Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Quality or Quantity?

In previous posts I confessed developing a networking habit pre-Web 2.0. Consequently, the spine of my networking philosophy is to cultivate strong, sustainable relationships, one relationship at a time. Thanks to social networking, people appear to be building looser, situational networks. Quantity is the spine of their networking philosophy.

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Every time someone that I do not know reaches out to me to connect on LinkedIn and I learn they are a LION (LinkedIn Open Networker), I evaluate how many networking connections can people effectively maintain? I am reminded of Robin Dunbar, a professor of anthropology at Oxford University in England. Thanks to extensive research, he developed Dunbar’s number, the theoretical cognitive number of people with whom we can maintain stable social relationships. He believes that number is 150. To quote Dunbar directly: “Our minds are not designed to allow us to have more than a very limited number of people in our social world. The emotional and psychological investments that a close relationship requires are considerable, and the emotional capital we have available limited.”

Along comes the collaborative world of Web 2.0. Social media gurus are now challenging Dunbar’s number. Some profess that the true value of our network does not come from strong relationships, but from casual ties which are more beneficial since they form bridges to new worlds we are not connected with. Consequently, we now are witnessing people with 500+ LinkedIn connections (LIONS), 1K+ Facebook friends and 4K+ twitter followers.

Back to my original query: How many LinkedIn networking connections can people effectively maintain? Answer: Depends on an individual’s networking philosophy. LIONS believe in quantity, situational connections, thus have learned how to manage their network effectively. Other people value strong, sustainable relationships, most of which were cultivated pre- Web 2.0, thus emphasize quality.

What are your thoughts? Quality or quantity?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Avoid Rarefied Air

“A desk is a dangerous place from which to watch the world.”

– John le CarrĂ© (English Novelist)

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Yesterday, after reading the above quote, I circled back on an old interview I read with Abbe Raven, President and C.E.O. of A&E Television Networks. Her advice regarding leadership – avoid rarefied air. In Abbe’s own words: “There are many executives who only travel on private planes, go from office to car to home to a hotel, and you’re not experiencing the world. I take the train in every day. I look at what people are reading, watching, what devices they’re using. I go shopping. I buy the milk in the house. I watch TV. You want to make sure that you’re in touch with not only your employees, but also your customers and viewers, and what they like and don’t want. Be out there. Don’t let yourself get trapped in your office. You need to be in the world. And the world is not just other executives.”

If I can take a moment to paraphrase Abbe: Circulate, observe and stay informed in order to avoid rarefied air. Start by unplugging and taking a walk at lunchtime.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Conductor

Companies currently planning their future social media initiatives are weighing the pros and cons of utilizing an in-house team, their agency of record, a social media consultant or a combination of all three – a hybrid approach. Regardless, all successful social media movements will need a conductor.

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I am still exploring the new world of social media. Based on what I have experienced, I would like to share with you what I believe are the key character traits of a good social media conductor:

Strategic Thinker – A good conductor has been classically trained, thus recognizes that social media is another marketing tool that will be integrated with the company’s current strategic initiatives to enhance its overall business. As a strategic thinker, a good conductor understands social media accord – the value of establishing rules of engagement, identifying the proper resources and messaging needed to clearly broadcast the company’s voice amongst all the social media clutter.

Leadership – A good conductor orchestrates all the company’s social media players to collaborate effectively and create harmony. In addition, the conductor leads by example, thus engages with the company’s audience (a.k.a. community).

Analytical – All social media movements must be measured. Consequently, a good conductor understands how to interpret the data, like reading a newspaper review the day after a performance and recognizes what is working, what is not working.

Intellectual Curiosity – A good conductor stays informed because we live in a world dominated by technology and information that changes in nanoseconds.

Improvises – A good conductor understands improvisation. Conductors play to their audience, they are flexible, thus able to switch gears when necessary.

I have named five character traits of a good social media conductor. Do you have any additional suggestions?

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Food Truck History Lesson

America is experiencing a “food truck invasion.” Actually, food trucks are an update of an old concept. Consequently, I would like to acknowledge another birthday this week, Charles Goodnight, inventor of a mobile kitchen known as the “Chuckwagon.”

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Charles Goodnight born March 5th, 1836 was a famous Texas rancher, better known as the “Father of the Texas Panhandle.” In addition to raising cattle, Charles was also a banker, newspaperman, silver miner and founder of Goodnight College which closed its doors in 1917. However, few people know that back in 1866 Charles, in recognition of the need to make meals easier on cattle drives, invented the chuckwagon. He outfitted an old Army wagon with kitchen shelves and drawers stocked with easy-to-preserve items like salted meats, beans, etc.; along with a water barrel, coffee grinder and a sling for kindling wood.

Flash forward to 2011. Food trucks, a contemporary form of mobile kitchens have become popular on both coasts thanks to delivering a wide variety of restaurant quality food, marketed via numerous social media tools. Having grown up in New York, I was familiar with hot dog carts that populated every busy street corner. Then I witnessed a wave of gyros and kebab carts; an occasional catering truck parked outside construction sites that served mystery tuna or chicken salad sandwiches on stale white bread with wilted lettuce. When I first moved to Philadelphia, I sampled the mobile trucks parked outside the University of Pennsylvania that serve ethnic foods like Chinese, Mexican and Caribbean, but were called "roach coaches" thanks to their questionable sanitation. But now the chuck, Goodnight’s slang word for food has gone upscale – everything from grass-fed organic burgers and hot dogs, sushi rolls, falafel, Vietnamese Banh Mi sandwiches, etc. are being served.

A quick archeological dig revealed that the new wave of food trucks started in Los Angeles by Mark Manguera at a taco stand after a night of bar hopping. Mark, a Filipino married to a Korean had a drunken revelation, Korean barbecue on a taco. He partnered with his sister-in-law Alice Shin and friend Korean chef Roy Choi, enlisted his family and friends to orchestrate a social media movement and created the famous Kogi Korean BBQ taco truck. @kogibbq went viral in 2008. Soon other gourmet roving vehicles started popping up in LA., Portland, Seattle, NYC, South Florida, etc.

What’s next? Food truck lots (food courts) are beginning to surface. I cannot wait until someone organizes the first food truck festival inviting all the best food trucks in America. Maybe they should hold the festival in the Texas Panhandle and call it “Chuckstock” in honor of Charles Goodnight.

Happy Birthday Charles!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Happy B-Day Dr. Seuss

“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those that matter don’t mind.” Dr. Seuss

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Theodore Seuss Geisel (a.k.a. Dr. Seuss) was born this day (March 2nd) in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1904. In his lifetime he was recognized for the forty-four children’s books he published as well as being a cartoonist and an illustrator for advertising campaigns, the most notable being Standard Oil. When interviewed he indicated that his imaginative characters, rhyme and children’s verse were inspired by his mother’s unique bedtime ritual. Mrs. Geisel would chant rhymes for remembering the names of pies she had baked earlier in the day at the family bakery in lieu of stories.

In honor of Dr. Seuss, today is the annual date for National Read Across America Day, a reading initiative created by the National Education Association.

Remember, as Dr. Seuss advised us in one of my all time favorite books Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

“You’ll get mixed up, of course,
as you already know.
You’ll get mixed up
with many strange birds as you go.
So be sure when you step,
Step with care and great tact
and remember that Life’s
a Great Balancing Act.
Just never forget to be dexterous and deft.
And never mix up your right foot with your left.”

Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss!