A lesson from LinkedIn: Crowdsourcing your education

Check this LinkedIn screen capture out. Isn’t that cool?  Makes me think … maybe there is some value to this social networking stuff after all. : )

Bringing down the Twitter snobs

It seems that Mitch Joel and I are becoming the Social Media Odd Couple.  I like Mitch. He’s smart. It’s just that I think he is so frequently wrong.

Like in his latest post, “Being a Twitter Snob is a Good Thing” when he states “it annoys many people when they follow you on Twitter and you do not follow them back. Too bad. Don’t do it.”

Mitch lives the life of a Twitter snob, exclusively following only the most select and obviously interesting people. His reasons:

  • It is a way to de-clutter a cluttered social media world.
  • Having select Twitter followers reflects better on your taste in connections
  • Having an appearance of exclusivity adds to your credibility

Before I respectfully rip Mitch a new one, let me provide two points about my own Twitter strategy:

1) I absolutely block any obvious spammers, MLM marketers and list-builders from my Twitter stream because I do not advocate these business practices. So to that extent, I am not a person who follows everybody.

2) It is a free world and you should follow any Twitter strategy that makes sense to you, including Mitch’s.

Now, having said that, Mitch my dear friend — You.  Just.  Don’t.  Get. It.

Reza Malayeri is exactly the type of person Mitch would not follow.  He is an unassuming employee of a Veterans Administration Hospital in Seattle.  He has a 147 Twitter followers, none of them are “A-List” by Mitch’s standards.

A couple of months ago, Reza sent out a random, funny tweet that made me laugh out loud.  We had an exchange of corny comments and soon I was looking forward to seeing him in my Twitter stream.  Reza made a real effort to connect by following my blog, commenting and sending me jokes.

Last week I spoke to Reza for the first time.  I found out that he is a disabled U.S. Veteran.  He is an awesome parent.  He’s helping out his father by putting a family business online after working all day at the hospital.  And after connecting with another member of the {grow} community, Arminda Lindsay, he was inspired to develop, sponsor and promote a Breast Cancer Awareness charity event in his hometown.

Folks, this man is a hero.

He is an A-List human being and I am HONORED and HUMBLED to be following him.

So my first point — There is an amazing person behind every single Twitter picture. Every single one.  Who is Mitch Joel or anybody else to judge who is on the A-List?

Reza and I are now helping each other in a number of ways.  We are creating new business benefits.  How did it start?  With a random, corny tweet.

Second point — Here’s the rule of creating relationships and business benefits through Twitter: You just never know.

You never know who will connect with you, you never know how they will connect with you, and you never know where it will lead. So why would you exclude ANYBODY?

To the Twitter snobberati, I honor your freedom to follow whomever you want, but kindly suggest you are missing out on the greatest networking opportunity in the history of mankind.  And Reza too.

 

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Bill Piper has no clue what he’s doing in social media

I have this new habit. When I’m alone on a long car trip I will put out a tweet asking people to call me and keep me company. It has led to some serendipitous benefits, including meeting Bill Piper.

Bill called me seeking advice — lots of advice! He had begun a new marketing assignment and admitted that he was over his head.   I’ve followed his rapid progress and he has graciously offered this guest post on his learning adventures in social media.  By the way, he came up with the headline too!  Here’s Bill:

Several months ago, I was handed the reins to my company’s digital brand.

I didn’t know what I was doing.  At all.

I’m a young marketer and enjoy social media for myself, but the most I knew about digital B2B marketing was that I could really blow it.  I work for a cutting-edge IT company, so our ambition was to do social media in the same manner: on the cutting-edge, and with excellence.

Starting from square one, I knew that I needed a solid plan with executable tasks and guidance from someone who had been where I wanted to go.  So I took Mark’s social media marketing class and learned a sustainable process to drive our desired business benefits (revenue) over the long haul.

We started implementing our strategy earlier this year with blogging, SEO, and a few social media outlets.  We haven’t done it perfectly.  It hasn’t been impressive.  But the thing is – it has WORKED!

We’ve secured sales leads, generated revenue, and solidified our brand recognition through social media.

I’m not an expert but I’ve outlined a set of principles that have worked, even when I had to work above my experience level.

1.       Make humility work for you.

For most of us, an honest and objective look at ourselves should enable an attitude of humility.  The difficult part is that it’s not always easy.  To be successful, figure out the people smarter and better at their jobs than you are and ask them lots of questions.  Who is the Mark Schaefer in your community?  There are lots of gurus out there but who can you work with who really knows what he or she is doing?  We all want to look smart, but asking for help and assuming a humble attitude of learning can be your biggest asset in developing your skill sets.

2.       Focus. Develop your skills one by one.

Given the breadth of digital strategies, there’s a lot of knowledge and savvy that goes into successful marketing.  What are the top three marketing skill sets you need to develop? Pick one at a time, get really good at it and move on to the next.  Starting out, I learned proficiency in SEO first, then blogging, and then Twitter, etc. and, I’m going to keep learning, too.

3.       Be committed and decisive.

With inexperience and uncertainty it’s easy to over-think things.  When faced with uncertainty, I found it important to make the best decision I could at that specific time.  I acknowledged that I didn’t know all the variables at play but would move forward expecting to make adjustments.  I couldn’t commit to being perfect, but I could commit to constant forward motion.

Which expert are you more like in your career right now: the expert champ or the expert chump? If you’re a chump, it’s okay.  You don’t have to be perfect in your social media execution.  We’re all still learning, and there are probably things I should be doing that I haven’t even heard about yet.   At the end of the day, though, I’m content with my ignorance-expert status as long as we keep getting results.

What has your journey been like?  How are you learning and growing in your job?

Bill Piper works in business development and marketing for Claris Networks, an information technology firm in Knoxville, TN.   You can follow him on Twitter at @billpiper.

Today’s lesson: Yes, I do have limits.

I had a personal milestone last week — a different kind of {grow} experience — and it wasn’t a very good one.  The story starts with an 8-year-old boy.

Over the past year, I have been a mentor through a program called Amachi which pairs adult role models with children who have a parent in prison. My little boy is Elijah and we have become best friends. I don’t think it is appropriate to say a lot about him but as you might imagine, he has a very challenging life surrounded by stuff no child should ever have to experience.

Elijah’s life is usually contained to an inner city neighborhood and extends about as far as he can safely ride his bike. It is a world without trees, wildlife or open spaces and one of the things I learned is that he loves nature. He is absolutely transformed just by seeing a squirrel or a rabbit. So over his school fall break, it made great sense to take him camping for the first time at one of our state’s amazing parks.

Now one thing about Elijah — he’s a daredevil.  The kid is always pushing his physical limits — and mine!  So when he saw a poster of a person rock-climbing, I knew I was in trouble.  “Can we do that?” he asked.  I tried to explain that you need ropes and special equipment but it was too late — he had that unmistakable, mischievous twinkle in his eyes.

We had an amazing first day at the park with perfect fall weather and ended up at a tall waterfall. Because of our recent drought, there was a 30-foot rock wall exposed that ended at the river above. By the time I had caught up with him on the trail, Elijah had nearly scaled the perilous rock wall.  A chill went down my spine as I saw him throw his leg over the top of the ledge.  He now stood high above me grinning ear-to-ear. My heart dropped.

The rocks were black and slick from the mist of the waterfall and so steep that there was no way he could come back down safely.  Finding another way to the top would mean he would have to stay there alone while I found an alternate path.  My instinct was to go up after him. After all, I’ve spent half my life in the woods and this was familiar territory.

I made it half-way up and realized I was in trouble. For the first time in my life I faced a physical challenge and realized that I was too old and out of shape to do what I could have done a few years ago.  My vision of myself was out of sync with my actual physical capabilities. I still participate in mountain biking, skiing and other physical activities and have surely noticed changes with age, but cannot recall ever facing a point where I was telling myself, “no.”

“I don’t think I can get up there,” I yelled up to Elijah. “I’ll have to find another way to come get you.”

“You can do it,” he said, a little panic rising in his voice. “Remember who you are!”

What I heard was, You are my mentor, my father figure and the guy who can do anything in my eyes.  Don’t leave me here.

So I climbed.  And I fell.

It seemed like I fell a long time, at least long enough for me to say one prayer,”Please God, not my head.”  I had already suffered one spinal cord injury in my life and knew this fall could be catastrophic. What would happen to Elijah if I knocked myself out?

I don’t know how it is possible, but I tumbled down multiple rock ledges and did not hit my head. Every other body part – but not my head. This was a legitimate miracle.

Everything was bruised but adrenaline took over. I told Elijah to literally not move one inch until I found a path to get to him.  And for the past week I have felt like a bruised and crippled old man.

All of this has re-set my view of myself.

How did I put myself in place where a mis-aligned self image and ego endangered me, my family and Elijah?  How could I be so self-deceptive and stupid?

I need to come to terms with my age and physical realities. I hate that.

As I posted last week about my concerns with the implications of “screen saturation” and children, I had to do a gut-check to see if I was expressing a legitimate concern or if I was starting to sound like every other generation before me, lambasting “the youth of today.”  Am I crossing some invisible line here?

These experiences are all natural elements of life transitions yet that makes it no easier to internalize and accept. In an era where we are being bombarded with age-defying advertising themes, how are you dealing with your life transitions?  Have you ever faced a physical or psychological limit yet?

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