My Evolving Social Media Strategy

Once upon a time, I dreamed of finally arriving at a social media strategy. “Here’s how to use this, and here’s the best way to create business with that,” was the pot of gold at the end of the dreambow.

Reality: everything keeps evolving.

Twitter is a different place than it was a few years ago. Facebook keeps morphing. LinkedIn decides to become more like Twitter. Instagram shows up. Google+ is launched and peoples’ behaviors and platform commitments change.

Today’s strategy is yesterday’s approach.

For me, one thing remains constant, and that is the purpose for social networking – to find high quality people, build growing trust relationships, and find new ways to create business through connections and referrals. That hasn’t changed – but the way I use the platforms does keep changing and evolving. Because the platforms, and how we interact on them, are morphing day-by-day. It’s exciting, but if you really like a set plan, it can be a bit frustrating!

We are living an experiment. Have a purpose, but be prepared to have strategies where the lines move on a regular basis. Or this social media stuff will drive you batty!

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

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Social Media: Trees and Forest

Social media, as we now know it – blogs, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and the like – that’s all trees. There’s something much bigger in play all around us.

The forest is ubiquitous digital networks.

Social media “stuff” is actually a subset of this much larger technological and cultural movement.

If you want to clearly see what the future is – step away from the trees, and think about the forest. Or, to change the analogy, don’t just focus on the boats – look at where the river current is heading.

Every person, and increasingly, every thing will be a node. What that leads to as far as communication is fascinating to consider. We’re still in the training wheels stage, folks.

Things make a lot more sense when you see the inevitable, inexorable direction of trend currents (as opposed to current trends).

I’ll be painting more of this picture at the Social Media Masters event in NYC next month, if you care to joint me for some forest-gazing!

(Photo: Lake Placid NY from Whiteface Mountain)

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

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Can You Stop Me From Becoming a Pimp?

Yes – yes, you can. I want to ask you a favor, and make a deal.

It’s that awful, horrible, Twitter-polluting time of the year again – South by Southwest Interactive (SXSWi) has opened up the public voting for panels, and we’re all about to be inundated with requests.

“Vote for my panel! PLEASE!” Every. Other. Tweet. Sigh…

Friends, I don’t want to be “that speaker.” So here’s the deal. I put in a proposal for a talk. It’s a good one – you can trust me on that. And there are a bazillion other good proposed speakers/talks also. But I have a unique angle, and I’m going to be a troublemaker.

Here’s my proposed session:

So, if you think I’m a halfway-decent fellow, worthy of stirring up some trouble in Austin talking about whether pharma and social media REALLY get along, please vote for my panel. I’m asking right here, right now. No endless pimping. Now.

The directions are simple:

1. Go to this link.

2. See that nice green circle on the graphic up there?  Click right there (the site may ask you to register if you’ve not been there. It only takes a moment. Keep repeating to yourself: “Steve’s worth it!”)

3. Done! (or, almost done – if you add a glowing comment on the page that would be a cherry on top!)

Of course, if you then pimp out this post for me, that means I can look like the most popular kid in school instead of a social media pimp-in-training. And here’s the kicker – if I go to Austin to speak at SXSWi, I’ll be forwarding the most luscious photos of BBQ that you’ve ever seen. That’s gotta be worth something.

Thank you in advance for voting for me so that we can initiate the #SXSWSanity club. One post. No pimping.

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

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>> A Box You Want to Uncheck on LinkedIn

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LinkedIn Listens, Reconsiders

After two volatile days of negative user reaction, LinkedIn has reconsidered its plan to use the names and pictures of members in third-party advertising.

I had no earthly idea, when putting up this blog post on Wednesday morning (which, 2 days later, has now been viewed 200,000+ times), that such a firestorm would be the result. Nor did I think that LinkedIn would take such prompt action. What we’ve been telling people all these years about the power of social networks? – well, it’s true! :>)

While it’s too soon to fully gain perspective on all this, because it is now hitting national and international media outlets, it’s not too soon to dispel misconceptions that may occur. So…

1. Lest anyone think I have it in for LinkedIn – some kind of vendetta – I don’t. I was a very early adopter and have been a (paying) Premium member for years. My outpost there, including managing several groups, is substantial. I actually like LinkedIn a lot – I’m sure that fueled my sense of disappointment about the new policy.

2. LinkedIn didn’t change course this week because some semi-obscure blogger in NJ “blew the whistle.” They did it because they listened to the sentiments of thousands of their customers. It was smart of users to speak their minds, and very smart of LinkedIn to pay heed.

3. I fully embrace the fact the we make a conscious choice to give up a lot of privacy when engaging in social networks. However, experience continues to show that people have a visceral and negative reaction to these two things:

- the use of their name and face for promotion by someone else in uncontrolled or unapproved circumstances

- forced opt-in at maximum exposure levels when privacy policies are changed

It doesn’t matter if technical, under-the-radar notification is given. What may be legally defensible is not always professionally and personally palatable. Companies really need to not only ask themselves, “can we get away with this?” – but also, “how will this be perceived?” Perception is reality – especially in privacy issues.

4. One person can make a difference – as part of a network. The alert came to me from one unexpected source (in my pharmaceutical network), and once I tossed it up in a quick blog post, it spread like wildfire via another part of my social network.

Kudos to LinkedIn for reacting so quickly. I hope other social platforms will learn the lesson about respecting customers first. As we’ve seen this week – it matters. A whole lot.

(Image credit – Travis Isaacs on Flickr)

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

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> A Box You Want to Uncheck on LinkedIn

>> LinkedIn, Privacy, and Notification

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Twitter: @swoodruff | @ConnectionAgent

LinkedIn, Privacy, and Notification – Let’s Discuss!

[See UPDATE below!]

Quite an unanticipated firestorm has swelled up after I published this blog post (A Box You Want to Uncheck on LinkedIn) Wednesday, which describes LinkedIn’s force-users-to-opt-out-of-social-advertising policy (and shows you how to opt out).

Most of the comments on the blog and via social networks have expressed gratitude over finding out about it – even though LinkedIn quietly (via their blog) introduced changes  in their Privacy Policy back in June. I say quietly because – well, no-one seemed to notice anything!

Technically, it could be argued that LinkedIn did cover its bases in a way that a grinning lawyer might defend – they did give public notification of some form. The fact that virtually no-one knew what the ramifications were indicates that it was a technical notification only – that is, they clearly weren’t intent on making very clear to users what was about to transpire. I just happened, on August 10th, to be the first one to say “Hey!” – and only because I was copied on a private thread of LinkedIn messages by one of my contacts. Smarter-than-me news outlets like ZDNet, and many bloggers, were obviously not informed about the change by LI – one wonders why? It couldn’t be about the potential advertising revenue, could it?? :>}

And that opens up an interesting debate, which I will leave for the comments. How much notification should a social platform company like this give, in advance of a significant change such as including you in third-party advertising? Is technical notification sufficient, or should there be more forthright and comprehensive disclosure? If the latter, in what form(s)?

And how has this incident shaped your perception of LinkedIn as a company?

The comments are yours!

UPDATE: In the midst of negative user reaction and a growing media firestorm, LinkedIn has decided to make a change in the policy. That’s a step in the right direction!

UPDATE: LinkedIn Listens, Reconsiders

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

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A Box You Want to Uncheck on LinkedIn

[See UPDATE below!]

Apparently, LinkedIn has recently done us the “favor” of having a default setting whereby our names and photos can be used for third-party advertising. A friend forwarded me this alert (from a friend, from a friend…) this morning.

Devious. And I expect that you, like me, don’t want to participate.

This graphic shows you how to Uncheck The Box (click to biggify):

1. Click on your name on your LinkedIn homepage (upper right corner). On the drop-down menu, select “Settings”.

2. From the “Settings” page, select “Account*”.

3. In the column next to “Account”, click “Manage Social Advertising” .

4. De-select the box next to “LinkedIn may use my name, photo in social advertising” .

Nice try, LinkedIn. But, no thanks!

*UPDATE: After you finish with Account, check the new default settings under E-mail Preferences (such as Partner InMails); and Groups, Companies & Applications (such as Data Sharing with 3rd-party applications). It’s a Facebook deja vu!

Follow-up Post: LinkedIn, Privacy, and Notification – Let’s Discuss!

UPDATE: In the midst of negative user reaction and a growing media firestorm, LinkedIn has decided to make a change in the policy. That’s a step in the right direction!

UPDATE: LinkedIn Listens, Reconsiders

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Hire Steve Woodruff as your Brand Therapist

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Purpose-built Networks

The initial social media gold rush is about over.

Remember the exuberant early days of the e-commerce and portal bubble, and the huge paydays attained by some first movers? Then it all shook out, and we settled down to business.

Now, with social media, we have these big, broad, public networks (Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, etc.) sprawled all over the web, enabling people to make connections and share stuff – which is great. I’m all in, and have been for five years. However…

…as with any shiny new toy, the first-movers have made their big bucks. The new platform-creators, the evangelists, the top bloggers, the book authors – those in the vanguard have broken the fresh ground and social media is now moving into mainstream adoption. As it should.

These big, unfocused networks have some major limitations for serious business use, however. So, I’m thinking that the next high-impact evolution will be purpose-built, purpose-driven networks. Especially for business.

While we love the idea of the public social web, a whole lot of business communication goes on in smaller rooms. Controlled environments. And large swaths of business networking/communications have to be regulated (particularly in pharma, where I do a lot of my work). In fact, while I do a lot of public networking in the pharma space through my company Impactiviti, most of the significant business happens through private communications in a purpose-built trust network. That’s not really going to change for me, or for many other businesses. The wide-open social web is not a panacea – because often, the real business need is for targeted communications that have some business rules around them.

Social-media-style digital networked communications is great for individuals, and has huge potential for some kinds of more retail business. But it’s not optimal for everything. Much of the potential of social technologies will reside behind firewalls and in digital networks that are purposefully designed with business purposes in mind. Think about it – was Facebook, or Twitter, specifically designed for business? Um – no. We’re just trying to adapt them. And, truth be told, it’s often a bit of a mismatch.

The company that’s in the best position to deliver on this is Google. They have all the tools, many of which are growing up into enterprise level. Google Plus gives us a glimpse of private, multi-media selective communications with Circles and Hangouts. What we need is a platform that allows companies to naturally build their (multiple) networks with (multiple) different purposes according to the business rules and goals that apply to those groups. A platform that truly integrates voice, text, video, search, filtered layers of intimacy, real-time and asynchronous comms – and Google has all the pieces. With the cloud-based infrastructure to back it.

Apple will give them a run for their money. Because they have started with the user experience and nice integration, and thus built a lot of momentum. But they need to make the leap into business-focused networking. Microsoft – sigh. All the infrastructure, but so much legacy baggage – I don’t know.

These Lego blocks that we’re playing with now are cool. They are great for the individual experience, and for public exposure. But whoever cracks the purpose-built networking nut will find the real gold. Who do you think will win this race?

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Interview: Becky Carroll on Rockin’ Customer Service

If you don’t yet know Becky Carroll, you definitely should. She is one of the first bloggers I discovered 4-5 years ago in the marketing/social media space, and her Customers Rock! blog is well-known as a destination for all things customer service.

She’s also a really nice gal. We’ve collaborated on projects, spoken at an event together – I even had lunch with Becky and her family while staring at the Pacific Ocean in southern California (where she resides).

Becky’s just-released book, The Hidden Power of Customers, is a guidebook for any business that wants to put customers – especially existing customers – front-and-center in their business growth plan. And that should be – well, EVERY business.

Pardon the minor hiccup in 2/3 of the way through the interview when we had a connectivity blip. You’ll see a rather abrupt lighting change…!

Be sure to pick up a copy of Becky’s book today! (note: not an affiliate link. I have no financial interest in sales of this book).

Social Platform Fatigue

In the summer, as we try to get a tan without burning, we think about SPF ratings for sunscreen.

Right now, after the introduction of Google+, I’m thinking that the SPF (Social Platform Fatigue) rating has just gone up considerably.

Uber-geeks may be able to keep up with sharing and interacting on Google+, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, a favorite music or photo sharing service, and whatever else, but me? -I’m feeling tired.

It’s getting too complicated. I deeply value what social technology has brought about as far as business potential and personal interaction, but this fragmentation is becoming wearisome. Too many platforms, not enough time. I’m getting attention-burn.

The next big killer app is going to restore simplicity – or , I should say, bring about a whole new level of simple efficiency. It can’t come soon enough.

UPDATE: Ha! Right after publishing, I saw a tweet about Tom Fishburne‘s post: Social Fatigue. Funny!

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Microsoft Announces Minus, New Social Network for Pharma

While high-profile social networks like Facebook and Google+ have recently made splashy announcements to try to gain the attention of the masses, Microsoft has been quietly, and brilliantly, working on a new social network custom-designed for pharma.

Steve Woodruff, the Pharmaceutical Connection Agent, was given an exclusive sneak peak at the platform, dubbed Minus, which is being launched today to a beta audience of one pharma company, one patient, and 25 lawyers. While detailed screen shots were not yet approved by Regulatory, a mockup of the interface was obtained, showing the sensitivity of Microsoft designers to the constraints of pharmaceutical industry communications. (click to biggify —>)

Steve Ballmer, President of Microsoft, beamed as he read a carefully prepared and vetted statement to members of the press, who were not allowed to ask questions or engage in dialogue during the announcement. “Here at Microsoft, we understand legacy systems, bureaucracy, and the need to consider the past when developing for the future. That’s why we’re the ideal partner for the pharmaceutical industry to create a social platform that will reflect how controlled, one-way, non-interactive communications can occur in this modern world of digital networks. This is what social media is all about – MINUS all that social stuff.

“Now, please view these 17 slides of disclaimers, safety warnings, software contraindications, and approved uses for Minus.”

The announcement was hailed as a great advancement for an industry dogged by difficulties participating in the public, free-wheeling world of social networks. “For years, we’ve struggled with how to communicate with the public in a safe, controlled manner that will keep us out of trouble,” said one VP of Marketing, whose identity could not be revealed due to privacy concerns. “Now, we can get our messages out there on the Twitter and the Facebook by using this Minus thing to…to…say more stuff. You know, join the conversation.”

While it wasn’t yet clear who exactly would participate on the Minus platform, this was viewed as no barrier to adoption. “We’ll just pull a Google+ on everyone and make it limited rollout for everyone in pharma who has a Klout score of 82 and above, or who has a value of 1,000 or more on Empire Avenue,” explained Ballmer. “That ought to get us to critical mass in no time.”

To appeal to its target audience, Microsoft enlisted the avatar of ancient Uncle Sam Wilson as the key figure in its marketing campaign. “Old Sam had just the right look-and-feel that we wanted to accelerate uptake of the platform,” said VP of Minus Biz Dev Sam Wilson IV. “Doesn’t he just exude social control?”

Addressing the thorny issue of user-generated content in a regulated environment, Ballmer scoffed, “UGC is so 2009. We’re looking to the future by hearkening to the past. Remember the good old days of DOS? Guess what computing kernel powers Minus?”

Reporters were encouraged to submit questions via an analog “Suggestion Box,” all of which would be reviewed by an approval committee and selectively answered within 3 weeks via a special Minus application using U.S. Mail.

(please do not tweet or share this link without prior authorization from a qualified lawyer. Any harm that comes from using this blog post in a way that it was not intended must be immediately reported to proper authorities. 9 out of 10 regulators surveyed approved this message)

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Retail or Referral Thinking?

If you’re involved in social media as a professional – hoping to gain some business benefit from social networks – then you have a decision to make. Often, that means you have to question a certain default marketing setting and decide what is the right approach for you.

Are you going to approach social networks with primarily a retail, or a referral, mindset?

A retail mindset, which dominates much of traditional marketing, is typically a numbers game. It’s about reach. More eyeballs, more customers, more volume, more dollars. Translated to social networks, that means more subscribers/readers/connections leading to more potential sales of something.

It’s not wrong. It’s how one part of the business game is played. If everyone is clear on the rules, it’s fine. And on our networks, we’ve refined a pretty effective freemium model (give some level of knowledge/consulting/e-product away as a taste, then charge for the deeper level).

If you want to sell ads, sell books, sell keynote speaking, or sell memberships, it’s quite legitimate. But bear in mind that it isn’t the only way to do business via social networks. It may be our default setting, leading us to crave more, more, MORE numbers – but there’s a different mindset that may be appropriate for the vast majority of us who are not going to generate revenue-by-retail.

The referral mindset focuses on depth and quality. It recognizes that much long-term business comes from a core group of committed fans and activists. This approach is not simply thinking of short-term revenue transactions (which, again, aren’t wrong), but is more concerned with building deep and enduring relationships with people who will influence the marketplace as continual sources of referrals.

In one case, the goal is a simple transaction – dollars for perceived value right now. It requires scale to succeed. In the other, the foundation is character, reputation, loyalty…dare I say love? It is providing the deep value of walking alongside a limited number of like-minded others and being personally invested in their business success. It’s radical, it’s daring, it’s long-term – and it is decidedly NOT the default setting of our short-term marketing culture.

It’s personal.

Of course, large numbers of connections and building a referral network is not mutually exclusive. From the numbers come the individuals who become the advocates and collaborators. But in the referral approach, while having a large network could lead to some level of retail transactions, the primary goal is to exchange value at a deeper and longer-term level.

I have built reasonably large networks in the pharma/healthcare field, and in the general social media/marketing realm. Yet, my paying business really comes from a small handful of clients, and most new opportunities are driven by advocates who are committed to me as a person and a professional. Personally, I don’t feel a need for a bestseller on the NY Times book list. I just want to get to know the best people. They are my best sellers (and I am theirs).

Let’s face it – some people are really great at drawing crowds, and figuring out ways to retail things to them. And some of those folks also know how to work on the referral level at the same time. But for many of us, it’s worth questioning the default setting of more, more, MORE. Will your business grow primarily as a result of quantity, or quality, of connections? Answer that question, and your networking strategy will become clear.

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5 Reasons Why Twitter Might Soon Be Dispensable

I love Twitter. I use it heavily. Very heavily!

However, given how networking technology is moving forward, I have to wonder if Twitter is going to reach an early expiration date.

Here’s why I’m thinking this way:

1. Twitter’s main function is a commodity. Exchanging text messages is not rocket science. The younger generation does it all the time, but with smartphones and (generally) not with Twitter. And messages (including multimedia files) can be shared more intuitively on other platforms. Facebook replicates real-life sharing much more normally than Twitter, which requires a learning curve, a critical mass of contacts, and an awkward method of composing messages (140 characters).

2. Twitter still doesn’t have a stable and scalable business model. For all of its potential, Twitter is not truly a business tool with a clear value proposition. It’s a communication tool looking for a business model. That’s called “vulnerable” in any language. Also, while Twitter has had a high share level of cultural noise, its true adoption rate and demographic penetration are still quite small.

3. People are reaching platform overload. Even the tech-savvy have a hard time keeping up networks and profiles on LinkedIn, Facebook, now Google+, and a myriad of other sites. As these other platforms become more diversified (Facebook’s new Skype-calling integration, Google+’s Circles and Hangouts), Twitter is going to increasingly seem…well, quaint. Training wheels. Expendable.

4. The real network is the people, not the platform. I’ve met a ton of great people on Twitter and continue to do so. It’s been a great tool for a few years. However, those people are also now quite findable elsewhere. We’re going to increasingly build our networks around specific people and purposes, not platforms. Will we absolutely NEED Twitter in future years? Perhaps not.

5. Twitter is basically dumb. Yes, I said it. Lots of our early tools are quite limited. Read my initial thoughts on Google+ to get my drift.

Many have predicted the demise of Twitter in the past. I’m just looking at certain big-picture trends and wondering: is Twitter like a tricycle? Great for getting us going, but now we’re moving on to more adult modes of communication? Is Twitter (as a stand-alone platform) moving toward expend-ability?

What do you think? Am I seeing clearly, or being myopic? Put your thoughts in the comments!

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Why Google+ Could Succeed

Google has begun rolling out its latest iteration of a social network, Google+. It’s getting plenty of press in the blogosphere, with a wide variety of opinions (great start; Facebook me-too late in the game; meh-be; etc.)

Here’s my take on why it could be a winner – our current social networks are dumb.

You heard me. Dumb. Google+ is showing some potential smarts.

Not to say that Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn and the like are poorly designed, or that there aren’t really smart people behind them. And certainly not to say that those of us using these networks are dumb for doing so. Not at all. These platforms are a good start, and it’s very smart to be involved with digital networked communications.

But these initial tools are baby rattles, compared to the sophistication we really need.

I’m going to point you back three years, to the series I wrote on the ideal social media/web interface (One Interface to Rule Them All <– the link is to the first of 7 posts). There, I outlined how we need smart platforms that would do things like layering (Google+ Circles),  automated finding via Intell-Agents (Google+ Sparks); and, last year, I had a hankering for real-time private rooms (Google+ Hangouts).

The need is for far better ability to classify, stratify, find (not just search), and control. Google+ is heading in that direction, and that is why it could take on platforms that do a more “brute-force” job of connecting and publishing. And make no mistake – current social platforms are still quite “dumb” on the brute-force level. They give us a bigger and bigger fire hose with only the most rudimentary ways to manage it all.

If  Google+ evolves with simple elegance and solid integration, our brilliant friends at Google have a great shot at a next-gen platform.

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DNA Interview: Shannon Whitley

This week, we’re getting to know my friend and collaborator Shannon Whitley (@swhitley on Twitter) – interviewing him to discover a bit more about his professional DNA.

Shannon could easily be labeled “The API Guy” – if there’s an API for a social or enterprise platform, he’s probably integrated with it! He also develops great social tools, such as Contax.io and ChatTagged (see the video for more on those).

Need to gain understanding of your personal or company DNA? Contact me about Brand Therapy – you’re only a few hours away from a professional epiphany!

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DNA Interview: Sean McGinnis

I love sitting down with folks and finding out more about what makes them tick – their professional DNA.

Today’s Skype video interview is with my friend Sean McGinnis (@seanmcginnis on Twitter), principal of 312 Digital and well-known Chicago networker.

Sean’s mission is to help clients with Digital Customer Acquisition and Loyalty. Listen in as we chat for a few minutes… (please pardon the slight video pixelation…)

Need to gain understanding of your personal or company DNA? Contact me about Brand Therapy – you’re only a few hours away from clarity!

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DeltaFAIL? You decide…

Delta Airlines has a PR nightmare on its hands – or, is it an opportunity?

Here’s the deal – some soldiers returning from Afghanistan put up this video on YouTube (please watch) complaining about the fact that they had to pay, out-of-pocket, for a fourth piece of luggage. They had been operating under the impression that they were allowed 4 pieces of baggage.

Delta put up this apologetic response on their blog, which outlines the fact that soldiers traveling coach class are actually allowed three bags (first/business class allows four).

Military people know that you have to do things “by the book” as you do your job. And Delta employee(s) were apparently doing just that – following the rules. Clearly, we have a case of miscommunication – and maybe a policy in need of review – that has blown up and is creating a strong emotional response.

So, here’s the question – what do you think Delta Airlines should do – right now for these soldiers, this week for PR damage control, and long-term regarding their luggage policy for the military? Put your thoughts in the comments and let’s discuss.

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Touches and Tribes

The existence of social media doesn’t fundamentally change the essence of leadership – a leader is a leader with or without Twitter.

But social networks can dramatically impact the exercise of leadership. I’ll mention two ways that come to mind immediately; then, on LeadershipChat tonight (8 pm ET, #LeadershipChat on Twitter) we’ll discuss the topic as a community.

Touches

By being actively networked via social platforms, a leader can much more consistently deliver touches to employees, customers, and other stakeholders. The value of this is incalculable. Leadership is more than transaction and direction, it is relationship-building. Social networks provide a great format for reaching out and touching people on multiple levels, at any time. This pro-active accessibility will likely become, not a luxury item, but a norm in the coming years. Smart executives need to latch onto this low-cost, high-impact approach to more effective leadership.

Tribes

Traditionally in the business world, leaders were anointed through a process of working their way up through a corporate ladder – a hierarchy in which there were fewer winners at each level. While that model will continue to exist in many organizations, social networks allow for something very different – the bottom-up gathering of tribes. Leaders can now assemble like-minded groups of people who perhaps have little or no geographical or corporate connection, but who can work together toward a common cause. Tribal leadership will emerge in the coming decades as a radically new and very effective model of organization. Something as simple as LeadershipChat is an example of this approach.

These are just two quick thoughts – how do you see social networking impacting the way leadership is manifested? Feel free to share in the comments, and join us for the discussion on LeadershipChat tonight. And while you’re getting ready for that, be sure to read my co-host’s perspectives on this topic (3 Things CEOs Should Never Lose Sight of in Social MediaLisa Petrilli).

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New to social networking? Feel free to download my newly updated e-book, Build Your Own Opportunity Network

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Build Your Own Opportunity Network eBook – Updated!

I can hardly believe it was 2 years ago that I released this e-book, specifically designed to help business professionals get started with social networking.

The statistics and platforms have certainly changed, though many of the core ideas and much of the basic advice remains sound. There are lots of revised links to new resources in this refreshed version.

If you know someone looking for help getting started – feel free to forward this free resource along!

Getting Started Social Networking 2011

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Numbers

When you’re involved in social networking, you can’t escape the emphasis on numbers. Especially if you yourself are a marketer, where traditional thinking is all about reach, and you feel the inward pressure to have more readers, more subscribers, more connections, and higher scores.

I’ve been blogging for nearly 5 years, and it’s only been recently that I’ve begun to extract myself from the tentacles of this tidal force.

More isn’t necessarily bad. And, if your business model is based on reach (selling more books, affiliate links on a well-read blog, gaining speaking gigs, etc.) then greater numbers can equal bigger business.

But for most of us, attaining a mass audience is unrealistic. That means a feeling of inferiority at times, and various attempts at boosting numbers through techniques from the gurus.

Perhaps it’s time to question the core assumption, in your case and mine. Is it really all about numbers?

Or is the most important goal to gather high-quality people into a supportive tribe, and who can help co-create new business opportunities?

That actually takes real flesh-and-blood work – caring, interacting, networking – rather than link-gathering. You might not be in the upper echelon of number-boasters, but you will discover the real power of social networks.

Quality and quantity aren’t mutually exclusive, but I tend to think most of us are going to be better off concentrating on depth, not numbers.

Free yourself from attracting the masses and you just might attract the people who really matter. To you.

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Believe

While talking about career transitions and social networking this week, one individual asked me (and here I’m paraphrasing) what was the one thing to do above all others in building an opportunity network.

The answer that came out surprised even me at first. It has nothing to do with tactics, or specific social platforms.

I said to Sara that you have to believe. You need a gut-level conviction that building a network is the most important professional endeavor you can undertake.

And I do believe that. I think I gave it lip service for much of my career, because networking equaled schmoozing in my mind, and frankly, I am not a schmoozer. But it was the early days of LinkedIn that opened my eyes to the potential power of networks – and the massive advantage of a hybrid approach marrying digital technology to personal relationships.

Each step along the way – blogging, Twitter, Facebook, etc. – has grown that belief. But it has been getting past the pre-meeting stage which digital tools facilitate, and getting eye-to-eye, mind-to-mind, and heart-to-heart with people that has utterly convinced me. When friends are made, and opportunities opened up, and lives changed through these connections – well, it’s awfully hard not to believe.

You’ll read a thousand blog posts about the tactics, or the higher-level strategies, of using social networks. There’s a ton of noise about specific tools. I’m going to point you to the one thing that is foundational and drives the rest.

Believe. And if your faith is a little shaky right now, feel free to borrow some of mine. I have a lot of stories to tell – and so do a bunch of other people I can point you to.

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Introvert Networking: Start Here

My good friend and LeadershipChat co-host Lisa Petrilli has a valuable series going on her blog about Introverts Guide to Business and Leadership – she and I share a common bond over this topic since we are both professionals who seek to both leverage, and transcend, our native tendency toward introversion in our professional efforts.

Her post this morning (The Introvert’s Guide to Getting Noticed in Business) sparked a thought about how introverts can successfully build a deep and strong network.

Here’s your starting point: Make Your Own Rules. Specifically, use social networking tools and approaches to change the game to your favor.

You know the standard “rules” that come to mind when you see the word “networking,” right?

  • Walking into a crowded room and wondering how to fit in, and who to talk to…
  • Trying to join in to or strike up a conversation with people you’re not sure about…
  • Exchanging business cards without really knowing why…
  • Lather, rinse, repeat.

There are crowded social parties, artificial networking meetings, noisy industry conventions; and you, as an introvert, look at each of these with some level of trepidation. Because the networking “rules” you’ve operated under – the outgoing are the winners, casual chatter is how bridges are built, the more contacts you make the better – none of that fits you. No wonder it doesn’t feel natural.

So – change the rules. Here’s how:

Use digital social networks to “pre-meet” people. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and other networks give you the opportunity to build bridges and engage in one-on-one small talk without those crowded environments so that the beginnings of a relationship are already put in place. Then, find a format to meet that person one-on-one – either over coffee, or during a larger gathering.

How did an initial core group driving pharma social media – who have since, with many others, become great friends – find each other? Twitter and blogs, opening the door to live meetings and collaborations. —>

(hey, Brad, we’re overdue for lunch…)

Introverts tend to prefer a more intimate, in-depth, “safe” environment to get to know people. As Lisa states in her post, we prefer to go deep with a smaller number of people. Using social networks, you can meet new people, AND build deeper ongoing relationships, through the relatively safe and controlled environment of exchanged on-line messages. And, you can be far more targeted and strategic than walking into a big room and hoping you find someone with whom you have common ground.

Digital social networks allow you to find common ground right now, without uncomfortable events, and to start to build a relationship that can later blossom in an ongoing way. Everything you need to find the right people in a targeted way is available through these amazing digital platforms.

And here’s the not-so-secret secret – most people really want to have someone who knows them as an individual. People respond to the introvert way – deeper communication, one-on-one caring, thoughtful planning. Plus, if you take the time and trouble to “feed” the people in your network (something many introverts do quite naturally) with information and connections you discover – you’re golden.

The fact is – introverts have a tremendous advantage. Just toss out the old rules and make your own. Take it from me, the naturally-introverted Connection Agent. If you network your way, you win!

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A Lake Placid Mugging

I was bummed.

Pulling my coffee out of the microwave, I managed to bang my favorite mug against the edge and shatter it, not only spilling coffee everywhere, but losing a symbol one of my fond memories.

Lake Placid, NY.

You see, I met my wife-to-be in Lake Placid during the summer of 1979, just before the “Miracle on Ice” Winter Olympics (still my favorite sports memory of all time!). We spent part of our honeymoon there, and have visited numerous times over the years, always happy to re-live the memories, and to introduce our kids to the sights and pleasures of that little Adirondack getaway.

Last summer, we had the pleasure of enjoying lunch at the Lake Placid Pub and Brewery, and there I spotted a mug similar in shape and size to one I’d purchased in LP way back in ’79. So, I bought it.

Then, a few weeks back, broke it.

Because I have fun sharing life events on Twitter, I posted a picture of me mugging with my remaining half-mug, and got some funny messages of sympathy. But then, lo and behold, a unexpected note from Kimberly Rielly at the Lake Placid Twitter account:

I loved the fact that LP has someone in charge of monitoring tweets that mention the destination. But I loved even more that Kim reached out via e-mail and really did offer to fix one of these tragedies. And, she did (together with the fine folks at the Brewery)!  A few days, later, I get this box in the mail, and sure enough, it put a whole new expression on my previously-saddened mug–>

And that, my friends, is how to use social media to delight customers. Happily, our local libation store now carries Lake Placid Brewery Ubu Ale, so I’ll be enjoying some of it this weekend.

This spring will be our 30th anniversary, and this summer the 32nd anniversary of our meeting in LP. It’ll be a little bit sweeter knowing that Lake Placid is not just a far-away memory, but an up-to-date source of gladness!

Now, for some more coffee…

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Free Books – Tonight Only!

As a little bonus for the folks who gather at #LeadershipChat on Tuesday nights (what? you haven’t joined in yet??? 8 pm ET on Twitter – hashtag = #LeadershipChat)), I’ve got giveaway copies of five top marketing/social media books.

Still trying to figure out HOW we’re going to award them tonight (got any ideas? leave a comment!), but nonetheless, here they are:

Trust Agents by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith

The Next Evolution of Marketing by Bob Gilbreath

The Now Revolution by Jay Baer and Amber Naslund (my review)

The New Small by Phil Simon (my review)

Content Rules by Ann Handley and CC Chapman

Extra bonus – Content Rules has been personally signed by Ann, directly to you – whoever you are!

So, join us for a lively discussion during #LeadershipChat tonight (Open Mic – any topic you wish to talk about) and see if you can win one of these brand-spanking new books for yourself, or for someone you know. Be sure to read beforehand about a Most Unusual Tweetup, from my co-moderator of LeadershipChat Lisa Petrilli.

Please note: due to postage considerations, winners need to have an address in the U.S. or Canada. When I’m as wealthy as all of these authors, maybe I can send books anywhere around the world…(OK, by then books will be holograms, but still…).

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Do We Need to Put Up with This?

>> Business is increasingly being encumbered with regulations, processes, lawyers, and fears. Do we* need to put up with this?

>> The cost of business development/sales is huge. Do we need to put up this?

>> The landscape of providers is littered with the unscrupulous and incompetent. Do we need to put up with this?

>> The best people are scattered about in a patchwork quilt with only the loosest of ties. Do we need to put up with this?

>> Talent-stifling, hierarchical organizations/corporations dominate how business gets done. Do we need to put up with this?

I say NO. It’s time for the connection agents to band together. Stay tuned…

* = competent, trustworthy, reputable professionals of good will

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Publishing Perma-links: Steal This Idea

Lately, I’m reading more books that use hyperlinks as references.

It’s ugly.

(from Guy Kawasaki‘s new book, Enchantment)

But I can understand why authors choose to do this, instead of using URL-shortening services like bit.ly and tinyurl. These services may be transitory and unreliable, while books are meant to be more permanent archives of knowledge.

Here’s the problem: links are transitory, too.

So, is there a business opportunity to solve this problem? I think so. Please feel free to steal this idea if you agree:

Someone should launch a combined URL-shortening service and cloud-based archiving mechanism (similar to the wayback machine) that will take and store a snapshot of the referenced page in an archive, as well as have a pointer to the URL in its current state (which may be either the same, or with altered content, or a 404 Page Not Found).

This way, we can have nicer and more compact perma-link URL pointers in print materials (it would work for on-line content too, actually) which will have a permanent record. Tie it also to a generated QR code (used creatively in The Now Revolution by Jay Baer & Amber Naslund) for the archived link and you’ve got a real winner.

Call the service book.it or something like that.

I could easy see a 2-tier free (personal) and paid (professional) version of this, so it could be used by individual researchers, students, and the like. Every publishing house would be on the professional version, and each book released would have links formatted something like this:

http://www.book.it/nowrev/1-1 (The Now Revolution, chapter 1, first link)

I don’t have time or expertise to create this. So do us all a favor – steal this idea. Just put a perma-link back to this post when you’re done, for the first test case!

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