8 easy ways to make me (and everyone else) love you more online

We all know the world runs on love. But every day, we squander that love by bugging the living crap out of other people, thanks to our careless interactions with technology.

The good news is that there are some simple ways to avoid annoying people online (and off). Here are 8 simple guidelines that I guarantee will make me love you 14.3% more than I do right now.

  1. Put your phone number in your signature line, and use your sig line every time you email me. I don’t want to go rooting around through your past emails to find the one time you gave me your phone number. You are not being charged by the character, and I swear, including your sig line in every email message is not going to make the Internet slow to a crawl.
  2. Google before you ask. Don’t send me emails asking for how-tos or factual information you could find yourself in less than 10 minutes of googling. If you think I would immediately have the answer to a question that would take you a couple of hours to figure out, then I’m happy to save you that time.
  3. Fact check your Internet memes. Before you post the astonishing truth about the consumer product that is secretly killing me, or share that request for donations for the sad person suffering from disease X, take the time to make sure that what you’re sharing is current and accurate. Your best bet is to look at Snopes.com, the one-stop source for fact checking any Internet meme or urban myth. For health-related stories, look at QuackWatch.
  4. Bcc your group emails. I’m glad to be included in your group email messages announcing the launch of your new business or the birth of your baby. But I don’t necessarily want to share my email address with everyone on your distribution list. Please put our email addresses in the “bcc” field, and only put your own email address in the “to” field.
  5. Don’t forward chain emails. I don’t care how spiritually uplifting it is: if it asks me to forward this email to five friends, I am going to delete it. Sending it to me is not only a waste of both of our time, but makes me feel lousy for letting you down.
  6. “Reply all” with care.  Some emails do need to be sent to a large group, like the announcement of a new product launch or team member. But the congratulatory or detailed replies often don’t need to make it back to the crowd — just to the author of the original message. So unless your reply is adding value to the whole group, don’t hit “reply all”. And no, showing how thoughtful you are in offering congratulations does not add value to the whole group.
  7. Offer an explanation before looking at your phone. Hey, I get it: sometimes you need to check your phone, even when we’re in the middle of lunch or a conversation. You may even need to take a call from your boss, your client or your babysitter. But don’t act like it’s a consequence-free distraction: when you break away from our conversation to answer a call or check your email, you’re showing me that there is something more important than our conversation, at least for the moment. So do me the courtesy of asking whether I mind the interruption, or at least, of explaining why this phone call/text message/Words with Friends turn has to happen right now.
  8. Ask before you introduce me to someone. Unless it’s Barack Obama, Marissa Meyer or Stephen Sondheim, please check with me before you write that email of introduction. I am often happy to help out your student or colleague, and I’m delighted if you refer a potential client I can assist — but I hate to make both of us look unkind or unhelpful if it’s not a fit.

That takes care of my biggest digital peeves. What are yours?

If conferences were like slot machines

Wonder Woman Slot Machine
My Facebook friends should be forgiven if they think I’m in Vegas to try out novelty slot machines.

I was actually here to deliver three presentations on “How social media drives consumer decisions” at the LeadingRE real estate conference. I got to my last presentation an hour ahead of time, set up my computer and had my deck all ready to go.

About 10 minutes before I was due to start, a few people came in and asked “is this the LinkedIn presentation?” I looked at the conference program and sure enough, the room I was in was scheduled for a presentation, “R U LinkedIn”, by another presenter. But where was he? And where was I supposed to be?

OK, I thought…these folks are here for a LinkedIn presentation. Am I just going to tell them my story about how social media drives purchasing? No, I know about LinkedIn. Heck, I wrote a book about it. I can talk about LinkedIn for an hour, off the top of my head.
Just then, a conference organizer came in to find me and take me to the right place — a room with a hundred people who were waiting for me to kick off their MarTech (marketing + technology) conference. They were full of smart questions about social media, and like the rest of the fabulous audiences at this event, really raring to take their online marketing to the next level. So I’m glad it all worked out.

But now I’ve got a pent-up LinkedIn presentation coming together in my mind. Even more appealing is the idea of an entire unconference dedicated to improvised presentations — maybe, pulling a presentation topic out of a hat, or choosing from three options.

Would that be horrible? Wonderful? Or does the idea of running a conference like a slot machine only sound appealing because I’m in Vegas?

Announcing Work Smarter, Rule Your Email

There’s no part of online life that has a bigger impact on our productivity — and our happiness! — than email. But most email productivity guides focus on getting control over email, when what we really need is more control over our lives and our work.

That’s why I’m excited to announce today’s publication of the latest book in my Work Smarter with Social Media series for Harvard Business Review Press: Work Smarter, Rule Your Email. I wrote this short ebook for people who get too much email, which is a bit like saying I wrote this book for everybody. In it, I outline a few simple strategies and show you how to use your favourite mail client’s built-in tools to make your email really work for you, freeing you to focus your time and attention on the work that really matters.

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. 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, iBooks, Kobo or Goodreads.

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 and Rule your Email? Then check out @awsamuel’s new ebook from @Harvardbiz Press: http://amzn.to/ruleyouremail
  • Click to tweet this: The next best thing to a coaching session with @awsamuel: her new ebook, Work Smarter, Rule your Email: http://amzn.to/ruleyouremail #readthis
  • Click to tweet this: Tired of email ruling your life? Read Work Smarter, Rule your Email, just published by @HarvardBiz Press: http://amzn.to/ruleyouremail

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

Work Smarter, Rule Your Email

Find Work Smarter, Rule Your Email on

Interested in learning more about how social media can help you get ahead of your daily work — and get ahead in your career? Check out my other books in this series of short, digital books from Harvard Business Review Press. Other instalments provide the best tips and tricks for using tools like Evernote, Twitter and HootSuite and LinkedIn to get organized and improve your performance on the job.

It’s monkey see, monkey do over here

And you know, you usually don’t let monkeys hack firmware.

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.

Hey NSA, even my kids know snooping is creepy

This morning’s breakfast conversation:

ME: I’m feeling upset about how Barack Obama has been reading all the stuff we’ve been posting online — everywhere except Twitter, which refused to cooperate.

SWEETIE: That’s creepy.

ME: Good news, though — I blogged your list of feature ideas for Apple.

PEANUT: Will Barack Obama read that, too?

ME: I have to post that.

SWEETIE: Well, post it on Twitter, so Barack Obama won’t read it.

ME: It’s tough to fit that into 140 characters.

SWEETIE: Try, because I don’t want Barack Obama seeing that.

Should copyediting be part of your social media strategy?

I’ll admit it: I’m a grammar nazi. When I see a poorly punctuated tweet, I cringe, and when I see a blog post with a comma splice in the title, I want to tear my hair out. I’ve fantasized about a supper club for copy editors — the folks like me and my husband, who begin any restaurant meal by proofreading the menu — a fantasy that turns out to resonate with many fellow nitpickers. I’ve even got admin rights on the blog of a brilliant friend whose blog I refused to read unless I could correct his typos.

So it has long blown my mind that so many professional and corporate websites and social media presences are riddled with grammatical errors, spelling mistakes and just plain old-fashioned bad writing. Don’t people care about the English language? Don’t they cringe at all the mistakes they’re putting forth as part of their public image? Don’t these companies know what they’re doing?

No, no and yes.

No, most people don’t care about language — not with the obsessiveness that we linguistic nitpickers regard as the minimum standard of acceptable usage. No, most people don’t cringe at their mistakes — because they don’t see them.

And yes, the companies that allow spelling and grammatical mistakes to become part of their online presence absolutely know what they’re doing. In fact, they may be smarter than the companies with Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook presences that could get 100% on a high school English test.

Because social media isn’t a high school English test. It’s a conversation: a living, breathing dialogue with an organization, and between an organization and its customers, members or supporters.

And like any conversation worth listening to, it’s spontaneous, authentic and messy. In fact, unless you’re running a social media presence or web community for English teachers, you can only have an authentic presence if you are willing to put up with that messiness.

Any social media pro worth her salt will tell you that the foundational principles of a successful social media presence are authenticity, spontaneity and a willingness to relinquish some degree of control. Disciplined copyediting — the consistent attention to every last comma and vowel that’s necessary to achieve a flawless written record — is just another way of exerting control.

If you’re insistent that your company or organization’s social media presence live up to the highest standards of your high school English program, then you are condemned to a model of control that is the enemy of social media success. The alternative is a policy of trust: trusting your employees and community members to exercise good judgement about what to post, and even how to spell.

Learning to live with erratic spelling, incorrect grammar and even the occasional profanity is an extension of the trust principle you have to adopt in order to generate a lively, engaging and reflective social media presence: one that anyone in your organization feels like they can participate in or contribute to.

That means allowing and celebrating contributions from people who’d end a blog post with a dangling preposition, even if they’re not the kind of people you’d have a copyediting dinner with.

Better vacations with social media

First, the bad news: planning works.

If you’re anything like me, you love the romantic idea of spontaneous travel; of hitting the road with nothing but a toothbrush and a change of underwear (plus the entire Apple product line, of course). Get in the car, and let the fates determine where your vacation will take you.

We tried that approach last summer, and we had a pleasant but intermittently stressful holiday. (There are no hotel rooms available for 60 miles! I can’t find a restaurant our kids will eat at! how come you didn’t notice there were no gas stations here?) So this summer, I tried the opposite approach.

I planned our vacation down to the last detail.

I did the vacation planning with social media.

We had a truly fantastic vacation.

So now it’s time to write my thank-you notes: the richly deserved acknowledgements to the different social media services that made our blissful holiday possible. My thank-yous will include the details on the creative and tricky ways we used each service, so you can use the same tools and techniques to plain the next great vacation (or business trip) on your own itinerary.

5 essential steps to online security

Today’s practice: Tighten your online security.

You’d think that writing a dissertation about political computer hacking would make a girl sensitive to the challenges of online security. And it has, up to a point. But I recently decided to up my level of tech security, and in the process discovered some handy new tools that make good security easier to achieve.

Securing your computer, accounts and home against these security threats can take some work, but it’s well worth the effort, particularly if any of the following risk factors apply to you:
  • You work with sensitive data (like health, legal or financial records)
  • You are a public figure or work with/for a public figure
  • You have a current or past relationship with someone who has harassed or stalked you on- or offline
  • You have a friend or family member who has been harassed or stalked
  • You work in or with organizations and countries where cyber-surveillance or hacking is common (like China, Russia and Iran)
  • You or someone in your household has been a victim of identity theft at any time
If you do only 5 things (yes, it’s a lot — but they all matter!) make them these:
  1. Install anti-malware software to catch any spyware on your computer and prevent future intrusions. Quick pick: Norton Internet Security 2012 for Windows. DO THIS BEFORE YOU DO ANYTHING ELSE.
  2. Use a strong password. Test its strength using  http://howsecureismypassword.net/  and don’t use any password that can be hacked in less than a year.
  3. Setup phone verification for your e-mail account, like Gmail’s two-step verification.
  4. If your email account is linked to a second, recovery account, make sure it’s secure too — otherwise anyone who has access to that recovery account can get access to your primary account.
  5. If someone else has ever had access to your phone, wipe it and reinstall your software from your computer. Only install applications you know and use; it’s possible someone else has installed an application that is spyware.

Online pickup, or online stalking? (From CBC Vancouver)

Finally, an online dating site that makes Plenty of Fish and Craigslist’s Missed Connections look positively classy. My comments are included in the story that ran on CBC news tonight.