Friday, February 24, 2012

EMPOWER Yourself! Rethink Goal Setting

Recently, I was asked to present educational content to members of a local business networking group.  Of course, they were hoping to hear about social networking tools and how to use them with their businesses.  Suspecting this to be the "cart before the horse" scenario, I asked for a show of hands in response to the following questions: "How many had set networking goals?" and "How many had developed a networking strategy?"  Of the twenty in attendance,  only two had set networking goals... and only one of those two had developed a networking strategy.

Networking is a critical aspect of business.  It should ALWAYS be a part of business.  It often takes a back seat when times are good.  When times are tough and business is slow, suddenly it’s something that seems important… and then it’s done using a “shoot from the hip” approach without much thought or planning.

There's a direct correlation between successful face-to-face networking and the use of social networking tools.  Goal setting is a must if you want to be a successful “power networker” both offline and online.  Without goals, you have nothing to aim at.  With goals, you will perform better and get better results.

Setting and achieving goals can be very empowering.  You feel a sense of accomplishment when you complete a task or a project.  You feel satisfaction when you've succesfully connected people within your network.  So, where do you start?  I've chosen to use the word EMPOWER to help define the key elements associated with setting and achieving your goals.

EASY:  Goals need to be within your reach and easily attainable.  Olympic High Jumpers don’t set the bar at the maximum height when they begin.  They ease into it.  The bar is set at an attainable height and is moved a little higher each time they’ve successfully crossed over it.  By setting your goals too high at the beginning, you’ll run the risk of failure.  Failure will demotivate you.  Accomplish your goal and then start including some element of stretch, but don’t set goals that are impossible to achieve.

MEASURABLE:  Goals must include a way of measuring results. This will typically be some sort of number. Setting a goal such as “I want to add more people to my network” is not a measurable goal. ”I want to add 100 people to my network” IS a measurable goal. How many people do you want to meet at that conference you’re about to attend? How many referrals do you want to provide this week? How many business owners are you going to visit today? How many times are you going to post content on your Facebook page this month? How many LinkedIn connections do you want to make this week or month? You get the idea.

PRECISE:  Be detailed and specific.  Include who, what, when, where and how.  Do you want to connect with a specific person?  Someone in a particular industry?  What specfic thing do you want to accomplish?  When do you want to do this?  Where do you need to be in order to accomplish this?  Is it a Chamber event or a fund-raising dinner?  How will you accomplish this?  With a phone call, an email, or a lunch meeting?   This is your road map.  All you have to do is follow it.

OBJECTIVE:  Your goals must have meaning and be relevant to you.  They must have a purpose.  Will achieving your goal build your network?  Will it increase your monthly revenue?  Will it help you attract more “Likes” on Facebook or “Followers” on Twitter?  Setting goals that mean something to you will keep you inspired and you’ll continue to strive to attain them.

WRITE THEM DOWN!  This is the most important step!  You need something to look at and refer to.  You need a visual road map.  You need something you can put a check mark next to when you’ve completed it.

EXPIRATION:  Your goals must have a deadline or completion date. Again, this keeps you focused and will give you that motivation you need. For example, although your goal of wanting to add 100 people to your network is measurable and precise, it’s not going to happen unless you give yourself a deadline

REVISIT:  You need to review your goals on a regular basis. Have you set a weekly goal?  Look at it at the end of the day to see how you’ve done.  Monthly goal?  Review it at the end of the week to see where you’re at.

By following these guidelines, you’ll be able to set and achieve your goals.  Apply this method to your both your offline and your online networking.  You'll have direction and purpose.   You'll experience a sense of accomplishment.  You'll feel good... and when you feel good, you performance reflects that.  You’ll EMPOWER yourself.  You’ll be surpised at how soon you start realizing success!

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Friday, February 17, 2012

REAL “Experts” Don’t Call Themselves “Experts”

An excellent, eye-opening, and insightful article entitled "Social Media Consultant Gone Bad... Real Bad!" recently written by Pam Moore, (someone I've grown to respect over the past year and consider an "expert"), coupled with something I recently witnessed prompted me to write this article.  I'm not sure if I'm more saddened for the unsuspecting and trusting business owners and non-profit executives... or if I'm more upset by self proclaimed "experts" who have no business being in business!  FYI... "upset" is a mild word and doesn't really express my true feelings at this point.  I'm reminded of an article I wrote back in 2005 entitled "Webmaster... Doesn't Mean Expert".

I'm going to do my best to keep this professional.  In no way do I want to appear critical, judgmental, or condescending.  Part of my job requires me to evaluate and assess in order to help those who come to me.  I'm not a "know-it-all"... and I believe those who ARE successful in their field of choice will admit to constantly learning on a daily basis!  THAT, in my humble opinion, is what separates the "experts" from those who have no business IN the business!

On Monday, I watched a non-profit organization lose seven solid and consistent years of web presence and go back ten years or more with a "flip of a switch" by listening to a self-proclaimed "expert" web designer.   Here's the story.

A website was developed, pro bono, for this group back in 2004.  The original developer, who happens to have 20 successful years in the industry, had been working with it pro bono ever since.  Although the developer moved away from the area physically, it continued to maintain a professional and modern appearance and email requests were handled as they were made.  More significantly, monthly efforts were made in the area of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and, in early 2010, the website was modified in such a way that it included the ability to be viewed correctly on mobile devices.  These aren't things that the average person typically notices when visiting websites.  The group, thinking it was time for a change and thinking it would be easier to work with someone "local" turned to one of their volunteers who claimed to be a web design expert.  A new website was developed and the domain name was redirected to this new website on Monday.

This web design "expert" claims to have 15 years in the business and admitted on Monday to "just starting to learn CSS".  For those wondering... that's the equivalent of someone saying they've been an expert auto mechanic for 15 years... and then asking "What's a wrench"?  My curiosity got the better of me and I started to look at this new website along with some of the others designed by this "expert".  I was dumbfounded.  Forget the fact that they all look like they're fresh out of the 90's with the cartoon graphics, gaudy icons with the "click here" text, and textured backgrounds.  Who knows, this might be the "look" those customers insisted on.

Here's what really disturbed me.  There was not one single element relevant to SEO (Search Engine Optimization)!  The "titles" contained NO keywords or phrases.  There were NO meta tags for "keywords" and "description".  NO "alt tags".  NO "alt text".  If you're a business owner reading this... and asking yourself "What's he talking about?"... these are web development "101" things.  These are aspects of web development that should be second nature to an "expert" with 15 years in the business!  This would be like you taking your car in for new tires and the tire tech not knowing that tires need air!
It's important to know that this particular non-profit organization is located in a very rural area.  The city itself has a population of approximately 4500.  The service they provide is specific to the area.  Here's what they lost the moment the new website went online.

Prior to Monday, they were averaging between 5000 and 6000 visitors per month to their website.  Nearly half of those visitors entered the website, for the first time, through pages OTHER than the home page.  The website itself had a VERY strong presence in all of the major search engines.  Not 4 or 5 pages cataloged in Google... but 4550!  Yes... 4550!  Except for the home page, which will probably lose visibility soon, ALL of those other 4549 pages listed in Google are now broken links.  They were averaging 70 unique visitors per month via mobile devices.   The new website is no longer mobile friendly.  What kind of "expert" suggests "starting from scratch" after seven years of effort and consistency without doing some "homework" to see if anything is going to be disrupted?

I know it's a conundrum for business owners.  You don't know what you don't know.  Read that again.  You don't know what you don't know... and you expect an "expert" to know their field and "have your back".  Examples like this are what hinders us from trusting each other... and "trust" is, without a doubt, the MOST important element in a successful business relationship.

Those who have chosen to become self-proclaimed experts in the fields of web development, SEO, and Social Media have chosen to take on a huge responsibility.  Knowing basic "mechanics" is nothing to boast about.  That should be a given.  It's why we have this mess to begin with.  ANYONE can learn the mechanics.  And they do.  Then they call themselves an "expert".  And then the business community is disappointed.  And the TRUE experts have to work that much harder to gain that trust.  But be assured... we will.  Because YOUR success is the most important thing to a REAL "expert".

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Friday, February 3, 2012

Social Networking Could Land You Your Next Job!

Using social networking, Facebook, Twitter, & LinkedIn for your job search
I recently wrote an article entitled "Social Networking: Freedom of Speech and Expression vs. Conventional Wisdom" in which I discuss how employers and those responsible for the hiring process are now turning to social networking to screen job applicants.

The news is not all bad.  Sure... 91% admitted to using social networking to help thin the pile of resumes and applications received from prospective employees... with 69% admitting to rejecting an applicant due to material the applicant posted online.  The good news?  68% said they DID hire a job applicant after something they found via a social networking site! 

Whether you're a young person preparing to leave the comforts of home and school to chase your career dreams or you're among the more than 13 million Americans currently unemployed, your social networking activity could go a long way in helping you land your next job!

Those who have heard me speak have heard me tell this story.  "I'm living my dream because I became a fan of a beer page on Facebook".  A good friend of mine began playing around with Facebook in February of 2008.  Like most others, it was a great way to stay connected with family and friends, post and share pictures, and keep in touch.  Life was good.  He was bringing in a six figure income with a college sports marketing company.  He'd spend some of his downtime exploring Facebook.  He'd "Like" different pages of interest.  Back then it was actually called "Become a Fan".  One of those Facebook pages was the "Sierra Nevada Pale Ale" beer page.

Over the months he noticed some posts and comments on this page which prompted him to post and comment.  Shortly after a number of these exchanges, he learned that the person he was interacting with lived in the same region and had similar interests including camping, hiking, and the outdoors.  Soon they became friends, often sitting on his back deck and solving the world's problems while enjoying a cold Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.

In 2009, my friend became a victim of the economic crash.  The company he'd spent the last 10 years helping to build was forced to close its doors.  My friend and his wife had just joined the many families who found themselves wondering "what do we do now?"

It just so happened that this new friend he'd meet via Facebook had a temporary job opportunity available and offered it to my friend.  Today, my friend runs a very successful business as a result of what he learned and the contacts he made with that temporary job.  He admits that if it wasn't for his interactions with a complete stranger on a Facebook beer page, he wouldn't be where he's at today and living his dream.

Social networking may have started out as something to do if you want to pass the time.  Today, however, they're no longer just hobbies or toys.  They've become powerful tools.  It might be time to start taking them seriously and use them to your benefit.

What type of job are you looking for?  What are your career goals?  The first step is to begin treating your various profiles more professionally.  Start using Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to connect with companies and businesses that you might like to work for.  Join the groups that they're associated with.  Start paying attention to what's being shared online.  Begin interacting with the conversations that take place on their their pages and in their groups.

Has someone made a comment or shared a story that you find interesting?  Before you respond, take a moment to click on that person's name and look for information in their profile.  Who knows... you could be interacting with a president, CEO, hiring manager, or someone influential within the organization without even realizing it!  Remember that behind most every message, comment, and post is a person.  There may be a company logo next to the comment or post... but behind that logo is a person, perhaps several, who will read your response.

Don't just say things like "I'm looking for work.  Are you hiring"?  Have a conversation.  Interact with meaningful and well thought out comments.  This is an opportunity to impress.  Share your insights, knowledge, and opinions in a tasteful, tactful and diplomatic manner.  Over time, you might find yourself with a resume or application on their desk and they may remember you as the interesting individual they've been engaging with online!

Job hunting has never been more challenging than it is today.  Most companies insist that you start the process online.  It's much harder to get that "face time" with the person hiring for that job you want.  You need to take every opportunity you can to make sure you stand out above the rest.  Social networking tools can help make that possible.  Your dream job could be just a post or comment away.

There's definitely not enough room in this article for all the information I want to share on this topic.  Look for additional articles coming soon!

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