Sunday, April 24, 2011

Quality over Quantity

Recently I had a conversation with Jeff Brown of Alpha Computer about many things social. One of the many topics covered was about building a strong community and the value of a Twitter follower. A concerning trend discussed is the increasing occurrence of “buying” a community.

Perhaps I am naïve. I cannot see a legitimate reason for either a person or business to buy followers. The purpose of building a community (which generally takes time and effort) is to establish a group of people that are genuinely interested in what you are offering and see value in following you. It is an opportunity for you to be engaged with brand loyalists and potential brand evangelists. It is an opportunity to increase the stickiness of your brand.

Maybe I am just ignorant to the possibilities that exist within the artificially acquired community. Is it possible that completely disengaged follow-bots can help build a strong community? Will a potential followers be more likely to follow if there are already hundreds (or thousands) of followers? I know that the number of current followers does not influence my decision to follow. I look for good content, interesting conversation and humility in posts. If I am interested then I will follow.

One possible explanation for this proliferation of services like Buy A Follower is the need to show results inside of social media programs. If the community is growing too slowly, throw a little fertilizer on it and presto – there is an extra thousand followers. Reporting a metric like this to the C-Suite validates the program, or does it? What is the value of a follower?

I believe that a social community which has been correctly cultivated and grown organically with good content will return far more value than the rapidly or instantly acquired community of follow-bots. There is more value in 100 followers that are actively engaged with your brand than there is with 10,000 followers that have little to no interest in what your company does. I prefer quality over quantity, every time.

If anyone can validate the purchasing of followers, I’d welcome being enlightened. If your comments are intriguing I just might follow you! 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Grass is Always Greener

I am sure most of us have heard the expression that the grass is always greener on the other side, but have you ever thought about what this really means?

The common interpretation is that life is better elsewhere. That things in your life (your job, your salary, your relationship, etc.) are perhaps not as good as they could be and that maybe a change is in order and you need to move to the “other side” to enjoy the greener grass. But in reality the “other side” is mostly unknown, so how do we know the grass is really greener?

I think if you look at the turn of phrase in a literal sense you get a new and unique perspective on what it might mean figuratively.

Imagine you are standing in the middle of your lawn. Looking down, you can see the blades of grass and where the grass shoots are coming from, the brown dry decaying grass of the previous year. You can see small patches where the grass is not as lush and healthy. You notice ever so slight brown patches where the soil may not be as rich.

Now look over at your neighbour’s lawn. All you can see are the sides of the green blades of grass from where you are. The perspective you have prevents you from seeing what the roots look like. You can’t tell if there is a slightly bare spot, or if there is an ant hill hidden somewhere.

When explained in these terms the grass is not always greener on the other side, it only has the appearance of being greener because we don’t have all of the facts. Our perspective looking across from a distance prevents us from seeing the all of the undergrowth that is there.

When we look our lives and the lives of others, the same holds true. We make assumptions similar to when we looked at our neighbour’s lawn. We look at our life from the middle, seeing all of the good and all of the challenges. Our angled perspective on others’ lives prevents us from seeing the challenges of those lives.

All of this is not to say that there is never a reason to seek change, but to say we should first seek to make changes within. Just as you can water and feed a lawn to make it healthier, you can do the same with your life. Each of us are unique and we face individually unique challenges. The healthy lawn does not just happen and neither does a healthy relationship or satisfaction with our lives, it takes commitment and effort and time.

The same challenges exist on both sides and if you do not make changes to the way you care for the lawn you will always believe that the grass is greener somewhere else, even when it is not.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Turning Tables

This week the tables were turned on me. The shoe was on the other foot, so to speak.

Prior to December 2010 I worked for a large multinational company that was based out of the United States. There is a certain amount of security and peace of mind knowing you work for a company that has a market cap of billions and billions of dollars.

Over the years I worked there it seemed like there was a bi-annual event that occurred regardless of company performance. The acquisition. Sometimes the acquisition was a small player is a secondary market, or a new product category that integrated with our product space. Maybe a competitor that was up and coming would be acquired. Usually when one company acquires another it is for the technology, the people or the customer base. Not once did I ever consider how the employees of the acquired company felt about the acquisition, I just assumed they were ok with it.

Back to December 2010. I chose to leave the large stable company I worked for in Ottawa, Canada to take a new and challenging role in a small emerging company in Atlantic Canada. Certain amount of risk here and I was well aware of this when the decision was made. More than one colleague questioned my decision but I never wavered. There were family considerations that tilted the scales in favour of the move and the upside of this emerging company was incredible and could not be ignored.

Fast forward to Wednesday, March 30, 2011. Less than four months in to my new role at this wonderful emerging company it was announced that it was being acquired by a large, US based, multinational corporation (not the same one I used to work for). This is how it feels; now I know.

I have deliberately omitted the names of the companies involved in this current acquisition as well as that of my previous employer. If you know me well or are resourceful enough you will figure it all out with a few minutes of searching on line. The companies at play are not what is important here, it is the emotions of those involved.

An email went out Tuesday late afternoon “inviting” every employee to a meeting at 7 am the next morning. Only four months with this new employer I had a strong inkling what this was about, that ownership was changing soon. Sitting in a conference room with fellow employees video conference in from two other locations while our CEO announced the largest sale in the history of our company was almost surreal. The group was euphoric and enthusiastic. Then there was concern. Concern about what happens next. Job security, while never guaranteed with small emerging companies, can be tenuous with mergers and acquisitions.

A quick introduction to the new (very proud) owners of the company brought relief and confidence to many. They announce that the goal of the acquisition is to continue to operate and grow in Atlantic Canada, that they have acquired 4 other companies in the past 18 months all experiencing growth. Smiles are seen throughout the room.

Effective sometime in early May I will once again have the pleasure of working for a large multinational corporation. A company that believes that its employees are the reason why they are a successful business and commits to making sure these employees are happy. It is clear the acquisition occurred because they believe they can pour fuel on the fire and our division will grow exponentially faster than if we had been left on our own. Only time will confirm this.

So yes, like many people I work with I am on a cloud right now. There is definitely a strong force moving us in a good direction with the sale of the company we work for. As the excitement builds towards the actual date of acquisition I know there are a few of us that will have the exact same smile on our faces as though they have been photocopied there.

Enough from me on this, I should step away from my laptop and be social, it is 2011 after all.