Leave it to the British to make more funny videos about social media…

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I woke up this morning with a post in mind, ready to be written, until I came across this post on ActiveRain. Before I get into it here, let me say that I am NOT going to comment on the politics here, which is the exact point I want to make. On a site that is meant to be a professional real estate network, this person has chosen to use the platform to air political grievances. For a state she doesn’t serve.

We talk a lot about transparency and being genuine, but often we don’t talk enough about what is sensible. I certainly have strong political views, but they have nothing to do with what I do for a living (most of the time). I know that there’s a time and place for me to discuss those things, and it’s not here. Yes, this person might be so skeeved by the idea of working with conservatives that she wants to make sure that they steer clear, but this feels more like a knee-jerk reaction to an article. If that’s the case, the solution is simple: Take a moment. Breathe. Think about the message you’re putting out there and where you’re putting it. I don’t use this blog to talk about how horrible Star Wars Episodes 1-3 are, or how much I love the Phillies – I have a personal blog for that, and even there I want to be responsible in what I speak about. The times when you’re angry are the times you need to exercise restraint the most. Think about how you’re representing yourself. Think about how you’re representing your business. Your community. Your family. Even yourself. It takes a lifetime to build a reputation and about 5 seconds to ruin it.

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Have a great weekend everyone – go out on a date, hang out with friends, throw a party, do whatever you want. No judgement here, but before you run off to Facebook to upload the embarrassing pics you snapped last night, don’t think for one second that nobody is going to look at them. People are watching.

Not only are they watching, they may be laughing.

In case ANYONE out there still believes that they’re living on an island with their online interactions, I submit the following links to prove the opposite:

LAMEbook

My Parents Joined Facebook

…and to ward you off of drunken texting, I humbly submit Texts From Last Night.

Beware, gentle readers, because people with less restraint than I may be watching. Be smart, be cautious, and above all, don’t drink and type.

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Recently, I’ve become a bit of a plugin ho. I love finding new tools that enhance the blogging experience for me and the reading/browsing experience for my readers. In the last few months I’ve been using a plugin called Apture that may be the best one I’ve found yet.

I like embedding things in blog post, like pictures, links and videos. What I don’t enjoy is the number of steps it takes to find pictures that I want. The internet is here to serve me and make my life easier, right? I don’t want to go to Flickr (my photo haven of choice), click search, click advanced search, click the license level I’m looking for, then begin the search, find the image, copy the address, then keep going back and forth to get the info I need. By using Apture I can browse through multiple picture sites and find the photos I want with the proper license level. Not only that, but when I embed a link, it creates a pop-up preview. Here’s the kicker, though – when you embed a YouTube video using Apture, you can “edit” it, choosing the in and out points for the video, in case you only want to show a short clip.

Apture's User Interface

Apture's User Interface

Apture’s made blogging a much smoother process for me. Are you using it? If no, what plugins are you rocking right now?

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One of the cool things about my new Droid phone is the ability to blog using the “wp on the go” application. In fact, I’m doing it right now…

The layout is pretty basic. I’ve got a very simple WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editor, an area for tags and an area for categories. I can also add a picture, which I have. Not sure where in the post it will appear, though.

I like the idea that I can fire off a quick post whenever I want, but it feels more like a failsafe than a surefire solution.

Do you use a mobile blogging solution (besides Posterous)?

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I went to an uber-liberal Quaker school for the majority of my formative years. Hippies reigned supreme, we didn’t have a football team, and competition was deemed “not in the spirit of Friends.” In my freshman year of Upper School (high school), I learned two things in gym class (before it went independent study, basically enabling my dislike of conventional exercise):

  1. How to play badminton
  2. How to juggle

Learning to juggle took patience. I had to re-learn how to throw and catch in a specific way before I was ready to add the second ball. Then I had to master that until I was ready for the third. The point is that if I had tried to juggle multiple balls right out of the gate, my progress would have been MUCH slower because I didn’t even know how to juggle ONE ball yet.

So many of the people I speak with are quick to become overwhelmed with being on just a handful of sites. No, this is not another post about not having to do everything. I’ve already talked about that here. Let’s assume, for the sake of this post, that you’ve already decided on a tool (or a small set of tools) that you feel fit your skill set and the goals you have for your business. People can still get overwhelmed by that, to a certain extent because they still feel like they’re missing something important. As a lifelong sufferer of shiny thing syndrome, I know how challenging this can be, but your evolution will occur organically. The first step is learning to use what you have.

Whatever tool you choose, commit to it, Create a plan. Learn the tool’s capabilities. Learn its weaknesses. Give yourself the time to really understand how it can benefit you. You may (or may not) reach a point at which you want to take your success on one platform and expand it to another, or add a new tool that extends the functionality of the first. Learn to juggle that ONE tool flawlessly and when the time comes to add a second tool, you’ll be ready to do it and the learning period will be even shorter.

Do you agree? What was your progression into social media?

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Happy New Year, everyone. We’ve reached the first Monday of 2010, and with it comes the steely resolve to keep the promises we made to ourselves on Friday (weekends don’t count, right? We always start on Monday).

I call shenanigans on that. TOTAL shenanigans.

Resolutions are nothing more than promises designed to be broken.We like to tie them to the new year because of the feeling of renewal that comes with arrival of a new calendar year. If we’re honest, though, we like the idea of making bold statements more than we like putting in the time to actually affect change. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Humans are amazing animals. Our cognitive capacity, ability to adapt, and perceptive powers can serve as either a great tool or liability. The great news is that you’re in control. Rather than using resolutions to create space between where you are and where you want to be, use your powers to affect change now. How do you do that?

  • Create a big picture plan with definable goals.
  • Plot out steps and a schedule for those goals.
  • Start taking those steps today.

Yes, you can apply this to social media strategy. You can create measurable goals (conversions, traffic-based goals, and as Amber Naslund points out, there are many “outside-the-ROI-box” measurables you can use ), come up with the means to achieve those goals, and implement them. You can do it to just about any facet of your business. However, it also applies to your life. Your outlook. Your ability to achieve.

I need to lose weight. You know how I’m doing it? One day at a time. Watching what I eat and making sure I get some sort of exercise done every day. I know my goal weight, but I know that I’m only going to get there a few pounds at a time.

As you move into 2010, make good things a habit by doing them every day. Set goals and just as importantly determine the steps to reach them. More importantly than that, TAKE those steps. Intent without action is meaningless. Action without intent is mindless. Combine the two and you can do anything.

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    When you start out, improvising is all about rules. Actually, a lot of it is about don’ts:

    • Don’t deny
    • Don’t ask questions
    • Don’t go for the joke

    Most people are so nervous starting out that you can actually see their brains working, trying to remember all the rules so that they can have a “successful scene.” Because of that, most of their scenes are not so successful, but hey, it’s a class, so it’s OK. (To be honest, all the side coaching from an instructor can sometimes make it worse, because you’re just waiting to be corrected. But that’s just my opinion – I’d rather get my notes after a scene, so we can go over it moment by moment.) As long as you follow the rules, you’re going to be successful, right? All of your scenes will be hilarious because you refrained from asking questions, said yes to everything, and never went for a joke! We’ve finally boiled comedy down to its mathematical essence! Sorry to say that this just isn’t so. I speak from experience. I’ve had terrible scenes where I followed the rules and transcendant scenes where I ignored them. Or did I?

    The key to successful improvising lies not in the blind following of rules, but in the understanding of the purpose they serve. Don’t deny doesn’t mean “don’t ever say no”; it means that you should be open to any direction a scene takes, and go with premises rather than stopping them in their tracks so you can squeeze your ideas in.

    You don’t have to avoid questions, but you need to understand that everything must add information, and questions tend to put the onus for information on the other party, so you might think about why you’re asking a question and purpose it serves to the overall scene. When you’re really in tune with the other players, questions cease just being questions, and instead become bridges, set-ups and even buttons to a scene.

    Going for the joke is frowned upon in improv because it feels cheap and easy, and going for it right off the bat is definitely proof; improvisers earn their laughs from the unexpected twists and turns that come from nobody, not even the performers, knowing where the next moment is coming from. When someone tries to lead you down a path with their “schtick”, it’s boring and predictable. However, there are cases where you can earn the joke, making it a payoff to audience expectation rather than a predictable and hacky attempt to steal a laugh. The point is that the rule exist for a reason, and until you grasp the reason, you can neither truly abide by the rules or break them successfully.

    Businesses using social media are given all sorts of guideposts, graphics and do’s & don’ts – we’ve even given a bunch of them here – but that doesn’t mean that your success or failure is dependent upon your following these “rules” to the letter. Instead, cultivating an ability to interpret and really understand why those steps are important can lead to bend, stretching or even breaking what are fast becoming the conventions of “social marketing” online. THAT’S how this medium will grow.

    What do YOU think?

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    In catching up on my “tween-holidays” blog reading, I came across this article from The Social Customer which stated:

    According to a recent survey, poor customer service costs $338.5B per year in lost business. The reasons for this lost business are when customers defect and abandon their purchases. The hardest hit industries across all countries surveyed are financial services, cable and satellite TV providers, and a variety of telecommunications companies.

    If you’ve been reading this blog or talking to me in the past few months, you know that I’ve been talking about the need for a more consumer-centric approach to service. Since we as consumers have so much power (think about it – who do you trust more – recommendations on Yelp or the claims made by a restaurant about itself?) and influence over other customers, it only makes sense to have a good relationship with your customers, and that can (and should) mean going the extra mile to provide excellent service.

    I’ll pay more to avoid dealing with douchey, ineffective service, and I’ll bet that you will too. What interested me the most about this article was a reaction I got after I tweeted it. My friend Dan Green wrote the following response:

    It also GAINS $338.5B for other companies!

    Is that really true, though? In all of the industries mentioned in the article (and some that weren’t), is there always someone ready to step into the void and provide the service others can’t, won’t or just don’t? If you’re in an industry known for horrible customer service, you have the opportunity to be the hero. Think about the ways that you can integrate superior customer service into your brand, possibly through social tools, possibly just by hiring people who will care.

    I’m still annoyed by past problems with customer service for car rentals, cable companies and more. I’m sick of dealing with level upon level of people who have nothing to offer but a repetition of the instructions from the last person (and stop asking for my #&$%! name and address; I gave it once. Let’s all get on the same page here, mkay?) On the plus side, I remember companies that went the extra mile (I’m looking at you, Apple) because customer loyalty trumped standard operating procedure.

    Look at the opportunities you have to gain the business lost by others and keep from losing business yourself. I firmly believe that excellent customer service is the cornerstone of the successful modern business plan.

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    *** DISCLAIMER*** OK, so this isn’t social media based nor is it technically tech, but gimme a break. I think everyone should own this and now I’ve (sort of) created the means to do it. On with the post!

    My mother left me with two very important guideposts for my life:

    1. Forget ‘em if they can’t take a joke (censored for delicate audiences), and

    2. There is no band greater than the Beatles.

    beatles 2

    Now we could sit here and debate this second point for hours, but for the sake of this special holiday post, grant my premise about the Fab Four. Consider it your holiday gift to me, a gift you didn’t even have to wrap!

    While the impact of The Beatles continues to be felt, their presence continued to elude the world of music based video games like Rock Band and Guitar Hero.

    Until now.

    The great thing about these video games is that they really give you the feeling that you’re creating this great music (unless you play Guitar Hero: Aerosmith, which features a number of Joe Perry solo tracks. That guy singing? Not so much). Whether you’re playing guitar, singing, drumming, or slappin da bass they’ve done a great job of creating an authentic-feeling experience and a fairly diverse catalogue. The latest trend in these games has been dedicating an entire game to one band like Aerosmith or Metallica.

    Finally, this past September, the Rock Band line of games released their collaboration with the boys from Liverpool: A 45-track masterpiece following the lads from their humble beginnings in Liverpool’s Cavern Club to the rooftop concert that would prove to be their swan song. The digital artwork (and it is artwork) is nothing short of jaw-dropping, and the selection of music includes early hits (I Saw Her Standing There), later hits (Something) and tracks designed to lead off B-Sides so people could skip them (Within You Without You).

    In addition, there is downloadable content (DLC) that so far completes the Abbey Road, Sgt. Pepper’s and Rubber Soul albums – playing the entire B Side of Abbey Road as one continuous track is like a rite of passage for this game. Online play is smooth and fun – finding other people looking to play along with is not difficult at all.

    The game is available for PlayStation 3, XBox 360 and Ninetndo Wii – price varies by console but is usually around $50. If you have the means and can locate it, the collector’s edition box set includes a Hofner bass controller and Ludwig drum kit ala Ringo; George’s Gretsch Duo and John’s Rickenbacker guitars are sold seperately, but if you have controllers from another Rock Band or Guitar hero game, it is very likely that it will be compatible – check here for a list of compatible hardware.

    This game is hours of fun, can be played be expert gamers and casual gamers who are just big Beatles fans. I’ll leave you with this clip of my favorite Beatles song, available for download ONLY on the Xbox 360 at the time of this post (NOTE – this is not how multiplayer appears during actual gameplay – everything shares the screen and is much easier to read):

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