There are regular debates these days about twitter and whether it is a valuable social media tool for business. For those of you who are unfamiliar with twitter , it is a free microblogging service that allows users to share snippets of information called “tweets” (up to 140 characters) about what they are doing.
See the Business Week Debate room - today’s question is whether twitter distracts and encourages poor behavior in business settings. Well what do you think?
Here is my opinion. All technologies, if used inappropriately, can encourage poor behavior period – in both business and personal settings. I fail to see how using twitter is any more distracting than a cell phone or blackberry.
Twitter is a great way for me to stay on top of important news, relevant events, and knowledgeable people. Yes, I find many of the “tweets” are worthless. And yes, I get upset when I know someone I am speaking with sends one out when I am sitting across from them! However, I am not sure I am any more upset than I would be if that same someone were to take phone calls or send emails.
I remember one of the most important business lessons I learned early in my career was from a Dale Carnegie Leadership Training for Managers program. They stressed that when you are having a conversation with a customer (employee, partner, prospect), they should receive your undivided attention. Otherwise, the perception, and really the reality, is that there is something else more important than their needs. And, if you had an urgent situation, you should let them know in advance that you needed to take a call or perhaps an email if it came in during the meeting or conversation.
In summary, I do believe that in some cases, twitter does encourage rude behavior and self absorption in business settings. And, I strongly believe that the folks that abuse twitter etiquette are the same people that violate cell phone and blackberry etiquette. However, the majority of users share great information and viewpoints that I feel are quite valuable.
For those of you who think my New Year's Resolution is to go on a crash diet to reach 140 pounds or less, my apologies.
I am talking about twitter. Whether we like it or not, twitter is how friends, families, peers, and co-workers are communicating and keeping in touch. It is even changing how news is being communicated and consumed. Just take a look at what happened yesterday when a plane crashed and one of the passengers used twitter on his phone (but not his phone) to communicate the play by play with his family.
Although there are many people who have been using twitter for a couple of years now, it's popularity is still emerging. Recently, Hubspot published a report titled the State of the Twittersphere that produced the following statistics.
- an estimated 5,000 - 10,000 twitter accounts are registered each day
- 70% of twitter users joined in 2008 and 20% of those users have joined in the last 60 days
- 75% of users have 50 or fewer followers, 5% have over 250 followers, and fewer than 1% have over 1,000 followers
If you have not yet signed up for a twitter account, I would strongly encourage all property and environmental due diligence professionals to integrate twitter into your plans for 2009 to:
Plus, it is a easy - if you consider yourself a beginner with social media, twitter is as about as easy as it gets
As you set up your account, I would encourage you to read CNET's the Newbie's Guide to Twitter. It is a bit dated, but it is very simple to follow and touches upon the basics in an easy to understand way.
For those of you who do not know me personally, I was hired by Environmental Data Resources (EDR) as the VP of Social Media about six months ago. During that time, I have had the pleasure of speaking with a number of terrific people in our industry who are members, non - members, and partners of commonground.
What is interesting to me is the consistency of questions I have been asked. Therefore, I have written this blog post to publicly answer some of those questions that I and other members of my team have received about commonground.
Q: Why has EDR invested in building commonground?
A: Social media is something no one in the environmental and property industry, or any other marketplace for that matter, can ignore. If harnessed in the right way, it will have a significant impact on the future of our industry. The new professionals entering our market, who will be the future leaders of companies in our industry, as well as seasoned professionals are demanding that social media is part of mainstream media. As a result, business to business social media is one of, if not the, top technology trends right now. Thus, we created commonground to enable people of like minds, interests, and professions to network with one another in a business to business social network that is targeted, unique, and valuable.
In addition to helping the industry, we do hope there will be many direct benefits for EDR including increased customer loyalty, improved understanding of what is important to the industry and our customer, and better/faster product information based on direct feedback from our customers.
Q: How is EDR making money from commonground?
A: We are not making money. We have invested significant resources to build and grow this community for our members. When you consider the elements involved in creating a social media strategy, building and maintaining the site, scaling membership and content, and responding to member requests, our costs have been significant.
Q: Do we expect commonground to generate revenue?
A: Yes, at some point - isn't that why we are all in business? Our plan is to generate revenue by delivering added value services to environmental and property due diligence professionals that have not been available in the past.
Q: I knew you were going to charge fees on commonground at some point. Do you think that is fair given the turbulent economic times?
A: All commonground membership benefits are free. We have only charged a fee for one upcoming premium web seminar, but most likely will be lucky to cover our costs to deliver this premium webinar. Our hope is that our members will appreciate the investment EDR has made and find significant value in being a member of commonground. And, if we have achieved our objective and are providing new, unique, targeted products and services, that enable our members to achieve important business objectives such as generate revenue, reduce costs, make better decisions, and be more successful, we feel that our members will be willing to pay a reasonable fee.
Q: When do you plan to charge an individual membership fee?
A: As of today, we don't plan to charge an individual membership fee on commonground.
Q: Do you plan to charge sponsorship fees?
A: Yes. We feel like we can deliver significant value for marketing departments via the use of todays social technologies.
Q: What does EDR stand to gain?
A: A lot. We are helping our customers and the market during some of the most difficult times ever. We are enabling environmental professionals to network with one another to ask difficult and timely questions to win business. We are creating a place where our members can share insights, download information, network with one another, secure discounted conference passes, get access to timely information, and learn. As you know, there are many benefits to helping your customers be succesful. EDR wants to send the message loud and clear that there are no other companies out there that have made this kind of investment during a time when companies are cutting back, to enable its current and future customers to realize success.
Q: What has the response been?
Positive beyond our wildest expectations...and we have just begun!
I hope the above information and transparency has answered any questions that may have existed. If you have any further questions about commonground, feel free to include the question as a comment to my blog, contact me via twitter, or send me a direct email. Thank you all for your continued support.
I just read a very interesting article on Treehugger. The article sites seven actions that our new president elect should consider implementing once he is officially in office titled 7 Executive Orders That President Obama Should Sign to Protect the Environment.
In summary, they are:
1) Reduce the Federal Carbon Footprint
2) Consider Climate Change in All Decisions
3) Protect Children From Chemicals
4) Environmental Justice
5) Transparent Regulatory Review
6) Protect Stronger State Laws from Weaker Federal Ones
7) Promoting Ecological Integrity
The article and the report from the Center for Progressive Reform goes into a lot more detail than this summary.
Given the expertise of all of our members, I would love to hear your opinions on this list and how our President elect can make an immediate environmental impact.
Are there any others they are missing? Does this sound like a good start?
No one reads my blogs. No one seems to comment on my blogs. I must be doing something wrong. Is this what you think sometimes? Well, you might be right.
Forrester Research recently conducted a survey of 5,000 people which yielded some interesting results. 80% of the respondents consume corporate blogs, but only 16% of the survey respondents actually trust them. I have included the link to the Forrester Groundswell survey.
The three most trustworthy sources sited were:
1) 77% of respondents trust email from people they know
2) 60% of respondents trust consumer product ratings/reviews
3) 50% of respondents trust search engines
Jeremiah Owyang, wrote Health Check: How Trusted is Your Corporate Blog to provide insight on how to maximize your blogs potential to ensure it is in that top 16% deemed trusted. I encourage you to read it if you blog or provide advice to others that do. It provides some great points that we should all consider.
What is comforting is that I think the bloggers on commonground do a good job of following Jeremiah's recommendations. However, we can always improve and I always welcome your feedback on how to do so.
Remember, no one who reads your blog wants to see your logo, your marketing message/collateral, or your tagline everywhere they look, or links to them. They want to see a person and company that has the same social values, goals, and objectives they do. And, they want you to share something interesting or helpful. Hope you find this both interesting and helpful.
As we head to the polls today, we all have our individual reasons why we are choosing a candidate. It could be his stance on foreign policy. It might be his plan on how to manage through the financial crisis. It quite possibly could be his proposal for healthcare or tax reform….
Our votes are very likely influenced by his political campaign too. Yesterday, Jeremiah Owyang, one of the top social media gurus and someone I follow very closely to keep “in the know”, wrote a blog titled Snapshot of Presidential Candidate Social Networking Stats: November 3, 2008. Some of the statistics that he shared blew me away. I knew that Obama had done a better job with social media and leveraging the votes of the younger generation, but wow!
1. Facebook supporters - Obama has 2,379,102 - McCain has 620,359
2. Myspace friends – Obama has 833,161 - McCain has 217,811
3. Youtube videos – Obama videos have been viewed 18,413,110 - McCain’s videos have been viewed 2,032,993.
4. Twitter – Obama has 112,474 followers - McCain has 4,603
I encourage you to check out the above link to Jeremiah’s blog for additional information that for me, and many of my peers in the social media space, were eye opening.
Each and every day there is more data available that validates that:
1) social media is having a real impact on our personal and professional lives
2) we cannot ignore the power, influence, and reach the younger generation has
3) social media is not a fad
Remember, every vote counts. See you at the polls.
I am not surprised about the rapidly increasing number of environmental professionals I have talked with recently who are either becoming twitterholics (n. - a person who is addicted to Twitter that is competitive about their stats) or are just beginning to experiment.
Have you ever wondered why some days you notice that a bunch of your followers are missing? Have you ever wondered - "Was it something I said?"
If yes, you should try Qwitter if you have not already. Yes, Twitter with a Q instead of a T. Qwitter is a free service that is not affiliated with or owned by Twitter (yet) that sends you brief email when someone stops following you on Twitter. Here is an example of an actual one I received last night to my response to someone I met earlier in the day at a breakfast.
Martin Smith (thing2thing1) stopped following you on Twitter after you posted this tweet:
@susank nice to finally meet you in person. Collaboration at its best with that state of the art parking meter machine...
Check out thing2thing1's profile here:
I have some acquaintances that get a bit upset when someone, or a group, stops following them. As @cselland said to me recently "if you are not getting any qwitters, you are not trying hard enough". Personally, I don't lose any sleep about it at all. When something is on my mind, I typically say it while of course, refraining from things that I think would be offensive. What I have noticed is a very clear trend - "friends", both personal and business, that quit following me are folks who typically have not provided me with any value. So if they go, oh well...
If you have not tried it out yet, I recommend that you put it on the list of technologies to experiment with. You know my motto - try it for 30 days and if you don't like it, it is ok to be a "qwitter".
Have you ever been down to the wire on a deadline and taken issue when your beg for help is answered with "I am too busy to help you out right now"? Be honest, have you ever uttered those same words yourself when someone asked you to do something?
Do you ever try to get out of work at a reasonable time to enjoy dinner with your family and take care of the important items in your personal life, and then log on and finish work that night?
Have you ever asked yourself the following questions. Given the reality that I often need to find a way to get things done to meet deadlines, how busy I am, and how often I need to burn the midnight oil to meet deadlines, how the heck do these people who are involved in social media have so much time to spend on this 'whole social networking thing" and still have a life? Is that all they do all day?
It is natural to think that way. I talk about it with friends and peers of mine all the time. There are some social gurus like Chris Brogan who many of us think are superhuman.
In my role as VP of Social Media for commonground, having a social presence is very important. However, delivering upon my vital factors is always the priority over maintaining or building on my social presence. For example, last night I spent 5 minutes on Twitter between projects. I spent the other three hours working on many of the same things we all work on - PowerPoint presentation for my CEO, email, moving a couple of projects closer to the finish line, etc..
Most of our members do not have social media in their job descriptions - you are environmental consultants, lawyers, and lenders - professionals involved in environmental and property due diligence. Just how important is it that you are leveraging all the bells and whistles of social media? It is not so important in the grand scheme of things. However, I would also argue that the use of the appropriate social networking methodologies and approaches will nicely compliment what you are trying to achieve - professionally and personally. However, you should not stress out because your Twitter grade is not high enough.
So, given that we all have hectic schedules, here is my simple guide on how to methodically find time to work on your personal and company social presence.
1) Block a half hour on your calendar each day during a time that is best for your schedule to work on "social networking stuff".
2) Pick one thing you want to accomplish each week and focus on it. Start a blog on WordPress. Set up a Twitter account. Set up a LinkedIn account.
3) If your workload for a particular day REALLY is overwhelming or you have a hard deadline, then skip the half hour that day. The sky will not fall down if you wait until tomorrow.
4) When you have downtime - sitting on a plane, the couch at night, or even on the bike at the gym, read up on it, write blog posts, send tweets, etc. (obviously what you can do will depend on whether you have or don't have internet acces. You would be amazed how how many blogs you can write and bank on those long, boring flights).
5) Monitor the activity and results of your effort to figure out what is working best and what you should focus on moving forward.
I like to use the social networking is like the gym analogy. If you go to the gym every single day, you typically will see great results. If you go to the gym a few times a week, you will still be much healthier and better off than if you do not go at all. The same rules hold true for dedicating time to your social strategy.
Given that the commercial real estate market has slowed significantly, now is the perfect time to start at the pace that works for you. Who knows, you might find your brand, and your company's, looks a lot more vibrant and healthier in a very short period of time.
Nothing more entertaining on a rainy day here in New England than more talk about search engine optimization!!
Have you ever made a “cold call” to try to drum up some business? Have you ever gone a full day making calls and getting nothing but voicemails? Have you ever heard your sales team complain about the lack of qualified inbound leads? For those of you who have said no, please reply to this blog and let us know what you are doing as we would love to learn from you.
Cold calls, unsolicited office visits, and traditional marketing methodologies still do have a very important place in sales and marketing. However, “buyer self service” cannot be ignored if you want to be successful in today’s business environment. The fact is we as buyers love to consume information, but on our own terms. We buy things, at home and at work, because after searching for and scrutinizing peer reviews, ratings, and supporting articles online, we determined that the product features look like they meet our requirements. Many of us will then take our online research one step further and talk to someone in our social circle or perhaps even be a random person, to get their candid feedback. As I mentioned in my “How Much Influence Does Google Have” blog a few weeks back, Forrester Research indicated that 83% of online consumers trust the opinion of friend or acquaintance who has used a product or service.
Often times, we have done all the above without a conversation with a sales person which could be viewed as both good and bad. It is good in that once we make it to speaking to a salesperson, the buying cycle is considerably reduced as we are educated. That ensures your sales people are working to close qualified opportunities. The bad is that if we do not find what we want or expect online, we won’t ever connect with the sales person or the company. This creates new challenges for companies of all sizes.
The key today for a company to influence a buying decision is the ability to have the right information about our products and services accessible and found easily online. I would recommend that each of you visit Hubspot.com. They offer a report called Website Grader that will help you find out how well you are doing from a search engine optimization standpoint including what you are doing well and what you should improve. I met with them last week at the New Media Marketing Summit in Boston and I found it was extremely valuable. They also offer services to help you to improve your SEO effectiveness.
If you focus on SEO to compliment your traditional marketing strategies, I am willing to bet you will find you have more educated prospects, less cold calling to do, and a higher prospect to sale conversion ratio.
Remember, start with the basics. Oh, and for those of you who have tight budgets, the basics I have described in my three blogs on SEO require no investment (FREE). They just require making time.
It seems like everyone always does a "predictions" blog or article around this time of the year. Since I must have read 50 or more of these types of posts and articles focused on technology predictions during the holiday break, I thought I would share what I feel are the hotter social media and technology related trends that might be of interest to the environmental professional members of commonground.
So here are my five in no particular order. Please note that there is no scientific methodology applied to this list - just one opinionated guys viewpoint...
- Social media, like everything else, will have its challenges over the next year. However, the companies that survive will emerge stronger than ever in 2010. Some of the bigger challenges will include all the naysayers publishing controversial articles and blogs titled "SOMETHING SOCIAL MEDIA RELATED.....is Dead" for their own business benefit and exposure, risk that new viruses will be generated from social networking sites, success in monetizing social networks will be limited at best, and VC money or the lack thereof will result in significant market consolidation.
- Mobile technology will be hotter than ever in 2009. New phones, applications, and improvements are causing people like me to burn through phones and develop relationships with the sales people at our local AT&T store. Expect that trend to continue and expect a bunch of new cool social media applications including the ability to leverage your community membership of choice easily and intuitively via your phone.
- The ability for a company to maximize its search engine optimization (SEO) will be one of the primary drivers in helping companies hit their goals in 2009, 2010, and beyond. There have been a few varying opinions on this lately, but don't believe the negative press. Just look at the facts. As of June 30, 2008, the World population as reported on the World Internet Usage Statistics web site was 6,676,120,288 and 1,463,632,361 or roughly 22% of the population uses the web. That means a huge market has not been penetrated yet and like the 73.6% of the US market that has been penetrated, they too will learn to "search" or "google" everything.
- Twitter popularity will continue to go through the roof, but look for some rough seas ahead for them in the press once they try to make some money and struggle like Facebook has.
- SaaS technology adoption will continue to grow rapidly at larger enterprises and not just small/mid size companies. Lower cost, flexible, and secure, open source providers are making it easier for IT buyers and budget conscious companies to say yes to innovation.
Please feel free to add any that you think should be on the list and/or share other articles you found interesting.
Happy first full week of 2009.