Facing Facebook

As the King of Social Media, I’ve now established myself on Facebook, following my venture into Linkedin. (Twitter is coming, but I have to limit my sugar intake or my teeth will rot.)

I find Facebook much more fun and engaging than Linkedin. (Which to me is like collecting things for no purpose, except that the “things” are people. My favorite: Someone I never heard of wanted to link with me because she “trusts me” so much. When I asked who the heck she was, she told me, “My employee sends these out daily for me, I don’t know why you were included.” You can’t make this stuff up.)

There are photos, running commentaries, and families reconnecting on Facebook. I get that. I posted some albums, kibitzed with family members, advertised my workshops. All free, all fine. I’ll have a double espresso as long as I stopped by. Heck, I visit my coffee shop with the dogs most mornings when I’m home.

However, there are people posting hundreds of times a day, often ten times an hour, sometimes two minutes apart. And that’s just in my tiny Facebook universe. Some of those people I know, and some of them are having marketing and business problems. How do you have the time to hang out in a virtual coffee shop all day? Some others, whom I don’t know and I guess are friends of friends, are “air time junkies,” who post inanities that rival Linkedin. This may be hard to understand, but I don’t care how you feel about Obama’s Mexican visit, even if it were a real bar with a real martini.

The appeal of “hanging out” during the day has traction, and it’s better than porn. (There is that great Avenue Q song, “The Internet Was Made for Porn.”) But it’s not better than building your career. I can understand this allure better if you’re freeloading on an employer’s computer, but not if you’re trying to build a solo practice and your boss is sitting in the same chair. I’d fire you.

When I first railed about social media and their lack of utility for building solo practitioner consulting business, the cultists were outraged. Seth Godin told me I wasn’t with it, implied I was just too old, and said I was missing the future. Well, I have seven books appearing over 18 months, my workshops are packed, and I’m speaking on three continents, so apparently I’m not that old and I’m enjoying the future. That’s because I don’t collapse with awe every time a new technology promises a few minutes of fun. (When people can’t argue with you rationally or intellectually, they call you “old” or “arrogant.” When people attack me personally, I know I’ve scored a direct hit.) Some people I see promoting these technologies have personal interests and investments in them, and that’s not objective advice in my book. I’m looking forward to Twitter, where one notable claims he’s following 93,000 people who are following him. That must make for a full day!

Once you’re successful, you have real wealth: discretionary time. At that point you can scuba dive in the Caymans, learn to fly, collect great art, contribute to charities, build new businesses, or spend all day on Facebook. But if you’re not there yet, you can’t do the first five things and shouldn’t be doing the last thing.

Let’s face it.

© Alan Weiss 2009. All rights reserved.

30 thoughts on “Facing Facebook

  1. Alan,

    Great article! You’ve expressed the key point about social media: time use (or wasted). Personally, I’d rather watch the squirrels and other wildlife in my backyard than read someone’s stream of consciousness, especially if it’s full of typos and mistakes.

    Richard Martin

  2. Alan,

    I’m on Linkedin, Facebook, and Twitter. I spend maybe hour a week in total on each of these. Just to be clear that’s 1 hour for all three not an hour each.

    What I’m about to say is not to garner favor with you but a fact. I spend more time reading your blog, and reviewing your books so I can get better at my business.

    The results, spending time on social media nice, reading Alan’s blog, books and articles, priceless.

  3. I keep telling my kids, “It’s easy to be the best because hardly anyone is trying. In fact most people are doing their best trying not to.”

    And yeah, I’m on FB, Twitter and Linked in. But I use it, I don’t let it use me. That’s the key to any technology.

  4. Which do you find the most useful and why? Someone just wrote me viciously attacking Facebook and telling me he made “$300,000 on linkedin.” He told me that if I sponsored a webinar he’d appear for free! I think he needs to relax a bit,

  5. Every time I post an article in my blog, it post to twitter. Anything I post to twitter, shows up as a FB status.

    My blog sees direct traffic from both FB and Twitter and the whole process is automated so that it doesn’t cost me any time or money, so ANY traffic it generates is good.

    Facebook has allowed me to connect with people I knew 25 years ago. So, that’s an extra bonus, but not my primary use.

    Linked in? I’m only there because guys I know are on it. Hasn’t done anything noticable for me. But, it’s not costing me much if anything either (time or money).

    Facebook and Linked in notify me via RSS feeds and email. So, a quick scan tells me about important stuff. Twitter I scan periodically (maybe once or twice a day) seeing if anyone has a question I can help with or there is a reply to something I sent out.

    $300K?! Directly from Linked In? Maybe so, but I can’t see how.

  6. There is a fascination, of course, with “hits” and “traffic.” But none of it matter if it doesn’t result in business. All you need is one good hit. Volume, in and of itself, is worthless.

  7. Of course. When I tald about traffic, I’m referring to qualified traffic. Many of my visitors use FB and Twitter like others use RSS feeds or email notifications. Just like you shoud provide email subscription along with RSS feeds (I notice you aren’t, you should enable that feature in Feedburner), you should provide the ability for the people in your market to follow, friend, or otherwise socially “network” with you so that you have yet another way of drawing them back to your site where your marketing message is. It is yet another way to notify people that you have something more to say and they should come back.

    People come to my sites because they are interested in what I have to offer. Just like I keep coming back here because I’m interested in what you have to offer. However, if you suddenly decided there was no benefit in RSS feeds and removed them from your site, I wouldn’t come back, nor would most of your visitors. The social media sites SHOULD do the same thing for you.

    Maybe your market isn’t on any of those sites. But again, I would argue that even if all the traffic we get from FB or Twitter is junk traffic, it still isn’t costing us anything. It all happens automatically. I could never go to Twitter or FB again, and I would still get the exact same benefit. People would still follow me on Twitter. People on FB would still ask to be my friend. (OK, that will take about 2 minutes to accept them. Small cost… unless I’m doing it all day.)

    But the kick back for all of that is, 1) more qualified traffic and 2) more percieved authority. And how much real work did I do? In the scheme of things, practically nothing.

  8. I grok. I would never argue with success, but some things aren’t worth it even if free, IF they cheapen your brand, create useless “noise,” demand some management time, etc. I’m not saying you don’t use them wisely, but I find most people wasting their time, which could be used for better things. I could have my name on fences or building sides for free, and I’d pay NOT to have it done.

    Note to Chad: What email subscriptions with what feeds?!

  9. Seems to me that the easiest way to make money on Social Media is to sell teleseminars and books about how to use Social Media to make money. I just saw a self-published book on how to make money with LinkedIn, for $70 and have been invited to teleseminars in this vein.

  10. I wish I had the time for any of this social media. It’s hard enough building a solo practice and being in the mentor programme without yet another non productive task. To get to the million dollar club is now much harder from Ipswich-on Mutton since the dollar strengthened without worrying about another ebsite to study…..the Alan blogs etc delivers far more value to me to flattery intended since you are an East Coast American.

  11. Thanks, Chad and Dave, good advice.

    Anyone buying self-published books on linkedin is not a very discriminatory buyer. And very few will sell more than a dozen or so copies, despite the claimed exceptions (“I’ve sold tons of books on linkedin!!”)

    Graham, no flattery taken!!

  12. It’s going to be interesting to see your progress with social media. The main thing is it’s pretty much like real life but online. I’ve met some really nice people online who’ve also become friends in real life. It has helped me to find work and helped people to understand what I do a bit better. Above all it is social activity, much like meeting people at a cocktail party. One thing worth checking out is Mark Pesce’s ideas, as these might give a perspective on this brave new world: http://blog.futurestreetconsulting.com/

  13. It will be interesting Kate. I doubt it’s like the “real world,” in that you don’t interact in three dimensions and are constantly intruded upon. In the real world, no one drops into a cocktail party several times an hour and, in fact, most cocktail party talk is far more interesting if you choose your partners well.

    Nonetheless, I’m happy to be experimenting. I find, on the whole, that the utility is there but entirely overblown by people who think anything new and technological has cosmic implications.

    And this is not a brave new world. It’s simply easy access air time. Talent will always out, no matter what the medium. As in all things, there is some great advantage but also a huge amount of waste and dullness.

  14. Bravo, Alan.

    There are priorities that must be attended to in order to create a thriving solo practice.

    It reminds me of a newspaper article I use in my workshops. It is a picture of a pregnant woman smoking a cigarette on her porch. The caption reads: “Melissa (name omitted to protect the obtuse) is concerned about a nearby construction project due to the impact of jackhammer sounds on her unborn baby.”

    As you say, you can’t make this stuff up.

  15. Well, I must be 20 or so years your junior, and I must be missing the future too. You are spot on with your assessment of social networking. In my opinion, most are not platforms that can generate new sustainable business. They can generate a lot of new virtual “friends” but not many real business leads. Can you let us know what you think of Twitter? I can’t wait for that post. My theory is that unlike Facebook, Twitter won’t be around in 5 yrs.

  16. Rene, thanks, I’m really looking forward to Twitter, and I hope it’s a third as good as the cultists rave about. Your assessment is correct (except you’re not 20 years my junior, you’re simply a less experienced colleague!!). Anyway, “social media” is a dumb title, which implies non-professional, non-business interactions. It seems to give air time to a lot of frustrated people. When you say, “Get a life,” they’ve gotten a virtual life!

    I’ve found on Facebook there’s one guy who posts so much I’m about to “hide” him, which I’ve done to one other. He is simply addicted, his postings are mostly inane, and I’m thinking about opening a SMRH (social media rehab clinic). Want to invest with me? I’ll need a younger person like you to help me get into the Bentley!

  17. Dave, I actually went over and read that and left a comment. Thanks for the suggestion. The fact that his subjects were not really following others closely tells me that people are just seeking ego-pleasing “air time.”

  18. Both Twitter and Facebook are what you make them. For some people I’m sure the “Gaining Followers” and “Gaining Friends” thing is a game. For others it’s a way of getting their message out.

    We all know that everyone isn’t reviewing everything. But someone is reviewing somethings some of the time.

    Anyone expecting all of the tweets or status messages to get read all of the time, doesn’t understand the medium they are working in.

    Kate’s “real world” analogy isn’t perfect, but it is close. I wouldn’t say it is a place where you are going to form deep meaningful relationships.

    It is, however, a gateway that can lead to that, if you want to.

    There are people who I follow who I’ve later met. This is because I am following people specific to my niche(s).

    Programmers have this thing a friend of mine calls, “the sniff test.” ie, we are like two dogs checking each other out the first time we meet.

    What Twitter and Facebook allow us to do is doing the sniffing virtually. Later we might meet at an event. We already know the technical capabilities of each other. So, we can move past that on to other issues.

    If you expect these social media sites to be THE place where important relationships or important networking occurs, I think you’ll find yourself frustrated.

    If you see it as a place where you can observe others you don’t know that you might want to get to know, you’ll be much more satisfied with the medium.

  19. Great article, Alan. I decided a few months back that Facebook would be just for friends. I booted off any business contacts (reconnected over at LinkedIn, which I haven’t been back to in weeks or months.) I’ve caught up with a lot of old high school friends – now I have more friends from high school than I had when I was actually IN high school. Also a lot of other old friends from 20 years ago. It has been great fun reconnecting with people, but it’s not related to business in any way. It’s purely social entertainment. It’s now a great way to keep up with friends I might lose track of otherwise, see their vacation photos, pics of their kids. I agree, though, there are a couple of addicts that post every 10 minutes – they need to be blocked or removed.

    As for Twitter, I’m dying to see your take on it. The buzz is NOT going away but I’ve tried 3 times now and still can’t make sense of it. I can barely follow a few people. Anyone following hundreds or thousands isn’t listening to them. And anyone who claims it’s a great way to get your message out can’t be serious – how can you hear anyone’s message in all the noise?? I MIGHT happen to glance at it exactly at the right time to see your breathtaking 140 character update, but chances are it’s going to fly by without me seeing it. I don’t get it.

  20. Thanks for your comments. I read that a technologically adept guy allotted half a day to understand Twitter and use it correctly. That’s out of the question.

    Coincidentally, the chapter I wrote this morning for my new book, Thrive!, is on “rising above the noise.”

  21. LOL, yeah – that might have been me, but I think I’ve sunk a lot more time than that into it now. Partly because I felt I had a technical responsibility to my clients to try to figure out new technology, partly because I thought that maybe there was SOMETHING there, that I must be missing something.

  22. Damn it Alan… your Twitter coffee shop description was just so perfect I could not resist, uhm well, twittering it. 🙂

    I think Twitter is intriguing and even useful while also an immense waste of time for many, perhaps most. This, however, does not preclude it from being a tad useful to many nor from becoming successful in its own right as a company/service/whatever. (That may sound self-contradictory but it’s not).

    I think you already get all this though.

    It’s just a tool. How one chooses to use it and what one considers to be the benefits are individual decisions. Human nature being what it is we don’t always use our tools right or even realize what they’re really useful for (and, similarly, what they’re really not so good for).

    The ones that are confused are the ones that rule Twitter (or any other tool or media) out because they get no new business leads from it… Their logic is flawed to begin with. Leads no more come simply as a result of using these tools than they do simply by sending out an e-mail, direct mail piece, running an ad, or building a relationship, reputation, etc. You still must have something to say, that is of interest, for the right audience, at the right time, that is compellingly communicated, etc.

    Unfortunately the marketing done by most businesses is so minimalistic and ineffective that Social Media is being looked at as the latest silver bullet by some. That doesn’t mean it’s not useful or relevant but it’s hardly what many folks are really looking for or in need of to grow their businesses. It’s no different than the idea that all businesses need a web site, a brochure, a fancy logo, office space, a secretary, a sales team, to be constantly reachable, etc. (Maybe… but to what end?)

    Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on what you happen to be selling…heh) many seem to be more interested in the silver bullet. At least that’s understandable. It seems to be human nature.


  23. No argument from me. Just bear in mind that my point is that for consultants providing value and services to corporate executives, Twitter to me is not the logical alternative in which to invest time (as opposed to speaking, publishing, interviews, referrals, etc.). But I can be convinced otherwise, which is why I’m going to experiment with it. I’ve found linkedin, for example to be laughable in that regard, but I can certainly see its utility for reinvigorating old relationship, doing a job search, or marketing other kinds of services.

  24. I was just notified about Dave’s entry for some reason. Bear in mind that my point isn’t that the social sites can’t be useful, but that there needs to be a priority set for a consultant’s marketing time, and these aren’t high priorities for corporate buyers (despite the random claims otherwise). No doubt there is other utility, or the sites wouldn’t be so popular.

    I hope those dogs know enough not to stay out in the rain.

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