Photo Vault: Mexico Sunset

Taken: Hacienda Caracol Villa Roof, Soliman Bay, Mexico

Project Showcase: Procter & Gamble “Thank You Mom”

P&G is making it possible for people to make a difference in the lives of Special Olympics Team USA athletes in their journey to the upcoming Special Olympics World Summer Games 2011 in Athens, Greece by visiting P&G’s Thank You Mom Facebook page at www.facebook.com/thankyoumom. For every visitor that “likes,” shares or leaves a comment on the page, P&G will donate $1 to support Special Olympics Team USA’s journey to Athens up to an additional $250,000. The site also features information about Special Olympics, heartfelt stories from the moms of Special Olympics Team USA athletes and an opportunity to create a unique family tribute video.

(more…)

The Private Life of Project Managers [Video]

A live recording of a talk given by Dr Jonathan Whitty for the AIPM Queensland Chapter Meeting at The Brisbane Club on May 4th, 2011.

Facebook Marketing Update

eBook and Interview: How to Use The Open Graph to Connect with Your Market

I recently had the opportunity to contribute as an author and speaker to the Spring 2011 Facebook Marketing Update: How to Use The Open Graph to Connect with Your Market. This eBook was compiled and sponsored by HubSpot and includes great information on recent Facebook updates, new opportunities for brands and publishers, along with tips & tricks to most effectively engage consumers in the social landscape.

The eBook is free for download:

You can also access a follow up webinar hosted by HubSpot where we answer questions from the readers:

Photo Vault: Ukraine Meat Market

Taken: Zhitomir, Ukraine

A Social Business Reaction to the Amazon EC2 Outage

Amazon Web Services | Stuzo

On April 21st, Amazon Web Services experienced a service interruption, disrupting servers for many large and prominent businesses. Among those who were affected included an abundance of social services and websites such as Foursquare, HootSuite and Reddit. At Stuzo, we leverage EC2 for some of our hosting services and experienced temporary issues with our server infrastructure, as the Amazon back up systems did not kick in. As a result, this affected client applications which were live on Facebook, corporate websites, and elsewhere on the web.

Many companies have multi-zone failovers and other disaster recovery plans. On the technical side, we had most of our clients back up and running within an hour of the Amazon outage by leveraging our backup and internal recovery plans.

What did we do to respond to the situation from a Social Business perspective?

PLAN: Firstly, it’s important when working with any technology that you need a disaster recovery plan. Technology does fail and will continue to fail. It’s how you are prepared internally for these emergencies and execute when it does occur which will make all the difference. We’ve seen hardware and software fail before and know the importance of having a chain of command, operations, and procedures in these situations. This is documented and communicated through internal collaboration tools such as a corporate wiki, server documentation, and readily accessible information for the appropriate team members on the web. Generally, this just boils down to good business practices and the current tools adopted by our organization enable plans to be developed and documented more effectively.

SIGNAL: Through our server monitoring systems and communications measures the appropriate team members were notified instantaneously at critical points through the outage. This began with server monitoring tools at the root issues level (sending emails, SMS, etc) and the signal transitioned all the way  to our account and executive teams through our collaboration tools and communication practices.

DECIDE & ACT: We had to make necessary and demanding decisions before the sun was up for many of our clients. Do we wait for EC2 to come back, only migrate particular environments, notify all users? With the preparation and communication we had the right people with the proper knowledge available and briefed to make the best decision for our clients. On our end, we made the critical decision to migrate all live client applications associated with the Amazon EC2 environment in a time frame scheduled with the team (who were already notified through the signal stage and had an understanding of common options, responsibilities, and steps through our planning).

COMMUNICATE: On the account side we communicated the timeline and demands to make the migration happen internally along with a communication strategy for each client. All engineers, project managers, account managers, and appropriate team members were fully briefed on the status and progress thus far by seeing the alerts, briefings, and communication streams on their mobile devices prior to arriving in the office. Each client application that was moved to the new environment was tested by our QA engineers. Notification plans were setup for clients to ensure they were aware of the situation, our response to it, and how we are proceeding to manage in the coming days. Most of these occurred through emails to the clients coupled with direct phone calls early in the morning to provide transparency and responsibilities moving forward.

(more…)

Project Management Tips – Understanding Risks

Projects are fun and project management is too. Many outsiders to project management looking in sometimes don’t realize the skills and management techniques a successful project manager employs to deliver a quality project. In this post, I am going to cover the aspect of risk and risk management during the life cycle of a project and how it can result in a better product, happier team, and satisfied client.

While each project does present its own set of challenges and opportunities, there are many common themes across interactive projects related to risk. Recognizing these commonalities and adopting project and account management practices to address them will help minimize the impact a potential risk may have on a project. Ultimately, it’s a project team’s overall goal to keep a project on time, on budget, and at a superior quality level that executes against the key objectives. If we can implement efficiencies to keep projects under time and under budget, that is always a plus. Recognizing risks and developing solution plans are great ways to ensure success measures are met and, often at times, exceeded.

How many of you have worked on a project where a new & innovative technical feature was being implemented for the first time? How about a project where the timeline was moving so fast, a delay in creative delivery could jeopardize the project? With the proliferation of web technologies, how about encountering a new web service, which presents implementation uncertainties? You are not alone, these are common risks identified during an interactive project.

Risk always exists in a project. Whether the project is being managed by a 20 year PMP certified veteran or a newly minted project manager, there will be risks in the project. A risk could be an employee concern, technical limitation, timing issue, or even a client-side unknown among many other reasons. Now, that we have that part out of the way and acknowledged that risk is always part of a project, how do we keep it from looming over our shoulders and catching us at an inopportune time?

Get to love risk early on in your project. I know this might sound crazy for those not in this role, but this helps you avoid bigger problems down the road. Risk assessment should be included as a step in the early stages of internal project preparation. This requires a very open and honest mind-set from the team members involved. It’s critical not to let over confidence get in the way of fully engaging in this part. As a project manager, providing the necessary openness and humility to complete this step will allow your project stakeholders around you to embrace a similar approach to addressing risk issues.

Talk about the risks. Doing so, will allow you to tap into the knowledge of your supporting team, which often times decreases the initial assumed magnitude of the identified risks off the bat. Through communicating you will also become comfortable with eloquently describing and documenting the risk. You will find support across your team and tap into subject matter experts that will make your life much easier. It’s recommended to leverage the best tools available for your organization to effectively participate in the communication stream on risks while still being engaging. Whether you use a tool to do so or open brainstorming along the way, it’s the initial acceptance and mentality that drives a successful risk management process.

Document the risk and ensure an owner is assigned. Now that you have understood and communicated the risk early on, you may feel a little uneasy as project managers are often already thinking of the project, requirements and deadlines ahead.  It’s ok. This feeling will pass. Developing a risk resolution / mitigation plan with an identified risk owner at this stage allows you to leverage your best assets who will be going through the journey with you – your project stakeholders. As added advantages to distributing ownership of the risks to the best suited, you also provide team and individual accountability measures, which over time build camaraderie, expertise, and respect in the workplace.

Finalize the assessment and develop solution scenarios. Understand the implications of each risk and prioritize based on this knowledge. Some risks may have a quick resolution plan, while others may require significant time investment. It’s important to understand the possible effects of a discovered risk in a quantifiable way. Could it take you dramatically over budget? Over time?  Require pulling additional resources? Will you need to modify the work back schedule and re-brief the client? Understanding the implications and quantifying will help prioritize and align the entire internal (and sometimes client-side) team for the next stages of the project. When involving the client-side, it helps support with managing expectations, building trust, and leads to a great working relationship. The involvement required, really depends on the risks being determined.

To support with the prioritization there are some common buckets risks can be placed in to help understand the possible severity level by weighing the risk impact and probability:

Risk Management | Stuzo

(more…)

Sharing Content with the Facebook Like Button

There have been discussions among the Facebook Developer ecosystem the past few weeks regarding the possible deprecation of the Facebook Share button to make the “Like” action the primary share point across the web. With the recent announcement that FBML will no longer be supported, indeed, the FBML Share action is deprecated. However, developers still have access to register a relevant action in their applications using the “stream.share” method in the JS SDK available. Unofficial documentation on this feature is available here and is not documented by Facebook. In fact, when searching for official documentation on “Facebook Share”, the search redirects visitors to the Like button documentation.

Like Button Documentation | Stuzo

The updates released on February 27th, showcase a fundamental series of changes unveiled to the Like button, which marketers and brands should certainly be aware of and begin investigating the best integration points for these features. With these recent changes, there is obviously heavy overlap on the features provided by the Facebook Like and Share buttons.

While the psychology behind how and why users click these particular actions is creating debate over what option to use, signs indicate that because of the investment made and its ease of use, the “Like” button is on its way to be the prominent feature and recommended implementation route by Facebook. Today, users go through a mental decision tree when they see a piece of content they want to let their networks know they find valuable. Users have the option to Tweet, Facebook Share, Facebook Like, Email, StumbleUpon, etc. This decision usually happens so quickly and so often for active users, that most have a formed opinion on what distribution method to choose depending on the category or context of the content. Facebook is continuously working on implementing options for publishers and marketers of content, to attempt to make this decision easier and more ubiquitous.

Below is some additional information on the recent changes to the Like button:

September 9, 2010: Facebook unveils three new updates to the Like button. (1) Users can now like content from Facebook applications Canvas URLs. (2) The Like button can link back to particular Facebook pages. (3) A prominent counter (“box count”) can be displayed to showcase the sum of Likes a piece of content receives.

February 10, 2011: Facebook announces deprecation of FBML in favor of iframes. FBML documentation of the Share button is removed. Notably, developers now have the ability to implement the Like button directly on the landing page of tabs. This feature was always available in iframe development, but now can be loaded directly on the landing of a Facebook Page tab.

February 27, 2011: Facebook rolls out the latest version of the Like button. Previously, when user’s Liked an item, a small piece of the story would go back into a user’s wall under “Recent Activity.” This often was buried on the user’s page with a simple link back to the content. With the latest changes, now when a user clicks Like a full story is prominently published on their wall with a thumbnail image, story title, and body text. Also available is the option to “comment” after taking a Like action.

Visiting a Piece of Content on the Web:

Like Web Content | Stuzo

Like provides the option to add a comment:

Like Comment Option | Stuzo

Seamless Sharing of the Like back into Facebook:

Like on Facebook | Stuzo

With the option of a comment:

Like with Comment | Stuzo

(more…)

Facebook Page Redesign and iFrame Tabs Offer New Engagement Opportunities for Brands

I originally published this post on the Stuzo Insights blog.

On Feb 10, 2011, Facebook announced breaking news that will ultimately provide better methods for brands to engage and communicate with their customers. These updates include a revamped UI of the Facebook Pages product and the ability to deploy iFrame tabs.

The New Facebook Page UI and What it Means…

New Facebook Page

At first glance, most users will recognize the new Page looks very similar to a user profile page. Here are some of the notable updates included in this release and what they mean for Page owners:

 

  • IFrame Tabs are enabled: This is a feature we have been excited for at Stuzo! This provides the strategy, development, user experience and creative teams more flexibility in implementing branded experiences on Pages. Formerly many experiences had to bounce to a Facebook Canvas Page or require additional clicks for the user to engage with appropriate content. The release of iFrame tabs will now allow for more streamlined and engaging experiences directly on the Page. Here are just a few examples of the features which we are currently working on: The ability to customize the landing view based on user location or referral source, dynamically updating the view based on the piece of content they are attempting to access, loading of flash elements and interactive front-end features which formerly could not initially load on tabs (note: the auto-play of media items is still disabled, and rightfully so). As a Preferred Developer Consultant, we ensure all programs adhere to Facebook Page Policies and we are helping steer clients in the right direction for their particular strategy. You can access the updated Page Policies here.

New iFrame Page Tabs

  • Left-nav formatting: The horizontal tab navigation items have been moved under the profile picture. Along with this the profile picture dimensions have changed from 200×600 to 180×540.
  • Recent photos display: Matching the recent profile page changes, a brand can now showcase their 5 most recent photos published at the top of the Page.
  • Branded voice: Page administrators can now have a voice across the platform in representation of the brand by linking their Facebook account to the Page. This means a Page can now interact with other users and Pages.

New Facebook Page Account

  • A Page now has a News Feed: Now that a Page owner’s account can be logged in as a “Page,” they have access to a News Feed similar to regular users. This will allow Pages to curate their own content and have the same abilities as a content consumer.
  • “Everyone” wall filter: Fans can now also get more exposure with these recent updates. Wall filters now have 2 options, “Posts by Page” or “Everyone.” This gives users the option to see the most interesting stories first.
  • Page “Features” are enhanced: A Page can show other Pages they “Like” in the left sidebar, and also feature “People.” This can help put a voice and personal connection to those who communicate with users on a Page.
  • Notifications: Admins of a Page can now receive email notifications when a user posts a comment. Most larger brands are using a third party Publisher tool at this time, which may take this into account. However, this is a good feature for new Page owners to quickly and effectively respond and interact with their users.
  • Mutual friends and interests: Users can now see the Pages and friends they have in common with your Page.

(more…)

Get Ready NYC

Prepare for Emergencies Using Social Media with My Meeting Place

I originally published this post on the Stuzo Insights blog.

According to a recent survey by the Office of Emergency Management (OEM), 40 percent of New Yorkers say they do not feel prepared for an emergency.

OEM and The Advertising Council team joined forces to encourage New Yorkers to be prepared if disaster strikes with this years Ready New York City campaign. Stuzo had the opportunity to work directly with their teams to develop a strong social component to this campaign during September’s National Preparedness Month.

With over 500 million active users and an estimated 8.2 million of those being New Yorkers engaged on Facebook (July 2010), collectively the teams knew this program was the perfect opportunity to leverage social platforms to raise awareness.

Emergencies can happen anywhere at anytime. The challenge set forth to our team was to develop an interactive application to help New Yorkers find a safe meeting place in case of an emergency and securely share this with their family and friends. With 70% of Facebook users actively using platform applications, we set our strategy on developing a custom emergency location map and sharing application within the Facebook platform. This strategy led to the creative process, production and launch of “Get Ready NYC: My Meeting Place.”

(more…)