Life as we know it: the big deal about change

Every new generation in the past 50 years has been called, or has claimed, to be fundamentally different from the oldies. This tends to cause a bit of friction with parents (unless they’ve given up ‘parenting’ at an earlier stage) but notably not so much with grandparents because, and I’m guessing here, they’ve seen it all before in their own children.

The big deal about change

Change is the only permanent force in our lives. So what? Change is a constant, and yet we will draw people’s attention to it again and again saying: “look, this is different!” or “I’m unique!” The millenial generation is no different in its uniqueness ūüėČ

One example of what is different for today’s students is, by the time they graduate, they’re all over Facebook already. If you’ve spent years on Facebook it seems a bit of a waste to start from scratch on LinkedIn.

Some months ago, Brian Solis interviewed the Co-founder/CEO of a platform called Identified.com. Viewing the information on the Identified blog I recognized a lot of stuff from my own career path (involving change). Perhaps you recognize any of the following?

Learn to change: learning curve ahead

Warning: Learning Curve Ahead

  1. Study, no job.
  2. Another study.
  3. Job doesn’t match expectations or strong points.
  4. Switch to different kind of job.
  5. Part-time study and job.
  6. New job, research or internship required by study.
  7. Keep job, build resume and ‘rest’ after graduating.
  8. New job, tasks shift.

It was about time someone figured out that people might like to re-use parts of their ‘personal’ network in their new career, and that they might find the contacts in their mailbox less useful than their contacts on social media ūüėČ

What happens if I do this?

Young people living their lives¬†‘inside’ social media¬†is just an example of what has changed – but the underlying issue of ending up in a place that doesn’t match your talents or ambitions (interests) is not exactly new. In fact, part of ‘growing up’¬†has been¬†finding out more about yourself by trying stuff out.

Marketing trend or change?

Marketers’ strong point is spotting trends and giving them ‘big’ names. The actual change taking place may be less exciting (too slow or insignificant). One¬†marketing¬†action¬†is giving generations different names and trying to find out what matters most to each generation in order to sell them more stuff.

Sometimes¬†marketing seems¬†a bit like calling your two-month-old kid “Godzilla” because he/she’s got a big voice. It doesn’t make¬†your kid¬†bigger but it sure sounds awesome. I checked Twitter recently, which never fails if you’re looking for Godzilla marketing trends. Here’s¬†a couple of ‘trends’¬†I found (Godzilla doesn’t hide):

  • “going real time to right time”¬†Rachel Happe Tweets #defragcon
  • “moving from transactions to engagement” @alanlepo
  • “After B2B and B2C the future is P2P” (can this get any worse?? I hope I made this one up…)*

My main conclusion is that there’s only one underlying change: companies are getting more interested in customers and trying the personal “customer-centric” approach.

Why?

  1. Because they can. They have the tools: social media.
  2. Because they’re afraid to miss out. Their competitors are doing it too.
  3. Because we, their customers are changing – we’re getting used to relevant content, and to replies within a day or so (preferably faster).

Change is the only permanent force in our lives. Treating every day as being identical to the last just because it looks identical on the surface is downright dangerous. One day there will be a stalled car just behind that bend in the road.

The big deal about change is that it is life as we know it.

* B2B Business to Business, B2C Business to Consumer, P2P Person to Person… they didn’t manage to squeeze F2F in – maybe I¬†ought to¬†thank Twitter for their 140-character limit ūüôā

That’s it for this post. If you want to add your insights please add them in a comment. I’ll respond to any non-spammy comment about ‘the big deal about change’ or my writing skills ūüėČ

Social business: why you should add strategy to your content

One aspect of social media in a business is something I’m just about starting to ‘get’. It’s not just social media. It’s how to get your message across to potential customers at all, now that social media are becoming part of the business habitat. Everyone is suddenly in marketing. And my discovery (tah-daah!) is that many of us suck at it.

Social media: knowing how it works is not the issue

I don’t mean¬†we can’t do¬†marketing no matter what you do for training.¬†I mean that¬†right now, even if¬†we know¬†our way around social media,¬†we have not been trained yet in (the basics of):

  • Risk management
  • Content marketing
  • Social media for business purposes.

Add strategy to your content. Image: Thinker - ContentRambler avatar

Thinking up a content strategy [OCAL image with alterations]

This may result in (m)any of the following:

  1. Your colleague has been told that social media is all about personal. She does a meet-the-whole-family blog and discusses details of her private life you don’t want to know about – depending on your interests ūüėČ
  2. Another colleague (I’m assuming you have many of them)¬†uploads an 86-page presentation to SlideShare, assuming she’s done her sharing duty this way. Description: “this is a presentation I did two weeks ago, enjoy”.
  3. A third colleague likes to rant about telecom services, airlines and so on which he had bad experiences with. Unfortunately one of these companies is a customer of yours.

Since I’m confident that¬†you can¬†spot the issues in the first and last example at once no matter what your professional background is, I’ll move on with the second example. Why? Because this is at first sight the least damaging thing anyone can do. And for that reason, it probably happens more often than the other two.

How to handle professional content

From a risk perspective, I’d really like to know if there are things like customers’ names in that presentation. If there are, you’re in trouble.

Let’s assume that it’s ‘safe’ content though, meaning it’s not about private stuff, nor does any customer of yours look bad or have their information shared on the internet. What are the downsides?

  • Your colleague’s description doesn’t really tell anyone what those 86 pages are about… that’s a missed opportunity. Possibly half a dozen opportunities, depending on what is in that presentation. I’ll get back to this topic¬†later.
  • Here’s the good part: if the title of the presentation is as nondescript as the description, no-one is going to read it. Unless your colleague is, say, Seth Godin.
  • The bad part is that no-one will read it. But at least you’ll have a chance to improve the way your content is presented before it’s been downloaded and possibly put to good use without you ever seeing a dime in return. Or getting a “thank you”, or a new contact with an invitation you might have used for a spot of networking.

Optimizing your content for different learning styles

Depending on the content of a single presentation you could get up to half a dozen blog posts out of it; make a couple of video interviews; do a web chat or two about the subject. And I don’t mean either-or: you could do all of them. Why?

Learning styles

I’ve been fortunate enough to have a colleague repeat the basics to me just yesterday. By typing pages full of words, I’m basically catering for a specific type of person. I’m probably writing for people who learn in a way that is similar to my own.

I used to have books for breakfast. When I got to read my first ‘grown-up’ book in English – Dune, by Frank Herbert – I didn’t do any homework for three weeks (goodbye Math results). If I woke up in the middle of the night I’d¬†read in bed.

Adding examples, especially about people and situations you can relate to, makes a (long) text more digestible for people with a different learning style. The same goes for adding a picture Рpreferably one with a personal touch, or with warm colors. Pictures that reach out to the viewer.

Time pressure and content guzzling

Another colleague told me that, because he spends so much time in the car, he prefers to listen to podcasts of blogs Рespecially by those bloggers who are real storytellers. The fact that some professions have people on their feet and in their car at all times of the day gives you yet another reason for trying different media.

Your social business needs a content strategy

For your (future) business, being on social media without knowing how to market your content doesn’t make much sense.

Note that¬†I’m hardly saying this as a die-hard, veteran, marketing blogger. Needless to say I know I’m missing a big portion of my ‘potential audience’ by not using every available medium but just writing what’s on my mind. If you’re blogging like me and you’re not getting the most from your writing right now, that’s fine – if you’re fine with it. If not, you have work to do.

I hope you enjoyed this post. I wrote it today, in two or three sittings (I have a job and a family!), which is about the fastest I’ve done so far for anything that isn’t actually a “Blogging impressions” post ūüôā

If you’ll add your thoughts on the subject of social business, content strategy or anything related, I would appreciate it and I’ll reply to any (non-spammy) comment.

Blogging impressions: audience matters

Understanding your audience can be a major issue if you own a blog. Do you ever wonder what your audience is telling you by ‘liking’¬†your blog? Do you have posts that are loved and posts that seem to be completely ignored?

Mark Schaefer recently wrote about the importance of comments on his {grow} blog. I¬†completely¬†get¬†this. It can be hard to interpret (a lack of) likes. In this post I’ll explore how your particular audience affects your pattern of likes, the pros and cons of likes (not necessarily in that order), and next steps.

Audience categories and blog results

I’ve been building a little theory (okay, officially it’s a hypothesis – I know), and my latest two posts seem to confirm it – so far, so good I guess ;):

Blogging impressions: audience matters

Audience matters: Who’s here
– and why? [OCAL picture]

  • We get different kinds of people on our blogs, obviously.
  • Different people like different posts and topics, so multi-topic blogs get likes from people depending on whether they like the subject matter (and tone of voice)¬†in a particular post.
  • Many people on WordPress.com¬†are mainly interested in non-businessy topics. You can blog about business, but you’d better inject a healthy dose of humor and not get into detailed stuff that nobody wants to read unless it’s their job. Um, that could be me… although not¬†between 10 PM and¬†my first dose of coffee¬†ūüėČ

Here’s what you get if you try out different kinds of posts.

  1. Humor and personal touch¬†60% or over¬†– business content 40% but preferably less: you get likes from quite a few WP users. They’re a friendly audience. And yes, I did make those numbers up ūüôā
  2. Business content up, humor down: no likes or perhaps one from a fellow blogger who’s commiserating with you for having un¬†unloved post. Or who actually likes it because they’re interested in businessy stuff too. Which makes them part of a minority within the WP community as far as I can tell.
  3. What may happen is that you don’t get likes on WordPress but your content¬†does get shared thanks to your social media connections. In my case that’s Twitter.
  4. As bloggers, WordPress inhabitants like to read tips about blogging.
  5. Obviously, once you think about it, posts¬†about content curation get snapped up and curated by people who are interested in content curation. I got ‘scooped’ a while ago with this post. Which also got some likes because it’s about blogging. Wish I could blog about that on a weekly basis but I do have other interests too ūüėČ

A Lack Of Likes

If you have something like Facebook likes, the same problem you might otherwise have with WordPress likes occurs: you don’t know if they like you –¬†or your blog. It’s nice to get noticed – I’m not questioning that – but if you’re looking for solid stats to check how your blog is actually doing in terms of ‘business’¬†it blurs a picture that’s hazy to begin with.

You could leave out Facebook likes and even¬†turn off WordPress likes. But that basically means you have less ways left to get feedback. If you leave only comments, you depend on people to actually write something. To keep the level of spam down, you may well choose to have people add their email address. Let’s face it – you’re making it really difficult for people who are not on WordPress.com to leave any kind of response.

Your blog’s¬†audience in¬†business terms

Confusion on the matter of what a like means is something you get¬†no matter where you blog. There will always be people who can’t comment or like unless they are on some shared platform. The people who tend to comment are often those who are used to publishing their stuff anyway, AND who are familiar enough with the subject to feel confident of not getting laughed off. That narrows down the number of comments you’ll get.

This means likes are potentially a valuable way to announce to new readers that you’re actually getting readers on your blog. What they are NOT, is proof that your readers are actually¬†part of a selected¬†audience that is sensitive to any kind of sales process you might be tempted to unleash on them.

Is the focus on personal stuff a reason to skip the WordPress.com experience?

That depends on your own take on these matters.

  • If you are completely sure you’ll be able to lift your blog from the ground in no time at all – if you’re an experienced blogger/writer, you don’t need to be in a blogging community;
  • Same thing if you’re the kind of person who can keep going for a long time without getting any kind of feedback at all;
  • Or if you have carefully built an audience¬†– not necessarily a crowd of friends – on Facebook before starting your blog.

If, on the other hand, you’re just getting started and you don’t have a clue whether this experiment of yours is going to work out, I think .com is¬†a great place to start. If you want your posts about business topics¬†to get noticed, you’ll need to share¬†those posts on social media. Which you need to do¬†no matter where you blog¬†–¬†unless you don’t want readers?

If you’re feeling that you’re not really making any progress at all and you’re wondering what you got yourself into, you can blog about¬†that too –¬†and find that you’re not alone. As far as I’m concerned that is¬†one big bonus in any audience – even though I prefer to think of them as ‘you’.

Note: I’ve just made a Facebook page and added a box to my blog. Good idea or bad? I’m not quite sure. I’ve been too active on Twitter and here on my blog to spend time on Facebook, so I don’t have a Facebook audience¬†ūüėČ

What do you think? After all, on this blog you’re¬†the audience watching me perform.¬†Let me know¬†how you¬†feel about ‘audience matters’!

Business dynamics: big data and social media are changing us

A few days ago¬†I found an article titled: “Being Agile Is the New Paradigm for Marketing”. It could have been a quote from Dilbert’s manager, but (alas) no.

I’d run into the term ‘agile marketing’ before. Since it¬†sounded like a possible¬†trend I decided to dig just a little bit. In this post you’ll find¬†the results of¬†my amateur archaeology.

Dig into the subject of agile business

Trend: BYOS

A few points from the ‘agile marketing’ article:

  • “Agile” is a method from software development which basically means you’re more flexible than in traditional project management. (I’d say that¬†shouldn’t be too hard, especially in IT projects.)
  • Recent changes in social media make it necessary for us to¬†develop an agile business model. I mentioned a few of those changes in an earlier post.
  • We should become more¬†flexible since¬†rapid changes in¬†technology can impact business to the extent that it, too needs to change – if it’s to survive.
  • This calls for changes to the business model. Everything seems to hinge on technology here.

Marketers are supposed to be able to spot trends and write about them, so it’s no surprise to find oodles of articles about marketing trends.

Is it just marketing going all hoity-toity about discovering what will turn out to be the next management fad? Just a silly question maybe¬†ūüôā but let’s see if there’s a glimmering of an answer out there.

A glance at Twitter shows talk about the #hrtecheurope event (October 25th): Josh Bersin gives his audience a tour of, yes, #agilebusiness Рand what it means for HR.

A few disruptive changes seen in technology and society are:

  1. Social media
  2. Big data
  3. My personal favorite: people have changed (as a result of access to social media and huge amounts of information)

Organizations need to adapt by becoming highly flexible, which means quick decisions supported by technology to deal with ‘big data’.

What it also means is yet another force pushing the organization towards more transparency and employees acting more independently.

Why is it important to involve HR when you follow up on this trend?

Consider these aspects:

  • Recruiters notice people coming in with different mindsets and assumptions.
  • The technological changes affect¬†employers’ careers.
  • You need HR for talent development.
  • HR is reportedly at the bottom of present-day contributors to ‘agile business’.

There are plenty of reasons to take a good look at different parts of the organization to get an idea of what it would mean (and take) to turn them around.

I recently wrote a post on the case for turning a company into a social business starting at the ‘back’ rather than in the marketing department. If you want things to change it’s worth noting the people who are not immediately eager to get in on every new trend, but who are experts in their own line of activity and who will understand what you’re talking about because they see it happening every day.

In the case of ‘social’ that may be the people who answer the phone for your company. Regarding ‘agile’… introducing an extreme measure of flexibility¬†influences (organization) psychology as well as the actual structure of the organization.

It’s worth noting at this point that Beverly Macy has recently written an article about [social enterprise] trends for 2013 saying:

The true social enterprise is so far beyond marketing, it isn’t even funny.

If marketing is the only department buying into the changes affecting your business, you’re¬†going to be in¬†big *pause* trouble (head down ;)) sooner than you think.

How can you find out if ‘agile’ is a viable option for (parts of) your company?

  1. Read up using the reading list at the bottom of this post. I’ve included two blogs about Josh’ presentation.
  2. Look around you and talk to a few people, and I can’t stress this enough,¬†in different parts of¬†your organization. Leave the tool and tech talk out. Instead, ask about changes in behavior. What have people noticed about others, about themselves, about customers? Have preferences shifted lately? How do they respond to what they see is happening? What major issues are lurking beneath the surface of ‘business as usual’?
  3. While you do all this,¬†focus on being¬†a good advisor. Ask, shut up, listen, watch, think, ask again. I’m serious about the shutting up bit¬†ūüėČ

I hope I’ve given you food for thought. Please leave your thoughts in the comments. If you know of more ‘must-reads’ please add those too!

+If you found this post of interest, please share it.

Reading list

HR tech’s blog about Josh Bersin’s presentatio: Building an agile workforce;

Lumesse’s blog about Josh’ presentation;

And Janice Diner’s blog: Being Agile Is the New Paradigm for Marketing

Also worth thinking about: Beverly Macy, The Top Four Trends Shaping Social Enterprise in 2013 on Huffington Post.

Background: the classic by Jeremy Rifkin, The Age Of Access.

You are now in marketing: the content perspective

Do you have a blog? Have you told all your friends about it yet?

Chances are you’ve done both. In case you’re not a marketing fan, yes, you were marketing your blog. You may¬†think “well, I haven’t told anyone yet because after all I’ve only published two posts and I’m not sure they’re that good”.

Tell you what: you are not off the hook for being too modest for marketing. I didn’t advertise¬†this blog when it had only two posts.¬†So you’ll get over¬†it too¬†I expect ūüėČ

At some point you will:

  1. find out who wants to read (or even buy) your stuff
  2. make a plan to get them onto your blog (“I really should ask all my friends and colleagues” is enough of a plan for a non-marketer)
  3. go do it (stick to your plan)
  4. watch¬†what happens next¬†to¬†find out¬†what works and what doesn’t so you can:
  5. change what you’re doing¬†until it does work.

If you’re doing the marketing¬†jig for the first time and this is actually your plan you’ll be happy¬†to know¬†you won’t blow a hole into¬†a 40M budget if it all goes pear-shaped ūüôā

Let’s¬†see what marketing tells you¬†about your blog!

Outbound marketing

Traditionally, advertising your stuff in all forms has worked a treat – and it still does, to an extent. So by all means tell people about your blog.

Marketing prism: multi-faceted subject
Marketing facets:
Which is your favorite angle?

There are a few issues:

  • Relevance. If you’re looking for a¬†title like¬†“4 novel ways to wear sandals”, you don’t read this post even if it’s in your mailbox. Serendipity alone does¬†not overcome “Not this, not now, not ever”.
  • Ever wonder¬†why companies don’t ask you after 5 years or so if you still read their mails? Maybe they don’t want to know? Keep in mind to ask your¬†subscribers after a while.

The balance is shifting to inbound marketing

We (as¬†consumers) are¬†morphing into ‘inbound traffic’ as we speak, calling and emailing when we‘re ready. Even if you’re an old school marketer yourself, I’ll bet you’re no different when you’re on the buyer’s seat. Companies are trying to steer us after we hit their radar, some more successfully than others.

Marketing match-making

An article I read a few days ago mentions 4 ways outbound and inbound marketing can work together. I’ve filtered the marketing talk¬†out:

  1. Re-use the¬†best stuff on your blog and send a “top 5 posts of the season” in a newsletter to your readers and everyone you think might be interested who’s not yet visited your blog.
  2. After you meet someone at an event, don’t send them a standard ‘nice to have met you’ email: mail them (part of) a post on your blog (or someone else’s) about¬†a subject you discussed. Or put the link in your request to connect on LinkedIn. Make whatever you send worthy of¬†the recipient’s attention. Come on – you want¬†to be relevant,¬†don’t you?
  3. Your emails, ads, LinkedIn profile should all give readers a chance, and if possible a reason, to visit your blog by following a link provided by you. A link, mind you, to a post that is relevant for anyone who just read your email, ad, or profile.

The article I just referred to leads you to a single destination which it fails to mention:

Content marketing

With all the writing on the web it’s no surprise I found an article while I was drafting this post that asks the question what’s so special about content marketing.

It focuses on the fact that:

High-quality content that is super relevant to readers will end up winning the game.

A couple of hundred articles on the internet will more or less tell you this, so you’re excused for not being completely amazed.

Relevance sounds too obvious, doesn’t it? But it means different things depending on what you’re looking for.

If you’re not a marketer but you do think you ought to get interested, this post may be just about as much as you can stomach (or too much). A pro might have left after the first glance if he/she even bothered to click the title.

What can you do for your blog right now?

A few examples for you to chew on:

  • If you’ve spent the past year¬†business blogging like a maniac without seeing the kind of results you were aiming for, you may be doing something wrong in marketing terms. Perhaps you’re relevant for other people than the group you tried to reach. You either find out using marketing basics like the 5-step list above, or accept that your blog is really a personal blog – not a business blog.
  • If what you’re doing is Pinterest-on-a-blog, and if you’re getting exactly the types of response you might get on Pinterest if you upload a picture of a pretty dress (don’t get me started –¬†I’m a ‘business’ user), you are definitely selling products but probably not ideas. If that wasn’t your goal when you started blogging, it’s time to change tactics.

Brian Clarke (a.k.a. Copyblogger) said during a recent presentation: content marketing is a bit like stand-up comedy. You get an idea, you try it out on¬†your audience, you find out what they love and what they hate, and then it’s “dial up what works, dial down what doesn’t”.

If you blog, I hope I’ve given some idea of the marketing jungle out there. If you’re an experienced¬†marketer I hope my post was entertaining ūüėČ Either way please comment. Suggested further readings are also welcome!

+ If you found this post to be of interest, please share it.