Thursday, 26 January 2012

Social Networking for Nubes

I was recently asked by someone who managed a twitter account for a small organization what they were supposed to tweet if they don’t have anything to say. My response was “why do you have Twitter?” Apparently in person I’m slightly less eloquent than if I have time to think about it and write it down. I thought I’d go ahead and respond to this person’s question in a less arrogant manor.

Think of the internet like a giant convention. You are in a room full of people and information. Your goal is to connect and interact with as many potential clients as possible to promote your business (P.S. if you’re looking for work, your organization is you, and your clients are companies and recruiters).  You have a booth. The booth is your company’s website. It has all kinds of information about your organization including contact information for head office and the contact information of your employees attending the convention. You brought several employees to this event.

Employee 1: Facebook

Facebook is the most well-known of all your employees. He is connected to the most people, is the life of the party and everyone’s best friend. They all interact with this guy. He’s great to have around, but sadly he suffers from ADHD. When he seeks someone out directly he’s able to focus and get your message across to that person. In a crowd of people his message gets lost. He often stops to play games with people or show them pictures of his kids doing idiotic things like learning to crawl or enjoying their first few moments of life. Sometimes amongst all of the things he’s trying to do, your message doesn’t really reach anyone.   He’s probably the first point of contact for a lot of your audience, but he’s definitely not the most effective.

Employee 2: LinkedIn

This guy is all business. He wore a three-piece suit to a business casual event, and is shaking the hands of all your employees, potential job applicants, representatives of affiliate companies, and everyone who is looking to make business connections. However, these are the only people who will talk to him. Because of his “all work and no play” attitude, he is not able to effectively engage people who are just there to mingle and have a good time. Those girls in the back who could probably benefit from your product or service are shying away from him, opting to hang out with Facebook, who is showing them how to play Bejeweled.

Employee 3: Twitter

This is your most efficient employee. In 140 characters or less, he spits out data in a way that lets everyone in range hear and understand exactly what your message is. There is no long drawn out conversation. He generates interest and steers traffic to your booth, where people can learn more about you. His message is also the easiest for others to share with their entire network, and he politely reciprocates by sharing their message as well. He does often get off topic, but your message is there. He lets people know he has pictures of his dog, but lets them decide whether to view them or not. Though not as much fun as Facebook, he’s a healthy balance between business and fun. Just don’t ask him to organize your contact list, it seems so easy, but he just doesn’t do it (I feel like he could if he tried though). 

Employee 4: Google+

Your newest employee is a little less distracted than Facebook. Of all of your employees he is certainly the best at organizing your contacts, but he doesn’t have the network of Facebook or the efficiency of Twitter. Don’t count this guy out because he’s new. His affiliation with Google means he has a lot of potential. At some point he will be the main hub for all interaction with Google, giving him the potential to surpass Facebook’s network, and his Android affiliation could make him a more mobile friendly app than Twitter someday.

You would not expect employees to run around and hand out business cards and not engage with anyone. You should be using this same logic with your social networking tools. They are in fact, “networking” tools and not just promotional tools. When you’re asking the question “what do I tweet.” ask the question, what would I tell my employees to say if they ran into someone who knew/didn’t know what my organization does and how it can help them? Treat it like a conversation. It evolves as your interact with your clients. 

Thursday, 19 January 2012

How I Buy Things Now – Episode 1: The Cell Phone Search

Those that know me know that I've been trapped in a three year contract with Bell Aliant and an LG Bliss I never wanted in the first place. I’m going to omit the gruesome details at the risk of this turning into a rant…ask me about it and I’ll tell you though (A.K.A Don’t get me started). I thought I would attempt to make a decision using only information found from Internet Research and Social Networking. I know what you’re thinking, and this was an experiment and not just an excuse for me to spend an evening sitting on my couch on my internet machine….mostly.

Step 1: Research Hardware

I didn’t want to be left in the dust, buying a phone that is clearly inferior to the one everyone is going to have in a couple months (like I did with this one). I assumed the best would be the iPhone 4S until I started hearing all my nerdy friends get excited about the Galaxy Nexus. So I put the question to my nerdiest of friends… the people I have on my social networks. I also went online and looked up Youtube videos of people with foreign accents (Nasal is an accent right?) comparing the Nexus to the iPhone as well as the Galaxy SII. The only apparent downfall of going with the Nexus is that the camera is blatantly inferior to the iPhone and the Galaxy SII.

Dear Samsung.

Tell your engineers that the other companies publish their specs on their websites. Why you would purposely install an inferior functioning camera in what could be a superior phone?

Hugs and Kisses,

After flopping back and forth on this decision I found two people I trusted to give me accurate advice. I consulted @ZacherySchiller and @SamsungTMobile. I asked @SamsungTMobile to evaluate the choice between the Nexus and the Galaxy SII. They recommended the Galaxy SII, but only because of the camera functions. I was leaning towards a Samsung product, because they actively sought me out on Twitter and always respond to my tweets. Thus, if I have a “phone” issue, I feel like I have a “go to” person. I felt I could trust @ZacherySchiller, because his Google+ profile picture shows a pale individual with dark-rimmed glasses and he once referred to himself as a Nerdosaurus Rex. He also stated that he has owned both a Nexus and an iPhone which makes me trust his judgement. He recommended the Nexus because he had more control over everything on it and it didn't have a “skin.” Then he gave me a short lesson in what a “skin” was and why he didn’t like them.

Short Lesson: When the operating system is created by someone other than the person who built the phone (in this scenario, the operating system is created by Google and the phone is created by Samsung) the phone creator “tweaks” the operating system to make it look different. This is called a skin. When upgrades come out, it takes longer for users of phones with skins to get them, because the update needs to be tweaked to be compatible with the skin. Because the Nexus is “Pure Android” it will not have a “skin” and will be compatible with anything Google creates. For those of you who are like me and are an entirely different kind of nerd, the Galaxy SII is probably muggle-born and the Nexus is a Pure-Blood.

Samsung Galaxy Nexus 

Step 2: Assessing Customer Service: Finding a Provider

The next step was to not get stuck with some douchebag provider with no accountability or concern for my experience. I wanted to assess my ability to speak with someone about my experience. This would determine my comfort level with this company. Someone who cares about what people are saying about them online makes me feel comfortable as they will want to fix my problems in a timely fashion to avoid a slew of negative tweets about their products or services. I sent the following tweet out.

Ok people. My @Bell_Aliant contract is up soon. @RogersBuzz @TELUS @Koodo_Mobile There could be a 3 year contract and a happy tweet for you.

Within 20 minutes @RogersRavi (a Rogers employee) tweeted back with a link to their specials and told me that if I needed any help, I could feel free to tweet him. He won some brownie points, but then I received a slew of other messages from friends saying things like “anyone but Rogers” and “not Rogers” and “FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, DON’T GO WITH ROGERS!!!” If they do have good customer service, it must be fairly new. This counteracted the fact that they won the race to tweet back.

12 hours later @Bell_Aliant tweeted back.

“Unfortunately we cannot assist you but Bell Mobility can be reached at 1-866-434-0344 or .”

After 6 years with them, I found the wording ““Unfortunately we cannot assist you” to be very appropriate. In their defense, they gave me as much information as Rogers did AND I should actually be talking to Bell Mobility. However, Bell Mobility does not have an active twitter site. If I sold smart phones I feel like that’s a thing I would have. Fail!

Telus and Koodo were absent from this round. Fail! However, everyone I know who has Telus recommended them, and no one had anything bad to say about them.

Step 3: Pricing

After deciding on the Galaxy Nexus, I checked the websites for prices.


Didn’t have it. Fail! Koodo loses.


599.99 or 99.99 on select three year plans. (Select did not appear to be defined) Fail!


649.99 or 99.99 on three year plans of 50$/month or more. The price to purchase just the phone is a little more than Rogers, but I don’t plan on doing that anyway. I also appreciated the fact that they identified how much I was going to have to pay monthly in order to get that deal.

Bell Mobile

159.95 on three year plans of 50$/month or more, and I couldn’t find their price for buying it outright. WTF Bell?!?!?!?! You don’t have a twitter or facebook account and you’re not even trying to be price competitive! 

Score Card

Samsung beat out Apple with its use of social networking to make me feel like they care about me, and the volume of nerd-hype the Nexus has been able to accumulate.

Koodo neglected to carry the winning hardware. They lose.

Rogers won social networking race, but lost points when everyone in the entire world told me how much they hated them. They also failed to clearly define “select plans” somewhere on the site I wouldn’t have to dig for.

Bell Mobile was absent from the social networking round, they charge more for the hardware than any other carrier and they don’t have a good history with me. They are only still in the race because they are my current carrier. 

While they did not actively participate in the social networking round, Telus’ clients did and they had only nice things to say. Their website clearly indicated all of the information I needed ...Telus is currently leading.

Tune in for Episode 2 where I look at plans and Bell Mobile gets a bonus “retention” round, where they try and win my affection.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

How Banks Could Solve Our Financial Problems

During an interesting moderated discussion on twitter with @GenYchat, @YouTernMark, @MsJuliaRS, @WriterChanelle and a cast of thousands, the issue of the need for immediate rewards for younger people came up with regards to finance. It was suggested that if someone from an older generation had an extra 20$ they would put it away for safekeeping, but a GenY would think of things to spend it on.

Fact: Age is not positively correlated with the ability to manage finances. Stupid does not discriminate based on age. However …

This generation is a product of its environment. Everybody has things. You need the latest technology to keep up with the world, so we splurge on our smart phones and laptops, etc. No one wants to live in a shanty, so we buy houses we can’t really afford, or pay ridiculous amounts of money to rent a nice apartment.  We don’t make the decision as to whether we can afford a brand new vehicle or not. The bank does! If they believe we can make those payments, who are we to argue? The satisfaction of saving money for the future does not outweigh the immediate gratification of having nice things. Also, if anyone had any reservations about going into debt, they were completely desensitized to it after their post-secondary education.

Side Note on Post-Secondary Education Costs

I had a conversation with someone once (a real face to face one) who felt that the issue of the rising cost of tuition could be solved by encouraging parents to save money for their children’s education, but he wanted to know how he could encourage parents to do this.

Fact: A child should not be punished for having parents who do not put money away for them. 

Another Fact: Saving money for tuition does not address the problem that tuition is ridiculous (Don’t get me started).

End of Side Note

There are only two ways to address this problem. The first is to change the way people think about their finances. This involves educating them on the dangers of not investing/saving and how to properly budget, which would cost money, take time and might not even work anyway. LAME!

The second (arguably better) way to address this problem is to add some kind of positive reinforcement or immediate gratification to saving money. What tool could a banking institution use to persuade a twenty-something to put a couple dollars in a savings account every month? What trivial thing motivates us to spend time and money with no real physical or financial gain? VIDEO GAMES!!! People spend hours on World of Warcraft performing menial tasks to “level up” or sometimes just to get something new without even knowing what it is. You can spend a week doing the same task over and over again to get a new hat for your character. They also spend big bucks on software and expansion packs. People make a living levelling up characters and selling them to lazy people who don’t want to spend the time doing it. We just need to mesh this logic with the banking system.

Solution: Every bank account has an avatar. The avatar’s level and accessories are based on your interactions with your account. Now it won’t be funny when you tell people you only have 20$ in your chequing account, because you’ll say it like this “My chequing account avatar is a level 2 Imp with a dagger.” This also lets you tell people how good you are with money without sounding like an ass. You can’t tell people “I just put $500 into my savings account,” but it would be perfectly acceptable to tell them “my RRSP avatar is a level 600 Warrior, and yesterday I purchased the Ancient Sword of (insert mythical/nerd terminology here) for him.”  Not only do you sound awesome, but you’re well on your way to an early retirement, which of course, you are entitled to. 

In the future, your investment portfolio could look like this

Friday, 6 January 2012

Dude Where’s My Job? Episode 2 - Networking Revisited

I’ve already briefly mentioned the importance of networking, but I wanted to go into a little more detail. The hardest part about the job hunt is getting your foot in the door. Then all you have to do is prove you’re not incompetent.

P.S. If you’re incompetent then it’s all pretty hard. Have you thought about the circus? Not like Cirque du Soleil, but an actual circus. You could be like an elephant feeder or something.

I’m gonna use some declarative sentences to drive the point home.

There ARE relevant associations or groups that are dedicated to your specific career path. FIND THEM! Reach out and meet all of them. Sitting in your home filling out applications and sending out resumes is the least effective way to find employment.

Tell everyone you’re looking for work. You know someone who knows someone who has a vacancy that is not advertised. You’ll never discover these links until you advertise that you’re looking for work. Tweet it, put it as a Facebook status…wear a sandwich board if you have to.

You will make connections online if you use Social Networking effectively. Here are some steps to get you started.

Step 1: You will need the following tools.
  • ·         Twitter
  • ·         Facebook
  • ·         Word Press/Blogger (optional)
  • ·         Construction Paper, Glue, Glitter and Macaroni

If you don’t already have these things, you’re like 5 years behind everyone else. Maybe you can find a job in a nostalgia shop or playing an old-timey person at a historical site. Set up the Social Networking sites with your professional information.

When it comes to job hunting, Twitter is your most valuable tool.

Step 2: “Like” and “Follow” relevant companies and influential people. Identify all of the companies you want to work for, and all of the companies they engage with online as well as the people who work in those companies. Follow members of your local Chamber of Commerce and Politicians. Don’t limit yourself to your geographic region. When people in your region see you interacting with influential people from other countries, they’ll be super-impressed and will totally call you right away-ish. Also, if you’re single with no kids and don’t own land, you can travel at the drop of a hat to any employer who wants you (OR you’ve got a really good opening for a suicide note).

Step 3: Engage with these contacts. Just following them doesn’t really do anything for you. Companies have Social Networking sites for PR and marketing purposes. When you retweet or comment on something they post, they feel as though you’ve rewarded them. Think of them like a puppy. Every time you retweet or reply to their post, it’s like petting the puppy. It makes them like you more and more. Someday the puppy will get big and you’ll want it to attack your enemies. Your enemy right now is unemployment. Don’t you want a giant puppy to attack your unemployment? Start petting one now!

Twitter also has a lot of “discussion groups” that get together and have moderated discussions about all kinds of topics. This is a great way to increase your network. Provided you don’t act like a complete tool, people will see your comments and want to see more of what you have to say. Then they’ll follow you. Then they’ll start retweeting and sharing your content. Other people will see it…and so on. Nothing is more impressive to an employer than someone with an impressive list of business contacts who engage with them on a regular basis…well…except for like education…experience…skills, but it’s pretty high on the list. (Warning: Companies who don’t understand Social Networking will actually not be impressed at all).

Step 4: Start a blog. It’s not a waste of time unless you’re a terrible writer. In that case, it’s actually counterproductive (That’s why it’s optional). Chances are you won’t have much more information on whatever topic you’re blogging about than experts in the field, but you’ll have a unique opinion that others may enjoy. It’s not really what you say, but how you say it. Attempt to become a “voice” in your desired field.

Step 5: Try not to beat yourself up about not having found something right away. Finding a job takes time. Use the craft supplies to make yourself a special little good luck card. If you’re the guy with no family or land no one else is gonna do that for you buddy. Chin Up!