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How to Sniff How Your Competitor is Doing and 3 Actions to Take When You Know

sniff-squirrel We forget sometimes that ads are content, blogs are content, and social sharing is content. Your competitors have content and it is all public and discoverable.

What makes it even more interesting is that your competitor’s influencers share content too and you can watch for that as well. You can see who is spreading the word for your competitors and helping THEM grow! That is gold, is it not?

3 actions you can take

It’s not what you can discover that’s so special (although it really is), it’s what you do with the data that counts. So here are 3 things you can do when you know what your competitor is up to:


1. Watch for your competitor’s top content and dissect what makes it work and what doesn’t. When you’re confident that you have nailed what makes one of their blogs work better than another one you can incorporate the winning approach in your own content (your marketing team should have a ball with this).


2. Pay attention to who your competitor’s influencers are; the people who share your competitor’s content so they can reach their target audience. You can add them to a watch list of potential influencers of your own brand and regularly look for non-poachy ways to start and grow relationships with them. If you learn that one of their influencers is the CEO’s husband, well, you know.


3. Learn what hashtags and communities your competitor’s influencers use to get the word out and spend some time in those online neighbourhoods yourself. Use their tags occasionally and visit the blogs they visit. It’s a great way to get to know what interests your community.


Added bonus: if you know the sentiment (positive, negative) that people feel towards your competitor’s content you can think of ways to get more positive content into the same online communities. Sleeze alert: there is a huge risk of coming across as tacky if you don’t think this through with some respect for your competitor and their fans.

How do you do this?BLUE-influence-check-sq

You can do it simply by paying attention and creating a scheduled time to regularly look at your competitor’s content. We actually use a tool called Measurely to run discovery campaigns that give us this and a bunch of other super valuable data for our clients. But if your brand community is still small you should be able to handle this with some regularly scheduled snooping and gathering of info into a spreadsheet.

It’s worth it. Your competitors are sharing content that they hope will interest the same people you are. Why limit the data you gather and learn from to just your own when you can learn from theirs too?

How to Free Money From Your Marketing Budget for Social

Rolling the dice on traditional media Advertising has always been a bit of a game of roulette. The famous quote that captures the angst of the business owner was portrayed by John Wanamaker nearly 100 hundred years ago when he said, “half the money I spend on advertising is wasted. The trouble is I don’t know which half.”

I promised I would not name names.

But in the past two years I have had several clients who cut over $1000 per month or more from their advertising budgets - and saw no drop or difference in their business.

What? In one case nearly $3000 per month with no discernible difference in the bottom line? What is going on here?

If you had a big budget twenty years ago, advertising was also a bit of a math formula - or at least so I was told by my business owning friends who fighting the good fight at that time. They tell me that once you had the right channel (TV, radio, or print) you could roughly figure that if you spend X% of your gross revenue, you would see a Y% bump in the bottom line.


Digital has disrupted those good old days.

I am not sure the good old days were really better.

Today there are more options and more voices clamoring for your advertising and marketing budget than ever before. Do you keep you space in the Yellow Pages? Is it worth paying for exposure in the business directories? How about search engine marketing? Or social media? Everyone seems to be on Facebook these days...

Making sense of the shift to digital and social business is one of the biggest challenges for small business owners and managers these days. The shift seems to elicit one of two reactions: “Oh yeah!” or “Oh no!”

Here are a couple of quick ideas to consider if you’ve “discovered” an extra $30,000 in your advertising budget this year. Yes, I know you deserve that long postponed vacation, but this is about low-hanging fruit that will make the best ROI of what you are already doing:

  • 2013 is the year that mobile has overtaken desktop use of the internet. Does your website work for mobile users? Make your website mobile friendly and an engine for lead generation in a social world
  • Are you doing search engine marketing? Get answers to your conversion questions because if you are trading $1 for $3, that is a deal you want to do all day long. Consider maxing out the traffic from your money keywords, and use re-targeting to keep your best contacts coming back until they are ready to buy
  • What can you do to socialize your business? How great would it be if your happy customers became a new sales team out there working 24/7 for you?

If you haven’t found excess money in your advertising budget, or are struggling to figure out what might be the best use of your hard earned dollars - you can make sense of this new chaos. The businesses who do, are going to own their competition in the near future. The ones who don’t can stick their head in the sand, because even in the slowest of markets - social business is becoming the new phone, and your customers are expecting you to answer.

If you want to make sense of your advertising budget, and get a better ROI on the dollars you are already spending, join us for this focused workshop and save thousands over the course of the year...

Embed Social Posts In Your Website to Bring Your Brand Community Together

embed Bringing one group of friends into a conversation that's happening in a different place on the social web isn't always easy. Sometimes it's awkward and sometimes it's unwanted. But you never can tell where the conversation will strike up and sometimes it makes sense to bring those conversations together. And it always makes sense to bring the best content you have curated into your media hub: your blog.

For a while now Twitter has been allowing tweets to be embedded into web pages with a little bit of code they provide with each tweet. Just look under any post on and you'll see a "more..." link that drops down to expose an "Embed" link. Grabbing the code provided will allow you to embed something like this:

I could just paste a quote into my post so you can see it and read it, but because I embedded it as a tweet, you can now retweet it, favorite it or do whatever you like to interact with that content on Twitter.

Google+ Brings Rich Media to Embedded Posts

Now Google+ has entered this game, allowing posts on the fastest growing social channel in the world to be embedded into blogs and webpages everywhere, pulling new people into conversations that are already in full swing.

There are a few things that make this even more interesting than Twitter's offer:

  1. Google+ is a media rich platform; video, pictures, #AutoAwesome Photo Posts (animated gifs and collages Google+ makes automagically with your photos), even SoundCloud audio clips play beautifully embedded into this social channel
  2. Comments and +1s on Plus already feed search engine rankings (SEO) - how much more powerful to feed those rankings from inside your owned assets (your blog)! This tie to SEO is an advantage other platforms simply don't have.
  3. The conversation becomes part of the content: Most blogs don't inspire commenting like a social channel does. Google+ embeds bring the conversation with the content so you can embed into your blog after a conversation is already started. This allows you to say something about, not just the content, the conversation as well.

Give it a try. In the drop down menu in the top right of your public Google+ posts you'll see the link to "Embed this post". Grab the code and use it the same way as the Twitter embed code.

Embedded Twitter and Google+ posts provide interesting ways to repurpose your social content into your owned media and introduce one segment of your community to another to extend the conversation and bring your brand community more closely together.

What could you embed in your blog that pulls your social media islands closer together?

Traditional Marketing Can Help Build Your Brand Community (If You Want It To)

photo posted on The hope that most businesses have is that their advertising will buy them customers immediately. But social media has introduced the long game to every business and a bigger opportunity is lost if buying new customers is the only perceived benefit.

Marketing is the effort of generating awareness and demand for something. To reach large numbers of people who get their information primarily through traditional media, traditional advertising is hard to beat, especially for locally focused businesses.

If a local newspaper reaches 60,000 people and it produces 20 new customers, that’s an ROI you can judge for yourself. But if those 20 customers become members of a community that you nurture over the long-term, you have amplified the impact of your first advertising spend for many years as those 20 people continually think of you when they again need what you sell.

Traditional advertising can reach large numbers of people.


Traditional advertising can reach eyeballs within a certain, shrinking demographic that is still valuable to a lot of businesses. Social channels can then enable you to turn your new customer's interest into a relationship that lets you engage them and keep them interested.

Traditional advertising can help make people aware of what you sell, but big returns on your investment can only happen if you have a community that they can belong to that can continually meet their needs and keep you on their minds.

Fall 2013 Workshop: How to plan and pay for the shift from traditional marketing

Use traditional advertising to encourage people to contact you, buy your product, or walk in your door. But when that contact is made, make sure you have next steps planned to bring those interested people into your brand community where their relationship with you will mean far more in long-term sales than that first encounter.

Focus your online efforts on building a community through meeting people’s needs and interests with what you share. Focus your advertising efforts on converting people to become, not just customers, but community members. Loyalty, repeat sales, and long-term insight into what your customers want from you is what brand community building is all about.

What My Infant Taught Me About Content Marketing, Lesson 2: Why Community Matters


An African proverb says that it takes a village to raise a child. I believe this is true. I can't imagine where in this world my baby boy would be without the love, support and nurturing of those in our community.

I am also lucky enough to be a member of a more specific community of new moms. That’s us up there in the photo. Bi-weekly we meet in each other’s living rooms, put on a pot of coffee and ventilate our baby woes, share stories and experiences, learn from one another, laugh together, reassure each other that we are doing just fine and, most importantly, we remind each other that we are not going this motherhood thing alone.

Much like it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a community to raise a brand.

This is the next lesson in a series of posts about what my infant son has taught me about life and content marketing (here's lesson 1).

1. A community is the sum of its parts

I will never forget the music to my ears that was a fellow expectant mom exclaiming, “we should get together for regular coffee and Bailey’s gatherings after our babies are born.” I'm not sure if I was more excited to fathom a social life after baby, or the ability to finally enjoy an alcoholic beverage again. In any case, she was the leader our mommy community needed.

You see, it takes a leader to get a community going, and then it takes keen individual interest to keep it going. We mommies are fortunate to have all the right ingredients for a healthy community.

2. A community is more than just information sharing.

Sure, we get together and talk about the best baby rearing practices, articles we've read, developmental milestones and statistical norms, but these discussions alone are not what gel our community together.

This stuff we can get from the googles.

The cohesion of community goes beyond information sharing. A community is formed around a common goal, an emotional connection, a shared opinion, a sense of security, belonging and ownership, safety, non-judgement, protection and understanding. We have expressed on many occasions that we love and care for each other’s babies as if they were our own.

When you’re creating a community around your brand, your members need something to CARE about.

3. Mean people can’t harm a community.

Actually, mean people can galvanize a community, pulling people together to care more deeply for what brought them together in the first place.

Motivated by who-knows-what, some people are just innately mean-spirited. It is no secret that social media is a breeding ground for meanies to unleash their inner bullies. They can attack the community, sometimes in very stealthy ways, by framing their communication in an accepted manner and style. Eventually their contributions will undermine what people in a community care about and raise the ire of some members to defend what is important to them, and in doing so they will freshly define the essence of the community for others to rally behind.

4. A community grows when it achieves a critical mass of caring people.

The critical mass is the tipping point, the point at which the community becomes self-sustaining.

Finding this threshold is not cut and dry. Apple Computer's current community mass is over 200 million. Our mommy group: 11 pairs of moms and babes. There is no magic formula to determine the critical mass of your community, however you will know it has begun when your community starts to initiate activity independent of your leadership. For example, a retailer might plan events that bring customers to their store but critical mass is achieved when the community begins to plan their own events around the brand. Recently I was invited by a friend to attend a party at a local shoe store. The staff were every bit a part of the party and little to do with the planning.

Sadly, our mommy leader needed to ‘bow out’ as she put it, to return to full time work. She is still very much a member of our group, but our mommy community lives on in her absence.

If you spoon feed the right ingredients that support what your community cares about most, there will come a point when you can sit back, and enjoy. Like an infant, your community has learned to feed itself.

What does your community care about?

No one is a member of just one community. We overlap and cross-reference and bring great things from one into another. But what binds a community is the one or two things its members care about the most and the characteristics of how the caring is expressed. Our mommy community cares primarily about our babies. But the characteristics of our community are based on openness, non-judgement, and love of a good time in a real sense, not just a motherly one.

What does your brand community care about the most and what are the ways in which you express that caring? If you find 5 minutes today, list these things for yourself. If you can identify what really matters to your community it might change how you share with them.

Next lesson: Trust with a capital T

The quote above from Brian Simpson actually came to us from a great ebook by our friends at Measurely.

Moving Pictures: Making and Sharing Social Videos

Greg hemmings records a video Two years ago I signed my team up to participate in a course to teach us how to build a social business. It lit a flame that has been burning ever since. Telling our company’s story using social channels has helped us build community around the world. The course was Sociallogical’s Understanding Social Business and, after completing the course, Sociallogical’s Jeff Roach and I discussed the possibilities of putting together a course about the power  and brand empowerment of video storytelling in the new digital landscape.

It took a year and a half to accomplish, but here we are! Hemmings House and Sociallogical are very excited to roll out our latest course, “Moving Pictures: Making and Sharing Social Videos”. This is an introductory course that will motivate you to pick up your own camera and begin producing content for your business immediately.

Video is considered one of the most effective communication tools in the social space. Businesses are now building their own production companies within their own walls to keep up with the demand for original and relevant content that supports the brand and the tribe.

My hope is that this course will ignite the same fire in you that the Understanding Social Business course did for my team and I. Once you realize that you have the power and the creative assets to tell your own story (and that your own story is truly epic), then this course will encourage you to get out there and shoot!

Pick One: Which Profile Is Your Main Profile?

Trevor Macdougall You may think that having a strong profile in all places might be only for the hyperconnected so I have a strong suggestion: pick one and beef it up.

While many of us have accounts on multiple websites, social networks, and our employer's sites, very few people pay attention to the quality of their online presence and the ease with which they can be reached by a client or partner. We have discussed before how your profile is your ticket to getting connected with others online but we never addressed which profile is the most important. I honestly don't think there is a best one for everyone but here is some food for thought:


Really, this is the most important profile for professional people in the western world. Your profile on Linkedin is comprehensive showing me your volunteer activities, who you're connected with that I might be connected with, as well as the richest display of your education and experience. If you don't have a sizable inheritance and need to make a living from your connections to one or more people, you need to be on Linkedin. If you are in a B2B role, you might want to make this your main profile that you give the most attention to.


Put aside your opinions of love or scepticism for Google+ as a social sharing channel and pay attention to this: your Google+ profile feeds your Google search results and Google search is how most people still find pretty much everything online - including connections. It is also the best profile for linking to all of the other places you can be found online and it includes one of my all-time favorite profile features for understanding another person's perspective: where have I lived before. If you want people to find you easily you might want to make Google+ your main profile. is like an online business card or a central hub for all of your other profiles. It has competitors but it is the most popular profile-only account you can have that doesn't have a social network behind it. It is easy to get, simple to use, attractive, and adapts your profile to a variety of screen sizes well. If you are picking one main profile to focus on, this might not be it, but if you have more than a couple that you give attention to, this might be a good place to bring them all together. I use it for my main URL:


The largest, most influential social network on the planet has a lousy profile format that not a lot of people rely on to get to know someone new. Facebook's profile is loose, un-standardized and sloppy and geared more for friends who know each other well than for discovery of someone new. However, Facebook does feature more personal preference type of details that might paint an endearing picture for you if you want to be known more for your interests than your experience. Artists, curators, and culture-lovers can show their favorites of all things well on Facebook and that might be your strength.


With a bio of only 160 characters and only a few other details like location, web link, and not much else, your profile on Twitter is too short and simple to ignore. Beef up your profile on Twitter because it will only take you a few minutes. But don't expect your profile on this channel to satisfy the interests of a connection who is trying to get to know you better. I simply would not recommend using Twitter as your main profile online. Link from it to something more comprehensive.

There are countless third-party profiles you can focus on and beef up and some of them can be very important, especially if they are specific to your industry and widely used by your colleagues. But the ones mentioned above are the big ones, in my opinion.

We don't all have time to be everywhere online and we certainly can't manage to support an endless collection of perspectives on who we are, what we've done, and why others might want to get to know us better - or hire us. But everyone needs one main profile that makes it easy to find out who they are, what they've done, and how to connect with them right now. What is your main profile and are you happy with what others will find there?

The Only Time When Social Busyness Makes Business Sense

It is not a new thing to spend money on marketing based on the number of people who will be exposed to the effort. It is a new thing to know how much money was earned as a result of money spent on a marketing effort.

While media outlets have always been able to tell advertisers the size of their audience through subscription numbers, average viewers and the like, they could never measure the outcomes that really matter to a business - they still can't. And even in the social business era, justifying a marketing effort has continued to be a measurement of buzz, chatter, and the general response created by what was shared. Is that enough?

For most brands, the goal is to make money and grow. So money spent on marketing or any other investment needs to measure how it makes money and moves the business toward its goals or it just doesn't make sense. Does it?

Measuring What Matters

If you can really measure the return on investment (ROI) made in the social space with real business measures then you can start optimizing your efforts based on what has worked or not worked in your past efforts.

Screenshot 2013-05-28 at 07.58.15

Last week our friends at Measurely shared a story we told to the crew at Hemmings House of how we measure the outcomes of our social media efforts using their incredible tools (see video at top of page). To make our story clear, here's what matters to us:

  1. Who are the people that are sharing our stuff and causing sales to happen for us? While we might get excited about people sharing our content, what our business really needs to care about is identifying which of those people has enough influence in their networks to influence our sales. Measurely shows us exactly who those influencers are so our people can get to know those people and learn how to serve them better.
  2. Who are our advocates, the influencers who regularly and consistently share our stuff and help us grow our company? They are as much a part of our team as contractors and employees and those relationships matter to us as much.
  3. What content are we sharing that is leading to sales for us? We put in a lot of effort to curate great content and to create some of our own. We're a small business and that takes a lot of time and effort and we don't want to waste our time creating and sharing things that aren't causing sales to happen.
  4. What online communities are influencing sales of our stuff? If we know that we can put more effort into getting to know those communities better. It's a big, open, online world and we can spend time getting know almost any group of lovely people out there. But our business goals lead us to look for the communities that need and want what we sell so we can spend more time participating in those communities.

For Example

If Kelly shares 30 of our online assets (reshares something we posted, likes us on Facebook etc.) in a month and Bob shares 3, the buzz game tells us we should really get to know Kelly better. But if Measurely shows us that Kelly led to only one signup for our courses and Bob led to 20, business logic tells me Bob is our guy. He's the advocate who is sharing and influencing our brand and buzz alone would have put him low on our priority list.

Get it? Buzz is good. Measured growth is better.

What About People?

Yes, social business is about people connecting to people, building relationships, getting to know how to help, and adjusting products or services for the people who support the brand.

But people socialize with people, not brands. A brand can't socialize any more than it can eat a sandwich. Brands can't talk and walk so brand content needs to be as focused on the things that will cause growth as possible so the brand community will have something to talk about that is relevant and useful.

Measurely has become an essential partner to help us support our client's growth goals and to help us grow our own business. We are more than happy to be advocates for them. So important has their product becomes to Sociallogical that we even created a central business service around it.

As we have said before, social activity is not busywork, it's business intelligence. With Measurely's insight we can report strategic intelligence to our clients that can make them smart in the social space and act toward growth of their companies. Without Measurely, true social optimization can't happen and we are back to guess work. That's something that was not possible before or since the emergence of social media.

How much time or money would your company spend on an activity whose effect didn't help the business grow? Probably not a lot. But without measuring the bottom line effect of the effort, how would you know?

Why "My Opinions Are My Own" is a Waste of Precious Characters

Is it possible for an employee's opinions to be firewalled from their employer's by adding a clause or making a public statement that their opinions are independent? The short answer is no.

On Saturday morning we had a Hangout on a issue that we'll hear more about in the years to come. Here are a few points made in this Hangout:

  • If an employer doesn't address activity when it first arises there almost becomes an approval of the activity.
  • Using social media inappropriately certainly can result in the loss of your employment.
  • Whether or not you have it written in an explicit contract or not, you have an obligation of good faith toward your employer.
  • Depending on your position in the company, you are a reflection of your employer whether you're in your workplace or outside the workplace.
  • Your employer is entitled to expect you to act in good faith toward the company.
  • Sharing content that undermines relationships that are important to your employer may jeopardize your employment and no clause will save you.

Those are a few of the highlights. We were a little slow getting going but we got into a good discussion once we put the technical issues behind us (I'll have headphones next time). We had others want to join us on the Hangout but we started 30 minutes late and I'm sorry about that. We'll include other members next time.

If there is anything in this discussion that you would like me to go into greater depth in a future Hangout, please let me know in the comments below.

Mel Norton, BA, LLB is a member of Learn by Sociallogical™ and practices law in New Brunswick, Canada as a Partner with Lawson Creamer.

Like Running Naked Through the City Streets

Catherine Doucette ~ Training Consultant / Speaker My business is teaching, talking, and sharing. In fact, blogging  about training or leadership is one of my favourite parts of owning a business. So why was that upload button on YouTube this time so scary? Why did I feel the urge to inhale an entire chocolate bar or phone a friend?

It was March 1, 2013. With the help of the ever-talented Elaine Shannon, I had recorded a 7-minute keynote talk  to show people are inspired by the message of my second book Be you. Everything else is optional. I am one of about 60 people in North America competing for a publishing contract with Hay House, the largest publisher of self-help books on the planet. The video was required for the competition.

But this was more difficult than uploading my video blog about yoga at home or walking through Rockwood Park. It was scarier. Who the h-e-double-hockey-sticks did I think I was? Here I was about to share with the world that I am a keynote speaker and trainer –ironically, something I’ve done for 20 years. But this was new. I was publishing a piece with my original thoughts and story for the entire world to see. And judge.

Steven Pressfield’s words from the book War of Art came back to me:

The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.

A deep breath, and I pressed that big bad upload button. You know what happened? Not much. Nobody knew it was there. I had to have courage once more.

Using my social media relationships on Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, Google+, and Twitter, I began sharing the link and asking people to watch.

Publishing this video and spreading the word felt an awful lot like walking naked through the city streets. I really wanted to vomit.

What happened next?

To quote Sally Field, “They like me! They really like me!”

More than 1,300 people watched the video in two months with 100-plus positive comments and likes. That means more than 1,300 people now know about my training consulting and speaking business and my second book. I was offered a keynote because of it, plus a gig doing public speaking workshops at a large corporation. I have walked into networking events, and strangers have recognized my name because they saw my video.

When you do something well and share it online, it gives you instant credibility. Clients are convinced before you ever walk in the door.

Much courage is needed. But as long as the video is not actually of you running naked through the streets, I highly recommend that you upload a sample of your expertise on YouTube and share it with your networks.

What is one way you can share your work professionally on social media?

Catherine Doucette BPR, MEd is a Member of Learn by Sociallogical™ and teaches businesses how to create and facilitate training with a measurable impact on productivity and the bottom line.

An Analogy for Social Business

Apples and oranges Social is the first truly new gift to humanity that the Internet has ever given us. It makes sense that it is going to take some time and a little effort to understand it and let it soak into our daily lives because nothing about it feels natural to anyone in the beginning.

Postal Mail Goes Digital

First, the business world was given email. Some whined and complained about this new intrusion of technology (and expectation of quicker response times) into our daily work lives, but we adapted quite easily because we understood it immediately.

We've had postal mail for centuries and this was just an electronic version of it. We all "got" it.

Print Materials Go Online

Then came the business web with the release of Netscape and the modern web browser that let us easily "surf" web pages made by fellow business people, academics, and government. Many resisted the demands their customers placed on them to make their information known through the web but we all eventually found our way there and built web pages for our businesses.

We understood it simply because the early business web really just took the information from our print materials - brochures, business cards etc. - and put it on this new digital interface. Just a fancy version of our print materials, right?

Social Media Enables Digital Humans

But then social media emerged that allowed one or a massive number of people to connect to one or a massive number of people with text, voice, video and more and that has never been possible before in human history. Anybody can produce a media empire, free of the financial and infrastructure barriers that used to exist in earlier eras.

Social media enables digital humanity. That's a statement that is almost meaningless as social media is just social now. It's not the special circumstance in which we connect like a conference used to be, it's now the main method of connecting. If it isn't for you, should it be? Or does your business have a few good reasons for not becoming social?

Social is not a new internet. It is you - online. The social layer is the layer of human meaning and stickiness to an otherwise cold digital channel. Embracing that human element and making it work for your business is the pursuit of becoming a social business.

Business Cards: Not Just For Scoring Free Lunches Anymore

 'Peggy, you're not still using a Rolodex, are you? Get with the program.'

There is a boardroom scene in American Psycho where protagonist Patrick Bateman, the handsome, wealthy, sociopathic Wall Street banker, trades business cards with colleagues.

His appreciation of card stock, lettering and typeface is practically erotic. And the status envy induced by a co-worker’s superior card design is borderline psychotic.

“Oh my god, he even has a watermark,” Bateman gushes.

Bret Easton Ellis’s harrowing novel was published in 1991, but the card lust it describes already seems quaint.

I recently ran out of business cards and hesitate to order more. I only feel the absence when someone gives me theirs – it is simply good manners to reciprocate. Beyond etiquette, though, what are they FOR, anymore?

In the pre-digital days, it made sense to amass fat files of clients and leads. Gathering contact information back then was cumbersome. Now, though, a business card is clutter I am more likely to lose or spill coffee on than actually USE.

Here’s the thing: when someone gives me their card it is almost always in person, which means I have already met them. The connection is made. I likely have their contact information. And if not, if they are even remotely on their social-media game, they will be easy to find.

I’m not the only one questioning the card. As Matt Stevens noted in his 2012 Los Angeles Times piece ‘Passing out business cards is quickly becoming passé,’ the former business staple is becoming an anachronism. Today, Stevens writes, many people find them “irrelevant, wasteful - and just plain lame.”

As comedian Mitch Hedberg puts it:

“I got a business card ‘cause I want to win some lunches. That’s what my business card says, ‘Mitch Hedberg: Potential lunch winner.’ Give me a call, maybe we’ll have lunch? If I’m lucky.”

Hedberg’s  joking, but he gets at something about business cards today - acting on them is unlikely.  It would be lucky indeed, if they got you a call. You want to create a card that compels action.

Better yet, don’t give them out, get them. Don’t wait for the other guy or gal to get in touch; make collecting cards your goal and put the onus to act in your own  hands.

If you aren’t ready to shred your paper cards, there are ways to optimize their social media potential, which means more friends and follows, more ways to share your story with potential customers and develop the sort of relationship that will mean, in the end, more business.

That little piece of paper should be pulling in tandem with your online presence and social media strategy.

Here are some tips:

Include social media links.

That means your Twitter handle, Facebook name, or blog site. And use social media icons on the card, for visual impact.

Step it up with QR Codes.

Personalize a Quick Response code with your deets. Scanned by a smartphone, it can automatically send text, photos, videos, music and URLs. Create a digital business card that can be beamed up.

Borrow from social media design.

Profile pictures aren’t just for online. Add a photo to your business card to make the connection between you and what you do even stronger. Some designers have even formatted paper business cards to look like social media sites, creating a nice visual bridge between the physical and virtual.

Get visual.

Pinterest and Instagram are popular because they are beautiful and interesting to look at. Use eye candy.

Create a one-off.

Design a business card for a particular event or promotion to drive traffic to your social media streams.

Skip them.

If you are a true trailblazer, save a tree and create a digital card that can be sent as an attachment or traded by apps such as Bump or LinkedIn.

Are you one of the brave pioneers who have gone cardless? How have you made business cards work for you in this digital age? Are paper cards destined to become nothing more than pocket spam, their mother-ship the Rolodex headed for the scrap heap of office history? Or do the little cards have a place in the future of networking?

If you have some feedback, let’s do lunch.

Define Your Brand By What You Share

obama-fist-bump Getting someone who is not you to "be you" online is strange to me. It's like asking someone else to go on a date for you. Not only do you miss out on the engagement and enjoyment of the date, but it is also fake and downright creepy.

But what you say and what you share are two different things. I can get an associate to speak on my behalf and share my interests and positions, as in the case of a lawyer or a press agent, but I would never ask either one of them to actually pretend they are me and imitate my voice when talking to people. It's kind of funny when you think of it.

That's why I have resisted potential clients who have sought to just pay someone to do their social media for them. Instead, I offer them an understanding of the phenomenon so they can take the reins on their online engagement.

The content you base your conversations on

But some aspects of social media marketing need special skills and reap special benefits. For example,

  • creative agencies can come up with brilliant ways to tell your brand's stories that are compelling, entertaining, and sharable.
  • researchers can collect fantastic data that you can turn into consumable, memorable, and sharable infographics that your clients will love.
  • curators who know your brand and what interests your clientele can find great, sharable content that others have made for you to share on your social channels.

That last point, curated sharing, is the one that most businesses jump into, with varying degrees of success. Most people understand, from as far back as high school, that who and what they are associated with impacts how others see them. So finding great stuff to associate themselves with and share online is something most of us naturally start doing when we plug our businesses into social.

Although it can be time-consuming and a major distraction, you do know (or should) what content is most interesting and helpful to your clients. And the content you find (vs. content you create) is the most readily available source for your social channels.

Curate great content for a few great reasons

  1. Define your company's brand by what you associate it with. It looks good when you demonstrate you know what your customers care about.
  2. Expand the 'scope of interest' for your brand by sharing a diverse selection of topics, giving you a wider potential audience for your content.
  3. Add layers of sophistication to your brand by finding content that compliments your own content.

Of course, you need to come alongside the content you are curating with content you are creating and conversations you are sharing based on all of it. That's where the social, human element comes in and without it you're going to have a hard time gaining or keeping your target client's attention.

The point of selecting great content to share, above all, is to be helpful and interesting to the people you want to attract to your brand community. It is a discipline every company should be exercising as a basic, foundational social media investment.

What It Means To "Be Authentic" Online

3126124170_da01234924_o Here's a simple suggestion when considering whether your profiles and activity online are "authentic": if someone who only knew you online met you in person would they be surprised?

No one should ever be surprised by your appearance or your behaviour because you are the same person online and as you are offline. The online you matches the in-person you. I think it is unwise to risk deceiving and likely disappointing people who otherwise had no expectations of you except for the inaccurate and inauthentic version of you that you carefully cultivated for them.

“When you stop expecting people to be perfect, you can like them for who they are.” ― Donald MillerA Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life

Why is authenticity important?

Many people are complaining that the word authentic is over-used and has lost its meaning (here are a few). That may be true but words often lose their impact when their meaning is forgotten.

Here are the first definitions for the word "authentic" from

  1. not false or copied; genuine; real: an authentic antique.
  2. having the origin supported by unquestionable evidence; authenticated; verified...

Relationships are investments we ask others to make in us and no one wants to make a bad investment. So, like it or not, we carefully choose who we'd like to get to know better based on the evidence we have and we invest accordingly. And just like buying a product that doesn't match the marketed promises, disappointment can lead a person to devalue their investment and invest no more.

Who wants that? Some even define the difference between expectations and reality as stress! Who wants to cause stress to a potential friend?

By removing the filters and presenting ourselves as authentically as possible we can have confidence that few will be cashing in the investments they have made in us. We can trust that they know the real us and that our relationship won't be undermined by some revealed truth in the future. Authenticity puts our relationships on a more sure footing.

We all do it.

We have all written resumes that embellish, put on clothes, makeup, or a hairstyle that skews our appearance, and changed our vocabulary to match the person we're talking to.

Most of us find it hard to talk about ourselves. A few years ago when reviewing my online profiles I found it hard work to come up with creative ways to explain myself. So I decided to stop it and make it simple. I started with "culture change excites me", because it does, and I went from there. My avatars turned into simple pics of my face in the kind of clothes I wear every day (I wear a suit and tie maybe a dozen times each year) and my most recent pic was taken by my wife, unplanned, on a day I hadn't shaved (which is once or twice a week).

The goal is to be you. We are already interesting and attractive to people who we would want to get to know better and possibly work with or else why would we? The effort to deceive always backfires.

Take a look at your profiles and some of the things you have shared recently and ask your friends to do the same for you. Then ask; would someone be surprised by any of it if they met you and spoke to you in person?

Why Journalists Will Be In Demand in 2013

Journalist We're in the content marketing era, which is more show and less tell. Clients don't want you to tell them how great you are through advertising, they want you to show them value at the start of the relationship.

Every business has stories to tell and needs to inform, educate and be useful to clients through great storytelling. We tell stories across social media channels, blogs, and through opinion pieces, research, comments and even through our products and services themselves.

"Journalism is the art of storytelling."

If you look at what a journalist learns it's easy to see that having their skill set in-house is a huge asset for any company that knows how important content/inbound marketing is.

I combed through the course lists for a few journalism schools online and collected a sample of course titles that I believe make my point well:

  • Journalistic Writing: the Language of Storytelling
  • Editing, Publishing and Producing
  • News They Can Use
  • Reaching the Public: Fundamental Skills in Strategic Communications
  • Magazine Production
  • The Business of Communications
  • Copy Editing
  • Critical and Opinion Writing
  • Advanced Research Methods
  • Advanced Feature Writing
  • Advanced Photojournalism
  • Understanding Multimedia Journalism
  • Video and TV Journalism

As traditional media fades away, the content that will create awareness and demand for what we sell, more and more, will need to be created, not bought. We need to share more and advertise less. Our clients need to find media-rich and useful content specific to their needs when they find us.

Content Marketing is Storytelling

Journalists are trained storytellers. They are researchers, writers, listeners, and able to think from a variety of perspectives. That skill set is perfect for creating content that online communities would find interesting, useful, or even entertaining.

Here's what the most awesome journalists do really well:

  1. Their work makes you want to keep reading Writers who enjoy telling stories write things you don't want to put down. Does their work just report the facts or do they tie key points together nicely and in an entertaining way that makes you want to keep reading?
  2. They like playing with new technology New communication and productivity tools emerge all the time and each evolution offers new advantages and new ways to tell stories. The journalist you want needs to keep your company engaging and, as journalists know well, the medium is often the message.
  3. Their work compels you to share it with others A great storyteller will compel you to share their stories with others. Your content needs to be shareable if it is going to generate awareness and demand for your brand's offering.

The Need For a Bias

The culture of non-bias that many journalism schools have ingrained in students can be a bit tricky for marketing.

Your company should have a bias. Your bias and your approach to what your clients need and the unique way that you meet that need differentiates you from your competitors and brings choice to the marketplace. The people you hire for any role in your company need to understand your unique approach well, support it, and speak from that biased perspective every time they speak for you. Non-bias does not lead to engagement that sticks and stickiness is what you're after.

I have worked with amazing journalists who have turned out to be the best storytellers any business could hire. They have the skill set I know our company needs for our content marketing and we plan to hire more of them in the coming years.

A business needs to show their value with great content instead of just telling people how amazing they are through advertising and contrived efforts. People will come to your party but if the vibe isn't good, they'll sneak out the back door.

As traditional media loses its punch, I hope more and more journalists will look to marketing departments to find a new home. Our businesses need you whether they know it yet or not.

Do you plan to hire a journalist to join your marketing team?

A Good Snapshot: The Social Media Ecosystem in Late 2012

The Social Media Ecosystem Report - Rise of Users, Intelligence and Operating Systems With such rapid change and extreme disruption to business caused by social media in recent years, many wonder where this is all headed. How about if we start with where we are now?

This Fall the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) released a comprehensive paper on the state of the social media ecosystem which, for those who need to deeply understand something before investing in it, is very insightful and appears very accurate. As expected, it's not an entertaining piece, but it's worth a read over the weekend and for holding on for future reference.

You can grab the report titled The Social Media Ecosystem Report - Rise of Users, Intelligence and Operating Systems. Below are a few excerpts that jumped out for me as valuable, sometimes surprising, and sometimes validating of my suspicions.

What do you think? Does this information confirm or will it change any of your business plans?

"You as a brand have to be completely confident about your position, because you will get criticism. You will have a negative reaction.  If you didn’t get a negative reaction, that means you’re standing neutral and you have no point of view.  Who wants to participate in that?” ‐ Frank Cooper, CMO Global Consumer Engagement, PepsiCo

“Facebook and Twitter have become online gate keepers to all things social”

"Gameification is the most common tool for glossing over the lack of a value proposition (i.e., when tools and apps offer little or no true functionality) – it appeals to users’ desire to acquire and amass things (real or fake) that show status."

"The social ecosystem is anchored by platforms (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Path) that focus on users’ relationships (i.e., the “social graph”) and offer broad utility and interaction..., interest based platforms (e.g., Fancy, Spotify, Pinterest) offer broad functionality but are vertically focused, engaging the user’s “interest graph”."

"LinkedIn has been building off its “professional graph” to create an “economic graph”, wherein professional identities – on a global basis – are available, making it easier for both human resources and capital to flow to where they can best be leveraged."

"Social media services have begun to significantly transform the way businesses interact with each other, both internally, on an enterprise level, and externally, with customers."

"Apart from CRM, enterprises are also using social media for internal non‐customer facing initiatives, such as talent management and resource optimization."

"A new breed of Social Intelligence companies – technology driven agencies – will be charged with generating actionable insight and defining social ROI."

"A brand’s social strategy starts with identifying its entire audience on and off channel, segmenting the audience into different types of users, and developing an engagement strategy for each type."

"Success is uniquely defined by each company and its own campaign approach or goals.  The ultimate goal is to amplify the earned media to shift or decrease the total media cost for brands."

"There is no silver bullet in social media marketing, and success must be uniquely defined."

"Social media has introduced a new form of communication between consumers and brands that allows for an around‐the‐clock, real‐time marketing and interactive customer experience.  Consumer adoption of social will continue to proliferate as companies offer high value and relevant engagement opportunities."

The Shared Story Experience

Have you ever noticed the unique bonds that are forged between you and the people who have shared an experience with you?  Some experiences are traumatic, some adventurous, some beautiful, and some are downright awful. But if you experience something with another person, whether you are strangers or old friends, that experience will create a strengthened relationship between you that is incredibly unique. I call this the Shared Story Experience.

The Postpartum Party Ward

On November 21st and 22nd my wife and I were in our hospital’s Postpartum ward with our new baby Willow. As it turns out, two really good friend couples of ours were enjoying their new babies in the same ward: Sociallogical’s founder Jeff Roach and his wife Kelly Lawson welcomed baby Jude to the world and Potter/Artist Darren Emenau and Nora Kennedy welcomed baby Lucy.

We popped the Champagne, turned on the music and turned the unit into the postpartum PARTY ward! What are the odds that three groups of friends would share such a powerful experience in tandem? From this point forward the parents of these three little bambinos will have a special bond created by the shared experience of delivering babies within hours of each other. This is the shared story that we experienced together.

Businesses Share Stories With Partners

Businesses work with other companies that are in line with their own value sets, interests, and experiences and should seek opportunities to pass on these shared story experiences. They will align your brands and boost all of you as you expose your humanity and what is important to both of you.

  • Maybe you decide to purchase a book from the bookstore that is in your building instead of ordering it online – your shared story is that you reside in the same physical space.
  • Maybe three years ago you went on a trade mission to China with the CEO of a company you really want to work for. That shared experience of travelling overseas should be more than enough to open dialogue about working together.
  • Maybe you partnered with another company before to serve a shared client and maybe the experience was brutal but you got through it as a team. Use that experience to open the door to do more work together and get great referrals (and maybe don’t share that story publicly).

Whatever the shared story is or was, use it as your connecting point to strengthen your business relationships. If you don’t have shared story experience, go out and create them! At the core, the best partnerships are based on positive relationships that are strengthened by shared experiences.

Tips For Creating Shared Stories

  • Go on a trade mission adventure with other CEOs that you want to work with,
  • Invite other key players in your community to go see a hockey game or a concert together,
  • Join clubs, sit on a board of directors, get involved with organizations that also attract the people you want to do business with,
  • Hire the services of the company that you want to be hired by,

Or, arrange to have babies at the same time as social media experts that will help grow your community, as pottery masters who will create the very best client gifts, or as a filmmaker who could help you tell your story to the world :)

Do you have a shared story experience you could share with me? I’m a collector - I’d love to hear it!

Online Social Media Will Never Get Rid of 'Phone Calls'

A phone call with Santa Online social media can draw people to your brand community and help return humanity to the world of business but it will never get rid of one-on-one voice conversations.

On one end of the bell curve are those who wish all human interaction could be kept to text and under their personal control. They see phone calls and postal mail as 'so last century', so they shun it as much from a sense of personal style as from a need to feel productive.

On the other end are those who are offended by the new social media and the distance it seems to breed between people. Completely misunderstanding what social media is and how it accomplishes just the opposite, they fear it will erode society through disconnection and lack of community.

Somewhere in the middle are those who are learning to use all tools for what they do best. And in this spectrum will always be a very important role for voice conversations that we've always known as 'phone calls'.

Why one-on-one conversations are so important

One-on-one conversations are disruptive. It's hard to do much else when you're having a conversation with someone else so multitasking must stop while you focus on the other person. This drives some people crazy.

One-on-one conversations are so important because they communicate importance. If your goal is to communicate how valuable another person is to you, dropping what you are doing and giving them your attention is a great way to do this.

Why my Mom gets a phone call

Our family is currently expecting a baby and, as of today, we are 11 days overdue. Many people we love want to know what's going on and want to hear from us as soon as there is news. Most will find out when we post news online but my Mom wants a phone call.

To call my Mom and let her know what is happening with our baby's birth I need to set aside a few minutes to do nothing else but talk to her, just like in the olden days. But doesn't she deserve this? Shouldn't people in our lives like our mothers receive this top-level treatment in which we drop what we are doing and make them our priority for a few minutes now and then?

The same efforts that keep you close to your Mom can also keep you close to your clients.

What qualities do you bring to your business?

We value various types of communication partly based on the investment required for the communicator to share it. We are so deeply offended by businesses who automate their communication too much because we feel we deserve more. We are giving them our money, after all. We also still cherish handwritten or signed letters or even requests for a video conversation because we appreciate the cost in time and effort involved for the other person to share with us in these ways.

I'm obviously not against all forms of automated communication and I am certainly not against one-to-many social media sharing. But it's important to recognize what each type of communication costs us and what we can expect from the relationships we feed with it.

Online social media keeps people connected to us and our brands. It keeps us on their minds, adds value if we are sharing helpful content, and allows us to keep personal connections alive the same way our grandfathers used to tip their hats and share a kind word with their neighbours (and their customers) on the street. But social media only enables a personal connection if we personally invest in it.

The technology will change but 'phone calls' or one-on-one voice and video conversations will never come to an end for any business that wishes to bring people close and to build community around their brands. A business can't chat with every customer. But every conversation they do have is an investment in relationships that should matter to a business.

Call your customers now and then, just to say "hi" or offer some friendly advice. Be cautious not to waste the other person's time, but if you know your contact is wanted or even requested your interest in wanting them to stay close to you will be understood better than with an email or a social network post. And that investment is worth so much more to the success of your business than extreme efficiency in how we communicate.

Do you shun the phone or embrace it as a powerful relationship building tool for your business?

The photo above is of me talking to Santa Claus on the phone, Christmas Eve 1978 - obviously proud that Santa would take a minute of his time to call me on his big night!

The Importance of Online First Impressions

Virtual First Impressions In the business world, we aren’t meeting in office spaces and conference rooms as much as we once used to. Instead, we meet online – a place where we are also making a lot of first impressions.

While you carefully select your business wardrobe, keep yourself manicured and fresh looking, and are mindful of where and how you are seen professionally, how much care do you give to how you represent yourself online, where most people will meet you for the first time?

Most people will meet you for the first time online

Our virtual images have become increasingly important. Leather chairs and mahogany desks are being replaced with social media avatars, YouTube clips, twitter pics, LinkedIn, Google+, Blogs, Facebook, and websites. Our online appearance is how we are presenting ourselves to potential clients and customers every day of the week, almost exclusively.

How does your online first impression measure up?

Below is a sample of headshots and links to the profiles of the people they belong to. I commend the recognition by their companies of the importance of a fresh, clean, professional virtual image for the company and especially, for their people. Click through to their profiles and take a look at a few of their before and afters - look at what they used to have versus their new ones...

Do your online avatars represent the real people that you want your clients to get to know? Follow Kelly Lawson's board Headshots (Avatars) on Pinterest.

3 Community Branding Lessons From the New iPad Mini Launch Event

MARCIO JOSE SANCHEZ/AP What I noticed most about the launch of the new iPad Mini by Apple Senior Vice President Phil Schiller this week is that he did not sell us on how this new device will change our lives. That's what Steve would have done.

He would have reenacted dreams of our childhood made real by this new device. He would have painted an irresistible brand picture for it that would make it feel like it belonged in its own category of product; something we hadn't already seen many times before. Instead we were sold on specs. There was certainly a romantic praise for the industrial design that Apple always deserves, but he gave us information, not religion.

Absent was a play to the emotional, personal experience that indicates a true understanding of what Apple customers want that Steve never missed. Was this device created because competitors' success indicated a demand for this type of device? Or did they build something that would make their buyers lives better? That's what Apple used to always strive for. That narrative was weak this time.

'Belonging' Strengthens Brand Communities

Apple taught us that we should build a community around our brands. They did it before social media and now they continue to do it without brand-generated social media. Despite their heavy use of traditional advertising and marketing they still connect with their community (advertising on social channels is not a very social use of media).

Here are 3 things Apple used to do better than it does today that any brand can learn from:

  1. Demonstrate understanding.

    Your products and services should always communicate that you understand your customer. Not just what they want to pay you for, but that you understand them as people. You know how they live, what's important to them, and what they enjoy and don't enjoy.

  2. Communicate emotion.

    Information won't accomplish anything unless it stimulates an emotion that supports your brand. Make your customers feel nostalgic, unique, or even afraid if that's what they want and expect from you. Stephen King told beautiful stories, but fear needed to be part of them to satisfy his community.

  3. Share the experience.

    Regard your company, products, and services the way you want your customers to so you can authentically project that regard on to others who might want to be part of it. Company + Customers = Community.

Steve Jobs knew these pillars of branding better than anyone. Without being social he still used that channel for viral reach by pushing traditional media buttons: PR, advertising, events, etc. He made Apple a company that could carry out these 3 brand goals using the old ways. Imagine what a brand could do if it reached for these goals with social media.

How would you pursue these 3 goals with your brand?