Monthly Archives: September 2014

Mastering the cultural code; how to handle intercultural employment & work

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I hate working with people from other cultures!
I sometimes travel from country to country and work with people from other cultures. I love other cultures, but I don’t like working with people from other cultures. I also don’t like working with Americans. I feel that all cultures are badly configured for getting work done. The Japanese and Germans are much better about their work ethic, but there are difficulties with them too.

Cultural differences are more than just food.
If you work with people form other cultures you will notice many things if you are paying attention. You will observe that some people are very detail oriented, while others are neglectful. You will notice that some people are openly untrusting, while others demand that you trust them. Some people communicate well, while others are more aggressive. These differences can really bother a person, even if they are used to a particular culture, and even if they like that culture.

Adapting to different cultures
Some people think that it is necessary to adapt to a foreign culture if working overseas. They feel that it is necessary to wear a sari upon landing at Mumbai international airport. It then becomes necessary to eat your food with a roti using your hands. Next thing you know we are learning Hindi with a Marathi accent and bargaining with people at the grocery store. The problem with this is that Indian culture is a lot deeper than samosas and chai. Wearing a sari doesn’t make you Indian any more than living in a chicken coop makes you a chicken. There are cultural things that they just don’t teach in books, that you would only pick up on by living in a particular culture for a long time.

When to speak up and when to be quiet.
Sure, you can learn to make rotis and become semi-fluent in Bengali, but do you know when to shut up? In Indian culture, relationships have a pecking order. Sure, there are vast cultural differences between downtown Bangalore and 1.5 Km South of there in the more traditional neighborhoods. But, in India, the boss is generally a sort of a tyrant and his workers bow down to him and never challenge him. You will not learn this by stuffing yourself with samosas every day. You need to be in an environment of real Indians in India to learn this — and not some 3rd generation Indian-American who lives in Chicago who doesn’t like to be stereotyped as someone who likes samosas.

Why can’t they voice their concerns?
It is a common problem for Americans doing business in India that the workers will not speak up and voice their concerns. They will be very timid. When they do voice their concern, it will generally be after a problem has been brewing for a long time and they have been bottling up their upset feelings for several weeks. There are two ways of dealing with such a problem. You can learn to deal with them as an Indian boss would which might be heavy handed. I’m not implying that Indian bosses are always mean, because many are quite nice. But, they are culturally very authoritative, and that is what people are used to. If it were me, I would authoritatively inform them that they are to tell me about any issues in an organized way as soon as possible to avoid any suffering on their part. That way we can solve problems early on and keep everybody happy and a little less awkward.

Enough voicing concerns already!
The next problem in India, is when the workers speak up — that’s even worse. Workers tend to tell me their opinions in a very annoying and awkward way. Their concerns are often valid, but tend to be from a point of view that is very petty from a larger point of view.

The job interview: compensating for being from a passive culture
It is common for people from Asian countries including India to be overly passive at job interviews. If you don’t take the lead, they will just sit there. They will seldom boast about their achievements and answers tend to be shorter rather than longer. Yes, Indians look quite different from their East Asian counterparts and behave differently too, but they have more in common than you think. There have been case studies of people from Asia who tried to overcompensate for their Asian-ness and act too bold in interviews. One gentleman went so far to claim that the boss’ idea was completely wrong in a very important meeting to show his leadership qualities. In American culture, standing your ground, and promoting your worth is important, but as in all other cultures, there is what I call a “range of acceptability” in behavior, and arguing with your boss at an important meeting crosses the line even in America!

Being liked is more important than fitting in
Many people feel that they have to culturally adapt themselves in order to be liked. This is sort of true to a point. It is okay to be different, but not that okay if your differentness clashes with your boss. Even within the same culture, there can be tremendous clash, and the clash bothers people a lot more than others who have different attributes. People might appreciate you due to your different attributes.

A tale of two cultures
Let’s take two opposite cultures: Americans and Thais. Americans generally seem to like Thai people, Thai food, and even Thai Buddhism. Thais tend to like all white people (falang) by definition as well. What two cultures could be more different or opposite than Americans and Thais? If something bad happens to an American they will yell or cry all day while the Thai will be a lot more accepting of their destiny and seek solace in the comfort of the Buddha. Americans are often serious or angry, while Thais are outwardly happy and smile all the time. Americans are in a hurry and talk fast. Thais talk slow in a calming nasal tone of voice. Americans tend to like mild food while Thais like spicy food. American women like to confront men while Thai women are more agreeable. So, how is it that these two seemingly opposite cultures like each other so much? Do opposites attract? That might be part of it. Thais don’t step on people’s toes much. They are normally gentle people. They are seldom rude, although they will be if they really don’t like someone (I have a story about that.) When Americans are with Thais, they appreciate how nice people are. Sure, there are differences, but the differences are not generally seen as bad differences. To date, I’ve never met an American with Thaiaphobia!

Expats in China verses London.
American expats tend to last longer in China than they do in England. Why is this? Perhaps, the expats who visit China are used to the idea that things will be different and embrace the differences. Meanwhile the expats who live in London don’t really want to live in a different culture and can’t tolerate the minuscule differences that confront them in London. On the other hand, Brits can be condescending and rigid, while Chinese are more happy go lucky and bow down to white people. Maybe Americans are treated better by the Chinese and tolerate China as a result even though it is ten times as different as England.

Bottom line — what is important in intercultural work?
Being liked is important. You never know why someone will like you. They might like you for your differences. They might like you because you took the trouble to learn how to make samosas while wearing a selwar kurta. They might like you because you don’t abuse them as much as their regular boss. The possibilities are endless. Becoming similar to the culture you are living in is not always the solution. Sometimes you need to adapt only to a point, but learn how to work positively with your new culture rather than to conform to it. Perhaps it is what is different about you that helps you deal better with Bengladeshis in the work force than their local born boss. Have you ever thought of that?

Zen and the art of retweeting

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Do you like to retweet other people’s content? So, do I. But, what helps your Twitter account grow is not random retweeting. Don’t retweet to woo people into retweeing you. That rarely works. If you want to gain someone’s positive attention, interact with them. Respond to something they wrote. Write something interesting, or funny that really sends an important message that they will enjoy reading.

Don’t just retweet anything.
Choose from hundreds of tweets. Make sure the tweet has good content. Make sure the link to the article functions and that the article is worth recommending to others. Make sure the topic will be popular with your audience. You need to know your audience’s tastes by watching carefully to know this. Being picky about retweeting can gain you a lot of followers. I like to retweet great photos, and sometimes a really good photo will gain me lots of new followers. I tend to repost that same photo a lot since it gives me good luck.

Tweeting other people’s blog entries
I do this all the time. I’ll come up with a different title for their blog entry and tweet it on my network. The result is that they get lots of traffic and I get more followers. It is a win win situation. But, I don’t just pick any blog entry. I’ll read through many entries to find something really good. With videos it is more time consuming, but I’ll watch several videos until I find one worth sharing.

Don’t just write a tweet
I will write many variations of tweets for a single article. I will size them to make sure the text, link and tags all fit. I’ll refine my variations. I’ll pick the best one or two and tweet them, but not in a row. I’m interested to see what tweets are popular, which are not, and then figure out what it was that made the tweet popular. Sometimes small changes in wording can make a tweet get exponentially more retweets!

Good luck in your tweeting.
Observe, pay attention, and enjoy the process. Twitter is fun, but take it seriously. If you put quality out there, you will get quality followers and lots of them!

Getting retweeted on twitter does miracles for your blog’s SEO

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Even though, the total number of clicks to my blog was only a handful, the fact that people were clicking, reading, and enjoying, not to mention getting lots of retweeted did miracles for my blog’s optimization. Please keep in mind, that my persona twitter accounts are managed organically. We don’t do PPC, or use any special software such as unfollow software. We just follow hand-picked relevant, quality accounts and try to follow others who retweet tasteful material.

I started promoting my outsourcing blog on my travel twitter. This was an odd decision. I did this because many of the outsourcing articles were about social media optimization which is of interest to those who do social media for travel. Although the industry is different, they also do social media, they also do twitter, and they also supposedly want to optimize their results.

The secret to seeing your site or blog traffic take off using twitter is not having lots of followers, although that helps. It is more about how many new followers you have gotten recently, how many interactions there have been, how many retweets, and by whom. A lively twitter account can do miracles for your blog. Be lively yourself and follow other lively people either in your industry or related industries.

The plusses and minuses of Google+

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I have just started doing a lot on Google+. Yes, it has its pros and cons as well as its pluses and minuses. Should you use Google+? Here is what I think.

(+) If you use Google+ a lot, it will do miracles for your analytics and site traffic. Something magical happens when you hit the 1000 mark on Google+. Your site traffic will spike according to what word on the street is.

(+) Google+’s feature of having circles is so much better than Twitter. You can arrange your followers by category, interest or industry. You can also segment your favorite accounts by creating a favorite or VIP circle. It is amazing the quality of the material in my VIP circle while my industry specific circles are filled with cyber trash. Oh well… At least I can separate them. On Twitter, you would have to create a separate account where you could follow your favorite accounts. On Twitter you can favorite a post, but not an account. At least not as of today — things could change!

(+) Google+ has great communities where you can post content. This feature is very similar to Linked In’s feature where you can have discussion groups or communities. Linked In often has much larger and better groups for business topics, but they tend to be a little too oriented towards self-promoting content and job search while Google+ gets better quality interactions in many cases.

(+) Google+ is a fast way to get clicks to your blog if you use communities and post interesting and relevant content. Twitter and Facebook do not make it easy to get clicks until you have a huge following. You don’t need to have a single follower on Google+ to get a ton of clicks, and those clicks will boost your SEO rankings for your site a lot if they are “quality” clicks.

(-) Google+ doesn’t have that many accounts compared to Twitter or Facebook. I’m not sure what the growth rate is, but Google is going to be promoting Google+ less from now on as well. Maybe they should find a new way to promote it instead of slowing down? Additionally, communities on Google+ tend to be very small except for a few photography and travel groups. In general, Google+ seems to be very much more geared towards visuals than Twitter or Facebook. Google+ allows taller photographs, while Twitter has a one size fits all on your profile page until someone clicks on it.

(-) Google+ makes has a multi-step process to see what your followers posted. If it is that difficult to see what they are publishing, it will be difficult for others to see what you are publishing too!

All in all, Google+ seems like one of the better social media sites out there. There are a few areas that they need improvement and over the next few years, they might make a few renovations and become #1 in the social media industry. We’ll have to wait and see.

The Lamborghini effect in Social Media marketing

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I have been doing marketing for my entire life it seems. I remember as a kid, I marketed my lawn mowing business. I came up with sweat intensive methods for attracting clients in a heartbeat. I used to write an estimate on a flyer and leave it under their door mat if they were not home. I got hired by 10% of the people I left a flyer with. That is phenomenal. But, it is because I used a personal touch, and gave a quick and customized bid to everyone. Being fast at doing accurate estimates has its advantages.

As an adult, I have been running websites for more than a decade. It is hard to run a website, and the marketing keeps changing. Google is basically in charge, so whatever they like, you had better do!

The Lamborghini effect
It sounds like a movie. The Italian Job, The Bridge on the River Quai, The Lamborghini Effect — playing at 5pm, tickets sold at the door. Basically what I am talking about is having a marketing methodology so potent, that if you just tap the gas pedal, you will hear a huge “Voom” sound, and magic will happen. Today, I had a Lamborghini moment, if I may coin that phrase. I published a popular blog entry. But, I had also channeled some traffic to my outsourcing blog (the one you’re reading,) from my newer travel twitter which gets a lot of retweets. The result is that my traffic was more than double for a few days on my blog. Wow! All I did was tweet a few tweets and voom!

Followers are useless, you need results!
Lots of companies and individuals are in social media marketing, and claim to be good at it. You will see offers where they can get you 2000 followers overnight for a low fee, or maybe even 30,000 followers. Followers are useless. You need relevant, active, engaged followers, even if you only have a hundred. Most companies hire people who are not that experienced, and who will not get you amazing results. They will get you some new followers, maybe write a few tweets if they can even write well, and perhaps get you retweeted a few times. There is no focus on results, only on spinning the wheels. I don’t like this. I not only want results, I want to be blown out of the water. Real results are traffic to your site from clicks, and getting new customers — not new dormant followers who just sit there collecting cyber-dust.

My goal
My goal in social media is to learn how to get results so potent that I can help others to promote their social media campaigns. I want one or more twitter accounts, and blogs that get so much active traffic, that one tweet from me, and you won’t know what hit you! It amazes me that my older Twitter accounts have 4000, or 8000 followers, but only get retweeted two dozen times a month, while my newer travel twitter gets two dozen retweets per day, on a bad day. Wow! But, what if I can get my campaign to the point where I am getting hundreds of retweets per day? I think it is possible.

As far as blogging is concerned, by blogging more and more, I learn what is popular and what is not. Writing a popular blog entry in a niche market can get you a few thousand clicks over the life of the blog entry. Some entries get a lot of clicks their first week, while others slowly get clicked on and attract search engine traffic over years. Some of my most popular blog entries were written in 2011 by the way! My goal is get better at identifying what people like, and to continue to write more popular blog entries. I want to get so good, that all of my blog entries are popular. We’ll see what happens, but it is going well so far.

Most social media companies will give you “a” Twitter account and “a” Facebook account and perhaps a blog that is “blahg.” Don’t settle for less. I like it when you get results that are so amazing that you say, “What happened?” That is the Lamborghini effect in Social Media Marketing. Once you’ve experienced it you’ll never forget it!

How to use Twitter to get more BPO & Call Center Clients!

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Twitter is a mysterious animal. People use it daily to interact with so many other people. It is really baffling. If you run a BPO, Data Entry company or Call Center, you will be equally baffled at the daunting task of finding customers on any medium. It is possible to find customers on Twitter, but it’s not how you think it is.

Don’t sell
Don’t use Twitter to sell. This might be a hard concept to grasp as someone struggling to get your fledgling business going. You use Twitter to network, not sell. So, how do you get clients if you don’t sell? You mingle with them. Get them to feel comfortable with you, and get them to know you. Ask them if you have any questions about your industry.

Give, but don’t ask for anything in return
By answering their questions rather than selling you are being a valuable resource rather than a desperate and pestilent salesperson! Get others to value you by being nice, helpful and a source of reliable knowledge. If they have lots of questions about the technical support industry and you are the smartest person they have talked to in conjunction that industry, they will be likely to buy your services in the future. Maybe not tomorrow, but they will not forget you if you are the most helpful person in the world who gives, but asks for nothing in return.

Indians often feel that you get by pulling
Many people in India feel that the way to get more is to grab, and pull, and use force. This unfortunately has an opposite effect with Americans. If an Indian cab driver says, “Come with me,” and grabs our bag without permission, this is upsetting to us. If the same guy said, “Would you like a ride anywhere or some travel tips for Pune?” I would be much more likely to hire that cab driver because he was polite and helpful unlike the other pushy nitwits. The more sophisticated crowd in India has learned that you get by giving, not by grabbing. Sophisticated Indians have helpful blogs, and will talk to you about their service without being desperate to make a sale. They give, without asking in return.

How do you know if you have a contact person?
If you network, it doesn’t do much good if you’re not networking with a decision maker. It is hard to know who the decision makers are in the sea of hundreds of millions of Twitterers. My suggestion is to find either business owners or managers in large businesses. They will either need similar services in one form or another, or have friends that need those services. They might be doing their call work in-house, but they will have call work that needs doing. If you “get in good” with these people by making friends, they will be likely to use you when they have a need, or refer their friends to you. It is hit and miss finding the right people, but at least start with the right crowd.

Where do you find such people?
There are large Twitter accounts for business oriented people such as Forbes, Harvard Business Review, Entrepreneur, and others. These accounts have over a million followers each. if you look through their followers, you can find lots of great entrepreneurs and decision makers. After mingling with many of them, and you will have to mingle a lot, you will eventually meet some of the right people.

Twitter takes time, and grammar
If you want Twitter to be quick, it is not for you. I think that Twitter is exciting and fun. It’s fun to meet new people and fun to watch your number of followers go up. It is like an addiction in many ways. You also need to make your interactions in clear, and grammatically correct English which will be hard if English is not your native language. If your English is less than perfect, it is always a good idea to take writing lessons. Good communication skills translate into higher incomes statistically, so instead of wishing you made more money — learn to communicate like a polished professional and the money will come more easily.

What is step 1?
Create a Twitter account. Get an attractive picture for your icon, and another attractive picture for you top of page image. If your tweets have beautiful photos attached to them, that helps too. Photos are time consuming and can be expensive, so choose your battles wisely.

Step 2… Be a follower
The next step on Twitter is to start following people. Don’t follow more than a few dozen people per day. If they don’t follow you back after a few days, you should unfollow them. Twitter doesn’t like it if you follow substantially more people than follow you, so be mindful about your number of followers.

Step 3… Be an unfollower — and a leader!
Tweet about interesting things. Don’t just tweet about your services. 95% of your tweets should be valuable information about your industry, and other interesting stuff. Only 5% of your tweets should be about special offers that your company has.

Keep tweeting good stuff and people will follow you. You can retweet valuable information that others post as well.

Happy tweeting and good luck.