I’m Now LinkedIn

I did it. After resisting (a lot), I finally joined one of the highly touted social networking sites. No, not MySpace or Facebook. I don’t see a value in those for me. I joined LinkedIn.

My decision to do so stemmed mostly from my desire to track down a couple of former colleagues. All of us have moved on from our shared employer. A quick search returned both of their names in the LinkedIn database, so I broke down and signed up for my own account.

The rest of the weekend proved interesting as I tracked down other former colleagues and business partners, inviting them to join my network. My favorite part was checking in to find out who had responded and what they were up to. A few people that I didn’t expect to hear from were actually among the first to respond. Some respondents passed along new phone numbers.

When changing jobs, there is a tendency to lose touch with people you used to speak with on a daily basis. Even something as simple as an email or short phone call from time to time can keep that relationship alive. LinkedIn gives me an easy way to keep in touch.

Maybe there’s something to this whole social networking thing after all.

Putting Twitter to Good Use

Though social networking is a hot topic these days, I haven’t found a great need for it in my life. In fact, I just joined a social networking site for the first time this weekend (more on that tomorrow), only after feeling confident that it would help me reconnect with former colleagues. I’m a functional person. Until I see a purpose, I don’t get caught up in the hype.

Twitter, in particular, is a social networking fad I haven’t been able to grasp. I’ve seen the site. I’ve read articles about it. I admit I haven’t tried Twittering, but I just don’t see how it would enhance my life. I don’t feel compelled to share what I’m doing right now (writing a blog post) or read that someone else is eating a bagel on a subway.

That doesn’t stop me from being interested in how others are using Twitter (or any technology), however. I always like to know how Web developments are being used. Jennifer Laycock of Search Engine Guide explains how Twitter is being used to disseminate information about the California wildfires.  She says:

I hopped on over to check out the Twitter coverage of the fires and it’s pretty darn useful. There are notes on which neighborhoods are now being evacuated, notes about how many homes have been destroyed in certain areas, information on where the evacuation centers are and quite a bit more.

I love it when technology and human issues meet.

Random Useless Fun- Dove’s Online Activities

magcover.jpgAimed at girls aged 11-16, Dove’s Web site has a Girls Only Interactive Self-Esteem Zone. As part of their Campaign for Real Beauty, this zone includes articles and activities designed to boost self-esteem in young girls.

Girls can try their hand at designing a magazine cover (mine is shown here), learn the truth behind clothing sizes (there are no real standards and if a woman fits in an article of clothing with a smaller than usual size on the tag, she is more likely to buy it), test their ability to spot a touched-up photograph, or learn how to manage their moods.

It’s a fun little stop on the Web and makes you feel better about yourself (or at the very least, more critical of those so-called “perfect” images).   I’m not perfect.  I am me.  And that is something no one else can be.

Dove Ads Get Real

Dove has captured my attention lately with it’s Campaign For Real Beauty. Their ads have appeared on TV, in magazines, and online depicting natural beauty in all ages, shapes, and sizes.

I’ve never considered models as “real.” Perhaps that’s why I never bothered to aspire to such images. Or maybe I was lucky enough to have people around me who taught me exactly what this video from Dove encourages.

Why is it that pictures of “real” people in a magazine actually grab my attention more than pictures of models? I have one theory: maybe ordinary people show more emotion in photographs since they haven’t trained for the industry. That’s just one thought. Anyone else have ideas?

Optimus Prime Lends Voice to Marketing

Optimus Prime called my house this morning. He wanted to warn the boy that the Decepticons are headed to our state and my boyfriend may have joined forces with the dark side.

This clever marketing campaign is spreading the word that the Transformers movie is now released on DVD. A similar campaign ran when Snakes on a Plane was in the theaters. Samuel L. Jackson called me and, in true Sam style, urged me to drop everything and run to see “the best movie ever- it is that good.” (Ok, so I didn’t heed Sam’s direction, but the phone call was fun nonetheless.)

The appeal of these marketing campaigns is their reach. Once Optimus Prime called me, I immediately went to the Web site to have him call more of my friends and family. I guess this is what they call “viral marketing.” It spreads like a virus (though more fun than one) from one person to many.

To send a call from Optimus Prime, go to www.transformersmovie.com.

Did I mention that I’m easily amused?

NinjaWords, My New Favorite Reference Site

I like words. I’m a geek. Those two statements should indicate that I consult the dictionary from time to time. When I don’t have my printed version handy, I use the Web. My new favorite site is NinjaWords.

I just heard about it from a colleague who had read that it was the fastest online dictionary. I can vouch for that. The site is kept slim and trim, so it’s initial load took milliseconds. My first search was equally fast, so it didn’t slow me down at all. I asked for a definition and it gave me just that. No clutter, no ads, no extraneous content. In addition, my subsequent searches returned my search history beneath the latest definition. This feature may come in handy when comparing a few words to find the perfect selection.

Simplicity on the Web

When envisioning a new or improved Web site, initial brainstorms often produce extravagant ideas and words like “movement,” “flashy,” “excitement.” Before you know it, there are Flash animations, bright colors, and more words than a Tolstoy novel. Before it gets to that point, slow down. Breathe. Think. Simplify.

What is your call to action? What do you want your users to do as a result of visiting your Web site? Now, design that, and only that. Everything on your site should lead back to the call to action.

Where do you simplify? Everywhere you can.

  • Simplify your graphics. Use graphics that enhance your message, but don’t over do it. Graphics slow browser loading time. They can also be distracting, thereby detracting or annoying your site’s visitors.
  • Simplify your text. If you have a prolific writer that loves to elaborate, the Web is probably not a project for them. People on the Web are generally looking for quick information. They will not read every word. They will skim to see if they can find what they need. If they don’t see it, they’re gone. Keep it short and to the point.
  • Simplify your organization. If your site visitors can’t find what they are looking for in a few seconds, they will leave. Period. They will not scour your site. Organize your content into categories that make sense. Your main call to action should be readily apparent on the home page.
  • Simplify your home page. You don’t have to fit everything on your home page. Trying to do so dilutes your message. Limit it to a few important elements (all relating to your call to action, of course). Organize the rest into other relevant areas of your site.

Resist the urge to put everything on your site. Remember the old adage, keep it simple sweetheart.

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