Is Social Media really for you?

April 19, 2011

Experts OnlyLike anything that is hot and trendy, Social Media has seen people jumping on the bandwagon just to make a quick buck or a quick headline. Unfortunate, but true. I see the ‘wannabes’ all too often. And they actually manage to find some clients – yet it’s clear that they don’t have deep insights into Social Media. I am a Social Media Expert, if I may say so myself. And there are a number of us. We live Social Media. Day in and day out. We’re using the Social Media tools. We’re tasting the bitter and sweet tastes of this new revolution. Yet, we’re very nervous to call ourselves “Experts” or “Gurus” – and I will only do so here because this is my own blog. There has been a bad stigma surrounding those titles, because every other person suddenly became an “Expert” and a “Guru” – they made it bad for everyone who really deserved those titles. They are the bad apples. Bad apples are everywhere. Unfortunate, but true.

I found a real interesting post called Get Real Time: 44 Signs Social Media Is NOT Working for You. The post is intended to be funny, and I thought it was, but I also found some solids truths in it.

These are some of my favourite points:

4. You can’t remember the last time you got a lead online.
5. 95% of your leads are still coming from the chamber and local meetup groups.
8. You can’t understand why those other agencies are wasting time on plans and objectives? Why aren’t they tweeting and Facebooking for their clients?
14. Sales conversion funnel, what’s that again?
17. You have 500 likes on your Facebook business page but don’t know any of them because they won’t talk to you.
19. You have a blog but only write in it quarterly. Even when you did you just copied someone else’s work and added a link hoping nobody would notice and think it was yours.
20. You have resorted to asking your son & his best friend to retweet your content.
21. You have bribed your mom grandma, and great aunt Martha to login to Facebook once a week and like everything on your Facebook page
22. You could tweet with your eyes closed and sing Karaoke at the same time but can’t pay your rent.
23. 95% of your clients are either related to you or could fall in the category of BFF (best friend forever).
24. A lead with a budget? What’s that?
25. If you build client websites none of then have a sales conversion funnel either.
26. Your website knows how to tweet and you thought that would be enough.
27. You didn’t know you had to talk to your fans after the like! Why won’t they just buy something?
39. You haven’t changed or updated your web content in a year. It’s not needed as it must be working with all those followers you have.
42. You don’t understand why so many people spend money on their brand. Who cares if all the colors look the same. Social media is all about conversation anyway.

You can read the complete list here.

Photo credit

Facebook vs Twitter

April 18, 2011

Facebook and TwitterFacebook and Twitter are not the same. They function differently, and they serve different audiences. There are some overlaps, but there are also very distinct differences. When using Social Media as a serious business marketing tactic, it is incumbent to have deep insights into the differences between the Social Media platforms. I see the mistake everyday of people treating all the platforms equally. This is certainly a road to failure.

For example: most folks on Facebook and LinkedIn don’t understand what “RT” is. It’s Twitter lingo for Retweet, and it’s akin to a forwarded email. If you find an interesting message on Twitter, you forward it on using the RT function. I see RTs everyday on Facebook and LinkedIn. This is the result of treating all the platforms equally. It’s just wrong. Each platform is a house. We should respect the rules and etiquette of the house. That is polite.

I caught an interesting post tackling this topic. The post quoted Tim Webster as saying:

“The temptation, I think, will be to see Twitter as smaller, and therefore less important, than Facebook. Certainly, Facebook is the gateway to the masses, since it now reaches the majority. For brands and businesses, however, the differential character of Facebook users and Twitter users means that for some products and companies, Twitter might indeed be the best channel for outreach and customer communications, while for others…it might be terrible. It’s imperative for companies to cut past the hype, do their own research, and be where their users are, not where the noise is.”

And it quoted Morgan Stewart as saying:

“Twitter appeals to a niche audience. Most people simply have no interest in the real-time, condensed form of communication Twitter facilitates. However, this does not mean that Twitter’s role is insignificant or that its’ importance is overrated.

Comparing Facebook and Twitter in this manner is like comparing shopping malls and fashion shows. Malls, like Facebook, have mass appeal and are an expression of larger culture. In contrast, while only a small subset of the population actually attend fashion shows, the interactions that happen there influence the larger culture. Twitter is where online influencers congregate and share new ideas, and that alone is significant.”

I think these are brilliant opinions. Twitter and Facebook are both useful and both incumbent, but they should not be treated the same. They are different.

Photo credit

Are you listening?

April 15, 2011

ListenI love Social Media. (Like you didn’t know!) Social Media is real. It’s about real people. It’s about real relationships. It’s about real value. Wise people, the older folk, always said it’s better to listen than to talk. They said that’s why we have two ears and only one mouth. Listening is powerful. Habit 5 in Covey‘s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is “Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood.” Understanding starts with listening, right?

Are you listening online? I’m not talking about the gossip. There’s gossip online and offline. If you’re listening to gossip anywhere, you’re wasting precious moments of your life. Stop it!

I’m talking about listening to value. When I’m with older folk, or learned folk, I say little. I write a lot. I cannot afford to talk. I need to listen. I need to learn. When I’m online, I listen a lot. A talk some. But I listen more. There’s so much value in listening.

A distant family member is into crocheting. She’s been into it for a while. She also reads a lot. Someone who reads a lot, most often, can write well too. I found a job post online which said: “Crochet Writer Needed” – so I sent her the link. Maybe she’ll be interested. Maybe she won’t be. Maybe this’ll make a huge impact on her life. Maybe this’ll make no impact on her life. I don’t know. But I care about her. And I shared the link with her because it was the right thing to do.

Look what else people are talking about online (and, are you listening?):

listening1 200x300 Are you listening?     listening2 200x300 Are you listening?

listening3 200x300 Are you listening?     listening4 200x300 Are you listening?

listening5 200x300 Are you listening?     listening6 200x300 Are you listening?

listening7 200x300 Are you listening?     listening8 200x300 Are you listening?

Photo credit

Social Media ROI = Brand Equity + Sales

April 14, 2011

Einstei title=

Right after I published yesterday’s post, my good friend Khalil Aleker pointed me to Chris Brogan‘s blog post The Passion Of Gary Vaynerchuk. Chris says:

“Moments ago (when I typed this), Gary was talking about a person in the board room who was hounding him, “What’s the ROI of social media? What’s the ROI? What’s the ROI?” Gary’s answer, when he’d finally had enough? “What’s the ROI of your mother?””

Scott Stratten was asked the same question by a friend. What is the ROI of Social Media? He asked his friend what the ROI was on their friendship!

What’s the COMPLEX meaning of ROI?

In finance, rate of return (ROR), also known as return on investment (ROI), rate of profit or sometimes just return, is the ratio of money gained or lost (whether realized or unrealized) on an investment relative to the amount of money invested. The amount of money gained or lost may be referred to as interest, profit/loss, gain/loss, or net income/loss. The money invested may be referred to as the asset, capital, principal, or the cost basis of the investment. ROI is usually expressed as a percentage. [Wikipedia]

What’s the SIMPLE meaning of ROI?

What do you get out for what you put in?

I understand when some people are fixated on the Social Media ROI topic. Watch this video of Gary where he talks more about this. They’ve been trained that way. MBA grads, business professionals, they’ve been trained that way. And they’ve been trained in the right way. However, things have changed. And we have to adapt. We have to adapt our thinking and our actions. Web 2.0 has changed how we do EVERYTHING. The way we work. The way we meet people. The way we socialise. The way we research. They way we learn. And on and on.

Gary doesn’t reveal details in his keynotes. Read Chris’ post to understand why. But there are details to Social Media ROI.

I’ve never seen an ad from Gary. This means that no advertising about Gary or his brand has reached me. Remember, I’m in South Africa, Gary is in the US. Yet, I’m a fan of Gary. I support his work. I blog about him, repeatedly. I model some of the things he’s done. I promote his work. I share Chris’ sentiments when he says: “I’m a fan of passion. I’m a fan of people who humanize business, and Gary is that 100%. No matter what, Gary is human, and so, I’m a fan. Thank you, Gary.”

There’s a word for this in the business world. It’s called Brand Equity.

What is Brand Equity?

Uncle Wikipedia says: “The study of brand equity is increasingly popular as some marketing researchers have concluded that brands are one of the most valuable assets a company has. Brand equity is one of the factors which can increase the financial value of a brand to the brand owner, although not the only one.” Read more.

I was taught this on one of the business courses I attended. When selling your business, your brand equity can increase the selling price of your business. Why? Because above the money in the bank and the assets you have, the brand equity is also valuable. Your perception in the world has value. Your community is valuable. They buy your products.

Apple has immense brand equity, wouldn’t you say? I’ve repeatedly said, online and offline, that I’m an “Apple fan-boy” because I simply love their products. Do I love them because they’re cheaper than their competitors. Nope. They’re not cheaper. I love Apple because of the quality of product, and the culture around the product. That’s brand equity. I’ve never heard anyone say “I’m a Microsoft fan-boy” – have you? Microsoft does have good products, and they’ve made a lot of money, but the brand equity is not as high, or in other words, it’s negative brand equity. The common perception of Microsoft is that we have to use them, but we don’t really want to.

Brand equity is valuable, but largely intangible. This is why Gary likened Social Media ROI to a mother. Is a mother’s love tangible? It’s enormous, but largely intangible. Consider Einstein‘s quotation in the image above: “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.” Think about it for a second. Reflect on it.

Let’s move on.

I’ve purchased Gary’s book Crush It! (a New Your Times Bestseller) as a gift at one of my Social Media talks. I also bought an audiobook of Crush It! which I still listen to regularly. Okay, two small sales. So what! So what? So they add up. There are thousands of people like me. Due to Gary’s online profile, he has signed 10-book deal, and The Thank You Economy, his second book, has already been published. Now we’re talking millions. That’s real money.

There’s a word for this in the business world. It’s called Sales.

We’re all trying to sell. That’s the only reason we’re in business. Advertising is becoming way too expensive, and the value of advertising is also decreasing. Social Media is the new wave of marketing. And it’s no bubble. Don’t listen to the naysayers. Listen to those who are walking the walk. People like Gary. And Chris. I won’t include myself in that list, but hey, I’ve made some sales through Social Media. I’ve been on radio, in magazines, in newspapers, that counts as brand equity, right?

Don’t let anyone tell you there’s no value in Social Media. There is!

Photo credit

Work your face off

April 13, 2011

“Work your face off” is a term which Gary Vaynerchuk uses, and he also uses terms like “bleeding out of your eyeballs” to illustrate his passion for hard work. Nothing of value comes easy. Once I was having lunch with two friends, and I was talking about Twitter and Social Media tools, and I was advocating all these “free” tools. However, one of my friends pointed out to me that although these tools are free, it takes a considerable amount of time to gain real value from them. This is very true. There is hard work to be done even when using these free tools. Gary says that people email him and tell him that they’re “Crushing It” and working real hard, but their businesses simply won’t take off. He asks them how long they’ve been at it, they say a few weeks. Gary says that if you complain about your business not flourishing and it’s less than a year after you started, he’s deleting your email. He simply won’t talk to you.

When I started reading Richard Branson‘s autobiography, I was struck by the dedication page right at the beginning. First it said, “Dedicated to Alex Ritchie and his family.” But then further down the same page, it said:

“A special thank-you to Edward Whitley for helping me pull this project together. Edward spent two years in my company, practically lived in my house, waded through 25 years of scribbled notebooks and helped bring them to life.”

Will you think about that for a second? Think about the amount of work put in my Edward Whitley, who I assume is a ghostwriter, in order to make this autobiography – of around 600 pages – a reality. Branson makes notes of everything. His 25 years of notebooks filled one or two suitcases, so you can imagine the amount of research that had to be done from those notebooks. Particularly because in a notebook everything is scribbled and condensed, sometimes one keyboard can be a reference to an entire theme. Writing this, I’m thinking about my 5 notebooks. Either I’m writing too little, or I’m living too little!?

In Chapter 2, Branson talks about his first entrepreneurial endeavour. It is during the Easter holidays while he was still at school. He starts by saying, “One Easter holiday I decided to follow my mother’s example and make some money.” His mother, and the way she reared Branson, is a blog topic for another day. Branson continues:

“Undeterred by the school’s lack of faith in my ability with numbers, I saw an opportunity to grow Christmas trees. We had just moved house from one side of Shamley Green to the other, from Easteds Cottage to Tanyards Farm, which was a rambling building with many barns and sheds and some land. I went round to talk Nik into the plan. He was also on holiday from his school, which was at Ampleforth in Yorkshire. We would plant 400 Christmas trees in the field at Tanyards Farm. By the Christmas after next, they would have grown at least four feet and we would be able to sell them. Nik and I agreed to do the work together, and share the profits equally.

That Easter we furrowed the ground and planted the 400 seeds in the field above Tanyards Farm. We worked out that, if they all grew to six feet, we would make £2 per tree, creating a grand total of £800, compared with our initial investment of just £5 for the seeds. In the following Summer holiday, we went to investigate the trees. There were only one or two tiny sprigs above the ground, but the rest had been eaten by rabbits. We exacted dire revenge and shot and skinned a lot of rabbits. We sold them to the local butcher for a shilling each, but it wasn’t quite the £800 we had planned.”

I think that’s an interesting story. I think there are many lessons in it. Firstly, Branson was good at numbers when he could apply it, when it was needed in business. In the classroom he could make no sense of numbers. This is a another big topic which I probably should write about. Just because kids – or even adults – are useless in one area, it doesn’t mean that they’re useless human beings. Labeling people and putting them in a box is counter-productive and doesn’t serve anyone. Secondly, this was Branson’s idea. He could have done it alone. Why did he need his friend Nik? It shows the value of good partners. This is a lesson I’m starting to learn in my business. I can’t do it alone. The Virgin Group was founded by Branson in 1970, and has created more than 300 branded companies worldwide. Branson has the some hours in his day as you and I have. Here we are struggling to run a single business. Branson runs over 300. He does it by partnering. And this story is indicative of Branson’s inclination towards partnering from a very early age already. Thirdly, Branson and his friend Nik were looking at the long term. “By the Christmas after next” is a long time to wait for returns on your investment. We should be thinking like this. Instead of looking for quick fixes. I delete any email which says “Make $31,000 in 7 days” or the like thereof. Nothing of value has ever come easy. Ever! This is what Covey refers to as the “law of the harvest.” You have to sow before you can reap. In the case of this story, it’s actually quite literal. In our businesses, it’s metaphorically true, and it is in life in general too. The fifth lesson in this story is risk assessment. Obviously Branson did not assess the risk of the rabbits, and if he did, he might have been able to preserve his investment. But he was a kid, and I’m sure he learnt from it.

The focus of this blog post is the third lesson, of course. Working hard. Planning long term. Obeying the law of the harvest.

In Stephen R Covey‘s book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, he says:

“Did you ever consider how ridiculous it would be to try to cram on a farm – to forget to plant in the spring, play all summer and then cram in the fall to bring in the harvest? The farm is a natural system, the price must be paid and the process followed. You always reap what you sow; there is no shortcut.

This principle is also true, ultimately, in human behavior, in human relationships. They, too, are natural systems based on the law of the harvest.”

And similarly, business is also based on the same natural law. To those who think Social Media is a game and it’s all about wasting time and goofing off: Social Media is hard work. To those of us working in Social Media: let’s work harder, let’s sow our seeds deeper and deeper.

Photo credit

How is your business designed?

April 12, 2011

TrainingAs an entrepreneur, I constantly grapple with the design of my business. Here the design of the business is used broadly. How does the business function and operate? Who does what in the business? And very commonly, changing the design slightly can result in a radical results in the company. Although we all want radical results, we’re sometimes stuck in old patterns, or old learnings.

Social Media is a new pattern. A new way of doing things. Small businesses are easier to adapt to Social Media, but larger businesses find this much more difficult, and understandably so.

In Web 2.0: A Strategy Guide (written by Amy Shuen, published by O’Reilly Media, Inc), it says:

“Now the mainstream industry leaders, Internationals 100s, and Fortune 500s that are having the hardest time adjusting their hierarchical organizations, outdated business models, and strictly in-house capabilities to the new strategy challenges of the digital and knowledge economy.”

I feel sorry for these big companies. For them change is difficult. They’re not designed to change. But they’re happy. They’re comfortable. Comfortable is dangerous. The world is moving too fast to be comfortable. We have to get uncomfortable. Uncomfortable still means having fun. It still means building great companies. It still means making profits. It still means changing the world. But it also means questioning ourselves, daily. Are we doing the right thing? Are we adapting? Do we have our ears on the ground? Or do we have our heads in the sand?

Seth Godin spoke about this in a recent blog post as well. He said:

“Too often, we blame bad service on the people who actually deliver the service. Sometimes (often) it’s not their fault. Sadly, the complaints rarely make it as far as the overpaid (or possibly overworked) executive who made the bad design decision in the first place. It’s the architecture of service that makes the phone ring and that makes customers leave.”

I’m currently looking at every aspect of myself and my business. I’m trying to let go of old ways and patterns, and trying new things. It’s a tough and challenging exercise, but a vital one. If you’re an entrepreneur like me, I think you have to consider the design of your business. Change is physically easy. It’s the mental and emotional part that’s the big challenge though.

Photo credit

2,318 Cubicles around me

April 7, 2011

TrainingYesterday morning I was doing some research on entrepreneurship. While doing my research, I quickly put out a message on Twitter: “Who is your fav entrepreneur in the world?” This is very common on Twitter. People ask questions. Make statements. Share their feelings. Post links to websites. Rant. Twitter has it all. There’s never a dull moment. Seriously.

When sending out a message on Twitter, you can never be sure who reads it. Some people might only read it later. Someone that you don’t know might even pick up your message later in a search. You can never be certain. That’s part of the beauty of it though, for me at least.

So yesterday morning there were only two responses to my question. One person said Richard Branson. The other said Brian Tracy. I knew who Branson was (who doesn’t), but Tracy was unfamiliar to me. So I did the natural thing. I Googled him! I found his Wikipedia page, and I scrolled down the page rather quickly. Interesting. But Branson would be the focus of my research though. My initial inclination was to focus on Branson anyway, but the response from my friend of over 20 years, Razeen Carelse, removed all hesitation.

This is one of the reasons I love Twitter and Social Media so much. Because of the value one can get from these platforms. Many people think it’s a waste of time. Many people think we’re all fools when we use these platforms. But I respect those people. They simply don’t understand the value – yet.

Last night, after a long day of work, I thought about this little research I had done on Twitter. This is nothing new or special though. We do this all the time. But I was just thinking. And it dawned on me, that Twitter is like sitting in an open plan office, and every time you have a thought or idea or question, you simply shout it out. Some people will respond. Some won’t. Some will hear. Some won’t. After shouting you’d simply go on with your work. Few might respond. Many might respond. Then you’d hear someone else shouting. If it was something that concerned you, or something you had an answer to, you’d answer. If not, you’d ignore it and go on working.

Then I thought about writing this post. I have 2,318 Twitter followers at the moment. This is like having 2,318 cubicles around me. Someone’s always there. People come online and go off. Some stay offline for days. Some never go off, really. There’s always someone there.

It’s important to note here that the metaphor that sprung to mind was work-related. We sit in a cubicle to work. I don’t know of any type of cubicle that you play in. There is a message there. This is serious stuff. This is work. People think we goof off on Twitter all day. Not true. Yes we have a ton of fun. Yes there’s laughter. Yes we might even procrastinate a little. Some might procrastinate a lot. But how is that different to any other work environment. In the morning people actually greet each other on Twitter. As you would expect to see in a “real life” office environment. And it’s real funny when people in the West say good morning when it’s our afternoon. We have a lot of fun with that.

Then, this afternoon, I noticed a tweet from my friend Amanda. It’s the image at the top of this post. She said, “Open plan office. Constant risk of inadvertent over sharing.” Amanda, although she was talking on Twitter, was actually talking about a real open plan office situation. But that’s exactly how Twitter is. And people definitely do over share on Twitter as well. But still, there’s value.

I originally named this post “2,318 Cubicles behind me” – but that had some leadership connotation to it. It was as if I was at the front, and everyone was behind me, following me if you like. I changed “behind” to “around” because on Twitter there’s no hierarchy. Everyone is equal. I have spoken to all sorts of people on Twitter, even popular folks like Gary Vaynerchuk (with 871,091 Twitter followers) and Guy Kawasaki (with 331,982 Twitter followers). It’s really something.

I think this is a lot I’ve written due to one thought last night. I hope you found value in it though.

Don’t shove your message down my throat

April 6, 2011

UnsubscribeThe tweet to the left shows that my friend Nur was clearly frustrated. I saw it and thought about my own frustrations with spam. I could relate. I’m sure you can too. We are constantly being flooded with marketing messages from brands which we know and even don’t know. These come in at us from all directions: email, text messages, calls, pop-up web ads, etc. The one I think people are most annoyed about is email spam. This is one of the easiest and cheapest methods of reaching vast audiences. Certain emails which we have subscribed to are a joy to receive. Yet most newsletter-type emails are unsolicited and unwanted. We don’t know where these people get our email addresses from, but they come in daily.

Upon receiving a spam email yesterday, and I clicked the “Report spam” button which I do regularly. But something happened which has never happened before. This message popped up:


Google has now added the feature to unsubscribe from the company’s database automatically once you report the message as spam. This is a step in the right direction. And I’m not surprised that Google has taken this initiative.

Marketers need to realise that permission marketing and inbound marketing is the way of the future. Read up on them at those links. Wrap your head around these concepts. And then act. Change your strategy. Think about your customers. Think about their time. Value their time. Perchance they will value you.

Sidenote 1: When I saw the tweet from Nur, I did not interact with him. Before this blog post was published, he had no way of knowing whether I had even seen his tweet or not. Remember this! Please do not always engage with you online. But they’re reading, or “listening” to what is going on around them. I have experienced this many, many times. People have met up with me and mentioned things I said online weeks prior. People are listening. Some folks say little on Facebook and Twitter, but they log on simply to listen to the expressions of others. Have you ever done that? I know you have. I have.

Sidenote 2: The benefit of using “cloud” services like Google Apps is that they are improved on a very consistent basis. I don’t have to buy a new version of the software. I don’t have to pay for new features. The next time I log in, the features are there. And take note of this: Google does not email it’s users each time an update is deployed. Doing this would certainly be easy for them. But they don’t. They allow us to “discover” these new features. Isn’t that a wonderful word? Discovery. We love that word. Google Apps and Gmail also have a neat help interface which I have just “discovered” – but I think this has been around for a while. After I found it, I immediately shared it on Twitter with this simple message:

googlehelp 300x99 Dont shove your message down my throat

Let your users find you. Then let them discover your awesomeness. Don’t force yourself and your message on them. Be patient.

The NPO Tribe

April 5, 2011

Web 2.0 – the current phase of the Internet – has changed many industries. Some drastically. Others subtly. The NPO industry is one which has changed drastically. The entire NPO structure is now no longer limited to confined demographics and confined resources. NPO executives, managers, members, funders, and communities are now spread across the globe. Life has changed. Business has changed. Charity has changed.

Seth Godin talks about the NPO landscape in his book Tribes. He says:

The Internet allows some organizations to embrace long-distance involvement. It lets charities flip the funnel, not through some simple hand waving but by reorganizing around the idea of engagement online. This is the new leverage. It means opening yourself up to volunteers and encouraging them to network, to connect with one another, and, yes, even to mutiny. It means giving every one of your professionals a blog and the freedom to use it. It means mixing it up with volunteers so they have something truly at stake. This is understandably scary for many nonprofits, but I’m not so sure you have a choice.

You might want to read this blog post, also from Seth.

NPO’s want to bring about change. That’s the purpose of their existence. They are social change agents. The Internet is facilitating change. I think NPO’s need to adopt the online phenomenon as if their lives depended on it. Oh wait, it does!