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Typically when you’re asked questions, others are looking for answers. At times, answers aren’t the best answers, though.

I updated a recent blog post on how a mid-career professional can create a social media presence with a post-presentation video explaining the 11 steps covered at the live session. The video’s addition changed the nature of the post, and I tweeted it with an updated title.  Sharon Corasaro (@GrowingGold on Twitter) answered the tweet with several great tweets about the post, followed by a detailed comment on the post itself.

Based on Sharon’s receptivity to the topic, I asked if she’d like a longer article on the 11 steps we’d been kicking around as a potential ebook from The Brainzooming Group.  She said she would, and I asked for her thoughts on the content’s value since we had varying perspectives about it.

Sharon’s email response, rather than being the simple “liked it / didn’t like it / and here’s why” answer I expected, was an incredibly thorough set of questions. She asked questions about the piece’s intent, what we hoped to accomplish with it as an ebook, and what the plan was for distributing it to the target audience.

I asked for answers, and Sharon gave me questions.

But you know what?

The questions provided exactly the answers I needed.

In replying to her email and thinking about the questions, a completely new idea for how the content could be used emerged. I hadn’t considered this strategy before, but it could well be a much higher impact way to distribute the content and benefit an important audience for us.

I wanted fast answers, and Sharon offered incredibly thought-provoking strategic questions.

There’s a big lesson there: the next time somebody’s looking to you to answer a question or solve a problem for them, the most beneficial thing you can do may very well be to answer with a question instead. – Mike Brown

The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at brainzooming@gmail.com or call 816-509-5320 to learn how we’ve helped brands get to great answers using just the right questions.

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The TED conference (themed “The Rediscovery of Wonder”) is taking place this week in California. Thanks to Kansas City digital marketing agency VML and The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, hundreds of people in Kansas City will be watching today’s TED sessions through a live video simulcast. And in the spirit of my post about live event tweeters and bloggers warranting “press passes”, the VML team is providing me access to outlets and Wi-Fi in order to actively document today’s TED simulcast.

While a strictly video TED event will obviously be a different experience than last summer’s in-person TEDxKC event (which spawned nearly a week’s worth of blog posts), I fully expect a creative burst from the four TED sessions simulcast today here in Kansas City! Here’s the day’s TED agenda, with session times (Central Standard Time):

Session 4: Deep Mystery – 10:30 a.m.–12:15 p.m. CST

Session 5: Worlds Imagined – 1–2:45 p.m. CST

Session 6: Knowledge Revolution – 4:15-6 p.m. CST

Session 7: Radical Collaboration – 7–8:45 p.m. CST

The setup available onsite will determine what the specific Brainzooming content creation plan will be. I’ll likely be live tweeting either on my regular @Brainzooming Twitter account and/or my live Twitter account at @BZLiveTweets. If you’re interested in following the activity during the day, look for the overall #TED hashtag on Twitter as well.

If you’re at The Nelson for today’s sessions, tweet or DM me! – Mike Brown

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Following strong reception to the Brainzooming recap of January’s Kansas City American Marketing Association luncheon on Southwest Airlines social media strategy, I was compelled to attend the February panel on “Social Media for Marketing Communications Professionals.” The guest speakers were three well-known faces (and avatars) in the Kansas City social media community:

Five content areas stood out particularly for me, with one of them warranting a rant!

Social Media Coming and Going

Chris and Ramsey talked about the steps before and after your audience interacts with your social media sites. Chris discussed the importance of your offline marketing clearly (as in spell out your Twitter and Facebook ids) driving audience members to check out your social media presences. Ramsey reminded everyone that even super fans of your brand won’t hang around your website for kicks. They’re there for utility, then moving on to social networking sites to interact with people. His comments were a great reminder that you need to also be present online where your audiences are already spending time.

Influencer Marketing – Where Events and Social Media Intersect

The combination of social media and live event marketing Joe shared is really compelling (you can see his first-hand account in a video from the lunch). He discussed how both at Red Bull and now at the brands he represents, his field marketing strategy focuses on finding young, hip influencers targeted by beverage marketers. After identifying them, Joe asks about what their dream events are and then provides the connections, resources, and promotion to make them happen. His strategy creates the emotional impact which makes great events and compelling social media content. That’s why the approach is so much more successful and exciting for all concerned than conducting boring “blogger outreach” programs.

How Does All This Help Business?

Ramsey hit the “big question” in social media: How does your social media activity ladder up to overall business objectives? While the link doesn’t necessarily have to be one-step away, you have to be able to credibly connect how social media contributes to what your company actually does to serve customers and generate revenue. Since multiple steps are typically involved, The Brainzooming Group recommends a multi-level metrics strategy for social media to account for a variety of metrics.

What’s Next?

The panelists were asked, “What’s next in social media?” Here are the trends and platforms they mentioned:

Social Media Ain’t a Focus Group Folks

For the second consecutive month at the Kansas City AMA luncheon, a presenter said social media is “like a real-time focus group.” WRONG! Despite what people unfamiliar with research think, focus groups aren’t simply a bunch of people coming together and talking free form. Even though a focus group’s results are qualitative, a properly-done focus group has structure, carefully selected participants, and a scripted discussion guide behind it. Tweets and status messages don’t have any of those. Social media provides qualitative input, but unless you’ve created a much more structured environment, all you have is a bunch of comments.

Speaking of comments, what do you think about these highlights? Please share your thoughts about these points in the comment below! Mike Brown

The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at brainzooming@gmail.com or call 816-509-5320 to learn how we’ve developed  integrated social media strategy for other brands and can do the same for yours.

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Some Monday quick thinking on strategy, creativity, and several other frequently touched upon topics on the Brainzooming blog:

Strategy – Do the things people don’t expect. Don’t do the things people do expect. When that quits working, switch.

Creativity – When you spend too much time with something, you’re always in danger of losing any objectivity about it, which will compromise your creativity too.

Perspective – If you start the day looking to be pissed off, you will not be disappointed. Guaranteed.

Inspiration – It’s interesting how many people who tweet about having a creative block have fewer than 50 people they’re following. Inspiration comes from many more than 50 places.

Performance – The disturbing thing about someone selling you a standard success formula is everyone they truly reach is using the same formula. At least make the effort to modify the formula to fit you.

Social Media – If you’re going to get into Twitter, don’t be coy about it. Don’t tweet and delete. Tweet without retreat. Say something and stand behind what you say. – Mike Brown

The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at brainzooming@gmail.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

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Search engine optimization strategy is a big topic, yet you may have noticed among the 50 social media strategy articles from 2010 in a post last month, there weren’t any on search engine optimization (SEO) strategy specifically.

Why?

Search engine optimization isn’t an area of deep personal expertise, and I write about topics I know really, really well. That’s why I invested time and dollars in 2010 to get a better handle on SEO, both for contributing more strongly to strategy efforts, and for understanding how it could better benefit the Brainzooming blog, particularly after moving to the WordPress blogging platform.

Beyond reading articles shared on Twitter and soliciting input from online friends well-versed in SEO, I took a 2-day class last summer at a local community college. While it shed more light on search engine optimization, by the second day, the teacher had ME doing a blogging overview for the class! I’d attended the class looking for objective criteria on how to approach search engine optimization keyword strategies, but it just wasn’t there.

As a result, I was still searching for economical, time-efficient alternatives to continue to learn about SEO.

A great opportunity presented itself in December via a three-part webinar series on the essentials of SEO for business sponsored by good friend Kelly Scanlon’s Thinking Bigger Business Media based here in Kansas City. The webinar series was spearheaded by Shelly Kramer, Founder and Chief Imagination Officer of V3 Integrated Marketing. Other webinar series contributors included Mike Belasco, President of seOverflow and Erika Napoletano of Redhead Writing. The webinar series delivered a number of outstanding benefits:

  • It covered a lot of ground on search engine optimization strategy very time efficiently.
  • The webinar series was presented by people who are not only deep in the topic, but whose expertise comes from using SEO strategies to produce business results for real clients.
  • While each session was strong, as a blogger, part three led by Shelly and Erika was tremendously helpful with its focus on blogging and WordPress. They addressed the uses and value of various WordPress plug-ins available to assist bloggers in making smart SEO decisions as they write.
  • When you talk SEO results it’s about generating more website traffic. Since taking the course and beginning to apply its recommendations, weekly keyword-related activity on the Brainzooming blog has nearly doubled!

What’s also great about the webinar series is it’s still available for purchase on a pre-recorded basis. You can listen to the presentation plus download the accompanying slides. There’s also the benefit of knowing somebody (me – a paying customer) is vouching for the end product, not just hyping it in advance. On my search for search engine optimization learning, at $77 for all three sessions, it’s the best dollar and time investment I’ve made!Mike Brown

The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at brainzooming@gmail.comor call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help enhance your marketing strategy and implementation efforts.

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Creating social media and collaborative blogging strategies for organizations has become a significant focus for The Brainzooming Group. In these projects, we’ve been working in very close collaboration with Nate Riggs from Social Business Strategies out of Columbus, OH. Through his work, Nate has been instrumental in developing social media and collaborative blogging strategy for manufacturing, services, and educational organizations.

I’ve known Nate since 2007 when we first met at the Transportation Marketing Communications Association conference. We became reacquainted at the 2009 conference where Nate spoke on SEO strategy and implementation. When The Brainzooming Group began taking on a steady stream of social media-related engagements, Nate was the first call I made to incorporate his expertise as an important strategic contributor to our efforts.

Since Nate Riggs has been getting a lot more mentions here and on my Twitter account, you may be curious about him and want to find out more. If so, there are two recent opportunities to do so rather conveniently

In 2011, look for more from the ongoing collaboration between Nate Riggs and The Brainzooming Group! – Mike Brown

The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at brainzooming@gmail.com or call 816-509-5320 to learn how we’ve developed  integrated social media strategy for other brands and can do the same for yours.


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Randomness

Building on Theresa Antell’s very well-received post from yesterday about the challenges of Twitter engagement, I view Twitter as a place to experiment, see how people react (or don’t) to a variety of content, and look for creativity-inducing connections among the array of random tweets. Saturday morning I was tweeting a few things, including items from the web (about an interesting Twitter analogy) and TV (a snarky video-related tweet):

The Connection

Shortly afterward, Michael Weber tweeted his reaction, prompting me to respond, referencing the Edie Brickell tweet (with typo included below).

Michael later answered he’d been referring to the Twitter/water analogy tweet, not the one about Edie Brickell. I found it interesting, though, his comment applied to both tweets (or at least when Edie Brickell first recorded). Michael’s reply pointed to our need to always place ideas in some context.

The point is well taken and relates to something I’d been thinking about writing about this week: always asking how any random input we’re presented with could spur a connection to a situation we’re currently facing.

This came up earlier last week talking about why I wear orange socks. It became a daily activity for me in the corporate world based on how people reacted to a chance reference in a Fast Company article which mentioned I wore orange socks. Making the transition to my own business, it was a relatively random connection between orange and creativity that allowed me to continue doing it (and save the money of repurchasing not only my clothes, but all the other orange stuff in my life).

The Creativity

A big part of creativity is making connections others don’t, won’t, or can’t. Part of that ability is having creativity exercises you can readily use. Another important part though, is being open to how random connections can lead you to creativity and new possibilities you would never have even considered otherwise.

It all starts with asking, “How could this fit?” to make a creativity-instigating connection when something surprising, unexpected, or random comes your way! – Mike Brown

The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at brainzooming@gmail.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

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