The Lazy Social Networker

AppleOrchard

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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.

Don’t Be JAGA

Read this series of tweets from the bottom up.

JAGA2

Take a look at your website. Are you using commodity generalizations that sound just like the next company?

Do you want to compete in a noisy marketplace? Here’s job one – Don’t be JAGA! Lift the fog!!!

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.

Twitter Chats and Cocktail Parties

Probably my LEAST favorite social setting is a crowded, noisy, unstructured gathering. Such as a big cocktail party.

Speak before 1,000 people? No problem. Mill around in a crowd, flitting from person to person? I’ll do it if I must – like going to the dentist. My fondest hope in large gatherings is to find one or two like-minded souls, and a quiet corner in which to REALLY talk. The small-talk socializing to get to that point is pretty much a means to an end.

And that’s how I view Twitter chats, the on-line equivalent to cocktail parties.

In her recent e-book (The Introvert’s Guide to Success in Business and Leadership), my LeadershipChat co-host, Lisa Petrilli, describes how our friendship was deepened in just such a social setting. In fact, it was the meeting that week of two like-minded introverts that eventually led to the launch of LeadershipChat.

In the 14 months of co-leading LeadershipChats, I have come to realize that we, as participants, need to have a pretty modest expectation of the one-hour event itself. We’re dealing with the exchange of ideas in 140 characters (a real difficulty for semantics, qualifications, and complex ideas)! And, as in any cocktail party, there’s a lot of superficial chatter happening – even attempts to draw attention to oneself for the purpose of generating retweets. How human…

As for Lisa and me, our goals go way beyond the Tuesday 8-9 pm (ET) time slot. We want to create an environment where new connections are made, business (and personal) relationships are established, and ways of thinking (both old and new) are challenged and hashed out. A lot of that isn’t really going to happen, in-depth, during the hour. That’s where we’re mingling, kicking off dialogue, engaging in sidebars. The real valued outcome is the building of a community that rolls up its sleeves and collaborates during the other 167 hours of the week.

Or, as Kneale Mann often puts it toward the end of a chat, “now book a call with one or two people you’ve met here.” Right on.

Yes, I know that the sheer volume, and at times superficiality (@ZombieChatter BRILLIANT!! RT BillyBromide To lead, first you must live…) , of the tweetstream during a chat can be bothersome – just like it is in a cocktail party. But let’s keep our eye on the ball, and seek to encourage the development of a community of thinkers and doers.

To that end, I have one suggestion for LeadershipChat participants, that may further the dialogue and the learning. Just as Lisa and I write pre-chat posts giving our perspectives in the days before each chat, so I’d encourage any of you to write post-Tuesday-night posts on your blogs (or Facebook, or Google+…) that will expand on a point that is meaningful to you, or attack a deeper question, or express a disagreement with a guest host. Let’s move the dialogue to your sites, where there is more time to move into a quiet corner and really talk. Lisa and I love to comment on, and share, such LC-inspired posts.

Yes, I’m outside of my comfort zone every Tuesday from 8-9 pm. Even if it’s virtual, it’s a cocktail party. But when I consider the wonderful people I’ve had a chance to meet IRL this past year due to LeadershipChat, it’s worth the effort. Now, let’s all help the community reach its highest potential by going beyond the hour of chatter. Lead, by taking the discussion deeper!

P.S. please read Sam Fiorella’s comment below, and read the post he wrote on a very similar theme!

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

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Finding Your DNA

>> Life and Leadership as an Introvert

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5 Reasons Why Twitter Might Soon Be Dispensable

I love Twitter. I use it heavily. Very heavily!

However, given how networking technology is moving forward, I have to wonder if Twitter is going to reach an early expiration date.

Here’s why I’m thinking this way:

1. Twitter’s main function is a commodity. Exchanging text messages is not rocket science. The younger generation does it all the time, but with smartphones and (generally) not with Twitter. And messages (including multimedia files) can be shared more intuitively on other platforms. Facebook replicates real-life sharing much more normally than Twitter, which requires a learning curve, a critical mass of contacts, and an awkward method of composing messages (140 characters).

2. Twitter still doesn’t have a stable and scalable business model. For all of its potential, Twitter is not truly a business tool with a clear value proposition. It’s a communication tool looking for a business model. That’s called “vulnerable” in any language. Also, while Twitter has had a high share level of cultural noise, its true adoption rate and demographic penetration are still quite small.

3. People are reaching platform overload. Even the tech-savvy have a hard time keeping up networks and profiles on LinkedIn, Facebook, now Google+, and a myriad of other sites. As these other platforms become more diversified (Facebook’s new Skype-calling integration, Google+’s Circles and Hangouts), Twitter is going to increasingly seem…well, quaint. Training wheels. Expendable.

4. The real network is the people, not the platform. I’ve met a ton of great people on Twitter and continue to do so. It’s been a great tool for a few years. However, those people are also now quite findable elsewhere. We’re going to increasingly build our networks around specific people and purposes, not platforms. Will we absolutely NEED Twitter in future years? Perhaps not.

5. Twitter is basically dumb. Yes, I said it. Lots of our early tools are quite limited. Read my initial thoughts on Google+ to get my drift.

Many have predicted the demise of Twitter in the past. I’m just looking at certain big-picture trends and wondering: is Twitter like a tricycle? Great for getting us going, but now we’re moving on to more adult modes of communication? Is Twitter (as a stand-alone platform) moving toward expend-ability?

What do you think? Am I seeing clearly, or being myopic? Put your thoughts in the comments!

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Why Google+ Could Succeed

Google has begun rolling out its latest iteration of a social network, Google+. It’s getting plenty of press in the blogosphere, with a wide variety of opinions (great start; Facebook me-too late in the game; meh-be; etc.)

Here’s my take on why it could be a winner – our current social networks are dumb.

You heard me. Dumb. Google+ is showing some potential smarts.

Not to say that Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn and the like are poorly designed, or that there aren’t really smart people behind them. And certainly not to say that those of us using these networks are dumb for doing so. Not at all. These platforms are a good start, and it’s very smart to be involved with digital networked communications.

But these initial tools are baby rattles, compared to the sophistication we really need.

I’m going to point you back three years, to the series I wrote on the ideal social media/web interface (One Interface to Rule Them All <– the link is to the first of 7 posts). There, I outlined how we need smart platforms that would do things like layering (Google+ Circles),  automated finding via Intell-Agents (Google+ Sparks); and, last year, I had a hankering for real-time private rooms (Google+ Hangouts).

The need is for far better ability to classify, stratify, find (not just search), and control. Google+ is heading in that direction, and that is why it could take on platforms that do a more “brute-force” job of connecting and publishing. And make no mistake – current social platforms are still quite “dumb” on the brute-force level. They give us a bigger and bigger fire hose with only the most rudimentary ways to manage it all.

If  Google+ evolves with simple elegance and solid integration, our brilliant friends at Google have a great shot at a next-gen platform.

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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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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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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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Courageous Leadership

Courage is the willingness to act according to one’s convictions.

It is not lack of fear – it is refusal to be paralyzed by fear.

It is not recklessness – it includes a clear-eyed view of the risks, and a readiness to go forward anyway.

It is not exclusively male nor female – macho guys can be enslaved to peer pressure, while feminine gals can stand as strong as a lion.

Courage says, “I’m going to do this because it is the right thing to do.” Would that we had more courage in business leaders!

What would it look like?

I think that, fundamentally, it would look like a thorough and practical commitment to the Golden Rule, instead of the Gold-in Rule.

Golden Ruletreat others the way you’d wish to be treated

Gold-in Ruledo what’s necessary to maximize my gold

Here’s the Courageous Choice in business: Do I do what’s right? Or do I do what is expedient to try to ensure maximum short-term (income/profitability/bonus/stock price/etc.)?

The courageous business leader looks at the long-term, looks at the good of clients/customers/employees/stakeholders, looks at the Golden Rule, and chooses to do what’s right despite unpopular consequences.

The cowardly leader looks at the short-term, at his/her own wallet, at the not-so-best-practices of other companies that get away with stuff, and decides to lie, misrepresent, cheat, engage in false marketing, and do what he wouldn’t want done to him in order to maximize immediate income.

In last week’s #LeadershipChat, we began to touch on business ethics. I don’t think you need an expensive MBA class to learn that. Fundamentally, you need the Golden Rule and courage, and the clear vision that comes with a clean conscience. Start with that, then worry about nuanced choices later.

And, in my opinion, those leaders and businesses that apply the Golden Rule will, over time, have plenty of Gold-in to follow.  Because there’s ROI to earning rich dividends of trust. Do they teach that in business schools anymore…?

What do you think? Utopian ideals? Or is this actually attainable?

Read what my co-moderator Lisa Petrilli wrote this week about courage. Then join us Tuesday night (8 pm ET) for #LeadershipChat on Twitter (hint: one very easy way to participate is by using a client like Tweetchat. Just log in, read the stream of thoughts that are being shared, and feel free to chime in with your reactions and questions.)

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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.

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See prior spoofs :>}

Don’t be That “Recycling” Guy (or Gal)

<Rant starts>

I saw a whole boatload of them this morning. Maybe that was a “sign” that it was time to write this post….!

If you’re on Twitter just or primarily to regurgitate other peoples links and content – including semi-inspirational quotes – then, to be perfectly blunt, you’re adding a lot of noise but little value.

Re-tweeting good content or the occasional worthwhile bromide to our audience(s) is a normal and valued part of the Twittersphere. Intermingled with original thought and content, it’s signal and not noise (well, usually!) But if you’re seeking to build up an audience just by being a recycler – what are you contributing?

I don’t need to follow recyclers (and I don’t). I want to know who YOU are, what YOU’RE thinking – there’s gotta be some gold in them thar hills, right? So if you’re on Twitter, why not bring out your gold? Don’t just toss around other peoples’ coins.

It takes no talent to be a recycler. Be a producer instead!

</Rant ends – unless you want to add your own in the comments!>

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Three Reasons to use “Timed” Tweets

For a long time, I’ve used Twitter in two modes – “live” mode, where I’m uploading an interacting in real time, and “delayed” mode, where I make use of time-delayed tweeting.

I use the Hootsuite client and the “Hootlet” toolbar for the latter – Hootsuite has an excellent capacity for scheduling tweets.

“Timed” tweets have sometimes gotten a bad rap because of the fear of spamming behavior. However, scheduling tweets can, in fact, be a very helpful way to communicate with your network. Here are three reasons why (and how) I use them.

1. The audience on Twitter at any given time is always changing. If you put out a tweet at 8:45 am, and someone logs in at 9:30 who really would have benefited from that information, guess what? It’s probably lost. Since the audience is changing throughout the day, it is wise to spread out your informational tweets (sharing of interesting links, etc.) throughout the day to reach a larger and more diverse audience. Most people that know me know I’m an early-morning guy, and I do most of my information curation/writing between 6-9 am. But many of those tweets are then timed to show up all throughout the day and into the evening. Because only a small percentage of us (a very predictable group, by the way – you know who you are!) are on the early morning Twitter train.

2. Not only do you touch a greater number of people by timing your tweets, you can also help your network pals by timing re-tweets of their stuff. Most RTs happen within 5-45 minutes of the original tweet. Which means that the tweet is spread to a broader audience, but still one limited by that time slot. Simply time-delaying a RT to reach a different group 2 or 5 hours later is doing a wonderful favor to the author of the tweet, and the recipients who see the information.

3. Timing tweets allows you to avoid avatar overload. Some folks have a whole bunch of informational tweets lined up, and they hit the tweetstream all at once. Hate to break it to you, but that’s not a good way to get people to read your stuff. It’s like someone coming up to you at a party and overwhelming you with train-of-thought babbling. Space them out and people will be less inclined to tune you out. It’s just…more polite that way.

Now, I have to emphasize that you can’t time-delay live interaction. When I’m actively discussing or bantering or pretending to be a Tweet-up Comic, that’s all “live.” But I also feel that an important part of social networking is sharing information and resources. That’s where timed tweeting is a wonderful tool. And, if I might put in a plug here (disclosure: no fiduciary relationship; I just like them!), the folks at Hootsuite have developed a great tool to enable it. The “Hootlet” allows you to be on a page, click the toolbar button, and it presents you with a compact URL and (usually) the page title – making it very easy to compose a tweet on the fly, AND schedule it for later (or publish immediately).

So, “timed” tweets are not evil. In fact, they’re a great way to help everyone. Take advantage of them!

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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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The Twitter Help Desk

I have the best Help Desk in the world. It’s called my network of smart people on Twitter.

Just yesterday, one of my partners (my biz model is operating as the eHarmony of pharma training and e-marketing – matching up my business partners with client needs) asked me about a need they have to control distribution of .pdf files. How to limit the viewing/copying of files to a set number of licenses?

I was clueless, but I turned to my network on Twitter. In short order, four responses (so far) came back:

All of this occurred in a short period of time, and I was able to just pass on the suggested resources to the person who asked. Investment of time? Minimal. Good will created all around? Plenty. Because people like to help and share, at least good quality folks – and those are the kind you want in your network.

Here’s the point – build your social network by identifying really great people, who are smart and have a pay-it-forward mentality. Add value regularly – be helpful and generous when they have needs. And you’ll find that they are more than happy to add value back. Many times I’ve turned to my Twitter Help Desk, and I cannot recall being disappointed.

Just remember – it’s not about Twitter, and it’s not about having 100,000 “followers.” It’s about building a smart network. Do that, and you give yourself a totally unfair advantage!

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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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Zappo’s “heels” the Barefoot Executive

zapposUPDATE: See end of this post for a major news update. The REAL reason why Zappo’s was acquired by Amazon!

In a masterstroke of brand protection, Tony Hsieh of Zappo’s, the Internet’s most famous shoe store, has bought out his main competitor, The Barefoot Executive for an undisclosed sum and a social network to be named later.

“Our shoe sales have been growing like crazy!” stated Hsieh, who measures corporate results via bottom-line profits and top-line Re-tweets. “However, we’ve noticed a disturbing trend among our ‘executive’ customers – a drop-off in sales like nothing we’ve seen before. Market research indicated that Carrie Wilkerson – the Barefoot Executive – was clearly the influence causing many Presidents and CEOs to walk around shoeless. And they’re key influencers – clearly a trend we couldn’t allow to continue. Can you imagine entire companies loaded with barefoot people trying to emulate the boss? Ewwww!”

Calling a company brainstorming meeting on Twitter using the #stopcarrie hashtag, the consensus was reached that no other shoe retailers were, in fact, worthy of competitive mention. Problem #1 was actually the Barefoot Underground – about to get worse with the release of Carrie’s upcoming business/networking/barefoot fashion book – and there was only one method that could be employed to stop this anti-footwear phenomenon.

“We bought her out,” exulted Mr. Hsieh, refusing to go into the financial details except to say that it was in the “high five figures” of pairs of stylish executive shoes over the next 10 years. “Plus, her impending book will now be re-named ‘The Well-Shod Executive,’ and will feature her discussions of the relative merits of heels, pumps, flats, and bling-blingy boots in each chapter.”

Barefoot smA quick bump in shoe sales was already recorded when Carrie, using her famous Hypno-Eyebrow Webcam Method (HEWM), recorded her first video extolling the virtues of wearing the latest fire-engine red spiked heels while blogging from home.

The surprise move may be a portent of a new trend to come. Rumor has it that @themarketingguy, Jay Ehret, is in discussions with a hair-growth company to trade in his bald pate for something more lush. Not to be outdone, Jason Falls was recently spotted pouring his favorite bourbon down the drain while talking earnestly to a marketing rep for Tab cola. Even Twitter founders Ev and Biz, famous for going against the money-making tide, were recently spotted with AOL t-shirts.

Carrie could not be reached for comment, being tended to in a local hospital after twisting her ankle rollerblading with a pair of spiked purple PamelaMartins.

UPDATE: It was announced this week that Zappo’s has been acquired by Amazon. Beneath all the congratulatory blah-blah about synergy and growth, the REAL reason has now emerged (with thanks to @techcrunch for hacking into Zappo’s computer network and unearthing secret files…).

It turns out that the announcement of the Barefoot_Exec acquisition sent the shoe business into a sudden tailspin, as thousands of former customers began returning shoes in order to join the Carrie Cult and go barefoot. The only way to halt the slide, secret documents reveal, was to “be acquired by a major book retailer and seek to quash the release of Carrie’s upcoming book.”

The documents also reveal, in conjunction with Twitter documents already purloined and published, that Twitter has finally decided on a monetization strategy and plans to acquire the new Amazon/Zappos combo, since “this 140-character market is proving blasted hard to make a profit from! Let’s sell some other stuff!”

It is not know if @barefoot_exec will be allowed to tweet on the new Twamazapp platform. Stay tuned to TechCrunch for further details…

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Forget Twitter Skittle…M&M does M&A on Google

It was just a warm-up act.

The blogosphere lit up this week when M&M Mars replaced the Skittles home page with a constantly-updated stream of “tweets” from the popular micro-blogging service, Twitter.

Social media experts – and there are many of them – were divided as to the effectiveness of the campaign, but all discussion can stop now, and the Skitter experiment was merely a diversion from the main show.

While everyone was distracted with the little Twitter feint, Mars was landing the Big Kahuna – Google.

“Ever since Google was launched, with all of those bright primary colors in their logo, we’ve been convinced that a combination of Google search and M&M sweetness was the right combo for our worldwide audience,” declared Ike Livingston, Personal Brand Ambassador for Mars. “As of today, the new co-branded service – GMMGLE – will roll off the tongues of billions of people, just as our candy melts in their mouths, not in their hands.”

gmmgleOver the next several weeks, the new GMMGLE home page will roll out, but a few select beta users have seen the colorful new results page, which includes a “Link Sweeeetness Rating” algorithm that awards “thumbs up” for particularly tasty web destinations.

gmmgle-page

Reaction to the new GMMGLE portal concept came swiftly. However, all the negative stuff disappeared immediately from the serach results, leaving only expressions of awe and excitement from members of the theobromine lobby and from fringe, vowel-hating bloggers in Balkan countries.

A spokesman for President Obama praised the move, saying,  “We’re all about sugar-daddy funding. We have mounds of cash, piled high as the Andes, and this newly-minted GMMGLE portal will be used by the government to find lots of pork futures, and to search out tax cheats. Umm, scratch that last bit about tax cheats…we’re already finding those all over the place around here.”

Other candy companies have also been bargain-hunting. Hershey’s was about to announce the first milk-chocolate powered “brown” car in a joint venture with struggling GM, but pulled out of the deal after federal regulators withheld bailout money, asking “What can Brown do for you?” Tootsie-Roll did become the Official Corporate Sponsor of the Federal Stimulus and Takeover plan, however, explaining, “Who has more experience rolling people than us?”

Meanwhile, Mr. Livingston confirmed that, due to anti-trust considerations, the rumored YAHMM portal is no longer being considered.

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All logos, images, trademarks, and names belong, of course, to their respective owners. This is a spoof. Which means it’s not actually real. It didn’t happen. Really.

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Five in the Morning 021709

Lon Cohen shares his “Twitter professors” on the Mashable blog – 18 key people he follows who provide ongoing education on a variety of topics. Some known, and not-so-well-known, names listed here.

Who doesn’t like a nice list? Here’s 60 of the best SEO tools. And, some Inspiring Design Links for Creatives (thanks to @brandonacox for these links, via Twitter). And, from Robin Broitman, a Superlist of How to Find, Network with, and Influence People via Social Media.

Good for what Ales you? Costco about to make a bold move – launching its own line of beers. Great strategy, especially if the taste is high-quality. The Difference is Affordability?

Good advice from Branding Strategy Insider on picking/creating a brand name effectively. Drawn from Guy Kawasaki‘s book, The Art of the Start.

Facebook blah blah blah. Terms of Service blah blah privacy blah blah – yes, it was the latest bandwagon issue for the last couple of days. Consumerist blog has some helpful updates on its initial post about this kerfuffle, including some clarifications from the Facebookers.

Can you learn anything about social media marketing from a puppy?

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Five in the Morning 021609

fivesm

I hope you enjoyed the Five in the Morning guest posts last week! It’s my intent to pass around the Five spotlight (and link love) to two guest-hosts per week, so that we get the benefit of everyone’s interests and reading lists. Thanks to Arun Rajagopal, Lisa Hoffmann, Connie Reece, and Chris Wilson for helping out while I was busy “conferencing” last week!

Alan Wolk kicks us off this morning with a provocative post: Does Creativity Still Matter? Give it a read and add your comments, esp. if you’re an advertising wonk. Good stuff.

Mining the Thought Stream. Some thoughts on TechCrunch about Twitter’s unique capacity to reveal what people are thinking. Interesting.

Mashable‘s Social Media posts, all gathered together. Great idea. Warning: potential time sink!

How to Communicate Everything You Do. Can you condense your personal message into an effective introduction? Some valuable ideas from Dan Schawbel at the Personal Branding Blog.

The Brand New blog has been on a roll this month, with some great commentary on re-branding efforts, good, bad, and awful. Scroll down and enjoy!

PLUS – The Personal ROI of Social Media. A Sunday Muse.

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PLEASE NOTE: There is reason to believe that the Google/Feedburner changeover has created “issues” with RSS feeds for my blogs (and others). Here are the feeds for my three blogs; if you’re a reader, would you please re-subscribe just to make sure? Thanks!

:: Subscribe to the StickyFigure blog (that’s this one!)

:: Subscribe to the Steve’s Leaves blog (that’s my personal blog)

:: Subscribe to the Impactiviti blog (that’s a pharma-specific blog, for my consulting business)

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Five in the Morning 020509

Wired interviews Seth Godin at TED – Tribes, timing, and people (not ads). Classic Seth stuff. And, here’s a interesting thought from Seth’s blog, about “solving a different problem.”

Razorfish data tying consumer social media activity to purchase behavior“there are significant differences in both engagement and spend between those who discovered the application or widget through media, versus those who were referred by friends. ..those who discovered the application via a friend were almost four times more likely to download the applicationThey were also more likely to spend money on the client site and spent much more on average.”

From Derrick Daye at Branding Strategy Insider (Hi Derrick – long time no e-contact!), something we really shouldn’t have to say: When Naming turns Deceitful. Some classic examples here.

John Moore riffing on Ted Mininni riffing on coffee…follow the links for some good discussion. My take – it’s not all about coffee taste. It’s also the experience. Getting a cup of coffee at home (8 O’Clock), or at McDonald’s, or at DD, is…well, boring, compared to Starbucks. Starby’s not only has to preserve their unique taste position, they have to make sure that having coffee at their destination is qualitatively different. But you all knew that…

A Fast Company article that you simply have to read, for its throught-provokingness…

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PLEASE NOTE: There is reason to believe that the Google/Feedburner changeover has created “issues” with RSS feeds for my blogs (and others). Here are the feeds for my three blogs; if you’re a reader, would you please re-subscribe just to make sure? Thanks!

:: Subscribe to the StickyFigure blog (that’s this one!)

:: Subscribe to the Steve’s Leaves blog (that’s my personal blog – you’ll see a story from there below)

:: Subscribe to the Impactiviti blog (that’s a pharma-specific blog, for my consulting business)

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Five in the Morning 020209

PLEASE NOTE: There seems to be reason to believe that the Google/Feedburner changeover has created “issues” with RSS feeds for my blogs. Here are the feeds for my three blogs; if you’re a reader, would you please re-subscribe just to make sure? Thanks!

:: Subscribe to the StickyFigure blog (that’s this one!)

:: Subscribe to the Steve’s Leaves blog (that’s my personal blog – you’ll see a story from there below)

:: Subscribe to the Impactiviti blog (that’s a pharma-specific blog, for my consulting business)

5-penceNow, on to the show…

Your Culture is Your Brand. From Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos. Yes, it was written a month ago, but even in Internet time, ongoing relevance can still apply after 30 days! With the Internet connecting everyone together, companies are becoming more and more transparent whether they like it or not. An unhappy customer or a disgruntled employee can blog about bad experience with a company, and the story can spread like wildfire by email or with tools like Twitter. The good news is that the reverse is true as well. A great experience with a company can be read by millions of people almost instantaneously as well.

Gavin Heaton, the Servant of Chaos, has been churning out some thought-provoking stuff. Here’s a quick read on The Three Stages of Twitter Commitment. And, a very interesting (& longer) post on Happy to be Incomplete, which discusses a river we all must cross (esp. those of us with perfectionistic tendencies – something I know a little bit about).

Lists of 100 _____ (whatever) can be pretty imposing. But if you’re a LinkedIn user looking to use that network more effectively, this may be a gold mine for you. 100+ Smart Ways to use LinkedIn. From Scott Allen.

Are you a Twitter user, curious about why certain posts get Retweeted more than others? Here’s an interesting little study by Dan Zarrella, on The 20 Words and Phrases that will get you the most Retweets.

This is a great thought from Jason Falls, and worthy of robust discussion in the comments. What Happens when Transparency goes Wrong? There’s a lot of information about people (us) floating around out there – how will it be used??

PLUS – A Sunday rumination on Puppy Love. From Steve’s Leaves.

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Five in the Morning 012809

10 Ways Social Media will Change in 2009. From ReadWriteWeb. Mostly self-evident stuff, but everyone on Twitter was re-tweeting it, so it must be authoritative and all that…right?

Rohit Bhargava gives us Six Non-salesy Ways to Ask your Customer to Promote You.

Chip and Dan Heath write for Fast Company on Incentives – Irresistible, Effective, and Likely to Backfire. Thought-provoking and a bit amusing.

9 Blog Failures and Remedies. Good, practical stuff from Jay Baer.

While we’re doing 6 this, 9 that, 5 the other – here’s 10 Ways to Increase your Twitter Followers. Actually, this isn’t one of “those” posts (“I got 6 billion Twitter followers in 7 days!!”) – these are pretty helpful practices, from someone who should know, Kevin Rose.

PLUS: From Jon Swanson. Reverberant Silence. Just read it – and think.

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It’s great when we move beyond virtual, into real-life. Enjoyed a great tweetup last night in NYC (thanks, Chris Kieff and Ripple6!) with Jason Falls, CK, David Polinchock, CB Whittemore, Jon Burg, and many others.

ripple6tweetup

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Five in the Morning 012209

From Mashable - By the Numbers: Inauguration’s Impact on Social Media. Enlightening stats and graphs. Wow! “The social web flexed its muscle yesterday with Twitter reporting five times the normal tweet volume, and Facebook/CNN showing mind blowing engagement.”

David Henderson offers a free e-book: Media Savvy in the Internet Era.

I’m Not your Catcher. My most recent MarketingProfs Daily Fix post. “For a while, I was enslaved, under contract, and you could pitch whatever you wanted at me. I would wear the mask, put on the glove, mutely make signs; but whatever signals I gave you about what I wanted, you simply ignored. You pitched what you wanted…”

Like wallowing in others’ mistakes? The Superlist of What NOT to do in Social Media has been updated! This link is full of amusing stuff.

On the other hand…Getting Great Testimonials, from Andy Sernovitz. Some excellent advice here, with a couple of very creative ideas drawn from two sources.

Social Media Marketing an Hour a DayLee Odden interviews Dave Evans, who wrote a book by that title.

–I guess I can’t count. That’s six, not five. Oh well, why not toss in one more…

AND, just for fun – Making friends in Social Media. Amusing cartoon from our friends at Hubspot.

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Five in the Morning 011509

Will Twitter change blog designs in 2009? It’s already happening. Some interesting predictions from Rachel Cunliffe at Mashable (but she didn’t include her Twitter handle in the blog post!)

Charmin kicks butt in NYC advertising campaign. Such an obvious idea, yet so smart. From Jonathan Salem Baskin at DimBulb blog.

The Bull lives! Some brand identities are too powerful to let go. Bank of America preserving the Merrill Lynch name and logo. From William Lozito at the NameWire blog.

Speaking of logos, those Brand Flakes for Breakfast guys point us to a graphical depiction of all the United States (state) logos. Wow – what a variety. Some of these are pretty meh, and someone sold a lot of script font to a few western states. To me, the most visually memorable is Mississippi.

Facts Tell but Stories SellJeff Paro gives us a compact list of 20 typical “plots” around which stories can be built. Found on the Small Business Branding site.

And finally, the question on my StickyFigure blog yesterday – Are you Being Pecked to Death?

————- Swing by Friday morning to find out who our next guest-host will be!

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