Thoughts on marketing, social media, and web strategy

Mike Templeton is an experienced marketer with a history in building community on the web.

For Mike's reactions to what others are writing about social media, visit Mike Memos.

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12seconds Has Me Falling in Love With Video

12stv_mainFor social media power users like myself, you’ve probably heard about 12seconds. You might even have an account. For those who have not heard about it, 12seconds is a video messaging platform that lets users record and/or upload videos of no more than 12 seconds. These videos are posted to your channel, which can be viewed by and shared with your friends.

Why only 12 seconds?

This one comes straight from the 12seconds team: “Because anything longer is boring.”

And they’re right. We are a culture that craves brevity.

12seconds is to YouTube as Twitter is to blogging

The 12seconds service was born out of the same vein as Twitter, which lowers the risk of participating by limiting the character length of messages posted. People flock to Twitter over a once more common platform called a blog (do you remember those?) because it requires less time commitment. Tweets are shorter, take less time to read, literally anyone can post a 140 character message and getting started on the service takes less than a minute. When you compare getting started with a blog, you’ve got to think about what it will focus on, what the domain will be, where you will host it, what platform you will use, etc.

12seconds takes the same streamlined approach to online video that Twitter takes to sharing conversations. To sign up for the service you just need a username and a password, or you can create an account using Facebook Connect or your Twitter username.

12stv_record

You don’t even have to worry about what your videos will be about, because the 12seconds team does an awesome job of prompting users with idea. And, prompting 12seconds users means more than the proverbial “What are you doing?” opener as seen on Twitter. The site hosts a daily 12seconds challenge which generates user videos that participants rank, plus they employ the 12erator tool which generates random questions or thoughts to spur a video response.

12stv_videostats

12seconds has everything in place

For nearly any feature you can think of, 12seconds has done it. Want to import friends from other services? Want to upload a video from your computer? Want to distribute your videos effortlessly across other social networks? Want to know how many people are viewing your videos? Done, done, done and done.

From my perspective, 12seconds has it all. They’ve nailed the posting interface, have a robust API, distribute content across the social web, facilitate user interaction, have their own iPhone app and love their community.

If you are running a startup or are part of an existing business, take a look at how the 12seconds team has covered all the angles. What are you missing in your business?

Tune in for some short fun of your own

Stop over at 12seconds and spend a few minutes browsing through the videos. You can find my channel under my name. And for a local master of pithy videos, watch some of John Pemble‘s clips.

Beginning a New Adventure

For those of you that follow me on Twitter, you probably saw one of my tweets this morning announcing that I was inbetween jobs. Several people followed up right away, looking for the details. I can’t share everything yet, but I will spell out what I can for now.

What I’ve been up to as a Director of Social Media

Iowa Hospital AssociationFrom March until September of this year I worked as the Director of Social Media and Web Strategies for the Iowa Hospital Association.

I was brought on board to lead developments in social media for the organization, including educating their staff on effective uses and putting into practice a strategy for IHA.

My role built upon the training and groundwork laid out by Nathan Wright and Hillary Brown of Lava Row. Our goals were to strengthen relationships with association members, highlight the successes of Iowa hospitals and promote health care careers in the State of Iowa.

As we worked towards accomplishing these goals, IHA put several initiatives into motion:

IHA saw lots of positive response from individuals and hospital leaders, with many people engaging in these mediums for the first time. Overall it was a great experience for me and it gave me the chance to work in an industry I had previously known nothing about. I also had my first experience working on a Macbook Pro. :)

UPDATE: For some perspective, here’s my post from when I started the job at the Iowa Hospital Association.

Where my journey is taking me next

Though I can’t reveal too many details surrounding my new role, I can say that it will be centered in the social media space and that I’ll be working with several other bright minds in the area. As people starting rolling into the office and other pieces come together I will share more. Hopefully I will have additional information in the coming weeks.

LinkedIn Groups are a Victim of their own Success

linkedin_pic_logo_119x32Like most any other business professional on the web, I have a LinkedIn profile. It’s properly filled out with all of my latest ventures, who I’ve worked with, what my background is, etc. At the bottom of my page you’ll find a list of LinkedIn Groups that I have joined, from CarpeDM (Seize Des Moines!) to Highlight Midwest. Though the groups you may be more familiar with are ones like On Startups (90,000+ members) or Inbound Marketers (35,000+ members), as these groups have thousands upon thousands of members.

Can we rely on our contacts as filters?

Though I do want to associate with those latter groups, the sheer size of the group membership on LinkedIn makes them nearly impossible to derive value from. True I can browse the members page to see which of my connections are also members, but LinkedIn doesn’t provide a very good way to find the best discussions in a group (especially in the email digest). I can sort by most recent or most comments, but what would happen if LinkedIn were to take a page from Facebook’s playbook and leverage the social graphs of my friends to pick out what I would like most?

For all I know this type of recommendation engine could be in the works at LinkedIn, but I think finding a better way to filter through content could drive many more people through LinkedIn’s doors. Facebook does a great job recommending who I should be friends with and what they like the most, but wouldn’t that be even more meaningful in a professional environment?

LinkedIn means business, literally

I use LinkedIn specifically because it takes the personal chatter and noise out of the conversation. I don’t have to weed through photos or the recounts of a day’s worth of food just to find what I am looking for. The content is right there in front of me. All I need is a better tool with which to mine it.

Many people have said that RSS is dead, and that Twitter seems to be replacing it as a source of news. I don’t think that RSS is dead any more than the next technology, but what Twitter provides is a human-powered filtering system to only provide what we are most interested in. We follow those who follow what we like, and that’s what we get. LinkedIn is headed down that path by allowing us to join grouped discussions related to our interests, but allowing us to rely on our friends to sift through all of that information would make the network even better.

What would make LinkedIn better for you?

Project Detox and Knowing When to Quit

At most of the events I’ve attended recently, I am always greeted with the same question:

“What exactly is it that you do? I seem to see your name everywhere online.”

With so many asking this question, I’ve been able to formulate what I think is a good response.

“I have a lot of fires burning, but I’m looking for the right one to keep stoking so that it will take off.”

When an interesting project comes into your mind or you are offered the opportunity to collaborate on something interesting, it’s often hard to resist. I’ve gotten into this situation with clients, with friends and with my career. I’ve taken on clients whom I probably should have declined, I’ve started projects I shouldn’t have and I’ve made career movements I later came to regret, but really it’s just hard to resist.

Being known as an idea person and someone who is interested in a lot of things, keeping up with all of these efforts can become personally draining. Sometimes I wonder what I would do if I had no outside projects whatsoever, but it just doesn’t seem feasible. Based on my nature, I’ll most likely always have something else going on the side, just to keep me motivated and continuing to expand my skills.

So, given that I like working on projects and ideas, but I sometimes feel spread to thin, I’ve recently been running through internal processes to validate my ideas and find projects to put on the chopping block. For a guy with 10+ Twitter accounts, two business bank accounts, more WordPress installations than I care to remember and a handful of email addresses, I knew there would be potential to clean house.

The Project Detox Process

If you find yourself in a similar position as me, or just feel like streamlining your project list, consider walking through the following questions:

  • What value is this project providing?
  • Is this project generating income?
  • Is your project compensating you well enough for the time required to generate that income?
  • Are their easier ways to manage this project?
  • How much time does this project require?
  • Could the management of this project be outsourced and still provide the same value?
  • What else could you being doing with the time spent on this project?
  • Is there a long-term future for this project?
  • Do you see yourself continuing to pursue this project into the foreseeable future?

If you answer “no” for very many of these questions, it’s easy to see you may be looking at a project worth dumping. And if you don’t want to totally delete a project, just find a shelf where it can sit until you have some “yes” answers to motivate you.

These questions and this process are not meant to say that every project that fails to receive positive answers should be killed off, but it is a quick way to get you thinking about the outcomes of these ideas. Too often we can become so wrapped up in an idea that we miss out on the answers to many of these questions, allowing ourselves to be blindsided and missing other types of opportunities.

How the Internet Saved My Flip Mino

I am the proud owner of a Flip Mino camcorder, though over the past few weeks I’ve not been happy about owning one at all.

flip_minoThe camera was a gift from my wife for Christmas last year, customized with a special design pattern on the front, signifying that mine would stand out from a sea of black and white Minos. I’ve used the camera to shoot videos over the holidays, to document time with family, to capture live events and to interview others (See my Viddler channel).

Up until recently, the camera had been great. I could grab the camera at a moment’s notice and be up and filming in no time. However, after loaning it to my wife so she could record a video for one of her classes, I got it back and the thing was dead. The camera wouldn’t boot up, the screen wouldn’t come on and nothing happened when I plugged it into my computer.

Saved by the internet

While many would look for the device owner’s manual, or search for a customer service number, I turned to the internet. With a quick Google search of “flip mino won’t turn on,” I was on my way to finding the solution. I found a question/answer site asking the question, a forum post with instructions on how to reset the camera, plus a YouTube video documenting the process.

2009-07-12_0924_google_flip_mino

What I discovered was that the camera simply needed to be reset by taking a pin and inserting it into the reset hole within the camera’s tripod mount, then waiting five seconds before powering on. I tried this with a paperclip, but had no luck the first time. I decided to give Flip’s customer service a try, to see if they could tell me anything different.

Working with customer service, a last resort

2009-07-12_0941_flip_customerserviceFinding the customer service area was easy, as they had a large “support” tab identified on their website. I clicked through and found options to call their customer service, to browser the FAQs or to submit a new question. I chose to submit a question via email, because I hate waiting for operators on the phone.

I received a response to my email well within the four hour response time stated on their site (good job, Flip!), but the answer was the same as what I had found before, and actually word for word what was in the forum posting.

I figured I must have been doing it wrong. I pillaged my wife’s sewing supplies to source a pin I could use, then followed the instructions to reset the camera. After a short 15 seconds, the camera booted up and I was back in business!

Flip Mino fixed and ready for more videos!

All of my videos had been retained, just as the customer service rep had explained, and I was back to having my Flip Mino video camera again. Now that I have it working again I’m much happier about my purchase. The only thing left is to get out there and start shooting more videos!

Be the Best at Something, Not Mediocre at Everything

I was recently watching a video from Loic LeMeur and caught a great conversation he had with Seth Godin discussing why he (Seth) isn’t on Twitter,

“Be a meaningful specific, not a wandering generality.”

If you can’t be the best, don’t do it

Seth explains that he is the best in the world at writing a marketing blog (for now) and the best at being himself. If he were to start using Twitter, he knows that he wouldn’t be the best at using it, as others are much better (like Chris Brogan, he says). Seth would rather stick to what he knows and what he is good at, rather than doing everything mediocre.

Catch the full-video interview on YouTube, where Seth describes why people need a tribe (and eventually why he isn’t on Twitter):

Should I quit everything I’m not the best at?

Seth Godin seems to have taken his example about Twitter to the extreme, but I can relate to his point about doing the things the best or not at all.

When I first started my marketing and web strategy consultancy, I had no idea what the scope of my services looked like. I figured I would do anything and everything related to marketing that  a client wanted to pay me for.

However, after spending time building websites, setting up blogs, designing logos and writing marketing campaigns, I soon found that certain items seemed to be taking more time than I wanted, and that I didn’t really enjoy some aspects of what I was doing. As a result, I had to sit down and truly define the scope of services I would offer. I decided that I would not be a graphic designer for clients and that my main focus would be on planning, strategy and education, not necessarily on executing everything.

This small exercise helped me understand what I was best at doing, and most of all, helped me understand what I was best at providing to clients. If I wasn’t going to be able to provide them the best graphic design service, why bother doing a mediocre job? It would be in my client’s best interest to find the best graphic designer available for the job and to steer them in that direction.

Examine your skills and figure out which are your best

If you’re not a good blogger, find someone else to blog. If you can’t manage projects, find a good project manager. If designing user interfaces is not your forte, find a UI designer who rocks at it.

In the end, identifying your own strengths and outsourcing the rest will save you time and make you (and your clients) happier.

What do you do the best? What should you be offloading to someone else?

Keeping Current with Social Media Netiquette

Wayne SuttonDo you find yourself struggling to keep up with the dos and don’ts in social media? You’re probably not alone. As more mainstream users enter the social media space, it’s only natural for confusion to erupt. Early adopters are used to signing up and using a multitude of different applications, but for the casual user it can all be quite overwhelming.

North Carolina’s Wayne Sutton sat down with FOX8 News earlier this week to talk about how he keeps connected and to share some tips for those who feel they may be drowning online.

How many profiles do I need?

Similar to Wayne, I have profiles on a host of different social media platforms, each with their own purpose and specialty. However, you can always hone in on MikeThoughts.com as the hub of my activity.

For more on Wayne and to see what he is up to, stop by SocialWayne.com. On his blog you’ll find links to all of his social media profiles and projects.

What questions do you have about social media netiquette?

Risk-takers are Inspiring

While big corporations are laying people off and America experiences the highest unemployment rates in a long time, there are still those who are willing to take risks. In fact, Iowa State University economist Liesl Eathington said the Midwest tends to see an increase in business start-ups during tough economic times as people laid off from jobs are forced to find ways to make money (Business Record).

A recent Business Record article by Sarah Bzdega profiles three Des Moines area business owners who are taking risks and have started their own businesses, and quite frankly, I’m inspired by them. I’ve been running a marketing and web strategy consultancy of my own on the side since March 2007, but never had the guts to take it full-time. And now I’ve just started a new job, which puts plans for Dosovo (and all of my other projects) even farther behind. However, these business owners (and many others like them) have given it all up for a chance to live the dream. They’re hustling. They’re making it happen.

I hope everything works out for these business owners and the hundreds/thousands of others trying to make a go of it right now. It’s these small businesses that are probably going to pull us out of this thing we’re worked ourselves into.

Healthcare, Hospitals and Associations, Oh My!

Iowa Hospital AssociationAt the beginning of March I started a new job, leaving my role as Online Marketing Strategist at TMG and taking on my new position as the Director of Social Media and Web Strategies with the Iowa Hospital Association.

The Iowa Hospital Association is a voluntary membership organization representing hospital and health system interests to business, government and consumer audiences.

From Marketing to Government Relations

My position lives in the government relations department (another idea about where social media can live in an organization?), but was created  in order to facilitate participation in social media by our organization as a whole. The gov relations designation is simply because that’s where all of our other outbound communications are housed. I’ll be working closely with both our Director of Communications and Director of Grassroots Advocacy.

Making the Rules As We Go

Like any other position, I’ve got a job description outlining specific details and guidelines as to what my role entails, but a large portion of it will be determined ongoing as I learn more about our industry and the opportunities that exist for us as an organization.

The most exciting part of my job is that each day I get to prove how and why social media is an important part of business, not just for consumer-oriented companies, but for any business in existence. I’m also learning a lot about how other associations are using social media to benefit their members; check out the Association Social Media wiki for great examples.

Learning About Healthcare

In my two previous positions I operated first in construction and then in credit unions. Hospitals and healthcare are an entirely different world, but it’s a challenge I’m willing to take.

#hcsm trendingAlso, if you’ve been reading my tweets on Sunday night, you’ve probably noticed a flurry of them tagged with #hcsm between 8-9pm. Those tweets are all related to the “social media in healthcare” Twitter chats that take place every Sunday. Discussions are led by a moderator who asks questions of the group, then everyone jumps in with their responses. Each week our group continues to grow and tonight we were even a trending topic on Twitter (amidst both the Country Music Awards and Wrestlemania).

Taking the Next Step

It’s hard to believe this is my third full-time job since graduating from Iowa State just two years ago, but I’m very excited about where I’m at and the opportunities that have been presented to me. I’m looking forward to growing my experience, honing my skills and meeting new people. Keep an eye out for big things to come. :)

Why I'm Supporting Twestival (and Bringing Cleaning Water to Those in Need)

Twestival LogoIf you’re not on Twitter you probably haven’t heard of an internationally organized event taking place tomorrow night simultaneously in 175+ cities across the globe. The event is called Twestival and is being organized to bring together Twitter communities for an evening of fun and to raise money and awareness for charity: water.

charity: water is a non-profit that brings clean and safe drinking water to people in developing nations. The organization has been operating since 2006, but a global community of passionate microbloggers has propelled this group to gather worldwide recognition for its efforts.

In September 2008, a group of Twitterers based in London UK decided to organise an event where the local Twitter community could socialize offline; meet the faces behind the avatars, enjoy some entertainment, have a few drinks and tie this in with a food drive and fundraising effort for a local homeless charity.

The bulk of the event was organized in under two weeks, via Twitter and utilized the talents and financial support of the local Twittersphere to make this happen.

Around the world similar stories started appearing of local Twitter communities coming together and taking action for a great cause. Twestival was born out of the idea that if cities were able to collaborate on an international scale, but working from a local level, it could have a spectacular impact.

Seeing how these tight-knit local communities could gather together and tackle seemingly impossible feats in a short amount of time, charity:water saw the Twitter community as an opportunity to help raise awareness to the global crisis they seek to remedy.

People Will Rally Behind a Good Idea

First the idea was born, then volunteers started pouring in. Tony Scott set up Twestival.com and enabled each participating city to set up their own page. Amiando came on board to help event organizers with online RSVP tracking. Mashable partnered to promote the event worldwide. Tipjoy built widgets and organized a channel to raise donations.

The sheer number of people involved in this event and the heart and passion going into all of the planning, organizing and promotion have my jaw dropped on the floor. Many times in today’s society we are plagued with thoughts of how terrible most people are and the newsrooms of the world continue to pummel us with bad news, but the truth is that good-natured people with good intentions DO exist in the world. Twestival is being organized by those people.

Join Us Tomorrow Night and Support Twestival’s Cause

If you’d like to become part of this monumental fundraising event, stop by http://desmoines.twestival.com (or whichever city you are from) for more information. It’s not too late to donate a few bucks and help those in need.

I’ll be at Mars Cafe, 2318 University Ave tomorrow night (Thursday, February 12) and hope to see you there.

If you’re still not convinced, I’ll leave you with a video from the folks at Lava Row about why you should get involved: