Thursday, January 12, 2012

Building on Affinities: "Weird done right"

The last blog post reflected on different social skills people have who are all using social media, whether for personal connections or business marketing purposes. Some experts advise "use social media for being social" or "act as if at a cocktail party." When it comes to personal or business matters online or in-person, people tend to gravitate toward individuals (those fronting organizations or not) who are interesting.

So in cultivating affinities, one may find these two blog posts by Jessica Hagy helpful as well as entertaining. How To Be More Interesting (In 10 Simple Steps) includes the tip: "Embrace your innate weirdness," while Why Weird is Wonderful (and Bankable) claims: "Weirdness: it’s great for parties." She writes that "weird done right ... is captivating and attractive" and "weirdness fosters community" as one finds "others who understand, empathize, and share what you thought was an isolating trait."

Hagy's points remind me of Seth Godin's work, described in the blog post Tribes will form around ideas, leaders. If someone will let their inner weirdness out, they may find an existing or forming tribe, making anything possible within their personal or business lives.

Monday, January 9, 2012

"Use social media for being social": Why? How?

We all have differing levels and styles when it comes to social skills. Some of us are socially awkward, some avoid social interaction as much as possible, some are social butterflies, some can pull anyone out of their shell, some we avoid at all costs. Yet people with all these types of social skills are involved in social media.

So when some social media experts advise, "treat social media like you're at a cocktail party," what should you do? Many people would ideally like to be the person folks never want to tear themselves away from at a party because of the enlightening and positive interchange. They seldom want to be the person who spouts uncommunicative concepts, monopolizes the conversation, or makes people feel time spent with you is a test of their emergency response systems. So why do so many people sometimes find themselves in those positions?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Looking beyond Affinities: "Hire Someone You Hate"

While we often leverage affinities -- areas of common interest and people with whom we share connections -- in some cases it may be advantageous to go outside of our affinities when it comes to recruiting employees or volunteers. A case for this is made in the blog post "Hire Someone You Hate" by The Evil HR Lady.

The main point is that a competitive advantage can exist for those who work with people who see the world differently than they do, offering differing and diverse perspectives. However, when it comes to recruitment and selection, people often look for like-minded individuals. The author cautions that "different doesn't mean disagreeable." Additionally, it is the responsibility of leaders to listen to all the varying perspectives being presented -- by like-minded and different thinkers -- and then use all the information at hand to make their own decisions.

The author warns of negative consequences that come from closing yourself off from folks who have solid skills in the field, yet you can't imagine spending any time with them outside of the office. The author writes: "You need someone who has some different experiences than yours. Someone who can explain to you that not all clients love what you love and brings qualities and perspectives you lack. You need someone who will point out that even though you love baseball games, not everyone else does and therefore your marketing shouldn't be limited to supporting the local teams. This means that they can attract clients you cannot."

Monday, September 26, 2011

Affinity case study: Brand affinity from teenager to titan

Today we look at Lee Einsidler, philanthropist and CEO of Sidney Frank Importing Company, Inc., a company associated with some of the biggest brands in its industry. I had the privilege of interviewing Einsidler this summer for a magazine and online article. It was fascinating to hear how his affinity for a particular brand that emerged while he was a teenager later developed into an amazing career built on building brand affinity.

One of seven children, Einsidler was a teenager growing up in Long Island in a family of modest means; his father put bread on the table running a liquor store. Working there during his teens, Einsidler got to know the sales representatives coming in, each brand of bottled beverage, and the company image behind it. So it’s little surprise he would continue in the family business. But as a teenager, Einsidler’s vision was bigger than operating a small family-run store. He wanted to work for Seagram’s, which was the largest distiller of alcoholic beverages in the world.

While Einsidler believed in his heart that he had a head for business, his high-school teacher was telling him he’d never amount to anything. So, in spite of his teacher’s judgment, he decided to take a few community college classes in sales and marketing, and then a few more, until he completed a full year of credits. Then, buoyed by that experience, he eventually went on to earn a bachelor’s degree with honors in 1978. He then used one of his father’s contacts to secure an interview at Seagram’s headquarters in New York and landed a job there. He fulfilled his teenage dream; however, no one could anticipate what the future would hold for him.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Building affinity via conversation: 'Rapport Talk' and 'Affinity and Beyond'

In my blog post titled "'What is affinity?': Networking event brings affinity to light" I capture a conversation describing how one can identify an affinity. Related to that is a post by Dr. Jeremy Sherman that I recently came across that outlines what he describes as conversation that is 'Shoptalk' vs 'Affinity and Beyond.'

Dr. Sherman provides detailed analysis, along with example conversations, in his Ambigamy blog post titled "The affinity paradox: How does eye-to-eye become eye-for-an-eye in casual conversation?" Dr. Sherman's 'Shoptalk' conversation involves comparing experiences without the need for agreement; however, 'Affinity and Beyond' conversation develops deeper bonds as there is an exchange of information involving shared goals and common vision as if on a journey together.

Reading Dr. Sherman's blog I was reminded of a fascinating book I read years ago by sociolinguist Dr. Deborah Tannen regarding gender differences in conversations, including what she categorizes as 'Report Talk' vs. 'Rapport Talk.' Dr. Tannen's book You Just Don't Understand: Women and Men in Conversation describes how 'Report Talk' conversation is generally used by men to convey information and establish status, while 'Rapport Talk' conversation is generally used by women to convey information and build connection.

Over the years, Tannen's book has made a world of difference to me in improving the effectiveness of my personal and professional conversation among predominately male affinity groups and predominately female affinity groups, and her book's content continues to remain relevant today. Sherman's blog adds another level of insight into what we may instinctively feel as being 'on the inside' or 'on the outside' following a verbal exchange, and the conversation queues that lead to that feeling.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Employee affinity groups can help diversify workplace

While affinity groups form naturally in the work environment, a March 2009 article by Carmen Van Kerckhove explains how employee affinity groups can be aligned around an affinity for diversifying workplaces and charged with helping achieve business goals related to diversity.

Although Van Kerckhove has since moved on to other projects, as explained in her May 2010 farewell post on the blog she founded, continues and Van Kerckhove's article, titled "How Employee Affinity Groups Can Help You Recruit and Retain a Diverse Workforce," is worth a read. The full article is reprinted below.
How Employee Affinity Groups Can Help You Recruit and Retain a Diverse Workforce
By Carmen Van Kerckhove

It isn't surprising that employee affinity groups are a popular diversity tactic. They are easy to set up and inexpensive to run. And when they work well, they can help companies recruit and retain top diverse talent.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Affinity email: Affinity group needs and email services

Technology makes it easier than ever and at the same time complex to communicate with affinity groups. Your affinity contacts are growing increasingly educated and sophisticated and have developed expectations about their user experience as recipients of email messages and email newsletters. With high expectations and spam regulations, just one slip can obliterate a relationship.

When it comes to affinity email, what is the best email service provider for delivering messages and newsletters? Ideally, many community managers would say it is the service that matches the needs, interests, and technology level of a particular affinity group. However, from ongoing technology changes to evolving needs of affinity groups, the choice can be a moving target. Additionally, identifying, researching, and keeping up to date with the various email service providers can be time-consuming or costly. Email options may also be limited by budget, skill and comfort levels with technology, institutional policies, a one-size-fits-all approach by decision-makers, or other factors.

Thanks to Pamela Grow, I discovered Groundwire's 2011 Email Service Providers report that reviews a number of email providers that any individual, organization, or business may find helpful. However, it omits a provider that I've been test driving with one affinity group over the last two weeks. So, to add to that report data, this blog post includes my review of AWeber Communications email services.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Affinity case study: Gaming, gore, fans, and more

People often say: Do what you love and the money will come. James Silva enjoyed computer games but worked as a dishwasher to pay the bills. However, in 2007 after combining his love of gaming with his experience as a dishwasher, he was catapulted to fame as a celebrated independent game developer.

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The co-winner of Microsoft’s Dream Build Play competition, Silva was awarded a contract to publish his game “The Dishwasher: Dead Samurai” on Xbox LIVE® Arcade. That 2007 effort garnered him national recognition as “a one-man game maker” (Barbara Ortutay, Associated Press), “the most buzzed-about indie game developer of the moment” (Jason Killingsworth, Paste Magazine), and “the poster boy of Microsoft’s efforts to ‘democratize game development’” (Chris Kohler,

Silva has since relocated from his small Utica, NY, space to a larger Schenectady, NY, location that accommodates his growing team that’s helped promote his April 2011 follow-up release, “The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile” for Xbox 360®. While this release continues to please fans and critics alike, Silva’s games aren’t for everyone – “Vampire Smile” is rated Mature 17+ for “Blood and Gore” and “Violence” – and that’s the point. His work appeals to a niche market where he has gone deep and narrow, building on his original story line to bring his fans more of what they loved in “Dead Samurai.”

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Affinity group communications: Facebook posting tips

I administer or co-administer a number of institutional Facebook pages and groups, each targeting a different affinity group. Deciding when to post is always an issue. Ideally, one wants to post the right content at the right time to maximize communication and community-building within each constituent group.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

"What is affinity?": Networking event brings affinity to light

"I just have a quick question," said a woman as she slid into the seat next to me at a networking event. "What is affinity?"
    I replied, "Didn't you mention earlier tonight that you had a dog that passed away?"
    "Yes," she said, and began to smile a bit, pleased that I had remembered.
    "What kind of dog was it?" I asked.
    "A chocolate lab," she replied as her shoulders lifted up.
    "Are you a fan of chocolate labs or were you just into this dog?"
    "I love all dogs," she answered emphatically, her smile widening as she leaned toward me in anticipation of my next question.