Business tactics

16

May 2012

The MoreDigital Guide to Communication: Websites

Posted in Books and Guides, Business tactics | 0 Comments

The MoreDigital Guide to Communication - website section header.There is no faster way to reassure a potential client or customer that your business is twenty years behind than to present them with a terrible website. GIF files and clip-art from the Nineties, blocky design and the most difficult-to-navigate cluster of pages possible will tell me that you have no interest in the following:

  • Your company’s image
  • Modern technology
  • Making everything your company offers accessible to those they want to grant access to
  • Common sense

Keep customers on your site

I’ve rung the common sense bell at least once before, but I’ll give it another good old ding-a-ling anyway. In 2012 – you know, before Google’s Glass project renders all websites obsolete and we simply live behind a screen attached to our heads – your website is the most important first impression you’ll ever get to make. Compare it to your opening few jokes in a stand-up comedy routine – the first joke sets the tone for the rest of the performance. Similarly, the amount of immediately available, well-presented and easily-navigable information on a company site can make the difference between a one-off visitor and a regular user.

‘Bounce rate’ is a webmaster term that gets bandied around a lot – it simply means how many people are going to find a page on your site and then leave, rather than navigating around to see more interesting stuff. Usually, most people tend to come to a page for a specific answer, or to research one thing in particular. This means, funnily enough, that every single page on your site has to be informative – people should learn something every time they read a page on your website. You should not, under any circumstances, decide to just waffle on about your company or your products. Keep people interested, and you’ll keep them on the site.

People also go to websites to buy products and services. Should your site be selling something, then it’s not a bad idea to have a look at how easy it is for the average person to actually do that. A clear price, a well-designed shopping basket system and an easy-to-navigate catalogue will do wonders for people’s willingness to shop at your site. Don’t hide prices or postal charges, either – you wouldn’t do it in-store, so there’s no reason at all to do it online. Small print and hidden charges aren’t going to make anyone trust you or your site, and poor feedback in a public forum is – you guessed it – bad for your company image.

Personalisation, community, and plain old looking good

One of the things that I really enjoy on a website is the ability to really personalise my experience depending on how I’ve interacted with it in the past, but I find it’s a double-edged sword.  For example: when I’m using Amazon, I’ll find that my logged-in homepage is full of items related to the stuff I’ve shopped for. However, if I’ve recently been browsing gifts for others, most of the items the site presents to me are now completely irrelevant to my interests. At the same time, I do feel like it’s attempting to show me stuff I’m interested in, and while I can see through the “Buy this! Give us more of your money!” sell on the site, it at least lets me know that the site is paying attention.

Another aspect of websites I like is a strong community. Not all companies will be able to make this work, but again, Amazon does it well with user reviews and discussion threads. Some commercial websites are actually built around the idea of community and discussion – see Etsy for a great example. If it does work for your site, however, then you will have to motivate people to get involved. Custom titles for those who post a lot, a reputation system, even allowing people to voluntarily moderate (although I recommend giving them rewards or considering just paying them – free labour should feel awkward to anyone).

Most importantly, however, is that your website does not look bad in terms of its actual aesthetics. You’ll notice that as of 2012, a lot of successful sites tend to be quite clean and minimalist in their appearance, and technology is often the same. As a result, cluttering up your homepage and other pages with information, sidebars and info-boxes could well tire someone out if they’re just trying to navigate through it. Make everything feel spacious. Here are some good examples.

There are many ways to test your site, the most thorough being to run strictly controlled user tests. Alternatively you could simply to unleash five (Jakob Nielsen reckons ‘five users is enough’) really picky, pedantic, annoying, easily frustrated people – five of myself, basically – on your site and see what comes back. People who click everywhere, who look at your source code because they’re nosy or jealous of your good design (again, me). Whenever you create something, you need to get people to try and break it to see where the cracks appear. Making sure those areas are fixed and reinforced is going to help once the site itself launches. So good luck, test hard, don’t design a site for someone surfing in 1994, and for God’s sake realise that people might want to hang out on your site. Don’t be afraid. The future is clickable.

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20

Apr 2012

The MoreDigital Guide to Communication: Email

Posted in Business tactics | 0 Comments

MoreDigital Guide to Communication - email header.Email is, without a doubt, the most important form of business communication there is in 2012. Forget phones, forget social media or SMS or the postal system – email dominates the workplace, and how we learn to use it can define how efficient we become as employees or business owners. But so many people tend to misuse it, or have clashing email etiquette – it’s not uncommon to send an email written in a formal tone to receive a quick response and a smiley face in return.

One of the things I think a company needs to focus on more than anything else is what I call the “instant image”. When your email arrives in my inbox, and you’re a company, or a journalist, or a PR rep, the word “Gmail” or “Hotmail” will lead me to one of two conclusions; either you are computer illiterate, or you are not willing to invest time, money and effort into your communication. Both of these are serious failings, to me. Let’s look at a potential solution.

Google Apps

I’m a copywriter, and hence, I have a company email account. I also have many other accounts, for shopping, for freelance, and so on – not one of those, bar my required Google account, is free or generic. They are all set up using custom domains, and this is because I want to be able to brand myself, to show people that I am part of a unit that I built, or at least one that does not match your elderly relatives who just needed a cheap, quick email solution.

I’m not knocking GMail (I will knock Hotmail – it’s archaic and, in my eyes, nowhere near as slick as its Google counterpart), by any means – all my email addresses run through the GMail system via Google Apps, and it’s this tool that can help you set up a custom email in no time at all. Let me show you the steps you’ll need to take.

  1. Make sure you own a domain. This will cost you a varying amount dependent on the value of said domain, but an original domain can be as low as about nine dollars a year. If you can’t afford to spend that, you’re in big trouble already.
  2. Second, head over to Google Apps and register. Once you have done so, choose one of their many verification options to prove your ownership of the domain in question, and they’ll start setting up your account for you. Standard includes a wide range of apps, from email to calendar services, and Business (a paid subscription – standard is free) includes additional tools from Google, sitting alongside a considerable wealth of third-party applications.
  3. You’re done! Either use the GMail interface, or enable IMAP/POP to run your email through a client, like Outlook or Thunderbird.

It really is that simple – take it from me, as I set up Google Apps for every domain I have and it only takes me five to ten minutes to get it set up, give or take a while for Google to verify domain ownership so you can finish the registration and setup process. There’s no excuse for a free email account in 2011 if you’re running a business, however small. So once you’ve set up your domain-hosted email accounts, all that’s left is to start using them. Unfortunately, for some people, that’s another obstacle altogether.

Learning to Write

Yesterday, I was digging into a Kindle ebook sample by a successful novelist. The writing was solid, and I was enjoying the work, when I stumbled across the writer’s confusion between the words “role” and “roll”, and which one to use in a particular context. Given that this is a professionally produced work, and I’m planning to pay for it, their job is to make sure I think they can speak the language properly. If you can’t do that, you’re stuffed.

A lot of people claim grammar isn’t an issue, and of course, it’s not, if you’re having a conversation with your friends. However, if I see the following in a business email:

hi Cristos

Just a quick ntoe, need those files for Momday.

Bob

I’m not going to take you seriously if you write like this. There are countless university graduates looking for work, and many of them can write really well. So to have a high-level employee of Company, Inc. write to me as though they’re back in primary school is unacceptable. Would you write a legal contract or a client proposal this way? If I’m a client or a co-worker, taking the time to word yourself properly and check your grammar is a subtle sign of respect that few are aware of – until you don’t bother, at which point, you look lazy. Small businesses who look lazy do not do well.

Can business emails be friendly?

In addition to this, there’s the conundrum of when to let your guard down and be a little more casual in an email after you’ve known someone for a while. I say simply keep it formal until the other person lets their guard down, although this could potentially foster the “you first” scenario where both people are waiting for the person they’re emailing to throw a “heya” or a “cheers” in there at some point, but most will usually relax eventually.

There’s nothing wrong with starting out with a friendly tone, but it’s important to remember that this is generally reserved for people working in roles where being friendly is a job requirement – PR is a good example.

Lastly, don’t do any of these things. I cannot agree with that webcomic enough, and I recommend you frame it and put it on your desk if you are, as an adult, making any of those errors. I wish you the best of luck – setting up an email account doesn’t guarantee you’ll become the next Facebook, but it can’t hurt your chances, either.

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30

Mar 2012

The MoreDigital Communication Guide

Posted in Business tactics | 0 Comments

The MoreDigital Guide to Communication.In 2012, there are more ways to send a client a proposal than there have ever been before. But astonishingly, there are still businesses out there (and what’s worse, some of them are actually web-savvy) that are using @gmail.com for their email addresses. This, my friends, is not how you do professional in the new millennium. So how do you go about making your business communication look a little less thrown together?

Firstly, do you own a domain? Yes? If so, why aren’t you using either hosted email, or if it’s just a domain with no hosting, Google Apps? That’s right – all the functionality of GMail, but with your @mybusiness.com email address, not to mention a synched calendar and other tools that Google provides for free. No, really, free. Nada. No money.

The reason you shouldn’t use an email address that isn’t generic and very obviously free is simple: you look cheap, and you don’t stand out from your crazy Aunt May who also happens to have an @gmail.com account. I really do mean that – the two of you look about as professional as each other if I have your email address alone to judge you on – which a company often does, if that’s your first point of contact with them.

There’s also the issue of phones. If you’re working from home, that’s fine, but give out your landline number – personally, I always find it somewhat disconcerting to be offered nothing but a mobile number unless myself and the person I’m due to meet or do business with is actually on the move on the day of the meeting. A landline gives the image of permanence, and it’s also cheaper to call in some contexts, too, which can be important for other small businesses like yours who will want to keep costs down.

There’s also the more subtle forms of communication that a lot of people don’t seem to consider, such as:

  • How easy-to-interpret your website is.
  • The quality of communication on your social networking accounts.
  • Email signatures.
  • Language within an email.
  • Your domain name quality.
  • Your site/page summary as it appears in a Google search.

There are many more, but these are the first six that came to mind. I see countless small business websites – all of us do, and the ones that grab me are clear, concise, neat, modern, and if or when I want to get in touch, there’s a custom email address and a variety of social media options available to me. Once I contact that business, they respond with a well-written email, I’ve got a signature with their details in it, if I Google them to check up before we proceed I can see great summaries which points to an SEO-tuned brain somewhere in that business… There are so many factors at play here, and it’s vitally important that the first impression you make is good. Otherwise, how will you progress from “small business” to just “business”?

Now, without providing step-by-step and deep-thought examples of what I’m talking about, you’d have the right to say I’m just making demands of small businesses that are either unfounded or unreasonable. So, in order to prove to you that these things matter, I’m going to go into depth. A lot of depth. Starting this week, I’ll be publishing a series of articles on communication, starting with email.

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13

Dec 2011

Are Microsoft immature, or smart?

Posted in Business tactics, Online PR | 0 Comments

Ben Rudolph is what tech companies like to call an “evangelist”. Personally, I think a more realistic term is “paid fanboy”, but there you go. He works for Microsoft, specifically focusing on the Windows Phone 7 brand. But why’s he appearing in the news this week?

Well, it’s because he’s giving Windows 7 handsets to those who tweet their Android issues at him, and use the hashtag #droidrage. Yes, that’s correct. Tell him why your Android phone sucks, and he’ll send you a Windows 7 phone. Doesn’t sound like a bad deal. Unless you’re Google.

This is essentially the equivalent of being at school and offering anyone who calls Jimmy “fat legs” a chocolate bar. Few people are actually doing it because Jimmy has fat legs; they’re doing it for the free chocolate. But regardless of what their motivation is, Jimmy gets a load of bad press.

#droidrage could potentially become a trending topic in the United States today, and that’s going to cause Google a fair few PR problems. But what’s the right response? Offering Android handsets to those who tweet using the hashtag #wp7hasnoapps? Or being a little more mature and weathering the storm of bad-press anecdotes, some of them potentially fabricated?

It might be a new approach Microsoft are testing to see whether they can shake things up a little bit. Given that as I write this, news is going out that the head of Windows Phone 7 has been replaced, a new direction might actually be on the cards.

The legality of the issue is a little hazy, because neither the fans or Rudolph are saying anything libellous. But I think anyone who’s not waiting for Google’s reaction with bated breath clearly doesn’t have much interest in the future of the smartphone market. Android has a whopping market share (51%) simply because it’s not tied to one brand, as iOS is, and that’s its primary advantage. But if it starts to appear flawed in any way, all it will take is the average user becoming aware of the flaws, and Android’s grip on the market may begin to slip.

It’s a dangerous approach to marketing Windows 7 phones, but who knows? It just might work, provided Microsoft can get away with it. Thoughts?

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9

Dec 2011

Near Field Communication and how it will affect the retail environment

Posted in Blogging, Business tactics | 0 Comments

Are you bored of carrying around credit cards and money? Well it looks like you are in luck as Near Field Communication, or NFC, could be set to revolutionise the world of retail. NFC works by allowing two devices to communicate with each other via wireless connections, at short distances of only a few centimetres. This principle is already a big part of the lives of all Londoners who use contactless technology found in the Oyster card, electronic ticketing system used in the metro (or Tube). Commuters just touch-and-go, making travelling a seamless process, at least where ticketing is concerned. This is even more advanced in Japan, where mobile phones are used in the place of Oyster cards and tickets.

There are advantages and disadvantages to this technology. It makes things run a lot smoother, and is threatening to make paper tickets obsolete. This is not the only thing that the technology will threaten, as credit cards and even physical money are likely to come under threat. The main area for development of NFC is in retail. This technology is being increasingly developed for use by shops, allowing their customers to use their smartphones in a similar way that Londoners use Oyster cards.

Customers will their credit card information stored on their smartphone with an embedded NFC chip, then they simply tap on the NFC Reader at the cash register to pay wirelessly and quickly. The advantage of this is clear, it eliminates the need to carry around credit cards and even money, and makes the payment process really simple and fast.

However, storing all of your information in one place can have its drawbacks. NFC technology gives us a gigantic reason not to lose our smartphones, and another reason to panic if you do. If this does happen however, the NFC-enabled phone can be cancelled and if found, the services can be re-enabled. So it looks like it will come down to whether the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.

One of the big pluses for retailers, including small businesses as well as large, is that they will be able to tie into existing loyalty programs for NFC smartphones and gather useful customer data. This will enable businesses to study store trends and product preferences, as well as performing demographic analysis and other analytical tasks. But what about the application that allows shoppers to scan barcodes and automatically search for better deals elsewhere? Surely this will not be advantageous for businesses, especially if they are small and cannot afford to slash their prices.

However we feel about Near Field Communication, it is on the rise. While at the moment  only about ten percent of shoppers use NFC in the United Kingdom, this figure is higher in other countries, especially Turkey and the United States and it is surely only a matter of time before everyone follows suit. Will this mean the sad end to the Royal Mint in the United Kingdom that has been making money since the 9th Century? Or will it mark the beginning of a technological revolution that makes our lives much more simple and fast-paced? We will have to wait a few years to find out.

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2

Dec 2011

The eBay shop: win or fail?

Posted in Business tactics | 2 Comments »

So, if you toddle off down Soho’s fashionable Dean Street in central London in the next several days, you’ll pass a shop that you probably never thought you’d see in real life. An eBay shop. No, really. It has second-hand stuff in it, and you pay using your smartphone. There are weird ideas, and then there’s this. And I think it’s pretty original.

“But I don’t have a smartphone!” you cry. No problem – HTC have provided the shop with tablet computers for you to use.

“But I don’t have an eBay/Paypal account!” Why? What century are you living in? I’ll admit there’s always going to be people who feel a little unsure about Paypal, but realistically one could argue they’re a damn sight more open to helping you than your bank is.

“But I don’t want second hand stuff!” Then don’t worry. There are plenty of shops with new things in. But if you’re looking for a great deal on something you might not be able to find new, then this is a good idea.

It’s not often I go all voluntarily gung-ho on promoting an idea that’s not mine, especially a corporate one, but I really like this – I walk in, use my phone, pick up my item, and walk out. There’s no messing around, I operate my own till, and I can finally see the eBay auction in person, which, if you buy expensive stuff from the online auction house, is pretty important.

But it proves that a great business on the internet is fully capable of actually making the 2011 transition in reverse – moving from the digital to the physical space. It’ll be interesting to see how this would work on a larger scale – if professional eBay sellers would “rent space” within the shop, or whether or not they’d remain on the high-street or aim for an IKEA-sized warehouse.

But is it worth it? One of the main reasons people like eBay is because of the sheer range of rare and cut-price goods to be found there, and all without leaving your house, or worse, actually visiting a flea market. Or even a shop. The horror.

It’s an idea that’s going to have to be test-run several times – this is by no means the first eBay shop in the UK, and this one only runs till the sixth of December (future people, it’s 2011 at the time of writing, so don’t send me hate mail if it’s not there just before the Mayan-predicted apocalypse next year). But if it goes well, we may just see a whole lot more of them. I’m totally up for it – what are your thoughts?

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21

Nov 2011

Is it worth learning webmaster skills as a business owner?

Posted in Business tactics, Technology | 0 Comments

A lot of online businesses are run by a small team of people – and in some cases, just one person. That’s a lot of responsibility, but with hired help for coding and building the site, creating something that practically runs itself is going to prove to be an advantage in the long run. But sites will break, and not having the right skill-set to fix anything can really let you down in 2011.

“If you’re good at something, never do it for free,” states the Joker, in The Dark Knight. Odd place to source your advice, but I couldn’t agree more. If you’re doing something for free – i.e. fixing someone’s broken HTML – then you better be getting something great in return, or you’re costing yourself time you could be a) sleeping, b) making money, or c) not doing endless amounts of people favours with no rewards. But sadly that also means that those who are computer illiterate and trying to run a site will often run into difficulties – specifically, ones they can’t fix without forking out for a second salary.

Learning basic skills doesn’t take long at all – HTML and CSS are not impervious to the almost beginner – and even learning how to set up and manage a WordPress blog is going to help when it comes to making sure the small business you’re trying to get off the ground doesn’t falter in the early stages. After all, you don’t want to have to run to an IT-knowledgeable friend or relative (or worse, expensive freelancer) when you could be Googling and problem-solving.

The Google aversion is probably the source of 90% of the tech problems I hear. It’s so simple to Google your answer, and people are vocal and knowledgeable enough to have written about it years before you’re wanting questions answered and problems solved. Sometimes I ask questions on Twitter despite knowing I should be Googling, but it’s this knowledge – that the info I need is out there, waiting to be read, that means all is not lost if those I know personally can’t help me out.

Being a self-starter is all about being driven and committed, and making sure you can accomplish what you need to in a self-reliant manner is part of that. Starting a business means saying goodbye to the nine-to-five, and if you think any different then you’re kidding yourself. In the beginning, everything is down to you, from the accounting to getting the office internet connection set up. You don’t turn up for eight hours a day and claim a salary each month.

Sound daunting? It’s not – learning how to craft sites, deal with Paypal and forgo paid themes in favour of your own CSS artistry can actually be an enjoyable and empowering experience. It certainly has been for me – I know that after learning, Googling, asking questions and making mistakes, I can take a great site idea and actually build it into a working prototype. For every person who’ll call you a “noob” or claim you’ve no business, well, running a business, there’s someone who’s willing to walk you through the basics. Don’t get left behind – be one of the people leading the way.

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18

Nov 2011

Can you run an business via the web? A message from 2021.

Posted in Business tactics, Technology | 1 Comment »

This article has been emailed to us from the future. No, we don’t know how. We’re posting it anyway.

-

[November 15th, 2021.]

Once upon a time, there were magical places in the centre of cities, called offices. These tall, sturdy buildings were marvels – people sat at “desks” to perform tasks centred around their day jobs, after travelling from home on a journey once known as a “commute”, during which they would read the paper and stare angrily at people who lacked noise-cancelling headphones.

Weirdly, people had the internet back then, and yet they all chose to work in the same room! Even with Skype, and IM, and even Twitter (that 140-character microblog post thing that was popular back then, before FaGoogleBook bought the internet), they were sat there at desks, talking to each other out loud! In person!

The reason I want to talk about this is because back then, running a small business was harder. Back then, you had to rent an office, which made things very expensive, and also really limited your staff choices because of the singular geographical constraint you placed on the roles you offered to potential future employees.

Now, you can start the business from your couch, and win awards – from your couch. All you need is a computer, and you can get started. Doesn’t matter if the trains are delayed, or if the City suffers a blackout, or even if the Olympics are in town (during which all businesses based in the city known as London gave up and went on holiday for a fortnight, causing countless riots across the capital). You’re comfy, you’re working hard, and you can work with a programmer in the States, and a PR whiz in China.

What’s odd is this was doable in 2011, and although some companies find it easier, or prefer to work in offices, for small businesses it’s the best route possible. The risk is low – no moving house, no office investment, no office temperature debates – just the work and the proof of concept. If it doesn’t work, moving on doesn’t take months – it takes a week, if that.

The best part is the fact that everything from education to business deals can be done via the web, but of course, it does tend to turn us into sociopathic recluses feeding off Ocado deliveries and the odd gift-to-self from Amazon. But it’s all in the name of business, right? Right?

-

[November 15th, 2011.]

It’s something I fully support, for small businesses – once you’re a team of over a hundred people, sticking to your living room isn’t really going to work, as you’ll need the speed and the ability to speak to people quickly in custom groups and give presentations without having to stream it to them over the web. It also means that servers and other technological concerns are, while centralised (if your net is down, everyones is), a little more accessible.

Small businesses have a lot to learn. You don’t need an office. Some of the best websites and companies I know of started in someone’s house, or in the houses of individual staff scattered across the planet. So sprawl out on your couch, get alone, and go people hunting. See it this way: during the Olympics, you’ll be the only companies around, if you’re in London!

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1

Sep 2011

Are social media metrics useless?

Posted in Business tactics, Social Media | 0 Comments

On Monday, socialmediatoday’s Debra Ellis posted an article that argued that social media metrics are useless, for a wide variety of reasons. It’s reassuring to know that there are those working and/or writing in the field who think the same as I do. These statistics, as a concept, will always be flawed, and rarely useful for making assumptions that rely on precise data. Social media metrics are essentially statistics based around attention-seeking and numerical fetishes. Let’s take a closer look at Ellis’ points.

She states that “the only real numbers that matter to your company are the ones generated from your marketing activities.” This is true, but a little unclear. What Ellis may mean is that the real number, at the end of the day, that matters more than all the others comes under the title of ‘sales’. The end product of a marketing campaign is either more, less, or equal sales to the figure that came before it, and everything else, from numbers of followers to your Klout rating, is somewhat irrelevant.

Mack Collier, social media strategist, reinforces this when he explains that having 22,000 Twitter followers doesn’t mean that 22,000 people are going to click a link you post – in most cases. There are exceptions, and author Neil Gaiman has an ability to – in his own words – “Neil web fail” any site by bringing the attention of his huge follower crowd onto a small site that isn’t prepared. But Collier states that there needs to be a better way to explain the shortcomings of these statistics to clients.

This makes sense – a client is going to see 22k followers, and only 200 clicks, and ask what the problem with your campaign is. The realistic answer is that there isn’t a problem with your campaign – 200 clicks is a great number considering that most people are not following less than a hundred people, and reading every tweet becomes difficult, let alone clicking every link. To quote a protester shown during Bowling for Columbine: “does everyone who watches a Lexus ad go out and buy a Lexus? No, but a few do.”

Discussing things with Jon (as one is wont to do quite often at MoreDigital – the man has a Wikipedia cache installed in his brain), we agreed that looking at follower numbers and Twitter graphs serves little purpose when it comes to measuring your social media reach, and this is true – an advert during the Superbowl could reach tens of millions of people, but it doesn’t mean anyone is actually watching with interest, given that it’s not the scheduled entertainment causing them to look toward the screen in the first place.

“The numbers that matter from social media participation are sales, costs, and satisfaction,” says Ellis. “If sales don’t increase, costs decrease, and/or satisfaction improves, your online activity is a waste of time.” It’s a tough pill to swallow if you’ve been working on a campaign non-stop only to realise that 75% of your followers are spam bots. At the same time, you can’t ditch the spam bots, because if they’ve given you a 300% increase in follower numbers, you’ll know that having 20k followers over 5k increases a user’s chance of following you.

Social media metrics have a long way to go, and there’s nothing wrong with keeping an eye on how you’re doing. But assuming that you can judge company performance using this sort of data is ludicrous, because it’s not actually relevant to company performance. Shouting about fresh fruit and vegetables while working at the market sells you four oranges. It doesn’t matter how many people heard you hawking your wares – those four oranges are your clue to whether or not you should be in the vitamin C game at all.

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24

Jun 2011

Can you work on the move?

Posted in Business tactics | 0 Comments

It’s arguable that due to the standard of today’s technology, we no longer need to work within an office environment in order to finish a profit and loss sheet. But are we really producing work of the same quality when tapping away at a netbook at thirty thousand feet, or are we sacrificing doing our jobs properly in order to complete a higher number of tasks and reduce downtime?

I find airplane travel to be an interesting experience. I love airports, for one; strolling around the duty free area, getting something to eat and drink for the plane, buying a magazine and enjoying the atmosphere (easy when everything is around 20 % cheaper). But I don’t feel compelled to work on the plane whether it’s a short trip or a long one, because it’s not a productive environment.

The seats usually aren’t comfortable – unless you’re in Business Class, a category whose name makes no sense whatsoever given that a business shouldn’t be forking out more for a flight than it has to. The noise is somewhat disruptive. Most of all, travelling is exhausting, and anyone with the desire to stay awake at a meeting after an eight-hour flight is going to use those eight hours to get an entire night’s worth of sleep.

I will sometimes work on the Tube – as a Londoner, our transport network is reliable, and you can work in relative peace as everyone is so fearfully antisocial when placed in a public environment. I’ve even written a MoreDigital blog post while sailing down the Piccadilly Line, but I find that it’s slightly more difficult when you can’t access the web to double-check your facts, or edit header images. So you can get your rough work done, and clean it up later.

Anyone expecting a neat finished product produced in such a stressful, disruptive atmosphere is kidding themselves. But you’ve got to do something with the time, and occasionally you’ll find that doing two hours of work while travelling (The Evening Standard indicates that a fifth of London commutes are over an hour long) means that you’ll be leaving at half five, instead of half seven.

Geekpreneur offers a few tips for working on the plane, most notably that you can’t work on any confidential projects, or that you probably shouldn’t be working, because no one would expect you to do so – not your boss, not your clients, not your staff. It’s simply unfair. If you want to do it, then go for it! Pass the time with a spreadsheet or a PowerPoint presentation. But don’t start in on that quarterly report because you feel that to snooze or read a novel would be to waste people’s time.

Do any of you work on the commute? I’d love to hear about people’s various attitudes to getting their projects closer to completion whilst being jostled around on the bus or making a major medical breakthrough while on the 5:29 to Bristol. So chip in, and share your thoughts.

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