12 May

Choose your words wisely

I didn’t realize how much time had passed since my last post! Ruby has been incredibly busy, so my time for blog posts was non-existent. Thanks to your emails, I’m re-focusing on the blog and providing you with helpful content.

Speaking of content, I was reading a brochure at a doctor’s office yesterday that prompted me to write this post. The office seems very well run, the overall feel is favorable, yet their materials were awful. Not only visually, as they were designed completely out of sync with the feel of the office. The office feels calm and relaxing, the materials could have been designed for a nightclub. Dark colors and few if any photos, a complete disconnect.

Add to that, the writing quality in the piece was not bad in the sense of poor grammar or riddled with errors, but rather not the right writing style for the intended reader. I find that this is a very common error for businesses. I’m not sure if the problem stems from business owners who micro-manage the process of creating materials and try to control the content the way they see fit or simply that some content is difficult to write in an easy-to-understand manner.

When a business is a bit more technical than the customer’s knowledge, it’s imperative to write copy that explains complicated terms and details in a way that people understand.

A rule of thumb I suggest is write your copy, then ask a few people to review it and provide feedback on:
– grammar
– clarity
– flow
– take-away message

Ask a combination of people to read this. Someone that’s familiar with your business (an employee) and someone who is not. You’ll be amazed hoe valuable this feedback will be for creating a more effective end product.

Happy writing!

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30 Mar

More Auto DM Smackdown

I know I see things differently than say a new Twitter user might. Perhaps I’m jaded by what I see now as insincere and disingenuous but as a new Twitter user could be perceived as thoughtful or kind.

I started thinking more about my (and most of the #usguys crew I roll with) strong dislike for Auto DMs as several of us have posted recently on this topic. Then it dawned on me… when a baby is born it doesn’t really matter who the baby is being held by, as long as it’s in the warm arms of someone. That sense of being cared for and feeling love and comfort is what’s important. A nurse vs. the mother or a relative. In those early days, a baby wants to feel the connection to someone.

I think that for the newcomers to Twitter, Auto DM’s are kind of the same. A newbie is so excited when someone they’ve followed sends them a reply (an Auto DM) perhaps not even realizing that the message was sent to every other person who follows that person. Since they don’t know that it’s not genuine – they do think it’s personal and might even think – wow, how nice of that person to DM me. In essence, they feel loved and connected.

Eventually, the baby wises up and wants only mommy (or daddy). When another caregiver tries to step in, of course, things can get hairy because baby is smart enough to know better.

Like the Auto DM… once the newbie is no longer new to Twitter, he realizes that all these sweet replies are really a pile of crap and that the sender could care less who he is anyway. Then bitter-ness creeps in and a jaded attitude shifts into gear…soon you’re like the rest of us rolling your eyes at each Auto DM. So unless you can specifically target newbie Twitter users, Auto DM’s are not recommended.

Another Auto DM-related thing I’ve been raging about lately are these ridiculous people who feel it’s ok to take my information (since I’ve decided to follow them) and interpret that as to mean that I want to receive there silly little emails, newsletters and announcements…I don’t. I have found this happening especially on LinkedIn a lot lately. It’s not a good thing to do. When I choose to follow you, it doesn’t mean I’m ready to take our relationship to the next level…assuming that is a huge mistake and frankly is best tactic used for getting people to unfollow you.

21 Mar

Trade show promotional items at SxSW ’11

There’s no doubt that trade show promotional items can help create a buzz and draw traffic to your booth as well as increase recall after the show. At SxSW, loads of promotional items could be found, with some appearing to get more bang for the buck. I collected a small sample of t-shirts and have compiled my stash here for your review. Also worth noting…I limited my t-shirt finds to only those that did not require filling out a form. I’ve also included my children’s favorite swag item – the Angry Bird keychain. By the way, the Klout shirt is my favorite…too bad they only had a small – I can’t even wear it!!

What do you think? Which would you remember?

16 Mar

A SxSW Interactive Review

SxSW

Just returned from SxSW and I’m seriously tired, all that walking around and socializing is really exhausting :)

This was my first SxSW experience and I’m still processing everything, but I can say that it was quite different than I expected. I’ve attended other conferences (BlogWorld and BlogHer) and I can tell you SxSW did not meet my expectations in terms of the actual conference.

 

The Negatives:

  1. Too crowded. Rumor was that last year there were 4,500 registrants for the interactive portion of SxSW and that this year the number jumped to somewhere between 11,000 – 14,000+ attendees.
  2. Too spread out (location). Of course, when the additional bodies, additional space was required to host the conference. It was often difficult to coordinate getting from one place to another in time for the next session, let alone finding a seat.
  3. Too tightly scheduled (time-wise). I encountered several times when I was at either the Hyatt or at the AT&T Center and wanted to attend the next session, but was unable to make it in enough time.
  4. At first glance, the sessions appeared to be ranked according to some level of difficulty or level. In my experience, they actually were more basic than I expected. I can’t say I came away with a great take-away from many of the sessions I attended.
  5. The exhibit didn’t start until Monday, while meanwhile, the conference started on Friday. That seems really short-sighted to me as many people left on Monday (including me – but I left in the afternoon so I was still able to drop into the exhibit hall/trade show). Many other people missed it altogether. Not to mention that I didn’t see some of the businesses there I had expected to see.
  6. Video/taping. As far as I understand, not all sessions were taped. I believe that all sessions with the Olgivy logo on the schedule were, but it was unclear which other were and how we will find out about it. If I had known which sessions were going to be taped in advanced, I might have modified where I went.
  7. Inconsistent level of preparation on the part of panelists and presenters. While one session might have a nicely prepared and focused presentation another may have been completely “off the cuff” with little to no focus.
  8. I overheard volunteers complaining about their experience enough to give me a bad taste about about how well-organized it was.

Klout Krib

The Positives:

I’m not trying to be Miss Negativity, as there were several great things that came out of my experience, including:

  1. My roommate (the entire stay with @windycitysocial and one night when @sarahkayhoffman joined us) was terrific. @windycitysocial and I are good roomies together and I couldn’t have asked for a better partner in crime throughout the weekend. Thanks @kellyolexa for connecting us at #blogworld10.
  2. Meeting several of the #usguys friends I’ve made online – IRL (in real life) was a wonderful experience. While Skype does help, it’s no replacement for IRL face-to-face communication. @9INCHmarketing @josef @littlewys @missdestructo @carybranscum @keithtweets @jackinessity @manywebdesign @nickkellet @qstreet @aldsauer @solete @amoyal – I’m sorry if I forgot anyone!
  3. I reconnected with a few people I met in the past and made some wonderful new friends and connections as well.
  4. When you go to these conferences, you go looking for what’s new, bringing yourself up-to-date and learning more. I can safely say that I felt mostly up-to-date and probably the biggest take-away for me was a feeling of “damn girl, you know your stuff!” – which always makes you feel good.
  5. It’s worth noting that the reinforcement of important information learned in sessions is really motivating. It caused me to feel invigorated when I returned and take a second look at a few personal projects that I’ve put aside.
  6. Location baby! We stayed at the Hampton Inn and it was incredibly convenient, clean and I loved the 2nd floor balcony. The free breakfast was a bonus too, as it made it easier to quickly grab something before heading out for sessions.
  7. My new SxSW t-shirt collection is amazing! Check back on Friday for a virtual tour of my stellar grabs.
  8. Loved the Klout Krib
  9. Getting away to warm weather was uplifting and much needed.
  10. Sitting with @jasonfalls and @windyciysocial on the flight home was an added bonus.
  11. Austin is a terrific city!

In the end, the jury is still out on whether or not I would go next year. Some people I spoke with said they would prefer to return without buying a pass for the panels, as for me, I’m not sure. At this point, overall I’m glad I attended and I’m likely to return next year if I hear that they make some changes that will have a positive impact on the negatives I mentioned above.

11 Mar

Putting Your Personal Stamp On That Positive Experience

Pet peeve: Business owners that insist on clinging to archaic or poor business practices, and ignoring the important contributor to their success – their customers.  It’s a pretty straight-forward concept – invest in your customers, and they will invest in you.  Unfortunately, in an attempt to grasp that “competitive edge”, sometimes businesses can end up missing the the forest for the tree.  Always ask yourself: What kind of relationship do I have with my customers? How do I make them feel? 

For the past month, my friend and I have been on the hunt for bridesmaid dresses for her upcoming summer wedding.  After visiting a number of boutiques, we ended up at a store where we found a great dress. We were tired of shopping and would have happily put down a deposit, called it day, and gone out for martinis…But we didn’t. We walked out empty-handed and vowed never to return.

Despite having exactly what we wanted, the store was a dank, ugly dungeon. The two employees never smiled once, and looked like they’d rather be somewhere else.  Then, the cherry on top was the store’s bizarre (and I’m pretty sure illegal) policy.  All the labels were cut out of the dresses, and swatches were painstakingly covered so you could not see the designer labels.  The employees told us we were not allowed to know which designer or dress style we were buying, until we have put down a deposit. There were no use in grilling them either, because the only person who holds the codes for decoding this information…is the store owner (who was not present). Obviously, the policy was to ensure that customers don’t try on the dresses in their store, and order them from somewhere else. It certainly has the modern day shopper in mind – internet-savvy and eager to explore all options before committing to buy. I understand having a competitive edge is important, but at what cost? And why choose this to be your edge?

Instead of feeling like we were being provided with a service, I felt like we were engaging in espionage.  I was already tired of dealing with this business, and thinking: do I want to deal with them in the upcoming months? Through the ordering process? Alterations? No at all.

On top of it all, little did the owner realize, with a little research online via a cell phone, I was able to find the information on that dress within minutes. Instead of investing her resources and time on painstakingly removing all the labels, coming up with her own codes, guarding all this information jealously from her employees, why not just invest in a more pleasant store? Better-trained and happier employees? 

Dresses are just dresses, and with oodles of other boutiques offering the exact same product, maybe even at an even lower price, how do you convince your customer to work with you? Why, service, of course. Every moment you (or your employee) interact with a customer, you are placing your personal stamp onto the entire experience for them, something they will not find anywhere else.

Needless to say, we ordered a different dress from another boutique which did just that.

03 Mar

Twitter: To Auto DM or Not to Auto DM

Lets talk a little about Twitter etiquette. More specifically, on auto DM (Direct Messages).  Whenever I follow someone new, and I am frequently sent a direct message thanking me for following, I always have mixed feelings about this.  Yes, it’s nice to know that this person wants to acknowledge every new follower, but it feels a little…impersonal…and spammy (yes, I’m declaring that a word).

I don’t really get anything out of this auto DM exchange – we’re not truly engaging in a conversation, and I even doubt whether this person is even tracking new followers, since he/she has left this job for a bot to do.  So, you now understand my mixed feelings towards receiving a “greeting” from someone that may not even know I exist – sort of defeats the purpose of a greeting, don’t you think?

Not to say sending out a greeting to your new followers is not welcomed.  On the contrary, it can be a great opportunity to spark new conversations.  Compared to the auto-DM that informs me of the person’s career/profile and website, I, personally, appreciate the people who @ me or DM me a more personal “hello” first, then, followed by an introduction to what they do (or their website). Actually, when I am sent a real greeting on Twitter, I almost always ask the person what they do, what’s their website, etc.

Instead of being spammed with information, I am given the option of seeking this same information from a real person.  Much more interesting, much more meaningful.

I’m not saying keeping track of all your new followers is easy, and I’m not upset with people who don’t personally @ their new followers. I am guilty myself for having stretches of time where I just can’t get to checking up on new followers, let alone send them all personal greetings.  But when I get the opportunity, I do find the time to follow back the people who seem to be a good fit and send a “hello” – it may not be immediate, but I still feel it beats the auto DM.

If you really want to do want to send a hello message, try this: At the end of the day, or week, pull up all your new followers (all notifications of my new followers go to my email, or I use an app to find this information), and @ them a hello. You don’t need to send them all individual ones, just try an fit as many as you can in one message.  It’s more personal than the auto DM.  They might even follow each other, and you have made that little connection for them.  Get creative, but the point is: you want to say hello to everyone, without losing the idea of a personal greeting.

If you’re on Twitter, your goal should be engaging and be a resource for your audience – so don’t discount your efforts with impersonal auto DMs.