I was recently interviewed by Doresa Banning for the Nevada Business Journal about Social Media and business. It was an enjoyable experience. Some of it was just thoughts on some of the major players: Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and Twitter. We talked a little about best practices, including social media policies for HR. And even a little about the future of social media.
Archive for social media
QR Codes are cool. I agree. I’ve been talking about them in digital media presentations for about three years now. I like them! I think they have a ton of possibilities. But, for the love of Pete, we’re becoming obsessed with QR codes. They’re the shiny new toy. Everybody wants to use them. But they are being used stupidly. Ignore the fact that smart phones only have about a 30% market penetration in the US. Ignore the fact that only like 10% of internet traffic comes from mobile phones. Ignore the fact that the people that do have smart phones do not all have scanners nor do they know how to get/use one. People are being just plain non-strategic and impractical. I think there are some cool ways and some lame ways to use QR Codes. Here goes:
- Cool Way: On food packaging. I think it’s great when a box of food has a QR Code on it and scanning brings you to a video of how to prepare a recipe, or a list of ingredients needed to make a recipe. That gives value. I’m going to tag “Recipe Book” on to this example. It’s too similar to make it its own. But a cookbook should be full of QR codes that download a tutorial video for preparing a dish.
- Lame Way: On your website. There is almost NO REASON you should ever have a QR Code on your website. It especially infuriates me when the QR code brings me to your homepage or another page in your site. I’m already there! Just give me a link. That’s ridiculous. Yet I see it time and time again. Stop putting QR Codes on your website!
- Cool Way: Selling a house. I like this idea. A QR Code next to an ad for a house, or on the sales sign out front. Scanning brings you to a virtual tour and/or information about the house (the MLS listing, etc), and the Realtor to contact to make arrangements to see the house in person. Let’s get rid of those crappy, water-soaked, black & white photocopies that sit in that plastic bin.
- Lame Way: In an email blast. OK, this is really similar to the website one, but it’s equally as lame. Do not make me scan something that I can just click. Don’t put me through all that effort when I could just click a link. These seem like ways to use QR Codes just to use them.
- Cool Way: Scavenger Hunts. I think this is actually kind of fun. QR Codes can be posted or hidden in various spots and finding one reveals a clue (video or photo or text or something more interactive) to the location of the next clue.
- Lame Way: On clothes and/or name badges. I know that some people think that printing these on shirts, scarves, hats or name badges at conferences is cool. I don’t. Yeah, people could scan and get your information. OR, they could talk to you like a human being if they’re going to be that close to you.
- Cool Way: Next to artwork or items in a museum. People can scan to get more information about the artist, the item the history behind it, etc. I think QR Codes are really applicable in these situations where it would be visually disturbing and impractically to have an enormous wealth of information on the wall. This could apply to art galleries, museums, zoos, theme park lines (God, they’re long and dull!). This provides people with curiosity a way to really dive into something they’re interested in.
- Lame Way: Tattoos. Really? That’s just stupid. What if this QR Code doesn’t last? What site or resource are you sending people to? Just a really bad idea to tattoo a QR Code on to your body. Get a tattoo of a unicorn playing checkers. It’s timeless.
- Cool Way: Assembly directions. Now, I never need to look at assembly directions because I’m a man and therefore naturally apt at assembling things. But, some people may be very confused by the ridiculously complex directions that come with some products. A QR Code could be stickered on the product in case the directions aren’t included, or link to a video that gives a really good step-by-step assembly tutorial.
- Lame Way: Outdoor billboard. Especially those on the side of the road/freeways. Do you really expect people to whip out their phone, pull up their scanner app and get the QR Code snapped? Besides being extremely dangerous, you don’t have the time to make that happen. That’s why you typically get 7 words on a billboard. There’s no time for anything more. There’s certainly no point in putting a QR Code on a billboard.
- Cool Way: Conference mobile app. I actually just experienced this one not too long ago. Scanning the QR Code downloaded an app to my phone that was specific to the conference with a full schedule, options to add sessions to my personal calendar, maps, exhibitor information, etc. It was actually really valuable and a practical use since an application went to my phone.
- Cool or Lame (you decide): Tombstones. I actually kind of think this is cool. I was surprised at how many people have a QR Code on their tombstone. Scanning would bring you to a site about the person, maybe video, photos, etc. Thoughts on this one? Is putting a QR Code on a tombstone taking it too far?
I spend a lot of time volunteering with college students – most of which is spent with my fraternity, Sigma Phi Epsilon. I just received communication from the national organization about representation on social media. The message was intended more for undergraduates than alumni (I think!), but I found it interesting enough to share. We are familiar with more and more workplaces developing social media policies to help protect their brand value. Believe it or not, fraternities (and sororities) are in the same boat. They have a brand to maintain, and with thousands of representatives of that brand all over the nation, it can be difficult to maintain. Especially when there is an interest to reject the “frat boy” stereotype of boozing and womanizing.
What makes it an added challenge is that we’re working with people age 18-22 (generally) who are in the habit of documenting their lives on social media such as Facebook. Posting a photo of you and your buddies hoisting up beer cans or the ubiquitous red Solo cup are badges of honor in a Facebook profile. This isn’t just a Greek Life thing, it’s a college student, high school student, young person thing. We have all seen these types of photos on Facebook. But, the dynamic changes when you’re representing an organization and not just yourself. It will be interesting to see if any national organizations impose a social media conduct policy with consequences for violations.
After all, these are brands built over hundreds of years. Keeping “incriminating” photos off of Facebook isn’t going to protect the brand (it’s made up of so many other factors), but the types of photos that are celebrated on Facebook tend to be the type that entrench Greeks in the negative stereotypes. Don’t get me wrong – these students are doing this to themselves. But they’re affecting a brand that’s larger than them – just like employees who carelessly post can have an affect on the company they work for/represent. We’ll see what happens over time as we deal with a population that’s even more and more entrenched in technology and social media and a habit of documenting their lives – good and bad.
Here is the friendly reminder to the undergrads of SigEp:
“In today’s world, everybody must learn to be careful about how they are portrayed on the internet, particularly on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. We must all be careful about privacy settings, and about what gets posted on a profile, group or fan page—whether public or private. More and more employers are using these sites to look at potential employees every day. University administrators are also using these sites to learn more about their students and campus. As brothers in Sigma Phi Epsilon, we should think about how we are portrayed on these websites, and how our actions reflect upon the Fraternity as a whole.
Be conscious of how your chapter brothers are using social media sites, individually and on chapter accounts. Chapter members should not be identifying themselves as SigEps via usernames, titles, captions, clothing, etc. if they are participating in inappropriate or unlawful behavior, using illegal substances, or failing to live up to the Cardinal Principles of Virtue, Diligence and Brotherly Love.”
March 10, 2010 · Filed under advertising, Brand, Business, Marketing, Nevada, New Media, Presentations, social media · Tagged Google, Mike McDowell, Nevada Interactive Media Summit, New Media, presentation, Search Engine Optimization, SEO, social media
As I posted previously, I had the honor of presenting at the annual Nevada Interactive Media Summit again this year. The Nevada Interactive Media Summit seeks to “bring together business owners, non-profit advocates, publishers, newsmakers, bloggers, podcasters, filmmakers, media, PR and advertising professionals and anyone else interested in interactive media from every corner of Nevada together for hands-on learning, rich discussions, opportunities to meet with local companies working in interactive media and plentiful networking opportunities.” I felt fortunate to be the only presenter to give two separate presentations – one on the New Media landscape and one on the strategy behind Search Engine Optimization (SEO). This is the second year that I’ve presented New Media 101, and it was just as thrilling for me this year as it was last year. I really love the opportunity to take these seemingly complex (and to some people, scary) concepts and bringing them back down to Earth where they belong. The SEO presentation was a first timer for me and while I was pleased with it, I’d like to further refine it, and bring some more examples and humor into it. The conference was well worth the price of admission for attendees ($25), and there were so many intelligent minds in one space, and so many new and exciting ideas that it made for a wonderful experience. Thank you to the Summit coordinators who invited me to present my ideas and knowledge.
I’ve embedded the two presentations below. If you’d like me to present either of these for your business or organization, please feel free to contact me.
February 25, 2010 · Filed under Business, Marketing, Nevada, New Media, Presentations, social media · Tagged #nim10, Nevada, Nevada Interactive Media Summit, New Media, NIM, presentation, social media, speaking, University of Nevada Reno
There’s no doubt been a buzz about if I would be presenting at this year’s Nevada Interactive Media Summit. And the great news for all of my loyal followers (both of you), is that I WILL be presenting! The event will be Saturday, March 6, 2010 at the University of Nevada (click the link above to get more information and to register). Registration for the all-day event is only $25 and will be well worth it. Make sure you check out the lineup of presentations, speakers and discussion panels.
I will be doing two presentations this year:
1) New Media 101: What is it, Why use it?
2) Searching for Strategy: There’s More to SEO than Code
I hope to see you all there!
(BTW – could this badge clash more with my blog design colors? Then again, most everything clashes with my blog design colors.)
I took a very interesting test recently in which I was shown video of 20 people smiling, and was asked to decipher if I was looking at a genuine smile or a fake smile. I got 17 out of 20 correct. It certainly wasn’t easy, but I think that we are all programmed with pretty good bullshit detectors. We can usually tell if somebody is lying to us, giving us a fake smile, or isn’t genuinely interested in us. This can be a client, a new acquaintance, a cashier, a potential love interest or a customer service agent. And we don’t need to see their faces to tell if someone truly cares or if they’re just going through the motions. It’s generally very difficult to glean tone via text alone, but it is easy to tell if a person, company or organization is “phoning it in” even in e-mail or social networks. Yes, it will take you longer to respond to people, and to post new information, but take that time to make it genuine. It may seem like you’re accomplishing a lot when you re-post the exact same information across a dozen different networks or to your entire e-mail database. But, I assure you, you are accomplishing less. We can tell you don’t care about us. We can tell you’re not treating us special. We can tell you’re giving us a fake smile. Take the time to be real and make us feel special.
By the way – TAKE THE TEST
I was watching some show on MTV today about people being addicted to porn. In fact, one woman was so addicted, that she wanted to become a porn star herself. The show goes on to show scenes of her crying because her parents aren’t proud of her being a porn star, etc, etc. But here’s what occurred to me: why does anybody who does porn automatically become a porn star? You’re a star after just one film, regardless of the quality? The world doesn’t work like this. What’s with this self-anointed stardom?
And then I realized there is another group of people that are just like “porn stars”: The ever-popular Social Media Expert. I know, it’s super popular to criticize the social media expert – and I don’t want to jump on that bandwagon. But, understanding social media as a channel for strategic and effective communications is a large part of my job, and there are many many people who are really undermining the level of understanding needed to be a “star.” With little to no experience in understanding social media as a communication tool, folks are fully prepared to anoint themselves as experts and oversell their under-qualified services.
If your girlfriend set up a camera in the bedroom one night, would you start listing “porn star” on your resume? No? Well, then why do you believe that you’re a social media “expert” because you decided to set up a Facebook page in 2008? My point is simply that you’re no more a Social Media Expert than the girl who got breast implants and decided to do a film in her neighbor’s garage for $50 is a porn star.
There’s more to being a star; there’s more to being an expert. Don’t kid yourself. And, for everybody else: don’t believe everyone who tells you they’re a star.
I told myself I would never do a blog entry where I apologized for not posting in a while. So, I’m kinda not doing that right now. I’ve got to find a harmony with the things that I blog about in this space (typically marketing or new media driven) and the things that I blog about on the KPS|3 Marketing blog (typically marketing or new media). Since the topics are starting to tend to be the same, I’ve got to do some soul searching and decide what I really want this space (mikemywords) to be and how it will be distinct from my work blog.
In the meantime, here are some of my more recent blog postings on the KPS|3 blog. I think you’ll find some articles you enjoy among this group…
7. Legally Blog
As you may know, there are a number of URL shortening services that help shorten a URL down to about a dozen characters so that you can include links in Twitter and social network updates. The “who’s best” jury is still out on tinyurl vs bitly vs twurl vs trim (and more…) – but all of these services allow you to enter a URL and get it shortened.
I have been noticing that TweetDeck (and some other Twitter clients) have been giving you a preview of the final destination of a shortened URL. In other words, when you click on a shortened URL, it brings up a window that gives you the full URL that you are headed to. I love this feature. Since a shortened URL may look like this – http://bit.ly/oZBXk - you have no idea where it will take you when you click on it. It could be a website that you don’t want to visit (like MeatSpin – and, NO, I will not be linking to it). The shortened URL preview on TweetDeck looks like this:
But, my aversion to getting tricked into clicking on a meatspin link got me thinking. What if you could trick the shortened URL preview? What if my shortened URL only led to another shortened URL? So, I took a URL (http://mikemywords.com) and shortened it using TinyURL. I then took what TinyURL gave me (http://tinyurl.com/lcvq3d) and shortened it with Bitly (and got http://bit.ly/oZBXk). I then started twisting my mustache in a sinister fashion and wringing my hands in anticipation of the proving of my own brilliance. I had fooled the shortened URL preview! But upon closer look, the “Story Title” in the preview window still displayed the title of the final destination. See image below:
So, I almost outsmarted the shortened URL preview window in TweetDeck. But not quite. Which is fine, because at least I can always see the Story Title and will be less likely to end up on a site I don’t want.
On a related side note. TinyURL will not let you shorten a URL that has already been shortened (like a bit.ly URL), neither will Trim.
May 12, 2009 · Filed under Brand, Business, Marketing, New Media, social media · Tagged facebook, Frank Warren, Mike McDowell, Post Secret, postcard, PostSecret, secret, social media, success, Twitter
PostSecret is a very interesting entity. It calls for people to submit their secrets (some funny, some sad, some loving, some scandalous), anonymously, on a postcard and mail them to PostSecret’s founder, Frank Warren. Frank then selects a handful of postcards to share, online, once a week (Frank actually refers to PostSecret as a “community art project”). I’m not going to review the history of PostSecret (although it’s very interesting, and Frank now tours around both with museum displays of submitted secrets, and speaking to large groups about the therapy of letting go of secrets, among other things). But I encourage you to read up on the history of PostSecret (plus a pretty decent little interview on Guy Kawasaki’s blog, actually).
This post, however, is to highlight how well PostSecret has done in entering the world of social media. I know I usually complain about how awful most organizations are at participating in social media, but this time is different. I’ve been consistently impressed with PostSecret, and their ability to be true to their community and offer value to the relationship. PostSecret secrets have been simply shared on a blog for a long time now, and I feel like they cautiously moved into the world of social media. Based on what I’ve read, this was due, in part, to the PostSecret Community (those loyal PostSecret followers) begging to not “taint” PostSecret in the social mediasphere. Ironically, I feel like they didn’t want to share the secret pleasure they had discovered in PostSecret with the social media world. PostSecret moved into Facebook not too long ago, and then recently into Twitter. And it’s really their Twitter presence I’d like to applaud the most. Here’s the top 5 things they’ve done BRILLIANTLY in their Twitter community:
1. Kept It Real: Frank is at the heart of all communication. He is the face of PostSecret, he is transparent, and he is accessible. Followers feel like they have a relationship with him. He responds in a reasonable amount of time, despite having more than 100,000 followers on Twitter. He also talks about real things that are happening in his life. Sure, the tweets about seemingly mundane parts of people’s lives are what makes Twitter laughable and futile, it’s also what makes you a real person. People don’t want to talk to your brand – they want to talk to a PERSON who represents your brand well. So, it’s ok to pepper in some flavor with an occasional tweet that contains your opinion, or your joys, or your frustrations. we all have them. Use discretion, but be real. Who ever wanted to join a community of logos?
2. Asked for Feedback: Frank will be publishing his fourth PostSecret book soon, and I have LOVED that he is asking his community on Twitter for feedback on the cover artwork being sent to him by his publisher (example here). Heck, he’s even asked his Twitter community to submit their own cover artwork for consideration. It’s this kind of engagement that is frickin’ gold! We don’t feel like followers of PostSecret, we feel like valuable members of a community. You should all strive to offer your community opportunities to give you feedback. What can you ask for feedback on?
3. Asked for Help: Besides asking for feedback (a form of help), Frank has even reached out to his Twitter community to ask for help with translating, decoding, understanding certain postcard secrets that are sent to him. He recently asked for help decoding a Star Wars coded secret he received (here). Think about how you can apply this to your organization. How can you ask for assistance? Make your community feel valuable.
4. Gave Added Value: One way to reward your community for connecting with you in a social media space is to give them “more than the average bear.” What I’m saying, in a convoluted way, is thank them for being a part of your community by giving them things that the people that simply browse your website wouldn’t get. For example, a sneak peak at a new product, a discount that only your community gets, a prize giveaway or just some kind of access to something that ONLY they get. For PostSecret, it’s sharing secrets that come in the mail before they get published (and some of them never get published, making the community feel that much more special). We’re getting secrets that nobody else is getting! So, think about it. What can you offer (OF REAL VALUE!) that adds value to your community, and makes them feel special for being a part of it? It has to be more special than simply reminding people in your community of the discount that you’re already offering every Tom, Dick and Harry.
5. Sparingly Self-Promoted: Yes, you need to promote. And yes, PostSecret promotes. Frank promotes his book release, his tours and the art shows. But he does it sparingly. It’s OK to talk about the great things you’re doing with passion and excitement. Again, we didn’t join this community to be sold to. BUT, Frank gives us so much value in being a part of this community, that we don’t mind the occasional promotion of a book or a show. Think about it in terms of talking to a friend – if they had a new product, or an exciting tour, or something coming up and mentioned it, you wouldn’t consider it promotional. Well, that’s how it works here. It’s just like a buddy mentioning another exciting thing that is happening in their life. So, promote, but promote in an unassuming way that reads like another excited statement about your life.
My hat is off to you, PostSecret (and specifically Frank Warren), for being a glowing example of how to use social media properly. Thank you for doing it right. There are so many people treating Twitter as a new ad platform, that’s it’s refreshing to see you use it as a community.
(note: images from postsecret.blogspot.com)