Network To Your Hobbies

January 17th, 2013

I met recently with a client who wanted to add new networking events to his calendar. I asked him where he had been networking, and he mentioned he mostly did evening happy hour events. It was obvious from his body language that he didn’t enjoy them.

Remember what I always say. “If you’re not enjoying your networking, you’re doing it wrong.”

I asked him what kinds of activities he enjoyed. His face lit up and he talked about cars and outdoor activities. I thought we could work with those.

Turns out there’s a car club he’s only been to once. He enjoyed it but he always felt he should be focusing on work. Since the club is for BMW lovers, and his business targets people with high net worth, I suggested maybe it could be about work and fun at the same time.

Outdoor activities turned into a fun idea. He’s going to take some of his clients rock climbing. Fun and teamwork in one activity. Think he’ll be able to turn those into some referrals?

The moral of this story is don’t forget the fun while networking. Some of your hobbies might turn into referrals in ways you haven’t realized yet.

So what are your hobbies? Share them in the comments, and let’s see if we can’t turn them into networking opportunities.

Review: Flipboard

January 10th, 2013

As you know, I read a lot of blogs. And I’ve added Tumblr to my list of social media platforms to follow (for entirely personal reasons). I recently switched my iPad case, and I found I wanted to do more on my iPad than the computer, so I went in search of a good Google Reader app. I can access it through the browser, but I don’t really like it.

I’d also been reading subscribing to a New York Times Kindle blog, and a fortuitous series of events added a new app to my iPad home screen.

I’d heard of Flipboard, but I’d never tried it, and it was the highest rated RSS reader I could find in the App Store. The reviews made it sound like it would integrate well with Google Reader, so I downloaded it.

I was adding feeds, and I noticed Tumblr. Cool! The Tumblr iPad app is good, but if I could reduce the number of apps I checked each day, I was okay with that.

Then I noticed that the New York Times digital subscription was available through Flipboard, and I went looking. I liked it on my Kindle, but you know me. Always ready to try something new. I did a bit of hunting and discovered that the Times’ “Top News” was available free through Flipboard. I created an account and logged in through Flipboard. What did I see? Exactly the same articles I’d been reading on my Kindle, only with pictures. I was sold.

Other than lots of feeds, what is good about the app? It’s gorgeous, in either landscape or portrait mode. You turn pages with a swipe, and the page turn animation is a nice “flip.” It’s an awful lot like turning newspaper pages. It’s a simple animation, but it’s intensely satisfying.

I can get Google Reader, Google+, Tumblr, the New York Times and some generic news feeds. I can also login to Twitter and Facebook if I wanted to, but I haven’t added them. Each feed opens into a magazine-like page with images and an excerpt of the article. Usually, there’s 2-4 excerpts per page. Tap the one you want to read, and you open the full article.

Yes, there are ads. But they are full-page magazine-style ads that are easy to flip past. They are attractive and don’t detract from reading any more than ads in a magazine, either print or digital. They could change them up a bit. I usually see the same three or four ads each day, but mostly I just flip past and keep on reading.

You can share articles on Twitter, Facebook, via email and probably other ways I haven’t explored yet. My favorite “share” feature is “Read Later.” You can set up either Pocket or Instapaper as your default “Read Later” service, and Flipboard will send the article to either service. I would prefer if you could set up both and select when you send an article, but I have it set to Pocket, and that works well enough. The New York Times updates their feed several times a day, so I use the send to Pocket feature to save an article for reading later. Then I don’t have to worry if the Times rotates it out.

It’s a great app, and I highly recommend it. It works on the iPhone also, but the full screen of the iPad is where it really shines.

Don’t Take Down That LinkedIn Profile

January 3rd, 2013

A few weeks ago, I received an email from a contact. She had quit her job and her networking and semi-retired to take enjoy golf and grandkids. Good for her!

Her question to me was “How do I delete my LinkedIn profile?” My answer back was “Don’t.”

Why?

You put a lot of time into creating that profile, and you’ve worked hard to build your network of connections. Why would you want to lose all that? You might not need it again, but you never know what the future will bring, and it’s better to have it inactive for a while, ready to activate, than to build it back up again.

Obviously, if you have a paid account, you’ll want to downgrade to the free account, but an inactive LinkedIn profile doesn’t hurt anything. If you unsubscribe from group notifications and change your privacy settings so people can’t find you easily, you’ll get barely any email from LinkedIn.

Going inactive means you don’t lose anything you worked so hard to build, and it’s there, ready if you need it in the future.

Now all this assumes that you have a good, well-built LinkedIn profile to start with. If not, give me a call. I can help you with that!

Go Back To Simple, Twitter

December 18th, 2012

I was recently helping out with a class on setting up a Twitter account, and we ran into an unexpected snag that made the set-up take considerably longer than it should have.

The first screen, where you choose a user name and set a password, was easy enough. It was the second screen that stopped us cold.

Notice how they want us to select a bunch of people to follow? This was a business Twitter class, and many of the suggestions were unwelcome at best and inappropriate at worst. What’s missing here? Yes, a “Skip” or “Next” option.

Here’s what the screen used to look like:

See how that “NEXT” button was big and easy to spot?

Easy, eh?

Well, when I got home and set up a test account to give me screen grabs for this article, I finally found the “Skip” option. Can you find it? Suggestion. Click on the image to enlarge it. Otherwise, you’ll never find it.

Almost harder than finding “Waldo”

It’s in light gray, with a tiny font, at the bottom left of the screen, just in case you couldn’t find it.

I get why Twitter is doing it. They are making money by selling “Promoted Accounts” to people. I have no problem with them making money by suggesting accounts to follow. But it shouldn’t be difficult to get past the suggested accounts if you’re not interested.

Agree? Disagree?

Why Use Multiple Social Media Platforms

December 4th, 2012

There are a lot of social media platforms out there. And I mean a lot! No one business can manage to be active in all of them (unless you have a Fortune 500-level marketing budget), and I’d never recommend you try to join them all. However, there is good reason to consider being on more than one.

Look at the activities of your target market. And then look at the activities of the social media platform you are considering. When is your market active? How do they like to interact with you?

I had a lesson in this a couple of weekends ago. I had some time on Saturday and logged on to Twitter to find some interesting stuff to retweet. I generally don’t use Twitter on the weekend, and I wanted to see if weekend activity generated more engagement. I gave up after just a few minutes. Sure, there was activity on Twitter, but it was primarily spammy stuff or people Tweeting about TV shows and sports. Nothing that interested me.

Still feeling in need of a social media hit, I logged on to Facebook. I found several interesting items, nothing business-related, but plenty of amusing stories and cute cat pictures.

I’ve noticed a similar pattern on Tumblr. It’s easy to keep up during the week, but on the weekend, there’s a lot of activity on the (few) blogs I follow. LinkedIn, like Twitter, has less activity on the weekend.

So look at who you are targeting? Do you care that you might lose your audience on the weekend? If not, Twitter and LinkedIn are perfectly acceptable platforms. Oh, you rely on consumer activity on the weekend? Then you ignore Facebook at your peril.

Weekday vs. weekend activity is just one area to consider when deciding on social media platforms. You’ll also want to look at business vs. consumer clients. Or government. Do you want to expand to another area of the country? Launching a new product line? Opening a new location? Or is your main concern getting more referrals from existing clients? Answers to these questions are important for shaping your social media strategy and deciding which channels to target.

Need help defining that strategy? Give me a call. That’s what I’m here for.

Starbucks “Stars” Experience

December 3rd, 2012

Starbucks wins again on customer service.

Last month, I started doing most of my writing at Starbucks because

1. Tea is less expensive than at Panera
2. It gave me an excuse to try out the Passbook feature of iOS6.

And yes, it was mostly the second one that made me change. It’s just too cool to pay with my iPhone.

Once I started using the Starbucks app, I discovered the Gold rewards membership, and I saw that I had somehow accumulated 12 stars. Only 18 to go to be Gold. That seemed easy enough.

I’d made my way all the way to 25 when disaster hit. I opened my app to look at my star total, and all my stars vanished, one by one. It was freaky to watch and very disheartening.

Because this happened on a Sunday, I emailed support. No answer by the middle of the week. Now I was getting irritated. So I called support and learned that it was a known glitch, but they had no ETA on a fix. Okay, annoying but livable. I was assured all my stars would return, eventually.

Several days later, I still had no stars. I thought about calling again but figured it wouldn’t do any good. Then I received a response to my original email. They apologized for the inconvenience and upgraded my account to Gold!

Now that’s great service. It didn’t cost them much, but I immediately went from a slightly dissatisfied customer considering going back to Panera to very happy and completely loyal to Starbucks! Now I’m happily accumulating enough stars for my first free drink.

The lesson here? Starbucks could have done better by communicating the glitch. It was obvious from my call that they knew about the problem and had been fielding many calls. An email to all their registered members might have saved them a few calls, and I would have felt in the loop. Failing that, their solution was a good deal for me, and gave them exactly what they wanted. A happy customer.

When dealing with issues with your own customers, keep these lessons in mind. Communication is best. I do give Starbucks credit for letting me know about the glitch on the call. Giving me an ETA on a fix would have been better, but I understand that’s not always possible. Rewarding patience works well too. Keep in mind some small, but valuable (to a customer) way to keep people happy. Then maybe your customers will write nice blog posts about you!

Election Thoughts

November 7th, 2012

A Twitter friend surprised and disappointed me yesterday. She said I was lucky to live in a state where “my vote counted.” Obviously she didn’t live in a battleground state. I did, being in Virginia.

I don’t agree with her. I believe every vote counts, no matter what state you live in. The right to vote is precious and should always be exercised, no matter where you live.

Any state can change. Who would have thought 5 or 6 years ago that Virginia would change?

I voted yesterday, and I would have voted, no matter what state I lived in.

Did you?

Make Sure Your Message Communicates What You Intended

September 28th, 2012

J. K. Rowling just came out with a new book. Everyone else is writing about the e-book formatting snafu, but something else about her campaign has me scratching my head.

Everyone keeps referring to it as “her first adult novel” or “her first novel for adults.” Okay, I know they are trying to distinguish it from the Harry Potter books, which were for kids. But really? Um, is it just me or does “adult novel” evoke a slightly different meaning to you? I thought it was just my filthy mind, but I mentioned something about it to my husband in casual conversation, and the look he shot me told me it wasn’t just me.

Someone at Hachette didn’t think things through. With the runaway success of Fifty Shades, calling a book “an adult novel” could lead some people to think it’s something very different from what it really is.

When I was in journalism school, my copy editing professor told us (pretty much at the top of his lungs) that to be good headline writers, we needed to have dirty minds. If we didn’t already have them, we were to develop them. Immediately! (Fortunately, not a problem for me.) It was excellent advice, and it’s served me well as a blogger and writer. PR people need them too, maybe even more.

So give some thought to your message before you deliver it. Make sure it says what you mean. At best, you’ll get giggles if you’re not careful. At worst, you could lose customers because you’ve offended them.

Of course, if anyone asks me, I think Rowling’s next book should be Fifty Shades of Harry Potter. She’d sell millions.

Networking For Introverts

September 20th, 2012

I was presenting at a symposium last week, and someone came up and asked if I ever did presentations on networking for introverts. I pitched the idea to the organization sponsoring the symposium, and “Presto!” I’ll be presenting on the topic next year.

The same day I saw a post by @ThomSinger, a friend of mine, on his week of living like an introvert. Yeah, the Universe was sending a pretty obvious message, so I’m responding by doing my own post. By the way, read Thom’s post too. He didn’t quite get living like an introvert, but it was an excellent effort for an extrovert, and some of his observations were interesting.

Anyway, first let’s clear up on common misconception. Introversion does not equal shy. I’m an introvert. I’m NOT shy. According to Wikipedia, “shyness (also called diffidence) is the feeling of apprehension, lack of comfort, or awkwardness experienced when a person is in proximity to, approaching, or being approached by other people, especially in new situations or with unfamiliar people.”

I’ve got no problem walking up to total strangers and starting a conversation. It doesn’t cause apprehension or awkwardness. However, it is tiring. Enough such conversations later, all I want to do is head home and curl up with a good book (and maybe a cat). Some of what Thom talked about in his experiment was shy behavior, not introverted behavior. Introverts recharge alone. Extroverts recharge in the company of others. That’s the basic difference between the two.

So what’s an introvert to do? By definition, networking is a tiring behavior for an introvert. The short answer is energy management. Accept that networking situations are going to drain you and plan accordingly.

Some suggestions:

1. Don’t plan back-to-back events. Leave some time in between for recharging. Also, don’t commit to more than one or two evening events in a week. Try to keep most evenings free for “you” time. That’s worked for me. I can go all out during the day, meeting with clients, referral partners and prospects as much as needed, as long as I can go home in the evening to my book (and also to my completely extroverted dog *sigh*).

2. Set goals. Everyone needs to set networking goals. But it’s especially vital for introverts. Goals like “speak with three new people” do two things. Of course they keep us focused, but they also let us know when it’s okay to quit.

3. Know when you’ve hit your limit and honor it. Sometimes you’ll not meet your goal. You’ll talk to only two people and be wiped out. It’s okay. Take a break, if that works. If not, leave the event and come back another day. Exhausting yourself today will only bite you tomorrow.

4. Plan downtime. This one is especially important during all-day or multi-day events. I both love and hate them. I love meeting the new people and getting to go to cool places. I hate not having any time to myself. There’s always another seminar, informal gathering or other excuse for extroverts to do their thing. I can’t keep going like that, so I don’t. I look at conference schedules and find my alone time. I don’t go bar hopping in the evening. Sure, it’s a good way to connect with people informally, but I’d be so tired and cranky that I’d be rubbish at it, so I don’t try.

Remember, introverts make fine networkers. Don’t let your introversion get in the way. Use your biggest strength (ability to listen and know when to shut up) and find strategies to manage your energy.

Any other introverts want to share your techniques?

Business Owner vs. Entrepreneur

September 10th, 2012

I recently read a great article by Dean Wesley Smith on how not to shoot yourself in the foot as a self-published writer, and one of the points he made was on the difference between an author and a writer. In his words, “Authors are people who have written and are always looking backward at what they wrote. Writers are people who write and look forward at what they are writing and what they want to write next.”

I saw a similarity between his definitions of author/writer, and my definitions of entrepreneur and business owner. Let me share.

By the way, I’m not talking about hobbyist business owners here. You know the type. They talk about “owning a business” but they don’t do much business planning or effective marketing. It’s a hobby for them. They are another category that doesn’t fit in this post.

Let’s start with the business owner. They do solid business planning. They have a marketing plan in place, and they follow it. They offer a good product or service and people are happy to talk about and refer them. They are like the author who wrote a good book and is out there promoting it.

What about the entrepreneur? They are always thinking ahead. They generally have the big ideas and a vision for how to implement them. They may fail, and even fail often, but they pick themselves up and try again. When they finally make it big, they have some history behind them and lots of ideas to share. They are like the writers who like and promote their past books but are always thinking about and writing the next book.

Is one better than the other? Not really. Business owners can be very successful. They are frequently solid members of their community, the people you can rely on for anything from money for a local cause to volunteering to organize a small business conference.

Entrepreneurs tend to be more volatile. I’m not saying they aren’t good people, but they are living more in the future than the business owner. When they succeed, they usually do it in a bigger way. (Jeff Bezos or Steve Jobs anyone?) They are idea people with big visions and the determination and creativity to make their vision reality. They may not be comfortable people to be around, but they make for a fun ride.

What’s the purpose of this post? To have you look at yourself. Which are you? How would other people describe you? Is that who you want to be? Are you a business owner secretly dreaming of being an entrepreneur? What’s stopping you? Are you an entrepreneur who longs for a bit more stability? What keeps you on that roller coaster?

Dean Wesley Smith made his opinion of author vs writer pretty clear. I don’t think it’s as obvious with business owner vs entrepreneur, but I’ve known enough people who were one while wanting to be the other that I think it’s a question worth asking yourself.

Me, I’m a writer and a business owner and pretty darned content with both.

How about you?