Welcome to Highway to Hale

I used to write here. I haven’t done that in awhile. Instead, I spend my time commenting on other blogs, building conversations on Facebook & Twitter, keeping clients happy, and consuming content in an effort to get smarter.

Where Am I Now?

I’m shoulder deep in the evolving world of business communications as shaped by consumers & creators of digital media. Continuing to seize opportunity at the leading edge of digital communications. I’m freelancing as a digital marketer, branding specialist, community manager, and experience strategist.

I keep pretty active on a few other sites you might want to check out…

Twitter | LinkedIn | Tumblr | Facebook

With the freelance work I have been doing in digital marketing strategy, research, and implementation, it was time for a new personal business card. Designed by Andrew Osborn.

We decided on using a “hale”stone as the image because hail forms up in the clouds, with a view of the big picture – As water drops freeze, they fall down through the clouds, but updrafts push the frozen drops back up, picking up additional condensation and freezing in the higher altitudes. This happens over and over again, forming layer over layer of ice and a rock solid center. When the stone is refined and dense, it becomes too heavy for the updraft and unleashes on the ground below.

Strategy and research both require layers of flexible ideas and decisions, but they’re nothing without that rock solid base.

Facebook Can Have My Data

In case you haven’t heard, Facebook is now the glue of the internet. That’s pretty vague, so read all about what that means in this post from Andrew Swenson/Wordpost (or in the first article I linked… they’re both good).

The big news is Facebook’s announcement that their “like” button will be available all over the internet. When you’re frolicking around IMDB and checking out your favorite quotes from Clueless, you’ll be able to check out which of your Facebook friends has a similar love for the best movie from 1995. Beyond that nice little friendship builder, it’s no big deal – just that every site that has a “like” button is allowed to aggregate, save, and react to YOUR information.

A lot of people are kind of freaking out about the changes to what Facebook and publishers can hold onto.

But I think it’s GREAT.

Obviously it’s great for Facebook and publishers to gather mounds of consumer data, but it’s perfect for me too. There’s only two points that matter to me from a Facebook-user & consumer standpoint:

  1. Every piece of information that Facebook knows about me is a piece of information that I willingly gave to Facebook. If I don’t want it passed around the internet from company to company as I like things that I use, want, or enjoy, I’ll remove it from my page. Facebook can’t share my information unless I give it to them.
  2. The point of publishers saving information is to customize content for each visitor to their site. If that means that ESPN will display a Tigers story on the front page because they recognize I’m a Tigers fan, that’s a win for me. If IMDB shows me an advertisement for an upcoming Tim Burton movie because I like a bunch of his previous shows instead of an ad for Sex and the City 2, I might even go as far as sending a thank-you email.

If you’re using the internet (and something tells me you are…), privacy is an illusion. Google knows what you search and what your emails are about. Facebook knows who your friends are and what you like. That’s the way this world works and it’s going to make your life better.

Are you concerned about the information Facebook knows about you? Do you think it is wrong to allow publishers to save that information as well? …will any of your concerns lead you to delete your Facebook profile?

Here’s what I told Facebook – use it wisely🙂

No Bad Days Allowed

Here it comes. The inevitable BAD DAY. You can feel it rolling in. We’ve all had them. Things just aren’t going your way. Maybe you woke up late or your boss got on your case about something. Maybe you haven’t had your coffee yet or you aren’t feeling the creative juices flowing. It’s just not a good day.

I’ve got some more bad news for you.

Time to put the smiley face on because your brand doesn’t get a bad day. Your community doesn’t deserve to feel the pain of whatever stress you’re trying to handle. If you need to, go blow some steam on MySpace with a cryptic update, because your community isn’t there to pity you – they’re involved because of the value you bring. As marketers, we preach all day to add value, but consumers aren’t looking to add value in social media, they’re looking to take whatever value you’ll give them.

The current buzz around social media is that your brand should be human and it’s fine to make mistakes – screw that. It’s not fine to make mistakes*. Your brand should have personality, but your goal should always be a perfect user experience. It’s tough to achieve, but you sure as hell better be trying whether you’ve got a black cloud over your head or not. Nobody wins if you’re not always acting as a pleasant touchpoint for your brand.

Online communities exist 24/7 and you need to have your game face on during all interactions.

What do you do to avoid the impact of bad days? How do you turn that frown upside down when you wake up on the wrong side of the bed (extra points if you can use more cliches in one sentence)?

* Mistakes happen and you should always learn from them (acknowledge and make it right if possible)…but don’t brush them off as if there’s no problem.

Know Your Game

Photo by "eschipul" via Flickr

If you’ve read Chris Brogan and Julien Smith‘s Trust Agents, you’re familiar with changing the game to succeed. Game changers are people that don’t just outperform their competition, they bring something to the table that transforms the industry or spawns a whole new industry. Maybe you’re like HubSpot, and have the ability to create an industry based on inbound marketing.

Before you can change your game, you need to know exactly what your game is. If you’re a sports fan, I have no doubt that you know Colin Cowherd. Cowherd always takes shots at people that think they can be sports radio personalities. It’s not negative, he just hits people with a dose of reality. The reality is that you don’t know his game. You might know a TON about sports or get everything right about your team, but that’s not Cowherd’s job. Like all radio personalities, Cowherd doesn’t get paid to be right about sports. He gets paid to entertain you. He admits that when he’s wrong, his ratings are noticeably higher.

To a listener, it sounds like Cowherd has a job because he knows sports (and there is a level of knowledge required…but that can be learned if you’re interested). You can’t compete with Colin Cowherd until you realize the arena in which you are competing – you’re not competing in sports, you’re competing in entertainment. If you take the entertainment too far, you’re not valuable to the sports community and if you take the sports too far, you’re too boring.

Another example in sports is Dwight Freeney. When asked about his game plan with an injured ankle in the Super Bowl, Freeney told reporters that he planned to find the ball and tackle the guy holding it. It sounds simple, but think about how many football players place emphasis on beating the guy in front of them. Freeney mentioned that he doesn’t get paid to beat his man or tire out an offensive lineman, he gets paid to put the man with the ball on the turf. He understands his game. He is past the obstacle directly in front of him when he starts (mentally), and he can focus on the true goal.

Do you recognize your game? Do you understand the reasoning behind your methods? It helps if you focus on problem-oriented problem solving. Yes, solutions are good, but if you think about solutions, you often miss the core of the problem. For example – if you’re living space is too dark, the solution might be to get more lights (one logical route). Consider this though: the problem is not that you don’t have enough lighting fixtures (lighting fixtures are ONE solution), the problem is lack of light. The problem opens new paths other than going out to buy new lighting fixtures. Have any ideas?

The Problem with RSS

Golden Guy RSS by LuMaxArt

I’m a huge fan of creating a great RSS feed where you can find useful information at all times and read posts from a bunch of the super blogrockers out there. I use Google Reader for my RSS feed and I share articles pretty frequently for anybody that wants to check out my favorite posts.

I’ve noticed one huge problem with my RSS feed though.

There is no way to comment via my reader. I haven’t been commenting as much as I should, or want to, since I filled up my RSS feed with such excellent thinkers. It’s not that I don’t have thoughts about the posts, I’ve just got another list of posts staring me in the face that I can’t wait to read.

Not only are comments viewed as currency in the blogosphere at times, but comments drive conversation. The best bloggers are not looking merely to tell you what they think – they’re looking to build on ideas and participate in thought-provoking conversations.

Blogging is a two-way street. Make it a busy one.

Show your favorite bloggers that you appreciate their work by striking up conversation. Go beyond a simple agreement and a thank you. Use your comment to build on the blogger’s ideas, ask questions, and challenge points in a constructive or inquisitive format. You can form a valuable relationship simply through commenting and carrying your comments and conversations over to other platforms.

So here’s my social media resolution for 2010 – I’m going to make a point to do more commenting on blogs by Danny Brown, Jim Connolly, Arik Hanson, David Spinks, Rich DeMatteo, Lauren Fernandez, Valeria Maltoni, Stuart Foster, Leigh Durst, Scott Hepburn, Jackie Adkins, Matt Cheuvront, Amber Naslund, Ryan Stephens, B.L. Ochman, Samantha Ogborn, David Mullen, Mack Collier, Amy Mengel, Jason Falls, etc. (Seriously, the list goes on and on)

What are some of your favorite blogs and how can you improve your relationship through commenting?

Stop Drawing Stick People

Stick People

By Beck Tench (10ch)

At what age did you start drawing stick people? Drawing your first stick person is kind of like the opposite of the first time you stood up to walk. Rather than progress from rolling to sliding to crawling to walking, you regress from drawing (or attempting to draw) the way you see things to drawing stereotyped figures to drawing stick people.

Most psychologists agree that we draw stick figures because we lose confidence in our artistic ability at some age. Ok, no big deal. We’re not all artists. But notice – we don’t choose to draw stick people because we can’t draw…we do it because we aren’t confident. Go ahead and try it (skip the excuses) – draw a somewhat realistic person.

The same thing happens with sharing ideas. We become less confident in our answers, ideas, and writing – so we slow down. Blogs go unwritten, comments go unspoken, and excuses fill the void. We replace thought-provoking and creative blog posts with hot topic keywords to see if you can grab some search love for your mind-numbing posts that take an angle you were positive nobody had written. Here’s a free tip: “news” didn’t become a top trending topic on the internet until people started poking and prodding from every angle.

Rather than pushing the same idea you’ve tried with every campaign, dare to drop a new idea during brainstorming. If you’ve surrounded yourself with the right people, the idea is less likely to be shot down than it is to be transformed into a campaign worth talking about.

Stick figures don’t get any attention. Anybody can draw a stick figure. Your individual style is more intriguing. I’m not asking you to study realism and draw an anatomically correct human each time you try, I’m just asking you to expose your creativity. I’m not asking you to blow the world away with your innovative blog, I’m just asking you to write about different topics. I’m not asking you to have the best idea each time you brainstorm, I’m just asking you give everybody around you a chance to build something great.

Your Brand Should Be More Like the Vikings

In the spirit of full disclosure, you should know I’m writing this post because I lost a bet with Kyle Jameson aka @memyworld. He’s a Vikings fan and I’m a Bengals fan. Nevertheless, I stand behind everything I’ve got to say in this post. Kyle has a nice music blog called “Me. My World.”

Before you get the wrong idea – I don’t think your brand should set out in longboats conquering land masses while sipping mead from the skulls of your enemies. On the other hand, I’m not totally against you hiring a guy named Björn Ironside to manage your brand identity.

We’re talking about the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings. You know, the team of burly guys wearing purple and being led by your grandpa at Quaterback. All kidding aside, the Vikings have built one of the most intelligent and passionate fan bases in all of sports. You might argue that it’s easy to build a fan base for the 2nd most successful NFL franchise of all-time, but every year since the merger in 1970 has ended in disappointment.

So, how do you keep a fan base happy, involved, and satisfied when your team fails to meet high expectations?

They may not always be the greatest football team, but the Minnesota Vikings are made up of excellent personas and intriguing stories.

Like me, you might not remember much about the 1998 season. But bring it up to a Vikings fan and they’ll cringe. Gary Anderson, who was about 40 at the time, didn’t miss a field goal all regular season. It was probably the player story of the year. The Vikings were favored to go to the Superbowl…until Anderson missed his first and only field goal of the year in the NFC championship game on the last play of regulation. The Vikings lost in overtime. The fans took on the mantra that they would have won if not for that one field goal. Next year would be their year…but it wasn’t.

If you are a sports fan at all, you know and fear The Mullet and you can’t help but stare in awe at The Williams Wall. The Vikings are characters and the fans love it. Over the past few years, the Vikings have built the persona of A.P. as the hardest hitting back in the league and this year saw the arrival of the missing piece of the puzzle – Old Man Gunslinger Favre.

There is no doubt that Vikings fans will be disappointed with anything less than a Superbowl victory, but nobody will walk away from this season saying the management didn’t try. The Vikings’ management finds a way to give the fans what they want. From the outside, fans can see that they manage like they want to win.

So, why should your brand be more like the Vikings? Because they build characters with fascinating stories and they give their consumers what they need to maintain a positive relationship. The team doesn’t need to win for fans to keep coming back for more.

Friday Five: Build Momentum for 2010

Happy Friday to all and to all a good Friday Five! It’s been a great week around here and I’m looking forward to taking the momentum into the weekend and carrying it through the end of the year lull. I hope you can do the same. I’d like to thank Danny Brown once again for allowing me to run with his idea of Friday Five recommendations.

1.) Tweet ‘Em or Leave ‘Em – I always like to start off with a recommendation from Twitter. This person stood out this week as a top conversationalist with ideas to match. He solidified a recommendation last night in the #u30pro chat as one of the most valuable contributors. @jackieadkins is a young professional, marketing idea engine, and sports fan – what else do could you need? He also runs a great blog called The Curbside Marketer at jackieadkins.com.

2.) Blogrocker – Today I coin the term “Blogrock.” If you are a rockstar blogger, you write in the genre of Blogrock. Nobody is more deserving of the term than today’s recommendation for blogger of the week. In fact, Mack Collier is such a Blogrocker that he offers up two blogs for your reading pleasure – MackCollier.com and The Viral Garden. Mack started off the week by telling us “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Social Media Strategy (But Were Afaid to Ask)” and rounded out the week with the brutal truth that “More Comments Doesn’t Always Mean More Conversation.” It shouldn’t surprise you to see Mack’s blogs recommended, but if it caught you off guard head over and save yourself some keystrokes by hitting the RSS feed.

3.) Unlikely Hero – He may not win the Heisman Trophy this weekend, but nobody can deny that Ndamukong Suh altered the game of college football more than anybody else in the league this year. Suh plays Defensive Tackle at the University of Nebraska and he dominated every opponent without mercy all year long. Unfortunately, it is extremely difficult to win the most prestigious award in college football as a defensive player. Take a note from Suh though – It doesn’t matter what you do. You don’t need the most glorious job to make a giant splash.

4.) Head-Shaking Marketing – We’ve all seen some marketing campaigns that have nothing to do with the product and make us do a double-take. We’ve all seen ads that have heavily sexual references when it seems they are completely misplaced for the product. We’ve never seen anything quite like what Burger King launched this week. The self-proclaimed King of Burgers has decided that a BK Showercam (probably NSFW depending on where you work) would be a good idea to advertise. I don’t know who told them that, but I’ll let you decide how you feel about it.

5.) There’s Always Room for [Beyonce] – In the event that you haven’t quite had enough of “Single Ladies” by Beyonce, here’s a version that I couldn’t stop laughing at. They’re fun musicians and if you pay attention you can find some little jabs at the song’s popularity.

3 Reasons Social Media is the BCS of Business.


Image by "roygullem" on Flickr

If you’re a fan of sports (specifically College Football), you’ve heard of the Bowl Championship Series (BCS). Odds are you’ve even complained about the BCS once or twice. We won’t get into what a horrible system the BCS is, but if you think about it, the BCS has a lot in common with social media.

1.) Nobody likes the BCS…but the BCS – “Nobody” is a little extreme, but do you know anybody that has argued to keep the BCS around in the last few years? They’re not on the popular side unless they are sitting in an office with the BCS officials. Similarly, who are the largest advocates of social media? Those that make money as a product of social media.

If people on the inside are the only advocates, they are often blind to outside opposition. When logic and reality fly out the window, you’re drinking the Kool-Aid. Luckily, social media is gaining momentum in outer circles while BCS stock has been declining since it was established.

2.) The BCS “mission” isn’t exactly the goal of the BCS – If you ask a BCS official what the goal of the BCS is, they’ll tell you their goal is to find and match-up the two best teams in college football. If you ask an advocate of social media what the benefit of getting involved is, they’ll tell you about building relationships and reaching consumers where they spend their time. What’s the reality of both? The goal is to make money.

The BCS doesn’t necessarily win if the two best teams play in the championship, and businesses don’t necessarily win if they talk personally to consumers. The odds that both will be successful increase if they achieve their stated goal, but neither can exist if they don’t establish the underlying need of profitability. The rest doesn’t really matter.

3.) The big boys always have the edge in the BCS – In theory, the BCS puts all teams on a level playing field and the best teams will compete in the championship game each year. You see where this is going? One of the largest selling points of social media is that it puts small businesses on the same level as big corporations. Don’t be fooled though – the power conferences always have the upper-hand in the BCS and large corporations are still the ones that will push social media forward and make the largest splash when they get it right.

In the case of the perfect storm, small conference teams can impact the BCS heavily and the same goes for small businesses in social media. If they big boys aren’t making the news, an excellently planned and executed social media campaign will get noticed and hit the big time.

What do you think? Maybe the BCS and Social Media are crossing paths while heading different directions.

Here’s a bonus comparison – If the more established communications fields (marketing, PR, advertising) are the BCS conferences, social media is still the mid-major looking for the chance to get into the big game and prove itself against the heavy competition.