8 ways you're underutilizing Twitter lists

Lists are one of the many great features on Twitter, but so many people underutilize them. Others think of them in a much too narrow way. Here are eight easy ways you can improve your usage of Twitter lists:

Write clear and cogent names for your lists
Don't make people wonder. On more than one occasion that I've been listed, I had to ask a list maker what the list meant and if it was good or bad!

Include a description for each list
Be sure to fill in the description box for every list you create. This allows you to elaborate on what the list is, how you use it, or how it may benefit others.

Utilize "private" lists
Create private lists for information that is only of use to you. A stealth job search, for example.

Use lists to acknowledge people
Lists can be a great tool to make people feel special. Put someone on a cool list, chances are you'll win a new friend. 

Migrate your lists into your third-party Twitter client
If you use a program like Tweetdeck to view tweets, you can incorporate any of your Twitter lists into a column for easy viewing.

Refrain from casually unlisting people
With popular Twitter tools like Listwatcher readily available, there's a very good chance that someone will know when you take them off a list. Use great care and caution when you unlist someone. He or she might take great offense to it.

Follow other people's lists
Many people put hours and hours into creating valuable lists, so make use of their hard work! Look at the lists that others create and follow the ones you like. This is a wonderful way to meet new people and find information that's of interest to you.

Maintain your lists
Lots of folks are good at creating lists, but then leave them to languish. Update your lists as you go and add worthy people to them on a regular basis.
How do you use Twitter lists?  Put your Twitter handle in your comment below and I'll add you to my new "My Favorite Commenters" list!

Gender shmender: Don't judge me by my undergarments

I don't ever play the gender card. Judge me by my merits. Don't give me the job because you need to fill a quota. Give me the same chance you'd give anyone and may the best person win.

This month I've been helping a friend of a friend manage some home repairs (long story). Hiring, negotiating, and managing painters, glass cutters, plumbers, reglazers, heating repair professionals, and handymen. I may be a girl, but I've got a tool box worthy of Bob Vila. I'm extremely handy and have fixed more than my fair share of things around the house. I'm proud to say I've got just as many tools as nail polish colors (which is a lot!).

Now, I'm sure you won't be surprised by this next part. The person I'm helping keeps dismissing my input. Frankly, I think it's because his underwear is different than mine. What can a girl know about thin set and drywall, right? Well, this girl knows plenty. So far, I've recommended two things and have been ignored. Well, turns out Mr. Boxer Briefs tried it his way and later had to reluctantly admit that my suggestion was the best way to go. Imagine that?

Sure, women are dismissed everyday because there's a perception that a man knows more about a given topic. But, it goes the other way, too.

In the last season of "The Apprentice" (you know, the reality show where people compete for a job with Donald Trump's organization), there were two teams tasked with creating a retail display for a new celebrity perfume. The team of three women was favored to win because, of course, women know more about the topic. The team of two men and one woman were perceived as the underdogs. What do men know about foo foo stuff, right?

Well, the team led by the men knocked it out of the park! Their display was absolutely gorgeous. Sophisticated, feminine, and inviting. The women's display, on the other hand, was childish and unprofessional. So much for underestimating the guys, right?

Sure, men might have a better aptitude for some things and women might be inclined to excel at others. However, it's a person's knowledge, background, interests, and attitude that really determine how successful he or she will be--not which side their shirt buttons up on.

Now, pardon me if you will. I've got a cake to bake and a door to hang...

Red tag sale today! Everything full price!

As a consumer, I hate to be mislead. Don't lie to me, trick me, or otherwise try to pull one over on me. I'm a smart cookie and I'll notice. Worse yet, I'll remember and won't trust you going forward.

Take this "special deal" from Target that I saw today:

Ten containers of Cesar dog food for seven dollars. Target had sale stickers all over the stuff, so I peaked behind the sale tags to see what the usual price was.

Hmmm, seventy cents each. Yeah, the everyday price would be ten containers for seven bucks. So what's the special deal? News flash: there is no sale price here at all.

Whether you operate your own small business or a mega-chain, here's my two cents of free advice (let's actually make that seventy cents!). Be honest and maintain your integrity. Regardless if you offer a product or a service, the relationship you create with your customer is a key part of your success. Much like a cheating girlfriend or husband, once trust is lost it's hard to regain it. 

The truth is, I would probably have bought some Cesar today because my dogs like it and I'm running low. However, there was no way I was buying it at Target when the sale stickers did nothing but offer the dog food for the regular price. I certainly wouldn't want them to think I was duped into the purchase. I'm a lot of things, but dumb isn't one of them.

How do you feel when you're mislead as a customer? All warm and fuzzy inside with a fierce sense of loyalty? Or, annoyed and cautious?

Let's hear it!

Shakespeare would make a lousy advertising executive

"A rose by any other name would smell just as sweet." William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, 1600
This is a lovely sentiment, but I can't think of anything less true in the advertising industry! What you say and how you say it counts in today's world. Your product or company's name, the font you choose for your packaging, the look of your logo, the colors, the slogan--it all counts. You could have the sweetest smelling rose in the world, so to speak, but if you name it the wrong thing or marketed it poorly it will quickly wilt. Take these two products below, for example.

They're both established brands, but at a glance, one is way more appealing to me as a consumer. Can you guess which one? Do you have a preference? How about if we go one step further and look at the envelopes in which the hot chocolate is packaged?

To me, the Nestle packaging and wording is far superior. "Making Warm Chocolately Memories"? That's fantastic! How delightfully cozy and inviting. Talk about conjuring up an image. As for the Swiss Miss envelope? It's a wasted opportunity. The stark blue and white feels generic and cold in comparison.

Now, take a moment to think of yourself or your business. Are you making the most of your words and images? Are you telling and showing customers about the satisfaction they'll get from using your product or purchasing your services? Or, is your rose really a stink weed?

Contest criminals: Social media's dirty little secret

I recently wrote about things on Twitter that need to stop ("7 Twitter Crimes That Need to be Outlawed"). Number Four was "Questionable Contests". Today, I'm so freakin' disgusted that good ole' number four is gonna get its very own rant. Let's get started.

Early last month, I visited the blog of a Twitter connection who was hosting a contest and giving away a book. Leave a comment to enter, easy enough. In black and white it said the winner would be selected on Monday (which was only five days away). I left a comment, a wonderfully witty one at that, and then went about living my glamorous life. Today, I was catching up on some stuff and remembered the contest. I went back to the site to see who the winner was, but the post hadn't been updated. I then tweeted the blogger to ask who won the contest.

Now, the plus side is that the person did respond to my question. The flip side was this response: "Haven't picked a winner yet. I am gonna promote it to my list tomorrow and pick one by Monday!" Let's keep in mind I inquired more than a month after the winner should have been selected.

I'm sick of this bad behavior. It's at epidemic proportions online. These people who sponsor shady contests should be ashamed of themselves. Heck, there are state and federal laws in place to ensure that contests are conducted in a fair and honest manner. Unfortunately, enforcement is non-existent when it comes to the small potato stuff like this. But, it shouldn't take a government agency to make you keep your word! You say you're gonna do something; do it. That's how my mama raised me; I'm sure yours did, too.

The sad thing is, this is not just the action of a misfit living in his family's basement getting a cheap laugh from spitting in the face of the establishment. This example comes from someone who appears to have worked very hard to create an online presence, to reinvent his career, and who also makes a decent amount of money promoting his "knowledge" of the social media space. Although he's not an A-lister, he's someone who gets to hang out with the big name people and has a Twitter handle that many people know. And, please don't try to tell me the guy's busy and forgot. I'm not buying it. Be accountable. That's the first rule in business.

This should probably be the point where I tell you who the guy is and get the linch mob all riled up. But, professionalism dictates that I don't. What I will tell you is this:
Trust your gut
If it walks like a duck, talks like a duck and looks like a duck; it's a duck. Someone who exhibits questionable behavior probably has questionable character.
Don't promote shysters
When you see someone online exhibiting behavior that doesn't earn your respect, don't engage with them just because you see other people doing it. Lots of folks will support others with the goal of getting noticed. But, do you really want to be noticed by a charlatan? I don't.

You are judged by the company you keep
I have now unfollowed this person on Twitter. I take great efforts to surround myself with people who hold themselves to a certain standard. Those who live their lives with integrity, honesty, and moral fortitude. This guy comes up short and isn't someone I want to be associated with. I'm done.

Protect your reputation
When you talk with someone online, you're implying to some degree that you think they're alright. If you take that further and retweet their blog post, share their contest, or promote their event, you're telling your network that you approve of this person. It's essentially vouching for them. The reputation you've established may sway people to participate, enroll, or otherwise support the person in question. Your reputation is at stake with every bit of information you share.

Yes, all of us who have a blog want good traffic. Me included. However, trying to increase traffic to a site by sponsoring a contest and then not awarding the prize? That's sleezy.

As for this blogger, I am truly honored that you've taken time out of your busy lives to visit my site. I am humbled that you're here and I don't take your readership for granted. I would never betray you, mislead you, or lie to you. That is my oath. That is my word. You can count on it--and me.

Thanks for reading. Now, let's get out there and clean up the Web, eh?

Are your personal tweets hurting your company's brand?

I saw this tweet today and, as someone who has managed employee communications for some large, worldwide companies, I thought it was good fodder for a conversation. I'm not sure if these two people in the tweet were just joking or if they really didn't understand why someone would write "all tweets are my own" in their Twitter bio. For the sake of argument, let's assume the latter.

As people utilize social media to put all their opinions out into the world, companies and smart employees are becoming ever more vigilant in protecting their digital footprints. As an employee, if you put your employer's name in your Twitter bio, you should very seriously consider putting a disclaimer similar to the one above. It protects you and the business who writes your paycheck.

Suppose I say in my Twitter bio that I work for Disney (I don't, but I'll happily listen to any job offers!). Then, in one of my tweets, I use some foul language, send a link to a YouTube video with lap dancers, or check in at Knott's Berry Farm on Foursquare. That reflects on my company. I work for them and my tweets have an impact on their brand. Employees represent the values and culture of a business, after all. My public behavior, and especially my conduct on the Web, can have ripple affects in the workplace.

Now, let's take this issue one step further and to another platform. I recently had lunch with a peer who said they had a problem with an employee who put product designs, which were still in development, on their Facebook page. Yes, the person was probably just excited to share his work with his friends. However, this put the company at risk. Releasing the company's plans--and designs--out into the public before the product launch could empower a competitor to develop a similar product. It could also have a serious effect on the company's profits and stockholders.

In this new world of social media, remember, the world is watching! If you say you're affiliated with a brand, your behavior may be scrutinized more closely. For those who don't like to edit themselves prior to tweeting, tread carefully. Making it clear that your opinions do not represent your company's can sometimes be a good idea.

My personal recommendation, however, would be to always use great care and discretion on your social media accounts. Refrain from saying anything that could reflect poorly on you or your employer. A reputation takes a lifetime to build and only minutes to destroy. 

What do you think? Do you put your employer's name in your Twitter bio? If not, why? If so, do you have a disclaimer that separates your actions from those of your employer?
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