Five Ways to Manage Your Content and Maximize Your Influence

I’ve seen a few people talk about the fact that they have (or don’t have) access to LinkedIn’s latest “thing that isn’t job searching”: LinkedIn Influencer. Now, like other business celebrities, you too can exert your influence on the multitudes of LinkedIn users. You create content on LinkedIn, LinkedIn’s algorithms hopefully share it far and wide, and then you become influential.

I won’t pick on LinkedIn too much — though I will note that if everyone is an influencer, no one really is — but it’s the same thing I’ve seen with other content syndication and non-paid writing gigs. You’ll get great exposure! Write for us often!

I’m not here to judge you if you want to write content for free. I know I have. But, I also mostly get paid to write. That’s important to me, I like doing it and I don’t worry too much about people who don’t get paid.

I am going to judge you if you have a poor strategy when creating content for somebody else, on their platform, for free, and all you hope to get from it is name recognition. The face of content is changing on the web but don’t be stupid about it. Here are five tips to make the most out of your digital content presence:

  1. Don’t just write on LinkedIn (or Forbes, or Huffington Post, or someone else’s site). Unless you are getting cash money to write for these folks, you should probably be judicious in how you use these sites. Understand the terms, particularly their ability to use the piece you create on associated sites and originality requirements.
  2. Create a social hub. You can use WordPress.com, Blogspot, Tumblr, or any number of blogging sites (or you can host it on your own). Copy (or excerpt, if what you wrote has to be original) pieces that you write for these other websites to your social hub and share the pieces from there to your social networks. Any original pieces should obviously come from here.
  3. Buy a domain name and direct it to your hub.  Blogspot and Tumblr are free to use your own domain name with, but the domain name will cost $10. Don’t be cheap and just go for whatever.blogspot.com. That’s a fool’s game. While you don’t necessarily control those sites where you can host your social hub, you do control your domain name which means moving content becomes possible as well as always being able to capture your own traffic.
  4. Include links back to your social hub in everything you write. Even if it is a paid assignment, I’d rather have a link back to my site than an abbreviated bio and it never hurts to ask. If you’re being asked to contribute to a site for free (or you’re doing the contributing to a site), this is the bare minimum. Allow people direct access to where they can find more stuff from you.
  5. Spread your words to different audiences. If you write about the same topics, for the same publications, you’re going to hit a saturation point with the audience. Unless you’re writing to be a writer, you’re usually writing to sell something else (yourself, your business, your idea). Hit diverse publications, especially initially, and if you find one publication does better than most for you, focus there.

One last note: these rules will probably change tomorrow. That’s a problem because I actually wrote this post yesterday. What won’t change is this: ownership and control should always be in the back of your mind if you’re going to play this game. How do you continue to cut out the middle man and take your message directly to people who want to hear it while expanding that audience?

The Cost of Availability and Transparency

41nqCuMzvDLI’m on my fourth wedding ring (I’ve only been married once though). I’ve lost a lot of things really important to me (my favorite Portland Trail Blazers hat is in the back of seat pocket 17C on an American Airlines flight, if you ever find it), but the ring thing is always most embarrassing.

Personally, I’ve loved the feel of tungsten carbide rings since my buddy Sam got one when he married. So I got one too, from a traditional jewelry store. I lost that one a very short time later in the Columbia River just north of where I live now. I went to Zales to get a second one only to have it crack. Of course, I went back to them only for them to tell me I should’ve bought a protection plan (for a year old ring that was nearly as hard as a diamond?). Clearly, it was defective but they wouldn’t take it back.

Given that I had spent a few hundred dollars on rings and because my head was hot due to me not getting my cracked ring replaced, I searched for tungsten carbide rings online. And I found out my favorite retailer has them and they are a fraction of what I paid in the past. So after I lost some weight to the point where my ring no longer fit, I didn’t hesitate to go back to Amazon again for ring number four.

I honestly should’ve known better, too. I bought my wife’s engagement ring online in 2004, sight unseen. Why? Because the price was unbeatable, seller’s reputation was impeccable, and the return and resizing policy were awesome. Didn’t need any of that by the way because I nailed the purchase and size.

The reason I bring this up is because transparent pricing and availability is one of the last big disrupters in the enterprise software space. While businesses don’t necessarily shop like consumers (and that’s not necessarily a bad thing), the way that people are evaluating enterprise software is beginning to shift. I’ve heard of well-networked HR pros pulling RFP’s from other HR pros for the vendors they are shopping.

People always want to challenge me on this, too. People always negotiate big purchases! Really? Because the Costco Auto Program doesn’t exist. Because sites like Zillow don’t exist. Oh, and I guess Salesforce doesn’t just do this, right on their stupid website?

I’m not saying somebody is going to pull out their Amex Black Card and put their ATS purchase on it through a web portal (though, they could and they might in the future), but I am telling you that the RFP process is garbage and that someone is going to come in some day with all of your pricing in the region and demand the least lucrative deal on the planet.

And you’ll probably say yes, if only because you want to crack into the mind of an HR pro that comes to the table that prepared.

Laurie Ruettimann had a good post about this and the whole thing is worth a read. Here’s the pertinent quote:

But there is a new generation of human capital and HR professionals who have graduated from top-tier labor programs, have a strong relationship with their colleagues in finance and procurement, and will start evaluating human resources technologies differently. And there are new sales and marketing professionals who have stopped condescending to their clients and now assume that human resources professionals are “educated buyers” with a greater understanding of how technology works.

Someone in your segment will dictate the cost of transparency and availability. If you’re not enabling your buyers to make better purchasing decisions, someone else is. Either that or information availability for buyers about the market is already well beyond your expectations.

Personally, I’m just glad I don’t have a wife who knocks me every time I lose, break, or grow out of a ring.

The 2013 HR Technology Conference Discount Code Post

HRT Letterhead

For the last few years, one occasion has marked every summer: an email from HR Technology Conference co-chair Bill Kutik asking me, almost too politely, to post something about the show and to give you a discount code. So if you came here for the $500 off discount code, go ahead and use REHAUL13 (all caps) when you register. I don’t get anything for it, unfortunately.

Now why should you attend the conference this year?

Well, if you have never been and you’re interested in HR technology, this is a conference you have to experience at least once. It’s a show, in every sense of the word, for those affected by HR technology.

That’s not to mention that Las Vegas should be the permanent location of the show and you can’t legitimately reason with me on this point. The fact that you don’t have to go to Chicago and pay a pretty penny a night for a hotel strangely isolated from one of America’s largest cities is the big selling point. If you want to stay at the conference hotel, great. But if you don’t, there are plenty of other great options close-by plus great nighttime entertainment of all stripes.

What I continue to enjoy about the conference are the collection of people I end up seeing again or meeting for the first time at this conference. That, along with the content at the conference, has noticeably improved every year for the last four.

If you have already gone, especially to these last few, you probably know what to expect and whether you’ll be coming. If so, I hope to see you there.

I would also be mistaken if I didn’t mention that this is Bill Kutik’s last run as co-chair of the conference and the first for Steve Boese, who will continue to take the conference to great heights.

Lastly, if that wasn’t enough, come a little early for HRevolution and get an up close, personal view of some of the movers and shakers in the space outside of the stuffy confines of the big show.

I can’t wait for Vegas and I hope to see many of you there. If you’ll be there, make sure to send me a note so we can high-five.

Yes, I Would Like to Buy Your HR Software, Solution, Platform, Technology Suite

People ask me what’s the biggest change from being an editor at a trade publication to being an editor at a marketing firm. Topically, there aren’t many differences. When you’re writing for content marketing, you want readers to take notice. And HR people want information about the issues they are facing in their jobs. Stuff that will help them today, and yes, hopefully get them thinking about buying your wares.

Of course, how I deliver those words are anything but the same.

At ERE, we delivered information a couple of different ways. Primarily though, that would be through a blog post of some sort or maybe doing a podcast or video. For bigger pieces of information, we would deliver that in a conference session or a webinar.

At The Starr Conspiracy, we do a greater variety of pieces. Some of them you get to see, like when we get to work on white papers and webinars for the firm. Most of the time though, you won’t know it’s by us. I know, weak.

The biggest change though isn’t the types of pieces I’m writing but the terminology that I’m now using. I’ve been illuminated to the differences between a solution versus a platform, a suite versus software, and when to use the word technology (hint: every time). There’s an HR technology élite that care about these terms deeply (along with other terms like SaaS, cloud, architecture, and big data).

I’m not saying it doesn’t matter. It clearly does, at least to some folks. I’m a stickler for words.

I’m also not so sure most buyers care as much about these terms, though. For example, if I call an applicant tracking system a platform, would a customer just assume that other technology providers could build on that platform or, at the very least, have a well-documented API that has applications built for it? Does it matter to the end buyer or are we just talking features, benefits, and typical “What’s in it for me?” type of questions?

I know the price tag here matters as well. After all, if a vendor you’re spending $5M with can’t manage to describe themselves consistently, you might be a little worried about what’s underneath the hood. If it’s a $5k beta test though? I’m thinking you get a little wiggle room.

Despite all that, I think I manage to keep the words uncrossed enough to make sense. The good thing is that in my heaviest writing assignments, I’m not usually worrying about software, solution, platform, technology or suite terminology. I’m trying to think of HR issues, especially recent ones, that we can help people with.

As you can probably tell, that’s probably a good thing too.

The Move To Ubiquitous Tech And Its Impact On HR

My entire childhood and teenage years involved a full out war between two tech giants you may recognize: Microsoft and Apple. At school, we were in the Apple camp. I was particularly enamored with Hypercard, a program that I used to make a choose-your-own-adventure application that allowed you to kill a stick figure in various ways.

That probably sounds a lot like your childhood, right?

At home, we were a Microsoft family. Starting with a DOS command prompt and dial-in BBS’s with a 1200 baud modem, we moved up to Windows and actual internet service (service that was slow beyond any comprehension that we have today).

Back then, technology wasn’t ubiquitous or inexpensive. Depending on what you had, you couldn’t do a bunch of things. If you had an Apple Macintosh, forget about running many games outside of Oregon Trail II or SimCity 2000. If you had a PC, forget having any specialized educational software. And stuff that worked on both? Whatever.

By the time I hit high school, the battle was over. Microsoft won. End of story, right?

Quite clearly, that wasn’t the case. We’re in the “post-PC” era. Even the lady who served us at a restaurant and saw my wife’s Kindle Fire said it was the post-PC era so it must be true. Microsoft, Apple and Google (along with a handful of hardware manufacturers) have claims of strength when it comes to what area of the market they have cornered.

But I don’t think we’re in a post-PC world. That leaves a laptop or desktop behind and I don’t think that’s the case.

Rather than being a post-PC world, I think we live in a world of ubiquitous technology. We have so many devices that can do the essential work of our day in our age (from nearly-free, pre-paid Android mobile phones, to high-end tablets, to laptops big and small, and to $3,000 Mac Pros) that the debate over software and hardware form factor come down to really, really subtle differences. I can view and edit Office documents on almost any device. I can check e-mail on even more. I can view movies and listen to music on nearly anything. You can do nearly everything on nearly everything.

The differences are far more subtle. Do you need horsepower? Do you need a keyboard? Do you have specialized apps that require a particular platform (that number is significantly smaller than in the past)? Are you part of an enterprise software system that you can’t access without a VPN and a Lenovo PC (that’s still common)?

Outside of that though, you are arguing about a set of dimensions and devices that come down more to personal preference than actual performance doing the tasks that most people demand from their technology. A fight over Android versus iOS versus Windows Mobile better suited for tech journalists and stakeholders. The differences are ridiculously small and getting smaller.

At the HR Tech conference, I walked the trade floor and asked vendors completely off the record about this. Are you ready for a customer base that wants access to your platform on any device, any time and to have a good experience no matter what? I told them that I thought people will demand ubiquitous technology solutions, not just from their companies but from their vendors.

Larger companies gave me plenty of examples of use cases that weren’t asking for ubiquitous tech solutions. Financial institutions, insurance companies and security firms were still in lockdown mode. Government too. Of course, when prodded, they did talk about what worked outside of their walled garden. Applications that extended beyond a laptop onto a phone or mobile device.

Smaller companies in HR tech were already there. If they didn’t already have an app that worked whenever and wherever on whatever device, they were working on one. This work was going hand in hand with building integrations in with partners and building out broader feature sets.

I stopped making predictions a long time ago on this blog but at some point, the bare minimum for a company building technology solutions for HR is going to be a grab bag test: if a user grabs any device out of a bag full of different types of devices, will they be able to access critical information from your application in five minutes or less without any interaction from their IS support function or from you?

If the whole rest of the world allows for the ubiquitous use of technology except for in the enterprise, how long do you think that will last?

Think You Should Launch Your Product At A Conference? Maybe… Or Maybe Not

After two days and seeing a lot of startups at TechCrunch Disrupt (the rows of startups, the startup competition, with more to come), I can probably prattle off the names to nearly a dozen of them off the top of my head out of the several dozens I saw. If you mention one to me, I’ll probably remember that I saw them there for a little while. Then, it will slowly fade from memory unless one of them does something else.

That’s not to take away anything from TechCrunch or the conference itself. It was fantastic aside from a few logistical hurdles that will probably be forgotten by almost everyone.

But, the apt comparison for me would be to watching NBA Summer League basketball. Now Kris Dunn and I brought a couple of our friends and watched 16 hours of hoops over two days in the middle of summer in Vegas. It was a thoroughly enjoyable experience but you saw perhaps 10 teams and 150 players over that span of time (few of which are NBA starter caliber to begin with).

Do you know who we saw there in Las Vegas?

Jeremy Lin

An unknown at the time, Lin had a breakout season this year and earned himself a big payday with the Houston Rockets. You couldn’t miss the news. And he was in front of our eyes. We were sitting four rows up from the floor watching him.

You know what we could remember of his game? Jack squat. We saw so many guards play, they kind of all blurred together.

Now, I believe in conferences. I think they are important. And I think they can be a great marketing tool for companies. A high profile launch is great but it becomes less great the more companies that get involved. If I was going into a situation where 50+ companies were doing product launches or new versions of a product and were all planning on dropping it at a conference, I would take a divergent strategy unless you are a market leader that could dominate the conversation.

I’m not a marketer but I know how stories are written. The time during a conference is hectic and if you’re covering it, you’re trying to write a bunch about what you saw. And then it is over and you’re back to your regular beat. Quite honestly, I would tell companies to spend time securing press for a new release or product ahead of a large conference they were attending and then using that to build in-person conversations when you see potential customers.

Launching a product is a marathon, not a sprint. And success usually means not following the same strategy as everyone else.

Travel Essentials For The Digital Media Pro In You

You’re on the internets–writing for yourself or someone else–but on every trip, you’re recreating what to take with you. Then you end up forgetting something along the way and you’re stuck in the back corner fighting for a spot in the room’s only AC outlet.

Here’s my packing list for my next trip:

Technology:

  • Cell phone – I have a Motorola Droid Razr Maxx. Great battery life, the ability to share my internet connection with other devices and a solid cell network. The most important part is the battery life. If you don’t have it, you need a supplement.
  • Laptop – I use a 13″ MacBook Pro though I honestly could have gone with any number of options here. The important thing is that it is fairly lightweight, compact, has good battery life and has a great keyboard.
  • Tablet/Lapdock – Depending on what I need, I’ll either use my iPad or I use a lapdock that my phone can use. Two devices may be overkill but the point of the tablet lapdock is to aid in browsing or light usage without taxing your cell phone or laptop.
  • Dual-port USB charger – That way I can charge both my cell phone and tablet using only one outlet.
  • Hands-free set – I prefer wired because I don’t have to charge it. But, if you have a bluetooth headset, go for it.
  • Nice laptop bag – I use an Engineers Bag that I absolutely love. It is very compact (it just fits my laptop, tablet and accessories).

That’s it. Other than the addition of a tablet/lapdock, I keep it simple with things that are guaranteed to work, compact and serve multiple purposes.

Other creature comforts:

  • Pen/paper – I know, we’re digital. I just listed off a litany of technology. But I always end up using it, either for notes or just to help organize my thoughts easier.
  • Comfortable shoes – I’m okay wearing sneakers but even if you can’t, you have to invest in good shoes that you can walk a few miles in.
  • Comfortable clothes – Unless you are spending your time outside, you should be planning for temps between 66-72 inside of the hotels, airports, offices and conference centers that make up the typical trip. You don’t usually need shorts. Sleeves are good. Things that you don’t have to iron a ton are good.

What are the essentials that you take on a trip?

Disclosure Isn't Enough If You Want People's Trust

I think a lot about trust. And maybe more importantly, I think about how mistrust happens. Specifically when it comes to writers, columnists, bloggers, and journalists.

Often, when people talk about disclosure, they are usually talking about money. And if you’re a blogger or writer and money is changing hands, I think you should always be on the side of clear, full disclosure. And just for the record, I’ve been called out about disclosure. More on that in a second, though. First, let’s talk about money.

$ $ $

Money is powerful. I think about the work I do with ERE and how I take our work there (and especially the parts I’m intimately involved with) very personally. But I should, because ERE doing well means I do well and there’s a trigger there in my brain. That’s why I disclose when I talk about our events or publications, usually right in line with the text so you can’t miss it.

I also think about the relationships I developed with the folks at Crimcheck, Halogen Software, Rypple or Vault.com (who paid me for the first time, not as an advertiser, but as a writer). Or when I worked on MeritBuilder or for some of the other companies I’ve been lucky enough to be at, it makes sense that I became vested.

That’s not easy an easy reality when you’re solo and trying to put your best pieces out there without conflict of interest. We have a stellar sales team at ERE and they take care of all of the deal making. It is so much easier when there is that separation. When it is just you, it is a struggle. And I’ve seen a lot of bloggers and writers go down that path and take some wrong turns.

Even though it is difficult to know when or where to disclose, I think there is a clear line: when money (or something of value) changes hands, that’s when you look for opportunities to disclose. And the part about looking for opportunities to disclose is the distinction there, and I think it is the right and appropriate choice. Do it often, with clarity and bake it in with a one-time visitor in mind (if someone comes in off a Google search knowing nothing about you or your publication and reads a piece with a conflict of interest, do they know money changed hands?).

Beyond Money: Honesty

So if you disclose money relationships, shouldn’t that be enough? Well consider what I did above: I linked to an article critical of my ability to disclose. Now obviously, I wasn’t paid by Workforce to include that link. While I didn’t think it was very fair at the time, I do think it is fair to point out that some may have questioned my approach in the past. You should have the opportunity to see that.

Similarly, I may disclose the fact that ERE is my employer, but if I blow smoke up your ass about the company, spin the truth or you get the feeling like I’m not giving you the full story, I become less credible. At least as far as writing is concerned, being honest about both successes and struggles of what we’re doing means people take me mostly at my word, even with the knowledge that I’m an employee.

That’s why disclosing about money is simply not enough. The best way to gain and maintain trust is by abandoning (as best as possible) the built-in bias that the relationship creates and speak the plain truth. And you have to do both, consistently, over a period of time to gain trust.

The Changing Rules Of New Media? Not So Fast

Two and a half years ago, I said at a conference that bloggers were not, in and of themselves, journalists. That’s still true today. I struggle with the term myself but I don’t lose sleep over it, either.

The principles of the old ways, of that idealistic view of journalism as the respected fourth estate, is still within reach, even in this digital, anon-blogging, rumor-monging, money-changing-hands-under-the-table environment that the new media works in these days.

What’s easy to forget is that there was a time when the most prominent people evaluating technology didn’t just pick a side and arrogantly and mindlessly defend it until the bitter end. Or that trading money for half-hearted disclosures and favorable coverage was harder to come by. Or that concepts like black hat SEO, astroturfing and throwing anonymous commenters at a situation could influence the discovery and perception of information.

We’re not talking about a zine or underground newspaper with significant costs and logistical hurdles to get it beyond a few dozen miles of its origin. We’re talking about the same web that you used to get to this very low cost blog today can get you to other sources with millions of dollars staked into their sites.

The biggest misconception is that old media rules are outdated and unneeded. In reality, the key thing that happened is that not playing by those rules was finally a choice for nearly anyone who wished to publish something with almost unlimited (and low-cost) distribution.

That’s a great thing for information flow. But if you want to be trusted wholesale as a writer, blogger, or whatever you want to call yourself, you’ll quickly learn that these journalist quacks may have been on to something with their silly rules. They knew it was about trust. Even if you had to get ink on your fingers to read about it.

Looking For An Applicant Tracking System? An Opportunity For A Free Go At One (And Help For A New Company)

Applicant tracking systems are everywhere. And when you work for the top recruiting industry publication, let’s just say you see a lot of products.

I try to see many of them and keep up with them. Really. It is a crowded market out there, though.

I found one company out there called HiringThing and this company came to me through an interesting connection.

I was a member of an e-mail group in the Portland area and I saw an announcement about a startup ATS that was looking for companies to partner with in their early stages. I reached out to them to ask them about it and see what they were doing.

That was in July of 2010. Almost a year and a half ago.

They weren’t ready to talk then. They didn’t know what they had yet. But slowly and steadily, they built up a few new clients on the platform, talked to them back and forth and kept improving the product.

Recently, they reached back out to me (there’s a lesson in there somewhere, startup folks). They still aren’t ready to tell their whole story yet but they are looking for a full launch next year (when I will write a more complete look at them then).

They asked me if I knew a few companies who could use an applicant tracking system (preferably ones that might have none, or ad hoc solutions) that they could work with pre-launch at no cost to fine tune their product for final launch. I didn’t know any off the top of my head but I thought I could send out a message to see if anyone would know of a company and would be interested.

If you are interested, please get in touch with Joshua Siler at HiringThing (e-mail: joshuas@hiringthing.com) and put in the subject line “Beta Access.” During this time, they are helping by doing the setup and transition as well as hoping to get your ear about what you do and don’t like about the system.