WebAfternoon: Why I Love The Web

I was blessed with the opportunity to share a five minute lightning talk at this past Saturday’s A Web Afternoon mini-conference. The goal of the event? A conversation by people who love the web and all it’s possibilities. A special hat-tip to J Cornelius for the generous invitation. I had a wonderful time.

Video may be available down the road, but I thought I’d share a rough recollection of what I said to the attendees. Enjoy.

My one slide...

Best-selling author, cartoonist and general all-round agitator and instigator Hugh MacLeod published this cartoon several years ago. “The web has made kicking ass easier to achieve, and mediocrity harder to sustain. Mediocrity now howls in protest.”

I love this cartoon. I look at it every day. It inspires me, it makes me think about what is possible on the web. You see, the web changed my life. It gave me a voice.

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I was the quintessential introvert. Quiet. Shy. Reserved. I hated, detested, social interactions. I doubt that I said a total of 200 words during high school.

Today, childhood friends, family, and high school and college buddies are stunned that I make my living doing internet radio…

The web made that possible…

You see, my first gig out of school was in politics, thus, I became a political operative for the next several years. It wasn’t until I transitioned from political operative to marketing strategist that I began to come out of my shell.

Why?

The web made that possible. I experimented with the web. Tried things. Learned things. Succeeded. Failed. Failed again. And then, I stumbled onto podcasting. And that changed how I do business.

Nowadays, I do internet radio for a living. I have a studio in north Atlanta, conduct dozens of interviews a week, reach thousands, and travel coast to coast broadcasting from trade shows.

It is a fun way to earn a living, helping people and organizations tell their story. The web made that possible…

Why? The web unleashes your true potential. It unleashes your true power. And like me, it can help you find your voice. There is an artist…there is a creative…in all of us. If you let it, the web will draw that out.

You can reach millions. You can inspire millions. You can educate millions. And yes, you can even instigate millions [pointing to image of cartoon].

yesterday at GTRI, the venue...

Now, I am about to finish my second book, a collection of essays entitled Kicking Fear’s Ass, the title inspired by that cartoon [pointing again].

It is a collection of essays from people about how they are combating, and battling fear. The project is eye opening. And it reminds me that still far too many people are NOT taking advantage of what the web has to offer. And it is up to us to help them see what is possible.

And sadly, the three things that I believe hold most people back, are the three things that I think makes the web so wide open to possibility.

They say, “Oh Todd, the web is just too big. My message will be lost.” Perhaps, but there is a niche out there for you. A niche that only you can reach, that only you can touch, that only you can motivate. It is hard work finding that niche, glorious work, but hard. But when you find it, your world changes.

Two, people are scared of the transparency of the web. They think they don’t like people getting into their business. I say bunk. Transparency is what makes the web great.

I can spend an hour on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn, and see what inspires you, see what motivates you, see what moves you, and see what pisses you off. This is how I learn about you. And this makes for powerful connections between us. In my view, Twitter is a window into your soul.

Transparency makes the web great.

Three, people are too damn afraid of negative reactions, negative feedback. It is the reason still too many organizations do NOT engage on the social web. Heck, not a podcast goes by that I don’t trip on a word, stumble on a phrase, or mispronounce someone’s name. And sure as heck, someone calls me on it.

But that makes me human…and that’s how I connect with my guests.

You will get negative feedback on the web. But don’t worry, that never ending flow of information will keep flowing, and people will be talking about something else soon enough.

And the great thing is, when you get negative feedback, there will be people in your community who will lift you up, help you, support you, advise you, counsel you, collaborate with you and love you…

And that’s what makes us ALL better.

The web changed my life. It gave me a voice. The web made that happen.

Now I need you to help others see what’s possible, to find their own voice on the web, to help others kick ass on the web [pointing to cartoon again].

Now let’s get to work. Thank you.

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Control Your Own Life

You should be able to hang out in coffee shops whenever you want to...

I was listening to a podcast recently that featured entrepreneur Derek Sivers, founder of CD Baby. At the end of the discussion, when asked if his e-mail could be given out for people to reach out to him, he responded by saying “of course!”

The host, a little unsure of this offer, reconfirmed that it was, in fact, ok to give out Derek’s email.

Derek responded, “Yeah, it is. Don’t worry, I control my own life.”

This was one of those moments that made me smack my forehead…wishing I had complete control of my life. I am real close…but not just yet…

I run my own business. I am out of debt. I am able to set my own schedule. I work in coffee shops whenever I want to. I go running when I want to.

But somehow, I don’t feel completely free yet. Still a few lingering business issues and long-term work projects that are occupying my time.

I suspect many of you ask these questions of yourself often:

1. It is Sunday night, do I really have to go to work tomorrow?

2. Do I really have to sit next to this jerk in the cubicle next to me?

3. I am not interested in this work project, do I really have to invest energy on it?

4. I so want to write, or work on my book, but I just have too much work to do. Where will I ever find the time?

5. I want to train for a half-marathon, but my 9 to 5 gig makes training impossible. When will this race ever happen?

6. I just want to chill and watch a good film or listen to some music, but there are things I have to do, and I will feel guilty if I relax.

7. Is it so wrong to just want to sit quietly in the morning, with a cup of coffee, and read a book?

8. How will I ever play with the kids when I have all these responsibilities?

If you find yourself asking some variation of these questions, it is way past time to do some serious thinking about your future.

And yeah, I know. This is where most of us insert the typical “life’s a bitch” comment such as “I need this job, I am in severe debt, I have no skills, I’m no entrepreneur, It’s just not in the cards, My friends/family won’t accept that, I am not creative enough to pull this off, I don’t have the money, etc., etc.”

Look, many times over the last several years, I questioned the sanity of trying to control my own destiny. Too often, getting a steady paying gig made a lot of sense. And a lot of people in my circle pushed me to get a job.

But, I didn’t. Although it was one large part stubbornness, I’ve fought hard to move my life in this direction. And, I am almost there.

Trust me when I tell you, there really isn’t a better feeling than to have complete control over every minute of your day. To do what you want to do, when you want to do it. Or, like Derek Sivers, to welcome emails from complete strangers and try to provide a little help and encouragement to those who request it — just because he can control his schedule and make the time to do just that.

No, it isn’t easy. It never is. In fact, most things aren’t. And the sooner you realize that things SHOULDN’T be easy, the sooner you can clear your head of all those fake obstacles holding you back, and get to creating the lifestyle design you want, and get control of your life.

And no, you will never have total control when you work for someone else. But you can start getting more control. You can influence that. Do NOT let that be an excuse.

So. When are you going to start getting control?

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[photo from flickr]

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The Blogging Vs. Doing My Job Conundrum | 10 Ways Around It

“Ack. I haven’t published in a few days and I need to get something up on the blog asap…

…but I am soooo busy with work and just can’t block off enough focused time to get my creative writing done. What to do?”

Yeah, that’s me. Right now. I am so jammed up with client work right now that my blogging feels like it has slagged off a bit. And I will admit to having anxiety about it. I mean, blogging shouldn’t be causing me stress, right?

Right.

But here is the deal. Don’t worry too much about it. As you will find, blogging goes in fits and stops. If you are a small business owner, or a solopreneur like me, this will be a common conundrum.

Just publish when you can. The world will keep turning and the sun will continue to come up in the morning.

Here are a few simple ideas on how to generate content quickly and simply – to help you keep publishing and shipping when you get busy with real world work:

1. When you have time, stockpile a few posts that you can publish during busy times. (I am trying to do more of this.)

2. Find an article that speaks to you and would be relevant to your audience. Mention the article, feature a link to it, and then explain in a few words why you think the article matters. Simple.

3. Do the same with a cool video. Or a commercial you see on TV and find on YouTube. Add a wee bit a commentary and publish.

I took this recently. So much to say about this shot...

4. Or snap a digital shot of something you see out in the world that you find interesting. A funny billboard (see left – a photo I took recently whilst on Atlanta roads). A clever restaurant menu. Quickly write about what you think about it, and ask for comments and thoughts.

5. Publish a survey. Ask for people’s opinions on a topic relevant to your space. Let your audience do the work.

6. Promote great e-books that might have meaning to your audience.

7. Publish a book review. Great way to publish content that has meaning to your audience, and does the author a favor (assuming of course, the review is favorable)…

8. Recommend new blogs to your audience. Again, great way to help and serve your market AND help out that blogger you are referencing. (Trust me, they will somehow return the favor).

9. Launch a podcast, and regularly publish your episodes. This is what I am doing with Intrepid Radio. And I am having a ball with it.

10. You can also publish video interviews of your customers.

So there are a few ideas for you to produce some blog content that still has meaning to your audience.

What do you think. Got any other ideas? Please share!

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B2B And The Social Web – So What’s Your Excuse?

[UPDATE: This post was picked up by Social Media Today]

So I had yet another conversation with a gentleman about how the social web (blogging, Twitter, Facebook, etc.) just isn’t appropriate for B2B sales.

To which I replied with my standard professional, classy response to such a statement:

“Hooey.”

Let’s begin with one key assumption. I am not necessarily talking about companies like Dell that have sold seven figures worth of computers through Twitter.

I am talking about selling services, high-end consultative services, and high-price ticket orders such as manufacturing equipment and installation.

If I had a dollar for every sales guy who said “I will make no sales on Twitter,” I could retire and spend 24 hours a day blasting such characters…on Twitter.

Funny thing is, they are sort of right. And that’s WHERE they stop. And that’s WHY they stop. And that’s exactly why they WON’T ever sell anything on Twitter. Or anywhere on the social web for that matter…

Mail me one penny for every time you’ve heard this line: “The kind of people I sell to aren’t on social media.”

I hear this all the time. And while I want to get angry at these souls for feeling this way, I don’t. Because I know that they just don’t see it, just don’t believe it. Or, in many instances, aren’t willing to do the work necessary.

Many are looking for the easy way to make sales and generate revenue for the business. I hear people all the time who say they only get business from face-to-face networking or from word of mouth. But I ask, if you are legitimately getting business via these tactics, you’ve invested lots of love and care into building that referral network, yes?

It is no different on the social web. In fact, you do it to accomplish the same goals:

1. Establish trust.
2. Build relationships.
3. Demonstrate competence.
4. Educate.
5. Teach.
6. Learn.
7. Make friends.
8. Find alliance partners.
9. Find support partners.

So how do you start? How do you begin the process of building relationships?

1. Engage people on Twitter, start conversations. Here are some ways to start.
2. Use geolocation platforms such as Foursquare and Gowalla to start conversations.
3. Comment on relevant industry blog posts.
4. Listen and comment to relevant industry podcasts.
5. Monitor prospects and what they are doing/saying on Facebook. And engage.
6. Monitor prospects and see what groups they are participating in on LinkedIn. And engage.
7. Find meaningful conversations, and identify people you want to know, through strategic queries on Twitter Search.
8. Share other’s work. On whatever tool you want. By whatever means works for you.
9. Blog about your passion, your hobby (here’s mine). You will meet new people. These people could be prospects. Or know people who should be prospects.

These are just a few ideas. There are more. In fact, if you have other ideas, please share in the comments. And here’s the important piece of advice: don’t sell them.

Get to know them. Talk about music with them. Talk about sports. Where they had dinner. What books are they reading.

Talk about anything that matters to them – that isn’t BUSINESS related.

What’s going to happen?

They will learn to trust you. They will inquire about you. They will look you up online to find out more about you. You will meet up at an event somewhere and it will feel like you’ve known them for a long time. You will agree to have coffee. You will then learn ways to help them in some way perhaps. They will become, at the end of the day, your friend.

And don’t people like to do business with their friends? I’ve read that somewhere…

Before you go, remember these 7 keys to success:

1. Be consistent.
2. Be patient.
3. Be disciplined.
4. Remember that this process takes time.
5. Understand it won’t happen overnight. Or in a week. Or in a month. Probably longer.
6. Finally, recognize your competitors aren’t willing to put in that time. They spend their time making up excuses as to why this won’t work.
7. And when you win? Don’t gloat. Instead, teach others how it worked.

That’s when the book deal and speaking gigs come! ;-)

What do you think?

P.S. Important thing to remember (for those who read this far): Notice how this wasn’t a blog post about how to sell your high-end consulting services? This was a post about how to use the social web to make new friends and strengthen relationships. Once you do that, the selling is the easy part…

[photo from marfis75 on flickr]

j j j

Solid As A…Static Rock?

Usually, something that is solid, that doesn’t move, that is unchanging, immobile, etc…is something we rely on, something that can be counted on, something that seems like a steady foundation. Almost comforting, if you will.

But not in the modern world of marketing. When it comes to your web presence, you don’t want to be described as unchanging or immobile. Your web presence needs to be…ENGAGING.

That’s what intrepid marketers do. [More text below video]

[In the video below, I discuss the value of an engaging web presence:]
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ek9hJljaWQ0]

Here are a few tactical ideas you can use to provide an engaging web presence:

1. Incorporate a blog into your site.
2. Allow comments on your blog.
3. Respond and engage people when they comment.
4. Provide forums to facilitate conversation.
5. Invite guest contributors.
6. Connect people to your social web tools, like Twitter.
7. Utilize surveys tools.
8. Solicit questions from your audience…
9. …and be sure to answer them!
10. Make it easy to share your content.
11. Invite people to join your e-newsletter.
12. Use an Instant Messenger plug in to invite conversation. Hold regular hours.
13. Provide content with various mediums, such as video and audio.

The items listed above are not new. They are not rocket science. In fact, I suppose when you reviewed the list, you probably said something along the lines of “no kidding.”

Yet I continue to be amazed how many entrepreneurs have chosen not to incorporate these simple tactical options into their web presence.

But that said, it is what you do with these ideas that matter. Here are a few reasons why having an engaging presence matters:

1. Strengthens your brand.
2. Allows relationships to develop. This is where the sales come from.
3. Simplifies process of testing – and getting feedback on – new ideas.
4. Does a better job educating people about you and your business.
5. Makes it easier to teach and help and serve others.
6. Allows for better story telling.
7. Not to mention provides fresh and unique content – updated regularly – that keeps people coming back for more.
8. Oh, and added Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strength.

At the end of the day, it is the safe and easy path to build a static website – one that is solid, reliable, and unchanging. But dare I say it is lazy? And boring? Static sites just don’t cut it any more in this fast-paced, conversational, and engaging world we now live in.

What do you think?

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Intrepid Ways to Rock Your Brand in 2010!

Is Your Brand Experience Memorable?

Is Your Brand Experience Memorable?

Ok, so Seth Godin defines a brand this way: 

A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another. If the consumer (whether it’s a business, a buyer, a voter or a donor) doesn’t pay a premium, make a selection or spread the word, then no brand value exists for that consumer.

So I used to think brands were created by hiring some fancy schmancy consultant to come in, retool the message, and redesign the letterhead.

No.

In fact, what I’ve learned is that YOU have all the power you need to create this brand experience that Godin talks about. So, in this final post for 2009, I wanted to share some simple, actionable ideas that ANONE can do to rock your brand – and begin to build up this brand value that Seth Godin talks about above.

So here are some ideas. Good luck, and let’s kick some butt in 2010!

1. Publish an eBook/book – Yeah, sure. Everyone is publishing books these days. Well. Not really. But it is easier than ever to publish a book. And it really does help you stand out in the crowd. And modern marketing tools make it easy to build a community around the book’s concepts – and build interest in both you and your book!

2. Host a radio show/publish a podcast – These days, it is so easy to produce a podcast or host a radio show. Having a content engine that excites and educates your community is where marketing is going.

3. Commit to blogging at least twice a week – To rock your brand, you must blog on a regular basis. It not only serves your audience, but it does amazing things for your search engine results. Can you get away with blogging less? Sure. But I have evidence to show that blogging several times a week does wonders for your online presence. If you have something valuable to say, say it. Get your thought leadership out there.

4. Engage in conversation – You simply have got to have DISCIPLINE yourself to engage in real, honest-to-goodness conversation with people. Every day. I had a simple conversation on Twitter over the last week that may prove to not only be a fun project to be associated with – but potentially a lucrative one as well. How did it happen? Two dudes said hello on Twitter…

5. Do something to connect like-minded people. This is something I learned, in a big way, in 2009. Connecting people is a way cool way to build your personal brand. I had a ball hosting multiple TweetUps and events over the past year. The most amazing thing about it? Observing people connecting and making cool stuff happen – right in front of your eyes – is a most amazing experience.

6. Take a hobby – and build community around it. People love knowing what you do to pass the time. This notion that we really don’t care what you had for breakfast, is a bunch of hooey. We do. We love knowing what people we care about are up to. We just might not admit it. So, embrace that. Tell the story of how you are writing a book. Learning how to play the piano. Or training for a half-marathon… People want to know, and it makes your personal story and brand that much stronger…

7. Shift your thinking to mixing personal and work. Ok, this notion of keeping Facebook for friends, LinkedIn for business, and Twitter for someone else is total bunk. Your life is you. Don’t tell me you don’t talk about your kids or your hobbies at the office. We are ALL connected now. Life is an open book. Embrace it!

8. Be yourself. Not someone else. These days, you need to be you. Not some fake person that doesn’t really exist. You have to be you. There is nobody else like you. Take advantage of that, and let the world know you are there. And what you stand for!

9. Update all your social network profiles. I was looking at my LinkedIn profile the other day. It needs to be updated. I will tackle that task soon. You should review all your social network profiles, and be sure they are all current and up-to-speed. The world is moving fast. You need to keep up and keep your story current!

These are just a few ideas. Have any others?

Have a happy and prosperous New Year!!

[photo credit: Anita363]

j j j

Todd Schnick Now Co-Host of High Velocity Radio!

HVRlargeReaders of this blog have been hearing me say for a long, long time to do something exciting and different with their marketing.

Well, I have taken my own advice. I have accepted the invitation of original host Stone Payton to join him on the mic for The High Velocity Radio Show!

Stone and I have big plans for the show. We will have guests that will talk about bringing fast, innovative change to their business, who get better business results in less time, and who practice the art of CircleNomics – bringing quality relationships and profitable business into their circle.

But stay tuned as we grow and evolve this show!

So, not only do we get to interact with a wide collection of fascinating, innovative, and successful business leaders, we get to share their valuable insights with our own community. And that is the best part about it!

But what a great way to meet people and interact with them in a serious way. One could continue to cold call and/or spam people with interruption marketing tactics in hopes of getting them to respond… Or you could invite them to share their knowledge on the radio. Hmmm…

I’ve chosen my new approach. But as I’ve said, it isn’t about Stone or myself. It isn’t even about the guests on our show. It’s really about our listeners – and providing them with helpful and valuable content that helps them learn, grow and become better business leaders.

Comment below if you are interested in being on the show, or want to suggest a future guest for the show. Or use the “Ask A Question” form to the immediate right. We would love to hear from you!

Thanks Stone, for the opportunity to join you on this adventure. It’s gonna be a wild ride!

Tune in to The High Velocity Radio Show Monday mornings at 1000AM Eastern time! As Stone says, see you in the fast lane!

j j j

Intrepid Webinar – The Social Media Feeding Frenzy!

mediocrity-0905CLICK HERE to listen to my most recent webinar, The Social Media Feeding Frenzy. A nice simple intro into how social media can be an important part of your business marketing. Learn some key assumptions, some basic concepts to building and growing community, a few ideas on how to use social media to market your business, and what tools you might consider exploring for your business.

And lastly, learn the amazingly simple secret to social media success…

Enjoy!

j j j

Communicate, Or Be Irrelevant

751398_talkingI firmly believe that 99% of the world’s problems result from poor communication. From bad marriages, to failed politics, to international conflicts, etc. – all could be improved with better communication.

And poor communication negatively impacts your business – and your personal brand too. If you don’t take even simple steps to improve your ability to communicate – you and your business will soon become irrelevant.

So, here are some ideas, tips, and strategies to become a better communicator. This is an incomplete list. We will post more down the road. And we hope you add some more in the comments. But here is a good start:

1. Dedicate time each day to reach out to friends, clients, and prospects.

2. Write a personal note to new prospects.

3. Use your favorite RSS reader to follow different blogs each day – and comment on several.

4. Be honest.

5. Be yourself.

6. Serve others.

7. Spread value.

8. Use social media and Google news alerts to keep track of friends and clients.

9. Send handwritten thank you notes to customers.

10. Recommend valuable members of your Twitter community on #followfriday.

11. Wish friends a Happy Birthday on Facebook.

12. Answer people’s questions on LinkedIn.

13. Don’t misspell. Check your grammar.

14. Make sure your email signature has something of value in it.

15. Return phone calls promptly.

16. Don’t SPAM!

17. Don’t sell anything at a networking function. Provide value.

18. Start a conversation. It’s downhill from there!

19. Listen first.

20. Read a little each day. Being well read makes you a better conversationalist.

21. When you have an audience’s attention, don’t waste the opportunity. Take the time to prepare meaningful comments. You don’t get many chances to have a room full of people listen to you…

22. Don’t prejudge anyone. You never know what may happen with someone you say hello to, even if they don’t look like someone you would normally interact with…

23. Activate an internal social media system in your business or organization. Something like Yammer, or Ning. You’ll be surprised at how things get better by facilitating internal communications!

24. Don’t self promote.

25. Be easy to find. Nothing frustrates more when a customer can’t find you!

26. Speak and write conversationally. Technical jargon makes it hard to understand you…

27. If you take the time to prepare a meaningful presentation, record it, and share it with your community as a video or podcast.

What did we miss? We will post a second list down the road, but let us know some communication strategies that you want to see included!

Be Intrepid .

j j j

18 April 09 – Social Media Workshop Agenda

ASSUMPTIONS

  • Marketing has changed.
  • We all use it differently.
  • Constantly evolving.
  • Learning never stops.
  • Accept transparency.
  • Lots of experts and advice.
  • No rules. But…

GUIDELINES

  • Be yourself.
  • But it’s not about you.
  • Always give value.
  • Seek to build relationships.
  • Connect people.
  • Sustained effort.
  • Size doesn’t matter.
  • Build community is the main goal!

BUSINESS APPLICATIONS

  • Identify/observe/engage prospects.
  • Multiple touch points.
  • Real-time feedback/market research.
  • Monitor all the chatter – about you, company, competition, field.
  • Live your brand (personal vs. company).
  • Let SM flow through everything!
  • Empower others.
  • Customer experience.
  • Building loyalty.
  • Think through a strategy.
  • Improved SEO.
  • Monitor/track progress (increase in qualified leads, decrease in customer-service complaints, increased traffic, increased PR activity, increase in sales, increase in repeat business, improved cross-selling, more referrals).

THE TOOLS

  • Blogs
  • Twitter/Facebook/Myspace/LinkedIn
  • YouTube/Flickr
  • Podcasts/video.
  • Social bookmarking sites
  • Efficiency tools (Ping.fm/RSS)
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