Are you acting like a digital steward or a fool?

Want to be a good digital steward? Teach yourself and your children digital literacy and manners.

That’s my reaction to a new Retrevo study on the lifestyle habits of digitally connected parents that Jennifer Jacobson of Retrevo kindly shared with me.

The report says a lot about how moms and dads try (emphasis on try) to balance their roles as parents with their use of digital. To wit:

  • Nearly 20 percent of parents who own iPhones say they’ve given up activities they enjoy in order to spend time on Facebook and Twitter (compared to 11 percent of all parents).
  • Nearly half of parents say they’ve used Facebook to learn about their kids’ friends.

I think the report is relevant to anyone who understands the meaning of being a steward for future generations, even if you are not a parent. Here’s how you can be a digital steward:

1. Teach children digital literacy

I agree that it’s important to understand how kids are using social to interact with each other (the digital bullying phenomenon alone is reason enough).

In addition, digital stewards (anyone who interacts with children – both parents and nonparents alike) have an obligation help children embrace the entire digital world – ranging from the devices required to communicate in society to the social media sites that we use to connect with each other.

I’m not suggesting you unleash mobile phones on children or allow them to roam free on social media sites without any supervision. But think of mobile phones, iPads, and social media platforms the same way you would your landline phone (if you still use one). At the right time, you teach your child how to use the phone as a communications tool. Digital is no different.

The sooner you prepare your child for the digital world, the better. To put your head in the sand is to deny your child an essential skill: digital literacy.

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How to create an enchanting event

Ever since I read Guy Kawasaki’s book Enchantment, I have looked for products and services that meet Guy’s high standards for enchanting your customer.

Last week, I found an enchanting experience in the form of the GSMI Blogging Strategies Summit. The event enchanted me because it provided great content, intimacy, the right attendees, personal service, and an intriguing location.

If you host events as part of your marketing outreach, I hope your next event contains these essential elements:

1. Great content

A successful experience begins with great content. It’s obvious, right? But most events I’ve attended — even excellent ones — do not give your uniformly great content. Lurking in the agenda are always a few dud speakers who have you running for a self-imposed break.

But I was impressed by every session I attended at the Blogging Strategies Summit. The purpose of the event was to share best practices in corporate blogging and community management. The speakers ranged from Duane Forrester of Bing (who discussed the importance of optimizing your content for search marketing) to Carisa Miklusak, CEO of tMedia Strategies, who led workshops on blogging for women and executives.

Duane Forrester

At some point you’d think that so much focus on a single topic would lapse into the realm of geekiness or irrelevancy. Such was not the case at the Blogging Strategies Summit. Why? Because all the topics, however esoteric, tied back business needs everyone cares about, such as servicing customers or improving your brand.

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How to say hello to a customer

Recently I blogged about the right way to say goodbye to your customer. How you say hello to a customer is even more crucial — in fact, so important that Guy Kawasaki devotes several pages to the power of the first impression in his latest marketing best seller, Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions. Leaving a good first impression creates a halo effect for your brand. My recent experience with consumer printer maker Epson is a case in point.

If you have ever set up a printer or any other consumer technology product, you understand why I felt like slitting my wrists when I realized I needed a new printer for my MacBook at home. Researching and deciding on the right one – an Epson Artisan 725 – wasn’t so bad; it was the set-up process that I dreaded.

I anticipated the painful and confusing wrestling match with information technology that I’ve come to expect with consumer electronics. Confusing instructions. Devices that won’t talk to each other. And perhaps a bewildering experience with a call center for good measure. You know what I’m talking about, don’t you?

One day the Epson Artisan arrived on my front porch like a bomb waiting to be activated. My first impulse was to clean my daughter’s hamster cage and finally get around to thoroughly understanding my employer’s expense reporting policies – anything to avoid a confrontation with the large cardboard box waiting for me.

Finally I caved in and opened the box. And I was in for a surprise: a flawlessly easy experience that transformed me from consumer-as-victim to Epson ambassador. Here’s why:

1. Epson shows empathy

As I opened the box, I anticipated having to wade through a lengthy manual and sorting through a box of random parts requiring assembly. Epson understood what I was thinking. I had barely opened the box when I encountered a slender, prominently placed envelope labeled, “Open Me First.”

Open Me First – like a welcome mat in front of a home. Immediately I felt just a bit more comfortable.

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Weinergate not about social media

By now Anthony Weiner has become a poster child for the perils of social media and a case study for the influence of Twitter. But I don’t believe Weinergate is about social media or digital illiteracy. Weinergate is simply another cautionary tale about public figures acting recklessly and badly.

From his mea culpa press conference, we learned that his public Tweet revealing himself in his bulging underwear (aimed at student Gennette Cordova) was just one of a series of online indiscretions (if that’s even the right word) with six women.

Or, as he put it: “I have exchanged photos and messages of an explicit nature with at least six women over the last few years.”

One of those women, Megan Broussard, shared with ABC News emails, Facebook messages, and other evidence of an online relationship that had been occurring since April.

“I didn’t think it was him,” she told ABC. “I thought for sure, ‘why would someone in that position be doing this?'”

Why indeed would someone in his position be doing something like this?

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Don’t text in this movie theater

There is a God.

Most movie theaters use the polite-but-ineffective appeal to human decency to prevent you from texting during movies. The Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Austin, Texas, will eject you for texting during a movie.

And don’t complain if you get ejected: you might find yourself appearing in the theater’s pre-roll no-texting video shown to everyone in the theater. (Note the video as depicted in this blog post is NSFW).

Although I agree with what the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema is doing, I also believe the theater’s policy represents the last gasp of a dying breed. The “SxSW generation” has taken over the live entertainment experience. They comfortably Tweet, text, upload their Facebook accounts, and otherwise multi-task while they are listening and watching you.

So I tip my cap to the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema. But you are fighting a losing battle in the long run.

Build your brand with your Twitter profile

Most executives on Twitter rely on boring personal profiles that say little about them beyond their titles. And yet your Twitter profile is an opportunity to build your personal brand and humanize your company (even if your account is personal).  Here are three executives who get it right:

1. Clark Kokich

The first few words of Clark’s profile are predictable and necessary – he’s the chairman of Razorfish (where I was once CMO) and director for three different companies. But then Clark drops something different on you: in addition to being a proud dad, he’s a mediocre husband, bad guitarist, and aging Baby Boomer.

Clark (who I know personally) scores points for showing a sense of humor about himself. How many senior executives to do you know who use the words “mediocre husband” and “aging Baby Boomer” in their personal profiles? His profile says, “I’m comfortable enough in my position to exercise some humility and have a little fun.”

2. Rachel Pasqua

Rachel’s profile is short but intriguing.

Like Clark, she starts with the professional – vice president of mobile for my current employer iCrossing. Then she adds something direct (twin mommy) and interesting (“Repairer of the Irreparable.”).

And notice Rachel’s graphic. Technically she departs from a social media best practice by not using a personal picture as Clark does. But her use of the Emily the Strange graphic, along with the cryptic “Repairer of the Irreparable,” piques your curiosity.

I want to ask Rachel what Emily the Strange means to her – is the character a personal inspiration? Maybe she likes the clothing line? Or both? She gives you a clue that she’s a “get it done” type – professionally and personally (you probably have to be if you are VP of mobile and a mother of twins).

Because I work with Rachel (she’s an excellent mobile marketing thought leader), I’m sure I will ask her.

3. Brian Dunn

You have to cut the CEO of Best Buy some slack.

CEOs – especially those who run giant publicly traded companies – have their words and actions watched so closely by investors, employees, lawyers, and business partners that it’s tempting for them to avoid social media completely. (A topic Forrester Research CEO George Colony addressed at a 2010 Forrester Forum.)

Brian might not say a whole lot in his Twitter profile, and I wish his Twitter handle used his name (maybe it was taken already). But he does something Clark and Rachel don’t do: he leads with the personal (“Father. Husband”) before the professional “CEO of Best Buy”).

Like Rachel, he employs a somewhat cryptic statement that makes you want to learn more about him (“Fanatic about the Connected World”). And he links to his Best Buy blog where you can see just how much of a fanatic about the connected world he really is.

Good for Brian. And extra points for using what is obviously not a slick, airbrushed corporate photo. He’s not smiling . . . but he’s authentic.

Authenticity, a sense of humor and humility, and intrigue . . . those are a few of the reasons I’ve singled out Clark, Rachel, and Brian.

Who are some of your favorites?