Difficult people we do not work with

We know how to deal with customers who are making our lives less fulfilling. What about the non-customers who are unkind to us?

Many of us market our businesses on-line. That does leave us open to abuse. I do accept that many high-profile people have to put up with targeted abuse. The rest of us just catch random abuse. It is important not to take it too hard. After all it says more about the abusers than about us.

The on-line world has highlighted that there is a small minority of people who enjoy being unkind and who harbour dreadful prejudices, often based on ignorance, although with the web has been up and running, there is no excuse for ignorance. Maybe it is studied ignorance, but one only has to look at comments on stories on newspaper websites to realise that there are some with serious chips on their shoulders.

Those people spitting bile we do come across now and again. We do not need to take notice and let them spoil our lives. It is probably not personal (but if it is, that’s different). Sadly it is their lives that are already spoiled if they do not get help. Rise above it if you can. Have you had to rise?

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Learning from the great writers

There are those who believe the on-line marketers who offer us the opportunity of a large regular income for four hours work a week. The rest of us know that being successful and earning serious money involve hard work.

We can learn quite a lot from others of course. Perhaps I am not the world’s greatest marketer or the world’s greatest writer, but I do believe that in order to write my material it helps to read. It is not just a question of collecting knowledge, though in the digital age, we have the opportunity to do that (and I do). I believe it is also true to say that reading other people’s prose makes us better writers, even when we read fiction

Actually a good story helps me relax and chill out, and if there is something to admire in a writer’s style, some of which might rub off, that seems no bad thing.

Recently, because Amazon was kind enough to offer it for my Kindle, I downloaded G K Chesterton’s The Complete Father Brown Stories. I read most of the stories when I was in my early teens, which was a fair while ago, so perhaps I had not appreciated then how beautifully they are written.

Now of course I cannot plagiarise Chesterton in order to write better, and his style is of its period, which is definitely early Twentieth Century written by someone whose education was in the late Nineteenth. However, his stories are a joy to read and a reminder of how important it is to write well. If a little of his essence and that of other authors I read seeps through into my writing, it will be no bad thing.

It is like a sporty person having the chance to train with a top athlete. It can only help us to improve.

Do you enjoy fiction, and does it help when you write your own material?

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The politics of networking or rubbing your contacts up the wrong way

iStock_000005618867XSmallI love networking. I have not been out and about for a few months for reasons beyond my control, but I do like to get out and meet people. It is not just because I like getting business, although it helps, and it is not about the joy of giving a referral. It is just great to talk to others in business and to learn from them and to hear their latest news.

However in a decade of networking meetings face-to-face I have never got involved in a discussion about politics. Politics is very divisive. People get heated. They say unkind things when they discuss an issue. There are ad hominem attacks on individuals whether in the room or otherwise. Networkers-in-person simply know better than to engage in any political discussion beyond the state of the economy, and that is usually talking about the present rather than who is responsible for it, good or bad.

So why do people in normally perfectly nice on-line forums sometimes start political arguments? It is very upsetting if one finds oneself involved, or even, as I read the other day, see one’s own views trashed by proxy. Of course I have political views. What reasonably intelligent person does not? I just do not mention them on-line except in pointing out when politicians are simply factually wrong on a subject where I have specialist knowledge.

Even reading someone else’s throwaway comment in a thread on Facebook can be very hurtful, and while it may not be intended, it can put one right off the person, even if socially you really like her / him.

It comes back to being really careful what we say on-line. As I have said before, when I got my amateur radio license or “ticket” a long time ago, we were bound by the ethical instruction not to engage in discussion of politics or religion. It was and is a good rule, and should be applied to business networking. Then we can get on with business without having our feathers ruffled by some unfortunate comment. Can’t we?

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The meaning of influence in networking

Photo by LordNikon

Photo by Lord Nikon

These days in business marketing, and especially on-line, we hear a huge amount about influence. How much influence does a marketer or networker have?

In social media, some measure influence in terms of their Klout or PeerIndex score. Actually they are very crude tools, especially Klout. What they really measure is how much we Tweet or post on Facebook. PeerIndex does index blogging, but all these tools really measure is how much noise we make on-line.

It is the same with off-line networking. We may put out our message to the room and we may do so in a very loud voice. We might go to every networking meeting there is in our area and eat breakfast out every day of the week. However it does not mean we will get loads of business.

The confusion is between, on the one hand, being seen everywhere trilling our message on Twitter or over our scrambled eggs, and on the other, our networks actually listening to us and taking notice because they believe we have something to offer. It is easy to shout the loudest and most often, but more difficult to get over our message that we are people to be trusted with business.

We do not want our Tweet or a fried breakfast message being taken with more than a pinch of salt. We need to be genuine, sincere and ourselves to get that trust, don’t we/

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Some things for the long weekend

Weekend in the sun (edited with PicMonkey)

Weekend in the sun (edited with PicMonkey)

Have you tried Zemanta when blogging or managing your on-line content? It helps find your own related content and images as well as articles and blog posts from other people which will add value to your writing. It will also connect you to those other writers who may feel complimented by your interest and remember you well. It will help you build your community and gain helpful links back (but don’t ask).

A very handy post on the Zemanta blog highlights a long list of content marketing tools. I have not tried them all and have my reservations about the continuing usefulness of Google Alerts, but as they say, suck it and see.

Then there is a further list of tools used by on-line luminaries. The only one I use currently is Buffer, and probably not enough, but I am working on it. I will try the others, but not over the weekend if it is sunny.

Finally, there is PicMonkey, a free way of editing images for your blog without downloading any software, brought to my attention by Blogworld.com and then by Jim Connolly.  PicMonkey is mainly free, but often it is useful to pay for extras, and after all, that is how they make their money.

Good luck with your research on these useful tools. Maybe we can share experiences. Have you tried any of these, and how did you get on?

 

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It’s not politics, it’s about reputation management

Stuck

Nigel Farage of the UK Independence Party (UKIP) accuses political opponents of ‘scrutinising each and every one of our 1,732 candidates, monitoring every social media output over the last few years’ to look for comments embarrassing to UKIP.

If there are ill-chosen words in the Tweets and Facebook comments of UKIP’s candidates he cannot blame UKIP’s foes for finding them. They are stuck with their injudicious comments. We all have our reputations made or potentially destroyed by our on-line presence.  Our stuff is out there and it would be hard to delete all traces.

Our comments are our responsibility as are our reputations. If we have no self-control how can people trust us any more than the political candidates who shoot their mouths off on-line?

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The Smart Aleck networker

iStock_000007991360XSmall cross businesswomanDo you know that person at your networking meeting? The one with the loud voice, saying “Hey, look at me”? The one who is always telling everyone how great their business is as opposed to the competition? In fact, the person who always disses everyone else as being inferior?

We try to avoid those “networkers”, don’t we? We try to get as far as possible from them as we can. We can do without those boorish opinions, and we know they will never connect us or refer us because they are too busy thinking about themselves.

It is the same in the world of social media. There are people who claim superior knowledge not just in their line of business but in every aspect of of the world. They rubbish other users of Twitter, they give their opinion of those who hold a different view within their expertise, they show their political prejudices by rubbishing certain politicians, and they have those Smart Aleck comments about any and everyone who doesn’t agree with their bigoted views.

We avoid that sort of person when eating our bacon roll at the local breakfast meet, and thank goodness we can un-follow them on Twitter and un-friend them on Facebook once we see the cut of their jib.

I don’t reckon the Alecks and Alecksandras get much business from their networking, but they are too arrogant to understand why.

Don’t you avoid them like the plague?

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Minding your own business content

WordPress logo blue

WordPress logo blue (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As our small businesses are so personal to us it makes sense to keep control of what we put out in the big wide world.

You may have seen recently that Posterous is being closed down by Twitter, who acquired the platform in March 2012. I rather enjoyed using Posterous. I posted quite a few of my photos there, mainly from my walks around the countryside locally. I was disappointed that my content was under threat.

However, Posterous has offered us a back-up solution which I have taken up, and in fact I have transferred everything from my Posterous site to a WordPress.com blog, which is here. It needs work, but everything is there.

Now people might say that as another “easy” blog platform which I don’t own, that WordPress.com blog is still subject to the whims of the business which owns it. Well, firstly, I trust them to act in the best interests of their customers, and secondly, I have bought the domain through the owners, Automattic and if something terrible happened to their company, which I am sure it won’t, I can take my domain elsewhere as I did with onourbikes.com. It is still a WordPress site of course, albeit WordPress.org one, but the domain is mine and the site is backed up.

My ex-Posterous WordPress site is not a business one, but it does illustrate that we need to own all our material and content. My own opinion is that we need to own the domains of all our websites and blogs. If we use a platform such as WordPress.com, then it gives security to own the domain for $18 a year or so.

It is true that I have a blog on Blogger.com because it is convenient to post my opinion about tax issues there rather than on my main business website, which is all about content to help clients and to attract prospects.. However, from experience I know it would be easy to extract all the content via a back-up or directly onto a WordPress.org site because I have done it already.

Just do not take it for granted that everything you think you own will be preserved in aspic forever unless you really do own and back up the domain where it sits. Keep your ear to the ground for what could happen to all your other stuff, because you are just paying the rent if it is on someone else’s platform. Just because I pay the rent on Flickr doesn’t mean all my photos are not saved and backed up securely.

I think we need to keep our business stuff and all our original material in places we own. If we really cannot own them we must pay the rent for a space we can have backed up properly. Don’t lose it.

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How to make your business personal

TweetdeckThe uninitiated

I am active in social media as you know, and you probably would not have found this blog if you were not also active.

The other day I was explaining to some fellow tax practitioners how useful I find social media, and particularly in the course of business. I told them that on Twitter in particular the interaction with other businesses helps me build relationships and I have a bigger pool of people to whom I might refer work for my clients or for myself. I feel I know many of my Twitter contacts because I see them talking, or talk to them on a regular basis.

Twitter feeding

So Twitter is part of my referral networking strategy and so are Facebook and LinkedIn as are various other social sites. However Twitter is also one of my means of keeping up with the latest news in my business niche, good and bad. Many of my contacts (I follow them and they follow me) have their ears to the ground for the latest breaking stories via the newspapers, websites and professional magazines. Some of them are writers and journalists in the business. They know what is going on, and therefore I know what is going on. Sometimes I can even add to what they know, and so it all goes around.

Interacting with my on-line friends is therefore part of my marketing strategy, and also part of my professional development, because it helps me know what is going on in a business environment which is forever changing. Talking with these friends allows them to form their opinions of me as well as my having impressions of what they are like.

Making it personal

In the end it comes down to building and imprinting a personal brand on my business. People buy me, or choose not to sometimes, based on what they already know of me.

The tax people to whom I was trying to explain all this did not understand what I was saying. They all work for larger firms than mine. I guess none of them is responsible for marketing. They do what they do within their firms. They think that they don’t have the time to use social media because they believe it is a waste of time.

Maybe it is a waste of time for some, but more people know who you are and I am than know any of these partners and managers in bigger businesses. We also know more people who are valuable to us in our work, and we know all the latest news in our industry as it happens. We are less likely to be caught out by a customer, a client or a prospect.

People know us professionally; who we are, what we do and what we are like in business. That is personal branding, isn’t it? Doesn’t it make us so much more approachable?

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Social media gaming and business reputation

iStock_000005618867XSmallI care about my business reputation. Of course it is up to you what you think about my tweets and my Facebook posts, but I can assure you they are all authentic and deliberate. Everything everywhere which is under my name, out on the web, is something I have thought about, even if not much. 🙂 There is no automation other than the odd feed from my blog posts, but they are of my original content.

I see other people who automate their tweets, presumably to help their Klout scores and to boost their SEO or whatever. I have no idea if it works, but if you are like me you unfollow people who just put out automated tweets of quotations from famous people. It really is lazy to tweet second-hand material nobody cares about.

What is even worse is those who tweet or post automated feeds for which they are not responsible at all. Some attach their feeds to news stations or business sites, but many of the stories they appear responsible for are inappropriate for their business, with more raunchy celebrity news or reports of kayaking or something. That’s fine if you are in show biz reporting or sports, but not if you are in invoice discounting or factoring. It makes you look ridiculous.

You have to be careful tweeting feeds from specialist forums too, especially if you don’t monitor your output. Public forums are going to be spammed, and I saw a tax practice tweet spam about Viagra as a result. No doubt the forum moderator deleted the post, but our Twitter friend still had a dodgy web-link out in the ether.

Not everything I tweet is about my business. I post what I find interesting. I have conversations. So do you, I expect.

None of us uses social media perfectly and certainly not I, but we all do have to be sensible and be able to stand by our posts. Don’t we?

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