How to Effectively Communicate with a Digital Team

Right now I am working on a couple of projects outside of my daily work duties. Both of these are with organizations that don’t have enough revenue to compensate their teams yet. That’s totally fine with me, because I think the investment of time and expertise is paid off with experience and networking. I’m truly grateful for these opportunities.

As the world economy moves away from a traditional 9-5 office environment and into a more digital workspace without offices or break rooms, we run into a huge problem with communication. You’re unlikely to “bump into” the project manager if you live 1,300 miles away, and there is no way that you’re all going to start and stop your work day (or week) at the same time as the rest of the team.

Between e-mail, instant messaging, video teleconferencing, social media groups, forums and listservs, we are absolutely overwhelmed by the methods of communication available.

In order to create an effective team, you need to orchestrate effective communication. I think one of the best things that people on digital teams can do is to have meetings.

In the traditional workplace, we see so many blog posts and articles telling us how meetings are unproductive time killers. However, we’re not talking about the traditional workplace, and we’re not talking about packing our calendars with them.

The great advantage of working digitally is that we have the opportunity to do things at our own pace and be rewarded for our results, not just our “time spent.” However, in order to ensure that the team is on the same page, it is important to wrangle everyone together.

How to Schedule a Meeting

Quite possibly the most important step in having a meeting is scheduling it. There are plenty of tools available online, but one of the easiest to use is a shared calendar like Google Calendar. When teammates share their calendars with each other, they can see when their counterparts are available.

It’s likely that there won’t be a time suitable for every member of the team, however steps should be taken to include as many people as possible. Another strategy to successful attendance is to rotate the meeting times to suit team members on different continents or working from different time zones.

Once you have identified a great time for the meeting, make sure to inform the participants. No, I’m not talking a tweet or a text message or a hidden paragraph in an e-mail. Create an appointment.

Those of us that work in a corporate culture live by our Outlook calendars. In fact, I’ve heard plenty of colleagues in my years say things like, “if it’s not on my calendar, how am I supposed to know about it?”

Digital calendars like those from Microsoft Exchange and Gmail are great because they allow us to collaborate and keep updated on all of our digitally connected devices.

During the Meeting

A meeting without purpose is just a waste of time.

Be sure to clearly define the goals of the meeting and ensure that you have someone taking notes. You and your team will benefit most if they walk away from the meeting with action items, goals and clear and concise expectations. Don’t use meetings to just discuss ideas or concepts, but use them as a tool to get things done.

If someone comes to a meeting with an idea, this is the opportunity to create a plan of action so when you meet the next time, you will have results to review.

Keep it concise. If the meeting is only carving 30 minutes out of its attendees calendars, don’t expect anyone to be happy if you carry one for 45 minutes to an hour. Time is precious, especially for those volunteering it to you.

After the Meeting

Follow-up is critical. If you don’t engage the attendees and your team members, you aren’t going to get the results you were pushing for. I’ve attended so many digital meetings where afterwards, attendees instant message each other asking whether or not there were any “to do” items, or any value taken from the conversation. Be sure that whomever was taking notes does an efficient job of capturing the topics covered, the takeaways and the action items and expectations for the next meeting.

Communicating Apart from Meetings

Meetings are just one small part of the way we communicate within teams. It is critical to adopt a standardized approach to how you will communicate with your team if you expect them to respond and be engaged.

If you are sharing a message on a private social media group for the team, then sending them an e-mail, but instant messaging them in between, people won’t know what medium they should be most focused on.

From the early stages of your startup, project or community, be sure to let your team know what your expectations are, how communication will be delivered, how often and what the expectation is for responses.

There are literally hundreds of tools available for communicating with teams, but it doesn’t mean that you should try to use all of them at once. Find what works best for your team. It will probably involve a combination of static communication (Google Docs), group conversation (Google Groups or Private Community) and instant/personal communication (E-mail or Instant Messaging).

Be careful, if you inundate your team with too much communication, or communication from too many methods, you might be overwhelming them. Also, if your communication covers too many topics, you might end up with a shotgun spray of results instead of a focused torpedo.

If you want to have a successful project, you need to have successful communication. Let your team help you shape the way you communicate and you will all come out winners.

Your Community Sucks and Here’s Why

A Guide to Jump-Starting your Google+ Community

We are now on day six of Google+ Communities and people are starting to learn a number of things very quickly. First and foremost, if you missed the opportunity to be the first to create a unique community surrounding one of your interests, don’t worry. It’s not about being the first, it’s all about being the best.

The first thought that crossed my mind when I heard that Google+ was releasing a communities feature was whether or not there would be a community for people that like to manage communities. It seems meta, I know, but it is very likely that the creators of these communities would like a forum to share their knowledge, tips, tricks and questions, while making a few important connections.

Since creating the Community Moderators community, we have had over 1,100 unique members join. We have had dozens of people’s questions answered, some very interesting feedback expressed towards the betterment of communities, and most importantly, a fellowship of people with like-minded interests.

In my last post, I talked about how Communities could be the answer to your biggest circle management nightmares. That theory only works if you are dealing with successful communities. So how do you make your community a success?

Bring the right people into the conversation.

A community is much like a new house, it is not going to build itself. However, it does require some of the same fundamental features of a house. It needs a good foundation, support beams, and protection from the elements.

Abandoned House near Hooper's Farm to Oast House Archive
Photo: Abandoned House near Hooper’s Farm by Oast House Archive (Used under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0)

The foundation of my community is a group of people that share passion for a common interest. Without the foundation, we would have no place to establish our pillars for success. Finding the people the are right for your community is tricky. Of course, you could always spam out to all of your followers and ask them to come and join, but what is in it for them? To attract valuable members to a community, you must show them the value of becoming a member.

For the Community Moderators community, the value was easy to demonstrate, if you come and join us, you will learn from other community moderators, have a chance to ask questions and gain valuable insight towards growing your own community. It sells itself, really. However, for some community topics, it may be harder to market value. Regardless, if you can cast your community in a light that shows value to potential members, you are more likely to attract members that are likely to actively participate in the conversation.

Support the conversation and keep it going.

As a community moderator, you will quickly find that you cannot answer every question and stimulate every conversation. The remarkable thing about having a community, is that the members of your community can work with each other to answer questions, create engaging conversation and exchange valuable content relative to your topic.

Initially, it may be difficult stimulating the level or quality of conversation that you would like to see within your community. Just like in a cold room, people are often shy and do not want to be ridiculed for their opinions. Start with some light conversation. Break the ice with your community. Show them that you all have humility and good will and can learn from each other.

As more people become more comfortable with sharing their thoughts and ideas, the conversation will begin to grow. Before you know it, you may have to call for some help to make sure the conversations are headed in the right direction and that people are familiar with your community and its guidelines.

Protect your community from the elements.

The Internet is like any other place in the world. It has good people, it has bad people and it has some people that just don’t know any better. Your job as a community owner is to ensure that you are moderating your community in a fashion that is not restricting free speech, but keeping out unnecessary commercial solicitations, spam and otherwise annoying contributions.

When you begin to protect your community from spammers, trolls and bullies, keep in mind that you are not InterPOL and your function isn’t to control what every member of your community has to say. Your just to to facilitate the conversation, keep it rich, keep it on topic (if necessary) and keep the evil doers at bay.

When deciding how to moderate (not police) your community, you might want to consider establishing a Code of Conduct or set of Community Guidelines. I have worked with the Google+ community at large to create an open-source set of Community Guidelines that you can find on github. These guidelines are free for you to use, interpret, change or use how you would like. If you would like to contribute to the project, please free to do so.

Keep in mind that your community guidelines should be general, light-hearted but also clear and concise. Your goal is not to create a rule for every possible situation, but to express to the community that certain behaviors such as hate speech, bullying or spam will not be tolerated. Set the tone early and remain consistent and your community will respect your efforts.

Most importantly, as you watch your community grow, remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Reactions to Communities: The playing field is being leveled. (Guest Post)

So on the whole, I think most users are finding that Communities are a very useful and, a few tweaks notwithstanding, well implemented feature. But a few users, particularly those with medium to large followings, have been expressing a lot of doubt and negative feedback, and I have an idea why.

When circles were the only method for connecting, the “playing field’ for engagement and audience was extremely uneven: a brand new user had almost zero chance of their post being seen, even if it was of tremendous quality, while some users with (inexplicably) large followings were posting crap like copypasta from chain emails and having it reach What’s Hot. Contrast this to Reddit, where as +Carter Gibson showed a few days ago, a new user with great content can reach the “Front Page” with their very first post.

Communities change this. Suddenly, a new user can join a Community on their very first day and make a post to an audience of thousands of people. And I have a hunch that if it’s good content, it will be seen and engaged with by a great many of them.

So my theory is this: while much of the negative feedback represents legitimate room for improvement, there’s a not-insignificant portion that is the result of a changing playing field. Users that have come to love being one of the select few who have large audiences are inclined not to like that. Most of these users have nothing to worry about, as their followings came about as the result of posting great content. But I have to believe there are some who have either gamed the system through shared circles or posted repeated crap to build a following, and those audiences are going to leave in a hurry for the increased quality and relevance that Communities will offer.

The great news for everyone else is this: Communities are going to make great content king. They offer everyone an opportunity to post to an interested audience, not just those with big followings. And I think that’s a plus.

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’][/author_image] [author_info]I’m fascinated by technology, science, and the things that make us tick. My current long-term pursuit is to major in Computer Science and Neuroscience in order to research brain-computer interface technology, particularly the commercial applications it holds.[/author_info] [/author]

Why People are Enticed by Headlines

You’re here aren’t you?

But why?

If I had named this post “Strategies for Increasing Click-through Rates” you probably would not have found my post. Odds are you found this post because of social sharing. People share posts or “curate” them when they find them to be relevant, topical or humorous, and usually do so when they fit within their brand’s interests.

When titling your blog posts, try to keep in mind who your audience is. You cannot write a title that is going to entice everyone so focus on the people that you want to join your tribe. If you’re a food blogger, you want to attract people that enjoy food to your blog, not chemists and woodworkers, so make sure your titles are attractive to people that share your interests.

Keep them short. Remember, people will hopefully be tweeting and sharing your posts through social media, so if your title is more than 100 characters, it’s probably not going to fit into a tweet with a URL. If your headline is long, make sure the important bits are in the first few words in case your title gets truncated when shared.

Last, but not least, keep them topical. There is nothing worse than having a misleading headline. Attracting people to your website to generate traffic is a strategy used by every successful website, but by misleading viewers through irrelevant headlines, you are destroying your brand or website’s reputation.

If you use these few tips, you should see more and more people clicking your links and sharing them across the web. If you want to learn more about how to get your brands message out through social media, send me an e-mail or visit my consulting website, McDermott Media. If you found this helpful, please remember to share!


A Week In Review: Taking Content Curation on Google+ to the Next Level

A few of Google+’s power users, such as +Mike Elgan, have touted the network as their new blogging platform. I have to concede that the majority of my content creation and curation takes place on Google+, but I’m not completely satisfied.

The way Google aggregates your posts and content doesn’t make your list of posts easily digestible. Looking at my profile, you’ll see a mess of status updates, long form posts, photographs, check-ins and shared posts from other creators.

What I would really like to see is a way to organize my content on my profile. Not in the quirky way you organize posts on your Facebook timeline, but in a blog-like fashion, much like Blogger.

Until then, we have a great tool at our disposal. We now have the ability to embed Google Docs into our posts. Embedded today for your enjoyment is my last week of quality content. I’ve sorted out some of the less valuable content and left you with what I call my quality posts.

Take a look at the Google Presentation and let me know what you think of the idea. This is a fairly simply presentation to compose, can be easily assembled, shared and gives me a vehicle to notify my audience without spamming them 25 times during the week.

Setting one up is easy. Just launch Google Drive, create a presentation and add links to your favorite posts. Once you’re done, share away. Since you’ve digested everything into a neat package, your followers might not mind a notification in their inbox…

Get Notified When People Post on Google+

How to Create a Subscription Circle on Google+

Google+ gives you the opportunity to sort your contacts by interests, topics or whatever you would like. You can create as many circles as you’d like and put people in multiple circles. As you continue to use the social network, you might find yourself following thousands of interesting and unique people from around the world. But, how do you keep yourself from missing out on the posts from the 10 or 20 users you really want to follow?

Thanks to Google’s circle “volume” controls, for a long time you were able to control the prevalence of posts from particular circles within your stream. However, now with the added “Notification” setting, you can get a notification every time someone in a particular circle posts something. Continue reading Get Notified When People Post on Google+

Should Google+ Copy and Pinterest?

If you’re familiar with Google+, you have probably noticed that the “notification” system needs a serious revamp. Currently, when posting something, whether public, private or only to certain circles, you have the ability to “notify” up to 100 people. On the surface, this sounds great, however in practice, it is anything but.

An Internet acquaintance of mine,  +Johnny Roquemore, expressed his annoyance with unrelated notifications coming from people within his circles. The offender was a good friend of mine, +matthew rappaport. Matthew posts about all kinds of stuff. I mean, his content is literally all over the place. He keeps it interesting and lots of the time, funny. However, his content doesn’t necessarily carry a particular theme.

The problem with Google+ as it stands is that you don’t have a way to notify people interested in certain things or interests. Pinterest has it right by creating different boards that you can subscribe to. That way if, say Matthew, only wanted to see my posts about Google+ and Social media, he could subscribe to those boards, but he wouldn’t be subjected to my posts about cats and Star Wars memorabilia. No, don’t worry, I don’t post about either of those things.

As a content creator, each time I submit a post to Google+, I have to find less than 100 people that I chose to notify when I create a post. Because some of these posts may not be of interest to a large number of my followers, I am usually very selective with notifying anyone of my new posts. But let’s say I have a fan that really wants to learn more about digital marketing. Let’s say that I have the ability to “tag” my posts with whatever categories I often share about. If this person if interested in any of these particular “tags,” they can simply subscribe to them. If they are really interested, they can subscribe & be notified. That way the notifications are in the hands of the readers, not the posters, giving them control of the content their are subjected to.

If I were to guess, Johnny probably wouldn’t have ever subscribed to Matthew’s animated GIF’s or #foodporn posts. But then again, maybe I’m wrong…


What do you think? How should Google+ handle notifications and content subscriptions? Do you like it the way it is now? Leave your feedback in the comments below.

Does Your Digital Influence Really Matter?

The importance and relevance of sites that track your Internet-social influence, like Klout, have been heavily debated. Clearly, the more your content is re-tweeted, reshared or re-blogged, the more exposure Internet users will have. But, does having a high digital clout “score” help you in the real world?

Thousands of brands rely on Internet-based social networking as part of their overall marketing strategy. They try to create original, engaging and compelling content that will trigger an emotional response to either make you share their content with others or to get you thinking more about their products and services. Continue reading Does Your Digital Influence Really Matter?

How to Create Consistency Across Your Brand

So, here you are. You’ve arrived. You’re on Google+ and probably at least a half dozen or so other social networks. So what’s next?

If you’re here for a particular reason, maybe you’re a content creator, a brand ambassador or a marketer looking to gain exposure to your content, or you’re just here building your personal brand, it’s important to keep things consistent.

Think about the air pressure in your tires, if you have one under-inflated, two over-inflated and one at the right pressure, your car probably isn’t going to get the best gas mileage or keep you going in the right direction without a little help from you. Marketing yourself online is actually very similar. Continue reading How to Create Consistency Across Your Brand

What Makes Google+ Different

If you attended my session “Google+: Ghost Town or Game Changer” at+PodCamp Nashville yesterday, you were probably left with a few questions and the curiosity of what makes this space different than Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter.

The problem with all of those social networks is that your connections are based upon who you are already connected with, which really limits the extent of your discovery of new content and creators. Continue reading What Makes Google+ Different