Lost in the Crowd

There are so many social and blogging platforms floating out here in the intertubes.

It’s like looking down from one of those stunt helicopters flying overhead at Wembley Stadium, when the stadium is full to the brim of people, and trying to find your friend in the crowd. The friend with the beers and the cheery smile.

File:Take That Wembley.jpg
(c) Adam Raoof http://www.flickr.com/photos/adamraoof/3689497647/

And that’s only Twitter! There’s another hundred-odd stadiums, one for each social platform, each linked by a gangway, probably strewn with cans and with chewing-gum gloop on the floor, and the odd drunk loitering in the shadows.

But a select few know that there are subterranean tunnels which can transport you to the stadium of your choice, on fluffy pillows with complimentary goodies and a tour guide if you need it. And a concierge who will find your friend for you, and lead you to him (Ok, I’m being metaphorical here people).

Interconnected stadiums
Lots of stadiums, viewed from a metaphorical helicopter… complete with a bungee cord and a stuntman dressed as the Queen

Are you one of those select few? Or are you one of those millions who wander aimlessly, jostling in the throng trying to find your mate with the beer, then getting gum on your shoes when you try to migrate?

So what’s the secret of being one of the select few I hear you cry?

Well, from what I can tell, peering out from the doors of the helicopter, circling above… the secret is… being passionate and being friendly, and being willing to learn.


I know… it seems kind of lame doesn’t it.

Friendly – but they’re laughing at us you know


But you have a look around, and the people that do best in Social Media seem to be the ones who are passionate about what they do, know where they should be and are friendly with it. The ones who are just there to make noise eventually get lost in the crowd… the others in the stadium realise they are out for themselves and stop sharing with them. They may have a stadium full of followers, but they rarely listen or interact with them. Sometimes the ones who shout loudest are unveiled to be full of hot air and eventually deflate.

The friendly ones get help to move from one stadium to the other or know intuitively where they should be, their passion follows them, as do their friends and they are eventually easy to find. They move from stadium to stadium on those fluffy pillows with an entourage of friends and followers. They are often the ones with the words of wisdom, whispered quietly to those around, but their word spreads.

So, in the stadiums of the Social, seek out those who aren’t shouting, the ones who are passionate and the ones who are genuinely knowledgeable. When you want to migrate from one place to another, follow their lead and talk to their friends.

Be one of those select few*…

*and if you don’t know any of the select few, follow some of the big guys for a while as you learn.

         Social Media Today

        The Hootsuite blog


The Awesome Acronym

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had a pretty stressful week.

And when you’ve had a stressful week the last thing you want to do is write a serious blog. It just adds to the stress. I’m all against stress, it usually leads to more cake than is strictly necessary.

So I didn’t write a serious blog.

Instead, this week’s blog tackles the serious problem of thinking before you name your society, or business, or … car.

Acronyms can be great…they shorten your organisation’s name, and if you are lucky they can be memorable. You want everyone to know what the acronym stands for and for it to be immediately recognisable, but in a good way.

Take WWF….you know it’s either pandas or old wrestlers…or possibly both. That’s the World Wide Fund for Nature or the now dead World Wrestling Federation. Here’s a nifty website to spot your favourite wrestler.

panda chewing bamboo

However… acronyms can go bad. Seriously bad. So bad they make you a laughing stock… even if they do say that there’s no such thing as bad publicity (obviously said by someone who’d just realised he’d made a massive mistake… yeah, I know it was Barnum….shhhhh).

They can be so funny they make us all laugh together. Take the Perpetual Motion Squad in series one of the Big Bang Theory, the quiz team extraordinaire… or PMS for short. Oh how we laughed.

One team that perhaps should have thought things through was the Formula 1 Hispania Racing Team… or HRT as they were known. Every circuit, HRT went racing round the track… but perhaps they needed the hormone injection to give their cars more oomph. By the end of the 2012 racing season they were looking for a buyer, and are no longer racing, which is a shame because the potential was there. What makes it worse? Could anything make it worse? On their website there is a little advert for their online store… “we are working to offer you the best HRT products”. How many women of a certain age ended up at the wrong website I wonder?

A major WTF moment was from the Tourism Federation of Wisconsin. In 2009, they decided a name change was in order after becoming the butt of the internet’s jokes. You can read about the kerfuffle here… bye-bye Wisconsin Tourism Federation. But I’ll bet the publicity did them no harm in the long-run.


However , I doubt anyone will laugh at The World Taekwondo Federation, even though they have the domain name wtf.org!!

So, getting it wrong can be expensive… it involves new branding, advertising and probably a very thick skin when you have to admit you got it wrong.

But a silly acronym can be used to your advantage. It’s a shame I didn’t go to Edinburgh University… Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you, the Auld Reekie Sailing Establishment (Edinburgh University Sailing Club Alumni), better known as ARSE.

And finally, it’s not just the odd acronym that can cause hilarity and grief in equal measure.  The Ford car company didn’t quite get it right when they launched their ‘Pinto’ car in Brazil, then discovered that in Brazilian Portuguese slang, ‘pinto’ means erm… ‘small man part’ (if you get my drift).

But that’s the start of a whole new blog. So as it’s Friday… here’s a little time-waster for you… a little site dedicated to unfortunate acronyms (although there are bound to be more out there).

Where’s the Free in Freelance?

If you happened upon a free lance in days of yore, you would be hiring a mercenary or running away from him and I don’t suppose either way you’d mess with him and his big pointy stick. These days a freelancer is still self-employed but the pointy stick has been replaced by gentler tools of the trade, and perhaps that big pointy stick should have been held in reserve.

Leighton-God Speed!
Edmund Leighton (1853-1922)
God Speed, 1900
Another Freelancer valiantly setting forth

Freelance is becoming a dirty word, and all because of the “free” bit.

When you are self-employed it’s not all about sitting around waiting for the work to arrive, sometimes you have to go out there to find the commissions. After all, you have the experience, the qualifications and have put in the hours honing your craft, but your potential clients won’t know that unless you let them know you exist. And occasionally this involves having a peek around to see what’s available.

Pootling around the internet it’s amazing how many “job adverts” there are, often on reputable sites. You see a fantastic freelance post, click to the description page and then get all excited by the prospect of something that you know you would love to get your teeth into… you see the requirements…



subject knowledge

… a job description as long as your arm

… then the kicker word…voluntary!

voluntary, dictionary, free, freelance

Now if I came up to you as your manager (yes, I was a manager once) and said you were doing a great job… oh, by the way, there’s a job you’d be brilliant for… but btw you wont get paid. Would you do it? Hell no!

If you went to work tomorrow, completed your job to the best of your ability then didn’t get paid a decent wage would you be hacked off… hell yes.

If you didn’t get paid for three months would you be annoyed? Uh-huh.

Strange isn’t it, but being asked to work for free regularly happens when you’re freelance.

I’m very fortunate; all my clients so far have been wonderful. Occasionally there’s been a slight blip in cash-flow but this has usually been down to interdepartmental lack of communication. But for many freelancers this is not the case.

Most freelancers don’t mind the odd bit of voluntary work (or giving a freebie now and then), in fact I regularly create an e-zine for an Association I’m a member of, and until a few months ago produced their monthly newsletter (after five years I decided that someone else would benefit from the experience) but… and it’s a big BUT… these voluntary posts don’t eat away much of my time. Voluntary work can be a form of professional and personal development if it’s a subject you love, however most voluntary roles are less time intensive than the freelancer’s day job and should probably be seen as recreational. If the voluntary post being advertised has a job description long enough for an Andrex puppy to happily play with (other toilet rolls are available), or hours that mention part-time or full-time, this is not acceptable for the majority of qualified, professional freelancers.

broken, piggy bank, money

By hiring a freelancer you are hiring someone with expertise, qualifications, and knowledge, more often than not gained from numerous self-funded courses and a degree or two. Most importantly you are hiring a professional, who pays their own way.

So a few tips…

When coming into contact with a freelancer…

  • Don’t ask them if they could just look something over for you as a quick freebie, saying something along the lines of “it won’t take long, honest”… ask them if they have a special rate for quick, one off jobs.
  • Don’t keep adding on extras to the work you’ve arranged expecting it to fall within budget… ask them if they’d mind revising the quote / timescale in the light of the extra work.
  • Don’t lead them in with a commission then say you need a special rate or a freebie because [insert excuse here]… an icy-stare often offends.
  • Don’t expect something for nothing… but be happy when you get it.

Above all remember that what you ask the freelancer to do is usually their day job, they need to eat and pay their bills the same as anyone else.

If you are a freelancer…

  • Don’t automatically say “Oh, I can do that for you” whether it’s for a client, an organisation or a friend, unless you are prepared to forego a fee. Remember that your expertise should be given the recognition it deserves, just because it’s second nature to you doesn’t mean that it lacks value. It’s too easy to volunteer yourself before thinking it through.
  • Don’t reply to job adverts that really require a full- or part-time commitment but are voluntary unless you really, really want to work for nothing, and for a long time. And if you do take on such a job remember that this should be a paid post and somewhere another freelancer is missing out.
  • Don’t automatically charge for something. Strange I know, but often a little added extra can make the difference between a happy client and a very happy client. Just once in a while mind you.

So… Freelance or…

Self-employed, pen-for-hire, consultant, independent adviser, temporary colleague, independent professional, professional without portfolio?

I like the medieval picture, it was said the pen was mightier than the sword, but a prod every now and then in the right direction can be good for the soul… and the bank balance.