I’m speaking at Social Media World Forum Africa

May 31, 2011

SMWFASocial Media World Forum Africa is a 2-day conference set to happen in Cape Town over the next 2 days – 1-2 June 2011. The event will be taking place at the Cape Town International Convention Centre and will consist of workshops and free exhibitions.

The events boasts speakers from the top companies in the world, including Google, Samsung, Cell C, Avis, Standard Bank, 24.com, Quirk, DSTV, Nike, Investec, Groupon, Memeburn, Woolworths, and many others. See the complete list of speakers here: http://www.socialmedia-forum.com/africa/conference/all-speakers.

This is a global event, with similar conference in Europe, Asia, and North America.

“SMWF is continuing to evolve with our aim to deliver an event which is second to none, ensuring our audience receives the maximum potential from attending our shows. New for 2011 we have introduced panel discussion formats, tweet up panels, on stage interviews, open ‘Q&A’ portions, audience sourcing debates and break-out group discussions allowing for you to explore in-depth the key social media platforms, and how they can enhance your marketing.”

I am one of the speakers, so I hope you will be attending the event. The complete agenda can be viewed at http://www.socialmedia-forum.com/africa/conference/agenda.

Leaders have to experience Social Media

May 16, 2011

Social Media is one of those things which cannot be understood until experienced. Business leaders have a responsibility to undertake this learning.

In an interesting article, it says:

The point is that I see this digital divide all the time: We all need to do a better job making sure digital competency is not something just for “digital specialists,” but that it’s a core competency of leadership.

Partly, it comes down to a fundamental misunderstanding of what digital fitness requires. For many leaders, particularly in the business world, I think there is a feeling that you can understand digital without actually being a part of it. That just isn’t true. Digital platforms are interactive by nature. To understand them, you have to use them. To “get” Twitter or Facebook, you can’t just read a white paper. You need to Tweet, you need to have a profile, and you need to engage with your friends, family and stakeholders online. I’m not saying you need to have 10,000 Twitter followers or have a “Verified Account,” but you need to understand why these tools matter.

Social Media ROI = Brand Equity + Sales

April 14, 2011

Einstei title=

Right after I published yesterday’s post, my good friend Khalil Aleker pointed me to Chris Brogan‘s blog post The Passion Of Gary Vaynerchuk. Chris says:

“Moments ago (when I typed this), Gary was talking about a person in the board room who was hounding him, “What’s the ROI of social media? What’s the ROI? What’s the ROI?” Gary’s answer, when he’d finally had enough? “What’s the ROI of your mother?””

Scott Stratten was asked the same question by a friend. What is the ROI of Social Media? He asked his friend what the ROI was on their friendship!

What’s the COMPLEX meaning of ROI?

In finance, rate of return (ROR), also known as return on investment (ROI), rate of profit or sometimes just return, is the ratio of money gained or lost (whether realized or unrealized) on an investment relative to the amount of money invested. The amount of money gained or lost may be referred to as interest, profit/loss, gain/loss, or net income/loss. The money invested may be referred to as the asset, capital, principal, or the cost basis of the investment. ROI is usually expressed as a percentage. [Wikipedia]

What’s the SIMPLE meaning of ROI?

What do you get out for what you put in?

I understand when some people are fixated on the Social Media ROI topic. Watch this video of Gary where he talks more about this. They’ve been trained that way. MBA grads, business professionals, they’ve been trained that way. And they’ve been trained in the right way. However, things have changed. And we have to adapt. We have to adapt our thinking and our actions. Web 2.0 has changed how we do EVERYTHING. The way we work. The way we meet people. The way we socialise. The way we research. They way we learn. And on and on.

Gary doesn’t reveal details in his keynotes. Read Chris’ post to understand why. But there are details to Social Media ROI.

I’ve never seen an ad from Gary. This means that no advertising about Gary or his brand has reached me. Remember, I’m in South Africa, Gary is in the US. Yet, I’m a fan of Gary. I support his work. I blog about him, repeatedly. I model some of the things he’s done. I promote his work. I share Chris’ sentiments when he says: “I’m a fan of passion. I’m a fan of people who humanize business, and Gary is that 100%. No matter what, Gary is human, and so, I’m a fan. Thank you, Gary.”

There’s a word for this in the business world. It’s called Brand Equity.

What is Brand Equity?

Uncle Wikipedia says: “The study of brand equity is increasingly popular as some marketing researchers have concluded that brands are one of the most valuable assets a company has. Brand equity is one of the factors which can increase the financial value of a brand to the brand owner, although not the only one.” Read more.

I was taught this on one of the business courses I attended. When selling your business, your brand equity can increase the selling price of your business. Why? Because above the money in the bank and the assets you have, the brand equity is also valuable. Your perception in the world has value. Your community is valuable. They buy your products.

Apple has immense brand equity, wouldn’t you say? I’ve repeatedly said, online and offline, that I’m an “Apple fan-boy” because I simply love their products. Do I love them because they’re cheaper than their competitors. Nope. They’re not cheaper. I love Apple because of the quality of product, and the culture around the product. That’s brand equity. I’ve never heard anyone say “I’m a Microsoft fan-boy” – have you? Microsoft does have good products, and they’ve made a lot of money, but the brand equity is not as high, or in other words, it’s negative brand equity. The common perception of Microsoft is that we have to use them, but we don’t really want to.

Brand equity is valuable, but largely intangible. This is why Gary likened Social Media ROI to a mother. Is a mother’s love tangible? It’s enormous, but largely intangible. Consider Einstein‘s quotation in the image above: “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.” Think about it for a second. Reflect on it.

Let’s move on.

I’ve purchased Gary’s book Crush It! (a New Your Times Bestseller) as a gift at one of my Social Media talks. I also bought an audiobook of Crush It! which I still listen to regularly. Okay, two small sales. So what! So what? So they add up. There are thousands of people like me. Due to Gary’s online profile, he has signed 10-book deal, and The Thank You Economy, his second book, has already been published. Now we’re talking millions. That’s real money.

There’s a word for this in the business world. It’s called Sales.

We’re all trying to sell. That’s the only reason we’re in business. Advertising is becoming way too expensive, and the value of advertising is also decreasing. Social Media is the new wave of marketing. And it’s no bubble. Don’t listen to the naysayers. Listen to those who are walking the walk. People like Gary. And Chris. I won’t include myself in that list, but hey, I’ve made some sales through Social Media. I’ve been on radio, in magazines, in newspapers, that counts as brand equity, right?

Don’t let anyone tell you there’s no value in Social Media. There is!

Photo credit

Work your face off

April 13, 2011

Work
“Work your face off” is a term which Gary Vaynerchuk uses, and he also uses terms like “bleeding out of your eyeballs” to illustrate his passion for hard work. Nothing of value comes easy. Once I was having lunch with two friends, and I was talking about Twitter and Social Media tools, and I was advocating all these “free” tools. However, one of my friends pointed out to me that although these tools are free, it takes a considerable amount of time to gain real value from them. This is very true. There is hard work to be done even when using these free tools. Gary says that people email him and tell him that they’re “Crushing It” and working real hard, but their businesses simply won’t take off. He asks them how long they’ve been at it, they say a few weeks. Gary says that if you complain about your business not flourishing and it’s less than a year after you started, he’s deleting your email. He simply won’t talk to you.

When I started reading Richard Branson‘s autobiography, I was struck by the dedication page right at the beginning. First it said, “Dedicated to Alex Ritchie and his family.” But then further down the same page, it said:

“A special thank-you to Edward Whitley for helping me pull this project together. Edward spent two years in my company, practically lived in my house, waded through 25 years of scribbled notebooks and helped bring them to life.”

Will you think about that for a second? Think about the amount of work put in my Edward Whitley, who I assume is a ghostwriter, in order to make this autobiography – of around 600 pages – a reality. Branson makes notes of everything. His 25 years of notebooks filled one or two suitcases, so you can imagine the amount of research that had to be done from those notebooks. Particularly because in a notebook everything is scribbled and condensed, sometimes one keyboard can be a reference to an entire theme. Writing this, I’m thinking about my 5 notebooks. Either I’m writing too little, or I’m living too little!?

In Chapter 2, Branson talks about his first entrepreneurial endeavour. It is during the Easter holidays while he was still at school. He starts by saying, “One Easter holiday I decided to follow my mother’s example and make some money.” His mother, and the way she reared Branson, is a blog topic for another day. Branson continues:

“Undeterred by the school’s lack of faith in my ability with numbers, I saw an opportunity to grow Christmas trees. We had just moved house from one side of Shamley Green to the other, from Easteds Cottage to Tanyards Farm, which was a rambling building with many barns and sheds and some land. I went round to talk Nik into the plan. He was also on holiday from his school, which was at Ampleforth in Yorkshire. We would plant 400 Christmas trees in the field at Tanyards Farm. By the Christmas after next, they would have grown at least four feet and we would be able to sell them. Nik and I agreed to do the work together, and share the profits equally.

That Easter we furrowed the ground and planted the 400 seeds in the field above Tanyards Farm. We worked out that, if they all grew to six feet, we would make £2 per tree, creating a grand total of £800, compared with our initial investment of just £5 for the seeds. In the following Summer holiday, we went to investigate the trees. There were only one or two tiny sprigs above the ground, but the rest had been eaten by rabbits. We exacted dire revenge and shot and skinned a lot of rabbits. We sold them to the local butcher for a shilling each, but it wasn’t quite the £800 we had planned.”

I think that’s an interesting story. I think there are many lessons in it. Firstly, Branson was good at numbers when he could apply it, when it was needed in business. In the classroom he could make no sense of numbers. This is a another big topic which I probably should write about. Just because kids – or even adults – are useless in one area, it doesn’t mean that they’re useless human beings. Labeling people and putting them in a box is counter-productive and doesn’t serve anyone. Secondly, this was Branson’s idea. He could have done it alone. Why did he need his friend Nik? It shows the value of good partners. This is a lesson I’m starting to learn in my business. I can’t do it alone. The Virgin Group was founded by Branson in 1970, and has created more than 300 branded companies worldwide. Branson has the some hours in his day as you and I have. Here we are struggling to run a single business. Branson runs over 300. He does it by partnering. And this story is indicative of Branson’s inclination towards partnering from a very early age already. Thirdly, Branson and his friend Nik were looking at the long term. “By the Christmas after next” is a long time to wait for returns on your investment. We should be thinking like this. Instead of looking for quick fixes. I delete any email which says “Make $31,000 in 7 days” or the like thereof. Nothing of value has ever come easy. Ever! This is what Covey refers to as the “law of the harvest.” You have to sow before you can reap. In the case of this story, it’s actually quite literal. In our businesses, it’s metaphorically true, and it is in life in general too. The fifth lesson in this story is risk assessment. Obviously Branson did not assess the risk of the rabbits, and if he did, he might have been able to preserve his investment. But he was a kid, and I’m sure he learnt from it.

The focus of this blog post is the third lesson, of course. Working hard. Planning long term. Obeying the law of the harvest.

In Stephen R Covey‘s book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, he says:

“Did you ever consider how ridiculous it would be to try to cram on a farm – to forget to plant in the spring, play all summer and then cram in the fall to bring in the harvest? The farm is a natural system, the price must be paid and the process followed. You always reap what you sow; there is no shortcut.

This principle is also true, ultimately, in human behavior, in human relationships. They, too, are natural systems based on the law of the harvest.”

And similarly, business is also based on the same natural law. To those who think Social Media is a game and it’s all about wasting time and goofing off: Social Media is hard work. To those of us working in Social Media: let’s work harder, let’s sow our seeds deeper and deeper.

Photo credit

How is your business designed?

April 12, 2011

TrainingAs an entrepreneur, I constantly grapple with the design of my business. Here the design of the business is used broadly. How does the business function and operate? Who does what in the business? And very commonly, changing the design slightly can result in a radical results in the company. Although we all want radical results, we’re sometimes stuck in old patterns, or old learnings.

Social Media is a new pattern. A new way of doing things. Small businesses are easier to adapt to Social Media, but larger businesses find this much more difficult, and understandably so.

In Web 2.0: A Strategy Guide (written by Amy Shuen, published by O’Reilly Media, Inc), it says:

“Now the mainstream industry leaders, Internationals 100s, and Fortune 500s that are having the hardest time adjusting their hierarchical organizations, outdated business models, and strictly in-house capabilities to the new strategy challenges of the digital and knowledge economy.”

I feel sorry for these big companies. For them change is difficult. They’re not designed to change. But they’re happy. They’re comfortable. Comfortable is dangerous. The world is moving too fast to be comfortable. We have to get uncomfortable. Uncomfortable still means having fun. It still means building great companies. It still means making profits. It still means changing the world. But it also means questioning ourselves, daily. Are we doing the right thing? Are we adapting? Do we have our ears on the ground? Or do we have our heads in the sand?

Seth Godin spoke about this in a recent blog post as well. He said:

“Too often, we blame bad service on the people who actually deliver the service. Sometimes (often) it’s not their fault. Sadly, the complaints rarely make it as far as the overpaid (or possibly overworked) executive who made the bad design decision in the first place. It’s the architecture of service that makes the phone ring and that makes customers leave.”

I’m currently looking at every aspect of myself and my business. I’m trying to let go of old ways and patterns, and trying new things. It’s a tough and challenging exercise, but a vital one. If you’re an entrepreneur like me, I think you have to consider the design of your business. Change is physically easy. It’s the mental and emotional part that’s the big challenge though.

Photo credit

Don’t shove your message down my throat

April 6, 2011

UnsubscribeThe tweet to the left shows that my friend Nur was clearly frustrated. I saw it and thought about my own frustrations with spam. I could relate. I’m sure you can too. We are constantly being flooded with marketing messages from brands which we know and even don’t know. These come in at us from all directions: email, text messages, calls, pop-up web ads, etc. The one I think people are most annoyed about is email spam. This is one of the easiest and cheapest methods of reaching vast audiences. Certain emails which we have subscribed to are a joy to receive. Yet most newsletter-type emails are unsolicited and unwanted. We don’t know where these people get our email addresses from, but they come in daily.

Upon receiving a spam email yesterday, and I clicked the “Report spam” button which I do regularly. But something happened which has never happened before. This message popped up:

Unsubscribe

Google has now added the feature to unsubscribe from the company’s database automatically once you report the message as spam. This is a step in the right direction. And I’m not surprised that Google has taken this initiative.

Marketers need to realise that permission marketing and inbound marketing is the way of the future. Read up on them at those links. Wrap your head around these concepts. And then act. Change your strategy. Think about your customers. Think about their time. Value their time. Perchance they will value you.

Sidenote 1: When I saw the tweet from Nur, I did not interact with him. Before this blog post was published, he had no way of knowing whether I had even seen his tweet or not. Remember this! Please do not always engage with you online. But they’re reading, or “listening” to what is going on around them. I have experienced this many, many times. People have met up with me and mentioned things I said online weeks prior. People are listening. Some folks say little on Facebook and Twitter, but they log on simply to listen to the expressions of others. Have you ever done that? I know you have. I have.

Sidenote 2: The benefit of using “cloud” services like Google Apps is that they are improved on a very consistent basis. I don’t have to buy a new version of the software. I don’t have to pay for new features. The next time I log in, the features are there. And take note of this: Google does not email it’s users each time an update is deployed. Doing this would certainly be easy for them. But they don’t. They allow us to “discover” these new features. Isn’t that a wonderful word? Discovery. We love that word. Google Apps and Gmail also have a neat help interface which I have just “discovered” – but I think this has been around for a while. After I found it, I immediately shared it on Twitter with this simple message:

googlehelp 300x99 Dont shove your message down my throat


Let your users find you. Then let them discover your awesomeness. Don’t force yourself and your message on them. Be patient.

Bad Tech Karma

March 28, 2011

Last week was one of the worst tech weeks I’ve had in my life. Apart from a host of smaller issues, there was one big issue. Our hosting server crashed, and our ISP (who we’ve been with for about 8 years) had a lot of trouble getting it to work properly again. This took days (though it seems like months, no doubt), and eventually the problem even had to be escalated overseas for resolution. A real nightmare. Our sites went down, clients’ sites went down, clients’ emails were down. A disaster. Frantic emails and calls and text messages from frantic clients. Total disaster. And I was helpless.

After the fact, we’ve lost the Jayz TV site, a year’s worth of blog posts (however archived in email rss feeds), some web content, and a new developed website for a client is completely gone and has to be redone. And everyone lost precious time and money. Ouch!

I’m not sure if I should feel comforted by the following; but it seems like others had some bad tech karma last week as well.

I picked up this tweet from my good friend Melissa Attree

Melissa Attree

And this one from my good friend Sue Rutherford

Sue Rutherford

I hope this week brings us all better luck in the tech world.

How about you? Have you experienced any huge tech setbacks recently? Please share in the comments…

Reading Rules!

July 3, 2010

Teaching is my biggest passion, and each time I teach I get a tingly feeling inside. That’s when I realise that the bit of information I just shared came from a book I read a few months back, or a podcast I listened to long ago, or a video I saw, or a conference I attended. In that very moment I yearn to learn more. So that I can teach more.

I’m old fashioned, so I still read books, the old…paper kind. People in my industry keep saying books are done, books are last century. I don’t buy that theory. I only see books going one of two ways: They’ll either be around forever, or they’ll at least be around for a very very long time to come. Either way, I’m keeping mine! I rarely travel without a book in hand, even if that travel is just into the city for a business meeting. When I deliver seminars I always have books in my hand, I think it’s effective to inspire people to learn.


BooksBooksBooksBooksBooks

I’ve taken a small selection of books from my bookshelf, and made a list. These are books that I think might benefit you in business. I have a very long “Book Wish List” – but I have not included any of those books simply because I don’t have them…yet! You can find the list here: http://www.jayz.co.za/books/.

I’ve also made a list of 65 eBooks which I have collected over the the past few years. I think they’re good, and they’re worth looking over when you have a chance. Very large eBooks I print – I simply cannot read on a screen for very long. Smaller ones I read on my laptop, but I have them on Dropbox, so they’re accessible on my iPhone from anywhere. So standing in a queue, waiting for someone, etc is never a problem for me – there’s always some reading to be done. You can grab them here: http://www.jayz.co.za/ebooks/.

Happy reading!

Yola got it right!

March 24, 2010

yola Yola got it right!Yola, an innovative web company founded by South Africa’s own Vinny Lingham, has a very striking slogan. It says: “stop browsing. start building.” I get caught up in this all the time. I’m browsing, reading, researching, reading some more, filing – and I’m spending too little time building. Too little time producing. Too little time creating new products. Too little time developing new seminars and workshops. It’s my avidness to learn that does this. But it’s not a wise thing. I need to have P/PC Balance. P is Production, and PC is Production Capability. You can read all about it in this post. I have my scale titled more on the PC side, when in fact the scale must weigh evenly on both sides.

I’m not always out of balance, sometimes I get some good balance. But those times are too few and far between. This morning I posted a message to Facebook and Twitter. Here is the Facebook version:


yolagotitright Yola got it right!

Twitter and Facebook are immense resource pools. The information is there. But in order to build, we need to switch off these pools for a while. I find this hard, but I need to correct this. I find many people do.

Billboards are like sea turtles

March 23, 2010

Sea turtleI recently learnt about sea turtles, what a fascinating creature. Did you know that they are almost always submerged in water? It is for this reason that they have developed an anaerobic system of respiration. Although they breathe air, under dire circumstances they may divert to anaerobic respiration for long periods of time. They quickly refill their lungs with a single explosive exhalation and rapid inhalation when surfacing to breathe.

The sea turtle pictured here is called the Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle. Beautiful!

My first time learning about this creature was on a tv documentary. They showed how the eggs are laid in the sand, on the ocean’s shore. Wikipedia states that:

The mature nesting female hauls herself onto the beach and finds suitable sand on which to create a nest. Using her hind flippers, she digs a circular hole 40 to 50 centimetres (16 to 20 in) deep. After the hole is dug, the female then starts filling the nest with a clutch of soft-shelled eggs one by one until she has deposited around 50 to 200 eggs, depending on the species. Some species have been reported to lay 250 eggs, such as the hawksbill. After laying, she re-fills the nest with sand, re-sculpting and smoothing the surface until it is relatively undetectable visually. The whole process takes thirty to sixty minutes. She then returns to the ocean, leaving the eggs untended.

Now this is not a simple process. Due to the physical design of the sea turtle, movement out of the water is not very fast. It sort of crawls to move forward, and digging the hole to lay the female’s eggs is also a slow process.

After all this effort, the mother returns to the ocean, not knowing how many of the eggs will survive. And it has been statistically proven that only a very small proportion of each hatch – usually .01% – succeed.

God has designed nature and the universe with perfection – we all agree on that. But if we had to apply this type of process to business, it would be akin to shooting in the dark.

I think that is what advertising is, particularly big spend advertising like billboards. Advertising is shooting in the dark. It’s like dumping a whole lot of money in a hole, and expecting about .01% success. And if you have the opinion that advertising for branding is a smart thing – its not. And Chet Holmes will agree with me on that.

How do you know how many people viewed that billboard? How do you know how many people purchased your product due to that billboard? Measurement = impossible.

Did you know that $220 billion is spent on unmeasured advertising every year – in the US alone?

There’s a saying that advertising is the price you pay for not being remarkable. I’m sure you’re remarkable. We all are. Or more accurately, we all can be remarkable – but it takes some work. Advertising is the easy way out.

I’ll leave you with words by Seth Godin on this topic: “Do you want to bet your future on a process [that of advertising] that’s getting less effective every day?”


Photo credit: Wikipedia

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