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Joyeux Anniversaire, Creative Mornings Geneva!

Le chapitre genevois de Creative Mornings fête son quatrième anniversaire ce mois-ci. Quatre ans déjà que cette équipe de personnes adorables propose des petits-déjeuners, présentations et rencontres mensuelles à Genève. Tout ceci a commencé dans la ville de New-York en 2008 à l’initiative de Tina Roth Eisenberg (aussi connue sous le nom de Swissmiss). Elle a décidé d’organiser des conférences matinales accessibles et gratuites dans son quartier. Son idée a rapidement essaimé. Aujourd’hui, 144 villes à travers le monde ont des chapitres locaux organisés par des bénévoles. Genève a la chance d’en faire partie.
J’ai été un lecteur de Swissmiss et un spectateur des vidéos de ses conférences avant le début du chapitre genevois. Naturellement, lorsque le chapitre genevois a commencé, j’étais très heureux. Cela coïncidait avec ma sortie de l’Université. J’avais bien besoin de rencontrer des jeunes professionnels de différents horizons et cette communauté m’a accueilli à bras grands ouverts. J’ai eu la chance de pouvoir participer à presque tous les petits déjeuners et rester fidèle à ces événements même après avoir trouvé mon emploi actuel. Les organisateurs sont vraiment supers. Toutes ces opportunités d’apprendre et de rencontrer des gens m’emplissent d’une immense gratitude.
Cet anniversaire est l’occasion idéale pour moi de proposer une courte sélection de quatre conférences qui m’ont marquées:

Je me réjouis beaucoup de continuer à aller tous les mois au Creative Mornings Geneva. Si vous n’êtes pas encore venus, j’espère que vous pourrez vous libérer pour venir la prochaine fois…
Merci encore aux organisateurs. Vous êtes géniaux!

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Get Started With Web Analytics Without Throwing Your Arms Up

The web is a place for connection and wonder. But it is also a place for measurements, lots of measurements. With all the numbers flying around our heads, web and social analytics tools used to make me throw my arms up in the air. They can tally:

  • how many followers, favourites and RTs you get on Twitter
  • how many unique visitors find your blogs and the conversion rates of your business sites
  • how many Facebook likes, comments and friends you have
  • how many Facebook page fans you gathered
  • how many likes and reblogs you earned on Tumblr
  • and on and on. You get the idea.

From our deep need to be liked springs the desire to make these numbers go up, up and up. Always. Even though it shouldn’t, my heart sinks a little when my Klout score goes down. And I feel better when I get new followers on Twitter or Google+.
We tie our worth to these numbers. We know it’s reductive and inaccurate but we do it anyway. It’s complicated because we can’t dismiss these metrics in bulk.

Choose the right metrics or do not watch them at all

As we mindlessly obsess about them, we find ourselves trying to please everybody. Broadening and broadening our scope until it doesn’t make sense any more. Of course, we need some of these numbers. They can tell us where to direct our efforts better. However, we need to direct our attention to the right ones.
Standard reports from tools such as Google Analytics give us every number imaginable. It’s so confusing. We focus on the numbers that are easy to understand like monthly unique visitors and conversion rates.
Paying attention to the wrong metric is worse than not following any. If you track the wrong number, you’ll take all the wrong actions. Gerry McGovern explains it best in this article about an e-commerce site that connects sellers to customers. They focused on attracting more sellers and failed to focus on their customers. Of course, it didn’t increase sales or leads. Lead generation and consumer satisfaction aren’t easy to measure but, according to Gerry McGovern, trying harder to measure what matters makes a world of difference.
Hence, if you’re not going to take the time to learn how to pay attention to the right metrics, you might as well leave your analytics tool behind. People starting out on Twitter and on blogs out of personal interest need not worry about them. If you want to embark on a journey of learning, there are a few actions to take.

Measure basic website health

There are basic steps you can take to gauge the health of your website. Avinash Kaushik, who is the world’s most respected authority on web analytics, distills his wisdom and experience on his blog. Unmissable articles are clearly labelled as such and linked from the footer.
In the first unmissable he details the 10 steps he advocates you apply to any website. I would suggest you read his long post and take all the steps one by one. However, here are the gems that most probably apply to bloggers and social media enthusiasts like us.

  1. Traffic sources show you where your visitors come from. According to him, you should have diverse sources: search engines, other sites linking to you, and direct visits should all be well represented. Social media sites are big drivers of traffic as well. Pay attention at how much traffic comes from Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Pinterest, and Paper.li to see which of the services brings you more value.
  2. Visitor loyalty is important for many bloggers. Our audiences may be small but we pride ourselves on keeping them engaged. The percentage of returning visitors is where most people look for information about engagement. Unfortunately, ratios are bad because they’re volatile and, hence, unreliable. Instead, look at visit frequency and recency which measure how many times visitors returned and how many days have elapsed between their two last visits. You should also take a look at the visit’s length. Again, avoid the average and watch the detailed report.
  3. Ever wonder which of your topics resonate with your audience the most? Keyword clouds will give you hints. Lists of the 10 most-used keywords to find your site are dull and looking at them too much may make you shoot for the common denominator in your audience instead of breaking it down to serve it better. Instead, go the keywords page of your analytics tool, export the raw data and paste it into Wordle. It will give you a great visualization of what your audience is looking for and found on your site.

These pieces of information constitute a great stepping stone to make you enter the exciting world of analytics. They may prompt you to take actions or, at least, ask yourself relevant questions and investigate further. Happy analysis!
Image credits: The proportions of men and their secret numbers, 1533 woodcut.

I wrote “Get Started With Web Analytics Without Throwing Your Arms Up” on Paper.li’s blog, it was originally published on July 26, 2012. Reproduced here with permission.

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Puis-je inscrire tous mes contacts à ma newslettre?

Quoi que l’on fasse, il faut résister à la tentation d’ajouter soi-même des noms et des adresses mail à une newslettre. Ces personnes qui n’ont pas donné leur consentement se désinscriront ou pire considéreront vos envois comme du spam et le feront savoir à vos fournisseurs de solution e-mail.
C’est sans doute la pire chose qui puisse arriver. Les fournisseurs de solution e-mail comme MailChimp, par exemple, appliquent une tolérance proche de zéro pour le courrier non-sollicité. Ils doivent se différencier très clairement des organisations qui envoient du spam. Les filtres anti-spam réagissent à la provenance des mails. Si plusieurs mails frauduleux ou non-sollicité proviennent d’un même serveur, les filtres vont simplement bloquer ce serveur. Comme les fournisseurs de solution e-mail utilisent des serveurs communs à tous leurs clients, ils ne peuvent pas se permettre de voir les e-mails  envoyés par ces serveurs être considérés comme du spam et ne plus arriver à leur destination.
Les dénonciations pour spam sont comptées pour chaque envoi et pourraient vous valoir un blâme — chez MailChimp, si le pourcentage de plaintes dépasse les 5% des mails envoyés. En cas de récidive, votre compte est fermé et votre liste perdue.
En marketing email, le consentement est une notion centrale. On appelle cela le “permission marketing“. Lorsque des visiteurs vous donnent leur adresse mail pour votre newslettre, ils vous donnent explicitement la permission de les contacter. Le contrôle de consentement double ou double opt-in en anglais permet de s’en assurer. Il vaut mieux activer cette option pour éviter que des tiers puissent inscrire des personnes sans leur demander la permission.
L’autorisation de contacter une personne pour des mails promotionnels a une très grande valeur. Si vous n’abusez jamais de cette autorisation, il y a toutes les chances que vous puissiez la conserver et même approfondir votre relation avec cette personne. La bonne conduite est donc très très rentable sur le long terme.
La pertinence des messages doit toujours être la plus élevée possible et concerner toute la liste pour ne pas entamer ce capital de confiance. Si vous faites preuve de parcimonie, de respect envers les personnes qui vous ont donné leur adresse mail, et que vos messages sont intéressants, cette confiance se développera et votre liste s’allongera. Dans le cas contraire, vous risquez de recevoir des blâmes et de perdre votre liste.
Si vous souhaitez vraiment allonger votre liste, attirez des personnes réellement intéressées. Vous pouvez les inciter à vous donner votre adresse en leur promettant un cadeau de bienvenue comme un e-book exclusif.

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Elevator Pitch

I’m flying to Barcelona on Tuesday for a few vacation days before going to Confab Europe 2014. Looking forward to meeting people I admire, I promised myself to write an “about page” for my site and brush up my resume to find a coherent and concise way to introduce myself.
I have to marvel at people who always could narrow their roles to a single job title — I struggle with that. And it is a problem in conferences and other events. I, either, do too many things or am reluctant to accept a single label. We all do what projects require — don’t we? But it’s an unhelpful answer. Whispering “I am called webmaster, an anachronism, from eons past. I do… everything” is too theatrical, not much more useful and increasingly inaccurate. “Jack-of-all-trades” does have negative connotations.
Hence, I devoted last week-end to taking my own advice and return to my “Skills and Professional History Assessment”. It is a magical document which I periodically update to keep professional anxieties at bay. According to this inventory of my present skills and responsibilities, I do CMS customization, copy writing, editing and social media community management on various projects. Now I just have to memorize that and say it clearly 🙂
What this also tells me is that I am indeed focusing more and more on content management. It is good news. What is still lacking is the strategy and organisational change part. Small team, huge organisation — learning a lot every day. If I keep at it, it will come.

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To humanities graduates seeking employment

Lots of friends I had left behind in university ranks are now considering entering paid employment. Even though unemployment is low in Switzerland, getting a job is still difficult. Transitioning from a liberal arts education into the “workforce” is an especially long ordeal. So I worry…
The worst part is fear. Politicians and employer union representatives keep screaming that there are too many college educated people who they label as “unemployable”. It’s HR-speak for “useless”. It saddens me. It carries a lot of stigma. It takes a long time and a lot of effort to wash the label off. When counsellors at the unemployment office, friends or family say you have to work on your “employability”, what they mean is you have to weasel out of being useless. These levels of jargon and condescension are hard to stomach. No matter. They’re right on some level: you will have to change, gain experience, etc. However, you’re not as far behind as you might think. It’s a matter of attitude and learning to market your skills.
Young humanities graduates are squished between romantic ideals of our “calling” as defenders of the besieged humanities and the harsh realities of a world which seems in perpetual crisis. At my graduation ceremony, the dean of our faculty told us that starting a career would take 18 to 24 months of suffering. Right after that, an 80 year old alumnus said that it was our responsibility to “shine a light” upon the world and dispense humanistic lessons on scientists, engineers and bankers who seem to run things (poorly). If you’ve ever bought into the idea that your role would be to impose humanist values upon the uncaring, you better saddle up. It’s gonna be a hell of an attitude adjustment.

Such arrogance gives credence to the prejudice we face from employers — in fact. They don’t care about our values, what we learned about the human condition by analysing the Prose Edda, or the inconsistencies of chivalric discourse uncovered by Chaucer’s tongue-in-cheek humour. Calling knights hypocrites may get you somewhere among gender studies and feminist intellectuals, but in most workplaces it only makes people snigger at your inadequacies and question your competence. Nobody cares. The phone’s ringing — you better get to it.

If they don’t care about medieval literature, what do employers care about? They care about weird shit like getting things done on time and under budget. Since you took two years to submit that twelve page paper about “Hamlet”, you may not see yourself as an ideal candidate just yet. But don’t worry. You just have to adapt. Unlearn some old habits and learn some new ones. That’s really what this 18 month period is about. Wave goodbye to your humanities student self.
All young graduates are in the same boat. Or at least they face the same rushing river. Even people who got degrees which seemed more marketable when you started college need to adjust. It’s raining MBAs and they are more prone to grandiose expectations than humanities students.
Once you are sufficiently distraught and poor, you’ll have no scruples left. You’ll use our secret killer-rhetoric techniques to sell yourself. There are lots of experiences which come from growing in the humanities you can sell. For example, do you remember when you had to get the signature of two super-busy professors, run from one department to the next, talk to twelve administrative assistants and five teaching assistants just to register for an exam? And then had do it all over again to get the credit? Believe it or not, this kind of grit is marketable. Put that down on your resume: You know how to navigate horrible backwards bureaucratic systems and get results. That will come in handy because there are lots of bureaucratic systems in large organisations. And it’s only an example of all the things you manage very well already.

  • Revisit your past, every growth opportunities, every teachable moments and every task. Make a list.
  • Then, gather job postings that might interest you and analyse them as you would a literary text.
  • For each task description, prepare arguments with stories about how you already did a version of that.

Always speak to the fear. Looking for a job is scary. Hiring might even be scarier. The people across the table from you are scared out of their minds — always. Their hire may be a mistake and they will look bad if you under perform. It is very important that you raise no alarms in their minds. As humanities students, we always were taught to address complexity and unpack simplifications to expose flaws. Do that in private. In public, you’ll get farther by reassuring people.
I don’t expect any of this to sink in and make a difference on your first reading. There are a few resources that might help you, though, such as the classic podcast “Back To Work” — especially episode 7. Statistics do say that you’ll have a hard time no matter what you read off the internet. Make the best out of that time and learn as much as possible about yourself, work and how to get things done. Eventually, you will find a nice job and you too will know the joys of being baffled by office politics, bewildered by unclear hierarchies, perplexed by obscure expectations and inconvenienced by endless rambling meetings.

Have faith, dear reader. Have faith.