Archive for the ‘Productivity’ Category

Getting Fit to Lead – Habits of Successful Leadership

Monday, November 26th, 2012 |

There are many things that will never change when it comes to human relations and how we react to authority and leadership.  Still, in a fast paced world, it’s hugely important for companies to keep up with modern leadership styles.  It is for this reason that, on average, businesses spend $1,228 per employee on leadership and development training.  In fact, U.S. companies spent $12 billion dollars during the 2009 recession to train executives to lead in this new era of business.  Check out this infographic from Michigan State University Online for a closer look at the habits of a leader.

Habits of Successful Leaders
Infographic by Michigan State University, earn your Strategic Leadership & Management Certificate.

What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up? [Infographic]

Thursday, November 8th, 2012 |

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? As children, we tend to have grand plans and dreams for our future.  Maybe we’ll save people’s lives as a doctor or impact the world through our acting.  Whatever your dream was, or still is, it helps to know what the job of your dreams will pay and what kind of training you need to get into the field.

Take a look at this infographic from HowDoIBecomeA.net that talks about the top ten jobs kids want as they’re growing up.  It outlines the specifics of income, the kind and amount of training required, and so much more.  Dream big!

When I Grow Up I Want To Become A...

The Power of Reconnection

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010 |

Building one’s network is no easy task.  I cannot stress this enough: you must love what you do in order to make that work.  If you don’t, you really should have someone doing it for you.  There are different ways of networking: some prefer pure online interactions, others like to meet in person at events, small group/one-on-one meetings – really a mix of all of these should get you the furthest toward your goals.

Something I don’t like about networking meetings in particular is the superficiality of it all.  Your goal in life isn’t just to accumulate business cards – business cards are crap.

It takes a while to really get to know your connections well.  And after a while, it is difficult to keep up with too many people simultaneously.  The famed Dunbar Number holds that a typical person cannot hold together over 150 connections.  So, it is inevitable while you are making connections, you are losing some as well.  Pretty self-defeating, isn’t it? Fear not, dear reader, for I have a solution for you. (more…)

How to Stay Social in Social Media

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009 |

Don’t forget about your friends.  It’s supposed to be social after all.

For any of you that have me on a variety of IM programs, you have no doubt noticed that I typically keep it on the “do not disturb” setting.  This is usually because I’m busy most of the day and really cannot stop to chat.
20091208220741

But wait a minute.  Isn’t social media supposed to be social?

Yes.  Yes it is.  The problem with social for some of us is that it so easily blends with work and play that we find much of our day kept up online.

You have also no doubt seen some of the sore spots opened up by the Businessweek article about being careful of social media snake oil.  I found a follow up post on it from the Harvard Business Review and saw that a few of my social media friends had retweeted it.

Susan aka @buzzedition had retweeted it and it occurred to me that we hadn’t chatted in ages.

What’s the world coming to that you need to get your friend’s attention by retweeting them? Note that this wasn’t her goal – it was just good content to review and retweet.

It almost makes you miss the days when you didn’t feel the need to keep up with every tweet and micro instance of everyone’s day.  To keep sanity, I try to remind myself that Twitter and other such social media outlets are a stream that I can enter and exit when it best fits my time budget.

How do you keep up with your social friends these days? Or, are your relationships deteriorating before you know it? Let us know.

Research your posts with Buzz Monitoring

Wednesday, November 12th, 2008 |

I was playing with some toys earlier and thought; why don’t we look a little deeper into the world of Buzz Monitoring. And I don’t mean for tracking buzz altogether either. What about utilizing it when crafting new content or blog posts? Buzz monitoring need not be a glorified vanity search endeavour when it can unlock a genie of information to bring life to your content generation efforts.

While you can certainly use a buzz monitoring program to track activity relating to ones blog or company metrics, it can be also used to track/research just about anything. You can use it to track news on markets for projects and can suggest the latest trends and/or buzz for content creation programs and general business intelligence.

Information is the currency of content

What is most certainly a great way to leverage them is when used for researching your next blog post. It is not only a good way to find nuggets of varied perspectives, but also shows you the latest discussions that are going on in a given topic area.

This can be important as you can continue existing discussions in either a supportive or converse perspective and hopefully catch any existing momentum that already exists in the marketplace. You may even find the research into the most recent activity begins to craft your post in directions you may not have started off on in the fist place.

 

Some tools to play with

As it has been said by the ever fascinating Johnny Long; Google is your friend – so let’s start there.

(Johnny Long… Not related.. but entertaining)

Anyway, let’s continue on… Often freshness matters as much as quality and other times aged, respected feed sources are the call of the day. In the former, where freshness plays a roll, try a quick run though various searches on Google;

Google Blog Search; which can be set to various time frames – you can also grab a widget for your iGoogle or set up alerts for desired topics.

Google Search (regular); using time delineated results (1 week here) – a variety of Google search hacks are always handy for researching anything. But that’s another story.

Other useful blog stops include;

Blog Catalog
Bloglines
TrendPedia Blog Search
Blog Runner
BlogMarks
Blog Pulse
Ice Rocket

Now this method works on a larger scale but also tend to have a higher noise-to signal ratio than one may want when creating content. Timely content isn’t always the best content. One of the next options is to do a little Google personalization in the form of known, respected sources….

PostRank (consolidate with Aiderss) – another handy buzz monitor tool is PostRank which will scan a feed and give you a 1-10 scale of each post. This can be handy when analyzing a given post or topic type to ensure you have the best possible chance of creating a popular post of your own.

Do-it-yourself

The Google Custom Search Engine; a service that allows you to search only the sites you wish and even segment them. I like creating GCSEs centric to areas of study. In my case that would be search engines, search marketing and social media marketing. To that end I created a couple engines to study what I felt were some of the more authoritative barometers of the genre

The SEO Search Engine – which we can search ‘buzz monitor’ to get results on the topic from top SEO blogs.

The SMM Search – which contains many of the top social media marketing blogs and we’d get this for ‘buzz monitor

What is advantageous to making a custom search engine is controlling the source material. Even if you are writing for a niche you’re not familiar with, once populating with known entities in the space it is your crystal ball to mining content ideas and opinions.

Should we be tasked with creating content for a fishing store/blog you would not only mine the client and his suppliers for leads (on influencer sites/blogs) but head off to locales such as Technorati , Alltop or MBL – to get a good cross section and identify influencers.

Add them into your custom search engine and away you go…

Google Custom search in action

Regardless of how you populate them, utilizing a Google Custom Search Engine can make for a great signal to noise tool for ongoing project needs. Segmentation helps to narrow the focus where that is often needed to catch the influencers in a market segment.

 

Segmenting the social world

Next we want to be able to JUST search the social world for activity. Once more utilizing the GCSE we can segment the various social sites not only choosing which to include, but also segment by basic type (social media, networking, bookmarking etc…). To that end;

Social Activity Search – which enables searching of the various major social sites like so..

Twitter/FriendFeed/Plurk Search – for watching the world of micro-bloggers – our search

The main point being to load them up with sites you feel you are targeting or interested in for a given campaign. It takes very little time but gives you a tool at your control that makes getting the feel for a buzz in a given niche easy and accessible.

If you’re looking for a good list of sites to mine for data, I just happen to keep a list here which might come in handy. You can even go old school and make one to search the forums in a given niche – you’re limited by your imagination and uses for qualitative as well as quantitative data.

Also, if you want to track buzz on Twitter, use the real-time search – which we can use with topic markers (#seo for example) or use the advanced search goodies which are here – of interest is the ‘sentiment’ search which can help if you’re after a positive or negative spin on your post.

 

What to make of it all?

Now that you have all this information it is a matter of mining it for data.

Start by making note of;

  1. Common topics; old staples that are the everyday
  2. Popular topics; ones that are hot on social sites
  3. Controversial Topics; those that raise the emotions
  4. Timely items; news that is bandwagon friendly
  5. Resource lists; topically relevant tools and resources.
  6. Popular sites; top influencers often cited (show some link love)
  7. Chronological anomalies (is more content published on a certain day?)

This can be a scientific excursion utilizing a spreadsheet or other application or a more informal process of making notes of the areas that stand out to you. What is more important is that you get a feel for the target audience and the market itself before even setting about the content creation itself. You may already have a topic in mind, you may not; the goal is to understand the space.

Then Target your approach; using traditional hooks;

  1. The News hook
  2. Resource angle
  3. Freebies and give-a-ways
  4. The passion poker
  5. The Ego baiter

Armed with your research it should be easy to find topics, resources and influencers to match up with more traditional link bait approaches to make a compelling page/blog post. Once more we are merely looking to get the creative juices flowing through this process. Beyond buzz monitoring there are other factors such as past analytics and openly available trend data from locales such as Google Trends and Compete from which we can draw from. Utilizing buzz monitoring is merely another tool in deciding on the ultimate direction of any content creation plan.

 
Just links in the chain

There are many other considerations to be had when putting together a content creation plan – but buzz monitoring is certainly a tool with many uses. Hopefully turning to these tools for more than mere engagement metrics and benchmarks will enhance your own imagination to how these tools can be used. If you approach them as a blank canvass awaiting the first stroke, you will find much value to be had beyond traditional uses. Next time your writing or seeking inspiration why not give it a try ;0)

And because we’ve merely opened a new door into Buzz Monitoring; What else can they do? Research and Development? Business intelligence? Qualitative data?

There is more here than a mere vanity search nor fickle engagement metrics – get creative

 

Here are some goodies that came out of this expedition for more of your creative endeavours;

Finding were your customers are talking about you. – Vanessa Fox
13 Tools for Tracking discussions in the Blog-o-sphere – Mashable
26 Free Social Media Tracking Tools – Marketing Pilgrim
Reputation Management made easy, and Free! – Search Engine Land
Tools to monitor your brand effectively – Social Media Trader
Top 10 reasons to monitor your brand online – TopRank Blog

Other toys for tracking

Megite – social news aggregrator for uncovering the most relevant items from auto-discovered news sites and weblogs. Here’s an example using Lee Odden’s Big list of marketing blogs.

Zemanta – Any user-created text (a blog post, article or web page) is directly “read” by Zemanta; it then combs the web for the most relevant images, smart links, keywords and text, instantly serving these results. Zemanta can be deployed on all major content publishing platforms and web browsers through a simple plug-in.

 

Paid Services – I haven’t had the opportunity to review these, use at own risk.

Trackur
SentiMetrics
CyberAlert – NetPinions
Umbria
Buzz Logic
Nielsen Buzz Metrics
ScoutLabs

What Are Your Creative Triggers?

Monday, November 3rd, 2008 |

Refresh yourselfWhat triggers do you use to put yourself into a highly creative state of mind?

For this to have its greatest impact I would really like you to stop whatever mindless activity you are thinking of and follow a few simple steps. First stand up and take three deep breaths. Holding each breath for a few seconds will calm your mind. Go ahead and do it now! No one is watching! I would enjoy having your positive attention for a few minutes before you develop your own creative triggers.

Moving on, please start with a fresh beverage of choice. I often find a rich chocolate coffee helps to slow things down, other times cracking open an ice cold coke “in a can” grasps my full attention to the task I have before me. But we’re near the end of 2008, more than likely your beverage of choice happens to be a clear, but simple bottle of water. As long as you begin to relax and focus your mind, you will learn what triggers are best for you. Find your mental escape!

I also like to start my creative process with the use of a location trigger to place myself in to a specific state of mind. You may find that a location may offer you more of a targeted trigger, more so than an object trigger, depending on what you want to convey in your message. Parks are a great source of inspiration that creative people have used for ages. Close your eyes and think of sitting on a deadfall at the edge of a meadow.

What are the sounds you hear as birds sing, the leaves rustle as squirrels fight over the last of your popcorn? What smells trigger your senses? Is it autumn and you sense the first hint of someone’s fireplace? Or is it spring and the musky smell of fresh turned flower beds hover in the air? Do not limit yourself to one location.

Another place I like to go to is my “second office.” It is a picnic bench located at the top of a dune overlooking a public beach. In fact this post was first written on a notepad while the smell of suntan lotion drifts up off the beach below. Take another deep breath and you will also smell the soft smell of coconuts. How long will the smell of suntan lotion now linger in your mind? Use the location triggers as a starting place then let them take you forward.

How does this creative trigger post make sense on a social media blog? Collective-Thoughts have a very broad selection of readers. Many are seasoned content developers creating amazing content on their own, but some are just in the beginning stages of their careers. By looking into how you select your inspiration, it will help to heighten your senses to expand your talents over all of the various aspects of social media. Some triggers will help you to brainstorm for video; while others are better suited to help you facilitate your writing. Some make Stumbling more fun. Anyone play drinking games while Digging?

Now on to the question of the day. Do I add a shot of Patrón XO Cafe into my coffee before I start my next post?

Defining Social Metrics

Monday, January 14th, 2008 |

I read a nice little post by Brent Csutoras I had been pointed towards it by Brian who is quoted within. I have been preparing a post on Mixx since before Christmas for Collective Thoughts so was keen to see another perspective, I was pleasantly surprised but also a little concerned.

Sheer Volume of worthless traffic is still worthless

How you define worthless of course is the key. The argument put forward by Brent is that Mixx simply doesn’t have a critical mass (or activity) to produce enough traffic to make it worth while for marketers. He quotes some stats that are pretty close to mine in terms of sheer visitor numbers to his site and their he stops. The problem is that sheer volume is not a useful metric indeed in many respects rather then being a goal the traffic itself should be considered the cost let me try to explain.

The cost of Volume

Every unique visitor costs a small amount of money, they are taking up bandwidth and resources, the more pages they view the more they cost. A well designed site has a set of “Call to actions” be it to buy a product, subscribe to the RSS feed or comment on the post each of these provide a small ROI how much this return is depends on the action. Even if the return has no financial return it still has a cost implication.
Example
Joe has a blog he has two calls to action 1) advertisement (he wants people to click the links) and 2) Subscribe to RSS
His hosting costs and monthly bandwidth mean each visitor per page costs him approx 1c.
Joe gets 100 visitors – the cost of these visitors is $1 and 1 person clicks an advert he recoups $0.30 Joes total cost is $0.70 if he values RSS subscription at a $0.5 and some two people subscribe then Joe has a ROI of $0.30

Lets say Joe gets to the front page of Digg and has 10k visitors a total cost of $100 he picks up 100 subscribers and 20 people click the ads his total cost is $94 financially and a ROI (including subscribers) -$44

Now I made those numbers up, but the point I want to get across is that everything has a ROI which should be included in any metric. If you sell an Ebook which is it better to have 10 visitors of which 1 buys the book or 10k visitors of which 1 buy the book.

Social media in particular can drive vast amount of traffic with little or no effort but why would you want this traffic what was the point?
Is your lack of goals costing you more then just money?

Every Goal has to be measured to have success

Working out success on pure visitor numbers is like working out your crop size based on locust population. If your site never had any set goals then it can not have any measured success, to measure success you need to first define your goals and how much reward such goals bring.
In my above example I used financial costs and rewards simply because it is the one thing most people understand but a cost and reward can be far more wide ranging. A good example of a non fiscal metric for blogs is Avinash Kaushik 6 methods for measuring blog success if your interested in looking at these on your own blog Joost has written a plugin at Collective Thoughts we have been using it for a while though it will take a few months before its data will be really useful.

Traffic is good, conversions are better

I love stats and I love social media I watch with joy when I see thousands of visitors on my site through the likes of StumbleUpon regardless of any goals so it seems hypocritical to suggest that traffic doesn’t matter but ultimately beyond a childish fascination it does not matter. What matters is if that traffic converted and achieved my goals.

Is Mixx ready for marketers peddling their wares probably not, is it ready for Link Builders hoping to get their stories in front of some of the most forward thinking people in social media quite possibly.

Become the news source

Friday, December 7th, 2007 |

social media HackTim looks at why becoming a news blogger is hard work and how simple changes to page layouts and designs can attract and promote your news blogs or any site even if he doesn’t use all the tricks himself.


Most bloggers dream of becoming a major source of news and information, millions of visitors and loads of links when you break yet another story. The pace is fast and furious with near daily race to be the first to get the scoop much like traditional media journalism. A vast quantity of front page traffic on Digg and other social sites is from the same websites time and time again but breaking into the exclusive group of true news bloggers is hard work but I hope some of these handy hints will help.

Why do it?

Before we go further you need to stop and take a step back becoming a news blogger is not suitable for all but a minority, go back to those top sites and you will realise nearly all of them are run by a team. With 24 hours in a day a single person can only do so much, and such sites rarely pay for themselves until they reach a certain critical mass. That said the one page tips I’m presenting will help any blogger interested in attracting the social media visitor.

Getting the page ready

How you present your exclusive story will often make or break your site above all you want people to know what the story is as quickly as possible, using stumblers as our basis you have 5.5 seconds to impress or they are gone.

Images

In many ways are the secret weapon of the news blogger and bloggers in general they add something to the story but they are also a useful social media tool.
Primary Image – this is the main image to accompany the article for maximum effect you want to turn this image into a promotional tool, when people photo blog a review on StumbleUpon the chances of a visitor clicking through from the reviews home page is 25% more likely then a standard review. To maximise people using the image as a photo blog picture make sure the image is under 250k and less then 500px width. Include some sort of identifier and don’t be afraid to include words (just make sure you use your alt tags correctly). When it comes to picture nearly all social media users like BBS big bold and simple a slightly risky strategy is to place the primary image just on the fall of the page to force the user to scroll down to see all the image.
Logo Image – A logo image is an image that appears near the top of the post to help categories and give a post a sense of identity, this further helps to cement in the visitors mind what the article is about as well as providing another promotion point. Google news has for a while now been using an algorithm to select suitable images for use within its site for relevant headlines, this sadly may not interest most wannabe news bloggers who don’t make it onto the Google news pages but the use of such images on Digg certainly will. Since the release of the new picture enabled Digg, users when selecting stories have been offered the option of including a picture from the page if and when a suitable image has been found. 160x120
The important thing here is getting the scale right Digg currently is resizing images to 160×120 pixels and is only presenting users with the option of JPG so the ideal logo image should be 160×120 JPG, of course you need to make it interesting enough for the submitter to include it and remember to keep it inoffensive to avoid moderation.

Extract/Summary

Many Stumblers and Diggers simply copy the first few lines of an article when reviewing/submitting so make those lines count. Present an interesting and complete first 2 sentences be it a summary or some sort of opening statement. Just remember to keep it short and sweet otherwise the submitter or the site they are submitting you to will cut it off mid flow.

Typography

I am not a designer but subtle use of modern design concepts such as the use of grids really helps a story along. Don’t let a bad design or typography let your story down because it makes the process to hard to read. One technique borrowed from traditional magazine I find extremely useful is pull out and block quotes. While block quotes have a dedicated tag in html pull quotes do not but there are plenty of Javascript pull quote scripts you can use.
printer icon

Printing

People still like something tangible so along with good typography a clean way to print the article out is essential at minimum a print.css but also think about promoting printing through a print button.

Social media buttons

social bookmarking icons
Adding pretty icons and badges has been all the rage for a while now even the BBC have got social media badges on some of their pages, but there is no real evidence that this “bookmarking” buttons actually increase the number of people bookmarking sites and can have a very negative effect. On the whole social bookmarking do not cause any ill effects with possibly two exceptions
Digg0 Diggs – Nothing says newbie who can’t fix their template then a Digg button with 0 Diggs, it’s a complete turn off. Social media users tend to flock or hunt in packs a button with a low score can put people off, If you are going to use Digg buttons then only place them on your post at the 20+ mark and make sure you remove them after a few days or immediately after your article is buried no point wasting your users time which could be spent viewing more of your content. You will of course point to the bottom of this page and scream hypocrite what else can I say but bah!
StumbleUponStumble Me buttons – When StumbleUpon produced a series of buttons people raced of to use them on their blogs without thinking through the consequences. Call it a bug or a protection feature if you like, but Stumble Me buttons are worthless. Every time a user uses your stumble me button to leave a review you lose a potential thumbs up. This is because when you leave a review it does not also thumb up the page as well, so while you might get a couple of hits from peoples home pages on StumbleUpon you will not receive any additional toolbar traffic.

General tips for news blogging

Apart from on page issues some simple things make a large difference in News Blogging

  • Work in a team
  • Be quick but accurate
  • Moderate your comments
  • Let others promote you, concentrate on getting the stories
  • Don’t be afraid of scrapers always include good full internal links
  • Be consistent unlike other forms of blogging news bloggers need to post regularly

Do you have what it takes to be a news blogger, and what type of news blogger are you a broad sheet or a tabloid?

7 Ways to Own Social Media Before it Owns You

Tuesday, November 13th, 2007 |

Achieving a work - life balance in the face of social media

Last night, before sitting down to power through some serious social media activity, it really hit me.

I told myself that I need to blog something because my Alexa rank was slipping.

Alexa Rank?? What??? Am I insane???

When I started looking at my latest blogging performance, I noticed that my posts have been much shorter lately on social media. Much less than when I would primarily write about blogging tips and starting a blog.

Then, I started to look at some of my daily social media activities:

  • Reading RSS feeds of my favorite blogs (I hate RSS, even full feed – but they are a necessary evil. Still, I try to actually read blogs that I like)
  • Finding interesting content
  • Submitting interesting content
  • Checking stats
  • Friending people on MyBlogLog
  • Responding to my own comments
  • IM conversations with people all over the globe (read: no sleep if I wanted to talk to all of them all the time)
  • Write a few posts (some start to finish, some partial thoughts) and coming up with post ideas
  • Prepare for blog interviews
  • Submit stories to several social networks
  • Save bookmarks on del.icio.us
  • Stumble some sites
  • Sphinn some stories
  • Comment on other blogs
  • Perpetuate poke, superpoke, vampire, and slayer wars on Facebook
  • Ask others for Sphinn votes. (No, scratch that) 🙂
  • Twittering, since everyone wants to know up to the minute details about my cat? Newsflash: I don’t have a cat.

Wow, all these activities are really fragmenting. Not super time consuming, as you can multitask, but fragmenting. Like 20 tabs up in Firefox and other apps all over the place fragmenting.

Can we really multitask as well as we think? Kathy Sierra, one of my favorite bloggers ever, would argue that we cannot multitask effectively. (By the way Kathy, if you read this – please, please return to blogging. The world needs you).

So, does this mean that I’m out of the social media space? No way! In fact, expect to see much more from me social media wise very soon 😉

What’s the plan then, you ask? Easy. Instead of suffering from social media overload, look at a few other disciplines and tips for help:

1 – Focus. Getting hit from different IM’s, especially from offline ones when first signing in can really send you off in different directions. Actually turn off IM once in a while. I’ve tried this off and on over the last week or so, and some people were actually concerned 🙂

2 – Sleep. Whenever I get tired, but always wake up at the same time (for me, this is 6am). I first saw this on Evan Williams’ blog but it’s originally from Steve Pavlina

3 – Balance. Whether you have a physical / sports, religious / spiritual, art, or whatever outlet – use it. I’m personally a very religious person, and am glad that I am.

4 – Stop talking about social media to people that don’t care about it. Try not to talk everyone’s ear off about social media that isn’t in the space. My apologies to all family and friends that still don’t know what I do, but see that I’m clearly excited about it 🙂 You know that guy that walks around with the hands free that looks like he’s talking to himself? Annoying, right? Don’t be him.

5 – Family time. Whether you’re an 18 year old social media pro or someone with a wife and kids, your family likes you. Walk away from the computer for a few minutes. You might notice that your kids have grown since you last looked at them 🙂

6 – Cross pollinate your brain. Find something opposite of social media to do for a while to let the social media parts of your brain recharge. You’re an SEO? Go do SEO (non-social media) work for your clients. You’re a zookeeper? Well, feed those seals already. They can’t live on Diggs alone! 🙂 Learn some new skills or enhance ones that you already have.

7 – Unplug. Do something that’s not in front of the computer (since you’ll be tempted to Stumble it if it is something good). Read a book, watch a movie, do some knitting, cook, eat, play a game, jump out of a plane – whatever. A friend of mine even went so far as to go into an underwater cage where folks from above throw food down so that Great White Sharks try to get into your cage. He says it’s a rush, but I think I’ll read a book. 🙂

It’s fine to engage in social media snacking. Just don’t lose sight that life is the main course.

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About Us

Welcome to the new wisdom of crowds. Each member of Collective Thoughts is here because not only are they a known or rising star in their own field, but they also have a passion and unique understanding on social media. Together, we make up Collective Thoughts. More

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