Lost Generation

This video hit home with me because I do not want to be a member of a lost generation but rather member of a generation that changes the world.  

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SocialDreamium

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I decided to take a minute to highlight my latest endeavor, joining the team at SocialDreamium. SocialDreamium is a privately-held Milwaukee-based company committed to building strong web-based communities centered around a companies products and services.  Started in October of last year by my brother Ryan Graves, and quickly expanding. I jumped on board a little over a month ago to help author the blog, (Get Audience, Get Going, where you will often see my posts from this site as well), assist with client writing (as we start to build a client base), and editorial assistance to what eventually will be a SocialDreamium book entitled,”The Dream in Action”. (I’ll keep you posted!)

At SocialDreamium, we believe in the power of the collective social web. It’s what we love and have a passion for, and want to help others understand.. and then utilize for their brand.  We also love people and we see the internet as a way to meet more people and create value for these businesses. We work to create two way relationships and conversation between our clients and their customers.  I hav posted before about online communities, and what that means. SocialDreamium dives into this concept and works to first create and then managing these communities. It is so much about listening and contributing to the networks that exist, and we help our companies to do this. We also help companies to develop a successful blog for their brand and build a social web presence that they can stand on.  Through these outlets we allow our clients to grow a relationship with their customers.  We also now have a larger team that allows us to build web based software to help you manage your community.  Currently, the SocialDreamium team is made up of Ryan (in Milwaukee), David Abrahams and Dien Nguyen in Sydney, Australia and myself in San Diego. We’re still growing and looking for great writers and developers to join our ranks…(e-mail taylor@socialdreamium.com)

SocialDreamium currently has a working relationship with SOHO Magazine (out of Milwauke), and our clientel includes of SOHObiztube.com and budgetpulse.com — check ’em out! It’s all very exciting I know… just wanted to keep you all in the know, and I will keep you posted as this exciting new start up gains speed!

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User Friendly Simplicity

Have you ever noticed that the best things in life are usually the most simple?

While watching the chargers game a few weeks back (the last game of the regular season that led us to the play offs, woo-hoo!) we started talking about the simple things in life that.. simply.. can’t be beat. Apple products  are often centered around “touch” — very simple, the In-N-Out Burger Menu (the simple and few choices are a beautiful thing!), Google products are centered around the “find” theme, and again, very simple – very successful. See these illustrations taken from Eric Burke’s blog post about simplicity.

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I think that in today’s world customers are over the over-complicated. They want something simple that they can figure out how to use.  A product has to have a certain amount of worth in order for us to find time in our busy lives to sit down and take the time to learn a new tool – the easier it is to use, the more committed a consumer will become to incorportaing the products use into their daily lives. We want simple, easy to understand and efficient.  While some may associate simplicity with easy on the creator side — this is simply wrong.  Simplicity often requires much more work on the production side. A lot of thought and planning must go into what will be MOST efficient for the average user and then easiest to translate into product form. The genius of simplistic products is what amazes me. For every brand, application, software product, and customer facing product — this truth can be applied. Though it may be a specific industry related tool – there is always a level of simplistic, user-friendliness that can be applied, and I would encourage creators to focus on the importantance of the aspect of simplicity for customers today.

Google is my favorite example – because they really keep it simple, and understand the value of “less is more”.  Google’s homepage stays pure and simple, and other tech companies are starting to get it as well. It’s innovations biggest paradox: We demand more stuff in our lives, with more features, function adn power, and we also demand it remain as easy as 1,2,3 to use! As I said before – the technology that is the simpliest to use is often the most difficult to create.  Fast Company says, “the technology that powers Google’s search engine is, of course, anything but simple. In a fraction of a second, the software solves an equation of more than 500 million variables to rank 8 billion Web pages by importance. But the actual experience of those fancy algorithms is something that would satisfy a Shaker: a clean, white home page, typically featuring no more than 30 lean words; a cheery, six-character, primary-colored logo; and a capacious search box. It couldn’t be friendlier or easier to use.” As a creator, remember that no matter how much complexity you are able to fit into your product, at the end of the day, the consumer doesn’t care — they just want it to be easy and they want it to work!!

How can you cut out complexity from your product on the customer facing side? How can you make your brand, product, creation less complicated, and more simple? How can your creation be more like the In-N-Out Burger menu? hmmm

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Action

I watched this video of CD Vann of SOHO Magazine and SOHObiztube.com on ActionsTalk.com, and had to share it with you. I especially appreciate the beginning of the interview when CD explains how she started her magazine, SOHO Magazine out of Milwaukee.  For those of you who aren’t familiar, ActionsTalk is a site that helps bring attention to start up businesses. They have helped cultivate startup communities in non-hub cities. It consist of Ryan Graves and Blake Samic, it’s great to hear the stories of successful and up an coming business people via ActionsTalk.

“Goals are dreams we convert to plans and take action to fulfill.” – Zig Ziglar

Cd’s story of how she started SOHO Magazine and SOHObiztube.com, and this quote really highlight how important it is to turn goals into movement. Cd was lucky she had her friend George to push her to take action on a dream that she had been holding onto for over a year. As we just finished talking about New Years Resolutions, and setting high goals, it’s so so important for us to remember that writing down goals on a post it and sticking them to our monitor is only going to get a so far.  These plans and good intentions that will all have are nothing without our actions and movement. Don’t wait for a friend to put you out there and push you into action, because it may not happen.  We aren’t all as lucky to have people like that in our lives. Don’t wait to share your ideas with someone, and don’t wait to act on them.  Done is better than perfect.” Set your plan, and take action on your goals. You can always adjust later.  I think this applies to companies that hesitate to launch new endeavors, because they are unsure of the chances for sucess or the ROI on their idea. It can apply to industries being shy about taking on new methods and techniques, and sticking to traditional ways as a default.  It can apply to your position and work, and never presenting your great ideas to your team because you’re nervous about how it will be received.   Just think… if everyone who had great ideas always shared them, how many more success stories would there be? If Blake and Ryan hadn’t acted on their dream of ActionsTalk.com, they and I wouldn’t be able to share Cd’s story with you.

So as you log your dreams and goals this January, ask yourself how long you’ve been wanting these things — and what is taking you so long to put the first food forward.

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New Years Resolutions – Think Big This Year!

I’ve been thinking a lot about new years resolutions lately (obviously), and trying to find the time to write an amazing post about the new years resolutions we all make and break each January. I wanted to develop some thoughts on how we actually accomplish our goals this year- and make resolutions we can stick with. But I’ve been realizing how many people will tell you to tone down your resolutions to make them REACH-ABLE, DO-ABLE, and REALISTIC.  So I’ve changed my thinking, and I say… what fun are goals if they are easily within your reach??

I wanted to take a minute to encourage you all to fight that mind set this year. Don’t move your goals inside the box so that they are attainable. Better to make an unreachable goal and get closer to it, than to set one below the bar, and cheat yourself out of that “ah-ha” sense of accomplishment that makes it all worth it.  This new years – set a HIGH goal, give yourself a goal you may never quite reach, and then push yourself to get as close to it as you can. Baby steps are fine, that’s often necessary, and I’m not knocking the reach-able goals but they need to lead to something more, something big this year. It’s 2009!!

What’s something you think you’ll never be able to do? For me it’s run a marathon. Maybe I’ll run a 10K early this year, and if I get really ambitious maybe by next December I can find the time to train for a half. Friends… lets be honest — I may never run a marathon in my life, but if I set that as a goal this year (despite the fact that I’m completely convinced that I can’t) maybe I’ll get a little closer to it than I would otherwise.

This new years, think big! Be forward thinking and postive. Give yourself a good goal this time around, and then lets see how close you can get to it in ’09.  We may surprise ourselves.

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I wanted to add to my “new years post”  after reading a great post by my brother Ryan. He writes about how important it is to acknowlege the lessons that 2008 tought us. I commented on his post by reflecting on the important lesson that I have learned this year, going through a layoff and finding new employment. 

A big lesson for me in 2008: Stay Active– if you’re always doing something, you’ll be doing something right!

I learned that if you remember that you’re awesome  and you keep confidence and positivity close. Keep your “inner drive” going, if you will, then you’ll land in a good spot! I learned so much this year about motivation, about going after something that you want, about how much a mind set can change your situation, and how important it is to stay positive and forward thinking AND moving.  I love to chat about the truths I learned this year, mostly in the past 3 months.

2008 was a good year. Ryan’s post is a great reminder to take it’s lessons with us into 2009!!

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Community…not to be confused with Social Media.

Social Media can help foster communities, but it isn’t a community in and of itself.  Social media simply allows conversation around certain content. For example – if multiple people post comments about the new Verizon – Blackberry Storm, to say what they do and do like about the phone – this is conversation centered around a common theme or object. It does not mean, however, that a community is created.   In a recent post by Rachel Happe, “Social Media is not Community”, Rachel lays down the facts that these ideas are often confused.  She outlines communities – what makes them and what their characteristics are.  In doing this, we can separate the ideas and realize that communities can be built, they allow communication, they are continuous and they are based around content.  We must then see social media as a tool that can be used for your brand or company to help the building of a community.

NOW…Realizing that you may not already have a community where you thought you did,  that it was simply discussion around the content of your brand/company etc, the next step is to figure out how you go about building this network or community. Focus on building community first, and then on how to encourage discussion through social media for your community.  In a Now Is Gone post The Seven Principles of Community Building there were a few I thought were the most crucial.

1. Provide value, create content
You need to give your community something value-able to talk about. The content is obviously step one, and as the community continues to grow, and as you work to build it up you should be focused on more than numbers. You should be focused on keeping the value and content evolving. This should be the first focus of any company or brand looking to build a network — you must always be giving valuable content to your users.

2. Participating in your community.
Yes – you create content and put it out there, but if you don’t comment and give feedback on that content with your community – it wont work as well.

3. Don’t talk AT your community.
It is outdated to talk to your audience. Consumers/Users don’t appreciate that kind of marketing or information anymore. They wanted to talk with you, they don’t want to be talked at. This is all about control. You can’t control your community, you need to provide content and then observe and join discussion around it.

Think about it…
What communities would you consider yourself a part of? Are you a frequent commenter, do you join discussion often? Try to draw the line in your own action – are you just part of a discussion – or would you consider yourself a member of certain communities online?

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I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year!

Merry Christmas everyone! Have a happy holiday with loved ones!!

“I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round, as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.”   – Charles Dickens

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