Archive for April, 2010


Forget your website, create a social footprint

On a webinar last week, I briefly covered an idea I call the information eco-system (or social footprint) and received a lot of questions about it.  This is a critical concept for businesses today so I thought I should expand on the idea.

If you did a web search for you or your company three years ago, the result would have been a list of websites.  If you conducted the same search today, you may get LinkedIn profiles, YouTube videos, Slideshare presentations, maps, perhaps even tweets from Twitter.  In fact, as the social web has emerged, visits to traditional websites have declined dramatically for many companies.

The implication is that if you have a website and think that’s all you need any more, you’re not understanding the social web.

People have the opportunity to find you (and your competitors) in lots of places now and you should have a systematic, mindful strategy to populate this information eco-system with content that will support your business objectives … and hopefully drive people back to your website. Put your information out there where the people are. Then give them a reason to go back to learn more at your website.

Let me give you a dramatic example of this in action. Recently I posted a slide deck on SlideShare for the convenience of my college students.  I went back to the site an hour later to make sure the slides had uploaded properly and 251 people had already viewed the deck.  None of them were my students, since they didn’t know about it yet!   Those 251 visitors to my deck were vitally interested in a presentation called Social Media 101 and were high potential contacts for me, right?  I added a slide at the end directing people to visit my website, blog, follow me on Twitter, etc.

Another little example: I recently gave a talk to economic development leaders and asked them what they would get if they googled their cities.  If the answer is YouTube videos of drunken conventioneers, they better get out there and populate the social web with videos that tell their story THEIR way.  If you don’t systematically populate the web with your story, you’re abdicating the brand management for your organization.

So, create and own the social footprint of your brand everywhere you possibly can … or at least to the extent that your resources can support.

Does this make sense?  What ideas do you have about this concept?

Twitter ads and the end of mankind

The web comments about the announcement that Twitter will have ads on their searches (as a start) were about evenly split between “ho hum” and “disgust.”  This comment is pretty typical of the disgust category:

“Once Twitter starts inserting ads into my feeds will be the day I turn twitter off for good.” — “Nick”  NYT comment

I guess this is the opportunity I’ve been waiting for to pontificate about making money on the web …

Folks, it isn’t working.

Remember a time not long ago when people actually PAID for stuff?  Then the web came along and everybody ripped everybody else off.  Music, books, art, whatever. This used to be called a crime. Now it’s called sharing on the social web.

The ripping off became so widespread that it is accepted as fact, and a generation of people grew up feeling entitled to OFS (only free stuff).

But the Internet futurists told us back then, “Hey, everyone! It’s OK, because NEW business models will emerge to compensate all these companies, musicians and artists who are now forced to give away their goods and services without compensation.”  Well guess what?  It’s been about 15 years and it hasn’t happened. I’m pretty sure that means it isn’t going to happen.  And I think we’re in trouble.  Oh yes, I’ve read the book Free.  I still think we’re in trouble.

The only sanctified, protected work on the web today is advertising.  Rip off an ad, you’re in court. Rip off a music album, it’s cool.

So look, unless you want to have a paid subscription, stop whining about Twitter (and every other web platform that needs to advertise) and give them a break.  This is their only likely step toward a sustainable business.

We created this mess, now we have to live with it.  From now on, it’s an Ad, Ad, Ad World.

How do you push yourself out of your social media cage?

Where I live in East Tennessee black bears are a real fact of life.  Actually, that’s one of the reasons I’ve remained here. In 45 minutes, I can be hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park where bears (and fresh air) are plentiful.

I heard this story about a bear cub that was rescued after her mother had been hit by a car. The cub was put in a temporary 12 x 12 cage by a wildlife rescue habitat until they could decide what to do with her. Day after day the cub just paced back and forth — from one end of the cage to the other — pining for her mother.

As the bear grew, they finally had a chance to transfer her to a more spacious structure. But the strangest thing happened.  No matter where the little bear was placed in the cage, she would still go exactly 12 feet and turn around, 12 feet and turn around.

Sometimes I feel like that cub.  I’m conditioned to the size of my “cage.”  Although my business environment is expanding day by day, I still pace those 12 steps, back and forth.

I’ll give you an example. Have you ever really tried to follow the technology news on Mashable?  I give these folks a lot of credit. They’ve built an excellent, comprehensive and entertaining news stream. Only problem is — it’s just too much. You could sit and read Mashable all day long.  So I stick my toe in, get discouraged, and return to my little cage.

Another example is the excellent Base One B2B purchasing study I wrote about last week.  It mentioned that purchasing professionals now spend about 30 minutes a week on industry-related social networks. It would probably be a good idea for me to branch out and explore some of those networks but after I read such a report, I generally turn to the next news item or blog post to discover what else I’m missing out on!

One of those news items might be the great changes being made to Tweetdeck. I’m a Seesmic kind of guy and can’t even bring myself to check out another platform because of the time it would take.

I know part of this is a matter of human bandwidth. We can only psychologically commit to so many technological platforms. But I’m afraid I’m limiting myself and perhaps falling behind on that all-important business and life skill of adaptability. How do you cope with this?

How do you sift and sort and figure out where to spend your time exploring innovations?

How do you maintain technological relevance, even in your narrow professional space?

How do you unleash your “bear?”

Illustration: www.bear.org

Research shows young procurement professionals embracing social web

Planning on using the social web to market to B2B decision-makers?  According to just-released research from London’s Base One Group, you might consider the age of your target audience.

In a comprehensive study of 503 UK B2B purchasing decision-makers, those under 30 years of age were twice as likely to be fans of the social web and use it actively as an information-gathering tool.

The report does a nice job breaking out the information channels used by B2B decision makers by demographics and industry, but also by the stage in the decision-making process.

For example, decision-makers under 30 counted on blogs, Twitter and Facebook at the exploratory stage of a supplier search about 30% of the time compared to about 6% for those over 30 years of age.  The one exception was LinkedIn, where both age groups found equal utility.

Important implication of this —  the upcoming generation of professionals is relying heavily on new media as an information gathering tool.

Blogs rule?

Another thought-provoking nugget in the study, is that when B2B procurement decision-makers were finding potential new suppliers, Twitter and blogs were considered as a more influential source of supplier information than any other information channel, including word of mouth, seminars and industry publications.

However, the most popular sources of information across all ages remains decidedly “old school:” web searches, supplier websites, seminars, and the industrial press.

In fact, when asked how their information gathering behavior had changed, procurement professionals cited the greatest increased use of web searches (up for  64% of respondents) and supplier websites (up for 61%). Social networking sites Facebook and Twitter experienced 6% and 10% net increases respectively, and LinkedIn saw growth of 19%. Online videos/webinars/podcasts were also a strong source of information with an increase in usage of 36%, consistent with other B2B research that has been featured on {grow}.

Base One Group commissioned the new research in association with B2B Marketing Magazine.  The study had a diverse industry profile including manufacturing, business services, financial, public administration and healthcare. About 50% of the respondents had 1,000 employees or more.

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