How to be valuable online in 2018

You know what kind of year-end blog posts are most valuable? In my mind, it’s ones highlighting the best or most successful content someone’s published throughout the whole year. That editorial winnowing down is a great value add. One good example is Marketing Sherpa’s Best of 2017: MarketingSherpa’s most popular content about email, customer-first marketing, and competitive analysis.

That thought combined with another thought or two in my mind just now and I decided it was time to update an old model I’ve been sharing with people for almost ten years: five ways to add value to social media conversations. That list is due for an update. I wrote it when I was a pro blogger and was sharing thoughts on how the bloggers on my team could get more traction with their blog posts.

These days I’m doing marketing, sales, research, business development, product leadership, influencer engagement, and more over at Sprinklr and so the blogger’s code of adding value needs to be expanded.

Why think about adding value? Few things are more important to building a career in this new, digital, post-scarcity world. You can either extract value or you can add value, and abundance-minded co-creation of value is the best way in this new world to strengthen your resource magnetism. The more value you put out into the world, the more you’ll also get yourself.

Adding value to conversations of general interest builds pass-along value and widens your network.

Here are some ways to do that.

Classic ways to add value in online communication

  1. Be first. If you can be the first place someone sees some valuable information, people will notice. If you are that person twice, then you’ll start to develop a reputation. Make a regular practice of it and people will pay attention to all the things you say, post, share and write because they’ll want to see what good things you first first or early next. This is what I used to specialize in as a blogger.
  2. Say it best. If you communicate more clearly, effectively, or insightfully about a topic of general interest, that’s a big value add. Who does that really well? A few examples include Stratechery and market research firm L2, who do incredible YouTube vidoes. Gartner acquired them this Spring.
  3. Bring multiple perspectives together. Aggregating influencer replies to a question is getting pretty tired, but there are good ways to approach this tactic still. I get my politics from Memeorandum and my tech news from Techmeme, for example.
  4. Unique perspective. My favorite examples this year is long-time blogger Audrey Watters, whose perspective I wish was less rare, and Jeanne Bliss, who brings a unique practitioner/consultant/journalistic perspective to interviewing corporate leaders in Customer Experience.
  5. Be funny. This is the hardest one, and I don’t know who does the best job of it, but I do know that whenever I share this list verbally, all the other items are so serious that people laugh when I just say “be funny.” It’s easier said than done! But it is one way to add value to social media conversations online.

That’s the list I’ve been sharing for years, but lately I’ve been thinking that list deserves an update. Here are a few tactics I’m thinking of adding to it for 2018.

Cross networks. Find great things on Twitter and share them on LinkedIn. Work out your issues on Wikipedia and then write an email newsletter about it. I once asked Kirk Borne, the most influential man in data science on Twitter, how he curates such an incredible stream of high-quality data science content. His answer? “Listservs.” So smart.

Explain it differently. Narrative stories transformed into visuals. Data and tables turned into narrative sentences. Video. White boarding. As Dave Gray says in Liminal Thinking, “Drawing things together aligns people on a vision better than words. And if it can’t be drawn, then it can’t be done.”

Draw connections with symphonic thinking. Daniel Pink writes about Symphonic Thinking as an increasingly important ability to draw together disparate things into a whole, to draw connections. I realized in 2016 that symphonic thinking is one of my greatest strengths. Maybe you’re good at it too.

Abstract into a new model. Peter Drucker said that strategic decisions engage with a problem at the highest conceptual level, what’s really at the root of it? And come up with a principal for dealing with it. Mary K Greer says that when you recall a memory from your experience, examining the elements of that experience that stand out in the memory is a powerful way to better understand what’s important to you about life. I think there’s a way that we could take specific information and use it as an opportunity to explore general principles that would be a very valuable contribution to online communication.

Apply a model. I’m not sure what to say about this one, but it’s something I want to explore more in 2018. For example…

Inversion: the practice of exploring how you want to do something by asking how a situation might play out if it went 100% wrong, and then looking at the steps you’d take to do the opposite of that.

Meaning as made of a thing’s context, contrasts, and corollary consequences.

Kirk Borne again once wrote about how data scientists can wrap their minds around really complex data sets by asking which feature of the data is most descriptive, which is most explanatory, and which is most predictive. You can do that with anything.

Aiming to make a bigger impact through small steps, smartly made: focus, leverage, and acceleration. Focus = sense of destination and direction. Leverage = convincing others to contribute more energy than you have alone. Acceleration = taking time for reflection, learning, and refinement to optimize for non-linear improvement. (John Hagel)

Applying a model to an issue is a way to create, capture, or add value just like applying labor plus capital plus technology to resources.

Those are a few things I’ve got on my mind going into this wild, abundant, frightening year of opportunity. How about you?

Digital Transformation will change how we work and live together

I was asked in an interview that I hope will appear online soon what I’m excited about that’s coming in the future of social media. Based on some thoughts from Dion Hinchcliffe that I wrote about recently and some historical context from Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsson’s new book Machine, Platform, Crowd: Harnessing Our Digital Future, here is what I wrote:

In short, I’m excited about how social media is changing the way we work. I’m excited about the coming bounty of real understanding and increased humanity that I expect to be a part of digital transformation. 20 years ago, the digital re-engineering of the enterprise brought new levels of efficiency and freed many people from their most repetitive work. Now our jobs require far more creativity, self-determination, communication, and other fundamentally human skills.

That type of transition is underway again in what we call Digital Transformation. Now it’s new technologies like social networks – both inside and outside of enterprises, new ways of working like the practice called “working out loud,” and new, network-informed ways of thinking about stakeholders, measurement, growth and management. This is an exciting time, this time of the consumerization of the enterprise. Hopefully the enterprise will have a lot to add to the mix as well – and the new capabilities of social media will be leveraged in powerful and positive ways at work.

On a deeper level, below this question about work, I’m excited about the ongoing democratization of communication and self-awareness that social media offers. It continues to face criticism, for example recently from some of the people who helped create it, as “short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops we’ve created [that] are destroying how society works.” But I think that’s just a sign that we as individual participants need to take more responsibility and use social media more effectively. History will be the result of both structural and macroeconomic trends and our individual decisions, together.

The best part of Altimeter’s amazing new Digital Change Agent’s Manifesto

Industry-leading analyst Brian Solis published a huge new report today, titled The Digital Change Agent’s Manifesto.

The report starts out with several pages of depressing reading about how hard it is to be a change agent inside an organization. I almost stopped reading it.

But then I continued, and the final 70% of the report is incredibly brave and totally outside of what I expected. It’s a discussion of the emotional barriers change agents face – not just in others, but also in themselves. Then, it offers great advice on how to manage those emotional barriers in yourself and in others.

All of the advice is remarkably good. Here’s just one taste of it.

Although it may seem counter-intuitive, to manage detractors, change agents ought to listen closely to their feedback. It is better to let them voice their concerns than to let them detract in secret. By listening to their concerns and the rationale for why they resist specific efforts to transform the organization digitally — and by trying to understand their motivations — change agents can turn detractors into allies. As Patrón Spirits’ Parker shares, “Most vocal critics can become your biggest advocates if you spend time with them.”

The whole report is amazingly helpful, though. You won’t read this kind of insight anywhere else. I highly recommend it.

Power pools at the points of intersection

Power pools at the points of intersection. That’s a clear theme in several of the most moving things I’ve read in the past few days.

Here are four items I recommend highly. Were we to do a multi-variate regression analysis of a few different dynamics in the world, these here might be explorations of independent factors that drive dependent factors like social cohesion, business productivity, justice and injustice.

  • In the relationship between mind and machine, product and platform, core and crowd – the latter of each pair has grown so much stronger now that the relationship between each of these must be re-examined…The business world is always changing but in transitions as profound as this one, things are even more unsettled than usual.
    Machine, Platform, Crowd: Harnessing Our Digital Future, Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsson, 2017
  • “#changemanagement is often done with far too little communication, when it should be carried out more in the open with #WOL [Work Out Loud]+ #ESN [Enterprise Social Networks]+ network #leadership.”
    Dion Hinchcliffe, quoted in Change management needs more, different and modern communication to be successful (which I wrote)
  • A heartbreaking story of British imperialists collecting the dreams of their colonial subjects, in order to inform their control. Frustrated, they found – and resisted – evidence that we’re all equally human & that colonial rule is a nightmare.
    -Erik Linstrum, The empire dreamt back To help rule its empire, Britain turned to psychoanalysis. But they weren’t willing to hear the truth it told (Aeon)
  • And finally, tonight I listened to the most powerful speech I’ve heard in my life. If it doesn’t change your perspective on race and gender, then you’re not paying attention. If you already know all this stuff then you’re paying far more attention than I am – and chances are you’re not. Incredibly effective talk. Kimberlé Crenshaw – On Intersectionality – keynote – WOW 2016 Professor Kimberlé Crenshaw, – the academic who coined the term ‘intersectionality’ and co-founder of the African American Policy Forum – gives a keynote on the unique challenges facing women and girls of colour when it comes to the struggle for gender equality, racial justice and wellbeing.