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!

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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

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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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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Revolution – Now!

The Beatles put it this way when talking about revolution:

You say you want a revolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
You tell me that it’s evolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
But when you talk about destruction
Don’t you know that you can count me out
Don’t you know it’s gonna be all right
all right, all right

Sorry, but you really don’t want to count yourself out of The Now Revolution. Jay Baer and Amber Naslund have done us a service by writing an excellent volume on how social networking is impacting business. Instead of the usual summary review of content (you can find that all over the place), I’m going to give a video recap of the highlights for me, then just extract some juicy quotes so that you’ll be enticed to buy this book. Because you most probably should!

“This book is about a business culture that has changed more in the past 3 years than in the prior 30 and what you must do as a consequence of that change.” (p. ix)

“Real-time business…is almost entirely a public spectacle. There are no insignificant transactions any longer.” (p. xiii)

“Adopting social media and real-time business means a shift in mind-set.” (p. 11)

“Hire first for a fit with your company culture and values, with an eye toward those who have a passion for their work. Skills are much easier to teach than mind-set.” (p. 27)

“There’s a point at which we’re going to stop talking about social media and online communications as a specialty…and instead start viewing it for what it really is: a series of pipes, tubes, tools, and media that can help us communicate more relevantly and urgently with customers.” (p. 53)

I only have two thumbs. If I could clone one of them, then I’d give The Now Revolution three thumbs up!

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This Week’s Networking Boomerang

What is the value of investing in building a great network of people? I think it was Chris Brogan that recently pointed out the distinction between thinking of ROI (which, in my opinion, is a fine metric for a specific tactical business approaches) vs thinking of the overall value of social networking.

One huge value of social networking is that, when you add value to others and build bridges with them, good people will add value back. It’s the boomerang effect.

Sounds nice in theory, right? But here’s the value in practice, just this week:

Example 1: We had an oven that died. While my wife attempted to find a source in the traditional way, I tossed it out on Twitter, which is now my default Help Desk.

Result? Immediate response by a friend, pointing a semi-local dealer he knew of on Twitter – which company responded immediately by Twitter and phone, and got the business in minutes.

How cool is that?

Example 2: This week, I confirmed a speaking engagement as a panelist discussing social media for automobile dealers. How did I get approached for this? Peter Shankman (who became an Ironman last week – good going, man!). Peter and I got together a few months back just to chat and get to know one another. He recommended me for this opportunity. Then, in order to help with my preparation, I put out a blog post and linked it on Twitter, asking people for links and resources on social media and automotive dealers. Within a few hours, I had everything I needed via crowdsourcing for a post-event list of resources and case studies.

Example 3: I met this week with someone from a healthcare agency interested in having workshops for social media and project management (two of my sweet spots). I didn’t know these folks from Adam and Eve, but they approached me because someone else in my pharma network passed my name along and recommended me. This is the second time in the past 6 weeks I’ve had an agency approach me this way via a third-party recommendation (thanks, Rich and Jon!)

Example 4: We’re about six weeks into our weekly #LeadershipChat on Twitter, and this past week’s on Passion was wonderfully helpful and lively. How did LeadershipChat come about? Lisa Petrilli reached out to me via social networking this spring, we met at SOBCon Chicago, and have been collaborating since. Also, via networking, Lisa got to know Tom Martin, and together with Lisa Diomede, they put together this week’s CocktailsforCauses event in Chicago.

Now, that actually isn’t everything that happened this week. And I’m not even listing the boomerangs that went out for others, which will bear fruit in their lives and businesses. Or the important, sometimes life-saving things that happen via social networks totally outside of “business value.”

When people obsess over the “ROI of Social Media,” I’m forced to smile somewhat. Who can trace the actual ROI of all the hours and effort that have gone into building an opportunity network? But, is there value? – oh, yes! The boomerangs have only just begun to fly…!

Build your network. Feed your network. Be ready for the boomerang.

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Auto Dealers and Social Media

Since I’ll be speaking this week on a panel about social media and car dealerships, here is a collection of interesting links I’ve collected with the help of friends in my network (& Google!) – how automobile marketing can be enhanced (or damaged!) via the power of social media:

Still wondering if social media is a growth opportunity. Just spend a minute watching this real-time chart update itself. And here are a bunch of infographics showing growth and usage – stunning.

I will say that my experience thus far with automobile dealers has been mostly negative. I’m still waiting to work with a dealer that is:

- more interested in the long-term relationship than the immediate deal,

- pro-actively helpful and friendly even if a sale is not immediate, and

- transparent and up-front about pricing.

None of the above is rocket science, but all of it would earn major points in a socially-networked world. So, how can an auto dealer effectively use social networking to grow business?

1. You have to be good - so customers freely and gladly recommend you (first and foremost in importance!).

2. You need to be “find-able” on-line, with a helpful website and a social presence that makes people feel welcome.

3. You need to be astonishingly responsive.

4. You need to follow through with a positive experience at every level.

Note that the most important factors are those things that have always been most vital in establishing a reputable business. Social media only magnifies – for better or for worse – who you already are.

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Social Media is not a Strategy

If some famous fashion label VP came up to me and said, “We need a social media strategy – can you help us do it?” – I’d promptly answer, “No, I can’t.”

Why?

  1. Social media is not a strategy.
  2. Though I am heavily involved in social networking, I couldn’t bring business value in this sector.

The point is: you’re looking for business strategy, and business value. Not some stand-alone approach to the latest fad called social media. If you want to win, you don’t just employ a “knight strategy” in chess, do you?

Here is where the discussion should take place:

- We need to launch a Facebook page for our customers! We need a strategy for real-time communications and better engagement with (this and/or that) set of stakeholders. Let’s assume that there is a concrete business answer to the question “Why?” (is there?). Now we can begin to talk about various media and approaches that may be appropriate. “We need a Facebook page!” is not a strategy.

- We need a blog! We have a real problem with public perception and need to humanize to face of the company over the long-term. OK, we can begin to develop a strategy that may involve social media – but will probably also involve serious culture change. Presenting the company story via social media is powerful and potentially has great value, but – a Twitter page or a blog will not rescue an insular and sullen corporate culture. A social media strategy won’t make you nice to work with, or work for. As Olivier Blanchard stated in a recent tweet, “social media amplifies whatever you bring to the table: Knowledge or ignorance, generosity or greed, honesty or dishonesty.”

- We should launch a YouTube channel! We need to provide new avenues of value to our customers in order to make them advocates and evangelists. Excellent starting place. Now, what role will communications and person-to-person engagement play in this? Is information curation and dissemination a major value-add? Making videos on YouTube might get page views, but will it provide value? Ask: what is my audience looking for? – not just what are they looking at.

- We need to show up on Twitter searches! We need to be more “find-able” on-line. This is a no-brainer, but the question is; How? Will social media provide that exposure, and do you have the personnel resources to feed the beast over the long-haul? Is it a simpler SEO issue? Would a beefed-up LinkedIn presence be more effective than a blog? Best methods for raising an on-line profile will vary from industry to industry, and from need to need. Copying someone else’s social media approach isn’t a strategy.

- We need to be out there on all the social networks! We need to build a broad opportunity network. Social networking technologies are great for this. But they are not the strategy, they are a component of a business approach to networking. Just putting a profile on every social site known to man or beast is not the same as creating and cultivating a business network.

Here in pharma world, where I do a good bit of my business, we finally crossed the Rubicon this year – companies have by and large moved out of the “what is social media and should we even touch it??” phase, into the “how do we do this?” phase. And for those of us involved in the industry evangelistic work over the past years, that’s rewarding – but also dangerous. Because now, social media is often treated as a bolt-on, a check-the-box component of the marketing mix. The awareness level has grown – three cheers! – but the strategic understanding aspect is still immature in most cases.

Yes, people and companies have to start somewhere, and specific tactics using social platforms are often the first toes in the water. An iPhone app can (and should) be part of a big-picture, longer-term strategy with business goals beyond just checking off the “my brand did social in 2010″ box.

Because in the long run, you don’t need a social media strategy, or a stand-alone social media expert. You need a holistic business strategy. Which should incorporate an intelligent approach to the opportunities, challenges, and trench work of digital networked communications. People who know social media can help you learn the landscape, but don’t carve something off into a “social media strategy.” Increasingly, that notion will seem as odd as proposing an e-mail strategy, or an operating system strategy.

Great people and strong companies will flourish under the spotlight; mediocre companies and poseurs will simply be exposed for what they are. If you’re in the latter category, as Jay Baer recently put it, maybe you’re just not ready for social media. You may have some cultural infrastructure to build, and some broader strategies to put in place first. If you don’t understand the forces at work, then social media may not be a shovel-ready project – yet.

If you can articulate a sound business strategy that involves tactical usage of digital networked communications, go for it. Otherwise, you’re grabbing onto a solution without defining the problem.

(now if you do come to me about social media in fashion or some other field, I may not be your guy, but I’ll try to help you find the right resource you’re looking for. Because matchmaking clients with providers is a business need I can meet!)

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