Saturday, September 12, 2009

Networking 2.0 in a networking 1.0 world

Business card pile
Image of Christopher S. Penn by Christopher S. Penn via Flickr
Last night was Twestival in Phoenix. It was a rocking good time that was well attended. Props to @ChrisLee for being the local Phoenix coordinator of this national event. If you missed it, loads of photos are already on Flickr. I look forward to next year.

But I have to be better prepared. You see, I'm rather used to the new "networking 2.0" groups and the people that attend them. In these networking 2.0 events, rarely am I asked "what do you do?". Rarely does someone hand me a business card within 15 seconds of meeting them. I don't even carry business cards anymore, and it's probably because I don't have a good answer for the question.

So far, my standard answer is "lots of different things". And while that's accurate, I probably come off like an unskilled laborer or drifter. Not exactly the image I'm trying to portray. My backup reply is "I'm a digital business strategist", which is either incredibly douchey or completely non-helpful. In fact, I can't think of a single person who didn't respond with a version of "what the hell does that mean?". And not in a "please tell me more" way, either.

And it's going to happen again in less than 10 hours. I'm off to a small gathering in LA, where I'll be engaging with people I've never met. At least one person will ask me what I do, and I need a better answer.

I'm thinking of taking a radical approach. I'm thinking of picking one "thing" about me, and answering with that. But how do I pick? Obviously, I want to pick the most interesting thing I do and the thing I'm most interested in talking about. But I have lots of things I'm involved with that I think are interesting and that I like to talk about.

Guess I just have to get over it and pick one.

For those of you in the same boat, what do you do? How do you handle "the question" when you are a heck of a lot more than the title someone gave you at your day-job?

You can respond in the comments if you like, but I've got the new Echo System working, so if you comment anywhere else with a LINK back to this page, it should show up auto-magically. Cool!

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Monday, August 31, 2009

Increasing convenience, FTW

Arrow up the treeImage by net_efekt via Flickr

Increasing convenience isn't about being bigger than the competition. Being better than the competition doesn't mean you're increasing convenience for your customers. And while doing things faster is a worthy goal, it's not the same thing as increasing convenience.

Why increase convenience? Because we as a society are motivated by convenience. You may have a different experience on a personal level, but that rule holds true for society as as a whole. En masse, we always reward companies, entities, organizations and people who increase our convenience. Yes, that convenience may take the form of helping people do things bigger, better or faster. But when you pull back the layers, we always move toward increasing convenience.

So before you launch that game-changing service, consider the convenience factor. Will it increase my convenience? Prior to releasing your earth-shattering product to the market, pay attention to making it easy to use. It may be the coolest thing ever, but if it won't increase my convenience, it's going to be a flash in the pan.

Let's end with a pie-in-the-sky scenario: public transportation. I live in Phoenix. Public transportation isn't a viable option for me. Why? Because driving to work is more convenient than taking the series of buses -- with or without the light rail -- necessary for me to get from home to work. There's simply no way that I'm going to give up the convenience of a 30-minute drive compared to the half-hour on public transport. Regardless of how much gas I'll save or how far my carbon foot print would be reduced.

Since they can't compete on the convenience of time, they need to go different directions. How about offering free public wifi on all buses and trains? That would be a game changer. Suddenly my 30 minutes in the car -- one way -- is seen as lost productivity. Can't work on the lappy while driving, and most of my work is web-based work. If I can connect the whole way? Score. That increases my convenience.

If you work on "bigger better faster" assumptions, you're stuck in the status quo. But when you start thinking of ways of increasing convenience, you may find competitive advantages cropping up in all sorts of interesting -- and unexpected -- areas. How can you increase my convenience.

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Disconnect: Reasons Companies fail at Social Media and how to Succeed

That's the fancy title of my talk tomorrow at the Social Media for Business event, put on by SocialMediaAZ. This is a pure business event. It costs money to go. (I wonder how much I get?) And the talks are specifically for people in business. Less touchy-feely. More action and tactics.

I fought with my presentation all of last weekend. And by "all", I mean all. I'd been taking notes of thoughts and ideas for several weeks. But when I sat down to put them all together, the damned thing fought me all the way. I wanted it to be very tactical and actionable. It refused.

So in the end, I let it win. The presentation is done and I'm happy with it. But it's not what I originally intended to say. That's the funny thing with words, thoughts and ideas. When you go to tell a story -- a coherent story -- you have to be willing to adapt. And maybe that's another lesson that business can take and apply to social media.

My talk is tomorrow. For those coming, I look forward to seeing you. For those not, enjoy this dry-run Slidecast version.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Keep hope alive

Zombies as portrayed in the movie Night of the...Image via Wikipedia

Sometimes, it's the little things that make me the happiest. Many of us with the nontrepreneurial sprit devote significant amounts of time into activities that have zero chance for payoff. I'm not talking only about direct payoff. I'm talking about zero chance of secondary payoff too. Sure, there's always whuffie to be had. And building whuffie is a Good Thing. But for many of us, the things that take much of our time build whuffie in ways that make it difficult to detect even the slightest amount of measurable payoff.

Sure, we get accolades. Sometimes even press. But it's not like the things we're helping to achieve are all that extraordinary. If they were to up and vanish, the world would not come to an end. Far from it. In fact, when some of us have thrown in the towel, many didn't care. They've simply gone back to what they did before. Reverted to the things that were available to them prior to our entry. Things that, perhaps, had more support.

But sometimes... the things we start refuse to die. We try our best to abandon them, yet they persist. A small but vocal section rises up, refusing to take our abandonment lying down. And what are we do to? We acquiesce. We realize that the community that we so recently imagined cared little for the marks we made instead cared deeply. Deeper than we ever thought possible.

And with that acquiescence comes acceptance. And new found purpose. We realize that the project -- the non-monetizable project that sucks countless hours -- shall not die. For the community is not ready for it to die. So we persevere. The community has spoken, and their demands must be met. Because in the end, we live and die by the acceptance of the community. It's not quite natural selection, but it'll pass for it in 2009.

Thanks for coming back,

What? You thought I was talking about something else?

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Monday, August 10, 2009

Drop your assumptions at the door

North American Elevator Buttons made by Dover/...Image via Wikipedia

Everyone knows what an "elevator pitch" is, right? Wrong. Over the weekend I attended Laid Off Camp Phoenix. Side note: a great event. You should put one on in your city if you're looking for work. Some fabulous ideas and connections were made!

During the camp, a speaker suggested everyone prepare their "elevator pitch". From my vantage point in the middle of the crowd, it seemed to me that more than 50% of the crowd of 100 looked puzzled by this remark. Not that they were having trouble understanding the need for a personal elevator pitch, mind you. No, this was the look of the truly bewildered. As if it was the first time those two words appeared in succession in a sentence. Speaking with a few attendees later on, my suspicions were confirmed.

So watch your turns of phrase. Turns of phrases? Doesn't mater. What does matter is that common catch-phrases might not be as common as you think. But rather than avoid theses verbal shortcuts, make sure your audience knows what you are saying by bringing them into the fold.

Rather than saying make sure you've got your elevator pitch ready, try:

Create a minute and a half script that clearly and accurately describes what is you do and why it's important That's called an "elevator pitch", and you need to always have it at the ready.

See? That explanation didn't take that much time. And now you know that everyone is clear on what you meant. Some may even have a new favorite phrase to pass along to their friends. And it didn't use language that talks down to those who are already in the know. If anything, It reinforces that you know what you are talking about, and shows that you are encouraging others to join the "in crowd".

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Thursday, August 6, 2009

I don't have to like everything about you

11 Cloned Men Went To Mow, Went To Mow A Meadow !Image by Bobasonic via Flickr

Chris is a gamer and writes about it on his blog. A lot. I'm not a gamer, so I don't care. So in essence, I have to "put up with" Chris' writing about gaming.

Tyler likes to rant on his blog. A lot. I don't have the same passions as he does, so I don't care. So in essence, I have to "put up with" Tyler's ranting on issues that aren't important to me.

Teel loves to post long-winded personal exposes on his blog. A lot. As I only want to see where he's at with his latest project, I don't care about those posts. So in essence, I have to "put up with" super long posts just to get what I want.

But here's the bottom line: I don't tell them about what I don't like. The last thing I want is for them only to be, do and write the things I like 100% of the time. That's... boring. In reality, I'm not "putting up with" any of it from any of them. I'm letting them be who they are. Who they want to be. Occasionally -- often, in fact -- what they want and what I want align perfectly. And I quickly forget all those other things I didn't care about before.

In the immortal words of Billy Joel:

Don't go changing, to try and please me,
You never let me down before,
Don't imagine, you're too familiar,
And I don't see you anymore.

I would not leave you, in times of trouble,
We never could have come this far,
I took the good times, I'll take the bad times,
I'll take you just the way you are.

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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Next Big Thing

What's Next?Image by Crystl via Flickr

On Sunday, I was interviewed by a reporter for the Phoenix New Times. I've done a fair share of interviews over the years, and you never know how the final piece will turn out. Sometimes the journalist has a slant, sometimes things get edited down to just sound bites, and sometimes quote are taken entirely out of context. All of that has happened to me in the past. But I don't sweat it. It is what it is. Not to say I think that the PNT piece will be anything other than spot on. I'm #justsayin'...

During the interview, the following question came up:

"What's going to replace Twitter".

I think that question has an unknowable answer. And not just because we can't predict the future. But because we don't know what we need -- yet. Before Twitter, none of us knew we needed an web/SMS/IM mashup that limited you to 140 characters.

Before Flickr, we assumed you had to know HTML and FTP in order to share your photos with family and friends.

Before Facebook, we didn't know that we needed private profiles, or that value was to be had allowing fellow students and co-workers access to said profiles.

Before YouTube, we didn't know we could create mini-movies and get them to our friends with ease and speed, so they could spread them around for us.

So the question of what's going to replace Twitter is as silly as it is unknowable. I use all of the networks above. Neither one replaces the other. Sure, I could use Photobucket, MySpace, Vimeo, or Dodgeball, but I don't. Yet plenty do. They don't need to switch to my tools, and I don't need to switch to theirs. They get the same benefits I get with my preferred tools.

So don't try and build a "twitter killer". Try and build something entirely new that lets me do things my current toolbox won't. That's going to be The Next Big Thing.

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