Three weeks from today I retire from Honeywell. It's been a good 28+ year run, but when life changes, it's important to manage one's social networks. Over the years I've always actively managed my social contacts, particularly upon my favorite social network for professional relationships, LinkedIn. Thus, I ask the question, how many of you actively manage your contacts?
Earlier today I consolidated my LinkedIn contacts from 750+ to slightly under 350 individuals. While the 400 people I eliminated are good folk, when life changes, one needs to manage that change. With my impending retirement, and startup of limited software consulting, my approach will become more regional. Thus, I decided to eliminate noise in my network feed. While you may not agree with my approach, you should actively manage your networks.
LinkedIn's announcement today that one will now be able to "at/@" mention someone in an update drove my change to limit noise. I love their new feature, and in this case will be able to better handle the value.
Over the past several years, friends and colleagues often have asked me ... does your operation have a Facebook site? While a presence on Facebook may be important, better questions are:
Who are my customers?
Where might they may "hang out" online
When my customers are online, is their frame of mind focused towards leisure or work?
The theme of these questions are ... unless you understand your customer, the "knee jerk" reaction to spend resources and create a Facebook site may be an unsound business decision. With respect to my personal Facebook usage, I limit that experience to "friends and family". This means Facebook has a "leisure time" focus for me. If your customers are similar, it does not make much sense to create a business focused Facebook site with which your customer may not be very inclined to interact.
Let me explain it another way ... not many aircraft engines are sold via Facebook, but for a business with a "leisure time" focus like Betty's Pies on the Northshore of Lake Superior, Facebook is a good investment. Although most of you have never seen the wilderness beauty of the the Lake Superior's northshore, many of Betty's Pie's customers are from the Minneapolis / St. Paul metro region 225 miles to the south. These customers think "vacation" and "leisure" in terms of Lake Superior and Betty's Pies. Thus, a Facebook site is logical, and your customers / Facebook users may be favorably inclined to interact and help market your business.
What if your company is more like the jet engine example? If your customers are more industrial in nature (i.e. your products and their usage of same), it is not likely that a large investment in Facebook will make sense. Given this scanario, one's focus should turn to LinkedIn.
LinkedIn leads the way. The platform most utilized by the 2012 Inc. 500 is LinkedIn with 81% of companies using it. It has replaced Facebook as the tool of choice for these fast growing companies. The use of Facebook has dropped 7% in the past year while both LinkedIn and Twitter have gained users. In 2011, Facebook was being used by 74% of the Inc. 500 and Twitter by 64%. In 2012, 67% of the Inc. 500 used each of them. 28% are now using Foursquare and 18% use Pinterest.
The other comment which jumped out at me was the increasing use of blogs. Obviously I've invested heavily in NorthStarNerd.org over the years. Blogs give one the opportunity to reach out with a more in depth commentary where you control the message. Like any of these tools, any resource should be part of an overall strategy.
Blogging jumps among the Inc. 500. Thirty-seven percent of the 2011 Inc. 500 had a corporate blog. In this new 2012 study, the use of blogging jumped to 44%, increasing by 7% after remaining stagnant for years. Sixty-three percent of CEO’s report contributing to content as this mature tool enjoys a bit of a resurgence.
You may be intersted in reviewing some of my own LinkedIn research published over the past five years
In closing, here is a graphic from the study. The same questions which have always driven good marketing and sales efforts still hold. You need to understand the needs, desires and actions of your customers. Your social media strategy should reflect that understanding.
Click to maximize the graphic and view at full resolution.
I've had a bit of fun playing around with LinkedIn's new alumni network analysis tool (LinkedIn Announcement | Actual Tool). I attended Dartmouth College during the mid 1970's; apparently the number of software nerds who live in northern Minnesota and work for a Fortune 100 firm are quite rare!
Seriously, one could use this tool to leverage and find connections. Students who are considering a college to attend might be interested in learning how graduates five years out are succeeding with their chosen careers. The possibilities are interesting. Obviously one needs access to schools other than just one's own, but that process can be easily worked. Just use the "browse by other schools" functionality (see send screen shot for Harvard).
College connections are very strong, and with a little creativity one should be able to find a "connection" to entice people from schools other than your own to respond to your queries. I believe your results will be much better than "cold calls & emails". People are individuals, and like to be treated as such!
Click to maximize this image: Dartmouth 1974 to 1978
While listening to Minnesota Public Radio during my morning commute, I occasionally hear a great catchy phrase from a program sponsor, Saturn Sytems. Their slogan is: Off Shore to the North Shore (of Lake Superior)! Their slogan is indicative of the changing software industry. Inshoring is becoming a new trend, and those of us who live in regions like northern Minnesota can effectively compete in today's software industry.
How many of you have heard of the town Two Harbors, Minnesota? The point in my question is it really does not matter where Two Harbors is located, but if you visit (and you should!), you'll find another great software firm, PureDriven.
Both of these companies are evidence that while back in 2008, we all were riveted and paying attention to Thomas Friedman's new book, The World is Flat, in 2013 the rules have changed once more. Although Bangalore is still a force to be reckoned with in the software industry, so are Duluth and Two Harbors. Saturn Systems and PureDriven are just two examples. Interesting! Could Two Harbors be the new Bangalore!?
Finally, to close this post you may enjoy a video I created back in 2011 which was titled: The World is NOT Flat (read original blog post). In addition, you should consider joing the newly created LinkedIn Group: Silicon Lakeshore.