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The New LinkedIn: A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats

When LinkedIn launched, it was a social media site that encouraged people in the work world to connect with other known professionals for networking and career development. People were categorized as either (1st) which were direct connections, (2nd) which is someone who knows someone you know or (3rd) someone who knows someone that knows someone you know. They tracked up to three degrees of separation between people. In the early days of LI, someone with over 500 connections was considered to be a mover-and-shaker. The site discouraged linking to people outside those known at work, school or social circles. In turn, people were hesitant to link with people they didn’t know for fear that the site would be abused by salespeople and scammers.
Now, 15 years later, LinkedIn has evolved, describing itself as “a business- and employment-oriented social networking service that operates via websites and mobile apps.” The LI website says that “LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional network with more than 530 million users in more than 200 countries and territories worldwide.” Their mission “is to connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful.” Besides having direct connections, particularly “popular” people also have thousands to hundreds of thousands of “Followers” who simply want to read (articles and posts) what that person has to say. (For those unfamiliar with LI, a Follower isn’t necessarily a connection, but all of a person’s connections are Followers.
Some may wonder why anyone wants to “Follow” a person on LinkedIn that they don’t know and will probably never meet, and who might not even be in the same country and is likely to not even be in the same industry or field. Think of an Airline and Hospitality manager in Mumbai, India “following” a Chief Technology Officer at the Daily Mail in London. On the surface, they have little in common and are highly unlikely to ever interact. (These real contacts are, in fact, connected.) So what does an Influencer do that is deserving of so many Followers worldwide? Welcome to the new LinkedIn. It is a social media site where people not only connect with people they know, but actually seek to connect with people they want to know and people who offer information and insights of value. It serves as a public forum for professional voices. Some become so active that they are invited to be “Influencers.” Many of these Influencers are Recruiters and HR professionals, who are in the business of finding and knowing top talent. But many others are “gurus” in their own field such as leadership, management, marketing, technology, or sales. They not only offer advice and insights, but they also help those in their network in a variety of intangible and tangible ways. And even those who aren’t Influencers are helping contacts they hardly know, even when there is absolutely nothing in it for them. That’s because the focus of the new LI is not “what can you do for me?” but “what can we do for each other.” Continue reading

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The Smallest Gestures Can Have the Biggest Impact

Companies today compete furiously for market share. We see brick-and-mortar retailers fighting for every sale and struggling to survive. The Street announced that “Ailing department store operator Sears Holdings Inc. will shut down 63 more Sears and Kmart stores, the latest step as it hobbles to a likely bankruptcy.” [1] Restaurants are slogging it out with special offers, gimmicks and unique approaches that will attain and retain patrons. The New York Times recently reported that “There are now more than 620,000 eating and drinking places in the United States, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the number of restaurants is growing at about twice the rate of the population.” [2] Competition is tough, and marketing research shows that businesses in most industries are spending increasingly larger budgets to reach potential customers and woo existing customers. Clutch, a Washington, D.C.-based ratings and review firm, conducted a 2017 Small Business Digital Marketing Survey of 350 small business owners and managers (500 employees or less) in which 49% of entrepreneurs said they plan to spend more on digital marketing to boost sales and brand recognition this year over last year and 36% said they aim to boost their marketing budget by 11% to 30%. They are doing it all. PPC campaigns. Social media ads. Retargeting efforts. Network commercials. Seminars. Webinars. Video infomercials. Presentations. Mobile automated notifications. Text ads. The efforts are increasingly sophisticated and expensive. You name it. Businesses are doing it. Creating it…. deploying it…. and measuring the effectiveness of it. That’s a lot of time and money spent to cut through the noise and grab the audience’s attention with the hopes of driving sales and increasing repeat business.
The need to reach ever-larger audiences and cut through the ever-growing din of marketing noise is prompting companies to further automate sales and marketing efforts. Personalized eblasts are sent in bulk. Robo text messages pop up when a customer is near a store or eatery. Retargeting ads appear on websites that are completely unrelated to the site visited. Mass promotions are designed to have a “just for you” look. Websites welcome visitors back by name. And yet, despite or perhaps because of all those faux-personal, automated actions, many companies are finding that it is actually the one-on-one efforts and little niceties are having the biggest impact on capturing and keeping clients. Genuine, personal interaction and one-on-one service wows clients… and it doesn’t have to be costly or complicated. It’s often the modest gestures and pint-sized details that have the biggest impact. Continue reading

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Creating Great Digital Presentations Today

Auyush Jain of Microsoft once said that “A single 10-minute presentation has the power to convert an idea into reality.” That is perhaps why most companies that sell a product or service (something that is not a commodity) will use a “presentation” to explain their product or service to prospective customers. This is especially true for high ticket items, complex services and B2B sales. A typical presentation explains the product/service benefits and features as well as the company’s story and expertise. In the “old days”, before computers and software applications, salespeople would work with marketing to create the presentation on either boards or in a flip book or binder. In 1990, Microsoft revolutionized presentations with the launch of Powerpoint (which was invented in 1987 under a different name by a different company). Suddenly, anyone with basic technical skills could use software found on most desktops to create a digital presentation. Slides replaced boards and sheets. A presentation could be emailed to anyone, anywhere, at a moment’s notice. The use of presentations grew. They were no longer just used for sales pitches. Today, presentations are used for operational training, educational seminars, HR onboarding, and more.
Technology has evolved in leaps and bounds since Powerpoint launched and, yet, many people still use Powerpoint. On the 30th anniversary of this ubiquitous presentation software, business people everywhere still use the program even though it hasn’t changed much and functions in much the same way it did decades ago. Imagine if 30 years after automobiles became ubiquitous they still looked like Ford’s Model T. Absurd. So why is Powerpoint still so widely used? The reasons are varied. First, the software still comes with most computers, so why spend money to buy other software when Powerpoint can get the basic job done. Also, some people just don’t like change and see no need to find a new presentation tool when the current tool is still perfectly adequate to get the job done. Still others just don’t want to take the time to learn new software. And a Powerpoint presentation is familiar to most anyone who receives it, making it easy to open and view However, given the multitude of presentation programs on the market today, it is time to consider other options for creating and sharing great presentations today. Continue reading

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Professional Correctness is the New PC

Recently, CBS fired a legal executive in their organization over comments she posted on Facebook after the tragic incident in Las Vegas. The executive, who is an attorney and was Vice President and Senior Counsel in Strategic Transactions at CBS, posted her comment just hours after the tragedy. Without reposting what she said or opening the can of political worms related to her comment, suffice it to say that what she wrote was deemed by many to be emotionally-charged, callous and politically-volatile, and – of course — it quickly spread on social media and through online news outlets. Shortly thereafter, the executive was fired from her job. She had been employed by CBS for about a year. A CBS spokesperson said that “Her views as expressed on social media are deeply unacceptable to all of us at CBS.”
This begs the question, can the things that employees say or do in their private lives affect their employment? Given the First Amendment protection of freedom of speech, can an employer terminate an employee for a comment made on his/her own time on his/her own personal social media page? Is there a separation between personal and professional? The answer to all of these questions is basically yes. Yes, the CBS executive’s comment on social media is protected by the First Amendment and she cannot be arrested or punished by the government for her comment. And, yes, there is a line that separates personal from professional, but thanks to social media, that line is more blurry. Her freedom to speak her mind does not protect her from being fired from her job for violating professional standards of conduct, especially if she had an employment contract and was upheld to certain professional standards as an attorney. For those that bristle that this is just “political correctness,” it’s not. This is about being “professionally correct,” not “politically correct.” Thanks to social media, professional correctness is the new PC. So what exactly are the rules for being professionally correct and are those rules hard and fast regardless of a person’s position and employer? Are the professional standards of conduct the same for everyone? Continue reading

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Making Time to Sharpen the Saw

Most people are familiar with the late Stephen Covey’s famous book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. First published in 1988, the business / self-help book offered an approach to being more effective in achieving goals by aligning oneself to what Covey referenced as the “true north” principles. He saw those seven principles as universal and timeless. Later he added an eighth principle. By far his best-known book, Covey’s Seven Habits have sold more than 25 million copies in 40 languages worldwide. The audio version became the first non-fiction audio-book in U.S. publishing history to sell more than one million copies and has now sold over 1 ½ million audio copies to date. More recently, Covey’s son wrote and published a simplified version of the book titled The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens. The Seven Habits philosophy lives on with Millennials and iGens.
So why was this book so successful? Because Covey’s approach helped people shift their focus to habits that improved their personal and professional lives by making them more “effective”. At its core, Covey believed that people were meant to evolve from dependence to independence and, ultimately, to interdependence. And for a person to remain truly effective, he had to invest in balanced self-renewal. Covey called it “sharpening the saw.” He said that to be effective, one needed to preserve and enhance his or her greatest asset: the self. So, as we approach the 30th anniversary of this philosophy, what does saw sharpening look like today? And what happens when we sharpen the saw? Continue reading

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Making Content Contagious

In the medical world, a virus is an infective agent that cannot grow or reproduce apart from a living cell. A virus invades living cells and uses their chemical machinery to keep itself alive and replicate. Most viruses are harmful. In the digital world, a virus is a piece of code that is capable of copying itself and typically has a detrimental effect. But in the marketing world, when a piece of content such as a video, image or ad goes ‘viral’ – circulated rapidly and widely from one Internet user to another – that is cause for celebration. It is the most desired, but also most elusive, outcome for any marketing effort.
While many have tried creating content that goes viral, it is like baking the perfect soufflé, writing a hit song or painting a masterpiece. Many try but most fall far short of the mark. Yes, there are many videos that have gone viral, but that number is actually quite low in comparison to the amount of content that is created and posted daily. There is a continually growing stream of digital activity flowing through cables and airwaves across the world. Every minute, giant amounts of content are being generated from phones, websites and applications across the Internet. And the unspoken competition for content to “go viral” is fierce. What causes some pieces of content to go viral while so much other content is barely noticed? While many speculate and guess, there is current marketing research that examines what makes online content go viral. Just remember that what is true today may not necessarily be true next month and will likely not be true next year. Continue reading

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Overcoming Most People’s Biggest Fear: Speaking in Public

Forget heights, planes and confined spaces. Snakes, spiders and frogs move over. Most people’s biggest fear is talking in public. Standing up and speaking in front of a group of strangers is downright paralyzing to a great many people. Giving a speech. Teaching a class. Addressing a group at a social gathering. For many, these are all scenarios that cause some people to complete freeze. Perhaps that is why those who are particularly good at it can make a living doing it. Gifted motivational speakers such as Tony Robbins, Les Brown, Zig Ziglar, Dr. Wayne Dyer and Jim Rohn earn seven figure salaries annually and their primary job is to speak in public.

Speaking to dignitaries and groups is an essential skill for certain professions, such as teachers, trial lawyers, news reporters, politicians and PR spokespeople. But speaking to groups is actually an increasingly important skill for people in most any profession. Web conferencing, social media groups and other technologies have made speaking to groups more commonplace and the ability to be able to speak to groups – large and small — more necessary. Yet, the fear of public speaking plagues many today. Even incredibly talented media icons were once intimidated to speak to famous and powerful people as well as to groups. For example, Barbara Walters was once a shy, introverted person. But she overcame her natural shyness and went on to become arguably one of the world greatest media reporters ever, having interviewed hundreds of business tycoons, royalty, political leaders, celebrities and religious leaders around the world. If she can do it, anyone can. Here are some tips. Continue reading

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To Amp Up Productivity, Creativity and Career Success, Go on Vacation

Attention workaholics, movers and shakers, corporate climbers and rising stars! Want to increase your productivity? Have a desire to get your creative juices really flowing? Hustling to shift your career into hyper-drive? If you answered yes to any or all three of these questions, then there is one simple thing you can do that will help with all. Stop working and go on vacation. As counter-intuitive as that may sound, a vacation is the best way to increase output, inspire the imagination into high gear and achieve even greater career success. If this sounds like millennial HR hype, it’s not. Vacations are essential for long-term success.

Yet, even as the summer winds down and kids head back to school, many employees have not yet taken any vacation time this year. And, those who have taken vacation time still have more vacation time available that they haven’t used and won’t use. Some think this is a good thing and even take pride in going years without a real vacation. (Long weekends don’t count.) While many Americans take pride in their workaholic ways, this is not a uniquely American phenomenon. Nor is it a by-product of the Great Recession… the lingering fear that jobs might disappear tomorrow. But regardless of the reason, forgoing vacations is not a good thing. Companies that want to increase their output should track employee vacation time consumption and consider requiring all employees to use ALL of their vacation time annually. And professionals who want to up their game need to seriously invest in “down time”. Here’s why.
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Staying Top-of-Mind… For Better or Worse?

There’s a saying that goes: “Talk good about me; talk bad about me; just as long as you’re talking about me!” It is also kiddingly said that the only thing worse than death is to be forgotten.  This may seem extreme, but it is emblematic of the pressing need to be known and remembered; an epidemic that has spread to all industries. Overwhelmed by constant digital noise, companies and business people struggle to be remembered and stay connected with contacts. It’s referred to as “staying top-of-mind.”

Staying top-of-mind is the great challenge in business today. Companies search for ways — from the legitimate to the trivial — to keep in touch with all of the customers and potential customers possible. Webinars. Blogs. E-mails. Advertising. Junk mail. Billboards. Sky writing. Commercials. The messages scream “Know me! Remember me!” All of this effort to stay top-of-mind is contributing to the white noise that, in turn, is making it ever harder to stay top-of-mind. It is the quintessential vicious cycle. So, is all of this effort really necessary? Or worth it? Most would argue “Yes!” Not only is it worth it, but it is absolutely necessary. So what strategies can a company or business person use to stay top-of-mind?
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The Video Revolution – Part 4

In a world where reading has become increasingly passé, video is emerging as the go-to tool for businesses to deliver information quickly and easily. Videos give customers information about a product or service without overwhelming them with text. In thirty or sixty seconds, a prospect can learn a lot about a business through a short, impactful video. If a picture paints a thousand words, then a video paints a million.

The upside is that creating videos has become ever easier. Thanks to technology, almost anyone can create an affordable video. Anyone with a smartphone can record video segments. There are also countless vendors that use software programs to create animated explainer videos. But easier and cheaper is not always what is best. Perhaps more than ever before companies must create marketing videos that connect with their audiences. They must have a refined balance of information, visuals, sound, and action. So, what should a marketing video include?
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