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What the IFTTT?

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Ever since Google+ had launched my quick sharing options within Google Reader had pretty much disappeared. I had it set up on the backend that every time I ‘Shared’ a post or ‘Shared With Note’ it would post to my Twitter stream. Now it’s just cumbersome – you know, more than one click.

Until now, IFTTT! “Putting the internet to work for you”

IFTTT simply stands for If This Then That.

This beta tool simply allows users to create tasks or recipes associated with the well over 40 connected channels to create specific triggers to initiate specific actions.

Channels are your social networks; Twitter, Facebook, RSS, Buffer, etc. – There are 46 channels for you to choose from.

Triggers are the ‘This’ portion of the IFTTT statement. It signifies a beginning to the action. Examples are “I’m tagged in a Facebook photo” or “I starred a post in Google Reader”.

The action is the ‘That’ in the IFTTT statement. Based on the trigger it completes an action. For example, “post to my Twitter stream” or “send me a text”.

Any user is able to create personal recipes – attaching a specific trigger and action to the IFTTT statement.

Users can also quickly implement a task by using shared recipes created by the the entire IFTTT community.

It’s a pretty slick tool to connect your social channels to one another by creating simple tasks and recipes under one roof. Not to mention how simple it is and the convenience it creates. Set it and forget it!

Now that I have IFTTT, my sharing via Google Reader is back to the way it used to be, just one click.

So my recipe reads; If I Star a post on Google Reader then update my Buffer with the post title, URL, and author name.

With this recipe it then will post to my Twitter stream based on the settings and preferences within my Buffer account. I have three tools speaking to one another on the backend all because of this simple IFTTT recipe.

Voila!

Head on over to IFTTT and create you very own personal recipe and leave it in the comments below.

Knowing Your Customer DNA

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Understand the consumer beyond the consumer and product touchpoint.

The inspiring Steve Jobs was frequently quoted saying “it’s not the consumers job to know what they want”.

Thus is why we as marketers must understand the full DNA makeup of our consumers and not solely concentrate on the DNA string – the direct need – that’s connected to our product or service.

We need to not fully listen to and rely upon what consumers are saying they want in products in terms of features, functionality, etc – this blocks innovation which ultimately creates a very messy product as we try to be everything to everybody.

Instead we need to listen to how our consumers live beyond the link between our product and service.

Understand the full DNA makeup so we can provide them, not with an enhanced version of what they already have and with what they think they want, but with something they want before they even know they want it.

Something created for their lifestyle that serves – and meets – both the brand’s and consumer’s higher purpose.

To what extent do you think we need to listen to our consumers – and allow them to influence decisions – when building and creating our products?

A Brands Most Valuable Asset – The Employee

I’ve just begun reading “Uprising” by Scott Goodson which details brand building strategies by creating cultural movements. Breaking down the DNA of their target consumers that uncover their passions and beliefs to form an idea—to spark a cultural movement—that those consumers what to be apart of and spread.

This led me to the blog, uprisingmovements.com, which just recently published a post titled “Brands under pressure: The brand lives in the Employees Voice” that was beautifully written.

Here’s a snippet to sum it up (though I encourage you to read the post at it’s entirety):

While some brands depend solely on Madison Avenue to dictate the rules of engagement, the smartest brands have found a new voice to humanize their image—their employees. Though these employees may appear softly spoken, there is little question whether their voices are being heard. Savvy audiences respond remarkably well to these messages, as a company’s employees represent the most authentic expression of a company’s brand. For many brands, such an approach marks a major shift in mindset.

Before a company can communicate well externally, it needs to communicate well internally. Companies that focus on honing their culture and employees via communication and education can create brands with a purpose. Brands need to start trusting the voices of their valued employees. In essence, brands need to become social.

Employees are the company’s, and brands, greatest asset. Culture and purpose of the brand and organization is not derived by what agencies say it is or how they say it should be – it’s driven by the employees voice. It’s the conversations around the water cooler and in the break rooms, it’s the conversations at the little league games about their work and company that defines both the culture and true purpose of the brand.

Any culturally driven or brand initiative must start with an organizations greatest asset – the employee. Allow the employees to be the marketing department. Leverage the reach of the employees voice. Allow them to be your brand ambassador. This unlocks the front door and allows the consumer to truly understand and feel the brand—because the voices and words that are spoken from those in the trenches are the truth. It’s pure authenticity and completely humanizes the brand experience. This equates to deeper relationships. The company cannot rely on the products and/or services to keep customers—they’ve become a dime a dozen—it relies on the relationships and loyalty to the brand that derives from shared interest, ideas, vision and purpose.

The concept remains difficult for many brands, but companies are made up of people. Real people. Brands need to start tapping into this golden opportunity to elevate their brand relevance in a world where a person or business’s reputation can be destroyed in a mouse click. There’s liquid gold in the voices of employees, but few brands realize this unharnessed potential.

7 Tools I Use Every Single Day

Photo courtesy by Liz Jones

I am definitely one to stray towards the new and shiny tools that seem to be popping up on a daily basis. Maybe it’s the “grass is always greener” thing or one tool has a few key, and convenient, features the other doesn’t. So, for me, there’s a lot of trial and error, re-inventing my processes, and fine tuning my productivity habits to be just right. But, once I’ve been attracted to a tool that just ‘works’ for me, it’s hard to abandon.

I’ve created a list of tools that I use on a daily basis serving my various productivity and management needs. These give me sanity, convenience and organization. They allow me to focus and concentrate on shipping and creating.

So here they are…

Connected
Relationships are the foundation and backbone to everything we do, whether it’s for business or personal. Connected is a Relationship Management tool that connects with your existing networks – Email, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Connected at it’s basic form allows me to view my contacts from a holistic perspective. When viewing one profile I am able to see all of the conversations we have had regardless the platform it took place on. I am able to leave notes about the contact, it allows me to include how we met, add additional information, set reminders for when we should next connect, message them directly within the Connected platform, etc. Among the many other integrations, analytics and features it provides – depending on your needs – the most convenient is the notifications email. Set it and forget it. This email informs me of any job changes, birthdays and reminders to connect with specific contacts. Connected at its basic form and function is a powerful and necessary tool. There are many other integrations and third party apps that tie in nicely to manage relationships.

Plus, Connected was acquired by LinkedIn last fall. Very curious to see how this will integrate into the LinkedIn ecosystem.

Buffer
Most days I do majority of my online reading within one sitting. So instead of bombarding my social feeds with articles and thoughts in a narrow time frame Buffer allows me to space them out during designated times throughout the day. It allows me to fill up my Buffer bucket with status updates without having to schedule the send each time. Buffer will automatically post depending on my predetermined time slots – found in settings. The goal is to keep the Buffer bucket topped off with content to keep a consistent social media presence all day long and all week long. In addition to the web app, Buffer has created simply mobile  apps and browser plugins for easy sharing.

Asana
My latest love affair. @HeatherRast referred this project and task management tool to me a few months ago and I haven’t looked back since. First off, the team behind this has a pretty solid track record. Majority ex Facebook and Google rockstars. The UI is gorgeous and beyond user friendly. The drag and drop makes for creating and prioritizing task lists a breeze. The platform is made up of workspaces, projects and tasks. Each task has essentially a profile; task owner, due date, comments and notes section, tags, attachments, activity feed, etc. I am currently utilizing the free version at the individual level but has robust capabilities to use with a team. It has conveniently allowed me to stay on track and focus on increasing daily productivity. you must give this a shot.

Hootsuite
I’ve been using the social media management and monitoring suite for a couple of years now and am a huge advocate and fan of the tool. It allows my to have multiple streams based on social networks, keyword searches, lists, etc. In addition to streams there are multiple tabs that house more streams making it easy to monitor multiple brands or identities within one account. The integration of Google Analytics, along with their native analytics, team monitoring and assigning of tasks capabilities and the constant evolution of the social dashboard equates to a pretty powerful tool for managing ones social presence – not to mention the accessibility across all screens – iPad, mobile and web.

SimpleNote
This is fairly new for me, but I believe in love at first sight. This is an extremely ‘Simple’ note taking web and mobile (AndroNote for Android) app. There are no bells and there are no whistles. Just strictly Plain Text. It uses tags and dates for easy filtering. That’s it, no less no more. It’s excellent for real note taking and writing as it cuts out all of the options – distractions – for text styling and such. It allows pure concentration on the written word. (This post was actually created in Simplenote, I just copy and pasted into WordPress)

History – I previously used Evernote but after a few major hiccups I abandoned ship. I was having difficulty with the offline/online sync across multiple devices. I was losing valuable notes on a regularly basis.

Simplynoise
Do you where ear buds at work listening to white noise? I do! I need to drown out the noise around me and it must be white noise, it can’t be music. I’ve been using Simplynoise for years and it does just that. It’s simply a white noise player. You can select between White, Pink, and Brown noise – flip on oscillation, set the sleep timer and you’re off.

Notebook and Pen
As much as I love the new and shiny tools – nothing beats a good notebook and pen. I am a pen fanatic, I always have been. Currently I am using a Moleskin Hardcover Notebook along with the Pilot Precise v5 rt black ink pen. The only  leak in this is it’s extremely difficult to find this pen in blue ink. I really like to mix up my ink colors – especially for differentiating notes.

That’s it! These are the main tools I use on a daily basis allowing me to stay organized and on track.

What tools do you find yourself using regularly?

Have you seen this yet?

If you have 30 or so minutes please watch the video below, if you haven’t already seen it.

It’s a short documentary. You’ll find it quite interesting, moving, and powerful.

Plus, while watching, keep in mind two different perspectives.

1. The movement and the story being told in the video.

2. Why Facebook, the Internet, and other social networks online are truly good for humanity.

Facebook isn’t so much about big data or breach of privacy or posting something you shouldn’t have or even advertising. It’s much much deeper and much greater.

Facebook connects the world much easier at a much quicker rate.

At such a rate there is no way to replicate it through traditional means. It connects the world not to do bad, but for the people to stand up for humanity and do good. To stand up for something they believe in, an idea. It connects the entire globe to do good, most importantly, to do good together, no matter where we are on this planet.

The invisible man, women, the child half way around the world, now, because of Facebook and the social web, become visible. Because of real people connecting, growing online communities that spread a shared message, belief, an idea, together, allowing voices to be heard.

Content Is Still King in 2012

Content will remain the catalyst for a brand’s online success (or failure) and ultimately having a tremendous effect on their overall digital return on influence (ROI).

John Bell (author of The Digital Influence Mapping Project) wrote a fabulous piece (which inspired this short writeup and graphic) on this shift in marketing and communications – content marketing finds its value (head on over and take a peak, come back, and we’ll continue on).

Examine the intersection between user and brand.

Content marketing goes beyond the products and services (it touches them indirectly) your organization possesses. It takes a look at who makes up your core demographic and then directly speaks to that user group about that shared interest. You have to examine the intersection of a user and brand. What’s the warm and fuzzy for the user, what’s the shared interest, what’s that one thing that makes both brand and user tick together? What’s the value you posses to help shape that user groups way of life? Speak to that topic.

Though I wholeheartedly agree on everything John is saying throughout his post, I think there’s one piece that’s being left out, or maybe that I would alter…

Creating content for users instead of consumers.

First, users aren’t customers. Users simply absorb your relevant and valuable content. This user group is your brands targeted audience but has a far greater reach than speaking to just consumers. Think about this for a second (refer to the graphic above as well or click here for a larger view). You are able to speak, with adding high levels of relevant value, to a user group that is five times (I have no idea how big, but it’s bigger) the size of your costumer base means huge opportunities. Though a user may never become a customer of yours, what this means is you have created a brand ambassador indirectly. This new ambassador is sharing relevant content that is deriving from your brand. This user group has become much larger making your brand (content) much more visible in an instant. By speaking to a community of users, this eventually will produce consumers who will want to give you some cash for your product or service. Users have now joined the group of brand ambassadors along side consumers. The larger the user base, the greater opportunity of obtaining customers. But, content must remain relevant and valuable. There is still a targeted direction, it’s not the masses.

American Express does it best.

American Express is a financial organization that offers credit card solutions for both personal and business use. What they have done with their content marketing strategy is created a hub that speaks to a core of their demographic. This platform is called American Express Open Forum. Their content consists of how to operate a small business – “powering small business success”. What it doesn’t consist of is how to operate a small business leveraging their credit card solutions. Instead it’s simply a forum. A place where top influencers and thought leaders in the small business space offer their advice, via guests posts, on running a successful small business. From managing, to marketing, to design, etc. This is the true kicker – it’s powered by the small business experts outside of American Express. They seek to the SMB expert to produce the content. They have even gone to the extent of declaring their own day of the year called “Small Business Saturday”. It’s the day after Black Friday that encourages shoppers to shop small and local. When a small business owner thinks about financials, they instantly gravitate to American Express. Through persistence they’ve molded their brand to become the “all things small business expert”.

Keep the platform in your control.

What must be remembered is that the content hub needs to be in your control. Meaning, don’t use third party platforms to create content. Instead, establish your own platform that both creates and distributes relevant content by means of social channels to your targeted user base. Refer to the graphic above for the path a user and customer takes. The idea of this platform and content marketing strategy is to always be creating. This results in shareable links and high SERPs. It’s constant, consistent, and filled with fresh content and conversation. Conversation and dialogue that takes place in your living room – your brands controlled environment.  This large group of users are continually returning to your content hub, it’s only a matter of time before they themselves, or one of their SWYN (share with your network) recipients, meanders to your website to research your product/service and then filters to the bottom of your sales funnel.

As John Bell stated at the end of his post – it’s definitely a marathon.