The Sound of One Hand Clapping
Join the Dynamic Duo of Disagreement On a Zen Search for Social Media Enlightenment...
Preface: When Jim Murray and I first agreed to co-author this series, we saw it as a literary experiment. We thought it might be fun but didn't know for sure ― since our first online engagement had earlier concluded with Jim telling me to go f#%k myself.
Well, we're now in our third year and on our 31st installment. And if anything, we've developed a reputation for not pussyfooting around sensitive subjects. Indeed, "politically correct" is not to be found in our lexicon.
However, we also remain faithful to the proposition that these exchanges are not just about us, but more importantly about engagement with you, our readers. Which is why we again invite you to join the conversation.
PHIL: It’s been a while, Jim since you and I last met up on He Said He Said to get some kicks in at Social Media ― a favorite pastime of ours. The kicking, that is.
Fact is we’ve both been busy with marketing our respective small businesses. However, a lull in literary output doesn’t necessarily mean complete idleness. At my end, I’ve been conducting some personal research in a quest to discover the best (or most productive) SM platform(s) for marketing my core business, which is marine industry consulting. And I believe that, at your end, you’ve been working on getting your marketing and consulting partnership with Charlene Norman up and running.
Anyway, in my travels and reflections, I’ve been forced to come face to face with a hard reality ― which is that, as much as I dislike the Management at LinkedIn and as much as I disagree with many of their policies and practices, I have to conclude it is neither an accident, nor a coincidence that almost 100% of the consulting business I’ve landed as a direct result of my activity on Social Media has come by way of LI. Moreover, although my activity on LinkedIn does not account for anywhere near the majority of my incoming business, we’re nevertheless talking about a substantial dollar value.
Granted, I’ve been on LinkedIn for some eight years, Facebook and Twitter for about five, and beBee for only about two. But based on my experience on LinkedIn, I would have expected to receive, in all of this time, at least two or three serious inquiries from my exposure on the other platforms. When, in fact, there has been zip. Zilch. Nada. Bubkas.
Why this dearth of business response on these other platforms, including beBee? I am starting to entertain what may be seen by some as an heretical theory ― namely, that business and personal components don’t actually mix very well. And moreover, that the heavily personal components of the engagement on all these platforms other than LinkedIn works to suppress, if not actually drive away serious attention to real-world business concerns and activities.
JIM: (This is me taking a deep breath so I can dive into the deep end). You and I have different agendas regarding social media. Personally, I have never really deluded myself into thinking that anyone would become seriously interested in working with me, despite the facts that I have a wealth of marketing experience, knowledge and insight and am an actual 3-D writer and a hell of a nice guy. I think it comes down to the kind of services people offer. Your services, although they are consultative, are very specific, mine are very general.
It’s always been my experience, and by always I mean 100% of the time, that I get business by getting in front of people and letting them bask in my wonderfulness first hand. I would submit that it’s much easier for you to engage people who are interested in all the different kinds of things you can do, including writing, regarding boats because boats is a concrete thing and the services regarding them are in a fairly compact silo.
Having said that, it then becomes a question of choice of media, how well you communicate in those media and most importantly whether you are actually in the right place at the right time with the right message.
Yesterday Charlene and I made our final bunch of decisions about how to put our business into gear. I won’t tell you what we decided because Charlene came up with most of it and likes to keep her trade secrets to herself. But I will tell you that it has nothing to do with social media or even SEO in any sort of serious way, other than as a buoy floating in the blue ocean of bubbly Internet goo, which has somehow become an indicator of your existence.
I have no delusions about social media, or business media and their relative usefulness in terms of building my own business. But I also know it all depends on the kind of business you’re talking about. If you’re a retailer or making some kind of useful widget or must have digital toy, well, go to town on Facebook. But if you are selling what could turn into a serious business relationship on a management consulting basis, you don’t do that anywhere but in somebody’s office or boardroom.
All the rest is basically just a lot of wishful and or mildly delusional thinking.
I don’t know much about Twitter, other than that I find it irritating and I’m just starting to learn more about Pinterest, but you and I, who have a fondness for beBee, have both on separate occasions, suggested that if they were to create some real moderation tools, they could attract some of the serious business groups who have grown frustrated with all the BS. But beBee ownership seems committed to the idea of the social-to-business portal, which, incidentally has never really been seriously tried before and therefore not proven, is the way to go.
Well, I wish them a lot of luck with that. But my experience, which is as long and probably as deep as yours in social media, tells me that that is not necessarily the shortest distance between the two points. Do you agree?
PHIL: Do I agree? Agree? Really? Since when is it my job to do anything other than disagree with you, Jimmy Bob?
Ya know, I just read a great article, “The Dying Art of Disagreement”, (NewYorkTime.com) in which Op-Ed writer Bret Stephens points out that, “… to say, I disagree; I refuse; you’re wrong … these are the words that define our individuality, give us freedom, enjoin of tolerance, enlarge our perspectives, seize our attention, energize our progress, make our democracies real, and give hope and courage to oppressed people everywhere. Galileo and Darwin: Mandela, Havel, and Liu Xiaobo; Rosa Parks and Natan Sharansky ― such are the ranks of those who disagree.”
So no, I don’t agree. Although I understand and sympathize, to a great extent, with the points you are making. And is what I’ve been told true, does your SuperSocialMedia Hero badge engender a lot of suggestive emails from the opposite sex?
But seriously, you’re correct when you say it is the type of business one is seeking to do that determines one’s choice of social media platform if any. And if I were selling widgets at the retail level, I’d look seriously at Facebook and/or Twitter.
In the main, I sell consulting services to the marine industry. And again, you’re correct that I need to close deals in the executive offices of prospects. However, in order to do that, I have first to speak to the relevant upper-level execs and other decision makers involved. And in order to do that, I have to be able to get past their gatekeepers ― their secretaries, purchasing agents, and other staff. Which is where I can tell you, LinkedIn beats the pants off every other platform out there. Here’s why.
If I cold-call to pitch, say, the CEO of a company, the receptionist or his secretary will usually tell me he’s not currently available and could I please leave my number. For few, if any of these execs ever answer their own phones. And the entire approach, more often than not, becomes an exercise in futility.
However, I’ve learned that a surprisingly high percentage of upper-level executives these days are on LinkedIn. So, if I initiate a contact and handle the connect invitation properly, my rate of acceptance runs about 90%. Then, voila! I have a way to at least correspond directly with the exec involved. Most of the time, I can arrange for a telephone or Skype call, sometimes even a face-to-face meeting.
The reason it works is that, notwithstanding the posers and phonies, there are also a lot of genuine business people on LinkedIn, including a fair percentage of CEOs and other upper-level executives ― at least in my core industry sector. And when you make an initial approach via LinkedIn, they have an immediately available way of checking you out quickly and conveniently.
But where does that leave beBee, which continues to bill itself as, in your words, “a social to business portal”? Well, I’m not sure. What I do know is that, in my experience, more personal relationships emerge from business relationships than the other way around. Mostly because people don’t want to have a personal dinner with someone and find themselves being pitched about whole life insurance over dessert.
JIM: I think what you are describing here is the most productive use of LinkedIn. However, in the spirit of disagreement, and maybe this notion is out-moded in the new era of chaos we have been embroiled in over the past few years, wasn’t this direct approach via LinkedIn frowned up both by LinkedIn’s management and the majority of those on the receiving end of those who were using it as a modus operandi?
I distinctly remember going through a period of receiving rather nasty missives about proper LI etiquette from some of the people I thought would be would be worth talking to.
Having said that I tend to agree that, the odd interesting articles notwithstanding, access to decision makers is probably the main utility of LinkedIn for those who are not either headhunters or heads looking to be hunted. In point of fact, this may indeed be a good way forward for UberBlondie (Charlene) and myself as we build our consultancy.
In response to a rant I posted a few days back, our mutual friend, David Grinberg commented that he has never been on Facebook and challenged me to become Facebook free. My counter-move was to explain to him all the reasons I was on Facebook in the first place, and pointed out to him that I have actually gotten, over the years, more business leads and been able to develop more business relationships via Facebook than on any other social media platform.
Now, these numbers aren’t staggering…in fact, you could call them minuscule. But they do, in their own small way, counter your argument just a bit. But the great equalizer here, as always, in purpose. Why are you there? And who are you trying to reach? So I agree with part of your thesis, but mildly disagree with another part.
However, none of this, in my case at least, adds up to anything substantial if you compare it to the results I have been able to achieve with referral solicitation, face to face networking, warm calling and, up to the advent of the draconian anti-spam legislation in Canada, emailing.
But one thing we are both agreed on is that beBee, which appears to very much be on the same developmental path as Facebook, really does need to strengthen its business presence. Hopefully, the fact that Facebook is now actively involved in doing just that, might actually provide some incentive.
A lot of this argument is academic, and probably primarily concerns those in the service business who are struggling to see any results from their so-called “personal brand” building efforts. These people should know that, even for professional communicators like you and me, this is a hard row to hoe. It requires a hell of a lot of effort and at the end of the day it always needs to be balanced against ROI. Because, let’s face it, this may be called social media, but it’s really all about business.
PHIL: To be clear, Jim, when I talk about reaching out to upper-level execs via LinkedIn, I am not talking about sending a connection invite which, if accepted, is immediately followed up with a sales pitch. Indeed, what I usually do is thank the person for accepting the connection, then explain that I wanted particularly to reach them to explain an idea I have (about X) which I believe they will find interesting. And finally, I ask if I might make an appointment for a very brief telephone or Skype call or have their permission to send them written information. And most of the time, this approach is successful in terms of generating further opportunity for contact.
As I said earlier, I believe it works in my case because I have available, at a click, an extensive LinkedIn profile which includes a photo-illustrated portfolio of prior work and more than a half-dozen detailed letters of recommendation from established industry professionals. So it is easy and convenient for the person I’m contacting to check my bona fides before saying yes to a subsequent conversation.
As to Facebook, I’ve not to date in over five years made a serious effort to establish myself there. But with the new tools available for using “Facebook for Business”, I will very likely mount just such an effort very soon.
After all, as you say, it’s a matter of numbers. Facebook reputedly now has two billion MAUs. Compare that to Twitter at 319 million (as of 2016). And to LinkedIn’s 500 million (at last company report). It’s not surprising that a fair number of business people are going to be reachable on Facebook, especially if those business people buy the idea of mixing the personal and business aspect of their lives.
Of course, a lot depends on what kind and how much algorithmic control a given platform exercises in contradistinction to allowing naturally occurring, organic networking. However, given the raw numbers, Facebook is and will remain the freakin’ 800-pound gorilla in the room who can’t be ignored.
As you well know, I too love David B. Grinberg and greatly respect his professionalism as a public relations honcho. But he has taken to being a beBee Brand Ambassador with such exceptional zeal and fervency, that I personally have to view his claims on beBee's behalf with more than just a pinch of salt.
There is no question that beBee owners Javier Camara Rica and Juan Imaz have kept their promise to support 100% organic networking ― that is, the distribution of 100% of a writer’s posts to 100% of that writer’s self-elected followers 100% of the time. Which, in my experience, counts for a lot, when you’re trying to generate business via marketing and branding on Social Media.
Still, beBee seems to have plateaued at about 11 million MAUs (reported as at July 2016) ― just barely more than 2% of the user base of LinkedIn. And only about 0.55% of the Facebook user base. These differences are staggering, especially in the face of flat growth on beBee over the past year or so.
You and I were “early adopters” and boosters of beBee. In fact, carried one of, if not the earliest interviews of Javier “beBee” right here in our He Said He Said series. I know you genuinely like publishing your blog and update posts on beBee. And generally, I do, as well ― although lately, I’ve noticed some shifts in the mix of content that do not, to my mind, bode well for the future of the platform. But that is a topic for another time.
My point here is that beBee has been and continues to be a “congenial” platform for writers and authors ― and various other creative types. And there is no denying some of the work that appears on beBee is really quite good.
But what beBee has not been, and what it appears not to be becoming, is a buzzing hive of business-related activity ― despite its oft-stated intention to be, again in your words, a “personal-to-business” portal.
With all due respect to high-quality business-oriented writers such as you, Charlene Norman, Graham🐝 Edwards, Renée 🐝 Cormier, Nicole Chardenet, Aleta Curry, Paul "Pablo" Croubalian, John White, MBA, Anders Liu-Lindberg, and a few others, this is how I see the situation after nearly two years: If you listen intently for the buzz of business activity on beBee, what you hear is... the sound of one hand clapping.
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About me, Phil Friedman: With 30 some years background in the marine industry, I've worn numerous hats — as a yacht designer, boat builder, marine operations and business manager, marine industry consultant, marine marketing and communications specialist, yachting magazine writer and editor, yacht surveyor, and marine industry educator. I am also trained and experienced in interest-based negotiation and mediation.
In a previous life, I was formally trained as an academic philosopher and taught logic and philosophy at university.
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