My (Social Network) Life As A Dog: My Online Elevator Pitch

If we haven’t met in real life, chances are, you only know me physically as a dog.  My avatars and profile pics and whatever other new age words are used to describe the photos next to my online profiles, are those of my dog.  For consistency purposes, I try to use the same dog (I have two), if not the same photo of the aforementioned canine.

I’m a dog person.  I love my dogs.  If you know me personally, you know I am passionate about my dogs and can talk about them forever.  My dogs help drive my motivations personally and professionally.

So what, right?

Well, I’ve always gotten flack about using pictures of my dogs as my personal profile pictures.  Less so with Twitter and with WordPress (in fact, never), but mostly with my LinkedIn picture.

  • “LinkedIn is a professional site.  Why on earth would you risk your reputation and portray yourself as a dog?”
  • “LinkedIn is a professional site.   Considering your profession, shouldn’t you apply some of the best practices you preach?”

I was at a personal branding / social media conference in February of 2010 and we were in the process of critiquing each other’s LinkedIn profiles.  So clearly, Venetta’s dog profile picture really came under attack, of which the above two critiques were the most consistent.  Mind you, I didn’t know anyone there, so this was raw feedback from strangers.  Strangers that did not know my personal passion for dogs and also strangers well versed in social media.  Olivier Blanchard, author of The BrandBuilder Blog, and  Social Media ROI, was a guest speaker at this event, and told us about Chico as I was coming under attack for the depiction of my online persona.  Chico is Olivier’s dog and Olivier used to portray himself as Chico.  It wasn’t until recently that Olivier added his own picture to the blog:

Although I do not know Olivier’s original reasons for deciding to use his dog Chico as his personal persona (obviously, he has since added his own likelihood to his profiles), I do know my initial reasons as well as the evolution of those reasons.

For one, I am a highly private person.  However, I do like to participate in online conversations but I still am not personally comfortable taking the additional step and posting my mug out to the masses.  I don’t think that I ever will be – for me personally it’s uncomfortable, and as most people, I try to avoid any and all situations that are unpleasant. Simply and echoing Barnaby, when it comes it to using a “real photo”, quite frankly, “I prefer not to”.

Secondly, (and this comes from a highly successful sales career), a photograph of a dog has been one of the best conversation starters I have ever had the pleasure of benefitting from.  I will give you an example that has come forth on numerous occasions (these work best when your connections are dog owners or just like dogs).

  • Icebreaker question posed by many clients/prospects based on my LinkedIn profile alone:  “I saw your LinkedIn profile, what kind of dog is that?”

This question usually segways into what kind of dog the other individual has/had/known/etc.  This is a great icebreaker.  I still talk to these individuals based on our common interest of dogs even though we no longer do business together.  It has helped solidify relationships not only professionally, but personally – which is the true testament of “business relationship”.

People don’t typically take the time to read through bio’s on blogs and profiles if you’re connecting based on business.  I do, but I am one of the few.

This is what I have seen:  I know you, we’ve “met” in some professional capacity (typically this starts over the phone), we solidify our professional rendezvous online.  That’s pretty much it if you’re not a recruiter or sales executive that should be going through bios in greater detail.

So, my ten second online elevator pitch is my title, some random cliche words about myself and a picture of my dog.

And the picture sparks the connection.

When is the last time that you were able to non-creepily discuss someone’s LinkedIn profile picture as an icebreaker?

How would that work?

  • That’s a great shirt you’re wearing! (This is just creepy)
  • Oh, you’re older than I expected.  Secondary thought:  Based on your age are you biased towards technologies and communications that are out of date?
  • Oooohhh, you’re actually a lot younger than I expected.  Secondary thought:  Based on your age and possible lack of experience, should I even trust you with my business?

And the one we can all relate to 95% of the time:

  • You look absolutely nothing like you do in real life.  (We all experience this almost all of the time, or at least I do and chances are, the online persona depicted in that profile picture is better looking than the person in real life. This is not an insult to anyone, it’s just true.  You have the time and the care it takes to pick that one picture that makes you look stellar.  And why wouldn’t you – it’s human nature and virtually anyone on the Internet can stumble upon this, so it’s in your best interest to, well, look your best)

The Internet has given us all the most wonderful narcissistic playground.  We perform based on our audience and the platform.  The performance can be in the form of knowledge distribution (because I’m smarter than all of you and my Tweets prove it!), or social photographs (because I do awesomer things than all of you and go to events and have a great time all of the time and document all of this evidence on sites like Facebook!), or professional connections (because I am connected to more CEO’s than you are and my LinkedIn network proves this!) or even associations to specific locations (because my Foursquare check-ins show that I eat better food than you and check-in at the coolest and hippest new places!)

The psychological implications of  social sites and how that ties into our behavior (and the performance of that behavior) fascinates me.  And it is also what hinders me from changing the “dog picture” to a “real picture”.

For one, the picture I would use would be a glorified version of myself that you wouldn’t recognize even if you knew me. But even more so, because social networking, to me at least, is about creating the right relationships based on common interests and nurturing those relationships for future mutual benefit.

Perhaps when I achieve the status of Olivier Blanchard, I can transition away from Chico and bring myself into the picture (pun intended).

But for now, my dogs have served me well.

They’ve solidified relationships and helped start new ones based on common interests – which is the power of social media – just moving the real world online.

Advertisements

My Love/Hate Relationship with LinkedIn

[tweetmeme source=”Venetta_Beretta” only_single=false]

Please note:  The goal of my personal profile and “work” on LinkedIn is not to obtain a job or to be sourced for positions.  If job seeking were my goal, I could speak more to the experience of using LinkedIn for that purpose and would apply the appropriate tactics in order to build relationships with those that could assist in that goal. When you are attempting to use a social site in any regard, there must be a defined purpose and tactics tailored to that purpose.  This is true for both job seekers using LinkedIn, individuals looking for thought-leadership on Twitter, and also for corporate brands using social media to meet business initiatives.  Musings such as “So don’t bet on this as a place to get hired even if you’re active on the site like I am” are in no way a reflection of what this platform can or cannot do for you.  Simply, if you are actively looking for a job, you should not be reliant on a single tactic alone such as posting a profile on any website, posting a resume into a database or applying for a position.  There are other actions that you must take in order to produce better results in your job search.  It’s a competitive market, make sure you’re as creative as you can be in order to get in front of your intended audience.                                                              (Note added 1/19/2011)

Okay, so this doesn’t have much to do with LinkedIn as a social platform (I could spend hours on that subject as well), but more so of the behaviors of people that are on LinkedIn.  Actually, it has nothing to do with LinkedIn and the behaviors of people on that site in specific, but with people in general. LinkedIn, in this sense, is just a facilitator of human “behaviors” that irk me, so, unfortunately, LinkedIn as a social network becomes the front and center impetus for the following example(s).

After spending a good year or so analyzing user behaviors within online social networks, you begin to see patterns.

Social Learning #1: People really don’t act much differently online than they do in real life.

As an avid LinkedIn user as well as a social network analyst, LinkedIn is a powerful tool.  Too bad no one knows how to use it.

Will LinkedIn (or a professional “online profile”) replace a traditional resume?  Absolutely not. There are certain things within resumes that help sell candidates that should never be posted publicly.  Like what?  Try, sales numbers, revenue growth, confidential projects and the nature of those learnings, etc.  It’s a complement not a replacement. Funny how LinkedIn now wants your resume for you to now have a “complete” profile.  I am curious how many people upload in order to fulfill that achievement, “Your profile is 100% complete!”.  Who cares?  An official resume shouldn’t be shared publicly if you are not an active job seeker.  And even then, you must keep some things private (trust me, I’ve seen more than my fair share of public resume snafu’s – but I digress).

So we hit on job seeking and the reverse – candidate sourcing (kind of). So what else do your professional relationships help with (aka, what else is LinkedIn good for)?  Sales. As in selling things on a corporate standpoint where you source buyers and corporate hierarchies so you find your appropriate decision makers.

Does LinkedIn make it easy for you to source leads?  Yes, of course.  It’s a public (when logged-in) user-generated professional network.  People put up their professional histories and education and “perform” the social dance of “this is who I know”.  Then they put up their blogs and their slideshare and powerpoint presentations and join groups and ask and answer questions so their entire networks (and those viewing their profiles) can have a better scope of “this is what I know.” You can argue that this is done on LinkedIn as a passive aggressive way to say “hire me”, or “buy from me” after we have solidified our online relationship. So, no harm, no foul.  As humans this is natural behavior to connect with others and to gratify feelings of our self worth.

So, why do I hate LinkedIn?  Because people don’t know how to use it.  People don’t know how to create relationships. People don’t know how to sell themselves and/or their service.  LinkedIn’s fault? No, absolutely not.

I can’t count on my fingers and toes the amount of cold calls I have received in the last year based on my LinkedIn profile.  Is anyone trying to hire me? No. (So don’t bet on this as a place to get hired even if you’re active on the site like I am).  Is anyone trying to sell me something based on “we share a group” and “you work at a huge company”?  Yes.  Every single one of them.

How many people have I called back? None.  Why? Because their messages are irrelevant to me and I don’t waste people’s time and I expect the same of others.  I’m active on social sites so with a minor amount of research you can find out what I do and tailor your sales pitch to me.  LinkedIn,  narcissism, and the internet itself have made this research available to you at no charge.  On top of that, people are narcissists and social networks, blogs, micro-blogs, location based platforms magnify this behavior and social longing.  Use it to your advantage when you’re sourcing for your leads, please.

After all of these horrendous cold calls, I tweeted this:  

(I’m in social media and everyone cold-calling me knows this because they sourced me on LinkedIn to sell me their social media crap – so you would think, “Venetta is involved with social media, it looks like she is passionate about it, her blog is on her LinkedIn profile (that I am sourcing from), oh and look, her Twitter account is attached.   Let me see if there is anything I can use from those sites to help tailor my pitch to something that could be relevant to her. Or, if all else fails, it looks like she has an affinity for dogs.  Maybe I can mention my dog/cat/bird/whatever and reference her dog(s) to make it look like I at least kind of care or went through the motions just to create some conversation and common ground”  This is not a stretch, we’re talking about social media here, something I am deeply involved in and something I am being targeted for on a purchasing standpoint. And really, come on, my name is incredibly easy when it comes to finding me through a simple Google search. Social Learning #2:  People love talking about themselves.  They really do.)

Then, I get a cold-call from Leanne (her full name is being protected because I don’t want to embarrass her or put her company in any jeopardy).  Awesome.  She sees my company on my profile and calls the general corporate number and they transfer her over.  I don’t pick up calls that are routed this way for this exact reason.  She leaves a horrible voicemail talking about her company and the only reason I listen to the full message is so I learn from her mistakes and never do this on any calls I ever make.

Then, Leanne sends an email. (Feel free to click on the image if you care to read it)


At this point, I am only assuming that she used my LinkedIn profile to find me.

So, I double check.  (And thank you LinkedIn for this feature, because I love seeing who views my profile, it helps my personal narcissism grow.  Not being facetious, I love this feature).  And there is my Leanne:

Is LinkedIn the greatest (free) business tool of all time?  That might be a stretch, but yes, perhaps.  Will it ever work for sales and recruitment?  Yes, absolutely.  I’m afraid no one I’ve ever come in contact with knows how to use it in combination with other (free) research in order to achieve their goals (in Leanne’s case, selling me something).  I looked into her company (only because I was writing this).   Do they have a decent service that I would consider? Actually, yes.  Would I buy from them?  No.  Why?  See above.

Sales 101 and social media 101 both have taught us that no one cares about you and no one cares about me.  Social Learning #3: You are irrelevant (as a brand, product, service and person) until you tie your offering to what the other person wants and/or needs.

Be a good human, good recruiter, good salesperson first and then have at the tools within your reach.  They work better that way.

Should Social Media Participation be an Employee Requirement?

[tweetmeme source=”Venetta_Beretta” only_single=false]

This dynamic question was posed on LinkedIn, and to my surprise it didn’t receive much traction. My major theory as to why? Too many companies are looking at the potential of social media for short term advertising and marketing campaigns. (I have a secondary theory regarding the fact that this was a discussion vs. a question and that people are less likely to participate in discussions because they are not published on your LinkedIn profile – for now at least – and therefore there is less social currency associated with, “check out how smart I am and look at what I answered” attached directly to my profile – but I digress…)

“Let’s go to Facebook and fish where the fish are.” It makes sense, do it. The fact of the matter is that not enough companies are carving out the long-term strategic capabilities of what it means to be social. Social is here and it is changing daily. People are people and will continue to be people. Whether or not Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. will suffer the fate of Bebo in the upcoming months or years doesn’t matter. It’s incredibly irrelevant to the long-term because the medium doesn’t matter. Social has taught us that people are ongoing and so is conversation. With technologies in place this will only continue. For marketing and advertising purposes, this is great, assuming that you do it correctly or constantly improve and refine your message.

Reverting back to the question, the following is the two cents I shared on LinkedIn where I was incredibly disappointed by the lack of engagement from those that profess to be in the social “know” and are self-proclaimed “experts” and “guru’s”. Again, to my dismay, no one seemed interested in discussing the potential of “social” for long-term employee engagement strategies to build competitive advantages. I hope that it is not a tell-tale sign that we are more concerned with our current customers than our future employees and future sustainability as an organization.

“It is imperative that all companies start engaging their own employees in social media/ social tools within their organization. But, “requiring” participation doesn’t work either. If something is required, the quality and quantity of content will be subpar no matter what. Transparency is what consumers are looking for right now, and will most probably be able to identify the companies in which the employees are made to participate in some capacity. The key is for companies to effectively motivate, engage and create brand enthusiasts and advocates of their employees so that they want to participate in the external social activities of the company .

Once you tie social media and participation into an employee’s “what’s in it for me” (along with having a product, service, and company worth the buzz), the participation won’t be forced. This is the one of the hurdles.

Another hurdle is that the big buzz marketing ideas and strategies are growing Facebook and Twitter fan bases aimed at engaging their customers. Companies are currently too focused on their external customers and in my findings, are not doing enough with their internal customers, and their most valuable asset: their employees. Social media has been widely discussed and implemented as a marketing tactic and hasn’t been explored enough as a strategic tool within the organization.

When you factor in the mindsharing capabilities that social tools enable companies with, the possibilities for a sustainable competitive advantage increases significantly. Considering the power of networks as well, a strong internal “social network” is also likely to decrease attrition and save companies millions of dollars a year. Organizational development and training is an area that large organizations can benefit from through social tools by harnessing the power of their internal crowd and collaborating on a much larger scale, without geographical (or even “cubical”) boundaries.

We already know the power of social media and companies are finally jumping on the bandwagon to listen to their customers. Most companies have forgotten the power of the employees that they already have and the power that their participation in company sponsored social media/social sites could have on their organization for not only external marketing campaigns and tactics, but also for long-term sustainable competitive advantage.”

-Originally shared (by me) on LI to much disappointment in the quantity of responses considering that many attest to being a “ninja” regarding social media these days
My positioning on whether or not social media should be an employee requirement teeters on yes, but knowing that motivation and recognition factors for human behavior hinder the feasibility of a yes or no answer in terms of implementation, the fact of the matter is simple:
If you have a good company, have a good product, treat customers and employees right, then requirements aren’t needed, people will oblige and participate for the long-term sustainability of the company, no matter what the collective effort is.
But truth be told, how many companies can truly say that they, in Google’s words, aren’t evil in any aspect of how they do business and that anything that they do internally (minus trade secrets, business strategies, and the like) should be published for all to see?