27 May 2009

Be Social for Success

Understanding the value mix of online media participation and face to face interaction is key to the success of the modern business and individual. There is a delicate balance needed between on-line efficiency and off-line effectiveness. New tools are created to make our work easier and to connect us to our stakeholders and communities (those-whom or that-which we need/desire in our lives). The ultimate challenge in today's connected workplace and lifestyles is to find the perfect balance or mix. When not used effectively they achieve just the opposite of their intended purpose and priorities get re-arranged. Interacting with people whether face to face or online and sharing is how we learn and improve as individuals as well as organisations. In networks and face to face interactions we build the foundation for deeper connections and context for further interactions both online and off. In social media, we reinforce these relationships and are referred to others through authentic connections that further add value.

Three basic principles or "R"s should lead us to how and where we interact (REAL, RELEVANT and RESPECT). It is much harder to be someone you are not and it will catch up to you. Being authentic will earn trust, whereas getting caught being fake will ruin your reputation and those around you. Whether you are using social media to connect to your old friends, your remote colleagues, your employees or your clients or to meet or gain new ones, the quality of your interactions and their being in context to your audience and the arena are what count and resonate. "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all". In other words, constructive criticism is far more effective and it won't come back to bite you later. These basic principles are core to face to face networking as well, and what creates the foundation for valued relationships.

Strategy needs to be considered on all levels. Participating in social media or face to face networks should not be limited to marketing. If used properly they impact product/service development, employee engagement and turnover, brand building, customer satisfaction and relations, business development and individual success. Ultimately there is a person with thoughts feeling and views of their own called a "user". We feel engaged and become advocates when we learn about the things that impact us, we appreciate having our voice heard (and listened to), we appreciate respect and return it. We derive value from our interactions when the three R's are observed. That value creates incentive for further interaction and referral.

Social media optimisation and social optimisation should go hand in hand when building lasting and strong relationships with our friends, our employees, our consumers, our investors and extended community of stakeholders in our lives and our businesses.

25 May 2009

Value of a Digital Relationships

Trying to determine the value of a friend in social media can be challenging, almost as much as it in real face to face life. Thinking about our digital relationships is quite interesting in terms of understanding value. In determining this we need to understand the different forms of relationships and why we have them.

Facebook's purpose is social interaction with our extended network. Overlapping the use of your Facebook profile that is connected to your college buddies and nephews is not the same profile that should be connected to your business peers. If a user is too focused on one side or the other with a blended profile, their "friends" will lose interest and turn down the volume or cut them off completely. It's like being stuck next to the old friend at a dinner party that talks about their work. Even worse, a business dinner that you are stuck next to the new parent who is struggling with potty training. Real friends provide context by understanding their audience and therefore have far greater impact (and greater value). To obtain the highest value from your friends in Facebook, make sure they are the friends you do want to be "social" with, and create a separate fanpage for your business. If your real friends are interested in your business they will be a fan of your business too.

When you want to boost your ego or build your brand, then tweet away. Yes, I am actually writing something positive about Twitter. I admit it, I have converted. But, and I mean a very strong "but", when used effectively. There are a lot of tools to build your followers (twitter's version of friends). I am happy that others are interested in the links and things that I share and appreciate their insight. Like many professionals, I use twitter to find other interesting links and things that others are sharing. The value of me following all of my "followers" would be merely to increase the noise in the feeds that I get. I have never been a fan of scrolling endlessly. Sharing my daily grind of how many shots of espresso I have consumed or my favourite chocolate is best left to my friends on Facebook, as I do not wish to create anymore noise for my followers. Besides, who I am following is also a resource to my followers. If there are interested in what I am saying, they are probably also interested in who I am listening to. It should therefore have context. They can see that I am real in the variation of my shared links as they vary from my personal reads like "Anatomy of Peace" to reports from the Skoll Forum on Social Entrepreneurship to new media tools or articles like Business Week's Byrne and Baker's podcast on the value of our digital relationships for advertising.

Let's not forget LinkedIn which is a great business networking tool. I am not going to hang out on it all day making small talk with my connections. I visit when I am looking for someone or something specific or adding a new connection. The groups and connections that I have in LinkedIn are based on real interactions. We worked together, participated in face to face networks together, studied together, met at conferences around the world and shared a conversation, had meaningful conversations from which we can refer back to and/or share mutual professional interests. All of which provide a basis for me being able to refer them to someone or them to me. I make a point of placing a high value on the connections and therefore not connecting with the ones to whom I come home with card in hand. So, I may not have thousands of contacts in LinkedIn, but in each of them there is something we mutually offer in terms of a reference.

Amassing a huge contact/friend/follower base has never been a high value in itself. Unless you are one of those unusual people who never forgets a face or a conversation, but that is mostly the exception. What it comes down to is authenticity and the value and integrity of those connections. Their value to an advertiser is not the same as what they are worth to you. Your value does come down to your influence and that can only be created by your own integrity.

20 May 2009

Wisdom from Gaselleträff in Malmö

Dagens Industri (DI), Sweden's version of the Financial Times, has a speaker series called Gaselleträff. The aim to is to encourage fast growing businesses to shine and share their experiences to ultimately stimulate the economy. They award prizes to a "gazelle" regionally each year. Moderator Lars Tulin, DI reporter for Malmö, spoke of the importance of opportunity and the increasing use of the word "mojligheter" as the key to growth. Here is a brief roundup of some of the words of wisdom from the event:

  • Rune Andersson, Mellyby Gård: PRICE; price elasticity and what customers are willing to pay more critical than cost. GROWTH; do not settle for being marginal. INVESTMENT STIMULUS; lower owner tax needed in Sweden to encourage angel and risk investment. STEP BY STEP, advised not to take the whole world in one go.
  • Jonas Hansson, Öresundsarvet; RELATIONSHIP BUILDING with clients critical.
  • Lars Ljungälv, Swedbank; VÅGA VARA STOR; Dare to be great.
  • Anna-Stina Nordmark Nilsson, Företagarna; 99.2% Swedish businesses have >50 employees, 12% Immigrants, 25% Women owned, Offensive actions to deal with current economy (note: I was a bit disappointed that the only woman speaking was coming from a lobbying perspective. Where are the women in business?)
  • Göran Lundwall, ALMI; INNOVATION critical for stimulation in economy and growth, INVESTORS seek solid business plan, profitability, bank interest and owners.
  • Carl Bennet, Getinge och Elanders; INVESTMENT STIMULUS recommended tax-free incentive for angels /risk investment until profitability.
  • Peter Bodin, Grant Thornton; CORE BUSINESS focus, BALANCE between vision for future and staying on top of current issues, PEOPLE surround yourself with intelligent people with varying expertise for board, communications and team members.
  • Lars Kry, Proffice; PEOPLE consider why your employees chose to work for you
  • Michael Corneliusson, Telia; WEF Denmark and Sweden will be first to recover crisis because of IT and COMMUNICATIONS competency and development.
  • Peter Nillson, Trelleborg; PEOPLE enjoy the people and team you work with
  • Frederik Lindén, Svenska Exportrådet, MARKET SIZE It isn't Swedish business ideas that are too small, it is the Swedish market, EXPORT SUCCESS requires vision, focus, local presence and endurance
  • Andreas Qvarfort, APQ EI, Skåne's Gaselle 2008; POSITIVE ATTITUDE

18 May 2009

Entrepreneurs can Change the World

I came across this video from Grasshopper.com by way of MarketingProfs.com. I thought it would be nice to pass on. I love the simplicity of the message. It speaks to what I "preach" of believing in the possibility of things and thriving in the opportunity rather than dwelling on the risk.

15 May 2009

Public Speaking needs Public Listening

Why do I get the sense that everyone wants to be heard but nobody is listening. In the last few weeks I have been to several presentations that completely missed the mark on the audience to whom they were presenting. Then there is the social media phenomenon of sharing too much with perhaps those that don't really care to know.

Okay, perhaps I am being cynical. This is not usually my way, but we all have those days. Perhaps I am just not listening well? Always a possibility, of course. This is not a simple matter of targeting our message. It comes down to the basics of human relations and communications. Ask a question. Listen to the response. Consider the response. Reply to it (agree, disagree, clarify your question if the response did not answer it). At the very minimum acknowledge it. Consider the answer they are giving, not the one you anticipate.

Did I miss something? Oh yes, wisdom of my mother (and probably everyone else's) "if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all." A lot of complaining and blaming doesn't get us very far. Look for solutions for what we can do rather than problems in what is not being done. "No whining" might be the motto of the day. Statistics are great, but even they can be skewed. So, listen, to your heart, to your audience and to the people with whom you are speaking. If you invite them into the conversation, listen to what they have to say. You never know you might just learn something. Then you would really have something to speak about.

12 May 2009

Leadership and Self Deception

The Arbinger Institute has been a favourite of mine for years in terms of approach to leadership and simply human relations. Glad to see they finally not only have a presence in Denmark, but an enthusiastic one. I met with Mette Ponty this morning to discuss her workshop at the end of the Summer. Perfect timing I must say. Taking ourselves "out of boxes" and walking in others shoes is difficult, but perhaps we are more receptive to it when the weather is good.

Now of course, applying it to current leadership challenges. I find myself busy building executive boards for new organisations both corporate and non-profit, getting consensus and enthusiasm as well as realistic commitment. Being a dreamer or visionary (depending on how which angle you look at it from) can be an asset but also a challenge (depending on how it is applied). So I dig deep in my network to divine the wisdom from those who have walked this path many times before (mentors are a beautiful thing) and chant the wise survival mantra of my father-in-law "patience, patience, patience."

At the end of the day, the job simply needs to get done. I choose do-ers with passion and dreamers with insight to combine for the ultimate team. Maybe not the easiest to find consensus, but when we do, it's really good. I look forward to the workshop to share with them the clarity that coming out of the box with the Arbinger methodology can provide.

11 May 2009

Prioritise Balance

The sun is out here, which is a big thing after the well known dark Winter in Sweden. The result is that people are outside. By nature they are being more efficient and selective about how they use their time online to minimise it. One would think that I would discourage decreasing online interaction. Actually it is quite the contrary. I think we should because quality, not quantity, is what is most effective. The tools we are developing are to achieve just that. Directing us to the sites and resources that are relevant to us to avoid wasted time. For time is what we have the greatest limitation on.

This is the time of year we should be tracking sites for effectiveness (at least in the Northern Hemisphere). If we are getting good traffic now from the North, then we are doing something right. Internet traffic, just like television and demand for films goes down during the Spring and Summer. I certainly hope it doesdrastically, otherwise, health will be the greater problem.

Here are some ways to maximise online effectiveness and minimising the time spent online:

* bike to work
* cut down on the number of social networks active in, but use tracking tools for opportunities to participate when relevant and focus on topic specific, or interest specific communities for here and now
* use file sharing tools (ie. Google docs) to avoid having to distribute
* delegate tasks that others can do more effectively
* turn off the indicator for new messages on your smart phone to concentrate on the tasks at hand, or people that we are meeting with
* use broadcasting tools for updates to avoid re-entry
* get outside and breath fresh air at lunch time (yes, leave the desk for lunch)
* work while your are effective, if you are wasting a lot of time (daydreaming, getting distracted by "interesting websites or news", chatting) go for a quick walk outside, and then come back with a fresh perspective (coffee may be required).
* take the extra 5 minutes to take the scenic route home (and enjoy it).
* be present

These may sounds obvious, but I find it is helpful to remind myself of these basics regularly. Just like staying focused on a vision, focusing on balance can help maintain the vision.

04 May 2009

2BalanceU.com News

One of the beautiful things about being an entrepreneur is the opportunity to learn and make mistakes and learn more. After trying for three years to make 2BalanceU the portal for sharing resource recommendations around the globe, I realised we were going about it all wrong. The last thing we needed to do was to create yet another destination that fills our time, distracts us and requires us to learn how it works before we get anything out of it. The vision was right, empowering through simplified global knowledge sharing. But the approach was wrong.

What will emerge from the next version will amaze you with its simplicity and delight you. It will free you up by requiring less time and effort getting to what's relevant from the sources you already draw from and others that provide information important to you. You will be more effective through greater accuracy in sending out what we wish to share to your intended audience. We have things pulling us in so many different directions, because we are multidimensional individuals. The knowledge sharing tool will come out this Fall. This new tool will be build as a cooperative effort between 2BalanceU and Off The Red with the input of several Advisory Members to ensure we have a sound business model for sustainability. The new site will have a new name (we are still working on that part) and logo, so keep posted and I will let you know when we have it.

2BalanceU remains as a consultancy that provides the vision, the network and input to the executive team. This enables me to continue my passionate work and study of how technology has enabled the evolution of the women's sacred circle to the modern professional women's network. I need to find someone to fund my PhD work, as it cannot be done by the former 2BalanceU as planned. (Ideas welcome...) I will also continue speaking at global conferences on social media and network optimisation as well as empowering women in leadership through knowledge sharing. I find this work inspiring and very fulfilling as a great way to really understand the different needs and tools around the world used for knowledge sharing. I will also continue to consult on Internet strategy, particularly on how to engage consumers in dialog.

So thank you for your notes asking, when will 2BalanceU be "live" again. I am so glad to see there is interest and I appreciate your support. I am sure you will be happy with what is coming soon.