A Fork In The Road

I’m a big fan of Seth Godin and his blog. He has a unique ability to condense a topic down into a succinct statement that is specific, yet written in a way that many people can apply it to their version of life. Its far from easy to do this well and regularly.

But today’s post missed a bit: The fork in the road.¬†He is right on the premise that many folks and businesses don’t see the fork or take it.

But, as forks in the road go, they’re not optional. When you come upon it, you have to make a decision. There is no third option, unless you count running off the road.

The problem is more, that folks don’t anticipate the fork in the road until they have it right in front of them. And when they get there, they have to decide in an instant which one to take. And more than often, that means taking the default option, the one that falls within the comfort zone, the one you can take if you don’t have enough data to make an informed decision. That translates into a missed opportunity. And it’s not a lack of guts, because a gutsy move is knowingly taking a risk or stepping out of your comfort zone, not unknowingly stumbling along.

There is a saying that Luck really is when Opportunity meets Preparedness. I think that is a better way of looking at this. You want to be prepared to hit upon a fork in the road, so when you get there, you have the opportunity to take either one, and do so in an informed manner.

But as preparedness goes, it takes effort to accumulate information ahead of time, to consider and analyze possible scenarios, and to acquire skills that enable you to succeed taking either path at the fork in the road. Be prepared for either a treacherous mountain pass, or a six-lane highway in a busy metropolitan area.

In life being prepared for these forks means knowing the state of affairs of the industry you work in, the economy and the politics in the area you live in, the issues facing all the major elements of your life choices, and investing into backup plans and alternatives, whether that is having financial buffers, professional networks, or acquiring skills that enable you to do a career change if needed.

Interestingly enough, for drivers, forks in the road have become much less of an issue in the age of GPSs. Most of the time we allow a well informed GPS to tell us which side of the fork to take, because the GPS can look at the bigger picture better than we can by having real-time information and lots of data at hand. Of course that also has made us lazier drivers, because we have handed over the responsibility for being able to make a decision to someone else. As evidenced by people occasionally driving into a lake because the GPS told them so.

But the same technological advances have also given us the Internet, and more information than we ever were able to put our fingers on in real time and at minimal cost. So there really is no excuse nowadays for not being informed and doing your home work to be prepared for the next fork in the road. Now it really comes down to the choice of bobbing in the wind of life, or taking charge of our life. It’s an exciting time to live in!

Update: After reading this, Seth did point out, that most people do in fact run off the road.

Social Rank – the SEO of the Social Media Generation

Social Rank can be thought of as a key measure of trust in your personal digital brand.

A bit of background:

In 1996 the founders of Google (Larry & Sergey) developed a ground breaking concept that to this day is the foundation of how we search for things on the web: The Page Rank algorithm. Of course the Google search engine has seen many refinements since, but at the very core is the principle that while anyone can publish content on the web, where it can be found by a search engine crawler, content which is being linked to by others should be considered more useful or authoritative. Because the action of an independent 3rd party can not as easily be faked or controlled. Furthermore the more trusted that 3rd party is, the more weight should be given to that link or endorsement.

This is how Google separates relevant search results from spam that attempts to self-promote shamelessly.

Trust Supports Our Digital Footprint

In today’s Social Media Generation everyone has a digital footprint – a website, a blog, LinkedIn profile, FB friends, Twitter followers, and on and on. And we spend much of the day interacting with people in person and virtually. But how do you know that you can trust a person, that all the things they’re saying are actually true? That’s of course not a new problem. People had to decide whether to trust someone or not since the beginning of mankind. And there are many ways to go about that in the offline world. But some of them take time and effort which doesn’t keep pace with the much faster online lifestyle.

So if someone tells you about all their accomplishments, and their cool network connections, and what they could do. Can you believe them? Well, the evidence to judge this by should show up somewhere in their digital foot print. If they’ve done all this work, it should show up on a company website, a blog, be published, etc. And the more legit or curated the mention, there more weight it has. If they have a cool network, there should be evidence of it in their LinkedIn profile, in the FB friend list, in the Twitter following.

The same concept applies here, as in the Page Rank algorithm. If someone accepts a LinkedIn request, they publicly acknowledge the network connection. The same is true for Facebook and Twitter. Your digital network should be a reflection of the way your present yourself to others. Similarly if people blog about work they’ve done with you, if your name gets mentioned online, that is a endorsement of authenticity that you worked with them. And the more trustworthy the person that makes the mention or accepts the connection, the more weight can be given.

Of course someone may be totally legit even without all that digital footprint. But if you are in the younger generation or if you run in tech-savvy circles there is now an expectation that you keep up with your digital footprint. That you SEO your personal digital brand. If you don’t, people will have less trust in what you say or who you say you are. You undermine your credibility by failing to do so.

Similarly, all to often when you look someone up, browse their digital footprint or their website, you quick learn that they’ve stretched the story a bit here or a lot there. Probably 1/3rd of all the people or organizations I look at don’t look quite as legit or accomplished as they presented themselves. Thus moderating your presence towards your network to be inline with your digital foot print is a good personal PR move.

Measuring Social Rank

There are the beginning of tools that measure this type of data. Klout assigns someone a score based on their connections and activity, and how their network reacts to that activity. And they can weigh their measurement by the Klout Score of the others in your network that you influence.

That is an interesting first step. Now of course, there are many more nuances to what a search engine does, and it can assign Page Rank to a page based on the topic being searched for. So there can’t be just a single Social Rank, but the Klout score would have to be relative to a topic – like what is my Klout score when it comes to photography. Or my Klout Score when it comes to the quality of my professional network in the fashion industry in NYC.

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