Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Planning to Shop on Cyber Monday? Be Very, Very Careful!

While the economy continues to suffer, many Americans will still visit shopping malls across the country the day after Thanksgiving, also known as the busiest shopping day of the year or Black Friday. But for those of you who wait for Cyber Monday, the busiest ONLINE shopping day of the year, you need to be aware that cyber criminals are waiting for you.

According to market researchers with comScore Networks, approximately 58% of workers do most of their online shopping while at work. This can create a number of problems. This web activity can increase bandwidth consumption, can result in a loss of productivity, and can lead to increased spam and phishing attacks. But, despite these risks, most companies do nothing to stop online shopping during work hours. A recent survey conducted by St. Bernard found that 76% of companies do NOT block their employees’ Internet access to online shopping sites during work hours.

If companies do not have policies against their employees using work computers for online commerce, be aware that IT departments may still be on alert. Cyber criminals are creating fake ecommerce sites with the hope that visitors share their credit card information, and surfers may encounter malicious links near the top of search results when searching for popular products.

A solution might be to have one designated PC for employees to use, but have you ever received the following email from your CEO at 9am on the Monday after Thanksgiving?

“Dear employees, I hope you had a great Thanksgiving. To thank you for your great work all year long, we have designated one computer in the lunch room for your Cyber Monday shopping. Please be considerate of your fellow employees and only shop for 15 minutes. Thank you.”

Probably not.

While Cyber Monday marks the busiest time of the year for consumers, retailers, and cyber criminals, the best solution is to surf ecommerce sites from home, use effective virus protection and firewall (hardware, software, or both), only visit reputable websites, and only share credit card information on encrypted sites. Sometimes, a product’s price is so enticing that we can easily forget these simple rules – until it’s too late – and our credit card information has been stolen. Happy and safe shopping!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Marriage of LinkedIn and Twitter – Is a Divorce Possible?

By now, the fact that LinkedIn and Twitter partnered to provide cross-posts is old news. Reuters broke the story on November 9. But, there is something that has not been openly discussed. Everyone may be excited about the new capability to cross-post 140-character updates through LinkedIn to Twitter and vice-versa, but what has been unspoken is the most basic tenet of marketing – that invaluable lesson about “knowing your audience.”

The audiences and uses of LinkedIn and Twitter are different, so why would someone want to connect the two? Most LinkedIn users provide a wealth of information to build their personal brands (aka, their professional identity) with the goal of building business contacts: their name, location, photo, expertise, current and previous jobs, job duties, education, contacts, group affiliations, links to portfolios, links to presentations, links to blogs, etc. A LinkedIn user must provide specific details in order to establish an account. By contrast, Twitter users do not need to show their photos, professional backgrounds, telephone numbers, websites, or even use a real name. Twitter exists and succeeds as a micro-blog where users discuss areas of specialty, opinions, news, and initiate and engage in conversations – all in 140-characters or less.

Representatives for both LinkedIn and Twitter stated that an immediate benefit will be for users of both social media sites to increase their audiences for Tweets and LinkedIn updates. But, without the unique audience component built into each social media site, there will be an overwhelming amount of information posted to both sites that will cause information overload. The entire purpose of creating and capitalizing on social media conversations will be impaired. So, my question is, how long until LinkedIn and Twitter divorce?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Should You Blog?

Blogs have been around since the early 1990’s, but should you have one?

According to Wikipedia, a blog is a type of website that is usually maintained by an individual or individuals with regular entries of commentary, event descriptions, graphics, or video. Entries are often displayed in reverse-chronological order, and unlike corporate websites, visitors can post their comments in an interactive format. The community of blogs is referred to as the “blogosphere,” and as of December 2007, the blog search engine Technorati tracked more than 112 million blogs.

There are three types of blogs:
• Corporate blogs – created by companies for marketing or brand-building purposes
• Personal blogs – created by individuals as a forum for expression
• Genre blogs – created for any topic (examples include travel blogs, education blogs, music blogs, book club blogs, animal blogs, etc.)

Over the years, Blogs have become more mainstream:
• By 2004, politicians, news outlets, and political consultants used blogs to express opinions and increase outreach (for example, Howard Dean and Wesley Clark)
• In 2004, blog posts were instrumental in the Dan Rather “Rathergate” scandal that led to his resignation as anchor of the CBS Evening News
• In 2008, Israel established an official government blog, and questions and answers from a world-wide press conference were posted on the blog

What could a Blog do for your business?
• Build a two-way relationship with customers
• Build brand awareness
• Promote your company’s products or services
• Provide a forum for customers to provide feedback about products or services and/or make recommendations for improvement
• Keep a pulse on your industry in real-time – if your company needs to act, it can do so quickly
• Increase traffic to corporate website – improve search engine optimization campaigns
• Showcase your company’s expertise to a large audience

Once you set up a Blog, find your voice. If you are an individual, write as you speak. If a company, determine your company’s voice and make sure that the senior management team approves. Second, develop a timeline for updating your Blog. Daily may be too much work – weekly or monthly may be better options. Third, create a strategy for content. Decide on key themes or topics. Future topics will be derived from visitor feedback, and research industry-specific venues for additional ideas. Now, start blogging!

The "Top 10" Types of Interviews

With the national unemployment rate hovering at 10%, many Americans have a new job: job-searching. As part of the search process, they need to survive the job interview. To assist applicants as they navigate the job-search waters, here is a list of the top 10 types of interviews. Armed with an understanding of the top 10 types of interviews, applicants can quickly identify the type of interview they find themselves in and how to move forward.

“Over or Under”
In this type of interview, the applicant is either over-qualified or under-qualified. This occurs because the applicant did not read the original ad thoroughly or because the employer changed the parameters of the job without informing the applicant. I once had an interview with a manufacturer and was told by the President, “Since we never attract applicants of your caliber, we just wanted to meet you.”

“Someone Else”
Within the first few moments of the interview, the interviewer explains that the position would best be filled by someone with a different college degree, by someone with different industry experience, or some other ridiculous excuse. The real truth may be that the interviewer plans to hire a distant relative or friend, so he/she tries to highlight the applicant’s shortcomings in an effort to dissuade the applicant from pursuing the position.

“No One Will Be Hired”
During this type of interview or set of interviews, the applicant has so many interviews with one company that he/she doubts anyone will ever be hired. Despite several interviews with a company over several months, I was eventually told that the company had instituted a hiring freeze.

“Too Many Cooks Spoil the Broth”
At this type of interview, the applicant meets with so many people at the first, second, or third interview, that the objective of determining the most qualified applicant takes a back seat to the probability of creating personality conflicts. This can also happen at a panel-style interview when an applicant sits at a conference table surrounded by a firing squad or 10, I mean 10 interviewers.

“Pad the HR Files”
While some leaders in the human resources/personnel/human capital industry are demonstrating their worth at the C-level roundtable, many HR professionals are still unsure how to interview, develop talent, and improve employee morale. This type of interview exists solely to attract highly qualified applicants with no intent to hire them, but instead, to make the HR Department look good.

“The Filter”
During this type of interview, an applicant meets with members of a company’s human resources department. This is always the first interview with a company, and the objective is to determine if the applicant is a breathing human being, appears at the interview fully clothed, does not show up with his/her parents, and is not a convicted felon. Other than those criteria, the HR folks have no specifics about the job in question. So when the applicant asks questions, the HR person’s response is always, “I don’t know.”

“The Applicant Must Be Lying”
This type of interview is difficult because the possibility exists that a ridiculous comment made by an interviewer may actually test the applicant and his/her response. At one interview, the interviewer reviewed my portfolio and when he saw a paper with my name on it, he asked, “Did you write this?”

“The Interviewer Does Not Know How to Interview”
No matter what is discussed during this type of interview, the interviewer will not or cannot pay attention. He/she will either look out windows, fiddle with a pen, use the telephone, send emails or text messages, draw, etc.

In this type of interview, the applicant has no recourse. While there may be illegal questions that cannot be asked during interviews, how many people actually leave an interview because someone asked “Are you married?” and then walk to a lawyer’s office, hire a lawyer, and then sue the company? This just doesn’t happen. This type of interview happens as a result of interviewers’ prejudices (gender, ethnicity, education, etc.) as opposed to an applicant’s ability or inability to perform the described job duties.

“We Cannot Hire You Because We Are Stupid”
This type of interview is, perhaps, the worst scenario. On paper, the position looks interesting, and the company looks interesting. However, once the interview begins, everything reeks of the Titanic. During an interview with a software company, I once asked a President where he saw the company in five years, and his response was “I don’t know.”

Monday, November 2, 2009

In Current Economy, Don’t Forget to Give Back

With 1 out of 10 Americans unemployed, many of us have extra time on our hands. In between sending resumes and networking, the question arises, what should we do with our extra time? The answer is simple and a win-win for everyone: contribute to your local community and become a volunteer.

In our youth, we may have learned about volunteerism by selling Girl Scout cookies or helping out at a food shelter. But, as adults, we can easily become overwhelmed with family and work responsibilities. However, the current economy has provided us with an opportunity to become re-acquainted with our local communities and, at the same time, make a positive impact on someone else’s life.

How do you find non-profits? One online resource,, asks for your zip code and then lists countless non-profits that need assistance for single events as well as long-term projects. You can also search by specific areas of interest, such as, mentoring, literacy, animals, environment, disabilities, music, art, etc. You can then contact the non-profits directly. Another online resource,, acts as a liaison between non-profits and individuals to raise the standard of leadership on non-profit Boards. Another site,, was developed by President Obama, who said earlier this summer, “I’m calling on all of you to make volunteerism and community service part of your daily life and the life of this nation…We need individuals, community organizations, corporations, foundations, and our government to be part of this effort.” These sites are just the tip of the iceberg. Once you start searching, you will find many, many more.

So, whatever your interest, whatever your time commitment, there is no doubt that you will gain satisfaction by knowing that you have helped others. And who knows? The non-profit may even offer you a paying job once you demonstrate your capabilities.