Archive for August, 2011

Money really is not everything

Posted on August 29, 2011. Filed under: Uncategorized |

I had a fabulous conversation with a colleague on Friday about what is happening in certain communities in Australia and how government funding and donations are not working. And it got me thinking – and speaking because we were at a coffee shop – and now it has me writing.

You see my view is that throwing money at a problem will only solve it if the cause of the problem is a lack of money. And even then I’d be reluctant to use money as the solution unless I had dug a little deeper to ensure that there was no other causal factor(s).

Back to the point of communities and money: we were talking about indigenous communities in particular although the logic applies to other communities in need. If we merely provide money and no support or infrastructure or skill building how do you think the money will be spent? Think about the statistics of people who win lotteries and who within 2 years are back to their original poor financial position.

Money alone will not solve financial problems – an individual with financial troubles usually needs to change their mindset and beliefs about money as well as increase their skills in terms of finances.

If this is true for individuals then it is equally true for groups of individuals such as communities.

The trouble comes because people may be willing to help yet feel they lack the time and so will donate instead. Peter Baines is a colleague who has been part of setting up a group called Hands Across The Water who are focused on helping children who were affected by the tsunami that hit Thailand. They do raise money but more importantly what they do is spend time in the community to understand what the children need. Then they have a target to raise money for and they focus on delivering support, skill and time not just money.

My conversation with my friend reminded me of a story I read many years ago in Sydney about a young lad who won a scholarship for disadvantaged teens. His acceptance speech was very powerful because this young man had been ‘written off’ by many people. Both of his parents had alcohol and drug problems and he had become a petty criminal at a very young age. He found early that he would get his father’s attention when he was naughty and when the police brought him home. Sadly this young man learned that he had to be bad to get his Dad’s attention – which was all he really wanted.

Of course over time his efforts to get attention had to escalate and his epiphany came when he stole the handbag of an elderly lady and she was hurt. Deep down this was a good hearted young man who felt very guilty and awful about the situation with the old lady – he returned the bag, but of course the damage was done.

It was a very sad story yet an example of how powerful our time and attention can be. If we share with others our care and attention it will have a powerful influence. For those of you with children you will know this is true. Yet in our society we seem to strive to provide better for our families in terms of money which usually means we work longer hours and then spend less time with them. In most cases those children would prefer to have time with their parents than their money. Of course a certain level of income and money is essential to quality of life, yet money alone is not enough.

To quote the Beatles “money can’t buy love”

If we really want to help each other the best way is to share our knowledge and our skills and ourselves. Not just open our wallets.

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Social Media and Society

Posted on August 6, 2011. Filed under: Uncategorized |

In my last post I commented – or should I say that I waxed lyrical – about the reality of the impact of social media.

I think it is crazy to ignore social media and its impact on us – it is here, it is real and it is having an effect.  Sometimes the impact is positive and other times it is not.  And it seems that many people are still slowly learning how social media works – and I don’t mean learning the process of using tweetdeck or hootsuite or shortening your links.

In their book Guerilla Social Media Marketing Jay Conrad Levinson and Shane Gibson talk about the real meaning of the words in that title “social” and “media”.

Their belief – which I share – is that the key aspect of the phrase is social.  And that means that some protocols and rules apply.  When you consider social being linked to people and groups and communities, then media being about communication and impressions and brand then a new way of thining opens up about what impact social media can and does have.

Doesn’t it?

Media of course is a word that links the content on social media (or any other channel) to a brand or an image of ourselves.  When you think in a business context, brand is typically something that is taken very seriously and often protected quite vigorously.  Just ask the young Melbourne clothes designer who shares her name with a famous singer.  Even though the spelling of their names was different (phonetically they were the same) and songs and clothes are quite different, when the singer was in town lawyers acting on her behalf  pursued the designer in an effort to have her change the name of her business because that name belonged to the singer!  Just one example of how important brand and clarity of brand is.

From any perspective if social media impacts my brand then surely it is something that I need to monitor closely and to be aware of.  Yet many people seem unaware of the effect of their posts and presence on social media.

Now if you are like me you’ll mostly appreciate the auto complete function on search engines.  Yet when I went online to double check the same name situation I have just written about – I wanted to double check whether it was finalised or if there was more to it – the auto complete function initially refused to let me spell the name of the designer and tried to only point me to the singer!

Wow! What does that say?

Obviously the media exposure of the singer is far greater than that of the designer and is reflected by the level of recognition by search engines. In fact I had to work quite hard to get to the website of the designer.

Let me get back to the point of this post – in terms of social media and its impact.

In my mind social media is just another avenue by which we send messages to others about ourselves.  Sort of like our appearance and dress style – oops, another reference to the designer! Yet many people who think carefully about what they wear and how they behave in certain face to face situations seem apparently to not be so attentive to what they post on social media.  Could this not be confusing at best and undermine credibility at worst?

When planning or thinking about what message you want to send about yourself there are a few guidelines from face to face tips that apply equally to social media:

  • get to know people.  Invest some time and effort in getting to know who is around you – people appreciate you taking an interest. What was the line in that song? –  “you’ve got to give before you get”
  • avoid selling in the first instance – social media is a way of getting to know the brand and reputation.  In many ways it is an introduction to or setting the groundwork for selling if there is any connection to selling at all!
  • be real and honest.  It is not possible to create or sustain a persona online that is contrary to the real experience that people have.  I have seen managers who thought they could be gruff and blustering at work and still be friends with their staff. Not likely.  And there are companies who try to create an image of being social media savvy yet you still can only contact them by fax or phone.
  • be aware of who may be in your audience – and how long your words will be around for. This should go without saying, however I have seen too many people who seem to think they can behave one way in certain situations and have others only react to the way they respond in other situations.  If I flame or make harsh comments about others or in response to others in a social media context, you are likely to think that this is what I’ll be like in person too.  (I have certainly altered my professional opinion about a few businesspeople after reading posts they have made on certain issues – it was very telling about values and beliefs in one particular instance)
  • consistency is key.  You cannot have different personas and expect to be trusted.  If a company blog is friendly and open yet email correspondence is slow and formal people will “turn off and tune out” from the blog
  • the internet gives immense accessibility and it means people can (and do) google and check out an online profile and create their own impression.  A client was referred to me by another client and his first words were “well, X suggested I call you and I can see we have something in common” before going on to refer to something I had mentioned in a previous blog post.  He checked before he called, even though he had received a personal referral from a trusted colleague! (yes we did work together)

When using social media for marketing, then the same planning disciplines apply: your first question must be what am I trying to do? Too many people seem to be trying to sell which is not really marketing is it – it is selling.

Would you do that at a neighbourhood BBQ?  It is pretty unusual to be introduced to someone and have them immediately try to sell you a product or service – unless you are open about it being a party plan type of gathering (and these work well and have a place).  My view of social media is that it is first and foremost about building a broader community of connections and a network which needs to be tended, valued and respected just like a “personal” network.  We have coffee meetings and several connections to build rapport and trust before trying to sell (or feeling comfortable being sold to) so why should social media be any different?

Of course there are exceptions to the rule – there are situations where I’ll need something and happen to meet someone who works in that area or has that product and voila we have almost an instant sale.  But it is less common than the norm.

For me the key is honesty and transparency. These happen to be two things that I believe are critical regardless of what business you are in and whether it is face to face or social media.

If you are using social media are you being honest and consistent with your message and profile?  Will people feel they know you before they meet you, or have you held back and promoted something that is not quite you.

Just some food for thought.  I see the online community as having many similarities to communities that we are more familiar with. The same protocols and etiquette needs to apply.

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