There’s a person on the other side of that avatar!

[Editor's note: The following is based on actual events:]

“Maybe it’s a generational thing, I dunno,” said Sam. “I intuitively get it, but for some reason, I just can’t get it like you’ve gotten it.”

I leaned forward, looked down, lightly stroking my goatee, and paused…thinking for a moment. Well, actually, that wasn’t really true. I was pretending to ponder something.

Finally, I said “Well, I don’t think you intuitively get it then.”

“What do you mean?” he replied, looking puzzled. And perhaps a bit miffed.

“I feel like you overcomplicate this whole idea of social media. Frankly, it’s a big defeat for me that I have failed to help you understand the one central tenet of the whole frickin’ thing,” I replied, going so far as to lightly pound the table. Because you know, that adds dramatic impact.

“It’s so simple. You realize, of course, that there’s a person on the other side of that avatar, right?” I wasn’t trying to make a point, I was really asking, wondering, if that connection had been made in his head…

“All you have to do is review your personal Twitter stream, Sam. It doesn’t take long to observe that all you do is push your content. That’s all you do. Nothing else. You are using it solely as a media distribution machine.”

I paused for a moment, this time for dramatic effect, “I mean, don’t you see that’s like sitting down with a human being face-to-face, not letting him talk, not letting him offer his own ideas, hell, not even letting him speak?”

This time he scratched his face, but didn’t say anything. Until after a few seconds, “I get it. I get it.”

“But you aren’t using it that way. You’ve told me time and again that this stuff is boring, that it’s work, that it’s a chore,” I stopped to take a breath, pausing again, “Well shoot, if all you do is push media, yeah, no wonder it is work.”

“I’ve seen you in social situations. I have observed you actually strike up conversations with real humans. I know you can do it,” I added, laughing a bit, hoping to lighten the mood.

But I was finding myself feeling angry about this. I don’t consider myself the smartest guy in the world, just a humble, quiet guy trying to make it in the world. But it was very frustrating to me how difficult this simple concept was for many to understand.

“Look, I’m not saying there isn’t value in promoting your work. That’s certainly one of the opportunities behind social media, but it sure isn’t the single purpose,” I added.

“But all you’ve got to do is connect with people you care about, prospects, customers, friends, family, thought leaders, people who influence you,” I said. “Then you sit back, put up your feet, drink some coffee, and watch them say things. Watch them do things. Watch them promote things. Watch them comment on current events. Just look for opportunities to reply and engage.”

I paused for a moment, trying to buy some time to let that sink in.

“Stop thinking about strategy. Stop thinking about the appropriate network. Stop thinking about frickin’ ROI. And for God’s sake, stop thinking about the time it takes,” I begged.

“This isn’t about time. This is about connecting to people. Engaging with them. Learning from them. You don’t fuss at me about the time you spend making countless phone calls and leaving voicemails that are rarely returned. What’s the ROI on that time?”

“No,” I said, “This is about connecting with the human on the other side of that avatar. Nothing more, nothing less. And like any successful endeavor, you have to sustain the effort over the long haul and put in a little time each day…that’s when the payoff comes.”

I leaned back in my chair. I was done. Spent.

“Yeah, ok, I get it,” Sam said.

I smiled, nodded, and said “Good. I hope so.”

I ran my fingers through my hair, and organized some notes for an upcoming meeting. But I knew. I knew that likely nothing had changed. Sam and I have had this conversation before you see.

But I hoped he’d invest the time to really try to connect with someone, and see that relationship blossom into something. As far as I could tell, he’d never accomplished it before. But I wasn’t sure he ever really made the effort.

Some day, I thought, he might really get it. Then everything changes…

[Editor's note: The names have been changed to protect the innocent. To learn more about the conversational side of modern digital marketing, you had better join my list. You can do that here.]

Drawing by Hugh.

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My Holiday Facebook Transformation

intrepid marketing

I began to feel uneasy about my Facebook strategy a while back now.

It started with the daily birthday task. You know how Facebook presents the list of your friends having their birthday?

I actually think this is a great thing, in that, Facebook provides a great tool to reconnect with people you know and care about on an important day. I love it.

But…

My list of Friends was growing, and soon, I began to see people on my daily birthday listings, and didn’t know who they were.

Hmmmmm.

Not really friends, are they?

This troubled me, and made me realize I was growing my list just for the sake of having a large list. And I didn’t like it.

So, I’ve begun the process of slowly removing people from my list of Facebook Friends that I don’t know. Amazing, in just removing about 75 people so far, my news feed is already brimming with updates and news from people I want to hear from, or haven’t seen anything from, in a long while.

It is a sad realization when you are scrolling (and scrolling) through reams of Facebook media, waiting (and hoping) to see something from a person you actually know. Pathetic.

Also, I’ve made a recent adjustment to my business page on Facebook too.

Here is my page if you are interested:

[click here if reading via email]

For a long time, my Intrepid business page was dormant. But until recently, I’ve started to use my page as a way to sharing really good content, in addition to some of my own.

The intent is not to slam you with 40 updates a day, just two or three really relevant, and helpful articles and essays.

As you can see from the tracking above, it makes a difference. You can tell easily when I started to post this content.

But here’s the thing I want you to remember:

Don’t just post content for posting content’s sake. Your Facebook business, or “Fan” page, only impacts people when you do two things:

1. Share relevant and helpful content, yes.

2. But more importantly, when you engage with real people there. When they do or say something, talk with them about it. Ask questions, comment, agree, disagree, discuss.

What I’ve learned, and what thousands of others who market through their Facebook pages have learned, the amount of likes you have doesn’t really matter.

In fact, it matters not, other than for bragging rights, and that doesn’t put money in the bank.

No, what matters most is the people talking about you. The people who are actually engaging with you, talking with you, and sharing the content themselves.

You see this on Facebook pages all the time: 1,345 likes / 4 people talking about this

To repeat, most people care about the amount of likes. This is wrong and boneheaded. You want to worry about the people talking about you, and you want the amount of people to be much, much larger than…4.

That is the growing metric you should be striving for, and focusing on.

P.S. The stats section of your business/fan page, known as Insights, yields some really cool data and statistics, data you can actually export and study. Sadly, most people are doing NOTHING with that. Shame shame…

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Join the intrepid list to learn other hacks to making social and digital media work for you!

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My April 2012 Social Media Experiment

Effective today, I am starting a new social media experiment for the month of April.

For purposes of my business networking and marketing strategy, I am active on four basic social networking sites on a regular basis: Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn.

So, for the month of April, I will only engage with one network at a time…one each week of the month.

The critical lesson I am hoping to learn here?

I worry every day that I am spread too thin… Is splitting time and focus on each of the four networks negatively affecting the impact of the entire network? Will I emerge from April with a decision to eliminate one or more of these networks?

TWO DISCLOSURES: One, I will be monitoring all four key networks in case someone reaches out to me there. So, if a client or prospect directly messages me on one of these networks, I will respond (sorry, but I am not going to ignore a client). And two, when I publish content to the blog, I will distribute it to all four networks, as I’ve done for years.

THE CRITICAL ACTION: The real value, however, in social media, is engaging and conversing with real people. So, in this experiment, I will ONLY engage and interact, talk about stuff, and share content on ONE NETWORK AT A TIME.

Here is order of engagement:

Week 1: LinkedIn
Week 2: Twitter
Week 3: Facebook
Week 4: Google+
[note: this order was established using the "eeney, meeney, miney, mo" strategy]

WHAT I HOPE TO LEARN:

1. To see if increased focus on ONE network dramatically improves the conversation there.

2. Increases connection.

3. Drives significant more traffic from that specific network than usual.

4. At the end of the month, will I decide to eliminate one of these from my ongoing time investment?

5. Will I get better at using the specific apps for each network on the iPhone?

6. What will I learn more about each specific network?

We’ll see.

Look to hear back from me on May 1st. Will be sharing what I learn.

P.S. My apologies in advance if I am less responsive this month. I am not ignoring you, I might just be focusing on a different social network…

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To learn more about being an intrepid marketer, join up here!

Drawing by Hugh Macleod.

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10 Things Winners And Losers Do When A New Social Network Appears

Pinterest is getting a of buzz lately. I finally wrote about it Saturday.

From my unscientific observations, I’ve noticed two basic camps: Those that are claiming it is going to be second only to Facebook and a critical platform for business. And those crapping on it as a waste of time and that you’ll likely go to jail for using it.

[if you don't know what I am talking about, then you are likely in neither camp]

To be frank, this phenomenon occurs when any new social network with some juice happens on the scene. It is becoming a tiresome process. But like our political system, that’s all we know, so it will likely stick around for a while.

This process, and how people react, annoys me. Why? Well, I am always tired of seeing people talk about something, instead of “doing” something about something. I’ve classified these into two camps myself: Winners. And Losers.

LOSERS

1. Losers complain that the new social network is going to take up too much time. “Oh, I don’t have enough time for Twitter and Facebook as it stands, how am I ever going to have time for something new?” My answer? You suck at time management, and need to learn how to use the platforms properly in the first place.

2. Losers complain about functionality. Oh, this pisses me off. First of all, most platforms are FREE. So, until they start charging, I’d stop with the incessant fussing. If you don’t like it, get off your lazy butt and create a social network that you think is perfect. Here is a hint: you can generally mold these platforms into tools designed to serve your purposes. You just aren’t trying.

3. Losers say “my target business audience can’t be found there, so it is NOT worth my time.” Kiss my grits. It is a new social network, so most EVERYONE isn’t exposed to it yet. This statement is code for two things: One, you are lazy. And two, you just don’t want to invest the time to find your audience. When users of a social network number in the millions? There are prospects to be found.

4. Use the platform to spam. Listen kiddo, a new social network is NOT a new platform for you to blast me with your content one-way. Social networks are, well, social. They are designed for conversation and interaction. I mean, every time, the same damn people. As soon as they join, I get hit with their same crap posted on EVERY OTHER network they are a part of.

5. Losers join every new network without giving it any thought. [Especially if, you know, they are a self-proclaimed social media guru.] They immediately join the new network, follow 1,200 people right away (of which they know 47 of them), and start mass bombing. They follow the same people, are followed by the same people, and do EXACTLY the same thing on all networks. [I mean, really, feeding your Twitter stream to LinkedIn. You have a head. Use it.] Losers then complain that social media isn’t driving revenue or meaningful traffic to their site.

WINNERS

1. Winners take a quick look at a new platform, dive in, and check it out. They experiment. They test. And they make a quick judgement about whether it will move the needle for their brand and their business. And, they do this without a lot of fanfare. If they seem to be talking about it, they are not. You see, what you are really seeing is them communicating with real people. This is called conversation. This is how most successful people build their business.

2. Winners use the tools as designed, perhaps make some helpful recommendations, but most importantly, they seek to read and learn how best to utilize the new platform. Losers go straight to their blog and bitch about it…

3. Winners find ways to integrate the new social network (if they deem it worthy) into their existing mix. They understand that each network is different, and serves different purposes, and find the right combination of message and strategy to exact benefit.

4. Winners understand it is a social network, and treat it that way. They see the networking value, not the BROADCASTING value.

5. And some winners decide the new network isn’t for them, and they quietly move on. But you don’t hear about it, because they are busy doing. Or, they are busy learning about yet another new tool that will be used to kick your business ass.

What are you?

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[join my network of intrepid business people. winners only please!]

[drawing by hugh macleod]

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Why It Is Worth Giving Pinterest A Look

I promised myself that I wasn’t going to join the thousands of others writing their Pinterest blog post.

And I do not intend to spend this whole article trying to convince you. And yes, I did write an article not long ago about why I wasn’t going to join the Pinterest fray.

click to enlarge

But I’ve been on the network for about two weeks [you can find me here], as of this writing. And I merely wanted to share with you a few quick observations. And these, in my humble opinion, should inspire you to consider at least exploring Pinterest.

1. After two weeks, it is already driving traffic to my blog. Just four days ago, it ranked as the 23rd best referral source. This morning, it ranked 13th. And, again, this is after just two weeks.

2. More importantly, the bounce rate for visitors referred by Pinterest is MUCH lower than the site average.

3. And even more significant, in my opinion, the average time on site for visitors referred by Pinterest is ELEVEN MINUTES! This goes without saying, but this is WAY higher than the site average.

Three immediate comments:

1. With items 2 and 3, the point is, at least at this point, Pinterest is driving meaningful traffic to my site!

2. These same measurements NEVER occurred when I first joined Google+.

3. I do expect these numbers to normalize over time, but for now, it is very exciting to observe.

As I promised, this isn’t an article meant to teach you how to use Pinterest. But I thought these numbers were worth reporting…in case you had doubts about investing time here.

Full disclosure…I did finally join Pinterest because I had a client that I thought could benefit from the platform. And after two weeks of experimenting, I think this will become a meaningful tool for my client…and all small businesses.

Pinterest is proving to be a great platform to tell your story, and promote your brand promise.

That is, of course, if you use it correctly… ;-)

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[join my merry band of intrepid marketers and learn more about integrating social media into your organization]

j j j

I Am The Only Guy NOT On Pinterest; And Other Breaking News

Yes, that is the smokin' hot Jake Ryan...

Yes. Tis true. I am not on Pinterest.

Based on what I am observing on my Twitter, Facebook and Google+ streams, I believe I am the only one who has NOT opened an account.

Funny thing is, the Sun still came up this morning.

The world is still turning.

Look, I am not dissing Pinterest. From everything I’ve heard, it sounds like a wicked cool tool.

But hey, I have a business to run. Clients to serve. A book to write. Radio shows to edit and produce. I am a busy guy.

I don’t have time to look at collections of baseball diamonds, glassware, wedding images, cute shmutzy animal pics. Man, I wish I did, but I just don’t.

I am not suggesting there isn’t a business application for Pinterest. If there is any marketing utility to sharing some sort of visual portfolio, then Pinterest might be a cool app for you. And you are an idiot to not check it out and explore it.

But not me.

At least yet.

Why do we act like teenagers succumbing to cliquey pure pressure to simply HAVE TO sign up for the newest thing?

And you know, my simple message here is to say this:

You aren’t a loser if you too aren’t on Pinterest yet. In fact, most of us still suck at effectively utilizing Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Facebook to grow our business, much less new shiny objects like Pinterest.

Why don’t you figure out first how to move the needle with Twitter before you rush to the front of the line and sign-up for the latest toy? Where you are very likely connecting with the same damn people you are connecting with on every other social network…

I remember a guy mocking me because I hadn’t signed up for Quora yet. Well, I did. And I admit, it was a cool space. Very helpful. And I haven’t been there since October.

Focus your time where it moves the needle. And serves clients.

Then, and only then, can Toddy come out to play…

P.S. When I grabbed the screen shot of the Pinterest home page to share on this post, I saw the Jake Ryan image. So, honestly, I may reconsider and get on Pinterest right away. Jake is so damn cute…

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[isn't it time to join a cool family of intrepid marketers? i say yes]

j j j

SalesChaosTV: Can You Trust A Social Media Expert?

Thrilled to be working with Social Media Today and crew on a new online video series, SalesChaosTV. Here is our first episode, first published here:

As we ramp up, the team plans to bring you one new episode each week. The goal: to stir up some conversation and debate around common, everyday issues around sales, marketing, business strategy and social media. However, we intend to be extreme, unconventional, in-your-face, contrarian… In other words, to make you think and act differently about this subject matter.

In fact, you are welcome to email questions and subjects you want us to cover here.

Todd and Dan

A thrill to partner with Dan Waldschmidt on this project. Dan is my kind of guy…edgy conversations, extreme strategy, and a writer, blogger, speaker and distance runner like myself. It will be a riot working with him on this project: an edgy, extreme dude with outrageous vision mixed with someone focused on living and working intrepid.

[Editor's note: I will, as often as I remember, publish the SalesChaosTV videos here on Intrepid. But, they will be published first, and exclusively, on the Social Media Today family of sites. Stay tuned here to see the freshest new content...]

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The Burden of Social Proof Makes Many Of Us Social Media Idiots

Yeah, yeah, I know that social proof is important. Someone is more likely to retweet something that already has a bunch of retweets, verses an article with a big, fat zero.

But I think the whole thing is hooey.

No, not that I believe that concept is wrong. I just think the idea of it, and our desire to capitalize on it, makes us do stupid things.

But first, some stats to give some perspective:

The world population might reach 7 BILLION in calendar 2011.

There are over 165 MILLION public blogs in 2011, according to Wikipedia…although it seems more than that.

Over 750 MILLION people on Facebook… give or take a few million.

Around 200 MILLION people on Twitter, according to someone on Twitter.

Already 25 MILLION people on Google+, which just launched a few months ago.

So when I do a quick scan of Seth Godin’s blog, which is arguably the BEST business and marketing blog on the planet, and the best posts show only 900+ retweets…

[disclaimer: I only reviewed the last three to four dozen posts on Seth's site...]

…there are a lot of people on the earth NOT retweeting his content.

So, the purpose here is to beg you…

Please, please, please don’t get hung up on how many retweets, shares, likes, etc. that you and your content receive from your audience.

Remember. Almost 7 BILLION people on the planet. And the best blogger doesn’t normally get over 1,000 retweets.

Get over yourself.

All that matters is that your content speaks to the small audience it is really intended for.

I saw a promotion on LinkedIn recently. “Get your blog post seen by ONE MILLION people…. in less than 10 minutes.”

Seriously.

Really?

Hey look…if getting ONE MILLION hits to your blog matters, subscribe to this service. If getting nearly 1,000 retweets helps you feel like you matter in the universe…

Do it.

But I have got to say…that promotion felt way schwarmy to me. Didn’t seem honest. And more importantly, it didn’t seem realistic to me.

I have a wee small blog. Geared towards a very small audience of both potential customers and informing current customers. Yeah, I would love 1,000 true fans. But I will be happy if I achieve 100.

And honestly…that makes me feel good. Because what I say matters to those people. And that makes for a good day.

Now, my two businesses are growing. Intrepid is a one-man shop. There is only so much work I can achieve, on behalf of my clients, on a given day. Dreamland is a three-man shop. There is only so much work the three of us can achieve on a given day.

I couldn’t possibly handle the workload if ONE MILLION people came to my blog in ten minutes, and a small percentage of them wanted to do business…

I guess I am saying that while lots of traffic, lots of subscriptions, lots of comments and lots of retweets would be nice, not having that isn’t negatively impacting my business. I have more than enough prospects, thank you very much.

But just what does trying to maximize social proof make us do? Well, a few examples:

1. We offer programs to people promising ONE MILLION blog hits in ten minutes.

2. We use the social web to blast content one-way instead of using it to engage with real people one-on-one.

3. We stuff our content with relevant – and mostly irrelevant – keywords to overtly influence the search engines, diluting the message to the people who need it most.

4. We ask people to retweet, who don’t really want to retweet.

5. We obsess over stats – instead of engaging with people, or doing real work.

6. We worry more about building giant counts of subscribers, followers, connections…than worrying about mindfully connecting with a few people that matter.

Hey look, I get it. If your goal is to sell ONE MILLION copies of a book, sure, you need a larger audience. For me? I am looking for a handful of GREAT clients to do some meaningful work. The goals are different.

But let’s be honest. Most of us aren’t trying to sell ONE MILLION copies of our book. We are trying to run a small enterprise, earn a comfortable living, and enjoy and be challenged by the work that we do.

Most of us won’t die if a recent blog post doesn’t get very many retweets. I used to worry about it. A lot. I used to endlessly refresh the browser to see if people were retweeting my latest post.

Thankfully, I realized it was a waste of time. And in the end, it didn’t matter to my business. So now, I enjoy my interaction with the few people that matter. I try to write meaningful content that serves that small, important, and relevant audience.

And that’s still resulting in growing my two businesses.

That’s what matters.

What do you think?

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[cartoon by hugh macleod]

j j j

Google+ Will Grow Your Business, If You Believe

Do You Believe?

As you might have heard, Google+ has launched over the past week. You can find me here.

Clients are beginning to ask me is it worth it? My answer is yes. If you believe.

If you believe that the social web moves the needle for your business. If you believe that conversation and relationships are what drive sales. If you believe that interacting with human beings – using social platforms – move people to action.

Most don’t believe.

In fact, a majority of small business people still need to be convinced of the value of blogging. Of Twitter. Of using Facebook for business. Of podcasting. Heck, some still need to believe that LinkedIn can drive business opportunity.

So my recommendation is this: if you are still futzin’ around with and learning the value of blogging, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc…it probably isn’t worth your time diving into Google+. Yet.

How will I use Google+? I will use it as a better way to keep in touch with close friends. I will use it as a way to deepen relationships with people I want to get to know better. And of course, I will use it for prospecting…both for new business and to recruit guests for all my radio shows.

Google+ does two things that change the game, in my opinion. One, they have a feature called Hangouts, where you can have a group video chat with up to ten people. Think of the collaborative opportunities with that… Two-way skyping is so 2010. Ten-way collaboration, learning, sharing…now that’s social, and that’s powerful…

And two, you can very easily group your connections into small, organized groups, called Circles.

Why does Circles matter? On Twitter, for instance, when I share a news article, my entire following of 5,100+ sees it. On Circles, if I only want my close friends to see something, I can opt for that. If I build a circle for prospects, which I’ve done, then I can choose to only share content with my prospects.

Circles makes it very easy to target specific content with a specific audience. You can do this on Facebook, but it isn’t easy and it is very cumbersome. And you can’t do it on Twitter.

For me, I will be very strict in who I let into my Google+ world. I am only connecting with people I know, and very specific people that I want to get to know. I am NOT blindly following anyone who wants to connect. My Twitter and Facebook worlds are too big. With Google+, I will closely monitor who I let into my little world.

So, Google+ is a game changer, in my opinion. But don’t join in just to half-ass it. If you believe that social connection matters, if building and cultivating human relationships matter, Google+ might be the best social network yet.

But don’t engage anywhere on the social web until you believe…

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[Todd Schnick is a marketing strategist, helping entrepreneurs become intrepid marketers...]
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j j j

A Twenty-Four Year Old Sales Cycle: A Facebook Case Study

What I am about to report, is nothing you haven’t heard before. But the story bears repeating again. Because you just never know where business opportunities will come from.

My old high school...

I got a lead on a new consulting gig yesterday…

…from a guy I haven’t seen in 24 years.

Yes, from a guy in my senior class in high school. He and I connected on Facebook a few years back. And just yesterday, he connected with me on LinkedIn when he reached out to see if I was interested in exploring the gig.

Now, I don’t know if this will go anywhere. It might not.

But isn’t that just exciting? He and I weren’t the closest of friends in high school. We didn’t hang out on weekends and such. But we sat together often. And had fun messin’ around in class from time to time.

So, as I said, nothing profound to report here with this post.

This is just a story, happening in real time, for all the people who tell me that social media isn’t a place to market your business, especially Facebook.

And to be honest, I don’t really “market” my business on Facebook, I just promote my content when I publish something.

So over time, this guy just happened to learn enough about what I do for a living to inquire.

In fact, the real lesson here is to spend more time on Facebook cultivating relationships with people such as my old friend. Imagine if we all used the tools the way they are designed, and actually dialog with people.

That’s the lesson for me. I engage with people more than the average fellow, but not enough. And trust me, I will adjust my strategy a bit…

You should too.

And you should also remember, there is value in every friend, connection, and follower. Even one you haven’t seen in 24 years.

If you just engage…

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[pic found here]

j j j