I’ve just invented a new law firm, as you can see by my title. They specialize in obscure technical torts.
Someone posted a commentary here asking my opinion of the world of linked-in facebook, YouTube, and other assorted means of mass mischief. I’m not high on them from a business standpoint.
Now, I know, that there are “experts” all over the place claiming that social networking is going to replace traditional marketing, and customers talking to customers will determine the fates of businesses. Forgive me, but I also remember the “paperless office,” “checkless society,” and “The Friendly Skies” (yeah, right). I don’t really think that citibanksucks.com took a whole lot of business away from Citibank.
From a consulting business perspective, here’s what I think:
1. Blogs are only effective if you already have a brand. People come here, or go read Seth Godin, or Marshall Goldsmith, or Jeffrey Gitomer, or David Meister, because we’re all well known in our areas of expertise. That is, a blog follows a brand, not the other way around. You can’t create a brand just with a blog, unless you’re ridiculously lucky, and business can’t be based on luck.
2. It is variously estimated that there are about 200 million blogs (counting the strange Chinese networks stuff) and the overwhelming number of them are crap. They are unposted for months; they contain just the stream-of-unconsciousness of the author; they focus on bizarre trivialities. There is no barrier to entry for a blogger, and you get what you pay for. Most are poorly written and treat English as an alien life form. (I love the ones with no paragraphs, just massive text, that make no sense, and have no indication of who is actually doing the writing. Now, THAT’S effective promotion, huh?!)
3. You can use up all your time following blogs. Buyers of consulting services don’t visit blogs as a rule, and certainly not to make buying decisions. They may visit a blog AFTER they have a relationship with the consultant, which just proves my point.
4. Twitter is pretty nonsensical. Watching someone wash their hair or walk to their car is irrelevant to marketing consulting services. It is idiosyncratic. I think it’s fine if people want to do this as a hobby, but for solo practitioners and entrepreneurs, it can drain your life away. It is to marketing what text messaging is to writing a novel.
5. YouTube I find useful in that you can access some outstanding resources there, such as the lectures given at TED. But you also find all the schlock in the universe, and there must be a law that, to post comments, you have to have flunked both basic English and civility in primary school, because the proportion of dolts and louts who post things is frightening. It’s like being at a hockey game, but you can’t get a hot dog.
6. Facebook, linked-in, and all the rest of the social crawl space is fine for trying to get a full time job, or finding out who’s divorced, or sharing your latest hairstyle, or flirting. I abhor the linked-in automated messages about “good friends” who have asked me to join their network whom I can’t even recall, and I find it reprehensible to dump your entire contact list into this morass and annoy everyone who’s ever written you an email or sent you an overdue notice. I find linked-in to be the worst kind of spam.
My focus is on helping consultants and entrepreneurs to market their services better and improve their lives. I don’t think it happens with social networking on the Internet, and like television or alcohol, a little bit can be fascinating and diverting, but if you over-indulge you can boil your brain and ruin your life. If television is “the great wasteland,” in Newton Minnow’s famous phrase, then the Internet is “the great land waste.” There is so much potential for growth that is almost subsumed by a ghastly amount of unregulated, egomaniacal, derivative schlock.
With rare exception, consultants aren’t going to meet key corporate buyers online. The web is a good place to do some research (if you’re smart enough to realize that places such as Wikepedia are suspect, given the sources), order specific goods, and arrange for certain services (though the trend now, for example, is to return to human travel agents and abandon Orbitz and the rest of the automatons). But it’s a lousy place to find and meet clients.
I’m still quite convinced that you’re often talking to a dog. Buddy won’t make eye contact when I confront him, but I find paw prints on my trackball in the mornings and biscuit crumbs near the keyboard.
© Alan Weiss 2008. All rights reserved.
PS: I’ve cut back on the Podcasts because my allergies are killing my voice and I don’t want to inflict that on you. They will return as soon as the allergy medicine, JW Blue, kicks in.