by Sherry Heyl
Most people involved in social media will tell you that social media is not a “quick fix” – that it is “a long and winding road” and a commitment.
And they are right!
I often try to explain to people that Social Media is an evolution of communications, not an add on. What that means is, just like we all got rid of the typewriter when PCs landed on our desk, we now have to review our communication efforts and decide what to let go of, what to optimize in such a way to include social media, and how not to duplicate our communication efforts.
Although social media was originally seen as a disruption to our lives, as our communication efforts continue to evolve we are starting to see social media as an everyday part of our lives.
However, that does not mean we can expect our adoption of social media tools and trends to be a quick fix, but we can measure a few early wins.
As discussed often on this site, social media not only changes how we communicate, but it also impacts how we do business, how manage our team, and how we view our proprietary offerings and intellectual property. All of this change is sure to cause anxiety within the organization. That is why identifying what is working early is so critical to building and maintaining momentum as you travel down the social media autobahn.
If you followed our three step process regarding driving up the social media on-ramp, then you already know how social media can impact the 5 stages of a sales cycle. Your early wins can be measured by
- Increased number of impressions.
- Ability to get information to prospects where they are asking for relevant information.
- Increased ability for people to act on their decisions by eliminating extra steps it would take for their decisions to be acted on.
- Increased responses to any customer service issues, to any person in need.
- Increased the ability for people to share your information among their peers.
More importantly if you have engaged in social media with the mindset of connecting with your customers, you should be able to walk into your boardroom and present what you have learned by actively listening to the conversations that are happening on the web. You will be able to explain what your competition is doing well and where they have some exposed weaknesses. You should be able to point out specific threats to your brand image as well as opportunities to enhance your relationship with your customers.
Your knowledge of where your customers and prospects are, who they are and what they care about will enable you to prepare your team in the various departments to be more proactive to the needs of your customers. Your team will be able to bring their talents and experience to the table to collaboratively innovate solutions that best serve what your customers want and need.
Ultimately, these early and measurable wins will enable your organization to get up to speed to be a competitive force on the social media autobahn.
by Sherry Heyl
1. Get each department involved in the organization’s social media efforts.
2. Create a culture of sharing.
3. Create a presence in the channels where your customer are.
I mentioned that once you have made it up the social media on-ramp, the next step will be to keep up with traffic. This will require having a well-oiled machine and a clear view of what is ahead.”
This will require taking an in-depth look at your organization to identify your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.
Below are a few questions that can guide through such a process.
Identifying Your Strengths
- Who are your Ambassadors? Who on your team are the ones who seems to be passionate about the company, knows even the most obscure information about what it happening, and is always willing to pitch in to offer an idea, a creative idea, or simply a helping hand?
- What creative assets are available that can be used within your social media channels? What pictures, videos, articles, and stories can be repurposed and shared with the community?
- Where is your organization already active in the community? Are their conversations happening right now about your brand that you can begin participating in? Do you have an active email list that you can leverage to invite your customers to join you on other online channels? Do you have partners that already have an online presence where your voice would be welcomed
Identify Your Weaknesses
- What information silos within the organization that prevent collaboration?
- Where is there a lack of, or inconsistent visions related to the goals of participation in social media?
- What knowledge gaps exist and what additional and ongoing training for the team will be needed?
- How can that organization improve efficiency and save money through social media channels?
- How can the sales team leverage social media to identify better qualified leads and get a jump on the competition?
- How can customers be involved in the organizations ongoing development of new products and services?
- How will your organization protect intellectual property and the organization’s reputation?
- How can information and use of various channels be managed in such a way that it does not become a chaotic, noisy mess with no purpose.
- With so many people and departments involved, how can we maintain accountability?
The answers to these questions will vary depending on the size and culture of each organization. However, it is vital that these question are addressed or you may find your social media efforts stranded on the side of the road before you ever gained any momentum.
by Sherry Heyl
I have the great privilege to be the founder and Chair of the TAG Enterprise 2.0 society. We are currently in the process of planning our 3rd year. Yet each planning meeting still starts with the question “What is Enterprise 2.0?”
Is Enterprise 2.0 about
- the tools?
- the way organizations interact with their customers?
- the way employees interact with each other?
- the way organizations develop new ideas for products and services?
- the way sales people find new leads?
- emerging revenue models?
I personally am in agreement with Dion Hinchcliffe‘s image of Enterprise 2.0
Over the past few years we have witnessed a tremendous increase in organizations integrating social media tools and trends within their marketing mix.
Inc. recently posted a survey that found;
social media usage by companies on the Inc. 500 has grown in the past year, with 91 percent of companies reporting that they use at least one social media tool, compared with 77 percent of companies surveyed in 2008.
The increased adoption of social media can be attributed to many forces, including;
- Reputation management as more and more customers talk about brands online.
- Perceived reduction in cost for marketing during the recent economic downturns.
- Peer pressure as more and more companies boast of success from their social media efforts.
However the adoption of social media tools for internal collaboration has not been as widespread as social media marketing, yet.
The pressures for people to change how they communicate internally have not been as strong as they were when customers began openly voicing their ideas and opinions externally. Internally employees are focused on their task at hand with the tools that are available to them with little time to experiment with new tools or processes. Not to mention the need to get executive buy-in to change processes or even buy-in from the team.
Most enterprise adoption of social software for internal collaboration has come after the sell of a “solution” from the various vendors. Although there are various success stories such as Transunion saving $2.5 million is less than 5 months using social software, often organizations find their new social platforms are ghost towns. The reason is it takes time, effort and a compelling reason for people to change their behavior, and to date, the compelling reasons have not been well known.
So, what is changing that puts Enterprise 2.0 as one of our “Near Future of the Web” topics?
The unemployment rate.
This year unemployment went into the double digits. Everyday there was news of mass layoffs. New jobs were hard to find and many new jobs that were listed were asking for some knowledge of social media. People joined sites such Twitter, Facebook, and of course LinkedIN to find the hidden job market and to update their skills. The masses on the job market had both the time and very compelling reasons to learn new skills that would change their behavior.
New hires of experienced professionals are now becoming as savvy with social software as the Millennials entering the job force. Any organization that has not begun to implement a strategy and guidelines for social software behind the firewall may find themselves facing grassroots efforts that happen with the best of intentions, but may ultimately sacrifice the organizations intellectual property, reputation, as well as create a culture of cliques that include those who are “in the know” and those who “do it the way it has always been done.”
This is why unlike social media, which had its origins as a grassroots movement, Enterprise 2.0 needs to be led from the top. Social software is free and readily available to be implemented by employees for the personal or project based uses. More often than not, there is not need or desire to let potential detractors know about these efforts. This in turn, increases the number of knowledge silos, compromises intellectual property, and potential could cause irrefutable damage.
The benefits of an Enterprise 2.0 initiative are numerous including;
- Deeper insight into who the talent is within the organization
- Ability to immediately dispel rumors and misinformation
- Collaboration among the various departments
- Capturing and nurturing innovative ideas
- Increasing knowledge retention
- Creating a sense of community within the organization
However, an Enterprise 2.0 initiative is not going to be successful without the right purpose and strategy moving it forward. These initiatives need to be aligned with the direction of vision of the organization, and that typically comes from the top.
The biggest challenge organizations face right now is not the fluctuating stock market or the lack of productivity from your employees hanging out on Facebook.
The biggest challenge organizations face right now is lack of timely insight into the needs of their employees and the needs of their customers.
The future is flying toward us at an unprecedented speed and without the tools needed to see what is ahead as well as what is right in front of us many organizations might find themselves lying in a landfill of fossilized businesses.
The October 1-7 CMO Weekly Poll asked “which of your groups is best equipped to help you with your social media efforts today?”
The overwhelming answer was in-house 65.6%
9.4%Social Media Agency
Business Week has a few quotes that explain the thought process behind the CMOs answers.
I have been telling clients this for years! When a client ask if they can outsource their social media efforts to me, I often ask them if they would be willing to send me to networking events on their behalf? to conferences? to sales meetings? Because in essence, if you are outsourcing your social media efforts, it is similar to outsourcing those key sales activities.
So, what kind of help can you get to be successful in social media?
Your PR agency can and should integrate social media channels into their efforts. This can include creating and managing a social media press room, identify and developing relationships with what I call “institutional bloggers” these are bloggers who act more like a journalist as opposed to “day in my life” bloggers, they can monitor for reputation management concerns and create a strategy for managing when things go wrong or leveraging the opportunities of when things go right.
Your Interactive agency can and should be optimizing your web presence for social media. This would include re-designing your email newsletters to include your social media presence, setting up and optimizing your social networking sites, making sure your social media efforts are working hand in hand with your SEO efforts and creating a web site that is dynamic, interactive and buzz worthy.
Your creative/Ad agency has the opportunity to position ads where your audience is most engaged with their peers about topics related to you. They can create ads that are buzz worthy and positioned to go viral.
What about your social media agency? What is their role?
From my perspective, a social media agency should work with all of the above departments to ensure that everyone is on the same page and there is a unified presence and message throughout the web. A social media agency should stay up-to-date on the latest tools and technologies that weave the web together. A social media agency should be able to research the web and identify where your audience is hanging out, what they are saying, and how they are feeling. A social media agency should be able to check out your competition and report what they are doing well and where their vulnerabilities are. A social media agency should be able to train your team on the hows and whys of social media, what each person’s role and responsibility should be when hanging out on the web, and how to best manage their time. At their best, a social media agency can also enable a company to leverage social software tools internally to make sure that right information is getting to the right people at the right time.
By providing the intelligence, roadmap, and structure, social media agencies can empower their clients to be successful in this ever changing noisy world. But ultimately, client interactions and engagement really cannot be outsourced.
by Sherry Heyl
Friday night I attended my first Atlanta Bar Camp event. Bar Camp is a gathering of some of the smartest people in the city in which everyone who attends has to sign up to give a 30 minute presentation.
My presentation was “Creating a Social Media Business Plan (including a revenue model!!)”
Surprise!! My room was packed! Standing room only.
I explained that I have spent my career as a sales person, therefore my approach to creating a social media business plan has always tied in a revenue/sales model.
The room was full of mostly entrepreneurs, the techie kind. From my experience they are the brilliant minds who create solutions in search of a problem.
I explained that before launching into ANY social media initiative, you must first understand who has what problems and what kind of solutions are they search for.
I demonstrated a social media business plan that I created for one of my clients.
The first step we took was to listen. But prior to listening we had to decide exactly what we were listening for.
In the case of my client example we were looking for people who had questions regarding their financial retirement planning. The assumption was that we would find the baby-boomers to be our core demographic.
However, because we were listening for the problems and not focused on our ASSUMED demographic we identified that Gen Y had serious questions about how to fill out their 401K forms when entering the job market. Considering that human resources personnel are not in a position to answer these questions, and many of the parents of this group were just as confused these days as their children were, Gen Y was turning to the web for answers. This knowledge led to creating new offerings to a new client base which meant new revenue opportunities.
We also identified Gen X as having a very unique set of challenges as well as sentiment around their Retirement plans. Gen X is a group that tends to be more DIY and Peer supported than any other group. Our research enabled us to shape our messaging and value proposition to this group.
Our baby-boomers still looked more to advisors for counsel, which means that there was an opportunity to introduce advisors to a core community of people searching for solutions.
We created personas for each group which enabled us to look at the competition through the eyes of each group. From that perspective we were able to develop a comprehensive SWOT analysis on each of competitors and learn what to do and what not to do.
The next questions that we addressed were;
- What can you offer for free? The obvious answer is knowledge. Knowledge is no longer power, it is a commodity. Information freely is available everywhere. What is valuable these days is time.
- How can we save people time and what can we expect in return? This is the answer to where you can begin to structure pricing around your offering. Ask yourself, how can you save people time and then ask how much would that be worth?
- What will your customers need to best benefit from your offering. This is the revenue model I see most people missing these days. In a nutshell it is training. Microsoft generated lots of money in this space. No software was released without a certification tied to it. I am dumbfounded that so many people are skipping this step when a new product is released to the market.
The most important key to capturing our audience is to meet them where they are. Even if we are introducing a world changing innovation, we cannot expect a 360 degree paradigm shift, we have to understand our prospects current world view and meet them there in order to guide them to new opportunities.
I have said it over and over and over again, but it is worth repeating.
Social Media is an EVOLUTION not an add-on. In no time everything on line will be built on social software. So, do not worry about how to make the next million dollars as the next Facebook. Instead focus on solving problems using current (or better) social technologies.
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by Sherry Heyl and Kate Rasnick
This past week I had the opportunity to get to know Kate Rasnick. Kate is launching a mobile marketing consultancy. As many of us know, Mobile Marketing is rapidly growing and proving to have a greater reach than many other marketing channels.
After meeting and getting to know Kate, I was inspired to host my first podcast as a way to introduce her to my readers. Although I have been a guest on a number of podcasts, I never actually hosted one. It was a fun experience and I look forward to hosting more. You can listen to our 15 minute discussion by clicking on the player below.
by Sherry Heyl
In a few short weeks I will celebrate 4 years of being in business. That is 4 years of exploring social media for my own personal branding, personal expression, ongoing education, and marketing efforts. 4 years where I have had the honor to work with over 30 clients, and helped launch 3 new social media sites! (ATL Insider, Lens on Atlanta, and eRollover). I have designed over 3 dozen customized courses and I have written over 2,000 pages of research and recommendations. I have Co-Chaired 3 Social Media Conferences (SoCon07, 08, and 09), been the Chair TAG’s Enterprise 2.0 Society for the past 2 years and have launched and managed Digitainment‘s Social Media presence. I have spoken at almost 50 events and been publish in magazines, the AJC, the Atlanta Business Chronicle as well as featured in several podcasts.
I have forgotten about more social media tools than most people will ever be aware of. I have launched 3 personal blogs, and deleted 2 of them. I have gathered several hundred facebook friends only to de-friend them. I gathered over 1,000 followers on my Concept Hub Twitter account (without tools or bots) in a week, based on a bet (no money was involved, so I guess it was more of a challenge.) Now I am spending hours making that account actually be part of a working strategy.
Over the years I have had lots of successes, but I have also made lots of mistakes, or what I prefer to think of as learning experiences.
As I reflect on all that I have learned over the past 4 years, I decided to share with you my insights on 4 social media dilemmas.
1. Personal vs Professional
The more involved a person gets in social media for business the harder it will become to separate your personal from your professional self. In fact, many people are looking to know more about your personal self as opposed to your professional self, whether they are potential partners, clients, or employers. This is especially true here in the South. How many times have you met someone for a business meeting and spent a good portion of the time talking about sports, kids, vacations, and so forth.
For the longest time I had no problem mixing my personal life with my professional life. I accepted people I barely knew, or only briefly met, on my Facebook page, along with my family and my friends from high school. This did not seem to be a problem for me until:
- A good friend posted some very flattering photos of me in a bikini back when we were in high school. They are good pictures, we are not doing anything crazy, but I questioned, do I want people I barely know looking at them?
- I took a weekday off and was hanging out at PF Changs waiting to meet a friend for lunch. I ordered a glass of Merlot and posted on Facebook “there is nothing like the first sip of Merlot to make it all melt away.” Well, the comments from my high school friends that followed made me realize very quickly that they know a different “Sherry” than the person I am today.
- I met with a high school friend that I have not seen in 10 years. She said to me “I try to keep up with what you are posting on Facebook, but I do not understand it.” By posting work related topics, I was alienating my friends and family on Facebook.
So, as a result I have set up a Concept Hub Fan Page to focus on work related topics and keep my personal profile page focused on what is going on in my life. I still connect with my professional network on Facebook, but only those who I know; The people that I would sit in a coffee shop with and discuss the latest about sports, kids and vacations along with work efforts.
Anything that I want to keep very closed to only friends and family can be shared through sites that are not as mainstream, or through closed groups, or good old fashion email. Anything that is truly personal, should not be shared online at all.
2. Quantity vs Quality
I sat in a meeting recently where a “Social Media Expert” sold the client on managing their social networking efforts for them. With very few exceptions, this in not a strategy I endorse. To me it is equivalent to outsourcing your networking events. (“Let’s see, I can not make it to the CXO dinner tonight, let me call my PR rep to go for me.”)
Basically, I do not understand how passion, personality, and expertise can be outsourced.
Beyond that, the promises I hear is “how many followers” they will attract and how many canned messages will be pushed out. How is this different from traditional PR/Marketing?
Social Media does have a place in traditional Marketing, PR, and Interactive Marketing when it comes to getting the right messages to the right people through the channels that your audience wants to receive those messages. But Social Networking is about relationships. Remember, based on a challenge I was able to attract over 1,000 followers in a week. I also was able to push hundreds of messages to those people. But in the end, the efforts that have paid off for me are the efforts I have put into nurturing relationships. Relationships take time, therefore if you are going to invest time into channels where people are expecting to develop relationships with you, focus on who you are connecting to, not how many people you are connecting to.
3. Where to Begin and When Does it End
Where to Begin? Begin by learning what you need to know. There are so many people out there saying “we can help you with your social media too!” and the end result is wasted time, wasted money, and a lot more confusion.
Oftentimes when I meet people with little to no experience with social media I suggest that they use a few tools for personal reasons; vacations, wishlists, and hobbies are a good start. Look for which tools and applications make your life easier and which ones are adding more things to your life. If you do decide to hire an agency or a technology company to launch your social media program, PLEASE check to see how many people on the project are very active on Social Media sites. So many times I have seen efforts that are so counter-logical to me (yes I think I just made up that word). When I look into the backgrounds of the people who were in charge of the strategy, design, or execution I often find that they might have a few profiles set up in several sites, but they are not actively involved on any sites. Therefore they are not exposed to what works and why, which leads to efforts that are counter-logical to those who do live and breathe social media.
So where does it end? Never. It is like the phone, which was an incredible communications invention that was introduced over a century ago, and yet more than 100 years later mobile marketing is still the hottest new thing. Social Media will continue to evolve and grow and will become a part of almost every aspect of our lives.
4. How Do I Know If Social Media Is Working?
I read lots of business and career books and the one thing that they all have in common is the importance of being top of mind and managing the impressions people have of you. Your social media efforts are working if you are top of mind of the right people, the people who can buy from you or influence the buying decisions of others. Your social media efforts are working if you have created an impression of your brand and services that can withstand an attack from a disgruntled customer, employee or competitor.
When I launched my company I was often surprised when I would attend an event and people I have never met in person knew who I was. Now I find myself a little surprised when someone has not heard of me. Of the 50 events I have presented at and the publications I have been mentioned in, I have never pitched or solicited myself to any of them. Each opportunity was presented to me and more than half of my clients have been through referrals or people finding my information online.
There is a lot of buzz right now questioning the value of social media or inquiring about the ROI of social media. Social media is nothing more than an extension of who we are as a person or as a brand. If you and/or our brand have a strong value offering, the proper execution of a social media strategy will provide a strong ROI. If you and/or your brand have a number of character flaws, then social media may expose those flaws and bring you and your company crashing down.
That is the #1 lesson I have learned over the past 4 years. Social Media is simply an extension of who we are; personally and professionally, quality and quantity, from beginning to end.
by Sherry Heyl,
The past two days I had the opportunity to hang out in Birmingham, AL with the IAEE Southeast chapter for their 18th Annual Classic. I was invited to present a Social Networking 101 session.
For the presentation I decided to use case studies to show how by leveraging social media we have increased attendance, awareness, and valuable networking opportunities at events.
We discussed how we worked with the The Atlanta Children’s Shelter to launch their “Tell a Friend” Campaign to promote their first 5K. By developing targeted messages and creating distributable content we were able to get the word out through a variety of peer to peer channels.
For their first 5K the shelter had set the goal to raise $10K. They raised $26K! Today they have a complete social media program in place for every event on their calendar.
We also talked about how Crowdvine has brought so much value to the SoCon events by enabling the attendees to start networking long before the event and to continue networking long after the event. I am very proud of Tony Stubblebine, the creator of Crowdvine, who just posted a celebration to their 2nd birthday!
Finally, I introduced the group to the concept of an un-conference and the magic that happens when you invite the audience to be part of the show.
The next scheduled speaker for the event had an unfortunate delay at the airport, so to fill that time slot I led an impromptu Un-Conference session.
We re-capped the morning sessions which included some great negotiating tips from Claire Gould, such as slow down and read what is on the menus and of course in the contracts. Remember the economics of value, are you really getting the economic value for what you are receiving? Most importantly hold people accountable, if they only deliver 80% of what they promised then you should only pay 80%. Claire also shared with us some great images of the little things that can be done to wow your attendees. As Mark Zimmerman from the Georgia World Congress Center said, “something small can go a long way!”
We also reviewed some great marketing tips that was shared by Charles Allen of the CW Allen Group. He challenged us to look at our marketing messages and ask, can I say:
- “Well I would hope so.” Do you say things that your audience should expect from you already, such as reliable, experts, or promises to do your job?
- Anyone else can say that. Are you just marching to the same drumbeat of everyone else in your industry?
- I can cross out your name and add your competitor’s name and it still works. How is your organization different?
Charles gave s a great formula for creating our message.
- Interrupt (hit your audience hot buttons)
- Engage (promise to educate. Charles said we are in the age of Educational Marketing)
- Educate (Identify your audience’s important and relevant issues and be their guide to solutions)
- Offer (a low risk next step)
- Result (long term business relationship)
The above formula is all about knowing your audience, which can only happen when you listen to them. There is no better place to tap into their conversations than in social media. To launch your social media initiatives you should;
- Understand what your competitors are doing, what is working or not working for them and what you can do better.
- Understand what your audience is looking for and what their hot buttons are.
- Decide the best way to optimize your current communication efforts for social media.
Overall, the elements that go into creating events that make a long lasting impression is nothing new. What is new are the tools that we have today that enable us to be more relevant and add more value to these events. Those who leverage these tools will create mutual long lasting value for their attendees, exhibitors, and for themselves.
Find Business Consultants that KNOW Social Media
by Sherry Heyl,
The first time I read through it I found myself thinking “yep, yep, yep.”
The second time I read through it I realized that many of the things on the list were traps I ALMOST fell in when I was learning to be a social media consultant, but through my past experiences, knowledge of business, and with the help of some great coaches, I have been able to avoid almost all of the traps, which include:
This is perhaps the easiest trap to fall in. You think you are in some sort of race. The best way to avoid this is to focus on a high-level understanding of what is possible, design a solution for your client and then select the right tools and the right communities to fit your client’s needs. You have to be well-versed in social media, but more importantly you have to be well-versed in the best way to meet you client’s objectives.
I learned to avoid this trap from my executive level clients. They don’t want more “friends” they want to do good business. Your business time needs to be spent on business objectives, your friendship time on friendship, and yes occasionally the two will cross-over, but keep in mind what you are doing and why you are doing it. It is not good business to give away something for nothing. Sharing stories, tips, and tricks is wonderful. It is what makes business go around, but make sure it is a mutually beneficial exchange.
If you are a consultant your activities should not be all about you, but about the people who are paying you. I personally do not believe in the co-dependent model of business either. I focus on empowering my clients to rock their own world, and if done right, I can take my finger off the mouse trigger.
This is why social media consulting should not be about the latest tools or latest trends, but about meeting business objectives. Social media is also not an add-on, but an evolution of business process and communications. If you keep that in mind and focus on staying up-to-date on making your clients more efficient, then the REAL competitive landscape shrinks a bit.
I can not get away from this one, it is what it is. ANY new process and every small business requires lots of unpaid overtime. That is why it is so important to manage your time well.
I definitely fell down this rabbit hole more than once. The trick is simple sales 101. What do they NEED you to know, why do they need you to know that and what outcome is expected? Answer questions with questions and then propose how you will help them meet their core objectives, whether it is through research or partnering with someone who has the necessary industry experience.
Yep! But at the end of the day clients are paying for results. Make that your core focus!
And again, this is why social media is an evolution of business process, not a one off campaign or the cherry on top of everything else a company is doing.
For me the passion comes from empowering people. You can give me the most “uncool” company, but tell me that I can help get the teams to collaborate and innovate and I am THERE! Tell me that I can take a company and improve their customer service through social media tools and I will think that is cool. It really depends on your passion, and in social media if your are not passionate, you will find yourself in “awkward, uncomfortable professional relationships.”
Again, ANY new process and every small business suffers from this trap. The answer I have found is to set aside times that are sacred for you, your friends and your family.
This is very true and I do struggle with this. I have revamped my business model a few times to overcome this. I have created lots of self-paced training modules to help with guiding the client through the strategy. Also in the initial proposal I lay out what I will do and what I need from the client to do what I do. And I specifically ask to have multiple meetings with the people who are most against or skeptical about social media. You cannot just rely on your evangelist, you have to win over your skeptics too. Again, you have to be a good salesperson, more so than a great social media consultant.
And this is different from other great careers in what way?
The good news is this is hard. It is very hard. Therefore the people who were not cut out for this new career will burn out quickly.
by Sherry Heyl,
Not long ago a friend of mine shared some responses from a pre-event survey about social media. Some of the responses stated;
- [Social Media] is premature
- Our audience is not linked in to this new technology
- [Social Media] is an untested business model
Many people continue to look at Social Media as a new online trend. However last night as I was stumbling through the Internet, I came across a video from more than a decade ago that might suggest that social media is actually a component of a maturing World Wide Web.
“Suddenly your part of a new mesh of people, programs, archives, ideas”
“If feels a bit like human fellowship, but it’s bigger and more precise.”
This was the promise of the Internet more than a decade ago. These are not new ideas or new trends. What is new are the tools that make these promises a reality.
Adoption of social media is accelerating at such a rapid pace that no one can really keep track of it. The graph below is taken from Pew Internet which shows the adoption of the Internet itself.
I realized a few years ago that being online meant being impacted if not impacting social media. People were reading user reviews and getting their questions answered on online forums. But in a survey these same people would say they were not in MySpace or reading blogs and therefore were not accurately counted as someone adopting social media. I believe the accelerating trend of social media adoption is much steeper than any survey has displayed. I also have observed that the tools and communities that people are joining have more to do with their personalities and personal objectives than their demographics.
The past week I have been delivering customized training sessions on the various Social Bookmarking tools. I can not stress enough that each tool has a different purpose and therefore a different reason to use them. One of my favorite tools has been Delicious. Delicious is a social bookmarking tool that people are using mostly to save their personal links, as opposed to voting a story up or down like in Digg or Reddit. Because the use of Delicious is mostly driven by personal motives, the consumer insights a marketer can get from the community can be much more authentic than what they would glean from other communities where people are choosing to voice their opinion to their community.
Below is a case study of how we used Delicious 2 years ago to gain insights into our client’s rapidly growing consumer segment.
As the video above suggests, the promise of the Internet was to enable people to join a mesh of conversations with other people, to share and discover ideas, and to access archives and programs. However too often the Internet has been hijacked for the purpose of being turned into an advertising and marketing channel. I am still amazed at how many brands are setting up Twitter accounts thinking people want to get a stream of marketing messages from them.
Marketers can benefit most by spending a majority of their time listening and getting to know who is online and how they can best add value to the online communities as well as how participation can help a company meet their business objectives. This is the foundation of good business, with or without the web.
A friend of mine claims that social media has caused many people to stop thinking. He sees people looking at social media as the magic silver bullet that will solve all kinds of business challenges or they see social media as a new passing fad. Neither is true. Social Media can help business owners meet their business objectives only if the business has set good core objectives and it has existed for as long as the Internet. Although over the years the tools have evolved, the unfortunate reality is that many poor and inefficient business practices have yet to fade away.