Monday, April 21, 2014

Social networking is as simple as donuts and pie

The jury may still be out about which social networking method is the best, but it is not out about whether social networking is here to stay. It is. Luckily, social networking has evolved. What used to be for musicians then for self-absorbed teenagers has become available for all.

People, companies, and causes use social networking via social media channels to keep in touch, influence buying decisions, and gain support.

As a lifelong social butterfly, I love social networking as a way to interact with even more people than I ever imagined. My favorites are Facebook, Linked In, and Twitter, but there are many other methods utilized by very successful people in a variety of fields.

There are so many social media sites to choose from, it can be confusing. The photographic description of popular social media channels shows each one as it relates to donuts.

Social networking has evolved further than the donut analogy shows.

It is becoming passé to use social networking to talk about oneself all the time. I love Facebook because I like to know what my friends and long-lost chums are up to, not because I need them to know all about me. On Linked In, I like being connected with experts from a variety of fields because it makes me resourceful. As for Twitter, I like knowing what others are eager to share.

My view of social media is more like the chart on the right, which is less about me and more about others. After all, they are much more interesting!

Social should mean two-way communication; however, advertising traditionalists used to one-way self-promotion are still learning how to capitalize on the interactive opportunities in today’s social networking.

A terrific example of the current use of social networking was exhibited by CNBC, the cable business news television channel. On Tuesday evenings, CNBC shows reruns of another channel’s popular business show, Shark Tank. After two episodes of Shark Tank, CNBC airs one of its own shows, The Profit. I am a big fan of both shows and, as some of you know, I tweet about them on Tuesday nights.

Two weeks ago, CNBC sent me a direct message via Twitter saying they wanted to thank me with a gift for watching The Profit.  Since they had just aired an episode about a candy store and had a bakery episode coming up, I sent my work address right away.

A week later, a pie arrived! The package contained a key lime pie, show t-shirt, and thank you note.

It was yummy! Several of our colleagues enjoyed a slice of pie sent to thank me just for doing what I liked doing anyway. I call that winning, don’t you?

If you want to use social networking well, consider the following tips:
  1. Be selective. Each has different pros/cons, so use only the media you like best.
  2. Be genuine. This is the most important piece of advice I have for all participants. Phoniness is a turnoff.
  3. Interact. This is the second most important advice. Follow others and comment on their posts. One-way communication is out-of-date.
  4. Be useful. People are more interested in a recipe for success than in what you had for lunch.
  5. Be humble. Posting only accomplishments will be as annoying as those braggadocios holiday letters.
As much as I like it, I understand that everyone is not cut out for social networking.

You might have been turned off by social networking, but it’s not your teenager’s network any more. Maybe you got sick of people posting pics of every meal on Facebook, or of every move their kids make, but it’s not used like that by most people any more. Now, you can great groups to include or exclude people who still post that way. Maybe you are introverted and prefer to interact only with a small group of close friends, family, and colleagues.

Whatever your preference, stay updated. Stay informed.

People who think their customers aren’t on social networks or who think social media is a waste of time are dinosaurs. Real relationships begin and build via social channels every day. Social networking is evolving, and people, companies, and causes need to stay updated or they will miss out. It is as simple as that.

Monday, April 14, 2014

This blog brought to you by the letter B: Bacon!

Have you noticed the topic in the news more than anything else the last few years has been bacon? It’s everywhere! Bacon Diet Coke, bandages, mouthwash, candy canes. It’s not just for eating, either, it’s for wearing: shoes, watches, dresses!

What could your company do to gain the favor bacon has gained in recent years?

Why does everyone love bacon? Or, if they don’t love it, why is it socially acceptable to ridicule bacon haters?

What does bacon have that you don’t have? (Yet!)

First of all, it smells good even before you taste it. Does your company pass the bacon test? Are you as appealing to customers throughout your processes even before results? Are you easy to work with or is it time-consuming getting contracts signed, scheduling meetings, reading reports?

Second, bacon is available in small doses. You can cook a few strips of bacon then save the rest for later. (Okay, who really does that? But, we could.) Are you as accessible for customers? Can they rely on you for small projects with quick turnaround times in between the bigger projects? Or do they think you are only good at one thing?

Third, bacon makes everything taste better. It makes salads, burgers, eggs, and Scope taste better. Do you have the same impact on your work? Would your customers say working with you is the best part of their day? Are they jumping at the chance to involve you in even more work? Bacon is in everything because people love it. Can you build the same kind of love?

Oh sure, not everyone loves bacon and not everyone will love your company. But bacon focuses on those who do love it. It’s not trying to win anyone over or convince anyone that it’s great. Be like bacon!

How do you think your company could be like bacon?

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Is consensus over-rated?

Consensus is great, right? Building consensus leads to better ideas, work efficiencies, and higher morale. Consensus is so important, there are courses taught on the subject and consultants earn big bucks when they facilitate consensus-building sessions for companies across the globe.

When there’s consensus, everyone is happy with the solution or action. Everyone buys in when they have contributed, which leads to higher productivity. Plus, there is a sense of camaraderie as people work together on the shared goal.
But there is a downside to consensus.

The most significant downside to consensus-building is the time it takes. It takes time in meetings, whether one-on-one or with groups, to build consensus. But, even beyond that, keeping the consensus as solutions are implemented is time-consuming. I wonder if too much time is spent here on reaching consensus.
Who says we have to be 100% happy with every solution we have to implement?
Can’t we implement solutions even when they are not our idea or preference? Is the expectation of joy for every minute of our day too high?
When too much time is spent gaining agreement for too many solutions, consensus can prevent accountability.
For example, let’s say two technical staff members explore an idea for a new product your company could offer. They do the relevant market research, calculate forecasts, and build the prototype that gains approval of their director to proceed. If the product fails or succeeds, the buck stops with the two staff members. Accountability doesn’t mean they get fired if it doesn’t work. It means they need to explain where the research and forecasts erred. They don’t get to say, “Well, it failed but Bob approved it!” On the other hand, if the product is a wild success, accountability means they get rewarded for success.
Consensus is not needed for everything it is used for all the time. Don’t use it to get out of making decisions that are your responsibility. Instead, get ideas and input from others, then make the decision. Also, resist the temptation to insist on consensus when you are invited to give input and ideas. Feel free to share then let our colleague decide.
When consensus leads to lack of accountability and to procrastination, the good part of it is lost.