This months meeting of the Austin Chapter of TEXCHANGE featured Jeffrey Dachis as the keynote speaker. Jeffrey is the former CEO and founder of Razorfish, and is currently incubating a new company as an entrepreneur-in-residence with Austin Ventures. He was an engaging and enthusiastic presenter and sparked engaged conversation during the table discussions.
Most of the audience was very knowledgeable about the use of social medial tools, but it was interesting to see the faces of some whose hands never went up when he asked the participants about their involvement with Facebook, MySpace, blogs, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Flickr, and beyond. There was a since of "Hmmmm, what am I missing?" that plagued those who were not in the loop.
While it is still very early to know where social media is going in regards to business, it is clear that the number of users is growing. There is something very intriguing about being connected to others that keeps people coming back to these sites. Dachis joked that nobody knows why they want to know that their old high school friend ate a burrito for lunch, but everyday on Twitter they go back for more. While from the outside it seems like a waste of time to follow the mundane activities of others, the stories of people's lives become very interesting and it keeps people engaged.
So how can companies take conversations that seem meaningless and make them valuable. Smart companies are seeking ways to take the invested dialogue of their constituencies and make them relevant. People have a passion for communication, but few companies know what to do when they capture customers dialogues and other feedback. Too many just have their toe dipped into social media pool.
Companies need to adopt comprehensive strategies for their online interactive activities. If they build it, they need to make sure that people come and that it is relevant. If nobody shows up, there is no value. Companies must "seed, feed, and weed" their social media efforts. Somebody must be monitoring and responding. Social media sites by nature are a two way street and are not just an extension of the marketing department (a common mistake that is being made by many corporations).
Additionally, many companies have adopted internal policies that block access for their employees to Facebook, Twitter, blogs, MySpace, etc... This is short sighted. At the table I was seated at people talked about how the younger generation of workers are unhappy in work settings where such access is blocked. The best among them will not stay in such an environment, and it is already leading companies to see a revolving door of their younger workers. As the baby-boomers retire, these younger "digital born"employees will become more important. Eventually they will have trouble attracting these workers if they are not allowing them access to their online worlds. For many it is like breathing.
Your employees, customers, vendors and local communities are already using these tools, your company should be as well. Companies must embrace the open ecology and realize that conversations are taking place in several places online and bring all that feedback and information into their company. The more information to which you have access, the better your company's results.
Mr. Dachis did not share the details of his new venture, but my guess is that it will be breakthrough. Big things are to come, I am sure. I appreciated his presentation, as did the whole crowd.
Again, TEXCHANGE proved to be an amazing place to spend an evening. I always learn and I am always challenged by the people in attendance.
Have A Great Day.