The Social Presentation – It’s great that you’re embracing social media but are you really listening?

It’s pretty exciting to watch how we, as marketers, have grown to embrace social media in a relatively short time.  In particular, we have come to recognize the fact there are dialogs being created outside of our efforts.  Notably, and most dramatically, we have seen this take shape in our presentation environments.

Today, a real-time social dialog among audience members often accompanies a presentation or webinar.  With this understanding, we’ve begun to encourage and support that dialog with hashtags and active monitoring.  That’s great…but are we really listening?

Webinars and ‘Social’

Early this week, I attended a marketing webinar sponsored by two well known and well respected marketing companies.  As in-the-know ‘social marketers’, they supported their webinar with a Twitter-based dialog.  Including:

  • A hashtag specific to their presentation.
  • The hashtag included on each slide of the presentation.
  • Verbally encouraging the audience, throughout the presentation, to take their dialog to Twitter.

And so the webinar began and the social magic unfolded…

There was a stead stream of tweets throughout the webinar (about 250 total tweets using the supplied hashtag).  The audience was so engaged on Twitter, that the presenters and moderators mentioned so in their dialog several times throughout the webinar.

Webinars Using Twitter

Social success! Right?  Well, kind of…

Hearing Versus Listening

Most of us grew up with our parents, teachers, etc. telling us that there is a difference betweeen ‘hearing’ and ‘listening’.  My webinar experience was a perfect example of that important, distinct difference.

So there was this great 200 plus tweet activity racing alongside a decent presentation, but the tweets were not turned in to dialog by the presenters…they were relegated to threads, stand-alone statements.

I noticed this problem when the webinar came to its Q&A segment.

Left out in the social media cold - Flickr: im pastor rickWhile there were a stream of questions in the tweet-cloud, the questions that were addressed (and answered) were those entered into the actual webinar hosting platform.  Those attendees (like myself) posting questions to the webinar hashtag were left out in the cold of the Twitter-sphere (even though we were encouraged to use Twitter for questions).

Great, You’re Social, Now Begin Actively Listening

Speaking from experience, it is not easy to present, maintain a decent pace, track time, and monitor audience questions/engagement…especially in a live webinar.  The fact that these presenters were, at least, aware of the activity on Twitter is better than many other webinars I’ve attended.

However, to truly turn ‘social’ into ‘dialog’ we have to put the right supporting processes in place in advance of encouraging audiences to social channels.

There are two simple steps to ensuring your next social-supported presentation creates dialog:

#1 Structure Your Social Search To Find Questions

Most commonly, we are driving audience members to Twitter (supported by a hashtag) for their accompanying dialog.  When setting up your next presentation make sure you are doing the following to explicitly ‘find’ questions:

  1. Searching Social During Your PresentationsAdvanced Search – create a search in Twitter or, better yet, your favorite Twitter client using your presentation hashtag (e.g. #mypresentation) and the ‘?’ search operator (e.g. #mypresentation ?).
  2. Designate A Search Moderator – find a person that can specifically monitor the ‘question’ searches and respond or collect them for later reponse.
    1. It’s Just You – use a Twitter client with alerts (like TweetDeck) and stored searches for you to refer back to during Q&A.

#2 Encourage the Community to Respond

Depending on your topic and audience, leverage the knowledge in your audience to help field the questions of other attendees.  At the outset of the presentation, encourage your audience to follow the hashtag as well and to answer their fellow attendees’ questions.

Follow up after the presentation and comment on those threads (continuing to use your presentation hashtag):

  • Praising excellent answers.
  • Clarifying or enhancing answers.
  • Correcting incorrect answers.

This follow up, in addition to extended your knowledge, also provides an opportunity to drive audience members to follow up information or content.

Will It Matter?

Giving your audience a voice is great, listening and responding to their comments, questions, and needs is true, value-added dialog.  As is the case for many of us, our presentations and webinars are an opportunity to generate interest, and ultimately, new business.

The more actively we listen and engage the better we present our messages and brands.

You’re social media ears are open…now invest the time in be able to authentically engage and respond.

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July 2, 2010 at 4:11 pm 2 comments

Marketing Micro Tactics – Thoughtful Filenames Of Offers

Marketers, we must sweat the details…sometimes the small stuff has significant value.  I know it may seem like an unrealistic statement in these days of multiple, conflicting priorities and limited resources, but our marketing efforts are often the first point of engagement with prospective customers.  So how detailed?  I believe there are a set of marketing micro-tactics that easily get overlooked in bustle of our daily activities.

Marketing Must Sweat the Details

In this particular post, I am talking about the filenames that we choose for our online resources (e.g. whitepapers, webcasts, etc.).

What’s In A (File)Name

Currently, a popular marketing tactic is to provide prospects with an offer for ‘premium content’ in exchange for their contact information.  Especially popular in B2B marketing, marketers are engaging prospects through value-added content in the form of case studies, relevant resources, and free tools.  Commonly, these pieces of premium content are delivered to prospects as downloads that they can save to their local computers.

We usually do so much work to create these pieces of premium content – content creation, design, proof reading, development, lead capture and management – that we overlook the filename we are giving to these documents that will be download by our target audiences.

Rather than thoughtfully name these files, they are often an assemblage of someone’s first stab at a filename combined with inline versioning identifiers.  The example below is a whitepaper from SuccessFactors detailing how to maximize your human resources to improve execution.  The filename itself is not clear on who or what.

SuccessFactors Whitepaper Filename

Why Are Filenames Important?

Branding
Your piece of premium content often is the beginning of an engagement with a prospect ; each point of contact is an opportunity to positively represent your brand.  Many times a user will not choose to rename a filename when they download and save your content.  A thoughtful, clear filename is a strong representation of your brand.

Even marketing experts – like MarketingProfs (below) – struggle with the small details.

Viral Distribution
I’m sure you have a compelling piece of content that a prospect will be compelled to share with others.  Usually, we forward on pieces of content to our colleagues/network as an email attachment (even a type of file share).  I doing so, the filename will help to form a first impression with that new.

Continued Reference
Premium content has the potential to live long after a prospect has filled out a form and left our website.  It is highly likely that prospects will reference your material sometime after their initial download.  This is especially true in the elongated buying cycles in many B2B sales engagements.  Consequently, your filename can be import for easy recollection and search.

A Process For Thoughtfully Naming Files

I believe that while it is valuable to have conciseness in filenames, we can capture the spirit of that concept while including the components below:

Personal or Brand Identification

Start by identifying yourself or your organization; qualifying the material and with whom the prospect chose to engage.  I think it is okay to use meaningful abbreviations when a full name may be too long (e.g. ‘WebEx’ instead of ‘Cisco-WebEx’ or ‘Hewitt’ instead of ‘Chris-Hewitt’).

I recent came across the following example after reading Tony Jeary‘s Life Is a Series of Presentations.  Here we have an example of a great resource – downloaded from Tony’s website – but the filename does not accurately reflect his personal brand.

Clear Subject

Often suggest that this should be different than the title of the piece of premium content.  The titles for our case studies, whitepapers, webinars, etc. are often thoughtfully crafted to attract the attention of our target audiences.  At this point, however, someone has been appropriately engaged and is downloading our content…we’re past the opening lines.  I find it best to quickly summarize the subject of the material.

In the example below, ‘Social-Media-Improving-Customer-Service’ would be a meaningful yet more digestible component of the filename.

Contact Method

We can take this opportunity to include some contact information, especially social media channels, in our filename.  While it may not work in all circumstances, I believe this is especially important for individuals in their personal branding efforts.  For example, you can easily include your Twitter handle in the filename (thanks to azbado for the technical QA).

The example below highlights one of my social media resources I provide on my website.  As I know that my audience for this material is interested in social media, I take the opportunity to include my twitter ID (shown in a ‘viral’ email attachment context – click for larger image).

Creating Thoughtful Filenames For Marketing Materials

We Already Care About Many Filenames
The concept of thoughtful filenames isn’t, conceptually, a foreign concept for us as marketers.  We carefully consider the filenames for our ‘Internet indexed’ materials like webpages and images.  We just need to carry this concept into our other distributed materials and make each character of a filename count.

As the next piece of premium content passes your desk, give a little more love to its filename.

May 12, 2010 at 10:44 pm 4 comments

Forget the Experts, Let the Musical Group TLC Teach You About Social Media

You have likely attended, read, researched, or paid for information about Social Media and how it can be leveraged in your business (especially true if you are a marketer).  Like you, I have invested – and still invest – a healthy amount of time learning about the emerging concepts in Social Media. With so much to discuss, I find that the dialog is severely fragmented.  Where can we turn for a clear, concise message on Social Media?  Music.  Removing the layers of complexity and conjecture I think we can simply sum up Social Media in the song ‘Waterfalls’ by the musical group TLC.

I believe a lot of the complexity and noise is due to our liberal attachment of the word ‘strategy’ to Social Media.  Sure Social Media is new and exciting but we’re inadvertently giving this tactic a pretty big corporate ego; even its once popular digital counterparts (e.g. email, SEO, etc.) are jealous of all the new-baby attention that Social Media is receiving.

So let’s forget the ‘expert’ advice and see what TLC knows about Social Media.


Breaking Down the Song
Waterfalls (on lala)

by Marqueze Etheridge, Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, Organized Noize

Source Wikipedia

Don’t go chasing waterfalls,
Please stick to the rivers and the lakes that you’re used to,
I know that you’re gonna have it your way or nothing at all,
But I think you’re moving too fast.

Social Media Basics #1 – Be Realistic, Be Honest
‘Don’t go chasing waterfalls, please stick to the rivers and the lakes that you’re used to’

I was attending an excellent webinar last week on new media that had a lot of engaging content and shared experiences.  I was thoroughly enjoying the presentation, until the presenter leaned heavily on Blendtec as the goal for [all] marketers to reach for and achieve.  Uhhhhh, no…you just lost me.

Yes, Blendtec is one of many great individual examples of viral marketing performance.  However, using the marketing wisdom of TLC, the Blendtec video campaign is a ‘waterfall’…one that is highly conditional and not easily replicated.  The ‘success’ of the campaign is not sustainable as it is dependent on an ever-widening top of Blendtec’s demand funnel.

Unfortunately, these are the examples that are generally held up for marketers as what they should be achieving. Blinded by the huge dollar signs we neglect to see the ‘success’ of Blendtec as a general exception to the rule.

We need to be realistic in our approach to Social Media.

Rather than chase that awesome viral video or amazing Tweetup, we need to think about what social interactions and information:

  • Do our targeted audiences value?
  • Can be energetically supported within the organization?
  • Will authentically represent the organization’s culture?
  • Can return consistent value to your targeted audiences?

Social Media Basics #2 – Letting Go Of The Message
‘I know that you’re gonna have it your way or nothing at all’

What a perfect line, TLC really knows Social Media…they were well ahead of their time.  So after we are all hopped up from the sugary delights of Social Media case studies, we excitedly begin discussing these new tools in our organizations.  Most of us marketers are pumped!  Our colleagues, however, are usually a little skeptical and others are completely and belligerently against Social Media.

And so the corporate negotiations and rationalizations begin; structured thought and processes are established to ‘guide’ Social Media.  As a result, many organizations use Social Media as another tool to push and control a message.  Symptoms of this condition include:

  • Highly moderated and restricted communities (fear of negativity).
  • Filtered comments (control).
  • Days spent formulating responses to comments/events in the social cloud (over-analysis).

We have to be okay letting a dialog develop – positive or negative, informed or misinformed – and rather focusing our efforts on vigilantly monitoring and thoughtfully responding.

Social Media Basics #3 –  What Value Will You Return
‘But I think you’re moving too fast’

Often the investment in Social Media thought processes are reversed; we spend countless time developing policies and procedures but don’t invest enough in how we are going to reach and return value to our audiences.  Instead we begin immediately focusing on the ‘tools’, not our messages, our audiences, and our responsibilities as marketers.

A similar parallel can be drawn to the mad Internet rush of the late 90’s when businesses realized they needed a presence on the ‘World Wide Web’.  Consultants were hired, teams were created, and websites were launched!  Many organizations, reacting to their delayed entry into the Internet, rushed to check a box (oftentimes a very expensive box).  The result of that rush were a lot of brochure-ware websites that did little for the user or the organization.

Social Media is particularly dangerous as there are often little to no hard costs to using its tools.  With low financial barriers to entry, we blindly load up on tools and ignore our audience.

Return to the questions I posed in the first section; let the answers to those questions determine what tools and mediums to use in your Social Media efforts.

A final note, and equally important, these concepts also apply to our own, personal Social Media efforts.  Our personal brands can be positively shaped by adopting TLC’s advice on Social Media.  Be thoughtfully engaged, helpful, and collaborative.

While I know that TLC intended their song to have a broader message promoting social awareness, the next time you sing along to ‘Waterfalls’ I hope you also think of the direction of your Social Media efforts.

March 31, 2010 at 5:38 pm 8 comments

The Social Media Job Search – LinkedIn Profiles

Career and job searches are popular subjects of late; I have read and heard a number of stories on using social media to enhance a person’s candidacy.  In fact, I recently created a concept for using social media to track your resume based on my own hiring experiences.  That hiring process also lead me to another social media concept for a job search that I haven’t seen discussed; candidate awareness.

There are plenty of articles with strong warnings about the ‘digit self’ you present to potential companies and recruiters.  Ask any job seeking Millennial or Net Genner about how often they have been ‘warned’ by older generations about their ‘Facebooking’.  “Just look at what happened to Michael Phelps,” we wisely caution.  I think it’s time we moved past the scare tactics and encourage job seekers of all ages to actively use their online profiles to enhance their job search.

The same tools that we are cautioning against can be used to provide valuable intelligence in your search.

Profile Views | The Foundation of A Social Job Search

Many social media websites provide you with information on who is viewing your profile.  Social media websites, like LinkedIn, give you insight into the people that are interested in your profile.

This information is critical to an active, engaged career search.  Do not wait around to be contacted, proactively monitor who is viewing your profile…especially for those people that you expect to be viewing your profile.

LinkedIn For Your Job Search

LinkedIn has become an integral part of many managers/recruiters selection and hiring process.  The free level of LinkedIn provides you with a glimpse into the activity of those viewing your profile.

Social Job Search and people viewing your LinkedIn profileThe information displayed depends on your level of connection to a person viewing your profile.

Those paying for premium versions of LinkedIn have even greater visibility and detail into the specific people viewing your profile.

Being Socially Aware in Your Job Search

The hiring process places a lot of knowledge in the hands of the hiring company.  Your candidacy is largely at the mercy of their schedules, messages, and updates.  As a result, a candidate must follow up with calls and emails to assess the situation.  Unfortunately, however, this is usually this is a anxious process…balancing our desire for knowledge against the threat of being too pushy, inconsiderate, or desperate.

Using social media tools like LinkedIn, we can acquire some of that knowledge ourselves and gain visibility into our candidacy.  For example, if you applied for a position with a Boston IT company?  There may be a good chance that they are interested in your candidacy.

Using LinkedIn for your job search and who is interested in your candidacy.

Use the link provided to research further into the people, or type of people, that are potentially interested in your candidacy.  Learn about those people and develop plans on how this information could be used in follow up notes, discussions, and interviews.  For example:

  • What is there professional background?
  • Where did they go to school?
  • Follow links to their blog and read about their perspectives.

Competitive Intelligence In Your Job Search

This next concept, around connections, is equally important for recruiters/hiring managers as it is for candidates.  Today many recruiters/hiring managers are connecting to some of their candidates via LinkedIn…opening both sides to a wealth of information.

Candidates, Get To Know Your Competition!

As you engage with prospective employers, I would recommend connecting with them on LinkedIn (note: as long as this is inline with your overall ‘connection’ strategy).  This is especially important if that person initiates a connection request.  Actually…it is CRITICAL.

Wow, why the capitals?

As you may know, when connected to people on LinkedIn you are able to view their new connections.  As they are connecting with you, they are likely connecting with your competition!

LinkedIn job search intelligence and insight

Connect and then watch those recruiters/hiring managers profiles closely and their new connections (you can even turn on RSS feeds for your network updates).  As you monitor their new connections, look for people with profiles/experience that are relevant to your position of interest.  Those are likely your competitors (yes, I know, they are very rude for trying to steal your position).

Then, as outlined above, research and understand your competition.  Using that information to prepare to compete against them in interviews by strengthening areas you may be weak, dialing up areas of differentiation, etc.

Recruiters, Are You Revealing Your Candidates?

Reading the above, you can see that you may be ‘showing your hand’ of candidates for a position.  You may be comfortable with exposing that information…I can certainly see how it could breed a more constructively competitive and honest dialog with candidates.  However, if your search is confidential, or your candidates have requested confidentiality, you may be unknowingly exposing your company, search, or candidates.

You are likely already on LinkedIn…now leverage the tool and create actionable information for your next position!

March 5, 2010 at 4:46 pm 3 comments

Using Internet Marketing to Improve Your Chances of Getting Hired

You need to start treating your job search like a marketing campaign.  With a few simple steps, you can proactively monitor and manage the activity of your search…ultimately turning that information into relevant action and follow up.  We are going to learn how to leverage URL shorteners (e.g. bit.ly) to evolve beyond the blind, frustrating application process of submit-and-wait.

As background, I have recently been spending a lot of time immersed in the hiring process filling a position on my team.  In a few short months, I have received over 100 resumes and met with dozens of candidates.  While there are a great variety of skills, experience, and resume layout concepts they are all (generally) missing the opportunity to measure my actual interest in their candidacy.

It seems that our resumes are not evolving at the same rate as our professional/technical knowledge.  Sure, we’ve moved our resumes to electronic mediums but it’s essentially the same presentation…it does little more than make the document more portable.

I think we can do a lot better…

While a little lengthy, I promise this concept is quite simple…I’m not just an overzealous marketer giddy with a new, super-awesome-but-not-realistic vision (well not this time anyway).

How Do I Know Someone Looked at My Resume? | Tracking Your Job Campaign

In order to treat your job search like an integrated marketing campaign, we need to be able to track, measure, and relevantly respond to our audience(s).  Doing so will differentiate yourself on the intelligence and pro-activity of your search; giving your unique professional profile much needed visibility.

Building hyperlinks in your resume

With the concept I’m detailing, you could know that someone from XYZ company:

  • Followed a link to your personal website.
  • Viewed your LinkedIn profile.
  • Read your blog post on thoughts relative to XYZ company.

This concept, in and of itself, is not revolutionary…it is the simple application of Internet tracking and analytics techniques.

Physced?!?!  Alright…let’s get into the ‘how’.

Hyperlinks, Your Key To Creating an ‘Aware Resume’

The cornerstone of an ‘aware resume’ are hyperlinks.  More specifically, tracked hyperlinks (more on that in just a minute).

The following is a list of hyperlinks that you should be including on your resume:

  • LinkedIn Profile.
  • Blog.
  • Twitter Profile.
  • Personal Website.
  • Website of companies, schools, organizations, etc. that you have listed.

Links to Include in a ResumeThis list is not exhaustive (nor should you force these into your resume), however you should include links to any Internet-based property that relevantly presents your point of view, perspective, or experience to the position you are applying.

For example, if you are applying for a social media position, your personal Qik/Vimeo/YouTube channel or Facebook Fan Page might be highly relevant to the position.

Tracked Hyperlinks For Your Resume

The growth in character-limited status updates (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, etc.) have popularized URL shortening services – websites that essentially take the long string of an Internal address (i.e. http:// …) and shorten it to a more portable, more easily shared link.  Additionally, you can even created personalized URLs using these services.

Example – the address to my LinkedIn profile is:

http://www.linkedin.com/in/chewitt

Using bit.ly (a popular URL shortener), it becomes:

http://bit.ly/deGeXE            (shortened)

http://bit.ly/Chris-Hewitt  (shortened and personalized)

A collateral benefit of these services are the tracking opportunities that they present.  When users click on a shortened link services, like Bit.ly, are collecting and storing important information about that click.  By creating an account (free) with these services, you have access to that information!

Creating Tracked Hyperlinks

I have chosen bit.ly for this post and as my URL shortener (Wired: bit.ly working on improving security), but there are other services as well (there is even a Google URL Shortener).
Creating a tracked hyperlink is very simple, but before creating tracked hyperlinks you must start with a bit.ly account.  Once created, you simply enter your URL, customize your link (optional), and insert it into your resume.

An Important Trick For Your Tracked Hyperlinks!

Bit.ly (and other services) organize tracked clicks based on the original (full) URL.  In regular use, this is a great metric to compare your influence against all others sharing the same link.  However, we want to track explicit traffic (interest) from potential employers.

Bit.ly analytics are grouped by the full URL

I was not the only one to create a bit.ly link for Phoenix information; my link resulted in 4 of the 20 total clicks.

As a result, we need to customize each of the URLs in order to make them unique.  Otherwise each prospective employer’s activity would be grouped together and you would lose visibility to unique interest.

Using an old trick (a nod to the teachings of my IT colleagues over the years), this customization is simple; by adding our own ‘code’ to each full URL we can make them unique.

There are many ways to technically implement this concept, but for simplicity, add the following to the end of each full URL prior to shortening it with bit.ly:

?c=[company name you are applying to]

One caveat, if the URL you are shortening already has a ‘?’ you will use a ‘&’:

&c=[company name you are applying to]

From Tracking to Action

If you have followed these steps, you are now attaching powerfully ‘aware resumes’ to your applications.  Rather than waiting for the phone to ring or inbox to light up with inquiries, you can be proactively (and relevantly) driving your candidacy based on tracking the interest of prospective employers.

1) Monitor Your Link Activity Closely

  • Who is clicking through on your ‘aware resume’?
  • What content are they interested in reading? How does that content relate to the position you applied?
  • Is a particular company more interested in your experience (LinkedIn) or your current thoughts/work (e.g. Twitter, blog, etc.)?
  • What days of the week and times of day are they viewing your information?

2) Follow Up…Relevantly and Thoughtfully

Based on your currently dialog with a prospective employer (e.g. application, email exchange, interview, etc.) and your insight into their online activity you can create your own nurture campaigns.  For example:

  • After seeing that a particular company is repeatedly viewing your current thoughts, you could write/record a blog post, Twitter comment, or other channel that shares a concept relevant to the position.
  • Use intermittent activity over a period of time to send a follow up email with information you found relevant to the position/company.
  • Watch your activity leading up to key decision points in the hiring process (i.e. interviews) to determine what information is most relevant and be prepare to talk about those topics in detail.

Most importantly, use your understanding of the company, the position, and the people making hiring decisions to create/continue dialog.  Just like a marketing campaign, you have the responsibility to return value to your audience.

February 17, 2010 at 9:05 pm 12 comments

Social Media Is Not A Revolution…It’s Still About Dollars

Social media: influence or revenue? A question of growing popularity and heated debate, with compelling arguments for both sides.

This particular post is part of a coordinated blogosphere debate between myself, Mike Abrams, Cindy Kim and Amanda Vega.

For me, social media success, as a component of a marketing strategy, is best measured by its ability to generate revenue.

I know…it sounds a bit cold…maybe I’ve been lapping up a little too much of the ‘ROMI’ Kool-aid. I once thought, however, that social media was different. I thought social media had a ‘higher purpose’; to enlighten each and every one of us in marketing to create something better and to triumphantly carry forth a new era of a ‘softer sell’…making the world a better place.

The reality is however, that our marketing efforts carry a serious responsibility to generate real results. We are accountable to our Board, boss, teams, and colleagues; that responsibility becomes even more serious for small businesses and individuals when those key stakeholders are ourselves and our families.

The key to generating direct revenue is relevance and value; social media is another tool for us to take the right message and bring it to the right audience.

Almost every message has a relevant audience. This is especially true in our highly customizable, highly portable digital word; a trend Chris Anderson highlighted in his book The Long Tail. Do you find those multi-level marketing Tweets annoying; blocking and ignoring the follows from Twitter users that can make you $300 a day for doing nothing? Well it’s not that their message is wrong…it’s just that they reached the wrong audience.

This is why social media is such a powerful tool for generating revenue; people have segmented themselves. It is now our responsibility to reach them with the right message, offer, etc. and constructively engage them in dialog. There is no reason why we cannot tie our efforts directly to revenue generation.

Additionally, we have to consider the fact that ‘social media’, as an Internet marketing strategy, is in its infancy. And while many of us social media ‘insiders’ are being to ask hard questions about sustainability and business value, the vast majority of the population is still wondering how these tools, this whole concept, really applies to their life/job/goal. As a result, it’s easy to lean on metrics like ‘influence’.

A little bit of an industry secret ‘return on influence’ is the kind of nebulous metric that we, as marketers, cozy up to at night; our comfortable, loving teddy bear that lets us know we returned value today. Me? Sure I have a Teddy. Hey, don’t judge, the late 90s were especially rough…I may have wound up on a few email ‘blacklists’, angered email recipients around the word, and generated little to no direct revenue, but Teddy and I always shared in the success of our ‘impressions’ and ‘open rates’.

All stuffed animal metaphors aside, ‘influence’ is a valid measurement of marketing activity…and, in certain circumstances, success. I believe, however, that the actionable nature of social media requires us to apply hard metrics to our efforts and track them back to dollars. We can’t accurately track the influence of a well planned and authentic charity event on an organization’s revenue. We can, however, track our links, activity, referrers, etc. in our social media efforts.

So yes, for now, focus hard on using social media to drive revenue. Let’s get back to our roots of sales and marketing; create dialog with your message and leverage social media to find the appropriate audience. Track your efforts (‘cash for clicks’ and ‘clicks to cash’), continue to enhance your message, and return value. In doing so, maybe you will use social media to make the world a better place…well…maybe for your happy, newly acquired customers anyway.

How Wrong am I? Give Us Your Opinion.
In the spirit of promoting open discussion, the members of this coordinated debate have created a community to discuss this, and other, social media throwdown topics: socialmediadebate.ning.com. Amanda, Cindy, Mike and I welcome your thoughts comments and ideas (and, I’m sure, criticism)…join in on the conversation.

October 27, 2009 at 12:30 pm Leave a comment

Professional Networking – Well Connected But Not Well Respected

For many of us, our professional networks are an integral component in our past, current, and future success.  As a result, we vigilantly watch over those relationships and selectively grow our networks with the right blend of new connections.  We carefully invest the time in building mutually beneficial relationships and enriching the connections of people in our network.

In fact, I highly doubt that there is a person engaged in networking that would disagree.  However in my networking activities, I have noticed an alarming trend that seems to directly challenge that concept.

I have recently come across a number of highly connected people that, while engaging, visible, and well-liked, are not professionally respected.  I know…it doesn’t make sense…but I have found myself in the following types of conversations with troubling regularity:

  • I have to connect you with [name], you’ll really like them!  Just one word of caution (usually as a whispered aside); [name] isn’t that reliable of a business person…be careful of what they tell you or promise.
  • Have you met [name]?  I’ll connect you.  There’s one thing about [name] that you need to watch out for…
  • Ooow, you know who you HAVE to meet? [Name].  They’re awesome…well awesome in this one area…ignore all of the other stuff – you’ll know what I’m talking about – but listen to them about xyz.

So what is going on?  People I respect are suggesting that I invest my time in connecting to people that are not respected.  Have we attended too many empty networking events?  Has networking become a numbers game? (Quick: how many connections do you have in LinkedIn?) Are we losing our way?

I don’t think we have a pervasive problem.  While I know there are some people that talk a good game but can’t deliver on their promises, I think that we are honestly and authentically engaging one another.

I believe this problem of ‘well connected but not well respected’ is simply due to a lack of focus and action.

Perspective | My Take On Networking

I consider myself to be a relative novice in professional networking.  My real education began just three short years ago when I happened to hear Keith Ferrazzi speak at a ‘new media’ conference.  A uniquely authentic speaker among a group of narcissistic Internet marketers, I was driven to pick up his book Never Eat Alone.

As I read through Never Eat Alone my eyes were pulled wide open by the possibilities of networking…and all of the opportunities I had let pass me by in my career.  Prior to this epiphany I was an accidental  networker , waiting for opportunities to find me; all too casually floating in and out of business relationships.  So I began taking responsibility for creating and maintaining my professional network through value-added connections.

Over the last few years, especially in my days of small business entrepreneurship, I came to find the value of committed, responsible networking by:

  • Connecting with great people.
  • Sharing experience, knowledge, and perspective.
  • Extending networks by facilitating thoughtful, relevant connections.

I certainly made some mistakes as I explored the professional wilderness of networking.  Learning from my experiences (and mistakes) I have created the following personal philosophy for networking:

  • Return Value – Equal To Or Greater Than The Value I Take (more on this in a few paragraphs)
  • Help Create Meaningful Connections
  • Follow Up
  • Deliver
  • Listen (even when I think I have a better story, idea, or anecdote)
  • Stay True to My Personal Brand
  • Engage Authentically
  • Apologize (see previous statement on mistakes)

I am still continuing to improve and grow my networking philosophy.  With each new connection I try and build on my approach.  For example, I have recently been learning a great deal about personal branding through the unique professional experience of Cindy Kim.  Cindy’s perspective on personal branding blends traditional PR with Social Media and journalism, which has led me to focus on building a message that can be distributed beyond my comfort zone of Internet mediums.

By adhering to my philosophy, I am able to explore and integrate new concepts into my networking approach.

Back To The Problem | Connected But Not Respected

To me professional networking, at its core, is simply creating personal relationships that are motivated and measured by business objectives and goals.  Most of those relationships are initially built on personal rapport and shared interests.

As a result, there is a personal bias that understandably creeps into our networking engagements.  Generally, we like the people that we choose to bring into our networks.  And so we afford these people generous professional allowances because we like them as individuals.

As business people, however, we ultimately demand results; at some point a professional relationship has to be challenged by its ability to concretely return value.

Timing now becomes a key determiner of success.  The more time interacting on a basis of rapport (lunches, coffees, meet-ups, emails, conversations, Retweets, blog comments, links shared, etc.) before a real challenge, the greater the likelihood we will introduce personal bias.

So, to me, the general root of the problem is that we invest too much time in building personal relationships without a true professional challenge.  Consequently, we create incredibly high professional expectations based solely on personal interactions; unrealistic expectations that simply cannot be met by that individual’s professional ability.

Rapport + Shared Interests = Personal ‘Like’ Bias
Personal ‘Like’ Bias x Time Without Challenge = Expectations
Expectations > Actual Ability = Connected But Not Respected

Right, so I explained professional networking with an equation…moving on.

The Solution | My 1:1:1 Theory For Productive Professional Networking

I believe we can help solve a majority of the ‘Connected But Not Respected’ problems by quickly assessing and creating honest, realistic expectations for our new connections.

Generally we make new connections through large meet-and-greet events or initial, casual conversation made through introduction (phone, email, etc.).  From there we usually find ourselves in the one-one-one ‘meet up’ scenario where we look to personalize a connection over lunch, coffee, cocktails, etc.  While there is usually a great deal to talk about (we’re all exciting, interesting people right) there is little sustainable value.

Enter My 1:1:1 Concept

My 1:1:1 Concept is a networking practice that I recently created and have been field testing in my new connections.  Inspired by David Allen’s philosophy of ‘next actions’, the 1:1:1 is a framework for creating value-added actions that will follow a networking ‘meet up’.

1-1-1 Networking Framework

Breaking Down the 1:1:1

Each person in a networking meeting has a 1:1:1 responsibility:

  • 1 shared, collaborative action
  • 1 individual action
  • 1 week; both the shared and individual action can be, and must be, completed within one week of the meeting

The Collaborative Action

  • This is an after-meeting action that require a reciprocal or collaborative effort by members of the meeting.
  • The collaborative action can be as simple or as complex as you agree to – provided that action can be completed in one week…no exceptions.
  • Simple Action Examples:
    • Both active Twitterheads?  Agree to actively follow each other on Twitter and respond to at least one post during the week.
    • Connect via LinkedIn.
  • Complex Action Examples:
    • Create a new online networking community via Ning based on organizing like-minded professionals around [shared interested].
    • Collaboratively write/record an article/blog/vblog.

The Individual Actions

  • An after-meeting action that represents an item of unique value that you can return to your new connection
  • Here again, the individual action can be as simple or as complex as you agree to – provided that action can be completed in one week…no exceptions.
  • Simple Action Examples:
    • Sending a link/information on a relevant topic that was discussed.
    • Facilitate a connection within your network.
  • Complex Action Examples:
    • Review and provide your feedback on a developing initiative where your expertise/experience/skill can provide unique perspective (e.g. email campaign, financial plan, sales operations process, etc.).
    • Provide some direct insight into a business (e.g. analyzing website analytics, competitive analysis, etc.).

How The 1:1:1 Can Help

Through the early introduction of actionable follow up in our networking efforts, we quickly have an idea of:

  • A new connection’s ability to deliver on their agreements.
  • The level of quality in a new connection’s work.
  • A sense of how well we collaborate with a new connection.

With this framework we are balancing personal rapport with measurable results; creating expectations built on experience rather than promise.

There will always be those networkers that cannot ‘walk the walk’ and will need to be cast out of our sacred circles.  However, I believe we can positively affect the trend of ‘Connected But Not Respected’ by recognizing our responsibility to maintain a strong network and challenge one another to create results rather than just rapport.

June 10, 2009 at 1:02 am 8 comments

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