Archive for June, 2009

Twitter’s Fundamental Flaw

twitter_birdsThe following article written by Tim Klabunde was published in the Design and Construction Report, a publication for members of the Design and Construction Network.

A recent Sprint Nextel commercial included a brief glimpse into the world of Twitter. It depicted hundreds of little blue “Twitter birds” with small cell phone shaped text boxes above their heads. Looking at the group you could see that each bird was speaking a message towards their fellow blue friends. As the birds chirped they were creating a flurry of messages, yet each message was the same: “Me!”

This funny and quick snippet speaks volumes about the fundamental issue most people face when trying to leverage Twitter for business. That is the Twitter culture to focus on sharing about oneself.

How businesses fail with Twitter

To properly see the Twitter flaw we must first start with the basics of Web 2.0. At first the internet was primarily about online shopping sites and providing information. Even today you can see this in many corporate websites that are set-up as online brochures. Within a couple of years, however, things began to change. People began to realize that the fastest way to succeed online was to provide value, drawing a crowd from people that were looking for information and resources. This new interactive online environment became known as Web 2.0 and included web forms, blogs, social networking communities, and information resources. 

In the midst of these changes Twitter was started as a platform for individuals to share short updates of 140 characters or less to anyone that was interested in reading them. As Twitter became successful in strengthening relationships companies began to look for ways to leverage the growing platform to expand their businesses.

Unfortunately, many of the companies and individuals that have set out to leverage Twitter have failed. Most have missed the fundamental requirement of the new web, that in order to succeed you must provide value. Today many individuals and companies that try to use Twitter for business are “Me!” users rather than focusing on others. Those that have failed to embrace helping others in the community are ignored and filtered from Twitter updates by users.

How to succeed with Twitter

With the knowledge that providing value is the key to success on the web, it is easy to begin to see how you can become successful at turning Twitter into a true business tool. Instead of thinking about what you can gain from Twitter you must first start by thinking about how you can help people that follow you. Take these two questions: 

  1. Would you be excited to read someone’s twitter posts if they informed you when they were stuck in traffic, what they had for dinner, and what they were doing this weekend?
  2. Would you be excited to read someone’s twitter posts if they regularly contained leads for new work, great articles regarding your industry, links to requests for proposals, and information on local networking events they were attending?

The interesting thing about the second person is that not only would most people follow an individual that was providing those resources; they would also probably try to meet them at an upcoming event. Notably, they would be interested in building a relationship outside of the online environment. This new relationship development then becomes the basis for success through Twitter.

Building success online

Remember that Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, blogging, and other Web 2.0 sites are only tools that can help build a foundation for mutually beneficial relationships. You must personally evaluate what tools are best to help you reach your personal objectives, noting that some of these tools take much more time than others. Personally, I have chosen not to focus on Twitter but rather on providing value to others through blogging (cofebuz.com), LinkedIn, and the Design and Construction Network (mydcn.com).

Your turn

As you look at your goals for your online presence, evaluate what tools will work best for you. It will most probably be any number of online tools of which one might be Twitter. Regardless of the tools you choose, remember that success is found online when you provide value to others.

Set your Facebook username now!

logo_facebookIt’s official, Facebook just enabled users to set a permanent username. Until now URSs (Uniform Resource Locators) were just a series of random numbers and letters. Now users can have a custom URL. Here is the information from Facebook:

Starting at 12:01 a.m. (EDT) on Saturday, June 13, 2009, you will be able to select a username. You can personalize your Facebook URL (web address) by selecting a unique username. It will appear in the location bar of your browser after “http://www.facebook.com/” when you view your profile.

Do it now!

Here is the link to set yours now: http://www.facebook.com/username/. If you have a common name yours may already be taken, so seriously, do it now! (It takes all of 15 seconds)

A couple of Hints:

If you use Twitter to automatically update your to Facebook status consider using the same username.

Think long-term as the username is permanent. A joke today might not be as funny tomorrow.

Reality

Let’s face it, we have no idea where social networking is going, but clearly LinkedIn (professional) and Facebook (personal) are two of the leading platforms at least for the next couple of years. So taking a moment to make certain you can be easy to find in the future (if you decide you want to be) never hurts.

The Best Unknown Websites

It seems that every week I am telling someone else about one of my favorite little known websites, so this week I wanted to help make them well-known websites (ok, so one or two of these are fairly well known, but I always find someone that has never heard of them). I hope that you find a website that you will use for the next several years in this list: my favorite websites that not everyone knows about.

Google Alerts – Know immediately when someone writes something about you or your company online. A friend turned me onto Google Alerts when I started blogging several years ago. It is a very simple tool that e-mails you whenever a Googlebot finds something new written about you on the web.

Website Grader – Take the guesswork out of SEO (search engine optimization). Website Grader evaluates your website, gives you a grade compared to other websites, and then tells you how to improve your score. Of course it isn’t perfect, but it certainly provides a great big picture perspective for free in 60 seconds, and they don’t even try to sell you something.

Elance – Outsource websites, logos, marketing, programming, etc.. to others in the US, India, China, Pakistan, etc.. without worrying about getting what you paid for. Special thanks to Mark Buckshon for telling me about this great website where designers from round the world compete for your business. I have personally seen incredible websites designed in other countries by English writing consultants for less than $200.

LogMeIn – Forget expensive hosting software, server, and VPN to access your work computer at home or your home computer at work. LogMeIn is free software that gives you easy access to your computer when you are away. Better yet, after you login your computer will look and act as if you were sitting at the other computer!

Yudu – Read and publish online for free. Many of you are members of the Design and Construction Network and have seen the incredible Design and Construction Report. Yudu is the online reading software that was used to publish the report. Don’t worry, your publication doesn’t have to be as intensive as the report; if you just want an amazing brochure or newsletter check out Yudu.

Eventbrite – Eventbrite is one of my favorite websites on this list (and yes, I regularly use every website on this list). Eventbrite is a website for event management and promotion similar to evite.com, only for professional events. I am always skeptical when a website makes a statement about selling out events, but I have seen several events managed by Eventbrite do just that!

Dropbox
– Dropbox solves the problem of keeping track of your files on multiple computers once and for all by enabling selected folders to sync online and across multiple computers for free (up to 2gb). It is great for files that you want to use both at home and in the office, or for sharing files with other people. One extra amazing feature of Dropbox is that you can un-delete files and retrieve older versions of a file.

CCB Buzz – Everything else you wish you knew about the web. John Sedivy and Amy Stevens Adams have revamped CCB Buzz and continue to be a great resource on a variety of topics. That said, some of my favorite posts can be found in there archives from around January 2009 when they were peeling back the tools of viral SEO.

iStockPhoto – Never worry about photo copyright again. We use iStockPhoto for almost all of our graphics at work because it is inexpensive (almost every image is available in low resolution for $1) and gives professional and amateur photographers around the world the opportunity to make money from of their photos.

Google Local – Help customers find you on Google for free. Here is one website that you need to take action on immediately. Google Local manages data about your company for Google search, Google Maps, etc… If you want to be easy to find take 10 minutes to update your company profile using the link above.

Pandora – Free customizable radio stations from a company whose single mission is to “play only music you will love.”

Dream Big

ladderI like being comfortable. It is so easy to enjoy the normal flow of life, the moment by moment interactions of daily living. Yet every once in a while my life is shaken from the inside out by a force that boils up from within me, a force that demands that I do something incredible, achieving something that is greater than myself.

It is in these moments that I truly understand what I am capable of, the realization that I am able to do so much more. I struggle to find dreams that are big enough; I look in vain for obstacles that can’t be conquered.

I find it strange that throughout my life I have worked to suppress this force through logic and rhetoric.  “I can’t do that because…” and “if that were possible someone else would be doing it.” Yet today, I can see that success isn’t found in a single accomplishment, it is one’s approach to life that makes greatness. It is something that I can do and live today.  A choice to rejoice in the past, plan and dream for the future, and live life to the fullest in the present.

Your turn

Monday morning has its own way of reminding us that life happens not in individual moments of greatness, but during everyday actions. It is the culmination of your actions today and tomorrow that will turn into your greatest successes. So today what are you going to pursue that is greater than yourself?