A year ago, a “friend” was someone I’d almost certainly met in person. We had come to know one another through shared personal experiences. Keeping in touch was enjoyable, even if through infrequent phone or email exchanges.

One year later, having used Twitter and the Brainzooming blog in a strategy to “meet” people globally, my concept of friendship has been dramatically expanded.

Now, there are “friends” I have:

  • Never spoken to directly and may never speak to via phone, and certainly not in person.
  • Come to know through shared online experiences, typically in messages of 140 characters, that have nevertheless provided memorable insights into their personalities.
  • Been excited to see show up (via their avatars) and communicate with on Twitter, the blog, or in my email.

This expanded group of friends has enriched my life tremendously. They’ve shared their expertise, talents, ideas, creativity, reading lists, suggestions, and personal cheerleading so generously. I communicate with many of them weekly, and know them better than IRL people I’ve been around for years.

All this is a remarkable transformation in perspective, especially considering for a number of these new friends, I don’t even know their full names.

In what innovative ways has your definition of “friend” been changed by social media? – Mike Brown

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Be a contrarian this year – Think when others are reacting. Get antsy when everyone’s comfortable. Innovate when you don’t have to innovate.

Embrace dramatic change – Go against the “change one thing and test” strategy. Get friendly with chaos and change lots of things at once.

Get more from your life – Live today with wonder as if it were your first day. Create as if it were the only day you have. Be as bold as if today were your last.   - Mike Brown


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The title topic came up recently on Twitter, as it had at a B2B social media roundtable late last year: Who should be doing social media strategy and implementation for a brand – organizationally and individually?

My take is a strategic perspective is the foundation for a social media effort to build a sustaining impact. When it comes to questions of social media strategy “ownership,”  it’s clear sole responsibility for it doesn’t fit nicely into a box on today’s org charts.

Stepping back from the discussions, I forced myself into three criteria which seem necessary for taking on social media responsibilities in corporations:

  • Ability to always be on message for the brand, which implies effectively linking brand strategy to messaging
  • Appropriate sensibilities for social media channels
  • Diverse communication skills that work across various social media channels

Sometimes those people are in marketing communications, but you may find them in other parts of a company as well. They may also exist outside a company’s employee base; that’s fine too.

Most importantly, given the rapid pace of social media, you want the best strategic writers crafting the communication. Where are these people located in and around your company? Find them wherever they may be! – Mike Brown

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Trends are pushing brands into innovative channels to sell their products and services. These strategies include going through intermediaries who resell, repackage, aggregate, or creates marketplaces for multiple providers’ offerings. These arrangements have been the rise and ruin of many brands.

A specific challenge for parties in these intermediary relationships is that each brand visible to the end customer is bringing its individual brand promise to the sale. In turn, each becomes responsible for the aggregate brand promise, making it critical for various individual promises to fit together in a sensible way for customers. It’s also vital that each provider (and its employees) can and do carry out the aggregate promise of whatever’s being offered.

Our experience last week highlighted the challenges involved. Trying to get our driveway cleared of 9 inches of snow before returning from a trip, we used ServiceMagic.com. It promises to identify a short list of screened and approved professionals for home repair and contracting work, backed with a seal of approval and a guarantee.

We chose the first one to contact us (whose name can best be described as “Generic Subdivision Name Lawn and Garden” company).

Here’s the rub. Beyond whatever else ServiceMagic promises, its name implies something more. It’s not operating under a generic lawn and garden company name. Adding the name “Magic” into the collective brand promise implies an enhanced sense of delight and wonder with the service performed.

Unfortunately, we returned home to find the snow removal only partially completed. The porch, walk, and driveway were still half covered in snow – hardly a magic moment. A call to the snow removal company didn’t get someone back to do the work by the next morning. I wound up finishing the project, shooting a video before and after to substantiate what was and wasn’t done.

As of this posting, no one’s contacted us and we haven’t been invoiced by anyone. Maybe that’s the “magic” part of the service. If this is the case though, it would be a more magic strategy if someone called to say, “Hey, we screwed up, and it’s free!” Doing so would ensure our return for more performances! – Mike Brown

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What’s your first reaction to a newWindow of Opportunity possibility? And importantly, what are typical reactions to new possibilities from the people who surround you?  Lately, I’m encountering more people whose first reaction is why something won’t work, how they know better than I do about it, or who simply react with a hostile tone.

For someone who espouses openness to ideas, I’m seeing detrimental impacts on my attitude. When you hear enough negatives, it can lead you to also start reacting negatively to new possibilities out of frustration, spite, or self-protection.

What to do in this type of situation? Overtly model positive behavior and hope they get it? Challenge them directly on how they dampen creativity? Leave the relationship for the sake of creative self-preservation?

No single answer works – each choice has its own advantages and peculiar stumbling blocks. Sounds like some type of combo is in order. We’ll see how that possibility works. Mike Brown

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Okay, it’s the time for 2009 reviews and 2010 look aheads.

So, what did you stop doing in 2009?

Stopping something counts as “doing something.” And in a period when time demands are coming at us from more ways than ever, it’s okay to quit things that aren’t contributing or adding as much value to your life as other things.

So, what did you quit in 2009?

Answering the question myself, I had a big quit (my long time job) in 2009 and a variety of slow downs (i.e., less activity than previously expended while still keeping something going). I probably didn’t quit enough things in 2009 though and certainly didn’t quit as many things as I started.

How about you?

For me, 2010 feels like it’s going to be a year of more quits. That’s because there will need to be a bunch of starts and trials this coming year. It will be one of dramatic changes and will require repeatedly identifying what isn’t valuable anymore and needs to go “bye-bye.” One of the things I’m considering for the quit list is daily posting on Brainzooming in favor of a several times a week schedule. Would definitely appreciate your reactions to the idea before it’s a final decision!

If your stop doing list from 2009 also seemed too short, start deciding what you’ll be quitting in the next 12 months. – Mike Brown

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We don’t have kids, something we came to terms with relatively early in our marriage and have accepted as part of life. While it means missing out on a range of incredible experiences, we’ve been able to do things for others (particularly our niece and nephews) that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise. The net of it is accepting what life hands you and making the best of it.

Last year, our niece Valerie called and asked to speak with me. This was unusual, but as I’ve written before, Valerie has lived an unusual life. That includes getting married initially in a group wedding ceremony on Valentine’s Day 2008 at Loveland Pass. This was an event the family first learned about when my mother-in-law saw it reported on the Weather Channel!

When Valerie began talking about a second wedding ceremony where friends and family could be present, I was hesitant since we’d have to play a big role in putting it on.

As the phone conversation began, I told her our ability to help was limited since her cousin was getting married about the same time and we might have to get Valerie’s grandma to it. While stating my case, Valerie interrupted to ask, “Would you walk me down the aisle?”

091212-MeAndValWalking a bride down the aisle was something I’d long ago come to accept as an “I’ll never get to do it” moment. Suddenly my tone changed and being able to do something I never thought I would do completely changed my perspective. I was all for wedding ceremony #2 and making it happen.

The life-changing lesson here is the important reminder to remain perpetually hopeful. Things you think can never happen can happen. If there are possibilities you’ve shut out of your life, maybe it’s time to open them back up.

And in true Valerie fashion, she followed her life-changing comment with another incredibly touching one. As we were getting ready to walk into the ceremony, she told me, “Who else would I have asked to give me away. With everything you guys have done for me, you’re like my father.”

That’s Valerie!

Wrap-up: Hope you enjoyed this series on life-changing words!  Have a great holiday and rest of 2009! Thanks for reading Brainzooming!  – Mike Brown

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