Build digital relationships using these ten elements

A social media presence should be about relating to people.  Whether the goal is more visibility for a brand, more personal influence over the public conversation, or just plain socializing, companies and individuals must emphasize relationships.

Lots of people have lots of good ideas for how to begin.  There are wonderful resources that are shared openly.  People and companies of any size can learn, pretty quickly how to begin, improve and excel on the variety of social networks available today.

I believe the best approach to social media begins with the same thing we should all be learning as children:  how to initiate and participate in a conversation.  From there it comes down to ten basic elements that enrich an online conversation — and make relationships possible.

1       Converse – don’t broadcast 6       Stakeholders:  Customers, influencers, suppliers, regulators
2       Follow – find people and companies to watch, benchmark and engage in conversation  7       Location: Where your product or service can create/stoke the best social experience
3       Curate – collect the social content of companies and individuals you admire 8       Story:  Your product or service and its role in your stakeholders’ lives
4       Link – link your content to influencers and make it easy for them to link to yours 9       Content:  The substance that tells your story and connects your company to stakeholders
5       Share – circulate your content 10    Community:  Extend or build one

For more detail on how to go social in 2014, and for some of those free resources I mentioned, visit this deck on SlideShare.   [ From a workshop presentation in Big Stone Gap, Virginia, hosted by the Town of Big Stone Gap and the Southwest Virginia Museum Historical State Park.]

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It’s in these stitches

What a nice evening:  the good fortune to visit the wellspring of the great Anne Lamott’s perspective. Funny and profound. As drawn in a lively conversation by the wonderful Fran Moreland Johns, who does a bit of remarkable writing herself.

Anne has a new book: Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope and Repair. The theme resounds on so many levels, not the least of which is the sewing. Two generations of our family made a living stitching. In Big Stone Gap, where I grew up, quilters create stitched wonders. And in another bit of serendipity, Anne’s editor at Riverhead Books is none other than Jake Morrissey, friend of Adriana Trigiani and the family and a major writing talent himself.

As it says on this gem’s cover flap, “It’s in these stitches that the quilt of life begins, and embedded in them are strength, warmth, humor and humanity.

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Stitching

 

Eight marketing lessons CEOs must learn from the Mitt Romney campaign

  1. Never let a rival define you
  2. If your rival is worried, find out what he knows that you don’t
  3. Employ one marketing smartie who thinks like an outsider, will tell you the truth, and is endowed by you with veto power over messages and themes
  4. When your rival punches you, punch back – but elegantly, by taking the conversation above him to a bigger point
  5. Be who you are but put your energy, vocabulary and instincts on steroids
  6. Stats and numbers can keep you in the weeds; use them shrewdly but don’t depend upon them – tell the story of what they mean in the aggregate to your customer
  7. After a distinct, authentic viewpoint, put nimble thinking and decisiveness above all else
  8. Incessantly cultivate the mindset that every customer is yours to lose; this is the wellspring of both the confidence and the humility every person needs to lead and to prevail
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Facebook helps you leave the world better than you found it

Organ donation helps so many people — the donor’s family, the recipient, the recipient’s family.

The donor’s family honors their loved one and realizes extra meaning from the lost life. The recipient receives a chance to sustain and continue and, in many cases, start over and see life in new ways. The recipient’s family takes a journey that begins with potential loss and continues through both gratitude and the realization that we must live every moment with gusto, humility and purpose.

My father received a liver transplant at Baylor in 1993. The team of specialists in Dallas, who had a level of professionalism one can only be grateful to witness — steely talent, focus and empathy, shared the gift offered by a young man’s family with ours.

While our particular family drama took many more twists and turns in the ensuing months and years, I remain convinced that the gift of this procedure is not just the saving of a physical life. Dad’s organ transplant gave him, my mother, their children, and our extended family and friends the opportunity to consider what we can do with our lives in each day and in every relationship. This is almost beyond description. All are empowered to experience a rejuvenation in perspective and outlook.

While it is up to every person in the circle to take the transplant as an enabling moment of change — the transplant does not always deliver a fairytale ending [something I learned from the friends I made as I did my transplant research] — the act of participating in organ donation is nonetheless an important gesture. In acknowledging that we must try to help each other, either by giving generously or accepting graciously, we are doing the kind of thinking we’re on this planet to do.

Facebook’s decision to illuminate the power of organ donation is a neat personal moment in this regard. The company and its tools play a daily role in my professional world, largely because I decided to take a new direction and come to Silicon Valley in 1997. There’s no doubt in my mind that my father’s health journey sharpened my own sense that destiny is largely within one’s own control. In tying my destiny to technology, I made a huge change. I moved myself to the headquarters of the new age, and the fact that one of the companies shaping the age, not just my work, has chosen to focus a philanthropic act on organ donation is a nice bit of serendipity.

Social networks like Facebook may play a smaller, supporting role in your journey. This is still an opportunity to consider what the people behind Facebook are suggesting we do with their technology. Most definitely become an organ donor, and most definitely consider, every day, what you, your companies and your circles are doing to leave the world better than you found it.

How to learn content marketing best practices

The Content Marketing Strategies Conference is happening in Berkeley May 8 and 9. If you want to get a quick but deep immersion into the topic of content marketing, this is the place for you.

Digital and social tools are changing the way companies of all sizes position themselves to customers.  That’s why there are a lot of clichés getting thrown around in the branding/marketing sphere.  Content marketing simply means using your company’s facts to connect with your markets online.  For the purpose of doing business.

To market your content via all the channels available to you, there are three things you need to understand.  And this conference will help you with that, through case studies from companies like SAS, Dell, Ogilvy PR, Kelly Services, HiveFire, and Altimeter Group.

  1. How your customers and fans gather information about you and your products – so you can share the content they want on their terms
  2. How your customers use content about your products and services to make a buying decision – so you can engage your customers more effectively
  3. How to integrate online content marketing practices with your offline sales and marketing activities – so you are delivering a consistent message and leveraging your entire marketing spend

I’m really pleased to have been asked to serve as a media sponsor of this gathering – and I’m even more pleased to be able to share with you a discount opportunity.  Just click on the image below to learn more about the Content Marketing Strategies Conference and register using the discount.

The Content Marketing Strategies Conference

The next generation of Internet startups

In March 2012, I read about a new startup called BrandYourself and signed up.  Inspired by one of its founder’s negative search engine results — he was being confused with a drug dealer — BrandYourself is nonetheless about much more than deleting bad search results.  The company is one of several new startups that enable regular people to optimize their online activities and/or make their lives easier.  I am so impressed with BrandYourself that I talked with CBS Interactive about it.

There are plenty of so-called reputation management plays out there, well-funded, in fact, but BrandYourself represents a super-important shift in technology — what I see as the next generation of startups.  It is one of a bunch of companies that were born where their customers live, and they enable customers to manage and optimize their content — giving them a bit of control they did not have.  In BrandYourself’s case, you tell them what you want turning up in a search, so the Internet is not just happening to you.

Another new generation startup, Citrus Lane [my client], packages and delivers products for babies and their parents monthly, saving them time and money.  This is great, but Citrus Lane also invites customers into a community of parents who share their experiences and wisdom.  The so-called mommy bloggers are running with it, taking to their sites and YouTube to talk about their experiences with the brands that Citrus Lane packs — and talking about how Citrus Lane covers all their bases:  monthly surprises, good things for their babies, product research.

Wix.com [I use it for my consulting practice], makes it possible for anyone to create  a beautiful, compelling, differentiated website for a small business.  Their designers and programmers work on the art and the underlying engine, giving you templates to follow that extract the content that makes for a good story.  At the same time, you have a creative outlet that gives the world a picture of the real you.  This is essential to strong marketing [something I always tell my clients].

These startups use technology to pull ideas from you to shape your presence and your circles online.  And while BrandYourself and companies like it do have the luxury of following the quirky programming geniuses who perfected web platforms, they are very wisely taking those innovations a step further, not copying them.  They are addressing what regular people need, now that we have Facebook, LinkedIn, et al,  and providing services on top of those platforms that meet real expectations.

A leadership secret: Communicating with finesse

This post is dedicated to Scott McNealy, with all due respect and great admiration for his accomplishments.  And his potential.

During a late lunch break on November 10, I turned on the television to watch CNBC.  They were running a clip of an interview with Scott McNealy, one of Silicon Valley's technology thinkers and CEOs, a real success story.  When asked what he thought of the Occupy movement, Mr McNealy said, "get a job."

While I happen to have even stronger feelings than McNealy about what we should do with the anarchists and arsonists who have hijacked the Occupy movement, I was flabbergasted that someone as smart and quick as McNealy couldn't think of a better way to answer the question — or to capitalize on it.  He could have said something equally arresting without appearing insensitive to how the problems afoot in the United States, culturally and commercially, are affecting the rest of us.  It was the perfect opportunity to explore what's back of Occupy, and in McNealy's case, maybe even demonstrate how his new startup can help connect people in an age of gated neighborhoods and the disintegration of the middle class.  Or maybe just to say something more inspired than, "get a job."

And that's when I realized that our leadership problem runs much deeper than I ever imagined.

http://www.everystockphoto.com/photo.php?imageId=4525966&searchId=777a9b8fb43ab0af98ab97282b6093bb&npos=51The art of management finesse

Can it be that the astronomical financial and personal success of our business leaders has isolated them so much from the rest of their fellow citizens that they don't realize just how difficult it is to get a job or build business, get a living wage or project fee, or get paid at all?

Yes, it can be.  But I think it's more than that.  I think even the self-made guys are turning into elitists.  After all, their investment bankers parcel out IPO opportunities.  The elitist training begins early.  Many CEOs seem to be disconnecting from the rest of the populace to the degree that their positions are not about leading organizations and innovating but strictly about their own wealth. 

I hope this is not the case with McNealy.  I hope this is just one gaff.  But the gaff pulled me up short and made me acknowledge that the wealth gap is merely one aspect of a larger gulf:  the growing absence of management finesse.

Finesse is often a natural gift.  Whether instinctive or acquired, finesse is a need-to-have, not a nice-to-have.  It's the ingredient that gets messages heard and inspires action. 

Finesse is nurtured by study and a personal emphasis on empathy.  We all stumble.  CEOs, though, have access to a key tool for learning and practicing management finesse to the degree that it can mitigate the stumbles.  The corporate communications function.  A need-to-have, not a nice-to-have.  Like anything else, it's all in how you build it.

Get your finesse on

The very best of the traditional American business canon gives us example after example of leaders who had experienced, legitimate communications advisors and who listened to them.  It's difficult for any human being, much less one with corporate power, to remain human without at least some institutional emphasis on keeping things real.  Corporate Communications should be the one place the CEO can turn whose only ax to grind is seeing the CEO set a clear path for the organization.

Many of today's CEOs are surrounded by yes men and women who take orders instead of tell the emperor he's not wearing any clothes.  Instead of a Merlin, they have court jesters.  Or worse.  These leaders would rather get up and read something a remote underling or PR agent wrote for them than spend time thinking about what they believe and how they can use their positions to lead us out of this mess. [Which includes speaking up about how we got here in the first place — not just blaming Washington or Wall Street.]

If Jack Kennedy had developed his messages this way, we might never had heard his voice or known what he thought.  His process alone should be enough of a template for today's CEO to follow in crafting and articulating messages of insight and intellect.

CEOs:  Owning your message is the price of entry to leadership

You aren't interested in or comfortable with setting aside time to work on your messages and deliver them?  Not acceptable. 

CEOs, thinking about your messages gets you in the habit of exploring every option in front of you.  Of listening.  And of thinking before you open your mouth, helping you find the words to say something enlightening, enriching the conversation because you were in it. I refuse to accept any thinking that excuses you from participating relentlessly in the creation of your messages.  It is part of your job. Like riding herd on financials or helping to win a big account.

Most important:  every opportunity to communicate should serve the purpose of reminding you that being a leader is as much about service as it is about lordship.  Owning your messages can help bridge the gap between the solitary burdens of your office and all the stakeholders in the enterprise's success.  It can help you put your own problems in context.  It can remind you that you're part of something larger than yourself.

 

Brands, players and startups

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