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I’m excited to see “Trust Agents” co-author Chris Brogan present in person for the second time this year at the BMA Engage conference tomorrow. Having seen him earlier at the Kansas City IABC Business Communications Summit in February, his innovative presentation style is one unlike I’ve never seen, and I really can’t imagine anyone else pulling it off successfully.

Speaking from what seemed to be a handwritten “set list” on a folded up piece of paper, Brogan spent an hour sharing his strategic perspective on how people behave, interact, and expect to be treated. Quite frankly, he struck me like the smart, quiet guy you see in a corporation who observes everything, sees the strategy gaps the big business so obviously misses, and figures out all the answers while hardly ever getting the chance to share them.

Through a patient strategy of freely sharing insights and perspectives from his innovative viewpoint, Brogan has created the opportunity to share his strategic wisdom in increasingly rarified venues. For all the “GET MASSIVE FOLLOWERS, BE A SOCIAL MEDIA ROCK STAR QUICK ” scams floating around the web, Chris Brogan has transferred a consistently, strategically constructed online platform to an IRL business where he routinely gets the chance to share his much sought-after answers.

Among the great strategic insights at his Kansas City presentation about better cultivating and growing customers with the help of social media:

  • A company can best help its people understand what it means to represent the brand by providing some level of media relations training to every employee.
  • The best social media people come from customer service. They’re used to talking with customers and representing the business across many situations.
  • The first steps in social media strategy should focus on prepping for crisis communication, marketing at the time of need, better addressing customer service, and conducting research on customer needs.
  • Don’t spend so much time on yourself. Brogan tries to communicate 12 times more about others than about his own stuff (a remarkable strategy considering some of the authors who pound relentless tweets and Facebook updates all about themselves).
  • A brand lives or dies by its database and how the company cultivates it between the times it is marketing to people.

His most important statement? The importance to Brogan of keeping people who matter to you when you don’t need anything at all from them. It’s an important life lesson, irrespective of whether you use social media or not.  – 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 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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For the second year in a row, The Brainzooming Group will be producing the social media content effort for the national Business Marketing Association Conference in Chicago which starts Wednesday afternoon, June 2 and runs through mid-day Friday, June 4.

The lineup of presenters includes:

You can download a copy of the conference brochure to get a better sense of what happens when throughout the three-day event.

Under the conference’s “Engage” theme, we’ll lead a team of great business marketing, communications, and social media professionals covering the conference through live tweeting, blogging, video, photography, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Foursquare, among other things!

A wide array of social media efforts will provide a content-rich experience to both attendees and those who can only attend the BMA conference virtually. Our team will be adding to the conference by allowing you to:

  • Track Presenters and Presentations: All social media feeds from this stellar B2B learning event can be found at the conference’s Engage aggregator site. You can also track tweeting activity here or on the main Brainzooming page. The conference Twitter hashtag is #BMAEngage. We’ll also be using codes for specific sessions to focus the broad content.
  • Spread the Learnings: When you see information that resonates with you, share it with your own network through retweets and other social bookmarking.
  • Participate in LinkedIn Discussions in the BMAEngage Group: LinkedIn members are invited to join the BMAEngage group on LinkedIn. You’ll be able to participate in extended discussions with presenters and other group members on the B2B marketing topics addressed throughout the event.
  • Share Your Own Perspective on B2B Topics: We’ll be linking from the main site to B2B and other relevant marketing topics on the web. If you’d like to share your perspectives, leave a link to your blog post in the comments section here, and we’ll get related links shared on the conference website. You can also leave comments on the BMAEngage Facebook wall, in addition to checking out other attendees, discussions, events, and content about the conference.
  • Follow the Business Marketers Tweeting about the Conference: Through an online application called BlastFollow, you can follow everyone tweeting with the #BMAEngage hashtag. Simply go to the Blastfollow website, enter the conference hashtag (#BMAEngage), your twitter id and password, and BlastFollow does the rest.
  • Get the Full Conference Twitter Transcript: Visit What the Hashtag? to download a pdf file of tweets for the entire conference or any date range.

For those who are able to attend in person, there are even more ways to get engaged with social media effort:

  • Tweet with Us - Do your own live tweeting during the event using the #BMAEngage hashtag. When you do, there’s a great chance you’ll see your tweets on screens throughout the venue. We’ll be using the Wiffiti application from LocaModa to post tweets and share them with conference attendees.
  • Shoot Your Own Videos and Photos to Document the Conference – Just as with blog posts, we’re eager to have attendees share videos and images of presenters, other attendees, and the event. You can stop by the Engage Social Media Station to upload your videos and photos or send links to BMAEngage@gmail.com.
  • Check in on Foursquare (and Let’s All Get a Swarm Badge) - We’ve set up a FourSquare location specifically for BMAEngage at the Swissotel. Be sure to check-in daily, to let everyone (including your boss) know you’re present and accounted for with all the great sessions at BMAEngage.
  • Learn and Share Your Knowledge with the Social Media Team - The social media team is comprised of some great marketing, communications, and social media professionals. The conference provides a great opportunity to network, share best practices, and talk about new ideas on various topics. You’ll be able to pick out the social media team with our black “Engage” shirts throughout the conference.
  • Let Others Know You’re Engaged in Social Media – The social media team will have “Engage” buttons for anyone who’s tweeting, blogging, or creating other attendee-generated content. Simply stop by the Engage Social Media Station or hit up one of the social media team members for your button…once you engage in social media!
  • Join Us for a Pre-Conference Tweetup Tuesday Night – For anyone at the conference or in Chicago on Tuesday, just us for a Pre-Conference Social Media Tweetup at 6:30 p.m., Tuesday, June 2. It will be at the Palm Restaurant in the Swissotel. Anyone at the conference and friends of the Brainzooming blog are welcome to join us!

Remember you can track the live tweeting activity below or on Twitter with the conference hashtag #BMAEngage and find all the conference’s social media feeds at the main website.  Get Engaged! – Mike Brown

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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Last week, I attended a Kansas City Media Mix luncheon featuring Scott Jones, the CEO of ChaCha. ChaCha is a free, text-based question answering application; simply text a question to 242242, and you’ll receive an “answer” to your question, along with some type of targeted ad integrated into the text-based response.

Jones shared that the predominant audience for ChaCha is 17 to 23 years of age, reflecting the intense texting activity in this age segment. He cited a recent study showing 68% of teens identified texting as their preferred communication channel. In fact, based on the age distribution chart Jones showed, I might be the oldest known ChaCha user as it has become my trial application for a couple of weeks.

After asking several questions of ChaCha, you get a four-question text-based survey to understand your age, location, gender, and phone configuration. This set of questions allows ChaCha to start profiling you, and along with your question history, provide targeted advertising opportunities. This is where it appears ChaCha is generating its revenue, since competitor KGB charges 99 cents per question. Interestingly, Jones reported that ChaCha had a large spike in usage about 5 minutes after the Super Bowl ad KGB ran. He attributed this to people trying KGB while teens in the room suggested using the free ChaCha service.

Texting is obviously an area of interest for marketers, especially those trying to reach a young audience. Of 280 million mobile phone subscribers, 233 million have text capabilities, and 70% of marketers are currently using or plan to use mobile within marketing campaigns.

It’s a long holiday weekend, so if a question comes up and you’re stumped, text a question to ChaCha and see what you get. The answers I’ve received so far have been in the ballpark, but often miss the mark relative to the desired level of detail. But, hey, it’s free.

And just in case ChaCha doesn’t know when Brainzooming will publish a new post again, it will be Tuesday. See you then! – Mike Brown

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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On Thursday, I participated on an innovation panel at The Entrepreneurship Institute President’s Forum at the Kauffman Foundation Conference Center. The panel featured leaders from three outstanding Kansas City business innovation successes, each using a different strategy to break through typical business innovation barriers:

Gina Danner, CEO of Mail Print - Rather than defining the business as a “printer” and riding the secular decline of printed matter right into the ground, Gina has defined her business based on the assets, talents, and tools it has (or can put to use). As a result, Gina pursued technology and variable printing capabilities well in advance of competitors. Mail Print is thus positioned to not simply print things, but to drive revenue for its clients. The company has also looked to electronic delivery of messages because it’s part of the right answer to an important client question: “What are you trying to accomplish?”

Brian Weaver, Founder and CEO of Anthem Media Group - A key aspect of the Anthem Media Group back story is Brian’s former employer essentially telling him to stuff his new business ideas. After enough NO’s, Brian (who describes himself as a serial entrepreneur) took his ideas and started his own business. The ultimate comeuppance was several years later when he bought his former employer. Brian talked about going against conventional wisdom to strategically start and acquire businesses in the midst of the 2008-2009 economic collapse. By refusing to listen to the NO’s thrown in his way, Brian’s built a successful multi-media publishing business.

Aaron Zack, CEO of SunlightenSeveral years ago, Aaron thought his company had a clear product advantage with its saunas. A trip to China and visits to several factories manufacturing inferior quality knock-offs of his product changed that perception. His response was to harness the internal expertise of his team, but not just the typical innovators. Aaron brought together a truly cross-functional group (even the accountants) to work on the product innovation challenge. With a diverse team and an intuitive understanding of what customers might want, Sunlighten is introducing a truly unique sauna product using the full infrared spectrum to provide different types of health benefits. After several years of development, the sauna’s launch is imminent.

Great stories and three entrepreneurs with strong strategic handles on their respective businesses. – Mike Brown

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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It’s always interesting to learn about what you do through someone else’s eyes. When there’s an opportunity for candid feedback, use it to refine your business strategy and look more innovatively at your performance.

The Brainzooming™ Group had a wonderful opportunity to get reactions to our strategic planning process last week from Nate Riggs. Nate started Social Business Strategies to help mid-sized & large organizations develop social media strategies and build internalized Human Business Teams.

Last Tuesday, The Brainzooming Group facilitated a large (35 person) social media strategic planning session for a four-year university. Nate Riggs was invaluable for his experience in working with other higher educational institutions on social media approaches.

We modified several Brainzooming strategy-building exercises to facilitate the large group and came away with great learnings. Nate’s first-time reactions to how we efficiently and effectively manage strategic conversations were also helpful in continuing to refine our process. You can get a quick sense of Nate’s views in this video and in his follow-up blog post on the strategic planning session.

Take a look, and let us know any questions you have on the approach, either for large groups or for developing social media strategy. – Mike Brown

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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The Free State Social took place in Lawrence, KS, April 27-28, 2010. The program featured a great line-up of social media luminaries from both the national and regional scene. Based on a prior client commitment developing its social media strategy (the topic for tomorrow’s post), it wasn’t practical to be able to attend the Free State Social. Based on all the great tweets and video coming from the conference, however, it was clearly a innovative environment at the new Oread Hotel in Lawrence.

Tara Saylor Litzenberger was one of the attendees, and from the enthusiasm of her tweets, I asked her to recap her take-aways for Brainzooming readers. Tara describes herself as an “easily-amused web nerd who writes about farm equipment for a living.” She readily cops to shameless addictions to coffee, Twizzlers, and Lolcats. And although Tara says she seldom leaves comments on blogs (something she plans to remedy), I’m glad she decided to guest post and share her highlights from the Free State Social:

I love, love, LOVED the Free State Social. I freely admit I’m the biggest nerd in my department, possibly the entire office, so it was a real treat to spend time with like-minded nerds to talk about the state of the social internet– and its future.

Archives of the presentations will be online soon- watch @FreeStateSocial for updates- and there are tons of great tweets summarizing the event.

Some of my big take-aways:

  • It’s just another channel - Chris Brogan started the day by refusing to even talk about Twitter, and Jeremiah Owyang closed by reminding everyone not to fall in love with the tools you use. It was refreshing to hear because social media is the shiny new buzzword in corporate America, but the principles of using it effectively are the same marketing principles as we’ve been using for years.
  • Have a strategy before you start - Jeremiah went so far as to say that if your company doesn’t have support systems in place, don’t even engage. Again, it sounds perfectly logical, but it gets lost in all the “you gotta get a twitter account” hype.
  • Real time is not fast enough – Companies need to have a plan to deal with ugly situations before they happen. Letting something sit overnight- or worse, for an entire weekend- simply isn’t an option.

There were a few other topics that came up that really got me thinking, too:

Bloggers as Journalists

There was a lot of discussion around bloggers as journalists, which makes a lot of sense considering the event was sponsored by a news organization and the whole Gizmodo iPhone case was a current event in the online community.

But do all bloggers need to be counted as journalists? I blog, but I tend to post funny stories about daily life, not news. I don’t worry about citing my sources because my source is almost always me.

Then again, there are some basic tenets to content creation I’m following. I’m using my own pictures. I don’t try to pass off someone else’s work as mine. I give credit (and links) where credit is due. They’re the same rules I’ve been following in my professional life as a copywriter, but they’re also ingrained into journalism.

Vocal Critics

The second area I’d have like to talk about more was vocal minorities and backlash. There was a brief discussion around the Motrin Mom debacle, but it was largely around response times. We all know that there are passionate influencers out there, and as marketers, we try to reach them.

But is there a point when a vocal minority starts taking a brand hostage, along the lines of Green Peace and Nestle? Does an angry YouTube video become the digital equivalent of rappelling into a shareholders meeting?

We’ve come to accept that there are audiences that will never be happy with your company, no matter what it does, but where are the lines? Especially if you work for a company that people love to hate, like Monsanto?

The best part of an event like the Free State Social? Thanks to all the tools we use (Twitter, Facebook, even email and Google Buzz), the conversation isn’t going to stop just because the event is over.  – Tara Saylor Litzenberger

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The Brainzooming blog has a wonderful group of guest authors who regularly contribute their perspectives on strategy, creativity, and innovation. You can view guest author posts by clicking on the link below.

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As the Tuesday post highlighted, we participated in the Freelance Exchange of Kansas City Portfolio Showcase yesterday. It was an experiment with some clear positives and a lot of “we’ll sees” based on recapping our strategy and implementation during the drive home.

One of the “interesting” items in our Plus-Minus-Interesting-Recommendation review was the number of people familiar with Brainzooming through Twitter. For a brand that was a part-time effort until late last year, it’s evidence of the impact social media channels can have in building awareness and creating a perception of what a brand stands for in its initial stages. It certainly helps get an in person conversation started when someone has a sense that Brainzooming is focused on helping organizations be more successful through more innovative approaches to their strategy and its implementation.

This opportunity to create familiarity through social media underscores the importance of thinking about what you tweet or post, and its consistency with your brand – be it a personal or business one. Ample reason to ask before you hit enter, “What might a current or potential client read into or think about my brand based on this message?”

And while you’re at it, if you’re representing yourself directly in social media, ask the same question relative to your mother, spouse, children, current employer, future employer, and anyone else who’ll make a decision about you in the future.

Yes, it’s social media. Yes, it can be fun. But be sure you’re strategically tweeting, blogging, and sharing out there! People ARE listening. – Mike Brown

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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