Want My Advice? Do This First.


A lot of social media practitioners, consultants and “social media experts” complain about people constantly asking to “pick their brain”. Most of the posts complain about people asking for free advice and explain in great detail how and why this is offensive.

While I agree with these posts, many years ago I received some GREAT advice about how to handle these requests.

When someone asks you for help, give them something to do first. Some small first step that they have to complete before you spend your time helping them.

Here are some examples:

Request: Krista, I’m looking for a new position and I was wondering if you could introduce me to some people.

Response: I’d love to help you. Can you take a look at my LinkedIn network and identify a few people who I am connected to who could help you?

Request: I have a startup and I think we need to use social media. Can I pick your brain about what we should consider?

Response: Sure. I wrote a few blog posts about this topic already that I think would be helpful. Could you read them first, let me know your thoughts and then we can schedule a meeting.

Response: Social media is great for startups. Could you send me links to social media accounts of some of your biggest competitors? I’m curious to see what they are doing.

Why This Works

This strategy works for a number of reasons:

1) If I’m going to invest my time I want them to invest theirs.

    It is easy to ask for advice or for a favor. Asking the other person to do a small amount of work before you invest your time shows that they are really interested. It also shows that they really value and want your help since they are willing to do the follow-up step that you suggest before you dive in and help.

2) They are more likely to take action.

    I really don’t mind occasionally meeting with people to help them out. Lots of people helped me with advice to get to where I am. What annoys the heck out of me is when I spend my time giving someone free advice that they don’t follow.
    Asking them to do something upfront shows that they can follow-through on something.

3) It shows that you are thoughtful and value your time.

    It is so easy for people to ask for advice or opinions. A lot of the people who ask for advice don’t realize that they are asking you to basically do your job for free. I like to use this approach because it shows that I have considered what they asked me for and have given them a thoughtful and specific next step. This shows that I value my time, even though I will give it to them for free.

4) Most people don’t do it.

    The reality is that in my experience well over half of people don’t follow through with the simple next step. This weeds out requests that would be a waste of my time since the person doesn’t have great follow-up. It also lets me focus my time on helping people who are action oriented and willing to invest their time when they ask for mine.

5) You don’t have to say no and get all cranky.

    I don’t really like saying no to people – even when they ask for free advice. This helps me to not have to say no and feel like a jerk.
    I know some social media experts who are highly offended by requests for free advice and often respond with cranky rants along the lines of “How dare you ask for free advice?!?! Don’t you know this is how I earn a living?!?!?! Have you no common decency?!?!?!”

6) It is nice to help people sometimes. Even for free.

    I got into what I do because I actually love it. I love talking about social media. I love helping businesses and people. I got to where I am because a lot of people helped me along the way. I’m happy to give back.

This approach has helped me tremendously – I wish I could remember who suggested it to me initially. Giving the requestor a simple next steps shows if they are willing to do something prior to me investing my time. As a bonus I don’t have to say no 😉

How to Say YES to Every Request


I hate to say no. I really hate it when someone asks me for something and I have to say no to them. I try not to say no, but the reality is that I can’t do everything for everyone. I have limited time. I have to focus on things that pay the bills.

A number of years ago I read some great advice about how to avoid saying no and how to say yes to everything.

When someone asks you for something give them a next step. Simple. Ask them to do something first.

Want me to check out your Facebook Page? Read these 3 articles and let me know how you can use the advice. Then I’ll take a look.

Want to “pick my brain”? Awesome… Review this report on social media and start ups and let me know what you think are your top 3 opportunities.

Want help getting a job? Great! Review my LinkedIn contacts and let me know 5 – 10 that would be helpful for me to introduce you to.

Instead of saying no say YES. Every time.

But give them something to do first.

This allows you to never say no but to filter out requests that will waste your time.

Most people won’t complete the follow-up. If they aren’t willing to invest their time why should you invest yours? 

Do You Hate Monday? Do Something Different.

Do You Hate Mondays blog post

If you hate Mondays you have the wrong job.

When I worked for a big company I dreaded Monday. My coworkers and I would get together Sunday night and watch Grey’s Anatomy and commiserate about the coming week.

I had a pretty good job. It wasn’t awful. I didn’t love it though.

Now I love Mondays.

I look forward to the possibilities and potential of what I can accomplish.

If you hate Mondays, start working on your escape plan.

How Our Body Language Drives Our Success

Body language impacts your successI’m not a “body language” expert, and would never pretend to be, but I’ve recently come across some interesting information about body language and how it impacts your success.

This morning I came across an interesting article on Body Language and a few months ago I watched an amazing Ted Talk about the topic (watch it below, it is worth every second). As speakers and business professionals, our body language and confidence is a big part of our success. It dictates how effective we are at conveying messages and how we are perceived by others.

Body Language Worked for Marilyn

I heard a story years ago about Marilyn Monroe. Apparently she could turn her charm on and off with her body language. One moment she would have men and women stopping, staring and swooning, and the next she could walk around relatively unnoticed. The difference wasn’t how she looked, as some might suspect, but it was her body language.

Watch This Ted Talk. Seriously.

The Ted Talk focuses on the impact of powerful body language. Seriously, take some time, watch it and observe your body language. After watching the video I now make more of an effort to use powerful body language before, during and even after business interactions. I also note when my body language becomes less powerful – typically it is in settings where I am uncomfortable.

My “resolution” is to be more aware of my body language and how it impacts me. Watch this and create a plan for yourself to do the same. This is powerful stuff…..

7 Tools I use To Stay Efficient, Organized and Productive

7 Tools I use to stay productiveI often get asked about how I use different tools and technologies to stay productive and efficient. As a CEO and entrepreneur, things can get overwhelming sometimes. Just staying on top of email is an endless task for me.

I wanted to share with you some of the tools and technologies that I’m using to maximize my efficiency.

1. Evernote – Evernote is a free application that allows you to take notes. All of the notes are completely searchable, so it is far easier for me to find a note through Evernote vs. hunting through pages of notes that I took by hand. I can also easily email out my Evernotes, so it is a quick and simple way to take notes to share with others. Evernote also supports audio recording and images.

2. Rapportive – Rapportive is a Gmail plugin that searches for my contacts on social networks like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Without leaving GMail I can follow or send an invitation to connect. It also shows the latest social network updates, so when I’m sending a message I can see if the person just returned from vacation or something, which makes me seem attentive. Mostly I like this because it is a quick and easy way to add people I am emailing to my social networks.

3. YesWare – I discovered this a few months ago (hat tip to Joanne Westwood) and it is a better and cheaper alternative to Boomerang for gmail. It allows me to schedule emails to go out at future dates, send me reminders to follow-up if I don’t hear back and it lets me quickly send form emails to people. Excellent productivity booster for gmail.

4. GTasks – One of my problems is remembering what I need to do – if I don’t write it down I forget it. GTasks is a mobile task application that connects with my Google calendar. I can schedule repeating tasks, for example every Friday to write a specific blog post or a one-time task, like to follow up with someone in a month. I can create different task lists, and I have one for myself and also keep them for my employees, or longer term objectives and goals.

5. Mobile Apps – Stay on top of social networks by using mobile applications. I have Twitter and Facebook Pages alerts set to come directly to my phone. This way I don’t have to check in all day – I get the notifications when I’m checking in on my phone.

6. Google Drive – Collaborating between people can sometimes be time consuming – sending files back and forth, tracking changes, etc. We use Google Drive to share documents. The real BONUS is that if you download the Google Drive app to your computer you can directly add and use files from Google Drive, similar to how you would use Drop Box. This makes sharing easy and allows multiple people to access one single document.

7. Google Voice – Google Voice has changed the way that I think about voicemail and phone lines for my business. It is free to create a Google Voice account and you can choose your own phone number. When you get a call you can set it to display that the call came from Google Voice so you know it is a business call. Google Voice also emails you a transcription of the call (that you can forward to others on your team) and sends you a text.

Any tools that you use that I should know about?

Competition vs. Cooperation? How do you view your Business?

This is a blog post that I’ve been thinking about writing for a while now.  I’ve been running my own business for over 2 years now, before that I worked for a cash-strapped Internet Start-up and before that I was at P&G.

One of the things that I’ve learned as a business owner is that there are two ways to view other businesses in your area: as competition or potential partners.

The Problem with the Competition Mindset

The problem with the competition mindset is that it limits opportunities and limits who you can work with.

Thinking of everyone you meet as competition leads to a secretive and negative mindset.  They can take your business or steal your ideas.  They should be avoided.  They probably aren’t as good/cheap/knowledgeable as you are.

First, thinking of people this way can be exhausting.  It also breeds a negative mindset as you try to put them down to reaffirm that you are better than them.

In reality our businesses are all just different, with a different set of strengths, weaknesses and focus areas.

By viewing other people as a threat you can miss out on huge opportunities.  The opportunity to collaborate on projects, learn from them and potentially work with them.

I have received some of my best business opportunities from referrals that came through people who I could have viewed as my “competition”.  I have also sent business their way when I wasn’t the right fit.

Working with Competitors Makes Everyone Better

Many years ago I read a book (mostly a picture book) called “The Nibble Theory”.  In the book, people were circles.  Some circles nibbled on other circles, making them smaller.  This didn’t make the nibbling circle any bigger.

Other circles shared with smaller circles and made them bigger.  The sharing circle didn’t get any smaller for sharing, but the smaller circle was able to grow.

The reality is that by working with other business owners we can create bigger and better opportunities than on our own.  Sure, we all have some direct and obvious real competitors that we can’t collaborate with, but in most cases the people we spend our time avoiding are similar to us, but different enough that there can be opportunities.

As a confident business owner you should know that you have something unique and of value to offer.  If everyone else frightens you, maybe the problem is your business.

When I meet new social media trainers or consultants in my area I usually first look at how we can work together.  My specific areas of focus and strengths tend to be different from theirs.  They may be a better fit for certain business opportunities.

There are bigger companies that are better resourced than I am and there are also smaller companies that will work on projects that are smaller than what I want to work on.

There is Lots of Business Out There

The reality is that there is lots of business out there.

I do a lot of training these days, and through the social media certification program that I teach I train a lot of social media marketing consultants and agencies.

I am often asked if I am concerned about training my competition, and hey, we all need to make a living.  The reality is that there is lots of business out there, and if I can help raise the education level of the practitioners in our category the entire industry will benefit.

By increasing the number of success stories around social media, our entire industry will benefit.  And there is LOTS of business to go around.

What do you think?  Am I crazy here?

Hey Everyone – Monetize Your Friends!

As if we aren’t already overwhelmed with advertising, Cincinnati Bell has a new product that will not only bring more ads into your life, but will also make all of your friends hate you. Seriously. The effort to monetize the world (via ads) has been taken to a whole new level.

Brian Suerring from Cincinnati Bell presented a new product called xipto. The even have a site for it – check it out if you want to see the idea first hand.

What is it?

Xipto is a product where you sign up to have advertisements played on your cell phone when someone calls you. Yes, seriously. You advertise at your friends when they call. You can choose the ads and you earn a few cents every time an ad is heard – you can then donate your $$ to charity. You can also choose the # of ads, so you can make them listen to 5 ads before talking to them. That would be sweet.

Results so far?

Brian said that in their beta test with employees 10% liked it so far. I would assume that these 10% have no friends and don’t get phone calls. He also said that his fiancé hates it and doesn’t want to call him anymore because of it. Hmmmmm. I’m with the fiancé.

I wasn’t convinced that this was a good idea (as you can probably tell by my post) so I put it to the twitter test:

I twittered: Cincinnati bell has a new service where an ad plays when people call you and you get $0.05/call. What do u think? Would u use it? Annoying?


3giraffes @KristaNeher Annoying, definitely 4:47 PM Nov 14th

graciesparkles Icon_red_lock@KristaNeher do the people just wait on the line while the ad plays? i vote annoying. 4:41 PM Nov 14th

miller22 @KristaNeher if the ad is 30 secs, We would be paid the equivalent of $6/hour for our time, not to mention getting up to answer the phone. 4:36 PM Nov 14th

scottaparks @KristaNeher For business?Call your house?Can you control what types of ads get played? Imagine calling a church and hearing Ashley Madison. 4:33 PM Nov 14th

5chw4r7z @KristaNeher I would never call them again thats for sure 4:31 PM Nov 14th

UCBearcats @KristaNeher I think if your trying to run a business it’s a no go. “please listen to this ad while I make money on your call”. Lol 4:31 PM Nov 14th

wesley83 @KristaNeher That sounds like an awesome deal. Some people just use there lan lines for DSL or for an a emergency. 4:31 PM Nov 14th

digitalmlewis @KristaNeher I’d rather it be through SMS and with ever txt I send they can send me a txt (spam) but then that 5 cents goes to charity. 4:28 PM Nov 14th

TravisFessler @KristaNeher People still use Cincinnati Bell? 4:26 PM Nov 14th

joshboyd @kristaneher REALLY ANNOYING. Would stop calling that person. 4:26 PM Nov 14th

frankmartin @KristaNeher Your CUSTOMERS have to listen to an ad? NEVER! 4:25 PM Nov 14th

winemedineme @KristaNeher Ugh, the hold music some people have is bad enough! 4:25 PM Nov 14th

12 people responded – overwhelmingly negative. Cincinnati Bell – if you are reading this, take note!!!

And for Advertisers?

Brian said that advertisers like it because it is measurable; meaning they know exactly how many people listen to their ads and for how long. They have not, however completed any deeper research on metrics (ie. recall, if it makes people hate the brand because they are so annoyed, ability to drive action, etc).

My two cents?

  1. The advertisers don’t know where their ads are going since the control is all in the hands of the user. What if my ad ends up on a sex line?
  2. Effectiveness needs to be measured. OK, so people hear it, but how effective is it, and are there any negative consequences?
  3. Most people regularly get calls from the same people, so there would need to be some sort of rotation for this to be effective. I don’t want to pay every time the same person hears the ad.

In Conclusion

I hope this doesn’t sound too negative…  I think that advertisers and platforms both need to be cautious of how intrusive their ads are, as consumers have much lower tolerance for dealing with intrusive ads. While the cell phone owner does agree to participate, based on the response I got from twitter it does seem likely that bad equity may be associated with both advertisers and the platform (as well as the cell phone owner). What do you think?

Exhibiting at Conferences – Save Money without Looking Cheap

OK, so you’re interested in exhibiting at conferences.  GREAT IDEA.  Depending on your industry hitting the conference circuit can be a great way to reach high value customers and especially the influencers.

Why?  Generally only those who are serious about their industry or the topic will actually take the time and spend the money to go to a conference.  In addition, many people attend specifically to “find out what is new” which means hitting the exhibit floor.  One of the advantages of having a booth is that people who stop by actually want to hear about your new product or service…. you don’t have to be “that guy” pitching people in a social setting.

So, if you are a small business or a startup and you want to go to a conference, you probably are on a budget, and can’t afford the $50k big booth extravaganza that some of the big companies will have.  That is OK.  Shine and expensive signage and shwag are only a small part of the booth experience.

If you don’t have a lot of money, here are some ways to save, but still have a killer, professional booth:

  • Freeman is a rip-off.  If you don’t know them yet, you soon will, and spending $80 to RENT a chair for your booth will seem like a travesty.  This is where you can go cheap.  Don’t order chairs.  You shouldn’t be sitting anyways.  You should be on your feet talking to people.  Don’t pay extra for the “covering” of your table.  Steal the sheets (use the flat ones) from your hotel.  People won’t know the difference.  All you need to pay for is a table and carpet (usually carpet is required).
  • Get a professional banner.  This is really important.  You can get a banner for under $100 and it is definitely worth it.  Get a vinyl banner that is slightly smaller than the length of the booth (for a 10 foot booth go with a 9 foot banner).  Bring Bungie cords to hang it (string won’t work well).  You need one large, good sign so that people know who you are and will take you seriously.
  • DEMO YOUR PRODUCT.  If you are a website, have computers and steal some flatscreens from your office to increase the size of your demo if you are showing to more than one person.  To save $$ don’t ship them through Freeman.  Save the boxes and bring them with you as carry-on or checked luggage.  People like to interact, see touch and feel.  Even if your product seems self-explanatory.  Having people see, use and touch your product is better than any marketing materials you can EVER put together.
  • Have something for people to take – You can get 1000 postcards really cheap from sites like overnight prints or quality low-cost stickers from stickerrobot (beware their long lead times).  You don’t need a bunch of fancy material, just something for people to put in their hands as they walk away.
  • FORGET THE SHWAG – I know, I know, it seems so important.  Most people take it (because it is free) and then go home and throw it away.  Unless it is super useful and related, don’t bother.  People will stop by if you have an engaging and effective layout and staff, not because of what you give away free.  If you REALLY want to do shwag, think of something useful and related to what you do.  At photrade, we gave away lens brushes with our logo on it.  We only gave them to people who had DSLRs and looked like they would use them.  People liked them because they were useful and related to their cameras.
  • Don’t waste your time with gimicks.  You might come up with some *Killer* ideas for gimicky things that you can do with your booth.  People might remember your gimick, but they won’t remember you.  At ad:tech Chicago there was a company with a booth designed like an old fashioned Diner.  They had 60’s like waitresses who would give you pie and coffee or a Jones Soda.  I have no idea what they did.  I recall that there was some loose connection to why they had a diner and their product, but I can’t remember.  Save your money.  You don’t need to give people free pie or have an expensive booth for people to stop by.
  • Think of something CREATIVE and INTERESTING and RELATED to draw people INTO your booth.  For example, at our Photrade booth, we lined the back of the booth with photos from users on our website.  It cost us about $30 to buy all of the photos, and people would come right in to the booth (we had the table off to the side) and look at the photos.  Maybe you have photos of people using your product, or funny and interesting customer testimonials.  Be creative (not gimicky) and don’t overdo it.  Try to engage people and get them to come right inside your booth.
  • Have EVERYONE working the booth wear something with your logo on it.  Don’t have $$ or time?  Buy a bunch of plain T-shirts in your company color and put stickers (if you have them) on them.  Order some cheap ones on-line.  Don’t worry about having some to give away (people will probably ask if they look cool).  This helps to identify the people who are working.  It is important so that peope who stop by know right away who to approach.  This also creates a stronger brand impression.
  • DON’T HIRE BOOTH BABES – OK, someone is BOUND to disagree with me on this, but typically the peopel at these conferences are *experts* in their field.  Your booth babes won’t know enough about your product to do a good job selling it, which can make you look bad.  If you are short on people, recruit spouses (they probably know a TON about the product) or friends in the field.  These people will actually understand you product, although they might not be as hot as the booth babes 🙂

Check out Guy Kawasaki’s Photos from the BlogWorld08 Exhibit Hall – you can see a bunch of booth pictures (they were taken before it opened).

Do you have any tips?  Want to know more about what makes a good or a bad booth?  I’ll be at ad:tech next week, so stay tuned for the best and the worst booths at the exhibit hall.

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