My Second-to-Last Post at Connection Agent Blog

Connection Agent is going away? Yes. And, no.

This week, I’ll be launching a new website at SteveWoodruff.com, which will be the new home for all my writings about marketing (my pharma biz, Impactiviti, retains its own separate identity and site).

So this blog, and the Clarity Therapy blog, will be superseded by a professionally designed and hosted site. The overarching theme will be the message that has been at the core of my work for many years: Discovering Your Fit.

(sneak peek – not quite live yet!)

For a long time here at Connection Agent, I’ve blogged about marketing – and leadership – and network-building – and branding – and blogging/social media – and entrepreneurial business. Since October of 2006, in fact, where my very first post, How to Waste 10,000 Billboards (critiquing UPS’s marketing), still resonates today.

However, over a thousand posts later, I’ve sometimes wondered if I’ve been wasting everyone’s time. Because, truth be told, I often felt a bit like an impostor.

Why? Well, I wasn’t quite sure where my passions about these topics was heading. And there were lots of people with deeper expertise in all those areas.

Lesson for entrepreneurs: keep at something long enough, and the market will tell you what you should be doing. <—(tweet this)

Turns out that my strong suit all along was helping people figure out their purpose, and then set a new direction and distill a compelling message. Really quickly. It took years of just doing it – intuitively – before my mission became clear.

There’s no job description for that, so I made it up (Clarity Therapy). And, it encompasses pretty much everything that I’ve been writing about all along.

I’m still the Connection Agent, and still committed to building opportunity networks that will help businesses and individuals find ideal work. But it’s time to step up and take on the challenge of seeing new generations of talented people find their optimal role in life.

I believe deeply that when we Discover Our Fit, we stand the best chance of changing the world of work, and fulfilling our purpose.

So…let’s do this!

Assuming that all the Internet plumbing does its work*, I’ll see you later this week, over at SteveWoodruff.com (and for some of you, I’ll see you in Chicago at the SOBCon conference)!

*in my final post, I’ll put up all the links to move your feeds and subscriptions over to the new site. There is also a free e-book you’ll be able to download, titled Make Yourself Clear! – Six Steps to De-Fogging Your Direction and Your Message.

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.

Clarity ON: Redhead Writing

ClarityOn

This morning, I came across the newly-relaunched website for Erika Napoletano, aka Redhead Writing.

Boom. Love at first sight.

Hmmm…let me backtrack a bit here. No, I don’t actually know Erika; and yes, I am profoundly in love with my wife (who is a brunette, by the way).

But when it comes to the branding/messaging – I was all-in within moments.

ErikaNapoletano

Bright simplicity of design. Superb use of colors and white space. Engaging picture. Clear navigation. And, above all, an exemplary message of clarity: I Get People UNstuck.

Attitude? Check. Compelling video? Check. Simple and memorable message? Check. Call to action? Check.

I got totally drawn in to the site. And I’ve been around the internet block for enough years to have pretty strong filters. Color me hard to impress.

While everyone else is arguing over who won the Super Bowl marketing wars on Sunday, I’m telling you right now who wins the Internet today. Erika Napoletano. No Clydesdales required.

Color me impressed.

(oh, and I stole the basic idea of the Clarity ON graphic above from Erika’s Twitter page. Which also rocks!)

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

Your Silent Audience

Blogging can be a discouraging enterprise at times.

Is anyone even reading what I write? Why are there so few comments? Where’s the engagement?

silenceWhile we all crave tangible evidence that people appreciate what we write, we should never forget that most of our audience is silent.

For every commenter, there are many others who are absorbing, thinking, learning, growing, laughing – privately.

Your every Facebook status may not garner a lot of comments. But you’ll be surprised how sometimes, months later, someone comes up to you and remembers. And comments. Live.

I don’t comment often on Jon Swanson‘s stuff. But I read it regularly. I keep very close tabs on Greg Hartle’s adventures, even if our on-line back-and-forth is more sporadic. Most of my direct banter with Tom Webster is ironic and punny, but the fact is, I relish his thoughtful posts.

Yes, we need to write for our more engaged readers. But don’t forget your silent audience. You might not hear much from them, but they’re waiting to hear from you.

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.

Finding Your Blogging Voice

voiceAnyone can write a blog post (well, maybe not anyone, from some writing samples I’ve seen!)

But how do you find your unique blogging “voice”?

I’ve been blogging on marketing topics for over 6 years. Yet I feel as though I am only now finding my writing voice. Many of the same topics and ideas occupy my mind and flow out of my keyboard, but it has taken quite some time to develop the style and approach that is “me.”

Let me give you three steps to finding your blogging voice. Warning: simple to list. Hard work to implement!

  • Start
  • Interact
  • Continue

First, you have to start. You can’t develop your writing skills in the abstract realm of your private imagination. Every blogger looks back at early posts and cringes a bit. That’s normal. Drop the perfectionism and just start writing – assume that you actually do, right now, have something valuable to say!

Then, interact. Find other people writing and blogging and read their stuff (here’s a good start, from writer/blogger Jeff Goins). Comment. Learn from them. Let others interact with your ideas – they’ll show you, even without meaning to, how to improve your skills (I just this moment got a DM on Twitter from a reader who provided a female perspective on my post this morning that I never even considered!)

Finally, continue. Blogging for people who want to become writers with a unique voice is a long-term commitment. Don’t get hung up on instant results. Your masterpiece work is probably a good ways in front of you, and you are building toward it.

You have a voice. You have to begin to let it out and train yourself over time. Lots of folks will help you develop. And, in the meantime, you’ll make an impact, even with a smaller readership. So…Go!

If you’ve been blogging for a while, how long did it take you to feel like you’d hit stride and found your voice? How did you get there?

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Out of the Bud, into the Flower

Just out my window, red maple leaves are beginning to emerge. What were buds in my yard just a short time ago, now are becoming full-blown flowers and leaves and canopies of beautiful shade.

As it should be. The bud phase is meant to only last a brief moment, to be a quick transition to the real goal.

Musing this morning on Geoff Livingston‘s post explaining the end of his blogging tenure at the Buzz Bin, I saw the process at work. As Geoff put it so pointedly, “I have run out of things to say…I feel like I am repeating myself.” In other words, social media as a topic in and of itself has pretty much run its course. The bud phase is over. Time to move on.

While it is tempting to mourn the passing of anything that has been new and shiny and exciting, in reality, we’re on the threshold of the really good stuff. In the nascent days of computers, or of Web 1.0, the early adopters were (rightly) excited about the technology itself. But it was never about the microprocessor or HTML code, not really. It’s about what we can do with it.

Passion for new technology skyrockets, then wanes, in order to make room for the real passions that matter – how we can transform people and society and business using new tools and approaches. I have been (and still am) quite passionate about social networking. But I no longer much care about re-tweets, Ad Age rankings, or follower numbers. My genuine passion has emerged – building deeper, more purposeful Opportunity Networks that will help change how we do business for the long haul. The “corporation” as we now know it is an aging model. I’m gathering a core of like-minded folks who want to explore how to create the new “co-operation.”

Social networking and technology tools are a big part of this vision. But there’s enough information out there now about how to be part of the conversation, how to go viral, how to write blog headlines, how to build a wide audience. That’s the bud. What’s your flower? How are you going to use all these good tools and connect with smart people to make whole new movements and organizations and impacts?

It’s springtime, friends. Buds are great – but only because of what they promise. We’ve talked social media and made lots of connections and sought to introduce it to the rest of the world…all good and necessary. But now let’s transition from early adopters to long-term architects. Summer’s coming!

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Twitter: @swoodruff

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Jason Falls is a Bonobo in Drag

Story here.

Who’s Behind the Avatar?

My friend Toby Bloomberg is collaborating with John Cass to ask a question about transparency – namely, what sort of transparency needs to be in place if “outside” agents are feeding social media content for a client brand?

From Toby’s blog post:

Social media is a hungry beast that to succeed demands content…PR agencies, advertising agencies and social media consultants are seizing an opportunity to carve a service niche from their time pressed, staff starved clients. Yes, the agencies are stepping in and taking over the role and responsibilities of implementing social media initiatives….but unlike an ad campaign or dropping a media release where no one really cares what name you use, social media is supposed to be different. Tweets and posts are supposed to be from the real people who are working for the brand…However, since on Facebook and often on Twitter “no one knows your name” seems to be the acceptable norm, 2010 will see more. Is it good? Is it bad? Is it just fact of social media marketing life? Does it really matter?

I’ll toss in a few brief thoughts:

1. Since there is an expectation set currently in place with social media (real people interacting with real people), and since violating that expectation leads to a lot of unwanted on-line attention, it’s not wise for a brand to play “let’s pretend” in social media platforms – at least, currently.

2. There’s nothing wrong with outsourcing expertise to “feed the beast.” Life is full of outsourcing. Just be honest about it.

3. I’d recommend that brands who outsource the maintenance of Twitter, Facebook, blogs, etc. establish a “brand” identity on those platforms instead of trying to pretend that there is one person behind the account. I’m OK with, say, TiVo having a brand account – as long as it is positioned as a brand account. I’m also OK with the TiVo account being TiVo Shanan if Shanan is for real (she is, apparently – and very nice!). If the platform is going to provide info and interactions from a team, fine – let’s just have accurate expectations.

4. These platforms are communication channels and we all have to take a deep breath and have a reasonable view of how companies will use them. I happen to think that the companies who advance with real personality in their social media endeavors will likely do best, but not every company is prepared out of the gate to have designated in-house personnel to “feed the beast.” We don’t need to beat these folks with a purist club and accuse them of being inauthentic – unless they’re being inauthentic! Let people get their feet wet, and outsource as they must. We should encourage brands to use social media responsibly, realizing that those who abuse it by a lack of transparency will be outed in time, and the lesson will be learned!

My 2 cents – your thoughts?

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Subscribe to the StickyFigure blog

Twitter: @swoodruff

Connect with Steve Woodruff

My Twitter “Full Disclosure”

twitter-logoSo you’ve decided to follow me on Twitter. Thanks for tuning in, and I look forward to tweeting with you!

I cannot provide you with all the answers to life, nor can I make all your relationships better or even guarantee improved hair control. Here, however, is what you’re in for:

:: WYSIWYG. Hopefully you’ll like what you see, warts and all. If not, feel free to unfollow. I won’t be hurt.

:: If you’re interested in pharma/healthcare, social media, branding, marketing, humor, and life, well, I do that.

:: I point to stuff on my blog(s) when I publish. If I didn’t have something to say, I wouldn’t be here.

:: I point to a LOT of other people’s stuff. Most of them are smarter than me.

:: I don’t auto-follow. If/when I do follow you, there’s a good reason for it. I think you’re interesting, funny, smart, engaging, a value-add, or some combination thereof. There’s a much higher likelihood that I’ll follow you if you @me with something directly.

:: Sometimes I’ll tweet or blog about things personal, philosophical, even political. And post pictures. See WYSIWYG.

:: At various times I may get a bit snarky, make puns, and engage in banter. Especially on Fridays. I even do spoofs at times, with some assurance that the victims have a thick skin. My followers deal with it; or better, enjoy it, and join right in. You might also get a wine recommendation or two, including pictures.

:: I do this because I like it, it’s a fulfilling creative outlet, I enjoy writing and sharing, and I’m seeking to build an opportunity network. I hope you feel the same way. We’re all evolving this space together, and it’s a lot of fun!

Oh, and if you haven’t yet followed me on Twitter, here’s where you can remedy that! If you want to know about my various footprints and networks on the web, it’s all at SteveWoodruff.com.

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Five in the Morning 102108

Is new media marketing becoming “mainstreamed”? Check out what Paul Chaney has to say.

Re-branding…fish…with new names. Guess I hadn’t thought of that one. From the NameWire blog.

How can social media help with customer loyalty? Becky Carroll over at Customers Rock! begins a brief series this week, with quickie videos (at this link – a video from Jim Kukral). Anything Becky produces is worth your attention.

Why do we blog? Here’s what Darren Rowse (@problogger) found out when he asked his readers.

Ann Handley has Nine Questions for Guy Kawasaki. Read the Q&A here.

PLUS: Only Ann Handley could pull this off. From her blog A n n a r c h y: A Toast to Cancer.

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Five in the Morning 100208

From ProBlogger4 quick and easy ways to increase page views on your blog. Good, simple, solid tips everyone (novice to pro) can use. PLUS: if you like lists of bloggers who can be found on other social platforms, check this out!

A blogger (Beth Harte) changes her mind about using Twitter.

Read blogs to improve your blog. A couple quick paragraphs from David Brazeal.

Think you know how to search online? Gavin Heaton thought so too

I love great marketing ideas. And Free Shirt Friday is just that. Very creative! (hat tip: Douglas Karr)

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Five in the Morning 093008

50 Scientifically Proven Ways to be Persuasive – looks like an interesting book!

Launching your next venture using Social Media – 5 Lessons Learned. From ProBlogger.

Valeria Maltoni on why branding matters in a tough economy. “Branding in a tough economy matters – maybe because we are in the “touch economy” now. We need to see, experience, interact with, and feel before we buy. One of the most important aspects of differentiation and success is developing a voice with that online presence…”

Chris Brogan shares some “Best of…” to help your blogging. Good stuff!

Warning: Do not Drink Water. Why?

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Hi

Welcome to new readers of StickyFigure, a small-to-medium sized outpost here on the long tail of marketing blogs! Your tour guide is Steve Woodruff, marketer, consultant, entrepreneur, and reasonably nice person whose writings are generally brilliant and life-changing (note: your results may vary).

Stickyfigure is where I publish ramblings and resources about marketing, branding, social media, entrepreneurship, and life in the business world. My paying job is as a pharmaceutical consultant, and in that realm, I maintain a focused blog called Impactiviti. My personal blog, stevewoodruff.com, is where I park “other” non-business musings.

If you’d like a sample of some “Greatest Hits” (well, in my opinion anyway!), here are a few links:

Branding:

How to be Unremarkable

Brand Paul Potts

Personal Branding:

Your Personal Brand: Does it Matter?

Wax-free Bloggers

Social Media:

Your Marketing is Already Outsourced

One Interface to Rule them All

Marketing/Customer Experience:

How to Waste 100,000 Billboards

Lowe’s to Home Depot: Take 5! No, Take Fifty!

Entrepreneurship:

How I Became a Consultant

10 Lessons Learned from Starting a Small Business

So, feel free to browse through the blog. You’ll also find a few spoofs, and a number of posts about collaborative blogging efforts. And, if you’d like to connect, I can also be found on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

Image credit: Coollogcabin.com

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Evolution of a Blogger

Evolution of a bloggerHello, world! I have so much pent up in my heart and mind, and I can’t believe I can just write it up and publish on a blog! Who cares if anyone reads…I just gotta express myself!

——-

Hello world! Wow, I’ve put up 5 posts so far, and a couple of people I never heard of actually left a comment on the latest one! How did they find me? I went on their blogs and left comments, too. There are some other folks out there who are pretty interesting…I think I’ll link to their stuff.

——-

Hello world! Do you realize how many great blogs there are! Look at all the cool ones I just put on my blogroll! Maybe they’ll put me on their blogroll too, and link back to my posts. Speaking of which, here’s my best post yet – 10 Steps to Accomplishing What you Want. Please read, comment, and link…I’m on my way up the ladder!

——-

Hello world and fellow bloggers! Did you know that I just got a comment from a blogging B-lister? I’ve been leaving comments on A-list blogs, hoping to get noticed and hit the big time. Someone told me about Technorati rankings and I don’t even seem to exist, but we’ll get there. Just have to do this blogging networking thing.

——-

Hello world and fellow bloggers! Wow, you guys are really friendly! I’ve been meeting some great folks on-line, and there’s even a Blogger Meetup coming up – w00t (bloggers are supposed to say “w00t” when excited, I’ve discovered). Hey, here’s my latest post – can you do me a favor and Digg/Stumble it, and enter it into all the sites where it’ll get noticed?

——-

Hello fellow bloggers! That was one great meetup last night! So many cool people, and we all share common interests (but what diversity)! I seriously think we’re going to change the world. Social media is the coming thing! And now there’s micro-blogging, where I can connect to even MORE people, and get more readers!

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Hey, fellow bloggers! Check out my Flickr pix, my Stumbles, and my bookmarks! And give me a follow on Twitter and Plurk and Friendfeed and MeMyself&I! Woo-hoo! Lifestreaming, baby! This is awesome!

——-

Morning Twitterati! I having a double-broccoli non-fat mocha twittichino, then off to a client meeting for a big preso. I hope Twitter stops stressing today, or I’ll be plurking (heh!). See you on the flip side, peeps!

——-

Man, I’m seeing all the same folks talking to one another on every social media site I go to. Looks like a big on-line high school, with everyone passing notes. Kinda cool, but…what’s the point?

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Why am I doing this?

——-

Hello, world! I have so much pent up in my heart and mind…

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