Posts Tagged productivity

Flickr improves sharing options


In my weekly review of feeds concerning Web 2.0 and Web 3.0  I ran across the news that Flickr has improved their ability to share content with other sites.  As I continue to collect material for my “WEB 2.0 for Students” class that I’ll be teaching at our local college, this one hit home.  I use Flickr for my photo repository.  So it is nice to see new feature showing up in this service since I haven’t seen to many in the last year.

Flickr adds to sharing options, now easier to share photos across the Web

by Erez Zukerman on March 31, 2011 at 03:30 AM

It sure is nice to see some new developer action over at Flickr. The relatively slow-moving photo-sharing service has just announced a new sharing update, which consists of several new and easy ways to embed or link to your photos:

via Flickr adds to sharing options, now easier to share photos across the Web.

So the thought came to me that this is nice but what could be implemented to improve the experience:

  1. Photo comments made on Flickr would also be shown on the shared item in Facebook.
  2. Post comments made on the shared item would also be available on Flickr.
  3. Multiple authors – One pool.  One of the biggest problems I have with my clients.  Many photographers, one common pool to associate them with.

Either way, Flickr is a great tool to use to keep all your photos.  It’s worth a good look at if your in the market to implement such a capability.

Good Hunting.

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LinkedIn Today gives you social news from your peers


LinkedIn Today

LinkedIn has introduced a news aggregation service called LinkedIn Today. This delivers a personalized news experience, letting you quickly discover the top headlines of the day based around what your connections and industry peers are reading and sharing.

via LinkedIn Today gives you social news from your peers.

Well this really isn’t much of a surprise, but it is a feature I think is long overdue.  Anyone that has a large network will tell you that it’s difficult to keep up with what everyone thinks is important.  We started receiving emails with the ‘top stories’ from our networks some time ago.  I really thought that new email was helpful.  Now if they can merge in my delicious and stumbledupon and (name your tagging tool here) to this mix and make it contextual based on something you also have deemed important then we are well on our way to heading to web 3.0, in my opinion.

Either way, this is a welcome add on to LinkedIn and I look  forward to the tool’s growth in capability and features.

Good Hunting.

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Marketing Success – Jackie Chan Style


In “Success” magazine (Success.com February 2011) I found a great article on Jacky Chan. In this articles they list Jacky Chan’s 7 Traits for Success.  I found his thoughts fit nicely into internet marketing as well.  So I’m going to take his traits but add my own thoughts to each of his traits.

1) A willingness to crash and burn

I can’t stress enough that each internet marketer should try to fail, often, and big.  Two phrases come to mind “Go Big, or Go Home!” and “Failure is an event, not a title!”  Your embrace of risk might be the deciding factor that helps you find your niche.

2) A discipline for fitness

The key word being discipline.  Fitness is needed for everyone, but in marketing, we need focus, intentional creative disruption.  We often try many tactics for our clients.  We need to perform our duties in such a way that our measurements tell us which tactic produced the results and then build on them.

3) A disdain for wasted time

As Zig Ziglar wrote in his “See You at the Top” recording your activities and understanding what it takes to create positive results in critical.  Equally important is understanding what is not helping you create success.  Avoiding time wasters are equally important then improving skills.

4) A need for alternative opinions

It’s important we seek out and study other disciplines and build on the lessons of those.  Reading materials from other continents, or cultures.   Subscribe to blogs from other marketers on other countries.  Spend time discussing ideas on twitter or in blog comments.  It will improve your ability to communicate your positions to clients and prospects.

5) A set of high expectations

Never be afraid to say “That’s not good enough” and demand more of the outcomes of your tasks and tactics.  With internet marketing it often a series of “shoot, ready, aim” moments, but that doesn’t mean we can expect some impressive marksmanship!

6) An accurate moral compass

A marketer with no moral compass is simply a politician.  Enough said.

7) A relentless sense of humor

By all means, have some fun.  If you can’t laugh and laugh hard at your work, you will often find yourself  ‘chasing rabbits’.  I know we call it work, but push the limits, always create a version of your latest project that is an exaggeration of the client requirements.  By creating this outlier, you will find your other ideas less risky and at the same time take some risks.

So which one of these traits caught your eye?  Which of these traits are you doing well at?  Which one of these traits do you need to work on?  I’d love to get your feedback.

Enjoy!  Good Hunting!

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Start, Stop, Continue – Reviewed


When I hear in meetings that people don’t know why they are doing something or why a certain policy is in place I begin to wonder how much time is wasted on things we are just doing because we’ve always done them that way.  This post was triggered after reading “I can’t believe we’re still doing that” which brought back a lot of memories about team meetings that I facilitated and the frustration I had because there was such a resistance to change when confronting obsolete work.  Now I want to admit that I thought I had posted on this exercise in the past but after searching my archive I didn’t find it referenced.  Sorry about that.

Setting the Stage

This exercise is great when change occurs naturally in the workplace.  It does not need to be forced.  But I must admit, when I am called in as an outsider to facilitate change meetings it is very natural for me to use this tool.  If you are managing a team or organizations, there are still may opportunities to use this tool:

  • New Leadership – often a great time to realign your department or team when a new leader is ready to add a new twist or their own perspective to the role of the organization.
  • New Management – this is a great time to review ‘why’ we do things.  There are times when the past choices are allowed to be questioned as to why we are doing something.
  • Direction Change – often with new management or leadership comes a direction change and a time to evaluate past traditional work and possibly make changes.
  • New Team Member – sometimes a new set of eyes brings a new perspective.  And remember, those new team members have past experiences for you to gain from as well.
  • New Competitor – nothing can be more jarring than a new threat in the vicinity.  This change is ideal to reevaluate what the team is doing and make some needed changes.
  • New Capability – learning something new is a great time to make changes.  Sometimes it’s as simple as learning a new lens or gaining new tools or skills that allow you to reevaluate past norms.
  • Measurement Changes – remember always “you are what you measure” and at times those measurements tell you that something is wrong or something unexpectedly went well.  This is a great time to pull the team together and analyze the outlier.

Pick your change.  For the most part any change that occurs in your normal business cycle becomes an opportunity to evaluate your norms and possibly make some changes.  My only word of advice is that you don’t use “Start, Stop, Continue” too much.

Facilitation Instructions

You will need three surfaces, I tend to use three large tear off sheets taped to a wall, with each one title with one of there topics: START, STOP, and CONTINUE.  You will need sticky notes and writing materials, and sticky dots handed out to each person attending the meeting.

You will provide the participants a problem to solve  in which they must come up with ideas on how to improve something by stating things they would START, STOP, or CONTINUE doing.  Here are some suggestions for problems to solve:

  • How can we make this department better?
  • How can we reduced the total elapsed time of a specific process?
  • How can we reduce the duration of a specific task?
  • How can we improve the customer experience?
  • How can we reduce the returned product / restocking percentages?
  • How can we decrease the Account Receivable averages and improve cash flow?

Have the team write their ideas on the sticky notes and place it on the correct START, STOP, or CONTINUE sheet.

Facilitation Tip: This brainstorming session is sometimes best SILENT. As a general rule if there is a superior in rank or position in the room and someone may try to “impress the boss” by controlling the session, or an (opinionated) person who naturally commands all the discussions, then make this part of the exercise “SILENT ONLY” and limit the damage.

If the STOP page seems sparse after the activity is underway, then stop the team and force them to evaluate that specific area alone.

Facilitation Tip: If you have a process map already created for a specific process you are asking the team to improve then make sure the process is visible somewhere in the meeting room.  If you don’t have the process thoroughly mapped out then begin first by mapping the process into a swim-lane chart so everyone can understand what they are being asked to improve.

Group and Rank Suggestions

Have the team go through a nominal grouping exercise where they attached similar ideas together.  Allow the tam to challenge each other.  If an idea seems to fall into two groups then create a second sticky note and have the team move on with other groupings.  Then identify any associations between the grouped items (i.e. Item 2 can’t be started or completed without Item 1 having been accomplished first).

Then have the team vote on which items they think are best.  Give each person 5 or 10 sticky dots.  They can place dots on any of the grouped items.  They can place multiple dots on any one group if they feel strongly that a specific items needs more attention.  (Don’t let them place all their dots on one item though).

This will produce a list of items the group either believes are low hanging fruit or very important and need to be addressed.

We are looking for

STOP Sheet

  • Redundancies
  • Obsolete Steps
  • Eliminate Points of Failure
  • Reduce Inter-Departmental Hand-offs
  • Reduce Elapsed Times

START Sheet

  • New tasks in an existing process
  • New processes
  • Purchase new software / tools
  • New classes to educate staff
  • New Hire orientation updated lists

CONTINUE Sheet

  • All existing items not found on the STOP / START sheets that the team is already performing.

I hope you enjoy this exercise.  Let me know how it went.

Good Hunting.

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Team Collaboration Gets Better


Screenshot of the MindMeister mind map editor

Screenshot of the MindMeister mind map editor (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of my favorite tools for team collaboration and idea collection is MindMeister.  I use it for organizing my thoughts on large blog posts (see Marketing Warfare: The iPad Battle and Mind Map: The iPad Battle), helping my boys organize their thoughts for their school writing assignments, and many more instances.  Because it can update the mind map in real time with many users signed into the map simultaneously, I have found it to be valuable when working on conference calls while trying to keep the team focused and not hindering the collection of tangent ideas in the middle of a thought stream that is being debated.

MindMeister 4.7 has been announced with some improved features:

  • drag and drop attachments and images directly from their desktop to a selected node
  • Google API used to view attached files rather then requiring you to download them
  • a new social sidebar
  • Auto Condensing of maps
  • iCalendar task feed has been updated
  • Team Edition will now find custom branding options

Check out MindMeister, I think it will help you organize your thoughts and projects.

Good Hunting

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Social Media Tool: NutshellMail.com – account aggregation


I’ve been noticing a theme in some of the posts/news feeds/articles I’ve been reading about social media.  There seems to be a question about what is coming up next in the realm of technology now that we’ve got Twitter and Facebook clearly entrenched as leaders in the social media space.  MySpace seems to be loosing ground.  Linked is specialized for business use.  Twitter is creating so much content volume you begin to ask a the question, if I tweet and no one replies or retweets did I really tweet?  Facebook users will probably keep the psychiatric industry funded for year because more and more people are feeling inadequate when friends don’t ‘like’ their status updates, links, and notes.

Small Business Owner Problem

So how does a small business owner, or maybe a person on their staff, try to keep up with all this volume of data flying past their eyes and still do their day job.  You could literally be connected 24 hours a day and still miss something.  How do you find out what people are saying about you on Twitter.  Maybe you are a company that has several fan pages and you are having a hard time keeping up with all that is going on.  What you really need is a tool that aggregates the content into a simple email that helps you review all this material in one sitting.

That tool is NutshellMail by Constant Contact.

In a nutshell …

Earlier this year Constant Contact acquired  NutshellMailConstant Contact is a service provider that I recomend to my client for email marketing activities.  In the past they added Survey, Event Marketing tools,  and continue to improve their primary email marketing tool.  Now with the addition of NutshellMail they continue to improve their offering.

Here are some reasons why you might want to give NutshellMail a try:

  • If you have or help manage multiple Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and LinkedIn accounts
  • You want a better way to communicate with and manage all your messaging accounts
  • You can save time by only logging into the accounts that had any activity
  • Keep track of what people are saying about your company with saved searches being delivered to you email in-basket
  • You can’t access personal messages while at work
  • With your smart phone you can see all activity from one email while away from your computer
  • You want to monitor your children’s incoming messages
  • It’s Free, Easy, and Secure

Oh did I mention it was FREE!

Good Hunting.

Sample Email

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5 Reasons Why Online Marketing Rules


One of the blog authors I read frequently is Matt Hames at his blog “People like to share“.  Recently he threw out a blog post that seemed to challenge my chosen profession of Internet Marketing.  The post was “5 reason why online marketing sucks“.  Now besides the title catching my eyes, some of the content was equally abrasive.  Now let me say this, if you come from the print world, his thoughts might be exactly what your are thinking and seem normal.  For someone like me that has come up the ranks in the internet only path I found his items lacking.

So rather then attack Matt’s prejudiced and bias post towards those of us in the internet space I thought I would spend some time explaining why I love the online marketing realm and why I think it is the future of our industry called marketing.

Reason 1: Speed of Feedback = Reaction Speed

I love the fact that I can put out an internet ad on Google or Yahoo and within a day I can start making adjustments.  I can test titles, graphics, copy, landing pages.  I know based on impression rates how many eyes have seen the ad.  Once they land on my ad landing page I can track what they do and where they went on my site by telling a story and adding action items at different points of the story, thus giving me valuable information about what engages the visitor.  I know how many people have clicked on the ad.  I know what phrases they used to search the internet that introduced them to my ad and land on my page for that ad.  I love the speed of feedback.  I can make changes to my world while my print counterparts are still wondering how bad their campaign was with some 0.000000000000003 conversion rate.

Reason 2: Pay Per Click

Most of my clients are small and thus are trying to compete in the world of the big boys, mostly national or regional players.  Yes, 75% of my time is building guerrilla marketing campaigns for these small businesses using internet advertising that the larger competitors don’t see as relevant or worth much to them.  I have very little buying power when it comes to the print world for my clients to compete against the larger companies.  The pay-per-click (PPC) tools provided by Google, Yahoo, and the likes, provide a low cost to entry model that when coupled with geo-targeting allows for many local and small companies to gain market share in their realm of influence.

Reason 3: Measurements mean Change

I laugh at some of the dollars spent in the print world as well as the deadlines they must meet to get in a publication’s print run.  In the non-online marketing world you have to spend a lot of money up front to generate your campaigns for print, TV, radio, billboard, wrap-around vehicle ads, etc.  Because these contracts are written for multi-year commitments you can have a real campaign STINKER like McDonald’s “I’m Love’n it” last much longer then it ever should.  You would have to find a large number of bad web sites on the internet ether floating around to compare to just that one example of a complete embarrassment of a marketing campaign built around a bad tag line.

In the online marketing space, owners of web sites can change agencies quickly and adjust at speeds the non-online marketers fear with all their souls.  Is it any wonder you see the attacks on the on-line marketing world coming from those that would love to see the status quo remain the same?

Reason 4:  Multiple Tools in the Toolbox

I can agree with Matt that certain online tools are used for the wrong reasons.  I for one don’ t use email marketing for prospecting new leads.  I use email marketing for retention marketing and increasing the “share of wallet”.  I explain to my clients that all the different things you can do on the internet are but tools in the toolbox.  We listen to the desires of the client, build the measurement expectations, then implement the plan based on the best tools for the job.

I often explain that a client demanding a web site as the solution to all their problem is the same as demanding that your home builder only use a hammer to build your entire home.  No tape measures, no ladders, no saws, no plumb lines.  Just a hammer.  They quickly realize that they would never demand this limitation on their builder and often then come to the conclusion that they should allow me to quote the job based on the tools I think I’ll need to complete their request.

Reason 5: Competition for Customers drive Innovation

Matt brings up a great ‘one click away’ discussion but online marketers tend to look at it differently.  We understand that we only have a few seconds (most will say 3 seconds) to engage with a prospect or client or they are ‘one click away’ from going to a competitor site.  This often drives more ‘creative’ tactics to come to the marketplace at faster rates then some would like.  It does tend to cause us to look at impulse and emotions more then someone who has the time to tell a story. We assume our web site landing pages will continue the interaction and tell the story.  It does also allow for some poor choices to be made but go back to Reason 1 to understand why I don’t care.  If I’m not making the numbers I expect within the first 48 hours of a new text or banner ad, I’m already working on an A/B test to see what I can do differently.  The next 48 hours will be better then the first 48 hours, I guarantee.    Let’s see … how long does it take to change a billboard, magazine ad, TV commercial, etc?

In conclusion

With all the advancements on the internet, I’m surprised the print marketing world is even around.  As more and more people drop their magazine, newspaper, and newsletter subscriptions and reduce their TV consumption, they begin to use their electronic readers  and on-demand viewing devices.   I would think that the print and TV world would be worried about their business models ….. oh, wait, THEY ARE!

Good Hunting.

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Affordable Video Phone for Home & Business


Affordable Video Phone

Small Business

I can’t remember if I have ever posted anything about hardware.  I often find myself contemplating process improvements,  marketing tactics, and internet tools which I assume will help small businesses improve their market share.

I know a version of this affordable video phone was on Donald Trump’s show “The Apprentice” and this launched the phone to new heights, but I can’t help but think that the video phone would be a great tool for a small business to improve it’s image.

Family Friendly

This phone in the hands of families across the US and world will enjoy video conversations with each other.  As more house holds have the phone the more fun each family will have in hold video calls with each other.  I can’t wait until all my family in Germany have these phones either.

Phone Information

ACN’s newest revolutionary video phone gives you enhanced features that you can only get here!

  • See the person you’re talking to
  • Unlimited calling to the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico
  • Send and receive video mail messages
  • Project your conversations onto a larger screen
  • Bonus Feature: Display photos with the Digital Photo Frame

Added Benefits

  • Automatic Network Detection: easier for customers to set up their Video Phone
  • Enhanced Video Clarity: images/colors are sharper
  • Automatic Bandwidth Adjustment: automatically adjusts bandwidth setting to match available bandwidth speed
  • Enhanced Light Sensor Camera: camera offers higher pixels for improved A/V sync plus more clarity in the video
  • Dual Speakers: audio speakers offer stereo sound quality
  • New, Sleek Interface: user-friendly options for exceptional customer experience
  • Softkeys: allows user to make selections from the specific screen for easy navigation
  • Large 7″ screen: for face-to-face conversations

Plus traditional calling features you expect:

Caller ID • Call Forwarding • Call Waiting • Do Not Disturb • Speed Calling • Three-Way Calling
Call Return • Auto Redial • Voice/Video Mail

Phone Plans

Family Plans
$11.99 /month/ line

$159.99 per Video Phone

See your loved ones more often! Purchase additional Video Phones and add up to four lines to your account. Calls on Family Plan lines can only be made to other ACN Digital Phone Service customers.

Virtual Phone Numbers
$4.99 /month/ line
Stay local! Create a virtual phone number from any domestic area code – no matter where you live.

International Calling Plans
Bring your world a little closer. Take advantage of discounted rates on our 300-minute plans
European Plan $4.99/mo
Asia Pacific Plan $5.99/mo
Central & South America Plan $9.99/mo

See the Phone Here

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Deathwish: One Last Meeting!


As a consultant I am asked to facilitate critical meetings and/or evaluate meeting or facilitator performances.  I have yet run across an organization that lives for meetings.  No company believes if they could only have one more meeting then they would reach the pinnacle of their business existence. It reminds me of a common story a life-coach might offer his client reminding the client of the concept of work-life  balance.  A man is on his deathbed and wishes for one last day at work so he will be satisfied and complete.

I do run across organizations that hold mandatory and regularly scheduled meetings because … well … because that is what they think all organizations are suppose to do.  (They should but not for that reason.) The meetings are scheduled and placed on everyone’s calendars.  Some even go so far as to create performance review metrics concerning attendance, timeliness, and participation for the above mentioned meetings.  Literally, the  same agenda is passed around at each meeting, with the same ground rules clearly identified somewhere on the page.  I’m not anti-meeting when I say this, but, what a waste.  A waste of time and resources for the company.

Meetings Must Accomplish Something

A meeting must have value and that value is determined by the behavioral change  your department or organization sees based on the content and outcomes of the meeting.  Leadership or management should set goals and objects for these meetings in the same way they w0uld for any other element in their domain that is responsible for adding value to the organization.

Here are some ideas you may wish to consider:

  • Set an annual budget for meeting costs (including time/resources)
  • Set a scheduled begin and end – start on time and end on time or end early
  • Create a unique agenda for each meeting
  • Have your team understand what it costs to run or go over on time
  • Measure performance against that budget
  • Use the meeting to set team objectives
  • Avoid one-way meetings – delegate assignments – track results
  • Rotate (delegate) who runs the meeting – teach your staff meeting prep & management
  • Document success / accomplishments from meeting assignments
  • Report accomplishments up!

Understanding Meeting Costs

Often a hidden cost within business that is overlooked or poorly managed is the time spent in meetings.  In today’s post,  I am specifically referring to the mandatory staff meeting, often weekly.  A department or team rarely understands just how expensive the meeting is, let alone how much it costs the company to go past the scheduled time.

When I tell a client that a 20 person half-day weekly department meeting costs the company $220,000 annually, they just about drop out of their seats.  They begin to understand that the cost demands value to the organization.  I show them this simple equation:

Staff x Rate x Hours x 50 weeks = Annual Cost of meetings

20 x $55.00 x 4 x 50 = $220,000

  • Staff would be the number of employees attending the meeting.  I used 20 in this example.
  • Rate is the fully burdened hourly rate that you would get from HR or your Accountant.  I used $55.00 per hour for staff averaging 70K salaries in this example.
  • Hours are the scheduled time each week  of your meeting.  I used 4 for this example

So going over schedule in this example would be:

20 x $55.00 or $1100 an hour to the company. (2x for the opportunity cost if you want to be picky or $2200 per hour)

Some immediate benefits

When you begin to hold your meetings accountable for more then update sessions and keep track of your costs you will begin to see some startling changes in your teams performance.

  • Reducing meetings to an hour each week can be used to report savings to the company.
  • Delegation and the results from those assignments can be used to promote tangible benefits against the costs
  • Rewarding your team for completing meetings before the scheduled end time. This  can be assigned as savings
  • Teach the team when to use the entire staff or a subset to save the costs to the company
  • Monthly reporting to your manager will help them understand the value of this large expanse.

Who knows, you may be asked to run your bosses meetings or be asked to train other managers because your department will be doing so well.

Good Hunting

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Jott Thought: Jott out of BETA


Jott Thought: Jott out of Beta!

Powered by Jott

Expanded Thought: Got my email today that Jott is out of BETA. They thanks us, and now ask us to choose a plan purchase. Jott Basic (Free / Ad Support / Limited Functionality), Jott ($3.95 a month – similar features as before), Jott Pro ($12.95 – all features including some connectors to smart phones.)

Let’s see how many people stick with Jott. I will be, it has improved my productivity greatly.

Jott Update Page

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