Three Time-Saving Reasons to Use Incognito (Private) Browsing

Jan 31st, 20131 Comment

Incognito private browsing If you’re concerned about Internet safety or privacy, you’ve probably tried incognito, private or “stealth” browsing. In incognito mode, once you close the browser, it doesn’t save your history, cookies or temporary Internet files, as browsers usually do. (Read Terence O’Brien’s post to see how to use this privacy feature in your favorite browser.)

There are at least three useful reasons to use incognito browsing – even if you’re the only one who uses your computer and you don’t have nosy family members or co-workers around.

1. You can easily switch to a different account when logging in to Twitter, email and other services.

For example, I tweet, check email and do other work on behalf of clients and Social Media Club Austin. Instead of having to log out of my own Twitter, Gmail or Constant Contact accounts to access theirs, I simply open an incognito window to get a brand new session.

Note: I love Chrome, and while it’s true that I could get this “new session” functionality by simply opening a Firefox or Explorer window, I’m more productive in Chrome, so I prefer to use its incognito mode.

2. You can test links to make sure they actually work before sending them to people.

Has anyone ever sent you a link that didn’t work properly? To prevent that, I often test links in a private browser before emailing or posting them to social media sites.

For example, I was using Eventbrite to promote a Social Media Club panel, and wanted panelists to see a preview before I published the event. But when I tested the preview link in an incognito window, it wouldn’t display (because apparently only the Eventbrite user can see previews).  Testing links like this prevents “oops, my bad” delays and rework.

Testing a link in an incognito private browsing session

3. You can check your website’s or blog post’s true search visibility.

I access my blog and website a lot. My browser knows this. As a result, when I search for some related topic, my own site often shows up highly in search rankings. But when I want a better idea of what the rest of the world sees when they search for those topics, I use an incognito window. It’s a sobering reality check.

private browsing gives you better visibility on your true search ranking

While incognito browsing comes in handy for security (consider using it whenever you use a public computer) and privacy (shopping for presents, planning a surprise, etc), private browsing is just as handy for everyday essential tasks.

Do you have other time-saving reasons to use incognito browsing?


Other posts you might like:

Social Media Jobs – Those Over 25 Need Not Apply?
Names Have Power
Tina Fey’s Rules of Improv Apply to Your Clients Too

Life Before Google, Courtesy of a 1997 Telephone Book

Jan 28th, 2013No Comments

While organizing and decluttering the house, I unearthed a bit of a relic – not Antiques Roadshow-worthy, but historically interesting from a high tech angle.

It’s a 1997 phone book from the San Francisco Bay Area cities of Palo Alto, Mountain View and nearby Silicon Valley areas in Northern California. I lived there during part of the 80s and 90s.

Before heaving this brick of a book into the recycle bin, I thumbed through the listings looking for today’s Silicon Valley giants. What I found instead was a blast-from-the-past reminder of how much life has changed in the last 15 years, simply from an information retrieval point of view.

In other words, I remembered what life was like before Google and other search engines became essential to our daily lives.

Before Google, you perused an encyclopedia to find, say, the GNP of Canada or the capital of Vermont.  If you wrote a report for school, you hiked to the library and squinted at a card catalog or microfiche, and asked a sympathetic librarian for help.

Yellow pages exampleBefore Google, if you needed to find a plumber or a restaurant or the State Bar, you looked in the yellow pages. The phone book people (who are they, anyway?) began making a big phone book for your home and a smaller one, presumably for your car, so you could take it with you everywhere.

The phone book was a go-to source for tons of information, not just addresses and phone numbers. It had city, airport, campus and stadium maps, first aid tips, and a calendar of local events for the year.

Talklines in the Bay Area

Talklines were a "dial-a-topic" data dump.


For the truly inquisitive, the phone book listed Talklines, a kind of dial-on-demand information spiel for topics ranging from parenting to stain removal to auto repair. You just called and listened from the comfort of  your home.  (There were practically no mobile phones, and cordless phones were just getting popular.)

The most shocking part of this phone book was the listing of all known websites in the area.  Three whole pages were devoted to the URLs and email addresses of these early adopters of websites in the Silicon Valley. They were listed under “Internet – Web Sites” (right after Interior Decorating and before Investigators).

1997 listing of Internet websites in the Bay Area

1997 yellow pages listing of websites in the Bay Area

This was what life was like before Google, in the stretch of land that is now Google’s (and Facebook’s) headquarters.  Words like SEO, PageRank, keyword optimization, AdWords, link building and black hat tactics had yet to become part of our internet vocabulary.

We didn’t know it, but getting the information we needed was a very slow, very manual process. People relied on phone books like this ancient artifact, and books, newspapers and their friends and family to keep them up to date and get their questions answered.

Life was simpler, but not easier.

Do you remember life before Google?


‘Tis the Season to Shop With Mobile Apps

Nov 30th, 2012No Comments

Mobile shopping apps are all the rage this holiday season, designed in part for retailers to combat Amazon and the “showrooming” problem.  Determined to get my holiday shopping done early, I put some mobile shopping apps to the test.

I downloaded several of the apps I had read about, including RetailMeNot, Macy’s, Target, shopkick and Google Shopper.  Pressed for time and on a mission, I zeroed in on the easiest-to-use app, RetailMeNot, and the apps for two stores I frequent, Target and Macy’s. Here’s this shopper’s scoop:


RetailMeNot was my favorite discovery of the evening – the app is so clear and easy to use and it showcases great deals. I actually rearranged my shopping plan when I saw a 20-30% off deal at Old Navy, and walked away with stocking stuffers and jewelry for some teens and ‘tweens on my list.

mobile shopping with RetailMeNot app


Target’s app is quite full-featured.  It’s a meaty app that’s primed for an ongoing relationship with you, with features such as passport, list making and gift card balances.  But I just needed a few gifts on my list quickly, and I had great luck with the (searchable!) Weekly Ad list and mobile coupons.  Die-hard Target customers are very familiar with the Weekly Ad circular: it’s plastered all over the walls of each entrance and included in local newspapers.  Having the weekly specials searchable, separated by category and at my fingertips was a convenient time saver.

mobile shopping with the Target app


I was excited about Macy’s app, because I had read that one of its features was that it rewarded you with extra coupons the longer you stayed in the store.  That did not happen with me – perhaps that was only a Black Friday promotion.  I asked no fewer than five salespeople, and they weren’t familiar with the feature, let alone the app.  But I feel good that I did save 25% because of this in-store app.  If I had scoured the newspaper, which is what I used to do, I would have gotten the same deal but at the cost of more of my time.

mobile shopping with Macy's app

Are these apps one-hit wonders?

I was very pleased with these three apps – I will use them again and again.  Because I frequent both Target and Macy’s, I plan to dig more deeply into their apps and become a smarter shopper.  If you have a favorite store, be sure to check out its app to see if it works well for you.

RetailMeNot is going to become part of my out-and-about schedule:  Got an errand to run? Check RetailMeNot first to make sure I’m not missing some great nearby deal.  What a time saver, compared to pouring over newspaper ads!

Have you tried any shopping apps this year?


The Best Digital Marketing Podcasts (And Why)

Nov 25th, 20124 Comments

The best digital marketing podcasts are both entertaining and full of useful information. Listening to them makes your commute whiz by in a blur of productive learning. Each online marketing podcast below is informative and interesting, and produced on a regular schedule.  (Consistency in podcasting is a big challenge, as there are a number of good podcasts out there with spotty schedules).

As a bonus, each podcast has supplemental web-based resources you can dive into when the material covered deserves more than just a cursory listen.

Best digital marketing podcasts1. Marketing Over Coffee with Christopher Penn and John J. Wall (weekly, 20-30 minutes long)

I enjoy listening to these two because they’re both extremely knowledgeable and simpatico. Imagine Siskel and Ebert if they had liked each other. John Wall acts as host, everyman, color commentator and well-informed straight man to Christopher Penn’s nerd-in-the-know.  They discuss everything from analytics to SEO, email marketing, mobile, PPC, social media and copywriting.

What’s great: Wealth, breadth, and depth of information; supplemental LinkedIn group; helpful links on the website; video accompaniment when necessary for demos.

Heard often from Christopher:  How valuable Google Analytics is, often with quick demo examples.

Heard often from John:  How important mobile is; quirky, often-in-jest transition to sponsor promo; “I’ll throw the link on the website”.

Deserves an award for:  Best Digital Marketing Podcast, Best Social Media Podcast, Best Host and Co-Host Repartee, Best Podcast Titles

2. Social Pros by Jay Baer of Convince and Convert (weekly, 25-35 minutes long)

Jay Baer must have had a 2012 new year’s business resolution to create a successful podcast, and that, he did – with Eric Boggs of Argyle Social.  Their description of Social Pros: “We shine the spotlight on social media practitioners: real people doing real work in social media.” I see Social Pros as a collection of “slice of life” conversations with diverse, in-the-trenches people who are actually using the best practices presented in Marketing Over Coffee.  So the two podcasts are quite complementary.

What’s great:  Informational Q&A with a social media manager working in the real world. Also, Jay’s friendliness, quick wit and extensive industry knowledge make him a great host.

Heard often from Jay:  ”There needs to be a social media management solution in the midsize business space.”

Deserves an award for:  Fastest Ramp-Up of a Solid Social Media Podcast, Rookie of the Year Marketing Podcast, Best Real Marketing Pros Podcast

3. Six Pixels of Separation by Mitch Joel of TwistImage (weekly, 30-60 minutes long)

Mitch Joel described himself in a recent podcast as having a “passion for and deep repugnance for” marketing – and this defines his approach. He asks tough, insightful questions of his guests, and takes them to task if necessary in his polite, Canadian way. (Side note:  his opening music reminds me of one of my favorite shows, Arrested Development.)

What’s great:  Consistent high quality over the years, longevity, staying power (332 episodes since 2006!)

Heard often from Mitch: “So… Who are you and what do you do?”

Deserves an award for:  Longest Running Successful Marketing Podcast, Best North American Marketing Podcast

4. Duct Tape Marketing by John Jantsch (bi-weekly, 20-30 minutes long)

John Jantsch interviews various authors and entrepreneurs, so you hear thought leadership not only on marketing-related topics, but on small business matters in general.  John, obviously a voracious reader, asks thoughtful questions from both the audience’s perspective, as well as from his own very informed perspective.

What’s great: John is very knowledgeable and asks tough, non-softball-type questions. On his website, he does the heavy lifting by summarizing the author’s main points; so if you’re pressed for time or need a review, just read John’s synopsis.

Heard often from John:  Mannish giggling.

Deserves an award for:  Best Small Business Marketing Podcast, Best Small Business Podcast

5. Marketing Update by Hubspot (format is changing)

This is a newbie to my repertoire, so I’m not as familiar with it, but Hubspot produces such fantastic content in general, that I have the highest hopes for this podcast.  Hubspot recently changed its podcast/videocast format from a live audience to a recorded version, which is much better for a wider audience. The current two hosts, Karen Rubin and Mike Volpe, work well together, and I am happy to finally hear a woman on a marketing podcast.

What’s great:  It’s a quick wrap-up of timely digital marketing highlights.  The website has a comprehensive, link-rich summary of each podcast.  The twitter hashtag is #MktgUp, but now that the videocast is no longer live, I’m not sure how active the hashtag will be.

Heard often:  ”The marketing takeaway is…”  Hubspot ends each news segment by summarizing the main marketing lesson, which is helpful.

Deserves an award for: Podcast with Enormous Potential, Best Web-based Summary of a Podcast

Those are my favorite, don’t-miss, top podcasts.  What would you add to this list?


Other posts you might find interesting:

Live Tweet Checklist – Best Practices for Conference and Event Planners
Social Media Jobs – Those Over 25 Need Not Apply?
Tina Fey’s rules of Improv Apply to Your Clients Too

For Facebook Business Page Admins: 5 Easy Image and Photo Posting Tips For Your Fan Page

Oct 31st, 20122 Comments

Good images and photos are key to engaging your fans on Facebook.  This is especially true for visually oriented businesses, such as restaurants and food, clothing and accessories, furniture, cars, retail in general, and almost any business-to-consumer products.

How do you optimize your image content on Facebook? First, check out this handy infographic by graphic designer Louise Myers. It’s a one-stop shop for all the Facebook image dimensions you’ll need.  Once you’re happy with your basic images – cover photo, profile pic, custom tabs – it’s time to improve, revamp and refine your regular photo-posting routine.

These 5 easy tips will make you a Facebook image-posting pro:

Facebook pinned post with image1. Pin important posts to the top of your timeline, and be sure to include a compelling image. Most Page admins know you can pin any status update to the top left of your Page, which is prime real estate for Page visitors.  A pinned post (you can have only one at a time) stays pinned for 7 days at the top left of your Page, and is typically used to showcase a contest, upcoming event, or welcome video or image.

I like how Tocquiny, an Austin ad agency, has a simple “We’re Hiring” message to communicate, but instead of a ho-hum text update, they created a simple image which attracts more attention and which also appears as the top photo in their custom tab section.

2a. Use the star to highlight important posts.  A highlighted post expands across the width of your timeline, taking up the space in both columns.  Highlighted posts are good for all-hands photos, new product announcements, panoramic shots, or any other majorly horizontal photo. It will display at 843px wide by whatever height it is, up to 403px. Killer image tip: Put each customer testimonial in its own 843px-wide image and “sprinkle” these testimonials throughout your timeline by using the post scheduler to either backdate or schedule them.

2b. Easiest tip ever:  Highlight your best photos in your photo collection.  You have a ton of photos lounging in your Photos tab.  Find your favorites or your fans’ favorites and click the star to quadruple their size.  For example, BerryAustin can choose to highlight its popular, artistic catering van.

Facebook image posts - highlighted photo

3. Promote your blog post on your Page by posting a larger image, not just a link and thumbnail. Facebook’s default way of displaying a link is to show the title, some text and a tiny thumbnail. Your awesome blog post deserves more real estate than that!  So take a couple of minutes to screenshot the top of your blog article and then post that image, along with a short intro and the all-important link to the article.

Caution: Remember that this image will show up in some of your fans’ newsfeeds, so don’t go overboard and make a really long screenshot image to clutter up their feeds. I try to make as close to a square image as I can. See tip #4.

Facebook photos - posting screenshot image of blog article post

4.  When creating/editing images or snapping photos, think square. Photos that appear on your timeline wall display as a 403px square image. If your image is a larger square, Facebook will typically shrink it to fit.

If your photo is the common 4:3 aspect ratio of the default iPhone/Android camera app, then Facebook usually displays the topmost part on the timeline wall – vertical photos appear as if the bottom is cropped out. The good news? Once a photo is posted on your timeline wall, you can reposition it. Also, users who click on the photo will see it in its entirety; and when the photo appears in your fans’ newsfeeds, it will also appear in its entirety.

Facebook image displays at 403 pixels wideHorizontal photos wider than 403 pixels will have the edges cut off. This emoticons image was 500px wide, so Facebook cropped off the edges to display it as 403px wide.  Now users who visit the Page will need to click through to get the left side of the emoticons.

Facebook images - use square photos to display best on your timeline wallOne easy way to think square for mobile photo uploads is to use Instagram for most of your smartphone photos. Another way is to use an app like Pic Stitch (iPhone) or Photo Grid (Android) to make your default camera photo square before you post it.

When you create an image from scratch – again, think square, especially if the image is wider than 403px.  Bazaarvoice used a square image to display this quote about CMOs being brand stewards.  Page visitors will get the message at a glance without getting confused or having to click through.

5. Spruce up your Facebook Page with a wider variety of images.  If you’re bored with the types of images you’ve been posting to your Page, consider something new:  adding text to your photos, combining or “collaging” several photos into one, newsjacking a meme, using “prefab” e-cards, or putting quotations on a background canvas.  For more details on how to do these, see 5 Easy Apps to Improve and Customize Your Images and Photos.

Question:  What’s one of your tried-and-true image posting apps or tips?


5 Easy Apps to Improve and Customize Your Images and Photos

Oct 30th, 2012No Comments

If you have a smartphone, you’re a photographer.  And you probably spend quality time with your favorite photo and image editing software, whether it’s a desktop tool like Photoshop, or a mobile app like Instagram, Photoshop Express or Camera+, or a desktop/mobile combo like Pixlr-o-matic or Snapseed.

Want to take your creativity up a notch, and perhaps boost engagement on your Facebook fan page?  Your imagination and these five easy apps will breathe new life into your image-posting routines, no matter which social networks host your new creations.

Using Pic Stitch and Over to vary Facebook image content

Oscar used Over to put "SOCO" (South Congress) over one of the photos and then used Picstitch to combine 3 other photos in the collage.

1. Add text on top of your image/photo with Over. This mobile app does one thing and does it well – check out this quick video. Currently Over is available only for iOS devices.

2. Collage your photos with Pic Stitch for iPhone/iPad or Photo Grid for Android.  Both are tap-intuitive and give you lots of choices for the grid layout and the photo aspect ratio.  Use Pic Stitch and Photo Grid for before-and-after shots, series-of-steps illustrations, views of a product from different angles, photos of your employees and more.

I sometimes use Pic Stitch as a “make my image square” app before uploading a photo to Facebook, because square photos look better on a Facebook timeline/wall versus photos with the default iPhone 4:3 aspect ratio.

Image editing with quickmemeAdded bonus: Pic Stitch can also export photos to your Evernote or Dropbox account, which is useful if you like to keep blog-inspiration images in one of these, as I do with Evernote.

3.  Piggyback on a popular meme by using Quickmeme or other meme generators.  Quickmeme is available as both a desktop tool and mobile app. Not sure what the meme means? Check

BerryAustin Yogurt used Quickmeme’s version of the Dos Equis man to promote their Sunday special featuring hot fudge sundaes.

image editing with someecards for Facebook 4. Parody a sentiment with Someecards or other free online e-card.  Someecards is available as both a mobile app and desktop tool.  Again, BerryAustin has a fun, creative example.

5. Use Instagram.  I saved the biggy for last.  Instagram is both a photo editor (famous for its filters) and a social network with over 50 million users.  If you’re not using it, dip your big toe in the Instagram water by reading this great tutorial from Laura Zimmerman and this beginner’s guide by Mashable. Instagram photos are square, which again, almost always look better on a Facebook timeline.

Bonus tip: If you create some to-die-for, amazing images, consider protecting (or at least claiming credit for) them by putting a watermark on them with iWatermark.  Phyllis Khare of All Things Social Media gives good advice and more details on iWatermark in her blog post.

Question:  Have you tried any of these tools? Do you have other favorites? Please share!


Live Tweet Checklist – Best Practices for Conference and Event Planners

Sep 9th, 2012No Comments

You know you want extra buzz during your event, and that live tweeting can enhance the experience for both the audience and presenters.

As an event organizer, how do you make live tweeting work best for you and your audience?

Here’s a handy live tweeting checklist, with a few how-to examples from Social Media Club Austin‘s recent panel discussion, “Is Social Media Replacing Traditional Journalism?“.

Pre-event promotion over TwitterBefore the event

  1. Verify wifi availability and passwords.
  2. Verify Twitter handles for all presenters, their companies and event sponsors.
  3. Include the event hashtag and Twitter handles in event promotion, including in invitations and on social media outlets.  See screenshot for examples of pre-event tweets.
  4. Create signage/slides for all of the above to display at your event.
  5. Plan who will tweet under your official Twitter handle.  At Social Media Club Austin, we’ve had different people at the helm during any particular event.  If you don’t want to disclose your official login credentials, consider the GroupTweet tool, which allows others to tweet on your behalf without knowing your password.
  6. Be a pro with your Twitter engagement tool.  Know it well because you’ll be using the heck out of it – typing bon mots while listening intently, and scanning for others’ great content to retweet. While I’m tweeting, I use Hootsuite as a listening dashboard to monitor at least three streams at a time during our panels: one for mentions of @smcaustin, one for our hashtag #smca, and one for outgoing tweets.  Many people swear by Tweetdeck as a dashboard.
  7. Charge your devices ahead of time. I usually have three charged devices at the ready – laptop, iPad and iPhone. I use the iPhone for snapping and tweeting out photos and the laptop for Hootsuite.

During the event

Armed with the event hashtag and presenters’ and sponsors’ handles, you or your chosen live tweeter are ready to tweet on your organization’s behalf as the event unfolds.  Your main goal is tweet out the speakers’ (and audience members’) best content – those important, relevant and humorous highlights that your audience cares about.

Event photo with a more personal tweet

Event photo with a more personal tweet

  1. Listen carefully.  When you tweet on behalf of the organizer’s handle, your audience assumes your tweets have more credibility.  Live up to that challenge!
  2. Credit whichever presenter or panelist spoke.  Use the format @presenter says [their content]. If you’re really short on characters, use [their content] -@presenter.
  3. Take and tweet photos to vary your content.  Bonus: these photos can later be put on your website, Facebook or Google+ page.
  4. Retweet others’ valuable content. Audience members often appreciate being recognized in a RT by the organizer.
  5. Be ready to search for a resource (document, website, video) a speaker refers to in her talk. It’s helpful to tweet out that link.
  6. Don’t be afraid to tweet the occasional personal tidbit; for example, to thank or recognize specific audience members. This works only if you know the audience and presenters quite well and have a history with them.
  7. Don’t forget that all-important hashtag.  Even when tweeting as the organizer’s handle, you should always use the event hashtag. You can set up some Twitter clients such as Tweetdeck to automatically add a hashtag.
  8. Don’t overtweet – or Twitter will prevent your tweets from going out for awhile. Twitter has limits for not only daily tweets (1,000), but semi-hourly tweets as well.  I ran into this limit during the last 10 minutes of our last panel.  After some day-after investigation and emails/tweets to both Twitter and Hootsuite, I recommend that you not post more than 40-42 tweets within the span of an hour.

tweet about livestream linkSide note:  If you are livestreaming, be sure to tweet the livestream link a few times during the presentation.

Advanced live tweeting

Mastered the checklist above? Consider some more advanced tips:

Pre-scheduled tweets for the event

  • Preschedule some tweets.  This is a time-saver when 1) you already know you’ll have supplemental info (links) to give your audience, and 2) you want to remember to thank every panelist and sponsor.  See example above. (These tweets can easily be modified or deleted once you’re at the event if something changes.  For example, I arrived after the yummy Austin’s Pizza was delivered and didn’t actually smell it like I did last time, so I deleted that first tweet.  And I moved up the timing of the other tweets to coincide with the discussion.)
  • Got a couple of buddies who want to help?  Ask one to live-storify the event, and post the storify immediately following the event.  Ask the other (photography-savvy) buddy to work the room, snapping and tweeting a wide variety of photos, which you can simply retweet.
  • If some hashtag followers have a history of grumbling about your “noisy” hashtag during events, proactively tweet out a link on how to temporarily mute a hashtag.
  • Have several plan Bs.  If Hootsuite goes down, be ready with Tweetdeck (or vice versa) or just native Twitter. If the wifi crawls to a standstill, be ready with your smartphone or tablet. If the event is long, plan on sitting by an outlet, and bring your charger or extra battery power.

For more information, see these other helpful posts about live tweeting:

How would you change or add to this checklist?


Other posts you might like:

Promote Your High Tech Event in Austin – For Free
Social Media Jobs – Those Over 25 Need Not Apply?
Tina Fey’s Rules of Improv Apply to Your Clients Too
Boost the Success of Your Conference or Event with Live Tweeting

Turning Mistakes Into Opportunities For Success

Aug 25th, 2012No Comments

Everyone makes mistakes. It’s part of our shared humanity. How does your company handle the inevitable oversights and blunders that happen in the workplace?

In his book, Brilliant Mistakes: Finding Success on the Far Side of Failure, Paul Schoemaker argues that the path to success is often paved with insights learned from our failures. To achieve new business innovations, which are inherently risky, companies must foster a culture that is supportive of “well intentioned failures”.

Ben & Jerry's ice cream graveyard

Headstone in Ben & Jerry's Flavor Graveyard, taken on our fall trip '11

Which got me to thinking about companies that not only tolerate failures, but learn from and even celebrate them. Shoemaker mentions a CEO who awards a “best mistake of the month” to the manager who uncovers the most valuable information from his/her mistake.  Over time, this leader has changed his company’s culture from hiding mistakes to dissecting, sharing and celebrating them.

One of my favorite examples of recasting a losing idea into a winner is Ben & Jerry’s Flavor Graveyard, where unpopular or too-expensive flavors are laid to rest as “dearly de-pinted”. It’s a popular attraction at their Vermont factory; headstones have pithy sayings, and some visitors even bring flowers to their long-lost favorites.  And people love talking about this online: googling Ben & Jerry’s flavor graveyard yields 38,200 results!

I think of my failures as a gift. -A.G. Lafley, former CEO of Procter & Gamble

Movie and TV studios know that mistakes and outtakes are important to many viewers, and bloopers are often included in the bonus material of DVDs. Pixar has even (painstakingly) created bloopers on purpose for both Toy Story and A Bug’s Life.

There is no shortage of inventions born of mistakes. (Necessity may be the mother of invention, but error makes a fine father.) You probably know that Alexander Fleming’s pre-vacation sloppiness in the lab led to the discovery of penicillin.  And the 3M scientist who invented the adhesive for Post-Its was aiming for an ultra-strong glue.  Other inventions born of mistakes were the pacemaker, plastic, teflon, saccharin and even Coca-Cola.

Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.  -Albert Einstein

Of course, celebrating failure is more the exception rather than the rule.  According to Schoemaker, “The great virtue of mistakes, whether they occur accidentally or by design, is their ability to enlarge our range of experience, shrink our ego and thereby increase the chance of discovery.”

Made any great mistakes lately?


Promote Your High Tech Event in Austin – For Free

Jul 11th, 20121 Comment

The high tech scene in Austin is abuzz and swarming with meetups, happy hours, Startup Olympics and other fun, educational and networking events.  How do you break through the cacophony to reach tech-savvy pros and wanna-be geeks?

Corral a crowd with these tried-and-true tips, which are based on my experience promoting Social Media Club Austin panels and on great advice from fellow well-connected SMCAustin board members.  Note that some of these to-do’s are aspirational, as in “we fully intend to check off each of these items for every event, but seriously, there are only so many hours in a day”.

Let’s start at the very beginning

High-tech folks spend much of their lives online, so we focus the lion’s share of energy there.  Start by creating and publishing your event online, whether on your website, blog, Eventbrite or other event software such as Constant Contact’s.  Some fine tuning tips:

  • Craft a mini-description which you’ll use later for Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.  If you keep this description < 500 characters, you can also use it for Austin360.
  • Also put together a 250-word description for Community Impact News, The Austinot and all other Hubvine particpating calendars (see below).
  • While you’re at it, compose a micro-description of less than 140 chars for Twitter and the Austinist.
  • Arm yourself with relevant hashtags and Twitter handles of presenters and sponsors.

Start your engines – the fun begins!

1. Cue your community of members, friends and followers

Begin with your own community, where you’ll get the best attendance – and the most word of mouth.

  1. Email – Got a house list of opt-in subscribers?  Congrats – email is one of the most effective vehicles to reach your audience, and you also get the benefits of metrics on the backend.
  2. Facebook – Post the direct link and description of your event on the wall of your Facebook group or fan page.  At-tag your presenters because they’ll often chime in and talk up your event.  If it’s an educational event, as ours are, drum up interest on your wall by soliciting questions ahead of time.  Side note: We avoid using the actual Facebook Events feature, because 1) Facebook changes its feature set so often (sometimes you can message members/fans, sometimes you can’t) and 2) you don’t have a lot of control of event virality and attendance (see 10 Facebook events gone wrong).
  3. TwitterAt-mention your presenters so they can retweet and promote to their own followers.  Use hashtags to reach an even wider audience. Our hashtag is #SMCA and we sometimes add #austin or #atx.  On other tweets, we’ve use subject matter hashtags, such as #npo for the nonprofits panel and #socialrecruiting for – you guessed it – the social recruiting panel.  Also at-tag and thank your sponsors in advance of the event, so that they too can promote the event.
  4. LinkedIn – We have our own LinkedIn group, so of course, we post there.  I also post the event as a personal status update on LinkedIn.
  5. Google+ – We post publicly, and again, call out presenters so they can add to the conversation.

Important:  Don’t post and ditch.  After promoting an event to your community, be ready to respond to any questions or other feedback.  I’ve set up Twitter mentions of @smcaustin to come to my phone so I can respond quickly, and Facebook, LinkedIn and G+ posts come to my email.  Timely responses increase engagement; and in the case of Facebook, your post’s Edgerank improves, which in turns further increases visibility of your post.  It’s a happy circle of engagement life.

2. Branch out to the Austin high-tech arena

  • While you’re in LinkedIn, consider posting to other active groups that might enjoy your topic, such as Austin High-Tech.  This group is actually the work of Matt Genovese, founder of Door64, a 25,000-member hub for Austin’s tech community.  Be sure to register on Door64, and post your event to his Tech Events Calendar.
  • Omar Gallaga writes about technology culture for the Austin American-Statesman in his Digital Savant blog.  Every Thursday or Friday, he posts a “linkdown” of tech events and good reads.  Emailing Omar a week or two in advance is the best way to get event listed; add the word LINKDOWN to the subject line.  If you have a major tech event on your hands, contact him directly at or 512-445-3672, and if it’s open to the public, also email the Life & Arts Best Bets folks at
  • Silicon Hills News is a start-up tech and biotech news outlet focused on the San Antonio and Austin area. Contact Laura Lorek and/or post to her Tech Calendar.
  • Consider using Hubvine, an Austin-based creator of collaborative community calendars.  You sign up, create an event on your own calendar, then submit your event to others’ calendars. I submitted our latest panel to the calendars for Tech Ranch Austin, Austin Entrepreneur Network, AustinIsIt – City of Austin Emerging Technology Program,, Sharp Skirts and the Austinot.  (At the time I submitted, only AustinIsIt and The Austinot had any other events posted.)

Of course, there are tech meetups aplenty in Austin, from CocoaCoders to Austin Brogrammers.  If you’re an active member of one or more meetup groups, consider posting your event there as well.  Always check with the Organizer first, so you don’t run the risk of spamming the group.

3. Reach out to the Austin business scene and community at large

So many great outlets, so little time!  List your event on some of these community events calendars, and later have your registration people ask attendees where they heard about your event.

  • Austin Business Journal – Register then create your event (less than 600 characters), 14 days advance notice, $99 for business events but can be free for nonprofits.
  • Austin360 – Register then create your event (less than 500 characters). Categories we use are 1) Business and Tech – Networking and 2) Community – Talks and Lectures.
  • Austin Chronicle – Geared toward the Thursday print issue, and deadline is the Monday before the week prior to the Thursday (so 10+ days in advance). For events that repeat on a regular basis, submit a Community Listing.
  • The Austinot – A great blog about all things Austin.  We have a special place in our hearts for Austinot founder Eric Highland, a regular at our SMCAustin panels and a great live-tweeter.  Submit events to The Austinot by using Hubvine above.
  • Austinist – A news and culture website about Austin, published by Gothamist.
  • Community Impact Newspaper (Central Austin) – The central Austin version of this fast-growing, hyper-local newspaper.
  • News 8 Austin
  • KTBC-TV Fox 7 News – No apparent calendar link, just a contact form.
  • KUT Radio - To have your event considered for on-air public service announcements, send a press release to
  • KLBJ-AM 590 News Radio – Submit events to
  • KGSR-FM 107.1 – Submit events to
  • KOOP-FM 91.7 – Submit events to

Any ideas on optimizing, automating or otherwise improving this?  Would love to hear your comments!


Helpful links:

Social Media Event Marketing E-Book by cvent
UT’s Event Guide from the UT Office of Public Affairs
Pre-Event Publicity from the UT McCombs School of Business

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Do’s and Don’ts of Community Manager Rock Stars
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In Praise of I-Dotters and T-Crossers

Jun 3rd, 20122 Comments

Describing someone as “detail oriented” can be a kiss of death, or at least, damning by faint praise.  It can imply that he is a micro manager, or that she is incapable of seeing the larger picture or thinking strategically.

Two glaring gaffes over the last few days show just how crucial it is to measure twice and cut once, lest a tiny oversight cost time, money and missed opportunities.

LBJ School of Pubic Affairs, Mitt Romney's Amercia

The LBJ School of Public Affairs misprinted “pubic” instead of “public” on the programs for its 2012 commencement ceremony. Assistant dean for communications, Susan Binford, said they were “mortified. It’s beyond embarrassing”, according to media blogger Jim Romenesko.  The School corralled resources, apologized, reprinted and promised to mail new hard copies to all the graduates.

Romney’s typo appeared on an app released on Tuesday, and was updated by Wednesday afternoon. But not before internet and national news media picked up the story, and #Amercia debuted as a trending topic on Twitter, according to CNNTech’s Doug Gross. Now there’s even a Tumblr blog, so the typo and its meme can live in infamy (note the resurrection of the Dan Quayle “potatoe” gaffe here).

Neither of these errors was intentional, and neither was a body blow to their organizations. But these mini mishaps required fast-footed, super-sized repair work – time, money and effort that could have otherwise been spent on promoting the organizations’ goals, instead of cleaning up after themselves.

Turning disabilities into possabilities

Another nearby example at The Scooter Store, whose huge storefront sign used to read "Turning Disabilities Into Possabilities". Ouch.

I agree with Eric Pfeiffer of Yahoo’s The Sideshow that I’m probably inviting bad karma to even point out these errors. So instead, this post is an overdue ode to eagle-eyed copy editors, whose numbers are decreasing, and a salute to detail-oriented people everywhere.

Detail meisters are not just tweakers of others’ work.  They zero in on a project or problem with laser focus, understanding and solving it from top to bottom and from every angle. It’s practically impossible to measure their importance unless they don’t perform well. Detail-oriented people are the oil in a well-oiled machine. They are the opposite of ball-droppers and the ultimate in “The Buck Stops Here”.

They’re not perfect, but they can be counted on to prevent the lion’s share of embarrassments, rework and costly mistakes.

Because sometimes the devil really is in the details.

Question: Have you been described as “detail oriented”? Have you ever had a “wow, I caught that mistake just in time” moment?


Photo credits: LBJ School image from a tweet by Texas Tribune CEO and editor-in-chief Evan Smith. Romney app photo from Tumblr.

Other blog posts you might like:

Should you create an award system for your industry?
3 lessons your small business can learn from The Daily Show With Jon Stewart
Why customers feel safer when your business is on social media

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