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Monthly Archives: September 2011

Klout’s New Topic Pages

Klout, the most popular online influence measurement tool, has finally released their long awaited topic pages to the enjoyment of, well, me. I love Klout. But I haven’t talked to anyone else about the new feature yet so for now it’s just me being happy.

For awhile users on Klout have been able to award +K’s to their connections who are influential in certain topics or categories. For example, I’ve been +K’d in categories like Social Media, Facebook, Beer, Burritos, Chipotle (typical 23 year old Community Manager things). This feature didn’t do too much other than allow people to say that others are influential about things. If it increased one’s chances at earning Klout Perks then it wasn’t advertised as such (from what I have seen), but would have been a fantastic incentive to help increase engagement on the site. But until today there wasn’t much you could do with those topics.

Now Klout has finally rolled out their topic pages that promise to make these topics a little more interesting within the site. Topic pages allows users to see the Top Influencers, Top +K Recipients, and influential buzz about specific topics. In the image above you can see the three sections of topic pages on the left side of the page.

What does this mean for users? Users who are influential about a topic tend to talk A LOT about a topic. Now all that chatter is resulting in visibility for the user. You can see that I am the second person listed in the Top +K Recipients section for Chipotle (something I am way too proud of myself for). Now, anybody who views the topic page for Chipotle sees me. While I am relatively insignificant in the only world right now (just you wait) I can only imagine that if I was a company or bigger online presence this would help increase both my reach and number of connections. If I go onto the page for a topic I am passionate about (social media or beer, for example) and I see people or companies rated as the Top Influencers or Top +K Recipients, I will probably follow them on Twitter, or at least do some research on who they are. This is a big deal.

The “Best Content” section displays some of the recent influential buzz on a specific topic. For now it appears to be only tweets, but there is no distinction so I may be wrong. This content shows what people are saying about a topic, and who it has influenced. How the content is chosen is ambiguous at best right now. On the Klout Blog they do give us this: “we curate topical content based on the engaging influencers, and their interaction with the topical content.” Not the most precise explanation, but their algorithms and formulas have always been a tight secret.

Klout also says that these pages will eventually have information on trends and related content, as well as some form of analytics. All of these changes are great in my opinion. If I was a company or leader in a product category, I would utilize everything Klout has to offer to really reward the people who love what I do. If those people happen to be great influencers then even better. Hopefully brands start embracing the influence “factor” and understanding what it can bring to the table.

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Productivity Is A Result, Not A Characteristic

The word characteristic is defined as “a distinguishing feature or quality.”

The word productivity is defined as “the quality…of being able to generate, create, enhance, or bring forth goods and services.”

I have a problem with the above definitions because they imply that productivity is indeed a quality, or characteristic, of an individual. I disagree with that. Rather, I believe that it is a result of a combination of four factors: motivation, focus, organization, and knowledge.

  • Motivation: Motivation is the first part of the equation because without motivation, you will not be able to achieve anything. There isn’t an action you perform that doesn’t have some motivation behind it. From big things (starting a new company) to trivial matters (eating breakfast) you are motivated to achieve some sort of goal (to provide a new product/service or to ease hunger). Motivation is what gets you out of bed in the morning and, after a cup of coffee (If you’re a coffee drinker. I’m not.), gets you going for whatever you have to accomplish that day. But being motivated is tough. I’ve learned that to be motivated you have to be happy with what you’re doing, enjoy the people you work with, and be willing to learn and make mistakes. Once you’re motivated, even the roadblocks that you will inevitably run into won’t be a problem because you’ll push through them In other words, act as if YOU are a startup company. Motivation is the spark that gets the engine running for the next three parts.
  • Focus: I wrote a post on focus being a key to success and believe that it may be the most important step on the way to productivity. In keeping with the definition theme, focus is defined as “a central point, as of attraction, attention, or activity.” When you need to be productive you must focus. The biggest problem I’ve faced in my professional life has been focusing. Having multiple projects with approaching deadlines is my biggest hurdle in being the worker I want, and need, to be. If you have too much and try to get them all done simultaneously you will get none of them done on time, and they will be of inferior quality than if you focused on them one at a time. Schedule time in the day to work on a specific project, and stick to that schedule. It is okay to say no to people who ask you for help. Tell them that you can get to it later, and if that isn’t an option, refer them to a person who may be able to help. Put all of your focus into one project and it will be done quickly and done well. Try to please everyone by completing all projects at the same time and you will be overwhelmed. Which brings us to our next step…
  • Organization: If you are not organized you will miss things. Emails that should have been sent will be forever lost in your “drafts” folder. That one update you meant to make will go unmade. To be organized you have to be disciplined. Writing out a to-do list, or using programs like Wunderlist or Workflowy, is a great start. Personally my first step when an assignment or task comes through is to schedule it into my calendar. If it’s something that will take no more than a couple of minutes I will do it immediately to get it out of the way, unless it can wait until later. If it will take five minutes or more I schedule it. My calendar has become my to-do list. I check it every morning to see what meetings, projects, and miscellaneous things I will have to do that day. Do something that fits your style and works best for you. But make sure you DO it, and stay on top of it. If you can stay organized, you will be able to rip through things you have to do amazingly quickly. Getting things done ahead of time and getting a surprised look from those waiting for it is one of the best feelings you’ll get in the work place.
  • Knowledge: Knowledge is the glue that holds everything together after the first three parts build your foundation. You can be motivated, focused, and organized more than any of your peers, but if you lack the knowledge your responsibilities require then then those qualities matter very little. Knowing the answers to questions you haven’t been asked, and knowing the best ways to optimize your work pulls everything together. You also have to realize that as much as you think you know, there is always more to learn. Never stop exploring. Never stop learning.
These four “pillars” are the basis for productivity. You lose one, and the whole thing falls apart. I’ll be honest, I am inherently an unproductive person in many ways. I am very relaxed, don’t like to feel stress (who does though?), and like to play things by ear and think on my feet. Now that I am part of the real world in a full time job with actual responsibility and other people depending on me, I’ve had to change things. A lot. I’ve had to start going to bed earlier, make to-do lists, and plan out my days and weeks. In a way, I’ve hated it because it’s not who I like to be. But at the same time I love it because it’s taught me a lot about responsibility and pulling my own weight. This isn’t to say I’ve been a terrible person to work with, or a terrible student, but I have definitely learned that I needed to improve in these areas drastically to make it in the real world. Productivity isn’t something that some people have and some don’t. It is a result of a combination of things that you must have.

What makes you productive? Do you have a process or are you looking for one?

Focus: The Key To Success

A coworker and friend of mine, @drewhawkins, tweeted out a link to an article on why freakonomics trumps logic when it comes to marketing. For those of you unfamiliar with that term, freakonomics is essentially the law of unintended consequences. A broad definition, sure, but when applied to business it makes a lot of sense. A hypothetical example would be something like a high national crime rate being the result of McDonald’s releasing a new McFlurry flavor. Two seemingly unrelated things now have a relationship.

In short, the article linked above talks about how businesses that take the logical approach, like adding additional menu items (Burger King), to grow business actually end up diluting the market and result in a decrease in business. An illogical result, unless you use experiential logic to understand it.

What do I mean by experiential logic? It is a term that may very well exist and have a meaning but I’ve made up my own meaning for it right now. What I mean by experiential logic is: apply your own experiences to expectations instead of what typical practices call for. For a personal example…

When I have had a lot of work to do, and I mean A LOT, I get overwhelmed and try to finish everything at the same time. When I do this only two things can occur: 1) I will pull everything together very quickly, but not do as well as I could have on any single thing, or 2) I will jump around and finish nothing on time. So what’s the solution? Pick one thing. ONE. Get that done, and make it good. Then go on to the next thing and do that with the same quality. And so on.

Doing too much can only make a mess.

Now let’s back up and apply this to real businesses. The Burger King example from the AdAge article continued on and compared BK to Five Guys. BK tries to experiment with a ton of new menu items and their business decreases. Five Guys sticks to the nuts and bolts: burgers and fries, with some extras like grilled cheese and hot dogs. They don’t try to serve smoothies and salads. Five Guys’ business increases in the same time frame.

The second of two points I brought up in this post is something I’ve observed for a while now, and the AdAge article gives yet another point of view in support of it. If you try to make everyone happy, it’s going to hurt you in the long run. Let’s change that a bit for this example: Less is more. Yes, in this case that cliche works perfectly. Five Guys is a burger joint. And it embraces that. They aren’t adding menu items to feed people who want smoothies and salads. They are going to serve a small number of items, but makes sure those items are of a very high quality. And it helps them succeed.

Focus is what it comes down to. There is a limit to what you can focus on without it decreasing the quality of your work (or product, or business). Stick within your limits and you will succeed. The chances of failure doing what you do well (Burger King making burgers, for example) are slim. The chances of failure doing what you’ve never done to appease others (Burger King making…smoothies) are much higher. Become #1 in one thing before trying to be #1 in everything. Otherwise, you’ll never get there.

 

Google+ Suggested Users List Shows Users How Google Doesn’t Understand Social…Still

Paris Hilton and MySpace Tom totally supercharge my stream!

Since the day I created my Google+ account I have stood fast, almost too strongly, against the idea that Google+ will become something great. I wrote about why it will fail, and some idea on how it could succeed back in July and so far, I haven’t been too far off.

The release of the Google+ Suggested Users list is another notch in Google’s “We can’t compete in social” belt. A great idea, in theory, the suggested users list seems like it would help people get acquainted with certain features of G+ while also following the people who know the social network the best. The problem is that the feature is not ready to be released yet. It is still primitive. It will list Robert Scoble, a prominent tech blogger, in the same place as Paris Hilton. See a problem there?

One of the biggest issues I’ve seen over the last couple of months in regards to Google+ is how eager Google is to contribute to the social landscape. As a result of this eagerness they have begun releasing features that are not yet ready to be released, always with “the ability to <insert how feature can be improved here> is on its way,” in the metaphorical fine print. When a feature is released I expect there to be bugs and problems. But when a suggested user list is released I expect to see users that make sense to me. Right now I have Taylor Swift (don’t own a single track of hers), Tom the MySpace guy (seriously?), and Dolly Parton (okay, that one made me laugh).

And the problem of releasing features that don’t do what they are, in theory, expected to do isn’t restricted to just the suggested users list. It has affected Circles (here is a point of view I’ve shared since the beginning about Circles) as well. Google is the world’s leader in search (and collecting personal data of EVERYONE), and they have yet to include great search in their own social network. What is going on?

A “too little, too late” type of thing is occurring for Google+, with its inability to keep registered users active (last I checked less than 20% of users were inactive), releasing unfinished features, and a lack of understanding with what users really want (and stating that Google+ is essentially FOR Google, not for the users). While I don’t see a great future for Google+ as an overall social network, I do hope it succeeds somehow. Whether that is as a business-centric social network (a la Linkedin), or something else remains to be seen, but I do hope it results in something that helps consumers.

Real Men Of Genius: I’m-cool-so-I-back-into-parking-spots-guy

(Cue the “Real Men of Genius” music)

Thank you Mr. I’m-cool-so-I-back-into-parking-spots-guy for making my morning even more enjoyable. Everyone wants to be that guy who is super savvy at driving so they swing by an open spot, pass it, and coolly places his arm on the back of the passenger seat and looks back with a “damn, I’m cool” smirk as you glide your way backwards into the parking spot. I’ve done it, every guy has done it (or tried to). Except you don’t know how to. Cars have doors. And these doors must be opened in order to exit the vehicle. You also took the time to line up your car so that the side mirror got in the way of the door. Thank you. Now please forgive me Mr. I’m-cool-so-I-back-into-parking-spots-guy if you are skinny enough to make Kate Moss look like the Michelin Man, if you are able to squeeze through the gap in your door that is the size of my foot, please go ahead and do so. Most people are not capable of such a feat, unless you happen to be this guy. But you are not that guy.

I’m sure you had your reasons. You may have been bringing that special lady home after a great Wednesday night college shit show and wanted to show her just how cool you really are. After all, what girl doesn’t want a guy who can back into a parking spot? You also left her enough room between the passenger side of the car and the car in the next spot for her to lay down in and take a post-party nap. And of course she ignored the grunting, twisting, and contorting you must have done to exit your side because you are such a gentleman.

Or maybe you are the car-driving brother of Mr. I-see-nothing-wrong-with-standing-on-the-same-escalator-step-as-you that my boss had the pleasure of meeting last week. I may never know.

What I do know is that I had the fortune of climbing through the passenger side of my car this morning in order to being my drive to work. And I owe it all to you Mr. I’m-cool-so-I-back-into-parking-spots-guy. And I thank you. It changed my outlook on how to enter a car. I may never be the same again. One day I may return the favor by parking right next to the driver’s side door of your gray Jetta with the FAMU front license plate. However, I am not nearly as cool as you Mr. I’m-cool-so-I-back-into-parking-spots-guy, so I may park normally. I hope that does not offend you.

So thank you, Mr. I’m-cool-so-I-back-into-parking-spots-guy, for making what was looking like any ordinary morning, extraordinary. Thank you so very much.