Is There A Pill For Social Media Overload Relief?

pillsAre you overwhelmed by information, or is it just me? Tweets and links , RSS feeds, newsletter subscriptions, LinkedIn group discussions and news, email blasts: the never-ending flow of messages and information is, at times, pretty hard to manage. With bloggers compelled to post daily or multiple times daily, and everyone trying to bring attention to what they are doing and saying, and the infinite array of tweets and messages, I’m beginning to wonder if it is just contributing to information overload and internet pollution? It’s so noisy out there, that I sometimes find it hard to concentrate, wasting time just sorting through to find the useful stuff.

Because the pharmaceuticals have not yet been developed, I’ve decided to take matters into my own hands. (Although, apparently therapists are starting to jump on the internet addiction treatment bandwagon.) My simple solution: I’m going to sit down and really go through all my subscriptions and whittle it down to just a few core blogs, groups and newsletters that I really rely on for information, inspiration or entertainment. Others, I’ll check on periodically when I have time, but I’m finding it so distracting and difficult to be productive when I have so much information and messaging constantly bombarding me throughout my day. Tell me, how do you manage all of your incoming information? (And after you do that, make sure you retweet and subscribe to my blog ; )

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What’s wrong with this sign?

Walking around town the other day, I came across this sign in the window of a local store:
photo

I also saw a similar sign today that read, “Free Wood For Sale.” Actually, I didn’t see it, my son did while we were driving home. He swiftly noticed the irony in the message and reported it to me (that’s my boy!). Maybe I’m just a little nuts, but stuff like this drives me crazy. Didn’t anyone read these signs and realize how ridiculous they were? Tops on my list of pet peeves are errors and visual offenses in signage and print ads. Misuse of possessive vs. plural is particularly annoying to me. This is one of my strange obsessions I guess, but I always look at signage and ads in search of errors, verbal and visual.

Just as there are rules for grammar, punctuation, syntax, and spelling, there are also rules of graphic design. A graphic can become visually ineffective, confusing, or outright visually offensive, simply by the choice of font style, font size, color, placement, and shapes.

It all comes down to attention to detail. If you can’t spell, then use spell check. If you are grammatically deficient, then have someone edit and proofread for you. If you can’t write, then hire a writer. If you can’t design, then hire a designer. It’s like one of those poor tone-deaf people auditioning for American Idol, truly thinking they can sing, only to put themselves on national television for the ultimate in public humiliation. Before you go ahead and plaster grammatical, syntactical, spelling or graphic errors and offenses on the front of your store, on a billboard, in an ad, on your blog or in any public forum, stop and make sure that the message is clear and the visuals are appealing. Presentation is everything.

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Ready, Aim, Fire: How To Pitch On Target

targetI just read a post on Amber Naslund’s blog about her perspective on the ineffectiveness of pitching in corporate-speak language. It got me thinking about writing pitches in general and how a one-size-fits-all pitch never works. There is an art to pitching. The bottom line is that when you craft a pitch, it needs to speak to the person that you are targeting and/or to their audience. Naslund’s perspective is coming from the angle of social media. In that case, corporate speak is not effective, because that’s not how people in social media talk. In other instances, a more formal tone may be more appropriate. The key here is to know who you are pitching, know a bit about who they are, know their style, and know what it is that you want them to do and if that actually is something they can and may be willing to do. Do your homework and adjust the tone of your pitch depending on who you are approaching. Pitching a blogger is different than pitching a trade magazine. Pitching a consumer magazine is different than pitching a potential corporate sponsor. Speak their language. Put yourself in their position and try to understand how they will respond.

For example, I recently got a pitch from someone at a product company that, although his email started with “Hi Cheryl,” clearly he had never read my blog or taken the time to understand what I do. He went on to say (cut and pasted) that he really enjoyed my blog and all the great giveaways that I host. Um, folks, do you see any giveaways here? He wanted me to host a giveaway for his product even though that’s not what I do. Delete. No, actually, I first emailed him back and told him what I do, and that if he found his current email campaign to be ineffective, then he could hire me to help him craft a more effective one. Then I hit delete.

If you don’t take the time to try to know or understand the person or organization you are pitching, then why would they take the time to care or act upon what it is you are asking from them. Tailor your pitch to fit your mark and your successes will be greater.

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5 Lessons In Life And Business From The Great Philosopher, Dr. Seuss

yertle
I truly believe that Dr. Seuss was a genius. He was a creative genius, writing stories full of rhyme and rhythm and when, if what he was trying to say wouldn’t naturally rhyme, he’d just make up a word that did. He broke all the rules of illustration, language, and content for children’s literature at a time when the standard fare in children’s books was Fun with Dick and Jane. His books are beyond just funny children’s stories; they always offer insights into human nature and society.

A fine example of this is Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories. This book was first published in 1950 and is still completely relevant today, not just as a children’s story, by as a philosophical and ethical guide for business and life. I’d even suggest that Yertle the Turtle should be required reading for all business school students and aspiring CEOs. If you haven’t read it or haven’t read it since you were 6, go out and buy a copy. It is a series of 3 stories that address the deadliest sins of life and business: greed, power, vanity, arrogance and ignorance. I think any of us in business know a couple of people that might benefit from reading this book. Here are a few things that we can learn from Seussian Philosophy:

1. Fear not. Stand up for yourself and your ideals. Speak up if you are being taken advantage of. Express yourself.
2. Respect and listen to those around you. I mean deep respect, not just saying please and thank you. Sometimes the best ideas and solutions come from unexpected sources. (Like a children’s book.)
3. Don’t let greed make you hungry for too much too fast. Strive to be driven by great ideas, great products or services, not just by fast money. Trying to grow too fast on the backs of others or before you are ready is a recipe for disaster. Let your business build naturally.
4. Don’t be seduced by visions of fame, notoriety or delusions of grandeur. Let your business speak for itself. True and honest promotion is so much more powerful than false endorsements by famous people (maybe with the one exception of Oprah).
5. Don’t be ignorant, or if you are, admit it. If there’s something you don’t know, don’t pretend you do. Don’t be let arrogance get in the way of seeking help. When in doubt, seek the advice or direction of an expert.

Creativity and ideas have driven me to take risks and do things that most cubicle dwellers wouldn’t dare dream about. I am a risk taker, as most entrepreneurs are. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. But in the process, it’s important to stay true to who you are, where you’re going and what you hope to accomplish while doing some good along the way. There ARE good and decent business people out there. We should all strive to be one of them.

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Ain’t The Future Grand?

Jane Jetson chatting online

Jane Jetson chatting online

I may be dating myself here, but sometimes I step out of my day to day and sit back, totally amazed by the technology and tools available to us.  I work with them day in and day out and often take them for granted, but every now and then it hits me that I am living in what was the future of my childhood.

This ocassional amazement is probably something that kids, teens and twenty somethings can’t relate to at all, and don’t ever think about. But maybe I think about it because I typed my papers in college on this Smith Corona typewriter with erasable paper:

smithcoronajpg

Maybe I also think about it because I grew up watching the Jetsons and saw the future through George’s daily life.  George Jetson used Skype everyday when he called Jane from the office.  He used the Internet to read the news. It all seemed so impossible to me at the time, but look at us now. We ARE living in the future, at least the future that I saw in cartoons when I was a tot. Let’s all take a moment to pay homage to the technology that allows us to do what we do everyday.

My son eating dinner while chatting on Skype with his dad, who was in China

My son eating dinner while chatting on Skype with his dad, who was in China

What will my son’s future be like? I’ll either have to be sure that I live for another 40 years or so to find out first hand, or maybe I should just go watch some cartoons. Underwater Geodomes a la Spongebob’s pal Sandy, perhaps?

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Bigger is Better vs. Better is Better

I recently read a post on Seth Godin’s Blog that got me thinking about growth in business. He was talking about the concept of expanding a business in order to grow your market. But I think one of the biggest mistakes in business is to assume that expanding your business in whatever way, whether it’s tapping into a new market, expanding your distribution into untapped territories, or adding more product to your line, is the key to growth. These are all obvious methods to approach business growth, but are they the best methods?

Building a strong brand through a great name, great product, clear message, great service, being consistent in presenting your brand, making what you do the best it can be, and fully reaching your potential market is the key to growth. Once these elements have reached their peak, then seeking to expand through other avenues makes sense. I think a brand needs to develop, establish, perfect and mature before growth through expansion should even be considered. Growth through improvement comes first.

My point here is to first max out your opportunities to improve and grow on what your existing brand and customer base is before trying to expand into uncharted territory. Examine what your business does, how it operates, how it promotes, how it presents itself, and improve on the quality of all of those things first. Rapid premature expansion of a brand will end up watering it down. Expansion into areas outside of what is expected from your customers can confuse your identity. A business needs to look at what it does best and perfect and expand within that defined space, so consumers don’t get confused about who the brand is or what it offers. Ignoring the definition and innate strength of a brand and what that image means to customers in an effort to expand and grow, is a recipe for disaster. In our society, it’s often difficult to take things slow and to build on quality first rather than quantity. Gluttony is pretty unappealing. Bigger isn’t necessarily better, BETTER is better.

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How To Burn Bridges and Ruin Reputations, Blogging Style

Iron Bridge Fire June 30 1927A little over a year ago, I pitched Babble.com to review some children’s shoes. I sent a friendly introductory email with a link to the company’s website, some background information and a couple of jpeg images. I mentioned that if they were interested in reviewing the product, I would be happy to send a sample for them to try out first hand. I heard nothing. After a few days, I followed up with another email and again, got no response. No problem, I figured that they just weren’t interested. So I moved on.

A couple of weeks later, I noticed hits on the company website coming from Babble. “Hmm”, I thought, “that’s strange.” So I went to the blog and found a very snarky “review” stating that the shoes were scary and would frighten children. It also included a mocking rewrite of some of the copy from the company website suited to what the blogger’s opinion of the brand was. Now, I have no problem with people expressing an opinion, be it negative or positive, but what got me riled was that these statements were made without ever having the product in person to show to a child and actually see what the response of a child would be. As it turned out, the negativity backfired when fans of the brand went to the blog post and countered the unfounded negative comments with real life positive comments saying that, actually, their kids just love the shoes so much that the kids don’t want to take them off. I have to say that I did feel vindicated.

Fast-forward to a year later, the brand has grown in popularity and people are talking about it all over the Internet. Guess who I hear from? Another writer from Babble replying to my year-old original pitch asking me to send her a pair of the shoes because “we” (meaning the blog) just love them and would be happy to have the opportunity to review them. She was apparently completely unaware of the previous post from a year earlier. Oops, I responded, your blog already did a review without having a pair of the shoes in hand and I attached a link to the post. Although this was a prominent blog that everyone apparently wants to have placement on, I told the blogger, no thank you, I’ll pass.

Two lessons to be learned here:
1. If you are blogger and you are going to review a product, then it’s usually customary to actually have the product to try it, use it, and see what the response is. Write the truth, negative or positive, but don’t just make it up. It’s like a movie critic reviewing a film without ever seeing it or a food critic commenting on food without tasting it.
2. If you write for a blog that features multiple writers, then do a search on your blog first before pitching. Find out if the blog has already written about the brand you want to pitch. Know what has or hasn’t been said. It’s like being a journalist; you know, check the facts and do a little research first!

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