In U.S. primary schools, children learn about their state’s history around third grade. In Georgia, they hear about James Oglethorpe and settement by convicts. In Texas, they learn about a rocky relationship with Mexico. In California, they read about the 19th century discovery of gold and take field trips to pan for any remaining traces in the northern hills.
As adults, most of us have an abridged understanding of the gold rush story — accidental discovery, influx of prospectors and displacement of native people, and the eventual naming of a pretty good NFC football team. For businesspeople, the lesson learned is repeated over and over again: as a class of participants, it was the outfitters (e.g. Levi Strauss) that made big money, not the prospectors.
It’s amazing to think about this story and watch the dynamics play out again in social media.
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“Must be the money” was originally posted on October 6, 2010. Worth revisiting on the day of Twitter’s IPO.
Social media is finally coming to a critical inflection point and make no mistake – it’s all about the money.
When I started blogging five years ago – early, but by no means among the earliest – the prevailing inclination among bloggers was to share and connect on an individual basis. Bloggers shared their content and built each other up by linking to each other in posts, creating blogrolls containing links to friend lists, even commented on blogs of individuals who worked for industry competitors. Corporations had presence through individuals; Bob Lutz at GM and Randy Baseler at Boeing were like the Columbus and Magellan of corporate social media.
Between 2005 – 2008, consumer adoption of social media shot up at a rapid pace. According to Forrester Social Technographics data, US online adults active in social media increased rapidly from just under 50% to 75%. Naturally, brands began to follow consumers into the medium. Early adopters were not happy. Debates between “purists” and “corporatists” began to emerge. What they didn’t realize is what Mark Cuban had called out years earlier – the social internet is a long tail ghetto where no content creator wants to be stuck.
In 2008, I left Forrester to start Dachis Group, seeing the potential for companies to go far beyond what had been imagined possible using social media to date – and the thinking eventually crystallized as social business design. We knew that there was money to be made in “social media marketing” and “Enterprise 2.0″ – and we weren’t alone.
I’ve been observing these trends emerge as social business evolves:
- The nature of “social” has become much less social over the past three years. It’s now increasingly private and profit driven. The bloggers I followed in the early days write blog posts much less frequently today, if at all. However, they’re still writing and thinking about the industry – they’re just doing it behind the firewall and delivering value to paying customers. Smaller, private virtual salons have cropped up to host and monetize conversations – for example, Third Tribe Marketing, the Social Media Business Council, or the 2.0 Adoption Council. You think #Angelgate is only about Silicon Valley and startup money? Think again – similarly, there are private communities thriving today that keep thought leaders connected to one another and others, out.
- Companies are cashing out, performing their final tricks off of Cuban’s hypothetical vert ramp. From following the brand monitoring space, we’ve seen Cymfony, Umbria, Techrigy, and Scout Labs sell off. You’re probably more familiar with TechCrunch’s recent sale to AOL or Six Apart sold to VideoEgg. From what I hear on some of the tech deals, the companies may not be shaking the glitter off their clothes as much as pawning off whatever usable parts they’ve got left after crashing and burning.
- Free social media sites are moving to monetize. Ning moved early and very direct. As any MBA could see, penetration pricing strategy, duh. Free doesn’t last forever, but its spectre does sell books. Dick Costolo is Twitter’s new CEO and he has one mission – to make money.
- Executives are migrating to small, socially-oriented businesses. This time around it’s not limited to traditional-to-dot-com; the similarity is from public to private. Talent is leaving Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft and heading to Twitter, Zynga, and Facebook. In a more old-school way, Erin Nelson is moving from CMO of Dell to CMO of Bazaarvoice. It’s not Shaheen from Andersen to Webvan or Dobbs from CNN to Space.com…yet.
Perhaps if the global economy didn’t crash in 2008, social media could’ve floated on in its cordial state indefinitely. But now we’ve seen more than enough proof of the concept that social media and technology drive tangible results for companies. That’s why Dachis Group calls it “social business” – we started using the phrase in January 2009 and have seen many others adopt it since.
Anyone in business knows you need to eventually capture the value you create. That time has come for social business.
A couple of months ago, I noticed a string of fraudulent charges on my credit card. Someone had used my credit card number and created a physical clone to complete five transactions within 13 minutes at the Target Cityplace Dallas.
Thankfully, when I contested the charges my credit card company issued a credit immediately while investigating. Unfortunately they sent a letter six weeks later stating that “after reviewing this documentation, the charge(s) appears to be valid.” The documentation included charge receipts that didn’t include my name but did have a copy of the scam artist’s signature:
Now, I’m not a CSI agent but it’s hard to believe that anyone would recognize that scrawl as “Peter Kim.” I guess that the cashier never bothered to look at the fake card that had cloned my number or asked the scumbag for the card’s security code.
So what did this person buy?
8:35 pm. Register #81.
- Card, $2.99.
- R&B CD by “Jaheim,” $9.99.
- DVD, $5.00.
- Brach’s candy, $2.69.
- $50 Target giftcard with a $5 processing fee.
Total with tax, $77.15. Tried one AMEX, rejected. Tried a second, accepted.
8:37 pm. Register #81, again.
- Target giftcard, $25 + $4 processing fee.
- Another Target giftcard, $25 + $4 processing fee.
- R&B cd, $13.99.
- “Boy card,” $3.99.
Total with tax, $77.46.
8:46 pm. Register #113.
- Pull up diapers, $8.99
- Target giftcard, $50 + $5 processing fee.
Total with tax, $64.73. You would think that by this point, the Target loss prevention algorithm and/or credit card company would have flagged these transactions. Nope.
8:47 pm. Register #113, again.
- Target giftcard, $50 + $5 processing fee.
- “300,” $5.
Total with tax, $60.41.
8:48 pm. Register #113, again!
- Target giftcard, $50 + $5 processing fee.
Grand total: $334.75 of gift cards, greeting cards, candy, diapers, and “300.”
Seems like this person was doing some birthday shopping. Who knows. I assume that the person operating register location #113 really didn’t care that anything sketchy was happening. I’ve disputed the charges again with my bank.
Next time you get a call from your credit card’s fraud detection department, be glad that they actually noticed something — even if it’s a false alarm.
1) Four time zones in the United States were established to drive operational efficiency for the nation’s railroads. 130 years later, there’s a sensible argument that we can reduce that number to two — after all, the nature of commerce is quite different today.
2) The design of the space shuttle’s solid rocket boosters was determined by the width of two horses’ behinds. Why? Because Roman roads were engineered based on a standard width (two horses) which translated into English roads, which were the basis for US railroads. The story is totally false, but it’s fun to hear and provides a great analogy for people who are willing to ignore the facts.
The tenth person I followed on Twitter was Rohit Bhargava.
Rohit was formerly with Social@Ogilvy and has written a couple of books on marketing and branding. He's on Twitter as @rohitbhargava.
Earlier posts in this series:
October 25, 2013 :: @marianne
October 18, 2013 :: @marketingprofs
October 11, 2013 :: @maxkalehoff
October 4, 2013 :: @cbasturea
September 27, 2013 :: @jowyang
September 20, 2013 :: @hyku
September 13, 2013 :: @gregverdino
September 6, 2013 :: @armano
August 30, 2013 :: @charleneli
Dealing with detractors is par for the course when you participate in public forums, whether online or offline. Jason Falls offers advice on how to handle different types of people including “offended publics, disgruntled stakeholders, competition, trolls and turds,” with the additional insight that
The difference in a troll and a turd is that a turd identifies him or herself with a name and/or email address. They’re accountable, but still being a pain in the ass, mostly likely just because they like being a pain in the ass.
I’ve dealt with a lot of turds over the past nine years. Time and time again I see individuals attempt to build themselves up by tearing other brands and people down. These detractors seek attention and validation. They exhibit low self-esteem and will take whatever feedback they can get, positive or negative. Comments like “you’re so smart” are what they expect. Comments like “you’re wrong” are often interpreted as a lack of intellect of the commentor.
When you set raw emotion aside and think through a situation, sometimes surprising outcomes emerge when dots start getting connected. I’ve seen:
- A blogger who publishes disdainful criticism of a company’s social media campaign, who then contacted the firm in private to be hired as a consultant and fix the “problems.”
- An individual who applied for jobs multiple times and was never hired, writing positive content about a company prior to asking for a job and then negative/critical content about the company after it declined to hire.
- A person who believed him/herself owed money in a business deal, despite having no documentation. S/he was not simply handed payment of an arbitrary sum and has since taken to acting as a subtle detractor of the company.
We’d all like everyone to be positive all the time, but the halcyon days of riding the social media cluetrain are long over. I don’t know if money is the root of all evil, but it quite often lies at the root of why detractors behave the way they do.
Next time you see a heated online exchange — whether you’re directly involved or not — be curious, not furious. What you discover may surprise you.
Before users invest time and energy into a social platform, they have to know they will receive value in return. The conundrum that every social business professional faces is that the greatest value is only realized when there is a critical mass of individuals on the platform. So how does one grow from nothing and hit this critical mass?
To succeed a social business community manager must:
- Quickly display value
- Allay user fears of participation
- Onboard individuals correctly
- Measure and optimize to keep the community growing
Each of these areas of focus has its own set of tips and tricks necessary for effective implementation. In this new Council whitepaper, leading Social Business practitioners from AXA, Lexmark, IBM, and Suncor Energy, have provided lessons, activities, and tips from their own implementation experience to enable a successful Social Business initiative.
You can find out more and download the white paper here.