Holistic Common Sense and Social Networking

I enjoyed reading my friend Amber Naslund‘s post recently entitled The Taboo (but critical) Community Skill. Essentially, what Amber says is that we should not neglect the importance of selling skills – after all, all of this community engagement needs to lead us to some kind of business outcome.

As Amber put it:

When we talk about community or social media people in business roles, we talk about a lot of things.

Their ability to communicate, to interact. To be helpful. To be a diplomat and a conversationalist and a steward of the brand. But because it’s so often a taboo subject in social media, we miss talking about a pivotal skill that I think community professionals need to have. Sales skills.

Now I happen to agree with Amber. We cannot be fastidious about the reality that we are promoting, selling, seeking to grow business. I think we need to look at social media, and those who are tasked with putting it to use, under the very holistic umbrella of Business Growth. In fact, just swap out “social media” and put about anything in its place. The very broad category of Communications. A sub-category, On-line Communications. And a sub-category of that, Social Networking. How do each of these functions contribute to the things that contribute to the “Big Thing” – business growth?

Instead of overly simplistic questions like, “What’s the ROI of Social Media?“, business people should move backward from the “Big Thing” – business growth (more sales, new customer acquisition, better efficiency, great hires, etc.), and then look back to those elements that contribute to it – see the bullet points in blue above.

Now, in order to accomplish those tasks, what long-term strategies need to be in place? You can swap out Communications with IT or Management or various other disciplines – all of it should be geared toward business growth.

Now, think about social networking as part of the larger bucket of Communications. Don’t get narrowly focused in on the ROI of Social Media. Instead, use Holistic Common Sense. Will involvement in these communication approaches help create awareness, build a fan base, build a pipeline of prospective customers, sell your offering, serve customers, position you as a thought leader, influence a market, and provide marketing intelligence?

If social media (or anything else – fill in the blank) will significantly help accomplish these goals, leading to business growth, then come up with a good plan and make the commitment to employ a workable strategy. If not, then don’t.

You may be able to calculate some ROI on specific tactics and approaches over time. But look, first and foremost, at what will lead to business growth. That’s your ultimate goal – right?

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The Voice behind the Avatar

I recently had the privilege of being interviewed by Matthew Ray Scott for his Marketing Story Podcast series.

Matthew is an excellent interviewer. I, however, have ordered a new USB microphone/headset after listening to the audio. My current setup is not totally up to par (ooops!).

Much of the interview focuses on small business use of social media. However, somewhat unexpectedly, I kinda spilled the beans on some of my long-term dreams, and my growing vision about how I want to see us use social networking in order to fundamentally change how we approach business.

So – what’s the voice (and heart and soul) behind the avatar? Give a listen and discuss your perspectives (also available for free via iTunes under “Marketing Stories”). And see how our dreams match up!

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The Twitter Help Desk

I have the best Help Desk in the world. It’s called my network of smart people on Twitter.

Just yesterday, one of my partners (my biz model is operating as the eHarmony of pharma training and e-marketing – matching up my business partners with client needs) asked me about a need they have to control distribution of .pdf files. How to limit the viewing/copying of files to a set number of licenses?

I was clueless, but I turned to my network on Twitter. In short order, four responses (so far) came back:

All of this occurred in a short period of time, and I was able to just pass on the suggested resources to the person who asked. Investment of time? Minimal. Good will created all around? Plenty. Because people like to help and share, at least good quality folks – and those are the kind you want in your network.

Here’s the point – build your social network by identifying really great people, who are smart and have a pay-it-forward mentality. Add value regularly – be helpful and generous when they have needs. And you’ll find that they are more than happy to add value back. Many times I’ve turned to my Twitter Help Desk, and I cannot recall being disappointed.

Just remember – it’s not about Twitter, and it’s not about having 100,000 “followers.” It’s about building a smart network. Do that, and you give yourself a totally unfair advantage!

(Image credit)

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The Post I Keep Wanting to Write (but haven’t…yet)

I can see this long-delayed post in my mind’s eye. It’s big, loaded with names, and pure linkbait. It’s a feel-good post with a rather long list of all the fine people I’ve actually MET (in real life) because of involvement with social networking.

My kids make jokes about all my “virtual” friends – ha-ha, you little ingrates – the old man “gets it” better than you do! Other people pass along the standard ignorant caricatures about interacting with a bunch of people you don’t know about stuff no-one cares about. Ignoramuses. I’ll stack up my buddies against anyone you know in a heartbeat.

Making friends and creating opportunities. THAT’s what social networking is all about.

So, why do I keep not writing that post? Because it would take too long! Too many links to create. And then I’d also forget people, which is embarrassing. I’ve had the wonderful privilege of meeting so many of you at conferences, tweetups, and other meetings, that it’s almost impossible to keep up any “list.”

But, what the heck. I think I’ll dedicate 10 60 90 minutes and do a half-job right now, without the links. The fact that it’s a rush job will also provide my excuse when I inevitably forget some of you. Plus, my brain cells are declining. So there.

My pharma/healthcare folks: Shwen Gwee, Sally Church, Dennis Urbaniak, Erik Hawkinson, Jon Richman, Sarah Morgan, Phil Baumann, Wendy Blackburn, Fard Johnmar, Cynthia North, Jim Edwards, Marc Monseau, Marian Cutler, Christiane Truelove, Leigh Duncan-Durst, Betsy Stevenson, Valerie Guertler, Brad Pendergraph, Mark Davis, Ed Silverman, Silja Chouquet, Heather Powell, Ray Kerins, Paulo Machado, Michael Myers, Kevin Nalty, Jay Bryant, Suki Fuller, Jennifer Harwell, Koreen Olbrish, Ellen Hoenig Carlson, Dana Lewis, Steve DeLabio, Enid Crystal, Chris Mycek, Kerri Sparling, Dave deBronkart, Manny Hernandez, Kelly Kunik, Meredith Gould, Jack Barrette, Craig DeLarge, Fabio Gratton, Eileen O’Brien, Carlen Lea, Jack Bilson, William Martino, Michael Parks, Greg Rust, Mark Senak, Mario Nacinovich, Ben Atkins, Daphne Swancutt, David Reim, Xavier Petit, Zoe Elliott, Maria Relaki, Neil Wiser, Dana Webster, Amber Benson, Donna Tocci…plus others I met pre-social media (like John Mack, Jane Chin, Kevin Kruse, Jeanne Male, etc.) and others I look forward to meeting sometime in the future (Andrew Spong, Nat Bourre, Ken Burbary, etc.)

Marketing/SocMed pals: David Armano, Matt Dickman, Liz Strauss, Amber Naslund, Ann Handley, Joe Cascio, Jay Baer, Beth Harte, Becky Carroll, Brandon Goldman, Chris Brogan, Terry Starbucker, Drew McLellan, Christina Kerley, Jason Kintzler, Sarah Evans, Darryl Ohrt, Jeremiah Owyang, Mack Collier, Chris Kieff, Joe Jaffe, Deirdre Breakenridge, Paul Chaney, Juliann Grant, Lance Hill, Tom Clifford, Dossy Shiobara, Kirsten Wright, Adam Wolf, Matt McDonald, Jason Falls, Shannon Paul, Scott Monty, Amanda Gravel, Christine Perkett, Jay Ehret, Geoff Livingston, Valeria Maltoni, Scott Bradley, Alan Wolk, Connie Reece, CB Whittemore, Josh Bernoff, Greg Verdino, Lewis Green, Doug Meacham, Toby Bloomberg, David Reich, Arun Rajagopal, Todd Andrlik, Cam Beck, Rohit Bhargava, Jennifer Berk, Saul Colt, Luc Debaisieux, Kristin Gorski, Gavin Heaton, Lori Magno, Jane Quigley, Cathleen Rittereiser, John Wall, Steve Roessler, Mario Vellandi, Jon Burg, Kaitlyn Wilkins, Shonali Burke, Liz Pullen, David Berkowitz, Lauren Vargas, Lee Odden, Aimee Kessler, Jacqueline Dodd, Kellye Crane, Kevin McNulty, Julie Roads, Becky McCray, Peter Shankman, Jaimie Field, Ellen Cagnassola, Sheila Scarborough, Lisa Petrilli, Phil Gerbyshak, Natalie Scott, John Moore, Stuart Foster, David Polinchock, Stephen Harris, Jackie Silver, Tim Jackson, Shashi Bellamkonda, Trey Pennington, Jon Swanson, Scott Stratten, Sonny Gill, Jonathan Fields…raise your hand in the Comments if I’ve missed you, because I know I’ve skipped a bunch!

Can’t wait to finally meet in real life: Mike Sansone, Ike Pigott, Amy Fitch, Matthew Ray Scott, Karen Swim, Lisa Hoffmann, Tom Martin, Christina Stallings, Shannon Whitley, Douglas Karr, Kevin Dugan, Tracy Lee, Brett Duncan, Sonya Martin, Dana Moos,  Robert Hruzek, Ben Kunz,  Angela Maiers, Todd Defren, Chris Wilson, Lon Cohen, Rosa Say, Andrew Clark,  Dennis VanStaalduinen, CC Chapman, Kristi Colvin, Olivier Blanchard, Brandon Cox, Ashley Messick, Frank & Pamela Martin, Kevin Pho, Cheryl Smith, Chris Garrett, Deb Brown, Anne Galivan, Stefano Maggi, Tamera Kremer – this list could go on and on…

In several instances, real business and/or collaboration has occurred through these connections – partnerships, referrals, joint ventures.

Now, I understand all the talk about the ROI of Social Media for business, etc. I really do. But look at the list above. What better ROI can there be than meeting people like this; sharing life, information, and resources; and creating great networks together? I don’t need any calculations to tell me if social networking is worthwhile. I have…you.

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People I Value: Amber Naslund

Social Networking is about people. And despite the ignorant caricatures of many people about social media, when you boil it down, under all the noise and trivia and spam there are some really great people.

One of them is Amber Naslund.

Why? Well, two words come to mind, and you can alter the punctuation any way you like. She’s a real professional. Real. Professional.

If you’re connected to Amber via her blog and/or Twitter, you find a person who is doing her best to do great work, as a social media professional and as a mother. And she’s very real – whether she’s pulling her hair out with a sick child, or enjoying a great glass of wine, or wrestling with how to write on her blog, you’re getting the real deal.

Of course, reality is one part of the equation. Amber is also engaging and generous. And quite fun to be around. If you can’t learn from Amber and enjoy her (virtual or real) company, you might need a prescription for something.

So, if you don’t know Amber yet, you should. She’s Real. Professional.

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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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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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Connected Dots in My Opportunity Network

Today, I’m in Orange County, California, at a small, focused workshop on the use of social media in business.

NetworkThere’s a story behind this, which has everything to do with encouraging you to create your own opportunity network.

Here’s the tale…

At some point in the distant past (maybe 1.5-2 years ago? don’t remember exactly), I came across Kirsten Wright in the blogosphere. I liked how she was writing, and I sensed something that I try to stay attuned to – young, budding entrepreneurs who use social networking and “get it.”

We commented on each others’ blogs and tweeted regularly, and in fact, I had Kirsten design a custom Twitter background for me as she was contemplating starting her own adventure as a freelance designer. But we were a continent apart and, unlike many with whom I’ve connected on these networks, our paths never crossed in real life, even as we continued to share professional perspectives sprinkled with small talk.

In the meantime, a group of us in North Jersey began to meet semi-regularly for lunch, and on one occasion Scott Bradley, a young marketing entrepreneur recently out of Boston College, joined us. Unfortunately (for us), he soon moved back to the Orange County area; since I knew Kirsten was there, I made sure they got connected.

Fast forward some months: Kirsten and Scott get to know one another, and decide to plan and put on a local workshop on using social media for business. I thought it would be so cool to find some excuse to be there, but opportunities to get to California for business had been quite scarce for a while. However, I got a call from someone who’d connected with me on Twitter because of a mutual involvement in pharma; she’d had a panelist for a conference drop out, and would I be interested in helping present at the Public Relations Society of America conference in San Diego in November??

San Diego – yeah, anytime. I’m in. Then I find out the Kirsten and Scott had to put off their workshop in Orange County (only 1.5 hours from San Diego) and re-schedule it for….the day after the PRSA conference ended. How perfect is that?!

And now, I’m learning some stuff from them, about WordPress and Facebook and SEO. I may actually need some of their consulting services in the future. Meanwhile, they continue to build their opportunity network(s) here as their entrepreneurial ventures grow.

And what will the future hold? I can’t look into a crystal ball and predict specifics, but I’m entirely confident that new opportunities for everyone in this room will continue to open up.

Is this a great time to be alive or what?

(Image credit)

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Are You a Kool-Aid Drinker?

I am. Let me explain.

We tend to talk about “true believers” as those who have drunk the Kool-Aid, with the obvious tie-in to Jim Jones and his followers. It’s an apt analogy, however unfortunate the original incident – one who has drunk the Kool-Aid actually, in this sense, is so convinced of something, that they move forward with conviction where others would hold back.

Now there are people who abandon all common sense and do ridiculous and harmful things because of “true belief.” No matter how much Kool-Aid you drink and how sincere your belief that gravity is suspended in your particular case, you’ll still be picked up with a spatula if you jump off a skyscraper. That’s the dumb Kool-Aider.

But, there are also those who feign enthusiasm and commitment, for as long as it seems to be prudent and fashionable to do so. Think of the car salesman who vigorously sells the marvelous virtues of Subaru, then loses his job, is picked up by the Toyota dealer down the street, and appears to have Camry-Aid in his veins the next week. That’s not a true believer – that’s the faux Kool-Aider.

An intelligent Kool-Aid drinker takes a reasonable look at what seems right and true and good, and out of a deep sense of conviction, puts all the chips in. It’s not Kool-Aid in this case – it’s vintage Bordeaux, and the commitment is not one born out of convenience or happenstance, but genuine belief.

My enthusiasm for Social Networking is Bordeaux-ish, and I am quite convinced that in many of my valued friends found through blogging and tweeting and meetups, I see the same thing. With realistic understanding, we embrace the new world of networked communications, not because it’s a panacea and the provider of whiter teeth and longer life, but because it’s powerful and transformative. We believe in (as Chris Brogan might put it) “human business” and are seeking to practice it.

And that’s why we tend to have such a visceral reaction against the Dumb or the Faux. There’s no need to be unrealistic, and we certainly abominate the attempts to corrupt these approaches with cheap sales pitches and scams. We’re not into cheap perfume or streetwalker dress. We just want to know each other, learn together, and change the world. That’s not so bad.

So, for all that, let’s enjoy the Kool-Aid together. Better still, let’s hoist a glass of Bordeaux today. It’s a great time to be alive!

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Small Talk

Many people who don’t actually “get” Twitter find it easy to dismiss it as a bunch of not-very-social people exchanging useless trivia with fellow avatars.

We know better, of course. But the fact is, that we DO often share a lot of stuff that is, in itself, seemingly trivial. And here’s why I LIKE that:

We’re simply doing what friends, neighbors, and co-workers have done forever. It’s small talk. And it helps build relationships.

SmallTalkYou see, I’m involved in these networks, not just to mine professional information (in which case the discussion I just had this morning about eggs for breakfast would be noise rather than signal), but to build relationships. To pre-meet people. To do what normal people do every day and everywhere – talk about their day, share a picture, rate the wine they just tried, share an amusing story about their dog or kids…whatever. This small talk is the glue that binds us together in humanizing relationships.

It’s great to share links and other resources, and I do it all the time. Twitter is wonderful for that. But I’m building a network of colleagues and friends. And that doesn’t happen without small talk.

Anyone connected to me knows that I upload photos, make bad puns, share personal anecdotes, and seek to be pretty transparent on-line. The reason is simple – I’m not an information machine. I’m a person. And so are you. I like the glimpses into your life, because when I finally meet you, I feel like I already (partly) know you.

For those of us who are solo entrepreneurs, Twitter IS our water cooler. My network of people is my surrogate pool of office-mates. Most people have no clue how valuable it is for me not to be “alone” on a daily basis as I build a business, learn, grow, and explore the world. Yes, I have my “real-life” family and friends right here in NJ, but (because I really hate that distinction) I have my “real-life” network all over the world, and it’s been an absolute pleasure pre-meeting and then meeting many of you.

So, next time someone disses Twitter, simply let them know that they tweet all the time. Just in a smaller pool than you do.

I do wish I was having eggs this morning…

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Time. Talent. And Magic.

After 10 years in one job (sales and marketing in medical devices), and 10 years in another (sales/marketing/biz dev/consulting with a software provider for pharma), I ventured out on my own. That was over three years ago; Chris Brogan hadn’t yet co-written Trust Agents, but in fact, the business model was a “make your own game” approach as a client/vendor matchmaker, built on networking.

So what was I doing for the 20 years before that? Setting the table.

I wasn’t ready to be an entrepreneur out of the gate. There was raw talent there, but it needed a long period of refining through experience. Most everybody has an area or two of serious talent – but for many of us, it takes years of exercising and honing those abilities before you are ready for new levels of influence and opportunities, including going out on your own as an entrepreneur.

In the meantime, you have to look at your current jobs as setting the table for better things ahead.

Now I absolutely rejoice when young people work their talents and their opportunities quickly and skillfully, moving through a much shorter preparation curve and rapidly launching entrepreneurial endeavors. People like Scott Bradley, Sarah Evans, Kirsten Wright. I love seeing that because these folks will shape the future. But for many, the trajectory upward is going to be slower, and sometimes less direct.

magic_dustJust be sure you’re setting your table. Specifically:

    1. Only move into and stay in positions that will challenge and grow your skills. Stagnation for a paycheck is not a luxury you can afford.
    2. Do such a good job that your employer and co-workers hate to see you go, and can only say good things about you. Leave a very sweet reputation aroma in your wake.
    3. Network. Constantly. On-line and off-line. It is very likely that your next opportunity will come from that extended “family” of supporters.

At the right time, the “magic” will occur (by magic, I actually mean providence, but some prefer to believe in luck or chance, so we’ll Harry Potter it for now and just say “magic” as a catch-all!). You’ll be restless in your current position, ready for something new, and a confluence of events and people will occur such that a new challenge is opened up. Sometimes you’ve strategically pulled levers to help make it happen, but often it’s the wonderful serendipity of being a networked person who is well-regarded and worthy of the next step.

It’s very common, in your late 20′s, 30′s, and 40′s to feel restless in your professional development. Keep honing your talent. Keep putting in productive time. Keep setting the table. And keep your eyes open for the magic!

Update: And, as Brogan would say here and here, there’s no overnight success!

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Are you “In”?

A few random thoughts that came to mind this morning, while meandering about the yard looking for pictures to take…

If you’re building a network via social media, here are some “in” questions to ask yourself:

    Am I being informative?

    Am I being insightful?

    Am I instigating new ideas?

    Am I inspiring others directly to be their best (and being an example)?

    Am I being interesting?

    Am I encouraging? (OK, that’s an almost in-)

    Am I inundating with trivia? (Don’t!)

People have a pretty well-developed instinct for figuring out if we’re just there to sell, or whine, or collect connections to feed our egos. We’ll build a substantial and loyal network when we enter into other people’s worlds and provide them with genuine value. Especially the part about encouraging.

Hmm…on second thought, maybe this just has to do with life, social networking or not!

OK, now back to work…

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Twitter is a Big, Fat Waste of Time…

…if you don’t have a purpose for using it.

dogpitchedThat was how I summarized it for some folks last week who were repeating the usual drivel (endlessly parroted by non-users) about the uselessness of Twitter.

I think it kinda helped to agree with them. Yes, if all you’re doing is posting mindless updates and reading other people’s mindless updates, then sure, it’s a big waste of time.

What most non-users DON’T understand, and which you now have the opening to explain, is:

    1. Twitter is the best Help Desk invented by mankind (give an example)
    2. Twitter is a rich platform for “pre-meeting” people that can become friends in real-life (give an example)
    3. Twitter is a great place to find professional “office-mates” who are valuable sounding boards and sources of information (give an example)
    4. Twitter cannot be matched for the ability to connect people with others (give an example)
    5. Twitter is a wonderful tool to learn how to distill thoughts into very compact sentences (these 5 points are an example)

Don’t be intimidated by the ignorant dismissiveness of those who don’t yet “get it.” Take the opportunity to open their minds just a bit, with a quick story about what CAN be accomplished via platforms like Twitter, for those who have a purpose to help, learn, grow, and connect. But if all you’re doing is talking about your dog’s vomit, then maybe it is a waste of time…

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Feed People

If you’re involved in Social Media/Networked Communications as a marketer or businessperson, one of the key questions you ask yourself is: How can I add value to my community?

Take that question and look behind it to see this (more important) query: What are the unmet needs that I can address?

Always, a big need is targeted information. So, feed people.

Here are a few starting points:

    1. Almost every audience needs consolidated and/or curated content. Did you know that with a few hours work, you can create a public information portal using free (& quite simple) tools such as Pageflakes or Netvibes? And by subscribing to targeted blog and news feeds, you can filter out the most important information and post or e-mail it to your target audience. Doesn’t take much time, but adds tremendous value.
    2. And speaking of e-mail, don’t overlook this tried-and-true method of communicating. Many of us assume that our audiences are as tech-savvy as we’re trying to be. Usually, they’re nowhere close. So as you find technology and solutions* that help move the needle for regular folks to become a bit more advanced in their use of tools, share…using good old-fashioned e-mail and a personal touch. With all the networked communication methods I use, I still tend to get the best response via targeted e-mails (and, if you want to add a new twist to this, use a webcam and send a free video e-mail using a service like Eyejot.) You can become valuable to your network by introducing them to new advances, but by still using the communication methods they know and understand.
    (*Good sources for this kind of info: Lifehacker. TechCrunch. AllTop.)
    3. We all like diversions. So find interesting stuff, and share it. What are some of my main sources for finding offbeat and interesting items that my audiences enjoy? Here’s a few: Neatorama. Book of Joe. Coudal Partners. PopURLs.

It doesn’t take any special talent to become an information aggregator, curator, and communicator. It just takes a relatively modest amount of daily time, and steady effort. Your audience and network will really appreciate it, because they often do not have the time, and when you become a trusted and interesting source, you win.

That’s a few suggestions. What ideas, and other helpful sites, would you add (use the Comments)?

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Good-bye, Social Media – Hello, Networked Communications

So, today Steve Rubel announces that he is done “blogging”, and now is fully committed to a more full-faceted path called “lifestreaming.” His post is titled So Long, Blogging, Hello Lifestreaming!

What he’s doing is, in fact, not that radical – we’ve been moving rapidly in this direction for a while. Because the fact is – the real issue isn’t whether we “blog” or “micro-blog” or “Tweet” or “Facebook” or whatever. Those terms and brands are temporary labels we have for the early-on way we’re now using technology to…share. To express ourselves, and connect with others.

We’re evolving rapidly in ability to share, not just via long-form formats (books, blogs), but also quick thoughts, pictures, videos, music, and whatever else. Each of these things ended up with their own terms, and have been ranged roughly under the moniker “social media.”

I’d like to adapt Steve’s title to say good-bye to social media. The term, that is; which really isn’t adequate to describe what we’re doing. For some professionals, the term “social” is an immediate turnoff. And we’re sharing more than media – we’re communicating/connecting/collaborating in multi-faceted ways. There is a social element to it, of course, and media is part of this gig. But the term isn’t scalable.

So….hello, Networked Communications. That, in fact, in all facets, and no matter how it evolves, is what we’re doing, on both personal and professional levels. Whether it’s community-building, tweeting, sharing media, marketing, lifestreaming – it’s all networked communications (which, by the way, includes the off-line component of how we relate to one another).

We’re going to burn through existing and new platforms over the coming years, and they’ll get more sophisticated in their abilities to let us network and communicate. Whether it’s Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Posterous, blogs, Flickr (perhaps even my dream platform, Metamee) – the bits and pieces  don’t really matter, they’ll evolve and converge. Each of them is an Expression and/or Connection Engine, all enabling our brave new world of networked communications. Which is same world of networked communications we used to have, amped up on tech steroids.

We’ve always communicated. We’ve always had and built networks. Now we have quickly-evolving tools that will let us more effectively express ourselves and connect with others, for marketing, for fun, for socializing, for enterprise efficiency, for help…for whatever we do.

Good-bye, “social media.” You were a nice first love. You’re not going to die, you’re becoming bigger and better. But with upgraded capabilities come better titles. I’m moving on to Networked Communications. ‘Cause that’s what we do.

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Why it’s Stupid to Ignore Social Networks

WhatmeworrySome folks who are immersed in more traditional marketing roles, or older-media journalistic endeavors, seem to enjoy dissing social networking, by focusing on the noise ratio, the amateur status of users, and the relative instability that comes with emerging technology.

We’re the experts. You need our filters. You need our apparatus.

No, we don’t. Many events have conspired to underscore this truth, but this past week in Iran has shown, in stark colors, why it is really stupid to ignore the power of social networks.

The raw news and heartbreaking images have been generated primarily by citizens on the ground, not by official news bureaus and spinmeisters. And if you haven’t noticed, that is occurring on all levels of society, in every country, on every level.

    Social networks provide immediacy.

    Social networks provide raw and multiple points of view, from citizen thought-leaders and just plain citizens.

    Social networks provide access to private details, some of which ARE the real news.

    Social networks amplify and multiply impact.

Laugh, if you will, at the “who cares what so-and-so ate for breakfast?” Sure, there’s trivia on social networks. But there’s also reality, and connectivity (and there’s plenty of garbage in the Triviaditional Media). I haven’t purchased a newspaper out of a machine for months, nor do I often tune into a live TV broadcast. But I remain quite well-informed without some official outlet telling me what they want me to hear.

There will always be a place for professional journalism, and professional marketing. But it will increasingly NOT be the position of supremacy. That boat has left the harbor. Social networks aren’t everything. But it’s very stupid indeed to ignore them.

(Alfred E Neuman image: Mad Magazine)

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Improving FollowFriday, week 2

Apparently last week’s post on Improving Follow Friday struck a nerve, because it was my most-read post – ever - on this blog! Given the amount of people participating, perhaps we should call this Follow Friday 2.0.

The point: let’s get away from 140-character lists of names, and just focus on one person you recommend, with the reason(s) you follow them.

Last week I proposed we answer the question together: Which one of your Tweeple would you like to go on a wine-tasting with, and why?

Here’s a suggestion for this week: With whom would you like to have an in-depth cross-cultural discussion? Cross-cultural could mean different races, different countries – someone that you are connected to who is quite different from you.

And let’s try one other thing: tag your FollowFriday tweet with #followfriday and #ff2 – that way we can more easily sort through the #followfriday noise and find the entries that give us a fuller recommendation.

I already know who I’m going to recommend – and once again, it’s a West Coast lady! Looking forward to seeing your entries!

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“Social Media” and Business, part 1

Earlier this week, I enjoyed a robust Twitter conversation with a few folks (thanks, @lizscherer, @kellyferrara, @lindabeth!) on how “social media” fits into the pre-existing business silos that we all know and love (Marketing, PR, Sales, Customer Service, etc.)

Instead of putting out 140-character fragments of thought, it might be more valuable to sketch out some big-picture ideas about how this all, perhaps, fits together, and continue the discussion in the comments.

First, I’ll freely admit that I don’t much care for the term “Social Media.” I think it’s limiting. I tend to prefer either Community Networking (more on the inter-personal level), or Networked Communications (more on the business level). Take your pick; we’re talking about person-to-person or organization<–>person communications and connections mediated through on-line tools.

Let’s think about business. I think a lot of these legacy silos are not particularly helpful, so let’s imagine for a moment that they are swept off the table and everything is encompassed under one umbrella term: Communications. PR, Marketing, Social Media, etc. – it’s all about communicating to the world at large (people unaware of the company; prospective customers; imminent buyers; existing users; other stakeholders). These communications take various forms, including direct advertising, word of mouth (on- or off-line), press, or what have you, but it’s all communications, and it should all be strategically tied together.

For a business, then, let’s take this practice of communication and view it through the prism of the main goal: increased uptake of offerings and therefore, increased revenue. Business growth. From the perspective of the business, and using rather sterile terms, there are three main stages of this: Customer Awareness, Customer Acquisition, and Customer Retention.

What is the process – the pattern – that occurs to reach this goal of business growth, and how does the discipline of Communications fit? Here’s a suggested way to view it:

Awareness Communications – strategies and tactics that elevate some level of understanding of the company’s existence, offerings, and value. An analogy: this is walking into a party with an attractive, attention-getting outfit.

Qualification Communications – think pre-sales marketing here. Expressing, at some level, what the nature and benefits of the offering are. But this need not be one-way anymore – through networked communications, businesses can much more readily understand the needs and desires of potential customers. Ongoing analogy: chatting up at the party and gauging if there is interest in more than just a polite chat.

Commitment Communications – assuming that the potential customer is seeing genuine value, now the parties discuss how they might get together to meet mutual goals. This is a deeper dive into needs and offerings, and gaining a comfortable feel for overall compatibility. Ongoing analogy: entering into a committed dating relationship.

Satisfaction Communications – the company realizes that its best hope of gaining new customers is by keeping current customers not only pacified, but satisfied to the point of being advocates. Time and two-way communications are invested to build the relationship and improve the offerings. Ongoing analogy: the diligent care and feeding of a marriage relationship.

This is the typical linear process of how business is obtained and grown, and if we range our Communications options and methods along these lines, we can see how a strategic approach to the various legacy disciplines (PR, Marketing, Advertising, etc.) can now be achieved. Each stage of the continuum requires different types/mixes of communication, with differing levels of two-way exchange. “Social Media” plays a role throughout, not as a separate discipline, but as an integral part of two-way communication that should mark an entire process.

When you look at this continuum, ask yourself: does your business have a consistent message that is woven throughout the entire communications landscape? It should.

Oh, and for an interesting twist, swap out the word “Customer” for “Employee”. Sorta makes sense on the recruitment/retention side of things, doesn’t it?

Kind of a mind dump here and lots of loose ends. What do you think? Speak your mind in the comments!

:: So far, we’re attempting to define the landscape of business communications – but in a follow-up post, I want to take something implied here and make it more explicit. Successful business will increasingly be marked, not by a transactional view (I am using communications to persuade you to buy my product so I can make money and you can, maybe, gain a benefit), but by a more holistic relational view. That is, customers and companies will increasingly seek out ways to determine if they are right for each other, something networked communications truly helps enable. My consulting business is built on a “matchmaking” network model and I’ll share a few thoughts on why I think there is tremendous value in this approach…

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Stoning our Fellow Bloggers

There is a danger to being a blogger – the same danger experienced by all public figures. Your every mistake is magnified, and that means you may end up with a target on your chest.

Yesterday, a well-known blogger made a posting that was quite controversial. Suffice it to say that some of the reaction was downright nasty. I am not going to link to the post in question, or mention the blogger’s name, or even describe the controversy, because I really don’t want to call any further attention to it.  Instead, I’d like to draw some larger lessons from the incident.

Here’s the main thing: we’re all going to make missteps. We’re human; we say and do things we shouldn’t; we occasionally react in the heat of the moment; and sometimes, we make the wrong call when trying to counter-balance competing interests. And in the age of instant publishing and networked communications, our fallibility can be magnified rather rapidly.

Before you hit that “Publish” button with a comment or a post ripping up a fellow blogger, let me recommend that you pause and consider the following:

  1. Have you ever made a mistake? Have you ever written or said something you wish later you could modify?
  2. Has this person for whom you are sharpening the knife actually been, by-and-large, a value provider? Can you couch your statements in that light?
  3. Do you think this fellow blogger might really need another public kick while he/she is down, or would perhaps a quiet back-channel word of encouragement be more helpful, along with a gentle expression of your concern for the specific action?
  4. Are you prepared to be treated in the way you treat this fellow blogger when your foibles are publicly revealed?

For the most part, the social networking crowd is a sharing and generous community. However, we need to be careful not to shoot our own when we make our mistakes and show our humanity. We don’t need an overly-hysterical “Motrin” reaction when people, companies, and brands try to put their toe in the water and get it wrong. A sense of humility is far more winsome than a self-righteous judgment on all those who don’t meet our standards. And, again, before you press “Publish” – if you’re about to pass judgment on someone’s character or motives, ask yourself if you really know that person’s heart.

“Let him who is without sin cast the first stone,” said a great teacher from centuries ago. Do we serve as correctives to one another as we evolve in social networking? Sure. But it’s far less important to prove that you are right and someone else is wrong, than it is to display a generous and gracious spirit when your fellow blogger is down.

It might just be you next time.

Someone Create this People Finder…Please!

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a smart, semi-automated way to find interesting people on-line?

What I’m about to describe exists in bits and pieces scattered throughout various apps. But it would sure be useful to wrap it up into one platform.

You (and all other participants) describe yourself in three areas: Personal/Social interests, Professional Interests, and Demographics. In each category you rate/describe yourself via check boxes, sliders, and keywords. You also indicate the types of people you’d like to connect with by similarity to you, or perhaps by differences.

You also put in (if applicable or desired) your blog address(es) and Twitter handle, and the top blogs/twitterers you follow. The system can apply some artificial intelligence to further mine your interests (topical and people) by analyzing your themes and your followers.

The platform sorts through all participants and finds people according to your expressed desires/interests – maybe presenting them in rankings, and according to interests (e.g. – Personal/Social: another wine lover. Professional: Java programmer. Demographics: graduate from your college, or resident of your town). Perhaps an e-mail comes each day with several top suggestions, including the Twitter handle and blog URL so you can easily check out the person and subscribe/follow. Whatever levels of integration with more proprietary networks like LinkedIn and Facebook would be a big plus, of course.

None of this is ground-breaking, and it exists on some levels in app-specific ways (finding similar Twitter people, for instance), but increasingly, we just want to find people who happen to be in the on-line community in whatever capacity, and who want to built networks with other people. It would be a nice evolution to get away from thinking about who blogs, or who is on Twitter, or who is on Facebook - we just want to make it easier to find each other.

Very naturally, the idea of ranking and commenting comes to mind, but there be dragons there…probably would create more problems than it would solve.

Make sense? Other additions or suggestions? Who wants to make it so??

See you in Austin!

stevenatesm1I’ll be in Austin Fri-Tues for the SxSW conference – but, for the first time, with a major twist.

It’s going to be a father-son gig! I’ll be doing the Interactive track, and my 20-year son Nathan is going to be immersed in the Film track.

Nathan is keenly interested in pursuing a career in the Film industry. He already has quite a bit of experience (due to a magnet school educational program) and needs to find a place where his skills can be developed to the next level (you can see his background and samples of his work at NathanWoodruff.com).

This will be Nathan’s first foray into the dazzling world of conference networking, and I’m writing this post simply to ask my many friends and acquaintances to reach out to Nate/me if you have contacts in the film industry that might be valuable for a young man starting out.

Nate is not on Twitter (yet), but you can text him at 973-590-6994, and you can reach me at the conference anytime via Twitter at @swoodruff.

Thanks in advance for the warm welcome that I’m sure Nate will receive into the community. I’m looking forward to seeing you folks in Austin!

Five in the Morning – Finale

swbeard1Yes, it’s true. Today, after nearly 100 Five in the Morning posts (including guest posts by other bloggers), I’m bringing the series to a close.

Why? Well, mainly it’s a matter of time – there are some other priorities that now require more of my attention. Creating Five in the Morning posts, as fun and fulfilling as it is, can be quite time-consuming. Plus, there is that existential sense that “it’s time” – major goals have been met of exposing people to a variety of great bloggers and resources, and other creative ideas are striving for attention.

Of course, the StickyFigure blog will continue on, as it did before Five in the Morning, so you can expect my usual brilliant insights and world-changing ideas right here – just not daily, perhaps.

A big part of the fun of Five in the Morning has been the interaction with you, the audience, and the participation of other bloggers who have guest-hosted. We’ve enjoyed guest entries from Cam Beck, Mike Sansone, CB Whittemore, Olivier Blanchard, Tom Clifford, Connie Reece, Chris Wilson, Lisa Hoffmann, Arun Rajagopal, Amber Naslund, Mack Collier, Becky Carroll, Matt J McDonald, Ken Burbary, Beth Harte, Karen Swim, and Doug Meacham.

And while we’ve pointed to plenty of posts from “name-brand” bloggers like Seth Godin, Jason Falls, Geoff Livingston, Chris Brogan, John Jantsch, Jeremiah Owyang, Doug Karr, David Armano, Liz Strauss, Charlene Li, Ann Handley, Valeria Maltoni, Shannon Paul, and other luminaries, I hope you’ve subscribed to some of the very smart, but lesser-known lights after seeing their posts featured.

If there is to be a “legacy” to this little series, my hope is that some of you with particular areas of expertise (PR, Design, Writing, Branding, Non-profits, etc.) would become consolidators as well, pulling together great posts (maybe on a weekly basis) for your audiences. Yes, it’s work, but it’s a wonderful way to meet new people, and, done rightly, it can drive more traffic to your blog over time. I will happily link to others who pick up the torch and become info-scouts for the rest of us.

OK, so for your Friday, here’s a Fabulous Final Five. OK, Six. I never was great at math.

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Kiss the next hour good-bye. 2009 ReBrand Winners. Sweet bunch of links showing before/after. Seriously – your day of planned productivity is over. You are GND.

Using Twitter to land a job. Who doesn’t like a success story like this? With a nice passing mention of @prSarahEvans.

How do you keep customers happy? Jay Ehret, @themarketingguy, says to focus on the experience. And at the Brains on Fire blog, here is a fabulous example, with the spotlight on a local Whole Foods store.

[this space reserved for a designated non-mention of Skittles]

How much Money is $1 Trillion? The Anatomy of a Sticky Illustration. Nicely done. Hat tip: Cam Beck.

Give First. Amen. From Mitch Joel‘s Six Pixes of Separation blog.

PLUS: Tabasco advertising. No words needed. Hat Tip: Brand Flakes for Breakfast blog.

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Thanks for tuning in for these 5 months of fun and experimentation. Oh….and I really don’t get up at 5 am most mornings. It’s really 5 (posts) delivered (early) in the morning. But while sipping my first cup of coffee between 5:30-6:00 am, I still get a chuckle out of all of you  thinking I actually get up early…!

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Five in the Morning 030409

From WSJ: Social Networking goes Professional. How focused professional communities are using social networking tools to better their work.

The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur (yep, not a misprint) gives us 32 Ways to Cut Costs in Business. And while you’re at it, this post from TPE on How to do Everything is also pretty good!

Matt Dickman - the Techno//Marketer – gives us the scoop on Radian6 with one of his patented thorough semi-geekish reviews. If you’re not reading Matt’s blog regularly, what are you thinking?

Shaping your blog’s brand. Good stuff from Darren Rowse over at Problogger.

Jon Swanson reviews two books on success. Which one was more life-changing?

PLUS: Tom Peters recommends a new book from Steve Farber, called Greater than Yourself. As I recall, Drew McLellan speaks highly of Farber, so with those 2 witnesses, it must be good!

AND: This was just too funny not to include. Really. Just click. Thanks, Jaffe!

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Where I’ll Be (in non-avatar mode)

It’s going to be a busy spring. One event I was not planning on attending is now on the agenda; another two possible events are now non-happenings. So, if you’d like to meet in real life, here’s where I’ll be over the next few months:

sociallearningMasie Center’s Social Learning Lab, Saratoga Springs, NY, March 11-12

This will be an exploration of how social media is impacting the worlds of learning and training. Since much of my consulting work is in pharma training, AND I’m heavily involved in social media, this should be a very interesting time of discovery.

sxsw2009SXSW (South by Southwest), Austin, TX, March 13-17

Just decided to go to this one, and taking my 20-year old son Nate with me, who has a strong interest in a film career. Looking forward to lots of networking with friends new and old, and hoping to see Nate make valuable contacts and grow his knowledge and network.

Austin is one city I’ve never visited. This should be a lot of fun!

spbtlogoSPBT (Society of Pharmaceutical and Biotech Trainers), Chicago, IL, May 11-14

Have attended and presented at this event for many years; this year will help lead 2 workshops, on Building your own Opportunity Network, and Managing Vendors and Projects. Always a great time of interacting with my core pharma audience and friends.

marketingprofs-sm1MarketingProfs Business to Business Forum, Boston, MA, June 8-9

Had planned to attend this one last year and got waylaid by life circumstances – really looking forward to joining Ann Handley and the gang for this one.

You can expect varying levels of live-blogging and live-twittering at all these events, which could get rather annoying, depending on your level of interest and your reservoir of patience. Let me know if you’re going to be present at any of these conferences so we can meet up!

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