Posts tagged Mike McDowell

Social Media Interview with Nevada Business Journal

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.

Read the full article. 


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Mike McDowell dot com is all mine!

I did it. I did it. I did it! I finally got! And, yes, I am rejoicing with all the fervor and feelings of accomplishment as somebody who skillfully landed the parking spot in front on the grocery store. I realize that I didn’t do much to secure this domain, but I have been chasing it for EIGHT LONG YEARS. I checked in regularly, and as the expiration edged closer, I checked multiple times a day.

I am so happy right now. This is the best way I can express my joy:


Next step is, of course, to decide what the hell to do with my domain other than a silly redirect to this blog.

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20 Resume Tips in 20 Minutes

I was given 20 minutes to impart some resume wisdom upon the eager young learners in the Ad Club at the University of Nevada, Reno. So, I decided I’d give them 20 tips in 20 minutes. Here’s what I told them.

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New Media and SEO at the Nevada Interactive Media Summit

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.

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Social Media Porn Star

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'm a star, baby" (photo by danielcorba via flickr)

"I'm a star, baby" (photo by danielcorba via flickr)

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The Greatest Talent You Can Have

There are a lot of talented people out there in the world. Slick salespeople, creative artists, intelligent programmers. They all have a skill set that makes them special and that makes them valuable, but for my money, the greatest talent or skill that you can have is empathy: the ability to understand or identify with another person. Don’t get this confused with sympathy, which is more about feeling the same as another person. But empathy doesn’t require you to share a feeling, thought or motivation with another person. Rather, empathy refers to your ability to simply understand or identify with those feelings, thoughts or motivations – and that is a talent you can leverage in many walks of life. 

Of course, I think the unspoken caveat to having this talent is that you then know what to do with that understanding. In my line of business (marketing), this talent is essential to success. This industry is about understanding a specific target, and what motivates them, engages them, scares them, makes them happy, etc. Those who can use their skill of understanding another person can really connect with their message. 

But, empathy is a great talent in many other industries, as well. Nearly every industry that provides a product or service has another person as the end user. Those who can best understand what that end user wants are in a position to succeed. 

OK, let’s say you don’t have a product or service – you may have a boss, and it helps to understand them. What motivates them? What might they be going through? What will mean the most to them?

If you don’t have a boss, you may have employees. You can’t tell me you wouldn’t be in a better position if you were able to empathize with your employees. By better understanding them, you can get better results out of them. 

Heck, let’s move this away from work. There is incredible benefit in better understanding a love interest, or a friend, or a family member. There is benefit in understanding the cashier, the waiter, even the guy who cut you off in traffic. 

The great thing is that we’re all capable of some level of empathy. It’s that old adage of “putting yourself in their shoes.” But this is where there is varying levels of what I consider to be a talent. We’re not all great at putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes. We often view the world exclusively from our own perspective – which is another reason I consider strong empathy a talent. If you are able to “step in to” somebody else’s perspective and really try to understand why they do what they do, and why they think what they think, and why they feel what they feel, then you’ve really got something special.

So, if you really want to perfect a talent, I’d work on empathy. Take opportunities to really try to put yourself in another person’s shoes. Really try to imagine that you are experiencing exactly what they’re experiencing, then ask yourself how you would feel/react in that situation. This does take a strong imagination. I think you’ll find that by working on your empathy, you’ll really see the effects in your life.

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What Happens When You Shrink a Tiny URL?

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 – – 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:

Shortened URL Preview on TweetDeck

Shortened URL Preview on TweetDeck

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 ( and shortened it using TinyURL. I then took what TinyURL gave me ( and shortened it with Bitly (and got 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:

Short URL Preview on TweetDeck

Short URL Preview on TweetDeck

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 URL), neither will Trim.

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PostSecret: A Lesson in Social Media Excellence

needles  hacker  baby   

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

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10 Tips for Being a Better Presenter

Seth Godin Presentation - photo via Flickr/Erik Charlton

Seth Godin Presentation - photo via Flickr/Erik Charlton

I have been giving a lot of presentations (on new media) in the past year or two, and have also been at numerous summits, expos, conventions, etc and sat through presentations – both good and bad. I’ve learned some things along the way about being a better presenter. Am I a perfect presenter? No. I probably even violate my own rules from time to time. But, presenting is about practicing and getting better. This isn’t the list to end all lists, either. I encourage you to add your own best tips to this list. What’s tip #11?

1. Know Your Material. OK, this one is not up for negotiation. You have most likely been asked to speak because you are considered an authority on a particular subject. Or, perhaps you’ve been asked to make a keynote speech or present an award. It is obvious when you don’t know your stuff. Try not to use notes. Being prepared and presenting in a conversational way is going to make a huge difference. I’ve found that presenting actually forces you to know your material better, and forces you to do some additional research. This also allows you to speak with conviction. The best presenters I’ve seen speak with conviction.

2. Limit Words on Your Slides. God, there are some dull PowerPoint presentations! Words only make them worse. I’ve learned from BrainRules, that humans are rules by sight. Words do not excite sight. Images do, and they help us remember content better. According to BrainRules, you’ll remember 10% of what you hear. Add a picture, and you’ll remember 65% of it. “But, I can see the text on the bullet points.” Wrong, bozo! You retain double with images that you retain with text alone. You know who does a great job of using images in his presentation? Seth Godin. He’s incredible. I watched his presentation for Tribes, and I don’t know that he used a single word – all images. And this was a long presentation – but I was engaged the entire time! 

3. Freshen Things Up Every 10 Minutes. OK, I learned this one from BrainRules, too. Apparently, the human brain has an attention span of about 10 minutes (some could make a case for fewer). If you have a presentation that is longer than 10 minutes, you need to tell a relevant story, show a relevant video, or do a relevant activity. Don’t screw with the rules of the brain. They’re pretty concrete. 

4. Harness Your Energy. Because it’s distracting. Many people have anxiety or nervous energy, or even excitement when presenting. That energy has to go somewhere. Often, it comes out in fidgeting or pacing. When you present, take everything out of your pockets – coins, cell phone, shrunken heads, etc. If you don’t you will, without realizing it, fidget with them and the audience will look at nothing but you toying with things in your pocket (this is not what you want!). A lot of people like to pace around when they present – they think it gives the presentation energy. Wrong! It’s distracting. Movement can be strong in a presentation, though, and sometimes there is strength in approaching a person in the audience or referencing a visual aid. However, I gained a tip years ago that if you feet are moving, your mouth shouldn’t be. Skeptical? Try it – it works well. Otherwise, people will watch you pace back and forth and not hear a word you say.

5. Nix the Verbal Ticks. Um, er, uh, you know, such as. These are examples of verbal ticks. They’re those little filler words we mutter when our brain is taking a breath. But, like pacing, verbal ticks can be extremely distracting. Often times, when I notice a presenter is “umming” or “ahhing” I get so obsessed with predicting the next “um” that I can’t pay attention to what is being presented. Not too long ago, I actually starting tallying “ums” and got to about 100 in about 15 minutes. Sad thing is, I don’t think the presenter knew she was leaning on verbal ticks so much. So, record your next speech, or have a friend in the audience critique you (including looking out for your verbal ticks) and see if you are a victim of subconscious verbal ticks. They’re deadly.

6. Know Your Audience. Truthfully, this is probably one of the more important tips for presenters. If you don’t know about your audience, you don’t know what they want to learn about, what they’ll respond to, what jargon they will or won’t understand, what’s offensive to them or what’s important to them. If your contact can’t give you information about the audience as you’re preparing your presentation, just get as much info as you can and resolve to take a straw poll of your audience before you begin. If you’ve obeyed the rules of knowing your material and using more images than text, you can adjust your presentation on the fly and rock it hard. t also helps to meet some of the audience members ahead of time and chat with them. Ask them questions that will lead them to tell stories about experiences that you may be able to reference during your presentation as a segue or a great example. It’s super-strong to be able to say, “Karen and I were talking before we got started, and she mentioned her frustration with ___.” Of course, be aware of anything that may be too private.

7. Have Sticky Eyes. This isn’t as weird as it sounds. It’s about eye contact. Some presenters scan the room non-stop as they present, never landing on a person. Some presenters gaze into their laptop screen or stare at the projector screen. Some just stare at the back wall of the room. This is keeping you from connecting with the people you’re presenting to (oh yeah, those peeps). Make eye contact and maintain it for about three seconds. When moving on to the next person, imagine that your eye-contact is stuck and you can only separate it as though you were stuck with glue. This prevents you from the typewriter-style, shifty eye-movement from one person to the other. Sticky eyes translates as more genuine eye contact and makes them feel like you’re talking to them – it keeps them engaged. 

8. Don’t Hand Stuff Out. People will look at whatever you give them and will not listen to you. If you do want to give people handouts, tell them that you’ll provide a handout with more information after the presentation. 

9. Don’t Turn Off the Lights. OMG – major offenders. Remember in high school when the substitute teacher would turn off the lights and turn on a movie? You’d put your head down and fall asleep. Same thing happens now. People will fall asleep if you turn off the lights. Guarantee it. If you need to, dim the lights near your presentation, but don’t ever turn the lights off. Adjust your visuals if they can’t be seen in a lighter setting. 

10. Scope It Out. Know where you’re presenting, and request to check it out ahead of time. Know how big the stage is, whether you’ll have a podium or not. Know what kinds of tech hookups you have. Do you have outlets, a projector, a screen, speakers? Are you bringing the presentation on a disc, on a jump drive? Are they compatible with the equipment in the room? Hook up any equipment you’ll be using to present and do a dry run to ensure everything works well.  

Above all else – and I’m not assigning this an official number – be a likable person. If the audience doesn’t like you, they won’t listen to you. Be a person. Use voice inflection, use facial expressions, show excitement and emotion. It’s OK to be a person.

PLEASE add to this list so that I (and my readers) can become better presenters.

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Geico, Who Are You?

Geico‘s marketing efforts are confusing me. They’re really inconsistent. What’s the campaign? Is it the lizard? Is it the caveman? Is it the celebrity testimonial? Oh, maybe it’s the stack of money with the googly eyes. Er, perhaps it’s one of these motorcycle or ATV ads that have nothing to do with any of the others. Remember the, “I’ve got good news… I just saved a ton of money by switching to Geico?” 

Seriously, there seems to be a group of people sitting around a table and coming up with good ideas, and nobody to say, “no, let’s try to be consistent in our marketing efforts.” Instead, they just picked all the ideas, and said, “go with it.” 

Beside the logo slate at the end of a TV spot, I can’t tell that I’m watching a Geico spot. Sure, they’re all kind of quirky, and that is part of their brand, but they’re all so different that they don’t feel related. They don’t feel like a campaign. There are 10 different ideas, 10 different campaigns on the air. Here’s the tragedy in it all – Geico has done of good job of creating strong brand awareness, thanks to the gecko ads that started running in 1999/2000. If you recall, the (now famous) gecko pleaded with people to stop mistakenly calling him to save money on auto insurance. I’ll give Geico credit – they have a strong brand awareness. That’s why it’s tragic…

Why not use this awareness more to your advantage? I feel like with some consistency in marketing, you could leverage that recognition even further. But, until then, I’ll just be confused as to how a lizard, a caveman, squirrels, Joan Rivers, cash with a piercing stare, a baseball coach, a man on a beach with his motorcycle, and a bodyguard are a part of a cohesive ad campaign.

Here’s a list of links to some of the spots I mentioned. I figured links instead of embedding videos, to cut down on loading time.

Lizard – “Free Pie and Chips”

All Caveman Commercials


Joan Rivers Celebrity Testimonial

Googly-Eyed Cash

Motorcycle on the Beach

Female Bodybuilder

Secret Agent

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