Why Search is a Waste of Time and Social Media allows us to Gain Time

“No matter how fast it seems, most search is a waste of time. In a way, we are using time (i.e., the time-based structure) to gain time.”

This quote is from a recent opinion blog in Wired Magazine online and it hits the target in clarifying what I have been trying to say to my clients for years now about the difference between Search and Social Media.

Yes they are two different animals. Why? because Social Media is Time Based and Search is not. The issue of time based vs non time based media is one dear to my heart as I studied Classical Animation. Animation is a time based media as is performance art, dance, music, new media, and some visual arts. “Usually time-based media are video, slide, film, audio or computer based and part of what it means to experience the art is to watch it unfold over time according to the temporal logic of the medium as it is played back.”

I know this to be true because of all the social media platforms, I have always loved Twitter the most. I knew that it’s “real time” communications and it’s dynamic quality were key factors in my love affair. David Gelernter goes on to state that this time based quality — which is inherent in New Media— creates new way of structuring time on the internet. This new structure re defines time on the internet, taking it from static websites and search results to the “streams” of data arising from your curated interests that constantly add into your feeds. As seen from the author’s sketch below we are at the intersection of the “now” and the “new”. We are now fully engaged and informed by Social Media.

“Instead of doing an endless series of separate searches, we tune the knobs on our stream-browser to continuously feed us just the information we need.”

Image

Unlike Search which brings up pages for you to review, having your social network set up to monitor people, topics and issues that are of interest, allows you or your business to always be in the moment and in the now of the conversation. This is the Zen state of being.

“But it’s about time: “Bring me what I want” is almost always more useful than “Let me rummage around and see what I can find.”

The other awesome point that he makes on this paradigm shift in communications is that this state allows for an abundance of creativity. Again for those of us who love to create content on the fly this is the best place to be as it allows for constant inspiration, insight and interpretation.  This is the state of artistic perception that McLuahn referred to in his definition of an artist as being one who “updates consciousness “. The Artist is one who lives in the moment and not in the past or the future.

“Yet it took us more than 20 years in computing to get here. The field has finally moved from conserving resources ingeniously to squandering them creatively.”

How true. I have been engage with new media studies for 20 years now and remember the MIT article that I zeroed and keep in my files up until today that speaks of the coming convergence of computers, video and telecommunications. Today we have the net, you Tube and smart phones. What matters most are not the devices themselves but the new real time communication channels of Social media that run across our devices via the internet and deliver great content to us. This in turn allow you to place that information, be it text, image or video, in a context that is relevant to your business – thereby adding value each and every day to your personal life or your business. Over time that value becomes enormous as your networks grow in influence and reach.

The Hidden Ground of Social Media

IN this graph of web traffic on The Atlantic —If one adds up the direct traffic from social media networks with the hidden traffic from social sharing via email, IM and secure sites one sees clearly how social dominates search.

The web is build on hyper links and social media is about sharing those links.

The ongoing activity of sharing links is what creates engagement, especially if the content shared is relevant to the interests of your target audience. I have had more than a few discussions with clients about the importance of sharing links on twitter in which I had to defend my preference to do so over what they thought should just be only a line of text that reflects their position on this or that. I argue that without that link no one is going anywhere to dig deeper into their interest in the topic mentioned—not to your site or to your blog or to a landing page with an offer or to another site or blog which might in turn mention you as being the referrer — thereby increasing your social capital.

In a recent blog post by the senior editor of The Atlantic online magazine he describes how he discovered that in addition to the stats that show a clear link to a social network like Facebook or Twitter there is often over 50% of web traffic coming from what he calls DARK SOCIAL. This category, he goes on to argue, is what I call the “hidden ground” of social media, he calls it DARK social —- the fact that long before the rise of the big social networks people were sharing links with one another through various online communication tools which in turn, were driving traffic to websites. These links continue to be shared through email, secure website and instant messaging.

Surprisingly, Search is also included in this category, which, to me, clearly shows how social media dominates web traffic and enriches any business found on the web today. The argument the SEO remains a key factor in the success of your business offering pales in comparison to the 50% of known referrals from social media platforms along with the additional 15% of the hidden, dark social links.  Add those two number together and  a conservative estimate is that at least 65% of web traffic these days is driven by social media efforts. If you are not doing social already is it not time you invested in Social Media to further enrich your business?

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.

    The writing on the Wall – Social Media and the Crisis in Egypt

    After nine days of protesting in Egypt which began with large crowds taking to the street organized by youth using the social media tools of Facebook and Twitter we are NOW seeing images of people throwing stones at one another while a strange group rides through the crowds on horseback and camels brandishing whips and sticks…a grim reminder of the reality of the pace of change when it comes to its implementation…

    Danny captures Facebook on the face of ancient Egypt

    Danny captures Facebook on the face of ancient Egypt

    I am reminded of the metaphor of cars driving down the road. The fastest car belongs to the young tech savvy man – let’s call him Mark Z. The slowest car on the road (a camel special??) belongs to a government worker, who, in this case, works for the Egyptian regime. These are the two extremes. When worlds collide – moving at two different speeds in two different spaces…empires can fall. The blogger Danny Ramadan took the picture above on February 2, 2011 on his way out of Egypt… For me it sums up the reality of Egypt written on the face of a sculpted lion’s pedestal – Facebook – the social network…the global citizen. As Mcluhan said “In the electronic age we wear ALL mankind as our skin”

    Without a doubt the use of Social Media was a key strategy in the organizing and exchange of information for the initial protests. The government then shut down the Internet providers in order to stop the expotential growth of protesters and its world wide amplification. Within a week Twitter and Google and a team of engineers joined forces to create Twitter Speak. as an alternative work around so that protesters could continue to connect and express themselves. This demonstrates the “speed to market” in which social media platforms can serve their users – one unparralled by those who maintain a business as usual mindset in the face of social change.

    One of the hardest lessons for those of us who are “agents of change” in the field of technology, art and business is that change does not happen NOW, it takes time. Humans are creatures of habit and old forms of behaviour die hard. Yesterday, the ruling dictator of Egypt asked for 7 months to pack his bags while The President of the USA said change “should begin NOW”. The gap between the two timelines will be filled with chaos.. sticks and stones, broken bones and loss of life.

    The good news is that technology speeds up the flow of information and the change in Egypt will happen much quicker then ever before in the recorded history of mankind.