I used to post blogs all the time talking about social media, but it has been a long time since my last post. When I began blogging on commonground, I was often asked why I was posting about social media in a community for environmental professionals where conversations were about things like phase I assessments, REC's, vapor intrusion, Sanborn maps, etc.. Then, I started to receive calls and meeting requests from many members to talk about the benefits of social media as a business development tool. We have always remained eager to help members. Most of those calls and meetings would end with a comment like “that all sounds really great, but how are we going to leverage that in our business” to which I would reply “it doesn't happen overnight, so …..”
Now, you cannot dispute the fact that social media is part of our lives – like it or not. Look around your office, your local Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks, or your favorite restaurant and you will see the words Facebook or Twitter everywhere. The below excerpt is from a recent Altimeter Group Study on Making the Business Case for Enterprise Social Networks:
“In 2011, we reached a milestone when over half of all US adults regularly used social networking sites. That means the majority of American adults are not only familiar with social networking sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and, Twitter, but also understand the value of being connected with the people in their lives”
Now, fast forward to 2012, it is amazing how much more comfortable the environmental professional community has become with social media. Some environmental consulting and engineering firms have now integrated social media strategies into their marketing plans, many have lifted bans on using Facebook at their offices, and many are now trying to figure out the best ways to leverage it. Why, because 11% of all web traffic is on Facebook. And if people are there, which they clearly are, then businesses must be too.
This week, I received a handful of emails from Sean Dundon, Dianne Crocker, and a few other members about an upcoming Environmental Business Council Seminar on Social Media 101. For those of you who are just learning about it, it might be beneficial to attend if you are interested.
It got me thinking – would it make sense for us to run a free commonground web seminar on how to generate value for your business through the use social media? If yes, what are some of the questions you would like to see us cover?
If we get enough interest and responses to my post, we can pull together a small panel of social media practitioners and experts from our industry to provide you with answers to your questions, case studies, and actionable takeaways to help you grow your business.
In closing, I would like to thank you - our members - for your interest, for trying new things, and for thinking we were only partially nuts to build a b2b community where EP’s could collaborate, help each other, and support our industry.
This past weekend, I had the opportunity to experience South by Southwest, known to the social media crowd and those like me who use Twitter religously as #SXSW, in Austin Texas. The one word that comes to mind to describe it is "wow". The new technologies and ways to connect, communicate, and market our companies with customers available now and in the not too distant future are mind numbing. And, the venture capital being put behind these new technologies confirms that investors believe in them.
A group of us with about 40+ years of social media and online community experience presented on a panel about Lurkers on Social Media sites. As a follow up to my last post titled Social Media Lurkers: Are They The Most Important Community Members, which has received a number of comments, I thought I would share one of the key data points.
We determined throughout a group exercise that all of us, without exception, either lurk in communities or have at one point. Why is this important? Over the years, the vast majority of people I know, from environmental consultants to stay-at-home parents to college students, tell me that they are not comfortable with posting. However, they now are on social media sites regularly and feel like they don't add any value. That could not be further from the truth. Have you ever shared something you found valuable with your networks, perhaps over coffee, or maybe recommended a product you read about, or perhaps shared some insight on how to handle a problem? Then, you have added value to your communities.
In the last month, not a day goes by when a commonground member who was skeptical at first admits they are receiving tremendous value from many social media sites. The majority still prefer to read vs participate, but two years ago we were thrilled to have 2-3 comments in a day. Today, we have 35-50/day regularly. For our most scenic photo contest:
To our first time posters, thank you. For those of you who have never posted and think about whether you should, it is time to stop overanalyzing it. Everyone I know does the same thing to a certain extent and 100% of the people in Texas, arguably the group who use social media collectively more than any group out there, are all lurkers too - without exception!
Moving forward, let's think of ourselves as "learners" consuming information in the ways that work for us. When the time or topic is right, we just might jump into the conversation, check in on Foursquare, or sign up for Twitter account.
For now, know that you are in good company so join the conversation when or if the time is right. For those of you who recently have, we look forward to learning from you.
Social Media Clubhouse – What I learned lurking around the sxswlurkers hashtag
Urban Life Digital Magazine – Learning at SXSW
Corporate Executive Board – Are you neglecting your most important community members
Since the emergence of social media and online communities in business, there has been a debate surrounding member contributions being the most important metric. By that, I mean success is often tied to the frequency and number of posts, comments, or rating by a member.
Within any community, including ours for environmental professionals, there are many member types. Some that are very active are referred to as “super users” and there are members who just read but who do not participate who are often referred to as “lurkers” to social media professionals. The reality is no matter how good the content of any community is the vast majority of people that visit a community, are the lurkers.
Next month, I have been invited to participate at the SXSW Conference, the premier Digital and Interactive event in Austin, TX, to talk share insights from commonground and from my past. I will defend the honor of lurkers on a panel titled Lurkers, Your Most Important Community Members. Some of the panelists and social media experts do not feel that members categorized as lurkers add value. I completely disagree.
The word lurker is harsh. If you are in a group setting, there are always a few people that are more outgoing than others. If you are in a learning setting, a small number of students typically ask the instructor the majority of the questions. If you are in a large meeting, usually one or two people do most of the talking. If you are working as a team on a project, one person generally presents the findings. Do we call those people who don't talk lurkers? Why should we expect the dynamics of an online community or social network to be any different?
The vast majority of the members on commonground don’t participate nearly as often as we would like. That is why we strive to improve user experience, add entertaining and relevant contests, and deliver value to members every day. When we asked members, 75% indicated they visit commonground at least once every couple of weeks, and many of them visiting daily/weekly to keep an eye on what is happening. The 21,000+ posts and comments have come from a smaller percentage of overall membership, and even though that percentage is well ahead of industry averages, it is still less than 10% of the overall membership. Why? In addition to the fact we are busy, our personalities are different. Some of us are outgoing, some of us are not at all, and some of us are once we become comfortable with the environment. In other words, we gain trust. Many members come up to me in person and say they love the community, and one day they hope to be comfortable enough to post. To me, that is perfectly fine and comes with time.
I could provide countless reasons why community members who have been members for years create value for the community at large. However, I would prefer to showcase one example. Commonground has been around since 4/08. Just last week, a member who had never posted anything since joining in 2008 posted a question. Six members who had collectively been members for an average of a year and a half, all jumped into the conversation to help the member out and it kicked off a great discussion that is still going strong. In fact, it is tracking to have more participation than any other post on commonground.
As members of any b2b community continue to get more and more comfortable with social media, I suspect many members who have been sitting on the sidelines are going to jump into the mix. Their insights, contributions, and participation will help other members out. And, if a member decides to never contribute online, there are plenty of other ways they will drive value such as refer their peers at work to join, forward content to help someone in their office, go to a meeting to discuss environmental standards and regulations with a better understanding of the issues, etc... Plus, they push community administrators to make sure that every single day, they keep focused on delivering valuable content to increase the likelihood for engagement and participation.
What naysayers need to do is stop being so metrics driven on member contributions and map things back to overall goals and objectives of your initiative. If a company is exceeding its goals and delivering something your members tell you they feel is very valuable, then you are on the right track.
What do you think? If you were on this panel, what would your position be? Are the so called “lurkers” not valuable, or do you agree with me, that they can be some of your most important community members?
Here is the story. About three months ago, I took on an expanded role on top of my current duties leading the growth of commonground . As a result, my team and I have been working diligently to do research, get demos, and evaluate potential solution providers to help us meet our business objectives. We have had many phone calls, web demos, face to face meetings, and email interactions. That is one of the reasons why I have been challenged to find time to contribute content to my The Uncommon Denominator blog.
One morning, I lined up two sales meetings back to back with solution providers we contacted. I will not include their names as that is not my point. We provided both with an agenda outlining what we would like to cover. Both confirmed. One never showed up. The other never sent the webex and dial in – just a meeting time. We sat in our conference room waiting……..and waiting……but both calls never happened. Just this week, we had another vendor discovery interview and we waited 16 minutes for the call to start.
Now, no company or individual is perfect. Things happen. We all make mistakes. We are all busy. We are trying our best to balance priorities. I missed scheduling meetings many times in my career. However, as someone who has coached, mentored, and run sales teams for many moons, it just shocks me how often the basic fundamentals have been well, missed, and by some pretty senior folks.
I usually blog about social media topics and trends, but this time I would like to offer 10 sales 101 tips that can be used across every industry, whether you are a member of commonground, owner of a small business, work for a larger enterprise, or are in software sales:
1) Be human - Make words and phrases like “Hello or Hi”, “Thank you for your time”, “Please”, and “look forward” part of your in person and online vocabulary.
2) Be on time - If you are running late or can't make it, let the prospect know in advance (things do come up – your consideration or lack thereof tells a lot about you).
3) Set an agenda– Be clear and concise for all meetings – f2f, online, and phone. Then, each subsequent meeting , begin the call by restating the goals of the call, to validate that they have not changed – because 50% of the time they will change.
4) Listen with your ears, eyes, and fingers - There is nothing more important than your customers. Don’t keep checking emails, Blackberry, or iPhone unless you absolutely have to. If you need to do so, let the prospect know in advance. By asking, you are being considerate. When you don’t, you send a really bad message about who you think is more important. If you are taking notes on your mobile device or laptop, announce it in advance.
5) Always think of your body language – EVEN IF YOU ARE ON THE PHONE – sit up straight and be enthusiastic. Put a mirror up so that you can see yourself if you have never done it.
6) Ask questions – Gain clarity as to what your client is trying to accomplish. Don’t believe all the hype that you should not ask yes or no questions. If a yes/no question leads to better follow up questions, than use them to your advantage.
7) Don’t interrupt your prospect or feel the need to talk – What could possibly be better than your prospect talking and providing you with information to meet his/her needs? Guide the call or meeting, don’t take it over.
8) Ask for help – If you don’t know what the prospect is talking about, ask them to explain it to you. What is worse, assuming you know and be wrong down the road, or showing the customer that you care enough about their needs to make sure you are 100% clear?
9) Put the prospect first – Be clear in your approach, concise in your delivery, and cognizant of your environment. How much time do you have today? When are you available until? What would you like to accomplish? Have met your objectives during the time we have spent together today?
10) Be likeable – We all want to do business with people and companies we like. Being likeable is easy if you follow the above 9 simple basics. If you waste your prospects times, come unprepared, or don’t feel every minute of a prospects time is precious, you might as well wear a tee shirt that says “Unlikeable” across the front of it to your meeting.
Markets are extremely competitive. Generating new business and maintaining great relationships is not easy. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot by missing the basics. A first impression can either 1) make a lasting impression or 2) be the last impression….
commonground - the global social network for environmental consultants and commercial real estate professionals
When you are an entrepreneur or business leader, who is responsible for innovating within an organization, there comes a time when you take a significant leap across the chasm.
How do you know when you are there? The signs exist. The data backs it. Now what? It is time to determine your future strategy and how to handle the many new challenges coming your way.
What is my point? Well, I have heard a lot of great news recently about business starting to pick up for a number of environmental consultant members of commonground. There are many more companies hiring now than there has been in a long time. See the Environmental Jobs Board if you are in the market. Are we out of the woods? No, but things just seem to be a bit more positive.
Given that, are we thinking about how to capitalize on the momentum by taking some educated risks and stepping outside our comfort zones? Are we delegating enough, focusing on the things that can have the biggest impact, and focusing on innovation?
For many member companies that have wanted to jump into social networking, perhaps evaluate your corporate and personal presence on the web, or maybe even upgrade your current systems, now might be as good a time as any. It is always easier and more comfortable to stay status quo, but we all need to ask ourselves - are we doing what we need to to position ourselves to maximize our growth potential in 2011?
"In business or in football, it takes a lot of unspectacular preparation to produce spectacular results."
-- Roger Staubach
Many professionals, ranging from environmental consultants to HR professionals, C-Suite executives at F1000 companies to small retail store owners, often ask me about Facebook once they hear what I do for a living. The conversation usually starts with this statement - "I can see how people use it personally to keep in touch with family and friends. It is always good to catch up with someone I haven’t seen in a while. However, I just don't see how it can impact my business. Can it really?”
Last summer, in my blog post Wonder Why Business are Flocking to Facebook, I shared some trends that were pretty impressive. And, a little over a year later the trends and Facebook stats continue to be more and more impressive.
Now, even though you may say well, we use Google to search and find stuff and we don’t spend that time on the site, the sheer volume of how many of us uses Google daily and how dependent we are on search is insane. To think that Facebook passed Google in total time on their site means something different in my opinion – it means if you were slow to the game of developing a Facebook strategy and have remained on the sidelines waiting to see if this is just a trend, you need to stop procrastinating. Businesses need to go to the people even if they are not 100% sold on the concept. You don't have to be sold when the people, the buyers, are on Facebook.
We have invested more on LinkedIn and Twitter than on Facebook over the past year and still have seen:
Now, these numbers are not nearly as strong as how many visits are driven by LinkedIn – which is nearly four times as much, but nonetheless, they are pretty impressive given the effort or lack thereof, we have made. Now, what happens when we have thousands of Facebook fans and we have a well thought out Facebook strategy? We often wonder…but the potential becomes clearer each and every day as does our focus on this as key component in commonground’s future success.
Not all that long ago, most of us could not imagine buying stuff over the web. In 2009, 63% of the people in the US made an online purchase according to Internet Retailer.
“In the struggle for survival, the fittest win out at the expense of their rivals because they succeed in adapting themselves best to their environment.” Charles Darwin
Business evolves. Has yours?