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
One of the reasons why I am very passionate about social networking is that in the business world, it is still considered a new and emerging trend although it really has been around for many years. With any "new" trend, there are so many challenging questions to answer and try to figure out that it never gets boring or dull to me.
One topic in particular that is constantly scrutinized and debated is "participation".
For any of the social networking experts and newbie's, we often struggle with participation metrics. What is good? What is bad? How come only a limited number of members seem to actually participate and so many seem to lurk? Why is it that someone will email me a question and not actually post it within the community? It becomes this heated debate with a lot of great viewpoints and questions about the viability of a network, what the resulting hesitancy means, and ultimately whether the the members are receiving enough value.
Anyone who reads my blogs regularly, likely notices that often times I mention that I "recently had a conversation", or "was attending an event", or "was meeting with friends, coworkers, or relatives", and a topic of conversation intrigued me.
When you consider your family functions, your teams, your office - any situation where there is a group of people with a common bond having a conversation - whether it is a serious one or one at a bar over beers. Did you ever notice that only a few folks talk 90% of the time and the vast majority listen? Some members listen for a bit and walk away. Some stay the whole time and do not say a word. And some can stand around as part of the group the whole time and never say a word - ever. The two or three folks who talk tend to control the conversation and command the attention.
What is my point?
We are all wound a bit differently. My personality is such where I am a very transparent person who is very social and far from "shy". I also like to both listen and participate. You might be like me, but you also could be the type who would prefers to remain quiet. It is just who we are. Therefore, my advice is to consider these very basic fundamentals when thinking about quantifying the success of your social networking success. Don't look at situations and think that everyone should be participating - realize that some people never will, but they will get significant value regardless of whether they ever say a word or not if the content of the discussion is intriguing and deemed valuable. Therefore, focus on generating compelling content if you truly want to improve participation and not on overanalyzing participation patterns.
Each year the same family members attend family functions, each week that team shows up for their weekly hockey game, and each day those coworkers come to work - even the ones who don't talk as much as I do.
There is no reason why you should expect the online channel to be any different....
For the past two days, I attended the Inbound Marketing Summit at Gillette Stadium, the home of the New England Patriots - the best NFL team of the ERA. Sorry Larry and other non - Boston sports fans. I had to add that.
The event talked about ways to help improve marketing effectiveness and ultimately sell more. Over the course of the next week, I intend to share some nuggets that I found were very valuable during the two days.
What should come as no surprise to anyone is that many environmental professionals are trying to figure out new and innovative ways to generate marketing exposure, leads, and sales. Our market has changed - as have most. However, as a whole, the environmental professional - consultants, lenders, attorneys, geologists, etc. are a little slower to adopt social media than other markets, such as the retail, travel, and technology industry. Why? Those industries are generally early adopters - and they are seeing the fruits of their labor and commitment. Once the b2c markets seem to find success, b2b markets seem to follow when it comes to advances in emerging technologies.
I had the pleasure of watching a presentation about Southwest Airlines. They have made a full commitment to social media. What does that mean? Paula Berg, a very intelligent and inspiring social media professional at Southwest shared that it is a directive that social media will be an integrated part of the customer experience at Southwest for all new initiatives. Seems like a pretty big commitment. Why would they do something like that?
First, Southwest Airlines has 750,000 twitter followers and on an average day add 7,000 new followers. Recently, they ran a short promotion and just used social media. What happened? Well, this promotional approach produced the biggest sales week in the 38 year history of Southwest Airlines.
The second thing that blew my mind was the Southwest Airlines rap video. I live on the web, but somehow I had not seen it. I have included the video below. A passenger on a Southwest flight ran a video of a flight attendant who decided to mix it up a bit from the same monotonous pre-flight speech we have heard hundreds of times.. Check it out for yourself.
Typically, I have a lot to say and try to provide insight to members about social media. After viewing this, I am speechless!
I encourage you to watch this video from Glenn Beck:
It is about seven minutes in length, but it is well worth your time.
Could this have really happened? Really? Look forward to your comments.
I remember when I was growing up (insert wise crack here), our family always took a summer vacation. Our parents would pack us up in the car, hit the road, and we would drive for what seemed like days. We would get lost, they would pull out maps which would evolve into a disagreement, and inevitably we would stop at the gas station for directions. When we arrived, no matter how we got there, the kids would have that renewed excitement and burst of energy, while our parents would tend to unwind and disconnect from the world. The only way someone could get in touch with them was to call the hotel phone number, which they would leave behind with a few friends or family members, in case of emergency only. Sound about right?
I am now a few days back from a week off which included a few days away. On the way out the door, my wife asked me if I had printed my hotel confirmation, directions, and all relevant information and I said no. She said don’t we need them and I answered nope. After all, it really wasn’t necessary - I manage my life from my iPhone. As I mentioned in my previous post, I always have it either attached to my ear, fingers, or hip.
Everyone told me I should disconnect; after all, I work in social networking which does not have a start and end time each day. Therefore, I left the laptop behind because rumor has it they don't like to be left in cars all day in the 100 degree sun. When I had a free moment, I did it - I read my work and personal emails, spent time on commonground, and used the other technology tools that are simply part of my work and personal life. I consume news stories on commonground all day long, subscribe to blogs, and discussions. Why? It interests me and is what I do, even though it is still part of my job. I wanted to know what was going on with the Gulf Oil Spill as we were planning coverage, and the discussions were picking up. I checked emails three or four times per day out of habit. Luckily, I only made and took a handful of work related calls and did everything possible to not jump into the fray.
What is my point?
Again, I found myself trying to compare the past and present, specifically how things used to be when my parents went on vacation, versus today. While I did, my kids sat in the back of the car watching movie after movie occasionally asking “how long til we get there?” between shows. We used our GPS navigation, cordless wireless head phones, separate sound systems for the front seat and back, and our air conditioned car seats. People who needed to reach me could, I could search the web anytime I needed to (think about how many times you do each week), and I made a couple of purchases from my phone saving me time and getting me things I wanted. We could share what was happening with people who were interested when it was happening versus after we got home.
I kept coming back to whe n I w a s y o u n , i f you wanted to turn on the AC , you rolled the window down and hoped not to sit in traffic. If t h e r e w a s t r a f f i c , you made a fan out of a piece of paper.
What is better? Depends on how you look at it.