content ideas social media Twitter

Ask yourself: what does your audience really want?

Google Plus Business Page

Google Plus opened its doors for business pages yesterday. Far out, right?

Boom! I’m suddenly getting swamped with requests to follow new G+ business pages.

So let’s say you’re a business communicator. And you’re posting the exact same content to your Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus pages today.

Oh, uh! You’re being redundant.

Think about your audience. Let’s say I’m one of your most rabid brand fans. I follow you EVERYWHERE: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and now — Google Plus.

Now —  let’s also say I publicly ask the question: where you would like me to follow you? Take your pick. If your content at each venue is mostly the same — why should I follow you everywhere? Let’s take a look at three common yet unsatisfactory answer categories:

  • You tell me that if I was a real fan, I’d follow you at all three and put up with your tiresome repetition — because that’s what real fans do. I should suffer. Love means putting up with thoughtlessness and boredom. (Uh-oh. I just went from thinking you’re wonderful to thinking that you’re an abusive jerk.)
  • Or maybe you tell me that I should follow you wherever the heck I want. It doesn’t matter to you, it’s really all about me getting your messages in a way that I most enjoy. (Congratulations! You’ve just revealed that your whole “it’s personal” mantra is a load of manure. Social media is a mass marketing play to you.)
  • You apologize, explaining that your audience is significantly different at each venue, so you need to be redundant to reach as many people as you can. (Oops! Telling me ‘the audience is significantly different’ is saying that I’m insignificant! Also, think about it: if your audiences are indeed ‘significantly different’ — why not develop significantly different messaging to appeal to their different needs?)

Yes, none of these three responses defending redundancy seem quite correct. At this brief moment in history, you have an almost risk-free opportunity to experiment with audience messaging. Google Plus Business Pages are brand-spanking new. Instead of redundant posting, what might you do to deepen or extend engagement with your brand’s biggest fans?

  • Take some time out for audience identification. What’s different about each audience? How can you appeal to different needs and desires?
  • Take some time to think through your content strategy. Instead of repeating the exact same message to three unique audiences — what might you do differently to be more appealing to each?

How might you offer your biggest fans an enhanced experience with your brand or business?

PS – Yes, I’ve created a Google+ business page. But I’m not promoting it yet — not until I’ve completed an audience profile and developed a content plan. You?


What shouldn’t you wear?

“What should I wear?” I asked the event organizer. We just agreed that I would speak at her winter event.

She glanced up and down at me.

“What you’re wearing now is fine. We’re a very casual business.”

I was wearing dark jeans, fitted t-shirt, and blazer. So was she.

In the olden days, an oft-repeated business maxim was always to dress professionally for a professional engagement. Suit, tie, button-down shirt. Well, you can throw out this rule, pronto.

Fellow presenter Rich Hopkins of Speak and Deliver fame wondered in a Facebook comment today if the days of wearing suits are over. He noticed that two speakers at a Toastmaster’s convention weren’t wearing suits.

Photo Booth Fun

photo credit: deepglamour

Dressing too far above the audience can be just as off-putting as dressing too far below. You might stand a better chance of connecting with your audience by matching their preferred style.

Some businesses are casual. Some are business-casual. Some present themselves as very buttoned-down and professional. So what should the savvy presenter wear?

Don’t guess. Don’t wring your hands. Just ask.

Ask the event coordinator. In my experience, they are always 100% happy to tell you how to dress. And they have always been exceptionally accurate in their assessment. I have yet to show up to a scheduled performance thinking: “Wow, the event organizer really steered me wrong. I look woefully out of touch.”

It makes sense. If I look bad, the organizer looks bad.

Starting today, I’m formalizing my approach to the “what to wear” dilemma. Since dress codes are all over the map, I’m adding the following checklist to my standard speaker agreement: Why “other”? There are exceptions, of course. It might be entirely appropriate to dress like an astronaut for an audience of tweedy academics if you’re discussing your recent space shuttle mission. Sometimes, the content of the speech requires more “costume” than “clothing”.

What’s your approach for today’s “what the blazes do I wear?” question?

And perhaps a better question: what should a business presenter absolutely NOT wear?

(I’ll put “message T-shirts” at the top of my “what not to wear” list! What about you?)


How else will mobile phones ruin your life?

I’ve owned a cell phone since 1999. I even had a bag phone circa 1995. Over 80% of American adults now use some kind of mobile phone. In my experience, I see cell phones as a tool that helps us avoid making plans and sticking to them.

Cell phones give people an excuse to be late.

Today, it’s more popular to say “I’ll just text and say I’m running late,” than it is to actually show up at a previously agreed upon time and place.

If I decide to travel without my cell phone, etiquette-wise, I’m the one who’s in the wrong.

“Didn’t you get my text 15 minutes ago telling you that I’d be 30 minutes late and in a different building? No? What’s wrong with you? The mobile phone frees us from the shackles of planning and commitment. Do not ever let yourself become separated from the bonds that free you. Ever again.”

(Not) Reading Texts Photo credit: C.A.P.

People use their cell phones, excuse me — I mean mobile phones — excuse me, I mean smart phones —  for more than calling these days. Curiously, calling people is not the core function of the modern phone. Mostly, American adults use their “mo smart” phones — yes, that sounds right — so that they can be marketed to more effectively.

Really, there’s little point walking around unfettered. The mo smart phone enables relevant messages to permeate your random thoughtstream. Why simply walk past a bakery without a second glance, thinking poetically about profound matters of the heart, when a small electronic noise can alert you that one of your friends whose taste you don’t admire once frequented the establishment in 2010? And that if you, too, visit the bakery immediately, you may get 50 cents off your bill and earn a perky point? Really? Why wouldn’t you want this kind of geographically relevant data occupying your thoughts every square second of the day? How is this not an improvement on making your own fuzzy mental connections that may not have anything to do with said bakery?

What’s the point of pointless pondering or mindless meditation? Why not cram those useless moments with direct and geographically relevant marketing filler?

The mo smart phone can fill those empty spots in your head with all sorts of tittle-tattle, as well. Instead of interacting with the immediate, physical world or making your own unique mental connections; you can fill those unproductive moments with the knowledge that a girl you once knew in high school thinks her kitten is cute, and so do her friends, most of whom you do not know.

The right kind of knowledge, at the exact right time and place, is the right kind of power.

Blogging social media Twitter

Tsk! Some people do nothing but criticize…

“Waah! Some people just sit back + criticize when we try to do good for our community,” pout legions of wannabe activists.

Many passive-aggressive dimwits have gotten it into their puny brains that thoughtful, articulate criticism is the equivalent of “do-nothing”. That critics “sit back” while criticizing. That criticism is a nobler, fancier word for “bitching”. Or that a critic is slothful at best and damaging at worst.


photo credit: Rhys Asplundh

Here’s a five-step self-help program designed for those who whine about the perceived ease or “negativity” of thoughtful criticism:

1. Build or co-opt a good-sized public following of readers, viewers, friends, clients, and/or colleagues.

2. Publish a witty or thoughtful speech, article, video or blog post. Sharply criticize a sacred cow or popular vice/trend of the majority of followers.

3. Make sure the audience — including both saints + pyschopaths — has a public feedback mechanism. Respond to or categorize every rant, rave, and threat.

4. Participate in public discussions. Learn how to deal with personal threats, hate mail, irrational fanaticism, reasonable arguments, and irate phone calls.

For the fifth and final step, post but one ironic and grossly iniquitous tweet:

“Some people have nothing better to do but sit back and criticize.”

Alternatively, try this ostensibly easier exercise: learn to listen to and respect thoughtful criticism. Far from bitchy, good critics make you think. They inspire conversation. They foster relationships. They make ideas better. They make the community better.

Heck. They make YOU better.

Without criticism, there can be no activism. And honestly: when was the last time you learned anything from a great review of your work?

content ideas PowerPoint Presentation

Use super sticky notes for super sticky ideas

After a longish brainstorming session, I heard Mac Fowler quip, “I should buy stock in 3M.”

He was referring, I reckon, to a perceived uptick in the use of 3M’s ubiquitous sticky note. It was true that I had flung a pack of these little devils on the table during our annual aimWest planning meeting. I carry 3M Post-it notes almost everywhere.

I might go so far as to say I have a severe Post-it note addiction. And it’s not just the regular sticky notes.

I’ve quickly moved up to the Super Sticky. I can’t even consider buying the regular kind in my line of work.

post-it notes, sticky note

I do quite a bit of online content development. The sticky note is an indispensable tool for content developers and editorial calendar creators. If you’re brainstorming ideas with a team, give a different colored pack to every team member. We jot down ideas on sticky notes and slap them on the big editorial calendar that we keep on the wall (think of a giant grid sectioned off by time and editorial topics).

I recommend the Super Sticky notes over the regular stickies. Sure, they cost a bit more — but if you’ve ever been vexed by sticky notes losing their stick and falling like so many multi-colored snowflakes over your war room floor — you’ll easily see how these bad boys are worth the extra pennies. You can move them around several times — and they still stick.

We move Post-it notes around in content brainstorming sessions. A story headline idea that seemed perfect for, say, a July 6 online post may get usurped for a much larger breaking news story. We’ll move our originally planned story to another day.  The Super Stickies give an editorial team flexibility.

Further, I use the sticky note approach for quickly story boarding speeches and presentations. I’m not one to memorize speeches word for word, so I might rehearse a speech by staring at something like this:

post it note storyboard

Oh, sure, it looks like gibberish to you. But I can assemble a quick speech by arranging symbols that represent stories for my opening, main points, and closing. It doesn’t matter that you know what these little notes stand for. I know that when I see the guy with the top hat, that’s my cue to tell the story about that one time in New York when the guy with the top hat and tails got caught…

…well, you get the picture. This approach works for me. Way better than memorizing a script. Plus, the images and headlines I scratch are for MY head and MY rehearsal. I don’t have to subject an audience to PowerPoint. I can remember a series of pictures in my head way better than a prescribed set of words.

And even though Post it notes may line my desk, office walls, and car interior: I still get a little flak from my high-tech lovin’ friends. A few pooh-pooh my old tech Post-it note habit. With so many software applications available that emulate the sticky note, why do I persist in cluttering up my environment with low-tech paper and pen scribblings?

post it notTweet credit: Bruce Abernethy | @babernethy

My answer is simple: I like interacting with the physical world. I enjoy touching things beyond my keyboard and screen. The physical world inspires me.

I like to consider sticky notes as colorful, highly tactile playthings for work. Like Play-Doh or alphabet blocks, Post-it notes are fundamental toys for modeling ideas in the physical world.

It can be no coincidence that Play-Doh and alpahbet blocks also grace/litter my office… what colorful toys do you use for idea generation, collection, and management? How do you use them?

ps — to my knowledge, I own no stock in 3M. Nor have they paid me to write this post…

Blogging fun social media Twitter

The most passive-aggressive phrase in social media

Ding ding ding! We have a winner for THE MOST passive-aggressive phrase used in Facebook and Twitter posts.

Coming in at number one: “some people…”.

As in posting “Some people tear down everything positive we try to do for our community” instead of “Cindy habitually encourages people to think critically before jumping on dubious social media bandwagons with wild enthusiasm!”

Or “Some people overreact to everything!” instead of “Greg seems empathetic & usually writes passionately when he believes that oppressed people are being harmed.”

some girls - the rolling stones

Photo Credit: OddSock

For the legions of “some people” and “everything” posters out there, please note: there is but one letter of difference between “posting” and “pouting”. You can make a stronger case if you write with specificity as well as passion. Engaging directly with folks who think differently can help you adjust or strengthen your point of view.

Keeping your sense of humor can help, too.

What are your runner-ups for the most counterproductive phrases you’ve seen in Twitterville and Facebookland lately?


He’s Too Manly To Use the Mic – What Can You Do?

“I don’t need to use the mic for my presentation,” bellows our baritone speaker. “I have a strong voice.”

“Yes, of course you do,” I soothe him. “But please don’t be afraid to use our microphone.”


Photo Credit: Jim Bahn


Many times, fear is the reason why seemingly polished presenters balk when we request that they use the microphone. With macho bravado, a speaker will claim that he doesn’t need extra help. But deep down, the real reason he’s brushing off microphone support is because he’s  scared.

Scared? Chicken? Of what?

Sometimes, it’s fear of the unfamiliar. We’re most accustomed to hearing our voices without amplification. With a mic, our voices can sound loud and imposing to our own ears. If you’re not familiar with the sound of your amplified voice, it can sound intimidating or even too loud.

Also, a speaker may not be familiar with the actual microphone itself. This is why running an audio check prior to the presentation is so important. The sound check isn’t merely to make sure the equipment is working: it’s often even more important to make a speaker comfortable with using the microphone.

When a speaker refuses mic support, I’ve learned to accuse him (oh, it’s usually a ‘him’!) of being chicken. I might say,

“I know the microphone must be scary for you. But if we run a quick mike check, maybe you can get over your fear really quickly. Let me set you up… there’s really no reason for you to be so afraid.”

Why do I accuse seemingly confident men of being afraid?

Two reasons:

1. Most of the time, the scared person is quick to prove me wrong. “I am NOT afraid!” he’ll exclaim. To prove it, he often lets me mic him immediately. This saves me the lengthy hassle of explaining that no matter how strong his voice is, it’s not going to be heard by many people in the audience without a mike.

2. Rational explanations take too long and usually don’t work. Let’s say I make the usual rational explanations: i.e.: “The people in the back will not hear you well. We’re recording this, and it will not record properly. Your voice may be strong, but it will tire over time….” Rational arguments are usually poo-poohed with a delusional “No, it’ll be just fine.”

A macho man wants to prove he’s not scared. And a scared man won’t respond well to rational arguments.

Either way, my goal is to get the speaker to use the mic. In my experience, appealing to emotion works faster and better than appealing to logic.

How else might you get recalcitrant speakers to use the microphone?

design Presentation

How much meat is too much meat?

I like meat. Grilled, stewed, roasted — properly prepared, good cuts of meat are delicious.

But when it comes to presentation, how much meat is too much meat?

The hotdog section at H.E.B.

I was enjoying a friendly discussion with another meat-loving chum. We agreed that while the meat prices are very good at a local grocery store, we seldom shop there. Why?

The presentation of their meats.

First, think of the butcher shop portion of your local grocery store. Here, meat is presented like a spectacular array of precious jewels. A butcher, dressed in white, lays out glistening chops  on crisp ice behind a shiny glass counter. In most cases, you see more white space (ice, counter tops, aprons) than you do red space (the actual product.)

Now, think of how meat looks at a mega-grocery store. You see piles and piles of flesh, squeezed into tight plastic containers, piled on each other in vast layers like too many rats in an unclean cage. Almost all red space, almost no white space.

Too much red space makes me squeamish. It makes the meat look like what it is — grotesque piles of dead flesh. It looks cheap and unappetizing.

Most people buy meat from the bloody flesh pile. They seem to care more for the price and convenience than the food shopping experience or interacting with a knowledgeable butcher. I get it — meat & food isn’t that important to most people.

If you’re selling a product that most people are content to buy from a bloody flesh pile, how might you fill a niche for those who don’t particularly care for that experience?

Eliminate some red space. Add more white space.

In a grocery store, you’ll see a clean, white butcher shop. Apple distinguished its products and stores to be an almost all-white space experience in what is increasingly a cluttered RadioShack world of components and bargain basement bins. And think of the feeling you get when shopping for jewelry at a crowded and cramped pawn shop vs. oh, let’s say, Tiffany’s.

It’s all about the white space.

How else can you add white space to the presentation of your products and services to heighten the sensory experience of the customer?

social media Twitter

This is social media on drugs…

We often talk about online social media channels as they are some kind of inebriate or illicit drug.

  • “Are you ‘on’ LinkedIn?”
  • “She’s addicted to Facebook.”
  • “I’m a heavy Twitter user.”

I wonder if it’s because we sense that our online social media behaviors aren’t exactly healthy or moderate. After all, we seldom admit an addiction to leafy green vegetables or that we’re heavy elliptical training machine users. And when was the last time you asked someone if they were “on” clean water?

Shattered into Yellow
This is your brain on Twitter?

photo credit: ganesha.isis

What other language from the drug subculture are you hearing with regard to online media? Pop open your Crackberry and give me a comment…

Presentation social media

Finding Hell in the Audience Poll

“Hell is other people” is a phrase from one of my favorite plays, Jean-Paul Sartre’s No Exit. A classic existential line, I like to think that it means that other people make you self-conscious.

Self-examination can be brutal. Hellish.

When it comes to our own transgressions, we don’t like to acknowledge them privately. And we certainly don’t want to discuss them publicly.

No ExitPhoto Credit: Newsbie Pix

That’s why I’ve learned to pick my words carefully when polling an audience about bad behaviors. Imagine asking a business audience:

“How many people here have been fired for something they’ve posted on Facebook?”

No hands go up. Now, imagine re-phrasing the question:

“How many people KNOW OF SOMEONE who has been fired for something they’ve posted on Facebook?”

Hands shoot up. Knowing looks are exchanged. “I know a guy who…” stories are shared.

We’re eager to gossip, to gleefully tell cautionary stories about the sins of other people. Anything to take the heat off of ourselves. If your intention is to stimulate audience discussion in a classroom or business setting, ask people to think of others… never themselves.

Hell, after all, is other people.