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?


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?


Social Media Jobs – Those Over 25 Need Not Apply?

Jul 31st, 2012No Comments

Why Every Social Media Manager Should Be Under 25 was the shot heard ’round the online world last week. 21-year-old Cathryn Sloane, recent University of Iowa grad and NextGen Journal contributor, claimed that she and her peers grew up with social media and are therefore best suited to manage it, because “no one else will ever be able to have as clear an understanding of these services, no matter how much they think they do.”

Millennial and Boomer Her post ignited a firestorm of comments ranging from Peter Shankman‘s “I no longer want to live on this planet” to Jason Falls “Do me a favor: Call me when you’re 35 or 40 and tell me how short-sighted this was. It’ll make you feel better”.  A number of bloggers have also raised their proverbial pitchforks, mostly in protest of the original piece.

My armchair analysis, based on a quick read of her older blog posts and this recent Newsweek piece, is that this young woman yearns for a job and was hoping to stake a claim on social media management positions as an obvious fit for her and her fellow Millennials. Many Gen Xers and Boomers reacted harshly to her post, perhaps because they have felt the sting of ageism in the workplace as youth is so glorified in the world of social media.

Let’s take a breath.  And summon the optimism of our own youth, exemplified by Boomers’ I’d like to teach the world to sing, Gen Y’s Be excellent to each other or Millennials’ Good Guy Greg:  Generational diversity in the workplace is good.

The literature demonstrates, and leading companies know, that diversity management practices are essential to drive employee engagement across all groups and to foster the productivity and innovation critical for business success and sustainability. -Age, A 21st Century Diversity Imperative

The happy truth is that the same benefits of racial, ethnic and gender diversity in the workplace – improved sales and profits, improved employee retention and recruitment, and decreased complaints and litigation – seem to apply to generational diversity as well.  In a Kelly Global Workforce study of 100,000 employees, 42% of respondents said that the differences among Millennials, Gen Xers and Boomers actually improved productivity in their workplace, according to this report.

One oft-repeated recommendation involves cross-generational mentoring.  Consider the stereotypes:  Boomers have a deep understanding of their organizations, Gen Xers are good at finding opportunities and working independently, and Millennials have cutting-edge technology skillsets.  Members of any given generation can productively mentor members of other generations, thus cross-pollinating knowledge, skills and opportunities across the organization.

But back to the original publisher, NextGen.  Its editors also laud the benefits of “diverse perspectives” in their somewhat flimsy follow-up post.

I feel for this young woman, and it concerns me that over a week has gone by and we haven’t heard hide nor hair from her.  I hope she brushes herself off, gets back on the horse again, and follows the advice of Steve Radick in his “Recovering from a Social Media Mistake” post.

I’m reminded of some of the principles taught by the late great Stephen Covey, including the abundance mentality and thinking win-win. Our teams and organizations and yes, our country, all do better when we work together.

Question:  Which show of optimism/idealism best speaks to you: Boomers’  I’d like to teach the world to sing, Gen Y’s Be excellent to each other or Millennials’ Good Guy Greg?  Can you think of others?


Other posts you might be interested in:

3 lessons Your Small Business Can Learn From The Daily Show With Jon Stewart
Do’s and Don’ts of Community Manager Rock Stars
How College Students Use Technology (Hint: Not Like the Rest of Us)

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

Related posts:

Are Your Facebook Fans Even Seeing Your Posts?
Do’s and Don’ts of Community Manager Rock Stars
10 Ways to Integrate Your Email and Facebook Marketing

Names Have Power

Jun 30th, 2012No Comments

Tip of the hat to the disgusted USDA food scientist who first used the term “pink slime” in an internal email, paving the way for an avalanche of reports on how “finely textured beef” is anything but fine.

Photo from "The News Chick", Seattle's Morning News

My marketing spidey sense tells me that this story would not have reached as far and wide had not the term “pink slime” been so memorable, visual and disturbing.  The photos didn’t hurt either.

Names truly have power:  they shape the perception of and conversation about ideas, brands, companies, projects and products.  Wise marketers and PR pros wield weapons of terminology every day, hoping to burnish or defend their brands and to tarnish or at least neutralize competing ones.

Negative TermsPositive or Neutral Terms
Pink slimeLean finely textured beef
Swine fluH1N1 flu
Rapeseed oilCanola oil
DolphinfishMahi Mahi
Super-rich AmericansSmall business owners, Job creators
ObamacareObama’s Health Care Plan

Remember the swine flu?  The nation’s pork industry took a multi-million dollar hit under the damaging label.

Food marketers in general have created more appetizing aliases for many everyday entrees: Mahi Mahi instead of dolphinfish (who wants to eat Flipper?), Orange Roughy intead of Slimehead, Canola oil instead of rapeseed oil, dried plums instead of prunes.

“That’s charcuterie? I’ve been avoiding that on menus for years.  They’re killing themselves with that name”. – Modern Family’s Jay Pritchett talking to stepson Manny

Step into the political arena and prepare to be buffeted by a windstorm of carefully chosen terminology (spin) on every front.  Democrats call the highest-income households “the super-rich” while Republicans call them “job creators“.  More subtly, supporters of Obama’s Health Care Plan call it just that, while detractors call it Obamacare.

“Those who control the naming of something control how it is perceived.” – Matthew Seeger, communications professor at Wayne State University in Detroit, on naming the Gulf Oil Spill

Causes too must adopt names that rally their supporters. I couldn’t agree more with EnviroMedia‘s Valerie Davis and Kevin Tuerff who say it’s time to rebrand climate change. Perhaps we need a “pink slime” terminology equivalent to describe the perils of climate change.

A good brand name captures the positive connotations the organization wants, and overcomes skepticism and negativity. “Livestrong” both conveys the “fight like hell against cancer” personality of the Lance Armstrong Foundation and alludes to the name of its founder. Blackberry evokes “natural, fresh and fun”, while Swiffer suggests that the mop is doing the work, not you (and is doing it swiftly).

Great Brand NamesTheir Forgettable Contenders
LivestrongThis Point Forward
PentiumRazar, Intellec
BlackBerryMegaMail, EasyMail, ProMail
Swiffer (Procter and Gamble)Ready-Mop (competing Clorox product)
Dell ComputerPC Limited

Of course, a name is just a starting point for a brand, and a good name alone won’t guarantee success.  But marketers armed with a good name, a good campaign and a good product can practically own their market.  Just ask Google, Amazon, Apple and Nike.

“Words have meaning and names have power”. – Author unknown


Question:  Would you rather eat a kiwi or a Chinese gooseberry?

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.

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Should you create an award system for your industry?
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Should You Create an Award System for Your Industry?

Feb 29th, 20122 Comments

The Academy Awards rolled out the red carpet for Oscar hopefuls a few days ago.  Car and Driver’s 10Best Cars debuted in December. Newsweek’s college rankings were published a few months ago.

3 trophiesAnd River Pools and Spas announced its Small Inground Fiberglass Pool Design Awards in 2010.

River Pools and Spas owner Marcus Sheridan created his own award system for the swimming pool industry, and spoke about this during his blogging webinar as part of Social Media Examiner‘s Small Business Success Summit.

The idea germinated when he noticed how people enjoy “top 10″, “best of” and “worst of” lists.  He then decided to use that approach with fiberglass pool manufacturers, including both his suppliers and their competitors.

I am the Chevrolet dealer who was giving out awards to Ford… people were shocked.

Marcus created different categories – Best Small Kidney-Shaped Fiberglass Pool, Best Small Pool and Spa Combo, Best Flat Bottom Pool, etc – and saluted the winners, even if they were his competitors, in his blog post.  To date, this post has about 7,000 views and 54 inbound links, so the resulting website traffic and SEO benefits are exceptional.

The content of his post was relatively brief and included links to the winning models and a short explanation of why each each was excellent.

My competitors, other big manufacturers, were wondering “what is this guy doing? He gave us an award and he is selling a different product. What do we do?”

Soon after, people from all over the industry were linking to his website and discussing the awards.  He was even mentioned on the front page of many of his competitors’ websites.   And because Marcus had “spread the wealth” and been genuine and objective, awarding winners whether or not they were competitors, it elevated him as a thought leader in his industry.

One of the side benefits to it – I became a trust agent in the industry.

In a later blog post, Marcus wrote “You may be asking yourself ‘What gives me the right to give out awards to vendors/manufacturers in my industry?’ The answer is simple – You have an opinion. And you’re an expert in your field. So share it.”

Triumphant businessman holding trophyDoes an award system make sense for you?

Does your industry give out awards?  If not, consider creating your own.  Assuming you are truly plugged in to your industry, that is, you interact with the players (competitors, suppliers, partners) and they know who you are, here is how to start an awards system:

  1. Look at your vendor(s) and their competitors. Find something wonderful about most or all of them. Marcus said “Look for the goodness and reward them for it.”
  2. Write a blog post about it.  Marcus has three examples here, here and here.
  3. Promote it as you would another blog post.


Q: What if there are lots of vendors?

A: You can award some now and some later.  Also, if you honestly, legitimately believe that someone doesn’t make the cut, don’t include them. Perhaps they will strive harder to improve.  Marcus said “If they are not in that list, they are not going to hate you for it, they are going to want to be on it more so.”

Q: How do you announce the awards?

A: Marcus made no announcement.  He just published his post and “let the social media machine do its magic”.  But unless you have the huge, targeted audience Marcus has, I recommend promoting the awards announcement through your normal channels, including  Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and your email list.  Use relevant hashtags and be sure to @tag award winners in your tweets, especially if they are your competitors.

Q: Do you ever give a Rotten Tomatoes type of award?

A: You need to be willing to address both the good and the bad if necessary or you will lose credibility. Marcus once wrote a blog post about the most egregious fiberglass pool warranty he had ever seen. You don’t have to mention names, but he recommends calling people out in terms of behavior. Occasionally, it is important to mention brands.  What’s key is to “go for the greater good”; only then will you be a thought leader for your industry.

Marcus has parlayed his experience of selling and marketing  his swimming pool company into a full-time web coaching businesses as The Sales Lion.  Learn more about not only Marcus’ award-giving experience, but also about his other ideas on how great blog content can catapult your brand and business.

Question: Do you know of other examples of award systems that small businesses have used?


Other blog posts you might be interested in:

3 Lessons Your Small Business Can Learn From The Daily Show With John Stewart
Storify: Collect Social Media Sound Bites Into a Coherent Story
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Storify: Collect Social Media Sound Bites Into a Coherent Story

Jan 31st, 2012No Comments

I love finding a quick, easy tool (read: no steep learning curve) that saves time and improves my work.  So I was happy to try Storify, a free web-based tool that lets you tell stories with social media.  With Storify, it’s easy to piece together a compelling, attractive story about an event by cherrypicking your – and others’ – tweets, Facebook posts, YouTube videos, etc.
The Detroit News storified the upcoming Super Bowl commercials
Time recently listed Storify as one of the 50 best websites of 2011.   It has been in public beta since April 2011.

What does a storified story look like? Some recent examples:

With Storify, you’re both the curator and publisher of your topic’s online presence and relevant social media posts. You’re also the editor because you can add context and comments throughout the story.  In a Twitter chat, for example, you might choose to highlight interesting side conversations, or get rid of them altogether to keep your story brief.

How to use Storify

This welcome video shows how to use Storify, as does this post by Claire Diaz Ortiz, which matches my first Storify experience to a tee and gives a step-by-step screenshot walk-through.

Possibly the easiest way to use Storify is to summarize a Twitter chat or other tweetable event.  You simply search on the hashtag, drag and drop your favorite tweets and images, write a heading and you’re done.* That’s what I did in my first story last week, where I summarized the Google+ for Business Tech Talk.

As shown below, once I’ve published my story, I can share it on Twitter or Facebook, and notify the people I’ve quoted.

Storify's share and notify screen

(When a person's profile is grayed out, it means we don't mutually follow each other on Twitter, so they won't be notified, which is nice and anti-spammy.)

Read more on how to use Storify for Twitter chats.

Three important, semi-random notes

  1. The links inside any story are active hot links, allowing readers to dive into people’s profiles and even retweet or reply directly from the story.
  2. Once published, you can continue to edit the story to update the content.  This is what Josh Stearns did as the Occupy Protests continued, for example.
  3. If someone later deletes a tweet featured in a story, the tweet remains archived in the story.

Other bright ideas on how to use Storify

Can you think of other ways to use Storify?  Any upcoming events you might want to storify?


Other blog posts you might be interested in:

* When there’s a firehose of information in a Twitter chat, like #blogchat for example, it’s much more time-consuming to curate the most representative tweets and/or amplify the voices that matter most to you.  For example, Harvard Business Review regularly storifies its tweet-rich #HBRchat twitter chats.


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