The Web 2.0 Disease & How to Avoid It

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There’s no rule about judging websites by their cover. In fact, we have to. With over 25 billion sites floating around the average internet user must judge and judge quickly. Poorly designed sites can waste time, cause waves of frustration, upset aesthetic sensibilities and in extreme cases, lead to severe eye-strain.We might have time to read a book with a boring cover, but we certainly won’t waste time on a site that has an oddly placed navigation bar.

Businesses must have a decent, readable, scannable, and easy-to-use website. If they don’t its the equivalent of passing around a business card with your name spelled wrong. Still, as this cartoon points out, websites can also turn users away by being too glossy, fancy, and well-oiled. These sites are the equivalent of business cards that are over produced, rely on a cute gimmick, and are loudly designed. They are nice, but they risk the chance of not being taken seriously or being mistaken for a throw-away advertisement.

Let’s call it the Web 2.0 disease. It’s the temptation to fill sites with glossy icons, reflective surfaces, tag clouds, and huge, pulsating, RSS buttons. While these design elements can increase traffic, engage readers, and get them coming back–they can also look borrowed, or worse, uncreative.

Businesses striving to look relevant online must constantly adapt to changing technologies, exciting widgets, and new internet aesthetics. Yet, they have to walk a thin line between looking pertinent and looking phony. Internet users can react to a badly pieced together Web 2.0 site and a poorly constructed, Angelfire inspired, website in the same way. The challenge for businesses, especially when they want to maintain an energetic online presence, is to create a site that is both useful and well designed.

Smart businesses will always remember the thesis of their site. They won’t lose focus of what their site needs to do in a sea of Web 2.0 options. They’ll only adopt plugins, widgets, and design elements that they actually use and enjoy on a day to day basis.

Forward thinking businesses will use Web 2.0 tools in creative ways. They will find innovate ways to use Web 2.0 plugins to get their message across. They won’t let catchy icons and stylish design elements dominate the site. Instead, they will want their message take center stage and ensure it translates to all audiences.

Keep your site honest and direct in its mission. Your site users will thank you. They don’t want to scan through a bunch of over-sized Twitter, RSS, and Facebook icons in order to find your company’s blog or contact info that you actually check. People want information and content that can be found easily and is viewable.

Here is a list of some sites that do a great job keeping it simple and direct while still looking relevant:

1. Akami

2. Sophos

3. Mailchimp

4. Clearspring

5. RBS

Picture Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/badjonni/ / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The Amazing Rise of Social Media Manners

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Today’s most popular NY Times story is called, The Tell-All Generation Learns to Keep Things Off-Line by Laura M. Holson. Its point is simple: college students are slowly starting to realize that it might not be in their best interest to daily inform their Facebook network of their most intimate and banal thoughts. Min Liu, one of the students profiled in the piece, says, “I want people to take me seriously.” Whether you can or not is your call, but Liu’s anxiety is shared by a growing percentage of young adults.

Social media might have gotten a little too social. In a world where your boss, distant relatives, and old-flames can track your daily activities the temptation to go off the grid becomes increasingly more reasonable. People are starting to itch for the old, face-to-face, way of sharing stories and news. Already projects like Diaspora are starting to crop up that offer people a way to connect with privacy and security. New sites that can promise the advantages of social media without all the privacy worries will begin to emerge and grow.

That social media is developing a shy side is ironic. The sum total of Facebook user uploads, links, pictures, and updates is somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 billion unique pieces of content. That’s an overwhelmingly large number, but the fact remains that the content you upload is no longer yours, no longer private, and can be seen by people you don’t really like. It’s no surprise that college students who are starting to get internships and jobs are thinking twice before they post their party pictures or blog about their “favorite pizza” toppings.

What’s shocking about these new privacy concerns and the fresh outcrop of online manners is that they didn’t appear sooner. One worried student in the NY Times reported, “I have to look out for me.” The revelation, while appropriate, seems delayed. Why wouldn’t someone look out for their reputation online? The obvious answer is no-one expected social media to become embraced by future employers, in-laws, and friends. Who would have guessed that social media would saturate every level of a person’s social world? Now that social media looks like it’s going to stick around, people are going to have to take it more seriously. Think twice before you tell the enduring social media world about your private affairs.

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Twitter Isn’t a Social Gathering–It’s a Newspaper

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In the presentation below, Haewoon Kwak and his colleagues from KAIST, argue that Twitter isn’t exactly “social.” They state that Twitter emulates traditional media more than you might think.

It’s not a surprise. Twitter is less about interaction and more about trying to wade through a sea of tweets from across the globe. It’s essentially a newspaper with hundreds and thousands of columnists who write about what they had for breakfast and the events they stumble across. The ‘social’ aspect of twitter stems from your ability to ‘follow’ a variety of people and communicate with them. But, as any Tweeter will tell you, it’s not that easy to start a dialogue with a random person on Twitter.

Twitter is still fun. It’s a real-time newspaper with a large pool of writers that can be funny, smart, insipid, or shocking. It can also provide great links to exciting content in your field. While Twitter belongs in many people’s definition of ‘social media’–it might not remain there. It’s not as social as Facebook nor is it a reliable as other media sources. What do you think? Is Twitter a failed social project or do you think it has an exciting future? Further, do you think Twitter can continue to be a valid source for news?

5 Social Media Handicaps

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Social media isn’t perfect. It’s not the ultimate key to increasing sales, engaging customers, and streamlining work. It’s here to stay, but it’s not here to necessarily save your business. While social media is bringing everyone together, it’s also building walls, barriers, and obstacles.

1. The Road to Serfdom: Even with a perfect blog, video, tweet, or status update you can’t expect to win over a million people instantly (unless your this guy). Instead, you have to work slow, steady, and hard for a year or more to build a community of friends, readers, and followers. You have to remain consistent even when you’d rather kick up your feet. You will be a laborer working on various platforms that are owned by internet whiz-kids. Now you have to ask your self: is it worth it? Is pounding your keyboard for over a year worth building numerous, far-flung, connections? A lot of the times, the answer is a loud yes. What’s your answer?

2. Do you really want to be on 24/7? : Social media throws us together in a fast, immediate, way. It’s a 24/7 exhibition for you or your business. The problem is you have to be on at all time and ready to shake hands and smile at a moments notice. 100 percent, on-all-the-time, exposure might be perfect for some people, but it’s not perfect for everyone. You might not want to spend your time creating a delicate connection with 1,000 Facebook fans, when you could spend more time building a meaningful relationship with a few of your regular blog readers.  Social media encourages mass engagement, promotion, and connections that spread your resources, time, and attention thin. The 2.0 world demands the you be everywhere at once.  You can’t build relationships when your running around.

3. The Slow, Painful, Death of Focus: Social media can dilute your focus, mission, and goals. Hopping into viral communities and online debates is a great way to see old problems in new ways. Blogs can help people shape and find new ideas. They can also just waste a lot of time. While building a social media network you will find great people, articles, resources, and cat videos. There is a lot of noise in the social media bubble and it’s hard to concentrate on what you find important. For every great site there are three distractions. What might start as a social media campaign may end in 3 months of idle blog reading and a bunch of bookmarked SEO articles. Before you throw your business or professional career into the 2.0 world–it’s important to have goals and stick to them (to a degree). Let social media open your eyes and expand your connections, but make sure it doesn’t engulf you with mindless articles and spammers.

4. Best Fake Friends Forever: It’s impossible to have a relationship with 5,000 Twitter followers and 4,000 Facebook fans unless you are entertaining them, teaching them, or giving them something. You or your business won’t be able to engage loads of random, disparate, friends without a transaction, a promise, or a mission. It’s hard to entertain, teach, and give in real life and it’s even trickier to do it online. You have to master the quippy blog post, the short tweet, and the perfect viral video. If you can’t, it might not be worth your time to try.

5. Internet Bile & Bigotry: Sadly, social media isn’t all smiles, connections, and networking. It’s also host to bad tempers, harsh put-downs, and bizarre exclusionary (unwritten, but enforced) policies. Thick skin is required. Your social media output might have taken a long time to put together, but it can be teased or critiqued in seconds. Worse, online communities can be tight and attempting to enter them can be difficult. Your blog, twitter account, or online portfolio might never be accepted by social media groups for reason that you will never know. The point is, social media has the power to put you down as well as move you forward.

Social media isn’t perfect. It’s an odd amalgamation of professional social setting and high school cafeteria. You might find it invigorating and stimulating or lawless and unproductive. I’d recommend you take Shakespeare’s advice when it comes to social media: “Listen to Many Speak to Few.” Spend your time learning from everyone and developing a select group of relationships.

Photo Credit: Scalleja

Doing Social Media Right

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internetHarperCollins’ editorial board is letting you, me, and the internet community at large do their job. Authnomy.com, created by HarperCollins, allows amateur authors to display their writing to the world. Every month the top 5 most popular stories make their way to the editorial desk where they are given a chance to be published.

It’s a great example of a company using the internet and the popularity of social media to its advantage. HarperCollins not only gets the chance to discover promising writers, but they also have the opportunity to endorse their own writers and products through a detailed resources page. Young writers benefit as well. They get the chance to present their work on a professional platform as well as have it read and critiqued by a large group of dedicated readers. It’s a everyone-wins website that has long-term potential. Read More

Beyond Supervision: The Coaching Mindset as a Leadership Skill [Podcast]

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JACKIE ROBINSONCoaching at times seems to be one of these fad-ish words. Its intentions are clear but the specifics are blurred. Coaching, especially in the workplace, is often cast as an alternative to traditional supervision. In fact, it is not an alternative mindset, but a complimentary mind-set. Coaching may be a contemporary label, but it implies a capacity that all great leaders possess: the ability to enhance the proactive ability of others coaching.

Coaching is your leadership ability to get what you want by making sure that others achieve what they can be, want to be, and aspire to be. It is the normative frame, it is the social frame, it is the empathetic frame, that supplements the traditional supervisory mindset.

[podcast]http://bacharachblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/Coaching-Mindset.mp3[/podcast]

Vision is Not Enough: Proactive Leaders & the Timing of Good Ideas [Podcast]

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martinLutherKingGandhi3A good idea is not good enough. Good ideas don’t have wings and they don’t take off without a support base.

In the following podcast I discuss how great leaders rely on the skills of execution rather than the strength of an idea or vision.

I take a look at the leadership style of Martin Luther King Jr. and Abraham Lincoln and ask what was key to their successful leadership.

[podcast]http://bacharachblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/A-Good-Idea-is-Not-Enough-You-Need-to-Introduce-It.mp3[/podcast]

Employee Re-engagment: Getting Beyond the Drudgery

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single-issueDay-in-day-out drudgery is the nemesis of employee engagement. The challenge for leaders is not simply how to engage, but how to reengage others when drudgery has set in. When the drama is forgotten, when the sense of purpose is diminished, leaders must reinvigorate others be reaffirming the common coalition mindset by reengaging their role by:

1. Reinvigorating the vision

2. Reinforcing the benefits

3. Sustaining the optimism

4. Maintaining credibility

[podcast]http://bacharachblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/11/Employee-Engagement-Ideas.mp3[/podcast]

How Does a Leader Sustain Momentum? 4 Key Strategies

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radioToday, we are finally starting our new podcast series. I hope you will enjoy it and get something out of it. We’ll try to keep them coming at a reasonable, but not overwhelming pace.

The purpose of this series is to elucidate and elaborate clear and specific principles around the issue of being proactive, with no promise that we won’t spill beyond these boundaries.

Let us know what you think. Hope you enjoy.

Sam B.

[podcast]http://bacharachblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/11/Podcast-Sustain-Momentum.mp3[/podcast]

Will Google Wave Kill Email & Facebook: Two Sides to Every Trend [Video]

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google_wave_logoGoogle wave, if you buy their message, will “change the way we email.”

And if you are a tech junkie or a developer enthusiast Google Wave has probably made your month year. But will it change the way we do email? Will it replace Facebook and take the social networking lead?

Here’s what the two camps are saying:

Fans: Yes, Google Wave is the Future

1. It has the power to make online collaborations possible…in real time.

2. Developers can make a endless amount of apps… Read More