Archive for January, 2013

Working remotely, often my only means of face-to-face communication with my coworkers is of the online type. We’ve been using Skype for the longest time, but often had problems with the clarity of the call. At first, we chalked it up to our internet connections. But, then it kept happening. With different people, in different cities. Maybe not so much the internet connection?

Sometimes old habits die hard. But sometimes, when a more clear (literally in this case) alternative comes along, jumping ship is pretty easy to do. Google Hangout. Like Skype, it’s free to use and it’s got an app for that. Unlike Skype, it’s also free to host a video chat with up to 10 people. In Skype land, at least one of you had to subscribe to the group video chat feature.

I’m sure there other bonuses still to using Skype (like the super cheap calling to landlines feature that I still use instead of long distance on my mobile), but when it comes to video chat, it just seems to be the call quality winner.



There’s a common misconception that social media is a cheap or free way to get your message out there. Many of us thought that at first. After all, there aren’t many barriers to its use, most platforms and apps at least have a free version available. When you come from a land where the monetary bottom line counts the most, sure, the use of online social tools might look like your free ticket to even more eyeballs. Except… they’re not.

When I lived in corporate Calgary land as the Electronic Communications Advisor at ATCO, we ran a contest for the 2010 Olympics. It was also our first opportunity to play around with social media. We had a Facebook page, I got the Twitter account up and running and we signed up for some listening tools with Radian6. We didn’t have much lead up time to building our audience before we launched the contest. And guess what? The social media bits were a flop. Sure, it felt warm and fuzzy to be able to post about all of the kids we were sending to Vancouver for a day, but what did it really do in terms of contest submissions and at connecting with a larger audience? Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zero. Zilch.

In a larger context, it was a huge success. It was the first toe dip in the online social water for a major Calgary company. And overall, the response from those we did connect with was positive. Having Radian6 in place during the campaign helped me garner a lot of the data I needed to show our management team the types of conversations that were happening online directly related to our brand. Not our competitors, not some other company, but US. Yes, in this context, big success. But… do you know the hours and the fight I put in over the years to get that in place? And during the campaign, all of the time setting up the profiles and condensing the information into something they’d understand? I’d look at tag clouds, rivers of information, growing keywords and I could see the trends and get a decent picture of what was going on. But then again, I lived it, ate it and breathed it. If it’s going to be of any use at all, you have to.

Social media is NOT cheap. And it’s not low-budget either. It works in two scenarios. You either need the dollars to buy someone’s time to invest in listening or you need your own time to invest. And depending on who you are or what your organization is, it might not be the right fit for you. Do the evaluation. Make the smart choice on whether your time is better spent navigating this world and ensuring all of your current processes are running as efficiently as possible, or if it’s time to amplify your message. You might have bigger fish to fry first.

Remember. You first. Your health and well-being. Then that of your company/nonprofit/organization, this includes the employees, volunteers, customers and so on. If you’re all good in the offline world, move forward into the online world. But never, ever, ever to the detriment of your day-to-day operations. The internet amplifies. And if you’ve got problems, it makes them worse (Note: There are scenarios where we’re forced into online conversations in a time of crisis, but that’s the exception to this post). Or if things are coming along swimmingly, more will come your way. That’s just how it works. And you’ll still need a plan and a team and resources in place. Real resources. Time and money to ensure things continue to go well and you’ve got the support you require to handle the growth.

So, not free. Not low-budget. And definitely not to be taken with a grain of salt.

Chinese shoes for bound feet, The Children's M...

Chinese shoes for bound feet, The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Don’t put it on!

There are  plenty of tips and tricks and best practices out there. And they come from very well-meaning people who’ve likely had some rate of success with them. But here’s the thing, just like we tie our shoes differently, whip up our favourite guacamole with different ingredients, or communicate with our friends, relations and customers in different ways, so to should we each be finding our own way to flex our social media muscles.

So, tip #1: It’s good to try out new tactics and strategies, but if it just doesn’t feel right, it’s okay to abandon it. It doesn’t matter who the tip is coming from.

Social media users from any network are pretty savvy people. They can smell a fake from miles away. And they’ll be the first to notice  if you’re doing something that’s just not natural for you. So if the shoe don’t fit… go try on a different pair.

Cleaning Supplies for Spring Cleaning

Cleaning Supplies for Spring Cleaning (Photo credit: Chiot’s Run)

When you first hop onto the social media band wagon, it’s easy to get swept up in the excitement of discovering people you didn’t know existed, seeing how easy it’s become to find out about local events and goings on or exploring new topics. But there comes a time in each social media explorer’s life when the excitement wears off. You’ve ridden all the rides in the theme park and you need a new adventure. You don’t want to be rid of all of the friends you’ve made along the way, but your evolution to bigger and better things is inevitable. It’s part of the human experience. The challenge then becomes one of balance. How to embrace the new without alienating the old (unless of course you’d like to just let some of the old fall by the wayside) in such a way that the transition is the least disruptive as possible?

You could pull a Wendy and blog your frustrations on impulse… I wouldn’t recommend it. Or, you can refresh your approaches and your networks. This, I would recommend more. It’s what I did after I blogged my frustrations on impulse… and with much  more success.

How can you do the same? Easy!

  1. Identify what you’re no longer satisfied with. My kind of news isn’t typically what I’d find in a local publication. I had resources coming to me through people I followed on Twitter, RSS feeds in my Google Reader and the likes to bring me the information I was seeking. But over time, some of my interests have changed and some of my sources have changed their content. Where I once had an entire network to spark my imagination, I found it growing stale… which brings me to point number two.
  2. Whether it’s once a month, once a quarter or even once or twice a year, make the time to find new people to pay attention to, new relationships to forge, new niches to explore. It’s like spring cleaning for your closet.. you don’t keep the clothes you haven’t worn in over 2 years, do you? It’s okay to let some of these go. If you’re worried about hurting anyone’s feelings in your more person-to-person networks like Twitter and Facebook, consider using groups and lists to cull out who you’re paying attention to rather than completely unfollowing or unfriending.
  3. Find your balance. And I don’t mean between reading blogs, surfing the web, emailing, tweeting or watching Youtube videos. I mean the difference between turning your phone and computer on or off, making an active effort to attend local shows, having a “laptops down” rule at home after 7pm… you know, ways to enjoy the stuff that life was made of before the internet and all things digital took over. I’ve been making an active effort to do more and more of those very things in the last 3-4 months. It’s left me time to relax back into being me, rather than trying to keep up and feel “connected” all the time.

Keeping things interesting for yourself and for those in your life is an ongoing process. What are some suggestions you’ve found to be successful in keeping your networks fun and fresh?