10 Tips on Podcasting from the Host of Amateur Traveler

Guest post by Michelle McIntyre. Reposted with permission from MMC.

Chris Christensen, co-founder of a new website called Blogger Bridge which connects bloggers to people who want to hire them just spoke to my entrepreneurs Meetup group in Sunnyvale about how to build your reputation through podcasting.

He also owns and runs AmateurTraveler.com which is a popular online travel show (more than a million downloads a year) that focuses primarily on travel destinations. It includes a weekly audio podcast, a video podcast, and a blog. Here’s a sample episode. This particular one is called Travel to Morocco – Episode 397.
Travel to Morocco – Episode 397
Travel to Morocco – Episode 397

A podcast is a show on any topic in audio or video format that is an attachment to a blog through an RSS feed. Christensen says podcasting is a great way to build your brand. Here are 10 tips on podcasting from his talk:

1. Podcasting is in style again mostly due to the growth of mobile. After a relatively quiet period of a few short years, podcasting is hot again. People listen to or watch broadcasts on the go while walking the dog, driving or exercising through smartphones or other mobile devices.

2. Podcast consumption is stronger in audio. Audio files sizes are smaller and they are more easily consumed on the go, for example, while driving. It’s hard and of course illegal to watch a video while driving.

3. Microphones popular with podcasters range in price from around $100 to $350. Styles include larger ones that stand by themselves, smaller ones that you hold in your hand and teeny tiny ones that are designed to hook up to a smartphone. Christensen likes the Blue Yeti brand the best.

4. Podcasting is a very personal medium. People may act they you are old friends when you first meet them.

5. Podcasting is not great for immediate response marketing, for example, if you need someone to click on something or take a fast action. Christensen likes evergreen content the best but also says that news shows can be popular too.

6. Podcasting is great for building a reputation or brand. This is because if done right, podcasting can establish you as an expert.

7. Roundtable discussions through Google Hangouts are becoming all the rage now. Link your Hangout account to your YouTube account and the session can be recorded for re-play.

8. Not all podcasts need to be edited. If you do need to edit, Christensen recommends Garage Band available on the Mac and Audacity.

9. You can just post your podcast on your own blog or syndicate. Christensen recommends sites like Libsyn.com or Rawvoice.com for syndication.

10. Allow up to eight hours to plan, finish and promote one podcast. Christensen’s “feature-length” travel podcast takes eight hours. A non-edited show takes two to three times the length of the show. A scripted show takes more time. An edited show takes Christensen about an hour per 10 minutes of audio to edit. In case you are wondering, Christensen is highly envied by the other entrepreneurs in our meet-up group because he actually gets all expenses paid trips around the globe due to the large following of his travel website. Way to go, Chris!

### Michelle McIntyre is a high tech public relations consultant in Saratoga, Calif., who regularly blogs on her own website as well as for several West Silicon Valley Patch sites.

Photo credit (camel): iStockPhoto.com
Photo credit (microphone): Michelle McIntyre

The Value of Diversity and Inclusion

Published in the October 2013 issue of Public Relations Tactics 

Diversity. Disabilities. Inclusion.

You often hear and see these terms used in discussions, in articles and on corporate websites, but what do they really mean and why are they important? Communications professionals thrive on words and digging into the deeper meaning and relevance.

To get to the definition of inclusion, you have to start with diversity.

Merriam-Webster defines diversity as: “the condition of having or being composed of differing elements: variety; especially: the inclusion of different types of people (as people of different races or cultures) in a group or organization.”

Sound reasonable? Yes, of course, but it hasn’t always been that way.

Changing the Law

Less than 60 years ago in the United States, it was legal to discriminate against an employee or job applicant because of race, color, gender, religion, country of origin, age, pregnancy or disabilities. Recruiting, hiring, job assignments and promotions didn’t have to include or go to the most qualified applicants or employees.

Signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson and enacted on July 2, 1964, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 made it illegal to discriminate against someone on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin or sex.

Title VII was landmark legislation, but it didn’t go far enough, so several laws were amended to protect the rights of additional groups of people being discriminated against. These included:
  • The Pregnancy Discrimination Act
  • The Equal Pay Act of 1963 (EPA)
  • The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA)
  • Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA)

Eliminating Barriers

Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 prohibits private employers, state and local governments, employment agencies and labor unions from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities in job application procedures, hiring, firing, advancement, compensation and job training, as well as other terms, conditions and privileges of employment.

By eliminating barriers to their participation in many aspects of living and working, the passage of the ADA in 1990 was a huge step forward in enabling PwDs (People with Disabilities) to join the workforce with reasonable accommodations and to share their valuable talents and skills.

According to the U.S. Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), accommodations in this context are intended to ensure that qualified individuals with disabilities have employment rights that are equal to — not superior to — those of individuals without disabilities. A reasonable accommodation is a modification to a job, a work environment or the way someone works that allows an individual with a disability to apply for a job, perform essential job functions and enjoy equal access to benefits available to other individuals in the workplace.

Being Aware and Open

When people think about diversity in the workplace, they often focus on creating work environments with ethnic, racial and gender balance that reflects the society we live in today. However, they often overlook PwDs. Considering that about 56.7 million people — 19 percent of the population — have disabilities, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, that is a large group of employees and clients to overlook.

In the Diversity Dimensions article I wrote for the June issue of PR Tactics, “Ability Beyond Disability: Understanding Accessibility,” I discussed disability and accessibility, and mentioned inclusive communications. But inclusion goes deeper into the DNA of our society and of an organization.

There isn’t a legal definition of inclusion, and while it’s a fairly common term in our education system, defining it with a general lens is difficult. Inclusion Network does a good job explaining with this list:
  • Inclusion is about all of us.
  • Inclusion is about learning to live together.
  • Inclusion treasures diversity and builds community.
  • Inclusion is about our abilities and gifts, and how to share them.
  • Inclusion is not just a disability issue.
“People with disabilities represent a critical talent pool that is underserved and underutilized,” said Shirley Davis, director of global diversity and inclusion at the Society for Human Resource Management.

As a communications professional, you can practice and promote inclusion by your awareness of the issues surrounding diversity and by making your communications accessible to PwDs.

In today’s global, social and hyper-connected world, organizations routinely interact with clients, employees and vendors who speak different languages, come from different cultures, have different levels of technological literacy and have widely varying physical and cognitive processing abilities. So, excluding any individual means missing out on important ideas, insight and opportunities.

Quick and Accessible Communication Tips

This is not a comprehensive list, but incorporating all of these actions into your communications can help your messages reach a broader audience:
  • Use plain language.
  • Use respectful language.
  • Include images of people with disabilities in everyday situations.
  • Create accessible PDFs.
  • Caption videos.

How Can Social Help Solve the Food Insecurity and Food Waste Disconnect in the U.S.?

As a member of the executive team, I was involved in the TEDxSanJoseCA TEDCity2.0 event at the beautiful Silicon Valley Capital Club on Friday, where we heard talks from some compelling speakers.

Part of the fun, and breaking with the normal traditional TEDx schedule, was that the attendees were assigned randomly to different tables for breakout sessions on the themes of:
  • Food
  • Public Space/Art
  • Housing
  • Youth and Play
  • Water
  • Health
I was seated at the Food table. We had 15 or so minutes of discussion time to brainstorm some big ideas about creating and sharing our vision of the future city of San Jose around the theme of food. There were some amazing ideas that all centered around bringing food production into local communities.

We had two very different themes going in our brainstorming session:
  • How could local communities grow and distribute local food, saving the money and time needed to ship produce across the country or even from continent to continent?
  • How could local communities, government, and private businesses address local food insecurity and nutrition with gardens?
And we came up with the following ideas:
  •  Work with corporations to replace lawns, trees, and flowers with vegetable gardens and fruit trees
  • Work with building owners to add gardens to the top of their buildings in urban areas
  • Add gardens to public parks and include free nearby housing for farmers
  • Add gardens to already landscaped and watered street medians
  • Set up flatbed trucks that could grow and deliver produce to the people who needed it the most
  • Teach children how to garden and how to cook what they grow
  • Create a smartphone app that connects people who have excess food with people who would like the excess food
And perhaps coincidentally, (and perhaps not), I've seen several articles about food insecurity in the United States just recently.

This one caught my eye first: Trader Joe's Ex-President To Turn Expired Food Into Cheap Meals. "Doug Rauch, the former president of Trader Joe's, is determined to repurpose the perfectly edible produce slightly past its sell-by date that ends up in the trash. (That happens in part because people misinterpret the labels, according to article from Harvard and the National Resources Defense Council.) To tackle the problem, Rauch is opening a new market, called Daily Table,, early next year in Dorchester, Mass., that will prepare and repackage the food at deeply discounted prices."

This article is the first time I've really seen, and thought about these pretty shocking figures:
  • One-third of the world's food goes to waste every year
  • In the U.S., about 40 percent of our food gets thrown out
And yet so much of waste may be caused  by the seemingly simple issue of no standardization on use by/sell by/best by dates on our food, as discussed in this article: The (Food) Dating Game: Why Expiration Dates Don't Help. According to this article, "Confusion over dates, according to a survey by the Food Marketing Institute, leads nine out of 10 Americans to needlessly throw away food."

Then there is Ron Shaich, CEO of Panera, who has taken up the SNAP challenge eating  on just $4.50 per day—the average food benefit for recipients of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. Shaich is sharing his experiences and thoughts on his blog.

The Feeding America website shares some startling facts about food insecurity in the United States.

So here's a challenge to my readers: How can we use social media channels to solve this problem? We have food going to waste every single day, and people who are going hungry every day. How do we connect the two, and use the first one to help solve the second one?

Ability Beyond Disability: Understanding Accessibility

Published in the June 2013 issue of Public Relations Tactics 
Diversity Dimensions 

What is accessibility?
One of the first steps in understanding how communicators can reach audiences of people with disabilities (PwDs) is to understand exactly what accessibility is and why it is so critical.

word cloud of words: ability disability PwDs Pwd People~with~Disabilities e-Accessibility physical-access transportation, public~access, housing, IT, information~technology hardware software Web~applications websites aging visual~disability blind limited~vision vision color~blindness hearing~disability, deaf, hard~of~hearing, visual~representations, closed~captioning, transcripts mobility~disability voice~input cognitive~disability dyslexia short~term~memory~deficit inclusion inclusive~communications people~first~language alt~text alternative~text text~links spell~check Accessibility“Accessibility is a measure of the extent to which a product or service can be used by a person with a disability as effectively as it can be used by a person without that disability,” according to the e-Accessibility Policy Toolkit for PwDs.

People often use the word in terms of physical access in areas such as transportation, public access and housing. With respect to information technology (IT), accessibility means enabling IT hardware, software, Web applications or websites so that more people can use them, either directly or with assistive technology.

Others use the term to specifically talk about Web accessibility. The World Wide Web Consortium, an international community that develops Web standards, says: “Web accessibility means that people with disabilities can perceive, understand, navigate, and interact with the Web, and that they can contribute to the Web.”

We include the aging population in this broader category of people who can benefit from technology created for PwDs because by 2025, this segment will grow to comprise 20 percent of the population in most industrialized nations, according to the World Health Organization. As people get older, they essentially join the PwD population through the acquisition of age-related disabilities, such as limited vision and reduced hearing.

The 4 Main Categories of Disabilities 

To understand accessibility, you should be familiar with the four main categories of disabilities: visual, hearing, mobility and cognitive. Technology accommodations exist for each of these disabilities, but must be implemented for PwDs to eliminate or minimize the barriers to access.
  • People with visual disabilities are blind, have limited vision or have color-blindness. 
  • People with hearing disabilities are deaf or hard of hearing and require visual representations of auditory information, such as closed captioning or transcripts. 
  • People with mobility disabilities can have difficulty with movement and fine motor controls, limiting typing or mouse control. Alternate input capabilities, such as voice input, are often required. 
  • People with cognitive disabilities, such as dyslexia and short-term memory deficit, may have limited ability to perceive, recognize, understand, interpret or respond to information. Consistent design and simplified language are two helpful solutions. 

Guidelines for Inclusion 

Inclusive communications by definition don’t exclude anyone. To ensure that your communications are accessible and inclusive, follow these guidelines:
  • Use people-first language, such as, “people with disabilities” instead of “the handicapped or disabled.” (See the TCDD website for a full list of terms.)
  • Do not use color to convey meaning. When content is presented by color alone, a person who is blind or color-blind will miss that information. 
  • Add alternative or “Alt” text for relevant images, charts and graphs. 
  • Use text links instead of URLs. Screen readers often have a links list function that shows all of the links. 
  • Provide sufficient contrast between background and text. 
  • Always use spell check. 
 Accessibility is about all of us. It extends the capabilities of technology to accelerate social innovation and create shared value for all citizens. Without accessibility, there isn’t inclusion. And inclusion matters, because excluding any individual means missing out on unique ideas, insight and opportunities.

Three Incredible Infographics

Infographics are amazing. They are a fast and easy way to convey a large amount of information quickly and succinctly, as you can see by this, you guessed it, an infographic explaining infographics. Which by the way, useful as it is, I'm not including it as one of my three incredible infographics because it's not new.

What is an Infographic?
Created by Customer Magnetism, an award winning Digital Marketing Agency.

I wrote a blog post last year, Infographics: The Graphic Visual Explosion, and if anything, I'd say infographics have become even more popular in the last nine months.

Here are three of the most incredible infographics I've seen pass through my feeds this week, and I can't help but share the wealth; something most social media practitioners seem almost supernaturally compelled to do. (Hmmm, I think there's a blog post here.... every time I see an amazing article, image or infographic I immediately start mentally crafting my tweet or Facebook post about it.)

I can't decide which of these is my favorite, so I'd love to hear which one you like the best.

This first one, designed by Marketo, which shows us some of the numbers associated with cat and bacon searches, is utterly brilliant. Social Media Today has a great article, Why Marketing That Includes Cats and Bacon Is the Cat’s Meow, that actually suggests some ways you can integrate these popular cat and bacon memes into your small business marketing plan.

The second one, created by eBay Deals, illustrates 16 examples of viral philanthropy, via crowdfunding sites such as indiegogo.com, giveforward.com and gofundme.com, and even reddit, for the victims of natural disasters such as earthquakes and hurricanes, victims of large-scale shootings, and others who have pulled some heartstrings.

This is a screenshot of the top of a very long and narrow infographic.Click on the link above to see it all.

The final one in my trifecta of favorites is Every Second on the Internet, a brilliant and interactive infographic from designly.com showing, in real-time visuals, how much data is streaming through the Internet every single second. You have to see it in action — this still shot doesn't begin to do it justice.

This also is just a screenshot of a tiny part of the entire piece. Click on the link aboveto see it all.

This is just the beginning, and we'll continue to see great strides in function and creativity. Infographics do not translate well to mobile, nor are the majority of them, including these, accessible in their current form to people with visual disabilities.

The Latest in Accessibility News from TED

If you've been following my blog for a while, you'll know that I'm a passionate advocate of accessibility, having worked in the field for over 10 years, and a strong proponent of the power of TED, just this year joining the core team for my local TEDxSanJoseCA and managing its social media presence.

I'm still blown away by the outstanding quality of everything TED does. The range of topics is vast and cutting edge. Videos are captioned for people who are hearing impaired, English-as-a-second-language learners, or temporarily disabled (in an airport or coffee shop where the sound can't be heard). TED Talks are always 18 minutes or less, and I learn something new and amazing from every single one. My only complaint is that I can't keep up with all of the amazing content TED uncovers and shares.

TED is continuing their reputation for excellence and expanding the theme of "Riveting talks by remarkable people, free to the world", with these wonderful essays, blogs, and talks on blindness and vision.

Fittle: An accessible learning toolset for visually challenged kids  

The shape of things: Fellows Friday with Anthony Vipin Das, on FITTLE, a toy that helps blind children read includes an essay written by TED Senior Fellow Dr. Anthony Vipin Das, an ophthalmologist who is working with Tania Jain, a designer from National Institute of Design, Gandhinagar, on FITTLE, a toy to help blind children learn to read Braille while getting a sense of the shape of the world around them.

As Dr. Vipin Das says in his essay, "This new toy, which we call FITTLE (“fit the puzzle”), helps children learn individual letters of Braille, construct words, and understand the form of objects, all through a playful game. Essentially, we are changing the way that blind children at a young age are going to perceive the world around them."

"We wish to help spread this idea as far and wide as possible. With current technology, FITTLE can be downloaded through open-source platforms and the pieces can be 3D printed by anyone who wishes to do so."

 A TED Celebration with a Playlist of Talks on Blindness and Sight

The second TED feature that made me sit up and pay attention was a blog post, The second amazing Looking into the future: A stem cell development to cure blindness, plus a playlist of visionary talks.

It references a BBC report, 'Big leap' towards curing blindness in stem cell study, that reveals how a research team in the UK has created a technique to transform stem cells into photoreceptors and inject them into the eyes of mice.

The TED blog then shares a playlist of TED talks on blindness and sight, including:
  • Pawan Sinha on how brains learn to see
  • Dennis Hong: Making a car for blind drivers
  • Sheila Nirenberg: A prosthetic eye to treat blindness
  • Neil Harbisson: I listen to color
  • Beau Lotto: Optical illusions show how we see 
Once again, TED lives up to its tagline "Ideas worth spreading".

Think Before You Post: Your Digital Footprint Lives Forever

It's safe to say that 10 years ago no one knew what a digital footprint was, or that everyone who is online has one. Today, of course, it's a very different story, and like many emerging technologies, there are potentially and previously unknown positive and negative results from using the technology — in this case sharing your life online with friends, family, and the world.

The upside?
You create and control the online image or persona that you present to the world.

The downside?
You create and control the online image or persona that you present to the world.

In a recent Mashable article, 1 in 4 Young Adults Regret Social Media Posts, Survey Says:

 Legal-information website FindLaw.com conducted a "demographically balanced" survey among 1,000 American adults, asking them questions about their behavior surrounding Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr and other popular social platforms. Among younger adults aged 18 to 34, 29% said they have posted a photo, comment or other personal information they fear could compromise their current or future job prospects.

It's not an irrational fear.

An article on examiner.com, Current and potential employers are looking at your social media pages, points out:

A survey of more than 2000 hiring managers and HR professionals conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of CareerBuilder in February of 2012 found that 37% or nearly two in five employers check social media when looking at a potential employee. An additional 11% stated they would like to begin using social media to screen new employees. 

If you google "people who've lost their jobs due to social media mistakes", you'll see quite a few examples, such as:
  • In March 2009, a 22 year old thoughtlessly tweeted about a job offer from Cisco.
    "Cisco just offered me a job! Now I have to weight the utility of a fatty paycheck against the daily commute to San Jose and hating the work."
    Cisco employees saw her tweet, and shared it with her hiring manager. The job offer was withdrawn. Her tweet, and the entire story, went viral.
  • Matt Watson lost his job at All City Coffee in Washington, DC after he was outed as the voice behind the sarcastic and snarky comments on the blog The Bitter Barista.
  • There have been multiple reports of teachers in conservative school districts who have lost their jobs after posting "private" photos of themselves on Facebook drinking alcohol,  smoking, or posing in revealing lingerie.
As the millennials move into positions of power, everyone will be more digital-savvy and the stigma of a less-than-stellar digital footprint will begin to fade. But until that time, and because the Internet is forever and nothing is truly "private", here are three easy rules to keep yourself out of trouble:
  1. If in doubt, don't post it. This goes for your Facebook posts, tweets, Instagram photos, reddit or tumblr accounts, and comments on articles and blogs.
  2. If you would be embarrassed if your grandmother or second-line manager saw it, don't post it.
  3. Enable the Facebook photo tagging permission so that your "friends" can't tag you without your approval.
The good news? You control your digital footprint, and can put your best foot forward, digitally speaking.

Image courtesy of Simon Howden/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Trend Spotting: Instagram & the U.S. Government

You just never know when the first whiff of a trend is going to reach out and grab you to say, "Hey, pay attention to me!"

I was scanning through my feeds tonight, and realized that I'd just seen the third article in a week about United States government agencies now on Instagram.

I know, your first thought was, "Instagram, really?"

You mean the popular social/photo sharing application started by two Stanford University graduates and purchased by Facebook a little over a year ago for a cool billion dollars? The free iPhone and Android application used by 130 million users a month who've shared 16 billion photos, at a rate of 45 million photos a day, and which garner 1 billion likes a day?

Our federal government at the forefront of social media?

Yes, yes, yes, and yes.

The first item I saw about the White House featuring President Obama, really didn't surprise me, and I retweeted it without much thought.  I wrote a blog post late last year, How Social Networking Won an Election and Paid for Cancer Treatment, about the unbelievably social-savvy team working on President Obama's re-election team. 

 And the article from Mashable about the Department of the Interior joining Instagram actually delighted me — a new opportunity to view stunning photos —  636 at last count. (This is from someone who is notoriously lacking in the photo taking skills arena, according to her teenager.)

Just one row of stunningly gorgeous photos from the Department of the Interior's Instagram account. And they're all this beautiful!

But tonight, the article from Forbes about the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) extending the reach of The TSA Blog TSA Week in Review feature by opening an Instagram account and sharing photos of confiscated items — now that one both made me pay attention and frightened me. Fireworks, loaded guns, a belt buckle knife. Seriously, what were these people thinking?

Instagram photo of a belt buckle knife confiscated by the TSA.

Of course, now I'm intrigued. It turns out that NASA has been on Instagram long enough to attract 345,000 followers. The U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources only has 66 followers, but I'm sure they'll catch up. The U.S. Air Force has 1287 followers. I'm stopping now — I could easily stay up until 3 am googling, finding and following these accounts.

When you step back and take a look, this trend makes sense. Check out the usa.gov website. It's enabled with social sharing buttons, and has hundreds of free apps. (When I'm done with this blog post, I'm definitely going to check out CIA Mobile.) Many agencies have Twitter accounts.

If you want to reach out to and connect with people — prospects, customers, constituents, students, friends, volunteers, advocates — you need to go where they are. As the U.S. government has clearly figured out.

Passion Intersection: Crowdsourcing and Humanitarianism

I'm absolutely fascinated by the concept of crowdsourcing. I love how it flows along the path of collaboration — input from multiple people used to create something new or better.

In my recent blog post on this topic, From Handbags to Traffic Navigation: Harnessing the Power of Crowdsourcing, I looked at some of the for-profit crowdsourcing sites that were changing our world by harnessing the expertise and experience of people both in our communities and around the world to creatively solve problems.

That post drove me to seek an intersection I was sure existed between two of my passions: crowdsourcing and making the world a better place, or in a word, humanitarianism. And I was not disappointed by what I found.

 Five Pretty Amazing Nonprofit Crowdsourcing Sites

Here are five nonprofit sites who really are working to make the world a better place and who could use your expertise, time and experience.
  • Wikipedia immediately comes to mind as one of the most successful and well-known crowdsourcing sites. Created in 2001, it is a multilingual, web-based, free-content encyclopedia project operated by the Wikimedia Foundation. Written collaboratively by unpaid and largely anonymous Internet volunteers, Wikipedia, as of February 2012, attracted 470 million unique visitors a month. 77,000 active contributors from around the world have witten/edited/collaborated on over 22,000,000 articles in 285 languages, and hundreds of thousands of them make tens of thousands of edits and create thousands of new articles every day.
  • foldit engages online gamers (a competitive bunch) and uses their pattern-recognition and puzzle-solving abilities to "see" protein folding patterns that computer programs miss. These solutions could someday help cure HIV/AIDs, cancer and Alzheimers.
  • World Community Grid is a worldwide humanitarian project that solves research problems by employing grid computing.  By splitting work into small pieces that can be processed simultaneously, this crowdsourcing effort pools and uses volunteers' excess computer processing power. Sponsored by IBM (disclaimer here — my employer), it brings people together from across the globe to create the largest non-profit computing grid benefiting humanity.

  • Help from Home is a UK-based association that has created a database to provide what they call "microvolunteering" — easy, quick, bite-sized and convenient crowdsourced volunteer-from-home opportunities. The tagline is "Changing the World in Just Your Pyjamas" and each opportunity has a "Pyjama Rating" attached to it, including my favorite "100% full-on pyjama zone".
  • Cell Slider is a collaboration between Cancer Research UK and Zooniverse which created an online interactive database of cancerous cell samples. The public is invited to help lab researchers investigate the two million images. 

    100% full-on pyjama zone

    Bonus Crowdsourcing Site

    duolingo is not a non-profit as these other crowdsourcing projects are, as they do sell their translation services. However I included it because I'm using it, it's fun, free, and a clever example of crowdsourcing, disguised as a for-profit translation service. To enable people to translate the Web for free, duolingo helps its translators learn the language for free. Language learners practice their new language skills on real-world texts from the web, while the computer provides guidance on unknown words, and helps build vocabulary and grammar skills.
    easy, quick, low commitment actions that benefit a worthy cause’ (as suggested by Help From Home)
    2) ‘convenient, bite-sized, crowdsourced, and network-managed’ (as suggested by Sparked)
    3) ‘the act of voluntary participating in small day-to-day situations that occupy a brief amount of time’
    - See more at: http://helpfromhome.org/faqs#sthash.AR6Gjt5n.dpuf
    easy, quick, low commitment actions that benefit a worthy cause’ (as suggested by Help From Home)
    2) ‘convenient, bite-sized, crowdsourced, and network-managed’ (as suggested by Sparked)
    3) ‘the act of voluntary participating in small day-to-day situations that occupy a brief amount of time’
    - See more at: http://helpfromhome.org/faqs#sthash.AR6Gjt5n.dpuf
    (Phys.org) -- A new website wants people to translate the Web for free. The reward is that the website seeks to help the same people doing the translating to learn the language, for free. Duolingo launched today as a new startup, the brainchild of a Carnegie Mellon project. University computer scientists Luis von Ahn and Severin Hacker thought up this venture in translating languages on the web by having language students themselves translate it while they simultaneously learn a new language, as a combination free language education website and crowdsourced online translation service.

    Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2012-06-duolingo-crowdsourced.html#jCp
    (Phys.org) -- A new website wants people to translate the Web for free. The reward is that the website seeks to help the same people doing the translating to learn the language, for free. Duolingo launched today as a new startup, the brainchild of a Carnegie Mellon project. University computer scientists Luis von Ahn and Severin Hacker thought up this venture in translating languages on the web by having language students themselves translate it while they simultaneously learn a new language, as a combination free language education website and crowdsourced online translation service.

    Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2012-06-duolingo-crowdsourced.html#jCp
    (Phys.org) -- A new website wants people to translate the Web for free. The reward is that the website seeks to help the same people doing the translating to learn the language, for free. Duolingo launched today as a new startup, the brainchild of a Carnegie Mellon project. University computer scientists Luis von Ahn and Severin Hacker thought up this venture in translating languages on the web by having language students themselves translate it while they simultaneously learn a new language, as a combination free language education website and crowdsourced online translation service.

    Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2012-06-duolingo-crowdsourced.html#jCp
    A new website wants people to translate the Web for free. The reward is that the website seeks to help the same people doing the translating to learn the language, for free. Duolingo launched today as a new startup, the brainchild of a Carnegie Mellon project. University computer scientists Luis von Ahn and Severin Hacker thought up this venture in translating languages on the web by having language students themselves translate it while they simultaneously learn a new language, as a combination free language education website and crowdsourced online translation service.

    Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2012-06-duolingo-crowdsourced.html#jCp
    A new website wants people to translate the Web for free. The reward is that the website seeks to help the same people doing the translating to learn the language, for free. Duolingo launched today as a new startup, the brainchild of a Carnegie Mellon project. University computer scientists Luis von Ahn and Severin Hacker thought up this venture in translating languages on the web by having language students themselves translate it while they simultaneously learn a new language, as a combination free language education website and crowdsourced online translation service.

    Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2012-06-duolingo-crowdsourced.html#jCp
    A new website wants people to translate the Web for free. The reward is that the website seeks to help the same people doing the translating to learn the language, for free. Duolingo launched today as a new startup, the brainchild of a Carnegie Mellon project. University computer scientists Luis von Ahn and Severin Hacker thought up this venture in translating languages on the web by having language students themselves translate it while they simultaneously learn a new language, as a combination free language education website and crowdsourced online translation service.

    Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2012-06-duolingo-crowdsourced.html#jCp
    A new website wants people to translate the Web for free. The reward is that the website seeks to help the same people doing the translating to learn the language, for free. Duolingo launched today as a new startup, the brainchild of a Carnegie Mellon project. University computer scientists Luis von Ahn and Severin Hacker thought up this venture in translating languages on the web by having language students themselves translate it while they simultaneously learn a new language, as a combination free language education website and crowdsourced online translation service.

    Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2012-06-duolingo-crowdsourced.html#jCp

    If you're looking to make a difference in this world, but a lack of time, transportation, money, or a desire to stay in your pajamas is a challenge, check out any or all of these sites, and join the crowdsourcing for humanity movement. You'll be in good company.

5 Ways to Get Yourself Unfriended and Unfollowed Fast

I'm sure I'm not the only one who has a list of social networking pet peeves — that  mental list of "Oh, did he/she really say that?" items that tend to annoy.

Here's my list of five social networking faux pas, shared to keep the peace, and when avoided, to help you keep your followers and fans, well, your followers and fans, instead of a string of exes.
  1. Never spell check or double check before posting
    Go ahead. Always use "women" when you're talking about just one. Spell quiet as quite. Use your and you're interchangeably or incorrectly. Mix up their, there and they're, and too and to. It's not just the grammar ninjas who notice. It could be your boss, potential employer, or a client who is rubbed the wrong way....

  2. Retweet and share without checking the content first
    You see an interesting tweet or Facebook post, and you immediately RT or share it without reading it. And it turns out to be a scam, or an out-of-date/inaccurate article from 1990. Ouch. We follow you for a reason, and while RTing and sharing content doesn't mean that you endorse that point of view or content, it does imply that you've at least read what you're sharing and find it of interest, which means that we might find it of interest too.

  3. Drop the f-bomb and other expletives frequently and indiscriminately in your online communications
    So let's just be blunt here. I know a lot of swear words. I use some of them occasionally when I drop something heavy on my toe or someone is chatting on the cell phone and cuts me off on the freeway, but I don't share them with my social graph. Everyone over the age of 11 knows the majority of these words and phrases too. What I don't want, and I'd bet the majority of your fans, followers, friends, colleagues and relatives don't want, is to see them in "print" in your tweets, Facebook updates, or blog posts.  Unless you're writing some gritty dialog for your novel, or directly quoting someone, it's distracting. Drowns out your message. Swallows your voice. Makes people wonder if your vocabulary is so limited that you can't come up with some meaty synonyms. Is that really what you want?

  4. Start flame wars
    Everyone has opinions, and we're free to share them in much of the world. But part of that freedom, is, or at least should be, the responsibility to let others share their opinions, respectfully. You don't have to agree, but let's move past the name calling, okay?

  5.  Share your prejudices with your social network
    If you have them, keep them to yourself, okay?
    NPR just posted a disturbing article, Haters Gonna Hate, As Shown On A Map. California State University, Humboldt, geography professor, Monica Stephens, and a team of undergrads spent a year sorting through and mapping racial slurs on Twitter by location. You can argue with her team's conclusions, but the ultimate lesson doesn't change: Don't do it. Ever.
The Internet never forgets, and your digital footprint will exist forever.  Are you presenting yourself the way you want to be viewed and remembered?
Image courtesy of Idea go / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

10 Ways to Ignite Your Creativity

Creativity. It seems such a simple thing when you look at the definition of it — the state or quality of being creative. Right? It should be as easy to tap into as your multiplication tables.

But some days it just isn't happening and you feel as creative as a stump. The muse of inspiration has taken a vacation, and left you high and dry. Sometimes to free that muse and unleash your shackled creativity, you have to focus your entire being on something outside of yourself.

Here are 10 suggestions to step away from and ignore your uninspired self to reconnect with your creative self and enable your muse to re-surface.
  1. Exercise. It doesn't matter if  you run, walk, swim, dance, do yoga, play tennis, or hike; just do it.
  2. Meditate.
  3. Visit an art museum.
  4. Journal.
  5. Learn something new — how to knit, speak another language, throw a pot, write code, paint, draw, make paper airplanes or origami.
  6. Play with a baby — puppy, kitten, human — and watch the absolute joy of unselfconscious and innocent existence.
  7. Get outside. Walk by the ocean, a lake, a creek, or a river. Walk a trail or visit a garden. Plant some flowers or herbs, deadhead some roses, pull weeds or mow the lawn.
  8. Laugh! Tell a joke, listen to a joke, watch a funny video or movie, listen to a comic.
  9. Make something. Bake a cake, build a birdhouse, build a house of cards or a tent fort in your living room.
  10. Watch this curated collection of 10 TED Talks for a burst of inspiration.
What ways have you found to let your creative muse out of the bottle and re-ignite your creativity when you're stuck for inspiration?

 Image courtesy of Victor Habbick / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

From Handbags to Traffic Navigation: Harnessing the Power of Crowdsourcing

The belief that two heads are better than one is an ancient one. As far back as the book of Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament of the Bible, in fact. In 1546, a variation of this saying was found in English writer John Heywood's collection of proverbs: A dialogue conteinyng the nomber in effect of all the prouerbes in the Englishe tongue. (phrases.org.uk)

Today, instead of a phrase, you're hearing the word "Crowdsourcing". A different word with a different definition, but ultimately driving toward the same goal as the ancient proverbs: Harnessing the power of multiple minds to creatively solve problems.

Note: I'm not including crowdfunding in this post, as I covered it in a three-part series I wrote last year. While it is arguably a type of crowdsourcing, crowdfunding harnesses the finances of the crowd to bring a new idea to life vs creating and expanding upon the ideas themselves.

A recent article in Smartplanet, How the crowd is making fashion design more efficient, got me thinking about just how widespread creative problem solving via crowdsourcing has become.

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
The article takes a look at a New York company, Stitch Collective, launched in 2012 to produce crowdsourced handbags. To create a new handbag, Stitch Collective seeks submissions from fashion schools and design networks. New designers worldwide send in their ideas, then based on which designs are most feasible to produce, Stitch Collective chooses finalists, and its community of accessory enthusiasts vote on their favorite.

The advantages of crowdsourcing? Even in fashion, one of the more difficult industries for an emerging designer to break into, as the Smartplanet article states, "...a rising new class of fashion businesses that, instead of handing down mysteriously conceived designs from on high, is turning to the crowd to decide what to make, and how much of it."

There are a multitude of crowdsourcing sites creating business solutions, such as web design, graphics, microwork, and microtasks. A few notable crowdsourcing sites include:
  • gengo: An online translation service that uses a network of more than 7,500 pre-screened and rated translators to provide high-quality translations in 33 languages. (TechCrunch)
  • InnoCentive: Crowdsourced solutions to business, social, policy, scientific, and technical challenges from 300,000 diverse and creative thinkers and problem solvers from nearly 200 countries.
  • PatientsLikeMe: A data-sharing platform, where patients can share and learn from real-world, outcome-based health data.
  • waze: A community-based traffic and navigation app where 30 million drivers share real-time traffic and road info, either passively or actively. Gamification and social networking are included.
    Update: Google is looking to buy waze. hmmm. (Mashable 0524/13)
I'll point out here that I'm not endorsing these crowdsourcing companies — they're all for-profit companies who demonstrate the variety of crowdsourcing solutions available.

After the flattening of the world and normalization of globalization, it's easy now (thank you, hindsight) to see just how inevitable and incredibly creative the concept of crowdsourcing really is. What better way to harness the expertise and experience of people both in our communities and around the world to creatively solve problems?

A Marketer's Dream: Content That Goes Viral (a.k.a. Meme)

I'm sure that you've seen an item or two shared in your social channels recently that was meaningful to you or made you laugh out loud.

A friend posted this quotation on her Facebook wall, and it was a classic "duh moment" for me. "This is it! This is what I've been working toward the last few years!" I've internalized it and try to live it, but had never thought to articulate it as a philosophy of living. And because it's meaningful to me, I've shared it with my social networks.

(I always knew Roald Dahl was a genius, but this quotation confirms it.)

By virtue of being a piece of content shared and re-shared over the Internet, this quotation can be considered an Internet meme. Social networks are not only amazingly well suited for sharing these viral Internet memes easily and quickly, but have contributed to the meme explosion.

Note: Meme rhymes with team.

So a little back story here, if you don't know what a meme is:

The "meme" word was first introduced by evolutionary biologist, Richard Dawkins, in 1976. "Meme" comes from the Greek word "mimema" (meaning "something imitated", American Heritage Dictionary). Dawkins described memes as a being a form of cultural propagation, a way for people to transmit social memories and cultural ideas to each other. Not unlike the way that DNA and life will spread from location to location, a meme idea will also travel from mind to mind. (about.com)

If you're a social soul, you most likely see multiple memes every day flowing through your feeds like a river, gaining speed and strength before they suddenly sputter to a halt once they reach critical mass and lose shock value. A meme can be almost anything: a quotation (such as the Roald Dahl one above) a photo, video or animated GIF, an animal or person — real or fictional, or even just a symbol or a word. You can tell just how viral a meme is by how many versions you see.

Here are a few of the more viral memes that have made the social rounds.

Tardis the grumpy cat is a great example of an animal meme.

Gymnast McKayla Maroney's "not impressed" face was photoshopped onto thousands of photos, and was so well known that even President Obama jumped into the fun.

The multitude of "Gangnam style parodies created and posted on YouTube last year demonstrate just how fast and furiously viral memes can go.

Most marketers can only dream of having their content go viral like so many memes do every day. Unfortunately for them (and me), there's no single "formula" for what makes a meme go viral, but memes do seem to have some of these characteristics in common:
  • They're usually humorous. The humor can be sarcastic, slapstick, dry, witty, rude, juvenile....
  • They are something that resonates with people — they can identify with or relate the meme to their own experience or life.
  • They can be modified with a basic graphics program.
  • Whatever chord they strike in viewers makes the viewers want to share with their social networks.
There have been a few marketing campaigns that have gone viral. Arguably the most viral one is the Old Spice "Smell like a man man" campaign videos, which have had almost 100 million views on YouTube.

Do you have a favorite meme? Why is it your favorite?

Tardis the grumpy cat
McKayla Maroney and President Obama

Social Is About Connecting: Person to Person

You've heard it all, right? The detrimental effect social networking has on our world, including, but not limited to:
  • The steep decline in conversational skills. 
  • An increase in teens who don't know how to talk to adults.
  • People who no longer belong to their local communities; not volunteering, not mowing their lawns, not helping little old ladies across the street....
  • People who no longer care about personal grooming or bathing; staying in their homes and never coming out; only connecting virtually.
  • The end of civilization as we know it.
It's all hooey, to use a polite term. Civilization is not going to end because of social networking. Even telecommuting employees like me come out of our houses, often quite frequently — you're just not seeing us commuting on the freeway in the car next to you. I've not noticed a decline in conversational skills, except for perhaps a reduction in the meaningless "small talk" that isn't exactly scintillating to begin with. And teenagers? Please, when have the majority of them ever wanted to talk to adults? Did you? They have no trouble talking with their peers, and eventually they'll be adults and have to talk to the rest of us.

I'm sure you've seen this quotation, often attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt:

My experience with social is that it is creating an immensely exciting new form of communication enabling the discussion of ideas, all kinds of ideas, with like-minded people, regardless of location. Since you're no longer limited by proximity to communicate only with your neighbors, your office mates, or your immediate social circle, the connections you can make are almost unlimited. I think about the people in my virtual social circles, and they include:
  • Classmates, colleagues and friends I've not seen for a while or had entirely lost touch with before reconnecting on a social network.
  • The friends and family of my friends and family. 
  • This one is cheating a bit as an example because I do work for a large multinational corporation, but I collaborate daily with colleagues from all over the US and the world with our internal social tools. Today, for instance, just a few of the interactions I had were with colleagues from New York, Colorado, Massachusetts, Florida, North Carolina, The Netherlands, Italy, Mexico, and India.
  • People from all over the world who share my interests in philanthropy, social activism, books, design, technology, social networking, crowdfunding, crowdsourcing, art, accessibility, writing, blogging, all things digital and my other 999 interests.
Does all of this virtual communication prevent me from being active in my community? Not in the slightest. In fact, I think it makes it easier to get involved by exposing me to new ideas.

So the next time someone tells you social networking is changing our world for the worst, you know what to say. :-)

How Social Networking Is Helping TED Change the World

I've recently joined the TEDxSanJoseCA team as a volunteer to manage social media, starting with the Facebook page. I'm excited and honored to be involved with this organization because I believe so much in the value TED brings to the world.

(I blogged just a year ago about attending my first TEDx event, The Power of TED — Pay It Forward.)

TED is a nonprofit that started out in 1984 as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, and Design.

The TED mission is quite simple: Spreading ideas.
We believe passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and ultimately, the world. So we're building here a clearinghouse that offers free knowledge and inspiration from the world's most inspired thinkers, and also a community of curious souls to engage with ideas and each other. 

And thanks to the popularity of social networking for sharing these amazing ideas and the ease and power of communicating via video, TED has taken the world by storm with the TED website, annual TED conference, TED Active, TEDGlobal, TEDx, TED Talks, TED Fellows, TED Prize, TEDEd, TEDIndia, TEDWomen, TED Salons, TED@, TED Open Translation Project, TED Books, and TEDYouth. (I'm sure I missed a few, but you get the idea...)

To give you an idea of the reach of TED, this TED Talk from 2006, "Ken Robinson says schools kill creativity" is the most viewed at almost 16 million views. Many other talks have 7, 8, 9, or 10 million views.

I am committed to my local volunteer work, but I was also searching for a broader community with which to connect and learn, and TED with its current library of 1400 talks and local TEDx events, meets that need.  There is so much truth in this quotation:

Social networking makes it possible and actually quite easy to connect both locally and around the world with kindred souls who are on this mission of changing attitudes, lives, and ultimately the world. You can join TED communities on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+,  LinkedIn and tumblr.

Because making the world a better place has become a core value of mine, becoming involved with TED via my local TEDx organization and surrounding myself with dreamers, doers, believers, and thinkers is where I need to be, and social networking is the conduit enabling me to do that, daily.

La Strada Verso Olympia — A Crowdfunding Project That's Come to Life

In 2012 I wrote a three-part series on crowdsourcing for the IBM Social Business Insights blog:

Crowdfunding: Harnessing the power of social networking to raise money. 
(Part 1 of 3)  (Part 2 of 3)  (Part 3 of 3)

I enjoyed researching and writing it, and have been following various crowdfunding projects (and even funding a few).

In Part 1, I reviewed Kickstarter, a US-centric platform. In Part 2, I took a look at ulule, used mostly in Europe, and brought to my attention by an IBM Italy colleague, Nicola Palmarini (@nipalm).

While working on an IBM project in Nettuna, Italy, Nicola met and was inspired by a woman named Eleonora, and decided to crowdfund a personal project on ulule to help Eleonora travel from Nettuno to Paris to attend the concert of The Pooh, her favorite band, at the Olympia.

The way to Olympia: A documentary on barriers between dreams and reality is a wonderful documentary about dreams, disabilities, and accessible travel. The project received 109% of funding, and the documentary is complete and will premiere on Wednesday, April 24, as you can see by the screening invitation below (click on the image to enlarge it).

Translated, the invitation reads:
The road to Olympia
A film (fully funded from the web) by Claudia Di Lascia, Michele Bizzi, Federico Monti
Wednesday, April 24, 2013-12:00
At La Casa del Cinema a Villa Borghese/ Deluxe Room
Largo Marcello Mastroianni 1-Rome
Presented By: Professor Gioa Di Cristofaro Longo, Cultural Anthropology, University "La Sapienza", Rome
Authors and protagonists will be present on stage
The film will be followed by refreshments.

Congratulations to all involved with this labor of love, and maybe I'll have some photos of the screening to share next week. :-)

Follow @olympiafilm on Twitter.

From Advertisers to Teenagers: Facebook's Widespread Reach

Facebook is frequently in the news. Okay, almost daily. Or, if you follow AllFacebook.com, multiple times a day. I follow many of the news stories since I'm a frequent Facebook user / contributor, but today's news seemed especially relevant and broad based, since it races from a new advertising tool to privacy controls to more user functionality to teenage usage statistics. And interestingly enough, I found three of these articles on Twitter, and one on Facebook.  I think the breadth of these four articles shows just how integrated and ubiquitous social networking, and specifically, Facebook, has become in the daily lives of so many of us.

Wall Street Journal: Buy Signal: Facebook Widens Data Targeting

Facebook is officially rolling out a new tool for advertisers that combines Facebook's treasure trove of information about its subscribers and their likes with data partners who will provide information about the items and brands a consumer buys through sources such as loyalty card programs, email lists they subscribe to, and how they're spending their money.

Not surprisingly, privacy advocates are not thrilled. "There's no place to be left alone," said Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, a Washington, D.C., policy advocacy group. He said Facebook's relationship with data partners could become more worrisome if Facebook leverages the location data it passively collects from mobile devices to sell ads.

Read the full Wall Street Journal article.

Time Tech: Facebook Privacy Settings Guide

As the old adage goes, there really is no such thing as a free lunch. You pay for a "free" social media application such as Facebook with your personal data. People either are unaware of the exchange, or are comfortable with it.

Time Tech has put together a thorough little primer that walks you through the latest retooled privacy settings, such as who can see what posts, setting your timeline and tagging settings, blocking, app customization and more.

So now, if your friends post this inaccurate meme on their Facebook walls:
 You can refer them to the Time Tech article, or to the Snopes Urban Legend correction for accurate information.

Fast Company Design: Facebook Opens The Door To Dislikes, With Emoticons

 Image courtesy of digitalart
/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Everyone will soon have access to the new Facebook feeling/emoticon combinations — all 200 of them — on a drop down menu.

Having an alone, angry, or lost day or emotion? There will be an emoticon for it.  Feeling especially loved or great? You're covered.  Read all about it here.

Tech Crunch: Facebook Still Reigns Supreme With Teens, But Social Media Interest Dwindling

The results of the Piper Jaffray study quoted in this article are contrary to my experience. They claim that out of their survey group, 33% of the teens chose Facebook as their most important social network.  The teens I know (including the one who lives at my house) loved Facebook at the beginning, friending hundreds and hundreds of casual acquaintances, posting photos, liking statuses; all the things the rest of us do. And as soon as their parents and grandparents started flocking to Facebook, that was the kiss of death for it as far as teens are concerned. There is some hope that the new mobile Facebook app in the works may bring these younger users back, but we'll see.

No More Voicemails, Please

It's always amusing when I find myself unknowingly in the forefront of a trend. Voicemails, for instance. Well, my growing dislike of them.

In retrospect, I blame my kids. They prefer that I communicate with them via text for basic information exchange:
  • What time will you be home? 
  • Please unload the dishwasher
  • I'm stopping at the store. Do we need milk? 
And after several years of this, I've come to appreciate the brevity of direct communication (texting or instant messaging) with family, friends and colleagues:
  • Running late; on my way
  • Call me when you have time to chat
  • Read this article when you have a minute
Thanks to caller ID, there's (usually) no question that you've called me. And when I have a few minutes I'll call you back. What I won't do is listen to your voicemail, unless I absolutely must.

Nick Bilton, technology writer for the New York Times, drew a firm (and somewhat cranky) line in the sand last Sunday with his article, Disruptions: Digital Era Redefining Etiquette. While I didn't agree with all of his pet peeves, I did identify with this one:

Then there is voice mail, another impolite way of trying to connect with someone. Think of how long it takes to access your voice mail and listen to one of those long-winded messages. “Hi, this is so-and-so….” In text messages, you don’t have to declare who you are, or even say hello.

Rebecca Greenfield from the Atlantic Wire noted the fallout Mr. Bilton received, and took her own dive into the fray with her article,  A Guide to Advanced Digital Etiquette. Her opinion on voicemail?

It's totally okay to ignore all voicemails — except for ones from parents...

It's nice to know that I'm not alone...

3/13/13 Update. Here's a Gawker post with another viewpoint on Nick Bilton's article. The comments about voicemails left by now-deceased relatives are sweet and poignant. Check them out.

15 Questions to Ask Yourself BEFORE Launching Your Social Program

    Checklist with red checkmark
There are thousands of articles, blog posts, ebooks, videos, white papers, presentations, and webinars available that you can and should research to develop your social strategy and build a social program. The sheer volume of information and conflicting opinions and advice can be overwhelming and confusing. A few of my favorite sources (in no particular order) include: MarketingProfs, Social Media Examiner, Jeff Bullas, Paul Gillin, and socialmediatoday.
Once you've done your research and built your program plan, I've distilled what I've learned into a checklist of 15 multi-level questions for you to answer to help you decide if you're launch ready.
  1. What do you want to accomplish, that is, what does social success look like for your brand? 
  2. How does your social program support your company's business objectives? 
  3. How will you measure success? 
  4. Do you have a digital strategy? What is it, and how will your social presence complement it and support it? 
  5. Who is your audience? What content is going to be valuable to them? 
  6. Which social media channels are your audience using? Twitter? Facebook? LinkedIn? Google+? SlideShare? What about Pinterest or Instagram? Tumblr? Snapchat? 
  7. Which social media channels are your competitors using? 
  8. Which are the top two or three channels your audience and competitors are using that you can focus on first? 
  9. How are you going to follow who your customers and competitors are following, and listen to the conversations taking place? 
  10. Are you going to create a blog and/or can you host your content on your website? Do you have the content and sufficient content creators to support a blog and keep it fresh? Or does it make more sense to focus on placing your content on other's platforms? 
  11. Do you have the bandwidth / resources to support a social networking program? 
  12. Do you understand the risks of using social media, and do you have a crisis plan for dealing with unhappy customers, trolls, or bad press? 
  13. Are there other brands or divisions within your company who already have their social channels set up? Can you piggyback onto their efforts and success? 
  14. Does your plan include increasing the amplification and reach of your social program by encouraging your SMEs (subject matter experts) to build their own social eminence and actively participate?
  15.  Are you ready to no longer just push content out to your ecosystem — clients, prospects, partners, press, bloggers — but actually build relationships with them? 
Until you can fully answer these 15 questions — don't launch. Don't jump on the bandwagon just because everyone else is riding it. Make sure your social strategy is well thought out and robust. However, with that said, social is no longer an option, but a business requirement, so don't delay too long.

I'd love to hear your thoughts. Did I miss something? Did you launch your social program before you answered these questions? What would you have done differently, and what went well?

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Mobile is New and Disruptive — How Are You Going to Meet the Challenge?

Harvard Business Review (HBR) published a graphic today with the title, Vision Statement: How People Really Use Mobile, and I've emailed and shared it with hordes of people. It's commonly accepted that mobile is one of the top disruptive technologies (arguably the top), and I think we're all watching and waiting as to exactly where and how far it's going to go. Today's HBR piece was an interesting piece of the puzzle.

In summary, a study was completed in two phases in 2012 by InsightsNow for AOL and BBDO.
  • In the first phase 24 users completed a seven-day diary and in-depth interviews. 
  • In the second phase, 1,051 U.S. users ages 13 to 54 were surveyed, data on 3,010 mobile interactions were collected, and the mobile activities of two-thirds of those users were tracked for 30 days.
An easy-to-follow infographic was created to show how smartphone users are using their phones and includes the breakdown of the seven primary motivations of phone usage. (The limitations of this blogging platform do not do the graphic justice, so look at the original HBR graphic here for best clarity.)
Harvard Business Review graphic from Vision Statement: How People Really Use Mobile
  1. The largest motivation, 46%, is "Me time", where the user seeks relaxation or entertainment such as watching a video, playing a game, window shopping, or reading a gossip site.
  2. The second motivation is socializing and interacting with other people, but excludes email, SMS messages and voice calls. Facebook and Twitter perhaps? The study doesn't tell us.
  3. Shopping is next, at 12%, 
  4. Accomplishing things such as managing health, finances and productivity are a close fourth at 11%.
  5. Preparation/planning for upcoming activities comes in at 7%.
  6. Discovery/seeking news and information is 4%
  7. Self-expression, participating in hobbies and interests comes in at a lowly 1%.
I ws surprised by several of these study results:
  1. The majority of users, 68%, are using their phones at home. (Did they exclude maps and directions? Did no one in their study use their phones as GPS devices?)
  2. Email and SMS are specifically excluded from the study, with no obvious explanation, and is called out in the comments. And is email really dying the death we keep hearing about? Surely I'm not the only one who checks my email before I fall asleep.... (Or am I?)
  3. Where is listening to music on this list? Is it included in "Me Time", or not included? When I was on the Metro in Paris a few weeks ago, half of the people I saw were plugged into their smartphones. What were they doing? Listening to music? Podcasts? My teenager and every teen I know have their music libraries loaded onto their phones, and listen to them constantly. Their smartphones have replaced iPods and MP3 players.
As a top disruptive technology, we can only try to anticipate where mobile is going to go. Brian Solis has a great article, Forget about Social Media for a moment. What’s your mobile strategy? that digs deep and gets to the crux of the matter with these strategic questions all businesses should be able to answer:

Customer behavior is evolving. Technology is evolving. Is your digital strategy evolving? Is it considering shifts in attention, activity, and expectations and designing new experiences to react and lead accordingly?
Who on your team is thinking about designing mobile experiences? How is mobile tied to the overall digital strategy? How is social and mobile complementing your web strategy? More importantly, how are people connecting or attempting to connect with you and how would they define the experience?

Does your company have a mobile strategy? And if not, what are you waiting for?