I had a voicemail from a friend of mine this past weekend who I have developed a business relationship with over the course of the past couple of years. The topic of the voicemail was about social media - I suppose many of you reading this are not at all shocked that we think about social media on the weekends too. The nature of the voicemail, although seemingly simple, is always one of the most complex social media and community dilemmas.
Here we go. Most entrepreneurs that build a community have a clear and concise vision. That vision is driven by a belief, passion, and knowledge. Homework has been done. And, they are confident they can be successful because they are positioned well to fill a need instead of creating one.
Then as they go through the process of building their business, they get a lot of terrific feedback from a number of brilliant, successful people from a number of backgrounds. And, all of a sudden....things become very complex. The vast majority of the feedback is very good. It seems logical and really gets the wheels spinning. Believe me....
Then the questions start coming. Who's opinion is right? Should I stay the course? Should I change? Should I go after the prize? Should I start small? Maybe we should diversify our focus? Should we put all or eggs in one basket? Do we have time to do all these great ideas? How quickly can we get there? Who's right? Who's wrong? I could go on......
Welcome to the social media dilemma - whether you are starting a company or work for a large company embarking on the social media process. If you are in either role, you are definitely an entrepreneur and likely understand a lot more of what it takes to realize your dream than most others. Therefore, remember that you need to fight the urge and pressure to do too many things at once. That does not mean ignore the feedback of others as being able to adapt is always important, but what it does mean is that you need to limit distractions. And, trying to do 10 things well will mean 10 times the number of distractions.
So, do your homework, define your goals and objectives, and adapt appropriately to execute. Take the advice of someone who has made a lot more money than I have (so far) on how to be successful.
My success, part of it certainly, is that I have focused in on a few things.
If I had a dollar for every time that someone said to me during the past seven years “I just do not really understand this whole community thing”, I think I could put a sizeable deposit on a new beachfront mansion.
In my previous life, I was part of the management team that built a social media company called Shared Insights (now Mzinga). When we talked to executives at the F1000 or small companies about community, we often needed to explain what a community was in very basic terms. Conversations usually began with examples of mainstream face to face communities : country clubs, church groups, alumni networks, etc.. Undoubtedly, someone would ask “Is a community the same thing as a blog”? We would answer no, but make it clear that a blog is one of the core community technologies that company members, board members, and experts, can easily leverage to start an online conversation by simply sharing a viewpoint. And, I often referred to blogs as blah, blah, blah…
Those who know me know that I have always had my bias about blogs because I prefer synchronous (two way) communication vs. asynchronous (one way) communication when I interact online or in person. However, the blog metrics referenced in the “Marketing Moves to the Blogosphere” article in the August 25, 2008 issue of the Washington Post, have raised my eyebrows.
1) Technorati reports that there are approximately 112.5 million blogs on the web and 5,000 are now corporate
3) Dolcezza, a small Georgetown gelato shop, used its blog to promote the grand opening of his second store - over 1,000 customers showed up that day.
There are many people like me that need to find proof in the pudding. And, I feel I have.
These metrics, and others, have inspired me to begin blah, blah, blahing again. Sorry, old habits are hard to break – I meant blogging again!
For many years now, I have talked with leadership teams at top organizations about their “social networking” fears. One concern that continuously comes up is this belief that online “social networks” and “communities” will replace human interaction.
So, I would like to set the record straight. This could not be further from the actual truth – although some great marketers and creative agencies get paid well to craft campaigns to create the fear that might happen.
The online channel is simply the third leg of the “How people interact” stool joining face to face and over the phone. Expect that with advances in social technology, such as twitter, yammer, web conferences , videos, podcasts, etc. (Note – most of this technology has conceptually been around for many years and what is new is the packaging), we will still interact in the same three ways.
I recall watching a Deloitte presentation that addressed it. And, the results were as expected – that although online socializing is a key activity, in person socializing is still primary. The Creating Passionate Users blog titled Face-to-Face Trumps Twitter, Blogs, Podcasts, Video hits the nail on the head.
My expectation is that the today's technologies will undoubtedly make it easier for employees, companies, family members, friends, alumni groups, etc. to have richer interactions, especially the next time they meet face to face or talk on the phone.
I just returned back from the Environmental Industry Summit in San Diego where commonground received a Project Merit award from the Environmental Business Journal. This might sound strange to many of you, but it was the first time I had to travel via plane on business in nearly six months. For those of you who know me, that is far from the norm for me.
When I arrived to Logan Airport, a whole new world of airline fees was introduced to me since the last time I flew.
Checked bag fee - $15.00 each way
Comfort kit (pillow, blanket, headphones, etc.) - $7.00
Any Coke product including spring/sparkling water or juice - $2.00
Fresh brewed coffee - $1.00
There are more, but these are the new ones. Remember the Southwest commercial where they talk about the fees to use the bathroom? If you don't, I have included the youtube link. I could not stop thinking about it when they were presenting my options.
There was a gentlemen on the flight who asked the stewardess if they carried tap water. When she answered yes, he said "That's great, I just wanted to make sure if a passenger was choking and did not have $2.00 he would get some water". I felt bad for her and the other airline staff members as they were taking a lot of heat.
I also was a bit surprised last week when I cashed in 119,600 miles for two first class tickets for an upcoming vacation. I was short by 400 miles because the mileage had not yet been applied to my account. I then bought 1,000 miles to finish booking my two tickets. The cost was $27.50. And, the processing fee was $32.06. Imagine what your customers would think if you charged them the sticker price plus 117% to process transactions. Maybe the airline industry is on to something?
The USA Today recently reported that the US retail price for regular gasoline climbed an additonal 3.8 cents to a three month high, at $1.96 a gallon. The Energy Information Adminsitration indicated that is the highest it has been since November 17th - three months ago. I realize the airlines locked in fuel prices while they were high. However, the rising fuel cost defense seems like a bit of a stretch at this point.
I would like to pass along a word of advice to the airlines on selling 101. Customers like me are more than happy to pay more to fly if you are delivering more value in return(wireless internet, maybe a tv in the seats, more leg room, a preferred seat location, a friendly experience). Add the fees into the ticket prices and eliminate the additional fees. No one is purchasing sodas, no one is purchasing sandwiches, and very few people purchase the comfort kit on principal alone. I suspect no one would notice a few bucks on the fee. However, they will as an indvidual item and the only attention it will get will be negative.
Curious to hear your thoughts on this? Does this bother you too?
With the new year now in full swing, business strategies laid out, and new challenges on the horizon, I am researching events that I would like to attend this year. With so many really good ones to choose from, there is much homework to do to determine which events offer the best education and content, opportunity to network with peers, and perhaps a warm learning environment (vs the cold of New England).
I suspect that many of the environmental professionals who are members of commonground have your favorite environmental events that you attend annually and they are already on your calendar. Please do feel free to let me know which ones you feel are the best as I welcome your suggestions on which ones you find of value and think I should attend.
Today though, I am evaluating social networking, user generated content, and new media events that will help me to execute our social media strategy to continue to provide additional value to the members of commonground. Therefore, I thought I would would pass along some information that might be helpful to those of you who already have a social media strategy or are considering it.
I recommend you check out Mashable's Tech Events Guide. It offers a pretty comprehensive list of events as well as discounts available to Mashable readers. There are a number of events in there ranging in focus and price that cover many of the hot topics in social media. There are a few others that I am considering that are not included in Mashable's list yet.
South by Southwest 2009 - SXSW March 13-17th is considered to be one of the better social media events out there with enough content to keep you busy for months.
The Community2.0 Conference - In addition to conference content, the full day pre-conference session titled "Getting Started with Community" is great way to get started (full disclosure - I have a slight bias towards this one as I was part of the team that launched the first one in March 2007).
Whether you choose one of these events or any event, I encourage you to check out the sites of the media and program partners as most of them have some type of affiliation discount attainable by using a priority code during the registration process. And, every little bit helps.
Hopefully, I will see you at one of these upcoming events.
Last week, one of our members posted a question in a commonground discussion thread asking for insights from members concerning the environmental impact pharmaceuticals and personal care products can have if they are disposed of via the toilet or sink.
This question seemed like a great question for me to broadcast to my followers on twitter, many of whom are either in the environmental and property due diligence arena, or, are just passionate about helping improve the environment. So, I thought I would try to help the member out by broadcasting the following message:
"does anyone have any knowledge about the environmental impact of flushing expired medicine down the hopper? http://tinyurl.com/brsyop 11:45 AM Feb 6th from web
Shortly after 12:00 PM, a former colleague of mine responded with a suggestion to check out Earth911.com to look for additional data on the topic.
The outreach via twitter helped our commonground member receive a very valuable suggestion from someone who was more than willing to help and share knowledge. And, each receives value. The member with the question is happy because she received some feedback, and the member submitting the suggestion is happier because she could be helpful. Who does not want to be helpful? Lets face it, it makes us feel good about ourselves to help others.
Why do I blog about this? This is a great example of how social netowrking provides real value and connectivity. Would they ever have connected otherwise? Probably not. In the past, how did we find this information? We asked colleagues, we asked friends, we searched online, we visited the library, etc. Today, our social networks are enabling us to find answers and solve problems faster, thus improving our knowledge, productivity, and efficiency.
It is that terrific time of the year when all the sports seasons seem to converge. For a sports nut and washed up athlete like me, I am like a kid in a candy store each Saturday and Sunday! The decisions are tough ….. College Football, Pro Football, College Hockey, Pro Hockey, Major League Baseball, Professional Basketball, Golf, etc... Which one(s) do I watch?
Recently, it seems like the sporting events I have watched have been more enjoyable. I believe the reason why is because some fairly new technologies have slightly improved facets of my experience.
Below, I have highlighted three primary tools I find myself using during the past few months while I am watching sporting events at home or in person.
1) Twitter – I am a huge Red Sox fan. During Red Sox games, especially this postseason, passionate Red Sox fans had ongoing discussions via tweets on twitter that included sarcasm, great commentary, and interesting insights that not only made me laugh, but added a completely new dimension to my game day experience. Therefore, I began to religiously follow the #redsox threads. I got a chance to see a different side of some of people I know and am following on Twitter. During one of the Red Sox come from behind wins, Shel Israel, one of the true twitter pioneers (@shelisrael on twitter) pointed out that although he could not see the game, the Red Sox chat on Twitter and updates made him feel like he was watching it and that it was one of the coolest things he had ever experienced on twitter. I would also rank it right up there.
2) SportsTap – On the iPhone, there is a free application called SportsTap. At any time, I can get real time updates on all my favorite teams within a few seconds. While watching a specific game, I simply check my phone to see if there is another game that might be more interesting than the one I am watching. During the limited time I have to watch games on TV these days, this helps me to ensure I am watching the exciting ones.
3) Plusmo College Football – Also on my iPhone, I have this application. It provides an ondemand dashboard of all my favorite college football teams and how they are doing. I am a huge college football fan, but if you are not, they offer plenty of other sports applications too.
I have completely eliminated the need to sit and watch the Ticker on ESPN for 10 minutes to have them cut out to a commercial exactly when the scores that matter to me are up next. I suspect that many of you know exactly what I mean! I now have real time access to opinions, scores, and my favorites.
Although this post has nothing to do with property due diligence, it is another example of how technology that I primarily use for work including twitter and my iPhone, is helping me to enjoy one of my favorite hobbies, and life outside work (yes, we have those).
If there are other technologies like these that you are using in a similar way, I would love to hear back from you.
Each day I come to the office knowing that my team is blazing a new trail with commonground. We are developing something that is entrepreneurial, valuable, and in many ways still unfamiliar, to many environmental professionals. It is never a dull moment especially these days as we take commonground to the next level.
Each day, I am lucky to gain access to so many great articles, blogs, and experiences because of my social networks, feeds, and Twitter. Today, I was thrilled to find this one. I believe it might be one of the easiest reads on the simple ways to embrace social media that I have seen in a long time. I encourage any of you who are exploring your online and social media strategy to read Valeria Maltoni's recent blog Conversation Agent: 7 Things I Learned Online That I Use at Work.
The key takeaways are:
1) Business relationships are taking new forms as customers, colleagues, and partners are communicating in new, more effective, and social ways. Zappos is a great example of a company that exemplifies this.
2) People and companies that are charged with social innovation typically start by just trying things to see if they work and either stick with them if they do or bail on them if they don't.
3) Delivering stuff to your customers (employees, partners, prospects) that is timely, transparent, and valuable will enable you to develop much deeper relationships than any of your traditional marketing collateral ever could.
One line that stands repeating from the article is this - "People are no longer a company's best asset, they are its best technology. Contribution and connection are the new currency".
Don't forget to set some reasonable goals before you start sampling. Remember the saying which is posted here in our office "a goal without a plan is just a wish" - Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Today, I have been thinking about what technology I use each day to be more productive. Given that I live in the b2b social media world, and there is so much great technology available, it makes for some very difficult decisions. After all, there is only so much time in each day.
So, here is the list of the top 10 social communities, technologies, and sites I find valuable this week. Please note that this list could change tomorrow.
1. commonground – my blog and source for property due diligence, answers, news, and knowledge
2. twitter – share and consume social media news and updates
4. Yammer –departmental communication
5. LinkedIn – manage relationships and contacts
6. facebook – started using it again this week – 100 million people do, so it seemed like I should
7. Internet Archive –live music to keep me sane
8. Webex – presentations over the web
9. VendorCity–peer reviews on things that can help me with business issues
10. YouTube.com –access to some cool videos to integrate into typically boring powerpoints
Now, just because this list works for me, does not mean it works for everyone. I can quantify real value from using each of the above and a number of others that did not make the top 10.
My simple advice to employees, clients, and friends who ask me about what to use is:
· New technologies are like vegetables – you do not have to order them again if you don’t like them
· Set a reasonable timeframe to do a proper evaluation – I typically give it 30 days
· When you are stressed out, you will not give it a fair shot – It will be there tomorrow (and if it isn’t you saved yourself some time)
· Make sure you quantify the value you receive to make a sound decision–like with anything else
I am curious to hear if there are any technologies, web sites, communities, etc. out there you find valuable and recommend I check out. Well, I need to run – think I am going to go buy a new iphone.
All - I have not been in the property due dilligence arena for long. In fact, as of today, it will be my 11th day. I guess you could say I am "green".
I suspect that there are a number of other people like me, as well as new EP's entering the workforce every day, that would welcome your collective wisdom about the print, web, and in person resources that are available to us.
Thank you in advance for sharing.