Looking for a job? Expand your network online

In one of my other roles at the Herald, I do a weekly web business show - this week, we featured an interview with Roy Krause, the president and CEO of SFN Group, formerly known as Spherion. They're one of the largest staffing companies in the country and Krause spent quite a bit of time talking about how important expanding your network is - if you didn't catch the interview, here it is:

For those who need a refresher on social media sites like LinkedIn that deal specifically with the professional world, here are a few videos we did a while back with LinkedIn CEO Reid Hoffman about his site.

Some more practical tips: Bridget did a post last year about how to link people to your LinkedIn or Facebook profile - it's a good reminder as well to check yourself out online and see what comes up, as all potential employers do these days.

Finally, another tip: how to connect your Twitter account to LinkedIn - staying active on both networks and saving time!

What tips do you have to increase your network, especially in the face of job hunting?

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Please tell me how you'd like me to talk to you

A friend in Dubai recently e-mailed me with the subject line: "a note about the e-mail I owe you."

In the message, which she sent to practically everyone she knows, she said she needed to own up to how bad she is at returning e-mails.

I e-mailed her to say Bravo! and asked what was the response from our other friends. She said it felt great to have the in-box albatross off her neck -- and this was her way of not just reaching out, but also getting more organized.

When there are a variety of ways to communicate with people -- text, instant messages, Twitter, etc. -- shouldn't it also be a part of netiquette to learn what form of communication people prefer?

EcardEmail In other words, if a person hates voice mail, don't use it. If someone only wants to be contacted via e-mail, respect that.

In the case of my Dubai friend, she's not bad at communicating: she uses Facebook daily, chats with people via Skype and Google instant messaging, and still uses old-school devices like the phone and even writes actual letters. What I thought was great was that she articulated all of her communication preferences to her friends.

I think this is even more important in professional situations, because it gives you a chance to distinguish yourself. Everyone's got the e-mail signature that lists the variety of ways they can be contacted (Follow me on Twitter! Read my Blog!).

But I think in the rush to be available to everyone on all platforms, we've failed to indicate the way we prefer to be contacted.

This goes both ways: It's not just about asking people how they would like to communicate, but also about making your own preferences clear.

Anyone who has ever called my work phone knows that for years, my voice mail has contained a message asking public relations professionals to e-mail me (if they don't have it, I spell out my e-mail address.)

There are a few reasons, but mostly, it's because I like to store things via e-mail so I can go back -- even if months later, to retrieve what was sent. I'm not opposed to picking up the phone: sometimes, that's the fastest and most efficient way to communicate. It just seems, though, like SUCH a waste of time to retrieve voice mails when it's just easier to have that email as a record. (And for those who ask, no, the Herald doesn't have any type of automatic transcriptions of voice mails, or then I wouldn't be so picky about this.)

And that's my point, as well. It's not just about courtesy, it's about efficiency. These days, couldn't we all use a bit more of both?

What's your preference, or pet peeve on this matter? Weigh in below, please:

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Generations and the netiquette/etiquette gap

The backstory to today's column: this topic came up last week at a Social Media Club South Florida's event that focused on education and social media.

I wasn't there - I was at another event - but heard that some interesting topics came up. I called some of the panelists to talk to them about what they were seeing with this generation - and it struck a chord because it was similar message that I hear from teachers these days:

We've created a generation that looks great on paper, but has some trouble when it comes to real life.

That was the main message that stuck in my mind last week when I spoke with Rosanna Fiske, who teaches at Florida International University's communications school.

Her students are early adapters, finding the latest technological innovation "none of us can,'' said Fiske, who teaches advertising and public relations students.

"They do so well because they're connected -- they've literally been connected their entire lives,'' she said. "But what that's also done is create a whole issue with their social skills and face-to-face interaction.''

In some cases, it gets even worse.

Johnson & Wales' Maureen Lloyd-James told me she has some students who include texting language like LOL (that's laughing out loud) in college essays.

"I think in this day and age we presume students have a lot of computing knowledge -- but it's only in a specific area,'' she said.

Fiske counteracts this at FIU by emphasizing hands-on work. Some students have a class that features in-person interactions, so they must meet clients in addition to create websites, do writing, research and preparation.

Both Fiske and Lloyd-James emphasized that these assignments are about creating a different mind-set for students who have never thought about these things.

For Betsy Soler, a senior at FIU who is already working full-time, it was also about learning how to act as a professional -- something every college student must learn, regardless of their generation.

In her case, that has meant getting more comfortable with using the phone for work conversations, said Soler, who still puts "text-friendly'' next to her business phone number.

Soler, 19, thinks part of the issue is that because younger people are viewed more as "experts,'' they're being thrust into the working world at a much younger age.

"Professionals are approaching us a lot quicker than before,'' said Soler, who started college when she was 16.

What netiquette challenges do you see when working between generations? Share your stories in the comments below.

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Rick Sanchez gets Kanye'd at the Shorty Awards

Bridget and I have that familiarity with Rick Sanchez that all native South Floridians have - we think it's even more so when, like us, you grew up watching him on Channel 7, aspiring journalists such that we were back in the day.

Rick's been quite the YouTube sensation this week already when Jon Stewart (oh, Hulu, what will you you do without Stewart!) took him to task for his tsunami coverage. So it's with great affection that we present, for your Friday viewing, Rick Sanchez's "Kayne" moment at the Shorty Awards, where he hosted the awards which go to the best producers of "short, real-time content" on the Web. On a side note, I was thrilled to see my long-standing crush Nathan Fillion winning in the celeb category.

Watch below for the moment just after Sanchez presenteds a Shorty to a llama. Yes, a llama. (I guess, in the interests of accuracy, that poor woman who tweets this llama account was really the Taylor Swift in this story, but we just like that Rick was involved). Hey, it was the "weird" award, made more bizarre, as you'll see, when he was interrupted by this guy known as Eastside Dave:

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Social networking not enough for good customer service -- and Comcast's response

Note: Below I've posted this week's Poked column, but jump to the end to read a response from Frank Eliason of @ComcastCares.

We are in the age of social media arrogance.

Companies are banking on Twitter and Facebook to be the saviors of their customer service and marketing. Self-appointed social media experts spend days praising each other's success stories and validating their jobs by spewing lofty answers as to why every company needs to hire experts to manage Twitter and Facebook accounts.

But are companies losing perspective? Is there more to making customers happy than counting Facebook Fans and Twitter followers?

It's a point that online marketer Tara Hunt was preaching to a packed house of 350 at last week's Future of Web Apps conference in Miami Beach. It was a conference for entrepreneurs to learn best practices from one another.

Our weekly Poked column strives to help the business community practice good online etiquette and use social media effectively. But when you just hear about good business examples from Twitter, it can give a false impression that Twitter alone can save your sales numbers.

The truth is, balance between real world and online solutions is key.

Hunt's 15-minute talk gave know-it-all social media marketers in the room a refreshing dose of humble pie. Social media is a Band-Aid -- not a solution. You can't simply say you can lower complaints and improve satisfaction by hiring someone to manage a Twitter account.

One of Hunt's prime examples is the often-lauded ComcastCares Twitter account. I'm the first to say it's a great example of how to use Twitter to help people who are voicing complaints. But if there are enough customer complaints to keep this guy busy all day -- and enough that Comcast has several more people doing that job -- perhaps there's another problem that needs addressing.

If Comcast fixed its problems, several people wouldn't need to do that job, Hunt said.

Cable companies are not exactly known for being the greatest at customer service, so it wasn't a surprise she also criticized Rogers Communications, a Canadian telecom and cable company.

At Rogers, she couldn't reach a customer service representative over the phone, but there were six Twitter accounts to respond to her complaints online.

"Instead of hiring people for Twitter, why not trying hiring people to answer your freakin' phones?'' Hunt said.

Lisa Barone, co-founder and chief branding officer of Outspoken Media, based in Spring Hill, Fla., has been getting buzz this week from her blog post with a similar point: People need to plant branding seeds in more places than Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Continue your company blog. Keep doing an e-mail newsletter. Because what will you do when Twitter isn't around?

"I talk to small-business owners every day who have a Facebook and Twitter account but that don't have a website,'' Barone wrote. "I read tweets from people about how they've stopped blogging because now they have Twitter and it's `so much easier' to talk to people.''

Barone's and Hunt's views are something every marketer should hear. In this world where social media do have high importance, we shouldn't toss other solutions to the side.


The next morning, Frank from @ComcastCares reached out to me on e-mail to clarify Comcast's customer service efforts online:

I wanted to take a moment to clarify that Comcast is not "banking on Twitter and Facebook being a savior for Customer Service and Marketing."  Companies that view it this way are off base and not receiving value in the space. ... We listen through a variety of means, which include social media, but also include through standard communications channels and even a way any customer can share feedback through out ask Rick program (View our Contact Us page http://www.comcast.com/corporate/customers/contactus/contactus.html). ... At the same time I agree our service does have room to improve; that is happening and will continue to happen. What may surprise you is most of the customers we deal with in social media never even contacted us before on the topic.

I asked him to elaborate further on how many customers are helped through Twitter before even reaching out to Comcast, and how much time his team dedicates to helping customers on Twitter and other social media. His response (I highlighted some interesting facts in bold):

Each social media space is a little different. Forums for example are really about peer helping peer, often very technical conversations. Listening in that space helps us find out answers to questions we receive in other channels. Twitter and Facebook work as an early warning system, with about 75% or more of the discussions prior to calling. Blogs are more after the fact or feedback regarding products. Blogs are useful for full customer stories, as well as a means for product teams to see what customers are looking for in future enhancements. Places like Get Satisfaction, Planet Feedback, etc are after the fact feedback.

My digital care team is not structured around number of interactions, but instead how they help us improve the customer experience through all communication channels. The bulk of the work that we handle is actually through email. As a means to obtain account information from customers on blogs, we started our team’s email address (We_Can_Help@cable.comcast.com). We do also use it in other social media spaces as necessary (for example when a customer needs more than 140 characters). This creates another communications channel in which we receive about 7,000 emails a month.

My team is responsible for our help forums, which have over 3.5 million page views each month. These are usually people seeking helping from peers. My team moderates our help forums. We also listen in forums throughout the Internet. We even have a private forum called Comcast Direct over at Broadband Reports. This allows Customers that hang out there to get help in a private manner where they already are. Forums in general are about peer helping peer, so typically you will not see us participate in a public manner. Doing so would take away from the community that is there. We will private message if we think we are the best option to help. With all the forums we watch, we review 500 to 1,000 forum entries each day.

We review about 6,000 blog posts each day, with most not having anything to do with Comcast. They show in the search because the blogger has a Comcast.net email address.  We do not exclude them from our search, because we would never want to miss a post in which a customer could use assistance.

Twitter has about 1,500 - 2,000 tweets a day or more. Many of the tweets are not about assistance, but some are. We reach out to 600 - 1,000 people, and we have conversations with about 200 - 300 a day.  We typically only have 1 person on at a time, and we try to cover 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Eastern time Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern time on Saturday and Sunday. We see more activity than most companies since we are known for being in the space and spammers like to mention us. Many times when we feel it is spam, our initial response is to email. We know we never hear from them.

I think that provides insight into my little team of 10. ... I do not believe companies should be out here because it is the popular thing to do, or they see it as a space that will save them.  This is a space to have a dialogue in an open and transparent way. This is why customer service makes the most sense at handling these interactions.

I wrote the column this week as a review of refreshing points made at the Future of Web Apps, and also as a call for companies to not only jump on Twitter to solve customer service needs, when in fact larger company problems may need addressing.

I thank Frank for being so specific on Comcast's online customer service strategies and workload.

And as a side note, a member of Frank's team, @ComcastBonnie, just won a Shorty Award last night for customer service -- which is an award for people on Twitter, and finalists are chosen from online votes and a panel of judges.

The online community continues to award the company's efforts on Twitter. But will the Comcast Twitter team need to grow over time? Is it inescapable that a company that large will always need a big team to monitor online conversations?

No matter what you think about the improvements it can make to customer service, or how big that team needs to be, it is clear that they are certainly doing more online than most companies. I'm curious to see the evolution of the online customer service team in the next few years.

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Just for fun, for all you social media addicts

Passed on by an alert Poked reader, this is a commercial, I think, but it's funny. My favorite line: "Stop writing on the wall!"

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Looking for a social media hire?

So full disclosure: I started thinking about today's column because two of my colleagues from the newsroom: Lori Todd and Mallory Colliflower - have found jobs with other companies in social media. While they're certainly not the first to transition from journalism into social media full-time - they're just the most recent - it made me realize how many companies are hiring in this area - so I thought I would call up some local companies who were hiring to talk to them about how they did it. 

Final Cartoon Mostly, I was curious because it seems like many companies who are hiring in this area might be doing so because they don't have any background in it all - so how do they know how to hire, especially given the fact that so many people are touting themselves as social media experts? I decided to speak with AutoNation and the Knight Foundation,where Mallory and Lori have ended up. Despite the organizational differences of a large, public company versus a nonprofit, three main themes emerged: Personalities matter. So do results. But having a evangelist spirit about social media is just as important.

AutoNation's social media strategy is simple, said spokesman Marc Cannon: "We want people to be informed customers.''

The Fort Lauderdale company has just hired a social media coordinator, one of five such positions that have been created over the past year. Cannon said the company looked mostly at personality.

"There's a sense of energy you need with these folks,'' said Cannon. "They have to be good conversationalists, and hone things down into short message points.''

But results matter, too.

"Everybody blogs and everybody tweets,'' said the Knight Foundation's Marc Fest, who is looking to fill an online community coordinator position. "Let's say you have a blog and you routinely get people to comment, and you have 5,000 followers on Twitter. That shows you know how to engage people.''

Both want to infuse a sense of social media not just in that hire but throughout the organization, so having an evangelist nature about spreading social media to other employees is just as important.

Companies shouldn't be intimidated by hiring for social media, said Jackie Stone, a New York-based vice president with Digitas, an interactive marketing agency, who suggested businesses remember their long histories of hiring in communications.

Whether it's a big brand, a nonprofit or a small business, the most important thing is to have a sound strategy, a constant voice and to be authentic, she said.

"It's really important to have somebody who can listen and respond properly -- not just respond,'' she said.

Jessica Randazza was just hired by Digitas in January, to work in part on social media strategy. She echoed one thought that both AutoNation and the Knight Foundation also told me: you should hire someone who is passionate about your brand or product, because if they're not, that will show, too.

Those are some starting points for what you might look for in a social media hire, but I'm curious if folks want to weigh in on other qualities they have, or have found important in the hiring process.

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CrisisCamp comes to Miami

"I just want to help".

That's pretty much what every one of the more than one hundred people said this afternoon as they went around one of the largest conference rooms we have here at The Miami Herald, which helped host  CrisisCamp Miami, one of now 12 such gatherings that is focusing on technology relief efforts for Haiti. The room was full - of web developers, programmers, software engineers, people who focus on bringing Internet and VOIP services to developing countries - and others who just wanted to help.

CrisisCamproomWeb CrisisCamp started in DC last week, days after the earthquake hit Haiti. It's basically a grassroots effort that brings together the tech community in a series of collaborations, all designed to help Haitians and Haiti recover.

"I saw the DC one, and when I heard there was one coming to Miami, I said "Yes!"," Haitian-American web developer Harry Casimir told me. Casimir, a native of Port-de-Paix, now lives in West Palm Beach, and came down with his cousin, Jean Petit-Bois, and another friend, David Anderson, for the day, hoping to lend a hand with both their technological and language skills.

Casimir and Petit-Bois have family all over Haiti, and told me how frustrated they've been with how bad communication has been.

That's the idea behind CrisisCommons projects like Open Solace Haiti, which is trying to set up ways for Haitians in and outside of Haiti to communicate.

The goal for the day is for everyone to meet, brainstorm and begin collaborating. Organizer Alex de Carvalho told me he was excited about the turnout, and thankful that people had responded with such goodwill.

"I'm hoping some of these people will plug into these projects," he said, adding that he's hoping to further develop an infrastructure here not just to help Haiti, but that could even be used the next time South Florida gets hit with a hurricane or other natural disaster.

For more information on CrisisCamp, you can visit its wiki page, or, to keep up with them on Facebook, you can fan their page.

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Resolve to get your business in social media shape!

Last January, we'll bet you resolved quite firmly that 2009 would be the year to get your business involved with social media.

Well, it's January 2010, and somehow you've managed to avoid our polite nudges to dip a toe into the social media space all year.

Clearly, our friendly advice hasn't worked. So this year, we thought we would try tough love instead.

For most businesses, if you're not on social media, you're losing out on lots of potential growth. 2009 was the year that sites like Facebook and Twitter became mainstream -- and the growth of people depending on social networks increasingly for information.

We get that it can be intimidating to get started -- and you don't have the time to do it. So here are some tangible, practical resolutions that will help incorporate social media into your daily routine.

Make the time. Some people have a built-in social media reflex that's the same as e-mail: They're constantly checking their in-boxes throughout the day. We know that's not you. Start by booking five- to 10-minute chunks of time for social networks on your daily schedule. Make a resolution to do it three times a day: Check in with an account first thing in the day, right before you take a lunch break (or during your lunch break if you work through your lunch) and again sometime around 4:30 p.m. -- right before people leave for the day.

Find your audience. If you're selling a product, you can use a Facebook Fan Page to interact with potential customers: The best way is to talk about sales, coupons or new products, or give shoutouts to die-hard fans. The more interaction, the better chance you have to show up on someone's news feed and catch more eyes.

For Twitter accounts, you need to start following accounts that may be good fits for the audience you're trying to reach. For example, if you're a restaurant in Miami, search for people with "Miami" or "South Florida" in their location. A site like http://twitter.grader.com/search will help you find the most active Twitter users who fit the keywords you are searching for.

Use tools: We'll bet the major reason you haven't dived in is because you find social networks to be a hassle. Using Twitter on the Web is messy. Familiarize yourself with tools that make using Twitter easier and help you manage your time better. Free programs like Twhirl or Tweetdeck provide notifications when you have a message so you can leave them on all day.

Tweetdeck also allows you to set up specific search columns and be notified anytime someone says the name of your company or mentions the service you provide, so you can be there to respond.

Finally, in everything that you do, remember to be genuine. Whether it's Twitter, Facebook or another social networking site, learn how to talk -- and listen. Remember that it's about making human connections. Communicate the same way you would with a friend, instead of using formal corporate speak. Listen to what your customers are saying and respond. In short, conduct yourself the same way you would if you were face to face with a customer or client, and you'll be fine.

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Top 5 social media screwups of 2009

Neverspeakof2009 As we make our resolutions for the new year, we often reflect on our regrets or mistakes made during the past year.

And boy, there sure were some major online etiquette train wrecks in 2009.

Here at Poked, we realize that every day we're all learning new things about netiquette and best practices. Social media is constantly evolving, and tools like Twitter were new for tons of people this year -- especially folks trying to jump on the trend and use it as a business and customer relations tool.

So today we count down the five worst (and most frequently committed) online faux pas that we witnessed in 2009. Hopefully, history won't repeat itself in 2010.

5. Following porn. Sometimes people have a bad habit of automatically following back everyone who follows them on Twitter -- and it's especially true for people who use Twitter for business. They think if they use a tool to automatically follow back everyone, then they will have a more popular account.

But it just makes you look like a social media loser when you don't pay attention to the names and bios of who you follow (like hotsuzy_camgirl), and you start following accounts created for porn or for spam.

4. Talking smack about your job online. If you wouldn't say it to the boss, don't say it on Facebook or Twitter. It's amazing how many folks complain about work -- during work hours -- on places like Twitter. Maybe they think their bosses aren't wise enough to see what they're writing. But nothing is truly private online, and someone you work with is likely to see it. Chances are your company doesn't appreciate you broadcasting negative views about the company, and you're left looking like an employee who isn't a team player. Not a good impression to give during tough economic times.

3. Sending private messages publicly. Twitter and Facebook are all about instant communication. But we get so used to responding quickly on the go, that maybe we're moving too fast and not thinking before we hit send. Every so often you'll see someone send a message on Twitter that probably wasn't designed for the world to see. Like: Hey, call my cell 305-555-555 to talk about that exclusive secret business deal.

You can rush to delete it, but nothing is ever erased on Twitter. It gets picked up by search engines, even if it only exists online for a few seconds. Trust us on this one: Bridget learned this the hard way. While using text messages to talk to Niala on Twitter, she intended to send her a direct message and called a certain social media consultant annoying. But it went public. She deleted it within seconds, but it only took a minute for the consultant to see it and comment. Fortunately, that consultant was gracious enough to accept her apology.

2. Responding to e-mail with Reply All. We've had e-mail for awhile now, but it's still a hot zone for netiquette disaster. Why do people hit ``Reply all'' in mass messages when it's not something everyone needs to read? It only adds to the in-box clutter and could make you look foolish.

Back in August, one public relations consultant accidentally put 350 e-mails in a CC field, instead of a BCC field (which privatizes the e-mail addresses). Within two hours, our mailboxes were filled with tons of unsubscribe requests from strangers who hit reply all. It made people annoyed at the PR consultant and everyone who hit reply all.

1. Unintentionally sending spam or malicious links. Please, think twice before you click a strange link. You can't be so trusting on social networks these days. Facebook and Twitter accounts are being infected by malicious links through private messages. Click a strange link (usually something like: Hey you're in this video lolz!!!), and you won't be aware that you sent spam or a virus to most of your connections. And if you are a business account, you just lost the trust and respect of many of your followers.

Did you learn a netiquette lesson the hard way this year? Did someone's social media screwup seriously annoy you? Post a comment below or e-mail us at Poked@MiamiHerald.com.

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