I must confess, my youngest son is responsible for the title of this blog post. We were sitting at the dinner table this nite and we were talking about our neighbours dog, deaf but not blind…soon though. Our dog (Zeena pictured on the left) on the other hand, has bionic hearing, she can hear the paper being dropped at the front door from anywhere in the house. She races to the door barking madly, when I open the door, nothing…. all she sees is her shadow. I said, this is just like social networks, and my son said, ya…you’re barking at shadows like those followers are real people. He said something there that inspired me to write this random thought process.
Also, this constant running and barking caused me to reflect on conversations on Twitter & FaceBook lately, in regards to LIKES, FANS & FOLLOWERS. I will call these three things shadows, shadows are very misleading, hard to determine, to see where they come from even, but mostly, we are lead to believe they are something far bigger than they really are.
We tend to put far too much stock in the number of followers, fans and likes. We even attach a value to these indicators, wrongly I might add, but we do it to justify our time getting them. So we can have a case for our actions. Don’t get me wrong, they are important, in that they tell you one thing for certain, someone came knocking at your businesses door. Those numbers don’t tell you much more than that, ideally we would like to believe there’s more data to be had when someone decides to follow you, be a fan, or when the like button is pushed. I would like to believe there was actually a plan in place when this data collecting started, but I’m skeptical.
If you didn’t have a plan, a strategy, or a desire outcome well thought-out before you put your business online, then your numbers merely mean you had a visitor. You might call them potential buyers, but nothing has been bought just yet, not until you can turn that fan, that like, or that follower into something more tangible. There is a very real way to this in Social Networks, but I’m not the one who will teach you this day, another far brighter than I will do it. Stay tuned, and I will reveal him to you in tomorrows post.
So, these numbers you are so proud of are no different than the shadows my dog finds, your bragging and pumping yourself up because you have large numbers is a false sense of security, you are hanging your businesses future on the number of likes, fans and followers, don’t do this, you’re just barking at shadows.
This is a guest post from Brian G. Rice of Rice Team Consulting, he shared his story of an experience he recently had with a Social Media Community. Today we are going back to small town rules, especially within Social Media Networks, you can’t lie, trick or hide anymore, integrity is at risk if you start playing games with people, or don’t provide good service. Someone, like Brian, will start talking about you and your integrity, your businesses reputation begins to tarnish when this happens.
Here is Brians Story.
Last week a message appeared in my LinkedIn inbox from PwC. I was being invited to the PwC Private Business Exchange on LinkedIn. After checking to make sure that the PwC in question was indeed the company formerly known as PricewaterhouseCoopers, I quickly accepted their invitation.
I use social media to market my consulting services. Here is this great big, well respected company giving me the opportunity to present my content to a whole group of business people within the context of borrowed credibility of PwC? You betcha I said yes.
To my mind, the fact that this was a LinkedIn group made it even better.
I have been using LinkedIn for over seven years. LinkedIn was the social media site for business before there really were social media sites. The culture of LinkedIn has always been one of a high signal to noise ratio. From its early days as a resume sharing site, it has been a place where you connect with people who you have actually done some sort of business with.
In terms of business credibility, LinkedIn is the best social media site out there.
So I accepted the invitation, and quickly posted an introduction to myself. Nothing fancy, and nothing long. I suggested that people take a look at my LinkedIn profile, and then I asked a question: What motivates you to hire a consultant? Nothing spammy. No hard sales technique. Just a simple question. I hit send on my post, and I was informed that it would appear shortly after the moderator approved it.
Then I waited. And waited. And waited. And then I was removed from the group.
Before I was able to get to angry about this, I received another note from someone at PwC. Apparently, they had such a large response to their offer that they decided to create a second group for companies with less than 50 employees because they “recognize that entrepreneurs face unique challenges as they grow their business.”
The message, for those not equipped with built-in Marketing-to-English dictionaries, was basically “We don’t want you bothering our big important potential clients.”
I’m not actually writing this post to pick on PwC. I am offering here a cautionary tale: marketing social media is about building relationships. The clear-headed business person in me can see what happened here, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t make me angry. PwC is now in deficit relationship-wise with me, and they are going to have to work to gain back my trust.
First impressions in any relationship are important. PwC is an established, respected company, and they had invited me to join a private business forum! This made a very good first impression. It didn’t matter that I knew I had just been bulk invited to this list. The invite did make me feel important and special.
I’d still feel that way if they had simply done a little research into my company (everything they needed to know is on my LinkedIn profile) and invited me to their “Entrepreneurs Exchange” in the first place. Instead, as I emailed to the forum administrator, I feel like I have been shuffled off to the small kids table. The fact that I have never received a response to that email has only worked to underline this feeling.
If you are going to use social media to market your company, you need to understand that relationships are built on communication.
A short email back to me, sincere and honest in its approach, could have turned my entire attitude around. Even an email disagreeing with me would have been better than nothing. By ignoring me, they have made me feel even less respected than before.
The future of business and marketing is based on relationships. More and more, people are going to buy products and services from people they trust and have a relationship with. Companies like PwC are realising that this shift is occurring, and they are trying to take advantage of it.
But just like real life, the downside of using relationships to market your product or service is that when you make a mistake, you need to work much harder to fix the problem. A single negative “debit” on the relationship balance sheet can wipe out multiple positive “credits”.
As I am finishing this article, I have been waiting over twenty-four hours to have a post approved to the new PwC forum I was invited to. Rationally, I’m sure that the moderator has just been busy. But emotionally? I just can’t help feeling more ignored.
Do you have any thoughts or comments you wish to leave Brian? Is he over reacting, is he right, what do you think? Feel free to comment here on Owengreaves.com
In a group called TED Ideas Worth Spreading, a discussion on LinkedIn with Andrew Oduro Ayim, he asked an interesting question, If you had the opportunity to talk at TED, what would your speech be about and why?
I responded as short as I could:
I would share my passion as often as I can, for as long as I can, and I’m sharing that passion at The World Futurist Society Conference in July 2011 on The Future of Business – The Open & Free Business Model. It’s not what we do, it’s not a skill-set, it’s about how we think, it’s how business really is in our world. A world where Access trumps Ownership, a world where generations yet to come will and do not value ownership of home, ownership of car, they value life-style not a work-style.
Business owners still don’t even know what Social Media can do for them in my area, we are in for a world of hurt, the paradigm shift from closed to open is too painful.
What would you talk about?
In my last post I touched on our aging population and how the Baby Boomers creat a problem, but they also present endless opportunities. As we become more mobile and social, I thought it would be interesting to look at some data in regards to the social networks I use. The real question I am asking these days is, will these networks be around in the next 5 – 10 years? I think the social part will be embedded into everything mobile, Twitter is really a glorified version of IRC don’t you think, just more open and out there, not private or closed. Real-Time is probably the key to everything mobile.
Social Media Networks are very popular, and they are growing at an exponential rate, the world is loving these networks, and that creates challenges for the business world. There are hundreds of social networks on the Internet, but the most popular ones we hear about most tend to be the three below. We have become a connected world, this trend is not going away. Here are the Top 3 Social Networks I use, Twitter is my Primary Network and that’s where you will find me 99% of the time.
FaceBook is the most used of these three, but I don’t spend much time there, it’s too cumbersome in my humble opinion. FaceBook does have incredible support and huge numbers compared to all the rest, check it out below.
– More than 550 million active users
– 50% of our active users log on to Facebook in any given day
– Average user has 130 friends
– People spend over 700 billion minutes per month on Facebook
– There are over 900 million objects that people interact with (pages, groups, events and community pages)
– Average user is connected to 80 community pages, groups and events
– Average user creates 90 pieces of content each month
– More than 30 billion pieces of content (web links, news stories, blog posts, notes, photo albums, etc.) shared each month.
– More than 70 translations available on the site
– About 70% of Facebook users are outside the United States
– Over 300,000 users helped translate the site through the translations application
– More than 2.5 million developers and partners from more than 190 countries build with Facebook Platform
– People on Facebook install 20 million applications every day
– Every month, more than 250 million people engage with Facebook on external websites
– Since social plugins launched in April 2010, an average of 10,000 new websites integrate with Facebook every day
– More than two million websites have integrated with Facebook
– There are more than 200 million active users currently accessing Facebook through their mobile devices.
– People that use Facebook on their mobile devices are twice as active on Facebook than non-mobile users.
– There are more than 200 mobile operators in 60 countries working to deploy and promote Facebook mobile products
– 351 Employees
– 190 Million Registered Users
– 65 Million Tweets Per Day
– 800 Million Search Queries Per Day
– 80% of visitors are outside of Twitter.com
– As of January 2011, LinkedIn has more than 90 million members in over 200 countries around the globe.
– A new member joins LinkedIn approximately every second, and about half of our members are outside the U.S.
– Executives from all Fortune 500 companies are LinkedIn members.
– LinkedIn started off 2011 with about 1,000 full-time employees located around the globe.
What are your top 3 social networks?
This is a Blog Post is in part about my new book I’m currently writing called, ” The Open & Free Business Model – The Future of Business”. This Blog Posts is also a bit longer than my usual blog posts : )
In fact, I held a workshop for some local business owners and walked them through the process of figuring out what this model might look like for them and their business. One of the harder exercises was looking at their current business and asking a simple question, what is your CORE business about? If I was to ask you, what does your business do, you would most likely tell me the the easiest answer, I’m a…. the highest level snap shot what YOU do, not your business. I’m a technology company might be my answer, that doesn’t really say anything other than I’m into technology. I might ask what that means, I would volunteer a more descriptive answer but still not touching on the core. By the third or fourth time of asking what your business does, I might get to the core of what your business really is about, and what it does day in and day out.
Once I uncovered what your core business is, I might ask what your vision is for your business, and then I most likely would want to know what your mission statement is, and does your staff know it. Much of this is traditional in nature, but it is still important to your online presence as well. The next step most likely would be to ask for the results of a S.W.O.T. Analysis, I think that’s useful information. At this point we could start talking about what kind of content your Blog should consider, after all we know what your core business is now, we can start to build on something here.
Once we’ve gotten this far, we can start listening. Listening for what you might ask, well, we want to know who is talking about your business, if they are talking about your business, and what exactly are they saying. I would recommend spending a considerable amount of time here if your getting alot results in your searches. I would be listening in multiple Social Media Networks, other search engines and so on, you’ll be amazed what you find out.
Another fun project is determining revenue streams, pick the highest-margin, low-investment streams (the low hanging fruit). Then advertise your chosen stream to your captive audience, it’s important to have a captive audience, you want generate much revenue without one. In the end you’ll collect money, deliver the goods, and keep your customers happy. Advertising not @vertising, did you catch that? This topic has many levels and many more choices, but you will have to choose more than one to get attention amongst all the noise.
Distribution is key but has already been taken care of by the Internet, what about mobile apps, iPads, iPhones as a way to get your content out there. iTunes Connect is an option, apply and hold your breath, it takes awhile to get approved.
One of the stumbling blocks is, determining what content should be paid for and what should be free to download or read. I too wrestled with this question, but I found giving away good content created readership and eventually revenue and the bigger more important currency, attention. The world isn’t ready for this shift, in fact, the world hasn’t really arrived online yet! The world we know is willing to pay upfront for the most part, but the world yet to come will not be forced into paying upfront for most information and even some products. I’ve said it here on this blog many times, people will keep looking until they can find what you offer for free. If they don’t find it, then maybe they’ll come back and buy it, but they look first before making that purchase. The term PFE, Proudly Found Elsewhere, coined by Gerd Leonhard, is as real as the nose on your face, so get ready.
Another looming problem is the plethora of bad content, we will have to find better ways of filtering before the bad stuff gets out of the way. Eventually, someone will come up with a great way to filter and even curate your social network meta data, then we’ll have something to really sell. There are a couple of websites that take your Twitter stream and make a daily newspaper out of the hot stuff or trends within your stream. One is called Paper.li and another is The Twitter Tim.es, they look neat but you still can’t do much with it once it’s completed. It would be good if we could customize these newspapers a bit and make them work for us in a commerce kind of way.
The primary purpose of giving away content should be to get attention, build relationships, build trust, and then maybe you can sell something. But be careful, you might get what you wish for, it might not be the kind of attention you were hoping for. The truth is, we all want to be recognized, affirmed and we all want to generate revenue, we want to make money here online so we can do the things our hearts desire keeps searching for. We want to have freedom of choice in a more relevant way, where we get to choose, not what the industrial age has conditioned us into responding to.
The Open & Free Business Model is misunderstood for the most part, it is the future of business, most business owners are not ready for it. Being Open instead of closed is scary for business owners and people in general, we just need more practice before fully embracing it. Using Open Systems like FaceBook, Twitter, LinkedIn and so on are just the beginning to being open, it’s not a place or a thing, it’s a mindset. Being open also means being transparent, willing to let users see and hear more than you have been willing to share in the past. It’s really how you view Open, it’s how you view Free, it’s about how you see what an Open & Free Business Model might look like for you and your business. You may or may not need help with it, there are many around that can help, but very few truly understand what Open & Free Business Model is.
Create compelling content, give some of it away, then look for ways to monetize around that free content. It sounds simple but it’s not, because you have to deliver the goods in such a way it’s brain dead easy for your visitors to get and or buy. If not already, in the future when the other 3 billion people get here, you’ll want to already be in a position of having they’re attention, then it will be a little easier, but just a little. That’s enough for now, go practice, give yourself away and watch your world change before you, eventually it will click with you and you will see a future you haven’t seen before, ever!
If you are doing it, I would love to chat with you and maybe even use your business as an example in my book. You can be a part of my book, go here.