Social Networks

Social Media Update

A couple of weeks ago I blogged that I was skeptical about the value of LinkedIn.

Having discovered that it allows you to ask your connections for recommendations, I asked my 61 if they would be willing to write one for me.

After two weeks the results are in.

22 people wrote me a recommendation. Most within 48 hours.

3 said they thought LinkedIn recommendations were inauthentic, because they were frequently 'traded' for mutual recommendations.

1 said they would but hadn't figured out what to say.

1 said they thought that this kind of test undermined the credibility of social networks and that we needed to protect the quality of information we put into services like LinkedIn and Twitter. I disagreed. I think the best test of every social medium is whether we can make it meaningless. Those that survive will be the most valuable.

And 1 said they would be happy to give me a recommendation even though they had just realized I was a different Charles Day than the one they had been looking for. There's another one?

28 responses out of 61 is 46%. A pretty remarkable redemption rate.

But the recommendations themselves were so extraordinary and heartfelt that it made me certain they were the result of the personal nature of those relationships. Not the result of LinkedIn's particular value.

I wonder in fact, how many more I might have received had I asked each of the 61 people directly for a recommendation. No fewer, I suspect.

And do they encourage anyone to pick up the phone and seek me out who might otherwise not have done so? Not so far.

Both Twitter and Facebook provide me with something I would not otherwise have without them - and the information is presented in a simple and distinctive interface. LinkedIn's is confusing and distracting. And provides little reason to sift through it.

Except for one thing. As Fred Wilson pointed out on his blog a couple of days later.

"LinkedIn is a terrific place to find talent and to find references. When I want to check someone out, I invite them to connect to me on LinkedIn, I find who we know in common, and that is my reference list. Charlie O'Donnell taught me these LinkedIn tricks about five years ago and I use them all the time".

That made me think about LinkedIn from an entirely different perspective. And has suddenly made it valuable. It's an organic address book and reference check. One that is entirely self-updating.

But Fred's advice contains more than that. In fact, it contains the key to all social media.

The word 'invite.'

If your first interest in social media is what you stand to gain, the answer will be not much more than you could get by asking the same people personally.

But if first you think about what you can give, then social media starts to work for you in an entirely different way.

The proof of which lies in the fact you are reading this.

My gift to you.

Which you just returned in kind.

Thank you.

Do You Want Your Company To be The Best In The World? Go Ahead.

One of the most influential voices in the fashion industry today lives in the suburbs of Chicago. Her name is Tavi Gevinson.

She is 13.

She’s passionate. Has a point of view. Uses the web to express herself. And didn’t know all this shouldn’t be possible in the cynical, political world of The Devil Wears Prada.

One of the first things we do when we work with a new company is to discern their underlying greatness. Then we look to see if there’s an area they can own. As in ‘best in the world’ own.

It often takes a little while for us to convince them that they have the capacity to be truly great.

And sometimes a little longer to convince them they have the right to be.

But once they accept that they do, the energy that releases is extraordinary.

In today’s world, you can lead an industry from anywhere.

What does your company do better than anyone, and what are you going to do about it?

A LinkedIn Test

Depending on when you get this, today is a two-for-one day.

I participate in social media for a number of reasons. And I've come to use Twitter and Facebook for two different purposes.

Twitter is becoming a modern form of journalism. Real-time in which I provide the editorial filter. Facebook is more personal, and lets me stay in touch with people I probably otherwise couldn't for reasons of time and distance.

I have begun to get more and more requests to join some people's LinkedIn networks. I haven't yet found the value of LinkedIn - though 80% of businesses now use it as their primary tool for finding candidates.

One of the features on LinkedIn is the ability to give and receive recommendations. In 3 years I've given one and received none. Fairly typical I suspect. And an indicator of the antipathy most people bring to LinkedIn. Obligation as opposed to expectation.

Tonight I read that LinkedIn and Twitter are now connected. And so I thought I'd clean up my LinkedIn profile just in case.

In the process I discovered you can ask for recommendations. From up to 200 people.

I only have 61 connections.

I asked them all.

I'm curious to see how many respond and what comes from this.

I'll let you know.

Or you can join me on LinkedIn and see for yourself.


What I Learned From Jon Miller

I’ve been in LA for a week, working with our remarkable associate Jamie Gutfreund. We’ve met a lot of people and created a lot of work. Powerful signs of optimism in an environment that will be difficult until well into 2010, and evidence of why entrepreneurs are such drivers of the economy.

We’ve met with business owners, venture capitalists, professional service providers, lenders, and corporate leaders.

The best known of these was Jonathan Miller, the CEO of Digital Media for News Corp which owns Fox, Sky, the Wall Street Journal and MySpace, among others.

Jon talked about the explosion of mobile web access. In China, 350 million people will be on the web in two years. More than the entire population of the U.S. Most will access it exclusively through a mobile device.

As he said, it’s not the next big thing. It’s the big thing.

He talked about the difference between My Space and Facebook, and thinks the reason the former is struggling and the latter exploding is that MySpace was built for the short term, and Facebook for the long haul.

And he talked about Rupert Murdoch’s relentless energy to figure out what’s next. Of everything he discussed, this struck me as the most enduring.

Entrepreneurs big and small share Mr Murdoch’s limitless curiosity.

The thing that separates the successes from the failures is not money or hard-work.

It’s a plan that makes every action meaningful.

Not successful. Because even the best business owners only get it right slightly more than half the time.

But until you know what you’re trying to achieve, there’s no way to measure whether you are.

Bullys Beware

Self interest is everywhere.

Actually, it always has been. But in recent weeks it’s become markedly more obvious. And more destructive.

Which is what happens when bullys have control.

Power is a transient, temporary phenomenon. What you do with it while you have it has a disproportionately large effect on two things: your future and your legacy.

So, nothing big.

In the last twelve months two things have happened to massively shift balances of power. The global economy collapsed. And social networking exploded. Those who had money now have much less. And those who were silent, now have a voice.

The first has been manifested in the advertising industry where agencies, thrashing blindly in the death throes of an archaic business model, try to suck the life out of everyone beneath them in the food chain.

Not satisfied with ‘Sequential Liability’, some agency holding companies are now trying to impose contracts that give them the right to decide not to pay their suppliers. At any point in the production process. For any reason.

Talk about faith based relationships.

Since most agencies rarely make the first contractually obligated payment before the vendor is expected to start working, the billion dollar agency now has the vendor funding virtually every project. With no guarantee of payment. Ever.

In Vegas it’s called gambling. But at least there the house posts the odds. And the rules.

In other places it’s called abuse. But as long as the victim keeps coming back for more, nothing much changes.

What’s happening in Iran makes for an interesting contrast.

There, a thirty year-long, one-sided relationship is shifting as we watch, thanks to the power of social networking. Suddenly, those who suffer have a means to give voice and encouragement to like-minded others. And the didactic instructions of a ‘supreme ruler’ are no longer so menacing. Nor so supreme.

Fiction is littered with bullies who were toppled by the apparently inferior oppressed. David and Goliath. Jack and the Beanstalk. The War of the Worlds. The outcome of each a reflection of the underlying sense of balance on which the world operates. And those who smirk at the lessons of fiction ignore the reality on which they are based.

History is being written as we speak. On a global stage in Iran. And in the small, and self-important world of advertising.

But in each case the outcome will ultimately be the same.

And it will not be the bully who wins.

Four Changes A Business Shouldn’t Make

There are many things you should be doing as a business owner at the moment.

Here are four you should not.

1. Charging Less For The Same Service.

This is a one-way ticket. Once you give more for less you establish a new normal. There is no way back from that.

Instead, look at your business from your customer’s eyes. What’s valuable to them? Charge for that. And replace the things that aren’t valuable to them with things that are.


2. Trying To Be Something You’re Not

Understand what you do. Which is not always obvious when you're involved in the day to day.

The best way to make sure you really know is to ask your customers why they use you. If you refuse to accept platitudes and the easy answers, you'll gain incredible insight.

Once you really know what makes you great in the eyes of your customers, look for other ways to use that expertise.

This will do two things.

Grow your business against your fundamental strengths - always the strongest platform. 

And prevent you from getting involved in trendy areas that seem like a good idea, but which are almost always expensive distractions.

3. Cutting By Cost or By Experience or By Position.

Every company has its own view about how to cut overhead. In my experience, they almost always use the wrong one. Assuming you've reached the point where salary cuts just aren't enough then there's one simple method you should apply.

Cut by value. What someone costs is not the criteria. What each employee is worth, is. We've developed a Value Matrix™ to help our clients do this. You should have something similar.

4. Jumping Into Social Media Without A Strategy.

It’s time consuming to do it well. And not everyone should be doing it.

If you’re going to get into the white-water rapids of social media, you need to understand how you're going to benefit by doing so.

Then if you decide it's worth it to you, get in. With purpose.

Earn It.

In the late 1980s, Smith Barney ran a series of commercials with the actor John Houseman, star of the television series about a law school - the Paper Chase.

He had a distinctive and very deliberate speaking style (the agency creative director calculated that any 30 second script for John could not exceed 45 words) and he finished each ad by drawing out, even more emphatically, “Smith Barney. We make money the old fashion way. We earn it.”

John Houseman died in 1992, right about the time the financial industry stopped trying to earn customers’ trust, and started buying it instead.

Today, Smith Barney is Citi Smith Barney, and in January they announced the formation of a joint venture with Morgan Stanley to create an industry leading wealth management business.

As an example of a business model in transition - and without purpose except survival - it’s hard to beat. It’s also hard to trust.

By contrast, Fred Wilson - a New York based venture capitalist who focuses on technology driven companies - blogged yesterday about the idea of 'earned media' - media that you don’t buy but earn through customer experience and word of mouth. The concept, initially crafted by Jerry Solomon, has recently become much more potent thanks to the advent of social networking and the evolution of the cell phone and sms which creates viral word of mouth in real time.

The issue is a fascinating one. But I think the foundation is slightly different than the one they postulate. From a business owner’s perspective, the focus is not on whether you earn the media. But on whether you earn the audience.

Do they believe you, trust you, value you? Are you empathetic? Are you understanding?

If the answer is yes - regardless of the medium you choose or can afford to use - you gain their attention. And their loyalty.

The old fashioned way.