Archive for January, 2012

Friday, May 6, 2011 by Charissa Hurd

Dogs, like people, are social creatures. And my daily interactions with my happy mutt have led me to ponder why and how social media has taken such a profound hold on the way we live, interact and do business. Social media platforms have given us a means to tip our snouts up into the wind and catch the scent of changing business climates, attitudes and trends. Social media gives us interaction with our communities and service providers in a personal, real-time experience appealing to our instinctive nature to gather in packs and share resources. I’d like to offer up five things my dog has taught me about social media in the hopes that these observations will give you a springboard to launch, or enhance, your own social media campaign.

1. Wag Your Tail When They Walk in the Door

My mutt greets me with a friendly pant, a giddy howl, and a wagging tail every time I walk through the door. She is always happy to see me and does not wait for me to seek her out. She comes to find me. A major factor in building social interactions and growing relationships with friends, colleagues and our communities is to be the first one to say, “Hello.” Be the first one to reach out. Be the first one to re-tweet your client’s savvy post. Point out a referral source on your company Facebook page. Be the one to initiate that essential first positive interaction from your social media platforms. When we first start Tweeting and Facebooking, most of us are inclined to repeatedly broadcast messages about ourselves or our firm. Step out of the “me” and take a stab at plugging your clients’ efforts, praising them on their achievements or simply repeat their messages through your platforms. You will garner a following and boost your repute if you are proactively interactive with your social media communications.

2. Always Be There When the Refrigerator Opens

I open the refrigerator door to grab a snack, and by the time the door is closed my dog has magically appeared. She is making eye contact with me and is curious and eager to see if I will clumsily drop a morsel or offer a handout. Even though she does not receive a treat every time the fridge opens, she plays the odds ever hopeful for that moment when the cheese lands in her mouth instead of on my sandwich. Much in the same way, we should be pursuing the cheese from our social media platforms. If you do a bit of research you will find that there is a litany of tools available to aid your endeavors in seeking out who to follow. Whichever method you choose, following is an essential part of social interaction. Much like my dog is always close by my side, following me everywhere, so should you follow your social media favorites. Actively follow others, interact with them and be consistent in your efforts. Constant interaction ensures that you will be positioned to catch a yummy morsel.

3. Beg From Underneath the Dinner Table

My dog is intrinsically aware when I am eating dinner. She has been preparing for this moment since the refrigerator door opened. And although I can’t see her under the table, she has found a way to make her presence known. Her warm breath is on my leg, or maybe she scratches an itch and I can hear her tags jingling. Although she is politely staying out of view while I eat, she has made sure that I do not forget about her if I can’t finish my chicken. I need to make sure my clients are aware of the services that I provide even when I am not in “face to face” interactions with them. Without being aggressive and salesey, social media and email newsletters offer a polite podium for me to broadcast regular messages to remind my contacts that I am there. The messages I send are intended to provide value to my contacts, but they are always branded as coming from me and my firm. These constant social interactions are tools for growing my business relationships and enhancing top of mind awareness with clients, prospects and referral sources.

4. Bark When You Need Something

I hate to admit it, but I sometimes ignore my dog. A quick bark is usually enough to remind me that it is time to take a walk. Without those vocalizations, I might lose track of the time and have a mess to deal with later. I am grateful that my dog is able to remind me about her needs. Her little barks and whines prod me to move in a direction that I might have otherwise ignored. Part of being social is having conversations. The fact that social media offers a way for people and businesses to speak out, be heard and listen to what others have to say is the cornerstone of the social media experience and the reason for its wide-reaching success. We all witnessed the Egyptian uprising and the role that social media played in giving a voice to the people. How do we apply this to our business practices? If we are listening to the social media vocalizations of our business communities, we can react in a way that provides immediate solutions to pressing needs.

5. Be Sure to Send Out Your “Pee-Mail”

My former dog trainer once remarked, “Time to check the pee-mail,” when my then puppy decided to put a halt on our leash training in order to sniff out a mailbox. It made me giggle, but it also made me think. Dogs learn a lot from sniffing out territorial markings and this usually motivates them to go ahead and leave a mark of their own in reply. We should be leaving a mark for our clients, prospects and referral sources to find. We need to be found on more than just one social media platform; we should be actively communicating from several platforms. Constant, regular, informative and timely email newsletter communications are another great way to be getting messages out to a focused audience. Email newsletters offer a less “public” communication experience, and can be tailored to meet industry specific needs or focused to communicate to targeted groups. When you want to get a message out to segmented groups, pee-mail, I mean email, remains the best avenue for communicating these messages. The most successful email newsletter platforms provide built-in social media sharing tools so that your targeted messages have an opportunity to go viral from every inbox they hit.

The key to social media success is to be proactively social. Seek out and follow your clients, referral sources and best prospects. Always be present with genuine, human interactions and expertise when opportunities arise. Build top of mind awareness through steady communications, and don’t neglect your social media efforts. Tailor conversations with targeted email campaigns that provide value and insight to hand-picked audiences. Most of all develop an ear for listening to social media conversations and be sure your nose is ready to sniff out opportunities and respond to needs. We are, after all, not dogs, but we can sure learn a few tips from the very social “man’s best friend.”

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Criticism

Posted: January 16, 2012 in research
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Cognitive dissonance is an uncomfortable feeling caused by holding conflicting ideas simultaneously. The theory of cognitive dissonance proposes that people have a motivational drive to reduce dissonance. They do this by changing their attitudes, beliefs, and actions…People are biased to think of their choices as correct, despite any contrary evidence. This bias gives dissonance theory its predictive power, shedding light on otherwise puzzling irrational and destructive behavior.

It has to do with creativity in general, in the form of criticism. There are probably a hundred different answers to the question of what separates a successful artist from an unsuccessful one, but I am convinced that one of the key components is an ability to handle and internalize criticism without resorting to the mind games of cognitive dissonance.

Good, positive criticism feeds us. It keeps us aware of the perspective of others and how our works might impact them, as well as the message we’re truly conveying rather than the one we’re attempting to convey. My fiancee helps me in this regard – she is a great sounding board for whether the idea is coming through, and of course beta readers are also essential. Hell, even negative criticism has its place. It reminds us that no matter how big our egos might get, we’re not as good as we might think we are. It helps us to know that sometimes our creative instincts are right. Discourage criticism at your own peril.

For two examples, we need look no further than George Lucas and Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins. These two were hugely influential in my early development; I would not be the freelancer that I am today without their presence in my life – Lucas for helping me dream big and embrace my imagination and Corgan for helping me to transform inner experiences into something larger, as well as my use of symbolism. I still respect the men, despite their artistic missteps. But let’s not bat around the bush, they have certainly experienced missteps. I’m sure you’re familiar with Lucas’s issues, and Corgan…well, his most recent “video” is an insipid song interspersed with…oh, just look, it speaks for itself: http://new.music.yahoo.com/videos/–221565301 What went wrong? Ignoring valid criticism (with a possible lack of creative impetus). Lucas has notoriously surrounded himself with Yes Men – just watch some of the making-of videos on the prequels and cringe at the sycophants that don’t dare question his decisions. Corgan has openly rebelled against critics and even engaged in some particularly childish name-calling with those critics on Twitter without even considering the words that they say, dismissing them as simply negative.

Like I said, discourage criticism at your own peril.

So we have to keep ourselves open to the process. Be aware of what your critics might be saying – good or bad. Decide if it fits in with your vision, and what you might be doing wrong. I believe that once an artist decides that they have to step out from behind the work to defend it, they have clearly blown something in the execution. That’s fine, it happens, but perhaps the most important thing is to take a step back and question exactly why the criticism exists, and what could be done differently next time. It makes us better all around, and as I’ve said, really separates the wanna-bes from those who are dedicated to their craft.

Duality

Posted: January 16, 2012 in Uncategorized

It was a day of silence, a day of worry, a day of fear. It was cold. The breeze ran a chill down the spine, the fear which clutched my heart, tightly but lose enough to keep me alive.

A day of conflict, a day of resentment, a day of opportunities and a day of happiness. There was more to come; anxiety, achievement and power. The situation was not under control. The next few days would change my life, for the better or it would just remain the same but things could never go worse. I knew it. But the heart resisted its acceptance. It was clutched hard. Hard enough not to let me mould the feelings.

I went out, to feel the breeze, to let go the spirit which was dampened by the tears of anxiety. A spirit burdened by the fear of losing. A spirit which wanted to feel what it is to be like flowing with the wind. And I let it.

It described me. A part of it wanted to explore the freedom; carefree, lively and genuine. While the other half was scared to let them know; dark, anxious, terrified.

My body failed to respond. Such a duality was never a part of me. Caged and Free. Silence and Whisper. Black and White. Right and Wrong.