The More Things Change…

I’ll leave it to others to put up the inevitable Top 10 Predictions for Social Media in 2010…yadda yadda yadda.

Let’s just make 2 very safe predictions: a bunch of stuff is going to change. And the core that really counts will remain the same.

It’s fun – in a bewildering kind of way – to try to keep up with all the technology changes each year. The removal of barriers through all this networking technology is breathtaking and exciting. What can be more fun than taking a picture, or a video, or scribbling a thought, on a handheld device and instantly publishing it for an audience consisting of “any and all”? What’s more fulfilling than finding kindred spirits on-line? And it’s just going to keep getting easier, and more immediate.

But one thing will remain exactly the same. Great relationships, new business ventures, helpful new connections – all of it will be fueled, as it always has been, by trust. Proven character and competence. Wholehearted recommendations by solid friends and colleagues. Handshakes that mean something.

Yes, the technology platforms will continue to be polluted by quick-hit artists, scammers, and false impressionists. We hate seeing the trash and detritus tossed into our refreshing little stream. But seated by the riverbank, sharing a cup of joe, talking face-to-face and looking eye-to-eye – that’s the new kind of business environment we’re creating. Just like…well, the old ways. Turbocharged with great new tools.

The more things change in this fast-paced world, the more they remain the same. Read Trust Agents by Chris Brogan. Take the long view of developing character and competence so that people cannot help but trust you. And if our paths cross in 2010, please sit down with me for a cup of coffee. You’ve been a great avatar. Now let’s go deeper – the way it’s always been.

Happy New Year!

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Enlightenment in 4 Slides

OK, I’m sure that headline is overstating it a bit…!

Nonetheless, those of use who believe that social networking is transforming business have an ongoing challenge: helping people who are most familiar with traditional business communications “get” what is happening with social media, and understand why it will touch all areas of business.

Here is my “first draft” attempt to distill it down to 4 slides (on Slideshare). How would you express it? Add comments or link to your own Slideshare/blog post!

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19 Seconds of Pure Joy

What happens when a 1-year old pup encounters her first serious snow of the season?

Pure joy. For everyone.

(Also see: A Collection of 2009 Fun Links)

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2009 – Links you Might Enjoy (again?)

I have a bookmark folder in my browser called Stuff. It’s where I put interesting, weird, and funny stuff to spice up various posts.

So, here’s a collection of some of that Stuff from the past year. Eleven links – because I’ve had enough Top 10 lists! Enjoy!

Since you’ll need a cup of coffee to browse through all these, we’ll start with 50 Beautifully Delicious Coffee Designs

50 Brilliant and Creative Advertisements for your Inspiration

Worst album covers of all time

YouTube – blast into space, spectacular fall to earth.

The Big Picture from Boston.com – Human Landscapes

The Crisis of Credit visualized (a brilliant animation explaining the financial meltdown)

13 Fantastic and Fun Image Generators

Incredible pictures formed by thousands of soldiers

YouTube – comedian Brian Regan on Airline Stuff

Rain

60 Stunning Satellite photos of earth

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Building your Small Business

So, you have (or are starting) a small business. Now the big challenges are: How do I do this right? and, How do I get noticed?

Here’s a collection of posts I’ve put up over time, based on my experience. Since they are scattered over various venues, I decided to pull them together. Maybe they’ll be of some help:

Getting started

- 10 Lessons Learned Starting a Business

- How I Became a Consultant

Determining your focus

- What’s the Point?

- I’m Pursuing Niche Domination

- Who Needs You?

Personal Branding

- You – Projected

- Personal Branding: What’s your Value-Add?

Naming

- Don’t Make a Name for Yourself

- Product: Winner. Name: Loser

Branding/Marketing your business

- Do you Pass the T-shirt Test?

- Laundry List Marketing

- How to be Unremarkable

Using social networking

- Do you Have an Opportunity Network?

- Getting Started with Social Networking

- The Strategic Serendipity of Social Media

- Feed People

Storytelling

- Telling the Company Story

- What’s in a Name?

Core principles

- Ask the Right Questions

The right people

- Picking Bad Apples

- Hiring for Virtue

Customer Service

- Eat Mor Chikin

- A Boy and his Legos

- Greetings…Done Right

The ultimate goal

- A cult following

Wanting to start your own business, but still working toward the goal? This is for you: Time. Talent. And Magic.

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Computer Bigamy – welcome to the ceremony!

I’ve used PCs since the days of dual floppy drives and DOS 2.x. Not out of great levels of emotional commitment, mind you, but simply out of business necessity – that’s what was used in my work environments. Shotgun marriage, don’t you know.

Apart from a brief, temporary fling 20 years ago using a Mac for a while with Quark, I’ve stayed faithful to the PC all this time out of necessity and intertia. We’ve been through a lot of hard times together – upgrades, crashes, viruses, etc. I never did take a final binding vow “for better or for worse,” I just knew that for a season there’d be a lot of worse.

I’m about to become a bigamist.

The family PC is wheezing, with one disk in the grave, and frankly, I’m tired of Windows and all the headaches that come with it. So today, a new iMac gets set up. And what is always important to me is initial user experience – how intuitive is a system to set up and use?

Being thoroughly spoiled by the iPhone, the bar of my expectations is high. So here we go – you’re invited to peek in on the ceremony as I take the veil off this new system everyone else praises.

10:15 am – De-packaging. It’s all in one (attractive) box, which is a nice first impression. First glance inside – wow, I see simplicity. The all-in-one screen (27 inch diagonal – awesome!), a power cord, and a box with (I assume) keyboard and mouse. I’m so used to a jumble of stuff with every new computer…! Look, I realize this is external beauty, but…what a gorgeous white wedding dress!

10:20 – Set-up of keyboard and mouse – brainless (mouse cord a bit short for my tastes). Powering up screen, and now I want to see how far I can get without instructions. Because I’m a guy, and because that, to me, is an important litmus test of usability.

10:30 – Welcoming and opening screens – awesome. After establishing my language and country, it IMMEDIATELY did a wireless network scan and setup. Then, asked for my Apple ID. Recognizes me right away, coaxes to take a picture to go with main account, wants to now link with my MobileMe account. Done. Setup by 10:37. Painless. Umm…this is awesome, folks.

10:40 – Downloading new iTunes version. Speed of download is fantastic.

10:50 – Setting up user accounts – just slightly cumbersome, but not bad. Nice sets of controls.

11:00 – OK, I don’t need to write anymore. Getting this thing all configured, without once looking at documentation. I’m sold – I’m a Mac!

I guess I’ll to wait awhile to retire the other 2 computers, but I think I’ll eventually divorce these common-law PCs. For now, I’ll be a half-happy computer bigamist!

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Pick a Steve

I’ve been at this digital social networking thing for 3 1/2 years or so now, and it’s been a great (and educational) journey!

But there is one question that keeps pecking away at my forehead, and maybe you can help me with it. In fact, ONLY you can help me with it, because it has to do with you.

Which Steve Woodruff do you want to follow?

Let me explain. While I don’t consider myself to be schizophrenic (yet – but there are still kids in the nest here!), I do possess a few different “personas” on-line. There’s the pharma guy (with a dedicated pharma blog, Impactiviti); there’s the general marketing/branding/social media fellow (Stickyfigure blog), and then there’s the more personal stuff on Steve’s Leaves. Every one of those blogs is its own info-stream.

All of these personas and infostreams meet on Twitter – plus photos, banter, occasional spoofs, and whatever else comes to mind. Twitter is the 360-degree view, and that’s where I have the nagging question.

Do you prefer to subscribe to a person on Twitter (holistically), or a topical info-stream? Are you looking for information (primarily), developing personal/professionals connections (primarily) – or is it a solid mix of the two?

In my case, a number of my followers are from the pharma world – what is your reaction when I start tweeting on general brands or social media ROI? Or if you originally linked up with me due to an interest in branding, is the string of tweets when I’m at a pharma conference useful or just noisy? I’m sure I’m not the only “social networker” wondering about this – and I want to make sure that I’m providing value that YOU want, in a way that works best.

One idea: would there be value in setting up different Twitter accounts that would emphasize different facets/info-streams (one for pharma, one for photos, etc.) or do you just prefer to subscribe to @swoodruff and take the punishment of the full spectrum? I can see benefits and drawbacks to either approach. Is subscribing to a choice of info-streams for/from the same person a good idea or just a pain? What say you?

(full disclosure – I enjoy seeing people 360-degrees on Twitter. I can find info in a thousand places – I like the mixture of info, links, personality, creative ideas, pix, banter, shared parental angst, etc. But that’s me. I want your thoughts!)

See also: The Social Media Isolation Chamber

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The Social Media Isolation Chamber

One of the great things about being involved in social networking is the robust – even heated at times – discussions we get to have. There are very smart people wrestling with important issues, not in a top-down command-and-control fashion, but in a creative level-playing-field manner.

Two rather noisy issues of late have to do with social media certification (check this post by Jason Falls and follow the links if you want to get the entire backstory), and the ever-present discussion of ROI in social media (see Olivier Blanchard for this material).

These are very important issues. But along with the many other discussions about social media, I think we have too much of a tendency (still) to put Social Media in an isolation chamber.

Social Media tools and approaches are a means to an end – or, rightly understood, to multiple ends.

Think about it this way:

1. What am I/are we trying to accomplish? (what is our goal – in this case, let’s focus on business only)

- Let’s say that our goal is to increase sales of our software service by 35% in 2010.

2. How are we going to accomplish that goal?

- Let’s say that we are going to build relationships with key thought-leaders who will influence others; along with making use of inexpensive ways of PR/Marketing messaging to our potential target audience; plus we’re going to add 2 key new features that are being requested often.

3. What are the methods we are going to use to make this happen?

- Direct sales calls; articles/write-ups in industry magazines; cultivation of key thought leaders by regular communication and relationship-building; attendance at 3 trade shows and sponsorship of 1; monthly webinars; exploration of Facebook and Twitter to build an audience/fan base; free trial program; etc. etc.

OK, so we have a business goal and a holistic plan. Now, where’s “social media”? Answer – all over the place! If you look at the methods suggested above, social media can be/is woven into the whole thing, because it’s part of a broad communications and promotion strategy. And using these approaches will likely help you shape your strategies going forward.

Done rightly, social networking is baked into an entire approach, and you can no more separate out the ROI of SM than you can separate out the ROI of, say, “print” or “e-mail.” You might be able to isolate out specific SM tactics and approaches (what is happening with our Facebook fan page, and can we trace sales directly from it?), but you can’t treat networked communications as some carved-out, independent piece – it’s not designed to be. And, it should not be treated as a short-term bit, but part of a long-term holistic strategy.

Did we achieve the 35% increase in 2010? How much time/effort/resources did we expend on the whole plan? Now you can think intelligently about ROI. Holistically.

The same line of thought goes with social media “certification”. What IS this “social media” that we’re “certifying”? To provide training, and a certificate that acknowledges skill acquired on a specific type of social media application (for instance, Facebook for Community Marketing – where there is a clear curriculum, a focused goal, and a competent trainer) – that’s great! But to say someone is certified in social media? It’s simply too vaporous.

Now, backing away from any of the particulars of the ROI or certification debate – should we not begin to move our THINKING and SPEAKING and WRITING about social networking out of the isolation chamber, and embed it in real and tangible – even holistic – applications? I guess, to put it simply – social media is not stand-alone.

As Jay Baer put it recently on his blog Convince and Convert:

Sure, social media has made incredible progress in a short period of time. But to reach its full potential – especially from an ROI perspective – social media needs to be a component in a larger marketing program. Yes, I believe all companies will “be” social eventually. But that’s not a marketing strategy, that’s a cultural initiative. We need to treat social media as a marketing ingredient, not a marketing cure-all.

What do you think?

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Eat Mor Chikin

Last week, I had the opportunity to go down South (driving with family members from NJ to South Carolina) for a couple days, for my son David’s graduation from Marine boot camp.

Having spent 7 years of my life in the great state of Tennessee, I got used to Southern cooking, and fried chicken chains like Popeye’s, Bojangles, and others. I also got used to friendly Southern service, which seems to be sadly lacking here in the colder climes of the Northeast.

Also missing from much of the Northeast is Chick-Fil-A, a chain I admire for multiple reasons, including their brilliant marketing (Eat Mor Chickin), their moral/ethical business stance, and their really good food. So I made sure, on this trip, that we went a bit out of our way to grab lunch at a Chick-Fil-A.

That’s where something happened that I don’t recall ever experiencing at a fast-food chain before.

Of course, the lady behind the counter was warm, chatty, and helpful – quite refreshing in and of itself. But there were 6 of us, and the order was pretty involved. As the food came out in multiple trays, this lady actually offered to come out from behind the counter and carry one of the trays to our table. Then, later, she came over to verify that everything was OK, and then later came back to get drink refills for us! And to just chat.

Now, we were there a bit off-hour, so the place wasn’t packed, but still – personable, voluntary table service at a fast-food restaurant? What a concept!

Bravo, Chick-Fil-A. Now, will you PLEASE open a bunch of outlets in New Jersey? Because I want to Eat Mor Chickin.

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To a New U.S. Marine…

I’m sitting in my hotel room in Virginia Beach, halfway to Parris Island for my son David’s graduation from Marine boot camp this week.

I have been deeply grateful for all the expressions of support from many of you over these months, as I’ve pulled back the veil a bit on this important chapter in our family life. My regret has been that these expressions are scattered all over the place (Facebook, blog, Twitter, e-mail, elsewhere) and there’s no way to convey adequately to David how many people are grateful for him, and his fellow recruits, for the commitment they’ve made.

Then I thought – maybe we can. I’ve never asked for anything like this before, but here goes…

If it’s on your heart to convey your own message, in your own words, to David, would you please simply add a comment to this blog post? That way I can SHOW him, in one place, how many people love our men and women in uniform and value their service. I think it would be a great encouragement to him (and his fellow Marines who see it) to know that people all over who’ve never met him/them are thinking about them, praying for them, and grateful for their dedication.

I’ll add some pix of the graduation ceremony to this post later so you can see what a “newly-minted” Woodruff Marine looks like!

Thank you so much,

Steve Woodruff

[Update] It is Friday morning, just before the formal graduation ceremony (quite a show, we’re told!) – we had 5 hours yesterday with David for Family Day, and it was wonderful – a montage of pictures is below. I/we cannot tell you how wonderful also has been your response in the comments on this post. What an encouragement this is, not only to David, but hopefully to any young person making the choice and commitment to serve our nation.

[FINAL UPDATE] A picture of father and son after the formal graduation ceremony, which was quite a display of precision and pride.

And, in conclusion, two quick videos. First, a less-than-3-minute clip of the final moments of the graduation ceremony for 242 brand-new Marines. Yes, the distance makes it a bit less ideal for audio/video details, but I think you’ll agree that the last 30 seconds are worth the wait, when the new Marines are released to their families!

And, second, ever wonder if a young dog will remember a family member who has been gone for 3 months? Mystic certainly recognized David!

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