Earlier this month, 37Signals announced that the company would henceforth take the name of it’s most successful product, Basecamp. The company will either:
- Spin off its other product lines
- Sell the product lines outright
- Indefinitely support current customers
While Forbes calls the move ballsy, I think Basecamp’s decision to narrow its focus is a solid strategy. CEO Jason Fried wants to deliver an exceptional product and keep the company small. Focus will enable the company to make the product much more robust, which will make its 15 million (and climbing) users very happy.
As a long-time Basecamp user, I relish the idea of deeper functionality. One of the other things I like about the new and improved company: fast customer support. This week, I opted to ask a support question via Twitter. The answer came in less than 3 minutes.
Go figure. A company with 43 people offers lightning fast responses using social media. Having their ear to the ground gives Basecamp a leg up in a fast-paced, SaaS environment. Even better, they offer the best example of how to use social media to connect with clients that I’ve seen in a long time.
With all of the attention social media has garnered in the past five years, it might surprise you to learn that “Social Media Jobs DC is the first online community dedicated to advancing this particular career path for both employers and job seekers. Mayra Ruiz-McPherson, a fluent social media practitioner, founded the company to help social media gain the credibility it deserves as a discipline. Social Media Jobs DC recently entered beta.
“If you search the subject ‘social media jobs,’ you’ll get a lot of hits. I estimate that 90% of search results will be related to how to find a job using Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn. The difference for us is that we view social media as a career path,” states Ruiz-McPherson.
Companies struggle with how to integrate this emerging communications discipline into their organizations, from determining what role social media should play to defining the job functions that will support it. According to a recent Grant Thornton survey:
- 48% of senior executives think social media is important an important form of marketing
- 53% expect the use of social media to grow quickly over the next year
- 76% of companies surveyed did not have social media policies
Social Media Jobs DC gives companies and candidates a place to start. In addition to creating original content for the industry, the company curates information in the areas of human resources, general legal issues associated with social media, industry news, and infographics.
Social Media Jobs DC features positions in two categories: 1) jobs that have predominantly social responsibilities, and 2) and all functions within social organizations (think LivingSocial). Staff cull through listings to ensure that they fit the company’s criteria and highlight the social media requirements.
Ruiz-McPherson says she’s noticing some interesting trends that demonstrate how quickly the industry is maturing. “We see a transition taking place. Employers used to look for candidates who could use the social tools like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Now, they’re starting to look for people who have the portable skills traditionally associated with marketing. Savvy employers want effective communicators who can develop and implement successful business strategies.”
“Executives have begun to talk about the need for social executives to span organizational functions. Today’s leaders recognize that compartmentalizing functions into silos hinders performance and see that social professionals play a key role in bridging the gaps,” says Ruiz-McPherson.
As with other disciplines, employers seek candidates who can demonstrate results. Key metrics include categories as diverse as community influence and engagement, conversions, customer satisfaction, and product development. Because the discipline is still relatively new and rapidly evolving, only a few educational institutions have degreed programs that includes social business as part of their curriculum. West Virginia University offers a certificate that can be earned online.
To Ruiz-McPherson, having a geo-friendly service is just one more element that sets her company apart. “We vet the jobs for relevance and professionalism to ensure they qualify as positions in line with a social media career path. Right now, we’re focused on providing timely resources and helpful tools that will build a strong, vibrant and informed community.”
Typically, I would recap the secrets themselves—including what in the heck comprises a 1/2 secret. But, since Positive Business DC will soon make the presentation publicly available, I’d like to give my take on the three ‘non-secrets’ Hensch shared that business people generally seem to overlook:
“Be curious and mindful when talking to people.”
“My clients are a big part of my success.”
“Even introverts are happier when they spend time with other people.”
Curiosity May Kill the Cat but Helps Businesses Thrive
What do you focus on when pursuing new business? Your capabilities? The close? When was the last time you practiced active listening when meeting with a potential customer? The customer’s need lies at the heart of every deal’s close. Asking questions and demonstrating respect naturally leads to business because you create authentic relationships in the process. Hensch says that business development becomes a lot easier when you take the time to make a real, human connection.
Care as Much (or More) about Results
The purpose underlying a company’s existence is to solve someone’s pain. (Okay, enough people’s pain to launch and grow a profitable business.) All boats rise by caring as much (or more) about customers’ successful outcomes than your own. Of course, you must have the ability to deliver results customers cannot produce themselves.
We’re Wired to Need One Another
Hensch’s observation about the increased happiness level when introverts spend time with other people appears to have tweaked some antennae last night. The truth is, humans are social animals. It doesn’t matter from where one draws his or her primary energy, we are wired to need one another. In fact, research shows that lack of contact stunts brain development. While it’s true that introverts get a bad rap in today’s extroverted business environment, companies need both introverts and extroverts to reach their full potential.
It’s rare to see a Meetup turn into a group discussion, especially when people have gathered for the first time. It was refreshing to see people open up, ask questions, and give each other advice during the event. I’d like to thank the people who attended for their willingness to engage in dialogue and support each other.
Thanks to Doug Hensch for leading off Positive Business DC’s Well-being in The Workplace speaker series. We’ve received a lot of very positive feedback about your presentation.
Thank you also to Andrew Murdock, professional photographer and founder of Natural Artistry Photography, for taking official shots during our first event.
Finally, a big thank you to Teqcorner for sponsoring Positive Business DC’s inaugural Meetup. The facility and refreshments met our needs to a ‘T.’
A couple of weeks ago a friend recommended Tweetcaster. As someone with responsibility for multiple Twitter accounts, the app has simplified managing social media. In addition to switching seamlessly from one account to another within the same screen, the ability to manage smart lists, comment on RTs, and ‘Zip It’ to hide tweets without unfollowing quickly made Tweetcaster a favorite app.
Microsoft PowerPoint is one of the most misused office applications on the planet. People tend to pack the slides so full of words one needs binoculars to read the content. Or, if you’re artistically challenged like me, your graphics and layout need a lot of help. Either way, after about 10 minutes a typical audience will drift off while the presenter drones on in the background.
Humans have an attention span of about 10 minutes when in a meeting or classroom environment. Unless you do something really interesting to recapture and reboot your audience’s attention throughout the presentation, your message has little chance of making the impact you want.
The days of PowerPoint abuse can now end. A company named Giant Thinkwell has just released Haiku Deck, an app that makes presentations drop dead simple. And gorgeous. It has limited functionality, which means you cannot turn your charts into eye charts. And that’s part of the app’s beauty. Just as the limitations imposed by Twitter force users to simplify the message (i.e. get to the point), so does Haiku Deck.
The app has a simple, elegant design. It helps people achieve the same: Simple, elegant presentations that allow the message to be the star. The iPad app is available for free. Please download and play with it today… and then tell us what you think.
It’s not news that Millennials prefer using social networks over email, even when they want to communicate one-on-one. What may come as a surprise is that today’s most progressive businesses have begun to follow suit. A recent issue of CEO Briefing notes that some companies have begun to adopt social media as a means to improve internal collaboration because it provides context for the work. The network effect associated with social tools also improves:
- Access to collective intelligence
Okay, those benefits seem obvious. People work within communities rather than in isolation. And while email is a powerful tool, it has significant limitations when it comes to communication and coordination within a community. Email falls short as a result of:
- Fragmented conversations, some which exclude important members of the group
- Multiple, overlapping conversations that do not intersect due to functional silos
- Information overload and a requirement to ‘manage’ one’s inbox
- Confusion related to who does what (to: vs cc:)
- “Reply all” by accident (or when there’s a bcc: you don’t know about)
- CYA with bcc:
The CEO Briefing mentions Facebook and Twitter by name. Focusing the discussion on today’s tools limits the way we think about the power collaborative apps and workspaces can unleash. Because social networks are based on the idea of community, they give us an opportunity to think about project management tools in a whole new light. And that’s where the next generation of work-related social networking apps begin.
GraphEffect provides a prime example of what a next gen social network can look like. The company designed a social media workspace for agencies, brands, vendors, and media buyers to work on client campaigns. Take a look at what Fast Company said about GraphEffect last week and you get a glimmer for how much the landscape will evolve as we think of new, social networking apps for business.
Social networks 2.0. I smell disruption… and opportunity.
It had to happen sometime. People have begun to view their Facebook accounts as a liability. In particular, teens have started to take their “important” social networking elsewhere. That the disenchantment began with teens is especially bad news for today’s social networking giant. Facebook had counted on the youngest generation as its primary revenue source of the future. Who better to train to purchase through the Facebook machine than those who grew up using it?
At nearly 1 billion subscribers, Facebook has begun to lose its allure when, instead, it seems as if critical mass should keep the company humming.
Where Facebook Falls Short
Let’s begin by looking at critical mass. In all fairness, we need to challenge the total number of subscribers Facebook claims. While the company may have racked up nearly 1 billion accounts, the number of dupes must be astronomical. Nearly 1/2 of social media users want some sort of obscurity. It follows that people would establish multiple profiles in order to protect different personas within the social network. Simply stated, teens don’t want mom and dad to know their every move.
A number of other factors contribute to teen dissatisfaction with Facebook. Gen Z commonly:
- Uses Facebook as a rolodex rather than a community of friends
- Views irrelevant feeds (from people they barely know) as an annoyance
- Sanitizes information posted to the point of being meaningless
- Polices their feeds for inappropriate content posted about them by others
- Adjusts privacy settings and still worries about leaks
According to a recent article by Bianca Bosker on Huffington Post, “Teens said they regularly use Facebook’s chat functionalities, yet save their best sharing for other sites. Creative status updates and personal musings are set to Tumblr and Twitter, which allow users a degree of anonymity and flexibility to connect with people who share their interests rather than their location or hometown.”
Facebook As Email Marginalizes Value
While it looks as if Gen Z keeps their Facebook accounts active, it’s for mundane tasks like email. But don’t let that fool you, Facebook. There are substitutes. Texting is by far the most important form of direct communication for these kids, and they have lots of options.
The Social Graph vs. The Interest Graph
An emerging pattern on alternate social networking sites involves less promiscuous friending. The Facebook experience taught teens to keep their circles on other platforms smaller and more intimate… and thus more personally meaningful. It appears as if they’re trying to mirror their offline social circles in cyberspace. Constraining entry to one’s group may limit the amount of public online bullying and social angst so common to Facebook.
Gen Z is not the only demographic to notice Facebook’s shortcomings. Millennials, Gen Xers, and Boomers exhibit many of the same traits as the younger crowd. They just haven’t started to migrate to a different platform. Yet. Facebook can expect to see more market share erosion and influence drain as people move from the social graph to the interest graph. Because at the end of the day, engagement boils down to the things that most interest us. Guess Pinterest got it right.
And that’s bad news for Facebook. Public companies experience a constant external pressure to increase value. Focusing on short-term growth goals is a common mistake made by publicly traded companies. Sacrificing long-term vision and objectives puts companies in a downward performance spiral from which few emerge. Perhaps their IPO and its aftermath signals an even faster decline for Facebook. Only time will tell.
Yesterday I finally broke down and registered for Klout after reading Klout Scores: The SAT for Social Media Jobs. Using only accounts I make publicly available, Klout determined the topics I most influence are:
- Health food
Hmm. Those results just don’t add up. More than 250 posts about leadership, entrepreneurship, funding, recruitment, culture, marketing, social media, education, government, privacy, technology, and local business have been published (on this site and others). I’ve written two posts about TEDx, one entitled, There’s No Hierarchical Structure in Salad, which Murray A. Mann retweeted to his significant network of followers. That action alone skewed Klout results to the point of being meaningless when trying to measure personal influence in my public social networks.
One of the most concerning elements about Klout scores is that employers have apparently begun to use them as a screening mechanism when recruiting for social media jobs. Klout positions itself as ‘similar to the SAT,’ which Forbes, Social Media Club DC, and others have reported. Unfortunately, by legitimizing the company’s positioning, these media sources have done job candidates and employers a serious disservice. Here’s why:
- The SAT is a standardized test designed to assess a student’s readiness for college by measuring knowledge in three areas: mathematics (54 questions), critical reading (67 questions), and grammar (49 questions). The College Board, which oversees the program, has well-defined and accepted methodologies for establishing metrics and and a broad membership that strives to ensure impartiality. While standardized tests may be imperfect measures, Klout has developed a more imperfect algorithm, is not a standardized anything, and has no 3rd-party oversight. The fox is in its own henhouse here.
- Employers want to measure outcomes, not activities. Yet, Klout predominantly measures activity on topics and the number of people reached. Then what? Did you influence their way of thinking or cause them to take action? If not, then the activity had little value. If you’re going to measure something, then measure something that matters.
So, how much Klout did I have? Between Twitter and LinkedIn, I scored 22, which is slightly above average. Does it matter? Not really. As with every aspect in life, quality is more important than quantity. Check out this post by Robert Dempsey and you’ll see I’m not alone in thinking Klout takes people down the wrong path.
- 45% of Americans rely on TV as their primary source of news and information
- Approximately 30% are influenced by TV commercials when making purchase decisions
- 20% are influenced by radio commercials; 16% by local personalities
The article breaks down responses by gender, but it does not indicate generational influence. Frankly, the generalization about the influence TV has on purchasing power may be overstated. Why do the numbers look inflated?
The survey indicates that 61% of consumers conduct product research on the Internet. So, TV advertising may make consumers aware of products, but they still do research to compare features and check facts. That’s great incentive for keeping your website up-to-date with a compelling value prop and user interface.
Beyond that, the lack of market segmentation by generation makes the results suspect. eMarkter shows us the how Millennials stack up against Boomers. The two demographics clearly demonstrate different levels of trust for media and information sources. Nearly 50% of Millennials turn to anonymous, user-generated content when making purchase decisions. In addition:
- 42% trust their social networks (Twitter, Facebook)
- 25% look at 3rd party sites for validation (Consumer Reports, CNET)
- 24% email friends and family to request recommendations
Whenever the research appears to leave out an important demographic we need to ask questions rather than simply trust the numbers. Accepting the data at face value without doing a sanity check can easily send you down the wrong path.
An article in today’s BizReport reveals that employees spend an average of 1.5 hours a day on social media while at work. “Particularly for those with office-based jobs, it’s not difficult to see why they might get tempted to access their social network profiles when they should be working.”
Rather than rushing out to issue a ban on the use of social media, Smartphones, and computers for personal use, perhaps a better response from management would be to understand why the behavior has become so prevalent.
Dig a little deeper and you may discover that employees used that time in a different personal way before the advent of social media. The problem isn’t Facebook and Twitter. Disengaged employees typically produce just enough to get by without geting noticed. They work out of obligation to bring home the bacon rather than passion. Most people, when given the option to make a difference for a company that does something they care about, demonstrate a wholly different work ethic. Assuming, of course, that you consciously foster those behaviors.
Productivity boils down to leadership. Questions to ask include:
- Have you created a culture that enables people to excel?
- Have you selected the right people for the jobs the company needs to get done?
- Have you communicated goals and expectations clearly?
- Have you provided all of the tools and training needed to get the work done effectively?
- Does the team have chemistry?
- Is the work challenging and fun for the people doing it?
The list goes on, but you get the gist.
Putting a ban on the use of social media without addressing root cause organizational issues will simply transfer employees’ attention to something else that makes them look busy without being more productive. You can legislate or lead, but not both. The choice is yours.