How kids create security risks — and business opportunities

In today’s Wall Street Journal, I outline the security risks posed by the hacker in your house: the child or teen who may be “borrowing” your credit card to make online purchases, downloading viruses or inadvertently open vulnerabilities in your network. That story draws on a Springboard America survey I recently conducted, asking 341 American parents for their experience managing in-home security risks.

But those risks look different at different ages — creating opportunities for businesses to offer products and services geared towards the specific needs of the parents of preschoolers, elementary school kids and teens. That’s why I’ve put together a short supplementary report focusing on the way security risks change as kids get older.

As I note in the Journal:

Well-behaved 5-year-olds and rebellious 15-year-olds represent radically different security risks. Your toddler might accidentally bang on a bunch of keys and rename your hard drive; your fourth-grader might be tech-savvy enough to download a bunch of files—and viruses. Figuring out how to deal with those potential problems involves getting an accurate picture of the technology in your house and how your children use it.

To get a clearer picture of how parents face different security risks depending on the age of their kids, I took the survey results in today’s paper a step further, breaking them down by the age of the respondent’s eldest child. The data shows that:

  • Financial risks, like kids making unauthorized purchases, go way up during the teen years. Among the parents of teens, 3 out of 4 report that their child has made some kind of unauthorized online transaction; less than half of preschooler parents have experienced that kind of behaviour. (People, just put the credit cards on the other side of the cupboard with the childproof latch.)
  • Virus risks, like kids downloading pirated music, surfing porn or installing software, rise as kids move through elementary school. Among the parents of elementary school kids, roughly half have experienced some kind of virus risk; only a third of the parents of preschoolers have faced this challenge.
  • Trespass risks, like kids bypassing parental restrictions or changing network settings, stay relatively stable across all three age groups. Among the parents of both preschoolers and teens, about 40% report some kind of trespass issue; that number climbs to just over 50% among the parents of elementary school kids.

What do these distinctions mean for businesses? Any company that sells services through or for the Internet — in other words, just about any company, period — can potentially differentiate itself with products or marketing campaigns that reflect the way family security risks change as children age. The opportunities this offers include:

  1. Security software vendors need to collapse the distinction between software that protects kids, and software that protects systems. Offer parents a single solution that combines parental restrictions, content filtering and virus protection, rather than asking them to wrangle three different setup processes — or risk leaving gaps.
  2. Hardware vendors need to offer devices and accessories that reflect the nuances of device sharing in today’s families. Parents want computers and phones that unlock different profiles or permissions based on the the user’s thumbprint, so it’s safe to put down a device without worrying about who will get into it (or about who will think it’s a good idea to cut off mommy’s thumb).
  3. On-demand media companies can market all-you-can-eat content plans as a way of forestalling kid and teen piracy. Focusing on teen-friendly content that parents can stomach (as opposed to teen horror-fests) is a good way to compete for the business of parents who need to keep their teens media-fed.
  4. Financial services companies can offer financial products to the parents of teens, providing credit products geared towards parents who want to offer their kids some degree of purchasing autonomy, rather than facing a wallet raid.
  5. Cloud-based services and hardware companies should develop products and markets geared towards elementary school children. Keeping applications in the cloud is the best way to avoid unwanted software installations, so cloud-based devices like Chromebooks offer a great way for parents to avoid that risk as their kids enter the virus danger years.
  6. Online retailers can offer child accounts to separate kid spending from grownup spending. Apple’s iTunes allowances and Amazon’s PayPhrase, which let parents pre-authorize a designated monthly spending limit for their kids, are great examples to follow.
  7. IT departments can offer age-appropriate training and support to any employees who take their computers and devices home. Understanding the risks that your staff are likely to face depending on the ages of their kids, and you’re more likely to configure their devices (and train them) appropriately.

Do you have more questions about the way security risks and risk management play out across different families? I’m continuing to dig deeper into my dataset, so please sign up for my newsletter to get future updates — or contact me personally to get the insights your company needs.

11 best practices for working with an editor

greeting card to editor says "thank you for making me suck less"My latest blog post for the Harvard Business Review makes the case for adding an editor to your content marketing team. As I note in that post,

Content marketing will only deliver on its promise if it’s good enough to deliver customers–that’s why improving the quality of content marketing is critical to business. But creating the kind of excellent original content that attracts, engages and retains an audience requires a mix of competencies that go well beyond what you find on a typical marketing team. At the top of that list of missing competencies is professional editing.

You’ll get the most value from adding an editor to your team if your contributors know how to work with an editor effectively. As a writer and blogger I’ve been lucky to work with a number of talented editors, and to develop a particularly close and collaborative working relationship with Ania Wieckowski, the editor of my Work Smarter with Social Media series for Harvard Business Review Press (and recently, my HBR blog posts, too). If you’ve read any of the books in the series, you’ve seen the impact of Ania’s work: she has an extraordinary ability to identify the most relevant content, to challenge techno-speak so that instructions are clear and accessible, and to tease out the underlying assumptions and argument that tie it all together.

But for an editor like Ania to do a great job, writers have to do theirs. And that job doesn’t consist merely of puking words onto a page and then hitting “send”. Just as important is the way writers engage in the editorial process — which means learning how to work with an editor. Here are my suggestions for how contributors can make that relationship successful:

  1. Start thinking in the plural. It’s not “my” work anymore…it’s ours. Yes, I’m the person with her name on the cover and on the Facebook page (how good a deal is that?) but Ania worked just as hard on the final product. Respecting your editor’s investment in each piece you produce together is key to every aspect of your working relationship.
  2. Seize the opportunity to improve. If you think of your editor as an incursion to defend against, you’re going to have a hard time collaborating. Instead, think of your editor as a therapist for your writing — someone who is actually going to help you think, argue and write better. You wouldn’t go to a therapist hoping to hold onto all your crazy issues…so bring the same attitude to your editor, and get excited about the idea that someone is going to pay real attention to your writing, and help make it better.
  3. Invest in the relationship. If you’re working with the same editor over time, invest in building a personal relationship — or at least, a very cordial professional relationship. The better your editor understands your core passions, views and goals, the better he will be able to guide your work so that it advances your particular perspective and your career. And hey! It’s not all about you. Yes, you’re mostly talking about your writing, but remember that your editor is a person, too — so ask her about what she’s working on, what she did this weekend and what she’s thinking about.
  4. Know your triggers. We all have vulnerabilities — areas where we find it hard to take criticism. The more direct you can be about where your editor needs to tread softly, and where she can give it to you straight, the better you will work together. If you are open to pushback on your logic, invite her to challenge you; but if you hate being nagged about misusing apostrophes, let her know she can just fix your errors — without pointing that out to you each time.
  5. Learn your editor’s strengths. Different editors bring different skills to the table. Ania is amazing at teasing out the underlying vision for a piece and driving the revision process towards that vision; Scott Berinato has an uncanny ability to add the pithy line or headline that takes the whole post to a new level; Michael Totty is fabulous at situating a story in a larger context, and identifying the missing pieces that will help it speak to a wider audience or make a greater impact. Figure out where your editor shines and make the most of their support in that area.
  6. Use phone for vision, emails for summaries, comments for discussion and in-line edits for wordsmithing. Your editorial process almost certainly includes the exchange of electronic documents, but that doesn’t mean your entire working relationship should take place online. Talk with your editor regularly by phone, particularly when you are establishing the initial vision for a report or story, and again if either of you are suggesting significant changes to a draft. When you do send a draft or revision, use the covering email to explain what you are trying to accomplish in that draft, and noting any big-picture questions you have about your overall approach. Use your word processor’s comment function to raise or address questions about specific sections of the text, or to explain the reasoning behind any significant changes; when Ania and I exchange drafts, the marginal comments turn into a very detailed conversation.  The only un-commented edits in the text itself should be confined to wordsmithing; anything else should be accompanied by a clarifying comment explaining why you added a paragraph or how you’re hoping your revisions addressed your editor’s last round of feedback.
  7. Focus on content, not flow. One of the things that has made me a much faster and less stressed writer is learning to trust my editors’ judgement about the order in which my arguments flow. I try to focus on getting everything I want to say out there, section by section, but then let my editor suggest the order in which the sections make the most sense. A third party usually has a better perspective on how your argument needs to build; since all the ideas are already in your head, it may not be as obvious to you which building blocks need to get laid down first.
  8. Ask for help. Part of what makes an editor so useful on a content marketing team is that a good editor can save a writer or contributor a lot of time — once the writer learns to trust in their editor’s guidance. So wherever you struggle in your writing, ask your editor for help, whether that is in figuring out your core argument, choosing the right kinds of supporting examples or articulating your main points in a memorable way.
  9. “This doesn’t feel like me.” This is one of the most important pieces of feedback you can give your editor, if you use it sparingly. It’s not a trump card you can play whenever you want to revert your editor’s changes; it’s best saved for those occasions when editing has somehow led to an argument or a point you actively disagree with. It’s also something to bring up if you need to make a modest revision that makes the way something is said (but not what is being said) sound more like the language you’d normally use. Just bear in mind that if your strength lies in your ideas rather than your writing style, it may be a good thing if your contributions end up sounding more articulate than you do.
  10. Hit your deadlines.  Even if you’re an unpaid contributor, treat your editorial relationship with the same courtesy you show your colleagues or clients: agree on deadlines for each work or draft, and then meet them. You may not succeed in meeting 100% of your deadlines (I’ve got an overdue piece right now myself!) but if you’re mostly on time, your editor will learn to set aside time to review your work the day after you promised to submit, and you’ll get faster feedback. And if you’re not going to meet your deadline, let your editor know as early as you see trouble, and offer a new deadline that you can actually meet.
  11. Say thank you. Once you start thinking about editing as something that is done for you rather than to you, you can feel grateful to the amazing person who is actually investing their time and brain power in making your work as good as it can possibly be. So say thank you every single time you get their revisions, and let them know the specific way you feel they improved your work. And then once in a blue moon, write a blog post that acknowledges that you couldn’t do what you do without them.

20 requirements for a great coffee shop for home office workers

Carberry's Café in Cambridge, MA (now closed)What are the ingredients for the perfect working café?

I’ve been thinking about this question because I’m heading into a period when I expect to spend a lot of time working in coffee shops.  I’ve spent a lot of my career, including my most productive periods, working in coffee shops, largely because they offer the perfect balance of solitude and simulation. I don’t work well in totally silent environments —  the inside of my brain is way noisier than any café, so the background noise of a coffee shop helps to drown that out. But unlike an office, where you know the people around you (and may therefore get interrupted by them) a coffee shop offers the benefit of background noise without the interruptions.

That said, not every coffee shop is created equal when it comes to getting your work done. My first long-term coffee shop relationship was with the now-defunct Carberry’s in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where I did the lion’s share of my grad school reading and note-taking. At the time I was obsessed with Tony Buzan’s method for mind-mapping, which involved using lots of markers to turn all my reading notes into colorful trees. Since I was constantly switching colors, I left the markers uncapped on the table, so by the time I got to class my left forearm was a veritable rainbow. But at Carberry’s (unlike in my seminars) even my graffiti-ed forearm was unremarkable, because there were so many other even more colorful characters — not least of which was the man steadily filling journal after journal with tiny handwriting and meticulous drawings that (as he explained it to me) were being dictated to him by God.

In the twenty years since then, my criteria for coffee shop heaven have evolved. From the safe remove of two decades, I will confess that a major contributor to my Carberry’s loyalty was the super hot barista I used to flirt with; now I am old and married enough that flirting with young hot baristas would just feel creepy. The advent of wifi pushed connectivity to the top of the list for a long while; now, iPhone tethering and the near-ubiquity of Shaw Go Wifi (wifi service provided by our ISP, free to subscribers, and available almost everywhere in Vancouver) make that much less crucial. In my twenties, I could sit on just about any chair for hours at a stretch; in my forties, I need padded seats if I want to last more than an hour without Advil. Once upon a time, I’d park at any café with butter-filled baked goods…these days, I look for places with healthier options.

But my longtime neighborhood standby — the Take 5 on West 4th — is now closed, so I’m looking for a new office-away-from home. And as with any tech project, this has to begin with a good requirements definition. So here is my first stab at a set of requirements for a great working café in 2014:


      1. Strong, fast and reliable wifi (free in-house or via Shaw Go)
      2. Power outlets in a few different spots
      3. Location close to home (12 block radius is ideal)
      4. OK smell (we had to give up on a favorite spot because they were constantly mopping the floor with an overpowering cleaning product)
      5. Comfortable chairs with padded seats
      6. Clean
      7. Decent coffee
      8. Bar-style counter seating at a height that allows me to switch to working standing up
      9. No horrible Muzak
      10. Kindly manages disruptive customers (Take 5 unfortunately had a regular visitor who conducted loud shouting matches with an invisible interlocutor; ideally cafés find a way of respectfully addressing these kinds of disruptions — as well as those from overly loud cell phone users — without being unwelcoming)
      11. Clean bathrooms
      12. Quiet enough to make phone calls, but not so quiet that it’s obnoxious to make phone calls


    1. Nearby free/cheap parking
    2. Wheat-free lunch options (salads, soups, sandwiches on something other than wheat bread) so that I can spend enough on food to avoid being a coffee shop parasite
    3. Friendly baristas
    4. Actually good coffee
    5. Non-table seating options (sofas, easy chairs)
    6. Good music (otherwise I’ll just listen to my own)
    7. Some pleasant (but not intrusive) regulars — Rob and I actually exchanged a few business referrals with a lovely Mac tech we got to know through one of our former haunts
    8. Keyless bathrooms (seriously, is there anything grosser than a bathroom key?)

Of course, I recognize that not every coffee shop wants to attract people who might stay for hours at a time — which is why this list works not only as a set of requirements for me, but as a tip sheet for coffee shop managers who want to repel the likes of me. For these folks, omitting at least 3 of the must-haves should do the job of not only avoiding me, but others like me.

What’s missing from this list? What do you look for in a working coffee shop? And most crucially, what can you recommend as a working coffee shop in Kitsilano, Vancouver? I’d love to hear from you.

How to use your Facebook restricted list

Organizing your Facebook friends into lists is a great way to share different kinds of content with different kinds of people: for example, you might want to share certain updates with your colleagues, and other kinds of updates (like those adorable kid photos) with a small circle of friends.Facebook automatically creates a few of these lists for you, like the list of people who went to the same school you went to. One of the most useful lists is the “restricted” list, because it lets you share things with your friends, while hiding them from people on your restricted list.

My restricted list contains anyone I agree to friend but don’t really know (as a writer, I like to be accessible to people who read my blog posts) as well as my workplace colleagues, my mom and my mom’s friends. (Because even after I put my mom on my restricted list, her friends reported on my Facebook updates.)In this guide, I show you how to add people to your restricted list, and how to tweak both your Facebook settings and your individual post settings so you control who sees what.

1. Review friend requests

Start by clicking the friends icon in the upper right of your Facebook window to see your friend requests. Here, I’ve received a friend request from someone I don’t actually know, so he’s going on my restricted list.

Friend requests

2. Confirm request

When you see someone you know through your professional work, and want to friend, click the “confirm” button.

Confirm request

3. Click to see the Friends dropdown

This will load a “friends” button with a drop-down menu. Click to see the drop-down menu.

Friends dropdown

4. Choose “Add to another list”

Scroll down and click on “Add to another list”.

Add to another list

5. Click restricted

Then scroll down until you can click on “Restricted”.

Click restricted

6. Confirm restricted

You should now see a check mark next to “Restricted”. Anyone on your restricted list will see only your Public posts — even though they are technically your “friend”, they don’t see content you share only with friends.

Confirm restricted

7. Change default post settings

Next, you need to change the default settings for who sees the content you share, so that you only share things with the whole world (including the people on your restricted list) when you really want to. Start by clicking the settings icon.

Change default post settings

8. Select “account settings”

From the settings menu, choose “account settings”.

Select "account settings"

9. Navigate to privacy settings

Select “privacy” from the left-hand sidebar. Note that Facebook frequently moves its settings around, so the screenshots I’m sharing today may not reflect how Facebook will work a month or year from now.

Navigate to privacy settings

10. Edit privacy settings

Under “Who can see my stuff?”, if it’s not set to “friends”, select “edit” next to “who can see your future posts?”

Edit privacy settings

11. Edit “Who can see my stuff?”

Set “Who can see your future posts” to “friends” so that you don’t accidentally share things with the whole world. This way, the default for anything you post will be to share it only with friends who aren’t on your restricted list.

Who can see my stuff?

12. Tweak the visibility settings on individual updates

Note that you can change the privacy setting on any individual Facebook post or photo, either at the time of posting, or after the fact. You can even limit visibility to specific people.

Set post visibility

13. Set post visibility (excluding your restricted list)

If you want to post something that you don’t want to share with your professional contacts, set the post visibility to “friends”. When you hover over the button, you’ll see that it specifically says “..Except: Restricted”. That means people on your restricted list won’t see it.

Viewing your post

14. Set post visibility for posts you want to share with everyone

If you want to share something with the whole world — including people on your restricted list — set your post visibility to “public”. Double-check your post visibility before clicking “post”.

Confirm post visibility

15. View your wall

Look at your Facebook wall to see everything you’ve shared, whether it’s public or just for friends who aren’t on your restricted list.

View your wall

16. Test your settings with “view as”

If you want to double-check your settings, or make sure that people on your restricted list are only seeing the updates you want them to see, use the “view as” option on your profile page, under the gear icon.

Test your settings with "view as"

17. View your profile as someone on your restricted list

Enter the name of someone on your restricted list to see what your profile page looks like to them. Sure enough, the latest person on my restricted list can only see the post I shared publicly — not the one I shared with friends.

View your post as someone on your restricted list

18. Filter your news feed with a friend list

You can create as many different friend lists as you want — it just takes a little work to organize your friends into the right lists. You can use those same lists to pay closer attention to some people, and less attention to others. When I look at Facebook, I often filter my news feed so I’m only looking at my “A1 Pals” list: the small circle of friends and family whose updates can easily get lost in the sea of news from the hundreds of people I’ve friended.

Filter your news feed with a friend list
Experiment with creating a couple of lists for specific purposes, like sharing family news. And please be sure to share your own tips for getting the most from Facebook lists!
P.S.  Do you wonder where I found the hours and hours and hours to make these detailed instructions? I didn’t! Thanks to an amazing application called Clarify, it only took an hour or two to put this together — most of it on the writing, not the screenshots. Check out Clarify here, or view this post on my Clarify account.

Work Smarter with LinkedIn, published today

A LinkedIn profile is more important than résumé, more useful than a business card and more permanent than an email address. As essential as LinkedIn is to today’s professionals, many people still struggle with the question of how to use it or what makes it useful. That’s why I’m delighted that today marks the publication of the latest book in my Work Smarter with Social Media series for Harvard Business Review Press: Work Smarter with LinkedIn.

work-smarter-with-linkedin-cover-250Work Smarter with LinkedIn takes you through exactly what we’d cover if we sat down together to get you powered up on LinkedIn. If we had an hour or two together, we’d talk about your near- and long-term professional goals, and then we’d focus on how LinkedIn could help you achieve them. I’d show you how to:

  • Ensure your LinkedIn profile positions you effectively, which includes finding an easy way of keeping it up-to-date
  • Build a LinkedIn network that actually helps you get your work done, instead of notching your bedpost with as many connections as you can get
  • Identify and connect with the people who will make a big difference to your business or professional goals…which is the miraculous power of LinkedIn, once you know how to use it
  • Travel smarter (or less!) by making smart use of LinkedIn and related social tools

Work Smarter with LinkedIn is that coffee shop visit. It’s the conversation I wish I could have with everyone I’ve every met who is a bit fuzzy on what LinkedIn is for, or is unsure whether they’re tapping its full potential. When I tell people about a few of the ways LinkedIn has dramatically affected my own career — some of which I share in the book — there is usually an aha! moment when LinkedIn starts to make sense.

I want you to have that aha! moment by reading Work Smarter with LinkedIn, and I’d love your help in spreading the word. Please let your friends, family and colleagues know about this short guide to making LinkedIn an effective business tool, and if you really want to get your business partner, kid or colleague turned onto LinkedIn, consider giving them a copy yourself.

Thank you in advance for your help, and here are some links that can help you spread the word:

  • Click to tweet this: Are you ready to Work Smarter with #LinkedIn? Then check out my friend @awsamuel’s new ebook from @Harvardbiz Press:
  • Click to tweet this: The next best thing to a coaching session with @awsamuel: her new ebook, Work Smarter with #LinkedIn: #readthis
  • Click to tweet this: Want to know who to connect with on #LinkedIn? Read Work Smarter with LinkedIn, just published by @HarvardBiz Press:

And one more great way to spread the word: by sharing this ecard from Rob Cottingham:

Cartoon: Connect with Lenny (in prison)

Find Work Smarter with LinkedIn on

Work Smarter with Twitter and HootSuite, new from Harvard Business Review Press

Work Smarter With Twitter and HootSuite coverDo you feel like you could get more out of Twitter? Or are you a passionate Twitter user who wants to help your colleagues, friends and family use it and love it the way you do?

Work Smarter with Twitter and HootSuite is for everyone who wants to get more out of Twitter, whether as a newcomer or a longtime user who wants to make smarter, more strategic use of this platform. The second in my Work Smarter with Social Media series for Harvard Business Review Press, this short guide focuses on how Twitter can help you build the strong, meaningful relationships that can support your work and your career.

And I’d like to ask for your help spreading the word about this new ebook. Please buy a copy for yourself or as a gift for a colleague or a friend (it’s the perfect way to help that Twitter newbie or skeptic get serious about how to use Twitter). Once you’ve had a chance to take a look at the book yourself, I’d be delighted if you would post a review on Amazon, iTunes or Goodreads.

My community of Twitter pals has been a constant source of inspiration and encouragement in the writing of this book — in fact, in all my writing for the past five years. If we’ve ever exchanged so much as a tweet, believe me when I say that you are part of the extraordinary experience of Twitter that I tried to capture in this title. Thank you for helping make Twitter such a valuable part of my own professional practice, and for any help you can provide in tweeting, blogging or otherwise sharing news about this new ebook.

Where to find it

To jump into the conversation on Twitter and Facebook

Tweetable links

Click to tweet this: New ebook from @harvardbiz: Work Smarter with #Twitter and @HootSuite, by my friend @awsamuel.

Click to tweet this: How can #Twitter and @HootSuite build your professional relationships? Find out in @awsamuel’s new ebook.

Click to tweet this: I love @HootSuite! This new ebook from @harvardbiz will show you how it can help you tweet smarter, too.

More ways to share

If you’d like to talk about the book in more than 140 characters, here are some short descriptions that can help you get started:

You know you could make good use of Twitter — if only you had a roadmap of exactly how to use it. Now you can get that roadmap from Work Smarter with Twitter and HootSuite, the latest ebook in the Harvard Business Review Press series, Work Smarter with Social Media. It’s like looking over the shoulder of a social media pro to find out how to keep up a lively Twitter presence in just a few hours a week. In this case, you’re looking over the shoulder of Alexandra Samuel, VP of Social Media for Vision Critical, as she shows you how to use Twitter and HootSuite to build the professional relationships that can make a big difference to your work and your career.

If you have ever felt overwhelmed by Twitter, a new ebook from Harvard Business Review Press may have the cure. In Work Smarter with Twitter and HootSuite, Alexandra Samuel shows how to use Twitter lists to focus on the relationships that can really make a difference to your work and career. Her methodology relies on a multi-column Twitter client like HootSuite, which makes it possible to focus your attention on your key lists instead of on your home feed, and makes it easy to maintain your own Twitter presence with a combination of scheduled tweets and real-time conversation. Check it out here:

Shareable quotes

These short excerpts from the book are ready to share as summaries or sample tips:

Even Twitter enthusiasts are often paralyzed by the sheer volume of tweets and the velocity of Twitter conversations, both of which increase quickly once you follow more than a handful of people. Twitter newcomers are often so overwhelmed by Twitter’s size and pace that they tune out altogether…[T]o make the most of Twitter, you have to focus on individual people, not individual tweets….You’ll stay focused on these relationships and get away from the dilemma of “keeping up” only if you embrace Twitter not as a news site but as a social network, which is, after all, how Twitter bills itself. — from Work Smarter with Twitter and HootSuite by Alexandra Samuel (Harvard Business Review Press, 2013)

* *

Using Twitter lists means that when you take a five-minute Twitter break, you’ll be able to quickly home in on the updates from the people you really want to hear from, simply by looking at your two or three most crucial lists. When you’re taking the time for a deeper dive into the Twitterverse, you’ll see each tweet in a context that reminds you why you’re tuning in to that particular person. — from Work Smarter with Twitter and HootSuite by Alexandra Samuel (Harvard Business Review Press, 2013)

* *

Putting your top relationships into lists and streams [in HootSuite] is the key to helping you filter out the folks you don’t want to spend your time on, even if you want to keep following them out of courtesy or so that they can message you privately. If you’re scrupulous about focusing on tweets from folks in your top lists, you may be just fine following all sorts of other random feeds, secure in the knowledge that you won’t be distracted by the detritus. — from Work Smarter with Twitter and HootSuite by Alexandra Samuel (Harvard Business Review Press, 2013)

* *

If you do want to build a significant following—whether you define “significant” as a hundred thousand followers or a hundred leaders in your immediate field—you need to think about defining a focus for your tweeting that you can lead with a sustainable level of effort. If you’re willing to put in several hours a day to managing your Twitter feed (something I’d recommend for very few people), you could take on a broader topic or one that already has some serious tweeters. If you’re going to keep your Twitter time to a few hours a week, you’ll need to define a fairly narrow focus. A good way to do that is to locate your tweeting at the intersection of two or three lively fields, or a couple of fields plus a geographic location. While you may not be the top tweeter in the field of human resources, you could be the top tweeter on recruiting young people in retail (which lets you tweet a mix of content about retail, Gen Y, and recruitment) or retail recruitment in Dallas. — from Work Smarter with Twitter and HootSuite by Alexandra Samuel (Harvard Business Review Press, 2013)

* *

To sustain a consistent pace on Twitter, while leaving yourself room to engage with people in real time, make tweeting easy and schedule a certain number of tweets in advance. By setting up an efficient process for consistent tweeting at roughly predictable intervals, you ensure that the people you want to connect with know not only what you’re about but how often they can count on a little nugget of wisdom or news. Better still, you free up your spontaneous tweeting windows for replying to the people who want to engage with you, engaging with the people who you want to know better, and thus building important relationships. The next few sections show you how. — from Work Smarter with Twitter and HootSuite by Alexandra Samuel (Harvard Business Review Press, 2013)

Thank you

This page was inspired not only the brilliant example of Lee LeFever, but by the amazing generosity of the friends, colleagues and readers who spread the word (and shared their reviews) on Work Smarter with Evernote. Your enthusiasm has been the key to its success, and your constructive feedback has helped to shape Work Smarter with Twitter and HootSuite.

Thank you in advance for anything you do to support this new book and series, whether it’s with a Like on the Facebook page, a review on Amazon or sharing your feedback with me directly. Most of all, thank you for reading.

The 23 stages of the task management software lifecycle

  1. Totally on top of all pending tasks
  2. Moderate slippage of select tasks leads to mild anxiety
  3. Catastrophic failure to complete one or more mission-critical tasks leads to wholesale re-evaluation of career choice, self-worth and why are we even on this earth anyhow?
  4. Application of medication, coaching and/or psychotherapy scales existential crisis back to actionable item: adopt new task management system
  5. All tasks put on hold for 3-14 days while documenting software requirements and researching available options
  6. Software selection creates brief window for completion of most-urgent tasks
  7. Installation of software across all desktop and mobile devices
  8. Optional: acquisition of any additional hardware devices or accessories that are revealed to be vitally necessary [read: nifty] in light of new task management software choice
  9. Troubleshooting of cloud-based cross-device task synchronization
  10. Capture of top-of-mind tasks
  11. Blissful peace of knowing all crucial tasks are captured
  12. Hey! all this blissful peace helped me remember the 27 other tasks I keep forgetting about
  13. Contact high from daily experience of checking off task checkboxes
  14. Evangelization of preferred task management solution to foolish friends and colleagues with their hopelessly antiquated systems
  15. Significant financial and/or temporal investment in software, workflows or custom hacks on the Best. Task. Management. System. Ever.
  16. Religious daily capture and review of all current tasks
  17. Religious daily capture of all potential tasks
  18. Gosh there sure are a lot of tasks in there
  19. Minor failure of task completion due to task management software avoidance
  20. Capture of project or event-specific task list in a separate app or document, where it won’t get lost in that big, overwhelming, depressing list of tasks
  21. Important tasks captured in emails to self so that they won’t get lost in the morass of recorded tasks
  22. Realization that completion of task list will require 8,918 hours worth of work leads to total avoidance of task management application
  23. Moderate task slippage (repeat from step #2 above)

3 tricks for monitoring Twitter mentions and trackbacks

The brilliant Lauren Bacon made a big splash yesterday with her thought-provoking post on the emotional work that often gets assigned to women working in the tech world. The response to that post has been so massive that it’s left her with a challenge: how do you monitor and reply to the torrent of ensuing tweets?

Whether you’re trying to track and engage with public perceptions of your work, your latest blog post or your company, monitoring Twitter is an essential part of that work. It’s not enough to get Google News alerts that tell you if your company is in the news, or to read the comments on your blog; odds are good that a huge part of the conversation is going to unfold on Twitter, and that conversation may look quite different from what you see on blogs or news sites.

If everybody who was talking about you or your company was referring to you by your Twitter handle, this job would be relatively easy: you’d just monitor your mentions feed. But a lot of the time, people may be talking about you — or especially that latest blog post — without including your Twitter handle in their tweets. And if you’re trying to track the response to a blog post, in particular, they may not be mentioning you at all: the only clue that they are talking about your work is the link that’s embedded in each tweet sharing your post.

Here are three tricks for tracking and responding to the folks who are talking about you, whether or not they are mentioning you by name:

  1. HootSuite column monitors search on author's name and its variantsMonitor your name, as well as your handle. Set up a Twitter search on your name (and common misspellings thereof); if you use a multi-column Twitter client like HootSuite or Tweetdeck, add this search as as a column (a “stream”, in HootSuite-ese”). Do the same thing for your company name, senior execs’ names, etc. Keep an eye on this column and respond to it the way you’d respond to mentions. Note that if you have a common name, this could produce a lot of irrelevant results, so you may find it easier to do your search directly on Twitter where you can use “-” operators to exclude irrelevant results: for example I might set up a search on “alexandra samuel” OR “alexandra samuels” OR “alex samuel” OR “alex samuels” -“self magazine” -linux (because there’s an Alexandra Samuel at Self Magazine, and an Alex Samuel who writes about Linux).  
  2. Monitor link backs with Topsy. If you’ve got a post that is blowing up, like Lauren’s, use Topsy to watch for any and all tweets that link to that post. For example, by entering the URL of Lauren’s post, we see these tweets:
    Topsy trackbacks on Lauren Bacon's post shows 191 tweets and some of the most interesting tweets
    Note that Topsy finds tweets that include shortened links (e.g. URLs) as well as those that include the full-length URL (which is unlikely to be tweeted, anyhow) so you just have to enter your full-length URL in order to track all the tweets that have shared it. When I have a post on the Harvard Business Review blog, I typically visit the Topsy trackbacks for that link several times in the first 48 hours, and then one a day for the next week or so.
  3. Thank and engage with scheduled tweets. Of course, you shouldn’t be tracking all those mentions just for the sheer ego gratification (or in some cases, ego shattering) that comes from seeing what people have to say about you. The whole point of seeing all these links is to engage with them, ideally by replying to any questions or substantive comments, and perhaps by thanking some or all of the folks who have tweeted about your work. You can thank people in real time, or you can queue up a bunch of thank-yous in Buffer, an app that lets you schedule tweets on a specific schedule. You can use HootSuite for tweet scheduling, too, but as my next post will explain , using Topsy and Buffer together will turn you into tweet-thanking ninja.

Saying goodbye to pen and paper

My latest blog post for Harvard Business Review has provoked a strong reaction to the idea of saying goodbye to the paper notebook. Here’s my own take on the experience of giving up on paper and pen.

Alexandra Samuel

Those 25 characters, comprising a tip, a total and a signature, now represent the lion’s share of my handwriting. That’s what I realized during a recent conversation with a colleague, when I asked how he takes notes…meaning, of course, what software program did he use. I didn’t even consider the possibility of his actual answer: a notebook. You know, a lump of paper bound together so that you can scratch at it with a pen. Yuck.

In all honesty, I have never liked holding a pen. What I hated about college exams wasn’t the studying or the race to get out the answers: it was the way my hand ached by the time I got halfway through a test. I tried The Artist’s Way but I loathed the morning pages because unlike a touch typing on a keyboard, pen-and-paper writing can’t keep up with the pace at which ideas actually flow.

As soon as I got a laptop light enough to carry, I braved the glares of my fellow conference-goers so that I could take my notes on my computer, where I could actually read them; my chicken scratch is barely legible, even to me.

Even though I took more and more of my notes on a computer, I still used paper notebooks as my day-to-day repository. After all, who can bother launching Word just to capture a phone number? Or hunting through all those folders of files just to find that brief thought you had during last week’s meeting? For these unavoidable writing situations, I carried a medium-sized, graph-ruled, hard-bound notebook, cycling through a new one every three months. Sometimes I referred back to my meeting notes or latest inspirations, but the notebooks were mostly a garbage can: a place to throw words, information and ideas, knowing that they’d get ground up and lost.

Then came VooDoopad, a one-stop notetaking program, and later, Evernote. When I started using Voodoopad in mid-2005, my notetaking was instantly transformed: instead of opening individual Word documents for each note, I could throw them all in Voodoopad. Better yet, I could actually find them, because unlike my paper notebooks, Voodoopad was both legible and searchable. Then I (regretfully, because I loved Voodoopad and its awesome developer) shifted over to Evernote, which offered features like iPhone syncing — meaning that I could access or add to my notes anytime, anywhere.

My four-notebook-a-year habit became a one-notebook-a-year habit, and my pen and moleskine might languish in my purse for days at a time. Then I’d find myself in a meeting where I couldn’t put a laptop screen between me and my client, and out the moleskine would come (if the notes were important, I’d snap them later on my iPhone and add them to Evernote). Or I’d come up with a blog post idea over dinner — along with a first paragraph I couldn’t bear to type on my iPhone keyboard — and write it down just legibly enough to transcribe into my browser as soon as I got home. Or sometimes I’d simply run out of battery life halfway through a work session, and be forced to switch to paper.

The iPad liberated me from these final use cases for my notebook. There is no meeting where I feel uncomfortable taking notes on my iPad; not only is it small enough to feel unintrusive, but typing on a touchscreen aovid the clackety-clack of a keyboard. I have beautiful Etsy purse that fits my iPad, so if I have an inspiration over dinner, my iPad is always at the ready. And unless I’ve let Little Peanut wear out my iPad watching videogame walkthroughs on YouTube (a not-infrequent problem) it’s usually there to bail me out when my laptop battery dies.

The moleskine I’m using right now — if using is the right term for it — is filled only halfway. The first page of notes are from early 2009, and at the pace I’m going, I’ll be able to use it until about 2014. (A lifespan that puts Apple products to shame: I suspect I’ll go through half a dozen iPhones, four iPads and at least two Macbooks in the same amount of time.)

With my notebook relegated to such occasional use — if memory serves, the last time I needed more than one page of it was during a blackout at the Hollyhock retreat center — it takes some real digging to think of circumstances in which I actually pick up a pen. I no longer bother to carry one, in fact, and it’s only once or twice a month that I find myself wishing I did.  I still write on our grocery list (though I’ve been thinking about replacing the pad of paper with a half-dead iPhone that would let us access our list online); I still write the occasional comments on a colleague’s document (though I prefer to load it on my iPad and annotate it there); I still need to fill in my daughter’s reading log for school (though she mostly fills it in herself because she’s still at the stage where writing a few words is a form of learning). Together, these various pen-on-paper scenarios might account for twenty or thirty words’ worth of writing each week.

And that leaves the Visa slips. I use my Visa for almost everything, which amounts to thirty or forty transactions a week: let’s call it 750 characters. I figure that’s twice as much writing as all the other scenarios put together.

Of course, my most recent Visa card has a micro-chip: more and more of the time, I enter a PIN and skip the signature altogether. 750, 650, 550…I feel the written letters slip away. With them goes the memory of my grade 3 teacher, patiently baking my first handwritten story into an “antique” manuscript. I sever the mimetic tie to the eighteen-year-old girl who filled the pages of a journal with her first heartbreak. Out of practice at reading my own scrawl, I can no longer decipher the notebook my husband and I used during our first weekend as lovers — a weekend when I lost my voice and relied entirely on writing.

These are the losses that accumulate through our transition to a new world, a new set of tools, new ways of working and new ways of remembering. At any time I could choose to pick up pen and paper once again, to forego legibility and searchability in favor of the serendipity of what gets recalled and what becomes indecipherable. But I have no romantic fantasies about sitting at a sidewalk café in Paris, sipping coffee and writing in longhand; that world is gone, or going, and my paper notebook isn’t going to reveal Paris or the world as they are today.

Instead, I picture myself at that same café, iPad in hand. It’s a lovely spot, charming and a little bit hidden, but I found my way back there because I jotted down the address in Evernote after stumbling onto it last year.  Downstairs is the same dark stone room that has served patrons for more than two hundred years; upstairs the stone is interrupted by windows big enough to let in light and wifi. And there I sit, tweeting and blogging and sharing my notes with the world in real-time.

Twitter & HootSuite stories wanted for next Harvard Business Review ebook

FROM AN EVERNOTE USER: I largely use Evernote to clip news articles, academic articles, and journal articles. I use separate Evernote notebooks for teaching, for material relevant to my book, and one for my next research project. I also created a notebook when I was writing a piece for The New Yorker about the shooting at the Sikh temple in Oak Creek. I wanted to make sure I gave proper attribution to the ideas that I was building upon, so I clipped links to analyses of media coverage of Oak Creek or details about the shooter. I didn’t want to plagiarize anything by accident, so anytime I made an argument that had been made before, I linked to it.—Naunihal Singh, assistant professor of political science, University of Notre Dame

Work Smarter with Evernote features a number of great tips like this one. One of the best parts of working on the book was hearing all the creative ways people use Evernote to be more productive, smarter and taller. (OK, maybe not taller, but possibly thinner.)

Now that I’m working on the next ebook in the series, I’m eager to hear more great stories from creative social media users. This time, I’m looking for your best examples, tricks and tactics for using Twitter or HootSuite. How do you decide who to follow? How do you read tweets and follow people? How do you structure and organize your own tweeting?

If you’ve got suggestions on how people can get more from Twitter, examples of how you’ve used Twitter or HootSuite yourself, or stories about how Twitter has rocked your world, I’d love to hear them via Twitter (to @awsamuel), in the comment thread below, or via email to alex[at]alexandrasamuel[dot]com. Thanks in advance for your help!