Sunday, July 15, 2012

Use LinkedIn without alerting your boss and colleagues

The question I get asked most often by individuals who want to update their LinkedIn profiles is, “How do I do it without letting my suspicious boss, who doesn't know anything about social media, think that I’m looking to leave the company?”

My response to this question is to always err on the side of caution. If you think that updating your profile is going to get you in trouble, then don’t do it. But does this mean there is no way to update your profile?

Not at all.

See, the thing that underpins a gifted social media practitioner’s strategy is a good understanding human psychology and relationships. If we can understand our boss as a human being with feelings and ideas, rather than as a Mr. Burns, we will have a better idea of how to establish our social media presence in a way that not only makes us look good, but makes our company look good as well.

Bosses’ and colleagues’ concerns

Bosses often get worried when their staffers update their profiles, because it could be a sign that they are looking to jump ship. Bosses are worried that they might have to quickly hire new people who don’t know their job as well as individuals that have worked in the office for some time. Even with the horrible economy and the oceans of unemployed, finding a new worker who knows exactly how to do the job or training a newcomer can be a huge time suck.

The other way that your boss might be wary of you updating your LinkedIn profile is if he or she thinks that it makes you look more qualified than others – including your boss! Organizations sometimes have politics, spying, undermining and sensitive egos lying just under the surface, especially in organizations where loyalties are unclear and/or turnover is high. 

If we update our profiles in such an environment, we can be perceived by our bosses and colleagues as potentially rocking the boat.

Third, your boss or colleague might be worried about your LinkedIn profile because he or she doesn’t know what LinkedIn really is about. Some people see LinkedIn as a glorified Facebook, fit for revealing personal or company information that compromises the organization’s image. Your boss might even think that LinkedIn is a tool that facilitates building an organization that competes directly with the boss’ organization!

All of these ideas should have nothing to do with why you want to update your LinkedIn profile, but they do need to be addressed.

What are your options?

Remember, your boss may not know your intentions or understand what LinkedIn is about. It is your responsibility, not your boss’, to clarify the situation. Do not do any of the following if there is any chance it could hurt your position at work.

Here is where human psychology comes in: things that are written down can be more easily misunderstood than things that are spoken. The written word also carries more weight than what is spoken. So before you update your profile, if you think your boss can be reasonable about it, go have a nice talk with him or her.

I would suggest you choose a fairly quiet, calm time to bring up the topic of your LinkedIn profile. If your boss is busy or upset already, then you talking about your profile is not going to win you any favors. Don’t take it personally, it’s just not the most important thing on his or her agenda.

Second, you might mention that you have heard that maintaining an accurate record of your duties on LinkedIn is now considered a basic part of a person’s career. You can also say that by filling out your profile you mean to give your current employer a message that you are taking clear responsibility for your work and the job requirements.

What about co-workers or bosses concerned about how they will look if your profile is well-developed? You might win friends if you tell your colleagues and superiors that you would like an off-the-record review of your skills so that you can tell the world what it is that you do in a way that is more well rounded than if you had described your position by yourself. Make sure if you do this that you are talking to people who are not clear enemies, but rather people you think can be trusted.

If you are really concerned about filling out your profile and you have some nasty enemies in the office watching, there is another way to do it, but there is a certain amount of risk involved. You might tell your “frienimies” that you would like to give them recommendations on their LinkedIn profiles. Almost everyone has some redeeming characteristics that you can mention. Once you have done this, you might make a few friends and find that building up your profile is easier. If it doesn’t break the ice or you can’t even convince them of the wisdom of being publically praised on their LinkedIn profiles, you can still back out of updating your profile

Just so it is very clear, I do NOT advise that you recommend people you don’t like, and especially if you suspect them of illegal or unethical behavior.

If you give someone a recommendation, you are publically endorsing that individual. If they do something wrong later and get in trouble for it, your recommendation can be held up as proof that your “friend” was a good person.  This can have all sorts of legal consequences, so tread carefully. I personally never give anyone a recommendation unless I have a good feel for the person’s character built up over a longer period of time. 

Recommendations say as much about me as they do others, so I don’t take them lightly.

Luckily, the most common reason for professionals to spurn LinkedIn is that they don’t understand the site very well. Yes, “luckily”! This is the most easy reason to address.

If you are concerned that your colleagues and superiors are going to be suspicious of your profile update for this reason, then I would suggest that if your workplace has an open culture that you share an article or two about how using LinkedIn is considered a very standard practice. For example, LinkedIn can be used to exchange information with people around the world, not just job hunt. When people fill out their profiles then they make it easier to share and receive information, because they are putting out a very important part of their lives that all can see and judge. 

By far the best way of getting a workplace on board with LinkedIn is to have trainers come in and explain what the site is all about. Lori Ruff (@loriruff), at left, and Laurie Boettcher (@LaurieBoettcherare two well-liked individuals I know of who train professionals on how to use LinkedIn, but there are many others as well. See if anyone you trust in HR is open to the idea of having such people come in to train the staff and see where it goes from there. If the idea takes off, it can have a profound affect throughout the company.

LinkedIn is a wonderful site that you can use in many different ways to enrich your career. Just use it responsibly, ethically and legally, and always share what you learn with others. 

(This article is meant only as advice and is not binding upon anyone.)

Saturday, July 7, 2012

How to use Prezi to blow away audiences

Are PowerPoint presentations not working for your audiences? There’s a solution in sight, and it’s called Prezi.

Prezi uses a what-you-see-is-what-you-get interface to create beautiful zooming and rotating presentations. Here is a demo:

Prezi is special because it is cloud based. It can facilitate potentially dynamic and exciting offerings that leave positive vibes with audiences long after. Prezis can be shared via email, Facebook and Twitter. I can’t say enough about how cool Prezi is. Prezi is amazing!

Except when it’s not done right.

Prezi can definitely be done the wrong way, which is when things get ugly. Fast.

Today, I’m going to explain some simple pointers for using Prezi. Use these tips and you’ll find your presentations pop more. I assume from the outset that you have some design skill, and that you can do the following. If this is difficult, you’ll want to enlist a designer to help you out. You can definitely do even more with Prezi if you know Flash, but I want to keep this straight forward.

Let’s do this.

Find photos and video

The most important thing you can do to make your Prezi’s interesting is by introducing elements of surprise. This is accomplished by zooming in and out.

Look at your presentation topic. Is there a common theme? Are there visual elements? What ties the speech all together?

After you’ve brainstormed your speech elements, go to Google images. Make sure to only use photos that you have permission to use, or can use under fair use. If you are a student, almost any images you use for a class project will be considered fair use. If in doubt, use to find content (you’ll still want to check that the content is indeed usable).

Use the most high-resolution .jpg files for your art. Change your search terms to “large” photos for these purposes. Once you find the photos you want, save them to a folder. Once you have all your photos gathered, “save as” them as .pdfs. Making the .jpgs into .pdfs ensures that they will not get pixelated when zooming in and out of them.

You can also use videos from YouTube in your Prezi. Be careful that you don't use clips that are so long or powerful that they take away attention from you and the rest of the Prezi.

Here are some photos I'll be using:

Make captions

You can use Prezi itself to insert text into your presentation, but for a custom look you will want to create your own captions offline.
Here’s how to do it. Open a graphic design program (I prefer InDesign) and set up a new document. Make sure to switch it from “print” to “web”. You can really set up whatever pixel dimensions you want. 1024x768 usually works well for me.

Create a text box that is centered and fill it with words for your presentation. Just use a standard font at this point. After you’ve made sure that everything is spelled correctly and makes sense, select all and use new font that looks good – Comic Sans and Papyrus are two fonts you should avoid like the plague.

Generally san-serif fonts are sleeker, look better for headlines and have a more modern vibe, while serif fonts are easier to read in larger chunks. Here’s what I mean:

When you have created your text, “save as” your work as a .pdf and put it in a folder where you can easily find it.

Here is another example:

Choose a master photo or graphic for your backdrop

Remember all those photos we set aside? Choose the one that best summarizes your topic or will be easiest to remember, and which has plenty of white spaces that you could potentially zoom in on.

Log in to Prezi and select “your Prezis”. Choose “new Prezi”. With few exceptions you will want to use the white/blank background. Delete all the default starter elements by zooming or out until your elements change from light grey to vibrant grey. Now you can click on the elements and delete them. Do so.

Use the “insert” selection on the top left side of your screen and choose “image”. Select the photo that you want to use from the folder on your computer. It will be uploaded to Prezi after a few moments. Move it into position and resize it so that it fills the screen appropriately. Right click on it and choose “send to back”. 

Here's the photo I'm using for this tutorial:

Don’t make your audience members nauseous, but do
surprise them

Besides using pixelated images, the single worst error I see often on Prezi is overdoing the rotating and zooming function. Yes, Prezi supports rotation and zooming, but that doesn’t mean you should do it!

That said, use the master photo you have placed as your point of entry. Zoom into different places on your master photo for places where you can add other pictures and captions. 

Here is another place where Prezi’s can confuse audiences. Choose logical patterns to place your materials. You’ve already piqued your audience’s interest with the introduction, now you need to inject some stability. There is a fine balance between a presentation that is staid and a presentation that is confusing to follow. You might want to choose some sort of grid pattern or use simple shapes to establish coherence.

This is what I mean:

Use your path and invisible frames wisely

Now that all your elements have been placed on your Prezi canvas, you need to chain them carefully.

Select “path” on the Prezi menu on the upper left hand corner of her screen. Click on your photos and text in the order that you want. As you do this, your elements will pop up on the left hand side of your screen in order from top to bottom. These are your “slides”.

Once you’ve ordered your slides and text, you might want to have points that you zoom in on. Choose “frame” and then choose a frame style. 

Personally I prefer invisible frames, because the other type of frames look very cookie-cutter.

Click where you want to set your frame and drag until it covers what you want. Go back to your “path” button on the Prezi menu. You’ll see all the path points jump up, with little “+” signs next to points. The pluses let you add path points. Click on a “+” and drag it to the frame you set up. Let go and it should turn into a new point.

If at any point you want to change your slides around, just click on them while the “path” menu is selected and move the slides up or down to reorder them. If you want to delete path points, hover over the slide with your arrow. A little red “x” should pop up. Just click on that if you want to get rid of it.

Friday, June 29, 2012

How to use your LinkedIn profile for career advancement

Is LinkedIn a joke? Wondering why your LinkedIn profile is not helping you find jobs, friends and fun? Upset that the site might be just a waste of time?

Don't go there. LinkedIn is one of the most powerful ways to find a job today, but if you're not playing the game a certain way you're not going to win. 

Using LinkedIn, I've been fortunate in that I've been approached by several recruiters for job opportunities, propositioned by entrepreneurs for social media advice, and generally had a great time meeting people around the world. My blog traffic has also gone through the roof. 

None of this would have been possible without optimizing my LinkedIn presence.

Most questions I get about LinkedIn are how to use profile pages, so today I'm going to give some tips to help your pages start making some serious noise. Buckle up!

1. Optimize your profile caption

You will notice that throughout the site, there is a caption about what you do next to your name. This caption is extremely important, as it's one of the most important ways recruiters find potential employees. Lets help them find you!

What I want you to do is go to the "More" tab at the top of the LinkedIn home page and click on "Skills & Expertise". You will see a screen where you can enter skills. Put in the kind of skills that you have, and also try entering skills for the kind of job you are looking for. You will get a description. Use parts of the description in your profile caption, as well as in your summary. Think of it almost like an objective statement:

You should see an increase in people who view your profile if you have optimized your caption properly.

Under the summary section of your profile there is a section called “Specialties”. Fill it with skills that you found in the "Skills & Expertise" section mentioned above. Of course you should only mention skills that you actually have. This will help you be found by the LinkedIn search engine.

You also have a "Skills & Expertise" section on your profile. You should try to populate it with as many skills you have as possible. This also will help you be found by the search engine.

2. Make your profile more about your career arc and less about your employers

What we want to do is market you and your skills, not your company. In your LinkedIn profile, keep company descriptions but explain how you fit in and made the company a better place. What are your accomplishments, what are you proud of? For example, if you came in as an intern and were hired, that is a big deal!

3. Use numbers to highlight your career 

If you can say you managed X number of people or generated X revenue for your company, I would move this kind of quantifiable info to the top of all job descriptions. Numbers help give recruiters and HR people a better sense of your career arc.

Pick no more than five and no less than three bullets to describe each of the jobs you've had. It's ok to not list everything, that's what the interviews are for. Of course, if you have amazing experience, feel free to use more bullets, but be careful to not go overboard!

5. Go back to school 

Go find the summaries of the different programs you've studied at. Insert them on your profile page. You might think that everyone knows what you studied, but the fact is that they don’t. Schools and universities are different; they do not all have the same focus.

As always, if you can use keywords from the "Skills & Expertise" section, do so.

6. Get as many recommendations on your LinkedIn page as possible 

Recommendations really help open doors, and there is no such thing as too many. If you feel shy about this (I've heard this from many people!), tell trusted classmates you've studied with that you need the recommendations for professional purposes and that you'd be honored if they would write something. You just make clear that in exchange you would do the same for them in turn. If they accept, great. If they say it’s ok, do it anyway. Recommendations are very valuable.

Your references might ask you what to say. If they do, give them some things from the Skills & Expertise section to talk about.

Here is how to ask for recommendations. Go to the recommendations link on the upper right side of your profile page:

You will see a new screen. Select the position that you want to be recommended for, choose the people you want to recommend you, and then write a personalized message that recalls your relationship and how the recommendation will help you. Here is a made up example:

7. Choose a profile photo

Some people decide not to use a photo with their LinkedIn profile. This is usually ill advised. It’s important to put a face to your talents. Use a photo that would help you fit in whatever setting you want to work in. If you are in a very corporate environment, then your clothing should reflect that. On the other hand, if the work place has a more relaxed dress code, than feel free to look the part.

8. Tell a story with your profile

Not sure if it's acceptable in the companies you are targeting to tell a story with your summary, but all facts that help people remember you as an individual are very valuable. Stories accomplish this best. For example, an interest in sports shows that you are not just a behind-the-desk person, but a disciplined, dedicated individual who loves healthy competition. If you tell a personal story, write the summary in the third person so as to not sound vain. On the other hand, if telling a story is not acceptable, just stick to the facts about your career, but then speak in the first person so that you sound like a person, not a robot.

9. Use status updates that could be useful to others

By all mean, update your status with links and ideas that highlight your interests, but try to use information that is useful to others. If you have blog posts, mention them. If you see articles you like related to your career path, mention them. Try to make your profile page a hub for interesting ideas and original content. Your contacts will thank you for it and be more likely to spread the word, netting your profile page more views. When this happens, you will likely begin getting invitations to connect on LinkedIn.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

How to defeat trolls: a guide

You’re engaged in a deep conversation with others online about something important, when BAM!

You’ve just been targeted by a troll, that scaly, lecherous upsetter of do-gooder netizens that just wants to see the world burn.

Is there anything that you can do to counter trolls? Yes, but it all begins with an understanding of human psychology, not social media tools. 

What I’m about to share with you is valuable information that I learned at Northwestern University. This advice works with real world businesses, as well as online.

Not every troll should be treated the same way. Some trolls seek to upset conversations because they are frustrated because of some related negative past experience. There are trolls just looking to derail a conversation for the purpose of inflating their own egos. Other trolls are seeking to embarrass or disrupt online discourse for political or business reasons. And some trolls are just jerks. Sad but true.

Whether you are an individual or a business, dealing with the four types of trolls mentioned above requires patience and a tactically-sound approach. I’ll show how it’s done, but first, if you want a good overview of trolling, watch this:

Unhappy trolls

Unhappy trolls bitter about the past are usually upset because of a vicariously negative experience; they are angry because they feel they have been burned.

For example, the individual who excitedly buys a new car, only to find it breaks down repeatedly in front of friends and family. This person is never going to buy from that car manufacturer again, and he or she is going to make sure that everyone continuously shows sympathy. You know tat this person is a troll and not just an unhappy customer with reasonable concerns by the lengths they go to whine, whinge and make sure everyone nearby feels equally outraged.

The unhappy troll is a disgruntled type that is usually just having a bad day or week, not trying to be especially malicious or a pain in you know what. Usually unhappy trolls simply need to have their bad experience recognized. Regardless of their demeanor, the upset troll needs to be addressed as a respected individual. After they have been calmly addressed, which sets the tone for the conversation, the troll’s negative experience should be heard out. Finally, the individual should be smoothly offered an option that they will probably reject. When the option is rejected, that should be followed quickly by a counter option that is more palatable to both sides.

Luckily, people are more like to be accepting of negotiation if they feel that the other side is willing to do the same. However, this process needs to be handled very carefully so that the first offer does not appear as a rip-off. Community managers should stockpile offers and counter-offers for different situations. If trolls still continue to whine,

Egotistical trolls

Some trolls are just looking to inflate their egos. The best example that I can think of is the argumentative person who has no good reason for what they say, except that they are saying it. Such trolls are often loud and rude, or use forceful language not backed by facts. The whole intent behind this approach is to paint themselves as intelligent while the opposition as flawed. If they were simply attention-seeking and not trolls, they would not try to tear others down.

There are two approaches to this type of troll. The approach that you choose depends on how intelligent the troll’s argument appears to onlookers.

In the first approach, the troll’s argument is not very intelligent. All that you have to do to poke holes in the argument is to make clear that you are more skilled/knowledgeable/cooler than the troll, and that you have a different opinion than the troll. A classic example of this approach is Senator Lloyd Bentson shooting down Senator Dan Quayle’s assertion of being as skilled as John F. Kennedy. 

Quayle wasn't exactly being a troll here, but you get the point:

In the second approach, the troll might appear a good deal more intelligent or qualified, usually more because of their position than because they offer a strong argument. In this case, the troll’s argument should be addressed directly. The troll should not be attacked on a personal level, but rather his or her points must be dismantled and/or shown as insulting to listeners. We must expose the troll’s knowledge as inferior to our understanding.

This week, Mark Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks, debated ESPN’s Skip Bayless on whether or not LeBron James of the Miami Heat deserved to be criticized for how he played Dallas. Skip has been criticized by his co-host Stephen A. Smith for being over the top in how he characterizes LeBron.

I'm not a LeBron James fan, but by most accounts I’ve seen online Mark completely demolished Skip. I have to agree. Here’s the video:

Political trolls

Trolls that are motivated by political or business reasons can be very dangerous and difficult to deal with. The reason for this is that they are driven by their intellects more so than their egos. They can be calculating, conniving, and extremely motivated. Understanding their thinking and exposing it as incorrect can very often draw them out into confrontational positions that are far easier to debunk.

Dealing with such individuals requires a very nuanced and careful approach to first re-frame the conversation and then prove the troll wrong. One of the best ways to defeat a political troll is to expose their bias. We do this by showing that the troll has different standards depending on whether it supports their point of view. By the time this is done, the debate is usually over regardless of what the troll tries to say or do, and the debate is over.

Jesse Lange, a high school student, debated Bill O’Reilley, the abrasive conservative commentator on FOX, showing how it’s done. The same tactics used by Jesse can be used by conservatives against liberals as well:

Trolls that are sociopathic jerks

Trolls that are jerks are some of the hardest people to deal with. They want attention and have strong sociopathic tendencies and just want to hurt others. At times their behavior goes beyond simply mean to outright illegal.

Wonder what such a troll looks like? The BBC tracked one down and asked him his motivations:

Not a very pleasant guy, is he.

Short of getting the police involved, there are only a few different approaches to dealing with trolls that are jerks. Deleting posts and banning trolls should be strongly considered. If posts that are offensive are allowed to stay up, they can poison the whole atmosphere of the forum. This is why many forums either ban posts that violate user rules, or allow other users to vote down offensive comments so that they are hidden.

If trolls cannot be banned for some reason, then they should be ignored. Since they are not getting the attention they crave, they often give up and go away.

Trolls fear humor

Finally, if you’re up to it, humor can humiliate trolls or at least make them look ridiculous. As a last resort, use humor to defuse tension. Take the trolls views and adopt them as your own!

Al Franken owns Ann Coulter during a debate on which person they would most like to be:

Stephen Colbert takes humor to an even higher level by appearing to agree with Bill O’Reilley. Stephen’s reason for doing this was to show how unreasonable Bill is:

You know that when you get a troll to laugh that you’ve done a good job. Aside from The Joker anyways.

What experiences have you had with trolls? How have you defeated them? Do you think there is anything missing from this guide or anything that could be improved? I'm looking forward to your comments!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

4 quick and dirty tips to conquer Twitter

Just started using Twitter but not sure how this thing works? 

Let me help. I just started using my Twitter account seriously a few months ago, and I've been seeing explosive engagement! I'm fortunate to have met a lot of cool people, as well as learned a lot in the process.

Here are 4 quick and dirty tips to get a lot out of Twitter quickly:

1. Choose your retweets wisely

Post a blend of content: 30% should be retweets of posts (make sure you know what the posts say, and that you agree with them. RTs are a public part of your personal brand!) 

2. Don't be a robot

Your tweets should be 30% direct conversations and comments with other people. This shows you're not robo-tweeting. I know, I know, 30% is high, but you're more likely to connect with people initially if you do this. Try to only follow people who connect with you personally.

3. Don't a be a nerd either

40% of your posts should be original comments and links to original stuff you've made, on a blog for example. Try to have a main focus to show you're driven, and some other side interests to show that you're not a nerd.

4. Be an icon

Tons of people have their photo for their personal profile. How many do you know have a personal icon? In my opinion, icons stand out better and get you noticed when your picture might be lost. It also shows you have special initiative.

You can always tweak the above advice depending on how many followers you have and your goals, but these tips will help you quickly stand out from the competition.

I'm at I'm open to all follows, but I only follow back people who directly engage with me.

Do you agree with the above tips, or do you have different strategies? What do you think DOESN'T work? Sound off in the comments below!