How I Learned to Quit My Phone and Love My Vacation

Sunday afternoon I returned from five days at Paradox Lake, a beautiful haven within the 6-million-acre Adirondack State Park in New York. It was time well-spent building camp fires, kayaking, hiking, grilling, fishing and laughing with friends. And thanks to my mobile carrier’s coverage (or lack thereof in almost any area NOT a major metro), my iPhone 6S became little more than a camera.

Sunday afternoon I returned from five days at Paradox Lake, a beautiful haven within the 6-million-acre Adirondack State Park in New York. It was time well-spent building camp fires, kayaking, hiking, grilling, fishing and laughing with friends. And thanks to my mobile carrier’s coverage (or lack thereof in almost any area NOT a major metro), my iPhone 6S became little more than a camera.

I’d like to say I shifted to being truly off the grid effortlessly, using the printed out email directions from the cabin owner to navigate the final 10 miles into the wilderness. Directions like:

“Make a left onto Cabin Road and drive for 2.5 miles, then when you see the sign for ‘Camp Crystal Lake,’ make a sharp right turn up a steep hill, spin out your tires a couple times trying to make it up the hill, pass a raccoon waving stick, then park in front of the cabin, not across from it. Just … trust us.”

Or you know, something like that.

And I was in good shape with just those printed directions. I found the cabin, parked, unloaded, unpacked and had a good first day taking photos as I kayaked the lake and creek, and reading on the back porch in an Adirondack chair.

Then it was Day 2, and I realized I hadn’t written down the address for the brewery I wanted to visit or any notes about potential hikes in the region before driving up from Philadelphia. I was going on foggy memory, recalling that the brewery, while named Paradox Brewery, was actually located closer to Schroon Lake, which was to the south of me, in a different town.

And that, while there was a hike to Gull Pond, there was also a hike to Crane Pond, Otter Pond, Rock Pond and Goose Pond, all within two miles of each other — and I had no idea how to find a single trail head.

This is where I would have pulled out my phone and googled it — let’s be honest, it’s less of a phone and more of a handheld Google Box — but I had no service. I also didn’t know when my friends Rachel and Dave would be arriving on Day 2, because, again, no service.

What did I do? I drove 45 minutes south until I heard my phone start going off with notifications, and then pulled into a scenic “texting” lot. I threw the car into park, snatched the phone up and watched as all those little badge icon numbers grew in leaps and bounds. I sent messages to my friends about the cabin directions and advice to pack warm clothes. Then I looked up driving directions to the brewery, as well as to a general store where I could purchase a trail guide for hiking.

And then … I posted a bunch of photos to Instagram (cross-posting to Facebook), checked all my social networks, skimmed my work email, and realized that I had been sitting in my car in a parking lot staring at my phone for 30 minutes.

I was on vacation. In the Adirondacks, one of the most beautiful state parks in the country, and I was looking at my freaking phone.

What's Wrong With Me? gifI drove back north, bought my trail guide, checked the brewery hours (in person!), then went for a 6.6 mile hike using only my guide book, trail markers, and eyes and feet to manage. I survived.

Protect Your Personal Professional Brand

Students need to be aware that future recruiters would leverage social media to learn more about them, and that they should immediately ensure their Facebook accounts were set to private. After all, did they really want their job application rejected because the recruiter was able to see that they behaved inappropriately on Spring Break?

LinkedIn LogosIn early January, I was invited by my alma mater to speak to a group of students and their alumni mentors about building a personal brand. In the presentation, I spoke specifically about how students needed to be aware that future recruiters would leverage social media to learn more about them, and that they should immediately ensure their Facebook accounts were set to private. After all, did they really want their job application rejected because the recruiter was able to see that they behaved inappropriately on Spring Break?

One of the other major social media sites I discussed was LinkedIn – and why they should care about how their professional brand is conveyed to colleagues, employers and future employers. But it seems that lesson is lost on many professionals, as demonstrated by recent commentary on LinkedIn’s news feed with regards to posts by Candice Galek, CEO and founder of Bikini Luxe.

To give Ms. Galek credit, her posts leverage LinkedIn’s social media tools for promoting one’s business or service. In a collection of updates/articles, Ms. Galek posts a somewhat risqué image of a model in a bikini and asks readers the question “Is This Appropriate for LinkedIn?”

Not surprisingly, the original post scored more than 500 comments, both pro and con. But what disturbed me the most was how inappropriate many of the comments were – and NOT from an anonymous user name.

Since LinkedIn requires you to be logged in to comment, any post you make clearly designates who you are, your title and the company that you represent.

I could not believe how immature and unprofessional many of the comments were – and how it altered my view of those who made them.

After reading about two dozen of the more disgusting comments, I sadly realized that our society has not really evolved one iota. But more importantly, those who posted lewd and sexist commentary have forever tarnished their professional brand images. And that’s not just my opinion.

As Ms. Galek herself reported, one senior vice president of business development sent her a LinkedIn mail advising her that one of his prospects had taken note of his bikini post commentary and advised him that he was no longer going to pursue their biz dev conversation.

Since Bikini Luxe is a legitimate business, they have every right to use the media channels at their disposal to further their communications objectives. And, as surprising as it was to see a scantily clad model in my LinkedIn newsfeed, Ms. Galek is entitled to use business-appropriate content to engage prospects (she is, after all, in the swimwear business).

But I might suggest that business professionals think twice before being lured into making a comment (even if you’re thinking it, do you really want your superiors, peers, employees, clients and future employers to know your thoughts?). Or should I just chalk it up to “boys will be boys?”

Social Media Is Not for Every Business

One of the most popular questions I get from businesses (both big and small) is, “How can I optimize social media?” The answer, unfortunately, is that social media is not a one-size-fits-all approach.

Social Conversations stock artOne of the most popular questions I get from businesses (both big and small) is, “How can I optimize social media?”

The answer, unfortunately, is that social media is not a one-size-fits-all approach.

Forget the new social media channels that are cropping up every time you turn around. There are plenty of the most popular social media sites that are not worth the investment. So here’s a quick checklist that might help you decide whether or not these social media options are right for your business:

LinkedIn
If you’re in the business-to-business space, it’s critical that you and your senior team (at a minimum), have polished LinkedIn profiles. Crisp, high quality photos, succinct descriptions of your business and links to your website will help support your company’s brand image.

Having a LinkedIn company page means it’s easier to link to articles that your staff has posted and to post job openings. Plus, since many organizations are now using LinkedIn to search for a business supplier, your company page will show up in search results. Plus you can sponsor posts for a wider distribution.

If, however, you run a local dry cleaning business, you probably won’t benefit from a LinkedIn company page. Since LinkedIn a broad-reaching business networking site, your biggest determinant might be how broad an audience you’re trying to reach. If it’s geographically tiny, I’d take a pass on a company page — but still maintain a personal profile.

Facebook
With more and more advertising cropping up on Facebook newsfeeds, users are starting to become numb to advertising messages — unless, of course, you’re selling retail products that can be targeted to a specific audience. If you’re trying to build community and spread updates about your products/services, then a Facebook page is a great way to keep your enthusiasts engaged with your brand.

You must, of course, first build a base of followers — which comes by posting relevant and timely content, and encouraging shares. Own a bike shop? Post tune-up tips, updates on gear, answer Q&A’s for beginners and experienced riders alike. Encourage your followers to share tips about secret trails, pictures of their travels, etc. And, from time to time, run contests to win a free bike or accessory. But, above all, keep it current and relevant.

Why Millennials Don’t Consume Mass Media … And Why That’s OK

Every semester, I ask the students in my undergraduate classes: “Does anyone read the newspaper?” No hands raised.

Every semester, I ask the students in my undergraduate classes: “Does anyone read the newspaper?” No hands raised.

“Does anyone watch the network news on TV?” No hands raised.

“Does anyone listen to the radio?” Some who commute by car raised their hands.

As someone who has two newspapers delivered to the house every day and faithfully watches the network news on TV, I was disturbed by this, smacking my forehead with a “these kids today!” exclamation. I feared that the world view brought to them by social media was very narrow and limited to the viewpoints of people who were just like them. A few of my Facebook friends have very different political views from mine (their posts sometimes annoy me), but most of those in my social network are aligned with my views. I believed that young people would have an even less diverse pool of opinions from which to draw.

So I did some research to confirm my point of view, ignoring David Ogilvy’s warning that many agencies and clients “use research like a drunkard uses a lamp post – not for illumination but for support.” What I found was illuminating.

The social networks of Millennials are not as homogenous as those of older people: “31 percent of Baby Boomers on Facebook who pay attention to political posts say the posts they see are mostly or always in line with their own views, higher than both Generation Xers (21 percent) and Millennials (18 percent),” according to Pew Research Center Journalism & Media.

A study by The American Press Institute (opens as a PDF) finds that most Millennials report that the people in their social networks have diverse views. “Contrary to the idea that social media creates a polarizing ‘filter bubble,’ exposing people to only a narrow range of opinions, 70 percent of Millennials say that their social media feeds are comprised of diverse viewpoints, evenly mixed between those similar to and different from their own. An additional 16 percent say their feeds contain mostly viewpoints different from their own. And nearly three-quarters of those exposed to different views (73 percent) report they investigate others’ opinions at least some of the time — with a quarter saying they do it always or often.”

The news is not a destination for Millennials, but rather something that’s woven into their daily social media activity. “Millennials consume news and information in strikingly different ways than previous generations, and their paths to discovery are more nuanced and varied than some may have imagined … just 47 percent who use Facebook say that getting news is a main motivation for visiting, but it has become one of the significant activities they engage in once they are there. Fully 88 percent of Millennials get news from Facebook regularly, for instance, and more than half of them do so daily.”

Of course, it’s not just Facebook … YouTube and Instagram serve the same purposes for Millennials. As marketers, we need to stay tuned-in (sorry) to how the most populous generation consumes news, social and lifestyle information simultaneously on social media platforms, and how we can best make our messages relevant there.

‘Social Media’ Is a Useless Idea

Sometimes it seems like the whole thing is a big, distributed CRM vending machine. But it’s not one thing. Social media is in fact many things, and they’re not really that similar.

Social Media TrendsI talk about social media A LOT these days.

That’s not because “likes” are some great indicator of marketing success. It’s because the interaction model of marketers and customers/prospects on social media is one of the most interesting and quickly changing fields in communications today. Things that a few decades ago had to happen in person or by mail now happen instantaneously with people you never even see, and many of them may actually be computer programs.

Sometimes it seems like the whole thing is a big, distributed CRM vending machine.

But it’s not one thing. Social media is in fact many things, and they’re not really that similar.

That’s why “social media” suddenly seems a useless idea. And perhaps it always was.

In the world where most of our interaction is happening online, are Facebook and Twitter really any more similar than mail and TV?

I don’t think they are. The strategies, creative and interaction on both of them are completely different, not to mention the advertising. Facebook is a gathering place, Twitter is a micro broadcasting platform. Instagram is for sharing your pictures, Pinterest is for sharing images you find around the Internet. LinkedIn is how you want to be remembered, and Snapchat is for the stuff you don’t want to remember.

It’s time we stopped talking about these different media channels as the same thing simply because they emerged from a vaguely similar time frame and technologies. Each one takes the kind of individual attention you give to executing your email program.

And if that’s the case, the singular idea of social media really isn’t useful anymore.

Like the traditional media channels, you don’t need to be on all of them. But the ones you do use must be respected as the unique platforms they are.