My Social Media Wishlist for 2016

2015 has been a big year for social media. Periscope and Snapchat exploded, Instagram became incredibly valuable for products and Twitter have been struggling to grow its user base.

In 2016 the industry will keep evolving and renovating itself with its usual speed: predicting what’s next in the industry is, at best, problematic. That’s why I’m sharing a wish list for 2016 – trends, practices and features – rather than predictions. There’s a lot to be excited about, so let’s dive in.

Tweople: More personal stuff!

When you tweet something out, don’t be afraid to add your personal touch, whether it’s yours or other people’s content. A comment, a quote from the tweet, an image that reflects what you’re sharing. Here’s what I believe is a good example:

If I tweeted only a post title, link and hashtag, it would have been just another tweet in the stream. Instead, I’ve sacrificed the post title, added a quote from the post, highlighted the real meaning of the post (the author’s view on a topic), and inserted an image – taken from the post itself – that echoes the topic.

I also wish people sent out less thank-you tweets to multiple handles. Simply put, when you thank people in bulk, what you’re saying is I don’t have time to tell you something meaningful. It might work from a quantity point of view – new followers, new notifications, Klout score going up and other vanity metrics – but doesn’t really add anything relevant. There’s a lot of things you can do instead, i.e. connecting with less people but starting real conversations, intro’ing them to other people that can be interested in their content, and so on.

Less #latergram and #throwback on Instagram

From a product marketing point of view, Instagram has the attention of a pretty good number of people, so the strategies that brands are using to connect with their prospects must include a wide array of visual content.

When it comes to people, I like thinking of Instagram as a real-time tool. People, in fact, are still brands: if I follow them, they have my attention. That’s why I like to learn what they are doing now, not what they used to look like when they were 16.

Less cliché pics

Laptop and coffee. Chicken with avocado. A cat with big, beautiful eyes. We got it, you are a coffee drinker that works remotely, eats healthy food and enjoys the company of a lovely pet.

As working from coffee shops and eating less sugar become more mainstream, there’s nothing unique or inspiring in those pictures anymore.

When I see someone showing off the lack of grey office walls in their life, I’d love to know what they’re actually doing, what tool they’re using and why, how they’re solving problems. Every time I stumble upon the picture of a salad I want to know what’s inside. The social media game shouldn’t be about you, it’s about the audience.

Less motivational crap

motivational

The brutal truth about these “motivational” quotes is that they’re created and posted because they’re excellent at capturing likes and followers. That’s it. Nothing more.

You don’t need those cheap, cheesy and one-size-fits-all posts. Whatever you’re trying to do with your life. In a bad mood? Feeling a lack of motivation? Look for real stories. Luckily for us the Internet offers so many places to share success stories and things that work (looking at you, Medium.com).

More television-like experiences on YouTube

As both smart TVs and Chromecasts (or the Apple TVs for that matter) become more popular, YouTube offers a remarkable opportunity to all those media producers, podcasters and film-makers out there to host their shows, publish their documentaries and distribute short movies, episodic shows and even independent, full-length films.

YouTube is full of talented people, but sometimes it’s hard to know where and how to find them. I really wish to see a significant improvement both in the YouTube homepage and in the YouTube iOS app that makes it easy for everyone to discover new content.

Special mention to 360° videos, which I’d love to see more often during 2016.

Instagram: let us switch between multiple accounts!

For many social media managers, having the ability to switch from their personal to their professional / business account would save so much time. Apparently Instagram is testing this feature on Android, so there’s a big chance to see this happening within the next 12 months. Personally, I can’t wait.

 

What are you looking forward to seeing on social media in 2016?

3 Non Obvious Ways to Improve your Slide Deck

Let’s face it: we’ve all seen slides that suck. Business meetings, sales pitches, conferences, you name it, someone brought a terrible deck with poor colour contrast and tons of text, maybe written in Papyrus or C**** S***.

Luckily those days seem to be over, or at least close to their end. At the last conferences I’ve been to I’ve mostly seen good slides, even from not-designers – slide design is an art on its own: it requires a fairly wide variety of skills (communication, psychology, design itself), and needs you to be familiar with software you wouldn’t use on any other situation.

These are some nice tricks I’ve recently discovered while working on my presentations. The overall idea is to help the audience focus on things that matter. Great slides support your story without stealing too much attention, and are easy to remember and understandable at a glance.

Play with opacity

Let’s assume you have a slide with a full-screen image, followed by some content about it.

This is our team at Human Made.

human-made-team copy

This is the following slide, containing our logo and some information about us:

hm_text

Here’s an improved version of the second slide. It features the same text, but has the previous image on the background, with opacity set at 33% and your deck branding colour behind:

hm_pic_logo

33% is a number that feels most of the time right to me, but it’s not a rule. Play with your image and see if you need a lighter or darker effect.

The transition is quite smooth and pleasant:

TqfOy1

Use the no-shift effect

You may have two slides that look almost the same except for some details. Here’s the idea: duplicate the slide (cmd+D in Keynote) and edit only the piece of content that actually changes.

Let’s get back to the previous sequence, and let’s say we’ve got another slide with more information on Human Made, i.e. some products we have built:

products

The transition highlights the new information.

EakbAx

Respect brand guidelines

If you look at the previous slides, you will notice that I haven’t typed in Human Made or our products’ names. Instead, I’ve dropped logo files in Keynote and adjusted size and position. Let’s do the same when we mention external brands.

Many products these days have brand guidelines on their site. Here’s Slack brand guidelines for instance, and that’s a really good example of a company explaining how to use their brand assets.

Look at the difference between these two slides:

slack

Slack with logo

Whilst the first one may follow your deck branding in terms of fonts, there’s no doubt that the latter stands out more. Logos are designed for people to remember them, and the visual support for a presentation has pretty much the same goal. Take advantage of brand guidelines to increase the chances your audience remember and recognise the object of your slide.

The folks at Slack also explain when to use the coloured logo or when to opt for the white or black monochromatic version instead:

The colored version of the Slack hash logo can ONLY be used on a white background. If you are using the Slack logo on any other background color, use either the black or white monochrome logo.

Brand guidelines are not just annoying requests product people make. Think of them as reasonable design decisions they’ve taken for you.

I really look forward to reading your feedback on these points. Although I’ve spoken quite a few times over the last year, I’m still working on improving every aspect of public speaking. However, if there’s one thing that is clear to me, is that a slide deck you’re happy with design-wise has a huge impact on your confidence and therefore your delivery.

(photo header credit: Yann Ropars)

My talk at the Surf Office meetup in London

I’ve recently spoken at the Surf Office meetup in London.

Surf Office is one of the most famous remote working-related experiments out there: it’s a place that combines workspace, accommodation and surf, with currently three locations (Gran Canaria, California, Lisbon). If you’re one of those human beings that can work from anywhere, or if your startup is looking for a nice spot where to host a retreat/hackathon, you should definitely check it out and get in touch with them.

This guest post I’ve written for their blog summarises the main points of the talk, and expands on some questions I’ve received afterwards.

And here’s the slide deck. I’m quite proud of the design, with the same font combo of the Sofia deck but richer in visual elements (pictures and colours). Unfortunately, looks like Speaker Deck made it a lot darker than it was originally.

WordCamp Sofia: My talk and slides

Last WordCamp of the year, for me, in Sofia (Bulgaria).

Here’s the video of my talk. The feedback I received was remarkably positive, people were interested on the subject and follow up a lot afterwards on social media and email. Looks like the people of Sofia loved me almost as much as I love them. It’s so great to get the chance to visit Bulgaria.


And here are the slides. For this deck I chose to go with almost no images, some emojis, a minimal colour combination that I really liked, and a couple of fonts that I think will become a staple on my slides.

photo header credit: Bunny and Mimsey

The one rule to get better at public speaking

So you want to get started with public speaking, huh? One year ago I was at the same point. Did I have something to share? Yes. Did I have an audience? Maybe, big cities have enough meetups. Was public speaking really that scary? More than death.

During 2015 (and my entire life) I’ve given nine talks. I’ll get to ten before the end of the year (no further details yet). Can’t say I’m an expert yet, but the feedback I’ve gotten so far has always been on the positive side.

If you’re asking “How did you manage to get from zero to nine with no prior experience?” and want to follow in my footsteps, here’s my golden rule: get yourself a couple of mentors.

Someone who tells you what you need to hear, looks at your slides and explains you why they’re not ok, listens to your practice sessions and tells you what’s wrong with your delivery, is sitting in the audience then tells you what you’ll need to improve before the next time – even when everyone else seem to have loved you and your talk.

You won’t relax, practice more or realise what the real source of the fear is because you read it on some blog. Read a couple of good books on the subject (Talk Like TED by Carmine Gallo seems to be the industry standard), and have someone tell you the brutal truths you deserve. Accept them, fix the mistakes, repeat what was successful.

photo header credit: @localancers

WordCamp Norrköping – Report, interviews and my talk

One month ago I went to Norrköping (Sweden) and spoke at the local WordCamp. Here’s the report I’ve written for the Human Made blog.

Watch also the official recap video:

And here’s my talk, Table tennis & Meeting Rooms: How to Get Things Done in a Co-working Space:

Enjoy! 🙂

Hello, public speaking. So nice to meet you.

Do you know when you take a look back at the resolutions you’ve made before the year kicked off and then realise you’ve failed them all? I’ve lost the count of how many times it happened to me. I think we’re pretty close to 30.

Anyway, this year I’ve decided to do things seriously. Instead of making a silly list with 10+ impossible intentions, I came up with only three precise and feasible resolutions:

As a result, February just began and I can already say that I have succeeded with one. Last Thursday I have spoken at the WordPress London Meetup about user support as a growth tool for online products and tech startups, and in less than a week I’m going to give some tips for good tech support at the WordCamp Norway, this time in the lightning talk / PechaKucha format.

wordpress, wordcamp, wordcamp norway, wordcamp oslo, public speaking, conference, tech event
WordCamp Norway 2015 logo – Here we come, Oslo.

Really looking forward to being in Oslo again, hanging out with some of the Humans (Scott, Jenny, Petya and Noel) sharing something with the community and having fun at another WordCamp!

Franz Vitulli’s Equipment List Ep.2: apps, tools and software I use

If you have read the Ep.1 of this Equipment List series you how much I care about having a minimalist workspace. If this is possible, it’s thanks to the following awesome apps.

Enjoy!

Communication

To manage my email addresses I use Airmail on both my Macs and my iPhone. If you’re anything like me, you manage several email addresses. When they become two/three, it’s fairly easy to manage them from a single Gmail account. After a while (and another couple of addresses to add) it just gets impossible.

I live on Slack, the chat of our choice at Human Made (WordPress communities use it too), and on Telegram, but thanks to Franz I can be connected to Whatsapp and Facebook Messenger too in the same environment. I’ve got a love-hate relationship with Skype, which I use it only when I have to call landline or mobile number. At Human Made we use Zoom for our team hangouts.

When it comes to social media management, I use Tweetdeck and the Twitter Mac/iOS apps to manage multiple Twitter accounts, Buffer for scheduling and quick image editing (really in love with Pablo!), and ManageFlitter to track the accounts I follow.

To-do and project management

My go-to app is Trello, both for personal tasks and to share Happytables / Human Made tasks with the rest of the team. In the personal board I have some staple columns (house, health, family, shopping list, articles to write, to-do-this-week, etc.), and usually a to-do-before-[event] column. I don’t necessarily want tasks related to that event. I use the next big event (which can be Christmas, a friend’s wedding, etc.) as a basis to set a deadline for everything.

Writing & Reading

I write in several apps, from Apple Pages to the Google Drive document editor. I use also Hackpad and Dropbox Paper, a document editor that allows users to create collaborative notes and share their comments.

iA Writer is my favourite markdown editor and recently I’ve started using it to produce drafts and organise thoughts. I simply love its distraction-free environment.

I love creating spreadsheets on Google Drive and presentations on Apple Keynote.

aText expands short snippets to pre-defined text of virtually any length.

To create MOBI files from EPUB and doing other Kindle management stuff, I use Calibre.

Sublime Text 3 is the code editor I use when I play around with coding. When I’m building a theme for WordPress and want to add style to my starter theme of choice (Underscores), I use Prepros to compile my Sass.

When I stumble upon an article I want to read but I don’t have time to read it straightaway, I send it to Pocket.

Hemingway helps me streamline my sometimes pointlessly overcomplicated sentences.

Photo editing

Photoshop addict here, but without being too much expert.

To edit pictures on my mobile device, I use VSCO or Afterlight.

Blogging

Goes without saying, WordPress is the engine behind this website as well as the 25% of the internet. I’m also part of the global WordPress community – take a look at the things that need to get done because it’s an awesome way to give back, a good thing for your resumé, and builds a fantastic network of people for you. The WordPress communities (global, UK, Italy, etc.) usually run on Slack.

Plugins

Here’s a list with just some WordPress plugins I regularly use:

Yoast SEO. A comprehensive all-in-one SEO solution for a WordPress website.

Akismet. Blocks incoming spam comments.

Jetpack. Traffic growth, stats, insights and other goodness.

BackUpWordPress. Simple automated backup to a destination of my choice.

WP Remote. Plugin but also web app to update WordPress core, plugins and themes with just one click. Human Made built it before I joined the company, and now we’re selling it.

Gravity Forms. Nice forms with multiple purposes, from a simple contact form to a tool to collect information from readers and create user-generated content.

SiteOrigin PageBuilder. Theme-agnostic layout and call-to-action builder.

Insert Headers and Footers. Fields to enter stuff that doesn’t mess up with Yoast.

Easy Google Fonts. To select Google Fonts directly on the customizer.

WP Super Cache. Very fast caching plugin for WordPress.

Product support

At Happytables, we use Intercom for support and CRM, and HelpJuice for building a FAQ/documentation page. The best feature of HelpJuice? The internal search engine.

Music

I have a Spotify Unlimited subscription and love shuffling my constantly-changing playlists specifically designed for work: OSTs I like and an ambient selection.

Podcast management

I love Pocket Casts. It’s available wherever you are (iOS, Android, Windows Phone, and as a web player). I use it on iOS and love its clear download / stream / delete instructions, as well as its great UI. Most importantly (for me), has Chromecast integration.

Traveling

Every time I have to plan a new trip, I start my flight search on Skyscanner. Such a great and easy tool to find cheapest flights.

If you have to visit a big city such as London you can’t make it without Citymapper (tells you how to get where you need to go).

When I need a cab, I use Uber instead. Much better service, better cars, better experience overall. Get £10 off your first trip.

These days I usually don’t use hotels. Airbnb offers me the chance to be on the road and still have a place I can call home, what’s not to love?

Foursquare (along with its extension Swarm)  is the app I use for discovering coffee shops, restaurants, bars, pubs and more.

To see if there are remote workers or digital nomads in town, Nomadbase is the place to go.

Learning

I’m a big TED fan, I’ve watched so many talks over the years I can’t even say what’s my favourite one.

As a serial WordCamp attendee, I can’t leave WordPress.tv off this list. Most of the WordCamp talks I’ve seen live are there too.

Codecademy is my online coding school of reference.

Misc / utility apps

f.lux. The only way to keep working with a computer after the sunset and not get blinded. Doesn’t really work for you if you need to do image / video editing.

Pennies. Everyday money-management.

Clocks. An essential tool to track timezones, very useful when you have both colleagues and clients around the globe.

Caffeine. Give your MacBook some caffeine and it will stay awake without touching trackpad / mouse.

Sidestep. Because I want to browse securely from airports and coffee shops.

1Password. An awesome and safe way to deal with passwords. I have installed it both on my Macs and on my iPhone.

Sleep Cycle. Sleep tracking for iOS at its best.

[This article is part of my Equipment List Series. Check out the Ep.1 with my gear list here]

Franz Vitulli’s Equipment List Ep.1: The Marketing Specialist

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a big fan of minimalism in all things, and certainly my workstation doesn’t make an exception. As I work from home I could have easily built a massive battlestation with multiple screens, super stereo system and other awesome tools, but I prefer a setup that can be the same, regardless of the place where I am (home, coffee shop, company retreat, visiting family in Italy, etc.).

I love the idea behind the modern desk, with just a laptop and a smartphone. If you have them packed with the right apps*, you don’t really need anything else (see the video below).

Enjoy the list!

My office toys

MacBook Pro 13″. My trusty main computer. It’s a late-2011 MBP, recently boosted with a 16 GB RAM kit. It’s been with me since I got my Master’s Degree, right before leaving Italy. Still runs Mavericks, and I’m not sure I will upgrade it to Yosemite.

MacBook Air Costa Coffee
MacBook Air @ Costa Coffee (Gatwick Airport)

MacBook Air 11″. This little beast comes with me pretty much anywhere. It’s super silent, quick, as light as an old fashioned paper notebook. Put it in your backpack and you’ll never think you’re carrying a computer. And most importantly, there is no work-related task it can’t handle.

iPhone 5s. Doesn’t need any introduction. Reliable, easy to use, extremely tough after the Case Mate treatment. Nothing fancy, just a stubborn anti-slip black case.

Apple Magic Mouse. I’ve been using a laptop as a main computer since 2005 and never really used a mouse with consistency… I’ve recently decided to get this mouse because playing with Photoshop using the trackpad is a bit of a pain. It’s also good for travelling.

Kindle 4. Another late-2011 gadget I’m not upgrading anytime soon (unless I have to). Plenty of marketing, technology, business and personal development ebooks in there. Long life battery, which is huge advantage for a modern mobile gadget. Consider it a work tool even if it normally sits on your bedside table!

Sony MDR-ZX300. Despite being a musician, I’ve never truly considered myself an audiophile. Especially when it comes to listening to the music while I’m working, I don’t really feel the need for something better than these budget Sony headphones. Whilst they fit well in my MBA bag, I never bring them with me outside (I prefer Apple earbuds).

Ikea Markus. Last addition to the workplace, it’s a comfy and sturdy office chair that I intend to use forever.

Ikea Bräda. This little piece of plastic is one of those things no one would include in their awesome equipment list. But it just works! It’s a nice laptop support that put the keyboard at an angle that makes much easier for you to type.

Next new entries?

Tablet. I’ve been aiming for an iPad Mini for a long time now. It’s just that I’m not sure if it fits my current setup: the MBA is small enough to be carried everywhere, and most of the things I’d do with an iPad can be done on the iPhone. It would surely give the expression “reading experience” a whole new meaning, and yet I don’t know whether or not I’d miss my Kindle if I decide to make the upgrade.

Things I don’t want to see on my desk

Post-it’s, letters, business cards, magazines, random pieces of paper, etc. Most of the clutter on the large majority of desks is paper. And modern laptops and smartphones allow you to take notes on the fly. There’s no need to use paper in 2014. Period.

Pens. The best way to keep paper far from your desk is throwing pens away. Just keep a couple of them (one in your laptop bag, the other one somewhere not so close to your desk).

Food, cups, cutlery, etc. I always have a Bobble jug and a glass on my desk, because I drink a lot of water (at least 10-12 big glasses per day). But I really hate dirty dishes and cups of tea/coffee where they shouldn’t be.

Photo frames. Pictures of loved ones are better on the iPhone lock screen!

Decorative objects, souvenirs and whatnot. I’m just not the right guy for that kind of things.

* think that it’s impossible to work with just laptop and smartphone? You’re not alone.  But I can prove you can. Just wait for the next article in the Equipment List series.

It’s WordCamp Europe time, again!

Less than one week and I will be in Sofia, the capital and largest city of Bulgaria. I know, you too are thinking Bulgaria! That’s quite an unusual destination isn’t that? like all my friends did. In all fairness it is, but if anything the unusualness only adds extra excitement and enthusiasm.

Why am I going to Sofia?

Let’s take a step back. As I work in a distributed team, I don’t share an office with my work buddies. Our normal place of work is our place of choosing: coffee shop, library, airport, home, hotel, Airbnb apartment, coworking space, you name it, a Human is working or has worked there. I work from home, but I surely don’t dislike the occasional trip to central London. Sitting in a Costa or a Starbucks coffee shop, having a cup of Earl Grey tea and doing my job with the pleasant ambient sound of a cafe. I mean, someone also developed an app for that, there must be some real good in it.

It goes without saying that every time the Human Made family get the chance to hang out everyone is pretty excited – especially when the expression hangout has nothing to do with the well known video chat platform developed by the folks at Google.

The first time I personally met the other Humans was in Amsterdam, four of five days before the 2013 WordCamp Europe that took place in the beautiful Dutch town of Leiden. Things have changed since then: I was still finishing my marketing internship, now I am a full-time member of the gang. Something that makes me feel fortunate to say the very least.

This year, the organising team for WordCamp Europe accepted Sofia’s bid. And just as last year we are combining the WordCamp experience with one of our retreats.

We are going to enjoy several activities during those days, notably the unofficial WordCamp walking tour of Sofia organised by Rhys Wynne, the Paintball Battle of Nations (I won’t take part as I think I’d be the only member of the Azzurri team), the Human Made & SiteGround bar hopping and, during the retreat, the flash talk night. At the last winter retreat in Trysil, Norway, I made a Keynote presentation about getting proficient with playing basic bass lines in just a couple of weeks. What am I going to talk about this time? Haven’t decided on it yet, expect an update somewhat soon.

It’ll be my fourth WordCamp (after Leiden, London and Oslo), third Human Made retreat, second WordCamp Europe and first time in Bulgaria. Also the first WordCamp since I started taking online coding classes – some of the most tech talks might start to make some sort of sense to me, wow.

Looking forward!
2014 WordCamp Europe in Sofia, Bulgaria

There are so many reasons why I can’t wait to jump on that plane and fly to Sofia. First, WordCamps are amazing. The WordPress community is amazing. Second, experiencing once again the proof that a great company culture is possible. Third, getting familiar with Bulgaria’s tech scene. I’ve heard nice things of it.

You’ll be around at the WordCamp and want to connect? Awesome. If your job is anything like mine (marketing / support side of things for SaaS, web apps built on WordPress, etc.), even better. Ping me on Twitter (@franzvitulli) or leave a comment here.