When in Doubt, Ask Your Readers!

postitsSo between being sick, work piling up at school and the uncanny ability of the social media community to cover so many great topics, I’ve found it to be increasingly difficult to come up with creative content for this blog.  I could write a hundred posts about cliche social media discussions but it just seems pointless when they’ve already been covered (very well) by other bloggers.

Swooping in to save the day is none other than Darren Rowse of Problogger with a post providing 7 Ways to Keep Fresh Content Flowing On Your Blog.  Darren provides some great advice on coming up with creative blog posts during those times that every blogger faces at some point.  The one suggestion that I really loved was to involve your readers.  He writes, “stuck for a topic to write about? Ask your readers to ask questions. A post inviting reader questions can draw out some great ideas to write about.”

It makes sense.  I mean when it comes down to it, I am writing this blog to provide value to my readers. I come up with ideas that I think would be of value to you, but if you already know what information you want, why not let you choose the topics?

So that is what I’m doing.  I’m calling out to you, my readers to leave a comment or send an email (dspinks5@gmail.com) with questions that you are interested in having me answer.  Anything dealing with social media, marketing, PR, college, or anything else on which you think I’d be able to provide insight.  I promise I will do my best to address any questions you have to the best of my ability and if I can’t, I will bring in someone who can.

Bias in the Age of Transparency

Photo cred: Tyron Francis
Photo cred: Tyron Francis

Not too long ago, I had a conversation with a close acquaintance of mine, who is also the Director of Emerging Technologies and Social Media for a big advertising firm.  I asked him to take a look at my blog and linkedin profile to see if he can give me any advice for improvement.  He brought up something that took me by surprise.  He said, “Why do you have your picture up on all of your social media sites? People don’t need to know how old you are.”

I was a bit surprised because one of the big things I’ve heard from the social media community is how important it is to be consistent in your online presence. Use the same picture for your twitter, linkedin, facebook, etc to build your personal brand recognition.

I think sometimes we get caught up in all that social media has to offer and forget the reality of some situations.  What we so quickly forgot is that there is a great deal of bias in human beings. Everything from your age and gender to your race and religion can and does effect how people view you.

As most of my readers know, I am going to be graduating soon and I am looking for a job.  Social media has given me amazing networking opportunities, allowing me to communicate on a daily basis with people that I never would have met..but has it also hurt me? In this new age of transparency, where you’re expected to be honest and open with who you are, I have put who I am out there for anyone to see. By doing so, I may have also given a lot of companies a reason to weed me out of their recruitment process. Sometimes, all it takes is a picture.

I opted to keep my pictures up and to continue using social media as I have been, because I believe in the values of transparency and honesty.  I think its something that the professional world has lacked in the past and social media is helping us change that. 

Am I being naive? I am looking for an entry-level job in one of the toughest job markets this country has seen in a long time and cannot afford to sacrifice any opportunities. Should I be more careful? How will bias play a role in the “Age of Transparency”? … What’s your take?

Facebook: A Lesson in Damage Control

facebookIt’s that easy.  Tonight, Facebook proved that it knows how to handle the shockwaves of its mistakes.

If you haven’t heard about the issue concerning the Facebook terms of service (TOS), they recently changed a section of their terms of service that dealt with their rights over user information. The community interpreted this section as granting them ownership of anything that you post on Facebook and the right to use your information however they see fit.  This didn’t sit well with many of Facebook’s users. Whether it was because of the way they informed their users (they only announced it in a blog post), or just the new terms in general, there was a public outcry about the situation and a call to switch back to the old TOS. Facebook Groups were formed, the twittersphere was buzzing, and Facebook had to react…so they did.

Mark Zuckerberg and the Facebook staff heard the voice of its users  and then posted on their blog trying to explain. Mark wrote:

In reality, we wouldn’t share your information in a way you wouldn’t want. The trust you place in us as a safe place to share information is the most important part of what makes Facebook work…People want full ownership and control of their information so they can turn off access to it at any time. At the same time, people also want to be able to bring the information others have shared with them—like email addresses, phone numbers, photos and so on—to other services and grant those services access to those people’s information. These two positions are at odds with each other… It’s difficult terrain to navigate and we’re going to make some missteps, but as the leading service for sharing information we take these issues and our responsibility to help resolve them very seriously.

Mark ensured his users that Facebook is a place that you should feel safe and admitted to making some mistakes.  He appealed the community honestly and respectfully.  However, after a couple days, the Facebook community still wasn’t satisfied and continued to express their feelings.  Facebook posted a poll to find that there was a strong disapproval of their new TOS.  Tonight, Facebook realized that this issue is important to its users and must be remedied, so they reverted back to the old Terms of Service and posted this on their blog.

The excerpt on the homepage read as follows:

A couple of weeks ago, we posted an update to our Terms of Use that we hoped would clarify some parts of it for our users. Over the past couple of days, we have received a lot of questions and comments about these updated terms and what they mean for people and their information. Because of the feedback we received, we have decided to return to our previous Terms of Use while we resolve the issues that people have raised. For more information, visit the Facebook Blog.

We all make mistakes.  Everyone from the expert to the graduate, from the big corporation to the smallest start-up takes a miss-step at some point.  What matters is how you deal with it.  Facebook messed up and violated something that the online community holds sacred, it’s right to its personal information.  While Facebook may have not had any intention to use this information in an unfavorable manner, its users were clearly uncomfortable and Facebook responded…quick. Now if they decide to edit their Terms of Service again (they say they will) you can be reasonably certain that they will think very much about how they communicate these changes.

The Lesson: Show that you’re listening, respond honestly and quickly. If all else fails, make the necessary sacrifice in order to keep your customers’ trust because in the end, that’s all that matters.

Well done Facebook.

What Makes You Follow?

I asked this question on twitter in hopes that the response would show you, my readers, how you can use twitter to foster meaningful relationships.

Adam Sacco
Photo cred: Adam Sacco

Everyone’s definition of a meaningful follower is going to differ based on their reasons for using twitter. I consider a meaningful follower to be someone who is active, responds to questions and embraces conversation.  Others, usually brands or people establishing themselves as brands,  are typically more concerned with making themselves accessible to as many people as possible and so they follow as many people as they can. If you want to gain meaningful followers, you need to understand why people follow.

I’ll start with myself.  Here are some things that I consider when deciding who to follow…

  • Can you provide me with any job or collaboration opportunities?
  • Do you engage in conversation with your followers?
  • Humor is a big plus for me. I enjoy laughing.
  • I try to make a point not to take number of followers into account.  I’ll follow someone with 30 followers just as quick as I would follow someone with 1000.
  • I generally like to keep the amount of people I follow around 300.  Any more and I just don’t have the time to keep up!

I also specifically asked a few people who have slightly different takes on how/who they follow.

Arik Hanson is a great example of someone who puts a great deal of thought into who he follows.  If he’s following you, chances are you’re doing something right.  He tends to follow…

  • People before companies, with the occasional exception.
  • People who have an actual personal photo as their avatar.  Being able to put a face with a name is a big step to building relationships.
  • People who don’t spam (No Auto DirectMessages!!)
  • The occasional person from a random industry with a different perspective on matters. (I loved this and think its so important to make sure different viewpoints are represented)
  • People that trusted contacts follow or recommend.

Dave Fleet spoke about how he follows in his blog.  He makes a great point that he is a communications professional, not a professional blogger.  Like many professionals that are looking to connect and learn on twitter, he simply does not have time to keep up with so many followers and do his job at the same time.  Therefore, he chooses who he follows wisely. If you want him to follow you, make sure to…

  • @reply him.  The most important thing to most twitter users is conversation.
  • Make your username your REAL name.
  • Create a compelling bio.
  • Include your website in your profile.  Websites / blogs show people that you have valuable and relevant information to contribute.

Darren Rowes creator of Problogger has a very different approach. He follows everyone that he can and recently started using TweetLater to auto-follow those who follow him.  He explained to me his approach…

  • The biggest concern is being accessible to anyone who wants to contact you.
  • Engaging with users is very important but @replying to every question creates a lot of clutter for followers. Its important to be able to continue conversations privately via direct message.
  • It’s impossible to keep track of updates when you’re following 9000+ people. You can use tools like tweetdeck‘s @reply feed and grouping features to filter out the people you really want to see while keeping track of those who reply to you.

Here are a few more responses from my followers:

picture-5picture-6picture-7picture-9picture-10picture-11picture-13

So if you want more followers, instead of following people to get them to follow back think about who you want to follow you, and why they follow.

I hope this was helpful!  Comment with why YOU follow people.  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Advice for PR and Marketing Grads

m00by
Photo cred: m00by

This is a collaboratively reworked version of Lauren Fernandez‘s post “Let’s Be Frank: Some Advice for PR Graduates” that I thought was SO great, I needed to make it available to my readers with a few additional insights of my own. I also spoke with Lauren after her post to find answers to some additional questions I had which will also be included here. Here we go…

  1. Build experience and set goals. Participate in internships, take offices, join clubs and do community service.  Find jobs that you are interested in and work to become qualified.
  2. Be realistic. Many companies have become big by retaining their employees and job openings are limited, especially in today’s economy.  You shouldn’t always shoot for the big name companies.  You will find that smaller – medium sized companies are the ones looking for bright new entry-level people to join them as they grow.  At these small agencies, you can gain a lot of experience because you really get to see the ins and outs of an agency.
  3. Don’t rush to grad school. Focus on building some experience first.  PR students should always have some experience before going to grad school. Really, a masters in PR is geared toward if you want to go into teaching. However, you can always go for Emerging Media, Public Affairs, Communications, etc. In many situations, only YOU would know what’s the right approach when considering going to grad school. In general, I would recommend having at least 2 years of professional experience first.
  4. You are not too good for ANY offer. As long as an organization has a good reputation, there is no reason to not give it a shot. You might find it’s a great fit, and you will definitely learn from it – good or bad. Also, you might hear of a development coordinator job opening – this is geared toward fund-raising and developing the brand. This is great for a young PR pro because you can really fine-tune your pitching and customer service skills.
  5. Stay open to doing internships after you graduate. Not everyone coming out of school will get a job right off the bat.  If you are set on the big agency, be prepared to take a paid internship for a couple of months before being offered an entry type position. Don’t look at this as a disadvantage!  Since you have a degree, you will be given more responsibility and greater consideration for full-time opportunities. You will take away great experience, contacts and if you do your job well, a recommendation.
  6. Set up interviews around graduation time Sure, your finance and business major friend already landed a job back in December but guess what? This is PR and marketing. The job offers WILL come.  Those hiring, unless stated differently, usually want someone to start within a month of the interview process. This is a field that is constantly on the go and constantly changing.
  7. Network until you graduate! The key is to establish a connection with professionals and stay involved until interview season. Three quick networking tips:
    1. Use social media to it’s fullest! Tools like linkedin, twitter, and professionals networks have made it easier than ever to meet professionals in your field. If you feel comfortable enough, have a lot to say and can say it well, start a blog!  Make sure to be respectful and professional in your online presence. Word gets around in these fields and you don’t want to tarnish your reputation.
    2. Go to networking events! There are always events going on in major cities.  They are a great way to make some real connections with experienced professionals who will only be impressed that you are networking before you graduate.
    3. If you’ve made a contact, communicate with them once a week – either by email, phone or even meeting for coffee. It’s the simple things that keep a relationship alive, and that drive to connect with PR pros is going to get you very far. Face-to-face communication is ALWAYS the best route to create meaningful relationships, especially for those that haven’t jumped into social media yet.
  8. You can focus your job search on social media. As many have argued, social media doesn’t exactly fall under marketing or PR but more of a mixture, and there isn’t an accepted method to approach social media. If you’re set on working in social media, consider an association/non-profit job. Contrary to popular belief, this is where a lot of job opportunities will be coming from. They all need in-house PR, and they also have a great need for the 20-something who is great at social media. In non-profits/association, you truly know the ins and outs of your client, because you ARE the client. In these settings, you also gain a ton of experience because you get to do a lot more, and are trusted a lot more, than in the agency atmosphere.

What did we leave out? What advice would you give to PR and marketing grads?

Web 2.0 Class: Part 2

Welcome to the second post in a the Web 2.0 Class Series.  Remember you can find all posts from this series by clicking the category “Web 2.0 Class” in the Topics section.

laptop
Photo cred: Aftab Uzzaman

What better way to kick off the second class meeting than to call for student feedback, a true representation of social media values?  Through the use of MyCourses, a platform (I am not particularly fond of) that has recently been adopted by  SUNY Geneseo and schools like Harvard, Brown and RIT, Professor Horn asked the students to respond to a few questions.

A few different web 2.0 technologies were used to gather student feedback…

1. Discussion Board (Forum): What are 3 things you would like to do/learn in this class?

I loved this idea.  I didn’t love that myCourses doesn’t allow students to view comments on a post so whoever didn’t start a new post could not be seen by their classmates. Regardless, in a brand new class with basically no set schedule or other examples to depend on, it is important that the professor is addressing things that the students want to learn, and not just what the professor wants to teach.

Student responses included:

  • How do websites make money without selling anything?
  • What is a podcast and how do you create one?
  • How to search / use the web effectively
  • Paypal (A little odd)
  • How to utilize blogs / blogging
  • How to build a website (the class won’t be doing much of this)


2. Blog Post: What are 3 things you DON’T want to do/learn in this class?

I also loved this and since only professors can post a blog entry, the students had to respond in comments that were viewable by anyone, avoiding the issue with the discussion board.

Student responses included:

  • Most popular: Learn less about the mechanics of these services and more about how they can be applied to business
  • Less lecture and more hands-on
  • Spend less time on programs that aren’t commonly used and more on programs that are popular / used frequently
    • (I disagree.  You never know how much relevance a program has until you use it. For example, Twitter isn’t popular on the Geneseo campus but has value in business applications)


3. Blog Post: Post your gmail address.

Pretty straightforward. The class will be using google apps to collaborate on projects.


4. Wiki: What is Web 2.0?

GREAT idea. A wiki was set up for students to write what they think web 2.0 means.  This isn’t meant to be answered immediately but rather something that will develop throughout the semester as students become more familiar with web 2.0 concepts. It will be very interesting to see how students’ answers will change over time.


Professor Horn told the students what he wants to cover in the class, taking into account students’ responses.  He also explained that he is open to letting students take on individual projects if they’re especially interested in a specific topic.

His topics to be covered included:

  • Websites: findability / usability
  • How websites make money on the internet
  • Mashups
  • Intellectual property rights / open source software
  • Wikis / collaboration tools
  • Instant messaging in the office / workspace

In the last class, a few different technology trends / topics were discussed.

  • Moore’s Law
  • The growth of Craigslist and its effects on newspaper revenues
  • The development of 3d movies to slow down movie piracy (Interesting…never thought about that before)
  • The decrease of marijuana use among teens as a result of web 2.0 / social media.  New technologies making it easier to communicate with friends online.  Teens can’t smoke if they’re on their computer at home with their parents. (Also very interesting.)
  • Finally, the long debate that I was happy to see many students had very strong opinions about;  MIT is making all their professors podcast their classes and make their notes available online.  How is this going to effect other schools / professors?  Will online courses completely replace the physical college campus?  You can expect a blog post on this topic soon.

Click here to see all “Web 2.0 Class” posts.

13 Tips For Your First Networking Event

Kelly Samardak (@socialmedium)
Mashable NYC Event Photo cred: Kelly Samardak

I recently attended the Mashable NYC event which was in fact my first professional networking event (not counting those completely useless job fairs).  As a first timer, I had no idea what to expect.  Is this going to help me? Are people going to take a college student seriously? How should I dress? Am I going to know what to say?

Well I set my doubts aside (big step), signed up for the event, attended and could not be more happy with my decision.  I can now provide you with some answers based on MY experience. Of course, everyone’s experience is different.  This will apply more to younger professionals, specifically college seniors, who are looking to expand their network in social media. Here are 13 things I learned…

  1. Make connections before the event. My night would have been a lot more difficult if I hadn’t connected with attendees before the event.  Most events will have a list with contact info for anyone attending the event. Don’t be afraid to send them an email or look them up on twitter and tell them you’re going to the event and wanted to connect with some people before hand.  It’s a huge confidence booster to see some familiar faces when you first arrive.
  2. Dress semi-casual. One of the things I love about the social media / interactive industry is how laid back it is. Don’t show up in a t-shirt and jeans but you don’t have to wear a shirt and tie either. A nice, clean sweater or button down and khakis or nice jeans will do just fine.
  3. Get there early. If you walk in late, you’ll find it harder to meet people who are already engaged in conversations, and you’ll miss out on whatever free promotions are provided (Peroni sponsored the Mashable event).  Everyone likes to have a drink to take the edge off at these events and if you miss the free drinks, be ready to pay (a lot) for them.
  4. Go Alone! This is something that I was torn over when going to this event.  Now that I went alone, I can say with full confidence that you should not bring a friend with you to a networking event.  It’s tough going to a social event without a wingman but if you bring one, you’ll find it is nothing more than an excuse to talk to them instead of meeting new people.

    wearenommashev
    Photo cred: Kelly Samardak
  5. Be creative. Think of something creative that will make you stand out and help break the ice, commencing conversation. The best example I saw was Arthur Bouie representing We Are Nom who carried around a basket of cookies to give out. They were a hit…and delicious.
  6. State your goal first. Everyone at the event is there for the same thing you are, to make some new connections that may provide future business opportunities and share ideas.  Whether you’re there to look for job, hiring, or collaborative opportunities, the first words out of your mouth should be your name, what you do and why you’re there.
  7. Pick up a nametag. duh right? Well I didn’t even notice the nametag table since it was so crowded until Colleen Eddy was kind enough to point it out to me. Here’s a tip that combines #5 and #6: Write what your goal is on your nametag! I simply wrote “I NEED A JOB!”nametag2 under my name and it worked like a charm. The name tag is the first thing everyone looks at when walking around and people started approaching me!
  8. Be prepared to tell people exactly what you can do for them. This was one of the most common questions I was asked and I regrettably have to admit that I wasn’t fully prepared for it.  As a college student, I expected to only be qualified for entry level jobs where you’re pretty much told what you need to do.  There were a lot of people however that wanted to know what services I would provide for them.  You may know what you can do for companies but you have to be able to convey it to them in a clear and precise manner.
  9. Relax! I don’t know how networking events are in other industries, but the social media crowd is typically very friendly and obviously loves to talk!  Don’t be afraid to go right up to someone and say hi! You will only be received with a big smile and a hand shake.  I had some great, in depth conversations that stemmed from a simple, “hi, I’m Dave =D”.
  10. Bring business cards and a pen. These are really the only things you need on your person.  When someone gives you a card, after you’re done talking to them write a note on the card to help you remember who they are and what you spoke about.  I didn’t do this and found it difficult to match faces to cards from memory when I got home.
  11. Know when to stop talking. Some people you meet will want to have long, interesting conversations with you.  Others will want to know who you are, what you do, get your information, and move on to the next person.  It’s not hard to pick up on the vibe that someone doesn’t want to talk to you anymore.  Say “it was great to meet you” and move on.
  12. Send e-mails the next day. I’d say that you have about 2 days before someone completely forgets about you if no further communication is attempted.  While you’re fresh in your new contacts’ minds, drop them an email.  Keep it short and sweet, tell them how great it was to meet them, and if you’re looking for a job, attach your resume.
  13. Don’t wait until after graduation! I very well may have been the youngest person at the event, but I received only positive feedback.  People thought it was great that I was networking before I graduated.  Most professionals were impressed and commended my enthusiasm.  I made some great connections with some amazing people and created job opportunities come graduation in May.  It’s never too early to start networking. (Well you have to be 21 to attend most networking events but you can still network in other ways!)

If you’re a college senior and you’re thinking about attending a networking event but can’t bring yourself to go, then please just trust me and GO!  You have absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain from connecting with like-minded professionals.

Feel free to comment with your own tips and experiences.  Would love to hear about YOUR experience at your first networking event!

You can find the rest of Kelly’s picture set from the Mashable event here.