Wednesday, 31 October 2012

It's About Time!

Internet marketing, particularly when you're starting out, can be very time consuming, especially if you can't afford to outsource any of the work.  And, in my experience, many training courses tend to play down the amount of work that's going to be involved.  I'm not just talking here about courses on internet marketing.  When I applied to train as a counsellor, I was invited for an interview at the college.  As with every interview I've ever been to, at the end the interviewer asked me if I had any questions.  I knew that the teaching part of the course involved going to the college one day a week  but said I'd like to know how much work was required in addition.  "About half a day a week" was the reply.  Actually, it turned out to be closer to two and a half days a week and, in the last months of the course, even more.

I've noticed the same sort of trend in some internet marketing courses . . . "you can achieve this in three months working two hours a day".  Well, perhaps some people can.  But I'm equally sure that a lot of people can't.  I think there are several reasons for this . . . firstly, if you're a bit of a perfectionist, like me, you'll want to get everything 'right' before you move onto the next bit - and that, in itself, can slow the process down considerably.  Or maybe your concentration isn't that good or your environment is such that you're constantly interrupted.  Or perhaps you're so new to internet marketing that you have a lot to learn about the basics before you can even start . . . or you can't afford to invest in all the time-saving software and have to take the slower route.  Or possibly you're just disorganised and don't make the best use of your time.

Now some courses will give you a little 'extra' in the form of some sort of time management training.  I've tried a few of these . . . and they've never worked.  For me, and my lifestyle, they are far too rigid.  Yes, indeed, I can plan a timetable but when it comes to it, I can't keep to it.  There's a great line in one of the episodes of the drama series The West Wing.  Josh Lyman is asked about a typical day at the White House, where he is Deputy Chief of Staff.  He says "There's no such thing.  There's a schedule and there's a structure, to be sure.  And to a certain extent it starts out as a nine to five job.  But you can count on it being blown to hell by 9.30."   And I know just how he feels. 

Planning a timetable that's set in stone means you've got to be certain that nothing urgent is going to pop up and need attention.  It also means that you've got to have a rough idea how long each task will take.  And it means clock-watching to ensure that a session where you're working on task A doesn't overrun into time allotted to task B.  And, apart from being distracting, that can be quite annoying if task A is going well and you want to continue until you've finished it.

So I've generally ignored any suggestions of time management schemes . . . until a few weeks ago when someone recommended The Pomodoro Technique to me.  It's a remarkable book written, so I understand, by a young man who was trying to organise his university studies.  The scheme is imaginative and flexible and doesn't require clock watching and - best of all - it works!  I've been using it now for two or three weeks and have found that not only has my productivity improved but I'm also far more aware of how much time certain tasks need, and I'm managing my time very much better.

The scheme entails the use of a kitchen timer (the 'pomodoro' of the title).  Instead of this, I've downloaded a free timer to my computer.  The alarm sounds are programmable . . . so I have beautiful flute music and birdsong telling me when a working period has ended . . . what could be nicer!

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Why Linkedin Worries Me . . . part 2

Since I wrote the last post, two things have happened.  The first is that more people I don't know have endorsed me for my skills and expertise, of which they have no personal knowledge.

The second is that I have received an email from someone asking me to endorse him.  Now, I've received a few requests of this sort in the past and have replied to say that, as I don't know the writer, I'm unable to.  But this latest email was more than just a request.  It was headed "LinkedIn endorsements offer more credibility behind skill sets" which, as I pointed out in my last post, I am starting seriously to doubt.  It began by thanking me for being part of the sender's network on Linkedin and then gave a list of "Tips about How Linkedin Endorsements can Help You and Me".

Tip 3 stated "It's important to get endorsements, as anyone looking at your profile and comparing you to your competition will see them.  Endorsements create an instant overview that is easy to compare with your competition.  Obviously, you want to look the best."  And, according to tip 4, if I were to endorse him, his connections would see a link to my profile when looking at his profile and this would mean that "In SEO it will rank your profile when my profile has been ranked" (actually he put "when my profile is been raked" - a reminder that one should always read through an email before sending it).

The email concluded with a very long list of skills that the sender considers himself to possess, and a request that I spend at least five minutes endorsing those skills!  Needless to say, I did not endorse any of them.  For all I know, he might be very good in all the areas that he lists . . . but, equally, he might be the only person who thinks so.

I'm tempted to try a little experiment . . . to list one of my skills as ballet dancing (something I've never done in my life), and to see how many people I can get to endorse me!  But, on a more serious note, I'm wondering why there's been this sudden rush of endorsements and requests for endorsement.  Is there someone teaching that this is a good way to get oneself noticed?   Strangely enough, Linkedin seems to have no ruling about endorsements, saying only that "Skill endorsements are a way to endorse your 1st degree connections' skills and expertise with one click."  Admittedly, it does suggest that one should only link directly to people one knows personally (but open networking rides roughshod over that).  So is it, perhaps, time for Linkedin to put its house in order and decide exactly what it is that it's offering because, at the moment, I'm finding it hard to understand.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Why Linkedin Worries Me

I joined Linkedin a while back.  Someone suggested it was a useful way of making business contacts.  He also suggested that I put myself on the Open Networker listing.  This means that I'm happy to connect with anyone who invites me to do so. 

Since I became a member I've linked to over 3000 people, some of whom share my interests.  But, overall, I've wondered about the value, for me personally, of being a member.  I can understand that for anyone who is job-seeking or wanting to make contacts within a specific industry, it can be useful.  But I'm self employed, both as a counsellor and in running my internet marketing business, and that's quite a different kettle of fish.

But what has worried me recently is that people have started to 'endorse' me for my 'skills and expertise'.  I have been endorsed as a doctor, writer, broadcaster, hypnotherapist, public speaker, internet marketer and integrative counsellor by several people who have never met me and don't know me from Adam!

Now, this is very kind of them, and I appreciate the gesture.  But what sort of message is it giving to others?  It implies, surely, that these people know me and trust me.  But, for all they know, I might have made it all up  . . . I might be a book-keeper or an insurance salesman or a ballet dancer just playing with an imaginary alter ego.  (Actually, if anyone's worried about it, I am exactly what I say I am on Linkedin.)

So how valuable can Linkedin be for making genuine and trustworthy business contacts which, as I understand it, is the whole point of the website?  I'm beginning to wonder.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

I Need Some Aspirin - My Head is cyPOPping

It seems to me that, since Facebook and Twitter started to prove themselves so popular, you can hardly take a breath without another social networking platform popping up somewhere on the internet.

Wikipedia lists 202 of what it calls major active social networking websites but notes that the list is not exhaustive, excludes dating sites and consists only of notable, well-known sites.

Personally, it took me quite a while to work out all the ramifications of Facebook - something not helped by the new 'timeline' format which was introduced some months ago.  But at least I could understand what Facebook was about - what it's rationale was, so to speak.

Twitter, of course, is relatively simple.  Once you've worked out how (and who) to follow and unfollow and how to use direct messaging and tweeting, you've more or less learned it all.  Perhaps that's why I like Twitter.

Because, to be quite honest, I don't have a lot of time.  I work long hours and, if I'm going to use something online, it's got to be both straightforward and useful.  I don't want to have to waste time trying to work something out, particularly if I can't see the point of it in the first place.

Which brings me to cyPOP.  I can't remember how I first came across it.  I think it was mentioned in an article I read, and it sounded intriguing.  It describes itself as "a uniquely designed online destination where meaningful content, engaging conversation, and vibrant images are all centered on like-minded people with similar interests".  It tempted me to investigate further.

As on any of these sites, you can't find out much without actually joining, so I filled in the form . . . and read the initial instructions on how to use cyPOP.  It appears that an interest forum - perhaps equating to a Facebook page - is known as a cafe.  You can set up your own cafe or join other people's.  To join a cafe I would need to search for topics I was interested in, locate a cafe I wanted to join, and click the 'join cafe' link.  Seems straightforward enough.  I was a little put off by the fact that the owner of the site (or whoever had written the instructions) didn't know that the plural of cafe is cafes and not cafe's but, what the heck, I know a lot of people have problems with apostrophes.

So I clicked on the 'members interest map' and started to look for things that interest me.  And couldn't find them.  There was a heading for 'classical music' but no cafes.  Similarly a heading for 'Buddhism' but no cafes.  And there wasn't even a heading for 'antiques'.  The closest I could find was 'collections' which came under 'hobbies' but comprised of three sections entitled 'PEZ', 'Bobbleheads' and 'Transformers'.  On which, your guess is as good as mine . . . or perhaps better because I have no idea what they mean.

OK, so it looked as though there weren't yet many people on cyPOP with my interests.  Perhaps if I started a cafe for antiques, say, other people might join.  I looked at the 'how to set up your own cafe' instructions.  I was told to click on the 'create a cafe' link, then select a unique cafĂ© url, an interest category and then select the privacy settings (public, private, by invitations only) and finally to click on 'Create Your Cafe'.

But what, I wondered, if I couldn't find the category I wanted?  Eventually I worked it out . . . using the main heading of 'arts' and the subheading of 'crafts and decorative arts', I was then allowed to put in a further heading of 'antiques'.  I chose whether I wanted my cafe to be public, private or by invitation only . . . and there it was.  My cafe.  Except it still needed to be formatted - I would need to create discussion categories, provide shortcuts, edit my home page layout, edit the main page add content and invite other members.  At which point I gave up.

If I want to chat about antiques, say, with other enthusiasts I can do so easily on Twitter or on Facebook, or on a dedicated forum.  After all the work that setting up a cafe on cyPOP entails, what would be the advantage?  Quite honestly, I could see none.  So I left my newly created cafe undecorated and unfurnished, with the door still firmly shut, and walked away.