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?

About this blog (Q4 2017)

Blogs deserve love. As simple self-publishing technology, they have the potential to transform the world. This one’s helped transform my life – but I’ve been neglecting it. I’d like to try to change that.

Since moving from Google’s to my own self-hosted WordPress site here at 12 years ago, this site has grown brittle. I just pared it down and I’m going to try to get back into the cadence of sharing things on it. If I can stick with it for a meaningful amount of time, then I’ll allow myself to invest some time and resources into making it look better. For now, I’m keeping it simple.

I’m going to try sharing one thing each day here that I find in my wide-ranging reading. I use a lot of automation, experts-as-filters, and a decade of professional experience in emerging web technology to consistently find great things to read and learn. I know that some of you will really appreciate the same things I appreciate. By discussing those things aloud, on the public web, we’re going to open up some new surface area for each other, some exciting new possibilities.

I hope you’ll join me. Specifically, I hope you’ll subscribe by email (I’m going to run this blog’s RSS feed through Mailchimp) and occasionally post a comment. I’ll reply. 🙂 We can act like we’re having a conversation at a party, it is called social media after all.

Thanks for stopping by. I wish us both luck.

How Some People Blog Every Day

I used to write, no joke, 12 to 15 blog posts every day. For a few years, when I was just getting started, I was prolific. Blogging has led to millions of dollars for me to get my business started.

But now I’m a founder of a company with 15 people on the team – and it’s hard for me to write a blog post even once a week.

Seth Godin blogs every day and has for years. He’s a very busy guy. The incredible Hubspot blog this week ran a post titled How Seth Godin Finds Time to Write Blog Posts Every Day, based on an audio interview with him on their Growth Show podcast. (Way to show how content repurposing helps increase the quantity of high quality stuff, Dave Gerhardt!)

How Jay Baer puts it:

Godin’s two bits of advice that Gerherdt writes up are: 1. Write casually like you talk. (Personally, this was huge advice for me in high school when my debate coach said “you’re a terrible writer!” and I used similar thinking to turn that around.) And 2. Make the decision once and commit.

“Everybody has time to talk about how their day went — so if you write like you talk, all you have to do is write down that thing you said,” Godin says. “It literally can take 90 seconds if you want it to.” I’m not sure that’s literally true but sure, ok. I added a couple of links and an image to this post, I haven’t yet Tweeted it, I’m typing fast and it’s still taking me 20 minutes. Maybe I just need to get back into the groove.

One thing I’d add: it’s easier to write when you spend a little time reading. There’s an incredible quantity of opportunities to engage with conversations of general interest out there on the web. Like never before. There are plenty of things you probably have something to say about. And if you can add genuine value based on your company’s value proposition, in a way that’s valuable to people even if they don’t care about your product, then there’s a business case for all this discourse. I’ll tell you what our product has to add to this: we surface great opportunities to engage in conversation about hot content by delivering a filtered feed of the hottest conversations among leading experts in your field. That’s how I found this Godin article, for example: because Matt Heinz shared it, it got hotter than most of his links he shares and it showed up in my Little Bird highlight reel (called Share and Engage) that I have bookmarked on my phone.

Now I’ve hustled to write this post quickly but well and it’s taken me a little under 10 minutes to do so. It was hard to do, but most good things are. (After I wrote 10 minutes, I spent 10 more revising.) Tweeting is easy, I do that all day every day – but blogging is a lot harder. Could I do it again tomorrow? Could you? We’ll see. Godin says we should decide and do it. My blood’s pumping, I’ve got to get this wrapped up and get out the door to get to work!

I’d love to know your thoughts about regular content production on the social web. Hit me up with a comment if you’ve got something to share.

I’ll see you tomorrow!

Life After Blogging?

I used to blog every day. Heck, I used to write 4 posts every day for AOL, 6 on forex as a subcontracted writer for a CMS company and 3 long form interviews (with people like Mark Cuban) per week for the non-profit Netsquared.

Now I struggle to put up one post a month here or on our company blog. I’d really like to be publishing at least twice each month.

I have a lot of other pressing priorities as a new startup’s CEO – and Twitter is so quick and easy. The feedback loop is fast there too, something I lost when moving from a major blog to building a startup.

Excuses excuses! I’m doing all of this for the joy of learning from new media, and blogging feels important to keep doing. I remember when blogging felt uncomfortable, now of course it feels very natural. I spend most of my days now doing things I’ve never done before. It’s awesome. I’d still like to blog on occasion though.


Crossing over Portland’s Burnside Bridge, blogging.

I spend a lot of time learning about learning, building capacity so my execution each day can rock all the harder. Here are some of the ideas I’ve picked up recently regarding building new habits when it’s hard. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this too.
Continue reading “Life After Blogging?”

Could personal blogs be like the bullpen, to warm-up in for the big league game?

As social network publishing platforms get bigger and better, it gets harder to stay focused on publishing on your own piddly little blog. Could there be a symbiotic relationship between the two, though?

It’s hard not to be impressed by the major publishing outlet that LinkedIn is becoming. Entrepreneur Lewis Howes wrote an instructive guest post on the blog of a startup called Clarity today that offers some smart step-by-step instructions to get yourself in good shape for consideration as an author on LinkedIn’s official Thought Leaders channel. You’d be among great company if you could pull that off.

Likewise, when Google+ launched 18 months ago, several high-profile bloggers were announcing that they were moving all their blogging activities off their own sites and onto Google’s social network. People were doing that because the commenting, sharing and engagement that they were experiencing on Plus was incredible. It just blew on-site blog comments out of the water – and isn’t that a major part of blogging, to get feedback and engagement from readers? All that engagement is a proxy for distribution, too.

Perhaps bloggers should go to the most high-profile venue they can publish from, or the most popular place where they can get lots of engagement, but I’ve always wanted to stay here and do most of my publishing on my own site. That’s hard to do on a regular basis, but I own the site and it follows my rules. As I wrote in July 2011, I’ll Never Redirect my Personal Blog to Google Plus.

Maybe there’s something to be said about using a personal blog as a scratch-pad to solicit initial discussion on a draft idea, though, and then taking the polished end-result out to a corporate hosted forum with lots more audience. I wrote a post on our company’s blog yesterday about ways to leverage the experts in your community to collaborate on blog posts and in that post referenced a saying from Google exec Hunter Walk: that you should post to a blog not to show how smart you are, but to solicit feedback from smart people, because that’s a great way to learn.

I love writing in public, but it tends not to get as much engagement as asking people one at a time for feedback and contributions to drafts. Would it work to treat a personal blog as a warm-up zone before publishing an article elsewhere? Would you feel comfortable publishing less than your best work on your personal blog? I may try to see if I can make that work. I’d love to know your thoughts on it though; might this be a way to have our cake and eat it too? Maybe a reference to your personal blog on a bigger site would serve too as a place to find all of your writing, across many different platforms.

Something I’m thinking about, if you’ve got recent thoughts on blog vs social network publishing, please do share them.

Blogging is alive, well and very inspiring

Matt Mullenweg at WordCamp PDX

Above, WordPress founding developer Matt Mullenweg speaks to a full house at WordCamp Portland. I posted this photo on Instagram along with a note about how publishing used to be the exclusive domain of those who could afford to own a printing press.

I’m attending WordPress Portland for the first time in years today and it’s really inspiring to be here. The room is full of self publishers, new voices online, and more than 70% of them identify as developers. So they create in words, images and code. Mullenweg says that WordPress will soon see more than 100 billion pageviews every month.

Blogging is beautiful, it elevates the human spirit and enriches public life. In my work on Plexus Engine I see a lot of blogs on niche topics and there’s a whole lot more blogging going on than you might think. Geneticist Daniel Swan blogs about moving from academia to the private genetics industry. Ana Lilian and Roxana A. Soto blog together about raising bilingual kids. Jeff Rothe blogs about his collection of classic arcade game machines. And I think the world is a much better place for it.

I remember discovering how easy it was to blog, not so many years ago, and I really hope that lots of people are still discovering how easy and how rewarding it is every day today. Yes, Facebook and Twitter are even easier – but there’s nothing like a good blog post.

We’re entering a golden age of news geekery

Jason Calacanis announced a new proof-of-concept site called Launchticker today. At first glance it’s just an overloaded Google Doc with a bunch of tech news summaries and links streaming down the page. Look at the blog post explaining the site though and you’ll see there’s a lot more going on here. It’s an attempt to improve on the fabulous half-human/half-machine edited tech news site Techmeme. Specifically, by limiting the areas of editorial coverage to startups, technology and features – excluding a lot of financial news, hardware and maybe enterprise stuff. It’s the tech news Jason Calacanis cares about and his taste is probably reflected in a lot of other peoples’ tastes too.

Just like Calacanis’s tech news site Launch helps pull in traffic that converts to promotion of his startup conference Launch, so too will this new tech aggregator serve as content marketing for other money-making business concerns.

In the meantime…what a lot of fun! The Google Docs delivery is just a stop-gap until Calacanis can hire an engineer to build a Content Management System for the site, but the basic idea is awesome. He’s hired two really experienced, worldly looking women to do the story discovery, curation and summarization: Megan Rose Dickey and Kirin Kalia. (Incidentally, I think it’s a little distasteful that neither of these women are named but their salaries are made explicit in the announcement blog post in order to prove a point that an experiment like this doesn’t have to be expensive.)

Kalia and Dickey will apparently work around the clock racing to find the best news originally reported elsewhere, to summarize it on the web and then also deliver it each day at 3:00 in an email. How many of us have fantasized about building and running a system like this? Original reporting is of course essential, and maybe some of that will come through the Launch Ticker as well – via the Launch blog at least – but the adrenaline of competing to get one step ahead of other aggregators to find and then pack as much added-value as possible into an alert about the news is a different, if related, experience.

European news editor Robin Good used to write all the time about a concept he called Newsmastering. He imagined it becoming an essential role inside of every company. A little like what we call Content Marketing, but focused on curation and pointed inward, not outward to the public. I still think it’s an awesome idea, it may prove ahead of its time, it may be right around the corner, I don’t know. Below, from Good, to be read aloud in his captivating accent.

Newsmastering is the ability to identify, select, aggregate, filter and distribute/publish news and informatiom streams on very tight, specific themes/topics.

Newsmastering is a new emerging and much needed network function allowing the huge news flow to be categorized, filtered, de-spammed and re-routed and contextualized in one one thousand and more ways.

The output generated by a skilled and qualified newsmaster enables a great number of individual to avoid needing to subscribe to tens of RSS feeds or to having to visit multiple sites daily to keep themselves on top of the latest relevant news to their specific field of interest. The newsmaster aggregates and compiles very high-quality news feeds which completely replace the need to visit or subscribe to large number of RSS feeds, suddenly providing those same individuals with much greater time available to them and much higher quality up-to-date news available to them at all times.

People are doing a lot of this publicly now, not inward facing. It’s not just Huffington Post aggregating and advertising. Some examples to check out:

  • Evening Edition, just announced by Mule Design, a single human editor summarizes the day’s political news each evening. Thanks Todd Barnard for finding this, as he finds so many things I’ve never seen before.
  • Reuters now curates and comments on financial news at, edited by the fabulous Felix Salmon and powered by content discovery startup Percolate.
  • Remember real-time search engine Collecta? Serial smart-guy Gerry Campbell is now working on a high-end financial news curation as a service startup called VitalBriefing.
  • Laughing Squid has been capturing news of the weird and wonderful for years. Traffic gets converted to web hosting customers!

How many of these can prove as awesome as Techmeme? Gabe Rivera’s site has been using machines melded with human minds for more than 3 years and is going to be tough to beat. He’s got such a consistent format though that I think there is room for other startups to come in and challenge that site, or co-exist, with very different methods and presentations. See, for example, the incredible story of the 19 year old who created Breaking News Online.

It’s an incredible time to be a news geek. Who can be fastest, smartest, best, add the most value, exercise the most compelling editorial judgement, capture social experiences and build a loyal audience? The game is on!

How do we at Plexus Engine relate to this? Besides jealousy that all these people have actually launched their products, someday they’ll all be our customers.