1

Recently I was in a client’s conference room talking about its brand. What it meant, how it should be communicated, what its attributes were. We were talking with a person who had worked there many years to get his perspective on what attracted customers to the brand’s products. He wanted to make a point about one of the products and how it carried the logo. But when he looked around the conference room there wasn’t a logo in sight. Nor were there any depictions of its products or services, or of customers who might use those products or services.

Mid-week I attended a public conference in a beautiful corporate auditorium. Other than the conference banner, the corporation’s logo was nowhere in sight. Nor was there any permanent depiction of its products or services, or of customers who might use those products or services.

At the end of the week I was in another client’s primary meeting/training room and . . . I think you know where this is headed—no logo, no products or services, no customers.

The places where we gather to plan and make decisions about our business, the places where we invite the public, the places where we expect to convince our customers they are important to us should be replete with reminders of who we are, what we do, and for whom we do it.

There may have been an excuse for this absence when photography was difficult and expensive, when video was hard to produce, and when we needed lithography to produce logos. With the advent of digital cameras, Flip recorders, and ink jet color printers, that time has passed.

Make it a point this week to determine whether your logos, your products and services, and your customers are permanently and prominently displayed in the places you plan, host, and sell. If they are, good for you. If not, you have a job to do.  - Barrett Sydnor, Strategic Contributor

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 deliver these benefits for you.

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5

At last week’s Social Media Club of Kansas City breakfast, Aaron Bollinger of KickApps.com did a strategy-instigating presentation on “Creating a Unique Social Experience.” He also bought breakfast for everyone in attendance (including me – just want to make sure the FTC is taken care of here).

One of Aaron’s central ideas was how KickApps can allow a social network audience to participate in social media commentary in one click. One case study demonstrated the positive participation, traffic, and subscriber impact of allowing visitors of local TV news websites to provide a one-click reaction to stories vs. taking the time to write a comment.

Removing barriers to make it easy for social network audiences to share their perspectives prompted me to share six others things we should avoid with audiences online and (to the extent they apply), offline as well:

1.  Don’t require audience members to go where they aren’t interested in going, especially for content of lesser value.    It’s not an audience-enhancing move to require members to leave a content-rich environment to go somewhere less content-rich for an essential function. So if you want your audience to leave Facebook to visit your website, you better have an even richer experience waiting at your landing page.

2.  Don’t divide your audience into groups so small they become unsustainable.     We’re seeing this a lot in live event social media right now. Conference organizers want to create very niche forum discussions among an audience of a few hundred people. In every case, the strategy has fallen flat because an average-sized audience, divided 15 ways, can’t be expected to actively engage and keep a social network sub-community viable.

3.  Avoid placing unnecessarily high hurdles in front of social network members to participate with you or with each other.     This was at the heart of Aaron’s presentation, but it extends further. As a marketer, I love having all kinds of data on current and potential customers and want to gather it anywhere possible. But in asking lots of registration questions online and making them required, how many potentially valuable community members do you lose in your network? Instead, make it easy to join the audience and grow in your knowledge of audience members over time as you become more valuable to each other.

4.  Don’t make them suffer through your brand identity crisis.     This can be especially challenging for solopreneurs and small businesses with less considered brand identities. A huge part of a brand promise is predictability. Even if your brand is edgy, it should be predictably edgy. So when communicating with your audience, make sure you behave in a way that’s consistent with what your audience expects.

5.  Never make your social media audience wonder where you are or when you’ll return.     I’m always preaching to anyone who will listen – be consistent in your brand engagement, especially in social media. Instead of introducing your social media presence with heavy activity and then disappearing, engage with your audience regularly and with a dependable rate of frequency. Even though there will be times when you’ll be more active in your network than others, muster the strategic discipline to be visible and participatory on a regular schedule.

6.  Don’t make it easy for your social network to get off the hook.     I first learned about the concept of “high performing customers” at Arizona State University. The concept focuses on the vital roles customers play in service delivery processes and the importance of putting mechanisms in place so they can fulfill the roles effectively. It’s an interesting one when applied to social media where a high performing customer’s role is typically some form of participation. This implies taking the time to think strategically about how you instruct, cultivate enthusiasm, and reward audience members for fulfilling their necessary roles in making social networks stronger and more viable.

In order to embrace the “make it easier to participate” concept, click your reactions to this post in the brief survey at the end of this online post!

If you’d like to go further than simply voting, please share your ideas: What are other things we should all avoid with our social network audiences? - 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 brand strategy firmly tied to business yet recognizing the impact of social networking on your customers.

[memedex: pollid#492312]

 

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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10

Since a lot of people ask about the challenges of writing a blog 5 days a week, I thought we’d follow yesterday’s post on opening your creative perspectives about topics with how you can turn topics into 25 creative blog topic ideas. Here are 25 formats you can use to turn a topic into blog content of value for your audience.  In a blog post, you can:

  • Share Your Opinions
  • React to Others’ Opinions
  • Report News
  • Report News with Your Opinion
  • Ask a Question
  • Answer a Question
  • Make a List
  • Teach Something
  • Provide Background Info
  • Provide Reference Info
  • Do a Demonstration
  • Issue a Challenge / Task
  • Make an Offer
  • Reflect on Past Events
  • Speculate About the Future
  • Summarize a Topic
  • Cover a Topic in Depth
  • Relate an Anecdote
  • Report on a Conference / Event
  • Interview Yourself
  • Interview  Someone Else
  • Review Something
  • Organize Information in New Ways
  • Revisit a Topic
  • Combine Two of These Posts
  • REPEAT Any or All of the Previous Ones

These formats work for your own blog and also for guest blog posts (once again…hint, hint for potential Brainzooming guest bloggers) where you want to showcase your expertise on someone else’s blog. If you consider video or audio posts using any of these formats, the 25 potential posts immediately turn into 75 possibilities!

Additionally, depending on the class and specific assignment, this list could also be helpful in structuring essays for writing classes in school.

If you’re still on the sidelines about blogging yourself or guest blogging, ideally these posts will prompt you to give it a try.  – 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.

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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4

Paying too much attention to Twitter one night last week while needing to write a new blog post for Stepcase Lifehack, I saw this tweet come past from Shawn Gallagher:

I quickly tweeted Shawn he could break his creative block by writing about what’s more interesting than writing a blog post. He was skeptical about it being a real idea to beat a creative block, but he rose to the challenge and wrote a nice blog post on 4 things more compelling right then than blogging.

It’s something we all face – distractions which get in the way of what we’re supposed to be doing. Because of its universality, it makes a great topic, even if it springs from something mundane.

What to do when you’re facing a similar creative block while writing for your own blog or trying to write a guest blog you’ve promised someone? (Hint, hint to a few of you who’ve said you’d do guest Brainzooming posts.)

My advice is follow the “George Costanza Blogging Strategy.” I named it after an exchange in a Seinfeld episode called “The Pitch.” Jerry and George were trying to sell an NBC executive on their idea for a show about nothing. In explaining the concept, George asked the exec what he had done that morning. When the executive said he’d gotten up and gone to work, George exclaimed, “That’s a show!”

Adopt the same attitude toward blogging when you’re facing a creative block about a potential blog topic. Especially if it’s a personally-oriented blog, anything that happens to you can be transformed into a blog topic:

  • You’re facing a creative block for new ideas? That’s a blog post!
  • You’re bored with what’s on TV? That’s a blog post!
  • Your favorite restaurant raised its prices? That’s a blog post!

Of course, you still have to make the topic tie back to the underlying direction and purpose for your blog. But that’s often a lesser issue than simply getting around the creative block to find an idea to get started.

How do you find ideas to blog about when you’ve got a creative block?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 help your organization make a successful first step into social media.

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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11

I was talking with someone several years younger than me who has significant job-related online responsibilities. In the course of the conversation, the person mentioned social media duties in the organization were delegated to younger people because they “get social media.”

Wow!

Incredible, but maybe not all that surprising given the number of people you see with social media-focused job titles and social media experts /gurus /consultants with apparently very narrow focuses on social media to the exclusion of other aspects of business strategy.

Here’s a suggestion: you can’t foster artificial disconnects between online and social media strategies within your organization.

Additionally, forget about allowing strategy-crippling disconnects between social media and other core business functions. Depending on your business situation, one can make the case that social media / social networking strategy could be integrated with strategies in:

  • HR
  • R&D
  • Product development
  • Brand Experience
  • Operations / Manufacturing
  • Communication
  • Marketing
  • Pricing
  • Advertising
  • Sales
  • Customer service
  • Channel management
  • Web / online
  • Logistics
  • Distribution
  • IT
  • Legal
  • Government relations
  • Finance

Obviously not every one of these strategies needs to be integrated with the social media / networking strategy in every business. But all of them ARE integration possibilities based on first-hand client experience and regular perusal of social media case studies.

And while we’re at it, here’s another suggestion: if you’re over 40, don’t succumb to artificial age or generational divides between you and the “younger crowd” that “gets” social media either. Social networking will neither save nor end the world as we know it, but it has and will continue to fundamentally change vital aspects of business strategy.

Do yourself a big favor. If you haven’t already, start thinking about social media and social networking holistically right away. The future success of your career and your business depend on it!  – 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 deliver these benefits for you.

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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8

The topic of last week’s #Innochat (a Twitter-based, innovation oriented chat each Thursday at 11 a.m. central time) was stealth innovation strategy, i.e. trying to develop innovative business ideas in relative quiet to get around an organization’s naysayers.  The topic is of great interest for those facing environments where an innovation-based strategy, in any of its various forms, isn’t supported. Spending a lot of effort trying to catalyze innovation in those environments serves as the premise for everything under the “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” banner (plus the occasional Brainzooming blog post, as I was surprised to find in the framing for the “stealth innovation” Innochat.)

The Innochat participants covered a variety of angles on stealth innovation strategy, often returning to strategic challenges within an organization as a fundamental factor in making it make sense to engage in underground innovation. You could say it comes down to a strategic risk trade-off: if you think the risk of a new idea being shot down is greater than the risk of a hand slap for not going through all the proper channels, stealth innovation can be a compelling business innovation strategy.

In an interesting variation on theme, Fared Adib, VP of Product Development and Operations at Sprint described what is essentially a “sanctioned” stealth innovation strategy at the previous day’s Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce Innovation Conference. He recounted an instance where Sprint had set up two independent innovation teams working on the same technology development opportunity. The strategy and efforts of each innovation team were kept from the other so that the organization could reap the timing and diversity benefits of two separate streams of innovation activity.

The hour-long #Innochat tweetversation wrapped by agreeing that stealth innovation is fine as an occasional strategy, but if it’s an every time strategy, there are bigger strategic issues to be addressed.

What do you think about stealth innovation? Have you used a stealth innovation strategy? If you have, what were the reasons, what was your implementation strategy, and did you consider it successful? - 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.

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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5

One surprise for me about social media is Foursquare has made be more patient. Not really PATIENT, mind you, but more patient than I usually am while waiting at retail stores. Instead of being my usual impatient self while cooling my heels in a non-moving checkout line, I’m now usually pre-occupied with checking in on Foursquare.

That personal change got me thinking about the distinct strategic advantages and disadvantages of patience:

Advantages of Being Patient

  • It allows you time for strategic thinking and completely evaluating a situation.
  • Things have time to fall into place, presenting a clearer strategic view of what’s taking place.
  • You’re okay with waiting until things calm down, putting you in a better position to make strategic decisions.
  • It’s likely you’re empathetic to challenges others face, even if you don’t share them.

Disadvantages of Being Patient

  • You miss important opportunities to act while you wait for everything to be in place, even things not absolutely necessary to effectively get started with implementation.
  • It’s likely you hold out for information that simply confuses or doesn’t add any real strategic value in clarifying a situation.
  • You ignore the innovative wisdom that comes from going with your instincts and initial perspectives.
  • You may too easily make allowances for team members’ correctable challenges, compromising overall team performance.

There are 4 strategic advantages along with 4 corresponding disadvantages for being patient. Please share your comments – do you think it’s more of a strategic advantage or a disadvantage to be patient?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 discuss ways we can help your organization do a better job in handling strategic twists and turns email us at brainzooming@gmail.com or call 816-509-5320.

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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