This is just a reminder of how much understatement, and, for that matter, blog formatting can affect the message. I apologize to Jason for including the whole post like this (with the picture) but it works too well to quote out of context.
He makes a great point. And the visual works perfectly.
On one hand, twitter offers a positive change in business landscape, a brave new world of business possibilities, and you’re crazy to ignore it. On the other, it’s just a distraction, a shiny new thing, that gets in the way of the real business.
Can both hands be right? Yes.
The one hand: I spend hours every day now watching, playing, posting, and reading twitter. That’s gotten me mentions in Business Week and The New York Times. I find myself speaking up for social media on public forums, spouting phrases like “changing business landscape” and “you’re crazy to ignore it” and “great new low-cost road to market” or “marketing tool.” Twitter is essential to my blogging. Its a window to what’s going on and who’s doing and saying what. It’s great for my business.
The other hand: You can use it to send useless text clutter to nobody. You can use it to pretend you’re working when you’re just watching the world go by in cute sayings, headlines, and interesting pictures. It can be a total waste of business time.
The synthesis: Twitter is the brush, not the painting. It’s a tool for a new kind of self publishing with a different kind of reach. Talk of business benefits of Twitter are like talk of business benefits of the telephone, or of conversation, or of advertising. It’s all in how you use it. Who or what are you trying to be in Twitter, and what does that have to do with your identity, your message, your business, your self.
Tools enhance power. What matters is not the tool, but what you do with it.
(Image: enhanced from a photo by Victures/Shutterstock)
Don’t you hate it when this happens? With social media and all, I connect with somebody, seems like a smart person, we have some email and even telephone interactions, and then, dammit, I end up as a prospect.
Sad. Quite a demotion. From friend and colleague to prospect.
You do know what I mean, right? A “dear Tim” message that’s obviously based on a single message barely customized to change the first names? And when you get it, don’t you feel just like I do, as in “Damn. I thought I was a friend and colleague. And it turns out I was just a prospect.”
Are you doing that with your email campaign? Or with Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook? Because if you are, then I’ll bet you it’s not working.
Here’s a walk down memory lane. Those basic math properties we had to memorize in the seventh grade.
Transitive Property of Social Media
This one is taken from the transitive property of equality, which, in case you don’t remember your seventh-grade math, is that if a = b and b=c then a = c. For social media that’s
If social media increases transparency, then it’s as good or as bad for your business as is having the customers see you better.
I kind of like this. In the old days, we saw the business as what its advertising agency and marketing budgets were able to construct for as its facade, also called brand. Nowadays, to the extent the business is operating in Facebook or Twitter, we get a better view. Is it still all corporate and snazzy and artificial?
People are discovering that they like the story and the people in the business, aside from its paid advertising. I’d like to think this helps real people, and small business, compete against manufactured images and big marketing budgets and large business. Fingers crossed.
Applied Elasticity in Social Media
According to Wikipedia, elasticity is the ratio of the percent change in one variable to the percent change in another variable.
According to me, elasticity in social media means that the percent change in the number of active social media participants will be matched by the percent change in the number of social media experts and social media coaches. So the active social media population will always be 50 percent social media experts and 30 percent social media coaches.
By guru business I mean the expert business, and particularly the one-person expert business. I mean consultant, coach, adviser, researcher, business hired gun, life coach, trainer, and so on. I mean a person who makes a living by selling (real or imagined) expertise, experience, and knowledge.
I was a business planning consultant for most of the 1980s and early 1990s, working almost always alone, just myself, no company. So that’s an example of an expert business. And I’ve been thinking lately about how much social media has changed that business model for the better. In this case – but with one notable exception – change is good.
Benefit 1: Marketing your expertise is way easier
There is a new way of marketing that is so much better than the old way. Call it the Web, social media, blogs, Twitter, or the combination; it means way more reach, automatically, if you do it right.
Consider the comparison, now vs. then: I lit out on my own as a business planning and market research expert in 1983. I had my credentials, of course, including academic degrees and a fancy title with a brand-name consulting company, plus some published works. But how did I make myself known? Word of mouth from clients who’d worked with me as an employee, yes. But from there it was a struggle to get my articles into magazines, my self onto the podium at the big trade shows (such as Comdex), and to finish a couple of published books on my main subject matter.
Today, in comparison, successful experts build their business by a combination of useful blog posts, active mini-blogging on Twitter, ebooks, and work with Facebook and LinkedIn. Do you see the pattern there? The gatekeepers are gone.
Where it used to be important to validate your expertise by getting through the gatekeepers in corporate branding and publishing, nowadays can’t you validate your expertise by making good sense on your blog? Believe me, that’s so much easier than the old way of publishing, speaking, and giving seminars.
Benefit 2: Acceptance is based on expertise more than setting
I posted this related thought on this blog Tuesday, about how clients can get better value from a one-person business with no overhead. Who does the work? The client is much more likely today, compared to 20 years ago, to accept and even approve of the fact that you’re on your own. Not having a company around you is no longer cause to wonder what’s wrong with you.
Benefit 3: With gatekeepers devalued, it’s the work that matters
And then there’s this last thought, which I hope is true: today we judge experts by their work, meaning their writing and speaking (and tweeting), much more than we used to. Today an expert’s work is more immediately available, and with less distortion through gatekeeper filters, than ever before. Isn’t it?
How do you evaluate a guru ahead of time? Usually the about page and the content of the blog. There’s less interference there. Back when I started, it took getting through magazine editors to get published, or event managers to get a podium, or joining or creating a company.
Do you frown on an ebook because it wasn’t published by a name-brand publisher? Do you mistrust a blog because it isn’t in a major business publication? Not so much. Am I right?
And the warning?
The bad news is the other side of the good news: It’s the work that matters. Today you have to either do good work or settle for clients you can fool. It was easier back then to hide mediocre work with a company around you, or an editor of a magazine to rewrite it. Today, if you claim to be an expert, you’d better create some content to back that up. Transparency is cool when it’s a bright and beautiful looking glass that highlights and spotlights you. It’s not so nice when it’s a magnifying glass that’s going to burn you like an ant in the backyard on a hot summer day.
I just read The Rise of Comedy on Twitter on Mashable. The tweets they reproduce there make me jealous. I love Twitter, but I’m not funny on Twitter, or at least not on purpose. But then I’m not particularly funny off Twitter either. And then there’s also Top 7 Hilarious Fake Tweets on Huffington Post a week or so back.
But is Twitter humor different from “traditional” humor? And what happens when the television, publishing, and performance industries are set aside in favor of direct “social” comedy? We spoke with some hilarious tweeters to get their take on these trends, and on what it means to get a laugh in the digital age.
The post generates some interesting opinions from several comedians. My favorite is where they don’t like that Twitter has no gatekeepers. Winners who’ve passed gates like gatekeepers.
Is there a different style of humor for Twitter? Hey, I think the so-called one liner has been there forever. 140 characters ought to be plenty for funny. Does it take another style? Consider the following:
I’d kill for a Nobel Peace Prize.
Bills travel through the mail at twice the speed of checks.
Borrow money from pessimists-they don’t expect it back.
Half the people you know are below average.
99 percent of lawyers give the rest a bad name.
42.7 percent of all statistics are made up on the spot.
None of those are from Twitter, but all would be great as tweets. They are all from comedian Steven Wright, from long before Twitter started. They’re on a website collection called Steven Wright quotes.
And how about these, that come (without attribution, I’m afraid) from a site called Famous One Liners:
Some drink at the fountain of knowledge. Others just gargle.
Some people are only alive because it is illegal to shoot them.
Success always occurs in private and failure in full view.
Suicidal twin kills sister by mistake!
Support bacteria, they’re the only culture some people have.
The Bermuda Triangle got tired of warm weather. It moved to Finland. Now Santa Claus is missing.
The colder the x-ray table, the more of your body is required on it.
Twitter’s a great place for funny one liners. But come on, they were there long before Twitter.
Let’s say you’re involved in social media for your business and you’re the victim of a social-media attack. Somebody you don’t really know singles you out because he’s mad at your company, or had a bad day, or whatever; and launches an attack out of the blue, mentions you and the company you work for, and claims you treated him badly. Ouch.
So you’re just doing your job, doing your best, dealing with a lot of people at once, and suddenly somebody targets you. They are messing with your business reputation. It happens a lot. People whose job involves dealing with a lot of people do become the target of personal anger that’s really directed at the company, the situation, or life itself (sometimes it’s one of those bad day things, a last straw situation) and it ends up feeling really rotten, like having an enemy for no good reason.
So let’s say that has happened. You’ve been blindsided by one of these attacks. What do you do now?
1. Stop, breathe, think.
Remind yourself that the meanness usually shows. Assume you’re dealing with an idiot. At least the smart people who encounter one of these attacks will see through it. They’ll click links to see where it started. They’ll see the malice if they look.
2. Don’t take it personally.
I know this is hard. We talk about thick skin, but jeesh! People can be really mean sometimes. Why do they take their anger out on you? Remember that if part of your job is dealing with a lot of people, then these things come with the territory. You have to have thick skin about it because if it spoils your day then that’s bad for your health on the long term and it makes you unhappy. The idiot had the power to make you stop and think about a response. That’s all. Don’t give him the power to ruin your day, or even your hour. He ruined your moment. That’s all.
3. Decide whether or not to respond.
Sometimes the most eloquent response is silence. Be careful, though, because more often than not, silence gives the wrong impression. And it might even be bad for your health too.
4. Settle your anger and hurt first, then respond professionally.
If you should respond, take your time, be careful, clear your head first, and give a single response you can live with forever. Don’t argue, apologize. If an apology makes sense – don’t take it personally, this is business, you didn’t mean to offend, you didn’t realize, it was accidental, part of your job – make it a clear, clean apology that covers the whole issue. Make it one you can live with, without further comment, forever. Make it a response that shows the world that this was one-sided only.
Don’t get mad, get even. Expose the idiot by staying professional and not engaging.
5. Then forget about it. Let it go. Get on with your day.
If you like this job, and you like dealing with people, then of course this hurt your feelings, but you have to get over it or it continues to hurt your feelings. The idiot spoiled your moment, and that’s his fault; but if you brood over it or stay angry or hurt, then that’s your fault. Because what happens now is in your control. You can minimize the damage, or not.
And for extra credit…
Even though it’s been more than a year now since I wrote my 18-point Twitter Etiquette Primer, I believe all of it as much or more now. I did have “don’t argue with people in Twitter,” but I didn’t have “don’t use Twitter as a weapon, a threat for blackmail, or for venting.”
Have you seen that bumper sticker that says “mean people suck?” What do you think of people who blindside other people by broadcasting personal complaints on social media? Pie in the face might be funny when the Three Stooges do it in black and white film, but mud in the face in social media isn’t. It’s meanness multiplied by social media influence.
The stupid comments that are just thinly-veiled ads, disguised as blog comments … the twitter traffic that’s just “buy me buy me” … like the spam that threatens to drown email altogether, it’s not just annoying. It’s destructive. It’s a damned shame.
Yesterday the comment here below was submitted …
… as an addition to my post Revising the Root Canal Theory of Business Planning here, on this blog, last August. As you knew instantly (you being a human, who actually reads), that post is entirely about business planning, not at all about teeth or dentistry. The root canal is a metaphor.
While I love your comments on my blog – I encourage them, respond to them, thank you for them – I hate the increasingly common attempts to circumvent the so-called social media conversation with hidden agendas. Stupid fake comments. And that includes all those stupid generic-fake-praise comments plastered all over blogs for obvious self-serving SEO purposes. Scripts and bots, set loose, in this case crawling around the Web looking for “root canal” in posts, placing the commercial crap there. Pollution on purpose.
As far as I can tell, almost all blogs that allow comments have to be moderated these days because of all this commercial crap, essentially fake comments, advertisements masquerading as conversation. No wonder some of the highest-traffic blogs, like Seth Godin’s blog, don’t allow comments. This is what I was referring to earlier this month when I posted the problem with crowd sourcing is crowds.
Selfish, mean people have almost killed email with their sociopathic behavior. Now they’re after blogging and Twitter. A curse on all of their houses. Dammit.
Imagine a conversation, maybe a group of people standing around talking at a cocktail party or networking event. One of them wears a logo suit, like one of those mascot costumes, that hides the face and presents the person as the logo character only. Maybe it’s something like Ronald McDonald, or Tony the Tiger, the Pillsbury Doughboy, or that Michelin tire character.
What sort of conversation is that going to be? If the other people gathered around are people, representing themselves, how comfortable would they be with the logo character?
Let’s assume that all of the others are spouting points of view, equivalent to content. I’m there talking about business planning and small business, you’re there talking about your favorite topics, and we probably share opinions and suggestions about other topics that come up. So we’re aware of our business selves and our various sets of expertise; but we’re still people. And the logo characters aren’t. Or so it seems.
So I’m watching how this works.
I use the Zappos example in the illustration here because that’s an interesting compromise. We see the person behind the curtain, he or she even introduces themselves. That’s sort of like the person in the conversation wearing a company shirt, or name tag. I get it. I’m assuming we follow them, temporarily, if we have a customer service issue.
I see people identified with companies. Scott Monty of Ford, for example. Tim O’Reilly of O’Reilly Publishing. That seems to work well for them, and it works for me too. They’re the person, not the company. I follow them if I like what they’re saying.
I see companies that tweet as companies, announcing deals, sales, products, seminars, and so on, as companies. The moving taco stand tweeting its location. Those tweets don’t seem to come from people. I’d follow them if I had a customer reason to.
I still think the business side of Twitter works best for those individual experts who are there as people, but, when topics come up, people with experience and expertise and opinions. I’d like some, but jeez, I’d need to list hundreds of names. It’s the people tweeting that makes Twitter interesting, not the companies. For the people doing expert business as themselves, Twitter is a very powerful business-related conversational platform. That’s cool. But it’s still conversation that really works.
I really like klout.com for three good reasons: 1.) it’s about measuring online influence and I’m big on metrics as a key element of business planning; 2.) it’s a great example of a strong startup based on need — entrepreneur Joe Fernandez building something he wanted to use, and getting VC funding; and 3.) they released a new 2.0 version today (VentureBeat covered it … and there’s more detail on the Klout blog).
Metrics are the best possible drivers of good business planning processes and collaboration, because metrics can make feedback, the toughest part of management, almost automatic. Klout offers metrics on social media influence, so you can go beyond just counting followers or friends or whatever. True, I also like Klout because my daughter is marketing manager there. But I’ve been advocating this kind of social media metrics for a long time. Here for example is what I wrote about metrics just two days ago on Small Business Trends, which led to a discussion of metrics and measurement and better ways to evaluate performance:
I’ve seen objective metrics, like sales, costs, expenses, calls, subscriptions, downloads, visits, page views, minutes per call, or unique visitors work pretty well, especially when they’re part of a regular planning process. I still remember how well the metrics worked in my first job, as an editor for United Press International, when they gave us scores for how many newspapers used our stories instead of Associated Press.
So, with that in mind, here’s a (relatively) new facility to put numbers behind your social media efforts. Think about this as a tool for managing Twitter performance (if you don’t see the video, click here for the source site.)
So the magic here is that Klout gives you a numeric score for your Twitter presence. I’m pleased. I’m a 45, which is 90th percentile. Sure Guy Kawasaki’s at 100, but my 45 beats a lot of people I know and respect. (What? Me competitive?).
So if you’re dealing with social media performance for a team, in business, maybe you can set goals for Klout scores and then follow up. Include the Klout score in plan review sessions.
What’s your score? What’s going to be your score goal for your management metrics?