I have been in social media marketing since the dawn of, well, social media. Countless hours spent moderating Yahoo! Groups, posting to Craig’s List in the early days, using Twitter before the storm, and connecting via Facebook before it was a centralized tool for marketing. Seems like a lifetime, and yet, it’s only been since about 1998.
Engaging early on, both personally and professionally, has taught me a great deal about shifting landscapes, pivoting quickly and consuming information at high speeds, but only if it’s written in 140 characters or less. I think it is referred to as “nimble”. In the world of social media, you must be nimble, or you will not survive.
It has been an extraordinary evolution and one that I am so glad to be part of. Early on, many told me I was wasting my time and that social networking was just a “fad that will fade.” I didn’t listen, because I saw something early on (or a few things) that struck me.
It was campaign season 2008. Obama and McCain were on the ticket. I had all but stopped watching any news coverage on the television. I couldn’t stand the endless analyzing, the talking heads. News, just for news sake. I was bored. I spent most of my time on Twitter and some on Facebook. I was there with other people that wanted to share information and who were connecting in a meaningful way. The news was being reported by people who were seeing it unfold and living through experiences themselves; what a concept.
When I saw the election called on Twitter via someone on the East Coast well before mid-night and far before any major news outlet reported his victory, I was in awe. A Presidential Election was called out on Twitter by a non-news source, and it was accurate. CNN reported 1.5 hours later. It was then that I knew Twitter was going to change the way people communicated, consumed and shared information. It was no longer just one of the many start-up tech companies in Silicone Valley. Twitter was changing our intake and output of information. Long before the Hashtag, Trending, Verified Users, Followers, Klout, Streams, Decks, Influencers, Thought Leaders, Re-tweets, Ninjas and Scheduling, many used this tool in a meaningful way. When we tweeted, we actually shared. We weren’t selling and we weren’t buying. We were listening, even playing and making real connections. We were storytelling, posting what was happening, in between our blogging, our phone calls and our IM’s. Originally, what Twitter was designed for. “The stuff that happens in between.“
Twitter grew quickly. There were a lot of us that often went bonkers when the “Fail Whale” showed up on our screen. “What do you mean I can’t Tweet this thought, RIGHT NOW!” The “Fail Whale” became more and more visible as Twitter’s hosting was overrun and failing. People were taking to Twitter like crazy and by 2010, well, it was a totally different platform. As a Consultant, I urged my small business clients to let me build their brand and presence, on Twitter and Facebook. Many begrudged the idea, yet the forward thinking ones let me run loose. Now, almost five years later, those small businesses are considered early adopters and have a presence and a following. More importantly, they recognize the value of diversifying their marketing channels and not relying on only print advertising, word-of-mouth marketing and radio. Unlike print and radio, utilizing Facebook and Twitter were extremely cost effective, and I could show my client’s actual insights and ROI and shift campaigns and directions within minutes.
The landscape keeps shifting constantly. Information online has changed so drastically and with the changing eco-sphere of social media, our intentions must follow suit. I think it is important to ask; “What are we here for? What are we hoping to accomplish?”
In answering these questions, I know that my heart has always belonged with Small Business. When I learned how MapQuest Founder Perry Evans flipped the switch and brought the Perch App to life, I had to re-organize the way I viewed social and the dissemination of real-time information.
Perch is a robust app that pulls several leading social streams (think Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, G+, Yelp) together in one app, and even adds in tracking for local promotions from Foursquare and Daily Deals, and gives the Small Business Owner the ability to observe, listen, watch, and learn. It is a totally different and new approach to social. Perry actually calls it marketplace listening which I like! I think over the last few years, many claim they are listening to their consumers – the title of Community Manager emerged to confirm, that yes, you are bring heard. But with the Perch App, the SMB can listen to the competition and their customers. Genius. It has taken me some time to wrap my head around the listening part. It seems we have been busy foaming at the mouth for a while now; I call it “Machine Tweeting”. Hellllo…is anybody out there? Is anyone listening, or are we all just scheduling information and crowding the space with sales pitches, e-Books, contests, and Hashtags?
I highly recommend Perch, as a former Small Business Owner, Marketing Consultant, and as a long time lover of Small Business. It, in Perry Evan’s words “is the next generation of listening. We are giving you a more real-world pulse of your local marketplace.”
Don’t stop Tweeting and Posting. Perhaps, download Perch, and give a listen, observe. Stay Perched for a while, see what you can hear. See what kind of business intelligence you can harness with this power tool. Hey, be an early adopter, this is Web 3.0 emerging. Adopt it before you are a latecomer.