Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Master Networker: Erika Hanson Brown

The other day I blogged about networking and kindness from strangers. What's really cool is when you can transition from stranger to a virtual friend to a real friend -- sit across from someone, talk, and really Laugh Out Loud. (I much prefer real LOL'ing to the over-used virtual lol.)

Erika Hanson Brown is one of those people that's fun to Laugh Out Loud with. Full of spunk and energy, you can't help but smile when you're around her. She looks and even sounds like Diane Keaton and we thought it quite the coincidence that Keaton played a character named Erica in Something's Gotta Give. (And while I cannot understand Keaton's attraction to Jack Nicholson, Erika totally gets it.)

Erika found me first because of a guest post I'd made about Networking on Jacob Share's JobMob site. Once I learned more about her, I found out that Erika is the Queen of Connections! She makes a career out of networking! How cool is that? An example of a successful entrepreneur written about in Denver Woman, Erika is the Chief Strategist of Steller Connections LLC. The company started as an executive search firm but has broadened into Relationship Brokerage, including services such as training and workshops on networking and relationship building. Erika is passionate about networking and writes about the importance of discernment in her posterous blog. Her system?

The Connectoring® Verities*

1. Be Real
2. Charm Them
3. Seek More
4. Move Boldly
5. Shamelessly Support
6. Deliver Cookies
7. Show Up

In the short time I've known her, I can see Erika leads by example, demonstrating these values. Authentic to the core, she will tell you what's on her mind, being fully herself. I asked her about #6... "Delivering cookies?" (Still in geek-mode, I wasn't sure if we were talking browser options here.) Erika said it used to be "Delivering Jelly" until the word "jelly" was met with a few raised eyebrows. She explained the jelly (now cookies) with a story from her childhood. She and her mother had traveled cross-country to New York in a Studebaker Golden Hawk with jars and jars of Montana jelly. Erika said her mother would freely offer up jelly to strangers who would often offer back kindnesses in return. She and her mother were soon rooming in penthouse suites at minimal rates and hob-nobbing with Ella Fitzgerald in jazz clubs. And it all started with offering jelly. She remembers her mother, an early networker before the days of computers, getting out her fine stationary to write thank you notes and keep in touch with her connections. Whether it be cookies, jelly, or a personal note, the point is to give something of yourself.

Though I only took a couple of photos, I'm posting the one that I think demonstrates Erika's Bold and Charming side. Jumping up onto a little wall outside of Whole Foods, she examines the overgrown plant of some sort, trying to discover it's identity. (She guessed giant sunflower, but I thought it looked a lot like the huge weeds in my back yard.) Ya gotta love that spontaneity. But what I think most captures the 7 Verities is the smile.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Picking a Blogging Platform

I've had three people ask me in the past 24 hours how to get started with blogging. There are so many resources that it's overwhelming!

If you're TOTALLY new, I suggest first taking a gander at this Blogging 101 slideshare presentation.

OK, so you know what blogging's all about. You want to get started, but you don't know which blogging platform to pick.

The two most popular free blogging platforms are WordPress.com and Google's Blogger.com. I've been using Blogger for the past couple of years and I absolutely love it! But I'd been hearing a lot about WordPress, so just recently I started a new blog about QA Management on that platform so I could compare the two. I know that TypePad is popular as well, but you only get a free trial and then would need to upgrade, whereas WordPress.com and Blogger are completely free. I'm all about free stuff, especially when you're learning and these two platforms have all the bells and whistles to keep you happily blogging for years! I really can't believe that they're free!

As for which to choose? My preference is Blogger, but I've only been using WordPress for a week, so it could be that I just haven't gotten used to it yet. This comparison chart does a good job of showing the differences. However, one thing I can't find with WordPress is an up-to-date tutorial! I found a site with a very comprehensive set of tutorials about Blogger, though. I watched the first two videos and found them very informative. And it looks like the full set of 118 videos is free (did I mention I like free stuff?)

One other really nice thing about these popular blogging platforms is that many other social sites automatically integrate with them. So, for example, you can easily share content from your blog on sites like Twitter, FaceBook, and LinkedIn. You can also, very easily share content from other sites, like YouTube and SlideShare on your blog. If you have a custom blog, it's often not as easy to integrate.

With these popular platforms it's also very easy to add these cool "widgets" or "gadgets" as they're called. Those are the little applications you see on the sidebar -- the stuff to the right on this blog. I just added "Things to Ponder" for example.

My advice is get yourself a blogger account and just get your feet wet! If you want to blog for business, there's a lot more to learn. But for now, let blogger be your sandbox and get out and play!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Networking and Kindness From Strangers

Since I've been unemployed, I've been trying to take advantage of the time to meet new people, learn new things, and appreciate the good things in life. I've been to networking events and connected with people that I've found either at events or in cyberspace via LinkedIn.

I've experienced so much kindness and support from friends and family. I can't even begin to thank them all here, but I hope they know how grateful I am.

But what's really surprising and heart-warming is when someone that doesn't know me goes out of their way to connect, support, and help me. That kindness touches me. I've been trying to take a picture every day of something that makes me smile. I can't take a picture of that feeling I get inside when someone is kind and supportive, but at least I can write about it.

Erika Hanson Brown, Mark Chance are two of those people-- people I didn't know before my job search, who I now consider friends. And, again, there have been many more acquaintances and friends who have been incredibly helpful. Hopefully, it will all come back to them 10-fold with good karma. At the very least, I hope they realize that the thoughtfulness they show influences others to show that same positive energy with others and with that, they make the world a better place for us all.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Getting Focused

Did you ever see that email about A.A.A.D.D.: Age Activated Attention Deficit Disorder? It starts like this:

"I decide to water my garden. *As I turn on the hose in the driveway, I look over at my car and decide it needs washing...."

It goes on for several more sentences with more distractions until the end where the guy says he can't understand why he got nothing done and he can't remember who he was going to send this email to anyway.

I'd repeat the whole text except I doubt any of us want to spend more than a few minutes reading it all. When I read it the first time, I remember thinking to myself, that's nothing! At least this old guy is getting away from his computer walking around his house as he gets distracted with the next thing. Those of us that are cyber-addicts will follow link after link reading all kinds of cool stuff and often never accomplishing our original goal!

For example, 20 minutes ago, I was cleaning my house (something I haven't done for quite awhile.) I came across an old insurance card and realized I needed to print a new one. Now getting on the computer at all is a big mistake, because I know that the endless series of links will distract me. Sure enough, there was an email from a LinkedIn Group that I glanced at (gotta keep up with this stuff, ya know) that had a link to a post that looked interesting:

"Networking and Business 101: “Excuse Me, But I Don’t Want to Talk To You Anymore”

Of course, I had to leave a comment for Samuel L Diener, telling him I'd add him to my blog roll since his blog is about Social Media. Then, of course, I had to peruse his Website. And, naturally, ask him to connect via LinkedIn. I didn't go on to peruse FaceBook or Twitter to see if he was on there because...well...I might as well be out here all day once I get on those sites. But, I did (obviously) write this blog post, which meant additional time spent trying to find that old A.A.A.D.D. article, finding an out-of-focus photo (which should have been simple if I'd perused my private stash) and then spending the time to actually write something.

How do we stay focused? I love reading, learning, meeting new people, networking, chatting, blogging.... I keep telling myself I have to schedule time and set a timer and when that timer rings, I'm off the computer! It's a beautiful day today and I need to get out and see real peopl ....DING!!!!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Having a Clear Objective When You're Using Social Media

I've been telling people last week was like "finals week" for me. I've had two main objectives for using social media since I got laid off two months ago: 1) Find a Job and 2) Prepare for this Denver Chamber of Commerce Speaking Engagement. Last week I had final rounds of interviews with two companies both of which I'm very interested in as well as the Chamber of Commerce event. It was a busy week!

The outcomes? Well, I think they all went well. Until all is a done deal, I'm holding off on the celebrations or announcements, but I'm hoping my days of being unemployed are coming to an end soon. If all else fails, I can take my Social Media 101 presentation on the road (or out into cyberspace) for fame and fortune.

I'm convinced that if you have a clear objective and a strategy you will be able to accomplish anything you set your mind to. If you don't have an objective, you can get lost and overwhelmed by all the choices of tools, blogs, articles, and networks of people! Here are some examples of why people use social media:
  • Fun!
  • Job Search
  • Gain Expertise
  • Establish Online Presence and Credibility
  • Identify Trends
  • Get Support
  • Build Relationships
  • Get References
  • Spread the Word About Something Good
  • Customer Service
  • Network with Experts
  • Influence Others
  • Inbound Marketing

I could go on and on. With any of these, you can get more specific -- and the more specific the better. For example, rather than "looking for a job" my objective was to "look for an IT Management job close to where I live in Superior, Colorado." By narrowing down your objective, you're better able to build your strategy focusing on what you should be reading, who you should be networking with, and how you can best use the tools and technologies that are at your disposal.

One thing that is NOT on this list (maybe the only thing that I recommend against using social media for) is to sell. Now, one could argue that the reason for marketing and relationship building is ultimately to make a sale. I don't think people should make a secret of their products, services, or businesses. But don't make that your sole purpose of using the tools. If you do, you will be outcast as an annoying "douche-bag" and most people will avoid you. You don't want that to be your online reputation! Seek to help others as much if not more than you expect to receive help. (That must be some kind of golden rule or hymn or something. It sounds very pious, but it's really true.)

I used to wonder how on earth businesses effectively use social media to market if they couldn't sell their stuff. I mean...you want to be genuine, so you definitely don't want to pretend like you're someone's friend, and then turn around and ask them if they want to buy your latest weight-loss product (which seems to be a common product amongst spammers.) Well, the folks at hubspot.com have this great series of free teleseminars through their Inbound Marketing University program that give some very helpful advice and information about how to be effective at inbound marketing. I highly recommend these courses! In fact, I am a proud graduate of the program, having recently passed the certification exam! Yay!

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