You’re Only as Interesting as Your Bookmarks

I know better than to click “Open All Bookmarks” on any of my regularly used Bookmark Folders.  That would unleash a flood of sites that would probably slow my computer to a grinding halt.  If I had unlimited time every morning, I’d love nothing more than to visit all 70+ News websites that I’ve carefully curated, but in reality, I get my news and discover interesting things in three minute spurts in between work and projects using the following sites (none of which require an app or mobile device). for Customization gives just enough customization to search multiple topics without complicating things.  You can add and save as many topics as you want, but better yet, you can organize them by category.  Because it saves your topics, every time you visit the site it’s like opening a newspaper created just for you.

The downside is that while it’s great at searching multiple sites, it is limited in some topics.  For example, if you’re searching “Social Media” you might as well just read Mashable because the majority of stories will be from there.

NowRelevant for Timeliness

You type in a keyword or topic and delivers only articles and blogs posted in the last 14 days, so you know the findings are current.  It features a “Trending Topics” section on its Home Page, but I generally skip that and go directly to the Search Bar.

Unfortunately, you cannot save your searches.  Every visit means you need to type each and every topic that you’re interested in, one at a time.  Because of this flaw, it’s better suited for occasional research than as a daily news source.

Digg for Popularity

Who doesn’t love  It posts the most popular content on the web by subject.  You can customize Digg to your own preferences.  The only downside is that it takes a little time to “train” the site on what you like by burying and saving stories.  If you’re in a hurry, I recommend skipping straight to the “Top News” page.  Every time I click click on Business or Technology, I’m bound to find something interesting.

StumbleUpon for Leisure is the place to visit when you have some time to kill.  Spend 5 minutes on the site and I promise you’ll find something worth posting or forwarding.  They let you choose from an array of  topics and then combs the Internet looking for content related to them.  You teach the site your preferences by clicking “Thumbs Up” or “Thumbs Down for each page it recommends.  The more items you rate, the better it can gauge what you like.

You will find some seriously interesting and entertaining stuff here, but this is not the site to get caught up on the news or to do any targeted research.   This is where I go when I have a couple minutes to kill, not when I’m trying to cram the day’s news or some research into 5 minutes of free time.

Ironically, my bookmark overload was probably caused by sites like these that recommended articles from sites I hadn’t heard of, but wanted to revisit.  In reality, you don’t need a lot of time to find interesting and newsworthy content on the web, you just need to know where to go to get it.  


It’s Time to Hire a Facebook Person When…

Entrepreneurs are exceptionally driven individuals, which often translates into a “Why would I hire someone to do something that I know I could figure out for myself” attitude.  Why would their Facebook Page be any different?  Facebook is free afterall!  As a business owner, when does it make sense to pay someone to manage your Facebook Page?  If you answer NO to any of these Facebook frustrations, it’s time to invest in some Social Media help.

Do you know how to gain followers?

You’ve created your Facebook Page and sent out the obligatory announcement to everyone you know.  Twenty or so of your friends and family members have “Liked” your Page…  Now what?  It doesn’t matter how great your posts are if no one is reading them.  Your Page will only be as successful as your ability to find and entice your ideal demographic.  

Do you have a specific Facebook goal?

Contrary to popular belief, amassing thousands of followers is not a goal.  It is the result of an effective Facebook strategy.  You have to ask yourself, “Why do I want people following me?”  Or better yet, “What would I do with them if I did get them to follow me?”  You must clearly define what you’re trying to accomplish with your Facebook Page, who you want to attract, and what you want them to do when they find you.  

Do you know who’s following you?

A large following is fantastic… but only if it’s made up of people who will actually buy your product or service.  When is the best time for you to post? Where are your fans located?  What percentages are male or female and from what age bracket?  Analysis removes doubt.  It confirms which parts of your strategy are working, and reveals which aspects need to be altered.

Do you know what to post?

Difficulty in this area usually manifests itself in two ways:  1) You go weeks or even months without posting anything or 2) your posts are primarily focused on new products, services or sales.  Stale or inconsistent posting may be doing your Page more harm than good.  Breathing new life into your Facebook Page could be as simple as learning what type of content will attract your specific audience.

Do you have better things to do?

You didn’t start a business because you wanted to devote all your time to marketing it.  You probably started a business because you had an idea, a product, or a service that you wanted to cultivate.  Facebook can be time consuming.  To be valuable, you need to determine which times are best to post and how to attract your ideal demographic.  Ultimately, most business owners agree that their time is better spent fine tuning their services or products than burying themselves in their Facebook Page.  

Business owners struggle with a combination of these Facebook frustrations.  Hiring someone to help with your Facebook Page can be as simple as a one-time consultation to point you in the right direction.  Others enlist a professional to manage everything from the Strategy and Analysis to the day-to-day (and often hour-to-hour) monitoring, content creation, and posting.  The question is not whether you could learn the ins and outs of Facebook Marketing.  The question is how much time you want to commit to your Facebook Strategy.   

The Power of Being Nice

There’s nothing better than the Thank You Wave.  You’re stuck in traffic, but you decide to let a car into your lane.  After merging, they raise their hand up to acknowledge what a nice thing you just did.  It doesn’t cost a penny, and yet it doesn’t happen as often as it should.  It’s a simple gesture that can make someone’s day.  Why would the online world be any different?  Whether you’re an individual or a business, taking the time to be the Nice Guy of Social Media can reap big rewards.

Just like in real life, being a Nice Guy costs nothing.  There’s a whole world of online “Nice Guy” currency right at your fingertips.  Here are five ways to be a Social Media Nice Guy, that only take a click… maybe two:

+K: If someone looks up The Social Vista on Klout, they’ll see that we are influential about Social Media (among other things).  By clicking the little +K next to the topic, you let everyone on Twitter know that you also think TSV knows their stuff when it comes to Social Media.  It’s easy, it’s simple, and you can give out five +Ks per day.  But don’t go overboard!  Only give them to people you actually think are deserving or it will just look phony.

Endorse a Feed:  If you’ve spent any time on Empire Avenue, you’re familiar with Eaves (their fake currency).  Using Eaves to buy someone’s stock will certainly boost your nice factor, but you’re overlooking an even easier way to make nice.

Endorse a Feed.  Most users have a blog or RSS feed listed because it ups their stock price.  An endorsement is the equivalent of giving them a thumbs-up and is a simple way to acknowledge others on the network.  Plus, you can endorse an endless number of feeds and blogs without ever running out of Eaves.

Retweet:  When you find interesting things on Twitter (and you WILL find interesting things on Twitter), show a little appreciation.  Every time you hit the Retweet button, you make someone on Twitter very happy.  That one click amplifies the reach of their message and validates that someone out there is reading their posts.

Comment on a blog

There is no greater accolade for a blogger than when you leave a comment.  The Nice Guy button in this scenario is checking that little box that will alert you whenever there is a follow up comment so you can jump back into the conversation.  Talk about getting on someone’s radar.

Like Something:

It seems obvious, but most people will read a Facebook post and either comment or move on.  Liking lets your friends know that you saw what they wrote.  Spread the love around and “Like” interesting comments that follow a post (whether you commented or not).

When it comes to Social Media, Nice Guys get noticed.  It’s like the barista who memorized your order because you ask about her morning while she’s brewing your latte.  It’s no different online.  With every Nice Guy click, you make someone’s day a little better and you make yourself a little more memorable in the process.

Mark My Words. This is where Social Networks are heading – PART 2

Facebook and Twitter were two very different animals… until Google+ hit the scene.   G+ developed their network around the most popular features of Twitter and Facebook and addressed their deficits by creating Circles.  Facebook in turn stole the Circles idea.  Until recently, Social Networks have pretended that there’s no such thing as competition.  But when they roll out features that bear a striking resemblance to their rivals’, it becomes obvious that they’re paying attention.  They try to play it cool, but they are freaking out!  The new competitive pressure being placed on companies like Facebook and Twitter will completely shift the way they operate.

The more that each network resembles the next, the less incentives we have to create multiple profiles and visit each on a regular basis.  Dashboards like TweetDeck, SproutSocial, and Hootsuite allow us to check several profiles in a single place, but somehow lack the same sense of community provided by the networks themselves.  The bottom line is that few users will visit multiple networks every day and dashboards are just not as fun and community centric as the real deal.  So what’s the solution?  Social Networks will become more like dashboards.

I call this Open Architecture – meaning at some point, I will be able to settle on the network that I prefer but still interact with my friends from outside networks.  How is that any different than a phone company?  The plans, phones, and features that distinguish one cell phone company from another are minimal and easily copied – rollover minutes, touch screens, family plans.  Instead they compete on customer service, coverage, and market share to draw in customers.

I have been an ATT customer for almost 15 years (long before there was such thing as an iPhone).  They reward me for calling people within my network but that doesn’t stop me from calling my brother who has Verizon.  We each communicate over the phones and company we like the best, but we don’t all have to be on the same network to do so.

Social Networks will start taking a cue from the phone companies.  Google already allows users to post their G+ stream to Twitter and Facebook – essentially turning those sites into dashboards.  Facebook will fight this with every ounce of their being, and rightfully so.  (After all, they do have the largest market share when it comes to Social Network users.)  But at the end of the day, the Network that becomes the best dashboard, will get the most traffic.  Facebook will have to follow suit just like they did with their reactions to video chat and Circles.

I love competition.  Imagine how hard Networks would fight over you, the user, if you could easily transfer your profile, contacts, and photos to a different network of your choice – just like phone companies let you keep your number when you make a switch and help you transfer your contacts from phone to phone.

As a consumer I don’t want to be taken for granted.  I love seeing Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and imminent newcomers fight over my business.  Competition is a good thing.  The Networks that embrace it will become giants.  The ones that pretend it doesn’t exist will find they have a lot in common with MySpace.

Check out Part 1 of “Mark My Words. This is Where Social Networks are Heading

Image courtesy of 

Mark My Words. This is where Social Networks are heading – PART 1

I just learned that the small town I used to live in will soon have their own Social Network.  This is the type of town where seven degrees of separation should be more like two.  Everyone knows everyone and they’re all up in each other’s business.  I love this town, but when I read this email suggesting how necessary this Network would be … well to be honest… I had a pretty good laugh.  This is the type of town where if you sneeze, 5 minutes later, someone from across town will call you to say God Bless You.

No offense to Small Town, USA but when they start launching their own Social Network, you know the industry is getting saturated.   Just like any other industry this can mean only one thing.  We’re about to see a fundamental shift in the way Social Networks operate.  In addition to the niche networks that are town-specific, occupation-specific, or even beer-specific, the titans of industry are lining up to launch their answers to Facebook and Twitter. 

Only weeks after Google+ invites began hitting our email boxes, Microsoft “accidentally” revealed the home page of their creation, Tulalip.  Even as the tech obsessed debate the staying power of Google+, details are surfacing regarding Twitter cofounders’ next venture, Lift, for people who have potential – unlike the losers on all the other networks (I kid. I kid).  In the next two months, we’ll even see China’s version of Twitter, Sina Weibo, offered in English.

As more Networks come to the table, each struggles to create THE feature that will win over users…  or to STEAL the feature that is getting other networks noticed.  Not surprisingly, Facebook’s new Privacy tool sure looks a lot like Google Circles.  The more Networks try to stand out from one another, the more they resemble each other.  In a strange way, competition is leading to sameness.

People love to debate which Social Network is better?  But at their most basic level, each one is simply some combination of the following: Friends, Followers, Posts, IMs, DMs, media, Circles, Liking, and Checking In.  That’s it.  Each new network claims they’re something special compared to the others, but realistically, they’ve just developed a different combination of the above… or maybe they’ve just applied a tested combination to a different demographic – say Small Town, USA.

Competition is a relatively new concept for companies like Facebook.  I love seeing Networks work a little harder to satisfy users!  It makes companies better.  It makes them work harder to win over consumers and give us the features we crave.  But when competition leads to uniformity, it’s a game changer.  Most people will not regularly check in to three or four big name Social Networks and then throw in a couple Niche networks to cover their home town and their hobbies –especially if they’re the same thing at their core.  So how will this change the entire Social Networking landscape as we know it?

Check back for Part 2 for my prediction.  Then be sure to mention it to your friends so that when it comes to fruition they can call you a genius.

Viral Commercials are F!@king In!

I hate commercials.  Well, that’s a lie.  I used to hate commercials… until a friend emailed me a link to the new Kenny Powers K-Swiss CEO YouTube video (Uncensored of course).  It is by far the most horribly distasteful, unsuitable-for-most-audiences advertisement I have ever seen.   I would know because I’ve now watched it at least five times.

It features character Kenny Powers, from Eastbound and Down – a TV show that is objectionable to women, athletes, and generally anyone with a mullet.  He’s crude, obnoxious and kind of an idiot and K-Swiss doesn’t water him down either.  I counted 11 expletives typically reserved for HBO within the first 60 seconds (and we’re talking about a five minute commercial).  It’s not the profanity that makes this a phenomenon though.     It’s the fact that the content and language guarantee that it will never be aired on most TV channels alongside animated bears with bits of toilet paper stuck to their butts.  This ad was meant to be seen on YouTube, forwarded in emails, and written about in blogs – then seen on YouTube again.

Considering that it will never hit the airwaves, it was far from an inexpensive production.    K-Swiss parlayed the fortune they would have spent on TV air time into an impressive celebrity lineup.  They paid big bucks to include Jillian Michaels (from The Biggest Loser), NFL stars Matt Cassel, Willis and Director Michael Bay, just to name a few.

That money was riding on the hope that a very specific niche market would find Kenny Powers more hilarious than repulsive (or maybe find his repulsiveness hilarious) and tell a friend.  Two weeks and 658,386 views since the original post and I’d say the risk is paying off.  It’s not for everyone – but that’s exactly why it’s so potent.  It gives viewers the satisfaction of being in a club of people who get the humor and they in turn forward it to someone else who shares the same shameful definition of funny.

Viral marketing is powerful.  I actually paused the TV show I was watching to play the full commercial.  I not only watched the entire five minute ad from start to finish, but cued it right back up again for my husband to watch.  Both of us agreed that I should get a name plate that reads MFCOO and then watched it again before forwarding the link to anyone who could appreciate a character who says things like “Konichiwa Bitches”.

Viewers have become intolerant of material that doesn’t directly target them.  We fast forward through every commercial on our DVRs and opt for the crappy Netflix streaming selection because, hey, at least there are no advertisements.  We are more likely to click on an article that a friend posts on Facebook than if we come across it ourselves in the Wall Street Journal.  Advertisers are learning that their content can’t be all things to all people – but if they direct it at a very specific niche audience, they just might strike viral marketing gold.

Why I’d Rather Be a Social Media Rock Star than a Supermodel

Future brand endorsements belong to Social Media rock stars.  Forget athletes and pop stars.  Websites like Klout are breeding a whole new type of celebrity – Influencers.  When Influencers tweet, people pay attention.  Brands are already finding ways to tap into this advertising goldmine by capitalizing on their follower cache.  This monumental shift is changing the world of Marketing and determining who is worth a company’s advertising dollars.  Celebrities will slowly be edged out by those who are leading the Social Media movement.

Klout looks at your Social Media profiles and scores you based on both the number and quality of the people you associate with online.  A high score reflects two things: 1) You are interesting enough that people not only care about what you say but they spread the word when you speak and 2) your following is vast and desirable enough that your message can influence.  Major brands are quickly taking notice of Influencers and moving endorsement dollars in their direction.

Imagine planning a trip to Vegas.  The hotel concierge notices that you’re a Social Media pro and upgrades your room.  Throughout your trip, you tweet about living it up like a Vegas god and post pictures of yourself in the Hugh Hefner Suite on Facebook.  Your hotel just earned advertising that comes across as both genuine and convincing.  Not a bad trade considering what the cost of a billboard on the Vegas strip goes for.  It’s not as far-fetched as you think considering The Palms Hotel has been reviewing guests’ Klout scores and handing out upgrades and free Cirque du Soleil tickets for almost a year now.

Unlike a Vegas billboard, Klout allows companies to evaluate specific Influencers, analyze their following and direct their message to a very targeted group.  Why would Coors Light want to give an incentive to just anyone with a high score when they can instead target the top 10 Influencers on Beer (Yeah.  That’s a real category).  Whether they’re offering to let you test drive a new Audi or handing out a free Frappuccino, the bottom line is that they want you talking about their brand and they will give you a reason to give a glowing review.

The Influencer’s emergence in brand marketing is still in its infancy, but you don’t have to look too far back to see history repeating itself.  Almost any American Vogue cover through the 90s featured the likes of Cindy, Naomi, Kate and Giselle.  Fashion covers were reserved for supermodels.  But when editors took notice that readers were more interested in what their favorite actresses had to say, they were quick to make a change.   The most recent Vogue coves to date showcase singer Rihanna and actresses Reese Witherspoon, Penelope Cruz, and Emma Watson.   Not a supermodel in sight.  The shift reflected a fundamental change what type of celebrities had influence.

Social Media has created an entirely new type of celebrity and their endorsement is a lot cheaper than that of Tiger Woods (pre scandal) or some Hollywood starlet.  Of course, today they might be getting a free hotel upgrade and tomorrow they might be signing an official ad deal with a six figure paycheck.  Either way, there’s no denying that life as Social Media superstar certainly comes with its benefits.

Google Plus You Minus Facebook

It doesn’t matter how good your Social Network is if you can’t build a hardcore fan base.  Google+ has yet to open to the public but has already mobilized an army of dedicated users offering rave reviews about its awesomeness.  So long as Google+ Beta is an invite only club, they continue to create a pool of Early Adopters who will commit their undying support for this new venture and create a buzz more valuable than any purchased advertising.  Google has cleverly found a way to grow their army of Early Adopters exponentially before ever officially launching their new network to the public.

Being an Early Adopter is a badge of pride and a difficult bond to break.  My husband STILL brags about the fact that he joined Facebook when it was called THE Facebook and required a college email address to sign up.  Twitter’s initial launch fell flat until they followed their small fan base to SXSW.  They didn’t just offer the tech savvy audience a sneak peak at the new network but the elite experience of giving it a spin at a once in a lifetime event. In both instances, the networks created Early Adopters who became their most diehard fans and biggest cheerleaders.

Google+ Beta is no different.  Everyone seems to be in agreement: It’s a polished, super simplified version of Facebook… and people LOVE it!  I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve fallen prey to the Early Adopter Syndrome.   I know I’m not a hotshot, but when my Google+ invite finally arrived, I became a trendsetter (at least in my own mind).  I imagine this must be what motivates Apple fanatics to sleep outside an Apple store before a big launch just to be the first to have the new iWhatever.  Especially when they know full well that everyone and their mom will have one of their own in a couple days.

There is one more thing worth mentioning about the much coveted Google+ invite.  It doesn’t have to come from Google, just someone who has a Google+ account.  In fact anywhere you go online you can find someone willing to spread the invite love around.  So an invite is not just an invite, it’s the keys to the city.  It allows you to invite as many people (with gmail accounts) as you want.  Now you’re not only an Early Adopter but you get to allow other people to claim the same title.  While in Beta, it may not be open to the public, but it’s very much open to the public.  Even I’m guilty of sending invites to online strangers anxious to be the first of their friends to try it out.

It’s a brilliant move on Google’s part.  As invites spread like wildfire, it still maintains its exclusive feel making every new user feel like a trendsetter and thus developing a solid bond with the new network.  Being an Early Adopter means you get to be part of something big before it becomes big.  You feel invested and loyal.  My hat is off to the marketing geniuses behind Google.  Their Early Adopter plan is simple but genius – exactly how the first users describe Google+.

I Am Not a Very Nice Person. But Social Media Can Help

When it comes to being a “good person” – you know, making the world a better place – I am well intentioned. I am also lazy and forgetful. Three years ago, I proudly walked in a local Breast Cancer Awareness walk. It was great! I walked for an hour with neighbors and my dog and could just sense that my involvement had brought the world one step closer to finding a cure. The following year it was entirely off my radar. I should have donated the same sum of money regardless of whether or not I walked an hour long loop around downtown, but it didn’t even occur to me to do so. It’s an embarrassing confession that I would never bring to light if it weren’t to make a point.

My sense of connection to a charity directly influences my desire to donate time and money. Fundraising is crucial to charity survival. I want to be passionate about a worthy cause. Simply scribbling out a check seems detached and cold. I should be doing more, but I have a job, I have a husband. I have dog fur balling up in corners somewhere. “More” of anything is nearly impossible. And so I do nothing.

People want to feel involved, committed, and attached. It’s easy to feel this sense of camaraderie for an hour long walk. But sustaining that feeling takes work. Social Media engagement can foster individual connections to a cause during the rest of the year that’s void of fundraiser walks. Spotting posts in your newsfeed builds your familiarity with the organization and awareness of the cause. It can give a face to a disease and share the stories of someone affected.

Social Media takes the momentum of an annual fundraising event and creates a constant state of charitable activity throughout the year. One Breast Cancer Awareness Facebook page posts discussions, informs about advances in research and encourages members to involve their friends. They even feature a button where one free click helps fund mammograms. Social Media plugs people into a community and a network of caring.

Displaying your “like” of a particular charity is akin to displaying a pink ribbon on your key chain or wearing any number of colored rubber wrist bands. A Social Media connection both displays our pride in and support of a particular cause, but also serves as a status symbol, advertising our characters and our priorities. It’s not that people are inherently selfish or heartless. But they are busy. They have things to do, things that are ultimately less significant than curing breast cancer, but much more immediate. Most genuinely want to help charities, but must feel a connection to the organization first. They need to feel like they did more than just cut a check. Something as constant and immediate as dog fur. Social Media plugs participants into a continuous state of support rather than relying only on a spike in participation for notable events. It powerfully spreads awareness and keeps the message moving between 10Ks and galas. It explains why Breast Cancer Walks are so successful. For one day, participants feel like the most charitably involved people in the world. Social Media can keep that dedication going long after the pink t-shirts have been handed out.

Facebook and Twitter Users Have Been Known to Get Around

Can you imagine Steve Jobs using an Android smartphone?  Me neither.  Betrayed Apple fanatics far and wide would crucify him if their heads didn’t explode at the mere thought of it.  If the concept of Jobs touching a competitor’s product seems so improbable, on what planet does it make sense for Facebook to have a Twitter page and Twitter to have a Facebook page?

As each other’s greatest adversaries, is it a respect thing?  Are their networks so widespread that not having profiles on each other’s networks would be like ignoring each other at a dinner party?  Perhaps they are recognizing each other as worthy competitors, like boxers bumping gloves before a fight.  Of course, after Facebook got busted planting negative Google stories in the press, it seems unlikely that Zuckerberg is all that concerned with propriety.

What’s so interesting about Twitter’s site on Facebook and Facebook’s site on Twitter is that for such innovative and tech savvy companies, their pages are pretty uninspired.  It is not uncommon for Facebook to go four or five days without tweeting.  Twitter’s Facebook page is no better – limited posts, no photo albums.  It uses only the bare bones Facebook features.  They don’t even bother modifying their wall.  At least Facebook features a couple jet silhouettes on their Twitter wall.  What little jet silhouettes have to do with Facebook, I’m not quite sure, but at least it’s a small attempt at customization.

Obviously both networks are there out of some sort of obligation.  They are on each other’s sites, but they don’t really want to be there.  Their pages are not out of respect for each other.  In fact, it’s not for their benefit at all.  It’s for yours.

Let’s revisit the preposterous concept of catching Steve Jobs using anything Android.  What is the major difference between Apple fanatics and Social Network users?   Apple supporters are in a committed relationship.  They are a devoted, stand-by-their-brand group of people – willing to wait in line for days prior to a product launch just to be the first to have the new iAnything.  They have chosen Apple and will stand by their choice no matter what new Android feature is unveiled.

Apple fans are brand monogamous while Social Media users flirt with every promising networking site that comes along.  Facebook has over 1 million followers on Twitter.  Twitter has over 700,000 fans on Facebook.  That’s just a tiny reflection of the total number of people cheating on one site with the other.  Most users are pretty brazen about their Social Media disloyalty sending Direct Messages to new Twitter followers that read, “Thanks for the follow!  Let’s chat on Facebook!”

Twitter and Facebook recognize that subscribers use both platforms and are not ready to choose one over the other.  Their bland pages on their competitor’s websites are their attempt to prove to you that they are okay with the fact that you are dating them both.  Realistically, they are each other’s direct competition and they don’t want you to have anything to do with the other.

This lack of tech brand loyalty is new and unchartered territory, forcing companies to be cordial and interact with each other’s brands in unprecedented ways.  Social Network subscribers are tough to tie down.  They are all about free love and using whichever site feels good at the moment and few are whole heartedly committed to one or the other.  Facebook hates being on Twitter.  Twitter doesn’t want to have anything to do with Facebook.  But they pretend to make nice for your sake as if to say “We don’t mind if you date other people.  We’re totally cool with that.  Watch how cool we can be!”