Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A Look Back at 2012

2012 has been a really interesting year for me both personally and professionally. Some ups, some downs, but more ups than downs, which is how you want it to be, so you won’t see many complaints here.
 
On a professional level, Ektron continues to be an innovative thought leader in the WCM space, so I’ve got job security and I work with good people. On the personal side, my family is doing well and looking forward to another Christmas, which to many is the best time of the year to spend with family, so that’s good too.
 
But let’s take a look back at how we got here:

Let’s Talk Business

2012 has been a year of change at Ektron. I’ve seen good friends move on to take on new opportunities and had the pleasure of meeting new faces that are as excited about the vision Ektron has as I am. These changes were highlighted by the naming of Ektron’s new President (Tim McKinnon) and the release of Ektron version 8.6, a major release in many aspects.

I've had the opportunity to develop new, long-term partnerships with clients like Apartments.com, GFT Forex, the Illinois State Medical Society, Morley Companies, the Credit Union National Association, and others, while working diligently to continue to strengthen relationships with existing customers like Indianapolis Power & Light, Culligan, Wolters Kluwer, and others. It's these relationships that I truly enjoy the most because I love watching clients succeed and knowing that I played a role in that success (big or small) is something that means a lot to me.

Aside from the Ektron WCM specifically, the digital market has seen a major shift in several areas such as mobile, where we’ve grown from simple “mobile-friendly” websites to responsive web design and true multi-channel support. We can thank Apple and Android devices for driving this as much as anybody, but it’s caused anyone that manages web properties to rethink what they’re doing and ensure that the platform driving their website is going to be nimble enough to adapt to the ever changing market.
We’ve also seen changes in the level of personalization that users now expect from their web experience. That “one-size-fits-all” site you ran out there in 2009 is no longer capable of producing quality leads and delivering the customer experience that users now expect. Tools like HubSpot, Marketo, and Eloqua are opening up the Marketing Automation market that’s really been somewhat limited in the past.

It’s been really fascinating to watch, but what it all really comes down to is how to give the user what they want, where and when they want it. Talk about a society of instant gratification…

In The Middle

Transitioning a bit between both professional and personal worlds, I’ve gotten really involved in social media and networking this year. I’ve been active on social media for a long time online via Facebook, Twitter, and whatnot, but really spent a lot of time participating in offline events with the Social Media Club of Chicago and others. I’ve met some really amazing people that are even better in person than they are online! I’m grateful for all the new friendships that I’ve made in 2012 and many of them started at SMC events.

Let’s Talk About Me

Like most of us (I imagine), I find myself turning around and wondering where did the time go? It seems like summer just ended and now we’re less than a week from Christmas – it just doesn’t seem possible.

I’ve seen Payton perform her first dance recital, turn 5, yes 5, at Disney World, and head off to kindergarten. And I’ve watched Keira grow from this curly haired ball of energy into this really sweet, affectionate little person. We’re so blessed to have them and they constantly amaze Tess and I with the things they do (and say!).

There were no really big life changes (no new babies, we didn’t move, etc.), but we lost people that were close to us, which is always the hardest thing to reflect on. I've found that the best way to cope is to try to maintain a positive outlook and stay focused on the things that I can control. If you don’t, you’re really going to miss a lot.

Wrap It Up

The end of each year gives us an opportunity to look back and take stock of everything we've experienced. The new year though, gives us an opportunity to look forward.

It's great to learn from the past, but it's the things you have to look forward to that mean the most. Thank you to everyone that made 2012 a successful year and I look forward to seeing what 2013 has in store. From our family to yours, I wish you the warmest holiday wishes and the best in 2013.


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Friday, December 14, 2012

Five Ektron Enhancements That You Should Be Thinking About for 2013

As we wind down another wonderful year, I've come to find that a lot of our customers haven't had an opportunity to see the latest and greatest functionality that an Ektron-powered website has to offer. Therefore, I wanted to share my list of Five Ektron Enhancements That You Should Be Thinking About for 2013:
  1. Bringing Everything Together with The Digital Experience Hub -- Ektron's biggest product enhancement in version 8.6 was the introduction of the Digital Experience Hub (DxH). The DxH provides a middleware layer that makes integrating Ektron with other technologies, and other technologies with each other, infinitely easier. Plus, out-of-the-box integrations with SalesForce.com, Microsoft SharePoint, HubSpot, and others provides a huge development cost savings. Beyond the backend integration, the DxH allows Business Users to access information from these systems via the Ektron Workarea and even perform tasks like tying HTML Web Forms to third party databases like SalesForce.com.
  2. Maximize ROI with Marketing Automation Technologies -- One of the most prominent integration selections with the DxH is in the area of Marketing Automation technologies such as HubSpot, Marketo, and Eloqua. By providing a tightly integrated solution between these technologies and Ektron, Marketers have more power, and information, then ever before.
  3. Reach More Prospects and Customers with Social Media -- Ektron's Social suite has continued to evolve with the growth of the social media channel and now includes the ability to publish content out to social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, and Linked In, as well as pre-built integrations with many social media technologies.
  4. Float In The Cloud -- We've all heard the buzz about The Cloud, but many of us aren't sure if it's the right fit for our business. Obviously, that's not something I can decide for you, but it's good to know that in addition to Ektron's support for the Microsoft Azure Cloud via our Cloud Manager technology, support for additional Cloud infrastructures such as Amazon EC2 are due out in early 2013.
  5. Do More With Mobile -- We are becoming more and more of a mobile society wanting information faster whenever (and whenever) we are. Ektron's enhancements in this area have been well documented, but continued enhancements to provide more mobile preview options, additional support for responsive design, and more are coming in 2013.
In addition to these elements, for those interested in seeing what else is coming in 2013, I encourage you to visit the Synergy 2012 section to view the presentation titled Flight of the Phoenix (Phoenix is the code name for the next Ektron release). It provides a lot of great information about Ektron's roadmap. Happy Holidays!

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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

How to Avoid Becoming a Social Media Disaster

Mashable recently posted an article on the 11 Biggest Social Media Disasters of 2012 (thanks @suzannecohen01 for sharing) featuring major brands like McDonalds, Gap, Kitchen Aid and Stub Hub. This begs the question – if major brands like these can slip up, what does a smaller organization need to do to effectively govern their social media messaging?

Here are four tips to help ensure your organization doesn’t make this list next year:
1.      Leverage Available Workflow Controls

On many of these posts, it’s clear that the author had a quick thought and posted it immediately in hopes of achieving the maximum engagement. However, “striking while the iron’s hot” isn’t nearly as important as ensuring that the message is appropriate before posting. I get that the post about Obama’s grandmother was time sensitive (being that it happened during a debate, right after he made a comment about it), but in almost any other context (whether you like him or not), that type of comment wouldn’t be well received. And while many social media tools don’t have integrated workflow capabilities, many web content management systems like (and including) Ektron do, which can really help here.

2.      Test Humor Before Posting

We’re all super funny on Twitter and Facebook – we’re like a universe full of Jerry Seinfeld’s and Louis CK’s. Not quite. In fact, we’ve all probably posted a thing or two that we found really humorous only to find that no one else found it nearly as enjoyable. Humor is something that definitely needs to be used on social media outlets to make your messaging more human, and while more crude posts might be ok on Facebook (where you’re likely more surrounded by friends than customers/partners/potential consumers), you still need to exercise caution. Think before you post.

3.      Remember Driver’s Ed

Maybe your Driver’s Ed teacher didn’t tell you this, but mine did, and it’s stuck with me. He said, “Would you do X if there was a police officer next to you?” It could have been turning on a No Turn on Red or doing a funky U Turn in an area where they’re not allowed, but the exercise was meant to get you thinking about whether or not you’d do something if the person able to punish you for doing it was right there. There isn’t really a social media police to speak of, but think of your boss, a customer, or a social media person you look up to and ask yourself the same question – it should help keep you out of trouble…

4.      Use Common Sense

The one element that carries true in these examples is that if a little common sense had been applied, many (if not all) of them could have been avoided. Take McDonalds for example – if you ask people to share stories about their experiences with McDonalds and only expect positive responses – that’s simply na├»ve. In fact, research shows that users are much more likely to share a negative experience via social channels than a positive one. Same goes for the retailers that tried to use the shooting in Aurora, Colorado or Hurricane Sandy as an opportunity to move merchandise – common sense definitely would have prevailed in those instances.
To err is human. We all make mistakes and for better or worse, social channels like Twitter, Facebook, Linked In, Instagram, Foursquare and others allow those mistakes to be magnified. But, if you apply a little common sense, you’ll be that much better off.

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Thursday, November 15, 2012

A Look Back at Ektron’s Synergy 2012 Conference

Wow. I have to admit -- I was a bit of a skeptic when I learned we were hosting our annual conference in Washington, D.C., the day after the election. I thought people would be distracted, flights would be too expensive, or maybe people just wouldn’t want to travel this close to Thanksgiving. And with sessions running until almost 5 pm on Friday, I expected it to be a ghost town on Friday after lunch (indeed it was quite the opposite).

But wow, that was a great experience for the Ektron community.

I have the privilege of being one of the few folks that have had the opportunity to attend every Ektron Synergy conference over the past six years. This includes two trips to Boston, two to Orlando, last year’s craziness in Las Vegas, and this year’s patriotic version in the capital. This means that I’m more than capable to share what made this year’s conference one of the best (at least in the top 5!).

The Keynotes

Synergy has always featured excellent keynote presentations from industry leaders and experts like Lisa Welchman, Microsoft, and others. However, this year’s group was pretty ridiculous. Not only were they talking about hot topics like Responsive Web Design and Mobile First, they focused on the most important takeaways from Synergy and were engaging, energetic speakers. I highly encourage you to check out the webcasts of them if you have the time (available here: http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/26846449).

sliewehr

More Networking Focused After Hours Events

While most conference attendee’s primary focus is to learn about the latest technology enhancements and industry trends, I can make an argument that the most valuable part of attending the Ektron Synergy conference is the opportunity to network with other users, partners, and the Ektron team. For me, it’s a chance to connect old friends, long-time customers, and colleagues with new friends, prospective users, and new customers. The community that Ektron fosters is really a strong advantage that allows us to engage our community members at a much more personal level than the standard vendor/client relationship. If you don’t believe me, join the Ektron Inner Circle (http://www.ektron.com/community/nominate/) to see for yourself.

dschuller

More Customer and Partner Led Sessions

In many of the conferences that I attend, the majority of the sessions (outside of the keynotes) are led by the technology vendor or primary sponsor. With Ektron Synergy, that’s not the case. While there are Ektron-led sessions around new functionality and complex technical elements, many of this year’s sessions were led by Ektron clients and partners. The story changes dramatically when that’s the case because they’re not up there just telling you only about all the positives of their experience with Ektron – they’re up there relating their honest experience. This is very powerful, and one reason that I think we’ll see even more client and partner presentations at the next Synergy conference.

ektronbacon

True Social Participation, Online and Offline

I come back to my point earlier about Ektron’s community, but go back and check the tweet stream for the hash tags #ektron, #EktronSynergy, and my personal favorite, #ektronbacon. Not only will they be wildly entertaining, but it will help paint a picture as to what the event really brought to the table. The connections people made; the key information pulled from each session; really, the true value that attending an Ektron event has to offer. I've embedded some of the best for you throughout this post.

stacy

More Access to the Roadmap

Every conference aims to leave you with one or two things to look for in the near future. In year’s past, Synergy has focused on the big Version 8 release or the Digital Experience Hub. However, this year, more sessions included information not just about how Ektron got here, but where Ektron’s going.

Highlights from the forthcoming Phoenix release talk about the Awesomizer and other user experience enhancements that are sure to make any content author or business user jump out of their seat. And it’s not that Ektron has ever lacked innovation, it's just that we’ve always held it a tad closer to our chest. We’re proud of how we got here and even more excited about where we’re heading.

It was a fun event and if you had the opportunity to attend, I want to extend a sincere Thank You. We love to get our customers and partners together as much as possible and that’s why you’ll see even more events including regional user groups, developer meet-ups, and more in 2013. We hope that you had a great time, I know I did.

Special thanks to Brian Browning for taking so many great photos and for allowing me to use them here.

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Friday, October 26, 2012

Do You Really WANT To Be Social?

The other evening, I attended the most recent Social Media Club of Chicago event. It featured a great panel, was well run, and very well attended. During the course of the evening, one of the founders made a comment to the effect of ‘have fun with social media’ and it occurred to me – it is indeed that simple.

We always do things better when we enjoy what we’re doing and are passionate about it. And the other evening, there were a lot of people passionate about social media in one place. However, I strongly believe that there is a huge segment of social media users that feel like they’re forced to participate or are doing it for the wrong reasons.

As human beings, we are inherently social. But some people are indeed more social than others.
Some like to go out and do things every weekend. Others enjoy sitting on the couch and catching up on the backlog of TV shows on the DVR. So it absolutely makes sense that some people are going to be more attracted and by proxy, more passionate, about socializing via technology since they are indeed, more social “offline”.
Here are some ways to figure out if you’re really passionate about social media:

·        What does your content look like? If you’re only posting press releases, broadcast messages, and not “humanizing” your online efforts at all, it probably comes across that way. People don’t want to interact with robots, they want to interact with other people that have emotions and stories and whatnot. Take a look at your Facebook wall, Twitter feed, etc. and see what kind of content you’re posting – does it interest you? If not, it probably doesn’t interest others either.

·        What’s your avatar? Is it a generic Twitter-issued graphic? Is it your professional head shot? Is it a cartoon character? While all of those can be used, I think it’s important to use a picture of you, and really to change it from time to time. Your avatar is how you’re identified online, so again, in an effort to humanize your online efforts, it should reflect you, and how you look/feel today. The head shot from 15 years ago, while it might make you look good, isn’t really helping…

·        Are you excited to post things or is it just another “to-do” item? If social media is really work to you in the sense that you classify it as something you have to do like filling out expense reports or cleaning off your desk, you should probably stop. Now for all you yelling at your computers, hear me out – I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again – the best part of social media is the people you meet. If social media is just another item on the to do list that you mark off and move on, without seeking to engage with other users at any level, you’re probably not going to see much of an impact. It’s just the truth.

·        How often do you really participate? We all post and re-post others things regularly, but how often are you really participating in the conversation? Whether it’s interacting in a tweet chat like @foodiechats, commenting on blog posts or status updates, or simply conversing with other users via these channels, these are all forms of participation, and the folks that are most successful in this realm (outside of celebrities/athletes/etc..) are ones that sincerely engage with their connections. It’s called social media, not broadcast media, which implies that there is interaction, and give and take, not just one way communications.
The cool thing about social media is that you can present yourself however you want to be presented, so if you’re into muscle cars and bug collecting, you can talk about those things and connect with others that share those hobbies much more easily than you can “offline.” The information is there, the people that WANT to connect with you are there, the only thing missing is the effort.

If you want to grow your network, meet new people, or establish yourself as an expert in a specific area, the opportunity is there. All I'm saying is that you need to have fun doing so, and you'll make stronger connections and have a better experience. And if you're not one of the more social people out there and social media isn't for you, that's ok. Maybe one day you will be as passionate about it as I am.
And if you are interested in learning more about social media, I hope to see you at my session at Ektron's Synergy Conference next month where I'll be talking about social media.
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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Being Inherently Social (Guest Blog by Elly Deutch)

As we move closer to Ektron's Synergy Conference next month, and my session on social media, I thought I'd utilize this space to feature guest blog posts from some of the most influential social experts that I've connected with. I hope to see you at Synergy and encourage you to learn more about these guest bloggers too.

This post is from Elly Deutch, Co-Founder & Chief Digital Strategist of Blitz Branding. A self-described "spunky social media savy sports enthusiast", Elly used to work in Professional Sports, but now spends her time working with Athletes through a large worldwide PR agency. She enjoys helping clients, athletes, universities and companies build their online presence with creative ideas, designs, social media strategies, and video programming.

Elly is a Board Member for the Social Media Club of Chicago and a must follow (@deutche) on Twitter. Enjoy!

Being Inherently Social

We are perpetually over saturated with media, news, and instant communication (in usually 140 characters or less); therefore it can be a bit difficult at times to stay atop the clutter and noise. While this new medium can be a bit intimidating to newbies or even those “old school”traditionalists, its important to understand the value and reasoning behind it all.

Sports fans of all degrees are using social media on a daily basis to communicate with their favorite teams, athletes, brands, and organizations. In fact, 1 in 4 fans follow sports via social media, and 41% of sports fans actually prefer getting their sports information from Twitter and Facebook over any other news outlet (i.e. TV, radio, print, etc.).

If you decide not to connect and engage with your fans and brand advocates online, you’ll be missing out on a lot of marketing potential your company can access right at its fingertips.

Below is a list of 10 thought starters that will help you effectively integrate social media into your current organization marketing/PR strategy:

  1. Understand social media. Do your research and dig into various social networking platforms (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Vimeo, etc.) to fully understand what each site does and how it can help your brand. Read up on articles, learn the lingo for each channel, and try to gather an overall grasp on which platforms might be the right choice for you to engage with your fans.
  2. Listen.What are people saying about your brand or organization online? What is their sentiment? What social platforms are users interacting on? How can your formulate a plan to control the conversation and aggregate all your social channels like Reebok has done?
  3. Make a plan. Ask yourself: What are your goals in using social media as a form of communication with your fans or customers? How will you effectively incorporate your brand messaging across all channels? Who is going to run your day-to-day programming? Take a look at what Bryan Srabian is doing as the Director of Social Media for the San Francisco Giants. Smart but simple marketing tactics and experiential programming go a long way for the Giants and their fans with Srabian leading the charge.
  4. Set yourself up for success. Make realistic engagement and ROI related goals that align with your marketing and business structure. Think: a sports team or organization may have different intentions than that of an athlete, so choose where would be best to engage for your brand, and what will generate the most profit/exposure for your brand. And it doesn’t have to be rocket science either; The New York Giants kept it plain and simple: grow engagement with Giants’ fans on and off the field through social media innovation.
  5. Start engaging. Learn how to efficiently engage with your fan base. Not everyone’s fan bases act in the same regard online as they do otherwise, so understand what information will be most valuable to your customers online. I always like to use the acronym “K.I.S.S” (like the band, yes) because if you Keep It Simple Stupid and act as you do IRL (in real life), your engagement will be clear, transparent, and most importantly human. No one wants to talk to a computer, see the same pre-meditated corporate response in their streams, or only see product related posts. Be authentic. Be real. Be yourself (or the voice of your brand) and show your fans and customers that there is a person behind the brand.   
  6. Follow influencers and advocates of your brand. Do the research on the front end and follow, friend, or subscribe to the people you already know are influencers for your brand. This will greatly impact your influence as well, since people will become more aware of your online presence and see that big names and faces are following you back, so they should too. You are a fan yourself; so connect with other fans, leagues, teams and marketers who influence you and your company.
  7. Incentivize and reward your fans and customers. A simple thank you goes a long way in the social media world, and you will definitely make your fans day by simply following them back on Twitter, highlighting their fan photo on your Facebook page, or giving them a short but sweet shout out on your YouTube channel. It’s important to respect each of your fans’ opinions, but even more important to reward those who are loyal to you so they feel respected and appreciated by your brand. Want a real life example? Check out WVU’s Ultimate Mountaineer Fan contest on Facebook.
  8. Use social media methodologies, learnings and technological advances to your benefit. There are a vast number of social media methodologies and schools of thought on what works or not for everyone using social media, but the key is to remember that everyone is different. Find out what methodologies work for you by staying up to date with the latest happenings in social media and sports world by reading about other successes and failures from marketers from all industries. Follow those people whom influence your brand. Take a webinar on your lunch break. Act as a sponge and make the world your oyster baseball glove.
  9. Track your success. Use free online tools to put a tracking structure in place that will help you create a successful trajectory path so you can achieve your goals (from step #1).
  10. Rinse, repeat. Social media is forever changing, just like your fan base. You may have success doing something one time, but try it again and it may not generate the same results. Step out of your comfort zone as marketers and try new ideas. Gather insight and feedback from your fans, and take notes to make every campaign or promotion a success, even if it didn’t feel like one. This will help you track your success, as well as determine what works and what doesn’t for your specific fan demographic. Then, give it a go and continue to stay on top of what’s happening in the social world so you can re-evaluate and evolve your strategy as need be to stay up with the times.

Trust me on this: your fans, teams, executives, partnerships, advocates, and everyone that touches your brand will benefit from the education and integration of social media that you put into your everyday marketing efforts.

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Friday, October 19, 2012

The Real Benefits of Social Intranets and Portals (Guest Blog)



As we move closer to Ektron's Synergy Conference next month, and my session on social media, I thought I'd utilize this space to feature guest blog posts from some of the most influential social experts that I've connected with. I hope to see you at Synergy and encourage you to learn more about these guest bloggers too.

This post is from Jeff Willinger, the Director of Social Computing, Collaboration and Intranets at Rightpoint. Jeff was recently named the top SharePoint person to watch in 2012 and one the most influential social media people in the city of Chicago. He specializes in advising clients on social computing strategies, social intranets and portals and increasing employee engagement. With experience spanning more than two decades, Jeff possesses specific expertise in social computing inside an organization’s four walls and social media outside their four walls. He is an internationally recognized speaker and expert in Microsoft SharePoint and is a technology and business evangelist with deep expertise in information architecture, enterprise content management, and web 2.0 technology strategy. A character with character, as he is known, he is the President and Founder of of the Social Media Club of Chicago. Follow
@jwillie on Twitter. Enjoy!

The Real Benefits of Social Intranets and Portals
Anyone that has met me or has heard me speak in the past four years knows that I am passionate about social media and the connected company, inside and outside the four walls. Sharing, searching, discussing and collaborating are the ways in which we perform work. Most organizations use email as a crutch when it comes to communicating, and many lose important information.

These are three crucial elements of social intranets and portals:
  • Information: Today, we all work with information. In fact, manipulating data and information into knowledge is some of the most important work that we do. In order for a Social Intranet to exist there needs to be an information super-structure in place. Staff members need full access to information — and the information needs to be secured. This could exist within the framework of an ECM application.
  • Community and Knowledge Management: When crafting your user’s intranet experience, you need to focus on what’s in it for the end-user. Users are used to working and playing on Facebook, Linked In and Twitter. Your intranet should be set up to deliver information dynamically and be comfortable for staff to work within. If staff likes using it, a community will naturally form. 
  • Collaboration: The conversations around information and documents are the catalyst for decision making. If value in those conversations could be saved it would help future decision-making and research, not to mention compliance. Some organizations are using discussion modules as part of their ECM to manage that conversational content rather than a social platform. There is also a need to be able to reuse information as a knowledge-base that needs to be both searchable and allow for comments and feedback.
An easy to use, social intranet can make employees happy while they work. They will be more productive as they understand how their work ties in with the organization and will usually give it their all and be engaged, and that is the real benefit of social intranets and portals.

If you like this content (and I hope you do), please connect with me on Linked In, Google Plus, or follow me on Twitter, and Subscribe to this Blog via RSS.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

My Wife or My iPhone?

I just called my iPhone "baby" and told it that I loved it.

Either I'm sick... Or I'm honest...

But either way, I really don't know how I'd get by without it.

And I don't think I'm alone.

I've been an early adopter of smart phone technology having owned an iPhone since 2007 (thanks to my old company for purchasing the first one for me!). However, I am NOT one of the crazy people that waits in line for every new iteration and Apple product -- hell, I don't even own an iPad yet!

Now that that's outta the way...

This miraculous little mobile device offers so many things that it makes me wonder, how did we get by without them? In fact, I had a random thought this morning around which I depend on more, my wife or my iPhone? Obviously, that's tongue in cheek, but it's not as crazy as you might think.

A smart phone can't do many of the most important things that a spouse provides like companionship, child care, and of course, benefits...

But in terms of telling me where and when I need to go, how to get there, keeping me updated on friends and family, connected to work, entertained, aware of the weather, and when important dates are approaching, this handy little device does a pretty damn good job. It also doesn't nag (except I guess Siri can be annoying sometimes)... And with the amount of travel that I do, it's the most critical component in regards to keeping me connected to home.

But is this relationship with my phone unhealthy? Is it ultimately going to leave me broken hearted and unfulfilled? Should my wife be worried?

If you'd ask a professional, the answer would most certainly be yes. However, I'm just a blogger sharing my thoughts, so I can assure you that no research was performed in the making of this post.

But here the thing -- I think most of us truly believe that our phones make us better people, and I think that's why I'm so fond of it. Hear me out.

Without my phone:
  • I probably wouldn't have known that a good friend of mine just got a promotion or closed a big deal.
  • Would I be able to Like pictures of my friend's children and wish people that I haven't talked to in years happy birthday?
  • Would I remember people's birthdays (I couldn't before I had an alert telling me so)?
  • Could I calm my kids down at the doctor's office while waiting by letting them watch cartoons?

Of course I could do many of these things on my laptop, but that requires significantly more work and is much more inconvenient. My phone helps me support and stay connected to others in a way that no other technology can. I wasn't a bad person before my phone, but I do feel that I am much more socially responsible because of it.

But, I guess what I want to know, is am I the only one that feels this way? I don't think I am. I think many of us view our phones as an extension of ourselves and utilize it several hours a day in a healthy and productive manner. Like Spiderman says, "with great power comes great responsibility", so it's important to put your phone down and enjoy life. However, there are few things in life short of my family and maybe my house and car, that would alter life as much if it went away.

In short, I'm trying to defend this as a healthy obsession, so bear with me... Mobile technologies are only going to evolve from here, so it's not like I can quit this like a cigarette. It's going to continue to make life easier and easier, and keep us more connected then ever. These are good things and should be embraced. Right?

And if I was forced to choose, I'd still probably choose my wife, but I'd miss the hell out of my phone...

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Thursday, October 11, 2012

Blogging from 25,000 Feet

I'm sorry, but this is cool (see the graphic below).


Wifi on airplanes is not a new concept and though it's hardly one that's been perfected, I wanted to give Gogo props for a pretty cool touch. At any point in my flight , I'm able to see how high we're flying and how fast we're going.

It's probably not a terribly difficult thing for them to do, but in the age of social business where we all want more information, it's a nice touch.

As marketers and salespeople, we have a tendency to focus on the big initiatives and sometimes it's little things like this that have the ability to leave a positive impression. There are so many more touch points with customers than ever before, so being able to maximize each one is critical.

The next time you're in a marketing meeting, create a discussion around little things that you can do to put your customer first and improve their experience -- I guarantee the return will be visible.

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Monday, October 8, 2012

Looking For More Engagement From Social Media? Be More… (Guest Blog)

As we move closer to Ektron's Synergy Conference next month, and my session on social media, I thought I'd utilize this space to feature guest blog posts from some of the most influential social experts that I've connected with. I hope to see you at Synergy and encourage you to learn more about these guest bloggers too.

This post is from Suvonni, an innovative digital marketing and brand strategy consulting firm in Chicago. Darcy Schuller is the Founder and President of Suvonni, and is passionate about helping clients build stronger brands through elevated customer engagement, social media marketing, content marketing and integrated marketing communications. You can find Darcy on Twitter, , Facebook and LinkedIn. Enjoy!



Looking For More Engagement From Social Media? Be More…

One of the biggest benefits of social media is the ability to connect with others. It’s no surprise that social engagement is one of the biggest goals for companies looking to connect with their prospects, customers and advocates. With social media, the opportunity to establish relationships with your audience and turn casual contacts into loyal customers is at your fingertips. But, being effective at developing meaningful relationships requires effort. And, as in the offline world, the most successful relationships are based on trust, two-way conversations and a sincere interest amongst the parties involved. It takes time, effort and a lot of creativity to establish and execute a social engagement strategy no doubt. But with the right mix, smart companies can deepen their customer relationships with the help of social media. Here are 12 tips to help you increase your online social engagement.


1. Be More… Interesting
Take the time to understand what interests your target audience and what matters to them the most. Then deliver relevant, timely and valuable content to them. Keep in mind though, that it isn’t simply the content you deliver, but the method in how you deliver it. Keep it interesting, fresh and exciting so that your audience stays in tune. When you provide intriguing and must-read content, your audience will want to engage with you as well as share your content with their own networks.


2. Be More… Visual
Speaking of changing up how you deliver information – videos and pictures are known to increase social engagement significantly more than text or links alone. With the rise of visual sharing sites and apps (Pinterest, YouTube, Instagram, etc.), we are able to express ourselves much more creatively. Images catch the eye and cause us to pause and take a look. Adding visual content to your social mix, either as a stand-alone or as part of your content, is a sure fire way to increase comments, likes and shares… and thus your overall engagement and reach.


3. Be More… Curious
One of the most obvious ways to spark engagement? Ask for it! Asking your audience to participate is a great way to encourage social engagement. Ask relevant and/or entertaining and fun questions, take polls, ask for “likes”, ask for input on new product ideas, etc. By asking a question, you are conveying that you are interested in what your audience has to say. Just be sure to acknowledge and provide feedback on what you are asking for after you receive input.


4. Be More… Timely
Integrating your content, contests, questions and other interactions with current events is a great way to increase social engagement. People love to talk about what is current (Olympics, Elections, Back to School, etc.). By tying your conversation starters to a high-profile current event, you will surely get more people talking. Just be sure that the tie-in makes sense and is still relevant to your target audience and your business.


5. Be More… Giving
Contests, promotions and giveaways can provide a big boost in your social engagement. Get your audience involved, whether it is a photo/video submission contest or a simple promotion for a discount tied to number of likes, for some quick engagement wins. The “what’s in it for me” mentality still drives people! So ensure you are giving your audience something that they will value and that is worth the time and effort they will put into the opportunity.


6. Be More… Interactive
Don’t “hit-and-run” or “post-and-ghost” on your social channels. Too many companies use engagement tactics like asking an intriguing question or posting content that draws a lot of comments… and then do nothing. Not a word back from the company. What’s the point? The premise of social is to interact. While it may not be feasible to respond to each and every comment you get, you should make a point to respond to your audience as much as possible when they comment or mention your company. It shows that you are monitoring comments and are genuinely interested in what your audience has to say. Remember, relationships require 2-way conversations to grow and prosper!


7. Be More… Flexible
Social media is not a 5-day 9am – 5pm and then TGIF! Test different posting times to determine when your target audience is most likely to engage. It may very well be a Saturday afternoon when you get the most responses to a question while sharing a video gets the most activity on a Tuesday at 3pm. You won’t know unless you try and test different scenarios. Be flexible and adapt your strategy to your audience needs. The ability to schedule posts makes this incredibly easy to do.


8. Be More… Fun
Put on your social smile. It’s not all about pushing out content, selling your products or services, or ultimately getting people to your website. Add an element of humor and quirkiness to your engagement every now and then. Make your content more engaging by making it fun. Content, pictures or videos that make people smile will be shared… and your reach will be greater.


9. Be More… Proactive
Don’t wait for comments or shares or likes to engage with your audience. Be proactive and give a shout out to your new followers, to your most loyal customers, or to those who engage with you the most on social platforms. What a great way to surprise and delight your target customers by giving them a social mention to let them know you appreciate them. And the result is a positive perception of your brand with the high likelihood of repeat engagement from your target audience.


10. Be More… Polite
Manners still matter in social media. A simple “please”, “thank-you” or “you are welcome” can go along way… especially in social media. Thank, acknowledge, and be kind to your social audience (even when they are not being kind to you!) – it will keep them coming back for more. This is a simple element in your social engagement strategy that absolutely cannot be overlooked.


11. Be More… Human
Don’t be a social robot! People like to engage with and do business with people. Moreover, they want to do business with people they like. Be human in your social interactions. Add faces and names to your social presence and let your audience know who they are talking to. Engage in conversations and be personable.


12. Be More… Social
The bottom line… be more social. Don’t come to the party and be a wall-flower (presence is not a social strategy!). Think about your social “being” from multiple angles and always strive to be more.


Thanks for reading! I would love to hear your thoughts on how to best increase engagement via social media. What strategies are you executing to be more?
If you like this content (and I hope you do), please connect with me on Linked In, Google Plus, or follow me on Twitter, and Subscribe to this Blog via RSS.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Weekend Video Diversion: Precision (Guest Blog)

As we move closer to Ektron's Synergy Conference next month, and my session on social media, I thought I'd utilize this space to feature guest blog posts from some of the most influential social experts that I've connected with. I hope to see you at Synergy and encourage you to learn more about these guest bloggers too.

This post is courtesy of Tim Piotrowski and 360 Degree Self. Tim is an experienced, strategic marketing professional with a background in direct response advertising, sponsorship consulting, media relations and print production. Enjoy!

Weekend Video Diversion: Precision



Everyone, it seems, wants to create THE next viral video. Motivated by money and fame and seeking attention, thousands (or millions?) of aspiring Martin Scorsese’s bring their cameras and best ideas to create these videos. According to one source, more than 35 hours of video is added to YouTube every minute. As viewers of these videos, our short attention spans are pulled in numerous directions and often times we don’t even pay attention to the ads in front of us.

Brands, too, must compete to attract our attention. DVRs make it easy for us to skip commercials so we can get back to the programs we are watching. So what is a brand to do?

Create videos that are non-interruptive and content-driven. Known as native advertising, these videos are basically commercials that may not look like a typical commercial and are often seamlessly integrated into a website experience.

One of my favorite of these videos is by Addiction Worldwide for Remington. You won’t see much about the Remington product, itself. But you will see a lot of precision riding from pro biker Denny MacAskill that serves as a visual metaphor for Remington products.

If you’re looking to view more clever brand videos, visit Sharethrough.

Have a great weekend!

If you like this content (and I hope you do), please connect with me on Linked In, Google Plus, or follow me on Twitter, and Subscribe to this Blog via RSS.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Twitter Direct Messages - Do’s & Don’ts (Guest Blog)

Carolyn Martin, Founder of Social Media Demand (@cm_socialmedia)As we move closer to Ektron's Synergy Conference next month, and my session on social media, I thought I'd utilize this space to feature guest blog posts from some of the most influential social experts that I've connected with. I hope to see you at Synergy and encourage you to learn more about these guest bloggers too.

The first post is from Social Media Demand, a social media strategy and consulting practice based in the Chicago area. Carolyn Martin resides in Deerfield, Illinois and is a Marketing, Social Media Strategist and Founder of Social Media Demand. Follow @cm_socialmedia. Enjoy!

Twitter Direct Messages - Do’s & Don’ts

It’s thrilling to watch and participate in the excitement of a Twitter stream. At Social Media Demand, We LOVE Twitter – and nearly everything about it. We’ve learned about great deals in our local neighborhoods, read breaking news, won prizes, connected with colleagues and new friends, learned about new businesses and so much more.

Twitter highlights the true essence of engagement. With users busy trying to fit social into their daily lives, they have adopted an automatic direct message response after every new follower. While that seems very courteous, it’s a bit intrusive when irrelevant context is being shared without any preliminary engagement with a new follower. Nothing lovable about that.
 
Here are our Top 10 not-so-favorite automatic direct messages (DMs) we’ve received. Take note of how annoying it can be when a message is focused about yourself or your other ventures. Social is not about instant self promotion, but rather it’s about sharing, helping, and being kind.

 
Top 10 Twitter Auto Reply Messages AKA Spam
  1. Like my Facebook Page
  2. Connect with me on LinkedIn
  3. Go to my website
  4. Try a free tool
  5. Subscribe to my newsletter
  6. Download my E-book
  7. This person is making up things about you
  8. Get rich, fast!
  9. Let me help you
  10. Follow my sister

Here are some suggestions for more appropriate actions for DMs:
  1. “Thanks for the follow”
  2. “Thanks, your profile looks interesting”
  3. “Thanks, tell me more about you”
  4. Perfect gratitude is to follow back and send no message
  5. Find something in common and point it out in a DM

The whole point of Twitter – and any social platform, for that matter – is to create a voice for a brand or for yourself, while creating thoughtful engagement and communication in a public forum. Followers, customers and friends want relevant information once they decide to opt-in and start following you.
What can you add to this list?

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