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

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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.

How to Think About Four Different Types of Social Channels

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There are four kinds of social channel communication in a model used by influence marketing superstar Matt Broberg. Matt shared this model in a recent interview on the excellent Influence Marketing Council podcast. I think this is a great model to help guide and deepen our thinking about community, marketing, and communication. Each category of channel has different strengths, weaknesses, and expectations.

Broberg’s four categories are:

  • Synchronous communication: real time, back and forth, low overhead, casual channels. Slack is a common example, Twitter another.
  • Asynchronous communication: channels where a response isn’t expected immediately, people tend to take a little more time to think about responses, it’s a little more formal. Email, listserves, and forums. Matt talked about Discourse as an increasingly popular example of contemporary forums.
  • Knowledge base: Where you share, store and access timeless information. Maybe that’s Google Drive, or an intranet. I have a personal wiki I created for myself that I started using PMWiki and I put lots of notes from things I learn there.
  • Discovery of new initiatives and developments: I’m going to call this the newsfeed model. Facebook at Work is a good example. I’d love a newsfeed for all my various platforms, updates from co-workers, my wife, machines, etc. This is a powerful type of communication platform, rich with opportunities!

I love this model and want to spend some time thinking about the various channels of communication I participate in, along these lines. Hope you found it useful too. This has been an update to my blog, a communication channel that’s mostly asynchronous, some part knowledge base. Have a nice day.

Will disinformation rock the world forever?

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The future of information, misinformation, and public discourse is called “an arms race,” a very dismal situation – and offering some reasons for hope, in the latest Pew mega-analysis of an important trend on the internet.

Titled “The Future of Truth and Misinformation Online,” this massive survey of more than 1000 technology industry experts is rich with analysis and on a qualitative level, the following conclusion when the experts were presented with good and bad possible scenarios:

51% chose the option that the information environment will not improve, and 49% said the information environment will improve.

It’s a long and really good survey with amazing thinkers included. Amazing. It’s so long that I just consumed it by using the text-to-speech function of the Pocket mobile app while walking my dog and cleaning my bathroom. (A work call got cut short and another one rescheduled.) I had the app reading at the fastest speed possible and it still took 45 minutes! I highly recommend that method, though.

The fabulous automated highlighting service called Summarize that comes with Mac OSX says that across the entire collection, this is the most central paragraph:

Jerry Michalski, futurist and founder of REX, replied, “The trustworthiness of our information environment will decrease over the next decade because: 1) It is inexpensive and easy for bad actors to act badly; 2) Potential technical solutions based on strong ID and public voting (for example) won’t quite solve the problem; and 3) real solutions based on actual trusted relationships will take time to evolve – likely more than a decade.”

Here’s my personal favorite:
Jim Warren, an internet pioneer and open-government/open-records/open-meetings advocate, said, “False and misleading information has always been part of all cultures (gossip, tabloids, etc.). Teaching judgment has always been the solution, and it always will be. I (still) trust the longstanding principle of free speech: The best cure for ‘offensive’ speech is MORE speech. The only major fear I have is of massive communications conglomerates imposing pervasive censorship.”

But there are hundreds of other informed perspectives in this write up. I recommend it highly.

SSCC (Stop Start Continue Change) and a daily activity log

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“Captain’s log, stardate…” Can you picture Captain Kirk dictating his captain’s logs on the Enterprise? I sure can.

I’m the captain of my own life and career, and while the wind and seas are often stormy, I’m having a great time exploring.

For the past few years, off and on, I’ve been keeping a short log each day of the day’s activities. Just a few lines on what I did during the day. I’ve found that it helps keep things in context, helps me keep track loosely of how long I’ve been working on some things and how long it’s been since I worked on other things. It’s good for accountability and perspective.

I’ve gotten pretty good at logging at the end of the work day, but I’ve not been great at going back and reviewing those logs.

Tonight I went back over my entries so far this month with the following process, which I thought might be of use to you as well.

1. Make a plan

This right here is my plan; it is said, by the way, that one of the best ways to reduce stress about a situation is to write down a quick, if temporary, plan for dealing with it.

2. Read the past week or so’s entries

I ended up reading all this month’s.

3. Identify outstanding issues, ongoing challenges, highlights, and opportunities

The Institute for the Future says that it’s essential in this era of information overload to be able to effectively and efficiently extract actionable insights from the river of input flowing past us all the time.

4. Reflect

Intelligent action requires both knowledge and focused thought.

5. SSCC: Stop, Start, Continue, Change

Here’s the most important part. I took notes on all of the above, then I made a list of things, based on what I’d observed about my own activity, that I would like to stop, start, continue, and change.

6. Reread

I reread the entries again, there weren’t that many of them. “When we reflect on what we perceived during the journey, we receive a whole new level of information,” Sandra Ingerman once wrote.

7. Revise SSCC

In this case, I found that my particular observations in this case were easiest for me to understand when I put them in a specific order. So I wrote out a few sentences, based on my SSCC list.

8. Record your commitments

I put mine in Trello, as a repeatable checklist (drag to “done” column to mark done).

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That’s my new process experiment – now I’m going to try to use this checklist each work day! I’ll be recording how it goes, of course.

The power, beauty, and opportunity of social media, from 30 different angles

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These are my thoughts, short summaries of different ways I’ve been talking about the use of social media with the companies I’ve been meeting with, articulated in some specific facets. perhaps they’ll inspire thoughts about your relationship to social media, personally and for business. Click to view full size. I’m writing on paper now my personal answers to each “what could you do” question. It’s feeling good.

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Influencer marketing can drive decisions or it can create context

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It’s October 16th, 2017 and I’ve fallen deep into a blogging hole.  After ten years of creating tons of opportunities by blogging – I have no excuse not to write up a quick post about the things on my mind more or less every day.  So I’m going to do that for the next 30 days, through the middle of November.  We’ll see how that feels.

In his book Return on Influence, marketing expert Mark Schaefer says there are two ways that consumers relate to “influencers” in any market. The first is as an authority to obey, because obeying authority generally serves most people well (?) and because it’s a big time saver over having to make all your decisions for yourself. I don’t know about that, I don’t like the sound of it, but I can respect the effort to save time and effort on non-essential decisions.

“…many people, overwhelmed by the information and the density of modern life, are conditioned to look for decision-making shortcuts ascribed to real or perceived indicators of authority. This fundamental psychological principle can lead to an autoresponse, and without extreme care and due diligence, that can be dangerous.” (Schaefer, 2012) [Ahem…Russian fake news…]

Another world is possible, though! 

Earlier, Schaefer writes “Bloggers are passionate about what they do and are usually expert witnesses to developments in the industry.  Their reputations are built on their ability to provide an insider, passionate, and balanced perspective because their reputation depends on it every day.”

This is a model where “influencers” bring expert knowledge, historical context, and broad perspective to a discussion online. That’s so much better for the human soul.

Influencer marketing as connecting to thought leaders who can put you and your company’s efforts in context.  Like, “trust me, I’ve looked at all the products in this market and this one is super cool.  I’ve been talking to the company for several months and I know where they are coming from and how it relates to competitors.”  That’s good stuff.

From a marketer’s perspective, that might be understood as an influencer saying “I’m going to give you an independent opinion that puts this thing in context, validates it, and helps you make a more informed decision regarding whether or not to buy it.”

Back when I was the first writer hired at TechCrunch, founder Michael Arrington used to insist that every write-up of a technology include two things. 1. Information about the founding team’s backgrounds.  And 2. some critical perspective on the company or product.  I think that was Michael’s idea, the second one might have been mine, I can’t remember. But if you read a blog post about a product and there’s not a single critical word in it, then that’s just a small step above a press release.

Some people used to say “I don’t read TechCrunch for the writers’ stupid opinions, I just read that site because they find cool things first and I click the links.”  I have always argued that having a thoughtful, researched, somewhat-informed stupid opinion can be a big value add and help any content creator rise above the others.  That’s why I always tried to include in my blog posts about products some thoughts from other writers, mentions of competitors, and any other context I could.

Today, the broad spectrum of strategies available in influencer marketing includes not just connecting with people who will advocate for your brand or product – but who will help put it in context.  Even more common, however, is the smart strategy of listening to influencers (not just listening for influencers) – because they can tell you a lot about what’s going on out in the market.  Then you can use that information to maximize your relevance. The relevance of your marketing, of your product, of everything.

As marketing thought leader Jay Baer says, there are only two ways to win in marketing and communication these days: by being more emotional than others, or by being more relevant.  “Relevancy is the killer app,” he says.

Hoping that influencers will drive people to make a decision because those people have an innate need to defer to authorities is kind of icky.

Spending time listening to and engaging with influencers so that you can better understand the context you’re going to market in – and they can help put your work in context for their readers/viewers/followers?  That’s awesome.

 

I’ve been talking online to Jeremiah Owyang for 10 years today

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Influencer engagement is something you want to do over time. No experience I’ve had over the years illustrates that better than the incredibly valuable relationship I’ve built with entrepreneur, serial innovator, and mega thought leader Jeremiah Owyang.

It was 10 years ago today that Jeremiah first replied to me on Twitter. 🙂

Happenstance twitter searching some time ago let me know that it was May 19th, 2007 that happened – and when I saw that date, I made a note on my calendar! I want to take this opportunity to thank Jeremiah for 10 years of high-value blogging, tweeting, public risk taking, inspiration and friendship.

That first exchange was a silly one, it was a late night chat about Twitter avatars, apparently. I can’t find the tweet this was a reply to, I think I may have deleted it! jowyangreply

I have no idea what he’s talking about.

We had met in person a few weeks prior, when I started a Twitter account just for SXSW (I was going to delete it immediately afterwords!) and found out about the annual Laughing Squid party. But it was May 19th that we tweeted first, according to Twitter’s awesome archive search.

Since that day…

Blogging for career development

I interviewed Jeremiah and wrote a big blog post in 2009 titled Why Jeremiah Owyang Is Leaving Forrester Research. I reread that post last week and rediscovered some great tips and perspective in it, including the following:

Jeremiah Owyang came to Forrester as a blogger and he leaves even stronger in that role. Despite a grueling travel schedule, a rigorous report writing regimen and constant briefings with companies large and small, he’s one of the most prolific leading voices in the social media blogosphere.

“My use of social media and my career advancement are intrinsically tied,” Owyang told us by phone today. “I started my blog as a practitioner at Hitachi. I budget time every morning to read and blog. I do that before I check my personal email or work email. I believe you have to pay yourself first. When you open your email you pay someone else, because it’s usually people reaching out to ask you for something. Taking the time to read blogs, synthesize and add value, that builds your community. That’s paying yourself first.”

Whenever a major initiative is launched by a large software vendor or a controversy erupts around best corporate use of emerging online communication tools, Owyang strikes fast with a blog post at his site Web Strategist, explaining complex matters in ways that marketing staff can use to talk to their executives.

Web Strategist is still active, though Jeremiah doesn’t post on it as frequently as back then.

Community analysis for corporate social media

In 2011, Jeremiah wrote an incredible blog post about all the people he knew who ran social strategy at major corporations. He made a big list and encouraged readers to post the names of others in comments. Now these days that might seem cliche or like an unwelcome invitation to sales pitches – but back in 2011 this was trailblazing stuff. Facebook wouldn’t launch its timelines for another year, it was all just profile pages back then! IBM Watson would appear on Jeopardy the next week. People working in social needed validation, representation, inspiration – and for a well-respected blogger to compile a list like this was a huge contribution to the still-emerging social business community.

I was inspired by Jeremiah’s blog post and made one of my own, analyzing all the people he’d listed in various ways, including discovering who among the set was most-followed by their peers on Twitter!

Fast forward a few years and I started a company, Little Bird, based on that idea – finding the people most followed by their peers in any field. I raised millions of dollars in venture capital, built a team, and poured my heart and soul into it for five years until selling it to Sprinklr last fall!

Jeremiah went on to co-found Altimeter, the most influential boutique analyst firm in the technology world. And then he left that job, too!

And beyond…

I thought that was crazy, until I saw him present at a small private event at SXSW the next year – where he blew my mind introducing the collaborative economy and his corporate innovation council dedicated to it, Crowd Companies!

He totally changed and expanded my mind again. So many times. So many times I’ve thought “wow Jeremiah had a good thing going, and now he’s diving into this crazy idea?” And then that crazy idea became the future.

I could go on (thanks for telling Jill Rowley about Little Bird, Jeremiah, thanks for your support when we were just getting started, thanks for that fun call where you told me about the future of content marketing in autonomous vehicles!), but I won’t. I feel so fortunate to have known and learned from Jeremiah and his work over these past ten years.

Thanks for all the support and advice, my friend. But thanks from all of us for doing so much exciting work in public. You’re an inspiration.

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