Signal vs Noise

I remember, back 6-7 years ago, the joy of discovering new people on blogs and on Twitter.

The earlier adopters of social media, by and large, “meant it.” It was mostly signal, with very little noise. A lot more networking, a lot less spewing.

Now I see the various social streams cluttered with a bunch of formulaic efforts to build numbers – whether it’s putting up a stream of inspirational quotes, or posting on the 8 Indispensable Ways to Fake Authenticity on Twitter, or doing endless RTs – there’s way too much noise.

signalBut, still, there’s signal.

That’s why I still tune in to many of the “old” voices – people who always had something original to say, and who have thoughtfully evolved over time. People like Amber Naslund, and Geoff Livingston, and Ann Handley, and Brad Pendergraph. And that’s why I sift through all the static to find other original thinkers; folks like Jon Swanson, and Sarah Robinson, and Brian Moran.

It’s also why I attend the SOBCon conference, where a lot of the innovative “signal-makers” gather each year to brainstorm new ideas and build beneficial networks.

Yes, it’s become noisy in the networking world, discouragingly so at times. But the quality people are still out there. Don’t worry about having a follower count of 100,000. That’s going to just surround you with noise. Find 50 great thinkers and networkers and focus there.

Tune in to signal and let the noise pass by.

Connectedness

Prediction: in 10 years, a lot of terms we use now will have reached their expiration date:

e-   i-

Computers  Smartphones  Tablets  Devices

Digital   On-line   Internet   Big Data

Websites   Twitter   Facebook   Texting

Social Media   Networking   Blogging   Social Business

Connectedness

Don’t get too caught up in the first- and second-generation labels we now use. They’re all parts of a much larger movement:

>> Connectedness <<

Life and business – people and information and things – data and intelligent systems – all will be digitally connected. Grasp that big picture and all the bits and pieces make sense.

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Is your professional direction and message CLEAR? Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy!

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> BE CLEAR: Narrowing Your Focus

>> BE CLEAR: Drop the Buzzwords

Transcendent Communications

This is a ramble based on a thought in the shower this morning - you know how that goes, right? I’m not even sure what station this train of thought is going to end up in. Here goes…

Why has digital social media so riveted our attention? It’s an evolutionary advance on a pre-existing massive trend – the desire to communicate without the barriers of time, geography, filtering, culture, and language.

Books enabled the communicating of ideas way outside of the physical sphere, and even time frame, of the writer’s direct influence. What once would have been spoken around a campfire or in a small gathering can now echo down through generations.

Radio transcended geography. Recorded audio broke the limits of geography and time.

Television added the visual element, and some of what was communicated through the eye-gate leapt over cultural and linguistic barriers.

Social media broke down the filters between one-to-one communication. Digital audio, video, and writing enable all barriers to come down, though linguistic and cultural elements are still problematic to a degree. Communication can be both real-time and archived.

Interestingly enough, when it comes to computing, we see a parallel trend toward natural and frictionless interface – we’ll slowly but surely abandon the very artificial keyboard and mouse for the more natural elements of voice and gesture. Siri and Kinect are glimpses. In 10 years, we will laugh hysterically at our current digital/human interfaces.

So what? Well, here’s a couple so-what’s to think about:

  1. Digital social media as we have experienced it for the past few years is not some isolated or uniquely amazing thing. It’s part of an inevitable current of communication evolution. And it cannot be static because the current has been rapidly flowing for centuries in one direction (toward communication without the barriers of time, geography, filtering, culture, and language).
  2. We can opt out of participation in specific elements of digitally-fueled communications, but we can’t avoid the direction of the current.
  3. Any business approach based on the above inexorable trends stands a far better chance of long-term success than tweaking some existing business model that tries to maintain the status quo or go upstream against the current.

A lot of loose ends here, but I’ll just hit publish and ask what you think (feel free to wax eloquent in the comments with your thoughts).

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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How’s your message? Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy!

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Crowd-Sourcing Some Clarity

>> Are You Standing Out in the Field?

Top 5 Ways to Define Yourself – NOT!

Companies and consultants can be remarkably good at vague and unfocused market positioning. Here are five recommended statement-types to help you get a head start on becoming a forgettable commodity:

5. “We are an enterprise-level solutions provider helping customers align their business processes with strategic goals.”

- Ahh, the old high-brow business-speak fog machine. In other words, you charge big companies big money to do something undefined that sounds impressive. But since the snake oil is delivered via a Powerpoint deck (with flowcharts!), that apparently means you leverage industry-wide best practices.

4. “A globally-responsible business partner.”

- And exactly what does this mean, tangibly speaking? And, while we’re at it, how does it affect my bottom line? Maybe you have a recycling bin in the cafeteria and use new-fangled light bulbs, but no WIIFM = no big deal.

3. “Before hanging out my own shingle, I moved from junior associate to VP of my division more quickly than anyone before me.”

- Great yearbook fodder, but that helps me how? The world is full of ambitious ladder-climbers. Enough about you…what about me?

2. “We help you with your marketing, communications, marketing communications, digital media, social media, sales, sales training, train reservations, dinner reservations, recruiting, and global commodities investing.”

- Oh, you’ll work for food. Great niche! Sigh….

1. “Our people are our greatest asset, and it shows in our J.D. Power award-winning customer service scores for the last 3 centuries. We mean business!”

- I’m sorry – what do you do?

You’ve got only a few seconds to make a lasting impression, and to stick in the minds of your customers. People will put you in a bucket, and it is up to you to define that bucket and make it memorable.

You might be exactly what they need – but if you’re shooting low-quality arrows randomly into the air, you’re not likely to hit the target. You either have a clear offering summed up in some high-impact, well-chosen words – or, you’re background noise. And we certainly don’t need any more of that to distract us!

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Sound like your challenge? Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy!

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Seeing 20/20 in 3-D

>> The Ultimate Competitive Advantage

Words With Baggage

While facilitating a workshop on vendor/project management with a client yesterday, I felt compelled to emphasize that one of the keys to communication between two parties (say, client project manager –> vendor project manager) is realizing that words carry baggage. And I do not speak of “baggage” here pejoratively, as we often do, but simply descriptively.

There is the dictionary definition of a word or phrase. Then, there is the meaning and significance embedded in our minds, which is attached to an (accurate or not) personal definition, past experiences, images, people, issues, etc.

These meanings may have quite a bit of emotional freight, or conceptual misunderstanding, attached to them. So in dealing with project management, NEVER assume that everyone understands words the same way. Define. Discuss. Put it in writing. Do not leave it in the verbal ether, and discover 3 weeks down the road that even though it sounded like there was agreement when words were spoken – there clearly wasn’t (as the project begins to go off the rails).

We all want to assume that people think the way we do, and know what we mean. But if you sit 5 people down in a room and throw out a word or phrase, you may be the surprised at the variety of meanings – and reactions – that come back.

Over lunch with my boys this past Sunday, I threw out a hot-button word in our society and we had a rich discussion around what it does and doesn’t mean. The hardest part isn’t the ability to go to Dictionary.com and look up an explanation. And while there is a skill and art form to applying logic, that also isn’t the most difficult element (as important as it is). The real challenge is the emotional intelligence to grasp that words can have meaning way beyond those aspects of sheer accuracy.

Some words set off a cascade of reactions because of the baggage that travels with them. Miscommunication can result even when we think we’re being clear. And one of the dangers of social media is that we’re forced to use a paucity of words, often without supporting context. Throw in a polarizing political climate and the mix can be quite volatile.

I love the communication that is enabled through digital networks, though not as much as the face-to-face version. But sometimes, I fear that when we think we’re playing Words With Friends, we forget that we are using Words With Baggage.

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Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Be Narrow-Minded

>> You at the Crossroads

Business Mist = Business Missed

We’d fondly like to think that our potential clients – and even we ourselves – have a clear, 20/20 view of our professional offerings and message. However, the case is almost always more like this:

The fog of information overload in the minds of customers, the greyness of unclear positioning, the vaguely familiar sounding competitive bullet points – all of it adds up to being easily forgotten when the opportunity is at hand. Business Mist means Business Missed.

A lot of dollars and time can be spent marketing and advertising, but if the message is unclear, the investment is futile.

Instead, we need to create this for our customers:

Whatever else you do, this should be first. Without clarity, you miss opportunities. Clear enough?

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Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Be Narrow-Minded

>> You at the Crossroads

I Went to SOBCon 2012 and All I Got Was…

Inspired. Again.

Encouraged. Again.

Deeper relationships. Again.

New perspective. Again.

Validated. Again.

A chance to brainstorm and dream and hug and laugh and figure stuff out with a bunch of smart, pay-it-forward entrepreneurs who don’t mind talking about things like purpose and failure and love.

If you were there, what did you get? Add your thoughts in the comments!

A few top-of-mind moments that impacted me most:

>>Tim Sanders (@SandersSays) talking about purpose in a way that helped me re-write my own mission statement (“My purpose is to help people and companies discover their identity and purpose, and to create new opportunities for people to thrive optimally in supportive networks.”)

>>Laura Fitton (@Pistachio) speaking so transparently about her near-death business experience with OneForty.

>>Steve Farber (@SteveFarber) recounting how making a personal contact opened up a whole new pinball effect of new opportunities in an unanticipated direction.

>>Brandie McCallum (@lttlewys) just being there so soon after a serious operation.

>>Les McKeown (@LesMcKeown) speaking. Doesn’t matter what he says. I want to download his accent (actually, his presentation was great fun!)

Some of the great folks I got to meet, or go much deeper with, this year included Phil Gerbyshak (he of the multi-colored glasses frames), Liz Marshall, Jeff Shuey, Sarah Robinson, Brian Moran (imagine what it was like with the latter four plus Carol Roth and me at one table – trouble!), Jesse Petersen, Xan Pearson, Kyle Akerman, Nick Kellet, Jane Boyd, Patrick Prothe (finally IRL – where’s my pager?), Aaron Biebert, Christian Gurney, and more that I can’t recall at the moment because of advancing age.

And, as always, it was wonderful to hang out with “old” pals like Sean McGinnis, Lisa Diomede, Anthony Iannarino, Cate Colgan, Becky McCray, Sheila Scarborough, Shashi Bellamkonda, Amber Cleveland, Molly Cantrell-Kraig, Marla Schulman, Justin Levy, Jeannie Walters, Darrell DeRochier, and many others – what a great crew.

This was my third SOBCon gathering in Chicago, and each time, it’s been like walking into a gold mine of great people full of energy and good will. Collaborations and friendships that have begun “in the room” at SOBCon endure, and grow, to this day. How did LeadershipChat begin? Through meeting Lisa Petrilli (@LisaPetrilli) two years ago at SOBCon.

Special thanks to Terry “Starbucker” St. Marie and Liz Strauss for putting on this labor of love each year. The Portland version is coming up later this year for those inclined to spend a few wonderful days of retreat in the great Northwest.

SOBCon is not merely a conference. It’s like family. If you’ve not had a chance to go – put it on your calendar!

(Ha! Just looked back on my blog from 2010 and realized I used the same title to review that year’s SOBCon! Here’s a few thoughts from 2011 as well).

___________

Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy

Recent posts:

>> Clarity, part 1: What’s Your Offering?

>> Clarity, part 2: Make Your Message Clear

>> Clarity, part 3: People Buy Stories

>> Clarity, part 4: Your Clarifying Analogy

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