Cross Country

Southern Wisconsin It’s amazing, sometimes, how easily we forget how big, how expansive our country is. The time it takes to drive across one state or another is not inconsequential and each time the scenery is worth paying attention to. The diversity of the landscapes always impresses me.

From the sweeping agricultural plains to the industrial and commercial centers of urban life, to the majestic mountains or coastline it never ceases to teach. Every trip I take, I learn something new. Either about the area I’m visiting, or the region I’m traveling through, the history and culture of the area presents a new opportunity to learn more about my fellow countrymen. It gives me a better idea of how the things I do fit into the world, and how we all relate to each other.

View from The County Line BBQ - Austin, TX The other thing is the opportunity to travel across rather than over. While flying is faster, it’s certainly not rewarding. The hassles of security stops and checks is inconvenient, especially with the false sense of security it provides. Traveling on the road can be much more rewarding if you have the time. You get to see the country, meet the people, and experience the contours of the land, something that’s lost at 40,000 feet.

Another perspective is the people. You learn so much from the characters you meet and where they’re from. It can help look at things from another angle and learn what kinds of perceptions exist and why. These help us build better products and provide better services. Not just because they’re cool, but because they are useful. Because people need or want them.

The Donut Whole - Wichita, KS I write this on the return leg of a road trip to South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, TX. Over a week on the road getting a full dose of fresh perspective has reset my direction and attitude. The results are the only thing left to focus on, and I need to thank this experience and the trip itself for the bulk of that new thinking.

Have you done a long distance road trip lately? What have you learned that can help others?

Changes and Challenges

Changes & Challenges

Challenges – the unique opportunity to see if we’re good enough.  It lives within us all, and the organizations we work with as well.  Do we really have what it takes?  Can we really meet the expectations that are set without our control?  Can we let go of control and still be able to survive?

So it is with social media in business.  Taking the concepts of transparency and community behind the firewall brings numerous challenges and requires many changes in a company’s culture.  If that culture is too ridgid, the change is met with skepticism and sometimes fear.  The fear comes from losing control, or from having to learn yet another set of skills that leave you further behind that your contemporaries.

Whatever the case, the challenges of organizations taking up social media can easily derail many attempts that were designed to enhance the company’s ability to move forward.  Its the opportunity for individuals within the organization to help lead, help educate, and help demonstrate how things can be done.  The question becomes how to educate and train people on these new methods, along with selecting the proper solution for the business need at hand.

Oftentimes, the social media “expert” you hire has a direct impact on the success – many times because of the focus on the tool rather than solving the need.  You see, social media is no different than anything else.  It’s a set of ideas or concepts.  It consists of a number of possible technologies.  To be successful, you need to understand the requirements (needs) of the business before selecting the right tool.

You wouldn’t use a Standard blade screwdriver to tighten a Phillips screw, so why would you select the wrong tool in social media?

I think the confusion come from the number of tools, and the fact that nearly all of them overlap in one or more area.  This is where the knowledge of the social media professional needs to be leveraged.  The person who helps coach you through the identification of needs and selection of tools will need to have worked with them in multiple ways so they understand what would work best in your application.

Identify the challenges of your company and the changes needed to move forward and you’re on your way to providing what your company needs to remain competitive as the world changes around us.

2009 – The Long Road

Its been a long time since I really posted a personal post on what really is a personal blog.  I’ve been wondering why that’s the case, and I’m sure you have too.  Honesty I don’t know that is, but I do want to figure it out.

2009 has been a wild ride for me, with many highs and luckily only a few lows.  The rapid and exciting growth of SMBMSP here in Minneapolis & St. Paul has been rewarding, yet stressful.  The work at Land O’Lakes as their Social Media Strategist is similar but for vastly different reasons.  The amount of work involved in each is daunting and keeps me engaged.  For that I’m grateful.

On the personal side of things, life has again been good though recently my wife has started having some heart palpitations that have me worried.  It’s worse for me because I just don’t know all the medical things that go on or what they mean.  Yeah, I’m a pretty typical male when it comes to medical things – just don’t pay attention as well as I should.  We’re still finding out more about this and it’ll be a learning experience as we adapt to new lifestyle needs.

I’ve been quiet around here for awhile, and I don’t have a reason or message as to why.  This year has been a challenge and I neglected making the time to share information and ideas.  The past week, I’ve started posting on my Happiness series again.  Mostly because of recent events, but partly because I liked them so much.  They have little to do with social media in business, which is where my specialty in social media is going, but proved to be an important part of my inspiration in 2008, so they’ll be making a comeback.

Overall, I’m looking forward to the next couple months.  More writing is on my todo list, but more important is taking things to the next level.  I guess that’s what I’m here to invite you to do as well.  Its time to make the next step on all levels.  Enough of working within the confines of the current norms.  Are you ready to step up the pace?  Ready for the challenge?  I hope you join me on the journey as we plan for and enter 2010.  I hope to share a few new and exciting things in the coming weeks as we close out this year, and begin to cap off the decade next year.  Until tomorrow my friends.

Is Plain Text The Best?

Some say that plain text is best. Who am I to complain? When something as simple as 140 characters is enough on Twitter to convey a message, or 160 characters for a mobile text message? We can communicate a lot with very little – and a very simple medium: plain text.


So why are there so many contrasting opinions about using rich text in communications? Especially email?

Email has become one of those communications tools that seem to raise the ire of the “plain text is best” crowd. Some folks just don’t appreciate the HTML emails or fancy formatting others put into their signatures. I’ve seen some folks get downright angry towards these emails, and you can always tell who these folks are as their replies always come back in plain text.

While I won’t pretend to understand the controversy, I do think the plain text crowd is more “no nonsense” and just likes to get about their business. Whereas the rich text crowd probably tends to be heavier on the creative side, and likes to communicate with a bit of aesthetic value.

As we move further into the future, of course, rich text becomes easier to integrate into more communications mediums. The utility of plain text will remain though, as the lowest common denominator for any publishing platform as their job is to simply distribute information – and all that really needs is text.

The Youth Movement

'Queen's Commerce Class of 2008 group photo 18' by eddiehosa It’s an interesting time we live in. Economic turmoil, changing social norms, 100 year old publishing businesses crumbling, and new media powerhouses being established. You’d be hard pressed to give our present era a pass and claim it to be not as important as <fill in your favorite era here>.

Along with these incredible times are some challenges for every business, and everyone that works in them. The reality is that the past decade has brought incredible change in our communications and social structures because of digital communication. Included in this is the first generation raised entirely within the Internet, and mobile communication revolution of advanced technology.

This generation has experienced the freedom of wireless connections from an early age, and rediscovered the power of text communications. The “kids” in this generation have expanded their mental and reflex capacities through vigorous sessions of online, multiplayer, interactive & collaborative games. These folks have no stigma about being online, and this generation comes prewired for online social interaction. They have the ability to actively team-build without preamble and pep talks, can do business virtually without the need to meet in person and can work with folks on the other side of the globe as easily as they work with people in the next cube.

This is the youth movement of today, and they’re entering your business right now. These young folks are part of the largest workforce to enter the American business landscape since the boomers. They are your new entry level employees and they know what’s up. They’re smart, fast to learn new things, and anxious to prove themselves. With the Baby Boomers retiring and GenX/Y moving up, these folks coming out of college are bringing a revolution in relationship management with them.

Are you ready for them?

Photo credit: eddiehosa

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