Dare I be so bold to say it, Social Media is not a business model.

I struggle with the resistance of business owners still today, hanging onto old ways of doing things, trying be in control, running around in circles trying to keep up, business has changed / is changing to where you must deliver your product or service to your customers, if you don’t, they’ll click and be gone. It wasn’t long ago when you had to go to the store, we used film for pictures, we no longer need a land-line, and kept current reading newspapers, now we just have to make a few clicks on a mobile device!

Customers are taking away the business owners power, they are choosing how and when, and how much they’ll pay. This has very little to do with Social Media, it does have everything to do with how business really is, and eventually you will either embrace it, or continue to resist it…either way, you’ll have to change how think about your customers, and how you run your business. Sure there will always be certain types of business that need manual labour, but many of those jobs, as much as you don’t want to believe it, will be lost to automation, this technological change will be devastating to the families relying on those jobs.

This has very little to do with Social Media, it does however, have everything to do with The Open & Free Business Model!

Social Media is NOT a business model, you don’t plug your business into Social Media, you plug Social Media INTO your business.

There has been so much talk about paywalls in the Newspaper industry lately, for the most part they aren’t needed there, but they do have there place in that industry. The issue of paywalls today is not about money, it’s more about control, or the fact of that industry is losing what control it felt it had over you & I.

I preach an Open & Free Business Model, this model does have paywalls, and they are well throughout in placement. As I have said before, Open & Free does not always mean Open & Free.

I would suggest that industries that are trying to maintain control by forcing users to pay first, they consider better less friction type mechanisms. The paywall isn’t going away, it is however going to feel like you’re not paying because it will be seamless in your interaction with that product or service.

Rupert Murdoch is a man born & raised at the beginning of the industrial age, he’s 79 years old, and we shouldn’t be shocked at his narrow view of how newspapers should function on the Internet. It’s not his fault really, he has been conditioned into believing something that is no longer true. The Independent website released an article called, “Has Rupert Murdoch’s paywall gamble paid off?”, yesterday. It’s very well written, and it raises the question again about paywalls and the stand many are taking. Rupert is almost viewed as a criminal for his stand on paywalls, and I don’t see him backing down any time soon. The move to prevent content from being found through search engines has to be suicide. This is not the kind of attention he should want to have, it’s negative, and it eventually will not make money.

Two months ago, he had paywalls erected on The Times & The Sunday Times, which prevents search engines from accessing that content. One of the first things to happen, traffic to the site dropped through the floor. You & I both know that traffic is paramount for any website trying to make a buck. Rupert’s primary concern appears to be about muscle, he stated that newspapers will have less muscle in Internet advertising campaigns than they do in print. That statement alone screams control over what you & I can have access to, and he wants to force you & I to pay for his control. But is it control he wants, or is it meta-data? It is suggested this paywall move is more about gathering consumer information than selling content, what do you think?

In the new business environment of the future, being open & free will bring about better results than Rupert Murdoch is suggesting. There are countless number’s of sites using paywalls, and there even more moving to a open & free business model, and having great success. As I have said before, Open & Free is not a skill set, it’s a paradigm shift, a new way of thinking, a new way of doing business.

The best paywall, one that doesn’t make you work hard to make payment, one that is seamless, and one that doesn’t give you that uneasy feeling of throwing your money away. One of the biggest concerns about open & free, it will raise the level of bad content, that’s going to happen anyway when the other 3 Billion get here online, so get over it.

What are your thoughts on this topic?

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 : )

Change is hard, for some it’s very uncomfortable, and for the mainstream it’s almost impossible, so it seems. Change is inevitable, it is happening with every minute of the day, how you chose to respond to that change determines it’s value. Like ambiguity, change too must be embraced in order for progress to really take hold. I know you know this, I know you understand it and that’s why this environment welcomes those who truely understand it.

Mainstream media, mainstream big business and the businesses that support them, still don’t see what’s coming and it’s coming quickly. Wall street, the Music Industry, Newspapers, Television Media, are stuck in the mainstream, they don’t know how to make the shift to this new economic model called Open & Free. Amber Naslund ranted about how there is an entitlement to free stuff, I agree with her, I’m all for getting paid and we should be if we are providing something of real value. Unfortunately, the world is filled with many looking for a shortcut, looking for a way to take advantage of others and not pay for what they take. But today, we the people get to decide what is important to us, no longer will we be convinced that products, services and information are important. Unethical Internet Marketers, traditional marketing and subliminal messages raise the BS Meter to new levels and become very suspicious. The pay first and and access second model is breaking down rapidly, no longer to be tolerated, and will all but disappear in the next 3 – 5 years when the rest of the world gets here online. There will be 5 Billion people here in the next 5 years and they won’t pay first, and you won’t be able to make them. They will find ways to get what they want, much like we do today, music, movies and information is being copied at will and that’s what the fight is all about. What you may not see is that the money is moving from the selling of copy, to the selling of experience.

Keeping content, products and services behind walls is a losing model, and is a bad experience, the end of control is shaping up everywhere. With Newspaper’s forcing you to buy access to content, record labels unwilling to move on their position and flexing the control muscle, they are in for a rude awakening. Mainstream Media & Mainstream Business must find ways to make this shift, find ways to monetize around product and service. Rather than fight with everyone and try to maintain the current Copyright Model, try working with the stakeholders and content providers. Create interesting ways to replace the Copyright Gridlock we are in with collective agreements where everyone wins. Much of what we know must be unlearned and new creative ways to allow for everyone to participate in a global economy where the content makers do indeed get paid. The Open & Free Business Model allows for this and also brings a hotbed of creativity that builds trust, relationships and attention.

Silicon Valley has the same issues, it is very much an incubator, it doesn’t really integrate with the rest of the world, they talk a different language, and it feeds on itself and funds itself. Sounds cold and harsh but let’s be honest, they are light years away from most of us but still have to share the same space. We need them to be weird and innovative for the rest of the world, but they also seem disconnected at times, it’s a day time soap at times. It’s like being the Nerd in grade school again, everyone looks at you funny because you talk funny and wear a pocket protector.

Mainstream being stuck in the mainstream has a silver lining, it means we get to be creative and help them get unstuck. Unfortunately, today they are fighting against us and the world, and want to maintain control, it’s a losing battle I’m afraid. They aren’t listening now, but they will, musicians and the like are banding together all over the world as messengers. It might appear mainstream media has the upper hand, but it will be short lived. I try to advocate working together, bring awareness, and help build the future in an Open & Free Business Model, a place where everyone (YOU) wins.

Are you ready? How do you feel about an Open & Free Business Model? Do you think Mainstream is stuck in the Mainstream?

business-group-standing-around-water-cooler.-thumb2042587This question has been nagging at me these past few weeks like I was being pecked to death by a chicken, could it be that these words are not computing with local business owners? It’s like your smallest child learning how to read an can’t pronounce a word, they end up creating a new word because they can’t say what they are reading. No it’s not a learning disability, it’s an understanding of what those words actually mean and how to use it in this new age and environment of marketing. It’s changed, or has it? Anytime you have the word ” Social ” attached to a phrase or sentence, people think less formal, beach party, BBQ or relaxing on the deck with friends. Yes, that is a form of being social and it is somewhat related to the term in business circles as well. The problem isn’t the word, it’s the thinking that is attached to the words, and small business owners can’t seem to break how they feel or think about the word. It’s not that they can’t, they just don’t know how and it’s embarrassing enough that they won’t ask for help on the topic for fear of looking stupid. I mean come on, it’s the words ” Social Media ” how could I not know what that means! So rather than find out, they think, let’s not go there and or I’ll avoid the conversation all together. Worse yet, I’ll ask my kids. Small to medium business, all business for that matter needs to educate themselves on the tidal wave before them and how to ride that wave without being wiped out.

In my corner of the world here in Western Canada, a very small group of people participate in the formal sense of the words social media. This group is comprised of mostly people from chat rooms or FaceBook and the like, not a many are business owners trying to add this environment into their marketing mix or even their support systems. I say this because I’ve been coming up against this lack of understanding everyday and this uncomfortable feeling when you try to share with them, to help them understand what it is or could be for their business. It’s like the words Social Media aren’t even in their vocabulary or business language, it’s completely missing, and if it is there, it’s a picture of people standing around a water cooler. So in light of that, I am posting the Wiki definition of Social Media here for all the world to see.

Social Media Definition

Social media is online content created by people using highly accessible and scalable publishing technologies. At its most basic sense, social media is a shift in how people discover, read and share news, information and content. It’s a fusion of sociology and technology, transforming monologues (one to many) into dialogues (many to many) and is the democratization of information, transforming people from content readers into publishers. Social media has become extremely popular because it allows people to connect in the online world to form relationships for personal, political and business use.

Distinction from Industrial Media

Social media are distinct from industrial media, such as newspapers, television, and film. While social media are relatively inexpensive and accessible tools that enable anyone (even private individuals) to publish or access information, industrial media generally require significant resources to publish information. Examples of industrial media issues include a printing press or a government-granted spectrum license.

“Industrial media” are commonly referred to as “traditional”, “broadcast” or “mass” media.

One characteristic shared by both social media and industrial media is the capability to reach small or large audiences; for example, either a blog post or a television show may reach zero people or millions of people. The properties that help describe the differences between social media and industrial media depend on the study. Some of these properties are:

1. Reach – both industrial and social media technologies provide scale and enable anyone to reach a global audience.

2. Accessibility – the means of production for industrial media are typically owned privately or by government; social media tools are generally available to anyone at little or no cost.

3. Usability – industrial media production typically requires specialized skills and training. Most social media do not, or in some cases reinvent skills, so anyone can operate the means of production.

4. Recency – the time lag between communications produced by industrial media can be long (days, weeks, or even months) compared to social media (which can be capable of virtually instantaneous responses; only the participants determine any delay in response). As industrial media are currently adopting social media tools, this feature may well not be distinctive anymore in some time.

5. Permanence – industrial media, once created, cannot be altered (once a magazine article is printed and distributed changes cannot be made to that same article) whereas social media can be altered almost instantaneously by comments or editing.

Community media constitute an interesting hybrid of industrial and social media. Though community-owned, some community radios, TV and newspapers are run by professionals and some by amateurs. They use both social and industrial media frameworks.

Here is the link from the above: Social Media Definition

The real issue isn’t what the words mean, it’s how a consultant or media firm explains them, provides a case study that reflects that a business can derive an ROI from Social Media. Thus, giving the term value and a new way of marketing and communicating with their customers, by building a deeper, richer relationship that builds a new kind of loyalty. More importantly it provides a forum where you the business owners actually cares about what your clientele think about your products and services. A place where you can give them and even better experience of dealing with you.

Another challenge for these words and business owner’s; there are people out there claiming to be knowledgeable and understand social media that just plain don’t. These individuals land high positions in large organizations, they get the position and then scramble around to figure out how to do the job when they have no business being there in the first place. A great rant on this topic is from my friend Olivier Blanchard of The Brand Builder, his video entitled, “Is your Social Media Director qualified?”, it articulates far better than I Olivier’s frustration and concern with these individuals in one short video. Take the time to view it.

As you can tell there is alot of work to be done, an educational track that needs to be articulated in a way that business owners can connect the dots, connect the words to a real opportunity and value they have not considered before. Each business owner needs to bone up and learn that the term Social Media is a new marketing environment but also a relationship they have avoided in the past. You can no longer avoid it because it is the new word of mouth, it can be your best friend or your worst enemy. You have to decide which it will be.