My First 5k

Twitter, Arthur Catalanello, @acatalanelloRecently, my personal Twitter account reached the 5,000 followers benchmark.  Having joined Twitter in June 2009, it’s taken me 7 years to the month to reach that milestone.  I wanted to share some observations and musings about my journey and strategy to 5k.

I’ve tweeted just shy of 13,000 times on Twitter.  I’ve watched some accounts delete older tweets to give the impression that they’ve built a large following based on fewer tweets.  That may fool the uninformed, but if you built your following organically, there’s no way you reached 5k followers on 128 tweets unless you’re a celebrity.  Besides, tweets are great for SEO, so if you want to be found on Google, your tweets should stay.

Speaking of organically growing your following, my following count is is 100% organic.  I have not purchased 1 follower to reach that number.  While I can see that helping a business get started on Twitter, I would otherwise not recommend it as I believe it’s better to have quality over quantity.

I don’t automatically follow-back the accounts who follow me.  I do look at each follower and read their bio, look at their number of tweets, the number they’re following and the number of followers they have.  I also look at the industry they’re in and/or the topics they tweet about.  I scroll through and read their last 5-10 tweets.  If the account seems legitimate and that I’d get value from their content, I follow them.  It’s time consuming compared to automating the process, but I believe it makes my Twitter stream more valuable to me.

I believe consistency is key to growing your following on Twitter.  You need to be consistent with the topics you tweet about and the frequency with which you tweet.  It’s also very important to be familiar with Twitter etiquette (or Twitiquette) and engage with other users.  Remember the basic rule of thumb that no more than 20% of your tweets should be self-promotion (and perhaps no more than 10%).

I’ve seen numerous accounts try to game the system by following several accounts, waiting for those accounts to follow back, then unfollowing those people.  This makes their followers count larger than the number of accounts they’re following, giving the false suggestion of importance and influence.  Because I’m active on Twitter multiple times a week, I use a tool (https://web.crowdfireapp.com/#/grow) to see who has recently unfollowed me.  Almost always it’s an account trying to manipulate their followers-to-following ratio.  If someone unfollows me for that reason, I unfollow back.  Once or twice a year I’ll review the accounts I’ve followed and will unfollow accounts that have been abandoned or haven’t tweeted in 12 months.

Use metrics and apps to enhance the Twitter experience.  You can learn about best times and days of the week to tweet, where your engagement comes from and which accounts provide the best interaction.  Twitter by itself is somewhat basic, so if you’re wishing it could do something bigger and better, chances are, there’s an app for that.  Some are free and some are paid.

Try to minimize the automation.  While it’s fine to schedule tweets ahead of time (I use https://hootsuite.com), your account should not be so robotic that you neglect to interact with others.  As far as automatic direct messages, does anyone read them or like receiving them?  Just turn those off and reach out to me after we’ve engaged each other a few times.  It may work on some, but I think the quantity that are annoyed by that practice is significantly larger.

Lastly, know your audience and goals.  How I’ve chosen to use Twitter for my personal account is quite different than how I’ve used it for clients I’ve worked with.  Why?  Different audiences and different goals require different strategies and methods.

How are you using Twitter?  As a wise woman once said to me, “Twitter isn’t stupid if you follow smart people!”

Advertisements

Pathways To Success

Path, Pathway, PathwaysLast week I had the pleasure of participating as a panel member (social media entrepreneurs) in Pathways to Entrepreneurial Success 4.  While the event was obviously focused on entrepreneurship, the tips and information shared that day apply to all professionals regardless of their entrepreneurial interests and employment status.

Here are a few of the tips discussed at the event:

  1. In order to be successful, you must have a passion for what you do.  A casual interest and a decent effort simply aren’t enough.  You must be passionate and fully invested to succeed.
  2. Surround yourself with a strong network built on quality.  I’ve written about my belief that quality trumps quantity in multiple posts.
  3. Recognize your strengths and weaknesses, as well as the strengths and weaknesses of your competition.  You must work equally hard on maintaining your strengths as you do trying to improve your weaknesses.
  4. Everyone is a salesperson, whether you’re selling a widget or selling a service.  If you don’t have the confidence to sell yourself, you’ll never convince the customer to buy from you (or hire you).
  5. You don’t have to offer a niche product or service to be successful.  It’s okay that you have direct competition.  Just make sure you work harder than your competition at satisfying the customer.
  6. The path may not always be clearly marked.  You have to visualize what success looks like for you.

What other “pathways” have you found that lead to success?

The Secret to a Successful Job Search

Job seekers are often told that the secret to finding a job is through networking.  I believe that’s very true.  However, these factors are also important:  job boards, recruiters, a good resume, your digital footprint (LinkedIn profile, etc.) and continuing education.  But, the common thread that weaves through all of these important resources is networking.

Networking, Business Networking, Networking Event, Job Search, Job Search Networking, The August Group, Career Fair, TAG, TAG Career Fair

When networking, I’m a firm believer in two guiding principles:

  1. You must give to get
  2. Quality is more important than quantity

Want to know what’s even more important than networking?  Want to know what’s the secret to a successful job search?  You must tell your network that you’re looking for employment!  I recently learned that two friends lost their jobs, but I learned of this somewhat after the fact and indirectly.  Job seekers – your network cannot help you if they don’t know you’re looking for work!

Losing a job can be a hit to the ego, in addition to the checkbook.  I’ve been there; I understand that.  You don’t need a billboard to announce your availability and you certainly don’t want to be over-the-top with your announcement.  That can make you appear desperate, which can backfire.  However, here are four things you should do immediately.

  1. Update/Change your LinkedIn profile.  Some job seekers are worried about showing a gap in their employment history.  While that’s understandable, it’s worse to be misleading and confuse people who can help.  Make sure you make it easy for people to contact you!
  2. Contact your friends and family.  Who’s more likely to help when you need help – friends and family or casual acquaintances?  Most people “take care of their own” first, but they can’t help if they don’t know.  Call or send them a private message – but be specific with your ask!  I have 150+ friends on Facebook, but I probably know the career paths of less than 25% of them because our relationship on Facebook isn’t for professional reasons.  If interested, there are Facebook apps that can facilitate this.
  3. Contact your professional connections.  LinkedIn allows you to send messages to those you are connected to, so why not take advantage of this and touch base with your connections?  Remember the “give to get” philosophy of networking, so your message should not be all about you.  If you expect help, you should offer help first.  If you’ve been a ghost in your network, then I’m afraid you’re about to learn a very hard lesson at an unfortunate time.
  4. Update recruiters you’re connected with on your search, the positions you’re looking for and the companies you’re interested in.  Make sure to ask them how frequently they wish to be updated (typically it’s monthly, but ask) about your search and interests.  Be sure to schedule and conduct those follow-ups to stay top of mind!

My question to those who have successfully navigated the job search waters is this . . . If you had to narrow down all of the various pieces of job search advice into the singular most important thing someone could do, what would that one thing be?

Twitter Fraud Advice for the Novice

As with most social media platforms, if you use it long enough, you’ll eventually come across all sorts of hackers, spammers and scammers.  On Twitter, I sometimes wonder if there’s more fraudulent users than legitimate ones – and that doesn’t even take into account inactive members.

The fraudulent Twitter accounts I laugh at the most are the ones that promise thousands of followers a day if I simply follow them, follow their system, purchase their material outlining the secret to Twitter success, etc.  Have you seen these members or even had some follow you?  Here’s a recent example of one to follow me:

Twitter Bogus Member

An account like the one above raises so many red flags for an experienced Twitter user.  First and foremost, if your system truly can deliver 1,000 followers per day, why does your account only have 104 followers?!?  Other red flags include a lopsided following-to-followers ratio, an abysmally low Klout Score, no bio (just a sales pitch – and a bad one at that), and a plea for followers.

For those who are new to Twitter, you’ll want to watch for some of these red flags mentioned above.  I also strongly suggest you value quality over quantity when it comes to building your Twitter presence.  I’ve spent nearly four years building my Twitter account.  Followers come and go, but if you place quality over quantity with how you use and manage Twitter, you’ll trend upwards organically.

What other advice would you give to the novice Twitter user?

Top 10 Blogs That Help My Career

I’ve become a regular contributor to the Career Development Carnival, a monthly collection of blog posts on career development.  This post reflects the submission theme for the May 2013 Career Development Carnival.

Arthur Catalanello Most Interesting Blogger In The WorldI may not be the most interesting man in the world, but I do enjoy a varied career.  I focus on marketing, social media, advertising research, market research. I also volunteer with The August Group and my efforts focus on career development, job search, personal branding and networking.  My Top 10 List is a reflection of these varied interests.  Some of them are not technically a blog, but a valuable resource nonetheless.  I also wanted to note that I’m intentionally not including the Career Development Carnival, Hannah’s blog or Lynn’s blog.  They are all excellent but should be a given for this particular post!  🙂

Here is my top 10 list in alphabetical order with descriptions and links:

AdAge – They claim, “Ad Age makes people smarter in their jobs in advertising, marketing and media through analysis, insights and news with an objective point of view.”  You can subscribe to 11 different email lists on various industry topics.

Freelance Folder – According to their website, “FreelanceFolder is a community for freelancers, entrepreneurs, work-at-home business owners, and web-workers. We strive to bring you the articles, information, and community you need to succeed.”

Grow – A blog by Mark Schaefer and guest authors with posts on growing your company, reputation, customers, impact, profits and yourself.

LinkedIn – Whether it’s suggested industry articles by LinkedIn, reading the LinkedIn blog, articles recommended by your network contacts, or using the Signal feature to filter news and stay updated on your professional network, I use LinkedIn on a daily basis.

MarketingProfs – They describe themselves as, “Our editorial team cuts through all of this marketing noise to find the experts and in-the-trenches marketers who know what they are talking about. Then we take their know-how and mix it with our marketing smarts to turn it into practical advice that you can actually use through our newsletters, conferences, seminars, podcast, articles, and webcasts.”

Mashable – This site “is a leading source for news, information & resources for the Connected Generation. Mashable reports on the importance of digital innovation and how it empowers and inspires people around the world.”

Personal Branding Blog – This blog, “teaches you how to create your career and command your future, using the personal branding process. You will learn how to position yourself for success so that you become known for your passion and expertise.”

Search Engine Watch – According to their website, “Search Engine Watch provides tips and information about searching the web, analysis of the search engine industry and help to site owners trying to improve their ability to be found in search engines.”

Social Media Examiner – They describe themselves as “The world’s largest online social media magazine, Social Media Examiner helps businesses discover how to best use social media, blogs and podcasts to connect with customers, drive traffic, generate more brand awareness and increase sales.”

Who’s Blogging What – This is an email newsletter with links to articles and blog posts.  You can use it “to stay current on social media, search marketing, user experience, email, web analytics and all of the latest developments of web marketing.”

Perhaps in a future post I’ll detail the local bloggers I follow and/or know personally.  What are some of your favorite blogs and how do they help your career?

The $209,200 Question

Ithaca College, IC, Ithaca, Communications, Park School of Communications

Roy H. Park School of Communications at Ithaca College (via http://www.ithaca.edu)

I recently had the opportunity to participate in a conference call with current students at Ithaca College, who are interning at the Office of Career Services.  Our chat centered around marketing, social media and the lessons I’ve learned in “the real world” since graduating from Ithaca College and leaving South Hill for Rochester, NY.  I enjoy giving back to my alma matter in this fashion, so when asked if I could spare 15-20 minutes on a Wednesday afternoon I didn’t hesitate to accept.

My favorite question that was asked by a student was, “What is the skill a graduating senior would need most in order to secure employment?”  Since I didn’t know the questions in advance, my mind raced with possible answers. . . .

Communications:  I majored in Communications, so this was an easy answer to give.  Virtually all jobs require good communication skills!  I dismissed that answer as something that should be a given.

Marketing:  These are marketing interns, so a broad-based marketing skill set would be valuable.  After all, marketing applies to all job seekers because they’re ultimately marketing themselves to prospective employers.  So, I dismissed that answer too, since it should also be a given.

Networking:  As a job seeker, it’s not just what you know.  It’s also not just who you know.  It’s who knows about you which is equally important.  What’s the best way to make sure recruiters, employers and hiring managers know about you?  Networking!  I had my answer!

Whether in-person or via social media, networking is truly an important skill set that graduating seniors should possess.  It’s also a skill that won’t be taught in most classrooms.  Some colleges do, however, teach networking to their students (along with personal branding).  I have first-hand experience that Ithaca College currently does this.

I was able to stress to these students that their networking efforts should begin immediately with fellow students, professors and other professionals.  Two other important points about networking, especially for students who are likely to be new to networking:

  1. Make sure you practice a “give to get” philosophy.  Seek out ways to help the person you’re networking with and/or what you can bring to your professional relationship.  Effective networking is a two-way street.
  2. Emphasize quality over quantity when it comes to your network.  It’s better to have a network that’s half the size but twice as effective.

If you were faced with that same question, what would be your advice to a graduating senior?

As to the title of this post?  That refers to the current 4-year total of tuition/room/board at Ithaca College.  🙂

Twitter Players

If you’re on Twitter, chances are, something similar has happened to you. . .

You receive a notification that you have a new follower.  You view this person’s Twitter account and see that he/she has 4-5x as many followers as they are following.  In other words, 20,000 people follow this person’s Twitter account yet he/she is only following 4,000 people.  A few initial thoughts may pop into your head:

  1. Wow, this person must be really popular – look how many followers they have!
  2. Wow, this person must be really exclusive – he/she doesn’t follow too many people back!
  3. Wow, what am I tweeting about to catch such a popular and exclusive Twitter user’s eye?

If you’ve been on Twitter long enough, chances are you no longer have those thoughts but view your latest follower with a somewhat more suspicious and skeptical eye.  Chances are, someone with such a large follower:following ratio is only adding you to pad his/her numbers.  Chances are, someone like that will unfollow you within a few days or weeks.

How do I know?  I check my account regularly using a free app called SocialBro.  I run the app a few times each week and it lets me know who my recent unfollows are.  When I view their profile summary in the app, I can see how recently they added me and visa-versa.  I’d estimate that 95% of the time, my unfollows are people I never followed-back for various reasons.  The other 5% are from “Twitter Players” – those who clearly view Twitter as a numbers game and put quantity ahead of quality.  Apparently, they never read my post on why quality is more important than quantity when it comes to social media.  When this happens, I immediately unfollow “the Player.”

If you’re not familiar with SocialBro, I’d encourage you to check it out.  As a “research guy” I find a lot of their analytics, trending and filtering interesting. How about you?  Do you watch your Twitter account that closely?  What apps do you use to monitor your account?

Filtering Facebook

If you’re active on Facebook and have friends like I do, you’re encountering plenty of “soapboxers” who believe their political commentary and posts will somehow magically persuade you to vote for their presidential candidate in less than two months.  On a personal note, I can’t wait until I can once again enjoy pictures of cats, pictures of kids and postcards with snarky quotes without having to navigate articles that are obviously and blatantly biased for one side of the aisle or the other.  😉

If you feel that way too, the good news is you don’t have to wait until after the election is over!  Here are two areas in Facebook where you can filter what you see.

The first is to filter the ads in the right-hand column/panel.  If you hover over the ad, a small “x” will appear to the right.  If you click on the ad, it will remove it and you’ll have the opportunity to provide Facebook with information on why you chose to remove it.  In theory, Facebook will learn your likes/dislikes to show you advertising you’re interested in.  Since Facebook is a free site, advertising is one of the ways it makes money, so the ads are not going away.  You might as well see ads that are interesting.

A second is to limit the content by specific friends.  To do this, go to your friend’s timeline or find a recent post of theirs in your feed.  Hover over their picture and then hover over the “friends” button.  Then click on settings.  From there, you can control the frequency of updates (all updates, most updates, only important updates) as well as the type of updates you see (life events, status updates, photos, games, comments and likes, music and videos, other activity).

As with most social media sites, there’s often more than one way to change settings, so it’s not limited to the method I’ve detailed above.  The Facebook filter is not an ideal one, but it’s better than nothing.  When you’re ready to un-filter that soapboxing friend, the steps are the same.

I can say that once I filtered some friends, Facebook became more enjoyable.  Have you filtered content or friends yet?

Networking When You Least Expect It

“Always be prepared” is the famous motto of the Boy Scouts, but it also applies to networking.  You’ll be able to seize an opportunity no matter when or where it presents itself, if you’re prepared.

I recently co-hosted a birthday party for my youngest child at a local indoor play center.  My wife was asked to wear a name tag for security purposes so one of us would be immediately recognizable to staff and parents.  While watching the kids enjoy the various inflatables, a parent from another birthday party recognized our last name and asked her if she was related to me.  When my wife confirmed it, this person shared that she’s seen my posts and activity in many locations, especially on LinkedIn.

She then brought her over to introduce her to me and we were able to chat for a few minutes while our kids were engrossed in a climbing maze.  It turns out we had many common connections in our networks.  She’s the president of a recruiting company in Rochester, NY and I continue to run social media for The August Group which facilitates networking opportunities for those looking for work.  It was a great professional connection to make when I was least expecting it!  We both had business cards with us and each of us listened (above the joyful screams of playing children) to how we could help the other.

Most people can prepare in advance of a scheduled networking event by bringing business cards, rehearsing an elevator speech and/or identifying key attendees he/she would like to meet.  But are you prepared for that chance encounter that can happen anytime, anywhere?  If not, it could be a golden opportunity that slips through your fingers.

Looking back on your professional networking, what were the most unusual circumstances surrounding a connection you made when you were least expecting it?

Authenticity in Advertising

In my last post, I wrote about authenticity in social media.  With this post, I’m focusing on authenticity in advertising.  While that subject could likely provide enough source material to teach a full semester’s course, I’ll narrow it down to fast food advertising (and just this one post).

It’s not a secret that many hours go into enhancing the look of fast food products.  The lighting has to be just right, items are strategically placed, touch-ups are done.  In fact, quite often what you see isn’t the actual food product but something made to look like it.  Is that really ice cream you’re seeing in a commercial, or scoops of lard covered in motor oil?  Is it milk in that cereal bowl, or watered-down glue?  Yes, you read those examples correctly.  🙂

Since learning about these techniques in college,  I’ve never really trusted fast food advertising.  Watch the video below and your level of trust might be lower too.

There’s a recent trend that’s become an advertising pet peeve of mine.  Have you noticed fast food restaurants often include slow-motion shots of sandwiches being meticulously constructed with farm-fresh ingredients using pristine instruments?  It’s almost like watching a culinary version of the game “Operation!”  Do you really think that’s what occurs after you place your order at the drive-thru?  Or, is it more likely someone is slapping together food warmed under a heat lamp as quickly as possible using their hands (hopefully with gloves)?

For the above reasons, I find authenticity in fast food advertising significantly lacking.  What other industries need to do a better job of being authentic in their advertising?