Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Email still the best way to recruit millennials

Having issues getting your brand in front of job-seeking millennials? Wish millennials understood your company's culture? It's an important issue and often one of the biggest pain points for recruiters at lesser-known brands.

Every year I hear from millennials who want to personally connect with their new employer. Often times, millennials will even choose a company with the "right" culture over the company offering more money. Millennials need to know they'll love their new job. And you need to show them that they will. But how?

Millennials, or Generation Y, are known as the connected generation. So how do you communicate with the connected generation? Through their mobile phones? According to the PewResearchCenter, 66% of millennials own smartphones, compared to 53% for generation X, and 28% for boomers. But more often that not, millennials are annoyed with advertising via SMS (aka text messages). And good luck getting them to pick up the phone to chat.

Of course, social media is an obvious channel to reach millennials. The two words go together like Kim and Kanye. 75% of millennials use social network sites (compared to 30% of boomers). But it can be hard to portray company culture in 140 characters or less. And, outside of a viral YouTube video, good luck creating any sort of meaningful message that sticks.

Email is in fact still the best way to reach millennials. It's simple. Just create a message that describes your company's culture and breaks down the typical day at the office. Include testimonials and links to videos of happy employees. And be sure to explain how your company is different from the bigger brands. You'll get better open rates, better click-thru rates, and better responses than any other channel. Guaranteed.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

iWatch: Apple's long-overdue innovative invention

Apple is due for a major product innovation. And though many people think it will be a new TV (the iTV), I believe it could be a new wristwatch (the iWatch or iBand).

Update: The New York Times reported on February 10, 2013 that Apple is indeed working on a wristwatch (as predicted in this blog post in late-January).

In the 2000s, Apple was inventing new stuff every year. But over the past few years -- and especially since the passing of Steve Jobs -- the company's assembly line of innovative new products has stalled. Even the software has lacked innovation (which led to the departure of Apple's Senior Vice President of iOS Software, Scott Forstall, in late 2012).

This lack of innovation has allowed for the competition to catch-up, and in some cases, surpass the once unimaginably imaginative company. Companies like Microsoft have developed an all-new product category with the Surface Pro. And Google has actually made a phone worthy of trading your iPhone in for -- the Nexus 4. In fact, for the first time, Apple's iPhone was ranked worst among the top smartphones by ConsumerReports. But why?

There's a saying -- "if it ain't broke don't fix it" -- but those words aren't uttered by innovators. Innovators are always fixing. tweaking, updating, improving, and creating. Apple has barely accomplished 2 of those 5 over the past few years. The iPhone changed the world forever. The AppStore changed software forever. Music was revolutionized by the iPod and iTunes. And the iPad was truly groundbreaking. But the iPad 1 was announced on January 27, 2010. It's been 3 years to this day. So what's next? I'm hoping it's the iWatch. Are you?

Friday, January 25, 2013

Ten tips for better online résumés

The resume in printed paper and PDF form is dying. But the content itself has never been more alive. Now, each and every piece of information you formerly tried to cram into a 1- or 2-page document can be displayed beautifully via highly-customizable webpages and social network profiles.

But today, despite innovative new digital strategies, the content of these online résumés remains the most meaningful part. No matter how impressive your professionally designed templates look, your experiences and skills won't be overlooked.

To paint the perfect picture of who you are, what you've done, and where you're going -- you need to follow these ten tips:
  1. Focus on accomplishments, not duties
  2. Create a short summary with the highlights of your career
  3. Follow the inverted pyramid metaphor and put the most important information at the top
  4. Make sure to include any honors or awards you've earned
  5. Add a few unique personal interests as memorable differentiators
  6. Describe your work ethic and time management process
  7. Choose fonts wisely -- it's like bad writing
  8. View it on a mobile device and in multiple browsers
  9. Include social network links -- it's just as important as email and phone numbers
  10. Double-check for typos and misspellings
Miss anything? Leave your ideas in the comments below and/or connect with me on LinkedIn:

View Ryan Pratt's profile on LinkedIn

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Force is strong with this Trekkie

JJ Abrams to direct Star Wars Episode 7

J.J. Abrams, the man behind the current reboot of Star Trek, will also be directing Star Wars Episode VII. The film, to hit theaters in 2015, is the first in the series since 2005, and the first episode not directed by the creator of the galaxy far far away, George Lucas.

In October of 2012, Lucas sold the Star Wars franchise (and all of Lucasfilm, which also includes the Indiana Jones franchise) to The Walt Disney Company for $4,050,000,000. Disney immediately announced its plan to revive the series and the speculation officially began.

Abrams emerges from a list of A-list directors considered for the role, including Steven Spielberg, Guillermo Del Toro, Matthew Vaughn, Brad Bird and many more. Michael Arndt (Toy Story 3 and Little Miss Sunshine) will be the film's screenwriter (a questionable choice at first but understandable after hearing him explain this thoughtful writing process.)

Abrams, however, is a good choice. A great choice even. He knows the sci-fi genre and has directed multiple blockbuster films. But this will also surely anger some die-hard fans. Especially those who've repeatedly contested that Star Wars is better than Star Trek. But to those fanboys I say, who's a better choice? Honestly.

The exclusive story broke on Hollywood news blog, but has also now been reported by multiple sources inluding The New York Times, E! Online, PolicyMic, ScreenCrave,, Film School Rejects, my hometown paper The Canton Repository, and more.

FourSquared: gamifying the check-out

What if customers could only check-in on Foursquare (or Facebook) after they check-out and pay for products? How could businesses benefit from this more restricted social network interaction? And what would customers stand to gain from this major overhaul of these social networks?

The idea behind check-in apps and social networks is gamification. Gamification is the use of game mechanics in non-game contexts in order to engage users. On Foursquare, your earn points with each check-in and as you earn points you move up the leaderboard. But there are many other reasons to "check-in":
  • To brag about your whereabouts
  • To share tips on what to eat, buy, or do
  • To find friends nearby
  • To find deals
  • And to win a mayorship, badge, or some other recognition 
The latter -- the friendly competition -- is at the core of gamification. And this gamified experience is still a  major draw to Foursquare over Facebook's check-in features. But this competitive spirit can be quickly spoiled by the employees of a store or restaurant. It's because of this that employees should not be allowed to check-in at their stores & restaurants. This social network interaction should be reserved for customers. Otherwise, there's no point.

Mayorships and gamification can be a powerful promotional force leading to more customers and higher sales. But not if you allow your employees to check-in, because a customer will never be able steal that mayorship from an employee. They're simply not on-location as much.

Now, what if customers could only check-in at checkout? What if Foursquare partnered with Square to become FourSquared? Or Facebook furthered its partnership with Apple to realize an NFC iPhone's full potential? Now you not only have to be in the store but you have to buy something to be able to check-in! Imagine all the benefits for customers and businesses.

Here are 7 advantages of gamifying the check-out processes with check-in apps:
  • Improved customer loyalty programs with 1-click signups and no need for physical cards
  • A value-add for customers to visit brick-and-mortar stores instead of shopping online
  • Social network integration delivering peer reviews to customers based off product ownership
  • Social network integration delivering more fans/followers of business pages
  • One-click, self-checkout payment options for customers without employee interaction or checkout lines
  • Paperless receipt systems tied to email and in-app inboxes
  • And more targeted marketing for businesses based on customer purchases AND interests
An innovative partnership like this could revolutionize the brick-and-mortar shopping experience. But could it save it from an inevitable death-by-dot-com?

Social gaming as defined by $ZNGA

Social gaming isn't a new idea, it's been around since poker and Monopoly. It refers to any game played with others -- as opposed to playing alone. It could be played on anything from an old wooden table to 70" LED HDTV. But today, social gaming most commonly refers to video games played online like XBOX Live (first made available to the public in November of 2002) and games played through social networks like FarmVille (launched on Facebook in 2009).

Recently, social gaming has grown exponentially and simultaneously along with the growth of smartphone use. In particular iPhone and Droid adoption -- and the availability of social games in their app stores -- have lead to an all-new way to play games with friends.

These social games with friends are dominated (quite literally) by the company, Zynga, who recently went public after creating a handful of extremely popular games "With Friends". Words With Friends alone has over 1,000,000 daily actives users (DAU).

These Zynga With Friends games are so popular that out of my 2,050 "friends"on Facebook today;
  • 17 are playing Chess With Friends (1%)
  • 20 are playing Gems With Friends (1%)
  • 30 are playing Matching With Friends (1%)
  • 209 are playing Hanging With Friends (10%)
  • 209 are playing Scramble With Friends (10%)
  • 550 are playing Words With Friends (27%)
Can you name one other video game that 1 out of 4 of your friends has played?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Ten tips to win the Instagram popularity contest

Instagram is officially the next big thing in social networking. And despite some outrage in late 2012 over changes to its terms of service, Instagram continues to grow. The photo-centric social network now has 90 million monthly active users and sees more than 40 million photos uploaded every day. They also report having more than 8,500 Facebook “Likes” per second making it one of the most popular social networks around. But not everyone or everything on Instagram is "cool".

After reflecting on those I follow (and unfollow) on Instagram, I've discovered these ten things you can do to get the most likes and the most followers (and avoid the dreaded unfollow) on Instagram:
  1. One At a Time: Don't post more than 1 or 2 photos at a time. This isn't Facebook. It's not a place to publish albums of photos. And there is never any need for 2 photos of the same thing. Pick the best one.
  2. Use Hashtags: The more hashtags you use the better. And seek out some of the "secret" top hashtags. They're like The Skull and Bones, once you join the club you'll become instantly popular.
  3. Don't #TBT: #TBT, also known as, Throw Back Thursday, is one hashtag to avoid. You should only post photos you just recently took on your iPhone or Droid (there's a reason you can't upload from the web). It's supposed to be "instant" hence the name Instagram.
  4. Join the iPhone-Only Club: Expanding on the previous tip, there are a lot of people who believe Instagram should only be photos you took with your iPhone (or Droid or other smartphone) and NOT pictures taken with your digital camera or expensive DSLR. Those photos belong on 500px and Flickr.
  5. This Isn't Pinterest: Instagram is not the social network for sharing memes, inspirational posters, and quotes. That's what Pinterest is for. And don't even get me started on #instanotes.
  6. More Action Photos: Don't just post selfies and pictures of you with your friends smiling for the camera. Take some action photos of people actually doing things other than saying "cheese".
  7. Less Blurry Photos: Do NOT EVER post a blurry photo. Even if you caught Big Foot in a blurry dash through the forest, do not post it! At the same time, don't use the cool little blur tool on every photo. Though there are some cool effects that you can accomplish using this feature (i.e. miniatures), it is greatly overused. 
  8. Less Random: Try and not post random unrelated photos that have nothing to do with previous posts. Create a theme with your photos, whether it be through the content of the photos (i.e. all sunset photos) or the style of the photos (i.e. all close-up shots). 
  9. Foodies Beware: Though it is good to have a theme to your Instagram collection be careful about just posting pictures of your meals. It's become a major cliche and though it could still be acceptable as a restaurant review or recipe sharing service, there are better social media outlets to be doing so (i.e. Yelp).
  10. Share to Twitter: Now that Instagram has revoked the inline previews of photos on Twitter you should be careful what you choose to share via tweets. Having to click-through to to see the photos can ruin the experience -- especially if the photo is breaking one of the above 9 rules!
What other Instagram tips do you have? Leave your best practice suggestions in the comments below.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Top 10 films of 2012

I must preface this list by restating that for years now I've contended that the Academy is out of touch with the general movie-going public. And I've also admitted time-and-time again that there is a distinct difference between the best movies and your favorite movies.

I must also admit I have not yet seen Amour, Beasts of the Southern Wild, or Salmon Fishing in the Yemen -- but honestly, who has?

With that said, and despite no longer being employed and reimbursed to see movies in theaters or at home, I have seen quite a few and more than most people, and I believe IMHO that these are the top 10 best movies of the year:
  1. Argo
  2. Lincoln
  3. Django Unchained
  4. Zero Dark Thirty
  5. Skyfall
  6. Looper
  7. 21 Jump Street
  8. Flight
  9. Wreck-It-Ralph
  10. The Grey

Not to be confused with my favorite movies. As I said earlier, the best films of the year are not always my favorite films of the year. Heck Fools Gold is one of my all-time favorite films. It's rated 11% on So with that said, these are my top 10 favorite movies of the year:
  1. The Avengers
  2. Argo
  3. Django Unchained
  4. Ted
  5. Skyfall
  6. Looper
  7. The Dark Knight Rises
  8. The Cabin in the Woods
  9. Dredd 3D
  10. Chronicle

I'm sure there are some snubs. So go ahead and let me have it in the comments.