The Power of Words: Senescence and Debridement

Words provide endless fascination for me, and I’ve encountered a couple of gems in the past month that seem to sizzle with relevance. So, here are my words of the week – and how they resonate:

Senescence and Debridement.

Both words I learned accompanying my 94-year-old Aunt Virginia to the Wound Clinic at Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas.  She is a warrior queen of remarkable grit and constitution, but a pesky wound on her outer ankle has refused to heal over the past few months. Since beginning our biweekly visits to see the perspicacious Dr. Moran and her choreographed coterie of clinicians, Virginia’s stubborn sore has much improved.

Debridement. It refers to the forced removal of unhealthy tissue from a wound to promote healing. Mon Dieu! It’s French – from débrider, to remove adhesions or to literally unbridle. Though the body possesses miraculous and mysterious organic self-healing capabilities, sometimes the process hits a snag. It stymies, and it needs a little help to progress. Debridement sends an urgent message to all the white blood cells and healing resources to galvanize the rescue mission – stat.  And, it hurts like hell!

Unfortunately, we don’t always know why we attract the excruciating circumstances we do or why healing pauses, but we do know why pain exists – to tell us something is terribly wrong. Pain  might be the most potent teacher. It’s just a matter of making the right connection.

Senescence. Debridement is a necessary protocol when a wound is senescent – another vocabulary word from the good doc. Senescent comes from the Latin senēscere, “to grow old.” In medicine or biology, it refers to cells that are still metabolically active – but are no longer capable of dividing.  Existing but not thriving. That’s why they need the jump-start.  Life is about living, not just surviving.

Thankfully, we have come to the right place. On our first visit to this chaotic clinic, I was overwhelmed by the number of “customers” – all seeking some sort of relief. There were not even enough chairs for everyone. There were babies, adolescents, grandfathers, society matrons and athletes. I saw one disturbingly gaunt man slouched in his wheelchair with his bandaged ankle plopped in the lap of a young man who looked like his son. He spoke with unconscious gusto. I think he must have been a teacher. “I believe in word economy,” he proclaimed. “I read that boy’s paper, and he used commas like he keeps them in a salt shaker.” I chuckled, but no one else in the room reacted.

“Ms. Thompson,” the out-of-breath nurse shouted as she cracked the door.

That’s Virginia’s married name. More accurately, her divorced name – an identity she’s maintained for more than fifty years. I grabbed the wheelchair she usually propels with her own two feet, and we were off down the hall.

“This is not uncommon,” said the chestnut-maned doc with an easy, warm smile. “But it’s a bear to heal. It’s a problem of pressure. I’ll bet you sleep on your right side, don’t you? We must offload the pressure. That’s all there is to it.”

Offload. There’s the lesson.

“This is gonna to hurt . . . a lot,” Dr. Moran warned as her nurse squirted the swollen, red ankle with lidocaine.

“This is what we call debridement,” Dr. Moran explained. “We have to remind the body how to heal. We need to remove the dead skin that gets in the way. This sends the body’s healing properties and enzymes to the wound.”

Virginia winced and closed her eyes tightly. Then, one glistening droplet ran down her wrinkled cheek.

“Are you OK?” I asked quietly. I have never seen her register pain, and she has endured much in her life.

“I know that hurt . . .  Uh, Ginny, more lidocaine here,” said Dr. Moran. “We need to rally all the resources we can to heal this bugger.”

Virginia began to breathe a little easier as the efficient tech team wrapped her puffy leg with focused precision. Moran gave us a list of instructions and pointed us to our next stop – radiology in the main hospital for an x-ray.

I was not here by accident. In addition to providing companionship and moral support for my only living senior relative, this experience held a lesson for me.  Sometimes the process of removing the dead tissue requires a seismic jolt – maybe two!  We can’t let unattended wounds just scab over – and pretend like everything is OK while the senescent tissue underneath remains.  Ignoring pain does not resolve it. And, the Universe keeps amplifying the intensity of our lessons until we finally get the message.

After all the turmoil, displacement and trauma in recent months (and even years), I know now it’s not my job to change or fix the mess and dysfunction all around me to feel better. That’s a no-win energy suck and likely leads to spiritual senescence. It’s about staying mindful, making higher-grade choices – and getting myself unstuck – not everyone else.

In medical terms, I guess the prescription is debridement – liquefying the icky eschar and slough. But, no more “liquefying” on my home front, please! I get the message! Thank goodness, Virginia’s choices are helping her heal, too. It’s been nice spending this time with her, too.

Let’s rally those inner resources . . . stat.

Reeling from 2016? It’s in the numbers.

“Sometimes things fall apart so that better things can fall together.”  ― Marilyn Monroe

clock2016

The agony and angst of 2016 are palpable. A grueling and malignant election cycle, combined with pernicious social unrest ― and the loss of too many beloved cultural icons to count have left us dazed and devastated.  So many friends and colleagues are anxious to bid 2016 a swift farewell, but I have recently stumbled on a compelling contextualization.

It’s about the numbers. After all, we seem to be a society obsessed with metrics. We are constantly parsing, computing, digesting and analyzing the data. We warehouse it, mine it and dump it ― but what about the most ancient of calculations ― numerology? Whether you embrace the metaphysical realm or deal solely in the concrete, it’s difficult to completely discount the math.

That is, 2016 is a “nine year:” The end of a cycle.

How does this work? Well, numerology is the study of numbers and their harmonics. Like those who question astrology, auras and chakras, skeptics abound. But who has all the answers?  Plus, this feels more like the mirror than the smoke. Without going into the granular detail, the Pythagorean system of numerology considers the cosmic significance of numbers associated with names, birthdays and years. That makes 2016 a “nine year.”

Do the math:

2+0+1+6 = 9

2+0+1+7 = 1+0 = 1

Clearly, we are living the completion of a particularly volatile and significant nine-year cycle.  Next year, 2017 will be a “one year.” A “nine year” heralds significant change and brings to fruition what began in the previous nine-year cycle. It’s a time of shedding old skin and trying on new ways of thinking and existing.  Where were we in 2007, the end of the last nine-year cycle? Where were you in 2007? George W. Bush was president, and we were about to elect Barack Obama, the first African-American president in history in 2008 ― commencing a remarkable cycle fueled by the audacity of hope. But now, that cycle is ending ― as we enter another new era.

A “nine year” is a time of completion, resolution and forgiveness, says one numerology site.  You can even calculate your personal-year number for 2017. Mine is “five,” which also foretells change, new adventures, relationships and adventures. I’m ready.

The interesting impact of a “nine year” is it focuses on cleaning up unfinished business. And if we resist the closed doors or deny the new horizons, we will not see the new realities. Daunting stuff. So, the numbers tell us it’s time to learn from the past, radically accept it, and decide how we want to build the future in the next nine years. It is a time to jettison old thinking, pursuits, habits and relationships that no longer serve us. Another great quote:

“The only real battle in life is between hanging on and letting go.”  -Shannon l. Alder


That one has resonated with me deeply this year ― as I seem to have been entangled in perpetual tangos with many aspects of life. However, what I have discovered is change begins within ― in each individual heart and mind. As we end 2016, it’s time to reach your conclusions, and tie up your loose ends. Clean out your closets and make more room. This will help you step into the next nine years free of unresolved traumas and challenges that might hold you back.

Apparently, it’s natural for a “nine year” to be highly emotional.  It can even feel like it’s taking you backwards, but the purpose is to help you learn the lessons that keep you stuck. This is a necessary process to release old emotions that might be triggering you in the present ― impeding your progress. We may be evolving spiritually as a society in ways we cannot fully fathom right now. Sometimes, painful experiences are required to help us grow. Perhaps, it is no coincidence that some of our most beloved creative voices have left the earth this year ― at a time of such disruptive transition.  I think we are likely on the precipice of an unparalleled period of seismic spiritual realignment.

So, what will the “one year” hold?

Who knows? But 2017 is the number of beginning ― the dawning of something altogether new. The “one year” is time to act independently ― but also to lead by example, putting your unique talents to work for the greater good and the community as a whole.

The great news about 2017 is that transformation is an integral part of the equation. Be open and be ready. Fasten your seatbelts; it going to be a bumpy, high-velocity ride. Embrace positive expectancy.   Anything is possible ― with hope, faith, love ― and a clean slate.

Make Content Marketing Matter: Put Your Story to Work

bigbangWhat is content marketing? 

It’s a transaction ― fueled by the powerful intention to grow and expand your business.  It’s serving up delicious, enticing, seductive information to your prospects (and suspects) in exchange for their glorious attention and response. You give away something of value to build a relationship that will ultimately lead to something meaningful ― engagement, trust, loyalty, revenue and product/service evangelism.

The concept is not new, but the media models have morphed and changed over the years. Heck, maybe it’s the oldest profession. But today, managing the whole process is a bit trickier. We are our own networks. It’s a potent concept when you stop and think about it.

We can produce our own universes, but there are challenges. We’re concerned with integration, relevance, distribution management and analytics.  The secret sauce is in your story ― communicating your value effectively and persuasively. And it all starts with your website.

It’s all about the Blog

This is your publisher. I know it takes care and feeding, but it’s worth the effort. The blog is still the easiest way to connect with your audience and establish thought leadership in your space.  Actually, it’s less about “thought leadership” these days ― and more about delivering content worth consuming ― content that teaches something new, entertains, and provides a compelling reason to act.  The media may vary, but the blog gives you the framework. Experiment with video, infographics, whitepapers and e-books. Test, test and test some more.  Orchestrate the primary elements:

  • Video
  • Landing Pages/Email
  • Social Media

And You Gotta Have a Plan . . .

  1.  Define your Decision Makers and Brand Personas

Who makes the buying decisions? Who gets involved and when? Where do they live online? You don’t have to get too targeted in creating specific content for each stakeholder, but clearly identify “product champions” ― and then guide them step by step through the consensus-creation process.

  1. Articulate Your Key Objectives: Start with the basics, build and quantify.

Objectives might include:

  • Generating interest in your products ― and qualified leads.
  • Establishing yourself as an expert and preferred solution provider in a given vertical market.
  • Generating sales. (online or direct)
  1. Set Specific Goals: What are your key metrics and priorities ― long and short-term?
  • Organic traffic
  • Newsletter sign-ups
  • Leads
  • Qualified leads
  • Donations
  • Sales
  1. Create Your Content Strategy

Build a formal six-month, integrated content calendar creating relevant messaging that cultivates each one of your priority vertical segment.

  • Case Studies and Success Stories ― Highlight solutions and wins using video, blog articles and press releases that can extend your stories even further to third-party websites.
  • Guides and Tutorials — Guides do not have to be 100-page e-books. Give tips or easy how-tos.
  • Webinars ― Attract decision makers who are interested in learning from other industry leaders. Then, create a case studies or white papers from the webinar ― extending the life of your content and providing more opportunities for engagement.
  •  E-books and Whitepapers ― This is where we can get meaty ― really dig into topics and establish your firm as the expert or solution. This can drive lead capture from download requests and provide insight into particular areas of interest.
  • Infographics creatively visualize facts and figures and are highly shareable online.  http://piktochart.com/ https://infogr.am/ are sites that help facilitate creation.
  1. Promote 
  • Grow Your Opt-In Email List ― Add a sign-up widget to your website. http://optinagent.com/ Put a sign up form at the bottom of each blog post.
  • Enhance Social Media Engagement ― Optimize social media where appropriate – integrating Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Instagram, particularly for events — to drive engagement and enhance brand affinity with specific content deliverables.

Finally, connect the dots on all marketing initiatives (print, web, and multimedia) across owned, earned, paid and shared media streams ― to optimize conversions and KPIs. And build necessary resources to execute. Build relationships, not links. Make it matter. Make it count ― with rich, relevant, timely, thoughtful content. Early and often.

Are you ready to tell your story?

Mindfulness is the Message

timeWhen we are mindful, deeply in touch with the present moment, our understanding of what is going on deepens, and we begin to be filled with acceptance, joy, peace and love. – Thich Nhat Hanh

I was chatting with an old pal recently, and he quipped, “You know, Elaine, you seem very high on this social-media-from -inside-out concept.  Perhaps you should focus on that.”  He was referring to empowering internal teams to serve as social media promoters.

Well, I began to ponder it a bit and realized–good idea, but probably easier said than done. I saw a recent Gallup study that indicated more than 85% of employees are unhappy with their current jobs. Employees and managers reported feeling stress or boredom as the two most common experiences throughout the workday. The high cost to employers is absenteeism, burnout, lost productivity and disengagement. Certainly, if your employees are not engaged, they are most likely not going to be the most passionate brand advocates.

So, maybe inside out is the right notion.  But, we must start—not inside the business—but inside each individual.  Satisfaction does not just happen—Mr. Jagger taught us that.  However, many from my friend’s generation might say, “You pay them to make it their business.”  The truth is there appears to be something missing. It’s not something that can be filled in with a couple of posters on the wall, free donuts on Friday, or a holiday potluck.  It requires something deeper and more profound—a deliberate shift in consciousness.

Mindfulness—it’s about being fully present and engaged in the moment and taking responsibility for what’s working, what’s not and your reactions to it. This is the radical personal epiphany I have had in the past six months—which has changed the way I perceive everything.  I think we all exist so much of the time on autopilot—particularly at work. We blame others for our predicaments and often feel powerless. Or, we get into a tragic rhythm of “just getting through the day.”  No wonder we feel cranky and demoralized. Or, we are constantly worrying what else we should be doing at any given point in time. Or, we’re anxious about politics, about what the boss thinks, potential layoffs, the other gal’s promotion— you name it—all things over which we have no control. It’s a recipe for emotional mayhem.

To plug into the creative juice and to joy, we need to cultivate clarity, communication, peace — and consciousness. Plus, a little fun. That may be what Google and Zappos have been able to foster in their environments.

However, the first step is to get clear about who you are. Make sure you know you, what you are about, and what success will look like when you get there. Sounds easy enough, but hey, as my experience has shown, this is probably the hardest part. 

Next post – we’ll review some easy ways to begin living more mindfully. Mindfulness 101 . . . ways to start now. Let me know what you think.

Letting Go.

Roses_3_1.0

“Faith consists in believing what reason cannot.”  

– Voltaire

On Saturday, we honored the memory of Everett E. Gantz Jr. with a quiet, traditional Episcopal memorial service.  After nearly 89 years on this earth, my father was still an enigma to many— and to me in many ways. Few truly knew the man behind the stoic, Midwestern-chiseled facade— and the charismatic artist/wife of more than 50 years.  Thankfully, my dear sister Melissa gave a lovely, instructive “reflection” that filled gaps and hearts.

The loss is palpable—and beginning with my mother’s devastating stroke in January 2010, the grieving process has been a lingering one.

Plus, as a single, working mother of two growing boys, remembering to “put the oxygen mask on first” is a constant effort—and a daily focus of my mindfulness practice. However, I am certainly no role model for the “sandwich generation,” and I guarantee you that I still get tangled up in the roughage, as it were.  Still, I have come to understand that the frustrating stubbornness and vitriol I have encountered on “both sides of the bun” often mask the poignant vulnerabilities that quite frequently melt my heart.

Mastin Kipp, one of my favorite daily inspirational mentors, says, “When you let go and admit it, accept that you have moments of being a mess, and you share that feeling at times with the rest of us, then you can step into a larger, freer life.”

So, with another Mother’s Day behind us and a new normal dawning, I have revisited something I wrote several years ago for my mom:

Letting go.

No need to give to feel anymore.

Her bare spirit shines — less the veneer.
Without speech, without talk
Now real.

Transcending words.
The essence of her soul.
Awareness without comprehension,
Cognition, no.

She looks at me finally – and actually sees.

Letting go of need.
Content to be.
Helpless though.
Fights her wheeled prison.
Her body knows now
To bridge the chasm.

There between this Scylla and Charybdis.

And yet he still clings.
Together alone.
Denies to suppress — but never go home.

Letting go of control.
But the seizures defy
The years and the secrets
He insists to know why.

Anger. Passion. Pain.

A stone cold wall.
What a loss — so far.
Tear us apart and we fall.

Oh, to let love  . .  .

So, letting go.

–Elaine

Are You Content?

let goIt’s hard to believe I started writing this blog  five years ago. Seems like five months in many ways—and yet, so much has changed and at breakneck speed.  The trailblazers along the social-media super highway—accelerators such as Chris Brogan, Brian Solis, Beth Kanter and Clay Shirky—continue to inspire and challenge my thinking as they constantly reinvent, re-calibrate and re-conceptualize their own approaches to social media, their audiences, the web and their own livelihoods. It is, indeed, an ever-changing frontier out there . . .well, out here, as well.

Where are we five years later? Where am I? Good question.

I suspect I am inordinately philosophical as I review the past five years today. Such monumental milestones. Such enormous challenges. Such “opportunities for growth.” “What doesn’t kill you will make you stronger.” Kelly Clarkson? Well, I believe Friedrich Nietzsche said it first.

Having just returned from another day of waiting in the hospital to hear news about a gravely ill parent, I am considering the past five years even more pensively.  Just moments ago, I was straightening the few sparse gray hairs dancing across my emaciated father’s damp, ashen forehead as I watched him fight for every shallow breath.

The weight of the past few years as a single mom has been palpable —encompassing my mother’s death a year a half ago after complications from a massive stroke—as well as other daunting challenges.  Let’s just say, life has been messy. However, thank goodness, the learning has been rich and the clarity gleaming beyond the fog. Fortunately, I have been open to it. Not just about the social media stuff, mind you—but most everything, really— life, love, the way I tick, and  my relationship to all of it—media, circumstances, feelings, places, people . . . That’s the good part.

“I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me

and 90% how I react to it.” 

― Charles R. Swindoll

This awareness is informing my writing, as well. Hence, I have arrived at this very blog post. In fact, I now think our relationship to our content is probably more important than the content itself.  In this new media, mega-sphere world, we have admittedly become obsessed with our gadgets—with the act of communicating. As Sherry Turkle says in Alone Together, we are too busy communicating to really connect.

Ironically, we began this social journey with rabid focus on the technology—the latest whiz-bang toy du jour. What will we do with Twitter? Instagram? Yada? Yada? Then, we moved to “content marketing.” We’re all about the content. The what. Serve it up in giant scoops of frothy, delicious digital goodness—early and often to satisfy Google’s ravenous, insatiable appetites. Businesses and thought leaders have been maniacal about producing “the right content” with the right words at the right time. SEO-yea!  Maximizing, masticating and matriculating . . .

But, now, I think it’s really and truly about relating.  Getting to the heart of the matter, right?  Who are we? What are we about?  Not another refill of the cloying Kool-Aid. After all, what does really matter?

Am I conscious? Am I present?  Am I paying attention? No more facade, thank you.

What does this mean to our marketing plans? Not sure. And more important, what does this mean to our relationships—whether they are with friends, romantic partners, business partners, parents, children, subordinates, siblings, superiors, colleagues, employees, customers, shareholders, vendors, service technicians, teachers, neighbors, customers, students, etc.  . . . or the person behind us in line at Target? Anyone.  You? It means being fully present, in the present—in the relationship.  (And I don’t mean with your phone, but that’s another post.) In fact, the truth is there will come time when . . .

The words don’t matter, because we cannot hear them.

The affectations, witty banter and posh color choices don’t matter, because we cannot see them.

And what matters is simply spirit—being there.

Life coach Martha Beck says, “Little miracles begin happening to you whenever you turn toward your right life – even if it’s in the middle of the muck and mire. Small miracles turn into big ones.” We just need to pay attention.

So, once again, I ask the question, are you content?

Creating Content. Inspiring Results.

RECENT PROJECT HIGHLIGHTS:

Romancing the Pants  | HAGGAR CLOTHING CO.

Haggar Content Elaine Gantz WrightWhen Joseph Marion Haggar, Sr. started the Haggar Company in 1926, the most prominent apparel manufacturers on the East Coast said, “Haggar can’t make clothes in Texas, and he won’t last one year!”  Today, it’s clear that more than 87 years of persistent innovation and keen ingenuity have certainly proved them wrong.  As one of the apparel industry’s most durable brands, Haggar has maintained a stable market position for almost a century—which provides a fertile ground for new creative energy and expansion to take root.

Led by apparel impresario, Rich Honiball, Haggar’s SVP of marketing, licensing and e-commerce, the Perfecting Our Craft Campaign has reignited the 87-year-old Haggar brand from the inside out—supporting Haggar sales, merchandising, and design partners in crafting creative strategies— not just building individual packages and promotions.  I had the privilege of helping weave the Haggar “back story” or essence into the venerable American menswear label through the fine-tuning of a compelling, fully integrated brand voice.  Now, the process continues as we interpret the story, bolster the brand,  and engage the Haggar man with various media—including web, email,  Football Hall of Fame events, fashion industry initiatives, social media, blogs, Sports Illustrated and even Mike & Mike radio spots on ESPN.  So, don’t just sit there, #GetAPair.

Discovering “A New Nation” | BENEVOLENT MUSIC

Benevolent MusicTexas and California-based Benevolent Music presents the world premiere of A New Nation,” the captivating new opera based on the biblical conflict between Jacob and Esau at the Fort Worth Community Art Center’s Scott Theatre Sept. 20 -22. Directed by Dr. Rick Piersall, opera director at Abilene Christian University, and conducted by Dr. David Thye, director of the Fort Worth Symphony Chorus and conducting chair at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, “A New Nation” stars tenor Samuel Cook as Jacob and baritone Daniel Lickteig as Esau.

Over the past month, I have been consulting with artistic director Mark Peterson on building a content marketing strategy to introduce his organization, vision, collaboration, as well as his world premiere work to Texas with five performances scheduled over two weeks in Abilene and Fort Worth. Tactics include integrated social media content, targeted promotions, video, inside-out campaigns leveraging production relationships, radio spots/interviews, and PPC advertising. Visit to https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/cal/34320 to purchase tickets. Read more about the production at Benevolent Music Notes; engage on Facebook – Facebook.com/benevolentmusic, Follow us on Twitter @MusicBenevolent and #ANewNation.

“A NEW NATION” PRESS RELEASE

WRR 101.1 Radio Spots

Triune Web Content

Building Success | TRIUNE GENERAL CONTRACTOR

Headquartered in Dallas, Texas with regional offices servicing the El Paso, Shreveport, Seattle, and Washington D.C. areas, Triune is a nimble, customer-riveted general contractor with a palpable passion for excellence. Since 1997, the team at Triune has been committed to exceeding customer expectations with unsurpassed levels of quality and service. Combining a national vision with regional responsiveness and local know-how, Triune is uniquely positioned to outperform the competition and needed a website that effectively communicated this capability and moxie. I worked with CEO/CFO Vince Fudzie to produce the necessary content to drive results.

TRIUNE WEBSITE

Talk to me about creating content to help drive your results.
Send me a note – and we will connect.

Remembering Ann Cushing Gantz

Ann Cushing GantzIt’s difficult to believe my mom left this earth one year ago today–after a long struggle with the aftermath of devastating stroke. No matter how difficult the journey, life is never really the same after your mother has left your world. Remembering you today, Mom. Once again, here is the poem you asked that we read at your funeral . . . and another from me.  Love, e.

When Earth’s Last Picture Is Painted
By Rudyard Kipling

When Earth’s last picture is painted
And the tubes are twisted and dried
When the oldest colors have faded
And the youngest critic has died
We shall rest, and faith, we shall need it
Lie down for an aeon or two
‘Till the Master of all good workmen
Shall put us to work anew
And those that were good shall be happy
They’ll sit in a golden chair
They’ll splash at a ten league canvas
With brushes of comet’s hair
They’ll find real saints to draw from
Magdalene, Peter, and Paul
They’ll work for an age at a sitting
And never be tired at all.
And only the Master shall praise us.
And only the Master shall blame.
And no one will work for the money.
No one will work for the fame.
But each for the joy of the working,
And each, in his separate star,
Will draw the thing as he sees it.
For the God of things as they are!

Glitter Light ShineSpinning Rhythms of Delight Fantastic
By Elaine

 

Transition comes always in motion.
Summer and fall down again.
The cycle repeating so certain,
Who am I less the chagrin?

Fractured yet still—unbroken.
So this is together as one,
For it is all not forgotten.
I go forward in faith alone.

The newness of year’s end beckons
To lead my discoveries of soul.
Joy finally—that  place so vulnerable
Peace on purpose—so whole.

I’m not sure how to rest anymore.
In this place of where I prepare
What I see is now just a wisp
Of a memory on gossamer air.

I will follow the lead of my truest heart
Unfold what is next without fear.
Not a nod to the doubts of others.
Only for what is genuine and clear.

He was a mirror to my deepest ache.
Unconscious, I acquiesced.
Releasing all that, myself I cherish.
Through salted tears, I am blessed.

Remembering . . . there is time to heal.
Now, here I am—flawed and free.
Truth – such the journey uncommon.
Facing lesson’s ubiquity.

Steer no more. Press, push or pull.
In heart-fragile release Divine.
Spinning rhythms of delight fantastic.
Let  that glitter starlight shine.

For Facebook, is it really about time?

They say it’s about time—that’s Timeline, the new Facebook interface. But at the end of the day or week or month, I suspect it’s also very much about money.

I have been encountering many questions about what Facebook’s newest alchemy means to marketing and business—but somehow, we are all sticking with it and muddling through. The impact on our brands, businesses and personal communications remains to be fully assessed, but in the meantime, a little Facebook insight can help you navigate the sometimes murky online waters. As Mark Zuckerberg’s latest strategic offensive – particularly addressing Google+, this metamorphosis may have you more than a little perplexed, befuddled or even impatient with the ubiquitous Facebook phenomenon. That’s OK. Still, 50 percent of the more than 800 million registered users visit daily for an average of 14 minutes. That’s ample time to get in line.

In so many ways, Facebook is still the Internet juggernaut—even as sites such as Pinterest seem to be gaining momentum on the starboard bow. One of my sassiest Facebook pals posted recently, “If Pinterest is wrong, I don’t want to be right.” Interestingly, Pinterest is definitely doing something right—carving out a new niche or paradigm that is more about following content and less about “connecting” with people. Hey, let’s hear it for content! And with Facebook’s recent purchase of Instagram for $1 billion, Zuckerberg is definitely becoming much more image conscious.

Nevertheless, the latest series of changes signals that Facebook is about people sharing with their friends—not as much about brands sharing with people. Actually, Facebook is challenging brands to more effectively align with Facebook’s underlying user-experience philosophy and gestalt. As an early impresario of the “like” campaign for clients, I have mixed feelings about the latest changes that eliminate forced “like” landing pages to drive brand engagement. Intuitively, it was always a great concept, yet the reality produced questionable brand value with respect to “like” relevance, stickiness, and measurable brand ROI. And from a technical perspective, Facebook did not really make this kind of campaign an easy endeavor.

Brand pages can still offer action-focused, tabbed content–located along the middle bar. It is simply no longer an option to set it as a compulsory initial landing page to drive “likes.” As a visual junky, myself, I love the new masthead image bar. There are so many high-impact options to available for brands in that prime real estate above the fold. Just don’t include blatant contact information, such as phone numbers or arrows pointing to your flashing URL, or the “Faceboook police” may be knocking on your screen!

Back to the balance sheet–as Facebook has diminished the prominence of the “like” page and newsfeed presence, it has enhanced social advertising, pay-per-click and targeting opportunities. But, think about. Those are the money shots. Newsfeed exposure will still be important for brands–yet a harder nut to crack. We’ll have to work smarter creating engaging content and re-calibrating our publishing cadences since response currency, re-posting, and commenting will count more than the number of fans in determining message impressions and frequency. From a macro perspective, the latest changes have both expanded and refined the ways people can interact with each other on Facebook.

Here are the real tent poles:

Real-time interaction — Increased emphasis on real-time interactions with the introduction of the “Friend News Ticker,” in the upper right corner, which also integrates Twitter.

Image Focus — Larger spaces for pictures and video enhance the user experience and better prioritize the things users see in their news feeds. Plus, you can rank and filter some content, but for the most part, Facebook still decides!

List Maintenance — The new “List” feature, “borrowed” from Google+ and to some extent, Twitter, allows you to segment, tag, share and sort what specific friend categories can see on your wall. This basically pre-sorts audiences by actions and keywords. And yes, it’s all about enhancing advertising segmentation and sales. “But what about privacy?” you ask. Guess that’s another post.

Implications for Brands and Business:

1. Creativity and Activity — After one week of implementing the new Newsfeed, impressions (or reach) per post were down 33 percent in a study done by EdgeRank Checker. But likes and comments were up 17 percent, so it looks like Facebook is changing the dynamic as envisioned.

2. Frequency — Brands will likely need to alter tactics—publishing more engaging, relevant, fresher content more frequently to drive greater interactions rather than one-click passive likes/fans. If the average current fan access ratio is 10% or less, reach and impressions will take a short-term dip until we better understand and respond to changes in Facebook’s filtering algorithm.

2. Pictures and Videos Images are becoming larger on the page and much more important. If we need to get fans more engaged and spending more time, we’ll need to create and use more visuals more frequently.

3. App It — There will be more emphasis on building Apps that provide functionality and value to Facebook users to gain access to the Ticker, for instance. One idea might be loyalty points, interactive functionality, or useful tools, such as store locators to increase impressions and re-posting/sharing.

We’ll have to watch. We are already hearing rumblings that from some users that Facebook is becoming too complicated, too labor-intensive, or too intrusive. This is understandable. Many of us do not want to work that hard. We have enough to do in our lives. This won’t be the last Facebook iteration, and the impact is still unclear. However, it’s a platform you cannot ignore. The best strategy is to discover ways you can seize the opportunity.

What do you think of Timeline?

Buzz Pill?

Is there a magic social media pill? We all seem to be looking for it.

As a professional riding the social media tidal wave, I’m engaged—in witty Facebook banter, of course, but I’m also digging deeper—doing some serious soul-searching about the role of social media in marketing, how best to execute it, how to manage it, and how to leverage its power to make clients and associates successful and happy. I guess taking a hard look at my path is sort of a mirror to my life—as some of my most enlightened friends would say.

Yet, it’s surprisingly tough—on all levels. With the ubiquity of mobile phones, iPads, Nooks, etc., social media is embedded in every fiber of our awareness. Personally, I feel unhinged without my Apple. (Remember Eden?) With something so pervasive, so woven into the fabric of our daily behavior, one would think clarity and monetization would be a cinch. But not so fast. It can be difficult to put the buzz back in the bottle! It is not enough to simply offer up content and post updates.

Brand advocates and marketers who want to take advantage of social media are encountering a tangled web. They are finding they need to design a fully integrated program of active and ongoing engagement, connecting customers with the actual human beings in their organizations who can meet their needs. It’s part Marketing 101 and part online alchemy, I suspect. Gosh, maybe it’s really not about the technology at all. It’s the humanity. Could it be that the stuff that happens offline is what really makes social media sing?

For instance, Dell currently engages with customers through what they call the “four pillars” of the company’s social media ecosystem:

  • 100,000 employees
  • Dell.com–ratings, reviews and customer feedback relating to Dell products and services
  • Dell communities, such as IdeaStorm, a platform launched in 2007 that is designed to give voice to customers and enable the sharing of ideas
  • External platform communities, including Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter

That first pillar represents one of the biggest changes in Dell’s use of social networking, lately—and possibly the most powerful. Although social media initiatives began with public relations teams at Dell, employees now play the role of brand ambassador across the company, notes Buck. This requires a purposeful, dedicated engagement plan, as well as policy development and training to ensure that the employees who will be representing Dell clearly understand company guidelines regarding the appropriate use of social media.“Our employees play a vital role in our social media outreach, and, to date, we have trained more than 8,000 Dell employees to engage with customers through social media,” says Michael Buck, executive director of global online marketing. “Dell’s Social Media and Communities University is a key enabler for the company to leverage the power of 100,000-plus employees as brand ambassadors, confident that they have been empowered to use it the right way.”

Perhaps the most effective social media strategy is to train your company’s employees to use social media—whether 3 or 300,000, fully integrating the support process and empowering interaction with customers/prospects on behalf of the company. This has not only spread the marketing buzz, so to speak, it has also building the brand across the farthest reaches of the vast social media psycho-sphere. To infinity and beyond!

Where are you going?