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.
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".
When we launched commonground nine months ago, we set out to build the leading social network for property and environmental due diligence professionals. In just nine short months, we have grown membership to nearly 3,000 environmental professionals from 65 countries by continuing to deliver value to our members in the form of premium content, timely answers to challenging questions, and access to the collective insights of some of the brightest minds in our industry.
As a result of your membership, participation, and support, I am headed out to the the Environmental Industry Summit February 18-20th to accept a Project Merit Award from the Environmental Business Journal on behalf of you - our commonground members. I would like to personally thank you and congratulate you as the award is yours, I am just accepting it on your behalf.
If any of you are thinking about attending the Environmental Industry Summit, ZweigWhite and the Environmental Business Journal have agreed to offer a special discounted price for commonground members. All new registrations are eligible for $200 off the standard conference rate. To find out more details about the event, I recommend you visit their website or call their customer service line. Please reference your membership to commonground as part of your registration to benefit from the discounted rate.
For those of you who will be there, I would love the opportunity to meet up with you while we are in San Diego to find out how we can continue to make commonground more valuable for you. Please visit the link to the thread in the discussions area and we can coordinate calendars. Hopefully, we will see you in San Diego.
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.
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
Often times, those of us who live in the social media space tend to talk a language that is foreign about social technologies. I get accused of that all the time by my co-workers who are probably laughing as they read this blog. Many of the environmental and property due diligence professional members of commonground who are just beginning to use social technologies, as well as some of my co-workers, have started to ask me more and more frequently about Twitter and how to use it.
There are many how to guides out there. If you search Google, you are very likely to find enough instructional videos, information, and posts to keep you busy for months. There are a couple that I think do a great job of explaining the benefits, how to set it up, and how to use it once you have an account. Therefore, I am going to keep it simple.
Lastly, just get started. Once you are up and running, add your twitter address to your autosignature, your business card, blog posts, and your Linkedin and Facebook pages. You are now on your way.
You may also want to check out my earlier post 2009 = 240 or Less. As always, feel free to add me to contact me on twitter at @mwallcomm if you have any questions.
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?
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.
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?
Every day we hear more bad news. From friends and family members being laid off to revenue projections falling apart, we all know the forecast for property due diligence professionals is not looking good for 2009. With all the negativity, it is really hard to stay focused on the positive day in and day out. Honestly, I wake up everyday in the hope someone has launched a new media outlet that only communicates good news. I would subscribe in a second!
Recently, I have read a number of articles on the topic of recession proofing your business. Below, I have included the three points that I think are the most relevant for everyone in our industry,
1) Invest in training - When business is good, no one has time for training. That is not an excuse when business is bad. I encourage you to read the Harvard Business Publishing Article titled Enhance Your Managers' Skills During a Downturn. This applies to employees too, not just managers.
Clearly, how companies and people do business changes daily. We need to innovate. We cannot continue to use the same old methods and technologies. elearning courses, web seminars, onsite training, and virtual conferences are all inexpensive ways to make positive changes and prepare for when the tide turns. Therefore, there are many budget friendly ways to accomplish this.
2) Work on your social profiles - If business is slow, there is no reason why we all cannot spend more time working on building our company, product, and personal brand in the "social" sphere. Start by reading Chris Brogan's blog Post titled 25 Ways Social Media Prepares You for the Downturn.
As I have said many times in previous posts, most social media channels cost nothing other than sweat equity. In my opinion, being found online and word of mouth marketing are the keys to the future success of any company and individual. Even if we just do some of these things Chris mentions, I am confident we all will realize some significant value when we look in the rearview mirror.
3) Focus on cementing your customer and partner relationships - People want to do business with people that truly care about their success. We need to show them we truly care about their business by our actions and make sure those actions are not just viewed as going through the motions. Check in frequently, wish them happy holidays, send them a handwritten note, and forward them helpful articles and links.
If we are true partners in their success, they will be less likely to jump ship for a competitor offering lower prices.
As we move into a period of time that will arguably get worse before it gets better, we need to surround ourselves with people that are positive. No one wants to hang around with "Debbie Downer". She will not help your business.
I look forward to any other tips you think should be considered and comments about the above ones.