Is It Time to Declutter Our Technology Habits?

As is my routine at this time of year, I’m reflecting on everything that has transpired business-wise over the past three quarters. This ranges from reviewing our achievements versus goals, the technology that we use, the effectiveness of our processes and so on.

TechnologyThis time just as I was starting this process, Chris Brogan wrote an interesting post about the amount of literature, digital or otherwise, that we consume. He questioned whether we are getting everything we could from this knowledge because the ever increasing volumes could be diluting our learning. With that in mind, he challenged his audience to read just three books from November 2012 until the end of October 2013. I’ve chosen three books to concentrate on; you can check them out if you’re interested.

I have serious doubts over my ability to stick to this challenge; my work simply won’t permit it, but it has certainly gotten me thinking about all the clutter in our business lives — specifically, the technologies that we choose to purchase.

It dawned on me that every client that we’ve worked with this year, all bar one (that we didn’t touch on this subject with), has purchased a piece of software that they have then not gone on to use. It has varied from small to medium recurring payments for a SaaS up to substantial financial outlays.

Is the line really blurring this much between B2C and B2B, that small to medium sized businesses really are behaving like consumers rather than businesses? This trend has been emerging over the last few years but this is the first that I have seen this effect become so widespread.

My thoughts are that this is part of a wider problem. We are gathering inputs and resources from far and wide, well past what we’re actually going to use, well past what is actually necessary, and we’re failing to properly use all this information. I think it fosters a sense of confusion amongst those who need to learn the most. Too much information is overwhelming; if you don’t focus, you’ll start to stagnate under the pressure of an implied need to know more.

In life, less is almost always more, and it seems this principle is just as relevant to businesses. What are your thoughts? Please leave a comment below!

The Interest List Imbroglio

Alternate Title: When Those Trying To Help Actually Hinder

Over the last week or two, those in the social business sphere have been inundated with a rash of messages, posted on personal profiles and business pages alike, deeming interest lists as the savior to decreased Edgerank and overall interaction. Alas, these posts took the spirit and real value of interest lists and diminished real value with incorrect information which might actually diminish levels of connection, interaction and eventual engagement.

Facebook ListYou’ve probably seen this message, perhaps slightly altered, popping up on pages and personal profiles across Facebook:

“Since Facebook has begun to ask page administrators to pay to promote their pages, only 10% of page fans receive the updates we post here. To receive ALL of our posts, please do the following:

1) Go to our page.
2) Hover your mouse over where it says “LIKED” and click on “Add to Interests Lists”.
3) Commenting or clicking “like” on our page every once in a while will also keep us on your feed.”

There are several issues with these statements, and I’ll touch on each.

First, Facebook has “promoted” the promoted post for a while, but they certainly haven’t come out and said, “Hey, you…page admin – the only way your posts are going to get seen is if you promote them”. And no Facebook authority has piped up on either Edgerank or Interest lists, except to tout the lists as a valuable resource (which they are – I’m not disputing that). In fact, Facebook has been quite silent on the whole algorithm discourse.

Next, I’m not sure who came up with the 10% number. Many colleagues and experts have been testing reach, promotion, post types and within all of that testing, I haven’t seen any nice round number like 10%. Round numbers just don’t occur all that often, unless someone is averaging or generalizing. I don’t think averages or generalized numbers are particularly useful in an industry that has no one-size-fits-all solutions. Social works differently for each adopter, on each platform, and on any given day. With the spooky holiday just around the corner, we might feel justified stating that it often seems to involve “black” magic. To see some interesting information about reach, promotions and numbers/data, I suggest you check out Jon Loomer’s blog posts from the last month or two. Not generalized and he’s quick to point out that the numbers he sees cannot necessarily be repeated for each user.

To continue, while Interest lists are a fantastic resource, they are ABSOLUTELY NOT a guarantee that you’re going to get more post views and/or interaction. Why? Well…

  • Interest lists require an extra step in the action sequence, not once – but twice. First, when someone decides to like your page, they have to make the choice whether or not to add you to an interest list. Then, when they’re viewing their feed, they have to make the call to open/view a list. With the prevailing quick preview and scan manner of viewing content, that second step might actually mean you lose follower views and interaction.
  • Even with an interest list, especially if you simply have one large list, no one’s going to scroll through screen after screen of content. Sure, if you post often, you have a better chance of your content showing up within a few scrolls. But that’s the same with the feed itself. Again, that extra click to open the list is key.
  • Interest lists have no sort options, so it’s simply timing of posts and number of pages in a list that determine where your post shows up.

And lastly, these pleas to help you out because Facebook has let you down are akin to begging. Would you do business with someone who, based on very short and often casual business connection, essentially whined and complained about their inability to be heard? Of course you wouldn’t. So, why would you resort to that kind of behavior yourself?

I’ve often said there’s no easy solution to getting your message heard. As with any other type of marketing, hard work, dedication, trial and error and good old effort play the deciding role in your message, product or service being seen. It’s the same when you’re marketing with social media. You have to spend your time in the trenches, liking and sharing, taking part in discussions, researching great content to share, generating new ideas that create your own content, etc. Time and effort, creating and cultivating good, interested and strong connections – that’s the key. And it’s not a simple, fast, or immediate solution. It’s something you’ll have to put into practice and effect for the long term.

If the interest list was the end all, be all solution, we’d have heard this quite a while back, when interest lists first made their appearance. Sadly, though…this is another of those poorly researched solutions run amok. It’s simply being shared, rather than scrutinized for actual value and merit. As with many memes and top tips, it gets shared with the intent of assisting and aiding, when – in reality, it simply isn’t helpful.

Increase Productivity with IQTell

How many of us social space professionals are constantly searching for a way to increase our productivity in this fast paced world we live in. There never seems to be enough time to completely get everything done without getting up early and staying up late. Well I can say that I have found a tool (app) that has greatly increased my productivity, and made my life much more organized. Let me say that I have used numerous different time management tools in the past, but this one really seems to go beyond the time management, virtual assistant role. Let me introduce….

Productivity

IQTell the Beta…and Beyond

A while back (maybe a year ago) I was invited via Twitter to check out IQTell. At that time the IQTell team was having issues getting things to work. But over time, it became clear that the IQTell team stuck with it, and now have a worthy, well thought out product. IQTell goes way beyond integrating email, tasks and calendars etc, which it does well:

  • One feature I love is that ALL my emails come together under IQTell, as do my calendars and integrate nicely with my tasks etc.
  • It works closely with Google, as well as Evernote, which is a big plus for me. Love my Evernote….
  • One of the outstanding features is the “actionable” tab within the email space. With any email you can apply an “action” such as link to a reminder for a phone call return, calendar event, task, existing project etc. It really does keep that old email inbox from getting out of hand.
  • To make things even more awesome, I can link Evernote entries to my tasks within IQTell. For example, I use Evernote to keep blog notes, I have three separate Notes for each of my three blogs. I put notes and blog ideas in my Evernote folders which are accessable from any of my devices. I have a Note “Steamfeed” and when I had the idea for this blog, I placed it through Evernote neatly into the my Steamfeed “to do” task. In fact you can quickly and easily place emails, phone numbers, Evernotes, and more into any task as they come to you.

One of the added advantages of using IQTell is that they send IQTell tips each week. There is so much that this app does that it is impossible to get a handle on it all at once. Like most things awesome, it takes time. I keep the weekly tips in a folder and refer back to them often. I have a growing manual and user guide at my fingertips. I have to admit that the team at IQTell is pretty impressive as well, rarely do you have to wait for a response, and rarely do they not fix any issues on the first run. Come to think of it, rarely have I had an issue.

I DO hesitate to call IQTell a time management, or virtual assistant app simply because it does so much more. I DO invite you all to give it a whirl, I am still finding things that it will do to make me much more organized, and productive, which gives me more time for a life….oh and I did I mention…. IT’S FREE….

Are there other time management/productivity apps you would recommend checking out? Please leave a comment below!

Integrate Your Marketing to Maximize Your Dollar

Simply put, traditional marketing isn’t enough today.

I’ve had businesses in the past call me to help put out a direct mail piece. “All I want is to say I’ll help fix their snowblower for winter”…. So I ask some more detailed questions, “Who is it going to?” “What message do you want to send?” “Where will it take them?” “What is the call to action?”. Sometimes the response was, “Huh, I didn’t think of that.” Most of the time they didn’t care about those questions and wanted to send it to EVERYone. That’s like pointing a shotgun in the opposite direction of your target and hoping some of the shot meet the target. Not happening.

I’m sure we’ve heard or done this ourselves; “I created a Facebook page, had no strategy, I don’t engage it much and no one is liking it! I put a sign out front that we have a Facebook page! Social Media doesn’t work!” Yeah, I see why.

If you want your business to grow these days, you have to create a strategy with your marketing. Oh, there are those rare businesses that open their doors and the business comes streaming in, but that is the exception. Your strategy can’t surround your 13 year old son because he’s “good at Facebook and good with computers.” Seriously, I know a business that is using that strategy. Your strategy also can’t be done on the cheap. There are plenty of things you can do within a budget.

Maximize your budget by using integrated marketing communications

In order to maximize your dollar and get the most exposure is using what is called integrated marketing. Put simply, it is combining every form of advertising and communication into one strategy, spread across various forms of media. It’s no longer enough just to “get the name out there” and hope for the best. There needs to be consistency, targeted messaging, a plan and an end goal to a marketing plan.

Here is an example. A widget maker creates a video that happens to go viral which has an embedded link to an online survey. There is an incentive given to complete the survey (maybe a gift certificate or a percentage off an order of widgets). The widget maker analyzes the data to determine who is most likely to purchase their product. They then create a new marketing campaign targeted to who their data said was their most likely buyer. Profits grow, bells ring, angels sing. It’s not always that easy, but you get the idea. It does take a risk and an investment. Sometimes it won’t work as planned. Sometimes the campaign needs to be tweaked and done again. Ultimately, the right combination of media will work and there will be a sweet spot of engagement, growth, understanding and attention given to your company’s brand.

So, what can you do now to try and integrate your marketing?

  • Send out a direct mail piece by purchasing a targeted list of individuals or businesses. Use that piece to drive traffic to a social media account. Be prepared, however to begin to engage with the new followers. No one remembers a company or brand if they’re not actively engaging their followers
  • Create a viral video to direct viewers to a landing page on your website. Create some funky, creative campaign that rewards the user somehow
  • If you have a new product coming out, try getting the entire company involved by handing out cards or little trinkets that create buzz in the community about “something BIG is coming”
  • At a trade show or expo? Create a hashtag contest over Twitter and make the prize something really cool that the winner will want to tell everyone about
  • Use augmented reality in some paper advertising to spread a message to mobile device users

Those are just a few examples of integrated marketing techniques you can use to get the message out about your company. What else can you think of? Leave your comments below.

A New Entrepreneur Needs Your Advice

How many hesitate starting a business for fear of losing everything? Statistics indicate the odds are not in favor of new startups, with the failure rate as high as 70%. So, why bother at all? To answer this question, let us look at a real life example – a close friend of mine who recently decided to launch his own venture.

Meet Kevin the Engineer

Kevin is a gifted engineer who makes $140,000 a year. Over the last 3 years, he has been itching to start a consulting business and has taken every opportunity to pick my brain in preparation. Yet, he always found a convenient excuse to put on the breaks the moment he was ready to launch.

This time, however, he has incorporated, formed alliances with large contractors, is actively lining up customers and filling his pipeline. He is scheduled to start his first independent contract in early 2013. His plans are well thought out and methodical – far more than my own when I started out several years ago. Why are things so different this time?

The Final Straw

Kevin receives calls from recruiters several times a month, which he usually ignores. But a few months ago, a call from a competing company caught his attention. They proposed a position with a more significant leadership role, more pay and a shorter commute. After more than 20 years in his industry, Kevin knows his worth and set his price at 180k per year. Though he was told his number was within range, the written offer came in much lower at 150k. He realized he had hit a ceiling in his career. Even worse, his employer recently announced plans to downsize his department.

Most would think, thank God he had another lined up, but Kevin decided on a different course. He needed to see how far above the ceiling he could go. This provided the final push he needed to step into the world of small business.

The Risks

Kevin has a wife who is a stay at home mom, young children and a new mortgage. Before buying the new house, he had a significant amount of savings but the purchase ate up a big chunk of the funds. For most, this would not be the best time to venture out on their own, and even I questioned his timing.

Then I asked Kevin a question that crystallized everything for both of us. “Assuming the worst and you fail miserably, how difficult would it be for you to find another job earning as much as you earn now?”

Without hesitation Kevin replied, “Not hard at all.” He went on for several minutes explaining why it would be easy, and his arguments were convincing. His numerous connections and stellar reputation as a leader in his field makes him a target for companies hungry for talent. This helped him realize starting his business was a no brainer, and inaction was riskier than the possibility of failing. Then, my favorite Mark Twain quote came to mind:

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.”

So, What Are Kevin’s Chances?

I am optimistic about Kevin’s chances of succeeding. His preparation and planning go far beyond the typical new entrepreneur. He has advisors with expertise in law, accounting and business management, allowing him to focus on what he does best. Every conceivable piece of paperwork you can think of has been scrutinized. His emergency nest egg, though not as large as before, is more than what most new business owners start with. He also studies my book as if preparing for a final exam. More important is his willingness to embrace the role of entrepreneur, spending the majority of his time promoting his services as he transitions out of his current job. The same companies that tried recruiting him in the past are eager to hire him as a contractor. One of them already has a large project waiting for him.

Never have I had more respect or admiration for Kevin than I do now. How many people would turn down a $150,000 a year job to start a business in today’s economy? How many would take this type of a chance on themselves and go after what they really want? This is not theory or motivational hype. He is a true to life example of those who actually do it.

Still, Kevin is my friend who’s kids play with mine. Our wives know each other and we hang out at each other’s homes. This is not like advising just any entrepreneur. If things go wrong, I will have a front row seat to the drama, which is why I decided to reach out to the SteamFeed community.

So, what is your advice for Kevin? I have directed him to this post so he can benefit from the vast amount of wisdom and experience of this growing community. Go to the comments section, chime in, and let’s help create one more successful entrepreneur.

Godspeed and I look forward to seeing you in The Players Lounge.

Build a Social Media Community without a Credit Card

So as many of you know the creation of SteamFeed.com was based on the intrusion of what have become known as “fauxperts” into the social space. A lot of information has been shared by the SteamFeed authors about what NOT to do when building a social media community. I thought it might be a good idea to take some time and discuss some things you CAN do to build that community. Keep in mind that there are some common fundamental goals and outcomes that you are trying to achieve. However, how you get the results can vary greatly. Of course the use of a credit card in purchasing followers, friends, seeds etc is not something you want to pursue. Lets look at some alternatives.

purchasing social media community

Be “Social”

There is a reason that it is called “social” media. It is not referred to as wallflower, or shy media. The first and most important part of this endeavor is to be social. Common sense dictates obvious stuff, engage and involve yourself with your community. Example, if you post something like, ” just had a chicken taco at so and so taco place, which is your favorite taco? Chicken, fish, beef, pork?” Be there to engage with your community as they answer your question. Try this, go to a party, ask the group of folks you are with a question, and then just walk away showing no interest in their answers. Think you’ll be invited back? It’s the same with social media – be there, be interested, be involved. *Just a note at this point, be aware that this takes time – time out of your day to day, time to build your community.

Some tools to get the job done.

Here is where things are more to a personal preference. Keep in mind that ones choices here should revolve around results, and with any luck enjoyment. I say enjoyment solely because any activity if perceived as fun, will not be approached as “work”, but that is purely an extra added bonus if achieved. You have a lot of options here. Let’s name a few, and see what strikes your fancy.

1. Some Platforms

Of course there is FaceBook and Twitter, probably the best known engagement avenues, but what about LinkedIn, Pinterest, G+, Scoop.it, Storify, Youtube, Quora, Twylah, Rebelmouse, Instagram, Path, Stumbleupon etc, etc, etc. Really this particular list can go on forever depending on your interests. Whatever platform you choose, go all in. FB, Twitter and LinkedIn all offer wonderful opportunity to take engagement to the next level by joining in chats or discussions related to specific topics. These pinpoint topic directed sessions gives one a wonderful opportunity to make friends, and share information with folks with similar interests. Wherever there is an option to “follow”, take the time to seek out like minded people and follow them, as well as interact with them.

2. What about a blog?

Another great way to increase interactivity in a community is to start a blog. Not everyone is an award winning author, but that is not necessarily your goal in blogging. Write about your interests, write from your heart, and don’t be afraid to let people know who you are out in your blog posts. Blogging is not solely about outbound information. You can write wonderful, moving blogs, and not get the desired results if you don’t engage others in your bogging community. Remember you are building a community, that will mean reading other blogs, and commenting on those blogs. By commenting I am not referring to “nice blog, thanks.” I am talking a heartfelt, honest response to the post. Whatever platform you choose for your blog – Posterous, WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr etc. – they all offer opportunity to follow other bloggers, and a chance to build a community. Take those opportunities.

3. Podcast???

Don’t like to write, what about a podcast – all you need to do for that is talk. Options are a plenty in this arena as well. Whether it be a recorded or live event there are numerous options for podcast platforms. How effective do you think asking a colleague or friend to be a guest on your podcast is going to be? What a cool way to meet new folks, and get to know friends better. Once again a perfect opportunity to build a community by sharing experience, ideas, and knowledge. That word, “sharing”, it comes up a lot in social media.

Clearly there are numerous ways to build that social media community without the use of a credit card. No matter which one or ones you choose. The common ingredient is going to be involvement, engagement, interaction, whatever you want to call it, you need to be present. Forget about the numbers and concentrate on the engagement. If you put the work in, you will get the results. After all, when you went to college you didn’t get a diploma after the first day simply for signing up for classes. It took a lot of hard work, same thing here folks. Be involved with your community, be a friend, be social.

What advice would you give to someone trying to build up their community? Please leave a comment below!

Why (and How) to Join Tweetchats

Tweetchats are special gatherings that happen on Twitter.

They’re driven by a hashtag that charactertizes the conversation topic, but more importantly, there’s a community around the hashtag that keeps it very much alive.

Tweetchat Cocktail PartyTweetchats are extremely informative, keep you up to date on current trends, supportive and social. I can’t say enough good things about them. A frequently used metaphor to explain Twitter is how it is like a digital cocktail party, but tweetchats truly bring meaning to this description. People even enjoy pretending they’re passing around drinks or munchies (or disclose what they’ve actually brought to the laptop) as they greet each other. Chats are one hour long events that happen at pre-determined times once a week, but the conversation can carry on by using the same hashtag. Plus, if you decide to join one, you’ll find some have Facebook groups.  Most of them have featured guests every week for the audience to interact with, learn and ask questions. You’ll find many industry experts are a lot of fun and thrilled to join the conversation.

Necessities

Other than a pair of limber hands, Tweetchat.com, and setting up a stream in Hootsuite are my favorite tools and usually the most popular. I especially love tweetchat.com because it’s fast, you can feature or block users, pause, set your pace for refreshing speed and it automatically adds the hashtag at the end of your tweet to ensure it shows up in the stream. Log in with your Twitter account and type the hashtag you’d like to follow in the search box. Important: with any tool you use you want to have visibility of mentions so you can respond (it’s not that hard to miss them in a quick tweetchat)!

If you have to use mobile (or prefer it because you have some amazingly strong and fast thumbs) you want to download the app Echofron (available for Apple products). Hootsuite is available for Apple and Droids and offers the same functionality to filter tweets based on the hashtag.

Hashtracking is a neat analytics tool if you’re a numbers kind of person or needs to deliver them. Features include information on impressions, reach, tweets, the top participants and influencers that were involved with the chat.

How many do I want to attend?

Before you start participating, you might want to “lurk” by following the stream to get an idea. Most first impressions are overwhelmed with the speed (but it becomes manageable)!  How many you should attend a week is your decision. People can go high in double digits while some stick with a couple a week. Chats are either scheduled during the workday or evenings.

Personally, I was addicted once I started. It was an unbelievable way to improve my knowledge, ask questions and make righteous friends I’ve had the honor of meeting in real life (or intend to). I go to Twitter to….hang out! Just like you go to a friend’s house, coffee shop or book club. It does take up a chunk of your time so after many months, I started narrowing it down to a just a few a week. Just one can enrich your online experience. I stay in touch with people or moderators I’ve bonded with out of tweetchats. After all, as Dan told us, we don’t abandon relationships!
 

Which tweetchats do I go to?

Some of the killer social media and marketing tweetchats with amazing, intelligent, kind and welcoming moderators include:

  • #MobileChat – @MarketingMusing & @Redeapp – This is somewhat new, and is growing rapidly. Learn about the trends and future of mobile (Wednesdays 9 PM EST)
  • #MediaChat – @kilby76 – About online media, new apps and anything media related! Full of #bacon lovers. (Thursdays 10 PM EST)
  • #BlogChat – @MackCollier – Tips and strategies to improve personal and corporate blogging. (Sundays 9 PM EST)
  • #AWEtalk – @margieanalise – The Mojo Diva helps women entrepreneurs with their millionarieness mojo, but cool guys are welcome! (Mondays 11 PM EST)
  • #PinChat – @Tribe2point0 – For avid Pinterest users to share information, trends and more. (Fridays 9 PM EST)
  • #LinkedinChat – @LinkedinExpert – All things you want to know on LinkedIn. (Tuesdays 8 PM EST)
  • #Brandchat – Variety of topics related to managing and growing brands – corporate, non-profits, etc. (Wednesdays 11 PM EST)

I could go on and on. Actually, there is this giant Google document floating around with hundreds of chats, names and times but I recommend doing personal research. You can ask your peers for suggestions that fits your interests. Do keyword research on Twitter and see what hashtags appear.  After some listening you will notice some tweets are populated with certain hashtags more than others.

List.ly has an amazing list of resources to help your expedition! Store this link.

What if I can’t find a tweetchat I’m interested in?

Well, well. That is a fine opportunity for you to begin your own! I still strongly encourage you gain experience in tweetchats and establish (or maintain) an active presence on Twitter.  With over 700 chats to date for various industries, causes and groups, there’s likely something for you. But if you can dedicate yourself and bring fresh ideas (and hashtag), it’s a remarkable way to build your community base, promote your brand and business. Check out this great guide to hosting a chat.

You’re going to have a blast. Please feel free to ask us if you want more names for chats for social media and marketing. If you have some you’re fond of then share the details in your comment! 

What’s your favorite tweetchat? 

 

The Importance of Social Media Content Calendars

Social media can be quite an overwhelming to-do list of items. One can easily be buried, never to be seen again.

Whether you work in business to business or business to consumer or even consumer to consumer, social media is a daunting task of content, engagement and creating an experience that facilitates the customer journey. Where engagement can be rather simple in starting, continuing or taking a conversation to the next level, content is difficult. There are always many options for content, whether this be video, podcasts, written blogs, or photos.

Content Calendar

Introducing the content calendar!

Content calendars are a staple of the social media content marketer. Underutilized, social media content calendars are one of many ways for marketers to stay focused and organized on how they market to their audience. Taken to its full potential, a social media content calendar will help marketers stay on task so that they can focus on all the other things that they need to do.

Some tips on creating a social media content calendar:

1. Work with a schedule that works for you: Some marketers can get away with pushing content at least once a day, some more. Others find themselves so busy that pushing content once a week is optimal. Whichever the case, work with a content schedule that works for you and does not leave you stressed.

2. Figure out what content works best for you: Some people look great on video, others not so much. Some people have great voices, and others not so much as well. Figure out what content works best for you and go from there. If that type of content creation allows you to be efficient, move forward with it!

3. Have Fun: Putting together a content calendar allows for creativity, such as planning your next campaign or creating a useful series to educate others. Make sure you have fun – and you will! The burden of creating great content will be lifted off of you, now that you know what direction to move forward in!

Do you use a social media calendar? Leave a comment below!

Social Media’s Spin on PR

I am not old enough to remember when PR first came about, however it seems to me those that do still think PR is about control.

News Flash: Publications no longer own the flow of media. Breaking news is no longer delivered via newspapers that arrive on your doorstep a day after the event. News breaks on Twitter; news is shared and discussed on Facebook, not the water cooler.

Just to clarify, when I say PR I am referring to Public Relations. Hmm, that word “public” what do you suppose that means? Is that like the general public, like you and I?

Old School PR used to be about control, PR agencies guarded their (1) Media Contacts as if they were the last spec of food on earth. To them, it was all about access. PR professional have writing skills, tried and true from writing (2) Press Releases to share at just the right moment. Wait for it… sharing news, events, and new product launches, takeovers, etc. all things that are now shared instantly on the web. When I was in advertising we would partner with PR agencies to handle (3) Crisis Management, this was back in the day when companies had days and weeks to craft a response. Today, companies now have minutes and seconds to respond before the public shares their thoughts.

As you can see, the role of PR has evolved much like the world of marketing, advertising and communications in general. So, what does this mean for you and your business?

It means you now have the ability with social media to handle your own PR. I will demonstrate how you can use social media to handle 3 of the above outlined roles of old school PR agencies.

(1) Connections are no longer just made (IRL) in-person; they can start and be forged by way of social media. Who hasn’t reunited with an old acquaintance, friend or relative via Facebook? Our networks go way beyond a Rolodex or black book; we can now utilize LinkedIn or Twitter to isolate professionals with similar interests and experiences. Here’s the biggest change, it’s about sharing and spreading the word as fast as possible to as many people as possible. It’s not about waiting for the right time to share news. Remember the control is in the hands of the masses; it’s no longer with publications looking for exclusivity. Exclusivity is old news.

Resource: How To Build Powerful Social Media Connections

(2) With the ease and popularity of blogging and social media, companies both big and small can create and share their own content. What does this mean? Brands have the resources and ability to promote (share) all aspects of their business from their culture, product lines, events and updates to just name a few. Besides that fact that this helps you build relationships with your customers, it allows you to influence what the public sees and hears about your brand. Public Relations was and is still about assisting a company to represent themselves in the best possible light in the eyes of the public, especially the companies target market. The web has drastically changed the way consumers gather information, as a society we have all become accustomed to deciding when and where we find our information. Search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo are often the first places consumers turn to find out more about an individual, a company or a product. By creating a steady flow of content, between blogs, social media posts, website updates, videos, pictures and more, you will be influencing what results your prospects stumble upon organically. Breaking News: Content is king.

Resource: Invest Long-Term In Your Brand

(3) Now how about monitoring what people are saying about your brand? I remember the days when interns used to gather local and national papers to comb them for mentions of clients. There has got to be a better way, don’t you think? Of course there’s Google’s free resources ranging from good old fashion search results to Google Alerts. In fact monitoring your brand has never been easier; I mean the results literally come to your inbox. As for social media monitoring, each network has its tools as well as 3rd party apps such as Hootsuite (my personal preference). All of these tools allow you to be aware of what your customer and the general public are saying about your brand. The best way to avoid a crisis is to not be blindsided, make sure you are monitoring both the web and social media. Try and  make this a daily habit.

Resource: How To Set Up Your Hootsuite Dashboard So You’re Always Listening

Now, what about Relation(ships)?

The art of Public Relations is about building relationships, worldwide and locally. From a business and brand’s perspective, I cannot think of another medium that allows big and small brands to interact and relate to their customers 1-on-1 the way social media does. What other medium allows you to reach masses all the while talking and listening to individuals? Yeah, so I think this social media thing is a game changer. #justsaying

Take-Away: Is PR still relevant today? Sure, they can play a part just like anyone else. But I want you to understand that you have options, and ability as an individual to handle PR for yourself and your company through the use of social media. This time the control is in your hands.

I’d love to hear how you use social media for PR purposes.

Are Successful Entrepreneurs Just Lucky?

Welcome to the Platitude-Free Zone

This blog post is intended to start a conversation with entrepreneurs, aspiring entrepreneurs, and the people who invest money with entrepreneurs. I would like us to have a real discussion about what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur (however you define success)–free of platitudes and “conventional wisdom.”

My vision for this post is, via your comments, we will inspire one another to reach a little higher for our goals, dig a little deeper for strength, and reflect internally a little more deliberately for clarity of purpose and mission.

You’ve Determined You ARE an Entrepreneur. Now What? 

I’m no expert on entrepreneurship. Really, I’m just a dude with a dollar-er-fifty cents-and a dream. And I am working incredibly hard to launch my start-up, WeMontage.

Maybe you determined you’re an entrepreneur after reading one of the many blog posts that force you to ask yourself a few tough questions before you take the plunge. Or maybe, like me, you knew all along, but forgot the truth and suddenly had an “epiphany” that led you back to it.

Either way, once you take that first step toward entrepreneurship, there is no guarantee you will be successful.

So What Does It Take To Be A Successful Entrepreneur?

This question seems to be the rub.

We’ve all read the self-help books and seen pithy quotes from our heroes about what it takes to be successful (here’s a great site for quotes and inspiration). Maybe some of you, like me, keep up with the latest trends in the “science” of entrepreneurship (e.g., The Lean Startup movement) and know the importance of having a great team and a killer business model.

I’m sure some of us lean on our faith or spiritual teachings to shine the light on the path to success and rely on blessings to lead us on the way. I’ve done all of the above, yet I am no closer to a definitive answer to the question. Am I cynical? Perhaps.

I did, however, stumble upon the following quote and it struck a chord deep within me:

“A true entrepreneur can’t imagine living a life any way other than on their own terms. Their success is, metaphorically, a life or death situation. If you feel the entrepreneur inside of you screaming every time you’re forced to suppress an idea, then it’s a matter of life or death for you. Every time you suppress your inner entrepreneur, a piece of it will die.” – Liz Seda, Lifestyle Designer and Entrepreneur

So, after speaking with several entrepreneurs over the years and taking my shots at entrepreneurship, I’m left with only one reasonable answer to the question: luck. You need to be lucky. I’m ok defining luck as a blessing from God, or being in alignment with ‘The Universe,” or it’s where hard work meets opportunity. However you want to define it, I’m good with that.

After you’ve gone all in with your resources for your idea, put together the best possible management team, worked tirelessly, turned over every stone, designed a killer business model, and tested and validated your idea, I believe it takes luck to be successful; something that is completely out of your control. Luck. That’s it.

I’m not saying I’m right about this. It’s just my opinion and I’ve got lots of them (just ask my wife :-) ). If you have a different one I’d love to read it in the comments section below.