Monday, January 31, 2011

Navigating Vendor Agreements



As a consultant and a former Communications Director for a national nonprofit, I've had a lot of experience with vendor agreements. As much as one would think these documents are standardized, I've seen quite a range of styles, formats, and degrees of specificity over the years, which serves to only reinforce that fact that both consultants and business owners must review contracts very carefully, question any unclear language or deliverables, and make sure they are comfortable with all elements of the contract before signing on the dotted line.

A basic contract should include the following:

1. Basic Information: Company name, address, e-mail, phone #, and name of principal or main contact, for both parties
2. Relevant Dates:The date of the contract and the date it becomes active
3. Project description: this includes both the scope of services to be provided,  and in some cases (I like to include this) the specific approach to be taken for any given project
4. Deliverables: the specific project(s) that will be completed by the end of the contract period.  So, for example, if the project relateds to a newsletter, the deliverable is: writing, production, and distribution of monthly newsletter by (add specific date.)
In the case of social media management, a deliverable would be: social media updates via Twitter and Facebook, to be completed twice daily, for a period of one month.
5. Non-compete: A non-compete clause is important to include for most businesses as a form of self-protection. I have seen all kinds of language related to this, ranging from the amount of $10,000 should a client approach a business originally sent to them by a vendor, to double and even triple that amount, depending on the circumstances. Typically, a period of time the non-compete is in effect is outlined, and can be anywhere from 6 months, to 1-2 years.  Small businesses and sole proprietors need to exercise caution that the amount stipulated could not effectively wipe out their business, and must be comfortable with the amount they are signing off on.
6. Fees and billing: It should be clearly outlined how much and when the project is to be billed out. Typically, consultants require a fee of half the total upfront, with the remainder due at the completion of the project, at Net 30 days, allowing for a full billing cycle.
7. Period of review: It should be specifically stipulated at what point the parameters of the contract will be revisited, revised, and expanded or otherwise changed. An assessment at the end of each month is fair in many cases, as it allows a suitable time period for the project to develop and get underway.
8. Signatures: It should be clear anywhere that signatures are indicated, who the signatories are, including their titles and functions within the company. It should also be stipulated as to what qualifies as a legal signature. Some more informal contracts allow for a written email signing off on the contract, but a formal contract requires a full signature. There are many electronic signature companies that provide this service. In the past, I have included my written signature, and then scanned and emailed the document, followed by a hard copy version via snail mail as well.
9. Expense Reimbursement: If the payment is a flat fee meant to cover all expenses, this must be stated. If in some cases, expenses may be reimbursed, this should be stipulated, including how much advance notice is required, the purpose of the expense, what paperwork is required as backup documentation, and what the maximum amount is. 
10. Other: This is more from the consultants angle, but I typically include a provision that I can include my work with the client in my marketing and communications materials, such as website, blog, e-newsletter, etc., and that if there is a request for confidentiality either on the part of the client, or the client's client, it must be stipulated. I also request that, assuming all goes well, the client will provide the consultant with a written and/or video testimonial. Many businesses may not realize the importance of this for consultants, but it is a key factor in marketing their business, and clients need to be reminded of this.


Common Pitfalls

*Surprises and unexpected stipulations:
A good contract should be an accurate reflection of previous discussions and communications that have taken place about the project and scope of services. However, I have found that often contracts contain new information that either does not relate to the project at hand, or may relate, but requires clarification. Sometimes, this can be the case when a vendor has a standard contract they use for a multitude of scenarious, that may not be relevant in this particular instance. It is crucial that the consultant review the contract for these "surprises." They may not require deletion, but they certainly should be clarified, particularly if they are new pieces of information.

*A proposal is not a contract:
Sometimes, a proposal is confused with a contract. A proposal is sometimes requested by the vendor, so that the main focus of a project can be clearly outlined by the consultant, as the consultant sees it, and then used to draw up the contract. If there are essential elements of a proposal not included in the contract that are crucial to any aspect of the work product, the proposal must be reference or restated within the contract. A proposal tends to be preliminary, while a contract seals the deal and firms the commitment.

*Changing Horses in Midstream:
I have experienced several instances where a vendor changed the deliverable halfway through the project. This can happen for any number of reasons - a new need has emerged, or an unforeseen project suddenly takes precedence. Unless the consultant is on a retainer that encompasses a variety of scenarios as they arise, the contract must be revised to reflect the new project, as well as any changes to the current project. This assumes that the consultant is flexible, and is willing to take on the new project. Depending on the timeframe and the status of the current project, either an entirely new contract needs to be written that includes all the specifications described above, or the current contract needs to reflect the new adjustment made.  Unless there is a significant deadline, I suggest whenever this occurs that the current contract be completed, and a new contract written to describe the upcoming project. In this way, the two deliverables are not confused, and the fresh contract addresses all the parameters of the new project accurately.

I'm sure all of you have had your share of experiences with contracts...and I didn't even have time here to go into a very important aspect of all this --- copyright and work-for-hire issues.

What have I left out? Comment on your experiences here!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

6 Key Considerations When Outsourcing Your Social Media


I attended a social media panel several months ago, where one of the speakers quite adamantly stated that an organization or brand should absolutely not outsource their social media. Why? Because they should taken an active role in their marketing and identity, and it puts them in touch with their customers on a more direct and personal level. While I understand this perspective, I have met so many business owners over the years who simply don't have time to manage their communities online, and the task just becomes another chore to take care of, instead of a genuine channel to customer communication. Of course, it shouldn't be that way, but the truth is, sometimes social media can be regarded as more work, with unclear results, even when it is working the way it should. Meaning that a company can have a great dialogue going on their Facebook page, but relatively no monetization or conversion to clients, or even to visitors on their web site. Got a thousand Twitter followers? Great, but where are you taking them and, more importantly, where do they want to go in terms of your brand, identity, and products?

From the consultant's point of view, I am all for outsourcing, when it's done correctly and when the deliverables are clear.  And that's not just because I offer it as a service, but I feel it is definitely something that can be handled by "an outside person," as long as they have the right information. It is important, though, that clear approaches, goals, and established timeframes are implemented, so that the social media manager has defined parameters, and the client has a clear sense of the process and its outcomes. Here are some considerations for the client and consultant to establish together in finalizing contracts and agreements, and discussions of deliverables:


1. Which social media tool or tools are best for the brand, and what to choose first? 
Just because Twitter, Facebook, and Linked In are the 3 key tools, many businesses can fall through the social media cracks if they represent a niche area that might not have a strong presence on these platforms. Other niche sites should be researched to determine where the consultant should concentrate their efforts. It's also true that a gradual approach really does work best. A good consultant will advise you to start slow, on 1-2 platforms, and grow from there. Or, some organizations only choose one platform as their chosen communication tool.


2. What does the competition's online brand look like?
Being a community manager for a company without taking a look at their competition and how they are communicating, is like driving on a road with no lights and no highway signs. There is no context.  It's important to know who your competition is,  and how they are communicating with their audience. The next logical step, of course, is to decide how you are going to be different. Will you link to different resources? Will you have a different voice and tone? How is your audience different from theirs?


3. How often will updates be posted?
I was at a panel recently, where most of the businesses indicated that they updated their Facebook posts several times a day, and that their communities pretty much expected this kind of frequency. I've seen very effective Facebook pages where the publishers only posts once a day, or even every few days, but they pack a real punch in their posts, so that it leaves visitors wanting more.  I know that author Tim Ferris only posts on his Fan page 1-2 times a day, but it's always a helpful resource or insight. With Twitter, it's important to find the right balance, as it's easy to overtweet. Your consultant should err on the side of caution and start with a few tweets a day.


4. With Rates and Fees, a Package or Flat Rate May Be the Ticket
Social media updates can vary from simple links and posts that only take a few moments, to longer behind the scenes work in terms of finding relevant links, folks to retweet, important influencers online, etc. In other words, a good social media-ist is going to do their homework in the form of market research, and not only post, but respond to others in the community. Given the sporadic nature of the process, it's best to go with a flat rate in terms of fees. This can be weekly, or ideally, monthly. This allows both the client and the consultant to feel more free, and reduces that "on the clock" anxiety that can come with hourly billing.


5. Agree On a Basic Strategy, But Allow for Wiggle Room
Social media is still new,  with innovations in platforms, technology, and trends, happening all the time. A good social media consultant will include their basic approach in their proposal, but will update and refine their strategy along the way, and this is particularly important for long-term assignments, when the marketplace and audience are likely to change considerably over time. I agree that social media marketing should not be off on its own, but should be an extension of traditional marketing the company has already done, with a few twists and turns along the way, involving more customer involvement and interaction. Planning a contest? Use social media to find out what customers would like to win. Starting a newsletter? You can also use social media  to find out what your audience would like to read about most. Also, the voice, or brand of the company's online voice, needs to be established. If the client is open to a new approach, the consultant should find an online voice that suits the company and its image. If the client has a specific idea of what their online identity is, the consultant should strike a tone consistent with that.


6. Expect Continued Engagement on Both Sides
I've heard stories where clients hand off their social media to consultants, and then take a back seat. It's important with social media as with any outsourced project, that the client stay informed, pay attention, and keep the consultant abreast of any important developments in the company that have content implications. For example, a new promotion, publication, event, or even new staff hire or partnership, are all content rich areas worthy of posting about and linking to, or expanding on through a blog.

These are just a few of the considerations to think about -- there are certainly many others I didn't mention here. For those of you who have both been hired or who have done the hiring for outsourced social media, what tips do you have to share?

Monday, January 24, 2011

5 Reasons Why Sprout Social Is My New Favorite Tool

Those who have been following my blog read last week that I was pretty happy with CoTweet to manage and "toggle" between my account and Tribarter, whose Twitter account I have been managing since early December. I'm still happy with CoTweet, but things changed a bit, as I am soon to be tweeting and doing Facebook brand management for a new client! This starts next week, and in preparation, I've been "free trialing" around to familiarize myself with free or low cost solutions to managing multiple clients. CoTweet as of now still connects only with Twitter.

So, all that led me to a trial I'm enjoying now with Sprout Social, which I had read about but never launched into until now. I see what all the raves are about. Sprout Social has a great interface, with easy to read pop up icons, a choice of views in many instances, and the ability to add up to 5 identities (10 with a premium packages- $50 monthly). Since I now have enough identities to rival Sybil (just kidding!) I chose the 5-package version. So far, here's  a quick review of 5 of the features I really like:

The Settings Menu for Sprout Social allows for a lot of customization

The discovery agent has sophisticated filters for People, Business, and Keyword searches
*Easy to set up new accounts: You start with your Twitter account, and Sprout takes you through to the others, in this case Facebook - profile page and FAN, and Linked In. Foursquare and Yelp are also options with the premium package. It took me all of 5 minutes to set up my profiles, and Tribarter's. When I have the new account next week, I can simply click on "New Account" and it will walk me through the process, and I'll be able to add the FAN page for the new client onto my dashboard. The video below is a tutorial illustrating how to set up new accounts.
Note: I didn't see options for YouTube or Flickr in the mix, perhaps these are on the way?







This video illustrates how to set up new accounts with Sprout Social


*Detailed Contact List: I was super impressed with not only the viewing option for your Contact list (these would be your followers), but also all the information that appears in the Grid view, including the numbers of people these contacts are following and are followed by, their tag line and company information, and their photo.  Click on a selected Contact, and you get even more information, including their recent tweet history, a link to their web site, what contacts you have in common, and even a cool little box to write your own private notes in, which you can also schedule a reminder to yourself for any day of the year on a pop up calendar.


*Cool Schedule Tool for Promotional Content: In addition to regular status updates, the scheduling tool allows you to preschedule promotional messages for a specific date one time, or as recurring updates as well. I could see this working well for birthday announcements for your friends, or event reminders.


*Detailed Reporting Features: There's a wide range of information available that details user activity and engagement, for a variety of time periods ranging from the last 7 days, to any customizable time period. It provides info on number of clicks, level of influence, as well as mentions, retweets, and replies. There's also an export function that allows you to download a PDF report of all the info.

*Extensive Search with Discovery Menu: Users have the choice of People, Business, and Keyword searches -- so there's a lot of choices in the menu. Under the Business Search agent, you can even compare local businesses with their competitors -- this is huge for a client like the one I have coming up, which is a brick and mortar operation in a small geographic area in the south.

I know this is just the tip of the social media management iceburg, as these tools, while relatively simple to use, are rather far-reaching and complex when you really see what they can do. I researched some of the user reviews, and there's plenty of positive buzz, not only about the application,  but the developer and support teams as well. I hope in a way, I don't need to find out, but it's good to know they're there.

How about you? What's your favorite social media management tool?

Friday, January 21, 2011

2 Cool Videos: Box.net Launches New Interface

I've been a fan of Box.net for over a year now, having stumbled across it one night when I was looking for an easy way to upload photos and share the links.  It's now one of my favorite photo upload programs, with a fairly fast uploader (I can publish about 60 photos in 20 minutes, and this is on a slightly older Mac). I also like the unique viewing features, allowing users to view galley style images as well as list view if you're in a hurry. (Note: they need to add a slide show viewing program, I have posted this to them on Facebook and they think it's a good idea.)

Now, I use many of the Box.net tools, including the handy interface launched recently with Linked In, so you can easily add files and folders to your Linked In profile. I found this a great way to share my portfolio not only for photos and events I've attended, but new articles and other resources as well. I also like the "create website" feature, which enables users to create a new website and share with others through a URL. A great tool for showing off an idea still in the making, but still making it look good with enhanced graphics and presentation tools.

The videos below highlight the newly launched user interface, and a high-energy talk given by CEO Aaron Levie just this week, as part of Stanford's Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders Lecture Series.









Box.net CEO Aaron Levie is an entrepreneur who seeks to reinvent how enterprise businesses share content across their organizations. In 2005, Levie saw the need for affordable storage on the Internet, and co-founded Box.net out of his college dorm room. In this high-energy lecture, Levie shares the successes and challenges of his company's move from early-stage startup to scalable cloud technology venture.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Photos in the Cloud: 10 Great Places for Online Storage

I've been experimenting with a lot of media storage solutions lately, mostly because even though I have a great LaCie Terabyte hard drive, I have this fear in the back of my mind that the second I move it somewhere -- anywhere -- it will disintegrate or get damaged, and I'll have that horrible moment when I plug it in to face a blank screen. So, I decided I needed to sleep better at night about all this, and find some good solutions.

If you're looking for easy photo storage, try these sites out:


1. Googledocs: Many people think googledocs is only for documents, but you can upload photos quickly and easily. I pay $5 a year for extra storage space, and have 20GB available. Tip: make sure you create a new folder just for photos, so they don't get mixed up with your other documents. While there are no social media icons for sharing, you can easily download the images and email the links to anyone in your address book.

2. Picasa: Google also offers the option of a photo gallery through Picasa. It is easy to upload multiple photos at once, and you can make your photo albums public or private, as well as share.

3. Box.net: This is fast becoming my favorite program both for document and photo storage. You can easily create albums and view photos either in a gallery style view, or as a list. A unique feature of box.net is that you can not only share or email individual photos, but entire folders as well. The upload is a little slow if you have over 50 photos, but for reasonable upgrades you can get faster uploads as well as increased storage space. One drawback - no drag and drop feature for the Mac, as of yet. Darn it.


4. Dropbox: Here's your drag and drop. I love having the convenience of this application right on my desktop, and it's great for moving photos off my hard drive. I also use it for PDFs and ebooks I'm saving to read later. Users get 2GB free on the Basic Plan, 50 GB for $99 a year, and $100 GB for $200 a year.


5. Flickr: This was my very first "go to" photo storage site, and I still use it often for photo uploads, although I am nearing my max of 200 and have been warned that I will need to pay $25 a year to upload any more. Hmmm...One thing I love about Flickr is how easy you can create slideshows, although the last time I tried this, my caption text was masked by the formatting used for the screen menu. Still, it's a great tool for increasing online visibility, as you can easily grab a Flickr badge for your blog or website and be easily found.

6. Kodak: Kodak has an excellent photo gallery interface, and is free, but to keep your account active, you need to make one purchase a year. Kodak only allows users to upload jpegs, while Flickr accepts PEG, GIF, PNG, and TIFF formats. Kodak Gallery has its own software, Kodak EasyShareSoftware, an Internet Explorer plug-in and Gallery Mobile for uploading photos from your cell phone.

7. Photobucket: This program is easy to use, and seems to be most suited to uploading a small number of photos that relate to a specific event or occasion, as the program is heavy on templates for holidays and birthdays, etc. I didn't see a drag and drop feature, which made the upload a bit slow going. 

8. SmugMug: Haven't tried this one yet, but you can catch a pretty detailed review over here. Looks good.

9. Webshots: I just found this site, and I'm impressed that on a free account, you can upload a generous amount of photos. The site is difficult to navigate for those challenged by Flash, but it boasts one of the largest photo libraries on the web.

10. Sugarsync: I read about this program recently and it has some unique features. While primarily a file synching application, it is easy to store and share folders. A "magic briefcase" stores the files, and users can choose whether to make them public or not. A free account comes with 5GB, and paid plans start at $5 a month, for 30 GB.

What are your favorite programs? Post your comments here, and happy uploading!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Case Study: My Strategy and 7-Part Online Toolkit for Tribarter

Those who have been following me know that I have been "tweeting" and doing some public relations work for my new client, Tribarter, an online barter site that allows members to trade goods and services.  Tribarter is a great company to work with and also a great case study for several reasons. First, it's a green company, which in this day and age of plastic garbage bag "islands" in the middle of the ocean, distressing climate change statistics, and threats to the environment such as the BP oil spill and other frightening news, makes it instantly relevant. Also, in a tough economy where most Americans are struggling to make ends meet, an eco alternative to buying new, that is also easy on your wallet, is a welcome endeavor. The fact that Hedi Katz, CEO, stands out as an entrepreneur and recently was invited to join Astia, the prestigious global nonprofit that promotes women in business through training programs and funding, speaks volumes about her and about Tribarter.

That being said, there were several communications challenges when I began work with Tribarter in early December, that I am still slowly tackling one by one.  In December, I wrote about some great tools I was using to get started. Here, I'm highlighting Twitter and some new tools I found since then. First, the strategy:

Twitter Challenges and Solutions

* Increase followers by listening first:
Tribarter had a Twitter account, but with very little activity and few updates and followers. My approach in tweeting was a combined strategy not only of "green tweets," through links and resource information, but also direct communication with influencers in the green online space. I was keenly aware that numbers don't tell the whole story, so I didn't merely look for those with large followings, but those who were being retweeted on a consistent basis, had frequent "sticky" updates that stood out, and were not shy about mentioning and linking to others. I noticed a definite upswing in followers when I made these direct connections. Plus, it was a great learning experience for me to observe, listen, and take in the twitter style of those outside my immediate world of communications, social media, and online marketing. What a pleasure to get to know some of these folks.

*Varying Content and Providing Value:
While I did tweet direct links to Tribarter's introductory video, featured products, and other direct links to the site, I was conscious of not being overly advertisy as I knew this strategy would not be effective or sustainable for the long haul, and green issues and the environment are such important topics right now, that it all comes full circle in the end anyway. So, I thought about what I would want to know about as a green or eco consumer, and I varied the tweets quite a bit, ranging from photos of glorious sunsets, to cool videos I found about decluttering your home, as well as redecorating on a budget. I also had in the back of my mind back issues of O magazine (Oprah), where I remembered she devoted entire pages as a place to give the reader mental space, through gorgeous nature photos. I wanted to provide that feeling as well, so that's when I started sprinkling in the photos, videos, and slideshows, as well as discovering some great resources for green media and content, which I'm planning to publish in an upcoming post.

*Great Results:
In less than a month, we were excited about increasing from 7 to over 300 relevant followers! There has also been increased buzz and interest in Tribarter, resulting in more members, increased trades and postings, and a recent story in the Marin Independent and others to follow.

One month in social media land is just the tip of the iceberg, so I'm excited about the months ahead and a great "ecofuture" for Tribarter. In the meantime, here are some tools I found handy in my work, some of them may be familiar to you and some not. I hope you find them useful in your media toolkit, and feel free to comment here and some of your favorite public relations and/or Twitter tools.



CoTweet allows users to easily toggle between Twitter accounts

 While I had heard of CoTweet for several months, I didn't try it out until recently, and it's really been a great find. The program allows the user to set up multiple Twitter accounts simply by typing in the admin info on the account. I've been using the free version, which is allowing me to do what I need to, including toggling between my account and Tribarter's, scheduling updates for future time slots, retweeting and @replies, etc. The only limit so far is that it's restricted to Twitter and no other social media platforms, but that may change in future. You can also view the twitter streams for both accounts, as well as view direct messages. I highly recommend CoTweet if you're tweeting for multiple accounts. CoTweet also has its own social media act together -- I posted my enthusiasm on their Facebook page, and within a day had an enthusiastic comment back from someone on their team. Not so with a number of other businesses I've posted to on Facebook recently -- lessons learned.

2. Social Oomph:
 As I mentioned in a previous post, I used Social Oomph initially to get started -- the program has an easy interface for setting up and editing your direct message to followers, as well as scheduling tweet. It also lets you control whether you want an automatic follow for new followers or not, and has some good tracking statistics and tools.  You can also receive e-mail digests of tweets that contain keywords that you specify, and gett an integrated view of your mentions and retweets across many accounts. With a paid SocialOomph Professional account (about $30 a month), you can schedule updates for your Facebook profile and pages, posts for your blogs, and find quality Twitter accounts to follow.


3. Tweeter Karma:
Formerly Twitter Karma (with a name change just as of today, as it turns out), this program allows you to instantly see everyone you are following and who is or is not following you back. Type in your twitter handle, and you get a screen of all your followers in a fairly easy to read grid, including their most recent post. When I used this application, I saw that I was following some folks who hadn't tweeted in over a year, so it was time to say goodbye. A great and easy tool to clean up your account. 

4.  DoesFollow.com:
If you don't want to scroll through lists of your followers and want to check out if just a handful of people are following you, this program works fine and is super simple. Just type in the twitter handles to find out if one is following the other, press Return, and you get a simple Yes or No.


5. Hootsuite: 
This is a fantastic tool for posting updates, tracking statistics, and easily viewing mentions, replies, and streams. Unlike CoTweet which only has one preview window, Hootsuite has multiple column options, offering a multilayered Twitter experience. I find it easier to use then Tweetdeck, and I also like the Search function, allowing users to create customizable columns and feeds that conform to specific terms.


6. PRlog.org:



PRLog.org allows users to schedule publishing 2 weeks in advance, embed video,
and share through social media. The graphic shows their sample press release upload menu.


 







I did a fair amount of research on press release distribution sites, and the easiest and most efficient so far is PRLog.org.  This application has easy menus to follow, and provides many customized settings,  a nice plus, particularly since it's free. Users can include up to 2 live links in a free account, plus embed video ( I had no problem embedding a YouTube link, although there are some positioning criteria that need to be followed.) I was also able to upload Hedi's head shot, and include information about myself as the publisher of the release, versus Hedi and Tribarter, the topic of the release. The press releases are submitted to Google News,  and are supposedly fed to over 40,000 RSS feeds. I'll be interested in seeing the results over the next few weeks and researching search results.

7. Snappy Press Release:
The original press release that highlighted Tribarter and Hedi's Astia award was a good foundation, but a bit confusing. In my revision, I did some tweaking that made a big difference in the readability and organization of the release. Visually, I added Hedi's photo with a detailed caption. I also added Tribarter's logo to the page header to give it more credibility. I organized the quotes so they were more balanced throughout, and deleted several paragraphs that were redundant.  I also added a subhead targeting the green focus of Tribarter, to highlight and  tie in with today's green news being such a large trend. If you want to view the final version, you can catch it here.

Last but not least, thanks so much to Hedi for this testimonial, a great way to start the New Year.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Life, PR, and Yoga Happen When You're Busy Writing Your Blog

My urgent yoga deadline: Students enjoyed downward dog and other lifechanging poses during the Grand Opening at Be Yoga in Palo Alto,
the topic of my new article coming out shortly!

(photo copyright Megan Gonzales Photography, 2011)

Last time we connected, I had completed the first in my 3-part series on "Cloud Storage," and I had written about how much I love Box.net for its easy file management system, sharing features, and groovy connection to your LinkedIn profile.

I was all ready to move on to 2 other nifty cloud storage programs, Dropbox and SugarSync, (you can check them out in the meantime), when....a yoga deadline suddenly appeared out of nowhere -- OK it was somewhere -- I got an assignment to write a lifestyles article for a new magazine coming out shortly in this area, and I had this idea, and one thing led to another, and here we are...

The end result is that the article is finished and fine, deadline is complete, and I'm done for now. Thanks to Be Yoga in Palo Alto, and the great Open House they had on Saturday, which was my inspiration for the story!

But I'm still not ready to write about cloud storage, as I was continuing some work for Tribarter, the green client I had posted about recently, that promotes online trading of goods and services. Good for your wallet, good for the planet. I had been and will be continuing on this week, to do presswork and tweeting for Tribarter, and looking to see continued great results, with relevant followers increased from 7 to over 200 at last check!

I'm happy to report that I succeeded in obtaining a Press Clip on Tribarter in the Marin Independent, which picked up several paragraphs from my press release about Tribarter and its CEO, Hedi Katz. You can catch that here

And if you're interested in the press release I wrote, you can catch that over here.

So, with all that summed up, safe to say I will be ready shortly to resume parts #2 and #3 of my explorations in cloud storage, barring any major life events, press placements, yoga deadlines, and the like. Namaste. Oh and by the way, there's still a prize at the end of the series,  stay tuned...

PS 3 Tips on Multitasking

1. Meet all deadlines and make sure your editor is happy
2. Meet all deadlines and make sure your clients are happy
3. Go to yoga and make sure your the whole mind/body thing is happening, because you're going to need it. And yes, that may mean inverting (going upside down) for an undetermined period of time.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

3-Part Series: 3 Simple Cloud Storage Solutions for Backing Up Your Computer Files

Box.net is user friendly and makes uploading and sharing files easy. Photos can be viewed either in a gallery format as pictured here, or icon format. I'm looking forward to the drag and drop technology for folder uploads to be ready for the Mac, as only the PC version is available now. Click on individual files, and you have a choice of moving to another folder, editing photos, sharing links via emal and social media, and other options. Entire folders can be shared as well.

Have you been organizing your computer files for the new year? Over the last few days, I've been busy making new computer folders for 2011, which of course begs the question -- what to do with the old ones? Since storage space is at a premium, and I have a slightly older Mac that I need to keep clear of extraneous files and applications, the older files need to be stored. Last year, after much research, I bought a perfectly fine Lacie Hard Drive, which I happily use to back-up files every 2 weeks or so. But I also realize that Lacie (that's what I call her), could theoretically get damaged if I ever movde her around or transported her from her perch atop my desk. So that led me to some cloud-based solutions.

I'm happy to report that after a few days of research, some of which extended into the wee hours as I became increasingly obsessed with icons, folders, things like "magic suitcases," and other more mundane terms like "parent files," I have found a few really good programs that fit the bill. Right now, I'm experimenting with 3 in particular and using them all as backup and storage needs come up, so I can assess after a month or so which one I'll finally choose. For now, here's my review of 3 finalists. I'm posting the first one today, and finalist #2 on Friday, and #3 on Saturday, so stay tuned!

1. Box.net: I first discovered Boxnet about a year ago, when I needed to find online photo storage that had good social media and e-mail sharing features. I also needed to easily send photo links to my parents. I had been using Kodak Easyshare for a few years, but they had recently changed their interface to a flash platform that slowed down my computer and was too flowery for what I needed. Box.net has made a lot of great enhancements over the year, including a Linked In application that allows users to link folders from Box.net to their Linked In profiles. I used it a few months ago to highlight some of my publications and recent photos, and it was fast and easy to use.

Box.net, has generous storage, and several premiums upgrades you can research depending on your needs, starting at $10 a month. While the file upload in the free account is a bit slow, it works fine for smaller numbers of files. Last night, it took me about 20 minutes to upload 50 photos. Viewing options allow the user to publish and send links to individual files and folders, edit photos, move files between folders, and integrates collaboration between multiple users. I also like how you can create a website and share the URL link, so that others can easily view your site as well. Box.net also has a Facebook application so you easily post and share there as well. The only con I see now with the program is that there is as of now no drag and drop file management feature for the Mac. I asked about this on Boxnet's Facebook page, and received a prompt response from a rep that they were still working on the Mac version. I also suggested they create a slideshow feature for viewing, which they are now going to consider. Yay.

Stay tuned on Wednesday and Saturday for Finalists #2 and #3 in the Cloud Storage Solutions Series, and here's a secret...there's a prize at the end! In the  meantime, feel free to post your comments here on any great solutions for file backup and storage that you've discovered lately.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Marketing Monday: 10 Surprising Entrepreneurial Lessons from Walt Disney

Welcome everyone, to my first Marketing Monday of 2011, and Happy New Year!  For those of you who are new here, this "mini-column" published on the occasional Monday, and focuses on marketing inspirations, misfires, and my real life experiences as a consumer with campaigns that worked and didn't work, with a look at their pros and cons. This post is inspired by my recent visit to the Walt Disney Family Museum, a wonderful institution that opened in San Francisco's Presidio area last fall, and is probably one of the most comprehensives chronicles of a life I have ever witnessed. While everyone (OK, pretty much everyone) loves Disneyland and Disneyworld, few really know the details surrounding Walt Disney's life, and the entrepreneurial spirit that characterized his career. Every challenge he met, he rose above. Every no, he turned into a yes. He succeeded in selling millions of Mickey Mouse watches in the height of the Depression, and reinvented himself during World War II, creating educational and military films at cost for the good of the cause.  Walt had class and style, and a verve and passion for the wild west as much as for outer space.

I left the museum feeling moved and inspired, humming"It's A Small World" and wondering what kind of wonderful innovations Walt would have added to the social media world if he'd only lived long enough to tweet, update, blog, and upload to YouTube.  We'll never know, of course, but we can surely use our imaginations,. In the meantime, he left a great legacy and captured nearly a century in one lifetime. So without further ado, here's a pictorial view of my Walt Disney marketing inspirations --so much of what he did is as relevant today as it was 50 years ago. The images are so strong, I don't really need to write anything else, but feel free to add your own captions as you see fit. After all, creativity and innovation are what it's all about, and in the end, aren't we all big kids? Walt would have seen it that way, I'm sure.



1. Have A Vision




2. Create A Cornerstone Product
Copyright Walt Disney Company


3. Staff Up! Organize a Great Team






 4. Take Risks




5. Embrace Technology




  6. Be Relevant for Your Time






7.  Do Something Interesting With A Book





 8.  Prioritize Offline Experiences


9.Conquer Synchronicity




10. Understand Packaging








Photos: Walt Disney Family Foundation and archival