Enjoy Simplicity and Teach The Robot Dance

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I spent a majority of the weekend  with my family, which, with a busy work schedule, is sometimes a feat in and of itself.  I decided to put the Blackberry away and just enjoy the valuable time that we all take for granted when life demands more than seems possible and roadblocks can leave us at a screeching halt.

Enter Robot Dance.

There is no real way to define a robot dance, outside of confined arm and hand gestures, in, you guessed it, robot mode.  Perhaps the gentleman in the red shirt here is doing a phenomenal robot dance, (dance commences at ~ 48 seconds, and the “phenomenal” adjective is according to YouTube searches and video hits) or even this guy here (same criteria as above).

Well, take the concept, add a funny (albeit there is one criteria: robotic) voice and proceed to say “robot dance” over and over and dance like the robot in front of a two-year old.  Despite the initial looks of confusion, chances are, your actions will be mimicked.  I won’t lie and pretend that I have the exact statistics and/or links to childhood development regarding this behavior, but we all know, kids replicate behaviors.  After twenty minutes of trying to get this behavior mimicked, (I mean come on, a 2 year old saying “robot dance” and proceeding to do it, is adorable), great success! Behavior mimicked and we all had a great laugh.

About 24 hours later, and after re-entering the real world of work-life balance, I had long forgotten the robot dance.  And then, enter text messages.  Numerous text messages with pictures of my niece doing the robot dance all day, long after I left their home and long after I had forgotten about it myself.

Back at the office, all of my news and marketing RSS feeds remind me that Steve Jobs died last week as I have been consistently delivered new content with their editorial opinions and new interviews.  Apple set up an email account for the public to share their thoughts and memories.  Google, within hours of his passing, created a simple, yet powerful tribute to Jobs on their homepage linking to Apple’s website (Yes, the companies compete, but competition was put aside to honor one of the greatest visionaries of our time.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We can’t all change the world as Steve Jobs might have.  But you can make a small difference.

I’m not a Mac enthusiast.  I own Mac products but I haven’t had the time to fully explore what they can do.  For me, the genius of Apple and of Steve Jobs is the focus on simplicity.  Not all ideas need to be executed upon.  Not all great ideas need to be executed upon.  The art of Steve Jobs is knowing, and having a team in place to help guide the strategy and tactics, to focus on key elements, not on all elements.

Was Apple and Steve Jobs a movement against “the man” (Just Google the Apple vs. Microsoft stances)?  Was Apple and Steve Jobs an example of employee engagement based on truths and passion?  Or was it just genius marketing?

For me, I cannot recall a time in history, at least in my life, in which a figure such as Steve Jobs, moved his consumers to a point where they took the company logo and recreated it in real-life by biting actual apples and leaving them at Apple retail locations all over the world, along with post it-notes and thank you cards at the time of his passing.  From Chicago to Beijing, the simple gesture is quite a powerful one.

Maybe it’s in teaching someone the robot dance – someone that will take the gesture, something that you put mild effort in – and whether it’s groundbreaking, it doesn’t matter.  It’s the thank you, the smile, the laughter.   It’s the simplicity.

Enjoy beauty.  Enjoy life.  Enjoy simplicity.

 

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” – Steve Jobs, Stanford Commencement Speech, 2005 

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The ABCs of Social Media Recruitment: Always Be Connecting

Note: This blog post was originally featured on CareerBuilder’s The Hiring Site on June 7, 2011 where I was a  guest contributor. Screenshot of Alec Baldwin is not from the original post.

Chances are high that any salesperson you have met since 1992 can recite lines, if not the entire script, from Glengarry Glen Ross.  David Mamet’s 1984 Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winning play was adapted to film in 1992 with the likes of Jack Lemmon, Kevin Spacey, Al Pacino and Alec Baldwin giving way to memorable quotes, and providing fodder for film buffs and sales trainers alike.

 

Despite the origin of the term – whether or not it was Mamet – Baldwin’s character brings the concept of the “ABCs of sales” to new life and gives entrance to modern sales vocabulary in one of the film’s most memorable scenes: Always Be Closing.

 

As personal online networks like Facebook grow to more than 500 million users and professional online networks like LinkedIn hit audience levels of more than 100 million, it’s evident that when fueled by technology, connectivity is easier and more accessible than ever.  The agents in Glengarry Glen Ross may not have been concerned with the relationships they were building (or not building) in always-be-closing deals; however, as the economy and job market recover today, solidifying relationships between individuals and organizations is crucial for pipelining future talent.

 

Whether your organization consists of five people or you’re part of the Fortune 500, social platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, have opened up opportunities to target and attract new candidate streams that are otherwise inaccessible. Despite your industry, user-generated outlets like YouTube and WordPress have given your audiences the ability to sing your praises or sink your battleship with their reviews of your product, process, staff, and service.

 

As recruitment evolves via emerging technologies, how do you make the most of opportunities to push your brand forward? Put a spin on Baldwin’s insightful speech, making your goal to “Always Be Connecting.”

 

Because everyone has their 2 cents
Just as the adage goes – without being crude – opinions are like certain body parts, and everyone has them.  No matter who you are or where you come from, you will think a specific way about a place, interest, topic, etc. Opinions can be formed through first- or secondhand experiences, education, and –although we might not like to admit it – even stereotypes and biases.

 

Sites like Glassdoor.com, Jobitorial.com, and Careerbliss.com provide platforms for past and present employees as well as interviewees to provide reviews of your organization.  If a candidate has a bad experience and feels as though your interviewing process was unprofessional, warranted or not, the candidate has highly popular websites on which to post that opinion.  And with 64 percent of candidates researching companies before even applying to a position, overwhelming amounts of negative 2 cents can add up to serious recruitment challenges, whereas glowing employment reviews can propel recruitment efforts.

 

Because it’s human nature
In just seven short years, Facebook has grown to be the world’s largest online social network, with more than 700 billion minutes spent on the site each month and a 50 percent daily log-in rate. Despite your 2 cents about Facebook, not many can argue that the phenomenon is akin to who we are as human beings – creatures with a disposition to connect to others, validate our thoughts and perhaps self-worth through those that we know, and possibly even play out our innate voyeuristic and narcissistic tendencies. (OK, so this might be a stretch. But keep in mind that photo sharing and photo viewing are top activities on the site en-masse, and the average Facebook user changes their profile picture more than 18 times a year – three times the amount they did only a couple of years ago.)

 

Because everyone is a passive job seeker
In the last six months, I have consulted a handful of Fortune 500 organizations that are launching social media strategies aimed at employment branding for the first time.  These organizations have been active in the social space for years, but they are just now beginning to use the platforms for recruitment and employment branding campaigns.  Just a few weeks ago, The Wall Street Journal reported a similar trend in which some boutique firms have conducted almost twice the amount of employer branding analyses than in years prior.

 

Regardless of whether people will actually label themselves “active” or “passive” job seekers, it’s safe to assume that at almost any given point in time, everyone, no matter how happy they are with their position and organization, is a passive jobseeker. People are typically taught and encouraged to pursue greater opportunities and not accept complacency. Managers don’t accept mediocre performance, and people shouldn’t accept mediocrity in their careers. No matter how sufficed one might be in their career, opportunities for advancement, increases in pay or benefits, better work-life balances, shorter commuting times, and more flexible hours can all be motivating factors for a happy and high-performing individual to move to another organization. As most recruiters and hiring managers know, talent is hard to find and equally hard to keep.

 

As the job market recovers, expect to see more and more companies marketing their organization almost as a product to candidates – a product that is desired, offers value beyond a paycheck and has many other happy customers (in the form of current employees).

 

The future of recruitment truly does transform Mamet and Baldwin’s “Always Be Closing” concept to “Always Be Connecting.”  Social media and employment branding are now part of the strategies for pipelining talent post-recession. Note that social media is not going to take the place of email marketing, targeted advertising, out of home advertising, print, TV, radio or any other platform on which your company currently sees recruitment success.  Instead, it’s a supplement – an ongoing effort. Social media takes strategy and helps forms the right path for conversations.  And while it – like people – may not be 100 percent controllable – social media gives your organization and the individuals at your organization the opportunity to create connections. Through it, you can actually show your company’s value proposition as well as give your employees – real people with unique stories – the opportunity to share how they contribute to your company’s success. It’s these stories from these brand advocates that will give life, reason and passion to why they’re working for your organization and why others should, too.

 

As a company with a growing employment brand, you’ll be able to participate in online conversations where appropriate, engage current and future employees and enthusiasts, provide a platform of information and education for your targeted audience to discuss topics of interest, and truly begin a long-term and evolving strategy for your employment value proposition.

 

“Social Media is Free!” No, It’s Not. Key Questions to Ask Yourself and Your Company

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One of my biggest pet peeves is the notion that social media is free.

I mean, yes, okay, technically it is free.  It doesn’t cost a dime to create a Facebook page, nor sign-up for a Twitter account.  WordPress gave me this blog for free.  Review sites don’t charge to post content (typically), Foursquare doesn’t run my credit card when I check into a location (off-the-grid of course because I am ironically private when in the online social sphere).

In any presentation I give, I typically tend to show a video from an outside source about social media because  A. No one wants to hear me talk. B. Stats are boring.  C. A collection of outside data is best for a wonderful potpourri of credible sources helping you make your point.  D. The music is typically pretty cool.

One of my favorite videos I never show is “What the HELL is social media – in 2 minutes” by timetogetsocial.  I like it because I am partial to the style of lists (Reason #1, Reason #2,  etc.).  Granted it’s a little bit of a ripoff of Eric Qualman’s Social Media Revolution, published in July of 2009 and then refreshed in May of 2010, but what is original these days? Anyway, Qualman usually gets played because I love “Right Here Right Now” by Fatboy Slim (and more so because of the final “reason”, outlined below).

My favorite pieces from timetogetsocial:   (awesome conversation starters and continuers):

So this is pretty much the trifecta of successful business conversations: people talking about your brand and company, people buying your products and services, and the juice of the internet: porn.  Bam.

Perfect conversation pieces with a mildly entertaining soundtrack, why wouldn’t I use this gem in any regard when discussing the importance of social media?

Well, after the holy grail of business fodder (purchase decisions, brand advocates and pornography),  Reason #10 sucks.  And is untrue.  And ruins the other points because of it’s lack of explanation.

Saying that social media is free in itself is a truth.  Again, it doesn’t cost anything to enter these realms of conversation as you don’t write a check  to Google every month for your monthly search subscription.

In order to effectively enter the social space, you are going to be spending more than just time.  You need the appropriate pre-research to understand what it really is that you are doing.  There are free tools out there to help you do this.  But there are some highly sophisticated ones that are, in fact, better, and also cost money.  There is no such thing as a free lunch.  Really.  No free lunch.

Are you combatting negative perceptions?  Are you leveraging the positive momentum from your products and services because everyone is singing your praises online?  How are you marketing your initiatives?

Why on earth would Pepsi, after almost a quarter of a century of yearly ads, pull out of advertising for the Super Bowl in 2010?  Because instead of spending 2-3 million dollars on a 30 second spot, Pepsi allocated resources to social media campaigns.

CMO of Pepsi Cola North America, Lauren Hobart explained, “It’s a big shift. We explored different launch plans, and the Super Bowl just wasn’t the right venue, because we’re really trying to spark a full-year movement from the ground up. The plan is to have much more two-way dialogue with our customers.”

Ok, so… if social media were free (and if the Super Bowl were the correct “launch plan”), Pepsi could have still continued their yearly Super Bowl advertising and complemented the efforts through social media.  Let’s pay for the 30 second spot and social is free, so we do both.  Well, instead they used resources for philanthropic causes fueled by the resources put into the social user-generated campaigns.

Conversations and stories are free.  So are most of the platforms and accompanying tools out there.  But, in order to be effective, there does need to be an investment outside of just time itself in order to align the efforts and maximize the return.  Whoever is putting in the time needs to know what they are doing.  Whoever is putting in the time needs to understand the long-term strategy and work with other individuals in order to make sense of short-term strategies and tactics.

In putting together the following questions to ask yourself before venturing into the world of social media, I kept the platforms neutral.  Although created with social in mind, they don’t necessarily correspond to this arena alone.

What’s Already There?

  • What is the general public saying about you?
  • What are your key stakeholders saying? (Employees, Customers, Prospects, Candidates)
  • What is being said about your competition?
  • How do these voices differ from your message?
  • How do these conversations interrupt your business goals?
  • How do these conversations complement your business goals?

Where Should I Be?

  • Who is my audience?
  • How does my audience perceive me?
  • Where is the most conversation occurring?
  • What platform do I need to tell my story?
  • Why am I even here?
  • What are my current marketing and communication goals?
  • How do these goals fit into any new conversations?

What Should it Look Like?

  • How does my message need to visually look?
  • How integrated does the message need to be with my current branding initiatives?
  • How do I change my current branding to support my message on this new platform?
  • How does my current design promote the behavior I am looking to create?

What Should I Say?

  • What behaviors am I trying to promote?
  • What action am I trying to drive?
  • Who is my primary audience? My secondary audience?
  • What types of content does my audience respond to?
  • How does this fit into corporate goals?

How Should I Market This?

  • Who are my current stakeholders? How do they play into this?
  • Where is my desired audience?
  • What does my desired audience respond to?
  • How does this fit into my current marketing and communications material?
  • How can I better integrate this into my current marketing and communications material?
  • How does this fit into corporate goals?

How Do I Manage This?

  • Who can do this for me?
  • How do I respond?
  • What do I say?
  • Why am I saying this?

How Do I Measure Results?

  • What were the goals for this initiative? Both long-term (strategy & business objectives) and short-term (marketing campaigns)?
  • How have these goals changed?
  • Have we uncovered any new audience needs and behavior? How can we continue to promote this or change this?
  • How has each campaign affected strategic goals? How can we continue to improve this?
  • What new learnings have surfaced? How do these affect strategic goals?

The list is still a work in progress as I am sure there are things that I have not added.  What else would you suggest as a key consideration to companies entering a long-term journey into social media?

It’s All About the Content (Strategy), Baby!

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What’s the next best thing after social networking sites for marketers?

Another innovation in content delivery.  Yes. That’s it. That’s all Facebook is and why marketers are flocking to the medium.

As AOL announced that it would let go of Bebo in April 2010 (yes, another Bebo reference), only a few months later did the news make it out that AOL would be hiring hundreds of reporters for their new media venture Patch.com.  In their own words, Patch.com is “is a new way to find out about, and participate in, what’s going on near you […] a community-specific news and information platform dedicated to providing comprehensive and trusted local coverage for individual towns and communities.”

So, citizen journalism, right? Not quite. With the emerging popularity of Examiner.com and subject-specific writers/bloggers spreading their content via their own social networks (“Examiners” are paid on traffic, comments, and social shares of their content, and I hear that it’s barely pennies), Patch.com notes that their communities (what the beats are called) are run by “professional editors, writers, photographers and videographers who live in or near the communities” they are reporting on.  Patch is banking on their elevated credibility as opposed to the you-don’t-even-have-to-interview-and-can-write-for-us Examiner.

Moving away from competing with the social networking behemoth, Facebook, AOL is investing in content. Rightfully so as their CEO, Tim Armstrong defines AOL as “a global media content company” in an interview with CNN’s Poppy Harlow.  The full interview can be viewed here.  Regarding the “hysteria” of paid vs. unpaid content, Armstrong notes that companies have “to be open to the business model that meets the content you’re producing”.

Enter genius marketing/business strategy by, of all organizations… The United States Postal Service.  With all of the buzz of internet marketing and earned media through social media, marketers don’t need direct-mail anymore.  Why pay for production, shipping and barely any tracking when only a small minority of the recipients will even open the piece? Instead, jump onto FaceSpace and track your followers.  Boom. Complete.

Not so.  And who better to let you know than the United States Postal Service.  Deliver is a magazine geared towards marketers with an attempt to revive direct-mail budgets. Not too bad of an idea from the USPS.  Create a niche publication geared towards your actual buyers.  Give them content and still promote your agenda (direct-mail budgets).

I mean, I loves me some social media, but the back cover of Deliver Magazine, July 3, 2010, Volume 6, is pretty compelling:

(Written on the paper: “Why are we paying so much attention to this [social media] if HALF the population isn’t”; Response in alternate color: “Cause it’s the cool new thing”).

I give it to you, USPS, clever idea with this Deliver Magazine of yours.

And then… the impetus for this post… Rouge Magazine.  Publisher?  P&G. Yes.  Procter and Gamble.  Procter and Gamble published a magazine for women. Yes, that P&G. Comet, the household cleaner P&G. (Okay well, Javelin Custom Publishing Inc. for Procter and Gamble).  You can read the Totem (Javelin Custom Publishing is a subsidiary of Totem) brand story about Rouge Magazine here.

I received my first copy of the magazine today (in the mail, thank you United States Postal Service) and was completely in awe – I didn’t order this, this is an amazing piece of content I can waste my time with, and… these are “inspiring ideas by P&G Beauty”. Intrigued, I go through the magazine. Okay, granted, all ads are for P&G brands.  Most advice is shrouded in “Head and Shoulders is not just for dandruff”, but it really isn’t that overwhelming salesy.  I’m actually quite impressed.

The Fortune 500’s beauty magazine makes sense. Why spend millions on a campaign in Allure or Glamour or any of the over done beauty magazines.  You’re competing with plenty of others in the retail stores, why fight for the advertising eyeballs? Chances are, the $50,000 one-month full page spread may or may not drive sales at your local Target. You really can’t measure the ROI on that.

But… create your own content (women read anything that has to do with beauty even though we’ve read the same advice since we were in high school, there are just new advertisements now), advertise your own array of brands, sprinkle your own specific products within the content you’ve produced (I took note of a blouse in their fashion spread and I vividly remember the CG lipstick the model was wearing – of which I might buy), and offer up a couple of coupons in the back. Oh – and did I mention, send the less than 60 page P&G brand-orgy magazine to someone that you identified from one of your retailers as buying a competing product (I’m almost certain I was targeted, pun not intended, based on my Target Visa).

Take it from AOL that threw their attempt at creating a social networking site to rival Facebook away and refocused on content.

Look at the clever way the United States Postal Service is getting marketers to digest content aimed to increase direct-mail efforts.

Even P&G, the consumer goods manufacturing titan is making content part of their overall strategy.

Social platforms such as MySpace and Facebook, YouTube and Blogger, have altered the way that we communicate with each other and digest content.  That’s a fundamental shift in how we will do business and interact with our various stakeholders.

But do keep in mind – Facebook wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the content that personal networks produce.  You post a picture (you add content), your entire network knows and the voyeurs digest that content and possibly act upon it (comment on your picture).  But if it weren’t for your personal networks, and the automatic interesting content that humans are prone to (because realistically, it’s the controversial that gets the ball rolling for discussion), Facebook wouldn’t be where it is today.

The future of innovation is the content itself and it’s delivery.  It’s that simple.

And I cannot believe the best examples I have seen are from Procter and Gamble and the United States Postal Service.

For the reference… my copy of Rouge, making its way to the top of bills and news journals:

Sometimes You Just Have To Cut Your Own Hair Off

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For me, my hair is my darling.

That doesn’t sound right as it implies that I am vain and that classic literature (and the characters of classic literature) and the mop on my head are one of the same.  Not what I mean. I’m comfortable with my hair. My hair is my adulthood blankie.  I’m fine with that.  Don’t judge me.

According to the United States Department of Labor, it is a common misconception that 80% of small businesses fail within the first five years.  Instead, between the years of 1992 and 1996, only 17% of small businesses closed due to bankruptcy or “other failures” in 1997 (because 1997 would be the five year mark/time-frame in question for this… yes, it confused me too at first). Granted, these numbers are over a decade old, and we don’t want to scare away entrepreneurship with ridiculously high failure rates – I get that.

Erring on the side of older-than-a-decade-optimisitc percentages that are over 60% less than the common misconception (Real people speak – these numbers are insanely low AND from 1997), 17% is still a considerable number when you factor in the amount of darlings that went into the start-up.  Your traditional, and well over-used “blood, sweat, and tears” of the 17% of these ventures in question would likely equate to an overwhelming pool of bodily secretions.

And then, begin to factor in the departments within companies, the failed divisions, the poor innovations, the non-profitable areas that barely function in the large scope of the organization.  Part of the 17% of actual failures?  No, not quite.  But hundreds of thousands, hundreds of millions, probably, of dying darlings that were killed by the mothers, fathers, adopted parents and familial units, thereby ending the lifespan of hundreds of thousands/millions of bad ideas and an equal, if not more, amount of true innovations.

Most of the time, the darling needs to go.  It’s impeding the bottom line of something.

But, the other times, the darling just doesn’t get the love it deserves.

The case of Bebo fascinates me. In April of this year, AOL decided to pull the plug on the once successful social networking site, mostly popular in Europe.  The site was purchased for $850 million in 2008 and then, well, sold for peanuts. Criterion Capitol Partners LLC bought the site for less than $10 million. After being acquired by AOL, Bebo employees claim that they lacked the funding needed, both on a financial as well as development standpoint in order to successfully compete in the marketplace.  Well, at a loss of about $840 million, it’s clear that this was a darling that didn’t have a chance on a strategic standpoint after the acquisition. AOL: You probably should have given them more resources and strategized more effectively as to how this network could figure into your larger content based strategy.

And then, there are the dreamers.  Theatre in high school got me through it all – the awkwardness, the boredom.  I was told I was good.  I was told I should have continued, somehow in the performing arts.  I see friends and acquaintances, old teachers and the like and the question always remains, “why didn’t you continue with it?”.  As Hedda Gabler, “You were better than Martha Plimpton!”  And so began my nickname from those that knew me years ago, “Corporate” (because, and so apropos, I went corporate).  And for me, letting go of theatre was my first real meaningful darling I had to let go.

And then offing my darlings became a little easier.

Find a way to take your loves, your true loves in what you do and apply them to your mundane.  You’ll have to kill them most of the time in order to move  forward.  We can’t all win Academy Awards and fraternize with the Zuckerberg’s of the world.  But quite honestly, the darlings will never truly die.  Even Faulkner knew that, and you can see the similarities across some of his most popular pieces.

Plus, this was only a chunk of an otherwise ridiculous mass.