Is the social web the answer to our ailing economy?

I’m going to guess that for a majority of the people out there, the answers that they seek are not in social media. Nor is social media the answer for a lot of businesses that have fallen on hard times. But damned if they are not looking.

They lift up the hood and they see this

social-media-logos

Yet the number of searches going on for the term “social media” per month hover close to half a million. So for most, when they get those search results, and try to make heads or tails of them, it looks like this:

wires

Yet people are wanting to know what it is and how they can make it work for their business. They’re searching for the answer. And the answers they find come from people who have never done it.

They are social media virgins

What social media has done for a lot of small businesses and large ones as well, is it has provided hope at a time when there is not a whole lot of good news to hang your hat on these days.

Hope is not a bad thing because it’s closely aligned with dreams, and right now for a lot of people, that’s all they can bank on. It’s why they wake up every day. Except hoping social media is going to change your business, it’s culture, and the people using it, and ultimately save it, is crazy. You’re looking for a quick fix and sadly, social media is not a quick fix. That doesn’t mean however, that it doesn’t work, because it does.

But there are people out there claiming that they can make social media work for your company and save your company quickly. Be wary. be very wary.

Social media is not the solution to what is ailing you. In fact, there is a strong likelihood that what is ailing you, is completely out of your control. But you are looking for ways to break out, to try something, anything that will turn the tide in your favor. So you’re looking at social media, looking at it hard.

The ripple effect of a bad economy if you will, causes you to look at everything in a different light. Including social media.

Yes, Social media is transformational, it just doesn’t happen over night. I wish it did, but it doesn’t. Chances are, the more you can wrap your arms around what social media can’t do and what it’s not, the better off you will be.

 

Advertisements

The Depth of Your Social Media Growth

If you were to look at the following image, what would you say the expanse of your social media exposure, involvement or engagement would be?

smpresence

Let’s assume that  we all start off as seedlings in social media, and as we learn more, we grow. As the tree grows, so does our comfort level. Eventually we branch out and we all go in different directions, yet we all come from the same seed. We all have the same background and the same foundation.

It should all start with listening, learning, lurking and laboring. Lurking? Yes, lurking. Call it passive participation, but we all have done it. We watch the conversations, wondering where we can insert ourselves into them. If we don’t we lurk, we hover if you will.

Laboring? Even passive participation takes work. It takes effort and you have to put forth effort.

As we progress and grow, we become more comfortable in our need and desire and ability to contribute to the conversations around us. It’s a natural progression. But to make the leap to creating content is a bit more longer and takes a little bit more growth.

On the surface and by the looks of the tree, it almost seems that we all should or could be part of the yellow on this tree. However even those that are most comfortable with social media right now are not part of the yellow.Yet the desired or expected outcome from participation and creation lies in the blue areas of the tree.

Yett if we look at Forrester’s Social Technographics results, surveys show that when it comes to social content 21% of online US consumers are Creators, 37% are Critics (those who react to content created by others), and 69% are Spectators, meaning that the majority of people in Forrester’s survey would find themselves more at the root level of the social media tree.

Look at Jake Mckee’s model. The 90-9-1 Principle where 90% of users are the “audience”, or lurkers. These people tend to read or observe, but don’t actively contribute.

9% of users are “editors”, sometimes modifying content or adding to an existing thread, but rarely create content from scratch. and 1% of users are “creators”, driving large amounts of the social group’s activity and  driving a vast percentage of the site’s new content, threads, and activity.

If we look at it from that standpoint then the tree will be inverted, where it’s all about how “rooted” you are and how deep your social media penetration is. The deeper, more involved you are, the more rich the experience is.

smpresence2

So which version of the tree are you? Where do you see yourself? Should the tree be a 100 year oak or a common weed?

The ROI of competitive intelligence

eaves

Rachel Happe is hosting this weeks #socialmedia session. I bring her up for a reason, which you’ll soon see. For those of you that are unaware of what #socialmedia is, I will quickly explain and then get to my point. Every Tuesday at Noon EST, Jason Breed of Neighborhood America and myself host a one hour Twitter session around the business of social media. Every week we have a different host to moderate  a session wrapped around some of the hottest social media issues revolving around business. They’re job? To challenge and question and probe participants to reach higher in their assumptions about what social media is.  The list of people that have hosted over the past few months is like a who’s who of social media practitioners. They include Jason Falls, Geoff Livingston, Toby Bloomberg, Lee Odden, Mack Collier, Danny Brown, David Alston and Beth Harte, to name a few.

Now more to my point. In one of Rachel’s recent posts on her new project blogsite The Community Roundtable, which I highly suggest you check out, she does a snap shot  view of how community managers use Twitter. She highlites  Connie Bensen, Dirk Shaw, Guy Martin, and herself. In each case, we see how each person manages to monitor the twit streams in their space. In every case, they all manage to monitor the sandbox or boxes in which they play. Why? Because it gives them more information, knowledge and data. And the best part, it’s free and for the most part passive.

Call it competitive intelligence or call it consumer intelligence, call it whatever intelligence you want; but don’t dismiss the value of this information. On the surface it may not deliver the troika that I constantly talk about when talking about hard ROI in social media- make money, save money, or increase equity but if I were going to place a value on competitive intelligence I would say, to use a few sports analogies- It’s the 6th man in basketball, the utility club in golf, the setter in volleyball, the pitcher with the rubber arm in baseball, or the slotback in football. Simply put, don’t underestimate or discount the value of competitive intelligence.

To not take advantage of competitive intelligence that is freely available is more like giving the competition a constant headstart. Or better yet, if you are a hitter in baseball, you’re starting with a strike before you even step in the batters box.

Share this Post

5 Ways To Reduce the Risk of Engaging in Social Media

dice

Last week I was invited to talk with my good friend Paul Chaney from Bizzuka on his very popular show User Friendly Thinking on Blog Talk Radio. Paul and I got to talk about the risk of engaging in social media on a corporate level and from that conversation bubbled up this post.

In the age of the social web, companies can no longer afford to delay their response to the conversation taking place. They need guidance, structure and security when embarking down the road of social media and how to use it. Companies need a “risk aversion process” for learning social media. So here are 5 ways that a company can reduce that risk.

1) First,  approach it like a product launch in other words, you need to assign one or more resources and make them accountable. It’s amazing what happens when more people or departments have ownership, or “skin in the game”, of a project or task.  So for instance typically IT initiates or has ownership of most web 2.0 projects, and thus a lot of the heat falls on them, right?

But what if marketing, PR and IT all had ownership of the success of a social media initiative? And what if the word came down from the top first?  Typically when employees know that their president or CEO is supporting it, they’re more apt to embrace it.  The point is, if you engage the right internal resources that will need to be involved (legal, marketing, corporate communications., executive leadership, IT, and product management)…and do it early on, AND let them have input and belief that they have influence, and ownership as well?… You have a much better chance to succeed in the long run.

2) Second, you can reduce the risk by reviewing the corporate goals / objectives in three month increments and APPLY or review the social media strategies that are complimenting the overall corporate strategies. Make sure the strategies mesh-the same way your marketing materials and their messaging is consistent.

Obviously you need to know the social media objectives first before you can apply the strategies, but the key is to weave them into the rest of the mix. This way they are as relevant, and as high priority and as funded(hopefully) as everything else on the table. And keep the social media goals reachable.

I like to use the analogy of the team that is getting ready to start their season: a) Lets have a winning season b) Lets win x amount of games c) Lets make the playoffs d) Lets win the division etc etc.. I think a lot of people or companies think that social media is this cure-all elixir that happens over night and it’s just not so.

By periodically reviewing the goals, this allows you to see progress and to tweak where appropriate.

3) Next you need to map the results back to either making  money, building equity or reducing costs. This is your mantra!

This ensures longevity and value to the company. CEO’s and business owners can wrap their arms around that. We all know that a lot of people and organizations are currently hung up on the ROI of social media and rightly so; because that really does track back nicely to the risk argument and the reasons NOT to do social media… but that’s why we like to look at the results from the 3 goals mentioned above. Those are tangible and measurable.  I’ll say it again…You need to make money, save money or build equity.

4) Let’s make sure there are guardrails.  Companies will not move forward if they feel there is no control.  As well, companies do not like to operate without nets.. (For example a bad product goes out, or gets released. There is a process there to Recall, Refund, and service those affected customers- there’s a process.  There has to be some semblance of a crisis management plan where it’s… If this happens, then we will do this….If this happens, so and so will handle this etc etc..

5) Lastly, let’s have a road map with intervals where you can Test, Measure and Adapt-TMA. In social media, one of the great things about the space, is that you have the ability to test and measure certain things and adapt fairly quickly because the results are so real time, and so immediate.  So yes, Analytics are key and I love them, but let’s make sure we’re measuring the right things in social media. Because it’s easy to think you are being social, if you’re measuring the wrong thing.

Lastly I was asked about instituting corporate social media policies and if I had any resources to suggest and at the time, I did not have my resources readily available, So here are 2 great links to some sources for (1) Corp. Social Media Policies. and (2) Social Media Policies

Share this Post

Crowdsourcing-Social Media Listening Grids

Over the last 8 weeks @jasonbreed and I have had some tremendous #socialmedia Unpanels at Hashtagsocialmedia.com. Last Tuesday, David Alston of Radian 6, hosted a session titled Developing Corporate Listening Grids. the comments and the discussion was at such a high level, that developing a deck from it was a no-brainer. But obviously it doesn’t happen without the participation of the attendees and their voices.

Share this Post

Content-what’s it worth?

nyt

I got an email from an outfit out of Atlanta that was pitching me on my thoughts of what a combination of advertising, micropayments and regular subscriptions would look like for all of the newspapers that are struggling to redefine themselves.

As luck would have it, I had been thinking about and was going to write about the state of newspapers and how they were going to evolve with the times.  More specifically, how were they going to make money and survive.

Here’s the easy answer. They’re not. Some variation of them might. But…

Newspapers as we know or knew them, will not exist in their current state within the next 5 years.

Mark it down.

The proof is there and it continues to rear its ugly head week after week after week. Newspapers are shutting down. Newspapers, some deemed iconic institutions, are shrinking and or closing their doors. Why? The cost to produce the papers are outpacing the consumption. Why? We’re a nation on the move. The people, Gen Y and even Gen X, who are slowly becoming, if not already, the dominant workforce, are content to get their news, information, and content,online. We are moving rapidly to a global, mobile, society where newspapers do not fit into the equation of our daily lives.

As well, the next 5 years will crank out college grads, a workforce, and individuals that have virtually zero affinity with newspapers. They will have zero need for newspapers and they will not clamor for their “Sunday paper”.

So where does this leave the readers of the Sunday New York Times? Look for that venerable paper to go to printing once a week, on Sundays. In fact look for the larger ones to follow suit as well. It’s the only way newspapers as you and I know them, can survive in some  fashion of its former self.

So where will the money come from? These organizations will focus on the advertisers as they normally did, but it will evolve into using search as a primary function and money maker- where these online publications tie in some type of Adwords function into their sites. Ad dollars will flow but in different forms.

News organizations and Media outlets that control these papers, cannot rely on subscriptions, simply because there are too many ways for their readers to get the content for free. The realize that.  No one and I repeat no one, is willing to pay for content that they can find elsewhere, for free. If I’m forced to say, “OK, maybe some will pay for content”. Riddle me this, who are those people and what are they willing to pay for? If you’re going to say premium content, please tell me what you are calling premium and why is it worth paying for?

I know some of you will fight this notion, but then again if I were to have told you 5 years ago that all of the auto-makers would be on life support right now fighting for their very existence, what would you have said? Impossible!? No way!?

Well there is no clear indicator on the horizon right now that says anything differently about the slow death demise of the newspaper. There is nothing to stop it; and there is no one currently in school or getting ready to go to school who relies as much on newspapers as the older generations did.

It’s as simple as this..

Is content still king then? You betcha. But I got news for ya, content is also free, and that’s whats killing the newspaper business.