Why you have to engage in social media, even if you don’t want to

If you read blogs about marketing small companies, you’re inundated with “social media” advice about why you need a blog and a Twitter account and everything else.

Even my 90-year-old grandmother who doesn’t own a computer and reads my wife’s healthy cooking blog on print-outs asks “What’s Twitter?” because she read about it in the New York Times.

Still, most people and most businesses don’t think they need a blog.

In the next five minutes, I’d like to convince you that you have to jump into the world of blogging and Twitter and Facebook.

Back in the late 1990s….

(Ew, don’t you cringe when you hear the phrase “back in the late 1990s?” Here comes a tale of hope and of disappointment, of “paradigm shifts” and of “eCommerce,” of lessons learned and history we shan’t repeat! Yuck. Sorry about this; it has to be done.)

Anyway, back in the late 1990s, there was a day (let’s call it October 19th, 1997) when suddenly every company in the western world decided they needed a website.

Not that anyone knew what a website was for. Was it a brochure? A storefront? A billboard? The geeks say “It’s a new way of doing business.” What the hell does that mean?

What pushed everyone over the edge was that on October 19th, if you didn’t have a website you were invisible. Not just hard to contact, invisible.

Sure you had advertisement and PR; you could get a message in front of people. But then what? Would they go to your store? Call your 800 number and request more information? Not on October 19th; they want a URL, and if they don’t get one they are finished with you.

Mind you, most companies still had no idea what websites were for, but they realized they had no choice. “This is the next big form of media, and whoever figures it out will win,” it was collectively decided.

How do you “win” the Internet? No one knew, and even those geeks who indirectly convinced the world to live on the web didn’t foresee its massive effect. The Internet was not, in fact, “just another form of media” — it created opportunities where Amazon is 34x bigger than Barnes & Noble, where NetFlix destroyed Blockbuster, and where Skype is worth $2.6B while telecom companies drop like flies.

It’s not just a new media, it’s a completely different world. Business models are changed forever.

Flash-forward to today, and the same pattern is emerging, just in a different guise.

Today, a new website is invisible on the Internet.

Take for example my little fun project, LinksFor.Us, a tool that shows bloggers who is linking to and talking about their posts. Thank God I have no interest in making money with it, but suppose I did.

LinksFor.Us is invisible. How would you find it? Googling “blogs?” Yeah right! All the search engine and AdWords optimization in the world wouldn’t put a new website at the top of a Google search for “links to blogs.”

So what could I do? Take out ads in a magazine that bloggers read? Oops, bloggers don’t read print. Okay I’ll advertise on actual blogs! Oops, bloggers read blogs in RSS readers that (generally) don’t show ads.

LinksFor.Us is invisible. I suppose with enough money anything can be noticed, but in practice it ain’t gonna happen. Certainly not if I wanted to bootstrap a little company from it.

The days of “have a website and advertise” are over. It’s too expensive to be noticed on an Internet that’s already full.

Social media is the only way LinksFor.Us could get traction. If Darren Rowse or Brian Clark talks about it, it’s visible. If it hits the front page of Digg, it’s visible. Once it’s visible, once you have things like incoming links and lots of regular traffic, then you have a shot at using traditional SEO techniques for staying visible. But social media is the only way to overcome static friction (short of spending crazy money).

Social media is already changing the rules of the marketplace, just like the web did a decade ago. It’s still early of course and no one — not even the experts — knows where all this is going. But it’s clear that times are changing again, and those that don’t jump in will go the way of print media.

Want examples?

  • In a test run by BazaarVoice, Rubbermaid discovered that adding customer reviews to their website increased sales and decreased returns of their products. Skeptics said sales of low-rated products would crater. What actually happened is that sales of low-rated products increased. When shoppers were questioned, they explained that when they read why someone else maligned the product, often they disagreed or didn’t care about that particular problem. If the price was right, it was worth buying anyway.
  • Fog Creek software makes millions of dollars from FogBugz, a bug-tracking system. There’s hundreds of bug-tracking systems — free, cheap, expensive, open-source, commercial — yet Fog Creek is highly visible and successful with no advertising. How? Because the founder, Joel Spolsky, has built an incredibly popular blog about writing software. He was before his time; before RSS he wrote essays and notified you by email when a new one was posted. It’s widely agreed that without the blog-before-it-was-called-a-blog, Fog Creek would likely have remained an unknown consulting company with a few struggling products.
  • Nike allowed people to build and order custom shoes on their website. Skeptics said deep customization is too expensive, design-sharing is too complicated, and people need to try shoes on. Wrong! Once the site took off, Nike created physical stores where you could do the same thing.  Joaquin Hidalgo, Nike VP of Global Brand Marketing says those stores now “represent 25% of our revenue.”
  • Speaking of shoes, Zappos also sells shoes on the Internet. CEO Tony Hsieh is so convinced that their legendary Twitter presence results in sales, he even wrote a popular beginner’s guide to Twitter. He insists that Twitter and other forms of open communication are required for excellent customer service; employees are trained in Twitter. Zappos raked in $1B last year even with the recession; they’re doing something right.
  • Oddly-named marketing site Marketing.fm gets double the traffic of marketing.com. One has a blog with useful content and one doesn’t. Guess which is which.
  • Zeus Jones describes 16 more terrific examples. (Thanks to David S. Finch for digging it up.)

In the next ten years there will be more stories like this, not fewer.

Will all these social networks and websites survive? No.
Do we understand how to use them most efficiently? No.
Will there be another new thing someday? Sure.

But today and for the foreseeable future, this is the world. You have to jump in even if you don’t yet understand it.

Is social media required for everyone, or are there circumstances where it just doesn’t matter?
Leave a comment and join the conversation.

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  • http://tv.factor77.com Jared O’Toole

    Great post! I completely agree that everyone needs to be in on this stuff or they risk being left behind. I have tried at times to do some consulting to businesses on social media and its so funny to hear the responses. Always not for us or I don’t get it, dont have time. They really dont see the opportunity.

    I don’t think a business will crumble without being online. A lot of people are very successful within their own face to face networks. However its simply the opportunity to learn new things and open doors that could take your business places you never imagined.

  • Jason

    @Jared — I agree with you that indeed some business don’t need an online presence. Some might not even need a website. Some might be able to operate without email.

    Probably the more local and small you are, the more you can rely on word-of-mouth.

    However, people are using the phone less and text/email more, even locally. If you’re trying to sell nationally or internationally, not having a website is of course already death, and in future you’ll need to have more than that.

    Probably this advice is more geared towards brand new companies rather than established ones. The new companies are the ones who really are invisible and for whom a simple website really is not enough to get noticed.

  • http://scribnia.com/blog/ Russell D’Souza

    Cool post and I totally agree Jason. One thing you might want to cover in future posts is how businesses can get their product discussed. Darren Rowse and other bloggers are inundated with people pitching their blog or product. Also, most companies probably agree that getting talked about in the blogosphere is the best way to promote a product, but I think they are uncomfortable using social media because there is no clear roadmap to success. Having a good blog or forming inroads in the blogging community takes a long time.

  • num check

    Your Nike quote must be out of context. They’re a $16 billion company. If stores that sell custom shoes "represent 25% of our revenue", that’s $4 billion. The implication is they created new stores and added 25% to their bottom line. Well, where are the new stores? Something just isn’t right with those numbers.

  • Jason

    @Numcheck — The quote is correct, and comes directly from a Nike executive. However, I believe a lack of precision on my part caused the confusion.

    Fortunately you can read the full text of the referenced (linked) article for the right context. Specifically, adding stores to NikeID added 25% to their bottom line for the NikeID department.

    That’s interesting because: Originally people said NikeID wouldn’t work because it’s too custom. Then when it worked, they said it would work only on the Internet, not in stores where people want to get a shoe on the spot. The quote pointed out that, no, even in stores this worked well, specifically that adding stores with their considerable overhead cost still added 25% to the NikeID line’s bottom line.

  • http://www.marketing.fm Eric

    This is a great post with some great examples. Thanks for the shoutout. I agree that you are silenced by the sheer magnitude of new sites and its hard to get a SOV. By contributing good content and telling a clear story you can at least carve out some sort of niche.

  • http://www.jmorganmarketing.com/social-media-consulting/ social media consulting guy

    it’s true that social media is needed, i think the issue that a lot of companies struggle with is not why they need social media but how they can make it work, there are some serious issues with companies unable to identify their goals and social media objectives.

  • Jason

    @Eric — You bet! Niches are good, but even just doing something to be out there is better than nothing. For example, just having a website now — even not a great one, even not a niche — is still required. I think soon it will be "weird" if you don’t have one.

    @social media guy — Yeah I agree, execution is the hard part; deciding to do it takes 5 seconds. I’ll leave that important problem to consultants and bloggers like you!

  • http://www.douglassandquist.com Doug Sandquist

    @social media guy I think you comments are spot on… I know from personal experience, trying to move my business into the social media space, I understand the need, but the how has taken some time to figure out… The reality is that for most of us, moving our businesses into the social sphere is scary. it’s so open, most brick and mortars like the secretary to filter all contact.. the social sphere changes that.

    Great thought provoking article.

  • http://www.tjkwebdesign.com/ TJ Kelly

    Interesting perspective. This is probably the most coherent argument for social media that I’ve heard so far. I especially appreciate the comparison to the late-1990s "we need a website" craze. I wonder how long it will take before social media become "full" the way the web is today. Thanks, Jason.

    TJ Kelly
    http://www.tjkwebdesign.com

  • Danny Sullivan

    Awesome post, social media is becoming the key in people’s life. Social media is definitely getting more as a platform in which many people are creating applications based on social data. That’s the power of social media. One of my favorite apps is http://www.boilingpage.com that shows the hottest pages on the web based on how popular they are in twitter. It surely is turning in to a real time search engine for web pages, which is a killer app and could be a big threat to Google.

  • http://www.rankhigherseo.com brian austin

    I have to agree with most of the comments already stated above. Social media is the key to help these business or any business reach out and be part a huge growing market, but the time it takes can be daunting to some as mention above.
    Thanks jason. Keep up the great posts.

  • Jason

    @TJ — I’m with you on wondering how this will flourish over the next 10 years.

    @Danny — So true. People think of Google as an unassailable fixture of the Internet, but people thought that of IBM too. The next thing is just a URL away, and social media opens new avenues where people, not Google’s algorithms, decide.

  • Rachel in Columbia, MO

    I am a fan of my local ice cream shop, on Facebook and in real life. Via Facebook I learn:
    1) when they are bringing out new flavors
    2) when they are bringing their dog to sit in front of the store
    The dog part is important because the store is named after the dog, and there is a statue outside that looks *exactly like the dog.* When the actual dog is there, it is a special occasion. So I go get their ice cream that night. Then I see all the paper flyers all over the windows and walls…some of which was not already on Facebook. Facebook and a nice downtown location both help this business.

  • http://www.annetteaaronevents.com annette aaron

    Ditto to all of the above comments. Thanks for the info. annette aaron

  • http://www.mobilisemenow.com Armand

    Good post! And what was happening back then is surely what’s happening now… Most business or companies are going to be left behind… and once they join the bandwagon, it may be too late for them as the "next big thing" is already happening.

    regards,
    armand

  • Jenna Klein

    The problem with the FogCreek software, however, is that it’s crap. We bought a site license for our clients, and ended up throwing away $2000 on that software. We went with the 37signals Basecamp and are much happier. Buyer beware: do your homework. Just because the founder talks a big talk, doesn’t mean his software is any good.

  • http://objectivemarketer.com Amita

    Great Post, great analogy.

    It is interesting to see many companies that have entered social media to "try out the stuff" and have come back (to their own surprise) with bags full of positive results! Now, they want to repeat – just don’t know how the magic actually worked, first time.

    Like, it has been mentioned earlier – there is a huge potential of benefit for companies that are small and are looking for the word to get around. The viral effect is manifold. Also worth noticing is that many times, this wave does not necessarily begin from the social media itself … but can reach its tipping point here. Anyways, that is the topic of another blog. All said – this is huge, and it is only getting more interesting!

  • JANET BLOEM

    THERE’S NO QUESTION IN MY MIND THAT HAVING A PRESENCE IN MULTIPLE SOCIAL MEDIA SITES IS IMPERATIVE. THE ONLY PROBLEM IS TO DEVISE ONE WITH ENOUGH SUBSTANCE TO CAPTIVATE A VIEWER ON IMPACT UPON LANDING ON YOUR PAGE. THIS IS WHERE WEB DESIGNERS CAN BE OF TREMENDOUS ASSISTANCE, IF YOU’VE GOT THE BUCKS. IF NO BUCKS, DO A LITTLE RESEARCH AND FIND WAYS TO DO IT INEXPENSIVELY BUT TASTEFULLY. THERE ARE A LOT OF FREE SERVICES OUT THERE, KEEP YOU EYE OUT AND SIGN UP FOR RSS FEEDS WHICH FEATURE WEBSITE DESIGN.

  • http://www.usbmemorysticks.net DTs Flash Drive Blog

    Really great post, thank you! I think one reason why people or companies shy away from social media is because of the BIG change it represents and thats scary. Consider that companies spend millions just to get the social science and stats and from that they have created a formula that has worked for decades. Now its all being shaken up and they fear to lose control. If they cant see that shifting the power back into the hands of John Doe is for the better they will be on the losing end!

    I have to admit though that I didn’t pay much attention to social media for years myself – even though I was a big online geek, ever since the old days. For some reason I thought the blogospehere would fade since people are basically just talking to themselves. How wrong I was! Its amazing and refreshing to see the care and honesty from "strangers" and how it all spawns a powerful network. I now have a blog myself, also to make money, and just recently joined Twitter. And because latter made me stumble upon this article and I happened to really like it I just had to join digg too. ;-) I’ve been meaning to anyway and maybe that’s one crucial element with social media – setting aside some time to do it!

    Bottomline: We’re experiencing a 2nd (internet) revolution here and the sooner one embraces it the better. Because that means you can also be a shaper and not just a follower.

  • @davidvonz

    I enjoy the sharing of information and learning. I look forward to seeing more consumers listening and taking purchasing advice from people they know and trust versus the reviews they read from strangers. I believe this will be the true power of Social media.

    And for those that are reluctant…I remind them, you can’t learn to swim by reading about it. You have to get in the pool, get wet, flop around, learn what works (and what doesn’t work).

  • Lisa Hoesel

    I have been evangelizing re SMN (social media and networking) for about a year now as key tools in our customer relationship and response strategies. I firmly believe that when aligned with overarching marketing/sales/support/educational/outreach ojectives, these mechanisms afford the B2B world with a wlldly succesfful and credible way of repurposing existing content and interacting with existing and new user communities in fascinating ways. i do caution that these apps are mechanisms and NOT strategies in and of themselves, but why wouldn’t a B2B organization consider, at minimum, doing an assessment of their passive presence in these networks? I recently hosted and moderated a SMN webinar around using these tactics in the customer relationship and reference practice and the marketing of and receptiveness and followup registration to the event through Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, and other SMN methods was demonstration enough that this approach was far more successful than traditional email marketing. I just completed a white paper usinig this event as a metaphor: http://www.references-online.com/files/en/user/cms/SMN_LMH_WhitePaper.pdf and the webinar recording is available on http://www.references-online.com/resources/news/details/id/5/

  • http://wion.com Destry Wion

    Uh, warn me next time, Janet, so I can cover my ears.

    Really good points, Jason, and one of the more coherent arguments I’ve read.

    However,I’ve been wondering lately if it’s even necessary to have a hosted web site anymore, business or otherwise. There’s a social tool now for just about everything — blogs (news), micro-messaging (PR), wikis (docs)… — so why mess around with server administration at all. Create a Google Profile and point to all the social real estate. Forget that server maintenance overhead and payout.

    The trick now is to link/mush up all the social sites into an effective web presence. Sure you can integrate these things to one degree or another, but I’ve yet to really see it done smoothly, attractively, and with good usability. I’m sure it’s coming though.

  • http://determined2.com Goals / Resolutions

    Social media definitely becoming the platform for establishing interactivity within businesses, social networks, and the overall public news interactivity "buzz’. Being creative with the social media concept helps to grow your business, also can lead to many successful avenues. My favorite site at http://determined2.com Interactivity that promotes successful pursuit of life goals. Interactivity that helps support, motivate, and staying focused during the process of achieving goals in life.

  • cwurld

    This is bad marketing and backwards. The focus should be on the customers not on tools. If your customers can be reached using social media, then use it. Not all businesses are the same. Not all customers are the same.

    In addition to being a marketer, I am also a customer. Personally, I do not have time for social media. Yet I buy stuff.

  • http://greggrouppublishing.com greg group

    This is a nice article. How about a social media challenge for "LinksFor.Us" to see how popular your application can become by using the items you discussed?

    Thanks for sharing.

  • http://tallkate.wordpress.com Kate Appelman

    THANK YOU for this terrific article, specifically for the concrete EXAMPLES. I’ve consistently been asked by my boss to provide concrete examples of why I think social media is not only relevant, but NECCESSARY – and this helps tremendously.

    THANK YOU THANK YOU!

  • http://www.valnelson.com/ Val Nelson

    Thanks for this fantastic review of why this is so critical and game-changing. People are starting to get it but still nervous about the time and money investment. They need this kind of concrete evidence to help them make the leap.

    I was helping people set up their first websites back in 1999 and still remember how much they were confused about why they were doing it (and some still are). And now I’m escorting clients through the same "taking-the-leap" process with social media. It’s fun seeing the light bulbs in their heads turn on.

    I wrote a recent blog post to help people at least take a few essential steps:
    6 Musts If Not on Twitter Yet

    Thanks. I’m sure I’ll be sending folks to your post and already have on Twitter. (@valnelson)

  • http://www.twitter.com/jdojc Jason Dojc

    Fantastic examples Jason. Allow me to flesh out the Nike example as they initially got burned by social media with Nike ID when Jonah Peretti wanted to design a shoe that said "sweatshop".

    http://www.thenation.com/doc/20010409/peretti

    Nonetheless, they learned, responded, and overcame the debacle and have really hit their social media stride with Nike+

  • http://www.michellesblog.net Michelle Greer

    Good post, although I would argue that Nike’s customization services is a far cry from social media. If they used social media, I would ask "Why do you pay Tiger Woods $80 million dollars but then force the people who make your shoes to work 80 hour work weeks? Why not pay him $60 million and then actually treat people fairly?" I like Nike shoes, but I wish they’d get their priorities straight.

    Some companies aren’t ready for social media. Because with social media comes the good and the bad. Not all exposure is good exposure, and some companies, in particular corporations who answer to their shareholders before their customers, cannot handle that yet. Some companies do some really good stuff, and some do some really evil stuff.

    The key before starting is to genuinely respecting your customer. Be open to listening to their feedback. Empty out the demons in your closet, because that can bite you in the ass. Social media is good for consumers and businesses alike, but having the right mentality first is key.

    Overall, a good post. I do feel companies are falling behind the curve by not getting involved.

  • http://educationfordiversity.blogspot.com/ educationfordiversity

    i’m not sure I understand this conversation as I’m not a card-carrying geek but I feel in my bones it’s right. If feels confusing to try to get to grips with social media but I know I have to do it, hopefully it will get easier over time.

  • Jason

    @Jenna — Great point that just because a company has a charismatic leader doesn’t mean the product is good! In fact, it might mask the fact that the product isn’t good — people will buy it just because it’s trendy.

    @DT — My path is the same as yours — late to blog, late to Twitter, still trying to understand how the latter works. It did work on this post, ironically — after fewer than two days it’s been RT’ed 140 times and received thousands of hits.

    @davidvonz — Great line: "You can’t learn to swim by reading about it." Amen!

    @Destry — Agreed that perhaps a formal, separate website is unnecessary in the face of other systems. However you still need complete control so you can tune the feel, add fancy automation, etc.. Although perhaps when a company is first starting that stuff is unnecessary? You can always switch later as long as you get a few things right (e.g. your own domain name so it can be pointed elsewhere when you’re ready).

    @greg — Yes! If LinksFor.Us isn’t popular, than I’m not practicing what I preach right? I completely accept that rule, but let me add that (a) I’m not trying to build a business around it and therefore am not particularly trying to make it popular and (b) even if I try and fail to make it popular, that doesn’t disprove the efficacy of a successful social media marketing campaign. I do practice what I preach at my real company, Smart Bear. For example we give away a book (a real book, not just eBook) for free.

    @val — Thanks for helping spread the word! Great addition with your post about getting on Twitter. It’s true that many of my examples involved blogging less than Twitter, so I’m glad you added that.

    @jason — Thanks for the clarification on NikeID. It actually makes the example better because it demonstrates another important point — that you have to learn and adapt and that no one strategy is "right" for everyone.

    @Michelle — I accept your critique. In my defense, I was lumping things like "asking your customers what they want, then doing it" and "deep, personal customization" into the pile of "social media marketing," although that’s more "marketing" than "media." Now that you point it out, I’m not sure whether that lumping was quite appropriate. Similar, though.

  • R.Powers

    Yeah, well as soon as the latest twit is full of people taking the article’s recommendation it will be as difficult as the web… Hey, bottom line; if you can’t afford to market yourself with a significant budget, maybe you shouldn’t be in business.

  • http://liajen.wordpress.com Jennifer Fong

    This is an outstanding post! It’s really eye-opening to see the case studies of companies using social media effectively to improve their businesses. Well done!

  • http://www.bigbraintheory.com Mike Sobol

    Great post. One of my mantras for clients is "business happens between people." I believe social media have, for now, provided individuals that connectivity and the feeling of self-directed control that standard websites did not, which is why social media can be so effective. But, like water running down hill, capitalism always finds a way, and social media will evolve the more it is monetized. Then what?

    I believe user interfaces will define the next evolution of human connectivity, and therefore marketing. In some ways it already is– Twitter having sprung up out of texting, for example.

    Interestingly, I have clients who don’t get social media, and yet they trust me that it fits their strategy and allow me to develop it for them. That decision– to trust and let go– is in fact the SOCIAL influence at work! So many people are doing it and talking about it that it MUST be the right thing to do. Not a great basis for decision-making, but certainly telling of human nature and why social media matters: because business happens between people, not companies, ideas or images.

    • http://webketing.blogspot.com Imran Durrani

      Well, you are absolutley right Mike, business happens between people. Thats how it has been since centuries, when the old-age grocer would no every customer by name and he knows who needs what amount of what commodity?

      That’s remarkable that we are going “back to the future” way!

      By the way, I want to know about your website Mike, how do you conduct your marketing consultancy, can I have your email address or website address?
      .-= Imran Durrani’s latest blog post: Why Social Media is a MUST today? =-.

  • http://www.blog.stevewiilliams.me.uk Steve Wiilliams

    Interesting article. It’s a pity that Twitter is full of so many security holes, and that the amount of hackers and malware is still going up. If hackers continue on their illegal masquerading, we may end up watching Twitter be closed because authoritarians and Governmental privacy officials see it as too much of a security threat to stay open any longer.

    Of course, that’s definitely a worst case scenario, and I highly doubt it’ll happen any time soon. For the time being, social media/networking/bookmarking is gradually seeping into every aspect of the news. In fact, reading the newspaper is a tad pointless – not only does it cost, it’s also static – it cannot update itself, it cannot be shared, and it cannot hold videos or Web 2.0 features.

  • http://www.cathlawson.com Cath Lawson

    Hi Jason – The trip back in time is a good reminder for everyone. It isn’t that long since folk were saying that nobody would buy anything on the Internet.

  • http://commcreative.com/blog Jamie Bull

    I think this is only half the story.
    Deciding that you have to get involved in social media is the easy part, but there are a million tools out there under that ever-growing umbrella that is "social media."

    The hard part is picking and choosing which ones actually make the most sense and offer up the most value, or just finding a creative new way to use old tools.

  • Jason
  • http://qapacity.com/ Ina

    So what you’re saying is, by any chance, use your intuition and these best practices and do something with this new things that you don’t fully understand? Because if you are, I rather like it.

  • http://www.seotrafficspider.com edward

    Interesting!

    I feel like there is a scarcity of good marketing today. Good marketing means which can convert the leads into sales. The only marketing that has moved me in the last couple of years is Social Media Optimization.

  • http://www.unny.com montreal florist

    You are right. Internet is really full. Social site, It seems to be new method something. It was first time for me when I use twitter, it is like many people attach to me, I was surprised and I stopped. But there is no the other way to make commuincate in the full of Internet.

  • http://www.youpage.com YouPage @youpage

    Great Post and very informative comments. Here at YouPage we run a business focused social media site. Businesses tell us all the time that they are aware and would like to get involved in social media however do not have the time/resource to maintain multiple profiles/blogs etc. There is also the fear of getting it wrong. Ask the thousands of business on Myspace right now how they feel about moving to say Facebook+Twitter+the next big social media site after already building a presence.

    I think until there is full cross portability between social sites the full potential and hence critical mass of business use won’t happen. Google’s open
    social was a positive step in this direction but has since not really materialised.

    YouPage

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  • http://www.sagepointsoftware.com Richard Wilner

    We have a mix of older veterans and younger people in our organization. I think a lot of the reticence of the veterans stems from getting burned by the litigious nature of the U.S. in general and the software industry in particular.

    We are a bootstrapped startup that has a blog, and initially the veterans wanted to review every post and scrub it before it got posted. This, of course, it not only extremely stifling, but probably makes it impossible for the blog to be interesting or relevant.

    In the end, I took control and just write the blog “under the radar.” Of course there is business risk in writing the blog, but there is business risk in every decision you make. I decided there was more business risk in NOT writing the blog for all the reasons detailed in this post and more.

    • http://blog.asmartbear.com Jason

      Interesting dilemma.

      What a lot of companies do is put lawyerese in the footer to the effect of “these are the opinions of our employees and don’t reflect the opinions of BigCo.”

      You can use the TV show Weeds as an example — Lionsgate has a warning at the front saying they don’t condone drug use etc., even though of course they write and produce the show! In the case of the blog, it really is employee opinion and not company line, so it’s even clearer.

      As another example, there’s a ton of companies who are lawsuit bait who run unmoderated blogs, including Microsoft, Google, Apple, Sun, IBM.

      I like your compromise! Thanks for sharing.

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  • http://dougdraws.com Doug C.

    I’m usually not one to jump on the ‘ol fadwagon, but eventually I broke down and created a Twitter account. I wasn’t sure if this would amke any difference in my business and it still hasn’t, but at least I gave it a try. Interestingly enough, when I check sites like TweetEffect, my “tweets” that mention my own site or blog posts loose followers, whereas tweets that simply give things away (like those abominable “list” posts) gain followers.
    .-= Doug C.’s latest blog post: Christian House =-.

    • http://blog.asmartbear.com Jason

      I think you have to have a goal for any social media stuff. I know I wrote that you have to “just jump in,” and that’s true at a basic level, but of course it’s useful to decide what you expect to get out of it so you can decide whether it’s working.

      If it’s not working, maybe it’s the wrong medium, maybe there’s a different way to approach it, or maybe it really isn’t useful!

  • http://dougdraws.com Doug C.

    Please forgive the weird commentluv grab – “Christian House” is one of my folio pages, not my blog pages. I have no idea why it would take a page from my folio instead of my blog section. Any ideas?
    .-= Doug C.’s latest blog post: Christian House =-.

    • http://blog.asmartbear.com Jason

      It probably just takes the “first” RSS feed from the header, whatever that is.

      I believe you can click somewhere on there to select which post or to leave off the post completely.

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    We are a bootstrapped startup that has a blog, and initially the veterans wanted to review every post and scrub it before it got posted.I like your compromise! Thanks for sharing.

  • http://www.s2eo.blogspot.com S2EO

    Wow, this is dead on! You’ve explained it so persuasively and eloquently that I think we’ll have to include a link to your post in all of our future proposals to convince our clients that this is what they need.

    This is great — thank you!

  • http://dynamicrevelation.com Jeromy Clark

    I started with social media initially to side-step my SEO “disadvantage”- and literally had no idea what I was doing with it, but had to do something.

    It helped to give an edge and allow time to work the optimization angle (that, at least, I knew how to do). What’s nice is that now I have a “meeting place” for my prospects, and it’s even possible that I may be addicted.

    My blog does okay, but could do better. Most of my visits come from MySpace, Facebook, MyYearbook, and if you haven’t tried Gather- give it a whirl (it’s a goldmine).

    Everybody seems to rave about Twitter, but I really haven’t seen much result from that direction. Maybe I’m doing it wrong- I dunno.

    I think that social sites allow you set the right tone to get a better customer response anyway- the traffic has a higher quality than someone who strolls in from a search engine link too.
    .-= Jeromy Clark’s latest blog post: You’ve Not Yet Earned the Right to Sell to Me! =-.

  • Anna

    Jason,
    I love this post. Business should get started here…somehow!

    Currently I am writing my Bachelor Thesis on this topic and I am doing a study on Twitter and Facebook on how a brand successfully engages consumers and how this engagement relates to brand awareness. It is really cool and I am so excited about seeing other people thinking the same way I do … Would love to share my results once I evaluate them. This will only be the beginning and a tiny part in this huge social media world!

    Keep up with the great work!
    All the best from Germany :)

    • http://blog.asmartbear.com Jason

      If you solve the problem of how big brands can use Facebook or Twitter to increase awareness and sales, don’t just publish a thesis — write a book and make tons of money… that’s what everyone’s trying to do, and mostly failing.

      Viel Glueck!

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    My blog does okay, but could do better. Most of my visits come from MySpace, Facebook, MyYearbook, and if you haven’t tried Gather- give it a whirl (it’s a goldmine).

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