Social Media Haves and Have Nots
Posted by Bob Warfield on December 24, 2008
Long ago, just after the Berlin Wall came down, I visited Russia. We went to St Petersburg and Moscow and had a great time. It was a tremendous culture shock to see these places back then. And, at the time, the Russians themselves were going through a tremendous culture shock in terms of their internal clash between communism and capitalism. I’ll never forget chatting with our tour bus guide. She was a young lady in her late 20′s, and she approached me because I was wearing a Borland Turbo C T-shirt. She wanted me to know that she knew Borland very well and that she was a programmer who used it in her day job. This piqued my curiousity as I wanted to know why she was acting as a tour guide then. She told me that at that time, a lot of people had two jobs. One was their communist job, working for the state. The other was their capitalist job working for themselves (her words, but I sure like the sound of it). As we continued to chat I learned that there was a big difference between these two jobs. The tour guide job was only part time, but it paid her several times the income of her full time state programming job. She was largely keeping the state job because of its benefits, and out of fear the state might yet swoop in and destroy the nascent capitalist economy that was growing there. The other thing she said that really struck me was that the older people in Russia did not know how to go about getting a capitalist job. They just didn’t understand how to look for work or really how to do the whole capitalist job thing at all. As a result, they were at a serious disadvantage to the young, who had embraced the new ways.
As I was reading Maryanne Paskowski’s Business Week article, “What Does LinkedIn Really Get You?”, I saw a touch of that same chasm between those who know how to use Social Media to achieve some goal and those who are trying to figure it out. Maryanne writes about the experiences of her friends using LinkedIn and not getting anything for it as though the whole Social Media world is going through the motions and not getting anything for it. That is most emphatically not true, and there is plenty of evidence to the contrary. She wonders why her friends don’t just pick up the phone and forget the whole Social Media thing. Well Maryanne, thinking that the phone is a substitute for the web belies a huge lack of understanding of what the web is capable of. Personally, I use both extensively, but they are useful in quite different ways. I’ve used Social Media to gain access to all sorts of folks, including CEO’s of various companies whom I have interviewed on the phone for this blog. It’s pretty easy to call these folks up and say, “Hey, I’m a reporter from Business Week and I’d like to talk.” Try that when you aren’t a reporter from Business Week. Try it when you aren’t really anything because you are unemployed.
LinkedIn, in particular, has been a fabulous resource for me in making these kinds of contacts. The world of blogging, Twitter, and Friendfeed have also helped out. Facebook is fun, but I’ve not used it to good business purpose yet, though I keep an eye on it.
My company, Helpstream, is founded on the notion that the web is a first class channel that companies need to address in addition to the telephone. An extremely large number of companies totally get this. We’re just at the beginning (literally we launched our product at the beginning of 2008), but already we have 120 customers and 90,000 participants on our service.
Maryanne, one thing I can tell you is you’re probably not going to find out how to use the web effectively over the telephone. As a wise and somewhat diminuative old movie character once said, “There is no try. Do or do not.” Get off the phone and onto the web. Go and engage. Figure out how to make it work. Once you do, you’ll be one of the Social Media Have’s. It’s a much richer experience than the Have Nots.