Brands, Art, and Fear

I had the chance to meet Seth Godin about 8 years ago. His perspective of marketing and branding is so unique and spot on. I always say, branding is who you are and where you are going.


It’s about the humans behind the name, product, or company. It’s about making things. It’s about the creation of ideas and the risk of crushing the status quo. We have to care. We have to love what we create. People don’t want to be fooled by flashy logos and bright colors, only to find out, the soul of the individual, product, or company doesn’t give a sh*t. As the old saying goes, “give a damn, many damns.”

Continue reading “Brands, Art, and Fear”


It’s easy to get mesmerized by the Follower and Like numbers on your Instagram account, but learning how well you’re engaging is key.

I always remind my clients that while Social Media is in fact media (algorithms, numbers, ratios), it is very much a social platform. In the real world, social success in not rated by how many people said they were interested in a party, but how many actually showed up and actively engaged. Not how many people you know, but how many friends you feel you can actually call.

Most people are surprised to find that many 500K-2M follower Instagram accounts are averaging any where between 3%-9% engagement. It becomes a numbers game. You spend a lot of money on advertising hoping some will actually engage, increasing your ROI.

For years, Social Media “gurus” have preached that content is king. Well, it’s true, but people want a king that feels accessible. Delivering content that has both value and access is imperative on these platforms. Keep the narrative clear, offer valuable content, keep it as authentic as possible, and make sure it’s something your audience would want to share.

Of course, coupling this with effective boosts and promotions via Instagram and Facebook definitely helps. But that’s for a different day…

Working with Instagram in 2018

I’ve spent some time this last couple of years learning more about Instagram specifically. Before this, I spent most of my time on Facebook for my clients, however looking to reach a younger and more successful market, we dove in. While there is definitely a science to the algorithm, the old saying “Content is King” still defines how well followers engage you and how successful you are in moving those followers to act.

With @timstoreyofficial we worked hard to climb the rungs from 1,000 to 5,000, then to 10,000, then to 50,000, and then to 75,000. We seemed to hit a ceiling at 75,000 and not until getting some advice from an expert who specializes in celebrity accounts, were we able to climb to over 200,000. We didn’t buy followers, we didn’t spend a crazy amount of money (however we did promote posts weekly).

The key was good content that was relevant to more than just our follower base. We became determined to find ourselves on the Explore page as often as possible. We became obsessed with our Discovery percentage and Actions count.

If you want some more information on good Instagram practices, check out this article by

How does the Instagram algorithm work? In 2018, the Instagram algorithm has already seen a ton of new changes (and sparked a lot of confusion and frustration)!

This year, the Instagram algorithm seems to be making it even harder than ever for your posts to be seen.

And despite the backlash, there’s no sign of a return to the chronological feed, and there’s a whole new set of rules to play by.

So how do we keep up with all these Instagram algorithm changes?

In the following post, we cover everything you need to know about how the Instagram algorithm works in 2018, and how you can hack the algorithm to get your posts seen! READ MORE


What If You Just Stopped

Great question. Seth Godin asked this question today on his blog and it got me thinking again about being irreplaceable. Providing something so unique and necessary that it would be missed if it stopped. What if you stopped today. Would you be missed? Would your service our product be missed? Or would people just move on.


What would happen to your audience if you shut the doors tomorrow? (I know what would happen to you, that’s not my question… what would happen to them?)

What would happen to your customers and to your prospects if you stopped doing your work?

If you stopped showing up, if you stopped selling them something, would they miss you if you were gone?

If the airline went away, we’d just find another airline. If the cookie cutter politician went away, we’d just vote for someone else. If the typical life insurance agent…

Does it matter if it’s you doing the work?

To Blog or Not to Blog

The saying “Content is King” in marketing is more true than most would like to admit. But have we considered that the content we write actually makes us better. Pausing to conceptualize and effectively communicate a thought in two or three paragraphs pushes our intellect and our depth of understanding concerning ourselves and our brand. And for the most partit’s free!

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What is Value?

I often point out to clients that value is not just about money. It’s about necessity. It’s about urgency. It’s about happiness. We all value different things.

Cadillac-CalaisI remember when I was a child, growing up in a lower-income neighborhood of Miami, learning this lesson. Many of my friends, whose family were on government assistance and struggling to make ends meet, had many of the so called “luxuries” my family could never imagine providing. New Jordans, gold chains, Cadillacs, big TVs, and more. The issue for many of these families was not whether or not they could afford it, but rather what they valued. Some lived in a run down house, but the feeling of driving down the block in a great big Cadillac (Diamond in the back, sunroof top, diggin’ the scene with a gangsta lean, gangsta whitewalls, TV antennas in the back) seemed to make them feel better. Some bought their groceries via food stamps, but doing so, wearing fresh Jordans, seemed to bring a sense of confidence they desired to “make it through” the situations they found themselves in. Keeping up with their impression of Mr. Jones was what was most important to them at that place in life.

Now, I’m not condoning this sort of behavior, however the lesson learned was, people will find a way to make things happen if it is important to them. In a down economy, it’s not necessarily money that changes what we buy, but value. Consumers may not buy what you’re selling simply because they don’t value it. Maybe they value family, rest, their home. Maybe they value luxuries that make them forget, even just a little, during hard times.

Here’s a little of what Seth Godin had to say about value: Continue reading “What is Value?”

Your Brand and Google Plus

It was just a matter of time before Google finally took a a good stab at social media (buzz and wave were not anywhere close). Google Plus will probably be full of the technically savvy in the beginning and the majority of people will continue to connect via Facebook. Since Google rules the search engines (still #1), it may well be in your interest to setup a home on Google Plus. Here are 9 ways you can market using Google Plus. Keep in mind that Google Plus profiles do NOT yet exist for brands and businesses (and they have kicked a few out for trying). They are adding this soon, but for now, you, as an individual, can jump in and utilize the heck out it.

1. Setup a strong profile. Your entire Google Plus experience starts with the profile. Just like on Facebook, your profile is key, so spend some time building it correctly. Start with a good headshot. And, if you think the advice is commonplace, just look at some of the pictures on Google Plus now. When you show up in people’s steams, all they will see is a thumbnail. So, choose something where you really stand out. Craft your introduction well. Make it so that people would want to add you to their circles. And, Google Plus allows for live links in the introduction itself, so make the most of it. Add links to your website, blog, LinkedIn profile, etc.

2. Add relevant and remarkable images. The speculation is that Google will index the pictures you share (unless you’ve kept them private). So, use images you want found in the search engines. If you are a speaker, add pictures of you speaking. An author? Add pictures of you at your book signing. The idea is to convey the right brand image.

3. Make sure your profile is OPEN to search. This is key, since Google reigns supreme in the search world, the chances are that your profiles will be indexed VERY quickly. When you hit edit profile, the very last item on your profile is “Search Visibility.” Make sure you have checked the box that says “Help others find my profile in Search Results.”

4. Optimize the links to the right of the profile using keywords. Again, a great SEO feature. What are the chances that Google will value these links highly? Pretty good, I’d say. If only to encourage people to use Google plus. On the right hand side of your profile, you can add links and the text that goes with it. Make sure you use the RIGHT keywords to connect to your website.

5. Use “Circles” to communicate with clients, prospects, media, etc. This is perhaps the greatest Google+ selling point. Most people’s lives have layers – professional, personal, acquaintances, etc. Google Circles allow you to make the most of the layers. For example, you can create a circle for prospective clients. And, then cater specifically to them with industry news, a solid case study, etc. (Tip: While Google will inform a person that you have added them to a circle, it won’t tell them which circle.)

6. Use +, Comments, and Share to boost relationships. At the heart of all good social media marketing and networking lies the power of relationships. As you interact with others, show support for their ideas. The +1 on Google is akin to “Like” on Facebook. You can also +1 and comment when you see fit, and you can also SHARE within your own stream. Add the +1 to your blog / website as well.

7. Hangout with your team. Google Plus is a hot bed for market research right now. People are a LOT more engaged there right now because it is a new playground. It reminds me of Twitter in the early days. Google hangouts incorporates video chat with circles. Want to invite your team for a quick Monday morning meeting from your cabana at the beach?

8. Get a custom URL to share your Google Plus profile. Just like the early days of all social networks, there will be a huge rise initially as people try to fill up their circles. And, as time goes on, this will slow. Make it easy for people to follow you, get a custom URL. You can do so at

9. Google Plus goes mobile. Whether you are an Android junkie or one of the Apple-head iPhone fiends, Google Plus has an app for you. For Blackberry, Windows Mobile or Nokia/Symbian users you can utilize the Google Plus Mobile.

BTW: Find me on Google Plus at and connect.

NOTE: Right now Google+ is in BETA and you can only get in if you have a public google profiles account or gmail. 

Swearing to Make Your Point: A Tale of F**k and Sh*t

The following is an article from

Profanity is a divisive subject. Some think obscenities have no place in any polite conversation, ever; some feel, judiciously applied, profanity is the best flavor in their communication spice rack; others lob expletives like they’re trying to unlock a coveted F**k-Yeah Four-Letter Wordsbadge. It’s a touchy subject, and one at the focus of some enjoyable debate in the past week. So let’s talk about it, shall we?

Note: This post is centered around a bunch of developers arguing about cursing in presentations, but the discussion is applicable beyond those bounds, so if you aren’t a developer, don’t let that turn you off. Also, since this post is about profanity, you’re likely to find some ahead. If you’re prone to the vapors at the sight or discussion of profanity, you may want to bring along your smelling salts. Image remixed from Zach Holman.

The Starting Point

GitHub developer Zach Holman presented a talk that quickly spread among the tech and startup crowd, in large part due to his fun and attractive slide deck. (His slides were so nice that he wrote up a post on slide design for non-designers, which we posted about two weeks ago.) His talk, and his slides, made use of profanity—even the dreaded f-bomb. And that’s where the conversation started.

The “Swearing Is Bad” Crowd

Microsoft employee Scott Hanselman pitched the tent poles of the anti-swearing camp in his post, Profanity doesn’t work, and his take is pretty simple:

I believe that having S*** and F*** in your conference slides or titles doesn’t make you cool or professional, or a better coder. It makes you look crass. When is it appropriate and why is it appropriate when other things aren’t?

Hanselman feels that “words that are evocative of sex and feces are in fact not appropriate”, and the long and short of Hanselman’s argument is that since swearing has the potential to alienate your audience, it should be avoided.

There’s certainly truth to the first part. Profanity does alienate some people. If you’ve ever spent a few entertaining hours looking at user reviews of movies on IMDb, you can find absurdly detailed analyses of how many swear words a film contains, regardless of the film’s much more substantial content.

Following Hanselman’s post, developer Rob Conery offered his take on the problem of swearing in presentations, titled Fucking Your Way Out:

Swearing to Make Your Point: A Tale of F**k and Sh*t

The slide [at right] is taken from a talk by Zach Holman. It’s a gorgeous slide deck and Zach shows a deft hand at communicating ideas in a very concise way. I want to make this clear again: I’m not offended at the presence of the F-bomb, I’m offended that someone with his talent takes the easy way out.

Making your point with profanity is what the general population uses as punctuation to emphasize a point. It’s conversational punctual shorthand.

Conery’s main point appears to be “Educated folk should not use words common among the uneducated masses” (my words, not his). Eep. He even goes so far as to call them “Walmart words” (his words), which, frankly, is more offensive than any profanity I’d heard in Holman’s talk.

Between these two common anti-profanity arguments, both clearly hold some truth. So how about the flip side?

In Defense of Profanity

Holman posted a response, called simply Swearing, and breaks down his defense of swearing in presentations to three main points:

  1. Swear words are succinctly emotional and evocative
  2. Swearing is a crafted part of his persona—one that’s served him well
  3. He’d rather lose audience numbers to his profanity than audience connection (which he feels is stronger because of his voice)

Regarding his last point:

I’m less concerned about my overall reach than I am with connecting with my audience. Put another way: I’m content with losing a handful of people if that means I connect much stronger with everyone else.

Your reputation is your brand. Just like a company, your brand can be deeply impacted by a small group of passionate followers. I’ve been seeing this for years- the same avatars retweet me, the same names show up in discussions about me, the same sites help promote my projects. I’m fortunate and humbled to have these people at my back.

I wouldn’t have nearly as many of them if I played it safe. I enjoy keeping an edge, and they respect that. Someone else could construct a beige persona and cultivate a following, but that would be less effective for me because I’m not nearly as good at fitting that personality.

Holman isn’t the only speaker whose persona has a little profanity in its grout. David Heinemeier Hansson, creator of the popular open-source web framework Ruby on Rails and co-founder of web company 37Signals, is a popular speaker who’s big on profanity. Best-selling author, passionate speaker, and social media dude Gary Vaynerchuk is perhaps the poster boy of profanity in communication.

Apart from an individual’s personal proclivity, it’s also worth noting that profanity is persuasive. One 2006 study found that swearing at the start or end of a persuasive speech can influence the audience:

To see whether swearing can help change attitudes, Scherer and Sagarin (2006) divided 88 participants into three groups to watch one of three slightly different speeches. The only difference between the speeches was that one contained a mild swear word at the start:

“…lowering of tuition is not only a great idea, but damn it, also the most reasonable one for all parties involved.”

The second speech contained the ‘damn it’ at the end and the third had neither.

When participants’ attitudes were measured, they were most influenced by the speeches with the mild obscenity included, either at the beginning or the end.

For some, there are miles of distinction between “damn” and “fuck”. For others, not so much.

My Perspective

Now to come clean: In my personal life and aspects of my professional life, I swear casually and often. Profanity rarely carries the negative connotation for me that it does for some (as with all things, context is everything), and I agree with Holman when he says:

The emotions [profanities] raise can’t be reached as succinctly with other tools. They’re powerful. When chosen with deliberate consideration, they aren’t a cop-out; they’re the strongest way to connect with a particular audience.

It’s worth noting that we rarely use profanity on Lifehacker. Offending people doesn’t have much to do with that (though any time we’ve used profanity, you can believe I hear about it from disgruntled readers), but unlike, say, a deck of slides, where word economy is at a premium, we have plenty of space to make our point, and profanity doesn’t make a lot of sense for the Lifehacker brand.

In conversation with friends, coworkers—even my boss—I un-self-consciously swear all the time. It’s a very natural part of the way I communicate. Sometimes I use big words. Sometimes I use bad words. When applied to a specific audience, I’d be shocked to learn that anyone was turned off or offended by my profanity.

Whether you’re pro- or anti-swearing, obviously context is the most important thing. Unless you’re still rebelling against your parents or are choosing to swear for an actually considered reason, there’s no point in dropping profanity at the expense of your message.

How About You?

The main takeaway here, as with all things, is “it depends”. Using profanity in your communication is a choice, and since it is such a polarizing subject, it’s something you want to take a considered approach to. (Oh, and one other useful pro-swearing tidbit: Profanity relieves pain.)

So what’s your take? Do you swear with abandon? Reserve your profanity for the right audience? Keep profanity locked in a safe at all times? Share your perspective in the comments.

You can contact Adam Pash, the author of this post, on TwitterGoogle+, and Facebook.