A few weeks ago I attended a session on Social Media, I was flabbergasted, no wait, I was shocked by the lack of knowledge in the business community, that most don’t understand how social networks will impact their business. A local bank put the event on, the event was just to drum up business of course, but they dropped the ball. They should have tried to connect with me during, if not immediately after the event, through a social network of some kind, after all the speakers were talking about social media and how to use it. I left the event empty handed, nothing in hand, no one approached me, I approached the speakers but they were eager to leave right after they finished. First real contact came two weeks later, I got an email. Now to be fair, I was invited by someone associated with the organization, I didn’t hear about the event at all, I heard nothing, he even sat with me (a good move), we have since met a few times to get to know each other better. The email’s primary purpose was to provide me with contact information, here’s a snippet:

<snipped to protect the quilty>

“Your XYZ small business advisor will work with you to identify realistic growth targets — and recommend the right financial products and solutions to help you get there.  If you have any questions about managing your business, please call any time.  I have attached a list of our Senior Account Manager, Business & Personal advisors with contact details.”

They thought they were helping business owners by having someone speak on social media, all it did was freak people out, why, because there was a huge gap as to why they should be paying attention to social networks. The speakers were awesome with how to use social media networks, some steps to take, some tactics and strategy, but they didn’t educate the crowd as to why they needed to do what they were selling. The WHY is more important than tactics and strategy, it’s not enough to say everyone is doing it, show your audience why, show them it’s working, give good examples. Take the time to show what’s going on around them, show them the  future of business, and then try to help you create ideas to help adopt that future. Social networks are just one small part of an open economy. Explain in simple terms what the business of the future looks like, tell how its social and mobile, how a business need to become a platform, how we are seeing the tribalization of business, and what does all this mean to their business. Show the audience what is happening, then give them hope. And just what is happening, a paradigm shift.

I preach the future of business, an open economy, adopting the open & free business model, it means you think differently, it means you realize something has to change, and the need to change it quickly. We are moving into a world where 60% of all commerce is online, another 3 billion people are coming to the Internet in the 3 years, are you ready? Do you know what to do?

The bank collected names and contact information from everyone as they came in, so they had the details to communicate immediately. Posting a warm welcome on FaceBook with a picture of the crowd, a few shout outs on Twitter thanking people for coming, would have gone a long way to making the bank more human. Now in their defence, most of this community do not use Twitter, they all said they used FaceBook in a poll taken by the speakers.

I would have recommended they leverage FaceBook then, wherever the people are, that’s where your business should be! They could have held a contest on FaceBook and Twitter building up to the event, made the announcement on the social networks as to who won during the event. As you can see they could have made it a huge opportunity to connect with people and be more human, which in turn builds more trust. But that’s not what happened, they did what they always do, make the customer work too hard to make communication happen, and the communication that did happen was to make the customer work even more. The bank should have reached out and made it easy for those who attended to get information and have the option to let them sit down with them to talk about product and services. What they did, they sent a mailer telling the audience to contact them, backwards in the new day of business. You make it an opt-in and opt-out, you go to the people, not make the people come to you. If they come to you, it’s most likely going to be by digital means, they aren’t leaving their home to sit in your office. The bank should have invested more in social media, they should have set an example, it was a social media event for crying out loud. Enough said on that, as you can see they could have had a better plan in my humble opinion.

How could this Bank make it easier for the audience, what would you have done?

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Here it is, September 1st, 2010 and two things jumped out at me this morning after reading some business news. Newspapers still think they have something solid going, and Mall’s are still being touted as a good investment. With all the evidence that traditional business is failing in most sectors, those incredibly smart people are making critical errors in judgement.

Yesterday, a company called POSTMEDIA/Network announced that they have a new logo. Now it’s not the logo that has me scratching my head this morning. Former President of Roger’s Paul Godfrey is the President & CEO of Postmedia Network, this group’s list of brands should make you wonder why they continue down the futile path of print. Considering that Newspapers are dropping like flies these days, the predicting doom of book stores and other outbound media, why would you or anyone else invest in this venture? Not one but 11 brands under the Postmedia Network umbrella, all newspapers! They handle the National Post, Times Colonists, The Vancouver Sun, The Province, Calgary Herald, Edmonton Journal, Leader-Post, The StarPheonix, Ottawa Citizen, The Windsor Star and The Gazzette. These are probably the most read newspapers in Canada, and are also failing.

You can find Canadian Newspapers listed in iPad, you can’t read them, the list is of their websites you have to go visit, this will have to change if they want to survive. Newspapers should scrambling to make as many mobile apps as possible, build other ways of generating revenue. The online ad market is staggeringly huge, but for some reason print & TV are merely poking a stick at it. They will all but be forgotten when the other 3 billion people come online in the next 2 -3 years.

Another confusing move this morning, I was actually surprised how I responded when I read that a Mall in Surrey, B.C., Canada was sold for $91 Million, that’s cheap by today’s standards but it still sold. But a mall? Granted this mall is anchored by some heavy weights, SAVE-ON FOODS, Canadian Tire, Staples, Winners, HomeSense, Cactus Club and HSBC, plus 26 other businesses. Back in the 70’s & 80’s, he who owned the channel of distribution, had a secure future, would never be in danger of being out of business. Now, we still need some box stores, we will need warehouses, forklift drivers and so on. But you can also see where most of these mall businesses will either be 100% online or gone.

So the questions begs to be asked, why would you buy a mall? The investment of the land? Maybe. The longevity of these businesses remaining long time anchors in a mall? Maybe, but I doubt it.

These moves in of themselves are not life threatening or even bad for that matter by today’s standards, but in the next 3 – 5 years, I suspect they will be asking themselves what they were thinking.

Consider these two small movements today, and I quote, profits in Canada’s non-residential construction sector will fall to a five-year low this year, that’s according to a report by the Conference Board of Canada. Pre-tax profits for this year in this sector will be 1.2 billion, down from $1.4 billion in 2009, and will not recover to pre-recession levels until 2014, at it’s earliest, it’s survey forecast. If at all I wonder.

In Washington there is more bank demise, the number of problem-ridden US banks rose to the hihest levels in 17 years, just in the second quarter! The number of institutions on its “problem list” rose more than 7 percent in the second quarter.

Traditional business is still in denial, they keep doing business as usual thinking everything will turn out alright. Really? Do you really think things aren’t changing, do you really believe that a global population who screams to be heard, to be served the way they want to be served, they want it to be almost free or extremely low cost, they want it in an Open & Free Business Model. Today’s public will look until they find it the way they want it, no longer can you force people to do it your way big business, you best pay attention, because if you won’t, someone will pay attention and take your business. Wake Up!

On a positive note, today the Bank of Canada interest rate hike has been delayed : )