Excuse Me, You Have Some Twitter On Your Facebook

blog-illustrationTweets on LinkedIn. Tweets on blogs. Facebook and Twitter updates on blogs. Blogs on Facebook. It seems that many people don’t want anyone to miss a single word they ever say. Duplicate content is becoming the norm. I brought this up on Twitter recently, and quickly got a bunch of responses from people agreeing that it is a bit noisy. Some said that they hate it but do it themselves because they thought it was just what you were supposed to do. But as far as I know, no one is supposed to do anything in the social media space. If they are, then they neglected to give me that rule book.

This over-connectedness and need for everyone to read everything you ever write or say online is starting to overwhelm me. The thing is that oftentimes those with whom you are connected on Twitter may also be connected to you on Facebook and/or LinkedIn or subscribe to your blog. They’ve seen it already on one of the other platforms. For me, I see each venue as having a unique function. There is some cross-pollination going on in my various online arenas, but overall each platform has its own audience. Each platform also lends itself to unique styles of communication that don’t always translate well on a different platform. Even though I am not your cubicle type, I am finding the need to compartmentalize my social networking use.

Welcome to my compartments

Professional:
LinkedIn for me is purely business. I try not to get too personal there, using it for business networking, promoting my business and my blog with business related content, and looking for new clients and other business uses. My Blog also serves a similar purpose. I generally write about issues and ideas related to what I do – marketing, writing, design, and branding stuff. I leave personal stories out of it unless they’re part of a larger story that relates to what I do. Hopefully people will read what I write and some even hire me.

Mix n Match:
Twitter for me is easier to mix personal and professional content. The short format lends itself to allowing me to quickly share a myriad of things – pictures of my puppy, links to interesting articles on business subjects of interest, quick chats with my virtual friends, and just random observations of the strange, funny and interesting things I find or think about. I tend to be a bit more liberal with Twitter followers. Let”s face it, the majority of the 1001 people I have following me on Twitter are people I have never met and probably never will. Some are real friends, online friends and people I have worked with or might work with, but the vast majority are complete strangers.

My real friends:
Facebook, on the other hand is beginning to define itself to me as the place to connect with my friend-friends, not my “friends.” I do have a few business related connections there, but I’m thinking about dropping them and keeping it purely personal. I don’t necessarily want potential clients or colleagues reading my chatty comments or stupid insider jokes with old friends. I see this as a place for me to really relax and stay in touch with friends and family. I generally keep business out of it. My real life friends and family don’t care to know my thoughts on marketing or writing. Those people care more about the recipe for that tasty roasted red pepper dip that I make all the time.

Stop and think about the various platforms you use and how they can each be utilized in unique ways to do whatever it is that you do. Go ahead, Tweet on Twitter, write on your Facebook wall, update your status or start a discussion on LinkedIn, and cross-promote now and then, but I don’t think the world is going to stop turning if someone somewhere misses something you say.

Do you use each platform in different ways? What do you think?

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Crowd Sourcing’s Dark Side

11080I’m all for keeping a finger on the pulse of what consumers are saying and thinking, but there seems to be a new trend in over-reliance on crowd sourced results to direct business, especially when it comes to creative work. Crowds, especially of the consumer variety can be very useful for feedback on new products, but be wary of inviting crowds into the intimate creative places of your business. From graphics, logos and websites to tag lines, brand names, domain names and even the products themselves, many businesses are turning to crowd sourcing to get their creative work for free or practically free. As a creative entrepreneur, I find this trend a bit disturbing, not just because it degrades the value of true creative work, but because it can have a larger negative impact on businesses and their brands.

A business image is not something to leave in the hands of the masses. Brand building is a delicate thing that should be orchestrated by the owner of the brand, not by those who consume the brand. Kraft’s Vegimite/Snack 2.0 debacle is a great example of how crowd sourcing can completely backfire. This trend of crowd sourced creative work waters down what a brand truly can be. Brand building comes from creating multiple layers of elements like product, quality, message, image, graphics, website, communication, partnerships and reputation in the industry, marketplace and with consumers. Why so many businesses are leaving these crucial elements in the hands of the masses is perplexing. As someone who created and built a brand of children’s shoes from scratch, the idea of asking the general public for creative direction or creation was something I never would have even considered. The masses don’t know what is best for your business, you do. The masses are consumers, not innovators. In most cases, consumers can’t imagine what they haven’t already seen before.

Can’t afford a professional? Just ask anyone for a free opinion
So many social media sites have opened up the flood gates to this kind of thinking. Certain LinkedIn discussion groups have become a hotbed for free crowd sourcing of creative work. I’ve seen people asking for marketing plans, brand names, domain names, and logos all for free. There has been one discussion that has been going on for over a month now from someone asking for “suggestions” for a tag line for his music company. To date, there have been 272 responses coming free from the likes of a student in Malaysia, a “Change Communicator,” a “Senior Solutions Specialist,” but more surprising is that supposed Marketing Experts, Copywriters, and Brand Strategists also added their suggestions. For Free. I understand the whole concept of giving in the social media world, but expecting professional results from people willing to simply throw out random suggestions for something as important to a brand as a tag line is simply unrealistic. The results of this person’s request, even though there were 272 of them were pretty terrible. They were terrible because none of the respondents knew anything about this guy’s business, what his goals were, who he was, what his message was, who his market was or what image he was trying to project. These are all the things that a professional would take into consideration carefully and spend time contemplating before even suggesting a solution.

This isn’t work, it’s a contest

I got an email the other day specifically addressed to me inviting me to enter a contest to come up with a new domain name for someone’s business. I was told that I would get $10 for my submission, and then if it were chosen as the best, I would “win” $500. Out of curiosity, I clicked on the link to see what this was all about. There were very specific parameters for this project. It was a domain for a new dating website, but it wasn’t just a domain they were looking for, actually it was a brand name. It had to be nine letters or less, had to be a .com address, had to be available, had to be unique and not trademarked or used by any other business, and it had to capture the essence of the philosophy of their site. There was also a long list of words that could not be used. It was suggested that the estimated work time on this project would be ten minutes. That’s right, I said ten minutes. It was also stated that this was the second contest they were holding because the first one “did not generate the kind of results that they were looking for.” Hmm, you think they mean PROFESSIONAL results?

More is better

Would you rather savor one incredibly delicious meal created by a talented chef or would you rather stuff yourself with unlimited piles of junk food? Crowd sourcing is like a junk food feast. The premise (I think) behind crowd sourcing is that if you get a ton of responses, you will have a bigger pool to choose from, increasing your chances of getting the results you are looking for. More is better, right? If the goal is to find quality creative work, then the answer is no. Anyone willing to enter a “contest” is not going to be giving you professional work. They’ll spend the ten minutes to take a chance – kind of like buying a lottery ticket. But let me let you in on a little secret: Believe it or not, great graphics, design, writing, naming, branding, and marketing all take talent, experience, creativity, knowhow, and time. Instead of blowing your budget on a contest that generates piles of amateur entries, spend your money on talent. You know, someone who will spent some time THINKING and talking to you about your business and what you hope to achieve. That my friends, takes more than ten minutes.

I’ll pay you if I like you

There are numerous sites popping up that are going beyond the bidding wars of sites like elance or odesk for creative work, but they actually solicit suckers to do the work up front, upload it for all to see, and only pay the one that is chosen as the best either by the poster or by votes from the crowd. Would you walk into competing bakeries, eat their respective cakes, and only pay for the one that you think tastes best? Would you expect to have several landscapers come to your house, plant their gardens, build their stone walls and only pay the one who you think did the best job? This is called working on spec. I don’t understand how this approach to hiring creative work is acceptable. It’s a cop out really on the part of the hiring person. They apparently are not willing to take the risk or the heat of hiring the wrong person. Maybe it comes from a lack of confidence in knowing what is good creative or not, but if you do your homework, look at experience, previous work and get recommendations from others who the creatives have worked with, then educated choices can be made. Anyone who is willing to put their time and energy into creating something without knowing whether or not they will be paid is clearly either desperate or an amateur looking to build a portfolio.

I’m not a real ______, I just play one on the Internet

Ah, the self proclaimed guru problem again. I recently wrote about that subject here. But for true designers, writers, marketers or anyone else who offers creative consulting services to business, the guru problem has invaded their potential for livelihood like Kudzu in a Louisiana swamp. Again, it’s a matter of research. Know who you are working with and find out if a person has ever done what they profess themselves to be.

The bottom line is that you have a choice. It all depends on what your goals are. You can risk your budget and/or brand on a contest with amateurs who will only spend a few minutes on your project, or you can do your homework and hire a professional who will take a vested interest in your business’ success. Your success, image and happiness is their success, image and happiness. Don’t underestimate the power of talent.

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Pay No Attention to that Guru Behind the Curtain

ozYou all know the scene: Dorothy and her three friends return to Oz with the broom in hand after a harrowing near-death experience dealing with the witch and all those flying monkeys, only to have Toto pull back the curtain and expose the wizard as the charlatan that he truly was. In our world filled with online gurus of all types and sizes popping up on Twitter, LinkedIn and the Internet in general, it’s important for businesses to know how to smell the difference between the real deal and a faker. With the ease of self-promotion that comes with using the Internet also comes the ease for anyone to claim guru status in order to try to win business.

Here are a few red flags and tips on how to be sure that you are working with someone who knows what they are doing:

Using the word “guru” to describe oneself

In its original form, guru was not a self-proclaimed title. It was something bestowed upon a religious leader who was thought to have power, knowledge and insight into God to guide followers from the darkness of ignorance to the light of knowledge. I don’t think they were talking about Twitter followers. If anyone describes themselves as a guru in their bio, I suggest running the other way.

Is the walk the same as the talk?
I came across a blog the other day that is a great illustration of this point. Calling this site a blog really was a bit of a stretch because there were only a few entries over the course of several months and they all were brief announcements promoting speaking engagements this person had lined up to impart his wisdom on how to build business through the use of blogging and social networking. The only problem was that right next to the post was that little blue box announcing that he had 4 feed subscribers and a little blue bird announcing that he had 58 followers on Twitter. None of his posts had comments or Re-Tweets. Looking at his Twitter feed, all his Tweets were link backs to his “posts” on his blog promoting his speaking engagements. Now would you trust that this guy holds any wisdom regarding how to build business through social media? Don’t think too long on that one.

That’s what Google is for….

It may sound obvious, but Google search the person’s name or business and take a look at the results. Hop on LinkedIn and take a look at the profile. See what the person’s credentials are or what he or she has done in the past. You can tell a lot about a person with a couple of clicks.

The proof is in the pudding
On the Internet people can claim to be a writers, designers, social media specialists, web designers, or business advisors. Heck, some people even claim to be 16-year-old girls but turn out to be 50-year-old men. It’s up to you to know for sure with whom you are dealing. Ask to see a portfolio of work or references from previous clients. If the only thing a supposed marketing guru has ever marketed is the marketing of his or her own marketing guru-ness, then beware. You be the judge.

You get what you pay for

To a certain degree, this statement is absolutely true. It’s not necessarily true that the more expensive someone is, the better, but I can guarantee you that anyone who is willing to write some copy for you for $20, design a logo for you on spec, or suggest a tag line for your business for free on LinkedIn is not going to be providing you with great results. Pay fast food salary (or no salary at all) and you’re guaranteed to get work at the caliber of a squished hamburger and floppy fries or less. Do a little research to find out what the going rate is for high quality work and negotiate from there.

Size doesn’t always matter

With crafty methods of getting more followers on Twitter, don’t always think that the more followers someone has guarantees a higher level of expertise. I actually get the opposite feeling sometimes when someone has an exorbitant number of followers…it makes me think SPAM. Remember, Charles Manson had a lot of followers too.

Money, that’s what I want
Another red flag is the use and overuse of the dollar sign and images of piles of money on someone’s Twitter background, blog or website. If money is the primary concern of the message, then losing yours should be your primary concern.

Finding great talented people to accomplish what you need help with is actually pretty simple. When you are looking to hire someone to work on a project for you, use common sense. Do your homework, understand the going rate and maybe most importantly, trust your instincts.

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