telescope or epocselet? Which way are you looking?

How often do you glaze over when someone enthuses about a product or service because you don’t “get it”?

They blast off without the faintest idea about your circumstances, your needs or your desires. Result, a baffled story-teller and a semi-comatose listener.

In extremis, it’s the religious zealots who knock on your door. But milder forms exist – the Facebook enthusiasts who are always trying to shove some dodgy philosophy down your throat – usually through pictures or video links. (Recommendation: ‘unfollow’ them – they stay in your friends list but you’re spared the distraction.)

AquaChartImageSadly, these zealots exist in business too. Some organisations are so wrapped up in their own inventions that all their publicity and promotional activities are inward-looking. Self-obsessed, if you like. And this goes for the company spokespeople too. Anyone who says ‘we’ more than ‘you’ is likely to be guilty of this.(By the way, you can get a chart of where you stand, by doing this quick assessment – it takes just a couple of minutes.)

Once you start putting your prospect first (in the same way that all good journalists put their readers first) your story will emerge as something your prospect wants to hear or read. Something that promises to, and will, deliver a desired value. This will lead them to your physical or digital door and, if you continue to play your cards right, you’ll have a new customer.

Common sense? Yes. But, in decades of dialogue with vendors of all kinds, I’ve discovered that many actually fail to make that bridge. They pay lip-service to the principle, but their words let them down. When consulting (often with Martin Banks and, more recently, with Dr. Bill Nichols), we’ve found ourselves using the term ‘looking through the wrong end of the telescope’ to describe this inward-looking approach.

We’ve even created a website called epocselet.com (that’s ‘telescope’ backwards) as an umbrella for our disparate but aligned services. Our focus is firmly on executive management and we’d be delighted to act as guides or sounding boards in the discovery, articulation and sharing of your stories. Use us as little or as much of us as you like.

The journalist’s mantra ‘know your audience’ can be applied equally in business. Change ‘audience’ to ‘prospect’ if you want, but the principle applies to anyone trying to influence anyone else, whether a prospect or an intermediary. If you’re in business, you may have multiple audiences but, at heart, you’re trying to move the same stories through to the ultimate audience, your prospect. You may be trying to influence internal staff, analysts, bloggers, journalists and the many social media cascades. In every case you need to ask yourself, “what’s in it for them?”, in order to refine the basic story to best effect.

Written baldly like that, it seems like common sense. But sometimes it’s hard to change your perspective without independent and objective help. It’s not my place to tell you where to go for this. Anyone intelligent who understands communication skills, your marketplace and who has no axe to grind will be able to help you.

But I have to mention that Bill, Martin and I – solo or in various permutations would be more than happy to help you if you’re interested. You’ll find more about us and our services at epocselet.com

 

Dealing with social media addiction

The internet is silting up with ego-driven dross. It’s little wonder that the anti-network-neutrality brigade would like to turn it into freeways and side streets, depending on willingness to pay. And, equally, it’s no wonder that the network neutrality supporters want everything to stay the same and for the pipes to be fattened ad infinitum.

With limitless capacity and fixed price access, anyone who can afford a few dollars a month is able to promulgate whatever they want out to an unsuspecting world. They could do it with blogs, podcasts, videocasts, social networking sites, Second Life or Twitter.

It doesn’t matter that most of the utterances are ignored by most of the world. For most people the joy lies, I suspect, in the uttering. It’s like vanity publishing. Everyone has a story and this is a way to get it out.

Most people like making connections and ‘friendships’. By participating in a social site like Twitter, they can delude themselves about their connectedness. Enough of the digital glitterati hang out there to make it worth dropping by and picking up what these A-listers are up to. Even if it is as boring as ‘stuck in traffic on 101’, or whatever.

If we were able to really restrict our appetite for social media consumption to our genuine friends and work colleagues, for example, then we’d probably derive a lot of value from it. I wouldn’t mind knowing what my four analyst colleagues at Freeform Dynamics were up to at any time although I really wouldn’t welcome a continous stream of the stuff.

And this is the issue really. If you get involved in any big way with blogs, podcasts, videocasts and social sites, it can be like a drug. But this drug doesn’t so much mess with your head as mess with your time. "I’ll just see what [name your own guru] is up to at the moment" and that’s another chunk of your life thrown away, never to be recovered. It’s even worse with videos, which are becoming all the rage in Twitterati circles. A bit of puff and a tiny URL and, if you’re not careful, you end up watching some nonentity on an ego trip.

I think we ought to start accounting for our time in the same way that lawyers do. And then measure the value extracted from each social media engagement. Did it entertain? Did it educate? Did it inform? Choose your own criteria and monitor your online activity. If you’re dissatisfied with the outcome, ask yourself what else you would have spent that time doing. If the answer to that is ‘something better’ then you have a problem. Only by recognising the consequences of the addiction can you form your strategy for beating it.

PS For social accounting purposes, that probably took you 135 seconds to read.

Social media at a glance (well 57 readable pages anyway)

Lee Hopkins and Trevor Cook have written the second edition of their Social Media eBook. If you feel uncertain about the SM (no, not that one!) world, then this will help. It’s a 57-page pdf but it’s an easy and informative read.

Don’t be put off by its Australianness or its datedness in the early parts, it probably needs a slight update when it comes to mentions of things like Writely, which was renamed last October. The value of this .pdf eBook is that it’s running you through the principles of the new web world.

The wiki bit is the least insightful by these two excellent writers, but they compensate by examining real projects so you should get an idea of their relevance to you.

Nothing is beyond reach: Facebook, Twitter, Jaiku, Second Life … Offhand, I couldn’t think of anything significant that they left out. (The providers of the services that weren’t mentioned will probably disagree. They can chuck in their comments on this blog if they like.)

Take a look. It costs nothing apart from half an hour or so of your time.

Social Media Analysis

Nathan Gilliatt has written a 75-page guide to the companies who  monitor, measure and analyse social media for business worldwide. He claims it’s the most complete guide available. If it’s any good (and I suspect it is), it could save you a ton of leg-work. The pdf download covers 31 providers in nine countries.

Nathan is a member of the Social Media Today blogging group (I used to be a member until I realised it was defining me too narrowly) which is why I’m prepared to pass this information on.

If you don’t like it, you can always ask for a refund on the $500 price.

Social Computing in more than 22 seconds

After the earlier discussion about whether to put my presentation online, I’ve done a half-way house thing.

Rather than having to listen to me speaking over the slides, I thought I’d put my slides and notes on Flickr.

Trails

Unlike this snail (taken from the presentation), you can zip through at whatever speed you like or pick out the pages of most interest.

If you’re unused to Flickr, move your mouse pointer to the top or bottom of the image to access the controls.

Feedback is very welcome. You know where to find me.

P.S. Before anyone says anything, my apologies for not hiding the cursor on some of the pix.

Social computing in 22 seconds

Here’s a 22-second run through of a recent presentation I created on ‘New Technologies’ – ie social software/web services etc.

Abd

I used images and everyday activities in order to build rapid bridges between the audience and the technologies. (The presentation slot was 35 minutes.) It also meant that the content and audience engagement could be flexible. I’m guessing here, but I suspect that most new developments could be slotted into the structure fairly easily.

It took a long while to prepare and it seems a shame to have given it only one outing. A friend suggested making it into a YouTube movie, but it would be fossilised in time. Not sure whether it’s a good idea or not.

Any thoughts?

Social media: a term worth preserving?

Recently I was trying to explain (again) what makes New Media different to more traditional forms of communication. Broadly speaking, the audience were in PR and corporate communications and our communications medium was a shortish telephone conference call. Not the ideal way to move people from a lifetime of beliefs to a new way of viewing the world.

They couldn’t understand that a significant part of the world has moved away from foghorn
communications and towards conversations. From monologues to dialogue. From using
the ears as well as just the mouth. From command and control to
democracy.

It was only after I put the phone down that I realised my perspective was entirely Social Media. What if they really did mean New Media? (Anything that requires a computer for delivery.) I think not, but it does reinforce the case for precision in our terminology.

The trouble is that a lot of people don’t like the Social Media term either.

It’s a pity I didn’t know about Brian Solis’ recent posts on the subject in which he is summarising and discussing recent arguments between some fairly prominent people in the Social Media space (sorry folks, I’ll use the term for now.) His words of wisdom and his links to the various voices, dissenting or otherwise, is a great place to get your head round the subject. Read his follow up in the next post too.

I really don’t think it’s worth getting agitated over the term itself. (One of my Christmas lunches was largely spoiled by two leading experts going at it hammer and tongs over the terminology. I’ll let them reveal themselves if they want to.) If the ‘media’ word provides a way for traditional media and communications types to transition to an understanding of how great chunks of the population are now becoming informed, then I reckon it has to be a good thing.