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So this blog, and the Clarity Therapy blog, will be superseded by a professionally designed and hosted site.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.

Signal vs Noise

I remember, back 6-7 years ago, the joy of discovering new people on blogs and on Twitter.

The earlier adopters of social media, by and large, “meant it.” It was mostly signal, with very little noise. A lot more networking, a lot less spewing.

Now I see the various social streams cluttered with a bunch of formulaic efforts to build numbers – whether it’s putting up a stream of inspirational quotes, or posting on the 8 Indispensable Ways to Fake Authenticity on Twitter, or doing endless RTs – there’s way too much noise.

signalBut, still, there’s signal.

That’s why I still tune in to many of the “old” voices – people who always had something original to say, and who have thoughtfully evolved over time. People like Amber Naslund, and Geoff Livingston, and Ann Handley, and Brad Pendergraph. And that’s why I sift through all the static to find other original thinkers; folks like Jon Swanson, and Sarah Robinson, and Brian Moran.

It’s also why I attend the SOBCon conference, where a lot of the innovative “signal-makers” gather each year to brainstorm new ideas and build beneficial networks.

Yes, it’s become noisy in the networking world, discouragingly so at times. But the quality people are still out there. Don’t worry about having a follower count of 100,000. That’s going to just surround you with noise. Find 50 great thinkers and networkers and focus there.

Tune in to signal and let the noise pass by.

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!

___________

Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Customers Walking Past You

>> Four Questions for your Future

Out with Klout. In with Cannoli!

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

It ends with Cannoli.

One is more delicious than the other. Just saying.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

————-

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

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Maxim-izing Your Leadership

>> A Warning from (Un)Happy Valley

Who “Owns” Social Media? Answered!

The debate has been raging across the social sphere – when it comes to business, who should “own” social media? Should it be PR? Marketing? Corporate Communications? HR?

Well, meeting an end-of-October deadline for a decision, the Social Networking Ownership & Responsibility Treaty (SNORT) has just been ratified. At a secret meeting convened by the Global Union of Relative Unknowns (GURU), an A-list conclave of social media mavens and all-stars has come to a final decision, announced at midnight last night on Twitter.

Social media, from now on, will be the responsibility of the Maintenance Dept.

Anticipating an upwelling of surprise at this announcement, the cabal of rockstar bloggers and tweeters outlined the rationale for this decision, in five main points:

     

  1. The other departments are used to just throwing stuff out there and leaving the aftermath to others. Maintenance, on the other hand, is used to cleaning up the mess, and who better to deal with all the detritus that will result from ill-conceived and poorly-executed social media programs?
  2. Maintenance is already “on” 24/7. Instead of paying high-priced employees or agencies to respond to social platforms at all hours, janitors and groundskeepers can easily be trained to field comments and tweet on behalf of the company at little or no extra expense.
  3. Social media is all about tools. Maintenance works with tools.
  4. The only turf wars Maintenance cares about is defeating grubs and crabgrass. That means greater corporate peace, more productivity, a healthier corporate climate, and ultimately, a flourishing of social media happiness and harmony.
  5. Maintenance really doesn’t worry much about ROI. So that’s a natural fit.

It isn’t yet clear what all the ramifications of this move will be, but it is widely expected that most bloggers will now end up with their computers in the basement, which actually should not present any real change management issues.

While all of the members of the GURU committee had expected to remain anonymous, Wikileaks managed to obtain a 90,000-tweetchat transcript of the secret deliberations and decision (#GURUSNORT), which also indicated that there were plans afoot to certify social media practitioners through a SXSW-style popularity contest, and to stratify them according to a new measure of credibility, the “Wiley.” Wikileaks did redact out all the names of the participants, explaining in a statement that, “we didn’t feel it necessary to publicize any particular individual’s participation, because if we mentioned Mitch Joel, we’d have to talk about Joseph Jaffe and Jim Long, and then DJ Waldow would get jealous and want to make sure we also included Amber Naslund and Lisa Petrilli – so we just left all the names out. Even Liz Strauss.”

Meanwhile, the city of Austin is urging SXSW to add a new “Maintenance” track to the annual geek spring break festival,with such topics suggested as “Trash-talking Ain’t the Same as Joining the Conversation,” and “Unclogging your Micro-blogging.” The track should be held after all the other guests have left, so that the downtown area can be restored to end-to-end cleanliness by leveraging an iPhone-toting cleanup crew.

————-

Latest post by the Connection Agent: Multi Me-dia

Subscribe to the Connection Agent blog via Reader (RSS) | via e-mail

Twitter: @ConnectionAgent | @swoodruff

See prior spoofs :>}

The 90-Minute e-book

This was one of those mornings where I issued myself a weird creative challenge.

“Take the primary business lessons you’ve learned and turn them into a brief e-book. You have 90 minutes.”

Ninety minutes to distill years of experience and thought.

As you might expect, it’s rough around the edges. But hopefully these seven lessons learned (painfully) may be guideposts to spare you some wasted effort and professional discouragement.

Or not. You’ve undoubtedly learned a few nuggets along the way – what would you add?

It’ll only take you a few minutes to read. Maybe a bit longer to digest and apply!

Seven Profound Business Lessons (that you want to know sooner rather than later!)

————-

Subscribe to the StickyFigure blog

Twitter: @swoodruff

Connect with Steve Woodruff

Each and Recently

The old marketing model emphasized “reach and frequency.”

Try to expose your message to as many as possible, as often as possible. A certain percentage will respond.

It’s a numbers game. And, it de-personalizes your audience. They’re a target. A demographic. Occupiers of a business funnel.

Been there. Done that.

Instead, let’s think in terms of “each and recently.” There is a growing pool of people who rely on you for information, connections, and services. They become customers, friends, collaborators, and, in a wonderful way, the most effective sales force you could possibly have.

Touch each of them. Make sure, as their names come to mind, that you’ve somehow touched them recently. And don’t worry a whole lot about the reach and frequency numbers game.

They’ll do that for you.

————-

Subscribe to the StickyFigure blog

Twitter: @swoodruff

Connect with Steve Woodruff

Holistic Common Sense and Social Networking

I enjoyed reading my friend Amber Naslund‘s post recently entitled The Taboo (but critical) Community Skill. Essentially, what Amber says is that we should not neglect the importance of selling skills – after all, all of this community engagement needs to lead us to some kind of business outcome.

As Amber put it:

When we talk about community or social media people in business roles, we talk about a lot of things.

Their ability to communicate, to interact. To be helpful. To be a diplomat and a conversationalist and a steward of the brand. But because it’s so often a taboo subject in social media, we miss talking about a pivotal skill that I think community professionals need to have. Sales skills.

Now I happen to agree with Amber. We cannot be fastidious about the reality that we are promoting, selling, seeking to grow business. I think we need to look at social media, and those who are tasked with putting it to use, under the very holistic umbrella of Business Growth. In fact, just swap out “social media” and put about anything in its place. The very broad category of Communications. A sub-category, On-line Communications. And a sub-category of that, Social Networking. How do each of these functions contribute to the things that contribute to the “Big Thing” – business growth?

Instead of overly simplistic questions like, “What’s the ROI of Social Media?“, business people should move backward from the “Big Thing” – business growth (more sales, new customer acquisition, better efficiency, great hires, etc.), and then look back to those elements that contribute to it – see the bullet points in blue above.

Now, in order to accomplish those tasks, what long-term strategies need to be in place? You can swap out Communications with IT or Management or various other disciplines – all of it should be geared toward business growth.

Now, think about social networking as part of the larger bucket of Communications. Don’t get narrowly focused in on the ROI of Social Media. Instead, use Holistic Common Sense. Will involvement in these communication approaches help create awareness, build a fan base, build a pipeline of prospective customers, sell your offering, serve customers, position you as a thought leader, influence a market, and provide marketing intelligence?

If social media (or anything else – fill in the blank) will significantly help accomplish these goals, leading to business growth, then come up with a good plan and make the commitment to employ a workable strategy. If not, then don’t.

You may be able to calculate some ROI on specific tactics and approaches over time. But look, first and foremost, at what will lead to business growth. That’s your ultimate goal – right?

————-

Subscribe to the StickyFigure blog

Twitter: @swoodruff

Connect with Steve Woodruff

Five in the New Year

ny-eve-nyIt’s 2009 (and a beautiful morning here in Boonton, NJ)! And, I’m convinced, it’s a year when many are going to seize the future, thumb their noses at all the bad economic news, and create new careers for themselves.

With that in mind, I thought I’d pull together the year’s first Five in the Morning post with a handful of my posts from 2008 encouraging the networking and entrepreneurial spirit. So….

Do you have an Opportunity Network? (from MarketingProfs Daily Fix blog) – The old corporate safety net is gone. But the new safety network, and the new opportunity network, is here for all of us to weave ourselves into. My faith has grown the longer I’ve participated, that “If we build it, (opportunity) will come”…

Personal Branding – What’s your value-add? (from MarketingProfs Daily Fix blog) – You don’t have a brand worth a nickel unless you are clear in what value you have to offer. That’s true of personal branding, corporate branding, political branding, and whatever other type of branding du jour we’d like to dream up…

You – Projected (from my StickyFigure blog) – My feeling is that if a concept is valid, we should be able to distill it down to a very few words that capture it well. So, with personal branding, here is my take. Two words. You – Projected

I’m Pursuing (Niche) Domination (from MarketingProfs Daily Fix blog)  - What is niche domination? It’s creating, or moving into, a market cavity narrow enough that you can become the big fish, and expansive (or expand-able) enough that you can make a living dominating it…

Be Prepared – Like, Right Now (from my Impactiviti pharma blog) – Your future is in your hands, and you need to be prepared to take the reins at any time. In fact, even if you are gainfully employed, you need to take the reins right now. Let me suggest one simple word for each of us…

But what were my most popular posts of 2008? The StickyFigure Spoofs, of course! And, to launch 2009, here is the latest (or earliest): Social Media Maven named new Head Coach of Detroit Lions.

BONUS – If you haven’t tuned into Rick Liebling‘s Smart People / Smart Ideas series, it’s a good one. Here’s the recap from 2008. You can follow Rick on Twitter @eyecube

Subscribe to the StickyFigure blog

Follow Steve Woodruff on Twitter

(Image credit)

Be Prepared – Network NOW!

Perhaps you’ve never been a Boy Scout. Whether you have or not, the Scout motto – Be Prepared – is a good one to consider right now.

You’re read about all the recent layoffs in many industries. You’ve heard about, or been part of, one or more of the many mergers in recent years. There is simply no more certainty in corporate America. Your future is in your hands, and you need to be prepared to take the reins at any time. In fact, even if you are gainfully employed, you need to take the reins right now. Let me suggest one simple word for each of us:

NETWORK!

The time to build a network – a professional and social web of contacts who can help out when needs arise – is now. It is very likely that your next career move (horizontally) or advancement (vertically) will come about because of pre-existing relationships. While you can post a resume on-line that the world can (theoretically) see, so can a few billion other people. Doors are opened by people who listen to the recommendations and referrals of other people.

How do you build a wider professional network? Let me suggest a few straightforward steps:

1. Embrace networking as a high priority, and determine to do it. Yep, it starts with an act of the will. Maybe you’re not a native schmoozer (I’m not). Maybe you’re introvert-ish (I am). Maybe you think, “I can never build relationships like so-and-so.” Actually, you can. You might not have the same ease as some, but believe me, you can do it, and even become good at it.

2. Help others. That’s right, don’t start with your immediate or future needs. The best way to build a network marked by mutual help and sympathy is to help others. You may have been schooled in the “me-first” ladder-climbing corporate mentality. Drop that like a bad transmission. When you pro-actively offer to help people, you’ll be shocked at how popular you become.

3. Focus on one drop at a time. You can’t just turn the spigot and gush out a flood of networked contacts. But you can greet one new person a day. You can help out one co-worker today. You can reach out to someone in a similar professional role with a question. Networking should be seen as incremental and cumulative – it becomes a lifestyle, not a one-time act.

4. Attend meetings. Not the kind that clog your daily calendar (well, I guess you should attend those, too)! Go to national conferences, join local chapters of professional societies, expand your network beyond the next few cubicles. New opportunities may open up from unexpected directions.

5. Cultivate healthy vendor relationships. Vendors and consultants often know “what’s going on” outside your four walls, and may be able to facilitate new contacts for you. Weed out the sharks, and find those people who are genuine, service-oriented, and personable (this goes for recruiters as well). If they do good work for you, recommend them to others. That will definitely increase your bank account of good will!

6. Take advantage of the web-based networking platforms. I highly recommend LinkedIn (see graphic) for helping expand your network through electronic means. Facebook is usually for more personal/social contacts but can also be valuable. Create a very robust professional profile and don’t be afraid to ask for recommendations and new links with others.

7. Cultivate a limited circle of influential, wise, discreet professional colleagues. These are the trusted advisers you can turn to when you see storm clouds on the horizon – your early-warning safety net. These are your serious allies who will go the extra mile for you when the ground starts to shake.

8. Be “findable.” Who will rise to the top these days, when there is information overload? Those who can be quickly found (especially on-line), and who make a professional and interesting self-presentation before the need ever arises. If you have the drive and the ability to write, create a blog around your interests. If you can engage in electronic discussions, jump into Twitter. Put your talent and creativity and accomplishments out there. When people Google you, they should find you, AND be impressed.

The time to network is not just when your job is in danger. Build your safety net now – and be part of the safety net for others. We have to build our own these days – we cannot count on any kind of corporate stability for our professional well-being!

(Image credit)

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 152 other followers