Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Thursday, December 16, 2010
Monday, March 29, 2010
Long live contact information.
Over the past few weeks, at more than one business presentation and network mixer—including #SMCNH (Social Media Club New Hampshire), #SMBNH (Social Media Breakfast New Hampshire), #mtosummit (MTO Summit) and others—more than one professional greeted my request for his or her business card with the response that he or she didn't have one, but "it doesn't really matter. We'll just follow each other on Twitter and connect on LinkedIn. What's your name? Mine's..." These professionals' heads then turned downward as they buried themselves in their BlackBerry or iPhone or Android or whatever and looked for me online—right there, on the spot.
What? At some of these gatherings, as I proceeded to look at my nametag and my newfound contact's, I recalled that event staff had encouraged us to include our Twitter user names on them. But even at the events where our Twitter handles were not displaying on our nametags, early adopters everywhere were eschewing the business card, instead going straight for the social media site or installed mobile application of their choice, either to connect or to record my contact information. As I handed these folks my business card, a feeling of slight embarrassment replaced the feeling of pride that has usually accompanied the notion that, "Hey, I have an official business card to share with you."
Of all the holdovers from the days of hard copy marketing collateral, the business card has seemed ironclad, its domain sacred and impenetrable by the otherwise unstoppable march of technology. "People will always trade business cards" we've all heard, and even now, rarely will someone say the business card is no longer a necessity. But the business card as we know it is dying. No longer a multipurpose tool, more and more its role is becoming relegated. More and more, the business card is becoming a statement of brand just as easily expressed elsewhere, and the contact information traditionally found on it is now available just as readily (and more easily stored and remembered) elsewhere, as well.
Sure, only those on the cutting edge of social media attended some of these events, but even so, the trend away from hard copy business cards is undeniable. Mobile technology is driving this change, and while many may rue the business card's demise and the loss of the tangible—count me among the Luddites in this matter—the alternative is in fact preferable; the easy exchange and storage of contact information has always been the primary purpose of the business card, and technology has rendered the traditional business card no longer the easiest way to exchange and store contact information. It's as simple as that.
For instance, savvy readers may already know of the iPhone Business Card for ActiveRain:
Another is Catcher in the Sky's Name Catcher:
Applications such as these facilitate the exchange of information during the initial business encounter. With them, the process is often to take a new contact's photo and then record the associated phone number, e-mail address, Twitter user name, LinkedIn profile URL, blog address, pertinent notes about the first meeting, and more into a dynamic, searchable and Web-enabled interface, usable whenever you find a need to get in touch with that person. With a hard copy business card, you must remember and find the time to record and store all the typically handwritten information later. Unless you're extremely organized, that can be the end of it, and unless the data is tailored for mobile technology, that information can be challenging (or just a plain old nuisance) to retrieve later.
Technology's battalions have exploited the old world's latest weak spot. The next time you go to an event where technology types congregate, see for yourself. As you proceed to obtain new contacts' information, take note of their attitudes toward business cards. Whether they're using a BlackBerrry or iPhone or Android or whatever, their responses may lead you to conclude as I have.
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Yes, it's true, and for anyone who makes due with small re-tweets, I hate to be the bearer of bad news: If you haven't got a big re-tweet, any re-tweet will do, but bigger is better, and Twitter users everywhere ought to be vying for that big re-tweet. Why? A big re-tweet brings with it big visibility, and big visibility brings with it success on Twitter—but only when developed and cultivated in a methodical way. In other words, you need to know how to use that big re-tweet, or it'll do little for you. The consolation is this: That big re-tweet is anything but complicated to get. Just provide the valuable information (whether it be your own or someone else's) and sprinkle it with wisdom. Oh, and make sure you're in the right place at the right time.
Last week, yours truly lived a mini case study in what the big re-tweet is like. About a month ago, I joined the Twitter list of SmartBrief on Social Media, an aggregator of information pertaining to search and social media. SmartBrief distributes its e-mail newsletter daily to thousands. Earlier that day, I had seen an article at MediaPost Blogs that asked whether or not B2B companies ought to embrace social media in 2010. I thought this would be useful for my followers to see, so I tweeted a link to the article and tied the notion to the trade show industry.
Here's the original tweet:
Notice that my tweet happened to include the MTO Summit's Twitter hashtag. It did so because I wanted my fellow attendees at MTO Summit to read the linked article. My hope was that as many of them would agree: Yes, the trade show industry indeed ought to embrace social media in 2010. It's a reasonable statement highly relevant to their industry—the stuff of excellent tweets, actually.
Well, imagine my surprise (and elation) when SmartBrief on Social Media noticed my tweet and not only re-tweeted me, but also featured me as the day's "Big Re-Tweet" in its afternoon e-mail distribution. Here's the publication's re-tweet of me, as it appeared on Twitter itself:
And here's the blurb that appeared in the e-mail newsletter:
…which is the language of the publication's actual re-tweet, interestingly.
Thousands probably saw the re-tweet and the word of it in the e-mail newsletter, and in a methodical way I went about making the big re-tweet work for me—following the advice I shared with you a few paragraphs ago.
First, by encouraging a handful of my closest, most trusted and best-connected followers to re-tweet the re-tweet, I effectively chased what I like to call the long tail of social media chatter. Would I have liked to do more? Sure, but I worked with the bandwidth I had that day. Additionally, I forwarded the e-mail to as many of my hottest prospects as I could think of, and in many cases, doing so reignited exciting conversations regarding deals. By at once playing the role of information curator and wisdom-sharer with one tweet that day, I capitalized on the big re-tweet in order to take a critical step in establishing myself as a thought leader in my field and as a curator of especially useful information in the Twitterverse itself.
Much of this might seem boastful, but in no way am I special. I simply worked the online ecosystem, and so can you. In fact, following are three simple tactics anyone with good ideas and tenacity can employ to get that big re-tweet that'll go a long way in getting them big results on Twitter:
1) Use hashtags liberally: Capitalize on hashtags to get your ideas in front of the Twitter users following the subject matter related to your expertise. Share your wisdom with these ad hoc communities, which display great fluidity. Some, such as #publicrelations, have great staying power; others, such as those forming around a trade show or networking event (e.g,, #mtosummit), can form quickly and organically, swell, and then, eventually, dwindle. Either kind is of great value—you never know when a key influencer will give you the big re-tweet.
2) Join lists: Created by influential thought leaders or by publications, lists automatically place your tweets on the radar of the list's creator and everyone on it. Once you tweet something perceived by that community as being of note, you may draw the big re-tweet. Several weeks ago, for instance, I joined SmartBrief on Social Media's list by following the publication's instructions to do so—i.e., by including the hashtag of #ireadsbosm in a tweet. This alerted the publication to my desire to be added to its list's roster, and being on that radar placed all my tweets on this influential publication's radar—hence, that big re-tweet.
3) Re-tweet notable tweeters: It may seem unseemly, but it isn't if you do it tactfully and mean it. Just refrain from re-tweeting others will-nilly and be sure to include your own nugget of wisdom, thus adding to the quality of the conversation. The powerful re-tweeted person's followers may very well notice your tweet, re-tweet it, and even follow you. And if that person's followers comprise your target market, you've gotten that much closer to new business.
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Put differently, Twitter is for networking*.
This might prompt you to respond, "Tell me something I haven't already heard." You might even say, "Oh, and please spare me the buzz by actually explaining how I can use Twitter to network. I've heard this everywhere. But never, it seems, does anyone back up the claim with an explanation or how-to. Please explain! I need a how-to!"
I used to be this way. Can you believe it? Yes, I was just like you. Twitter seemed inane, something I begrudgingly paid attention to only because something deep down inside told me if I didn't, I'd be in deep trouble.
But I've since figured out something fundamental to Twitter and all of social media: Social media complements brick-and-mortar relationships and the brick-and-mortar events that give rise to them. And, occasionally, social media can be the starting point of a relationship. In fact, the process is anything but linear; the two scenarios coexist. Feeding off each other as circumstances evolve, they ebb and flow continually, and either can be the starting point from which the other stems. Let me explain.
If you're reading this, you may be an entrepreneur of sorts, perhaps even self-employed. That's great. So am I, and as a self-employed person, I urge you to fill your schedule with a slew of brick-and-mortar events. Attend at least two per week. I prefer learning-style events to simple mixers, but that's just me. I just find that learning events tend to provide a more intuitive entrée to thoughtful conversation.
Whatever your event of choice, resist the temptation to stay at home or at the office (or at both, if they happen to be one and the same). Whatever you do, refrain from remaining in front of the computer all day long, catering to clients' every whim. Yes, clients are your most important asset, but don't let them keep you from the all-important activities that bring in new business. You're like a shark, which needs to keep moving to breathe. Breathing is important, and to breathe in business, you need to keep moving.
Press the flesh. If only for the networking opportunities, these occasions are the very building blocks of business-building. Ideas will come to you as you shake the hands of and listen to speakers at the top of their game share the inner workings of that game of theirs. You'll return to your clients energized and full of inspiration. Isn't that what any client worth having wants?
And while you're at those events, don't forget to use Twitter to network.
OK, here comes that how-to part of all this. ...
Earlier this month, I attended LaunchCamp at Microsoft's fittingly named NERD Center in Cambridge, Mass. A highly interactive event of the highest order, LaunchCamp explored the landscape of new online tools and their utility to burgeoning start-ups.
Did I shake as many hands as I could? Of course I did. But pressing the flesh is different nowadays. Sure, shaking hands in person will always make an impression, and I did plenty of that; we'll always do plenty of that. But social media enabled me to press the flesh online, too, and by doing so, I was able to accentuate every subsequent in-person hand-shaking moment.
Most forward-thinking events have a Twitter hashtag, a series of letters preceded by the pound sign (#). For LaunchCamp, the hashtag was #LaunchCamp. By including this hashtag with every one of my tweets pertaining to the day's activity, I was able to make my thoughts easily viewable to all in attendance, and by searching this same hashtag, I was able to follow all other attendees' event-related tweets, as well.
How did I make these capabilities work for me? I joined the many others in attendance who tweeted on the many ideas that speakers were presenting. A parallel, online conversation developed that was nearly as compelling as the brick-and-mortar's. As a fellow attendee, I was able to establish my own modest level of thought leadership among attendees. Others did so, as well, and people replied to me and others.
In between sessions, we all shook hands and established the foundations for post-event discussions on collaboration and…wait for it…new business.
So, Twitter is for networking. But don't just jump into Twitter without a plan. Even if the plan is as simple as making sure to tweet during an event you're attending and remembering to include the event's hashtag with every tweet, you'll be harnessing the power of social media as a people relations tool.*By the way, I have Ari Herzog (@ariherzog) to thank for alerting me to the term "people relations," which blogger David Mullen (@dmullen) coined a couple years ago. At a recent Social Media Breakfast New Hampshire (#smbnh), Ari and I had a chance to chat, observing that public relations is really people relations, and that social media is a facilitator of it. There's more to this, actually, which I plan to cover in upcoming posts. For instance, business networking is probably the simplest form of public relations -- I mean, people relations. Stay tuned.