Posted by: kwbrand | May 24, 2009

Connection and Choice


Last Friday I attended a local networking group for business-to-business consultants. In this case “networking” meant real people in a real room drinking real coffee. It’s important to clarify because as it happens, our live networking group was talking about the how’s and wherefore’s of technology-facilitated social networking. The specific discussion topic was this:  How do we understand all the many social media options and optimize them for our small businesses? The session opened with an overview of things like Search Engine Optimization and moved quickly to FaceBook, LinkedIn and, of course, Twitter.

Since it was my first time to the group, I was in a position to participate but remain somewhat detached. I observed as nervous laughter erupted over terms like “re-tweet” and “squeeze pages.” Participants talked about the number of texts the average teen sends a month (1,742 according to Neilson) or how super-texting young people go as far double-bag their phones so they can text their friends while in the shower.

Before long, the discussion took on something of a fevered pitch as the participants’ eyes got bigger and rounder—overwhelmed with all they weren’t doing; where they were falling behind and what they didn’t understand.

As I listened to the discussion, I was also monitoring whether or not future attendance of this type of (live) networking session would be of real use to me. The older I get the more miserly I get with my time. I am not interested in joining groups for purely social purposes.  I am not interested in groups where we spend our time trading soap-box sermons and leave convinced we get it and the non-attending and unenlightened don’t get it. I am not interested in ever more access to ever less useful information.

And this brings me to my biggest concern about social media. What’s the value? I dutifully joined FaceBook because that’s what one does these days, right? Since then, however, I’ve found myself dismayed at the time-killer it is to scroll through updates about what people have recently eaten, which movies they’ve recently seen, and how the latest round of antibiotics is working on their tough sinus infection (seriously). I wasn’t surprised to hear that 60% of new Twitter users are “Twitter-Quitters” within a month. Why? Well, as it turns out, they also don’t much care if their loved ones or celebrity idols are off to buy bananas at the grocery store.

My concern with all the pressure to hop on the social media bandwagon is not borne out of a cynicism for technology. My concern is the pressure to do it without first aligning it to a strategy. Here are my thoughts…

  • Just because we can doesn’t mean we should. Technology-facilitated dialogue has opened up so many opportunities. But the old rule remains: with limited resources of time, money, energy and focus, choosing to do one thing typically requires a choice against another thing…at least if you hope to do anything well. The alternative is to add new things to existing activities and watch everything suffer. I don’t have to tell you how activities like driving suffer when text-messaging or cell-dialing are added to the task. So the first issue is an issue of choice: Where are your resources best spent?  If existing products and processes are broken, I’d recommend fixing them before launching into a new communication strategy that will fracture internal attention and resources and invite more people back to a sub-standard experience. Making careful choices enhances your focus.
  • Just because we can doesn’t mean it helps. We have all kinds of new ways for reaching out, but are they helping us connect? Herein is the question of value. I could Twitter you every hour on the hour and congratulate myself for “optimizing” my Twitter capacity. However, the real measures of a successful strategy should include these questions: What is our brand promise and how do the messages we send or invitations we issue reinforce and enhance of brand promise we strive to make (and keep?) What real value will our new (and different) technologies offer our target audiences? And, how do new technologies help us launch or add to the meaningful interaction we still need as live human beings? 

Toward the end of today’s networking session, our guest speaker shared a quote from Plato: “Wise men [and women] speak because they have something to say; fools because they have to say something.”

I like it.

Focus, then connect.

 Kyndra Wilson, KW Brand Translation

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Responses

  1. Kyndra, I am glad you blogged about this because this topic has been on my mind for awhile. I could not agree more with you. My question: “Is our quality of social interactions suffering due to the mass use of texting, twittering and what not?” For me, I think it is.

  2. Kyndra…your blog seems timely. I remember reading an article about 3 months ago saying if you don’t have a Facebook page you are basically a “loser”. After reading that I am even happier that I haven’t participated. I have continously been pressured from family and friends wondering why I don’t have a page. Here is the thing….I like my privacy…I don’t want my life plastered on the internet, nor do I believe that “if” I make sure I mark the right setting then others can’t see my page. I think that anything that is posted on the web including this response can be found and viewed. Don’t get me wrong, I find the internet a great thing, I also have a LinkedIn page for business networking and as a recruiter I do find LinkedIn useful. So, if I am personally missing out on social connections, well for now that is okay with me. I spend enough of my day on the computer and email, I don’t need to add to it. An old friend of my husband was trying to locate him and eventually found him through another friend with a Facebook page. His message to Lance….you have absolutely no online presence. I think we are okay with that. Hope all is well with you…


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