Tag Archive for 'social networking'

Think online communities instead of social media

“Social media” is a new term for one of the oldest of human activities: communication.

For individuals, the term is completely intuitive: connecting and sharing through on-line technologies. And when platforms like Facebook and MySpace were built, the Digital Natives (part of Gen X and all of Gen Y) strapped this latest craze to a rocket and blasted it into the popular culture stratosphere.

But for a business, a social media strategy isn’t about being intuitive, it’s about return on investment. Consequently, the term could be a stumbling block for businesses on two levels.

1. Decision-makers older than the Digital Natives, not appreciating the time and resources spent on something called “social,” might say, “If you want to visit, go see your grandmother. I need you to sell something today.”

Indeed, even this industry’s leaders have yet to produce anything but red ink for their fish-eyed bankers and long-suffering investors.

2. The bloom is already falling off the public relations rose of the popular social media sites as the mainstream media shifts from ga-ga over the popular culture fruit-of-the-month to more critical reporting on business model viability, security, privacy and other issues. Therefore, business owners and managers may, unfortunately, associate challenges of the social media industry with the importance of building and serving on-line communities dedicated to their own customers.

So, what’s the answer? Here are two thoughts:

1. In a business application, let’s replace “social media” with the more accurate term, “business networking on-line” or how about, “building on-line communities”? This isn’t, as Shakespeare would say, a rose by any other name. Any business activity that is as essential as building on-line communities is becoming deserves its own name.

2. Businesses large and small should focus appropriate resources on the essential 21st century marketing strategy of creating and nurturing on-line communities where they connect with customers and prospects who hang out there because they agree with the values of the hosting business and benefit from the value they find there.

As eBay became just another marketplace in the clouds, social media will morph into just another wrench in your marketing tool box. But the on-line communities your business builds will increasingly be the way you establish quality relationships with customers. In the future, more customers will connect with your business through on-line communities you build and serve than from any other marketing source.

Recently, on my small business radio program, The Small Business Advocate Show, I interviewed two of my Brain Trust members who are community building experts, and I also went solo with my thoughts on social media vs building customer communities. Jeff Zbar, Chief Home Officer and I talked about small business and social media, then Chuck Martin, president of NFI Research, revealed some very exciting research on business adoption of social media. Take a few minutes to listen to these conversations to help you build your business’ on-line communities. And, as always, be sure to leave your thoughts.

My interview with Chuck Martin:
My interview with Jeff Zbar:
My thoughts on this issue:

Small business networking online - not social networking

“We’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto,” exclaimed Dorothy to her black dust-mop-of-a-dog as she looked around the strange world of Oz that she suddenly found herself in. Small business owners should say Dorothy’s words out loud to themselves as they look in the mirror every morning, because we’re not in Kansas anymore; we’re in the 21st century and things here are different.

There are thousands of reasons to remind yourself that your 21st century business operates in a strange world, but perhaps the most dramatic example is that parallel universe known as on-line social networking. You know – Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Twitter – the list goes on and is getting longer every day. And if your first cell phone was bolted to the floor of your car, the Yellow Brick Road that must now be taken to incorporate social networking into your small business model may seem like a strange and intimidating place.

Faced with the pressure to adopt a social networking strategy, many small business owners are torn by two understandable questions: 1) Is social networking a fad, like citizen band radios? 2) If this thing is real, how does a traditional business incorporate social networking into its overall marketing plan?

For some time now I’ve said that the enemy of business adoption of social networking is in the name. Small business owners don’t want their employees socializing when they should be working. So, in order to make this medicine go down a little sweeter, I’ve coined a new term: “online business networking.” For those of us who have to make payroll every Friday, we should adopt practices, policies and technologies that will help us conduct business networking online.

Online business networking, as I see it, includes strategic activity on sites like those mentioned above, but would also incorporates collaborative technologies that make working with partners and customers more effective – think of this last part as “intra-networking.” And one more thing: make sure to have someone under the age of 30 - probably under 25 - helping with this plan.

On my radio program this week I interviewed online collaboration expert, Maia Sisk, with the IBM division of Lotus, about social networking opportunities for small businesses. I think you’ll like what she had to say. And don’t forget to leave a comment, question or even a frustration. So, instead of clicking your heels, click this link.

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