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?
I was just introduced to a controversial article by our CTO that is near and dear to me. It is about a student at Ryerson University, who set up a facebook networking group, to collaborate with other students in his chemistry class. He now is being faced with potential expulsion and being accused of violating, get this, 147 academic charges!
About three years ago, I was part of a team that used wiki technology to write the first ever community written business book titled We Are Smarter than Me. It was collaboration between Wharton, MIT, Pearson Publishing, and Shared Insights, where nearly 5000 contributors (authors) wrote about the impact social networks will have on all aspects of business. The amazon.com editors ranked it the #6 best business book of 2007 and it was also recognized as a top read for CEO’s.
The premise was very simple and timely– that in business, the collective wisdom of groups is greater than that of an individual leader or contributor. That should be no different in the classroom. As a result, today’s teachers needed to embrace the use of technology moving forward if they were to properly ready their students for today’s business world and to be our future leaders.
Even though in business, we are taught that collaboration is critical, no one has relayed to teachers that collaboration now takes place in person, online, and over the phone. The fact is, many colleges and universities are filled with ego maniacs that believe in the “me are smarter than we” and “I am the expert” style of teaching. Some professors still do not read their emails, never mind carry a blackberry, have a facebook account, etc.. even though 90% of US college students are using facebook. And, many Gen Y’ers don’t even use email anymore.
What is next, are we going to expel them for recording their own videos (they could potentially broadcast them to millions of people)? How about making cell phone calls (97% of college students own cell phones)? How about using wikipedia versus going to the library? Maybe we could get them a great price on a used set of encyclopedias. Nope, we cannot do that because we may have to do the research and then buy them online!
The goal of colleges and universities should be simple – prepare students to be leaders in the real world. Perhaps it is time for the administrators and teachers at Ryerson to fork out $200,000 over four years and go back to school.
For those of you who regularly participate on social networking sites, and those of you who have just started, you probably have noticed a number of different types of member personalities and patterns. In the social networking circles, you can search and find various explanations of the many types of participants as they really don't vary all that much across social communities and also real life.
The three types of members of social networks that we run into regularly include
The members that often can have the most positive impact are the trouble makers - believe it or not. Why? Well it is simple.
When I talk about these types with members, employees, and partners, the question often comes up - "then, how do we know if an answer or content is correct or credible?" I would encourage you to take the following into consideration when you are determining if there is any question about the credibility of the member and their contributions:
In the end, you should always use your best judgment when deciding about the credibility of a post. Most credible social networks provide access to information about the contributor, so it is easy to check the above recommendations, but always use your best judgment like you would with anything else.
Should any of you feel that there are folks who do not meet the standards of the community and violate the rules of engagement and terms of service, I would always encourage that you let the community administrator for the community and other community members know.
This past weekend I tried my best to enjoy myself, but something happened that knocked me completely off my game. It was something that for many people, would be a welcome change or no big deal, but not for me. It derailed me. It left me hung out to dry, killed my efficiency and effectiveness, and caused me to wake up a couple of times in panic mode.
What was the issue? My Apple iphone, which is use to run my life, stopped working. After 18 months and an average of 3,500 minutes per month in phone calls alone, never mind data, the phone and battery waved the white flag and surrendered that it was tired, overused, and cooked. At one point, I was driving along and almost threw it out the window of my truck to rid myself of the question marks and move on. However, that would be bad for the environment, so I did not.
Seriously, ask yourself when the last time was that you went to get a coffee and did not bring your cell phone or pda? How did you feel the last time you unexpectedly left your cell phone/pda at home or at the office for the day or maybe even lost it? Now imagine, that you had the phone, and that something simple like getting phone calls, did not work. It is just different. The good news was that I could do 80% of what I needed to do and still leverage all the mobile applications and social networking sites I use daily enabling me to keep in touch with those who are in my network.
Prior to 15 years ago, I did not have any type of mobile device, so it was no big deal. But since I owned my first pager, some level of real time access to my peers, friends, and family has been to a certain degree become the norm – even with a pager. You remember how it worked – you would get a page, run to a pay phone (not sure if those still even exist anywhere other than hotels, bus terminals, and airports), scramble for change, make the call, hang up and thought I was pretty efficient. Now, many of us don’t use our home phones unless absolutely necessary – we run our lives through our cell phones and pda’s and rely on mobile technology for efficiency. Feels like a trip down memory lane now as I spend a minimum of 10 hours a week using my Bluetooth phone system in my truck as I travel to and from work and to meetings on conference calls. And, the only reason I have my home phone is as a backup plan for when the technology I use daily breaks. Yes, technology breaks – but seriously, what doesn't?
Having lived in the emerging technologies marketplaces for many years, I no longer discount any trend that exists. At the early stages, the optimists tend to jump in with both feet while the skeptics tend to wait it out until they can quantify the actual ROI of their use. Whether it is sales force automation software, mobile and wireless technology, collaboration tools -you name it – there were more naysayers than believers as those markets evolved. Mobile, coupled with social media, will be here for a long time. If you are not leveraging the mobile applications available, I strongly encourage you to make them an important part of our future strategy as they have become one of the main ways with which we communicate.
I am eager to get back to 120% productivity and experiment with the new mobile technologies Apple is introducing with its iphone 4g including video conferencing. 10 years ago, we were all talked about how that could save a company in travel expenses and time on the road. Another one time “imagine that” trend that is now a reality for business.
Not a day seems to go by when you do not hear of family members, good friends, and talented people who have lost their jobs and are currently looking for employment. Many of these people we care about have not been on the market for years and are not even sure where to get started today on the process of finding future employment.
I wanted to share a story about someone I know very well who after 12 years at one company, went on the market. Prior to looking, he did not spend really any time creating his personal brand in the marketplace. He had been in the social media space for a very long time, but he did not make a true commitment to spend time building his social networking presence. He always put himself, and quite frankly a lot of other important things in his life second, and his company first.
On the eve of his freedom, he talked with his wife about some of the things he wanted to accomplish in the short term and said "See you in the morning". He went downstairs to his home office, nearly pulled an all nighter, and began what would turn into about a week long process.
The first thing he did was update his LinkedIn account making his contact information accessible, adding a new picture, updating his profile, writing a summary of his background, and making sure his profile was 100% complete. At the time, he did not have a blog or a personal website (mostly because he used to find it challenging to find time - sound familiar?). However, if he had one or both, he would have added that too to his profile.
The next thing he did was reach out to some of his current co-workers, customers, prospects, and colleagues to wish them well and give them a heads up. Not only did they have great suggestions on who he should talk with, they freely volunteered to write recommendations for him in his LinkedIn profile.
Then, he put together his resume. It very easily could have been a couple of pages. However, he forced himself to fit it on one page. Why? He received some great advice from his mentor. He wanted to be clear and concise in his messaging and presentation of accomplishments. He was pursuing senior level roles and how you write your resume is a reflection of your communication and writing skills.
Given his sales background, he made a top 25 list of companies that he wanted to target and outlined a plan to maximize the effectiveness of his outreach efforts. At most of the firms on the list, he was looking to create a need vs. fill a need. He decided the best approach would be to:
Upon completion of the above, he began his search. I will not bore you with the details which included a lot of emails, phone calls, interviews, and travel across the US and Canada. In tandem, he made an investment in himself by working with respected advisor to go through a self assessment and improvement process. He highly recommends this exercise.
Of the 25 companies that he targeted, 92% of them responded and expressed some level of interest, and by the end of the mutual interview process he was faced with a number of options. He was thrilled with the activity and interest. What was even more amazing was the majority of them indicated that they were interested initially because of his LinkedIn profile. Having not been on the market in years, he was glad he did not follow the traditional approach, but integrated tried and true best practices with new methods.
The end result was he, I mean I, landed a great new job as the VP, Social Media for the commonground community. When our CMO Jay Gaines hired me, he stated that one of the things that truly differentiated me from any candidate he had ever considered was my LinkedIn recommendations summary that I included with my resume and how I leveraged my LinkedIn profile throughout the process.
Now, will this process work for everyone? It may, but it may not. Even though this was only nine months ago, times were different then than they are today. However, there might be a few nuggets in this blog that might help you or someone you care about who is on the market see the true value LinkedIn has had on my ability to find a job that I truly look forward to every single day.
If anyone would like a copy of the document I mentioned, feel free to direct twitter me at @mwallcomm or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will be happy to send it to you. As always, comments and other approaches are welcome. It is a tough market and we all need to do what we can to help each other out. Please feel free to share this.
This past Sunday morning, I had to get up at 5:00 AM and drive in the snow to a seminar. It was not your everyday business seminar which I attend frequently. It was a USA Hockey Certification and Coaching Seminar. As you might imagine, not many of us were thrilled to be there on a Sunday or frankly any other day.
About six hours later, when I left, I felt like I really got a lot out of it and that I could do a better job helping and guiding the kids. In addition, I was pleasantly surprised about the business value that I got out of the session as I had the opportunity to think about the things we generally do not consider unless we have some dedicated time to focus.
There were 7 points made about coaching beginners that I believe business professionals in commercial real estate, can use to help ourselves, our employees, and our companies. Here they are:
1) You might be the first business person a new hire has ever worked with - remember that you have an important job to do. You just might be the leader that shapes their understanding of how business works (and they will be working way longer than they will be playing a sport).
2) When you stop learning new things-you stop leading
3) There are 8 principles of effective communication - always keep them in mind
4) Don't focus on coaching by telling them "what not to do to correct it, instead focus on "what you would like them to do" to get the right results. If you focus on the negative, then that is what the employee will think about (not screwing up) instead of the desired end result (finishing a project on time).
5) Avoid lengthy, complicated instructions - 3 things maximum at one time (for those of you who know me, you know this one is near and dear to me)
6) What you see is what you coached. Look in the mirror if you don't like the results
7) Fundamental abilities are the natural result of repetition.
There are academic viewpoints that state that to truly become an expert in something; it requires 10,000 hours which in many cases translates to 3 hrs a day for nearly 10 years.
There are a lot of experts out there who have involved in CRE, Phase I's, and environmental due diligence that meet this criteria or come real close. If you are in a leadership position, I would just like to pass along the reminder I just received. Make sure that you share your knowledge and wisdom to ensure the next generation of professionals continues to move the market forward.
I suspect you might be pleasantly surprised at what you will learn from them, how appreciative they are for your time, and what you get out of it both personally and professionally.
Have you ever looked for a real estate agent online?
Have you ever hired a nanny or a babysitter?
Have you done research on the executives of a company?
In each case, which do you check out first - the picture or the bio?
Like it or not, our picture says a lot about us - especially within the world of social networks. However, often times, members of professional social networks can be hesitant to post a their picture. I have had many discussions with a number of environmental professional members of commonground and the hesitancy is typically because we:
don't have a picture
don't know how to do it
are waiting until we have a great picture
do not understand what the value is
do not feel comfortable doing so (for a number of reasons)
For those of you who don't post one because you don't have one or perhaps you don't know how, here is my simple suggestion.
1) Have one of your coworkers, a spouse, or child take your picture with your Blackberry, cell phone, iPhone, or theirs. I guarantee you someone you know has a phone that takes pictures. And typically, the quality is decent.
2) Email that picture to your desktop/laptop and save it in your "my pictures" folder
3) Open up your profile on commonground, go to settings, and then click to edit your avatar, go to the section to upload an avatar, and select your photo from your files.
4) Hit save - and you now have a new profile photo.
This process takes no more than five minutes from start to finish. If you are waiting for a great picture, post a temporary one. You can always update it when and if you get that new picture.
For those of you who are concerned about making your picture look as professional as possible, I encourage you to read Seth Godin's blog post titled The power of a tiny picture (how to improve your social network brand). His insights and feedback is (always) extremely valuable.
If you are hesitant because you don't understand the value, I encourage you to check out this post by Alin Wagner-Lahmy called Why is your Profile Picture So Important.
Moving forward, our intent is to recognize the top participants on commonground to help provide you all with additional incentive for your contributions. Therefore, now is the time to add and update your photo so that you can benefit from the premium professional and personal visibility.
Lastly, you should never hesitate to post a picture of yourself, being yourself. After all, that is who you are.
Hopefully, this information addresses the above concerns and enables all of our members to find more value out of the social networking experience on commonground.
Please feel free to respond and let me know if you have further questions, comments, or concerns, and I will be happy you out.
Have you ever decided just for kicks to search for yourself on Google to see what the results look like? Try it.
When I type in Mark Wallace - commonground, I see my blog on commonground, my Linkedin Profile, Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking sites right at the top of the search results. Try a few people you know too. I looked up a few other members of commonground too - Mike Kulka, Alan Agadoni, and Larry Schnapf. After you try this, what is the first thing you notice that we all have in common?
Perhaps you see that since each of us are members and bloggers on commonground, we benefit from great marketing exposure via Google. Perhaps you quickly notice we are all members of LinkedIn. Perhaps you see how all of our professional qualifications are easily found because each of us chooses to make that information public. Perhaps it is all of the above.
From conversations with many environmental professional members of commonground, I realize many of you are trying to digest the value of social media outside of just being a member of commonground. One very easy to see way is your personal profile when someone searches for you. There are 14 Billion web searches done each month according to Comscore. Your future customers, partners, and potential employers are very likely going to search for you to find out what your credentials are. Therefore, it is important that when someone searches for you, they find the right you.
If you do not have a LinkedIn membership because you are skeptical, I encourage you to join the 43 million professionals who are members and who generally benefit from having their public LinkedIn profile come up in the top 5 results when someone searches for them.
To maximize your results and LinkedIn effectiveness after you have signed up, I thought I would share some LinkedIn Tips from a recent article on CBS moneywatch.com by Elaine Pofeldt titled Facebook, Twitter, and More: The New rules of Social Networking. In particular, there is a section that addresses how to shape your personal brand on LinkedIn. Here is a summary of her key points.
1) Seek out recommendations from past bosses, key clients, colleagues, and direct reports to create a 360 degree picture of your strengths
2) Instead of a generic job title at the top of your profile, use a short description of valuable credentials you can quantify
3) Fill out the interests section with pursuits, such as charitable projects, that reinforce your value to potential employers and clients
4) For consistency and branding, use a good head shot of yourself as your photo and try to keep the photo consistent with photos on other social networks
5) Opt for a free vanity address for your profile that uses your full name, such as linkedin.com/in/jandoe (this is not always possible, and if it is not, use one that makes sense given how you are represented on other social networking sites).
Again, see the above referenced article for more. It might sound pretty basic, and is, but the benefits are many.
I would also recommend you take your vanity address and drop in your autosignature. Why? It makes it easier for other folks to see your credentials, help you build your connections, and it is valuable in the event your email is forwarded to someone new.
Good luck and congratulations on letting your credentials tell the story you want to tell when someone searches for you.
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?
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.