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.

————-

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

Twitter: @ConnectionAgent | @swoodruff

Connect with Steve Woodruff

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!)

————-

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

Twitter: @ConnectionAgent | @swoodruff

Connect with Steve Woodruff

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.)

————-

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

Twitter: @ConnectionAgent | @swoodruff

Connect with Steve Woodruff

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 :>}

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!>

————-

Subscribe to the Connection Agent blog

Twitter: @ConnectionAgent | @swoodruff

Connect with Steve Woodruff

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!

————-

Subscribe to the StickyFigure blog

Twitter: @swoodruff

Connect with Steve Woodruff

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!

————-

Subscribe to the StickyFigure blog

Twitter: @swoodruff

Connect with Steve Woodruff

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 154 other followers