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Social marketing earns, not buys attention, so have an opinion, be true to what you say, be of value, be open—above all, be human.

As markets become conversations, customer relationships and advertising models are changing for good. Passive consumption becomes active interaction. Monologue becomes dialogue. Control becomes collaboration. Customers are empowered, well informed, and connected. Companies are becoming more transparent whether they like it or not.

It's an environment in which the balance of effective communication shifts from being less about interruption to more about participation, less about delivering a message to more about being part of a conversation, less about what you say to people and more about what people are saying about you.

Career-MediaIt's an environment that operates to social principles—creating not subtracting value, serving a larger purpose than your own, being useful, and facilitating.

More human elements matter like having a point of view, being true to yourself and what you say, being open, honest, and transparent. Ford uses social media to "humanize the Ford brand and put consumers in touch with Ford employees," says Scott Monty, and the company regularly reaches out to bloggers for feedback and to encourage the spread of positive word of mouth.

Clothing and shoe company Zappos believes that its "culture is their brand" and use social media to create touch points throughout every area of its business and ensure customer service isn't just a department, it’s the entire company. Authenticity is the currency that encourages trust, involvement, and engagement. Authenticity is what turns an audience into a following.

Source: Jon Leuty Photo: Alicja Stolarczyk

Recently, we have been surrounded by much talk regarding women in the workforce. The conversations centered around, becoming a leader, not being categorized negatively by being strong, in-charge, and demanding respect. Some of these topics are very uncomfortable for us to discuss...very uncomfortable.

Why have conversations on women leaders, women supporting other women, and the perception of women in the workforce made us so uncomfortable? First off, we’d like to make it clear that we don't walk around complaining that we are women. In fact, we have often used being women to our advantage, as have many others. Who hasn't called into work once or twice and complained of 'women trouble' when really you just didn't feel like dealing with the day or had other obligations that took precedent but explaining those to a boss for a “personal day” is usually met with difficulty. We haven’t yet encountered a man who has been able to use that free pass, although we know plenty that suffer from PMS.

What has sent us reeling about this topic, is the emotion tied to it. If it hadn’t been for a recent experience, we may not have analyzed why 'we' women are always apologizing for our strengths and our accomplishments. Like, we should feel bad for being recognized for doing something amazing?

As women, we are nurturers and are consciously making sure others are comfortable, cared for, and feel at ease. This often translates into self-deprecation, insecurity, guilt, and resentment. We don't want to be seen as braggarts or proud, so we put ourselves down. Stop. Just stop it.

STOP APOLOGIZING for your accomplishments.

Stand up straight, look a person in the eye and say "thank you." 
You see, we actually have the advantage. As women, we are the first to acknowledge our weaknesses and work to correct them. We work harder because we have set incredibly high expectations for ourselves that we can only hope to achieve, likewise we have so many others depending on us. We know that we are judged by our looks, brains, and work/life balance and we work to be stellar in all of these areas. That’s a lot to think about when you just want to be successful like anyone else.
The point is, when you achieve something that you know you worked long and hard at, shout it to the rooftops, take to social media, hold a party, open some champagne, and don’t ever apologize for it. Ever.  

Being a manager and taking a vacation doesn't always mix, but it is possible to pull yourself away from your business to take a much-needed vacation. What's more, a vacation is necessary for hard workers because without work-life balance and perspective that a respite provides, you won’t remain an effective executive.

“I was that guy checking email at the beach–not a good thing,” says Scott Miller, an entrepreneur who in 2010 launched The Bee, a web-based financial application. “I just decided to take the risk,” during a month-long family vacation in New Zealand. Miller had absolutely no communication with his staff or clients.

“I gave my staff our itinerary, but I wasn’t going to make it easy for them to reach me. They handled issues on their own and made some great decisions,” he says.

Don’t feel ready to take the plunge and revamp your management style? Here are some tips to prepare you for your impending vacation: 

Familiarize Clients with Employees. Don’t let your e-mail auto-responder be the one to tell your customers who to contact while you’re away. Transparency is important, so let any clients you're currently working with know you'll be away and introduce them to who will be covering for you while you're gone.

Network. Network with other small firms in your industry and exchange resources when principals go on vacation. “It does require a high degree of trust to work with people who are occasionally your competitors,” says Powers.

Appoint Someone to Cover for You. Delegate your daily activities, one by one, to those who will remain in the office while you're away. Rob Jager, principal of Hedgehog consulting, advises: “Look for tasks that only you do. Ask yourself, is it critical that I do these tasks? Identify who on the team can perform them.”

Practice, Practice, Practice. “Practice being hands-off for longer and longer stretches, even when you’re in the office, to allow employees to get comfortable being in charge,” says Kate Koziol, president of K Squared Communications.

Prepare for the Worst. What’s the worst thing that could happen? Take this not as a rhetorical question but as a challenge requiring a detailed, documented response. “Put contingent action plans into place for what staff should do if something goes wrong,” says David Gammel, principal at High Context Consulting.

Do a Post-Mortem. Debrief your team and critique yourself so that your next vacation is even more successful. Miller says if his preparations for vacation fell short in one area, it was business development. “When I returned, the sales pipeline wasn’t as full as usual. I could have done a better job by loading the pipeline with more pre-sales activities.”

Your vacation away from your business gives you the chance to learn some big lessons. Prepare the office to that when you're out of it, you'll be able to vacation in peace.

Source: John Rossheim Photo: Piotr Bizior

The ability to motivate employees is one of the greatest skills an entrepreneur can possess. A lack of cash doesn't have to make it difficult to improve the company morale. With the help of great team leaders, build a culture and create a passionate, hard-working team that is as committed to growing and improving the company as its founders. Here's how:

Be Generous with Praise. Everyone wants it and it’s one of the easiest things to give. Plus, praise from the CEO goes a lot farther than you might think. Praise every improvement that you see your team members make.

Get Rid of Managers. Projects without project managers? That doesn’t seem right, but try it! Removing the project lead or supervisor and empowering your staff to work together as a team rather then everyone reporting to one individual can do wonders. Think about it. What’s worse than letting your supervisor down? Letting your team down! Allowing people to work together as a team, on an equal level with their co-workers, will often produce better projects faster. People will come in early, stay late, and devote more of their energy to solving problems.

Make Your Ideas Theirs. People hate being told what to do. Instead of telling people what you want done; ask them in a way that will make them feel like they came up with the idea. “I’d like you to do it this way” turns into “Do you think it’s a good idea if we do it this way?” 

If you own or operate a business, chances are you are working with clients on some level. It is very important that you develop long lasting relationships of trust and honesty with people so that you can retain their business and their loyalty.

There are a number of reasons why this is key in business. It applies to more than just clients though. It also applies to the people for whom and with whom you are working.

If your employees see you telling the truth, even when it is not easy or comfortable to do so, then you will build an incredible bond of trust with them. With that bond of trust will come more cooperation and motivation, which is exactly what the head of any company wants.

The lesson is clear. If you want your customers to remain loyal, you must earn and keep their trust. If you want a stronger team at work, you have to build a foundation of trust. This will quickly become your competitive advantage when it comes to business.

To begin, you must assume the best when it comes to the people with whom you are working. When something goes wrong, or when the other person disappoints you, start by assuming the best. Honor the other person you are dealing with. Keep your temper in check and try to figure out what can be done to fix the problem. Keep that crucial focus set on the future, and maintain the relationship that you need to. If you lose your temper and start the blame game, you may end up very embarrassed by your behavior once the situation calms down. After all, sometimes the situations we try to blame on others end up being rooted in our own mistakes.

When your customers are right, make sure that you stick up for them every chance you get. This is one key way to build trust–let them know that they are important enough to stand up for, even when it is not necessarily popular.

Next, do your best not to gossip. There is something very alluring, and maybe even a little satisfying, about sharing a negative tidbit. It may make you feel a bit superior, but you have to fight the urge to add to the passing of information behind people's backs. There are a few simple reasons for this. Negative gossip almost always gets back to the person you are discussing. That is just the nature of juicy, negative, sensationalized news. Just to make matters worse, the version that gets back to the person you discussed is usually worse than the version you shared.

Next, you need to learn to keep all of your business promises and claims. Nothing destroys trust faster than failing to keep your promises.
You tell a colleague that you will get back to him, and he sees it as a promise. It is completely up to you to follow through.

Do not get discouraged, if building that foundation with the people you work with takes time. Successful relationships are not established in one day-they are created subtly over time. Just as it takes more than one block to build a fortress, it takes more than one action to build trust. It takes a lot of blocks to get the results you want.

If you work to develop this key quality, you can become a better leader and manager, you can retain your employees, and you can keep your customers who want to buy from you over and over again for life.

Source: Ronald Pedactor is a veteran in the field of online marketing and has authored hundreds of articles relating to online marketing and search engine optimization. Photo: stock.xchng

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