Family, Friends, Apathy: Three Reasons Your Privacy is Eroding

This is a post I started in December of last year, then wandered away from for client work. There are a lot of these abandoned ideas that flounder in my drafts folder over the course of a year, and part of my December ritual is to clean them out if I deem them no longer relevant. I think this one is more relevant now than it was then, though the reason has changed. So, what did I intend to talk about? The way other people’s carelessness impacts you, and the way your own apathy compounds the error.

Since my most recent post was about leaving Facebook and already mentioned the privacy violations and user information abuses inherent in its code, let’s start with that network as our example. On Facebook, it doesn’t matter what your personal settings are for privacy. If you interact with people and brands on Facebook anywhere, in any way, your interaction is visible outside your trusted (or, in some cases, semi-trusted) network. As a user I find this infuriating, as the site design itself encourages invasive behavior and an erosion of the understanding of individual boundaries. Brands, however, love this, obviously. What is fine for you as an individual (e.g. clicking like or commenting on a stranger’s post – shown to you because a vague work acquaintance or maybe your cousin “liked” it, friending someone’s unstable family member – whom you have never met – because you think being connected tangentially on Facebook gives you permission to do so, sharing a post when it’s clearly set to “friends only” and not meant to be shared) is a violation for someone else. We wouldn’t behave that way in person, putting people’s privacy at risk (well, except photographers, but that’s a different rant), but people freely do so online. Stowe Boyd saw this challenge coming years ago when he talked about publicy vs privacy.

The only winning move is not to play

I figured out how to quit you, Facebook, and still see photos of my nieces and nephew.

First, I’m still “there,” a ghost in the machine — lurking, instead of participating. That way I can still virtually visit the friends, colleagues, and relatives who insist on swimming the algorithmic pool. I don’t trust Facebook — I haven’t for years — and it was time. In the version of this post about it on Facebook, I made a long list of “other places to find me” but you’re already here, so I’ll skip ahead to the how-to and why-the-heck part…

Deleting everything I’d ever posted took four weeks. Four. Long. Weeks.

Are you ready to be freed from a world of work?

This post originally appeared on Facebook two weeks ago, reposting here since I am deprecating Facebook.

I go on and on about needing to be ready for the world without work. Thinking about what we’ll do to find value in ourselves when we don’t have to “be” our jobs, what we’ll do to put value back in the world around us.

The responses I get indicate that people cling to the idea that this is far away.

Last month a company delivered a semi truck full of beer — in a driverless, fully automated big rig. In 48 of the 50 states, trucking is still currently listed as the best job you can get with no degree. Driverless trucks don’t fall asleep behind the wheel or have to take drugs to stay awake to pull multiple shifts.

Obsessing about the potential of the world beyond work

This week Aeon Magazine had a piece focused on my favorite topic: the world after work. Helping businesses and individuals who are struggling to cope with the change to the world beyond work is the focus of my ongoing studies, in fact, and something I incorporate into change management strategy when helping clients. I realized while reading how little I talk about this passion, so expect more from me on this.

Meanwhile, I encourage everyone to read this article by James Livingston, a professor at Rutgers. It is a great thought exercise in the ways work holds us back, and the need to find other ways to define our value and occupy our time.

“When work disappears, the genders produced by the labour market are blurred. When socially necessary labour declines, what we once called women’s work — education, healthcare, service — becomes our basic industry, not a ‘tertiary’ dimension of the measurable economy. The labour of love, caring for one another and learning how to be our brother’s keeper — socially beneficial labour — becomes not merely possible but eminently necessary, and not just within families, where affection is routinely available. No, I mean out there, in the wide, wide world.”

Speaking personally for a moment on what I believe is a related topic, I think this tense election season was a very real result of refusing to deal with this question in a realistic, non-emotional way. It’s hard to hear politicians around the world clinging to nationalistic ideas as some pacifier for the disenfranchised, underemployed, poverty stricken public when technology has already made it impossible to “bring back the jobs.”

140 Characters: Mise en Place for Content Marketing

mise en place for content marketing

“What a pain. It takes so much time to make a short tweet, and I have so much to say.” ~ every person who represents a brand online since 2006.

Hard Truth #1: No one cares about your manifesto.

Going strictly by anecdata, let’s accept as true that many people like to hear themselves talk. Why say something in 10 words when you can break out the thesaurus and say it in 4 pages? That advanced degree or extended training program isn’t going to pay for itself. In general, it makes people feel better to validate the time they spent learning by sounding smart and taking an extra hour of [someone else’s] time to reach a clarity of message and brand voice.

Hiring in the age of social media: don’t be creepy

Leslie Poston's dog Faulkner ©Leslie Poston, Not for Reuse

Leslie Poston’s dog Faulkner ©Leslie Poston, Not for Reuse

An interesting question popped up in a social media group I frequent. It’s a common question, worth sharing here:

“How much weight do you give social media in the hiring process? I am finding more and more that as I review a candidate with the needed qualifications, unfortunately their Facebook, Twitter, etc reflects a person that I don’t want representing my business. Sometimes it’s unprofessional language, sometimes it’s negative comments about their current or past employers, sometimes it’s much, much worse. So is it possible to be two entirely different people (real life vs social life) or is their resume just created to land the job?”

My answer was:

“According to the NLRB employers can not request passwords or access to employee accounts, nor can they discriminate based on social media. It falls under the same protections as not being able to ask if they are pregnant, what religion they are, etc. This is a debate that has raged online since long before social media. Looking at personal social media is tricky at best. Looking at blog posts that demonstrate expertise, however, is different. It’s a fine line.

The ethics are clear to me. Even if you are overwhelmed by how many people apply for a job these days, even if you are a nice person, even if you mean no harm, even if you hold yourself at arms length and don’t ask for access, even if it makes your job easier, even if #allthereasons: if you would not be able to easily find out in a job interview or a reference check, it’s not something you should be using to determine hire. If you aren’t finding out what kind of person the applicant is in the interview, ask better [legal] questions. :)”

That this question is still asked so often is partially a testament that our laws have not caught up with our tech, in many cases. It also shows that when they have, people simply like things that are easy.

Your content must build your own business, not someone else’s

Leslie Poston' dog Faulkner, © Leslie Poston, Not for reuse

Leslie Poston’s dog Faulkner, © Leslie Poston, Not for reuse

Mark Schaefer wrote a post advising a “liquid” content strategy, with content posted only on various rented, third party platforms and not on a site that you own. This is diametrically opposed to the hub and spoke (or “spine”) strategy I support. In the hub and spoke model, your content lives in your hub (usually a website or blog) and is shared elsewhere (third-party spokes). Imagine your entire content team spinning their wheels — and your budget — in a constant search for “woo” to accommodate this pseudo strategy. It’s not sustainable.

tweeeeeesample

This concept might work quite well for companies like Groupon, but B2B companies or companies that need to convey complex ideas will find little success scrambling after the next shiny object that has captured the public’s attention. Rather than frantically posting original content on third-party platforms first, like so many corporate lemmings, consider the fickle audiences the platforms are attempting to capture and realize that to do so is to support the quest of the platform for relevance and business longevity in the face of mutable tribes – not necessarily to support your company’s best interest.

Fear is your frenemy

Leslie Poston's dog Faulkner © Leslie Poston, Not for reuse

Leslie Poston’s dog Faulkner © Leslie Poston, Not for reuse

What did you run from today? As my puppy ran from a loud noise three stories below, I teased him for being ridiculous (my pit bull is a lover, not a fighter). It dawned on me immediately that none of us are immune to these ridiculous moments.

In my work through the years, I’ve often expected executives and business leaders to be fearless. With decades of experience and vast stores of knowledge, telling the story of your work — whatever that work is — should be effortless. Instead, those few that are fearless are met with legal teams, media teams, branding specialists, multiple editors, and accountants. By the time the intrepid few have run that gauntlet, they are often completely turned off by the effort it takes to tell their business story. Their strife echoes through a canyon of cubicles, creating an environment where the the more timid among them get the clear message that one carefully produced pre-approved message for all is “good for you”, going down like medicine.

What would happen if you chose the bold statement, the action words? Would the sky fall from your declarative sentence? I don’t mean adding a layer of buzzwords to your headlines, or linkbaiting. I mean digging deep, and releasing the barbaric yawp of your full experience. I’m not talking about a late night taxi confession, a regrettable drunk dial to your less guarded inner self. Instead, simply saying what you mean, revealing what your decisions cost you and what your successes gifted you. I mean helping those who are trying to find your work understand how they can connect with you beyond your price sheet.

Try an exercise with me. For one week, pay attention to every word you don’t say. If you want to write it down, even better. But for one week be mindful of when you are silent. Also be mindful of when you self-edit — be it on social media or in the boardroom. What did you lose in your silence; what opportunity was missed? When you self-edited, was your point softened to the point where it caused meetings to end without action, or a project to extend another week in indecision, destined to die in committee?

As you begin to see the toll self-censorship creates in your everyday life, take a look at your brand storytelling. Does it seem rote and disconnected? That means you are allowing fear to take the lead, instead of clear conviction and knowledge. I propose that what makes you afraid is exactly what should be said. Am I advocating for disclosure of corporate secrets, or mishandling of client trust? Of course not. I am advocating for clarity, purpose, brevity and as much truth as you can tell in your corporate communications. That’s the “secret” that makes people who read your words come back for more.

This post also appeared on LinkedIn and Medium today

Pinterest, the Secret Power Network

Social media naysayers love saying that the internet is nothing but photos of people’s outfits, people’s dinners and cat pictures. It wouldn’t surprise these detractors to be largely correct in their assessment, but it certainly did surprise many when the ultimate photo album of the internet, Pinterest, was the recipient of $3.9 billion in funding dollars recently. In addition to that, Pinterest has scored an unpaid deal to be preinstalled on Android phones in Latin America and Europe (Telefónica). What makes a site that has heretofore been seen as frivolous so valuable?

For one thing, Pinterest has 70 Million users as of right now, 80% of which are women. With women driving more purchases than ever before, reaching them has become important to every business. 80% of Pinterest items “pinned” are re-pins. That means that 80% of Pinterest activity is made up of people sharing what they find and what they covet with other people. The more intriguing aspect of this is that a user’s Pinterest circle of connections is not necessarily made up of only people that they know. With group boards and public sharing, entire circles of like-minded connections have sprung up on this very visual network. With a 66.52% rate of growth in web traffic referrals from September 2012 to September 2013, brands want to be part of the Pinterest storm more than ever before.

Like other social networks, Pinterest has been experimenting with its business model. It recently discontinued “Pin It To Win It” contests on Pinterest, and added Related Pins, paid Promoted Pins and Place Pins. Pinterest has also been experimenting with web analytics and has been on top of the anti-onlne bullying and anti-spam movements by giving users a way to report content violations.

What does all of this mean for a brand that has the kind of visual, lifestyle product that does well on Pinterest? To answer that question, let’s look at some sales and conversion data about Pinterest in the past year. First, the average time someone spends on Pinterest is 14.2 minutes. That’s incredibly “sticky”. Pinterest users spend an average of $140 – $180 on orders generated by clicks on the site. That is more than Facebook and Twitter generated average orders combined. 18% of Pinterest users have an income over $75,000. The most followed brand on Pinterest as of October 2013, Nordstrom, has 4.4 million followers, while the most followed Pinner, Joy Cho, clocks in at 13+ million.

What brands should take away from these statistics is that any brand with a visual, shareable product, a lifestyle product, or an iconic brand face will do quite well on this network. Pinterest gets great traction, repeat visits and enthusiasm from users in a way other sites don’t. It is my theory that they do this by being the network of possibility, looking to the future. Pinterest isn’t about what’s right now – it’s about what users aspire to. Brands that get that, and that present content that supports that and leads back to sales pages, will do well.

 

Google+ is the Bad Medicine of Social and SEO

If you have a pulse and spend any time paying attention to social media platforms, you have heard the internet outcry against The Goog seemingly ramming Google+ down everyone’s throats. YouTubers are offended at the new requirement that users sign in with a Google+ account to comment. Gmail users, already angry that they have to opt out of questionable “features” like a tabbed browser that hides important messages, now have to check their settings to make sure people they don’t even know can’t use Google+ to email them. So what’s a brand to do in the face of such unrest? Invest in Google+ or take a pass?

Frankly, every smart brand should have a Google+ Page. At this point Google has spent so much time and effort tying their Google+ world to their search engine and other properties, it only helps a brand’s SEO to have a presence. How much you engage is up to you. It’s a time management challenge for your social media team to add one more social platform to the mix, that’s true. The important thing to note here is that engagement amps up the benefits having a Google+ page gives you. As noted by MOZ, the benefits of sharing, commenting, posting and +1s are still being measured, but +1 impact certainly stands out anecdotally as a key performance indicator for SEO.

Another way to make the best out of the necessity for a Google+ presence is to use their author and publisher features to the fullest advantage. By having all of the authors on your blog linked to their Google+ pages for authorship, and having your company linked to Google+ as a publisher, and making sure that the URLs you generate and links you share are optimized for SEO and Google+ and trackable in Google Analytics campaigns, you are adding serious juice to your existing SEO strategy. Think of it as one more layer in your SEO cake.

So what can a brand expect from the Google+ user base? One difference between Google+ and other social networks like Facebook and Twitter is engagement quality. Because Google has a robust content character count, plenty of easy to understand content editing features, and generally a more focused audience, discussions on Google+ tend to be more in depth. For brands with something to teach or products and services that lend themselves well to a longer form discussion where you can deep-dive into the real answer to a question, Google+ can be an enjoyable experience.

Some industries that are doing well in the Google+ world include wineries (there are a large number of wine lovers out there who want to go deep into the background behind each wine they love, their favorite varietal, viticulture practices, sustainability of farming, and more), musicians (Google+ allows for an interactive experience between a fan and a musician), and food (foodies have a great home on Google+ where they can host cooking hangouts, delve into the nuance of recipes and seasonal foods, and generally share their images and other foodie content in created detail to a more targeted audience than the typical, light “Hey, here’s my dinner” photo on Facebook.

A final bit of advice… when you are building your pieces of content, make sure that each piece is tied to any of the variety of Google properties out there. Make sure its optimized for Google+, Google Analytics, YouTube, Images, and more so that you pick up every nuance of Google’s search juice available to you. Think of each bit of content as part of a multi media multi network publishing conglomerate run by your brand, and you’ll start to see results.

In the end, Google+ is the “bad medicine” of social media, not because it doesn’t have benefits, but because it does. It may be a bit hard to swallow, but once you do you realize that it’s good for you – just what the SEO doctor ordered.