Archive for August, 2010


Social Media Overload — Thoughts on Hitting the Wall.

Sometimes it feels like my social media presence is about to fall off a cliff.

Over the past months I’ve shared my journey as I’ve slowly figured things out. How to save time blogging. Build a community. Little tips I’ve learned through trial and error.

But I’ve come to a place that is uncomfortable and frankly, I don’t see a way out. To describe my experience at this point, I’d have to use the word “stressed.”

I can’t keep up with Twitter

… at least not in the same way that I always have … in a way that I have enjoyed and advocated. I am now up to nearly 15,000 followers. And many of them are very active, very engaging followers, too.

For me, the most fun thing about Twitter was engaging with a new follower: seeing where they’re from, what they say about themselves, clicking on their link, assessing if we had anything in common, and imagining ways we could connect — or not. For reasons I can’t totally explain, I’m now getting more than 1,000 new followers each month. I simply don’t have the time to thoughtfully assess and connect with new followers like I used to.

Similarly, the timely, personal engagement I value so much is difficult on this scale … and it’s only going to get worse. The benefits I’ve received from engaging and connecting on Twitter are literally incalculable. I don’t want that to go away.

Keeping the blog going at a high level of quality and engagement/comments  while maintaining a demanding work schedule has sometimes meant 17 hour workdays. My wife is starting to notice.

I used to take pride in closely following every blog (that I knew of) from the {grow} community.  Our readership is doubling every few months.  I can’t keep up with that like I used to either.

A year or so ago I asked a “celebrity” blogger how he handled it all — Blog community, 80,000 Twitter followers, and all the trimmings —  and he said, it’s like being a rockstar on a stage. There might be 20,000 people who want to engage with you but you can only slap the hands of the people who have made it to the front row.

I hated that description but am now starting to see some truth in it.

There have been some half-hearted discussions among the Twitterati with large tribes about dropping their accounts and starting over. That just sounds like a dumb idea.

First, it is incredibly disrespectful to the sincere people who are following you: “What? You’re dropping me because you’re having time management issues?”

Second, why would I want to miss the benefits of the incredible connections I have nurtured? And finally, the audience build-up is just going to start all over again any way, right?

Another strategy is to stop following people back to contain the level of the noise. That is just not me. I’m not here to “broadcast” like Seth Godin or Guy Kawaskai.  I know the true benefit of Twitter is connection. And that is not just social media rhetoric.  I’m living proof of the amazing benefits of this platform if you approach it in a spirit of authentic helpfulness.

The idea for this post came when I was tossing about in bed feeling guilty for not following through promptly with some Twitter friends who had asked for help. I’m not kidding.

My friend (through Twitter!) Dr. Sidney Eve Matrix described it well during our discussion the other day. “Not connecting on Twitter is like being too tired to walk the dog,” she said. “Will the dog survive? Yes. Will you survive? Yes? But you’re still feel going to feel guilty about it because you’re ignoring a responsibility.”

“Responsibility?”

Yes, responsibility.  In my mind there is definitely a responsibility that comes with having a community on the social web.  It’s an honor that you’re here.  I want to do a good job for you. I want to engage with you, if you want to engage with me. I think acknowledging responsibility to your audience is the difference between being a leader on the social web and being a douchebag on the social web.

This is kind of a strange post and I hope this doesn’t come across as whiney.  I know I have been very blessed by this social media community. But as we continue on this journey together, I felt like I needed to truthfully check in to let you know I’ve crossed an invisible line into some new territory and I haven’t figured out.

Will I be able to keep it up?  No.  Not like before.  I just don’t see how.  This road is taking some new turns and the path ahead is foggy. What do you think?   After all, at some point you might be in this position too.  Perhaps you already are?

Foursquare case study: Are “swarm parties” in your company’s future?

I’ve been a skeptic about Foursquare but this guest post from small business-owner Helen Wilkinson (above) describes a new perspective on a monetization activity with benefits for all. Enjoy!

At precisely 7.52 pm on August 12, 2010, a hearty cheer rose up from our small tea shop on the south coast of England.

“It’s a swarm, it’s a swarm!” people shouted, merrily clinking glasses of champagne.

Not just a swarm … but the first successful ‘swarm party’ ever in the UK, as the Press Association reported the next day (adding enthusiastically that the Foursquare event significantly boosted sales during the hour people checked in at our little shop, Metrodeco).

“So what?” you might ask. “How can one day’s good profits make a solid foundation for business growth? And who cares whether it was the first UK swarm party? We’ve been holding them in the States for months.”

Well, I think the answers to those questions should interest businesses everywhere.

First, the fact that Foursquare swarm parties are now happening here in the UK – and there are suddenly many more planned across the country – has a global significance that should not be underestimated. When we tentative Brits embrace a social technology and it spreads beyond the early adopters, history shows it is probably well on its way to becoming a multinational phenomenon and is here to stay. This is exactly how it went with YouTube, Facebook and Twitter: first success in the US, then in the UK, then years of world domination.

Watch during the next few months as Foursquare ratchets up millions of users in Australia, Estonia, Iran, South Korea and many other nations. I’ll eat one of my teapots if I’m wrong.

Second, I think you will find that businesses benefit from swarm parties way beyond the money that they make on that day.

At Metrodeco, we’re certainly not measuring success by looking at the bottom line for this single month. Yes, we doubled sales on the day of the swarm and in the run up added maybe 15 new repeat customers as a direct consequence — a result not to be sniffed at when you’re a small business.

But the real Holy Grail of any business’s digital strategy is to influence the influencers so they become brand evangelists. And this is because all the research shows that customers who come to you because of word of mouth are likely to be more loyal than those who are there because of traditional marketing programs.

We think we achieved this conversion.

How? This is key: Social media influencers in any area love meeting each other face-to-face, hence the success of ‘tweet-ups’. But what a Swarm Party now adds to this mix is the opportunity for people to collaborate in a joint endeavour, to achieve something together, to stand shoulder-to-shoulder and say “We are a community and we work better as a whole than as individuals”.

If half of the 50+ people at your party feel this sense of success through co-operation, you’re going to have to do something pretty bad to lose their good will. And that will probably mean months, if not years, of good word-of-mouth marketing. This, of course, leads to closer relationships with your customers, a bigger and better reputation, greater buzz and, eventually, more money!

What do you think? Is swarming in your future?

Helen Wilkinson is the co-proprietor of Metrodeco, a tea room in Brighton, UK.

{grow} Community Note: Coincidentally, yesterday Knoxville publicist Zane Hagy staged a similar event at a local pizza restaurant.  To attract a Foursquare swarm, they offered free cheese pizzas all day. Well, 2,603 free pies later, they had their swarm, and had also doubled their average sales for the day. You can read about it HERE.

Snooping on Facebook: Not just for stalkers any more

I have one of the world’s best points of brand differentiation — I’m the only business blogger you know old enough to have a daughter-blogger! Lauren is entering her senior year as a journalism major and has been having some intriguing social media experiences. When she told me the following story I was frankly a little weirded-out.   Let’s see what you think about using Facebook as an investigation tool after reading my daughter’s guest post …

Since my last post on {grow}, I’m a year older, I’ve aced all my classes, started my own blog and developed a fondness for coconut ice cream.  Hope you have all been doing well.

But my hiatus is beside the point. Today I am here to tell you a story of intrigue and revelation … a story that might forever change the way you think about Facebook.

This summer I’m spending my time as a development intern for a private, non-profit foundation. One day I was asked to research a professional sports player — who was associated with my foundation — as a potential target for donations. Through public information, a little resourcefulness and my best pal Facebook, you may be amazed at what I found …

The hunt begins

To protect the innocent, we’ll call the professional sports player Dijon Shmoogley.  Fundraising is a sophisticated process and my large nonprofit foundation subscribes to many lists, archives and search engines to determine who might have a “potential to give” (i.e.: who’s got property, boats, salary, stock,  etc.) After exhausting my search through these traditional databases, I reached a dead-end. I found no indication of Dijon’s financial status.

Turning to the Internet, I learned that:

  • His brother’s name was Reginald, and he also had played sports in college.
  • His mother and father, Sarah and Frank Shmoogley live in Minneapolis.
  • Dijon was newly-married to a girl name Jenny Smith from Minneapolis, MN
  • His Facebook page is private.

Although I could not pin-down Dijon’s financial status, once I found that he was recently married I immediately began to look for his wife’s assets (isn’t that a vow … “I promise to share my boat, stock portfolio, antique china…”?) as an indication of his economic status.

Facebook takes over

 

Turning to my best pal …

 

  1. I searched Facebook for “Jenny Smith”… Ha!  2,000 entries.
  2. I searched Facebook for Reginald, Dijon’s brother. Found him. His Facebook isn’t set to completely private so I can view his friends (Thinking that he would be friends with his sister-in-law). He isn’t friends with any “Jenny Smith” but he is friends with his mom, Sarah Shmoogley who, in her Facebook picture, is next to a blushing bride … I just found a picture of Jenny Smith!
  3. I returned to the search for “Jenny Smith” and quickly find a matching picture of my bride. I opened her profile and it confirmed that her hometown and current city is Minneapolis.

I then went to the online site for the Hennepin County Assessor’s Office (Minneapolis) to search for properties owned by Jenny Smith. (THIS IS COMPLETELY PUBLIC! Go see for yourself!)

There are about 20 Jenny Smiths in Hennepin County who own property, but 16 are registered with spouses who aren’t Dijon Shmoogley. I search the remaining four properties on Google maps and rule out at least three of them for various intuitive reasons. Finally I get down to one rational possibility. But it is a shared homeownership with another woman — Amelia Bedelia.

Hmmm… If the two women are close enough to buy a house together, wouldn’t they be Facebook friends too? I go back to Jenny Smith’s Facebook page and sure enough there’s Amelia Bedelia. I have now confirmed Dijon’s home and am on my way to discovering a significant portion of his net worth.

Game.  Set.  Match.

Even with a name as common as Smith and Facebook’s security settings, I was able to confirm Dijon’s home ownership, value of the home, and other valuable information about the assets of the couple. Social media status updates also can provide other important clues — discussions of vacations at the lake house, promotions, investments and purchases. With this information, I tailored an appropriate fundraising approach and suggested giving level for the Schmoogley Family.

Another fundraising friend of mine grabbed a list of over a thousand new potential donors because a competing charity posted the names of their 1,500 largest donors on a Facebook event page.

I admit this is all a little weird but it’s real and it’s time to wake up. Facebook is not just about social networking. It’s also about social investigating.

Are you feeling a little nervous about this?

Lauren Schaefer is the world’s greatest daughter and will be looking for a job in about six months. I can vouch for her.

Can’t find work? Maybe you’re part of the “Unserviced Workforce”

I would like to introduce Stuart Mease of Virginia Tech University to all of you. Stuart is a member of the {grow} community and flat-out one of the brightest guys I know. He made a name for himself with creative applications of social media to economic development and I’m pleased to present this timely guest post today:

This recent headline in The Wall Street Journal caught my eye: “Some firms struggle to hire despite unemployment.”

So let’s dispel this unemployment myth right now. There are jobs out there and plenty of them … unless you’re part of the Unserviced Workforce.

That may be an unfamiliar term to you.  There are three distinct job seekers in today’s labor market – white collar professional workers, blue collar skilled workers, and the Unserviced Workforce.

Unemployed white collar professional workers are being serviced by private third-party groups (headhunters). Their skill sets may be in high demand and companies are paying a premium for their services. Professions such as health care, engineering, information technology, and accounting are all in high demand regardless of region.

The blue collar skilled workers are being serviced by public third-party agencies (community colleges, workforce investment boards, employment commissions, staffing agencies, etc.). Typically their skill sets are also in high demand because companies try train a constant pool of candidates for these jobs. Professions such as manufacturing, trades, technicians are all in high demand.

The Unserviced Workforce is caught in the middle. Neither the public nor private sector is helping this group find jobs.  This segment is characterized by younger people with potential or upside; has some  higher education; good (but not billable) skill sets, and are looking for a “professional” job paying a salary between $25k-$50k, depending on the region. This is the critical mass of knowledge workers who are underemployed, over-educated, or who are leaving smaller regions for larger metropolitan areas in search of better employment opportunities.

Here are seven possible outcomes for the Unserviced Workforce:

1) Acquire new skills and move up

This will require continuing education and a commitment to the acquisition of demanded skills.

2) Humble yourself and move down

This will require accepting a lower standard of living and the realization that there is a surplus of people with the same skills sets in the market.

3) Start a business

This will require taking risk by starting small while still looking for a job, going to school, or working a platform job, and identifying government programs to assist you.

4) Move laterally between jobs in the Unserviced Workforce

These people will most likely not make an investment in continuing education or start a business. They may think they are better than blue collar jobs. Typically younger, these workers will bounce from job to job and never “get ahead.”

5) Remain unemployed

These people are still not humbled or motivated to get out of the unserviced workforce because they are waiting for the economy to turnaround and/or family/spouse supported.

6) Leave the region

These people believe “it’s not me” but the place I live that’s the problem. They are typically unattached or younger and are more capable of leaving or are forced to leave due to the severity of the regional economy.

7) Retire

These people are focused on years of work experience rather than result-based metrics. They are frustrated by perceived age discrimination in the recruiting process. They will re-enter workforce at a later time, perhaps working only part-time. Their decision depends on their nest egg and lifestyle.

If you are a job seeker and are reading this post, I challenge you to get out of the Unserviced Workforce by seeking Outcomes #1, #2 or #3. Inaction will leave you in Outcomes #4 and #5 and poor attitudes results in Outcomes #6 and #7.

There are jobs out there.  No public or private-sector program is going to create a job market equilibrium. It’s solely up to YOU — the job seeker — to stay out of the Unserviced Workforce.

Stuart Mease’s mission is “connecting people” to create mutually beneficial relationships. He is currently serving as the Director of Undergraduate Career Services in the Pamplin College of Business at Virginia Tech. You can follow him on Twitter @stuartmease.

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