I was raised in a family where everyone said what they thought. My dad encouraged debate. My mom ignited debate. The best conversations I have had with my brothers were respectful debates.
When I started working in social media I was blogging about what I experienced, what I thought, what I believed. Many, well-meaning people in the business community told me I should not do that.
Over the years I have fought an internal battle of wanting to write about what I felt was important to talk about and wanting to be successful in business. After the 2016 election, I decided I needed to find my voice again. I am evolving into a political commentator as well as a business person.
I believe that for many reasons business and politics do mix.
Today, I had the opportunity to discuss that belief on my friend, Adrienne’s, podcast.
You can listen to it here.
In one big sigh, I finally released all the frustration and disappointment I have been carrying around for several months. It caught my husband’s attention and with immediate concern, he asked,
“I just have so much to do.”
I am sure this confession was confusing to him. For months I have been acting like I have everything handled, things were slow but that was a good thing. I needed some downtime. Money was still flowing from other sources. In my mind, and from what he understood, I was doing what I wanted and needed to do.
But in that moment and all of a sudden, I was overwhelmed.
No Boss, No Deadlines, No Commitments
I have been freelancing for 12 years now. My favorite thing about being a freelancer is the freedom to refresh my career. I recently heard Satya Nadella on NPR talking about hitting refresh on Microsoft. He used the Internet browser as a great metaphor for what it means to refresh.
“The browser has this beautiful logic when you hit refresh on your browser. It doesn’t replace everything. It replaces only those pixels that need to be replaced. “
That is a perfect metaphor for refreshing a company, including one as small as a solopreneur. I tend to hit refresh every year around this time. Some years I have replaced quite a few pixels. This year I am more focused on rearranging the pixels.
I can do this every year because I have no boss who needs to approve my decisions. I can take my time on implementing the changes, and if a change is not working out the way I thought it should I can pull back.
But last night, all at once, I saw how my pixels should be arranged. At the same time, I knew what I had to do to rearrange those pixels and I was all of a sudden overwhelmed.
Freelancer means being “a creative”
I think we all understand that the world of work is rapidly changing. Developers continuously introduce tools to automate tasks. Professionals are expected to increase the breadth of their expertise. An emerging generation with new ideas and assumed expertise are competing for work at lower rates.
When you are on your own, defining your offerings, seeking work, pricing your offerings, and delivering expertise, the world will change and pierce through everything you have built or think you know.
This is why I refresh every year. This is why being a freelancer means being “a creative.” If you are building your brand and offerings on fulfilling an obvious and existing need, you won’t last long out here in the wild. Like an artist, a freelancer has to look for the connections that other people miss. A freelancer has to have a vision of where they would like their industry to go. A successful freelancer has to have a desire to make a mark on this world, if not a ding in the universe.
My favorite definition of a brand comes from Jeff Bezos, “Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.” That means your personal brand has to be interesting enough for someone to say something about you. You have to stand out. To achieve sales you have to stay top of mind. To keep clients you have to remain the expert, navigating through the rough waters of change.
That means to be a freelancer is to be “a creative.” To live the pain and sufferings of a creative. To wallow in the doubts and darkness the way that creatives do.
And to emerge with a new vision and an urgent and overwhelming need to get to work.
As a follow up to the Empowering Concepts Launching Your Brand meeting, Julie Squires and I talked via Google Hang Out for about 15 minutes. This is the edited version which covers Launching Your Brand, Working With Your Strengths, and Continuous Learning.
originally posted on Concept Hub
Every day I am seeing more and more people, organizations, and brands embracing social media. Over the past week, I have taken a huge step back to get an overview of the types of patterns that are emerging in this space, to note what is missing or how things are evolving, and to get an idea of what is working well and what might be causing some frustrations.
I have found that adoption of social media seems to be following a three-step process – or going through three different phases;
1. Learning the tools
2. Figuring out a strategy
3. Running a campaign
My first concern is the emphasis on the tools of social media that so many people seem to be focused on. It seems in many cases that a “social media strategy” is simply starting with a list or “shrink-wrapped package” of the most popular tools and communities;
Content is pushed into these communities and then there is a promotion to get people to consume the information. It seems to be simply traditional messaging within new online communities.
There are several problems with focusing on the tools.
First, technology is not developed and rolled out the way it was only a few years ago. It is no longer R&D, and then marketing and sales, followed up by training and implementation that will stay in place until the next version is rolled out and the users are re-trained on the upgrades.
As many people who are on Facebook have noticed this week, the tools that power our social networking activities simply change one day and it is up to us to figure out what is different and how to adapt. Beyond that, the many people trying to learn how to best use Twitter may be realizing that Twitter is enhanced by the many other tools that developers have created to customize their Twitter experience. The technology we use today will change tomorrow, whether it is because of an enhancement to that tool, or a shift in talent that causes a once respected and useful tool to become unreliable and unusable.
Those who are stepping into social media and focusing on what the tools are and what they can do will find that they are sinking in an ever-changing rabbit hole of options.
What has enabled this ever increasing accelerated change in technology and low barriers to develop added enhancement tools is the open source culture as well as access to an unlimited amount of information. No longer do people need to resign to the confines of what technology can and can not do, people can now decide exactly what it is they need the technology to do and customize the tools that exist to meet those needs.
This means starting with what it is you want to do, who you want to impact and how you will measure success.
The best way to avoid wasted effort that comes from trying to keep up with the tools is to first decide what you want to do and then decide the tools you will need to do the job, and then design your efforts and customize or find the right enhancements for those tools to best optimize your endeavor.
But beyond getting caught up in what is the right tool to use or the right community to join, I am concerned that most of the strategy being developed is focused on either getting a message out or reputation management. The goals of social media are still predominately self-fulling.
Recently I was invited to be on a BlogTalk Radio Show with Sales Coach Kenneth Brown. I was the 3rd or 4th person on the show, which gave me the opportunity to listen to what the other professional salespeople had to say. Each statement had a few common themes which were
- get to know your clients,
- focus on solving your client’s problems
- make your clients lives easier
- let your client be the hero
If a salesperson can accomplish these tasks they will find that they have shorter sales cycles, loyal clients and lots of referrals. But to accomplish such tasks requires listening to our clients and paying attention to their world! It is not about our preconceived messaging or preconceived ideas of what our clients need.
Online communities and social media tools give us the ability to listen and learn and respond. A number of times we have created Social Media Business Plans where we have spent several weeks listening to the communities online, observing where people go to get answers to their questions and documenting the challenges and the overall sentiment that they are expressing. From this information, we have identified new market opportunities for our clients and new ways to engage clients.
An effective social media strategy should be at least 80% spent on listening and observing the community and then a focused 20% spent on providing the solutions that will have the greatest positive impact to their lives.
An organization that takes the time to understand their audience can then use the right tools and add the right ingredients to create a successful campaign. Over the past several months there has been story after story of social media campaigns gone wrong;
Skittles’ Web site redesign via Twitter put the colorful coated candy in the spotlight, but the company pulled the campaign on Tuesday after pranksters started tweeting profanities that ended up on the company’s homepage.
The corporate world of advertising should know something about their respective marketplace, at least one would assume. The Motrin Pain Reliever has a video on their website about “wearing your baby” is a fashion trend and that it causes extreme pain. Being a Pain Reliever Company the Corporate Big Wigs a Marketing “Mad Men” seem to believe that where there’s potential pain there is a potential market to hawk their pain reliever.
And the list of examples of the community reacting in outrage to an unintentional vexed campaign, or a campaign that turns into the wild, wild west of slander and graffiti or one that results in wasted efforts in creating a campaign that gets ignored will go on as long as those who are designing the campaigns do so while sitting in a conference room as opposed to working in the trenches with the communities of people they are trying to reach.
How can this be accomplished?
1. Start with a goal in mind (what do you want to occur?)
2. Match your needs and offerings with communities of people that have complementary needs and offerings – (You want to sell tickets to an art show, there is a community of people looking for something to do the night of your art show.)
3. Decide the best tools and online communities to use and how to best optimize those tools and communities to reach your desired audience.
4. Be sure your actions and engagement strategy sets the tone that helps people know what is expected of them and what they can expect from you.
5. Give people a reason to talk, share information with your audience as opposed to pushing information at your audience.
Most importantly, to avoid missed opportunities and wasted effort you must stay relevant. This space changes every day and you have to be prepared to change with it.This means finding new ways to keep your finger on the pulse and to enable your team to constantly learn from their shared knowledge and experiences.
originally posted on Concept Hub
This past Thursday I had the great pleasure to speak to a full house at the Georgia Center for Nonprofit’s Raising Change Event. A couple of participants shared stories about their recent experience in social media. One woman discussed the success of raising awareness about her cause through reaching out to friends on MySpace and the resulting sales of a book. Another woman discussed how fun it was that she found several friends from her old MIDDLE SCHOOL and that she had recently returned from her Middle School reunion.
But there are still two questions/concerns that seem to linger which were asked at the event. One is how can we keep our personal life and our professional life separate? The other is how will social media affect productivity?
The brief answer to keeping your private and professional life separate is to use the privacy settings within social networks. For example, my husband’s high-school friends set up a private group on Facebook just for them to share old pictures and stories. Be sure you let your old friends know to respect your boundaries. Remember, most likely you are not the one who owns the most embarrassing picture of yourself. I have even heard people suggest creating two online identities; one for your personal life and one for your professional life.
As far as productivity, my standard answer is that the tools do not change people. A person who is responsible will get their work done and most likely will use social media as a means to be more efficient. Team members should be held accountable for end results. A person who is slacking and playing with friends on Facebook all day has bigger issues than having access to social networks. This same person would be emailing friends all day or on personal phone calls all day as well.
But social media in the workplace has been part of a larger trend. A trend to make the workplace more fun, to humanize the experience of working with teammates, vendors, and clients.
Last August Inc Magazine declared that Fun was the new Core Value. The goal of fun is to attract and keep good employees and customers.
Why is this important? Employees and customers have more choices than ever. When faced with a choice between a dull, regiment, structured experience, or one that is creative, full of life and surprises, where do you think people want to be?
So, where does social media play into all of this? I have met with a number of people throughout the city who at one time expressed concern of exposing their personal life in social networks like Facebook. I have watched them tip their toes in, create a profile, connect with some people. I have seen them post a picture or two, write on a wall here and there, poke a friend, accept a few drinks, and then the next thing you know they are the life of their Facebook party.
How has this affected their business? Well, at this time I can only speak from my perspective, but I have found that I have more in common with many people I have known for a long time. As people loosen up I feel that we are more comfortable with each other. I believe that the social element of social networks like Facebook has strengthened the bonds of people who do business together.
But there are remaining questions.
What about people who chose not to do business with you because of what they found on Facebook? Is that a bad thing? Would it have been a mutually beneficial working relationship in the first place?
How much information is too much information to share? Will we get to the point where we risk pushing/imposing our ideas and values on others?
What happens when we prefer to connect and collaborate with our friends and peers online more than we want to collaborate with our own team at work? How will that compromise an organization’s IP and more importantly, what will be the effect on internal team dynamics?
The point is we can not stop people from being attracted to experiences where they enjoy themselves and find benefit in both their personal and professional lives. Does banning employees from being on social networks for their jobs benefit anyone? Not really. People discuss their jobs at personal events all of the time – both online and off. People discuss their personal life at work-related events all of the time, both online and off. People want to be where they are enjoying themselves.
Social Networks, like Facebook, have not changed who we are as people, but they are changing our work environments and putting a greater emphasis on the ideas of fun and comradery with the people we do business with.