• March 1, 2012
  • By Marshall Lager, founder and managing principal, Third Idea Consulting; contributor, CRM magazine

Keeping It Natural

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I’ve been spending more professional time lately on the various social networks and related media, which is a bit of an improvement from all the personal time I usually spend on them. To wit, I can claim to be doing research and actually mean it. The question in my mind has been, “How are all these different sites being used, and by whom?”
This research, which I will publish in no venue because my research skills suck, was prompted by my experiences with Google+. You may recall that I mentioned this new network a few months ago, and have since gained access to it. So, while I wasn’t part of the initial beta, I am something of an early adopter. Google+ is still growing, so it’s especially interesting to watch where it goes.
Now, it has been said that what you get out of a relationship depends on what you put into it. Rarely have I seen this more clearly than with Google+. So far, there are two kinds of people in my stream: social CRM practitioners commenting on what’s good or bad about Google+, and industry experts calling the blow-by-blow on its battle for mind share with Facebook. My stream looks like a teleconference. (By writing this column, I’m guilty of committing the same sin I condemn here. Love the player, hate the game, folks.)
To be fair, most of the people I put in my circles (or who put me in theirs) are my colleagues and friends from business, and most of them do post something not work-related from time to time. Furthermore, one of the strengths of Google+ is the greater control users have over who and what gets put in front of them, so I’m not saying it’s any worse than the Facebook stream of mindless nonsense that inspired G+’s creators to take a different tack. Still, the contrast with Facebook is stark. It’s still a young service, so its user base is going to keep changing as it grows, but so far, it looks like Pundit Land. I mean, I like to have some sort of time-wasting game on my social networks, and there’s only one other player on my favorite game—but it’s Michael Dell.
This is hardly an isolated issue, however. If you think of any given popular social networking site, you’ll have an instant mental picture of the “typical” user. You may not be accurate in your assessment, but you still have it, and it probably colors your judgment on some level.
For dealing with my many social networks, I try to follow the sage advice of the 1990s new-punk band the Offspring: “You gotta keep ’em separated.” Most of you probably do this as well, to a greater or lesser extent. Facebook is almost exclusively for personal matters. LinkedIn is all business, as befits its nature. Twitter is where I post and receive news and information quickly. YouTube is the best source for how-to information that can benefit from visual aids, and it’s also where I go for small doses of indie film projects.
That’s just me (and the people who split it up like me). I am not angered by business content on Facebook, just as I have no problem with quips and randomness on Twitter—variety keeps things fresh. This is why I (and presumably some of my colleagues, though I can’t be sure without asking) advise businesses to participate in a broad spectrum of social media. It’s not that I think corporate messages should dominate any channel. I want them to be available, and to seem natural, wherever they are. I’m not going to spontaneously change the way I interact through a network—somebody’s got to make me want to do it.
Unnatural messages—meaning ones that seem forced and artificial, not ones inspired by Cthulhu—are the surest way to make a social feed lose whatever relevance and stickiness it may have had. Hit me with the right business opportunity or ad at the right time and you’ve got my attention, regardless of where I see it; clog my view with shotgun marketing and you are lost.

Marshall Lager is the founder and managing principal of Third Idea Consulting, and spends so much time on social media sites they should charge him rent. Contact him at marshall@3rd-idea.com or www.twitter.com/Lager.

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