With a Little Help for My Friends...
WHEREIN AN OUTSPOKEN ADVOCATE FOR beBee PRESENTS SOME SUGGESTIONS FOR CONSIDERATION...
I found out early on that the toughest comments came from those who cared most.
My friend and fellow Beezer, Jim Murray, recently published a post, "A Brief And Kind Of Lopsided BeBee Conversation With Maria". In a comment to that piece, I disagreed with one of Jim's points. And additionally raised a critical question concerning how beBee was calculating and tabulating "views".
As a result, I received two interesting private messages. One asked why I would, in the writer's words, "jump on Jim without first trying to resolve the issue in private." The other asked why I felt "the need to be so critical of beBee." That which follows here are the answers to those two questions, plus some other observations which I believe are relevant in this context and which may be beneficial to beBee going forward.
Although I correspond almost daily with Jim Murray ― whom I consider one of the strongest marketing voices among beBee Brand Ambassadors, save for Chief Ambassador, John White ― I posted my "critical" comment without first discussing it first with him in a PM because I specifically did not want to "resolve" the matter quietly and privately.
Instead, I felt it more beneficial all around to air the question spontaneously and openly. For I believe that open discussion is essential to positive growth, and the avoidance of self-delusion.
Being a user or member of a social media platform should not be approached as being on a sports team, or worse, as a sports "fan"...
It is perfectly understandable that beBee ownership, management, and staff feel enthusiastically loyal to their endeavor. It is also understandable that appointed beBee Brand Ambassadors ― who have been additionally incentivized by a promise of contingent future compensation ― should consider themselves and act as (in the words of a couple of them) loyal "cheerleaders".
It is not, however, reasonable, or for that matter productive, to expect the rest of us to remain uniformly and unquestioningly supportive of everything about this new and exciting social media platform.
One of the things that initially attracted me to beBee was Javier Rica's and Juan Imaz's concept of Affinity Networking, bolstered by their commitment to making beBee a platform on which everyone was welcome and could build a niche for him- or herself. A platform on which writers could build and maintain their own readerships. And a platform where readers and users could gather into self-organizing groups for the purpose of interacting based on common interests.
What I've found at times, however, is a confusion between commonality of interests and what is lauded as like-mindedness.
Affinity Networking is, I submit, much more complex than might at first appear. Certainly much more complex than considering the commonality of interest(s) that might bring two people together.
Consider again, if you will, the BeeZers and what brought them together into a seriously tight-knit group on beBee.
Consider further how much more complex the relationships get if you double the number of people involved. Then double it again. And again. And ... Well, I'm sure you get the idea about the geometric progression.
However, although the way that Affinity Networking actually works to bring people together in groups may be vastly complex, I suggest to you that the sweet spot — the bullseye of any Venn diagrammatic analysis — will be engagement.
Of course, I'm talking about authentic engagement, in which ideas and opinions are passed back and forth, and when people both listen to and care about what others have to say. For I believe strongly that the mortar of stable organic growth in Affinity Networking is conversation.
Conversation, however, isn't really what you see in many exchanges on beBee in particular, or on social media in general. Two or more people engaging in genuine conversation involves more than throwing generic honey-coated phrases past one another, like the sounds of horn whistles of two trains passing one another on separate tracks in the dark of night.
One of the things that has troubled me of late is what appears to be a growing intolerance to dissenting opinion — even when it is expressed politely — not to mention the overt characterization of it as negative. This has, for example, been significantly evident in some in the reactions of a number of bees to some of the posts published by experienced UX practitioner, John Vaughan, who is both a beBee user and a LinkedIn member.
Admittedly, John is not the most tactful of people. (John, you are free to upbraid me for that assessment, should you so desire.) However, his points are made in an entirely civil manner and, just as importantly, he accepts and answers critical comments consistently and without complaint. Yet, some of John's analytic work published here on beBee has within my eyeshot been labeled "trollish" --- which it is most certainly not.
Why is this? My best guess is that we are being infected on beBee by team-fan spirit. And we are falling into thinking of beBee as "our hometown team". Which would not necessarily be a bad thing... unless we allow it to elicit the kind of behavior we've come to expect from some sports fans, as well as some true believers in other spheres.
And on this particular topic, I shall say no more, except that if you would like to judge for yourself, I'd recommend taking a look at a couple of John's other posts as well:
The Emperor's New Clothes : Epilog"
That said, I'd like to wrap this piece up with a suggestion to beBee concerning marketing.
I do not pretend to be a marketing guru — although I have worked on and managed numerous marketing campaigns in regard to a variety of businesses, both my own and those of others.
Neither do I pretend to be a social media guru — although I have been writing and blogging online for more than ten years (on my own websites, as well as on those of others) and active on social media per se since for more than five.
Consequently, that which follows is only an expression of my best-considered opinion, and not represented in any way to be "The Truth".
Indeed, even if they (and beBee) are so prepared, they (and beBee) need to be willing to take the counter-punches. And make no mistake; there will be counter-punches that land. As that is the nature of social media.
The beBee cheerleaders should stop positioning the platform directly opposite LinkedIn in the market... unless they are prepared to verbally duke it out on the facts and merits of the inevitable comparison(s).
My question is why invite the verbal fisticuffs in the first place? BeBee has a seriously large number of differentiating features and positives. So, why not take the high road by emphasizing and marketing those, rather than devolving into the same kind of senseless picayune skirmishes that constantly crop up between MAC and PC users?
The high road is paved with frankness and honesty. It is clear of exaggeration and spin. And it is free of defensiveness and name-calling. It also follows the way of open and frank discussion and expression of ideas and opinions. Without recrimination.
There is any number of sound and powerful arguments in favor of beBee taking a strong position among the major social media platforms. And there is a large number of credible independent writers and users on beBee who can and are ready to make the case to followers and connections they have built up on other platforms. My suggestion is to let them do so, by seeing what they are doing for the positive that it is, not for what you may think of negative, just because it is not honey coated. — Phil Friedman
Afterword: An article like this always runs the danger of sounding preachy. I assure you that it is not intended to be so. My objective here is to stimulate reflection and open exchange of ideas and opinions. I believe that ultimately the best way to build stable organic growth for beBee is to establish for it a reputation as being a place where where one can speak one's mind on substantive topics, and enter into meaningful conversations with other with whom one shares common interests. Consequently, whether you agree or disagree with what I've said, feel free to comment and voice your opinion. Vive Afinity Networking!
Author's Notes: If you're interested in the topics touched upon in this post, you may find it interesting to read Kevin Pashuk's powerful post "I Don't Get No Respect".
And If you found this post interesting and worthwhile, and would like to receive notifications of my writings on a regular basis, click the [FOLLOW] button on my beBee profile. As a writer-friend of mine says, you can always change your mind later.
Should you be curious about some of my previous postings about the publishing platforms of both LinkedIn and beBee, you can take a look at some of the following:
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.
The (optional-to-read) pitch: As a professional writer, editor, university educator, and speaker, with more than 1,000 print and digital publications, I've recently launched an online program for enhancing your expository writing: learn2engage — With Confidence. My mission is to help writers and would-be writers improve their thought and writing, master the logic of discussion, and strengthen their ability to deal with disagreement.
To schedule an appointment for a free 1/2-hour consult email: firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to speaking with you soon.
Image Credits: Phil Friedman, FreeDigitalPhotos.com, and Google Images