Archives for the month of: May, 2012

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12 Most weekly writer Becky Gaylord shares tips for Productive Things to Say at Work Instead of “No.”…

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Today was one of the busiest days for my blog since I started it more than a year ago. Part of that is because PRDaily picked up a post of mine that initially ran on this blog last month. (I am going to start contributing to that awesome site regularly with original posts. Thanks, Michael Sebastian!)

But part of the reason for traffic and clicks, I’m sure, is because I got ripped off by a PR agency that knows better — or damn well should.

When I saw that this agency posted my work, literally word for word, as its own, I sent a comment to the blog. The “moderator” didn’t approve it. Shocking, I know.

I decided not to blow off this one. We creative types who dream up and send out our content have every right not to have it stolen. Yet so often, that’s exactly what happens. Many bloggers and others have weighed in on this, including my friend Peggy Fitzpatrick in this wonderful post last month on her blog. Still, it seems as if the stealing is only growing. It sure is easier now than ever to do it.

When my feisty #takeitdown Tweet went out, many members of the Twitter community rallied to my defense and also fussed and Tweeted about and to the offender (neither of whose Twitter handle nor pilfered link I am going to include here because, while I want the burglars outed, I don’t want to give them exposure of any kind that would likely just boost their analytics.)

That support heartened me. It definitely drove extra traffic to my site. And, in a perverse way, it probably also increased my standing as a blogger and content creator because I was deemed good enough to rip off. After all, those counterfeiters fake only the high-end goods, right?

Set aside the extra attention and support that came from this incident, which totally reaffirmed my belief in the social web’s ability to self police and to form and support their community.

This is what I keep contemplating as a result of today: as content becomes easier to share, how can we find better ways to ensure creators and owners get the credit for their intellectual property and effort? After all, these are the folks who help keep the social web spinning.

I know nothing about programming or coding. But I do create a ton of content for clients, for my own blog, for other blogs like the best list blog on the web 12 Most. Can’t the whip-smart brains in our community make tighter seals of authenticity around the art and content being created and shared?

I see infographics, for instance, without Twitter handles or even names of the brainpower behind them. I try to track down the designer, where possible, and include them when I Tweet the art. I will often send great infographics through a Power Tweet on Twylah because of the turbocharged exposure it gives to Tweets, like this one. I figure if the Tweet I use to share an infographic is going to get a longer half-life, the creator of that content deserves at least as much of that as I do.

It sometimes comes down to leverage.

When I freelanced for major publications in the late 1990s, and electronic platforms were still pretty young, it made me laugh that I had to sign away my rights to the articles I pitched and wrote whether they ran on a long list of existing media channels “or any that hadn’t yet been created.” Those lawyers think of everything. What choice did I have?

If you work for an agency or creative, digital firm, it owns your work. That’s the trade-off for getting the protection and security of full-time employment with benefits. Because of its resources, the firm can also help guard against illegal use of the work.

However, if you run your own shop, as I do, then you get to keep control over the rights. But you also run greater risk of getting scavenged by the scum who swoop in and think that with a simple ‘cut and paste’ your work can be theirs, for free.

I have given up on the idea that stealers will be reformed. Have you seen the statistics on the percentage of college students who cheat on exams (including the gem about cheaters having higher grade point averages? Yuck!) Or the number of folks who cheat on their taxes, including those nominated to Cabinet positions?

So, I get that it’s going to keep happening. And I’m not stuck on this because it’s a morality issue, which it is.

This matters to me and to many tens of thousands of other creative people communicating, marketing, leading, influencing and coaching on the social web. Why? Because of the commercial threat that stolen intellectual property presents to all of us.

Like other content creators, I get business because of the quality of my content and the wheels that turn inside my brain that think up the ideas, strategies and concepts I offer clients. It angers me that vultures take what they want with no regard for their prey — us.

We can put tracking devices on cars. We can put microchips inside pets to help them be safely found, if lost. The beleaguered U.S. Postal Service, struggling to turn a profit, manages still to return letters gone astray, for goodness sakes! Why can’t we do a better job of making content harder to steal? I imagine that kind of technology would have many customers and make its inventor good money.

Yes, I know some tools exist, such as trackbacks and pingbacks. I use Google alerts and Topsy.com as well. But I am picturing something like an alarm that prevents the content from being lifted in the first place. Like one of those ink-filled security tags stores use. When a shoplifter gets a dress home and tries to snip off the device, ink explodes, rendering the garment unwearable.

Getting ripped off, and seeing my friends get ripped off, clearly still has me steamed.

So, thanks for visiting my blog on one of my busiest days and bearing with me as I think of, and strive to create, better solutions. It’s what I do for a living. Oh, and I’m happy for you to share this post. But don’t steal it…otherwise, I’ll shame you with Tweets, and so will some of my Twitter chums. (I picked up about 30 new followers today, too!)

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Becky Gaylord jots down the 12 Most Infallible Ways to Improve your Writing.

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When I started my consulting practice more than two years ago, my immersion into social media was, maybe, knee-deep. I wouldn’t have called it that at the time. I had joined LinkedIn in 2003, Facebook in 2004 and Twitter in 2009.

Still, the social web has exploded since then. And so has my insight — although the thing about social media is that it’s easy to feel as if you’re always playing catch up because it’s changing so quickly.

Anyway, about a year ago, I decided to redo my website. I wanted to make it more interactive, to highlight my blog better and to enable posts to be shared easily. It needed a big upgrade with respect to its social presence and capabilities.

The journey has been bumpy and difficult. And it’s not over, yet. But it sure has taught me a lot!

5 lessons I learned by redoing my website . . .

(that I wish I’d known beforehand!)

1. Make sure your programmer and designer listen, well, to what you want and can convert those ideas into action

I definitely should’ve spent more time interviewing former clients of the first designer I hired to make sure his skills and approach would translate into a partnership. He ended up designing the site he wanted. Not the one I wanted. And then kept trying to talk me into it, and told me that others he showed it to had liked it. Ugh. To the team redoing your website, you are the important audience. The project should feel like it completely meets your specs and communicates what you want it to.

2. Check their Twitter feeds and blogs

Find out: Do they communicate on a somewhat similar plane as you? Do they share as frequently as you want your posts Tweeted, Buffered and Pinned? Do they know the kind of tools and plug-ins that are on the cutting edge? Just because a designer or programmer is talented doesn’t mean he or she is going to really understand the way you’re going to use the site and need it to work. If your potential designer/programmer’s social presence clashes with yours, RUN. Tweets with expletives? A dead giveaway (and now I know.)

3. Study up so you know what you want

If I am going to have my house painted, I don’t need to know the best techniques. If I am going to get my taxes done, I am not going to brush up on the latest  regulations. But social is different. Week to week, things change. Tools come on the scene that make things better, easier, prettier. Trends shift in warp speed. This is not the area to outsource completely to a designer or programmer — even a good one. You’ve got to know the tools you want to be able to guide the process and site development so you end up with something close to what you envision. I’m not talking about being a dictator. But I am suggesting you have to a partner if you want to love the final product.

4. Know when to give up

I stayed with my first designer (who brought in a programmer I didn’t know — another big mistake) way too long. I knew he wasn’t getting what I wanted, or more precisely, wasn’t listening to what I wanted. I knew this wasn’t going to be the partnership I needed as tweaks to the site would crop up. I began dreading meetings and phone calls, which were not returned very promptly. I got to the point where I had paid for 3/4 of the job. And still hated it. Why didn’t I just leave earlier? That is my advice to you, if things are sliding steeply down hill… just start over. And get an escape clause in the contract that doesn’t leave you paying for work that didn’t meet your specs. I got out of the last payment, but not before it got ugly, which was unfortunate.

5. People skills matter as much as designing/programming skills

This is social media, for goodness sakes. The person or team you pick to redo your website needs to not just display professional social media skills. They have to display professional social skills, period. This project you are embarking upon is intensely personal, very important to your business, a reflection of you and responsible for driving customers and clients to act and buy. You need someone who totally gets that and can translate it into a site that works for you. And to get that, you need someone dedicated to working with you.

So, my website redesign odyssey is, finally, almost done.

I am thrilled with my new team, Yurich Creative. They did my new logo. They found fonts I love. They made awesome design suggestions. And they took my requests for plug-ins I wanted and the sharing capability I pictured. They didn’t know every tool, but were open to discovering and incorporating things into the design.

Their suggestions clearly showed that my descriptions of how I wanted the site to look and work resonated with them. It was wonderful! Ahhh.

I wish I could’ve made this progress without learning these 5 hard lessons. Some of them might look silly, in hindsight. But I learned. And I think that’s why this go-round went so much more smoothly.

And, hey, all of those hassles did provide a great idea for a blog post. Feel free to share it. I want others to learn from my mishaps, as well. And I would love to hear about your bloopers and triumphs with your own website redo. What lessons would you add to this list?

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Becky Gaylord shares some of her motherly love with the 12 Most MOMentous Moments of Motherhood…

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12 Most Essential Traits to Thrive at Work…

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This is fantastic storytelling and brand building! And it takes full advantage of the power of video, visuals and social media. Brilliant.

Fans of my blog know I love word clouds.

I use them in presentations, blog posts and even in reports. They show the proportional use of words, in a graphic form. And word clouds can give real power, visually, to analysis.

I decided to see what my Tweets looked like in a word cloud. Tagxedo has a great tool for this, which allows customization in many ways, including the word cloud’s layout, color, fonts and shape.

Using the tools on the site, I typed in my Twitter ID and downloaded information from my Tweets. I chose to remove (or to skip, as it’s called on the site) Twitter handles, so the words in the graphic included only those within my Tweets. Then, I played around with aesthetic aspects, picking fonts, colors and a shape I liked…

…a quote!   

With the specifications I chose, Tagxedo’s tool created a visual representation of my Twitter stream — what I Tweet, ReTweet, post and comment on in chunks of 140 characters or less! While simple and fun to do, this exercise actually serves a very useful purpose: it is, essentially, a visual representation of my brand on Twitter.

What about yours? Does it look like and say what you want it to?

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