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Travel tip: power up when you need it

31763DQVJZL._SS400_.jpgThis is not a gadget blog, but I do love a good piece of technology that solves a problem. If you travel and are in and out of airports like I am, do yourself a favor and pick up this little guy. It's the Monster Outlets To-Go power strip. It allows you to pack four outlets into one very small footprint and I love the simple, compact design.

Situations it has come in handy:


  1. You are at the airport and somebody is using the only outlet in the whole terminal. You walk up to them and ask if you can uplug them for a second to plug in the power strip. You then run their laptop, your laptop and two of your friends with the same power supply.
  2. Even when event planners think about supplying power for laptops, the outlets are still few and far between. At the conferences I attend nearly every person has a laptop fired up (some blogging and some checking email). All you need is to find a power outlet and you can be a hero to three other people giving them the needed juice.
  3. At a number of presentations that I do, the venue runs a single power cord to the front of the room for the projector. I always have my laptop plugged in during presentations "just in case". The point is, no matter what happens, all you need is one power source and you're good to go.
  4. You're in a hotel room with, for some unknown reason, one power outlet around the desk area (like the one I am in right now). This puppy lets me charge my laptop, camcorder, camera and phone.

I'll share some of my other favorite business travel tips from time to time. If you like little extras like this please let me know and if you'd rather I stick to marketing content let me know that too. I'm here for you.


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links for 2008-03-29

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Five questions with Rohit Bhargava; "Personality Not Included"

Blogger LunchWhen I met Rohit Bhargava at a conference in Chicago last year, I was immediately struck by how smart and approachable he is. His personality face-to-face is the same as it is on his blog. Over our subsequent lunch together he asked our group (David Armano, Herb Sawyer, Noah Brier and myself) some questions about a new book he was writing. The title and some preliminary artwork had just come across on his Blackberry and he wanted our thoughts. The title seemed right on the money and we couldn't really improve on his concept. That book is "Personality Not Included" and officially launched today.

When Rohit put out a call to bloggers to ask him five questions on the new book, I jumped at the opportunity. What follows are my questions and Rohit's thoughtful responses. I encourage you to read them and visit his listing page of over 50 other bloggers who wanted to be associated with this fantastic effort. If you're launching a book, you would be wise to watch how he's launching this.

PNI_InterviewSeries.jpgMD: What makes a corporate personality and can it be different than the
personalities of the people involved? (e.g.; look at Apple vs. Steve
Jobs/Microsoft vs. Bill Gates)

RG: I defined a personality in my book as a combination of three factors, being unique, authentic and talkable. The interesting thing about writing a book on personality is that you first need to get people away from some of the history of the term. I wasn't writing about personality in terms of individuals (think Meyers-Briggs), but instead was talking about personality as an idea that describes a quality a company would want to have.

MD: Is personality something you can change or modify? How do you become aware of your personality

RG: Great question - personality is definitely something you can change. Chapter 1 is all about how to understand what your personality is and why you need one. Chapter 3 is how to define what yours should be and then putting in a plan of action to portray it. The first part of your question is one of the main questions I set out answer. You'll have to let me know if I managed to do it.

MD: Can you measure personality or the impact of personality?

RG: Absolutely - I think the strongest measure is through customer loyalty. I can't sit here and tell you that having a personality will give you 2% sales lift, because it's not easy to measure that. To a degree, it's the same problem with branding. Companies understand there is a benefit to branding, but it is tough to equate it directly to sales.

MD: Are authenticity and personality directly related? Could a
non-authentic personality work for a company?

RG: They are definitely related. Authenticity is a principle that can be demonstrated by having a personality. On the second part of your question, I would probably change the wording a bit. If by personality, you mean an individual - then I would say we all have personalities in the right situations, the problem is that some people work in a place where they feel they need to check their personalities at the door. Whether or not this is due to some policy - the main idea is that companies need to create an environment where it is encouraged for employees to have personalities.

MD: In social media, often the personality of a company is inferred through the efforts of those doing the outreach/community evangelism. How can companies use this to their advantage?

RG: The easiest way is to make sure and embrace those evangelists. Moleskine embraced Armand Frasco and made him a voice for the brand. Microsoft didn't act quickly enough to embrace Robert Scoble and he left. The other way to use this for advantage is to find ways to identify the newer voices that could become these types of evangelists and provide them the tools they need to grow into this role.

Thanks to Rohit for taking the time to do this. Please do stop by his blog and see the other posts in the series.

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Making sure you don't miss the conversation

twitter_logo.pngOnce of the biggest challenges I have when it comes to Twitter is following what is being said. With nearly 700 people who I follow, it's easy to have hundreds of Tweets fly by in a matter of minutes. During the day I have to shut down Twitter when I need to focus on getting things done.

I have come up with a couple of options that allow me to keep tabs of what people are saying and staying engaged when I cannot be actively watching and listening.

Subscribe via RSS
This is my favorite at the moment. At the bottom of each user's page on Twitter have a small box that looks like this Picture 6.png. That link is an RSS feed of the last things that person has said. I added it to my Google Reader in a category called Twitter Faves and it allows me to read them at any time. Using RSS in Google Reader also lets me search through them over time.

Picture 5.png


Use an application
Picture 7.pngPersonally I use twhirl as my application of choice. I keep it open during the day and turn off the new Tweet notifications. When I have time I scroll through it and catch up. Twhirl also lets you do some cool filtering. You can filter by keyword or user as well as view Tweets by replies, direct messages, friends and followers. It also lets you search through the messages as needed. At the bottom of the window it shows if you have any replies or direct messages in the queue.

Use a web service
There are a host of new services such as Quotably that will allow you to track conversations by user and show you how they evolve over time. Keep in mind this is limited by the way that Twitter is set up (no threading, no groups, etc.) so it is of marginal value. You can also use a service like FriendFeed to keep track of what your friends are doing. Twitter is just one subset of information that FriendFeed tracks.

Picture 8.png

Services that consolidate and add value have a bright future in the conversation economy. There is a lot of opportunity out there to listen to, track the trajectory of and help people engage in conversations.

How do you listen? Do you accept the fact that people are talking and you can't listen? Do you use something that is not on this list?


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Launched: MyVegas

Launched is a new series that I am doing to highlight practitioners who are using social media in consumer and B2B campaigns. The goal here is to show you what companies are doing out there, no theory or rhetoric, just real world examples of social media in action.

This edition features a private, branded social network for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority called MyVegas. The campaign comes from the folks at Critical Mass in Chicago and is a great example of creating a social utility around an experience. The site also does a great job of adding value to the user experience by making trip planning something fun. The RSVP (Really Simple Vegas Planner) boils down hours of frustrating phone calls and website visits into one fun, interactive tool. The site also allows for users to customize the look and feel as well as invite friends (or "entourage" as they call it) to partake in the planning.

Here is a quick video overview:

[Feed readers please click through to the post if you cannot see the video.]

Key takeaways:

  • Creating a private social network isn't for everybody, this works because it centers around an experience and it adds value to the user
  • The look and feel and copy writing are very much in tune with the Vegas theme and convey the attitude they're looking for
  • Fun and interactive elements add value by simplifying a very complex and laborious process into a couple of easy steps
  • The site uses the social elements of a network to connect people around the theme and make the planning experience better
  • I'd love to see more takeaways (applications or widgets) from the site that I could use on other networks like Facebook and Twitter

Overall this is a great example of how to do this type of branded network the right way. If you are launching a new site, application, widget or campaign let me know and I may feature it in an upcoming Launched post.


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Social objects as marketing

Gohome_vertical Shel Israel's new show on FastCompany.tv is now up and running. In one of his first interviews, Shel sits down with Gaping Void's Hugh MacLeod. In their discussion, Hugh talks about social objects, and their subset of social markers,  as the future of marketing in a social environment.

I tend to agree with Hugh and I love how this concept makes social media more attainable. You create something cool that benefits others and then let them know about it through social connections. If they accept your cool thing they will spread it around. If they don't like it the idea will die.

Per Hugh, a social object is:

the reason two people are talking to each other, as opposed to talking to somebody else. Human beings are social animals. We like to socialize. But if think about it, there needs to be a reason for it to happen in the first place. That reason, that "node" in the social network, is what we call the Social Object.

Similarly, the social marker is an object (person, place, thing) that allows two people to put a social object into context. If, for example, you are at a charity dinner and you start talking with somebody about venture capital, you both may drop some names to let the other person know you are in the same social sphere.

Here is Shel's video with Hugh.

This idea happens all of the time and is a great bit of ethnography by Hugh to bring it to light and give it such an approachable and simple name.

What social objects do you have in your life/business? Are you doing something cool enough to get people to talk about you? What social markers do you use to identify people with similar interests and ideals?

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The future of advertising presentation

Many thanks to the members of the Minnesota Interactive Marketing Association and to the students of the Minneapolis College of Art and Design for attending the presentation this past Monday. Also, a special thank you to Tim Brunelle for inviting me to speak and for being a great host while I was in town. Minneapolis has a very enthusiastic, warm group of people who were very gracious.

The title of the series of presentations is based around the idea of the future of advertising. I used my experience in digital marketing and PR to give a view of what I see as the future. I would love to hear what you think. The total run time is around 41 minutes. Just hit the play button and you can hear the original recording from the event. I hope you enjoy!

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More video content coming soon!

Jvcgzhd751721 Those of you who have been following this blog for a while know that I love to produce video content. When I changed jobs earlier this year I lost access to some of the equipment that I was using which explains the lack of content over the past three months. Well, the wait is almost over. I have nearly rebuilt my hardware setup, and it's shaping up to be even better than before thanks to my very supportive new employer and to the fine folks at MarketingProfs (including an HD camera for more whiteboard sessions).

I do apologize to you all as I know many of you really get a lot of value through those quick overviews of new technology. In the next couple of weeks I will be back in full force. I've already shot a couple of videos and a demo or two that I will be publishing soon. Buzz Friday posts will also resume, though I am renaming them to "The Weekly Buzz" so I am not confined to do them on Fridays.

I invite you to send me sites/services/program ideas that you would like to see me cover.

In the meantime, here is a complete list of all of the videos I've done to date. Enjoy! (Videos with a * next to them are highly recommended if you have not seen them before.)

Techno//Marketer Interviews: This is a series of interviews that I will be conducting at conferences and trade shows to bring you new thinking on social media and emerging technology.

Inside//Out: These are more in-depth looks at sites and utilities that have been out on the market for a while. Sites include social networks, marketing sites and web applications.

First//Look: These are in-depth looks at sites that are brand new and are in closed alpha testing or are in beta release. This gives you an idea of what it will be and how you could use it when it comes out.

Whiteboard//Session: These are hand drawn explanations of complex technical terms or overviews of more technical sites.

Other: Videos that don't fit into the previous categories.

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The future of advertising

crystalball.jpgTim Brunelle of the agency Hello Viking and professor at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD) asked me to speak to his class about the future of advertising. I'll also be speaking to the Minnesota Interactive Marketing Association. I've come up with a presentation that I'll post on Slideshare tomorrow so you can see my take.

While I've never worked in an advertising agency, I have been exposed to their inner workings. I've also worked in pure digital shops as well as my current role in a PR company. Overall, I think this gives me a unique perspective on the future of advertising/marketing.

Here is the link to the Slideshare post.   


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Are you a tradigitalist?

Istock_000003557491xsmallIn this increasingly digital world, the skills that traditional communications professionals bring to the table are often taken for granted and/or cast aside. This is a huge mistake for companies to make as there seems to be a growing shortage of people who can think about marketing communications strategy and get it done.  Digital workers often jump to the tactics instead of considering the full scope of how consumers live their lives (it's not all online). Traditional marketers often, certainly not always, see the broader landscape of the full marketing communications spectrum.

Enter the reign of the tradigitalist. This person could have arrived at this title in a couple of ways. Let's look at these:

  1. The digital native with a passion for marketing. This person is a digital native, gets what is happening, understands the power of social media and emerging technology, yet places value on the total communications spectrum. Traditional PR, TV, print, radio, outdoor, WOM, etc. can all play into the mix to reach the potential customer in the most effective way. They understand that a pure-play digital approach is *very* rarely the best way to go. I find myself in this category.
  2. The digital immigrant who sees the potential. This person comes from a traditional marketing communications, PR or advertising background, but sees that digital is the way of the future. They also know the power of traditional marketing and use their depth and breadth of marketing strategy knowhow to shape campaigns using the best options.

One of the things that working in a company with such a strong traditional communications practice has shown me is the value of people who bring traditional marketing knowledge to the table and how excited they can be about the digital future. I personally make sure to keep up on what is happening across all forms of marketing communications for just this reason and I am leaning on these people to broaden my marketing acumen on the traditional side. I am returning the favor on the digital side.

Are you a tradigitalist? Do you know one? Shouldn't we all be tradigitalists?

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Voiceless, spoken communication

Now this is pretty cool and I just have to share. I found the following video on Marc Andreesson's blog and it blew my mind (as it did his). These guys have developed a way to intercept and translate speech before it gets to your vocal chords so you don't need to say what you are thinking, you just have to think it. Check out the video below.

This is very cool technology and may well shape the way we engage with technology in the future. You could be sitting at your desk and just think things like "open Microsoft Word" and it would open. You could create thought to text software that would actually work because the words are pre-digitized. This could possibly enable speech impaired individuals to communicate "vocally".

What other implications will technology like this have on our day-to-day lives?

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The 4x4 meme

four.jpgNo, this post is not about monster trucks or going offroading. I was recently tagged to participate in the 4x4 meme by Valeria Maltoni and Troy Worman. The point of this meme is to give you a bit more insight into who I am and what makes me tick on a personal level. The meme has four questions that each require four answers, so here you go.

4 jobs I've had:


  • Worked in the cart barn and caddied at a local country club in Columbus, OH
  • Spent a summer packing boxes at the McGraw Hill textbook distribution center in Columbus, OH
  • Worked in a "pet hotel" for a very long, hot (smelly) summer in St. Louis
  • Did my college internship at Mattel Toys in NYC helping them launch their first website for their preschool toy brand, proposed to my wife in Central Park many years later

4 places I've been:


  • Buenos Aires Argentina - one of my favorite places on Earth, spent many weeks down there in my previous job starting an office there
  • Paris France - Although I spent just a brief six hours in Paris, it was pretty incredible
  • Suva Fiji - My wife and I spent our honeymoon in Fiji and truly enjoyed every minute of it
  • Louisville, Kentucky - I grew up in Louisville (pronounced Lou-a-vul if you are not from there) and spent 14 years before moving to Ohio

4 bands or artists I am listening to:


  • Tiesto - I am a huge electronic music fan and Tiesto is fantastic
  • Arctic Monkeys - great band with a solid new album
  • Mark Ronson - a new find, but a real talent
  • Radiohead - what can I say, they're amazing

4 of my favorite foods:


  • Sushi (especially spicy tuna)
  • Mexican (any type)
  • Indian (tikka masala rules)
  • Nachos (could have been put in the Mexican category, but I believe they deserve a light of their own)


I'd love to learn a little more about Sean, Katie, Ryan and Arun. Even if you haven't been tagged, feel free to share on your own blog if you have one or in the comments on this post.


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Kelly Goto on user experience design basics

I had the pleasure of meeting Kelly Goto when she came in to do a presentation the Fleishman-Hillard office in Washington, D.C. yesterday. I've heard Kelly's name before from her myriad speaking engagements and I know her design consulting firm, but I had no idea that she was the person who wrote THE web design bible. (I highly encourage you to check out her book.)
 

Her presentations were full of very helpful tips and it was great to see a strategic, manageable approach to user experience design (UXD as it's called in the trade). There is a trend out there to make UXD so complicated and labor intensive that it becomes overwhelming and slows down the process. Her advice was to stay agile.

She talked at length about becoming an experience ethnographer and how she accomplishes what she does on a scale from Fortune 100 companies down to small projects. Her main point was finding the difference between what people say (in a focus group or interview) and what they do (either by following them or through photo diaries). That is where the valuable insights come into play.

Kelly asked us to find a balance between practical and emotional design. Making sure that the user accomplishes what they need to, but also that the experience is as good as it can be. She urged us to look at simplified applications like Twitter that really work to accomplish one task really well as a basis. Feature creep is a killer in web-based environments.

She and I talked about the constant "battle" inside agencies between technology and design and how the real opportunity for growth is to blend the two areas. CSS, for example, has given non-technical designers a way to use technology to impact the user experience in a positive way and from device to device.

We also spoke about how Flash development provides companies the ultimate opportunity to bring technology and design together, to have this conversation and move toward better experiences. The use of creative and ActionScript (the language that makes Flash move and interact with elements and data) provide a powerful tool for creating rich, immersive experiences.

As I mentioned in a post last week, the best technology around is invisible to the user. Design can act as a shield for technological complexity when done correctly, but can make simple technology overly complex if done poorly.

I absolutely loved her company moto which is "Exceed expectations, take vacations". I highly encourage you to seek out Kelly and her advice as it's truly valuable and practical for any organization.

Photo courtesy of petele on Flick.

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Packaging the election online with PRSA

Inlogo I am sitting on a panel discussion today at Kent State University about the impact of digital marketing on the current election and what the future may hold. I'll update this post through the day and will recap the event here later. I am hoping to shoot some video to go along with it.

If you have any last minute thoughts on the topic and you want me to express it to the audience, leave me a comment. I'll talk to you soon.

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Interview with Amy Dalton, Marketing Manager of Topix.com

Picture 9.pngAmy Dalton from Topix.com took the time to give me a demo of Topix, a social news site, while I was at the WeMedia conference in Miami last week. Topix takes local news to a whole new level and it lets you participate, rank and submit content that you think is relevant. The news sources are aggregated from around the web.


[Feed readers please click through to the post if you cannot see the video]

Sites like this show the power of mashing up RSS, crowdsourcing and localization into one central location. All you need is to make it mobile so that it changes based on where you are standing...and that's not too far away either.

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Your thoughts on election 2.0

InLogo.jpgThis coming Friday, I am speaking on a very cool panel through PRSA at Kent State University's "You Too social media boot camp and leadership summit". The title of the panel is "Packaging the Presidency online" and will be moderated by John Elsasser, Editor in Chief of PRSA Strategist. Other panel members include a former congressman and CEOs of various communications companies. You can read more about it here.

I want to pick your brain on this topic to add to my own thoughts. Here are some questions that you can answer in the comments or by shooting me an email. I'll recap your responses and what I learn at the panel in a post next week.

Discussion points:


  • How has social media been used during this election?
  • Who is using it the best?
  • Do you think they have a plan for what to do with these communities once the election is over?
  • What mediums have been most successful in reaching you?
  • Have you become involved in a campaign and used social media to take action?
  • What else would you like people to know?
  • If you live outside of the US, how has politics evolved in your country?

Let's use this to open the conversation and talk about the future of politics.


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Technology does not have to be boring to be social; it needs to be invisible

iStock_000004190374XSmall.jpgI was reading my feeds this morning and came across this post from Simon Collister at his excellent blog, Simonsays. In the post, he quoted a new book by Clay Shirky titled "Here comes everybody".

"Communication tools don't get socially interesting until they get technologically boring. The invention of a tool doesn't create change: it has to have been round long enough that most of society is using it."

I have to wholeheartedly disagree with this quote and here is why. Technology that enables social interaction doesn't have to be boring to be great, it has to be invisible.

Here is my comment from his blog:

Simon -- I take exception to this point. Technology doesn't have to be boring to be social, it needs to be invisible. The less we perceive the technology behind the services we're using the more adoption will take place. Our goal as marketers is not to use boring technology, but to make the technology work so well with our campaigns that the end user doesn't notice them.

There is a *lot* of non-boring, very complex technology behind sites like Amazon and Facebook. The reason that they excel is that the user experience is where they put their focus. As a user it makes sense to just use the site and the technology gets out of the way.

WAY too often marketers use technology as a scapegoat for poor user interface and interaction design. The goal for any marketing campaign should be to do something great that your target audience can use so that it "just works". The technology doesn't need to be boring, far from it. The technology can be mind blowing and earth shattering as long as the user can interact with it and not even notice it.

The technology behind sites like Utterz is a good example. Utterz has some very exciting technology behind it, but to the user it's all easy. Want to create a podcast? Dial a phone number and leave a voicemail. Look at the social recommendation on Amazon.com. That's millions of dollars of technology investment done so well that you think it's boring.

Here is a diagram of what I mean charting your awareness of technology and the level of technological complication/coolness/cutting-edgeness (I don't think those are real words).

technology_awareness.png

So what do you think? Does technology have to be boring to be social or does it just need to be used correctly? I'm very interested to hear your thoughts.


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Interview with Rev. Lennox Yearwood, CEO of the Hip Hop Caucus

Picture 8.pngReverend Lennox Yearwood is a very passionate, media savvy person and he took some time to chat with me at the WeMedia conference in Miami last week. His organization uses social media tools like Facebook and Youtube to get their message out to the community at large. Bloggers have played an important part in the mission of the Hip Hop Caucus and has pushed many of their issues from the local community to the global community.

Operatives in the field have help raise the profile of important issues to the level where national, mainstream media is forced to pick them up. The organization uses a broad assortment of tools including CD mix tapes, a blog, MySpace, Facebook and other outlets to get their message to the people who need to hear it.

"The revolution may not be televised, but it will be uploaded." ~ Rev. Lennox Yearwood


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You can see the passion that Reverend Yearwood has for his work and the major impact that social media tools have had on his organization. We often look at this industry as a marketing vehicle for products and services, but it also has huge potential to bring about social change. Now *that's* social media!

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Interview with Nic Fulton, Chief Scientist at Reuters

reuters-logo-171-06.jpgLast week's WeMedia Conference in Miami put the spotlight on the future of journalism and how it will change. No better example can be found of those changes than the project Reuters is undertaking with Nokia. Nic Fulton, Chief Scientist of Reuters took a couple of minutes at the conference to talk to me about the Nokia partnership and what he expects will come of it.


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It was interesting to note that I spoke with Nic about the possibility of doing live reporting and he said that is not their focus right now. He mentioned the lack of quality that is possible with mobile streaming as the main weakness. For the time being, Reuters is focusing on high-quality, original content that complements the rest of their offerings.

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