For me, it’s friends, and more importantly, family. That’s what I told attendees of the Denver Advisory Board when I spoke at their February meeting. Internet people call Facebook, Twitter, Linked-In and others “social networking,” but I disagree with the term. It should be named electronic networking, so that’s the term I’ll use.
Business people always ask about electronic networking. There are gobs of so-called Internet gurus preaching the gospel of how your business has to go social or it will die a withering death on the commercial vine. When business people ask me about electronic networking, I answer that it’s a great place to build a virtual, but meaningful community of people who have shared interests. It gives individual consultants an instant choice of publishing platforms from which to share their content and thought leadership to interested parties.
Keith DuBay is a veteran business journalist who produces web content for corporate executives through his BlueCoast Media Group, Centennial CO. This guest post was originally published on his blog, New Media.
Most of these platforms are free of charge. People you don’t even know may admire your thinking and read your stuff. That’s cool, and maybe it will turn into new business for you or you will learn something from someone else. But it’s just one tool in your marketing arsenal, which I hope includes traditional advertising and picking up the phone and talking with people.
In fact, why do I have a website at all? Why do you and I put out the money to keep them going? Why don’t we just all have Facebook and Google+ or some other electronic networking site pages and do our web presence for free? The answer is that I don’t think those sites are ready yet to display our information in the way we want it displayed. I see that day coming, though, because I’ve seen some early attempts and they will only improve as the big sites all fight for users. I think the domain name and web site design business is in trouble, so if you’re in that business, make sure you’re preparing to stick one foot in the door.
There’s a problem, though, by letting Facebook, with its 800 million users, hijack your audience. First of all, you lose control of not only what your page/site looks like, you also lose control of who sees it. To see your Facebook information, you have to friend someone. Google+ Pages has 40 million users. You have to join a business’s “circle” in order to see the page and receive alerts, coupons for free SOC 1 and 2 audits, whatever.
When you hit the Google + button to join the circle, Google will track you through ad targeting algorithms. Ad Age says, “Essentially, Brand Pages are the aggregater of all of a Google+ user’s activity with a brand, anywhere on the Google Web. With a central place for user activity, there is now a very real opportunity to drive stronger connections between marketing channels (search and display, brand and direct response, as well as paid, earned and owned).”
Well this sounds all hunky dory, or creepy crawly to some of us. As I told the audience at DAB, I only joined Facebook when the Rocky Mountain News died, just so that I could keep track of my former colleagues. In some ways it’s cool that I did, but in other ways, such as when people use Facebook to promote their businesses, it’s not cool and not why I joined. I don’t trust Facebook. I don’t post anything there. These days I use it to follow the lives of my scattered nephews and nieces, who post an alarming number of photos and a lot of information about their lives. I turn down requests from business people to be my Facebook “friend,” directing them instead to Linked-In, which I deem to be the appropriate business electronic networking site of the day. Twitter is a news feed, sometimes without any news. I don’t know how meaningful that is on a daily basis. I find it irritating. It’s pretty damn good for armed revolutions, however.
Facebook is starting to “monetize” its vast audience but does so carefully. As soon as it gets real commercial, families and friends will become turned off and migrate elsewhere because essentially, the advertising and tracking of personal information, just to sell it off or use it, would amount to a bait and switch deal. I don’t think Facebook, which doesn’t make money, is a slam dunk. It’s too early to tell. They will have so much money to spend from their IPO that Facebook can buy large chunks of the virtual Internet real estate. Well, ah, that didn’t go so well when News Corp. paid all that money for MySpace. So we’ll see.
The commercial part of digital networking I think will work is basically built on the trade publication idea. If I am interested in a particular area of expertise and products, I want to know what’s going on. I don’t mind ads being floated my way. That’s business. I’ll join those communities, sign up for the websites and allow them to track my every movement on the Net. But to mix business and personal and say so-called “social” networking is the new business paradigm? Nah.