Thursday, July 03, 2008

Ding Dong, Everyone Is Calling

Alas, the networking quandary of our modern time-

Can we really reach anyone on the planet and get their attention and schedule an appointment? Is establishing contact and networking welcomed in any or all situations? Does everyone even want to know us? Do they care?

And what if the other person is a celebrity, politician or leader of a major corporation? Can we get on their calendar for a cup of coffee? Or are there just too many of us for them to give the average Joe a second thought?

Once we lived in a world where people never imagined directly pitching an idea to the CEO of a public company. They lived in the clouds, others walked on the street. The two could never meet. It would be blasphemy.

Now we live in a transparently social media dominated society where many live the concepts of John Guare's Six Degrees of Separation. In fact, the internet has made it less than six degrees, with many feeling just one degree separates us from the next person, assuming that once we can email, we can access.

However, just because we can reach out to a person does not mean they will pick up the phone (or email, or facebook nudge, or twitter, etc....).

So what can someone do, shy of dressing up in a chicken suit and waiting outside a VIP's office, to gain the attention of an individual with whom they wish to connect? While sharing a mutual contact or being "LinkedIn" to their college roommate is optimal, it is not always the case.

While one cannot expect the CEO of a public company to answer his own email from strangers (or do we expect this?), there is now a societal assumption of accessibility. The whole social media / social networking movement has brought a new sense of familiarity, and company executives need know this perception is now reality.

People now demand and expect feedback, but executives cannot spend their whole day networking or answering questions from the public. Yet having someone else ghost write a blog, answer emails, communicate on twitter, or other fake touch points with the outside world will quickly go stale. People see through actions that are not genuine.

There needs to be a balance between the old and the new ways of communication, and nothing plays better than truthfulness.

People want to have contact with the decision makers, even at large public companies.

The cool and hip companies are engaged with their customers. Experiential marketing and social commerce technology are all the rage. Or are they?

Millions of dollars are being spent to appear to be listening and having conversations, but my experience is that corporate America has not morphed into "one of the kids on the block". They are building consumer focused communities, but are still measuring everything on yesterday's metrics. These trains are not on the same track and this is causing an unsettling disconnect.

Can corporations find a way to be successful in this new fast changing world that is driven by online conversations with those who expect dialogs and intimate responses? Is it fair to expect these company executives to constantly be paying attention to both the instant feedback while still meeting the demands of Wall Street?

The sheer mass of people wanting access make it impossible to have true connections. Everyone is calling, and nobody can have real communications. Technology can make it seem intimate, but I think soon people will come to detest much of the phony aspects of social online interactions.

And with the oversight of the social media components often being delegated way below the C-Suite, sometimes to very young employees, the risk is always there that the responses could be dismissive, or otherwise shortsighted.... leaving those trying to communicate with the company with a bad taste in their mouth. Leaders who get burned by having others talk for them will put a halt to the progress and retire to the old school quickly. They will either pull the plug or micromanage everything into bureaucracy.

The demand for access is growing, but there is not time to be available for all who call. Executives at many companies are already overwhelmed and confused. Some organizations are doing a good job at handling their online presence and interactive persona's, but it is still so new. Time will tell.

Have A Great Day.


1 comment:

Cliff Allen said...

It's interesting to see marketing departments start to use social media techniques.

Yet, the sales departments in those companies have always used relationship-based techniques to close sales - have a conversation, learn about the prospect's problem, close a deal.

I frequently suggest that marketers learn from their successful salespeople how to have conversations with, and relate to, their customers.