I’ve found myself right at the event horizon of the black hole known as Social Media. I’m holding in a stable orbit at a safe distance, but I know it wouldn’t take much for me to drop in and you’ll never hear from me again. [Okay. Stop cheering.] I’ve noticed a few friends zooming by me and I don’t think they’ll escape. Other friends are so far away that they have no hope of keeping up with the rest of what’s going on. It occurs to me that either situation, too far away from Social Media or too deep in the black hole, you loose.
A colleague recently published an article about how we need to strategically rethink our business model to be sure it’s appropriate for the new economic realities. He’s absolutely correct. And, as readers of this blog know, one of my mantras is that we have to totally re-think sales. I’ve been writing about this for some time now, and published my own article on the subject back in October of 2009. So, if we need to strategically change our business model, and specifically, change the way we market and sell, then we cannot get by without at least seriously looking into Social Media and what it means to us at work, and for our sales process.
If you want to get an understanding of what all this hoopla is about, you can spend some time with webinars posted on the internet and reading some of the material available such as the book Friends With Benefits or the latest Economist Special Report in the 1/30/2010 issue. This blog post (and follow on posts) should provide the reasons to encourage you to dive in if you haven’t already. For those that have, perhaps you will find some new ideas and resources.
Consider these ideas:
- Your employees all have smart phones, so even if you lock down your networks, they can and will access the social media while at work.
- Your competitors and perhaps disgruntled customers are posting their complaints on-line. Are you reading them?
- I find few people reading any direct mail, catalogs or magazine ads even if they still get printed material.
- I find fewer people reading printed papers, some are subscribing through their e-Readers.
- Most folks I know look up things, services, people, and companies on-line rather than yellow pages.
- Total unique visitors on Facebook in October 2009 was in excess of 430 million.
- Your employees, especially the younger crowd, are all used to collaborating on-line and expect to be able to do so at work for work projects.
- Your competitors are using the Social Networks to build focus groups and to allow “open source design” of products.
- Through Social Networks, your employee may know more about strangers they’ve never met in person than they do about their fellow employees.
- Privacy will be the big issue rather than wondering if Social Networks should be in the workplace.
Okay, so who is on the Social Networking sites? Where are my clients and customers? According to BNet, the demographics break down as follows:
Facebook is by far the largest of the Social Media Networks. But contrary to popular opinion, it isn’t just about personal family and friends trivial discussions. Of course, that does in fact take place, but more and more Facebook is about business. There are so called “Fan Pages” which are more often than not business advertisements in one form or another.
Then we have the most “professional” Social Network in Linked In. It has been around for a very long time and is
now one of the premiere sites for recruiters, head hunters and job seekers.
Many of the retained search and placement firms now openly advise their clients that they use LinkedIn and other social media to find out more about prospective employees. Yet another reason to be very careful what you put in your profiles. Company HR departments are also turning to LinkedIn for job placement. They use other Social Media including Craig’s List, Facebook and MySpace.
MySpace has been seen to be falling behind the other Social Media. Especially competition from Facebook and Twitter have been fierce. Still, they have a respectable
market. This tends to be a younger demographic and focuses on sharing music and photos. Still Facebook has become the second largest photo sharing site on the internet. So MySpace is playing catch up there too.
The newest kid on the block is Twitter. And if you are like me, then you figure it’s just a bunch of teens sending out mundane updates on what they had for lunch, why they hate their math teacher and who’s the “hottest” on campus these days. WRONG!
Twitter has become a huge marketing tool for sharing information that is useful. Sure, there are still the personal updates from time-to-time, but the folks I follow (and those who follow me) seem more interested in sharing information. This Blog will be “Tweeted,” shared on Facebook and Linked in when it posts. All automatically.
Which brings me to another couple of points. For those of us who have limited time only and do not want to get sucked into that “black hole,” there are tools that let us time-shift our work. I usually take a few hours out of my weekend to work on the Social Media and Blog stuff, schedule it for the following week, and then go about my business during the normal work week. I may throw in ten or fifteen minutes early in the morning to “Tweet” some interesting article that an e-mail pointed out. But for the most part, I do this kind of creative work on the weekends or evenings after the normal workday ends.
Another point is that for those of us who are selling services or whose products are not sold over the internet, we often make the mistake of saying, “Yeah, but did it generate any business.” I think the answer needs to be perhaps it did, but really what I’m doing on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and my Blog is branding, not advertising. I think this is a very key point. By openly posting information, sharing knowledge with peers and generally giving back to the community, we are becoming known and building credibility. And remember, these days, “sell” is a four letter word. Nobody wants to be sold anything. So adjust your attitude, intention and message to be one of openly sharing rather than pitching.
More on tools and how we can manage this brave new world in the next installment.