Archive for the ‘internet marketing’ Category

Virtual writing

My favorite online forum, where I’ve been a member for over a year, yesterday offered me the chance to revise my username.  The original pick I made was not helpful in SEO terms, so I happily decided to take up their offer.  But what to change it to?  My actual business name, Virtual Writing & Communications, seemed too long and difficult for a username.

It was a useful exercise, one that reminded me how useful it is to bravely strip down to essentials.  Rather than padding, setting up fluffy barricades to protect your identity and meaning, the trick is to chisel down to the core and then surface with a simple, naked, unadorned truth.

(If you Twitter often and well, you can appreciate the power of brevity.  If you’re a poet, you know real poetry is stark, not ‘flowery’ at all.)

So my username has become plainly,  ‘virtual writing.’  And of course, I can’t just accept that, but have to consider the precise meaning of those words.  We have fiction and non-fiction writing, we have journalistic, poetic, and prose styles.  And now we have this new form of writing that’s called ‘virtual writing.’

What distinguishes this new form?  We can infer that the ‘virtual’ qualifier at least points to the internet, and probably involves product delivered digitally.  Further, I’d like to suggest that virtual writing is writing tailored to the speed and engagement level of the internet; to the ‘scanning’ behavior of most people when they browse;  to the necessity of SEO; and to a global audience of anyone (as opposed to a much smaller audience of those who choose to purchase your writing.)

So that takes care of the virtual part, but what about the writing part?  The internet is about writing in a very big way, resulting in huge numbers of bloggers and online writers who are trying to get their message out, but are seriously compromised by their sub-standard writing skills.  We plunge into the opportunities of the internet without solid practice in this skill, and many a post includes misspellings, poor grammar and rhetoric, obvious total lack of proofreading, and other written communication failures.

Does it matter?  If most can decipher your meaning even if the writing is terrible, who cares?  I think it really doesn’t matter much at first.  The reader is there for your message, after all, and if it can be gleaned from the morass, fine.  But in the long run, the quality of your writing is a major influence on your reputation.  A reader may get a kick out of your post, but will not remain devoted for long if your writing’s not accurate and rich.

I’m passionate about writing, it’s true.  Words are objects of great beauty to me.  The internet, also, has captured an enormous part of my attention.  So I’m happy with this new moniker: ‘virtual writing’ is me!

P.S.  This blog is moving to http://www.asthemoonclimbs.com/blog.php, and will no longer appear here after this week.  Please visit my website!

Advertisements

Brand as discovery

Here’s a lovely line from Julie Anixter on Tom Peters’ blog yesterday:

“… we are all, already, walking brands. We just have to polish them so that we can see them shine.”

This is what social media is about.  It helps us to polish our personal or business brand, to give it a shine that brings you the attention you need.

Note that brand is not a creation, but a discovery.  You can try to project an artificial brand, but it won’t work in the long run.  Brand is an articulation of who we naturally are, the best of our compassionate selves, and it reflects self-knowledge as opposed to cleverness or charisma. Your brand is your birthright, as much a part of you as your face.

In the past, personal brand didn’t matter: one succeeded by conforming personal brand to industrial ambitions.  Education and culture did not foster understanding of self on that level.  Our new global awareness,  however,  makes self understanding and articulation of individual thought the first step in becoming a healthy global citizen.  It has become necessary to devote time and focus to who we are at core levels.

I’ve said it often, I’ll say it again, along with Dane Rudhyar:  to be creative is only to discover what essentially is.   Don’t worry about having to make something new; focus on discovering and then articulating the mysteries that are already present.

Social media and business evolution

Somehow this holiday season is dragging on interminably.  I’ve had a nasty cold, so it’s been an introspective time.  I’ve refrained from blogging, but did manage to renovate my website and also to make a Hub page about approaches to defining brand.  

Social media has me in its thrall, and I must admit that Twitter takes up a good deal of my time lately.  Not that I’m chattering much, but just going there and clicking on eight or ten links every visit, and spending an hour reading up on the suggestions from my follows.  It takes a good while to get a handle on how to use all the information.

I think social media is like a new, seriously tricked-out telephone.  People wonder if it’s a just a fad, but to me it’s clearly no more a passing fancy than the telephone or computer itself.  It’s here to stay, but how we use this amazing new tool will mature considerably.  Right now, we’re all just playing in the sandbox; at some point, you want to actually make something of all this shifting sand, all these glittery toys.

While learning about the technology and the huge range of tools available is currently making our heads spin, it’s so important to remain firmly glued to the truth that content is king.  It’s tempting to use the software and apps for their own sake.  But until you have something useful to say, all these delightful new megaphones will get you nowhere.  Nobody’s interested in amplified hot air.

My urge, when considering all this, is to use social media to help really small businesses.  The old marketing traditions had seriously eclipsed small enterprises, for whom print advertising was not only prohibitively expensive, but ineffectual as well.  With online social media, small businesses can finally gain the respect and following they deserve.

But the most awesome thing is that if a small business uses social media for marketing, that businessperson must be engaged in the meaning and impact of their work in a whole new way.   S/he must actively think, research, and respond regarding aspects of the business every day, and be able to enthusiastically live it online.  Parallels must be drawn between the business and larger life; compassionate understanding of clientele must guide every communique.  So these new tools democratize marketing, and simultaneously demand that we take our work with a deepened seriousness.  It’s simply not enough anymore to work at something you don’t care about.  This current technology forces us to find nurturing connections between our human-ness and our work.

The search for authenticity is just beginning.

Social media and branding

When I first heard the term, social media, I dismissed it as a trivial amusement for those who have lots of extra time. Heck, when I first encountered computers, I avoided them as representing a new challenge, and life was challenging enough, thank you very much. Certainly, when I heard about Twitter, I just couldn’t understand why I’d want to share the messy details of life with the world. I’ve never been one for chattering, and these tools all seemed to encourage a lot of hot air for no more than shallow entertainment.

Of course, I was completely wrong about all these. The computer is now my mainstay, Twitter is a depth less source of learning. And social media is emerging as not only a great way to communicate about business, but also as a major aid to the changes we must make as a society, or perish in the attempt.

Social media is about word of mouth. It’s also about establishing individual brand. While we used to present a resume and hope that communicates our essence, now we can present online all the various aspects of our brand. Knowledge and understanding of any one individual can now far surpass the colorless lists on pretty linen resume paper.

The reason why word of mouth is such a big deal is that it really works. No recommendation is stronger than the opinion of trusted friends. Under the old print paradigm, those opinions meant only a tiny slice of your market. But with the global power of the internet, word of mouth has become the arbiter of nearly everything.

The reason why all this fascinates and uplifts me is that I see it as a return to self knowledge and open awareness. As a baby boomer, I’ve always bemoaned the lack of deep self knowledge in the adult world, and worked to tickle the soft underbelly that Pema Chodron always talks about. With the internet and social media, we are forced to consider where exactly each of us fits in the humongous puzzle. Without the direction, confidence, and passion of a personal brand, internet ramblings can be fun but useless.

But with a thoughtfully prepared plan, a detailed idea of brand, and generosity, social media now symbolizes our new world, where authenticity and helpfulness reign, where exchange is possible with anyone anywhere, and where we can find the niche that perfectly suits and nurtures us.

Why brand?

What is this branding stuff all about?  The term’s a household one, but I bet few can give a quick and confident answer to the question.  Is your brand your logo, your colors, your slogan, your coolness factor, your success rate?  Is it your preferences, your dreams, your skills?  If it’s all these many things wrapped up together, how can it be accurately expressed?

 

Rather than trying to fathom an image of your brand in terms of all these different factors, maybe it’s easier to think of it as the hub of a wheel; a single thing, rather than many things. 

 

How can you arrive at this one thing?  What is the single image that comes to mind when you think of your business?  If you’re considering personal branding, what is the single thing that comes to mind when you think of work that is fun for you to do?

 

Hold on a minute, don’t answer those questions yet.  Let them settle in your subconscious for a while.  Give it some time, and work your way towards the most bare bones honesty you can possibly muster.  No one is listening, at this point, so go ahead and be painfully (or gleefully or piercingly or whatever) truthful.

 

The deeper you get to the heart of what your business means to you – or what you mean to business, in the case of personal branding – the more powerful your expression will be. 

 

The more powerful your expression, the more attention you attract, the easier it is to amass leads for your business or professional progress.

 

Example:  Linda is a fitness coach.  She could opt for a generic logo, seek business mostly through referrals, make sure her phone answering machine is turned on, and get by. 

 

Or she could invest some time considering how who she is interfaces with what she does and with the world at large.  And by putting in this time at the start, she could realize major growth in returns as her practice continues. 

 

Why?  Because she took the time to examine her work in context with everything, and then differentiate it from everything.   This allowed her to develop a brand that very specifically defined her services.  Her message is crystal clear, and those who are attracted to it come flocking. 

 

Attaining warm leads, in other words, has become a cinch, because her branding does the work for her.

 

So Linda spends a few days contemplating the question: what is the one image (or word, gesture, sound, concept, or impression) that says succinctly what I’m all about as a fitness coach.  Very specifically, what impression do I want my clients to take away with them?  What do I want my reputation to be?

 

As any speaker or teacher will avow, it’s all about the take-away.  As any manager will tell you, it’s all about setting up agreed-upon criteria for success.  By defining your brand, you make it easy for others to know what to expect from you, to instantly see precisely what they can gain by interacting with you.

 

Through a few days of processing, Linda comes up with the image of a rocket ship.  Don’t ask me how she got there, it doesn’t matter.  But by exploring all the possibilities and dimensions, and playing/working continuously with the rocket ship concept, Linda is able to convey to clients and potential clients an extremely personalized – yet accessible – brand.

 

Maybe your brand is not an image.  It could as well be a sound, a pattern, a gesture, a mission or method.  Whatever form it takes, it is your guiding light, your home base, your signature.  If you give it the time required for deeper discoveries, it will serve you in return many times over.

 

P.S.  I suppose this post is for the go-getters who are impatient with any introspection.  It may pertain less to those who get caught in second-guessing and ponder issues too much, never progressing to action.  I certainly am not advocating spending all your time thinking about things. 

 

When considering how to identify the hub of your brand’s wheel, reap the best returns of three days at the most.  If your ruminations take much longer than that, you’re likely brooding, and it’s time to move on.  If you’re capable of adult decision-making, you can trust three days’ consideration of almost any issue.

 

Web and wheels

It seems to be, in true Dickensian form, both the best of times and the worst of times.  Layoffs, bailouts … heck let’s be real and name it depression … dominate the news; but we are also on the brink of reforms through the Obama administration that seem likely to prepare for us a much more glorious future. 

And in the face of serious financial quandaries, as individuals we now have an exciting chance to become more truly ourselves.  Few of the middle class have escaped unscathed:  either your retirement, or your college education, or your job, or a combination of these now bears the consequences of  Wall Street’s disaster.  An innocence, a faith in American infrastructures has been destroyed.  And while that may be sad in a sentimental kind of way, it’s actually an unparalleled opportunity.

Jeremiah Owyang talks today about how employees are becoming more like migrants and gypsies.  As we evolve, the epithet of  ‘worker’ no longer pertains.  None of us is just a cog in the wheel; rather, we are realizing that to develop a personal brand is to live fully, and not to do so is to remain wallowing in ignorance and slavery.

What is your brand?  Can you articulate it in some way?  What are your keywords (for LIFE, not financial gain)?  What kind of circle is developing around you? 

We traditionally have sought to create one huge wheel of industry that spins our collective lives.  Now, we realize that each individual must create their own wheel.  The world is a fantasmagoric interworking of 6 billion wheels.  We can no longer control; we can only be aware and appreciative.

Our systems, especially in formal education, do not as yet support this understanding.  We do not teach our children about self-knowledge; we rarely teach them how to think (see this article about how universities in Great Britain are leading the charge to change this.)  Few active adults today have any notion about how to organize a personal brand – or more basically, where to start in identifying one for themselves.

Is your brand your responses to categories on your Facebook page?  Is it the colors you use in print?  Is it what others say about you, or is it more than that?  I’m curious about these and related questions.  Add a comment with your ideas, if you will.  I’ll incorporate your thoughts in follow-up posts here.

Web and work

One of the maxims business experts like to throw about these days is that your business must cater to what the people want.  Certainly, in terms of making money this is true.  I tend to doubt that it’s useful advice, though, in terms of being happy.

Often, what you’re doing – especially in an entrepreneurial circumstance – is working on your deepest passions, and often there seems to be no interface with the public at large.  You’re developing a new widget, or offering a new service that you believe in 110%, but few others seem to appreciate your product.  You knew from the start that your focus differed widely from that of the masses, but it is the thing that floats your boat and involvement in some other direction would be simply inauthentic.

I do not approve of diminishing or watering down your offerings for the sake of popularity.  Will the madding crowds care a fig for you in the end?  Isn’t it smarter to stay loyal to your highest dreams, the ones you intuit will save your soul?  There’s no surer road to defeat than compromising your own truth, even if the path that is true to yourself  is rocky and full of potholes.

Thanks to the modern miracle of the internet, staying true to yourself is now more possible than ever.  With patience and commitment, you can find the precious few who appreciate your values, wherever they are in the world, and build a support (and feedback) structure that will enable your continued work.

If  ‘flipping’ or ‘scaling’ is what turns you on, the net can help you amass millions of supporters.  But if creating and developing are more to your taste, you can use the web even more productively, through dialogue, connections, and marketing.  So please don’t fall for the directives of people with base aspirations.  Please choose to find your own truth, and work on developing your gifts to their ultimate expression, and don’t worry if what you produce is not of the instantly popular variety.  As long as it nurtures your being, as long as you stay open to discovering, as long as you generously share, you’ll find not only rewards but sustenance.

The coincidence of massive layoffs currently, and the proliferation of the web seems serendipitous to me.  So many people, many of relatively advanced age, needing to find new means of support, while the web continues to open up all the resources of the world to each of us.  It’s an evolutionary leap:  perhaps instead of selling our souls to the corporation, we can now contemplate the very real possibility of developing our individual awareness and gifts.

Story telling

What with life going on, and the internet, I have little time for reading books these days.  I practically never read fiction.  But I did some work for a friend and she sent me the novel she’s just published, so I threw responsibility to the winds this past weekend and lounged for hours on the couch reading Hannah’s House.  What an exquisite pleasure!  It’s a wonderful story, masterfully written.  Highly recommended!

And it reminded me of the value of stories.  Most get their fiction fix through the television, I suppose; but since I watch little of that, I realize I have been story-deprived for some time.  A great story lives while you read it, and lives for a good while afterwards as well.  Its characters seem to show you the way, continuing to speak long after you’ve closed the cover.  A great story reminds us that we can bring our dreams close, and with only a little concentration, we can live them.  A great story lifts us from the mundane mire.

Stories have beginnings, middles, and ends.  There is a progression of some kind, and afterwards you can compare the end to the beginning and see a difference.

It’s rather like this with the product of your business, right?  There’s the before picture, and then the after one.  There’s a story about that progression.  Considering how stories tend to communicate with multiple layers of meaning, and to stick with their audiences long after the telling, using your stories in business can have powerful effect.  Making your communications with your market into stories will gain you immediate fans. 

The world of commerce often seems to be about formality and correctness, the opposite extreme from the up close and personal nature of stories.  And stories for business do indeed need to be somewhat cleaned up for mass consumption.  But just how much you tweak and sweep is the key.  Too much, and it’s no longer a story but just a slogan.  Not enough, and you narrow the slice of appreciative public.  Just right, and you awaken, liberate, enlighten, and soothe; and become an unforgettable source of comfort for your market.

If manifesting your own stories seems too difficult an assignment, the power of the medium is such that it’s probably worth hiring a writer to get it down and do the shaping.  No other kind of communication is as effective.  Even a picture tells a story.

Yelling vs. passion

Bob Hoffman’s guest post at CopyBlogger a few days ago was an outrageous statement going against the tide of popular opinion, yet evidencing truth that we can’t deny. Naomi Dunford applauds him, and so do I. Especially for his pithy revelation that the internet, as a marketing tool, is fast becoming just like television as a marketing tool: “People with stuff yelling at people with money.” Thank God someone finally said it.

The ultimate point is, there are no shortcuts. You and your business will grow and flourish in direct proportion to your heartfelt passion for what you’re doing. No amount of marketing dollars or tricks or blitzes can by itself be productive. Get out there and yell your head off, the return will be short lived at best. Sustainable success originates in our hearts, not in our cleverness or internet savvy.

Awesome potential for deeper and broader communications is certainly available through the ‘net. The resource, however, is a two-edged dagger. Communication methods must not be mistaken for communicated messages. It is the latter that matters, whether scrawled out in longhand on parchment or digitized for instant visibility.

Naomi summarizes thusly: “Stop trying to “harness the power of social media” and start solving problems. Solve real problems and you have a license to print money.”

Naomi’s passion is indisputable, and she certainly has a powerful way of voicing it.

Tree observations

Consider trees.  Here are a few observations.

1.  Some trees become very large and dominate the landscape.  They are strong and beautiful, but we must not forget that the smaller trees around them are kept in subjugation by the big tree’s glory.  And a big tree that stands alone is lovely but lonely.

2.  Trees branch and fractile, just as we are required to do in life.  Our global world encourages nothing if not spreading the word – about you, your business, your attitudes.  But you’ll notice that the twigs and flowers gracing the tips of branches are not possible without a strong and well-established trunk.

3.  Trees are naturally gorgeous, inviting, interesting, protecting, and endearing.  But all the parts of a tree that we appreciate most are mere decoration, and the vital, true life of the tree exists underground.  Hidden from sight, buried in darkness, the roots are the ultimate truth of the tree.  All the above-ground showy stuff can disappear, but the tree will live on if the roots remain strong.

What do trees tell you about your life?