Archive for the ‘social media’ Tag

Business vs. brand

Al Ries at Advertising Age:

“Building a business or building a brand? That’s the most important question in marketing.”

I’m thinking this pithy statement sums up all the confusion in our economy today.  Through social media and the internet, because we’re truly now global citizens, we are transitioning to an economy that is based in brand rather than in business.  The vast majority, though, have no idea what this means.

If you spend all your time online, as I pretty much do, you can’t miss the emphasis on authenticity and brand building.  But in the brick-and-mortar world, huge gaps in understanding remain.  Most business owners and workers simply don’t have the time to research, so the important strides discussed on the web pass them by.

When I attend local networking meetings, I know my talk mystifies those present.  I tell them about virtual assistance and social media marketing, but they are skeptical.  Business, for them, is an exercise in self-defense; they are held in terror of not making quotas, not making budgets; the shame of failure threatens their well-being constantly.  Their souls are buried under mountains of  paranoia.

Did we boomers cause the present money problems?  Probably.  We discovered a new personal freedom through our hippie days of the 60s, but neglected to transfer its meaning to business.  While we became personally more open, very few applied the same thinking to business.  Until now.  Now, we find the intersection of commerce and personality to be the key to success, at least in terms of marketing.  Now, at last, we are becoming aware that branding and self-awareness are more valuable, richer, and much more durable than business.

But the average business person, however pervasive these ideas may be online, has not yet come to this understanding.  Part of the problem is that lifelong learning, an important aspect of brand awareness, is not part of the old business culture.  To many, the thought of having to learn an entirely new system is abhorent.  And of course, the concept that your life can be absolutely what you want it to be is still a suspicious one to these folk.

For me, the hard part is feeling the suffering.  If you don’t experiment with the processes of branding, if you stay stuck in the old business concepts, you’re likely to be suffering and afraid.  You have no idea how to progress in today’s economy.  You are still caught up in suspicion and competition, and most likely every day is a trial.

There’s a whole lot of gentle prodding to do.  Admittedly, this is a radical change for all of us.  And through hard times, perhaps it’s extremely challenging to keep believing in your brand.  But, as Ries points out, though it may at times test your loyalty, your brand will endure while your business will come and go.  

It’s a long row to hoe, but I see working with small businesses on establishing brand through social media as a way to relieve a whole lot of suffering in the world, to bolster belief in the self, and to free up business people from the oppression of the old style so that they may at last be able to offer their very best.

PLEASE NOTE:  This is the LAST POST of this blog on the WordPress site, and I’m off to live at my own URL from now on.  Please visit me there!

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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.

Internet and unknowing

Exactly like a kid in a candy store, I’m dizzy with the possibilities of the internet.  I realize that getting beyond this psychedelic whirl is a requirement, before any of your internet activities start to make real sense.  But you can’t just bypass the requisite learning; you have to go straight into the morass of information and manage to come out on the other side with booty that’s actually useful.

I remember, as a kid, travelling with family and when we would come to a city, I would experience a huge thrill accompanied by anxiety.  I wanted to know it all immediately, all the streets and people and places.  I wasn’t comfortable with unknowing.

The same reaction kicks in with regards to the internet: I want to know it all.  Currently, a huge portion of my time is spent wading through all the info.  I expect to emerge soon with many creative possibilities for the raw material.

But I also suspect that the real challenge for me is to accept the ambiguity, because the net changes constantly and no one individual can possibly grasp all its particulars.  This isn’t easy: I’m not a control freak, but I do like to feel that I know what I’m doing at any given moment.  Alas, I must lose this old-fashioned propensity. 

The internet is changing us at core levels.  It involves risk-taking and requires that you be self-assured enough to roll with the unexpected punches, to leap at vague opportunities, and to freely offer up your deepest convictions for the world’s consumption.  On the web, you give first, and let the getting happen when it will.

Twitter thoughts

I’m a newbie at Twitter, having signed up just a couple weeks ago.  Touching in on it just now and then, I certainly haven’t wrapped my little brain all the way around as of yet; but I can say that it’s phenomenal in the extreme.

I follow, so far, a variety of types:  cohorts in the VA industry, as well as thought leaders of the highest calibre.  The tweets on my home page range from “taking the kids to school” to unabashed company promotions, to quotes from geniuses.

It’s the combination of business proclaimations, stimulating ideas, and superficial banter that’s confusing.  Many posts invite responses, so conversations of a sort do take place.  But it seems to cater more to the lone voice, regularly tossing out impressions to the world at large, hoping a few will resonate with your tone and contact you for business or other profitable projects.

It’s like a global billboard – an electronic one that changes constantly.  You’re looking for ‘followers’ on Twitter, which is a very different thing from ‘friends.’  Of course, a great many Tweetpeeps are not leaders, and their tweets don’t offer much to their followers, beyond recognition of the tweeter’s copasetic personality.  Which is important, but not very deep, not endlessly fascinating.

How does Twitter help your business?  If you are passionately engaged in what you’re doing, and have a persistent interest in all aspects of your field, it’s clear that Twittering will connect you to kindred souls and daily feed you stimulations.  I do wonder, though, about the efficacy of Twitter for those who lack this focus.  There’s little of value in their comments.  Perhaps Twitter is a tool they can use to deepen their commitments and focus their interests. 

In sum, I think Twitter’s a serious business tool, and really not a ‘social medium.’  It’s evidence that businesses must now include free sharing on a grand scale, and that we succeed best through cooperation, rather than competition in today’s world.  It forces us to consider the whole of our lives as dedicated to new discoveries; and to study the meaning of our work, 24/7, including its impacts on all aspects of our lives, and a continuing intensive study of how our actions and products affect others.

Social media revolution

Studying intensely this strange animal called social media marketing.  As communications is the major focus in my work, I recognize the social media movement as revolutionary in the extreme.  It may upend not only our marketing practices, but every aspect of business planning and operations. 

One issue we encounter when establishing communications online is how to balance personal and professional posts.  Given the time involved in keeping up with, say, your Twittering, you’re probably inclined to have just one account there, and not try to maintain several different ones.  The culture of the ‘net requires a very soft touch in your marketing posts, with an emphasis on your personality more than on the services/products you offer.  Many folk in the social marketing course I’m taking wonder how to synthesize; how to be personable but also aim for an ROI.

In my opinion, this question is at the heart of the movement’s meaning.  We’re looking at re-inventing our economy right now, and a large part of the new global understanding is that we’ll succeed by being authentic, by aligning our personal goals with whatever we do in the business world.

This is a major difference from the past, when your job was generally regarded as something apart from your true self.  Our challenge now is to identify and focus on the things that are actually personally meaningful; to use our personal, native creativity in service to the world’s needs.  When what you do for money is closely aligned with your personal dreams and understanding of reality, posting and commenting online in a way that’s both personable and professional becomes second nature.

Does this mean you should change jobs?  Maybe.  But more likely, it means that if you apply foundational creative thought and practice to your daily grind, you will begin to see how your work is an expression of your self.   Whether you flip burgers at a fast food joint, run errands for the boss, make automobiles, or own the company, careful, creative observation will bring you an understanding of how this work aligns with your deepest motivations.  It’s from that place of clarity that we must all proceed.