Friday, October 26, 2012

A Blogging Alternative

Guy Kawasaki poses an interesting concept in an interview with Social Media Examiner: As an alternative to blogging, it is easier to drive traffic via Google+ and Facebook. As a blogger, I am definitely not opposed to or offended by this idea. I think it is a legitimate claim. And as someone who has assisted small business owners who are not really interested in dragging themselves into a blogger role, I’d like to present this idea to non-bloggers as a potential piece of a small business social media strategy.

Guy is a former chief evangelist for Apple and the author of several books – most recently: What the Plus! Google+ for the Rest of Us. Once you have evangelized for Apple and wrote a few books, your opinion is asked on many things. And that is exactly what is done in this interview. But I will concentrate on his thoughts on this alternative to blogging and later hit a point he makes about the evolution of publishing.

The two main constraints felt by many bloggers are (1) running out of things to write about and (2) finding time to write. Working through that experience, Guy has found Google+ as his new base platform. Google+ and Facebook give ample space for lengthy posts, (LinkedIn, not so much, but it can still fit the bill for shorter posts). If you can capture your point in the space of a Google+ or Facebook post, maintaining a blog becomes secondary or non-essential. In fact, the sharing features of Google+ and Facebook make it easier to drive traffic to those posts than to blog posts.

Guy also describes the benefits of evolving from a blogger to a curator – that is, moving from standard blog posts toward spending his time discovering quality content he then shares with his Google+ audience. He doesn’t try to create new content as his primary communication. Instead, he acts as a curator of good information he finds that he thinks his audience will appreciate. His philosophy is, if you curate good stuff, people will still follow you. They will appreciate being fed the info they don’t have to find themselves. Guy makes a practice of daily visits to Top 10 lists from various sources such as NPR and TopTenz (and there are thousands more). A good curator must keep on top of what is happening in order to capture and hold an audience (Guy’s established reputation certainly doesn’t hurt either, but any of us can be rock star curators if we work hard enough).

For those adverse or reluctant to maintain a blog, this is a great concept for expanding your social media presence on Google+ and Facebook. It is certainly less of a commitment than maintaining a blog site. And the possibility of building a large following by leveraging the Google+ and Facebook sharing tools has great potential. Whether you choose to create or curate content, you still need to perform the legwork to find what your audience wants. But the bight-size info delivery idea is very inviting - from both a production and consumption standpoint.

Since I enjoy writing my blog, I have no plans to abandon it any time soon and adopt Guy’s approach. In fact, as my own style has evolved over the past 10 months, I have found a balance between original content and curated content. As more of a mix than what Guy suggests, I think there is great value in finding a good piece of information and sharing it in a blog post with my own perspective. I will certainly take his advice and apply the curating aspect more directly to my Facebook Page management – which can definitely use a boost!

If you listen to the podcast, you will also hear Guy’s thoughts on the evolution of publishing. Since his first book in 1987, he has seen publishing options evlove from a 6-9 month turnaround time in hardcopy, to a less than 7 day turnaround in electronic books. This piques my personal interest as I approach my goal of publishing a book before year end. I’m curious: Do you read books made of paper or delivered electronically on a Kindle, Nook or tablet? I wonder what my potential audience would prefer. Your opinions on this are most welcome! I won't make you read it!

Monday, October 15, 2012

One Less Item on My Bucket List

This weekend, I will get to check off an item on my “Bucket List.” I’m taking my family to a Notre Dame football game! It is no small feat getting five people to a game (with tickets) that is 900 miles away. I’ve been talking about it for years, with a definite ramp-up in frequency in the last year. Now I am really going! It is only happening with the help of my sister, Megan, in Chicago who is cramming us into her condo and with the help of my cousin, Will, in Chicago who bought the tickets through auction on my behalf. Plus some copious fare-watching from my end.

I’m not a Notre Dame fanatic, but a loyal fan with great appreciation for the time I spent and especially the friends I made there. Now it has become a bit of a magical place for me – a balance between disbelief and pride that I went there, wrapped in the warmth from the glow of memories that I am so grateful to have. For me, it is more than a place to see a great football game. It is the place where the person I have become was roughed out. It is where the beams were laid on the foundation my parents gave me. My appreciation for what I had there has definitely grown over the years and I felt I would have missed something great if I didn’t get a chance to take my kids there to experience game day and stroll the campus. This will also serve as a premature college tour for all three of them, since it is unlikely we will be back before the college years overtake us! As long as it doesn’t pour rain, I am hopeful for a lasting, positive impression that won’t matter what they would have talked about with an admissions counselor.

If there is one thing I have learned since graduating from Notre Dame, it is that it is never too early to start a list of things I want to do before I kick the bucket. And equally, do not wait to start checking things off of it. 

My bucket list is not very exotic nor is it adventuresome. For instance, I have no interest in jumping from a large helium balloon at 128,000 feet to break the sound barrier. My list is significantly tamer:

  • See a shooting star
  • Catch a view of the Northern Lights
  • Watch wild horses run
  • Take a sleigh ride
  • Learn to surf on a tropical shore
  • Take my family to see the Grand Canyon

So, all I really  need to do is visit northern Montana, book a surfing trip to Costa Rica and stop at the Grand Canyon in between!

I think my dad would have liked my list. Not because he had a bucket list – if he did, and I didn’t know about it, it probably just had one item: Be with Peg. He may have liked my list because he loved the outdoors, loved teaching us about what we saw and because he had such a grab-the-steering-wheel-and-go (or grab-an-oar-and-go!) attitude toward travel. This is his birth month and I think of him often as the leaves change and fall. I followed him to Notre Dame (I even lived in his exact dorm room my freshman year!) and I will be walking with him on campus this weekend. I will light a candle at the Grotto for my uncle, his brother and fellow-alum, for good health. And I hope I can teach my boys a thing or two about Notre Dame and setting goals, on my dad’s behalf.

And if you think Jack McCarthy has nothing to do with the current Irish winning streak, so his grandsons could see an undefeated team, think again!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Mission and Compassion Intertwined

One of the underlying drivers of all of the small businesses I have encountered is a passion to do something good. Maybe I’m just lucky and my sample size is small. I’m sure there are plenty of businesses out there that succeed without incorporating compassion into their mission. But what I am finding is really quite amazing. Whether it be a yoga studio dedicated to healing and nurturing the whole person, a graphic designer inspired by young moms in their common journey and designing products that speak to those stories, an architect passionate about green solutions that help the earth, or chefs committed to organic, local foods that support local growers and healthy eating, their business goals are intertwined with care for others.

One example very near and dear to me is the Life is good company who, this week, will be honored by the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce in the culmination of their Small Business of the Year Awards. One of the reasons I am a fan of Life is good and its owners is that they started in my little town of Needham, MA, selling T-shirts out of a van and have grown to a $100 million business without losing sight of their early vision. Another reason  I am a fan is because of the Life is good pajamas my aunt and uncle in Colorado sent my three sisters and me as we tried to celebrate Christmas in my mother’s house 23 days after she died – we were beneficiaries of the Life is good vision in a truly thoughtful surprise that pulled us forward. The last reason I am a fan is because the Life is good company is a great example of finding a purpose (promoting optimism) and using their business to serve that purpose. Since their start in 1994, they have grown their business and their brand which has enabled them to develop a non-profit action arm. The Life is good Playmakers provide education, resources, and support to childcare providers who dedicate their lives to helping kids in need.

In Owner/CEO Bert Jacobs’ words: “We tend to think of nonprofits and government organizations when we think about organizations that do good things, but in truth a lot of the power is with people who know how to make money. So if you know how to make money, and have the visibility through consumer products, then you can do some pretty amazing things.”

In my world of small businesses, I don’t normally think of $100 million businesses (especially those headquartered on Newbury Street in Boston) who wield this kind of life-changing clout for others. But no small business should ever be discouraged from trying to achieve the exact same thing – whether it be on a small or large scale. Our life’s purpose and our business can coexist. In a recent interview with Inkandescent Networking, Bert listed 15 tips for entrepreneurs. It is a great list, worth a full read, with an important final point - Start from the end. Ask yourself this question: When you are old and gray, what do you want to look back on and say that you have accomplished? Once you know the answer, go ahead and do it. 

On the subject of mission and compassion, Bert recommends asking ourselves the question posed by (my favorite) poet Mary Oliver, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” If your compassion and your business mission intertwine, as they do at Life is good (and Pipal Leaf Yoga Studio and and One Penny Per Mile and more), what a great combination that becomes. As Bert says, “We weren’t created for business, it was created for us. So your business should serve your life’s purpose.”

Catch some optimism from “Jake”, the Life is good mascot, from the many facets of their website (fun and optimistic images, their blog, Fuel (stories from people who have embraced the power of optimism), learn about Playmakers and/or their Festival). They can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube and Pinterest. It may add optimism to your day or inspire your business.