Making Print and Pixels Play Nice

People often look at electronic communications tools as a great way to save money – get the word out, and save money on ink and paper. Simple, right? But don’t underestimate the opportunity cost of cutting out print communication channels. Social technologies, postcards, web, mobile devices, and publications work well together and make up a cohesive communications strategy. You shouldn’t choose one over the others.

Here are some examples of how ink and paper can work with online media: a few months back, Trident ran a print ad in USA Today featuring tweets about their product, Trident Layers. See Mashable’s writeup here. Esquire magazine ran an augmented reality issue, and piped readers’ tweets into their website. The Detroit Red Wings placed QR codes in their printed programs, and when fans scanned the codes with their mobile devices it launched this YouTube video.

You can do simple things like putting a QR code on your business card, linking to audio and video content online from your print article or ad, using Facebook comments in your annual reports, etc.

qrcode

The key is understanding how all of these tools work, then coming up with creative ways to make them all work together. You should layer your marketing efforts using print and electronic media. And finally, the people who have the most intimate knowledge of these seemingly disparate channels (printers, publishers, social media managers, etc) need to be advocates for their media of choice and be willing to play well with others. The collective knowledge and collaborative spirit will make the best use of the strengths of each platform.

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Social Bookmarks: A Useful Tool You Aren’t Using

What is social bookmarking?

According to Wikipedia: a method for Internet users to share, organize, search, and manage bookmarks of web resources. In other words: keeping track of stuff you find on the web, and making it easy for others to find. The key to all of this is tagging – assigning keywords to each bookmark to help keep them organized and easy to locate when you need them. Social Bookmarking hasn’t caught on like Twitter or Facebook. But it’s incredibly useful for keeping track of links, resources, blog posts and all sorts of things we come across on the web and think, “I need to remember this” or “I might want to refer to this later.”

Among the most popular sites for social bookmarking are Diigo and Delicious. Delicious allows you to save and tag bookmarks, connect with other users, and subscribe to individual users’ bookmarks with RSS. An example: Mark Greenfield’s bookmarks are an excellent resource (username markgr). Mark makes great use of tags and has more than 2500 bookmarked resources. Want to know more about Twitter? Click the twitter tag in his list and you’re set.

Diigo offers a full suite of tools to help keep tabs on your bookmarks, and share them with others – it’s ideal if you’re engaged in a research project and/or collaborating with others. You can highlight specific sections of a site’s content or leave comments for others to find. Diigo also boasts a group feature, which allows users to self identify and share links with others interested in the same subject. We’re planning to use a Diigo group as a resource for the attendees of the CASE Social Media and Community Conference (thanks to Joel Price, a member of our faculty, for setting it up).  It’s brand new, and we’ll start populating it with content in the weeks to come.

And that’s Social Bookmarking in a nutshell. Give it a shot. It will save you from many  “now where did I read that?” moments.

Rating Social Media Prospects

A few weeks ago I participated in the CARA Statewide Conference. CARA is the California Advancement Researchers Association, a state chapter of the Association of Professional Researchers for Advancement (APRA), an “international professional association of development research and information management professionals” (from the CARA website).

Development Researchers are the hard working, inquisitive folks who toil behind-the-scenes to make successful front-line fundraisers well…successful. Simply put: development researchers gather, summarize and prepare reports with information about donors. The information they gather about a donor (who the prospect might know, their interests, the companies they’ve worked for or have invested in, what their level of giving might be) helps the fundraising effort in many ways, including rating the prospect on their wealth and likelihood to give.

This got me thinking: in a way, we’re all amateur researchers. When we read profiles, surf individual blogs or check out a Twitter feed, we’re researching. We may be looking for different information and have different motivations than the professionals, but we too look for facts, figures, insight and information about people in their social networking profiles, tweets, and blogs. We learn a lot about people we may have never met in person. A major difference between professional researchers and “the rest of us” is that we’re not looking for donations, we’re looking for relevance: is this person worth following, friending, or subscribing to?

When I evaluate a “social media prospect” (someone I don’t know who contributes online content via twitter, a blog, or other space) I use the following criteria as a guide:

  • Resources: does this person have interesting and informative tweets? Does their blog provide useful information that’s relevant to what I do or something I want to learn more about?
  • Networking: can this person help me to accomplish my goals, personally or professionally? And how might I be able to help them? Do they know someone I’d like to be introduced to?
  • Leads and insider info: is the person really “plugged in” to the latest news and info? Will I learn about new tools and trends early on because of a connection to them?
  • Quality: if tweets stray too far afield, are consistently about a topic I’m not interested in, or just plain offend, I’m unlikely to follow.

Do you have a social media prospect rating system? What are your metrics?

Web Squared: The New (and Changing) Frontier

While Web 2.0 still seems new to some, the phrase has been floating around the interwebs for five years.

In Internet Time, that’s forever. And I think quite a few of us have been thinking about where we’re headed next for a while now. What will the web morph into, and how will things change?

Tim O’Reilly and Jennifer Pahlka (who coined the term “Web 2.0” those five years ago) are now giving the next generation of the Internet a name: Web Squared. But it’s not that name that matters. We can call it Web Flugelhorned for all I care. The most important part is keeping tabs on where we’re headed, and be flexible enough to continually adapt and adjust to imminent change.

And that’s why I’m here, writing this blog. The point of this space is to remind everyone (myself included) that change is integral to what we do every day. We need to adapt, innovate and create new ways to solve problems and get things done. So you’re using Twitter now – that’s great. But in five years when we’re talking about the name for the next iteration of the Internet, that’s not going to matter so much. Twitter will be gone: it will have changed or adapted or something else will have taken its place entirely. And we need to be flexible enough to accommodate those changes.

So…here are some important things to think about as we move forward and the web continues to change:

– Are you thinking strategically? Keep the big picture in mind instead of just reacting to everything that comes your way.

– What are you trying to accomplish? Is it relevant? Don’t just do something because everyone else is, do it because it makes sense.

– What tools would help you be more efficient/better at what you do? Do those tools exist (yet)? If not, build those tools or brainstorm ways to adapt existing tools to meet your needs.

The Internet is going to keep on changing – it’s up to us to keep on changing too.

“I Don’t Do Computers” – Talking Tech

“I don’t do computers.”

This declaration frustrates me. I hear it everywhere, from colleagues, constituents, family and friends. I hear it from people who don’t like computers, don’t understand them, or just don’t want to use them, and prefer to use more traditional methods of communication and information sharing.

I often hear this issue pegged as a “generational thing.” But I don’t think that tells the whole story.

The difference I notice between the “doers” (those who are comfortable with and like to use computers) and the “don’ters” (those described above) is a fundamental willingness or unwillingness to…test the technology waters. To try things. To investigate. To just “see what happens” when it comes to computers. In my limited observations, I notice that those who are comfortable working with computers are more willing to try out new software features: click the buttons, test the boundaries, to try to “break” things. The don’ters want to know exactly how something should work before they take the plunge.

The cover of the September 7 New Yorker depicts elderly folks taking a language course. But the language in question is modern tech-speak. They’re seated at computers practicing their LOLs and WTFs and OMGs. While the concept is funny to those “in the know,” it makes me wonder – is this really a generational issue? Or is it a matter of how we learn? Would a don’ter find a real-life course such as the one depicted on the cover useful? Maybe a printed manual to explain Twitter? I suppose this personality type is the target market for the Missing Manual series of books. A “doer” would shun such documentation as a waste of time.

Neither of these approaches is right or wrong – it’s just a communication issue. It may not be generational (point of fact: my 94 year old great, great aunt sends emails daily, and has a cell phone) but an issue of how people learn. Take all of this into consideration when working with folks from different technology comfort levels.

Doers: find a way to communicate issues and interest in technology to the don’ters in a way that makes them more comfortable. Give examples. Show how things work. Use visual aids. Give demonstrations. Don’t dismiss them as disinterested.

Don’ters: Be willing to try a new technology or software. Dive in. Make a profile. See what’s there. Ask good questions. Try not to dig in your heels and get frustrated when the answer isn’t obvious.

All: share your experiences with such issues in the comments.