Monday, October 31, 2011

Disclaimer: I am a social media junkie.

It’s true. You name it, I'm on it.
I get choked up when I think of geographically dispersed families staying connected by posting baby pictures to Facebook and graduation videos to YouTube. 
I’m also a supporter of its practicality within B2C, where social media provides consumers a central place to share brand experiences. It’s a cost-effective platform for companies looking to share multi-media product interactions – video and live Q&As. It’s a practical method to instantly gauge product feedback, astronomically reducing the product life cycle. 
In the B2B space, my outlook on the adoption of social media becomes more suspect.
I just can’t shake the notion that sometimes we’re doing it to simply fill a void; to pass the vast space of time left vacant by efficiency gained from new corporate technologies.
Let me explain:
I consider how I spent last week at the office: As a Marketing Professional, I was developing copy and gathering revisions.  I was providing creative direction on new collateral and PPT design, graphic design and event logistics for an upcoming tradeshow.  We went through multiple rounds of edits – some major, some minor – all within a few hours.  If not for Adobe Illustrator, PDFs and the simple convenience of email, the timeline to accomplish the same objectives would have easily increased 10-fold.
Now consider how you spent the last week at work: Could you have achieved all that you did absent the help of the often marginalized conveniences of teleconferencing, online collaboration and email? How much longer would it have taken you to accomplish the same tasks 20 years ago?
Technology has cleared our calendars.
What could be done by Dolly and Co. working ‘9 to 5’ in 1980 can be accomplished before lunch today. In many industries, the speed of business now outpaces the speed of consuming said business.  We have more time on our hands than there is work to be done. 
So, how do we go about filling the void? How do we pass the time we sit idle waiting on the pace of business to catch up?
We tweet and we blog.
(Or at least that’s what we marketers and tech-savvy industry-gurus feel compelled to do)
Yes, we pontificate within the confines of our own professional acumen.  The least inspired of us don’t even do that.  We just re-tweet (RT).  We scour the routine set of websites looking for any and all native content we feel might be repurposed to reinforce the legitimacy we’ve built around our own brand. 
I’d be willing to bet the majority of offenders don’t even read before they RT.  I mean, REALLY read it. Sure, you digest the headline, maybe skim the article looking for a word or two that either confirm or deny the article’s relevance with your intended audience. I mean, heaven forbid you RT a glowing review of a competitor - veiled in the disguise of a brand-agnostic/objective op-ed piece (guilty as charge).
Am I wrong?
It’s quite deflating when you think about B2B micro-blogging in that way. The hours pass and your feed fills with nothing more than a virtual volley of loose ideas.  You craft a thought (140 characters or less) and jettison it out into the abyss, hoping that some other social media manager will glance, copy, paste and recast it from their own virtual handle?  What’s the point? What’s a RT or new follower even worth in the B2B space?
Am I just being too hard on social media for the enterprise?
I guess for now, ...
...until I see real, sustainable ROI from social media, I can’t shake the notion it’s all just an exercise in futility.  That social media’s rate of adoption in B2B is more attributable to combatting boredom than capitalizing on valuable interactions.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

What's in a name?

I hate how all user-based systems demand you select a name and title right away.  I suppose it makes sense from an IT/infrastructure standpoint.  But such pressure!  I mean, I don’t know just yet what this blog will mean for my life.  It may become my greatest form of therapy.  Or, a victim of social media overload, something that goes untouched and unattended (hell, I’d be writing this post on Xanga if I could only remember my username and password!). 
Seems rather unfair I should name it now.  Oh, well – that’s how it goes.  Label things first. Figure out what they are after.  That being said, I still tried to put some thought into it…
I instantly drifted towards my life mantra (and subject of many friends’ jests): “I refuse to descend into mediocrity” – laugh as you like – this statement has remained a guiding principle in my life. I set goals and I work to achieve them.  I set new, higher goals and repeat.  
So I knew I wanted the blog to serve as a reminder to myself of this mantra.  But, “I refuse to descend into mediocrity” doesn’t immediately lend itself to a proper name for a “place.”   If I refuse to descend, where will I end up?  The sky is the limit, right? (if I may draw upon a corny, over-played motivational sound byte). 
Also, in a recent (and surprisingly positive) journal entry, I likened my transition from Cleveland to Chicago to that of taking off in an airplane.  Accepting a new job and quitting the old, putting the house on the market and looking for a new place in the city. Nervousness. Unease. The feeling of not being entirely in control. Turbulence (slight to moderate, depending on your particular threshold for pain in aviation). You know the feeling? You just want the process to be over.  You sit down and buckle up.  No turning back.  Before you know it - even while still clinching your eyes and gripping the armrest - you realize the airplane has found its altitude and has leveled off.  All you can see is clouds and open sky…you’re on your way.
Photo taken from a trip to Greece Summer of 2011.  I'm not much for flying, let alone transatlantic. ::bites nails::
So there you have it.  30,000 feet.  Why? Because I refuse to descend into mediocrity – I am only going up.  I liked it.  I saved it.  Now, let’s see where it takes me.
(And even as I write now, I'm thinking more about the name.  "30,000 feet" in business means an overview.  “Give me the 30,000 feet version of what you’re trying to sell.”  That take on the name really works too.  Time is of the essence. Here, I will try to get right to the point and not be overly verbose - this post notwithstanding). 

That’s what’s in a name.