Considerate or Creepy?

FoursquareThat’s the question I posed to my Facebook friends earlier this year when I was wrapping up a consulting project.  I wanted to give the person who referred me to an opportunity, a small token of my appreciation.  At the time, Foursquare had not yet split its check-in activity into a separate app called Swarm.  Since I was connected to this individual on Foursquare (and she checked in on Foursquare frequently), I was familiar with the restaurant and entertainment venues she likes.

At first I was a little concerned that using this information could be construed as creepy.  But, she was posting to Foursquare and syncing her check-ins to Facebook (where we’re also connected).  Rather than guessing at where she might like a gift certificate to, I could give her a gift I knew she’d enjoy, by using her social media activity she’s chosen to share publicly.

But before I purchased my gift, I posted my question to my Facebook friends.  In an unscientific poll, it was a near unanimous opinion that using the shared social check-in information was considerate.

This is just one example of how social check-ins can be valuable.  Businesses can learn about customers who frequent their location.  Customers can often receive incentives for checking in (free items, discounts, Wi-Fi access).  It can also be used as a search engine tool to discover new businesses in an area or see what’s trending in your area.

Social check-ins can also be used in the job search process.  Job seekers may be able to learn information about the hiring manager (and visa-versa).  But, be careful with the information you choose to publicly share and the check-in knowledge you choose to use.  Not everyone will view the “considerate vs. creepy” question the same way!

What are your thoughts on social check-ins?  Do you participate?  Do you find value in them?

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My Top Ten Posts for 2013

2013The New Year holiday is often a time for reflection and for looking ahead.  While circumstances prevented me from blogging as much as I wanted, I still had a successful blogging year!  Below are my top 10 posts (number of views) written in 2013:

10)  Do You Have A Twin On LinkedIn?  Why duplicate profiles exist on LinkedIn and how you can remedy it if you have a duplicate profile.

9)  The $209,200 Question  My answer to the question, “What is the skill a graduating senior would need most in order to secure employment?”

8)  We Take Care of Our Own  What do Bruce Springsteen and networking have in common?

7)  The Value Of First Impressions  How first impressions of schools and universities participating in a college fair passed/failed.

6)  The Secret to a Successful Job Search  My answer to the question, “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?”

5)  Twitter Players  What’s a “twitter player” and how do you spot one?

4)  Follow Up To:  LinkedIn Policy Is Guilty Until Proven Innocent  Responding to reader questions for more information, this follow-up post provides additional detail on LinkedIn’s #swam policy.

3)  Check Your Facebook Privacy Settings Ahead of Graph Search  A review of how to check and change your Facebook privacy settings.

2)  LinkedIn Policy Is Guilty Until Proven Innocent  This was the most commented on post I wrote in 2013, which criticizes LinkedIn’s Site Wide Automatic Moderation (#swam) policy for group posts.

1)  Recent Examples of PR – The Good, The Bad & The Ugly  In any given week, if you look for it, you’ll find examples of public relations; good, bad and ugly.  Here’s what I found at the time . . .

As 2013 winds to a close, I wish my readers a happy, healthy and prosperous 2014.  Thank you for reading, commenting and sharing my posts this year.  I look forward to sharing my knowledge, expertise and thoughts with you in 2014.

Marketing and the College Tour

In March I wrote a post about the value of first impressions.  That post was inspired by the different marketing and promotional approaches of colleges and universities at a local college fair I attended with my daughter.  Fast forward four months and some of the booths that grabbed our attention that day were visited recently.

Since I tend to view many things with a marketer’s eye, the college tour experience was viewed with the same scrutiny I applied to the college fair in March.  It’s safe to say that some excelled and others failed miserably.  After visiting/looking at 7 schools in 3 states, here’s what stood out:

  1. Photo editing is a marketer’s best friend.  One school that looked great on the web and in their brochures was the exact opposite in person.  Situated in a very poor part of town, there was no dedicated campus and the buildings were quite run-down in person.  This is exactly why you must visit schools and not believe everything you see in a marketing brochure.
  2. Hospitality goes a long way.  Most schools offered visitors something to drink (bottled water, coffee, tea).  Some even offered cookies.  One offered nothing and pointed to vending machines in the lobby.  You certainly wouldn’t apply to a school based on whether or not the Admissions Department offered cookies.  But, which experience leaves a better taste in your mouth (pun intended)?
  3. Personalization makes a great impression.  Most schools followed-up on our visits with a “canned” thank you note and additional marketing materials.  Thank you notes are important, but they need to be authentic.  We received a hand-written thank you note from the student tour guide at one of the schools (in addition to one from admissions).  That simple gesture made a great and lasting impression!
  4. You need to walk the walk.  If you’re going to tout how state-of-the-art your campus is when it comes to technology, then your admissions presentation should reflect that.  A simple PowerPoint isn’t going to cut it.  The schools that invested in a higher quality multimedia presentation reinforced their claim of incorporating cutting edge technology.
  5. Finding common ground.  A few of the schools had large groups of students/parents for the campus tour.  Most simply split the groups randomly.  However, one university split the groups by the prospective students’ potential major/school.  Additionally, they matched that group with a student tour guide from that same school.  Rather than having a theater major attempting to answer questions about a business major, you had a business major answering questions from prospective business school students.
  6. Kids like swag.  Just like point #2 above, whether or not you receive a coffee mug or t-shirt from the school should have no bearing on whether or not you choose to apply to that school.  But, kids like free stuff!  The schools which made a small investment in a promotional budget sent visiting students home with a positive impression (and created a walking advertisement in the process).

The above marketing observations are certainly not limited to higher education.  These same examples and principles apply to small businesses too.  Think about the impression your action (or inaction) is leaving on customers and potential customers.  Quite often, just a simple shift can make a big difference!

Opposites Attract

There’s an old saying that opposites attract and that’s often true.  There was a story in the local paper recently about the decline of greeting cards due to the increasing popularity and usage of electronic versions and social media.

Stats back up this trend.  A U.S. Postal Service study which shows correspondence (like greet­ing cards) fell 24% between 2002 and 2010.  Hallmark estimates the number of greeting cards sold in the U.S. has fallen by 20% in the past decade.

It’s certainly great to log onto Facebook on your birthday and read dozens of birthday wishes from friends and family (most of whom probably would not have mailed you a physical card).  But, isn’t there something special about opening the mailbox to find an envelope with your name on it, written by hand?  That’s a great example of the opposite (of the norm) having a positive effect.

The same principle applies to business or job searching.  Most job applications are filed electronically and many of the larger companies have their own applicant tracking system in place.  Conventional job search wisdom is to send a thank you following an interview.  What if, instead of emailing that note, you mailed a physical thank you card and wrote your note by hand?  Don’t you think it would stand out (in a positive way) in this ever-increasingly electronic age?

With business, when everyone sends an email, why not pick up the phone?  Don’t forget the power of a sincere “thank you” in business – and to do something to make that thank you memorable.  At the end of the day, if you want to stand out from the crowd, sometimes you zig when others zag.  It may not always be true, but very often opposites do indeed attract.

Happy 1st Birthday!

First Birthday of Arthur Catalanello Consulting's Blog

October 3, 2011 was when I officially launched my blog.  Today is the one year anniversary of that first post, so I’d like to mark the occasion with some cake!  Actually, I’d like to devote this post to sharing a few statistics and thanking those who have helped and inspired me over the past year.

As of this writing, my site has received over 7,800 visits in the past year.  My most popular post has been 6 Ways To A More Contact-Friendly LinkedIn Profile (Part 1).  My post on The Lost Art of the Thank You has generated the most comments to date (so, thank you!).  I’m still on a quest to have the country visits map completely filled in.  I’ve had readers from 86 different countries visit my site at least once since February 2012 (when this metric became available).

When I first launched my consultancy business, several people recommended that I blog as a way to demonstrate my expertise.  I’d like to sincerely thank Greg Taylor, Chris Bigelow, Dorothy Johnson, Bill Griffin, Kelly Mullaney, Luis Martinez, Rob Ewanow, Fred Kopp, Ed Ritter and Deb Mourey for their advice and encouragement to start blogging.  I’m sure there are others who provided similar sage advice who I’m inadvertently leaving out (my apologies to you if I did).

I’d like to thank those who have subscribed to my blog.  There are literally millions of blogs out there, so the fact that you find mine worthy to subscribe to is both flattering and inspirational to me.  I’d also like to thank those who have shared my posts along the way via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and via email.  Thank you to those who have taken the time to comment on one or more of my posts.

Last but not least . . . I’d like to thank my wife, who is my confidant, cheerleader and proofreader when it comes to my blog.  I regularly run ideas and draft posts past her for feedback.  Her suggestions for improvements and corrections are always spot-on.  Without her support and help, my blog would be half of what it is.

Thank you all for a great first year of blogging!  I look forward to year two and hope you’ll continue to join me each week!