Sunday, April 24, 2011

To Influence of Not Influence...That is the Question

“Do you want to be a positive influence in the world…remember that your influence begins with you and ripples outward…. “    -John Heider   

When I was younger, my mother would take my sisters and I to the pond, where we would sit and stare at the sun, and enjoy the beautiful water before us. One day, she gave each of us a small rock and told us to take turns throwing them into the water. Julia threw hers…then Dakota, both causing a small change in the water. It was my turn. Running the rough edges of the rock over my fingers, I was ready to throw it. With all my might I raised my arm and tossed the rock, releasing it into the air, and then watched it land in the middle of the pond. I realized the water gave the same effect to me as it did my sisters- one ripple after another; they grew and stretched throughout the pond. This is one of those moments in life that I look back on and know that my mother was trying to teach us a lesson…

Let me introduce you to a subject that is very relative to the ripple effect that we are familiar with:
1. A sudden gathering of force, as of public opinion: a groundswell of antiwar sentiment.
2. A broad deep undulation of the ocean, often caused by a distant storm or an earthquake.

According to geology, groundswell is a ripple within the ocean. It is a force that is usually caused by strong winds over long distances.  However, Josh Bernoff, author of the book "Groundswell", offers a new theory and meaning to something I would like to dub as the “groundswell effect.” In Bernoff’s terms, a groundswell is something that everyone should be talking about. It’s a social trend in which people, you and I, are motivated to use technologies to get the things we need from one another, rather than traditional institutions. This new trend has shifted the balance of power from institutions to consumers: us. Through the ever-changing modes of technology we are able to challenge a business head on and potentially ruin their image. Some recent cases that reveal this shift are the BP oil spill and Kenneth Cole and his chaos with Cairo. Amazingly, however, some businesses aren’t wearing away. They are thriving off of the groundswell. As Bernoff would put it, they have mastered the jujitsu of groundswell. It takes knowledge, experience, and eventually enlightenment to get there. Our author poses a question for readers, initially directed to business owners:

 “Are you more interested in a community for listening to what your customers are saying or for influencing them?”

It is at this point that we see that Bernoff means for people to concentrate on the relationships, not the technologies. If one “masters” the forces of the online world, they will still be lacking in complete success. Like the seasons change, technology is never the same. To master the groundswell, one needs to understand how the bodies move rather than dominate a particular aspect of the big picture. So, I pose the question again, what are you more interested in? Would you like to listen to your customers and work around them, or would you like to influence them?

When I was in the second grade I remember that my teacher had a plaque that said, “Just Do It.” Without hesitation, I somehow knew exactly what it meant. At the time, my mother had never purchased a Nike product for me, nor did I see any commercials for the company. However, I, and the rest of Ms. Bailey’s class knew what the slogan stood for: athletics, performance, wellness, and life. Nike is a powerhouse within the athletic industry. It is clear, from their diversity and reputation, that this company knows how to influence its customers. We see the “ripple effect” in action through Nike. They have the ability to effect and inspire people throughout the world with the company.

The following video, The Nike Courage Commercial, shows the triumphs and defeats of an athlete. The message of the video is that “everything you need is already inside of you…just do it.” Nike’s messages are always inspirational, encouraging people to continue pushing forward.

The groundswell has another side: us. In recognizing that we are not yet business professionals, it is important to highlight our role in the trend. We are the force, the wind, behind the “groundswell effect” that occurs around the world. We have the voice and the ability to be heard and seen globally. The tragedies in Cairo, though unfortunate, are a good example of the power we have behind the technologies we utilize; governments can even fear us. Not having a voice had made the people of Cairo heard throughout the world. We have become their voice in a way. This moment in history shows the ripple effect we have become a part of, due to the country’s government.

The video above is an amazing, and very touching preview of what one country can do for another. Because Egypt cannot speak, Italy decided to be a voice. In one of my previous blog posts I mentioned this quote:

“One voice that becomes a hundred and then a thousand.”

We have all we need in front of us to be an influence and pay it forward. I look at the groundswell in a similar light to voting: every vote counts. Every voice matters and makes an impact. Our voices are like shots heard around the world; powerful and able to affect thousands, or even millions. Wherever you cast your rock into the water is solely up to you. However, if you hold onto it, you will never know where your ripple would have traveled. The world is at your fingertips and you have the ability to make change, a progressive change. Remember, mastering technology is not the answer to the groundswell; know how each part moves and functions. I leave you with this question again: do you wish to simply listen, or influence and make a change?  

Friday, April 15, 2011

Shot heard around the world....

“A bird does not sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song…” – Maya Angelou

I love writing music. Writing a song to me is like creating wind. I can let the breeze flow wherever I wish and let my melody dance through the trees. I say this to make a defining point: we all are songwriters in some way. There is a song, a message inside of you that is yours truly. Only you have the choice to share your heart with the world, letting your voice be your weapon.  

The video above is a remarkable preview into the life of a group that I have never heard of: the Mursi tribe. The Mursi are a nomadic group located in the Debub Omo Zone of Ethiopia, close to the Sudanese border. The home of the Mursi is one of the most isolated regions of the country. Olisarali Olibui, the narrator of the clip, saw a problem surrounding his people and knew he needed to do something to help. He saw something he loved, his land and his people, threatened by the face of extinction, and is doing all that he can to project his own song through the documentary “Shooting with Mursi”. Olibui took a camera into his tribe, capturing a true portrayal of his people, for the world to see. This brave leader said something in his clip that struck me:

“I found a new weapon, and I want to give my people a voice…the camera can shoot something and the camera bullets go all over the world…”

It amazes me that someone, who faces losing everything, developed a passion for his people, a voice to speak his message, and has a way to spread it. I am aware that I spoke of this subject in last week’s blog post, but I must emphasize again how useful YouTube is and how powerful our messages can be. True, life changing potential resides deep within each of us, but, too often we do not raise our voice.

Maria Andros, is an entrepreneur who encourages people, “regular” people like you and I to become a center of influence through online videos. This young CEO teaches small business owners how to make money though increasing their brand awareness online. She illustrates one’s growth with a couple of simple points:
  1. We each need to step out if we want change to transpire. There is a voice inside to be heard. 
  2.  This is your time to preform globally. Everyone fears getting on that stage and singing, however, the one thing keeping us from where we are to where we desire to be is fear.
Success, influence, and inspiration are so close to us. The world is at our fingertips. Each of us has so much potential to do anything, even change the world. Raise your voice, find out what you can use to create a shot heard around the world.

Live for today, plan for tomorrow

“Failing to plan is planning to fail.”-Unknown

We have nearly finished the book Engage, written by Brian Solis, and have been flooded with a wealth of information from this man.  When our class was presented with the idea of “social media”, putative to my nature, I was ready to jump in and take over the Internet. Until reading this book, I had absolutely no idea about all of the planning and meticulous detail and thought that this new realm of media mandates. We have been lectured, time and time again, that “…listening and monitoring count for everything nowadays.” (Solis) We are urged, through our text, to practice social listening before we engage because this role serves as the “eyes, ears and heart of the organization.” Thankfully, Solis equips us with a plethora of tools, which he thoroughly explains, act as our “training wheels” before we are able to race in the marathon. There are three additional factors that our reading highlights in the process of creating a social media plan. 

1. The Conversation Prism acts as our blueprint and teaches us the art of listening, learning, and sharing. When we build the bridge between brand and market, we are required to humanize the story of the company, listen, and respond to input we gather. The prism below is a conglomeration of all the different channels to which we are able to market and connect with our customers. 
Brian Solis and JesseThomas   

2.The Social Marketing Compass points a brand in an experimental and physical direction in which they will effectively connect with their targeted audience. At the center of the compass is the brand, followed by the players, the platform, channels, and last emotions. 

3. Social Customer Relationship Management (sCRM) is no longer a bug which companies can ignore. Social networks have ushered in a new era of relationships which businesses, if they wish to be successful, must be held responsible for. Jon Swartz, of USA Today, said, “Social media is a natural extension of customer service.” The management of these relationships are vital.

Let’s say that you are a business wanting to engage online. You have listened, observed, and taken notes of all the “how to’s” and “according to this” in the world.  You have thought through Brian Solis’ Brand Reflection Cycle, and established your brand persona and direction. At this point, you should be somewhat familiar with the channels of social media you wish to utilize. What is next? We are nearly at the end of our book, however, Solis still urges us that we need to plan, plan, plan. I leave you with this quote by personal time management author and expert Alan Lakein,

“Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now.”

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Be the best you that you can be...

“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself…”
-George Bernard Show

 All of our lives we have been told by our parents, peers, and role models to “be yourself.” When we were younger I remember Dr. Seuss books advising us that “Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is youer than you.” However, I feel as if I am safe to say that being “ourselves” is not quite good enough for today. When we all began to enter the online world, through sites such as MySpace and Facebook, we designed our profiles in a particular way to reflect to all how we desired to be perceived. We edit, Photoshop, and are very selective with what kinds of photos and information we let others see about us. Through these seemingly harmless procedures we are taking part of a form of “branding” ourselves online. Through what we allow to be seen of us we are “…defining the face, voice, and personality of a brand in socialized media…” (Brian Solis Engage).

Similar to representing ourselves online, is the process for establishing an online presence and defining our brand’s persona. Inventing a persona for a, somewhat, inanimate company is quite the challenge because online profiles present lots about you and your brand. We do not wish for our own identity to get in the way of the brand’s persona. This profile paints a picture as to what our brand portrays. In an online world where less is more, it is difficult to reveal our corporate soul and personality. Where do we even begin to start crafting the persona of a brand? Thankfully, Brian Solis, author of “Engage” presented readers with a “Brand Reflection Cycle” for those of us who would like assistance in establishing an online identity. 

Through reading the steps in assessment of the brand’s journey, I believe that discovery, definition, and direction are three of the most important aspects of the model we are presented with. We need to discover, define what our purpose and mission is, and then we will receive our direction.

Friday, April 8, 2011

One voice that becomes a hundred and then a thousand...

"We use Facebook to schedule the protests, Twitter to coordinate, and YouTube to tell the world."
-anonymous activist in Cairo

I remember a time when the only news I got was written on the front pages of the Odessa American. I remember a time when my only friends were those in close proximity to me. I remember a time when discovering and being involved in the world around me, within the click of a mouse, seemed absurd. And, finally, I remember a time, when I was 15 years old, and my eyes were opened to the world of YouTube. After seeing my first video, I was instantly hooked. I spent late hours on the interactive site, laughing and crying at videos while avoiding my days’ worth of homework…

YouTube has grown into a website where one can not only upload, share, and view videos, but connect. YouTube gives us a platform to tell the world what we’re thinking, feeling, experiencing, and doing in our daily lives. We now let people see who we are, where we are from, and what we are all about. We can grieve or laugh together, hate an airline together, and all sing-a-long to terrible songs such as “…its Friday, Friday…” This online stage is a place to connect, discover, and explore.  

Today, I was sifting through news, blogs, and videos for a topic to discuss. Through the searching I stumbled across a video that struck a chord in my heart.  This two-and-a-half minute video mirage was a part of the PR campaign strategy for the KrochetKids, a non-profit organization that provides jobs for women in Uganda by teaching them to crochet. The video only has 766 views, but is a great example of a creative PR approach for an organization. KrochetKids saw a problem, created a cause, and is sharing that cause with the world. Through YouTube, the whole world is able to become a part of their movement. The video the group uploaded is a compilation of clips from well-known American movies that inspire this message:
One voice that becomes a hundred and then a thousand…”

Through this organization, all one simply has to do is buy a hat, and directly change a life. Every handmade product is personally singed by the woman who made it, and, in addition, you are able to learn her story, thank her, and spread the word. Not only is this group on a mission to rise above poverty, but to inspire a generation about their true abilities to bring about change in a world that is in need.

I can only imagine where this non-profit organization would be without the easy accessibility of YouTube. Who would hear their message? With so many problems in the world, who would see their significance? Social media has given people the ability to project their message for all to hear. I will leave you with an ending quote that resonated with me from the KrochetKids video:

“Do or do not, there is no try….If we don’t come together we won’t have a future…”