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.

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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

Five in the Morning – Finale

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Five in the Morning road-trips to Alabama!

mack-collier-pictureYes indeed, Five in the Morning has taken a journey south today, to the fine state of Alabama. Mack Collier (of The Viral Garden blog fame) took over as guest-host, and he has five fine blog posts for your Wednesday morning. What are you waiting for? GO there!

“Why Don’t They Get It/Me/Us?”

Mack Collier has started a good discussion on his blog (The Viral Garden) about the use, or non-use, of self-promotion among social media types.

Now I’m against blatant, obnoxious, noisy self-promotion by any person or company. Hate it. But I’m all for prominent, “sticky”, clear, and repeated communications by any person or company about what they do. Because most of us are in business, and new business doesn’t happen if people don’t have a clear grasp of what you have to offer.

I’m going to use Mack as an example, because he’s a good sport, and by putting up this post, he’s “asking for it!” It takes 3 fairly involved clicks on Mack’s blog to get a grasp of what he does for his living, and even when you reach the post where he explains his social media consulting, it’s really not clear what types of companies he is aiming for, and what exact and tangible deliverables he has in mind.

Let’s just say (I’m making this up) that Mack was aiming to be the top social media we’ll-get-you-started-in-this-brave-new-world for, let’s say, retail organizations (I do believe in having a defined focus and niche whenever possible). Then it would be great if, prominent right on the sidebar as you come onto the Viral Garden, there was a summary paragraph such as: “Mack Collier helps retail organizations navigate the uncharted waters of social media by applying community-building strategies that lead to higher sales.” Or something like that. And then had it on his footer on blog posts. And on e-mails.

You see, it’s not enough to say you’re a _______ consultant. I’m a pharmaceutical consultant, but that could mean a lot of things. In particular, I have developed a unique network to help pharmaceutical training organizations find optimal suppliers for outsourced training development needs. But here is the ironic thing – though I have blogged about this for 2.5 years, sent out a weekly e-newsletter, sought to explain the business model numerous times through words, graphics, video, analogies (“I’m the living eHarmony of pharma training… I’m a matchmaker/broker…” etc.) …people STILL often don’t get it! I regularly have to explain it “live” before the light goes on. Why??

It’s because what I do doesn’t really matter to them, until it does. Our limited attention bandwidth is totally absorbed with the immediate and day-to-day. My business model is irrelevant to people 99.9% of the time. However, if I have self-promoted (or, if you prefer, self-explained) effectively, regularly, and added value without being obnoxious, enough of the message sinks through for that critical phone call, e-mail, or referral, when the time is ripe. We HAVE to promote ourselves effectively and winsomely in a very noisy market, and explain over and over again what we do and how we do it, if we want to gain business.

Of course, I’d be happy to refer Mack, or a bunch of the rest of you talented folks I’ve met via Twitter and blogging (my entire business is built on referrals) – but I can only do so if I have a clear grasp of what you do, so that if the need arose with one of my clients, your “metadata” is stored in my noggin. That’s effective marketing 101. That’s self-promotion. And it’s more than OK. It’s absolutely necessary!

Also see Lisa Hoffmann’s take here.

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Five in the Morning 110608

Income Security” – an interesting thought from Jason Alba (he of Jibber Jobber fame). What do you think? Oh, and part 2 is now up, with a bunch of good input from the clowd. (the virtual crowd, the cloud, get it? Never mind…)

You DO know about Mack Collier’s “Viral Garden Top 25 Marketing and Social Media Blogs” – right? If you don’t, go there NOW and find out where lots of the cool blog readers hang out.

Facebook, and Obama’s success. Some numbers shared by Louis Gray.

Into Logo design? The you probably want to check out LogoDesignLove. Just sayin’…

Interested in SMR (Social Media Releases)? Of course you are! And so is Todd Defren. So find out from him if they work

BONUS – Way to LIght up Your Booth. What was the most creative booth promotion I saw at Ad-Tech this week? You might be very surprised…

PLUS – Want an insanely complete start page portal? Check this beastie out!

HEY! Have you found – or written – a Five-worthy post? Feel free to suggest entries for the next day’s Five in the Morning (stevew at stickyfigure dot com) or DM me via Twitter (@swoodruff)

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One Interface to Rule them All (part 6) – the finale!

If only software could be designed and developed at the snap of a finger! Alas, great programs typically have to iterate their way to excellence and broad acceptance. However, it helps to have some big picture goals to shoot for, and that is the main purpose for this series of posts on the ideal web dashboard/interface. Hopefully, someone will take the ideas we’ve been discussing and create a new generation of portal functionality that will make our web experience better.

Speaking of ideas, what underlies this “MetaMee” concept is one big IDEAIntelligently Designed & Evolving Aggregation. Right now, we have fragmentation across many websites and platforms. Someone needs to take all the bits and pieces, apply intelligent design with user needs in mind first, and allow us to custom-aggregate in a flexible environment that will accomodate an evolving web and its evolving users.

If this final post is your first exposure to this IDEA, here is the background: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4 and part 5.

In part 5, we began a discussion of one of the key concepts, layering/stratifying of information. Here, I’d like to introduce several other key concepts that would make the MetaMee platform uniquely useful.

First is the idea of pivoting. I will use the term this way: the ability to take one piece of information and view it from different angles of approach and richness. Let’s say, in my conversation stream, I see a tweet from Mack Collier, whom I had decided to follow. I find it interesting and want to know more. Right now, learning about Mack, or joining in on that conversation, might require me to go to Twitter, Plurk, Mack’s Viral Garden website, etc., etc. But what I’d really like to do is click on that message, see it in a threaded view (if it is part of a threaded conversation), initiate a private chat with Mack, see tweets with similar themes from similar folks, see a more complete bio of Mack (based on what he has revealed of himself in the “layers” of his MetaMee profile), see what other data streams he has available that I can subscribe to (pix, other sites, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.), and have the ability to give Mack ratings and recommendations that other MetaMee users can use to form their view of Mack. All from one place.

Some of these ideas I spelled out in prior post a while back, about the ideal social media interface (that is the bite-sized version of this much larger endeavor, an ideal web interface!). The fact is, by aggregating all of this into one place, and being able to pivot around, I can much more intelligently make connections with those that provide value.

Aggregation, in fact, is the next concept. Your comments on other people’s blogs, your tweets, your posts, your purchases, your ratings – they’re all over the place, aren’t they? Your pictures, your contacts, your interests…wouldn’t it be nice to pull all that together and have it accessible from one dashboard? It’ll be a hard technical problem, granted. But the company/entrepreneur/team that pulls this off will find a ready audience.

We also need to be able to classify what comes in (we talked about classifying what goes out in part 5). I’d like to be able to take data streams, and people, and put them into buckets of my own making – you can do this with Google Reader, for instance. Being able to classify by topic, and/or importance, and/or whatever else I want, means I can intelligently aggregate and control. Crucial in the age of information overload. I also want to comment on and rate (think of Netflix and Amazon here) just about anything, which will lead to more intelligent recommendations by MetaMee, and also may help others if I choose to share those ratings and comments in my public persona.

Finally, let’s summarize this whole thing with some imagery to help make sense of it all. In the vast ocean of this networked world, I am a salmon hatchery on a little stream. I launch my little fish (my media) out there, joining other fish coming from their streams, mingling in larger rivers and out into the ocean wilderness of the internet. But my fish – and yours – are tagged. When people catch our fish (see our photos, read our tweets, subscribe to our blog, etc.) they tell others where the good fishing is, and they come to our stream. If the fish are unhealthy, few will cast in their lines, or wish to visit the hatchery. Natural selection at work.

On the other side of the coin, let’s say I have cable TV, with 468 channels available. That’s a lot of noise! But I only want 22 of those channels (I think). I should be able to pick and choose only what I want for my constant streams, and grab tastes of others as they seem interesting to me (it still grates on my nervest that cable providers don’t allow us to custom-create our own viewing packages. Hello??????). But the cable box is smart enough to know what I tend to watch, and even has a central hive mind that tracks what people who seem to be like me tend to watch. Then, when I power on, I can go to channel 23 for “Recommendations.” Bingo! Now this interface to the broadcast (and narrowcast) world is serving me, and making sense of the ocean of content, while allowing me full and flexible choice.

Idealistic? Sure! But why should we shoot for mediocrity? Add your comments and thoughts, and let’s find someone who wants to make us a MetaMee-type platform. To have such a thing to simplify our on-line lives would be…well, precious!

Links to the entire One Interface to Rule them All series:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

plus…The Ideal Social Media Interface

Related post: Share Media vs. Tell Media

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Meaning of Life Unveiled!

After experiencing his first-ever philosophical epiphany over the weekend, blogger Mack Collier decided to take on a challenge never accomplished by the world’s greatest thinkers – sketching out the meaning of life in one concise graphic.

“It suddenly came to me,” stated Collier, who was Plurking over dial-up in rural Alabama when the revelation hit him like a flood of tweets. “I saw the great secret, that which had eluded Socrates, Plato, Augustine, and Pacman Jones all these centuries. When you are suddenly aware of the unifying forces that bind together and explain all of reality, it’s positively awesome. Kind of like eating a bunch of White Castle sliders and washing them down with a mega-size Dr. Pepper.”

Click here to see the entire graphic.

Quickly, Mack abandoned his effort to update his constantly-unchanging Top 25 Marketing blogs and set about to draw, in one simple graphic that will be immediately understandable to all, the meaning of life. “I took my inspiration from top information designer Edward Tufte, and from David Armano, who had always made these neat-o graphics to explain tough concepts. I have always been a closet graphic designer, and I hope Armano won’t be too jealous when he sees how I’ve taken on a much bigger challenge that he ever attempted, and came up with a far more aesthetically pleasing production.”

Other bloggers were awestruck when Mack’s graphic exploded onto the blogosphere. “Oh man, I’ve been missing it…missing it all along!” moaned Greg Verdino, as he realized that his concentration on leveraging asynchronous micro-interactions to achieve scaled conversation was completely off-base and more than slightly geeky. “That thing with the Plurk mascot and arrow – now I get it. I really get it. I’m going to go be a lifeguard somewhere. My work here is done.”

According to Connie Reece, “The Mack” (the name rapidly attached to this seminal graphic) has had life-changing impact already on friends and neighbors. “I forwarded it to Susan Reynolds and she was so excited her peas melted. Then I shared it with Doug Meacham, and as soon as he saw that 13 o’clock thingie in parallel with the 3 Stooges, he knew. He just knew!”

Kevin Dugan, noted PR blogger, was in such awe that he was speechless. According to Kevin, ”           .” Of course, being on vacation, perhaps he is only concerned about such ultimate questions as what SPF sunscreen to slop onto his earlobes.

Collier has been humbled by the reception of his genius. “Heck, everyone knew I was a pretty smart blogger, after my first drawing of the Theory of Relativity, but now everyone will recognize that I’m just a regular ol’ blogger from Alabama. Who happens to be smarter than everyone else. Heh.”

UPDATE: “The Mack” already having a profound effect on child development – Think tank Collier and Collier today released remarkable results from the first clinical study using “The Mack” to influence intellectual development in infants. A volunteer group of bloggers pinned full-color copies of “The Mack” over the cribs of their newborns, while a control group used a printout of the home page of Guy Kawasaki’s Alltop. Within 2 weeks, the “Mackerels” were not only sleeping through the night, but 44% of them were using Blackberries to text food and clothing needs to caregivers. On the other hand, 81% of the “Kawasakis” were colicky and had to be “404′d” out of the study. All but one of the control group (that would be Emily Falls) were incapable of composing a 140-character tweet.

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