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Published November 13th 2012

Conversation, Aggregation, Collaboration

Recently I gave a talk on social media for small business at Southampton University’s creative Digifest and the organisers asked me to answer three questions to engage the crowd a bit ahead of time.
The three questions were:

  • In what ways are digital technologies changing our lives?
  • What can the latest technologies do for you?
  • And if you’re not online are you out of the game?

My replies to this centred around the fact that the individual has tools that previously only corporates had; that we can aggregate and curate material easily; and that although many things need an online presence, not everything does.

In one of the projects I’m involved in, we sell our organic veg largely without the benefit of the online world, and the use of online marketing in the aerospace industry is practically non-existent.

However, while we seem to have aggregation off to a tee, conversation is lapsing. As I mentioned in an earlier post, corporates especially remain stuck on transmit and social media is treated as another advertising channel.

It doesn’t help that the major tool of online chitchat has become Facebook, which only seems to support short, one-dimensional conversations.

I put my replies to these questions onto Ecademy, which remains a place where you can still get some informed responses to ideas,where you can post something if you want to try out an idea and where maybe you may get some new ideas instead of just having your own existing ideas validated or dismissed.

One response I got that I wasn’t expecting is worth reproducing here. It comes from a guy called Andreas Wiedow who effectively teaches how to cold call in Germany. Andreas made two points:

  1. Every minute you spend on line you’ll regret to the end of your days
  2. Every activity online must to designed to lead to sustained business activity offline

In other words, there are better things to do than peer forlornly into a screen and all of the activity that you engage in should be consciously aimed at getting a tangible business result.

One of the things that a long business career has taught me is that you don’t get business by sitting in the bunker creating collateral (although it’s of course a necessary overhead) or by setting up environments for their own sake.

You get business by meeting people and holding conversations – ok sometimes this happens online but as often as not – with any complex – it needs to have at least some face-to-face element to build the trust and the energy needed to allow people to collaborate together on complex projects.

So if my take on what Andreas was saying is correct, curation of material and construction of online environments needs to be focused on promoting interactions and conversations with a view to taking those involved to the next stage in a process of engaging with your business – whether that’s on its way to a sale or on its way to advocacy.

Otherwise you’re just sitting in the bunker at mission control amusing yourself creating models that might not fly.

Basically any activity should result in a sale, a conversation or a download of something that promotes one or the other. What’s  your view?

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