Brian Solis, author of Engage, expert on social media for business, posted The End of Social Media 1.0 last week on his blog. Not that there is a 2.0 or 3.0 exactly, he explains, but he says we’re at an inflection point.
… the end of an era of social media that will force the industry to mature. It won’t happen on its own however. Evolution will occur because consumers demand it.
The key point, Brian seems to suggest, is listening. Keep the social in social media, don’t turn it into one-way media. Corporate social media campaigns – twitter streams, Facebook fan pages, and so on – tend to be one-way communication, Brian suggests, talking without listening:
… there’s more to social media than clever campaigns and rudimentary conversations. Talking isn’t the only thing that makes social media social. Just like adding Facebook, Twitter and other sharing buttons will not magically transform static content into shareable experiences. Listening, learning and adapting is where the real value of social media will show its true colors. Listening leads to a more informed business. Engagement unlocks empathy and innovation. But it is action and adaptation that leads to relevance. And, it never ends.
I see that as an interesting challenge. It’s not entirely up to the company whether you communicate with it or not; it’s up to you. Do you engage with logos as people? Do you expect a logo to listen? Does it care what you think about issues, topics, or anything but its brand? Do you care what it thinks about issues and topics outside its specific brand focus?
This is the complete unedited text of an email I received last week. It’s just the latest one. I get a lot of them.
I was wondering if you took paid guest posts on your site? Not a traditional “guest post” but one you’d be compensated for and have complete editorial control over.
I’m part of a business that does high-end brand placements worked into guest posts on a variety of subjects. The posts don’t advocate or review our clients, they are informational and/or newsy. We include a reference link to our clients amongst other topical links inside the content. We’d provide the article, written by a domain expert, and money for you to review and post it upon your approval.
(If you don’t take guest posts, we also have arrangements where we discuss your upcoming post and find one in which a link makes sense and pay you to include it.)
Is that something that you would be interested in?
I always say no. Do you?
Back in the dinosaur days (1970-71), when I studied Journalism in grad school, they taught ethics in journalism. There was a code of conduct. And It’s still around, if you’re interested. Here’s a quote from the Society of Professional Journalists’ code of ethics:
—Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived.
— Remain free of associations and activities that may compromise integrity or damage credibility.
— Refuse gifts, favors, fees, free travel and special treatment, and shun secondary employment, political involvement, public office and service in community organizations if they compromise journalistic integrity.
— Disclose unavoidable conflicts.
— Be vigilant and courageous about holding those with power accountable.
— Deny favored treatment to advertisers and special interests and resist their pressure to influence news coverage.
— Be wary of sources offering information for favors or money; avoid bidding for news.
I say all non-advertising writing, not just all journalism, should follow that code of ethics. Not just blogs, but all of social media too. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+: if you get paid to endorse something, say so, or you’re sleazy. Social media is also publishing. And this is just simple right and wrong.
Besides which, if sell yourself like that, then you have no credibility.
I’m troubled. Some of the smartest, most successful people I know say marketing is dead. It doesn’t matter, they say. It’s a waste of time. Instead…
… just build great product. Disrupt a big market. The buzz will follow.
And it makes some sense. Did Facebook care about marketing, or product? What about Twitter? Amazon.com? You could say their product was their marketing.
Which, however, is something like saying higher education is useless because Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg all dropped out of college.
No doubt marketing is all mixed up and turned inside out these days. It’s still a strong force in big businesses with multi-million-dollar advertising budgets, but there’s this new world in which thought, content, effort and authenticity make up for money. You don’t necessarily buy attention in this new world – you can earn it instead.
But a lot of the core concepts — like understanding your target markets, and developing your main messages, and pricing as message, and managing channels – are as important as ever.
Because there are the brilliant exceptions to the rule, and then there’s the rule.
It was more than two years ago that I first saw a business plan for a social media cleaning service, meaning a company that would clean up all those dumb and embarrassing things college kids posted on Facebook, when they wake up to the job market and the implications. (Aside: that one was done by Kai Davis, who is now doing marketing for Palo Alto Software).
My favorite comment in this context:
What part of the word publishing don’t you understand?
I’m traveling as I write this, waiting for my car to get new brakes while on a driving trip to California. While I was driving this morning I heard a major radio station commercial for a social media cleaning service. Sorry, I forget its name, I’d like to mention it.
So the contest is on: the social media scraping service, telling your next employer every dumb comment and picture you posted online; vs. the social media cleaning service, helping you get all of that off of the web.
Over funding often produces bad behavior in early-stage companies. You hire people too fast, you over build your products, you try to force market adoption and you do PR blitzes before your product is really ready for prime time. And having too much money certainly raises board expectations that you will do big things quickly.
A couple of weeks ago I was in a classroom full of entrepreneurial MBA students, as a guest speaker, answering their questions about me and Palo Alto Software and bplans.com, this blog, and so forth.
When they asked me how I managed my online self in social media, my response went something like this:
I don’t do social media clutter. I think of social media as publishing and I try to offer nothing that isn’t useful to a reader. When I’m on Twitter I tweet only what interests me and might interest somebody else. I highlight blog posts I wrote and posts I read that seem worthwhile. I ask questions. I sometimes share something useful about business planning, or small business. I use TweetDeck to manage my Twitter self, and I set TweetDeck up to share that with my Facebook and LinkedIn pages.
Several of the students seemed troubled. One of them asked: “So you never post anything personal? What about who you really are?”
And I realized, with that question, that maybe I was lucky. I got into social media late in life. The topics I care about are business related, and my friends are business related. I was already a published author and business owner. I wasn’t ever tempted to post the kind of personal stuff that gets younger generations in trouble. I was always aware of it as publishing, not just gossip. Most of the students, on the other hand, started on Facebook as high-school or university students. Facebook was fun first, business, if at all, only as an afterthought, later.
So here’s my advice: your social media presence is public. It’s publishing. Never clutter it up with personal trivia, much less drinking parties, embarrassing pictures, inappropriate comments, or anything your adult self might not be proud of. Use phone, sms, and instant messages for playing around with friends. Build a social media presence you’ll be proud of when your next prospective employer, boss, or client looks into it.
Oh, and by the way: you don’t have to call it personal branding. You can just call it taking care of your reputation.
I’ve been watching vizme.com since I first saw the demo about a year ago. It struck me as immediate coolness. Imagine being able to mix up a combination of online video and pictures that play when clicked, representing a topic, theme, idea, or brand; and putting that onto your blog or Facebook page as something like an icon (it’s actually bigger than an icon, but circular, as shown here) that plays when clicked.
To give you an idea, I went over to vizme.com and picked up a token for sharing. If you click the image here, a vizme token, it should take you to some person’s creative work patching together SuperBowl commercials from YouTube. In this case, it’s a lot like a YouTube playlist, but it’s a dark background and a much more direct, less cluttered, interface. I could share it on Facebook, Twitter, or, like here, on a website. And it’s free.
I’m interested in Vizme for several reasons: It’s in Eugene, OR, so it’s local to me. It entered the Willamette Angel Conference investment contest last year, and I’m a member there, so I got to watch the pitch. It didn’t win, but it did get my vote on the first ballot. I like Dan Mayhew, one of the three founders. I think it’s a cool idea, well implemented.
Perhaps most important, though, is the principle of adaptation. While I’ve been watching, the vizme founders have gone up and down in sophistication of the interface as they went through early users and had to make changes. They’ve had to adapt to changes in the Facebook interface that (entirely by accident, without any bad intentions on Facebook’s part) changed the way the tokens work. And they’ve been scrambling for angel investment, testimonials, advisors, and interface adaptations to fit the changing face of social media. And their revenue model has been revised and adapted several times.
And, as a great example of what happens in the startup world, life goes on. Facebook changes, vizme adapts. Users work with it, suggest changes, and vizme adapts. Those changes affect the revenue model, and vizme adapts.
I took a one-hour flight over the weekend and ended up talking to a smart business owner — she has a bakery in a small town in Oregon — who doesn’t have any Web presence.
What’s really cool is that her business, as she described it, is doing just fine. She makes a good living, it’s in a small town she loves, she knows all of her customers, and she enjoys her days. She loves the actual work. She enjoys the baking and she enjoys the interaction in the shop.
She is online, but in her own way. She has personal email and uses it often to keep in touch with grown children and grandchildren.
So, what do you think? Does she need to start a blog? Should she be announcing daily specials on Twitter? Should she have a Facebook account? Should she be apologizing to me (sort of) as we talk on the plane because she doesn’t do any of that stuff?
I don’t think so.
Sure, I do see that the online world provides a great leveler, a wonderful opportunity for even the smallest business to share and validate expertise and build a reputation. I’ve known some and read about many businesses that do very well in online reputation and social media. Still, let’s not assume that everybody has to follow the same path. Are there additional opportunities for my bakery friend? Sure. Is she crazy to just do what she’s doing? What do you think?
I saw The Social Network last Friday night, and enjoyed it thoroughly. When it was over I was surprised. “What? Two hours already?”
Here are 10 (mental) notes I took as I watched:
This movie is fun. Aaron Sorkin (of West Wing and Studio 60) does a great job making entertainment from reality.
The plot feels real. I have no first-hand knowledge of Mark or Facebook, but I’ve done angel investing, raised VC money, and was a founding director of a software company that went public. And it feels to me like how these things happen.
The Mark character rings true. He’s brilliant, obsessive, extremely productive, abrasive, selfish, and driven. I’ve known some people like that. They get things done. They bump people around on the way, more from blind obsession with their goals than on purpose. They’re not real good at seeing two sides of any question. They build empires.
Ideas have little or no value. Implementation is what matters. Facebook grew out of some similar ideas that others had first. Mark took them and made them Facebook, and those others didn’t. When reminded that others had a similar idea first, the Mark character points out that if it had been left to them, it would never have grown into what Facebook became. I agree. The race goes not to the alleged originator of the idea, but to the person who took that idea and built a business out of it.
This movie is not bad for Facebook or for Mark Zuckerberg. We should all be so lucky. What happened with Facebook is a one-of-a-kind business phenomenon and this movie reinforces that. And the Mark character isn’t bad guy or good guy, he’s techie nerd obsessed business founder. It won’t hurt him at all. Mark can cry all the way to the bank. I like Ben Parr’s Mashable post on the real Mark Zuckerberg’s feelings about the movie after it rolled out. And I like this NYTimes.com analysis (you may have to register to see it, but registration’s free) of Facebook’s lack of legal options to do anything but watch.
I don’t feel sorry for the three guys who came up with the original idea. The idea was obvious. They didn’t implement it. Mark stalled them with misinformation, which isn’t nice, but then ideas aren’t owned, so they can’t be stolen; just implemented. (Corollary to note #4)
The guy who wrote checks has a better argument. There are at least two sides to his story, and I doubt that the movie tells his side very well. It doesn’t add up right. I do believe that writing checks into a business early on gives you some real ownership.
Always get it in writing. There’s a lesson for entrepreneurs everywhere: sure it’s awkward among friends, but even if it’s not a legal document write it down and sign it. Maybe it’s just a reminder for you and partners later. Maybe you keep it in terms you understand. Ideally, you work with a lawyer to make it legal. It’s very important to do this early, before success or failure, because that keeps motivations cleaner.
You have to protect yourself, not trust in friendship, good will, or ethics. Good intentions and verbal promises get lost in the shuffle. Business is like that. Never trust what somebody tells you a legal document says; read it. When somebody else is working with an attorney, get an attorney.
The real world is full of great stories. It doesn’t take a space fantasy or super hero to make a great movie plot. Real people, the real world, and even real business can be very entertaining. And hey, if we get a few lessons along the way, everybody wins. Right?
For the record, the notes here were mental notes only. I didn’t get my phone out and type into it during the movie. So movie goers, don’t worry. That wasn’t me.
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.