No Such Thing as a FREE LUNCH – Social Conspiracy Theory!

You see this…yes, this is being passed around online. All over Facebook, people are sharing this…FAST. I think this one image has been shared over 187K times, and we are eating it up and sharing it faster than some funny YouTube video. The viral effect of social conspiracy theory has invaded our online space like funny looking martians…and the idea we are being watched by big brother is ALL AROUND.

Guess what…it is not a conspiracy.

Here is another one of my favorites that people are sharing on Facebook:

“PRIVACY NOTICE: Warning – any person and/or institution and/or Agent and/or Agency of any governmental structure including but not limited to the United States Federal Government also using or monitoring/using this website or any of its associated websites, you do NOT have my permission to utilize any of my profile information nor any of the content contained herein including, but not limited to my photos, and/or the comments made about my photos or any other “picture” art posted on my profile.

You are hereby notified that you are strictly prohibited from disclosing, copying, distributing, disseminating, or taking any other action against me with regard to this profile and the contents herein. The foregoing prohibitions also apply to your employee , agent , student or any personnel under your direction or control.

The contents of this profile are private and legally privileged and confidential information, and the violation of my personal privacy is punishable by law. UCC 1-103 1-308 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED WITHOUT PREJUDICE”

People are copying and pasting this into their status’s faster than their internet connection will allow them. WAKE UP AND SMELL THE COFFEE.

This is what I know:
1 – Big brother is watching us –> Google Maps
2 – Facebook is FREE
3 – Facebook is monetizing our data
4 – Twitter is FREE
5 – Twitter is monetizing our data
6 – Google is FREE
7 – Google is monetizing our data
8 – Elvis is STILL ALIVE…maybe?
9 – I just used Google to search “Is Elvis still alive?”

OK…back to the important discussion…

Who the heck are we to use something like Facebook, Twitter, Google and sit back an expect them not to monetize it. When we sign-up, we knowingly accept the fact that we are uploading content, pictures, impressions, etc. and it is going to be used/leveraged to generate their income.

Are we that naive or has Facebook, Twitter, Google, and other online media outlets leveraged the fact that we want more for nothing, while they make it harder for us to opt-out of leveraging our information.

How many people do you know upload all their pictures to Facebook as a primary storage device. Specifically they use Facebook as their photo album. Each picture takes space, it takes bandwidth, it has an ecological impact on our local environments…the data centers that support this information. We as consumers pay NOTHING for this…NOTHING. We are getting so much for NOTHING and yet we expect the businesses who spend billions to support these infrastructures not leverage that information to generate revenue.

When is the last time you gave away all your intellectual power and knowledge for free. Yes, you probably donate your time and energy to certain causes, non-profits, churches, initiatives, etc. But could you do that full time…NO. You have to pay the mortgage, gas, electricity, etc. There is no such thing as a free lunch.

The social documentary is alive and well in the social space(s). So let’s look at the statistics of usage in this free market of online spaces:

Twitter (Stats by Mediabistro.com)
By September 2011, we were tweeting 33 billion tweets per day and 11 Twitter accounts are created every second with 1 million accounts added every day. Guess what…$259 million dollars in projected ad revenue for 2012.

Facebook (Stats by SearchEngineJournal.com)
Let’s look at Facebook…250 million photos uploaded daily with 845 million active users that have led to 100 billion connections. Facebook users average 2.7 billions “Likes” each day, 37 million “Pages” with 10 or more “Likes”, and 20 minutes spent per visit. In 2011, Facebook make $1 Billion dollars with Zynga games accounting for 12% of that total revenue.

Google (Information from StatisticBrain.com and Larry Page’s Blog)
How about Google…last year there were 1.7 Trillion searches with an average of 4.7 billions searches per day. YouTube has over 800 million monthly users uploading over an hour of video per second. Chrome has over 200 million. There are over 350 million people using Gmail and over 5,000 new businesses and educational establishments now sign up every day.

Each day we add to the social conspiracy, we use these outlets to share at the expense of them driving their revenue dollars. Our content, our time and their infrastructure, their revenue. We pay for this service with our content, that is our investment. As an investor, we should openly, knowingly understand how they use our data and use these networks appropriately.

The conspiracy theory is true…they are using our time, energy, content, and effort to generate billions. Just quit freaking out about it and know what you are paying for…each second and each time you use these outlets.

Are social media outlets are loosing the “socialness”, somewhat?

Social media outlets of 2011 are just loosing the “socialness.” Twitter is turning into the AP Newswire for the consumer, Facebook is turning into free websites for businesses, and YouTube is turning into a barrage of content all competing for attention. Yes…48 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute, resulting in nearly 8 years of content uploaded every day.

Google+ gave everyone hope that this new social outlet would provide a closer-nit experience…with less amplification and more connection. But people forgot about Google+ as fast as we ran to jump on board.

The friends I used to connect with via Twitter now do not respond to @replies and emails…so sometimes we connect…maybe?

So here is what I think…the people that drove the Social Media Revolution got jobs. Yes…those people that advocated this social space over two years ago were the same people looking for work and business opportunities. They now have a routine and it is not about connecting online.

More and more people are just broadcasting. Just pushing brand information through their personal social channels. Now we have individual faces that represent brands without the individual conversation the brand is hoping to utilize. Influencers…what is that in the social space. Maybe those who have large numbers of followers are not really influencing the right audiences online…just influencing people that really have no influence at all.

Just chalk much of this social experience to the infiltration of the marketing minds spamming consumers with too much information. For heavens sakes…we are having to re-think how we connect with our families online. Each time we log on to another outlet, we are tracked and recorded as marketing numbers…providing rich information about our purchasing practices. The digital divide is slowly “filling in” with those individuals marginalized based on access to technology now have access with faster connections over the telecom networks.

We are striving to find closed spaces that we can connect with friends, yet not share who/how/when we are connecting and building relationships.

The one thing that gives me hope is the world of blogging. It is still a place to share our thoughts and minds in a potentially low profile situation..even though it is a public space. It is a lot easier to manage an anonymous blog than an anonymous Facebook or Twitter account.

Another place that gives me hope are practices and communities created through hashtags on Twitter. This allows individuals to join a conversation surrounding a simple word/phrase instead of having to follow a particular brand or person. There is still levels of influence built into digital conversations similar to those using hashtag communities, but this movement is still growing.

Word of mouth is still king in the world of marketing and the world of print is starting to find value again. Maybe we will see a swing…not sure. Well, privacy settings are supporting these offline movements like traditional outlets and word-of-mouth. The leaders in the industry like Facebook are creating more and more privacy settings. What does that mean…people are demanding to be more and more private. The larger the audience…the more people can see your socialness…the more people want to protect their information.

We marketers are taking the social out of the media…and making it just another measurable outlet.

social media – an entrepreneurial cultural

If you think back to 2008, well many of us do not want to go back in time. It is October 2008 and in one single week, we witnessed a financial fallout of epic proportions. I remember sitting in the office of a business we just started; our fresh new furniture, big ole office, watching on the 52 inch HDTV as the market crashed. I knew right then and there, we were in trouble.

At that same time, we were in the upswing of one of the biggest online movements we have witnessed since the web was WWW. Yes, the Social Media Revolution. Twitter was growing faster and faster…here is a video in June 2008 of CEO/Founder Jack Dorsey presenting the idea of Twitter and actually beginning his talk by explaining Twitter as an idea.

Now most of you know that Twitter is not the only outlet that has defined this Social Media Revolution…but while Twitter was ramping up, gaining users…Facebook was growing just as fast. YouTube was growing and getting ready to become the second largest search engine behind Google.com. So how did all of this happen, well I have a few theories…and it is this premise that I think has totally shaped how Social Media influences marketing efforts today.

It comes down to jobs. Yes…jobs. It also comes down to community based innovation. As the stock market crashed, millions of American’s lost jobs. Businesses closed their doors. More American’s began using online resources to connect with friends, look for jobs, become entrepreneurs, and connect with opportunities. The job market was bleak so many groups around America began having social events, finding ways to connect and leverage relationships in the search for work. So we began seeing more and more groups created…and Twitter, Facebook, and other Social Media outlets were the connectors of these networks.

These groups were teaching each other how to connect with others, using technology to connect; building new spheres of influence, and generating innovative ideas. These social media connectors were “new” and fresh. The numbers on these networks began to shoot up, more and more people were using these networks and learning the in’s and out’s of how to leverage them.

At the same time, big box businesses were suffering. If you remember…there was a huge scare around Christmas shopping. Were people going to shop for gifts in 2008. I remember we bought most of our gifts that year using American Express points. No one could afford to buy cars, buy houses, buy gifts, etc…so big box companies were struggling with ways to connect with the consumer with their brand, then turn it into dollars. At the same time, Social Outlets were growing in numbers and they became a hot bed for consumers…a place to “hang out.” This is the critical point where those who were looking for new income streams began to realize…they could market how to use these Social Media outlets to big box businesses. Social Media entrepreneurs were being born left and right. They understood the consumer and how the consumer used these Social Outlets.

As the market began to recover, business began to recover with more dollars to spend. These dollars could be spent with people that understood these social communities and the technology that supported these same communities. Big and small business were being formed with the sole purpose of helping organizations use Social Media outlets. We began seeing more people speak at big conferences about these outlets, and small civic groups were entertained by local advocates for this community and technology.

Now as we fast forward to 2011, the market is flooded with individuals, plans, strategies, and businesses that implement social media strategies for companies. The numbers have grown so much with this big shift with more online engagement of social exchange. Now in 2011, there are social outlets that measure other social outlets, measuring the influence of individuals and communities. This velocity has completely shifted the way many organizations market their goods and services.

This Social Media Revolution created a culture, a series of communities, that now command the perception of brands. So why should we care? It is this culture, the Social Media entrepreneurs that are now influencing how many people are doing business. It is shaping the way we broadcast news and information. Everyday, someone else wants to figure out how to measure the success of a community in dollars in cents. But we have to think back…how did all this happen. How the hell did Twitter, Facebook, YouTube begin to shape the way we communicate?

Some of the best and brightest innovation comes from a time of economic recession. I am not a Rhodes Scholar…but I think it because people are forced to find ways to generate revenue to support life, and they have time on their hands to generate these ideas. This time leads to new market ideas that leads to new innovation. This culture was a community of innovation that is shaping the way we communicate and do business today.

What are your thoughts? Am I totally off base?

Bobby’s 5 Links of the Week | December 12, 2010

Hello friends, here are my links for the week. As you can see…they include doctors tweeting, social media, medical social media, Elizabeth Edwards, and Leadership. I hope you enjoy and let me know your thoughts about any of these articles!

December 8, 2010 | Michael Moore-Jones
I’m 16 and, unusually, I use Twitter quite a bit. I say unusually because perhaps you’ve heard that teens don’t tweet. This first came to light last year when a 15-year-old Morgan Stanley intern wrote a report [PDF] where he explained that teens “realize they are not going to update it,” and that “no one is viewing their profile, so their ‘tweets’ are pointless.” CLICK HERE to read more.

December 8, 2010 | Meghan O’Rourke
It wasn’t her political career but the window she gave us into the reality—and illusions—of dying. CLICK HERE to read more.

December 9, 2010 | Bryan Vartabedian, MD
I learned this only recently:  people vary in how they like to consume their content.  For the longest time I managed the distribution of my blog content passively:  push it out on RSS and Twitter.  Then let the chips fall where they may. CLICK HERE to read more.

December 10, 2010 | Thornton Kirby
I’m frustrated. Finally, after nearly a year of relentless campaign promises and bickering about everything except the real challenges facing our nation, this campaign is over. CLICK HERE to read more.

December 12, 2010 | Stefan Lindegaard
A legendary story about Tom Watson Jr., who guided IBM in its glory days, bears repeating in any discussion about smartfailing. According to the story, a vice president who had lost the corporation $10 million on an experiment that failed was called to Watson’s office. CLICK HERE to read more.

What can we learn from teenagers in this social life?

I recently read an article from a 16 year old about why teenagers choose Facebook over Twitter. The article is titled “Why Teenagers Don’t And Won’t Tweet.” It was rather fascinating to hear this teenager’s perspective. The one thing that I took away from this article is this…teenagers are social creatures and picky about their online friends. Facebook gives them the opportunity to interact exclusively with their friends. They can manage who sees what, who reads what, and how they interact with others. Teenagers are finicky little creatures. But what they want is real relationships. Twitter is so nebulous to their world, it is hard for them to grasp the mass audience of Twitter.

I know that each time I start a new semester at Clemson, I ask my new students…”What social networks do you use?” All use Facebook, and at a most two students per class (of 20) say they are using Twitter. The same amount that use Twitter have a blog. Teenagers just have a hard time with talking with a mass audience. They want to feel connected. They also have a limited attention span, thus not wanting to invest in another social network that does not bring immediate results. Facebook to them is easy, because they meet someone new, look them up on Facebook, look at their pictures, make an assessment, then decide whether to ask to become friends. They can keep in touch with friends when they move away or when everyone splits up to go to college.

Teenagers are picky. They do not want to share with lots of random people, they enjoy their networks. They enjoy interacting people that they have met in person and regularly interact with in physical space and not just a digital space. They understand the power of human contact. They look at relationships based on some level of trust, trust that begins in-person and extends to the digital space.

Lately, I have been feeling the need to trim down my list of people I “Follow” on Twitter and who I consider “Friends” on Facebook. I talked about this in my post “Fall cleaning, raking leaves, and cleaning-up the social space.” I think a lot of the social complexity and anxiety has come from the Twitter platform. I know I opened my account in the Fall of 2008. I had no idea how to get started? The Twitter “handles” or usernames were so weird to me. It was hard to find people you knew because people were creating weird usernames. I just used my real name @BobbyRettew. So, you started following people based on who your “New” friends were following. You would find someone, then go through the list of who they were following, and clicked “Follow”, “Follow”, and “Follow”.

The terminology of Twitter led to this whole idea of “Thought Leadership.” I will “Follow” you and what you say. Then terms like “Social Media Rockstars” started emerging, placing significance on those who had the most followers. So the natural thought was to go out, follow as many people as possible in the hopes they would follow you back. No real relationship building, just choosing to run through a huge mass of people like walking through the Atlanta Hartsfield Airport during the holidays. You could pass someone, but had no idea if you were following them. Why would a teenager want to sign up for something like this? I challenge each of you to go into a room of 20 plus teenagers and convince them that they need a Twitter account. It is like talking to a room of crickets…and fingers clicking as they tune-out and look at Facebook.

I have also been noticing many people mentioning that they are trimming back who they “Follow” and see as “Friends” online. We are not finding the “relationships” but rather noise. Why did we fall for the idea of friending and following people we did not know, all in the hopes to be followed back. Were we trying to build a sphere of influence or real relationships? Or are we just “push” marketers at heart spraying our information? Regardless…we have lots to learn from teenagers and why they choose Facebook…engaging with exclusive relationships.

Image credit: Los Angeles Times & Washington Post

Hybrid Entrepreneurship at Clemson – What?

So I have been asked to join the Spiro Institute for Entrepreneurship at Clemson University as a lecturer. I have been teaching Business Writing in the Department of English for the past two years…so this is going to be a fun challenge. It is funny how things happen, people you meet, and how planets align. After meeting with Dave Wyman this morning, he is the Interim Director of the Spiro Institute…we have a great plan for this class.

If you are interested in the curriculim of the Spiro Institute for Entrepreneurship, CLICK HERE and you will see the class I am teaching: ELE 499 – Executive Leadership and Entrepreneurship III provides an opportunity for high-potential students to participate in an entrepreneurial field experience such as starting their own businesses or participating in a special project.

So what is Hybrid Entrepreneurship? Hmm…well this will be part of the introduction to this class. But, let’s try to define.

If you look at the triangle above, you will see the three points entitled Entrepreneurship, Cause/Passion, and Profit/Discipline. If you look at Wikipedia, it defines the word “entrepreneur” as a person who has possession of a new enterprise, venture or idea and assumes significant accountability for the inherent risks and the outcome. Bottomline, the person(s) see a need, take a calculated risk to bring this idea to market with the sole purpose of gaining a return or profit. The other point of the triangle is “Cause/Passion” where someone has the desire and the passion for a “cause” and solves a social problem. And the “Profit/Discipline” point is where a person(s) gains some return from this idea using some defined discipline. Hybrid Entrepreneurship falls right in the center of this triangle.

Some would say that this sounds like Social Entrepreneurship? Hmm, well one again Wikipedia does a good job! Social Entrepreneurship is defined as someone who recognizes a social problem and uses entrepreneurial principles to organize, create, and manage a venture to make social change. Whereas business entrepreneurs typically measure performance in profit and return, social entrepreneurs assess their success in terms of the impact they have on society. While social entrepreneurs often work through nonprofits and citizen groups, many work in the private and governmental sectors.

Social Entrepreneurs tyically have the goal to take the “profit” that is generated from the venture and re-invest back into the cause. Making a profit is not the ultimate goal but a byproduct of the greater good for the cause.

Some people think that Hybrid Entrepreneurship to be similar, if not the same, as Social Entrepreneurship. Hybrid Entrepreneurs are ones that  have the same social responsibility yet have no problem with making a profit, and are willing to disclose this part of the purpose.

So…what is the purpose of the class? Well, to teach students about Hybrid Entrepreneurship and find opportunities/projects in the community to help solve problems and create business ideas to solve these problems.

Here is the fun part about this class…we will be using video and social media to document and track the projects in this class. The class will be structured to achieve a couple of goals:

1) We will be taking requests from community organizations that have some “problem” that needs to be solved…they have a need. These organizations will submit a request and the class will pick 5 to 6 different problems/issues to analyze. We will invite these organizations to the class to make a 10 to 15 minute presentation and the class will make an assessment then recommendations. Then the presenting organization will select the best recommendations during the class session. We will do this over a four week period.

2) The next part of this class will be dedicated to finding a social problem and solving this issue. The natural part of the first section of this class. The students will be exposed to local organizations and their problems through the above presentations. This will create a natural dialogue…to look for other similar ideas to solve. OR, they can pick from one of the presentations. This project will be to find, research, and solve a problem…then present in s a final presentation using video and presentation slides. The students will have to document this process using video (probably flip cams) and online properties like Twitter and Blogs.

The goal of this class, to explore the idea of Hyrbid Entrepreneurship through research and praxis. I LOVE IT!

I would love to hear from you? Have any examples of Hybrid and/or Social Entrepreneurship? Please share!

Much of this blog was based on information from Will Marre, check out his site by CLICKING HERE.

Say NO TO FOLLOW! A little self-reflecting rant.

Enough of this Follow Me stuff! Seriously, I follow enough stuff already. Follow me tells me you are going to push your brand, your thoughts, your ideology on me…one tweet, one post, one update at a time. Really, are we so self-indulged to think that everyone has something so important to say that we must follow everything. That is not social…it is a dictatorship of push notifications.

Say yes to join! Join the conversation, join the community, join the fun…join not follow.

Think about it the next time you set-up a campaign. But who really wants to create a campaign, everyone creates campaigns. Why not create communities. Communities do not follow everyone in the group, they join a conversation. They area community of people with common conversation.

How about just share! Share the conversation.

We are so excited that we have created a social media account, we want to stamp it on every freaking media outlet from television, print, websites, post card, etc. We place icons on these pieces with something that says “Follow Us.” But how do we follow you when you do not even put the URL for us to click and type. I guess “you” spent so much money on these campaigns, you feel like you have to tell everyone and include the social networks to make sure the “target audience” follows the message. But what happens after you follow? Seriously, what do I do after I follow. Should I sit back and feel excited that you are now going to overwhelm me with updates and not even let me join the conversation. Because when I follow you, you do not even have the common courtesy to respond with a conversation after all of your push notifications.

We are so excited that we created these campaigns, we do not even think of the un-sustainable effect they will have with a “Follow” mentality. Why…because what is going to happen when the person who is pushing the information leaves, changes, looses interest in the campaign. If it is all push, then the community is not leading the charge…the community is the sustainable part of the message.

Say no to Follow and yes to Share! Go find the community and build the technology around the community to facilitate engagement.

Innovation: Print & Social Media Working Together

A few weeks ago, I was having lunch with one of the Social Media team members with Greenville Hospital System. They showed me this little idea they created! Little cards that had intriguing little quotes that complimented a Social Media outlet they were trying to promote. These cards were  used to hand out, place around town, used to give out in the hospital, or even at events.

How cool! They are almost the size of playing cards using the branded colors of the Greenville Hospital System. Each card had a different phrase or quote promoting a Social Media account, whether it was the Careers Twitter Account (@ghs_careers) or the main Facebook account for the hospital (Facebook.com/GreenvilleHospitalSystem).

What a fun little way to spread the word or even prompt a conversation about  the information or community surrounding a Social Media account. So simple, thoughtful, and intriguing. It is so hard to find intriguing ways to promote Social Media accounts. So many organizations and people are using Social Media to promote Social Media. When you are trying to build community, you have to assume that most people have not used these platforms or do not know the actual URL (account username) to find these accounts online.

I even see many organizations advertise on billboards/flyers and use the Twitter bird or the Facebook logo with the phrase “Follow Us.” FAIL! Nice Try! You cannot assume that people reading these promotions know how or where to find these accounts online. If you look at the bottom of each of these cards, you will see the actual URL address for the Social Media account they are promoting. Even the Facebook cards have an image with the thumbs up “Like” logo indicating the action item desired.

I just think these is so smart, it is fun to watch organizations find innovative ways to use media to engage a community with new forms of media.

To learn more about Greenville Hospital Systems Social Media presence, CLICK HERE or go to http://www.ghs.org/socialmedia

Building Communities is a lot more FUN!

Why do we use Social Media technologies? To me…to connect and build communities of like minded individuals. Why do you use Facebook for your business? Do you use it to just update with information and events? How about use it for what it was originally designed to do, build a community of people to share and connect.

One of my favorite Facebook Page communities is the Clemson Alumni Association’s Facebook Page. You should check it out some time. If you look at the image in this post from the Facebook Page (look below), you will see how the community engages with each other. This was a video post letting everyone know that homecoming is right around the corner, bottom-line a reminder to mark your calendar. If you look below the video, someone that was new to the Clemson Homecoming experience posted a question. People from the community stepped in and engaged the conversation, reinforcing the experience. You do not see the Clemson Alumni Association respond till later, but the community of fans were the ones leading the conversation.

Do you want to control your community or do you want to let your community grow…let the technology be the platform to connect and engage. I choose the 2nd option. Are you building Social Media platforms to push information or a creating a place that connects and engages like minded people. Does it have to be a Facebook Page, Twitter Account, YouTube Account…could it just be a regular lunch meeting using a calendar as the technology that allows to connect.

I want to thank my buddy Dave Lee for inviting me to join his NFL Fantasy Football League this season. This has been a fun place for us to connect, share in our love for the game, and meet new people. Oh, by the way…it has helped me get into the NFL and follow the success of one of my favorite Clemson Tiger Alums, CJ Spiller. What a cool Social Media technology that has connected like minded people.