On Social Media

We all know that Social Media is the new buzzword. It also makes a great business tool. I use Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Plaxo in addition to my blog. I’m sure I have a few others here and there, like MySpace, which I don’t use much anymore. I find social media to be useful and fun. At least, there are some aspects of social media I enjoy. If my wife sends me one more “buy a round” thing on Facebook… I’d rather she just make me the darn drink and bring it up to me. I honestly have no use for those silly Facebook games. I enjoy commenting on other people’s statuses, or having mine commented on. That’s the social part that I enjoy.

This isn’t backed up by any objective data or research, but it often seems like new fields in computers are pioneered by people who just want to have fun, or do something new. Sometimes there is a profit motive and there’s nothing wrong with that. But after the people who are having fun are through, then along come the sharks and the vultures. These are the people who want to make money, and do it in any way possible. Then along come the “I’ll teach you how to get rich using (EBay, Facebook, Twitter, Blue Mountain Cards, etc) buttholes. It seems to me that there is much more money to be made in selling products that claim people can make money within a system than there is money to actually be made within that system.

Social media is little different. I’m a firm believer that it can be a useful business tool. I briefly contemplated starting a small consulting business for social media. I figured I could market myself to small businesses looking to expand their influence in the community. This would be a useful service for Realtors and restaurants and Karate studios and coffee shops and even bands. A local band, Queen Anne’s Revenge, followed me on Twitter. I followed them back. I’m sure their music isn’t exactly my style and I really don’t like going to crowded places with loud music anyway (never been to a real concert and proud of it!), but they don’t post a lot of annoying tweets and I’m happy to support a local band. Also, I can’t help but be fascinated by Blackbeard (Edward Teach) and his ship, so I happily followed Queen Anne’s Revenge.

I also follow a local coffee shop and our Realtor. Our attempt to sell our house has had a lot of ups and downs and no resolution as yet, but Karen has earned a “spot” as the family Realtor and as a friend.

This past week I reached a breaking point with a couple of people I had followed on Twitter. Normally, I’m pretty good about following people who follow me. I have a few minor criteria. I have no problem with people using Twitter for their businesses, as long as they don’t become jerks. This week, I came across two who I felt were abusing the point to Twitter and I un-followed them.

We were on a vacation using our timeshare exchange. Because I mentioned “timeshare” several times in my tweets, I picked up some “timeshare experts” as followers. I figured it could be useful to follow people who are knowledgeable in this field, and I followed them. Two in particular got really annoying. Since I was away from a computer a lot, I was using my iPhone almost exclusively. I use Twitterific on the iPhone as my Twitter client. I noticed that two of the “timeshare experts” I was following kept running the same tweets over and over and over again. It was like I was back to my pre-podcasting days listening to talk radio and having to hear that damn Sea Silver commercial 20 times in a one mile stretch of road. (I think Sea Silver was WFIL’s only advertiser for a while). I follow a few people who Tweet about their blog posts or thoughts or products, but they usually keep it interesting. I’d never come across people who acted like they were running talk radio commercial spots. I un-followed both of them. I should note that I’m still following other timeshare experts who do post interesting tweets.

For what it’s worth, here’s my perspective on the use of Twitter: it’s SOCIAL MEDIA. That means that, even in business, it needs to be SOCIAL. I can understand using a bot (or a script that monitors for certain keywords) to find people on Twitter, but people who use bots on Twitter are outside the point.

When somebody follows me on Twitter, or I’m looking for somebody to follow, I look for a few criteria. People that I follow don’t have to fall into all of them, but I use them as informal guidelines for myself.

1. Who are you?

2. What do you do?

3. (if business) What business are you in or what services do you offer?

4. What unique challenges do you face in your business?

5. How do you solve or handle those challenges?

6. What unique knowledge or perspective do you have in your field?

7. If you’re willing to share, what is your family like? What hobbies do you have? What funny or frustrating things do your kids do?

8. If I post a question on Twitter about problems I’m having, are you open to responding?

Those are fairly simple. I follow quite a few interesting people. I follow pastors, writers, business leaders, a few artists, museums, entrepreneurs, publishers, and all kinds of other people and organizations that I find interesting. I occasionally interact with them on Twitter.

I’m getting tired of advertisers and people who “link-blog” exclusively. Twitter is a great place to share information, but in my opinion, the social aspect should not be overlooked.

I hope the people selling advice on how to use Twitter to make “lots of money” and those who pay for those courses don’t ruin it.

High Pressure Sales: Is This Really Lying?

My wife and I bought a timeshare in Virginia Beach last year, and went on our first timeshare exchange this week. We went to Williamsburg, Virginia. We like Virginia. I travel to a couple of locations in Virginia for work, and I always enjoy it. The people are friendly and the hospitality is awesome. Let's face it, New Jersey license plates don't say "The hospitality state". Even in restaurants where the service is slow, it's still friendly, which sure beats the slow and apathetic service we get in some places in New Jersey (like the Lindenwold and Blackwood-Clementon McDonald's).

I knew from reading reviews of this resort that we'd be invited to a meal and then have to sit through a sales presentation. I thought about getting out of it, but they have ways… We went to it on Wednesday. I wouldn't say it was incredibly high-pressure, but they did use some tactics that I find questionable, and every time these tactics are used on me, I always wonder if I'm being lied to.

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Failblog: Rocket Science Fail

I go to a Church of Christ, so I feel safe reposting this here. Failblog (one of my favorite blogs) posts a church sign fail.

Dishonesty From The Start Is a Poor Sales Practice

Last year I spent a week in Virginia for work. I ended up being able to get an ocean front suite in Virginia Beach within what I could be reimbursed for, so I brought the family with me. While we were there, we of course got invited to a timeshare presentation. We figured we'd eat the free breakfast, take the tour, listen to the pitch, then fight like heck to get out of there.

Yes, I am uncomfortable with taking free breakfasts and other gifts when I have no intention of buying. We like VA Beach, so we were intersested in what they had to say although we figured it would be priced out of reality for us. Somehow, it wasn't. They had a unit within a reasonable price, and it includes a deed, so my wife was interested and we bought in.

We're currently on our first exchange to Williamsburg, VA. The resort we're staying at wants us to have a free meal, then take a tour of a model and then take a survey. As usual, they claim there will be no pressure. I'm not sure. I read in some reviews of this resort that even if you already own a unit somewhere else, they will try very hard to get us to switch to a unit here. That won't happen. At least as we understand things, a VA Beach unit gives us some power in exchanges. We also like VA Beach, so we're not giving that up.

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Report vilifies iPod, blames Apple for holding back music industry

According to TUAW, a music industry report says that Apple is holding
back the music industry. Consumers love iPods but are locked into
iTunes and blah, blah, blah.

I can hardly use myself to refute a report on the enitire music
playing population, but my BS detector is going off, and it’s about to
blow out my eardrums.

I’ve bought a total on ONE (1) song from iTunes, and when I realized
what a pain DRM is, I swore it off and haven’t bought another. I’ve
managed I acquire my music either from my CD collection or non-DRM
sources like Amazon.


Is Apple holding back the music industry? If so, I need to see
something more substantial than whining an finger pointing to believe

Happy Memorial Day

Happy Memorial Day, everyone. I’m writing this post on my iPhone from my temporary headquarters in Williamsburg, Va. We’re on a long awaited vacation.

We spent Saturday night in Virginia Beach. As we walked around, we stopped in a discount ticket store. I was wearing my yellow Navy T-shirt that I bought at Steve & Barry’s. I was asked by one of the men there if I was in the Navy. I replied that I had been, and I work indirectly for the Navy. He wished me a happy Veteran’s Day, and we had a discussion about getting them backwards. I admit I’ve done it myself. I use the two interchageably.

Later on, it hit me what the difference is. Both days do observe similar purposes. The best way I can put it is that on Veteran’s Day we recognize those who served and made it back home. On Memorial Day, we honor those who didn’t make it back.

Dealing With An Introverted Nature

I'll be transparent about something: I'm not very comfortable in crowds of people that I don't know. I don't mind being in groups of people that I've known and am comfortable with, but I'm really uncomfortable around people I don't know.

I can't help but wonder why. I really can't name many times when being around a group of strangers resulted in a bad experience. Normally, once somebody breaks the ice, I get along fine with everybody.

I had just such an experience today. This was the first day of our vacation. My wife likes to take the kids to the pools in hotels. I don't like hotel pools. They're usually crowded, and I don't know anybody, so of course I'm uncomfortable and awkward. When we first got to the pool, it was crowded. Two kids were throwing a ball around, which took up a lot of room. I just hid in the corner.

Sooner or later, the ball started going out of bounds, so I hit it back in. Suddenly, I was having fun. The woman who was the mother of the boys throwing the ball started talking to us, and suddenly I was comfortable.

I need to remember, if I want to live a successful life with all of my roles in balance, that I'm going to have to trust strangers more. I'm going to have to be more outgoing in these situations.

What about you? Are you the classic extrovert, who will talk to anybody? Or are you like me, an introvert who wants to be more extroverted, but has to remain true to his (or her) nature?

Water: A Simple Energy Pick-up

I'm currently on travel. When I got back to my hotel room this afternoon, I was wiped out. All I wanted to do was turn the air conditioning on and flop on the bed and just lay there. But that could not be the course of my night. I still needed to get dinner, I had some work to do, and I had tons of email and RSS feeds to catch up on. Since I'm starting vacation tomorrow, I know if I don't get these caught up now, I'll be buried when we get back. Yes, I'm taking my iPhone and netbook with me, but I am trying to keep my expectations realistic.

I had to get myself off that hotel bed and get moving again. I had an idea. I keep forgetting that being dehydrated can often affect my energy level. I also figured an extra dose of vitamins couldn't hurt at this point. I took my vitamins this morning, but OTC (Over the counter) vitamins can be taken at increased doses.

Turns out, that gave me enough energy to get m oving. Not enough to run a marathon or anything, but enough to get my laptop out of my bag and hooked up to the hotel's network. It also gave me enough motivation to call Applebee's for dinner, and walk over there to pick it up.

When your energy is too low, try water. Seriously, it does help in a lot of cases.

Customer Service Failures:Does It Matter to Businesses That They Could Lose a Customer?

In 2003, my wife and I had to replace 10 windows and the sliding glass door in our house. We opted to use Window Wizards. The sales process and installation went well enough, but getting service has been a nightmare. Nobody seems to bother to check the voice mail on the service line. I’ve tried to call sales to get service, and still be given the voice mail. I’ve had service calls get canceled after taking a day off and sitting around. I’ve had repeated problems with some parts, and by the way, a “lifetime” warranty isn’t a lifetime warranty.

My wife recently started pointing out to me that I’m going to have to call Window Wizards again. The vinyl on the back of our sliding door is cracked again, and the door is hard to open and close. We have a window that needs to be adjusted because it won’t stay open, and the wheels on our screen door rusted out, rendering the door useless.

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Cash Strapped Indy 500 To Charge $1 a Lap Toll

OK, sure, it's in The Onion, but you have to admit, it's funny.

I'm trying to imagine some kind of Parkway toll plaza scheme in a race.