By Aaron Friedman
First, a step back in time… I remember it being the summer of 2000 when my colleagues and I stood and watched as the tech bubble burst. The ideas and investments of most were on the rapid decline as anxiety levels in the air could be cut with a butter knife!
Leadership and Management
There is little doubt of what caused tech stock prices to drop in 2000. Some point out, Technological Revolutions imply an Increase in Risk. If so, Why? Is it because the productivity of new technologies is uncertain? I feel it is a strong combination of two things… 1.) Productivity of new technologies is uncertain. 2.) Too much leadership, not enough management. During the dot com era, any company that put an e- in the front of their name or a dot com at the end would watch their stock prices rally. This alone should have been the wake up call. If we have learned anything we have learned this: great leadership without great management doesn’t hold a lot of water. You can be a great innovator, but without the discipline or management structure needed to execute and deliver, your vision is bound to fall short.
Paraphrased from Fast Company (April 2009): It was during their summer break of 2004, when Facebook founders Mark Zuckerberg, Chris Hughes and Dustin Moskovitz hit the road for Palo Alto, CA in search of venture capital. Two years later, in fall of 2006, midterm elections approached. Facebook took what must have then been a bold step of allowing political candidates to set up modified profile pages, well before celebrities and products could have fan pages of their own. When a freshman senator from Illinois came knocking, it was Chris Hughes who provided the customer service. Barack Obama wasn’t a midterm candidate, but he wanted a Facebook profile anyway. The approach came from Reggie Love, Obama’s now famous body man. “I liked the Facebook idea,” says Jim Brayton, then the senator’s Internet director, “but Reggie really got it immediately.” After Love set up the profile, Brayton says, they realized its potential for an Obama presidential campaign. “We quickly wanted to be able to do more with it. Chris got it right away.”
Facebook and other Social Media moguls today have demonstrated the two key ingredients needed to execute and deliver a successful online medium: Leadership and Management. The question is: what can Social Media do for you and how can you benefit?
Adaptation in Challenging Times
During these difficult economic times one must adapt to their environment in order to grow and ultimately survive. The results prove that Social Media is coming to the business world at a faster rate than many had anticipated. Inc. Magazine’s Inc. 500, features(?) a list of the U.S.’s fastest-growing private companies. The report surveyed marketers’ familiarity with six prominent Social Media platforms (message boards, blogging, podcasting, online video, social networking, wikis), and the importance each placed when incorporated in their marketing strategy, in addition to what they were currently using. Of the 121 Inc. 500 respondents, 66 percent felt that Social Media was “somewhat important” or “very important”. What this data tells us is that if your competition is using a Social Media platform, then you’d better know how to use it too!
Friend and colleague Autom Tagsa @autom8 published an article on his blog this month titled, “Resistance 101”. Autom illustrates for us in this article how certain business practitioners prefer (and would only practice) networking face-to-face over networking virtually, and examining why some claim that Social Media is not really an effective networking tool.
Let’s generate some additional insight to something both Autom and I strongly agree on and converse about often. How can an individual or company truly benefit from the uses of Social Media? To answer this question let’s use two examples that plague us today:1 .) The job market; 4.4 million plus Americans currently unemployed. 2.) The struggling small to mid-sized business. Today’s financial crisis challenges all of us to find innovative ways to promote brand awareness, build brand loyalty, and get our message out. How do we this effectively?
Let’s tackle the job market first. There once was a time when one only had to be qualified and submit their resume in writing via fax, email, and snail-mail or as those famous Super Bowl commercials tell us Monster.com. If submitted via all avenues your chances would be increasingly in your favor. Today, you’re lucky if that gets you a phone call. The job market today is so saturated with incredible talent that you practically need your own PR firm to get noticed. So, how does one get noticed? Through the power of Social Media. Social Media is viral, gives your resume a personality (unique brand) and best of all its “FREE”. With the ability to easily leverage Social Networks like Facebook and LinkedIn, Blogs, and the ever growing micro-blogging services of Twitter, any individual can quickly layer [a visual bubble of personality] [a more appealing visual and content-enhanced brand] to their flat, text-based resume, which today so easily get blurred among thousands of others that look just like it. As a technologist, entrepreneur, and leader I have the pleasure of networking with some of the finest talent in many different industries. I have the privilege to hear many different views; what works well for one and what doesn’t work for another. My in-depth experience can tell you this, “Those who leverage Social Media while in career transition, will have a distinctive advantage over those who do not.” You can either take this experience and make use of it, or sit on the sidelines and watch opportunity fly by.
Social Media and Your Business
Leveraging Social Media for your business in a downward economy; what does it mean for you? Don’t just take my word for it. A look at some early adopters practically self-promotes Social Media’s staggering success to date: Zappos (offers incredible customer support to their online customers), Team Barack Obama (he won the presidency! Need I say more), Wells Fargo (first U.S. bank with a blog, first bank on MySpace, first bank with a VP of Social Media who also appears to be proactively reaching out to the blogging community), Southwest Airlines (building customer relationships as of first quarter 2009 to cope with recession), ComcastCares on Twitter (provides real-time support to Comcast customers). The list goes on.
Many entrepreneurs make the common mistake of isolating a dollar figure on Social Media to prove ROI. In fact, they continue to have a hard time showing what the revenue increases were from blogging or other Social Media efforts. The medium has not advanced far enough for ROI metrics to be secured in a meaningful way; however, the practice of the medium itself has advanced far enough (and continues to do so) to the extent that you need to be part of it. With that said, Social Media is indeed a very viable form of corporate marketing, and there are a number of ways the medium can be sold up the chain and measured during the course of business:
· Don’t Isolate Social Media: Position Social Media as a component of your overall marketing plan. If you engage in print advertising, you’re used to making the case that print advertising is a branding component that is used to support your overall marketing messaging. Like Social Media, the ROI from print advertising is very hard to measure. Social Media should be one medium you’re using among many in your communication with your audience and customers.
· Sales Tool: When was the last time you created a brochure and were asked to measure the ROI from that effort? You created the brochure to support the overall success of a product or service. The brochure helped to position and describe your product development effort. Blogging as a Social Media medium could be considered along the same lines. With every piece of content you create for your company blog, make sure your sales people are aware they can share that content with interested customers. It essentially becomes a unique and innovative tool they can use to spread the word. As long as you’re providing useful content for your audience, they’ll appreciate your effort and most likely visit again.
· Feedback: Blogging has found great success as a method for gathering customer feedback through surveys, new product ideas and product feedback forms. Social Media engenders conversation. This is a valuable mode of communication which allows you to understand your clients. Take advantage of it and let your audience participate in shaping the future of your products.
· Promote Realistic Expectations: I think many marketers who are just getting their feet wet in Social Media and blogging are a bit misguided as to the effect blogging will have on overall marketing efforts. In the marketing blog community, you can quickly start a blog, link out to 50 other bloggers in your first week and pick up traffic and subscribers, and then appear to easily measure your success based on your “accumulated audience”. Not all niches have that opportunity. Many communities lack a large enough niche in which to socialize. What then? I encourage people in less sociable niches not to pump the benefits of thousands of subscribers, millions of page views, or hundreds of comments. It could take years to develop that following in some online communities as the medium matures. Focus less on expected statistics and more on how Social Media will be integrated with the rest of your product marketing efforts.
· Multipurpose Content: It’s always music to my ears when someone says that I can use content I’ve created for multiple purposes. If you’re blogging, you should be creating valuable content. Have you thought about using portions of that content for an eNewsletter creation or the beginning of a white paper? Make sure you have a plan to have multiple purposes for your efforts.
· Search Engine Relevance: Most website traffic originates from how well a site is optimized for search engines like Google, so it only makes sense to continue efforts to get in their search results. Blogging platforms are very solid ways to optimize content for search engines – especially if you’re updating often and using the right methods (increase your relevance and watch your overall traffic increase).
· Stats: While cold statistics do provide a certain traditional comfort level that allows us to quantify and measure, not all Social Media efforts can be effectively measured with stats-based analytics. Believe me, I do follow stats, but I pay more attention to subscribers, comments, and from where the visits originate. At this point, your analysis should focus on how well your audience is receiving and disseminating your content.
How Can You Benefit in the Social Media Revolution? Are You Kidding; How Can You Not?