The Lazy Social Networker

AppleOrchard

{Note: I am now blogging at my brand-spanking-new site, SteveWoodruff.com. Just click here to subscribe to the new feed. Bonus - you can also sign up at the same time for my astonishingly brief  yet brilliant e-newsletter, Clarity Blend (see sample), and when you sign up, you’ll get a free download of my helpful new e-book, Make Yourself Clear: Six Steps to De-fogging Your Direction and Your Message.}

The lazy social networker opens a Twitter account, throws up a few inspirational tweets and a bunch of RTs, and expects the world to roll out a red carpet and hand over an Oscar for Best Performance. This year.

The lazy social networker buys into the notion that more hashtags will mean more followers, which will mean a bigger reputation, which will somehow lead to more fame and riches. Quickly.

The lazy social networker follows all the advice about writing blogs with Top 10 lists and newsjacking topics, contributing to the tsunami of noise without producing any valuable signal.

The lazy social networker then gives up when it doesn’t “work.” Little effort did not produce the anticipated big return.

Be prepared to spread a lot of useful seed, in the form of thoughtful content. Be prepared to water that effort with purposeful and caring relationship-cultivation. Be prepared to rinse and repeat for the long haul, and experience the outflow of a lot of effort with, perhaps, a good bit less return than you ever anticipated.

In other words, be prepared to work. Just like every other worthy endeavor. There may be a lot of effort with little return – for a season.

That’s how agriculture works. That’s how business works. That’s how life works.

The lazy social networker will fade off. As for you, be in it for the long haul. You’re building relationships and adding value, not grasping at some cheap short-term applause.

You’re growing an orchard, not inflating a balloon. The fruit comes in abundance — over time.

The Network Growth that Truly Matters

We who are active on social network like to measure our growth by followers, subscribers, page views, and other numerical metrics.

These things have their place, of course. But ultimately, they’re quite self-referential. I’d like to encourage us to notice some other, more important growth.

Let’s pay attention to the people we’re connected to as THEY grow <<–(click to tweet this) in stature, in skills, and in new endeavors.

ID-10024306

Mack Collier was once (just) a blogger. Now he is a budding author, a more in-demand speaker, a Twitter chat host, and someone who has made slow and steady progress for years. Have you noticed? Isn’t this great?

Over the past year, I’ve seen Tim McDonald grow in stature as he finds a new niche in community management (now working with HuffPost Live). He’s hustling. He’s making the most of his opportunity (and I think he’s on his honeymoon right now, in fact – congrats, Tim!).

Tom Martin was known by a limited (but appreciative) audience as a smart New Orleans-based blogger who did creative digital stuff. Now he’s finding his voice as a thought leader in digital marketing. 2013 will see his star rising even further.

Who hasn’t been thrilled to see the growing influence of Angela Maiers in the educational space? She’s paid her dues and influenced many. Speaking of midwest beauties, when I first encountered Carol Roth a few years ago, she had a great track record in business but little exposure in a broad sense. Now she’s grown into a published author, commentator, and rising star on TV news broadcasts. She even has her own action figure (long story…).

Jessica Northey, Chris Westfall, Lou Imbriano, Susan Cain, Michael Hyatt – all conquering new ground, growing their influence by doing good work and providing value (not by buying Twitter followers – the network growth that means nothing).

When our friends grow, that’s what really matters. Take a few minutes away from your subscriber numbers and pat some folks on the back who deserve it.

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Yes, I Time some Tweets – Here’s Why

There are apps that allow you to space out your tweets over time (I use Hootsuite for this). Some people protest the use of timed tweets – and while I understand the sentiment behind that stance, I don’t agree with it.

Here’s why.

I use Twitter for several purposes:

  • Back-and-forth interaction with people (banter, brainstorming, encouraging, etc.)
  • Sharing interesting news and other resources
  • Connecting people with each other
  • Sharing my own blog posts and pictures
  • Sharing other people’s blog posts (especially those with whom I have a closer connection)
  • Making ironic comments and bad puns
  • Giving good morning greetings

Some of these purposes are more real-time – for instance, back-and-forth chatting with folks is not something that can be automated. But I do automate a fair bit of one-way sharing of “stuff,” for the simple reason that the audience on Twitter is constantly shifting. People are looking at their tweetstreams intermittently throughout the day, which means that something tweeted at 7:22 am might not be seen by a person who first logs in at 9:57 am.

While it makes sense that you might then tweet your own blog posts at a few different times during the day (I do), the really creative and helpful part of this isn’t the self-promotion aspect. The less-discussed secret is the way you can benefit your network of readers and writers.

Why use timed tweets? To gain wider exposure for others’ work!  <<–(click to tweet this).

Let’s say that I read an interesting post from Shelly Kramer‘s blog that, in the (very real) example below, actually touches on a similar theme (the timing of posts getting read on Facebook). If she posts it at, say, 7 am, and a number of her followers retweet it over the next half hour, then most of the exposure for her post may occur in a pretty narrow window.

TimeTweet

But if a reader makes the simple choice to “time” a tweet with a link to occur at, say, 10 am, then that reader’s audience gets the benefit of seeing something they might have missed at 7 am, AND Shelly gets wider exposure in a new time slot as well.

You know how most people get retweets immediately after they tweet something? Why not do everyone a favor and time-delay your tweet for a few hours – or even a day (I’ve seen some of my friends do this. It can give the tweeted link a whole new life).

So – when we understand that part of Twitter is for sharing things that may not be designed for real-time interaction, automating certain tweets makes perfect sense. Especially with this small tweet-tweak – give the people who feed you great content the gift of a fresh audience.

Have you been doing this? And here’s a question that’s been on my mind – I have done very little with scheduling tweets for overnight/overseas reach. If you’re doing this, how’s it working out? Any tips to share?

ALSO: See some interesting stats and perspectives about tweeting blog posts from Mack Collier.

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

Planting Seeds of Leadership

Growing up, I was fascinated by the self-propagation design of the milkweed plant.

A pod full of parachute-equipped seeds matures and swells. At the right time, it bursts open and the seeds take to the winds, creating new plants wherever they may end up.

As with so much that surrounds us. Oaks begin their career as acorns – perhaps a seed buried and forgotten by a busy squirrel, now growing into a mighty presence in the forest.

Leadership Chat was never meant to be an oak. It was destined only to be a means to spread seeds of leadership.

I look out the window here in my office and see our lovely red maple shading our deck. There are still a few helicopter-shaped seeds hanging on today, but mostly, that time has passed. Seed-time is short, then it’s on to watering, fertilizing, pruning, and (eventually) harvesting and propagating.

There is very little that you can build in 140-character bursts once a week on Twitter. What you can do, however, is spread seeds of thought, and challenge old ideas, and kick off new friendships. Ideas and inspiration can take wing on digital networks and land on waiting soil. That’s what on-line chats are best for.

After a year-and-a-half of hosting Leadership Chat, Lisa Petrilli (the best co-host a person could ever ask for!) and I have decided that our time for planting seeds in this format is done. We each have new opportunities and ongoing responsibilities that demand time and attention. Yet we look back with tremendous gratitude for the friendships, the community, the new initiatives that have grown out of this modest little experiment.

We’ve had the privilege of welcoming many guests to share their wisdom and experiences: from well-known public figures like Carrie Wilkerson, Guy Kawasaki, Brian Solis, and John Jantsch to other insightful authors such as Les McKeown, Keni Thomas, Angela Maiers, and Becky Carroll. We discussed and debated Male/Female Roles, Hubris, Loyalty, Decision Fatigue, Vision, On-boarding, Emotions, and many other topics covering quite a range of human experience.

But, above all, we’ve enjoyed each others’ company and support. Hopefully we’ve all learned a few things along the way, things that we’re putting into practice right now (and will continue so to do).

Of all those who have supported the Leadership Chat community, I want to especially thank the quiet man over in the corner, Mack Collier, who has been a pillar of encouragement throughout this entire time, even when lurking on Tuesday nights with his Dr. Pepper. And the privilege of not only collaborating with Lisa Petrilli, but building an enduring friendship, has been for me the greatest result of participating in Leadership Chat.

This Tuesday, May 29th, is Graduation Day. Let’s spend the time discussing what we’ve learned in the past 18 months or so – not merely head knowledge, but real-life hands-on leadership lessons. How have you changed and become more effective? In what practical ways? We look forward to being with you during our final edition of LeadershipChat (8 pm ET on Twitter – hashtag #LeadershipChat).

Image credit: Wikipedia

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Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy

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>> The Ultimate Competitive Advantage

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Connection Pinball

Scanning my usual set of columns in Hootsuite this morning, I wondered, “Is there a blog post here – just looking  at these people?”

In my DM column I saw Liz Marshall and Terry Starbucker. Yep, there was a story.

You see, I met Terry in our early days of blogging – probably 2008, at the famous Blogger Social ’08. Our friendship had little to do with my business at the time (which was and still is focused on pharma), but we were both blogging on marketing and business topics, and we hit it off.

In 2009, I made my only appearance at SXSW, mainly to chaperone my oldest son, who was interested in film (and, hey, what’s not to like about a father-son adventure to Austin?). Being disillusioned with a lot of the panels, I spent a fair amount of time in the Blogger Lounge, where, serendipitously, I ended up at the same table with Liz Strauss. We hit it off, too.

Terry and Liz insisted that I come to this rather small conference in Chicago called SOBCon the next year. It wasn’t in my pharma sweet spot, but I was still trying to find my place in the marketing/social media/entrepreneur world as well, and I liked the idea of a more intimate gathering of status-quo-breakers. So I went.

There I met Lisa Petrilli, also visible in my HootSuite columns today. And, Anthony Iannarino, Danielle Smith, Sean McGinnis, Angela Maiers – all visible front-and-center this morning on Twtiter, all met for the first time at a SOBCon event (2010 or 2011). Because LeadershipChat was born out of a collaboration between Lisa Petrilli and me that started at SOBCon, a whole other fleet of close connections has also been developed. And as I expand out of pharma into a new endeavor, it’s people like Carol Roth and Greg Hartle and Lou Imbriano and Jeannie Waters and Liz Marshall and Sara Goodman and Jesse Petersen and Becky McCray and Alli Worthington and Fred McClimans and Brandie McCallum and Sam Fiorella and Meghan Biro and Patty Azarello and Jeff Shuey and Phil Gerbyshak and many others who are my supporters, and cheerleaders, and brain trust.

All of this grew out of LeadershipChat and SOBCon.

Which grew out of becoming friends with Liz and Terry.

Which leads to the moral of the story. Make great quality connections, cultivate those relationships, and be ready.

It may seem a bit like a pinball game at times, but you cannot and will not lose when you make friends with great people!

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Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Be Narrow-Minded

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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

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How to Gain Influence – the hard way

Noise does not (necessarily) indicate influence.

Popularity does not (necessarily) indicate influence.

Numbers do not (necessarily) indicate influence.

Here’s how influence is earned:

- Do a great job.

- Grow in both knowledge and wisdom.

- Care about people.

- Aspire to something big and worthwhile, and inspire others toward it.

Social media changes nothing except to give one more false measure of influence. There is no shortcut. The squash grows (and fades) quickly. The oak is in it for the long haul.

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Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Clarity, part 1: Your Distinguishing Offering

>> Clarity, part 2: Your Go-To Market Message (in 10 words or less)

>> Clarity, part 3: People Buy Your Story

Open Doors

When you start talking about social media in the business world, you quickly begin to bump into the ROI question (and if you do, get the insight you’ll need from Olivier Blanchard and buy his book, Social Media ROI).

ROI matters. But for many individuals, consultants, entrepreneurs, small businesses – and yes, even larger businesses – that’s not the only measure of value. There’s another factor to weigh in the balance.

Is this activity likely to produce new opportunities? Potential referrals? Broader awareness? Open doors?

Much of what I – and many others – do via social networking is driven by this long-term view, which is based, not on immediate hard returns of dollars-tied-to-specific-efforts, but by what we might call natural human and marketing principles.

Building deeper human bonds with quality people will, in ways both direct and indirect, lead to increased business opportunities. Do you believe this? I do. And I think it’s true for the solopreneur as well as the biggest brand. That means networking – whether the digital/social variety, or good old-fashioned pressing the flesh (note: I believe in both, together).

An example from my own experience: #LeadershipChat on Twitter. Very little direct revenue has come to the co-hosts (Lisa Petrilli and me) for all the time and effort we’ve put in. HOWEVER – the expansion of our networks, the quality contacts with some very influential people, the collaborations that have occurred, not only for us, but among others in the community – these are worthwhile returns, and the future opportunities yet to come as a result of this initiative will, I’m quite convinced, impact business on multiple levels.

I will trade immediate resources of time and effort for open doors tomorrow and next year. Not only for me, but for others.

Speaking of LeadershipChat, this coming Tuesday (April 10), we’ll welcome John Jantsch, Mr. Duct Tape Marketing himself, talking about referrals and small-business marketing in a networked world. Join us for some new thinking, new network contacts – and, who knows?, maybe some new open doors!

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Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Customers Walking Past You

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Intensity

(This post will be a bit more on the personal level. Perhaps you’ll be able to relate to some of it)

Recently, I went to Nashville for 5 days – not only to attend BlissDom, but also to take a little bit of time to visit my old Tennessee stomping grounds (I spent 7 years in Nashville, including my college days).

While there in the pleasant and hospitable South, something unexpected came over me. I relaxed.

For all the joking around I do, I am, in fact, a rather serious-minded person. Even intense at times. When I put my hand to something, I have a hard time letting it go. One of the definitions of the word “worry” is summed up in the image of a dog ceaselessly gnawing on a bone; seizing it, shaking it, tugging it.

I do that with life.

Stubborn determination and intense drive can be a good thing, of course. But like everything else, when overdone – well, every positive has its own built-in negative.

When in the South, I became a bit more easygoing, but after moving to New Jersey 28 years ago, where the vibe is much more rush-rush and focused, the intensity took over. Building a career, bringing up children, launching a solo business, creating a network – I saw it as my role to build and create and lead and make things happen.

Yet, all the while, I was and still remain an introvert. I prefer the realm of ideas. My best work is in thinking and analysis. While in Nashville, I had some time to reflect, instead of just DO. I felt like I was being me again.

A lot of social networking is heavily weighted on the activity scale. Much of the drive is to get MORE – more posts, more readers, more connections, more Google juice, a bigger name, a larger platform, etc. Not that any of those things are wrong in themselves – they are not – but when taken on with an intensity that doesn’t know how to rest, it starts to bump up against the law of diminishing returns.

Which is where I am now. Trying to learn how to work at a pace that leads to optimal productivity, not mere intensity. Seeking to be honest with my nature instead of running someone else’s race. And I really don’t know how that will work itself out day-to-day.

It’s good, I guess, to have a bias toward both thought and action. But how do we give full vent to drive without living in overdrive?

I guess it’s time to find out. Any advice?

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Hire Steve Woodruff as your Brand Therapist

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Role Your Own

>> Networking on Purpose

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Twitter: @swoodruff

George Lucas Announces Newest Social Media Platform: Hollowgram

Not wanting to be left behind the latest social media craze-du-jour, George Lucas has announced the first social platform allowing users to upload 3-D speaking holographic images of themselves.

Called “Hollowgram,” this ground-breaking site will allow hollow people everywhere to upload every detail of their lives in glorious 3-D. Lucas hopes to capitalize on all the momentum surrounding Pinterest, which enables posting of static, legacy, 2-D, lifeless stuff for others to waste time browsing using so-last-century technology.

“Look, we’ve all known since 1977, when the first Star Wars was released, that 3-D holographic imagery was the wave of the future. I’ve waited all this time – through IRC, bulletin boards, AOL, MySpace, Facebook, and Instagram – until the marketplace was ready. It was tough to see all these precursors, but Hollowgram – it’s our only hope to save social media,” said Lucas in an exclusive Q&A interview via Quora.

Hollowers, as users of the site will be called, will soon be able to download the Hollowgram app for iOS, Android, DOS, and Windows 95. A FAX version is in the works. Once installed, a user simply activates Hollowgram, and the fascinating details of their every action and word are streamed in real-time for others too hollow to follow.

Hollowgram will be ad-supported, with non-intrusive product placements carefully projected into the real-time imagery.

A visit to the BETA site showed the simplest and most elegant interface imaginable – one button that the user presses. Currently, the only hologram is of Princess Leia asking some old wizard for help, which plays over and over again. It actually looks like she’s in trouble. “But that’s part of the dramatic energy of our pending launch,” said Lucas. “What better storyline arc could we ask for than a social platform that helps defeat the evil empire? Which, of course, is Google+.”

Not to be outdone, Disney is preparing their own platform, code-named Goofi, which will allow users to share their own 2-hour full-featured animated cartoons with each other over dial-up service.

[disclaimer for the less-discerning - yes, this is a spoof. You can't download Hollowgram from the app store]

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Hire Steve Woodruff as your Brand Therapist

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Role Your Own

>> Networking on Purpose

Please feel free to subscribe to the Connection Agent blog via Reader (RSS) | via e-mail

Twitter: @swoodruff

Networking on Purpose (usually)

If you’re going to be successful, from a business perspective, you need to have purpose in your networking.

Simple but silly example: if you’re seeking to use the power of networks to grow your retail flower business in Missouri, it’s not likely that an investment of time building up a network of car mechanics in Sydney, Australia is going to be productive.

Network purposefully. Usually (caveat below!).

How can you use social networks to purposefully build business opportunities? Here are my “secrets”:

1. Show up. Strategically be present, at conferences and events and meetups and on-line, so that people can understand who you are and what you have to offer.

2. Connect with influential connectors in your domain. Not merely in the “we’re connected on LinkedIn” way, but build relationships over time. Don’t be shy about this. They’re connectors because they like to connect!

3. Bring potential clients, partners and other influencers along on your journey. Create a Linkedin group or a private Facebook group. Forward news articles and other resources. Connect people with other valuable people. Become the go-to person.

4. Occupy an empty space. There are countless market opportunities, in every conceivable domain, for curators, commentators, collaborators, connectors. You can build an entire career (I have) around finding something no-one else is doing, and filling that need.

5. Go deep with a handful. You can connect with 100,000 people on digital networks, but typically, the lion’s share of your business is going to flow from 5-10 key people with whom you have shared affinity and purpose. Concentrate on that handful, even as you build a broader network.

Don’t just network to accumulate follower numbers, or views, or ephemeral “influence” that comes from mass reach. A few people will make money from that. Most of us will grow business by having a focused purpose.

On the other hand, I freely and gladly admit that some of my networking is time is spent getting to know people with whom I don’t have some immediate or clear business purpose. Why? Because they are quality people, and when quality people band together, unexpected and unanticipated opportunities arise. I’ve seen this happen so many times that I now make significant investments of time in certain people and communities because I just know that in the long run, something great is going to come of it, for others and for myself. Call if faith, call it existentialism – I call it a fun adventure. We cannot predict what connections and open doors may happen indirectly through befriending and supporting people who may not be directly in our current business strike zone.

Even here, you’re networking with purpose. The purpose is discovery of new opportunities you can’t yet see or define.

So network with clear purpose, but also network with not-yet-clear purposes. If you purpose to be a helpful connector, you and others will surely benefit. And new purposes will become clear over time!

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Hire Steve Woodruff as your Brand Therapist

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Role Your Own

>> Is Your Sky Blue?

Please feel free to subscribe to the Connection Agent blog via Reader (RSS) | via e-mail

Twitter: @swoodruff

Who Are Your Influencers?

I’m a solopreneur. But I’m never alone. Why? My influencers – one of the great benefits of social networks.

Yesterday – as I have done regularly in the past – I had a question about one of my business approaches. I was able to reach out to a handful of trusted advisers – quality people like Tom Martin, Jay Baer, Greg Hartle, Tom Clifford, and others – and immediately get very valuable feedback. They’re part of my brain trust (which also includes many women, by the way – wonderful collaborators like Lisa Petrilli, Meghan Biro, Jane Chin, Jeanne Male, and more).

These are people that help me get smarter and gain clarity. Friends with whom there is a history of shared perspectives and collaboration. Friends. And they all know the door swings both ways.

You’re undoubtedly a smart person. But you’re much smarter with a brain trust – an inner circle of informal advisers who are not mere avatars or Klout superstars. These are the influencers that matter.

You can use social networks to build an audience. That has value. But where is your greatest value going to be? That’s right – the handful of fellow travelers who are on the same path as you, picking  you up when you stumble and sharing the vistas together.

Who are your influencers? And who counts you as a valued friend and collaborator? Build your inner circle and the rest will take care of itself. Trust me on this one.

(Image credit)

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Hire Steve Woodruff  if your identity and message need clarity (Brand Therapy)

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Not All Business is Good Business

>> Go With What You’ve Got

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Twitter: @swoodruff

My Business Vision

My LeadershipChat co-host, Lisa Petrilli, has written a stirring and helpful blog post about gaining a vision for our personal and business lives (Three Steps to Create a Vision for 2012). And, this is our theme for the final #LeadershipChat of 2011 – Vision. Not goals, not resolution – but the inspiring picture of “what could be” that fuels purpose and feeds action.

I liked what Lisa wrote so much about the three steps that I decided, for my pre-chat blog post, to simply apply her principles and see if I could articulate my vision. Here goes:

I strive toward a future where talent and creativity are unleashed to produce remarkable lives and results. I see a workforce driven, not by time clocks and paychecks, but by the internal fires of desire and unique ability channeled into creating value for others.

I see a day dawning where trust networks of real people outstrip the legacy efficiencies of hierarchical corporations; where handshakes and proven character hold more sway than lawyers and regulations.

I long for the day when people choose their career direction because of inherent fit, and where the pathway to success is paved with character, responsibility, diligence, and readiness to provide value.

I look for a time when long-term commitment triumphs over the compromises of short-term thinking.

I am committed to kindling these fires by building networks and business models that are disruptive to the status quo of short-sighted inefficiency, liberating people of talent and ethical character to do their best work and live remarkable lives.

There’s the vision. It has taken shape over decades and is pretty well set in my mind and heart. When you’re in touch with your core beliefs and values (see this excellent post by John Jantsch), your vision begins to take shape.

—–

How does that look when you step forward to a mission statement? Something like this, I guess:

My mission is to be a Connection Agent.

I am connecting people and businesses with their true identity and message; with creative opportunities to grow and succeed; and with other people and resources to bring about increasing success.

I want to leave behind a network of people who are richer because of these connections, and who will follow that example by enriching others.

—–

And how does all that flow out into activity?

The manifestation, so far, is the creation of business referral networks; a self/brand awareness consulting practice (Clarity Therapy); and ongoing tribe-building (LeadershipChat is, in a very important respect, tribe-building). The first two are current sources of revenue; the latter is my long-term commitment to bring together people who want to revolutionize business and life through purposeful use of social networks.

—-

OK, so how about you? Can you take some time this week to go through a similar exercise? Perhaps invest an hour tonight (8 pm ET) on Twitter for #LeadershipChat in order to discuss Vision with some smart, like-minded folks as you look to a new year? Hope to see you there, and to see your vision spelled out in the coming days!

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Hire Steve Woodruff if your identity and message need clarity (Clarity Therapy)

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Social Business is Not Enough

>> Go With What You’ve Got

Please feel free to subscribe to the Connection Agent blog via Reader (RSS) | via e-mail

Twitter: @swoodruff

Social Business is Not Enough

Many of us who use social networking platforms in the professional world know that it can be difficult to get “old school” leaders to understand the power of these approaches for business.

Say “social media,” and they think of Facebook and Twitter and YouTube (and all the baggage that goes with them). Let’s face it – those platforms weren’t designed for, nor did they take flight because of, business. Their roots are in personal publishing and sharing.

The new buzzword making the rounds is “social business,” and while this is an improvement, it still gives a very incomplete picture of the new world of connectivity we’re now part of.

Let’s take a step back and look at the entire mural. At the risk of over-simplification (bear with me, stories are best told in simple terms), we have seen develop, over the years, several “internets.”

The internet of media is what we think of when we look at the early (and current) web of URLs containing informational media.

The internet of commerce (business) is when the web matured to allow us to, more directly, buy and sell and conduct business transactions digitally.

The internet of people can be thought of us as the era of social media – making people connections more readily.

The internet of things, about to explode into far greater significance, is the soon-to-be-endless streams of data coming from objects (sensors, readers, etc.) that will be accessible over the web.

That’s how it looks conceptually. But in our digitally connected world, this is how it is increasingly looking:

Stay with me here, because you’re already guessed where we’re actually heading, haven’t you?

What we’re looking at is an inexorable and rapidly-growing cultural and technological movement toward full digital connectivity at every level. It’s not just social stuff, it’s not just media, it’s not just mobile, and it’s not just business. All of those things are subsets of something far greater, something every CEO needs to recognize. This is the era of real-time connectivity.

Sure, we want to help other professionals understand the revolution being brought on by digital networks. But by “selling” the big picture, we create buy-in for the pieces of it – the strategies and tactics of social media/networking/business as we now practice it (click to biggify ——> )

To further explain, let’s use a very relevant example, something that we all use: the architecture of the Internet. The internet was built as an expandable series of servers (nodes), each with an address (IP address numerically – we usually use the URL or web address). In this architecture, everything is connected in real-time – it doesn’t matter if one of the nodes is in Romania, and I’m accessing it from New Zealand. All (public) nodes are accessible:

Got it? Now, just expand the idea outward to include – well just about everything! Simply think of the nodes as consisting of people (and groups/communities) and servers and devices and supply chains and products – all connected in real-time. You remember years ago when you saw the first evidence of this – when UPS first rolled out those digital pads that tracked the delivery of packages to your door? That was just the start. Just today, when a Proflowers order I made was delivered to my mother’s door, I got an e-mail almost instantly telling me that the transaction has come full circle. And, if she wished, she could have shown them to me 1 minute later on Skype video.

Yes, we are rapidly moving toward a time when everything and everyone will be an IP address.

Real-time connectivity. Inside the office, behind the warehouse doors, back-and-forth with customers – it’s all becoming one universal digital web.

So – while there’s a place for talking about specific apps and platforms, we really need to escalate the conversation to the high-level drivers that are shaping all of global society – impacting everything from supply chains to PR to marketing to internal comms to location to data streams and much more. All of it is being incorporated into real-time connectivity, through a variety of always-on/always-present devices.

We need to step back and educate business people about the unstoppable trend currents that are re-shaping all that we do. It’s not merely about putting up a Facebook page, or even putting social approaches into every level of business. It’s about something much bigger. Something VPs and Presidents and CEOs cannot consider optional.

It’s not about “social” something. It’s about the reality of a real-time, universally-networked world.

I will be so bold as to predict that whole new business models are going to emerge, based on the principle of ubiquitous, every-level connectivity. Where these things all merge together, there will be an endless array of services needed to make sense of information and connections (and take advantage of opportunities).

What would it be like if new and existing businesses started with this perspective at the center – we MUST build (and re-build) everything we do around the real-time digital connectivity that will soon surround us at every level?

Guess what? Those will be the business that survive for the long haul. Because that’s the world we’ll be inhabiting. “Social business” is not enough. This revolution is far grander in scope, and we have the privilege of painting the entire picture. Let me know what you think we should call it…!

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Hire Steve Woodruff  if your identity and message need clarity (Brand Therapy)

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Go With What You’ve Got

>> Finding Your DNA

Please feel free to subscribe to the Connection Agent blog via Reader (RSS) | via e-mail

Twitter: @swoodruff

Going Viral in Perspective (A 2011 Reflection)

This year, I had a blog post (quite unexpectedly) go viral. For a couple of days, it was a crazy ride, as people around the world reacted to LinkedIn’s quietly implemented policy of attaching names and pictures to third party advertising on the platform. The original post was no work of art – it was quickly written without any intention of being a big deal – but because of the sensitivity of the privacy issues involved, it became a big deal nonetheless.

And, in fact, two days later, LinkedIn announced a change in policy, due to the volume of the outcry. That was also unexpected – and quite gratifying, to be perfectly honest.

But what can we learn from a viral incident like this? Here are a few perspectives:

1. Viral happens. Slamming out this blog post early one morning was not some carefully-crafted effort at setting off a firestorm. It just happened to touch a nerve. This was personal – it was about US and OUR privacy. And the whole incident had storyline-drama built in – perceived betrayal, David vs. Goliath, LinkedIn stepping in the same pile Facebook did, etc. Even if the blog post itself was fast-food, the table was set.

2. Viral happens more readily in a pre-existing network. Five years of building a high-quality network meant that I had an engaged audience who spread this thing at light speed. And the global aspect of the reach was breathtaking.

3. Viral posts take on their own momentum. You can do some things to fan the flames (and, yes, I did) when you recognize that you have a tiger by the tail, but most of the spread of the LinkedIn fiasco happened organically.

4. Viral doesn’t necessarily mean business. What impact did all this kerfuffle have on my core revenue-generating business? Probably about zero. For some folks whose business model depends on eyeballs and clicks, the story may be different – but 15 minutes of fame on the Internet may have little to do with the success that pays the bills.

And that’s the main perspective I want to reinforce. The blogger’s dream is to put out posts that garner tons of views and comments. But one happy customer is worth far more than hundreds of comments and thousands of RTs. A close-knit, supportive inner circle of like-minded souls will be far more important in the long run than the passing applause of the crowd.

Be the best person you can be. Do the best work you can. Viral happens. And even if it doesn’t – just keeping adding value to your existing network. We can all do that.

——————

Hire Steve Woodruff  if your identity and message need clarity (Brand Therapy)

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Go With What You’ve Got

>> Finding Your DNA

Please feel free to subscribe to the Connection Agent blog via Reader (RSS) | via e-mail

Twitter: @swoodruff

Go With What You’ve Got (A 2011 Reflection)

I freely admit that, in some areas, I am denser than an iceberg made of iron. In a few key respects, my mind runs with Olympic sprinter speed and dexterity – but in other ways, I learn at a glacial pace, only after so many crashes against the wall that I look like Rocky’s sparring partner on a very bad day.

But this year, I may have finally begun to turn the corner on one thing that I’ve believed (in my head) for many years, but failed to fully embrace (in heart and practice). When building business, Go With What You’ve Got.

You see, I often tell others that you really want build a small, high-quality, close-knit network – a tribe  in Godin-speak – instead of expending all your energy in amassing numbers. I don’t know how many blog posts I’ve written along these lines, and in many respects, I’ve practiced it – but, when it came to my primary revenue-generating pharma network (Impactiviti), I harbored a secret addiction to going wide instead of deep. There’s nothing inherently wrong with widespread recognition and messaging – but then I kept looking at where the revenue was truly coming from. And lo and behold (no surprise to any of you quicker learners out there), revenue was coming from a handful of long-standing customers/advocates. All the mass reach in the world, while good for the long-term, wasn’t really the driver. It was taking care of the people who already believed in me, and who talked me up to others. I finally started pro-actively investing much more time digging deeper than going wider.

Duh.

This simple insight, finally burrowing its way from mind to heart, re-shaped some of my social networking practice as well in 2011. I’ve always invested in the idea of cultivating a close “inner circle” of quality people, but it was difficult to set aside the broad reach model in practice. Somehow, the only thing that gets the applause lines is big numbers. Yet, I already had a wonderful circle of friends with whom I could cultivate deeper bonds. Did I really need to pour a bunch of energy into Google+, or worry about an influencer score, or be concerned about blog readership statistics? Not that any of those things are bad in themselves (well, maybe Klout…right, Sam Fiorella?), but I don’t really “need” mass numbers. I can barely cultivate deepening relationships with the wonderful people I already know.

Huh.

Finally, this “go with what you’ve got” lesson came home to me in a very unexpected new business direction. As many of you know, I have been building, behind the scenes, toward a grand vision I’ve had for years of a trusted referral network for building new business (Connection Agency). Yet, the very week I made this initiative public, an entirely different avenue of new business potential dropped into my lap – something that I already had been doing but didn’t really understand could be a business in itself. Doing Brand Therapy with individuals and companies has turned out to be the most fulfilling work I’ve ever done – yet it came to the fore only because I had some unanticipated extra time in Chicago pre-SOBCon and decided to do some free “therapy” sessions with people. Now, this practice has become a growing revenue stream in its own right, while Connection Agency has been on the slower development track.

Turns out the keys to success in 2011 were under my nose the whole time. As Thomas Carlyle put it so many years ago, “Our main business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand.”

Great advice for both business and leadership as we look ahead to 2012. What are the opportunities already at hand? What are you already bringing to the table? Who are the customers that make your business fly?

In fact, on Tuesday (Dec. 19th) at 8 pm ET on Twitter during LeadershipChat, we’ll be discussing our most important Leadership Lessons from 2011. Here’s one from my lovely co-host, Lisa Petrilli (My Most Life Opening Leadership Lesson of 2011). What’s yours? Feel free to write a blog post about it before, or after, the chat, and share your wisdom with other members of the community!

——————

Hire Steve Woodruff  if your identity and message need clarity (Brand Therapy)

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Twitter Chats and Cocktail Parties

>> Finding Your DNA

Please feel free to subscribe to the Connection Agent blog via Reader (RSS) | via e-mail

Twitter: @swoodruff

Business As Usual. The End?

Tonight, on LeadershipChat, we welcome Brian Solis, author of multiple books (including his latest, The End of Business as Usual). We’ll be covering some themes from that book, including the idea of an adaptive organization.

While you’re gearing your mind up for the chat, be sure to read my talented and lovely co-host Lisa Petrilli‘s blog post (The End of Business Leadership as Usual).

Brian is clearly a smart guy, and a very effective presence in social networks. And if you want to gain a clear statement of how businesses must go beyond business as usual, here’s a juicy passage (p. 13):

In other words – connected consumers are now driving the revolution. Adapt or die.

But Mr. Solis also tends to make my head swirl, as I’ve read his writings over the years. Why? Well, I’m kind of a practical, plain-spoken guy. Brian’s thought process tends to be at another plane – shall we call it the Solisphere? – and his loquacious use of industry jargon is unparalleled. What do I mean? Well, here’s an extract from the book (p. 34):

Whew! With language like that, my guess is that this book will likely find its biggest appeal among the digerati – although the concepts are important for everyone in business.

As a fun experiment, I decided I would go through each chapter, and seek to extract one (or two) pinnacle statements that summarize the thought of that section – then string them together into a brief narrative and see if it presents an accurate overview of the main themes of the book (in Brian’s own words). Here goes:

- This book will introduce you to the connected consumer, and how they search for, discover, and share information, and ultimately, make decisions. In many significant ways, they’re not at all the consumer you know (Introduction)

- How people are connecting is setting the foundation for a powerful distribution network that rivals the greatest of news and broadcast networks (chapter 1)

- The democratization of information is connecting everyone, not just Millennials, distributing influence and making the role of the consumer and its impact on business more important than ever before (chapter 2)

- The medium is no longer just the message. Now, the medium is the platform and people now represent both the medium and the message (chapter 3)

- Researchers believe that the lure of social networks and the gadgets that link us to one another are rewiring our brains to constantly switch tasks. In the process, we lose our ability to preserve attention and focus (chapter 4)

- Businesses and media networks looking to attract connected consumers must earn every click by providing contextually relevant information and deliberate value. This changes the game for content production and engagement strategies (chapter 5)

- Many early adopters are betting on the importance of the connected consumer, investing in the cultivation of communities in areas where they don’t necessarily control, but as participants earn the privilege to steer experiences and interaction (chapter 6)

- At the center of the transformation of the audience is the ability for individuals to capture a moment through text, video, audio, or still images and share them in real time to the hundreds or thousands of individuals in their social and interest graphs…this is the dawn of an audience with an audience with audiences (my favorite expression in the book – SW)  (chapter 7)

- On the train to enlightenment, an important stop is at the convergence of media and human networks…TV is a shared experience and the Web is often a personal activity that connects people through shared experiences (chapter 8 )

- By understanding the dynamics of social capital and its relationship to influence, organizations learn how to identify connected individuals who reach ideal communities and offer the ability to amplify reach, build relationships, and drive beneficial outcomes (chapter 9)

- Reviews and experiences from trusted peers, experts, and influencers form the foundation of the network. The information that flows into the stream from multiple networks sparks conversation and triggers clicks, while shaping perception and steering decisions in the process. Social customers are highly connected and trust networks are affecting outcomes with or without the businesses the affect (chapter 10)

- Connected consumers purchase in public, and as such, they influence the decisions of others through the public stream (chapter 11)

- Retailers are bringing experiences to the connected consumer from virtual dressing rooms to cash registers, letting them shop, share, and pay on their own terms (chapter 12)

- In these interactive online colonies, brands are not only created, brand stature and strength are co-created. The new social landscape is rich with emotion (chapter 13)

- The decision-making cycle is evolving away from a linear process to an elliptical cycle that publicizes touchpoints for brand connection  (chapter 14)

- Connected customers are not cogs in the business machine, but they play an instrumental role in the progress of progress, the adaptation of business, and as such, become part of a new era of customer-centric business mechanics…the roles of the social consumer require different aspects of recognition and engagement and will eventually demand the complete socialization of your business (chapter 15)

- The adaptive business will weave customers into its culture, development, process, and story…businesses must design products and services that create meaningful and shareable experiences (chapter 16)

- Customer-centricity begins with a culture of change…introducing purpose into the business model and operating under a veil of transparency, customers and businesses collaborate in something bigger than they are  (chapter 17)

- Control was never there, however – at best, businesses possessed the semblance of control. In a connected global society, customers are in control of the brand experience and it didn’t take new media to bestow this power on them. That’s the gift of free thought. Opinions are universal, and now the ability to share them with the masses and affect the impressions and decisions of others is equally democratic (chapter 18)

- The future of business starts with change and ends with change management. Customers represent only one side of the equation, however, and for the adaptive business, engaged and empowered employees represent the balance (chapter 19)

- Becoming an adaptive business is not the final stage of evolution…the next level for companies is to become a predictive business. The essence of evolution and the ability to outpace digital Darwinism lie in the ability to embrace change and illustrate the attributes of those models that improve opportunities for relevance and leadership (chapter 20)

So – there’s a very condensed taste of how Brian sees the future.  Every book tells a story. This is the story of how digital connections are changing business as usual. And what it may take to lead business in the midst of a revolution.

How do you see it? Is this just so much social network Kool-Aid, or a glimpse into a future moving inexorably upon and within us? Join us for a lively discussion on Twitter during #LeadershipChat tonight, December 13, at 8 pm ET.

——————

Hire Steve Woodruff  if your identity and message need clarity (Brand Therapy)

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Twitter Chats and Cocktail Parties

>> Finding Your DNA

Please feel free to subscribe to the Connection Agent blog via Reader (RSS) | via e-mail

Twitter: @swoodruff

Twitter Chats and Cocktail Parties

Probably my LEAST favorite social setting is a crowded, noisy, unstructured gathering. Such as a big cocktail party.

Speak before 1,000 people? No problem. Mill around in a crowd, flitting from person to person? I’ll do it if I must – like going to the dentist. My fondest hope in large gatherings is to find one or two like-minded souls, and a quiet corner in which to REALLY talk. The small-talk socializing to get to that point is pretty much a means to an end.

And that’s how I view Twitter chats, the on-line equivalent to cocktail parties.

In her recent e-book (The Introvert’s Guide to Success in Business and Leadership), my LeadershipChat co-host, Lisa Petrilli, describes how our friendship was deepened in just such a social setting. In fact, it was the meeting that week of two like-minded introverts that eventually led to the launch of LeadershipChat.

In the 14 months of co-leading LeadershipChats, I have come to realize that we, as participants, need to have a pretty modest expectation of the one-hour event itself. We’re dealing with the exchange of ideas in 140 characters (a real difficulty for semantics, qualifications, and complex ideas)! And, as in any cocktail party, there’s a lot of superficial chatter happening – even attempts to draw attention to oneself for the purpose of generating retweets. How human…

As for Lisa and me, our goals go way beyond the Tuesday 8-9 pm (ET) time slot. We want to create an environment where new connections are made, business (and personal) relationships are established, and ways of thinking (both old and new) are challenged and hashed out. A lot of that isn’t really going to happen, in-depth, during the hour. That’s where we’re mingling, kicking off dialogue, engaging in sidebars. The real valued outcome is the building of a community that rolls up its sleeves and collaborates during the other 167 hours of the week.

Or, as Kneale Mann often puts it toward the end of a chat, “now book a call with one or two people you’ve met here.” Right on.

Yes, I know that the sheer volume, and at times superficiality (@ZombieChatter BRILLIANT!! RT BillyBromide To lead, first you must live…) , of the tweetstream during a chat can be bothersome – just like it is in a cocktail party. But let’s keep our eye on the ball, and seek to encourage the development of a community of thinkers and doers.

To that end, I have one suggestion for LeadershipChat participants, that may further the dialogue and the learning. Just as Lisa and I write pre-chat posts giving our perspectives in the days before each chat, so I’d encourage any of you to write post-Tuesday-night posts on your blogs (or Facebook, or Google+…) that will expand on a point that is meaningful to you, or attack a deeper question, or express a disagreement with a guest host. Let’s move the dialogue to your sites, where there is more time to move into a quiet corner and really talk. Lisa and I love to comment on, and share, such LC-inspired posts.

Yes, I’m outside of my comfort zone every Tuesday from 8-9 pm. Even if it’s virtual, it’s a cocktail party. But when I consider the wonderful people I’ve had a chance to meet IRL this past year due to LeadershipChat, it’s worth the effort. Now, let’s all help the community reach its highest potential by going beyond the hour of chatter. Lead, by taking the discussion deeper!

P.S. please read Sam Fiorella’s comment below, and read the post he wrote on a very similar theme!

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Hire Steve Woodruff  if your identity and message need clarity (Brand Therapy)

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Finding Your DNA

>> Life and Leadership as an Introvert

Please feel free to subscribe to the Connection Agent blog via Reader (RSS) | via e-mail

Twitter: @swoodruff

The Past and Future of Leadership

This week on Leadership Chat (Tuesday, December 6, 8 pm ET, hashtag #LeadershipChat on Twitter), we’ll be talking about The Future of Leadership. Co-moderator Lisa Petrilli and I are honored to welcome Ted Coine and Shawn Murphy as guests to help lead this on-the-threshold-of-a-new-year topic! (see Lisa’s prep post, What Leadership of the Future will Look Like)

When I think about this topic, I find two voices inside me, vying for expression – the Cynic, and the Idealist. I cannot suppress either one – so I’ll give voice to both of them!

When we are young, embarking out into the real/business world, we often breathe in the heady vapors of everything’s possible!!! Then, after some decades of being pinballed around through life, you realize that, in fact, lots of things don’t change – especially people. It’s a painful realization.

The battle-scarred, experienced traveler gains realism, wisdom, and – generally – more than a touch of cynicism.

So what will the future of leadership look like? Probably, a lot like the past. Because, people, we’re dealing with people – and from time immemorial, people have been driven by greed, ego, selfishness, short-term gain, cruelty, and a host of other unsavory motives. If you have read any history, and if you read any newspapers, you see that nothing much has changed in thousands of years. Sigh.

Or, maybe not. Let’s give rein to some optimism. While human nature remains fundamentally the same, our world of digital networked communications does tip the balance toward a new model of leadership, in some very important ways:

  • The network model of work is slowly displacing the pyramidal command-and-control model. It’s no longer necessary to climb the ladder and lose your soul along the way.
  • The wide-open digital disclosure of information exposes bad leadership practices to a global audience – it’s a lot harder to hide nowadays!
  • Causes and meaningful work are slowly emerging as an alternate model to fitting into someone else’s corporate machine to earn a paycheck.

In fact, new leaders are emerging – and we’re not limited to trying to turn some pre-existing corporate battleship. Opportunities abound in the digital economy for creating new work models, leading like-minded teams (irrespective of geography), and generating outsized influence. So, maybe the future of leadership will look different. Because…well, we’re in charge now. And we don’t have to cash in our ideals.

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Hire Steve Woodruff  if your identity and message need clarity (Brand Therapy)

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Finding Your DNA

>> Life and Leadership as an Introvert

Please feel free to subscribe to the Connection Agent blog via Reader (RSS) | via e-mail

Twitter: @swoodruff

Out with Klout. In with Cannoli!

This post begins with Klout, and why (as of today) I’ve opted-out.

It ends with Cannoli.

One is more delicious than the other. Just saying.

My pal Sam Fiorella and I have had lots of tongue-in-cheek back-and-forth over the months about Klout, but the fact is, I agree with his reasoning here where he explains why he has pitched Klout overboard.

In brief, here’s why I’ve done the same:

1. I believe it is an artificial and inaccurate measure of true influence,

2. It reinforces behavior based on (apparent) reach rather than (real) depth,

3. It has no value to me, business or otherwise.

Instead of issuing Klout +K points to people, I prefer real network-building – like shared meals, shared laughs, shared life, and fruitful collaboration. Algorithms do not portray the type of influence that matters to me. And if you want to look at someone, first and foremost, through a Klout lens – well, we’re probably not going to get along anyway.

During #LeadershipChat on Tuesday nights, we have a habit of talking about cannoli – maybe it’s because a bunch of the participants are of Italian extraction, but I think it’s because a cannoli is simply, extravagantly, wonderful. We’ve even joked about awarding +K(annoli) points.

But forget the K – cannoli is all about the C. So, I’m just going to award people who mean a lot to me a nice, big, extravagant +C. Including an appropriate image, like this:

(btw, “cannoli” is the plural form – what you see above is a cannolo)

Meeting over a plate of cannoli (real or virtual) may not get you Klout perks, but I guarantee the benefits (and calories) are far greater!

Oh – and if you want to award someone the +Cannoli picture above, just copy-paste: http://bit.ly/Cannolo  Let’s #OccupyCannoli!

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Hire Steve Woodruff  if your identity and message need clarity (Business Identity Therapy)

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Maxim-izing Your Leadership

>> A Warning from (Un)Happy Valley

ROI in Context of Business Value

The next time someone asks you, “what is the ROI of social media?“, I suggest the following reply:

We can project the potential ROI of specific tactics using social media, but first let’s talk about BV (Business Value).” Specifically:

BVER – Business Value of Embracing Reality

BVIO – Business Value of Ignoring Opportunity

Networked communications – the use of point-to-point communications via social networks, and particularly through mobile – are simply the new normal. People don’t ask about the ROI of the Internet or of a computer anymore (though you can look at the ROI of a specific initiative) – these things are simply assumed. That’s what social networks – and mobile computing – are rapidly becoming. Assumed.

You don’t do ROI on assumed. You use the assumed to do something specific that will generate ROI.

So, what is the business value of being able to connect with your customers? What is the business value of being connected in a connected world? What is the business value – and the opportunity cost – to staying static in a world where digital networking in growing inexorably?

Put negatively – what is the business value of keeping one’s head buried in the sand? Can we start attaching minus dollar signs to that strategy??

There is no calculable ROI to “social media”, just as there is no ROI to common sense or breathing. Ubiquitous digital networks are just reality. Mobile communications are simply the new normal. Only a very small subset of the population calculates the value of using a horse-and-buggy vs. using a car. You do your calculations based on which car, and for what type of use. You’ve already decided the overall business value.

What is the calculated ROI of doing (this) using social media as (part of) the approach? Now, you’re starting to ask the right question.

Seek to direct ROI discussions to tangibles that can be measured, not something do broad as social media. The “ROI of social media” is a question that, as so framed, cannot be answered.

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Hire Steve Woodruff  if your identity and message need clarity (Business Identity Therapy)

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Dynamite Presentations: Start Here

>> Breaking Free of Powerpoint

Breaking Free of Powerpoint

I finally did it. We’ve had irreconcilable differences, Powerpoint and I. So, last Friday, I moved out.

I wanted to present in a way that reflected my style. I wanted to tell a story, not create a “deck” of slides. But for so many years, I felt bound to the information exchange methodology enforced by that tyrant of business presentation, Powerpoint. Even when I knew this relationship wasn’t working out, I found myself with one foot outside the door, and the other foot inside, not quite sure how to leave.

Finally, I found a way to start over. It was really quite simple.

Instead of beginning to create the presentation in Powerpoint, I put it to the side. Instead, on one screen, using Word, I started crafting the outline of the story. Scribbling, moving things around, totally unconcerned with format – just writing a script. Imagining myself in front, saying what I wanted to say irrespective of any slides as delivery vehicle.

I’m the delivery vehicle. The story is the presentation. That’s primary.

Then, on the other screen, a series of blank Powerpoint slides. On them, finding and pasting pictures that go with the story. Background. Presentation decoration. No text, because that’s in the script.

Powerpoint as illustration/analogy vehicle. Eye candy. It’s secondary.

Crossing this important mental barrier: If someone is going to ask, “Can I get a copy of your slide deck?”, I’ll just smile inside and say, “Nope.” Because the slide deck is not the presentation or the story. It’s a series of storytelling props.

I’ve seen this done effectively by others, and finally, I decided I’d break free last week (at Social Media Masters 2011). I think the picture above by Bob Knorpp (@thebeancast) wonderfully captures how much fun it was to present, free of PPT Tyranny (that’s me awarding Sam Fiorella his favorite social reinforcement, Klout points!)

There are magicians of public speaking/storytelling/presentation – Seth Godin, Guy Kawasaki, Steve Jobs. They all seem to break free of the information-dump style and tell stories wonderfully. Watch videos of these masters (or see them live if you can). Their examples have fueled my desire to “think different” about presenting!

So, are you breaking free from Powerpoint tyranny? If so, what are your methods? Let’s figure out ways to turn presentations into engaging stories instead of public data dumps!

Kudos to the Social Media Masters team (Kristie Wells, Chris Heuer, Sam Fiorella, Brandie McCallum, and others) for putting on an educational conference focusing on advanced themes – there’s still time to sign up for the Toronto and Kansas City events in October!

P.S. Bob Knorpp also captured this brief video beancast interview touching on some of the themes of my presentation, which focused on the future of digital networks/social media.

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Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Facebook’s Secret Weapon Unveiled: Ann Handley!

>> Trend Currents in Social Media

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Twitter: @swoodruff | @ConnectionAgent

Facebook’s Secret Weapon Unveiled – Ann Handley!

As the excitement is building today about Facebook’s promise to (once again…) transform social networking with a slew of new and sparkly features, the Connection Agent has gone under the interface layer to discover the real secret lurking beneath the impending drama.

It’s Ann Handley.

Facebook has secretly acquired Marketing Profs figurehead and Content Rules co-author Ann Handley, and embedded her within the FB platform. It is the first time a human being has been coded into a social network, though there have been persistent rumors that Twitter’s middleware may contain DNA fragments from Peter Shankman.

Starting on Friday, the status update box on Facebook will now be the iconic question, WWAHD? (What Would Ann Handley Do?). Users are expected to consider carefully how Ann might update, and then type their status accordingly, leading to a uniformly higher-quality of on-line content.

Facebook will also incorporate a context-aware ANNvatar, which will pop up and give advice about what you are reading and writing, delivering critiques as to style, grammar, and re-purposable content. The ANNvatar will speak in Ann’s voice, pulling words and phrases from the Content Rules book, which will now be the official Facebook Help Menu. Users will be able to choose AH levels, from mild snark all the way up to to ultra-Boston-style-insulting.

It is rumored that there will be a C.C. Chapman FB upgrade in the future “for the guys” but this is not yet confirmed. There is also speculation that each FB status will be auto-converted into a QR-code for people who prefer to use a smartphone for each and every form of communication.

The new Ann Handley FB version will be Prodigy and MS-DOS compatible because, after all, that’s what Ann Handley would do.

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Recent posts on Connection Agent:

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>> Trend Currents in Social Media

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Trend Currents in Social Media

No, that’s not a typo. Trend Currents, not current trends.

Trend Currents are the large-scale cultural, economic, and technological shifts that drive our ongoing communications revolution. And I’ll be speaking on this topic September 23, at the Social Media Masters one-day intensive in NYC.

What are these Trend Currents that shape social media now, and will shape the future of networked communications? Not to to give the whole talk away, here are three main things that every marketer and business person needs to keep his/her eye on:

  • Ubiquitous Connectivity
  • Disrupted Intermediation
  • Global Individualism

Current trends are the outgrowths we see today. MySpace, Friendster, Facebook, Google+ – those are all (temporary?) outworkings of much bigger Trend Currents.

Wayne Gretzky put it this way: Skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it is now (paraphrase). By looking at the larger Trend Currents, we’re able to cut through the fog of current trends and see where the marketplace will be heading in the future.

Intrigued? There are still a few available seats at Social Media Masters – make your reservation now, and join Chris Heuer, Sam Fiorella, Kat Mandelstein, Matt Hicks, Sean Moffitt, myself and others as we explore what is – and what is to come – in social media.

The event is produced by Social Media Club and Sensei Marketing.

Post-event update: Bob Knorpp captured this brief video beancast interview touching on some of the themes of my presentation, which focused on the future of digital networks/social media.

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