Archive for August, 2011

Are You as Real as Vin Diesel?

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Yes, I’m a Vin Diesel fan. Does it mean I love all of his movies? Of course not–I haven’t even seen all of them. Does it mean every one of his roles resonates with me? No, but I can’t say that about any actor (not even you, Daniel Day-Lewis). But for those of you dismissing Diesel based on “The Pacifier” and your dislike of movies about reckless driving, I say this: Have you seen “Find Me Guilty”? No? Well, then, go rent “Find Me Guilty.” Sidney Lumet was onto something: the man’s got range.

Plus he’s been working for years to make a movie about Hannibal of Carthage. As a history geek myself, I can tell you that you have to have paid attention to remember Hannibal of Carthage. I’m not sure why there haven’t already been movies made about him–he took on the Roman Republic. With elephants. But there haven’t been movies made. He’s obscure enough that most people have never heard of him. The fact that Vin Diesel is so committed to this idea tells me that Vin Diesel is interested in things, and that makes him interesting.

But what’s also interesting is the way he uses social media.

A couple of years ago, I became one of the 27 million fans of his Facebook page. And what’s clear about his page is this: The person posting on it? Is actually Vin Diesel. That’s not a publicist or an assistant.

He posts photos from the sets and from his travels. He shares memories from his childhood. He puts up photos and art created about him by his fans. And he clearly values those fans and their support. In Likeable Social Media, Dave Kerpen (CEO of Likeable Media) writes:

Why is Vin so popular on Facebook? In a word, it’s his authenticity. . . . Vin is real with people.

When it comes to public figures, we spend a lot of time waiting for the other shoe to drop. Someone’s always lying to us. So if you think about it, there’s something nice about the fact that Vin Diesel does his own Facebook stunts.

Google+ Wants to Sell You Stuff

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Henry Luce: Now, I want them all to meet my people who will write their true stories, Naturally these stories will appear in Life magazine under their own bylines: For example, “by Betty Grissom”, or “by Virgil I. Grisson”, or…
Gus Grissom: Gus!
Henry Luce: What was that?
Gus Grissom: Gus. Nobody calls me by… that other name.
Henry Luce: Gus? An astronaut named “Gus”? What’s your middle name?
Gus Grissom: Ivan.
Henry Luce: Ivan… ahem… well. Maybe, Gus isn’t so bad, might be something there… All right, all right. You can be Gus.

–“The Right Stuff”

Although maybe not on Google+. NPR reporter Andy Carvin sums up Google Chairman Eric Schmidt’s stance thusly: “He replied by saying that G+ was build primarily as an identity service, so fundamentally, it depends on people using their real names if they’re going to build future products that leverage that information.”

So who benefits from this “identity service”? Schmidt would say that you do, because if people have to post under their real names, then they won’t say nasty things about you on the Internet. But as venture capitalist Fred Wilson points out, there are some hefty benefits for Google as well–namely, that they are now better able to target ads.

To any of you who have Gmail, this isn’t new. But what are those “future products that leverage that information” that Schmidt mentioned? We don’t know yet. But apparently they require Google to know exactly who you are. And based on this Search Engine Watch post, that means you have to:

  • Use your full first and last name in a single language.
  • Put nicknames or pseudonyms in the Other Names field.
  • Avoid unusual characters in your name.
  • Your profile and name must represent one individual.
  • Don’t use the name of another individual.

Not only is there no room here for pseudonyms, there’s no room for common nicknames. Well, my Google account doesn’t use my full first name, so I guess I’m in violation of their policy. But how would they determine that without, say, Social Security records? (Aside from the fact that I’m stating it openly, that is.) I use “Kathy Lisiewicz” because that’s what people call me. It doesn’t make sense to use my full name on Google+ when I’m not using it anywhere else online.

So, how private do those Circles feel now?

Don’t Waste Your Customers’ Time

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I regularly pass a bus stop sporting a poster for Lifetime’s new-ish series “Against the Wall.” It shows a woman wearing casual Friday clothing and a smirk, standing behind a table of taciturn uniformed men and a wistful Kathy Baker (who I mistook for Laurie Metcalf in the poster). The tagline for the series is “Her job is hitting too close to home.”

Here’s the thing: this poster tells me nothing about the series. Is she a defense attorney? A social worker? A crusading journalist? Are the men cops? Members of a European military force? Dog catchers? Is Kathy Baker their mother? Is she the social worker?

I finally went to Lifetime’s website to look. Not because I really want to know more about the series, but because I’m so annoyed by the generic, characterless campaign. “Against the Wall” could be about anything (for example, in 2010 it was about a high-tech game park), and the tagline sounds like it was created by a committee. Here’s what the site says:

“Against the Wall” follows the trials and tribulations of Abby Kowalski (Carpani), a single Chicago police officer who finally scores her dream job as a detective; but it turns out a nightmare for her close-knit family of cops. As the newest hire in the department’s Internal Affairs division, Abby suddenly finds herself at odds with her fellow officers, including her father and three brothers. She must now figure out how she can pursue her dream of being a detective while keeping her family intact.

So why not pick a title and develop a campaign that gives passersby some sort of hint? Call the show “A Question of Trust” (although maybe that’s a little too “Lifetime” even for Lifetime) and write a tagline like “Can she be loyal to her family…and the truth?” And maybe clip a badge to her belt, so that I have a clue what she does for a living.

What’s the lesson? Be distinctive. Let your customers know who you are, what you do, and why they should want to do business with you. Don’t make them work to figure it out. If you waste their time, they’ll be someone else’s customers. Watching some other network’s cop show.

Personal Brand: You Tell Me

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Jim De Piante of the Voices on Project Management blog has a post on managing your personal brand.

Here’s the thing about branding: at its heart, your brand is how people perceive you. It’s not what you say you are, but what they say you are. So how you see yourself (or how you want to see yourself) is not necessarily the same as how others see you.

What do I see as key elements of my personal brand? Here’s a start:

1) I’ll get the job done. You have a problem, and I’ll help you solve it. You won’t have to worry about progress, because I’ll be on top of it, and I’ll let you know how things stand.

2) I’m great at asking for help when I need it. I don’t need (or want) handholding, but I know when I need support–and I’ll ask for it when I do. Your project is not going to take a nosedive because of my pride.

3) I pay attention to goals. A former boss told me that she could always count on me to know when something was good enough. She didn’t mean that I settled for adequacy; she meant that I knew what it took to complete the project and meet or exceed standards, and when a particular flourish might be cool–but would be too expensive, or too time-consuming, or inconsistent with the larger effort.

But that’s how I see myself, and that’s only part of the story. At least as important is this: How do you see me?

Social Media and Ethics

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See No Evil
Social Media Club‘s motto is “If you get it, share it.”

With a motto that succinct–seriously, can anyone get to the heart of “social” more clearly and efficiently than that?–it’s not surprising that their new Code of Ethics is also clear and concise.

Take a look. Although the preamble specifies that this is for club members, it’s a really useful tool for all of us. And by “all of us,” I mean that statements like “Be honest and authentic in all communications” should be applied far beyond the Internet.

Does your organization have a Code of Ethics? If so, what is it? And if not, what should it be?

Photo by tim ellis, via Flickr.

3 Useful Social Media Marketing Links

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I’ve recently come across a few articles and posts that I think address some important concepts–some that you probably know, but may not always think about extensively because they’re so familiar, and some that you may not have considered. Take a look:

1) Quit Trying to Sell Me Stuff! 10 Tips to Provide More Value
Pam Moore has a post about focusing on providing value. Right now I’m particularly interested in numbers 1-3, which I think can be summed up as “What have you done for me lately?” You can’t just ask your customers to buy from you. You might as well say, “Give me money.” As a customer, I’m going to want to know why. That means you have to know why, and to know why, you have to know me. And then you have to give me something that I want. Because if your product or service isn’t going to improve my situation, why would I give you money for it?

2) Stop being the “social media helpdesk” and cross-train your company to be social
Some organizations want everyone to be involved in social media. Some want no one to be involved. I think the real answer is in the middle: Employees who are interested in being part of your social media strategy should be involved (and that includes people who interact with the public, from sales to customer service and beyond). People who aren’t interested, shouldn’t. Encourage it, but don’t force it.

3) 5 Big Mistakes to Avoid in Your QR Code Marketing Campaign
I’ll bet a lot of people never even think about number 4.

Is Facebook Publishing Your Phone Number?

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Don't Panic Badge

In a word: no.

In a few more words: not unless you’ve told them it’s okay.

Facebook has always had a space for you to input phone numbers, and Facebook Mobile syncs your smartphone with the site (if someone on that list is on Facebook and has shared that number with the site, Facebook will suggest them to you as a friend). They also offer privacy settings so that you can determine who sees what information–and that list is viewable by you, not by anyone logged in through their own account.

So, if you don’t want numbers on your phone to appear anywhere on Facebook, stop syncing your phone. I guess that if you really want to be sure, you can look into getting a cheap phone with a number that you can use for this purpose only, and don’t transfer your current contacts to that phone.

Or take the easy route, and customize your privacy settings on Facebook so that only you can see your contact info. But please, stop posting inaccurate panicky messages. Whom does that help?

Photo by Jim Linwood, via Flickr.

Viral, in a Bad Way

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London Riots - Clapham

“Everyone run wild, all of London and others are invited! Pure terror and havoc & Free stuff. Just smash shop windows and cart out da stuff u want!”

We’ve heard a lot about Twitter and Iran, and Twitter and Egypt. Now we’ve got BlackBerry and cities in England. The Washington Post reports the above quote as one message that has been circulated recently.

And although the rioting began in London–the Prime Minister has deployed an additional 10,000 police officers there–it has now spread to other cities. While the shooting death of Mark Duggan may have been the straw that broke the camel’s back in areas of London, the outbreak of violence in distant cities supports the idea that the camel was already laden pretty heavily.

Social media fosters connections between people, but this seems to be an example of how that can work against an awful lot of us. It appears that many rioters may be using BlackBerry Messenger, a popular app, to send encrypted messages. This means that unlike other recent outbreaks of unrest–again, Egypt–the messages are not on publicly viewable sites like Twitter. (Not that Twitter and Facebook have been ignored by rioters, mind you, but they aren’t the only tools being used to encourage “pure terror and havoc.”)

So often we hear about the desire to have messages and videos go viral, and it’s easy to overlook the dark side of this concept. But I think it’s important to take a look at these riots and consider: what about when viral goes wrong? And in the same vein, is crowdsourcing always as great as people like to say it is? What if your “crowd” is a group of rioters? That’s just mob rule, and no one benefits from that. Ultimately, not even the mob.

Photo by bayerberg, via Flickr.

Mythology: Work-Life Balance

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Yesterday someone came by my office for an informational interview. She was well-prepared and asked smart questions about the organization and the work itself. But then she asked, “How do you handle work-life balance?”

Sometimes I think that’s the equivalent of my two least favorite job interview questions: “What are your weaknesses?” and “Where do you see yourself in five years?”

But I think it can also be a very good question, because if taken seriously it can lead to a real discussion of what that means, and what it doesn’t mean.

Let’s start with what it doesn’t mean.

  • Work-life balance does not mean that you can “have it all.”
  • It does not mean that things are divided 50-50.
  • It does not mean that you feel no tension between different parts of your life.

So what does it mean?

Well, for starters, I think we can have it all–just not all at once. Life is about choices, and we have to choose what we want to emphasize at any particular point. So if you work full-time and have a family and a home, you probably are not going to be able to excel at work, spend hours each day with your spouse and children, and keep floors so clean that you can eat off them.

Or maybe you can. But I’ll put good money on the likelihood that because you have those clean floors, you haven’t cleaned out the fast food wrappers in your car since last winter.

When you really get right down to it, there is no single equation for work-life balance. Sure, some people will tell you that there is–but somehow the answer they promote is always what they do. That’s great for them, but it may not work for you. So don’t worry about it.

Determine what matters to you. What do you value most? What are your priorities? What are your boss’s priorities, and your organization’s? Do what matters most, and don’t worry so much about the rest. Find ways to delegate, or revise your standards.

Then again, maybe we should all just move to Denmark.

Social Media Background Checks and You

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When I started working with my current employer, I had to have a background check. The reason why is a bit ridiculous, in my opinion–apparently it has nothing to do with, say, data security (I’ve never had that kind of job), and everything with a failure to properly check references. So now, instead of doing a more thorough job of verifying the claims on resumes, we all get fingerprinted. Make what you will of that.

There’s a new kind of background check in town, and it makes those “be careful what you post” warnings sound a bit less paranoid. Social Intelligence, a one-year-old startup, conducts “social media background checks” for employers, collecting information available for the past seven years.

The idea is that you sign a waiver and the screening company reviews your social media presence, reporting back to the hiring organization–but leaving out information that can be discriminatory, such as race, pregnancy, disabilities, and so on. The benefit for the hiring organization is that they’re buffered from discrimination claims. The benefit for you is . . . well, I guess the benefit for you is that the interview remains the key point at which you might face discrimination in the hiring process.

So what kind of information are they collecting? That depends on what the employer wants. According to the company’s website:

Social Intelligence Corp solely generates reports based on employer pre-defined criteria, both positive and negative. Negative examples include racist remarks or activities, sexually explicit photos or videos, and illegal activity such as drug use. Positive examples include charitable or volunteer efforts, participation in industry blogs, and external recognition.

At the same time, this doesn’t remove the possibility for individual bias, personal interpretation, or simple human error. As Kelsey Blair writes for Social Times:

Who determines what constitutes aggressive or discriminatory? Is it participation in a Facebook group? It could be. Is it angry status updates? Absolutely. And who gets to decide? The good folks at Social Intelligence Corp, of course. According to Drucker “since our team are in fact human beings, they are able to discern to the best degree possible what ‘explicit’ means.” And what discriminatory means. And what violent means.

In writing about the process, the New York Times says that the review also may look for “flagrant displays of weapons or bombs and clearly identifiable violent activity.”

Here’s an example of where discretion comes in. What counts as “flagrant display of weapons”? Is it a picture of a soldier deployed in a war zone? Someone teaching their son or daughter about gun safety on a firing range? A group of friends getting ready to go hunting? A disgruntled employee outside the boss’s office door? That seems like a pretty wide range of behavior to me, but someone else might not make that distinction. And since a photo is literally a single moment in time, how do people conducting background checks know what the context is?

So those are some of the issues related to social media background searches. The next question: what do you do about it?

Well, to begin with, be aware that when you use social media, you are choosing how you present yourself to the world, and that the world may not see what you intend to show. That’s true regardless of whether the person looking is a potential employer or your Aunt Edna.

Next, take a look at your privacy settings. These firms are going to be looking at what they can see–you’re not handing over your login information.

And consider what information you’re providing employers to begin with. In his Gizmodo article “I Flunked My Social Media Background Check. Will You?” Mat Honan writes:

It only uses the data an employer gives it to run a search. This tends to be standard issue information from your resume. Your name, your university, your email address and physical location. Which means that, ultimately, you are the one supplying all the data for a background check. Because you are the one who supplies that data to your employer. And that means you should be smart about what kinds of contact information you put on your resume.

Your personal email address, especially if you’ve had it for a long time, could have all kinds of things tied to it that you’d rather an employer not see. Spend the nothing it costs to set up a dedicated job search email account, and list that one on your c.v.

Social media background checks are here to stay. Social Intelligence isn’t the only company providing them (a quick Google search turned up at least one other company), and the FTC is fine with the practice. So take a look at what you’re putting out there, who you’re sharing it with, and what’s on your resume. But you were doing that anyhow, right?

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