Sunday, August 25, 2013

Housing or Technology - Which is a Better Solution to Homelessness?

A story surface recently about Patrick McConlogue, a developer in New York who recently propositioned a homeless man to teach him how to code.  I find this to be a fascinating topic because I often wonder about the best strategy for eradicating our homelessness/joblessness situation in our society.
photo courtesy of http://gma.yahoo.com
What's interesting is that McConlogue has received criticism for this proposition.  Critics argue that McConlogue (and people trying to help) should focus on food and shelter first.  Patrick contends that he is offering what he can, which is knowledge.  The same can be said about Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg's internet.org initiative to make the internet available to everyone on the planet.  Do people in 3rd world countries really need internet before things like roads, running water, and farming equipment?  This is obviously not an easy question to answer.  If it were, then the smart people that have been working on these problems for decades centuries probably would have made more progress by now.

That being said, initiatives like internet.org have much more potential given technology today.  The internet offers the one thing that I've always said is the most important thing to upward mobility - Knowledge.  The world wide web is full of free tutorials, user guides, tips, DIY videos, blogs, and manuals on just about every topic known to man.  Google and wikipedia have opened the door to self-discovery, which leads to empowerment.  If those less fortunate, who are interested in learning, have the same access to these sources of information that the rest of us have, then I believe this will eventually lead to less poverty, violence, and disparity among people on this planet.  Plus, as I've learned through volunteering for great organizations like Habitat for Humanity, housing is time, labor, and resource intensive.  The internet may be a more scalable and sustainable solution.

Now, let me be clear in saying that I understand that many other variables come into play.  Some people either don't want to be helped, or have other circumstances like addiction and mental instability that prevent them from helping themselves.  I've been told anecdotally from former homeless not to give money to the homeless because 99% of them are going to try and buy drugs and alcohol with it.  I have no idea if that figure is correct or not, but the point is that there isn't a silver bullet to solving this problem.  However, at least there are people out there trying.  I applaud Patrick for his efforts.  He is going out of his way to help someone.  I find it to be refreshing and invigorating to read about.  I encourage you to read up on this experiment via his blog Medium.com to see what the outcome is.  I am really hopeful that the experiment leads to success for, at least, one man.  Furthermore, I hope it serves as a blueprint for helping many more in the future.  


Sunday, August 11, 2013

Does my Brand Need a Social Media Presence?

I recieved a message from a friend the other day about whether or not his brand should have a social presence.  Although this question seems obvious to, I'm realizing that there are many out there who don't see the value in social media.  They are actually looking for excuses to not use social media.  I this to be fascinating, relevant and interesting, which has inspired me to post on the topic.  Here's the basic email that was sent to me:

Hi JP

I’ve been asked to prep a deck explaining why BrandX should avoid social media, and wondering if you might have any data we could use.
  1. What does it take to have a current social media presence. (which brands, what it takes, how much does it take to do those? – what is the bar for success.)
  2. A ‘Ghost town’ is more harmful than not having a presence
  3. We are B2B – Vast majority are not on social media – few outliers 
  4. We’d need a bunch of resources - $$ - to do this.  Hence Bar is very high – This point in time doesn’t seem like a worth while investment
There are good questions, let's address them one by one:
1. How to Get Started with Social - Getting started can seem daunting, but don't let it scare you.  Just start with the the big 4 - Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus.  Although there are other niche sites out there that may have decent traffic for specific market, you'll get the biggest bang for your buck with the big 4.  I would plan for about 4 - 8 hours or so to simply stand up the accounts with unified images and info, and then any number of hours kicking off the accounts by adding connections to your networks.  This estimate can grow with any number of factors.  First, do you work for a company with social media guidelines?  If so, you'll want to add in some time to review all the rules and guidelines, if not actually discuss the presence with the marketing/communications groups at your company.
    1. Once the accounts are setup, you'll want to start by dedicating 20 minutes a day to review accounts, respond to messages, and make sure all your information is current.  Tools like Hootsuite, Sprout Social, SocialBro, and even Buffer can reduce the time you spend reviewing these accounts by consolidating for you.  When you first start, your influence will likely be small, so managing these accounts will likely require less time than once you've established your presence and really get people wanting to engage with you.
    2. The bar for success - This totally depends.  I would start by looking at your direct competitors' social accounts.  The competitive person that I am would say to not stop until you've dwarfed their social presence.  However, different companies have different strategies and tactics for acquiring customers and managing relationships.  As we are just starting out in social media, I say just get your accounts up, and develop a sustainable process for you to be able to manage.
      • Just for fun, let's say you represent a new Digital Asset Management product.  You've identified the following companies as competitors, and you'd ideally like to be competitive in that mix:
        1. North Plains - 754 Twitter followers, 508 Linkedin followers, and 56 facebook likes
        2. Alfresco - 8,941 Twitter followers, 3190
          Linkedin followers, and 5845 facebook likes
        3. Screendragon - 146 Twitter followers, 21 Linkedin followers, and no facebook account
      • Keep in mind that it's not all about followers and likes.  I'd focus on building meaningful relationships, and thoughtfully engaging with prospects on social media, rather than trying to attract any and everyone on the web to follow you.
2. A 'Ghost Town' is more harmful than not having a social presence - I understand the hesitation here, but I disagree.  As you can see with the Screendragon example, as a consumer I'm more concerned with the company that makes no effort to build a presence on one of the big social networks because I interpret that as a company that is not paying attention to the new market.  Facebook is one of the most popular website in the world.  Why on Earth would you not try to be there?  Which leads me to my next answer...
3. We are B2B and our customers aren't on social media - This is a very popular excuse, but this is untrue.  Think about it, every company is made up of individuals.  If you were to survey the individuals in that company I would all but guarantee that the vast majority of them have a social media account on, at least, one of the big four social networks.  Those individuals are the ones who will be doing research for a new vendor.  You want to make sure they find you.  Establishing your brand on social networks increases your chances of being found in that research - and that's purely by having an account.  Growing your social footprint will only increase your odds.
4. It's expensive to manage social media accounts - I alluded to this earlier.  No, it's not.  When compared with traditional forms of advertising it's dirt cheap.  Setting up accounts on the big four is free.  Purchasing a social media management tool will cost you anywhere from $6 on up to about $40 per month on the higher end of the professional accounts designed for small teams.  After that, I'd recommend you find someone, perhaps one of the junior associates at your company, to take ownership of the program.  They'll likely be excited to get to work with social media, and would be more than willing to dedicate their time to establishing the program.  As I said earlier, this really shouldn't require more than the time it takes for your coffee to cool down in the morning to manage initially.