Be social and the networking will follow.

Oxymoron of the week: 'Let's incorporate social networking".  

Just look at that sentence!

Incorporate. Social. Like saying,  "Let's engineer some fun."

I hear this sentence uttered a lot these days, in corridors, over pret-a-mangers and bento boxes. Everyone's trying to make up the creek with a better paddle, Twitter and Facebook being two of them. "Social Media Director" is the newest gig on deck.

But Facebook and Twitter are not social networking. This I am certain of. They are merely tools we tenuously  by which to build off-line trust that will endure should they be compromised. It's already happened - witness the recent spate of fake FB friends telling you they're stuck in some far off country and need money wired urgently. And note what happens when your broadband connection craps out – you groan but basically get on with your offline life without dwelling in it because you have to.

Fortunately, most of us can detect a spammer because spammers don't know how to talk to people. That's because they're not interested in people. They're only interested in themselves, what's in it for them.  They have the empathy of a hit and run driver.

If you're a true social networker, you love and care about people who help themselves.  You naturally put self, and your immediate needs, second. You notice when a community member is sick, in need, or poised for an introduction. You will make that connection happen, before brushing your teeth. You are a catalyst. The real test – will your community rally to your side in times of real need?

I work for a small, made-in-USA bicycle manufacturer in the Pacific Northwest.

We were invited to exhibit in NYC. We simply didn't have the money to produce and ship a special fleet of demonstration bikes cross-country at short notice.

The only thing I could do was turn to my community – my customers - and see who showed up. This was my plea: http://www.bikefriday.com/images/email/1604

The result: a booth staffed entirely with customers displaying their own bikes. Customers took over the desk like staff, mingled with the public, telling them about their bike and how it had changed their lives. These customers  weren't company men, they were community men. It was clear that people responded to them as such, rather than keep a polite distance and avoid eye contact as we tend to do when exhibitors try to engage us at trade shows.

Here's what it looked like

Last night I attended a presentation on France by a customer who, as a secondary feature, traveled across on our product. I admit I found myself shifting  in my seat, sheepishly embarrassed at how he raved our product – thus keeping me in a job. A customer evangelist begets customer evangelists.

I've also just returned from three weeks in Japan. There, I was amazed to discover how enthused our customers are about our bikes.

"We are true customer evangelists!"  said one couple, who rode a long way to be with us, on their matching  bikes.

We've created our cult without  Facebook and Twitter (although we do have accounts there that I haphazardly update).  We did it with an old-fashioned, text-based listserve, we visit and homestay with our customers and we answer every email, one to one.

The blogosphere doesn't need another forum of grunts, half-baked sentences and lazy emoticons promoting ambivalence to your life's work.  It just needs to be more social – genuinely social - and the networking will follow.

The Galfromdownunder has returned from 2 months evangelizing in Asia where she sat back and let her customers do their darndest. More about that here.






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1 Comments

  • Robert Harrison

    I'll admit to bias on this as I am a Bike Friday owner, but I'm convinced that if you build a good product and the evangelists will follow. It helps if the product is as eye catching as a Bike Friday as well.

    I say that based on my own experience. I don't think there been a time I've ridden my BF, and it's been to Mexico, the Bay Area, and just recently Las Vegas, where it hasn't attracted comments and questions. It's easy for me to answer because I do, in fact, love my Friday.

    Of course I get asked those questions because Fridays are a bit different. When I were ride my regular road bike I sometimes get asked questions by other cyclists, but in general folks don't ask.

    All in all I'm not surprised that it's easy to get BF owners to evangelize. It's a good product and different enough to attract attention.

    Aloha!