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Insights into personal branding online

I’ve just finished writing my regular column for Enterprise Magazine. My topic this month was “personal branding on the web”. I’ll publish the full article here once it hits the streets, but I thought I’d share the unedited insights of two experts who shared their wisdom with me. I didn’t have space for all their thoughts in the actual article, so here they are in their full glory:

Tom Critchlow, from Distilled:

  • Make sure you choose an online ‘handle’ which is both easy to remember, unique and short
  • Be consistent. Make sure that you keep the same username across all the social media sites you sign up to (twitter, digg, etc etc). This makes it easy for people to connect the dots and helps your existing ‘friends’ on one social media site find you on other sites.
  • Make sure that you choose an online username which you can rank for in Google. People use search. A lot of people use search actually and being able to rank for your own name is valuable because it allows you to present searchers with a page of your choosing and importantly you can set up a contact form etc on the site which leads me onto the next point:
  • Make sure you are contactable. If someone wants to get in touch with you make it easy for them, whether it’s an email address in your twitter background, a contact form on a website or blog etc. Never underestimate the power of email!
  • Monitor the conversation about you. Using a tool like google alerts (free) or Distilled’s reputation monitor (cheap, few more features) allows you to monitor the interwebs for any mentions of your name. It’s important to choose a unique, short name in point 1 above so people can find you but it also removes a lot of the headache associated with monitoring as well.
  • Last but not least, engage! When someone emails you, email them back, when someone twitters you, twitter them back. If someone tweets something you can help them with don’t be afraid to send them a note. Online networking is hugely powerful and has gained Distilled ÂŁ100,000s of business. Be nice to people and be nice to people and you’ll get it back in spades.


Carl Morris
, from Native
The term “personal brand” is not to everyone’s taste, but if you do anything on the web you need to understand it. Your prospective client, employer or advocate will take seconds to figure out who you are. Attention is scarce! So you need to represent yourself in a way that makes it as easy as possible for them.

Full article online in a few weeks when it goes to print.

🙂

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Agility

Here’s an article I wrote that’s just been published in Enterprise Magazine. Thanks to Rob and Dan for their insight. You can download the whole issue here, which includes a rather dashing photo of me! 🙂 And while you’re at it, keep up to date with tiptop news via their Twitter account.

It’s 5am and I’m wide awake. My mind is clearly more eager than my body to start the first working day of 2009. I’m thinking back over the last year and how I can improve over the next 12 months.

2008 was an odd year for me. I achieved a lot, bringing more people together through my networking events, and worked on some brilliant projects with some amazing people. Yet with my key “revenue generators” I often felt hamstrung by a lack of resources, both in terms of talent and finance. Needing to find people to carry out work for me, and sourcing the capital to pay for it all meant that things often seemed to move incredibly slowly. A lot of this stems from the fact that much of the work I do has the internet at the very heart of it, but I’m neither a web developer or designer. It would be technically impossible for me to build these ideas on my own.

I spoke to Dan Zambonini, technical director of internet development agency, Box UK. He thinks that being a solo entrepreneur isn’t the issue it once was. “Luckily, with the web now as it is, there are plenty of online websites that can match up idea people with doing people. Technical people love to do interesting things, so if you know the right people, you’ll often find someone who’s willing to help you out for the sheer pleasure of it.”

Dan believes that there’s a growing demand for smaller, smarter online services that do one thing well, rather than trying to do everything. The idea being to get them up online as soon as they work and improve them as they go along, using your first customers as your testers too.

“Especially now with online services….it’s easier than ever to realise sophisticated ideas with less effort. Twitter, Facebook, Flickr; all started off much simpler, and have added features as they’ve been demanded”.

For some, being agile isn’t a desirable quality but an absolute prerequisite. “Digital PR has to be lightening quick because that’s the way the web works – the window of opportunity in online media is so much smaller”, says Rob Mosley from boutique digital advertising and PR agency Nonsense. I asked him for a good tip on getting projects up and running quicker. “I think debate is the biggest enemy to getting stuff done quick. If you get into a habit of making decisions fast, so you can get on with making things, you’re 80% of the way there. Obviously our clients need to trust us a lot for us to do this, and they also have to accept that we’ll make the odd mistake… which is still better than missing the boat”.

So what are my new year’s resolutions? Find smart and quick people to work with who are keen to get involved in exciting one-off projects, turn my ideas around faster, don’t worry about them being perfect from the start, tweak them as I go along, and feel more fulfilled that I’m not constantly languishing in “development hell”.

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Now’s the time…

The end of 2008 came with a whole load of personal and professional challenges for me, and I was very glad of the time off over Christmas and the New Year. But now I’m very keen to get stuck back into 2009 and believe it will be the best year yet, for many reasons. I’ll expand on my thoughts another time, but in the meantime here’s an extract from a letter written to Tim Ferriss by his mentor. Inspiring reading from his latest blog post

While many are wringing their hands, I recall the 1970s when we were suffering from an oil shock causing long lines at gas stations, rationing, and 55 MPH speed limits on Federal highways, a recession, very little venture capital ($50 million per year into VC firms), and, what President Jimmy Carter (wearing a sweater while addressing the Nation on TV because he had turned down the heat in the White House) called a “malaise”. It was during those times that two kids without any real college education, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, started companies that did pretty well. Opportunities abound in bad times as well as good times. In fact, the opportunities are often greater when the conventional wisdom is that everything is going into the toilet.

Well…we’re nearing the end of another great year, and, despite what we read about the outlook for 2009, we can look forward to a New Year filled with opportunities as well as stimulating challenges.

Now’s the time, folks!

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In the Mux

I remember Muxtape.com. It allowed you to make an online mixtape from a huge list of songs. It was a simple, brilliant idea, although I never used it. And I remember that it got shut down earlier this year, which is sad. But today I stumbled across the founder’s statement about what happened. It’s a very well written piece that has lots of insight for anyone in the music industry or anyone in the world of digital startups, or licensing, or working with other peoples’ intellectual property. Hell, it’s useful for anyone. Read it here.

Also, I came across OwnGig. Looks like an interesting take on the whole crowdsourcing thing, which is an increasingly popular trend. Anyone wanna pitch in with me to get Stevie Wonder to perform live in my kitchen?

Finally, I’ve just learned about the Project Triangle. Never heard of it before. Useful little tool for prioritising tasks and knowing where your product might sit in the market.

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bands business creative creative industries developer entrepreneur Entrepreneurship marketing media Music Industry myspace planning productivity startup technology

In the Mux

I remember Muxtape.com. It allowed you to make an online mixtape from a huge list of songs. It was a simple, brilliant idea, although I never used it. And I remember that it got shut down earlier this year, which is sad. But today I stumbled across the founder’s statement about what happened. It’s a very well written piece that has lots of insight for anyone in the music industry or anyone in the world of digital startups, or licensing, or working with other peoples’ intellectual property. Hell, it’s useful for anyone. Read it here.

Also, I came across OwnGig. Looks like an interesting take on the whole crowdsourcing thing, which is an increasingly popular trend. Anyone wanna pitch in with me to get Stevie Wonder to perform live in my kitchen?

Finally, I’ve just learned about the Project Triangle. Never heard of it before. Useful little tool for prioritising tasks and knowing where your product might sit in the market.

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Knowing what’s good for you…

I’ve been incredibly busy and stressed of late. I tend to deal with it pretty well as a rule, but the lack of sleep, added to the travel and poor diet, has resulted in me being pretty wiped at all times for the last week or so.

So at the beginning of this week I committed to being in bed by 10pm for three consecutive nights, gorged on vegetables, and went out for a couple of long runs. Result? Bags of energy and feeling like a new man.

It’s so important when you’re working on several projects to manage your time effectively, but most of us (me included) never seem to schedule in time for “self-maintenance”. Schedule an hour of your day to looking after yourself (swimming, running, tai-chi, meditation, press-ups or all of the above) and your productivity and energy levels will sky-rocket.

News in brief –

– I wrote and produced a documentary about Prince, a childhood hero of mine, a few weeks ago for an ace internet radio station. You can download it here. Nudge me if the link has expired and I’ll upload it again.

– I’ve been working with Milen from MTR Design and Marc from The Undercard to get a new Pollen website up and running. It’ll be going live within about 24 hours, I hope. So keep checking back to www.pollenhq.com to see the utterly brilliant site they’ve put together. It’s been a genuine pleasure working with both of them and I can’t recommend them highly enough.

– I’ve decided to make my blog a bit more attractive by using some of my photos in it. They won’t necessarily relate to the blog (this week features a shot I took in Lyon when I was there doing a gig a few years ago), but they should make it a bit more colourful around here….

Categories
2008 creative entrepreneur Entrepreneurship home working interesting internet marketing music Music Industry planning startup wales web 2.0 working from home

Knowing what’s good for you…

I’ve been incredibly busy and stressed of late. I tend to deal with it pretty well as a rule, but the lack of sleep, added to the travel and poor diet, has resulted in me being pretty wiped at all times for the last week or so.

So at the beginning of this week I committed to being in bed by 10pm for three consecutive nights, gorged on vegetables, and went out for a couple of long runs. Result? Bags of energy and feeling like a new man.

It’s so important when you’re working on several projects to manage your time effectively, but most of us (me included) never seem to schedule in time for “self-maintenance”. Schedule an hour of your day to looking after yourself (swimming, running, tai-chi, meditation, press-ups or all of the above) and your productivity and energy levels will sky-rocket.

News in brief –

– I wrote and produced a documentary about Prince, a childhood hero of mine, a few weeks ago for an ace internet radio station. You can download it here. Nudge me if the link has expired and I’ll upload it again.

– I’ve been working with Milen from MTR Design and Marc from The Undercard to get a new Pollen website up and running. It’ll be going live within about 24 hours, I hope. So keep checking back to www.pollenhq.com to see the utterly brilliant site they’ve put together. It’s been a genuine pleasure working with both of them and I can’t recommend them highly enough.

– I’ve decided to make my blog a bit more attractive by using some of my photos in it. They won’t necessarily relate to the blog (this week features a shot I took in Lyon when I was there doing a gig a few years ago), but they should make it a bit more colourful around here….

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Innovation

So much to write about – so little time!

A couple of cracking articles from the BBC about the future of the web: One points to the second web boom (as I highlighted with examples in a post about the huge amounts of money being spent on new companies). And the other asks lots of top thinkers and innovators what they think will happen to the web in the coming years.

And speaking of innovation, I went to a great talk last night by Charles Leadbeater, a world authority on innovation and creativity. His talk was mainly about how immigration is a positive thing for innovation in this country (did you know that Triumph cars, Moss Bros, ICI and ice cream trucks were all founded in the UK by immigrants?). His argument is that complex problems are better solved by a diverse group, and immigrants into a society provide massive diversity. Catering for the differences inevitably comes with higher costs, but the lesson for entrepreneurs and businesses is clear – don’t just surround yourself with people exactly like yourself.

Thanks to Richie Turner at NESTA for hosting it and providing the nice veggie canapes!

p.s. If you consider yourself an entrepreneur in the web or technology fields then you should probably read this….

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Developer trouble….

I was chatting to a friend from America recently about the problems I’ve had over the last couple of years with web developers. I’ve worked with a couple who’ve both let me down really badly and put me back to square one with my web-based startup. Admittedly much of this was my own fault for not being tough enough with them when it seemed like they weren’t committed to the project. And also my lack of capital meant that I had to engage the developers with equity stakes instead of cold, hard cash. The problem with this, as I wrote about in this post, is that developers don’t often see the potential future value of things. So giving them a share of the company didn’t excite them into action in the way I thought it would, and I slowly drifted down their priority list until I wasn’t hearing from them for weeks at a time.

I understand that a freelancer’s gotta eat, and so therefore will have to take other jobs that offer to pay upfront. But if you have been given a substantial stake in a potentially very lucrative business that you would find the time to make it work. Where are all the programmers out there that have developed the sites for the multi-million dollar businesses out there? I don’t believe that all of those were funded by entrepreneurs backed by Silicon Valley funders. Surely some of them must have been started by geeks in their bedrooms with groovy ideas – like these guys who had to quit the UK and head to the States?

So what’s the solution for cash-strapped entrepreneurs like myself?

Sadly i can’t say I can think of many ways other than using shares / equity as “payment”. A good chat to my developer friend Paolo (who’s one of the rare breed of “geeks” who’s also a great creative entrepreneur – check out his spendamillion.com project) has clarified a few possible steps to consider in the future:

  • Networking events to bring geeks and entrepreneurs together – but will the geeks still be as potentially unreliable? Maybe I should organise one…
  • Using sites such as elance and getafreelancer to find cheap labour – quality and reliability an issue?
  • Break the design, wireframing, development etc into smaller chunks so that it’s less daunting for the entrepreneur, plus developers are less likely to go AWOL at any given stage. Especially if you give each stage to a different developer.

Sadly I think the ideal solution is to find a good, well-respected freelancer or small company, pay them for however long you need them for and make it clear that for that fortnight, or whatever, they completely belong to you and you expect twice daily updates. Now, finding a freelancer with the necessary skills and time….. That’s another matter!

I’d be really interested to hear from anynoe who has any thoughts on how best to get quality web work done with as little capital outlay as possible. Any ideas?

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Statistics aren’t always boring…

Microsoft have recently been putting videos online to bring attention to the internet marketing research done by their Microsoft Digital Advertising Solutions (MDAS) team. There’s three installments of these videos. One shows a man trying to advertise a toaster in a fine art gallery and another shows someone encouraging partying at a funeral. The message? That “context matters”. In other words – advertise to the right people, in the right place, at the right time.

Well… no shit Sherlock!

Surely anyone with a most basic grasp of advertising or marketing should know this. However, one of the videos shows a group of kids dancing at a studio when the “advertisers” very literally waltz in.

Video: Microsoft – context matters

What’s clever about this is that the kids just move to another part of the room and carry on. I’ve no idea if Microsoft intended to convey this message, but the fact is that if users get overwhelmed with bad advertising on their chosen site they will just go somewhere else. It’s something that social networks (whose value is driven purely by the number of users they have) need to be very careful about in the drive to monetise their services.

Regardless of the videos, it’s definitely worth looking at the research booklet (PDF doc). They took 24 hour diaries with several thousand people across 6 countries to find out their online habits. And some of the findings are fascinating…

There’s been a 30 percent increase in social networking users in less than a year (something Facebook surely is largely responsible for). It shows how broadband users are online 20-40 times a day for a few minutes at a time, instead of the concentrated burst that they were as dialup customers. And this neatly echoes something I said just a few days ago when I was talking about why the dotcom bubble is back and stronger than before. As the document says: “broadband changes everything… What really happened is that broadband allowed the internet to be fully integrated into daily life”.

There’s some great info on what time of day people are more likely to read blogs, pay bills or check their emails etc. And I was reassured to find out the majority of people multi-task whilst using the net. I’m forever doing other stuff (whether it’s listening to an online radio show or watching TV) whilst emailing, blogging or browsing.

I’m only halfway through the document so far (I haven’t even got to the case study of the Norwegian male’s typical day online!) but it’s already proved itself as an absolutely invaluable tool for anyone involved in media planning, advertising etc etc.