Saturday, October 31, 2009

Speaking in Beautiful Virginia Beach

On October 8, I flew down to Virginia Beach to speak to the Hampton Roads chapter of the American Marketing Association about using LinkedIn. It was a great group of about 75. One very proactive member, Andy Hilton (National Sales Manager - WAVY and WVBT at LIN Television) reached out to connect with me as soon as the topic and speaker were announced. Now if I ever need to know anything about buying TV time, I am connected to an expert.

The luncheon event was held at the new (and green!) Virginia Beach Convention Center. If you are looking for a great mid-Atlantic venue, you gotta check this place out! My contact there, Pamela Lingle (also connected to me on LinkedIn) would be happy to have someone show you around. And the food is great!

My friend, author and photographer Vincent Schilling, shot the event including the pictures here.

If you get the opportunity to speak at HRAMA, or just visit the Convention Center - take it. It is a nice place to visit and a wonderful crowd. And when you go, tell Andy, Pamela and Vincent that Amtower says "Hey!"

Monday, October 19, 2009

"Does your company have a social media strategy? Leveraging LinkedIn

In the Monday, Oct 19 Washington Post (pages C1 and C8), an article entitled "Worldwide ebb" reports on multiple discussions about the pending demise of the mega social networking site Facebook.

The issue is nothing new when it comes to the web: nothing is wrong with Facebook except that it too big and too successful, if not at making money, at least in attracting users. The issue is that it is trying to be all things to all people, and as a business plan that doesn't work.

Facebook was built for college students. Everything after that was kind of a retrofit, especially the ability to be a platform for B2B professionals.

Facebook is not a B2B platform.

Enter LinkedIn. Here is a social network that was designed for business professionals. (Thanks, Reid!)

I remember getting several invitations to join LinkedIn, probably like you. My invitations came in January of 2004 and I joined on February 11, 2004.

Then I did what most people did: waited for something to happen. I should be embarrassed to say I waited 3 years for something to happen. And nothing did. Well, not "nothing" but after three years I only had about 150 connections and was a member of maybe 2 groups.

In early 2007 several things came to my attention and I took a much closer look at LinkedIn and what it could do for me - if I used it. Then I got busy.

Today (as of 6:03 PM EDT 10/19/09) I have
- 1,910 connections (which links me to 12,145,200 professionals)
- belong to 50 groups and 10 sub-groups
- "own" 5 groups and several sub-groups
- manage 3 groups/sub-groups for others
- have over 200 peer and client "recommendations"
- and have 17 "Best Answers" in 11 different categories.

I have some visibility, and the visibility has a focus. And I get lots of comments about "being all over LinkedIn," in fact I get more comments about LinkedIn than I do about my weekly radio show.

Most of my efforts are focused on being highly visible in the government market, where my visibility is already good.

So, what does this have to do with a social media strategy?

This is what it has to do with it: every individual, every small, medium or large business on LinkedIn or using any social networking tool, needs to understand how the network (tool) can be used, how it is currently used, what it can do (good and bad) to your business, and how you can plan and manage a basic approach to using LinkedIn to your advantage.

My first webinar at went over this briefly, along with other elements of getting started (building your profile, getting connected, selecting groups, engaging in Q&A and more). our second webinar is coing up on 10/26 (all webinars are archived for replay).

But a detailed, well-thought out strategy for leveraging LinkedIn is not something you can learn through a webinar. You need to match your business goals and needs with the capabilities of the social networking tools, see where that fits and works with your overall marketing and sales plans and make sure each element become mutually supportive.

Here's a short list of things LinkedIn can help you with:

- identifying government buyers and influencers (federal, state and local) - yes, many are on LinkedIn;
- identifying business partners (trying to get the attention of a company that owns a specific contract - see if any are in your network);
- looking for competitor information - look here first;
- looking for a good small business partner?
- looking for a subject matter expert?
- looking for good employees or references on someone who is applying?
- oh, and get clients (make money!)

And the list goes on.

Unlike Facebook, LinkedIn was built with one focus - to facilitate business. And it works.

I have seen a number of people offering advice, consulting and seminars on using social networks for business and when I look them up on LinkedIn, only a few look like they actually know what they are doing.

I know what I am doing on LinkedIn - take a look -

And if you need some help, give me a call - 301 924 0058, or drop me a line -

In the meantime, go to LinkedIn and have some fun learning.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Amtower Off Center - The BOB Show!

This Monday on my radio show (recorded in the atrium of the Tower Club) I interview Bob Laclede (Ingram Micro) and Bob Woods (Topside Consulting) on a wide range of issues facing government from FY 2009 that will carry over to FY 2010 and beyond. Show highlights include computer and network security issues, the evolving cloud computing platform and how it will fit into government needs amid tightening budgets, funding levels for all IT-related programs, healthcare IT issues and stimulus grant funding issues (the flow-down to state and local governments via grants).

The show airs noon Monday (EDT) on Federal News Radio 1500 AM and is simulcast and archived for replay at

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

WSJ - Why Email No Longer Rules

WSJ reporter Jessica Vascellaro wrote on Oct 12: Email has had a good run as king of communications. But its reign is over.In its place, a new generation of services is starting to take hold—services like Twitter and Facebook and countless others vying for a piece of the new world. And just as email did more than a decade ago, this shift promises to profoundly rewrite the way we communicate—in ways we can only begin to imagine.

This is not news to many, but apparently it still is with a variety of companies, even those in the government market. It should not be news here as the way President Obama was elected was heavily influenced by social media, and many new administration policies are designed to increase the use of social media by and for federal agencies.

While the article focuses on the growth of Twitter and the response by traditional email suppliers (Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, AOL, etc), it does reeference other social media. Many government agencies (NASA and others) use Twitter to keep people abreast of what the agency is doing. While this is not used to transact business, it does illustrate the ability of an agency to create interest and even excitement regarding governmetnal actions - like the NASA satellite that was intentionally crashed into the moon.

There are a myriad of social media platforms attracting niche markets - including government contractors, aka B2G. For example, on LinkedIn when you search "groups" using "government" as the search term, there are 2,856 results as of 12:29 PM today (10/14/09). Now these groups cover all facets of government: federal, state and local, lobbying, compliance issues, grass roots movements as well as contractors. When I ran this same search earlier this year there were just over 2,000 groups.

There is a considerable presence of contractors and government officials (federal, state and local) on LinkedIn. I am directly connected to 1,900 professionals via LinkedIn and I have a 2nd degree network of about 555,000. Within 3 degrees I have over 12,103,600 registered people in my network. LinkedIn has over 45,000,000 business users at this time and it is growing.

I use LinkedIn to build a broader, deeper network, then stay in touch with that network. If you need to learn more about how i use LinkedIn and how it may benefit you, go to

We also have specialized groups like TFCN and GovLoop. And even on Facebook I am connected to some very senior federal and industry people.

I don't see a significant Federal community (feds or contractors) using Twitter....yet. But it is coming, and we have to be prepared.

The way we communicate is changing rapidly and it is critical to stay current with those changes to maintain ANY competitive advantage.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

END OF FY - Beginning of FY and the Myth of the Level Playing Field

I am not certain I have seen a stranger year ever, across the board.

With the advent of ARRA (TARP, stimulus), there was a media and event rampage on getting into the government market, bringing your wheelbarrow down to the Capitol and going home with a couple million for your pet local project. Ain't gonna happen.

I'd just as soon buy some magic beans and wait for the beanstalk. The odds are better.

But, as usual, the government contracting world marches on in the only (nearly) recession-proof market in the world - Global One - selling to our favorite Uncle.

For the truly initiated, this market is recession-proof. The government needs contractors, it needs the products and services we bring to the table. And I hope you (the truly initiated) had a great FY and are ramping up for another.

But this year, especially because of the economy and the stimulus program, many companies came into the B2G market because of the rumors and out-right lies perpetrated by a few about how "easy" it is going to be to get some of that stimulus money, or to nab a contract. One pitch claimed "You are a phone call away from a $200,000" government contract. One company offering seminars on how to make that call apparently seeded the audience with employees and others who claimed to have done it.

I am not here to rehash that topic or to beat up of the seminar company. I am here to remind the gullible that NO market is easy to break into, especially the government market.

In the government market there are terms and conditions that you would never agree to elsewhere.

In the government market the GSA or DCAA can show up on your doorstep without advance warning and audit your books.

In the government market the contracting agency can terminate your contract "for convenience".

In the government market there are already people and companies doing whatever you do.

In the government market there are companies that do nothing but government, and do it well. While they may not have the best product or service, they have a track record of performance and a bid team with experience.

In the government market - there is no level playing field.

Not that I have an opinion.