Social Media is not the change

Social media

The biggest thing in the world of business right now is social media. Everyone is trying to utilize the online space to help their businesses. I’ve talked quite a bit about social media here on this blog myself. I started the Kansas City chapter of Social Media Club, which now boasts nearly 1500 members. It’s a testiment to all the interest centered around this new communications platform. But what makes social media such a big change? Let’s go over some of the benefits that many believe are the reasons social media is such a big change for the business world.

Benefit #1: The Newness Factor

I’ve gained a whole new perspective on business in being an owner of a small business myself.  As we’ve grown, we’ve continued to evolve our business and truely get a sense of direction. One of the big things we’ve realized is that we need to focus on what makes us different. Of all the other places you can get weather information, why would a company want to utilize LRC Weather?

When I first started introducing people to social media, one of the big gains of utilizing it at that time was being a first into the game. Being first to engage with people through the online social channels produced great benifits with regards to brand awareness and perception and differentiated that company from all the others. I also warned that it wouldn’t be very long before communicating on these new online channels would be a must, just like having a website was then a given requirement. It would get to the point that if you DON’T have a presence in these spaces, your perception will go down. Well… we’ve already reached that point. Suddenly, this differentiator is gone. Simply being IN the online social media game is not the change.

Benefit #2: I’ve Caught a Virus

Creating content for people to consume can be of great benefit to an organization, as well as to individuals. I’ve been producing content online for many years. My weather podcast is 5 1/2 years and over 1800 episodes old already.  Providing weather via the podcast, blog, and through sites like Twitter and Facebook have been great for me personally and professionally. Yet one may look at my download numbers and wonder what the big deal is. “You need to do more to get noticed, Ed” is often a phrase I’ve heard. Isn’t that the biggest need in the business world? Getting noticed?

Image representing YouTube as depicted in Crun...

Image via CrunchBase

One of the more popular ways of creating content is by creating videos. The media and “social media experts” have touted huge views of videos on YouTube and elsewhere. Suddenly everyone needed to create a “viral video.” Organizations are lured into a numbers game where they see “X million of vidoes viewed online each day,” “Over 500 million users on Facebook, ” and other statistics that make them desperate to jump in to reach “that audience.” They have scrambled to make that one video that captures the interest of people, garners thousands of views, and hopefully gets the organization noticed.

Much like traditional media, the potential numbers are simply spourious information and not a reflection of results from these channels. The Kansas City television market, or DMA, has nearly 1 million television watching households. Does this mean that your ad is watched by a million people? Of course not. Only a tiny fraction may be watching TV on your channel at the time your ad runs… say nothing of their attention during the ad itself.  Unfortunately, few online videos ever see noteworthy views. Even if they do, they often fail to bring lasting visibility (and business) to the organization. Having a (potentially) larger megaphone is not the change

Benefit #3: Your Friend and my Friend

The barrier to entry for this online social space has been driven by sites like Facebook and Twitter. Suddenly, it’s easier to share yourself and your life with those you know. Their virtual central repository of the population makes creating connections with past peers as simple as a click.  I have family, friends, peers from every school I ever attended (elementary to college), work collegues, and those I simply admire within my “friend” network. These are people that I have at least some sort of relationship with. Given this relationship, we honor (or discredit) their opinions much more readily. It’s easy to ask opinions of these aquantances and get a wealth of their throughts quickly. Yet, while much easier to gain the opinions of others than before social media, the ability to gain the opinions of our friends has always been around. The ability to give/get recommendations is not the change.

Benefit #4: Listening

One of the biggest benefits of social media is the ability to listen. Conversations have ALWAYS been going on. In the online world, it’s simply much easier to find them. Unfortunately, much of the listening that happens online is similar to a parent asking a child to clean their room.

Dad: “Son, can you go upstairs clean your room?”

Son: “Sure Dad.”

Two hours later, the room is untouched. At his point, we assume that our child didn’t listen. Why? Because listening involves more than an acknowlegement of things said, it involves action. So too goes for the online world. You can monitor all the conversations online you want. But if what you glean from those conversations does not move to you action, be it fixing a bad situation, rethinking internal processes, products, services, or simply reaching out and saying thank you, have you really listened? Simply having the ABILITY to listen and respond is not the change.


The REAL CHANGE – A reawakening of the golden rule

All of these things are great, and can help with your organization, business, or personal brand. Being involved in online social channels is great. The potential to access millions of people is great. The ease of getting recomendations of friends and others is also great . While the change can be drawn out of or adopted through these benefits, the real change goes far beyond them. All of these things bring one overarching theme. Being helpful. Caring. Valuing peoples opinions to the point where you allow evaluations to shape some of your decision making. It’s a reawakening of the human condition and an instance of being treated as a human. It’s demainding personal attention that we all crave and value. It’s a tactile sense that people are worth listening to. In the end, it simply honoring the golden rule… treat others as you would like to be treated. It’s something that has been missing from far too many businesses (and honestly, far too many people).

This new found awakening of the golden rule extends well past the online world. Customer service, marketing, product development… nearly every facet of business is being changed because people EXPECT to be treated right. They expect it more so than they did even a few years ago. If you are known to treat others any differently, the consequences are more severe than they ever have been in the past. If you have a business, have you strived to value the golden rule? Have you made a point to treat others, be it customers, prospective customers, or simply those you encounter like YOU want to be treated? The real change demands a change of heart.

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One email that started it all…

Uncategorized

Wow… it’s been a long time since I posted here.  Hopefully I’ll change that. I have a few posts in the queue already about what has been going on with me, some social media thoughts, and others.

For starters, I was asked today about when we started the Kansas City chapter of Social Media Club. I searched through old emails and came up with this:

06/17/08

Hey Zena, Pete…

I’d love for us to get together for coffee or lunch sometime to talk about how we “rally the troops” here in town to add some cohesiveness to all the exciting social media stuff that is going on in town. The three of us happen to be the some of the spearheads of much of this, so taking the time to just chat or simply have the opportunity to get to know each other would be very cool.

Let me know if anything would work for you this week or next. I’m generally free for early morning stuff Monday and Wednesday. Lunch any day but Tuesday.

Ed

We met 10 days later with a few other folks on June 27th, and so started #SMCKC. It’s hard to believe it’s been almost 2 years now. We have well over 1000 members, making us one of the largest SMC chapters. Even our morning breakfasts are running out of room at the resturant we take over the first Friday of each month. We continue to grow and share ideas, best practices, and strategy regarding social media and how it’s changing both business and changing personal branding. It’s a good thing.

Social Media Club of Kansas City website

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Buzz Words

Social media

I did and experiment earlier this week. If you read this blog, you were a part of it. No, the experiment won’t cause irratablity or incontience. It won’t make you wake up in the morning wondering where the last 30 years have gone. In fact… it doesn’t effect you at all. It effects me.

Without looking at the previous blog post, tell me what my new company does?

*insert sound of chirping crickets here*

Chances are you blew right through this soliloquy about my company:

We save companies money by assisting them in making decisions that are weather dependent. This is done in a variety of ways including our short and long range weather forecasts specific to their needs. Another side of the business is researching our weather theory called the LRC (Lezak’s Recurring Cycle).

Ok, so maybe a few of you got to the end of it. But, if you are like many people, half of this statement simply got skimmed over, if not the entire paragraph. Why? In this world of interruptive marketing, we have grown accustomed to seeing and hearing brand messages when we don’t want to see them. It doesn’t matter if they are commercial breaks on television, spam messages in your inbox, or even brand placement INSIDE of content you are engaged in, they get ignored. The overwhelming volume of these impersonal and useless mumbo-jumbo has conditioned us to simply ignore them.

Exclusive!
Save money!
Synergy
New and Improved!

Are you serious? These phrases have been so overused, that they become mute. What would be better words/phrases?

Exclusive – You will only see this here
Save money – This is good for your pocketbook
Synergy – This helps you work together
New and Improved – We want to bring you great products

talkingThose are just some examples off the top of my head. But if your communications, mission statement, or elevator pitch sounds like something you got off the old “Dilbert Mission Statement Generator”, nothing but words and phrases designed to make you sound intelligent, you’ve MISSED the point of communication in this day and age. Be human. Communicate as if someone was your friend, not a potential customer.

This is not easy to do if you have spent years in the world of one way communications. When you communicate, expect the response to your communications to be someone talking to you face-to-face. Don’t communicate with the mindset that their sole response is reaching into their pocketbook.

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Online social media is not just Facebook and Twitter

Social media
Image representing Facebook as depicted in Cru...
Image via CrunchBase

The rapid explosion of social media channels in the last 6 months or so has businesses, organizations, and other brands scrambling to get involved in the conversations. Social tools such as Facebook and Twitter have seen the most dramatic growth in 2008 (Facebook alone grew 30 million users in the last 3 months), and rightly so, these tools have gotten the most buzz

These new, flashy tools have the biggest numbers are helping pushing the social web closer to that point where it’s simply the web. The web’s drving force in the future IS social interactions of all types. As Celeste Lindell mentioned in response to recent Kansas City Social Media Club event:

“Once everyone gets what social media really means, having a social media club will seem as silly as having a telephone club.”

Does this mean that Facebook and Twitter, MySpace, etc will be the only things you can do on the web? Of course not. Social interactions and communities are wide and varied across the web, as they are in the offline world. If you limit your understanding of social media to Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, etc. you are missing a HUGE chunk of the social pie. They are great starting point, but you may be missing the most active communities and conversations around your brand or topic.

Case in point. I recently launched a weather consulting company with a few other Kansas City folks called LRC Weather. We save companies money by assisting them  in making decisions that are weather dependent. This is done in a variety of ways including our short and long range weather forecasts specific to their needs. Another side of the business is researching our weather theory called the LRC (Lezak’s Recurring Cycle). In searching out online communities to help with our theory, we found there were few real “meteorological communities” in channels such as Facebook and Twitter. They exist, but are not as strong as other online channels. The biggest communities exist in online forums, email listservs (yes, I said email), and blogs. If we had limited our search for conversations to the “mainstream” tools, we would have been rather disappointed.

The truth is, social interactions on the web are not new. BBSs, forums, mailing lists, IRC, etc. have been around for years and have thriving, engaged communities. While they may not carry the “Twitter mistique” or “Facebook credo” they are valid and are often extremely targeted groups of people. Converstations have been and continue to happen outside of the buzz of the main social media tools.

This is why utilizing things tools like Google Alerts should be at the top of any brand’s monitoring strategy. Find ALL of the channels the conversations are happening from. Utilize web statstics to monitor inbound links to find conversations. Seek out, listen to, and engage in web forums, listservs, etc. that you can become a part of. Find local events relevant to your brand and engage with them offline (I know, a shocking concept).

My social Network on Flickr, Facebook, Twitter...
Image by luc legay via Flickr

An interesting question was raised during a discussion of Twitter at the last Kansas City Social Media Club event. “What will your brand do if Twitter starts charging, and people leave?” Then answer is, “You simply continue conversations you have in other channels, and seek out where new conversations are happening.”  If you advertise on television for a national product, do you simply run ads on one television station? No! You seek out multiple markets that work for your brand. Why do you expect online conversations to be any different?

Conversations are spread out across the web and can and WILL move in and out of different online channels. Just like when FriendFeed dropped from the social radar, forums, blogs, and other conversation tools rise and fall in popularity and in engagement. If you aren’t actively seeking converstaions outside of the big name tools, you’ll wake up one day to find that the conversations have disappeared and moved somewhere else.

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Did you actually research ALL the candidates on your ballot?

politics

I took a look at my ballot ahead of time and took the time to research ALL the candidates on my ballot. It made for a quick vote and a vote I felt confident in. Did you research ALL the candidates on YOUR ballot? (Hint: There are more than 2 presidential candidates… more than two in many races).

In this information age, it’s sad that few people actually take the time to look at ALL the candidates (including 3rd, 4th, Xth party candidates). Many still vote only Democrat or only Republican .  Some will cross, but still vote for only one of the two major parties because "they are the only ones with a chance of winning." How democratic is that?

If the Republican candidate fits you, vote for them. Democrat? vote them. Independent, Libertarian , Reform , Constitution, Green , etc. Vote who you believe is the best candidate, not the one that has the best chance of winning. Do your homework and vote like we actually live in the information age!

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