Old Media Fights back in grand old euro-centric style against new Social Media

Considering that the French were early adoptors of the RAPIER sword and that one of their great novels was Les Miserables which was about life liberty and the pursuit of happiness – i.e. the French peasant revolution —the old media guard does not seem to have learnt much from this colorful past when it comes to the new media of today! It could be a European mindset or maybe it is really just the old boys of french media who think that this is a good idea — but when I heard the news flash that the use of the WORDS Facebook and Twitter had been banned from French media while driving in my fossil fool car I hit the gas in fear of a slow down of human consciousness.

Advertising 101 states that if you can grab mindshare first on any new product or service you have positioned yourself above the clouds. Take the example of Kleenex. An established brand name that we go looking for to this day! And if you can’t find it—well you might just be inclined to GOOGLE for it! Oh…there I go again…my bad —–using a brand name to describe a thing we do or possess. Of course we all know that Media controls the world and colors our perception of it. Mass media like Radio and TV – from which Twitter and Facebook are now banned in France has to realize that regardless of what they do the user is now in full control — NOT the companies that create these applications.

What they are fighting against here is indeed, bigger than the French Revolution. It is a quantum shift in the way we communicate that puts the user right in the center and ultimately obsolesces corporations. Embrace the change guys cause your ship is sinking fast and there ain’t no one coming the the rescue..for you see, the rats, the masses, the unwashed, the unwanted have abandoned it long ago! En Guarde! Alle!

In which a loaf of bread STARS as a form of MEDIA

What does it mean for Business to “GET Social”?

Is there some sort of conceptual idea behind this question? Yes, there is an idea that one either gets or not. Let me attempt to briefly explain the hidden ground of social media. After posting my last blog back in April I got very busy with some personal matters and started work with a new client who has American businesses interested in their Social Media Solutions. What a difference it is speaking to American business owners over Canadian ones with respect to their social media plans. Canadian business owners still don’t see why they should “Get Social” and since they are not prepared to explore the economic theory behind it is more about education than doing — making for long sales cycles — while the social media world continues to evolve at breakneck speed.

Clearly, most they don’t get it. Refining my pitch and presentations to Canadian business owners recently has really made me think about what it is that they do not “get”. At the end of the day it is this. They do not get the quantum shift that occurred back in 1998 based on the idea of a new networked economy replacing the existing one. I remember reading Kevin Kelly’s book New Rules for the New Economy at that time and It changed the way I thought about the future. Ironically Google was just starting out on its journey to make a business model based on the user at the centre and a wide distribution of it applications. Now 13 years later Google rules search and its only competition in the Web 2.0 space is FaceBook – the world’s largest social media network. Yes, the word is NETWORK.

Guess what– that future is in full effect right NOW. While sorting out old papers and notes last weekend I came accross a single sheet from a sketchbook on which I had written a short version of Kelly’s 12 rules for the new Economy, 13 years ago. It was like unearthing an ancient text. Now – if I could only find business owners who will take the time to study this book, make a list and memorize it like I have — then perhaps we would be speaking the same language. Until that day, most Canadian busineses will continue to stay on the surface never going deep enough into the foundations of social media to justify investing —instead dreaming of the “good old days” when they could get return on old media advertising, dismissing social media as a fad that will soon be replaced by another one. Those who just don’t “get social” probably are not going to become social anytime soon. To demonstrate how social media is leaving it mark on all – including big companies like APPLE I found this blog post yesterday that makes suggestions regarding companies that need to get social. Imagine the nerve of suggesting that Apple “Get Social”……lol…..

Forget Facebook & Twitter-Small Canadian Businesses are still waiting for Google

Today is Google’s day! When I re-branded myself last fall (2010) as a SEARCH & SOCIAL MEDIA STRATEGIST after 10 years as a Sales and Marketing Consultant with a background in New Media I thought long and hard about my offering and arrived at Search & Social Media. For me it was never an either/or scenario like so many of my peers….rather it was about helping small businesses with the Social media basics and working over time to develop an online marketing strategy that embraced both Search & Social Media.

Since then I have heard very little talk about Google in my discussions with clients about my services. Those who are savvy are fascinated by social media and then shocked that I would actually charge anything more than minimum wage for my services for engaging, listening and monitoring their social media pages. This of course following their confession that they have no time or inclination or skills to engage online themselves – but admit that there is “something happening there” that they need to pay attention to, but they cannot identify what. It is called a new way to communicate, people. IBM calls it Social Business – it requires experimentation, investment and williness to take a business risk and exhibit leadership. The banks call it Innovation – but will NEVER lend to you, so I feel your pain–they will continue to hoard their funds and look to small business to mortgage their house instead…. A real catch 22, eh??

No sense dilly dallying over the Economics of the old school media world — I then move on to talk about Twitter or Facebook and there is more shock when I tell them that Facebook is “the” space in which to build a community or customer service portal – but since one needs to drive potential clients (traffic) to the FB page and engage them to like it before you gain access to their news feed the suggestion that they invest in online advertising in the form of Google AdWords goes over like a lead balloon even though I tell them it is a great idea as the typical user is actively seeking information on select keywords and the potential for a good lead or purchase is much higher they clutch their hearts and ask how much THAT is going to cost? I say the more you spend the more leads you get. Sales 101. In the sales world we call this a qualified lead. I see their eyes glaze over as they long for the day when they could hire a sales rep based on commission only. It is a different game online – they call it Marketing something that small business never really did. So, even though Google ad leads are much warmer than Facebook ad leads – at least for now….they don’t get it…

Over the last few days Google has re-positioned itself. Now that Larry is at the helm announcing that they will embrace social media, synchronizing themselves with the consumer who are currently using Facebook and Twitter type tools to connect with friends, family and oh yeah — ambitious innovative businesses…. They will also reach out to specific markets in an attempt to meld Search & Social Media with a new product called Google PLUS one.

What really hit home for me today is the fact that they will focus on the Canadian market as they have long identified it as being underserved with respect to the number of small businesses who do not even have a website. Some 1.2 Million — who are doing what? — “waiting for Godot”….

Note: A Tragi/Comedy in 2 ACTS

Having worked as an Account Executive some 13 years ago selling the “concept” of having a website to small businesses I have been down this road before. After the tek crash of 2000 I had to sell a lot of stuff besides “technology” but it allowed me to hone my sales skills and learn the sales process like the back of my hand. So now here is the Sting – about a month ago Google ran an ad on Craigslist (for FREE) for Sales Reps and I applied cause hey small biz is simply NOT getting it in spite of my brilliant White Paper download entitled – A 21 C guide to Online Marketing for Canadian Business.

Living in the most expensive City in Canada while waiting for the Search & Social Media Boat to come in is no JOKE. I have been literally and figuratively treading water for 13 years!

Reflections by Robert Freeman

Treading Water

Now I am going under and the only offer I have is to work for a Chinese Insurance Start Up company in a Management role….yes, Toronto is all about BAY Street. So I bit the bullet for the second, yes second time and applied to Google in the most creative manner I knew – I submitted my white paper as I never graduated with a MBA, a high GPA in the USA. I am Canajun, eh?
Did I hear back from Google? Of course not. Having a background in ART and Media and high-tech sales, excelling in B2B business skills that are very attractive to Chinese Entrepreneurs in Toronto is NOT what Google is looking for….

Pray tell, what might they be looking for? A piece of the Canadian small business market for sure. What could I possibly know about those 2.2 M small business owners mindsets? Google is proposing that they will assist small Canadian businesses set up their websites. Good Luck and Heads up guys as you will be competing with the high school kid who does it for fee in his basement….lol. But seriously, may the force be with you – because the sooner you get em set up the better for the both of us. In the meantime I am going to continue to educate and hold the hand of the small business owner who does not understand why they should pay a professional any money to set up their Social Media channels. AMEN.

Activate Your New Customer Service Channels Today!

This weekend I attended the Oakville Networking Un-Conference on Social Media and engaged in discussion on Social Media and Customer Service. In an attempt to communicate the benefits of Twitter and Facebook in a simple manner I positioned them as new customer service channel which, as Jay Baer & Amber Naslund note in their fabulous book “The Now Revolution“ have replaced the telephone as a communications channel!

These days when I am asked by a small business owner “When is a good time to get active with social media?” I reply – “If the phone rings in the office, when do you pick it up? First ring, second, third? Who picks it up? Your receptionist, your assistant or you? Imagine that the tool you choose to manage your Facebook and Twitter accounts with, be it Hoot Suite, Social Scope or Post ling is your new telephone. How will you respond to its data?” Naturally in order to connect with a potential client in the past you listened for the ring and answered it. With Twitter and Facebook you must both create the content and manage the response that arrives in the form of mentions and re-tweets, comments and posts. Like a new phone that has just been connected in your office – you will make your clients aware of your business phone number by some form of marketing be it a business card or print ad. When it does finally ring you will strive to respond in a manner that creates trust and credibility in order to move towards a point where you can offer up your service with the intention of making a sale. This occurs, of course, once you have determined there is a need for your offer. If no need is apparent you can continue to educate the potential client on your area of expertise with the hope that when the time is right you will be top of mind.

Below are two reasons why Social Media is here to stay and not just a “fad”. Both are essential to business success in today’s rapidly changing world. The Social Media “figures” of Facebook and Twitter that dominate your new customer service are framed against a ground based on
1. MEDIA – The platforms of Facebook and Twitter both reside in the cloud connected to the internet. This media is not new we have been utilizing for at least a decade, first with email, then with a website.
2. USER CENTRIC PHILOSOPHY – The internet has evolved to place where the user – customer, consumer, client is at the centre. This shift was driven by search engines – in particular Google. Now social media based on networks have arisen to allow your customer to build their own profile and connections and if they choose – they can include you in their network. If you win their trust and crediblity, if you engage with interesting content and insights that same user can easily share your posts, updates and SMS –(real time micro-blogging) to their networks..

These key factors allow for real time conversations powered by social media. When fully utilized this new division of your business can generate leads, engage customers, spearhead campaigns, provide market research and gather consumer insight – all through the simple acts of listening, engaging and conversing and is a must have for all wise leaders “looking to work on their business rather than in their business.” If you find you do not have time to manage these channels then it is smart to outsource it. Hire someone to do it -even on a part-time basis who is media savvey and knows how to sell. An hour a day is a great start and the long-term benefits will serve you well.

  • BACKGROUND to Your new Customer Service Channel
  • The history of advertising began in the late 1880’s with the basic assumption that the product for sale would give you what you need. For almost one hundred years that concept was delivered as a one way message through various media like print, radio and television. While big businesses used the services of large agencies most small businesses have relied on “word of mouth” to get the word out. It was not until 125 years later that marketing began to take on the role of helping businesses to grow by providing services that were accountable, interactive, integrated and targeted.

    With the new media of computers, mobile phones and the internet connecting people and extending their reach – a new way to communicate has emerged. Over the last three years the rise of Social Media is radically changing the way in which business is conducted. Social Media brings with it a quantum shift in HOW we connect and share information with customers, suppliers and other businesses. Ironically this new form of media amplifies the power of “word of mouth” as people share electronically with their friends, family and business acquaintances (their social networks) information that is relevant to them.

    The good news is that the era of very expensive one way mass marketing is no longer effective. It has been replaced by online marketing which is the most cost effective way to connect and creates the greatest return on investment. Investing in Social Media is a wise decision and highly recommended. The bad news is that social media is so new that many business owners are frightened by the change that it brings. Giving up the phone for a piece of software that manages tweets in hard to fathom. One of the first topics up for discussion at the UnConference was “Social Media is nothing to Fear”. Just as the phone and fax transformed the way business was conducted in the past social media is doing the same right now. As a business leader it is wise to position yourself ahead of the curve. Have no fear, for this time around it is the consumer who will benefit the most – keep in mind that people like you and I are also consumers who seek better access to information on products and services we buy. The more we participate in this experience the more we reconginze how this new type of customer service and its responsiveness is good for the consumer. It is no longer about the one way messaging of large corporations and the frustration of waiting in line for hours to return an item or on the phone to resolve an issue. With new tools in place consumers expect and demand real time resolutions from business. Below is an example of twitter being used by Best Buy as a customer service portal.

    Your customers live in one of the most connected areas in the world. For most people in Canada the internet is the first place we turn to search for information on whatever it is that we need to buy or want to research. In addition consumers can now use their social networks for “shopping” referrals. Our social nature is such that we like to share our opinions and thoughts on various topics and services daily whether offline or on. Your customer has already figured out that they are in control of the conversations around what they buy, where they eat and where they can shop and know that they can easily share with others their reaction to each and every business transaction. Instead of fearing this real time interaction wise businesses should embrace the tools afforded by this new media and use them to their advantange by implemeting solid social interactions and real time relationship building.

    Social Media, Creativity and Innovation in Canada

    I was watching the Lang O’Leary exchange last night from my comfy berger chair with my laptop connected to a twitter tool – when I heard the CEO of the Canadian Business Development Bank — discuss the dismal failure of small and medium sized businesses to innovate and it dawned on me that I could be facing a tough market for a long time simply due to the prevailing Canadian business mindset which is very conservative and risk adverse. As a single entrepreneur, I am not going to be able to shift that anytime soon. I did not do the survey or write the report that says Small & Medium sized Canadian business gets a D for Innovation. The fact that we are ranked 14 out of 17 worldwide for our lack of creativity and innovation is however, shocking. “Yikes”, I said outloud. The cat jumped up. I almost dropped my laptop. Could it be that bad? Way worse than what I had thought but totally in line with what a good friend, who works with Google insiders, said to me some time ago about the state of Canadian business – “They are doomed on their own local markets, if in the next 5 years, they don’t get connected with their consumers online”.

    While Marketing is an integral part of business- its first role being to determine if there is even a market for a product – it never fails to amaze me the number of businesses who still think that they can rely on word of mouth as a viable long term strategy for marketing their product or service in a high technology city, province and nation.

    Technology of course is the most innovative of industries as it relies on that “analytical computing machine” which has now connected the entire globe in a web of communications. Technology, Communications and Media have now merged in cyberspace and for the most part small Canadian businesses are nowhere to be seen along the information highway (remember when we actually called it that here in Canada?) while the virtual social media space is becoming more and more crowded with consumers, your friends, family and business associates, all piling on in search of information on health, wealth, love and stuff to buy – Canadian businesses are nowhere to be found….not in search, not in the social networks. They are lucky if they have a website, out of date, static, boring with a contact phone number.

    I have been blogging on this topic for some time now. In fact, over a decade ago I was in much the same position trying to sell business owners on the idea of having a website. At the time they could see no advantange to cutting print costs or being found on the new medium of the internet. It was a hard sell. Much the same as it is today.

    Now that a business should have their marketing focused online you would think that the need for those who are creative thinkers, indeed the creative class would to be embraced, employed and hired to work with them to create a new level of productivity and success. Sadly small businesses are missing in action and if you are tying to secure work a larger client make sure that you have a freshly minted undergrade degree in marketing from a University which did not even touch on social media or have you study the history of media aka MCLUHAN in Canada. Even though creativity (dare we say ART/Apple) and TECHNOLOGICAL (electronic/MS) innovation has transformed BIG business culture over the last three decades, heaven forbid they actually hire someone with the knowledge, skills and experience of this history who could base their innovative marketing strategies on the nature of media, someone who could engage in the type of experimentation needed to sail the uncharted waters that are the sea of Social Media.

    With a virtual “tsunami” of tools, apps, methods, numbers, metrics, stats, strategies available today where even medium-sized businesses think that being creative means having a personal facebook account with pictures of the last party you went to or a blog filled with some sort of trivia that reminds one of a content farm.

    Feeling depressed about the D GRADE Canadian businesses got on innovation, I googled for a quck fix – the phrase “quotes on innovation” for something positive and the search engine pulled up, guess what? — Quotes on Creativity and Innovation. It seems you cannot have one with out the other. Duh? And yet time and time again I am smacked down for being too creative and too innovative…

    So while I stuggle to “sell” the idea of social media to small and medium sized business in Canada at least I now know who is to blame for the conflict. It is not me..it is not my problem, I have an ART SCHOOL Education, I know how to innovate, how to problem solve, how to imagine, how to visulize, how to be flexible, be open, be transparent, be engaging. The problem lies with the make money mindset that has no idea how to connect with consumers in the 21st Century when their is an oversupply of goods and a lack of attention from consumers who are now in control!

    This time, I am on the side of the banks. While I may have very little capital in the bank since no one wants to fully engage me to execute any serious social media in Canada — they preferring to sit on the fence and watch their customers disappear down the information highway instead….I will do as I have done for decades now. I will ride out the wave working remaining in the moment of the NOW Revolution of Marketing.

    It may be too much to ask for a “standard” small business to innovate on its product offering…but it would be nice if they had the vision to innovate in when it comes to their marketing strategy. Same old product, new way to market and sell it. Now there is an idea.

    There are only two options here you either adopt social media or you are swept away. Time waits for no man or woman. Above us is the global connected techosphere where the big boys play. Learn the rules of the game and pay to win Canada. FYI, the name of the game is not HOCKEY – forget the pre meditated brain injuries in this game it is all about BRAINS, Creativity and innovation!

    Business Intelligence and Social Media

    Sadly small business entrepreneurs are often not aware of the cutting edge “thought leadership” that informs business intelligence in today’s marketplace. They are too busy putting out the “day-to-day” fires to follow what is happening right NOW in the marketplace with respect to the dramatic change between consumers and businesses. They are too busy working in their business to work on their business. Especially in Canada, were in spite of a serious recession to the south, the order of the day is “business as usual”. This means the same old methods of marketing, if any, are utilized – some print, mostly world of mouth. They continue to act as if we are in a bubble not connected the rest of the world which allows them to ignore both the canary in the coal mine and/or the elephant in the room asking – What to do about Social Media?

    While Canadian small businesses struggle with how to grow in a rapidly shifting market – our American cousins are moving ahead with adoption of social media very quickly. Faced with a serious recession and uncertain future they have little choice. Radical change drives new mindsets. Canadian businesses, on the other hand, tend to be risk averse and the adoption of Social media remains in their minds as a big question mark with no value assigned and no plan for adoption in place. They remain in “wait and see” mode.

    Like I said, can learn a lot from studying the competition. When it comes to social media this service is now offered by several vendors. Small business success with social media will depend on who wise business leaders decide to work with and how they deploy their strategy (plan). The following are frequently heard responses to my inquiries as to who is being considered for this task….

    1. Your wife…or hubby – who knows something about IT and the internet…
    2. A big ad agency who is learning as they go and often outsourcing this “special” area of expertise to a consultant.
    3. A small boutique run by a single individual who has extensive expertise in the field grounded in the areas of sales, marketing, customer service, communications and community building

    It is clear that corporations who are leading in the adoption of social media are using business intelligence to inform them. They are discovering that a business with A SOCIAL media focus who works to integrate it across all of its departments is going to be more sustainable in the long run and will out perform its competition. This is a perfect example of business intelligence supporting better business decision-making.

    I recently discovered that one of the big players in this space is IBM. They claim that they have been exploring and experimenting with social media internally for the past 6 years starting with blogging. They are now offering consulting for small, med and large businesses on how to adopt Social Media.

    Studying your competition has always been a good strategy for learning how to be a success in business. Common perception is that the bigger the business the more successful they are. How a big business does sales and marketing, innovates new products and connects with suppliers gives the entrepreneur ideas and insights on how they can grow their own business. At business schools their success stories inspire the new MBA’s and are called case studies. In the new world of social media you can either read all the latest books or blogs or listen online in order to find out who is executing successfully and how. It is all so new with only 5 years of adoption – 10 if you take it from the start of Google and Search that there is no one person with all the answers…Social Media can be very basic or highly customized.

    On Friday while mining for gold in my social media feeds I found a great webinar on Social Media by IBM. I have listened to it a couple of times and made detailed notes. I am grateful that they shared their expertise and practice what they preach.

    Ironically I also chose last year to launch my focused services making the quantum shift from Sales & Marketing to Search & Social Media after over 20 years in the new media, SALES and marketing space. For me there is a direct correlation between the two offerings and the upgrade of the first to the second. It goes something like this Sales = Search, Marketing=Social Media. Over the last few years the line between the two has been blurring and it has become very difficult to keep each one in its box.

    IBM is already stressing the urgency for businesses to adopt Social Media in order to drive sales — saying already 57% of businesses are more likely to out perform their competition if they share their “expertise” and respond to customers thru social media. My number one take away from the IBM webinar has to do with Sales – one of my areas of expertise. A response to the question “How to you build trust?” was “This is not about fast and furious… this is a about relationship building, gaining friends and building trust over time” The bottom line, for me, remains that business intelligence in creating a SOCIAL business continues to lie in a solid understanding of the technology SALES process.

    Soical Media is Sustainability

    After a couple of years of thinking, debating and discussing Search & Social Media and its relationship to small business one thing has become crystal clear – social media is sustainability. In fact, Social Media = Sustainability. This position, if adapted, of course changes the whole game plan for small business who continue to think that Social Media is some sort of…

    A. Distraction
    B. Add On
    C. Time Waster
    D. or “yet to be justified” expense…

    Pick one, any one…I hear them all everyday….all day. For a moment visualize yourself manifesting your ideal lifestyle – and then, your ideal client. What does it look like? What does he or she look like? Is there a connection between the two??

    Does the keyword “sustainability” enter into the picture at all? One in which you have finally realized that a system designed around the idea of PROFIT only at the expense of your health, the people who work for you and the resources that make up your product offering or service is no longer sustainable?

    A realization that something is changing in the way that business is conducted in 2011 is growing in the mind of wise business owners. Those businesses who are taking into account the lifestyle choices of their clients have changed their business models and messaging accordingly. They focus on either being

    1. User centric, connected – like Google and FB and Twitter i.e. Social media (aka- SOCIAL responsiblity, social entrepreneurial etc)
    OR
    2. Environmentally conscious – like Whole Foods for real and any number of “greenwashed” corporations that let you decide where you draw the line on what is good for the planet and what is not…(aka – ENVIRONMENT, environmentally aware, from food to home to health care to energy to office recycling)

    What is the market price of “sustainability” on Google these days? Pretty cheap according to the Google search below making one wonder why the whining about green being more expensive is really all about? Is there a hidden strategy here? Are you missing a big opportunity? Remember the old school corporate business model is all about competition, deception and misinformation. Make sure you really know your numbers and act accordingly….

    What happens when you put the two together? Whether you adopt green or social media as your platform for sustainability – one cannot grow to its full potential without the other. You need to connect to your ideal client, the one that is informed, healthy, educated and empowered by technology, (which means they have BUYING power) in order to communicate your offering.
    HINT: the greener, more local and creative it is the longer you will stay in the “most interesting times” game, for if cheap is your only offering you are either buying from or competing with China. Good luck on that front.

    Value added is either customer service (SOCIAL MEDIA) or green (QUALITY). Ironically both can be adopted as positions of sustainability for the long-term.

    News Flash! – Old media is not where the new consumer lives. At the end of the day this big Q – quantum shift – is all about the consumer, (which includes yourself) — who is “ALWAYS ON”.

    Sustainability Search Feb 2011

    What is the market cost of key word "sustainabilty?"