Women Rock It!

Women Rock It

This Thursday night is the Women Rock It event in San Francisco highlighting inspiring women and conversations about how they became successful. Speakers include Deborah Lindholm, whose foundation has helped over 300,000 women work their way out of poverty.

“The event is both inspirational and practical, and will be the first of many Women Rock It’s we will be producing around the country and beyond to encourage women to start businesses and pursue what they love to do,” said online marketing wizard Evan Bailyn, one of the co-producers of the event. “Eventually we will be getting even more deeply practical to complement the inspirational nature of the event by partnering with high-level mentoring programs and granting scholarships to women.”

In a revealing post, Evan discussed who he and co-producer Hyla Molander both shared how their failures and fears inspired their successess: “When you get into a room with people and one person admits it, suddenly all the walls come down. Suddenly it’s OK to admit that you’re scared.”

This event is spot on. In working with many people and supporting several women’s causes over the years (such as the NextGen Tech Women Fundraiser), fear, self valuation and failure are huge detractors. Working through those real issues — issues that every human being faces in business and life — are critical to success. Talking about how common these problems are, and how others have worked through them can make a huge difference.

There are so many brilliant women out there, and many have walked along the same path, from my grandmother and mother and their entrepreneurial successes to recent business partners Beth Kanter and Kami Huyse and current co-author, Gini Dietrich. It only seems natural to give this San Francisco and soon to be national movement a big thumbs up. Because women really do rock it!

Please support this valuable event and cause if you can.

Getting Ready for the Long Write

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Image by hashmil

Writing two unpublished novels, two business books, and a graduate thesis teaches you a thing or two about long writing projects. Long form writing can be grueling in nature, lasting six months or even a year. When beginning such a project, it helps to have a writing program, very similar in nature to a training program that an athlete dedicates him/herself to prepare for a marathon or a long season.

Here are some methods that helped with these five projects:

Use a Blueprint

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Image by emanueleED
Many authors use the table of contents as their blueprint. Some business writers like larger arcs — themes like the Fifth Estate — that guide their overall effort. This is analogous to a plot for a novel, but has less suspense and development to it. Nevertheless the arc may be the overarching lesson that you want people to learn.

Parts help break a book into major components. For example, a communications book may focus on strategy and then tactics. Chapters support the larger parts. These parts may have their own arcs and goals, depending on the subject matter. Welcome to the Fifth Estate had two parts, the first focused on theory and cultural readiness, while the second focused on the actual work of social media. Others simply adhere to a chapter and subsection structure.

Whatever you do, a blueprint helps guide you. You don’t have to write in a linear fashion, but having the blueprint lets you see all the areas you need to address.

Discipline

You must be disciplined and write everyday. Every damn day. When your friends give you grief for not hanging out on Twitter or going out more often, you must have the discipline to say no.

Starting tomorrow never works. That is for people who want to be authors. People who actually accomplish books write everyday. Books and other long forms of writing are accomplished paragraph by paragraph, page by page, section by section, chapter by chapter.

There will be times where one page will be brutal with each phrase coming at an absolutely painful pace. Other times you will see pages fly with the minutes. You never know which pages matter more until the editing process. Take each page as they come, but never stop writing.

Accept Crap

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Image by Josef Stuefer

There are parts of your work that suck. And you know they suck as soon as the words leave your fingers. You try to fix it, but you can’t. Each time you rewrite the section, it sucks. This is when you must accept crap.

That weak section fits into a picture, and you may not understand the context of the section until you complete the larger chapter. So move on. Finish the chapter, and get some distance between you and the painful section. Then go back and read it in the context of the larger chapter. Editing becomes much easier when you can pull away from the weeds for a bit.

Having an editor to bounce difficult sections off of helps. However, most writers don’t have this luxury, particularly unpublished authors or those working with small presses. If it is in your nature, join a local writing club to get support for such moments.

Take Breaks

Any process that requires this amount of isolation can unleash your demons: “It’s not perfect (it’s terrible!)”; “what if they hate it?”; “I can’t make it to the end”; “the whole concept is off”; etc. That’s when it is important to get out.

A consistent work-out schedule is very therapeutic in conjunction with the daily write. It forces you out of the house and around other people, and gets the endorphins going, clearing your mind… Until the next write.

Also, it might be good to write about anything else besides the book one day a week. Write a blog post or some other text. This keeps you in the habit of writing everyday, but gives your mind an opportunity to relax and chew on something lighter.

Fight Through the Wall

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Image by Reid

Inevitably there comes a time in the long write — roughly 2/3 of the way through — where you feel absolutely beaten. You can’t go on. But you have to.

This is the most brutal part of the writing process. It is what long distance runners call “hitting the wall.”

You will hit the wall, and you need to power through it. It is a fight with each sentence requiring serious effort, but once you get through that chapter (wherever it is in the process), you can see the light at the end of the tunnel. The project becomes easier as you close.

Good Luck!

Other authors have different processes for dealing with the long write. Be sure to ask them how they did it, too.

And remember, no matter how many snarky social media remarks you get about books and bloggers and blah blah blah, writing a book or a major report is a significant accomplishment. Good luck on your project!

5 Challenges for Google+ Business

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Image by Sean MacEntee

Chatter about Google+ for business is abound, but other than the SEO benefits, arguments for a pro offering have not been compelling. In reality, there is no formal business offering yet. While Google+ is at or close to 30 million members, they are distributed globally, and are largely technologists or social media wonks. At this early stage, consumer businesses, nonprofits and non technology B2B plays have little to gain from Google+ other than SEO (can you say Squidoo II?).

Moving forward, Google+ needs to provide a substantive growth curve and a robust business offering to effectively complete. Here are five challenges facing Google+ for businesses:

1) Beyond SEO

It’s great that bloggers and corporate content producers can yield strong search results using Google+. It makes a compelling case to integrate +1 technology and sharing within content marketing initiatives. But beyond SEO, most of the business chatter about Google+ is, well, bloggers talking about setting up personal profiles. Businesses need more than that. They need paths towards tangible outcomes and ROI.

Until Google+ launches its business solution, there really is nothing for businesses and nonprofits to do other than to experiment with the existing personal features. The one exception is technology companies marketing to early adopters. Having your social media team get active on Google+ as individuals makes total sense. Dell is an early leader in this sense.

2) Geeky Is Great, But…

It’s nice that the social media and technology communities are enthused about Google+. For many, it makes life easier and more public than Facebook. But the non-indoctrinated “normal” person isn’t using Google+ yet.

Until wider stakeholder groups adapt Google+, most companies and nonprofits will find themselves marketing to the virtual wilderness. Instead, they should wait for core stakeholder groups to come to and stay on Google+ for a sustained period of months. When that happens, businesses and nonprofits should set up serious outposts.

3) Facebook Isn’t Giving Up

Zuck

Ironically, the most followed person on Google+ is Marc Zuckerberg. Strange as that may seem, it is emblematic of Facebook’s staying power.

Facebook’s continuing evolution sacrifices individual privacy to serve the larger business community. And make no bones about it, Facebook definitely offers the business community quite a lot. The offering rages from free community pages and social ads to customized contests and promotions and deeply integrated applications.

The most important part of Facebook’s offering is its widespread, global consumer appeal. The social network has more than two times as many active bodies in one place than LinkedIn, Twitter and the fledgling Google+ combined.

Facebook has yet to respond to the Circles challenge to its user interface. It would be surprising if the network that likes to opt in social technology challenges ignores Google+’s innovation. It’s very early in this competition. Really, the thing that Google+ can always beat Facebook on is privacy and an insistence on open commentary.

4) Twitter and LinkedIn Have Mature Offerings

Both of these second tier networks have more than 100 million active users, and are very mature with loyal communities. Twitter has finally figured out its business model with its new advertising package that retains 80 percent of customers. LinkedIn is an extremely strong B2B-only play with robust Groups, strong HR offerings, and increasingly well-used business profile pages. Google+ needs to determine where it fits in comparison with these two growing proven offerings.

5) No Proof of Concept

This one really isn’t fair given that the professional offering has yet to launch, but there’s no proof that Google+ will be a good play for businesses. Any company or nonprofit that participates in the initial offering will be an early adopter, experimenting with the medium. Most companies don’t feel so publish about testing a new medium with their precious dollars. Instead, they prefer to wait until the medium is proven. And that won’t happen until the end of the year.

Conclusion

Google+ is likely to succeed so stay tuned, but hold onto your wallet until 2012. There is still a lot of hype and uncertainty when it comes to Google+ for business. The exceptions to the rule are those marketing to the early adopter community and content marketers who can benefit from an uptick in SEO courtesy of Google+.

Marketing Causes Harder Than Products

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Homeless Image by Raileen Viorel

Marketers love telling nonprofits how to market their social solutions. They get miffed when they see a perceived slow road to change, an underfunded website written by someone in their 20s, and a general failure to resolve society’s ills. Of course, the answer must be the crappy marketing. Having worked with both types of organizations closely, it’s easy to definitively say social change marketing is much harder than marketing a product or service.

Quora Response

Look, whatever your experience is — Procter & Gamble, Old Spice, Cisco, start-up sold — great! Yes, selling domain names and marketing organic strawberries is hard. But the difference between marketing and activism will always revolve around this truth — People want stuff, but they don’t want to change. Getting people to want to change themselves is much, much harder.

Think about it. Do you want to change? Do you want to buy a more expensive electric car (kudos to Ford for announcing the world’s third major electric car at CES)? Yeah, most Americans get sustainability — it’s one of the most over-marketed words out there. But when push comes to shove, people don’t want to change, otherwise green legislation (forget electric cars) would be a top priority in the United States.

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How about cigarette smoking? In spite of every marketing trick in the book including severely negative product packaging deployed by the best minds in the business via the Ad Council, in spite of every piece of cancer causing knowledge out there, 20.6% of U.S. adults still smoke.

Beyond that core communications difference, causes are not businesses. They do different things than shilling burgers or IT services. Causes and people fight to affect social change. They have to make every donor dollar count. They don’t have the resources, staff or the wherewithal that a business does.

Quora Responses

There are too many causes because every entrepreneur who made a little scratch goes off and starts yet another Foundation or cause to do it “their way.” And for every fat well-known cause out there like Komen, there are dozens fighting an avalanche of apathy, scrapping to make ends meet.

Yet business people think they suck because they don’t market right. Maybe the marketers are that good, but there’s only one way to find out… By doing some actual field work. Please report back the research!

What do you think? Is it easier to communicate for causes or for-profit endeavors?

Thanks to Florian Engel, Jennifer Rosenberg, Stacey Monk, Kevin Vine, and Joe Waters for their answers on Quora.