Mastering Gamification – A 30-day strategy to enhance customer engagement – #business #bookreview

 

Mastering Gamification

Customer Engagement in 30 Days

Scot Harris and Kevin O’Gorman

(Impackt Publishing – Kindle, paperback)

 Gamification is now a popular buzz word in many parts of the business world. This book wisely does not try to cover every angle, but stays focused on one application: “Marketing and sales people are using gamification to improve customer loyalty and engagement, knowing that it will lead to increased profitability,” the authors write.

They emphasize that “gamifying does not mean turning your business or website into a game. As Gamification.org defines it, gamifying is:

‘The presence or addition of game-like characteristics in anything
that has not been traditionally considered a game.’

 “Take particular note of the word ‘characteristics’ in this phrase,” the authors point out . “The purpose of gamifying is not to turn something into a game, but to apply understanding and knowledge about the basic human desires we all have that make us like games to a non-gaming environment, and hopefully to improve our businesses.”

 You may not finish all of the exercises, nor follow all of the suggestions in this well-written book. Yet the well-structured, 30-day plan offered by Harris and O’Gorman still can help you think harder about your business, how customers see it and how they engage–or don’t engage–with the products or services you offer.

 Even if you operate a small enterprise where you are the entire staff, this book can offer some good ideas and useful tips that can help you make more sales and keep customers coming back.

 What the authors aim to do is help you create and “launch a long-range, ongoing, continuous process of attracting the attention of a target audience, drawing them into a social space built around you and your products or services, encouraging them to evangelize about your products or services, and instilling in them an unshakable sense of loyalty.”

 In other words, you learn how to use some gamification techniques to get customers’ attention, keep their attention, and keep them coming back for more of whatever you are selling–three major keys to long-term survival and growth in business.

Si Dunn

Propose, Prepare, Present – How be a successful industry-conference speaker – #business #bookreview

Propose, Prepare, Present

How to become a successful, effective, and popular speaker at industry conferences
Alistair Croll
(O’Reilly – paperback, Kindle)

Entrepreneur, author, and analyst Alistair Croll has packed a lot of helpful how-to information into his well-focused new guidebook.

Croll speaks at industry conferences,  runs at least four conferences each year, and often selects the lucky few who will get to present, after he has sifted through and read hundreds of proposals.

If you think you are much too busy to read short, five-chapter text, Croll recommends you at least examine Chapter 3, “What Organizers Are Looking For.” There, he presents 11 things that can help get you chosen to speak at an industry conference and 11 hings that can get your conference proposal rejected.

“Nothing will get you refused as fast as a sales pitch,” he warns. “This is the single biggest reason for rejection in every conference I’ve run, across dozens of topics and hundreds of reviewers.”

Indeed, some conference organizers say, you should not mention your company’s product or service at all in your conference speech proposal. Instead, show that you can speak on big topics such as where your industry is going or major events or controversial trends currently affecting your industry and what can be done about them.

“Event organizers are in business, too,” Croll emphasizes. “They need to balance informative content that justifies the ticket price with provocation and entertainment that keeps people coming back.”

Si Dunn

Present Yourself: Using SlideShare to Grow Your Business – #business #bookreview

Present Yourself: Using SlideShare to Grow Your Business
Kit Seeborg and Andrea Meyer
(O’Reilly – paperback, Kindle)

“Huh? Sorry. What did you just say?

Welcome to our “always on” culture, where almost nobody pays full attention to anything anymore. Instead, we have  “continuous partial attention.” For example, people habitually, nervously, or irritatingly mess with handheld devices, social media, and other electronic distractions while you try to speak to them, teach them, sell them something, or promote a cause.

Welcome, as well, to a time when “[v]isual thinking has become more important in business, because we’re processing much more information [particularly nonlinear information] than ever before,” writers Kit Seeborg and Andrea Meyer point out in their new book.

“As a result, slide presentations have become the language of business,” they contend.

Present Yourself: Using SlideShare to Grow Your Business is an engaging, nicely illustrated, comprehensive guide that shows you how to promote your business, organization, or cause using the popular online presentation site and social sharing network, SlideShare.

(You can set up a free SlideShare account at its website or sign in using your LinkedIn or Facebook account.).

Seeborg’s and Meyer’s new book also examines some of the key problems business presenters now face and how to overcome them.

“The challenge of an ‘always on’ culture is that by not wanting to miss anything, people are ignoring some part of everything they tune into at once,” they write. “ For the public speaker, this means you have some of  your audience’s attention, but not all of it. Your talk is competing with the outside activities of the networks of every person in your audience who has a smartphone or Internet-connected device.”

They add: “Because today’s audience is engaged in continuous partial attention, presenters must put in extra effort to compete for the mindshare of a distracted audience. One way to win more audience attention is to include engaging visual slides with your presentation and show them intermittently instead of in parallel with your talk.

“Think of your slideshow as adding percussive punctuation to a talk instead of performing a continuous accompaniment. A speaker might talk for several minutes or more without showing a visual image on the screen. Then, in order to reinforce a point or introduce a new point, the presenter shows a slide or video. In this case, the presenter uses the visual media to punctuate the talk, breaking it up, adding interest and variety. This is a very different style from the traditional use of a slideshow–running in parallel to the spoken presentation.”

The book’s eight chapters focus on how to create and deliver presentations using SlideShare. And many of the tips can be adapted to other types of presentations, as well.

The chapters are:

  • Chapter 1: Visual Thinking – Focuses on visual communications in business.
  • Chapter 2: Getting Started – How to set up a free or Pro SlideShare account, upload presentations, and share with others.
  • Chapter 3: Events and Public Speaking – How to get more comfortable speaking before an audience (start small), how to be well prepared, and how to publicize your presentation.
  • Chapter 4: Content Marketing – You have many options, and SlideShare supports documents, PDFs, videos, and audio files, as well as slide presentations.
  • Chapter 5: Sell, Sell, Sell – How to make the most of encounters with buyers “short on time,” which now includes just about everybody.
  • Chapter 6: Research and Collaboration – Researching what’s available on SlideShare and using the site to collaborate with others.
  • Chapter 7: Recruiting, Hiring, and Getting Hired – How a visual résumé and portfolio can supplement a traditional résumé or curriculum vitae to produce a “full professional presence.”
  • Chapter 8: Organizational Outreach and Communication – Offers case studies and presentation how-to tips for startups, nonprofits, journalists, and government agencies.

One thing not covered in detail is “presentation design guidance.” The authors leave that area to other specialists. But you can get some good design ideas from many of the slides they present to illustrate their text.

If you are ready to try SlideShare or improve your skills at using it, Present Yourself can be a handy, helpful go-to guide for getting things done.

Si Dunn

All for Search and Search for All: 3 New Books for Putting Search to Work – #bookreview

Seek and ye shall find.

That’s the theory behind the still-debated benefits of digging through Big Data to uncover new, overlooked, or forgotten paths to greater profits and greater understanding.

Big Data, however, is here to stay (and get bigger). And search is what we do to find and extract useful nuggets and diamonds and nickels and dimes of information.

O’Reilly Media recently has published three new, enlightening books focused on the processes, application, and management of search: Enterprise Search by Martin White, Mastering Search Analytics by Brent Chaters, and Search Patterns by Peter Morville and Jeffery Callender.

Here are short looks at each.

Enterprise Search
Martin White
(O’Reilly, paperback, Kindle)

Start with this book if you’re just beginning to explore what focused search efforts and search technology may be able to do for your company.

The book’s key goal is “to help business managers , and the IT teams supporting them, understand why effective enterprise-wide search is essential in any organization, and how to go about the process of meeting user requirements.”

You may think, So what’s the big deal? Just put somebody in a cubicle and pay them to use Google, Bing, and a few other search engines to find stuff.

Search involves much more than that. Even small businesses now have large quantities of potentially profitable information stored internally in documents, emails, spreadsheets and other formats. And large corporations are awash in data that can be mined for trends, warnings, new opportunities, new product or service ideas, and new market possibilities, to name just a few.

The goal of Enterprise Search is to help you set up a managed search environment that benefits your business but also enables employees to use search technology to help them do their jobs more efficiently and productively.

Yet, putting search technology within every worker’s reach is not the complete answer, author Martin White emphasizes.

“The reason for the well-documented lack of satisfaction with a search application,” he writes, “is that organizations invest in technology but not staff with the expertise and experience to gain the best possible return on the investment….”

Enterprise Search explains how to determine your firm’s search needs and how to create an effective search support team that can meet the needs of employees, management, and customers.

Curiously, White
waits until his final chapter to list 12 “critical success factors” for getting the most from enterprise-wide search capabilities.

Perhaps, in a future edition, this important list will be positioned closer to the front of the book.

Mastering Search Analytics
Brent Chaters
(O’Reilly - paperback, Kindle)

This in-depth and well-illustrated guide details how a unified, focused search strategy can generate greater traffic for your website, increase conversion rates, and bring in more revenue.

Brent Chaters explains how to use search engine optimization (SEO) and paid search as part of an effective, comprehensive approach.

Key to Chaters’ strategy is the importance of bringing together the efforts and expertise of both the SEO specialists and the Search Engine Marketing (SEM) specialists — two groups that often battle each other for supremacy within corporate settings.

“A well-defined search program should utilize both SEO and SEM tactics to provide maximum coverage and exposure to the right person at the right time, to maximize your revenue,” Chaters contends. “I do not believe that SEO and SEM should be optimized from each other; in fact, there should be open sharing and examination of your overall search strategy.”

His book is aimed at three audiences: “the search specialist, the marketer, and the executive”–particularly executives who are in charge of search campaigns and search teams.

If you are a search specialist, the author expects that “you understand the basics of SEO, SEM, and site search (meaning you understand how to set up a paid search campaign, you understand that organic search cannot be bought, and you understand how your site search operates and works.)”

Search Patterns
Peter Morville and Jeffery Callender
(O’Reilly – paperback, Kindle)

“Search applications demand an obsessive attention to detail,” the two authors of this fine book point out. “Simple, fast, and relevant don’t come easy.”

Indeed, they add, “Search is not a solved problem,” but remains, instead, “a wicked problem of terrific consequence. As the choice of first resort for many users and tasks, search is the defining element of the user experience. It changes the way we find everything…it shapes how we learn and what we believe. It informs and influences our decisions and, and it flows into every noon and cranny….Search is among the biggest, baddest, most disruptive innovations around. It’s a source of entrepreneurial insight, competitive advantage, and impossible wealth.”

They emphasize: “Unfortunately, it’s also the source of endless frustration. Search is the worst usability problem on the Web….We find too many results or too few, and most regular folks don’t know where to search, or how….business goals are disrupted by failures in findability…[and] “Mobile search is a mess.”

Ouch!

Colorfully illustrated and well-written, Search Patterns is centered around major aspects in the design of user interfaces for search and discovery. It is aimed at “designers, information architects, students, entrepreneurs, and anyone who cares about the future of search.”

It covers the key bases, “from precision, recall, and relevance to autosuggestion and faceted navigation.” It looks at how search may be reshaped in the future. And, very importantly, it also joins the growing calls for collaboration across disciplines and “tearing down walls to make search better….”

Si Dunn

Go APE (Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur) with Guy Kawasaki & Shawn Welch – #bookreview #amwriting

APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur—How to Publish a Book
Guy Kawasaki and Shawn Welch
(Nononina Press,
Kindle)

Okay, confession time. I know a bit about the book business—what used to be the book business.

Years ago, I was a freelance developmental book editor for a trio of well-known publishing houses; I’ve had a couple of book agents; books I wrote have been put into print by not-so-major publishers (and later dropped out of print); I’ve written hundreds of book reviews; and I’ve self-published a few books and ebooks: nonfiction, fiction and poetry.

To misquote the late actor-comedian W.C. Fields, on the whole, I’d rather be in self-publishing now.  There isn’t much of an alternative.

And not just basic self-publishing but artisanal self-publishing, which Guy Kawasaki and Shawn Welch define, in their well-written and well-designed new book, as “a new, cool form of publishing…authors lovingly crafting their books with total control over the process.”

Many writers, of course, already are trying to do that, often with abysmal results, because it’s not enough to commit a book to print (or its digital equivalent) and then wait for the world to recognize your genius and surge forward to buy it on Amazon.

To succeed in self-publishing, you really do have to be, as Kawasaki and Welch contend, an APE: an author, a publisher, and an entrepreneur. 

With APE, Kawasaki and Welch aim to “help people take control of their writing careers by publishing their books. The thesis of APE is simple but powerful: When a self-publisher successfully fills three roles—author, publisher and entrepreneur—the potential benefits are greater than with traditional publishing.”

There’s plenty of truth in that. Three publishers turned down my Vietnam War memoir Dark Signals, even after it received a prestigious award. And several other publishers did not bother to respond to my queries. So I published it myself as a CreateSpace paperback and Kindle ebook, both available through Amazon.

It has not been a runaway best-seller; I knew from the outset that I was writing for a limited audience: readers of military memoirs. Yet several hundred copies have been ordered thus far. And a book that I really needed to push out of my soul finally is out there for posterity, with five-star reviews.

No doubt I could have sold more copies at the outset if I had had APE in hand. Knowing the traditional book business is one thing. Knowing the new ways of book creation and marketing are quite another.   

Filling the three roles — author, publisher and entrepreneur — is “challenging, but they are not impossible—especially if people who have done it before explain it to you.” That’s the key premise behind APE. Kawasaki, a successful author, has become a successful self-publisher with help from Shawn Welch, and together, they are now offering up their hard-earned secrets in a 300-page book that many authors will want to read, repeatedly.

Indeed, many of us likely will value APE as a Chicago Manual of Style for self-publishing that also has entertaining writing and dozens of how-to tips thrown in for added value. APE is comprehensive. And it’s very realistic about what it takes to succeed as a self-published author.

Three points in particular stand out for me.

  1. Yes, I have been a professional editor and proofreader of books. But I still should never do the final edits and proofreading of my own text. (Neither should you.) “The self-edited author is as foolish as the self-medicated patient,” Guy Kawasaki points out. Indeed, I have had to create new editions of at least two of my ebooks, because I found glaring typos that I had completely overlooked while doing my “final” edits. As Kawasaki notes: “The going rate for copyediting is $35 per hour, and copyeditors can work their magic at the rate of roughly ten pages per hour (although this can vary depending on the complexity of the material), so you’ll pay approximately $1,000–$1,500 for a three-hundred-page manuscript. This is one of the dumbest places to try to save money, because poor copyediting destroys the quality of your book.” (Unfortunately, you will have to sell a lot of ebooks to cover that cost.)
  2. At least two of my CreateSpace books have boring covers. I am not a graphic artist, and I should not attempt to save money in the future by “designing” my own book covers or settling for one of the available “standard” covers. As Kawasaki notes: “Not to get too metaphysical, but a cover is a window into the soul of your book. In one quick glance, it needs to tell the story of your book and attract people to want to read it. Unless you’re a professional, hire a professional to create a great cover because, in spite of how the old saying goes, you can judge a book by its cover. Or at very least, people will judge a book by its cover.”
  3. While I have dabbled at business for many years, I am not much of an entrepreneur. And I don’t have the soul of a self-promoting guerilla marketer. I grew up believing modesty is a virtue. (Or, perhaps I merely had that notion spanked into my britches when I was an Eisenhower-era kid.) In any case, when my first books were published, others hired by the publishers did the editing, bragging, selling and distribution. Sometimes I talked to small groups of people and signed a few autographs. But mostly, I just stayed home, started a new project, and waited for the (small) checks to arrive. Now, in APE’s chapter on “How to Build an Enchanting Personal Brand,” Kawasaki states: “Call me idealistic, but your platform is only as good as your reality. If you suck as a person, your platform will suck too.” Cool. Memo to self: Improve personal enchantment platform immediately. (By the way, Guy and Shawn, I would add a comma between “suck” and “too.” You’re welcome.) Seriously, if we self-publish books, we have to sell ourselves to readers, right along with, and often ahead of, our books. And the eight chapters of APE’s “Entrepreneur” section provide excellent guidelines on how to do that.

Even if you already know a lot about self-publishing and self-marketing books, if you’ll go APE, you can learn some profitable new tricks from Guy Kawasaki and Shawn Welch.

Si Dunn

Ethics of Big Data – Thoughtful insights into key issues confronting big-data ‘gold mines’ – #management #bookreview

Ethics of Big Data
Kord Davis, with Doug Patterson
(O’Reilly, paperbackKindle)

“Big Data” and how to mine it for profit are red-hot topics in today’s business world. Many corporations now find themselves sitting atop virtual gold mines of customer information. And even small businesses now are attempting to find new ways to profit from their stashes of sales, marketing, and research data. 

Like it or not, you can’t block all of the cookies or tracking companies or sites that are following you, and each time you surf the web, you leave behind a “data exhaust” trail that has monetary value to others. Indeed, one recent start-up, Enliken, (“Data to the People”), is offering a way for computer users to gain some control over their data exhaust trail’s monetary value and choose who benefits from it, including some charities.

Ethics of Big Data does not seek to lay down a “hard-and-fast list of rules for the ethical handling of data.” The new book also doesn’t “tell you what to do with your data.” Its goals are “to help you engage in productive ethical discussions raised by today’s big-data-driven enterprises, propose a framework for thinking and talking about these issues, and introduce a methodology for aligning actions with values within an organization.”

It’s heady stuff, packed into just 64 pages. But the book is well written and definitely thought-provoking. It can serve as a focused guide for corporate leaders and others now hoping to get a grip on their own big-data situations, in ways that will not alienate their customers, partners, and stakeholders.

In the view of the authors: “For both individuals and organizations, four common elements define what can be considered a framework for big data:

  • “Identity – What is the relationship between our offline identity and our online identity?”
  • “Privacy – Who should control access to data?”
  • “Ownership – Who owns data, can rights be transferred, and what are the obligations of people who generate and use that data?”
  • “Reputation – How can we determine what data is trustworthy? Whether about ourselves, others, or anything else, big data exponentially increases the amount of information and ways we can interact with it. This phenomenon increases the complexity of managing how we are perceived and judged.”

Big-data technology itself is “ethnically neutral,” the authors contend, and it “has no value framework. Individuals and corporations, however, do have value systems, and it is only by asking and seeking answers to ethical questions that we can ensure big data is used in a way that aligns with those values.”

At the same time: “Big data is pushing corporate action further and more fully into individual lives through the sheer volume, variety, and velocity of the data being generated. Big-data product design, development, sales, and management actions expand their influence and impact over individuals’ lives that may be changing the common meanings of words like privacy, reputation, ownership, and identity.”

What will happen next as (1) big data continues to expand and intrude and (2) people and organizations  push back harder, is still anybody’s guess. But matters of ethics likely will remain at the center of the conflicts.

Indeed, some big-data gold mines could suffer devastating financial and legal cave-ins if greed is allowed to trump ethics.

Si Dunn

The Art of Community, 2nd Edition – Creating online success in the social economy – #bookreview

The Art of Community: Building the New Age of Participation, 2nd Edition
Jono Bacon
(O’Reilly,
paperback, list price $39.99; Kindle edition, list price $34.99)

Whether you work for a large firm or operate a one-person shop built around an online presence, you should check out this newly updated guidebook on now to build, maintain and grow online communities.

Yes, it is a work focusing on organizational management — not exactly a topic that lights fires under reader excitement. Yet Bacon’s book is written smoothly and clearly, and it is rich with good ideas and good strategies that can help businesses, nonprofit organizations, and volunteer groups of virtually any size.

Creating an online community is not simply a matter of launching a website, sending out tweets and links, and then hoping and praying a few people will show up, hang out, participate, and occasionally buy something.

There are, Bacon says, effective planning strategies that can help you successfully enter, staying in, and succeed in the social economy. And, once you are there, it is vital to keep attracting new contributors.

“When your community kicks off, you’ll be way ahead if you can get down on paper its primary purpose goals,” he writes. Prior to launch, you need to clearly define its aims and its mission, the opportunities and areas of collaboration it can offer, and what skills will be needed in the community, he says.

These planning strategies can be effective, he adds, whether you want to build and maintain an online community for marketing products or services, or supporting a cause, or even developing open source software. (Bacon, an open source veteran, favors “fixed release cycles versus the release-when ready approach,” for several solid reasons important to a community built around an open-source product.)

A key lesson in his book is making sure that you create and maintain a sense of belonging in your online community. “If there is no belonging, there is no community,” Bacon emphasizes.

This book’s first edition in 2009 drew a good response from readers, and Bacon has both updated his text and brought in new materials for the second edition.

Three new chapters cover: (1) the major social media networks; (2) measuring community so you can track “the work your community or team commits to” and keep the work on track”; and (3) case studies “to help you develop your skills as a community manager.”

In a solo business, you are your community manager, as well as the proverbial chief cook and bottle washer. You create your products or services, you market them to the world, you fulfill orders or deliver services, and you also try to build, support and grow a community of followers, some of whom buy from you and others of whom help keep you inspired, grounded or focused.

In a larger business, however, your job title and sole focus may be “community manager.” The author, for example, is the community manager for the worldwide Ubuntu community. “Community management” is now a hot topic in the corporate world, and debates continue, Bacon says, on whether it is a marketing or engineering responsibility. “I firmly believe,” he emphasizes, “that community management is a tale with both marketing and engineering story lines flowing through it. If one is missing, community can feel unbalanced, misrepresented and ineffective.”

Even though your focus will be the online world, do not plan to base your whole community-building strategy around social media, Bacon warns. Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and others are, in his view, “just tools. There are many useful tools in the world that have become new and disruptive to our behavior, but few have been immersed in the sheer amount of hype, nonsensical ramblings, and just pure, unfiltered, salty bull that social media has.”

Some of the other tools to consider, he says, include discussion forums, email lists, IRC networks, and collaborative events such as online meetings and physical events where members gather, meet and interact in person.

The goal here, of course, is to maintain good communication, “the foundation of how your members work together, share goals and ambitions, and build social relationships with one another…[w]hen your members feel like they are disconnected from the community, they lose their sense of value,” he points out.

Jono Bacon’s 539-page book can show you how to create and grow an online community into a rich source of new ideas, a reliable support network, and a strong and wide-reaching marketing force, whether you are selling something, promoting a cause, or developing and maintaining open-source software.

Si Dunn