Social Media: “Where is the Beef” – Cleaning out the Noise!

It is about that time…time to re-evaluate and get organized. I have been using Twitter for the last year and a half; and now I am to the point to re-evaluate some things. About a month ago, Spike Jones cleared out his Twitter Account. Well, he actually closed his account for two weeks. Regardless of his intentions and underlying reasons, it got me thinking. What is the value of following close to 3000 people and have the equal number following me? What does that really mean?

When I train organizations to use Twitter for business, I describe “this” social media (Twitter) this way. It is like going to be ole event, say a conference. The people attending are those who you are following. When you walk through the doors of the conference room, you notice those 3000 people talking in groups or even just hanging out. When you walk into the room, you have some purpose for attending. Whether you are there to meet someone, find a group of people, or sit at a table; you make your way through the room, stop and talk with people for a minute. You shake hands, share pleasantries, and even engage for a few minutes in some conversations. You do this as you make your way through the crowd…jumping in and out of conversations. This is how I view Twitter and the conversations I engage while using TweetDeck.

Over time I started using Twitter lists…creating columns of people to watch and enjoy conversations. These conversations are organized in lists based on subjects. The subjects (or columns) I have been watching have evolved…and so have some of the relationships. Those online relationships I had last year have changed in some way whether it may be based on interests or different places professionally.

I use Twitter for BUSINESS. I forge personal relationships and business relationships via Twitter based on business positions. My business is my name (Bobby Rettew, LLC) and my business is both my personal and business life. So “Twitter Means Business” for me!

So…I have re-arranged who I follow, who I have in columns, who I have in lists, and have made a goal to forge new and exciting relationships along with continuing to grow current, strong relationships.

I am getting rid of the noise! Those senseless self, over promoters. Cleaning out the “Snake Oil” and bringing more “beef” to my online interactions.

Oh No – Where Did Social Media Go???

Lately I have been thinking a bit about “The Grid”…you know that thing that keeps us all connected! Imagine waking up one day and you are in Little House on the Prairie…no grid, no iPhone, no iPad, no Internet, no Twitter, no Facebook, no telephones, no television…NO ELECTRONIC TECHNOLOGY! What would we do as a society? Think for a second…the headlines in North Korea have been exposing us to that possibility…and E-Bomb. Something that could potentially knock out even the most un-assuming pieces of technology that we depend on…even fuel injection cars.

No this post is not a conspiracy theorist type of post..just one to think, what if all of this electronic technology was GONE? I think of the Allstate Commercial addressing the economy with the message about getting back to basics. But what if that message had a bigger meaning…basics beyond electronic technology.

What has Social Media taught us that could translate into the Little House on the Prairie scenerio? Think for a second…hmm, it has taught me how to use innovation to build relationships. It has taught us that communities are important for so many reasons..but most importantly how to communicate using new innovation.

So, if right this second someone took an eraser and starting erasing the laptop sitting infront of me, the iPhone in my hand, the telephone at my desk, the server in the closet, the electrcity in the walls…and on and on. I would want to know how my friends I have built connections with on Facebook, Twitter, email, blogs, etc. are doing. I would want to reconnect in a more basic manner. I would want to figure out how to communicate with my grandparents, my friends I established on Twitter who are all over the world, etc.

We would innovate and create new forms of communication or step back and rely on traditional forms of communication to find ways to gather, communicate, share ideas, have a drink, and so on. We might even start writing letters again, you know those good ole fashion hand written letters that might be delivered via a horse or a person driving a car that only uses a carburetor.

We would probably value face-to-face interaction because we cannot quickly get our fix on Twitter where we communicate like someone watching a tennis match. Do we depend too much on electronic communication and forget how to establish and maintain relationships outside of the grid? Have we evolved too much with the grid where we can only create a thought through a keyboard which restricts our critical communication skills necessary in a face to face interaction?

HMM…I wonder. I wonder where we are going? I wonder who will be able to evolve without the grid? Will I be able to or am I conditioned to depend on the iPhone?

When I left broadcast television news back in 2000 to return to graduate school, one thing I did was step back from the grid. I got rid of a cell phone and tried to re-evaluate how I communicate. It was nice not to depend on that device that followed me around… tying me to the grid.

Now…I am dependent upon the grid! This powerful pieces of connectivity that i get thoroughly pissed off when i drive through a “DEAD ZONE” or when my cable modem drops connectivity for ONLY A FEW MINUTES. Oh no, I can’t write a blog, I can’t tweet, I can’t upload a photo….I JUST CAN”T EXPRESS MYSELF…what has the world come to?

But hold on…I am breathing…I can talk…I can shake a hand…I can communicate with my mouth…with my handwriting. I can still express myself.

Have you ever caught yourself saying…what did we do before the Internet? What did we do? Really…what did you do? Maybe we did actually Tweet, maybe using a different method?

I have always explained my conversations in Twitter using this scenario. Imagine showing up for a big conference and you walk into a room filled with close to a thousand people. As you walk through the crowd, you ware walking in and out of conversations…listening to comments as you make you way through. You might stop for a second to chat…then keep on walking, in and out of conversations….until you reach a group you are ultimately there to see. You might still mingle after finding that group, walking in and out of conversations…but ultimately you are there to talk to certain groups…as you are listening to different conversations.

Did I just describe Twitter in a different context…a different paradigm…different physicality? Is Social Media just a technology or a communication method regardless of technology? What is the grid?

Working On and/or In Your Business – The Crucial Distinction!

As a small business owner and an entrepreneur, one of the hardest challenges faced is how to balance time between working in the business and working on the business. That in lies a critical distinction. For a business like mine here in the Upstate of South Carolina, I have to consistently looks for ways to refine and strengthen my business model. I am a Storyteller and I make money off of telling others’s stories using video, digital media, and social media.

If you are self-employeed or own a small business, you have probably started at day one doing both. It goes in cycles, you spend lots of time growing your business and when you take on clients, you then focus on serving those commitments. This is a good business cycle to have, so we should maximize our time and remember that when are not racking up billable hours, we need to grow our business.

Defining our terms:

Working On Your Business
This is when you are spending time and energy away from those billable hours to do the following:

  1. Business Development – seeking out new business opportunities, partnerships, or forging relationships and creating a plan.
  2. Working the Numbers – spending time not only servicing the books (finances) but also thinking strategically how to grow your business financially. Creating budgets for growth areas and contrast them with what is necessary to operate your business.
  3. Marketing – spending time working on your business message and delivering that message to the right audiences, using the right mediums. Creating and evolving your marketing plan and budget.
  4. Seminars/Conferences – spending time to grow as a business owner. Seeking out venues for you to meet like minded people and those who can help you grow.
  5. Rest – spending time away from your business to enjoy family and friends…the things that make you smile. ROR is crucial for reflection and critical for ROI.

Working In Your Business

  1. Generating billable hours – working with your clients to serve or satisfy your contractual obligations
  2. Business Development – executing time to pitch those clients, meeting prospects, generating proposals for your next set of billable hours.
  3. Servicing the Numbers – making sure that you are keeping up with your invoicing, liabilities, expenses, and operating costs. This is crucial to do weekly, monthly, then quarterly to get ready for Uncle Sam and his state friends.
  4. Servicing your relationships – writing thank you notes, taking a client to lunch, making follow-up phone calls, things necessary to be considered your clients “go-to” person.
  5. Marketing – executing daily, weekly, and monthly your marketing strategy.

It is my belief that a small business owner should spend the same amount of time on Working On Your Business as the billable hours your generate when you are working in your business. For every hour you bill a client, you should spend that same amount of time growing your business.

Building a Social Media Presence around Video

Using video is one of those mediums that can really enhance your social media presence and can add so much to your campaign. BUT, you gotta think through this little bag of tricks. If done incorrectly, this integrated marketing tool can make you look like a dummy! (I almost just typed a bad word).

I am not going to talk about message development, that is a whole other ball of wax. I am going to talk about how using video online can help generate traffic, relationships, and enhance your SEO.

First…create a series of short messages around a campaign, event, and idea.  When I mean series, I mean more than 3 different video messages. These need to be targeted at a specific audience and a specific topic. This over-arching theme will bring these messages together.

Second…have a home-base for these video messages.  Whether it is a blog, a video section of your site, or the homepage; these video messages need a home so people can find them within one consistent place.

Third…these video messages need to have a equal treatment in production quality as the message itself. If it is meant to be shaky and  dark…your message better represent the reason why it is shaky and dark. But, be controlled in the delivery of the production quality. The person watching needs to understand your message, the production quality needs to enhance the message not detract.

Fourth…create a channel on YouTube, Blip.tv, or Vimeo to host all of these video messages. Once the messages are created, upload them to these channel and spend time developing the title for each video, the description, and the tags/key words. I sometimes use the URL of the homebase for these messages in the title.

Fifth…schedule a release of these messages. If you have produced 5 of these and you want to share all of them…maybe release them once a week. Use the embed code provided by YouTube, Blip.tv, or Vimeo and place them within the site. Once placed…tell the world!

Sixth…tell the world that they are updated on your home-base. Use TweetDeck and/Hootsuite to regually tell the world that a new video has been updated. Use email marketing and even LinkedIn to tell your spheer of influence that is it live and people can go watch it. Ohh…when you tell them, use the URL where it is located at the home-base and shorten the URL using TweetDeck or Hootsuite. This will allow you to track the clicks. This works well in a blog where you have a specific URL for each blog post.

Seventh…create a discussion around the video that was just updated. Get on your social networks and tell people about the video and ask their opinion about the content, create a discussion.

Eighth…repeat this process. Olivier Blanchard (@thebrandbuilder) talks about consistency and frequency when using new media and social media combined. It is smart thinking.

Blogging is more than just SEO & “Thought-leadership”

I have been really enjoying the conversations lately on #blogchat, hosted by Mack Collier (@mackcollier) on Twitter. The weekly Sunday night chat is wrapped around blogging, and this past week was specifically geared towards monetizing your blog. Why do we blog? Seriously.

Businesses and organizations use blogs for many reasons, but I think it is specifically to position themselves as thought leaders in a specific discipline or arena. It is a great way to have an immediate position on a topic or ideal and generate traffic when audiences are looking to consume information. The ulitmate goal, drive traffic to your “mothership” in the hopes to gain some monetary goal or position a viewpoint to raise some awareness.

My wife has been blogging for over two years. She has no reason what-so-ever to gain any type of moentary position from her posts. She used it as an outlet when dealing with the loss of her mother and our two children. It has become her outlet to articulate thoughts, connect with others, and theraputically sooth the soul.

So why do we blog? I honestly think…we as humans just want to be heard and we want to connect with like minded individuals. Whether it be gaining business from our thoughts or connecting with loved ones, we use it as an outlet to organize thoughts.

So why do we as business owners blog? This is why I am writing this post. It is more than just the SEO perspective. It is more than gaining business from blog posts…even though we will not admit it. Blogs are a place to articulate our thoughts and help us keep focused in our business. This iterative process requires time and thought to critically think, “why are we dedicating time to an outlet in the hopes to generate cash?”

Blogging takes focus! It requires us as business leaders to write a mission statement for the blog. The blog is our sounding board for business, our credibility platform to justify to the world we know what the hell we are talking about. It requires us to define a goal for each post and justify whether it warrants a post, then focus it to specific key words that closely align with our business objectives.

Blogging is our creative outlet to work through creative ideas. Through this online discourse, we find ourselves creating an argument for a great project, a great proposal, a great business plan, or even just get some responses on an idea.

Some of the smartest marketing gurus and most successful business people have successfully found a focused voice in their blog. They have a community of followers, a one stop focus group (or usability testing facility) for ideas and thoughts. They have used their blog as a platform to successfully write their business plan. We should learn from them…because it has probably taken them lots of time and diligence to refine their blog, their online business plan.

Big-box business have a hard time wrapping their heads around how to “monetize” a blog because the voice is way to big. They are having to go micro and use individuals within the organization to focus the objectives. But…they use other marketing platforms to generate their own equitable “SEO”.

Our thoughts are our voice, if focused they will engage those with like minds. When you hear the heavy blogging gurus talk about focus…it is more that just focusing the blog, it is focusing the business of writing the blog.

Entrepreneurs are wanted: InnoVenture 2010

There is something about walking through the halls of innovation. Feeling the overwhelming assurance of our ability to innovate, generate ideas, connect with like minded people, and push forward. There is something refreshing, moving from one hand shake to the next, from one introduction to another, and feeling the sense that connections can help us conquer the possible impossibilities.

This is the “pipeline of game changing opportunities.” John Warner has brought us together, empowered our intellect, inspired our creativity, and provided the platform to “connect together in our enlightened self-interest.”

Why is it that we strive to go attend a two-day event, one that has evolved each year….what are we in search of? Hmm…could it be that we are entrepreneurs at heart? We want more than the status quo, we want to find people that can not only help us solve the problems that seek to understand, but meet people and share. It all starts with a handshake.

As we looked around, we found ourselves in a sea of possibilities, and the room was filled with a sea of problem solvers, seekers, ad diverse set of individuals looking for what we are looking for: the common ground that binds us together…innovation.

Where else can you find a room filled with over 500 people listening to a revolving door of entrepreneurs, big business, big ideas, angel investors, people with solutions, people looking for solutions…a sea of opportunity. Where else can you find more human connection happening faster than the transactions in the Blue Cross Blue Shield server farm. Whether if it was an entrepreneur, a big box business, or someone offering a solution…the isles between the chairs were like the sea waters being split providing an angelic pathway from the crowd to the presenter…connecting diverse groups, talking innovation and collaboration.

I want to be a part of this..yes. I want to take my idea to the next level. I want the assurance that it is possible to find someone to help me develop a plan, guide me to funding, inspire me to keep pushing, ground me in the reality, and cheer with me during my successes. Then, I want to be a part of a place similar to Plato’s Republic…a place of sharing, sharing ideas, sharing knowledge, building our knowledge economy.

Where else can you listen to a wireless information provider talk about distributing video to devices and immediately be followed by a appliance provider thinking about the possibility of having video content provided on the face of a refrigerator. Then, both sitting down side-by-side and having a conversation. WOW!

Where else can I be empowered by the COO of Michelin Americas Research Company to think big about the possibility of reducing friction between the tire and the road for energy efficiency; only after being empowered by a lawyer talking about bringing one of the biggest airliner manufactures into our knowledge economy of South Carolina. Where else can I here from someone who wants to help entrepreneurs connect with Angel Investors right after someone seeking new ideas to present to automakers in Detroit.

It is possible! It is in our DNA! It is in our language. We can do it…we can create this knowledge economy right here in South Carolina and become the poster child for open innovation…globally.

Where else can I have a few brews right beside one the greatest examples of open innovation, bringing the academy and private sector together under a common vision. How inspiring is it to see each person clap and cheer a deserving award, knowing we felt a little closer to those around us because we wanted; hoped one day to be honored by that very award just named. It is like a new fraternity was formed, a fraternity of innovators…we know that feeling, that dream, that reality that we can almost touch.

Thank you John Warner, thank you for connecting us, inspiring us, and creating a language of innovation right here.  The future is right here…among us. Like Dave Bodde said,”Entrepreneurs are wanted!” We are all entrepreneurs…open innovation is fun. The sea of open innovators is right here. Just like Dan Wooster said…”We are story shapers.”

Building a campaign using the “Red-String” of Storytelling

So what is the Red-String when it comes to telling a story? Hmm…well it is the underlying theme that connects all the layers within a story. Bob Dotson of NBC’s American Story talks about telling a good story. A good story is one that is memorable…one with layers. Layers of individual stories bound together by an underlying theme or story-line, hence the “Red-String.”

Think about the best book you have ever read, or one of your favorite movies. It is a bigger story built around little micro-stories connected together by a “Red-String.” Each little scene or story is placed ever so appropriately at the right place, at the right time, in the right sequence to build and “argument” or thought.

Let’s take a look at the “Red-String,” as it is shown here graphically. This is the only way I know how to explain this concept.

As you notice the relationship is somewhat of a linear relationship between the audience’s engagement and time. Over a period of time, the story-line is moving along as the audience engagement increases during each micro-story or plot. As the story-line moves along, the audiences engages with some intensity during the rising and falling actions of each plot. As the story progresses through each plot, from one to the next, it is held together and connected by the “Red-String.”

At a specific point, at the right time…the author brings all the plots together with a reveal or rising action. This is where the “Red-String” ties the knot bringing all the story-lines together reveal the bigger picture, the main plot-line.

So this translates directly to any marketing campaign. It is my opinion that any effective marketing campaign capitalizes on building relationships with target audiences, delivering small messages over time. These messages build to a bigger “reveal” or “call-to-action.” These messages are little stories, micro-stories connected by the underlying theme of the campaign, or the “Red-String.” The point where the main “call-to-action” is placed is at the right time when the “Red-String” ties the knot.

Social Media Technologies are just another technology that is added to the bag of tricks; but what they really are….they are just distribution points. Some professionals refer to them as connection points, a point that allow users to interact with distinct audiences. Social Media outlets are just a bit different because they carry one inherent value that closely relates to word of mouth marketing, they use relationships as driving force. To build engagement, your must build trust…to decide to become a “friend,” “fan,” or “follower.”

The “Audience Engagement” axis is extremely important part of this discussion. Lots of professionals create Social Media “accounts” and immediately start marketing the goods/services. Unless you are “Hot” brand…you need to spend time building audience engagement before implementing an effective “call-to-action” campaign.

This is where the idea of “listening” is so critical. As in any relationship, trust has to be gained and the relationships have to be forged. As the trust builds, and the conversation increases, the audiences grow. And slowly over time, the stories can be distributed to create an awareness for the campaign. This is where the true effectiveness of the “Red-String” ties the knots of the stories, the campaigns, the message.

So in the world of storytelling, are you telling those stories that are connected by the “Red-String?” Is your campaign relevant or just a bunch of little messages with no direction, purpose, of relevant placement. What is the “Red-String” in your campaign?

Listening for those rich stories…they are out there!

What stories are you going to tell this week? What stories are you going to encounter? Are you listening to your clients, your constituency bases? Are listening as the stories that need to be told are unfolding right in front of you? How can we be aware enough to look deep into the organizations and find rich stories that attract those listening ears?

  1. Look within the “funding” sources and marketing goals for real people.
  2. Define the mission of the organization and let the mission provide a frame work  for the stories.
  3. Understand the target audiences and allow them to guide you to the palatable stories.
  4. Look past subject matter as a story position, find people with stories that can be told through their eyes and not with a “narrator.”
  5. Use the 180 degree rule…when you find a good story that is in the midst of happening, turn 180 degrees and look at who is watching the story unfold, tell it through their lens.
  6. Find stories that are in the midst of the action, let the action and reaction paint the picture…stay away from stories that have to be re-told after the fact.
  7. Go into the story idea with a loose outline but be willing to let the storytelling process create the final outline and story-line!
  8. Do not let technology restrict your ability to tell a good story! Use it as a means to capture and distribute the story to the appropriate audiences. I have captured and told Emmy Award winning stories using a $300.00 video camera. No matter if you have an $80K video camera, a $200 laptop, or even a $50.00 recording device…let it enable you not detract you.

Be passionate! Find those stories…find rich content that your audiences are craving to connect with on a daily basis.

Here is a funny little story I found one day in Arizona when all I was asked to do is get a few shots of the Renaissance Festival….this guy cracks me up. Proof, if we open our ears, the stories can pop out of nowhere and it can replace the pointless copy that could be written about the festival.

Finding your sphere of influence?

As I get ready to go speak to a group of college students during their weekly organization meeting, I sat down and thought for a few moments, jotted some notes, and pulled my ideas together. About a month ago, I received this email from one of my former students to speak during their regularly scheduled meeting:

“Hi Bobby,

I hope you are having a great semester so far. I know that Grace and I gained so much from taking your class this past semester and I was wondering if you would be willing to come speak to the rest of oursorority. Beyond the experience from planning an event, I personally gained the most from learning how to pitch myself and networking to buildbusiness relationships. I feel that these skills are extremely importantfor those who are starting to interview for jobs and internships. I thinkthat the women of Sigma Kappa could greatly benefit from learning theseskills as well. Sigma Kappa is having a chapter meeting on Sunday, March 28th at 7 p.m. and I was wondering if you would be willing to come speakfor about 30 minutes. Please let me know if you are interested.

Thank you for your time.

So as I sat today to bring my thoughts together…I wondered, how am I going to give them something relevant to walk away and ponder? Here we have a collection of students from freshman to seniors, those who are just happy to be in school and enjoying the joys of college to those who are sweating if they will be employed in a few months. But it comes down to this, it does not matter if you are a freshman in college, a senior in college, in graduate school, looking for a job, have a job, entrepreneur,  home body, nobody, somebody, CEO, or man on the street…it is all about relationships.

So here are my notes for tonight’s little chat…in the form of questions and discussion:

  1. Why am “I” here today?
  2. Why do “we”join groups?
  3. Where do “we” want to be in five years?
  4. Where do “we” want to be in ten years?
  5. Who is in your room of “influence”?
  6. Who have you met “new” today?
  7. How can “we” leverage those relationships?
  8. What are “Our” dreams?
  9. How do we turn those “Dreams” into realities?

Here is the actual presentation…I used Prezi to put this little talk together!

Get this Google – GoogleOnMain was a SUCCESS!

So I was asked to shoot aerials of the GoogleOnMain event and capture the tremendous turnout for the event. Here is a short part of all of the footage that was aquired during the event!

I want to extend a big ole “hats off” to Aaron von Frank with all of his efforts to bring this event to fruition. Aaron along with Russell Tripp at Infusion Web &Video  will be putting together a final presentation/proposal to submit to Google. This aerial footage will be a part of the package.

Check out the website for this campaign! http://www.wearefeelinglucky.com/