caption. Sounds obvious, right? But I wasn’t doing that, not with this blog and not with my writing site or anywhere else. Oops. And that caption should be obvious, in order to serve the search bots, and informative and conversational, in order to serve your human readers/audience.
Who or What Should You Optimize For? Bots or People?
Both. And fortunately, they don’t conflict. Hence if you add keywords, tags, or categories to your webpage, blog post, etc., then if you can reiterate the keywords, etc. within the content, you’ve got it made. And you need to look around wherever you are posting, and use every available square inch for your optimization efforts. This does not mean that you cover every single pixel! Rather, it means that, if you have a space for a caption, use it. If you have a space for tags, write them. Blogs have categories. So make them meaningful, and use them. Hence I finally feel I get it. And that is a wonderful feeling.
Meeting Offline. Oh. My. God. You want me to do what?!??!
Go offline. Yes, I really and truly want you to do this. I want you to go out and meet real-live, honest to goodness human beings. You know, members of your own species.
But, but, but, I hear you saying, why am I on on online networking site in the first place? Isn’t it to build a network online?
Well, sure it is. But nowhere in there is the word only living. Online, yes. But not exclusively there.
Not by a long shot.
Traditional vs. New-Style Networking
Traditional networking involves fairly formalized, ritualized meetings between job seekers and employees of companies where the job seekers wish to work.
Here’s the drill: the job seeker gets an introduction via a friend, or a friend of a friend, and goes to the contact’s office. The job seeker brings his or her resume and the two of them chat, maybe for a half an hour or so. And the job seeker leaves the resume and, if he or she is good at followup, sends a nice thank-you note. The contact may or may not respond, promising to get in touch if something comes up, or if the contact thinks of someone else for the job seeker to talk to. And the cycle either continues, or it dies on the vine. And so it goes.
LinkedIn Changes That
With LinkedIn, the drill differs. Here is what I found to be helpful. Your mileage may vary, or you may come up with something else. So, instead,
You find a person you want to meet. They may be in your industry, or an industry you want to get into. Or they are in a company where you think you’d like to work. Make sure they are close enough to you that getting together is feasible.
And you ask them to link to you.
You do this with about 19 other people – this is a numbers game, and not everyone will say yes. My experience has been, out of over 200 of these, only one person has flat out said no. However, over half either ignored my link request or just never got around to it (I have even met some of these people under other circumstances – it’s not hostility that keeps them from linking to me, it’s that they are busy and processing far too much information at any given one time). So, give yourself better odds. Mine have been about 45% have said yes to the link request.
Someone says yes. Great! Send them a note, saying something like, Thank you for linking with me. Would it be possible to meet briefly for coffee? I am interested in going into ___/working at ___ company/working as a ____ and can see that you have done that, and I hope that you have a few tips you can share. Thanks!
Repeat this with anyone else who’s agreed to link with you, pursuant to your initial request. My experience has been that, out of the people who linked to me, I contacted about 55% of them to ask them to coffee (for the others, I realized they were either too geographically remote or they let me know they could link but were busy, e. g. they were new parents) and then, out of that group, about 25% of those actually got as far as scheduled meetings. Hence my success rate was that I met with about 6% of the people I initially wrote to.
So block off an hour or two, but tell your guest that you only want 20 minutes of their time. Hence that way, if the meeting goes over, you’re covered.
Don’t bring your resume! Instead, bring either a laptop or your smartphone or a pen and paper. And bring a paper list of companies you’re targeting. Because if the conversation flags, you can always ask your guest what he or she thinks of those companies, or if your guest knows anyone at any of them.
Furthermore, have your guest select the date, time and place. In addition, give a couple of choices of dates or places for meeting offline, if your guest is having trouble deciding and
Offer to pay for coffee. Even if you’ve been out of work for a long time, most people are sensitive enough, and realize you’re probably watching your funds. However, you must ask.
As for the meeting itself, make it whatever you want it to be. And if the conversation flags, remember it’s only 20 minutes out of your life. So you can always claim a prior appointment. However, if the conversation goes well, be sensitive to your guest’s time – just ask – do you need to go? And then just follow their lead.
So follow up with a thank-you email, and send a note every few months or so, to maintain the connection. Just send along an article or blog post that you think that your guest might enjoy. And it is also a courtesy – although not strictly necessary – to follow them on Twitter and/or read and comment on their blog, if any.
So will it work? It can. I did not meet with a lot of people in terms of percentages. However, the people I met with gave me very good information, and introduced me to others (or informed me of upcoming events) which helped me out even more. And it also was incredibly helpful to me in my work, as I had a good, strong network to draw on when we had events and needed to fill a room.
This kind of activity will certainly get you out and about, and give you exposure to people in your current or future field. Finally, meeting offline counts as making a job contact for virtually any Department of Unemployment.
There, now, meeting offline wasn’t so bad, was it?
Google Advertising Tools by Harold Davis is one of those O’Reilly books, so it’s got an animal on the cover. This one is some sort of lemur or monkey. Not that that has anything to do with the subject matter but it ends up much nicer than the O’Reilly books with scary insects on their covers. Ick.
But I digress.
The book concerns, unsurprisingly, Google AdWords and AdSense, but it also talks about SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and the process of driving traffic to a website. Davis dispenses with the idea of adding significant article marketing-type content. So he instead focuses in on getting your site onto directories. He also does not seem to get behind requests for backlinks. He does not seem to go for the other kinds of authority enhancements which seem to go in and out of style these days.
Davis also covers affiliate programs, such as Amazon and the like. For example, if you happen to check out the link to purchase the book from this blog entry, you will see an affiliate link in action. He also covers sponsored and contextual advertising.
Hence the book probably would have been better titled Advertising on the Internet. Because it explains far more than Google’s offerings. And it goes into far more detail.
While this book was not strictly about Social Media, any Social Media Marketer worth his or her salt should at least make a concentrated effort to understand online advertising. Because optimizing sites for advertising often helps to optimize them for other purposes as well. And these include important to tasks driving web traffic and even making conversions or sales. Important to the bottom line? Absolutely. Google Advertising Tools by Harold Davis is a worthy addition to the web developer’s library.
Adventures in Career Changing means, well, a lot of job applications. Beyond networking, education and research, there are just sometimes some forms to fill out. I have filled out – I have no idea how many. And they come as a bit of their own special Dantean circle.
#10 – Keeping the Company’s Identity a Secret
I get that there are legitimate reasons for keeping quiet about company identities. They might not want to tip off competitors that there’s an opening. Or maybe they don’t want the person currently in the job to know that they are being replaced. I recognize this. I get it. But it’s also a bit of serious unevenness. You know who I am. And you get to look up all sorts of stuff on me. Yet I don’t get to do anything even remotely like that where you’re concerned. Where’s the fairness in that?
#9 – Multiple Job Postings, While at the Same Time Penalizing Job Seekers for Multiple Submissions
This goes along with the previous one. When you don’t tell me who you are, and you post the same job on, say, Monster and Dice, how, exactly, am I supposed to prevent a possible double submission? What happens when you also distribute this opening to a half a dozen recruiters? Yep – I end up with multiple submissions. And guess who gets blamed for that? Hint – it’s not the prospective employer.
#8 – You Make Me Fill Out a Form Even As I Give You My Resume
I know that you have laid off your entire clerical staff, and you likely did so in 2003 or earlier. I am also well aware that you are looking to get my resume into a pigeonhole pattern so that it can be readily compared to others that are in the same pigeonhole pattern. Because taking 25 seconds to scan my resume with your eyes is just too much time.
Okay, perhaps that wasn’t very nice, but every career counselor I have ever known has said to spend hours and hours and make it a mondo-perfect document. But the reality is that resumes are barely glanced at. Hence, rather than creating exciting visual presentations (unless you’re in the arts), the focus is on keywords. And I’m fine with larding my resume up with keywords (unfortunately, BTW, this also means adding misspelled keywords).
I also get how badly you want uniformity. But – surprise! There’s software that will do this! So, instead of making me jump through this particular hoop, could you invest in a system such as that? The beauty of your software doing that, rather than me doing it manually, is that you can also do some filtering. Buy yourself a good system, and you’ll get a lot more done.
#7 – S…l…o…w Sites
I know, I know. The server is down. No one’s been able to fix it since Employee X left three months ago. Whatevs. But in the meantime, I am supposed to be putting my best foot forward (and all the time, I might add. I’ve had employment counselors who’ve essentially told me to look sharp every time I leave the house, as I never know if I’ll be seeing a potential employer. Evidently this includes grocery shopping and running 5K races. Silliness). But you aren’t. You want me to apply and not get frustrated while doing so? Then fix your site.
#6 – Ignoring the Fact that I Will Not Relocate
If it’s available, I always (always!) check the box that says that I will not relocate. And I will not. There is no coaxing me. There are no perks to sending me to Minneapolis (or wherever). I ain’t goin’. And it is all over all of my applications, profiles, etc. This is one of my really annoying pet peeves.
Yet I am still called by recruiters who tell me about some awesome, kick-bun opportunity and everything sounds wonderful and then, oh by the way, where is it? And it’s in Plano, Texas. I live in Boston. That’s a helluva commute, don’t you think? This is so basic, it should be like a standard production of Romeo & Juliet. Shouldn’t the only people who audition for the role of Juliet (in a traditional production) be, I dunno, female?
I recognize that your job is to get a person into an opening at some company. And I further understand some people who will change their minds with enough incentives. I also know that there are folks who rent apartments briefly. But really – at the very least – be up front, immediately – with the location, and stop wasting both of our times.
#5 – Vagueness
Oh, man. You can’t be bothered to say anything about the position? Then how the hell can you honestly expect to get the right people in? I know that, a lot of the time, HR is the one writing the job description. But, truly (and this goes quadruple for large organizations), the job description should be a part of the company’s overall records. And so when HR (or whoever) writes up the job description, they should pull the basic framework of it from their records. And said records should be updated, perhaps every year, with things like new software versions and anything else that’s fairly major that might have changed.
Case in point. I used to work in data analysis. And this should have a basic description, which should include the system(s) being used, the version(s) of software and the general day-to-day activities. So is the opening more report creating, or report running? Will I train people in how to read it? Will I perform analysis in order to help senior management interpret it? Or am I supposed to just churn out whatever the system spits out? Of course, the upside to all of this is, I get to have ready-made questions in the event of an interview.
#4 – Requiring Salary Expectations Way Too Early in the Process
I have seen, on several occasions, vague job descriptions requiring some form of salary expectation mentioned up front. So I get that you want to weed people out early, and waste less time. I get that, and I do appreciate it. However, this is so early, it’s not funny. Plus, if I don’t know who you are, I have few ways of figuring out whether my # is anywhere near jibing with yours. And I change my expectations, depending upon what, exactly, you want me to do. The application stage is a lousy time to ask about money – on both ends.
#3 – Requiring Me to Waste Time Updating Preexisting Information Manually
A rather large employer in my area (Boston) uses a resume management system with both a resume piece and a manual piece. I filled out the manual piece in – no lie – 2008. It remains that way, even as I provide an updated resume. What to do? Do I erase the entire shebang, and just send in the resume? Or do I update? Something else? It provides a distorted picture of where I’ve been. Make up your mind – resume or manual entry. Or, better yet, just take my resume. I suppose this is the corollary to #8.
#2 – No LinkedIn Functionality
While I suppose this is not strictly necessary, it’s awfully nice to have. And, in particular, if you’re advertising the job itself on LinkedIn, why can’t I just apply by connecting you to my profile there?
#1 – Security to Beat Fort Knox
Of course, I want to maintain my own security. I certainly don’t want anyone else to be able to mess with my profile. But why, oh why, do you need me to change my password every other month, to some wacky combo of letters, numbers, special characters and, I dunno, cuneiform?
I swear, the security on some of these apps ends up more complicated and Byzantine than I have for my bank account!
Huh, maybe I should just change banks. Harvey’s Money-o-Rama might no longer cut it.
Two Dishonorable Mentions
A – Seemingly Endless Questions
And the pet peeves continue! Because apparently, you do not trust me enough to self-select out of the running because I don’t know Software version infinity plus one or whatever. But, really, folks! Save something for the interview! Because I guarantee you, you will not get every single thing answered beforehand.
B – Interviewing Too Many People
Screen on the phone. Then screen with your resume software. Screen with your keyword searches. And then screen with your well-written job description. Screen with your HR people calling. Screen with your published salary range. Finally, screen with a little social media investigating. And then your interview process can be for 1 – 5 people who can do the job. And decide amongst them based upon the intangibles.
Yet I have been in interview situations where there were a good twenty people up for one position! Sheesh! You are wasting everybody’s time. And, frankly, behavior like this makes me wonder about you as a company, and about you as a manager. Do you always hem and haw like this? Do you know naught of efficiency?
Don’t worry, I’ve got good things to say about the job search process. And I’ll post them. But for right now, these are the real stinkers. Got any pet peeves you’d like to share?
In addition, in the original article, the author talks about, essentially, how to tell whether a Twitter feed is being handled professionally, or not. Hence following are their “5 Points to consider before hiring a service to manage your Twitter account.”
Check Their Twitter Stream
1. First of all, before you even look at the different tools for measuring a Tweeter’s level of influence (which can be misleading and in some cases manipulated) you firstly need to check the individual’s own Twitter stream.
What type of language do they use? – agreed. Because branding involves, among other things, speaking the language of your customers. Are you a hip hop record label? A travel agency catering to retirees? A diamond jeweler? All of these businesses have different customer demographics. Hence there is no “one size fits all” here. However, this does not mean people cannot adapt to communicate properly with everyone they do business with (after all, you need not hire a child to market to children), but the Social Media Specialist needs to get the message across so that the target readership is receptive.
Do they spam their own followers by sending lazy Tweets for example? #FF @Tweeter1 @Tweeter2 etc. – I’m not so sure I call this spamming. I think, at times, it’s useful to do this. But overdoing it (and you’ll know it’s overkill if tweets like this – or quickie retweets – dominate the stream) is definitely not a good way to do business.
How do they use their own account? Is it professional or sloppy? Do they Tweet late into the night and have no professional boundaries. Do they over mix professional with personal Tweets. – agreed. And with useful tools such as HootSuite, you can schedule tweets. There’s no excuse for late night tweeting, and no need for it. If the stream is meant to engage internationally, it might be a good idea to split it up into more than one account, so that one stream is for North America and another for Asia.
Are their own Tweets all over the place so you are not able to pick up a clear message. – this is a good point, and not just when it comes to Twitter. A clear message is key – for a robotics company where I worked, the message centered around sales. Messages promoted education and/or robots. NASA, for example, was only mentioned in the context of robotics, not in the context of space launches. There’s a lot of information out there. Consider it to be a bit like a garden – usually it needs weeding and thinning, as opposed to fertilizing.
Furthermore, do they acknowledge where they take their material from or just duplicate what they see their competitors do? – ah, this is big. It’s why the original source for this article is listed. And it is a big part of how the ‘net works, or at least is supposed to. You post a blog entry. A competitor sees it. If they riff on it and post it and give you a linkback. that’s good for you. And you thank them and do the same in reverse and yeah, they’re still a competitor, but you’ve got common ground and in some areas you can cooperate. Or they don’t acknowledge you, and everybody digs their heels in and the world becomes a slightly more miserable place. Hey, you make the call, but I prefer cooperation pretty much every time, myself.
Too Much Self-Promotion?
Do their Tweets make any sense to you or are they just full of self promotion they hold no real value other than grooming their own ego. – true, but I think sometimes this can come from Social Media marketing folk not being properly trained. If the marketing manager is unsure of how much promotion should be mixed in with information, the marketer might be similarly confused.
How much negativity comes across in their stream – not everything is or should be positive, but I do get this. The idea is, well, are you promoting to people who want to buy your company’s organic brownie mix, or do you just sound petulant and whiny? However, you can sometimes be too perky. But I think if there are errors in this area, they should probably fall on the side of more, rather than less, perk.
Which Business Accounts Do They Manage?
2. Ask to be given the name of one of the business accounts they manage, and go through this with a fine tooth comb. Keep an active eye on the account and monitor how they manage the business’ online profile.
How many Tweets are there and what type do they send? – it’s a quantity and a quality game on Twitter. You need to get across some seven views before people start to consider buying. And consider Twitter’s international, 24/7 appeal – people may be checking at 4 AM. This, by the way, goes against an earlier statement about the marketer not tweeting into the wee hours. No, they shouldn’t – but unfortunately, sometimes, that’s when the readers are online. After all, if you’re tweeting for people playing World of Warcraft, they’ll be on at 4 AM. As for quality, that goes along with the above statements as well – are the tweets worthwhile, or are they dull self-promotion?
How do they engage with the client’s audience? – some of this is in the form of retweeting. Retweeting and replying have a place, as it is a give and take type of engagement. Is there professionalism behind the engagement?
And how is the call-to-action placed and worded? – this is fairly self-explanatory. There is a difference between what looks like a hard sell, and what has more of a friendly “Hey, check this out” vibe. Does the marketer know the difference?
In addition, do the articles relate to the client’s industry and audience? – this harkens back to my NASA example above. Content is necessary, of course, but irrelevant content is worse than no content at all. Because it’s better that the marketer pump out less content if it’s not relevant, yes?
Do they add any value? – the $64,000 question! Can you tell without having access to measurement tools?
3. Ask for a number of references and call them.
How has the business level of influence grown? For sure if they cannot achieve this for themselves, then they can’t do it for the client. – try objective measurements if you can get them, like Google rankings, bounce rate, etc.
What have been the benefits? – only your industry will have the specifics for this. Increased sales may or may not be the actual benefit. After all, sometimes social media is used for damage control. If that can happen more efficiently and inexpensively – that might be the benefit.
What difference has it made to your online brand? – again, this is a specific question.
How good is the level of communication? – hard to say what this means without context. After all, the car dealer and the online cancer support group will have different needs in this area.
What results has the business seen? – again, objective measurements are best, whatever you can get.
4. Ask what Twitter measuring tools they use to provide their clients with monthly reports.
While there are some good free tools around they do not come close to paid analytical tools for managing Twitter accounts. – agreed, but sometimes that’s how things go, particularly if the Tweeter has worked for startups or nonprofits.
Ask what recommendations they have made to the client that have enabled the business to grow based on the findings. – these should be in whatever reports the Tweeter provides.
5. Finally, ask how much time they intend to spend on your account over the week.
How will this time be managed with all their other projects? – this is a good question for any sort of a freelance or offsite working relationship.
What elements of account management does this breakdown in to? – again, this is not confined to social media; it’s a good question for any potential employee who’ll be working remotely, or not exclusively with you.
How will they keep you informed and up to date with relevant Tweets and conversations? – reports? Emails? What is manageable and relevant?
My Own Ideas
And now a few of my own when it comes to professionalism.
What do the tweets look like? Are they interesting? Relevant? Grammatically correct within the character limit? Or are they just slight variations on a theme?
Do all provided links work, or do they go to dead ends? And do the links have any sort of measurement behind them, even simple click metrics? Do they lead to generic pages, or to any custom pages for Twitter users?
What’s the follow/follower ratio? Does the person follow everyone, or are they, at least seemingly, a bit choosy in this area? We all know that junk follower accounts exist – does the Tweeter even follow those or seem to use auto-follow?
So how often does the person tweet? Daily? Monthly? A monthly Twitter stream is barely this side of useful. Tweets need not come every five seconds, but it is a fluid, evolving medium and needs more attention than that.
And finally, and this is a question for the person (and you may not get an accurate answer, by the way), does the Tweeter actually like what he or she is doing? Do they have a passion for it? Or is it, like, Time to make the doughnuts? I’m not saying that we can (or should) always love what we do. But plenty of people love doing this. Why not hire someone who does?
Finally, you can get a passionate Social Media person, to handle your Twitter stream, do your blogging, manage your online community, promote your Facebook page and more. And they will do it with professionalism and aplomb. We really exist.
1. Title Your Post – Place asterisks at the beginning and end of your first sentence of text to make it bold, treating it like a blog post title.
2. Introduce Your Post – Offer a short précis of the subject, as if you were writing a newspaper article.
3. Ask Questions – Encourage engagement by asking questions, either in the body of the piece or at its end.
4. Include an Image – If you’ve got great images, share them as full images.
5. Mention Influencers – When appropriate, mention key influencers in your post. For example, I mentioned Allton as he is the original author of the work and deserves full and proper credit.
6. Include 2 – 3 Hashtags – Google+ will add two or three hashtags, but it will copy the ones you provide, so give the program the right hashtags.
Plus three extras –
7. Share to your Blog Notification Circle – So this is not for you to spam everyone and anyone. Instead, as Allton recommends, set up a Blog Notification circle where you specifically ask people if they want to be notified of your new posts, and then only add them to that circle if they respond that they are opting in.
8. Respond to Comments – Also, once you’ve shared your post, take the time to respond to people who take the time to comment and engage you. Show appreciation, answer questions, and demonstrate your expertise.
BONUS: Include a Pin It Link – Because great synergy can come from having a strong Pinterest presence alongside Google+.
Want more tips on how to use Google+? Go straight to the source!
We all start off life (or, at least, us American type folk – your mileage may vary) learning to collaborate. First of all, we learn how to share. And we are broken into little groups. Furthermore, we pass our science classes because of, in part, how well we work with lab partners. In addition, we might try out for a class play or community theater, and become a part of an acting troupe. Or we play on sports teams or join a fraternity or a sorority. We join churches and volunteer groups.
So why is it so difficult for so many people to collaborate at work?
To be sure, I think a lot of us try. We dutifully send out some sort of an enormous email to the people on our team. And we attend meetings, and we might even take notes at them. In addition, we put our two cents into various documents. We may even attend various team-building exercises and emerge from them confident that our collaborative hurdles have been overcome and from now on, it’s cooperation all the way.
However, lots of us, aside from what is almost forced togetherness at work, end up as Lone Rangers. And we don’t even have faithful sidekicks.
I think that some of it may have to do with work itself. The process of education is competitive. And the process of interviewing is competitive. The process of advancing a career is also competitive. No wonder it’s tough to get together and set all that aside.
I think that email fosters the siloed feeling of being alone out there, just you against the onslaught of various missives. When was the last time any of us truly enjoyed the process of grabbing emails, opening them and answering them?
I mean at work, people.
Email feels like nagging. And it feels incessant. It is a baby bird. And while I love little baby critters as much as the next person, I have to say, these little guys can get annoying awfully quickly.
So … what to do? How to deal with the baby birds or, maybe, deal with fewer of them?
Collaborative Software, Forums, Wikis and Spreading the Wealth
Email is so last week!
The thing of it is, email is a perfectly fantastic medium for a lot of things. And Word, for example, is a perfectly fantastic word processing program. But just like Word is not the best tool for spreadsheeting, email is not the best tool for collaboration.
Instead, you need to work with software that truly fosters communication and collaboration. You need to draw upon the wisdom of crowds.
Oh my God, you want me to do what?
I want you to talk to a bunch of people. In a forum.
But they’ll be mean to me. They won’t answer my question. They’ll steer me in the wrong direction.
Not necessarily. Consider (insert shameless plug here) Able2Know. Yes, it’s true. There are people who will be less than wonderful to you. There are people who will misdirect you. And there are people who will be friendly but, essentially, cannot answer your question, and so their presence on your question thread is a waste of your time.
There are also people who will take time out of their day to Google for you. In addition, there some people have actual knowledge, and will help you out with things like Latin translations, geology inquiries and philosophical arguments. And there are others, because it is a large and (mostly) friendly forum, who don’t know the answer but will steer you to the people who do.
Wikis, Databases and One-Stop Shopping
There are plenty of other places online with common, pooled information. Memory Alpha, for example, is a large wiki about canon Star Trek in its various forms. SparkPeople, while it has dedicated health, fitness and nutrition experts, also has a huge section filled with the weight loss and maintenance wisdom of people like you and me. And IMDB (The Internet Movie Database) is the product of all sorts of people working together, including actors and actresses, agents and fans, to get the most comprehensive information on film and television, all together into one neat, easy-to-use package.
What do these three rather diverse sites have in common? They all have people who have a passion for the subject matter, who are willing to do a few things –
Research and make sure that their information is as accurate as possible
Spend time getting the information onto the site and
Work with IT in order to assure that the site remains fast and easy to use.
Oh and, except for IMDB Pro, they all have another thing in common.
Amazingly, they are all free to use.
Bringing it All Back Home
So what’s in it for you, to use a forum or a wiki at your place of business?
Get out of the email rut and make it easier to actually find what you’re working on. 1,000 emails in your inbox are not possible for you to read, digest and work on. You may as well delete them. Because you are not reading them.
Make it easier for everyone to see, at a glance and at the same time, what you’re working on. The mass email to fifteen people will inevitably begin to splinter, as someone changes a status from the To: field to the CC: field, or leaves someone off the distribution list entirely, or hits Reply instead of Reply All. Using a forum or a wiki eliminates that as a possibility and fosters collaboration better.
Urgency can more granularly be communicated. I use Yahoo mail at home, and I like it, but there are only a few possible modes. Read/unread, starred/unstarred. Well, what about urgently starred? As in, it’s not only important, but I need to do it yesterday. Alas, the only way I can get this across in my own mailbox is to use an “Urgent” folder. But that doesn’t tell anyone else, at a glance, that a particular item is red-hot. Life is not binary, not really. Why should your communications be that way?
Oh, and one more thing. Collaborating on one thing can often lead to collaboration on other things. The people on Able2Know who get together to help solve problems that someone might have in introducing a new puppy to a household also do things together like play Fantasy Baseball, rally around when someone is ill, congratulate users when they marry or become parents or grandparents and even meet on occasion. In short, they reach through the pixels and become friends.
Shama Hyder Kabani’s prose style is engaging and direct. Furthermore, if you go to her own website, the way she writes represents an obvious reflection of the way she really speaks. Major points for authenticity.
Shama says that the three main social media areas/sites you should focus on are LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Forget most others. However, this part has changed and is out of date, for I would argue to swap out Instagram or even Snapchat (depends on demographics) for LinkedIn.
In addition, your should present your company (and, by extension, yourself) on all three with a kind of what I like to call professional intimacy. That might sound like an oxymoron. However, the idea is, be genuine and sincere but also hang back in terms of too much sharing and togetherness. Your customers want to know about your company and your product, to be sure, but a little personalization works (and, in fact, can help to build trust). But too much personalization does not work. Your prospects and customers really do not wish to hear that you’re going in to have a root canal.
So Shama’s three points come under the ACT acronym:
Attract – bring the prospects and customers in with good, lively (and up to date) content
Convert – turn your prospects into customers (and this may take several visits by them before this happens) and
Transform – turn successes into magnetic forces of attraction
Attraction is your brand, your outcomes, your differentiators. And Social Media marketing is extremely good for this. Clarity of communications is key.
However, Social Media remains a less optimal tool for converting strangers (prospects) into clients (paying customers). However, it is good for converting strangers into information consumers, which can often be a major step in moving them along the path from prospect to client.
Transformation involves social proof, e. g. we’re more inclined to do something if we see others doing it.
Therefore, you have to do a good job, and use your success in order to attract more successes. That is, ask your clients if you can retell their success stories. Make it easy to buy and pick your tactics (means of marketing) last — you need to get the essentials (such as theory) in place first.
Strategy is the big picture. Tactics are the when, the where and the how.
Blogging is also key. The idea behind blogging is three things:
Educate – use your blog to add value by giving away good information.
Market – make it attractive to buy and
Sell – make it possible to buy.
The book is a brisk read. Of particular interest are the testimonials in the back. As you go along, you realize that Shama practices what she preaches on every page of the book. And, it worked, didn’t it? Because if she got you to buy her book and check out her website, then she’s already converted you to a client. And all she needs to do is sell you her services and she hits 100% of her target. Finally, the most amazing thing is, even after you realize how much you are being marketed to, you just don’t seem to mind any more.