Make your message clear

When using social media, it’s important to be globally aware in your use of language.  There are regional differences, dialects and local slang that can be interpreted in more than one way depending where you are. In particular, I encourage you to follow these 3 simple rules:
  1. Avoid idioms.
  2. Write out dates.
  3. Don’t use abbreviations.
Idioms are words and phrases that shouldn’t be taken literally.  When used in everyday language (including blogs, status updates and tweets) they have an alternate meaning. Here are some examples:
  • Nest Egg: Savings set aside for future use.
  • Smell Something Fishy: Detecting that something isn’t right and there might be a reason for it.
  • Keep your chin up: To remain joyful in a tough situation.
Using numbers for dates is an efficient way to communicate but only when the writer and the reader agree on the position of year, month and date.
What’s the expiry date on this Chuck E. Cheese’s coupon? It reads 06/10/11 but that could mean:
  • June 10, 2011
  • October 6, 2011
  • October 11, 2006
  • June 11, 2010
Abbreviations can also be a challenge. Of course, hashtags are a specific type of abbreviation on Twitter but I’m talking about commonly used abbreviations that might flow into everyday language. Things like SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), GMT (Greenwich mean time), and NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) are understood by many. But what about PMS – is that a Project Management System or something else?
While it’s important to make every character count when you’re limited to 140 in a tweet or 420 in a Facebook status update, be sure to pause and ask yourself if your message is clear.

Have you checked in lately?

Have you checked in lately? Social networks that let you announce where you are in real time have been around for more than a year now. Are you using them?

At first, it’s a novelty. Foursquare, Gowalla and Facebook Places offer another digital place to gather friends with the practical side benefit of meeting them offline at the local mall, event or coffee shop. You and your friends “check-in” and you instantly know where to find each other.

There’s a game factor too that’s oddly appealing. It harkens back to our childhood – for me that included Guide badges and figure skating badges. Something to collect that represents an accomplishment. Ok, it’s a minor accomplishment but it’s still fun.

There’s also a competitive aspect attempting to become the mayor or Duchess of a location as you playfully oust a friend or stranger from their most honourable position.

Social check-in tools can also save you some money as many of them will highlight deals and offers near to your current location. That can be handy if you’re looking for a cheap lunch or an affordable pedicure. Business owners who claim their location on Foursquare can add special offers for the Mayor only, for visitors on their first check-in or a loyalty special to encourage repeat visits.

But once the gloss wears off the game of it and you’ve had as many free root beers as you can handle, what will motivate you to continue checking in? Business owners are experimenting to figure this out.

Many users, including me, have check-in fatigue. After a while it just feels like too much effort to pull out your smart phone, launch the program and wait for the GPS to find your location so you can check-in.

Users are now also better educated about the safety and security issues of announcing their location. If you’re at a restaurant, then you’re not at home. Is your house protected? There’s also the matter of personal safety in certain public locations. I never check-in when I’m somewhere with my son. It’s not worth the risk to his safety and my ability to keep him safe.

For me, I mainly check-in now when I’m at a conference or other big event. The sorts of events where my peers who also use Foursquare will be and the “find the friends” benefit works well.

So, I’m curious – are you checking in?

How to Prepare for a Conference

I’m a conference junkie. Yup, I have the habit of going to conferences. These events are a great opportunity for networking, learning and gaining some new perspectives. As much as I love conferences, I don’t go to every conference out there. You’ve got to pick the events that relate to the work that you do or will be attended by your prospects and customers.

This week I’m preparing to go to Social Media Camp Victoria – a two day extravaganza of social networking experiences. I’m honored to be a speaker and am looking forward to learning from my fellow presenters including Jay Baer, Amber Naslund, Callan Rush, Sean Moffit, Rebecca Coleman and many others.

Given I could put “Conference Goer” on my resume, I’ve experimented with what to do and take. After lots of blisters, useless notes, dead batteries and some wicked headaches, I’ve figured out what works. Read on if you want a better conference experience:

A couple of weeks ahead, check how many business cards you have on hand. Plan to bring 250 cards with you. You won’t use them all but it’s better to have too many than too few. If your stock is low, order more now. Even if you don’t have a business you still need a card. Simple black type on crisp white card stock is fine. You can order them from Staples or Office Depot or your local print shop for a quick turnaround. Having a card makes it easier for the people to find you again after the conference.

Make a packing list of all the computer technology you want to bring with you. Do you need your cel phone? A laptop / Netbook/ iPad? What about chargers? Peripherals like external speakers or a wireless mouse? What about microphones or headsets? Don’t forget batteries and a power bar. The list should include the gear you want in your conference bag and the stuff you’ll need in your hotel room.

Cameras are another biggie. Are you planning to take photos or shoot some video? Then decide which cameras to pack. Is a simple point & shoot enough or do you need a digital SLR? Are you shooting video on your iPhone or creating something higher quality with a Kodak PlayTouch or a Flip? Again, what batteries or chargers do you need? How many memory cards will you pack? And bring your own tripod if you need one.

You know that TV show “What not to Wear?” Keep that in mind as you pack for a conference. There are some practical considerations – the time of year, the weather and the geography. A sunny summer day at a ranch venue requires jeans and a hat whereas as a June day in a conference centre requires business casual attire including a shawl, light jacket or cardigan just in case the air conditioning’s on full blast. Beyond the practical, try to figure out the style of the conference – social media conferences tend to be more casual (not sloppy) compared to hospitality shows, for example.

Separate from the clothes on your back, I implore you to pack comfy shoes. Flats, sandals or nice walking shoes are essential for you to keep on trucking around the conference. Wear runners if that works for you but please leave the smelly trail run sneakers at home for sake of those who have to sit next to you!

Take a look at at the speaker list – who do you already know? What blogs can you add to your RSS reader? Who should you follow on Twitter or fan on Facebook? If you haven’t already, get reading and start connecting.

Study the conference schedule. Are there concurrent sessions? Make some decisions about what you’d like to attend before you arrive but be flexible enough to go anywhere on the day. Make your selections a blend of topics you already know and challenge yourself to learn something new.

Thanks for reading this far … the folks over at Social Media Camp are posting a companion blog with 7 more tips to help you enjoy the event. Carry on reading here.

What tips can you share to thrive at a conference?