Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Social Adopter, Adapter or A-Lister: where do you fit?

Six degrees of separation is rapidly shrinking.

Only twenty years ago, the launch of Netscape Navigator democratized the world wide web, which was often referred to as the "information super-highway". Navigator was a free browser that allowed anyone with an internet connection to look for anything that was available on the web. Admittedly, back then it was a lot less than today.

Service providers then started offering low-cost access to the new online communication tool - email. 

Younger people loved this stuff, especially college students who saw their peers developing and deploying these things. Now those students are professionals and executives themselves.

For those who were around back then, you may recall the resistance of company management to take this seriously, using this tool for business: email was going to be the biggest time waster ever, along with the "information super-highway", which was full of useless stuff. 

Only a very few B2G industry executives had the foresight to understand the value that would come to our market. Dendy Young, then CEO of Falcon MicroSystems, built the first e-commerce web site in the government market. He was also an advocate of email, stating in a keynote at one of my mid-1990s conferences that one day email would be an integral part of the government procurement process.

In Dendy Young we have the first B2G example of the internet trifecta: adopter, adapter then A-Lister. 

He adopted early, possibly in part because of Falcon's relationship to Apple, which meant Dendy more than most in DC had exposure to Silicon Valley.

He then adapted quickly, putting Falcon on the leading B2G edge of e-commerce.

He is an A-Lister because of his continuous appetite for learning and sharing information. 

Still, while Dendy forged ahead, most doubted. And waited. Email and company web sites did not catch on until later in the 1990s as a real business tool and it changed the way we do business. 

Then we faced the "irrational exuberance" of the dot-bomb era.

Eleven years ago social networks started popping up in a significant way, In May 2003 LinkedIn launched; in February 2004 Facebook followed. Others have come and gone.

LinkedIn, always my focus point, has 300 million members, over one-third in the US and about 2.5 million in the DC area.

There is absolutely no doubt that the migration to social networking platforms rivals any of the great human or animal migrations in history. Each hour, tens of thousands of business people and others are joining LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+ and other social networking platforms. Adoption of these platforms is ubiquitous.

But what happens then?

For many, little or nothing. Newton's First Law kicks in - a body at rest tends to stay at rest...

Why does little or nothing happen?

It is in part a herd mentality, and in part an assumption that your mere presence on a social networking platform will cause something to occur. 

During the past decade, as social networks have grown exponentially, the resistance to joining them has disappeared, but the actual use of them for business purposes for most companies still lags behind.

Research shows that companies that leverage social networks grow faster than those that don't; companies that develop social media strategies grow faster than those without a strategy; and that companies that train their personnel how to use social networks win more business as a result. Each of these three steps moves a company closer to those it needs to reach: buyers and influencers.

Six degrees of separation is shrinking as I write. Virtually everyone is now connected to at least one social network, probably more, so reaching out to anyone has become easier.

For those leveraging social media as a business tool and doing a good job of it, the results are palpable. For those waiting on the sidelines, well, keep waiting or give me a call. I train companies like yours.

I am not certain what the next big tech shift will be, but it will not replace social networks. 

Maybe it's time to call Dendy...

*I do coach companies and individuals on all aspects of LinkedIn. Drop me a line for details-