Amybeth Hale – Research Goddess


Geeks are Hot!
April 16, 2008, 9:09 pm
Filed under: Article Reviews, Networking/Social Media, Thoughts

Christopher Gorham is SO HOT!!How many of you out there were band nerds in high school? Or the art geek who always had paint or clay stuck in your hair? Or the music dork who had a garage band that sucked (even though you thought you were awesome). What about the science geeks who were always blowing stuff up in chemistry lab, or throwing around frog guts during biology? Or the computer nerd who was one of the first kids on the block to get an Atari, or spent your evenings chatting on AOL when they still charged by the minute, or sat in your parents’ basement punching out code (I know for a fact that some of you are still there!!) There are so many kinds, and where it used to be…well, uncool to be a geek, now geek is the new black.

Geeks are hot – and it’s time they were honored 🙂 And finally, there is a website to confirm this – Sexiest Geeks Alive. TechCrunch tweeted about this website last month, and since I was interested in checking out some hot geeks, I followed the link. The folks who have created this site say that “the world should spend more time celebrating the sexiness of geeks” – and to that I say heck yes! The site is still pretty new, but I was pleased to see both sexy male AND female geeks here. And I love the category ‘Shower Thoughts’ – how many of us are guilty of daydreaming about someone sexy while we’re in the shower? I know I am… 🙂

I fully support this endeavor! I’m personally coming up with a list of people whom I think are sexy geeks to give to Cianna (maybe YOU’RE on the list….hmmmm!), and I’d encourage you all to help her out as well and recommend some nerdy hotties. Send an email to nominate[at]sexiestgeeksalive.com if you have someone in mind who should be honored as a sexy geek – we should certainly get sourcing and research represented!

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Glimpse Into The Life of a Young NYC PR Professional
April 15, 2008, 9:52 am
Filed under: Public Relations

young professionalsI just came across this post today, and I thought it was a VERY well-detailed account of how one can survive on $57k as a PR professional in NYC. The blog author, “Madame X“, is a 30-something single woman living in Brooklyn, NY, and she writes about how much money she makes, what she spends it on, how much she saves, how she budgets, etc. She had an anonymous contributor, dubbed ‘Bama Babe’, who happens to be a Senior Account Executive at a financial services PR agency in the city. I found it very interesting to read the detail to which this young PR professional outlines her financial situation.

Bama Babe’s background:

  • 26-year-old single female
  • Born and raised in southern Alabama
  • Graduated from the University of Alabama in 2004 with majors in public relations and economics
  • Moved to NYC in July 2004 to work at a financial services PR agency; been employed by that agency ever since

While she is never named, she goes into some great detail on how she watches her expenses and saves for the future, while remembering to reward herself along the way. For example, she packs her breakfast, lunch, and a snack every day rather than to “let my money slip away on $10 sandwiches for lunch and random take-out for dinner and not have anything left for a nice dinner out every once in a while”. She also takes advantage of what NYC has to offer along the lines of free and/or cheap events, such as the free concerts in Central Park the New York Philharmonic puts on in the summertime, or watching movies in Bryant Park. She gives herself a weekly cash allowance to cut down on frivolous expenses, but not forgetting to reward herself she allots part of her annual bonus to a piece of Tiffany jewelry. She says of NYC, “It is absolutely possible to live here and have a full life without making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.”

I think this is a great read for soon-to-be college graduates, or young professionals who are wondering if you can make it in the big city as a new professional in the workplace. I would encourage you to check out the whole article!



ICWSM Recap
April 9, 2008, 10:20 pm
Filed under: Blogging, Education, Networking/Social Media, Technology, Thoughts | Tags:

Better strap yourself in – this is a long post, but it’s full of cool information!

ICWSMLast week, I attended the International Conference for Weblogs and Social Media (ICWSM) in Seattle, WA. I signed up for the conference because I wanted to find out some more in-depth information about what goes on behind the scenes when it comes to social media. Little did I know what I was in for! There’s a whole lot more that goes into building a social networking site, tracking blog comments, and analyzing user profiles than I ever could have imagined!

 

Over all, I thoroughly enjoyed the academic value of the conference. It truly was an academic conference in that all of the presentations were actually original experiments and hypotheses derived by the presenters, the results were shown along with some interesting findings, and the questions presented by the conference attendees were genuine answer-seeking inquiries. I can honestly say there wasn’t a single presentation made that I had already seen in one format or another. There was a great deal of respect shown to all of the presenters by all of the attendees, something which I hate to say does not occur at some professional conferences. All in all, the experience was great, and I did learn quite a bit.

 

For those of you with short attention spans, I’m putting my bulleted summary first, and if you want more meat and potatoes you can read further 🙂

 

Some key observations:

  • Social media has crept into almost every aspect of our lives, but how do we leverage it to benefit us in business?
  • There is a LOT of behind-the-scenes stuff when it comes to social media- tracking, algorithms, design, how to maintain interest, etc.
  • Even the social media platform designers are annoyed by how many usernames and passwords one needs to stay current with all the networks!
  • Perception is reality when it comes to how people view your profiles online
  • There is concern over content privacy, ownership, and authentication

Conclusions:

  • Most companies’ efforts in being more visible in the social media space are just scratching the surface right now
  • With this being an election year, people are actually gaining interest in social media because of the information that is flowing about candidates, so this is a GREAT time to capitalize on the rise in online traffic
  • Companies that do not actively engage in social media risk allowing competitors that do an unfair advantage, as well as customers having a more open platform for tarnishing a company’s reputation. You have to manage your online reputation or else it will manage itself
  • There is still MUCH room for improvement when it comes to social media applications, and I was pleased to meet so many of the people who are on the cutting edge of these developments! 

The conference actually began before the real conference took place. The folks who put together the event set up a Crowdvine social network site for all of us who would be attending. When I looked through some of the other folks who were going to be there, I started to feel like Wayne and Garth when they met Alice Cooper (“We’re not worthy! We’re not worthy!”) These folks were PhD students, college professors, linguists, computer scientists, and research scientists at places like Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Carnegie Mellon U, Northwestern U, U of WA, etc. People hailed from the United States, Canada, Sweden, Germany, Israel, Japan, India, and several other places so it truly was an international conference. And here I was, just a simple sourcing strategist looking for a few crumbs from the table! I looked through profiles and decided there were several people I wanted to meet while I was there, so I sent little notes indicating my desire to meet people. I think it was a great idea for the event coordinators to do this, as it helped with the introductions while we were there.

 

When I arrived in Seattle, the very first session was presented by the founder of LiveJournal, Brad Fitzpatrick. He discussed some of the differences between social networks and social applications. He talked about how most social networks ‘suck’ today as there is very little privacy and authentication of communication requests amongst people, and you’ve got to sign up for a million new networks as each one promotes its ‘one new and cool feature’, and he discussed the future of these problems and how things like OpenID and OAuth will help with these issues. I found it interesting how someone who designed a product that is utilized by so many people in social media thinks that social media sucks!

 

Then, we dove head first into the deep end by discussing data mining. And I’m not talking about the data mining that we researchers do when we conduct searches – I’m talking about hard-core, semantic search formulas, algorithms, PLSA-LDA theory data mining. I tried to dumb my notes down as best as I could so that I could make sense of them myself, but some of the concepts of data mining alluded me, so much respect to the presenters for their grasp on these topics! There was a presentation that particularly interested me in that it was an experiment in how users participate in contests/surveys/etc. through social media. The presenter shared that higher awards (bigger prizes, large money pots, etc.) attract more views, but not necessarily more submissions and that the prestige of the contest will slightly hinder participation (higher prestige, higher risk). What I gathered from this conclusion is that lots of people will view a high profile/high stakes contest, but not many people will actually participate because they don’t believe they could win. It made me think of the current SourceCon challenges that are going on.

 

The presentations that were made on the psychology of social media were fascinating. One presentation was made on the perception of people profiles. It brought up some interesting topic discussion, including how one’s own beliefs and interests may change how they view someone of the opposite beliefs or viewpoints. Here are a couple of notes from this presentation:

  • Do environments matter?
    • Findings: people do get each other
    • People on FB get each other better
    • Women are better guessers than men 🙂
    • Women are also easier to get
  • Profile elements that matter
    • More understood:
      • Link to funny video
      • What makes me glad to be alive
      • Most embarrassing thing
      • Proudest moment
      • Spirituality
    • Less understood:
      • Profile picture a non-person
      • Awful website
      • An awful person
      • A great book

So basically, people who don’t post a human photo on their profile are perceived to be less understood. Or, if they post a link to an awful website or person. Interesting! (checking out my links and connections right now….)

 

A lot of the neatest talks were had during meals and after-hours. I had great opportunities to hang out with several people during our networking lunches and dinners, as well as at a little wine bar called The Local Vine on Monday night. Sometimes, the ‘unofficial’ parts of a conference yield the best information! 🙂 

 

Day two began with a keynote from Marc Smith, a Senior Research Scientist with Microsoft. He discussed some interesting ideas and findings about the different people who utilize social media. He called them answer people and discussion people. Answer people typically have more outgoing responses to topics but generally do not start discussions, where discussion people typically initiate conversations but generally do not respond to inquiries as much. He showed some graphs backing this information up. We also had a presentation by James Caverlee on MySpace profiles and how to figure out some of the spam and deception that goes on there. Here is a link to that study as it has been made public. The sample search results are VERY interesting! Basically, what they found is that the “fake” profiles on MySpace, based on comparison of text and other factors, modeled the real profiles created by users in their late 20s – late 30s (fake users are really age 26-39, a sad day for my generation! [bunch of spammers and hackers]) Following that, Danyel Fisher presented on space planning for an online community. He said something of interest when discussing the different community members: he said embrace leaders; respect lurkers and that leaders welcome new people. This is important as the lurkers will eventually become active members of your community and quite possibly future topic leaders. By not embracing new folks and/or lurkers, you are in fact alienating your target (and future) audience.

 

Day three was begun with our last keynote from Technorati founder, David Sifry, who gave a great presentation on developing an effective project management team. The things he discussed I think can translate into how to develop a good sourcing, research, and/or recruiting organization within your company as well. We then moved on into discussions heavy on political news, blogs and tracking. We discussed using blogs to provide context for news articles and what terms produce “emotional charge” and will indicate if a post is charged or not. We also explored the use of social media coupled with viewing television, and how social media has and will continue to impact the methods with which we watch programs. Finally, we looked at the differences in journalistic sourcing between traditional journalism and bloggers. This was of particular interest, since we have folks at Waggener who keep an eye on bloggers in our clients’ respective industries. We concluded with a panel discussion on politics in blogs, and then wrapped up a power-packed couple of days and set off on our merry ways.

 

Conclusions – I don’t think the conference is for casual observers of social media! There was so much meaty material and much of it went over my head. I am very glad, however, that I attended as I think gaining knowledge of what goes into making a social media application will in turn help me as an end user to be a better consumer of the technology. It was cool to see how the search engine algorithms are developed and how they return results. I would not recommend going to the conference if you’re not REALLY into the math and science aspect of online technology; however, if you want a crash course in the inner workings of social media, this is the place to be!



Some Advice for Professional Tweeting

A new colleague and local Cincinnatian, Kevin Dugan, pointed me toward this article by Max Kalehoff, discussing some recommendations given by Brian Morrissey, Adweek’s Digital Editor, to PR pitchers on Twitter. I think the advice provided applies to recruiters and researchers who utilize Twitter for business purposes as well. Check out a few of the tips Brian gives here that were actual Twitter messages he sent, and substitute “PR” with “recruiting”:

  • Spam Is Spam Is Spam: “Dear PR people: you spam me enough thru email, must you use Facebook too? Why not drop by the apartment? Let yourself in, get comfortable.”
  • Aspire To Great Work, Not So-Called Expertise: “everyone wants to be an expert. would be nice if same people had actual examples of cool stuff they’re doing. lots of talk, less action.” [this made me think of some of IBM’s new commercials which say “Stop Talking. Start Doing”]
  • Engage Your Prospects Selectively And With Respect: “the PR world is just as much spray and pray as the ad world. I’m doused every single day.”  
  • Personal Touches Matter: “arrived to my cube to find a note left for me on my chair. can’t say i’ve gotten one of those in some time.”
  • Don’t Lie About Your Affiliation: “Bothered by PR agency flacks who say they’re ‘with’ a company. They’re not. They’re with a PR agency hired by the company.”
  • Paid Endorsements Are Not Credible: “Breaking: Interactive TV vendor pays for research finding consumers have “increasing appetite for interactive TV.”

For the rest of the list and this informative post, click here.



Is Twitter Overrated?
April 3, 2008, 1:05 am
Filed under: Blogging, Networking/Social Media

Research Newbie thinks so. Do I? Absolutely not!

I received a tweet from Newb earlier today while I was working out of Waggener‘s Bellevue office, stating that she finds Twitter boring. I sent back a couple of suggestions for her to try out, like checking to see the frequency of the posting of people you follow, or using an app like Twhirl to keep up with messages. True, lots of people’s tweets are mundane parts of their everyday life, like someone announcing that they are going to go pick up their kids from school, or like my announcement earlier today that I was heading downstairs to get some dinner before heading off to the airport. So what? Do you really care that I’m about to scarf down some grub before flying home? Probably not. But you take the good with the bad when it comes to Twitter 🙂 Besides, you never know when you’ll have a golden opportunity to get on someone’s radar – like, if a popular blogger or industry luminary announces that they’re going to be somewhere you used to live, you can share some secret cool places to visit, or you get first glimpse at a neat new resource that a big social media expert tweeted about and can engage in a brief conversation with them. Here are some examples that I’ve personally experienced which make me believe that Twitter is NOT overrated:

  1. I read a tweet today that a UGA communications professor made announcing some PR internships. I responded asking if Waggener’s internship opportunities could be included, which led to someone else who was following both of us to contact me asking to put up announcements on their blog about our internships. Score for WaggEd!
  2. A couple weeks ago, someone announced a social media luncheon in Hawaii on April 10th, which happens to be my birthday. I retweeted it jokingly asking if anyone wanted to gift a trip to this luncheon to me for my birthday, but someone I was connected to, who happens to live in Hawaii, ended up finding out about and attending this luncheon that he otherwise did not know about.
  3. I read a nice blog post that a graduating PR student wrote so I complimented her on it, and she was excited that she had been contacted and tweeted about it. As a result, I have several graduating PR seniors from the University of Oregon who are now connections.

If I could make just one recommendation for using Twitter, it would be to exercise patience. Think about all the other social networks you belong to – LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace, Xing, etc. I’ll bet that you didn’t build up those sizeable networks you have on those sites in one day, one week, one month, or even one year! Rome wasn’t built in a day; neither is a good network.

Just keep at it, Newbie – don’t give up on the bird yet!

By the way, I will take this opportunity to encourage you to check out Research Newbie. I think this researcher is on a good path to learning how to be an excellent researcher. She writes, asks questions, and isn’t afraid to express her opinions on things. Check out her blog, and of course, connect with her on Twitter! 🙂



Doing Due Diligence In Research
April 2, 2008, 7:00 am
Filed under: Research

For those of us who are pure researchers – how do you do due diligence when you are doing a research project? Research by definition is “the systematic investigation into, and study of materials, sources etc. in order to establish facts and reach new conclusions”. Are we, as researchers, making sure we cross all our T’s and dot all our I’s when we are working on our searches?

Here’s a scenario that I’m sure everyone has encountered in their career: you come across the contact information of a potential candidate, copy/paste it into an email and ship it off to the recruiter you are helping. The recruiter gets in touch with the potential candidate only to find out that he/she isn’t there at the company, or in a worst case scenario (which I personally have experienced) the person is deceased! What happened here? 

The problem starts when as researchers we don’t cross-check our data. Taking one resource at its word is like only tasting one type of cabernet and declaring it the best overall, with absolutely no consideration of the other brands available. It is important to do due diligence in research and actually RE-search. Meaning – cross reference the information you have with other sources and make sure it’s up to date and accurate. The resource from which you got the original contact information might be a couple years old. That individual may have relocated, or changed email addresses or no longer works at that company, or Heaven forbid might have passed away, since the information was published.  

Be a good researcher and check your facts! Use more than one search engine – they each index some different data so using only one will lead you to miss out on lots of information. Use bookmarklets to check the last update date of the site. Check the company website for the person’s bio if available. See if the email address you have is still functioning. Validate the phone number (those of you who are telephone sourcers may say that this is the ONLY way to go! J). Just make sure that the information you have is accurate, or you’ll end up wasting your time AND your recruiter’s time by providing them with incorrect information. 

Will your information always be spot on? Nope – but you can at least say that you did your best to find out the correct data. I honestly believe that we cannot call ourselves good researchers unless we are doing everything within our power to make sure that our information is correct. That means exploring ALL the possible avenues to fact-check and cross-reference our data. After all – our business depends on getting our facts straight and getting in touch with the right people. It makes sense to ensure that our research practices will assist us in making this happen as often as possible!