Monday, April 26, 2010

How do you cook up a new name?

One of the biggest challenges for a public relations professional can be helping a business find a name for a new product, a new service or even a new company.

Add to this the complication of trying to come up with a name that works across all media, including social media and, well, you can see how the dream of the new can quickly become a nightmare.

I was working at a startup six years ago and it wasn’t the financing, the staffing, the office space, the suppliers, the distribution or any one of countless other problems that took the most time. No, it was the name of the new product.

Even though I was working with some incredibly creative types (including the great Rob Westcott -
@robtnowes) it took days and days to get to the name.

So, in a nutshell, here is the four-step recipe I’ve since practiced each time I need to cook up a new name:

Step 1: Creative thinking

Start by writing a list of words that relate to your new product, new service or new business.

Now mix up those words in interesting ways – using Scrabble tiles, index cards or a whiteboard/chalkboard can help.

Are there words you can combine in playful and intriguing ways?

Are there words that can have multiple meanings?

Are there words you MUST use?

Always keep track of all the names you come up with. Some that don’t click right now might click tomorrow with just a small tweak.

Now write out a dozen or so potential company names and move on to …

Step 2: A pinch of luck

Take some time to look over this list:

  • Are any of the names distinctive?

  • Do some of the names resonate more than others?

  • Can some be taken in a bad way?

  • Which are easy to spell … consistently?

  • Which are pronounceable?

  • Are any incomprehensible?

    Run your favorite(s) by a few people:

  • Do the names sound pleasant to their ears?

  • Do they instantly get the meaning?

  • Do they have a favorite?

  • Do they reject any of them outright?

    If you eliminate any names here, go back to Step 1 and come up with more. The key is to have many that you can test when you move on to …

    Step 3: The secret ingredient … fun!

    OK, so you have several names. Are they fun?

    The real secret to a great name is one that is memorable. The shortest route to “memorable” is being fun.

    Are their words or word parts you can switch to add a smile? Are there letters you can replace with other letters (“y” for “i” for example) or numbers you can use to replace word parts (“2” instead of “to” or “4” instead of “for”).

    Step 4: Finding a URL

    A business name that does not work on the Web is a name that has no use.

    By using one of the free web tools to check (two I like are
    Who Is and Go Daddy) you can find out which of your favorites is available.

    If a name you like is available as a URL, great! If not, will some small adjustment make it work? If not, do you need to go back to Step 1?

    Like all good recipes, this one can always be adjusted to suit your needs. Happy (and creative) cooking as you come up with the name for your next social media business.

    Was this post helpful? What did I miss?

    Related reading:
    Where do creative ideas come from?

  • Thursday, April 22, 2010

    9 Ways to Learn at Twitter University

    A recent post by Jeff Bullas called Twitter Reveals 11 New Facts on its Traffic and Usage reminded me what it is that I love about Twitter: It’s one heck of a place to learn.

    There are some great stats there. I think they reinforce what I believe is the greatest value of Twitter – it's just hands down the best ready source of information you didn't know you needed to know.

    I call it the University of Twitter and my only regret is that I don' have three or four hours a day to devote to learning from it!

    And I’m often surprised that more people don’t take advantage of this great resource for learning and sharing.

    So how can you learn from this free “university”? Let me count the ways:

    1. Follow people like you: Easy right? Not so fast Slick! You’re have more than a one dimension so be sure to follow people who tweet about ALL the things that interest you. You never know when the person you follow because they also like Siamese cats will tweet out a link to an interesting site on football great “Mean Joe” Greene.

    2. Follow people who are nothing like you: Likewise find a few followers of people you follow who seem to be 180 degrees from anything you know or care about. Follow them for a while and you may be surprised what you learn. And remember, it’s Twitter, so if you change your mind you can always unfollow them.

    3. Follow smart people: Some tweets just make you see things differently … they make you think. This is reason enough for me to check out the sender’s Tweetstream and if I like what I see I follow them.

    4. Follow funny people: And for Pete’s sake have some fun. It’s as true on Twitter as it is anywhere: All work and no play can make you pretty dull. For example: You’ve likely heard of
    @shitmydadsays and @badbanana , but do you know @funnyoneliners and @CinderellaJoey?

    5. Organize the people you track/follow: Use the Lists feature to keep track of a few different types of Twitterers without committing to following them. If you like what you learn then you can follow them.

    6. Use search: Go to and type in any word related to something you want to know about and voila you get tweets galore (many with useful links). This kind of search always yields material you likely would not have found any other way.

    7. Track trends: The scrolling trending topics bar on the Twitter home page can sometimes also lead to interesting tweets. Although the continuing fascination with
    Justin Bieber escapes me.

    8. Follow hashtags: Keep an eye out for interesting
    hashtags (the “#” before a word, for the uninitiated). Click on one and see what a bunch of folks are tweeting about. You may be surprised where following hashtags can take you but you’ll often find interesting tweets.

    9. Try randomness: Sometimes you should follow links “just because.” The caution here: Beware of spammers and those who might be trying to spread computer viruses via tweets or Direct Messages. How can you be safe? Never click on DM links and before following a link in a regular tweet check out the sender’s tweetstream. A lot of duplicate or similar tweets indicates a spammer (at best) and a virus spreader (at worst).

    Did I forget anything? Are there other ways to learn at the University of Twitter?

    Possibly related post:

    Monday, April 19, 2010

    Beware the Social Media ‘Cone of Silence’

    Can social media suck you into believing you know everything? Absolutely.

    I call this phenomenon the Social Media Cone of Silence … and it could be deadly for you and your business.

    The “cone” is that space where you are so surrounded by online input that it feels like you’re on top of everything: You’re following the best blogs in your industry. You follow the smartest people on Twitter. You are involved in the deepest discussions on relevant LinkedIn groups. In a nutshell you’re so plugged in you’re the go-to person for what’s hot, what’s new and what’s over the horizon.

    But this “cone” of information is a trap … and you need to see it for what it is. It has taken your attention away from some more basic information sources and can lull any business into a false sense of security.

    So who are you likely ignoring (or at least not paying enough attention to)?

    Sales people:What’s the word from sales? What are they hearing and seeing that you aren’t? They’re in the trenches day-in and day-out and they literally hear from customers all the time. What are they hearing? Is what they hear changing?

    But don’t stop there. What do they know about competitors and how competitors are perceived in the marketplace? What opportunities are sales folks seeing? Given the chance to change one thing about your business or your product what would they suggest?

    Sales people have your goals too, listen to them.

    CRM specialists: Your customer relations specialists likely have obvious and not-so-obvious responsibilities. But the one thing they all have is a gut feeling about what is going on and what should be getting more attention.

    Find these people throughout your organization … and look hard. For example the front-desk security guard or the delivery driver may not seem like customer relations types but they are. The handle customers every single day and because of this they know a lot of stuff that you don’t. Find them and listen to them.

    Carol: This person may have another name in your organization, but in the first newsroom I worked in many years ago Carol was the secretary and receptionist. That is to say she was the smartest, most community connected person in the room. If Carol said something was a big deal the reporters and editors would always come to regret not following up on her ideas. Who are the Carols in your organization? Get to know them. Listen to them.

    Can social media provide you with a lot of real-time business intelligence? Yes. But don’t forget to mix it in with a heaping helping of smarts from the real people around you. Who will you go talk to today?

    Possibly related posts
    Just How Big is Social Media?
    10 Commandments for Social Media

    Friday, April 16, 2010

    Be The Giraffe With Social Media

    “It’s a jungle out there!”

    No matter what business you’re in or what your purpose in social media you already understand that it’s increasingly hard to stand out from the crowd.

    So if it is “a jungle out there” why not be the giraffe? And literally stand head, neck and shoulders above the rest of the ecosystem?

    Here’s how to stand out by using social media:

    Be “everywhere”: Not literally. But to the casual observer it should seem as though they encounter your name (and possibly your avatar) everywhere they go in social media.

    Start a list today on the places people can find you: From social networking to your blog to your personal website to your business card (yes, your business card). Be sure all those places link or point to each other.

    Now Google your name: Are you dominating the first pages of results? If not, you need more online (probably social) presences.

    Be “all things”: You never want to be in social media for one purpose. And you especially don’t want to be there just to “take” or “sell.”

    Review how you’re likely to be perceived in social media. Are you helpful? Are you a connector? Do you share freely? In the “Giver vs. Taker” equation would you be perceived as more of the former or the latter? If you can’t answer these questions have a disinterested outsider tell you (and return the favor for them).

    Now that you know how you are being received decide if that is how you want to be seen or whether you need to make changes.

    Be “the best”: Set a goal of being the best at something in social media. Achieving the goal is less important than having it and continually striving for it.

    For example, you might want the reputation for being one of the smartest people in personal finance. Now ask yourself: Does most of what I say and do in social media align with that goal? If not, why not?

    By having the goal and sticking to it your time in social media will be more focused and one day, just maybe, you will be seen as the best.

    Be “the most …”: Can you literally be the “best” at something in the social world? You can. But it will take a little luck and one more thing: A concerted effort to work harder, be more reliable, be more of a connector or be more of something than most everyone else in your area.

    Ultimately what will set you apart is your willingness to put in more effort than others.

    Can you “be the giraffe” by using social media? Absolutely. The question is, will you?

    Possibly related posts:
    7 Ways to Tell How You’re Doing in Social Media
    10 Ideas to Help Business Navigate Social Media