Happy New Year!


Happy New Year 2014

It’s that time of year again.

Time when every media outlet known to man puts together their year-end lists:

“Best of…” and “Worst of…”

“Top 10…” and “Top 100..”

“Things we want to remember…” and “Things we’d rather forget…”

They all make the rounds, competing for your attention, your likes and shares, your retweets and plus-ones.

And while my favorite kind of list – “Words for the New Year” – is nothing new, I’ve never made one of my own.

So to get my desire to do new things in 2014 kicked off right, I’m going to start today. Here’s my first ever “Three Words for the New Year:”

Community & Kindness – OK, so my first word is actually two, but that’s only because I think they’re inseparable. 2013 was a divisive year, with sides taken on almost everything. Anger, hostility, and a general incivility seemed to be everywhere we looked. In 2014, we need to be better at working together to achieve common goals and not just give lip service to “getting along” when all that is doing is providing yet another way to point a finger at someone. If you can’t start a conversation with a compliment of some kind, then you probably shouldn’t talk.

Economy – With so many resources, so much technology and so many things to do in a day, we could each make a full time job out of just managing what’s coming over our transom. In 2014, we need to slim our intake in order to make our output more productive. That doesn’t mean do less – it means eliminate the noise. Stay on course. Keep checking items off your to-do lists and adding new ones. Get to the finish line as fast as you can, and then go find a new one.

Creativity – Perhaps a perennial word, but one that should be repeated anyway. New years mean new starts, new things to discover and new records to smash. It means bending your brain in ways you haven’t yet – or haven’t in a while – to achieve that thing that’s been on your to-do list for so long it’s starting to collect dust. Creativity is the leaf-blower of your life, so plug that sucker in and go all Carl Spangler on it.

There are other words that came close to making the cut, but for now I’ll stick to these. A year from now, we’ll look back and see how these words – and the ideas behind them – held up.

What are your words for 2014?

Happy New Year!

Find Me On.. Where?!?!


Social Networks

Maybe we have too many social networks.

I mean, think about it. Facebook and twitter. Instagram and Vine. Quora and Google+. Yelp and Foodspotting. And on and on and on.

You need a scorecard just to keep up, and an entire afternoon just to be remotely relevant on any more than one on two.

I’ve read more than one article this week about younger people rejecting Facebook.

And Peter Shankman this week opened up a storm of controversy when he predicted Yelp! would be out of business in two years.*

I think it’s just a matter of time before more people are migrating to something else. Who knows what that is. But if I’m feeling that way, I can promise you, it’s already happening.

I must have more than 100 apps on my iPhone. Truth is, I don’t think I use half of them. And I have no plans to.

So I’m opening this up for discussion, because I am really interested in what you think: which social networks/apps are becoming less relevant? Which should I close out or delete, and which should I keep? Which do you use on a regular basis and why?

I don’t want to hear any brand-bashing. This is not meant to take jabs at anyone. I’m just really interested in what others are thinking.

Leave a comment below!

*This post has been amended to accurately reflect Shankman’s prediction on Yelp. Thanks Peter!

Xbox One Isn’t the Only One


XboxOne

The unveiling of the Xbox One has got my inner geek pretty stoked.

Tear it apart any which way you want, but this new console it represents a terrific leap forward in the way we experience and share media in our homes: music, movies, games and TV. The new functions look very cool, especially the improvements in Kinect. I will be getting my hands one as soon as possible.

It’s probably not the elusive “all in one” box that Microsoft claims it is, but I frankly don’t think we will ever get there, because we really don’t want to. As consumers, (especially us geeks, who thrive on variety and shiny new things that replace and outdo the old ones) we don’t like limiting ourselves to just one platform or one way of doing things. We like to integrate our systems together and make them do unique things that serve our purposes.

The Xbox One is also a good example of how we – as communications professionals and PR people – need to constantly keep up with evolving technology that affects our business.

I was a semi-early adopter of social media, and saw its potential for one-to-one, human connectivity right away. And while I’m better at it than most, I’m far from an uber-user or an expert by my definition of the word.

Part of the reason we fall behind is because things evolve so quickly, it’s hard to keep up. And yet, that’s also part of our business: recognizing the changes afoot and evolving our tactics with them. We need to take time out – hard as it can be – to experiment with these technologies and make them work for us.

Take time to turn off all your inputs and just experiment, at least once a week. Part of keeping up is making sure you do it with the frequency to make it effective.

The Human Touch


Tinkering with Tweetbot

Wednesday was kind of a big day for me.

Raise, promotion? (No.) New baby? (Got two, all good in that department, thanks.) Bought a house? (Got that covered too, with the mortgage to prove it.)

Then what was it?

I hit 1,000 followers on twitter (Proceed with the eye rolling).

What’s important to me on this watershed occasion is HOW I crossed that magical threshold: human contact.

Yesterday morning I attended a terrific seminar on crowd-funding (thanks Karma411, Social Media Association and Hilary Topper) and in the evening I spoke to a class of aspiring PR professionals at Hofstra University (thanks Laurie Bloom for the invite).

As a result of being in those rooms, with other real people, 15 people subscribed to my twitter feed (and a few even signed up to read this blog). Hardly on the scale of Beyonce or Bieber, but more than I’ve acquired in a single day since.. well, ever.

It reinforced for me how important it is to get out from behind our computer screens and meet people face-to-face on a regular basis. To catch up with the old friends and make new acquaintances. To explore possible collaborations and learn new things.

Social media is great. Just remember there’s a world out there that uses more than two thumbs to communicate.

It’s not you, it’s me. OK, it’s a little bit you.


It's not you, it's me

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This is not going to be popular. But here it goes.

Our lives are busy. If you’re like me, you work while signed into several different social media channels. With a half dozen windows open, email pinging non-stop and posts, updates, videos and IMs flying over the transom like a Nor’easter, it gets to be overwhelming. And then you gotta do that stuff they pay you to do, too.

Your time is valuable. Really, it is very valuable. Whether you’re charging clients hundreds of dollars an hour for your services or you’re trying to carve out some extra time to spend with your family, you can’t afford to waste a minute of your day. Nor would you want to.

That means you have to be a productive as possible. Which means you have to work smarter. And that means you have to kill the clutter. Yes, I am talking about those people who are sucking valuable minutes out of your day. It’s nothing personal. They need to go.

It’s not just the incessant Farmville addicts always asking you to plant a rutabega in their field, or the “haven’t-lived-in-the-same-state-with-you-since-8th-grade-but-here’s-150-identical-pictures-of-people-you’ve-never-met” photo streams. It’s the people who are just hanging out, quite innocently, posting and updating every once in a while, and contributing nothing to the conversation that interests you. You put 50 (or more) of those needless posts together, and you’ve got yourself quite a pile of junk to filter through.

So get rid of ’em. Unfriend. Unfollow. Unsubscribe. Get them out of your feed. Make your social circles resemble your real life more – not less. I would recommend if you haven’t interacted with a person in the last six months, they should go. Yes, that means family. And former fraternity brothers. And co-workers.

Once you’re done, you should see an uptick in your productivity. Your feeds should also get more interesting, and you should be able to be more active with the people with whom you are connected online.

So give it a try. Just don’t expect to be popular.

Facebook Tinkers Again


Facebook Like

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So last week facebook unveiled some immediate and not so immediate changes to its look and functionality.

Users woke mid-week to a distinctly different newsfeed display and immediately poured on the criticism; a day later Mark Zuckerberg announced far more dramatic changes that would roll out in a month’s time and many people (including me) actually hacked their accounts to force the change.

Sidenote: What an interesting observation about human behavior! We shun the things we are given freely and crave the things we are told we need to wait for. Can anyone spell “two year old?”

Having altered my display to show in Timeline mode already, I have a few reactions:

Jody Fisher facebook

1. I think people may well rebel against the display; it’s not the linear set of entries users have grown accustomed to. It’s actually kind of confusing, and makes me NOT want to look at it.

2. That said, I like the big “cover” picture at the top. I am less enthused about the loss of the photo gallery on the profile page, which was a nice grouping of my favorite and most recent shots.

3. Editing your profile has become more laborious. Finding the right dropdown menu to get rid of that “like” you’re not so crazy about anymore and other tweaks that once took one click now seem to take several. Perhaps its a learning curve, but it’s hardly intuitive.

FINAL RATING: 2 out of 5. But it doesn’t mean people will leave. We will adapt, because facebook is something that many people enjoy and use. Every. Single. Day.

And that’s why I’m less interested in the cosmetic changes to facebook and more interested in what Zuckerberg & Co. will do to further ramp up the time we spend using the planet’s most popular social network.

This graph from All Things D that popped up on twitter last night tells a pretty amazing story, especially about facebook. We’ve read endless stories about how Zuckerberg wants to make facebook into the new Internet: where you share, shop for, consume and review everything from entertainment to food. Where you spend real money – and hours and hours of your time – living a virtual life that feels more and more real every day. And he has the platform and user base to do it.

The rumored launch of a facebook iPad app won’t hurt either; here’s Mashable’s post on that.

The trick will be, with the growing intricacies of the UI (User Interface), is to get the moms and the non-tecchies to do more than share pictures and click “like.”

What do you think?

The Many Faces of Hurricane Irene


Hurricane Irene

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Here in the NYC area, we’ve just come through Hurricane Irene. I hope you and your loved ones are okay and rebounding from her wrath.

Depending on where you live, you may have experienced flooding, power loss or other damage to your home. You may have been one of thousands that were evacuated. Hopefully you or no one you know was bodily injured.

Irene’s impact on me personally was near minimal. (Here’s a timelapse of the hurricane from my front yard to prove the point; yes, the soundtrack is meant to be sarcastic – thanks, R.E.M.!)

But drive five minutes from my house and there are folks without power, trees fallen into houses, businesses shut down, and traffic lights out.

It’s made me step back to take stock of something we can often lose sight of: that although we may seem very closely connected by geography, social circles, experiences, family and economic circumstances or personal interests, our individual realities are often dramatically different. Times like these just highlight the fact.

Translate that to our daily (read: mundane) lives, and we see how important it is to walk in others’ shoes on a regular basis, especially when trying to connect and build bridges with others. This is extraordinarily true for us PR folk, who are supposed specialists in connecting via messaging with others.

Our PR campaigns must be designed to connect and inform rather than sell. Our social media messaging must engage rather than preach. We must solicit feedback and respond when things don’t go the way we plan, and demonstrate care and compassion for the people we are trying to reach.

You can’t expect people to respond to your message if it’s off kilter with what your targeted audience is experiencing. If the people you are trying to reach are trying to get the power back on in their homes this week, sending them an email about patio furniture isn’t going to move their needle.

But changing your message to fit their needs just might, and bring in new business you never had before. So if instead of trying to sell patio furniture to people with no lights in their homes, you could instead run a (well-advertised) sale and offer 10% off patio furniture to customers who bring in their Hurricane Irene-damaged patio umbrella (It’s an easy thing to throw in the back of the car, and easy to toss in the dumpster behind the store). Now you’re generating new business. And you’ve got cusomters in your store, where they just might also buy something else. And they weren’t even thinking about buying a new patio umbrella this year.

Irene was a nasty hurricane for some; an over-hyped rain event for others. Remember her when you’re putting together your next outreach. She just might teach us something more than how to hunker down in a storm.

Do you have Klout?


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Klout

We all have influence on others. Perhaps not on the scale of Ming the Merciless, but influence, nonetheless.

Nowhere is that influence more on display than in social media, where we are encouraged to share information, experiences and unsolicited opinions on everything from restaurants and music to the news of the day. And those opinions often result in real actions taken by the people who hear our words.

They go to the movies. Buy a pair of jeans. Maybe even book a vacation or enroll their child in a school. In short, they spend money. (Here’s an earlier post where I talked about making your social media messages actionable.)

And so all my marketing friends sit up and go “We should be able to track this! Put it on a graph and analyze it! Make it work better!”

Enter Klout, which claims to measure your social media influence by analyzing with whom you interact with on facebook, twitter and other social media sites and gives you a grade, your “Klout score.”

Scientific? Hardly.

And being the skeptic, I asked some of my twitter followers (and people whose opinions are far more insightful than mine) to share their perceptions of Klout:

Dave Peck: “@klout is one of the best tools put there to measure influence. Has room for improvement though. For example, I didn’t tweet while on vacation and my score dropped. So I take 48 hrs off and my influence and reach drop? I don’t think so. Oh and @klout rocks they helped me out yesterday really fast ;)” [Dave didn’t elaborate on this last point.]

Monica Guzman: “Checking @klout is like Googling yourself, but a bit more socially acceptable.” [Love it, Monica!]

Amanda Marsh: “Even at 74, the only perk I was able to pick up was the Spotify account.” [Agreed! But I am waiting for those nifty achievement badges, AM!]

Gina LaGuardia: “I do like the freebies. Seriously, though, I’ve had editors of sites to which I f/l content ask me for writers’ scores… [Gina is a terrific writer who works in the higher education” and senior living spaces]

Nathan King: “For some people, their Klout score will be dead-on accurate, for others, not so much. I check it out of curiosity, but don’t change what I do online to try to raise the score. I’d much rather have people judge me on how I conduct myself online and the content I publish, not a score determined by Klout’s algorithm.” [Terrific insight, NK!]

Louise DiCarlo: You’re influential as long as someone doesn’t die – I lost 3 pts dealing w/real life (dad died). [So sorry for your loss, Lu.]

From my perspective, Klout strikes me more like a game than a resource, especially the feature that allows you to dole out +Klout points daily to people to whom you’re connected. And the range of social media networks that can be paired (ie, where Klout draws your score from) are currently limited to facebook, twitter and linkedin. They just recently added foursquare and YouTube, but other sites like Tumblr, Instagram, Gowalla and the new kid on the block, Google+, are no where to be found (yet).

I’d love to see Klout incorporate some kind of point system that earns me things of value, whether in the social media or real world. The next step in social media is getting people to spend real dollars, after all.

What’s YOUR experience with Klout? Check it out for yourself and let me know what you think.

Summertime!


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Summertime

You can tell it’s summertime.

Here in New York, there’s sitting room (there’s never sitting room) on the trains and subways; you overhear more German, Japanese and French than Spanish and English in the streets; and fashion becomes a little.. less formal.

(Sidenote: Based on my observations, there is an office somewhere in NYC where short-shorts are acceptable dress code, even on Mondays. Not that I am complaining.)

You can also tell its summertime because the phone at work rings a just a little less and the email traffic is just a little more manageable. For me, it’s a terrific time to step back, do some strategic thinking, update those email lists and contacts and plan for the atom bomb of activity that will come in September.

So while we’re all eyeing the clock, taking an extra 15 minutes at lunch and even sneaking out of work a little early here and there, let’s also celebrate Friday ShareDay with a few posts that I think are worthwhile:

First one comes from John Soat at Information Week (via David Kirk at @ThePRGuycom) on “7 Questions Key To Social Networking Success.” It’s a terrific long form article about ROI and why you should spend time strategizing social media before you go posting your little heart out.

And here’s another one from Gini Dietrich on Social Media Today (via all around great guy Matt Brown at @MatthewLiberty) on “Managing Social Media Fatigue,” something to which I think we can all relate!

I’d also love to hear your feedback on Google+, now that more people are on board. I’ve seen some definite differences between it and other social media platforms, and I’m interested to hear what you experiences have been. I’ll be updating my previous thoughts on the subject in a post next week.

Happy Weekend!

Non-plussed by Google+ and Friday ShareDay


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One week into my tinkering with Google+, and I have to say this is not the improved social network we were all hoping for.

Sure the facebook boys (and girls) drive us nuts, but we tend to trade on that for a robust collection of people we can meet, get to know and interact with.

Now maybe it’s because I only have four other people in my Google+ circles. But let’s be honest, a social network only works as well as the people who are on it. And I talk to those four folks just fine on facebook and twitter already.

I’m not going to give up on Google+ just yet, but they’re gonna have to open the gates a little wider to get me to stay and become a regular participant.

In a segue to Friday ShareDay, here’s a post from Social Media Today that articulates exactly what I’m thinking.

Also, in a brief shoutout to my geek side (like that’s never on display here), let’s take a moment to tip our hats to NASA on the occasion of the last shuttle liftoff today, #STS-135 Atantis.

What we can often take for granted (and did, until Challenger) is an amazing feat, made of equal parts technology and bravery. Their achievements have paved the way for where the next generation of space explorers will take us. I’m excited to see what direction the space program goes in after the manned missions are gone.

Happy Weekend!