Invest in Your Community for the Compound Interest

So I was talking to someone who had the following story for me as we discussed social media and it’s important role in brand building and community & employee engagement.

Associate:  Social media is a waste of time!  I started a Facebook page for my business, I did some blogging, I twittered…heck I even went to a SM focused conference and I have not had one lead come from it yet.

Me: How long have you been active in your community?

Associate: ALMOST 6 MONTHS (read with disdain and frustration), and I don’t have forever to wait to get an ROI, I only have so much time & I don’t see how this is helping me grow my business?

Me: You’ve barely even started!?  SM is not a lead gen program and is not a short term tactic.  Marketing through and participation in SM is an investment in your community, your space, your employees, your business, your customers, etc.  Think of it like a bank or any other long term investment.  Investing your hard earned money in an interest bearing bank account is not done because you need more money next week or next month.  It is done as a long term strategy and to leverage the power of Compound interest.  The reward is not immediate and your “investment” in time and effort contributing authentically to your community in a regular, repeated, valuable way will pay dividends for you and for your community over the years.

Associate: I need to drive business & cash immediately, don’t you know what is going on in my market right now?  I invested my time in this to turn my business around and sell through this medium.

Me: Then you didn’t understand how this medium worked before you engaged, you didn’t do your homework.  If you have short term business issues I can work with you on some tactics to preserve cash and sustain your business but this isn’t one of them.  You need to keep investing in SM but it isn’t your short term saviour.

Have you had this experience?  How have you handled it?  What guidance would you give an associate?

Too many people in my opinion are looking to capitalize on a short term lottery win through jumping on tools like twitter and thinking it will immediately turn around there business.  I empathize with many than NEED short term fixes but encourage you those people to address short term business issues aggressively and effectively while still participating in and building their community over the long haul.

BE Authentic & Caring with your community

BE Patient & Persistent with your contributions and willingness to help others

BE a Trusted Advisor that people can go to and follow for genuine guidance and real feedback and support

DO NOT be a used car salesman or a pompeous ass

DO NOT be condescending and arrogant

Some will disagree and I have no doubt that there are some examples of short term surgical tactics that have utilized SM tools to disseminate and drive promotions and programs with short term impact but don’t blog, twitter, vlog, FB, etc for a short term fix.  Compound your interest over time and lead your community towards a better ecosystem for all.

REMEMBER- A RISING TIDE LIFTS ALL BOATS

David Meerman Scott has a great example of a some relatively short viral programs including one that Universal Orlando did with their Harry Potter Theme Park.  I’ll discuss David’s thoughts in a later post but I highly recommend his new book World Wide Rave!

Seek Out The Truth…

As you engage with your community and especially your customers, prospects and trusted advisors ALWAYS seek, ask for and encourage the truth. Too often people meet with others in their industry and have drinks and chat over how great everything is going and how wonderful their respective companies are. It is nice to meet with friends and exchange pleasantries but DO NOT mistake these meetings for confirmation that you are doing the right things. If you want to get better YOU MUST seek out the truth.

Here is what I believe…

If you are not getting better every day you are getting worse. There is no such thing as standing still.

In order to improve your business you need to understand your strengths yes but you also must understand your weaknesses either real or perceived. If you are not meeting the needs of your community and fulfilling your deliverables than someone else will. Engage in REAL conversations with people who are friends and foes. Here are some of the people you should seek out:

  • customers
  • employees
  • industry experts
  • competitors
  • business partners
  • lost customers
  • customers on deals you lost

Some of the questions to ask and data to acquire about your company:

  • Did you end up purchasing a solution to assist with your business needs ?
    • if so who and why
    • if not, would you consider doing business with us in the future, why or why not
  • How would you describe your experience in dealing with us
  • What could we have done differently in the sales process
  • Were there aspects of our product/solution functionality that did not meet your needs
  • Were there aspects of our implementation/methodology that caused you concern
  • Was our pricing competitive
  • Was our sales representative professional and effective at addressing your questions
  • What is your perception of our Company
  • How would you describe us versus our competitors

It is important that you talk to many different people and get many different viewpoints. What you are looking for is a pattern that comes across from several non-related sources that become themes. It is this data that you need to assess and evaluate as you look to steer your business forward and become the better tomorrow than you are today!

Don’t let people tell you what they think you want to here DEMAND the truth. Good luck and let me know how it goes.

Is Your Message Clear?….Twitter Your Business Description

Had an great conversation while attending the conference on the value of simplicity. Many organizations, including mine, can be accused of complicating their message and making it difficult for their employees, their customers, their prospects and their community at large to understand what they do.

An attempt of this for Ivara would be as follows:

“Ivara provides business intelligence software to improve physical asset performance and reliability in capital intensive industrial companies”

While this is a very valuable exercise I would caution against over-simplifying. Twitter is a great tool BUT if it takes you 160-180 characters to appropriately state your message that is not the be all and the end all. The point is be able to articulate to your community what you do in a memorable, repeatable, accurate statement so when you get a couple minutes to introduce yourself in the elevator or at the conference people will get it. Another great exercise is to do this with your Executive team and ask each of them to do this and compare. The variation in what comes forward will provide evidence of how clouded your message may be in the market. By the time the message gets from Exec to employees to customers to prospects, etc, etc imagine what a mess it can be if it is not crisp from the start. It’s like a bad game of “telephone” from when you were a kid!

Couple to-do’s for you as you look to grow your community:

  1. Send me your “twittered” messaging and let me see if I can clearly understand it and would remember it
  2. Ask your co-workers to do this and send it to you via email within 15 minutes. Significant variations will tell you that a follow on meeting to clarify this statement is required.

Send your messaging and let me know how your to-do’s go. Clarity of messaging is key for all stakeholders and community members.

Conferences, Community and Social Media

Had the good fortune this past week to attend one of the premier conferences in our industry (RCM09) and meet with several of the main players in our space, the asset health and reliability space, and with several customers and prospects who are looking to take the next step in their asset performance journey.  Here is a picture of our booth:

IMG00053-20090323-1626

One of the leaders in our community and the conference organizer Terry O’Hanlon is embracing social media as a content delivery, engagement and community building tool.  The conference had it’s own Twitter handle which was helpful in a couple different ways:

  1. It allowed those who were attending to talk up the event and virtually meet new people and set up meetings before even arriving at the conference
  2. It allowed people who were not able to attend to participate with the rest of the participants and hear what was going on and follow along from their office
  3. It acted as a news media source.  During the conference there were major announcements and press releases and conference updates that needed to be communicated and this was a great media to disseminate the information

As you look at how you build your community a few points and suggestions as a follow on to my previous post as you look to take the next steps.

  1. Just Do It! – Be a leader and get started today.  Control the medium, control the message, control the space.  Start distributing content that is of value and point people to where the content resides.  Become the trusted advisor for resolution to their business issues and point them to others when they have problems that you are unable to solve.
  2. You Don’t Have To Do It Alone – who are the leaders in your space and what are they doing online.  Reach out to them and work with them to set up a site, or better yet post to your site.  Talk to your customers and partners and determine how and what will add value to them and work with the ‘gurus’ of your space to deliver it.
  3. Start twittering, blogging, etc at your conferences and let people know you are there.
  4. Consolidate your online contribution and make it easy for people to find you – If you have a website that is your principle communication vehicle is your blog linked to the website and vice versa so they are easy to find?  Is your Twitter handle and link on your blog and website?  What about your business collateral?  Put it on your business card.  Put it in your email signature line.  make it easy for people to find all your contributions and thoughts on your community so that they know where to go and don’t have to search.

Remember that building a community takes time, patience, dedication and is an investment in your company, your community, your customers, your employees and your prospects.

Some math to show the reach of social media.  The Twitter conference handle generated 86 followers in a couple weeks.  Lets assume 1/3 were already using Twitter (my estimate from reviewing the list) and that means that approx 60 new people in my community were reached using social media due to the commitment and effort of one of our respected industry leaders.  Over time if those 60 users add 60 users each in the community (fairly conservative assumption) the community has grown to 3600 in fairly fast order.

Now maintaining those new community members and growing that community is dependant upon the continued flow of VALUE ADD content.  I and all of us at IVARA will do our part to contribute and lead this great community and care and feed for customers, partners, employees and prospects.  For now we have our IVARA BLOG, our IVARA TWITTER  and many webinars, etc that link through our website.

What are you doing in your space?  Are you investing in and giving to your community, if you don’t someone else will…step up and make the commitment, get started today.

Please comment on your thoughts, experiences, successes, failures so we can all grow our communities together.