Who's the most influential person on the Internet? That's what Fast Company says it's trying to uncover with the Influence Project. After signing up for the project with a photo, a user gets a unique URL link that can be sent out to Twitter followers, Facebook friends, etc. The more people who click on the link, the higher Fast Company moves you up in the influence ranking. Even if your online fans or friends don't come through for you with influence-granting clicks, Fast Company says your photo will appear in a spread in the November issue; the more influence you have, the bigger the photo. TechCrunch's Michael Arrington calls it "the most ingenious link bait pyramid scheme I've come across." Someone sounding a tad bit jealous?
Annoying e-mail habits to avoid. In the office, there are those major breaches in e-mail etiquette, such as inadvertently sending out inappropriate company-wide e-mails. Then there are those more subtle annoyances that, despite being irritating, are never quite serious enough to be corrected. To remedy this situation, tech blog Lifehacker has a rundown of those annoying e-mail habits that are probably best to avoid in your daily correspondence. Among the habits topping the list is the overuse of meaningless "thank yous" and signing-off on e-mails with "cheers." As one commenter explained, "cheers" is especially annoying "as the sender is almost never (a) British or (b) sharing a drink with me." Want a second opinion on that? Check our 25 expert tips on perfecting e-mail etiquette.
Mess up? Say sorry, and mean it. There's a new way to mind your manners with customers, and start-ups are "especially suited for exploiting it," writes angel investor Jason Cohen on VentureBeat. The new etiquette? Apologizing to customers with a heartfelt open letter from your company's CEO. Be open, and honest, leveling with customers about what went wrong - whether it's a website going down or a widespread billing error - and utilize all your communication structures, including blog, direct e-mail, and website, to do so. One caveat: don't fake it. An "official apology" will get you nowhere with customers who want to feel like they're dealing with real people. Not sure you've got it down? Check out our Social Media Toolkit and guide to handling customer complaints.
Advice for breaking into the Chinese Internet market. First: act fast. Second: be willing to work with the government. That's what Robin Li, founder of the successful Chinese search engine Baidu, had to say to foreign Internet companies hoping to tap into China's 400-million strong Internet market, in an interview with the San Jose Mercury News. "The Chinese government would still like to see U.S. Internet companies explore the Chinese market, providing they are willing to abide by Chinese law," Li says. "I think companies like Facebook should think about the Chinese market. If they do it right, if they have a lot of patience, they have a chance. But time is flying." Speaking of tech in China - Apple's moving in this week, with a new store in Shanghai.
Will Hulu jump on the IPO bandwagon? With the IPO market making a comeback, it's not so illogical for Kara Swisher of AllThingsD to ask Hulu CEO Jason Kilar if the company has any plans to go public. The company just launched a new subscription service called Hulu Plus and its free platform is seeing strong traffic growth. However, contracts that are key to the company's future, including Kilar's tenure as CEO and some of the content partnerships with major networks, will be up for renewal within the next couple of years. That means going public could be a dicey venture. Asked about an IPO or another direction the company might take Kilar seems to subscribe to a karmic school of customer service. "We just believe that if we focus on the product and our customers and obsess over them good things will happen to us," he says.
The pros and cons of paid maternity leave. An uncertain economic climate might not seem like the best time to enhance employee benefits. But that's what the founder of Springboard Public Relations decided to do this year. When one of its eight employees announced she was pregnant, founder Domenick Cilea decided to offer four weeks paid time off. None of the other seven have asked for paternity leave, but Cilea told the Wall Street Journal that he would be okay with that too. "My motivation is to retain good employees. During a life-changing situation, they have the security of not only their job but their compensation." Businesses with fewer than 50 employees aren't required by law to offer paid maternity leave, and because of the cost and possibility that an employee won't return, surveys show that only 12 percent of employers will less than 100 workers do. But that kind of benefit can give employers real edge in attracting and retaining staffers and it doesn't have to be extravagant. OpenDNS, a 25-person company, choses to offer a modest payout - just two weeks paid leave. Springboard offers 12 weeks total leave. Although the first eight aren't paid, employees can get disability insurance through the company's health plan.