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

>> Four Questions for your Future

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

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

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

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

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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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