So, This One Time, At Podcamp

Over the weekend, I went to camp for my first time in my life. For two days, I played and learned with a group of like-minded professionals, amateurs and people interested in new media.

Podcamp Toronto is an “unconference” – a two-day gathering of new media professionals that began in 2007. Podcamp began in Boston in 2006 and has since been held in a number of different cities. The conference is free (thanks to some fabulous sponsors and the presenters who donate their time), and attendees vote with their feet. If you don’t like a session, you walk (hopefully not without some measure of respect for the presenter). And if you have a session you want to present, you go to the Podcamp site a few weeks before the conference and describe your idea. If you have an idea during the conference (and there’s space in the schedule) – well, talk to the organizers, put it together and Tweet it out to find your audience.

A last-minute decision I made on Thursday afternoon to attend found me standing in the lobby of the Rogers Communications Centre at Ryerson University on Saturday afternoon. Since I missed the entire morning of sessions, I felt like it was my first day in a new school – cliques were formed and were gathered, talking and laughing – and I was all by myself. But, I took a deep breath and jumped in with both feet. And I’m glad I did.

Six Things I learned at Podcamp:

  1. That as much as I love radian6 and Sysmos as social media measurement tools, they may not be the best for small businesses because they’re pricey. But, you can gain information about reach of your posts, you can use the basics: Facebook Insights, Hootsuite Analytics or Sprout Social (which, while Facebook Insights and Hootsuite Analytics are basic free tools included with the applications, Sprout Social does have a cost. But there are educational and not-for-profit discounts for those that qualify)
  2. That while some of the session titles may not actually describe what the focus will be, if you stay, you may take something away from it anyway. I attended the How to Develop A Killer Content Marketing Strategy session on Saturday afternoon. While content marketing wasn’t exactly where we spent the most time (I learned about buyer personas during my undergrad but the refresher was interesting), I did meet three interesting people from a variety of areas just by starting a dialogue about what we had just learned – and I came up with an idea for a killer blog post (more on that later this week)
  3. That about 70% of Google’s algorithm is geared to answer the question “who cares?” – and the better you answer it, the higher you’ll show up in the search results
  4. That a 16-year-old kid can be more mature than some adults I know, and that said 16-year-old can summarize why people like brands on social media better than anyone who has ever liked a brand on social media can. When this kid graduates from high school and gains more experience in the customer service side of social media, I’d hire him
  5. That sometimes, the presenter of a session may not show up. And while it’s disappointing, it’s a good time to network with others, decompress, review your notes from previous sessions and check your email
  6. That I need to become a ninja in my field

Will I go back next year? Absolutely! Would I recommend it to my friends in new media? Absolutely! Will I propose a topic for next year and present? Maybe! The world does need someone who will talk specifically about developing a killer content marketing strategy, does it not?


Making Time for Fitness – Four Reasons Why It’s Worth It

fit_womanI went to the gym today for the first time in a week due to a tonne of obligations (I usually aim to do something physical three to five times a week). It felt good to move. It’s time that requires me to be ‘in the moment’ because, during a Kettlebell class, I could get seriously hurt if I don’t pay attention to what I’m doing. My last two posts talked about productivity. This post is different – we’re going to talk about how taking a “time out” FROM work each day can help you be more productive AT work – and may even earn you a little extra cash.

What? Wait a second. How can taking time to work out make you more productive? And how can taking time AWAY from work help you earn more money?

Here’s how:

  1. Increasing your blood circulation during exercise increases blood flow to the brain – making you feel more alert. Not only that, scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have shown that regular exercise also helps keep your critical thinking skills and learning ability sharp as you age. Even 20 minutes of vigorous physical activity will help you feel more awake, and thus able to better focus
  2. You sleep better. Getting enough sleep is something most adults struggle with, especially when juggling everything they have on their plates. Working out will help you get a good night’s sleep – and a good night’s sleep will help you be better able to focus during the day. Aim to try to work out earlier in the day if possible – if not, try to ensure that you leave at least three hours between your workout and bedtime. Otherwise, that better sleep will be elusive because your mind, heart and muscles will be primed for more movement
  3. Your mood will improve – exercise releases all these great chemicals into your body – Seratonin (a natural mood enhancer), Endorphins (the body’s “natural painkillers”), Dopamine (balances ones sleeping and waking cycles) and Epinephrine (our “fight or flight” nerochemical). Exercise balances out these neurochemicals and those that regularly move are less prone to stress, are better able to deal with daily pressures, have less chronic pain and are generally, happier people. Some studies have also noticed that people with mild symptoms of depression can see an improvement in these symptoms with regular exercise (but if you think you are suffering from depression, please see a doctor before starting an exercise regime)
  4. You may get earn more. A recent study by Cleveland State University professor Vasilios Kosteas noted that people who regularly hit the gym were likely to be making about nine percent more than non gym-goers. The study showed that the increased productivity that regular exercisers brought to their jobs made them more valuable to their employers. Add to that that people who work out tend to be healthier than their sedentary counterparts and employers may also see a decrease in health benefit costs from their fitter employees

So, when are you going to start taking time away from work so that you can be more productive when you’re in your office? Just promise me that if it’s been a while since you worked out, that you start slow or check with your doctor – getting injured isn’t productive for anyone.

Increasing Daily Productivity

In my last blog post, I talked about what happens when the dreaded Unproductive Day happens. We looked at how to get your day back on track when you’re going down the road of sloth and the final point was to take a moment at the end of your day to plan the next. But that’s only the start. By planning to be productive, you can increase your daily personal efficiency. Here are some tips to help you get there:

  • Make the ultimate to-do list. Take some time (usually about two hours is enough) and write down everything you need to do in the next month. Everything from calling suppliers to making a dentist appointment should be on the list. After you’re done, sit back and look at your list. Overwhelming, isn’t it? Not sure when you’re going to accomplish is all, huh? I can see you nodding. So let’s keep going.
  • Classify the tasks on your list. Which ones are critical? Which ones are unimportant but would be nice? Which ones can you delegate? Which ones look so big you’re not going to finish them in the near future? I personally colour-code my list. Red items are must-dos, yellow items are nice-to-dos, blue are delegate and so on. Choose a system that works for you. It could be sub-lists, colour coding or some variation. Are things looking a bit more manageable now? Great! We’re moving on.
  • Take those too-big tasks and break them down into chunks. “Create a website” is so much bigger on paper than, “write two paragraphs about my business for the website” and “choose three possible images for the home page.” Breaking down the big items makes them far more manageable
  • Delegate what you can. Ask your friend if she’s willing to car pool your children to soccer. Sit down and chat with your spouse or partner about sharing cooking duty. Assign a project to a junior at work (bonus points if you assign the whole task start to finish so the person gets a chance to lead a project). Any projects you can move off your plate to someone else’s makes your to-do list more manageable
  • Just do those critical items. To borrow from Nike, Just Do It! Schedule the critical or difficult items first. They may not be your most pleasant tasks, or the ones that bring you personal satisfaction, but they need to be done. No, now is not the time to do the 35 unimportant items because they’re easier. Do the critical things and get them out of the way
  • Continue the process. Take time at the end of each day to review your list. It shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes or so to cross of completed tasks, add new tasks for the next day and to evaluate if anything needs to change

Once you make productivity a habit, you’ll find that good things start happening. Your stress level will dissipate (I’m not promising that you’ll never be stressed again, but the stress will lessen), you’ll have more time to focus on the projects that you do enjoy, you’ll create more time to think and perform tasks with more care and, best of all, your system will allow you to be more flexible when you do need to make room for last-minute demands on your time.

Wrestling With Productivity – Four Ways to Salvage An Unproductive Day

I woke up this morning full of ideas and ways that this was going to be the!) in terms of productivity. And then I sat down at my desk. And checked email. And checked my Twitter feed. And checked Facebook. And logged into my LinkedIn account and read a few articles. And then watched the video for a song I have not been able to get out of my head for days (and fantasized about singing back up with Pearl Jam – don’t judge). Then checked the weather forecast. Oh, and I made myself a coffee and hey – is that leftover cupcake batter in the fridge? Which meant I also made cupcakes. And before I knew it, it was noon and I’d done nothing except start and re-start the same “serious” blog post three times.

I know I’m not the only one who has had a day like this (even those who would never admit it out loud but are sheepishly nodding at the first paragraph). So, how can we rescue our days and salvage some productivity? Here are a few tips.

  1. Stop! Just stop! No, I’m not saying to call the day a wash, walk away from your desk and leave your office (as tempting as that may sound right now, it’s just going to make you feel worse). I’m saying to get the heck off Facebook, close that gossip site tab and get to work. It’s not easy to stop an unproductive day cold turkey, so on we go to step 2.
  2. Pick a small task and complete it. You know, answering that email that will only take you a minute, making that phone call that you need to make, filing that document that needs filing. By doing something small, you’re already getting there. You’ve done something productive!
  3. Keep that momentum going. Step 2 – completing a small task felt pretty good, didn’t it? Do another one. Keep doing them and soon, you’ll be back in a rhythm of productivity.
  4. Set yourself up for success. At the end of your day, make a to-do list. Jot down a few things that you know will need to be accomplished the next day. It’s easier to start being productive right away when you have a plan. And it’s positive reinforcement when you see crossed-off tasks on your list.

Four easy steps will put you back on track for the day. Just four. So, step away from this blog post and get to work, already! And when you do, I promise I’ll turn down the Pearl Jam and do the same.

Why Oreo Won Twitter During the Superbowl

Photo Credit: Oreo, 360i
Photo Credit: Oreo, 360i

By now, Oreo’s game day Tweet referencing the blackout at the Superdome has become a viral sensation, having been retweeted more than 15,000 times since it was posted shortly after a blackout that lasted slightly over a half an hour began.

The question for many small business owners would be why that Tweet, not those from Calvin Klein (who happened to use the new Vine app) or Tide or the countless others that had something to say during that 34-minute break, became the one that “went viral.” So, let’s explore…

  1. Timeliness – Oreo’s brand team and their agency, 360i had a “war room” set up that allowed them to get real-time approval on any creative or messaging that related to the game. Although their Whisper Fight spot had aired earlier in the game, they were able to go “off script” quickly.
  2. Imagery – they kept it simple. A beautifully lit cookie on a semi-dark background. No need to click through to watch a video, no call to action to retweet or buy anything. The cookie itself is iconic and the image is (say it with me this time), simple.
  3. Demographic – while the buff guy working out courtesy of Calvin was easy on the eyes, and the number of women watching the Super Bowl is rising each year, as is the number of people reporting higher-than average disposable income, the Oreo universally appeals to men and women, and is an affordable luxury in many homes (and in others, is a staple pantry item). Calvin Klein, and the buff model, would likely appeal to less than 50% of the audience. In relation to Tide, research has shown that in married households, 85% of the laundry is done by women. Cute Tweet, Tide, but it missed the demographic
  4. Integration – Yes, Oreo paid the $3.8 billion price tag for their :30 spot, but that spot drove people to their Instagram account, which in turn, would naturally drive people to check out their other social media sites. Oreo started the evening with 2,000 Instagram followers. Five hours later, they had 34,000. According to reports, 111 million people watched the Super Bowl. Nielsen has reported in the past that 41% of tablet users and 38% of smartphone users use their devices while watching TV. Which means that millions of game watchers had the opportunity to comment and share via social media instantly. And they did. Reports from Twitter’s blog are stating that 24.1 million Tweets about the game, the ads and Beyonce’s halftime show. During the blackout, there were 231,500 tweets per minute. Oreo used this integration to their advantage.

Overall, there is absolutely no sure-fire way to guarantee viral content, but ensuring that social media posts are timely, appeal to your demographic, are visually appealing and that your messaging is consistent across all platforms certainly provides a better online experience for your customer – even if your brand isn’t Oreo.