To Social Media or Not to Social Media

idea

I’m often asked “should I be doing social media?”  Teachers, athletes, corporate executives, doctors, and lawyers all struggle with answering this question. And even if they’ve answered “yes”, they still need to decide just how active they want to be. Jumping into the realm of social media requires time, knowledge, and consistency.

Here are some reasons why you should participate in social media regardless of your occupation:
1. More than 1 billion people on Facebook
2. Nearly 300 million LinkedIn users
3. More than a billion people watch more than 6 billion hours of YouTube every month
4. A quarter of a billion people on Twitter

Need more reasons why you should get involved with social media? Here goes:
1. News and world events are unfolding on social media often times faster than they hit traditional media. Accidents, disasters, and gossip, all originate via social media channels first before the Main Street media picks it up.
2. Sales, offers, deals, etc are all launched on social media. See ads for Nordstrom, Jos. A. Bank, Macy’s, and even your local bakery via Twitter, Facebook, or a daily blog.
3. Embrace technology and the new communication of the world. You can fight it all you want but social media is not just here to stay but is growing. New social media platforms are being born all the time. Think Instagram and selfies.
4. Social media is where your friends, family, customers and prospects are hanging out. It’s where conversations begin, problems are voiced and solutions are provided. Many companies are employing a social media staff to build a community they can engage and learn from. It provides these companies with real-time insight into the customers wants, needs, problems, etc.

How should you get started? Here are a couple of ideas:
1. If you’re a business person you MUST have a LinkedIn profile. This profile must be complete with a photo and contain sufficient background information. Less formal than a resume, yet powerful enough to provide the reader with a clear view of who you are and your capabilities, interests, and accomplishments. Join some groups. There is a group for just about any of your interests. Join and participate in their discussion boards, or better yet start a discussion of your own.
2. Tweet. Set up a Twitter account and Tweet. HubSpot, a major Inbound Marketing firm, suggests tweeting 5 – 7 times each day throughout the day. Anything less than that is insufficient. Once you set up your Twitter handle look for people to “follow”. You’ll find that those you follow will open your door to followers of you. Tweet relevant content. Stay away from personal, emotional tweets. Don’t drink and tweet as your comments once posted live forever and can be found by any one.
3. Set up a Facebook page. Yes Facebook is a bit more personal than LinkedIn or Twitter but you must have one. Prospects you’re targeting, if you’re a business, or customers you’re trying to learn from are all on Facebook. If you’re not there, rest assured one of your competitors is.

Jump in. Get involved. You’ll be amazed at how much you learn and how many doors begin to open.

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Mixing Personal with Professional – Can it be done?

Mixing Personal with Professional – Can it be done?.

Mixing Personal with Professional – Can it be done?

cross the line

Recently I was asked this question:  I’ve always tried to keep Facebook private and personal and not let it cross over into LinkedIn or Twitter…you know, keep my personal stuff separate from my professional side.  What do you think?”.

Well for many of you you’re not going to like my answer.  You can’t keep them separate.  Technology and social media have evolved such that your life – personal and professional – is open for review by any one at any time.  It’s as simple as that.  If you party hard and post pictures on Facebook, accompanied by drunken tweets, you’re putting yourself in harm’s way professionally…even if you think your profiles are personal.  So what should you do?

  1. Accept the fact that if it’s online anywhere, it’s everywhere.
  2. Show and post only what you’re comfortable seeing on the front page of the newspaper the next morning…or having to explain to your parents, friends, spouse, etc.  If you’re not comfortable seeing what you’ve done on the front page of the morning news, don’t post it.  Better yet, don’t do it.
  3. Definitely bring your personal side into your professional.  People like to do business with people.  What’s more, people like to do business with people they trust and find interesting.  Don’t be afraid to tweet or blog about a tough workout if you love fitness, or the 200 game you bowled Saturday night.  Those are the details that make you approachable and help build your overall street cred.
  4. Focus on the facts when you’re tweeting, Facebooking, or placing something on LinkedIn.  If you oppose Healthcare Reform, site facts and statistics that make your case.  Don’t take to name calling as it discredits you as a person.  As they say, it’s hard to argue with facts.  Keep the emotion out of it.  If you believe we should have a flat tax in the U.S., do some digging and find some good articles that support your view and share them.  The more thoughtful and educated of a comment you share, the more likely people will entrust you with their thoughts, comments, feelings, or business.

Be who you are.  Just be conscious that not everything is noteworthy, news worthy, or worth sharing with the world.  There are many things in life that should remain private to you, your friends, and your families.  It’s up to you to ensure that privacy level remains intact.

A Few Thoughts On Change

Change

I recently had an interaction with a group of folks embarking on a new change.  Like most recipients of change there was hesitation and apprehension. Normal emotions that typically accompany change. When we are faced with change it’s human nature to question, doubt, fear, and distrust the impending change. First reactions are often negative with a sense of “OMG what now!”.

Years ago I had a boss teach me a method for adapting to change. I have used this technique several times and have found it to be calming, enlightening, and in many cases beneficial in helping me adapt to the change I was facing. It all starts with changing your paradigm on change.

Life’s biggest change-fests include getting a new job, a new boss, having a new child, getting married for the first time (and hopefully the only time), starting a new school, making new friends, or working with a new agency partner. All these changes bring a level of stress that includes many of the emotions I listed above. One way to eliminate those butterflies in your stomach when facing change is by asking yourself one question. Resist the urge to predict the future this change will create and ask yourself one simple question: What good will this change bring me?

A new job can bring new and exciting experiences. A new boss can provide new insights, coaching, development, and opportunities. Changing to a new school opens the doors to new friends, programs, activities. Getting married provides stability, support, love, and a safe place to land when you need one. All changes bring opportunities. Unfortunately, and most likely due to past experiences, we tend to immediately go to the negative when it comes to how we perceive change.

Remember this. Nothing improves without changing something. Tide, Crest, Cadillac, Apple, Wegmans, Nordstrom are all companies that continue to innovate and change, and it’s in these changes that these companies prosper and flourish. The same is true with people. Phil Mickelson changes his approach and improves his golf game. Peyton Manning changes his training routine and improves his passing efficiency. No matter what the case, change has to occur before things can get better. So next time you’re faced with a change don’t panic. Just ask yourself, “how will this change benefit me”. Not will it benefit but how. Assume it’s for the good and it will be.

Supercharge Your Results With 3 Easy Steps

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A new year is around the corner and there’s no better time than now to start thinking about how to juice your performance in 2014. Whether this past year has been an incredible success, terrible failure, or plain old mediocre, in a matter of days you’ll receive a wonderful gift…the chance to do it all over again! And herein lies a choice you must make. Do things the same and most likely get the same results or mix things up and push for a different outcome. Hey, even if this past year was outstanding, and what you accomplished impressed even you, why let up? You can do more, accomplish greater results, and push yourself to new limits. Here’s how you can supercharge your results in 2014:

1. Pick 1 area or topic and go deep. If you’re in the B2B space brush up on healthcare reform, the unemployment numbers, or interest rates. If you’re in B2C think about what trends the Consumer Confidence Index suggests. The skies the limit.  Your competition is fierce and getting tougher by the day. They’re looking for ways to differentiate themselves from you, and your company, by adding value. If you simply focus on being the best salesperson, marketer, service manager, etc for your company, and not open your eyes to the world around you, soon you will be chasing the pack. Those that excel and reach the top will look different by acting differently.
2. Make 1 more call a day. Tap into your network and use it. Call one person from your network everyday. It doesn’t need to be an hour phone call. A short 15 minute check-in can provide insights, perspectives, and ideas. You should build your network to include a wide range of people within your industry, outside of your industry, blue-collar, white-collar, etc.  Just like your investment portfolio requires diversity, so does your network.  Make it one of your top priorities to meet people and develop relationships.
3. Spend 15 minutes of alone time each day. We all need time to think. Time to recharge, time to reflect, time to create. Taking a few minutes every day is critical to your success. The human brain is the fastest processor of information on the planet, however, unlike a computer that can run for an unlimited amount of time, human beings need to shut down to rest their brain. Just like an athlete requires “recovery” time for their muscles, we all need recovery time for our brains. Take the time, block it out, put it on your calendar and think…just think. Think about your goals, where you are relative to each of them, and the actions you’ve taken to get you this far. Think about where you want to go to next and some of the steps you may need to take to get there.

Try doing each of these activities and see how quickly your results improve. And when they do let me know!

Know When to Hold ’em and Know When to Fold ’em

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Work not going well? You’ve been there a while but lately you seem to be spinning your wheels. You have several important projects or initiatives you’re responsible for but you still feel a bit…unfulfilled…numb. Is it time to look for a new job? Would a change in your environment really make a difference? What if you make a change and things don’t get better? Or the all-time favorite justification for staying put – “there’s no perfect job”.

While I don’t suggest job-hopping, I do believe that life’s simply too short to be unhappy, unchallenged, unfulfilled…or numb. Taking charge and owning your happiness and completeness is up to you and you alone. No one is going to do it for you. No boss will ever come to you offering to do all they can to make you happy. Remember you’re employed by them for a reason – to accomplish their goals as they are disseminated from on high.

So how do you know if the sand in the hourglass is gone and it’s time to move on? Answer the following questions to give you an indication if it’s time.

1. How excited are you to get up and go into work each day? No excitement? Boring? Drab? Dreadful? Or are you emotionally charged, eager, and ready to tear it up each day?
2. Where is your energy level at 10 am each day? Does your energy drain early in the day? Do you feel ready go get out of there before the lunch bell rings?
3. How friendly is your relationship with your boss? Do you interact on an as-needed basis or do you spend time informally simply chatting about stuff in general?
4. What words do you use to describe your co-workers? Do you consider them friends, partners, confidants? Or do you view them as snipers hiding in bushes, adversaries with sinister intentions?
5. Is the quality of your work outstanding? Do you feel like you’re delivering a masterpiece everyday or are you going through the motions? Are you still growing and learning new things that help improve your craft or are you stale, stalled, or going backward?
6. How much time do you spend thinking about or admiring other companies? Do you look at other companies with a wanting eye? Do you rush to the news stand to purchase Fortune’s, 100 Best Places to Work, issue  when it comes out?
7. Do your dinner conversations every night turn to work? Are you constantly talking about how bad things are at the office? How under-appreciated you are? How much your boss takes you for granted?

Life isn’t perfect and neither is work. For me it simply boils down to 3 things: Am I being challenged every day? I am learning? Do I like and trust the people I work with? Am I connected to my boss on a personal level? These may not be your 4 metrics and if they’re not I strongly suggest you identify what yours are. Without knowing what will make you happy, you will never find happiness. It all starts with you!

The Ivory Tower Vs. The Customer

ivory tower

Throughout my career I have observed a significant disconnect between C-Suite executives and the customer. I have often wondered why the people with the most power to influence change seem to go to extremes to avoid direct contact with their customers. Meetings are held, strategies are developed, and plans are made all in the name of doing the right thing for the customer – responding to their needs. But how do these executives know what their customers want? They haven’t talked to their customers, met with them, or corresponded with them. They gather input from their key lieutenants, assuming they know. But have they met directly with their customers? No. I have found this phenomenon quite intriguing and have developed some insights as to why this happens.

Television shows like Undercover Boss highlight the disconnect between the Ivory Tower and the customer. The CEOs, COOs, or Presidents go “undercover” to see how things are really working in the field…which is a technical term for real life. My only hope is that most of what is seen on television programs like this one are fiction, to at least some extent. If not, we’re all in big trouble if our executives are that disconnected from the real world.

I believe there are 3 reasons many executives avoid meeting or interacting directly with their customers preferring to take refuge in their Ivory Tower. These reasons tend to be driven more by the executives emotions that tangible difficulties of scheduling time to be in the field. My observations of why these senior executives avoid direct customer interaction include:

1. Already paid dues
2. Fear of not being able to solve the customer’s problem
3. Fear of embarrassment in front of sales or service representatives

Some executives feel they’ve paid their dues and spent enough time in the field as they built their careers creating an imbalance between these aspirations and being truly customer-centric. I’m not saying that focusing on building a career is wrong. What I am saying is that as long as you maintain a genuine focus on the customer career progression usually follows. Once the focus on the customer is lost, in favor of  bigger and better executive perks, an attitude of entitlement develops.

Another reason executives keep out of the field is their fear of not being able to solve the customers problems. Your product isn’t working as advertised, it costs too much, your service is terrible. These are all real life comments I have heard when in the field. They are not easy to deal with especially if the complaint is focused on an area of the business outside of your control. If the Sales executive receives a complaint about service they may feel helpless in providing a satisfactory resolution. But why? One way to eliminate this fear is to build strong relationships with your peers across the business. A simple call to the head of Operations – providing there is a strong and trusting relationship – can quickly provide the resolution necessary to save a client. Many times however these relationships are overlooked or get sidelined in favor of other activities. Life and business are all about relationships. No matter what your level, take the time to foster good relationships at work. You never know when you’ll need them.

Finally I’ve seen first hand how many executives seem to “freeze” when they are in the field with a sales or service representative. Because of the disconnect that exists between the executive and real life, they lose touch with the customer and their ability to empathize is impaired. This impairment becomes visible to the customer and the sales or service representative creating an awkwardness during these encounters. The key to a successful executive field visit lies with the executive’s ability to blend humility with a genuine focus on learning about the customers wants and needs. Showing the sales or service person respect in their arena creates an environment that fosters trust and allows for learning to take place.

How often are your executives in the field? When was the last time your CEO, President, or head of Sales went on a customer visit with you? What do you think the right frequency is for executive field visits? Let me know.