What’s LinkedIn all about? Networking, right? The idea that business is more about who you know than what you know. (Of course, you can show off your stellar resume on LinkedIn, too.) In other words, being connected with the right people can give you leads you otherwise wouldn’t have.

But when was the last time you actually networked on LinkedIn? Or helped your friends/colleagues connect with a great opportunity? Have you ever browsed through your connections and thought, “these two people should really talk”? Did you do something about it?

My guess is that the vast majority of people with a LinkedIn profile have one just because they’re “supposed” to. It needs to be there if anyone ever looks for it so you can show that you’re a fabulous [fill in the career], have lots of connections, and joined the right groups.

Where’s the networking? Aren’t we supposed to be helping each other somehow? Absolutely! And a new service launched this week that can help us do just that.

YouGuysShouldLunch.com is designed to help us put some action behind our networking intentions.

According to their website:

This web service lets you encourage two of your LinkedIn friends to have a lunch together. To find new employees, business opportunities or just a nice person. Jonas Larsson, founder of youguysshouldlunch.com, considers personal networking to be the best way to match the right person with the right job.


A friend and colleague of mine, Micco Grönholm (a.k.a. @The_Brand_Man) is part of the brains behind this launch (lunch) so I know it’s a solid concept.

So why not take a minute today to say, “You guys should lunch”? Who knows what career dreams you could make reality for your friends with just a few clicks?

 

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batman_417950370_c7f323ab09_mWhether you’re a Batman fan or not, you may have heard about his famous utility belt. What’s in it? Whatever you need. Batarangs (Bat boomerangs, I think), Bat-lasso, Bat-Tracer, Bat-Darts, Bat-aid kit, night vision bat-goggles (Do bats actually need those?), Micro bat-camera, Bat-Heater. The list goes on and on. Seems like there isn’t any need Batman can’t meet with the tools on his belt.

So, how do Batman and his utility belt apply to content marketing? You can probably guess, right? Content Utility is the idea that you should step in with the right information, at the right time, in the right way to help your audience. Be the Superhero! Swoop in and save the day with content that’s informative, easily comprehended, and actionable.

If you want something more formal, here’s my working definition:

Content Utility is timely, targeted value and
practical usability delivered to your audience
through the substance, composition, design,
media, mechanics, and accessibility of your content.

In other words, not only should your audience be able to easily understand and retain valuable information from your content, but they should be able to easily work with it, use it, and share it.  That’s particularly important for B2B, for example, when a contact at a potential client may like to share the content she’s found on your company website with others during the decision process. For ideas on how this can work and examples of how one company is creating utility with its content, read my post at The Content Marketing Institute.

As I share in that article, “Content marketing is moving toward much more graphic, sensory-oriented and multi-vehicle usability. People will be looking for content which is not only informative and easy to absorb, but usable and presentable across various situations and platforms as well. In other words, they want content utility.

In a MarketingProfs post, Ann Handley also mentioned the importance of creating utility saying, your content should be “high value to your customers, in whatever way resonates best with them.” 

That’s exactly right. Content Utility is tailored, thoughtful, purposeful, valuable, useful, and useable.

You can think of your content marketing as a utility belt — offering a variety of useful tools with various functions, allowing an individual to choose what best fits his or her needs at the moment.

As we move into the new year, I’ll dive deeper into this idea of Content Utility — offering insights, case studies, examples, and practical ideas for how to implement it in your content strategy.  We’ll cover topics like:

Content bundling

Readability and retention

Multi-vehicle adaptation

Localization

Audience discovery

Developing Content Toolkits

And lots of other things I’m just starting to explore.

I’m looking forward to sharing these ideas as I work to improve my own content marketing. So, join me for some open conversations on Content Utility. Let’s learn together! For now, click over and read the CMI article — and please leave a comment with your own thoughts on Content Utility.

Image Credit: FAO Schwarz’s LEGO Batman Sculpture by adjustafresh, on Flickr

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"An idea does not pass from one language to another without change."
– Miguel de Unamuno, The Tragic Sense of Life


You may often hear the advice, “write like you talk.” That’s good guidance. It can make your writing more conversational and easy to follow. But not for everyone.

If you’re writing for an international audience, some of the phrasing and word choices you typically use in conversation can lead to confusion and misunderstanding.

For example, I recently used the phrase “second to none” in a corporate brochure intended for a worldwide audience, which met with the comment, “Say this in plain English, please.” Surprisingly (for me, at least), the reader had interpreted that phrase to mean “average” or “just OK.” (To clarify: in the US, the expression means the best, first place, highest ranking, etc.)  I wrote it instinctively — like I talk. But what was plain English to me, wasn’t to my audience.

So, for international communication and marketing, don’t write like you talk.
Write like they hear.

It’s challenging to train yourself to reread everything you write to look for phrases and word choices that won’t work for an international audience.  After all, your own language is ingrained in you.  But it can be done. And it doesn’t have to leave your text stilted and boring.

Some simple tips for writing for an international audience:

» Read through some online idiom dictionaries to remind yourself of what isn’t always plain English to non-native speakers.

» Use a thesaurus, but not like many people do:  looking for fancier words to sound smarter (which rarely works, but that’s another topic). Look for simpler, clearer ways to say things.

» Reread anything you’ve intended to be funny. Is it still funny outside of your own culture or region?

» Ask a non-native speaker to read your work before you publish.

» Be smart. Only change what you really need to for clarity. Preserve your unique writing style to retain the energy and personality in your text — especially in letters and blogs.

What phrases or words do you think are the worst culprits for international miscommunication?

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laptop_istock_000009706946xsmall2For the past few weeks I’ve been conducting my own little in-house contest to crown a winner among digital notebooks — i.e., note-taking/organizing software and apps. (If you haven’t tried these fantastic resources yet, do it today. Especially if you often sift through and compile notes, facts, and ideas from various sources like websites, emails, photos, etc.) 

For me, it all came down to two: OneNote or Evernote.

The stakes were high. The winner would take over all my research, fact-finding, brainstorming, thoughts, ideas, musings — my life, essentially.

So, which one did I pick? Which is the champion that will fight to keep my brain organized (a herculean task, indeed)?

Both. For now.

I know. That’s not a real answer. And it frustrates me, too. However, the best features of digital notebooks are currently split between OneNote and Evernote.

For example:

 

Evernote

OneNote 2010

Cost

Basic: Free

Premium: $5/mo or $45/yr

-- Basic provides enough for most standard use--

$65-$80 alone or $150+ bundled with Microsoft Office 2010, price depends on which suite you buy.

Availability

Anyone with internet connection can download and use it for free

Best if purchased and installed along with a Microsoft Office 2010 suite

Website/Email/Doc clipping

Yes
(but not PDFs)

Yes

Web clipping accuracy

Very good

Good, but has some issues with sites that incorporate a lot of Flash and graphics

Share notes via Email

Yes

Yes

Outlook “To Do” integration

No

Yes

Type anywhere

No

Yes

Draw

No

Yes

Create Subfolders for each notebook

No

Yes

Text translation

No

Yes

Storage (sync upload)

Basic: 40MB/mo
Premium: 500MB/mo

WiFi: Unlimited
Cloud: 600MB

Mobile device sync

Yes – all devices, including iPhone, iPad, Android, Blackberry, Windows 

(Evernote app = free;
synching = free)

Only Windows Mobile, iPhone & iPad 

(MobileNoter app = free; synching costs $1.25/mo for Cloud, $15 for WiFi*)

*PC & mobile device must be on the same WiFi network to sync.

Additional mobile app integration

Yes

No


The Defining Differences between OneNote and Evernote:

► Overall, I think OneNote has better captured the essence of note-taking. It allows for deeper levels of organization and flows better with how I would normally take and organize notes with pen and paper.

OneNote’s Key Features: Being able to type anywhere on the page, draw, shift things around, organize your notebooks with subfolders and subpages, send part of your note to Outlook as a “to do,” translate text, and send PDFs to notes.

► However, Evernote has won web clipping, on-the-go note-taking, and synching hands-down. It's quickly catching on as one of the best new online tools to use, and other websites and app developers are taking notice — developing complimentary features to integrate with Evernote.

Evernote’s Key Features:
Easy, free syncing with any mobile device, more accurate web clipping, and a host of other mobile apps providing Evernote integration.

So, the real champion for me will be the one that first manages to add the missing components to its own features — thereby thoroughly surpassing the other and creating one amazing “SuperNote.”

It’s anyone’s game. Evernote can easily spiff up its offering with better note-taking features, and OneNote is closing in with its new iPhone sync option (although OneNote still misses the mark by charging for even basic usage and making it too complicated).

The good news: both Evernote and OneNote have developed export-import tools to convert the other program’s notes to its own (OneNote’s tool available soon). This means that if you get started with one and later decide you want to switch, you won’t lose all your work. So for now, I’ll continue to test both for different note-taking and organizing needs.

What are your thoughts? Do you have a preference between OneNote and Evernote? Or perhaps you know of an even better option.  Please share.

  

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oops_istock_000008179465xsmallWhat happens these days when we get stuck in traffic, the airline loses our luggage, or the copier at work is jammed? Tweet about it, of course. Or blog. Or Facebook. Sure, we’ve all done it. Even on our business profiles.

And why not? It is social media, after all — a chance to show the personal side of business. For professionals, social media sites allow us to chat, vent, joke, commiserate, and share experiences with people who (we hope) will understand.

If a service provider gives you terrible service, it can be good to share that information (in the clearest, most constructive voice you can muster). Companies should be aware of this facet of social media and see it as an opportunity to respond and improve their service.  But it’s different when you’re sharing gripes about your clients and customers. 

While it may be tempting to jump on Twitter or Facebook when you’re irritated about a client forgetting to return your call or not listening to your excellent advice, don’t do it.  No matter how well you think you veil your comments in anonymity, you can never be sure who’s watching and reading between the lines.
 
Of course, you may not care about keeping an offending client, but what about the others? What other clients or potential clients are noticing those posts?  People don’t have to be registered with sites like Twitter to see your tweets, you know. What do they think about them?  Your complaint may be perfectly valid and worthy of a witty or scathing comment. Yet, are you absolutely sure you’re portraying the professional image you want industry leaders and potential clients to see?

Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and the like are making it easier than ever to share how we’re feeling in the moment.  But never, ever forget: those tweets and posts are public and permanent.  Did you know the U.S. Library of Congress is archiving every public Tweet you send? And who knows what Facebook is going to do with all our information.  That should give us all pause. 

Always be mindful of your public persona and brand on social media.

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