Features Social Media

The Year of the Smart Phone

Experts in the social media, technology, and marketing industries have put their fingers to their temples, rolled their eyes into the back of their heads, and started to mutter quietly to themselves in order to predict what will be the ‘cool’ and ‘hip’ trends in 2011. This year the experts all agree on one thing. They predict that we will all be lucky witnesses to the era when businesses begin to take the smartphone revolution seriously.

They say that businesses concerned with branding, marketing, and, of course, selling will need to stop worrying about building the perfect, old fashioned, 2.0 website and start making apps, mobile stores, and mobile advertising. It’s, the experts cry in unison, the future and it’s in your hands and it’s not going anywhere.

Currently, I’ll never be able to buy anything on my phone. It’s four years old, the keypad sticks, and the only way a business could try to sell me something is if they left a very clear voice mail and mailed me a catalog. But, I know I’m in a snobbish minority. It’s obvious that cool people, people with things to do and people to see, have smart phones and trust them enough to guide them to highly rated burrito restaurants and correctly handle their online banking needs. It makes sense that businesses will start to have more confidence in smartphone platforms to do their branding, advertising, and selling.

Stanley Bing, business author and Fortune magazine blogger, doesn’t agree with the experts . He writes, “Smart phones….can’t go on, really…Future generations will look at pictures of us all, circa 2011, the way we regard those serious men in their fedoras in the 1950s. Don’t they all look silly now in their funny little hats?” Thinking about smartphones from this prescriptive makes them seem comic already, but even if they won’t last–it’s an inevitable trend we’ll have to live with for the next few years.

While Bing writes with humor and a knowing wink, it’s wise to realize that the smartphone revolution will have just as many casualties as any other social media, technology, and marketing uprising. In a few months we’ll start to see articles breathlessly entitled,  “7 Mobile Marketing Mishaps You Need to Avoid” and “4 Companies That Did Mobile Nose Dives.” Sadly, most of us will read these stories on our smartphones paying no attention to the late summer day.

It’s my prediction that 2011 will be the year that blogs and consultants dedicated to ‘mobile business solutions’ will flourish and multiply outrageously. However, the bad news is that the number of mobile experts, the people who actually know how to build apps and design mobile stores and advertisements, won’t expand their rank at the same clip.

Pic Credit: BigPru

BLG Leadership Insights

10 Must-Read Leadership & Social Media Links From the Past Week

1. The US military relies on great management and leadership strategies to get people motivated and on-task. Wally Bock outlines three essential military leadership techniques that your organization can easily benefit from.

2. Getting your idea across isn’t always easy. Keep these 7 rules in mind the next time you need to get to point clearly.

3. According to some there are three keys to success. The trick is knowing you only need two.

4. This guy used Google Ads to market himself and get a job. Check out his amazing video.

5. When I read the title, What Han Solo Can Teach You About Informal Leadership I laughed. In fact, I’m still laughing, but it’s a great read and a surprisingly apt comparison.

6. Use Twitter in your PowerPoint presentations! Great tool and a strong way to lead the way with social media.

7. How exactly do you know when a leader is ineffective? Here are 8 warning signs.

8. Facebook, argues Stanley Bing, is teaching young people business skills. Too bad it can’t teach math & science as well.

9. Google can make or break your reputation, especially if you are always trying to meet new clients. This company will make sure the most flattering sites appear when your name is searched…for a price.

10. If you haven’t been able to follow the Net Neutrality battle of late, here’s a really good  guide…for dummies.

Bonus: How to make your Facebook account private in 2 minutes. The fact that we need third parties telling us to make Facebook private is not a good sign.


The Web 2.0 Disease & How to Avoid It

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: / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

BLG Leadership Insights Leadership On the Edge

Top 10 Social Media Links For Leaders: Dec. 14-18

cpu1. Social media explained in 4 minutes by co-founder of, Alexis Ohanian

2. 6 social media trends we can expect to see in 2010.

3. Location based social networking sites haven’t had the best luck (Meetro), but Foursquare might break the cycle.

4. Eric Schmidt, Google’s CEO, replies to Rupert Murdoch’s wish to ‘hide’ content from search engines.

5. From blogging to publishing. 6 bloggers turned authors talk about getting traffic, attention, and fans.

6. 7 great pointers on how to promote your personal or professional podcast.

7. 10 tips to help you or your business track and optimize tweets.

8. Learn leadership lessons the 2.o way: ‘LeaderSkilz’ have another great video.

9. The business (and facts) of social media explained–on Youtube.

10. If you’re still haven’t caught up with every 2.0 trend, don’t worry. You can fax in your tweets.

BLG Leadership Insights

Social Media Exposure: How Much do You Show?

We live in a world of social media. Today, we can achieve greater exposure using Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, and blog-publishing applications like WordPress. While individuals and smaller companies have known this for awhile, bigger, more established, businesses are just starting to catch on with mixed results. In a world of social media, organizational leaders have to ask themselves how much exposure do they want to give their companies.  There is a thin line between living in a fortress with the curtains drawn and living in a glass house. To what degree do we want people to look into our organizations? The question is a genuine challenge. Because all to often once you invite them in you can’t get rid of them.

Social media is not a formalistic auditing device, it’s not a confessional, nor is it a guarantee of transparency. More often it is used to share the mundane, the instant, the everyday. Social media allows individuals and organizations to involve others in their own self-reflecting process. It allows you to bring others into the immediate moment. This is a long way from the static use of the Internet or the asynchronistic design of a web page. Social media allows for a world of spontaneous and ongoing dialogue. Social media exposure has the power to create long-term bonds between your business and your customers and between managers and employees. It also means, in cases, the abolition of privacy. So how far do you really want to draw the curtain?

Social media allows for a world of “friends” and “fans” instead of “clients” and “potential customers.” Instead of static websites and impersonal emails, new business owners send and share photos of themselves, their cat, and the office party they had last week. Originally the Internet was used for feedback and to share material now it’s to share life. The question is how much of our life, organizational or otherwise, do we want to share?

Companies are starting to realize that inviting people in helps them meet new customers and establish friendships that can be beneficial. Leaders who use social media sites will find that they not only connect with potential clients but they will also bond with their employees to create a sense of an external or internal community as we mentioned earlier.

But there are challenges to social media. First, for the use of social media to be successful it has to be constant and attractive. The language that we use in our corporate daily life is not the short-handed language that we see on Twitter. The language that’s most successful on blogs is not one made up of bureaucratic details that we often become obsessed with in the workplace. The exposure we achieve on Facebook is different than the exposure we achieve on a static website. For social media to be successful it has to be continuous. Blogs and social media profiles demand constant attention. They can become “feed-me Seymour” terrors of our daily lives demanding more and more time. So before considering using social media ask yourself whether you are willing to engage in the short-handed dramaturgical language that this modality demands and whether you are willing to constantly update your social media profiles.

You should also keep in mind that once you invite people in, like The Man Who Came to Dinner, they’ll hang around and there is no easy way to ask them to leave. I’m reminded of a friend of mine who once invited a group of us to dinner and as we got more and more into the discussion, he simply retreated to his bedroom upstairs having dimmed the lights in the living and dining rooms and asking his guests to let themselves out. Social media requires that you entertain and engage your guests.

The bottom line is social media has created a new (and free) way for people and businesses to become transparent. Social media exposure can create bonds between customers and within your organization but you may also forfeit aspects of your privacy and put your company’s reputation at stake. In other words, social media is a new, easy, way to find friends but like in real life, friendships require time, understanding, honesty, and the occasional birthday card.  You have to ask yourself if the investment is worth the new friends. Leaders in organizations must ask themselves to what degree they want to use the new social media to invite people in. The challenge for many leaders in today’s world is how much social media exposure do they want for their organization.