How often do you unplug?

Chromebook in my kitchen

This morning I was sitting at the kitchen counter and enjoying a cup of coffee. For the first time in almost two weeks I was catching up on social media notifications and some of the people that I enjoy following on the web.

During the time that I was in Hamilton, Massachusetts, Brittani and I didn’t have much access to the Internet. Cellphone service was fine, but we were so busy and engaged with my family and each other that we didn’t have the time (or urge) to whip out our smartphones and keep up with the other going-ons of the world.

In a sense, it was kind of liberating. We live in a world right now where we are addicted to the satisfaction of “Likes” retweets and comments. Our brains are hooked on the positive emotion of seeing interaction on the content that we share, as trivial as some of it might be. For one long weekend, Brittani and I put all of that to the wayside and just enjoyed our time with the family.

After coming back home I was so tied up with work that I didn’t really do much social media. In fact, it’s been a couple of weeks since I have sat down at a computer outside of work to do anything other than pay bills.

What I have found in my abstinence of social media is that it really doesn’t help me enjoy life. Sure, it’s an easy way to see who is up to what, who is having a baby and who won the big game, but some of that news is delivered so impersonally.

As technology improves and we start to better appreciate focused and curated information I think we will see mainstream social media playing a much different part in our lives. Posting “status updates” and photos of culinary adventures will still have its place in the world, but I think in a much different context.

Yesterday while I was enjoying a Labor Day celebration with friends and family I was speaking to a local web developer that limits his “online” activity to his workplace. He’s deleted his Facebook account after spending years as a social media marketing manager. He said it was one of the most liberating feelings in his life. To top it off, he doesn’t even carry a smartphone.

Listening to him tell me that he was a web developer that was totally unplugged from the grid outside of his 9-5 was totally foreign to me. I didn’t even think it made sense, but then it struck me. Our vocations have been so centered around computers that “personal computing” is a lost idea. We spend so much time in our jobs focusing on a 20″ screen that we are losing the urge to do anything (even creative) once we leave the office.

The last two weeks have been great for me. I feel refreshed, accomplished, relaxed and ready for my next adventure. Maybe I should unplug more often?

What is the longest you have ever been unplugged? Have you stopped using social media recently? Do you think the way we use social media is starting to change?

What's in a blog?

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.” – Romeo and Juliet

Late last night I got into a discussion with +Mike Elgan about his “Google+ Diet” and the #blogsofaugust  challenge. Mike has been evangelizing the adoption of Google+ as a primary means of social media engagement for some time now. Because of his focused efforts (and inclusion in the SUL) Mike has grown a very large and interactive audience. As part of the challenge, Mike asked us to only post original content to Google+ and not our blogs or other social media channels. To ensure distribution across those channels, Mike allows everyone to syndicate content through tools like ManageFilter (http://goo.gl/whvLY).

This discussion got me thinking as to what really constitutes a blog. Initially a “weblog” was a self-hosted or otherwise hosted platform that allowed Internet users to share their deepest thoughts, experiences and whatever they felt compelled to write about. Blogs were popping up so fast that content management systems like WordPress, Blogger and others began to pop up.

As blogging culture grew, social media started to take front stage on the web. People were no longer intimidated by having to write long-form posts on their blog when they could now “micro blog” using services like Twitter and Tumblr. Pretty soon the whole notion of text was laughable and sites like Pinterest became popular.

I believe Google tried its best to marry those different communication vehicles (short text posts, images, video) into a network that a large number of us have grown to love and used to spread ideas and meet others with similar interests. The reason I believe Google+ has been so successful is that it allows you the content creator or curator to decide what and how you want to share. There aren’t huge limitations, there isn’t a “certain way” to do things, you can just share whatever goodness you have of your own or that you dig up elsewhere on the web and very easily. I think that’s the most important thing.

Maintaining a self-hosted blog with a content management system like WordPress is a lot more work than you ever think it will be. Sure the installation only takes three minutes, but the selection of themes, installation of plugins and tinkering with CSS will take the life out of you. With so much energy invested in trying to make things “look good” you lose a lot of the energy that you need to focus on the whole reason you’re creating a blog: to share something.

Now, of course you could completely abandon your blog, board it up and point your URL to your Google+ page like +Mike Elgan has, but then you stand a great chance of alienating people that don’t like the Google+ platform or are using an older hardware that can’t handle rich responsively designed sites like Google+. Furthermore, by limiting your sharing to Google+ you’re limiting yourself from the ability to categorize, sort, highlight, feature and better customize your content.

If you’ve ever seen a search result for one of your Google+ posts appear, you may have been disappointed with the long-string URL. Personally, I think when I search for my posts on Google and see the mess of alphanumeric numbers in the URL for Google+ posts, I get turned off. When I create a post on my blog I have a nice clean and easy-to-understand URL. While that might not be important for the search algorithm anymore, I think it is something people consider before clicking a link. The only way Google can fix that is to seriously change the way it shows URL’s for G+ posts or to change the way it generates them to begin with. Either way, something we probably can’t change.

While Mike encourages everyone to blog on Google+ and not elsewhere, he leaves out the fact that he is a paid writer and actually writes all over the web. Some of his Google+ posts (quite a few) are summaries of his posts across the web. Mike gets paid to write by companies that get paid by advertisers and that’s something you cannot yet do on Google+: monetize text content with ads.

So, if you’re afraid to leave your blog because of the money you’re making from AdSense or other revenue streams, I don’t blame you. You can, of course, always copy your content from Google+ to your blog, but if it gets consumed primarily here, you can’t count on making too much money.

Regardless of money though, if a “blog” is truly just a log of your thoughts and ideas, it doesn’t matter whether you post it on a privately hosted website or an update on a social media platform. The important part is that you are sharing your passion and interacting with those that are interested.

With that said, I have made a huge overhaul of my blog, PeterGMcDermott.com and I would love for you to check out its simplicity. Because not everything I post on Google+ is my best or most well thought out ideas, I don’t think they all deserve their place on a website dedicated to those ideas. Therefore, I only post the things that I feel are very important to my audience and that distinction, for me, is what makes the difference between a blog and a social media stream.

What do you think? Would you want everything you post on social media to end up on your blog? Is abandoning your website for a social media platform a good idea? Is RSS dead?

I will be copying this post over the my blog–as I will with the rest of this months posts–but afterwards I think I’ll get back to pushing you over there to read and interact. Would you be willing to visit?

http://www.petergmcdermott.com/

Google+ Opportunity: Create a Community for Your Local Community

Recently Google announced the launch of a new feature for Google+, Communities. Since the announcement there have already been 20,478 communities created (according to circlecount.com). Community topics range from things as broad as Space (35,252 members) to things as small as Miniature Gaming (189 members).

The success of these communities will rely greatly on the amount of time and effort that has been put into them. Creating a broad topic and failing to moderate will quickly turn your community into the Wild West, filled with off-topic conversation and tons of spammers. However, if you mix the right ingredients, you can grow a vibrant community full of rich conversation, new discoveries and awesome connections.

Community Members Gather for Fundraiser
Nashville Community Members Gather for St. Jude Children’s Hospital Fundraiser Event

If you want to create a community, but haven’t decided what to make it about, let me give you a suggestion: think local.

One of the things that Google+ offered us was the ability to connect with everyone around the world and discover people with like-minded interests. Now all of this discovering has been a lot of fun, but it doesn’t mean much when you’re not at the computer or using the app on your phone. Luckily, I have begun to make a lot of local real-life connections through Google+ that I meet and spend time with in the real world (thank you #Ingress).

There are millions of cool and interesting things happening around the world, some of which you might be able to participate in, but for the most part, probably not. It’s important to get out from behind the keyboard and your touchscreen and interact with the real world.

I created a community called Nashville+ because I was beginning to notice other members of the the Nashville “community” (funny how that word has another meaning, eh?) starting to embrace Google+. There was a huge opportunity to connect those users and give them the conduit to share interesting stories, photography, local news and other things like restaurant reviews.

The Google+ community I created is pretty small and somewhat stagnant at the moment and I’m fine with that. Like any good community, I want to make sure I have the correct foundation before I start bringing in the people to keep it moving. Once I get the categories sorted out that I like and plant some seeds for conversation, I’ll start contacting local businesses and individuals and offer them the opportunity to connect with other community members.

One thing to be careful of, though, is to make sure that the community doesn’t turn into a giant billboard. The last thing I need is every restaurant and bar posting their specials every day. What I would like to see is people sharing their experiences with different businesses and events. I would like to see people showing the human side of the community. Because, that’s really what community is all about.

Nashville+ is in its infancy, but I already have a few great things planned.

Do you have an idea for a local digital community? What are your plans for success?

How Google+ Is Different From Facebook, Twitter & LinkedIn

Once You Get It. You Get It.

+Google+ is quickly gaining adoption and finding itself integrated in all corners of the web from +Sarah Hill‘s work on +KOMU 8 News‘ interactive live format featuring Hangouts, to +HuffPost Live‘s adoption of hangouts and audience participation.

Unlike the three other major social networks, Google+ works a little differently. Of course you can use Google+ to connect with your friends, colleagues and family, but there is so much more you can gain from it. Continue reading How Google+ Is Different From Facebook, Twitter & LinkedIn

Does Your Digital Influence Really Matter?

The importance and relevance of sites that track your Internet-social influence, like Klout, have been heavily debated. Clearly, the more your content is re-tweeted, reshared or re-blogged, the more exposure Internet users will have. But, does having a high digital clout “score” help you in the real world?

Thousands of brands rely on Internet-based social networking as part of their overall marketing strategy. They try to create original, engaging and compelling content that will trigger an emotional response to either make you share their content with others or to get you thinking more about their products and services. Continue reading Does Your Digital Influence Really Matter?

We Get Social, Ya’ll: Why Nashville is the Next City in Tech

Today is a special day for Music City, +Google is gracing our fair city with their presence today as part of a partnership with +FLO {thinkery}. Google is hosting their first Google for Entrepreneurs event called +G4eNashville. A lot of the who’s who in Google will be there today talking to entrepreneurs about leveraging Google’s products such as AdWords, Places and +Google+ for their business.

Nashville is obviously the city that music calls home and that could mean a lot for new technology firms as technology continues to influence music. Obviously Nashville is a booming town for country musicians, but there is a wide variety of music that is produced recorded and played live here encompassing dozens of genres. Continue reading We Get Social, Ya’ll: Why Nashville is the Next City in Tech

10 Reasons Why You Need to Attend PodCamp

So what exactly is PodCamp anyway?

If you’re a geek like me, you’re always trying to find out what’s hot and seeking opportunities to network with people that share the same interests as you. If your job involves social media, podcasting, blogging or any other sort of “new media,” PodCamp is something you should definitely check out.

My first PodCamp was last year and it totally changed the way I thought about podcasting, blogging and social media. I learned so much from so many experts and realized that I had a passion that I needed to pursue.

Arriving at PodCamp was a little unnerving at first. I didn’t know a single person who was attending the conference. I did my homework and followed a few of the people that were speaking and tried to get a better idea of what I was getting into. My attempt at preparing myself was pointless though, because the experience I had was absolutely amazing.

There are so many interesting people to hear speak, there are so many great people to meet and there is an extremely deep well of knowledge that you are encouraged to drink from. Bring a bucket, because there is so much to learn.

PodCamps happen all over the world. There are notable ones in Toronto, Montreal, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Boston and a list of other cities across the globe. Fortunate enough for us, there is one right in our own back yard.

So what are 10 reason why you should attend PodCamp?

  1. Learning more about what’s trending. There is no better place than PodCamp to meet the people in your area that are pioneering the industries of new media. They take a day of their time to offer their thoughts, insights and everything they have learned at no cost to you.
  2. Meeting new people. They call them social networks for a reason. The whole point of a conference is to network with the people you already know and people you’ve never heard of.
  3. There is always something that interests you. Unlike most conferences, PodCamps don’t necessarily have a central theme. They are not put on by a single business and they are not held within the bounds of a single topic. Sessions at PodCamp can range from how to use Pinterest to adding video to your website. No matter how you–or your business–use the web, there is surely something there for you.
  4. You can start your own discussion. That’s right. Whether or not you’re speaking at PodCamp, you can always start your own conversation. Tables are provided with cards to indicate your topic as you invite other attendees to sit down and talk about whatever interests you.
  5. Social lubricant is abundant. Did I mention they have beer at PodCamp? That’s right, you can throw back a cold one during the sessions to better enjoy the experience. Shy about meeting people? Nothing a lager can’t solve. Don’t drink? Don’t worry, other refreshments are available, and there is no one there to judge.
  6. You can tweet the whole time. Normally when you attend a conference, people ask you to silence your phones and devote all of your attention to the topic at hand. PodCamp? No way! In fact, most speakers designate a Twitter hashtag to their session just to keep track of what everyone is saying.
  7. You will learn something you didn’t know. No matter how much of an expert you think you are or how much you think you know about any given topic, it is inevitable that you will take something away from your day at PodCamp.
  8. You can build your business from attending. I know I talked about the opportunity to meet new people, but above that, you can meet people that can help you grow your business. Not everyone can be an expert at everything and people in new media are always looking for other experts to collaborate and share leads with.
  9. There’s tons of swag. Free stuff? Giveaways? Yes. It’s here, too. Plenty of companies help recover the cost of executing PodCamp each year and in return, they like to remind attendees of their business by giving away promotional items bearing their insignia. Yes, you two, might score a nifty thumb drive, coffee travel mug or t-shirt.
  10. Did I mention its free? I challenge you to find another new media conference as enriching, entertaining and fun as PodCamp that doesn’t charge you a dime to walk through the door.

There you go, ten reasons why you should attend PodCamp this year. Still not convinced? Check out the video below that I made based on my interactions with people at last year’s PodCamp. Oh, and one more thing, be sure to check out my session, “Google +: Ghost Town or Game Changer?” at PodCamp this year. If you’re interested in learning more about Google’s social platform, it’s a session you won’t want to miss.

Your Social Media Strategy

I’m not a Social Media Expert. 

But, I have learned a few things that could help you, your business and your brand in creating a successful online engagement experience for your customers.

One of the things I keep on my business card is “Experiencial Design” because I think something that customers of this age look for is not only a good product or service, but a great customer experience.

Take a look at what you’re doing with your current strategy and ask yourself if you are really engaging your customers or just pushing things out there without paying attention to what they’re saying. To find out more, watch my latest episode.

How to Make It Work is also available on Tivo, Roku and Blip.tv

13 YouTubers You Should Circle & Subscribe

And some really good reasons why.

Sharing quality content is what drives the Internet. +YouTube is the one-stop-shop for all things relating to, well, everything. So, with 48 hours of content uploaded every minute, it can be difficult to filter through all of the not-so-good stuff. In an effort to help you, here are 13 YouTubers that I reallylike and why. Some of them you might know, but hopefully others will be completely new to you.

Continue reading 13 YouTubers You Should Circle & Subscribe

How to Create Engaging Content

Recently I spoke with +Derek Ross about some of his posts about #Android and why they weren’t getting the type of interaction he was looking for. +Derek is an original content creator and a great resource for all things related to #Android.

After taking a look at some of his posts at the time, I noticed that a lot of things he was posting were unembellished hyperlinks–simply a link to a website and the default snippet without any sort of summary or call to action.

Continue reading How to Create Engaging Content