A Business Technology Place

Finding social rhythms

We have limits on the number of digital profiles we can keep active.
I have six digital profiles that I use regularly for various purposes. Here’s the list in no order of significance: Blog site, RSS reader, Google+, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. My activity on each varies from week-to-week based on a variety of factors including my schedule and purpose of communication. I’m not closed minded to changing in the future. But at this point in time those are the areas that comprise my digital life.

I don’t know for sure, but I suspect six digital areas are far more than most people try to maintain. I’m not active on Pinterest or Instagram or (insert your favorite site not listed here). It’s not that I wouldn’t enjoy learning and exploring, but my capacity to participate is limited by my other choices.

Our digital participation is subject to change.
I think we all gravitate towards the spaces that give us the most value. By that I mean, a place where we connect with people and information. This is a place that we can consume information that provides knowledge and benefit to us, but it’s also a place that allows us to contribute information back to the space.

We may create profiles and try them for a time before abandoning the profile for something else. Twitter is a good example. I see abandoned profiles all the time. Many have created a Twitter account to see what it’s all about but have never contributed any information on their own. LinkedIn is another good example. One could argue it’s a professional expectation now to have a LinkedIn profile. But most people don’t use LinkedIn for professional activity such as networking, knowledge share, or research until they are actively pursuing a job.

We develop social rhythms based on the platform and content.
Maybe you don’t think of it that way. But we are all creatures of habit. I know I try to find a rhythm for producing and consuming digital content. It’s a challenge and requires dedication each day. As I see it though, my digital lifestyle is about learning, thinking, and growing. Even though contributing content isn’t directly related to my compensation at work, keeping an expertise and knowledge molds my thinking and knowledge for work activities.

Here’s some examples from my routine:
* My RSS feed is like my newspaper. It contains profiles of information sources that I want to read regular updates. Some of them are media outlets while others are blogs from individual thought leaders.

* LinkedIn is a always-on professional networking forum. I can keep track of my professional connections changing jobs, adding skills, or sharing pieces of information.

* Google+ is like combination of a RSS reader and discussion forum. I’ve created circles based on topics and when I view the stream from an individual topic it’s like reading a RSS feed. I’m finding that Google+ is more rich with discussion about topics than a typical blog or media publication. Much of the value of Google+ comes in reading and participating in the comments after each post.

* My blog is a my thought sandbox. I use the blog to record my thoughts, practice writing, and experiment with digital publication.

Platforms may come and go. But our basic need to communicate doesn’t change.
Regardless of what digital platform(s) we use or how we use them, we are driven by a need to communicate. “Social media” is just a term to wrap around social creatures. Maybe the current platform we use is discontinued in the future. But we’ll find another one to use because of our basic need to communicate ideas with one another. How much or how little we contribute is based on our rhythm for consumption.

I’m always searching for ways to stay in rhythm or to develop a more complete set of habits in my life. Let me know what works for you.

Automate your digital life

How many digital/online profiles do you maintain?
If you are reading this, then chances are you have multiple online profiles and I’d bet a few more than you’d like to have. In fact, I bet you’ve created profiles on sites that you’ve long since abandoned or maybe even on sites that have long since disappeared. A newer dilemma in today’s digital landscape is just how to keep up with the all the sites and the volume of information inflow we see each day.

When posting information do you find yourself copying information across multiple profiles or cross posting on multiple sites?
When you take a spontaneous photo and send it to Instagram do you also post it Facebook? When you send a link to an article on Twitter do you also post that link on Google+? If you post a status update on LinkedIn do you also cross-post that status on Twitter? Ideally we post information on platforms that are relevant to the audience there. But it does happen that people make connections within the same audience group and that group spans multiple online profiles.

Or you might find yourself taking content from a blog post, status update, email etc. and archiving it in a tool such as Evernote.  Each individual tool has it’s own archiving capability, but you like to centralize all of the important stuff to make retrieval a bit easier.

If this then that….
What I’ve framed in the preceding paragraphs sounds like a logical condition loop in programming “if this then that” (just need an ‘else’!). As you might suspect, there’s a site for that: IFTTT – Put the Internet to work for you. Describing this to people, I would call it a rules engine. You essentially define a digital channel, a trigger action from that channel, and then an action to a second digital channel. They call it a recipe.

The point is to automate actions that you might already be doing manually. They are taking advantage of the application programming interfaces to connect profiles together. It’s like a switchboard of digital profiles.

I created a few recipes.

The tool contains many more digital channels to create huge number of possible combinations. There is also some flexibility in what information is transferred to the action channel. That’s in the setup.

What tools do you use to automate your digital life?

LinkedIn announces ability to “follow”

Will self-hosted blogs become a thing of the past?

Are you seeing the new patterns in digital publications as platforms fight to win eyeballs? They are expanding to become more like personal blogging platforms which could mean a replacement of many self-hosted blogs.

I first saw the idea from Google+ adopter +MikeElgan. He ditched his blog platform and began to use Google+ because it allows for expanded posts with rich media. He’s setup automated feeds to connect his G+ to his complete audience so that he sources his information in one spot. This works good for getting content indexed but works bad if Google decides to ditch G+ (which I don’t think will happen).

+MikeElgan on Google+

Now this from LinkedIn announcing the ability to follow individuals as well as expanding the ability to publish longer and more feature rich content. LinkedIn has been adding more content to their services lately in the form of recommended news articles, blog posts, etc. This move sounds like using LinkedIn as a Blog platform to me, where many people have already established a circle of connections (and soon to be followers). It will position LinkedIn as a major player in content in addition to the professional connection and networking services.

These trends certainly make me stop and think. The idea of using a larger platform does reduce complexity and overhead associated with maintenance of the platform. But it also means losing control of layout, content, etc.

The advantage is that the platforms may have an audience established by connections. So it’s relevant. It keeps publishing simple. So it’s practical.

What do you think?

Find me the money. Some practical thoughts on ROI.

Long before Jerry Maguire stated “show me the money” marketers have scrambled to show a return on investment, advertising, and marketing activities. But how well are marketers showing their stakeholders the money? It’s not a primary component of the marketing budget process according a survey review by Jack Neff of Ad Age. In fact, according to the survey, more CMOs rely on historical spending to set budgets than projected ROI.

But I don’t think that is necessarily a bad thing. A budget after all is just a plan for spending. The amount of spend required for services related to marketing is generally known by way of existing contracts, published price schedules, and yes historical spend.Geek and Poke ROI

So where does projected ROI fit into the budgeting equation? The answer is that the budget can be considered more than an exercise to control costs and plan to spend. It should also consider spend for *return as with capital projects.

Tracking and projecting returns on marketing efforts is not always easy and I’ll argue shouldn’t always be necessary. If the marketing activity is an ongoing event, then there should be some level of tracking available whether by electronic means or post sale surveys. Tracking helps forecast returns. New activities are more difficult because there is no baseline of activity from which to compare.

But digital and social media have muddied the waters on ROI calculations. In part because there is an abundance of data that can be measured and tracked and that creates noise to what is really important. But additionally because digital and social media create a web of consumer touch points that may lead up to a sale. Just how many times does a customer touch your marketing messages before they purchase? So analytics solution providers are increasing their ability to track Channel attribution as the technology creates more touch points before a sale.

So how does a marketer justify spend on activities for advertising, marketing, and engagement? First there needs to be an agreement that a component of marketing is trial and learning.  Sure marketers must eventually get to sound ROI and solid business decisions. But to get there requires some level of test and learn which could mean a negative ROI.

A typical marketing budget should contain three high level items: Advertising and Operations, Labor and Administration, and Trial and Measure (aka R&D).

Advertising in this case is for activities related to existing products and services. These activities are held to stricter standards for producing a return and marketers should use measurement tactics to justify the spend. It’s part of the run-the-business and go-to-market tactics used by the company to meet strategic goals.

Trial and Measure for the marketing department isn’t so much about the expense to develop new products and services for the company. That’s research and development (R&D) in the products area. Trial and measure allows marketers a chance to experiment, measure, learn, and adjust. It’s an important part of marketing and feeds larger money spend in the advertising area. It also helps to create forecast models for larger advertising investments. It’s the trial and measure area where marketers need a bit of freedom from all the pressures of ROI.

A great example of this is usability tests on eCommerce sites. Marketers can see big changes in key metrics by changing words, colors, or button locations on a web page. It requires programming time and thus an investment. But it’s usually these types of simple changes that find a respectable pay-off because they make purchasing easier for the customer.

Another example is merchandising techniques such as image location, image rotation, product reviews, etc. What works for Amazon may not work for everyone. It has to be tested with the specific products and services in the store.

So yes. Show me the money is a solid business principal. But let’s allow marketers to find the money first.

Digital sharing with a purpose

We live in a world full of ‘likes’, ‘+1s’, tweets, and shares. It’s a big part of the ‘social’ in social media. We consume content and then we share that content with our friends, family, colleagues, and community.Sharing is Caring.

But I’ll admit, sometimes I’m overwhelmed with all the content shared with me. The volume of information can quickly replace existing news sources. Think about that for a minute. Many people have a  designated place to get “news” in their life. Maybe they glance at the home page of the local newspaper. Maybe they visit CNN, Fox News, or some other online media news source. It could be a series of sites that are setup on a portal landing page like Yahoo or iGoogle. Maybe it’s even a RSS reader with a list of media sites like blogs, media outlets, and thought leadership.

Sharing disrupts that intention. When you follow content that has been shared with you, inevitably it takes time away from the consuming the content in your original spaces. Is that a good thing or a bad thing?  I think the answer, as usual, is that it depends.

Getting outside your normal content consumption areas can be a good thing, a very good thing.  For example, most of my chosen content is about technology, digital marketing, or eCommerce. But by following a share from a friend, I may find myself reading about the banking industry, horticulture, or the arts.  It’s important because switching content like that provides new ideas, different perspectives, and exposure to thought that I wouldn’t normally read.

The trick is to make the best use of this time right? If you find yourself following links and shares and consuming content but not getting value out of it, is it worth it? Unfortunately, that’s part of the territory of following shared links. The way to deal with this is to leave content that is not engaging to you.  For me, it’s apparent within the first couple of paragraphs of an article or the first few minutes of a video piece, if I will get any value from the content. If I’m connecting with a piece then I leave.

Bottom line, I believe there is potential value in all the content that is shared with you or that you might share with others. With that said though, I think we should exercise restraint when sharing content with others. Nobody likes too much shared content from a single source. It starts to feel like spam. So here are two quick rules I try to follow:

  1. Share content because it is specific to something I know about the person or group. I like to put it in context for the recipients.
  1. Share the content because it is specific to a recent conversation I had with a person or group. It’s a great way to follow-up on a conversation and provide additional thoughts or value.

How do you share and consume content with your friends, family, and connections?