Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Web Secret #90: Odiogo

There are only a handful of blogs I read faithfully, and one of them is the Online Therapy Institute Blog. As I was reading their most recent post, I noticed a button listen now. I pressed it and in a matter of seconds I was listening to a voice reading the post. I also had the option to download this instant podcast to my iPod or MP3 player.

Remember my delay of gratification issue? I HAD TO HAVE THAT FEATURE ON MY BLOG IMMEDIATELY!

So I dropped everything, and clicked on Odiogo - voice your content. Odiogo claims to "transforms blog posts into high fidelity, near human quality audio files ready to download and play anywhere, anytime, on any device."

And you know what? They deliver!

I entered my blog URL, an e-mail address, I followed a few instructions, clicked a few buttons and soon.....I had the listen now feature on MY blog!

Better yet, I even got a cool button that said "Subscribe To My Podcast", which allows my followers to subscribe to an audio feed of my posts.

My odiogo home page also enables my fans to stream my content, download individual podcasts from a list of my web secrets, and more...

A great blog feature, that's easy to install, is useful to my followers, and it works?

Pinch me - I must be dreaming.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Web Secret #89: Blog Power

Claim your blog on My claim token is 8XNUT6CSQ86R. Get yours.

In a recent post, I stated that 90% of bloggers have no business blogging.

But if you are one of the lucky souls who can respond “YES” to the following 4 questions…

1. Can I write?
2. Can I write something clever, useful or witty?
3. Can I write something clever, useful or witty, at least once a week?
4. Can I write something clever, useful or witty, at least once a week - for an indefinite period of time?

blogging can be a great idea.

I agree with Jeff Bulla that while it takes effort, time and commitment, a blog
“… along with your website is the foundation for your content and social media strategy that will be read for years and will help you establish you as a “thought leader” that will get people coming back again and again.”
In his post Jeff stated there are 20 reasons why you should blog before you twitter. While I don’t agree with everything he wrote, I do believe that:
  1. A blog can be a core branding and content anchor. If you are creating and distributing unique and valuable content that helps companies or individuals solve problems and provide answers, it will spread and be used as a valuable resource. Your blog will be quoted.
  2. Having your own blog remains the strongest platform, if you’re serious about sharing ideas and having a continued dialogue with the world.
  3. Blogging demonstrates true commitment and passion to your industry. Most won’t be able to sustain it over long periods of time with frequency, but those who do are rewarded in spades and stand out from the crowd.
  4. Old posts are valuable and are still read years later, given infinite life by search engines like Google.
  5. Most of Twitter is just linking to blogs and content on the open web. It is always better to be the end product people are actually interested in. Your ideas will be studied carefully. A blog is the perfect place to build an interested community.
  6. You own your work in a self-hosted blog and are in total control of how it is presented. You can customize, customize, customize a blog.
  7. You get cumulative results over time from blogging, each post incrementally adds value to your site as a whole.
  8. You can use full analytics with a blog. How many people come to your blog? Where do they come from? How long do they visit? Which posts do they prefer? Etc.
I think therefore I blog.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Web Secret #88: the iGeneration

This is what I observe when my 20 year old is home from college: As befits her generation - she is in constant communication with her peer group. She does this primarily via text message - sending thousands a month.

As befits their generation, my 16 year old twins are in constant communication with their peer group. They do this primarily via video chat. For hours. Until I tell them to stop.They are different.

Kudos to the New York Times' Brad Stone for elaborating on that observation and writing a thought provoking article "The Children of Cyberspace".

According to Stone, researchers are theorizing that:
"the ever-accelerating pace of technological change may be minting a series of mini-generation gaps, with each group of children uniquely influenced by the tech tools available in their formative stages of development. 'People two, three or four years apart are having completely different experiences with technology...College students scratch their heads at what their high school siblings are doing... It has sped up generational differences.'
These same researchers are beginning to draw a distinction between the Net Generation, born in the 1980s (my daughter), and the iGeneration (my twins), born in the ’90s and this decade.

Now in their 20s, those in the Net Generation, spend two hours a day talking on the phone and still use e-mail frequently. The iGeneration — conceivably their younger siblings — spends considerably more time video chatting than talking on the phone, and tends to communicate more over instant-messenger networks.

This is true - I can e-mail my twenty year old, and she will respond. On the other hand, if I e-mail the twins...well let's just say that's a total waste of time. I recently had the opportunity to inspect my twin daughter's new mail folder, and it contained about one hundred unread messages.

Other iGeneration traits:
  • The newest generations, unlike their older peers, will expect an instant response from everyone they communicate with, and won’t have the patience for anything less. “They’ll want... [everyone] ... to respond to them immediately, and they will expect instantaneous access to everyone, because after all, that is the experience they have growing up...They should be just like their older brothers and sisters, but they are not.
  • They will make less of a distinction between their online friends and real friends; virtually socializing might be just as fulfilling as a Friday night party.
  • They are fantastic multitaskers. Studies performed show that 16- to 18-year-olds perform seven tasks, on average, in their free time — like texting on the phone, sending instant messages and checking Facebook while sitting in front of the television. People in their early 20s can handle only six, and those in their 30s perform about five and a half. How is that working out in school and later on, in the workplace? Will they be able to focus?
  • They have some relaxed notions about privacy. Information that Boomers and Xers kept under (literal) lock and key is freely shared on Facebook, written on Walls and chillingly, in "Honesty Boxes".
  • This is a brave new generation who will never be “off the grid.” They have grown up with this technology, as opposed to the rest of us who had to learn it, while often unlearning something else.
  • It’s not yet clear whether these disparities between adjacent groups of children and teenagers will simply fade away, as the older groups come to embrace the new technology tools, or whether they will deepen into more serious rifts between various generations.
  • The children, teenagers and young adults who are passing through this cauldron of technological change will nevertheless have a lot in common. They’ll think nothing of sharing the minutiae of their lives online, staying connected to their friends at all times, buying virtual goods, and owning devices for controlling all of these activities.
How scary is that? Or not.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Web Secret #87: What I Really Think

January 7, 2010. A day that will live in infamy.

Well note quite. But that day, not so long ago, Will Baum, LCSW, of the blogzine WhereTheClientIs, interviewed me about what I really thought about social media. The focus was on social media fundamentals for therapists, but everything in the article was equally applicable to other professionals.

And this is what I said in answer to Will's questions:

What's you background? What do you do now?
I started off my career somewhat conventionally. BA in psychology from Yale University, MS in Social Work form Columbia University, psychiatric social worker at New York Hospital, private practice and then a 15 year career as an Employee Assistance Program executive. Started as Clinical Director for a national EAP ended up as a VP of Operations for another one.

I was an early technology adopter from the get go and was in charge of IT at many of the EAPs I worked for being that rare bird – a clinician who understood computers. Since 2005 I have been the Web Editor for the Employee Assistance Professionals Association. Since 2008 I have been training clinicians on how to understand and use social media to grow their private practices. I have presented at numerous local, national and international conferences on this topic. My next major gig is an all day workshop at the Psychotherapy Networker Symposium in March 2010.

I write an award winning blog and I have a Twitter. I continue to maintain a rather peculiar skill set (for a social worker) which includes HTML coding, web site design and content writing, as well as other assorted geekery.

What do you see as the most important steps non-tech-savvy clinicians can take to help build their practices?
Step one is to do a ruthless inventory of your skills and your available time, as this will inform your level of involvement. If you don’t have the requisite skills, hire someone to teach you or do it for you. For example, if you only have 15 minutes a week to devote to social media, and find writing to be an excruciating process, don’t blog.

The second step is probably still to have a well designed and well written website. It does not have to be big or full of bells and whistles but it should state clearly:
  • Your credentials
  • Your areas of specialization
  • What is unique about you as a practitioner
  • Your publications and presentations if applicable (articles you have authored, speaking engagements)
  • How to contact you
  • How to find you (e.g. directions to your office)
The third step is to get involved in social media. This can be overwhelming because there are literally dozens upon dozens of social media “channels”, from Ning to Facebook, from LinkedIn to Twitter, from blogging to less known ones like BlogTalkRadio. The important thing to remember is that there are three levels of involvement in social media, from observer, to commentator, to content producer. So let’s say you are a good writer and have something to say and you are thinking about blogging. Step one: read blogs. Step two: read and write comments on other people’s blogs. Step three: write your own blog.

What are the most common tech missteps you see?
On the web site side of things, I still see a lot of poorly written, unprofessional looking sites with bad photography. Clinicians should hire professional photographers – especially for that all important head shot, retain a copywriter if they can’t write web copy, and hire a designer to ensure a professional look. It’s not that expensive and it’s worth it.

On the social media side, I see a lot of clinicians who jump to step three as stated above and then call me in a panic. For example, they launch a Twitter account, tweet once and then have no clue what to do next. Using social media to build a practice is completely different than doing it purely for social purposes. So before setting up a Twitter account, it is important for professionals to follow other clinicians on Twitter, direct message them and articulate a set of goals for the tweets, for example “I want to become recognized as an expert on EMDR for adolescents." The tweets should be focused around that goal, and you should follow people on Twitter in a purposeful manner. Who can help you further that aim?

If you've done all of the above, how will you know it's working?
Well with respect to the website you may not. Sure you can do (or have someone do for you) some Search Engine Optimization stuff and some Google Analytics to see how many people visit your site. Reality – as one of my favorite new media experts has said - “Having a website is like having a billboard in the desert.” In other words, unless you actively drive people to your site using other forms of social media, that’s not how you are going to build your practice. You need a website because pretty soon the phone book is going to be totally obsolete and plus, having a website gives you gravitas.

With respect to social media, you have better indicators. How many followers do you have on Twitter? How many people subscribe to your blog? But it is not just about the numbers. It can be about quality. Any day I would prefer to have 10 serious and well connected new followers on Twitter rather than 100 people who absent mindedly clicked “follow." Clinicians need to remember – you are not Ashton Kutcher trying to hit 1 million followers on Twitter. You are trying to get relevant colleagues to refer to you, new clients for your practice, a booking to speak in front of the local PTA, etc.

Forget about complex analytics, a simple question to new clients, “How did you hear about my practice?” will tell you a lot.

Any other words of wisdom you'd like to add...?
If clinicians are serious about using new media to promote their practice, they might be interested in a concept that I developed called the "Social Media Marketing Triangle."

I had the idea after I heard my contractor talking about the "kitchen work triangle" as he attempted to remodel my "vintage" kitchen into something more 21st century. He kept harping about the need to have an invisible "work triangle" created by the arrangement of the sink, the stove and the refrigerator. It seems that the placement of these three elements in relation to each other is intrinsically connected to designing an efficient kitchen.

It got me thinking - maybe the key to promoting a professional practice on the web is an invisible "triangle" that you create on the Internet by cross referring between at least three web platforms.

Take, for example, your website, your Facebook page and your Twitter account. What if the strategic placement of any three social media elements in relation to one another is fundamentally connected to successfully marketing your practice on the Internet? So, your website refers to your blog, your blog refers to Twitter, your Twitter account refers back to your website.

In any event, a website and two other social media outlets is about the max that most people can handle and do a good job with. Though I professionally use and lecture about many social media channels, I personally only use two to promote my work.

And that is what I really think.