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The minute the  ice cream truck was in my neighborhood today, my children knew it. I probably knew it a full 20 seconds before they did though, because I have 28 and 33 years more experience with the ice cream truck and it’s marketing tactics than they do. My ears were trained long ago.

It starts with a jingle. That jingle tells you it’s coming and forces you to act. You will either run home for money, ask a friend to give you some or, depending on your age, burst into tears because you know you don’t have the means to make a purchase.

If you already have money, you can get a jumpstart on persuading the truck to come down your street. A combination of vertical leaps, wild hand-waving and whistling or screaming usually does the trick. Although, you may have to resort to a quick sprint, but that’s only if the driver is a speed-demon.

The point here is this: The ice cream truck is reliable. It always has the goods. You know for certain that there is something on that truck that will make you happy, and it doesn’t matter who is driving.

The driver of the truck knows that he has what you want, so there is no need to recruit you or cajole you into flagging him down. He announces the trucks presence with that jingle and waits for you to make a move. There is no question about his power and he is always at the top of his game.

Does your community have the goods? Is it reliable? Is there something there that will make your members happy every day? What happens when you change drivers?

I am not happy with my answers to those questions, and I bet you aren’t either.

I think we can learn a lot from the ice cream truck. Our communities should speak for themselves. Our content should be top-notch and we should try to offer surprises every now and then. There should be other drivers who care just as much about the truck and it’s upkeep to keep it running in the event you can’t. Many of us are solo acts and I don’t know if that’s a good thing.

Shhh…

Do you hear that?

I’ve gotta run home to get my money. You flag him down. I’ll.be.right.back!

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I just ran across a quick interview with author and marketing expert Seth Godin over on Kipp Bodnar’s blog and the very last sentence stopped me in my tracks, and made me think.

Here it is:

“What I really don’t like online is this superficial networking…all the thousands of people who show up friend-ing everybody else. Why? Right. It doesn’t count for anything it’s just a waste of time.”

Wow.

Now I can see how having thousands of friends on Facebook can be a bit unwieldy and there has been a lot of chatter about all of the “noise” on twitter. And yes, I do have several friends on various platforms who I may never actually contact. AND, some people are on social media sites simply to rack up friend counts and followers.

I get that, and it could very well be a waste of their time.

But there is nothing superficial about the way I use the social web to network, and I’m sure that many of you can make that claim as well.

I’ve already shared that I landed a publishing contract thanks to Twitter and Bryan Person. I did a great podcast with Dick Carlson, just launched the inaugural Social Media Breakfast Raleigh with Kipp Bodnar and had the most amazing conversation with Maren Hogan a few days ago that resulted in a new chapter for my book.

I am calling Connie Bensen this Friday to brainstorm a few ideas and recently gave this Facebook friend a guest post on my blog that will hopefully help him land a job or at least get his great ideas read by some real decision makers in the newspaper industry. (My stats show that folks at newspapers from Ft. Wayne to London England have read his post)

But this was the best comment of all in the 1:18 interview:

“The networking that matters is helping people achieve their goals. Doing it reliably and repeatedly so that over time people have an interest in helping you achieve your goals if they have a stake in it”

Be sure to listen to it in its entirety.

Now tell me about some of your non-superficial networking and give an example or two of how it has helped you, or how you have helped others along the way.

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shankman111208Those aren’t my words, but the words of PR and marketing guru, entrepreneur extraordinaire, author and all around crazy man, Peter Shankman who you may know as @Skydiver on twitter.

I attended an TIMA event in downtown Raleigh today where Shankman was the speaker. Having served on a panel with him at the same venue just one short year ago I knew that we were in for some innovative trains of thought.

So, Shankman declared in a room full of mostly interactive sales and marketing folks that the beloved press release will be dead in 36 months. He asked if anyone in the room had even read one recently, and the number of hands that flew up were slim. He drove home four points:

Transparency, relevancy, brevity and “top of mind presence.”

He says if your clients can’t send their message in 140 characters of less, it needs to change. He also said PowerPoint is for the weak, but that’s a topic for another discussion.

Interested in some of Shankman’s other colorful quips and trains of thought? Here are all of my tweets from the event in chronological order: BTW, I’m @communitygirl on twitter.

  • communitygirl: @skydiver tells me he has no idea what he will say to this audience of 100 plus.
  • communitygirl: @skydiver has taken the podium. He is a wild man. Says powerpoint is for the weak!
  • communitygirl: @skydiver says social media doesn’t exist. Gives the power to screw up many times over.
  • communitygirl: You can’t make something viral. You can make it good and it becomes viral. @skydiver
  • communitygirl: Social media is more like human nature per @skydiver. He helped launch the AOL newsroom without a clue.
  • communitygirl: Too many self proclaimed social media experts says @skydiver.
  • communitygirl: @skydiver says google will be the winner of the profile war. People in this audience say LinkedIn is more professional than facebook.
  • communitygirl: @skydiver predicts the press release will be dead in 36 months! Anyone agree?
  • communitygirl: Teach clients that if they can’t send the message in 140 characters it needs to change. Per @skydiver
  • communitygirl: You have to like social media. If you don’t it will be obvious. If the PR guy blogs for the CEO people know it. @skydiver
  • communitygirl: @skydiver says the personal vs professional profile will go away in 12 months. You will have one profile on whatever network wins!
  • communitygirl: Ever heard of unjust tagging? How about facebook purgatory? I will blog about it later. @skydiver is a fun speaker. Hilarious!
  • communitygirl: Kids growing up with technology will be smart about it. No need to pity them at all says @skydiver.
  • communitygirl: @skydiver is now talking about top of mind presence. Use social media to the point of “remembering.”

I couldn’t tweet everything, as i also needed to eat lunch, but those are a few highlights. Tomorrow I will blog about two concepts Shankman shared: Facebook Purgatory, and Unjust tagging. Pretty funny stuff. Yeah, he’s definitely a wild man.

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The topic was: Managing Online Communities: Getting YOUR Message to the Masses.  The audience consisted of furniture retailers, independent owners and other industry professionals and all were quite interested in online communities once I began to share the value of participation.

I could tell by the questions after the seminar that business owners are interested in blogging and reaching people online in this capacity and that with the right direction and input, many of them will likely engage.

It’s a smart move.  I shared three examples. Two of which seem to have established themselves within the GOLO community , and another that probably came on a bit too strong for the community and was immediately classified as spam. Well, when you upload 357 images of your product as soon as you join the community  and never bother to introduce yourself to the community or establish your area of expertise, this is bound to happen.

I’m happy to report that the audience seemed to “get it” and I think many will seek out online communities as a way to reach a new audience.  I think that’s a good thing.

If you’re interested in my oresentation, i will gladly share. Just send me an e-mail or leave a message in the comment area below.

I’m conducting a seminar at the National Home Furnishing Association’s Conference in High Point, NC in two days and I’ve been gathering my thoughts for the past three. The working title is “Managing Online Communities: Getting YOUR Message to the Masses.”

Since launching WRAL.com’s online community GOLO last summer, I’ve seen the phenomenon of social networking unfold before my very eyes. It was quite intriguing, and it’s still amazing to watch as we continue to grow. We are now well beyond 6,000 members and I must say that a real community has formed. As the Managing Editor, it is my job to provide vision, determine strategy and engage the community. It is more than a full-time job.

My goal through this seminar is to offer ideas on how businesses can successfully interact within communities like GOLO and get their message across without being shunned, ignored or worse…labeled as spam or marked as abuse.

It’s a delicate balance, but it can be done. It takes time and commitment and I’m sure my message won’t be accepted by all in attendance. I do plan to provoke thought and introduce new ideas that will hopefully infuse new life into an industry that’s seeking new information and ideas.

The powerpoint I’m preparing has promise. I just gave it another once-over and it’s quite convincing. I just hope that I can open their minds and encourage a new way of thinking.

I believe in the power of online communities and I know what they want. It is now up to those who want or even need to reach them, to do it on the community’s terms.

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This is a personal blog. The opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of my employer. Feel free to challenge me, disagree with me, or tell me I’m completely nuts in the comments section of each blog entry.

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