What’s Your Message?

If you can’t clearly define your message, your goal or your product how can you expect buy-in from a client, customer, investor or anybody else for that matter?

Update: June 30th, 2017 – Google Spaces has shut down since I wrote this post, I guess highlighting the problem with not having a defined purpose or message.

The launch of Google Spaces struck me today as a prime example of a product with a lot of potential but without the clear usage scenario guidance required to have heavy adoption. Google has been down this road before with another amazing communications platform, Google Wave, which ended its life early because consumers couldn’t figure out what it was for.

I’ve spent way more time mulling over usage possibilities for Google Spaces than I should, and even with input from Sara we struggled to come up with a scenario for which there wasn’t already a better existing solution.

It may be that I’m missing the boat completely with Google Spaces, but if I’m missing it then so are thousands upon thousands of other people.

Don’t let this happen to your brand or business. Don’t have your great products or ideas fail because you can’t articulate their usage or how they fit into / improve your customers lives easily. Define your goals, define what you do, and define your message in a clear and simple way that is easy for your customers to understand.

I’m Paul O’Flaherty. I help small businesses and medical practices reach their potential. What’s your message?

Farewell To Some Old Friends

If you’ve arrived at this blog post expecting to find a post on UrlyBits, Geek Is Awesome or Unfollowing Jesus, then I’m sorry to say that those sites have been discontinued.

Well actually I’m not sorry because all good things must come to an end. Building and maintaining these sites have been an amazing provider of entertainment, education and personal growth for me, but now it’s time to take things to the next level.

With my consulting business growing, wanting to spend time with my family, the birth of Malcolm and another baby on the way, now is the time to reassess priorities and jump on some new opportunities.

Every end is a new beginning and this one is no different. Scrw Media is being re-branded and we will soon roll out a new site that has an emphasis on the new direction we are taking (more on that when the site rolls out), and we also have plans to roll out one or two new sites as well.

Thank you to everybody who has been a fan of the sites over the past 6 years or more. Between our podcasts, blogs, future sites and new services, we hope to continue entertaining, informing and helping you for a very long time to come.

“Generic Brand” Advertisement for Stock Footage Site Dissolve is Sad Testimony to the State of Branding

It’s a sad state of affairs when an advert for a stock footage site, made entirely from stock footage, is better than 90% of the corporate branding videos I’ve ever seen and could probably be applied to 99% of corporations out there.

I don’t know if the folks at Dissolve set out to make an “anti-ad”, or were simply having fun showcasing what they could do with the stock footage available on their site, but the have managed to highlight some of the problems with corporate branding – it’s generic. Very, very generic.

You can lay the blame at the foot of execs who want to get a message across – the same message as every other company. Or you can blame the agencies who don’t push companies to break the generic mold, or are simply happy encouraging their clients and churning out “brand” after cookie cutter “brand” because it’s easier, cheaper, safer etc…

Whoever you care to blame, it’s clear that brands aren’t being developed in most cases (unless “we’re the same as everyone else” is a brand) and this “anti-ad”/demo is a shining example of why it’s not happening.

Lets be honest, you really shouldn’t be using stock footage in your brand video. Stock footage is not you, your company or who you want to be. Nobody can show that better than, well, you…

Fresh Impressions – A 5-Year-Old’s View Of Corporate Logos/Brands

I’m twenty-seven different kinds of nervous today as we await the decision on whether or not we’ll get the house we want to live in for the next few years, so thinking about this piece of brain candy has served as a pleasant albeit brief distraction.

I’m often surprised by how little we think about those who are not in our target audience. As people and companies build brands we tend to focus on appealing to our target demographics and pay very little, if any, attention to those outside it.

That’s why this video by designer Adam Ladd is so very insightful, as his 5-year-old daughter reminds us that it’s not just our target audience that interacts with our brands.

These children who think that the Starbucks logo is the sign for coffee, or that the Xbox logo is the button on the remote that controls the TV at a friend’s house, are our future customers, partners and employees, and how we appeal to them now may be every bit as important and influential as the image we present to them in 15 years time when they’re all grown up.

Favicons Are So Easy To Create. Where’s Yours? (How To)

favicons in tabsFavicons are those cool little graphics that site in the address bar and tab of your browser.

I’m amazed by how many sites either don’t have one, or are using which ever one shipped with their CMS.

Feed ReaderFavicons are a wonderful tool for branding as they provide a visual identifier to help your site stand out from all the other anonymous tabs a reader may have open. They also help your content stand out in feed readers such as Google Reader.

As I’m sure you can see from the image on the right, the blogs with favicons stand out and are far more identifiable than those which don’t have one. Those without favicons get stuck being displayed using the standard blue RSS icon in Google Reader.

Hopefully you can see mine above and have one already in place on your site.

If you don’t have one, here’s how to get one done in 3 easy steps.

  1. Fire up your favorite image editor and create a square image (200×200) and design the icon you’d like. Keep in mind that this will be reduced to 16×16 pixels in size, so don’t make it too intricate.
  2. Upload the 200×200 image to the Dynamic Drive FavIcon Generator. FavIcon Generator will reduce your image the necessary 16×16 size and output it as a favicon.ico file.
  3. Upload “favicon.ico” to the root of your site and then add the following code to the header of your site. It should be inserted before the “</head>” tag.

<link rel=”shortcut icon” type=”image/x-icon” href=”/favicon.ico”>

Clear your browsers cache and the cache on your site if you use one, hit refresh and enjoy your new piece of persistent visual branding.

FYI, there are a number of other favicon generator scripts online, but the Dynamic Drive one does the best job of reducing your image while keeping the best quality.

Enjoy!

Friendship Is More Than 140 Characters

Paul OFlaherty 9 days after I posted about reducing the number of shared links I was posting to Twitter, I received this from a friend via a series of direct messages:

Hey Paul, I just wanted to let you know why I am unfollowing before I do so. I followed you to follow *You* not your blog, and it seems that is all you do on Twitter (for the most part), now. I’d recommend going back to this being your personal Twitter and having a separate account for your blog posts, especially since you post so often. Let me know when you’ve reduced the linkspam in your Twitter stream as Twitter doesn’t give me the ability to filter your many links out like Facebook does.

While keeping my friends name private, I wanted to respond to this publicly as it is very much an important matter to me and I believe, something which faces everyone who runs their own site and builds their brand around themselves rather than a domain or company name.

First let me point out that I am my blog and for all intents and purposes, my blog is me.

PaulOFlaherty.com contains content covering my blogging on several different domains going back to the beginning of 2004. Prior to that I blogged on a number of proprietary platforms from which I could not export my content.

I have always promoted by blogs, vidcasts and podcasts through my social media accounts. I actively encourage readers of this blog to follow my blog and personal updates by subscribing to my Twitter account.

You say that you signed up to follow me, well I am what I write. I am what I produce. My posts and netcasts are as much a part of me, hell more a part of me, than a lot of the inane chatter and babble I engage in on Twitter.

In other words, when people followed me on Twitter they were following my blog. It has never been any different.

I converse with my friends and audience on Twitter but my blog is where you will find the real me and I use tools such as Facebook, Twitter and other social networks to draw people in to where I can actually express my opinions. To draw people into my blog where I can vocalize (yeah I know it’s written) my opinions without the restrictions of 140 characters that reduce even the most simple of ideas to little more than monosyllabic grunts.

I guess some people are more involved with the day to day minutiae of my life but I am not my Twitter messages. No more than I am my SMS messages and following my Twitter account will never give you an accurate picture of me.

If you’re interested in “following me” then links to my blog posts, the things which truly demonstrate my opinion and how I think, should not be a problem going through my twitter stream.

With regards to the statement of linkspam. How do my own links, to my own content on my account qualify as spam? I post 7 (sometimes 8 ) links a day on my account, to my own content. 6 links to Daily Shite content which go out approximately 1 every 2 and a half to 3 hours (although sometimes they get clumped together depending on how Twitterfeed is feeling) and 1 (2 if it’s a day like today) to my personal blog.

Quite frankly I find having my content, in my stream called “linkspam” offensive. I am not selling anything, pitching anything, trying to get you on a pyramid scheme or any such crap. Yet you call my content linkspam?

Take a look at other peoples twitter streams. Take a look at your own stream. The average stream consists of hundreds of posts which are little more than nonsensical babble describing what they’re having for breakfast, where they are, who they’re meeting and weighing in on exactly what type of douchebag Kanye West is.  Hundreds of posts, every single day, but no content. No substance.

I talk with people on Twitter most days. Some days I don’t. Some days I’m just not in the mood. But not being in the mood doesn’t stop me producing content. It doesn’t preclude me from being me and it doesn’t preclude me from wanting to share what I have created, my opinions and what I feel passionate about, with the rest of the world.

If you don’t want to see my content, then quite frankly, tough. Unsubscribe or unfollow. For everyone person that unfollows because I post my own content to my stream, there will be others who are looking for intelligent discussion and are actually interested in what I have to say rather than just where I am going or what I had for dinner tonight.

It’s times like this that make me realize the fallacy of the term “friend” in social media circles. It is something so shallow as to be discarded because your “friend” has thoughts that require more than 140 characters to express?

Brand yourself – Don’t give away your biggest asset online!

personal-brand-stand-out1 I’ve been online for a long time. Some of you have teenage kids that weren’t even a sperm in their fathers testes when I started surfing the tubes and one thing, that admittedly took me a long time to learn, but which will always stay with me, is that YOU are your brand and your biggest asset on line is your followers.

When you sign up to be part of, oh, lets say a blogging group called “BiggieBloggers” what is the value to you in adopting that name as part of your twitter brand? Why on earth would you call yourself “Paul_BiggieBloggers” or “NBrain_BiggieBloggers”?

The answer is little to none. You’re only making yourself invisible in the folds of someone else’s robes.

When you do something like that you are handing over all of the value you create as you build your network around their brand.

Stick with your own identity, build your brand around you. Allow yourself to become the asset that is desired by whomever is courting you to become part of your group.

Your followers are a valuable asset, and if you brand yourself as part of any one particular organization or group you won’t be able to easily take your followers with you when you move on.

It may seem like it’s incredibly easy to change your username in twitter to something more suited to you when you’re finished with a certain organization, and to be honest it is, but when you do that, you loose so much recognition. You loose so many people who associate you with your username, your brand.

I think it’s best, from the very start to try to stick to one username, at most 2, (in my case “pauloflaherty” and “oflaherty”)  and be pervasive with them across the web in order to build your own brand, value and maintain your own identity.

Companies, networks, organizations and fads will come and go, but your name will always be your brand.

Defining yourself – It’s not so easy!

We are all proponents of the art of self branding. We all practice it every single day, most of us without even realizing it.

We all makes choices everyday where the resulting outcome is a much an extension of our personality than any logical thought process.

We all have a basic need to define ourselves, our place in the world and our role within our various social circles.

We crave acceptance but also individuality and all our choices are ultimately guided by this.

Do you drink wine or beer? Buy Nike or Adidas trainers? Shop in bargain stores or stick to the big name stores or do you like to thrall the thrift shops in search of that something unique?

If you take the economic factor out of it, the choices that we make ultimately become a matter of personality and the image we wish to portray of ourselves.

Everything we do and say, purchase or visit, listen too, or consume is an extension of our inner urge to be what we want others to see us as.

Some of us are comfortable with ourselves, so these choices are easy and are an actual extension of ourselves.

For others, unfortunately, the quest to discover "themselves" is ongoing and those choices are ultimately an attempt to build the image we want others to see.

At the end of the day, it’s all a public portrayal of what we want our "inner me" to be perceived as.

In the end we are creating a brand, just like Apple, Microsoft, Ferrari, Skoda, Madonna or Coca Cola with the exception being that the product is you (or me).

This extends onto the internet as well.

Look at your blog.

What theme are you using, have you customized (or attempted to customize it), what avatars do you have, what color scheme are you using?

You get the point I’m trying to make here.

So, considering I was sitting here contemplating this very topic this morning (while asking folk on twitter what color shirt I should wear)I was surprised to see a post by Sara (a fellow Fuelmyblog writer who will be joining us at SOBCon08 in Chicago), which was provoked by a question she heard on the radio.

If you had to get a tattoo today that was one word or picture that would sum up your life or personality, what would it be?

Awesome question, right? It’s something that certainly requires a lot of thought.

To be honest with you guys, I’ve been thinking about this all morning and haven’t got a suitable single word to sum myself up.

I have come up with a word for how I see my future life – "rapture". I’ll leave you guys to figure out how that fits in on your own!

Yet defining myself now, I couldn’t come up with a word (I’ve been spending so long speaking Danish I think my English vocabulary is waning) so instead had to define myself by an image.

Ultimately I don’t think this image (which is the motif from my favorite tie) would ever make a good tattoo, but what can you do?

Black white sheep red tie 

So, dear O’Flaherty readers, what is it that that best defines you as a person?