I’m not going to beat around the bush here, I spend almost 90% of my time on Twitter, it’s where my research comes from, my business, and most of my relationships. Twitter is the service I use to expand, learn and teach what I do, FaceBook, has it’s place but I rarely spend much time there, why? I use TweetDeck , I feed multiple social networks this way, including FaceBook. Rumour has it TweetDeck is about to be purchased or already has been, by Twitter, that’s good news in my books. Twitter will be able to add so much to the experience of using their real-time service.

The secret sauce if you will, the secret tool is not that secret when trying to maximize Twitter, it’s the search in Twitter that brings the most value in terms of data. If you spend enough time listening in the Twitter search, you start to see trends, interests and needs, businesses don’t pay enough attention there in my humble opinion.

The #FutureOfBusiness hashtag is where I like to hang out, to see what others are saying and thinking about on this topic, we are headed to a day of the open & free business model. But what does that mean really. Does it mean everything is free and open, of course not, it is however, a strategy, a successful business model. So how do all these social networks fit into the equation?

Think about where you do business today, what is the business model you execute today, does it leverage social networks? And if it is, how did you determine which social network to invest your time and money in? I’m almost certain very little research went into that determination, you probably just sensed you should be on FaceBook because most of your friends and business associates said you should be there. When a business owner asks me if they should be on FaceBook or any other social network, I like to ask them why they think they should be there. Almost everytime it has nothing to do with a business case or sound data to backup that question, it is always an emotional reason, like the fear of loss. That’s not new, it’s as old as time that emotion, but it has as much power as worrying, and probably the same results worrying brings you.

So where do you spend your time and money in terms of social networks, and why? The Future Of Business is not social networks, it is however, social & mobile. Social Media is not new, the conversations you and I were having offline our entire life, has merely gone digital, they are now happening on the Internet. The difference, the world can now listen in and share your feelings, spread your conversation everywhere. Everything will create a stream everywhere.

With 3 billion people yet to hit the Internet, being found should be your primary concern, it’s going to get noisier than it is today, findability will determine the life of your business online. The best way to be found, create more content than you consume, then leverage every social network you can to help that cause.

So where do you do business, which social network do you use the most, what is the hardest part about being found for you, how do you get found? I would love to hear your thoughts on findability, not SEO.

We have a few problems on this planet, we will have a water shortage, we will even have a food shortage, Canada’s population is predicted to shrink, but why aren’t the masses paying attention to what’s coming? Many would claim we have an education problem, I beg to differ, we have a listening problem, not an education problem.

I have taught, spoken to, and even worked with many business people in different sectors, and I can tell you, listening is truely the challenge amung them. Now I don’t claim to know everything, infact, I don’t even predict the future, I do what’s called Foresight, I’m listening to what’s going on in the world. In a world that is moving from PC centric to a world completely mobile, it’s hard to keep up. We are regrouping on the fly, and regrouping people are impossible to control. That’s what big business is trying to figure out, don’t waste your time, you will never nail it down. Use your ears more than your mouth, let your ears keep your hat on.

The listening problem comes from an insecurity in my humble opinion, business owners don’t want to look stupid, or be seen as if they don’t know what’s happening in their business and or around them. I can only tell you this, it is impossible for any one person to know everything there is to know about everything, including your business. If you are a business owner, try to listen more, grow bigger ears, and then turn your business into a platform that people will find useful. People always return to what is useful. And become a likeable, lovable brand.

Tell your story and make it sound different, and mobilize everything. Just some thoughts and stuff from under my hat.

How are you listening to your customers?

I’m certain this isn’t the first time this title has been used for a Blog Post. One of the most confusing things to most business owners and those not technically savvy is, what exactly is Social Media and how will it help me. Social Media in my humble opinion is seriously misunderstood by most. You can tell by how it’s being used for the most part, you can see the traditional marketers doing their typical advertising outbound push. Hell, even some so called Social Media experts are doing the same thing.

The definition of Social Media taken from the Wiki site:

Social media is media designed to be disseminated through social interaction, created using highly accessible and scalable publishing techniques. Social media uses Internet and web-based technologies to transform broadcast media monologues (one to many) into social media dialogues (many to many). It supports the democratization of knowledge and information, transforming people from content consumers into content producers.

I’m probably going to do a bad job at sharing this but I’m going to give you some things to think about, a list if you will. Let’s take a peek:

1.) Social Media is a very human driven practice.

2.) Social Media can’t be done or driven by a single person.

3.) Social Media is not about technology

4.) Social Media is about sharing

5.) Social Media is a mechanism in which you are tagged

6.) Social Media is about ubiquity

7.) Social Media is a tool for listening

8.) Social Media is not about pushing your product

9.) Social Media is what e-mail used to be

10.) Social Media is not a channel

11.) Social Media can help build trust

12.) Social Media deepens relationships

13.) Social Media is real-time expression

14.) Social Media is not new, it’s just different

This list could go on and on, I would love to hear from and add to this list.

What is Social Media to you?

Technology is growing at an exponential rate; we truly have no way of keeping up via traditional means when it comes to tracking. Organizations struggle to stay focused, struggle to maintain, and struggle to provide systems and services that meet their business objectives. The shift in how business gets done is making it more and more difficult to maintain profit margins and business lifestyles that most are accustom to.

Today’s I.T. Strategic Planning is shedding its skin and taking on a new look and meaning. Ramping up I.T. staff is no longer the norm; reducing I.T. Teams and virtualization is; it allows organizations to be more financially responsible. CIO’s have a tougher time justifying their existence, the role is becoming more and more extinct, and is easily handled without the large investment in overhead. As much as it pains me to say that, I have to accept the new landscape of how Information Technology is implemented and managed. There’s still a need for CIO’s in large organizations but new companies are building streamlined teams, technology allows for startups to have fewer management roles. This new model allows for higher profits and less management of people.

Customer service is making a huge shift in what it means, Customer Service or Support is NOT fixing or adding a new feature, it is about Communication and Solving problems. This gap is hurting far too many businesses, they need to pay attention and listen to what their customers are saying about them, what they want from them.

Small businesses are literally taking a fetal position when it comes to understanding the change taking place, that the Internet is empowering the individual rather than the large organization. The power of the person has been lifted to a level no one saw coming, all because of the Internet. The Internet is the game changer; the Internet was and is clearly misunderstood by the smaller Mom & Pop businesses. The Internet solved the problem of digital distribution, this is an Access Based Economy where we click to get. The transition for small business can be easy to most difficult, undertsanding technology or how technology will help them is the key.

If there ever was a need in your local marketplace it’s helping those small business understand that they won’t be able to continue as they have and enjoy the life they hoped to build when they opened the doors. More importantly, those business owners need to learn about humility, be willing to say they don’t understand and do indeed need help with the Internet. Most small business owners had an Entrepreneurial Seizure, they thought because they knew how to do the work they knew how to run a business. I recommend reading Michael Gerber’s book, The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It (Amazon Affiliate Link) to get a clear understanding of what I’m referring to.

Today a couple of things scream for attention in my humble opinion:

1.    Listening – Listen to what is being said about your brand and or business.
2.    Filtering Content is more important than creating it.

Listening & Filtering Content are two key factors to your Social Media success, small & big businesses at large still haven’t grasped these two concepts with any kind of clarity.

We are in an Extreme Reputation Economy, popularity is becoming a Social Capital, and it will be as valuable as real money in the coming months if it hasn’t happened already. How you present yourself, your product, and your business will generate a reputation, take the time to craft your reputation.

What do you think?

<a href=”http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0887307280?ie=UTF8&tag=owengrea-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0887307280″>The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It</a><img src=”http://www.assoc-amazon.com/e/ir?t=owengrea-20&l=as2&o=1&a=0887307280″ width=”1″ height=”1″ border=”0″ alt=”” style=”border:none !important; margin:0px !important;” />