Improving Follow Friday

followfriday-zeroTomorrow is yet another day when Twitterers throughout the globe will participate in “FollowFriday”, a well-meaning exercise that started a few months ago (see Tweet Zero —->) of recommending others to follow that has rapidly degenerated into noisy lists of names without attached meaning.

But it can be fixed. Here’s a modest proposal.

followfriday-noiseInstead of seeing how many Twitter handles you can cram into a 140-character post, just recommend one person, and explain why. You can do that nicely in 140 characters, or if you want to be more descriptive (and you’re a blogger), you might want to write up a quick blog post and link to it.

Either way, you’re helping people truly understand why someone is valuable to follow, and it’s a whole lot more complimentary to your subject rather than being one more @name in a list of others.

Even further, I have a suggestion for this Friday. Let’s answer a question together:

Which ONE of your Tweeple would you most want to go on a wine-testing with, & why?

Tell us about this person who’d make a great companion on a tour through a vineyard. What have you “seen” about this person on Twitter (or in real-life!) that makes you wish you could hoist a glass of Cabernet together and chat?

(P.S. Andy Seidl gives some good advice along a similar line here).

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White House nukes LA to get fresh earthquake photos – Obama apologetic

nukeRealizing that the Administration did not have any fresh, updated photos of earthquake disasters, chief of staff Rahm Emmanuel today secretly ordered the destruction of most of Los Angeles by dropping a thermonuclear bomb in order to trigger a massive earthquake.

The city is now a glowing ruin, with casualty estimates in the millions. However, “we got some really great aerial shots, since our entire fleet of F-15′s was deployed with high-speed cameras. A few – well, actually 23 – planes were incinerated in the event, but with live satellite feeds, those who had the nearest-angle shots actually gave their lives for something worthy – great close-ups of an earthquake-inducing mushroom cloud captured via live satellite feed. Awesome!”

quakeThose not instantly killed by the thermonuclear explosion were buried under tons of rubble by the Richter 8.8 quake which followed, leaving a 34-mile valley of destruction coursing across Southern California. Remote cameras had been set up in advance to capture the carnage, and some of the shots “rivalled our best footage of Air Force One circling Lady Liberty!” exalted Emmanuel, clearly pleased that his careful planning had paid off.

Rumors that Hugo Chavez’ latest book was airdropped over the stricken city just before the cataclysmic blast were promptly denied. However, Arlen Specter is said to be re-considering his switch to the Democratic party, because “I’ve already got Three Mile Island hanging over me. Now this? I’m toxic enough already!”

Al Gore immediately chartered a private jet to fly over the area on a mission of mercy, dropping coupons for carbon credits on any surviving victims who may be concerned about the impact of nuclear fallout on climate change. “It was the least I could do,” stated Mr Gore, before jetting off to another celebrity-studded Save the Earth gabfest. Meanwhile, a swarm of ACORN community organizers donned hazmat suits and spread throughout the affected area, restoring polling places and registering the dead for the next election cycle.

obamaReporters were careful not to fault President Obama for the event, as there really had been a great need for better disaster images which was met by the carefully-orchestrated photo op. Nonetheless, the President did apologize, promising a prompt review by a blue-ribbon panel of congressional supporters who will ultimately blame FEMA and former President Bush for the fiasco. Obama is tapping former New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin and former Illinois governer Rod Blagojevich to head up re-construction efforts.

The handful of surviving residents of Los Angeles were infuriated by the episode, but ultimately supported the President, realizing that the damage was nothing a few quadrillion dollars of debt couldn’t fix. The Obama plan to nationalize Hollywood will actually continue to move forward, however, with Bank of America being secretly charged to buy the distressed assets of the immolated industry.

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When (Outsourced) Projects head South

I’m a native Northeast guy, but I spent 7 years in the South (Tennessee). I enjoy visiting there when I can. But there’s one time when you really don’t want to head in that direction, and that’s when the project you’re working on with a vendor goes south!

It happens. More often than anyone likes to talk about (hey, it’s embarrassing for both client and vendor, you know?). Not only in pharmaceutical training & marketing, where I do most of my consulting, but in other industries, stuff goes wrong and reputations get hurt.

There are four main reasons why project failure happens:

  1. Inadequate definition of the project itself;
  2. Poor choice of a vendor/provider, dooming the project from the get-go;
  3. Unproductive vendor management/partnering practices;
  4. Lack of sound and agreed-upon project management processes.

I’ve seen each of these (alone or in combination) make shipwreck of potentially successful projects. And while it is always easy to blame the vendor, many times the fault lies with the client. And often, it’s not due to bad intent – it’s just that client personnel who are charged with making the project happen are ill-equipped to carry out the necessary steps.

The first step – project definition – absolutely has to be done right in order for anything else to work. If you don’t know how to map out a design/requirements document, and how to craft a Request for Proposal (RFP), then by all means, engage some professional help – any money you spend getting the project well-defined will be paid back many times over by not experiencing misunderstanding, scope creep, and time/budget overruns.

The other three items warrant their own posts – I met with a client recently who was bemoaning the difficulties that occurred with one recent training endeavor, and it was clear that things started going off the rails immediately upon engagement with a vendor that probably was not an ideal choice. Even a well-defined and well-managed project can be torpedoed if the vendor/partner is not an optimal choice.

What do you think? What have been the elements leading to project failures that you’ve seen or experienced? On the positive side, what has contributed to outstanding outsourcing success? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Why I Follow…Thomas Clifford

On Fridays, for my Twitter “#FollowFriday” contribution, I highlight one person that I enjoy networking with via social media (and sometimes in real life also!) Today, it’s Thomas Clifford, otherwise known as “Director Tom” (@thomasclifford).

Tom’s a filmmaker, and an active contributor to the blogosphere/twittersphere. But far more than that, Tom is a great guy. We’ve met face-to-face more than once, chatted on the phone, provided mutual support through tough circumstances, and I can say without reservation that Tom is one of the most valued folks I’ve found using social networking.

When you follow Director Tom, you’ll quickly discover that his interests range far outside of film, into biking, music, and other stuff. But film is his gig (there’s a reason he wears those director berets!), and Tom’s advice and encouragement have been invaluable as I’ve been trying to help my oldest son explore his interest in a film career.

Follow Tom. You’ll be glad you did. And so will he.

Prior FollowFriday posts

Why I Follow…Ike Pigott

Each Friday of late, I’ve sought to highlight one follower that I value, and tell you why. Up today – Ike Pigott (@ikepigott).

Why do I Like Ike? Well, he’s an independent thinker. He enjoys humorous banter. He’s curmudgeonly (can’t imagine what he’ll be like in 25 more years!) He’s smart. And he’s real.

Plus, he’s one of the first Twitter-folk that simply called me on the phone one day, out of the blue…just to talk.

He may be the only person on Twitter that lets you know, in ALL CAPS, when something of yours has inspired his FAVORITED button.

If you’re into squeamish political correctness and have a genetic lack of a funny bone, you probably won’t put Ike in your Top Tweeter column in TweetDeck. But he’s there on mine. And if you haven’t checked him out yet, do so immediately. He won’t bite. Probably.

Prior FollowFriday posts

How do YOU use Social Media?

About a month ago, we had a robust discussion on this blog about some possible adaptations to the Forrester Research “Social Technographics Ladder.” You can review that post “One Rung Up?” right here – which is going to provide the backdrop for this muse.

The more I thought about, the more I felt that there was an element missing – we don’t have just one type of social media, and our behaviors may be quite different in different platforms. So, let me propose this graphic for further discussion (explanations below):

social-media-usage-patternsCurrently, we might classify social media involvement into (roughly) three categories - Lifestream networks (where participants are putting brief thoughts, publishing photos, sharing links, commenting, etc.); Focused member networks (often professional or highly targeted); and Open networks on the web, where you can interact and participate without necessarily having to “join” a separate platform.

The Social Technographics ladder discusses a certain hierarchy of behaviors, but in fact, behaviors can differ, even by the same person, within different types of networks. Based on the interaction in the prior post, I’ve boiled down the behaviors into 3 main categories – Consume (look, read, digest, etc.); Contribute (comment, rate, publish, etc.); and Curate (organize communities and information). As you can readily see, what I might do in one type of community (say, lifestreaming, where I may actively publish) isn’t necessarily the same as in another (perhaps I don’t feel comfortable creating a blog or Twittering).

Just some further brainstorming. What do you think? Put your ideas in the Comments…

Why Your Message Lives or Dies

You’ve got a great message. Maybe you’re marketing a needed service. Maybe you’re instructing a set of students. Maybe you’re preaching a sermon. But there’s a problem, and you can see it – the message is not making it all the way to long-term memory, and it is not leading to the desired behavior change.

Why? Why is it that what you’re saying is being filtered out by some of the recipients, and only a percentage is actually “getting” it? Why does your message live, or die, in the mind of the audience?

I’m going to outline a Theory of Message Reception for consideration and discussion. I owe the seeds and a good bit of the structure of this theory to Elliott Masie (@emasie), a training professional who founded and runs the Masie Center learning think tank in Saratoga Springs, NY. I attended a Social Learning Lab there recently, and while the discussion of social technologies applied to learning/training was interesting, what really got my mind buzzing was a theory of learning Elliott propounded using computer terms. He talked about information that learners process, using personal buffers to filter out/in what would be allowed into (write-protected) storage.

Elliott identified 3 buffers – Value-testing (short-term relevance); Truth-testing (correspondence with reality); and Indexing (does it correspond with, and fit somewhere into, my mental index of information). Something that passes through these filtering mechanisms may get written on our “hard drive.” Because of the overload of (often irrelevant) information, we all need some sort of filters to sift through and find what matters.

This general concept intrigued me, and I wondered if the basic notion might bear the weight of some extensions, and broader applications (beyond learning, into the general notion of message reception). Having mulled it over for several weeks, here’s a preliminary Theory of Message Reception. First, the terribly-executed diagram (I’m not David Armano, after all…), then the explanation.

filters

Your (marketing, instructional, motivational) message is delivered. Before it is “accepted” by the recipient as valid and worthy of remembrance and action, it needs to first pass through four filters:

  1. Source - is the person/medium delivering this message authoritative and believable?
  2. Relevance - does this matter to me, now? (Masie’s value-test)
  3. Reality - does this message seem to be in accord with what I believe to be accurate and real? (Masie’s truth-test)
  4. Core Convictions – does this message line up with my first principles – my (capital T) Truth beliefs?

Anywhere along the way, messages will be tossed out or passed along depending on alignment with these filters. Once a message is accepted, it needs to find a way to be indexed in the mind according to prior categories of knowledge/experience, and if action is called for, then behavior change may be possible.

Why is social networking effective? Because we find peer-to-peer communication more authoritative than, say, 30-second advertisements on TV, which we’ve learned to distrust and filter out. A personal recommendation more easily passes through our Source filter.

A perfectly accurate message about life insurance may bounce off the mind and heart of a 16-year old. It doesn’t pass the Relevance filter. However, a 25-year old new parent who just had a car accident may have the same message (even from a less-than-reliable source) pass right through into action because now it all lines up with relevant, existential reality!

bumblebeeSomeone might explain to you, scientifically, with all sorts of charts and graphs and formulas, that bumblebees can’t fly. But it won’t get through the Reality filter, because…well, you’ve seen them fly!

Therefore, if you are a marketer, or teacher, or preacher, or parent, your goal is going to be to get your message indexed into memory and translated into action as efficiently as possible (sounds rather six-sigma’ish – sorry). If you want your message to pass readily through the Source filter, then it needs to delivered by someone with (real or perceived) authority. Celebrity endorsements apparently work for many marketers and dupes consumers this way (the tactic does have the opposite effect for many of us, by the way). The best source, however, is going to be the recommendation of a current participant, such as we find with friends, neighbors, and trusted social media connections. Hypocrites, shysters, and unknowns may actually have a valid message, but often the message will be jettisoned because the source isn’t truly authoritative.

The Relevance filter will also be a barrier if we haven’t truly studied and come to know our audience. If a congregation has recently suffered a traumatic loss, then preaching a very true message (in line with core convictions, even!) about the historical significance of Ezekiel’s visions just may not be well-received as valuable and helpful for the immediate circumstances. And don’t get me started about the fire-hose training method used on, say, new pharmaceutical sales reps, whose heads are stuffed with an extraordinary amount of background information that generally has little day-to-day relevance. Maybe it’s true, maybe it has a certain level of importance – but short-term relevance dooms much instruction to the dustbin once the test is taken.

The Reality filter is best addressed by creative use of analogies in communicating. When trying to get new information across, by appealing to well-established facts and previously-embraced “pictures” in the mind and heart of the recipient, the way is paved for more rapid uptake. If you’re trying to sell me a fast car, don’t try to go into the physics of mass and velocity. “Remember the rush you felt when you got your first real bike, and you raced downhill at speeds you never knew before…” OK, now I see it and feel it. A great recent example of this is the Heineken “walk-in fridge” commercial.

However, we must be aware that a lot of the “rubber meets the road” filtering happens at the level of Core Convictions. There is observable reality (bumblebees fly), but there are also deeply-held perspectives that shape our worldview and determine what we will or will not “hear” and act on. If my core conviction is that paying 100K for a car is utter vanity and waste (true, by the way), then your message about why I should buy one is going to be tossed out by that filter. If, on the other hand, your conviction is that a 100K car is absolutely necessary for status projection, then every argument for economy will fall on deaf ears.

Getting into much deeper water, on various sides of the man-caused climate change/global warming debate are people with very different core (first-principle) beliefs about Man, God, the Earth, and Fate. Messages will often be filtered or received, not due to inherent and provable validity, but due to pre-existing prejudices (core convictions). And why are some people-groups committed to destroying others, ignoring all reality, reason, relevance, and moral persuasion? Because of a core conviction that “we’re better than they are” and “they are unworthy to live due to past offenses/race/religious differences and we need to eliminate them.” Some core convictions, obviously, are at war with peaceful and productive civilization.

We shouldn’t think that some core convictions cannot or should not be changed. A teacher, or parent, or pastor, or friend who can reach down into the heart and soul of someone paralyzed by a deep-seated persuasion that they are worthless and that all attempts at progress are fruitless, and begin to re-shape that filter into a more healthy state – that is one of the greatest tasks anyone can undertake. Our filters need regular maintenance and recalibration, and we should always be willing to adjust and refine and change over time. But we should always be aware that the core convictions, even if held unconsciously, will still hold tremendous sway over reception of any messages.

If we’re in the business of delivering messages, our craft is not to try to “fake out” the filters, but to authentically and effectively reach the index and the will to act with truth that resonates. If you’re a marketer, what does that mean for your approach? If a corporate trainer, how should this shape your curriculum and instructional design (and delivery)? For instance, how can spend the first few moments getting a handshake from the Source and Relevance filters, instead of immediately setting up barriers to entry?

All right, that’s a mindful. I’m not concerned here with what you think of Heineken or global warming, but let’s enjoy a robust discussion in the comments about the validity (or not) of the general principles, and how they apply to marketing, social media, learning, and life. Poke, prod, improve – chime in!

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(image credit: bumblebee)

Why I Follow…Brad Pendergraph

For this variation of the Twitter #FollowFriday meme, I try to highlight people who may be less well-known than the folks whom “everyone” follows on Twitter. I mean, why do I need to explain why I follow Mack Collier (@mackcollier), or Chris Brogan (@chrisbrogan), or Darren Rowse (@problogger)? Everyone follows them, and we all know why!

But today, I want to point out one of the (growing number of) pharma social media tweeple, Brad Pendergraph (@bradatpharma). I follow Brad because he does the best he can as a sharer-on-Twitter while working within the regulated industry that is pharma. He makes it clear that he is not speaking for his company, but he also is quite open and transparent – not only about work issues, but also life issues. And he’s a smart guy.

Brad only works 15 minutes away from me but we haven’t met face-to-face – yet. That’ll change soon. We’re both intent on seeing social media adopted in the pharmaceutical realm, and I look forward to collaborating with folks like Brad, and Shwen Gwee (@shwen), and Craig DeLarge (@cadelarge), and others in the pharma space to see new things happen.

Why I Follow…Rosa Say

Fridays on Twitter are all about recommending friends (#followfriday). I like to just recommend one at a time. So today, it’s a favorite twitter-friend from our 50th state, Rosa Say (@rosasay).

Why do I follow this smiling Hawaiian? It’s really very simple. Rosa is unfailingly sweet and encouraging.

Now I’m sure that she has many other redeeming qualities. But when I get a tweet from Rosa, it’s a ray of virtual sunshine. And I need plenty of that.

I’ve not yet had the privilege of visiting Hawaii, though I’ve always wanted to. But I know that if I get the chance, I’ll already have a friend there, to provide planning advice and to give a warm aloha upon arrival. Someone I never would have met but through Twitter. And you should meet Rosa too.

River of Post-Twit Notes Floods Fargo

A veritable yellow-snowstorm of printed 140-character “tweets” dropped from the sky over Fargo, ND yesterday, threatening to overwhelm levees already strained by an ice-clogged river.

fargoposttwit2

The founders of the on-line micro-blogging service Twitter chose Fargo for the unveiling of their new Post-Twit note service, a fusing of old world and new media communications, because “the swollen Red River is the perfect illustration of the massive growth of our Twitterstream – and beside, all the soon-to-be-defunct old media companies were already on the ground to cover the ev [140-character limit exceeded]“

Hundreds of thousands of yellow 3.5 inch square paper notes rained down on the city, each with a 140-character maximum “tweet” printed on it. “It’s the perfect way to introduce all the unwashed masses to Twitter, ” stated Ev Williams, co-founder of Twitter.  “A lot of these flyover country folk are still stuck in the old printed paper world, so we figured we’d flood them with micro-messages on Post-it notes, just to get them acclimated to the many advantages of Twittering in a format they’d understand.”

The Post-Twit note initiative came about when Twitter, which has never made any money, applied for federal TARP funds and was granted $150 billion dollars because it was a money-losing operation that was still “very cool!” according to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. Twitter quickly bought the bankrupt Seattle Post-Intelligencer newspaper and decided to merge branding into the new “Post-Twit” format. As a bonus, all former subscribers to the Seattle newspaper will get a free, 140-character summary of the news on a note stuck to their door each day.

Twitter’s bold marketing ploy of blanketing middle America with Post-Twit notes was almost derailed when 3M, the manufacturers of Post-it notes, began unveiling a trademark lawsuit. However, this problem was quickly solved by some creative congressional maneuvering. Using their  $149.95 billion remaining in TARP funds after the newspaper purchase, Twitter submitted its plan to purchase GM. However, Chris Dodd secretly changed “GM” to “3M” in conference negotiations, so instead of an automobile company, Twitter ended up owning all the assets and trademarks of the Post-it note parent company (which will now be renamed “DM”).

Reaction among the Twitterati was decidedly mixed. Guy Kawasaki proclaimed “Holy Kaw!” and immediately launched an Alltop category, while Pete Cashmore of Mashable wondered why they didn’t just drop a bunch of iPhones on the city and be done with it. “Who needs this old technology? With AT&T’s new 4G underwater wi-fi technology, what better opportunity for a co-promotion!” Even former social media user Barack Obama weighed in with some videotaped commentary.

Post-Twit notes gathered out of the floodwaters in Fargo included some gems as, “About to head out to the gym with my new sneakers”, “Haha LOL”, and “Does anyone else have a dead slug on their iPhone screen?” Exhausted residents of Fargo seemed heartened by the attention shown by having multiple airplanes dropping Post-Twit notes all over town, though one polite homeowner indicated that “some help filling sandbags might have been slightly more appropriate under the circumstances. If that’s OK – I mean, we really don’t want to be a bother.”

Twitter next hopes to promote Post-Twittering to Topeka, Kansas, or Dumfries, Iowa, whichever is struck first by a natural or man-made disaster.

Twitter is still in negotiations to purchase old-line communications giant AT&T, which it plans to rename RT&T.

Oh…and Happy April 1st!

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Prior StickyFigure spoofs

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