YOUR PEER GROUP MATTERS MORE THAN YOU THINK

mensagens_de_agradecimento_aos_amigos_f_lHave you ever noticed how the people in your life affect you? The impact can be so significant that one of the best things we can do to change our lives for the better is change our peer group.

In the 1930s C.S. Lewis started a small literary circle called the Inklings. The group started with J.R.R. Tolkien, and eventually included others like Owen Barfield and Charles Williams. The influence on works in progress of the different members was huge. Lewis actually scrapped the first draft of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe after his friends heard some chapters. They considered it “so bad that I destroyed it,” he said. It’s impossible to discount the influence of our friends.

That’s why Solomon stressed friendships so much and so often. “Iron sharpens iron,” he says in one place, “and one man sharpens another.” He also warned about negative friendships: “Make no friendship with an angry man, and with a furious man do not go, lest you learn his ways and set a snare for your soul.” Our peers really matter. And we can put that to work for us if we’re intentional about it.

group_selfieUsually we drift into peer groups. They could be associates from work, our kids’ school, church, whatever. The important thing to notice is how often these relationships just happen. They’re not intentional. But if iron sharpens iron, shouldn’t we be careful about the kind of edge others are giving us? Instead of random relationships, what if we could create communities that helped everyone involved achieve their goals together, like Lewis and the Inklings? We can, and this kind of intentional relationships are invaluable in at least three areas:

  1. Learning – Getting connected with a good group can accelerate your learning, provide key insights, help you find important resources, and teach you best practices.
  2. Encouragement – Whether it’s business, family life, or our faith journey, life can be tough. A good peer group can give you the validation and support you need to keep going and rise above the tempests.
  3. Accountability – We need people who can speak into our lives and help us when we’re veering off track. The right peers are essential for this.

And of course, it’s not just about what you get. You can offer the same learning, encouragement, and accountability to others in the group. These peer groups can take different shapes and configurations depending on how intimate we desire them to be.

tmp708601562729021440Examples of different groups could include:

  • Blog or social media communities. I’m proud of the community you’ve helped me build here. It’s source of information and encouragement to many, including me. I feel the same way about the intentional community we’ve built through Platform University.
  • Mastermind groups. These are a key way to learn best practices, insider information, and get feedback for new ideas and projects. These groups work best for sharing among people who are highly accomplished in their fields who feel comfortable sharing with others. Here’s how you can launch one of your own. I’ve greatly benefitted from mastermind groups and am starting my own soon.
  • Mentoring groups. Many of you know that I’ve run my own mentoring group. The idea was to get young professionals together to grow through some of life’s challenging and exciting moments. When all was said and done, I found it as helpful as the others did.
  • Reading or study groups. There is so much to learn about life, faith, family, and business sometimes the best way is get a group of people around a table and study a book on the topic together. The book gives the group a track to run on, and the right chemistry among the members can create conversations that go far beyond the book itself.
  • Accountability groups. There are very formal accountability groups like AA or the Samson Society, but they can be more informal as well. The idea here is that members are invited to speak into each other’s lives to encourage and challenge when needed.
  • séries-1Close friendships. Nothing replaces good friendships. Lewis and Tolkien’s relationship went on for years, and even when it was strained, remained beneficial to them both. I’ve found the same thing among my own friends. It’s easy to place work or family ahead of these sorts of relationships, but good friendships are like supports that hold up other areas of our life. Without strong friendships the quality of our lives can be greatly diminished.

Do your peers get you? Can you contribute and add value to their lives? It’s might be more important than you think to your well being. Intentional relationships make us more productive, creative, and useful than we could ever be on our own.

If you’re like me, building these relationships can be a challenge. Professional and family demands can easily interfere with building and maintaining these sorts of groups, especially the more intimate and intensive ones. But don’t miss out! They can also benefit your professional and family lives in ways so big you may never be able to measure them.

What relationships have you found the most helpful for your professional and private life? Remember: we are the average of the 5 people we deal with at most. Choose them wisely.

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THREE TRUTHS ABOUT BUSINESS UPS AND DOWNS

baseball4When I was growing up, ABC’s Wide World of Sports had this tagline, “The thrill of victory, and the agony of defeat.” This has pretty much described my life as an entrepreneur.

I don’t mean I have experienced defeat in the distant past, but my life is filled with one victory after another (hardly). Quite often, I experience both of these in a single week, always with three steps forward and two backward.

Last Monday for example, I wrote a post about how to change your life with two words, something simple that I wanted to share with my followers. Honestly, I didn’t put a lot of effort into it, but it went semi-viral.

In a week, it garnered two thousand page views, almost one hundred Facebook shares, and seventy retweets. It obviously struck a nerve. By my standards, it was a home run. I was elated. Maybe I’ve cracked the code, I thought.

Not so much. Three days later, I published a new post on leadership and accessibility, sharing some lessons I had learned about saying “no” as a leader. I felt it was thoughtful and really important, but my audience? Crickets.

Typically, my posts hit about 900 on the day I publish them. This time, it didn’t even crack the the mark of 50. It made me want to ask: “Is this thing offline?”

Have you ever experienced these kinds of results? I’m sure you have. If so, you’re normal. It isn’t that unusual. I only achieve the semi-viral response – a home run – about once every 50 or so posts. This is also about how often I experience the cricket response – a strikeout.

In the early days, when I was just starting to build my online platform, my emotions pretty much tracked with my results. If I had a big hit, I was excited and motivated. If I struck out, I wanted to throw in the towel and quit. But over past 5 years, I’ve learned three important truths:

1-A post or episode does not a platform make. One post will not make you or break you. Sure, I enjoy the traffic, attention, and engagement when something really works. But I have also learned not to get too discouraged when something doesn’t.

2-Amateurs quit, but pros keep swinging. Professionals aren’t smarter than you. They probably don’t have secrets you don’t have – or can’t get. Instead, they are just persistent. When they whiff, they adjust their grip, straighten their shoulders, and take another swing. Because they stay at it, they eventually see results.

3-I have a better chance of winning if I stay in the game. So many people walk off the field before the clock runs out. They haven’t lost; they are just behind. But, the future is wide open. Anything is possible. The key is to keep stepping up to the plate. When I do this, good things happen – not always immediately, but eventually.

And the great thing about being a blogger, a podcaster, or any other kind of creative, is that nothing is wasted. Every setback becomes the raw material you need to create better, more nuanced art.

So next time you create something of value and don’t get the response you want, remember, even the pros only hit the ball 30 percent of the time they step up to bat. That’s just part of the game. Whether you win or lose, there’s always something to learn.

 What was your most recent victory or defeat? Tell us your experience.

PAINFULLY OBVIOUS, BUT EXTREMELY EFFECTIVE FACEBOOK TACTICS

facebook_logos-300x300Sometimes, you just need to point out the obvious! On any given day, an average Facebook user’s news feed filters around 1,500 possible stories. But after Facebook’s news feed algorithm comes into play, only 20% of these stories actually land in your feed. In fact, I’ve heard that it’s easier to get into Harvard than into someone’s Facebook news feed!

You’ve read thousands of articles that tell you the same Facebook tactics. Use photos, they say. And be sure to ask questions. Oh – and post at an optimal time. Rinse and repeat and you’re on your way to being a social media superstar. Right?

If you work in the social space, you’ve heard these generic tactics time and time again.

Social media marketing is about the little details. This post isn’t telling you to post a photo or ask a question. It’s here to tell you to dig deeper, analyze and make small changes that can make a big impact. Below you will find a collection of data-driven Facebook engagement techniques that will help you cut through the noise of your fans’ busy Facebook feeds.

1. Yes, Image Posts Drive Engagement – But Choose Your Images Carefully1964928_761192317238854_562177031_n

You’re probably thinking – you just told us this post isn’t going to be about driving engagement with photos. And it isn’t. Most of you know that images perform well on Facebook and have been leveraging image posts to drive engagement & click-throughs for quite some time. So we aren’t going to throw out a generic statement surrounded with some stats telling you to use photos.

You’re a smart marketer and you know images and larger images drive more engagement, but the real question is: which images, more specifically, can drive engagement?

Make Your Image Speak for Itself. Post pictures that are meaningful without having to read any text next to it. Posting a stand-alone, self-explanatory image outperforms a photo that needs additional explanation in the description. The image above demonstrates their findings. On the lefthand side, the image needs a caption to make sense, while the photo on the righthand side already tells the story.

2. Steal Ideas From Your Other Channels

Discovering what will perform well on Facebook can often be right in front of you. This is another tactic that seems very obvious, but it doesn’t get mentioned. Nobody says it out loud.

If you have a blog post your audience is raving about on Facebook, try and turn it into a series on Facebook. Look at what performs well on your other social media channels and think of how you can incorporate it on Facebook. Maybe it’s a quote that you tweeted that received a lot of response, maybe it is a stat from an interesting industry study that was well received in your community. Oftentimes they can be turned into a weekly series or a monthly campaign.

15-Epic-Marketing-Fails-Funny1

3. Hashtags Are Cool If You Use Them Properly

Everyone is excited that hashtags have finally come to Facebook, but most people don’t get that they aren’t used in the same way as they are on Twitter. There is even a Facebook page dedicated to the cause entitled, ‘This is not Twitter. Hashtags don’t work here.’

Simply Measured said it and a recent EdgeRank Checker study reported the same thing. Both studies found that Engagement per Facebook fan decreased with hashtags and Facebook posts with hashtags had less viral and organic reach, on average, than posts without hashtags.

EdgeRank-Checker-Hashtags-Chart

On Twitter, hashtags act as a search tool helping users discovered content and shared interest which is aimed to increase the posts’ viral reach. And like we stated, on Facebook, users just aren’t treating hashtags the same way. Facebook users are the root of the problem as they are conditioned to scroll through their news feed to receive information versus search for information.

When you are using hashtags on Facebook, think carefully about what you are using them for and how you can use them. If your intent is to increase virality and reach, you might not receive the outcome you were hoping for.

Instead think of hashtags on Facebook as a way to express an emotion or sentiment (somewhat like an emoticon, which we will talk about below) a campaign or contest which allows you to unify your posts, promote across different platforms and depending on the nature of the campaign or contest, has the ability to encourage users to share their own posts with the hashtag of the campaign

Cricbuzz, the fastest commentary website for major cricket matches, uses the hashtag #facepalm. You may or may not know a ton about cricket or the context of the post below, but the hashtag didn’t act as a search term in an attempt to increase reach & virility, rather it expressed an emotion.

Facebook-Tactics-Facepalm-

The strongest and most common power of the Facebook hashtag is its ability to link cross-platform with a campaign or contest. With the #PSL (Pumpkin Spice Latte) campaign coming to an end, Starbucks just launched their #sharejoy red cup campaign. The campaign is present on multiple platforms, encourages people to hashtag #sharejoy with their red Starbucks cup and ultimately increases their brand.

4. Not All Emoticons Are Equal 😀

According to AMEX OPEN, using emoticons increases comments by 33%. The fact they increase engagement makes sense since their very definition ties into and derives from social media. It seems silly, but these two, sometimes three character expressions have played a significant role in communication through technology.

Buddy Media says posts with emoticons receive 52% higher interaction rates and have a 57% higher like rate, 33% higher comment rate and 33% higher share rate. Emoticons, when used properly and sparingly, can be a great way to express your tone and humanize your brand.

And get this, not all emoticons are equal. This graph from Buddy Media shows the interaction rate across each emoticon with 😀 coming out on top.

Not-All-Emoticons-Are-Created-Equal

5. If You Are Asking a Question, Ask it at the End

See what we did there 😉 ?

According to KISSmetrics, questions receive 100% more comments than standard text posts. And you’ve most likely heard it before: when it comes to engagement, especially comments, asking a question on Facebook is very effective. But we aren’t here to tell you tactics you already know. It isn’t about asking a question. It’s about where to ask that question.

According to a research study by Buddy Media, if you are asking a question, where you place the question in the post is equally as important as what you are asking. Posing a question at the end of your post increases the interaction rate by 15% and will double the comment rate compared to those with a question asked in the middle of the post. A question that is placed at the end of a sentence is asking your Facebook fans to respond immediately. When you ask a question at the beginning or in the middle of your copy this distracts your fan from answering the question.

The example below, although hyperbolic, shows the engagement spike when you pose a question at the end of your Facebook description. So the next time you type a question in your Facebook description pay close attention to the placement of your question in your copy.

facebook-engagement-tactics-questions

Does placing a question at the end of your sentence increase your engagement? What type of images does your community respond to? Which type of emoticon, if any, increases engagement? How do people use hashtags and how can you leverage them to make them more effective? The devil is in the details when it comes to Facebook marketing. Not all these tactics will work for you, but remember, it’s important to dig deeper, analyze and implement & experiment with small changes that can drive engagement and make a bigger impact.

Do you have any Facebook engagement tactics or insight? I’d love to hear them in the comments.