Avatars, Gravatars, Blavatars and Babes

Susan Ellsworth

Susan Ellsworth

I am a huge fan of computing avatars.  An avatar—an image that represents you online—can be charming, educational, political or even slightly shocking. Traditionally, avatars on Internet forums are square and placed next to the user’s post. Some of the most creative avatars I’ve seen have appeared right on FaceBook. One of my friends uses a picture of a building in his home country as his avatar. The Charles M. Schulz Museum uses the delightful picture below of world-famous Snoopy and his friend Woodstock.

Snoopy_WoodstockThen there are gravatars. A gravatar is a Globally Recognized avatar. Upload it to your profile, and whenever you participate in a Gravatar-enabled site, your gravatar image automatically follows you there. Enter blavatars. WordPress, the platform this blog is created on, invented the word to refer to a graphic uploaded to a WordPress blog. The blavatar may serve as a favicon (a tiny favorite icon), and can show up in various ways. They may show up in a browser’s address bar or on browser tabs. All interesting. All attention-getters. All fun.

If you only use FaceBook to stay in touch with your far-flung family and not to conduct business, it’s quite acceptable to use a picture of a baby as your avatar, or as a part of your social media profile. However,  beware of using such a graphic if you are a representative of a major corporation not in the business of marketing products for babies. Recently someone with a picture of a baby in her profile invited me to connect in LinkedIn. I ignored the invitation to connect. Not only am I not in the market for products for babies. I have a hard time taking seriously anyone in a professionally-oriented site who then not only does not include a professional-looking headshot but who also hides behind a picture of a baby. Or was that person simply a babe in the woods? Was it a fake profile? I don’t know. I’m simply moving on. I suspect I am not alone. 

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LinkedIn Customer Service: You could learn from a Toastmaster I Knew

Several years ago when I was new to the Toastmasters International organization, I complained to a fellow member about an Area Governor who seemed to be completely out of touch with the half dozen clubs he was supposed to be serving. My friend, a wise and experienced member, said “Well, you can always learn from a bad example what NOT to do.”

Over the past three months, LinkedIn has provided a great example of what not to do. LinkedIn appears to have abandoned providing technical support for those who use it. Its announcement that “As of January 31, 2013, the LinkedIn Answers feature will be retired from LinkedIn. We’ll be focusing our efforts on the development of new and more engaging ways to share and discuss professional topics across LinkedIn. In the meantime, you can still pose questions and facilitate professional discussions through other popular LinkedIn channels including LinkedIn Polls, Groups, or status updates.” has not exactly won friends and favorably influenced people.

The LinkedIn data export utility has not worked as illustrated for over two months. In what used to be a help forum, there are comments such as “this screw-your-customer policy needs to be changed.” and “I did try to call the corporate office, but you no longer get a human. Such arrogance. I did manage to send an email to a supposed support contact, but, not surprisingly, have received no reply. We’re all just left hanging.”  The cockles of my heart were not warmed one bit when, after sending a message asking for help, I received an automated message with a trouble ticket number.

I am reminded of the late Charles M. Schulz character Lucy, who just won’t listen to anyone other than herself. His March 2, 1985 strip says it all.

"What?"

“What?”

For a social media platform in which users have posted blog after blog and post after post talking about listening to one’s customers, it’s pretty sad to see a major player in the social media world turning a deaf ear even to its paying customers. LinkedIn has provided a great example of what NOT to do.

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Beating the Social Media Bafflegab

Susan EllsworthI receive newsletters from a wide variety of organizations touting themselves as experts in social media. The ones I generally delete without reading include a title phrase like must read.  Recently, I received one that included in its preview text a suggestion that the organization producing the article completely understood a social media concept that I had never seen before (and have not seen anywhere since.) Furthermore, the teaser text suggested that what they were publishing was part of “best practices.”

Intrigued, I clicked to download the article. There was nothing new I had not seen before. Furthermore, it had been published back in 2009.  Really? Yes, really.

It’s time to look at criteria for credibility in social media.

Does the source cite actual statistical studies of its claims conducted by a completely independent source? Where is the online “Consumer Reports” aggregator of statistical studies reports in social media? A recent Google search for such a service came up pretty dry in that regard. If there actually are statistical studies included, who is the audience for whom the study was written? To put it differently, can you understand what is being said? Or are you looking at a lot of bafflegab intersperced with code words recently invented by (and defined by) the source?

While checking research is a daunting task, you can beat at least some of the bafflegab. There actually are some dictionaries and glossaries of social media terms. Here are some.

A-Z of social media. http://socialmedia.wikispaces.com/A-Z+of+social+media

Hubspot. http://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/6126/The-Ultimate-Glossary-120-Social-Media-Marketing-Terms-Explained.aspx

Pam Dyer. “Social Media from A to Z: A Glossary”

Socialbrite. Social media glossary 

…and there are others that Google will serve up for you every day of the week. You can beat at least some of the bafflegab. Go for it!

Susan Ellsworth

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Who Really Needs Training? Part 2 of 3

Susan EllsworthThe last blog talked about how Technical Services providers (yes, that’s me) need to speak three different languages: Geek Speak, End-User Speak and CEO Speak. The new End-User Speak is a wonderful blend of newly-learned Geek Speak words and phrases—and its own grammars.

It’s not just that words like gravatar,  favicon,  widget, tagging, geotagging, traffic (as it describes numbers of site visitors) , badge (as an electronic image), widget,  plugins, and tagging (clicking on a picture) have crept into the language.  Use the chat feature in FaceBook, and soon you too will be saying “BFN” rather than “goodbye for now.” Direct a comment to someone in LinkedIn, and chances are good that you will use the famous Twitter “@” symbol.Or even the famous #hashtag.

Confusion

I can just see my arms-waving Toastmasters friends jumping up and down and yelling “That’s JARGON! They need Toastmasters!” Maybe…maybe not. I think it’s simply an opportunity to learn another language. The good news is that you can learn it simply by hanging with people who use it. Read, listen and soon you too will be using End-User Speak. You might even do what some social networking sites have done: invent your own words. Pingback, for example, was invented by WordPress, and explained to its users in context. Of course, it helps if you understand what a ping is. 

We’ll wrap up this three-part blog with more about CEO Speak.

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In the Meantime, and Thanks to Friends, I’m Back

 Many thanks to the help of several Toastmasters friends and to the encouragement of Nimble folks, I’m back from four chemo treatments for breast cancer.  Radiology will be next. I will always be grateful to my Toastmasters friends who took me to and from the chemo treatments which made me quite sleepy and unable to drive. 

Back in November, I swore I would not wear a pink ribbon.  I swore that I would not wear a skull cap, a baggy beanie, a turban or a do-rag to hide what I knew would soon be my completely bald head.  I did indulge my love for hats. As you see in my picture, I also  got a pixie cut,  so that I had a little more control over how much hair would fall out and when.  But I did cheat on the pink thing.  My hand-made Christmas cards featured a pair of pink boots.  However, I’m still not wearing a skull cap, a baggie beanie, a turban or a do-rag.  Those are just not me.

In the meantime, Nimble—our Social CRM—has  blossomed into Nimble Personal and Nimble Business.   Pricing for both Nimble Personal and for Nimble Business were announced.  Orders for Nimble are rolling in from people  like you who know that their customers—and future customers—are already on FaceBook, LinkedIn and Twitter. And they want to see them all—and connect with them all—in one place.  So they are signing up for Nimble.   It’s your turn. Nimble Personal—which will always be free—is available here.  Nimble Business—at an extremely competitive price for small to medium businesses  is here.  What’s more, What’s New with Nimble is right here.

Cheers, all!

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A word from a Hero

Jon Ferrara, the CEO of Nimble, may not know that he is one of my corporate heroes.  (Hi, Jon!)

This morning Jon sent out the message that Nimble partners have been waiting to see.  Here is what Jon said.
=====================
As we approach the one-year anniversary of releasing our Nimble beta, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for supporting our company. I am humbled that more than 15,000 users have signed up over the last nine months with thousands spending almost four hours a day managing their social relationships and growing their businesses with Nimble. I knew it was going to be an enormous challenge when we set out to create a new paradigm for CRM in 2010. We wanted to enable businesses to manage Relationships & Social Engagement in a simple and elegant way. I am excited to tell you that we are weeks away from being “core vision complete” and will be releasing a major new version of Nimble in January 2012 that we are testing with select users today.
As you know, Nimble has been free during our testing phase. We wanted to wait until Nimble was something worth paying for…something truely helpful in growing a business. I am proud to say that Nimble is now ready to help you Turn Your Social Communities into Customers for Life. With our upcoming new product launch this January, we will start charging for Nimble. A free single-user version of Nimble for basic Social Relationship Management will still be available. For business users who utilize Nimble as a team and need more professional functionality, we will be charging $15 per user per month. As a special thank you to everyone who has been a Nimble user prior to enacting this change, I would like to extend a 90-day free period on their Business accounts applicable once we intiate charging. More details on pricing here.

It would be wonderful if we could offer Nimble for free for everyone forever; however, I know you can understand that to continue to grow and meet the needs of our users, and to continue providing super cool new technologies, it is necessary to monetize our platform. Speaking of super cool new technology, please join me for a webinar this week to see the new Nimble features planned for our January 2012 release.

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Jon Ferrara

We are Moving on…a new Look and Feel

Effective now, you will find this blog at http://blog.pequodsystems.com. We believe this change will make us easier to find. We also decided to give ourselves a new look.  We also changed so that our friends using mobile devices such as an iPad can read this blog while you are on the road. Over the next month or so, you will also see some changes at our website.   Our vision, values and mission will remain the same. Our products and services are evolving. We are still enthusiastic Nimble partners.  As always, you will find us on FaceBook, in LinkedIn, Twitter and even in Google+ .

THIS AND THAT

Word for the Day: (An oldie but goodie) Mashup.
Music,  Slang . a recording that combines vocal and instrumental tracks from two or more recordings. a piece of recorded or live music in which a producer or DJ blends together two or more tracks, often of contrasting genres .
…a hybrid website that collates and displays information taken from various other online sources …

Not to be confused with enabling Nimble to talk with your Google Apps. 
Cheers!

//
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Google’s Rel = Author…where is the Return On Investment?

Susan Ellsworth

For anyone other than a professional webmaster, Google’s current “Rel=Author” implementation in G+ profiles for increasing trustworthy content has a long way to go before those of us in small business will find it easy to implement. And I am wondering exactly where is the return on investment for the time and sweat it now takes to make it work reliably.

Setting up a Google+ account is actually quite straightforward. So is pointing the G+ profile directly to my website and to the URL for this blog. Pointing this blog in the direction of my G+ profile, however, was not so much. The introductory  Matt Cutts/Othar Hansson video on authorship did not match my thee-hour effort to discover the appropriate way to point this blog in the direction of my G+ profile. Google’s online helpdesk documentation specific to WordPress, the Content Management System for this blog, told me why the video had tripped ever so lightly over commenting on its implementation by saying that the implementation is still “in the early days.” Make that “still in Beta.”

At the end of the day, I found myself ponding on two questions. First, where is the return on investment for small business website owners to spend time and effort in this way? If I don’t go through all this effort, will searches on terms on my website suddenly go into the toilet insofar as Google is concerned?

Second, I thought about the matter of trustworthiness as a whole. Frankly, in business dealings, I trust people more than I worry about website rankings. I thought about Jon Ferrera, the Nimble CEO. I have not met him in person, and yet I trust him as a person. Why is that? I have spent time on the phone with him and with his staff. What they say is what they do. My business partner knew him in his early GoldMine days, and I have watched as GoldMine partner after partner has come on board—including some who originally had hooted down the idea of integrating GoldMine with social networking, let alone turning it into a Social Business Platform. Jon has over 20 years of experience in Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Sales Force Automation (SFA). An entrepreneur at heart, Jon founded GoldMine CRM in 1989 with a college friend and turned it into a very successful venture that he eventually sold to FrontRange. In 2009, Jon founded Nimble LLC, and by February 2010, we were on board. We’re not looking back any time soon. See us at our Nimble site.
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“What can I Contribute” beats “What’s In It for Me” Every Day

I belong to an organization of about 260,000 members called Toastmasters International. Its core values include “integrity, dedication to excellence, service to the member, and respect for the individual. ” One demonstration of service to members—the High Performance Leadership project—gives experienced members an opportunity to identify an opportunity to serve any community, and to choose and lead a team to carry out the service leadership mission.

Enter Attila Nemes, a member of the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center Toastmasters club. Because the club attracts a high number of members whose native language is not English, many discover they are not even able to pronounce each other’s names correctly. Some, out of frustration, change the name they were born with to an American-looking and American-sounding name. Hungarian-born Ph.D. Nemes has assembled a team with a daunting task: to help members of the club learn to say each other’s names in a comfortable, no-akward-moments way. In a group that includes members from the Indian subcontinent, from Europe and from the Far East, it will be a challenge. As a professional, he will receive no compensation for leading the project team. He could have chosen a project far more related to his field of expertise. He chose to contribute to a cause far different. One that has potential not only for about 35 people, but also for a far wider group. The project is on its way.

What will be your contribution to make the world around you just a little bit better?

Watching 24 x 7 x 365

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To Skype and FaceBook Together…or Not

Recently I discovered a solid business reason for using Skype. A company from BanglaDesh and my company are collaborating on a project together, and Skype is a convenient, economical way we can stay in touch. As a FaceBook user, I was fascinated to see on my Skype page an option to “Connect your Facebook account to message your friends from Skype and see their News Feed.” And of course, the “Learn More” link only said “Enjoy the magic of video calls when you and your friends are logged in to Facebook. ”

As a partner in a systems integration company, I love it when apps come together and play nicely with each other. However, just yesterday I had extolled the benefits of LinkNotify. I had proclaimed that LinkNotify is a fast read, that it sends me an eMail three times a week with current links posted by friends and/or organizations I had “LIKED.”  As an example, I pointed out that Nimble had posted a FaceBook link to the the July 6 LA Times piece “Facebook details Skype-powered video calling, group chats” and how I had received a report on July 7 from LinkNotify. I had immediately returned to FaceBook to see a comment about starting a group to enable chatting. Earlier in the day, a friend from the Philippines had posted a link to the FaceBook announcement, so that made me twice as interested. A 10-second scan of the LinkNotify report had just saved me a 30-minute check of links posted by all my FaceBook friends. It all looked like so much FUN!

However, I had also said that I had killed off all my time-wasting FaceBook games and apps. Considering that LinkNotify is a business-oriented app that allows me to skim through the links my FaceBook friends have posted without my being slowed down by the posts about what they’re eating or watching on TV, I asked myself the obvious question:  Would SKYPE also do that for me? Not that I could see. So for now, unless my Nimble buddies can show me a good reason to the contrary, I think I’ll pass on the Skype-FaceBook integration opportunity. 

 


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