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Showing posts from March, 2012

Why Facebook Timeline Benefits Organizations With a Past

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[ Updated 29 March 2012 to add the University of Cambridge's timeline going back to 1209 and the founding date of 1041 for Green Knowe at The Manor ]

When Facebook Timeline was first rolled out I thought it was a clever way for Facebook to leverage their competitive advantage. As I wrote in What Businesses Can Learn from Facebook Timeline, other people could launch a better social network, but Facebook was sitting on years of accumulated data. Creating Timeline allowed them to use this data and even convince people to voluntarily add more. I expected that this feature would be very popular among organizations that have a long history because they would have a chance to showcase their past.

One of the early adopters, the New York Times, has set a very high standard to beat with their richly populated Timeline page that goes all the way back to the founding of the newspaper, marked with a copy of the first issue in 1851.  The Swiss newspaper Neue Z├╝rcher Zeitung goes even further ba…

LinkedIn: Why Unanswered Messages Are Wasted Opportunities

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Talking with LinkedIn users I have found that one thing that really annoys people is an old friend who asks to connect but then ignores your messages. A typical scenario is that someone you worked with maybe 10 years ago and you lost track of suddenly invites you to connect. You accept the connection and followup with a message explaining what you have been doing since then but there is no reply, not even a polite "thank you".

In some cases I suspect that occasiolnal users might not see messages because they are not very visible in the current home page design of LinkedIn. In other cases most likely someone has simply auto-invited everyone in their email contacts or all former colleagues. Perhaps they were not even aware that they had done this and have no idea that there might be messages waiting for them.

Whatever the reason, this reaction makes many people want to disconnect you again. Even if you don't remember someone very well it would be polite to at least answer…

Framing Video Interviews: Five Tips for a Professional Look

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In earlier posts I explained how to get a more professional look when making videos and how to look more professional yourself when you are in front of the camera. But another way to make video interviews look more professional is to frame the image the way the pros do. You can find out how they do this by watching TV news for a long time, or you can simply follow these five tips.

HAVE THE SUBJECT LOOK TO ONE SIDE.  Making the interview subject look at the side and not directly at the camera reinforces the illusion that we are watching a dialog between two people. Everyone assumes that the subject is looking at the interviewer but they could be just looking at any reference object. Even when you don't show the interviewer or even use the questions this style gives the speaker more credibility because it looks like we are watching them talk to someone else. People are more suspicious when they see someone talk to them directly.

LEAVE MORE SPACE ON SIDE THEY ARE LOOKING. If your subj…

Why You Need an Online Presence Even if You Think You Don't

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In lectures, workshops and one-to-one coaching about online reputation management I explain how anyone can build a solid, professional-looking online reputation simply and cheaply. But from time to time I meet someone who asks why you need an online reputation. "I am a private person", they usually say, "and I don't want to be visible to everyone.".

Perhaps in an ideal world you would have this choice, but alas our world is not so perfect and there are two very good reasons why you need to have a controlled presence.

ABSENCE OF INFORMATION CREATES SUSPICION.  First of all, if someone googles you and finds nothing at all they might assume correctly that you are a very private person. Much more likely they will be suspicious, and assume that either you are not comfortable with technology or you have something to hide. At the very least the absence of online presence is not reassuring and leaves lingering doubts about you. Would you hire someone who doesn't ap…

What the Shortmail Tweetstorm Teaches About Social Media Crisis Monitoring

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[ Updated 16 March 2012 13:30 CET to add response from 410 Labs ]

On 15 March 2012 actor Stephen Fry installed the Shortmail app on his iPhone. Unknown to him Shortmail tweeted to his four million followers "I just installed Shortmail on my iPhone 4S. Claim your account and join the Shortmail revolution."  This tweet is so obviously out of character that everyone assumed rightly that it was not something he really meant to say.

Soon after he discovered this tweet, deleted it and added a new one saying "Grrr! I hate apps that automatically send tweets without asking you. Am deleting Shortmail & want nothing more to do with it. Good night x". Many of his followers retweeted this and others like me commented on how tweeting in the name of other users is a risky design choice. In the tweetstorm that ensued "Shortmail" and "fail" appeared very often together.

You might have expected Shortmail to respond to this, but they did not. The most likely …

Saying Your Thank Yous: Underrated Influencing Tool

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Many years ago I visited a graphic design studio. On a huge empty pinboard someone had pinned a tiny email saying just "Thank you for the brochure". When I asked why it was there one of the designers told me it was the first time anyone had ever sent one and they were immensely proud.

Since then I have always been careful to thank people whenever appropriate and also to teach people in communication and influencing workshops the value of a thank you note. Not everyone thinks of this so just by saying thank you to someone you will make an impact, and many people write mostly to complain, so a positive note has a disproportionately positive effect. How many times you have thanked your IT department for something that worked?  But if you ever tried it you would find that you are at the top of the list when anything needs fixing.

Thank you notes are one of the most underrated tools for influencing people and at the same time the habit of sending them makes for a more positive w…

LinkedIn May be "Hacker's Dream Tool" But Attacks Easy to Foil

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It's not very often that Anonymous and CNN agree on anything, but it did happen when CNN Money reported that professional networking site LinkedIn was a "Hacker's dream tool", the latest social media scare story. Sharing the link, the account @YourAnonNews tweeted "CNN is spot on with this article (a rarity we've found). LinkedIn is a hackers dream tool".

When you read the article, you discover that, as so often happens, they are not talking about any technical vulnerability. All they mean is that LinkedIn is a useful source of professional biographical information that is useful for the type of social engineering attack known as "spear phishing".  Social engineering refers to all the techniques based on getting people to do things they should not be doing, by tricking them in some way. This is, in fact, the way many famous hacks have been done. When Paris Hilton's smartphone was "hacked", for example, someone simply fooled a T-…

The Third of Two: Why Rich Trademark Owners Have to Bully Small Businesses and How There is a Better Way

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[ UPDATE 16 March 6:45pm. Since this was written SZC has now made an offer to resolve this dispute amicably, offering the pub a license for a nominal fee. Details in this article. ]

Nobody really believes that The Hobbit pub in Southampton, UK, does any harm to the bottom line of the Saul Zaentz Company, the owners of the movie and merchandising rights for Tolkein's book. Yet the company is taking legal action to stop the owners of this pub from using the name The Hobbit and the names of characters from the book for their cocktails. The story is detailed in a BBC Report.

From a strictly legal point of view they have a point. They own the rights and the rights appear to be infringed, at least in part. Dictionary divers have already found that the word "hobbit" is actually much older than Tolkein's book, but combine that with a drink called Gandalf and a picture of Elijah Wood on their loyalty card and it is clear which kind of hobbit they are thinking of.  But the leg…

How to Make a Video Go Viral. Seems Like Some Things Never Change

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"How do you make a video go viral" is a favorite question of PR students everywhere. There are a lot of things you can try -- like having 140-character tweet-bites, memorable hashtags and so on -- but there isn't actually any sure-fire recipe. If there were then nobody would spend any money on advertising since everyone would be cooking to that recipe.

Come to think of it, there are two ways to make a video or anything else go viral, but they don't have much to do with social media:  plain old fashioned influence and money.

Last week's viral sensation Kony2012 has quickly become the most talked about topic in the PR world because it has been so amazingly effective. Two weeks ago the campaign to stop Joseph Kony was almost unknown; today thanks to Jason Russell's brilliant campaign it is the cause that almost everyone either supports or criticizes. Very few people have never heard of it.

On the surface this looks like a victory for social media, and in a way…

How to Succeed in Meetings: Three Essential Techniques

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Have you ever come out of a meeting disappointed because it didn't go the way you wanted? Maybe you ended up with more work to do or maybe everyone decided to do things in a way you don't like. You can reduce the risk of this happening in future by mastering these three essential techniques for making meetings go the way you want.

1. MAKE SURE YOU HAVE A GOAL. If you are going to a meeting and you don't have a personal goal then you are probably just going to waste precious time. Remember that everyone, rich or poor, gets the same 1440 minutes in a day so don't waste them. You need to have thought of some sort of personal goal, whether it is to convince the boss to adopt your new proposal, to block something that would slow down your work or simply to escape without any extra work. For example, you might go to a meeting to define a new policy with the simple goal of keeping this policy as simple as possible, purely out of self interest.

2. COME TO THE MEETING PREPARED…

Doing Business in Sweden: Three Things You Have to Know

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Perhaps you are on your way to Stockholm for the first time.  You know nothing about Swedish culture beyond what you learnt from the Muppet Show and you don't have time to read an in-depth cultural analysis or attend a culture workshop. Even if you have just a few minutes, though, you can learn enough to make a difference by focusing not so much on superficial details like handshakes and hugs, but more on the fundamental concepts underpinning Swedish culture. Master the top three of these and you will already be more effective and probably more confident, too. Here are these three essential concepts.

PUNCTUALITY. In Sweden things happen on time, or at least they are expected to do so. Swedish people assume that meetings will start on time, schedules will be respected and deadlines will be met without reminders. A 2pm meeting starts at 2pm and if you promised to deliver a document by Friday everyone will expect it then, not a few days later. Deadlines are entirely your responsibili…

Three Mistakes to Avoid When Talking to Media

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"The prime minister does not wear pyjamas on the back of a horse," a source from UK Prime Minister David Cameron's office told a reporter at The Guardian newspaper. Later in the same article we read the same source revealing also that "The prime minister does not have meetings on horses."  (See David Cameron Horse Saga Ridiculous but Symbolic, The Guardian, 2 March 2012).  Though I wasn't there when this happened I have watched enough interviews to know how this sort of bizarre statement comes about, and this reminded me that there are a few traps that it is easy for well-meaning, intelligent people to fall into. There are quite a few of these traps, especially when you are talking to a very experienced reporter, but here are three of the ones to really watch out for,


1. PRIME MINISTER WEARING PAJAMAS ON HORSE. In any interview situation you have to be careful what you say, staying on message and avoiding the temptation to respond the way you would in a norm…

Three Simple Ways to Make Your Videos More Professional

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When you are making simple videos for your blog or website you probably have to make do with very basic equipment. Maybe you are using a consumer grade camcorder, a flip cam or even just a smartphone. Whatever you are using you can make the results look more professional just by following these three simple tips.

PUT THE CAMERA ON A TRIPOD. Shaky handheld videos work well if you are looking for a Paranormal Activity scary movie look, but otherwise wobbly pictures look amateurish.  Always put the camera on a tripod, and if your camera doesn't have a tripod mount improvise one with duct tape, elastic bands or whatever you have; once I made an improvised tripod adapter for a Blackberry using some Meccano parts from my son's toybox. You don't need a fancy video tripod with a pan and tilt head. Most of the time all you need is a compact lightweight tripod that lets you shoot fixed camera shots. Unless you are a video pro you are probably better sticking to simple fixed shots an…