Oakland — The New Tech Hub and Rockbot, Rocking the Music Industry

I love new technology and this week I was introduced to some cool new technology startups based in Oakland, Calif., at the #VatorSplashOakland Conference in Oakland’s historic Jack London Square.

VatorSplashOakland is a startup competition conference hosted by Vator, Inc. with an educational segment for entrepreneurs seeking capital. While all the competing companies had promise, my favorite was Rockbot.

Rocktbot is the 21st century Muzak. Anyone who has the nerve to take on the giant Muzak has my vote. What’s cool about the service is that customers can make musical selections on their smartphones instead of being forced to listen to “elevator music.” And of course there’s a social element. Once a customer makes a selection from a pre-approved playlist, their choice along with the store/company name are shared via Facebook and Twitter.

Pretty cool, Rockbot. I’ll be looking for your service at the stores I frequent!





Unbelievable Behavior by Owners of Amy’s Baking Company – Sought Revenge on Facebook

By now I’m sure you’ve heard about the meltdown by the owners of Amy’s Baking Company in Arizona. The restaurant was featured on Chef Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares last Friday and it was the first time Ramsay walked away from a restaurant refusing to help the owners.

Not only did the owners Samy and Amy refuse to accept criticism, but they cursed their customers, kicked them out of the restaurant, stole tips from the waiters and blamed everyone except themselves.

To make matters worse, the couple took to Facebook to get back at all the “haters.” What a PR nightmare. And as expected, everybody’s got an opinion on what to do or what not to do on social media.

This one is pretty simple though. Don’t email, tweet, blog, post, use Facebook or any other social media when angry. You’ll no doubt say things you’ll later regret.

The customer may not always be right in all situations, but the customer certainly deserves to express his opinion and deserves respect. Period.

Also, humility goes a long way in calming down a situation. Take a deep breath, relax and let it go.

Take a look at the episodes for yourself. Truly unbelievable!

Business or Personal, You Are Your Brand

We can easily get caught up into thinking that our business and personal lives are separate, but really they’re not.

Peter Shankman wrote a great piece about how our two lives have merged and are no longer two, but one. He states, “You simply have to realize that everything you post online, whether you believe it to be “professional” or “personal” is personal. It all is. Every last photo, comment, and check-in. It’s all about who you are.”

He makes a good point. No matter how hard we try to separate them, our two lives have converged.

See the full post here and let me know what you think. Do you agree? Do you try to manage two different lives or are you living as one brand?

Social Media Overload

Okay, I’ve finally succumbed to social media overload.

I’m generally an early adopter with new technology and a leader among friends and colleagues, but I can hardly keep up!

The latest social media craze is Pinterest. I must admit I was curious and wanted an invite (see my take on private beta releases). I obtained one very easily but haven’t signed up yet.

Why? I had to take a step back and ask myself, ‘do I really have the time to devote to yet another social media site’?

I try to keep active on Facebook and Twitter and pop over to Google+ at least once a week, but it’s becoming ever harder to keep up to date. I envy those like Guy Kawasaki and Robert Scoble who post all day long (no disrespect intended).

I remember when someone in Guy’s circle suggested that he “get back to work” instead of posting so much. Guy’s response, “this is my job.”

I get it — no matter what you do to pay the bills, you still have to be visible online. That too is part of your job and helps to build your brand and position you as an expert.

Still, it’s not an easy job.

How do you manage all the different social media sites? How often do you post and get involved (commenting, etc.)? Which sites are the most important to you?

Mark Cuban Keeps the Value of PR for Startups Debate Going

Mark Cuban recently discussed the effectiveness of PR for startups in a post, Why Startups Shouldn’t Hire PR Firms. This is a topic that has been discussed for years.

As expected, comments poured in from both sides. I even took a stand on the issue. The problem I have with Cuban’s comments is that he makes a blanket statement that the value PR people provide isn’t worth the cost.

If a CEO has developed a relationship with a reporter, he should by all means feel free to communicate directly with that reporter when he has something to say.

But how often does a busy CEO have the time to reach out to the dozen or more key media in his space?

I challenge Cuban or any other CEO to spend one week in the shoes of a PR person. Let me know how it goes and how much traction you actually got. I’m not just talking about sending out one or two email pitches to a couple of reporters, but actually take over the media relations for an upcoming product launch — handling all aspects of it.

Don’t forget to calculate the number of hours you spent and what it cost you based on your salary.

Based on your results and the overall experience, would you like to add PR to your other list of duties? Or is it worth it to hire an expert to handle PR?

Call me when you’re ready to let an expert handle it! ;-)

If you don’t have the time to do it right, when will you have the time to do it over?

This is one of my pet peeves. Have you ever worked with someone who rushes through a project just to meet a deadline, giving no thought to the quality of the project? They must have been thinking, ‘let me just put something together so I’ll have something to show and they’ll think I’ve been working.’

It just doesn’t work. When a project is not done properly you’ll undoubtedly have to do it over which will take even more time than if you did it the right way in the beginning.

Time management is critical when working on projects and it’s sometimes hard to gauge how long something will take to complete. I’ve become better at estimating projects over the years, but I always give myself extra time to finish just in case I encounter problems or setbacks. Depending on what I’m working on, I push my deadline out a couple of days to a week in the event the project gets sidetracked or derailed. It’s better to under promise and over deliver than not to meet your deadline at all.

It’s also important to set the proper expectations. When a client sets unrealistic expectations on a project, I don’t have a problem pushing back and letting them know there’s no way they I can get it done in that timeframe unless I compromise on quality. They usually get the point.

So when you’re tempted to rush through a project or assignment, think about this question — If you don’t have the time to do it right, when will you have the time to do it over?

Have You Set Goals or Resolutions for 2012?

This time of year just about everyone is making resolutions or setting goals.  It got me to thinking about the difference between the two.

According to Dictionary.com, a goal is “the result or achievement toward which effort is directed; aim; end.” A company may set goals to increase sales by 10% in the first quarter and set up a plan or strategy to achieve those goals. Goals have specific end dates in mind to accomplish or reach them.

A resolution on the other hand is “the act of resolving or determining upon an action or course of action, method, procedure, etc.” Using a similar example, a company may resolve to reach out to its customers more. Without spelling out how it will be accomplished, it’s not likely to be effective. Resolutions are usually more open-ended and therefore easier to break.

Common resolutions people make are losing weight, exercising more or eating healthier. We start out with good intentions, but after a few weeks, it’s easy to fall off the resolution wagon. When we miss a week of exercising or binge on sweets we can feel discouraged and give up all together.

If we change those resolutions into goals, I think most of us would do better. Instead of resolving to exercise more to lose weight, how about setting a goal to lose 10 pounds in the first quarter of the year? Create a plan to achieve that goal such as walking three-four times a week, and reducing the amount of junk food eaten each week (e.g. only sweets on the weekend). If you missed walking a couple days in a week, no problem, there’s always next week. And your goal of losing 10 pounds is still obtainable.

One of my business goals is to write more often. I’ve set specific goals by listing them on a calendar so I can see them daily. I’ve included topics and deadlines which will hopefully help me reach my goal.

Writing goals down is crucial if you want to achieve them. I’ve come to realize it’s not really a goal unless you do put it down in writing. If it’s just stuck in your head, all you have is an idea and you’re not likely to follow through on it.

What are some of your goals for 2012? How did you do in 2011?

Google+ and Spotify Private Beta Releases – Marketing Ploys?

Google successfully launched its Google+ service via an invitation only “private” beta .  Google was able to generate some great buzz around the new product and left those without an invitation champing at the bit to get one.  Including me!

Today, Spotify, the online music jukebox just launched its private beta in the U.S.  U.K. users have been using the service for awhile, but U.S. users can sign up only with an invitation.

The strategy both companies used makes me wonder if this is really a private beta, or just a clever way to create demand for the service.   Beta testing generally refers to a product or service going through its last round of testing before making it available to the public.  Generally most if not all the bugs have been worked out and the product is released to a limited number of users willing to test the product and provide feedback.

It appears both companies are successfully using the beta release as a way to create demand for their products and services.  Great strategy, but it won’t work for every company and every industry.

What do you think, true beta release or marketing ploy?

Why Ask Why When it Comes to Social Media?

Just about everyone is weighing in on the subject of social media and experts.  I even wrote a post about  social media experts, which leads into my next topic.  Brian Solis recently penned a post to get companies to think and ask some real basic questions when it comes to social media.  Why?

Once again, you need to get beyond engaging in social media because “it’s the thing to do.”  You need to ask some serious questions about why you want to engage in social media — because your customers are certainly asking the questions.

If you haven’t thought about it, take some time to review why social media is important to you and your business and if your customers are even engaged in social media.

Social media has definitely changed the marketing and public relations landscape.  Remember, you’re not just doing it for  self gratification.   Everything you do related to marketing your company should circle back to the needs of  your customers.

What I Like about Google+

Even though I don’t have a Google Plus account and don’t have first-hand experience using it, it seems pretty cool.

Judging by the comments on Facebook and Twitter, most people seem to like it — a lot.

One of the features I think is really cool is Circles. I would probably use Facebook more often if I could break my “friends” up into groups. The primary reason I got a Facebook account was for business purposes, but once my family and friends found out I had an account, I started getting friend requests. Let’s just say I don’t want to mix business with pleasure, so I don’t post that often.

Now with Google+, it appears that you can create different circles of friends who will only see what you’ve posted to a specific circle. Business stuff for colleagues and clients, and personal stuff for family and friends. That’s the way it should be. I hope Facebook is taking note. This is a feature I’ve been waiting for for years. Step up Facebook!


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