Seven crucial tips to help you keep up with technology

In my recent post on the time-sucking dragon known as the social web, Jody Pirello offered some comments on how she keeps up with the latest trends. I think this is a critical career skill these days and I encouraged her to flesh it out into a post. It is our great fortune that she did — a MUST READ!  Here’s Jody:

I evolved into eMarketing differently than many of you probably did.  I started my career as a programmer.   As a developer I had to learn how to stay current, keep abreast of upcoming changes, and learn how to separate the here-to-stay from the gone-tomorrow. Those skills help me today, too.

Here are a few of the ways I do it (or at least, try to do it)

  1. Use downtime wisely - I’m amazed at all the little bits of time I have available – waiting for a conference call to start, waiting on late team members, or even standing in line at the post office.  My iPhone gets a workout during these times!
  2. Learn, always -  I work professional development into my every day life.  I watch video presentations while eating lunch, listen to podcasts during my  commute, and intentionally blur the line between professional and personal.  I’ll frequently have a conversation over drinks at the bar on a Friday night that translates into something I use Monday on the job.
  3. Cultivate a learning ecosystem - No matter how committed I am I just can’t do it all.  I rely on a set of friends and colleagues to broaden my knowledge.  I have a friend who knows all things mobile, a colleague who’s a whiz at CPG , and another friend who has a thing for twitter apps.  And hopefully I contribute to the mix with my web development and project management knowledge.
  4. Be selective - I can’t keep up with everything so I choose a set of problems, verticals and technologies to focus on.  This goes hand-in-hand with my learning ecosystem.
  5. Work portably - I’d be nowhere without tools and services that allow me to work effectively on my terms.  Two of my favorites are delicious and Google docs.  They’re hardly earth-shattering but they have a big impact on my productivity.  If I come across an article that I’m interested in but don’t have the time to read it right now, I add it to delicious.  Same thing goes if I’m at home and want to use a site while at work.  Google docs is great for enabling me to do my work wherever I may be.  I write most of my blog posts in google docs too, and its one-click sharing allows me to get input and feedback without needing to merge comments.
  6. Use my Google Foo - Knowing how to use search engines effectively is a must-have skill.  If you want to extend your Google knowledge or even just do a little brush up, take a look at Google’s search tips.   Don’t discount the less popular engines either – occasionally you can discover real gems by broadening to one of the others.
  7. Prioritize blog reading - I have “must read” and “daily read” categories in my RSS reader.  I’ve made it a rule to never do the dreaded “mark all read” to these folders.  I may not read them everyday (yep, sometimes I even get behind on the “daily read” folder) but I do make sure I read them all – usually by the end of the weekend.

I’ve outlined what works well for me – my working and learning styles.  The key has been to find tools and processes that I could adapt into my regular life without effort.  If I had to try too hard to make them work they’d be among the first to go when I was busy or tired or just feeling a bit lazy.

What works well for you?

Jody Pirrello is a web technologist specializing in project management methodologies, business analysis, and web analytics. She’s the VP of Technology at NetPlus Marketing in suburban Philadelphia and one half of the SocialCloudNow  Follow her on Twitter @jpirrello.

How do I get a job in social media marketing?

In my role as an educator and an advocate for social media marketing, this is a question I get asked at least once a week.  Here are some ideas on how to prepare yourself for a marketing career in the social economy:

If you’re just starting out

Most important requirement: Become a beefy marketer.  An ability to navigate Facebook or YouTube might be enough to get you an entry level job at some places but to really build a career you should become proficient at the fundamentals of marketing.  Star performers will be able to apply their love of the social web to marketing research, consumer behavior, product development, personal selling, and brand-building.   Get a degree if you can. If that’s not possible, join the American Marketing Association and immerse yourself in their journals and webinars.

If I am considering two candidates for a job and one has experience as a social community manager but no formal marketing training, and another candidate who has less social web experience but has a degree, I would prefer the person with a degree.  It would be easier to train a marketer in the fundamentals of the social web than the other way around.

If you are pursuing a career change

HR folks would tell you there are two ways to effectively switch direction on your career: 1) Within your discipline but outside of your company, or 2) Moving into a new discipline within your present company. The idea is that you know your company and product well enough to work in marketing, even if you don’t have a formal background in that discipline.

It will be very difficult for you to make a move that is both outside your discipline and also outside your company, especially in a poor economy flooded with other job candidates. So be realistic.  If you’re not currently in a marketing role, it is going to be damn difficult to leave your current job and convince another company you can fill a new role.  Even if you hate your company, your best bet for starting fresh in a new discipline is to stay put.

If you don’t have experience

One way or another, you need to get meaningful marketing experience to be attractive to a new employer.   The most powerful addition to a resume is demonstrating quantifiable achievement through your personal efforts. One strategy would be to try to get that experience by becoming involved in marketing activities at your current company. Is there a niche you could fill? Extra work you could volunteer to do? Could you set up a SM monitoring program through your own initiative?  Blog? Tweet? Train others?

Another idea is to volunteer to do social media marketing for a non-profit or charity. This work would be un-paid but provide valuable experience attractive to employers.  There is nothing that can replace on-the-job learning.  And of course, start a blog if you haven’t done so already. Writing and establishing a community is an essential and rewarding experience.

If you’re wondering if you have what it takes

I believe the most successful social media marketing candidates will have three key qualifications. I’ve already mentioned the first one because it’s most important: Demonstrable understanding of marketing fundamentals. Number two is an ability to identify, assess and deploy new technologies. Number three is great writing and communication skills.

If you’re interviewing — but not winning a job

Do you have a combo plan?  In a competitive job market, how are you going to stand out? One way is to emphasize secondary skills … even if it’s just a hobby .. to provide an extra bonus to employers. If it’s a tight call between two applicants, you might have an edge if you can offer an employer a “combo deal” based on your passion for photography, editing a newsletter for a charity, doing the books for your spouse’s business. This is especially key if you applying for a job at a start-up where everybody has to wear a lot of hats. Find every possible way to differentiate yourself!

What are your ideas?  What advice would you give to people trying to break into a social media marketing position?

Microsoft is making me rich

It’s true. I’ve found a can’t miss business opportunity that I wanted to pass on to my wonderful {grow} community! Microsoft is sending me valuable, free software, just by asking.  Hey you can get it too! Here’s how …

In December, I purchased a new computer and ordered replacement disks for both Microsoft Office and Outlook Business Edition (basically my CRM).

About 10 days later, I received the Office software … but no Outlook. I waited another week and still didn’t have Outlook so I called Microsoft again. They had no explanation for the missing software and said told me they would have to re-order.

After two weeks I finally received a box in the mail. It was another copy of  OFFICE!  I called Microsoft again … they had no explanation but placed another order.  I asked them what I should do with the Office, and the re-order fellow said that he had no idea.

After another two weeks, I still did not have Outlook. I called a fourth time. This time the representative said the software was out of stock and that it would be another three weeks before I would have the software.

I just have to ask — how can a software company run out of software? Can’t they literally make infinite supplies of the stuff as long as they have shiny silver disks?

After three weeks, I finally got the disk. If you’ve been following along, it took me two and half months to get a copy of Microsoft Outlook.

A month later, I received two more suspicious-looking boxes in the mail.  Each box contained another brand-new edition of Outlook. Huh???

So now I have two copies of Outlook and one copy of Office that I don’t want, don’t need, and don’t know what to do with. Microsoft has sent me $600 worth of software and I didn’t even have to ask for it!

It seems like Microsoft has taken the “free” business model to a new extreme.  So now what do I do? Ethically, I need to return the software. But I am simply fed up with the time I’ve wated on this and can’t even bear the thought of calling these goofballs to have them figure out what I do next!

How can a company this big and this important botch a simple software shipment?  Maybe they need to use Outlook Business Edition. Works pretty well.

A strategy for dealing with Twitter spammers

Part 5 of a series

Writing a series of posts on Twitter scams has been pretty depressing.

I found there is a thriving subculture of deceivers that is bizarre and disturbing. The scammers exploit the elderly, the vulnerable, the under-educated, and the desperate.  This is typical: A Twitter page of a friendly looking man who is a “Husband, Dad, Blogger and Entrepreneur” peddling this product: From Food Stamps To 7 Figures Online Free Video.

The scam sub-culture blogs about dodging regulations and adjusting tactics to capitalize on loopholes.  “Best practices” spread at the speed of light and the pyramid schemes can vanish behind the social web’s cloak of anonymity, free access and fake accounts. The scum has become more powerful through the recession, persistent unemployment and evolving technology that feeds their need to deceive.

The mere fact that I wrote articles containing the words “MLM” attracted automated spammers that nearly snowed me under with deceitful tweets.   I am sickened by the vast resources devoted to tricking us into clicking.

What can be done about it?

On a macro-level, very little.   Most regulations or policies could also hurt legitimate enterprises.  We have to take the fight to the streets.

Here are some ideas to help you fight back and at least take control in your part of the blogosphere.

Use Twitter “report for spam” option.  Any time I am spammed by porn-peddling, teeth-whitening, Trump Network sludge, I hit the report for spam button. Twitter seems to be processing at least some of these requests manually to avoid mob-rule against legitimate but unpopular tweeters, so I don’t really know what it takes to get people kicked out.  Just do your part. If enough people take the time to do it, it is in Twitter’s best interest to figure out a way to handle it.

There’s an app for that? — There is a new app called Stop Tweet that may provide hope to the idea of automatically blocking some spammers.  This utility allows you to tweak your personal settings to block and report people based on two tell-tale characteristics – no or low number of tweets and a high following-to-follower ratio.  It can also show you who among your followers who is a known spammer.  I tried this app out and unfortunately it did block several legitimate small businesses just starting Twitter accounts.  Play around with the settings and let me know what you think.

Separate email addresses — I have one email address I try to keep “pure” for correspondence with real people and another one I use for ANY app, service, or website. I even use my “spam” address when posting comments. Face it, it is only a matter of time before a database is hacked and all your identification and passwords violated. Minimize this inevitable risk by containing it to one account.

Mind the basics — You know the routine. Use strong passwords that are long, a mixture of letters and numbers, and nonsense words unrelated to any personal information. I just did research for a client project that showed the number one password for elderly people is “password.”  Help educate your loved ones, too.

Ignore them — Don’t be tempted to do what I did and explore the spam underworld. Don’t visit their sites or ask for more information, even in fun. If you respond to their spam, you’re encouraging them to continue, and they only need a tiny response to be profitable. Take my advice based on experience — ignore them completely!

What are YOUR strategies for dealing with the spam tsunamai?  What could Twitter do to step-up to the problem?

Part 1 in the series on Twitter’s Biggest Scams: Multi-level marketing

Part 2:  The teeth whiteners

Part 3: The Twitter follower scam

Part 4: The Trump Network

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