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Even among people signed up on Twitter, you see questions about Twitter’s value and what Twitter is good for strategically. Many times these questions come from people who are still using Twitter at Twitter.com and haven’t gravitated toward a more robust application such as Hootsuite or Tweetdeck.

As a Tweetdeck user, here are 5 columns set up in Tweetdeck which increase the networking value Twitter provides:

“Conversations” – This is a group column that’s continually building as anyone who has tweeted with me, retweeted a post, or I’ve met personally is added. Rather than a dynamic list which ages people off, no one leaves this list because of recent inactivity. It’s a great way to pay special attention to closer connections on Twitter. As I’ve explained to Nate Riggs, to a great extent, this column is my primary RSS feed and signal that friends have published new blog posts.

A Search on Across Twitter Identities – I have a bunch of Twitter identities directly, plus others I help manage. Beyond a Tweetdeck “Mentions” column which shows every time a single identity (i.e. @Brainzooming) is tweeted, this search column brings together mentions across multiple accounts and variations in my name. It’s helpful for seeing what tweets are resonating with others and trying to ensure I notice conversation starters and participate. This column really lights up when one of the Mike Browns out there screws up in sports, or it’s the anniversary of another one screwing up a natural disaster.

Searches for Organization, Event, and Chat Hashtags – Hashtags allow words and phrases to be easily searched in the Twitter world. Having a variety of columns dedicated to organizations (i.e., #smckc, #bmaengage), events (both #amamrc and @amamrc), or Twitter chats (#innochat, #blogchat, etc.) where you’re active helps you stay current on new information and relevant links. It identifies people involved in the same subject areas who may be good people to follow or retweet.

People Who Need Help – There’s a permanent search set up in my Tweetdeck on the phrase “creative block.” Many times a day, people globally tweet their creative frustrations. This column signals people who might benefit from a Brainzooming blog post on beating creative blocks. I tweet them the post’s link to ideally be helpful to them. There are other searches set up on additional topics where there might be blog content to share to assist or answer questions.

Guest Blog Titles – When you guest blog, your Twitter name may or may not appear with the article or in a tweet about it. I have a few columns set up with searches on recent guest posts that both help me learn when a post is published and also indicate which posts are getting read and shared. Again, this can be another great source of new people to follow.

And for even more ideas on tools to help you get more value based on who you follow on Twitter, check out a wonderfully resource-rich post from Nate Riggs.

Are you using any of these columns to gain greater value from Twitter? Are there other columns effective for you? Please share your thoughts in the comments! 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 see how we can help you define a strategy firmly tied to business yet recognizing the impact of social networking on your market opportunities.

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There are lots of reasons to blog, and many bloggers start with visions of making lots of money blogging. In fact, when I ran into a very nice group of women at Panera last week who were familiar with the Brainzooming blog, one of the first questions they asked was whether I was making a living off the blog. My quick answer was, “No.”

But then again, making money was never the direct motivation for starting a blog. Instead, what sustains me in blog writing is the desire to share the many blessings I’ve been given (learnings, lessons, experiences, wisdom from mentors, etc.) more broadly.

The “pay” is learning someone benefitted from a blog post because it helped them get unstuck creatively, develop a new strategic approach, or consider an innovative way of approaching an opportunity or challenge.

Last week, it seemed as if I got paid for blogging nearly every day. A few examples:

Not sure what in the post would get her excommunicated, but let me tell you – based on these four messages alone, last week was a very high paying one for my blogging efforts!   – 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 can develop an integrated social media and blogging strategy for your brand.

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A looooong time ago, an MTV special with Hall and Oates talked about how they produced their studio recordings. They shared a recording studio strategy with broad strategic applicability in business that’s always stuck with me:

When you mix a recording, listen to it on the worst speakers.
If it sounds good there, it will sound good everywhere.

In case you need that translated from musician speak, it means when you’re developing and converting your creative output into its final form, make sure it works in the worst possible conditions.

That’s advice absolutely worth heeding. If you’re . . .

  • Creating a fantastic Powerpoint, look at it with a crappy LCD projector on a too-small screen in a poorly lit room to see if it pops.
  • Assembling a document with lots of beautifully-colored graphs and charts, print it out in black and white and photocopy it a few times to see if the analytical points behind all your graphics are clear.
  • Writing an incredibly detailed memo, have someone who hasn’t been involved in it read only the first and last paragraph to see if they understand what you’re communicating.
  • Putting together a video for a big meeting, watch it without the sound and listen to it without the video to see if it works both ways, just in case the AV doesn’t completely work.
  • Designing an unbelievable new website with lots to look at, try to navigate it on a 2-year old pda.

Sure this step takes time, but as a co-worker once said to me, “It’s always going to be raining.” So go ahead and plan your creative efforts to be rained on and still look good wet.   – 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.  To learn how we can bring out the best innovative thinking in your team email us at brainzooming@gmail.com or call us at 816-509-5320.

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Some of the most creative times for me are on planes – time and time again. On a return plane flight this week, I filled up page after page with notes and diagrams of ideas to help shape current projects… plus this blog post:

  • Diversity is great for better thinking, but simply adding a “newer” version of the same person everyone in your group represents isn’t all the diversity you could use.
  • If in an initial conversation someone introduces topic you’d never want to be a part of, it tells you everything you need to know.
  • I had a 90-minute business conversation on this trip that didn’t touch on social media. I’m not sure the last time that happened.
  • When looking at a new situation you don’t see any growth potential or development upside, it tells you everything you need to know.
  • This crowdsourcing thing may really take hold. I saw a passenger correctly tell the Delta gate agent what our reassigned gate was going to be while Delta was still announcing it was waiting for information.
  • Guys that sound like Foghorn Leghorn are, by definition, funny!
  • If you give people enough time and space to talk, honesty will eventually show up. Be watching for it.
  • Planes aren’t creative happy places for everybody. That’s fine, but be sure to know where your creative happy places are and visit them often. – 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 see how we can help make your strategic thinking and planning more productive, even when you’re not on a plane!

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1. In a challenging situation, step back. Remove yourself from the moment. Spot patterns. Take comfort in support that’s not apparent at first glance.

2. If you feel like you’re losing, redefine what winning is so you’re winning. Nobody’s saying you can’t.

3. If most of your instincts tell you something’s pointless, you may want to go ahead, take no for an answer, and run on to better opportunities.

4. If you feel the need to vent, be careful what you share about your situation online. There are times when you write because it helps you work out an idea or an emotion and never publish it.    – Mike Brown

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Building on yesterday’s post on branding warning signals, in the Brainzooming world view, creativity and creative exploration are integral to developing successful strategy. Yet in the last few years, I’ve run across many marketers gravitating toward incredibly literal – not lateral – thinking.  This may reflect a crappy economy and job market where people want to follow exactly what they’re told or pick the safest path to minimize the perceived risk of being fired for pushing beyond the status quo or implementing a strategy with some room for maneuver (and potential risk) in it.

The real downsides to literal thinking arise in ho-hum strategies and uninspired customers.  It’s my firm belief literal thinking also results in inferior financial performance. Outside of direct marketing strategies, however, it can be tough to demonstrate the financial downside of play-it-safe marketing.

There’s been a recent example on TV though where, at least hypothetically, it’s possible to speculate on the financial impact of less literal and more creatively strategic thinking. There’s just one caveat: I have no idea whether my imagined back-story really happened or not, and that uncertainty is why I don’t do a lot of marketing case studies on Brainzooming. Even though it’s hypothetical, the strategic decision scenario is completely accurate, because I’ve seen too many times where unfortunately it didn’t play out as successfully.

Kentucky Fried Chicken is celebrating its 70th anniversary with a promotional discount offer. A literally-oriented marketer (if they’re at least somewhat strategic), would be thinking about, “What can we do with 70 in a promotion?” 70 pieces of chicken? 70% discount? 70 cents off? None of those really work.

Another number important to KFC is eleven – the number of herbs and spices in its original recipe. Less literal than 70 in the context of this offer, it’s still a strategically and creatively important number for the brand. A literal marketer might get to 11 pieces for $11 because it’s direct and straight-forward. Yet, that’s not the ultimate offer. Instead, it’s 11 pieces of chicken for $11.99. Sure 99 might not be connected to the KFC brand. A strategic, non-literal marketer, however, wouldn’t be stopped by that because adding the 99 cents to the price increases revenue per item by 9%

The real lesson in this hypothetical case study is the right mix of strategic and creative thinking on what’s important to the brand will generate more benefits than the prevalent, “don’t over think, just act” mentality. In this case, it translates to 9% greater revenue per purchase. That’s a great strategic benefit and a strong performance differential in a fear-filled, crappy economy!   – 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 see how we can help you devise a successful innovation strategy for your organization.

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Several years ago I started doing a presentation on lessons in turnaround brand building. The presentation features strategic lessons in building a brand from the brink of collapse to tremendous success. The lessons are applicable to not only brands, but also to departments in companies, projects, and even personal life. With the subsequent dramatic economic meltdown, many once-stellar brands have disappeared for various reasons and a new niche has developed in predicting whether a brand will vanish in the near-term based on various warning signs.

In these cases, any type of attempted strategic brand turnaround has obviously failed. In my own corporate brand strategy experience, I witnessed a significant unraveling of the incredible turnaround and brand building work that had been done. As an early step in refreshing and re-orienting the turnaround branding content, here are five observations about what happens to strategic thinking when a brand is in distress. Consider these early warning signs for a potential brand collapse:

1. Detaching from the brand’s strategic foundation

When the economy is in crisis, it seems almost fashionable to abandon strategic efforts. That’s a dangerous strategy (or absence of one). I met with a CEO last year who said outright his business wouldn’t be doing ANYTHING strategic for at least six months. What a complete misunderstanding of the concept! The company was engaged in all kinds of financial maneuvers (which were strategic, albeit near-term) to survive while ignoring the very strategic upside opportunities it couldn’t afford to put off if it were going to turn around its fortunes.

2. Disdaining and compartmentalizing creativity

I know, the IBM CEO study said CEOs value and want more creativity to deal with uncertain times. Maybe so (although I’m skeptical as I wrote last week), but companies are full of left-brain senior managers who don’t appreciate creative problem solving. They may also start trying to compartmentalize creativity to certain functions or topics. That’s a warning sign, because creativity is broadly vital during challenging and ambiguous situations. Creativity isn’t simply for cooking up creative financing schemes to try and keep a business afloat.

3. Telling employees to not think but just act

A disdain for thinking certainly runs through the other items on the list. When senior executives are telling people to not over-think and just get on with stuff, it’s a clear warning sign. Maybe it is a slow-moving organization stalling innovation efforts which are ready to be implemented. But a “don’t think, do” motto is used frequently as an excuse to not consider an appropriate variety of fact-based strategic options or to avoid exposing flawed strategies when they should be modified or shot down. This warning sign is a harbinger of hearing the age old cop-out, “I was just following orders.”

4. Using policy in place of good decision making

Making decisions in a challenging business situation is hard, especially for a big corporation. It means having to think through the ripple effects of decisions or adapting decision making principles to many situations based on specific issues at hand. An alternative, which can be overused, is to take the easy way out and enforce strict policy to displace strategic decision making. For example, telling every department to cut its budget 25% when the smarter strategic approach is really understanding critical business areas and making strategic decisions to fit each situation. Leading with policy over decision making is fast, but it’s sloppy and potentially crippling when used too frequently.

5. Making decisions based on what you like, not on facts

When business decisions are being made based on what people like and don’t like, be very afraid. It’s impossible to completely remove personal preference from thinking and decision making, but business isn’t a Facebook page – liking and not liking (especially when the person speaking isn’t in the target market) isn’t a good starting place for strategic decisions.  If the early questions aren’t about what matters for the business and how customers will react (yes, even whether they’ll like the idea or not), big problems are looming.

What strategic thinking warning signs do you see in brands being challenged or teetering on the brink? I’d love to get your reactions to these five and others you have seen play out in your experience in the comments. – 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.  To learn how we can bring out the best innovative thinking in your team email us at brainzooming@gmail.com or call us at 816-509-5320.

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