What’s your purpose?

Flowers by the side of a path

What's your purpose? (Photo source - http://www.sxc.hu/photo/867083)

I recently listened to an interview with author Daniel Pink (via Elizabeth Marshall’s free Author Teleseminars) about his new book Drive. (Confession: I haven’t read it, so I’m basing this blog post on the author interview, which ran about an hour. If you want to learn more about this, you should read the book, which has exercises and, I’m sure, a lot more detail and insight. The book is going on my to-read list.)

Drive examines decades of research on what really motivates people. Pink says that there are two kinds of activities — algorithmic and heuristic. Algorithmic work is anything that can be broken down into a set of rules. Heuristic work is more complex, more nuanced, and requires judgment, creativity, intuition and analysis. Heuristic work is what many of us spend a lot of time doing.

Pink says that the overwhelming evidence from decades of research on motivation was that carrot vs. stick type approach to motivation (penalizing people for mistakes, rewarding them for successes) work well in motivating algorithmic work. But for heuristic work, penalties and prizes have the opposite effect. So long as people are being paid at a level they believe is fair, paying them a lot more in hopes of motivating them for heuristic activities doesn’t work.

What does work to motivate people to accomplish heuristic work? Three things: autonomy, mastery, purpose.

  • Autonomy, obviously, is the ability to make your own choices about when and how you do things.
  • Mastery is the desire to achieve a high skill level.
  • Purpose is the belief that you’re acting in service to something greater than yourself (not money).

It’s the last one I’m particularly interested in. If you have a purpose, it can bring fresh reserves of motivation into your daily life. And that’s a good thing. Worthwhile things are frequently difficult to achieve, and achieving the difficult requires motivation.

Which brings me to — What is your purpose? Have you ever thought about that question?

For that matter, what is the purpose of your company? Your brand? Your blog? Your social media activities? Your marketing?

Are you doing it just to make money? Or is there something else that motivates you?

Google, a company that has made lots of money, says its mission is to “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” That is a grand purpose, and I wonder if it doesn’t play a role in motivating people at the company. A cynic would say that words like that are just clever PR, spin designed to pretty up Google’s real purpose, which they would claim is to make the founders and shareholders rich. Google has made its founders (and many shareholders) rich, but I don’t think that excludes the company having a purpose beyond that.

Most marketers (myself included) would urge the typical company (or product/brand/service/whatever) to clearly define its USP, its unique selling proposition. That’s the one thing that makes that product or brand different from everything else and desirable to some group of buyers.

But before you ask yourself what your USP is, maybe you should ask yourself what your purpose is. You with me? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Changing my approach to Facebook

Note: As I’ve mentioned previously, I challenged myself to write 30 posts in 30 days. I’ve not been as consistent with my blogging as I would have liked, so I’ve got to get a lot of blog posts published in the last couple of days. So, you’ll see several more posts than normal in the next couple of days. On Feb. 17, I’ll return to a normal schedule of three to five times per week. Please bear with me. Thanks!

Last year, I wrote a post called Why I’m becoming more promiscuous online, which explained my personal approach to social media and networking. Re-reading that, my philosophy and approach to social media hasn’t changed much, but I am making a tweak to it. I’m going to close off my personal Facebook account to people I don’t have some sort of real relationship with. Later this week, I’ll start unfriending people who I don’t know in real life or haven’t had some sort of interaction with. Here’s why.

Lately, I’ve started getting more and more friend invitations on Facebook from people I just don’t know. In some cases, they are friends with someone else I know, so there’s a chance I could run into them in my day-to-day life. In some cases, we don’t have any friends in common. I think some of them come from this blog. I’ve had my Facebook link posted prominently (the icon over on the right) for a while, in the last few weeks readership here has gone up dramatically. Some of those new readers have asked to connect on Facebook (and in some cases, I have).

But something else has happened in the last few months, also. My personal interactions and communications — information about my kids, my family and my connections to them — has increased. More relatives have connected with me online, and a lot of my Facebook activity has become more personal. I’m not feeling as comfortable about having that open to anyone who comes along. So with Facebook I’m altering my “promiscuous” approach and becoming more conservative.

The new MarkTzk.com fan page on Facebook

Still, I know a lot of people I might encounter online will still be interested in opportunities to interact on Facebook. So I’ve set up a Facebook fan page for that. The Facebook icon over in the right-hand column of this blog already points to it. I’m afraid there’s not much there yet, but I’ll start to gradually populate it with content over time, and I hope it becomes another place where we can talk about the topics and issues that this blog covers. I also plan to treat it as a kind of laboratory for experiments with Facebook marketing and Facebook fan page customization.

My LinkedIn and Twitter accounts will remain very open, so I’d still love to connect with you there. And if you know me from someplace other than this blog, there’s a pretty good chance we’ll remain friends on Facebook. See you at the fan page.

Helping girls get educated

Warning: This is not a typical MarkTzk.com blog post.

Cassie

One of my daughters.

Let me tell you a personal story. I have two daughters. They were both born in Guatemala and lived there, in foster homes, until my wife and I adopted them. I still remember seeing children — whole families of children — standing on a sidewalk during rush hour with their hands out, hoping for a little money from the rush of strangers around them.

Guatemala is a beautiful country, where many people still speak languages that date back to the pre-Columbian Mayan culture. It is also one of the poorest places in the Western Hemisphere. This is what the U.S. State Department says:

According to the World Bank, Guatemala has one of the most unequal income distributions in the hemisphere. The wealthiest 10% of the population receives almost one-half of all income; the top 20% receives two-thirds of all income. As a result, about 32% of the population lives on less than $2 a day and 13.5% on less than $1 a day. Guatemala’s social development indicators, such as infant mortality and illiteracy, are among the worst in the hemisphere.

So almost half the population lives on $2 a day, or less. Most of us will drop more than that at Starbucks without thinking about it. This strikes me powerfully, because that is probably the kind of economic circumstances my daughters would have been consigned to had we not adopted them. But adoption is not a solution to Guatemala’s poverty (and adoptions in Guatemala have sometimes been problematic for other reasons).

I don’t think there’s any question that it will take decades of sustained effort and investment, from both inside and outside the tiny nation, to raise the standard of living. And, sadly, Guatemala is not the only country in this situation. Globally, about 2.5 billion people live on $2 a day — or less. I don’t know how many of those 2.5 billion are children, but it must number in the hundreds of millions.

I’m not going to claim that I know how to end global poverty — I don’t. It’s a complex problem, and there are difficulties both finding effective solutions and implementing them. But I do know that one of the most powerful things you can do to reduce poverty in a society is to educate girls. As of 2006, at least 73 million children of elementary school age [PDF] were not enrolled in school (the numbers were probably higher, given the way the data is collected). Girls account for 55 percent of children [PDF] not enrolled in school.

That’s why this week I added a new widget to the sidebar of this blog. It’s a fundraising widget from Kintera, an online charity site, to support Room to Read. Room to Read does not work in Latin America (yet; I wish it did), but it works in Africa and Asia, helping set up schools, provide books and support education in some of the world’s poorest communities. If you have a little extra time I encourage you to visit Room to Read’s Web site, learn more and perhaps contribute. If you want to contribute through the widget on this site, then we’ll have a way, over time, of measuring how much money we can send to the organization. I have a pretty modest goal of $500, but if we get there fast, I’ll raise it.

If you want to direct money specifically to programs in Guatemala that help girls, you might consider the New York-based Population Council, which is working with some of Guatemala’s poorest and most marginalized groups. They’ve sponsored a program designed to help girls stay in school longer in Guatemala.

Whatever moves you, or doesn’t, please let me know what you think by sharing your thoughts in the comments below or sending me an email.

Free stuff for bloggers and other online types

1. Free business cards, from Vistaprint.

Free parking

There are lots of freebies available for bloggers and other online types. (Photo by Jenny Rollo - http://www.sxc.hu/photo/975867)

2. Free phone number with voice mail and other features, from Google Voice. Unfortunately this is still in beta, and you have to request an invite, which may not come soon. They don’t seem to be allowing uses to give away invites, at least yet, judging from the fact that I don’t have any to give away in my account. Another option is Simple VoiceBox.

3. Free blogging softwareWordPress. Of course.

4. Free photos: Flickr and stock.xchng are two sites where you can find photos that you can use online for free. You normally have to credit the photo, of course, and respect the creator’s wishes as far as how it’s used (commercial, noncommercial, etc.).

5. Free FTP software, for uploading and downloading sites to and from your siteFilezilla (you want the client version, not the server version).

6. Free photo and image editing, online. Pixlr.com is a web app that allows you to edit photos and other images the same way you would with a lightweight desktop program, such as Photoshop Elements. You won’t get all the features you get in a desktop app, but Pixlr.com is still quick, easy and free. (Note, if you’re using open source images from Flickr or stock.xchng, it’s generally OK to resize them for the web, but the terms of service frequently prohibit major changes, such as turning a color photo black and white or otherwise altering the image.)

7. Free CSS and HTML debugging utility. If you want to get your hands dirty and write or edit code for your site, Firebug is a great Firefox browser plug-in that can help.

8. Free email, calendar, file sharing and web site creation. Google Apps Standard Edition brings Google’s apps (such as Gmail and the Google Calendar) to your domain, backed by Google’s robust server farms.

9. Free conference calls. FreeConferenceCall.com offers a free conference call service that allows you to have conference calls. The company even offers free recording, so you could use it, for example, to record a podcast. In case you’re wondering, this company makes its money by upselling customers to offerings with more features.

10. Free advice. There’s a lot of information and advice out there, of course. Not all of it’s good. But among those I really like are Darren Rowse’s Problogger.net, Brian Clark’s Copyblogger.com and DavidRisley.com.

There’s lots more free stuff, and free advice, on the Web. What are some your favorite freebies? Please share them in the comments.

How to say thank you for good things that happen online

When someone does something nice for you — and especially when they do without you asking first — it’s appropriate to say thank you. And offline, that’s pretty easy. You can say thank you in person or over the phone, write a thank you note, send a nice gift (a bottle of wine always works for me), or even buy someone lunch (or a drink).

However, online relationships are a bit trickier. Sometimes we don’t really know the people we interact with online, beyond, say, a Twitter account. But with just a Twitter account someone online can do some nice things for you – tweet a blog post you’ve written, include you in a #followfriday recommendation or just say nice things about you. How do you respond? How do you thank people in an appropriate, meaningful way?

Here are three ideas:

  • Return the favor. Retweet, include them in your #followfriday recommendations or publicize a blog post through one or more of your online identities.
  • Thank them offline. Send a handwritten note, make a short phone call or, if you’re feeling really generous, send a gift card or a small card. It may take a little extra time to figure out how to do this. Maybe you look up where the person works and send something to his or her office, maybe you figure out who their literary agent or publisher (for authors) is and send something through that route. Be brief, be nice, be polite – but don’t stalk. The point here is to thank people, not make them nervous.
  • Talk them up offline. If someone is doing good work, recognize it in your real-world conversations. When I talk to people who want to understand better how social media works in marketing and public relations I frequently recommend they check out David Meerman Scott’s blog or get his books. I think he does great, smart, work, so I talk him up. He may never know this, but in exchange for the insight his work has provided me, I think it’s good karma to pass along his name and web site to others.

How do you thank people? Please leave your suggestions in the comments below.

Links Worth Reading – Sept. 27, 2009, edition

Here are some of the best links, blog posts and resources I’ve come across in the last week. Note: Many, but not all, of these I first published via Twitter. Please follow me there if you’re not already.

Top 10 Blogs for Writers 2009

How to Create Reader Profiles/Personas to Inspire and Inform Your Blogging (Great idea right out of marketing research 101. Creating personas is something I’ve done for this blog.)

Free Social Media Worksheets (These are good resources if your planning or executing a social media campaign of some sort.)

Media Usage Study Shows Radio, Online Media Consumption is Up (This blog post links to a news release and other resources. It’s a good, basic reference for those of us working in marketing and public relations.)

The Science of ReTweets (Want to figure out how to increase your odds of getting retweeted? This free report is a good place to start. The author, Dan Zarella, studied 40 million tweets in his analysis.)

Membership Programs for Lead Generation (Joe Pulizzi is a content marketing specialist, and he makes some good points about using membership programs for lead generation. This is a must-read for marketing and sales execs trying to understand how to better use social media and the web to boost the bottom line.)

How to Use Social Media to Market a Boring Product or Service (It’s probably not a good sign if you, as a marketer, think that what you’re marketing is boring. Nonetheless, some products and services are less engaging than others. Keith Burtis points out that you can still use social media to market those by trying back to related passions.)

Six Social Media Marketing Case Study Lessons (Looking for ideas and inspiration for social media marketing? HubSpot has six social media marketing case studies with lessons learned from each. This post is worth bookmarking.)

Let me know what you think of these links in the comments.

What do you think of the new site design?

I’ve just completed phase 1 of the redesign of this blog. I’ve created a new header, messed around with the typography and colors a bit, added new social media icons and a Google custom search interface to make the blog searchable. I’ve got lots more work to do, including new posts to write, updating the ‘About Mark Tosczak’ page and other stuff. That will be coming soon. In the meantime, though, I’d appreciate any feedback and suggestions you might have on the redesign, or ideas about what to do next. Please leave a comment below if you’re so inclined.

Does more information mean less knowledge?

Clive Thompson has an interesting article in the current issue of Wired that looks at why even though we live in a world awash with information, more than ever, people seem to be less knowledgeable about all sorts of important issues.

Is global warming caused by humans? Is Barack Obama a Christian? Is evolution a well-supported theory?

You might think these questions have been incontrovertibly answered in the affirmative, proven by settled facts. But for a lot of Americans, they haven’t. Among Republicans, belief in anthropogenic global warming declined from 52 percent to 42 percent between 2003 and 2008. Just days before the election, nearly a quarter of respondents in one Texas poll were convinced that Obama is a Muslim. And the proportion of Americans who believe God did not guide evolution? It’s 14 percent today, a two-point decline since the ’90s, according to Gallup.

It turns out that even though there’s more information, there’s also more misinformation. The ease with which anyone can publish information makes it easier for interest groups to sow doubt about things that might otherwise be taken factually. It’s what the tobacco industry did for years to try to cast doubt on the enormous weight of scientific evidence that smoking is dangerous.

Read the story here.

Vote for your favorite web site, web app or web tool

If you’re using sites like Twitter, or if you’ve got widgets on your blog or plug-ins in your browser, chances are you have some favorites in the Open Web Awards. I’ve added a widget, on the right side of the page, that allows you to vote in that contest. By scrolling through the list you can also find interesting new sites and tools that you may not have heard of yet.

I’m not going to tell you what to vote for. But I do encourage you to vote. (If you’re reading this post in email or an RSS reader, you’ll need to click through to the site to vote.)

I know the elections are over (at least for the United States – well, most of the states), but it’s still not too late to vote. Give your favorite site, web app or widget some love. By the way, you can even vote more than once – as often as once a day – if you really want to support your favorite site. So go for it.

Why I’ve added ads to the blog

In the last week or so I’ve installed a new template on this blog, and I’ve also added advertising. This is the first time I’ve ever put ads on any blog I’ve run, so it’s a bit of an experiment. The only two ads, over there in the right column, that I’ve got at this point are for premium WordPress theme I’m using, Thesis, and for Dreamhost’s webhosting service.

In both cases they are products/services that I have used, and paid money for, and am using now. So I feel safe in recommending them because I’ve had a good experience with them. They are both affiliate ads, which means if you click on them (or, for that matter, the links in this post above) and then make a purchase, I get a percentage of that purchase. But clicking on those ads and making a purchase doesn’t increase your cost, so there’s no downside to you.

There is, obviously, a little upside for me. I get a little bit of money that helps cover some of the costs, such as webhosting, that go into running this blog. I’m not fooling myself here. Quite frankly, I’ll consider this a success if I’m actually able to cover those costs with ads on this blog over the course of the year.

Lots of blogs have ads, so this is nothing new. It is something new for me, so I thought it was worth mentioning. If you have thoughts on this, or any comments on the new design, please leave a comment below.