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Cross Pollination

A well rounded education provides the groundwork for a successful business. Looking past our square and stunted notions we find

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a wealth of resources in places we’d normally overlook.

In 1998 Vice Admiral Arthur K. Cebrowski and John Garstka took lessons from WalMart and began applying them to what they termed “Network-Centric Warfare”. By looking at changes in the economy from a business perspective they were able to rethink effective strategies for the Department of Defense. As demonstrated by the popularity of Sun Tzu’s Art of War this odd exchange of information isn’t just one way.

“Nations make war the same way they make wealth.”

Vice Admiral Cebrowski points out the world of the military and the world of business often mirror each other. The social web makes it difficult to employ rigorously staged campaign strategies, and it turns out the same thing is happening in warfare. “Irregular” or “asymmetric” strategies, used to combat terrorist organizations and guerilla forces, provide insight into techniques that work within the 21st century social web as well as they work on the 21st century battlefield.

Col. John R. Boyd’s essay “Destruction & Creation” is another example of profound cross over. His understanding of decentralized command structures predates the work of Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom (Starfish & the Spider) and their analysis of successful ‘leaderless’ organizations.

“No-Sword”

The fencing master Lord Yagyu Munenori, who was trained by the Zen priest Takuan Soho, provides the most effective military solution for today’s business issues. Munenori says that at the height of understanding a swordsman can defeat their enemy without drawing their sword.

This “No-Sword” technique is the perfect martial strategy for today’s digital environment. With consumers ever savvy to corporate sleight of hand, the successful business is the one who has no tricks up their sleeve. At the height of understanding their business shouldn’t an entrepreneur reach the same effortless peak?

Can you sell without selling?

Posted on August 13th, 2010 by David Metcalfe
Posted in Entrepreneurship, Online Marketing, Professional Development, Suburban Business | No Comments »
 

Getting Acquainted With Your Neighbors - Twitter Best Practices 3/3

Because social media operates based on connecting via common interests, every re-tweet, mention and direct message becomes insight into your audience. Developing new content based on prior re-tweets, mentions and direct messages helps develop relationships with the people you want to talk to by targeting posts specifically to their interests.

When you re-post a person’s content with added commentary, not only do you promote their ideas, interests, organizations, and brand, but you also give them the opportunity to engage you in relation to ideas they are already comfortable with, ie. their own.

When you help people promote their brand information, original content, and support their personal goals, you also promote loyalty. You never know who is going to be your most vocal supporter. A CEO may spurn you, but being on close terms with their digital neighbor can be an easier way in the door.

Common Courtesy

Engagement requires a certain level of etiquette. Remembering to reply in a timely manner is important if you want to keep the momentum of your engagement opportunities going. It’s also important to remember never to identify your emotions with your digital persona.

If you identify yourself with your digital persona you might find yourself in situations, conversations and exchanges that can quickly lead to arguments. Always keep yourself a bit distant from your digital alter ego. Never start, continue or support arguments. When a conversation takes a negative turn, find a way to reach agreement as soon as possible and move on. Everything you say, post and promote is recorded in the digital environment; keep in mind you’re leaving a trail that will define you for years to come.

What You Put in the Pie

Your content should promote relationship development. The purpose of digital media is to engage others, not to promote your brand. Success in digital media relies on allowing the other person to choose engagement leading to successful interactions. In sales, marketing, networking, developing contacts, whatever your end goal, providing an opportunity for the other person to engage you is more effective than trying to force the issue. When the other person makes the choice to engage there is always a greater level of success.

Define your content approach ahead of time. Focus on general themes so that you allow for spontaneity and can approach a wider audience. Post “around” your topic to create a sense of depth. This means covering every aspect of your topic. For instance a graphic designer would not only post on current industry trends, but also theoretical pieces, historical information, kitsch phenomenon and all the attendant areas affected by graphic design.

On Twitter most of your content will be based on comments directing people towards links. It is best if you have a blog or dynamic website that you can direct people to that continues the themes developed by your Twitter posts. When posting a link to your blog or website write unique tag lines that further develop your brand.

Rather than just posting the article title or a flat explanation, try being creative. Avoid generic statements like “New blog post” . Your Twitter feed should become more than just a link dump.

Focus on:

  • Surprising juxtapositions
  • Unique word play
  • Kean cultural observations
  • Novel insights
  • Attention to detail
  • Direct contact/engagement
  • Interesting questions
  • Knowing your digital neighbors

Keep personal posts to your Twitter account on topic and infrequent; it’s more important to add value for your audience through additional comments to the posts you re-tweet from them. This develops your persona, while simultaneously developing relationships with key members of your audience.

Define your posts through commentary. Commentary develops the atmosphere of your persona. Use the kernel of information provided by the person you are re-tweeting, and when possible, add original content around the specific link or idea; to give the original source credit while adding new material use “via @originatorstwitterhandle” after the post.

Color and Tone

In all of your digital interactions keep your tone personal, but professional. When replying to a mention, RT or direct message be friendly, positive, and personal. Remember

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that formal language can sound stilted. The days of strict, formal interaction are fading fast. There is a time and a place for formality, but in most of your digital interactions you’ll find greater success erring on the side of the personal.

There are no hard rules when it comes to tone and it’s best to remain agile in your approach; reply based on the tone of the message received. Remember that your personality is going to be gauged on the tone of your posts. Your audience will get to know you, and to form a sense of intimacy, based on your digital persona, not your flesh and blood person.

Use humor rather than sarcasm unless you are working with a sarcastic brand. Sarcasm has a way of falling flat in digital communications. If your audience is not expecting to be met with sarcasm it can end up being offensive. Humility, honesty and integrity are better engagement tools than vicious satire, and with the stress of contemporary living, good-natured humor is often more effective than sarcasm.

Remember too, a good neighbor is one who is relevant to the community. If you’re not bringing value to the table, your taking someone’s time that could better be spent elsewhere.

Posted on August 9th, 2010 by David Metcalfe
Posted in Entrepreneurship, Online Marketing, Professional Development, Suburban Business | No Comments »
 

“I’m eating a hot dog…” - Twitter Best Practices 2/3

How often you speak is as important as what you say and how you say it. Digital media offers the ability to remain constantly in view of your market, partners and competitors. This availability should be used as a strategic asset. The temptation to seek complete control, to over think and over edit, needs to be tempered against the potential to overflow with information, especially on a platform like Twitter.

There’s a lot of give and take when it comes to how many posts are appropriate to put up in a day. Complaints abound over Twitter feeds filled with “hot dog” posts; those posts that announce some innocuous detail of daily life like “I’m eating a hot dog…” and do very little to with communication or relationship development.

Your Time in the Room

Think of Twitter as one big room and your posts are your presence in it. 1-2 posts every 2 hours seems to be ideal for keeping momentum and development going on personal accounts. This can be adjusted depending on the goals of the Twitter feed. For example a business account can continue momentum with fewer posts. 1-2 posts every 3-5 hours seems to be ideal for keeping momentum on business or organizational accounts.

If the account is merely targeted towards providing a point of contact for PR or news updates 1-2 posts per day or per week is possible. Keep in mind, unless you are representing a business, organization or brand that already has a loyal following, remaining quiet will limit the development of your presence on the Twitter platform.

Setting It All in Motion

This may seem overwhelming, you may be thinking “I can’t even update my blog once a month…1-2 posts every 2 hours!” But that’s where reciprocity comes in. You’ve heard it’s better to give than to get? Well on Twitter this motto helps you maintain an active presence and develop relationships while mitigating the amount of time you spend on the platform itself.

Applications like Hootsuite and Tweetdeck allow you to schedule and monitor your posts, as well as create sets of key word searches to find other accounts posting within your target audience. Set a specific time during the day to schedule posts for the upcoming day/week/month. This takes as little as 15 mins–1 hour, depending on time period you will cover.

Everything that happens in digital media builds precedence for future activity. When dealing with media that has immediate global reach and can be logged, searched and accessed in the future it’s wise to have a plan for what you’re putting out.

Keep It Focused, Keep It Loose

Setting aside a block of time to schedule posts helps support a cohesive focus for your account and also helps you strategize. Make sure to leave room in the schedule for posting “real time” information as needed. Keep blocks of time open where you can post free form information or responses while keeping your feed uncluttered.

It’s best to check back and monitor every 1-2 hours for re-tweets,

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mentions, and direct messages. Each event is an opportunity to engage. If someone re-tweets your posts, it’s an opportunity to thank them or strike up a conversation; a mention where someone asks a question or comments on a Tweet presents an opportunity to begin a conversation. Direct messages are the most ‘intimate’ form of engagement on this platform and allow for private conversations.

Key word searches can also provide areas for engagement. By conducting regular key word searches on brand related or interest related topics you can conduct business intelligence, monitor mentions of your brand, company, or organization, and develop relationships with new people through targeted conversations.

Posted on July 23rd, 2010 by David Metcalfe
Posted in Online Marketing | No Comments »
 

One Spark to Start a Fire - Twitter Best Practices - Part 1/3

“Success is not the result of spontaneous combustion. You must first set yourself on fire.”
-Fred Shero

At XNet we’ve seen the future of how businesses communicate with the community. We’re currently developing new best practices to take advantage of this updated model of communication. Our focus is on effective strategies that lie outside of the hype surrounding the latest Internet tools.

Over the past few months we’ve been using Twitter quite successfully, and we thought it was time to share our experience. We don’t blab about how great our products are, or what we are eating at random times during the day, we communicate with our community, industry peers and thought leaders. The focus of our Twitter usage is tuned to how it can be used in a larger strategic sense of mutual communication, network weaving and the relationship building.

- Arthur Zards, President of XNet Information Systems

What’s Your Style?

Twitter is possibly the easiest social media platform to build relationships on and many companies are wasting the opportunity by thinking of it like a forum for PR and company news.

Do you use Twitter as a sounding box?

A place for conversation?

Do you even use it?

One Spark to Start a Fire

Digital media has loosened the bonds of business communication. In this new found freedom many find themselves in a topsy turvy

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world, “condemned to be free” as the existential philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre once described the human condition.

While larger corporations remain mired in questions regarding digital media’s efficiency, small and medium sized businesses have an opportunity to jump ahead and accept the responsibility, and opportunity, to immediately engage their market. Platforms such as Twitter provide immediate insight into the interests, needs and opinions of over 17 million persons in the US alone.

Critics cite usage statistics to draw questions on Twitter’s efficiency, failing to realize that it only takes one spark to start a fire. Connecting to one person in a community can lead to engagement across the board. Those most active on Twitter are also active in other areas of their profession, and a targeted approach can lead to dramatic results.

There are no easy solutions. Valid arguments exist on both sides of the issue, pro and con, for business use of platforms like Twitter. With so many voices on this errant ship of fools sometimes you just have to dive in and see what sinks and what floats.

With that in mind, let’s talk about Twitter…

What is it?

Twitter is a digital platform where individuals and organizations can post 140 character messages that are visible to anyone following them, visiting their Twitter homepage, or monitoring applicable key words through a 3rd party platform.

What’s the point?

Despite its flaws, and beyond any hype, Twitter is good for a number of things, including:

• Personal Expression
• Business Intelligence
• Content Aggregation
• News Feed
• Topical Discussions

And most important…

• Engagement.

Finding successful ways to engage the market is a key ingredient in a good business development strategy. Twitter gives you direct access to individuals and companies. For this reason alone SMB’s and entrepreneurs should take a serious look at developing a presence on the platform. Twitter is a backdoor into the market, a social gathering to display your company and skills, and a convenient way to host links to content that develop the market’s perception of your business. Most importantly it’s a place to develop the relationships and conversations that allow all of this to happen without forcing hackneyed one way messaging down the market stream.

Let’s be honest

We often get stuck in either/or thinking.

Sometimes we can’t resist the “new thing” for no other reason than its crisp and shiny packaging. We’ll go and grab whatever has 10% more shine, rather than sticking with an old stalwart, because it makes us feel like we’re keeping up with the best and brightest. The same thing happens with digital media, the whole process is so new that it leads people to grab on without thinking things through first.

On the flip side sometimes we pass up new opportunities because they don’t fit in with our preconceived notions about how to get things done. We’re used to doing things the old way and we’ll keep plodding along the well worn path until something comes by to dig up the ruts.[1]

Over the next few posts we’ll go through some of the ways that we’ve started to think about Twitter, and digital communications in general.

________________________________________
[1] The reason for this is neurological. Our brains form familiar patterns of neurons and it takes less effort to move in familiar patterns than it does to create new neurological connections. Innovation requires us to avoid becoming victims of our brain!

Posted on July 14th, 2010 by David Metcalfe
Posted in Online Marketing | No Comments »
 
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