This blog is about how to make your thought leadership more visible, to do good in the world. But sometimes, it pays to be a follower, not a leader. Let me explain.
Last year, I looked for affordable technology that would support a dream--to have an Internet version of a talk show. Two webcams, broadcast via the Internet to others who could see and hear a conversation with myself and a guest, talking about an interesting topic. Add in the ability for the audience to ask questions live, and you get an Internet talk show.
The problem was that I couldn't find a service that was both affordable and reliable. I asked smart people in related industries and still, no one knew of anything that fit what I needed.
While I was frustrated, I knew it was a just matter of time before the service I needed would be available, from a startup, as a beta. It's what I've seen repeatedly happen in the last few years with technology. This includes the webinar platform space, which seems to be ultra-competitive these days. (Established vendors, like Webex and Gotomeeting, should be worried at this point.)
I found my answer on a private Facebook group, for participants of Pamela Slim's Power Teaching course. A woman who had taken the course last year posted remarks about BigMarker.com, describing her experience with the service, as well as the features that it provided over and above the competition, for *free*. Yes, it's in beta. Yes, there are glitches. Yes, their site could be better organized. But what they offer is exactly what I've been looking for.
Here's the important part. I found what I needed by being a follower--by being part of Pamela Slim's tribe, and then going deeper into the experience by buying a course on what she knows from her decades of teaching, first as an instructional designer for corporate training and now as an entrepreneur.
Being part of the eco-system of a thought leader is not just learning from the thought leader. It's learning from others who are following that thought leader. It's what comes from joining a vibrant community, that's started by a wisdom entrepreneur.
When I originally started this blog in 2008, new ways of spreading ideas were still in its infancy. Twitter was largely the domain of early adopters. While blogs had become mainstream, online video had not yet become a pervasive tool for connecting to an audience. Books were still largely consumed in hard copy and the newly launched Kindle was the iPad of that time.
It's not just about a new venues for publishing, but also new formats for connecting with your audience. A friend of mine has a start-up that helps authors create books that are more than text, sometimes extending them into virtual worlds, with an interactive component. Authors are shooting videos, with just a simple webcam, to answer readers questions and to provide a more personal connection.
What this all means:
Dreams that were not possible just a few years ago are possible now.
Gatekeepers have become less formidable and in some cases, no longer relevant. Photo by AlicePopkorn.
I know of someone who aspired to be in broadcast journalism, but never made it, despite her training. Her idea of success was the anchor behind a desk in a television studio. Now she's looking at a video podcast, in short segments, for a niche audience.
A dream of mine is to have my own talk show. Once I realized that it didn't have to be television-based, I could see the pieces coming together, online, using Skype video chat and a service that streams video. I've begun to think in terms of a virtual talk show.
And even those who have been successful in pursuing their dreams in the "old world" are seeing opportunities in this new world. I know of a successful television and film producer in the NY area who is excited about what can be done with online video.
There has never been a better time to spread your ideas, at an affordable cost. Today's tools have gone way beyond blogging to help you attract your tribe. What's your big dream and what idea do you want to spread?
This lucid and insightful presentation gives the clearest explanation I've seen on why the online world can be so awkward at times. I found myself taking
mental notes of all the people I need to tell about this presentation,
because their work could benefit from seeing it.
The presentation, with footnotes that narrate, was created by Paul Adams (Twitter: @padday), a user experience (UX) researcher at Google. It's 216 slides packed with "aha's" on how our wiring as human beings can conflict with the virtual world that's increasingly becoming more important in how live our lives. See additional detail in this post from Adams' blog.
And why is this important for wisdom entrepreneurs to understand? Because if a main vehicle for building a community of kindred spirits is through online tools, we need to understand how to use those tools wisely, even if the tools are poorly designed for how human beings behave. Adam's point as a UX designer is to design with this knowledge in mind. But barring a vast improvement on this front in popular social media tools like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, it's up to the end user to manage.
Over a year ago, I decided it was time to learn about online video, not as a consumer but as a creator, to understand how I could make use of this medium. I bought a Flip camcorder because of its portability (it's about the size of a deck
of cards) and ease of use, in creating video on the fly and in
uploading to the Internet. Photo by ilamont
Since then, my Flip has been a steady companion, stashed away in my purse, ready for action at a moment's notice. Fourteen months later, I've created plenty of video. Here are my top tips for creating and using online video:
To become more natural in front of the camera, tape yourself often. Forcing myself to use the Flip got me used to being in front of the camera--whether I was on vacation sitting at a restaurant, standing in line to get into a theater, or interviewing my 8-year old nephew about what life was like for him. The more you do it, the easier it gets. You may start out in front of the camera looking like you are under interrogation. If you stick with it, over time, you can expect to see a more relaxed and genuine version of yourself.
Aim for authentic, rather than picture perfect. Along the way, I've watched myself on video and learned that:
Many days, my hair looks better under a hat
I do a strange thing with my mouth before I start talking
My eyes seem to pop out of their sockets when I'm trying to emphasize a point
All of this is to say that almost no one is ever satisfied with the way they look on camera. The good thing about online video is most people don't expect a polished presentation. In fact, oftentimes with online video, there is an assumption that the more "unfinished" it is, the more real and authentic it must be. Think Candid Camera instead of the Oscar awards. Photo by jenny downing.
It's not about you. It's about your message. Whether your message is meant to inform, entertain, persuade, reassure, or illuminate, the message is what's important. You may be the messenger, but the message should still get the spotlight. This will also help you be more natural, when you focus on what it is that you want to communicate, rather than saying it perfectly.
You can edit your way to a focused message. I suppose this is the same with other media--taped audio, written essays. But the point is to not be afraid to shoot more video than you need. And don't be attached to how a particular video will be used in the end. Photo by mobilechina2007
The more you use online video, the more uses you'll find for it. Here are just a few of the ways I've used video:
Video helps me record the mundane parts of my life and in the process, have a little fun with it. From showing the mad dash of my teenage sons to get in the car in the morning for school to what my family eats for breakfast. I especially enjoy the wry commentary that can emerge in looking at the routine. This first video is about having a hot breakfast to soothe a nasty cold.....
Video allows me to share quirky moments, like walking into the Department of Motor Vehicles office with my son to get his learner's permit and finding out that the it could easily be mistaken for a 1950's Russian ministry, complete with plastic chairs in rows and numbers being called. This next video was taken at the Peoria, IL airport at 5:30am on a cold (minus 19 degrees outside) winter day. The only place open at that time in the morning was a stand that sold a microwavable bagel with sausage and cheese.
Video enables me to introduce myself to others, who I might not otherwise meet in person, as in this clip to welcome new followers on Twitter. You could just as easily do a video to welcome visitors to your website:
Video is a fabulous way to bring others into the room, when they can't be there. I've done this by taping a few moments with my
son on his birthday to upload for grandparents to see. In this next video, I'm visiting a college friend in Chicago, and we are saying hi to a mutual college friend who lives in California.
Video can capture the energy of an event. The following clip was taken after an event I facilitated with Daniel Pink, author of A Whole New Mind and more recently, Drive. We asked participants what they learned....
And finally, with video, I can share the small moments of life, like this one after a snowstorm, taped on Christmas Eve. I was feeling particularly peaceful and grateful that day:
After a year of playing with online video, it's become another tool in my toolkit, to connect with others and share more of my world. It takes getting used to and it's not for everyone. But if you do take the time to learn it, you'll have a new, technicolor way to engage with others. I hope you've been able to get to know me better through my online videos.
In the 90's, I read a change management book called Managing At the Speed of Change, which later became a classic in the field.
In this new decade, someone needs to write a book called "Living at the Speed of Digital Change." Photo by jpctalbot
It was just a little over two years ago that I started this blog, with one of the main themes being how technology is an enabler for turning an idea into a movement. I've been noticing how the standards are changing as technology advances. Here are a few examples:
Instantaneous movements. Simon Young first introduced me to "flash mobs," where a group of strangers coordinated, through technology, an in-person gathering to make a point, promote a cause, or stand behind a common purpose (if nothing else, to give bystanders something to talk about for the rest of the day.) While quick to coalesce, these mini-movements were small and temporal. Now, with the power of social media and a compelling enough cause, national or even global movements can happen overnight. A few weeks ago, on National Public Radio's All Things Considered, they discussed how a movement to help Haiti sprung up quickly, with the help of social media. Using the text message, 90999, to donate $10 at a time, tens of millions of dollars were collected from cell phone users in a matter of a few days. Photo by The U.S. Army
NPR contrasts that to the tsunami relief efforts in 2004, when social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook didn't exist. It took a lot longer to mobilize the hearts and minds (and wallets) around a cause.
Wisdom entrepreneurs: Is your story and cause compelling enough for others to pass on through social media, and create a movement?
Social media is getting more use than email. A quote from the Economist magazine, citing Nielsen, a market research firm: "...since February 2009, [people] have been spending more time on social-networking sites than on email, and the lead is getting bigger." To reinforce this idea even further, I recently re-read a NYT article titled, "Brave New World of Digital Intimacy" published in September 2008. The article explores the challenge of being on Twitter and following several hundred people. Now, less than two years later, this challenge seems rather quaint. The number of users on Twitter has exploded, as well as the many ways to use Twitter. Following thousands isn't uncommon for an average "twit" and avid users can follow tens of thousands.Social media has become part of the mainstream, rather than a new fad associated with the digerati. Photo by 7son75
Wisdom entrepreneurs:Meet your kindred spirits where they are. Don't rely on them to come to your site or to read your emails.
The next frontier is mobile. I don't text. I don't have a smart phone. I'm an immigrant when it comes to mobile. And yet it makes sense that it would become one of the most powerful tools to emerge, as everything that we expect on a desktop moves to wherever we happen to be. I don't have to be at my desk to participate. I can be anywhere, doing anything. Photo by Michael(mx5tx)
Wisdom entrepreneurs: Kindred spirits are even more accessible than you thought, if you factor in mobile.
Think interactive, streaming data, not one-dimensional static pages. Michael Zeisser, Senior VP of Liberty Media, in a two-part interview for w3w3 Talk Radio, discusses how the Internet has evolved, from static pages to streaming data. The bar has been raised. Our expectation now is that something new is continually being presented, the new version of the ticker tape. Think Twitter or Facebook News Feeds. In addition, I'm noticing how the best sites are using video to give that high touch, interactive feel. (Yes, it's a nod for me to do more of that as well. So far, I've dabbled in online video but have yet to make it a habit....)
Wisdom entrepreneurs: Start using online video as part of your communications toolkit.Get used to short bursts of communications (140 characters will do just fine...) to supplement a monthly newsletter or a weekly blog post.
This list makes me think I need to get crackin'. It also makes me wonder what tools we'll have two years down the road that we can't even imagine today.
What trends are you seeing in the changing landscape and how do you take advantage of them to turn your idea into a movement?
It was just about a year ago that I made a commitment to figuring out Twitter and using it on a regular basis. It's now part of my "eco-system" where I can find and interact with kindred spirits. A few observations, one year later:
Twitter has honed my writing skills. I have to quickly get to the essence of what I want to express, in 140 characters or less. It focuses my thinking, so as to not waste a single character.
Number of followers doesn't mean a whole lot. As Twitter has matured, so have all kinds of apps to support users, including ones that game the system and add on followers at a voracious rate. It used to be (way back in 2008), it was impressive to have 10,000 followers. Not so much anymore. It still pays to look for quality over quantity. I think others are yearning for this as well. I once tweeted how I like getting followers the old-fashioned way, organically, one at a time. I immediately got several replies, heartily agreeing. In fact, I sometimes miss the smaller community feel when my followers numbered less than a 100. I felt I could get to know each one over time.
Twitter has gotten "junkier." During this last year, Twitter exploded in terms of an active user base, from less than 20 million in January 2009 to over 90 milliion by November 2009. Like any tool, as it becomes popular, the opportunity for abuse and misuse increases. Was there spam when the Internet was limited to research scientists in government agencies (DARPA)? I don't think so. I've seen an increase in being followed by tweeps who I have nothing in common with--vocation, values, or virtues. The infomercial component of the Twitter population has expanded rapidly.
Twitter helps me connect with interesting people. No need to throw the baby out with the bath water. Just today, I discovered someone following me who was in my high school graduating class. I remember her as a thespian and now she does "idea mapping" for companies and organizations. Cool stuff. Earlier this month, because of something I tweeted, I connected with the "chief firestarter" for a branding identity company (Brains on Fire) This led to an interview for this blog, which will be posted in January. And last spring, I connected to @WalterAkana, who has become an ally/collaborator in my work with the Networking Naturally Program. I could point to a dozen more examples. None of this would have happened without Twitter.
Twitter has been an outlet for frustrations on what's happening in Washington, DC. I keep all of my blogs pretty much free of my political views. Twitter has become my vehicle for expressing the day-to-day hope, discouragement, and sometimes, anger over what's happening economically and politically in the world. This tweet from September 2009 says it all: "i didn't used 2 follow politics until it seemed 2 really matter. it matters now."
Twitter has brought me business. It's not why I tweet (which puts me in the minority), but if it happens, all the better. Which leads me to the next point on why I tweet.
I tweet (and write) to have a better life. Twitter time is more in spurts these days, nothing for a week and then several tweets in a row. It's my way of engaging with the rest of the world, to talk about ideas that matter, to share fears, hopes and concerns, to connect with kindred spirits, to see what's on the minds of the larger collective. While there is a cost to being on Twitter in terms of separating the wheat from the chaff, I also view it from the strictest definition of Twitter: micro-blogging. Blogging has always meant creative expression, whether in a post like this one or in 140 characters.
You can take a break from Twitter and come back, without missing a beat. I have a friend who is off Twitter for long stretches of time and then becomes active again, not because he doesn't "get it" but because Twitter fatigue sets in. I've experienced this myself. It's sort of like missing the New Year's Eve party (speaking of parties....), but knowing that you'll see the same crowd at Fourth of July. The party never stops and it's up to you to decide when you need a rest.
Twitter is a powerful tool, if you know how to use it. A couple of months ago, I tweeted my frustration about a technical problem I was having and within minutes, someone had messaged me with a solution. For other ways to use Twitter, check out this post, 14 Cool Things People Do With Twitter. Like I tweeted this morning, the post is a "testament 2 human creativity."
My thanks to Laurel Bailey, for prompting me to write this post. Laurel asked about my Twitter experience and then suggested a blog post about the topic.What are your observations on Twitter, after using it for awhile?
I was interviewed for an article in the Illinois Bar Journal, a magazine distributed by the Illinois State Bar Association. The topic? How attorneys can use social media to build their businesses. The writer did a great job at pulling together many sources to explain LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. While this was written for an audience of lawyers, the advice applies to anyone wanting to learn more about using social media for networking. This type of article--helping non-techies understand how to use
technology to achieve their goals--is indicative of how mainstream
social media has become.
One part of the article specifically quotes a Twitter user as saying that the search feature on Twitter is more useful than Google--because the information is not only findable but updated in real time with real users. Users that you may then want to connect with and folllow. Think about it. People looking for specific information-- whether it's the details of a court case or where to meet for to show support for the Iranian people or tips on managing a chronic disease--can now find not only the information they want, but the source of the information, someone who is likely to be a kindred spirit. That's what we have today, at the flick of a few fingers on a keyboard. Amazing isn't it?
The power of technology to create a groundswell was shown in Iran this last week. People all over the world are seeing and hearing and reading what's going on with the protests over the recent elections and the response by the theocratic government.
One voice can start a community. Communities create stunning results. It's even more startling when it's a world community, from a top columnist for a US paper to the anonymous voice of an Iranian woman. Two voices on Iran:
"Twittering and YouTubing made the story take hold and take off. But did
the technology create the rebellion? No, it encouraged what was there."
She goes on to say,
"Revolutions are revolutions and rebellions are rebellions; they don't
work unless the people are for it. In Iran, Twitter reported and
encouraged. But the conviction must be there to be encouraged."
Wisdom entrepreneurs take note. Noonan is saying that the technology is a tool that amplifies. But the voice must be there first, with conviction, and I would say, commitment.
The other voice is a simple but powerful one, one that tells the story with minimal words and photos. It paints a stark portrait that only those who are there can fully comprehend.
Note that this YouTube video was created on Friday, June 19, less than a day ago. This morning, at about 9:30am Mountain Time, when I first saw the video, it had 300+ views. I found it from a friend on Facebook who had posted the link (thanks, @kareanderson!) Now, several hours later, as I'm posting this, the video has over 1700 views. That's how fast we can connect now. When there is so much at stake, when we are compelled by history in the making, the ties between us are created with mind-boggling speed.
The following question has never been more important or pertinent:
One of the joys of this work is connecting with spirited individuals--people who are actively working on a cause that helps others and loving every minute of it. Next month, I'm giving a talk at the Juvenile Arthritis (JA) 2009 National Conference. The title of my talk is "Finding Your Voice." My goal is to inspire audience members to see themselves as "experts" in their own life, whether they are afflicted with JA or the parent of a child with JA. Finding your voice starts with recognizing that you have something to give to others and that usually comes from reflecting on your life and what you've learned from it.
In researching who already is doing this in the JA world, I came across a wonderful online community, called Creaky Joints. The site was started by Seth Ginsberg, when he was still an adolescent. Seth is now 27 years old and the online community has grown to 32,000 members. He works on Creaky Joints full-time and in his words, "Creaky Joints has become much bigger than me." He talked about how Creaky Joints had become a model for other groups oriented around living with a disease. Seth also is passionate about influencing policy makers on bigger issues that impact the JA community and beyond--like health care reform. With Creaky Joints representing 32,000 voices, Seth clearly understands working both bottom-up and top-down.
I'm struck by how Seth has taken his experience of someone living with JA and turned that into the fuel for a vibrant community. His blog serves as one person's diary of what it's like to live with the disease and navigate daily life, in a way that most of us take for granted, but which resonates with his audience.
I connected with Seth recently and found out that he's attending the JA conference, for the first time in many years. I've invited him to be interviewed, as part of my presentation at the JA conference. I'm excited that by telling his story, on stage, he'll inspire others to find their voice, and/or to join his community.
Seth has also agreed to be interviewed for this blog. Stay tuned!
PS. For those of you in Houston, I'm trying to arrange a meetup/tweetup while I'm there. If you are interested in being included, please email me, carol [at] abiggervoice.com.
Beth Kanter has a great post on how non-profits are successfully using social media to further their causes. She illustrates her points with some real-life examples from March of Dimes and the Red Cross as well as lesser known non-profits.
This brings to mind a conversation I had this morning with a friend, about the distinction between communities and organizations. Organizations, by nature, try to control. People build organizations, thinking that it's a way to spread ideas and change the world.
In contrast, communities are uncontrollable. But they are excellent at taking ideas and making them bigger. Social media is one way for non-profits to return to an emphasis on community and to remember that organizations are in service to the cause, not the other way around.
Yes, I'm cynical about non-profits. And I think social media is one way to re-calibrate top down efforts with bottom up grassroots.