Thursday, July 30, 2009

"Crowdsourcing" Continues To Be a Hotly Debated Topic

Some of you may have read a hotly debated topic on "crowdsourcing" or also referred to as "spec work" where designers bid for a design job online with the likes of "crowdSpring" and "99designs". It has created quite a controversy to the point a group called No!Spec (Twitter account @nospec) was created.

Recently I stumbled upon an article written by Jeremiah Owyang entitled "Designers: Why Spec Work Is Not Going Away – How You Should Respond". Jeremiah's article was simply stating a social media trend. He actually started off his career as a UI designer. However, it wasn't so much his article that had taken me aback, but what had gotten my attention was the lively discussion that ensued at the end of the article. So of course, being a professional interactive manager/designer (one of many hats), I commented the following:

"What’s not reflected in the conversation is the value Experienced Designers bring to the table. It’s not just about a design that’s aesthetically pleasing, but how strategic design can enhance a brand campaign and product positioning, as well as heighten a brand’s perception. Experienced designers are also strategic creative business partners for the brand and their products.

Spec work may be a venue/channel for a new designer just starting out in the field. I believe there are other options out there, but it takes time to build. I think they need to consider the time they spent vying after spec work vs. creating and building up their personal brand from scratch, i.e., portfolio sites, WOM marketing, etc."

This whole topic spurred me to ask a question on LinkedIn in the 2 design groups I belong to, AIGA and ADCNJ. I wrote 'Do you think "crowdsourcing" devalues designers and design in general?' I wrote a brief description then added, 'I'm curious to hear your thoughts about this issue and what you would recommend as other alternatives for designers.'

The intent of the post was to draw out recommendations and alternatives from other designers. Besides committing to not follow this trend, we all need to find a solution and become proactive in our own personal branding. Here are some ideas that were listed:
  • Non-profit organizations for designers just getting their foot in the door
  • Get involved with your city's Chamber of Commerce
  • Cold calls
  • Referrals (this should include friends, family, colleagues and old acquaintances)
  • I haven't heard of too many people having luck with these, but it's possible: Elance, Guru, Odesk, iFreelance, RentaCoder, etc.
  • "The Artist's & Graphic Designer's Market" (book listings)
  • Craigslist
  • Branding/Identity/Marketing yourself
  • Advertise
  • Find design firms that have overflow work that can use your assistance
  • Join communities like No!Spec (Twitter account @nospec)

Then a fellow designer posted just a link with no comments to this video, which I have to say, really made my day. (Thanks @kenlange! :D)

I'll continue to follow this hotly debated topic and may update the list above from comments provided. What could we do collectively and what could we do for our own personal branding and WOM marketing?

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Friday, July 24, 2009

A Woman's Story: Growing Up To Be a "Winner"

Melinda WinnerI would like to take this opportunity to introduce you to an amazingly determined woman, Melinda Winner. She is about to embark on a journey across the United States to raise awareness about the crippling effects of arthritis to children and adults alike. Melinda herself suffers from rheumatoid arthritis (RA), fibromyalgia, reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD), osteoarthritis, and degenerative disk disease. The National Arthritis Foundation Western PA chapter, Creeky Joints, and Melinda's Web site will also be following and posting photos and stories about Melinda’s journey across the United States. While on her journey Melinda will be speaking at events, hosting cooking demonstrations for the physically challenged, speaking with the media in the form of television, print and radio. Melinda has recently completed her first radio/podcast spot that will air on Monday, July 27, 2009. You can listen by clicking here or download from iTunes by going to arthritis radio. She is also a featured guest blogger for Arthritis Foundation Western PA chapter.

Melinda's Story
Melinda came into this world 47 years ago not breathing. When revived, it was quickly realized she had a serious birth injury that could not be repaired. Being born to a diabetic mother, Melinda weighed in at 12.6 at birth. She had extensive nerve damage and deformity to her right arm. At age 26, she began experiencing traveling pain. Melinda was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis. It did not stop there. A few years passed and she was diagnosed with reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD), also called complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), fibromyalgia, degenerative disc disease and osteoarthritis. She faught a personal battle gaining then losing over 100 pounds and keeping it off, all the while enduring pain that is unbearable and still embracing life. She continues her life mission to help others not only survive this disease but live a productive life filled with hope, happiness and joy! Melinda believes in her plight so much that she has branded herself. She had a tattoo placed on her back at the jean line that states she is “On A Mission”. When asked about the reason for the placement of her tattoo, she laughs, “Men are always looking at my backside when they shouldn’t be, so what better place to get my message across? When people ask me what “on a mission” means, I tell my story of hope for others.”

No, the story does not end here. About four years ago, Melinda was watching the constant news reports about Hurricane Katrina hitting the Gulf Coast. Everyone she spoke with had well wishes for the victims of the storm but not many actually got involved. Melinda did. Not only did she give up her holiday to visit the ravished coast, she moved her entire family there to help with the rebuilding the only way she knew how…through food. She prepared gourmet meals for the out of town workers complete with an entrĂ©e, fresh baked breads or rolls, cakes, pies and strudels made from scratch and a drink or two, then delivered to their job sites. Melinda also helped in the rebuilding of a playground, cleaned streets, volunteered at the Red Cross in the shelter, and attended the public speaker workshop at Camp Mash in Alabama. She became an Ambassador for the National Arthritis Foundation for her Congressional District. Melinda befriended strangers in need, helped with painting, paperwork, cooking and was a much needed friend to those in need. She allowed a homeless man to move in with her family until he could get back on his feet. To the residents Melinda proudly earned the name “The Cake Lady”. She not only cooked for neighbors, but baked daily and shared. All this with pain levels exceeding level 8 each and everyday.

Food Network '2008 Ultimate Recipe Showdown'Where she is today
Melinda has followed her dreams all the way to the Food Network. She competed on the Ultimate Recipe Showdown in 2008. She has also authored two books: The first, Yankee Cooking with Southern Charm was released in 2008.

Cooking With ArthritisThe Second, A Complete Illustrated Guide to Cooking with Arthritis*, is scheduled to be released in September of this year. The second book is the first of its kind. This book was designed to help the physically challenged regain their independence in the kitchen. The color step by step photos and delectable recipes take the reader on a culinary journey around the world pain free and fearless. The target market for her latest release is suffers of chronic pain, arthritis (all 100 + forms), people with injuries (may it be temporary or permanent), disabled and people who simply enjoy food and cooking. Melinda will take her book on her journey across the US, in hopes of offering a bright beacon of light to the sufferers of disability, young and old alike.

*Book is being offered at $22.99. Mention the CODE: 2CRE8 and receive a 10% discount.

Melinda WinnerMelinda on the web:
Melinda’s contact information:
On Twitter: @mobilegourmet47
Cell on the road: 228-265-2928

Thank you Melinda for sharing your inspirational story with me. I'm humbled and deeply honored. Despite it all, you've truly grown up to be a "winner!"

I hope this story inspires you as it has for me. Comment below and tell me one thing you'll do to overcome a seemingly unsurmountable obstacle or a challenge you're going to try and face head on.

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Friday, July 17, 2009

July 2009 "Best Tweets" List: Small Business/Marketing/Social Media/Mobile, etc

And the winners for July 2009 are:

Keep checking back as this list will be expanding until the end of July.

Do you have additional articles you'd like me to add? Comment below or let me know at Enjoy!

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Sunday, July 12, 2009

Rethinking: Banner Ads and Ad Delivery Systems recently conducted a poll and asked "Of the ads you see in a typical day, how many engage your attention?" 66% respondents answered "a small minority of them", 25% none of them, 5% many of them and 1% most of them. Majority of the comments specific to web media banner ads say they're typically ignored. I agree...if it's not relevant, however creative, it will get a 1/2 a second glance. So it begs the question—should we continue to put our advertising dollars towards this media?

Of the ads you see in a typical day, how many engage your attention?

Innovative advertising systems recently published an article about how big brands are fearful of placing ads on social sites that will appear next to offensive and inappropriate content. Facebook, using a novel ad delivery systems called RockYou, assured giant marketers such as General Motors, VW and The Gap that this would not happen and has seemingly squelched that fear.

But we need to go beyond that. Take it a step further and allow consumers an option of what type of ads they want to see and how many. Keep it open-ended so they can change their selections at any time. Let your consumers choose if they want to see ads even down to a local level. It's all about empowering your audience and giving them choices.

Creative engagement

Beside strategic ad placement—content and how content is delivered is key. Flash banners are only as good as the design and content. But where's the creativity and interactivity? Create something wildly different. Pose an interesting question with a fun, interactive component. Challenge them, pique their curiosity. Allow users to vote, comment or share the ad. Include a random drawing to engage your audience even further. Just create a unique feature that stands out from the traditional banner ads. Pringles created a small, square banner ad that makes you want to consistently click on it...where it goes, I don't know. But it's definitely unique.

Post engagement
Now that you've converted your audience to followers, don't stop there. Several companies are rewarding their followers like Klymit, who rewards their Facebook followers with special discounts and early access to products. Starbucks recently offered Facebook fans 280,000 pints of ice cream where users can redeem a coupon or send one to anyone in their network. Crate & Barrel sent out a Crate & Barrel Product Review "A penny for your thoughts could win $1000 for your home" e-mail to current registrants for a chance to win a randomly-selected $1,000 shopping spree by posting comments on previously purchased items.

Take away
The opportunities are endless. Remember, it's all about your customers. Think creatively. Think interactively. Once you build traction, don't forget to empower and reward your loyal followers. And for social sites developing an ad delivery system, it's not just about contextually relevant placement, but also about empowering your audience and giving them choices.

Please feel free to share and add your own comments about this topic. Are there other examples you can think of?

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Blogger AM Radio: Turn Up The Volume!

I've been reading some of the most informative and well-written blogs aimed to truly motivate and educate the mass population out there in the blogsphere. Having an affinity for social media trends, technology and marketing, it dawned on me that it would be truly monumental to actually hear these wonderful and informative bloggers live on AM radio. Sure there's the SIRIUS Blog Radio, but not all of us have (or want) to pay for satellite radio. There's also the popular site with an average of 680K+ unique visitors every month. No, I'm talking about a syndicated broadcast on AM radio where I can listen without having to search online or wait for a podcast.

Imagine being able to hear "subject matter experts (sme)" such as Chris Brogan, Jeremiah Owyang, Seth Godin, the G-man or Guy Kawasaki? They could invite opinion or thought leaders in various industries, celebrity Twitterers, reporters and other sme's as guest speakers. Imagine the sponsorships that would line up to support this new radio venue covering everything from social media, future marketing and technology trends, and more.

I know I would definitely be tuned in! What's your thoughts?